St. Etheldreda


Etheldreda had but one aim in life, to devote herself to His service in the religious state. Her parents, however, had other views for her, and, in spite of her tears and prayers, she was compelled to become the wife of Tonbercht, a tributary of the Mercian king. She lived with him as a virgin for three years, and at his death retired to the isle of Ely, that she might apply herself wholly to heavenly things.

This happiness was but short-lived; for Egfrid, the powerful king of Northumbria, pressed his suit upon her with such eagerness that she was forced into a second marriage. Her life at his court was that of an ascetic rather than a queen: she lived with him not as a wife, but as a sister, and, observing a scrupulous regularity of discipline, devoted her time to works of mercy and love. After twelve years, she retired with her husband’s consent to Coldingham Abbey, which was then under the rule of St. Ebba, and received the veil from the hands of St. Wilfrid.

As soon as Etheldreda had left the court of her husband, he repented of having consented to her departure, and followed her, meaning to bring her back by force. She took refuge on a headland on the coast near Coldingham; and here a miracle took place, for the waters forced themselves a passage round the hill, barring the further advance of Egfrid. The Saint remained in this island refuge for seven days, till the king, recognizing the divine will, agreed to leave her in peace.

In 672 she returned to Ely, and founded there a double monastery. The nunnery she governed herself, and was by her example a living rule of perfection to her sisters. Some time after her death, in 679, her body was found incorrupt, and St. Bede records many miracles worked by her relics.

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. Paulinus of Nola


Paulinus was of a family which boasted of a long line of senators, prefects, and consuls. He was educated with great care, and his genius and eloquence, in prose and verse, were more than doubled his wealth by marriage.

Though he was the chosen friend of Saints; and had a great devotion to St. Felix of Nola, he was still only a catechumen, trying to serve two masters. But God drew him to Himself along the way of sorrows and trials. He received baptism, withdrew into Spain to be alone, and then, in consort with his holy wife, sold all their vast estates in various parts of the empire, distributing their proceeds so prudently that St. Jerome says East and West were filled with his alms.

He was then ordained priest, and retired to Nola in Campania. There he rebuilt the Church of St. Felix with great magnificence, and served it night and day, living a life of extreme abstinence and toil. In 409 he was chosen bishop.

St. Gregory the Great tells us that when the Vandals of Africa had made a descent on Campania, Paulinus spent all he had in relieving the distress of his people and redeeming them from slavery. At last there came a poor widow; her only son had been carried off by the son-in-law of the Vandal King. “Such as I have I give thee,” said the Saint to her; “we will go to Africa, and I will give myself for your son.” Having overborne her resistance, they went, and Paulinus was accepted in place of the widow’s son, and employed as gardener. After a time the king found out, by divine interposition, that his son-in-law’s slave was the great Bishop of Nola. He at once set him free, granting him also the freedom of all the townsmen of Nola who were in slavery.

One who knew him well says he was meek as Moses, priestlike as Aaron, innocent as Samuel, tender as David, wise as Solomon, apostolic as Peter, loving as John, cautious as Thomas, keen-sighted as Stephen, fervent as Apollos.

He died A.D. 431.

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. Aloysius Gonzaga


St. Aloysius, the eldest son of Ferdinand Gonzaga, Marquis of Castiglione, was born on the 9th of March, 1568. The first words he pronounced were the holy names of Jesus and Mary. When he was nine years of age he made vow of perpetual virginity, and by a special grace was ever exempted from temptations against purity. He received his first communion at the hands of St. Charles Borromeo.

At an early age he resolved to leave the world, and in a vision was directed by our Blessed Lady to join the Society of Jesus. The Saint’s mother rejoiced on learning his determination to become a religious, but his father for three years refused his consent. At length St. Aloysius obtained permission to enter the novitiate on the 25th of November, 1585. He took his vows after two years, and went through the ordinary course of philosophy and theology.

During his last year of theology a malignant fever broke out in Rome; the Saint offered himself for the service of the sick, and he was accepted for the dangerous duty. Several of the brothers caught the fever, and Aloysius was of the number. He was brought to the point of death, but recovered, only to fall, however, into slow fever, which carried him off after three months. He died, repeating the Holy Name, a little after midnight between the 20th and 21st of June on the octave-day of Corpus Christi, being rather more than twenty-three years of age.

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 Quality of Good Works

Be not of those who think perfection consists in undertaking many things, but of those who place it in doing well what little they do. For it is much better to do little and do it well, than to undertake much and do it ill. -St. Francis de Sales

The Lord measures our perfection not by the number and greatness of the works we do for Him, but by our manner of doing them. And this manner is only the love of God with which, and for which, we do them. They are more perfect as they are done with more pure and perfect love, and as they are leas mingled with the thoughts of pleasure or praise in this life or the other. -St. John of the Cross

St. Francis Borgia said that though his sermons often pleased neither himself nor others, through a wrong choice or arrangement of subject, yet they always produced fruit, because he did all he could for his own part, and always purely for God.

The same truth is illustrated by the incident of the two little copper coins which the widow in the Gospel cast into the treasury. Our Lord declared that she had put in more than the others, though perhaps there were some who gave gold or silver pieces. There could be no reason for this, except that she must have given that small amount with more love than the rest, who, as the Lord Himself added, gave out of their superabundance, while she, on account of her poverty, was obliged to subtract the little she gave, from her daily living.

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

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St. Romuald

In 976, Sergius, a nobleman of Ravenna, quarrelled with a relation about an estate, and slew him in a duel. His son Romuald, horrified at his father’s crime, entered the Benedictine monastery at Classe, to do a forty days’ penance for him. This penance ended in his own vocation to religion. After three years at Classe, Romuald went to live as a hermit near Venice.

St. Romuald founded many monasteries, the chief of which was that at Camaldoli, a wild desert place, where he built a church, which he surrounded with a number of separate cells for the solitaries who lived under his rule. His disciples were hence called Camaldolese. He is said to have seen here a vision of a mystic ladder, and his white-clothed monks ascending by it to heaven.

Among his first disciples were Sts. Adalbert and Boniface, apostles of Russia, and Sts. John and Benedict of Poland, martyrs for the Faith. He was an intimate friend of the Emperor St. Henry, and was reverenced and consulted by many great men of his time.

He once passed seven years in solitude and complete silence. In his youth St. Romuald was much troubled by temptations of the flesh. To escape them he had recourse to hunting, and in the woods first conceived his love for solitude.

He died, as he had foretold twenty years before, alone, in his monastery of Val Castro, on the 19th of June, 1027.

Reflection. — Our own sins, the sins of others, their ill-will against us, or our own mistakes and misfortunes, are equally capable of leading us, with softened hearts, to the feet of God’s mercy and love.

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 Sacrifice of the Mass

The Prophet Malachias (1:11) foretold the nature and the universality of the sacrifice of the New Law. “From the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation; for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts.”

Thus is the prophecy of Malachias being daily fulfilled in the repetition of that “clean oblation,” — that is, the sacrifice of the cross; and its repetition is nothing more nor less than the offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Sir Thomas More, the celebrated Lord Chancellor of England, took great delight in serving Mass, and, though much occupied with affairs of state, he often served several in succession. On one occasion, a certain courtier, sadly deficient in faith, said to Sir Thomas that King Henry would be displeased at his lowering himself to the duties of an acolyte. “Surely,” replied the chancellor, “the king cannot be displeased at the homage which I offer to his King.”

It is related of St. John the Almoner, Patriarch of Alexandria, in the commencement of the seventh century, that having observed that several of his parishioners, instead of going to the church to hear Mass on Sundays and holy days, stood about in the churchyard and talked together, determined to put an end to this misbehavior on their part. He devised a capital method for doing this. One Sunday, instead of going into the church to say Mass, he went and stood outside with the idlers. They were surprised at seeing their bishop join them, and looked inquiringly at him. Then he said: “You wonder to see me here, but it is nothing extraordinary. Where the flock is, there the pastor must be. If you go into the church, I shall go in also.” These words produced the desired effect. The loiterers entered the church immediately, and from that day forth no one was seen standing outside while Mass was going on within the church.

Text from Francis Spirago, Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism (New York: Benziger, 1904).

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St. Ladislas


Ladislas the First, son of Bela, King of Hungary, was born in 1041. By the pertinacious importunity of the people he was compelled, much against his own inclination, to ascend the throne, in 1080. He restored the good laws and discipline which St. Stephen had established, and which seem to have been obliterated by the confusion of the times.

Chastity, meekness, gravity, charity, and piety were from his infancy the distinguishing parts of his character; avarice and ambition were his sovereign aversion, so perfectly had the maxims of the Gospel extinguished in him all propensity to those base passions.

His life in the palace was most austere; he was frugal and abstemious, but most liberal to the Church and the poor. Vanity, pleasure, or idle amusements had no share in his actions or time, because all his moments were consecrated to the exercises of religion and the duties of his station, in which he had only the divine will in view, and sought only God’s greater honor. He watched over a strict and impartial administration of justice, was generous and merciful to his enemies, and vigorous in the defence of his country and the Church.

Reflection. — The Saints filled all their moments with good works and great actions. . . . In their afflictions themselves, virtue afforded them the most solid comfort, pointed out the remedy, and converted their tribulations into the greatest advantages.

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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