Christmas Day, Christians Celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity

Nativity PictureSolemnity of the Nativity –Image: St Athanasius Church Norwich, UK

(American Catholic) On Christmas Day, the Church focuses especially on the new born Child Jesus, God became human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek. We need no other Special Saint to lead us to Christ in the manger, although His Mother Mary and Joseph caring for his foster Son, help round out the scene.

If we were to select a Patron Saint, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing a vision in the night–a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill. A shepherd willing to seek out something that might be just too unbelievable to chase after and yet compelling enough to leave behind their flocks in the field and search for the mystery.

On the day of our Lord’s birth, let an ‘uncelebrity’ at the edge of the crowd, model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts–somewhere between skepticism, wonder, between mystery and faith. Like Mary and the Shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Related: Solemnity of the Nativity –USCCB

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Today Christians Honor St. Junipero Serra, First Saint of California

Blessed Junipero Serra

St. Junipero Serra (1713-1784)
Image: Tinh Than

(Angelus) Just after Canonizing the first Saint of Sri Lanka St. Joseph Vaz, Pope Francis announced that he would also be Canonizing the first Saint of California–Blessed Junipero Serra, in 2015

“We are grateful to our Holy Father Pope Francis for this gift to California and the America’s,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in a January statement — “Its wonderful  to think that this new Saint once walked the road that is now the Hollywood Fwy and called it El Camino Real: The King’s Highway.”

St. Junipero Serra was born on Spain’s island of Mallorca according to Franciscan Media and entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion  Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom, first as a student of theology and then following his Ordination as a professor.

Suddenly he gave this all up and followed his yearning that had begun years before when he had heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America — Fr. Junipero’s desire was to evangelize the native people of Mexico and California according to NCRegister and he established the first 9 of California’s 21 Missions, used to teach American Indians Catholicism and learn new skills such as growing crops and raising livestock that would help improve their standard of living.

Dubbed ‘The evangelizer of the West in the United States,” by Pope Francis, St. Serra was most known for his zeal and determination, both physically and spiritually.

St. Junipero Serra missionary motto has been described as, “Never turn back.” According to several reports, once Fr. Junipero landed on Mexico’s shores with his companions, he insisted on walking the more than 200 miles to Mexico City. During this trek, Fr. Junipero suffered an infected insect sting on his leg that would affect him for the rest of his life. — Fr. Juniper’s fierce determination, also led him to baptize more than 6,000 people and confirm another 5,000

Fr. Junipero reputation as a ‘Great Evangelizer’ of his time is on par with several other Saints Canonized by Pope Francis, including the recent St. Joseph Vaz of Sri Lanka, St. Peter Faber of France, St. Jose Anchieta of Brazil, together with St. Francois de Laval and St. Marie of the Incarnation of Canada.

According to Gregory Orfalea, author of Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra’s Dream and the Founding of California, “evangelization is one of the several things Blessed Junipero and Pope Francis have in common.

“Serra talked about how Faith seemed to have dried up in (Spain) Mallorca,” Orfalea said in an email interview. “The Native Americans surely resurrected it. So evangelizing for both Pope Francis and Padre Serra was a two-way street of redemption.”

Similarly, both Pope Francis and St. Junipero Serra, experienced success in the academic world but preferred to be in the streets serving the poor, Orfalea said. They also came from similar backgrounds in religious orders.

“I sometimes think (Pope) Francis is a Franciscan Jesuit and (Junipero) Serra a Jesuit Franciscan,” Orfalea said.

Pope Francis had waived the customary requirement of a second miracle in the Canonization cause of St. Junipero Serra. — Beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1988, Blessed Junipero Serra’s first miracle was the inexplicable cure of a dying Nun with kidney failure in St. Louis in the 1960s — Pope Francis announced that the Canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra would take place during the Holy Father’s visit to the United States in September, 2015

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Melito of Sardis

St. Melito of Sardis

St. Melito of Sardis -Image Courtesy: Fr. Brad Sweet

(Catholic Online) Bishop of Sardis in Lydia (present day Western Turkey, Manisa) St. Melito was a prominent ecclesiastical writer in the latter half of the 2nd century according to Catholic Encyclopedia praised by Eusebius Bishop of Caesarea (263-339) and had the gift of prophecy.

Few details of St. Melito’s life are known except that he’s remembered for his work developing the first Canon of the Old Testament according to Early Christian Writings and its believed he became a Martyr for Christ, however according to SQPN St. Melito died of natural causes.

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Ciaran of Saigir, First Born of the Saint’s of Ireland

St Ciaran SaigirSt Ciaran Saiger the Elder –Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Catholic Online) The ‘First Born of the Saint’s of Ireland’ he was a native of the Diocese of Ossory and after living for a time as a Hermit he is believed to have been consecrated a Bishop by St. Patrick (Feast Day: 17 March) taking his place as the first Bishop of Ossory.

More here from Catholic Ireland

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Oswald of Worcester

St OswaldSt. Oswald of Worcester -Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Franciscan Media) Born in England into a military family during the 10th century (Oswald’s parents immigrated from Denmark according to SQPN before his birth) Oswald was raised and educated by his uncle the Archbishop of Canterbury (would be Canonized and known as St. Odo the Good -Feast Day: 04 July) Oswald continued his education in France where he would later become a Benedictine Monk.

In 962 Oswald was appointed Bishop of England Worcester (later Archbishop of York) working with St. Dunstan and St. Ethelwold to revive monastic and ecclesiastical discipline in England — Archbishop Oswald founded the Abbey at Ramsey and the Monastery at Winchester and supported and improved scholarships at the Abbey, together with inviting leading educators in such fields as mathematics and astronomy to lecture. 

Archbishop Oswald became widely known for his sanctity and especially his love for those less fortunate. — The final Winter of his life was spent at the Cathedral in Worcester that he so loved. At the beginning of Lent in February 992, Archbishop Oswald resumed the practice of washing the feet of 12 poor Men each day.

On this leap year day in 992, Archbishop Oswald died after he washed the feet of the twelfth Man, kissing his feet and giving a blessing.

More here from American Catholic

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of Pope Saint Hilarius, Defender of the Church

Pope Saint HilariusPope Saint Hilarius (461-468) Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(EWTN) Born in Italy Sardina, Hilarius was elected 46th Pope in November 461 according to SQPN is credited for confirming the work of several general councils, together with rebuilding and remodeling many Churches, Convents and libraries during his Papacy.

Hilarius was a trusted aide to Pope Saint Leo I and used on many assignments according to Catholic Online — Hilarius was sent to ‘Robber Synod’ at Ephesus in 449 to report on the Monophysitism heresies of Eutyches, which denied the humanity of Jesus Christ and claimed that He had only a divine nature, a teaching condemned in 451 by the Council of Chalcedon — Eutyches’ followers attacked the legate party and forced them to return to Rome.

Following his election as Pope in 461, Hilarius continued the work of Pope Saint Leo I fighting vigorously for the rights of the Roman See, the Church’s role in the empire, affirming the position of the Pope and is remembered for his work on an updated method on calculating the date of Easter and defending the rights of the Bishops, while imploring on them to curb their excesses and devoting themselves more closely to God.

Pope Hilarius passed away on this date in 468 in Rome and was interred in the Basilica of St. Laurence Outside the Walls in Italy, Rome.

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Isabelle of France, Patron Saint of the Sick

St. Isabelle of FranceSt. Isabelle of France (1225-1270) Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Catholic Online) Born a Princess, Isabelle was the daughter of King of France – St. Louis VII and Blanche of Castile, she was the younger sister to King of France – St. Louis IX according to SQPN and aunt to St. Louis of Tolouse — Isabelle’s father died when she was just two according to Newman Connection and it was her mother who saw to Isabelle’s education–she would become fluent in Latin.

As a child, Isabelle at an early age made a personal vow of chastity desiring to devote her life God — Pope Innocent IV, permitted her to retain some Franciscan Friars as her special confessors. — Isabelle later in life refused marriage proposals of of Hugh XI and Conrad IV of Germany, vowing to continue to live a celibate life, consecrated to God.

Isabelle devoted her young life to caring for the sick and poor, following her mother’s death, Isabelle founded a Franciscan ‘Poor Clare Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ in France Longchamps — Isabelle would live there in austerity as a Nun (without taking vows and refused to become the Abbess) until her death at the age of 45 during this week in 1270

In 1521 Isabelle was Beatified by Pope Leo X and Canonized in 1696 by Pope Innocent XII

More here from EWTN

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of Saint Walburga

St WalburgaSt. Walburga (710-777) Image Courtesy: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(SQPN) Born in England Devonshire Wessex, Walburga was the daughter of St. Richard the King, sister to St. Willibald of Eichstatt and St. Winebald of Heidenheim — Walburga was educated at Wimborne Monastery in Dorset according to Catholic Online where she would later become a Nun.

In 748 Sister Walburga was sent with St. Lioba to Germany to assist her brothers and St. Boniface in their missionary work.

Sister Walburga, spent two years at Bishofsheim, after which she became the Superior for an Abbey of Women and a Monks Monastery at Heidenheim, that was founded by her brother Fr. Winebald, who had served as it first Abbot but by then had become Bishop of Eichstadt — Sister Walburga remained Superior of both the communities of  Women and Men until her death on this date in 777

Sister Walburga was interred first at Heidenheim however later she was reinterred next to her brother St. Winebald, at Holy Cross Church in Eichstadt — St. Walburga was Canonized by Pope Adrian II (862-872)

More here from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Ethelbert, King of Kent

St Ethelbert of KentSt Ethelbert of Kent (552-616) Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(New Advent) Ethelbert son of Eormenric, Great-Grandson of Hengist, Saxon conqueror of Britain according to SQPN — Raised a pagan worshiper of Odin, a German mythological god.

Ethelbert succeeded his father in 560 as King of Kent, and made an unsuccessful attempt to win rule of all of Britain from Ceawlin of Wessex at the battle of Wimbledon in 568

Married a Christian, Princess Bertha daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks, she brought her Chaplain Liudhard with her in marriage, restoring a Christian Church in Canterbury — Three children were born from their marriage, one of which was a daughter St. Ethelburgh of Kent (Feast Day: 08 September) founder of a Convent in Lyminge, entering it as a Nun and subsequently serving it as Abbess.

Ethelbert converted to Christianity and was baptized on Pentecost in 597 by St. Augustine of Canterbury (Feast Day: 27 May) Ethebert’s Christian example, led to the conversions and baptisms of as many as 10,000 of his countrymen within a few months.

More here from EWTN

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of Blessed Marianus Scotus

Blessed Marianus Scotus

Bl. Marianus Scotus — Image: San Sebastian College Recoletos – Manila

(EWTN) Marinus Scotus was one of those rare Irish Monks who migrated to the continent and influenced the spread of Christian culture throughout Europe. Marianus was a scribe and a calligrapher of great skill. Marinus became a Monk at a very early age and in 1067 set out with a few Companions on a pilgrimage to Rome, enroute they stopped in Germany and were invited by the Bishop of Regensburg (Ratisbon) to settle there.

Marinus and his Companions had brought with them that marvelous love of learning together with beauty so distinctive of Irish Monasticism and their Monastery became a center for creation of beautiful manuscripts and commentaries on the scriptures, done with consummate skill and artistry. — The fame of their Monastery named St. Peter’s, soon spread throughout the whole of Europe. Like Bobbio in Italy and Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland, their Monastery became a center for Christian learning and culture.

St. Peter’s and a companion Monastery dedicated St. James to become the headquarters of a renaissance of Irish monasticism on the continent. — In time, their congregation numbered 12 Monasteries and the Monks, were highly regarded for their holiness, their devotion to learning and for the beautiful manuscripts that came forth from their hands. In their scriptorium, they carried on the tradition of the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow — For almost four centuries, all of the Monks were recruits from Ireland and Ireland continued to supply Monks funds and other resources for the growth of the Abbey and its foundations.

The significance of Blessed Marianus Scotus is indicated in: A Study of History (available at Amazon.com) by Arnold J. Toynbee: “The period of Irish culture superiority over the continent and over Britain may be conveniently dated from the foundation of the Monastic university of Clonmacnoise in Ireland A.D. 548 to the foundation of the Irish Monastery of St. James at Ratisbon, circa A.D. 1090 Throughout those five and a half centuries, it was the Irish who imparted culture and the English and the continentals who received it.”

Blessed Marianus Scotus died on this date in 1098 Germany Ratisbon, subsequent to his death, he was honored as a Saint with his feast day being observed on this date.

More here from Catholic Encyclopedia/New Advent