Happy Tuesday! As we approach the season of Advent (which has already begun if you’re Byzantine Catholic), it is important to examine in what ways we can improve spiritually and morally before the birth of Christ. We can take inspiration in this task from the lives of the saints we celebrated this past week.
November 26 was the feast of Christ the King in the new Roman calendar. Jesus Christ is the Divine King of Heaven and Earth. He was born into the Jewish royal family of David, and the Angel Gabriel predicted Christ’s eternal reign to Christ’s mother Mary (Lk. 1:32-33), “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.” For Americans, this feast is particularly meaningful, since we rejected an earthly monarch altogether and only recognize Christ’s kingship; hence we rewrote Britain’s song “God Save the King” with lyrics that end, “Protect us by thy might, great God our King.”
Our Lady of Kibeho (Nov. 28) is the name of a series of apparitions of Jesus’s Mother Mary in Rwanda, to a high school girl named Alphonsine Mumureke. Mary identified herself as “Nyina wa Jambo” or “Mother of the Word.”
The British Protestant monarchs and Oliver Cromwell killed thousands of Catholics for their faith during the 1500s and 1600s; 85 of these brave men and women are commemorated Nov. 22 as the Martyrs of England, Scotland, and Wales.
November 24 is the collective feast of the Martyrs of Vietnam. The first Portuguese missionary arrived in Vietnam in 1533. From the 16th century “through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the twentieth, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, some nuns or brothers, some lay people; some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and countrymen.” Sadly, we have no idea how many Christians were martyred in Vietnam over the centuries, but more than a hundred of them have been canonized, including the fisherman, husband, and father to whom I have a particular devotion, Phêrô Dung. It is fitting that Our Lady of La Vang, patroness of Vietnam, was also celebrated this week (Nov. 22).
St. Catherine of Alexandria (Nov. 24/25) was a young noblewoman born in Alexandria, Egypt, in the late third century. She converted after seeing a vision of Jesus and Mary and became a highly successful evangelist. After denouncing the Roman emperor’s persecution of Christians, she brilliantly debated some fifty pagan orators and philosophers, converting many; her converts may have included the emperor’s own wife. Catherine was tortured, and would not yield, and was martyred.
St. Catherine Labouré (Nov. 28) was born as Zoe to a 19th century French farm family. After running the house following her mother’s death and then being a waitress, she joined the Order of St. Vincent de Paul after seeing him in a vision. She is famous for the visions she saw of the Blessed Virgin, in which Our Lady instructed her to have medals made, promising special graces to those who wore them piously. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is also celebrated Nov. 27.
St. Cecilia (Nov. 22), the patroness of musicians, was a beautiful young Roman in the third century. She became a Christian and vowed virginity, but she was forced to marry the pagan Valerian. Her area of patronage comes from being described as singing a hymn to Christ in her heart during her wedding. Cecilia explained her faith and vow of virginity to her new husband, and both he and his brother converted. Cecilia, after reportedly preaching to hundreds of people, was herself arrested and martyred by beheading; some sources say she sang as she was executed.
St. Philemon (Nov. 22), his wife Apphia, his son Archippus, and their companionswere among the first followers of and martyrs for Christ. St. Paul sent one of the New Testament epistles to Philemon.
St. Columbanus (Nov. 23) was born in Ireland c. 543, but later left his native land to establish monasteries at the invitation of King Childebert of Burgandy.
Bl. Miguel Agustín Pro (Nov. 23) was executed in 1927 by firing squad, with his final words being “Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)”
Pope Clement I (Nov. 23/25) ruled the Church of Rome third after blessed Peter the Apostle.
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