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Why is being rooted in Peter's authority so important to the Catholic Church?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 10, June 2023 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Scripture
To find the job description of a modern pope, look no further than Peter's example.

Peter's a remarkable person in the New Testament. Many people counted themselves as admirers of Jesus for shorter or longer periods during his earthly ministry. Some, both women and men, were serious disciples who accompanied Jesus since the Galilee days. A mere dozen were special members of his inner circle, known as the Twelve. Among the Twelve, three (Peter, James, and John) became Jesus' most trusted friends: present at the Transfiguration, and also invited to pray with him in Gethsemane just before his arrest. Yet even among these favored three, Peter makes a singular impression.

Peter is mentioned nearly 175 times in the New Testament, almost twice as often as John and three times as often as James. Peter is a fisherman personally invited by Jesus to fish for people. In John's gospel, he's called a shepherd of Christ's sheep. In Matthew's narrative, Jesus declares Peter the rock upon which his church will be built. This is because Peter receives the special revelation that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

In Acts, Peter has a vision that reveals to him that Gentiles as well as Jews will be welcomed into the church. In the letters attributed to him, Peter is perceived as an elder among elders, as well as one capable of amending errant teachings. Yet Peter's also represented in Acts as a team player, working in full partnership with John and willing to accept the discernment of James when in Jerusalem. Peter's not just the boss left in charge after Jesus returns to his Father. After an early career of impulsive speech and rash behavior, Peter's been humbled, becoming a leader who appreciates that the wisest way to wield authority is to seek good counsel and faithful collaborators all along the path.

To find the job description of a modern pope, look no further than Peter's example. The fisherman who casts the broadest possible net, the shepherd intimately companioning the sheep, the rock upon which the structure of church depends: these are the fundamental tasks of the papacy. A pope must also be a person of deep prayer open to revelation and new insights—even spectacular ones that shake up social expectations. A pope must gather wise and collaborative counselors, yet be ready to make the final call when necessary. All of this makes a Petrine foundation an essential component of Catholic authority.

Scripture: Matthew 16:16-18; Luke 5:10; John 21:1-17; Acts 1:9-16; 3:1-11; 4:1-22; 8:14; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 3:15-16

Books: Four Times Peter: Portrayals of Peter in the Four Gospels and at Philippi, by Richard J. Cassidy (Liturgical Press, 2015)

Petrine Ministry and the Unity of the Church: Toward a Patient and Fraternal Dialogue, by James F. Puglisi, ed. (Liturgical Press, 1999)

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Are halos biblical, or just an artist's idea?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 18, March 2023 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints

God's glory is understood as a form of radiance. 

Halos are visual shorthand, part of the symbolic vocabulary of Christianity that was for centuries the only catechism for multitudes of believers who couldn't read. In a more literate age, such symbols are no longer necessary. But we still use them, since they reveal at a glance that this person is a guide and helper on our own road to sanctity.

The idea that light emanates from holy ones is also biblically attested. God's glory is understood as a form of radiance. When Moses goes up Mt. Sinai to encounter God face to face, he returns so radiant that he must veil his face from the community so as not to risk contact between the sacred and profane—always a hazardous business. Thereafter, whenever Moses enters the Tent of Presence to meet with God, he covers his face afterwards. Close encounters with God appear to place us in contagious proximity to divine glory. The emanation from Moses was later translated from Hebrew by biblical scholar Saint Jerome as horns rather than rays of light, which is why some artists depicted Moses with horns. 

It may not have been a mistranslation. Egyptian and Mesopotamian gods and heroes wore horns as a sign of their glory, honor, and authority. Later on, horns and rays are rounded out into the more familiar halo, often painted with gold foil or set with precious metals and jewels in icons. Circles are perfect, like divinity. Christ receives the first round halo in art, then the angels, and finally the saints. Interesting, rare portraits of God the Father employed a triangular halo instead to recall the Trinity. Baby Jesus sometimes has one too–perhaps because he so recently departed the Trinitarian realm for earth. Jesus may also be crowned with a cruciform halo, which is uniquely his.

Faith, Hope, and Love are sometimes shown in art as human figures and when they are, they wear hexagonal halos. So too the cardinal virtues Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance. The very rare square halo was used to denote a living person popularly proclaimed a saint, but technically not yet eligible for the crown of light. As minimalism became fashionable in art, the halo was reduced to a disc hovering overhead, or even a mere circlet of gold. Animals that symbolize holy ones—the Lamb of God, the Holy Spirit dove, and the four Evangelists of Revelation—might also wear halos. You and I, too, hope to do so.

Scripture: Exodus 34:27-35; Deuteronomy 5:23-27; 2 Chronicles 5:14; 26:18; Psalm 19:2; 79:9; 89:16; Isaiah 35:2; 60:1-3; Baruch 5:1-3, 9; Ezekiel 8:4; 43:2; Daniel 12:3; Wisdom 7:10, 25-30; Sirach 43:9; Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45; John 1:3-9; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 8:16-17; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:3-6; Revelation 21:11, 22-24 

Books: The Square Halo, and Other Mysteries of Western Art: Images and the Stories That Inspired Them - Sally Fisher (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1995)

Dictionary of Christian Art - Diane Apostolos-Cappadona (New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 1994)

How many feast days does Mary have?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 23, May 2022 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints

Why so much attention on Mary? We view Mary as mother of the Church as well as Mother of God.

Good observation! Mary feasts have been with us a long time, and they accumulate through the centuries. They began showing up in the East and the West after the Council of Ephesus (431) formally bestowed the title "God-bearer" (Theotokos) on the mother of Jesus. Not long after, near Bethlehem, the feast of "Mary, Mother of God" was celebrated on August 15—the day we now honor her Assumption. The first day of the year became a Marian feast in sixth-century Rome, while December 26 was Mary's day in Byzantine circles. Churches of Spain remembered Mary on December 18, a week before the Nativity.

By the seventh century, Mary's birthday (September 8—not a historical date but a remembrance), her childhood presentation in the temple (November 21), and the Annunciation (March 25—nine months before Christmas) spread from local Jerusalem observances to the Byzantine church and Rome. At present we commemorate 15 Mary days on the universal Roman calendar. 

Four of these celebrations are solemnities, the highest rank of any day in the liturgical year: Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1), Annunciation (Mar. 25), Assumption (Aug. 15), and Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8). Three are feasts: Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2), Visitation (May 31), and Birth of Mary (Sept. 8). Four are memorials, a simpler form of remembrance: Queenship of Mary (Aug. 22), Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept. 15), Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct. 7), and Presentation of Mary (Nov. 21). And four are optional memorials: Our Lady of Lourdes (Feb. 11), Immaculate Heart of Mary (a movable feast falling on the second Saturday after Pentecost), Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16), and Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica (Aug. 5). The U.S. bishops added a memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, bringing the national total to 16 Marian days.

Why so much attention on Mary? We view Mary as mother of the Church as well as Mother of God. She demonstrates how a disciple of Jesus is to act. (Not all disciples were a good act to follow.) Also, Mary has a unique access ("mediation") to her son that believers make good use of. 

In my home I display Marian images from all over the world, traditional and modern, reverential and whimsical. Even folks who don't know who Mary is are captivated by at least one of them. So it is with Mary days. There's one that resonates with everyone.

Scriptures: Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; John 2:1-12; 19:25-27; Acts 1:13-14

Books: Sing of Mary: Giving Voice to Marian Theology and Devotion, by Stephanie Budwey (Liturgical Press, 2014)

Blessed Art Thou: Mother, Lady, Mystic, Queen, by Michael O'Neill McGrath and Richard Fragomeni (World Library Publications, 2004)

Why do some feasts, formerly celebrated on the church calendar, later get suppressed?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Sunday 10, April 2022 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Liturgy

The removal of some saints from the General Roman Calendar has been lamented as "the sanctoral killing fields."

In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII appointed a commission to abolish some octaves, vigils, and duplicate feasts to simplify the church calendar. Depending on how dates fell, celebrations overlapped and became confusing to pastor and people: what exactly ought we to be observing?

It seemed prudent to focus the assembly's attention on significant mysteries, rather than scattering their contemplation every which way. In church history, "calendrical clog" was periodically eliminated, so Pope Pius wasn't acting uniquely in his decision. This led to the renewed rubrics in the Roman Breviary and Missal of 1955. Five years later, additional changes were made by his still-operating commission under Pope John XXIII. 

Celebrating major feasts as octaves was an ancient Jewish practice. Three octaves are retained on the church calendar—Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost—as one day is hardly enough to consider the mysteries of Incarnation, Redemption, and the in-Spiriting of the church. Discontinued octaves include those for the feasts of John the Baptist, Peter & Paul, Stephen the first martyr, John the Evangelist, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Epiphany, and the Sacred Heart.

Vigils were embraced by the early church as an opportunity to pray all night on special feasts. Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, Assumption, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, and Lawrence the deacon retain their vigils—though it's the rare Catholic who keeps vigil all night these days. Vigils are suppressed for Immaculate Conception, All Saints, and Epiphany. You're still welcome to pray all night on any feast you like.

The removal of some saints from the General Roman Calendar has been lamented as "the sanctoral killing fields." Over 300 saints, plus their typically unnamed companions, were removed from the calendar in the renewals. This list famously includes the popular Mr. Christopher, but also the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and the Seven Maccabee Martyrs. Many deleted feasts were duplicate names on the calendar, such as observances for Agnes and Francis of Assisi. Of the more than ten thousand saints in the canon, some are certainly variant names used in different locales: i.e.  Vlash in Albania is Blaise elsewhere. 

It also bears noting that Pope John Paul II doubled the number of canonized saints in a single papacy. Making a little room for these contemporary saints who have much to teach us about how to embrace holy living in circumstances more familiar to us is a good thing.

Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30; 23:4; Luke 11:46

Books: Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium - Rita Ferrone (Paulist Press, 2007)

Cum hac nostra aetate (With Our Age). On "Reducing the rubrics to a simpler form" - Pope Pius XII, find at  

I'm confused about "James" in the New Testament. How many are there, and who are they?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Sunday 10, April 2022 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Scripture

Last names would come in handy. Unhappily, they weren't used in biblical times. We're left to hazard a best guess when more than one James (or Mary, John, or Simon) appears. 

The first James is identified as the brother of John and son of Zebedee. James and John encounter Jesus at the shore of Galilee while they're in a boat mending nets with Zebedee. Jesus has already recruited brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew who were similarly employed. Likewise, James and John leave family, home, and occupation behind the moment Jesus calls to them. Perhaps because of their boisterous natures, Jesus nicknames them Boanerges, "sons of thunder." James is always mentioned before John, which makes him the eldest or simply more celebrated brother: he's sometimes called James the Great. Along with Peter, these brothers form the inner circle of Jesus' followers. James was the second of the original Twelve to die (after the suicide of Judas), a martyr between 42-44 A.D.

Also on the list of apostles is James the son of Alphaeus. We don't know how he enters the story, his occupation or origins. He has no speaking part in the gospels. No wonder he's called James the Less—though this may be a reference to his age. His mother Mary was present at the crucifixion.

Another gospel list claims a James: that of Jesus' brothers. Unnamed sisters are sometimes noted, but all four gospels mention Jesus had brothers. Blood ties were tight in ancient times; the precise kinship may have been cousins or siblings. Attempts to clarify these relationships are unsatisfying. Belief in Mary's perpetual virginity weighs heavily in Catholic conversations on the matter. Some view these siblings as Joseph's children from a previous marriage. 

This third James—AKA James the Just—is significant in the early church. While the gospels repeatedly emphasize how the relatives of Jesus mistrusted the direction of his ministry, Paul notes that after the resurrection, James had a private revelation of Jesus. This cured his doubts and enfolded him into the church. His lineage may have catapulted him into leadership in the Jerusalem community, becoming a power triangle with career disciples Peter and John. Brother James could have written some kernel of the Letter of James in the New Testament. However, James the Just was martyred in 62 or 69 AD; the final form of the letter likely took shape later.

Mark 1:16-20; 3:13-19; 31-35; 6:1-6; 15:40; Matthew 4:21-22; 10:1-4; 12:46-50; 13:55-58; 27:56; Luke 6:12-16; 8:19-21; 24:10; John 7:3-5; Acts 1:13; 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; 2:11-12; James 1:1

Books: James of Jerusalem: Heir to Jesus of Nazareth, by Patrick Hartin (Liturgical Press, 2004)

What Are They Saying About the Letter of James?, by Alicia Batten (Paulist Press, 2009)

Where did the "Hail Mary" prayer come from?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Sunday 10, April 2022 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints

While we think of it as a Marian prayer, the Hail Mary is literally Christ-centered, as all Christian prayer should be.

No one knows who put together the series of Bible verses and intercession we know as the Hail Mary. There were several stages to the evolution of this prayer. The title "Mother of God" (Theotokos, or God-bearer in Greek) was used for Mary after church councils of the 4th and 5th centuries sanctioned it as theologically correct to describe her as more than "Christ-bearer" (Christotokos). Forms of this prayer existed in the 6th-century Eastern church. In the West, it was included in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the 11th century. The Hail Mary came into wider use in the 16th century, as the Crusaders invoked Mary to assist their quest to recapture the Holy Land.

The prayer is grounded in Scripture with the angel's greeting to Mary: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." It continues with Elizabeth's blessing on her young cousin during their visitation: "Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." Elizabeth offers a standard Jewish birth-blessing which praises the mother for the child she carries.

While we think of it as a Marian prayer, the Hail Mary is literally Christ-centered, as all Christian prayer should be. Many ancient writings held the key to their interpretation or thematic significance in the center. The hinge word of the Hail Mary is the name "Jesus." 

What follows is an invocation for Mary's help ("pray for us") as she is close to God, being both holy and divine mother. Since the prayer begins with the angel's identification of Mary as Spirit-filled ("full of grace"), hinges on her relationship to Jesus, and ends with her relationship to God, the Hail Mary in its entirety reveals Mary's role as a willing participant in the work of the Trinity. The final line, "now and at the hour of our death," was the last addition to the prayer and made it a particularly poignant entreaty for those facing battle, the threat of plague, or other dangerous circumstances.

The Hail Mary also acknowledges that Mary of Nazareth, a young girl whose faith in God is strong and true, is elevated to the status of Abraham, whose faith made him the father of nations. The Jewish community identifies itself as Abraham's children. It's fitting that Christians perceive themselves as the children of Mary, our mother in faith.

Scriptures: Genesis 12:2-3; Exodus 3:12; Judges 6:12; Judith 13:18; Zephaniah 3:14-17; Zechariah 9:9; Luke 1:28; 2:42; 18:13; John 19:25-27; Revelation 21:3

Books: What Mary Means to Christians: An Ancient Tradition Explained, by Peter Stravinskas (Paulist Press, 2012)

The Rosary: Mysteries of Joy, Light, Sorrow, and Glory, by Alice Camille (ACTA Publications, 2003)

Who was John the Baptist and what was his relationship to Jesus?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 05, December 2012 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Scripture
John the Baptist
ICON of Saint John the Baptist.

John is unique in the story of salvation. He’s the inter-testamental lynchpin: part Hebrew prophet, part Christian missionary. His strange diet and dress, his preference for the wilderness, and his stern message of repentance puts him in a class with folks like Elijah, Amos, and Isaiah. He doesn’t, however, simply talk about the coming of Emmanuel. He has the distinct advantage of being able to point him out to the crowds: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

John’s life begins in typical Bible-hero fashion with a miracle-birth story. That is the way scripture bookmarks a life and says: “Pay attention!” as with Isaac, Moses, Samuel, and Jesus himself. We know that John’s life is peculiarly interwoven with that of Jesus from the moment he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary and her burgeoning womb are present. John, inheriting the priesthood of his father Zechariah, abandons institutional religion to become a never-ending prophet of Advent, announcing “Prepare the way of the Lord!” to all who will listen.

At the same time it’s often pointed out that John never concludes his ministry to become a disciple of Jesus. Even after he declares who Jesus is, he continues to preach and baptize. Later in prison John seems concerned that his own message of repentance or damnation seems discordant with the “mercy and forgiveness” gospel of Jesus being reported to him. He has to ask: Are you the one who is to come, or should we keep looking?

If John is uncertain of his role at times, so were plenty of other people. King Herod is afraid of John and twice as scared of Jesus after he puts John to death. He thinks Jesus may be John’s reincarnation. When Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about him, they admit that some folks can’t tell him from John, and both John’s and Jesus’ followers got them confused with Elijah.

The fact that John never ceased his ministry even after Jesus started his reminds us that only a few of John’s followers transferred their allegiance to Jesus. The school of John dies hard: His disciples are still practicing their sect in the time of the early church. That is why the late-entry Gospel of John takes pains to subordinate John to Jesus, as when John declares: I am not the Christ. He must increase, and I must decrease.

• Matthew 3; 11:2-15; 17:10-13; Mark 1:1-11; 6:14-29; 8:27-30; John 1:6-9, 15-42; 3:22-30; Acts 13:24-25; 18:24-26; 19:1-7

• "John the Baptist: Preparing the Way" by Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., Scripture from Scratch, 1999

John the Baptist: Prophet and Evangelist by Carl R. Kazmierski (Liturgical Press, 1996)
John the Baptist: Prophet of Purity for a New Age by Catherine Murphy (Liturgical Press, 2003)

What should we do if we can't go to Mass?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 21, March 2020 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Consider it an invitation to choose a devotion and Act of Spiritual Communion that enables you to stay connected  to the universal Body of Christ.

If Mass is suspended in your diocese due to COVID-19 or for other public safety concerns, there are other ways to observe the Fourth Commandment: Keep holy the Lord’s Day. Consider it an invitation to choose a devotion and Act of Spiritual Communion that enables you to stay connected to the universal Body of Christ. You might:

“Virtually” attend Sunday Mass on TV or online. Most dioceses have a Mass for shut-ins, a term that now applies to many of us under "stay at home” orders. The Paulist Fathers in Rome also have a user-friendly sing-along Mass in English uploaded weekly at YouTube. See for the current offerings on their home page.

Read and reflect on the Scriptures for Sunday available from the U.S. Bishops’ site:

Make use of the church’s traditional Liturgy of the Hours by downloading the popular breviary app at

During this season of Lent, meditate on the Stations of the Cross or other spiritual practices.

Or, pray five decades of the rosary, or make this the year you finally read your Bible—neither of which requires any technology.

Below are recommended prayers for an Act of Spiritual Communion when unable to participate in the Mass. Feel free to adapt them for personal or family needs!


My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you.



Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, embolden me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds hide me.
Never permit me to be parted from you.
From the evil Enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come to thee,
that with your saints I may praise thee
for age upon age.



O Mary, you always shine on our path as a sign of salvation and of hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.

You, Salvation of Your People, know what we need, and we are sure you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and to feasting after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father and to do as we are told by Jesus, who has taken upon himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows to lead us, through the cross, to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

Who are the Fourteen Holy Helpers?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Sunday 13, October 2019 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
The Holy Helpers became an established set during the Black Plague epidemic of Europe.

You see them in art, though you may not know their names. The Helpers were a collection of saints from antiquity popularly invoked in 14th century Germany. These individuals weren’t linked by history or geography; like, say, Saint Charles Lwanga and companions, martyred together in Uganda. The Holy Helpers became an established set during the Black Plague epidemic of Europe—since, presumably, the more intercessors you have against plague, the better.

Alphabetically, the Fourteen Holy Helpers are: Achatius, Barbara, Blaise, Catherine of Alexandria, Christopher, Cyriacus, Denis, Erasmus, Eustachius, George, Giles, Margaret of Antioch, Pantaleone, and Vitus. Only half the saints on this list are passably familiar today.

The symptoms of plague influenced the selections for this club. A plague victim could expect the following: blackened tongue, parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. Victims became delusional and died within hours. The furious onset of plague made it unlikely the afflicted would have final sacraments. Just another reason to have the Holy Helpers in your corner.

The chaos that plague evoked was comprehensive. Animals died, whole towns perished, the social order collapsed. So why not invoke Saint Blaise, still acclaimed for his work on ills of the throat; or Saints Achatius and Denis, both patrons of headache sufferers? Saint George protected domestic animals, and Saint Erasmus guarded abdominal health. Saint Eustachius was good for family trouble, and Saint Giles the go-to guy for plague and a good confession. Saints Barbara, Catherine, and Christopher were patrons in instances of sudden death. In addition Christopher, the traveler’s saint, also warded off plague. 

Just for good measure, Saint Pantaleone protected physicians, and Saint Margaret promised safe childbirth. Since Saint Vitus is the patron of epileptics, it appears plague victims’ eventual irrationality was lumped in with the symptoms of another disorder poorly understood. The most curious name on the Helpers list is Cyriacus, invoked against temptation. In times of epidemic, looting was rampant and desertion by family members common. One might well be tempted under such conditions.

While the Fourteen Holy Helpers still have a following in Europe, only one parish in the United States is named for their contribution today. We might wonder: if we were to choose a pack of saints as guardians for our times, who would those helpers be?

Scriptures: Psalm 27; Romans 8:18-27; Hebrews 5:7; 7:25; Ephesians 6:18; James 5:13-18

Books: The Fourteen Holy Helpers, by Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (TAN Books, 2009)

Fearless: Stories of the American Saints, by Paul Boudreau and Alice Camille (Franciscan Media, 2014)

When will there be saints of color the U.S. can claim as their own?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 13, August 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Saints of color
There already are—and we’re poised for more.

There already are—and we’re poised for more. Mohawk Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), from what became upstate New York, was known for her healing abilities. Filipino Saint Pedro Calungsod was a teen missionary martyred in Guam in 1672. Since Guam is now U.S. territory, we share this saint with the Philippines. In Puerto Rico, Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodrigues Santiago (1918-1963) brought a historically disaffected laity to the liturgy and sacraments. He translated works into Spanish to instruct the faithful. Blessed Charlie, as he’s called, awaits one more miracle for canonization.

Also keep your eye on five Venerables. Born a slave in what’s now Haiti, Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) relocated to New York with the household. There he studied hairdressing, as elaborate hairstyles were in vogue. Even before acquiring his freedom, Toussaint was a powerhouse of charity with the wealth he accrued, buying the freedom of other slaves and assisting the needy regardless of color. Rafael Cordero Molina (1790-1868) was denied an education as part of the African community in Puerto Rico. Under his parents’ instruction, he became a teacher dedicated to the literacy and faith formation of black children, while working as a cigar maker and shoemaker.

Henriette DeLille (1813-1862) of New Orleans was a free person of mixed race. Such women customarily were “kept” by a white man, marriage being unlawful. Attracted by the ministry of French sisters, Henriette desired admittance to religious life instead. Barred from white orders, she formed the Sisters of the Holy Family, teaching Creole children, and caring for the sick and orphans. Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), first acknowledged black priest in the United States, was born to slave parents in Missouri. (Mixed-race brothers James, Patrick, and Alexander Healy were ordained earlier, but their light skin invited less scrutiny.) After a long struggle for the right to be ordained, Tolton’s ostracization by an all-white clergy made his ministry a lonely vigil of courage. 

In addition, three black Servants of God are in the pipelines. From Cuba of Haitian parents, Mary Elizabeth Lange (1794-1882) founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore to provide education for black children. Her sisters also treated the sick, opened a night school for black women, and took in orphans during the Civil War. Julia Greeley (ca. 1833?48?-1918) was born a slave in Missouri. She moved with various families until arriving in Denver. After becoming Catholic, Julia promoted devotional literature she herself couldn’t read. Begging on behalf of others, she became known as Denver’s Angel of Charity. Thea Bowman (1937-1990) of the Franciscan Nuns of Perpetual Adoration, was a tireless instigator for racial justice in the church. The edict promoting her cause defines her as “Educator, Evangelizer, Missionary Disciple, Advocate for Cultural Awareness and Racial Harmony.” Through song and inspired evangelization, Sister Thea moved the hearts of bishops and laity alike. 

Book: Saints of North America, by Vincent O’Malley, C.M. (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004). Not inclusive of all biographies above.

Check out the online Hagiography Circle for updates on causes presently in motion:

How many times has Mary appeared in history and where?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 13, August 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion.

This is a loaded question. The Vatican supplies no exact number of Marian apparitions. The current spokesperson for the Marianum Pontifical Institute in Rome, Father Salvatore Perrella, reports that nine apparitions have been declared worthy of belief in the last century. This doesn’t imply they occurred in the past century, only that they were examined in that period. The lists of bona fide Mary sightings are generally confined to less than a dozen, including: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico, 1531), Laus (France, 1664), Rue du Bac/Miraculous Medal (France, 1830), La Salette (France, 1846), Lourdes (France, 1858), Pontmain (France, 1871), Knock (Ireland, 1879), Fatima (Portugal, 1917), Beauraing (Belgium, 1932), and Banneux (Belgium, 1933). Recently, Green Bay, Wisconsin’s own Our Lady of Good Help (1859) was granted local devotional approval.

No doubt some will be concerned that Medjugorje isn’t on that list, but the inquiry into these apparitions hasn’t been concluded. In fact, about 300 Marian sightings from the 20th century alone have been or are being considered in Syria, Japan, Korea, and Rwanda, as well as across Latin America and Europe. How frequently have such claims have been made in the past? Estimates careen widely between 1,500 and 21,000 apparitions, including eight sightings in the United States and six in Canada. Whichever number is more credible, the vast majority of these claims received only limited or local interest.

When did Mary start showing up? According to tradition, the apostle James first encountered Our Lady in Zaragoza, Spain in the year 40. Saint Gregory of Nyssa avowed a personal experience of Mary, and the construction of St. Mary Major Basilica was prompted by an apparition—both in the 4th century. Marian apparitions remained rare until the second millennium. Since then, sightings have multiplied. Still, the messages received have been fairly uniform. Our Lady encourages conversion, prayer, penance, and reconciliation. She offers rosaries, medals, scapulars, and healings. She prevents invasions and ends wars. The recipients of these apparitions are most often poor children or humble adults.

What are we to make of all this? The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion. These private revelations “do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith” and “it is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation.” (CCC 67) This is church-speak for: belief in apparitions isn’t required, and must not contradict the faith of Christians.


Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations, by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1978

Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, by Hilda Graef (Ave Maria Press, 2009)

How does the church determine who’s “Great” and who’s a regular saint?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 17, May 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Anthony the Great
There’s no “master list” and no real standard by which one might be so declared.

Turns out the church doesn’t grant this title at all. Popular acclaim attaches “greatness” to individuals who wowed their generation. Any list of Catholic Greats always includes Father of Monasticism Anthony of the Desert, Bishop Basil, Pope Leo, Pope Gregory, Dominican scholar Albert, and Benedictine nun Gertrude. Some add Bishop Nicholas, beloved even by those who only know him as Santa; as well as King Alfred of Wessex; Carthusian founder Bruno; Hugh, Abbot of Cluny. The Orthodox honor many more by this title, including Bishop Athanasius. One apostle is called James the Greater, to distinguish him from another regrettably known as James the Lesser. Some Catholics declare recently canonized Pope John Paul II as Great. There’s no “master list” and no real standard by which one might be so declared.

Titles granted regularly to canonized saints include Martyr (one who witnesses to their faith by surrendering their lives) and Doctor of the Church (one whose writings contribute to church teaching).

What made such folks “great”? Anthony started monasticism by heading into the wilderness in the 3rd century. Others followed and Anthony became a one-man school of wisdom. He lived to be 105, legendary in his own time. Basil helped establish the Nicene Creed, wrote significantly against 4th-century heresies, contributed to the liturgy and to monastic practice—leading to his recognition as a Doctor of the Church. Fifth-century church doctor Pope Leo had vast political influence and impact on doctrines concerning the nature of Jesus. A contemporary of Attila the Hun, Leo met him personally, warding off an invasion of Rome.

Sixth-century Pope Gregory launched a major wave of missionaries from Rome. His writings earned him church doctor status, and he’s considered “the Father of Christian Worship”. He may not have invented Gregorian chant but it was standardized under his watch. Bishop Albert was a renowned philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. He was also a scientist, ecumenist, and later church doctor. Gertrude, the only woman on the list, was a theologian and mystic devoted to the Sacred Heart. She wrote prolifically, her prayers and meditations gaining great influence. Most of her books were lost after her death, but her effect was weighty on saints like Philip Neri, Francis de Sales, and Teresa of Avila. Bottom line: want to be Great? Start a movement, write a vital book, save a city. As a last resort, imitate Nicholas: get the kids on your side.

Scriptures: Genesis 12:2; Psalm 18:36; Matthew 5:19; 11:11; 18:1-4; 23:11-12

Books: Saint Basil the Great, by Richard Travers Smith (Aeterna Press, 2015)

The Herald of Divine Love: Gertrude of Helfta, translator Margaret Winkworth (Paulist Press, 1992)

Gregory the Great: Perfection in Imperfection, by Carole Straw (University of California Press, 1991)

I keep hearing we’re all supposed to be saints. Is that realistic?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Instead of fullness of life, most of us settle for just a sip.

Yes—if we have a good appreciation of what a saint is. A saint is a sinner who just keeps trying, as the saying goes. The essential interior difference between the average person and the saint is perseverance in the quest for fullness of life.

But even that sounds like jargon. Fullness of life? It’s a Scripture term meaning everything human life is supposed to be but often isn’t. Genesis says we’re made in the divine image, so whatever divine life is, that’s what we have the inbred capacity and yearning for. We’re designed to be creative, wise, loving, compassionate, just, limitless, eternal. But too often, we turn out dulled and thwarted, pinning our hopes on foolish goals and pursuits, jaded and cynical, lonely, judgmental, and biased. Far from being expansive creatures, we hurl away our freedoms in favor of programmed entertainments and prepackaged consumer ambitions. Instead of fullness of life, most of us settle for just a sip.

The way to get it all, curiously, involves giving a lot of what we currently value away. The secular gurus of simplification are right: our modern lives are choking us with stuff, and we need to divest, downsize, and aim to own less, want less, do less. Thérèse of Lisieux counseled that Our Lord cherishes simplicity. We have to un-complicate our calendars and find silence in the cacophony demanding our attention. Once we create some blissful empty space, we can load up on virtues, which Anthony of the Desert considered a better source of nourishment than what’s usually on the table.

Being holy doesn’t involve cosmic revelations. Vincent de Paul offered a simple way: will what God wills, see as God sees. If that’s still too lofty a starting place, consider Dominic’s advice to master your passions or be mastered by them. Newly canonized Pope John XXIII believed ten minutes of spiritual reading a day would feed the soul. Camillus de Lellis had his own pithy formula: Think well. Speak well. Do well.

If this short listing convinces us of anything, it’s that many paths lead to holy living. What’s vital is to begin—somewhere. You can’t go wrong by embracing the spirit of humility, which is every saint’s favorite virtue. Paint the house of your soul with it, John Chrysostom recommended. Or how about capitalizing on love? Clare of Assisi observed that we become what we love. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love Christ, we become sons and daughters of God.

Scripture: Psalm 16:11; Matthew 5:3-12; John 10:10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:14-19; Galatians 4:3-7; Colossians 2:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:16

Books: The Saints’ Little Book of Wisdom: The Essential Teachings, by Andrea Kirk Assaf, Kelly Anne Leahy, compilers (HarperCollins, 2016)

My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live, by Maria Morera Johnson (Ave Maria Press, 2015)

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Do I have to take a saint’s name at my Confirmation?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Thursday 23, August 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.”

The ruling on Confirmation names borrows from the practice at Baptism. The earlier 1917 Code of Canon Law required a Christian name be used, including saints’ names but also virtues “or the like.” Unfortunately for my mom, her parents chose the name Evelyn, derivative of the biblical Eve. That didn’t sit well with the priest, who exercised his canonical right to add a Christian name, baptizing her as Mary Evelyn Prudentia. “Mary” alone met the requirement; the priest added the third name from the virtue category, just to be on the safe side. The idea of an unfettered Eve really bothered him! Mom never used Mary or Prudence after that day, but they show up on the paperwork.

The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.” (n.855) That is, it should not be alien or contradictory to Catholic beliefs. So, Buddha and Zoroaster are out, and you probably want to avoid Caiaphas or Nero.

It helps to keep the purpose of the sacrament in mind when claiming your new identity. The sacramental action is an expression of faith. You are embracing a “name in religion”–not unlike the traditional custom of being renamed when joining a religious order. While it may work as your Internet handle, do you really want to ritually declare an identity like “Wonderwoman” or “GameBoy”?

The Roman Ritual notes that in non-Christian regions, any name that has a Christian meaning might be chosen. This broadens the field to include theological words like Grace, Truth, Justice, Nativity, or Cruz. Or place names like Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes. You can select last names of saints as well as first names: Drexel, DePaul, Jogues, McAuley. And if you have more than one favorite saint, there’s no impediment to using a hyphen. Check out under “Creative Catholic Names” for more clever ideas.

In the end, you may find it best to go all old-fashioned and take a saints’ name. As Life Teen advises on its helpful blog about Confirmation names: Choosing a saints’ name is a way of saying, “Yes, you may always pray for my poor and weary soul.” Why travel alone through this world when you can have a friend? Share the journey!

Scriptures: Genesis 2:20, 22-23; 17:5; 35:10; 1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Kings 24:17; Job 18:17; Isaiah 43:1; 48:1-2; 62:2; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-64, 76; 2:21; Matthew 16:17-18; John 1:42; Philippians 2:9-11

Books: Saints and Patrons: Christian Names for Baptism and Confirmation, by Joanna Bogle (Catholic Truth Society, 2012)

The Catholic Baby Name Book, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur (Ave Maria Press, 2013)

What do I need to know about Mary?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 06, March 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Blessed Virgin Mary
The church continues to develop a Marian theology that honors both who Mary has been historically and who she remains in the life of the faithful.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, as she’s familiarly known, is best approached from several directions: biblically, doctrinally, devotionally, and theologically. First, there’s the biblical Mary of Nazareth. She fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in giving birth by the power of the Holy Spirit to Emmanuel, “God with us.” The canticle Mary sings about her conception gives praise to God for the same activity her son Jesus will one day proclaim as the coming of God’s Kingdom: that the mighty will be toppled, while the poor will be lifted up. Mary plays noteworthy roles after the Nativity, including advocating for the miracle at Cana, her presence at the cross, and her participation in the Spirit’s release at Pentecost.

The church teaches four doctrines about Mary. Two declarations from the early church are that Mary remains a virgin perpetually and that she is the Mother of God. Both doctrines point to the divine origin of Jesus. Two later doctrines are that Mary herself was conceived immaculately (that is, without original sin) and that at the point of death, she was assumed body and soul into heaven. These are related teachings: since death is a consequence of sin, and Mary is spared sin’s effects, her body does not undergo the corruption of the grave.

Devotionally, Mary has played a large role in the church’s popular piety. Her icon has been venerated since the early centuries in the East, and by means of the rosary, litanies, and pilgrimage, people of many lands have felt a special closeness to the mother of Jesus who is mother to all. Throughout history, Mary has been known to pay singular visits, known as apparitions, to humble folk around the world. These appearances underscore Mary’s concern for her children and their needs.

The church continues to develop a Marian theology that honors both who Mary has been historically and who she remains in the life of the faithful. In the spirit of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI offered principles for consideration. First among them is that Christian faith must be rightly prioritized: nothing said about Mary can detract from the honor due to God. Also, that Christ alone mediates between God and humanity. Finally, since Mary is the first disciple of her son, she is the ideal model for what we all can do. Pope John Paul II also advanced the idea of Mary as the special champion of the poor.


Isaiah 7:10-15; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; 8:19-21; John 2:1-12; 19:25-27; Acts of the Apostles 1:14


Marialis Cultus / For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary - Pope Paul VI (Pauline Books and Media, 2003)

Redemptoris Mater / Mother of the Redeemer - Pope John Paul II (Daughters of St. Paul, 1987)

What does it take to be recognized by the church as a saint?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 09, January 2018 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Today’s potential saints face a ladder of steps to be entered into the canon.

Becoming part of the official register or canon of the church’s saints has been an evolving process. There used to be one sure way to get there: martyrdom—which, in centuries of persecution, was a serious possibility after baptism. After Christianity became an established religion of the Empire under Constantine in 325, martyrs were rare. “White” martyrdom—the sacrifice of one’s life to prayer and penance—led to the monastic movement. Gradually, a virtuous life became the popular standard for sanctity.

Today’s potential saints face a ladder of steps to be entered into the canon. You live a heroically virtuous life. That’s the easy part. You die or are killed. (It’s necessary to be dead. Canonically, there’s no such thing as a living saint.) Five years pass; though for both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, even this brief waiting period was waived. Next a petitioner—a parish, diocese, religious community, lay association, or civil body—must adopt (promote and finance) your cause. Then a postulator or official agent is named from the diocese in which you died. (If you die outside the place your virtue was best known, another diocese can petition to have your case returned to them.) At this point, everyone is calling you a Servant of God.

A formal inquest begins in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS). The local bishop collects any information about you, including all your published and unpublished works. (In the future, this will hang up the process indefinitely unless prospective saints routinely delete their e-mail.) Two theologians read everything in search of red flags. If there are none, they recommend you for the nihil obstat (no apparent obstacles).

Eyewitnesses are now interviewed extensively and transcripts made. If all goes well, a decree of validity is added to your cause by the CCS. The most crucial step follows: composing the positio, an enormous document including a comprehensive biography and the written testimonies. Three bodies of experts at the CCS comb through the positio: historians, theologians, and prelates. If your cause survives their scrutiny, you’ll either be fast-tracked to beatification as a martyr, or attain the title Venerable for your heroic virtues.

Once you’re venerable, you only need one exceptional miracle attributed to your intercession (vetted by the CCS) to become beatified and earn the title Blessed. From beatification to sainthood takes one more proven exceptional miracle. After your canonization, don’t expect to retire. People will be asking for your help forever.


Leviticus 20:7; Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:17; 6:11; Ephesians 2:21-22; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2:9


Divinus Perfectionis Magister (Divine Teacher, Model of Perfection) – Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitutions, Vatican City, 1983. See:


Canonization: Theology, History, Process, by William H. Woestman (Faculty of Canon Law, St. Paul University, 2014)

Two Americans were beatified by Pope Francis. What do I need to know about them?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 09, January 2018 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Father Stanley Rother
Father Stanley Rother, a diocesan priest from Oklahoma martyred in Guatemala, was beatified in 2017.

The U.S. saints roster is exploding lately. Growing up with statues of Teresas, Francis, Anthony, and Patrick, we may have imagined sainthood as a European phenomenon. Today’s young Catholics learn about 12 canonized U.S. saints and eight beatified ones. In addition, an astonishing 18 Venerables have been named by the last three popes, all candidates for canonization. Their stories challenge us to consider that holiness is achievable—and expected—in the U.S. church.

The “Blesseds” who share in the American story (with beatification dates in parentheses) are: Mary Frances Schervier, who resided only briefly in this country (1974); Diego Luis de San Vitores, martyred in Guam (1985); Francis Xavier Seelos, who died ministering to yellow fever victims in New Orleans (2000); Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, catechist of Puerto Rico (2001); Eduardo Farré and Lucas Tristany, pastors in Tucson, Arizona, recalled to Spain and martyred during the Spanish Civil War (2007); and the latest two, Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, mystic from New Jersey (2014) and Stanley Rother, diocesan priest from Oklahoma martyred in Guatemala (2017).

Even saying “mystic from New Jersey” sounds new. Holy living isn’t confined to the long ago and far away anymore. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (1901-1927) was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her parents were immigrants from Slovakia. As a teenager, Teresa felt a vocation to the convent. The early death of her mother, however, led her to remain home with her father until he died in 1926. While at home, she took classes at a college run by Sisters of Charity. After her father’s death, she entered their order. Teresa’s deep spirituality was so apparent she was asked as a novice to write anonymous instructions for the other sisters. Her book, Greater Perfection, passed from her community to the public, and has inspired millions globally. Sister Teresa herself died a year after her entry to the community.

Stanley Rother (1935-1981) was born on a farm in Okarche, Oklahoma. Feeling called to priesthood, he was sent to seminary in San Antonio but performed poorly in the required Latin and was dismissed. He was able to complete his studies at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland in 1963. After serving five years in an Oklahoma parish, Father Rother went to the diocesan mission in Guatemala, where he learned both Spanish and Tz’utujil skillfully. Thirteen years later, his life was threatened during the civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of Catholics. Recalled to Oklahoma, he insisted on returning to his adopted people: “The shepherd cannot run.” Back in Guatemala, he was murdered in his home a month after his return.


Leviticus 20:7; Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:17; 6:11; Ephesians 2:21-22; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2:9


The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda (Our Sunday Visitor, 2015)

Sister Miriam Teresa: A Biography, by Sister Mary Zita Geis, S.C. (Sister Miriam Teresa League of Prayer, 2013)

Love in a Fearful Land: A Guatemalan Story, by Henri J.M. Nouwen (Orbis Books, 2006)

The church made Mother Teresa a saint overnight. Why is it taking so long for Bishop Oscar Romero?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 29, November 2017 Categories: Pope Francis,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Oscar Romero
Whether you considered Romero a martyr or a victim of his outspoken politics was a matter of opinion—until recently, when Pope Francis beatified him in 2015.

Oscar Romero (1917-1980), slain archbishop of San Salvador, was as revered by some as deemed controversial by others. Romero studied theology in Rome, served as a bishop’s secretary, edited his diocesan newspaper, pastored the cathedral parish, served as rector of the minor seminary, and was elected to the bishops’ conference of El Salvador as well as the Central American Bishops’ secretariat, all before 1977. For none of these things was he assassinated while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel.

Ironically, Romero was recommended for his office by the same civic leaders who most surely ordered his death. They viewed him as a safe choice in a time of upheaval, with his scholarly manners and reluctance toward public action. A month after Romero was made archbishop, however, his friend Jesuit Rutilio Grande was murdered for his support of guerillas fighting the U.S.-backed military dictatorship. Romero—cautious, conservative, and steadfastly un-political—was shocked into reconsidering his silence about the injustices borne by the poor of his country.

Whether you considered Romero a martyr or a victim of his outspoken politics was a matter of opinion—until recently, when Pope Francis beatified him in 2015. As early as 2007, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina referred to the slain Archbishop as a martyr and declared: “If I were pope, I would have already canonized him.”

If a person dies for the faith, isn’t that an automatic pass into sainthood? Yes: but only if it’s clear that the death is related to matters of faith. In Romero’s case, accusations flew that he was “Che Guevara in a cassock”: a communist, a Marxist, or a liberation theologian. The latter theology is a mode of thought that some have characterized as a mixing class theory with religious principles. The question remained on the table for a long time: was Archbishop Romero martyred for defending the gospel against its enemies, or for stepping into a military struggle he had no business with in the first place?

Romero traveled to Rome four times in the three years he served as Archbishop to explain that it was the gospel that convicted him to side with the poor against their oppressors and murderers. His homilies were broadcast on the radio across his small country. Weekly he read the names of the dead who fell to the military. He encouraged soldiers not to follow orders that were unjust. His canonization may soon verify that speaking truth to power remains a vocation of the church.

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:1-10; 3:17-21; John 10:17-18; 14:6; 15:13, 18-27; 16:13; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:16

Books: Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings, by Marie Dennis, et. al. (Orbis Books, 2000)

Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke (Liturgical Press, 2014)

How did the veneration of relics get started?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 29, November 2016 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Prayer and Spirituality
Mother Teresa relic
A relic of Saint Teresa of Calcuttaa drop of her bloodat St. Ita Catholic Church in Chicago.

A relic is an object kept in tribute to a holy person. Some relics are body parts such as bone chips or teeth. Others are items once belonging to the person, most often snips of clothing. Catholics aren’t alone in collecting relics. Other religions like Buddhism employ them. People of faith backgrounds that permit it keep cremains of loved ones in an urn on the mantle (See here for Vatican instruction on Catholic burial, cremation). I have a shirt that belonged to my dad, which I still wear. Relics are a traditional way of keeping in touch with someone special.

Catholic relics are as old as the church. Martyrdom was a frequent if not typical cause of Christian death. The faithful collected the martyrs’ remains, often in pieces, for secret burial in places like catacombs. When available, the instrument of death was spirited off as well. Think: relics from the True Cross. Christians gathered at martyrs’ tombs to celebrate Eucharist. When the persecutions finally ceased, churches were erected on the gravesites. Christians considered burial near a martyr a privilege. A tug-of-war over these bodies became typical; some were exhumed and re-interred on the properties of those who could afford it. In the Middle Ages, Crusaders pilfered lots of relics and carried them to Europe.

Relics were catechetically useful. They spurred interest in the saint whose virtues might be imitated. In 410, a council in Carthage ruled that saints’ shrines had to contain authentic relics or be destroyed. In 767, a Nicaean council determined that every altar must contain a relic or Mass could not be celebrated on it. This decree echoes the original practice of celebrating Mass on the graves of martyrs and is upheld in current canon law (no.1237). Exceptions are made today for portable altars such as those used in wartime.

Selling relics has always been forbidden. Church law says significant relics can’t even be moved around without express permission from the Vatican (no. 1190).

Attributing magical powers to such items is considered an abuse, but the tendency to be superstitious about holy objects is not unknown in the modern church. From the Holy Grail to the Shroud of Turin, the curious and the credulous will always find a less than edifying fascination with such objects. Church teaching draws a distinction between proper and improper veneration. Worship belongs to God alone. Even if a saint should appear suddenly in an apparition, human honor is the limit of our tribute.

Scripture: The Bible regards holiness as a divine attribute communicable to people, places, and things (e.g. Moses’ shining face, the Ark and its sacred utensils, the Temple’s Holy of Holies.) The topic of relics, specifically, is not treated. But see 2 Kings 13:20-21; Mark 5:25-34; Acts 5:12-15

Books: Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics – Thomas Craughwell (New York: Image Books, 2011)

Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe – Charles Freeman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012)

How is it determined that someone is a saint?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Sunday 11, September 2016 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Mother Teresa
The common thread in all of these saintly lives is that they were lights along the way to Christ for others to follow.

Canonization, the process of adding a name to the canon of saints, has been a formal procedure in the church since the 13th century. Informally, the church has noted saints (“holy ones”) since the first generation, when such recognition was given to martyrs. Those who died for belonging to Christ, even if flawed individuals, earned the claim of “no greater love” since they did indeed “lay down their life for a friend.”

Sainthood was soon extended to confessors: those who defended and suffered for the faith even if not murdered for it. The category opened next for those who gave their testimony in lives of austerity and penance—living martyrs known as white martyrs in contrast to those defined by the color of their blood. Those who taught Christian doctrine with insightful new clarity—doctors of the church—were admitted to the circle of sanctity, along with evangelists and models of heroic virtue who spread the faith by word or deed. A reputation for miracles never hurt.

The common thread in all of these saintly lives is that they were lights along the way to Christ for others to follow. Their lives “corresponded with grace,” as James McGrath puts it, as if grace were a lifelong dancing partner with whom they came to share perfect synchronicity.

The process discerning that synchronicity has gone through various phases. Originally a saint was simply locally declared as such. Needless to say, unsubstantiated accounts of largely or entirely fictitious lives worked their way into the canon: Saint Christopher medals, anyone? Saint George fought a dragon? Church authorities began intervening in the process in the 6th century, but the first papal paperwork to be filed on a saint was for Saint Udalricus, a German bishop, in 973. It wasn’t until 1738 that Pope Benedict XIV wrote a treatise on the proper way to discern and attest to sainthood. His guidelines became part of canon law and were observed until the revised Code of Canon Law in 1983.

Church teaching is cautious in its claims about the saintly canon. It reminds us the church doesn’t make saints: God does. The church, through the work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, simply acts to lift up some of these holy lives to the world for contemplation and imitation. Saints can intercede for the world as well. They’re useful lives on both sides of eternity.

Scripture: Matthew 27:51-53; John 15:12-17; Ephesians 4:11-24; Philippians 1:9-11; 2:13-16; 3:12-14, 20

Books: Saints: Men and Women of Exceptional Faith – Jacques Duquesne (Paris, France: Flammarion, SA, 2012)

Making Sense Of Saints: Fascinating Facts About Relics, Patrons, Saint-Making, and More – Patricia Ann Kasten (Huntingdon, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2014)

Who were the women at the cross?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 03, August 2016 Categories: Scripture,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Church History

women cross crucifixion

The women who were present at the crucifixion of Jesus are an intriguing mystery. Several were named Mary. In the shared tradition of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the women don’t approach the cross. They stand "at a distance," probably for the usual reasons: Women tried to be invisible in public. And they would have reason to fear their treatment by Roman soldiers.

Mark, who writes first, doesn’t give us a precise number of how many women looked on from a distance. He names only three: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. While not an original disciple, Mark offers an account reputed to be from Peter. Only John's late gospel records specifically the presence of Mary, mother of Jesus. All the women there, according to Mark, had been with Jesus since Galilee.

The names James and Joses provide a clue about one of the Marys at the cross. These men are mentioned elsewhere in Mark among four "brothers of Jesus"—possibly cousins of some degree. This makes their mother an “aunt” of Jesus, present to comfort his mother. Mary may have been a family name, the way I have four relatives named Paul. John’s account lists a Mary identified by her husband Clopas rather than by sons. Both Marys could be the same person.

Like Mark, Matthew references four brothers/cousins of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. In Hebrew, "Joseph" and "Joses" are the same name. At the crucifixion, Matthew mentions James and Joseph as sons of a certain Mary. Matthew verifies the presence of Mary Magdalene and also the mother of Zebedee’s sons James and John. To harmonize Mark and Matthew’s narratives, Mark’s Salome is often identified as Zebedee’s wife.

In Luke’s crucifixion story, the Galilean women are described among "acquaintances" of Jesus standing at a distance. None are named. 

John locates the women directly at the foot of the cross. His list includes the mother of Jesus, his mother's sister, Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Without punctuation in the Greek, however, it’s not clear whether Mary wife of Clopas IS the sister of Jesus' mother, or two separate women. John says Jesus gives his mother into the care of a beloved disciple. Tradition claims this is John, making him the lone male disciple present. Other scholars identify Mary Magdalene as the beloved disciple who took Mary home, since only women are known to have remained near the cross.

Scripture: Mark 6:3; 15:40-41; 16:1; Matthew 13:55; 27:55-56; 28:1; Luke 23:48-49, 55-56; 24:1-11; John 19:25-27; 20:1

Sources: The Characters of the Crucifixion – Joseph Fichtner, OSC (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000); The Passion and Death of Jesus (DVD and audio CDs)– Raymond Brown (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press/ Ewloe Clwyd, Wales: Welcome Recordings, 2015)

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I've been told Catholic devotion to saints contradicts what the Bible says about graven images.

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 15, June 2016 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Church History,Doctrines & Beliefs
Golden calf

Let's talk about that. Someone knocks on your door and presents you with some Bible passages: Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10. They advise you to take down your Madonna and Child statue and to stop wearing your St. Anthony medal. Does the Bible view these objects as dangerous or even blasphemous?

In the first of the Ten Commandments, the passage reads: "You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them." This command has been interpreted in Orthodox Judaism as a complete ban on image-making, even in art. Muslims also ban images of any living creatures, although the Qur'an does not. Protestant founders John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli forbade the use of religious images specifically. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists view religious statues, stained glass images, and icons as blasphemous. This battle has been actively engaged at many points in church history. Churches have been destroyed, windows smashed, art burned because some saw such images as contradicting the First Commandment.

Iconoclasm, as image-busting is called, is not just a religious phenomenon. In the ancient world, smashing the statues of a previous ruler was often a political maneuver more than a religious reform. When modern terrorist groups destroy religious artifacts that are also culturally significant sites, it's unclear whether the destruction is about restoring religious purity or asserting control.

Biblically, Moses did destroy the Golden Calf permitted by his priest brother because it imitated religious practices that predated the religious movement Moses was attempting to establish. But later, Moses commands that a bronze serpent be made to heal the people—a beneficial image, but still an image. Still later, King Hezekiah will have the bronze serpent destroyed because the people have begun to worship it. The message is clear: it's not art that God doesn't like. It's the use of idols that limit the idea of divinity or divert a believer's fidelity away from the one God of Israel.

I've rarely met a Catholic in danger of idolatry in relationship to images of the Sacred Heart or devotion to a patron saint. If religious images assist you in prayer or widen your appreciation of divine mysteries, then use them. If they interfere with or narrowly define your sense of wonder, let them go.

Scriptures: Exodus 20:4-6; 32:1-35; Leviticus 26:1; Numbers 21:9; Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 5:6-10; 1 Kings 12:26-31; 2 Kings 18:4; Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-20;  Jeremiah 10:1-15

Books: The Laws of Yahweh: A Handbook of Biblical Law - William J. Doorly  (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2002)

Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction - Lawrence Boadt  (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2012)

Why do Catholics put so much emphasis on Mary and the saints?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 04, April 2016 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Mary and the saints

Since some Catholics in their spiritual practice have little truck with saints or Marian devotion, it's more accurate to say that Catholic tradition holds Mary and the saints in high esteem. To answer this inquiry thoughtfully requires the introduction of key terms. The first is hyperdulia: it means "more than service," and it's the special honor Roman Catholic tradition renders to Mary as the Virgin Mother of Jesus and therefore Mother of God (theotokos in Greek).

This title, by the way, is a sensitive spot in historical relations with the Orthodox tradition, which prefers to call Mary the Mother of Christ (christotokos)—a distinction dear to theologians. That God/Christ has a mother thanks to the incarnation of Jesus is, by any measure, a remarkable consideration. Once you ponder that, you begin to appreciate what it means for a woman to collaborate with God in the world's salvation, to carry divinity within her body, or to raise God's son as her own. You might want to treat such a woman with respect.

The special honor we show to Mary is not to be confused with the singular and highest honor due to God. To be specific: We worship and adore God alone (latria, Greek for worship). We honor Mary in a unique way (hyperdulia) as Mother of God and foremost saint (sancta, holy person). We show proper veneration (dulia) to all the saints, since by their lives they demonstrate the activity of God in the world. In the end, all of these forms of honor are directed toward God as manifest to us in various ways and degrees through the response of these holy ones. 

For many Catholics, these ideas have translated throughout history into a desire to engage these signature personalities and benefit from their guidance and example. Devotions toward homegrown saints or particular facets of Mary's life sprang up spontaneously and fulfill a need to connect with our more accomplished fellow travelers among "the communion of saints," as we say. We are sisters and brothers in faith whether living on earth or in heaven, as our belief in eternal life declares. If you had a talented and well-connected relative who could mentor you in your given field, wouldn't you take advantage of that relationship? As we share a common vocation to be saints, having ready-made saints to lean on and get help from is a benefit many are glad to have.

Scriptures: Acts of the Apostles 20:32; 26:18;2 Corinthians 13:12; Ephesians 1:1-2; 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 3:13;  2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 18:20

Books: Saints: Men and Women of Exceptional Faith - Jacques Duquesne (Paris: Flammarion, 2012).                            Dictionary of Mary - ed. Alphonse Bossard, S.M.M., transl. John Otto (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1991).


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Mary's parents aren't mentioned in the Bible. How do we know their names?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 30, June 2015 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Scripture
Joachim and Anne

You're right: the names of Mary's parents, like everything else said about Mary before the biblically related story of the Annunciation, belongs to the realm known as church tradition. Think of family stories narrated year in and year out until they're as much legend as they are history. It becomes hard to separate historical aspects from mythological ones. With such stories from family or church tradition, determining the strictly factual elements of the saga may miss the point of the telling. The truth of most stories is larger than history, and seeks a higher meaning.

Stories about Mary's parents satisfy our curiosity for "the rest of the story," or the familiar story from a fresh point of view. Think of modern stories like Ahab's Wife, that retells the classic Moby Dick from the perspective of one who awaits the vengeful captain onshore; or The Red Tent, that presents the biblical patriarch Jacob through the experience of his lesser-known wives. Extra-biblical writings like The Protevangelium of James and The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew are likewise attempts from later centuries to fill in the gaps regarding Mary's back-story. Where did this remarkable woman come from? How did she become the one known for all time as "full of grace"?

As the story goes, Joachim and Anne are as virtuous as they are childless, giving two-thirds of their resources to the temple and to the poor. They long for a child and pledge to give their offspring to the Lord if their prayers be answered.

After Joachim, from a priestly family, is denied the chance to bring his offering to the temple—his childlessness is ridiculed by the high priest as a sign of God's rejection—Joachim retires to the territory of shepherds in shame, afraid to return home. There he meets an angel who promises him the birth of a highly favored daughter and is urged to meet his wife at the golden gate of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Anne at home receives a similar angelic messenger, and rushes to the gate to meet her husband. Their kiss at the gate is rendered in popular art of the Middle Ages.

Joachim and Anne keep their promise, delivering their daughter Mary into the service of the temple at the age of three. In this way we learn how Mary is prepared for her unique life of purity and grace.

Scripture: Matthew 1—2; Luke 1—2

Books: The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, edited by Rutherford H. Platt (New York: Penguin Books, 1974); In Quest of the Jewish Mary by Mary C. Athans (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013)

What do we know about Saint Joseph?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Thursday 12, December 2013 Categories: Scripture,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Church History
Virgin Mary Saint Joseph Baby Jesus
ICON of the Holy Family.


Almost nothing; the New Testament pickings are slim. The Gospel of Mark eliminates Joseph from the story, beginning its narration in Jesus’ adulthood. John’s gospel mentions Joseph once in passing. Luke tells the infancy story from Mary’s perspective, making her the principal actor. The Gospel of Matthew alone highlights Joseph’s role in salvation history. It is here we meet Joseph the dreamer who, like his namesake in the Book of Genesis, learns heaven’s purposes for him while he sleeps.

We can fill in some blanks from what’s known about Jewish customs of the 1st century. Marriages were enacted as early as 13 for males, 12 for females. Nothing in the gospels betrays Joseph as an older man, a widower, or theologically better suited to be Mary’s chaste guardian than her husband. That the earliest gospel calls the adult Jesus “son of Mary” rather than Joseph, however, suggests his father was absent, dead, or suspect. This resonates with Mary known to be with child before the marriage, and/or that Joseph was dead by the time Jesus grew up. Luke and John prefer to call Jesus “son of Joseph,” restoring respect to his patrimony. Luke adds pointedly, “As was thought.” When the family of Jesus comes around during his ministry, his father is conspicuously absent.

Jesus is called a carpenter and carpenter’s son, which is how we know his father’s occupation. The last time Joseph makes an appearance in the story is when Jesus is 12 and goes missing in Jerusalem. Mary remains in the company of Jesus until the Crucifixion, when her care is transferred to the beloved disciple, confirming that Joseph is already dead.

In Matthew’s portrait we encounter Joseph the righteous man who, understandably, does not want to marry a woman who turns up pregnant without his participation. Of two possible legal solutions—exposure to violent punishment or quiet divorce by paperwork—Joseph chooses the gentler. Then heaven intervenes and gives him consequential second thoughts. He takes Mary into his home and gives her his full protection. That is an enormous concession to the divine will, especially given the church’s insistence on Mary’s perpetual virginity. We always want more from Joseph. He’s already given quite a lot.

Genesis 37:5-11; Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-23; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; Luke 1:26-27; ch. 2; 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42

The Life and Prayers of Saint Joseph by Wyatt North (Wyatt North Publishing, e-book)

The Mystery of Joseph
by Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. (Zaccheus Press)

Is it possible to prove the existence of God?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 06, May 2014 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Church History,Doctrines & Beliefs
Thomas Aquinas
by Fra Bartolomeo

This modern question has a medieval backwater through which we must wade to consider a coherent response. Ancient peoples rarely questioned the existence of a divine being (or beings), although they often wondered whether the Deity was rooting for or against humanity in any given circumstance. Even as late as the Middle Ages, the theologians who posited arguments for God's existence didn't personally question the matter: They were merely tying up loose philosophical ends. Eleventh-century Saint Anselm was first, offering an ontological proof—that is, a proof based on the meaning of the term "God": If we can imagine the greatest reality which is God, and a real thing is greater than an imaginary thing, then God must be that real and not only imaginary greatness.

Two centuries later Saint Thomas Aquinas raised five proofs for God's existence— motion, causality, possibility and necessity, gradations, and governance—each of which follows a similar argument. Take motion, for example: When something moves, there is a mover that causes the motion. God is the First Mover that set everything in motion. Or consider causation: Actions have consequences, but somewhere there is a Cause which originally caused everything else. Or gradation: A good thing points to a better, which presumes a best. God is that which is Best.
Arguments like these are philosophically neat, but they didn't withstand the keen rational edge of the 18th-century Enlightenment gang. In Philosophy 101 courses every student learns how David Hume and Immanuel Kant discovered flaws in the medieval proofs. Kant, at least, saw the idea of God as necessary for morality to be possible. In the same period William Paley argued for God's existence from the intricate design of the world, which presumes a grand Designer the way a watch found on a beach presumes that someone left it there because it didn't just spring from the sand. This proof isn't really much distinct from the Aquinas approach.

The Bible offers no proofs for God's existence. As a product of revelation, it seeks to tell us about God's nature, not to prove that God is real. Revelation is abundantly useful for people of faith and quite problematic to people without it. So when the church says that the Creator can be known from creation, that is a statement of how God can be understood by those who seeking understanding. It doesn't suggest how God can be rationally proven to those who are skeptical of the religious enterprise altogether.

Mark 10:51-52; 11:22-24; Luke 11:9-13; 2 Corinthians 5:7

Thomas Aquinas, "Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God" from the Summa Theologia

An Introduction to Catholic Theology by Richard Lennan (Paulist Press)
Spirituality Seeking Theology by Roger Haight (Orbis Books, 2014)

What is humility?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 16, May 2014 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Doctrines & Beliefs
HumilityHumility is just about the exact opposite of everything you see in the world nowadays! Our 21st-century moxie is entirely egocentric. As the T-shirt says, "It's all about me." So to discover the essentials of humility, you have to experiment with self-emptying and change the channel from us to the Ultimate Other.

Here's a channel-changer. In describing the virtue of humility, the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Saint Augustine's saying: "Man is a beggar before God." Pride leads you to exalt yourself, rely on your own resources, and claim your own achievements. By contrast humility recognizes that everything comes from God and belongs to God. Therefore to God alone go all praise, honor, and glory.

When you begin with God and not with yourself, your perspective on reality does a dramatic shift. God's will comes first. "Not my will, but yours be done," as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. The radical humility of the Son of God is echoed in the submission of his mother to that same divine will in the story of the Annunciation: "Let it be done to me according to your word."

Love also begins from God and is not initiated from your personal well of goodness. "God is love," John's first letter declares. Therefore: "We love because God first loved us."

Life itself has its genesis in God—hence the name of the Bible's first book. When you choose the perspective of a humble heart, you become aware that your proper orientation as creatures should be one of obedience—that is, attentive listening—to God's call rather than egoistic self-determination. It's precisely the attitude of obedience that led to the salvation of the world, as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the community at Philippi: "[Jesus] humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." Paul explains that humility means putting other people ahead of yourself, thinking of their needs rather than monologuing about yours. That is so countercultural, jaws will drop whenever you attempt it.

Yet humility was the avenue of the saints that got them where they were going. Abbot Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was so convinced of its necessity that he urged his monks to adopt the four most important virtues: "Humility, humility, humility, and humility." Take it from Jesus, Mary, the the gospel evangelists, and the saints: If you're not coming from humility, you're not going anywhere in the spiritual life.

Mark 14:35-36; Luke 1:38; 18:9-14; Philippians 2:3-11.

The Way of Humility by André Louf, O.S.C.O. (Cistercian Publications)
The Way of Humility by Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio (Pope Francis) (Ignatius Press)
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What is the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 20, June 2014 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Immaculate Heart of Mary2
FLORES Santa Marta by Juan J. Prieto Iglesias

Also known as the Holy Heart of Mary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion has its origins in early writings about Mary's maternal love for her son which is mirrored in her love for the church. By the Middle Ages many prayers and much theological attention was given to the heart of Mary open to the world as the mother of mercy.

The image varies in its details, although Mary's heart is always externally perceptible and is generally wreathed with roses and radiant with fire or light. The image sometimes includes a small sword driven through her heart or seven smaller daggers piercing her heart. These recall the prediction of Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary's heart in her union with her son. The multiplication of swords to seven recalls a tradition of Mary's seven sorrows from medieval times popularized by the Servite order.

Seventeenth-century French missionary Saint John Eudes linked the devotion to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eudes wrote of the mystical union between the hearts of the Son and his Mother: "You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary." As a result of his teachings we often find these two images paired in portraits of open and accessible hearts on fire in similar poses.

The feast was first celebrated liturgically in 1648 as a result of Eudes' promotion. Pope Pius VII authorized the devotion altogether in 1805. Attraction to the Immaculate Heart soared after the Fatima apparitions in 1917 in which it was reported that the Virgin Mary herself invited the church to contemplate this image and its implications. The feast of the Immaculate Heart was originally added to the universal calendar in 1944 on August 22—although that date is now reserved for the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. The memorial of the Immaculate Heart has been moved to the Saturday immediately following the solemnity of the Sacred Heart in June.

Just as Sacred Heart devotions involve commemorations on the First Fridays of every month, Immaculate Heart devotions are celebrated on the First Saturdays. The practice includes receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion on five consecutive First Saturdays as well as reciting five decades of the rosary and meditating on the mysteries.

Luke 2:22-35, 43-45; 1:46-55; Matthew 2:13; John 19:26-27

"Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" by Father Matthew R. Mauriello

Into the Heart of Mary: Imagining Her Scriptural Stories by Rea McDonnell, S.S.N.D. (Ave Maria Press)
The Seven Sorrows of Mary: A Meditative Guide by Joel Giallanza, C.S.C. (Ave Maria Press)
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