Saint Nicholas, Pray for Us!

You may know that St. Nicholas is the inspiration for Santa Claus. But, do you know why? In a nutshell: It’s because he had such a love for the poor and for giving that it became the central point of his life! But, there is more to St. Nicholas than the inspiration behind Santa. There is a reason he is a canonized saint. 🙂 Here is a little biography to kickstart your devotion to this excellent saint.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Early Life

St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor to pious Greek parents. Unfortunately, his parents died when he was a young man and so Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. His parents left him a large inheritance but Nicholas chose to give much of that money to those in needs.

His Ministry

Much of the stories about Saint Nicholas are legends so it is hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Still, these stories are edifying and worth knowing about. For example, there is a story that Saint Nicholas helped three daughters of a man who was going to sell them into prostitution because he was too poor to provide dowries for them so they could marry. Apparently, Saint Nicholas got wind of this situation and secretly helped them out. For each of the girls, St. Nicholas would through a bag of money through the window, and they each got married in turn. When the man found out who was helping him, he was overwhelmed in gratitude.

There are other ways of giving. For St. Nicholas, it was giving of the faith. He fought various heresies, suffered persecution, and even spent time in prison on more than one occasion. He was one of the bishops who attended the First Council of Nicaea and one of the signers of the Nicene Creed.

The Lesson

The first lesson for us is his zeal. Am I zealous about my faith or lazy and lukewarm? St. Nicholas was so zealous for his faith that he was willing to suffer persecution and go to prison. He wanted to share this faith with everyone because it was the impetus for everything he did.

The second lesson was his generosity. True, he was wealthy and had resources to give away. But, he still went over and above in giving of his resources, time and talent. For us, most aren’t wealthy or have tons of resources to give. If you do, great. If you don’t, you can still give of yourself. Christmas and Easter are times when many people volunteer and go out of their way to help others. But what about the rest of the year? Can you continue to volunteer? Or, how about visiting a shut in on a regular basis? Or take a few minutes to call someone who is going through a rough time? With some creativity, it is possible to give of ourselves without spending tons of money or even our time.

Prayer to Saint Nicholas

Give me, Lord, Nicholas as my intercessor, your great confessor whom you had glorified with the name of blessed throughout the world.

Saint Nicholas, I pray to you through him who has made your name venerated throughout the world; do not refuse to help a needy suppliant.

Why, Sir, are you called upon by all men in all the world unless you are to be an advocate of all who pray to you?

Why does this sound in all ears, “My Lord, Saint Nicholas,” “My Lord, Saint Nicholas,” unless it means, “My advocate, Saint Nicholas,” “My advocate Saint Nicholas?”

Why is your name poured forth everywhere except that the world may have some great good poured into it?

Your fame calls to me, your miracles send me to your intercession, your works draw me to seek your help.

But why do I speak about your miracles, when your power now is greater than them all?

Why do I recount what you have done, when before God you now have supreme grace? Why recount the help that you gave to many when you are able to give spiritual help now that you live in heaven, of more value than the corporal help that you gave during your pilgrimage upon earth?

For it is not as if you were able to do those things then and can no longer do them. No, I say, you could not have power only in those things that come to nothing, and to be powerless in those that go on into eternity.

Indeed, you did not only accomplish the former, you did not ascend merely that you might grant them. Bestow upon us the spiritual things in which you glory, the joys of eternity in which you rejoice, pour upon us the heavenly things to which you have turned. Through you we needy ones come to know that abundance which you receive fully in a perpetual stream.

O your plenitude of goodness, and my abundance of badness!
How far they are from each other!
How vehemently the first makes you happy, how greatly does the latter make me unhappy.

The first comes down from the plenitude of God, the latter goes up from the need of myself;
The first flows from the abundance of God, the latter surges up from my poverty.

O if only that super-abundance would overflow and flood into my abundant ills!
O if only that full plenitude would fill the emptiness of my need!

I do not doubt, Sir, that you can do this for me, if you are willing to ask that much for me of my judge who is your beloved friend.

—Saint. Anselm (hat-tip to stnicholascenter)

Other Resources to Learn More about St. Nicholas

Stnicholascenter.com

Catholic.org

Wikipedia.org

Thoughtco.com

Biography.com

Saint Vincent de Paul, Agent of Charity

September 27 is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should be! He was a devoted Christian and had great love for the poor.

Saint Vincent de Paul

Image by WikimediaImages (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Early Life

St. Vincent was born in France to a peasant family sometime between 1576-1580. His father was a farmer so he was required to help out with the cattle, sheep and other chores. However, he was found to be very intelligent and was given the opportunity to study with the Franciscans. He was ordained in 1600 but in 1605 he was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave. Thankfully, he was able to escape in the year 1607.

His Ministry

St. Vincent spent his life preaching and dedicating his life to serving the poor. He visited the prisoned, opened hospitals, and performed all sorts of charitable works to ease their sufferings. He eventually created the Missionary Congregation and the Daughters of Charity. Many lay people joined him in his work and continue to follow his example of charity in organizations such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

The Lesson

There are a couple of important lessons we can learn from Saint Vincent de Paul. First, he has a great love for God. He lived in a time when many priests were lukewarm and unknowledgable of their faith. His example of faith and love converted many people. We can ask ourselves: Am I lukewarm in my faith? Am I an example of faith and love to those around me? How can I do better?

Second, he was gentle and loving to those who were largely marginalized by the community of his time. He reached out to those in prison. He cared for those who were sick. He loved the unloveable. We are probably not called to give our lives in service at such a great scale but we can ask ourselves: How do I treat those around me? Am I gentle and kind? Do I make the effort to reach out to those who are lonely, poor, or not someone in need? How can I do better? Is there a St. Vincent de Paul Society nearby where I can volunteer?

As we celebrate the memorial of St. Vincent, let us ak his intercession that we may love our Lord and our neighbor in a deeper, more significant way.

Further Reading

Check out the following sites to learn more about Saint Vincent. He had quite a life and my post only touches on the highlights.

NewAdvent.org

Stvincentdepaul.org Eatontown

Piercedhearts.org

Catholic.org

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Psst: Just a reminder, there is only a couple of days (until September 30) left to make a difference for those who are facing tremendous challenges due to the recent natural disasters. You can grow your faith and help those in need at the same time. – a win/win!

Saints Joachim and Anne

Today is the feast of saints Joachim and Anne who are considered to be the parents of Mary, the Blessed Mother.

Saints Joachim and Anne

Image by dimitrisvetsikas1969 (2016) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Their Lives

Their names are not mentioned in the bible. In fact, they aren’t mentioned in the bible at all. They are mentioned in certain apocryphal writings, most notably, “The First Gospel of James.” These writings, obviously, do not have the authority of the bible by any stretch of the imagination; however, they do give a sketch of their lives.

So, tradition holds that that Joachim and Anne suffered years of infertility. This was a source of shame for them because at that time, having children was a blessing from God. Still, in their shame, they continued to be faithful to God and His promises and called out to Him in prayer.

Eventually, Anne had the good blessing of having a vision of an angel who announced that she will have a child that will be blessed for generations to come! At the birth of Mary, their joy knew no bounds! Therefore, in gratitude to God, they consecrated Mary to God and she was raised in the temple. (This was normal at that time.)

The Lesson

Whether or not the traditional accounts are real or  not, we can learn some lessons from Saints Joachim and Anne. One that stick out for me, in their sorrow and shame in not being able to have children, they remained faithful to God. They didn’t hide from their pain, instead, they took it to God.

Mind you, they felt the sorrow and shame. The feelings were real. Feelings are not sinful; they are neutral. It is what we do with those feelings that count. Many of us, myself included, tend to suppress our “bad” feelings or use those feelings as an excuse to turn away from God. We (I) forget that God isn’t afraid of our feelings. It is okay to cry out to God, to yell at Him, to be mad at him when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, expected, or wanted.

How about you? Do you agree with this assessment of our feelings? Do you turn away from God when you get angry or disappointed?

References

Here are some websites about Saints Joachim and Anne:

Catholic News Agency

Catholic.org

Britannica

Saint Damien de Veuster

Also known as Saint Damien of Molokai, Saint Damien is a missionary priest who spent years caring for people with leprosy.

Image by William Brigham (1889) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain (Photo taken shortly before his death)

His Life

Saint Damien (Jozef de Veuster) was born in Belgium in January 1840 as the youngest of seven children. At the age of 13, he was taken out of school to help out on the family farms. His heart, however, was set on religious life and eventually he was able to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Although considered uneducated, he was ordained a priest in 1864 – two months after arriving at Hawaii. Saint Damien spent the rest of his life serving, caring, and ministering to the people in the leprosy colony of Hawaii. At that time, leprosy was still considered incurable and very contagious so people with leprosy were often ostracized and quarantined off by themselves.

After 11 years or so, Damien discovered that he, himself, had contracted leprosy. He died in April 1889 at the age of 49. He was beatified in 1995 by St. John Paul II and canonized by Pope Emmertis Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is today, May 10.

What We can Learn from Saint Damien

One of the things that is  most notable about Saint Damien is that he does not shy away from the marginalized. Whereas most people avoided the “lepers,” Saint Damien embraced them, loved them, and selflessly took care of them. Thus, his life becomes a challenge to us :

Do I (can I) embrace those who others push away or ignore? This can be something as simple as visiting the homebound or elderly. However, it can mean standing up for the unborn by joining a pro-life organization or other type of ministry. Still, it can also just mean being present to our family and taking the time to ministering for their needs!

Another thing about Saint Damien that stands out is his perseverance. Saint Damien suffered much in his life and had to deal with a lot of obstacles and difficulties. However, he never let those difficulties make him lose sight of God’s purpose for his life and he never gave up. He pushed through, trusted in God, and was able to do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii. In this too, Saint Damien’s example is a challenge to us:

Do I let myself get discouraged when I face difficulties or do I trust in God and work through them? It is not a matter of if we will have troubles and problems. It is a matter of when we will have troubles and problems. The important thing is how we respond to those problems. Unfortunately, I don’t always handle problems very graciously. If I am being honest, I don’t handle problems very graciously most of the time. Anyone else or is it just me?! Still, Saint Damien’s example encourages me. I am a work in progress and that’s okay. 🙂

So, let us pray to Saint Damien that he will intercede for us and help us have a great love for every person and to persevere in all of our struggles. Saint Damien, pray for us!

Other Resources

To learn more about Saint Damien, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

EWTN

Wikipedia

 

The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

Today is the optional memorial of Saint John of God. I first heard of him through the Little Sisters of the Poor because the congregation has a big devotion to him. He had a great love of the poor and would do anything for them.

Image by Comunicacion.curia (2011) via Wikipedia, CC ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

What I didn’t know until recently was that he had a rebellious and wild streak to him. In fact, he was so impulsive that he was deemed insane and committed to mental institution for a while!

His Early Life

St. John was born in Spain and his propensity for living on the wild side manifested itself when St. John was eight. According to Catholic.org, St. John heard a priest give a talk when he was 8 years old so he ran away from home so he could live an adventurous life traveling with the priest.

After a few years, St. John became sick and was adopted by the family who cared for him. However, as John got older, the wild streak kicked in again and he ran off to fight with the Spanish army against the French. While a soilder, he lived a life of drinking, gambling and of sin.

Sometime after quitting the army, St. John turned his life to God. However, different accounts assert different stories as to when and how he converted. Some say it was while working as a shepherd, and others say he converted when he heard the preaching of St. John of Avila.

Living for God and the Poor

St. John’s impulsiveness did not disappear after his conversion. I think it actually grew worse! Apparently, after hearing a sermon from St. John of Avila, St. John went running through the streets crying, pulling his hair out, and ripping his clothes. Because of his strange behavior, he was forced into a mental institution for a time.

He also had such a love for God and for the poor that he would do anything for them. He would beg for food, clothes and other items to give to the poor. Catholic.org tells the story how St. John grabbed a bowl of food to give to some starving people he came across and almost got arrested, ran into a burning building (the very hospital he spent time in) to rescue the patients, and jumped into a flood to save a drowning man – which became the cause of his death. St. John of God died, while kneeling before the Crucifix, on March 8, 1550 due to complications related to a sickness he caught after saving the man.

What Can We Learn From St. John?

At first glance, the life of St. John of God seems nice but bears no relevance for our lives. Not true, that. First, we can learn what it means to love God. Like all the Saints, St. John committed his whole self to God and was willing to do anything for Him even if it meant ridicule, rejection or misunderstanding. How about us? Are we willing to do anything for God even if it means being misunderstood or accepted by others? Living a life for God today is a real challenge. Society is so backward in so many ways and if someone shows a commitment to God they are almost instantly labeled a fanatic or weirdo. Am I willing to be a weirdo for God?

Secondly, even though St. John was sometimes too impulsive he acted on what he believed were inspirations of the Holy Spirit. How many times have I heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to help someone in need or to offer encouragement or a kind word to someone going through a difficult time but failed to follow through? Too many times than I would want to admit, for sure. We can imitate St. John by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit and his promptings. And even more importantly, we can imitate him by acting on those promptings.

Resources

To learn more about St. John of God, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

Catholictradition.org

Catholicsaints.info

Next Steps

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Tweetable: The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr

Today, many people will be getting or giving candy and flowers and planning delicious meals (or going out to dinner) because of SAINT Valentine’s day. That’s right. Most people have taken off the “saint” part of St. Valentine’s day, and it has been hijacked as a “Hallmark holiday;” however, today is the feast of a priest who was martyred for his faith. Actually, it is believed that St. Valentine’s day commemorates several martyrs.

St Valentine

Image by David Teniers III (1600) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

We don’t know much about the St. Valentine that we celebrate today. We know that he was a priest in Rome who often gave comfort and support to those suffering persecution from Claudius II. He was arrested and sent to the emperor of Rome. Then, when he refused to renounce his faith, St. Valentine was beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14, 270 (or thereabouts).

However, there are other speculations about Saint Valentine. According to Wikipedia, the origins of St. Valentine are not confirmed and that there may have been many saints martyred on February 14:

“Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several (14 in all [2]) martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name “Valentine”, derived from the word valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity.[3] Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is known except his name and that he was buried on the Via Flaminia north of Rome on February 14, he was born on April 16. It is even uncertain whether the feast of that day celebrates only one saint or more saints of the same name. For this reason this liturgical commemoration was not kept in the Catholic calendar of saints for universal liturgical veneration as revised in 1969.[4] But “Martyr Valentinus the Presbyter and those with him at Rome” remains in the list of saints proposed for veneration by all Catholics.[5]”

Catholic Online gives us the origins of the celebration of “St. Valentine’s Day”

“Historian Jack Oruch has made the case that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, had no such tradition before Chaucer.[18] He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler’s Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. In the French 14th-century manuscript illumination from a Vies des Saints (illustration above), Saint Valentine, bishop of Terni, oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni; there is no suggestion here yet that the bishop was a patron of lovers.[19]”

Interesting isn’t it?  I encourage you to read more about St. Valentine and St. Valentine’s day over at Catholic Online. You’ll notice that none of it has to do with the secular celebration of romance and candy and flowers. etc. (Not that I’m opposed to candy or flowers, or romance, of course!)

BUT, it does have everything to do with real agape love – love of neighbor and love of God, even to the point of martyrdom!

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Tweetable: SAINT Valentine, Bishop & Martyr

The Presentation of Jesus

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” Luke 2:22-24

Image by Collinson (1878) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Tomorrow is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, formally known as “Candlemas.” In many cultures, the Presentation the Lord used to be the official ending of Christmas, therefore one of the traditions for this feast is to light lots of candles and decorate with greenery.

It is a lovely feast. We hear the words of Simeon who rejoices in seeing the Lord before he died. We hear the words of Anna who “spoke about the child.” These are glimpses of what is to come when Jesus begins his earthly ministry of our redemption. It is worth spending some time today, if you can, to reflect on the meaning of today’s feast.

To help you, here are some explanations and  meditations on this feast to check out:

Fisheaters

Churchyear.net

New Advent

celebrating candlemas

catholicculture.org

americancatholic.org

about.com

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Today’s feast is also a good lead in for this month’s devotion: The Holy Family. It is good for us, as Catholics, to strive to imitate our families after the Holy Family. It is good for us to pray to the Holy Family, asking them to bless our family and help us in our needs. I encourage you to go here for some prayers to the Holy Family to get you started.

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Tweetable: The Presentation of Jesus

Saint Andrew and the Christmas Novena

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, a wonderful and powerful saint. He was a great Apostle and missionary of the Lord. He is mentioned several times in the gospel. In fact, he brought Saint Peter to Jesus. I love that Saint Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41) after only one encounter! Of course there were ups and downs in his relationship with the Lord, but after the Resurrection and St. Andrew receives the Holy Spirit he becomes a mighty instrument for the Lord!

Image by unknown author (13th Century) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Image by unknown author (13th Century) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Saint Andrew died a martyr on a cross that was in the shape of an X. He was not nailed, but bound, to the cross and suffered for two days before finally passing to the Lord. Saint Andrew is the patron of fisherman and the countries of Russia, Scotland, and Greece. He also has the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena named after him.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

The Saint Andrew Christmas novena starts today, November 30, and continues until Christmas day. The prayer is very short and simple. All you have to do is say the following prayer 15 times a day, every day from now until Christmas. (I promise you, it only takes a few minutes.)

“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of his Blessed Mother. Amen.”

By the way, you don’t have to say the prayer 15 times all at once. Some years I do, but some years, I break it up and say the prayer five times in a row, three times a day. I just added it to my prayers before meals. Some years, I break it up and say the prayer two times a day (7 times and then 8 times). Also, don’t be scrupulous if you miss a day or two, I’ve done that, too!

You can get a printable version of the prayer here. No opt-in required.

Resources

Here are some links to peruse and get to know Saint Andrew better.

AmericanCatholic.org

New Advent

Catholic.org

SaintAndrew.us

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Tweetable: Saint Andrew and the Christmas Novena

Saints and Feast Days in December 2016

Wow. Just wow. There are only a couple more days left before December. I am so NOT ready! Well, ready or not, here it comes, right?! And, of course, with a new month comes a new set of saint and feast days – the last one for the year.

Image by artemtation (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Image by artemtation (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Saints and Feasts

December 2: First Friday Devotions (optional)

December 3First Saturday Devotions (optional)

December 3: St. Francis Xavier, priest (obligatory memorial)

December 6: St. Nicholas, bishop (optional memorial)

December 7: St. Ambrose, bishop & doctor of the church (obligatory memorial)

December 8: The Immaculate Conception (solemnity, holy day of obligation)

December 9: St. Juan Diego (optional memorial)

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe (feast)

December 13: St. Lucy, virgin and martyr (obligatory memorial)

December 14: St. John of the Cross, priest & doctor of the church (obligatory memorial)

December 21: St. Canisius, priest & doctor of the church (optional memorial)

December 23: St. John of Kanty, priest (optional memorial)

December 25:  Nativity of Our Lord Merry Christmas! (solemnity, holy day of obligation)

December 26: St. Stephen, the first martyr (feast)

December 27: St. John, apostle and evangelist (feast)

December 28: The Holy Innocents, martyrs (feasts)

December 29: St. Thomas Becket, bishop & martyr (optional memorial)

December 30: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph (feast)

 December 31: St. Sylvester I, pope (optional memorial)

Other Dates to Note

Every Saturday is traditionally dedicated to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

December is traditionally dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

December 7: Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 (USA)

December 21: Winter Begins

December 26: Boxing Day (Canada)

You can print out a pdf version of this here (no opt-in required).

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Tweetable: Saints and Feast Days in December 2016

Saint Martin de Porres, Pray for Us!

November 3 is the optional memorial of Saint Martin de Porres. If you are a regular reader here at Simple Catholic Living, you may know that Saint Martin is one of my favorite saints. In fact, I think I may mention him every year on his feast day. 🙂

Saint Martin de Porres, Pray for Us

Image by Anonymous (siglo XVII) via Wikipedia, CCO Public domain

I can’t help myself. He is a saint who suffered great poverty and adversity in his life. He faced rejection (from his own father!), racism, and injustice. Yet, he remained kind, charitable, and humble through it all. He gave what little he had joyfully and loved everyone. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Martin loved all animals, great and small – and they loved him back.

Saint Martin was also one of those saints that received extraordinary graces from the Lord, such as bi-location. However, they were never the focus. Prayer, penance, love. Those are the things that set Saint Martin apart.

Well, it is what sets apart all saints, isn’t it? They love, pray, and give more than the rest. But, since the day I learned about him I have been drawn to him. I want to love God as he did and serve my neighbor as he did.

He is a great model for us all. Saint Martin de Porres, pray for us!

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Tweetable: Saint Martin de Porres, Pray for Us!