Welcome family to
Christmas 2010 Online Issue #7
This Issue -Saints of
Saint John Bosco
Francis de Sales
Saint Brother Andre
Bob and Penny
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“I want to become a Saint, because I love Jesus.”
The Church was in crisis! The Good Shepherd would not leave His lambs
alone to be devoured by wolves; so once again God raised up Saints and
other powerful men and women to save His Church.
In the Fourteenth Century, God wanted the Papacy to return to Rome. He
knew what was going to come to pass; the Papacy had to be located in the
eye of the storm, to combat the forces of dissension which were bubbling
beneath the surface, and those which would erupt in the Fifteenth
Century and explode in the Sixteenth. God putting his chess pieces in
place, raised up a woman, St. Catherine of Siena; He groomed her for her
mission and when it was time, sent her to Avignon to bring the Papacy
back to Rome.
But as God was maneuvering, putting His troops on the front line, the
enemy, in an attempt to outmaneuver God, attacked the Church from the
rear, initiating the birth of the Renaissance! The people were battle
weary and Dark Ages depressed; they were ripe for anyone selling them
something or someone who would bring some joy and happiness into their
lives; but sadly even good things that are not holy will eventually,
like a dog with a cruel master, turn on you and bite you. The
Renaissance, the period of enlightenment which was to lead them out of
the darkness of the Dark Ages, only led them into deeper darkness
through a tunnel to hell.
In the mid 1400s Renaissance had been wildly spreading its humanistic,
paganistic secularism, selling man on wanting more, but not more God,
more self-gratification. God seeing His children about to be run over by
trojan horses bearing poisoned sweets called forth Saints like St.
Bernardine, St. John Capistrano, and others, His plan - to offset with
holiness, the evil with which the devil was unscrupulously tipping the
Much of Italy had been conquered by a tyrant called Visconti who was
swallowing up province after province, conquering citizens and land by
intimidation, crushing their spirits by bondage and servitude, enslaving
them into complete subjugation by imposing the worst forms of terrifying
tyranny upon them. He trampled the forces in the North, almost
effortlessly. But, as he traveled southward, ready to strike the Tuscany
region, Visconti found formidable fighters, free spirits, people of fire
and focus who would not be enslaved! Although under the Medicis, this
would not have been called a democratic form of government, it was
Tuscany for and by Tuscans.
The Fifteenth Century no better than the Fourteenth, God, countering
evil with good, raised up a unique Saint. Permissiveness and promiscuity
were running wild like the wine and revelry of the times, God raised a
Saint who will not only be a contradiction in this hedonistic society,
she will gather others to follow her in her divine quest to live a life
of holiness. And so through her, a new heretofore unknown charism will
be born into this troubled time, through another Saint who was willing
“to do the ridiculous so that God would be moved to do the miraculous.”
For More Saints in the Catholic Church go here
Francis de Sales
“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
Whenever the Church is threatened, the Lord raises up a Saint or
two or brings about Miracles. In this instance, the Lord raised
up two Saints, St. Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva, a
Doctor of the Church, and Founder of a Religious Order and St.
Jane Frances de Chantal. He also gave us many Miracles,
including the softening of men’s hearts.
The years 1567 through 1622 were not great years for Catholics
in Switzerland. They were not especially good years for a bishop
of the Catholic Church, in particular the Bishop of Geneva. For
that task, the Lord had to search all over Heaven until He could
find a special soul who would not only be capable of pastoring
the people of God during the period of hell caused by John
Calvin, but would be willing to take on the job. The soul who
would be Francis de Sales was the perfect candidate. So the Lord
blessed him, gave him special Angels to guide and protect him,
covered him in the mantle of Mother Mary, and sent him on his
way. He was to be the first of thirteen babies the Lord would
give to this special family. But of all, this was the prize,
given from the Lord.
The Angels delivered the future St. Francis de Sales to a
beautiful château in what was called Thorens at that time, but
today is just outside the breathtakingly city of Annecy, France,
on Lake Geneva. He was born in a château on August 21 , 1567.
His family was part of the House of Savoie, which was a noble
family in Europe. On the following day St. Francis was baptized
in the Parish church of Thorens, and given the name Francis
Bonaventure. His patron saint was the Little Poverello of
Assisi. He was named after St. Francis and Bonaventure, another
famous Franciscan and Doctor of the Church. [St. Bonaventure,
Seraphic Doctor, was born just five years before St. Francis
died, and followed in the Poverello’s footsteps.] The
combination of qualities exemplified in Francis, who was all
heart, and in Bonaventure, who was brilliant, were just the
traits young Francis would need in his ministry for the Church,
as he grew in body and spirit.
What were his parents thinking about for this, their first baby?
Would he continue in the House of Savoie, taking care of the
land, his heritage? Would Francis Bonaventure follow in the
footsteps of his namesakes? Although we read that both parents
were traditional Catholics, could they have had any idea what
they were doing when they gave such powerful names to their
newborn? Nothing is by coincidence, not even the naming of a
child. Unless it is God’s Holy Coincidence.
The room in which he was born was known as St. Francis’ room,
because of a painting in the room of the Saint preaching to the
birds and the fishes. It was always young Francis’ favorite
painting of his namesake, as was this his favorite room.
Francis was born prematurely, leaving him frail and delicate,
physically challenged as a young child. But he was never
Spiritually challenged. From his earliest childhood, he was
unusually active and energetic. He was a product of Home
Schooling in his early years. His mother kept his education in
her own hands, aided by a tutor, Abbé Déage, a local priest who
was very learned. As Francis grew, this priest became his tutor,
traveling with him everywhere during his youth. Beautiful traits
were instilled in him by the Lord, who guided his mother in his
upbringing his entire life. He was obedient and truthful no
matter what the consequences. In addition, he was a voracious
reader; he devoured every book he could get. He was very eager
to learn. The Lord was gearing him up for a mighty job and he
couldn’t begin too soon.
More about Saint Francis de Sales
Bosco and the Youth of Turin
At the time of Saint John Bosco’s ordination, Italy was very
anti-clerical. A lot of this stemmed from the clerics’ Jansenist
behavior, which caused them to remove themselves physically and
emotionally from their flock. Don Cafasso fought to end the grip
Jansenism held on northern Italy. One way was to have the
students in the Theological Institute walk among the people, in
an effort to become more aware and involved in what was going
on. For Don Bosco, this was a revelation. He knew, his
apostolate was children, but he really had no conception of
their plight, until he began to walk the streets of Turin.
The charming city with the beautiful boulevards had become a
hell-hole, a giant ghetto for the working class. Two and three
families lived together in a single room, under the most
unsanitary conditions. He could walk anywhere in the slum
section of the city and see the horrors of the young who were
left on their own. One time, during an evening walk, he came
upon a field. Hoardes of children were running around, filthy,
half-clothed, screaming, cursing and generally acting offensive.
For a moment, his mind flashed to the dreams he’d had, first at
nine years old and then again in the seminary. It was as if he
were standing in the middle of his dream. He tried to reach out
to them, but they ignored him. This was not the way the dream
ended; they had all turned into little lambs. What was happening
here? They were not working with the script. Then he realized
that he was not approaching them with a kindness and love they
had never known before. He was on the brink of jumping into his
life’s work, but he was not ready yet.
His real beginning came, as it should, on the Feast of the
Immaculate Conception, December 8th. He was waiting to begin
Mass, when he noticed a sacristan chasing a dirty young boy in
rags out of the church. Don Bosco made him bring the boy back.
He tried to put the nervous youth at his ease. He asked him many
questions; could he read or write, were his parents alive or
dead. The boy stiffly tried to answer. Then Saint John Bosco,
with a straight face, asked him could he sing or whistle? The
boy let out a big smile. John Bosco had broken the ice.
He began to teach this boy catechism. At the end of an hour, he
asked if he would like to return the next week? The boy answered
yes. John Bosco told him not to come alone; bring a friend. That
was how it started. The next week, he had nine, and then twelve.
Pretty soon, he was the pied piper of Turin. He had over a
hundred children coming to him every week. Where was he going to
put them? This became his battle cry for the rest of his life.
He had too little room, and too little help. This is also the
cry of our ministry. We have so much work to do and so few to do
it. And we are quickly running out of room. We always wondered
what it was that drew us to John Bosco so strongly. We have so
much in common.
Saint John Bosco brought these young people together each
Sunday, for Mass and Catechism. But in addition, there was much
fun, playing, picnics, a version of the acrobatics and juggling
that the younger John Bosco had become famous for. It was
relationship. It was someone caring about these young people, in
a world where they were barely tolerated. They had street
smarts. They could tell very quickly who was sincere, as opposed
to who wanted to exploit them. And they reacted accordingly.
They could see love in this young priest. He genuinely wanted to
make their lives better. It was their souls he was after, but he
was not beyond helping with their physical necessities in any
way he could. He called the meetings Oratories6. To John Bosco’s
way of thinking, an Oratory was an actual building or complex,
with a playing field, classrooms and a chapel. But for many
years, the Oratory only existed in his mind. However, Don Bosco
was a man of vision, and great faith. He knew what he was being
called to do, and the Lord would provide the means to do it. It
was just that simple!
For more about Saints like Saint John Bosco go to
Saint Brother Andre
the Miracle Worker
André never spoke of ecstasies, visions or inner locutions; he
called them dreams. Although he would later call this time in a
foreign country, away from all he knew and loved, his time in
exile, he was not alone; his Saint Joseph was with him. Alfred
had a dream that he was working in a field. In his dream he
leaned tiredly on a rake, and asked Saint Joseph: “Where shall I
die?” Before him he saw a huge stone building unlike anything he
had ever seen. He never forgot this dream; years later, when he
entered Notre Dame College in Montreal, he recognized it as the
building in his dream. Although he did not die there, he would
spend forty years of his life in this college as an instrument
When he was twenty-three years old, Alfred returned to his
beloved Canada and settled down with his family. Or so he
thought. Here, we see the Lord intervening powerfully in the
life of Alfred Bessette, our future Brother André. The Lord put
another Saint-maker in his path, his parish priest, Father
Provençal, whom everyone called a Saint. From the time he was a
little boy, Alfred loved to assist at Mass. It was obvious the
boy had a great devotion to the Eucharist and to the Mass. He
would stay in the church long after Mass was over to pray. He
wanted to remain in the presence of God Whom he could feel in
the church, especially after having received Communion.
Now, years later, Alfred had returned and Father Provençal saw
in the young man the little boy who had served him so zealously,
so faithfully; he asked him if he had ever thought of a vocation
as a religious! [Do we ever ask that question? We wonder how
many young people have a vocation in their heart, and only need
someone to light that flame with a spark of a suggestion like:
“Have you ever thought of becoming a religious?” How many young
people need that affirmation of what might have been burning in
their hearts from childhood? How many potential vocations are
lost because no one ever asked the question?] When Alfred
protested that he had nothing to offer to religious life, as he
could not read or write, Father spoke of him becoming a brother
of the Holy Cross, a Congregation that had come to his parish.
He told him that this Order had brothers who served the
Community in ways not requiring any kind of formal education.
Alfred prayed and realized his searching, his longing had been
for the Lord and His Will, not for the world’s empty rewards.
After praying for two years, Alfred applied to the Brothers of
Holy Cross. Now they were reluctant to accept him, not so much
due to his lack of education, but because he was so frail and
sickly, they were afraid he would be a burden on their
Community. But the Novice Director, who had interviewed the
young Alfred, was touched by the Lord. He saw in André what Our
Lord Jesus could use, humility and a great love of Jesus and the
Church. The Novice Director stepped in; he said, if Alfred were
to become so incapacitated that he was unable to work, he would
always be able to pray! He believed Alfred would be a powerful
prayer warrior. He was accepted!
Father Provençal wrote to the Community of the Brothers of the
Holy Cross: “I am sending you a Saint.” It was 1870, the year
that Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph Patron of the Roman
Catholic Church. Little did Alfred or the brother who admitted
him realize that he would be an instrument to bring millions to
a deeper devotion to Saint Joseph.
For more about Saint Brother Andre click the link below