Category Archives: The Saints

St. Luke

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Luke. St. Luke was a Gentile, born as a slave in Antioch, Syria. He worked for a family helping them in their household, and because he was very bright, they sent him to learn about medicine; in this way they would have a medical doctor in their house to help them. And so he became a doctor.
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We don’t know the circumstances, but he would become a disciple of Jesus Christ. One tradition is, that he was one of the 72 disciples sent out by Christ to preach. That is why it is the gospel for today’s Mass, about the 72.
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St. Luke certainly accompanied St. Paul on his missionary journeys. St. Paul says in the reading today, that when so many had abandoned him, Luke was still there, so he was a trusted friend. Of all the writers of the New testament, we are pretty sure that all were Catholic priests – except St. Luke – him we don’t know. He wrote the Gospel of Luke, and also Acts of the Apostles. He is the only one to write so much about the Blessed Virgin, including details about the conversation with angel Gabriel and other details, even about what Mary was thinking.
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How did he get this information? No doubt from Mary herself. We know that St. Paul and St. Luke spent a lot of time around Ephesus. Mary lived there, in Ephesus, you can see her house. And so St. Luke must have visited the Blessed Virgin often, and this is the source of his information.
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Finally, we know that he was an expert artist. This is the case, because he is the only person we know who painted a picture of the Blessed Virgin, known as the Hodegetria. In the fifth century, the Empress of Theodosius II brought this painting of the Virgin to the city of Constantinople where it was revered for years. But in 1453, the invading Turkish Muslims sacked the city. They destroyed monasteries and churches – the most beautiful art in the Christian world, and at this time, St. Luke’s painting of Mary disappeared.
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Escaping Christian artists however, remembered that painting, and they set about creating copies as best they could. Different artists remembered it differently. The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is thought to be one of these copies. Also, many believe that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is another copy of the Hodegetria of St. Luke.
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St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors, of artists, of bookbinders, and bachelors.

St. Francis and the Stigmata

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and while there are a million things we can say about this great saint, I thought today we could speak of his having received the stigmata. In the older liturgical calendar, there was even established a special feast on September 17th to recall the stigmata of St. Francis.
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Stigmatists are those whose bodies bore wounds similar to Christ’s. Most had 5 wounds on hands, feet, and side, while others had only a wound on the shoulder from where Christ carried the cross. Although some suspect that St. Paul had the stigmata,  St. Francis is the first we know of with certainty, but then many other holy men and women.
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It was in the early hours on the feast of the Holy Cross, in the year 1224, when Francis was on Mt. Alverna in prayer. He had a hermitage there. Suddenly, all of the mountain seemed to be on fire; the bright flames which shined in the night, illumined the surrounding mountains and valleys more clearly than if the sun were shining over the earth.
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This mysterious light shone through the windows of houses in the area. Shepherds who were there, witnessed it. They were full of fear when they saw the mountain aflame; they would later tell the Franciscans, it lasted for over an hour. What was the cause of this firey mountain? It was at that moment that Francis saw in a vision, Christ-crucified, in the appearance of a 6-winged seraphim on the cross. He did not understand what this vision meant; still, he was filled with happiness because the Savior showed him a kind and gracious look.
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When the vision ended, his heart was burning with love of God. As Francis was trying to understand what he had seen, the marks of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just as he had seen them earlier, in the crucified Lord. The heads of the nails appeared on the inner side of his hands, and some pieces of flesh took on the appearance of the ends of the nails, bent backward. He tried to hide these from the brethren, but they noticed the blood and the great pain he had when walking. Not only did Francis have these stigmata, which became well-known, but he had also the gift of healing. He lived only 2 years after this, dying at the age of 45.
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St. Francis began his life as a spoiled, rich boy, who thought only of enjoying himself, but he responded to God’s call. Later he would say: ‘If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.’

The Holy Archangels

Friends in Christ,  Today is the Feast of the Holy Archangels.  I often ask the children, what are the three angels whose names we know? They are these: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – the three great archangels.
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We know of Gabriel, because he is not only mentioned in the Book of Daniel, but he is the angel who visited Zechariah and Mary at the nativity. No greater honor could be accorded an angel, than to communicate the message of the Incarnation of God into the world. Many believe Gabriel continued to be involved with the Holy Family, appearing to the shepherds, speaking to St. Joseph in his dreams, and so forth. The venerable Mary of Agreda was a mystic, who writes of the appearance of Gabriel: He was that of a most handsome youth of rarest beauty, she says. his face emitted resplendent rays of light, his bearing was grave and majestic. He wore a diadem of exquisite splendor, his clothes glowing in various colors.
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Now as to Raphael, we know this angel from the Book of Tobit. Raphael brought healing to Tobit, and helped his son Tobias, and so St. Raphael is the ‘healing’ angel. St. Anthony Mary Claret often called on St. Rafael. On a difficult journey, he asked Raphael to help him; Raphael presented himself as a young man and acted as a guide, leaving him only at meal-time. And the end of the journey he disappeared. St. Raphael is the patron of doctors and travelers.
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Finally we read today about St. Michael, in the Book of Revelation, who battles with the devil. He is mentioned also in the Book of Daniel where he is called one of the ‘chief princes.’ It says that Michael will defend the people at the time of the anti-christ. St. Michael therefore is viewed as a great defender of the Church and, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, it is St. Michael who, at the end of the world, will combat and destroy the anti-Christ. St. Francis of Assisi had a great devotion to St. Michael, and kept a 40 day fast leading up to his Feast day, and Joan of Arc was spoken to often by St. Michael.
It is an excellent tradition that we have at our parish, to pray to St. Michael at the end of each weekday Mass.

St. Matthew

Friends in Christ, Today is the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle. Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were looked down upon because of their shady lives.
The meeting of Christ and Matthew is a most beautiful one, for we learn as much about Matthew, as we do about the heart of Christ. Fr. Goodier in his book, relates to us the scene of the gospel:
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One cool morning in Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples pass down a main street; past shops and venders. At the corner is a man seated at a low table with paper and a metal box with coins. This was the customs collector, the future St. Matthew. Matthew had his sins. He had not always been fair; his life had shadows of which he was not proud. Yet inside his heart, was a distant longing; a yearning to leave his sins and to be happy again. Deep down, he yearned to be a child again, and to be good. But alas, his destiny was to be what he is; it was his lot to live with sinners, these were the cards he was dealt in life.
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Yet that cool morning, writes Father Goodier, Matthew’s eye caught the distant approach of the Master, of whom he had heard. He recognized the men with him: he had dealt with them in business before. As he watched Jesus coming up the street, a desire rushed into his soul. For a moment, he wished that he could be where they were, with Christ; but this was not his lot in life.
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With thoughts like these running through his head, he turned his eyes back to his work. But what was this? Jesus came and stood at his counter. He didn’t dare look up. Jesus stood and waited, a touch of gentle humor lighting up his face. Matthew could endure it no longer; he raised his eyes and looked to those which were looking down at him. Jesus’ eyes caught his, and as with so many others before him, Matthew realized – that Jesus knew him.
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To see the eyes of God, is to see your Creator; it is to look into the eyes of the one who knows everything about you; and to know that you are loved. And there is no more wonderful sound in the world, than the words which Matthew heard that day: ‘Follow me.’
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Bursting with an unknown happiness, he immediately arose and followed him. The joy of that day never left St. Matthew, who spent his life serving his Master, even as a martyr.
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The Venerable Bede says, Our Lord spoke that day to Matthew by the invisible impulse of grace, and he still speaks to us in this same way, each day

St. Genesius, the Actor

Friends in Christ, today on the Liturgical Calendar, there is no Obligatory feast to celebrate; but if you open up the Roman Martyrology for August 25th, you will find that there is an interesting saint listed for today: St. Genesius of Rome. So I thought it would be good for us to honor this saint today.
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Back[i] in the 3rd century, the cruel emperor Diocletian ruled the Roman Empire, a mortal enemy of Christians. One day, as the emperor was coming into Rome, the leaders prepared many entertainments for him, including a comedy, acted out on stage.
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Now in this performance, one of the actors had the idea to mock the Christian Sacrament of baptism, which would surely amuse the people who had nothing but contempt for the Catholic Faith. This actor, named Genesius, had learned something of the Catholic religion from his friends. So he laid himself down on the stage, pretending to be sick, and said, ‘Ah, my friends, there is a great weight upon me, and I would like it to be lifted.’
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The others answered, ‘What shall we do to help you? Would you like us to plane you, to take some of the weight off of you?’ ‘You idiots!’ he exclaimed, ‘I wish to die a Christian, that God may receive me on the day of my death. I must turn from idolatry and superstition.’
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Then a priest and exorcist were called, that is to say, two actors who played these roles. Sitting down at his bedside they asked: ‘Well, my child, why did you send for us.?’
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But it was at this moment, that he was touched by God; Genesius was suddenly converted. No longer joking, he answered the priest: ‘I wish to receive the grace of Jesus Christ, and to be born new, so that I may be delivered from my sins.’ The other actors then went through the ceremony of baptism, and he answered each of the questions with seriousness. After this, other actors who came as soldiers, brought him and presented him to the Emperor, to be examined, as was done with the martyrs.
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Genesius then declared himself openly and seriously, standing upon the stage, ‘Hear O emperor, and all you that are present: officers, senators, and people; hear what I am going to say. I had always detested even the word ‘Christian;’ I learned it’s rites and mysteries only to ridicule them; but when I was on stage, about to be baptized, I saw a company of angels over my head, who recited out of a book all the sins I had committed from my childhood; they took that book and plunged it into the water, and the book came out whiter than snow.
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I therefore advise you, O great emperor and all here present who have mocked these mysteries, to believe with me that Jesus Christ is the true Lord; and that it is through him that you may obtain the forgiveness of yours sins.
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Diocletian, enraged at these words, ordered him to be beaten, and to sacrifice to the gods. He was put on the rack, where he was torn with iron hooks and burnt with torches. But he persisted in crying out, ‘There is no other Lord beside him whom I have seen. No torments will remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. In the end, he became a martyr by decapitation.
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God’s mercy can surprise anyone. As his grace was suddenly offered to Genesius, he offers special grace to us very often, including opportunities to stand fast in the faith when challenged. Let us never say ‘no’ to the beautiful grace he offers us. 

 

[i] This account comes from the new, Butler’s Lives of the saints.

St. John Vianney – Our Patronal Feast

Friends in Christ, today our parish celebrates our Patronal Feast, the feast of St. Jean-Marie Vianney. We have heard this past week various priests here each evening, speaking about our patron. It has been good to see so many people coming to the Novena Masses, to obtain a special grace from God in these days.
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St. John Vianney, began as a pastor of a tiny, uninteresting church in Ars, France. Ars itself was a town of a mere 230 people. Upon his arrival, he saw that the church was a dilapidated mess, and filthy. He began himself to clean it. He would clean the church, but he wished even more, to clean hearts, the souls of the people.
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The people in Ars were not hostile to the Faith, He would have preferred that; what he found, was complete apathy and indifference. 19 years after the end of the French Revolution, when ½ the priests in France had disappeared, and thousands of heads cut off – the persecutions and the hatred of God – after all that, well, France was spiritually dead. Nobody there, except a handful of people cared at all whether a priest came to their village, or said Mass.
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The town’s fame for dances and drunkenness was widespread. People came from miles around, even on Sundays, to join with the townspeople in their carousing, and to go wild in the four taverns there. The people would say, ‘this village is too small to have a church,’ but yet – there were 4 saloons! People did not go to Mass on Sundays and even worked on that day.
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St. John was not there long, when he came across a drunk man who was swearing up a storm. ‘My child, he said, ‘you are an animal.’ Indeed, people without God become animals, and those people had been without God for some time.
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At the time of the village festival, came the parties, the dancing, and after hours, the expected mortal sins between men and women. But in the Sunday sermon, their new parish priest did not waste any time addressing these things: ‘The tavern is the devil’s shop, he said. ‘in the tavern, hell pours forth its doctrine, souls are put up for sale, and families are ruined. ‘At the dance club, a Christian leaves his guardian angel at the door, and a devil takes his place. Soon, there are as many devils in the room as dancers.’
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As St. John preached, and prayed for his people, and fasted; little by little, people were not so comfortable in their sins. A small group at first, wished to learn about God. Some youth came to pray the Rosary. Improving morals led to the two taverns nearest the Church closing for lack of business; although 7 new ones appeared, eventually each of them had to close as well.[i] A group tried to slander their priest to make him stop, telling evil stories about him to malign his character, but in the end, people began to change. The love of God had gained a foothold in Ars.
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Later, more victories, confessions increased – Not only that town,[ii] but pilgrims came from other towns, to go to confession and to seek his advice. They came by the thousands: pilgrims brought other pilgrims, converts brought unbelievers. From every province of France, from beyond France and even overseas they came. The poor began it, the middle class followed, and soon the intellectual world was drawn to Ars.
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The great preacher Lacordaire came from the Cathedral of Notre Dame to learn from this parish priest. Special trains had to be run for pilgrims, and through it all, as Henri Gheon says, ‘the people of France awoke one day to the rumor of an incredible thing: ‘France had a saint.’ They had thought that France was done with saints, but not so, and even miracles were happening.
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St. John Vianney was part of a wonderful revival of religion which took place in France. In the wake of this saint, love of God began to blossom in that country. Numerous religious orders came to life again, often under the guidance of simple priests or humble women. After the Faith had seemed entirely wiped out in 1800, the new century would bring hundreds of religious congregations, missionaries pouring out into the world, and dozens of saints. St. John Vianney, St. Andrew Fournet, St. Peter Chanel, Blessed Julia Billiart, St. Rose Duchesne, St. Simeon Berneux, Saint Peter Eymard, Catherine Laboure, Therese of Liseux, St. Bernedette and dozens more.
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Like John Vianney, we must never underestimate the capacity of one Christian’s life to affect the world. All of these religious orders, missionaries and saints that followed St. John, these are merely the results, the fruit, of ordinary Christians beginning to really live for Jesus Christ.
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Our world is not as bad off as France, of 1800; to be sure, we have powerful forces against the faith – but if we follow the teachings of our Patron, who knows? The next century here could be a blossoming of faith. Such a thing however, is not accomplished by superficial Catholicism, or with lukewarm Catholics. It is by praying every day: morning, night, and at meals. regular confession, well-prepared Communions – or no Communion – honesty, truthfulness, purity in body and speech, sobriety, faithfulness to Sunday Mass and to the Church.
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If the corrupt village of Ars can change, so can our world – God is counting on you, on each of us individually.
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When people are hiking and they wish to drink water that they find, there is a tablet, which when put into the water, makes it pure. Well, we are supposed to be like that, purifying everyone we touch by our holy lives.
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You know, in that little town of Ars, France, there were some good ladies who helped John Vianney a lot, one was Mademoiselle Durie. Now she had contracted a serious illness, and she often said, that she wished God would just take her. Well one day she went to stop by at the Rectory. [iii] Approaching the door, she heard two voices inside. ‘One voice, with great gentleness was saying, ‘What do you ask of me?’ The other, St. John’s voice replied, ‘O loving Mother, I ask for the conversion of sinners, and particularly help for a person suffering a long time and now wishing for death.’  – Now this referred to Mademoiselle Durie herself –
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‘She will be cured, said the Lady, but not yet.’ Miss Durie could stand it no longer and pushed open the door. ‘What to my surprise, she said, was to see standing by the fireplace a beautiful lady of average height, dressed in white with gold roses and a crown of stars shining like the sun.’ I was astounded as I saw her kind smile. ‘O Mother, I said, the time is now, take me now.’ ‘Later, she said. You will always be my child and I shall always be your mother,’ and with these words she vanished.
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‘Who is she,’ she asked St. John, ‘I thought it was the Blessed Virgin.’  ‘And you would not be wrong,’ he said.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Peter]

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[i] Butler’s Lives of the Saints, new one.

[ii] Gheon, p. 129 on.

[iii] Gheon, p. 219 on.

St. Mary Magdalene II

Beloved in Christ, 2000 years ago, there lived in the little town of Bethany, two sisters, Martha and Mary, who also had a brother named Lazarus. Mary had been from her youth a headstrong and passionate child; with her independent ways, she was impatient with the dull, quiet life of Bethany. For Mary, the call of the big city lured her; the caravans passing through town and stories about King Herod, led her to dream of adventures, where her beauty and talents would not be wasted. In the end, she could endure it no longer. She left her home and her heart-broken brother and sister; she won her way in the world and became quite popular, thanks to her dominating character and her beauty.
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Eventually she came to live in the city of Magdala. There, Mary of Bethany quickly developed into Mary of Magdalene. She acquired a reputation; a woman whom respectable people avoided, the talk of the town. So tells Father Goodier, who uses what we know from scripture, to fill in the pieces of the life of Mary Magdalene.
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Her name came to be associated with reckless defiance. In her daring she had found everything she wanted, but had lost all that mattered. She had been the flattered woman of the world, but it had drained her, and now she was just ‘a woman in the city – a sinner.’ Mary had no one to love her. In her defiant nature, Mary of Magdalene kept telling herself that she did not need love. Yet still dormant deep in her soul, was the little girl of Bethany, who as a child, had known God, and who had known love.
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The day came when that new prophet had passed by her town. She had heard of this man Jesus, who taught that even sinners were God’s children; who taught about beginning again, starting over in life. Could she really be forgiven? Was it really possible? One day she caught a glimpse of Jesus, and suddenly her heart expanded – without explanation, this headstrong, defiant woman, made a new decision: if she could be forgiven by Jesus, she would be the greatest disciple he ever had.
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And so in her boldness, she pushed her way into that public dinner, and in her reckless love, she broke the jar of perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. Her stubborn heart had been transformed to Christ. In an instant the old life slipped away.
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Jesus would bring her back to Bethany, and henceforth, Our Lord would often stop in Bethany to visit, where he always found a grateful child of God. Mary of Magdalene was at the cross with Jesus, and she was the first to see the risen Lord as we read today.
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You noticed that we said the ‘Gloria’ today. It is a Feast. The Holy Father, in this year of Mercy, has elevated this Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to that of a Feast!  We can’t be sure about the details of her life, but we do know that Mary Magdalene is a hope for us sinners, a living testament to the wonderful mercy of Jesus Christ.

St. John the Baptist – II

Friends in Christ, in olden times, the Holy Mass was often explained in terms of the life of Christ. The joy of the Gloria represented the birth of Christ, the Gospel is the public life, the preaching of Christ to the world, the Consecration is Our Lord’s saving death on the cross, the Rite of Communion, his resurrection.
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That being the case, we can see that the 1st reading prepares the way for the Gospel, and so the Epistle was always seen as a symbol of John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Christ, that is, the Gospel.
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Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. John the Baptist in his day was a sign of contradiction to the people; he lived an ascetical life in the desert, living on the land, fasting, wearing animal skins. In his day, material prosperity was supposedly a sign of God’s blessings, so this life of John was a contradiction. But John was calling people to repentance, repentance of their sins, and an invitation to make sacrifices in life.
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The early monks of the Church, and the desert fathers, they embraced this penitential life as much as John the Baptist. St. Neilos the Ascetic says, John the Baptist lived in the desert wilderness, and yet entire towns went out to see and hear him. Those dressed in silk rushed to hear the man dressed in skins; those who lived in luxurious houses went to see a man who chose the desert; those who sleep on beds went to see the one who slept on the sand.
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All of this was strange to them, yet in leaving their comfortable lives to see John, they did not really notice their hardship, because everyone really knows that holiness is worth more than luxury. The famous and the rich of those times are long forgotten, but the life of John the Baptist is acclaimed still today, because holiness is more valuable than anything else.

St. Bede the Venerable

Friends in Christ, today is the feast of St. Bede the Venerable. St. Bede was born in England in 672, and at age 7 his parents sent him to be educated at a Benedictine monastery. He never really left, and from early on, his love was for the Holy Scriptures; he was also an expert in Greek and Latin. His commentaries on Scripture are many, but he is also famous for ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People,’ a work that gained him the title “The Father of English History”. Little would be known of English history before 729 if it weren’t for Venerable Bede.
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Although he is a Saint, he is still often called ‘Venerable Bede.’ He obtained this title in the following way: when he was quite old, and his eyesight was poor, he was sometimes led by a brother so that he could preach in the villages. Once, as they were passing through a valley that was filled with large stones, this brother as a joke, told him there were many people there waiting to hear him preach – but they were only stones. Not able to see clearly, Bede preached the Word. Reminiscent of Jesus’ words, the stones themselves cried out, saying, ‘Amen, Venerable Bede.’ Having heard of this marvel, the people called him the Venerable Bede.
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As his death neared, he had not yet finished his translation of the Gospel of John. His assistant, a young brother told him: ‘There is still one sentence dear master which is not written down,’ and when the last passage had been supplied, and he was told that it was finished, Bede exclaimed, ‘you have well said, all is finished. He died as he was saying the Glory Be.
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His life shows that one need not be showy or loud to be great. Although he rarely left his monastery, he became known throughout England and far beyond – he has been called ‘the happiest of monks.’

St. James the Less

Friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostles Philip and James.
Now there were two apostles named James. The saint today is James the Less, or James the Just; he is also called in the scriptures ‘the brother of the Lord.’
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Some people ask: how can they call him the ‘brother of the Lord? And why are some of the disciples referred to as the ‘brethren’ or ‘brothers’ of Jesus? After all, Mary was always a Virgin, Jesus did not have brothers by blood.
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Well, we should remember that in that culture, cousins, relatives, and other close family members were often simply called ‘brothers.’ In fact, nephews were called brothers. For example, Abraham’s nephew Lot was simply called his brother, and even today in many cultures of the world, people will call cousins and nephews their ‘brother.’
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As an example, in the Philippines, a teenage girl would call her older brother “kuya”. She would also tend to call her cousins “kuya” and even her brothers friends ‘kuya.’ So the Jewish people did this also in Jesus’ day.
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But why is James, in particular, given a special title: ‘brother of the Lord’? Well, James was the 1st cousin of Jesus. His mother was the sister of Mary. Also, some ancient writers say that James, being a 1st cousin, looked quite a bit like Jesus. They looked so much alike, that when they went to arrest Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas had to go along to identify for them which to arrest; he was able to distinguish between them.
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James was called ‘James the Just’ because he led such a holy life. He became the first bishop of Jerusalem and his reputation for holiness was so great, that people always wanted to touch his clothes. James prayed so much it is said, that his knees were rough and calloused. Tradition says that after Our Lord’s Ascension, he was the first to offer Mass in Jerusalem.  
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At one point, a persecution erupted and when James refused to deny the Divinity of Christ, they threw him down from the temple and broke his legs. Then they bashed out his brains with a club. Before he died, he prayed for his enemies, just like Christ. It was the year 62AD.
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St. James is the patron saint of pharmacists, of those who are dying, and of hat-makers.

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