Thursday, November 01, 2007

Feast of All Saints

While Halloween is not celebrated in Kenya, the Catholics do, of course, celebrate the Feast of All Saints. Before I left the States my friend JP gave me a copy of a book titled, The Saints Show Us Christ, by Rawley Myers. It is a book that gives daily readings on the spiritual lives of the saints. While I am no saint, on this feast I remembered some of the saints that I have learned about, admired, and sought the intercession of this year.

St. Julie Billiart represents my mission in Kenya working with disabled children and adults through therapy, treatment, and education.

St. Julie Billiart (1751 - 1816) is the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She was born the fifth of seven children in Cuvilly, France. As a child she liked to play “school,” but when she was sixteen, to help support her family, she began teaching for real the stories of the bible. She carried this mission of education with her the rest of her life. A parish priest, recognizing that she was something special secretly allowed her to make her First Communion at the age of nine, instead of the usual age of thirteen. When a murder attempt was made on her father’s life it shocked her nervous system so badly that she became completely paralyzed and was confined to a wheelchair. During the French Revolution she offered her home as a hiding place for priests, but because of this she became hunted as well. She had to flee five times in three years to avoid involving her friends that allowed her a place to hide. In 1803, she began living a religious life and was miraculously cured from her illness and began walking again after twenty-two years. In 1805, she took her final vows to the congregation and was elected Mother of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. In 1815, she nursed the wounded of the Battle of Waterloo and fed the starving as her own health began to worsen. She died peacefully on April 8, 1816 at the age of 64.

Saint Philip Neri keeps my sense of humor alive when my mood becomes too serious.

Saint Philip Neri(1515-1595), a resident of Rome, was known for his love of humor. His many jokes and pranks were usually at his own expense, in a humbling manor. On one occasion he shaved off half of his beard and danced through the streets of Rome before attending a ceremony held his honor. St. Philip lived in the 16th century, in a troubling time for the Catholic church, but in he responded by forming an Order of priests called the Oratorians. The Oratorians were called so because they met in an oratory to pray. They were known for reaching out to the ordinary people of Rome. One time, while in deep prayer, his heart grew to the size of a fist. While he never complained of any pain, when he died 50 years later, an autopsy showed that two of his ribs were broken and fused together in an arch to accommodate his unusually large heart. He invited friends to his room where he lived, and when they arrived expecting to see a saint, he sat wearing a small hat and big shoes, reading a book of jokes. Saint Philip was loved by a succession of Popes, but out of humbleness he resisted their attempts to make him a Cardinal. When one Pope sent him a red Cardinal’s hat as a sign of respect he played with it and used it as a football.

St. Ignatius Loyala keeps me strong when I feel weak and reminds me to be charitable.

Saint Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was a Spanish soldier that founded the Jesuits. He was one of the defenders of Pamplona against the French. Not willing to surrender during the battle, his right leg was hit by a cannon ball, which completely shattered the bone, while his left leg was hit by falling masonry. He was sent to a hospital in great pain. As the hours in his sickbed went by slowly, he began to read of the lives of Christ and the saints. Saint Ignatius had tremendous courage and endured the pain of having the bones of his leg set without complaint. After the operation, when it was found that a piece of his bone still protruded, he insisted on having a doctor saw it away as he suffered the agony. When his legs healed he started on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He gave away his possessions and begged for food as he stopped in the town of Manresa, where he lived at a monastery with Dominican friars. He retreated to a cave at some nearby cliffs to pray and to meditate. It is during this time that he began to contemplate the religious life and the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. He later wrote The Spiritual Exercises, which is considered by many to be a masterpiece.

The Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.


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