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One day two Franciscans encountered him on a journey. Engaging him in conversation, they took a liking to the simple man and invited him to come and work at their friary in Salamanca. He readily accepted and was assigned to the task of assisting the brother with gardening duties. A short time later John himself entered the Franciscan Order and lived a life of prayer and meditation, fasting constantly, spending the nights in prayer, still helping the poor. Because of his work in the garden and the flowers he produced for the altar, he became known as "the gardener."

God favored John with the gift of prophecy and the ability to read hearts. Important persons, including princes, came to the humble, ever-obedient friar for advice. He was so loving towards all that he never wanted to take offense at anything. His advice was that to forgive offenses is an act of penance most pleasing to God.

He predicted the day of his own death: January 11, 1501.

A monastery garden was tended well to feed the community, not to make the grounds pretty. John saw to it that the refectory table was well supplied. But he also added a bit of beauty, growing flowers to enhance the chapel. God is surely pleased when we add a bit of beauty to the world—especially when we warm it with an act of forgiveness. For, as John insisted, forgiveness is the loveliest thing in God’s eyes.

*†ç The oldest of 15 children, Joseph Labre was born in a prosperous middle class family. He was educated by his uncle, a parish priest. Following his uncle's death, he tried to join the Trappists, Carthusians, and Cistercians, but was rejected by them all.

He was born 25 March, 1748 at Amettes, Boulogne, France. A Frenchman by birth, he died in Italy.

He is known as the "Beggar of Perpetual Adoration" for his rich, deep life of contemplation in utter material poverty

After being rejected by three religious orders, this well-educated young man from a well-to-do middle class family spent years wandering Europe, especially Rome, in complete destitution, spending his days in perpetual adoration in the cathedrals then often empty, keeping company to Our Lord in the True Presence when many were abandoning the faith following the so-called "Enlightment movement".

The XVIIIth century has been called "Le Siècle des Lumières" by the French Academy because of the likes of Voltaire,

St Benedict Joseph Labre gave his life to prayer in compensation for the excess of the materialism movement that led eventually in the late XiXth century and early XXth century to Nietszcheism, nihilism, marxism, and the terrorist attack in Sarajevo that killed the Autrian-Hungarian emperor Franz-Joseph in 1914, Wolrd War I, and the bolschevik revolution in 1917, as prophecized that year by Our Lady of Fatime.

St Joseph Labre took the name of Benedict and "moved in" as a homeless hermit in the then very neglected Colosseum, overgrown by weeds and feral cats.

Given to religious ecstasies when contemplating the Crown of Thorns, he was reputed to float, soar, and bilocate when in these swoons.

He begged in the streets, and if he was given more than he needed for the day, he would give the remainder to some one he considered more in need than he was.

He cured some of his fellow homeless, and is reported to have multiplied bread for them.

He was a noted counselor to people of all walks in Rome.

He died in a hospice, exhausted from his life of austerity.

His biography, written by his confessor Marconi, describes 136 miraculous cures attributed to him within three months of his death.

He entered into his eternal rest on this date, 17 April 1783 at Rome, 6 years before the Frenc Revolution that decimated his home country, and he and was beatified in 1859 by Pope Pius IX, 1 year after our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, whose Feast Day was yesterday, April 16.

He was canonized: 8 December 1883 by Pope Leo XIII

The Meaning of his name is "blessed" ( = Benedictus in Latin, Benoît in French, Baruch in Hebrew, Barack in Arabic)

Saint Beneditc Joseph Labre is the patron saint of
homeless people,
the mentally ill people,
people rejected by religious orders,
and unmarried men

He is most often represented as a beggar in a tri-cornered hat sharing his alms, and holding a rosary

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, you gave up honor, money and home for love of Jesus.

Help us to set our hearts on Jesus and not on the things of this world.

You lived in obscurity among the poor in the streets.

Enable us to see Jesus in our poor brothers and sisters and not judge by appearances. Make us realize that in helping them we are helping Jesus.

Show us how to befriend them and not pass them by.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, you had a great love for prayer.

Obtain for us the grace of persevering prayer, especially adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, poor in the eyes of men but rich in the eyes of God, pray for us. Amen.
*†ç Today is the Feast of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862). How appropriate on a day where I have several dear friends suffering from physical pain or sorrowing over the pain of a loved one, and I am also praying for two LJ friends, brotherskeeper and momflower and her daughter.

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862 ) was a passionist priest, the same order to which the newly sainted Belgian priest, Father Damien DeVuister (1840-1889) belonged. While Gabriel and Damien were contemporaries, Father Damien of Molokai was a hero of my childhood, a justifiably celebrated name for his call to help the sick and donate to the ostracized lepers of Hawaii and of the world the dignity and medical care every Child of God is due.

To this day, 110 years after his passing into eternity, Damien is consistently voted "most admired Belgian", well before sport celebrities like Eddy Merckx (another of my childhood heroes) in my now very much secularized home country.

Damien was just canonized by Benedict XVI in October 2009.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows died more than 25 years before Damien, even though he was only two years older. Damien himself lived only 49 years, dying from then incurable leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease).

Gabriel lead an apparently much quieter priestly mission in Italy than our fiery "Apostle to the lepers", living only four short years past his ordination at the tender age of 20. Suffering like Damien from yet another incurable ailment, tuberculosis, Gabriel was only 24 years old when he entered into eternity, offering his suffering and shortened for the sake of unrepentant sinners. Yet he was canonized in 1920, 48 years later, an earlier recognition of his spiritual healing gift than Damien, whose deep engagement in the world, the persecution he had to endure as a catholic priest, and in the communities and state affairs of Hawaii, delayed his canonization, which occurred finally last year, 110 years after entering into eternity.

The parallel in these two saints' lives - who from a worldly perspective could not be more strikingly different - is found in the very Passion of Our Lord they committed themselves to unite themselves to by their vocation.

Like Christ before us, they suffered with grace avoidable and now curable ailments and untimely death, in order to be close to the ones they were serving and bring salvation and eternal life to their lost brothers.

The following two excerpts from St. Paul of the Cross in his Primitive Regulations for Passionists nuns sums really well the calling and the life of quiet St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, and fiery Damien of Molokai as Passionist priests, and is a source of reflexion and prayer for the clergy in the Year of the Priest.

A Life of Intercession and Reparation

“Let them have at heart the conversion of sinners…the sanctification of the neighbor, freedom of souls in purgatory and the exaltation of Holy Mother Church. Let them pray also for the Sovereign Pontiff…and for all evangelical workers…

A Life of Worship and Self-Gift

“To this end, let them frequently offer to the Eternal Father the Passion of Jesus Christ. This being the very end of the Institude of the Daughters of the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ.”

Isaiah 58: 1 - 9

6 "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,


*†ç Today is the Feast of Blessed Jacinta & Francisco Marto (1910-1920, 1909-1919, two of the little shepherds (pastorinhos in Portugese) of Fatima. In the picture below, taken shortly after the apparitions started in October 13, 1917 became public and journalists swarmed the little village.

Jacinta was the youngest child, only 6 years old when the little pastorinhos first saw an angel in 1916, and Francisco was her brother. Their older cousin, Lucia is standing as the tallest on the left, and lived the longer life Our Lady had predicted to her , until February 13, 2005, unlike Jacinta and Francisco who died during the influenza epidemic known as the Spanish flu, both at the tender age of 10.

Francisco Marto (June 11, 1908–April 4, 1919) and his sister Jacinta Marto (March 11, 1910–February 20, 1920), also known as Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto, together with their cousin, Lúcia dos Santos (1907–2005) were the children from Aljustrel near Fátima, Portugal who reported witnessing three apparitions of an angel in 1916 and several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1917.

Their visions of Our Lady of Fatima proved politically controversial, and gave rise to a major centre of world Christian pilgrimage.

The youngest children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto, Francisco and Jacinta were typical of Portuguese village children of that time. They were illiterate but had a rich oral tradition to rely on, and they worked with their cousin Lúcia, taking care of the family's sheep.

According to Lúcia's memoirs, Francisco had a placid disposition, was somewhat musically inclined, and liked to be by himself to think. Jacinta was affectionate if a bit spoiled, and emotionally labile. She had a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing.

Following their experiences, their fundamental personalities remained the same. Francisco preferred to pray alone, as he said "to console Jesus for the sins of the world". Jacinta was deeply affected by a terrifying vision of Hell reportedly shown to the children at the third apparition. She became deeply convinced of the need to save sinners through penance and sacrifice as the Virgin had reportedly instructed the children to do. All three children, but particularly Francisco and Jacinta, practiced stringent self-mortifications to this end.

The siblings were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic which swept through Europe in 1918. Both lingered for many months, insisting on walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions and prostrating themselves to pray for hours, kneeling with their heads on the ground as instructed by the angel who had first appeared to them

Francisco was a strong boy of few words, who dressed simply and had the traits of humility, patience and sensitivity. He enjoyed playing the flute. Francisco did not initially see Our Lady, until he began
to pray the rosary. After that, he always saw Her, but never heard Her or spoke to Her. Francisco was known as the consoler of God, and he was saddened because the sins of the world hurt Our Lord so much. Instead of
going to school, he would stop at the Parish Church and kneel in front of the tabernacle to keep Jesus company and to console Him. Francisco died on April 4, 1919 in his home in Aljustrel. His Father later recalled that “Francisco died smiling”. Francisco is buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima. Both Francisco and Jacinta were beatified on May 13, 2000 by Pope John Paul II in Fatima.

At first, when Francisco’s body was exhumed from the cemetery in Fatima, all that was evident were bones. His Father recalled that he could identify his son, Francisco, from his little rosary that he recognized and was still intact.

Jacinta was able to hear and see Our Lady, but never spoke with Her during the 6 major apparitions. Jacinta was a sensitive child, and made many sacrifices for the conversion of sinners because there was no one to pray for them. During the hot months of summer, she would not drink water and gave her lunch to poor children as a form of sacrifice. After the apparitions in 1917, Jacinta fell ill with bronchial pneumonia and tuberculosis, and there in Estefania Hospital in Lisbon, as Our Lady told her, on February 20, 1920, she died alone. She was originally buried in Ourem and later in 1935, her body was exhumed, found to be incorrupt, and was buried in the Fatima Cemetery. In May 1951, Jacinta’s body was moved to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima.

Francisco declined hospital treatment and died peacefully at home, while Jacinta was dragged from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life which she insisted was futile. She developed purulent pleurisy and endured an operation in which two of her ribs were removed. Because of the condition of her heart, she could not be anesthetized and suffered terrible pain, which she said would help to convert many sinners.

On February 20, 1920, Jacinta asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to bring her Holy Communion and give her the Anointing of the Sick because she was going to die "this very night". He told her that her condition was not that serious, and that he would return the next day. A few hours later Jacinta was dead. She had died, as she had often said she would, alone: not even a nurse was with her.

Jacinta and Francisco are both buried at the Our Lady of Fatima Basilica.

Lucia dos Santos
The oldest of the seers, was 10 years old when the apparitions occurred in 1917. She was the youngest child in her family, and was the cousin of Jacinta and Francisco. She had a vivacious temperament and loved to
dance. Lucia was attacked by the public, by priests, and by her own family for revealing that she had visions of Our Lady. In 1917, Our Lady told Lucia that She would be taking Jacinta and Francisco to heaven very
soon, but that she (Lucia) would have to remain on earth a while longer because “God wishes to use you to spread in the world a devotion to My Immaculate Heart.” Lucia was sent, with much secrecy, to the Dorothean Sister of Vilar, near Porto for her education. In 1928, she made her profession to this order, even though her true desire was to be a cloistered Carmelite. While a Dorothean nun, both in Tuy and in Pontevedre, Spain, she received apparitions of Our Lady. In 1948, Lucia entered the Carmelite Order of St. Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal, where she remained until she died on February 13, 2005. Sr. Lucia now lies next to her cousin, Blessed Jacinta, in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima.

The cause for the siblings' canonization began during 1946. Exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, Jacinta's face was found incorrupt while Francisco's had decomposed. On May 13, 2000, they were declared "blessed" in a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.

This of course came more sharply into focus with the revelation of the Third Secret of Fatima the following month, indicating that a Pope in fact would be assassinated. In her biography of Jacinta, Lúcia had already established that Jacinta had told her of having had many personal visions outside of the Marian visitations; one involved a Pope who prayed alone in a room while people outside shouted ugly things and threw rocks through the window. At another time, Jacinta said she saw a Pope who had gathered a huge number of people together to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sister Lúcia, when questioned about the Third Secret, recalled that the three of them were very sad about the suffering of the Pope, and that Jacinta kept saying: Coitadinho do Santo Padre, tenho muita pena dos pecadores! (“Poor Holy Father, I am very sad for sinners!”) The Third Secret can thus be interpreted in the context of Jacinta's prayers and sacrifices for the pope whom she saw being killed.

"Heaven's Call to the Family", shown here above

is an original painting by Mark Sanislo created for the "Year of the Rosary" focussing on the fact tha in 1917, the whole Holy Family appeared to our little Blessed visionaries of the day. The painting shows the then elderly Lucia, who lived to be 98, holding a twin portrait of her beloved little cousins Jacinta and Francisco next to Pope John-Paul II, who passed away less than 10 weeks after Lucia Dos Santos, and was the pope identified in the Third Secret of Fatima, who narrowly escaped the assassination vividly described by the childre. Interestingly, the would-be assassin, Mohammed Agça, chose to assault the pope at the moment John-Paul II was kissing a little girl dressed as Our Lady of Fatima. That fateful day, May 13 1981, was also the Feast of our Lady of Fatima. John-Paul II had a vision of our Lady deflecting the assassin's bullet - and went on a pilgrimage of Thanksgiving to Fatima the following year, inserting the fated bullet in the crown of Our Lady.

Jacinta and Francisco's ardent prayers and sacrifices had been answered, and one could say that John-Paul II survival ensured the Fall of the Soviet system and the liberation of Eastern Europe from the communist dictatorship that was bent on eradicating both religion and religious freedom, especially in Poland.

Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, thank you for your sacrifices. Please pray for us, our poor world, and the very sorry state of our families relentlessly under attack. With your prayers on our sides, we know that nothing can happen to use, no matter how scary things get.

The reason Mark painted Heaven's Call is this vision of Fatima is the only officially recognized Holy Family apparition.

He named it "The Call" because the message of Fatima is a call to prayer, pray in our homes, pray as a family, prayer from our hearts. This call is to ALL families of ALL countries, of ALL races, of ALL religions.

Praying as "The Family" is a key to salvation, happiness and the preservation of one's home- Praying together as a family inspires family unity, peace within our homes, peace in our hearts, and peace in the world.

The painting depicts the Holy Family appearing to the world as they did in 1917 to the visionaries. The Blessed Mother Mary's Immaculate Heart, the Child Jesus blessing the world, as well as Saint Joseph blessing the world.
Born 1567 at the Castle of Sales in the French Duchy of Savoy, near Thorens (Haute-Savoie), Saint Francis de Sales renounced all his possessions and titles. He chose the same Lady Poverty Saint Francis romanced so eloquently 4 centuries before to teach us what our true treasure is, and became a priest.

His bishop, Msgr Granier assigned Saint Francis de Sales to evangelize the mountainous Alpine region of le Chablais, almost entirely turned to Calvinism. He was to face face snow and wolves in his travails.

He undertook to write personal letters. With the help of the recently invented printing press, he took to posting them in public places and passing them on door-to-door.

This is how Saint Francis de Sales became the patron Saint of Journalists, as he is considered to have authored the first periodic catholic publication in the world.

These publications were collected and published as "Méditations", "Épîtres à Messieurs de Thonon", (letters to Gentlemen in Thonon) and "Controverses". To reach the illiterate, he preached on market places, during the market times.

I wrote quite extensively about Saint Francis de Sales' life on another Feast Day, as he "birthed" himself another Saint in his lifetime, Sainte Jeanne of Chantal, for whom he wrote "Introduction to the Devout Life": see my entry on August 18, 2006, for Sainte Jeanne de Chantal - Saint Jane of Chantal and the Martyrdom of Love (1572-1641) at http://faustynka.livejournal.com/2006/08/18/, which discusses his remarkable impact and the creation of his order, the Order of the Visitation, in the spirit of the pregnant Mary visiting the pregnant Elizabeth, giving birth to the very first church gathering in the True Presence and Its Abiding Love.

Another Saint sprang out of Saint Francis de Sales' labor of love, Saint Don Bosco, another famous salesian priest who applied the calling to love to the salvation and education of thousands homeless children loitering in the streets of industrial Turino in the XIXth century.


"Saint François de Sale en prière" (Saint Francis de Sales in prayer), from the Musée des Augustins (Fine Arts Museum) in Toulouse, France, Image credit from http://www.augustins.org/sp/collections/bdd/zoom.asp?num=Ra+915

En 1767, morceau de réception de Pajou à l’Académie royale de peinture, sculpture et architecture de Toulouse, supprimée en 1793.

Cette statuette est le modèle en terre cuite de la statue exécutée pour l’église Saint-Roch de Paris, sous la direction de Falconet (connue par un moulage en stuc). Saint François de Sales, évêque de Genève, auteur de l’Introduction à la vie dévote et fondateur de l’ordre de la Visitation, devait y côtoyer saint Grégoire, saint Augustin et saint Charles Borromée.
*†ç Wherever thou turnest thine eyes, o rich man, thou wilt see evils: here an orphan is crying because of thee, there the poor man whom you wronged by not showing mercy to them are proclaiming to God against thee. Here slaves are walking naked and beaten, somewhere else I see other people tormented by thy usury; they throw themselves into the water and will rise against thee in the day of the departure of the soul. - Saint Basil The Great

A quote from St. Basil said: “" The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”"

Born to a wealthy and distinguished family in Caesarea, Asia Minor, in 330 A.D., Saint Basil was educated in Constantinople and Athens, the cultural centers of the world. Although he received a secular education and became an outstanding scholar, he abandoned school for the contemplation of the ascetic life.

Consequently, he returned to Caesarea in 356 and distributed his fortune to the poor. He was joined by this friend Gregory (Nazianzos) the Theologian in 358 and, together, the two founded several monasteries. In 364, Saint Basil consented to be ordained to the priesthood and then, in 370, he was elected Bishop of Caesarea.

Saint Basil continued to offer his talents to the church by arranging the Orthodox Liturgy that bears his name. This liturgy is celebrated ten times a year (Christmas Eve, January 1st, January 5th, the five Sundays of Great Lent, Holy Thursday, and Holy Saturday). Saint Basil also wrote several exegetical and doctrinal treatises which paved the way for Orthodoxy at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381.

Always compassionate to those who needed assistance, he was the first to establish orphanages, hospitals, and homes for the aged. Together, these institutions became known as “Basiliada,” philanthropic societies serving those in need. Even though he died at only forty-nine years old on January 1st, he is revered as one of the greatest Fathers of the Church.

Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

His dedication fulfills the commandment of Jesus who says in John 13:34-35

"As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples."

Together with Saint Gregory the Theologican and Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great is recognized as one of the three great hierarchs. Orthodox Churches celebrate the feast of these venerable Three Hierarchs on January 30th.

Finally, Basil the Great had this humble, discouraged word in his life;" “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”"

Discouragement is not from Heaven, but born from the weariness of the flesh, and Hope and Faith are given us in the Spirit to lift the cross of dejectedness from our tired shoulders. Heaven blessed richly Saint Basil's works and his apostlecy to Grace, and made him great.

The Life of Saint Basil the Great

"Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea - Cappadocia, belongs not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely to his own time. Nor to his own kinsmen was he merely of benefit, but rather to all lands and cities worldwide. To all people he brought and yet brings benefit, and for Christians he always was and will be a teacher most salvific" -- thus spoke the contemporary of Saint Basil -- Saint Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium (+ 344, commemorated 23 November).
Saint Basil was born in about the year 330 at Caesarea, the administrative center of Cappadocia. He was of illustrious lineage, famed for its eminence and wealth, and zealous for the Christian faith. The grandfather and grandmother of the saint on his father's side, during the time of persecution under Diocletian, had to hide themselves away in the forests of Pontum for a period of seven years. The mother of Saint Basil, Saint Emily, was the daughter of a martyr. The father of Saint Basil, also named Basil, was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician and lived constantly at Caesarea.

Into the family of this elder Basil ten children were born -- five sons and five daughters. Of these, five were later enumerated in the ranks of the Saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (commemorated 19 July) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong influence on the life and character of Saint Basil the Great; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (commemorated 10 January); Peter, Bishop of Sebasteia (commemorated 9 January); and Righteous Theozua, a deaconess (commemorated 10 January).

Saint Basil spent the first years of his life on an estate belonging to his parents at the River Irisa, where he was raised under the supervision of his mother Emilia and grandmother Macrina. They were women of great refinement, preserving in memory the tradition of an earlier Saint-hierarch of Cappadocia -- Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (+c.266-270, commemorated 17 November). Basil received his initial education under the supervision of his father, and then he studied under the finest teachers in Caesarea Cappadocia. It was here that he made the acquaintance of Saint Gregory the Theologian (Bogoslov, i.e. title of Saint Gregory Nazianzus; commemorated 25 January and 30 January). Later on, Basil transferred to a school at Constantinople, where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. For the finishing touches to his education Saint Basil set off for Athens -- a center of classical enlightenment.

After a four or five year stay at Athens, Basil the Great had mastered all the available disciplines. "He so thoroughly studied everything, more than others are wont to study a single subject, each science he studied to its very totality, as though he would study naught else." Philosopher, philologist, orator, jurist, naturalist, possessing profound knowledge in astronomy, mathematics and medicine -- "this was a ship, loaded down full of learning, to the extent allowed of by human nature." At Athens a close friendship developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), which continued throughout all their life. Later on, in a eulogy to Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks with delight about this period: "Various hopes guided us and indeed inevitably -- in learning... Two paths opened up before us: the one -- to our sacred temples and the teachers therein; the other -- towards preceptors of disciplines beyond."

In about the year 357 Saint Basil returned to Caesarea, where for a certain while he devoted himself to rhetoric. But soon, refusing offers from Caesarea citizens wanting to entrust him with the education of their offspring, Saint Basil entered upon the path of ascetic life.

After the death of her husband, Basil's mother, together with her eldest daughter Macrina and several maid-servants, withdrew to the family estate at Irisa and there began to lead an ascetic life. Basil, however, having accepted Baptism from the bishop of Caesarea Dianios, was ordained a reader. As an expounder of the Sacred Scriptures, he at first read them to the people. Later on, "wanting to acquire a guide to the knowledge of truth", the saint undertook a journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to the great Christian ascetics dwelling there. Upon returning to Cappadocia, he decided to do likewise. Having given his wealth to the needy, Saint Basil settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living in common community. Through his letters, Basil the great attracted to the wilderness monastery his good friend Gregory the Theologian. Saints Basil and Gregory asceticised amidst strict abstinence in their hovel, without roof and without fireplace, and the food was very humble. They themselves heaved the stones, planted and watered the trees, and carried heavy loads. Their hands were constantly calloused from the hard work. For clothing Basil the great had only chiton-tunic and monastic mantle; the hairshirt he wore only at night, so that it would not be obvious. In their solitude, Saints Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy Scripture with manuscript guidances from the most ancient commentators, and in parts Origen also -- from all whose works they compiled an anthology, a Philokalia. And also at this time at the request of the monks, Basil the Great wrote down a collection of rules for virtuous life. By his preachings and by his example Saint Basil the Great assisted in the spiritual perfecting of Christians in Cappadocia and Pontus; and many indeed turned to him. Monasteries were organized for men and for women, in which places Basil sought to unite the coenobitic (koine -- bios or life in common) lifestyle with that of the solitary hermit.

During the reign of Constantius (337-361) the heretical false-teachings of Arius spread about, and the Church summoned both its saints into service. Saint Basil returned to Caesarea. In the year 362 he was ordained deacon by the bishop of Antioch, Meletios; later on, in 364 he was ordained to the dignity of priest by the bishop of Caesarea, Eusebios. "But seeing" -- as Gregory the Theologian relates -- "that everyone exceedingly praised and honored Basil for his wisdom and reverence, Eusebios, through human weakness, succumbed to jealousy of him, and began to show dislike for him." The monks rose up in defense of Saint Basil. To avoid causing Church discord, Basil withdrew to his own monastery and concerned himself with the organization of monasteries.

With the coming to power of the emperor Valens (364-378), who was a resolute adherent of Arianism, there began for Orthodoxy the onset of a time of troubles -- "the onset of the great struggle." Saint Basil then hastily returned to Caesarea at the call of bishop Eusebios. In the words of Gregory the Theologian, he was for bishop Eusebios "a good advisor, a righteous representative, an expounder of the Word of God, a staff for the aged, a faithful support in matters internal, and an activist in matter external."

From this time church governance passed over to Basil, though he was subordinate to the hierarch. He preached daily, and often twice so -- in the morning and in the evening. And during this time Saint Basil compiled the order of his Liturgy; he wrote a work "Discourse on the Six Days" and another in 16 chapters on the Prophet Isaiah, yet another on the Psalms, and also a second compilation of monastic rules. Saint Basil wrote also Three Books "Against Eunomios", an Arian teacher who with the help of Aristotelian concepts had presented the Arian dogmatics in learnedly philosophic form, converting the Christian teaching into a logical scheme of rationalist concepts.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Basil the Great during this period, points to "the caring for the destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of virgins, written and unwritten monastic rule for the monasticizing, the arrangement of prayers [Liturgy], the felicitous arrangement of altars and other things." Upon the death of the bishop of Caesarea Eusebios, Saint Basil in the year 370 was elevated onto his cathedra-chair. As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil the Great was the newest in rank of 50 bishops in eleven provinces. Saint Athanasias the Great (commemorated 2 May), with joy and with thanks to God, welcomed the bestowing of Cappadocia with such a bishop as Basil, famed for his reverence, deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, great learning, and his efforts for the welfare of Church peace and unity.

In the empire of Valens the external government belonged to the Arians, who held several various opinions on questions of the Divinity of the Son of God and hence were divided into several factions. And to these dogmatic disputes were connected questions about the Holy Spirit. In his books Against Eunomios, Saint Basil the Great taught about the Divinity of the Holy Spirit and Its Oneness together with the Father and the Son. Subsequently, for a full explanation of the Orthodox teaching on this question -- at the request of the Bishop of Iconium Saint Amphylokhios -- Saint Basil wrote his book About the Holy Spirit.

The generally sorry state of affairs for the Caesarea bishop was made even worse by various circumstances: Cappadocia was divided in two under the re-arrangement of governance of provincial districts. Then too at Antioch a schism occurred, occasioned by the ordination of a second bishop. There was the negative and haughty attitude of Western bishops to the attempts to draw them into the struggle with the Arians. And there was also the departure over to the Arian side by Eustathios of Sebasteia, with whom Basil had been connected by close friendship. Amidst the constant perils Saint Basil gave encouragement to the Orthodox, affirmed them in the faith, summoning them to bravery and endurance. The holy bishop wrote numerous letters to the Churches, to bishops, to clergy and to individuals. Overcoming the heretics "by the weapon of his mouth, and by the arrows of his letters," as an untiring champion of Orthodoxy, Saint Basil all his life gave challenge to the hostility and all the possible intrigues of the Arian heretics.

The emperor Valens, mercilessly dispatching into exile any bishops that displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for precisely this purpose. He sent off to Saint Basil the prefect Modestus, who began to threaten the saint with ruin, banishment, beatings and even death by execution. "All this", replied Basil, "for me means nothing, since one cannot be deprived of possessions that one does not have, beyond some old worn-out clothing and some books, which comprises the entirety of my wealth. For me it would not be exile, since I am bound to no particular place, and this place in which I now dwell is not mine, and indeed no place whither I be cast shalt be mine. Better it is to say: everywhere is the place of God, whither be naught stranger nor new-comer (Ps 38[39]:13). And what tortures can ye do me? I am so weak that merely but the very first blow will be felt. Death for me would be an act of kindness: it wilt bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and do labor, and to Whom moreover I do strive."

The official was bewildered by such an answer. "Perhaps", continued the saint, "thou hast never had encounter with a bishop; otherwise, without doubt, thou wouldst have heard suchlike words. In all else we are meek, the most humble of all, and not only afront the mighty, but also afront all, since such is prescribed for us by the law. But when it is a matter concerning God and they make bold to rise up against Him, then we, being mindful of naught else, think only of Him alone, and then fire, sword, wild beasts and chains, the rending of the body, would sooner hold satisfaction for us, than to be afraid."

Reporting to Valens on the unintimidated Saint Basil, Modestus said: "Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church." Basil the Great again showed firmness and in front of the very person of the emperor himself and his retinue produced such a strong impression on Valens that the emperor dared not give in to the Arians demanding the exile of Basil. "On the day of Theophany, amidst an innumerable multitude of the people, Valens entered the church and mixed in amidst the throng, in order to give the appearance of being in unity with the Church. When began the singing of psalmody in the church, it was like thunder to his hearing. The emperor beheld a sea of people, and in the altar and all around was splendor; in front of all was Basil, acknowledging neither by gesture nor by glance, as though in church was occurred aught else, than that everything was intent only on God and the altar-table, and the clergy thereat in awe and reverence."

Saint Basil almost daily celebrated Divine services. He was particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the canons of the Church, and kept attentive watch, so that only worthy individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea Saint Basil built two monasteries -- a men's and a women's -- with a church in honor of 40 martyrs whose relics were buried there. On the example of monks, the metropolitan clergy of the saint -- even deacons and priests -- lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead lives chaste and virtuous. For his clergy Saint Basil got an exemption from taxes. All his personal wealth and the income-proceeds from his church he used for the benefit of the destitute; in every center of his diocese he built a poor-house; at Caesarea, a home for wanderers and the homeless.

Sickly since youth, the toil of teaching, efforts at abstinence, the concerns and sorrows of pastoral service early sapped the strength of the saint. Saint Basil died on 1 January 379 at age 49. Shortly before his death, the saint gave blessing to Saint Gregory the Theologian to enter upon the Constantinople cathedra-chair.

Upon the repose of Saint Basil, the Church immediately began to celebrate his memory. Saint Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium (+394), in his eulogy to Saint Basil the Great, said: "It is neither without a reason nor by chance that holy Basil hath taken leave from the body and had repose from the world unto God on the day of the Circumcision of Jesus, celebrated betwixt the day of the Nativity and the day of the Baptism of Christ. Wherefore this most blessed one, preaching and praising the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, extolling spiritual circumcision, himself forsaking the flesh, doth ascend to Christ now especially on the sacred day of remembrance of the Circumcision of Christ. Therefore also let be established on this present day annually to honor the memory of Basil the Great festally and solemnly."
*†ç Right in the midst of Advent, we celebrated the Feast of Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia) of Syracuse, whose very name means light, a light we will celebrate again wildly on this momentous New Year's eve *** @;-)P

The power of Saints is that they each point us and bring each more into light one of the unique attributes
of God's Love & Mercy in action in our world, something we all and always need help for.

God's Infinite
Goodness and Beauty, in all Its facets, is something a single person cannot ever grasp.

Hence, even a hermit will pour over the four gospels, listening to the four distinct voices of the Evangelists.
He also learns from the Life of the Saints and any unexpected visitor
looking for shelter.

We are to live in the spiritual community Jesus brought us in touch from Heaven, - in Communion with the Saints -
and in the fellowship
of His Kingdom on Earth - which our church opens to us in the community that she brings between the faithful on earth
and the Faithful in Heaven.

Lucy - the bright girl martyr - above all reminds us that God is Light, the Light of Love that does not cast shadows, except over Its Absence.

Her feast is especially marked near the Artic Circle, where the long nights of winter give a poignant feel for the first two verses from Chapter 9 from the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah prophezises the coming of the Prince of Peace in the little backwaters of Nazareth, the Land of Zebulon and Naphtali, the Galilee of the Gentiles, in the melting pot of the "decapolis" ( the "10 cities") along the Sea of Galilee (also called the Lake of Tiberias by the Romans rulers of the time, whose emperor-dictator was named Tiberiius, and called Lake of Gennesareth by the local Jewish population)). Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews, Persians coexisted in the colorful cities of Sepphoris, Caparnaum. Gennesareth, Tiberias, etc.. It is not by accident Jesus was born in the hills nearby. He came for everybody.

I quote Isaiah's prophecy here below from my favorite on-line bible, biblos.com (it includes Hebrew & Greek original texts along with modern translations). As one re-read the famously poetic line about the "people walking in darkness", let us remember that on the Feast of St Lucy (Santa Lucia), in Scandinavian circles, especially Sweden, the eldest daughter of a household, dresses in a white nightgown, and is crowned with a wreath of candles.

She brings on this day breakfast to her parents in bed, coffee and ginger cookies, pepperkake or safran cake (Luciakatte), singing the famous Italian verses that Venetian gondoliers have also made famous.

That custom is precisely to remind us - in a Scandinavian way - of the precious prophecy of Isaiah in the midst of the cold, dark nights of winter ( most of Christmas customs such as the evergeens and tree, the candles, Santa Klaus, reindeers, North Pole, elves etc.. come from Nordic cultures, who understood better than anybody the drearyneess of seemingly eternal nights and the hope that only the light of dawn can bring:

<< Isaiah 9 >>

Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace
1 But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

Matthew echoes the words of Isaiah in his gospel. Being the most authentically Jewish apostle, he addressed his countrymen in their faith and scriptural quotations the most. He quotes Isaiah's prophecy about the birth of the Prince of Peace in the Galilee of the Gentiles in the fourth chapter of his gospel, after describing how Jesus withstood 40 days of temptation in the Desert and then left little Nazareth to settle in Capharnaum, one of the 10 cities along the Lake of Tiberias (Lake Gennesareth, Sea of Galilee) (Mt 4:13) and call his first apostle, Simon the fisherman, whom He re-baptized Peter (Mt 4:18).



ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 4:16 Greek NT: Stephanus Textus Receptus (1550, with accents)
ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος ἐν σκότει εἶδε φῶς μέγα καὶ τοῖς καθημένοις ἐν χώρᾳ καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου φῶς ἀνέτειλεν αὐτοῖς

Matthew 4:16 Hebrew Bible
העם ההלכים בחשך ראו אור גדול וישבי בארץ צלמות אור נגה עליהם׃

Today is the day to meditate on what the Life of the Light of the World was, a day where the light of Lucy's humble faith sheds perspective on the even humbler life of Jesus and its impact on our world.

Here is a link to a little movie clip that puts into images. The voice of the narrator is accented the way Jesus pretty much spoke (and his galilean mötley crue ;-), the accent that the servant girl recognized in Peter's voice in the Grand Priest courtyard in Jerusalem the night Jesus was arrested.

"One Solitary Life"

(This next clip is a link, I could succeed in inserting the slideshow - it is dedicated to my LJ friend "brotherskeeper1" because the clip spells out the text of a Solitary Life in a somewhat different perspective, with beautiful photographs, not as good as hers, but extolling the tranquil beauty of Creation all the same)

Santa Lucia Örnsköldsvik 2005
From the Franciscan website "AmericanCatholic.org":

"The single fact survives that a disappointed suitor accused Lucy of being a Christian and she was executed in Syracuse (Sicily) in the year 304.

But it is also true that her name is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer, geographical places are named after her, a popular song has her name as its title and down through the centuries many thousands of little girls have been proud of the name Lucy.

One can easily imagine what a young Christian woman had to contend with in pagan Sicily in the year 300.

If you have trouble imagining, just glance at today’s pleasure-at-all-costs world and the barriers it presents against leading a good Christian life.

Her friends must have wondered aloud about this hero of Lucy’s, an obscure itinerant preacher in a far-off captive nation that had been destroyed more than 200 years before.

Once a carpenter, he had been crucified by the Roman soldiers after his own people turned him over to the Roman authorities.

Lucy believed with her whole soul that this man had risen from the dead.

Heaven had put a stamp on all he said and did.

To give witness to her faith she had made a vow of virginity.

What a hubbub this caused among her pagan friends!

The kindlier ones just thought her a little strange.

To be pure before marriage was an ancient Roman ideal, rarely found but not to be condemned.

To exclude marriage altogether, however, was too much.

She must have something sinister to hide, the tongues wagged.

Lucy knew of the heroism of earlier virgin martyrs.

She remained faithful to their example and to the example of the carpenter, whom she knew to be the Son of God.

She is the patroness of eyesight. She is in my opinion also the patron Saint of bright, passionate teen-age girls who commit to a chaste behavior unheraled in today's media. And eyesight is not just physical. In Jesus own words, quoted in Luke 11:34 and Matthew 6:22-23

<< Luke 11:34 >>"The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. (NASB ©1995)
Matthew 6:22 "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

Matthew 6:23 "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (NASB ©1995)

If you are a girl named Lucy, your patron Saint is a genuine, authentic heroine, first class, an abiding inspiration for you and for all Christians.

The moral courage of the young Sicilian martyr shines forth as a guiding light, just as bright for today’s youth as it was in A.D. 304."

Today is the 2nd Sunday of the Season of Advent 2008 Open your Bible & read in Today’s Gospel, Mark Chapter 1, Verse 1-8.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight -- "

The Gospel of Mark explodes on the scene with the arrival of John the Baptist. You could say Mark’s Gospel starts with a BANG!

Mark, which we believe is the first gospel to have been written, points us immediately to all the stories we will read in the New Testament.
The word gospel means good news, and the good news is the first thing Mark tells us about.

Second, he quotes from the book of Isaiah, a prophet of the Old Testament who was Jesus favorite (He quotes Isaiah more than any other book in his ministery), so we know that we are grounded in the belief in the one God of the Bible.

(The actual quotes are from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.)

And third, John tells us that our baptism starts first with repentance, which is the renunciation of all things evil we may or want to have done: the Good News about Jesus will guide us toturn our lives around towards all that is True, Good and Beautiful.

To repent is to do more than to be sorry for your sins: it means a bold turning away or turning around: firmly setting yourself in a direction that leads away from doing, saying, and believing bad things. 

John baptized and preached by the River Jordan in Palestine, showing people the harm of their ways, telling them that Jesus would follow him to save the people from their sins.

This year, we read the story of John the Baptist in two versions. Today, we read Mark's story in this year of Mark. Next Sunday, we will read the story written by John the Evangelist.

1. Who does Mark say he is writing about in verse 1?
[Mark writes, "This is the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God."]

2. Which prophet does Mark quote?
[Mark quotes the prophet Isaiah.]

3. What did John the Baptist wear?
[He wore clothes made of camel's hair with a leather strap around his waist.]

4. What did John the Baptist eat?
[He ate locusts (somewhat like grasshoppers) and wild honey.]

5.What does John say about his relationship to Jesus?
[John says, 'I am not good enough even to stoop down and untie his sandals."]

*†ç OLMC Family Scripture Study – 10/19/08 – Jesus tells us: “ Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”We are in the image of God and belongs to Him

The Pharisees asked Jesus if they should pay taxes instead of tithing.

Jesus answered by a question.

Whose picture is on the coin?

Caesar! (= government of the time)

But whose image are we?

“ Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” –

We are in the image of God and belongs to Him.”

Today is the 29th Sunday in ordinary time.

Open your Bible & read in Today’s Gospel Matthew 22: 15- 22

Read the matching story in Mark 12: 13- 17, Luke 20:20-26.

In the first three weeks of our Bible Study, we learned in the Gospel of Saint Matthew that Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven in stories we call parables. He compares first the Kingdom of Heaven to a vineyard, and tells us how to work in it. Last week in the gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus taught us in a new chapter that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a Wedding Feast and how we can come to the Feast, thus how to get to the Heaven. Today, Jesus is asked by scholars (= teachers) how we are to deal with the problems of our world. Shall we pay taxes or give our money to the church?

The Pharisees were a religious group at the time of Jesus that was so religiously observant, they exaggerated their worship, and were sometimes acting like hypocrites. They liked to talk to Jesus, but some of them were always looking to trip him up, hoping Jesus would make mistakes and could be accused of speaking falsehoods about God and arrested.
The Pharisees were very worried about Jesus’s teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem, because Jesus threatened their power over their people and their collection of money for the Temple. The Pharisees wanted to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities when Jesus taught in the Temple, and eventually succeeded after 3 years of trying. This is how Jesus ended up crucified by the Romans.
Taxes were a great burden in Palestine at that time, where Jesus and his people, the Jews, lived. The Jewish people hated tax collectors. One of these tax collector’s was Jesus’ follower (= disciple) Matthew. But Matthew converted, became an apostle and wrote one of the four gospels, abandoning his job at the “Roman IRS”, which his people hated so much.
Many people, especially a group called the “Zealots” thought that Jewish people shouldn't have to pay taxes to the Romans, who were foreigners, and that the Jewish people should revolt. The Zealots were a revolutionary group who would attack the Roman soldier patrols. One zealot, called “Simon the Zealot”, also converted and became a disciple of Jesus, abandoning violence, but not his ideas about the Romans. Violent Zealots were called Iscariots (“ carrier dagger s) and were essentially terrorists. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus 12 disciples, disappointed that Jesus would not use violence to get rid of the Romans, betrayed him and delivered him to the Pharisees. Later on, he realized, in his own words, that “he had betrayed an innocent man”, and cried bitterly.

The Roman soldiers were occupying the Jewish homeland, which the Jewish people called in their onw language, Hebrew, “Israël” . This Jewish name means in Hebrew “God has made it right”). This was the nickname God gave to their “patriarch” Jacob when Jacob came to faith. Jacod “Israël” was the grand-son of Abraham, and the son of Abraham’son Isaac. The word “Patriarch means “Father of the Nation”. Israël has thus three patriarchs. The first one, Abraham is the founder of the Nation of Israël, just like our George Washington of the, and Jacob, his grand-son, is like our John Adams.
But the Romans had invaded Israël because their emperor was keen on conquering the whole world. They changed the very name of the countries they were occupying.
The Romans did not believe in our God, but in many Roman gods. They demanded that their leader, the Emperor, whom they called CAESAR in latin, be worshipped as a God by all the people they had invaded.
This is why the Romans renamed Israël by the Roman name “Palestine”, to remove the very name of God from the land God had given to the three patriarchs “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to all their descendants”. God called the Jews His “chosen people”, a name that has stuck to these days, 6000 years after Abraham first head the Voice of God in ancient Ur (now near Baghdad, in Iraq)
God also told to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants that he Jews would welcome one day the Messiah (God’s “Chosen One” in Hebrew) Who would save the world. The Jewish Messiah, Jesus-Christ, was indeed born in a little Jewish family, that of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth.
Remember that Caesar was the Roman word for emperor.
1. What did the Pharisees tell Jesus that he taught?

2. What did Jesus ask to see?

3. Whose picture was on the coin?

4. What did Jesus say?

5. What did the Pharisees do?

6. What should WE do?

Art work from the Brazilian Catholic artist Cerezo Barredo's weekly gospel illustration.

The ink drawings follow the Latin American Roman Catholic gospel reading, which matches most gospels in North America, except for specific Saint Feasts where preseance is always given to national Saints (for example, Saint Rose of Lima, or Saint Martin de Pores in South America, Saint Francis Cabrini or Saint Elizabeth Seton in the USA).

The language used on the banners are in Portugese.

Cerezo Barredo renders Sunday's Gospels message in contemporary setting with emphasis of Catholic social justice teaching.

Jesus is always reverentially represented in period clothing and demaneor.
*†ç What is the Kingdom of God like? Jesus tells is it is like a vineyard whose owner is generous beyond our understanding.

This story Jesus tells us is found in the Gospel of St Matthew: Chapter 20: verses 1-16 (in shorthand: Mt 20:1-16

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Vineyard.

Jesus' followers and disciples were quite like us. They wanted a heaven they could see in earthly terms, where each good deed and kind act were added up so that the disciples could compete for better positions closer to Jesus.
So Jesus told many parables about what heaven was like, a wonderful place where the boundless grace and goodness of God made all earthly sorts of competition irrelevant - there are no bad seats in heaven.
Do you think the disciples understood him this time?

1. What is a vineyard?

2. Where did the man who owned the vineyard go to hire day laborers? Why do you think he went there to find workers?

3. What times of the day did he go to hire workers?

4. How did he pay the workers? How much? In what currency?

5. What did the workers that he hired first do?

6. What did the owner of the vineyard say?