Happy Sunday! It is the First Sunday of Advent in the Roman Catholic rite.
Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30) is spoken of as “the First-Called” among Byzantine Catholics because he was the first of Jesus’s apostles to be called to follow Jesus. “Born in Bethsaida, he was the brother of Simon Peter and a fisherman with him. He was called first from the disciples of John the Baptist at the Jordan by the Lord Jesus. Andrew followed him and even brought his brother to the Lord. After Pentecost it is said that he preached the Gospel in Achaia and at Patrae was tied to a cross. The Church in Constantinople considers him their praiseworthy and remarkable patron [ECPubs].”
St. Francis Xavier (Dec. 3) was born to a noble family in northern Spain and originally had worldly ambitions. The intelligent young college student’s planned life trajectory changed, however, after he gained a new roommate, Ignatius of Loyola. While it took some time for Ignatius to convince Xavier to change his life to focus on God, eventually the two became close friends and zealous priests. Ignatius, Francis, and a group of friends eventually formed a new congregation, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Xavier ended up being chosen to go off as the first Jesuit missionary. Xavier had great success in India, where he reportedly baptized 10,000 people between November and December of 1544, and he also preached in Malaya and the Spice Islands. Xavier then went to Japan, where conversions were a little slower in coming, although he eventually managed to impress the powerful daimyo of Yamaguchi enough that permission was granted for Christian missionary work. Francis later returned to India, and was on his way to China to continue his missionary work when he died in 1552.
St. Simon of Cyrene (Dec. 1) was from Cyrene in what is now Libya. A devout Jew, he was in Jerusalem at the time of Passover when Jesus was being executed, and famously was recruited by the Romans to assist Jesus in carrying the cross (see Matt. 27:32, Luke 23:26). It is believed that experience changed Simon’s life. Simon is described as “the father of Alexander and of Rufus” (Mark 15:21), who were also clerics in the early Church. Simon too became not only a Christian but a priest, and eventually the first bishop of what is now Avignon, France. He zealously spread the Gospel and was eventually martyred, reportedly by crucifixion—just like his Divine Master Whose cross he helped carry.
St. Edmund Campion (Dec. 1) was a brilliant youth, who went to Oxford University on a scholarship at age 15 and attracted such high-ranking notice as the Earl of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth. While he did sign the Oath of Supremacy, thus allying himself with the Anglican Church, he doubted the truth of Anglicanism and eventually returned to Catholicism. He later fled England after Queen Elizabeth’s anti-Catholic persecution in reaction to her excommunication from the Vatican. Campion joined the Jesuits in France and was ordained a priest, teaching in Prague. He was among the first Jesuits chosen to return to England, where he ministered covertly to British Catholics, though the publication of his “Brag”—a justification of his beliefs—led to an aggressive manhunt for him. Campion was eventually betrayed, captured, imprisoned, tortured, and—after turning down a lucrative offer from the queen in exchange for becoming Protestant—brutally executed for his Catholicism by hanging, drawing, and quartering in 1581. Campion’s friend Cuthbert Mayne, a Protestant minister who became a Catholic priest and martyr, is celebrated on Nov. 30. Other English martyrs were celebrated Dec. 1 too.
St. Bibiana (Dec. 2): “Her parents, Saint Flavian of Acquapendente and Dafrosa of Acquapendente, were martyred in the persecutions of Julian the Apostate, and [Bibiana] and her sister Demetria were turned over to a woman named Rufina who tried to force them into prostitution. Upon her continued refusal to co-operate, [Bibiana] was imprisoned in a mad house, then flogged to death.”
Three Old Testament prophets were celebrated this week, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Sophonias.
There were two commemorations of Jesus’s Mother Mary this week. Our Lady of Beauraing (Nov. 30) appeared dozens of times in visions to a group of children in a Belgian village in the early 1930s, dressed in white with a golden heart. Our Lady of Liesse (Dec. 2) is the name of an ancient statue of Mary and Jesus brought from North Africa to France during the age of Crusades.
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