Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Andre Bessette

St Andre BessetteSt. Andre Bessette (1845-1937)

(Franciscan Media) St. Andre Bessette, expressed a Saint’s faith by a lifelong devotion to St. Joseph — Sickness and weakness dogged Andre from birth–he was the 8th of 12 children born to a French-Canadian couple near Montreal.

Andre adopted at 12 when both of his parents died, he became a farmhand and various trades followed: Shoemaker, Baker, Blacksmith–all failures. He would become a factory worker in the United States during the boom times of the Civil War.

At the age of 25 Andre applied for entrance into the ‘Congregation of the Holy Cross’ and after a year’s novitiate he wasn’t admitted because of his weak health but with an extension and urging of Bishop Bourget, he was finally received. Andre was given a humble job as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with additional duties as Sacristan, laundry worker and messenger.

In Andre’s little room near the door, he would spend much of the night on his knees. On his windowsill facing Mt. Royal, was a small statute of St. Joseph to whom he had been devoted to since childhood. When asked about it, Andre said, “Some day, St. Joseph is going to be honored in a very special way on Mt. Royal.”

Whenever Andre heard that someone was ill, he would visit to bring cheer and to pray with the sick person–Andre would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lap burning in the college chapel, word of healing powers began to spread.

When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, Andre volunteered to nurse–not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood–his superiors were uneasy, diocesan authorities were suspicious and doctors called him a quack, Andre would say again and again, “I do not cure, St. Joseph cures.” In the end, Andre needed 4 secretaries to handle some 80,000 letters he received each year.

For many years, the Holy Cross authorities had tried to purchase the land on Mt. Royal–Brother Andre and others would climb the steep hill and planted medals of St. Joseph, suddenly the owners yielded and Brother Andre collected two hundred dollars to build a small chapel and he began receiving visitors there–smiling through long hours of listening, applying St. Joseph’s oil and praying, some were cured, some were not. The pile of crutches, canes and leg braces grew.

The Chapel that Brother Andre built also grew and by 1931 there were gleaming walls but money ran out.

“Put a statue of St. Joseph in the middle if he wants a roof over his head, he’ll get it.”

The magnificent Oratory on Mt. Royal took 50 years to build. Brother Andre the sickly boy that couldn’t hold a job died at the age of 92 and was buried at the Oratory and in 1982 was beatified.

At Brother Andre’s canonization in October, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI said, that St. Andre “lived the beatitude of the pure of heart.”

More here from EWTN

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church

Hildegard of Bingen

Saint Hildegard of Bingen –Image Courtesy: UCatholic@Twitter

(Franciscan Media) Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian–where to begin describing this remarkable woman? 

Born into a noble family, she was instructed for 10 years by the Holy Woman Blessed Jutta–When Hildegard was 18 she came a Benedictine Nun at the Monastery of Saint Disbodenberg.

Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions she received since the age of 3, Hildegard took 10 years to write her ‘Scivias’ (Know the Ways) Pope Eugene III read it and in 1147 encouraged her to continue writing.

Hildegard’s book of ‘The Merits of Life and Book of Divine Works’ followed, wring over 300 letters to people who sought her advice–later she also composed short works on medicine, physiology and sought advice from contemporaries such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Saint Hildegard’s visions caused her to see humans as “living sparks” of God’s love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation. Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes.

Hildegard saw the harmony of God’s creation and the place of Women and Men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries.

In September 2010, Pope Benedict spoke about ‘Hildegard of Bingen’ during two general audiences, praising her humility with which she received God’s gifts the obedience she gave Church authorities. Pope Benedict praised the “rich theological content” of her mystical visions that sum up the history of salvation from creation to the end of time.

In 2012 Hildegard was canonized and named a ‘Doctor of the Church’ by Pope Benedict XVI

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Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of Pope Saint Leo the Great

St Leo the GreatPope Saint Leo the Great (400-461)
Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(CNA) Born in Italy Tuscany into nobility, Pope Leo I was a strong student especially in Scripture and theology according to SQPN together with being an eloquent writer and minister. — Pope from 440 to 461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun (406-453) he was met by Pope Leo I in 452 when approaching Rome and was dissuaded from attacking the city.

Pope Saint Leo I known as “St. Leo the Great, as the nickname soon attributed to him by tradition tradition suggests,” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2008 “he was truly one of the greatest Pontiff’s to have honored the Roman See and made a very important contribution to strengthening its authority and prestige.”

Little is known of Pope Leo I youthful days, he became a Deacon in Rome in approximately 430 during the Pontificate of Celestine I, which during this time, central authority was beginning to decline in the Western portion of the Roman Empire. At some point between 432 and 440 during the reign of Pope Celestine I successor Pope Sixtus III, the Roman Emperor Valentinian III commissioned Leo to travel to the region of Gaul (modern day France, Belgium and the Netherlands) and settle a dispute between military and civil authorities.

Pope St Sixtus III died in 440 and like his successor Pope St Celestine I Leo was away on a diplomatic mission at the time of Celestine I death and was chosen to be Bishop of Rome.

Pope Leo the Great, reigned for over two decades, he sough to preserve the unity of the Church in its profession of faith and to ensure the safety of citizens against frequent barbarian invasions. — Pope Leo would use his authority in both doctrinal and disciplinary matters against a number of heresies troubling the Western Church including Pelagianism (involving the denial of original sin) and Manichaeism (a Gnostic system that saw matter as evil) during this same period, many Eastern Christians began arguing about the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and His divinity.

As early as 445 Pope Leo had intervened in this dispute in the East, which had threatened to split the Churches of Alexandria and Constantinople–Its eventual resolution was in-fact rejected in some quarters, leading to a split between Eastern Orthodoxy and non-Chalcedonian Churches.

As the 5th century Christological controversy continued, Pope Leo urged the gathering of an Ecumenical Council to resolve the matter. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 Pope Leo’s teaching was received as authoritative to the Eastern Bishops which proclaimed: “Peter has spoken through the mouth of Pope Leo.”

Pope Leo’s teaching confirmed that Christ’s eternal divine personhood and nature did not absorb or negate the human nature that He assumed in time through the Incarnation. Instead “the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person. So without leaving His Father’s glory behind, the Son of God, comes down from His heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world, Pope Leo taught. “Whilst remaining pre-existent, He begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled his measureless and took on a Servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering, did not despise becoming a suffering man and deathless as He is, to be subjected to the laws of death.”

One year after the Council of Chalcedon in 452 Pope Leo would lead a delegation which successfully negotiated with King Attila preventing the invasion of Rome. — When the Vandals leader Genseric occupied Rome in 455 Pope Leo, implored him to abstain from murder and destruction by fire, being satisfied only with pillage.

Pope Saint Leo the Great passed away on this date in 461 and was proclaimed a ‘Doctor of the Church’ in 1754 by Pope Benedict XIV

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Today Christians Celebrate Feasts of St. Narcissus of Jerusalem & Blessed Chiara Luce Badano of Italy

Saint NarcissusSt. Narcissus of Jerusalem (99-215)
Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Franciscan Media) Life in second and third century Jerusalem couldn’t have been easy but St. Narcissus, managed to live well beyond 100 and some speculate he lived until 160

Details of Narcissus’ life are sketchy but there are many reports of his miracles. The miracle by which he is most remembered, was turning water into oil for use in the Church lamps on ‘Holy Saturday’ when the Deacons had forgotten to provide any.

We do know that Narcissus was already an old man when he became Bishop of Jerusalem according to SQPN during the late second century. Known for his holiness, there are some hints also that many people found him to be harsh and rigid in his efforts to impose Church discipline.

One of Narcissus’ many detractors accused him of a serious crime however none of the Christians in his diocese believed it, nevertheless he would use the occasion to retire from his role as Bishop and live in solitude and prayer–his disappearance was so sudden and convincing that many people believed that he died.

Several successors were appointed during Narcissus years in isolation. Finally, Narcissus appeared in Jerusalem and was persuaded to resume his duties as Bishop, by then he had reached an advanced age, so a younger Bishop was brought in to assist Bishop Narcissus until his death. 

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Blessed Chiara BadanoBlessed Chiara Luce Badano (1971-1990)
Image: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(CNA) Born in Italy Savona on this date in 1971, ‘The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints’ issued a decree in 2008 recognizing the heroic virtues of Chiara Luce Badano, who belonged to the Focolare Movement and died at just 18 yrs of age.

Chiara was the daughter of Ruggero Badano and Maria Teresa Caviglia, who waited 11 yrs to have a child.

“Amidst our great joy, we understood immediately that she was not only our daughter but also a daughter of God,” her mother Maria Teresa said, according to a biography published by Focolare. — Since childhood, Chiara showed a deep love for God and a strong but docile character, she was joyful, kind and very active.

At the 9 Chiara joined the Focolare Movement and in 1985 Chiara moved to Savona, to continue her education. According to her biographers, “Chiara had a difficult time despite her great efforts, she was held back one year and this made her suffer greatly.”

Chiara had made many friends, loved sports, especially tennis, swimming and hiking, together with singing and dancing, she dreamed of one day becoming a flight attendant however at the age of 16 she decided to pursue the consecrated life. — Chiara had a close relationship with the founder of Focolare Movement Chiara Lubich, who have her the name ‘Luce.’

Soon after this time, Chiara Luce was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her shoulder, she would begin intensive chemotherapy while continuing on with her daily life with the same joy and faith. — This same joy and faith moved Chiara Luce even though she was ill, to donate all of her savings to a friend who was going to be a Missionary to Africa.

Despite the efforts by her doctors, Chiara Luce illness progressed rapidly and she lost the use of her legs in which she said to her family: “If I had to choose between walking or going to heaven, I’d choose heaven.”

In July 1989 Chiara Luce suffered a severe hemorrhage and her death appeared to be imminent, she told her parents: “Don’t cry for me, I’m going to see Jesus. At my funeral, I don’t want people to cry but rather to sing with all their voices.”

Chiara Luce would pray for the strength to do God’s will. “I don’t ask Jesus to come for me to bring me to heaven. I don’t want to give Him the impression that I don’t want to suffer anymore.”

Chiara Luce would ask her mother to help her prepare and plan her funeral, or as she would call it her “wedding feast.” Giving her mother Maria Teresa specific instructions about how she should be dressed, the music, the flowers, the hymns to be sung and the readings, she then asked her mother to repeat the words:

“Now Chiara, go to Jesus.”

Chiara Luce would breathe her last and went to be with her Savior Jesus Christ on the 07 October, 1990 surrounded by her parents, her friends had gathered just outside her door. Chiara’s final words were: “Ciao, be happy because I am.” — Some 2000 people would attend her funeral.

The cause for Chiara Luce Beatification was opened in 1999 by Bishop Livio Maritano, he said that his decision was based upon, “Chiara’s way of living, especially the extraordinary example she gave during the last stage of her life. — I had no doubt about promoting her cause,” he said.

Chiara Luce was Beatified in 2010 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

More here from EWTN

Related: Chiara Luce: A Luminous and Modern Day Model –Focolare

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Simon the Apostle & St. Jude Thaddeus

Saint's Simon and JudeSaint Simon the Apostle and Saint Jude Thaddeus
Image Courtesy: St. Paul Street Evangelization

(Vatican) Today Christians honor two of the Twelve Apostles: Simon the Cananean and Jude Thaddeus (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Christ) — Let us look at them together says Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, not only because they are placed next to each other in lists of the Twelve according to:

Matthew 10:3-4  Mark 3:18  Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 but also because there is very little information about them, apart from the fact, the New Testament Canon preserves one Letter attributed to St. Jude Thaddeus.

Simon was given a nickname that varies in the four lists: While Matthew and Mark describe him as a ‘Cananean’ Luke instead describes him as a Zealot. — In fact, the two descriptions are equivalent because they mean the same thing. In Hebrew, the verb ‘qana’ means to be jealous, ardent and may be said both of God, since He is jealous with regard to His chosen people. See: Exodus 20:5 and of men who burn with zeal in serving the one true God with unreserved devotion such as Elijah. See: 1st Kings 19:10

Therefore it is highly likely that even if this Simon was not exactly a member of the nationalist movement of ‘zealots’ he was at least marked by passionate attachment to his Jewish identity, hence for God, his people and (the) Divine Law.

If this was the case, Simon was worlds apart from Matthew who–had an activity behind him as a tax collector, that was frowned upon as entirely impure. This shows that Jesus called His disciples and collaborators without exception, from the most varied social and religious backgrounds. It was people who interested Him, not social classes or labels and the best thing is, that in the group of His followers, despite their differences, they all lived side-by-side, overcoming imaginable difficulties. Indeed what bound them together was Jesus Himself, in whom they all found themselves united with one another.

This is clearly a lesson for us (today) who are often inclined to accentuate differences and even contrasts, forgetting that in Jesus Christ, we are given the strength to get the better of our continual conflicts.

Lets us also bear in mind, that the group of Twelve is the prefiguration of the Church, where there must be room for all charisms, people and races, all human qualities that find their composition and unity in communion with Jesus.

Then with regard to Jude Thaddeus, this is what tradition has called him, combining two different names, in fact: Matthew and Mark call him simply ‘Thaddeus’ Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18 — Luke calls him ‘Judas son of James’ see: Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13

The nickname ‘Thaddeus’ is uncertain as explained either as originating from the Aramaic ‘tadda’ which means breast and would therefore suggest ‘magnanimous’ or as in an abbreviation of a Greek name such as ‘Teodoro’ as Teodoto.

Very little about Saint Jude has come down to us. John alone mentions a question that he addressed to Jesus at the Last Supper:

Thaddeus asks Jesus: “Lord how is it that You will reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?” See: John 14:22

This is a very timely question that we also address to the Lord: Why did not the Risen One reveal Himself to His enemies in His full glory in order to show that it is God who his victorious? Why did He only manifest Himself to His disciples?

Jesus’ answer is mysterious and profound. The Lord says: “Those who love Me will keep My word and My Father will love them and We will come to them and make Our home with them.” See: John 14:23

This means that the Risen One, must be seen, must be perceived also by the heart, in a way so that God may take up his abode within us. The Lord does not appear as a thing. He desires to enter our lives and therefore his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only in this way do we see the Risen One.

Rest here from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on St. Simon and St. Jude

Related: St. Simon the Apostle –EWTN

St. Jude Thaddeus –Catholic News Agency

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony of Saint Anne Galvao

Fr Anthony...

St. Anthony of Saint Anne Galvao
Image: Catholic Thoughts

(Franciscan Media) God’s plan in an individuals life takes unexpected turns which become life-giving through cooperation with God’s grace.

Anthony was born in Brazil Guaratingueta near Sao Paulo to a deeply religious family of high social standing. — According to the Vatican Anthony’s father Antonio Galvao de Franca, was active in the would of commerce, belonged to the ‘Third Order of St. Francis’ and was known for his generosity. Anthony’s mother Izabel Letite de Barros, bore 11 children before her premature death in 1755 at the age of 38 she too was well known for her generosity, in fact, when she passed, none of her clothes could be found because she had given them all to the poor.

When Anthony was 13 yrs old his father Antonio, sent him to a Jesuit Seminary in Belem but due to a growing anti-Jesuit climate, Antonio later recommended that Anthony pursue his vocation with the Franciscan Friars instead.

In 1760 at the age of 21,  Anthony entered St. Bonaventure Friary in Macacu in Rio de Janeiro, during this period, Anthony was known for his devotion, zeal and exemplary values. In 1761 Anthony made his solemn profession and took the Franciscan vow to defend the Blessed Virgin Mary’s title of the ‘Immaculate’ at the time, it was still a controversial doctrine. One year later, Anthony was Ordained as a Priest and sent to St. Francis Fiary in Sao Paulo, where he continued his studies in theology and philosophy. — In 1768 Fr. Anthony was appointed Preacher, Confessor and  Porter at the Convent, an important post.

Within a few years, Fr. Anthony was appointed Confessor to the ‘Recollects of St. Teresa’ a group on Nun’s in Sao Paulo — Subsequently, Fr. Anthony and Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, founded a new community of Sisters, under the patronage of ‘Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence’ with Sister Helena Maria’s premature death the following year, this left Fr. Anthony, responsible for the new congregation, especially for building a Convent and Church adequate for their growing numbers.

Fr. Anthony served as the Novice Master for the Friars in Macacu and as Guardian of ‘St. Francis Friary’ in Sao Paulo. Subsequently Fr. Anthony founded ‘St. Clare Convent in Sorocaba Sao Paulo — After 11 months, he returned to ‘St Francis Friary’ — Because of his old age, Fr. Anthony obtained permission from the Bishop and Guardian to stay at the Recolhimento da Luz, where he passed away two days before Christmas.

On this date in 1998 Fr. Anthony of Saint Anne Galvao was Beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II and Canonized in 2007 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Theodore Guerin, First Saint of Indiana

St. Theodore GuerinSt. Theodore Geurin (1798-1856)
Image Courtesy: Guerin Catholic High School, Noblesville, Indiana

(CNA) Born in France Brittany, Anne Therese (birth name) grew up at a time that the French government was shutting down Seminaries and Churches–Anne’s life was shattered when her father was murdered while she was only 15 according to Franciscan Media following this tragedy, Anne helped to care for her mother and younger sister together with her cousin a Seminarian lived in hiding in her families home, while there he instructed Anne thoroughly in faith and theology which Anne exhibited a remarkable knowledge of.

In 1823 at the age of 26 Anne entered the ‘Sisters of Providence’ and took the name Sister Saint Theodore, according to SQPN and made her final vows in 1831 — In 1840 Sister Saint Theodore was sent to the State of Indiana in order to found a Convent of the ‘Sisters of Providence’ in the Diocese of Vicennes located in the far south-western part of the state. There Sister Saint Theodore pioneered Catholic education and would open the first Girls Boarding School.

Sister Saint Theodore became well known for her Heroic witness in faith, her hope and her love of God. During the fledgling years at the Convent of ‘Our Lady of the Woods’ were challenging (now called, Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods) with the ever present danger of it being burned down by the anti-Catholics. Persecution also came within the Church from Sister Saint Theodore own Bishop, who on not being able to tamper with the ‘Sisters of Providence’ Order’s Rule, excommunicated her–the excommunication was eventually lifted by his successor.

Sister Saint Theodore’s ‘holiness was evident to people who knew her,’ writes the Vatican and many described her simply as “Saintly” she possessed the ability to draw out the best in people, to enable them to attain more than they thought possible–her love was one of her greatest hallmarks, she loved God, God’s people, the ‘Sisters of Providence’ together with the Church and the people that she served.

Sixteen years after arriving at ‘Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods’ Sister Saint Theodore passed away, during the years of her life, she touched countless lives which continues to this day.

Sister Saint Theodore was Beatified in 1998 by Pope Saint John Paul II and Canonized in 2006 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of “Good King” Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr for Christ

Saint Wenceslaus

Saint Wenceslaus (907-929)
Image: Pinterest

(EWTN) Born in Prague Bohemia what is today the Czech Republic, Wenceslaus was the son of Duke Wratislaw a Christian and Dragomir a wicked heathen according to Catholic Encyclopedia — Wenceslaus received a good Christian education from his Grandmother Saint Ludmilla (Feast Day: 18 September)

Following the death of his father (Duke Wratislaw) Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity — Wenceslaus was urged by the people to take the reigns of government, he would place his Duchy, under the protection of Germany and introduced German Priests.

Wenceslaus took the vow of chastity and became known and respected for his virtues. — Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title.

For religious and national motives and at the instigation of his evil mother Dragomir, Wenceslaus was murdered by his brother Boleslaw at the door of the Church according to SQPN and buried there. 

Emperor Otto responded to Wenceslaus death by invading Bohemia according to Catholic News Agency and engaging in battle for several years conquering the region. Otto I forced Boleslaw (some write Boleslaus) to reverse the anti-Christian measures that he and his evil mother Dragomir had taken.

There is no evidence that Dragomir who died soon after the murder of Wenceslaus ever repented for the murder of her son. Boleslaw however came to regret his wicked deed of murdering his own brother (and repented) when he learned of miracles that were taking place where Wenceslaus was buried.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on this date in 2009 in the Czech Republic during his homily said: “This is the lesson we can learn from Saint Wenceslaus, who had the courage to prefer the Kingdom of Heaven to the enticement of world power. His gaze never moved away from Jesus Christ who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps…As an obedient disciple of the Lord, the young Prince Wenceslaus, remained faithful to the Gospel teachings he had learned from his Grandmother Saint Ludmilla — In observing these, even before committing himself to build peaceful relations within his lands and with neighboring countries, he took steps to spread the Christian faith, summoning Priests and building Churches…he was benevolent to the poor, clothed the naked, gave food to the hungry, welcomed Pilgrims just as the Gospel enjoins. He (Wenceslaus) did not allow injustice to be done to widows, he loved all people whether rich or poor. — He learned from the Lord to be merciful and gracious…”

Saint Wenceslaus is the subject of the well known favorite Christmas Carol ‘Good King Wenceslaus’ written  in 1853 by English Hymnwriter John Mason Neale in collaboration with music editor Thomas Helmore.

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Today Christians Honor Saint’s Louis & Zelie Martin

Blessed Louis Martin...

Saint Loius Martin & Saint Zelie Guerin
Image: Carmelite Sisters of Ireland

(Franciscan Media) Born in France Bordeaux 1823 Louis’ desire to join a religious community went unfulfilled as he didn’t know Latin, he therefore trained to become a watchmaker.

Subsequently upon moving to Normandy, he met and fell in love with the highly skilled lacemaker Zelie, who also had been disappointed by her attempted to enter a religious order in her life — In 1858 Louis and Zelie were married and God blessed them with 9 children though two sons and two daughters died during infancy.

Louis would help manage his wife’s Zelie lacemaking business in their home while raising their children — Louis would become a widower when his wife Zelie died from breast cancer just months before her 46th birthday.

Following Zelie’s death, Louis moved his family to France Lisieux, to be near his brother and sister-in-law who helped with the education of his 5 surviving girls. — In 1889 Louis would suffer two paralyzing strokes according to SQPN followed by psychological trauma which resulted in his hospitalization for the next three years.

As Louis health deteriorated, his eldest daughter entered the Monastery of Mt. Carmel at Lisieux in 1888 — Subsequently, all 4 of her siblings also  entered into a religious life becoming Nuns, the youngest of which became Saint Therese of the Child Jesus (Feast Day: 01 October)

In 1894 their father Louis passed away. — Both Louis and Zelie were Venerated declared ‘Heroic in Virtue’ in 1994 by Pope Saint John Paul II and Beatified in 2008 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — In October, both Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Zelie Martin will be Canonized by Pope Francis in Rome during the Synod of the Family.

More here from the Carmelite Sisters of Ireland and here by EWTN

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of Saint Matthew, Patron Saint of Investment Advisors

The Calling of St. Matthew PaintingPainting: ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’
Artist: Matthias Stomer (1600-1650) Image Courtesy: Molly/Flickr

(CNA) St. Matthew, the first century ‘Tax Collector’ turned Apostle, chronicled the life and ministry of Christ in his Gospel. While little is known of Sr. Matthew, the account which he wrote about Christ’s Ministry is of inestimable value to Christians, particularly to his verification of Jesus as the Messiah.

The Gospel accounts of St. Mark (Feast Day: 25 April) and St. Luke (Feast Day: 18 October)  like St. Matthew’s own, describe the encounter between Jesus and Matthew: Matthew 9:9-13 under the surprising circumstances of Matthew’s tax-collecting duties. Jewish Publicans who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman authorities of first century Judea were objects of scorn, even hatred among their own communities–since they worked on behalf of the occupying authority, often earning their living by collecting more than the state’s due.

Jesus most likely encountered Matthew near the house of St. Peter (Feast Day: 29 June) in Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee — Matthew’s calling into Jesus’ inner circle, was a dramatic gesture of of the Messiah’s universal message and mission, causing some religious authorities of the Jewish community to ask: “Why does your teacher eat with the tax-collectors and sinners?” —Matthew 9:11 Jesus significant response indicated a central purpose: “For I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:13; See also: Mark 2:15-17 and Luke 5:29-32

A witness to Christ’s resurrection after death as well as His ascension into Heaven and the events of Pentecost, Matthew also recorded Jesus’ instruction for the Apostles:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20

Like 11 of the 12 Apostles, St. Matthew is traditionally thought to have died as a Martyr for Christ, while ministering the Gospel.

There is some disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew’s martyrdom according to EWTN and the kind of torture inflicted upon him, therefore its is not known whether St. Matthew was beheaded, burned or stoned to death.

Both St. Matthew and his Gospel have inspired important works of religious art, ranging from the ornate illuminated pages of the ‘Book of Kells’ to the St. Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach — Three famous paints of Caravaggio, depicting St. Matthew’s calling, inspiration and martyrdom, hanging within the Contarelli Chapel in Rome’s Church of St. Louis of the French.

Reflecting on St. Matthew’s calling, from the pursuit of dishonest financial gain to the heights of holiness and divine inspiration, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “…the persuasive voice of the publican Matthew, who having become an Apostle, continues to proclaim God’s saving mercy to us and let us listen to St. Matthew’s message, meditating upon it ever anew also to learn to stand up and follow Jesus with determination.”

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