Tag Archives: history

Pope St. Pius X: His motto was “Restore all things in Christ” and he did his best to do just that.

Pope St. Pius X               commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

The two most beloved Popes of the twentieth century lived during the beginning and at the end of that century. We all know of Pope St. John Paul II who guided the Church from 1978 into the new millennium. However, not as many people know about the man who became pope during the beginning of the century. His name was Pope St. Pius X who was elected in 1903.  He went on to be known as the Great Reformer who called the modernism of the day, “the synthesis of all heresies.”

He only reigned as pope for eleven years, but during his pontificate, he initiated reforms in sacred music, biblical studies, seminary life, Canon Law, and the Holy Eucharist making it available for all starting at the age of seven. Before that, the minimum age was twelve.

Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto was the oldest of eight surviving children of Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita Sanson. He was born June 2, 1835, in the Lombardy-Venetian area of Italy. The family had little because Giovanni supported them by working for the government as the local postman. The pay was steady, but it was barely enough to live on.

While still a pre-teen, Giuseppe studied Latin with his village priest. In time he received his Confirmation and Communion (at the time First Communion could not be received until the age of 12). The priest recognized the keen mind Giuseppe had been blessed with, and before long, the boy was in the upscale secondary school known as Castelfranco Veneto.

Throughout his four years at the school, he always held the number one rank in his class. He developed a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin, and when he announced he was considering becoming a priest, no one was surprised.

The Sarto family were in no position to finance their son’s seminary studies when the hand of providence reached in, and Giuseppe found himself with a scholarship to the Seminary of Padua, considered among the best in all of Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood on September 18, 1858, by the Bishop of Treviso, Monsignor Zinelli.

His priestly career began as a parish priest, then he became a pastor, then a canon, moved on to be the spiritual director at the seminary, then diocesan chancellor.  Pope Leo XIII appointed him Bishop of Mantua on November 6, 1884. Lastly, on June 12, 1893, Bishop Sarto was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Leo. All the positions he had held leading up to this point had prepared him well for a future he never could have imagined.

Pope Leo XIII, after serving as Pontiff for 25 years, passed away on July 20, 1903. He had issued eleven papal encyclicals on the Rosary and earned the title, The Rosary Pope. He also wrote the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and the famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum (Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor). His successor would have a tough act to follow. On August 4, 1903,  Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto was elected to the Papacy. He became Pope Pius X.

Pope Pius X was deeply concerned at the cultural Modernism infecting the church and society. He decided it was essential to focus on apostolic problems and to defend the Catholic Church against all attacks which had become many. There was much backlash from the Modernists, the intellectual elites who were trying to reinterpret Catholic teaching. However, Pope Pius was determined to withstand the onslaught.

Modernism was ambiguous because it had no particular definition. People had begun to reject the doctrinal and moral teachings of the church and embrace what felt good for themselves. In 1907, the Holy Father issued the encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Feeding the Lord’s Flock).

He wrote this because he recognized how Modernism rejected the morals and doctrines of the church. He wanted Catholics the world over to know that doctrine is unchanging and does not evolve and not to be fooled by the ever-changing culture. He wrote:

“It is an error to believe that Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and to all men, but rather that He inaugurated a religious movement adapted, or to be adapted, to different times and different places.”

Pope Pius had a deep love for the Holy Eucharist and wanted it to have a daily impact on Catholics everywhere. At the time people only received about three or four times a year. He wrote a decree, Sacra Tridentina Synodus in 1905 which promoted Holy Communion on a daily basis. He said Communion was not a reward for good behavior but, as the Council of Trent noted, “it is“the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins.”   

This was followed by Quam Singulari in 1910. Inspired by a three-year-old girl named Nellie Organ aka “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he lowered the age for receiving First Holy Communion to seven. That is still the way it is today.

Of course, we have the miracles that were attributed to this holy man. There were the miracles reported after Pope Pius’ passing but let us just focus on ones that occurred while he was still alive:

  • During a papal audience, Pius X was holding a paralyzed child. Suddenly the child started squirming and wiggling and then broke free from the Pontiff’s arms and began running around. The child was cured, and it was spontaneous and inexplicable.
  • Another time the Holy father received a letter from a couple, he knew from when he was Bishop of Mantua. Their two-year-old child was dying from meningitis, and they asked the pope to pray for him. Two days later, the child was cured.

Much more can be written about Pope St. Pius X. His holiness and contributions to the welfare of the Church entrusted to him is everlasting. When his body was exhumed in 1944, it was perfectly intact. As per his request, it had never been embalmed.

Pope St. Pius X, we ask for your prayers and protection as we travel forward through the 21st century.

 copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Prior to Mary’s Assumption, did she actually die? What is the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary                           www.wikiart.org

By Larry Peterson

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, writing and speaking ex-cathedra, solemnly defined in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, the dogma that  “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of  her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” We know this as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.

The sidebar to this solemn definition is the fact that it does not address the question of whether or not Mary physically died before being assumed. All the document says is, “having completed the course of her earthly life.”

Interestingly,  we are not bound to a definitive answer. However, the  Feast of The Dormition (Sleep)  of the Mother of God is a major feast in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Armenian Apostolic Church. They celebrate the feast on August 15. So, did Mary actually die first before being assumed? Did she simply fall asleep?  Is it possible that she was buried?

We Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept or reject the Dormition of the Mother of God?  Two of our greatest popes accept it. Venerable Pope Pius XII refers to Mary’s death at least five times while Pope St. John Paul II stated  Mary experienced natural death before her Assumption into Heaven. Lastly, let us go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 966) which gives us these words from the Byzantine Liturgy:

“In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition, you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.”

What follows is this beautiful testimony from the early Church. This example is from the sixth century and gives us insight into what Christians believed in the ancient church about Mary’s Dormition and Assumption:

“The course of this life having been completed by Blessed Mary, when now she would be called from the world, all the Apostles came together from their various regions to her house. And when they had heard that she was about to be taken from the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His angels, and taking her soul, He gave it over to angel Michael and withdrew.

At daybreak, however, the Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, he commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones, and is the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end.” (Saint Gregory of Tours, Bishop; A. D.595-A.D. 594); Eight Books of Miracles; A.D. 575-593;

We must remember that the Ascension of Jesus was accomplished through Jesus’ own power as God. The Assumption of The Blessed Mother was done for her by the Power of God, not under her own power. It is also said that Mary’s death lasted forty hours, the same as her Son’s and that during that time her soul visited the souls in Purgatory to release some and comfort others.

No matter what actually transpired so long ago we know that Our Blessed Mother was taken into heaven body and soul after passing from this life. Once more, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 967):

By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” of the Church.

As people of Faith, the recognition of the splendor and importance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary can take your breath away.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

A Summer snowstorm resulted in the First Church ever built in honor of the Blessed Mother

Basilica of St. Mary Major                                                         wikipediaorg

By Larry Peterson

This is about the first church ever built for Our Lady. Today it is called the Basilica of St. Mary Major (LatinBasilica Sanctae Mariae Maioris). It did not start out that way.

I have a pre-Vatican II, St. Joseph Daily Missal which I use for reference.  Its Liturgical Calendar lists  August 5, as the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. If you look in the current 2019  Missalette, you will note that August 5 has the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The name change occurred in 1969 when the General Roman Calendar was revised. It is actually the same feast with a different name.

Historically, (part of which is considered legend) the story goes like this:

There was a patrician man named John, and he and his wife were a devout Christian couple but had not been blessed with children. They did, however, possess a large tract of land. They went to see the Pope, whose name was Liberius. He was the 29th successor to St. Peter and had just been elevated to the Papacy. They told the Pope that they had decided to donate their worldly goods to the Mother of God. They asked him what he thought about that idea. The Holy Father told them to pray and ask the Blessed Mother for a sign to help them decide.

The couple did as the Pope suggested and during the night of August 4th and into the morning of August 5th, 352 A.D., snow fell on the largest of the Seven Hills of Rome; the one known as the Esquiline Hill. This is where John’s land was located. Even though it was during the stifling heat of summer, the snow did not melt.

The snow landed, making an outline on the ground. The same night Our Lady appeared to John and his wife and also to Pope Liberius. She told them she wanted a church built in her honor on the property. The church would be built on the outline laid out by the snow. The land was owned by John.  He and his wife happily donated the land to be used for the church as requested by the Mother of God. The Holy Father joyfully accepted.

It is a rare occurrence for snow to fall in Rome in winter, no less in mid-summer. The Pope, along with John and his wife, explained to the gathering crowds what had happened. The news spread like wildfire, and soon the people were chanting, over and over, “Our Lady of the Snows!”  “Our Lady of the Snows!”

Pope Liberius ordered that a church be built in Mary’s honor on the site. Work began but was not completed until a century later, under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). Its dedication coincided with the ending of the Council of Ephesus of  431 when Mary was officially declared to be the Mother of God. The finished church was called the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It was also called the Church of St. Mary of the Crib because it was said that pieces from the crib Our Lord was placed in when he was born were kept in the church.

History tells us that Pope Gregory the Great led the first procession carrying an image of Our Lady from the Church of Our Lady of the Snows to the Church of St. Peter in the year 597 to ask for prayers for the people of Rome who were being decimated by the Black Plague. It is written that St. Michael the Archangel appeared and the plague ended. Over the centuries many other miracles have been attributed to interactions with the church.

It was Pope St. Pius V who inserted the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Snows into the General Roman Calendar in 1568. It remained there until 1969 when, because of ambiguities in the 4th-century historical accounts of the “summer snowfall,” the feast day was officially changed to the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Over the centuries many churches have been dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. There are over 152 in Italy alone. There is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois and other places in the United States and around the world.

Lastly, on August 5 of each year, upon the conclusion of the Solemn Mass celebrated at the Basilica in Rome, the people commemorate the miraculous snowfall of  352.A.D. by having a shower of white rose petals dropped from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady. It must be a beautiful sight to behold.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

This Aborigine child’s legacy lives on in the 21st Century-Meet Francis Xavier Conaci

Diremera and Francis Xavier Conaci       19th Century Australia Aborigines

By Larry Peterson

Kate Galvin is a nursing student from Australia who is a descendant of the Aborigines, the indigenous people native to her homeland.  Her roots are ingrained in what is known as Australia’s  Stolen Generations.

In July of 2018, she was awarded the Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship. Sponsored by the Australian Catholic University and the Australian government, she flew to Rome where she received her award and is finishing up her final year of study at the Rome Campus. She expects to earn her degree in nursing and midwifery sometime in 2019.

So who was Francis Xavier Conaci and why is a scholarship named after him?

On March 1, 1846, two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado, and Joseph Serra, founded a mission on the southwest coast of Australia. It was named New Norcia, (after the Italian town of Norcia) which is the birthplace of St. Benedict. Within one year of their arrival, the cornerstone for their future monastery was set in place.

Friar Rosendo had devoted almost 20 years to spreading the gospel and teaching about Jesus to the Aborigines. Indigenous to Australia and Tasmania, these people were not even considered fully human.  Incredibly, Friar Rosendo had made remarkable progress in bringing the Catholic faith to these folks. He lived with them, camped with them, learned several of the primary languages (there were many), wrote dictionaries for them, and even acted as a lobbyist for them with the colonial authorities.

Rosendo Salvado realized the intelligence of these people and became aware of their potential. He decided to select a few of the children who seemed to shine above the rest and take them to Rome.  He hoped to train these youngsters as European religious so they could go back home and spread the faith among their own people.

Friar Salvado chose two boys: one was Francis Xavier Conaci*, age seven, and the other was John Baptist Diremera*, age eleven.  They left Perth on January 8, 1849. The youngsters were very excited about the journey and were bubbling over with enthusiasm. So was Friar Rosendo.  (They were not the first to travel to Rome. A year earlier the first boy baptized in New Norcia,  Benedict Upumera*, was taken on the journey but sadly, he died on the way. Benedict was only seven years old).

The journey was long and hard. The big sailing ship had to travel from Australia to Madagascar, round the Cape of Good Hope and then north to Europe.  It was several months before they arrived in Rome. But first, Friar Salvado,  was invited to speak before the Royal Geographical Society in London. The Society believed the Aborigines were sub-human and he was able to convince them that they were just as human and of the same intelligence as all of them. Having the two boys with him were his living, breathing, walking, talking, proof.

It was on to Rome, and they had an audience with Pope Pius IX. The Holy Father presented the boys with their black, woolen Benedictine robes. The pope, laying hands on Francis Xavier, said, ”Australia needs a second Francis Xavier; may the Lord bless this boy, and make him into one!”

The boys also met the Kings and Queens of Sicily and Naples and were filled with awe at the royal guards and all the pomp an beauty of the palaces. Then it was off to the monastery in the Campania region of Italy to begin their education. Amazingly, both of them were quick to understand Latin. Little Conaci was not only impressive with his learning he also exhibited a great love for Jesus and prayed often. The friars began predicting he might become the first Aborigine bishop in Australia. But, that would never happen.

In early 1853 the abbot at the monastery advised the Vatican that two boys seemed ill and he could not understand why. Doctors, including the Holy Father’s personal physician, decided that the two young boys who were just homesick. Their advice was to send them home to Australia. It was too late for Francis Xavier. On October 10, 1853, at the age of eleven, he died. He is now buried at the Major Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome.

John Baptist arrived back in Australia in May of 1855. The youngster, all of fifteen years old, died three months later. Church historian, Father Brendan Hayes of Melbourne says, “They pined away.”

The scholarship, established in 2016,  is named after Francis Xavier Conaci to extend the boy’s legacy from the beginning in 1849 and carry it to the present day. His youth, his love of Jesus, and the fact that he passed on while at the Benedictine monastery all reach across the decades to embrace the Australian Catholic Church and tie all Catholics “down under” together.

*The boy’s names; Francis Xavier, John Baptist, and Benedict are their baptism names given by the Benedictines. The last names are their Aboriginal or tribal names.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Part II: Martyred Priests and Laypersons of the Cristero War: Canonized on May 21, 2000, by Pope St. John Paul II

Cristero War Priest executed                                      http://www.hereodote.net

By Larry Peterson

On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 saints and martyrs who died in the  Cristero War in Mexico. Most of the newly canonized were Catholic priests. Six of the priests were members of the Knights of Columbus.

This is Part II which profiles some of these heroes and defenders of the faith who invariably shouted, “Vivo Cristo Rey,” (long live Christ the King) as the executioner’s bullets tore into them or the hangman’s noose crushed their throats.

  • Saint Jenaro Sanchez Delgadillo:   On September 19, 1886, Julia Delgadillo gave birth to a baby boy, She and her husband, Cristobal Sanchez, were humble people and faithful Catholics and they were thrilled with the arrival of their new son.  They named him Jenaro.

 

Jenaro Sanchez was a fine student. After finishing his primary grades, he received a scholarship to the Archdiocesan Seminary at Guadalhara. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 20, 1911, and immediately began his priestly ministry. His primary focus quickly turned to care for the sick in his parish and teaching catechism to the children.

In 1923, with the bishop in exile in Texas, Father Sanchez became the vicar of the town of Tamazulita, He had been jailed once and released several days later for reading a letter from the archbishop which attacked the government for its anti-Catholic policies. However, Plutarco Calles had become president in 1924 and had taken an extremely hard stand against everything Catholic. The fact was, Calles hated the Catholic Church and all its members.

Public worship had been prohibited and strictly enforced under Calles. Father Sanchez and other priests had found places where they could celebrate Mass in secret. A family had given him and his mom and dad shelter in their home located outside the parish boundaries. He had no idea the authorities had been told of his whereabouts.

On January 17, 1927, he and five friends were arrested by the soldiers. When his friends saw the soldiers coming they told him to run and hide.  He refused. The soldiers let the others go but they had other plans for Father Jenaro Sanchez. They tied his hands behind him and dragged him to a nearby mango tree. Then, as they taunted and mocked him, they hung Father Sanchez murdering the man of God.

Saint Janero Sanchez Delgadillo, please pray for us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Priest and the Laymen: These following four Cristeros went to their deaths together: Father Luis Batiz Sainz; Senor Manuel Morales; Senor David Roldan; and Senor Salvador Lara.

Saint Luiz Batiz Sainz: He was born in 1870, entered a minor seminary at the age of 12, and was ordained a priest in 1894. He devoted most of his time to catechesis, had a deep devotion for Eucharistic Adoration, and was a member of the Knights of Columbus; council 2367.

Saint Manuel Morales: He was born in 1898 in a small town called Mesillas. He entered the seminary but had to drop out to go to work to help support his poor family. He became a baker, married, and had three children. He was a member of the local Catholic Workers Union.

Saint David Roldan Lara: He was born on March 2, 1907. His dad, Pedro Roldan, died when David was just one year old. He entered a seminary but, like Manuel Morales, had to drop out to help support his struggling mom. He was an outspoken critic of the Calles government and was the vice- president of National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty. He was only 19.

Saint Salvador Lara Puente: He was born in 1905, and was tall and strong and a fine athlete. He became a miner to help support his widowed mother and was an outspoken critic of the secular government.

The four men listed above were jailed together. Father Luiz was older, and he became not only their spiritual father but also their temporal “father” providing the young men comfort as they all knew what was about to happen to them.

On August 15, 1926, all four were loaded into two cars and driven out to the nearby mountains. They took the prisoners out of the cars and told them they were guilty of conspiracy against the government.

They were directed to a spot where they were to be executed. Together they prayed and then began to walk toward the designated location. As they walked, they all cried out together, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”  Then they all were shot to death by firing squad.

We ask these martyred saints to pray for us all.

(Part III to follow)

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Guilty by Bloodline; Blessed Margaret Pole’s life displays Courage to all Christians no matter the challenge.

Margaret  Pole commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was born on August 14, 1473, in Somerset, England.  She was the last daughter of George Plantagenet (Plantagenet Dynasty), the Duke of Clarence. King Henry VII officiated at her marriage to Sir Richard Pole whose mother-in-law, Edith St. John, was a half-sister of the king’s mother, Margaret Beaufort. The family bloodline was quite complex.

When Henry VIII, took the throne in 1509, he married Catherine of Aragon. Margaret was named as one of her ladies-in-waiting. In 1512, the King saw to it that some of her lands were restored to her. These lands had been confiscated by Henry VII. After this, King Henry VIII, who described Margaret as the “most saintly woman in England”, elevated her to the position of Countess of Salisbury, a title that brought prestige and a bit of power.

In due time she was made the governess to Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter. But in 1521, due to infighting and subterfuge that was continually going on in the King’s court, Margaret and her sons fell into disfavor with the King. She was permitted to remain at court but her sons were no longer welcome there. Then, in 1525, she went sent with Princess Mary to live in Wales.

Margaret’s son, Reginald Pole, was a voice against King Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Reginald even wrote to the king expressing his feelings. His mother was horrified. Knowing how vindictive the king could be, she pleaded with Reginald to retract what he had put in writing. He refused. In her heart she knew her boy was right. They had no idea that King Henry VIII confided to the French ambassador that he planned to destroy Reginald’s entire family, including Margaret, the “most saintly woman in England.”

The family purge began in the autumn of 1536 when Margaret’s sons, Geoffrey and Lord Montague, were arrested. A spy who had been placed in Margaret’s household testified before Cromwell that he was witness to secret meetings and clandestine messages being delivered back and forth among the king’s enemies.

Martha Pole, The Countess of Salisbury, was truly a woman of faith. It did not matter. She was questioned from noon into and through the entire night until the next morning. She knew nothing of what they asked, but it did not matter. The seized all her furniture and goods and transported her to jail at Cowdry. Here she remained isolated for the next few years.

An Act of Attainder was passed by the Parliament in early 1539 against Margaret Pole and her entire family. Her two sons had already been executed when the bill was passed. In it, she was accused of treason. The now elderly woman was dragged off to the Tower of London. She had been placed under a sentence o death, and the sentence could be carried out anytime the King felt so compelled to order it. She would remain there for the next two years.

On May 27, 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was informed that she would be put to death that very day. She asked why since no crime had ever been committed. She was ignored. Her body was racked with pain from the harsh, cold, stone cell she had been forced to stay in for the previous few years. But she stood tall and walked to her place of execution.

There were no crowds or witnesses present and no scaffold. It was a chopping block in the corner of the room on the floor. Margaret asked everyone to pray with her. They bowed heads and she forgave everyone, commended her soul to God,  and asked for prayers for the King and Queen.

Margaret was subjected to one final and horrendous indignity. The executioner was a novice and missed his target several times. The poor woman’s shoulder, head, and back were hit by the flailing ax before it hit its mark, ending her life. It is hard to imagine having to endure that.

Many called Margaret Pole a martyr. She was a victim of being part of a family that was hated by a ruthless king. For that, she suffered a brutal death.  Pope Leo XIII agreed and beatified Margaret Pole on December 29, 1886.

Blessed Margaret Pole; please pray for us.

copyright©2019Larry Peterson

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