St. Hyacinth

Hyacinth, the glorious apostle of Poland and Russia, was born of noble parents in Poland, about the year 1185. In 1218, being already Canon of Cracow, he accompanied his uncle, the Bishop of that place, to Rome. There he met St. Dominic, and received the habit of the Friar Preachers from the patriarch himself, of whom he became a living copy. So wonderful was his progress in virtue that within a year Dominic sent him to preach and plant the Order in Poland, where he founded two houses.

His apostolic journeys extended over numerous regions; Austria, Bohemia, Livonia, the shores of the Black Sea, Tartary, and Northern China on the east, and Sweden and Norway to the west, were evangelized by him, and he is said to have visited Scotland. Everywhere multitudes were converted, churches and convents were built.

He worked numerous miracles, and at Cracow raised a dead youth to life.

He had inherited from St. Dominic a most filial confidence in the Mother of God; to her he ascribed his success, and to her aid he looked for his salvation. When St. Hyacinth was at Kiev, the Tartars sacked the town, but it was only as he finished Mass that the Saint heard of the danger. Without waiting to unvest, he took the ciborium in his hands, and was leaving the church. As he passed by an image of Mary a voice said: “Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind?” . . . The statue was of heavy alabaster; but when Hyacinth took it in his arms it was as light as a reed. With the Blessed Sacrament and the image he came to the river Dnieper, and walked dryshod over the surface of the waters.

On the eve of the Assumption, he was warned of his coming death. In spite of a wasting fever, he celebrated Mass on the feast, and communicated as a dying man. He was anointed at the foot of the altar, and died the same day, A.D. 1257.

Reflection. — St. Hyacinth teaches us to employ every effort in the service of God, and to rely for success not on our own industry, but on the prayer of His Immaculate Mother.

Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).

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St. Stephen of Hungary

Geysa, fourth Duke of Hungary, was, with his wife, converted to the faith, and saw in a vision the martyr St. Stephen, who told him that he should have a son, who would perfect the work he had begun. This son was born A.D. 977, and received the name of Stephen.

He was most carefully educated, and succeeded his father at an early age. He began to root out idolatry, suppressed a rebellion of his pagan subjects, and founded monasteries and churches all over the land. He sent to Pope Sylvester, begging him to appoint bishops to the eleven sees he had endowed, and to bestow on him, for the greater success of his work, the title of king. The Pope granted his requests, and sent him a cross to be borne before him, saying that he regarded him as the true apostle of his people.

His devotion was fervent. He placed his realms under the protection of our Blessed Lady, and kept the feast of her Assumption with peculiar affection. He gave good laws, and saw to their execution. Throughout his life, we are told, He had Christ on his lips, Christ in his heart, and Christ in all he did. His only wars were wars of defence, and he was always successful.

When St. Stephen was about to die, he summoned the bishops and nobles, and gave them charge concerning the choice of a successor. Then he urged them to nurture and cherish the Catholic Church, which was still as a tender plant in Hungary, to follow justice, humility, and charity, to be obedient to the laws, and to show ever a reverent submission to the Holy See. Then, raising his eyes towards heaven, he said, “O Queen of Heaven, august restorer of a prostrate world, to thy care I commend the Holy Church, my people, and my realm, and my own departing soul.” And then, on his favorite feast of the Assumption, A.D. 1038, he died in peace.

Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).

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Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this festival, the Church commemorates the happy departure from life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her translation into the kingdom of her Son, in which she received from Him a crown of immortal glory, and a throne above all the other Saints and heavenly spirits.

After Christ, as the triumphant Conqueror of death and hell, ascended into heaven, His Blessed Mother remained at Jerusalem, persevering in prayer with the disciples, till, with them, she had received the Holy Ghost. She lived to a very advanced age, but finally paid the common debt of nature, none among the children of Adam being exempt from that rigorous law. But the death of the Saints is rather to be called a sweet sleep than death; much more that of the Queen of Saints, who had been exempt from all sin.

It is a traditionary pious belief, that the body of the Blessed Virgin was raised by God soon after her death, and taken up to glory, by a singular privilege, before the general resurrection of the dead. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all the festivals which the Church celebrates in her honor. It is the consummation of all the other great mysteries by which her life was rendered most wonderful; it is the birthday of her true greatness and glory, and the crowning of all the virtues of her whole life, which we admire single in her other festivals.

Reflection. — Whilst we contemplate, in profound sentiments of veneration, astonishment, and praise, the glory to which Mary is raised by her triumph on this day, we ought, for our own advantage, to consider by what means she arrived at this sublime degree of honor and happiness, that we may walk in her steps. No other way is open to us. The same path which conducted her to glory will also lead us thither; we shall be partners in her reward if we copy her virtues.

Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).

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Mindful of the Presence of God

There is a certain method of prayer which is both very easy and very useful. It consists in accustoming our soul to the presence of God, in such a way as to produce in us a union with Him which is intimate, simple, and perfect. Oh what a precious kind of prayer is this! -St. Francis de Sales

St. Aloysius Gonzaga found nothing easier than to keep his mind constantly united to God, so that he had as much difficulty in turning his thoughts from Him, as others have in keeping them fixed in that direction.

It is narrated in the Lives of the Fathers, that a holy Abbot instructed one of his novices that he should take care never to lose sight of God, and think of Him as always present. “For,” said he, “this is the rule of rules, and the one which the Lord taught to Abraham, when He said, “Ambula coram Me, et esto perfectus” — Walk before Me, and be perfect. This was so impressed on the mind of the young man, that he practised it wonderfully well; and from the reckless youth that he was, he became a monk so perfect, that when he died, a few years after, he was seen to fly directly, and with great glory, into heaven.

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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Reflections

It is a great help to humility to accustom ourselves to draw from all things reflections suited to raise our hearts to God, by beholding in them all His perfections, or else the love He bears us, and our obligation to serve Him faithfully. -Scupoli

Such was the practice of St. Francis de Sales. On beholding a beautiful landscape, he would say, “We are fields cultivated by God.” If he saw magnificent and richly adorned churches, — “We are the living temples of God; then why are our souls not as well adorned with virtues?” If he looked at flowers, — “When will the time come that our flowers shall change into fruit?” If he saw rare and valuable pictures, — “Nothing is as beautiful as the soul made in the image of God.” If he walked in a garden, — “When will that of our soul be dotted with flowers, filled with fruit, well arranged, and free from dust and rubbish?” If he came to a fountain, — “Oh, when shall we drink our fill from the fountains of the Savior?” If to rivers, — “When shall we go to God, as these waters do to the sea?” Thus he made use of all visible things to raise his soul to God.

Monseigneur de Palafox would say in his heart: “I desire nothing, I wish for nothing, I cling to nothing, except Thyself, my God and my All! Glory? it is Thine, and I seek it only for Thee! Honor? all my honor, my Jesus, is Thy honor. Satisfaction? my only satisfaction and pleasure is that Thou art satisfied and pleased.”

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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St. Jane Frances de Chantal

St. Frances Fremiot de Chantal, being a widow consecrated her time to works of piety and mercy, in all things seeking only the glory of God. When her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales, told her that it was the will of God that, leaving the world, she should consecrate herself to Him, she received this command as coming from God Himself.

Retiring from the world with some of her companions, she placed herself under the direction of St. Francis de Sales and founded a new Congregation, to which that holy Bishop gave the name of the “Visitation.” The beginning of this new foundation was very difficult, because the Sisters were extremely poor and sometimes even in need of their daily bread.

Moreover, outward enemies continually threatened the existence of the convent. But, trusting in God and encouraged by the charity of St. Francis, the Sisters bore all this cheerfully, serving their heavenly Spouse with great devotion. To the cultivation of such beautiful Christian virtues as charity, humility, simplicity and patience, they united a tender devotion to Our Lady, in order to arrive at a more perfect union with God, who is the end of all things.

St. Frances herself reached such a stage of perfection, that she wished to make a vow of doing in everything that which was most perfect. So holy a life could not but draw down on the new Congregation the blessing of Heaven.

She died a holy death at Moulins on the thirteenth of December, 1641. Under the guidance of Mary, the Congregation of the Visitation soon flourished in the Church, and sent forth to heaven many holy souls, among whom must be mentioned St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Our Lord deigned to reveal how pleasing to Him is the devotion to His most Sacred Heart.

Illustration from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922). Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).

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St. Clare

On Palm Sunday, March 17th, 1212, the Bishop of Assisi left the altar to present a palm to a noble maiden, eighteen years of age, whom bashfulness had detained in her place. This maiden was St. Clare.

The same night she escaped, with one companion, to the Church of the Portiuncula, where she was met by St. Francis and his brethren. At the altar of Our Lady, St. Francis cut off her hair, clothed her in his habit of penance, a piece of sackcloth, with his cord as a girdle. Thus was she espoused to Christ.

In a miserable house outside Assisi she founded her Order, and was joined by her sister, fourteen years of age, and afterwards by her mother and other noble ladies. They went barefoot, observed perpetual abstinence, constant silence, and perfect poverty.

While the Saracen army of Frederick II. was ravaging the valley of Spoleto, a body of infidels advanced to assault St. Clare’s convent, which stood outside Assisi. The Saint caused the Blessed Sacrament to be placed in a monstrance, above the gate of the monastery facing the enemy. . . . The Saint’s convent was spared.

During her illness of twenty-eight years, the Holy Eucharist was her only support, and spinning linen for the altar the one work of her hands. She died A.D. 1253, as the Passion was being read, and Our Lady and the angels conducted her to glory.

Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).

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