St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. He was inspired from on high to found a congregation; in an ecstacy he beheld the habit which he and his companions were to wear. After consulting his director, Bishop Gastinara of Alexandria in Piedmont, he reached the conclusion that God wished him to establish a congregation in honor of the Passion of Jesus Christ. On November 22, 1720, the bishop vested him with the habit that had been shown to him in a vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time. From that moment the saint applied himself to repair the Rules of his institute; and in 1721 he went to Rome to obtain the approbation of the Holy See. At first he failed, but finally succeeded when Benedict XIV approved the Rules in 1741 and 1746. Meanwhile St. Paul built his first monastery near Obitello. Sometime later he established a larger community at the Church of St. John and Paul in Rome. For fifty years St. Paul remained the indefatigable missionary of Italy. God lavished upon him the greatest gifts in the supernatural order, but he treated himself with the greatest rigor, and believed that he was a useless servant and a great sinner. His saintly death occurred at Rome in the year 1775, at the age of eighty-one. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867. His feast day is October 20
In 1611, Jesuit missionaries first set foot on our continent. Within forty years eight of them, (whose feast day is October 19th) gave up their lives near the Georgian Bay and in upstate New York. This quadricentennial of the Jesuit mission gives us cause to look to our spiritual roots.
Much like the setting sun, we often see the full beauty of the Saints as their mortal light exits this world. This is especially true of martyrs. The following is a brief summary of a few of the deaths of these Jesuits, which sums up the heroism with which they lived.
When St. Isaac Jogues was received into the Jesuits his superior asked what he desired. His response: “Ethiopia and Martyrdom.” “Not so.” was the reply. “You will receive Canada and martyrdom.”
After years of ministry among the Huron, St. Isaac Jogues was captured and tortured by the Mohawk Indians. On the verge of execution, he escaped and was smuggled back to France by the Dutch. He quickly rose to “stardom.” Everyone regarded him as a living Saint and national hero. The Queen of France even stooped to kiss his mangled hands, fingers missing, having being cut or gnawed off by his torturers. St. Isaac could have retired in the safety of France but returned to his mission as soon as he was able. He was killed by a Mohawk brave with a tomahawk.
St. Charles Garnier was ministering to his Huron village when it was attacked. He ran from one burning cabin to another, baptizing and comforting his people when he was shot in the upper chest and lower abdomen. After regaining consciousness he saw a wounded Huron writhing across the room. He pulled himself up and struggled toward the dying man to help him. An Iroquois brave noticed and killed him with his hatchet. He died with hand outstretched, reaching to minister to the wounded.
St. Rene Goupil was a layman who worked side by side with the Jesuits. When St. Isaac Jogues was captured there was a time when St. Rene could have easily escaped but chose to stay with his friend. He endured weeks of disfiguring tortures, during which he comforted and converted fellow captives who were suffering a similar fate. He was tomahawked while walking side by side with Jogues for teaching a child how to make the sign of the cross. He fell to the ground saying the name of Jesus.
St. Anthony Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass with his Huron friends at sunrise when the war cries of the Iroquois rang out through his village. He went to those who had been butchered to comfort and baptize them in their last moments. When the Iroquois were headed toward his church to burn it down he sprinted toward them and commanded them to stop. They did for a moment, stunned by this unarmed man’s courage. Then they brought him down with muskets and arrows.
St. John de Brebeuf was a huge man with amazing courage. Though he lived under constant threat of death, a fellow missionary wrote, “Nothing could upset him during the twelve years I’ve known him.”
He was the first missionary to enter Huronia. In time he became like one of them. He wrote instructions to those who wanted to join his mission starting with, “You must love these Huron, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers.”
Though he could have escaped, he chose to die with them when Iroquois raided their village. The younger St. Gabriel Lalemont, who had looked up to St. John, remained and died with him as well. Together they underwent some of the most gruesome tortures of any martyr in history for endless hours. Through it all they comforted their fellow captives. John reminded them, “The sufferings will end with your lives. The grandeur which follows will never have an end.”
Seven years after their deaths, the daughter of an Iroquois chief was born in the very tribe that killed them. She is known today as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified, proving true the words spoken by Tertullian 1,400 years before these martyrs entered paradise, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church!”
These men set out into nations where a violent, gruesome death was constantly before them. We set out into an increasingly anti-religious culture where we might lose a few friends for standing up for the truth, or at worst, get mocked or sued, but probably not tomahawked. They set out on canoes into uncharted waters filled with tribes who were hunting them down. We set out in our cars to work or the supermarket to bump shoulders with a world that needs to be reminded of God through our words and our charity.
If only we had a little of the courage of our founding fathers in faith.
“I know when you pray for me, and it is the same with all of the other souls here in Purgatory. Very few of us here get any prayers; the majority of us are totally abandoned, with no thought or prayers offered for us from those on earth” (Message from a soul in Purgatory)
In May, 1922, Padre Pio testified the following to the Bishop of Melfi, His Excellency Alberto Costa and also the superior of the friary, Padre Lorenzo of San Marco along with 5 other friars. One of the five friars, Fra Alberto D’ Apolito of San Giovanni Rotondo wrote down the account as follows:
“While in the friary on a winter afternoon after a heavy snowfall, he was sitting by the fireplace one evening in the guest room, absorbed in prayer, when an old man, wearing an old-fashioned cloak still worn by southern Italian peasants at the time, sat down beside him. Concerning this man Pio states: ‘I could not imagine how he could have entered the friary at this time of night since all the doors are locked. I questioned him: ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
The old man told him, “Padre Pio, I am Pietro Di Mauro, son of Nicola, nicknamed Precoco.” He went on to say, “I died in this friary on the 18th of September, 1908, in cell number 4, when it was still a poorhouse. One night, while in bed, I fell asleep with a lighted cigar, which ignited the mattress and I died, suffocated and burned. I am still in Purgatory. I need a holy Mass in order to be freed. God permitted that I come and ask you for help.”
According to Padre Pio: “After listening to him, I replied, ‘Rest assured that tomorrow I will celebrate Mass for your liberation.’ I arose and accompanied him to the door of the friary, so that he could leave. I did not realize at that moment that the door was closed and locked: I opened it and bade him farewell The moon lit up the square, covered with snow. When I no longer saw him in front of me, I was taken by a sense of fear, and I closed the door, reentered the guest room, and felt faint.”
A few days later, Padre Pio also told the story to Padre Paolino, and the two decided to go to the town hall, where they looked at the vital statistics for the year I908 and found that on September 18 of that year, one Pietro Di Mauro had in fact died of burns and asphyxiation in Room Number 4 at the friary, then used as a home for the homeless.
Around the same time, Padre Pio told Fra Alberto of another apparition of a soul from Purgatory which also occurred around the same time. He said:
One evening, when I was absorbed in prayer in the choir of the little church I was shaken and disturbed by the sound of footsteps, and candles and flower vases being moved on the main altar. Thinking that someone must be there, I called out, “Who is it?”
No one answered. Returning to prayer, I was again disturbed by the same noises. In fact, this time I had the impression that one of the candles, which was in front of the statue of Our Lady of Grace, had fallen. Wanting to see what was happening on the altar, I stood up, went close to the grate and saw, in the shadow of the light of the Tabernacle lamp, a young confrere doing some cleaning. I yelled out, “What are you doing in the dark?” The little friar answered, “I am cleaning.”
“You clean in the dark?” I asked. “Who are you?”
The little friar said, ‘I am a Capuchin novice, who spends his time of Purgatory here. I am in need of prayers.’ and then he disappeared,”
Padre Pio stated that he immediately began praying for him as requested, and it is not known if he had any further dealings with this particular soul. However, in regards souls in Purgatory it is very interesting to note that later in life Padre Pio once said that ‘As many souls of the dead come up this road [to the monastery] as that of the souls of the living.” Without a doubt, many souls from Purgatory visited Padre Pio seeking his prayers, sacrifices and sufferings to obtain their release.
Luke was an Evangelist, the writer of the third Gospel. He never met Christ in person, but in his Gospel he says that he came to know about Jesus by talking to eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection. Hearing those stories helped Luke to become a believer, and he wrote his Gospel so that others would come to know and love Jesus.
Luke was a doctor and he traveled with St. Paul on his second missionary journey. In fact, Paul calls Luke his “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Because he cared for the bodily needs of others, Luke is the patron saint of doctors. He is also the patron saint of artists because it is believed that he painted a famous portrait of Mary, our Blessed Mother.
In his Gospel, Luke helps us to know how concerned Jesus was for the sick, the poor, and anyone in need of help, mercy and forgiveness. Luke tells us that Jesus came to save all people. Through Luke’s Gospel, we learn how compassionate and caring Jesus was. Some of the most famous stories Jesus told are found in Luke’s Gospel: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) and the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-42).
The symbol for Luke’s Gospel is an ox, an animal that was often sacrificed as an offering to God in ancient times. In his writings about Jesus, Luke reminds us of the great sacrifice Jesus made to save all people through his death on the cross and his Resurrection.
Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Apostles, especially St. Paul, and how the Church grew in the world. He was the one person who was said to have remained with St. Paul during his imprisonment and until his death.
Using Sacramentals As Weapons In Spiritual Warfare
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Sacramentals as Sacred signs that bear a resemblance to the sacraments.They signify effects especially of a spiritual kind,that are obtained through the Church’s intercession.Through Sacramentals,we are disposed to receive the primary effects of the sacraments,and they make holy various ocassions in life.(CCC 1667)
Sacramentals include certain actions,such as the sign of the cross and other blessings,as well as objects that have been blessed,such as holy water,salt,candles,incense,rosaries,crucifixes,Scapulars,and religious images.Sacramentals don’t confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way the sacraments do,but through the prayers of the church associated with them,their actions and objects prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.
The Sign of the Cross.St.Athanasius wrote that before the coming of Christ,demonic powers used to deceive the pagans into worshipping them and obeying their oracles.But now he observed in the 4th century,”since the divine appearance of the Word(Christ)all this deception has come to an end.For by the Sign of the Cross,if a man will only use it,their deceptions are driven out.
In one of his sermons,St.John Vianney preached:”The sign of the cross is the most terrible weapon of the devil.For this reason the church displays images of the cross so that we can have it continually in front of our minds to recall to us just what our souls are worth and what they cost Jesus Christ.For the same reason the church wants us to make the Sign of the Cross ourselves at every juncture of our day:when we go to bed,when we awaken during the night,when we get up,when we begin any action,and above all when we are tempted.Fill your children,my dear brethren,with the greatest respect for the Cross,and always have a blessed cross on yourselves.Resoect for the Cross will protect you against the Devil,from the vengeance of heaven,and from all danger”.
Blessings and blessed objects.Both the blessings that are given by the clergy and the blessings spoken by lay people as part of their daily lives(such as table grace)are important Sacramentals.They can sanctify our thoughts,our actions,and our surroundings in a way that repels the enemy.We see their power most clearly when used to remedy the demonic infestation of a building or object through a priestly blessing with holy water.
Throughout the centuries,the testimony of many Christians,including a number of saints,confirms that objects Blessed by a priest,through the power of the Church’s intercession,can repel demonic powers.Again and again evil spirits have recoiled in dread,not just from the Sign of the Cross,but also from holy water and Blessed oil,crosses,crucifixes,medals,candles,or salt.
These can be used by priests in exorcisms as well as by lay Christians in everyday life.So the faithful sometimes keep such Sacramentals in their homes.The home itself (as well as other buildings) can be blessed by a priest as well.
St.Benedict medals in particular are known as “devil chasing medals”,in part because St.Benedict was known to be a champion in spiritual warfare.These medals typically have on their reverse side the initial letters of the Latin words in an ancient prayer against the evil one which begins,Vade retro satana:”Get back,Satan!”This command is similar to Jesus’ exclamation “Get behind me,Satan”(Matthew 16:23).The rest of the prayer says,”Never tempt me with your vanities!What you offer me is evil.Drink the poison yourself!”
Blessed objects may also be worn or carried,especially rosaries,Scapulars,crucifixes,and medals.Given Our Lady’s Power against the devil,we should be regularly praying the Rosary as well,not just carrying it around!
~Excerpts from “Manual of Spiritual Warfare”
“If you cry, I won’t come to your house any more” -The miraculous cure of Paolo Nigro.
Paolo Nigro received a degree in Humanities in 1936 and took a second degree in Philosophy in 1940. He considered himself an atheist and his Philosophy thesis was a denial of the existence of God. He later taught in high school, all the while maintaining his ideas. His wife however was strong in her faith. Because she was an orphan, she had been brought up and educated in a convent run by Carmelite nuns and she had stayed there until she was twenty-two. Together they made their home in Taranto.
When Paolo was still very full of intellectual vigour and feeling quite fit, he was suddenly struck by an grave illness. He had a dry pleurisy and in the spring of 1950 it was bringing him close to death; the doctors in fact had eventually declared they could do nothing more for him.
One Saturday evening in April at 10pm two men knocked at the door of his house; they introduced themselves: Otello Risaliti was a warrant officer in the Navy and the other was a man named Carlo Lusardi. Since Paolo’s wife Maria did not know them, she of course did not want to let them in the house, for she was alone with her two children and her seriously ill husband. At this time, he was gravely ill and had had a very high temperature of 105°F for two weeks. At times he was delirious, and seemed at death’s door.
The two men insisted saying: “Padre Pio has sent us and we have to say the rosary for the man here who is seriously ill”.
The poor woman had never even heard of Padre Pio and therefore she was unsure what to do. She told the men to wait at the door and went and had a word with her sick husband, who having heard that the men spoke of saying the rosary, he gave his permission, and so finally she let them in.
Here it must be said that a few years before, in 1946, Prof. Nigro had slightly changed his opinion as an atheist. He had surprised everyone when he had requested to meet the Archbishop of Taranto, Mons Bernardi, to whom Prof Nigro related a story of how he had had a kind of vision in which he saw Our Lady’s profile. After this vision he started to go to Mass, even though he didn’t go regularly. We can surmise that this was the reason he let two strangers, who wanted to pray the rosary for him to the Blessed Virgin, to come into his house.
Santina, Paolo’s daughter, who was a child at the time tells us what happened next:
“I can see it as if it were yesterday. The two men, Risaliti in his white uniform and Lusardi, both kneeling and together devoutly saying the rosary. However as they were praying, dad was restless and said to mum: “Maria, send that hooded friar at the foot of the bed away”. Mum said nothing; she imagined that vision was due to his high temperature”.
Before leaving after finishing the rosary, the Padre’s spiritual sons discreetly begged Maria to accept some money: “It is sent by Padre Pio. You will need it next week to pay for your husband’s journey from here to San Giovanni Rotondo. The Padre wishes to see him. And the remainder is for the medicines”.
About this particular point Santina explains: “It was as if Padre Pio knew we had spent nearly all our money to buy penicillin which was very expensive at the time”.
The following Monday, the sick man was much better. His temperature had gone down to normal and the doctors were amazed. His health had improved so much that on Thursday, three days later, at 9.00 in the morning, Risaliti and Lusardi came to collect him and take him by taxi to the Taranto train station, as he ardently desired to meet Padre Pio. In the evening they arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo and the three men together took lodgings in a little white house on the right, going up the road leading to the friary.
The next day, Friday, they took him to the sacristy where Padre Pio was confessing the men. At the end of the confessions, P. Pio came out from the curtain, which hid him from view of onlookers.
“My Dad” said Santina, “immediately recognized in him as the friar who the previous Saturday he had seen at the foot of the bed while the rosary was being said. My dad immediately went up to him and threw himself on his knees, crying. The Padre helped him up holding his wrists and said in our dialect: “If you cry, I won’t come to your house any more”.
The next day dad confessed to the Saint, who put him back in God’s grace and accepted him as a spiritual son. He immediately became a different person. He went to Mass every day and received Holy Communion.
The Padre continued to be near him in those first steps into a new life. He came [spiritually, through bilocation] to visit him at home. During his convalescence dad sometimes said to me: “Santina, Padre Pio is putting his hand on your head”.
Afterwards I had often seen him crying because of his past sins. He tried to make up for it by leading people to God and also to Padre Pio.”
(Testimony of Santina Nigro, San Giovanni Rotondo, May 10, 2005)
The second Bishop of Antioch, Syria, this disciple of the beloved Disciple John was consecrated Bishop around the year 69 by the Apostle Peter, the first Pope. A holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend “orthodoxy” (right teaching) and “orthopraxy” (right practice) among the early Christians.
In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, this holy Bishop was wrongfully sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be brutally devoured by wild beasts in a public spectacle. During his journey, his travels took him through Asia Minor and Greece. He made good use of the time by writing seven letters of encouragement, instruction and inspiration to the Christians in those communities. We still have these letters as a great treasure of the Church today.
The content of the letters addressed the hierarchy and structure of the Church as well as the content of the orthodox Christian faith. It was Bishop Ignatius who first used the term “catholic” to describe the whole Church. These letters connect us to the early Church and the unbroken, clear teaching of the Apostles which was given to them directly by Jesus Christ. They also reveal the holiness of a man of God who became himself a living letter of Christ. The shedding his blood in the witness of holy martyrdom was the culmination of a life lived conformed to Jesus Christ. Ignatius sought to offer himself, in Christ, for the sake of the Church which he loved. His holy martyrdom occurred in the year 107.
In his pastoral letters he regularly thanked his brother and sister Christians for their concern for his well being but insisted on following through in his final witness of fidelity: “I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becomŹing his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.”
Bishop Ignatius was not afraid of death. He knew that it had been defeated by the Master. He followed the Lord Jesus into his Passion, knowing that he would rise with Him in his Resurrection. He wrote to the disciples in Rome: “Permit me to imitate my suffering God … I am God’s wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” The beauty of this Eucharistic symbolism in these words reflects the deep theology of a mystic. He was dedicated to defending the true teaching handed down by the Apostles so that the brothers and sisters in the early Christian communities, and we who stand on their shoulders, would never be led astray by false teaching. He urged them to always listen to their Bishops because they were the successors of the Apostles. He died a Martyrs death in Rome, devoured by two lions in one of the cruel demonstrations of Roman excess and animosity toward the true faith. Anticipating this event he wrote these inspired words:
A letter to the Romans by St Ignatius of Antioch
“I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.
The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still – my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.
I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”