St. Isidore of Seville

St Isidor of Seville by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Isidore was born of a ducal family, at Carthagena in Spain. His two brothers, Leander, Archbishop of Seville, Fulgentius Bishop of Ecija, and his sister Florentina, are Saints. As a boy he despaired at his ill success in study, and ran away from school. Resting in his flight at a roadside spring, he observed a stone, which was hollowed out by the dripping water. This decided him to return, and by hard application he succeeded where he had failed. He went back to his master, and with the help of God became, even as a youth, one of the most learned men of the time.

He assisted in converting Prince Recared, the leader of the Arian party; and with his aid, though at the constant peril of his own life, he expelled that heresy from Spain.

Then, following a call from God, he turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of his friends, and embraced a hermit’s life. Prince Recared and many of the nobles and clergy of Seville went to persuade him to come forth, and represented the needs of the times, and the good he could do, and had already done, among the people. He refused.

On the death of his brother Leander, he was called to fill the vacant see. As a teacher, ruler, founder, and reformer, he labored not only in his own diocese, but throughout Spain, and even in foreign countries.

He died in Seville on April 4th, 636, and within sixteen years of his death was declared a Doctor of the Catholic Church.

Reflection. — The strength of temptation usually lies in the fact that its object is something flattering to our pride, soothing to our sloth, or in some way attractive to the meaner passions. St. Isidore teaches us to listen neither to the promptings of nature nor the plausible advice of friends when they contradict the voice of God.

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

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His Descent From the Cross

Reflections on Each of the Seven Dolors of Mary
On the Sixth Dolor: The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent From the Cross

Christ, says the devout Lanspergius, shared with his mother the infliction of that wound, for He received the insult and his mother the pain. The holy Fathers explain this to be the very sword predicted to the Virgin by St. Simeon; a sword, not of iron, but of grief,which pierced through Her blessed soul in the Heart of Jesus, where it always dwelt. Thus, among others, St. Bernard says: The spear which opened his side passed through the soul of the Virgin, which could not be torn from the Heart of Jesus.

In Her other dolors She at least had Her Son to com passionate Her; and now She had not even Him to take pity on Her.

Oh, how many swords, says St. Bonaventure, pierced the soul of this mother, when She received the body of Her Son after it was taken from the cross.

My Son, to what has the love Thou didst bear to men reduced Thee! But what evil hast Thou done to them, that they have treated Thee so cruelly?

My Son, behold how I am afflicted, look upon me and console me; but Thou dost look upon me no more. Speak, speak to me but one word, and console me; but Thou dost speak no more, for Thou art dead. Then turning to those barbarous instruments, She said: Oh cruel thorns, oh nails, oh merciless spear, how could you thus torture your Creator? But what thorns, what nails? Alas! sinners, She exclaimed, it is you who have thus cruelly treated my Son. Thus Mary spoke and complained of us. But if now She were capable of suffering, what would She say? What grief would She feel to see that men after the death of Her Son, continue to torment and crucify Him by their sins? Let us no longer give pain to this sorrowful mother; and if we also have hither to grieve Her by our sins, let us now do what She directs. She says to us: Return, ye transgressors, to the Heart. Sinners, return to the wounded Heart of my Jesus; return as penitents, for He will receive you. Flee from Him to Him, She continues to say with Guerric the Abbot, from the Judge to the Redeemer, from the tribunal to the cross.

Now that my Son, oh world, has died to save Thee, this is no longer for Thee a time of fear, but of love: a time to love Him who has desired to suffer so much in order to show Thee the love He bore Thee.

If then, concludes Mary, in the words of the Abbot of Celles, my Son had wished his side to be opened that He might give Thee his Heart, it is right, oh man, that Thou shouldst give Him Thy Heart. And if you wish, oh children of Mary, to find a place in the Heart of Jesus without fear of being cast out, go, says Ubertino of Casale, go with Mary, for She will obtain grace for you.

Text from St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1888).

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The Meekness of Preachers

St Vincent de Paul Preaching by Paul Delaroche

St. Vincent de Paul, also, was accustomed, even in preaching; to speak with the greatest suavity and gentleness, so that he infused into the minds of his bearers, especially the poor, such confidence in himself, and such readiness to follow his directions, that after a sermon, they would often run after him, and entreat him with tears, in the midst of the crowd, to hear their confessions, in which they revealed to him, with great frankness, the most hidden wounds of their souls, that they might receive from him a remedy.

He once committed a great sinner to the care of one of his priests, that he might do what he could to bring him to repentance. The priest soon found that whatever he said had no effect upon that obstinate heart, and he therefore entreated the Saint to say something himself. He did so, and with such efficacy that he converted him.

The sinner afterwards acknowledged that it was the singular sweetness and charity of the Saint, which had gained his heart, and that he had never heard any person speak of God as he did. For this reason the Saint would not permit his missionaries to treat penitents with austerity and harshness; he told them that it was necessary to encourage repentant sinners, and that the infernal spirit ordinarily makes use of rigor and bitterness, on the part of priests, to lead souls more astray than ever.

He used the same method in the conversion of heretics, and succeeded by it in converting many, who afterwards confessed that they had been gained to God by his great patience and cordiality. The Saint explained this when he said: “You see, when one begins to argue with another, the latter easily persuades himself that he wishes to conquer him, and therefore is more prepared to resist than to embrace the truth; so that the contest, instead of disposing his mind to conversion, rather closes his heart, which, on the contrary, remains open to sweetness and affability.”

When St. Francis Xavier was preaching in Macao to a great multitude of people, some of the mob threw stones at him. He went on without the least sign of resentment, and he made more conversions in this way than by his preaching.

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

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St. Francis of Paula

St Francis of Paula

At the age of fifteen, Francis left his poor home at Paula in Calabria to live as a hermit in a cave by the sea-coast. In time disciples gathered round him, and with them, in 1436, he founded the “Minims,” so called to show that they were the least of monastic Orders. They observed a perpetual Lent, and never touched meat, fish, eggs, or milk.

Francis cured the sick, raised the dead, averted plagues, expelled evil spirits, and brought sinners to penance. A famous preacher, instigated by a few misguided monks, set to work to preach against St. Francis and his miracles. The Saint took no notice of it, and the preacher, finding that he made no way with his hearers, determined to see this poor hermit, and confound him in person. The Saint received him kindly, gave him a seat by the fire, and listened to a long exposition of his own frauds. He then quietly took some glowing embers from the fire, and closing his hands upon them unhurt, said, “Come, Father Anthony, warm yourself, for you are shivering for want of a little charity.” Father Anthony, falling at the Saint’s feet, asked for pardon, and then, having received his embrace, quitted him, to become his panegyrist and attain himself to great perfection.

When the avaricious King Ferdinand of Naples offered him money for his convent, Francis told him to give it back to his oppressed subjects, and softened his heart by causing blood to flow from the ill-gotten coin.

Louis XI. of France, trembling at the approach of death, sent for the poor hermit to ward off the foe whose advance neither his fortresses nor his guards could check. Francis went by the Pope’s command, and prepared the king for a holy death. The successors of Louis showered favors on the Saint, his Order spread throughout Europe, and his name was reverenced through the Christian world.

He died at the age of ninety-one, on Good Friday, 1507, with the crucifix in his hand, and the last words of Jesus on his lips, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

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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The Meekness of Confessors

St Francis de Sales

If you wish to labor with fruit in the conversion of souls, you must pour the balsam of sweetness upon the wine of your zeal, that it may not be too fiery, but mild, soothing, patient, and full of compassion. For the human soul is so constituted that by rigor it becomes harder, but mildness completely softens it. -St. Francis de Sales

This holy Bishop proceeded in this way himself with the most perverse sinners, striving to bring them to repentance in the gentlest ways possible, guiding himself by the great maxim, that the spirit of meekness is the spirit of God.

A man who had been guilty of enormous crimes, once came to his confessional, and went on accusing himself of them with indifference, and without any spirit of penitence. After bearing this for some time, the Saint began to weep, and when his penitent asked if anything bad happened to him, he merely answered, “Go on.” As he went on with the same ease as before, telling even greater sins, he wept again and again. On being urged to tell the cause, he at last said, in a voice full of compassion, “I weep because you do not weep.” These words struck the heart of the sinner with compunction, and he became a true penitent.

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

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The Affability of Peacemakers

St Francis de Sales

When you have to make arrangements, settle quarrels, or win others to your views, take care to be as mild as possible. You will accomplish more, and conquer more readily, by yielding and humbling yourself, than by harshness and disputation. Who does not know that more flies are caught with an ounce of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar? -St. Francis de Sales

The venerable Cardinal d’Arezzo excelled in this. He not only knew how to keep his own household in peace, and banish all differences from among them, when he was bishop and cardinal; but when he was a simple religious, he was considered to be a man very well adapted to settle lawsuits, to quiet discord, and to calm the most inflamed spirits. He succeeded in this not only by his prudence and dexterity in management, but also by his great affability and mildness, which won the affection of all, and so gave him great power to soften the most obstinate hearts.

St. John Berchmans, even when a child, had great success in settling the little disputes that arise among children, and the reason was, that prayers and gentleness were the means he employed.

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

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The Tranquility of the Meek

St Bernard by Pietro Perugino

There are some characters which appear very gentle as long as everything goes well with them; but at the touch of any adversity or contradiction, they are immediately enkindled, and begin to throw forth smoke like a volcano. Such as these may be called burning coals hidden under ashes. This is not the meekness which our Lord aimed to teach, that He might make us like Himself. We ought to be like lilies among thorns, which, though they come from amid such sharp points, do not cease to be smooth and pliable. -St. Bernard

This test shows how true was the meekness of St. Francis de Sales, for it is recorded of him that the more he was ill-treated, the more tranquil he appeared. It may be said that he found peace in war, roses among thorns, and sweetness amidst the greatest bitterness.

One day, when the Saint was preaching, two lawyers sent up to him a note full of insulting remarks, in the hope of breaking up the sermon. He took the paper, thinking it contained some notice to be given to the people, had the patience to read it through to himself, and then, undisturbed, went on with his sermon. When it was over and he had rested a little, he inquired of the cleric from whom he had received the note, and went to visit the two lawyers, one after the other. Without speaking of the letter, he begged them to say in what he had given them offence. When he heard the occasion, he assured them that he had never had the intention of doing so, and asked their pardon on his knees. This caused them much confusion, and they asked his pardon in turn. Thenceforth, they lived on the best terms with him, venerating, as they did, a virtue so heroic and Christian.

This virtue also shone forth in St. Jane Frances de Chantal. When she was, on various occasions, ill-treated by many, she never showed the least sign of resentment or displeasure, but in return gave presents to one, bestowed favors obtained from God or from persons of rank, upon another. Nor was her love for any of them diminished.

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

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