Raymond became a priest due to his quiet persistence in prayer and study.Â He was born to a noble Spanish family in 1204. His mother died during child birth and his father had high expectations for Raymond to serve in the countryâ€™s Royal Court. Â However, the young Raymond felt drawn to religious life. In an attempt to dissuade him, his father ordered him to manage one of the family farms. However, Raymond spent his time with the workers, studying, and praying. His father finally gave up and allowed Raymond to enter the Mercederians.Â Fr. Raymond spent his entire estate ransoming slaves. He even offered himself as a hostage to free another. He was sentenced to death but was spared because his ransom would bring in a large amount of money.Â During his imprisonment, he succeeded at converting some of his guards. To keep him from continuing his preaching, his captors bored a hole through his lips with a hot iron, and attached a padlock. He was eventually ransomed, and he returned to Barcelona in 1239.Â That year, he was named a cardinal by Pope Gregory IX. Â The following year, in 1240, he was summoned to Rome, but barely made it out of Barcelona before he died at the age of 36.Â St. Raymond is the patron saint of pregnant women, childbirth, and newborn infants.
On Aug. 30, the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Jeanne Jugan, also known as Sister Mary of the Cross. During the 19th century, she founded the Little Sisters of the Poor with the goal of imitating Christ’s humility through service to elderly people in need. In his homily for her canonization in October 2009, Pope Benedict XVI praised St. Jeanne as â€œa beacon to guide our societiesâ€� toward a renewed love for those in old age. The Pope recalled how she â€œlived the mystery of loveâ€� in a way that remains â€œever timely while so many elderly people are suffering from numerous forms of poverty and solitude and are sometimes also abandoned by their families.â€� Born on Oct. 25, 1792 in a port city of the French region of Brittany, Jeanne Jugan grew up during the political and religious upheavals of the French Revolution. Four years after she was born, her father was lost at sea. Her mother struggled to provide for Jeanne and her three siblings, while also providing them secretly with religious instruction amid the anti-Catholic persecutions of the day. Jeanne worked as a shepherdess, and later as a domestic servant. At age 18, and again six years later, she declined two marriage proposals from the same man. She told her mother that God had other plans, and was calling her to â€œa work which is not yet founded.â€� At age 25, the young woman joined the Third Order of St. John Eudes, a religious association for laypersons founded during the 17th century. Jeanne worked as a nurse in the town of Saint-Servan for six years, but had to leave her position due to health troubles. Afterward she worked for 12 years as the servant of a fellow member of the third order, until the woman’s death in 1835. During 1839, a year of economic hardship in Saint-Servan, Jeanne was sharing an apartment with an older woman and an orphaned young lady. It was during the winter of this year that Jeanne encountered Anne Chauvin, an elderly woman who was blind, partially paralyzed, and had no one to care for her. Jeanne carried Anne home to her apartment and took her in from that day forward, letting the woman have her bed while Jeanne slept in the attic. She soon took in two more old women in need of help, and by 1841 she had rented a room to provide housing for a dozen elderly people. The following year, she acquired an unused convent building that could house 40 of them. During the 1840s, many other young women joined Jeanne in her mission of service to the elderly poor. By begging in the streets, the foundress was able to establish four more homes for their beneficiaries by the end of the decade. By 1850, over 100 women had joined the congregation that had become known as the Little Sisters of the Poor. However, Jeanne Jugan â€“ known in religious life as Sister Mary of the Cross â€“ had been forced out of her leadership role by Father Auguste Le Pailleur, the priest who had been appointed superior general of the congregation. In an apparent effort to suppress her true role as foundress, the superior general ordered her into retirement and a life of obscurity for 27 years. During these years, she served the order through her prayers and by accepting the trial permitted by God. At the time of her death on Aug. 29, 1879, she was not known to have founded the order, which by then had 2,400 members serving internationally. Fr. Le Pailleur, however, was eventually investigated and disciplined, and St. Jeanne Jugan came to be acknowledged as their foundress.
On this day, the universal Church marks the beheading of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus. As an adult, he lived as a hermit in the wilderness. After the Spirit inspired him, he went about preaching that theÂ people should repent of their sins and be baptized in order to prepare for the Messiah. Herod imprisoned John becauseÂ he had condemned Herod for committing adultery by living with his brother’s wife, Herodias. Â At he celebration for Herod on his birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for him, andÂ Herod was so impressed that he said he would offer her anything she liked. She consulted with Herodias who told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod did not want to kill John for fear or what his follwers might do, but because of his promise to the girl he could not refuse, and so John was beheaded.
Today, August 28,Â the Church honors St. Augustine. St. Augustine was born at the town of Thagaste (now Souk-Ahras in modern day Algeria) on November 13, 354 and grew to become one the most significant and influential thinkers in the history of the Catholic Church. His teachings were the foundation of Christian doctrine for a millennium.The story of his life, up until his conversion, is written in the autobiographical Confessions, the most intimate and well-known glimpse into an individual’s soul ever written, as well as a fascinating philosophical, theological, mystical, poetic and literary work.Augustine, though being brought up in early childhood as a Christian, lived a dissolute life of revelry and sin, and soon drifted away from the Church – thinking that he wasn’t necessarily leaving Christ, of whose name he acknowledges “I kept it in the recesses of my heart; and all that presented itself to me without that Divine name, though it might be elegant, well written, and even replete with truth, did not altogether carry me away” (Confessions, I, iv).He went to study in Carthage and became well-known in the city for his brilliant mind and rhetorical skills and sought a career as an orator or lawyer. But he also discovered and fell in love with philosophy at the age of 19, a love he pursued with great vehemence.He was attracted to Manichaeanism at this time, after its devotees had promised him that they had scientific answers to the mystery of nature, could disprove the Scriptures, and could explain the problem of evil. Augustine became a follower for nine years, learning all there was to learn in it before rejecting it as incoherent and fraudulent.He went to Rome and then Milan in 386 where he met Saint Ambrose, the bishop and Doctor of the Church, whose sermons inspired him to look for the truth he had always sought in the faith he had rejected. He received baptism and soon after, his mother, Saint Monica, died with the knowledge that all she had hoped for in this world had been fulfilled.He returned to Africa, to his hometown of Tagaste, “having now cast off from himself the cares of the world, he lived for God with those who accompanied him, in fasting, prayers, and good works, meditating on the law of the Lord by day and by night.”On a visit to Hippo he was proclaimed priest and then bishop against his will. He later accepted it as the will of God and spent the rest of his life as the pastor of the North African town, where he spent much time refuting the writings of heretics.Â Augustine also wrote, The City of God, against the pagans who charged that the fall of the Roman empire, which was taking place at the hands of the Vandals, was due to the spread of Christianity.Â On August 28, 430, as Hippo was under siege by the Vandals, Augustine died, at the age of 76. His legacy continues to deeply shape the face of the Church to this day.
On August 27, one day before the feast of her son St. Augustine, the Catholic Church honors St. Monica, whose holy example and fervent intercession led to one of the most dramatic conversions in Church history.Monica was born into a Catholic family in 332, in the North African city of Tagaste located in present-day Algeria. She was raised by a maidservant who taught her the virtues of obedience and temperance. While still relatively young, she married Patricius, a Roman civil servant with a bad temper and a disdain for his wife’s religion.Patricius’ wife dealt patiently with his distressing behavior, which included infidelity to their marriage vows. But she experienced a greater grief when he would not allow their three children â€“ Augustine, Nagivius, and Perpetua â€“ to receive Baptism. When Augustine, the oldest, became sick and was in danger of death, Patricius gave consent for his Baptism, but withdrew it when he recovered.Monica’s long-suffering patience and prayers eventually helped Patricius to see the error of his ways, and he was baptized into the Church one year before his death in 371. Her oldest son, however, soon embraced a way of life that brought her further grief, as he fathered a child out of wedlock in 372. One year later, he began to practice the occult religion of Manichaeism. In her distress and grief, Monica initially shunned her oldest son. However, she experienced a mysterious dream that strengthened her hope for Augustine’s soul, in which a messenger assured her: â€œYour son is with you.â€� After this experience, which took place around 377, she allowed him back into her home, and continued to beg God for his conversion.But this would not take place for another nine years. In the meantime, Monica sought the advice of local clergy, wondering what they might do to persuade her son away from the Manichean heresy. One bishop, who had once belonged to that sect himself, assured Monica that it was â€œimpossible that the son of such tears should perish.â€� These tears and prayers intensified when Augustine, at age 29, abandoned Monica without warning as she passed the night praying in a chapel. Without saying goodbye to his mother, Augustine boarded a ship bound for Rome. Yet even this painful event would serve God’s greater purpose, as Augustine left to become a teacher in the place where he was destined to become a Catholic.Under the influence of the bishop St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine renounced the teaching of the Manichees around 384. Monica followed her son to Milan, and drew encouragement from her son’s growing interest in the saintly bishop’s preaching. After three years of struggle against his own desires and perplexities, Augustine succumbed to God’s grace and was baptized in 387.Shortly before her death, Monica shared a profound mystical experience of God with Augustine, who chronicled the event in his â€œConfessions.â€� Finally, she told him: â€œSon, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here.â€� â€œThe only thing I ask of you both,â€� she told Augustine and his brother Nagivius, â€œis that you make remembrance of me at the altar of the Lord wherever you are.â€� St. Monica died at age 56, in the year 387. In modern times, she has become the inspiration for the St. Monica Sodality, which encourages prayer and penance among Catholics whose children have left the faith.
On Dec. 6, the faithful commemorate a bishop in the early church who was known for generosity and love of children. Born in Lycia in Asia Minor around the late third or fourth century, St. Nicholas of Myra is more than just the inspiration for the modern day Santa.
As a young man he is said to have made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt in order to study in the school of the Desert Fathers. On returning some years later he was almost immediately ordained Bishop of Myra, which is now Demre, on the coast of modern day Turkey. The bishop was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution and only released when Constantine the Great came to power and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
One of the most famous stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas says that he threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been forced into prostitution. The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.
St. Nicholas is associated with Christmas because of the tradition that he had the custom of giving secret gifts to children. It is also conjectured that the saint, who was known to wear red robes and have a long white beard, was culturally converted into the large man with a reindeer-drawn sled full of toys because in German, his name is “San Nikolaus” which almost sounds like “Santa Claus.” In the East, he is known as St. Nicholas of Myra for the town in which he was bishop. But in the West he is called St. Nicholas of Bari because, during the Muslim conquest of Turkey in 1087, his relics were taken to Bari by the Italians. St Nicholas is the patron of children and of sailors. His intercession is sought by the shipwrecked, by those in difficult economic circumstances, and for those affected by fires. He died on December 6, 346.
Mother Maria Caridad Brader was born into a pious family in Kaltburn, Switzerland, in 1860. Maria was unusually intelligent and her mother, a widow, went through great pains to give her a good education.
Despite her mother’s opinion, Maria entered a Franciscan convent in 1880. She made her final vows two years later and began teaching at the convent school.
At the end of the 19th century, it became permissible for cloistered nuns to work as missionaries. Maria volunteered to be one of the first of six sisters to work in Ecuador.
Maria served as a teacher and catechist in Ecuador.
In 1893, she was transferred to Colombia to attend to the sick and rejected.
In response to an urgent need for missionaries, Maria founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate in 1893 in Colombia. Maria served as the congregation’s superior general until 1919 and again from 1928 to 1940.
Maria urged her sisters to combine contemplation and action with great care. Her congregation also emphasized good education for both the sisters and their students.
“Do not forget that the better educated, the greater the skills the educator possesses, the more she will be able to do for our holy religion and the glory of God,” Maria told her sisters. “The more intense and visible her external activity, the deeper and more fervent her interior life must be.”
Maria died in 1943 in Colombia and her grave immediately became a popular pilgrimage site.
She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 2003.