St. John Bosco Jan 31

St. Giovanni Melchior Bosco  (Or St. John Bosco; Don Bosco.)

04-S_Giovanni_Bosco-8Founder of the Salesian Society. Born of poor parents in a little cabin at Becchi, a hill-side hamlet near Castelnuovo, Piedmont, Italy, 16 August, 1815; died 31 January 1888; declared Venerable by Pius X, 21 July, 1907. [Note: Pope Pius XI beatified him in 1929 and canonized him in 1934.]

When he was little more than two years old his father died, leaving the support of three boys to the mother, Margaret Bosco. John’s early years were spent as a shepherd and he received his first instruction at the hands of the parish priest. He possessed a ready wit, a retentive memory, and as years passed his appetite for study grew stronger. Owing to the poverty of the home, however, he was often obliged to turn from his books to the field, but the desire of what he had to give up never left him. In 1835 he entered the seminary at Chieri and after six years of study was ordained priest on the eve of Trinity Sunday by Archbishop Franzoni of Turin.

Leaving the seminary, Don Bosco went to Turin where he entered zealously upon his priestly labours. It was here that an incident occurred which opened up to him the real field of effort of his afterlife. One of his duties was to accompany Don Cafasso upon his visits to the prisons of the city, and the condition of the children confined in these places, abandoned to the most evil influences, and with little before them but the gallows, made such a indelible impression upon his mind that he resolved to devote his life to the rescue of these unfortunate outcasts. On the eighth of December, 1841, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, while Don Bosco was vesting for Mass, the sacristan drove from the Church a ragged urchin because he refused to serve Mass. Don Bosco heard his cries and recalled him, and in the friendship which sprang up between the priest and Bartolomeo Garelli was sown the first seed of the “Oratory”, so called, no doubt, after the example of St. Philip Neri and because prayer was its prominent feature. Don Bosco entered eagerly upon the task of instructing this first pupil of the streets; companions soon joined Bartolomeo, all drawn by a kindness they had never known, and in February, 1842, the Oratory numbered twenty boys, in March of the same year, thirty, and in March, 1846, four hundred.

Don Bosco ConfessAs the number of boys increased, the question of a suitable meeting-place presented itself. In good weather walks were taken on Sundays and holidays to spots in the country about Turin where lunch was eaten, and realizing the charm which music held for the untamed spirits of his disciples Don Bosco organized a band for which some old brass instruments were procured. In the autumn of 1844 he was appointed assistant chaplain to the Rifugio, where Don Borel entered enthusiastically into his work. With the approval of Archbishop Franzoni, two rooms were secured adjoining the Rifugio and converted into a chapel, which was dedicated to St. Francis de Sales. The members of the Oratory now gathered at the Rifugio, and numbers of boys from the surrounding district applied for admission. It was about this time (1845) that Don Bosco began his night schools and with the closing of the factories the boys flocked to his rooms where he and Don Borel instructed them in rudimentary branches.

The success of the Oratory at the Rifugio was not of long duration. To his great distress Don Bosco was obliged to give up his rooms and from this on he was subjected to petty annoyances and obstacles which, at times, seemed to spell the ruin of his undertaking. His perseverance in the face of all difficulties led many to the conclusion that he was insane, and an attempt was even made to confine him in an asylum. Complaints were lodged against him, declaring his community to be a nuisance, owing to the character of the boys he befriended. From the Rifugio the Oratory was moved to St. Martin’s, to St. Peter’s Churchyard, to three rooms in Via Cottolengo, where the night schools were resumed, to an open field, and finally to a rough shed upon the site of which grew up an Oratory that counted seven hundred members. Don Bosco took lodgings nearby, where he was joined by his mother. “Mama Margaret”, as Don Bosco’s mother came to be known, gave the last ten years of her life in devoted service to the little inmates of this first Salesian home. When she joined her son at the Oratory the outlook was not bright. But sacrificing what small means she had, even to parting with her home, its furnishings, and her jewelry, she brought all the solicitude and love of a mother to these children of the streets. The evening classes increased and gradually dormitories were provided for many who desired to live at the Oratory. Thus was founded the first Salesian Home which now houses about one thousand boys.

The municipal authorities by this time had come to recognize the importance of the work which Don Bosco was doing, and he began with much success a fund for the erection of technical schools and workshops. These were all completed without serious difficulty. In 1868 to meet the needs of the Valdocco quarter of Turin, Don Bosco resolved to build a church. Accordingly a plan was drawn in the form of a cross covering an area of 1,500 sq. yards. He experienced considerable difficulty in raising the necessary money, but the charity of some friends finally enabled him to complete it at a cost of more than a million francs (about 200,000). The church was consecrated 9 June, 1868, and placed under the patronage of Our Lady, Help of Christians. In the same year in which Don Bosco began the erection of the church fifty priests and teachers who had been assisting him formed a society under a common rule which Pius IX, provisionally in 1869, and finally in 1874, approved.

Character and Growth of the Oratory

Any attempt to explain the popularity of the Oratory among the classes to which Don Bosco devoted his life would fail without an appreciation of his spirit which was its life. For his earliest intercourse with poor boys he had never failed to see under the dirt, the rags, and the uncouthness the spark which a little kindness and encouragement would fan into a flame. In his vision or dream which he is said to have had in his early boyhood, wherein it was disclosed to him what his life work would be, a voice said to him: “Not with blows, but with charity and gentleness must you draw these friends to the path of virtue.” And whether this be accounted as nothing more than a dream, that was in reality the spirit with which he animated his Oratory. In the earlier days when the number of his little disciples was slender he drew them about him by means of small presents and attractions, and by pleasant walks to favorite spots in the environs of Turin. These excursions occurring on Sunday, Don Bosco would say Mass in the village church and give a short instruction on the Gospel; breakfast would then be eaten, followed by games; and in the afternoon Vespers would be chanted, a lesson in Catechism given, and the Rosary recited. It was a familiar sight to see him in the field surrounded by kneeling boys preparing for confession.

Don Bosco’s method of study knew nothing of punishment. Observance of rules was obtained by instilling a true sense of duty, by removing assiduously all occasions for disobedience, and by allowing no effort towards virtue, how trivial soever it might be, to pass unappreciated. He held that the teacher should be father, adviser, and friend, and he was the first to adopt the preventive method. Of punishment he said: “As far as possible avoid punishing . . . . try to gain love before inspiring fear.” And in 1887 he wrote: “I do not remember to have used formal punishment; and with God’s grace I have always obtained, and from apparently hopeless children, not alone what duty exacted, but what my wish simply expressed.” In one of his books he has discussed the causes of weakness of character, and derives them largely from a misdirected kindness in the rearing of children. Parents make a parade of precocious talents: the child understands quickly, and his sensitiveness enraptures all who meet him, but the parents have only succeeded in producing an affectionate, perfected, intelligent animal. The chief object should be to form the will and to temper the character. In all his pupils Don Bosco tried to cultivate a taste for music, believing it to be a powerful and refining influence. “Instruction”, he said, “is but an accessory, like a game; knowledge never makes a man because it does not directly touch the heart. It gives more power in the exercise of good or evil; but alone it is an indifferent weapon, wanting guidance.” He always studied, too, the aptitudes and vocations of his pupils, and to an almost supernatural quickness and clearness of insight into the hearts of children must be ascribed to no small part of his success. In his rules he wrote: “Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass: these are the pillars which should sustain the whole edifice of education.” Don Bosco was an indefatigable confessor, devoting days to the work among his children. He recognized that gentleness and persuasion alone were not enough to bring to the task of education. He thoroughly believed in play as a means of arousing childish curiosity — more than this, he places it among his first recommendations, and for the rest he adopted St. Philip Neri’s words: “Do as you wish, I do not care so long as you do not sin.”  1914 Catholic Encyclopedia

St. Timothy Jan. 24

Timothy_stained glassSt. Timothy was born in Lystra in Lycaonia of a gentile father and a Jewish mother, and was a follower of the Christian religion when the Apostle Paul visited that city. Paul was so moved by what he repeatedly heard of Timothy’s holiness that he took him with him as a companion on his journeys; yet, because of the Jews who had been converted to Christ and who knew that Timothy’s father had been a Gentile, he had him circumcised. When they both arrived at Ephesus, the Apostle ordained him bishop to govern the Church there. The Apostle wrote him two letters, one from Laodicea, the other from Rome. Strengthened by these letters in the ministry of his pastoral office, he could not endure that the sacrifice which is due to God alone should be offered to the images of demons, and he strove to win over the people of Ephesus from the impiety of offering sacrifice to Diana on her feast day. He was stoned, and was nearly dead when the Christians rescued him and took him to a village on a neighboring mountain. There he died in the Lord on January 24.  1960 Roman Breviary

St. Vincent And St Anastasius Jan 22

martyrdomSt. Vincent, born at Huesca in Spain. was an earnest student even as a child. He learned the sacred sciences from Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa. and then took over the work of preaching the Gospel since the bishop could not fulfill his preaching office because of an impediment of speech. For this reason Vincent was reported to the wicked prefect, Dacian, and brought to him in Valencia. He suffered imprisonment, hunger, racking and many other tortures; and gained the crown of martyrdom on the 22nd of January. Anastasius, a Persian monk, made a pilgrimage to the holy places in Jerusalem at the time of the emperor Heraclius. At Caesarea in Palestine he steadfastly endured imprisonment and scourging for professing his faith in Christ. Soon after, in Persia, he was afflicted by King Chosroes with many tortures for the same cause and was beheaded, together with seventy other Christians. His relics were first brought to Jerusalem, then taken to Rome, and finally placed in the monastery at Aquae Salviae. Roman 1960 Breviary

St. Agnes Virgin And Martyr Jan 21

St. Agnes of Rome

Agnes_Miracle of_TINTORETTOOf all the virgin martyrs of Rome none was held in such high honour by the primitive church, since the fourth century, as St. Agnes.

In the ancient Roman calendar of the feasts of the martyrs (Depositio Martyrum), incorporated into the collection of Furius Dionysius Philocalus, dating from 354 and often reprinted, e.g. in Ruinart [Acta Sincera Martyrum (ed. Ratisbon, 1859), 63 sqq.], her feast is assigned to 21 January, to which is added a detail as to the name of the road (Via Nomentana) near which her grave was located. The earliest sacramentaries give the same date for her feast, and it is on this day that the Latin Church even now keeps her memory sacred.

Since the close of the fourth century the Fathers of the Church and Christian poets have sung her praises and extolled her virginity and heroism under torture. It is clear, however, from the diversity in the earliest accounts that there was extant at the end of the fourth century no accurate and reliable narrative, at least in writing, concerning the details of her martyrdom. On one point only is there mutual agreement, viz., the youth of the Christian heroine. St. Ambrose gives her age as twelve (De Virginibus, I, 2; P.L., XVI, 200-202: Haec duodecim annorum martyrium fecisse traditur), St. Augustine as thirteen (Agnes puella tredecim annorum; Sermo cclxxiii, 6, P.L., XXXVIII, 1251), which harmonizes well with the words of Prudentius: Aiunt jugali vix habilem toro (Peristephanon, Hymn xiv, 10 in Ruinart, Act. Sinc., ed cit. 486). Damasus depicts her as hastening to martyrdom from the lap of her mother or nurse (Nutricis gremium subito liquisse puella; in St. Agneten, 3, ed. Ihm, Damasi epigrammata, Leipzig, 1895, 43, n. 40). We have no reason whatever for doubting this tradition. It indeed explains very well the renown of the youthful martyr.

sint-agnes-kerk2-pontif-massSOURCES

We have already cited the testimony of the three oldest witnesses to the martyrdom of St. Agnes:

  • St. Ambrose, De Virginibus, I, 2;
  • the inscription of Pope Damasus engraved on marble, the original of which may yet be seen at the foot of the stairs leading to the sepulchre and church of St. Agnes (Sant’ Agnese fuori le muri);
  • Prudentius, Peristephanon, Hymn 14.

The rhetorical narrative of St. Ambrose, in addition to the martyr’s age, gives nothing except her execution by the sword. The metrical panegyric of Pope Damasus tells us that immediately after the promulgation of the imperial edict against the Christians Agnes voluntarily declared herself a Christian, and suffered very steadfastly the martyrdom of fire, giving scarcely a thought to the frightful torments she had to endure, and concerned only with veiling, by means of her flowing hair, her chaste body which had been exposed to the gaze of the heathen multitude (Nudaque profusum crinem per membra dedisse, Ne domini templum facies peritura videret). Prudentius, in his description of the martyrdom, adheres rather to the account of St. Ambrose, but adds a new episode: The judge threatened to give over her virginity to a house of prostitution, and even executed this final threat; but when a young man turned a lascivious look upon the virgin, he fell to the ground stricken with blindness, and lay as one dead. Possible this is what Damasus and Ambrose refer to, in saying that the purity of St. Agnes was endangered; the latter in particular says (loc. cit.): Habetis igitur in una hostiâ duplex martyrium, pudoris et religionis: et virgo permansit et martyrium obtinuit(Behold therefore in the same victim a double martyrdom, one of modesty, the other of religion. She remained a virgin, and obtained the crown of martyrdom). Prudentius, therefore, may have drawn at least the substance of this episode from a trustworthy popular legend.

Agnes beatae virginis

Still another source of information, earlier than the Acts of her martyrdom, is the glorious hymn: Agnes beatae virginis, which, though probably not from the pen of St. Ambrose (since the poet’s narrative clings more closely to the account of Damasus), still betrays a certain use of the text of St. Ambrose, and was composed not long after the latter work. (See the text in Dreves, Aur. Ambrosius der Vater des Kirchengesanges, 135 Freiburg, 1893.)

Agnes_MASTER of the St. Bartholomew AltarThe Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Agnes

The Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Agnes belong to a somewhat later period, and are met with in three recensions, two Greek and one Latin. The oldest of them is the shorter of the two Greeks texts, on which the Latin text was based, though it was at the same time quite freely enlarged. The longer Greek text is a translation of this Latin enlargement (Pio Franchi de Cavalieri, St. Agnese nella tradizione e nella legenda, in Römische Quartalschrift, Supplement X, Rome, 1899; cf. Acta SS., Jan. II, 350 sqq). The Latin, and consequently, the shorter Greek text date back to the first half of the fifth century, when St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin (c. 450-470), evidently used the Latin Acts in a sermon (P.L., LVII, 643 sqq.). In these Acts the brothel episode is still further elaborated, and the virgin is decapitated after remaining untouched by the flames.

Agnes_DOMENICHINOAFTER HER MARTYRDOM

We do not know with certainty in which persecution the courageous virgin won the martyr’s crown. Formerly it was customary to assign her death to the persecution of Diocletian (c. 304), but arguments are now brought forward, based on the inscription of Damasus, to prove that it occurred during one of the third-century persecutions subsequent to that of Decius.

The body of the virgin martyr was placed in a separate sepulchre on the Via Nomentana, and around her tomb there grew up a larger catacomb that bore her name. The original slab which covered her remains, with the inscriptions Agne sanctissima, is probably the same one which is now preserved in the Museum at Naples. During the reign of Constantine, through the efforts of his daughter Constantina, a basilica was erected over the grave of St. Agnes, which was later entirely remodelled by Pope Honorius (625-638), and has since remained unaltered. In the apse is a mosaic showing the martyr amid flames, with a sword at her feet. A beautiful relief of the saint is found on a marble slab that dates from the fourth century and was originally a part of the altar of her church.

Since the Middle Ages St. Agnes has been represented with a lamb, the symbol of her virginal innocence. On her feast two lambs are solemnly blessed, and from their wool are made the palliums sent by the Pope to archbishops. From the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia

Sts. Fabian and Sebastian

Fabian and Sebastian_ 15th century Spanish panelSt. Fabian, a Roman, ruled the Church from the time of Maximian to that of Decius. He divided the City into seven districts and assigned a deacon to each to care for the poor. He appointed the same number of subdeacons to collect the Acts of the Martyrs from the records of the district notaries. He decreed that every year on Holy Thursday the old chrism be burned and new chrism consecrated. At length, on January 20, he was crowned with martyrdom and buried in the cemetery of Callistus on the Appian Way.

sebastian1St. Sebastian was a favorite with Diocletian for his noble birth and his bravery, and was made captain of the first company of the Praetorian guards. He aided the Christians, whose faith he secretly practiced, both by deeds and by material help and strengthened them in professing Christ. When all this was reported to Diocletian, he tried by every means to turn Sebastian away from faith in Christ. But when neither promises nor threats were successful, he ordered him to be tied to spot and shot through with arrows. The servant of God was then thought by all to be dead, but shortly afterwards, restored to health, he appeared in Diocletian’s presence and boldly rebuked him for his wickedness. Then the tyrant ordered him beaten with rods until he expired.