Today starts my return to Oscott college, as I continue towards the priesthood for the Lancaster diocese. I am now starting year 5 so not long to go. Please keep me and my fellow seminarians in your prayers.
St. Aidan was a seventh-century Irish monk. He lived at the great monastery of Iona, which St. Columban had founded. St. Oswald became king of North England in 634. He asked for missionaries to preach to his pagan people. The first missionary to go soon came back complaining that the English were rude, stubborn, and wild. The monks got together to talk about the situation. “It seems to me,” St. Aidan said to the returned monk, “that you have been too harsh with those people.” He then explained that, as St. Paul says, easy teachings are to be given first. Then when the people have grown stronger on the Word of God, they can start to do the more perfect things of God’s holy law.
When the monks heard such wise words, they turned to Aidan. “You should be the one to go to North England to preach the Gospel,” they said. Aidan went willingly. He took on his new assignment with humility and a spirit of prayer. He began by preaching. King Oswald himself translated Aidan’s sermons into English until the saint learned the language better. St. Aidan traveled all over, always on foot. He preached and helped the people. He was kind to the poor and preferred a simple lifestyle. He did much good and was greatly loved by the people. After thirty years of St. Aidan’s ministry, any monk or priest who came into the village was greeted with great joy by all the villagers.
On the island of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan built a large monastery. So many saints were to come from there that Lindisfarne became known as the Holy Island. Little by little, the influence of these zealous missionaries changed North England into a civilized, Christian land. St. Aidan died in 651.
We can learn from St. Aidan’s life that the witness of a joyful, kind person truly touches others. When we need help seeing the good in people, we can pray to St. Aidan.
Beheading of John the Baptist – St. John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus. His mother was St. Elizabeth and his father was Zechariah. The first chapter of Luke’s Gospel tells of the wonderful event of John’s birth. Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 14–29, records the cruel details of John the Baptist’s death.
King Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John told Herod that this was wrong. But Herod and Herodias did not want to hear how they stood with God. They wanted to make their own rules. St. John the Baptist had to pay the price for his honesty. Yet he would have had it no other way. He would never have kept silent in the face of sin and injustice. His mission was to call people to repentance and he wanted everyone to be reconciled to God.
Herodias held a grudge against John, and when she had the chance, she arranged to have him beheaded. What harsh consequences John accepted for teaching the truth.
John had preached a baptism of repentance, preparing people for the Messiah. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and watched with quiet joy as the Lord’s public ministry began. John encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus. He knew that Jesus’ fame would grow, while his would fade away. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, St. John the Baptist calls himself a voice crying in the desert to make straight the path of the Lord. He invited people to get ready, to prepare themselves to recognize the Messiah. His message is the same to each of us.
St. Augustine was born in Tagaste in modern Algeria on November 13, 354. He was brought up in a Christian atmosphere by his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. Augustine went to Carthage to study. After a while, he left the practice of the Christian faith and spent many years in sinful living and in false beliefs. His mother Monica prayed daily for her son’s conversion. In Milan, the marvelous sermons of St. Ambrose made their impact too.
Finally, Augustine became convinced that Christianity was the true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted after reading the life of St. Anthony of Egypt, whose feast we celebrate on January 17. Augustine felt ashamed. “What are we doing?” he cried to one of his friends. “Unlearned people are taking heaven by force. Yet we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine went into the garden and prayed, “How much longer, Lord? Why don’t I put an end to my sinning now?” Just then he heard a child singing the words, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended this as a message for him, he picked up the Bible and opened it. His eyes fell on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, where Paul says to stop living immoral lives and to live in imitation of Jesus. It was just what Augustine needed. From then on, he began a new life.
He was baptised on Holy Saturday, 387. Four years later, he was ordained a priest. In 396, he was made bishop of Hippo when Bishop Valerius died. Augustine wrote many works to explain and defend the Catholic faith. Even today, his letters, sermons, and treatises are important to the study of theology and philosophy. On the wall of his room, he had the following sentence written in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St. Augustine defended the Church’s teachings against errors, lived simply, and supported the poor. He preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. “Too late have I loved you,” he once cried to God. But Augustine spent the rest of his life in loving God and leading others to love him, too.
St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, was born in Tagaste, northern Africa, in 332. She was brought up in a good Christian home. Her strong training was a great help to her when she married the pagan Patricius. Patricius admired his wife, but he made her suffer because of his bad temper. Monica bore this with patience and fervent prayer. At the end of her husband’s life, Monica saw her prayers answered. Patricius accepted the Christian faith in 370. He was baptized on his deathbed a year later. His mother, too, became a Christian.
St. Monica’s joy over the holy way in which her husband had died soon changed to great sorrow. She found out that her son Augustine was living a bad, selfish life. This brilliant young man had turned to a false religion and to an immoral way of life. Monica prayed and wept and did much penance for her son. She begged priests to talk to him. Augustine was brilliant, yet very stubborn. He did not want to give up his sinful life.
But Monica would not give up either. When he went to Rome without her, she followed him. At Rome, she found he had become a teacher in Milan. So Monica went to Milan. And in all those years, she never stopped praying for him. What love and faith! After years of prayers and tears, her reward came when Augustine was converted. He not only became a good Christian, as she had prayed. Augustine also became a priest, a bishop, a great writer, and a very famous saint. We celebrate his feast on August 29, the day after St. Monica’s.
Monica died in Ostia, outside Rome, in 387. Augustine was at her bedside. St. Monica is the patron of married women and of Christian mothers.
We shouldn’t become discouraged if our prayers aren’t answered right away. Like St. Monica, we should keep praying. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to ask with perseverance and we shall receive.
St. Bartholomew was one of the first followers of Jesus. This apostle’s other name was Nathaniel. He came from Cana in Galilee. He became a disciple of Jesus when his friend Philip invited him to come and meet the Lord. Nathaniel received high praise from Jesus, who said, as soon as he saw him, “Here is a man in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus knew that Nathaniel was an honest, sincere man. His one desire was to know the truth.
Nathaniel was very surprised to hear those words from the Lord. “How do you know me?” he asked. “Before Philip called you,” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree.” That was a favorite praying place. Nathaniel must have realized then that Jesus had read his heart as he prayed. “Master!” he cried. “You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” And Nathaniel became one of the Lord’s faithful apostles.
Nathaniel, or Bartholomew, like the other apostles, preached the Gospel of Jesus at the risk of his life. It is believed that he went to India, Armenia, and other lands. He preached with great zeal, until he gave his life for the faith. And so, St. Bartholomew not only received the reward of an apostle, but also the martyr’s crown.
This great pope was born Joseph Sarto in 1835. He was the son of a mailman in Riese, Italy. Joseph was given the affectionate nickname of “Beppi.” When Joseph decided to be a priest, he had to make many sacrifices to get an education. But he didn’t mind. He even walked miles to school barefoot to save his one good pair of shoes. After he was ordained a priest, Father Sarto labored for the people in poor parishes for seventeen years. Everybody loved him. He used to give away everything he had to help them. His sisters had to hide his shirts or he would have had nothing to wear. Even when Father Joseph became a bishop, and then a cardinal, he still gave away what he owned to the poor. He kept nothing for himself.
When Pope Leo XIII died in 1903, Cardinal Sarto was chosen pope. He took the name Pius X. He became known as the pope of the Holy Eucharist. Pope Pius X encouraged everyone to receive Jesus as often as they could. He also lowered the age for children to be permitted to receive Holy Communion. Before that time, boys and girls had to wait many years before they could receive the Lord. He is also the pope of religious instruction. He believed in and loved our Catholic faith. He wanted every Catholic to share in the beauty of the truths of our faith. He really cared about every single person and their spiritual and material needs. He encouraged priests and religion teachers to help everyone learn about their faith.
When World War I broke out, St. Pius X suffered greatly. He knew so many people would be killed. He had said: “I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this horrible suffering.” Toward the end of his life, he also said: “I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor.” He never kept anything for himself, right to the end of his life. Pope Pius X died on August 20, 1914.
Pope St. Pius X was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954. He was the first pope to be canonized in 242 years.