SAINTS AND BLESSEDS
Many saints and blesseds have been connected to the Apostleship of Prayer, perhaps by being instrumental in our founding or devoted to our spiritual program in their own lives. We give those we know here, along with a little background.
Saint Therese of Lisieux
Saint Therese joined the Apostleship of Prayer on October 15, 1885 when she was twelve years old. The practice of the Daily Offering planted the seeds for her great spiritual doctrine known as "The Little Way." In her autobiography, she wrote that she had great desires: to be an apostle, a missionary, even a priest, and a martyr. But how could she fulfill these desires? She was a cloistered Carmelite nun. She wrote:
MY VOCATION IS LOVE! Yes, I have found my place in the Church and it is You, O my God, who have given me this place; in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be Love. Thus I shall be everything, and thus my dream will be realized. But how will she prove her love since love is proved by works? Well, the little child will strew flowers, she will perfume the royal throne with their sweet scents, and she will sing in her silvery tones the canticle of Love. Yes, my Beloved, this is how my life will be consumed. I have no other means of proving my love for you other than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love.
Saint Therese tells the story of Pranzini, a man who had murdered two women and a young girl and had been sentenced to death. All reports were that he was going to his death angry and bitter and unrepentant. Therese, only fourteen at the time, committed herself to praying and offering up sacrifices for his conversion. The day after his execution she secretly read the newspaper account of his death. Here is how she wrote about it:
Pranzini had not gone to confession. He had mounted the scaffold and was preparing to place his head in the formidable opening, when suddenly seized by an inspiration, he turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance!
Young Therese called Pranzini her "first child."
This is "The Little Way" of Saint Therese which Blessed Mother Teresa also followed: to do everything as an act of love for God, to offer all the little (and big) hardships of life for the conversion of sinners.
Imagine Saint Therese arriving in heaven after her death at the age of twenty-four. Who do you think was the first person to meet her? Her mother Zelie? Her father Louis? Perhaps the first person to meet her on her arrival in heaven was a man with a big smile on his face who could hardly wait to thank her for the role her prayers and sacrifices played in getting him there... a murderer named Pranzini.
Read an article on Saint Therese and the Sacred Heart by Maureen O'Riordan
For more information on Saint Therese, visit www.thereseoflisieux.org.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio Frassati, another member of the Apostleship of Prayer, was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. His father Alfredo, was the founder and director of the newspaper, "La Stampa," and was influential in Italian politics, holding positions as an Italian Senator and Ambassador to Germany.
At an early age, Pier Giorgio joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer.
He developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. At the age of 17, in 1918, he joined the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.
What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. His charity did not simply involve giving something to others, but giving completely of himself. This was fed by daily communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist and by frequent nocturnal adoration, by meditation on Saint Paul's "Hymn of Charity" (I Corinthians 13), and by the writings of Saint Catherine of Siena. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone (near Turin) because, as he said, "If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?"
Just before receiving his university degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. Neglecting his own health because his grandmother was dying, after six days of terrible suffering Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925.
His last preoccupation was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand he scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to take the medicine needed for injections to be given to Converso, a poor sick man he had been visiting.
Pier Giorgio's funeral was a triumph. The streets of the city were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family. The poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years. Many of these people, in turn, were surprised to learn that the saintly young man they knew had actually been the heir of the influential Frassati family.
On May 20, 1990, in Saint Peter's Square which was filled with thousands of people, the Pope beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati, calling him the "Man of the Eight Beatitudes".
His mortal remains, found completely intact and incorrupt upon their exhumation on March 31, 1981, were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to the cathedral in Turin. Many pilgrims, especially students and the young, come to the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio to seek favors and the courage to follow his example.
(Biography excerpted from FrassatiUSA)
Saint John Paul II
Saint John Paul II was a true supporter of the Apostleship of Prayer. Throughout his life and his pontificate he encouraged people to adhere totally to Christ, and he felt that the Daily Offering, in union with the Sacrifice of the Mass, was the practice of our love for God and for others.
Saint John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, with the name of Karol Josef Wojtyla. He was the youngest of three children born to Karol and Emilia. He lost his family at a very young age; his sister Olga died before he was born, his mother died in 1920, and his brother Edmund in 1932. His father lived a life of constant prayer. Later, Saint John Paul III remembered that, "Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary."
Young Karol was intelligent and kind. He enjoyed sports and drama. After graduating high school, Karol enrolled in the Jagellonian University in 1938. As World War II broke out in Europe, Karol's university was closed and he had to work in a quarry and a chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany. Tragedy again struck the young man in 1941 when his father passed away. Soon after, Karol answered his call to the priesthood and joined the underground seminary in Krakow, and continued his studies there and at the Jagellonian University after the war's end. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 1, 1946.
Father Wojtyla was sent to Rome where he finished a doctorate in theology. He was named pastor of various parishes and chaplain to university students, and later became professor of moral theology and social ethics at the Krakow seminary. In 1958 he was named auxiliary bishop, and he was elevated to archbishop of Krakow in 1964. Three years later, in 1967, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal.
Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope by the College of Cardinals on October 16, 1978.
Saint John Paul II was a tireless missionary. He encouraged peace in the world and met for dialogue with representatives of other religions. His love for young people led him to establish World Youth Day, which he celebrated 19 times during his pontificate. He also demonstrated his love for families, and instituted the World Meetings of Families in 1994. He canonized 482 saints and beatified 1338 blesseds to provide examples of holiness to people of our time. He named Saint Therese of Lisieux a doctor of the Church. He wrote countless letters, encyclicals, exhortations, and constitutions, as well as five books of his own.
As Pope, Saint John Paul II urged the faithful to offer their days to God. On the occasion of the Apostleship's 150th Anniversary in 1994, he wrote "...it is obvious how urgent it is for members of the Apostleship of Prayer to be involved in the service of the new evangelization... As such it has performed an important service during the past hundred and fifty hears by giving new life to people's awareness of how valuable their lives are to God for the building up of the Kingdom. He referred to the Apostleship of Prayer as a "precious treasure from the Pope's heart and the Heart of Christ."
Saint John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 after a pontificate of almost 27 years. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, 2011.
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, known as Marguerite-Marie in her native France, piously promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From the time she was a young child, Margaret had a love for the Blessed Sacrament, and preferred silence and prayer over typical play. After receiving first Holy Communion at the age of nine, she practiced mortification secretly, until paralysis left her confined to her bed for four years. She made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to pursue religious life and was then instantly restored to health. During her adolescence, at a time when Margaret's family was suffering in poverty due to the death of her father and an injustice done to a relative, the girl sought solace in the Blessed Sacrament. She received visions of Christ during these years. She was not surprised by these visions, assuming such events occurred to all people.
After joining the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in 1671, she began in 1673 to receive visions revealing the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was rebuffed by her superior and by theologians for a time about the validity of the visions, but remained humble, obedient, and charitable to those who persecuted her until the truth of the mission given to her by Our Lord convinced those who opposed her.
The task given her by Christ was to teach and encourage devotion to His Sacred Heart. It was based on this inspiration that Saint Margaret Mary was moved to establish the Holy Hour and Sacred Heart Devotion in the modern form. Prior to this time, there was a devotion to the love of Jesus and to the wounded Heart of Christ, but not established as the devotion is today. The practice encouraged by the saintly woman, at the guidance of Christ, included the Holy Hour on Thursdays, to share in the mortal sadness He endured when abandoned by His Apostles in His Agony, and to receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. Additionally, He appointed through Saint Margaret Mary for the Friday after the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
Margaret Mary was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
Saint Claude de la Colombiere
Claude de la Colombiere is best known for his association with Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and the devotion of the Sacred Heart, but his life has its own drama. He was sent to England after his spiritual direction of Saint Margaret Mary was over and became embroiled in the Titus Oates "Popish Plot," was imprisoned, then banished from England.
He was born near Lyons in 1641 and entered the Society of Jesus at Avignon. After his novitiate, he taught grammar and the humanities. Even before his ordination to the priesthood, he gained a reputation as a preacher. After completing his studies in Paris, he became tutor to the sons of Colbert, the financial minister of Louis XIV, but was dismissed from his post and returned to Avignon.
In 1675, after his solemn profession as a Jesuit, he was appointed superior at Paray-le-Monial, in which the convent of Saint Margaret Mary was located. Here he became her spiritual director, encouraged her in the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and was described by our Lord as His "faithful and perfect friend."
Because of his remarkable gifts and judgment, he was sent to England, to be court preacher to the duchess of York, wife of the future James II, and took up residence in London. His radiant personality and splendid gifts were noted by everyone. When the alleged "Popish Plot" to assassinate King Charles II shook the country, Blessed Claude was accused of complicity in the plot and imprisoned. Through the intervention of Louis XIV of France, he was released, then banished from the country. He spent his last years at Paray-le-Monial, his health broken.
He died on February 15, 1682, an apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1992.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, was born in 1491 in the Basque Country of Northern Spain to a distinguished family. He was the youngest of 13 children. At the age of 15, he served as a page in the court of a local nobleman and later embraced a military career and became a valiant soldier.
Wounded in battle by a cannonball, which broke one leg and injured the other, he was taken prisoner by the French, who set his leg and eventually allowed him to go home to Loyola. He spent his time recuperating at the home of his brother. Confined to his sick bed , he was given pious books to read, which he grudgingly accepted. To his surprise, he enjoyed them and began to dream of becoming a "knight for Christ", pursuing the ideals of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. He eventually promised to devote his life to being a knight for Saint Peter if he recovered, which he did after nine months of convalescence.
Ignatius noticed that after doing good deeds for the Lord, he felt peaceful -- which he termed as a "consolation", but when he thought of being a successful soldier or of impressing a beautiful woman where he had initially felt enthused, he later felt dry. Through this process of discernment, Ignatius was able to recognize that God was leading him to follow a path of service. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises".
After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Despite his humble and austere lifestyle, he attracted many followers at the university, including Saint Francis Xavier, and soon started his order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. He travelled to Europe and the Holy Land, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits. His health suffered in later years, and he was nearly blind at death. He died in 1556 at the age of 65. He was canonized in 1622.
Saint Caterina Volpicelli
Caterina Volpicelli was born into an upper middle-class Neapolitan family on 21 January 1839 from which she received a sound human and religious formation. She was taught literature, languages and music at the Royal Educational Institute of St Marcellino by Margherita Salatino (the future foundress, with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria, of the Franciscan Grey Sisters of St Elizabeth). She belongs to that array of "apostles of the poor and marginalized" who in 19th-century Naples were a sign of the presence of Christ, the Good Samaritan, who comes close to all who are injured in body and spirit. Caterina had been trying to outshine her sister in society, frequently going to the theatre and the ballet, but prompted by the Lord's Spirit who revealed God's plan to her through the voice of wise and holy spiritual directors, she soon gave up the transient pleasures of an elegant and carefree life, to adhere with generous decision to a vocation of perfection and holiness.
Her chance meeting with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria on 19 September 1854 at La Palma, Naples, as she herself says, was "a rare stroke of prevenient grace, charity and favour from the Sacred Heart, delighted by the poverty of his servant". Bl. Ludovico led her to join the Third Order Franciscans and indicated to her the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the one goal of her life, inviting her to remain in society to be a "fisher of souls". Guided by her confessor, the Barnabite Fr. Leonardo Matera, on 28 May 1859 Caterina entered the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, but she soon left, for serious health reasons. Caterina's confessor showed her the monthly leaflet of the Apostleship of Prayer in France; from him she received detailed information about this new association with the diploma of Messenger, the first in Naples. In July 1867, Fr. Ramiere visited the palace of Largo Petrone in Naples, where Caterina was considering establishing her apostolic activities "to revive love for Jesus Christ in hearts, in families and in society". The Apostleship of Prayer would be the cornerstone of Caterina's whole spiritual edifice and would permit her to cultivate her ardent love of the Eucharist and her outreach to others.
With the first messengers, on 1 July 1874, Caterina founded the new institute of "Servants of the Sacred Heart", at first approved by the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, the Servant of God Sisto Riario Sforza, and later, on 13 June 1890, by Pope Leo XIII who granted the new religious family the "Decree of praise".
Concerned about the lot of the young, she then opened the orphanage of the Margherites, founded a lending library and set up the Association of the Daughters of Mary, with the wise guidance of Venerable Mother Rosa Carafa Traetto (d. 1890).
She soon opened other houses: in Naples, in the Sansevero Palace and then at the La Sapienza Church in Ponticelli, where the Servants distinguished themselves in nursing cholera victims in 1884 and in Minturno, Meta di Sorrento and Rome. On 14 May 1884, the new Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Guglielmo Sanfelice, osb, consecrated the Shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which Caterina Volpicelli had had built next to the Mother House of her institutions. She built it specifically for adoration in reparation, as requested by the Pope, to support the Church in difficult times for religious freedom and Gospel proclamation. Caterina's participation in the first National Eucharistic Congress celebrated in Naples in 1891 (19-22 November), crowned the apostolate of the Foundress of the Servants of the Sacred Heart. Caterina Volpicelli died in Naples on 28 December 1894, offering her life for the Church and for the Holy Father.
She was canonized April 25, 2009 at Saint Peter's Square.
Blessed Louis Guanella
Fr. Guanella was born in 1842, died in 1915, and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1964. On July 1, 2010 Pope Benedict approved a miracle attributed to his intercession, thus opening the way for his canonization. He founded two orders: for women, The Daughters, and for men, the Servants of Charity. This wasn't their original name. They were first called the Sons of the Sacred Heart, but Fr. Guanella changed that so they would not be confused with other men's congregations.
It's clear, though, that devotion to the Sacred Heart was the inspiration for all he did. His early biographer, Fr. Leonardo Mazzucchi, of the Servants of Charity, in his book 'The Life, the Spirit and the Works of Father Louis Guanella," wrote: "He had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at a time when very few people practiced it. This devotion was to be the most fruitful source of his angelic piety, the inspiration of his particular love for the Blessed Sacrament and his practice of daily communion... Therefore, he then and always thereafter promoted the Apostleship of Prayer, which is a useful and important form of this devotion" (page 19).
The love of the Heart of Jesus led him to especially love those who were most abandoned - the poor, the developmentally disabled, the elderly. Prayer led to service. This too is part of the Apostleship of Prayer. His biographer, Fr. Mazzucchi, wrote: "In February 1894, Father Louis wrote: 'We must always pray, but at this time it is necessary that we make prayer a real apostolate.' So he presented the Apostleship of Prayer, which he wanted to institute in the Church of the Sacred Heart... Later he wrote: 'The Apostleship of Prayer is like the center of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The prayer of the agonizing Jesus pierces the Heart of God. This prayer, thus passing through the Sacred Heart, penetrates heaven and earth. In supplicating, the fervent Christian imitates this prayer of the Divine Incarnate Word. Thus the prayer of the good people sustains the world today, that it may not crash under the weight of iniquity'" (page 90).