Tag Archives: poverty

This Archbishop sold his bed and used the money to help orphans; meet Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of the Poor”

St. Thomas de Villanova                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Tomas Garcia y Martinez (Thomas Garcia) was born in 1488, and he might be a prime example of how a father and mother can influence their son. They not only taught him the Faith, but they also showed him how to be charitable. His dad, Alphonsus, was a miller and along with his wife, Lucia, distributed food and supplies to the poor on a regular basis.

Having spent his formative years watching and helping his parents help others, this trait became ingrained in Thomas. He would grow up and spend his life doing the same thing. In spite of his family’s wealth, Thomas often was dressed in a minimal amount of clothing. That was because he kept giving his own clothes to the poor.

Thomas was not only a devout and generous young man, he was also intellectually gifted. By the age of 16, he was able to enter the prestigious University of Alcala located close to Madrid. He became a teacher of arts, logic, and philosophy and within ten years he had become a full Professor of Philosophy. However, after his father died, Thomas decided to leave academia and accept his calling to a religious life.

Thomas took his inheritance and gave it to the poor. In 1516, he moved on to Salamanca and joined the Augustinian friars taking the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Two years later he was ordained to the priesthood.  He then began teaching theology to his peers and quickly gained a reputation as an eloquent and compelling preacher. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, heard Thomas preach and blurted out, “This monsignor’s words can even move stones.”  Thomas was appointed as one of the councilors of states and a court preacher.

He condemned his fellow priests and bishops for their loose morals and secularized ways. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and did his best to promote devotion to her and the Holy Rosary. During these years he served as a Prior of a monastery, a Visitor General representing the Superior General, and became one of the first Augustinian friars to arrive in Mexico in the New World.  He was offered the post of Archbishop of Granada but adamantly refused. However, in the year 1544, he was ordered by his superior to accept the appointment as Archbishop of Valencia in Spain. Reluctantly, he did as he was told.

The appointment of Friar Thomas as the archbishop did not affect his humble presence in any way. He arrived for his installation as the archbishop wearing the same shoddy monastic habit he had worn for years. He even dis his own sewing and mending to keep it wearable. He was given a donation to refurbish his residence but gave it to a hospital in need of equipment and repairs. Immediately after his installation, he began visiting local prisons ordering changes to be made to alleviate the inhumane conditions.

Archbishop Villanova became known as the “Father of the Poor.” He never ceased in his charitable efforts helping orphans, poor women who had no dowry, and the sick. He tried to come up with solutions to help the poor like giving them work. He would say, “Charity is not just giving, it is removing the need of those who receive charity, liberating them when possible.”

Scores of needy people would come every day to his door for help. All would receive a meal, a cup of wine, and a coin. While continuing his life of monastic austerity, he managed to improve the spiritual lives and the living conditions of his faithful servants. While doing these things he also continually worked to promote education, of restore religious orthodoxy, and reform the lifestyles of clergy and laity.

Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, died from heart disease on September 8, 1555, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Alexander VII canonized him on November 1, 1658.

His legacy includes being the namesake of Villanova University near Philadelphia, St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, and Villanova College in Brisbane, Australia.

St. Thomas of Villanova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

St. Vincent de Paul; His Feast Day is Sept. 27—Some facts about his life you may not know

St. Vincent de Paul                 Wikipedia commons

Larry Peterson

I have been a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for twenty-five years. At present I am not active but being part of this organization has allowed me to interact and work with the least and most marginalized of God’s people. My affiliation with the society has allowed me to experience some of the most uplifting moments of my life.

Those who reached out to us were always in dire straits. They had no food, had been evicted, could not pay for life-saving medication, had no water, had no gas or electricity among other necessities of life. There were even those who had no shoes.  Somehow, we always managed to help anyone who came to us. If we did not have the capabilities, we were able to forward them to a place that could.

I mention those things because it all goes back to the example and inspiration displayed by one man; St. Vincent de Paul. On his feast day of September 27, here are a few things you may not have known about this great saint.

  • The first one is; St. Vincent did NOT found the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was named in his honor by Frederick Ozanam, the 20-year-old student who modeled the society after St. Vincent’s works and teachings. The highlighted link will give you Frederick’s story.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Desperate for money Vincent was notified of an inheritance he had received from an elderly woman who knew him. He had made the journey to Bourdeaux to claim the estate. Disappointed that the inheritance was mostly needed to satisfy a debt, Vincent headed back to Toulouse. The ship he had taken was attacked by pirates and most of the crew was killed or wounded, including the captain. Vincent and the other passengers were taken into chains and sold into slavery and taken to Tunis. Vincent remained a slave for two years before escaping with another and making it back to France.

 

  • Vincent could have been a “community organizer.”  Upon returning to France he was working in a church in the country. The area was so poor many people actually died from starvation. Vincent was horrified and began contacting old friends, many of whom were wealthy, asking for help. He formed groups and they went from house to house seeking clothing, food, and furniture. They were so successful that word spread and other parishes asked to be taught how to organize such efforts. Vincent’s organizational skills began being emulated all over France.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was the founder of a religious order called The Vincentians. Under Vincent’s rule, those who entered ministry pledged to devote their lives to the spiritual and material needs of the poor. Later on Vincent, along with Louise de Marillac, founded the Sisters of Charity. The work started by Vincent de Paul expanded to opening hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the mentally ill. His work also included serving prisoners and slaves.

 

Vincent de Paul died on September 27, 1660. He was canonized a saint on August 13, 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor. I belong to God and to the poor.” –St. Vincent de Paul”

St. Vincent de Paul, please pray for us.

 

                              copyright Larry Peterson2018

St. Mary of Cervellon–Formed the Third Order of Our Lady of Ransom and is the Patroness of those Shipwrecked

Mary of Cervellon  wikipedia.org

By  Larry Peterson

She was born sometime in 1230, some think around December 1, and was baptized on December 8* in Santa Maria del Mar parish in Barcelona. Her name was Mary de Cervellon, and she was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, William de Cervellon.

As a young woman, Mary began working in Saint Eulalia Hospital tending to the sick, the poor and also those who were prisoners. One day she heard a sermon given by Bernard de Corbarie, who was the superior of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Ransom, also known as Mercedarians. 

She was so moved by what she heard she vowed right then and there to do all she could to help alleviate the suffering and misery experienced by those who were prisoners of the Muslim Turks. Working at the hospital, Mary was able to come in contact with the great leaders of the Mercedarian order, including the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco.

Inspired by these pious people Mary, in the year, 1265, joined a small group of women who lived near the monastery. These ladies spent their lives in constant prayer and doing good works for those in need.

In due time the women asked for and received permission to form the Third Order of Our Lady of Ransom. In addition to the normal three vows of poverty,  chastity, and obedience they also vowed to pray for all Christian slaves. They were all given permission to wear the white habit of the Mercedarians and Sister Mary de Cervellon was elected their first Mother Superior. Sister Mary had such an empathy and devotion to the poor and needy that soon she began to be called Maria de Socros  (Mary of Help).

Mary de Cervellon passed away on Septemeber 19, 1290. During Mary’s life and after her death, there were people who swore that they saw Mary literally on the “wings of the wind”, reaching down and saving floundering ships from rough seas so they might stay their course and continue on their journey to free Christian prisoners from the Muslims.

A great devotion grew in her honor and it was given approval by Pope Innocent XII in 1692. She is the Patroness  of those shipwrecked and paintings of Mary show her with a ship cradled in her arms as she saves it from the roaring seas around it.

Mary de Cervellon’s body lies incorrupt to this very day in the Mercedarian Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.

St. Mary de Cervellon, please pray for us all.

 

Meet the Saint who Was “Not Born”; He is also the Patron of Childbirth and Pregnant Women. His name is St. Raymond Nonnatus

St. Raymond Nonnatus; Mercedarian: orderofmercy.org

                                                                                                                       By Larry Peterson

The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, more commonly known as the Mercedarians, was founded in the year 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco. His purpose was the redemption of Christians captured and imprisoned by the Muslims. To become a Mercedarian requires an additional commitment on the part of those wanting to join the order. It is known as the “fourth ” vow.

In addition to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Mercedarians also vow to willingly trade their life for another who is in danger of losing their faith. What follows is a brief visit into the life of one of the original Mercedarians, St. Raymond Nonnatus.

Raymond came into the world in the year 1204. His birth was anything but normal. His mother died while she was giving birth to her son. His father is credited with saving the baby’s life. I cannot imagine what this man was going through or the emotions that were flooding him. His wife had died before his eyes, yet he had the presence of mind to remove his unborn child from her womb with his own dagger.

He and his wife had agreed on naming the child,  Raymond. This was done by the child’s dad. However,  the last name of Nonnatus may seem a bit strange. That is because it is Latin and it means, “not born.” Raymond became known as the child who was “not born.”

Raymond’s father owned several farms, and he wanted Raymond to manage one of them. But Raymond was obviously drawn to religious life. He possessed a deep devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin. Nearby was the ancient chapel of St. Nicholas, and he would frequent there to pray and meditate. Eventually, his father realized that his son would not be a sheep-herder or farmer and gave in to the boy’s wishes to join the Mercedarians in Barcelona

Raymond’s life was now on track for him to fulfill his God-given destiny. Empowered by his father’s permission, Raymond told the Mercedarians that he had personally taken a vow of perpetual virginity and was determined to join the Mercedarian order. He was accepted and (this is not definite) it is said that St. Peter Nolasco, the founder of the Mercedarians, is the one who presented Raymond with the Order’s habit. The young man was probably ordained a priest in his early twenties although there is some uncertainty as to the exact date.

In 1224, Father (aka Friar) Raymond began his first redemption journey to Valencia which had been conquered by the Moors. Raymond Nonnatus managed to gain the freedom of  233 captive Christians. He was just beginning his work.

In 1226,  he traveled to Algiers, in Northern Africa. Offering to remain behind as a replacement prisoner for the Moors, he managed to free another 140 captives. Three years later he went back to Algiers again. This time he was accompanied by his friend, Friar Serapion.

Friar Serapion, after having fought alongside Richard the Lion-Hearted during the Crusades,  became a Mercedarian. He had decided he would rather surrender his life for captives rather than kill infidels. The two of them managed to free 150 captives from slavery on that journey. In 1232,  Raymond and Serapion managed to free 228 captives from the prisons and dungeons of Tunis.

St. Raymond’s last redemption was in 1236. It was in Algiers again, and this visit is not known for the number of freed prisoners. Rather, it is known as the torture Raymond was forced to endure. Having exhausted all funds, Raymond stayed behind as a hostage. He spent his time in the dungeons preaching the message of Jesus and Christianity. This flew into the heart of the Muslim teachings, and his captors would have none of it.

Raymond was taken away, and they used a searing iron to bore holes through his upper and lower lips. Then they placed a padlock through the holes in an attempt to keep the suffering man quiet. The padlocks remained in place for eight months at which time ransom was received for Raymond’s release. He was returned to Spain in 1239.

Raymond Nonnatus died toward the end of August, 1240; the exact day is unknown. He was 36 years-old. Tradition has it that the town, the local count, and the friars all claimed his body. They resolved the dispute by placing Raymond’s body across the back of a blind mule. The mule was let loose and wherever it stopped would be Raymond’s burial place.

The mule ambled slowly to the chapel where Raymond Nonnatus had prayed so frequently as a teenager. That is where he was buried and many miracles at the site have been attributed to his intercession.

St. Raymond Nonnatus was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander VII in 1657. He is the patron saint of childbirth, children, and pregnant women. He is also patron for priest defending the seal of confession.

St. Raymond Nonnatus, please pray for us and all of the unborn.

copyright©LARRY PETERSON 2018