R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba

14“Why after you? Why after you?” asks Brother Masseo of Francis. “. . . You are not a very handsome man, nor possessed of great learning or wisdom. So why is all the world running after you?” (Little Flowers of St. Francis, Ch.10).


Each year at this time – a few weeks before the feast day of our beloved St. Francis on October 4 – we pause a while to reflect on this question and all the possible answers.

Little Known Facts About St. Francis
Founder of the Franciscan Orders

Willing or not St. Francis was to found a religious order that was to have one of the widest Christian following in the world.

The warmth of his personality combined with his joyous preaching soon caused him to have followers and it is an interesting coincidence that like Jesus he started off with twelve disciples. Although unlike Christ who got his Apostles from the common people – mostly fishermen, the followers of Francis were mostly well-to-do citizens like Francis was himself.

His first followers joined him because they were attracted by his fine example. However the first disciple was an unknown Assisian who for some unknown reason, maybe dissuaded by Francis himself, parted from him.

However his next disciple was Bernard da Quintavelle of noble blood and as similarly wealthy as the Bernardones. A good man but extra cautious and a little older than Francis, Bernard must have been really impressed by this self-made spiritual tramp that he was willing to give all his worldly possessions to the poor and follow in Francis’s footsteps.

A young man with knightly ambitions next eyed Francis with keen interest. How could this half-mad man attract two staunch solid sensible citizens of the town? Was this the way to be the true Knight that he wanted to be? Seeking his answer in prayer Giles went to St. George to pray for light. When he came across Francis and got to know him he told himself that in this simple person with the smiling eyes he saw his true Knight of the Round Table. So humbly he asked Francis to allow him to become a member of his company.

Bernard, Peter and Giles. These were the first three Franciscans. Others, including a priest, were to follow until they reached twelve. Thus haphazardly the first little company was formed. Peter Catanel, a lawyer, was the next recruit.

Together with Bernard and Francis they went to the church of St. Nicholas to consult the Gospels as God’s will for them now that they had become a body or society.

After praying together, Francis opened at random the book of the Gospels. Asking the parish priest to explain the first passage he saw they were told: If thou hast an eye to be perfect, go then and sell all that belongs to thee; give it to the poor and so the treasure that thou has shall be in heaven; then come back and follow me.”

Closing the book shut and then opening it again at random the new message read: “Take nothing with you to use on your journey, staff or wallet or bread or money; you are not to have more than one coat apiece.”

A third time the book was closed, open and read: “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self and take up his cross and follow me.”

This was it. This was how they would live. Thus started out the life and rule for all those who wished to join their company. Left to Francis alone, he would have insisted on the strictest literal sense of the Gospel as they read it and this would have been the sole essential rule of the order.

When Francis’s two new companions had settled their earthly affairs they donned a similar rough tunic cinched only at the waist by an old rope and thus began their life of poverty and humility.

Two by two the brothers, as they were called, set off down the countryside to do their mission: Preach as you go telling them that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. These were the golden days as they followed the example of Francis’s exuberant, enthusiastic happy self.

The Good News was being preached again. No, not formally in churches but as they passed through little clusters of huts this delightful band asked the people to love, fear God and be sorry for their sins. And wherever they went they preached “Peace.” When asked who they were they simply answered “The penitents of Assisi.”

But life was hard and food was in short supply so that one night the brothers were awakened by the moans of one of them who cried, “I am dying. I am dying. I am dying of hunger.”

And the crowds that listened to them were not always so kind. In fact while some gladly accepted what they had to say – they were more the exception than the rule. For the most part the crowds laughed and jeered at them mocked and opposed them.

However because the number of beggars had now increased at an alarming rate, the people began to complain to the Bishop. Once more he called Francis and suggested to him a more practical way of earning a living. But Francis was adamant and gave his now famous argument against the possession of wordly goods: “Possessions cause disputes and lawsuits, troubles well calculated to destroy the love of God and our neighbour. That is why we are agreed about having no wordly goods in this world.” Bishop Guido must have been a most exceptional bishop because he allowed Francis to have his way.

Even the Benedictine abbot who had control over the little chapel of Porziuncola allowed Francis to keep it permanently. However Francis insisted it merely be a loan, not a gift, paying the Abbot yearly a jar full of lasche, the little fish found abundantly in Lake Trasimeno. The Abbot, in turn, sent back every year, too, a jar of oil.

Given thus permission to stay in what Francis long ago felt was home, the brothers built crude huts of wattle under the trees of Porziuncola. An alternative home was a rough horse and cattle shelter at Rivotorto, a mile or so from Porziuncola.

Interestingly, the shelter was divided into cells just by pieces of chalk.


Part 2

Francis and the Pope
Now that Francis had companions living the religious life that he felt to be the right way – that is, God’s way – Francis wanted to seek not only advice but approval and who else could better give it to him than the head of the church on earth – the Pope himself. Here one can see how Francis’s simple mind worked.

Never mind that he was the formidable Pope Innocent III. He, Francis had been commissioned by someone greater than the Pope – God himself – to repair His church. So Francis made up his mind to see the Pope and ask his permission to continue along his religious way.

So in the early summer of 1210 the little company trudged southward a little over a hundred miles to Rome.

Fortunately for Francis his good friend Bishop Guido of Assisi was in Rome at the same time and “received them with delight.” He introduced them to the Cardinal of Sabina who was greatly impressed when Guido related to him the whole story of Francis and his friends.

The Cardinal, deeply moved by these strange but sublime penitents, told the Pope, “I believe I have found a man of truly perfect life who only desires to live according to the life and ideals of the Gospel. He, I think, is someone whom the Lord can use to reform the Holy church across the face of the world.” Because the Pope had the highest regard for the Cardinal and because he was also worried about the Church’s growing lack of spirituality and morality wanted to see this man of whom the Cardinal spoke so highly of.

So it was that the humblest man in Christendom (he even made Bernard the head of the delegation) was to speak to the most powerful of all the Popes. You can just imagine how shocked and startled the Pope must have been to see this shabby group of barefooted men dressed in the coarse tunic worn by Umbrian peasants. Francis, himself, who he heard so much of, was a “short thin man with burning eyes whose face bore the marks of penitential self denial.”

However when Francis kneeling at the Pontiff’s feet, explained their way of life and their purpose, it was Francis’s turn to be taken aback when he heard the Pope – like Bishop Guido before – admonish and tell him that maybe the life they were leading was too hard. Never mind Francis himself – maybe he could take it. But he had to think of those who would follow his footsteps but lacked his fervour, grit and enthusiasm.

As usual Francis was adamant. He argued that Jesus, who had promised eternal life and everlasting happiness to all, would not begrudge them the few crumbs which was all they needed in this earthly life.

However the Pope asked him to rethink what God wanted of him because he, the Pope, knew how frail human nature was.

Once more it was the Cardinal who came to Francis’s aid. After the audience the Cardinal reminded the Pope that if he refused the request of these poor penitents just because their ideals seemed to be too harsh and unpractical, it was as if he were condemning the evangelical life itself. Furthermore since it was Christ himself who was the author of evangelical perfection – then to deny it would be blasphemous. Since the Pope couldn’t argue against that he agreed to see Francis again.

The Fairytale of Francis
But before the Pope could even speak Francis told him a fairytale. “Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a very beautiful lady who was extremely poor and lived in the desert. However, upon seeing her, the King fell deeply in love with her and married her, but she refused to leave the desert. Their children, who were as beautiful as their mother, were told not to be ashamed that they were so poor because they were the children of a great king. The time came for them to present themselves at the court.

The King upon being informed who they were, greatly admired their beauty. He told them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am your father. If I invite strangers to my house, how much more ready I am to invite my own sons.’ He then asked his wife to send all her children to court.”

Francis then explained that he was the lady of the desert and God was the King of Kings who assured him that he would look after them all (his disciples). Francis further argued that if God was ready to provide for everybody, how much more would he be ready to provide for those who followed His Gospels.

The Pope’s Dream
We are not certain if this fairy tale did the trick in changing the Pope’s mind. What we do know was that recently the Pope had had a vivid dream. In it he saw the Lateran Palace shaken to its foundations, with its tower leaning over and its walls on the verge of collapse. Vainly the Pope tried to cry out but even his hands refused to clasp themselves together in prayer. Then, out of the blue, came this strange ugly man with a cord-tied waist who ran toward the church. Leaning on its tottering walls he suddenly grew larger and larger till he became strong enough to prop up the walls and thus save the church.

Approval of Rule of St. Francis
So Francis’s Primitive Rule was approved by the Pope. However there is to be found no exact wording of this rule – only a collection of Gospel texts (probably the ones he opened at random when the Franciscan order was just starting).

“My brothers,” said the Pope, “go with God and preach penance as the Lord leads you. When the Most High has multiplied your small numbers, come and see me again without hesitation and I will grant you more favors and entrust you with more important missions.”


Part 3

Franciscan Life After Rome
And so Francis and his companions on their return from Rome continued their life as itinerant preachers, sleeping in abandoned churches and leper houses, possessing no property and begging for their food whenever they could not obtain it by honest labor.

Actually there was no need for their rule which was little more an ideal than a rule in the traditional sense. It was just a papal sanction for them – now officially called the “fratres minores” or minors or lesser brethren – to live in evangelical poverty and what a poverty it was!

Franciscan Poverty
Different from the poverty of other religious orders that while accepting their novices’s renouncement of personal possession, the order itself didn’t, Franciscan poverty, on the other hand, was a new concept. It required them to own but one tunic and no books (too expensive). It forbade travel on horseback (travel of the rich) as well as the comfort of their own home. The rude crude wooden houses of the friars were called loca (places) not convents and were considered not homes but merely stopovers or places of transit. Thus poverty encompassed not only the individual members but the whole order itself.

No wonder Francis decided to call his motley group “lesser brethren” so that they would always be poor and humble folk subject to all seeking to do the lowly menial things despised by others.

As if this discomfort was not enough the first friars and the ones that came after them not only abstained from eating and drinking for long periods but kept long vigils, endured bitter cold and performed manual labor that taxed their bodies to the very extreme. They chose to wear the roughest and harshest hair shirts hiding them from view under their tunic.
Money was to be avoided at all cost as it was the symbol of man’s enslavement to the false values of the world and the cause of envy, hatred and war. In fact, it was the exact opposite of love and peace.

Yet while these Franciscans were poor in body and material possessions they were unbelievably rich in their lightness of heart and gladness of spirit that thus enabled them to endure without a complaint or grumble their chosen harsh life style.

To them perfect joy was enduring all the hardships in life patiently and without dismay. Thus the spirit of simplicity and gladness animated the followers of Francis who gradually grew and grew that in barely ten years after they obtained papal sanction for their Rule, the original dozen now numbered three thousand all trying to live up to Francis’s ideal of a “new people, small, special unlike their former selves in life and words, content only to have God.”

As for Francis he kept on preaching the word of God before thousands and thousands bringing his message of peace. Now that word had gotten around that he had not only been received by the Pope but given his approval – the status of Francis suddenly changed. Now there was a clamor for him to preach in the different churches even in the cathedral itself!

Though his rundown tunic was torn and patched, his appearance pitiful and his face unbeautiful, his words rang out dissolving the hatred of ancient grudges and restoring peace through reconciliation. He hardly ever slept and he generously shared whatever little he possessed.

Part 5: Coming Home
Poor Francis, though still a young man (in his early forties) his “brother body” (as he fondly referred to his physical person) was worn out. Having a naturally frail constitution since his youth Francis made matters worse by the vigorous demands and abuses he made on his poor body. Besides the pain from ulcer, malaria and trachoma, he now suffered the open Stigmata on his body.

While in the past he was able to push his body to go on in spite of the terrible sufferings that he bore in silence – now there was no way he could go on. All his friends and brothers were deeply worried and concerned about him.

Succumbing to their wishes and pleadings he underwent several drastic medical treatments that seem terribly cruel and primitive by today’s standards. His eyes were cauterized by supposedly the best physicians of the papal court. Proclaimed unsuccessful Francis submitted to an even more painful and gruesome operation wherein they cut all his veins from the ear to the eyebrow and even perforated both ears! Again with no positive result. Soon his stomach, legs and feet became swollen and the pain in his stomach became so intense that he could hardly take in any food at all.

At no other time had Francis suffered so terribly. Suffering a pain that was more than a mere mortal could endure Francis tried to find solace in music. He begged a brother to please find a harp so that like saintly men of old they could use music to praise God and at the same time to soothe their spirits. He felt that by singing the praises of creatures and other songs his pain would be changed to joy and his spirit consoled. However the brother hesitated to do his bidding fearful of a scandal (making joyful music instead of praying and reflecting in contemplation of death).

That night Francis heard from afar a harp that played music far lovelier than any earthly music. God had granted him his wish and played him a heavenly serenade.

On the last spring of his life the doctors, having decided that they could do no more for him, prescribed a change of scene. Francis was taken to Siena where he vomited so much blood that everyone expected him to die right then and there. So the brothers knelt around his bed, asked for his blessing and for his last message.

After blessing them and all his brothers now and in time to come, Francis had a brother write down his last three wishes for them: First, he wanted them to love one another as he had loved them. Second, he desired that they forever love and observe Lady Poverty and finally that they remain ever faithful and loyal to the Church.

But Francis did not die then as expected. So Brother Elias, seeking this opportunity to glorify the Franciscan Order of which he was head, had the living skin and bones of their Founder brought home to Assisi. But fearful that their old enemy the Perugians would try to snatch their Saint who was now considered a living relic and bring him to their city, they passed a long, circuitous and rough road passing through Gubbio, the city where Francis first tramped, prayed, laughed and sang after his conversion.

Instead of taking him to Porziuncola they brought him to Bishop Guido’s palace where his body could be heavily guarded. It seemed as if Francis was tracing his roots back to where he first stripped himself in order to wear the rags of poverty.

It was while he lay in the palace that he dictated his Testament, the document which revealed his ideals. It was here, too, where Francis when he felt too weak to sing would ask his brothers to sing for him the “Canticle of Creatures,” a song he composed in which all creatures of God whom he loved so much were named in praise of the Lord. (This song is considered the most ancient and precious Jewel of Italian poetry). When chided by Elias to keep recollected and silent rather than singing Francis said, “O let me rejoice in God and in praising Him in all my sufferings, since by a wonderful grace, I feel myself so close to my Lord that, in the knowledge of His mercy, I can sing again.”

Thus it was that the dying Francis comforted himself by singing even when he was told by the doctors that his end was near. He felt a joy so great that he wrote this final verse of his Canticle of the Sun:

Praised be my Lord, for our Sister mortal death,
From whom no man alive will escape
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed those who are found walking in your most holy ways
For the second death will bring them no evil.

Knowing that he had but a few day left, Francis requested that he might be transferred to his beloved Porziuncola “so that the life of the body should end where the life of the soul had begun.” Once there he lost no time in dictating a letter to his faithful friend Lady Giacoma die Settisoli. Scarcely had the letter been sent than she arrived bringing all the things he asked her to bring. The End

When he had but a few hours to live Francis made a very shocking request. He said, “When you see that the end has come, put me naked on the bare earth again as you did the day before yesterday; and leave me there after death for the time it takes to cover a mile walking.” This was Francis’s concluding rite to his beloved bride, Lady Poverty.

He then asked two of his brothers to sing for him once again his Canticle of the Sun. As they sang Francis vainly tried to sing with them. He had come full circle starting his life singing and dancing in the streets of Assisi and ending it with the song of praise of God on his lips. As he died a flock of skylarks rose above the roof as if to accompany his soul on his journey to God, his maker.

As the brothers carried his open bier back to his native city of Assisi, the skylarks again once more appeared and sang overhead. As per the request of Francis the procession stopped outside the convent of San Damiano so that Clare and her sisters could bid him a fond farewell.

It is only fitting that the funeral services were held at the church of St. George where Francis first learned the meaning of chivalry. God’s own knight had truly come home.

Why Saint Francis?
Brother Masseo was actually teasing Francis, whom he loved dearly, when he asked him this question because he very well knew the answer. To Brother Masseo, Francis was John the Baptist come to life again! (How ironic that Francis was actually given the name John at baptism only his father, who was away at that time, didn’t like the Name. So disregarding that name he gave him a second name of Francesco or Francis. Thus Francis was the first saint to be called by his nickname.)

Like John the Baptist, St. Francis called God’s people to repentance and to newness of life in Christ. And like Christ himself, he came among us “to make the good News come alive again in human hearts.”

In this time of parish renewal and as we approach the feast day of our dearest patron saint we reopen our hearts and minds to Christ by following (like St. Francis) the Lord’s command to, “Repair my house.”

Please come and join us to observe the Feast of St. Francis.


R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba


ST. HYACINTH: Apostle of the North; Apostle of Poland
Founder of the Church in Poland
1185 – 1257
August 17

Of noble ancestry Hyacinth was born at Oppeln, Silesia (then belonging to Poland) in 1185. His name is actually a corruption of his Polish name Jacek (a form of John) by which he was baptized that same year.

Studying at Cracow, Prague and Bologna Hyacinth received his doctorate in law and divinity. Bishop Vincent of Cracow then hired him as Canon of his See needing his assistance in the administration of the diocese.

When the pious Bishop resigned, Yvo, Hyacinth’s uncle was appointed to succeed him. When for some reason he had to go to Rome he took with him Hyacinth and Ceslas, another nephew.

Becomes a Dominican
It so happened that St. Dominic was in Rome at that time (1218). Because Hyacinth already a priest was so impressed by his strength of faith and compassion that he felt a profound conversion he asked to be received among the first disciples into Dominic’s newly organized Order of Preachers together with his compatriot Ceslas (who later became a saint too). They both received the Dominican habit from St. Dominic himself in the convent of Santa Sabina. This was for Hyacinth the crucial moment of his life.

After a brief novitiate of only six months by special dispensation they were allowed to make their vows. Hyacinth was then appointed superior of their mission by the holy founder and made to lead a small band of missionaries to preach the faith in Poland.

Being a great preacher Hyacinth was highly successful in changing the hearts and lives of many, and bringing a great number into the faith. Besides having the gift of speech Hyacinth was also endowed with the gift of miracles. However since he preferred to convert the people and receive new members by the word rather than by signs and wonders he did his best to keep accounts of his miracles quiet.

Since he was determined that the work he began so well continue, to ensure their long-term success he founded Dominican convents and friaries wherever he went. Thus Hyacinth, one of the key first-generation evangelizers of the Dominican Order spearheaded the expansion of their Order across Northern and Eastern Europe.

Over a lengthy period Hyacinth, our determined missionary and his band of missionary preachers traveled great distances to preach the Gospel and help to establish Christianity in many places on the way to their homeland Poland. Everywhere they went they managed to touch the lives of many both rich and poor, nobility as well as peasants. Long standing quarrels were patched up and even the nobility humbled.

Finally they reached Cracow which at that time badly needed them as it had become a city of much immorality. Once more Hyacinth’s persuasive preaching and good example did its magic and affected an entire change of morals in Cracow. So even here Hyacinth founded 5 Dominican monasteries as centers of learning as he did at Sandomir and at Plock to continue the good work he started. He can therefore be rightfully called the founder of the Church in his native Poland.

Apostle of the North
Hyacinth, a determined missionary, then made three missionary journeys that spanned 40 years and covered a wide area which in those days was a remote and wild place. Always traveling tirelessly on foot this adventurous traveler and missionary was ever in grave danger from barbarians and wild beasts. Because of this he was called and venerated as the “Apostle of the North” although his work was not just limited to the north.

First reaching the Baltic Sea he evangelized Pomeranis and Lithuania. Then he crossed over into Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the North. After energetically preaching to them and establishing new convents there a steady flow of preachers followed in his wake to consolidate and continue his work.

Besides evangelizing the north our indefatigable preacher then continued his work in Russia and the Ukraine in the south. However invasions from Tartar hordes severely hampered his missions. Because the Mongols when they crossed the Volga had destroyed in 1238 many Dominican missions Hyacinth had them restored.

After reaching as far as the Black Sea and the Aegean he returned in 1231 to Cracow.

However after two years our energetic missionary set out again – this time to see how the convents he had founded were faring. Then bravely penetrating among the Tartars he even carried the Gospel to far-off Tibet and China in the east!

Death and Canonization
By the time he got back to his central monastery at Cracow in 1257 he was already an old man of 72. Knowing that his end was near he exhorted his brothers to ‘esteem poverty as men who had renounced all earthy things.’

After receiving his last Sacrament on 8 August – the feast of St. Dominic himself – our missionary – preacher extraordinaire died on the feast of the Assumption in Cracow.

He was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 17 August 1594.

Thaumaturgus of his Age
Because of the many miracles he wrought Hyacinth was called the Thaumaturgus (worker of miracles) of his Age. He even raised from the dead a young man who drowned while on his way to call the saint to come and convert his master’s servants and tenants.

This happened in the year 1257 the same year that Hyacinth died.

He is also known as the Apostle of Poland.

Sources of Reference
August 17

Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. III – pp. 338 – 339
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia – p. 153
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp. 248 – 249
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – p. 116
A Calendar of Saints – p. 158
Lives of Saints – pp 342 – 343
Saint Companions – pp. 306 – 307

R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba



1193 – 1253
August 11

Clear Light
It all began with Clare beautiful young daughter of Count Faverone Offreduccio and Countess Ortolana di Fiumi. When her mother was pregnant with her she was praying before the crucifix for a safe delivery when she heard a voice assure her, “Do not be afraid, for you will joyfully bring forth a clear light which will illuminate the world. “This is why her mother named her CHIARA or Clare which means “Clear light” and why she had always known the fate of her daughter.

One of Clare’s earliest biographer said that the century Francis and Clare were born in was one of darkness because the eye of faith had grown dark. “But,” she wrote, “God sent Francis, the resplendent Sun of Assisi and then Clare, a most luminous lamp for all women.”

Her Early Life
It’s hard to believe that a beautiful rich girl would give up everything we consider to be the “good” life for a life of extreme poverty and penance.

Yet this is what Lady Clare born Claire Scifi of the noble Offreducci family in Assisi, Italy in 1194 did. Profoundly impressed and deeply moved by the Lenten sermons of St. Francis in 1212 that portrayed his deep spirituality she was inflamed with a love for the poor and suffering Christ that she secretly begged the astounded Francis to take her under his wing and allow her to follow in his footsteps living “after the manner of the holy gospel.”

Her Conversion
Convinced of her sincerity and earnestness in her desire to leave all things of Christ, Francis met her surreptitiously and gave her the spiritual counseling and guidance she ached for.

After a year on March 18, 1212 on Palm Sunday (she was by now a mere eighteen years old) Clare secretly left her comfortable home and presented herself to Francis and his companions. But it was not to Francis she went to. He merely provided the meeting place and the means for her assignation which Christ. She came to consecrate herself to the Lord at the Porziuncola, St. Francis’s headquarters outside Assisi.

Snip, snip – off came her beautiful long hair. Swish, swish – off cam her luxurious fine clothes and jeweled belt which she exchanged for – of all things – a coarse tunic of sack cloth with an unglamorous common rope with knots in it as a belt.

Becomes First Woman Franciscan
Before Francis and his band of followers Clare took the vows of the Franciscan order thus making her the first woman Franciscan follower of II Paverello (the poor one) and the founding moment of the Order of Poor Clares, the second Franciscan order.

Francis had long dreamt of establishing a community of women that would correspond with his fraternity. He found in Clare the perfect partner he was seeking.

Since he had no convent yet for women he placed Clare in an old Benedictine convent near Bastia. When her parents tracked her down there they tried to bring her back as they considered Franciscan poverty not only degrading but also a disgrace to their good name. They only gave up trying to forcibly bring her back when she showed them her shorn head.

Francis then moved her to Sant’ Angelo di Panzo convent. Sixteen days later Clare’s younger sister Agnes joined her. Others came.

Made Superior
Francis then placed them and the other girls in a poor house belonging to the church of San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi where he appointed Clare the superior and where she remained for forty years as abbess until her death on August 11, 1253. This became their convent and first community house and still is the Motherhouse. This is why they were called the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. It was only after Clare died that they were called Poor Clares after their foundress.

In time even Clare’s widowed mother and Beatrice, another sister, joined them. So did three members of one of the most influential families of Florence.

They lived a simple life according to the rule of “formula of life” that Francis gave them as the Second Order.

Poor Ladies
Perfect Poverty
They were called “poor ladies” because they practiced a life of perfect poverty. Since they owned nothing possessing no property even in common they subsisted only on what a few of them got by begging and alms. Yet they would reject donations of whole slices of bread content to accept only the crumbs. They were given this right by the Pope’s granting them the Privilegium Pauperitatis.

When Clare inherited a fortune from her father she gave everything to the poor and to hospitals unbelievably keeping nothing for the Poor Ladies.

Strict Penance
They also lived a life of strict penance. Living in complete seclusion they went barefoot even in winter, slept on the bare floor, ate no meat and observed complete silence. While the greatest emphasis was on Gospel poverty, they dedicated themselves to prayer, work, meditation and self-mortification although Clare went further than most of her nuns.

The Penance of Clare
The penance of Clare was hard and unbelievable. Her fastings were long and alternated with total abstinence of food. St. Francis had to intervene telling her to eat at least an ounce-and-a-half of bread daily.

Her haircloth was unbearable.

She spent long nights prostrated on the floor for hours on end.

Everyday at about three in the afternoon uniting herself to the death of Jesus she would flog herself very severely.

However no one ever saw her sad. She would always keep a joyous countenance.

The extent to which she was severe with herself is the extent to which she was kind and loving to her sisters.

Later in life she grew less harsh with her followers. In fact she wrote Agnes of Prague not to be quite so rigorous “since our bodies are not of brass.”

However she herself remained austere.

She kissed the feet of those who brought the goods they had begged in the streets.

At night she would walk round her nunnery to make sure that the Poor Clares were warmly covered up in bed.

“They say we are too poor. Can a heart which possess God really be called poor?”
First Woman Franciscan Saint
Clare was given many gifts by God so she is credited with many miracles – even cures. But her most famous ones were the ones (in 1940 and 1941) when she saved her nuns and the city of Assisi from the marauding Saracens of Frederick II. Though sick at the time she asked to be carried to the convent walls where she placed the Blessed Sacrament in full view of the enemy. Praying fervently to the Eucharistic Lord the terrified Saracens fled.

When Pope Gregory was having breakfast with Clare he asked her to bless the only food they had – a basket of bread. As she did so the loaves of bread cracked and there appeared on them a well defined cross.

One Christmas when she was too weak to attend mass at the Basilica more than a mile away she saw and heard it all in a miraculous vision. This is why Clare was named the patron of television.

Spread of the Order
It is surprising that the rigors of their hard life did not deter others from joining the order. In fact under Claire’s guidance and supervision it grew and grew till its branches reached all over Europe.

Clare’s example so inspired rich and poor women alike to join the Poor Clares. After her father’s death even her own mother and another sister came ready to change their life for Jesus. Even three of the illustrious and influential Ubaldine family in Florence responded to the call of the Gospel.

To this day the Poor Clares are flourishing not only in Spain, Italy and France but throughout the world – even in the Philippines called Santa Clara.

Poor Clares
They were called Poor Clares because of the way they lived the virtue of holy poverty.

Clare tried so hard to emulate Francis – whom she called her Father, Planter and Helper in the Service of Christ – that she adopted and strove to carry out her ideal and mentor’s Rule of perfection: “that his order should never possess any rents or other property even in common, subsisting on daily contributions.”

Thus these poor ladies lived and supported themselves solely by begging alms. When given whole slices of bread they would even go to the extent of accepting only the crumbs.

Pope Gregory IX tried to soften her rule by offering to dispense them from the vow of strict poverty and provide them with a yearly revenue instead.

Clare was adamant in her refusal and instead told the pope, “I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from the obligation of following Jesus Christ.”

Clare then set to work to draw up her own rule that would express in no uncertain terms that the sisters shall possess no property, either as individuals or as community (as proposed to them by Pope Innocent IV in 1247). In so doing Clare became the first woman founder of an Oder for which she wrote her own Rule.

It is ironic that the approval of her Rule came only two days before she died. It is said that the Papal letter granting his permission for them to live in gospel poverty relying wholly on god for their sustenance was found in her hands upon opening her tomb in 1893.

Death and Sainthood
Clare had to pay the toll for the austerities, which she imposed on herself suffering serious illness for the last 27 years of her life, mostly confined to bed in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi, which she never left.

Little Flower of St. Francis
On August 11, 1253 the living impersonation of Lady Poverty died at Assisi at the age of 60.

At her death there were already at least 120 Poor Clare monasteries.

The Assisi motherhouse, became a nursery of Saints. Her own sister Agnes became a saint like Clare who was solemnly canonized by Pope Alexander IV on 15 August 1255.

Just before she died Clare said. “Blessed be you, O God, for having created me” – the first Woman Franciscan saint.

Poor Clare proved to be not very poor after all. She was rich in the love of God and all that knew her. She was rich in the blessed life she led.

Patron Saint
St. Clare is the patron of embroiderers and of television. She is also patron of eye diseases, gilders, goldsmiths, laundry workers, oculists and telephones.

She is invoked against fever and blindness.

August 11

Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. III pp 309 – 313
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – p. 152
The Book of Saints – p. 208
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp. 119 – 120
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp. 56 – 57
A Calendar of Saints – p. 153
All Saints – pp 345 – 347
Saints for Everyday – pp. 289 – 291
A Year With the Saints – August 11
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp. 375 – 377
Lives of the Saints – pp. 332 – 334
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp. 356 – 358
My First Book of Saints – pp. 178 – 179
Saint Companions – pp. 296 – 298
Saints for Our Time – pp – 168 – 169
Saint of the Day – pp. 201 – 203
Lives of Saints – Part I – pp. 251 – 257
The Big Book of Women Saints – pp. 240 – 241
Meditation on the Saints – Vol. 4 pp. 86 – 111
Saints – a Visual Guide – pp. 216 = 217
Saints and Heroes Speak – Vol. I pp. 90 – 96
Voices of the Saints – pp. 374 – 375
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives – Group 4 Card 10
The Lion Treasury of Saints – pp. 212; 144 – 145
Servants of God – pp 18 – 19
Best – Loved Saints – pp. 80 – 82
The Way of the Saints – pp 117 – 119
33 Saints for Boys and Girls – pp. 245 – 252
Book of Saints – Part 3 – pp. 12 – 13
Saints – Ancient and Modern – pp. 88 – 93
Saints of the Roman Calendar – pp 238 -239
Saints and their Symbols – pp 161 – 162

R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba



August 8

St. Dominic was born Domingo de Guzman on about 1170 at Calaruega, Castile, Spain the youngest son of wealthy nobleman Don Felix (Warden ofCalaruega) and Blessed Juana of Aza. Dominic remained under the care of his mother until he was seven years old. It is said that when she gave birth to Dominic she had a vision of St. Dominic of Silos that told her that Dominic would be a shining light to the Church. Thus in thankfulness she had him baptized with the name of Dominic.

After his ordination he became canon at the Cathedral ofOsma in Castile He soon became prior superior of the chapter of the order which was noted for its strict following of the Rule of St. Augustine of Hippo. He was then 31 years old.

It was when, in 1203 accompanying Bishop Diego d’ Azevedo of Osma on a diplomatic mission to northern Germany (or possibly Denmark to negotiate a marriage for the king’s son that he passed through Languedoc, a town in southern France. It was here when his life changed dramatically. Stopping at an inn in Toulouse he was horrified to find that the inn keeper, like the rest of his townspeople, were leaving the Church to follow a strange false teaching.

The Albigensian Heresy
Named after the city of Albi in Languedoc where the heresy thrived and was widely propagated (thereby drawing a lot of Catholics to leave their faith) the religion was really a revival of the ancient Gnostic heresy.

In simplest terms they were dualists seeing two opposing conflicting spirits in the universe: good and evil. This led to the creation of a spiritual world which was good and the domain of an infinitely good God as distinguished from the earthly or material world which was carnal and corrupt, the domain of an infinitely evil Satan or the devil.

Since all matter is evil the Albigensians or Cathars meaning “the pure” denied the Incarnation and the sacraments. Thus they did not regard Jesus (who was matter) as Savior but merely a teacher. Other than that they tried to live in the spiritual world by leading lives of “abstemious purity.” Thus they had churches similar to Catholics complete with bishops, laity and liturgical services. They even read incessantly the Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul which was in their own French dialect (unlike the Catholic Church who even then had no vernacular scriptures for the laity to read.)

It was when Dominic literally spent the whole night successfully converting the owner of the inn back to the faith that he finally knew what God wanted of him: using his special charism – preaching.

Preaching Mission
On the return back to Spain the bishop and he passed by Rome where Dominic asked Pope Innocent III permission to preach in Russia. Instead the pope convinced Dominic that he was needed more at home to combat and oppose the heresy that was threatening the Church.

Passing by Citeaux and Montpellier whose monks were officially appointed by the Pope to be in charge of combating the heresy, they soon found out the reason for their failure to do so: the heresy was not due so much to a rejection of the Catholic faith as to a “woeful ignorance of its essential tenets.” Furthermore while the Albigensians upheld a life of great austerity, the monks lived a luxurious lifestyle traveling with horses and retinues staying at the best inns with servants.

Dominic decided to remain in France to not only preach against and debate with the heretics but to devise a plan that would bring them back to Catholicism.

Following the evangelical pattern of the original apostles, the monks from the Abbey of Citeaux would travel on foot going two by two without money depending solely on begging for their food. They would preach whenever and wherever there was an audience using persuasion and peaceful discussion instead of threats and overbearingness to exemplify the gospel ideas of faith and charity. But before setting out they had to be well-trained in theology, doctrine and in the art of communication. Thus their preaching would be knowledgeable, inspired and present a challenging alternative to the heresy. This was the birth of Dominic’s “evangelical preaching.”

He next established a convent of nuns at Prouille near Toulouse. These were a group of women who had converted from the heresy.

But the following year disaster struck. When papal legate Peter of Castelnan was murdered by the Albigensians the pope called upon the Christian princes to take up arms against them led by Simon de Montfort. For the next 7 years civil war ensued and dragged on until 1213 with Simon’s victory at Muret.

Dominic had followed the army although he opposed the use of force to combat errors; so instead he preached to the heretics. The only arms he used against them were “instruction, patience, penance, fasting, tears and prayer.” He would often say, “The enemies of the faith cannot be overcome like that. Arm yourself with prayer, rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes.” When asked from which book he studied his outstanding sermons, with great humility he said, “In no other than the Book of Love”.

However even he failed to get the Albigensians to give up their contrary views of Christianity and accept Roman Catholicism. The 7-year war killed many but converted few.

Preaching Order
By around 1214 Dominic, having been given a castle at Casseneuil by Simon, he together with six followers finally began founding his dream of a preaching order devoted to the conversion of Albigensians. His principal aim was to multiply in the church zealous preachers who would be an example and means to more easily spread the faith and heal the wounds the Church had received from false doctrine. They would not be monks settled in one place but “Friars” (which means “brothers”) and their call was to bring the gospel message on the road to wander, beg, study and teach.

Later in October 1216 he received papal sanction for his OrdoPraedicatorum or Order of Friar Preachers since generally known as Dominicans or Black Friars because of their black vestments. The pope said, “Considering that the religious of your order will be champions of the faith and a true light of the world, we confirm your order.”

Dominic had decided that moral persuasion and scholarly arguments were to be his new order’s approach. His brothers were advised to speak only to God or with God. His willingness to preach everywhere and anywhere made his order so successful that it is one of the principal orders of the Church today spread all over the world where he directed his brothers to sow the seed, not hoard it.

Dominic and Francis of Assisi
It was while Dominic remained in Rome till after Easter that he met and formed his friendship with St. Francis of Assisi, the great founder of the other Mendicant Orders – the Franciscan Order.
The story goes that Dominic who was born 12 years earlier than St. Francis saw in a vision the sinful world being threatened by divine anger but saved by the intercession of our Lady who pointed out to her Son two figures. While Dominic recognized himself as one of them, the other was a stranger to him.

It was only the next day while praying in church that he saw a ragged beggar come in. Immediately recognizing him to be the other figure he embraced him and said, “You are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.”

Thus did the Dominicans with their contemporaries the Franciscans start a new era in religious life – the age of the so-called mendicants or beggars. They proclaimed the gospel on the road rather than living within an enclosed monastery.

While Francis and Dominic were significantly different in vision and style they were alike in their zeal and great love for God.

Francis was the troubador, poet, mystic of nature who received marks of the stigmata because he identified himself so closely with Christ. Poverty was his acknowledged cherished bride and his mission was to be a witness to the spirit of the Beatitudes.

Dominic, on the other hand, identified himself more with the missionary apostles at the service of the church. That his friars might be more effective preachers like himself he urged them to study theology and doctrine and become experts in its exposition. Thus the Dominicans produced such great theologians as Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Siena. Dominic, himself, was the first ever appointed Papal Theologian, a position that has since been held only by a Dominican Priest.

Unlike Francis who aspired to personify the gospel Dominic merely aspired to be its effective propagator. Thus “his legacy was not in the example of personal holiness but in the apostolic movement he instituted and inspired.”

The Franciscans and Dominicans have always remained close celebrating the famous meeting of the two founders twice a year. On their respective feast days the brethren of the two orders sing Mass in each others’ churches and afterwards sit at the same table.

Death and Canonization
Having finally received papal approval and support Dominic devoted the few remaining years of his life to structuring the order’s government, academic program, preaching work and the observance of poverty. The brothers who were to be “the successors of the Apostles in establishing the Kingdom of God” were to preach as they traveled living on very little.

By the time he died in the general headquarters in Bologna, Italy on August 6, 1221 worn out by his labors the Friars Preachers or Dominicans had become phenomenally successful in conversion work with the weapons he had given them: prayer especially the holy Rosary since he was a great lover of Mary. (However the claim that Dominic was the one who introduced the devotion of the rosary has not been accepted by all). Besides prayer, he armed them with charity, humility, and willing poverty. Thus he died in Brother Moneta’s bed because he had none of his own and in Brother Moneta’s habit because the habit he had previously been wearing was already worn out.

On August 6, 1221 when Dominic knew he was at death’s door he gathered his brethren around him and made his last testament to them saying, “These, my much-loved ones, are the bequests which I leave to you as my sons: have charity among you; hold to humility; keep willing poverty.”

But he died fulfilled because he had already seen established 4 monasteries and over 60 friaries spread across 8 provinces and converted some 100,000 unbelievers! The Order of Preachers is now world-wide. His religious order that combined the contemplative life of the monks with the active apostolate of the evangelists had helped to rejuvenate the Church which badly needed it at that time. They became the leading orders of missionaries and teachers establishing the University of Sto. Tomas here in the Philippines, even earlier than Harvard in the United States.

When Dominic was canonized in 1234 by his friend Pope Gregory IX he said that Dominic “had lived the life of the apostles toperfection. . .” that he no more doubted the sanctity of Dominic than he did that of St. Peter or St. Paul. Dominic, a very humble saint had even refused 3 times to be made a bishop! He truly lived the meaning of his name Domingo in Spanish which means “I belong to God.”

It is to St. Dominic and his Dominicans that we owe the spread of the beautiful practice of saying the Rosary. He is the patron saint of astronomers.

His Symbols
Dominic is represented generally holding a book – hisRule. Other times he is accompanied by a black and white dog with a torch clamped in his jaws. Legend has it that before he was born his mother had a dream of a dog bearing a similar torch which was symbolic of truth and light or of the fire of his zeal for souls. It is more probable that the symbolic dog arises from a pun-dominicanis (sounds like Domincan) which is Latin for ‘the master’s (the Lord’s) dog.

Another emblem of Dominic is the star. This is because his mother or godmother saw a star in his brow in a vision.

Dominic is also seen as holding a rosary or receiving one from the Virgin Mary whom he dearly loved. Another legend tells us that once when Dominic was despondent because of the slow progress he was making against the Albigensian heresy suddenly the Blessed Virgin appeared with a rosary made of a wreath of roses. She told him not only to say the Rosary everyday but to teach the people everywhere to also pray the it. When Dominic did as she instructed the heresy began to disappear. The recitation of the Rosary became Dominic’s way of honoring his beloved Mary.

His Teachings
Dominic frequently told his friars: “A man that governs his passion is master of the world. We must either rule them or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.”

Learning, study of the Bible and teaching has always been of first importance in his order, but the spirit of prayer and recollection has always been characteristics of Dominicans.

Sources of Reference

August 8
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. III pp. 258 – 264
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia – p. 145
The Book of Saints – p. 207
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp. 147 – 148
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp. 69 – 70
A Calendar of Saints – p. 150
All Saints – pp. 339 – 341
Saints for Everyday – pp. 285 – 286
A Year With the Saints – August 8
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp. 369 – 372
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp. 350 – 352
My First Book of Saints – pp. 174 – 176
Saint Companions – pp 291 – 193
Saints for Our Time – pp. 165 – 166
Saint of the Day – pp. 196 – 198
Lives of the Saints – Part I pp. 328 – 330
Saints – A Visual Guide – pp. 212 – 213
Voices of the Saints – pp 358 – 359
Best Loved Saints – pp. 71 – 73
The Way of the Saints – pp. 134 – 135
Book of Saints – Part 4 – pp. 24 – 25
Saints of the Roman Calendar – pp. 230 – 232
Saints for Our Time – pp. 165 – 166
Saints and their Symbols – pp. 157 – 158

R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today. . . by Peachy Maramba


August 1

It was at the still standing country house of the Liguori family at the village of Marianella near Naples, Italy where St. Alphonsus de Liguori was born on September 27, 1696. His virtuous distinguished and aristocratic parents were Don Joseph de Liguori, a captain in the royal navy of the Kingdom of Naples and religious and saintly Donna Anna Cavalieri. Born first of eight children he was baptized Alphonsus Mary Anthony John Francis Cosmas Damian Michaelangelo Gaspar de Liguori (better known as just his first name of Alphonsus).

His strongly pious mother raised 3 sons – priests and two daughters – nuns.

Born the eldest son of a stern overbearing disciplinarian who saw to it that his children didn’t waste their time, Alphonsus led a very active and fruitful life. Because he was given the best education possible that included in addition to the serious subjects painting, music, poetry, dancing and fencing, Alphonsus was productive not only in writing over a hundred books but also in composing poetry and music (hymns) and painting pictures.

But it was in writing on moral theology that he excelled and received popular acclamation. His greatest work Moral Theology went through nine editions in his lifetime alone and more than 60 during the century after it was written. It became a standard work of Catholic doctrine. It was so good that even the Holy See declared in a decree on July 21 1831 that priests could follow any of Alphonsus’ opinion on moral questions. This was a badge of honor Rome never gave to any other saint. Because of his contributions to moral theology Alphonsus is considered not only the greatest moral theologian of the Catholic Church but the “father” of moral theology and so was named a Doctor of the Church and “Doctor and Prince of Moral Theologians” in 1871.

Becomes a Priest
However Alphonsus didn’t start out to be a moral theologian or even a man of God. Propelled by his ambitious father into a legal career he was so diligent and brilliant in his studies that at the unbelievable early age of 16 he received his doctorate in both canon and civil law at the University of Naples, Italy and was admitted to the bar when he was just 19!

An excellent lawyer and successful barrister his first loss in court after 8 years of successful practice dealt him a devastating blow. Humiliated by his embarrassing defeat of an important court case he fasted and prayed for 3 days as he underwent a spiritual crisis.

One day while doing works of charity in the Hospital for the Incurables he found himself surrounded by a mysterious light at the same time hearing what seemed like an interior voice saying, “Leave the world and give yourself to me.”

When it happened again Alphonsus by now having a powerful attraction to the priesthood realized it was God’s way of telling him that he wasn’t meant to be a lawyer. Going to the church of our Lady of Ransom, he laid his sword and belt, symbols of his nobility, on her altar and offered to join the priests of the Oratory. He studied theology privately and to his father’s great displeasure Alphonsus after a few years of theological studies at home (his father’s condition) was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726 when he was thirty.

For the next five years Alphonsus chose to do missionary work among the poorest of the poor of Naples. Because he preached so beguilingly: simply clearly, intelligibly and without affectation his fame as a down-to-earth preacher spread rapidly and he was loved by his congregation. “I have never preached a sermon that the poorest old woman in the congregation could not understand,” he instructed his missioners.

His confessional was also always crowded because he charitably treated the penitents as souls to be saved rather than as criminals to be punished. To the dismay and suspicion of other priests compassionate Alphonsus never refused absolution to a penitent.

This was not the only act of Alphonsus that was displeasing to everybody.

Redemptorists Order Founded
It was in 1731 that he, aided by his friends Thomas Falcoia who was h;is spiritual director and Maria Celeste a former Carmelite whose convent had been dissolved, founded the Redemptoristine Sisters – a new religious order of nuns according to the rule given to Sister Mary Celeste in a vision because it coincided with a vision that Bishop Falcoia had experienced earlier in Rome.

The following year on November 9, 1732 he founded a religious Order of priests and brothers – the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He established the order amid untold difficulties and innumerable trials to develop preachers who would preach practical sermons, act as missionaries and bring the word of God especially to the poor, abandoned and forgotten. This is why the Redemptorists have been called “the Salvation Army of the Church.”

However disagreements over the Rule for the Order and internal dissension became so bad that Sister Maria Celeste was expelled from her Order and left founding a new convent in Foggia.

All the members of the group of Alphonsus left except one. But despite all these difficulties the congregation grew with new postulants who elected Alphonsus their superior for life. However he suffered the next fifty years of his life trying to win official recognition of the order as external politics tried to divide and destroy the Redemptorists.

While his Rule received ecclesiastical approval when Pope Benedict XIV finally approved the rule for the men in 1749 and that of the Women in 1750, still the order had not received civil approval vital under an absolute regime.

The chief aim of the Redemptorists is “to imitate as closely as possible . . . the life and 12 virtues of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” So a special virtue was practiced for each month.

Their chief work was the giving of parish “missions” – that is giving sermons, hearing Confessions and doing spiritual exercises to turn them away from sin. This they (including Alphonsus himself) did during nine months of the year.

Not only were many hardened sinners returned to the healing sacraments, enemies reconciled but family feuds were healed. It was because he was a true representative of the Gospel spirit of moderation and kindness.

His Writing
Alphonsus was not only a beguiling preacher who gave practical sermons – short simple, meaningful and to the point but was also a very practical writer. Like his sermons his writing was outstanding in the practical guidance of souls.

He even asked his printer to use a good grade of paper and to avoid bulky looking books as he said that “spiritual books especially ought to be handy for reading.”

The aim of most of his writing was to be for the reader “a safer and secure spiritual bridge . . . from earth to heaven for men and women in every state and stage of life.” His writing expounding his moderate views sympathetic to sinners proved to be a great success.

Many of his works are still being published today in Italian, French, German, Dutch and English. Today his writings have been translated in more than 72 languages! Fr. Miller says that Alphonsus was the most popular author who ever lived as no other writer has had so many different editions of his work published. It is estimated that he wrote and published about 60 books – all written during the half hours he snatched from his labors as a missionary.

His style of writing is very similar to the prayerful meditation he taught: first a brief aspect of the mysteries of our redemption followed by a meaningful prayer.

Because Alphonsus prolifically wrote so well for the honor of God, the Blessed Virgin and a religion, Pope Pius VII asked when his tomb was opened years after his death that the three fingers of his right hand be preserved and sent to Rome.

A Great Mariologies
Always a great lover of Mary, Alphonsus had been gathering material for his most popular book, The Glories of Mary since his ordination to the priesthood in December 21, 1726. This loving work was only published in 1750 when he was 54 thinking himself to be near death at that time. It’s no wonder that the book was said by F. J. Connell to be “probably the most widely read book on the Blessed Virgin in the world” even if he was not the first to teach that Mary is the “Mother of All Graces.” Its popularity was probably due to the fact that it was the loving work of a great Mariologist that mirrored the soul of its author.

Before that time he spoke endlessly of Mary’s Mercy claiming that she held the greatest privilege because of God’s mercy in giving us a Redeemer thus earning for herself the apt title of Mother of Mercy.
Alphonsus not only fulfilled his own vow to preach about Mary every Saturday which he did till the age of 80 but he also required the Redemptorists to preach a sermon on Mary’s mercy at every mission.

As a special token of Mary’s love for her devoted servant the much-sought-after famed miraculous picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from 13the century Crete was placed in 1866 in the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome. The Church has since been noted for spreading the devotion to her as the Mother of Perpetual Help. Go to the Redemptorist Church at Baclaran and see a faithful replica of this painting.

His Music
Little is written about Alphonsus, the musician. Because his father wanted him to be a well-rounded boy he was given training in music so that he not only was considerably skillful in playing the harpsichord but he became a composer of music especially of hymns.

Because Alphonsus knew the power of music over the mind and heart of the people he composed hymns (both the words and music of about 50 hymns) with simple and catchy melodies to stir up the love of Jesus and Mary. He also restored Gregorian chant to the mass. He was even called a “professor’s professor of music.”

Becomes a Bishop
The only time he left his beloved Kingdom of Naples was when in 1762 he reluctantly went to Rome for his unwilling consecration as bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths, an area that was spiritually lax.

Not only was his small diocese full of thousands of uninstructed men and women but also hundreds of priests who were indifferent. The worst of it was that the congregation was not only lax but corrupt. He had to work hard reorganizing the seminary and religious houses, rehabilitating the clergy by teaching them theology and writing and be unbending in his reforms. When a severe famine came he insisted that the wealthy share food with the starving. Subsequent court actions naturally followed and added to his difficulties. He himself sold almost everything: all of his furniture, his carriage and mules, even his uncle’s Episcopal ring to feed the poor. Thus he came to be known as father of the poor.

All this time he was suffering from such a bad case of arthritis and rheumatism that his body was being deformed.

When he was 71 years of age he had such a bad attack of rheumatic fever that kept him bedridden for over a year. Try as he might to resign he was not allowed to do so. This was because as Pope Clement XIII said, “His shadow alone is enough to govern the diocese.”

By this time his neck was paralyzed so that he could not even raise his head. An open wound on his chest caused by the pressure of his chin necessitated his drinking through a tube.

Yet he somehow managed to say mass even if it meant having his chair tilted back so he could drink the Precious Blood.

It was only in 1775 when he was 78 that he was finally moved to the Redemptorist headquarters in Pagani hoping to end his days in peace.

His Last 13 Years
On the contrary he spent his last 13 years in anything but peace. Besides being assailed by acute physical suffering gradually losing his sight and hearing, for the last two years of his life he was tortured by private spiritual torments and exhausted by efforts to finally win recognition for his Order.

The greatest blow that dealt poor tragic Alphonsus was when in 1780 he was expelled from the order he had founded because he had failed to read carefully a vital document before signing it. This document authorized reforms that were favorable to the anti-clerical government. Even his fellow religious in the Kingdom of Naples were cut off from the Congregation Alphonsus founded. His being 83 years old at the time, crippled, deaf and nearly blind was not accepted as an excuse.

It was not till he finally died on August 1, 1787 at the age of ninety one after a life of “extraordinary industry” because as a youth he had vowed “never to waste time” he finally got the peace he long longed for. Unfortunately he died outside the Congregation he had founded believing that his Order had failed. However his order the Redemptorists finally won their recognition by the Neapolitan state in 1793 (62 years after it was founded) and expanded to the whole world. Our own Baclaran Church and Magallanes Church are run by Redemptorists. It is ironic that Pope Pius VI who issued the decree of expulsion led the battle for his canonization and declared him “Venerable”.

He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI the first and only professional “Moral Theologian” to have been canonized. He was (declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.) in recognition for his contribution to moral theology.

He is the patron of vocations and charity but known most of all as patron of Moral theologians, of vocations and of all priests engaged in hearing confession. He is also the patron of the sick especially those suffering from arthritis and old age because he bore so well his cross of illness. He is known as Prince of Moralists and Most Zealous Doctor.

His feast day is on August 1.


1696 – 1787
August 1

Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. III – pp. 242 – 248
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – pp. 210
The Book of Saints – p. 204
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp. 316 – 318
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – p. 9
A Calendar of Saints – p. 146
All Saints – pp. 329 – 330
Saints for Everyday – pp 274 – 275
A Year with the Saints – August 1
Butler’s Saints for the Day – pp. 359 – 361
Lives of the Saints – pp 317 – 319
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp. 339 – 341
My First Book of Saints – pp. 166 – 167
Saint Companions – pp 279 – 281
Saints for Our Time – pp 279 – 281
Saint of the Day – pp. 185 – 186
Lives of the Saints – pp 317 – 319
The Doctors of the Church – Vol. II pp. 195 – 209
The 33 Doctors of the church – pp. 603 – 636
Voices of the Saints – pp 610 – 611
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives – Group 4 Card 5
Best Loves Saints – p. 158 – 161
Book of Saints – Part 4 – pp 20 – 21
Novena – pp. 50 – 53
Saints of the Roman Calendar – pp 218 – 220
Saints of the Modern Generation – pp 85 – 94
Saints and their Symbols – 207

R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba


ST. LAWRENCE of BRINDISI: Greatest Capuchin Preacher and Doctor of the Church
1559 – 1619
July 21

Like his namesake Julius (Giulo) Caesar, Cesare de Rossi grew to be a great man.

Cesare was born at Brindisi, a town in the Kingdom of Naples in southern Italy on 22 July 1559 to devout middle–class parents of good standing William and Elizabeth Russo.

Early in life he already showed signs of being deeply religious and of being a great orator. First educated by the Conventual Franciscans of Brindisi he was sent by his uncle to the College of Saint Mark in Venice when his parents died.

He was only sixteen when he joined the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin, a branch of the Franciscan Order that tried to return to the austerity and traditional idea of poverty of St. Francis of Assisi. As such it was one of the leading voices for reform both within the order and the Church.

For some reason he changed his name to Lawrence upon receiving the Capuchin Franciscan habit at Verona.

It was at the University of Padua where he was sent for his philosophical and theological studies that his extraordinary gifts became apparent.

Not only was he a great scholar with a very facile memory but one with an amazing gift for languages. In no time he became fluent not only in his native tongue Italian but also in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, Bohemian, French and Spanish. Because of this he was able to preach in five languages. His excellent knowledge of Hebrew and Greek enabled him to easily instruct the Jews in Rome thereby allowing him to make many converts among them. He was also able to study the Bible in its original languages.

His prodigious memory helped him to acquire an extraordinarily broad knowledge of the text of the Bible. It’s no wonder that he was able to use Scripture so extensively in his preaching.

But it was his remarkable gift of oratory that made him famous. Even before his ordination while still a deacon he already was entrusted with preaching the Lenten sermons which he did with great success.

After his ordination as a deacon at age twenty-three he became famous throughout Europe as a forceful and magnetic preacher. His preaching ministry began in Padua, Verona, Vicenza and other cities in northern Italy.

His Preaching Style
Lawrence was very successful with his preaching style probably because it was always carefully adapted to the spiritual needs of his listeners. Of course his evident sanctity also helped to readily capture their hearts. This led many to comment that he was an effective and forceful preacher because his life of prayer and penance affirmed his sermons.

To illustrate the points he was making Lawrence often relied on scriptural quotations. This combination of brilliance and human compassion is very evident in most of his sermons which were aimed principally at the conversion of his hearers to a better way of life. It is no wonder that many scholars consider him the greatest Capuchin preacher of the Church.

While Lawrence, unlike other doctors of the Church didn’t write any important book, still the collection of his sermons filled eleven volumes. In 1928-45 they were published in nine volumes.

Converts the Jews
In 1596 he went to fill the office of Definitor General of his Order (a post he held twice) in Rome. This was when Pope Clement VIII asked him to work for the conversion of the Jews. He successfully did this aided by his knowledge of Hebrew and the Old Testament. He was so fluent in Hebrew that in fact many Jews believed him to be a Jew like them who just converted to Catholicism.

Battles Lutheranism
Lawrence was then sent in 1598 together with Bd. Benedict of Urbino (who was later beatified) to Germany and Austria to oppose Lutheranism which was gaining strength. To do this they first nursed those sick of the plague and then established the Capuchin Convents at Prague, Vienna and Gorizia which later on developed into the provinces of Bohemia, Austria and Syria. They proved a very effective bulwark against Lutheranism.

Battles the Turks
In the meantime the Turks were becoming a greater menace of Europe. While their sea power had been broken at the battle of Lepanto in 1571, Sultan Mohammed III since his accession in 1595 had been able to conquer a large part of Hungary and was now threatening the whole of the country.

So Emperor Rudolf II, having heard of the fame of Lawrence’s holiness, wisdom and administrative ability, sent him to enlist the help of the German princes against the invading Turks. Not only was he successful in his mission but when an army was gotten together he was appointed military chaplain general of the forces.

At the Battle of Stuhlweissenburg the low spirits of the Christian soldiers who were outnumbered four to one were roused with a powerful inspiring address by their chaplain Lawrence who managed to communicate his ardor and confidence to them.

Then he mounted a horse and with a crucifix held high in his hand he rode before the army and successfully beat back the Turks and Europe was saved. It’s no wonder that the crushing defeat of the Turks was attributed by many to Lawrence.

Battles Unbelievers
In 1602 he was elected minister general of the Capuchins, a post he administered with both vigor and charity. But he refused re-election three years later.

Instead Lawrence accepted another mission of Emperor Rudolf to induce Philip III of Spain to join the Catholic League, a group of Catholic rulers in opposition to a group of nations headed by Protestant rulers. Once more he was successful in his mission.

But while in Madrid he founded a house of Capuchins there.

Now aware of his ability as a skilled diplomat the Holy See appointed him nuncio in Munich. While there besides acting as a mediator in settling disputes between rulers he succeeded in bringing many back to the faith in Bohemia, Austria and Germany. This he did by his devoted apostolic labors and miracles.

But the position he held longest was as papal nuncio to Bavaria where he once more served as peacemaker in several royal disputes.

His Death and Canonization
In 1618 he tried to retire as he was worn out and his health had deteriorated. But he was recalled from the friary at Caserta at the request of the rulers of Naples to go to Spain to intercede with King Philip to settle their grievances.

While he was once more successful in his mission he was so ill that on his 60th birthday July 22, 1619 he died in his lodging at Belem near Lisbon, Portugal.

This man of prayer as well as of deep learning was beatified by Pope Pius VI in 1783, canonized by Leo III in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church for his wisdom and deep learning by John XXIII in 1959.


July 21

Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. III pp 172 – 173
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 304 – 305
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – p 140
A Calendar of Saints – p 138
A Year With the Saints – July 21
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 337 – 338
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp 320 – 321
My First Book of Saints – pp 154 – 155
Saint Companions – pp 265 – 267
Saint of the Day – pp 171 – 172
Book of Saints – Part 7 – pp 14 – 15