The Sacred Scriptures have revealed the proper names of only three Angels, all of whom belong to the Choir of the Archangels. The names are well known to all, namely: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael. Ancient apocryphal literature of the Old Testament contains several other names of Archangels in addition to the three just mentioned. Like the sources themselves, these other names are spurious. Names like Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeremiel are not found in the canonical books of Sacred Scripture, but in the apocryphal book of Enoch, fourth book of Esdras, and in rabbinical literature. The Church does not permit proper names of Angels that are not found in the canonical books of the Bible. All such names that were taken from apocryphal writings were rejected under Pope Zachary, in 745. There must have been danger of serious abuses in this regard during that century, because a similar step was taken in a synod held at Aix-la-Chapelle in 789.
THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
Michael from the Hebrew <Mikha'el>, meaning: <Who is as God>? His name is a battle cry; both shield and weapon in the struggle, and an eternal trophy of victory. The popularity of this name in the Old Testament appears from the fact that no less than ten persons bearing the name of Michael are mentioned in the sacred books, like: "Sthur the son of Michael." A similar name is found also in the Accadian language with a meaning identical to that of Michael; the Accadian equivalent is <Mannuki-ili.>
As the proper name of one of the great Archangels, the word Michael appears for the first time in the book of the prophet Daniel, where he is called: "Michael, one of the chief princes," and again: "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people."
The name "Archangel" is given only to Saint Michael, even though sacred tradition and the liturgy of the Church attribute the same title to Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael: "When Michael, the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee." In spite of such an explicit testimony of the Scripture, a few writers have maintained that Saint Michael, because of his exalted position among the Angels, must belong to a much higher order, perhaps to that of the Seraphim, rather than to the order of Archangels. We do not believe that this opinion can be defended. The exalted position occupied by Saint Michael can be explained by the fact that, even though he belongs to a relatively low order by nature, his outstanding zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of his fellow Angels, at the time of Satan's rebellion, merited him such glory and power as to equal and even to excel through grace such celestial spirits that belong to a much higher Choir by nature. If we remember, ie Angels lived through a period of probation during which they could merit each according to his works. The great variety of merit explains, in addition to other natural elements, the great difference in their glory and in their power.
Father Joseph Husslein points out that the Church calls Saint Michael "Prince of the heavenly hosts"-<Princeps militiae caelestis>, adding further: "The fact that the three Angels I have just mentioned are spoken of as Archangels need not imply more than that they were entrusted with extraordinary missions. Michael is the only one to whom the Scriptures apply this title, but there is good reason for the opinion that he may be the very highest of all the angels." Saint Michael is indeed a prince of the heavenly hosts, but this is sufficiently explained by the power granted him by God and not necessarily by superiority of nature. We believe that a power of that sort would not be conferred upon Seraphim and Cherubim who are the living throne of God, but rather upon those who belong to the order of ministering spirits, namely Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, who "are sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation."
According to Gustav F. Oehler, "this name: Michael-Who is as God?-of the prince of the Angels does not imply merely a humble acknowledgment on the part of the Angel, but it is rather an actual assertion concerning the Angel himself. The name thus expresses the irresistibility of him to whom God gives the power to execute His behests."
Saint Michael has always been the warrior Angel, fighting first Satan and his demons from the beginning, then, in the course of time, all the enemies of God's own People. He is "the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people." As of old, so today, Saint Michael is the great defender of the Church of Christ on earth.
The now famous problem, "The Angel of the Lord," <Malakh Yahweh>, that has engaged the attention of Scripture scholars for decades, may perhaps be solved by admitting that this mysterious Angel of the Lord (who in various books of the Old Testament is represented as acting in ie name of God Himself, and is often received and honored as God would), is none other than the Archangel Saint Michael, God's own legate to His people. The words of the prophet Daniel seem to insinuate this: "None is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince." "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people." A legate can speak and act in the name and by the authority of the supreme ruler who sent him and whom he represents. This seems to have been Saint Michael's position with the children of Israel; he was both the heavenly Prince representing the King of Heaven and the heavenly protector of God's own people against both human and diabolical enemies.
Saint Michael who had defended and protected God's children in the spirit world, was to extend the same protection to the human children of God here on earth. Surrounded and threatened as they were by hostile pagan nations, over which Satan had established his tyrannical rule, Saint Michael could not remain indifferent to this new form of seduction and rebellion introduced by his archenemy among the children of men. As long as Satan persists in his attacks, the heavenly champion, the Prince of the heavenly hosts will continue to shatter his plans with the war cry of old: "Who is as God?" In the Old Testament, therefore, Saint Michael is the Angel par excellence, the Angel of the Lord, the national Guardian Angel of the Israelites.
At times, especially in the book of Exodus, this "Angel of the Lord" is called simply, the Lord; as for example in this passage, "And the Lord went before them to show the way by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire, that he might be the guide of their journey at both times." He who is called "the Lord" in this passage, is mentioned again in the same capacity as the "Angel of God" in the following passage: "And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, leaving the forepart, stood behind, between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Israel, and it was a dark cloud, and enlightening the night." This very clever military maneuver dearly shows the strategy of the Prince of heavenly hosts.
As the national Guardian Angel of the Israelites, and God's special legate to His people, Saint Michael is introduced with words which reveal the great divine love and solicitude of the Lord, together with man's duties towards Guardian Angels in general: "Behold I will send my Angel who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned, for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee."
The other opinion which holds that the expression the "Angel of the Lord" is not really an Angel, or Saint Michael, but the Word of God (the Logos) God Himself, is now regarded as a mere conjecture and a rather obsolete opinion.
Several apparitions of the Archangel Michael have been reported during the Christian centuries. One of the most outstanding of all such apparitions is the one which is commemorated in the universal Church on May 8. The Archangel Saint Michael appeared on Mount Gargano in Apulia, South Italy, in the days of Pope Gelasius (492- 496). A shrine was erected in the cave of the apparition and it became the goal of devout pilgrimages in subsequent centuries. Another feast in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel, on September 29, formerly known as <Michaelmas>, is the anniversary of the Dedication of the former basilica of Saint Michael and all the Angels on the Salarian Way in Rome. An apparition, similar to that of Mount Gargano, was honored in the great shrine called <Michaelion>, near Constantinople, according to the historian Sozomenus, who wrote about the middle of the fifth century, a century of great devotion to the Holy Angels in general and to Saint Michael in particular.
In the liturgy of the Mass Saint Michael is regarded as the Angel who leads the souls of the faithful departed to heaven: "Deliver them from the lion's mouth, that hell engulf them not, that they fall not into darkness; but let Michael, the holy standard-bearer, bring them into the holy light."
Saint Michael is invoked in a particular manner in the prayers recited at the foot of the altar after Mass: "Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, etc." This particular prayer is a condensed form of the general exorcism against Satan and all the evil spirits, published by Pope Leo XIII.
As long as God's children are exposed to the attacks of Satan in this world, Saint Michael's battle cry: "Who is like God?" will continue to scare and shatter all the forces of evil, and his powerful intervention in the struggle in behalf of the children of God will never cease.
THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL
The name Gabriel seems to be composed of the Hebrew words, <gebher>: man, and <'el>: God. It means, therefore, <Man of God>, or, <Strength of God.>
Practically all the missions and manifestations of this Archangel are closely connected with the coming of the Messias. The most accurate prophecy regarding the time of the coming of Christ was made by Saint Gabriel through the prophet Daniel.
Immediately before the coming of Christ we meet the Archangel Gabriel in the temple of Jerusalem, announcing to Zachary the birth of a son, John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ: "I am Gabriel, who stand before God, and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings."
The greatest and by far the most joyful message ever committed to an Angel from the beginning of time, was the one brought by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, announcing to her the Incarnation of the Word of God and the birth of Christ, the Savior of mankind. The simplicity and heavenly grandeur of this message, as related to us by her who was the only witness to Gabriel's good tidings, should be read in full in order to understand the sublime and delicate mission of Gabriel in the work of human redemption.
It is the first time that a prince of the court of heaven greets an earthly child of God, a young woman, with a deference and respect a prince would show to his Queen. That Angel's flight to the earth marked the dawn of a new day, the beginning of a new covenant, the fulfillment of God's promises to His people: The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."
Heavenly wisdom, tact, adroitness are evident in Gabriel's conversation with the Virgin Mary: "The Angel being come in said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Gabriel must overcome Mary's reaction of surprise at both his appearance and especially at his "manner of salutation." He has to prepare and dispose her pure virginal mind to the idea of maternity, and obtain her consent to become the mother of the Son of God. Gabriel nobly fulfills this task: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God." He calls her by her own name in order to inspire confidence and to show affection and solicitude in her perturbation. The great message is presented to her as a decree of the Most High God, a thing ordained in the eternal decree of the Incarnation, predicted centuries before by the prophets, and announced now to her as an event of imminent occurrence depending on her consent: "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end." From these words of the Angel, it became very evident to Mary that her son was to be the promised Messias, the Son of David. But she did not know how to reconcile her vow of virginity with the promised motherhood, hence her question: "How shall this be done, because I know not man." Gabriel's reply shows that God wanted to respect Mary's vow of virginity and thus make her a mother without a human father, in a unique and miraculous way: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee."
As a last word of encouragement and, at the same time, a most gratifying information, the Archangel reveals to Mary that her elderly and barren cousin Elizabeth is now an expectant mother in her sixth month of pregnancy. This final argument was offered in order "to prove that nothing can be impossible with God."
Mary, unshaken in her profound humility, replied: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." This reply was Mary's consent, a consent awaited by heaven and earth. The Archangel Gabriel departed from Mary to bring to all the Angels the glorious tidings of the Incarnation of the Word.
It seems very probable that Gabriel, the Archangel of the Annunciation, was given special charge of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He was probably the Angel who brought "good tidings of great joy" to the shepherds "keeping night watches over their flock," the night that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. We notice, on this occasion, the same procedure of first assuaging fear and surprise, as had been the case at Mary's Annunciation by Gabriel: "Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.... This day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David." Who else could be the messenger of such good tidings, but he who had promised them through the prophet Daniel, and announced them to Mary, Gabriel the Archangel?
Having delivered the joyful message, the Archangel is joined suddenly by a vast multitude of the heavenly hosts, singing for the first time in this valley of tears the canticle of the celestial Sion. It was fitting that the Archangel of Redemption should intone the canticle of human redemption: "Suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will."
Gabriel's duties towards the Messias did not come to an end with his birth. Gabriel was probably the Angel who "appeared in sleep to Joseph," first in Bethlehem when he warned him saying: "Arise, and take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell you. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him." After the death of Herod the Angel appeared to Joseph again in Egypt to tell him to bring the child and his mother back into the land of Israel.
Gabriel who is "the strength of God" must have been the Angel mentioned by Saint Luke, in his narrative of Christ's agony in the garden: "And there appeared to him an Angel from heaven, strengthening him." It was fitting that the Angel who had witnessed the Savior's agony, and who had announced His coming to both the Old and New Testament, should also be the first to announce to the world the Savior's Resurrection, His triumph over sin and death on Easter morning: "An Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow."
It is very probable that the Archangel Gabriel is meant when Saint Paul speaks of the second coming of Christ at the end of the world, when Saint Michael's struggle with Satan shall be over, and when all the physical and spiritual remedies of Saint Raphael are needed no more. It would seem that of the three
Archangels known to us, Saint Gabriel is the one who with a mighty voice will call the dead to life and to judgment: "The Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead who are in Christ shall rise first." The voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God seem to be the same thing, having the purpose to convey the divine command to the dead to rise again by the power of the Almighty God. The resurrection of "the dead who are in Christ" is the harvest, the gathering of the fruits of Redemption. Gabriel, who helped along during the long day of man's life on earth, in preparing man for the work of Redemption by the Messias, would seem to be the first among the Angels who are sent out to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth.
THE ARCHANGEL RAPHAEL
Raphael, from the Hebrew <rapha'>: to heal, and <'el:> God, means "God heals," or the "Divine healer."
The history of Tobias, father and son, contains the grandest angelophany of the whole Bible, and it all revolves around the manifestation of the Archangel Raphael under the assumed name and form of a beautiful young man named Azarias. At the very end of his long mission the Archangel revealed his own identity and his real name, together with the actual purpose of his mission: "And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil. For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord." In this angelophany, Saint Raphael reveals himself as a divine healer not only of physical infirmities, the blindness of old Tobias, but also of spiritual afflictions and diabolical vexations, as in the case of Sara, young Tobias' wife. Had not the Archangel resorted to an assumed human form and personality, it might not have been possible for him to consort in such a familiar way with men, for several consecutive weeks, because of the instinctive fear that man experiences in the presence of celestial beings. Had either father or son, or both, known the real identity of the stranger, from the beginning, the Angelic mission could not have been accomplished in the charming human way in which it was actually carried out. However, the assumed form, and especially the assumed name and paternity-"Azarias the son of the great Ananias"-has been regarded by some as a sort of deception and a lie. However, the perfect sanctity of the Angels is opposed to even the appearance of sin and deception, even to what we call a white lie. In order to carry out his mission, it was necessary for the Angel to assume a form perceptible to man, a human form and a human name. In this case he assumed the appearance of an Israelite, a young relative of Tobias himself. By divine command the Archangel was to act as proxy for that young Israelite, Azarias, whose name he took; hence there was no lie on his part when he gave the name of the person he was representing in his human form. His true identity was revealed at the close of his mission, and whatever misconception had been created in the minds of the various persons he had met, was completely removed, and these were then grateful to the Archangel not only for his many benefits but also for his consideration in dealing with them like a human being. Besides, the Archangel was not hiding a human name and personality and giving another instead; in taking the place of Azarias he could in all truth call himself Azarias.
The story of the Archangel Raphael and the two Tobias' is too beautiful and too instructive for us to dismiss it with a simple reference: it reveals how Angels act when in human form; their Angelic nature, their power, wisdom, holiness are made manifest in the various incidents of this charming narrative. The Archangel is God's legate, he carries out God's plan acting as an instrument of Divine Providence, and Divine Goodness.
The old, charitable, and pious man Tobias is blind and feels that his days are numbered. He gives his young son Tobias some godly admonitions and tells him of some money he had lent to Gabelus of the city of Rages in Media, many years back, for which he had a regular note with Gabelus' signature. He wants his son to go and collect that money, but he first wants him to find a man to accompany him on the long journey: "Go now and seek thee out some faithful man, to go with thee for his hire, that thou may receive it, while I yet live."
While this was going on in Tobias' home, Heaven was listening in and preparing the companion, the "faithful man" young Tobias was looking for. The Lord gave the Archangel Raphael the command to appear as a young man named Azarias, to accompany young Tobias to the land of the Medes, and to bring peace and happiness to two God-fearing but very unhappy families. As the young man stepped out of his house in search of a companion, one morning, the Archangel Raphael was there as if waiting for him, in the disguise of "a beautiful young man." "And not knowing that he was an Angel of God, he saluted him, and said: From whence art thou, good young man? But he answered: Of the children of Israel." In a very short time the Archangel informed young Tobias that he knew the road to Gabelus, and knew Gabelus himself, having spent some time there; he knew all that country very well. Tobias could hardly believe in such a happy coincidence. Immediately he took his new friend and companion and returned to his blind father. The Angel who well knew the purpose of his mission, implicitly announced it in his words of greeting directed to the blind old man, when he said: "Joy be to thee always!"
Not knowing who was he who wished him joy, old Tobias replied: "What manner of joy shall be to me, who sit in darkness, and see not the light of heaven." Here the Archangel Raphael became more explicit, making both a promise and a prophecy: "Be of good courage, thy are from God [God heals, was Raphael's own name] is at hand." He could not say more without engendering suspicion and betraying his own identity. Old Tobias regarded those kind words as an expression of good will and paid no particular attention to them; he had heard such expressions so often in the past. His interest is now in the voyage of his son, and he wants to know in whose hands he is committing the life of his only child and part of his own fortune. Upon hearing that the young guide is no less than Azarias, the son of the great Ananias, he remarks: "Thou art of a great family." Old Tobias, like his kinsman Gabelus, later on in this story, expresses his belief in the protection and guidance of guardian Angels. Not knowing that an Archangel is actually accompanying his son, he says: "May you have a good journey, and God be with you on your way, and his Angel accompany you." Had this circumstance been known to him, both he and his wife would have been spared all the worry and the sleepless nights during the long absence of their son. One thought, however, sustained the mind of old Tobias during his waiting: "Our son is safe: that man with whom we sent him is very trustworthy."
How carefree, and how joyful must have been that journey for young Tobias. To travel in the happy company of an Angel! He knew the road so well. He was never in doubt about anybody or anything they met on the road; always cheerful, never tired or sleepy; so sweet and kind in his conversation, yet always full of respect and attention. He was deeply spiritual and profoundly devout in his prayers, pure in all his words and actions. How true and inspired were the words of old Tobias when, comforting his weeping wife, he said to her: "I believe that the good Angel of God doth accompany him, and doth order all things well that are about him, so that he shall return to us with joy."
The sacred text remarks that when young Tobias started on his journey with his Angel companion, his pet dog followed him all the way to the East. Tobias was one of the thousands of Israelites living in the Babylonian captivity. Some of them had settled down in neighboring provinces, such as Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Media. It was exactly in this last province of Media that Tobias' kinsman Raguel lived with his family. This was not really the goal of his trip to the East, but it was here that God and His Angel wanted him to go; whereas his father had sent him to collect his money from Gabelus in the city of Rages in the mountains of Ecbatana, in Media. The Angel by diverting his trip accomplished more fully his mission, bringing unexpected joy and happiness to three families.
Having left his home town, the great city of Ninive, that morning, Tobias and his guide reached the river Tigris just before dark. They decided to spend that night by the bank of the Tigris. Here the Archangel Raphael began to reveal medical knowledge and experience. At the same time he provided food for that evening and for the rest of the journey. Weary of walking all day, young Tobias went to wash his feet in the cool water of the river before retiring. Here the sight of a monstrous fish that seemed to be coming up to devour him, frightened him exceedingly and made him cry for help: "Sir, he cometh upon me !" The Angelic guide, without coming to his rescue, instructed him on what to do, both giving him directions and inspiring him with confidence. At the end of the first day young Tobias had not yet acquired familiarity with his guide, so he calls him, Sir. Later he will call him brother. When the monstrous fish had been successfully drawn out of the river, it was cut open, roasted, and salted. "Take out the entrails of this fish," ordered the Angel, "and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee, for these are necessary for useful medicines." These, no doubt, may have seemed strange medicines to young Tobias and he wanted to know when and how to use them. Here he begins to show more confidence and affection for the heavenly guide: "I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish." The Angel explains the medical virtue of those parts of the fish. More practical details are imparted as the proper time for their use approaches. The liver of the fish was needed as a material ingredient for an exorcism in order to free Tobias' future wife Sara from the evil influence of the devil; the gall was to be used for the cure of the blindness of old Tobias.
The Archangel Raphael had been sent by God to cure and comfort two afflicted souls, old Tobias and Raguel's young daughter Sara, the widow of seven husbands, all of whom had died on the first night following their wedding to her.
As night was falling, at the end of another day of their long journey, young Tobias turning to his guide asked him the customary question: "Where wilt thou that we lodge ?" Here begins the first part of Raphael's mission. He must induce young Tobias to marry Sara, Raguel's daughter, and at the same time deliver her from all diabolical influence and vexation. This was a very delicate matter, for sinister rumors about this young dame, as being the cause of death to seven husbands, had reached Ninive and young Tobias himself knew all about her and was deathly afraid of associating with her. At the question of where to lodge for the night, Raphael had proposed to put up at Raguel's and for Tobias to propose to Sara, his own cousin. "I hear," answered Tobias, "that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died; moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them." Imagine this young man, now, going to ask for the hand of such a dame! The Archangel Raphael obtained just that, and what is more, their marriage was a very happy one, blessed with good health and long life, so that they both saw their children's children to the fifth generation. The instructions on marital union given by the Archangel Raphael to young Tobias on this occasion remain an ideal of moral perfection for married couples for all time. Prayer, continence, and pure intention dispose the soul for God's blessings and thwart all influence of the evil spirit. Young Tobias listened intently to his heavenly guide and later carried out his instructions most faithfully, first repeating them to his bride: "We are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God."
Amid the charming and intimate family reunion in Raguel's home, described in chapter seven of the book of Tobias, an unseen struggle goes on in the spirit world. Young Azarias (the Archangel Raphael) absents himself for a very short while from the gathering of the family and friends in order to attend to a very important business of his own. During those few minutes, Raphael, in the name and with the power of God, "took the devil, and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt." This devil Asmodeus, who had caused so much sorrow to Sara and her family, was Satan himself. With the exile of the spirit of evil, joy, peace and all blessings came to Raguel's home. Having attended to his business, young Azarias returned and took his place at the wedding feast, while actually contemplating the face of the Father Who is in heaven. The following morning, leaving Tobias there with his happy bride, he continues on the journey, accompanied by four servants and two camels. He finally found Gabelus and collected the money for old Tobias and, on his return, he took Gabelus to the wedding feast of his kinsman young Tobias.
The last part of the mission entrusted to Raphael the Archangel was now to follow. Having brought joy and happiness to Sara and all her family, it was time to bring a similar and even greater joy to old Tobias and his wife. The slow pace of the caravan that accompanied the bride to Ninive did not suit the Archangel who well knew the pain and the worries of Tobias' old parents: "Brother Tobias," said the Archangel, thou knowest how thou didst leave thy father. If it please thee, let us go before, and let the family follow softly after us, together with thy wife and with the beasts." Tobias agreed and taking with himself the gall of the fish, he and the Angel began to advance with much greater speed, the dog following them. It was time now to give the final instruction as to the use of the gall: "As soon as thou shalt come into the house, forthwith adore the Lord thy God, and giving thanks to Him, go to thy father and kiss him, and immediately anoint his eyes with this gall of the fish.... Thy father shall see the light of heaven, and shall rejoice in the sight of thee."
In the meantime Tobias' old mother was waiting for her son, sitting daily on top of a hill, scanning the horizon for a sign of her son and his guide. Finally one day Tobias' pet dog, running ahead brought the joyful news to the afflicted parents by his fawning and wagging his tail. All these human and earthly elements blend beautifully with the heavenly in this charming story of Angels and men.
Everything happened as promised by the Angel. Old Tobias regained his sight. At this point the heart of young Tobias was filled with gratitude, love, and admiration for his wonderful guide; so many and so great were the benefits received through him. Having witnessed the miraculous cure of his father he could find no words to express his feelings: "We are filled with all good things through him," he kept telling his father. Old Tobias understood that it was God Who was actually working all these marvels through young Azarias, and thus, full of reverence, he calls the young guide a holy man: "What can we give to this holy man, that is come with thee?"
The Lord never permits man to remain in error because of the disguise assumed by His ministering spirits in any of their apparitions. Sooner or later the truth about them will be made manifest. For several weeks in succession, the Archangel Raphael had been acting under assumed human form and human name. Now that his mission has been happily completed, he begins to prepare his two friends, father and son, for a great surprise, the revelation of his real self. At the moment that they both humbly approach him offering one half of everything that had been brought home as payment for his service, young "Azarias" answers with a wonderful explanation of why God has so blessed them. He recalls to the mind of old Tobias all the good he did in his days, his charity, his mercy, his patience, his alms, and his tearful prayers. Thus he begins to reveal himself gradually in order not to frighten them with a sudden disclosure. The enumeration of all the good deeds and of secrets of conscience known only to God are the first step in this revelation; the second is the statement: "Now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil." The third and final step was liable to trouble and frighten them, hence he begins with comforting and reassuring words: "Peace be to you; fear not." As he said this, both father and son fell upon the ground on their faces, for suddenly the human form of Azarias was transfigured into that of an Archangel of light and beauty, and the final revelation came: "I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord . . . when I was with you I was there by the will of God: bless ye him, and sing praises to him." This is the only reward that he will accept, but none of the material things, money and cattle and clothes offered him generously by his good friends. Yet, these could still entertain some doubts, because they had seen him eat and drink like any other human being, and Angels do not eat and drink as men do. To this secret doubt he answers with saying: "I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you, but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men." Now that his work has been done, and that they know that God has sent His Angel to fill them with blessings, it is time for him to return to Heaven: "It is time therefore that I return to him that sent me; but bless ye God, and publish all his wonderful works." Here the Archangel returned to his invisible form, and from the company of men returned to that of the Angels.
Raphael, the Divine healer, seems to have been at work at Jerusalem, in the days of Christ our Lord, in the pool called Bethsaida by the Sheepgate. In the five porticoes surrounding that pool there was a multitude of sick people, waiting for the action of the Angel upon the water of the pool, an action which cured immediately any person who first descended into the pool: "An Angel of the Lord used to come down at certain times into the pool and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pool after the motion of the water, was cured of whatever infirmity he had."
The health-giving ministry of Saint Raphael may still be seen in the miraculous cures that have taken place up to our own times in many of the sacred Shrines throughout the Christian world.
Born at Pouy, Gascony, France, in 1580, though some authorities have said 1576; died at Paris, 27 September, 1660. Born of a peasant family, he made his humanities studies at Dax with the Cordeliers, and his theological studies, interrupted by a short stay at Saragossa, were made at Toulouse where he graduated in theology. Ordained in 1600 he remained at Toulouse or in its vicinity acting as tutor while continuing his own studies. Brought to Marseilles for an inheritance, he was returning by sea in 1605 when Turkish pirates captured him and took him to Tunis. He was sold as a slave, but escaped in 1607 with his master, a renegade whom he converted. On returning to France he went to Avignon to the papal vice-legate, whom he followed to Rome to continue his studies. He was sent back to France in 1609, on a secret mission to Henry IV; he became almoner to the Queen Marguerite of Valois, and was provided with the little Abbey of Saint-Léonard-de-Chaume. At the request of M. de Berulle, founder of the Oratory, he took charge of the parish of Clichy near Paris, but several months later (1612) he entered the services of the Gondi, an illustrious French family, to educate the children of Philippe-Emmanuel de Gondi. He became the spiritual director of Mme de Gondi. With her assistance he began giving missions on her estates; but to escape the esteem of which he was the object he left the Gondi and with the approval of M. de Berulle had himself appointed curé of Chatillon-les-Dombes (Bresse), where he converted several Protestants and founded the first conference of charity for the assistance of the poor. He was recalled by the Gondi and returned to them (1617) five months later, resuming the peasant missions. Several learned Paris priests, won by his example, joined him. Nearly everywhere after each of these missions, a conference of charity was founded for the relief of the poor, notably at Joigny, Châlons, Mâcon, Trévoux, where they lasted until the Revolution.
After the poor of the country, Vincent's solicitude was directed towards the convicts in the galleys, who were subject to M. de Gondi as general of the galleys of France. Before being convoyed aboard the galleys or when illness compelled them to disembark, the condemned convicts were crowded with chains on their legs onto damp dungeons, their only food being black bread and water, while they were covered with vermin and ulcers. Their moral state was still more frightful than their physical misery. Vincent wished to ameliorate both. Assisted by a priest, he began visiting the galley convicts of Paris, speaking kind words to them, doing them every manner of service however repulsive. He thus won their hearts, converted many of them, and interested in their behalf several persons who came to visit them. A house was purchased where Vincent established a hospital. Soon appointed by Louis XIII royal almoner of the galleys, Vincent profited by this title to visit the galleys of Marseilles where the convicts were as unfortunate as at Paris; he lavished his care on them and also planned to build them a hospital; but this he could only do ten years later. Meanwhile, he gave on the galley of Bordeaux, as on those of Marseilles, a mission which was crowned with success (1625).
Congregation of the Mission The good wrought everywhere by these missions together with the urging of Mme de Gondi decided Vincent to found his religious institute of priests vowed to the evangelization of country people--the Congregation of Priests of the Mission.
Experience had quickly revealed to St. Vincent that the good done by the missions in country places could not last unless there were priests to maintain it and these were lacking at that time in France. Since the Council of Trent the bishops had been endeavoring to found seminaries to form them, but these seminaries encountered many obstacles, the chief of which were the wars of religion. Of twenty founded not ten had survived till 1625. The general assembly of the French clergy expressed the wish that candidates for Holy Orders should only be admitted after some days of recollection and retreat. At the request of the Bishop of Beauvais, Potierdes Gesvres, Vincent undertook to attempt at Beauvais (September, 1628) the first of these retreats. According to his plan they comprised ascetic conferences and instructions on the knowledge of things most indispensable to priests. Their chief service was that they gave rise to the seminaries as these prevailed later in France. At first they lasted only ten days, but in extending them by degrees to fifteen or twenty days, then to one, two, or three months before each order, the bishops eventually prolonged the stay of their clerics to two or three years between philosophy and the priesthood and there were what were called seminaries d'ordinands and later grands seminaries, when lesser ones were founded. No one did more than Vincent towards this double creation. As early as 1635 he had establish a seminary at the Collége des Bons-Enfants. Assisted by Richelieu, who gave him 1000 crowns, he kept at Bons-Enfants only ecclesiastics studying theology (grand seminarie) and he founded besides Saint-Lazare for young clerics studying the humanities a lesser seminary called the Seminary of St. Charles (1642). He had sent some of his priests to the Bishop of Annecy (1641) to direct his seminary, and assisted the bishops to establish others in their dioceses by furnishing priests to direct them. At his death he had thus accepted the direction of eleven seminaries. Prior to the Revolution his congregation was directing in France fifty-three upper and nine lesser seminaries, that is a third of all in France.
The ecclesiastical conference completed the work of the seminaries. Since 1633 St. Vincent held one every Tuesday at Saint-Lazare at which assembled all the priests desirous of conferring in common concerning the virtues and the functions of their state. Among others Bossuet and Tronson took part. With the conferences, St. Vincent instituted at St-Lazare open retreats for laymen as well as priests. It is estimated that in the last twenty-five years of St. Vincent's life there came regularly more than 800 persons yearly, or more than 20,000 in all. these retreats contributed powerfully to infuse a Christian spirit among the masses, but they imposed heavy sacrifices on the house of St-Lazare. Nothing was demanded of the retreatants; when there was question of the good of souls Vincent thought little of expense. At the complaints of his brethren who desired that the admission of the retreatants should be made more difficult he consented one day to keep the door. Towards evening there had never been so many accepted and when the embarrassed brother came to inform him that there was no more room he merely replied "well, give mine".
Work for the poor Vincent de Paul had established the Daughters of Charity almost at the same time as the exercises des ordinands. At first they were intended to assist the conferences of charity. When these conferences were established at Paris (1629) the ladies who joined them readily brought their alms and were willing to visit the poor, but it often happened that they did not know how to give them care which their conditions demanded and they sent their servants to do what was needful in their stead. Vincent conceived the idea of enlisting good young women for this service of the poor. They were first distributed singly in the various parishes where the conferences were established and they visited the poor with these ladies of the conferences or when necessary cared for them during their absence. In recruiting, forming, and directing these servants of the poor, Vincent found able assistance in Mlle Legras. When their number increased he grouped then into a community under her direction, coming himself every week to hold a conference suitable to their condition. (For further details see Sisters of Charity.) Besides the Daughters of Charity Vincent de Paul secured for the poor the services of the Ladies of Charity, at the request of the Archbishop of Paris. He grouped (1634) under this name some pious women who were determined to nurse the sick poor entering the Hotel-Dieu to the number of 20,000 or 25,000 annually; they also visited the prisons. Among them were as many as 200 ladies of the highest rank. After having drawn up their rule St. Vincent upheld and stimulated their charitable zeal. It was due to them that he was able to collect the enormous sums which he distributed in aid of all the unfortunates. Among the works, which their co-operation enabled him to undertake, that of the care of foundlings was one of the most important. Some of the foundlings at this period were deliberately deformed by miscreants anxious to exploit public pity. Others were received into a municipal asylum called "la couche", but often they were ill-treated or allowed to die of hunger. The Ladies of Charity began by purchasing twelve children drawn by lot. who were installed in a special house confided to the Daughters of Charity and four nurses. Thus years later the number of children reached 4000; their support cost 30,000 livres; soon with the increase in the number of children this reached 40,000 livres.
With the assistance of a generous unknown who placed at his disposal the sum of 10,000 livres, Vincent founded the Hospice of the Name of Jesus, where forty old people of both sexes found a shelter and work suited to their condition. This is the present hospital of the uncurables. The same beneficence was extended to all the poor of Paris but the creation of the general hospital which was first thought of by several Ladies of Charity, such as the Duchesse d'Aiguillon. Vincent adopted the idea and did more than anyone for the realization of what has been called one of the greatest works of charity of the seventeenth century, the sheltering of 40,000 poor in an asylum where they would be given a useful work. In answer St. Vincent's appeal the gifts poured in. The king granted the lands of the Salpétriere for the erection of the hospital, with a capital of 50,000 liveres and an endowment of 3000; Cardinal Mazarin sent 100,000 livres as first gift, Président de Lamoignon 20,000 crowns, a lady of the Bullion family 60,000 livres. St. Vincent attached the Daughters of Charity to the work and supported it with all his strength.
St. Vincent's charity was not restricted to Paris, but reached to all the provinces desolated by misery. In that period of the Thirty Years War known as the French period, Lorraine, Trois-Evechés, Franche-Comté, and Champagne underwent for nearly a quarter of a century all the horrors and scourges which then more than ever war drew in its train. Vincent made urgent appeals to the Ladies of Charity; it has been estimated that at his reiterated requests he secured 12,000 livres equivalent to $60,000 in our time (1913). When the treasury was empty he again sought alms which he dispatched at once to the stricken districts. When contributions began to fail Vincent decided to print and sell the accounts sent him from those desolated districts; this met with great success, even developing a periodical newspaper called "Le magasin charitable". Vincent took advantage of it to fund in the ruined provinces the work of the potages économiques, the tradition of which still subsists in our modern economic kitchens. He himself compiled with minute care instructions concerning the manner of preparing these potages and the quantity of fat, butter, vegetables, and bread which should be used. He encouraged the foundation of societies undertaking to bury the dead and to clean away the dirt which was a permanent cause of plague. They were often headed by the missionaries and the Sisters of Charity. Through them also Vincent distributed to their land. At the same time, in order to remove them from the brutality of the soldiers, he brought to Paris 200 young women whom he endeavored to shelter in various convents. and numerous children whom he received at St-Lazare. He even founded a special organization for the relief of the nobility of Lorraine who had sought refuge in Paris. After the general peace he directed his solicitude and his alms to the Irish and English Catholics who had been driven from their country.
All these benefits had rendered the name of Vincent de Paul popular in Paris and even at the Court. Richelieu sometimes received him and listened favorably to his requests; he assisted him in his first seminary foundations and established a house for his missionaries in the village of Richelieu. On his deathbed Louis XIII desired to be assisted by him: "Oh, Monsieur Vincent", said he, "if I am restored to health I shall appoint no bishops unless they have spent three years with you." His widow, Ann of Austria, made Vincent a member of the council of conscience charged with nominations to benefices. These honors did not alter Vincent's modesty and simplicity. He went to the Court only through necessity, in fitting but simple garb. He made no use of his influence save for the welfare of the poor and in the interest of the Church. Under Mazarin, when Paris rose at the time of the Fronde (1649) against the Regent, Anne of Austria, who was compelled to withdraw to St-Fermain-en-Laye, Vincent braved all dangers to go and implore her clemency in behalf of the people of Paris and boldly advised her to sacrifice at least for a time the cardinal minister in order to avoid the evils which the war threatened to bring on the people. He also remonstrated with Mazarin himself. His advice was not listened to. St. Vincent only redoubled his efforts to lessen the evils of the war in Paris. Through his care soup was distributed daily to 15,000 or 16,000 refugees or worthy and poor; 800 to 900 young women were sheltered; in the single parish of St. Paul the Sisters of Charity made and distributed soup every day to 500 poor, besides which they had to care for 60 to 80 sick. During this time Vincent, indifferent to dangers which he ran, multiplied letters and visits to the Court at St-Denis to win minds to peace and clemency; he even wrote a letter to the pope asking him to intervene and to interpose his mediation to hasten peace between the two parties.
Jansenism also made evident his attachment to the Faith and the use to which he put his influences in its defense. When Duvergier de Hauranne, later celebrated as the Abbé de St-Cyran, came to Paris (about 1621), Vincent de Paul showed some interest in him as in a fellow countryman and a priest in whom he discerned learning and piety. But when he became better acquainted with the basis of his ideas concerning grace, far from being misled by them, he endeavored to arrest him in the path of error. When the "Augustinus" of Jansenius and "Frequent Communion" of Arnauld revealed the true ideas and opinions of the sect, Vincent set about combating; he persuaded the Bishop of Lavaur, Abra de Raconis, to write against them. In the Council of Conscience he opposed the admission to benefices of anyone who shared them, and joined the chancellor and the nuncio in seeking means to stay their progress. Stimulated by him some bishops at St-Lazare took the initiative in relating these errors to the pope. St. Vincent induced 85 bishops to request the condemnation of the five famous propositions, and persuaded Anne of Austria to write to the pope to hasten his decision. When the five propositions had been condemned by Innocent X (1655) and Alexander VII (1656), Vincent sought to have this sentence accepted by all. His zeal for the Faith, however, did not suffer him to forget his charity; he gave evidence in behalf of St-Cyran, whom Richelieu had imprisoned (1638), and is said to have assisted at his funeral. When Innocent X had announced his decision he went to the solitaries of Port-Royal to congratulate them on the intention they had previously manifested of submitting fully; he even begged preachers renowned for their anti-Jansenist zeal to avoid in their sermons all that might embitter their adversaries. The religious orders also benefited by the great influence of Vincent. Not only did he long act as director to the Sisters of the Visitation, founded by Francis de Sales, but he received at Paris the Religious of the Blessed Sacrament, supported the existence of the Daughters of the Cross (whose object was to teach girls in the country), and encouraged the reform of the Benedictines, Cistercians, Antonines, Augustinians, Premonstratensians, and the Congregation of Grandmont; and Cardinal de Rochefoucault, who was entrusted with the reform of the religious orders in France, called Vincent his right hand and obliged him to remain in the Council of Conscience.
Vincent's zeal and charity went beyond the boundaries of France. As early as 1638 he commissioned his priests to preach to the shepherds of the Roman Campagna; he had them give at Rome and Genoa the exercices des ordinands and preach missions on Savoy and Piedmont. He sent others to Ireland, Scotland, the Hebrides, Poland, and Madagascar (1648-60). Of all the works carried on abroad none perhaps interested him so much as the poor slaves of Barbary, whose lot he had once shared. These were from 25,000 to 30,000 of these unfortunates divided chiefly between Tunis, Algiers, and Bizaerta. Christians for the most part, they had been carried off from their families by the Turkish corsairs. They were treated as veritable beasts of burden, condemned to frightful labour, without any corporal or spiritual care. Vincent left nothing undone to send them aid as early as 1645 he sent among them a priest and a brother, who were followed by others. Vincent even had one of these invested with the dignity of consul in order that he might work more efficaciously for the slaves. They gave frequent missions to them, and assured them the services of religion. At the same time they acted as agents with their families, and were able to free some of them. Up to the time of St. Vincent's death these missionaries had ransomed 1200 slaves, and they had expended 1,200,000 liveres in behalf of the slaves of Barbary, not to mention the affronts and persecutions of all kinds which they themselves had endured from the Turks. This exterior life so fruitful in works had its source in a profound spirit of religion and in an interior life of wonderful intensity. He was singularly faithful to the duties of his state, careful to obey the suggestions of faith and piety, devoted to prayer, meditation, and all religious and ascetic exercises. Of practical and prudent mind, he left nothing to chance; his distrust of himself was equalled only by his trust in Providence; when he founded the Congregation of the Mission and the Sisters of Charity he refrained from giving them fixed constitutions beforehand; it was only after tentatives, trials, and long experience that he resolved in the last years of his life to give them definitive rules. His zeal for souls knew no limit; all occasions were to him opportunities to exercise it. When he died the poor of Paris lost their best friend and humanity a benefactor unsurpassed in modern times.
Forty years later (1705) the Superior-General of the Lazarists requested that the process of his canonization might be instituted. Many bishops, among them Bossuet, Fénelon, Fléchier, and Cardinal de Noailles, supported the request. On 13 August, 1729, Vincent was declared Blessed by Benedict XIII, and canonized by Clement XII on 16 June, 1737. In 1885 Leo XIII gave him as patron to the sisters of Charity. In the course of his long and busy life Vincent de Paul wrote a large number of letters, estimated at not less than 30,000. After his death the task of collecting them was begun; in the eighteenth century nearly 7000 had been gathered; many have since been lost. Those which remained were published rather incorrectly as "Lettres et conferérences de s. Vincent de Paul" (supplement, Paris, 1888); "Lettres inédites de saint Vincent de Paul" (Coste in"Revuede Gascogne", 1909, 1911); Lettres choisies de saint Vincent de Paul" (Paris, 1911); the total of letters thus published amounts to about 3200. There have also been collected and published the saint's "Conférences aux missionaires" (Paris, 1882) and "Conférences aux Filles de la Charite" (Paris, 1882).
St. Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, a small country town located in southern Italy. His parents were Grazio Mario Forgione (1860-1946) and Maria Guiseppa de Nunzio Forgione (1859-1929). He was baptized the next day, in the nearby Castle Church, with the name of his brother, Francesco, who died in early infancy. Other children in the family were an older brother, Michele; three younger sisters: Felicita, Pellegrina and Grazia; and two children who died as infants.
Religion was the center of life for both Pietrelcina and the Forgione family. The town had many celebrations throughout the year in honor of different saints and the bell in the Castle Church was used not for ringing the hour, but for daily devotional time. Friends have described the Forgione family as "the God-is-everything-people" because they attended Daily Mass, prayed the Rosary nightly and fasted three days a week from meat in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Although Padre Pio’s grandparents and parents could not read and write, they memorized Sacred Scripture and told the children Bible stories. It was in this lovely family setting that the seeds of Faith were nurtured within Padre Pio.
From his early childhood, it was evident that Padre Pio had a deep piety. When he was five years old, he solemnly consecrated himself to Jesus. He liked to sing hymns, play church and preferred to be by himself where he could read and pray. As an adult, Padre Pio commented that in his younger years he had conversed with Jesus, the Madonna, his guardian angel, and had suffered attacks by the devil.
Padre Pio’s parents first learned of his desire to become a priest in 1897. A young Capuchin friar was canvassing the countryside seeking donations. Padre Pio was drawn to this spiritual man and told his parents, "I want to be a friar… with a beard." His parents traveled to Morcone, a community thirteen miles north of Pietrelcina, to investigate if the friars would be interested in having their son. The Capuchins were interested, but Padre Pio would need more education than his three years of public schooling.
In order to finance the private tutor needed to educate Padre Pio, his father went to America to find work. During this time, he was confirmed (September 27, 1899), studied with tutors and completed the requirements for entrance into the Capuchin order. At age 15, he took the Habit of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin on January 22, 1903. On the day of his investiture, he took the name of Pio in honor of Saint Pius V, the patron saint of Pietrelcina, and was called Fra, for brother, until his priestly ordination. A year later, on January 22, 1904, Fra Pio knelt before the altar and made his First Profession of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Then, he traveled by oxcart to the seventeenth-century friary of St. Francis of Assisi and began six years of study for the priesthood and continued his development in community life toward the profession of his solemn vows. After three years of temporary profession, Padre Pio took his final vows in 1907.
Then on August 10, 1910, the much-anticipated day finally arrived. The twenty-three year old Fra Pio was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he celebrated his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels.
Within a month of his ordination, (September 7, 1910), as Padre Pio was praying in the Piana Romana, Jesus and Mary appeared to him and gave him the wounds of Christ, the Stigmata. For Padre Pio’s doctors, the wounds created much confusion. He asked Jesus to take away "the annoyance," adding, " I do want to suffer, even to die of suffering, but all in secret." The wounds went away and the supernatural life of Padre Pio remained a secret...for a while.
On November 28, 1911, Padre Agostino, who was a contemporary, friend, and confidant, was advised that Padre Pio was ill. He rushed into Padre Pio’s room to care for him. Padre Agostino observed what he thought was a dying man and rushed to the chapel to pray. When he finished praying, he returned to Padre Pio’s room and found his friend alert and full of joy.
This was the beginning of Padre Pio’s documented ecstasies – all of which were "edifying, theologically correct and expressed a deep love for God. "
Due to Padre Pio’s on-going ill health, he was sent home to recuperate and was separated from his religious community from the end of 1911 – 1916. During this time, the Capuchin Constitution required a friar who was sent home because of illness had to maintain his friar life as much as possible. Padre Pio did this. He said Mass and taught school.
On September 4, 1916, Padre Pio was ordered to return to his community life and was assigned to San Giovanni Rotondo, an agricultural community, located in the Gargano Mountains. Our Lady Of Grace Capuchin Friary was approximately a mile from town and was not easy to reach. The Capuchins had a reputation for their holiness and simple life. When Padre Pio became a part of the community at Our Lady of Grace, there were seven friars.
With the outbreak of the war, only three friars stayed at Our Lady of Grace; the others were selected for military service. At the beginning, his responsibilities included teaching at the seminary and being the spiritual director of the students. He spent his free time reading the Bible and handling correspondence. When another friar was called into service, Padre Pio became in charge of the college.
In August 1917 Padre Pio was inducted into the service and assigned to the 4th Platoon of the 100th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. During this time he was very unhappy. By mid-October he was in the hospital, but was not discharged. Finally, in March 1918, he was dismissed and returned to San Giovanni Rotondo.
Upon his return, Padre Pio became a spiritual director and had many spiritual daughters and sons. He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience. In explaining his spiritual growth rules, Padre Pio compared dusting a room, used or unused on a weekly basis, to weekly confession. He suggested two times of daily meditation and self-examination: in the morning to "prepare for battle" and in the evening to "purify your soul." Padre Pio’s motto, "Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry" is the synopsis of his application of theology into daily life. A Christian should recognize God in everything, offering everything to Him saying, "Thy will be done". In addition, all should aspire to heaven and put their trust in Him and not worry about what he is doing, as long as it is done with a desire to please God.
In July 1918, Pope Benedict XV urged all Christians to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days later between August 5 -7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side. As a result of this experience, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. The experience has been identified as a "transverberation" or piercing of the heart indicating the union of love with God.
A few weeks later, on September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was praying in the choir loft in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, when the same Being who appeared to him on August 5, appeared again. It was the wounded Christ. When the ecstasy ended, Padre Pio had received the Visible Stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, which would stay with him for his remaining 50 years.
By early 1919, word about the stigmata began to spread to the outside world. Over the years countless people, including physicians, examined Padre Pio’s wounds. Padre Pio was not interested in the physicians’ attempts to explain his stigmata. He accepted it as a gift from God, though he would have preferred to suffer the pains of Christ’s Passion without the world knowing.
God used Padre Pio – especially the news of his stigmata – to give people hope as they began to rebuild their life after the war. Padre Pio and his spiritual gifts of the stigmata, perfume, prophecy and bilocation was a sign of God in their midst and led people back to their Faith. So life at the friary and the Church of Our Lady of Grace began to revolve around Padre Pio’s ministry. A room and priests were designated to handle the correspondence and the remaining friars heard confessions. San Giovanni Rotondo began to be filled with pilgrims. Since there were no hotels, people slept outdoors. A normal day for Padre Pio was a busy nineteen hours – Mass, hearing confessions and handling correspondence. He usually had less than two hours to sleep.
As his spiritual influence increased, so did the voices of his detractors. Accusations against Padre Pio poured in to the Holy Office (today the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith). By June 1922, restrictions were placed on the public’s access to Padre Pio. His daily Mass time varied each day, without announcement to diminish the crowds, and he was ordered not to answer correspondence from people seeking spiritual direction. It was also rumored that plans were being developed to transfer Padre Pio. However, both local and Church authorities were afraid of public riots and decided that a more remote and isolated place than San Giovanni Rotondo could not be found.
Despite the restrictions and controversies, Padre Pio’s ministry continued. From 1924 – 1931 various statements were made by the Holy See that denied the supernaturality of Padre Pio’s phenomena. On June 9, 1931, the Feast of Corpus Christi, Padre Pio was ordered by the Holy See to desist from all activities except the celebration of the Mass, which was to be in private. By early 1933, Pope Pius XI ordered the Holy See to reverse its ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass, saying, "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed."
Padre Pio’s faculties were progressively restored. First, the confessions of men were allowed (March 25, 1934) and then women (May 12, 1934). Although he had never been examined for a preaching license, the Capuchin Minister General granted him permission to preach, honoris cuasa, and he preached several times a year. In 1939 when Pope Pius XII was elected pope, he began to encourage people to visit Padre Pio. More and more people began to make pilgrimages.
In 1940, Padre Pio convinced three doctors to move to San Giovanni Rotondo and he announced plans to build a Home to Relieve Suffering. As Padre Pio expressed to Pope Pius, " …a place that the patient might be led to recognize those working for his cure as God's helpers, engaged in preparing the way for the intervention of grace." The doctors were excited about the building, but were fearful that this was not the time to begin such a project with Europe being on the brink of another world war.
These fears did not stop Padre Pio and the project began. After the war, Barbara Ward, a British humanitarian, came to Italy to write an article on postwar reconstruction. She attended Padre Pio’s Mass and met one of the physicians who came to San Giovanni Rotondo to work with the Home to Relieve Suffering. Upon learning of the project, she asked that the Home to Relieve Suffering receive a part of the funds designated for reconstruction. Consequently, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) gave a grant of $325,000 for the project. The building opened its doors on May 5,1956. A year later, Padre Pio announced plans for a medical and religious center where doctors and interns could further their medical studies and Christian formation.
With the opening of the hospital, Padre Pio was truly now an international figure and his followers greatly increased. To accommodate all the pilgrims, a new, large church was constructed.
In the mid-1960s, Padre Pio’s health began to deteriorate, but he continued to say Daily Mass and hear fifty confessions a day. By July of 1968, he was almost bedridden. On the fiftieth anniversary of the stigmata (September 20,1968), Padre Pio celebrated Mass, attended the public recitation of the Rosary and Benediction. On the next day, he was too tired to say Mass or hear confessions. On September 22, he managed to say Mass and the attendees had to struggle to hear him. Just after midnight, in the early morning hours of September 23, Padre Pio called his superior and asked to make his confession. He then renewed his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At 2:30am, Padre Pio died in his cell. As he foretold, Padre Pio lived sick but died healthy, with the stigmata healed.
On September 26, 1968, over a hundred thousand people gathered at San Giovanni Rotondo to pay their respects to this holy man. He was buried in the crypt prepared for him in the Church of Our Lady of Grace.
Educator, philanthropist, born at Fuentellana, Spain, 1488; died at Valencia, 8 September, 1555. Son of Aloazo Tomas Garcia and Lucia Martinez Castellanos, the saint was brought up in the practices of religion and charity. Every Friday his father was wont to give in alms all the meal he earned at the mill, besides his usual daily dole of bread. On great feast-days he added wood, wine, and money; while to poor farmers he loaned money and seed. On the death of her husband, Lucia continued the usual alms, and supplied indigent maidens in the neighbourhood with clothing and money. When sixteen tears old, Thomas entered the University of Alcala, where, after proceeding master of arts and licentiate in theology, he filled the chair (1514) of arts, logic, and philosophy. Among his auditors were the famed scholars Ferdinand de Encina and Dominic Soto. With Alcala, however, ended his university associations, he having declined the chair of natural philosophy at Salamanca, where he joined the Augustinians in 1516, his vows following a year later, and his ordination to priesthood the year after; his first Mass was celebrated at Christmas, 1518. At Salamanca Convent Thomas was given the class of scholastic theology because of his attachment for books, chiefly the Lombard and St. Thomas, and his exemplary life. Preaching in the pulpits of Spain was soon added to his duties, among other places at Valencia, the field of his later trials, and Valladolid, seat of the imperial Court and residence of the Emperor Charles V when on his visits to the Low Countries. In this last-named city St. Thomas was named by the emperor his court preacher, and one of his councillors of state. Rarely, however, did the saint pay visits of ceremony to the then master of Europe, though his written correspondence with Charles, who held his opinions in high esteem, was voluminous. Towards the close of his life, while at Valencia, he had all the emperor's letters destroyed; his own letters to the emperor, however, are now stored at Simancas.
Apart from these burdens Thomas held many offices of trust in his order, e.g. as convent prior in various cities, among others at Valladolid in 1544, the very year he was called to the See of Valencia. Moreover, he was twice provincial-prior, first of Andalusia and Castile in 1527, then six years later of Castile alone, whence the first mission band of his brethren was sent across the Atlantic in 1533 to establish houses of their order in Mexico. On 5 Aug., 1544, he received his nomination to the Archbishopric of Valencia, a post that for well-nigh a hundred years had witnessed no bishop in residence, an appointment that was confirmed by Paul III. Previously St. Thomas had declined the See of Granada, offered him by the emperor, while that of Valencia he accepted only through obedience to his superiors. He was consecrated in the church of his order at Valladolid by Juan, Cardinal Tavera de Pardo, Archbishop of Toledo. On his entrance to his see on 1 Jan., 1545, of which he was thirty-second bishop and eighth archbishop, St. Thomas opened his career as legislator and philanthropist, which won for him the titles of "Almsgiver", "Father of the Poor", and "Model of Bishops", given him at his beatification in 1618 by Paul V. During his eleven years of episcopal rule his most noteworthy deeds were as follows: a visitation of his diocese, opened a few weeks after entrance into his see. Among other amendments he inhibited his visitators from accepting any gifts whatever. He then held a synod, the first at Valencia for many years, whereby he sought to do away with a number of abuses, as bloodshed, divorce, concubinage, and many excessive privileges or unreasonable exemptions; he abolished the underground prisons; rebuilt the general hospital at Valencia which had just been destroyed by fire; founded two colleges, one for young ecclesiastics, the other for poor students; laboured for the conversion of the <nuevos Cristianos>, whose profession of Christianity was largely mere outward show; established a creche near his palace for foundlings and the offspring of indigent parents; had Mass said at early hours for the working-classes; and in brief, by statutes, by preaching, and by example, strove to reform the morals of churchman and layman.
Towards the poor especially his heart was ever alive with pity; to them his palace gate was always open; daily he had a repast for every poor person that applied for help, as many even as four to five hundred thus getting their meals at his hands. In every district of the city he had almoners appointed with orders especially to search out the respectable persons who shrank from asking alms; these he had supplied with money, food, clothing, while as to indigent workmen, poor farmers, and mechanics, he replenished their stock and brought them tools, thus putting them in the way of making a living. His whole life as replete with acts of practical kindness. He spent his spare time chiefly in prayer and study; his table was one of simple fare, with no luxuries. His dress was inexpensive; he mended with his own hands whatever needed repairs. Numberless are the instances of St. Thomas' supernatural gifts, of his power of healing the sick, of multiplication of food, of redressing grievances, of his ecstasies, of his conversions of sinners. He was taken ill in August, 1555, of angina pectoris, of which he died at the age of 67, at the termination of Mass in his bedroom. His last words were the versicles: "In manus tuas, Domine", etc.; his remains were entombed at the convent Church of Our Lady of Help of his order outside the city walls, whence later they were brought to the cathedral. The saint was of well-knit frame, of medium height, with dark complexion, brilliant eyes, ruddy cheeks, and Roman nose. He was beatified by Paul V (7 Oct., 1618), who set his feast-day for 18 Sept., and canonized by Alexander VII on 1 Nov., 1658.
Various reasons are given to account for St. Thomas' non-appearance at the Council of Trent, among them that he was ill, unable to stand the fatigue of travel; that his people would not brook his absence; and that the emperor was unable to do without his aid at home. The writings of St. Thomas, mainly sermons, are replete with practical norms of mystic theology. Some twenty editions have been published, the best and most complete being probably that of Manila, 1882-1884, in 5 tomes.
Apostle and evangelist.
The name Matthew is derived from the Hebrew Mattija, being shortened to Mattai in post-Biblical Hebrew. In Greek it is sometimes spelled Maththaios, B D, and sometimes Matthaios, CEKL, but grammarians do not agree as to which of the two spellings is the original. Matthew is spoken of five times in the New Testament; first in Matt., ix, 9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the Apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke, vi, 15, and Mark, iii, 18), and again in the eighth place (Matt., x, 3, and Acts, i, 13). The man designated in Matt., ix, 9, as "sitting in the custom house", and "named Matthew" is the same as Levi, recorded in Mark, ii, 14, and Luke, v, 27, as "sitting at the receipt of custom". The account in the three Synoptics is identical, the vocation of Matthew-Levi being alluded to in the same terms. Hence Levi was the original name of the man who was subsequently called Matthew; the Maththaios legomenos of Matt., ix, 9, would indicate this. The fact of one man having two names is of frequent occurrence among the Jews. It is true that the same person usually bears a Hebrew name such as "Shaoul" and a Greek name, Paulos. However, we have also examples of individuals with two Hebrew names as, for instance, Joseph-Caiaphas, Simon-Cephas, etc. It is probable that Mattija, "gift of Iaveh", was the name conferred upon the tax-gatherer by Jesus Christ when He called him to the Apostolate, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren, Levi being his original name. Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark, ii, 14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius informs us that he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans. When summoned by Jesus, Matthew arose and followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: "I came not to call the just, but sinners". No further allusion is made to Matthew in the Gospels, except in the list of the Apostles. As a disciple and an Apostle he thenceforth followed Christ, accompanying Him up to the time of His Passion and, in Galilee, was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection. He was also amongst the Apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts, i, 10 and 14).
Of Matthew's subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers are not as one as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria. According to Heracleon, who is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Matthew did not die a martyr, but this opinion conflicts with all other ancient testimony. Let us add, however, that the account of his martyrdom in the apocryphal Greek writings entitled "Martyrium S. Matthæi in Ponto" and published by Bonnet, "Acta apostolorum apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1898), is absolutely devoid of historic value. Lipsius holds that this "Martyrium S. Matthæi", which contains traces of Gnosticism, must have been published in the third century. There is a disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew's martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded. The Roman Martyrology simply says: "S. Matthæi, qui in Æthiopia prædicans martyrium passus est". Various writings that are now considered apocryphal, have been attributed to St. Matthew. In the "Evangelia apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: "De Ortu beatæ Mariæ et infantia Salvatoris", supposedly written in Hebrew by St. Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the "Protoevangelium" of St. James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century. The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew on 21 September, and the Greek Church on 16 November. St. Matthew is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a lance as a characteristic emblem.
If ever a tiny child began life with nothing in his favor it was Joseph of Cupertino; he had only one hopeful and saving quality—that he knew it. Other boys of his own age were clever, he was easily the dullest of them all. Others were winning and attractive, nobody ever wanted him. While they had pleasant things said to them, and nice things given to them, Joseph always wrote himself down an ass, and never looked for any special treatment. He went to school with the rest of the children in the village, but he did not succeed in anything. He was absent-minded, he was awkward, he was nervous; a sudden noise, such as the ringing of a church-bell, would make him drop his schoolbooks on the floor. He would sit with his companions after school-hours, and try to talk like them, but every time his conversation would break down; he could not tell a story to the end, no matter how he tried. His very sentences would stop in the middle because he could not find the right words. Altogether, even for those who pitied him, and wished to be kind to him, Joseph was something of a trial.Ill fortune seemed to have set its seal on Joseph before he was born. His father, a carpenter by trade, was a good enough man in his way, but he was a poor hand at dealing with money; what little he earned seemed to slip at once through his fingers. At the very moment when his son came into the world his house was in the hands of bailiffs, and his effects were being sold up. Joseph was born in a shed at the back of the house, where his mother had hid herself out of very shame. With such a beginning Joseph had very poor prospects. As a child, utterly underfed and sickly, he was a very miserable specimen of humanity. He seemed to catch every disease that came his way; many a time he was at death's door, and, to tell the truth, if he had died it would have been a great relief to those responsible for him. Even his mother wearied of him. She, too, was good in her way, but she was hard by nature, and circumstances had made her harder; Joseph was ever in fault, and for every offense she punished him without mercy, according to her notions of a mother's duty. When he was little more than seven years old he developed a running ulcer which would not heal; and his mother was the more embittered against him, for now she supposed that even if the boy grew up he would probably be always to the family nothing but a burden.
Nobody wanted Joseph; even his mother did not want him; Joseph learnt this lesson very early and accepted it. He did not seem to want himself, he did not know what he wanted; at times he seemed scarcely to know what he was doing. So abstracted was he that he would forget his meals; and when his attention was called to the fact his only reply would be: "I forgot." Since he could make nothing of books, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker. It was of little use; Joseph was too much distracted, too much absorbed in other things not practical for work-a-day people; and he never learnt to make or mend a shoe. But he went on trying and his master tolerated him, merely to give the boy something to do.
At length, one day, in the midst of this aimless life, when Joseph was already seventeen years of age, there came into his village a begging friar. At once a new idea came into Joseph's mind. He could not be anything in the world, because he seemed incapable of learning anything; strangely enough this thought had never troubled him much. But surely he could at least be a friar, and go about begging his bread. Brains were not needed for such a life as that; and as for the life itself, it appealed to him with a strange fascination, as having an ideal of its own. Besides he had two uncles in the Order; that gave him hope and encouragement.
He was easily given leave to go away from his home and try; but to find entrance into a monastery was by no means so easy. He had done no studies worth the name, and therefore could not be received; many other reasons were easily forthcoming. He applied at one convent; and the door was closed to him at once; at another, and was told it was quite hopeless; at length he found a community which agreed to take him on trial as a lay-brother. But it was of no avail; with the best of intentions to be kind to him, the brethren found him a test of their patience. Not only was he very dull and difficult to teach, but his fits of piety and abstraction, which had been with him from the beginning, made him quite unbearable. He had a way of suddenly standing still in the midst of some occupation, and forgetting everything. He would go down on his knees in the most unlikely places, utterly oblivious of everything around him. He might be washing dishes in the scullery, he might be carrying food into the refectory; one of these fits of abstraction would come on, and down everything would crash in pieces on the floor. In the hope of curing him, bits of the broken plates were fastened to his habit, and he carried them about, as a penance, as a humiliation, as a reminder not to do the same again, but he did not mend. He could not even be trusted with serving out the bread, for the reason that he forgot the difference between brown bread and white.
It was of no use. Materially or spiritually Joseph's stay in the monastery could serve no good purpose; his habit was taken from him and he was told to go. That day, as he afterwards declared, was the hardest day in all his life; it looked as if everything in heaven and earth had conspired to shut him out; and he never forgot it. He used to say that when they deprived him of the habit it was as if they had torn off his skin. But that was not the end of his troubles. When he had recovered from his stupor on the road outside he found he had lost some of his lay clothes. He was without a hat; he had no boots or stockings, his coat was moth-eaten and worn. Such a sorry sight did he appear, that as he passed a stable down the lane some dogs rushed out on him, and tore what remained of his rags to still worse tatters.
Having escaped from the dogs, poor Joseph trudged along, wondering what next would happen. He passed some shepherds tending sheep. They took him for a dangerous character. When questioned he could give no account of himself and they were about to give him a beating; fortunately one of them had a little pity, and persuaded them to let him go free. But it was only to pass from one trouble into another. Scarcely had he gone a little further down the road when a nobleman on horseback met him. The latter could see in Joseph nothing but a suspicious tramp who had no business in those parts, and thought to hand him over to the police; only when, after examining him, he had come to the conclusion that he was too stupid to be harmful did he let him go.
At last, torn and battered and hungry, Joseph came to a village where one of his uncles lived. He was a prosperous tradesman there, with a thriving little shop of his own; and Joseph hoped he would find with him some kind of comfort, perhaps another start in life. But he was sadly disappointed. Nephews of Joseph's type, even at their best, are not always welcome to prosperous uncles, much less when they turn up unexpectedly, with scarcely a rag on their backs. Joseph's uncle was no better and no worse than others. He looked at the poor lad who stood before him, soiling his clean shop floor with his dirty, bare feet, disgracing himself and his house with his rags, and he was just a little ashamed to own him as a nephew. Evidently, he said to himself, the boy had inherited his father's improvident ways, and would come to nothing good. He was already well on the road to ruin; to help him would only make him worse. Besides, Joseph's father already owed him money; how, then, could he be expected to do anything for the son?
So instead of offering him assistance, Joseph's uncle turned upon him; blamed him for his sorry plight, which, he said, he must have brought upon himself; railed at him because of his father's debts, which such a son could only increase; finally pushed him into the street, without a coin to help him on his way. There was nothing to be done; he must move on; nobody wanted Joseph.
At last he reached his native town, and made for his mother's cottage. His father was still in difficulties; during Joseph's absence things had gone no better than before. He came to the door in fear and trembling, remembering well how both his father and his mother had long since tired of his presence. Still he would venture; it was the only place left where he might hope for a shelter and he must try. He opened the door and looked in; inside he found his mother, busy about her little hovel. Weary and footsore, hungry and miserable, no longer able to stand, he fell on the floor at his mother's feet; he could not speak a word, though his glistening eyes as he looked up at her were eloquent.
But they failed to soften his mother. She had gone through hard times enough and was unprepared for more. What? Had he come back to burden them, now when things were worse than ever? And further disgraced, besides, for had he not been expelled from a monastery? How the neighbors would talk, and scorn the mother for having such a son; an unfrocked friar, a ne'er-do- well, a common tramp, and that at an age when other youths were earning an honest livelihood! She could restrain herself no longer. As he lay at her feet she rounded on him.
"You have been expelled from a house of religious," she cried. "You have brought shame upon us all. You are good for nothing. We have nothing for you here. Go away; go to prison, go to sea, go anywhere; if you stay here there is nothing for you but to starve."
But she was not content with only words. She had a brother who was a Franciscan, holding some sort of office. In high dudgeon she went off to him, and gave him a piece of her mind about the way his Order had dismissed her son, and put him again on her hands. She appealed to him to have him taken back, in any capacity they liked; so long as she was rid of him, they could do with him what they chose. But as for readmission, the good Franciscans were immovable. Joseph had been examined before, and had been declared unsuitable; he had been tried, and had been found wanting; the most they could do was to give him the habit of the Third Order, and employ him somewhere as a servant. He was appointed to the stable; there he could do little harm. Joseph was made the keeper of the monastery mule.
And then the change came. Joseph set about his task since it was now clear that he could never be a Franciscan, at least he could be their servant. He said not a word in complaint; what had he to complain of? He told himself that all this was only what he might have expected; being what he was, he might consider himself fortunate to find any job at all entrusted to him. He asked for no relief; he took the clothes and the food they chose to give him; he slept on a plank in the stable, it was good enough for him. What was more, in spite of his dullness, perhaps because of it, Joseph had by nature a merry heart. However great his troubles, the moment a gleam of sunshine shone upon him he would be merry and laugh. The troubles were only his desert and were to be expected; when brighter times came he enjoyed them as one who had received a consolation wholly unlooked for, and wholly undeserved.
Gradually this became noticed. Friars would go down to the stable for one reason or another, and always Joseph was there to welcome them, apparently as happy as a lord. It was seen how little he thought of himself, how glad he was to serve; since he could not be a begging friar, sometimes in his free moments he went out and begged for them on his own account. His lightheartedness was contagious; his kindly tongue made men trust him; it was noticed how he was welcomed among the poorest of the poor, who saw better than others the man behind all his oddities. He might make a Franciscan after all. The matter was discussed in the community chapter; his case was sent up to a provincial council for favorable consideration; it was decided, not without some qualms, to give him yet another trial.
In this way Joseph was once more admitted to the Order, but what was to be done with him then? His superiors set him to his studies, in the hope that he might learn enough to be ordained, but the effort seemed hopeless. With all his good intentions he learnt to read with the greatest difficulty, and, says his biographer, his writing was worse. He could never expound a Sunday Gospel in a way to satisfy his professors; one only text seemed to take hold of him, and on that he could always be eloquent; speaking from knowledge which was not found in books. It was a text of St. Luke (xi, 27): "Beatus venter qui te portavit." Nevertheless he succeeded in being ordained, and the story of his success is one of those mysteries of grace, repeated in the lives of other saints, down to that of the Cure d'Ars in the last century, by which Christ Himself lets us see that for His priesthood He chooses "whom He will Himself," no matter what regulations man may make.
It came about in this way. Minor Orders in those days were easily conferred, and even the subdiaconate; but for the diaconate and the priesthood a special examination had to be passed, in presence of the bishop himself. As a matter of form, but with no hope of success, Joseph was sent up to meet his fate. The bishop opened the New Testament at haphazard; his eye fell upon the text "Beatus venter qui te portavit," and he asked Joseph to discourse upon it. To the surprise of everyone present Joseph began, and it seemed as if he would never end; he might have been a Master in Theology lost in a favorite theme. There could be no question about his being given the diaconate. A year later came the priesthood, and Joseph had again his ordeal to undergo. He was examined with a number of others One by one the first candidates were tested, and their answers were far above the average. At length the bishop, more than satisfied with what he had heard, cut the examination short, and passed the rest unquestioned. Joseph was among the fortunate candidates who were asked nothing, and was ordained along with the rest. He was twenty-five years of age.
There were many, by this time, besides the very poor who had come to realize the wonderful simplicity and selflessness of Joseph, hidden beneath his dullness and odd ways; a few had discovered the secret of his abstractedness, when he would lose himself in the labyrinth of God. Nevertheless he remained a trial, especially to the practical-minded; to the end of his life he had to endure from them many a scolding. Often enough he would go out begging for the brethren, and would come home with his sack full, but without a sandal, or his girdle, or his rosary, or sometimes parts of his habit. His friends among the poor had taken them for keepsakes, and Joseph had been utterly unaware that they had gone. He was told that the convent could not afford to give him new clothes every day. "Oh! Father," was his answer, "then don't let me go out any more; never let me go out any more. Leave me alone in my cell to vegetate; it is all I can do."
For indeed, as we have seen, Joseph had no delusions about himself; and his ordination did not make him think differently. He had been sorely knocked about in life, but he always understood that he deserved it. The poor in the villages, when he went among them to beg, showed him peculiar respect and friendship; but he always took this to mean that they looked on him as one of themselves, indeed rather less than they were, and they were kind to him out of pity. True he was a priest, but everybody knew how he had received the priesthood. He could assume no airs on that account. On the contrary, knowing what he was, he could only act accordingly. In spite of his priestly office, Joseph could only live the life he had lived before. He would slip down to the kitchen and wash up the dishes; he would sweep the corridors and dormitories; he would look out for the dirtiest work that others shirked, and would do it; when building was going on in the convent he would carry up the stones and mortar; if anyone protested, declaring that such work did not become a priest, he would only reply:
"What else can Brother Ass do?"
And when he got Brother Ass alone in his cell, he would beat him to make him work harder.
But now began that wonderful experience the like of which is scarcely to be paralleled in the life of any other saint. It was first in his prayer. Joseph's absent-mindedness, from his childhood upwards, had not been only a natural weakness, it was due, in great part, to a wonderful gift of seeing God and the supernatural in everything about him, and he would become lost in the wonder of it all. Now when he was a friar, and a priest besides, the vision grew stronger; it seemed easier for him to see God indwelling in His creation than the material creation in which he dwelt. The realization became to him so vivid, so engrossing, that he would spend whole days lost in its fascination, and only an order from his superiors could bring him back to earth. It would come suddenly upon him anywhere; as it were from out of space the eyes of God would look at him, or on the face of nature the hand of God would be seen at work, disposing all things. Joseph would stand still, exactly as the vision caught him, fixed as a statue, insensible as a stone, and nothing could move him. The brethren would use pins and burning embers to recall him to his senses, but nothing could he feel. When he did revive and saw what had happened, he would call these visitations fits of giddiness, and ask them not to burn him again. Once a prelate, who had come to see him on some business, noticed that his hands were covered with sores. Joseph could not hide them, nor could he hide the truth, but he had an explanation ready.
"See, Father, what the brethren have to do to me when the fits of giddiness come on. They have to burn my hands, they have to cut my fingers, that is what they have to do."
And Joseph laughed, as he so often laughed; but we suspect that it was laughter keeping back tears.
Then there came another visitation. In the midst of these ecstasies Joseph would rise from the ground, and move about in the air. In the church especially this would come upon him; he would fly towards the altar or over it, or to a shrine on a special festival. In the refectory, during a meal, he would suddenly rise from the ground with a dish of food in his hands, much to the alarm of the brethren at table. When he was out in the country begging, suddenly he would fly into a tree. Once when some workmen were laboring to plant a huge stone cross in its socket, Joseph rose above them, took up the cross and placed it in the socket for them. A little thing would suffice to bring about these levitation's; a word of praise of the Creator and His creature, of the beauty of the sky or of the trees on the roadside, and away Joseph would go.
Along with this went a power over nature, over the birds and beasts of the field, surpassing even that of his Father, St. Francis of Assisi; and Joseph used his power playfully, as St. Francis used it. There was a convent of nuns not far from the monastery, where Joseph sometimes called for alms. One day, when they had been good to him, he told them with a laugh that in return for their kindness he would send them a bird to help them in their singing. The next time they went to office, in flew a sparrow by the window. All the time they sang he sang too, when the office was over he flew away again. And so it happened every day, morning and evening the sparrow was there, as regular as any nun. But one day a sister, passing him by, gave him a push 'with her hand; the sparrow flew out at once and did not return any more. When next Joseph came to the convent, the sisters told him that the sparrow was gone, but they did not tell him the reason.
"He is gone, and quite right," said Joseph; "he did not come to you to be insulted."
However, he promised he would make amends to the sparrow; and in due time he appeared again, and joined in the office as before.
But that does not end the story of the sparrow. He would become so familiar that the nuns could play with him; one of them tied a tiny bell to his foot. All went well till Maundy Thursday; on that day he did not appear, nor during the rest of Holy Week. When Joseph called on Holy Saturday to receive his Easter offering, they told him the sparrow had gone.
"No wonder," answered Joseph, "I gave him to you to join in your music; you should not have made him a bell-ringer. Bells are not rung during these days of Holy Week. But I will see that he returns."
And he did. The sparrow returned, and did not leave again so long as Joseph remained in the neighborhood.
Let us take another story from the many that are found in the life of this servant whom God loved. Joseph had a special interest in the shepherds of the neighborhood; with people of that class he was always most at home. It was his custom to meet them every Saturday in a little chapel at a corner of the monastery grounds, and there recite with them the Litany of Our Lady and other prayers. His congregation was usually a large one, swelled by people from the village. One Saturday Joseph went to the chapel as usual, and found not a soul there. It was harvest time; shepherds and villagers were out in the meadows and had forgotten to tell him that that day they could not come. Joseph, knowing nothing of the reason, talked to himself about the fickleness of men in the service of God. As he spoke he looked down the valley in the distance. The sheep were in the fields, but there were no shepherds; only a few children to tend them. Joseph raised his voice.
"Sheep of God," he cried, "come to me. Come and honor the Mother of God, who is also your Mother."
Immediately the sheep all around looked up. They left their pasture, leaped over hedges and ditches, formed themselves into orderly companies, and gathered round Joseph at the chapel door. When all were assembled, Joseph knelt down and began:
"Baa," answered the sheep.
And so it went on till the litany was finished. Then Joseph stood and blessed his congregation; and the sheep went back to their pastures as if nothing unusual had happened.
Such were some of the stories the brethren had to tell one another of Joseph and his ways. There were many more, especially of miracles he wrought among the poor. He would touch blind eyes and they would see; he would lift up a sick child and it would be cured; he would write out the benediction of St. Francis and it would be passed round a village and work wonders. But there were some among the brethren, as there are always and everywhere, who did not believe in these things. They were incredible, they were impossible, they could not have occurred as the evidence declared. Besides, Joseph was not the kind of person to whom such things would happen; he had too many faults to be a saint, he lacked all kinds of virtues, he was generally a trouble in the community. Therefore he was an impostor, a maker of mischief, who "stirred up the people, beginning from Galilee even to that place." He was reported to the Vicar General; the Vicar General believed what was said, and Joseph was called to stand his trial before the inquisitors of Naples. The inquisitors examined him; after close testing they were unable to convict him of anything. Still they would not dismiss him; his case was at least doubtful, and they sent him for further examination to the General of the Order in Rome. The General received him, at first, with little favor. Generals of religious orders have enough to do, and more than enough to give them trouble, without being tried by such subjects as Joseph. Moreover, Joseph never could say anything for himself; if superiors were hard on him he was tongue-tied and could only submit. But this very submission, in this case, was his saving. Father General saw his humility; he began to doubt whether all was true that was said against him. In the end he himself took him to see the Holy Father; and in the Pope's presence as, perhaps, might have been expected, Joseph was humiliated by having another of his "fits of giddiness."
But for all that, though nothing positive could be proved against him, during the rest of his life Joseph was submitted to a new kind of trial. It was the beginning of his Passion, and it lasted to the end. The explanation is not quite clear. It may have been that the tribunal of the Inquisition doubted whether it was safe to allow him, with his strange power, and his strange character, to wander about at will. It was not certain whence these powers came; devotees might make of them more than they ought; yet others might take scandal at Joseph's peculiar ways; many were the arguments adduced to make it clear that he must be piously but firmly kept in safe custody. The Inquisition of Perugia received a peremptory order to take him at once from his own monastery and to hand him over to the Father Guardian of a Capuchin convent, hidden away among the hills, there to be kept in the strictest seclusion. For a moment, when he heard the sentence, Joseph shivered. "Have I to go to prison?" he asked, as if he had been condemned. But in an instant he recovered. He knelt down and kissed the Inquisitor's feet; then got into the carriage, smiling as usual as if nothing had happened.
Arrived at the convent, Joseph was treated with the strictest rigor. Under pain of excommunication he was forbidden to speak to anyone, except the religious around him. He was not permitted to write letters or receive them; he might not leave the convent enclosure; all intercourse with the outside world was cut off. Why all this was done Joseph did not know, and he never asked, but he wondered above all why he had been taken from his own Conventuals and delivered over to the Capuchins.
Nevertheless, in spite of all this care, he could not be hidden. In course of time it became known where he had been spirited away; and pilgrims who had learnt to revere him came to the place for the privilege of hearing his mass. He was transferred to another hiding-place, where again the same regulations were enforced. Here the same thing occurred, and once more he was taken away. For the last ten years of his life he seems to have lived virtually in prison, always being kept away from the crowds who persisted in seeking the man they proclaimed to be a saint.
Meanwhile within his places of imprisonment the same wonderful experiences continued. He would be shut up in his cell and he would see things going on elsewhere. He would kneel down to pray before a statue in the garden, and the friars would see him rise in the air, still in a kneeling position. They would come to speak to him, and would be surprised that he read their thoughts before they spoke; sometimes he would read there more than they wished him to know. One morning he came down to the church to say mass, and announced to the brethren about him that the Pope had died during the night. Another time he made the same announcement; the occasions were the deaths of Urban VIII and Innocent X.
In 1657, six years before his death, Joseph was given back to his own Conventuals, and by them was transferred to another place of seclusion, from which he never emerged. The regulations were the same, the surveillance, if anything, was stricter than ever. He was assigned a tiny cell apart from the community, and a little chapel in which he might say his mass apart from others. Indeed, scarcely anything else could be done. For years before he was secluded it had been impossible to admit him to office with the rest of the community, his ecstasies had become so frequent, and so continuous, as to throw all into disorder. For the same reason he had been made to take his meals apart. Now, in his last home, he was left to himself; and he lived, this dull man whom no one could teach, and no one wanted, almost continually wrapt up in the vision of that which no man can express in words.
But the time at last came for his release. When, in 1657, Joseph had been taken to his last place of confinement, he had said he would never leave it. He added one thing more for a sign. He told his companions that the first day on which he failed to receive communion would be the day on which he would die. And so it came about. On August 10, 1663, he was seized with an intermittent fever. So long as it was only intermittent he continued to rise every morning to say mass. The last day was the feast of the Assumption; on that day, says the Act of his canonization, he had ecstasies and experiences surpassing anything he had ever had before. Then he was compelled to take to his bed; but still he persisted in hearing mass when he could, and never missed communion. He became worse, and extreme unction was administered. When he had received it, he had one request to make, it was that his body should be buried in some out-of-the-way corner, and that it should be forgotten where it was laid. He fell into his agony. There came constantly to his lips the words of St. Paul: "Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo." Someone at the bedside spoke to him of the love of God; he cried out: "Say that again, say that again!" He pronounced the Holy Name of Jesus. He added: "Praised be God! Blessed be God! May the holy will of God be done!" The old laughter seemed to come back to his face; those around could scarcely resist the contagion. And so he died. It was September 18, 1663. He was just sixty years of age.
The Feast of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows is on September 15.
The Blessed Virgin Mary revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) that seven graces are granted to the souls who honor her daily by saying seven Hail Mary's and meditating on her tears and dolors.
1) I will grant peace to their families.
2) They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.
3) I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
4) I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.
5) I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
6) I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.
7) I have obtained (This Grace) from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.
St. Alphonsus Liguori testifies to complementary revelations given by Our Lord to St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) where Jesus further promises four special graces to those dedicated to the sufferings of the co-redeeming Mother:
1. That those who before death invoke the Blessed Mother in the name of her sorrows, should obtain true repentance of all their sins.
2. That He would protect in their tribulations all who remember this devotion, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death.
3. That He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven.
4. That He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, so that she might obtain for these souls all the graces she wanted to lavish upon them.
Consecration to Our Lady of Sorrows
Most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, Mary, would that I could be in Heaven, there to contemplate the honors rendered to thee by the Most Holy Trinity and by the whole Heavenly Court! But since I am still a pilgrim in this vale of tears, receive from me, thy unworthy servant and a poor sinner, the most sincere homage and the most perfect act of vassalage a human creature can offer thee. In thy Immaculate Heart, pierced with so many swords of sorrow, I place today my poor soul forever; receive me as a partaker in thy dolors, and never suffer that I should depart from that Cross on which thy only begotten Son expired for me. With thee, O Mary, I will endure all the sufferings, contradictions, infirmities, with which it will please thy Divine Son to visit me in this life. All of them I offer to thee, in memory of the Dolors which thou didst suffer during thy life, that every thought of my mind, every beating of my heart may henceforward be an act of compassion to thy Sorrows, and of complacency for the glory thou now enjoyest in Heaven. Since then, O Dear Mother, I now compassionate thy Dolors, and rejoice in seeing thee glorified, do thou also have compassion on me, and reconcile me to thy Son Jesus, that I may become thy true and loyal son (daughter); come on my last day and assist me in my last agony, even as thou wert present at the Agony of thy Divine Son Jesus, that from this painful exile I may go to Heaven, there to be made partaker of thy glory. Amen.
Litany of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows
by Pope Pius VII
A litany is a well-known and much appreciated form of responsive petition, used in public liturgical services, and in private devotions, for common necessities of the Church, or in calamities — to implore God's aid or to appease His just wrath.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, pray for us
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us
Mother of the Crucified, pray for us
Sorrowful Mother, pray for us
Mournful Mother, pray for us
Sighing Mother, pray for us
Afflicted Mother, pray for us
Foresaken Mother, pray for us
Desolate Mother, pray for us
Mother most sad, pray for us
Mother set around with anguish, pray for us
Mother overwhelmed by grief, pray for us
Mother transfixed by a sword, pray for us
Mother crucified in thy heart, pray for us
Mother bereaved of thy Son, pray for us
Sighing Dove, pray for us
Mother of Dolors, pray for us
Fount of tears, pray for us
Sea of bitterness, pray for us
Field of tribulation, pray for us
Mass of suffering, pray for us
Mirror of patience, pray for us
Rock of constancy, pray for us
Remedy in perplexity, pray for us
Joy of the afflicted, pray for us
Ark of the desolate, pray for us
Refuge of the abandoned, pray for us
Shiled of the oppressed, pray for us
Conqueror of the incredulous, pray for us
Solace of the wretched, pray for us
Medicine of the sick, pray for us
Help of the faint, pray for us
Strength of the weak, pray for us
Protectress of those who fight, pray for us
Haven of the shipwrecked, pray for us
Calmer of tempests, pray for us
Companion of the sorrowful, pray for us
Retreat of those who groan, pray for us
Terror of the treacherous, pray for us
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs, pray for us
Treasure of the Faithful, pray for us
Light of Confessors, pray for us
Pearl of Virgins, pray for us
Comfort of Widows, pray for us
Joy of all Saints, pray for us
Queen of thy Servants, pray for us
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled, pray for us
Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin, that we may be made worth of the promises of Christ
Let us pray, --- O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of grief pierced through the most sweet soul of Thy glorious Blessed Virgin Mother Mary: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of her Seven Sorrows, may obtain the happy effect of Thy Passion, Who lives and reigns world without end, Amen.
Prayers in Honor of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Pope Pius VII approved another series of prayers in honor of the Seven Sorrows for daily meditation in 1815:
O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
1. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of your tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by your heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the gift of the holy fear of God. Hail Mary…
2. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of your most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and your sojourn there. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the gift of piety. Hail Mary…
3. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried your troubled heart at the loss of your dear Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the gift of knowledge. Hail Mary…
4. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of your heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of fortitude. Hail Mary…
5. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which your generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony. Dear Mother, by your afflicted heart obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the gift of counsel. Hail Mary…
6. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of your compassionate heart, when the side of Jesus was struck by the lance before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the gift of understanding. Hail Mary…
7. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched your most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the gift of wisdom. Hail Mary…
Let Us Pray:
Let intercession be made for us, we beseech You, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Your mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Your bitter Passion. Through You, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen.
Novena Prayer in Honor of the Sorrows of The Blessed Virgin Mary
The Novena finds it's origin in ancient Church tradition. A Novena is simply any prayer said faithfully for a period of dedicated time. Generally it is said for nine consecutive days, nine Sundays, Fridays or Saturdays, or even nine hours in a row. Novenas have traditionally been known to be very powerful ~ used since the time of the Apostles when most notably, they and the other disciples prayed and fasted for nine days prior to receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentacost.
Most holy and afflicted Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, you stood beneath the cross, witnessing the agony of your dying Son. Look with a mother's tenderness and pity on me, who kneel before you. I venerate your sorrows and I place my requests with filial confidence in the sanctuary of your wounded heart. Present them, I beseech you, on my behalf to Jesus Christ, through the merits of His own most sacred passion and death, together with your sufferings at the foot of the cross. Through the united efficacy of both, obtain the granting of my petition. To whom shall I have recourse in my wants and miseries if not to you, Mother of Mercy? You have drunk so deeply of the chalice of your Son, you can compassionate our sorrows. Holy Mary, your soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of your Divine Son. Intercede for me and obtain for me from Jesus (mention request) if it be for His honor and glory and for my good. Amen.
Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.
The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head: Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on."
To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.
The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome's authority—including Christians who refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine's edict of toleration.
"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life" (Theodore of Studios).
Christopher (Topher) Anderson,MWD