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During the 1997 World Youth Day celebrations in Paris, Saint John Paul II beatified Antoine Frederic Ozanam in Notre Dame Cathedral and proclaimed him to be a model for all Catholic laity. “No better model could be given to the youth of the world than this young man … ‘Show us your works!’”

Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam was a French Catholic scholar and defender of the Catholic faith at a time when it underwent severe challenges in early 19th century France. He also founded the Catholic association of laity dedicated to serving the poor, which came to be known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Frederic was born in Milan, Italy, in 1813, the fifth of 14 children. Showing academic promise at an early age, his parents encouraged him to study. He was interested in law, languages and philosophy, and in 1831 went to the renowned Parisian university, the Sorbonne, to study law. It was here that he encountered hostility to Catholicism. He published a short work responding to this hostility that attracted the attention of French Catholic writers and politicians.

Frederic’s writings emphasized the important social contributions of the Church, but a conversation with another student disturbed him: “Frederic, I accept that the Church may have done things for people in the past but what are you doing now? Show us your works!” Those words stung the young Frederic so much that he decided to work with the poor. In 1833, with seven university companions, he laid the foundations of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul honoring the great saint who in another time had also ministered to the poor of the city of Paris. He was 20 years old.

Frederic earned a doctor of laws in 1836 and a doctorate in letters in 1839. He became a professor at the university and, in time, chair of foreign languages. His lectures at the Sorbonne were among the most popular as students flocked to hear this young, vibrant speaker.

In 1841 Frederic married, had one daughter, and is said to have embraced a youthful enthusiasm for his marriage and his parenting. Each month he would observe the anniversary of his wedding with a thoughtfully chosen gift, however small. Frederic brought that same domestic love and attention to the growing Society which spread throughout France and other countries within a relatively short time.

He gained a reputation as the leading historical and literary critic in the “new” Catholic movement in France, and his popular writings in the late 1840s won him a number of French writing awards. He was hailed as a brilliant promoter of the Catholic faith. Frederic died of tuberculosis at age 40 on September 8, 1853. Today the Society numbers nearly a million members in 142 countries. Frederic’s feast day is September 9.

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Saint Mary Magdalene is one of the most revered saints in the history of the Church and her discipleship emphasizes the complementary roles of women, Saint Peter and the other disciples as witnesses to the Risen Christ.

From the New Testament, one can conclude that Mary came from Magdala, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. She was a friend of Jesus of Nazareth and a leading figure among those who were his disciples. She was one of the women who accompanied and financially supported Jesus and the twelve apostles which suggests that the women were respectable, well-to-do members of the community.

At the time Jesus was executed on Golgotha, when the men in his company had already run away and abandoned him, Mary Magdalene is specifically identified in the Gospels as one of the women who refused to leave him. She was present at the Crucifixion and burial.

What is by far the most important affirmation about Mary Magdalene, however, is that she is mentioned in all five of the Resurrection narratives of the Gospel tradition (Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 23:55-24:12, John 20:1-18, and Mark 16:9-20). In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, she is the primary witness to Christ’s Resurrection. All four Gospels explicitly name her as being present at the tomb and she was the first person to preach the “Good News” of that miracle. From other texts of the early Christian era, Mary Magdalene’s status as a disciple in the years after Jesus’ death is as prominent as the twelve apostles.

For many centuries Mary Magdalene was the symbol of Christian devotion, especially that of repentance. However, Christian traditions that came after the New Testament era erroneously equated Mary Magdalene with both the sinful woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus and with Mary of Bethany in John 11 and Luke 10 who also anointed Jesus. The tradition that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute has been dismissed by modern biblical scholarship as almost certainly untrue.

Saint Mary Magdalene has been celebrated throughout Christian history in art and literature. There are many famous depictions of her in art such as Rembrandt’s Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb and Titian’s Noli Me Tangere (Latin: “Do not touch me”). Her feast day is July 22.

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María Guadalupe García Zavala was born in 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. As a child she made frequent visits to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, located next to her father’s religious goods shop. Her acquaintances said Maria treated everyone with equal respect and kindness.

At age 23, Maria was engaged to be married, but broke it off because of a growing sense that the Lord was calling her to life in religious community and of service to the sick and the poor. When she confided this change of heart to her spiritual director, he revealed his own desire to establish a religious community to work with those who were hospitalized. He invited María to join him.

The new congregation, which officially began in 1901, was known as the “Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary (Alacoque) and the Poor.” María worked as a nurse in the hospital. Compassion and care for the physical and spiritual well-being of the sick were the primary concerns. María worked tirelessly.

Sister María was soon named head of the quickly-growing community of sisters. She taught the community, mostly by her example, the importance of living the Gospel’s spirit of poverty. This included living a life of humility and exhibiting joy and a loving demeanor each day to each person they encountered.

At times, Mother María and others in the community would take to the streets begging in order to collect money for the hospital. The sisters also worked in parishes to assist the priests and to serve as catechists.

From 1911 until 1936, the Catholic Church in Mexico underwent severe persecution. Mother María put her own life at risk to help the clergy of Guadalajara, and even the archbishop, go into hiding in the community’s hospital. The humble and generous treatment she extended even to their persecutors when they needed food or medical care did not go unnoticed. It was not long before they, too, began defending the hospital run by the sisters.

During her lifetime, 11 foundations were established in Mexico. Today, the religious community has 22 foundations and is active in Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.

Mother María died on June 24, 1963, at the age of 85. Her feast day is June 24.

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Saint Damien de Veuster is better known as Saint Damien of Molokai, “apostle to lepers.” When he was born in 1840, few people had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. But by the time he died at age 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him.

Joseph de Veuster grew up in a small village in Belgium. He joined the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859, taking the religious name Damien. When his brother, who was also a member of the congregation, was taken ill and unable to embark on his assignment in the Hawaiian Islands, Damien went in his place. He was ordained a priest there in 1864.

In 1873 Father Damien responded to the local bishop’s call for volunteers to work on Molokai, an island used in part as a leper colony. At the time there was no cure for leprosy and those who contracted the disease were shunned.

There were about eight hundred lepers on the island when Father Damien arrived and the number continued to grow. Living conditions were so terrible that Damien referred to the place as a “living cemetery.” He visited the lepers in their huts and brought them the sacraments. He also made efforts to improve the roads, harbor, and water supply and to expand the hospital. His multiple responsibilities were said to have included those of a pastor, physician, counselor, builder, sheriff, and undertaker. In one of his letters home, he wrote: “I make myself a leper with the lepers, to bring all to Jesus Christ.”

Father Damien returned to Honolulu to beg for money, clothing and medicine and as news of his ministry spread, donations began to pour in from all over the world. But in 1885, he himself contracted leprosy and was forbidden to leave the island. Volunteers and visitors stopped coming.

When Father Damien spent a week in a Honolulu hospital, his ministry gained even more recognition. He was visited by the king and the prime minister, and money and offers of prayers continued to pour in from Europe and the United States. As his condition worsened, Damien accepted it as God’s will and described himself as the “happiest missionary in the world.” He died on April 15, 1889. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. Damien was canonized in 2009.

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Saint Luke’s theology of stewardship is well-documented. But it is also well-known that an understanding of Saint Mark’s theology of Christian discipleship in the second Gospel is necessary in order to understand Luke’s views on stewardship. Hence, Mark’s views on discipleship as well as his stewardship of Saint Peter’s memories, make him an important stewardship saint in his own right.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Mark’s mother, Mary, owned a house in Jerusalem in which the earliest Christian community gathered. After visiting Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas took Mark back with them to Antioch. Mark assisted them in their evangelization efforts in Cyprus, but upon their arrival by ship in Perga, he left them and returned to Jerusalem. Later, after returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas had an argument over Mark. Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their next missionary journey, but Paul objected on the grounds that Mark had not persevered on the previous journey. Accordingly, Barnabas took Mark back to Cyprus, and Paul set out for Syria and Cilicia with Silas.

In the letter to Philemon, Mark is mentioned among Paul’s fellow workers. When Paul was held captive in Rome, Mark was with him, giving him “comfort” (Col.4:10). In the same verse, Mark is mentioned as the cousin of Barnabas, and the Christians at Colossae are urged to offer hospitality to Mark if he should come there. Elsewhere, Timothy is asked to bring Mark to Paul, since he is useful for the apostle’s ministry. The first letter attributed to Peter, written in all likelihood from Rome, mentions Mark as the “son” of Peter, a term either of simple affection or an indication that Peter was Mark’s father in the faith. Mark’s presence in Rome with Peter would be consistent with the tradition that Mark was the steward of Peter’s memories, taking copious notes of Peter’s reflections on Jesus’ teaching and deeds. This tradition comes from the early Christian historian Eusebius, who also wrote that Mark was Peter’s “interpreter.” Many scholars believe that Mark wrote his Gospel while in Rome, although another tradition suggests that the Gospel was written in Alexandria.

Saint Mark is the patron saint of many groups including lawyers, notaries, secretaries, painters, pharmacists and interpreters. He is also the patron saint of Venice and Egypt. His traditional symbol is that of the winged lion and his feast day is April 25.

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Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph is the most honored saint in the Catholic Church for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. His traditional feast day is March 19. Joseph’s life is depicted in the gospels, particularly in Matthew and Luke. He was born in

Bethlehem and is described as being a descendant of King David.

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but was pregnant with the Christ child before Joseph took her into his home. According to Jewish law at the time, Mary could have been stoned to death if she was believed to have been unfaithful to her betrothed. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary into his home, that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Jesus.

After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in yet another dream, Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s slaughter of newborns had come to an end with Herod’s own death. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and settled in Nazareth where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he and Mary frantically searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple (Luke 2:42–52).

Saint Joseph was declared patron saint and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX at the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870. He is also considered a spiritual model for families and Christian teaching frequently stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities Christians should reflect upon and embrace. He is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, husbands, the unborn, working people in general and social justice.

Saint Joseph is the patron saint of several countries including Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and

Peru. Many cities, towns, and other locations are named after Saint Joseph as well; and it has been noted that the Spanish form of Saint Joseph, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world.

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According to the Acts of the Apostles (10:45) the first pagan converted to Christ was an officer of the imperial Roman army. Cornelius the Centurion is described by the scriptures as a devout man who feared God, gave alms generously, and prayed constantly to God (10:1-2). Cornelius and the Apostle Peter had simultaneous visions that eventually brought them together (10:5; 10:15) at Cornelius’ house and in the presence of Cornelius’ whole household. Peter assured Cornelius that God shows no partiality and briefly related the history of Jesus’ preaching and death. At this, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who were listening, Jew and Gentile alike. Peter was so astounded that the Spirit was given to the pagans as well as the Jews that he readily acceded to Cornelius’ request for baptism for himself and his entire household. When some of the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem learned of what had happened, they criticized Peter severely. Later a Council had to be convened, headed by James to settle the dispute (Acts 15). Peter was vindicated, and a new missionary outreach to the Gentiles was inaugurated. Cornelius’ feast day is February 4.

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Neumann, a small individual at 5’2”, arrived in Manhattan in June 1836 and was ordained three weeks later for the Diocese of New York. His first assignment was to provide pastoral care for a German-speaking immigrant community whose members were clearing forests for a settlement near Niagara Falls. After four years of working alone, Neumann joined the Redemptorists (Congregation for the Most Holy Redeemer, C.SS.R.), and took permanent vows in January 1842.

Neumann spoke eight languages and became a popular preacher for many different immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. Eventually, he was elected to head the Redemptorists in the United States.

John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Bohemia in 1811 and named by his parents after the patron saint of Bohemia. Neumann was known to be an exceptionally gifted seminarian, intellectually and spiritually. He studied at the University of Prague and traveled to the United States to be a missionary after his bishop decided to postpone ordinations due to an oversupply of priests in the diocese.

In 1852 Neumann was appointed the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, a diocese that spanned the eastern half of Pennsylvania and the state of Delaware. As soon as he was ordained he embarked on an ambitious diocesan building campaign and was responsible for building over 100 parishes and 80 Catholic schools. He completed an unfinished cathedral and founded a new congregation of women, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, to help staff the increasingly crowded schools. Neumann also wrote two German catechisms that were approved by the First Plenary Council of Baltimore, the first of three national meetings of United States Catholic bishops held in 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland. His Baltimore catechisms were translated into other languages and widely used in the United States for the remainder of the 19th century.

On January 5, 1862, Bishop Neumann collapsed on a Philadelphia street and died. He was 48 years old. Philadelphia’s historical annals reveal that half the city’s population attended his funeral, including the mayor, police and fire brigades, military battalions and a number of civic and Catholic societies and benevolent organizations. He was buried under the altar of the lower church of the Redemptorist parish, St. Peter. His burial site quickly became a shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Saint John Nepomucene Neumann was canonized on June 17, 1977. His feast day is January 5.

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The day after Christmas is called “St. Stephen’s Day” to commemorate the first Christian martyr. It is also this “Feast of Stephen” that is mentioned in the English Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas.”

Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew living in Jerusalem. He became a follower of Jesus Christ and was one of seven individuals chosen by the twelve apostles to serve tables, look after the distribution of the community funds (alms), especially to widows, and assist in the ministry of preaching.

Stephen was also a leader in the Christian group known as the “Hellenists,” a community that had its own synagogues where the scriptures were read in Greek. The Hellenist Christians maintained that the new Christian faith could not grow unless it separated itself from Judaism and specifically the Temple and the Mosaic law. The Hellenists also urged the expansion of the Church’s mission to the Gentiles.

The elders in a number of neighboring synagogues opposed Stephen and the Hellenists and charged him with blasphemy for saying that the Temple would be destroyed and that Jesus had set aside the Mosaic law even though Stephen maintained that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not set it aside.

When dragged before the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal court of Jewish elders, Stephen made an eloquent defense of the Hellenist Christian teaching. He charged his accusers of trying to stifle the movement of the Holy Spirit, of persecuting those who spoke prophetically and of betraying and murdering Jesus. Then he looked up to heaven and began to describe a vision he was having of the recently executed Jesus standing on the right side of God.

The council erupted into a furor and its members began shouting, covered their ears and ordered Stephen to be dragged outside the city and executed. As he was being stoned to death, Stephen asked God to forgive his attackers while the witnesses to his martyrdom placed their cloaks at the feet of Saul of Tarsus who consented to Stephen’s death. Saul would later undergo a conversion experience and become Saint Paul.

Saint Stephen was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages and in many countries his feast day of December 26 is still a public holiday. He is the patron saint of deacons and his name is included in Eucharistic Prayer I of the Mass.

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Saint Albert the Great was a 13th-century German Dominican priest, considered one of the most extraordinary men of his age alongside Peter Lombard, Roger Bacon and Saint Thomas Aquinas. His stewardship of the intellectual life, his students and our life of faith is profound.

Born in 1200, near Ulm, Albert was the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German family. He was educated in the liberal arts at the University of Padua, Italy, and against his family’s wishes, joined the Dominican Order in 1223.

He earned his doctorate at the University of Paris and taught theology with much success in a number of medieval German universities, including Cologne.

For a time Albert was the pope’s personal theologian, and in 1260 was appointed bishop of Regensburg, Germany, against his will. He remained for only three years before returning his time and energy to teaching and writing in Cologne. He enhanced his reputation for humility by refusing to ride horses. Instead, he walked back and forth across his huge diocese, keeping with the rules of the Dominican order.

Albert’s influence on scholars is substantial. His fame is due in part to being the forerunner, spiritual guide and teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas. But he also composed an encyclopedia containing treatises on almost every branch of learning known at the time. His work fills thirty-eight volumes and covers subjects ranging from astronomy and chemistry to geography and philosophy. His knowledge of science was considerable, and for the age remarkably accurate. He also displayed an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology that surprised his contemporaries, who named him “Magnus” (“the Great”) to recognize his genius. Albert even inspired a mystical school of theology among fellow Dominicans such as Meister Eckhart.

Albert participated in the Second Council of Lyons, France, in 1274, the fourteenth of the Catholic Church’s 21 great councils (Vatican II was the twenty-first). On his way to the council, he was shocked to learn of Aquinas’ death at age 49, and he publicly defended his former student against attacks on the Catholicity of his writings.

After suffering from what is now thought to be Alzheimer’s disease, Albert died in Cologne on November 15, 1280. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931, one of only 33 individuals bestowed that honor. His tomb is in the crypt of the Dominican church in Cologne, and his relics are in the Cologne Cathedral. His feast day is November 15.

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