Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, or “the Little Flower of Jesus”

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A briefest of biographies. Therese felt an early call to religious life. Although she had faced many challenges in her personal life, including frail health and emotional distress, at age of 15 she became a nun. Thérèse joined two of her older sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Thérèse was a magnificent writer, and through that writing, she became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Through Pope Pius XI she was beatified in 1923, She was canonized Saint by the Roman Catholic Church May 17, 1925.On 19 October 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church. Thérèse is the youngest of all Doctors of the Church, and one of three woman Doctors.

Thérèse lived a hidden life that is the lifestyle of Carmelite nuns. Even though she in her words ‘wanted to be unknown’ yet her writings made her one of the most well known and loved Saint. The saint had a way with words, prolific and poetic and wise well beyond her youthful years. Along with her autobiography she recorded letters, poems, religious plays, prayers and various notes. Through technology (she is a saint in the early technological age) her last conversations were recorded by her sister. By the photographs (a new art form) taken by her sister Céline, she was beloved worldwide.

Popular devotion to Thérèsè suffered from the sentimentality of her age, flowery and embellished kitsch, something that was in direct contrast to the true nature of this popular Saint. In her own words: “I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretense”, and:” we should not say improbable things, or things we do not know (about Saints). We must see their (the saints) real, and not their imagined lives.” One should definitely become familiar with Thérèsè through her writings, and not through what has been written about her. Her writings are her story, and her devotion in her own words. Briefly her devotion to Jesus can be summed up in one word, Love. It is through love that she sought to serve her Lord. That was her mission in a single word. Love. In her own words:

“Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church being a body composed of different members, the most essential, the most noble of all the organs would not be wanting to her; I understood that the Church has a heart and that this heart is burning with love; that it is love alone which makes the members work, that if love were to die away apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love comprises all vocations, that love is everything, that it embraces all times and all places because it is eternal!”

The thing is, with a saint just as this, what is one to do one her festive day? She was a Carmelite, should someone seek their advice? She was a Carmelite, what was their charism? Carmelites are contemplative, so let’s contemplate something. The saint contemplated Love, Christian love, and that is a good beginning. Thérèse enjoyed leaving little signs of kindness. Carmelites are based in prayer, so say a prayer or seek out a prayer of Thérèse, she was a writer. Carmelites are based in community, make a community better. Discover a new community, one lived in faith. Participate in a community. Thérèse did. Carmelites serve, the third part of their charism. Contemplation, community, prayer, service. Therese was infirm, a hint. Celebrate those, in the spirit of the saint. But how does one learn that spirit? That’s easy, simple! Thérèse was a writer, her spirit lives in those writings. Celebrate her with a good read, read what she wrote. She is a doctor of the Church after all and in this age of technology her bibliography is widely available. Read her books, her story, and her prayers. The memory of this saint has been recorded, in her own words. If there is one saint that can be memorialized in a technological age, it is her.

Saint Bonaventure

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BonaventureOne should neither read first about Saint Bonaventure , or write quickly about Saint Bonaventure.  One should simply read Saint Bonaventure

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation.”

From the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure

San Bonaventura (1221 – 15 July 1274) born Giovanni di Fidanza. He was an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher. Bonaventure was the seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. The saint was also Cardinal Bishop of Albano. Saint Bonaventure was a friend of the Saint Thomas Aquinas, and received his doctorate with St. Thomas Aquinas.

Can you imagine the conversations between those two saints?

psst; you can read more about him here: http://bit.ly/2tX1rDV

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

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*This is a post that is from 2012 and it includes the prayer for the saints canonization:

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Prayer for the Canonization
of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the
same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s date of canonization is 21 October 2012
Memorial 14 July

Kateri was born in1656 of a Catholic Algonquin mother(Tagaskouita) and the Mohawk chief Kenneronkwa in the village of Ossemenon(Auriesville) along the Mohawk river in northern New York. A smallpox epidemic that swept through that region took the lives of Kateri’s(Catherine’s) parents and her  brother. This disease also left her with the diseases characteristic scars,limited vision , and also physically weak. She was adopted by her aunt and uncle(Chief of the Turtle Clan) at four years of age.Since Kateri’s mother was Christian, see encouraged that faith in Kateri. Her father however was of a Native American religion and had an opposite opinion on the subject. Her uncle too discouraged her interest in Christianity.The battle between Christianity,and her families Native American religion would be a source of friction for much of Kateri’s life.Kateri was a devout follower of Christ; she was baptized at the age of 20 by the Jesuit priest Father Jacques de Lamberville.On Christmas Day of 1677 Kateri received her first holy communion. In March of 1679 she professed her vow to perpetual virginity. She devoted her life to teaching prayers to children, helping the sick and aged. On 17 April 1680 she died at 24-years of age.The last words she uttered were “Jesus, I love you”: “lesos konoronkwa.” Shortly after her death her scars from smallpox began to disappear.

KATERI TEKAWITHA embraced Jesus Christ,even though many in her family and tribe rejected her for it. Kateri Tekawitha will be the first canonized Native American saint. She is a source of great pride among the many Native Americans who are devout Catholic’s. Her sainthood is an answer to their years of prayer in the past and she will certainly be a faithful intercessor for all Americans in the years to come. Throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada there are many Native American Tribes that enthusiastically embraced Christianity and they are active, vibrant, devout followers of Jesus and his Church today.The memorial and the canonization of Kateri Tekawitha, the “Lilly of the Mohawks” is an especially festive and joyous occasion for them as it is for all in her region.

Francis of Paola

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“At the age of fifteen, Francis (of Paola) left his  home at Paula in Calabria to live as a hermit in a cave by the sea-coast.” Here his religious order takes form. (Here is a side story: In ancient times Calabria was referred to as Italy, it is the  first locality to be called  that name. It is located at modern Italy’s southern end.) For brief background leading up to life in a cave: His parents were devout Christians with a devotion to  St. Francis of Assisi. They had prayed for that saints intercession so that the infant Francis of Paola might be cured of an eye infection. Their son, as a child, wore the Habit of the Franciscan friars ( the little-habit). With that habit his eyes were immediately cured. Jesus cured the sight of many.

Now back to the cave by the seashore. Over time some “disciples” gathered around him. In 1436, and partially because of those followers,  he founded his own Franciscan order the “Minims.” Religious orders are approved by the pope,, and they must submit a rule for the order. Popes often rewrite those rules. Their original name was Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi, hermits not monks, priests, or friars. Francis was a contemplative that eventually was called to active ministry. The Minims observed a perpetual Lent, and never touched meat, fish, eggs, or milk. That was their fourth vow, their addition to the rule of Assisi. It gave their order character. One interesting point about Francis is that the hermit was never ordained a priest. Many legends are associated with this saint. He can be researched, must I type everything? Do your homework ! He was Prophet, miracle worker, and said to have the ability to read minds. He is the patron saint of sailors. If one word is to be associated with him it is Charitas. They wore black wool robes. They started in southern Italy, many moved north and were found in Germany. There they were called Paulaner.

Franciscan’s were big in the time of the hermit of Saint Francis, and they had become much larger than the Saint from Assisi ever intended them to be.  They were popular. Francis of Assisi wanted his order to counter corruption and false devotion, the one from Paola wanted to do the same. They were contemplative. Is there a conflict or contrast here? They were Minims in the times of Kings. They were little people in the time of some very Big People, and one has to be around “Big People” to fully understand that. They were the counter-revolution and they took the world by surprise.

Interesting is how Francis (OM) order had changed, much in the same way his northern mentors (OFM) was changed at the request of the pope. Their intent was for an order that revolved around a small group of devotees, the pope’s intent was for an order that would change Europe. In looking at these medieval saints, it is often important to look at their period in history. It’s important to remember bureaucratic Churches, corrupt clergy, and powerful Kingdom’s. It is important to look at all of the Big people these little saints did battle with. Their was reason for their retreat from Society, and for the popes putting them back in the fight. They were a contrast, and what contrasts with today? On one hand there is Francis original devotion, that of a contemplative hermit. On the other is the Popes desire to create large orders. Francis of Payola was loyal to the chair of Peter. Francis also lived a long life, I wonder if he came full circle and ended at that cave by the seashore? If my memory serves me correctly, the one from Assisi ended up at the same grotto he started from. Both orders exist today, but the Order Minim is a fragment of what it once was. Hermits I here are on the rise. The Church the friar hermit served was at its height during the saints lives, today it is on the decline. What is the message of Francis of Paola today?

The breads of lent

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Meat-fast, egg-fast, dairy-fast, oil-fast and so-on and so-forth, Lent is a season of denial. It is a season of the mortification of the flesh. It is a season of fasting and of abstinence. Pray tell, how does one survive? Granted the regulations are not strict today but think to the centuries before. Little was allowed but bread and water. How does one cope, how does one survive? There are ways and some of these traditions still exist today.

The pretzel has its origins in medieval Lent. Tradition says that a young monk in seventh century Italy first prepared this Lenten bread. It consists of only of water, flour and salt. Dairy and animal products were not used because of the Lenten restrictions. Remember? To remind his fellow monks that Lent was a time of prayer, the baker rolled the dough into strips and twisted each strip in a distinctive pretzel shape . The design was inspired by the crossing the arms upon the chest during prayer.

Beer, and especially big beer (aka strong-beer, Doppelbock) has been associated with Lent since before the seventeenth century. A particularly noteworthy beer is produced by Paulaner brewery which had its origins with the monks of the same name. Their monistary is located at Neudeck ob der Au, Germany. The Paulaner monks are members of the religious order founded by Francis of Paola. Since the Lenten fast of the day was quite rigorous, and Paulaner monks already had a perpetual fast as part of their rule, the monastery brew master thought a dense and nutritious beer would help the monks survive the 40 days of Lent. The beer caries the name Salvator and is still brewed today.

History tells us that when the brew master created that beer he and the monks found the beer to be so delicious that they feared it would no longer be suitable for a season of repentance. Salvator is a penitential beer after all. Mortification should not be taken lightly. Unsure of what to do, they packed up a cask of the nutritiously hearty beer and carted it off to Rome to gain a pontifical blessing for its Lenten suitability. In those days travel was slow, the trip was long, and summers hot; refrigeration had yet to be invented and casked beer is particularly perishable. By the time the cask had reached Rome, and the Pope poured a tankard of the liquid bread, it had spoiled. Spoiled, what we call skunked! What was once delicious became disgusting and so the Pope blessed the liquid logger, a-plus suitable for Lent. It was penitential and somber and disagreeable and thoroughly unenjoyable. Perfectly unpalatable! With that the strong-beer became a blessed Lenten tradition. Too bad the pontiff didn’t enjoy a fresh glass. So sad. It is delicious, I do proclaim.

Fast forward to today.

On the grounds of that monastery (which is no longer a monastery), a strong-beer festival takes place every year. It begins Saint Josephs Day (always in Lent) and runs for seventeen days. The festival is associated with the traditional ‘Holy Father Feast’ on April 2, commemorating Francis of Paola, founder of the Paulaner religious order. The festival highlights strong beers such as  Salvator. Beer and pretzels, a Lenten fasting tradition.

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Merry-Monk, happy-hermit.