Monday, November 29, 2010

Can we get the Wikileaks' deal?

Let me get this straight...

If you are a law-abiding, patriotic American, who has done nothing to harm your country; on the contrary, you are prepared to make sacrifices to help your country (example: you go along quietly with whatever security measures the government comes up with)...

You get treated like a convicted felon in a super-max prison (with invasive body searches).

If you steal and then publish the nation's secrets, the nation's diplomatic messages, which at least embarrass the United States, and more likely, cause real harm to our alliances and to our effectiveness in defeating our enemies...

You get a stern letter from the State Department.

Really? How do we citizens get that deal?

First Sunday of Advent Homily

(From memory...)

I began by pointing out something that might seem odd: Advent has begun, we're all thinking about the coming of Christmas, and yet the readings at Mass had nothing (directly) about the birth of the Lord. Instead, all the focus is on the Lord's coming at the end of time. Why might that be?

My answer was that each "coming" only makes sense in the light of the other. We needed Christ to come at Christmas in order for a happy outcome at his final coming. We celebrate his coming at Christmas because of our hope in his his final coming. Or words to that effect.

I also explained how when we say Christ will come again, we don't mean he left. I said something like, when I came over here for Mass, I left my house. As far as I know, I'm not there now! But when the Lord returned to heaven, he nonetheless remained here. So when we speak of his return, what we mean is that he will be here in the fullest sense.

I cited the example of the mountain in the first reading: being the highest, lifting up the house of God and drawing all to it. Has that happened yet? No; but it will happen.

From there I explored the mystery of how God involves us in his work. Christ could do it all on his own; he doesn't need us (in the strict sense); yet he chooses to make us part of his work. So the coming of his Kingdom involves us. We are his instruments to build up that mountain and draw all the world to God's house. We are the invitations people receive: our lives, with God's word written in them, are the invitation people need. Our goal, of course, is to be invitations that actually invite, rather than not.

Somewhere in here (I gave this homily four times, and it changed each time) I talked about the Lord's message of being awake. The message is for those who aren't awake; if we're seeking the Lord, looking for him, we're awake. So the question for us is, are we "awake"? I.e., are we aware of his presence, aware of his action in our lives?

I gave examples from my own circumstances: days when I get so busy I barely pray--"does it surprise you that that can happen to a priest? It does; has it happened to you?" And I talked about how I've prayed for God to help me in a difficult situation, only to have the situation go so smoothly, I actually forgot about what I'd asked for, only to realize it days later: that problem that I was so concerned about never happened--and I never said thank you to God for such an excellent answer to prayer!

I gave the example of our 24/7 Perpetual Exposition chapel--another way Christ is present among us, but are we awake to it? I talked about the sacrament of confession. I said, suppose I told you we had vending machines in the back of church, with a pill to regrow hair, or a pill to make us svelte--and the pills were free! How popular they would be! But we don't have that; instead we have the sacrament (I was gesturing to the confessionals) that dispenses mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace...for free! Are we awake to Christ in our midst?

And I came back to the Mass as Christ's supreme presence--the Cross made present, an explosion of grace flowing to us from the Mass, and the Eucharist. Our being awake, being open, means we change; and we become better instruments and vessels of what he is doing in our world: getting the mountain built, and getting everyone to his house. That's our job.

Anyone who heard me deliver the homily, feel free to comment or let me know if my recollection is faulty!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The six saints to be depicted in St. Boniface

After several months in which parishioners have nominated and voted on possible saints, we have six that have been chosen! One was chosen specifically by the young people of the parish, including the children in the religious education program, high school programs, and Piqua Catholic School.

Here are the six saints who will be depicted in Saint Boniface Church when the artwork is completed by next Easter:

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Feast: Jan. 4), b. Aug. 28, 1774 in New York City to wealthy Episcopalian family. Her husband’s business failed; then he died. She became Catholic; her family disowned her. She founded first parish school, initiating Catholic school system. Founded Sisters of Charity, who serve in Piqua presently. Died Jan. 4, 1821; canonized 1975, first American-born saint. Patroness for: in-law problems; death of children and of parents; Apostleship of the Sea; opposition of church authorities; people ridiculed for piety; widows.

Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio (April 1)—along with 8 companions. At the age of 14, Jose joined a rebel military force formed to fight against the Mexican government who was persecuting the Catholic Church. He was captured in January of 1928 by government forces who ordered him to renounce his Faith in Christ. He refused. They cut his feet with machetes and forced him to walk to the town cemetery. At times they stopped him and said, “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” He refused and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!). When they reached the place of execution, they bayoneted him, but he only shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” louder. This angered the commander so he and the rest of the group shot Jose with their guns. Before Jose died, he made the sign of the cross on the ground with his blood and kissed it.

Blessed Jose was the choice of those under 18.

St. Angelo (Feast: May 5), b. 1145 in Jerusalem to Jewish converts to Christianity. With his twin brother, founded first Carmelite house. Sent to evangelize Sicily, won many conversions, was martyred (stabbed to death) by a man whose incestuous relationship he denounced in 1220.

Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta (Feast: Sep. 5), b. Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia to an Albanian family. Baptized Agnes; youngest of three children; active in her parish youth group; drawn to mission work. Joined Sisters of Loretto, took name of Theresa after the Little Flower, went to India to teach. Heeded God’s call to form Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor, caring for many lying in the streets of Calcutta. She—and her order—traveled the globe. She died Sep. 5, 1997 in Calcutta. Declared blessed 2003. Patroness of World Youth Day.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Feast: Oct. 1), b. Jan. 1, 1873 to a middle-class family in Normandy, France. Her parents, Louis and Marie-Azelie Martin are both “blesseds”; all her sisters became nuns. Just before her 14th birthday, received vision of the child Jesus. Sought to join Carmelite order but was too young. Traveled to Rome to meet Pope Leo XIII and asked permission to join early! Made final vows at 17 at convent in Lisieux. Her “little way” of spirituality gave rise to her name, “Little Flower.” Died Sep. 30, 1897 of tuberculosis. Canonized 1925; named Doctor of the Church in 1997 and patroness of Australia, France, Russia; foreign, particularly African missions; parish missions; bodily ills, and illness; tuberculosis; AIDS patients; air crews and pilots; florists and flower-growers; loss of parents.

St. Francis of Assisi (Feast: Oct. 4), b. 1181, Assisi, Italy, to a wealthy merchant. Street brawler and sometime soldier, had conversion while a prisoner of war. He began living poverty and preaching; his family disowned him but he attracted others. In 1210, he began the Order of Friars Minor (“little brothers”), better known as Franciscans. In 1219, went to Egypt and preached to the Muslim Sultan, who allowed him to preach the Gospel there and to visit Jerusalem. Later received the wounds of Christ. Died Oct. 4, 1226. Canonized 1228. Patron against dying alone and fire; for animal welfare; birds; ecology and the environment; families; lace-, needle- and tapestry-workers; zoos. Patron of Italy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What do North Korea and the TSA have in common?

While surfing and reading today, I came across two web sites, and after visiting the second, I saw a connection; I'll let you see for yourself.

First--this morning--I visited Time, and saw this slideshow of photos a Chinese visitor took while traveling in North Korea.

The caption on the last slide read as follows:

When the train arrived in Sinuiju Station, as usual it took a few hours of inspection. Fortunately, after the inspector had carefully examined my wife's Canon G9 camera and deleted a few images, he shouted 'good!' in Chinese, and left. Perhaps he thought we had only brought one camera. Thus, the contents of this trip home were to be saved.

Then, just a bit ago, I read this story at the Daily Caller, about a boy whose shirt gets taken off (by his father) in the course of a "pat down" at an airport. The story includes video, captured by a man standing in line some 30 feet away, and he explains what happened next:

After I finished videotaping the incident I went through the check point myself. I collected my things and went over to talk to the father and son. Before I could get to them a man in a black suit who had been talking with the other TSA officials approached me. He asked to speak to me and I obliged, wondering what was to come. He then proceeded to interrogate me about why I was videotaping the “procedures of the TSA”. I told him that I had never seen such practices before on a young child and decided to record it. The man being frustrated at this point demanded to know my plans with the video, of which I didn’t respond. Repeatedly he asked me to delete the video, hoping his mere presence could intimidate me to obey, but I refused. By this point it became obvious that he felt TSA had done something wrong and that I caught it on tape. After the interview, I left for my gate. I called my brother who told me I should put the tape on YouTube because this had been a recent hot topic in the news.

My gate was a long way off, but about 15 minutes after arriving 2 TSA agents came and sat 15 feet or so away from me. I stood up and moved so that they were in front of me and then took a picture. A 3rd and then a 4th agent came and sat down with the others. They would occasionally glance at me and talk on their walkie-talkies. I don’t know why they were there or if it was a huge coincidence but they stayed for 30-45 minutes and left just before I boarded the plan. Interesting to say the least, intimidating? Maybe a little…

No Peek, No Grope, No Fly

Like many folks, I've been reading closely the stories about the federal government's new policies and procedures regarding searching or scanning passengers before boarding airplanes. Here's what I've learned (a quick Internet search will get you all these articles and more):

> These new scanning machines take naked pictures of you. The government assures us they won't ever be stored, copied or distributed. Of course, we always trust government assurances, right?

> The alternative to a scanning machine is very intimate "pat down"--which one comical member of Congress, Sen. Claire McCaskill called "love pats": har, har. Here's what the "love pat" includes: the government agent moves his or her hands up and down your legs, arms, and torso, including your private parts and--pardon me--between your buttocks.

> Many travelers are saying "opt out" when you go to the airport. Now the alarmed TSA head, John Pistone--who said that you give up many of your rights when you buy an airline ticket (did you know that? Which rights, Mr. Pistone? Am I allowed to know? Or did I give up that right already?)--is now trying to intimidate and shame citizens into going along with the body scans. His tone: how dare someone cause other people problems?

> Perhaps you've heard of the man out west who refused the body scan; and was told, ok then we pat you down; he said, famously, "if you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested." That of course caused all sorts of alarm; since when do cattle talk back to the herders?

> Have you seen the photos and videos? A nun in full habit being subject to this "love pat"; terrified children who cry out, in vain, "stop touching me!" Another boy who strips off his shirt; a bladder-cancer patient who wears a bag, whose explanations and cautions are waved off; and as a result his bag is disturbed and he's covered in his own urine. "Love pat." It's for your own good, don't you know?

> The man who refused to have his junk touched was told, if he refused, he couldn't fly. He said, OK; and turned to leave. He went to get a refund on his airline ticket and left. An agent of the TSA went public with the government's intention to investigate and prosecute this threat to society and fine him up to $10,000. His "crime"? He wasn't allowed to leave. Remember, you gave up your rights when you bought that airline ticket. Oops, sorry we didn't tell you first.

> There are videos and recordings and photos; but did you know the government is confiscating them when they can? One of the rights we apparently gave up was the right to have these actions of our government open and transparent. If police pull someone over to the side of the road, they routinely record it; but the TSA curiously doesn't want anyone taking pictures of how they protect us.

Now, we're all being told that this is all regrettable, but absolutely necessary; the only alternative is fiery death! If you don't go along, you're helping the terrorists! (Remember when protest was patriotic?)

So for our benevolent overlords, I have two questions:

1. How do you explain the fact that Israel does not do this? Instead, Israel looks for people who are likely to cause trouble, rather than look for objects, even on people they know are no threat. (Did you know they were doing all this to the pilots? Did you know they confiscated nail-clippers from U.S. soldiers returning from defending our country? The country is in the best of hands.)

The Israelis have "profiles" and then conduct rapid-fire questions of those who fit the profile. As I understand it, the questions serve to smoke out liars--as common sense would dictate.

Think about this: think about this very hard: the Israeli's goal is to get the murderer, the threat, off the plane. But the current tactics of our government seem willing to the let the terrorist get on, as long as s/he's sufficiently disarmed. Which policy makes you safer?

Why can't we do what the Israelis do?

Some will claim it is too intrusive of our civil rights. No, really! Stop laughing! I'm serious! Yes, they would say that's worse than see-through-clothing "body scans" or being groped.

Others claim that what works for a tiny country won't work for us. Really? How many TSA agents do we have? How much has been invested in these machines?

I actually think this is closer to the truth--but the truth being that it's just a whole lot easier--from the viewpoint of the Overlords, our benevolent Protectors--to herd folks through scans, than it is to engage in interrogations. And the first answer, while ludicrous, is also true in this sense: our laws have been so distorted, and we have fostered so much litigation, that the fear is anything that doesn't treat everyone exactly the same, will spawn a lawsuit.

In other words, fellow cattle, they are more afraid of a lawsuit than they are bothered by groping you.

Here's my other question...

2. The government's stated purpose is to frustrate the cleverness of the terrorists in concealing explosives and weapons. OK, then; given what we're doing now, what would a clever killer do to evade these techniques? What would work?

It's not very hard to think of, even if its repulsive to most of us: they will find ways to hide their explosives inside their bodies.

If I were able to ask Ms. Napolitano, the head of the Homeland Security Agency, a series of questions, I'd ask: "have you evaluated the threat of that next step? What have you concluded? And what remedies are you considering against it?"

Because these current procedures--which are justified SOLELY because they are the only way to protect us all--will not protect us from that. Others, far more clever than I am, have said they can think of lots of ways to cause problems on an airplane, while still passing these invasive searches.

Since the government's current answer is simply to see the terrorists' escalation and raise it, by stripping away yet more of our rights and dignity, the logic of the government's thinking is yet more invasive searches. I will let you figure out what that next level of "love pat" might be like.

Well, since the government says I give up my rights when I buy an airline ticket, then I know what I'm going to do.

No body scans; no groping; no flying.

I realize I may face a situation where flying becomes necessary. But I'm going to do my best to avoid flying until this changes. If and when I have to fly, I'll decide then which form of assault on my person, by my government, is to be chosen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Baptism during Mass

Tomorrow I have a baptism during Sunday Mass.

This doesn't happen often, so I am reviewing how to do it. It's a little tricky, because the ritual of baptism is, as it were, broken up and distributed at two or three points during the Mass; and elements of the Mass are changed: the penitential rite and Creed are omitted (because the ritual of baptism talks about cleansing from sin, and the Apostles Creed, in question form, is part of the ritual of baptism). I will need to check with the reader, musician and servers so they are prepped.

I'm always thrilled to confer the sacrament of baptism, but I honestly don't encourage doing it during Mass--but I don't refuse if that is what the family requests. As it happens, recently a parishioner asked me why not. In addition to the issues I just addressed are other concerns:

> It will make Mass longer and the homily is a bit of a challenge;

> You may say, so what if Mass is longer, folks should just go with it. Well, perhaps folks should, but they don't always. Besides, I happen to have 10:30 Mass at the other parish and it's not easy moving from the 9 am Mass to the 10:30 am Mass even in normal situations.

> The family doesn't necessarily enjoy having a baptism during Mass. Children don't always manage the hour or so of Mass and the family is usually a bit nervous about what to do, when to come forward, etc. Also they have to get the godparents and other family members there. On the other hand, when the family has a baptism after Mass, it's a lot less stressful. I always wait till everyone is ready ("Is there anyone you're still waiting for? We can wait")--but I can't hold up Sunday Mass for a late-arriving family member. If, at a Sunday afternoon baptism, one of the children has a meltdown, it's no problem just hitting the pause button--an uncle can take the child to the back of church or outside, or if its the candidate for baptism him- or herself, then we just wait a moment. Most families find it pretty awkward to have that happen in front of 200 folks, but they don't seem to mind it with 10 or 20 family members after Mass.

So why is this baptism happening during Mass? Well, the family requested me to celebrate it, which is an honor, but because of another commitment, I couldn't do it after the Noon Mass; so the only way I could do it this weekend was as part of 9 am Mass.

After that, it became necessary for me to take the 10:30 am Mass (where a couple asked me to be present, as they are celebrating 68 years of marriage).

Now, one reason I'm posting this is so that folks can see the side of priestly ministry that's not always apparent. But I have another reason.

Many folks have been told that baptisms are "supposed" to be done during Sunday Mass, or that it's somehow "better" to do it that way. The parishioner who asked me about it had, I gathered, been told that. And in answering her question--mentioning much of what I just wrote--I said I simply didn't agree with that.

Today, in preparing for this, I re-read the instructions of the Church on this subject; I thought you might be interested in what the Church actually says about this--as opposed to what some folks' preferences might be, no matter how frequently expressed:

To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord's resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated even during Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen; but this should not be done too often. (Rite of Baptism for Children, paragraph 9)

Now, please take note of what that paragraph does--and does not--say:

> It is "recommended" during only one specific Mass: the Easter Vigil;
> "Or on Sunday"--i.e., on the day, nothing about being recommended during Sunday Mass;
> It is not required to take place on these occasions--i.e., it need not occur on Sunday (elsewhere the instruction does spell out that baptism is normally supposed to take place in a church or chapel, and that an ordained minister normally celebrates it--but of course in danger of death, it can be done anywhere by anyone);
> It may be celebrated "even during Mass"--i.e., it's allowed, and it does have some advantage: "so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen";
> But totally absent is any language of "should," "preferred" or "recommended"; on the contrary, the one specific recommendation in this regard is, "this should not be done too often"!

If you read this paragraph differently, please let me know what you see in this that says baptisms are "supposed" to be at Mass; I'm not seeing it.

Here again is an example of where some well intentioned folks have taken an idea about the liturgy and run way beyond what the Church actually says. Another example would be those who insist you can't have baptisms, weddings or first communion during Lent (our parishes are having first communion during Lent--why? Because Easter is late and it's the least-bad option; but there's nothing that says we cannot have first communion during Lent). Or that we should take holy water away during Lent, or that sacraments should always be administered during Mass (again, the Church never says that, but many people have been told this), or else you get to any number of things that were done in the name of Vatican II, yet were never taught by Vatican II.

I am very happy to have the baptism for this family and I am honored they asked for me. It's good for me to do this once in a while and it will all work out. And I do hope all those present will realize what a wonderful thing baptism is, and what a privilege to be part of it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Saint Images in St. Boniface

One of the projects I've been working on at one of my parishes is a plan to include some paintings of saints in St. Boniface Church. We have a nice spot picked out for six images of saints, and for the last two months, parishioners were asked to nominate a saint or blessed to be considered. We also planned for one of the saints to be chosen by the young people of the parish--that is, under 18. So the children in the religious education program, the junior and senior high groups, and Piqua Catholic School have all been working on this as well.

The deadline--naturally enough--was All Saints Day, November 1. We received about 100 nominations from all parishioners, young and old. A committee of pastoral council members took the adults' nominations and came up with a list of 16; the principal and coordinator of religious education came up with a list of six--three of whom, interestingly, were also chosen by the adults, for a total of 19.

This weekend the adults will all vote on their top 5; the children will be voting either at Mass this weekend, at school on Monday, or one group will vote next Sunday (because they meet every other week).

I thought you might like to see who they nominated. Here they are, with some brief bios on each one. Of course, I'll let you know who the final six turn out to be.

FYI, church law allows either a saint or a blessed to be depicted in artwork in a church for the veneration of the faithful. Alas, Pope John Paul II has not yet been named a blessed, so he could not be considered as one of those to be depicted.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Feast: Jan. 4), b. Aug. 28, 1774 in New York City to wealthy Episcopalian family. Her husband’s business failed; then he died. She became Catholic; her family disowned her. She founded first parish school, initiating Catholic school system. Founded Sisters of Charity, who serve in Piqua presently. Died Jan. 4, 1821; canonized 1975, first American-born saint. Patroness for: in-law problems; death of children and of parents; Apostleship of the Sea; opposition of church authorities; people ridiculed for piety; widows.

St. Patrick (Feast: March 17) As a boy of 14, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave. He learned the language of the Druids and Pagans who held him captive. He turned to God in prayer. When he was twenty, he had a dream telling him to escape by way of the coast so he left in the night. He was picked up by some sailors who took him home to Britain and reunited him with his family. He studied to be a priest and was later ordained a Bishop and was sent back to Ireland to spread the Gospel. He worked for 40 years converting almost all of Ireland and building many churches. One of his most notable attributes is that he used a shamrock to explain the Trinity – three persons in one God.

Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio (April 1—along with 8 companions). At the age of 14, Jose joined a rebel military force formed to fight against the Mexican government who was persecuting the Catholic Church. He was captured in January of 1928 by government forces who ordered him to renounce his Faith in Christ. He refused. They cut his feet with machetes and forced him to walk to the town cemetery. At times they stopped him and said, “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” He refused and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!). When they reached the place of execution, they bayoneted him, but he only shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” louder. This angered the commander so he and the rest of the group shot Jose with their guns. Before Jose died, he made the sign of the cross on the ground with his blood and kissed it.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla (Feast: April 28), b. Oct. 4, 1922, Milan, Italy, 10th of 13 children. Active in St. Vincent de Paul Society; became surgeon. When pregnant with 4th child, doctor discovered cyst, urged abortion. Knowing the risks, she chose to bear her child, although it cost her own life; she died April 28, 1962. Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Patroness of opposition to abortion and for pregnant mothers.

St. Peregrine Laziosi (Feast: May 1), b. 1260, Forli Italy. Born wealthy, involved in politics, anti-Catholic. Received a vision of Our Lady, who sent him to join the Servite Order, became priest. Remained mostly silent and worked without sitting down for 30 years as penance for earlier life. Healed of cancer in his foot after a night of prayer. Died May 1, 1345. Canonized 1726. Patron of AIDS and cancer patients, particularly breast cancer; for those with open sores and skin diseases and all the sick.

St. Angelo (Feast: May 5), b. 1145 in Jerusalem to Jewish converts to Christianity. With his twin brother, founded first Carmelite house. Sent to evangelize Sicily, won many conversions, was martyred (stabbed to death) by a man whose incestuous relationship he denounced in 1220.

St. Joan of Arc (Feast: May 30), b. Jan. 6, 1412 in Lorraine, France. From age 13 she received visions from Saint Margaret of Antioch, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Michael the Archangel. Most of France was ruled by the English; Joan’s visions told her to find the true king and help him regain his throne. She resisted at first, but finally obeyed. She led troops and won several battles, till Charles VII was crowned. She was captured, declared a heretic in an illegal trial by a corrupt bishop; executed May 30, 1431 at Rouen. In 1456 the pope reviewed and reversed the illegal “trial.” Canonized 1920. Patroness of: France; those imprisoned; martyrs; opposition of church authorities; those ridiculed for piety; rape victims; soldiers, particularly women in the military.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (Feast: July 14), b. 1656 near present-day Auriesville, New York. Daughter of a Algonquin Christian, captured by Iroquois and was married a non-Christian Mohawk chief. Smallpox left her face scarred with impaired eyesight. Baptized in 1676 by a Jesuit missionary; shunned by her family; she traveled 200 miles to Sault Sainte Marie; there took vow of chastity. Miracles associated with her and even her grave. Died April 17, 1680; called “Lily of the Mohawks.” Beatified 1980 by Pope John Paul II. Patroness of ecology and environment; exiles; loss of parents; those ridiculed for piety.

St. Anne (Feast: July 26). Mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Early tradition holds that she and her husband Joachim were unable to conceive until their older years, and Mary was their only child. While Mary was conceived in the normal fashion, God protected her from the stain of Original Sin (i.e., the Immaculate Conception.) In gratitude for a child, Joachim and Anne consecrated Mary in the temple to the Lord as a child; Joseph later became her guardian. Patroness for poverty, sterility and childless people; expectant mothers; broom- and cabinet-makers; carpenters; grandparents; homemakers; horse-riders and keepers; lace-makers; lost articles; miners; old-clothes dealers; seamstresses.

St. John Marie Vianney (Feast: August 4), b. May 8, 1786 in Lyons, France. Born to a farm family, taught other family members their catechism; he struggled in his studies for the priesthood. Assigned in 1818 to a tiny parish in Ars (hence the “Cure d’Ars”), where the faith was lax. He visited parishioners, did penance for them and spent many hours hearing confessions. By 1855 there were 20,000 pilgrims each year to hear him. Died Aug. 4, 1859. Canonized 1925. Patron of priests, especially those who hear confessions.

Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta (Feast: Sep. 5), b. Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia to an Albanian family. Baptized Agnes; youngest of three children; active in her parish youth group; drawn to mission work. Joined Sisters of Loretto, took name of Theresa after the Little Flower, went to India to teach. Heeded God’s call to form Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor, caring for many lying in the streets of Calcutta. She—and her order—traveled the globe. She died Sep. 5, 1997 in Calcutta. Declared blessed 2003. Patroness of World Youth Day.

Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina (Feast: Sep. 23), b. May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, baptized Francesco, son of a shepherd. Joined Capuchin Franciscans at 19; ordained a priest in 1910. While praying before the crucifix in 1918, Padre Pio received the “stigmata” (i.e., wounds of Christ in his hands), which remained till he died. Heard many confessions and read souls of those who held back. Died Sep. 23, 1968; canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

St. Theresa of Child Jesus (Feast: Oct. 1), b. Jan. 1, 1873 to a middle-class family in Normandy, France. Her parents, Louis and Marie-Azelie Martin are both “blesseds”; all her sisters became nuns. Just before her 14th birthday, received vision of the child Jesus. Sought to join Carmelite order but was too young. Traveled to Rome to meet Pope Leo XIII and asked permission to join early! Made final vows at 17 at convent in Lisieux. Her “little way” of spirituality gave rise to her name, “Little Flower.” Died Sep. 30, 1897 of tuberculosis. Canonized 1925; named Doctor of the Church in 1997 and patroness of Australia, France, Russia; foreign, particularly African missions; parish missions; bodily ills, and illness; tuberculosis; AIDS patients; air crews and pilots; florists and flower-growers; loss of parents.

St. Francis of Assisi (Feast: Oct. 4), b. 1181, Assisi, Italy, to a wealthy merchant. Street brawler and sometime soldier, had conversion while a prisoner of war. He began living poverty and preaching; his family disowned him but he attracted others. In 1210, he began the Order of Friars Minor (“little brothers”), better known as Franciscans. In 1219, went to Egypt and preached to the Muslim Sultan, who allowed him to preach the Gospel there and to visit Jerusalem. Later received the wounds of Christ. Died Oct. 4, 1226. Canonized 1228. Patron against dying alone and fire; for animal welfare; birds; ecology and the environment; families; lace-, needle- and tapestry-workers; zoos. Patron of Italy.

St. Mary Faustina Kowalska (Feast: Oct. 5), Aug. 25, 1905, in Glogowiec, Poland, 3rd of ten children. Attended only 3 years of school; as a teenager worked as a maid. Entered Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw. Served the other sisters; received visions and stigmata; wrote her visions in her diary despite being nearly illiterate. In the 1930s she received the message from Christ as Divine Mercy; an image known worldwide was painted from her account. Died Oct. 5, 1938; canonized 2000.

St. Jude the Apostle (Feast: Oct. 28). His background is uncertain but he is frequently identified also as Thaddeus, son of Cleophas, and a relative of Jesus. He is believed to have preached the Faith around the Holy Land, and as far as Libya, and to have been martyred about AD 65 in Beirut, Lebanon, together with the Apostle Simon. Patron of desperate situations and forgotten causes, hospitals and hospital workers.

St. Cecilia (Feast: Nov. 22), martyred in the persecutions of the 2nd or 3rd century; thus very little is known about her; but her grave in the catacombs near Rome was venerated from ancient times and her name is recalled in the First Eucharistic Prayer. Many believe she was a noblewoman who died rather than marry against her will around 230; but evidence exists to show she was martyred in Sicily around 180. The story was told she sang praises to God while being killed—hence she is the patroness of music composers and performers, makers of musical instruments, poets, martyrs.

St. Nicholas (Feast: Dec. 6) Nicholas’ parents died when he was young and left him with a wealthy inheritance. He was determined to use it to serve his community by performing works of charity. There was a man in his town that lost all of his money. He still had to support his three daughters who could not get married because of their poverty. The man felt forced into give his daughters over to be slaves. Nicholas heard this and to protect their purity, he took a bag of gold and under the cover of darkness threw it into the open window of the man’s house. It was enough for the oldest girl to get married. Nicholas did the same for the second and the third. The father recognized him the third time and gave him great thanks. St. Nicholas was a Bishop and is a celebrated figure throughout the world by both Christians and non-Christians.

St. Juan Diego (Feast: Dec. 9), b. 1474 a poor but free man in a very class-conscious society in Tlayacac, near present-day Mexico City. Baptized Juan Diego (Spanish for John James) at 50. On Dec. 9, 1531, Mary appeared to him on the hill of Tepayac; she sent him to bring to the bishop Castilian roses that mysteriously appeared on the hill to convince the bishop; when Juan opened his cloak, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on his cloak, and the bishop fell to his knees. These events led to the spread of Christianity throughout Central and South America; and the miraculous image can still be viewed in Mexico City, where he was canonized in 2002. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness of all the Americas.