*ç† Today is the Feast Day of the very first Saint that touched my life.
Fra Angelico's wordless art illuminated for the very first time my five-year old soul by the telling of the miracle of the God entering the world to save us -
Fra Angelico's Annunciation, posted by my childhood bed on a postcard, was my first encounter with the story of our salvation.
Its tender Mystery was imprinted in my life and mind forever.
Thank you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for having touched my childish soul with your Word of Life through the blessed work of one of your loving servants.
Blessed John of Fiesole
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The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.
He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.
He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.
Leviticus 19: 1 - 2, 11 - 18
1And the LORD said to Moses,2"Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy.11"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.12And you shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.13"You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.14You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.15"You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.16You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.17"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.18You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
*†ç This became my favorite Psalm in all my years since my mom and baby sister died the same month in July of 1992. My children once joked that it was my 911 prayer. Then in 2001 911 took another meaning with 9/11.
Still the power of the words in this prayer seemed magnified by the event, especially in light of Isaiah 58:1-9.
Thank you for such healing Words of comfort in times of great trial of Lord. They are truly Words of Life.
Psalms 91: 1 - 2, 10 - 15
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust."
10 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.
Continuing from Isaiah 58: 1-9
Isaiah 58: 9 - 14
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13 "If you turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
*†ç Isaiah 58: 1 - 9
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
St Claude de la Colombière (St-Symphorien-d'Ozon, 2/2/1641–Paray-le-Monial, 2/15/1682) was a Roman Catholic priest and the confessor of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. His feast day is the day of his death, 15 February. He was a missionary and ascetical writer, born of noble parentage at Saint-Symphorien-d'Ozon, between Lyon and Vienne, in 1641.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1659. After fifteen years of religious life in the Jesuits, he made a vow, as a means of attaining the utmost possible perfection, to observe faithfully the Rule and Constitutions of his order under penalty of sin. Those who lived with him attested that this vow was kept with great exactitude.
In 1674, Claude was made superior at the Jesuit house at Paray-le-Monial, where he became the spiritual director of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and was thereafter a zealous apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1676, he was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, afterwards Queen of Great Britain. He lived the life of a religious even in the Court of St. James's (the official residence of the British Monarchy), and was as active a missionary in England as he had been in France. Although encountering many difficulties, he was able to guide Saint Margaret-Marie by letter.
His zeal soon weakened his vitality and a throat and lung infirmity seemed to threaten his work as a preacher. While awaiting his recall to France he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as a conspirator against the English throne. Thanks to his title of "Preacher to the Duchess of York" and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject Claude was, he escaped death but was condemned to exile in 1679. The last two years of his life were spent at Lyon where he was spiritual director to the young Jesuits, and at Paray-le-Monial, where he returned to improve his health. His principal works, including "Pious Reflections", "Meditations on the Passion", "Retreat and Spiritual Letters", were published under the title, "Oeuvres du R. P. Claude de la Colombière" (Avignon, 1832; Paris, 1864).
He was beatified by Pope Pius XI on June 16, 1929, and canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 31, 1992.
His relics are preserved in the Jesuit Church around the corner from the monastery of the Visitation nuns at Paray-le-Monial.
*†ç 2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 21
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ----------------------------------------
Saint Ansgar, also known as Anskar or Oscar, was born on September 8, 801, in Amiens, France and died on February 3, 865, in Bremen, Germany. Having been born in the French town in Amiens, a splendid, cultured, pious city which built one of the world's most treasured medieval cathedrals, he lost his mother at an early age, and was educated by the Benedictines at Corbie, France.
He went on to serve under Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious, as bishop and archbishop of Hamburg & Bremen in far-away Northern Germany. The see of Hamburg was designated a "Mission to bring Christianity to the North", and Ansgar became known as the "Apostle of the North".
Ansgar is a hero missionary of the faith. He is so inspiring in his relentless devotion to reach out to the Norsemen of Scandinavia, undeterred by the repeated raids and destruction wrought by them on the German cities of Hamburg, Turholt and Bremen.
As he brought the Gospel for the first time to Scandinavia, he saw Jutland in Denmark, and Sweden & Norway fall back repeatedly in paganism. He saw outburst after outburst of vikings raids, destroying again what churches and the monasteries he had built as schools of learning a gentler way of life.
Such pillage and rampage was an intrinsic part of the wild, uncultured way of life sprung by the harsh conditions and the scarcity of food and resources in the glacial North.
The absence of any cultural structure or guiding light to sort the right of others from wrong, to teach respect for the right to life, happiness and the protection of family, persons, children and property inside and outside the tribes led to a wanton history of thefts, rapes, kidnappings, and enslavement. The Norse sage are replete with tales of woes and unresolved grief from this unrestrained thirst for power, combat and loot.
Go Saint Ansgar! Pray for us and intercede to rekindle in us the fire of zeal to reach out relentlessly to not only the poor, but the unknowingly violent, the untamed souls untouched as of yet by the golden rule and the gospel of Divine Mercy and brotherly love.
Saint Ansgar is a saint for our times, in the present wave of unrestrained spoken and acted upon violence, the continuous rejection and attack on humble christianity, the rejection of the Gospel of Divine Love & Divine Mercy, the advocacy for anger, hatred, and loss of polite discourse and respect for the others, and especially the present return to physical and moral darkness, superstitious practices, and fascination with the occult seen everywhere on TV and the media for the past two decades.
Here below is the entry from Saint of Day at AmericanCatholic.org, well worth reading.
We know much about Ansgar, the geography, wars and politics of his times, and his life thanks to the written history "Vita Ansgarii" and the historical records that bisphorics and churches maintained as sources of learning from the earliest time of Christianity. Wikipedia has an outstanding detailed entry of Ansgar's life because of it, another interesting read:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus! I fly to Thee, I unite myself with Thee, I enclose myself to Thee! Receive this, my call for help, O my Saviour, as a sign of my horror of all within me contrary to Thy Holy Love. Let me rather die a thousand times than consent! Be Thou my Strength, O God: defend me, protect me. I am thine, and desire forever to be Thine!
-- St Margaret Mary Alocoque
*†ç John's baptism is the baptism of repentance, the cleansing of our sins by the Power of God when it is combined with true contrition from man - "There was no greater man who lived than John", said Jesus. But when Jesus Himself asks John for His own Baptism, He divinely completes the contrition of men brought about by John's call for repentance, when the Divine presence of the Father is revealed upon Him. This is the moment when we get to hear the tender loving Words of our adoption from God the Father to His baptized children "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22).
The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God's love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labours strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labours, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
-- St Anthony Mary Claret
My dad stopped smoking a pack a day after 36 years in 1976. He had started smoking as a teen during WWII. He fulfilled his vow that if I was to pass the PolyTech entrance exam at the UCL , and to become the first in his family to go to college, he’d stop smoking. That was an extra incentive for me, his firstborn, to conquer the university entrance exam at the end of my senior year of high school. My dad got to live another 34 years, succumbing only to cancer at the ripe age of 79, on 10/13/08. Tomorrow, October 13, is his 4th jahrzeit. It is as if he is giving me a little nudge from Heaven tonight, saying: YES, YOU CAN beat this thing – start by not smoking, everyone and if you ever did (I never did, thanks Heaven(, even after 36 years of smoking, it will make a world of difference in beating this thing called cancer! "
After my dad eventually was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2003, more than 27 years later, at the age of 75, we started talking every month on the phone for next the 5 years, from across the Atlantic, him in Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium, me in Tempe, AZ. After chemo, radiation and remission in 2004, he relapsed with metastasis to the lungs, in February 2005. He was given only 3 months to live. He then signed up for an experimental trial with Avastin and controversial Epoetin. He quickly had to use a new implanted pump after his veins collapsed. He would be infused every 2 or 3 weeks, for 3 days in a row. Once the pump was implanted, he could get the experimental chemo as an outpatient, instead of 3 days at the hospital. He really liked the skipping the hospital part, the treatment sequence was each time 3 or 6 months, with a 2 months break and imaging & more testing. Avastin did stop my dad's cancer progression, and gave him an extra 3 years of life, We visited Belgium almost yearly in 2005, 2006, 2007 . But the obstruction of the disabled tumors in his damaged bronchae limited his breathing capacity to 10%. On August 15, 2008, we had our last conversation, each curled up with a phone, across the Atlantic, 4000 miles apart from each other, but brought so close by the precious technology of a noise-free phone landline, where I could still hear him clearly, if weakly, in between shortened breadths.
I said: “Dad, if it is too much, if you suffer too much, it is OK, you do not have to do this!” He said: “Nicole, I lost my mom, I lost my brother, I lost my uncle & godfather Nicolas, my aunt Rose, all in their 40ies and 50ies to this @£#%&% disease! “
(My dad could use very colorful language, in his native French – untranslatable and not quite fitting for polite conversation or this internet post. Think Captain Haddock, but much more salty, and you will have a sense of exactly colorful his speech could be.) He said
"I KNOW I am too old, too sick to make it, and I know I am not going to make it, and I know I will die soon, BUT in my youth, when someone had cancer, they were just sent home to die by the doctors."
"Like my uncle, my aunt – in less than 3 months. Besides removing tumors surgically, there was no other treatment - like chemotherapy. So my pretty Aunt Rose became almost transparent, from colon cancer, and died within a year, in 1947. She was barely 30, just married. Her sister, my mom, Hubertine, would not have died so quickly, 5 years earlier, in 1942, her own abdominal tumor was not advanced, but it was the war, we were hungry, we just could not find the foods she would have been able to eat after they removed a simple tumor from her abdomen, without any apparent metastasis. But she died within a few months, of hunger basically. She could not eat anything that we find for after the surgery. (My dad had told me all this before, when I was a child even, but the following was new. He added:
"SO, even if this chemotherapy will not save me, this clinical trial, this chemo, if it can help anyone else, anyone younger, I will do it!’ ... This was the last conversation we had on this earth. So I say now: Vas-y, papa! Go, daddy! Your spirit lives on!”
My dad was a very passionate, fiery fighter, and I definitely picked that up from him. So, Christylee Phillips Watson , little Emma Baker, young Brian Fulton, mom Eileen Spenla, please know that my dad – his name was Roger Herbots – is cheering approvingly from Heaven. Please pray for his soul, I am sure he will return the favor as part of the Communion of the Saints we are all called to partake when we finally meet Our Heavenly Father after we complete the earthly part of this amazing adventure we call life. You have a cheering team here on earth and in Heaven! <3 <3 <3
The info on the second of his drug combo, epoetin, is here below. Unlike Avastin, it is still very controversial, and used off-label. It is reknown in sports circles, if anything because Lance used during his cancer bout to boost his red cell blood count, and then for doping, timed before the racing season, so it could not be detected. The flamboyant bicycling racer Marco Pantani died prematurely in his 40ies from an unrelated overdiose made more lethal by its continued used of epoetin. It made Dad well, rosy, happy, and greatly improved his quality of life, as he got good oxygenation from each limited breadth he drew, thanks to his good red cell count. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erythropo
(From Catholic On-Linem, via "Da mihi animas")
Virgin, born at Lima, Peru 20 April, 1586; died there the 24 of August, 1617.
St. Rose of Lima is the patroness of Latin America and the Philippines. This South American Saint's real name was Isabel, but she was such a beautiful baby that she was called Rose, and that name remained. As she grew older, she became more and more beautiful, and one day, her mother put a wreath of flowers on her head to show off her loveliness to friends. But Rose had no desire to be admired, for her heart had been given to Jesus. So she put a long pin into that wreath and it pierced her so deeply, that she had a hard time getting the wreath off afterward. Another time she became afraid that her beauty might be a temptation to someone, since people could not take their eyes off her. Therefore, she rubbed her face with pepper until it was all red and blistered.
St. Rose worked hard to support her poor parents and she humbly obeyed them, except when they tried to get her to marry. That she would not do. Her love of Jesuswas so great that when she talked about Him, her face glowed and her eyes sparkled.
Rose had many temptations from the devil, and there were also many times when she had to suffer a feeling of terrible loneliness and sadness, for God seemed far away. Yet she cheerfully offered all these troubles to Him. In fact, in her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman use to pray: "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart."Undefiled in the Midst of Wickedness
Many miracles followed her death. She was beatified by Clement IX, in 1667, and canonized in 1671 by Clement X, the first American to be so honoured. Her feast is celebrated 23 of August. She is represented wearing a crown of roses.
By David Wilkerson
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).
The word defile here suggests “freeing through repudiation.” Daniel was saying, “Any compromise of my standards will rob me of my freedom.” So he committed to eat only beans and drink only water for ten days.
When the chief of the eunuchs learned this, he told Daniel, “You are going to cost me my life! You will look sickly at the end of ten days. Your cheeks will be sunken, and the king will surely notice. Here, eat just a little meat. You need the protein. Drink the wine to build up your blood. Eat some of these sweets to give you energy!”
I believe Daniel and the three Hebrew men had something more in mind than avoiding being ceremonially unclean. They had been taken captive along with thousands of their countrymen. What they saw when they first arrived in Babylon must have shocked them beyond belief. It was a society so loose, immoral and full of wickedness, these four men’s spiritual sensibilities were assailed.
They made a commitment with each other: “We dare not compromise. We will be separate from society and disciplined in our walk of faith.” They did not go about preaching their way of life to others. It was strictly a matter between them and God.
When you are in a crisis, do you cry out in unbelief and frustration? What if the Lord should answer, “I need strong voices in these sinful times through whom I can speak. Where are you when I need a voice? You say you want Me to come to your crisis—yet you remain a part of the wicked, worldly system. Tell Me—are you committed to My purposes?”
Daniel and his friends’ witness was a testimony that turned all the people’s heads around. They were delivered from the lions’ den and the fiery furnace—and the whole society knew it was God who did it.
How to Stand Up and Fight
With all the talk going on in churches about spiritual warfare, Christians still have not learned how to stand up to the enemy. We are pushovers for the devil!
I do not believe every misfortune that befalls a Christian comes from the enemy. We wrongly blame Satan for a lot of our own carelessness, disobedience and laziness.
Let me tell you something of Satan’s strategy: If he cannot pull the Almighty out of His throne, he will try to tear God’s image out of you—turning worshipers into murmurers and blasphemers.
Satan cannot attack you at will. God has put a wall of fire around His children, and the devil cannot go beyond that wall without God’s permission.
Satan cannot read a Christian’s mind. Some people are afraid to pray because they think the devil can read their every thought. Not so! Only God is omnipresent and omniscient.
Scripture commands us to stand up, be strong and do battle against our flesh and the devil: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). “Brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Simply put, we have to become fed up with being held down by the devil—fed up with being depressed, joyless, empty, harassed.
In Judges 6:1–6 we see the Israelites at their lowest point ever. They were driven to living in dark caves, starving, scared and helpless. Then something happened. It started with Gideon and spread throughout the whole camp: Israel got sick and tired of hiding in those dark caves!
Something rose up within Gideon—and he finally said what God was waiting to hear: “We serve a mighty, victorious God. Why do we go on, day after day, taking this abuse?”
God will not do anything until you are thoroughly disgusted with being oppressed by the enemy—until you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You have to do as Gideon did—cry out to the Lord!
World Challenge, Inc. © 2012. Used by permission.
*†ç SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.
The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at 68, one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.
Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”
Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.
In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.
While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.
On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began. He was canonized in 1954.The field of battle between God and Satan is the human soul. It is in the soul that the battle rages every moment of life. The soul must give free access to the Lord so that it may be fortified by Him in every repect and with all kinds of weapons; that His light may enlighten it to combat the darkness of error; that it may be clothed with Jesus Christ. To be clothed with Jesus Christ it is necessary to die to oneself. That which comes from Satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference, and apathy. In the spiritual life he who does not advance goes backward. It happens as with a boat which always must go ahead. If it stands still the wind blows it back. Fix the time, the length of your meditation, and do not rise from your place until you have finished even at the cost of being crucified.
-- Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
"But we have faith that the real spring is our youth having real faith in God," he added.