Category Archives: saints

Praying with Saint Peter Claver

Today the church celebrates the Jesuit priest, Pedro Claver, who ministered to slaves in Cartegena for many years. He is a patron of social justice and of racial justice.

As I sat down to pray this morning, I found that the current missal has no proper readings for Saint Pedro Claver. I have an old Saint Andrew Daily Missal with Franciscan Supplement, from 1962, here with me in Honduras. In the “Proper Feat of the U.S.A.”, there is a complete special Mass, with the epistle from Isaias 58. 6-9, 10 and the Gospel of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10.29-37.

The first lines of the epistle are particularly appropriate:

“Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundle that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden.”

The Introit is Psalm 106 (107). 9-10, 8:

“The Lord hath satisfied the empty soul: such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death: bound in want and iron.”

How appropriate for Saint Pedro Claver who went down into the holds of the slave ships when they arrived in Cartagena to serve those bound in iron with fruit, brandy, tobacco, and medicine – and, also, to preach and baptize them (as was the sacramental understanding of his time.)

But as I prayed the official US Collect for St. Peter Claver, the prayer seemed all too bland:

“…grant, through his intercession, that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ, we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.”

But then I looked at the prayers in Misal Romano Diario, published in 2015 by Midwest Theological Forum, the Oración Colecta for the United States is much more pointed:

“…fortalécenos, por el ejemplo y las oraciones de San Pedro Claver, para vencer todo odio racial y amarnos como hermanos y hermanas.”

“…strengthen us, by the example and prayers of Saint Peter Claver, to conquer all racial hatred and love each other as brothers and sisters.” (my translation)

The Oración Colecta of Colombia (where he lived and died) is also more pointed:

…”concédenos por su intercesión y ejemplo, que superadas todas las discriminaciones raciales, amemos a todos los hombres con sincero corazón.”

“…grant us, by his intercession and prayers, that, overcoming all racial discriminations, we may love all persons with a sincere heart.” (my loose translation)

I don’t think there is any agenda here, but I prefer the older collect and the one from Colombia, especially in light of the problems of racism in our world – and in the US.

May we conquer all racial hatred and overcome all racial discrimination, through the intercession of St. Peter Claver.

As I wrote this I looked for an image of St. Peter Claver in the ships with the slaves. I found this one:

I also found one on the website of St. Mary’s Press. It is copyrighted but you can go to the web page here.

Paschal Baylon: the Eucharist and the poor

I learned of Saint Paschal Baylon, a Franciscan brother, when I was in grade school. His great devotion to the Eucharist impressed me. But I didn’t know one part of holiness until recently.

He was the porter and cook of his friary, He attended those who came to the door and was especially attentive to the poor who came for help.

Fr. Elgar Mindorff wrote this about him:

Towards the poor and lowly he felt a special compassion. He aided them in many ways – comforting them in their trials, instructing them in their religion, and dispensing material alms. A superior once warned him against being too generous to loafers who came to the monastery door; Paschal answered: “I give the alms for the love of God, and who knows whether Christ Himself might not be found among these needy brethren?”

He is another of the holy porters who found Christ in those who came to the door. I wrote about them in a previous post. They included the US Capuchin priest Blessed Solanus Casey, the Canadian Holy Cross Brother Saint André Bessette, the Dominican Saint Juan Macias, and the Spanish Jesuit brother Saint Alfonso Rodríguez.

Their holy hospitality embraced the poor as Christ. They lived the admonition in the Letter to the Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have entertained angels unaware.”

There is a story I read long ago. I don’t know if it was about Saint Paschal, but it seems to fit his character. One day he was praying in his cell and Christ appeared to him. But someone rang the doorbell. He was reluctant to leave Jesus but went. When he returned he found Jesus there. The Lord told him that He would have left if the saint had not gone to see the poor person at the door.

This story reminds me that not only is hospitality an important virtue for us deacons – and for all followers of Christ. We are also called to be available, ready to respond to the needs of those around us. Their calls are not interruptions but the call of God.

Christ is found in the Eucharist but also in the poor at our doorsteps.

That’s a hard message but all too important and saints like Paschal Baylon provide us examples.

May we be like Saint Paschal and all the other holy porters, attentive to the Eucharist and the poor where we can find Christ the Lord.

(Image of art work of Hank and Karen Schlau, found at this site.)

A saint for young workers

Saint Nunzio Sulprizio, pray for us.

I had the blessing of being able to attend the Mass for the canonization of Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero and to serve as one of the deacons at the Papal Mass. There were several others canonized at the same time, including Pope Paul VI and Mother Nazaria Ignacia March y Mesa who founded a religious congregation in Bolivia as well as the first women’s labor union in Latin America. But learning of the life of Nunzio Sulprizio, one of the others canonized, stirred me.

As we were preparing the murals in the Dulce Nombre Church we had decided to put Saints Isidore and Maria, patrons of farmers, on one part of the wall of the south chapel but had not decided what saint we wanted on the other part. One day I thought of Saint Nunzio, a young man, who suffered abuse as well as physical illness and who worked in a smithy. He seemd a logical choice.

Image of Saint Nunzio at his canonization

He was a young man who endured hard work. He also suffered from abuse, violence, and illness, I thought of the children who suffer violence and abuse in much of Honduras as well as the children who endure the suffering of cancer and other diseases. I recalled the blacksmiths who abound in Dulce Nombre de Copán.

 Saint Nunzio Sulprizio seemed a logical choice for the empty wall I mentioned this to the pastor and he agreed. He now appears opposite Saint Isidor and María in what might now be called the chapel of holy workers.

Mural of Saint Nunzio in the church of Dulce Nombre de María

Nunzio Sulprizio died at 19, his body devastated by gangrene (and, as some sources note, from bone cancer).

Born in Abruzzo, Italy, his parents died when he was six years old. His grandmother raised him and nurtured a profound faith in Nujnzio, but she died three years later.  An uncle, who was a blacksmith, took him in and forced him to work in his smithy, even though Nunzio was only nine. His uncle also beat him A wound in his foot developed gangrene.

He was hospitalized for a time; there he was a great comfort to other patients. Yet another uncle learned of Nunzio’s condition and presented him to Félix Wochinger, a military official in Naples, who secured some treatment for his wound. His health improved and he moved from a clinic to the house of Colonel Wochinger. But his health worsened, and he was found to be suffering bone cancer.

He experienced high fevers and intense suffering but maintained his faith. “Jesus suffered much for me. Why can’t I suffer for him?”

He died on May 5, 1836.

He is an apt patron of blacksmiths. But,  more than this, I consider him a patron of young people, especially young workers, young people mistreated and abused, and young people suffering from cancer and other serious diseases.

Chapel of the holy workers – Maria, Isidore, Nunzio

The mixed heritage of St. Thomas à Becket

Saint Thomas Becket is one of my favorite saints. The play by Jean Anouilh, Becket, later adapted into a movie, as well as T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, are classics for me. I saw both plays and the movie and even acted in the play in high school.

What I find most remarkable about Saint Thomas Becket is that he was able to move from a position of privilege, as chancellor of the kingdom, to being a pastor of souls, praying and fasting, and looking out for the poor.

He refused to hold on to the power he had had as chancellor and didn’t seek to use his privileges, as well as his friendship with the king, as means to advance himself.

He was treading in the tricky swampland of the relations of the church and the state.

He was not willing to subjugate the church to the state, but insisted on the rights of the church and, doing so, he undercut the absolutism of the English monarchy. For that I am grateful.

But he insisted that clerics be tried by church courts and not by the courts of the realm.

I am not sure exactly why he did this – perhaps to avoid control by the state. But, from the perspective of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, I have a problem.

How often, in the face of clergy abuse of children and those in situations of vulnerability, have church leaders tried to hide the perpetrators from the news and from the courts? This has happened in the US and in other countries across the globe. I believe, it still continues, as the church doesn’t face the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse that church leaders have done not just to children and adolescents, but also to persons in situations of vulnerability, including women religious and seminarians. All too often this has been done to “protect the church,” but all it does is to hide the festering wounds of abuse.

I wonder that St. Thomas Becket would think of this. I have no idea, but today I pray that he may intercede for the church. May the church abandon all quests for power and prestige. May the church put itself at the service of the abused, the marginalized, the impoverished. May the church be a church that admits its faults.

This morning I came across this quote from St. Thomas Becket on a Facebook friend’s page. He is supposed to have said this to a friend on his way to being ordained archbishop of Canterbury.

Hereafter, I want you to tell me, candidly and in secret, what people are saying about me. And if you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on, people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.

The last line is wise advice to the church, even today:

It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.

Saint Martin de Porres and the U.S. elections

Today I realized that the US elections this year are being held on the feast of Saint Martin de Porres.

I propose that we pray to him for a miracle – the healing of the United States.

Saint Martin is the patron of all those who work for social justice. What the US needs is a conversion toward justice.

Saint Martin suffered discrimination for being the child of a Spanish conquistador and a freed black slave from Panama. Black lives must matter.

When mice infested the Dominican friary where he lived, he captured one and told the mouse to lead its companions to the garden where he would feed them. The mice soon left for the garden. Our common home must find a place for mice and humans.

One day a friar saw a dog, a cat, and a mouse eating from the same dish that Saint Martin had provided them. Reconciliation among enemies is a challenge of our faith, reconciling red and blue, and all the nations of the world.

Saint Martin was called “the father of the poor” because of his care for the marginalized – the poor, the sick, the indigenous, the slave. Will we become a nation that puts the needs of the poor before the desires of the rich?

Saint Martin healed the sick, using his training as a barber-surgeon and the knowledge of natural medicine his mother shared with him, as well as the healing powers that God gave him. The world needs to provide health to all those in need.

Saint Martin was humble, even offering to be sold as a slave when the friary had no money. Humble service is the sign of a Christian, not lording it over others.

Saint Martin, heal us, lead us to conversion.

Many paths to holiness

There are many paths to sainthood and holy people are found in every corner of the globe.

I keep a calendar of witness to holiness and justice with quotes from many of them. Today and tomorrow are filled with witnesses.

Today, July 13, is, in Chile and among the Discalced Carmelites, the feast of Saint Teresa de Jesús de los Andes (1900-1920). Born into a well-off family, at 19 she entered a very poor convent of Carmelites – without electricity or adequate sanitation. She contracted typhus with the year and died young, as did the Carmelite Saint who inspired her, Saint Thérèse of Lisiuex, the Little Flower.

Today is, among the Orthodox, the feast of the holy martyr Saint Alexander Schmorell (1918-1943), who was a member of the White Rose, a group of mostly young Germans who opposed the Nazi regime and clandestinely distributed pamphlets and wrote on walls. He was arrested and executed as were many members of the White Rose.

Today is also the feast of Blessed Carlos (Charlie) Manuel Rodríguez Santiago (1918-1963), a lay promoter at the Catholic University Center of the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Among his concerns was the reform of the liturgy.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of the Little Brother of the Gospel, Arturo Paoli (1912-2015), an Italian missionary, who lived more than thirty years in Latin America, working as a poor man and living the spirituality of Saint Charles de Foucauld. His writings have inspired me and many others.

Tomorrow, July 14, the church also celebrates several witnesses.

The Franciscans and the church of Perú celebrate Saint Francis Solano (1549-1610), a Spanish missionary who spent years among the native peoples on Perú. He tried to defend them and spoke forthrightly against corruption and injustice.

The Church in the United States celebrates Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks (1656-1680), the first Native American to be canonized. Born in what is now New York State, she died in Canada, having left her home to escape persecution.

July 14 is also the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), an Italian who after living the life of a rowdy soldier began to care for the sick and founded the Ministers of the Sick.

On July 14, 1980, Brother Mauricio Silva, Uruguayan priest, Little Brother of the Gospel, street sweeper, was killed, Buenos Aires, Argentina, another victim of the Dirty War.

On July 14, 2002, Sister Marta Inés Velez Serna, member of the Little Sisters of the Poor of St. Peter Claver, active and peace and human rights work, was killed, Mogotes, Santander State, Colombia.

I have written about some of these in other posts. (Click to access)

      Blessed Carlos, Saint Teresa, and Saint Kateri

     Saint Kateri and Saint Francisco

     Saint Kateri

    Arturo Paoli 1

Arturo Paoli 2

Saint Camillus

All these holy people lived very different lives but they sought to follow Christ. Quotes from two of them may help us contemplate how they sought to follow Jesus.

Hermano Mauricio Silva

When loving is a humble and dark furrow
which claims the grain in order to be fertile and die in solitude,
then I know that You are present, Lord.

From the last letter of St. Alexander Schmorell to his parents

This difficult ‘misfortune’ was necessary to put me on the right road, and therefore was no misfortune at all…. What did I know until now about belief, about a true and deep belief, about the truth, the last and only truth, about God? Never forget God!”

Photos of mosaics in the church of San Apolinare, Ravenna

St. Thomas and the Church in India

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is known as “doubting Thomas,” though he is the only person in John’s Gospel to call Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

According to tradition, after Pentecost he evangelized the people of India and was martyred there. The church he established there has endured to this day. When the Portuguese arrived in southern India, they were surprised to find a flourishing Christian community.

All too often western Christians identify Christianity with its western manifestations. This reminds me of something that happened in Ames, Iowa, many years ago, that some friends shared with me.

There was an Indian family who were members of the parish. He was a professor at Iowa State University. One of their sons became a diplomat.

One day someone asked the wife, “When did your family become Catholic?”

Of course, the answer which followed was unexpected.

“We became Catholics when St. Thomas the Apostle came to India.”

I recall this today in the midst of the trials of the Church in the United States in the face of racism. There were followers of Christ in India and Ethiopia (Acts 9: 26-40) way before any western European heard about Jesus. They are our foremothers and forefathers in the faith.

Don’t forget that.

A Last Supper from Ethiopia

Saints of the Missions

October is the month of the missions in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis proclaimed that this year we would celebrate an extraordinary month of missions to recall the hundredth anniversary of an apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XV, Maximum Illud, which opened up a new understanding of mission.

What I found most refreshing in this one hundred year old letter is the way the pope sought to separate missionary activity from any type of nationalism or colonialism.

“the true missionary is always aware that he is not working as an agent of his country, but as an ambassador of Christ”

Pope Benedict XV praised the work of sisters in missionary countries and also called for others to collaborate in mission. In addition, the pope wanted to see the development of local clergy as an important part of missionary activity.

In our diocese, parishes sent out missionaries to other parishes in the deaneries. Our parish, Dulce Nombre de María, sent about fifty to the parish of Corquín, at the other end of our deanery. I had it easy and went to the US for the mission week.


But, to help myself pray and reflect on the missionary vocation of every Christian I complied a calendar of saints, blessed, and holy persons who died or celebrated their feast day in October.

But what is most interesting is that the month begins and ends on the feast days of two persons who never went to the missions but are linked to mission.

October 1 is the feast of the cloistered Carmelite sister who died at the age of 24. Saint Thèrése of Lisieux is the patron saint of missions. She wanted to go to the Carmelite foundation in Indochina (Vietnam), but was unable. Yet she prayed for missionaries and had a missionary spirit.

October 31 is the feast of the Jesuit brother, Saint Alfonso Rodríguez, who spent forty years as the door-keeper of the Jesuit house of studies on the island of Majorca. During his time there he was a spiritual guide for Saint Pedro Claver, the Jesuit who spent forty years in Colombia especially serving the slaves brought by the Spaniards to the port city of Cartagena. He owed his mission to the inspiration and advice of Saint Alfonso.

Missionary activity is so often thought of as going to another place, especially exotic lands, to preach the Gospel and, at least today, to witness to the Good News of Jesus for the poor. But Saints Thérèse and Alfonso show us the importance of being a witness to the Gospel wherever we are.

As Pope Francis has often noted, in Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 120

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization… The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.

The saints show us the way.

My calendar of October saints with quotes can be found here: OCTOBER saints

Take no offence

Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Thebes, often called San Antonio Abad here in Latin America to distinguish him from the Franciscan San Antonio de Padua.

This morning I came across this quote, found in Thomas Merton’s The Wisdom of the Desert:

ABBOT ANTHONY taught Abbot Ammonas, saying: You must advance yet further in the fear of God. And taking him out of the cell he showed him a stone, saying: Go and insult that stone, and beat it without ceasing. When this had been done, St. Anthony asked him if the stone had answered back. No, said Ammonas. Then Abbot Anthony said: You too must reach the point where you no longer take offence at anything.

It’s not that we should not speak up against injustice. What is important that we don’t take offense, don’t take things personally, don’t respond in kind.

I wonder if this might be extremely important advice, not just for me but for all who live in contentious situations. I’m thinking especially of post-election US.

A few days after the election I started to write a blog entry which I entitled “Frayed Nerves.” I never finished or published it. But I want to share some of my thoughts at that time in light of the wisdom of this desert father (who died in 356 at the age of 105).

So here are the notes for my “Frayed Nerves” post:

Before the election I avoided any direct commentary on candidates.

After the election, I have been surprised at the reactions I have received on Facebook to what I considered to be merely raising questions. I was surprised at the responses.

My motives were questioned in one response and I was told that a statement I had made was putting down the middle class that supported me. I didn’t know what statement was being referred to and so I wrote a response. The original comment was deleted by the sender.

In another I said that Obama had deported more than previous presidents. Someone questioned this and said “President Obama has deported no-one. The current laws of the U.S. passed by the Congress of the United States are responsible for any deportations from the U.S. Stop blaming a single man for things you don’t like in America. The President alone is not responsible. Why do people not understand this?”

I said Obama because he was president while this was being done, knowing that it is a question of more than one person. But I still believe that President Obama does have some responsibility.

I posted Archbishop Gomez’s statement at a service in which he said that children were going to bed scared. I got a response that said that this fear was learned or deliberately taught.

It appears that people’s nerves are frayed and people are often responding from their gut. I am saddened at this.

But there has been one person I’ve interacted with on Facebook who has been more thoughtful. He is, to put it mildly, much more conservative than I. He wrote one comment on a comment of a friend on something I posted that I found disrespectful. I gently responded and he deleted the comment.

He also responded in a way that I didn’t expect to a quote I posted from General Omar Bradley on war. In a later comment he responded to my concern about Trump with a comment that this is due to the media. I responded gently disagreeing. This was very refreshing.

But then I posted photos of caterpillars that were taking over the front of my house, asking if anyone knew what they were. I soon got people giving them names – male names at first. It was hilarious. I guess this was a needed outlet for frustration. Long live the caterpillars.

Frayed nerves may reveal that all too often we take offense – even when no offense was intended.

The question is whether we can be like the stone that Ammonas beat or whether we pick p the stone and throw it at another.

The elusive patroness of philosophers

Today the church commemorates Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a patroness of philosophers.

As a philosopher, I rejoice that a woman is our patron. But there’s one problem: Saint Catherine might never have existed! Now that’s a philosopher’s dilemma.

According to the legend, Saint Catherine became a Christian after an intellectual search led her to Christ. The Emperor, fascinated by her beauty, had her brought before him. Stirred by his lechery he asked her to be his consort. (What a good virgin martyr’s story without a lecherous emperor.) When this didn’t work, he urged her to give up her faith. She was so convincing in her argument against this that the emperor brought in fifty philosophers who were so moved by her arguments that they became Christians and were martyred. Catherine was thrown into jail where she converted the emperor’s wife, her jailer, and two hundred soldiers. Frustrated by all this, he planned to kill her by a machine made of spoked wheels, but it flew apart and she was untouched. Then the emperor had her beheaded. And, not make things even more fascinating, angels took her body and buried it on Mount Sinai.

Saint Catherine was a very popular saint in the middle ages and into the modern era. But the Catholic Church first suppressed her feast but then restored it in 2002. Alas, such is the fate of women philosophers.

Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints, ends his short entry on St. Catherine, a saint who may never have existed, thus:

[Saint Catherine] may continue to represent the subversive power of women’s wisdom, a voice which many would like to silence lest it subvert the whole world with its irrefutable logic. So Catherine continues to inspire and illuminate us with her edifying story, like the light emanating from a distant star which no longer exists.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.


Mosaic of women saints in Ravenna