St. Bernard of Clairvaux


Bernard was born at the castle of Fontaines, in Burgundy. The grace of his person and the vigor of his intellect filled his parents with the highest hopes, and the world lay bright and smiling before him when he renounced it forever and joined the monks of Citeaux. All his brothers followed Bernard to Citeaux except Nivard, the youngest, who was left to be the stay of his father in his old age. “You will now be heir of every thing,” said they to him, as they departed. “Yes,” said the boy; “you leave me earth, and keep heaven for yourselves; do you call that fair?” And he too left the world. At length their aged father came to exchange wealth and honor for the poverty of a monk of Clairvaux.

One only sister remained behind; she was married, and loved the world and its pleasures. Magnificently dressed, she visited Bernard; he refused to see her, and only at last consented to do so, not as her brother, but as the minister of Christ. The words he then spoke moved her so much that, two years later, she retired to a convent with her husband’s consent, and died in the reputation of sanctity.

Bernard’s holy example attracted so many novices that other monasteries were erected, and our Saint was appointed abbot of that of Clairvaux. Unsparing with himself, he at first expected too much of his brethren, who were disheartened at his severity; but soon perceiving his error, he led them forward, by the sweetness of his correction and the mildness of his rule, to wonderful perfection.

In spite of his desire to lie hid, the fame of his sanctity spread far and wide, and many churches asked for him as their Bishop. Through the help of Blessed Eugenius III., his former subject, he escaped this dignity; yet his retirement was continually invaded: the poor and the weak sought his protection; bishops, kings, and popes applied to him for advice.

Bernard died A.D. 1153. His most precious writings have earned for him the titles of the last of the Fathers and a Doctor of Holy Church.

Reflection. — St. Bernard used to say to those who applied for admission to the monastery, “If you desire to enter here, leave at the threshold the body you have brought with you from the world; here there is room only for your soul.”

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 Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

St. Joachim and St. Anne were poor and, belonging to the Levitical family, they lived on the tithes of the Temple. But, notwithstanding this, Mary was born amid grandeurs that far surpassed all the riches of the daughters of this world.

Mary possessed human greatness. She was born the daughter, the sister, the heiress of Juda’s kings. The Word willed to be born of a royal mother. He willed to be, according to the flesh, the brother of kings, in order to show clearly that it is from Him that all royalty flows, and that kings should come to adore Him as their Master and Sovereign Ruler. His Mother was, therefore, a queen. True, as her Son was a King without an earthly kingdom, without riches, without armies, so she was poor and unknown. Earthly grandeur does not constitute royalty; it is only its appendage. Even when royalty is despised, its rights still exist.

Supernatural greatness is nothing else than the reflection of God upon a creature whom He associates to His power and glory. Now, what did God do for Mary? He associated her to His great Mystery. The Father calls her His daughter, the Son loves her as His Mother, the Holy Ghost guards her as His spouse. She was called to share in the great works of divine power, she is associated to the empire of God Himself. Contemplate her thus on the beautiful day of her birth. With St. John, behold her clothed with the sun, coming from God and resplendent with His divine light. She is, as it were, penetrated with the rays of the Divinity, like to a most pure crystal which the sunbeam enters at every point. The moon is un der her feet, typifying her unshakable power which defies inconstancy, for she vanquished once and forever the infernal dragon. Her brow is encircled with a diadem of twelve stars, typical of the graces and virtues of all the elect, for Mary is the centre of creation.

We ought to rejoice that Mary brings to us the Bread of Life. From the day of her birth, we salute her as the aurora of the Eucharist, for we know that the Lord will take from her the substance of the Body and the Blood that He will give us in the adorable Sacrament of His love.

Text from Father Eymard’s Month of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (New York: Sentinel Press, 1903).

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St. Roch

The date of the birth of St. Roch can not be determined with exactness, but it is said that he was born about 1295, at Montpellier. His father held a position of power and influence in the city. After the death of his parents, when he was about twenty years of age, the young man had no inclination to take his father’s position, but handed over the government to his uncle. He then distributed his wealth to the poor and set out on a journey to Italy.

At that time many people were afflicted with the plague, and the young man, dressed as a pilgrim, devoted his time, energy, and prayers to the care of those who had been stricken. Wherever he went the plague disappeared before him, due to the fact that God gave him the power of working miracles in behalf of those who were suffering from the terrible disease.

Having contracted the malady himself, from which he recovered in the course of time, the young man went back to his own city in the year 1322. Not wishing to make himself known, he was cast into prison as a spy and died there five years later in the year 1327. When his identity became known from some papers in his possession, he was accorded a public funeral, which was the occasion of numerous miracles.

The relics of St. Roch are venerated at Venice, and the Church has established an arch-confraternity in his house. His feast is celebrated on the 16th of August.

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. 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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