Happy Feast day to all Youth


Today is the Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the Patron of Catholic youth.

In 2010, I organized a youth seminar at my local parish during the days World Youth Day was going on in Madrid, Spain, and among the topics we shared was one about Youth and the Saints. I was lucky to find the files on my computer this morning, and I am sure it will be helpful posting today.

“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7)

Youth and the Saints:

Who is a saint?

How are Saints chosen?

Life and biography of some saints for the youth.

·         A saint is a holy person. A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like — and of what we are called to be. Only God ‘makes’ saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells.

·         The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make or create anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. By this definition there are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfected in holiness.

In Church tradition, a person who is seen as exceptionally holy can be declared a saint by a formal process, called canonization. Formal canonization is a lengthy process often taking many years, even centuries.

The first step in this process is an investigation of the candidate’s life, undertaken by an expert. After this, the report on the candidate is given to the Bishop of the area and more studying is done. It is then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

If the application is approved, the person may be granted the title of “Venerable”. Further investigations may lead to the candidate’s beatification and given title of “Blessed.” At a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint. These miracles must be posthumous.  Finally, when all of this is done the Pope canonizes the saint.

Here are the steps that must be followed in the process of canonization:

  1. A local bishop investigates the candidate’s life and writings for evidence of heroic virtue. The information uncovered by the bishop is sent to the Vatican.
  2. A panel of theologians and the cardinals of the Congregation for Cause of Saints evaluate the candidate’s life.
  3. If the panel approves, the pope proclaims that the candidate is venerable, which means that the person is a role model of Catholic virtues.
  4. The next step toward sainthood is beatification, which allows a person to be honored by a particular group or region. In order to beatify a candidate, it must be shown that the person is responsible for a posthumous miracle. Martyrs — those who died for their religious cause — can be beatified without evidence of a miracle. On Oct. 20, 2003, Mother Teresa was beatified. She is now known as Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata.
  5. In order for the candidate to be considered a saint, there must be proof of a second posthumous miracle. If there is, the person is canonized.

These alleged miracles must be submitted to the Vatican for verification.

E.g  Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross was canonized in 1997 after the Vatican verified that a young girl who ate seven times very harmful medicines was suddenly cured. The girl’s family was said to have prayed to the spirit of Sister Teresia for healing.

In Mother Teresa’s case, her supporters are arguing that she has performed at least two posthumous miracles. In one case, a French woman in the United States broke several ribs in a car accident — reportedly, her wounds were healed because she was wearing a Mother Teresa medallion. Another possible miracle occurred when Mother Teresa appeared in the dreams of a Palestinian girl, telling the girl that her cancer was cured.

Once a person is a Saint, he or she is recommended to the entire Catholic Church for veneration. Some saints are selected as patron saints, special protectors or guardians over particular occupations, illnesses, churches, countries or causes.

SOME OF THE SAINTS CONNECTED WITH YOUTH

                    St. Dominic Savio

St. Dominic Savio is a junior-member of the family of saints in the Roman Catholic Church in two ways: Not only did he die aged only 15, but it was also not before 1954 that he was formally canonized.

Born on April 2, 1842 to Carlo and Birgitta Savio in a small city in Italy, Dominic was one of 10 children of a peasant family. Despite the fact that his illiterate parents could not teach Dominic and his brothers and sisters intellectually and academically, Mrs. Savio had taken special effort to raise and nurture her children in the Roman Catholic faith and tradition, teaching the principles of religion instead. Eventually, Dominic was able to read and write at age 6, and he also made his first holy communion at an unusually early age, his resolutions being, “I will go often to Confession and Holy Communion”, “Jesus and Mary will be my Special Friends”, and “I wish to die rather than commit a sin”.

By 1854 Dominic started to find special attraction to the priesthood and to feel a special vocation, drawing him very close to God. At the age of 12, he initially became acquainted with St. John Bosco – Don Bosco –, the founder of the Salesian order and the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Turin. Encouraged by Don Bosco’s message that it was necessary for everyone to become a saint, making it God’s will for everyone, and that becoming a saint was actually easy for everyone to achieve, Dominic started taking this “matter” very seriously soon. However, seeing such a young boy isolating himself from his peers and extending the times he spent in prayer to the point that he even “offered up” his lunch breaks in order to pray, Don Bosco put him back on a more realistic way of achieving saintliness. He pointed out that one becomes a saint by fulfilling one’s daily duties and not by neglecting any of them in any way, holiness consisting of being happy and helping others be happy. Dominic quickly put this advice into practice. He was a diligent and cheerful student. With a real concern for the spiritual welfare of his friends, he would encourage boys to go to confession when he saw them sinning, and would not allow them to swear or curse while they were playing with him. Sometimes he would invite them to make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or say the rosary with him. Dominic also had a great love for purity. Once he came across a group of boys laughing over an impure magazine one of them had brought into the Oratory. When Dominic saw the pictures, he tore the magazine into pieces and scolded his friends for putting their souls in such danger.

The graces Dominic Savio had begun to receive were great and plentiful. Even though Dominic felt a great desire to do penance, Don Bosco put him back on a more “realistic” level since he saw that the boy’s health was slowly deteriorating. Don Bosco encouraged Dominic to make obedience his sacrifice and penance and to seek sanctification by the martyrdom of daily duty, having Dominic arrive at the conclusion, “I can’t do big things but I want everything to be for the glory of God.” So Dominic made small, everyday things into sacrifices for God; never complaining about the weather or food, doing little odd jobs for the other students, and faithfully controlling his eyes to guard his purity.

In 1857, Dominic contracted tuberculosis at the age of 15; he was not able to recover, and after but a few weeks of illness, he received the Last Rites from a priest on March 9, 1857. Dominic died with a radiant smile on his face, exclaiming in the very moment before his death, “Oh, what lovely things I see!”

Dominic’s humble holiness in every-day life has given him saintly regard by others already shortly after his death; he was declared Venerable in 1933 by Pope Pius XI, was beatified in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, and declared a saint in 1954. St. Dominic Savio, PRAY FOR US!

St. Charles Lwanga

Charles was one of 22 Ugandan martyrs who converted from paganism. Charles Lwanga was a Muganda who belonged to the Ngabi (Bush-Buck) clan. However, members of this clan were not allowed by custom to reach the royal palace, and when Lwanga took service at court he passed as a member of the Nkima ( Monkey) clan, the clan of his former master and patron. His father and mother are said to have been Musazi and Meme and it has been claimed that he was born in Ssingo County, and was a younger brother of his fellow martyr, Noe Mawaggali. Whatever the truth of this claim, it is certain that, at a very early age, he was sent to Buddu in the south west to be brought up by Kaddu whom some believed to be his biological father, but who may have been an uncle.

Though he was baptized the night before being put to death, he became a moral leader. He was the chief of the royal pages and was considered the strongest athlete of the court. He was also known as “the most handsome man of the Kingdom of the Uganda.” He instructed his friends in the Catholic Faith and he personally baptized boy pages. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful. He protected his companions, ages 13-30, from the immoral acts and homosexual demands of the Babandan ruler, Mwanga.

Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. The premise was if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?

When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burnt to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly so death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, “Kotanda! (O my God!).” He was burned to death by Mwanga’s order on June 3, 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions on June 22,1964. We celebrate his memorial on June 3rd of the Roman Calendar. Charles is the Patron of the African Youth of Catholic Action.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Born in the castle of Castiglione, 9 March, 1568; died 21 June, 1591. At eight he was placed in the court of Francesco de’Medici in Florence, where he remained for two years, going then to Mantua. At Brescia, when he was twelve, he came under the spiritual guidance of St. Charles Borromeo, and from him received First Communion. In 1581 he went with his father to Spain, and he and his brother were made pages of James, the son of Philip II. While there he formed the resolution of becoming a Jesuit, though he first thought of joining the Discalced Carmelites. He returned to Italy in 1584 after the death of the Infanta, and after much difficulty in securing his father’s consent, renounced his heritage in favor of his brother, 2 November, 1585, a proceeding which required the approval of the emperor, as Castiglione was a chief of the empire. He presented himself to Father Claudius Acquaviva, who was then General of the Society, 25 November, 1585. Before the end of his novitiate, he passed a brilliant public act in philosophy, having made his philosophical and also his mathematical studies before his entrance. He had in fact distinguished himself, when in Spain, by a public examination not only in philosophy, but also in theology, at the University of Alcalá. He made his vows 25 November, 1587. Immediately after, he began his theological studies. Among his professors were Fathers Vasquez and Azor. In 1591 when in his fourth year of theology a famine and pestilence broke out in Italy. Though in delicate health, he devoted himself to the care of the sick, but on March 3 he fell ill and died 21 June, 1591. He was beatified by Gregory XV in 1621 and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. His remains are in the church of St. Ignazio in Rome in a magnificent urn of lapis lazuli wreathed with festoons of silver. The altar has for its centerpiece a large marble relief of the Saint by Le Gros.

The Lord can make saints anywhere, even amid the brutality and license of Renaissance life. Florence was the “mother of piety” for Aloysius Gonzaga despite his exposure to a “society of fraud, dagger, poison and lust.” As a son of a princely family, he grew up in royal courts and army camps. His father wanted Aloysius to be a military hero.

At age seven he experienced a profound spiritual quickening. His prayers included the Office of Mary, the psalms and other devotions. At age nine he came from his hometown of Castiglione to Florence to be educated; by age 11 he was teaching catechism to poor children, fasting three days a week and practicing great austerities. When he was 13 years old he traveled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints.

A book about the experience of Jesuit missionaries in India suggested to him the idea of entering the Society of Jesus, and in Spain his decision became final. Now began a four-year contest with his father. Eminent churchmen and laypeople were pressed into service to persuade him to remain in his “normal” vocation. Finally he prevailed, was allowed to renounce his right to succession and was received into the Jesuit novitiate.

Like other seminarians, Aloysius was faced with a new kind of penance—that of accepting different ideas about the exact nature of penance. He was obliged to eat more, to take recreation with the other students. He was forbidden to pray except at stated times. He spent four years in the study of philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17) as his spiritual adviser.

In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. The general himself and many other Jesuits rendered personal service. Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease himself. A fever persisted after his recovery and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Yet, he maintained his great discipline of prayer, knowing that he would die within the octave of Corpus Christi, three months later, at the age of 23.

St. John Bosco

What do dreams have to do with prayer? Aren’t they just random images of our mind?

In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John Bosco because he wouldn’t take his dreams seriously enough. Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint who worked with neglected boys, he learned of the dreams that John had been having since the age of nine, dreams that had revealed God’s will for John’s life. So Pius IX had made a request, “Write down these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely and in their natural sense.” Pius IX saw John’s dreams as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration for those he ministered to.

Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd to try to stop them — by fighting and shouting. Suddenly a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge of these unruly gang. The man said, “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness.” As adults, most of us would be reluctant to take on such a mission — and nine year old John was even less pleased. “I’m just a boy,” he argued, “how can you order me to do something that looks impossible.” The man answered, “What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge.” Then the boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like. The man told John that this is the field of John’s life work. Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and strength, he would see a change in the children — a change that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned into gentle lambs.

When John told his family about his dream, his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd, a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage advice we have heard through the years, “You mustn’t pay any attention to dreams.” John said, “I felt the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out of my head.”

Eventually that first dream led him to minister to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once he had their attention he would teach them and take them to Mass. It wasn’t always easy — few people wanted a crowd of loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who promised to help would get frustrated and leave.

Two “friends” even tried to commit him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him. But instead of getting in, John said, “After you” and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off as fast as he could go!

Through it all he found encouragement and support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, “How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn’t a worry in the world. No troubles at all!” Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Often John acted on his dreams simply by sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the dream. “Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed my mind,” he would say.

The groups he most often shared with were the boys he helped — because so many of the dreams involved them. For example, he used several dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life. In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds — tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread, which represented the state of the boys’ souls. He said he would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion to give them moral guidance.

He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.

John Bosco found God’s message in his dreams. If you have some question or problem in your life, ask God to send you an answer or help in a dream. Then write down your dreams. Ask God to help you remember and interpret the dreams that come from God.

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

St. Bridget of Sweden

Saint Bridget was the daughter of Birger Petersson and his wife, Ingeborg, who was a member of the same clan as the reigning family. Bridget’s family was pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made long and arduous pilgrimages as far away as the Holy Land.

Bridget’s mother died, leaving Bridget, ten years old, Katharine, nine and a newborn baby boy, Israel. The children were sent to their maternal Aunt for further education and care.

It seems that as a young child, Bridget had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows. This dream was very vivid. Bridget asked Him who had done that to Him. His answer: ‘All those who despise my love.’ The memory of this dream never left Bridget and may have even left an indelible mark on her sub-conscious. As was usual during the Middle Ages, Bridget was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.

From age seven on, Bridget had visions of Christ crucified. Her visions formed the basis for her activity—always with the emphasis on charity rather than spiritual favors.

She lived her married life in the court of the Swedish king Magnus II. Mother of eight children (the second eldest was St. Catherine of Sweden), she lived the strict life of a penitent after her husband’s death.

Bridget constantly strove to exert her good influence over Magnus; while never fully reforming, he did give her land and buildings to found a monastery for men and women. This group eventually expanded into an Order known as the Bridgetines (still in existence).

In 1350, a year of jubilee, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses.

A final pilgrimage to the Holy Land, marred by shipwreck and the death of her son, Charles, eventually led to her death in 1373. In 1999, she, Saints Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein were named co-patronesses of Europe. Her feast day is July 23.

In conclusion, we are all called to Holiness and Sainthood. It iseasy for any one of us to become a Saint. Let us always ask the intercession of the Saints before us.

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One Response

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