Thursday, April 28, 2016

St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

April 29th is the feast of my Confirmation saint, St. Catherine of Siena, Caterina di Giacomo di Benicasa (1347 - 1380). As a mystic, activist, reformer, contemplative, and Doctor of the Church, she is one of the most prominent figures in Christian history.

Catherine, the youngest of twenty-six children, was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. During her youth she had to contend with great difficulties on the part of her parents. They were planning marriage for their favorite daughter; but Catherine, who at the age of seven had already taken a vow of virginity, refused. To break her resistance, her beautiful golden brown tresses were shorn to the very skin and she was forced to do the most menial tasks. Undone by her patience, her mother and father finally relented and their child entered the Third Order of St. Dominic -- a lay order.

Catherine managed a large household of followers, all of whom called her "Mama". She served as spiritual director to royalty and religious. She lived in poverty and fasted severely (living only on the Eucharist) but always seeing to it that her friends were well fed. She prayed for several hours at a time and often went into ecstasy. She routinely cared for the sick in hospitals and visited those in prisons. Even the most hardened criminals embraced the faith when she visited them. She read the thoughts and knew the temptations of her companions, even at long distances. She saw people's secret sins and confronted these people, urging them to repent. She touched hearts so effectively that the Friars Preachers had to assign three priests to handle the confessions of her penitents.

As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on April 29, 1380. In 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Against fire; bodily ills; Europe; fire prevention; firefighters; illness; Italy; miscarriages; nurses; nursing services; people ridiculed for their piety; sexual temptation; sick people; sickness; Siena, Italy; temptations.

St. Catherine of Siena Quotes

"Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders."

"Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."

"Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing."

"Strange that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstandings of God's true nature. God's heart is more gentle than the Virgin's first kiss upon the Christ. And God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being."


Holy Spirit, come into my heart, by your power I journey to You, God, and grant me charity with fear. Protect me, o Christ, from every evil thought, warm me with Your sweet love, so that each burden seems light to me. My holy Father and my sweet Lord, help me always in all my endeavors, Christ love, Christ love.

~Composed and written by St. Catherine at Rocca d'Orcia in 1377, after miraculously having learned to write.

St. Catherine of Siena: My Nature is Fire

St. Louis de Montfort

Today is the feast of St. Louis de Montfort, a French priest and confessor. He was a renowned preacher and missionary, who founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom.

Louis de Montfort is one of the most prominent promoters of Marian devotion. Totus tuus ("I am all yours.") was Louis's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) chose it as his episcopal motto.

Born to a poor family in 1673 in the Breton village of Montfort, as an adult, Louis identified himself by the place of his baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. After being educated by the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700.

He preached parish missions throughout western France, walking from city to city. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's ongoing acceptance of God's will for her life.

Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion. He also wrote The Secret of the Rosary, which is the first work to describe the method by which the Rosary is prayed today. Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized in 1947.

A Few of My Favorite St. St. Louis de Montfort Quotes

"Pray with great confidence, with confidence based on the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray."

“We fasten our souls to Your hope, as to an abiding anchor. It is to Her that the saints who have saved themselves have been the most attached and have done their best to attach others, in order to persevere in virtue. Happy, then, a thousand times happy, are the Christians who are now fastened faithfully and entirely to Her, as to a firm anchor!” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 175).

"The cross is the greatest gift God could bestow on His Elect on earth. There is nothing so necessary, so beneficial, so sweet, or so glorious as to suffer something for Jesus. If you suffer as you ought, the cross will become a precious yoke that Jesus will carry with you."

"Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies. There they can feed without fear of death on the delicious fruit of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They can drink copiously the heavenly waters of that beauteous fountain which gushes forth in such abundance."

"She [Mother Mary] is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say "Mary" she says 'God'."

"If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children."

“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”

Hymns in the Life and Writings of Montfort 

Litany to St. Louis de Montfort

Why St. Louis Marie de Montfort is so Special to me

About fifteen years ago on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes I made my Consecration to Jesus through Mary via the St. Louis de Montfort method. I can't even begin to tell you about all the graces I have received since then. A few years later, when I renewed my Consecration, my husband Bill, also made his Consecration via this method. When I presented a talk to our parish on the Blessed Virgin Mary and her various apparitions, I shared the deep love Karol Wojtyla had for our dear Mother as a result of consecrating himself to her as a young factory worker in Krakow during World War II and how this love and devotion affected him his entire life and his teachings as Pope John Paul II. In my research for this presentation, I also discovered that St. Louis preached in the same area of France where my ancestors lived, and, although I don't know how he interacted with them, I would like to think that his teachings and his great love and devotion for Our Blessed Mother impacted them in a powerful way and that they, too, shared this love of Our Lady, surrendering their hearts totally to her.

During this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I renewed my Consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary, following Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory, in which he shares some interesting insights on St. Louis de Montfort and his devotion to Mary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Saint Zita of Lucca

April 27 is the feast of St. Zita of Lucca (1212-72), the patron saint of housekeepers, domestic servants, and waitresses. She is also invoked to help find lost keys.

She was born in Tuscany, Italy in the village of Monsagrati. Zita came from a poor, but deeply devotional family. To help support the family, she became a maid of a wealthy family, Fatinelli, in the nearby Tuscan city of Lucca, serving them loyally for 48 years.

A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, Zita considered her work as an employment assigned to her by God and obeyed her master and mistress in all things as being placed over her by God. She always rose several hours before the rest of the family and spent time in prayer while they slept. She started each day with Holy Mass before she began performing her duties.

She visited the sick and those in prison, giving them hope and spreading the gospel message. She was well - known for all her works of charity and her sweet, joyful disposition.

Zita had a great love for the poor and donated her own food or that of her master to the poor. At first, her employers were upset by her generous gifts of food to the poor, but in time, they were completely won over by her patience and goodness.

On one morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. Some of the other servants made sure the Fatinelli family was aware of what happened. When they went to investigate, they claimed to have found angels in the Fatinelli kitchen, baking the bread for her.

On another occasion, Zita had given away the family's supply of beans to the townsfolk during a severe famine. Upon suspecting this, the Fatinelli family went to the cupboard to find it full - the beans hand been miraculously replaced.

Another recorded event was just as dramatic, if not more so. On Christmas Eve, Zita had given away a prized and treasured family cloak to a shivering man at the doorway of St. Fredaino, the local church. While the elder Fatinelli was in the midst of a fit of fury, an elderly man came to the door and returned the heirloom. When townsfolk heard of the event, they decided that the man must have been an angel. From that point on, the doorway of the St. Fredaino church in Lucca has been called the "Angel Portal".

With the passage of the years Zita’s fellow servants and the Fatinellis came to realize that she was a genuine saint. The family made her mistress of the household and eventually governess of the Fatinelli children.

St. Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272 at the age of 60. It is said that a star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. Zita was canonized in 1696.

In 1580, Zita’s body was found incorrupt. It is kept enshrined in St. Frediano’s Church in Lucca, Italy, near the Fatinelli house where she worked. Pope Leo X granted an office in her honor, and the city of Lucca pays special tribute and veneration to her memory on her feast day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

St. Franca of Piacenza: Cisterican Nun and Foundress

The saint of the day for April 26 is St. Franca of Piacenza, a Cistercian nun and foundress.  She was placed in the Benedictine convent of Saint Syrus at Piacenza, Italy in 1177 at age seven and entered the Order at age 14.  She was elected abbess as a young nun, but was removed from office due to her rigid interpretation of the Rule.

Nevertheless, one of the nuns, Sister Carentia, agreed with her discipline. When Carentia entered the Cistercian novitiate at Rapallo, Italy, she convinced her parents to build a Cistercian house at Montelana, Italy. Franca became abbess of the community, to which both she and Franca had entered. The community later moved to Pittoli, Italy. Franca consistently maintained the severe penances she imposed on herself, even in the face of poor health. She spent most nights in the chapel, praying for hours.  She was canonized by Pope Gregory X.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

St. Mark, the Evangelist, the author of the second Gospel, is commonly identified as “John Mark” in the Acts of the Apostles (12:12, 25; 15:37). He is the patron saint of: attorneys, notaries, prisoners, and stained glass workers.

Born a Jew, he was baptized and instructed in the faith by St. Peter the Apostle and traveled with him to Rome. He had a close relationship with St. Peter, who referred to him as “my son Mark” (1 Peter 5:13).

Mark traveled with his cousin St. Barnabas and with St. Paul on their first missionary journey in Cyprus (Acts 13:5).  Mark is also said to have evangelized in Alexandria, Egypt and founded the Church there.

Like Luke, Mark was not one of the twelve apostles. Some scholars believe him to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52).  He is also considered to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt.

According to Eusebius, the Christian historian, Mark died at Alexandria and was martyred for his faith. In the 9th century, Mark’s body was brought to Venice, where he is patron of the city.

Mark’s gospel reads with the immediacy of an eyewitness account. It is the oldest and shortest Gospel in the Bible. It was written in Rome around 65-70 AD for a Gentile audience. The winged Lion is his symbol. This symbol originates from St. Mark's description of John the Baptist's voice "crying out in the wilderness" upon hearing the Word of God (Mark 1:3). His voice is said to have sounded like that of a roaring lion. In addition, the lion signifies the power of the Evangelist's word and the wings signify spiritual elevation.  This lion imagery also appears in a vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, in which four winged creatures represent the four evangelists (Ezekiel 1:10). Matthew is depicted as a human, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull, and John as an eagle.

Lesson: St. Mark achieved in his life what every Catholic is called to do by virtue of their Baptism: proclaim to the whole world the Good News that is the source of our salvation. There are many ways we can evangelize today – through preaching or teaching or our writing, as Mark did, or through other gifts that we have been given by God: our hospitality, our prayers,  our artistry, our musical talents, etc. Each one of us has the ability and the grace to evangelize, which we received at Baptism and Confirmation.

"Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." -- Mark 16:15

Collect: O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist, and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel, grant, we pray, that we may so profit from his teaching as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

~copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Quick Takes: A New Book!

1.  The most important item on my Quick Takes List is this (drum roll):

Coming May 13, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, my new book, Learning to Love With the Saints a Spiritual Memoir.  Stay tuned for my Book Blog Tour which runs from May 13 - 23.
2. The second most important item on my agenda is a garage sale this coming week. I have a variety of items that I am getting ready for the sale.  I enjoy garage sales, even if they don't include the mystery that Hallmark adds to them. It's fun meeting new folks and sharing small "treasures" with them.

3. What have I been reading lately?  Some wonderful books, including:

33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Divine Mercy by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC
How To Be Holy: First Steps In Becoming A Saint by Peter Kreeft
The Four Keys to Everlasting Love by Karee Santos and Manuel P. Santos, MD

I highly recommend all three!

4. This past week we have celebrated the lives of some wonderful saints:

5.  Saturday, April 23 is the feast of St. George, martyr, the patron of soldiers.

6. Spring is the mating season, which is why I am posting this photo entitled, "April Love". I found these love birds on the front lawn. When I tried to take their picture, they ventured out into the street.

Here is a close-up I managed to get of the male mallard. Isn't he striking? 

7. Easter is the season of joy and the other day I decided to jot down a few thoughts about "The Virtue of Joy".

Have a wonderful weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum.

All images copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

St. Anselm: Benedictine Bishop who Battled For Religious Freedom and Human Rights

April 21 is the feast of St. Anslem, a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian, who held the office of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. He is a Doctor of the Church who is known as "the most luminous and penetrating intellect between St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas" and "the Father of Scholasticism". He preferred to defend the Faith using intellectual reasoning rather than with Scripture passages.

The genius of Saint Anselm's reasoning and writing about faith and God has captivated and influenced scholars since the Middle Ages. His highly acclaimed work, Monologium (Monologue), provides proof of God's existence. His Proslogium (Addition), advances the idea that God exists according to the human notion of a perfect being in whom nothing is lacking.  In his greatest work, Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man) he views Christ’s death in light of God’s mercy and love. Some of the world's greatest theologians and philosophers have studied and extolled these works.

St. Anselm (1033-1109) was born in Aosta, Italy, and died in Canterbury, England. The oldest child of an aristocratic family, his mother, a woman devoted to the faith, gave him a Christian education. His father was an abrasive man devoted to worldly pleasures.  At the age of 15, Anselm asked to be admitted to the Benedictine Order but his father disapproved and prevented it. As a result, Anselm became seriously ill for a time.

Then, unable to fulfill his calling to become a monk and without the spiritual support of his mother, Anselm experienced a faith crisis. He abandoned his faith and his studies and became involved in worldly pursuits. He traveled to France in search of new experiences and eventually reached the abbey of Bec. There, at the age of 27, he embraced the monastic life and became ordained as a priest. Fifteen years later, he was unanimously elected as abbot of the monastery.

At the age of 60, he was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. Anselm immediately became entangled in a struggle for the Church's freedom. He defended the Church from unnecessary meddling by political authorities, specifically King William Rufus and Henry I. Consequently, he was exiled from his See of Canterbury.  He spent part of his exile as an adviser to Pope Blessed Urban II, obtaining the pope‘s support for returning to England and conducting Church business without the king‘s interference. In 1106, when King Henry I renounced his right to assign Church offices, as well as to collect taxes and confiscate Church properties, Anselm returned to England.

Anselm was concerned for the poor and strongly opposed the slave trade. Anselm was concerned for the poor and strongly opposed the slave trade. In 1102, at a church council in St. Peter's church, Westminster, he obtained the passage of a resolution against the practice of selling human beings.

Favorite Quotes

"O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope. "

"From the moment of her fiat Mary began to carry all of us in her womb."

"The Mother of God is our mother. May the good mother ask and beg for us, may she request and obtain what is good for us."

"No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God."

"I have written the little work that follows... in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes."

"I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that "unless I believe, I shall not understand." (Isaiah 7:9)

- From the Preface to the Proslogium, in St. Anselm: Basic Writings (La Salle: Open Court Publishing, 1962)

A Prayer Of Anselm

My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life let me go steadily onto the day when I come to that fullness ...Let me receive That which you promised through your truth, that my joy may be full.

A Song Of Anselm

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you: you are gentle with us as a mother with her children; Often you weep over our sins and our pride: tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds: in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us. Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life: by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy. Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness: through your gentleness we find comfort in fear. Your warmth gives life to the dead:your touch makes sinners righteous. Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us: in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness: for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

St. Agnes of Montepulciano: Dominican Mystic and Woman of Miracles

April 20 is the feast of St. Agnes of Montepulciano, a Dominican abbess and foundress in medieval Tuscany. Seventy years after Agnes died St. Catherine of Siena made a pilgrimage to the shrine of this famous Dominican foundress.  As St. Catherine bowed to kiss Agnes’ foot, the saint raised it up toward her so she would not have to bend so far. Catherine may not have been completely surprised, as miracles surrounded Agnes’ life.

This holy virgin was born in 1268 in a little village near Montepulciano, Italy to the affluent De Segni family. When she was born, mysterious flashing bright lights illuminated the house where she was born, announcing her birth.

At age six, Agnes was already pleading with her parents to let her enter the cloister. When they told her that she was too young, she begged them to move to nearby Montepulciano, so she could make regular visits to the monastery there. The family did not move, but they did allow Agnes to make visits to see the nuns there.

On one of these visits, Agnes was traveling in Montepulciano with her mother and the women of the household, and, as they passed a hill on which stood a house of prostitution, a flock of crows swooped down and attacked the girl. Screaming and plunging, they managed to scratch and frighten her badly before the women drove them away. Upset by the incident, the women mutually agreed that the birds must have been devils, and that they resented the purity and chastity of Agnes, who would one day drive them from that hilltop. Agnes did, in fact, found a monastery there many years later.

As a child, Agnes often spent hours reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary on her knees in some private corner of a chamber. She was such a holy child that when she was nine years old her parents placed her in a Franciscan convent known as "Sisters of the Sack" , so called because their habits or scapulars were made of sackcloth. Agnes was a model of all virtues to this austere community.

At the age of fifteen, she entered the Dominican Order at Proceno, in the county of Orvieto, and was appointed abbess at the age of twenty by Pope Nicholas IV. On the day she was chosen abbess, small white crosses softly showered her and the congregation.

Agnes was deeply devoted to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother. In fact, it has been reported that the Blessed Mother visited her on numerous occasions. During one of these visits, she allowed Agnes to hold the Christ Child, but Agnes was hesitant to give him back. When she awoke from her trance, she was holding the small gold crucifix the infant Jesus was wearing.  On another visit, Our Lady handed her three small stones and told her that she should use them to build a monastery.  When Agnes told her that she had no intention of going anywhere, the Blessed Virgin told her to keep the stones--three, in honor of the Blessed Trinity--and one day she would need them.

Agnes had a strong prayer life and practiced severe penances. She slept on the ground, with a stone under her head, and for fifteen years fasted on bread and water. At the age of thirty, however, because of poor health, her spiritual director instructed her to eat other foods. While in the monastery, she earned a reputation for performing miracles: people suffering from mental and physical illnesses were cured solely by her presence. She was reported to have "multiplied loaves", creating many from a few on numerous occasions, evoking the Gospel miracle of the loaves and fishes.

The people of Montepulciano wanted so much for her to return to them that they destroyed a house of prostitution and in its place built a monastery for Agnes. In her hometown, she established in this house nuns of the order of St. Dominic. Agnes continued to be a great example of piety, humility, and charity to all for the remainder of her life. Through a long illness she showed great patience and grace, offering her sufferings up to God for the redemption of souls.

Agnes died at Montepulciano on April 20, 1317 at the age of forty-nine. Her body was removed to the Dominicans' church of Orvieto in 1435, where it remains. She was solemnly canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726.


Merciful God, you adorned Agnes of Montepulciano, your bride, with a marvelous fervor in prayer. By imitating her example, may we always hold fast to you in spirit and so come to enjoy the abundant fruits of holiness. St. Agnes never faltered in her deep devotion and love for You. Dear Father, may we also appreciate the spiritual things more than the things of this world and give to You our greatest devotion. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

The Virtue of Joy

 “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God within.” -- Cardinal Tmothy Dolan

“Here is the difference between the joys of the world and the cross of Jesus Christ: after having tasted the first, one is disgusted with them; and on the contrary, the more one partakes of the cross, the greater the thirst for it.”  -- St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Spiritual joy arises from purity of the heart and perseverance in prayer." -- St. Francis of Assisi

“Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.”
-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"Joy is prayer -- Joy is strength -- Joy is love -- Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. She gives most who gives with joy. The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen. "

--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

What are the characteristics of a joyful person?

They put God first in their lives.
They are patient with God, with others, and with themselves.
They forgive themselves as well as others.
They focus on the good in every situation.
They pray always and put their trust in God.
They are grateful for all things -- for both the good things and the crosses they are asked to bear.
They put others before themselves.