Monday, August 24, 2009

Feast of St. Louis, King of France, Patron of the Third Order

Aug 25 - St. Louis IX, King of France 1215-1270
Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order
King St. Louis was born in the castle at Poissy near Paris on April 25, 1215. His devout mother, Blanche, was determined that he should be educated not only for the earthly kingdom he was to govern, but still more for the kingdom of heaven. She accustomed him to look upon all things in the light of faith, and thus laid the foundation for that humility in good fortune and endurance in misfortune which characterized the holy king.
Louis was crowned king when he was only 12 years old. His mother, however, was entrusted with the actual government of the kingdom during his minority. Meanwhile, Louis was being educated in all the duties of a Christian prince. Among his instructors there were several Franciscan friars, and later on the young king himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis.
Louis had governed his kingdom for several years in his own name, when he vowed, in the course of a serious illness, that if he would recover, he would make a crusade to the Holy Land, to wrest the holy places from the hands of the infidels. Upon regaining his health he at once carried out his vow. He took the fortress of Damietta from the Saracens, but was taken captive after his army had been weakened by an epidemic.
After he had borne the sufferings of a prisoner of the infidels for several months with holy serenity, the terms for his release were submitted to him; but there was attached to these terms an oath, that if he did not fulfill them, he would deny Christ and the Christian religion. The holy king replied: "Such blasphemous words shall never cross my lips." They threatened him with death. "Very well," he said, "you may kill my body, but you will never kill my soul." Filled with admiration at his steadfast courage, the finally released him without objectionable condition. After securing many other terms favorable to the Christians, he was obliged to return to France, since his mother had died in the meantime.
In the government of his kingdom, Louis proved how profitable piety is in every respect. He promoted the welfare of the country and his people in a remarkable manner. His life as a Christian and as a Christian father was so exemplary that he has been found worthy to be chosen as the patron and model of Tertiaries. The most important principal of his life was the observance of the laws of God under all circumstances. His biographer assures us that he never lost his baptismal innocence by mortal sin. He himself set such store by the grace of baptism that, in confidential letters, he took pleasure in signing himself "Louis of Poissy," because it was in the parish church there that he had been baptized.
Louis never tolerated cursing or sinful conversation either among the servants or among the courtiers; and never was he heard to utter an unkind or impatient word. he wished to avoid all unnecessary pomp and luxury at court, so that more help could be rendered to the poor, of whom he personally fed and served several hundred. His wardrobe was as simple as it could fittingly be, and at all times he wore the insignia of the Third Order under his outer garments. On special occasions he publicly wore the habit of the Tertiaries.
In order to curb sensuality he not only observed all the fasts of the Church with unusual severity, but denied himself certain food for which he had a special craving. He was a most solicitous father to the 11 children with which God blessed his marriage. He himself prayed with them daily, examined them in the lessons they had learned, guided them in the performance of the works of Christian charity, and in his will bequeathed to them the most beautiful instructions.
He fostered special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and it was a great consolation for him when he gained possession of the Crown of Thorns, for the preservation of which he had the magnificent Holy Chapel built in Paris. When serious complaints concerning the oppression of the Christians in the Holy Land reached his ears, he undertook a second crusade in 1270, but on the way he died of the plague, contracted while visiting his sick soldiers.
Amid exclamations of holy joy because he was going into the house of the Lord, he surrendered his soul to God on August 25. St. Louis was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.
MORTAL SIN IS THE GREATEST EVIL1. "Death rather than a mortal sin!" St. Louis frequently said these words when he recalled what his mother had told him. He was right, because mortal sin is worse than death. It is the greatest evil in the world because it means the loss of the greatest good, which is God Himself. He who commits a mortal sin, that is, violates one of God's commandments in an important matter with full knowledge and free consent, even if it be only in thought, hears God's threaten him with His displeasure, and still he says: "I will not obey." He separates himself from God, falls from grace, and is changed from an object of the love of God, into an object of hatred: "The Highest hates sinners" (Eccli 12:7). -- Can we think of a greater evil than this?2. Consider how King St. Louis actually carried out the greatest principle of his life in his conduct. He preferred to remain a prisoner of the Saracens, which included loss of his kingdom and even his own life, rather than take a blasphemous oath. No material loss can compare with the loss of God, whereas every temporal suffering is quite bearable if we remain in the grace of God; in fact, it becomes sweet if we bear it because we do not want to offend God. But to offend God in order to escape material suffering means to cast oneself into the greatest suffering. "Your apostasy shall rebuke you, and you shall know and see that it is an evil and bitter thing for you to have left the Lord, your God" (Jer 2:19). -- Therefore, say frequently: "Death rather than mortal sin!"3. Consider that St. Louis could not have been happy in the possession of his kingdom if he had been obliged to reclaim it by a blasphemous oath. Can a Christian enjoy temporal goods and honors if he must admit that his claim to them was bought at the price of mortal sin? Can he really accept them while he is confronted with the outlook that the next moment can cast him into eternal hell fire? No more than Damocles could enjoy the grand banquet when he saw over his head a drawn sword suspended by a hair. Surely it is better to die with St. Louis in a strange country among the plague-stricken, and to make the sacrifice of one's life in the practice of charity.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCHO God, who didst transport St. Louis, Thy confessor, from an earthly kingdom into the bliss of the Kingdom of heaven, we beseech Thee, grant us through his merits and intercession to be made associates of the King of Kings, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi ( Santa Chiara )

At the beginning of the 13th century, when luxury and sensuality held sway,St. Francis of Assisi made his appearance, giving to men the example of apoor and penitential life. But God wished also to give the vain andpleasure-loving women of that period an example of contempt of the world'svanities. For this mission he chose Clare, the daughter of a prominent andnoble family of Assisi, born January 20, 1194. Her father was Favarone deOffreduccio, count of Sassorosso; her mother, the servant of God Ortolana,who died in the odor of sanctity.

Before the child's birth it was revealed to the mother that her offspringwould be a brilliant light in the world. This light the mother detected inher daughter from her earliest years. Besides being favored with personalbeauty, Clare possessed a charming personality and rare qualities of mind.She was a favorite in the family, and hardly had she attained to youngwomanhood, when several suitors sought her in marriage.

But her virtues surpassed the gifts with which nature endorsed her. Sheinterested herself in the poor and frequently denied herself things so as tobe able to give more to the poor members of Christ. She loved prayer, andit was her sweetest delight to surrender her heart to sentiments of ardentdevotion before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Beneath herbeautiful garments she wore a sharp penitential belt in order to honor thesufferings of Christ and to preserve herself a chaste virgin for His sake.

She was 18 years old when she heard St. Francis preach in the cathedral ofAssisi during the Lent of 1212. His words on contempt of the world and onpenance, and particularly the holy example he set, so earnestly affectedClare, that she conferred with him and soon recognized that God was callingher to lead a life similar to his in the seclusion of a convent. She didnot hesitate to carry out God's plans. Realizing that her family, intentonly on a brilliant future for her in the world, would oppose her vocationin every way, she had to leave home in secret.

On Palm Sunday she went to church, dressed in her richest garments, toattend divine services. That night, attended by an elderly relative, shewent to the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis andhis brethren came to meet her with lighted candles in their hands. Beforethe altar she removed her beautiful head-dress, then St. Francis cut off herhair and covered her head with a veil of common linen. In place of richgarments, she received a coarse penitential garb and was girded with a whitecord. This was the way in which the mother and founder of the Poor Clareswas invested on March 18, 1212. For the time being, St. Francis placed herin a convent of Benedictine sisters.

When Clare had successfully overcome the great opposition of her family, whohad intended to force her to return home, her sister Agnes joined her in thesacrifice. St. Francis arranged a little convent for them near the churchof St. Damian. There the number of consecrated virgins soon increased.They served God in great poverty, strict penance, and complete seclusionfrom the world according to a rule which St. Francis gave them as his SecondOrder. Clare was obliged in obedience to accept the office of abbess in1215 and to continue in it for 38 years until her death. But her love forhumility found compensation in the performance of the lowliest servicestoward her sisters. In spite of her great physical sufferings, she set hersisters a striking example of zeal in penance and prayer.

In the year 1240 an army of Saracens who were in the service of EmperorFrederick II drew near Assisi. They rushed upon the little convent of St.Damian that lay outside the city and had already scaled the walls of themonastery. In mortal fear the sisters had recourse to their mother, who wasill in bed.

The saint, carrying the pyx containing the Most Blessed Sacrament, hadherself carried to a convent window. There she pleaded fervently with theLord of heaven in the words of the Psalmist (Ps 73:19), "Deliver not up tobeasts the souls, that confess to thee, and shield thy servants whom thouhast redeemed with thy precious blood." A mysterious voice coming from theHost said, "I shall always watch over you." Immediately panic seized thebesiegers. A ray of brilliant light which emanated from the BlessedSacrament had dazzled them. They fell down from the walls and fled from theplace. The convent was saved and the town of Assisi was spared.
After suffering from serious illness for 30 years, Clare felt that her endwas drawing nigh. After she had received the last sacraments, she and oneof her sisters beheld the Queen of Virgins coming with a large escort tomeet her, the spouse of Jesus Christ. On August 11, 1253, she entered intothe joys of eternity and on the following day her body was buried. PopeAlexander IV canonized her in the year 1255. She was chosen as theuniversal patroness of television in 1958.


1. "Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory!" (Wisdom 4:1).This praise of heaven St. Clare and her company of sisters have merited forthemselves. Corporal beauty, personal charm, and costly clothes in whichthe children of the world take so much pleasure, this wise virgin consideredas naught. She understood the meaning of the Psalmist's words: "All theglory of the king's daughter is within" (Psalm 44:14). Untainted purity ofsoul, humility, voluntary poverty, penance, ardent love of God; these werethe virtues in which she sought her glory, and in them she foundimperishable beauty. Where are now the beautifully dressed women of Assisiof that period? Their memory has vanished. But Clare, like St. Francis,shines in heaven and on earth. Both have made their town famous throughoutthe world. -- Do you want true and lasting glory? It is to be found only invirtue. Where have you sought it in the past?

2. Consider that, like a wise virgin, St. Clare did not make a display ofher virtues before the world, but strove to hide them in the strictestseclusion. If the violet, which give forth such a sweet scent in itsseclusion, is planted in an open garden, its beauteous color fades and thesweetness of its scent diminishes. The same thing happens with our virtuesand good works. That is why St. Gregory, commenting on the Gospel parableof the ten virgins, says: "The good that we do must be carefully concealed,so that we do not look for favor and honor among men, otherwise that whichexternally appears as virtue would be inwardly deprived of its merit."Christians who are interested in their salvation, and especially Christianwomen and girls, even though they do not live in a convent, are included inthe words of the Apostle: "For you are dead, and your life is hid withChrist in God" (Col 3:3). -- Can this be said of you?

3. Consider what happiness St. Clare found even here on earth in her life ofseclusion. This did not consist in material comfort, nor even in continualspiritual consolation, but in sacrifices made for God, by which she becameever more intimately united with the Source of all happiness. She once saidto a young girl: "Our alliance is arrived at by self-denial and therenunciation of earthly things, by the crucifixion of the body and thesacrifice of the will, but the joys attached to it are eternal, the bond isindissoluble, it begins in the world, death puts the final seal to it." Onthe morning of the day on which she died she received the holy Viaticum; inthe afternoon, Pope Innocent IV paid her a visit and gave her generalabsolution. But Clare felt happier at having received the Lord of heaven inholy Communion than at having been honored by a visit from the pope. --May we, too, become indifferent to all earthly glory so that we may bepermitted to enjoy the eternal!

We beseech Thee, O Lord, grant us Thy servants who devoutly celebrate thefeast day of the holy virgin Clare, to be made partakers of the joys ofheaven and co-heirs of Thy only-begotten Son. Who livest and reignestforever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncola

Ant. Come let us adore Christ the bridegroom of the Church as we honor the memory of the Virgin Mary.