Apr. 2 - Bl. Elisabetta VendraminiBlessed Elisabetta Vendramini, (1790-1860), Born in Bassano del Grappa near Treviso, at age 27. Elisabetta broke off an engagement to marry and decided to alleviate the moral and material sufferings of the poor. She began working at a girls’ orphanage in her hometown in 1820 and joined the Secular Franciscan Order the following year. After moving to Padua in 1828, she continued working with children. In 1830 she founded the Franciscan Tertiary Sisters of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Until her death Elisabetta guided this community, which dedicated itself to teaching as well as caring for the elderly, orphans and the sick. She united her physical sufferings with those of Christ and the Sorrowful Mother Mary. Elisabetta was beatified in 1990. (Source: St. Anthony Messenger website)
Apr. 6 - St. Crescentia Höss (1682-1744)Maria Crescenzia Höss was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, in the Diocese of Augsburg on 20 October 1682, the seventh of the eight children of Matthias Höss and Lucia Hoermann. In 1703, in spite of family difficulties and the superior's reluctance, she was admitted to the Franciscan Tertiaries of Mayerhoff where she was professed in 1704 and remained until her death.
From 1709 to 1741 with the election of superiors who were favourably disposed to her, she fulfilled the most important positions of the monastery: porter, novice mistress, and superior with the greatest dedication and generosity. She was novice mistress from 1726 to 1741. In 1741 sister Maria Crescenzia was elected superior of the community and, despite her attempts to refuse the post, was forced to accept the task. To her sisters she recommended observing silence, recollection, and spiritual reading, especially the Gospels. The teacher of their religious life had to be Jesus on the Cross.
Maria Höss was also a prudent and wise counsellor to all who turned to her for strength and comfort, as can be seen from her numerous letters.
In her three years as superior of the community of Mayerhoff she became its second foundress. She justified her selectivity regarding vocations saying, "God wants the convent rich in virtue, not in temporal goods". The principal points of her program for the renewal of the house were: unlimited trust in divine providence, readiness in the acts of the common life, love of silence, devotion to Jesus crucified, and devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother.
She died on Easter in 1744 and her mortal remains are still very much venerated in the chapel of her monastery.
Source: Vatican website
April 16 - Marie Bernarde Soubirous 1844-1879
Born at Lourdes, France, on January 7, the oldest child of miller Francis Soubirous and his wife, Louise, she was called Bernadette as a child, lived in abject poverty with her parents, was uneducated, and suffered from asthma. On February 11, 1858, while collecting firewood on the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes, she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave above the riverbank. Her report provoked skepticism, but her daily visions of the Lady drew great crowds of people. Despite great hostility on the part of the civil authorities, she persisted in her claims, and on February 25 caused a spring to flow where none had been before. On March 25, the vision told her it was the Immaculate Conception and directed her to build a chapel on the site. In 1866, she became a Sister of Notre Dame at Nevers, and she remained there until her death on April 16. She was a member of the Confraternity of the Cord of St. Francis. She was received into this pious society after she had become a religious sister. Lourdes soon became one of the great pilgrimage centers of modern Christianity, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring, and after painstaking investigation the apparitions were ecclesiastically approved. Bernadette was canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
From Dictionary of Saints by John Delaney
Apr 16 - St. Benedict Joseph Labre 1748-1783
In St. Benedict Joseph Labre there was realized the full meaning contained in the words of God: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject" (1 Cor 1,19). His entrance into the world took place at Amettes, France. He was the first-born of parents who were favored by God with 15 children.
It appears that the spirit of God, which moved him strangely throughout life, came over him at the age of 16, for, from that time forward, he lost all inclination to continue his studies. For that reason, too, his training for the priesthood, which his reverend uncle so earnestly desired, came to naught.
Because of poor health and lack of knowledge he was refused admission also among the Carthusians and the Cistercians. Then it was that he was interiorly instructed to imitate the life of St. Alexis, leave his native town, and his parents, live on alms, and visit the great shrines as a pilgrim. From that day on his soul was flooded with great peace.
His food was composed of the leavings that fell from the tables of others. Alms that had been given to him he gave to the poor. The rags of this beggar of the Lord covered a heart that glowed with love of God and neighbor, and the tenderest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God. At Assisi he was received into the Confraternity of the Cord of St. Francis. He has been the pride of that pious society ever since.
His repulsive exterior caused him more pain than it did others, indeed, his sensitiveness on the subject was his most poignant suffering. He used to say: "Our comfort is not in this world." In Rome he was called the poor man of the Forty Hours' Devotion. On the day of his death, April 16, 1783, he dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours until he collapsed. He was carried into a near-by house, where he died that night most peacefully.
Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. The guardians of Christian morals, Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII, have proposed the beggar Benedict as an example to a generation steeped in materialism. The former beatified him, the latter proclaimed him a saint of the Church.
ON THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE CORD
1. How did this confraternity originate? It is well known that St. Francis of Assisi girded himself with a coarse cord in remembrance of the cord with which our dear Lord was girded. St. Dominic, the very close friend of our holy Father St. Francis, requested and obtained from the latter his cord and thereafter wore it steadfastly. This custom was soon imitated by many of the faithful. So it was that the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V established the Archconfraternity of the Cordbearers of St. Francis in the Franciscan basilica at Assisi in 1585. He, and other popes as well, enriched the confraternity with privileges and indulgences.
2. What obligations did the members of the confraternity assume? They were supposed to recite daily six Paters, Aves, and Glorias (five in honor of the Five Wounds of Jesus, one for the intention of the Holy Father to gain the indulgences). Then, too, they wore the blessed cord. Moreover, on the feasts of St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Anthony, and the Stigmata of St. Francis, they received the General Absolution, or the so-called indulgenced blessing, and on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Papal Benediction. There were, therefore, only a few obligations imposed upon the members of the Confraternity of the Cord, but the favors conferred were great.
3. What was the spirit of the Confraternity of the Cordbearers? At their reception the members were admonished to be mindful of the bonds of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cord was for them a reminder of the fear of God, of temperance, and of purity. Finally, they considered themselves as joyfully bound to the commandments of God. Love of Christ and virtue and fidelity to God, that was the spirit of the Confraternity which the members fostered in imitation of St. Francis and under his guidance. It was, it seems, a preparatory school for the Third Order.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Thou, O Lord, didst permit St. Benedict Joseph, Thy confessor, to attach himself to Thee alone by zeal in humility and love for poverty; grant us, through his intercession and merits, to despise all that is material and ever to aspire to what is heavenly. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(*) St. Benedict Joseph Labre's feastday is often celebrated on April 16, but is often superseded by the Easter Season, so it doesn't show in the local Ordo.
Apr 25 - Bl. Pedro de San Jose BetancurBlessed Pedro de San Jose Betancur, was born a poor shepherd. He prayed much as he tended his flocks. At 31 he travelled to Guatamala City to try find a job away from sheep. Here he became friends with the Franciscans and Jesuits and enrolled in the Jesuit College of San Borgia to become a priest. Due to lack of education he had to withdraw and became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, where he took the name Peter of Saint Joseph. He is the first canonized Guatemalan native. He and other men founded the Bethlehemite Congregation or Hospitalers Bethlehemite who attended to the sick. He was born in 1619 at Villaflores, Tenerife Island, Canary Islands, and died in 1667 at Guatamala City, Guatamala.
Apr. 27 - St. Zita of Lucca
Born in the early 13th century to a poor but religious family at Mont Sagrati, a village near Lucca in Italy. St. Zita was brought up by her virtuous mother. Her older sister entered a Cistercian convent and her Uncle Graziano was a hermit regarded as a saint by people in the area. Great attention was given to the task of instructing her daughter in the faith and to instill the love of God in the fertile soil or her daughters lender heart. By the age of seven, Zita found pleasure in nothing but doing God’s will. Her mother reinforced her lessons by saying, "This is most pleasing to God: this is the divine will", or, "That would displease God." As she grew, Zita was noted for her happy disposition, her sweetness and modesty, she spoke only when necessary, worked very hard and prayed without interruption. At twelve Zita was sent to Lucca to work as a servant in the house of a rich weaver. The Fatinelli house was next to the church of St. Frediano. Praising and thanking God for the opportunity to serve others obediently in humble house work Zita was grateful that her position provided all the necessities of life allowing her to avoid the worry caused by a less secure life. She considered her tasks to be a gift from God, and an opportunity for total obedience and joyful penance. From the first, Zita tried to anticipate what her employers would want her to do for them.
Despite her dedication to her work, Zita was, for many years, taunted and disliked by her fellow servants for being affected and proud and was distrusted by her master and mistress as well. She never complained about the urjust treatment or the overwork, but was able to maintain her sweet disposition, her meekness and charity and her devotion to her duties. Eventually, when her virtues came to be valued by the Fatinelli household, Zita was fearful that it would be a snare for her Soul. Her sincere humility and modesty prevented her worst fears from being realized. Her life continued to be one of devotion to God and to the smallest detail of her duties. Zita was promoted to the position or Housekeeper with the full confidence of her employers. She was scrupulous in every task remembering that she had to give an account to God for the way she spent every penny and every minute of the day.. Signor Fatinelli seeing his assets multiply as a result of Zita's industry, gave her control of her work schedule and even allowed her to have great influence over him and his family. Given to great anger, he would often calm down upon a single word from her. Knowing that Zita gave away most of her meager belongings to the poor, Signor Fatinelli gave her permission to distribute some of his funds as alms, which she did with great discretion always keeping him informed.
Zita believe that God would grant security and special blessings on the household In which the family and staff were pious, faithful to their duties, punctual, modest in speech and manner and set a good example for others. She said, "A servant cannot be holy if she is not busy". She treated all the staff with kindness never seeking revenge for the years of mistreatment at their hands, and excusing shortcomings although she could be severe in dealing with instances of evil and sinful behavior.
Rising several hours before the rest of the household, she had time to pray and to attend Mass before her day's work began - a day filled with work and continual mental prayer and meditation. She fasted all year, slept on the bare floor or on a board and prayed continuously during her work day, never complaining or procrastinating or speaking disparagingly of others. Whenever she had a little leisure, she went to a small attic room where she could spend time in quiet prayer and contemplation. Word spread throughout Lucca about her visits to the sick, to those in Prison, her good deeds and her heavenly vision and she was sought out by made people, rich and poor alike.
St. Zita was always moved to tears when she received the Eucharist and experienced ecstasies at Mass or during her prayers. She foretold her own death, and after receiving the last sacraments, died on the 27th of April, in 1278 at sixty years of age The people of Lucca proclaimed her a saint and 150 miracles attributed to herr intercession have been approved. Dante's (Inferno XI 38) refers to the city of Lucca simply as St. Zita. Her body was found incorrupt in 1580 and is enshrined in St. Frediano's Church in Lucca next to the Fatinelli house where she lived and worked for 48 years. Her face and hands are exposed to view through a crystal glass. To this day, the city of Lucca pays great veneration to her memory as well as to the memory of St. Ferdiano, an Irishman who converted Lucca to Christianity. It is interesting that St. Zita, the second patron saint or Lucca, is buried in the church of that city’s first patron saint, both having witnessed to Christ throughout their lives. on April 27th, her feast day, everyone in Lucca brings bouquets of blessed narcissus to her crystal coffin laying in state in the Cathedral dedicated to St. Martin, (the third patron saint of the city) - pictures and paintings of her showing her miracles are everywhere. St. Zita was beatified and devotion to her approved by Pope Innocent XII in 1696.
April 30 - Blessed Benedict of Urbino, OFM Cap.
Born at Urbino, Italy; died at Fossombrone, Italy, 1625; beatified in 1867. Born into the de'Passionei family, Benedict was a lawyer in his home town before joining the Capuchins at Fano in 1584. His previous training, complemented by his faith, made him an effective preacher. He was the companion of Saint Laurence of Brindisi, whom he followed to Austria and Bohemia.
Born to a middle class family. Studied at the seminary in Turin. Ordained in 1811. Parish priest in Bra and Corneliano. Doctor of Divinity. Joined the Order of the Corpus Christi in Turin. Canon of the Church of the Trinity in Turin.
For several years, Joseph treated his priesthood more as a career than a vocation. Then one night he was called to the bed of a poor, sick woman in labour. The woman badly needed medical help, but had been turned away everywhere for lack of money. Joseph stayed with her throughout the travail, and was there to hear her confession, give her absolution, Communion, and last rites. He baptized her newborn daughter, and then watched as both of them died in bed. The trauma of the evening changed his mind about his vocation.
In 1827 he opened a small shelter for the area sick and homeless, renting a room, filling it with beds, and seeking male and female volunteers. The place expanded, and he received help from the Brothers of Saint Vincent and the Vincentian Sisters. During a cholera outbreak in 1831, the local police closed the hospice, fearing it was a source of the illness.
In 1832 he transferred the operation to Valdocco, and called the shelter the Little House of Divine Providence (Piccola Casa). The Casa began receiving support, and grew, adding asylums, orphanages, hospitals, schools, workshops, chapels, alm-shouse, and programs to help the poor, sick, and needy of all types. This small village of the poor depended almost entirely on alms, Joseph kept no records, and turned down offers of state assistance; never once did they do without. Joseph directed the operation until a few days before his death, and the Casa continues to today, serving 8,000 or more each day. He founded fourteen communities to serve the residents, including the Daughters of Compassion, Daughters of the Good Shepherd, Hermits of the Holy Rosary, and Priests of the Holy Trinity.
He was a Third Order Franciscan in his young years, and continued working on behalf of the poor.