Where This Meets That
I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween.
Most people don’t realize that, while the occasion has influences from various Celtic traditions, the reason we celebrate Halloween today is because it kicks off a Catholic triduum known as Hallowmas. Hallowmas begins with Halloween (or “All Hallows’ Eve”), then is followed by All Saints’ Day (or “All Hallows’ Day”), which honors all saints and martyrs, and finally, All Souls’ Day, which remembers all souls in Purgatory.
With today being All Saints’ Day, I thought it would be a good time to honor five saints.
St. Francis of Assisi
From Biography.com: Born in Italy circa 1181, St. Francis of Assisi was renown for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned at ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison—awaiting his father’s ransom—and, during this time, reportedly began receiving visions from God. After his release from prison, Francis reportedly heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. Thusly, he abandoned his life of luxury and devoted his life to Christianity, and became known all over the Christian world. Later in life, Francis reportedly received a vision that left him with the stigmata of Christ—marks resembling the wounds Jesus Christ suffered when he was crucified—making Francis the first person to receive the holy wounds of the stigmata. He was canonized as a saint on July 16, 1228. Today, St. Francis of Assisi has had a lasting resonance, with millions of followers across the globe.
St. Francis is the patron saint for animals and ecologists, and his feast day is October 4.
St. Maria Goretti
St. Maria Goretti, born in Italy in 1890, is one of the youngest canonized saints. She was the third of seven children from a very poor family. When she was nine, her father died of malaria, leaving her family to carry on difficult farm labor, while Maria kept the home and watched after her infant sister Teresa.
When she was only eleven years old, an 18-year old neighbor and close family friend named Alessandro Serenelli attempted to rape Maria. She fought him desperately, warning him that he would go to hell and that she would rather die than be defiled. Alessandro stabbed her 14 times and left her to die.
As she lay dying in a hospital bed the next day, Maria forgave Alessandro to her mother, saying she wanted to see him in Heaven.
Alessandro was sentenced to thirty years in prison. He remained unrepentant until a local bishop visited him three years later. Afterward, he wrote the bishop with thanks and told him of a dream he’d had about Maria, in which the girl handed him beautiful lilies that burned when he took them in his hands. He awoke a changed man and led a reformed life thereafter.
Upon his release, Alessandro went immediately to Maria’s mother and begged forgiveness, to which she replied, if Maria could forgive him on her deathbed, then she herself had no right not to forgive him. The two attended Mass and received Holy Communion together the following day. Alessandro prayed to her every day and referred to her as “my little saint”. He attended her canonization in person in 1950.
St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint for chastity, youth, and rape victims. Her feast day is July 6.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in France, is one of the most popular saints among Roman Catholics. Her spiritual example is charming and simple, as this excerpt from her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, displays:
Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.
Nicknamed, “The Little Flower,” she is recognized as the youngest Doctor of the Church, an honor recognizing her importance to the teachings of the Catholic Church, despite here short life, limited travels, and simple doctrine.
My favorite story about her is how she prepared for her first Holy Communion. She visualized each little prayer and sacrifice as its own little flower, so she prayed and sacrificed as much as she could, hoping that, by doing so, she could create a garden within herself where Jesus could find rest after entering her in the Holy Eucharist.
St. Thérèse de Lisieux is the patron saint for missions, and her feast day is October 1.
St. Maximilian Kolbe
St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. When he was a child, he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin, in which she approached holding two crowns. One was white, which she said represented perseverance in purity, and the other, red, represented martyrdom. She asked the boy if he was willing to accept either crown, and he responded that he would accept both.
Kolbe earned doctorates in philosophy and theology and was ordained as a priest in 1924. He is most famous for his arrest and execution by Nazis in Auschwitz in 1941. As punishment for the apparent escape of a prisoner from Kolbe’s barracks, a camp commander ordered 10 other prisoners to be starved to death. Kolbe was not one of the prisoners selected but offered himself in place of one of the condemned, who begged to be spared for his family.
While waiting to die, Kolbe celebrated daily Mass and sang hymns with the other nine condemned. After two weeks with no food or drink, he was the only one who remained alive and was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of political prisoners, families, and drug addicts, and his feast day is August 14.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
St. Gianna Beretta Molla was an Italian pediatrician and mother of four. In 1961, while pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a fibroid tumor on her uterus. Doctors suggested an abortion or hysterectomy were the safest procedures to save her life, or a third, higher risk option was to remove the tumor alone. Molla directed them to remove the tumor alone, so that the baby could have the best chance to live.
The surgery was a success, but complications continued throughout the rest of her pregnancy. She was clear to doctors, her family, and God, saying, “If you have to choose, there should be no doubt: choose – I demand it – the life of the baby.”
On Good Friday of 1962, baby Gianna Emanuela Molla, arrived via Caesarean section delivery. She still lives today, but her mother, St. Gianna, never recovered from the delivery and died a week later.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla is the patron saint of physicians, mothers, and unborn children. Her feast day is April 28.
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Regardless of your religious persuasion, hopefully you can agree that saints, with their remarkable examples of self-giving offer something for us all to learn from and give great models for making the world a better place.
Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. I invite you to try to take a few moments to remember all the loved ones you’ve lost over the years, and maybe say a quick prayer for them, as well.
Have a wonderful weekend, Everyone!