Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Feast Day of Saint Claire

St. Clare of Assisi was born in Assisi, 12 miles outside of Perugia, as the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. Later on in her life, Ortolana entered Clare's monastery.

On March 20, 1212, Clare's parents had decided she would marry a wealthy young man. In desperation Clare escaped her home and sought refuge with St. Francis, who received her into religious life.

Clare lived for a brief period in a nearby Benedictine monastery of nuns, San Paolo delle Abadesse, and then again for a short period at a house of female penitents, Sant'Angelo in Panza on Monte Subasio.

Clare and Agnes soon moved to the church of San Damiano, which Francis himself had rebuilt. Other women joined them there, and San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle. The women were at first known as the "Poor Ladies".

San Damiano became the focal point for Clare's new religious order, which was known in her lifetime as the "Order of San Damiano." San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of this order, however, recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women's religious houses organized by Hugolino (who later became Pope Gregory IX). Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the order he founded because of the prestige of Clare's monastery. San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the order, and Clare became its undisputed leader. By 1263, just ten years after Clare's death, the order became known as the Order of Saint Clare.

Saint Clare miraculously intervenes to save a child from a wolf, in this panel by Giovanni di Paolo, 1455.Unlike the Franciscan friars, whose members moved around the country to preach, Saint Clare's sisters lived in enclosure, since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at the time for women. Their life consisted of manual labour[4] and prayer.

For a short period of time the order was directed by Francis himself.Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community.[6] Clare defended her order from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of St Benedict than Francis' stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis' virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, another Francis. She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.

After Francis's death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a Rule on her order which watered down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite the fact that she had endured a long period of poor health until her death. Clare's Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the Rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

On August 9, 1253, the Papal bull Solet annure of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare's Rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed.

Basilica of Saint Clare, Assisi.On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of the saint, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263.

Some 600 years later in 1872, Saint Clare's remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare where they can still be seen today.

Pope Pius XII designated her as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room. The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was founded by a Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica.

In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx, in commemoration of the time when she warded away the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

Lake Saint Clair and the Saint Clair River in the Great Lakes region of North America were named on her feast day August 11, 1679. Mission Santa Clara, founded by Spanish missionaries in northern California in 1777, has given its name to the university, city, county, and valley in which it sits. Southern California's Santa Clara River is hundreds of miles to the south, and gave its name to the nearby city of Santa Clarita. Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico celebrates its Santa Clara Feast Day annually on August 11.

In the Tridentine Calendar her feast day is celebrated as a Double on August 11. It was changed to a Third-Class Feast in 1960 (see General Roman Calendar of 1962), and in the 1969 calendar became an obligatory Memorial celebrated on the day of her death, August 11. Although her body is no longer claimed to be incorrupt, her skeleton is displayed in Assisi.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feast Day of St Lawrence of Rome

Lawrence of Rome (c. 225 – 258) (Latin: Laurentius, meaning "laurelled") was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258.

Lawrence a native of Huesca (Roman Osca) in Hispania Tarraconensis who had received religious instruction from Archdeacon Sixtus in Rome. When Sixtus became Bishop of Rome in 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron of librarians.

In the persecutions under Valerian in 258 A.D., numerous priests and deacons were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the Roman Senate were deprived of their goods and exiled. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution, being beheaded on August 6. A legend cited by St Ambrose of Milan says that Lawrence met the Pope on his way to his execution, where he is reported to have said, "Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?" The Pope is reported to have prophesied that "after three days you will follow me".

Lawrence is said to have been martyred on a gridiron as a part of Valerian's persecution. During his torture Lawrence cried out "This side’s done, turn me over and have a bite." ["Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca."] [5] This is the legend often quoted explaining why Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Comedians, butchers and roasters.

Cyprian, the contemporary bishop of Carthage mentions the directive of Valerian that Christian bishops, priests, and deacons should forthwith be punished, and records the martyrdom of Xystus bishop of Rome, in accordance with it on August 6 . Cyprian was reported to have seen visions of Jesus.

According to lore, among the treasure of the Roman church entrusted to Lawrence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice, the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper. Lawrence was able to spirit this away to Huesca, in present day Aragon, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When Augustine connects Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass:

"For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood"."[7]
According to Christian history the Holy Grail is a relic that was sent by St. Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend whom he knew would travel back to Huesca, remaining in the monastery of Saint John of Pena, core of spiritual strength for the emerging kingdom of Aragon. While the Holy Chalice's exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is generally accepted by Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate that this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth.[8] Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. This can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

By tradition, Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and buried in the Via Tiburtina in the Catacomb of Cyriaca by Hippolytus and Justinus, a presbyter. Tradition holds that Lawrence was burned or "grilled" to death, hence his association with the gridiron. Tradition also holds that Lawrence joked about their cooking him enough to eat while he was burning on the gridiron, hence his patronage of cooks and chefs, stating something along the lines of, "turn me over...I'm done on this side". One of the early sources for the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence was the description by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn II.

Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honour of the martyr, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the 7th century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now known as San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feast Day-Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major

Today is the Feast day of the Basilica of Mary Major.

The Basilica of Mary Major is one of the 7 founding churches in Rome

According to the tradition, circa 360 Pope Liberius commissioned the construction of the Liberian Basilica on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. According to the founding legend, which cannot be traced further back than the thirteenth century,the pope wanted a shrine built at the site where an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in identical dreams shared by a local patrician Giovanni Patrizio and his wife and by the pope. According to tradition, the outline of the church was physically laid out on the ground of the nobleman's property by Liberius himself under a miraculous, but predicted, snowfall that took place on the night of 4–5 August 352 (or 358)

Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, indicates that the church was probably first built in the early 400s and completed under Pope Sixtus III (432–440). During this period churches dedicated to Mary were beginning to spring up all over the Roman Empire, owing to the increasing popular devotion to the Virgin and the official acceptance of her title "Theotokos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431.