A Catholic Monthly Magazine

December Saints

by Kilian de Lacy

20 March

Saint Joseph Bilczewski

Joseph Bilczewski was born in Wilamowice, Poland. After primary schooling, he attended high school at Wadowice until 1880.

In 1884, Joseph was ordained a priest and undertook further studies in theology, after which he became professor of Dogmatic Theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli. During his tenure at the University, he was appreciated by his students and colleagues alike. He dedicated himself to scientific work and acquired fame as a man of learning. The Emperor of Austria presented Monsignor Joseph to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant Metropolitan See of Leopoli and he was named Archbishop of Leopoli.

Upon taking possession of the Archdiocese of Leopoli, he spelled out very clearly his pastoral plan which can be summed up in the words “totally sacrifice oneself for the Holy Church.” Among other things, he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Holy Communion. In caring for his large diocese, he became known for his abundant goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal, which sprang from his immense love for God and neighbour.

A particular form of his pastoral action was found in the pastoral letters and appeals addressed to the priests and the faithful of the Archdiocese. Above all, he took great care to cultivate many holy priestly vocations. He saw the priest as first and foremost a teacher of faith and an instrument of Christ, a father for the rich as well as for the poor. 

He dedicated a great deal of care to the preparation of children and to full participation in the Mass, desiring that every catechesis would lead children and young people to the Eucharist. On social issues he always stood on the side of the people and of the poor. During his 23 years of pastoral service he changed the face of the Archdiocese of Leopoli. He died in 1923.

St Joseph, help us to give ourselves completely to the service of God.

17 June

St Joseph-Marie Cassant

Joseph-Marie Cassant was born at Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, France. As a child he attended the boarding school of the
La Salle Brothers in Casseneuil, and it was there that his poor memory began to cause him difficulty in studying.

Despite a solid Christian education at home and at school, and a deep desire to become a priest, his weak memory kept him from entering the minor seminary. When it became clear that he was drawn towards silence, recollection and prayer, his parish priest suggested he should think of the Trappists. The sixteen-year-old unhesitatingly agreed and entered the Cistercian Abbey of Sainte-Marie du Désert, Toulouse, France, in 1894.

The young monk would often meditate upon Jesus in his Passion and on the Cross, and so became deeply imbued with love for Christ and was led to depend more and more on Jesus, his strength. His personal motto bears witness to his wholehearted dedication: "All for Jesus, all through Mary." He made his final vows in 1900.

Then came his preparation for the priesthood. This he viewed primarily in relation to the Eucharist, which was truly to him the living presence of Jesus among us. There were times during his theological studies when, because of his great sensitivity, he suffered much from the lack of understanding of the monk teaching the course. In the end, he did well enough to pass his examinations and was ordained in 1902.

At that point it became clear that he had contracted tuberculosis and that the disease was already well advanced. In spite of a seven week stay with his family which he undertook at his abbot's request, his health continued to deteriorate. He then returned to the monastery, where he was soon sent to live in the infirmary. Here was one more opportunity to offer up his sufferings for Christ and the Church: his physical pain became more and more unbearable and was worsened by the infirmarian's neglect. He died in 1903.

St Joseph-Marie, obtain for us a deep devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. 

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