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Displaying items by tag: Calendar of Feasts and Memorials

Monday, 18 March 2024 14:20

St. Joseph, A Saint For Our Time

In a lovely little booklet on St Joseph, Cardinal Suenens wrote:

“It has been said that the worst thing we can do to the saints is to put them on pedestals. In Joseph’s case, we might criticise not only the pedestal, but also the image of him with which we are all too often presented.”[1] 

Another contemporary French writer A. Doze speaks of “misinformation” about him, and says that to misinform is to spread false rumours the better to lead people astray.[2]

Yet Saint Joseph is in some ways a shadowy figure. There is little about him in the New Testament, indeed one might wonder who his father was, since there is some discrepancy in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke: Matthew appears to think his father’s name was Jacob (see Matt 1:16); Luke seems to have him as the son of Heli (see Luke 3:23). At times Joseph appears to be airbrushed out of history. One finds pictures of the Adoration of the Magi with three or four eastern figures, but no Joseph. Yet one cannot deny the aptness of the title of a book popular in the middle of the last century, The Man Closest to Christ.[3] He has always had a secure place in the hearts of Catholic Christians throughout the second millennium.

In recent decades there has been renewed attention to him on the part of theologians and spiritual writers. There are two academic journals devoted to studies concerning the saint: Cahiers de joséphologie, published in Montreal since 1953 and Estudios josefinos from Valladolid since 1947. Pope John Paul II gave the Church a letter on the saint, “Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.”[4]

There has been interest in Saint Joseph throughout the centuries. At times these have been a direct reflection of what is happening in society; at other times we see devotion to St Joseph almost as parallel or even in denial of the reality of the Church’s difficulties. Again, writing about him has had various aims. Some writers have given us truths about Joseph. Others have suggested that he is a model to be imitated. Many have spoken about his intercession. Two are particularly significant. The French School’s concerns invite us not so much to imagine for ourselves details of the hidden life, as to enter into it intuitively and with empathy. Teresa of Avila would seem to go further: she has a dynamic living relationship with the saint.

Contemporary Insights

The 20th century has given us some important developments in the theology and devotion of St Joseph. There are some theological insights of quality in this period, often from surprising sources. We could note two. The great Calvinist theologian, K. Barth, who saw Mariology as the arch-heresy of Rome, had a special place for Joseph. He famously said:

“If I were a Roman Catholic theologian, I would lift Joseph up. He took care of the Child; he takes care of the Church.”[5] 

Another is the Reformed Church theologian, J.J. von Allmen, who criticises the Vatican II Constitution on the Church for failing even to mention St Joseph in its eighth chapter on “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church,” even though the Council referred to Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon. He went on to say that Joseph is essential for a grasp of the Jewishness and the Messianism of Jesus.[6] One can readily agree that people may have a genuine devotion to Joseph, but may not advert sufficiently to him in considering the mystery of the Incarnation.

In this section we shall consider two sources for our understanding of Joseph for our time: the liturgy, and papal teaching in the 20th century, especially the apostolic exhortation of John Paul II, “Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.”[7]


Modern theology strongly affirms an ancient truth, that the liturgy is a major source of theology. The aphorism frequently transposed and variously translated, lex credendi...lex orandi,[8] shows as a minimum the interpenetration of faith and worship. The facts of liturgical evolution concerning St Joseph can be briefly outlined.

Liturgical celebrations in honour of Joseph were at first diocesan or confined to religious orders or congregations. With the liturgical reforms after Trent the feast of St Joseph became universal, and was given a higher rank when Pius IX proclaimed Joseph “Patron of the Church” during the First Vatican Council (8 December 1870). The 1917 Code of Canon Law laid it down as a holiday of obligation.[9] A problem arose from its celebration in Lent, and thus without full solemnity or an octave. There was another feast found as early as the 17th century called the Patronage of St Joseph, later called the Solemnity of St Joseph. This was celebrated on the Wednesday in the second week after Easter. Pius XII, who was very much concerned with the menace of communism, changed this to a feast of Joseph the Worker, and assigned it to 1 May, the Marxist Mayday. Like so many liturgical innovations that are imposed by authority rather than arising from the grassroots, this feast never really took hold and in the 1969 liturgical reform it was reduced to an optional memorial.

Though it is not a liturgical text, one could note the approval of the Litany to St Joseph in 1909. The Church has been quite wary about litanies in recent centuries, as they can be so exuberant or far-fetched that contact is lost with truth. Local bishops could no longer approve them for public recitation after the 1917 Code of Canon Law.[10] At first the litany of St Joseph was for private use only, later the restriction was lifted.[11]

The texts of the Masses for the feasts of St Joseph before Vatican II stressed the powerful intercession of the saint. They called him the spouse (sponsus) of the Mother of the Son. Thus for the feast the main prayer was:

“Let the merits of thy all-holy Mother’s husband assist us, Lord, we pray; through his intercession may we be granted that which no effort of our own could win for us.”

The revised liturgy has “Father, you entrusted our Saviour to the care of St Joseph. By the help of his prayers may your Church continue to serve its Lord Jesus Christ.”[12]

And for Joseph the Worker we have:

“God our Father, creator and ruler of the universe, in every age you call on people to use their gifts for the good of others. With St Joseph as our example and guide, help us to do the work you have asked and come to the reward you have promised.”

More interesting is the preface, especially when we remember that the preface in any Mass is a statement why we today should give God thanks in the Eucharist we are now celebrating. They key section reads:

“Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks as we honour St Joseph. He is that just man that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family. With a husband’s love he cherished Mary, the virgin Mother of God (A te Deiparae Virgini Sponsus est datus). With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ the choirs of angels praise and worship...”

We should not forget that John XXIII inserted the name of St Joseph into the Roman Canon [now First Eucharist Prayer] before the names of the apostles.

In our modern liturgy we see the main themes of devotion highlighted: Joseph is husband of Mary, Guardian of Holy Family, foster father of Jesus and model of the Church which relies on his intercession. To find further developments we have to turn to papal teaching in the 20th century.

Papal teaching

Except for John Paul I who died very soon after becoming pope, all the popes of the 20th century have spoken about St Joseph. They generally encourage the Church to see him as a model for workers, married people and protector of the Church. As in previous centuries considerations of the state of the Church and the world determine the particular points that are made by the popes. Thus Benedict XV sees him as an antidote to denials of what is sacred,[13] Pius XI makes him a patron of the Church’s fight against Communism,[14] John XXIII summarised the teaching of his predecessors and proclaimed him protector of Vatican II.[15]

In minor documents two of the popes made daring suggestions which have not been widely taken up by theologians. Pius XI suggested that Joseph belonged in some way to the Hypostatic Union, at least in so far as he received revelation about it.[16] The trouble with Hypostatic Union language used about St Joseph, and even about the Blessed Virgin, is that it is easily open to misunderstanding. By the time one has explained what it might mean, one might be better off using alternative language. John XXIII, a great devotee of Joseph, mentioned in a canonisation homily the pious belief, occasionally found in earlier centuries, that Joseph, like John the Baptist, were assumed into heaven on the day of the Ascension.[17]

The papal exhortation, “Guardian of the Redeemer”

By far the most important papal teaching on St Joseph to date is the already mentioned apostolic exhortation of John Paul II Redemptoris custos (RC).[18] The occasion was the

centenary of the first encyclical on St Joseph by Leo XIII, Quam pluries (1889). The pope gives also a deepened ecclesiology, or theology of the Church, as a reason for writing:

“I am convinced that by reflection upon the way in which Mary’s spouse shared in the divine mystery, the Church—on the road towards the future with all humanity—will be enabled to discover ever anew her own identity within this redemptive plan, which is founded on the mystery of the incarnation.” (RC 1)

The apostolic exhortation takes up many of the points traditionally made in writings about St Joseph, in the liturgy and in previous teaching. He repeats the papal teaching for the last hundred years to the effect that Joseph is the greatest of the saints after Mary, but not of course her equal (RC 4, 7). The pope is not very well served by the official Vatican translation, which unfortunately carries over into English the dense and rather turgid style of the original Latin. We need not repeat the constant refrain about Joseph being a ”just man” (see Matt 1:19), except to note that the pope gives a very careful reading of the scriptural passages that concern Joseph. We concentrate rather on which is new and would seem to be more significant for our time.

Joseph in the divine planArt.Carmelite.Joseph.Statute.Middletown.450

It is worth noting that the pope gives a particular order in the role of Joseph:

“He took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing; he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body.” (RC 1)

A key to the exhortation is the fact that Joseph entered into and shared the mystery of redemption.

“The [Incarnation is] the mystery in which Joseph of Nazareth “shared” (commuicavit) like no other human being except Mary...he shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father ‘destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5).’” (RC 1)

One of the most important ideas of the pope is that of the faith of Joseph. Indeed he refers to two annunciations: the angel’s appearance to Mary at Nazareth (see Luke 1:26-38) and the angel’s appearance in a dream to Joseph (see Matt 1:18-25). The response of both is obedience: Mary said yes to the angel’s message; Joseph did what the angel commanded him (RC 2-3, 17). At the beginning of her “pilgrimage of faith... the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph” (RC 4): both are displaying the obedience of faith to the same mystery.(RC 4) In this way together with Mary Joseph became the guardian of the divine mystery of the Incarnation (RC 5).

Husband and father

The papal exhortation deals at some length with the double role of Joseph described in the gospel: he is husband of Mary and father of Jesus:

“And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary’s marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph’s fatherhood depends on it.” (R 7)

Mary and Joseph are husband and wife (RC 7, 17-21). The pope repeats the teaching of Sts Augustine and Thomas Aquinas about this marriage: “an indivisible union of souls, a union of hearts and consent” (RC 7). Since the second century the image of Mary as the New Eve has been taught—Christ being the New Adam (see Rom 5:14-19). But the pope looks again at the Genesis text and states:

“But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil, which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads over the earth. The Saviour began the work of salvation out of this virginal and sacred union” (ex virginali et sacra coniunctione incohavit­ RC 7).

He immediately makes an application to family life, for it “has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” and has so much to learn from the Holy Family, which was truly “the original domestic Church that every Christian family” must reflect (RC 7). Indeed, “The Church deeply venerates this Family and proposes it as the model of all families” (RC 21). A Catholic theology that focuses too exclusively on Mary can forget the deep human love between her and her husband, a point drawn out by the pope:

“‘Joseph took his wife, but he knew her not until she had borne a son’ (Matt 1:24-25). These words indicate another kind of closeness in marriage. The deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman have their definite origins in the Spirit, the Giver of Life (see John 6:63). Joseph in obedience to the Spirit, found in the Spirit, the source of love, the conjugal love which he experienced as man. And this love proved to be greater that this “just man” could ever have expected within the limits of his human heart.” (RC19)

John Paul quotes from the encyclical of Leo XIII who noted that marriage is a sharing. So Joseph was not just Mary’s protector, but God “gave Joseph to Mary in order that he might share, through the marriage pact, in her own sublime greatness” (RC 20). We are familiar with the bridal symbolism of Christ and the Church,[19] but Pope John Paul notes that the two kinds of love between Mary and Joseph, marital and virginal, together represent the mystery of the Church (RC 20). Some modern authors use the term “complementary missions” of Mary and Joseph.[20]

The exhortation sums up scriptural, liturgical and papal traditions in speaking of the fatherhood of Joseph: he made his life a service of the Incarnation; he had legal authority over the Holy Family; he watched over the Son of God with fatherly care; he showed Jesus all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart could know; he is entrusted with all the so-called “private” or “hidden” life of Jesus. Jesus in turn “obeyed him and rendered to him that honour and reverence that children owe to their father” (RC 8). It is a genuine, not substitute fatherhood: it is fatherhood “that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family” (RC 21). Both Luke and Mathew note that Joseph takes on the role of father by naming the child, Jesus (RC 7, 12). The words of Mary confirm the Nazareth reality, “your father and I have been searching for you” (Luke 2:48, see RC 15), which Luke elsewhere attests speaking of Jesus’ parents (Luke 2:33, 41—RC 21).

We find a summary of Joseph’s role with regard to be Jesus and Mary in the pope’s comment about the stay in Egypt: “Joseph, guardian and co-operator in the providential mystery of God...watched over the one who brings about the New Covenant” (RC 14).

The hidden life in Nazareth is carefully described

“The growth of Jesus “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of “raising” Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.”

And this passage ends with the picture of Jesus at work at the side of Joseph (RC 16, see 22­ 23).

Nazareth: work and the interior life

Pope John Paul II, as one might expect, presents Joseph as a worker and thus a model for all Christians. There is a new development in that work is said to be “the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth” (RC 22). Following Paul VI the pope shows that holiness is open to all:

“St Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies...he is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need to do great things­ it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic” (RC 24).

The encyclical focuses on the interior life, “Daily Joseph went about in companionship with the mystery hidden from all ages, which dwelt under his roof” (RC 25).[21] The pope looks draws consequences for spirituality and the inner life from the intimacy of the Nazareth home. Since love and healing came from Jesus in his ministry, we like Mary and Joseph must come deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation. In Joseph the two lives contemplative and active are ideally harmonised: in him we see the Augustinian love of the truth (caritas veritatis) joined to the demands of love (necessitas caritatis).

Patron of the Church

Every age, it seems, finds the Church threatened, especially the past hundred years since Joseph was made its Patron. The papal document points up various situations in which the example and the intercession of Joseph are needed: evangelisation and re-evangelisation, marriage, evangelical virtues, the sin and darkness that surround us, the need to serve Christ’s saving mission and to enter fully into the mystery of the Incarnation (RC 28-32).


The liturgy of the Church today and the papal teaching that we have been tracing give some important indicators for us today. We can no longer neglect a consideration of Joseph when we are studying Mariology. Though silent, Joseph is no peripheral figure in the plan of salvation. For our time his very silence is a strong challenge to values current in our society, the glorification of success, of achievement and of self-fulfilment. Joseph points to the supreme value of the interior life; he lives in total commitment to Jesus and to Mary. Joseph points to love and sacrifice as key standards in Christian marriage. In Mary and Joseph men and women find their truest identity. Likewise the Church.

I would like to emphasise the urgent need for further studies on Joseph in two areas, and from two sources. The Church needs to hear and learn from those who have marriages in which for one reason or another (health, social situations, free choice, etc.) there is no sexual intercourse. Their views on marriage could help us to understand much more about that husband and wife, who were Joseph and Mary. These have something to tell the Church which celibate theologians, male or female, cannot even begin to guess. Equally, we need to hear from fathers who have adopted children: what is their experience of bonding with their child? Men who have married women with children from a previous marriage may also have something to teach us in this regard. These two areas of study and sharing are just another example of how the Church’s life may be gravely deficient in not having an authentic lay to help articulate its spirituality and the humanity involved in its deepest truths.

[1] L.J. Suenens, Dear Saint Joseph (Ertvelde, Belgium: Edition F.I.A.T, 1994) 9.

[2] A. Doze, Saint Joseph: Shadow of the Father (New York: Alba House, 1992) 9. This book is also published as Discovering Saint Joseph (London: St Paul’s, 1991).

[3] F.L. Filas, The Man Closest to Christ: Nature and Historic Development of the Devotion to St Joseph (Milwaukee, 1944).

[4] Redemptoris custos (1989).

[5] An interview cited F.L. Filas, Joseph: The Man Closest to Jesus (Boston: St Paul, 1962) 462; see also Documentation catholique 60(1963) 403.

[6] “Remarques sur la Constitution dogmatique sur l’Église ‘Lumen gentium’,” Irénikon 1(1966) 5-45 at 22-24.

[7] Redemptoris custos, 15 August 1989.

[8] See Prosper of Aquitaine, Legem credendi statuit lex supplicandi (public prayer establishes the law of belief).

[9] 19 March, see canon 1247 § 1. There was a dispensation given later for those countries that celebrated the feast of St Patrick (17 March) as a holiday of obligation.

[10] Canon 1259 § 2.

[11] Raccolta n. 489, p. 413-415.

[12] The Latin is a good deal richer: Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, at humane salutes mysteries, cuius primordial beati Ioseph fideli costodiae commisisti, Ecclesia tua, ipso intercedente, iugiter servet implenda.

[13] Mp. Bonum sane 25 July 1920—AAS 12(1920) 313-317.

[14] Encyclical, Divini Redemptoris, 19 March 1937—AAS 29(1937) 106.

[15] Apost. Letter Le voci, 19 March 1961—AAS 53(1961) 205-213.

[16] References in Dictionnaire de spiritualité 8:1320.

[17] AAS 52(1960) 455-456 cited Dictionnaire de spiritualité 8:1320; see A. Doze, Joseph: Shadow of the Father 55-56.

[18] Translation: Guardian of the Redeemer (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1989 = Vatican translation); see also important commentary J.J. Davis, “Mary and Joseph in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris custos,” Marian Studies 42(1991) 133-171.

[19] See Eph 5:25-32 and Vatican II, Constitution on the Church, LG 5 and 7.

[20] E.g. P. Molinari and A. Hennessy, Giuseppe e Maria: Vocazione e missione di una coppia di sposi (Milan: San Paolo, 1993) 66-76 from English original The Vocation and Mission of Joseph and Mary (Dublin: Veritas, 1992).

[21] The official translation inexplicably omits the key word “daily” (cotidiano).

Author: Christopher O’Donnell, O.Carm

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Wednesday, 31 January 2024 16:57

Bl. Candelaria of St. Joseph, Virgin

1 February Optional Memorial in Latin America

Bl Candelaria was born Susana Paz-Castillo Ramírez in 1863. She enthusiastically welcomed the call of God to holiness, and since her youth, stood out in practicing living and effective charity, with which she cared for, consoled and healed the sick and wounded that strife had left on the streets of her birth city.

To read more

Homily at the Beatification Mass for Bl Candelaria 
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins

Caracas, Venezuela
Sunday – April 27, 2008

1. Listening to the words of Jesus in the Gospel just proclaimed, the stupendous reflections of St. Augustine come to mind, when he affirms that if, unfortunately, because of a fire the four Gospels were destroyed and only the words "God is love" were saved, the substance would have remained intact. In what religion is love everything, as in Christianity? The Christian faith is an act of love, as Benedict XVI reminded us in his first encyclical. The exordium of today's Gospel passage is emblematic: "Jesus says to his disciples: 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments.'" In this "if you love me" is the synthesis of Christianity.

He who loves does everything out of love, even the impossible things, without being weighed down by them, because he observes the interior law, which is more demanding than any external discipline. And because the language of love is not words but the union of the one who loves with the beloved, in the seven verses of this Sunday's Gospel Jesus speaks seven times of union. Indeed, to be in: expresses the fascinating verb of supreme and total union: the disciples are "in" Christ and Christ "is in" the Father.

2. The Church's liturgy, with wise pedagogy, is preparing us for the great Solemnity of Pentecost. The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, presents us with the Holy Spirit, received through the imposition of the hands of the Apostles. The Gospel, on which we are meditating, also speaks of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive as the Paraclete: which in Greek sometimes means Comforter, sometimes Advocate, or both. St. John insists in his Gospel on the title Paraclete, since historically the Church, after Easter, had a living and strong experience of the Spirit as consoler, defender, ally in internal and external difficulties, in persecutions and in everyday life. In the first centuries, when the Church is persecuted, she has the daily experience of trials and condemnations; it is then that she sees in the Comforter the divine advocate and defender against her human accusers. The Comforter is experienced as the one who assists the martyrs and who, before the judges, in the tribunals, puts on their lips the word that no one is able to refute. After the era of persecutions, the accent shifts and the predominant meaning is that of comforter in the tribulations and anguish of life.

In contemplating the Paraclete we feel the strength to honor and invoke the Holy Spirit, and to be ourselves other "paracletes," "comforters," in the full sense of the word, according to the divine measure. If it is true that the Christian must be alter Christus, another Christ, it is also true that he must be alter Paraclitus, another consoler.

To be consolers, paracletes, is a quality that all the saints have had in general: like the Good Samaritan, they have worked to soothe the wounds of so many brothers and sisters with the balm of mercy and the oil of Christian hope. With a soul full of joy today, contemplating the life and example of the new Venezuelan Blessed, and her charism that is transmitted in her work, through her daughters, the Carmelite Sisters of the Third Carmelite Order in Venezuela, we observe that a true "art of consoling" stands out as a dominant characteristic. In her simplicity, Mother Candelaria lived and proposes to us, with all its actuality, a true theology of consolation. This explains the facts of her daily life that, even with a simple word or gesture, always lived with her constant and ardent prayer and a lively and deep faith, she was able to get close to so many sick people. Certainly, it was God who "consoled" through her.

In the testimonies collected for her cause of beatification, it is striking to note how her love for God was intimately united to her love for her neighbor. In fact, from a very young age she dedicated herself to the service of others, in the care of the sick or in the catechesis of young people and adults, with her maternal attention to the sisters of her congregation. A life consumed by spending hours and hours at the bedside of the sick, to the point of starving herself to be able to feed the sick in a hospital and to make hard journeys to find money for the hospitals.

And so, year after year, always - and perhaps this is one of the most attractive characteristics of Blessed Candelaria–with great simplicity, without drama, always serene and ready to listen, without ever complaining about the people who made the life of Christian service difficult for her. A charity that reached the heroism: like being left without a bed to sleep in, for having given it to a sick person; preferring to take care of the most contagious sick or people who were enemies of the faith; assisting with maternal gentleness the lost women who were hospitalized. Her total dedication to her neighbor was such that even the most unbelieving doctors were amazed by the generous dedication of this small and simple sister.

4. The Blessed whom we venerate today testifies, with her entire life, that supernatural love is the basis of existence, that only love can change the life of human beings according to their deepest needs and that love consists in the gift of self, overcoming resistance and individualism in order to carry out the divine will.

The present beatification, manifesting this aspect of Blessed Candelaria's spirituality, invites us too, with docility to the Holy Spirit, to be dispensers of God's "consolation."

Blessed Candelaria accompanies us and invites us to take care of the terminally ill, of those suffering from AIDS, to concern ourselves with alleviating the loneliness of the elderly and the difficulties of so many different forms of poverty, to dedicate the necessary time to visiting the sick in hospitals. And how can we fail to think of those who dedicate themselves to helping children, victims of all kinds of abuses? We must also defend the rights of threatened minorities, such as some indigenous peoples of Latin America, and be the voice of the voiceless.

But her testimony, the one I am most interested in that reaches each one of us and all those who in the future will find the eloquent lesson of Blessed Candelaria, in addition to the moral values, which are great, is what is at its origin. I am referring to the living and active presence of the Risen Christ in her, which is palpably manifested in her boundless charity. In this sense, the Blessed who today has been raised to the honor of the altars belongs to that multitude of Christians who strongly manifest and show the presence of Christ in the men and women of today, pilgrims, who at times, forgetting their goal, walk without direction.

In today's Gospel Jesus tells the Apostles that he will ask the Father to send them the Comforting Spirit, so that he may always remain with them. And this "abiding" of the Spirit in our heart "transforms us into Christ," making us in the world, and in history, that is, in today's society–in the concrete environment in which we live–his living presence and credible witness. This happened in Mother Candelaria and it can happen in us. The Spirit forms Christ in us and makes us his imitators in our time and throughout our lives, as the Holy Father reminds us: "One does not begin to be a Christian by an ethical decision or a great idea, but by an encounter with an event, with a Person, which gives a new horizon to life and, with it, a decisive orientation" (Deus Caritas Est, 1).

The holiness of life of this flower of Venezuela, who is Mother Candelaria, one of the eminent fruits of the history of Catholicism in Latin America, affirms us in the experience so well described by Benedict XVI at the beginning of his pontificate: "There is nothing more beautiful than to have been touched, to have been surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. Nothing is more beautiful than to know him and to communicate friendship with him to others" (Homily, Sunday, April 24, 2005: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 29, 2005, p. 7). Therefore, while we rejoice in the beatification of Mother Candelaria and give thanks to God for it, let us allow ourselves to be surprised by the Gospel and make Christ the reason for our life.

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Monday, 29 January 2024 08:47

Blessed Archangela Girlani, virgin

January 29th | Optional Memorial in the Italian Provinces

Bl. Archangela took the Carmelite habit in the monastery of Parma in 1477 at the age of 17 where she took the name Archangela. She eventually became prioress of the monastery at Parma, and then prioress at the new foundation at Mantua from 1492 until her death.

It is written in an old manuscript that Blessed Archangela lived her religious life so intensely that, just as the monastery was entitled "Saint Mary in Paradise", she and the other nuns, even though still here on earth, lived as if already absorbed into heaven.

Read more ...

Published in Announcements (CITOC)

January 20 Optional Memorial (Obligatory Memorial in the Italian Provinces)

In a world known for its callous disregard for the poor and downtrodden, the example of Angelo Paoli is a refreshing breath of air. Angelo cared so well for his unfortunate brothers and sisters that he was known as “Father Charity” or “Father of the Poor.” Fortunately, he did more than just act as one kind individual he was an excellent motivator, who set many wheels of benevolence in motion at the dawn of the 18th century.

Humanity was an assumed way of life for young Paoli. He was born September 1, 1642, in the humble Tuscan town of Argigliano, not far north from the stone quarries of Massa Carrara. His parents, Angelo Paoli and Santa Morelli, decided to baptize their son Francesco, in honor of the benevolent saint of Assisi. They were devout peasants who provided a loving home for their seven children, where care for others was the essential element of life. As a young man, Paoli frequently looked for times when he could go off to remote and beautiful places to be alone in prayer. But he was equally zealous in teaching the Christian beliefs and virtues to the young people of his village. It was no surprise to his parents or anyone else when his devotion to Mary led him at age 18 to join the Carmelites at nearby Fivizzano.

He was sent to Siena for his novitiate year, and professed his vows in 1661, taking the religious name of Angelo to honor his father. After studying philosophy and theology in Pisa and Florence, he was ordained a priest in 1667. The first 20 years of his ministry were spent in the ordinary busy tasks of his Tuscan province. As a versatile and reliable friar, he worked in the communities of his native Argigliano, in Pistoia, and in Siena. He served as novice master in Florence, as pastor in Carniola, taught grammar to young students in Montecatini, and served as organist and sacristan in Fivizzano. Throughout this busy period, he continued his regular prayer in remote and beautiful places, and never lost sight of the poorest people who might need his help. He developed a special devotion to the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. He dramatized his devotion to the Cross by setting up several large wooden crosses in his favorite prayer settings, often on beautiful mountain tops. He would later place a large cross in Rome’s ruined Coliseum in memory of the martyrs who died there.

In 1687, his life changed dramatically when the Prior General, Paul of St. Ignatius, called him to Rome to join the community of San Martino ai Monti. The Prior General’s original plan was simply to have Angelo give good example to the community by his fervent observance of the religious life. But once he arrived, he was put in charge of the community’s finances. He immediately began to care for the teeming beggars and poor street people who filled Rome, amid the splendors of the glittering Baroque age. Angelo soon amazed his community members with the vast numbers of poor and hungry people who came to the monastery’s courtyard for their daily food. Some days there were as many as 300 people lining up to be fed. Even more remarkable was how Angelo found enough food, money and clothing to care for everyone who came he shyly claimed that there was always something in his pantry. Some Romans compared his largess with Jesus’ loaves and fish; others simply concluded that he had found secret patrons who wanted to remain nameless.

Angelo also found himself rapidly drawn to care for the sick. Not far from San Martino, there was a busy hospital at St. John Lateran, Rome’s cathedral. According to the custom of the time, the hospital cared primarily for the health and basic feeding of the patient, but such things as additional food, blankets, and clothing were often left to family members of the sick. For the poorest people, there was often no one to supply these needs. So, Angelo began to visit the twin wings of the hospital, one for men, and the other for women. He fed the hungriest patients, comforted, and counseled those in need, emptied bedpans, and saw to the most menial services. His visits increased to twice a day, especially when he was able to find other patrons and donors to support his efforts. He eventually found a location near the Coliseum where he organized and ran Rome’s first convalescent home for those discharged from the hospital, but still unable to care for themselves.

Part of Angelo’ s practical genius flowed from the fact that his strong spiritual life attracted many others to help his charitable works. He was a popular confessor and spiritual advisor to the illustrious members of Roman society. He was eagerly sought by cardinals, ambassadors, Roman officials, including the Pope’s own doctor, and countless members of Europe’s noble families. Sometimes the only way that the rich and powerful could get a word with Angelo was to follow him through a hospital ward with a basket of food or help him as he distributed bread at San Martino. Beyond any doubt, these well-fed patricians were also generous in helping his efforts to feed others.

To reward his lavish care for the poor, Pope Innocent XII wanted to make Angelo a cardinal, but he refused on the grounds that he could not maintain his level of charity with such an encumbrance. Another offer of a red hat by Pope Clement XI was also refused. Angelo had no wish to be a prince of the Church, since he was busy enough just being a good friar. He did, however, convince the Popes to halt the pilfering of stone from the ruined Coliseum, and to erect a large cross there in memory of the martyrs. One of the high points of Angelo’s impact occurred in 1708. He raised three wooden crosses on Mount Testaccio, an artificial hill created by a huge quantity of ancient rubble from broken pottery. He celebrated the Way of the Cross with a sermon on Jesus’ passion and death, as a sign of his love for all people. Then he distributed bread and sausage to all present to continue the celebration.

Angelo Paoli died peacefully in 1720 and was buried in the church of San Martino. Many people spoke of his ability to foretell future events, and to cure the sick. But his simple works of mercy spoke even more eloquently of his solid spirituality, and his love of God. He had told his rich patrons, Whoever wants to love God must search for him among the poor. Truly, a fitting epitaph!    (by Leopold Gluckert, O. Carm.)

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* Burial of Blessed Angelo Paoli, Father of the poor, in the Basilica of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti in Rome, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Saturday, 30 December 2023 00:07

Feast of St. Peter Thomas, Bishop

January 8 Feast

Born in Perigod, France, around 1305, Saint Peter Thomas joined the Carmelite Order when twenty years of age. He was Procurator General of the Order at the Papal Curia at Avignon and also an official preacher to the Curia there.

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Friday, 29 December 2023 23:57

St. Kuriakos Elias Chavara (CMI) Priest

January 3 Optional Memorial in the regions of India

Saint Kuriakos Elias Chavara, co-founder and first prior general of the congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, was born at Kainakary in Kerala, India, on 10 February 1805. He entered the seminary in 1818 and was ordained priest in 1829. He made his religious profession in 1855, in the congregation he founded.

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Thursday, 14 December 2023 07:53

St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

December 14th | Feast

With all that the Eucharist means to a Catholic Christian, does John of the Cross have a Eucharistic spirituality? His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament or the Mass is not immediately evident. But, if in fact the Eucharist holds central importance for him, why is this obscure in his writings?

For more on John of the Cross and His Eucharistic Spirituality

For more on the life of John of the Cross

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Monday, 04 December 2023 07:47

Bl. Bartholomew Fanti, priest

5 December Optional Memorial

Bl. Bartholomew Fanti, born in Mantua where a great Carmelite reform started, became a member of the Carmelites in the congregation of that reform. He was ordained priest sometime before 1452. He is remembered for his love of the Eucharist and of the Virgin Mary. Humble and generous he quietly lived an existence consummated in faithful regular observance and attentive assistance, including as a legislator to two lay confraternities in the Carmelite church of Mantua.

He was a well-liked figure. He occupied no posts of great importance within the Order. He is sometimes mentioned as a novice director, but this is not accurate.

He died a model of holiness on December 5, 1495. Devotion began immediately after his death. His cult was only acknowledged and approved on March 18, 1909, by Bishop Giuseppe Sarto who would become Pope St. Pius X.

In recognition of his love of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours for his memorial offers a selection from the encyclical Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI as the second reading. This is intended to promote some reflection on the Eucharist. The prayer, which is proper to Bartholomew, praises the Lord for having granted the Blessed Fanti the grace to promote devotion of the Eucharist and devotion to the Virgin Mary, and asks that we may imitate him in these two adorations.


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Tuesday, 28 November 2023 07:37

Celebration of Blesseds Dennis and Redemptus

Blesseds Dennis (priest and martyr) and Redemptus (religious and martyr)November 29 | Optional Memorial

The two left Goa with the delegation on Sept. 25, 1638, and after a successful voyage arrived at Achén on Oct. 25. The joy with which they were received was feigned; they were soon made prisoners. Dionysius and Redemptus were tormented and tried more than the others, for the purpose of making them renounce their Catholic faith and embrace Islam.

While in prison, Dionysius deprived himself even of necessities in his charity for others, whom he strengthened by his words, his help and his example. Both were condemned to death: Redemptus was one of the first to die, while Dionysius was martyred last, as he himself desired, in order to be able to strengthen the others. He was killed on Nov. 29, 1638, by a sword-blow that split his head in two.

Both Carmelites were beatified by Pope Leo XIII on June 10, 1900.

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Monday, 20 November 2023 14:59

St. Martin of Tours Celebrated in Rome

The Feast of St. Martin of Tours Celebrated at the Carmelite Church in Rome

Since November 2018, the Carmelite parish of San Martino ai Monti in Rome has celebrated its patron’s feast day in the traditional way.

“In September 2016, I was made pastor of SS. Silvestro and Martino ai Monti parish,” explains Fr. Lucio Zappatore. “Delving into the figure of one of our patron saints, St. Martin, I dicovered his importance on the European level. In particular I discovered the procession in other places of St. Martin on horseback, followed by children with lanterns (recalling the transport of St. Martin's body from Candes, where he had died on November 8, 397, to Tours, the city where he was bishop). And this procession on the feast is the most popular processions in Europe. It was missing here in Rome, so it seemed important to us to establish it here as well.”

This year Bishop Rino Fisichella, the pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization and the man responsible for organizing the 2025 Jubilee Year, presided. This year’s Mass was extremely crowded; extra chairs provided and then people either sat on the steps of the side altars or stood. This year the 500 lanterns prepared were not enough. In addition to the children from the parish  community, children from German schools here in Rome joined in with their own lanterns.

The procession started in the square in front of the church. It moved along to Via Merulana, a large tree covered street that connects the papal basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. At the square in front of St. Mary Major, the procession paused. As a surprise to the participants, the head of the basilica, Archbishop Rolandas Makrickas, invited all the children to climb, with their lanterns, to the central balcony of the basilica's facade to greet St. Martin from above!

“It was a wonderful sight,” said Fr. Zappatore.

The procession then returned to the square in front of San Martino church. There “St. Martin” met a poor man and gave him half of his cloak. This recalls an episode from St. Martin’s life. This was followed with the distribution of St. Martin's cake to the children and chestnuts with new wine to the adults. The families concluded the feast in the nearby Brancaccio Palace. The manager offered complimentary refreshments to the children and their parents.

One of the characteristics of the figure of St. Martin was his concern for the poor and the least among us ("gli scarti" as Pope Francis calls them) so the Carmelite parish community, for many years, has kept this aspect of charity in the forefront: twice a week the parish provides showers and a change of clothes to those living on the street. The parish also distributes food packages and linens to needy families who are referred by the parish Centro d’Ascolto.

The parish is working on establishing a Confraternity of St. Martin to carry out all the charitable activities of the parish. This will be connected to the large family of Confraternities of St. Martin Brotherhoods scattered around Europe.

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