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


At the age of sixteen, Jane Frances de Fremyot, already a motherless child, was placed under the care of a worldly minded governess. In this crisis, she offered herself to the Mother of God, and secured Mary’s protection for life.

As the loving and beloved wife of the Baron de Chantal, she made her house the pattern of a Christian home. But God had marked her for something higher than domestic sanctity. Two children and a dearly loved sister died, and, in the full tide of prosperity, her husband’s life was taken by the innocent hand of a friend. For seven years the sorrows of her widowhood were increased by ill-usage from servants and inferiors, and the cruel importunities of friends.

She was to found with St. Francis de Sales a great Order. Sickness, opposition, want, beset her, and the death of children, friends, and of St. Francis himself followed, while eighty-seven houses of the Visitation rose under her hand. Nine long years of interior desolation completed the work of God’s grace; and in her seventieth year, St. Vincent of Paul saw, at the moment of her death, her soul ascend, as a ball of fire, to heaven.

Reflection. — Profit by the successive trials of life to gain the strength and courage of St. Jane Frances, and they will become stepping-stones from earth to heaven.

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 Dowry of Mary Immaculate

Mary received on the day of her Immaculate Conception a magnificent endowment, proportioned to the sublime duties and incomparable dignity of Mother of God. She received then that treasure of graces which was to make of her the co-redemptrix of the human race, which was to associate her to the work of our salvation.

What constitutes greatness before God, is not the dignity that He confers, but the sanctity and purity with which it is borne. Throw a royal mantle around a mendicant, and he still remains a beggar. The Immaculate Conception having made the purity and sanctity of Mary, becomes the greatest of her graces. From the first instant of her creation, Mary was more pleasing to God than all other creatures. . . . Interest is in proportion to capital. Mary possessed an incommensurable fund of grace, which produced a hundred-fold.

The Immaculate Conception is the starting point of all Mary’s virtues. It is her supreme virtue in this sense, that she always labored to render fruitful the fund of graces that she then received.

This fidelity to her graces, made Mary constantly advance in all virtues. She watched over them, as if she feared to lose them. What a lesson for us! What ever our graces, let us guard them carefully. Mary, the impeccable one, not by nature, but in consequence of her union with God Mary whom temptation never approached, watched over herself and labored incessantly at the work of her sanctification. She was always advancing in holiness. She retired to the Temple at the age of three, in order to shun the scandals of the world. She trembled before an angel, a pure spirit that spoke only of God. Mary never thought that she had done enough. Her later life was a true martyrdom without consolation. She embroidered the robe of her Immaculate Conception, she enriched and ornamented it with the most beautiful flowers of virtue. But it was always that first grace, that of her Immaculate Conception, which she developed and embellished by her virtues and sacrifices.

We can gain nothing from God but by purity, by holiness. God does great things only by pure souls. He listens only to the prayer of the innocent or the contrite. Mary’s purity was never tarnished by the least stain. What, then, must be her influence! They say that a mother is all-powerful over the heart of her son. . . . Solomon thus addressed his mother after she had done penance: “I can refuse you nothing.” What, then, can Mary’s Son refuse her? All graces pass through her hands. She is their channel. Jesus has clothed her with His almighty power in the order of salvation.

Baptism purifies us, renders us stainless, immaculate. As soon as the infant receives it, it becomes the temple of God, a paradise. With what vigilance ought we to guard baptismal purity! If we have lost it, we can regain it by penance. We must be pure. I do not speak merely of the purity of the senses. We must observe great purity in our will, in our intentions, in all our actions. . . . Without purity we can never please the Eucharistic God, for He is all purity. Only pure hearts see Him, only pure hearts pierce the veils that hide Him. He manifests Himself only to the pure heart, for purity is love, the delicacy of friendship which fears to displease. The aim of our God in coming into our soul is, to purify us more and more. In purifying us, He sanctifies us, He unites us more intimately to Himself, and when we are sufficiently pure, He will take us to Himself in Heaven and crown us.

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

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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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