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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saint John Alcober

Today is the feast of one of the Dominican martyrs of China, St. John Alcober.

Born at Gerona, Spain, in 1694. John Alcober was a good friend of Bishop St. Francis Serrano, who was a brother Dominican of the Granada monastery and a fellow martyr in Tonkin. The two had planned to enter the Chinese missions together, but problems with the ship marooned Father Alcober in Lorca. There he spent his time as a popular preacher. In fact, he was beginning to forget about going to China until the Lord reminded him one day. As he was preaching, he used the words, "How long, you sinners, will you remain hardened?" His crucifix reproached him, "And you, John--how long?"

dominican saints of china -Avlila painting
Dominican Saints of China from the Dominican Priory in Avila

He sailed to Manila with 43 religious in 1726, and he finally made it to China in 1728, where he labored for 16 years in the province of Fo-kien. Here his life was very difficult; he had to hide in uncomfortable places, and, once, he was smuggled in a coffin to anoint a dying man. Sometimes disguised as a water seller, he moved about the city. Once, he was far from any shelter,and he climbed into a tree to spend the night. Piously intoning the Miserere before going to sleep, he was startled to hear another voice answering his, and, to his joy, realized his old friend Father Serrano was sitting in the same tree.

One of his last acts as a free man was to baptize a sick woman to whom Our Lady of the Rosary had appeared. The new Christian was so beautiful after her death that pagans crowded in to see her. Father Alcober's presence there led to his capture in 1746. Soon he found himself reunited in prison with Father Serrano and another priest, Francis Diaz. They were tortured to disclose the whereabouts of Bishop Peter Sanz, though the revealed nothing. The bishop and Father Joachim Royo, upon hearing of the capture of the other three, surrendered themselves in order to spare their brothers further suffering.

The five were dragged before the emperor in chains, and again subjected to torture. Bishop Sanz was beheaded, but the others languished in prison for another six months. Father Alcober wrote a letter to his brother, a Carmelite, saying that they were all in good spirits, but that they hoped it would end soon because they were eager to shed their blood. Here in prison, Father Serrano was appointed successor to Peter Martyr.

Late in November, these four was strangled in their cell at Futsheu during the night. This was the best way to fend off their apostolic work among the jailers and soldiers. When the executioners returned in the light of day to dispose of the bodies, they were horrified to note that the faces of the martyrs were not only serene, but shone with an unearthly radiance--a phenomenon indeed for someone who had died by strangulation. Afraid of being punished for not carrying out their duty, the executioners covered the faces of their victims, but the Christians followed them nonetheless to try to collect relics. The soldiers already knew there would be problems trying to dispose of the relics: Those of Bishop Sanz had resisted burning and various other kinds of destruction. For this reason, the persecuted Christians were able to retain the relics of the five martyrs.

He was strangled to death on October 28, 1748 at Fu-tsheu prison in Tonkin. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in AD 1893. He was canonized along with the other martyrs of China by Pope John Paul II in AD 2000.

O God, who didst endow Thy blessed St. John Alcober with constancy and charity to preach the faith to heathen nations, grant us, we beseech Thee, through his example and intercession, to prevevere contantly in Thy faith. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blessed Bonaventure Tolomei

Today is the memorial of Bl. Bonaventure Tolomei. Even as a child he showed signs of divine favours, but as he grew up he ignored them. He led a wild, dissolute and even sacriligeous life as a young man; for four years he abandoned himself to a life of impurity and sacrilege. He eventually repented and came back to the Church, and did penance for his earlier life by all the important European shrines on foot. He then returned to Siena and joined the Dominicans. He died tending plague victims in Siena; his death in 1348 was of natural causes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saint Stephen

Then the twelve calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying was liked by all the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch. (Acts 6:2-5)

From this part of Acts of the Apostles we are introduced to St. Stephen. He was chosen as one of the original 7 deacons of the Church to work in the ministry of the Apostles.

By his faith, he was also a miracle worker along with being one of the earliest of preachers. It was in the name of his great faith and love that he was dragged outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned to death. He went to his death asking Jesus to forgive his killers.

From the last 2,000 years to infinity, he is one of the great standards for all mankind's witness to the Lord.

The Ordination of St. Stephen
Ordination of St. Stephen by St. Peter

St. Stephen Preaching at Jerusalem
St. Stephen preaching at Jerusalem by Vittore Carpaccio

The Stoning of St. Stephen
The stoning of St. Stephen by Bernado Daddi 1324

Prayer of Saint Stephen Martyr
Loving God, Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons in the Church. The Apostles ordained him with six others because they needed ministers who wouldoversee the needs of the poor and the widowed. His holiness was so evident that when he preached to his enemies, his face glowed brightly like an angel's. I ask him to pray for those who have been called to a life of service as ordained deacons. O Lord, help them to be a sign of Your love in their parishes and in the world where they live and work. Bless them with a vision of their ministry that stirs them to passion and tireless effort. Saint Stephen, pray for us. Amen. - Terry Anne Modica

Blessed Paganus of Lecco

Today the Dominicans remember Bl Paganus of Lecco. Bl. Paganus was received into the Order by holy father St. Dominic himself. He was the successor St. Peter the Martyr. He also followed in St. Peter the martyr's footsteps beeing martyred by heretics in 1274. He served in the Order for 50 years.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feast of Adam and Eve


Today is the feast of Sts. Adam and Eve. The adoption of this feast by the Western Church is what started the tradition of the Christmas tree.

Read more about this at the online journal of the Slaves if the Immaculate Heart of Mary on

creation of adam

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blessed Margaret of Savoy

Today is the Feast of Bl. Margaret of Savoy according to the Extraordinary liturgical calendar.
Margaret of Savoy, daughter of Duke Amadeo II, is one of three royal princesses who wore the Dominican habit and were beatified. In the 15th century, she was the glory of a family that has given several beati to the Church.

Born into the royal house of Savoy, Margaret grew up in a household in which piety and wealth were ordinary. Her own parents died when she was small, and she was educated by an uncle, who arranged an early marriage for her to the Marquis of Montferrat, Theodore Paleologus.

As queen of her fairly large domain, Margaret was the model of Christian rulers. She felt that it was her duty to exceed in charity and humility in the proportion that she was wealthier than those around her, and she devoted all of her time to God and to her neighbors. Her husband was a widower with two children, to whom she gave the greatest care. The hundreds of dependents on the large estates came to her for charity and instruction.

Disaster stuck Savoy several times in the years when she was wife and mother. Famine and plague came, making great demands on her time and her courage. Unhesitatingly, she went out to nurse the plague-stricken with her own hands, and she sent out food and clothing from her husband's stores until it was doubtful if anything would be left. After this crisis passed, war hovered over the kingdom, and she prayed earnestly that they would be delivered from the horrors of invasion.

In 1418, the marquis died. His young widow was one of the most eligible women in Europe. Margaret sorrowed for her husband, but she made it clear to her relatives that they need not plan another marriage for her, as she was going to enter a convent. In order to live a life of complete renunciation, she decided to found a convent of her own at Alba in Liguria that would follow the ancient rule of Saint Dominic. Accordingly, she took over a cloister which had fallen into ruin, having only a few poor inhabitants, and rebuilt it for Dominican use. She dedicated the house to St. Mary Magdalen.

There is one very delightful story told of her sojourn in the convent. When she had been there many years, she one day had a young visitor; he was the son of one of her step-children. Hunting nearby, he had killed a doe, and he brought her the motherless fawn to tend. It was a pretty little animal, and it soon grew to be a pet. One legend was that the fawn was able to go and find any sister she would name, and, for several years, the animal had free rein of the halls and cells of the sisters. Perhaps it was true, though, since the house confessor told her that the deer must go. She took it to the gate and told it to go. It fled into the forest, and returned only when Margaret was about to die.

Margaret attained a high degree of contemplative prayer. One time Our Lord appeared to her and asked her whether she would rather suffer calumny, sickness, or persecution. Margaret generously accepted all three. Her offer was taken, and for the remaining years of her life she suffered intensely from all three sorrows (Dorcy). It should be noted that Saint Vincent Ferrer influenced Margaret to join the Dominican tertiaries (Benedictines).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blessed Adrian of Dalmatia

Today is the memorial of Bl. Adrian of Damatia. There is not much knowledge available about this 13th century Dominican missionary who was martyred by Muslims. 27 companions were martyred with him and their names have been lost to us.

Mercifully hear, O lord, we beseech Thee, the prayers of Thy Church: that, all adversities and errors being done away, we may serve Thee with a pure and undisturbed devotions. Amen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Continually Expanding Insanity

Jesus should not have anything to do with Christmas. You have mental health problems if you depitct Jesus dead on a cross!

This is the message a Massachusetts public school system is endorsing.
Taughton, MA, which has the official ironic nickname The Christmas City, has gone completely through the looking glass.

A special needs 8-year-old boy drew a stick-figure of the crucified Jesus when his teacher asked the children in class to sketch something that reminded them of Christmas. The boy made the mistake of actually drawing Jesus. The boy was sent home from school suspended and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Here is the first place I learned of this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saint John of the Cross

Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross on the Ordinary (novus ordo) Roman Calendar.

This incredible priest, poet, mystic, reformer and Church Doctor is THE greatest Carmelite saint alongside his co-reformer St. Theresa of Avila.

Visit the site of the best men's Carmelite community in the U.S. by clicking here!


And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.

----- From his poem "The Dark Night of the Soul"

St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

immaculate conception
The Immaculate Conception by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Both the feast and doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was originally opposed by the Dominicans. Recognition of the feast goes back to the 7th century though it was not universal. Some speculate that the Church in Syria recognized it as far back as the 5th century!

It came to the Western Church from the East. It wasn't until 1476 that Pope Sixtus IV established it as a universal feast. Since the dogma was not officially defined, Catholics were not obliged to accept the dogma and this was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854 on the same ancient traditional date of the feast, December 8.

We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.

----- Pope Pius IX, 1854, ineffabilis Dei

We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.

--- St. Augustine (On Nature and Grace, 42)

immaculate conception
Immaculate Conception with Saints by Piero di Cosimo

In Praise of Mary Immaculate

You are all fair, O Mary;
the original stain is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the joy of Israel,
the honor of our people,
and the great advocate of sinners.
O Mary, Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful, pray for us;
intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary by Jean Bellegambe

Prayer of Pope Pius XII
on the centenury of the Immaculate Conception dogma

Enraptured by the splendor of thy heavenly beauty, and impelled by the anxieties of the world, we cast ourselves into thine arms, O Immacuate Mother of Jesus and our Mother, Mary, confident of finding in thy most loving heart appeasement of our ardent desires, and a safe harbor from the tempests which beset us on every side.

Though degraded by our faults and overwhelmed by infinite misery, we admire and praise the peerless richness of sublime gifts with which God has filled thee, above every other mere creature, from the first moment of thy conception until the day on which, after thine assumption into Heaven, He crowned thee Queen of the Universe.

O crystal fountain of faith, bathe our minds with the eternal truths! O fragrant Lily of all holiness, captivate our hearts with thy heavenly perfume! O Conqueress of evil and death, inspire in us a deep horror of sin, which makes the soul detestable to God and a slave of Hell!

O well-beloved of God, hear the ardent cry which rises up from every heart. Bend tenderly over our aching wounds. Convert the wicked, dry the tears of the afflicted and oppressed, comfort the poor and humble, quench hatreds, sweeten harshness, safeguard the flower of purity in youth, protect the holy Church, make all men feel the attraction of Christian goodness. In thy name, resounding harmoniously in Heaven, may they recognize that they are brothers, and that the nations are members of one family, upon which may there shine forth the sun of a universal and sincere peace.

Receive, O most sweet Mother, our humble supplications, and above all obtain for us that, one day, happy with thee, we may repeat before thy throne that hymn which today is sung on earth around thine altars: Thou art all-beautiful, O Mary! Thou art the glory, thou art the joy, thou art the honor of our people! Amen.

Taken from The Prayer Book, Father John P. O'Connell, M.A., S.T.D., 1954.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saint Ambrose

Today is the feast of Saint Ambrose of Milan, one of the original 4 Church Doctors.

A marvelous quote of St. Ambrose should be particularly meaningful to Dominicans:

He who read much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others. So Scripture says: “If the clouds are full, they will pour rain upon the earth."

PhotobucketBorn to the Roman nobility. Brother of Saint Marcellina and Saint Satyrus. Educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. Poet and noted orator. Convert to Christianity. Governor of Milan, Italy.

When the bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides; he impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but to prevent further violence, he assented, and on 7 December 374 he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.

Noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arians. His preaching helped convert Saint Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins. He called and chaired several theological councils during his time as bishop, many devoted to fighting heresy. Welcomed Saint Ursus and Saint Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. Proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

The title Honey Tongued Doctor was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers, wax refiners, etc.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Joseph Khang

Today the Dominicans remember St. Joseph Khang, one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

PhotobucketCatechist Joseph (Nguyen-duy-) Khang was born in the year 1832 in the Christian community of Cao-mai in the district of Tra-vi, province of Thai-binh. At age 16, after his father died, he said goodbye to his mother and entered the House of God with the intention of studying for the priesthood. The tempest of persecution that arose against the Christians changed all his plans. All the colleges and seminaries were closed.

The fate of catechist Joseph Khang was the same that befell Bishop Jerome Hermosilla with whom he was taken prisoner. His fidelity and constancy were admirable since he could have escaped. Nonetheless, he preferred to remain at the side of his master. He stated: “If the Bishop dies for the faith, so will I.” For, as the Latin poet said: “There is nothing than can be disturbed in the soul of the just man who is tenacious in his purpose,” especially if his fidelity is founded on a supernatural life.

Joseph was cruelly whipped several times and subjected to other tortures but he never let out a groan nor did he get depressed. On the contrary, he was always happy and peaceful, carrying himself with utmost dignity. He exhorted all with whom he came into contact to love God and venerate Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whom he had a special devotion. Joseph received the habit of a Lay Dominican and accompanied Bishop Hermosilla for three years. As the Vietnamese so aptly say: “He was the hands and feet of his master, Bishop Hermosilla.”

Joseph received the palm of martyrdom by decapitation on 6 December 1861, a few days after his beloved bishop was beheaded. His apostolate as a catechist and his martyrdom are an honor to all Lay Dominicans in Vietnam.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Saturday December


Mary to Sr. Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart (Lúcia dos Santos):

Look, my daughter, at my Heart encircled by these thorns with which men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation all those who, with the intention of making reparation to me, will, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the beads, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.

Friday, December 4, 2009

First Friday December

sacred heart

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Blessed Bernard and St. Lucy

Today is the memorial of two little known Dominicans, Blessed Bernard of Toulouse and St. Lucy the Chaste.

Bl. Bernard was a Dominican who was martyred in 1320 by being sawed in half by Albigensians.

St. Lucy the Chaste was a French Dominican tertiary who died 1420 in Spain having followed the great Dominican saint Vincent Ferrer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blessed Christian of Perugia

As it was missed yesterday, let's mention that yesterday was also the memorisl of Bl Christian of Perugia.

He was a contemporary of St. Dominic, being one of his first spiritual students. He helped to found the friary at Purugia, Italy that was established by Blessed Nicholas Palea. It was in Purugia that Franciscan writers record the famous meeting of St. Dominic and St. Francis.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Violence to Iraqi Christians Continues

The church of St. Ephrem in the city of Mosul was completely destroyed by explosives today by extremists. After the destruction, the neighboring Mother House of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine was attacked. It is a great blessing that there have been no casualties.

As we pray for the the end of all wars and the poor people of Iraq, make special intentions for its Christians and the good sisters that were attacked today!
Read the story about this at

Blessed John of Vercelli

Blessed John of Vercelli was 5'8" tall. he had a pointed chin, blue eyes - standard Northern Italian features. Although he was lame, walking with a limp on his right side, he walked barefoot. He used a walking stick everywhere he went (it was his symbol). He took a vow not to ride any kind of transportation. If you laid every mile, end to end, that he walked during the last nine years of his life, he walked around Europe three times!

Bl. John entered the Order of Preachers in the 1230. He was the sixth Master General of the order. The preaching from Bl. Jordon of Saxony led him to the order and John received the habit from him. He studied in Bologna and was ordained there in 1229, becoming a noted preacher. In 1232 he established a priory in Vercelli.

He had a great gift of peace-making and was sent to reconcile various conflicts in his day, such as conflicts between Venice & Genoa and France & Castile. This was a very difficult period with many heresies and bands of robbers. It was during this time the great Saint Peter the Martyr (aka of Verona) was killed by heretics.

He was commissioned by the pope to draw up the Schema for the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274. This council would lay the groundwork for the founding of the Holy Name Society still in existence! It was also at that council he met the future Pope Nicholas IV; they would later be called together using John's great peace-keeping skills to help in a dispute involving King Philip III of France.

He personally knew many great saints & blesseds that were his contemporaries: St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, King St. Louis IX and Peter of Tarentaise (the future Pope Innocent V).

He became Master General of the Order in 1264 and remained so until his natural death in 1283. He made personal visits (on foot, see above) to most of the Dominican houses encouraging them in their observance of the rule.

After the death of Pope Clement IV, Bl. John was almost elected pope! He was warned of the possibility which frightened him and he fled. Toward the end of his life he was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined.

My personal favorite Bl. John of Vercelli story:

Tradition says that during the translation of the relics of Saint Dominic de Guzman 1267, when the body was exposed to view, the head was seen to turn towards Blessed John. Embarrassed, John moved to another part of the church, giving his place to a cardinal. The head of Saint Dominic was seen by all to turn again toward John.