May 8 | Our Lady of Grace
This title of 'Our Lady of Grace' is the oldest with which the Order has shown veneration to Mary. The General Chapter of 1284 prescribed the daily recitation or chant of the 'Benedicta Tu' precisely in honor of Our Lady of Grace. The antiphon 'Ave Regina Caelorum', also dating back to the 13th Century, is in honor of this same title as well. A confraternity with the title 'Lady of Grace' was established at least as early as 1401 in Augustinian friaries of Spain and Portugal, and over the subsequent one hundred years had extended widely throughout the Order. New friaries under this title began to be established in Italy and Latin America. In 1807 Pius VII, at the request of Venerable Joseph Menochio, Papal Sacristan and confessor to the pope, granted the Order the right to celebrate this Feast on June 1st.
The Virgin Mary, greeted by the angel as 'full of grace' became, from that moment, the Mother of Grace. As Mother of the one and only Mediator Jesus, she is Mother of the Author of Grace and dispenser of Grace.
May 12 | Blessed William Tirry, Priest & Martyr
William was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1608. He entered the Order when he was 18 years old and did his studies at Valladolid, Paris and Brussels. Following ordination to the priesthood he returned to Ireland as a member of the Augustinian community in Cork, a city which became predominantly Protestant with the war of 1641. Following the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland in August, 1649, and the outlawing of priests throughout the country, William was forced to exercise his ministry in secret. He was betrayed while about to celebrate the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, 1654, and was taken to the prison at Clonmel. His crime: being a priest in Ireland! He was offered his freedom if he would renounce his Catholic faith, but he refused. Accused of treason, the court, under pressure of the military, declared him guilty. He was led to the gallows dressed in his Augustinian habit and, from the place of execution, pardoned those who had betrayed him. He asked absolution if there should be a priest in the crowd, thinking that a fellow Augustinian, Fr. Dennis O'Driscoll, the former provincial whose secretary William had been, was present. The day was May 12, 1654. His body was interred at the Augustinian Abbey in Fethard. William was beatified by John Paul II on September 27, 1992 together with sixteen other Irish martyrs.
The tragedy of a Church divided is played out in the lives of people such as Blessed William who suffered for their fidelity to promises made and a faith inspired by heroic love. Love of God and love of neighbor, recommended to us as the first principle of the Rule, is ultimately the final explanation for the courage and steadfastness of Blessed William and others like him.
May 13 | Our Lady of Help
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title 'Our Lady of Help' or 'Our Lady of Succor', began at the start of the 14th Century in the Church of Saint Augustine in Palermo, Sicily. Fr. Nicola Bruno, theologian, preacher and prior of the friary there, having suffered continually from unbearable pains in his side, invoked the Blessed Virgin for relief as he prayed before her image in the church. That night the Virgin of that same image appeared to him announcing his healing. From this event the painting came to be known as 'Our Lady of Help' and devotion spread, not only locally, but throughout the Order, especially in Italy, Spain and Latin America. This memorial has been celebrated in the Order with its own liturgy since 1804.
The many titles by which Mary is invoked particularly as a helper of the Christian people - Our Lady of Help, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (also originally an Augustinian devotion) - reflect the faithful's confidence in Mary, chosen by God as the special instrument through which the Savior, our Ultimate Help, would come into the world.
May 16 | Saints Alypius & Possidius, Bishops
Alypius was born in the middle of the fourth century in Tagaste, Africa, to parents who were influential citizens of that city. He studied law in Rome, but first met Augustine while at school in Carthage. Augustine praised Alypius, whom he called "the brother of my heart", for his honesty, sincerity and sense of justice. Like Augustine, Alypius was at one time a Manichean. The two friends were both converted to the Catholic faith and were baptized together by Saint Ambrose in 387. Alypius was a member of Augustine's first monastery in Tagaste. When Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo, and founded a community in that city, Alypius joined him there, and was subsequently ordained bishop of Tagaste around 384. He once traveled to the East, where he met the great biblical scholar Saint Jerome. He took part in the African Councils of the Church during his time as bishop, and was chosen along with Possidius and Augustine to represent the Catholic bishops at the famous meeting with the Donatists in Carthage in 411. He took part in the Council of Milevi (Numidia) in 416 and composed a written report on this Council for Pope Innocent. Alypius travelled to Italy several times as part of his opposition to the Pelagian heresy. He carried Augustine's writings with him in order to present them to Pope Boniface. It is believed that he was present at the death of Augustine in 430. Alypius died shortly thereafter, probably later in the same year.
Possidius, the first biographer of Augustine, was born in northern Africa, and became a member of Augustine's first monastic community in Hippo, along with Saint Alypius. He was named Bishop of Calama (Numidia), where he faced opposition from the Donatists. Possidius narrowly escaped death on one occasion when Donatist extremists set fire to a house where he was visiting . Twice he went to Italy to defend the rights of the African Church. He was present at the Councils in Carthage in 403 and 407, and was chosen along with Alypius and Augustine to represent the Catholic Bishops at the famous meeting with the Donatists in Carthage in 411. He also took part in the Councils of Malevi (416) and Carthage (419) which treated of the Pelagian heresy. When Calama was conquered by Vandal invaders in 429, Possidius took refuge with Augustine inside the walls of Hippo and was with Augustine at the latter's death in 430. Possidius returned to Calama, but in 437 was exiled by King Hunmeric, who suppressed Christianity and forced Arianism on the territories that he conquered. During this time of exile, Possidius completed his famous book, The Life of Augustine. He died in exile around the year 437.
The Order has celebrated the feasts of Alypius and Possidius since 1671. Clement X confirmed devotion to them on August 19, 1672. The memory of these two saints is closely tied, both as monks and bishops, to that of Saint Augustine. They are, in fact, the two greatest representatives of his monastic legacy. However, it is not for this reason alone that history remembers them. They were dedicated Christians, religious and shepherds of the Church in their own right.
May 18 | Blessed William of Toulouse, Priest
William was born in Toulouse, France, around the year 1297. At the age of 19 he entered the Augustinian monastery in his native city and was sent to study in Paris where he received the title of lector in theology. Afterwards he devoted himself especially to the ministry of preaching, for which he became well known and respected, and through which he drew many others to embrace the religious life. Except for a brief period when he was Prior in Pamiers, he seems to have spent his whole religious life in Toulouse, in the monastery of Saint'Etienne, where, in 1341, the Order's General Chapter was held. William died in Toulouse on May 18, 1369 and was buried in the cemetery of his monastery. Not long after, because of the veneration of the people who regarded him as a saint and wonder-worker, his remains were transferred to the chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene where he was accustomed to celebrate Mass. Leo XIII confirmed his cult in 1893.
William's methodology as a preacher was: pray, contemplate, and only then speak of God, otherwise the preacher's words will not touch the heart of his listeners, but become lost in the rafters of the church. As a man of prayer and recollection, he was much sought after as a spiritual director and exorcist.
May 19 | Blessed Clement of Osino &
Augustine of Tarano, Priests
Clement was born at the very beginning of the 13th Century in the Italian region known as The Marches of Ancona. As a youth he joined the Hermits of Brettino, one of the congregations which later came to form the Order of Saint Augustine in 1256. Subsequent to the Grand Union he was elected Prior Provincial in 1269 and Prior General in 1271, distinguished for his spirit of fraternal charity, poverty and patience. He resigned from the generalate in 1274 to live a more contemplative life. In 1284, however, we was unanimously elected Prior General once again, and was re-elected twice more thereafter. He strongly promoted studies among the friars, insisted on religious observance, called for the provision of libraries and archives in monasteries and founded convents of Augustinian Nuns. Clement died on April 8, 1291. His remains are preserved in the chapel of the Order's General Curia in Rome. His cult was confirmed by Pope Clement XIII in 1759.
Augustine Novello was born at Tarano (Rieti), Italy, around 1240 and at baptism was given the name Matthew. In his youth he studied law at the University of Bologna and worked in the chancery of the Kingdom of Sicily at the court of King Manfred. In the Battle of Benevento in 1266, the king was killed and Augustine was wounded. This became the occasion for a change of life for the promising lawyer, who then left Sicily to enter the Augustinian hermitage of Rosia near Siena as a lay brother, taking the name Augustine and concealing his education and background from the community. Later, when a property dispute arose between the friars and the bishop, Augustine drew up a defense of the community's position and his true identity became known. He was then called to Rome by Prior General Clement of Osimo and ordained priest. He was put to work on the formulation of the Order's Constitutions and named penitentiary in the Roman Curia. He was elected Prior General in 1298 but resigned two years later, spending his remaining years in the hermitage of San Leonardo al Lago near Siena. Augustine was known and respected for his deep humility and love of contemplation. He was instrumental in the founding of Siena's hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, whose guidelines he composed. He died on May 19, 1309 at San Leonardo and his remains, originally preserved in the Church of Saint Augustine, Siena, were later transferred to Termini Imerese in Sicily, where his statue is found on the façade of the cathedral. Augustine's cult was confirmed by Pope Clement XIII in 1761.
These two friars whose lives are linked closely by history, share in common not only their religious profession and the office of Prior General, but also the mark of sanctity. Both were drawn by temperament to a love for the contemplative life, but were equally engaged in many and important works for the good of the Order in its formative years.
May 22 | Saint Rita of Cascia, Religious
Rita Lotti was born in 1381 in the little village of Roccaporena, Italy, the only child of a devout and humble Christian couple. She was given in marriage at a young age to Paolo Mancini and together they raised two sons. When Paolo was murdered as the result of a long-standing family rivalry, Rita was moved to forgiveness because of her strong Christian convictions, but her sons, teenagers by now, were determined to avenge their father's death. Her words were unable to change their hearts, but her prayers to God prevented them from exacting revenge. Both boys died of natural causes, leaving Rita without a family, but not without hope. After several years and various requests, she succeeded in gaining admittance to the convent of the Augustinian Nuns in Cascia where she lived the remaining forty years of her life in prayer and simple works of charity. At the age of 61, while at prayer on Good Friday before an image of Jesus crowned with thorns, she received the stigmata in the form of a single wound in her forehead. This remained until her death at 76 years of age on May 22, 1457. Rita of Cascia was canonized on May 24, 1900 by Leo XIII who proclaimed her 'The Precious Pearl of Umbria.' Her body is venerated in her basilica in Cascia.
Rita is venerated today as The Peacemaker, not only for her courageous act of forgiveness at her husband's death, but also for the continuous, though futile, encouragement of her sons to follow her example, and the reconciliation of Paolo's family with that of his assassins. This latter was the great 'miraculous deed' that gained her acceptance into the convent. She is also known as the Saint of the Impossible for the many challenges she faced in life and the many graces she has obtained since death.