SAINT CECILIA
??--117; feast day November 22

Cecilia is one of the most popular of all the Roman martyrs.  Her parents wanted her to be married.  But Cecilia had already vowed that she would give her whole life to God.  While the instruments were tuning up for the wedding celebration, Cecilia still didn't worry.  She was singing a song in her heart to God.  This is why she is the patron of musicians.

Later, Cecilia was condemned to death.  Young as she was, she was executed.  A church was built over her tomb and for more than 1,000 years people have prayed for her intercession.  In art, Cecilia is often shown playing an organ.

May St. Cecilia inspire musicians to gladden the hearts of people by filling the air with God's gift of music and reminding them of the divine Musician who created all beauty!

We praise you, for the music
Your saints made here below,
The song of love and goodness
They sang through weal and woe.
And now on high they're singing
A canticle of praise;
Since songs of love delight you
Let us our voices raise.
 

SAINT DOMINIC
1170?-1221; feast day August 8

Before Dominic was born, his mother dreamed that he was a little dog with a burning torch in his mouth, and that he ran around with the torch until he had set the whole world on fire.  This is what Dominic grew up to do.  He founded the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) and traveled far and wide preaching the Gospel.

The story is told that Dominic became discouraged at one point when he kept preaching but people didn't seem to understand and nothing he did seemed to make any difference.  The Virgin Mary then appeared to him and showed him a wreath of roses, representing the rosary.  And the Dominican order became famous for promoting devotion to the rosary all over Europe.  The rosary is a wonderful way for people to pray and to learn about their faith.

Another story about Dominic is that he dreamed he met a beggar who would do great things for the Church.  The very next day he met St. Francis of Assisi.  He embraced him, saying, "You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us."  It was true.  Together, Dominic and Francis helped revitalize the Church and their great work continues to this day.

For Dominic we praise you,
His heart on fire with love;
He preached your holy Gospel
With wisdom from above.
So let us love our Savior,
Who rescues us from death,
And praise the name of Jesus
Unto our latest breath.

 

SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS
(EDITH STEIN) 1891-1942; feast day August 9

Edith Stein is a saint who shows that being an intellectual giant doesn't mean you can't be a saint, too! She was raised in a Jewish family.  When she was a teenager, she didn't believe in God.  In 1917, one of her professors was killed in an accident.  Edith went to visit his widow, expecting to find her absolutely shattered.  Instead, the widow was calm and resigned.  She spoke of her Catholic faith.  Edith was astonished to discover that the Cross could give so much strength.

A few years later, Edith was staying with a Christian friend.  On the bookcase she found the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  It's not a short book, but Edith was so fascinated by it, she read the whole book in one night.  When she had finished it, she was converted.  "This is the truth," was all she said.  She was 30 years old.

Edith's Jewish mother was devastated when Edith was baptized.  It took a lot of courage for Edith to persevere.  Almost right away she wanted to become a Carmelite nun, like the great saint Teresa of Avila.  But she was told to work and wait.  She taught, studied, and wrote for many years.  At last, when she was 44 years old, she was admitted to the Carmelite Convent in Cologne.  Her mother was heartbroken.  Edith was given a new name:  Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Carmelites pray for eight or nine hours a day.  They are silent at meals and at their work, and have only one or two hours of free time each day.  They work hard, day in and day out, and never step outside the convent walls.  It's a life most people can't imagine.  But for Edith, it was like heaven!  It was all she dreamed of, and more.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the persecution of the Jews under the Nazi regime had already begun.  It was no longer safe for Edith to be in Germany.  She was sent to Holland.  But the Germans soon invaded Holland.  In August 1942, Edith, along with many other Jews, was rounded up and sent to the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland.  The last anyone saw her, she leaned out the train window and said calmly, "I am headed East."  She had already offered her life for her people.  She died on August 9, 1942.

She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

For all the holy women
Who answer to your call;
Whose lives of prayer and witness
Are offered up for all;
For women like Teresa,
Who walked your way of grace,
Who suffered with her people,
And now beholds your face.

 

SAINT LAWRENCE
??-258; feast day August 10

Lawrence was a Deacon in Rome at a time when it was a serious crime to be a Christian.  He was responsible for distributing food and clothing to the poor in Rome.  The Emperor demanded that Lawrence give him the treasures of the Church.  Lawrence agreed.  At the appointed time, he brought before the Emperor the poor people of Rome:  beggars, orphans, homeless men and women.  "These are the treasures of the Church," he said.

The greatness of this action did not save Lawrence's life.  He was sentenced to death by being roasted alive on a gridiron.  According to tradition, Lawrence joked with his tormentors as he was dying.  "Turn me over," he said.  "I'm done on this side."

Saint Lawrence reminds us that it's good to have a sense of humor and not take ourselves too seriously.

An ancient poem in honor of Saint Lawrence
Therefore the prefect is enraged,
And a glowing bed made ready.
The torment-bearing instrument,
The gridiron of his suffering,
Roasteth his very viscera,
But he laugheth it to scorn.
The martyr sweateth in his agony,
In hopes of crown and recompense
Which is allotted those with faith,
Who struggle for the sake of Christ.
The court of heaven rejoiceth
For his warfare-waging,
For he hath prevailed this day
Against the lackeys of wickedness.
That we, then, may attain the gift of life,
By this our patron, be glad, O our choir,
Singing in the church upon his feast-day
A joyful alleluya.

Today we sing the praises
Of Lawrence, bold and true.
Who preached the holy Gospel
And witness gave to you.
He said, "The Church's treasure
Is found among her poor."
And now this joyful martyr
Is with you evermore.

 

SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI
1194-1253; feast day August 11

Clare of Assisi was a well-to-do young lady who heard Saint Francis preach and was never the same again.  She, too, wanted to give up everything she owned and follow Christ.  Eventually, she ran away from home.  She traded her rich, beautiful clothes for a rough, poor habit.  Francis himself cut off her beautiful hair and gave her a thick veil to wear instead.

For more than forty years Clare supervised the convent of San Damiano in Assisi.  She and Francis remained good friends.  She had a little hut built for him near the convent.  He would go sometimes to seek her advice, and he loved to pray and write in the little hut.  It was here that he wrote "Canticle of the Sun."

Clare outlived Francis by twenty-seven years.  As she was dying, she asked that the Gospel of John be read to her.  She died peacefully at the age of 59.  The Pope himself came to San Damiano to attend her funeral, which was more like a huge, triumphal procession.  Everyone knew she was a saint.  She was canonized in 1255, just two years after her death.  Now the community she founded is known as the "Poor Clares" in her honor.  The sisters today follow her example of simplicity and poverty.

Today we thank you, Jesus,
For Francis and for Clare,
Who gave up all things freely
Your kingdom to declare.
In poverty and lowliness,
Yet rich in peace and joy,
They lived and loved and served you;
Let us our songs employ!
 

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