News from San Antonio Church – February 4, 2024

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Weekly Bulletin February 4, 2024

by Terrie Evans

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of St. Blaise with the Blessing of the Throats and also the 28th year of The World Day of Consecrated Life.  Celebrated in Parishes February 4th-5th with The World Day of Consecrated Life   dedicated to those who have committed their lives to a religious vocation.   This was instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in 1997 as a day of prayer for those women and men who chose Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.   Our Holy Father, Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with those at the International Meeting of Consecrated Women and Men prepare for the Jubilee to be held in 2025. About 300 representatives from different forms of consecrated life gathered in Rome to reflect on the theme “Pilgrims of Hope of the Paths of Peace.”    Please pray for those who have made commitments to the consecrated life, may they continue to be inspired by Jesus Christ and respond generously to God’s gift of their vocation. 

On Monday, February 5th we honor the Feast Day of St. Agatha of Sicily, Virgin, and Martyr.  Born in Catania, Sicily (231-251) who belonged to the outlawed Christian Church when Agatha rejected a marriage proposal from the Roman Perfect, Quintianus who turned her into the authorities for her Christian beliefs.  Faced with death, she reaffirmed her belief in God by praying: “Jesus Christ, Lord of All, you see my heart, you know my desires.  Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.”   She is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs in Christian antiquity who was put to death for her profession of faith.  She was known for teaching Christianity to children before she was arrested, tortured, and died in prison.  Agatha was Canonized pre-congregation by Pope Gregory I and is venerated in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Anglican Communion Churches.  She is the Patron saint of breast cancer patients, rape victims, and bakers and is invoked against fire, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mt. Etna.  The year after her death, stopping the eruption of Mount Etna was attributed to the intercession and prayers to St. Agatha. She is considered the patron saint of   Catania, Molise, and the Republic of San Marino after Pope Clement XII restored the independence of the state on the feast day of St. Agatha, February 5th.  She is also the Patron Saint of Malta where in 1551, a Benedictine Nun is said to have saved Malta from a Turkish invasion through her prayers to St. Agatha.   Agatha is buried at the Badia di Sant’ Agatha in Catania, Sicily in a small natural cave that was later enlarged and embellished around the 5th Century.   There are two churches dedicated to her in Rome, Sant’ Agatha in Trastevere and the Church of Sant’ Agatha dei Goti in Via Mazzarino.  The church of St. Gregory the Great was reconstructed for St. Agatha who he revered as a saint who bore many trials.  St. Agatha is depicted in the mosaic of San Apollinaire Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy with other female martyrs with her image forming the initial I in the 8th century Sacramentary of Gellone.  During the first week of February, the Festival of St. Agatha is held with a procession traveling throughout the city on last night of the fest.  A 17th Century tower, a former knight’s stronghold, located in Malta, now called St. Agatha’s Tower. In Switzerland.   St. Agatha is considered the patron saint of fire services and in the United Kingdom, she is the patron saint of bell ringers in service to the Catholic Church. 

On Tuesday, February 6th we honor Saints Paul Miki (1562-1597) and Companions, Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus who were crucified along with 23 other clergy, and laity.  They became known as the 26 Martyrs of Japan and were all Canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.   Paul Miki was born into a wealthy Japanese Christian Family taught by the Jesuits and later joined the Society of Jesus.  He became a successful preacher who gained many converts to Catholicism at a time when the ruler of Japan began persecuting Catholics.  The Buddhist Monks were concerned about the growing number of Christians causing political tensions and outlawed Christianity giving the missionaries six months to leave.  Many stayed continuing the good work they had started and for a time, were calm.  In 1593, Spanish Franciscans arrived, and the townspeople assumed they were there to prepare for a Spanish invasion of the island.  Again, Christianity was outlawed, and a total of 26 Catholics were arrested, 6 Franciscan Missionaries, 17 Japanese and Korean lay Franciscans, and 3 Jesuits with Brother Paul Miki only months away from being ordained.   When Brother Paul Miki preached his last sermon professing Jesus as the only way to salvation, forgiving his prosecutors, and praying that they would turn to Christ and receive baptism.  By 1854, Japan’s borders were opened to the West with numerous missionaries returning to help those hidden Christians practice their faith.  In 1871, religious freedom returned, making public worship possible.  There is a National Monument marking the place of the executions of the 26 martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki.  A Prayer to St. Paul Miki and the Holy Martyrs:  Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, you and countless others gave their lives in witness to the faith that God planted in your hearts.  Please pray for me, that I will have the same faith and courage that each one of you had, so that I will be a witness to Christ in all that I do.  Holy Martyrs of God, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You. AMEN.” 

Thursday, February 8th is set aside by the United States Conference Catholic Bishops as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.  All Catholics are asked to attend or host a prayer service to create awareness for this phenomenon that affects all humans.   

Thursday, February 8th is also the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery by Arab Slave traders at the age of 8 and over the next 12 years was sold three times until given her freedom.  In Sudan, Bakhita served as a maid in the Italian Vice Council Callisto Legannis’ home and when he was to return to Italy, Bakhita begged to go with him.  By 1886, she was employed by the Micheli Family near Venice as a Nanny.  In 1888, when the family was to locate to Sudan, Bakhita was left in the care of the Canossian Sisters   who were established in 1808 when Magdalena of Canossa recruited several of her companions to assist her in the needs of the neglected in Verona, Italy.   Bakhita stated that this is where she encountered Christianity for the first time, “Those Holy Mothers instructed me with heroic patience and introduced me to that God, who from childhood I had felt in my heart without knowing who he was.”  When the Micheli Family returned from Sudan, they requested she return to their home.  Bakhita refused; and with the law on her side, she fought for her freedom.  In 1889, an Italian court ruled that because the British outlawed slavery in Sudan before Bakhita’s birth, and Italian law had never recognized slavery as legal, she was never legally a slave and was now free.   In 1890, she was Baptized Josephine Margaret Bakhita confirmed and received Holy Communion from Archbishop Guiseppe Sarto, who would become Pope Pius X.  She entered the Order of the Canosssian Sisters as a Novitiate in 1893 and took her vows in 1896, and for the next 42 years was employed as a Cook, Sacristan, and Portress (door keeper).  Josephine Margaret Bakhita was dedicated to comforting the poor and suffering in the community and became known as Sor Moretta “Little Brown Sister”.  She died in 1947 in Veneto Italy and was Beatified in 1992, Canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica.  St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita said: “My trusts rest in the Lord for everything”.   The foundress of the Canossian Order, Magdalen of Canosa (1774-1835) said: “The way to holiness consists in a life of uninterrupted small sacrifices” was canonized a Saint on October 2, 1988, by Pope John Paul II.  At Present, they have 18 provinces with around 2,700 sisters in more than 336 communities in 32 countries around the world with their headquarters located at Via della Stazione di Ottavia, Rome, Italy.    The Canossian Daughters of Charity run a retreat center, the Canosssian Spirituality Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  

We also celebrate the feast day of Gerolamo Emiliani (1486-1537), St. Jerome on February 8th.  He was born in Venice, ran away to join the Army at age 15 and spent time as a soldier in charge of the Fortress of Castelnuovo in the Italian Mountains.  The Venetians took the fortress, Jerome was captured, chained, and put in prison.  He escaped to a church in Treviso and after he removed his chains and hung them on the church wall, gave his life to God.  He was ordained to the priesthood in Venice during the plague and took on the role of caring for abandoned children.  He fed them and raised them back to health while teaching them about the Christian Faith, becoming ill himself from the plague. Jerome recovered and in 1532, founded a religious society, The Congregation of Religious Clerics, the Somaschi Fathers to care for orphans, the poor and the sick.  With the spirituality of St. Jerome, his order was to serve the early Christian communities to serve Christ, and the poor abandoned children while showing them the tender “Fatherhood and Motherhood” of God.  St. Jerome Emiliani set up Orphanages in 6 Italian towns, built a hospital in Verona and until his death continued to care for the sick. 

The Somaschi Fathers were devoted to the Guardian Angels, the protection of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the Archangel Raphael.  In 1537, during an epidemic while caring for the sick, St. Jerome contracted the plague and died.  The plague of 1536-1537, caused from the fleas of rodents with symptoms of fever, chills, vomiting, with the appearance of black boils took many lives, in Florence, 70,000 died from the plague.  He was Beatified on April 23, 1747, by Pope Benedict XIV and Canonized twenty years later on July 16, 1767, by Pope Clement XIII with his Major Shrine, St. Girolamo Emiliani Sanctuary in Somasca.  In 1928, Pope Pius XI named him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children and is also invoked by those who are foster parents.  Their Motto: “Lighten My Burden”.  A Prayer to St. Jerome: “St. Jerome Emiliani, watch over all children who are abandoned or unloved.  Give us the courage to show them God’s love through our care.  Help us to lose the chains that keep us from living the life God intended for us.  Amen.” 

On February 10th, we honor the Feast Day of St. Scholastica (480-543) born in Umbria, Italy along with twin brother Benedict.  She dedicated her life to God at a young age who lived in her father’s house until forming a community with other consecrated virgins, the 1st convent of Benedictine Nuns.  This was located at the base of Monte Casino where there is an ancient church, Monastero di Santa Scholastica, now under her patronage. She became a nun near Monte Casino where Benedict established a monastery and meet to visit and pray together.  Scholastica is invoked for protection from storms due to the time in 543 when she felt something would happen to her brother as he prepared to leave after his visit.  Scholastica began to pray when a driving storm with rain and hail began forcing Benedict to stay. 

When Scholastica died, Benedict saw her soul ascending into heaven.  He placed her body in the tomb he had prepared for himself and arranged for his own body to be placed there after his death.  St. Benedict and St. Scholastica are buried at Monte Casino along with Pope Victor III, Cardinal Domenico Bartolini, St. Apollinaris and St. Bertharius.  The Pope, Gregory the Great wrote: “The bodies of these two whose minds were always united in Jesus, were not separated in death.”  She is also the patron saint of Benedictine Nuns, Education and Convulsive Children and was Canonized pre-congregation.  She is shown in a Benedictine habit, holding the Rule of Saint Benedict, with a Crucifix or ascending dove.  A commemorative coin with her likeness was issued in 2002 in Austria with Scholastica depicted alongside Benedict on the head side of the coin.  Scholastica is honored on the calendar of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church on February 10th.

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