26 July: Feast Day of Saints Anne and Joachim

26 July: Feast Day of Saints Anne and Joachim. Saints Anne and Joachim are honored by the church as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. Not much is known about these special grandparents; what we do know about them comes through tradition. We believe that they were respected members of the Jewish community, and that they wanted to become parents so much that Joachim went into the desert to fast and pray for this intention. An angel told them they would soon have a daughter who would become famous throughout the world. Months later, Mary was born. When she was three years old, Anne and Joachim took her to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her for service to the Lord. This is celebrated in the church as the “Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” We know little else about the lives of Mary’s parents, but considering the person of Mary, they must have been two very remarkable people to have been given such a daughter and to have played so important a part in the work of the Redemption. Thus, we honor Mary’s parents as saints who brought Mary up to be the most worthy Mother of God. It was Anne and Joachim who taught Mary to have faith in God and who showed Mary the example of godly parenting. Anne and Joachim’s love for one another and for Mary is an example of how God calls us to live. Today, the church honors the grandparents of Jesus. This is the perfect reminder for us to honor our own parents and grandparents and to thank them for the blessings they have passed down to us. Saint Anne is the patron of childless couples, mothers, grandmothers, grandparents, homemakers, pregnancy, women in labor, and others. Saint Joachim is the patron saint of fathers, grandfathers, and grandparents.

2021 World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – Papal Decree on the Granting of Indulgence:
The Apostolic Penitentiary, in order to increase the devotion of the faithful and for the salvation of souls, by virtue of the faculties attributed to it by the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis by Divine Providence on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, recently instituted by the Supreme Pontiff on the fourth Sunday of the month of July, graciously grants the Plenary Indulgence, under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside over in the Vatican Papal Basilica or at the various functions that will be held throughout the world, who may also apply it as suffrage for the souls in Purgatory. This Court of Mercy also grants the Plenary Indulgence on this same day to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases). See the full Decree here

Ideas for celebrating this feast day:

  • If possible, invite grandparents over for dinner. Or, drop off a meal or give them a phone call.
  • Send a card in the mail thanking all the grandparents in your life.
  • Check in on an elderly neighbor or friend and see if they are in need of any help: pick up groceries, drop off a meal, fix something in their home, lend a listening ear, etc.
  • Most importantly, to pray for the grandparents in your life and those who have no one to pray for them. Don’t forget to pray for the souls of the parents and grandparents who have gone before us.
  • Saints Joachim and Anne coloring page available here.
  • At POP: on Sunday 25 July at all Masses (including the Saturday Vigil), grandparents will receive a special blessing. Kids can color a special card after the 10a Sunday Mass to give to grandparents!

(Sources: The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens; CatholicCulture.org)

23 July: Feast of Saint Bridget

23 July: Feast of Saint Bridget. Bridget was born in Sweden of noble and pious parents, and led a holy life. At ten years old, she heard a sermon on the Passion of our Lord. The next night, she saw Jesus on the cross, covered with blood, and speaking to her about his Passion. From then on, meditation on Our Lord’s Passion affected her so deeply that she could never think of it without tears. She was given in marriage to Ulfo the prince of Nericia; and won him, by example and persuasion, to a life of piety. She lived happily with him for 28 years, bearing him eight children. St. Catherine of Sweden was their daughter. Bridget was very devoted to the education of her children. She was also zealous in serving the poor, especially the sick; and set apart a house for their reception, where she would often wash and kiss their feet. Together with her husband, she went on pilgrimage to Compostella, to visit the tomb of the apostle St. James. On their return journey, Ulfo fell dangerously ill. Saint Dionysius appeared to Bridget at night and foretold the restoration of her husband’s health, along with other future events. Ulfo did recover and became a Cistercian monk. He died not long after becoming a monk. After her husband’s death, Bridget founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior, erecting at Vadstena a double monastery for monks and nuns. Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she later went to Rome, where she worked for the return of the Popes from Avignon. Bridget would hear the voice of Christ calling to her in her dreams. She was a mystic, embracing an austere manner of life. Many secrets were revealed to her by God. St. Bridget is most known for the Revelations given to her concerning the sufferings of our Redeemer. After Bridget had kindled the love of God in many hearts in the city of Rome, she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On her return trip, she was attacked by fever, and suffered severe sickness for an entire year. On a day she had foretold, she then passed into eternal life. Her body was taken to her monastery of Vadstena. Bridget quickly became renowned for miracles, and was named a saint by Boniface IX. The order she founded, named the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena, received confirmation by Pope Urban V in 1370, and survives today. The new branch of the order was re-founded by Blessed Elisabeth Hesselblad and has grown substantially around the world. Bridget is the patron saint of Europe, Sweden, and widows.

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

(Sources: CatholicCulture.org; The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.)

16 July: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

16 July: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This liturgical feast was likely first celebrated in England in the 14th century to give thanksgiving to Mary, the patroness of the Carmelite Order. The Order was founded at the site thought to have been the location of Elijah’s cave, 1,700 feet above sea level on Mount Carmel. (The mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on which the prophet Elijah famously challenged the priests of Baal and won the people over to the true God.) According to Carmelite tradition, hermits lived at the site from the time of Elijah until the Carmelites. They think that from the time when Elijah and Elisha dwelt on Mount Carmel, priests and prophets, Jewish and Christian, lived holy lives at the adjacent fountain of Elisha. A Carmelite monastery was founded at the site shortly after the Order itself was created, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title “Star of the Sea” (“stella maris” in Latin). The Carmelite Order has grown to be one of the major Catholic religious orders worldwide, although the physical monastery at Carmel has had a difficult history. During the Crusades, the monastery often changed hands (it was converted into an Islamic mosque, a hospital, and then in 1821 was destroyed). A new monastery was constructed on Mount Carmel over a cave. The cave, now the crypt of the church, is called “Elijah’s grotto” by the Carmelite friars who have custody of the monastery. One of the oldest scapulars is also associated with Mount Carmel and the Carmelites. The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, according to Carmelite tradition, was presented by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock (the Carmelite Father General) on July 16, 1251. Our Lady gave Saint Simon the following promise, saying: “Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire… It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.” The Carmelites refer to her by the title “Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” The spread of the Carmelites in Europe is also largely attributed to the work of St. Simon Stock. The Carmelite Order was formally approved in 1274 at the Council of Lyon. The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel entered the Church calendar in the 18th century. However, since the 15th century, devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Brown Scapular, a sacramental associated with promises of Mary’s special aid for the salvation of the devoted wearer. {Note: wearing the Scapular demonstrates a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model disciple of Christ. It is an expression of the belief that the bearers of the scapular will reach heaven, aided by Mary’s intercession. The Carmelites insist that it is not a magical charm, an automatic guarantee of salvation, or an excuse for not living the Christian life. It is instead a sacramental approved by the Church for centuries which demonstrates a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, and to live a life of prayer and faithfulness to God.}

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

(sources: saintsfeastfamily.com; catholicculture.org; franciscanmedia.org; catholicnewsagency.com; traditionalcarmelite.com)

6 July: Feast of Saint Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr

6 July: Feast of Saint Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr. Maria was born in 1890, one of six children from an impoverished farming family in Italy. In exchange for farm work, the Goretti’s lived in the owner’s abandoned factory. They shared it with another poor family, the Serenelli’s (Giovanni and his son, Alessandro). The farmland they worked was swampy, mosquito infested, and difficult to work. Maria’s father contracted malaria and died when she was nine. Maria’s mother, Assunta, had to take her husband’s place in the fields. This left Maria to take her mother’s place. Maria cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and cared for younger siblings. Maria never complained, she was an extremely pious child. In contrast, Alessandro was a rough youth, given to drinking, swearing, and callous behavior. He had impure thoughts toward Maria and would speak to her crudely.  Maria, in her great love for God, abhorred his behavior. One day, Alessandro attacked Maria. She resisted his sinful behavior saying, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Alexander stabbed her fourteen times. At the hospital, doctors tried to save Maria’s life. She experienced horrific suffering, undergoing surgery without anesthesia. Halfway through the surgery, the doctor said, “Maria, think of me in Paradise.” Maria looked up and said, “Well, who knows which of us is going to be there first?” She did not realize how terrible her situation was, and the surgeon replied, “You, Maria.” She said, “Then I will think gladly of you.” Despite valiant effort, doctors couldn’t control Maria’s bleeding or infection. After twenty excruciating hours of suffering, Maria died at the age of 11. In her last moments the priest asked Maria to forgive her attacker. Her last words were “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli …and I want him with me in heaven forever.” Alessandro was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison. While in prison, Maria appeared to Alessandro and forgave him. That act of mercy filled Alessandro with utter contrition for his crime. From that point on, he lived a life of holiness. After his release, he sought out the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. Assunta told him, “If Maria forgives you, and God forgives you, how can I not also forgive you?” The two went together to Mass and received Holy Communion side by side. Assunta then adopted Alessandro as her own son. ­­­­He eventually joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a lay brother. On April 27, 1947, Maria was beatified; she was canonized on June 24, 1950 by Pope Pius XII. Alessandro Serenelli was in attendance at that historic ceremony, where the young girl he murdered was declared a saint. Maria’s canonization was also attended by Assunta, the first time in history that a mother was present to witness the canonization of her own child. Also present were Assunta’s four remaining children. The crowd that attended Maria’s canonization, estimated at 500,000, was the largest ever up to that point in the Church’s history. There were so many people that it was held outdoors in St. Peter’s Square, because the massive basilica was too small to hold all the faithful in attendance. St. Maria Goretti is known as the Little Saint of Great Mercy.

“The life of this simple girl—we can see as worthy of heaven…Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed and untarnished.” – Pope Pius XII at the canonization of St. Maria Goretti

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Visit MariaGoretti.com or read St. Maria Goretti: In Garments All Red for more on this beautiful saint.
  • St. Maria is a virtuous role model and her feast day is a wonderful launching point to teach children about the virtues of purity, modesty and forgiveness.
  • Watch this Vatican film about Maria. More are on the FORMED website (adult supervision recommended).
  • Feast day meal should be Italian in St. Maria’s honor. Idea: Lasagna with breadsticks and salad. For dessert, bake some “Flames of Forgiveness Cupcakes” (instructions here).

(sources: catholicculture.org; showerofrosesblog.com; catholiccompany.com; mariagoretti.com)

26 June: Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

26 June: Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. St. Josemaria Escriva was born in Barbastro, Spain, in 1902. Of his five siblings, the three youngest died young. His parents, José and Dolores, raised their children to be devout Catholics. His mother taught Josemaria many prayers he would recite his entire life. In 1915, his father’s business failed and they had to move to find work. The family struggled to get by. It was as a teenager that Josemaria first sensed his vocation. Moved by the sight of footprints left in the snow by a barefoot friar, he felt God was asking something of him. He thought becoming a priest would help him discover this calling from God. He prayed fervently, “Lord, let me see what you want.” Josemaria’s father died in 1924, leaving him as head of the family. He was then ordained in 1925 and began his ministry in a rural parish. In 1927, Fr. Josemaria’s bishop gave him permission to move to Madrid to obtain his doctorate in law. In 1928, during a spiritual retreat, Fr. Josemaria saw what it was that God was asking of him: to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and through a Christian’s ordinary duties. The name “Opus Dei” is Latin for “Work of God”. (Opus Dei’s mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness in ordinary life; the idea that every honest work can be sanctified.) From then on, Josemaria worked to spread the ministry of Opus Dei, while also continuing his priestly ministry. He was also studying at the University of Madrid and teaching classes in order to support his family. When war broke out in Madrid, religious persecution forced Fr. Josemaria to exercise his priestly ministry secretly. Eventually, he was able to leave via a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, and took up residence in Burgos. In 1939, he returned to Madrid and finally obtained his doctorate in law. In the years that followed he gave retreats to laity, priests, and religious, and continued working to develop Opus Dei. In 1946 Fr. Josemaria moved to Rome and obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University. He was appointed by Pope Pius XII as a consultor to two Vatican Congregations, as an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, and as an honorary prelate. He traveled frequently, working to grow Opus Dei. In 1974 and 1975, he traveled through Latin America, speaking to people about their Christian vocation to holiness. Msgr. Escriva died suddenly of a heart attack on June 26, 1975. By the time of his death, Opus Dei was in dozens of countries and had touched countless lives. After his death, thousands of people (including more than a third of the world’s bishops), sent letters to Rome asking the Pope to open his cause of beatification and canonization. Pope St. John Paul II beatified Msgr. Escriva on May 17, 1992, in St. Peter’s Square. The ceremony was attended by 300,000 people. “With supernatural intuition,” said the Pope in his homily, “Blessed Josemaria untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate.” Ten years later, on October 6, 2002, John Paul II canonized the founder of Opus Dei in St. Peter’s Square before a multitude of people from more than 80 countries, saying, “St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary.”

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Read a longer biography of St. Josemaria here.
  • Read Pope St. JP II’s Apostolic Brief on Josemaria Escriva here.
  • Visit this site to find St. Josemaria Escriva’s writings.
  • See a video about St. Josemaria Escriva here.
  • Visit Opus Dei‘s official US website.
  • For a feast day meal, make something Spanish. Often involving rice, Spanish dishes are hearty and satisfying, making them ideal for sharing. Invite family or friends over for a Spanish feast in honor of St. Josemaria! Ideas: Spanish rice, paella, gazpacho soup, Arroz con pollo, Spanish flan, sangria.

(sources: catholicculture.org; opusdei.org)

19 June: Feast of Saint Romuald

19 June: Feast of Saint Romuald. St. Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, to a noble family. No one could have imagined that a descendent of the Dukes of Onesti would have left his stately home for the most absolute austerity, entering history as a great reformer of the Benedictine Order and as Founder of the Congregation of Monk Hermits of Camaldolese, an Order that has given the Church two great Pontiffs, Pius VII and Gregory XVI, as well as a whole array of blesseds and saints. Yet from his youth, Romuald had been attracted to the consecrated life. He sought silence and sacrifice. A turning point in Romuald’s life was when his father killed a relative in a duel at which Romuald was forced to be present. He then fled to the monastery of St. Apollinaris and did penance and fasting for forty days, assuming responsibility for the sins of his father and begging for forgiveness. He prayed and wept almost without ceasing. So was the purity of his heart, and sincerity of repentance, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his faith deepened. He eventually became a monk at the Abby, later becoming Abbot. Romuald went on to found several monasteries throughout Italy, but he longed for an even more austere life than that of the Benedictines. He founded an order of hermits known as the Camaldolese monks (an Italian branch of the Benedictine Order). Romuald’s was one of the strictest orders for men in the West. Members lived isolated in small huts, observing strict silence and perpetual fasting, constantly praying or doing manual labor. The Life of St Romuald notes that the saint was totally enraptured by silence and solitude with God: “Contemplation of God enraptured him so forcefully that, almost blinded by tears and burning with an indescribable fire of love for God, he would cry out, `Dear Jesus, peace of my heart, ineffable desire, sweetness and gentleness of the angels and saints…’” St. Romuald brought many sinners, particularly those of rank and power, back to God. He died in 1027, having lived a life of prayer and rigorous penance. He had never used a bed and had found countless ways to practice severe penances, such as wearing a shirt of hair and eating only gruel. 15 years later, his pupil, St. Peter Damian, wrote in his biography: “His greatness lies in the rigorous and austere character of his interpretation of monastic life-an approach that was quite singular and unique. In the deepest recesses of his being, Romuald was an ascetic, a monk …He reminds us of the stolid figures inhabiting the Eastern deserts, men who by most rigorous mortification and severest self-inflicted penances gave a wanton world a living example of recollection and contemplation. Their very lives constituted the most powerful sermon.” Saint Romuald’s body was buried at the monastery in Paranzo. Three decades later, his incorrupt body was transferred to Fabriano in 1481. Many miracles have been reported at his tomb in the Cathedral of Fabriano. The Order he founded continues to operate today, with five congregations. The most austere of those, the hermits, continue to live like St. Romuald—strict adherence to silence and prayer for the reparation of the sins of mankind.

“Destroy yourself and live only in God.” – Saint Romuald

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • In honor of the place (Tuscany) where St. Romuald founded an order of hermits, make a Tuscan White Bean & Garlic Soup for dinner tonight (recipe here). Perhaps give up dessert as a small penance, in honor of this saint who is known for living a life full of penance.
  • Read more about St. Romuald here.
  • Spend some time reading the Psalms in silence like St. Romuald. When we pray, St. Romuald said that our bodies, hearts, souls, and minds should be focused solely on God: “Better to pray one psalm with devotion and compunction than a hundred with distraction.”
  • Write or print out your favorite passage from Psalms. Tape it on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or someplace you’ll see it every day to ponder and meditate upon.

(sources: catholicculture.org; excerpts from The Church’s Year of Grace by Pius Parsch)