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Oct 20 - Blessed James of Strepar

James was born in the 14th century of a noble Polish family of Strepar and was educated in a Christian manner by his pious parents. To escape the dangers of the world, he entered the poor order of St. Francis when he was a young man. Very soon he became distinguished among his brethren for eminent virtue, rare attainments, and zeal for the salvation of souls.

The neighboring realm of Russia presented at that time a wide field for the exercise of his zeal. Partly it was still inhabited by heathens; and where the Catholic Church had flourished for centuries, Greek schismatics had long been endeavoring to win the people from the Mother Church at Rome. With the consent of his superiors James went to Russia to preach the Gospel and to save the faithful from going astray. About 1360, he had a share in the organization of a special group of Franciscan missionaries called Societas Peregrinantium or Travelers for Christ, who did excellent work in Russia. Wallachia, and Podolia, and in 1401 extended their activities also to the Tatars near the Caspian Sea and other parts of Asia.

Father James' missionary efforts were so successful, and his apostolic virtues were so pronounced, that on the death of the archbishop of Halicz, the pope named him his successor at the request of the king of Poland in 1392. Only because he was compelled, did James accept the dignity. But even as a bishop he wore the Franciscan habit and as far as possible continued his missionary labors.

To preserve the Catholics of the old and the newly acquired districts in Christian truth, he built many new churches and convents. His large income was used only for this purpose and for the support of the poor.

To secure God's blessing on the territory entrusted to his spiritual care, he considered nothing more helpful than veneration of the Mother of God. Next to God he placed his confidence in her. Instead of the family coat-of-arms, he had the image of Mary engraved on his seal; everything he prescribed for his diocese was to have the seal of Mary. He had her image also on his pastoral ring. Every evening devotions were held in her honor in the cathedral or wherever he chanced to be; and he always attended the services. He urged the people to attend these devotions, as well as special devotions of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for which he issued special regulations and granted indulgences.

James was also mindful of the temporal welfare of his flock. In order to check the frequent inroads of the Tatars, who were laying the country waste, he proposed such excellent measures to the Polish parliament that he was quite generally called the protector of the kingdom.

After a laborious and blessed episcopate of 19 years, God called him to receive his heavenly reward in the year 1410. Clothed in the habit of the order and wearing the marks of his episcopal dignity, he was entombed in the Franciscan church at Lwow, to which the archbishopric had been transferred from Halicz. When his grave was opened after 200 years his body and clothing were found entirely incorrupt. Later the remains were removed to the cathedral.

The continued veneration paid to him was formally approved by Pope Pius VI.

ON THE VENERATION OF MARY
1. The months of May and October are especially set aside by the Church for the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should not, however, limit our veneration to these two months. Like Blessed James, we should venerate her throughout the year and all our life. She was the mother of the primitive Christian Church; the apostles and the first Christians at Jerusalem were gathered about her when the Holy Spirit descended. She was the bond which encircled the first Christian community with motherly love, when "the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32). Blessed James expected veneration of Mary to bring harmony to his diocese as well as the fruits of the Holy Spirit. May those fruits also enter our hearts, our homes, our congregations, and the whole Catholic Church. -- Is Mary truly honored in your home?
2. Consider how God Himself honored Mary. He sent one of the most eminent heavenly spirits, the archangel Gabriel, to her who at God's behest said to her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women... Thy Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the Holy One who shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:28-35).The Holy Trinity thus entered into a most intimate union with her, since God the Father was with her, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the Son of God was to be born of her. Could he who would not honor her still be called a child of God? Filled with the Holy Spirit, she herself proclaims: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Great favors will surely be granted to him who venerates her whom the Blessed Trinity has honored. O Mary, Daughter of the heavenly Father, Mother of the Divine Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!
3. Consider that Blessed James rightly expected the veneration of Mary to bring special blessings particularly to his sacred ministry. With Mary's blessing the apostles set out to preach the Gospel, and she continually raised her hands to heaven both for those who preached the Faith and for those who accepted the Faith from them. Catholic life flourishes the more abundantly the more she is honored. Her maternal protection and powerful intercession will obtain blessings for the shepherd so that he may guide his sheep in a truly apostolic spirit, and for the flock so that it may lead a Christian life and arrive at the blessed goal.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst wonderfully renew the apostolic spirit in Thy blessed bishop and confessor James, we beseech Thee, grant us his intercession that we may ever adhere to Thee in faith and in true service. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press

Oct 20 - Blessed Contardo Ferrini 1859-1902

 The city of Milan was abounded in men of learning and virtue. Our present age has revealed a new star there, which is destined to show an amazed modern generation that profound learning and humble faith can well go hand in hand.

Contardo Ferrini was born of a distinguished family on April 4, 1859. When he was still a student in high school and college he encouraged his companions to lead good lives and exercised a kind of lay apostolate among them. After winning his doctorate in law, he obtained a government scholarship to study abroad. He went to Berlin, where he studied Roman-Byzantine law, a field in which he achieved international fame. In the capital of the German empire prejudices against Catholics did not keep Professor Ferrini from publicly professing his faith. On returning to Italy, he taught in various higher institutions of learning and eventually at the University of Paris.

It must be stressed here that Ferrini's life was practically an unbroken elevation of his soul to God. His keen intellectual ways penetrated to the Last Principle of all things. "Our life," he said, "must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity."

Every day he approached the Holy Table. He made a short meditation daily, and also read from Thomas a Kempis. His favorite books were those of the Bible. The better to savor the spirit of their contents, he read them in the original languages, of which he had a perfect command. Like another Joseph of Egypt, he preserved his purity unsullied amid the dangers of big city life. He practiced many and varied mortifications to arm himself against harm.

In 1886 he joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and for the rest of his life he faithfully observed its rule. He also enrolled himself in the St, Vincent de Paul Society. In his speeches and writings as well as in his conduct, he made it a point to show that faith and science are not only opposed to each other, but that faith is rather a shield to protect us from error and guide us to true heights.

In 1900 Contardo Ferrini was afflicted with a heart lesion in consequence of excessive labor. In the autumn of 1902, feeling the need of rest, he repaired to his country house at Suna. There, however, he was stricken with typhus. Due to his weakened condition, he was unable to resist the malignant fever, and died on October 17, 1902, at the age of 43.

The high esteem in which the deceased was held, now became evident. Letters of condolence from the professors of the university praised him as a saint. The people of Suna promptly expressed a desire to see him numbered among the saints. The demand for his beatification grew more insistent with time, and there was universal rejoicing when in 1909 Pope St. Pius X appointed Cardinal Ferrari to begin the process. Pope Pius XI conferred on him the title Venerable in 1931; and Pope Pius XII beatified him in 1947.

ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES 1. Holy Writ is not the only source of faith. It is incomplete for one thing, for St. John says: "There are also many other things which Jesus did" (John 21:25). Then, too, the prophecies about the kingdom of heaven which Christ gave His apostles before His ascension, are not recorded. And from the Epistles of St. Paul (1 Cor 5:9 & Col 4:16) we learn that part of the Scriptures have even been lost. Although Contardo Ferrini entertained great love for the Scriptures, he did not regard them as the only authority in matters of faith, but paid equal respect to the teachings of Holy Church. -- Scripture and the appointment to teach go hand in hand.
2. Holy Writ most not be our only source of faith. Christ did not say, "Distribute Bibles!" But He did say, "Teach all nations!" (Matt 28:19). Holy Writ itself ought to assure us that it is the only source of our faith if that were the case; but nowhere can we find a statement to that effect. Neither is the meaning of Holy Writ plain to all who read it. Nowhere do we find it stated just what belongs to holy Writ; our separated brethren have learned that from the teachers of the Catholic Church. -- Let nothing and nobody keep you from heeding the teachings of the Catholic Church.
3. At no time was Holy Scripture used as the only source of faith. Certainly not in the beginning of Christianity; for then the Gospels and Epistles had not yet been written and distributed. Nor at any later time; for even Protestantism has not held the Bible to be the only rule, since the observance of Sunday, the baptism of infants, and may other practices are not mentioned in the Bible. Should non-Catholics reproach you for neglecting the Bible, let your answer be: Holy Scriptures tells us nowhere that we should read the word of God, but it does tell us to hear the word of God. From Sunday to Sunday, the Catholic Church gives us the explanation of the Scriptures. Intelligent and leading Protestants themselves complain of the mischief done by the so-called free interpretation of the Bible. As far as reading the Bible is concerned, good Catholic read and pray it often in the prayers of the liturgy, especially the missal and the divine office. And the Church has granted an indulgence to the faithful who spend at least a quarter of an hour in reading Holy Scripture with the great reverence due to the word of God and after the manner of spiritual reading.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
May the faithful, O Lord, be strengthened by Thy graces, that having received them, they may yearn for still more and through this yearning receive them anew in greater measure. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press