Francis was born in Paola, Italy, around 1416. He was the founder, in 1436, of the Minim Friars (so called because they wished to be the least of all friars) with men who were attracted to him in his solitude as a hermit. The order spread quickly with the fame of its founder, who was gifted with powers of miracle and prophecy, but it did not lack setbacks, St Francis being at one time threatened with imprisonment by the king of Naples. He was specially sent for by the dying Louis XI of France and was honoured by the king’s two successors, who would not let him return to Italy. He died in 1507, and in 1943 was made patron of seafarers. Saint Francis, obtain for us a love of being alone with God.
(Source: A new dictionary of saints. Comp. by Donald Attwater. Burns & Oates, Kent 1993)
Called the ‘beggar of Rome’, Benedict was born in Amettes, France, in 1748, the eldest of eighteen children. Studying under his uncle, a parish priest, Benedict tried to join the Trappists, Carthusians and the Cistercians but was refused entry by all three.
In 1770, he made a pilgrimage to the major shrines of Europe, settling in Rome in 1774. There he lived near the Colosseum and earned fame for his sanctity. Benedict was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and attended the Forty Hours devotion in the city. He died in 1783.
Saint Benedict, give us a true love of the Blessed Sacrament.
(Source: OSV encyclopedia of saints. Matthew, Margaret & Stephen Bunson. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Indiana. 2003)
Maria, the fifth of thirteen children, was born in Faglavik, Sweden, in 1870 and was baptised and received into the Reformed Church of Sweden. Her childhood was lived out in various places because times were hard and the family was forced to move several times just to survive.
At the age of 18, Maria emigrated to New York to seek work which would support the family. She studied nursing at Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital and devoted herself to caring for the sick in their homes. Through her work she met many Catholics whose example opened her heart to the Catholic faith.
Through prayer, personal study and a deep daughterly devotion to the Mother of God, she was decisively led to the Catholic Church, receiving conditional baptism in 1902. She wrote of that experience: In an instant, the love of God was poured over me. I understood that I could respond to that love only through sacrifice and a love prepared to suffer for his glory and for the Church. Without hesitation, I offered Him my life, and my will to follow Him on the Way of the Cross. God was to take her at her word.
Two days later, she received her First Holy Communion, then left for Europe. At her Confirmation in Rome, she felt clearly called to devote herself to the unity of Christians under the patronage of Saint Bridget of Sweden.
In 1906, she took professed vows in the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of Saint Bridget and set about trying to establish a Bridgettine community in Rome. The Order, however, was in recessive mode, so her efforts to revitalise it failed. Eventually, in 1911, she welcomed three young English postulants in Rome and refounded the Order, whose particular mission was to pray and work, especially for the unity of Scandinavian Christians with the Catholic Church.
During the Second World War, Maria performed great works of charity on behalf of the poor and those suffering racial discrimination; she promoted a movement for peace involving both Catholics and non-Catholics; she multiplied her ecumenical endeavours and her efforts were the start of the journey towards Catholicism for many people.
Maria was filled with care and concern for all those with whom she had contact. She walked with God, clinging to the cross of Christ. Throughout her life, she remained faithful to what she had written in 1904: Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you, Spouse of my soul.” She died in 1957.
Blessed Maria, teach us to treat with respect all others’ religious beliefs.