November 29 - Blessed Frederick of Regensburg

Blessed Frederick of Regensburg

Blessed Frederick of Regensburg

Religious

The final commemoration of the Augustinian calendar is reserved to a German lay brother, Blessed Frederick, whose secret to holiness and whose message to us, is one of humble service and generous offering of self for the well being of others. His life of prayer and devotion to the Eucharist were the food that nourished his spirit and strengthened his daily resolve to live for God and to practice love for his brothers - which is the heart of the Gospel.

Frederick was born in Regensburg (Ratisbon), Germany, and joined the Order there in the Monastery of Saint Nicholas. His life as an Augustinian was marked by humility and generosity, dedication to prayer and great devotion to the Eucharist. His talents served the community principally as carpenter and woodcutter, activities in which he demonstrated his concern for his fellow religious and the needs of the monastery. Frederick died on November 29, 1329 in Regensburg where devotion to him continued without interruption, and the testimony of miracles attributed to his intercession, were gathered. Frederick is buried at St. Cecelia Church in the city of Regensburg. Pius X beatified him on May 12, 1909. 

History has not left us a great deal of factual information about Blessed Frederick. Perhaps this is an indication of the ‘ordinariness’ of this servant of God, who spent his religious life in fidelity to the daily cycle of prayer and work which characterize so many religious of his day and ours. Frederick reminds us that loyal devotion to one’s state in life, lived in faith, charity, and generosity, is the material of which holiness consists.    

November 13 - All Saints of the Order

All Saints of the Order

All Saints of the Order

As the Church Universal devotes a day of celebration for the countless men, women and children whose pilgrimage on earth has ended and who now enjoy the peace of the everlasting sabbath in heaven, so too, we Augustinians set aside this day to call to mind the many brothers and sisters of our Order who have reached their ultimate goal. Their memory encourages and inspires us, their prayers assist us and spur us on. United as we have been with them through the bond of our common religious profession, we seek to be united together with them in Christ in the fullness of life.

November 13, 354, is the birth date of Saint Augustine, chosen by the Order as the occasion on which to commemorate, in addition to all the saints and blesseds of the three Augustinian Families recognized by the Church, all our members, of every language, race and nation whose names are inscribed in the Book of Life. In recent years this day has also been observed as a day of prayer for vocations to the Order. 

"Among the religious Orders, the holy Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, within the Church, has been and continues to be abundantly fruitful with seeds of virtue, flowering of observance, blossoms of wisdom and fruits of sanctity in its religious, through the grace of God... There are many who perform no miracles, but they are in no way inferior to others who do so..." (Jordan of Saxony).  

November 8 - Blessed Avelino Rodríguez and Companions

Spanish Martrys - Blessed Avelino and Companions

Spanish Martrys - Blessed Avelino and Companions

Priest and Martyr

Today we honor the memory of a group of 98 Augustinians of Spain, who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. As is the case with all Christian martyrs, their death proclaims the strong conviction that eternal life is our ultimate goal, the price of which may even be our life on earth. This vision, as well as the courage and love that marks the lives of martyrs, is an encouragement and stimulus for us who continue to make our pilgrimage amid the challenges and difficulties of life.

This group of 98 Augustinian martyrs represents friars from several communities of the Order in Spain who were the victims of religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War which lasted from 1936 to 1939. These 98 brothers of ours, together with 400 other martyrs of the war, were beatified in Saint Peter's Square by the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, on October 28, 2007. The Augustinians declared blessed include 65 friars from the monastery of El Escorial together with the provincial, Avelino Rodríguez, and the Assistant General, Mariano Revilla, another 10 from the college-seminary of Uclés, 3 from Gijón, 6 from the school of Santander, 10 from the convent of Caudete, 4 from the community of Málaga. Among them were students in formation, pastors, lay brothers, professors, elderly and young religious. 

These 98 friars are among the first of the approximately 200 friars from the four Spanish provinces who died during the years of the civil war. Most were assassinated. Prior General Miguel Angel Orcasitas wrote in his letter on the occasion of the beatification of one of the martyrs, “It is still too soon to give a definitive historical judgment regarding the Spanish civil war, which created a stifling climate of struggle, reprisal and irreconcilable hatred. But there is no doubt about the existence of an authentic religious persecution, which fell upon the Church with unusual violence...the contrasting historical views cannot tarnish the validity of the personal testimony given by these brothers, who suffered persecution for Christ and accepted the consequences, even death itself. Their constancy is an undeniable spiritual inheritance.” (Blessed Anselmo Polanco, Letter....29 March 1995)

November 7 - Blessed Gratia of Kotor

Blessed Gratia of Kotor

Blessed Gratia of Kotor

Religious

We remember today a brother of our Order, Gratia of Kotor, a sailor and laborer who responded to God's call to religious life and devoted his energies and talents to the life of his community. He is like so many other religious and lay men and women, who live their vocation in the simple, often humble, routine of each day, using the gifts given them by God to render him glory and to enrich the lives with which God has surrounded them.

Gratia was born in 1438 in the small town of Mula on the coast of Dalmatia near Cattaro (Kotor), not far from present-day Albania. He followed in the footsteps of his father who was a sailor and visited many port cities, being particularly drawn by the beauty of Venice. One day, after hearing a sermon of Simon of Camerino in the Augustinian church of Saint Stephen in that city, he entered the Order as a brother and took the name Gratia out of gratitude to God for the many gifts he had received. Simon of Camerino had founded a community near Padua where the friars lived in absolute poverty while ministering at a shrine dedicated to our Lady. Here Gratia lived a life of prayer and penance and devoted his energies toward the construction of the monastery and the cultivation of its garden. Later, when Simon established the friary of Saint Christopher in Venice, Gratia was transferred there, where he was greatly loved by the people and sought after by them for his prayer and counsel. Here he died on November 8, 1508. Within the church of Saint Christopher a marble monument was erected to his memory by a senator of the city, while Gratia’s remains were eventually taken back to Mula. Pope Leo XIII confirmed his cult in 1889. 

Gratia might have been considered a belated vocation in his day, earning a living by the hard labor of an itinerant sailor. Following his entrance into religious life he continued to use his natural gifts in the service of God and his community, and by his simple but genuine demeanor drew others to also recognize the grace of God at work in their lives.   

November 6 - Commemoration of Deceased Religious of the Order

Today we Augustinians remember all of our deceased members, just as the Universal Church remembers all of her deceased on November 2. The communion of saints is an article of faith for us. We are united to one another through our common faith and baptism, in the one Lord. We Augustinians are united as well by the common profession we have made, and our highest ideal throughout life has been, in the words of Saint Augustine's Rule, to be of one mind and one heart on the way to God. Neither life nor death can separate us. This is the faith we celebrate in this Eucharist.

The Constitutions of Ratisbon, approved in 1290, prescribe in Chapter VI, "In every community of the Order, there is to be observed each year the anniversary of our deceased friars, on the first day after the octave of the apostles Peter and Paul (that is, July 7)... Every priest on that day is to celebrate Mass for this intention." In 1672 the commemoration was transferred to November 14, the day following the feast of All the Augustinian Saints, and later, following the reform of 1975, to November 6. 

The revised Constitutions of 2007 remind us in no. 101, "As Augustine said, honoring the memory of the dead is a consolation for the living, because we are thereby reminded to live an honorable life and to become a living memorial of he deceased and our faith in the resurrection is strengthened. 'Those who have died in the fellowship of Christ's body and blood should be remembered in prayer during the sacrifice of the Eucharist when they are recalled at the proper place and it is noted that the sacrifice is offered for them' (Serm. 172, 2).

November 5 - Blessed Mariano de la Mata

Blessed Mariano de la Mata

Blessed Mariano de la Mata

Priest

As a “saint of the ordinary,” Father Mariano reminds us that the path to holiness is essentially simple: it consists in living the Gospel message in a spirit of faith, freedom and generosity, loving God and neighbour as Jesus instructed us. Mariano is a modern saint, a saint who lived surrounded by the challenges of our contemporary world, but with the timeless truth and wisdom of the two great commandments.

Mariano was born into a simple Christian family from Barrio de la Puebla de Valdavia (Palencia), Spain, in 1905. Three of his brothers preceded him into the Order of Saint Augustine. He himself studied in Valladolid and La Vid and was ordained in 1930. After two years ministering in Spain, he left for Brazil where he carried out an extensive apostolate in the field of education and especially in the daily care of the poor, the infirm and children. Fr. Mariano may be called ‘a saint of the ordinary.’ He possessed a strong character, but was at the same time a generous and sensitive individual, friendly and approachable with all. He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin, thoroughly committed to his priestly vocation and fervent in his love for the Eucharist. Mariano was diagnosed with cancer in early 1983. He underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor, but the cancer continued to spread. He died April 5, 1983, and was beatified on November 5, 2006 in the Cathedral of Sao Paulo, Brazil by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, who said of the new blessed, “Fr. Mariano was poor with the poor, humble among children and compassionate towards the infirm and the elderly. He was conscientious with his students, the faithful and the association of Workshops of Saint Rita (he founded over 200 such workshops which employ people to make affordable clothing for the poor). He was merciful toward his penitents, pure of heart, and a lover of peace in his Augustinian community and in his family, overcoming difficulties through prayer and sacrifice, constantly having recourse to the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Consolation up until the moment he departed this life.” His body rests beside the altar of his beloved Virgin of Consolation in the Church of Saint Augustine in Sao Paulo. 

One of the friars with whom Mariano had lived for some time was taken back when told that his confrere was to be beatified. He said this was not because there was anything negative about him, "but rather because there were no exceptional, spectacular signs of holiness that drew his attention." Perhaps that says as much about the 'ordinariness' of sanctity as it does the holiness of the other members of the community as well!

October 25 - Saint John Stone

Saint John Stone

Saint John Stone

Priest and Martyr

The Church in every land has known the witness of martyrs. Today it is the turn of England, one of whose sons, John Stone, accepted death rather than compromise his beliefs. A friar like many others of his day, he stands out from the rest, however, for his extraordinary courage and fidelity to his convictions, all for the sake of the Church's unity and freedom. Here is one man, among many men and women, who honored Jesus' command to "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

Almost everything we know about John Stone regards his imprisonment and death. Presumably he joined the Augustinians at Canterbury, England, where the Order was founded in 1318. In December 1538, a former Dominican, Richard Ingsworth, one of Cromwell’s men, appeared in Canterbury. He closed both the Franciscan and the Dominican houses on December 13th, and the following day appeared at Austin Friars. Each friar had to sign an explicit acknowledgement of Henry VIII as head of the English Church. John refused and made a lengthy attack on Henry’s usurpation of the Church's rights. He was taken prisoner, brought to London to Cromwell, but refused to recant. After a year’s detainment, on October 27, 1539, he was sent to be tried and executed at Canterbury. An eyewitness to his imprisonment testified, “John Stone was invested with the crown of martyrdom at Canterbury. But before that, having poured forth prayers in prison to God and having fasted continuously for three days, he heard a voice, though he saw no one, which addressed him by name and bade him to be of good heart and not to hesitate to suffer death with constancy for the belief which he had professed. From which afterwards he gained such eagerness and strength as never to allow himself by persuasion or terror to be drawn from his purpose.” The date of the execution was probably Saturday, December 27, 1539 amid much publicity. The place of execution was a landmark, called the Dungeon, now renamed Dane John, and from the scaffold John could look down on his former friary. He was hung, but not to death. While still conscious his heart was removed; his head and limbs were severed and parboiled. They were placed over the city gates as a warning to other rebels. John was beatified on December 9, 1886 by Leo XIII. He was canonized by Paul VI with 39 other English martyrs on October 25, 1970. 

Though all of us are called to holiness, the paths we take to get there are very different. Many of those proclaimed as saints are noted for their exceptionally virtuous lives. In others, like John, however, many of life’s virtues are hidden and only the heroism of fidelity shines forth, but to such a degree and to such an end, that its validity cannot be misinterpreted. Greater love no one has than to lay down his own life for a Friend!

October 23 - Saint William the Hermit and Blessed John the Good

 

Saint William the Hermit and Blessed John the Good

Saint William the Hermit and Blessed John the Good

Religious

Today the Augustinian Order celebrates the memory of two laymen who chose to live a life of contemplation and penance apart from society, but whose example, nonetheless, attracted many followers. Eventually some of these disciples banded together into communities and became part of the newly emerging Order of Saint Augustine in the 13th Century. Again we see how the decisions, commitment and example of two people can have implications on the lives of many others - this time for the good. None of us, even in the desert, lives for himself alone.

Both of these hermits belong to the period of the Order’s pre-history.

William, who was never personally associated with the Augustinians, and who died, in fact, 100 years before the Grand Union, was born in France. He became a penitent pilgrim to many shrines of Christianity, and eventually became a hermit in the region of Tuscany, in a place called Malavalle (Grosseto), where he spent the remainder of his life in prayer, silence, fasting and penance until his death in 1157. He did not found a religious community, nor did he write a Rule. But in the last months of his life a disciple who cared for him, wrote “The Rule of Saint William,” after the saint’s death. William’s burial site was soon being visited by many pilgrims, some of whom remained in Malavalle to imitate William’s heremitical and penitential life and considered William their holy patron. Innocent III confirmed his cult in 1202. With his canonization, devotion to William continued to spread as did the number of disciples who founded new houses in various places throughout central and northern Italy, as well as in what are now Belgium, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary. In 1244 they became the Order of Saint William. In 1256 this Order was called by the Holy See to become part of the expanding Order of Saint Augustine, though many Williamites withdrew from the Union shortly after.

John was born in Mantua, Italy, about 1168, and at the age of 40, after years of frivolity and a serious illness, vowed to devote his life to God as a hermit in the region of Budrioli. He attracted disciples who gathered together and built a monastery, while John continued to live a very penitential life apart as a hermit, focusing on prayer, fasting and bodily mortification. Those who lived with him – some for 30 years – speak of him as humble, kind and charitable, with a reputation as a miracle worker who attracted many visitors. He was illiterate all his life, the last 10 years of which he spent in even greater contemplation, once he had handed direction of his community over to others. At the beginning of October 1249 he set off with some of his disciples for his native town of Mantua where he died on October 16th. The process for his canonization began shortly after his death, but various obstacles delayed its progress. Pope Sixtus IV authorized his cult in 1483. His remains are now in the cathedral of Mantua. Lanfranco of Settala, who became Prior General at the time of the Grand Union in 1256, was a member of John’s community. 

William and John are reminders to us of the strong foundation of the lay heremitical movement out of which the Order grew in the 13th Century. The desire for contemplation, penance and a certain detachment from society for the sake of the Gospel, provided, and still provides, the context out of which Augustinians are called to be of service to the Church and the world. They are necessary elements fostering a focus on the interior life which Augustine recommends not only to religious but to all Christians.       

October 20 - Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki

 

Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki

Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki

Virgin and Martyr

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Saint Magdalene followed the example of Jesus by accepting physical suffering in order to strengthen the spiritual resolve of her fellow Christians. She is a convincing example of a young person totally devoted to the Gospel and the service of others, whose love  for God and neighbor knew no limit.

Magdalene was born in 1611 near Nagasaki, Japan, the daughter of devout Christian parents. While she was still young her mother, father, and siblings were martyred for the faith. In 1624 she became acquainted with two Augustinians, members of the Recollect Congregation, Francis of Jesus and Vincent of Saint Anthony, and was attracted by their deep spirituality. She became an Augustinian tertiary, teaching catechism to the young, seeking alms for the poor, encouraging her people in times of persecution. When these two friars were martyred, she placed herself under the spiritual guidance of two other Augustinians who eventually also received the crown of martyrdom. In 1629 she sought refuge in the hills of Nagasaki, sharing the sufferings of her fellow Christians, baptizing the young and visiting the sick. Because many Christians were renouncing their faith in the face of torture, she decided to encourage them through her own acceptance of persecution. In September 1634, dressed in the habit of a tertiary, she turned herself in to the anti-Christian civil authorities. In October of that same year she was subjected to the torture of the pit for 13 days. On the last day the pit was filled with water and she was drowned. Her body was burned and her ashes were dispersed to prevent the Christians from having any relics of her. Magdalene was beatified in 1981 and canonized by John Paul II on October 18, 1987. 

The story of the Augustinian martyrs of Japan is a wonderful illustration not only of Christian resolve in the face of trial, but of the unity and universality of the Order. Laboring in this country were friars from various nations and from several branches of the Order who, together with many dedicated lay persons, found themselves more closely united in mind and heart for a common purpose and a common witness.

October 14 - Blessed Gonzalo of Lagos

 

Blessed Gonzalo of Lagos

Blessed Gonzalo of Lagos

Today's commemoration honors the life of a Portuguese Augustinian, Blessed Gonzalo of Lagos, who dedicated his energies, humbly and joyfully, to the service of the common people of his day. A man of learning, endowed with many talents, he chose to serve those most in need, both within and outside the monastery, giving evidence of his deep humility and simplicity. He illustrates well the injunction: the gift you have been given, give as a gift.

 Gonzalo was born about the year 1360, in Lagos (Algarve), in the south of Portugal, the son of a fisherman. He joined the Augustinians in Lisbon around 1380 and became a distinguished theologian and preacher. His special interest, however, was to instruct children, laborers, and the uneducated, with whom he always maintained a close rapport. He was also a gifted artist, and used this talent to illustrate liturgical books for the monasteries of Lisbon and Santarem. Gonzalo was appointed religious superior in several Augustinian communities, some of them extremely poor, where he enjoyed serving his brothers even in the humblest tasks. In 1412 he was named Prior of the friary of Torres Vedras, not far from Lisbon, where he lived for the remainder of his life. There he continued his tireless activity in service to the poor who held him in great reverence. Gonzalo died in Torres Vedras on October 15, 1422 and his remains were interred in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, once in the care of the Augustinians. Gonzalo is revered as the patron of the youth of the Diocese, as well as of fishermen and sailors. Pius VI declared him Blessed on May 23, 1778. 

Blessed Gonzalo, born to working class parents who earned their livelihood through daily manual labor, never lost touch with his roots. Though he became a learned theologian and notable preacher, he remained always close to the people who shared his background and devoted himself to their service, putting the gifts God had given him to use for their benefit. A man of authentic humility, filled with the simple spirit of generosity, the affection of the people for Gonzalo was the ultimate proof of his own devotion to them.   

October 13 - Commemoration of the Deceased Benefactors of the Order

In the long tradition of our Catholic faith, prayerful remembrance of our departed at the Eucharist holds a special place, inasmuch as this sacrament celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and is the promise of eternal life for those whom, by this mystery, he has redeemed. We do not fail to remember at each celebration of the Eucharist those who have gone before us, among whom in a special way, are those to whom we are most indebted for their generosity. 

 The commemoration of deceased benefactors was prescribed by the Ratisbon Constitutions of 1290 in order to remember in prayer those who in various ways have supported the Order in its style of life and its works. Until 1672 this commemoration was joined to that of the deceased relatives of members of the Order. In that year, however, a separate commemoration was instituted for deceased benefactors and was given the date of July 7, while that of deceased relatives was transferred to November 14. Several other changes of date were made over the years before the present day was established in recent times. 

"Each year, in all communities, on the days determined in the calendar of the Order, Mass is to be offered for ... 3) our deceased benefactors. On these days every priest is to celebrate Mass for this intention, and the other friars are to participate in Mass for his intention. Every month in which some anniversary of the Order does not occur, in all communities Mass is to be offered for the deceased brothers and sisters and benefactors of the Order (Const. 101, e., f.).

October 12 - Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce

Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce

Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce

Virgin

The life of the contemplative nun, Blessed Teresa Fasce, whom we commemorate today, though different from that of most of us, nevertheless illustrates the universal Christian virtues of fidelity to God's will at all costs and the practical implementation of the great commandment of love. Though dedicated to the life of the cloister, Blessed Teresa nonetheless accomplished many good things on behalf of those outside the convent and enjoyed the affectionate love of a grateful people.

 Maria Giovanna Fasce was born into a family of means in Torriglia, in the region of Genoa, Italy, on December 27, 1881. As a young girl she received a good education and served as a catechist in her parish church, Our Lady of Consolation, under the care of the Augustinian Friars. Inspired by the example of Saint Rita, she determined to enter religious life and despite many obstacles, entered the convent of Cascia in 1906, taking the name Maria Teresa Eletta. She made her solemn profession in 1912 and served her community as director of novices and vicar. In August, 1920, she was elected abbess and was confirmed in this office nine times throughout the following 27 years until her death. The great ambition of Mother Teresa, which she succeeded in converting into a plan of action, was the enrichment of the religious spirit of her community and of each one of the nuns. Her influence, however, reached far beyond the walls of the cloister by means of the initiatives she undertook to spread devotion to Saint Rita and to promote the well-being of her adopted town. Among these were the publication of the magazine “From the Bees to the Roses”, the establishment of an orphanage for girls, the founding of a seminary for candidates to the Order and the construction of the Basilica as a place of pilgrimage and the fitting resting place of the saint to whom she was so devoted. During the Second World War she courageously protected the convent and defended the rights of the nuns as well as members of the resistance under attack. Throughout her life Mother Teresa suffered many physical ailments, including cancer and a debilitating condition which at times made it difficult for her to walk. All of this she bore with complete resignation and patience and was an example of fortitude and serenity to the nuns and people of Cascia. She died peacefully on January 18, 1947 and was beatified together with Blessed Elías Nieves on October 12, 1997. Her body is venerated in the lower shrine of the Basilica which she made possible. 

Mother Teresa Fasce was a cloistered contemplative nun, not only in name, but also in fact, during the several decades of her religious life. At the same time she was a woman of great vision and action, who had the capacity to inspire others even as she was inspired by the life and message of her patroness, Saint Rita. She reminds us that there is no contradiction between contemplation and service: both are motivated by love and must be expressed in love.

October 11 - Blessed Elías del Socorro Nieves

Blessed Elias del Socorro Nieves

Blessed Elias del Socorro Nieves

Priest and Martyr

Steadfast commitment to faith has brought many men, women and children throughout Christian history to offer the supreme sacrifice of their lives. Today we remember one such person who did so in the early part of the 20th Century in Mexico, Fr. Elías Nieves, an Augustinian pastor who would not leave his parishioners without the benefit of the sacraments even at the risk of his own life.  Fr. Elías reminds us, by his choice, that there are some things more valuable than life itself.

Elías was born in Yuriria, Mexico of modest farming parents in 1882. While young he had a great desire to become a priest, but when he was 12 years old his father was killed by robbers and he was forced to put aside his studies in order to support his family. In 1904, at the age of 21 he was admitted to the Augustinian high school in Yuriria. Though he had to face the challenge of being much older than his fellow students, was lacking financial resources, and suffered from a weak constitution, he was determined to pursue his vocation. In gratitude for all he had received and with intense devotion to our Blessed Lady, on his profession of vows in 1911 he added to his name ‘del socorro’ - in reference to Our Lady of Help. He was ordained in 1916 and exercised his ministry in various places. In 1921 he was named associate pastor of La Cañada de Caracheo (Gto.), an extremely poor pueblo. In 1926 when there began a great persecution of the Mexican Church, priests were ordered to relocate to the cities from small towns. Despite his reticent character, Elías refused to obey and hid in a cave in the hills outside the pueblo in order to continue his ministry under cover. He did this for 14 months before he was finally discovered. He admitted that he was a priest and was arrested with two laymen who offered to stay with him. On March 10, 1928 the three were taken to the city of Cortazar. On the way the two laymen were shot. A little farther along it was the turn of Fr. Elías. The captain of the guard said to him, “Now it is your turn, let’s see if dying is like celebrating the Mass.” Elias blessed the soldiers and recited the Creed. His last words were: “Long live Christ the King”. His remains are preserved in the parish church of La Cañada. Elías was beatified with Mother Teresa Fasce on October 12, 1997. 

Fidelity to vocation is a striking characteristic of Blessed Elías, first in his resolve to pursue religious life and priesthood despite multiple, difficult odds, and later in his commitment to minister to his people even at the risk of his own life. Elias stands out as a man of principle and zeal, who witnesses to the power of God’s grace to accomplish mighty deeds in the humble and the meek.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 10 - Saint Thomas of Villanova

Saint Thomas of Villanova

Saint Thomas of Villanova

Bishop

Today we celebrate the memory of Saint Thomas of Villanova, one of the great Spanish saints of the 16th Century, known as the Father of the Poor. Like Saint Augustine, he was called to serve the Church as bishop, much against his will, but carried out this service with great fidelity and zeal, bringing about a significant renewal in his Archdiocese first by the example of his own life, as well as by his wise and effective decisions. In the midst of a society and a Church surrounded by wealth and privilege, Thomas lived always as a poor and humble servant of God and of his people.

Thomas Garcia Martinez was born about 1486 in Fuenllana, Spain, and was raised in Villanueva de los Infantes, with which town his name is forever linked. He studied at the University of Alcalá and later at Salamanca, where he entered the Order and was professed on November 25, 1517. On December 24, 1518 he was ordained priest. He then taught theology in Salamanca and was entrusted with the duties of prior of the friary there and later at others as well. He served also at various times as Prior Provincial and Visitator. In 1544 Charles V nominated him to the See of Valencia. Though he tried to decline, his provincial ordered him to accept. On October 10, 1544, Pope Paul III made the appointment. He was consecrated at Valladolid where he was then prior. The See of Valencia was ranked as first class because of its size and resources.  However, it was not in good condition. For the whole previous century there had been no resident bishop. Thomas undertook a widespread reform, beginning with visitation within weeks of his arrival. He drew up statutes, founded the first seminary, helped young women to find employment rather than fall into disrepute, and saved many orphans from poverty. Personally, however, he sought to live always as a simple friar, preferring to wear his religious habit and giving generously to the poor. By his preaching he made a great impression and drew many to religious life, including the future Augustinians, Alonso de Orozco and Juan de Muñatones, who was to become bishop of Sergobe. The sermons which Thomas left number more than 400 and have run some 19 editions. Thomas died on September 8, and was buried in our friary of Our Lady of Help in Valencia as he had desired. Later his remains were moved to both the cathedrals of Valencia and Salamanca. He was beatified on October 7, 1618 by Paul V and canonized on November 1, 1658 by Alexander VII. 

Thomas was thoroughly Augustinian in his preferential choice of life, his spirituality, his preaching, teaching, and in his ministry, especially as a bishop. He demonstrated the power of reform and renewal from within by his own example, becoming symbol of hope in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. He resembles Augustine in his learning, in his preaching, and his inclination toward the contemplative life, while at the same time responding generously to the needs of others.

October 9 - Blessed Anthony Patrizi

Blessed Anthony Patrizi

Blessed Anthony Patrizi

Priest

We honor today the memory of a friar whose holiness of life was clear to his contemporaries, though the details of his life are not known to us. To this extent he represents many holy men and women of our Order and of the Church at large whose names, though lost in time, are nonetheless recorded in the Book of Life. He also represents more specifically those many holy friars who, over many years, were members of the contemplative monastery of Lecceto.

Anthony Patrizi  was born in Siena sometime in the thirteenth century, although the exact date and year are not known. He belonged to the monastery of Lecceto, renowned for its emphasis on contemplative life and the holiness of many of its members. It was here that other well known friars such as Clement of Osimo, Agostino Novello and William Flete also lived at various times. Anthony died in 1311 in our friary at Monticiano where he was staying while on a visit to Friar Peter of the hermitage of Camerata. In the book A Brief Life of Some Hermit Friars by the Anonymous Florentine, the story of Anthony's death is recounted. It tells of how, on the night on which he died, caregivers of an  elderly and gravely ill couple who lived nearby, were looking out a window of the sick couple's house which faced the monastery. They saw coming from the monastery a brilliant light that appeared to touch the sky. At first they thought that the monastery had caught fire, but as they watched they saw that it was not a fire, but that there must be in the monastery someone whose holiness touched the heavens. The sick couple also came to the window, saw the light, and began to pray, asking that this unknown holy person would heal them of their illness. Immediately they were restored to health. They went to the monastery, told the friars what had happened and asked to see the holy man. The friars went to the room of their guest and discovered that Anthony had died. Pius VII confirmed the cult of Anthony in 1804.

Unfortunately, the details of the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, who in their own time were renowned for holiness, are unknown to us. Nonetheless, the awareness that there has been "a great cloud of witnesses" throughout the ages giving testimony to the validity of the Augustinian way of life continues to be a source of encouragement as well as a challenge to us today. At the same time, the memory of a friar such as Anthony, dedicated to contemplation and the common life, reminds us of essential components of our own vocation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 28 - Blessed Peter de Zuñiga, Thomas of Saint Augustine and Companions

Blessed Peter de Zungia, Thomas of Saint Augustine and Companions

Blessed Peter de Zungia, Thomas of Saint Augustine and Companions

Priests and Martyrs

Today we celebrate the glorious memory of a group of Augustinian martyrs of Japan - religious and laity, native Japanese and foreign missionaries, who paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives in the face of horrific torture - for their love of Christ and fidelity to  the Catholic faith. Their death inspired and continues to inspire others to value the gift of faith and the communion we share in the Church.

The first Augustinians arrived in Japan in 1602 and quickly drew many people not only to the Catholic faith but also to the Augustinian way of life as religious, tertiaries and confraternity members. In January, 1614, a Decree of Extinction ordered the suppression of Christianity, however, and several years later, fierce persecution of the Christians began. Among those who suffered martyrdom were members of the Order from Spain, Portugal and Mexico as well as many native Japanese. Fr. Ferdinand of Saint Joseph, the Augustinian protomartyr of Japan, along with Andrew Yoshida, a catechist who worked with him, were beheaded in 1617. Fr. Peter Zúñiga, a Spaniard from Seville, who grew up in Mexico but later joined the Order in his native country, was burned to death in 1622. Br. John Shozaburo, Oblates Michael Kiuchi Tayemon, Peter Kuhieye, Thomas Terai Kahioye, and tertiaries Mancio Scisayemon and Lawrence Hachizo were beheaded in 1630. Fr. Bartholomew Gutiérrez, Fr. Vincent of Saint Anthony Simoens, Fr. Francis of Jesus Terrero, Fr. Martin of St. Nicholas Lumbreras and Fr. Melchior of St. Augustine Sánchez were burned to death in 1632. Thomas of St. Augustine, who was the first Japanese Augustinian to be ordained a priest, was born in about 1602. He was educated by the Jesuits, becoming proficient in Latin and public speaking. He later moved to Macao to continue his studies, returning five years later to work as a catechist and preacher, often forced to flee from place to place to do his work. In 1622 he went to Manila to join the Order for the great admiration he had for the Augustinians and their work in Japan. He was professed at Intramuros in 1624 and was ordained in Cebu. After several failed attempts he was able to return to Nagasaki in 1631. Being Japanese he was able to keep his priesthood secret and even obtained a position in the governorship of Nagasaki with the name Kintsuba. On All Saints Day, 1636, after being arrested for being a Christian, he then revealed to his captors, “I am Father Thomas of Saint Augustine Jihioye, of the Order of Saint Augustine.” He was tortured for several months with excruciating punishments but would not renounce the faith. On August 21, 1637 he was taken with 12 others, men and women, some of whom were tertiaries, some members of the Confraternity of the Cincture, to be subjected to the torture of the pit in which they were suspended by their feet with their heads immersed in a hole in the ground. Finally, on Thursday, November 6th he was taken to the pit for the last time together with four others, and died, as witnesses recalled, one of the greatest martyrdoms of the period. In November 1982 he was included in a list of 188 martyrs whom the Japanese bishops proposed for canonization. 

The death of these Augustinians, religious and laity, men and women, natives of Japan and missionaries from foreign lands, bears witness to the universality and unity of the Order and of the Church. The grace of Christ and the bonds of fraternity inspired and sustained the faith and fidelity of our brothers and sisters under horrendous circumstances.

September 22 - Blessed Josefa de la Purificación Masià Ferragut

Blessed Josefa da la Purificacion Masia Ferragut

Blessed Josefa da la Purificacion Masia Ferragut

Blessed Josefa, the Augustinian nun whom we remember today, was one of a family of four daughters - all religious - who together with their aged mother, were martyred for the faith in 1936 during the civil strife in Spain. They were united not only by blood and by faith but also by their steadfast commitment to Christ and the Church even to the sacrifice of their lives.

 Blessed Josefa was born in Algemesí (Valencia), Spain on June 10, 1887. She made her profession in the monastery of the Discalced Augustinians of Benigánim on February 3, 1906, where she later served as prioress and mistress of novices. During the religious persecutions of the time, the Archdiocese of Valencia paid a great price in the lives of priests, men and women of Catholic Action of various ages, and several hundred religious from many religious institutes. When finally forced to abandon her convent, Josefa, together with her sisters, Vicenta, Joaquina, and Maria Felicidad who were Capuchin Nuns, took refuge in the home of their eighty-three year old mother, Maria Teresa Farragut. Here all five sought to live an authentic monastic life of prayer, recollection and silence over a period of several months until they were taken to the prison of Fons Salutis, a former Cistercian Monastery which had been converted into a jail. They were executed on October 25, 1936. On March 11, 2001 they were among 233 religious men and women, priests and lay persons whom Pope John Paul II beatified in Saint Peter’s Square. The remains of these five members of a single family are venerated in the parish church of Saint Pius X in Algemesí. 

The capacity to offer the supreme sacrifice of one’s life through martyrdom flows from the complete consecration of self in baptism and religious profession, when these are embraced with total dedication and sincerity. Josefa, her sisters and their mother, united not only by the bond of blood but also by their common witness to the faith in the face of persecution, give striking evidence of the depth of their conviction and their commitment to Christ.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 19 - Saint Alonso de Orozco

Saint Alonso de Orozco

Saint Alonso de Orozco

Priest

The life of the saint whom we commemorate today illustrates well the Scriptural teaching that God's ways are not our ways. Saint Alonso, as many of us, had his own idea of how he might best serve God, while God sought his service according to a different, and not always personally attractive plan. By his acceptance of it, nonetheless, Alonso became a fruitful instrument in the lives of many, and grew in holiness as well.

Alonso was born on October 17, 1500 in Oropesa, Toledo, Spain, to deeply Christian parents. When he was still young the family moved to the nearby city of Talavera de la Reina, where he received his schooling. At the age of 14 Alonso’s parents sent him to the University of Salamanca where his brother Francisco was already a student. At the time, Thomas of Villanova was preaching in Salamanca and many were touched by his words, including a number of young people who were drawn to religious life. Among them were the two Orozco brothers, Francisco and Alonso, who entered the novitiate together in 1522 at the monastery of San Agustin. On June 9, 1523 Alonso made his profession, but his brother was unable to do so because of illness. He died shortly thereafter, making a deep impression on Alonso who began to suffer physical and spiritual afflictions that lasted for many years. All of these served to purify him, however, for he continued to live religious life with great fidelity. Following ordination he was assigned to preach and served, as well, as prior in various houses of his province. Later he volunteered to go as a missionary to Mexico but on the way he became ill and was ordered to return home. In 1554 he was named preacher of the royal court, but lived always as a simple friar, in absolute poverty and in the humblest of conditions. Ever attentive to the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, he became known as ‘the saint of San Felipe’. Alonso was also a prolific writer, publishing about 50 books, including a commentary on the Rule, works on Saint Augustine and the saints of the Order, and his own Confessions. Moved by a desire for reform within the Order, he founded several friaries and convents of contemplative nuns. He died on September 19, 1591. His body is venerated in the church of the Augustinian nuns of Madrid. Alonso was beatified by Leo XIII on January 15, 1882 and canonized on May 19, 2002 by John Paul II. 

Though called to exercise his ministry among the powerful and wealthy of his day, Alonso remained steadfastly faithful to the life of simplicity he had professed. His preference was to serve the poor and the needy, to whom he always remained available, and to use his talents in instructing the common people through his preaching and writings. He was one of the first to use the vernacular in his writings on prayer and contemplation precisely to benefit ordinary people.    

September 10 - Saint Nicholas of Tolentino

Saint Nicholas of Tolentino

Saint Nicholas of Tolentino

Priest

There are, for many of us, people who have served as models and inspiration in our own lives and, at times, in the choices we make. The friar whom we remember today, Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, has been for Augustinians throughout most of our history, such a model, illustrating the ideals we strive after in our religious lives and ministry. The saints, after all, have no need of our praise. We, however, have need of their example, encouragement and intercession.

 Nicholas is the first member of the Order to have been canonized, and for much of the Order's history served as the model - par excellence - of the perfect integration of a life of contemplation with that of active ministry among God's people. He was born in 1245 in Sant'Angelo in Pontano, Italy, and joined the Order there shortly after the Grand Union. The early years of his life as a friar were devoted to preaching in various houses of his province, but his last thirty years were spent in Tolentino, where he was engaged principally as confessor, benefactor of the poor and diligent minister to the sick. Nicholas was a man filled with compassion and charity toward his brothers in the monastery, great hospitality to visitors and generous attention to all in need. At the same time his life of prayer and recollection, of penance and fidelity to the common life won the admiration of all. His devotion to the faithful departed and his prayers for their salvation earned him the title Patron of the Souls in Purgatory. Nicholas died on September 10, 1305 and his body is venerated in his Basilica in Tolentino. He was canonized by Eugene IV in 1446. 

Nicholas holds a special place on our calendar and in our history, not only because he was the first member of the Order to be canonized, but because he exemplifies well the balance between two essential elements of Christian - and Augustinian - life: love of God and love of neighbor; prayer and good works; and for friars, a life of contemplation combined with a life of generous service in ministry.

September 4 - Our Mother of Consolation

Our Mother of Consolation

Our Mother of Consolation

In moments of sorrow and trial the Christian people have frequently turned to Mary for comfort and assistance. Today's commemoration of the Augustinian devotion to Our Mother of Consolation is an expression of that confidence in Mary's presence and solace. The devotion was born out of an experience of sorrow and loss, but became a reminder that we are never forgotten or abandoned, never alone.

The title of Our Mother of Consolation has been the principal devotion to Mary within the Order at least since the 17th Century. Its origin among the Augustinians is directly tied to the life of Saints Monica and Augustine who are commonly depicted together with the figures of Mary and the Child Jesus in interpretations of the image. The other title of the devotion is Our Lady of the Cincture. According to tradition, Monica, immersed in sorrow because of the death of her husband and the waywardness of her son, was granted a vision of Mary and the Child Jesus, who sought to offer her comfort or consolation. Mary handed her a leather cincture which she asked Monica to wear as a continual reminder of her presence and thus, a visible sign of encouragement. From that moment Monica wore the cincture and, after his conversion, recommended it also to her son as an indication of Mary's abiding protection. Thus, by this same tradition, it became historically, the principal and common symbol for all who follow Augustine's Rule. 

The various titles by which the Order venerates Mary - Help, Grace, Good Counsel, Consolation - all suggest an understanding of the Mother of God as benefactress or patroness of her people, as one who responds to the many needs which humanity experiences. Mary is truly mother and sister to us, because as faithful disciple of her  Son, she learned well the lessons of selfless love and generous service. As Mother of Consolation she is particularly near to those in need of companionship and comfort.