Tag Archives: the poor

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

A holy time-saver: This saint recruited his donkey to help him multiply his hours and energy

St. John Macias                                                                           public domain

By Larry Peterson

Juan de Arcas y Sanchez was born on March 2, 1585, in the Palencia Diocese located in the northwest part of Spain. His mom and dad were poor peasant farmers who worked hard to take care of their children. Sadly, both of them died when Juan and his sister were both very young. The two of them were taken in by their uncle whose last name was “Macias.” The children took the name as their own. Juan’s uncle trained him as a shepherd, and the youngster would spend many of the long, tedious hours praying the Rosary.

When Juan was a teenager, he attended Mass in a nearby village. The Mass was offered by a Dominican, and his preaching touched young Juan deeply. He started to think about joining the Order and began praying hard for the wisdom to understand and accept God’s will for his life. He wrote that he was visited often by the Blessed Virgin and his patron, St. John the Evangelist. In one of these visions, he reportedly was commanded to travel to Peru.

At the age of 25, Juan began working for a man who had business interests in South America. Some years later, he was asked if he would like to go there. Remembering his vision, Juan immediately accepted the offer. It was 1619 when he set out for the Americas. He was 34 years old.

Juan traveled with soldiers, missionaries, merchants, adventurers, and those in poverty, hoping to find a second chance. Among those on board, he was considered among those in poverty. The ship sailed for several months before finally stopping in the place of his vision; Lima, Peru. He would remain in here for the rest of his life.

Never losing his desire to be a Dominican, Juan entered the Dominican convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Lima in the year 1622. He began as lay-brother who would not preach but would do the necessary manual labor required in the monastery. He became the doorkeeper, and one of his primary duties was to take care of the poor and needy who came to the door seeking material or spiritual assistance.

It is documented that Juan would greet over two hundred people a day. He was always cheerful and upbeat and tried to encourage all who came. His ability to help so many every day came to be recognized as miraculous. One reason was that he had a donkey that he would send out to collect food. He hung a sign on the donkey, and the animal knew what route to take.

Every day the donkey would walk through the neighboring town collecting food for Friar Juan to give to the poor. In fact, the donkey knew what homes to “Hee-Haw” in front of so the people would know he was there. He always came back with his carry-bags filled, and all the people who had come for food were able to be helped.

While in the monastery, Juan’s life was filled with fervent prayer, frequent penance, and charity. Like St. Dominic, he learned his theology not from books but by continually devoting himself to studying what is known as the “Book of Charity,” the Cross. He prayed the Rosary constantly and it is said that his prayers freed over a million souls from Purgatory.

He became best friends with another great Dominican, St. Martin de Porres. The two men would often meet as they made their daily rounds of Lima and were a steady and constant source of encouragement for each other. They were both beatified on the same day in a single ceremony by Pope GregoryXVI in 1837.

We shall finish with one last miracle from the life of Juan Macias. A little girl was the last one on line. When she reached Friar Juan, he asked what she needed, and she told him a new dress. Juan had nothing like that to give, but he asked the child to walk with him so they might check the storeroom. The entire way there, Juan prayed for a miracle. When they got to the storeroom on the bench near the door was a package neatly wrapped. Juan opened it and inside was a brand new dress in the exact color and size the girl had hoped for.

John (Juan) Macias was canonized a saint by Pope St. Paul VI in 1975.

St John Macias, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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