Tag Archives: Dominicans

This Smiling Dominican Stigmatist, loved Children and became the Patroness of Catechists

Magdalena Panattieri                                                          public domain

By Larry Peterson

Magdalen Panettieri was born in Trino, Italy, in 1443. Her mom and dad were very devout Catholics, and their deep faith inspired their daughter. Even as a toddler, Magdalen exhibited a spirituality that was recognizable. When she was still a youngster she made a vow of virginity, and before her twentieth birthday she became a Dominican Tertiary.

This was very unusual because the Tertiaries were widows and older women who tended to the active charities within the Dominican Church. The young woman, Magdalen, fit right in and brought to the chapter a new spirit of penance and compassion that was an example for all of the others. The main ingredient that Magdalen possessed was a cheerful, happy, and outgoing attitude that was infectious. People enjoyed being near her because she made them smile. It was a gift she had that she was not even aware of.

Magdalen had a natural love for children, and the kids could sense it. They actually gravitated to her, sensing how genuine she really was. The young, joyful woman, began teaching the children their catechism and was remarkably good at it. She had a natural way of describing things and made the teachings of the Church clear and understandable. The kids loved to sit an listen to her. Her classes began to grow, and people from the neighborhood started to attend. The Dominican friars even had to open a large room next to the church for her to use as a classroom.

Magdalen lived at home with her relatives, and any spare time she had, she devoted to the poor and the sick. Her ability as a captivating speaker became known, and both nuns and priests began to come to hear her talk. Her mornings consisted of attending Mass and then Eucharistic Adoration. She was noted for her simple way of life an for her austere existence. She even wore a rough, woolen shirt and fasted often in acts of penance.

Magdalen’s youngest brother was always in trouble and had become an embarrassment to the family. It had gotten to the point that he had worn out his welcome at home, but Magdalen refused to give up on him. She fell down on her knees in front of a crucifix and refused to leave until Our Lord assured her that He would help reform the “black sheep” of the family. Jesus did come to her and say, “I cannot refuse you anything.”

Raymond da Capua, the man who initiated the needed reforms within the Dominican Order (he was beatified in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII) was highly respected by Magdalen, and she promoted his reforms in Trino. She was quite successful in her endeavors, and through her efforts the well known Dominican homilist from Milan, Sebastiano Maggi (he was beatified in 1760 by Pope Clement XIII), came to Torino and had a profound effect on all who heard him preach.

Magdalen Panattieri was also a mystic a recipient of  the Stigmata. She had predicted that Raymond da Capua’s reforms would be implemented in Trino, and she also saw the French invasion of Italy that was about to tear apart her country. She begged God for mercy for her people, and during the war with its horrors and bloodshed, the only town that was continually spared was Magdalen’s home town of Trino. The people of Trino always gave credit for the mercy showed them to Magdalen’s close relationship with Jesus.

As for the Stigmata; Magdalen never told anyone about her having it. It was discovered after her passing as they prepared her for internment.

The following is from the General Calendar of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans):

Faithful God, you forsake no one who trusts in you and in your mercy hear the prayers of the devout. Through the help of Blessed Magdalen may we receive what we cannot obtain of ourselves. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. 

Blessed Magdalen Panattieri, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Saint Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta saw the Hand of God in everything around her

St. Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

There are those people that are seemingly in-tune with the Holy Spirit from their earliest years. They sense His presence, understand His desires, and do their best to accommodate His requests. Such was the woman known as Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta. She indeed “heard the cry of the poor” and knew where that cry originated. She listened and followed and never looked back.

On December 2, 1826, Francisco Torres and Antonia Acosta welcomed their second of what eventually would be five children into the world. They gave her the name, Manuela, and she was baptized  as “Antonia Bibiana Manuela.” Her mom and dad operated a small business selling goods to tourists on the Plaza de Espana, in central Madrid.

Manuela attended a school run by the Vincentian Sisters. Founded in 1633, members of the order were dedicated to serving the poor through their devotion to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Manuela spent as much time as she could after school, helping the poor that were being taken care of by the Sisters.

Manuela’s life as a child and teenager was a simple, uncomplicated existence no different than most of the girls she grew up with. There was one thing that Manuela did possess that most others did not; she had a deep love for the Blessed Mother, and it was so profound many people could sense it in her. Manuela was determined to find a way to serve Our Lady by serving the poor. She tried to join the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), but there was a waiting list, and she would have to wait.

Then, in 1851, she heard about a priest in another part of Madrid, who was starting a new group to help the poor. His purpose was to start an order that would take care of people in their homes. The priests’ name was Father Michael Martinez who was a Third Order Servite. When she asked him if she could join she was welcomed and became the seventh member of the founding group. From that point on she was known as Sister Maria Soledad. The new order began its work on August 15, 1851.

Sister Maria could feel the presence of Christ in everyone she cared for. She was able to empty herself for others and managed to understand the spiritual richness contained in the poorest of the poor. She embraced this and loved them as much as anyone ever could. In her humble eyes all of the patients were Christ himself, and there was nothing she would not do for them

In 1856, Father Micahel took six of the founding sisters and left to go to the mission in Bioko, on the African coast. Sister Maria Soledad took care of the remaining sisters and became the Foundress and Superior General of the Servants of Mary. From that point on, she was known as Mother Maria Soledad, and the new order was called the Servant’s of Mary.

Mother Maria and her followers were very poor and barely had enough to eat. There was jealousy and infighting among the clerics that were involved with overseeing the new order, and the politics became so intense that the bishop threatened to dissolve it. After meeting with Mother maria and talking to her he realized what a good and holy woman she was and re-appointed her as Mother Superior and officially sanctioned the name Servants of Mary.

Mother Maria Soledad lived long enough to see her congregation receive full papal approval in 1876. In 1887 she came down with pneumonia. She received Extreme Unction and passed away on October 11, 1887. She was buried at the local cemetery, where the sisters had a plot.

Sixteen years later, on January 18, 1893, her remains were exhumed for transfer to the mother-house. Her body was intact and emitted a sweet odor that everyone present could smell. It was as if a florist had opened its doors. After several years only the bones remained.

Mother Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1950 and canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Saint Maria Soledad, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Francisca del Espiritu Santo Fuentes—The Young Widow Founded a new Order in the Philippines for Filipinos

Venerable Francisca del Espiritu Santo                                       youtube.jpg

By Larry Peterson

Francisca de Fuentes was born in Manila in 1647. Her father was Don Simon de Fuentes, a Spanish nobleman and her mom’s name was Dona Ana Maria del Castillo y Tamayo. She was a true native to the islands and was quietly known as a Spanish mestiza (a woman of mixed race).

Francisca’s parents raised her into a  true lady, and when she was around nineteen, she was given in marriage to a young man who took ill and passed away shortly after the wedding. Suddenly, she was a twenty-year-old widow with no children, and in 1667 Manila, that was not a good position to be in. A caste society existed, and widowed women, especially a mestiza woman, did not fare well being in such a position.

However, Francisca was a woman of deep faith. She was able to peel back the cloud of her grief and glimpse the silver lining that led her closer to God. He was calling her, and she delved deeply into prayer and began helping as many poor and sick in the city that she could.

It was the 17th century, and in the colonial  Philippines,  women were far from being liberated. Francisca was also a mestiza, which put her in a “class” below the pure Spaniard. She wanted to start a religious order for Filippino women. However, she would be confronting a daunting challenge to do so. It would be a man’s world she needed permission from.

She then had a vision of St. Dominic and St. Francis. Both were calling her and she had to choose. She bowed before St. Dominic and chose to be a Dominican. In 1682 she was admitted as a Third Order Dominican and picked the name of “Francisca del Espiritu Santo.”

She was joined by her sister, Maria Ana de Fuentes, Sebastiana Salcedo, and Antonia de Jesus Esquerra. The four lived separately but wore their habits in public, helping the sick and needy and spending hours together in prayer. They became known as “beatas” (blessed) because they frequented the sacraments and set fine examples of humility and devotion.

In 1686, Francisca sent a request to the Director of the Third Order asking if she and the other tertiaries could live together. The four sisters prayed long and hard, fasted, and did penance that their prayers might be answered. On January 11, 1688, the Master of the Order, Father Antonino Cloche, OP, confirmed and approved an order establishing that a house for sisters of the third order be established in Manila.

One of the original tertiaries, Antonio de Jesus Fuentes, was ill and dying and bequeathed her house to the others. She appointed Father Juan de Sto. Domingo, OP, as executor. Upon her death, they moved into their first official convent, known as a “beaterio.”

The order grew, and on July 26, 1696, the feast of St. Anne, the beatas professed to the Order of Preachers, under a rule drafted by Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo. Sister Francisca de Fuentes was appointed the first prioress and the convent was called the Beaterio de Santa  Catalina de Sena (Convent of St. Catherine of Siena).

In 1697, the new Archbishop of Manila, Diego Camacho y Avila, arrived. This became known as the “Visitation Controversy” because he decreed that the local bishops take charge of the parishes within their jurisdiction. This created much friction among the religious in the Philippines and they rose up in protest against the new rules. Caught up in this controversy was Sister Francisca and her followers.

The controversy grew into accusations of improper behavior, administrative incompetence, and other things. It was so bad that to avoid further scandal, the Dominican friars dispensed the beatas from their vows and sought shelter for them as secular women. They were sent to the College of St. Potenciana where they were to seek “absolution from the archbishop” and wait for the return of their beaterio.

In 1706, after many letters and petitions and negotiations by intermediaries, the Archbishop restored the Beaterio to full participation, under the Third Order of St. Dominic. It had taken nine years, but Sister Francisca and the beatas were restored to their rightful place among the Dominicans.

Sister Francisca made the Holy Eucharist the center of the community’s spiritual life and under her motherly watch the beaterio grew, and many young, native girls began joining the order. Today the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena has  locations all over the world.

Sister Francisca del Espiritu Santo passed away on August 24, 1711, at the age 64. She was declared Venerable by Pope Francis on July 5, 2019.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

St. Antoninus of Florence—This brilliant Theologian also was known as The Father of the Poor

Antoninus of Florence (statue)                                           aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Antonio Pierozzi was born on March 1, 1389, in Florence which, at that time, was an independent republic. His father, Nicollo, was a notary which was considered an upstanding position in the community. His mom died when he was five years old, and his dad remarried the very same year. His “new” mom helped raise him, but her influence in his life seems minimal.

Antonio came from a very religious family. He had a sister who became a nun, an aunt who was a nun, and a brother who entered the religious life. His other sister married and became a Third Order Dominican. As for Antonio, from early on he was an extremely pious child and he spent one hour a day in prayer in front of the Crucifix in the garden at the nearby church. Many people noticed his piety and his reputation as being holy began to grow. Also, Antonio was very smart and was quickly recognized as being a brilliant student.

Antonio had heard a sermon by Blessed Giovanni Dominici and was instantly drawn to this man. Dominici was the leading preacher of his day and had received his authority from Blessed Raymond Capua who was the first follower of St. Catherine of Siena. Antonio’s future was now a brightly lit path for him to follow. He asked John Dominici to receive him into the Dominicans.

Antonio was only fifteen years old at the time, and John Dominici thought he was still too young. He even thought he might be too small and too weak to live such a life. So he challenged Antonio. He told him to memorize the Decretum of Gratian, a complex work of Canon Law.

His motive was to overwhelm the young man while not hurting his feelings. He was sure Antonio could never fulfill such a request. He was wrong. One year later Antonino came back to John Dominici and recited the entire work. He even answered hard questions after doing so proving he understood the nuances and meanings as set down. At that time he was received into the Dominican Order.

A new priory had opened in Fiesole, and Antonio received his habit from John Domenici. The first years of Antonio’s life as a Dominican are vague, but it is recorded that he kept growing in sanctity, spent hours in prayer, fasted constantly, and studied as much as possible. Then he moved to Cortone and met Lorenzo di Ripafratta. Lorenzo was a prominent force in the reform of the Dominicans which had, in many areas, turned from the principles the order had been founded upon.

His age mattered not because he was made an administrator and put in charge of communities in Rome, Naples, Cortona, and  Florence. All of these places now fell under the reorganized Dominican Congregation of Tuscany which had been created to get the Order back to its founding principles.

From 1433 to 1446 Antonio served as Vicar of the Congregation. He followed the rule as set in place by Blessed John Dominici and believed that he should care for his novices as Christ cared for His apostles.  He was determined to do his best to instill in them the spirit of the Beatitudes which would sum up the Order’s Rule. He was also very strict on poverty. All that was necessary to the operation of a household would be sold and given to the poor.

It was during this time that Antonio founded an organization called: Buonomini de San Martino. This was something like the St. Vincent de Paul Society except it was designed to help poor people of high social status who were living in shame because they had become poor. This organization became a huge success. Much money was collected and many of the “hidden” poor were helped. The people began calling him Antoninus the “Father of the Poor,” a name that is still used.

Antoninus became Archbishop of Florence. His writings were deeply theological and he was the papal theologian at the Council of Florence.  His writings were a major development in the field of moral theology and stand to this day.

Archbishop Antoninus died on May 2, 1459.  He was canonized a saint by Pope Adrian VI on May 31, 1523. His feast day is May 10.

The last words of St. Antoninus of Florence were: “Servire Deo regnare est”, “to serve God is to reign.”

copyright©LarryPeterson2019

 

 

St. Agnes of Montepulciano—St. Catherine of Siena called her, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes

St. Agnes of Montepulciano                                                   aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Dominican Order has five women who are canonized saints. The two best known are St. Catherine of Siena, the stigmatist and a Doctor of the Church, and St. Rose of Lima, the first woman canonized a saint from the Americas. The other three are St. Margaret of Hungary who became Empress of the Byzantine Empire, St. Catherine de Ricci, the stigmatist, and lastly, St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

St. Agnes, who may be the least known of the five, could be the most important among them. What tells us that is, it was St. Catherine of Siena, who knelt by Agnes’ incorrupt body and said, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes.” As Catherine bent forward to kiss the foot of Agnes, it raised up so Catherine could easily reach it. St. Agnes had died almost 300 years before that moment.

On January 28, 1268, a baby girl was born into the wealthy De Segni family, in Montepulciano, located in the Papal States (central Italy). The child was named Agnes, and from an early age, she displayed an outward and obvious devotion to God.

By the time Agnes was six years old she was asking her parents to please allow her to enter the convent. When they told her she was much too young, she pleaded with them to move closer to the convent so she could be near to it. On one occasion Agnes was traveling to Montepulciano with her mom and some of the household.  The group passed by a house that was up on a hill and was known as a place of ill repute. Suddenly, a flock of screaming crows soared down from above and attacked little Agnes.

With claws outstretched and beaks flailing away they scratched and clawed at the seven-year-old, causing her to bleed from her head and arms which she was using to cover herself. The women in the group had to fight the shrieking birds off by waving their shawls and yelling at them. The ladies knew that the evil in the nearby house did not want Agnes anywhere near it. It had been a demonic attack. Years later, Agnes would build a convent on that very site.

By the time this child was nine years old she had convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent. She was so young this was against church law but, Pope John XXI gave Agnes permission to enter the Franciscan monastery. The nuns who lived there were known as the “Sisters of the Sack” because the garments they wore were so coarse. Nine-year-old Agnes happily wore it every day.

When Agnes was fifteen, she found herself in need of another special dispensation. This time it was so she could become the abbess of a new convent in Proceno. She desired to be in a contemplative state where she could simply pray and commune with those above. But she did not complain and humbly followed the path that always seemed to appear before her. On her day of consecration as abbess, showers of tiny white crosses floated down inside the chapel on the people below. Being a fifteen-year-old abbess was unheard of, and everyone took this as a sign of heaven’s pleasure with Agnes.

Agnes was graced with many visions. Probably the most legendary and the one for which she is best known is was when Our Lady appeared to her holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. Our Lady allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Another time the Blessed Mother gave Agnes three stones and told her to keep them in honor of the Blessed Trinity. She told Agnes that one day she would need them.

Agnes had another vision which told her that she was to leave the Franciscans and join the Dominicans. In 1306 she was asked to return to Montepulciano to build a new convent. She had no money, but she did have the three stones the Blessed Virgin had given to her. Using the three stones as a “cornerstone,” she raised money and built the convent. The sisters embraced the Rule of St. Augustine and joined the Dominican Order.

Sister Agnes died on April 20, 1317. It is said that the children of the city woke up the next morning and sadly cried out, “Holy Sister Agnes is dead.”

Agnes was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The Dominicans celebrate her feast day on April 20.

St. Agnes of Montepulciano, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019