Friday, February 09, 2018

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerick (September 8, 1774—February 9, 1824)

Feast: February 9
Born into a farming family in Westphalia, Germany, from a young age Anne Catherine wanted to enter the convent. After several orders refused her because of her poor health and lack of a dowry, the Augustinian nuns accepted her in 1802. She lived an exemplary life in the convent, but it closed in 1811, so she became a housekeeper for a priest. In 1813 she started to have signs of the stigmata. This caused controversy as doctors examined her to see if it was real. Apparently it was real, but it only lasted until 1818. Anne had religious visions throughout her life, and the stigmata attracted people. A poet named Clemens Brentano visited her, and he became involved in writing down her visions. These largely centered on the life of Christ, especially his Passion, and the life of the Blessed Mother. However, scholars think that Brentano put in many of his own thoughts, so it’s difficult to tell how much of what he wrote is authentic. The Vatican did not take account of these writings in her cause for beatification.

While her mystical visions make her unusual, Anne gives us a practical example in the way she always sought to help and care for others, especially the poor. She reportedly said that she always asked God for the strength to serve others. In his beatification homily, Pope John Paul stressed that the central message of her life concerns the love of Christ, shown by his wounds for us: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24).


Blessed Anne Catherine, pray for us that we might be moved to repentance by meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and show to others his saving love.

Patron: organists, people who suffer with poor health

Copyright 2018 Daughters of Saint Paul

Friday, January 26, 2018

10 Fun Facts About St Thomas Aquinas

January 28 is the feast of this great saint and doctor of the Church, the patron of students and Catholic schools. Thomas is one of the most brilliant philosophers and theologians the Catholic Church has ever had. Perhaps because of his reputation as an intellectual heavyweight, he might seem a bit intimidating to us. Can I really relate to a medieval saint who spent his life immersed in books and teaching? Yes!
Thomas was a very human saint, one who can be a great model for us in many ways. Physically he was a big man, and Thomas was a gentle giant, known for his humility and kindness to others. Here are some things about him that are fun to know:

1. He was born and grew up in a castle.

Thomas was from a well-to-do family in Roccasecca, Italy. He had three brothers and five sisters.

2. He had a lifelong fear of storms.

That’s probably because when he was a toddler, his infant sister was killed by lightning when they were both taking a nap in the same room. Later in life, Thomas always carried a relic of St. Agnes and prayed to her for protection during storms.

3. When he was a boy he was sent to study at the famous monastery of Monte Cassino.

He stayed there through his teens and probably became a Benedictine oblate. While there Thomas got to know the spiritual writings of Saint John Cassian, which he treasured throughout his life.

4. He ran away from home to follow his Dominican vocation.

His family wouldn’t have objected to him staying at Monte Cassino in view of becoming the abbot. But they just couldn’t understand why Thomas wanted to become a Dominican. For them it was a step down in the world, since the Dominicans were itinerant preachers and went around begging. They tried to persuade him to drop the idea, but that didn’t work.

5. He was stubborn.

When his family found out he had joined the Dominicans, a band of soldiers led by his brother Rinaldo captured Thomas and brought him back home. He spent about a year under a sort of house arrest while his family tried to persuade him to give up his dream. He did not.

6. He was called the “dumb ox.”

This is often misunderstood. It didn’t mean that the other students thought he was unintelligent. They called him that because he was very quiet and didn’t talk much.

7. He had terrible handwriting.

It was so bad it’s called in Latin the littera inintelligibilis. So if anyone has ever criticized your handwriting, take heart, you’re just like Aquinas!

8. He could dictate to two or three secretaries at once.

His handwriting didn’t matter because he usually dictated to secretaries. Although it may seem incredible, it’s well documented that Thomas could dictate to a few of them at one time. He could think a lot faster than they could write.

9. He never criticized people; he only critiqued ideas.

The closest he ever came to criticizing someone in his writings was when he called an opinion of a certain David of Dinant stultissimus, which loosely translated means, “wow, what a stupid idea!” But it was the idea he was criticizing, not David.

10. He was extremely humble and submitted all his work to the judgment of the Church.

At the point of death, he said, “I have taught and written much . . . according to my faith in Jesus Christ and the holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I submit all my teaching.”

Amen!  Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Don't miss my new book Thomas Aquinas, the newest volume in the Saints by Our Side series.
Author Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, well known for her blog Thomas for Today, has spent years studying the Angelic Doctor and his writings, making her the perfect guide to help the reader understand and appreciate how he became such a stellar figure in Church history through this warm telling of his life's story. Readers who may have been intimidated by Thomas Aquinas now have the chance to learn about the struggles of his life and how they fueled his writings and life mission-and thereby glean an entry-point for reading his work. This narrative explores St. Thomas' spiritual legacy and why it's meaningful to study his writings nearly 800 years later.
The book also includes reflection questions, a prayer to St. Thomas, and a step-by-step guide on how to read an article of the Summa. For anyone looking for an engaging and attainable biography of a complex saint, or for the student hoping to gain insight on the works of Thomas Aquinas by understanding his life, this book presents those opportunities in a clearly written and compact form.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zechariah's Doubt

Today’s Gospel is the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist. The phrase jumped out at me: “your prayer has been heard.”

Imagine if you had been praying for something for years and years, and suddenly you see an angel standing before you telling you that finally, after all this time, God is going to grant your prayer. Wouldn’t you be overwhelmed with joy and happiness, and maybe even jump up and down? I would!

But not Zechariah. For some reason not told to us, he wouldn’t believe it and raised objections. We don’t know what was in his heart, but because he was punished, something in his heart must have gone awry. Was God just being vindictive here? No, because the punishment had a purpose. It was to teach him something. What?

This gospel passage plays off the ideas of speaking and listening in a quite interesting way. First, Zechariah’s prayer was heard, so he had already spoken to God about what was in his heart. But then Zechariah couldn’t hear God’s response. So Gabriel—who obviously is a pretty tough angel—says “I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place.”

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the punishments of people always match their sin. So it is for Zechariah. Because he wouldn’t listen, he will get to know what it’s like to have people not listen to him because now he can’t speak. Perhaps God wanted to teach Zechariah—and us—that prayer is a relationship. It’s not about us making demands of God to be fulfilled in exactly the way we want. That would turn God into some kind of big vending machine in the sky.

In prayer, instead, we bring our needs to God and make our requests. But then we need to hold that request before the Lord, and talk to him about it. We can even use our imagination to picture what the response to our request might be and hold that picture before God, but in a way that allows him to change it.

We hear no more from Zechariah until John was born. But we do hear in this gospel from Elizabeth, who praised God, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”And what of John himself? Luke later describes him, quoting Isaiah, as "the voice of one crying in the desert..." The son of a speechless father became a mighty voice to prepare the way of the Lord. As St Augustine said, "The voice is John's; the Word is Christ." Such are the ways of God.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Saint Ambrose (c. 340--April 9, 397)

Born into a prominent Roman family, Ambrose studied law and became a governor in northern Italy. When the bishop of Milan died, Ambrose was elected by popular acclaim. He fled because he wasn’t even baptized! But then he accepted, and was baptized and ordained bishop. Despite his lack of theological education, he studied and became an outstanding theologian.
Ambrose was firm in opposing the Arian heresy. Showing great courage in upholding the truth of the faith, Ambrose did not fear to oppose even the Roman emperor Valentinian II. As a pastor, Ambrose also showed great compassion for the poor. He even melted down some of the Church’s vessels to aid the needy. His eloquent preaching impressed the young Augustine of Hippo, who converted to the Catholic faith with the help of Ambrose.
In his theology, Ambrose wrote extensively about Mary. He emphasized her virginity and was also the first to speak of Mary as a certain image or symbol of the Church. He also proposed Mary as a model for those called to a life of consecrated virginity in the Church.

The Arians denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. To counter this, Ambrose wrote about Mary and explained how she is truly the Mother of God. What the Church teaches about Mary is aimed at safeguarding what it teaches about Jesus. In other words, Mary leads us to Jesus. In my life as a disciple of Jesus, have I allowed Mary to lead me closer to her Son?

Saint Ambrose, you labored tirelessly in preaching the Gospel and helping the poor. Pray for us that we too may reach out to others with the Good News of Jesus Christ with courage and zeal.

Copyright 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

St Albert the Great

Saint Albert the Great (c. 1193/1206-November 15, 1280)

Feast: November 15

Patron: students, teachers, philosophers, scientists, World Youth Day

Albert was the type of person to whom people would go whenever a question came up. He knew almost everything there was to know in the medieval world. An outstanding philosopher and theologian, he also studied the natural sciences. He painstakingly observed and recorded facts about insects, birds, astronomy, and many other fields.
Born in Germany, Albert entered the recently-founded order of Dominicans. His talents made him an important asset, and he became a professor in Paris and Cologne. At that time the works of Aristotle were getting better known in Europe, and Albert took part in the important movement to use the philosopher’s thought in better understanding Christian doctrine. In this Albert influenced his student, Thomas Aquinas, who went on to develop that field even more. Albert became the provincial of the Dominicans, and was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260. But being a bishop didn’t suit him, and he resigned after three years. He returned to scholarly work and preaching, mainly in Germany. In 1931 Pope Pius XI canonized him and named him a Doctor of the Church.


Throughout his life Albert thirsted for knowledge of both human and divine things. He knew how to see the natural world in the light of God. Albert also knew himself. He realized that he was not well suited for the pastoral ministry of a bishop, and resigned from that office. All the saints showed a passion for doing the will of God. But sometimes doing the will of God can mean turning down an offer rather than accepting it. How do we know the difference? Only by prayer and careful discernment.


Saint Albert the Great, pray for us that we may grow in knowledge of God and of ourselves, so as to serve God in the best way we can.

© 2014 Daughters of Saint Paul

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Saint Bartholomew and the fig tree

Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles, usually identified with Nathanael. According to tradition he preached in India and Armenia and was martyred by being skinned alive. When Philip told him about Jesus, Nathanael at first dismissed it, saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he goes with Philip to see Jesus, who says to Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael replies, “Where did you get to know me? And Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:46-49).

What does this mean? Jesus praises Nathanael as a true Israelite. Jacob had been deceitful but after struggling with God, his name was changed to Israel. The prophet Hosea spoke of Israel as being like a fig tree: “Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree, in its first season, I saw your ancestors” (9:10). Did Jesus have that text in mind? Perhaps under the fig tree Nathanael had been struggling with God in prayer, and was changed, like Jacob, into a true Israelite. He was like the fig tree that brought forth good fruit. From this we can gather that despite his initial skepticism about Jesus, Nathanael had a pure heart open to the truth.

John’s Gospel opens and closes with doubting apostles: Nathanael at the beginning, and Thomas at the end. Despite their initial resistance, they both believed in Jesus and became great apostles. Their example can give us courage to keep on being disciples even if we feel inadequate.

Saint Bartholomew, pray for us that like you, we may have hearts that are true and good, free of any deceit, so that we may prove to be faithful disciples of Jesus despite any difficulties.

© 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul