August 2 | Blessed John of Rieti, Religious
John was born in Castel Porchiano, near the city of Amelia, in the region of Umbria, Italy, around the year 1318. He entered the Order in his teenage years and was sent to Rieti where he remained until his death. The Augustinian historian, Jordan of Saxony, described John as: "simple, humble and always cheerful; he was always friendly and social, and acted no differently from others in eating, drinking, and the other things that regard the common life of the friars; but he was unique with regard to his interior life. He was filled with love for his fellow religious and treated them with such charity that he was never heard to say or do anything contrary to fraternal love. He was reverential toward everyone, and especially toward the sick and visitors, showing them the goodness of his generous heart." John died in 1336 at the age of 18, and immediately reports circulated of graces received through his intercession. He was buried in the Church of Saint Augustine in Rieti and his cult was confirmed by Gregory XVI in 1832. He is the patron of young professed friars of the Order.
John is an example of holiness achieved, not through exceptional accomplishments or practices, but in the ordinary things of life. Thus he is an example to people of every state of life in following the principles of Gospel spirituality, particularly generosity, simplicity and Christian joy.
August 17 | Saint Clare of the Cross of Montefalco, Virgin
Clare was born in Montefalco, Italy, in 1268, the second daughter of Damiano and Iacopo Vengente. From a very early age she lived an heremitical life with her older sister Giovanna and another young woman in a small dwelling which Damiano had built for them. Clare was a lively and intelligent young girl, but equally prayerful and penitential. The small community of hermits grew, and in 1290 was established as a formal convent of nuns under the Rule of Saint Augustine. Upon the death of Giovanna, Clare at 23 years of age was elected abbess, and became mother, teacher and spiritual director of the convent. A young woman of deep spiritual perception, though with almost no formal education, she was much sought after for advice and counsel from people of all walks of life, and from within the walls of the cloister became a director of many souls. She was deeply devoted to the Passion of Christ and was known to experience periods of ecstasy as she contemplated the mystery of the Cross. For many years she received no consolation in her interior life except that of her own fidelity to prayer and acts of penance. During her final illness she repeated to her sisters that she bore the cross of Christ in her heart. After her death, this was verified when the nuns examined her heart and found in it symbols of the passion of the Lord, formed from cardial muscle. Clare died on August 17, 1308 at the age of 40 and was canonized by Leo XIII in 1881.
The life of Clare of the Cross is a striking reminder that holiness is the work of grace and not of human effort. Nonetheless, cooperation with the work of God is indispensable for spiritual growth, "for He who made us without our willing it, will not save us without our willing it."
August 19 | Saint Ezekial Moreno, Bishop
Ezekiel was born in Alfaro, Spain, on April 9, 1848. He joined the Recollect Congregation of the Order in Monteagudo (Navarra) in 1864, and professed vows on September 22, 1865. He was sent to the Philippines where was ordained in 1871 and where he labored for 15 years. He then returned to Spain to serve as prior in Monteagudo for three years, after which he gave all of his energy to various forms of ministry in Colombia, South America, until shortly before his death. He was a leader in the restoration of the Recollect Province of La Candelaria in Colombia, Vicar Apostolic of Casanare, and in 1899 became bishop of Pasto. His life as bishop was not easy due to the horrors of a cruel civil war, a period of rising anticlericalism, and persecution of the Church. Nevertheless, through his simple spirit of openness and rigorous defense of the rights of the Church, he showed himself a faithful pastor whose concern was the well-being of the Church entrusted to his care. Struck by cancer he returned to Spain at the insistence of his priests in order to receive treatment, and died there at Monteagudo on August 19, 1906 at the age of 58. He was beatified in 1975 and canonized in the Dominican Republic by John Paul II in 1992 at the close of the 5th Century Celebration of the Evangelization of Latin America.
"Saint Ezekiel Moreno, by his life and evangelizing work, is a model for pastors, especially those of Latin America, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit wish to respond with new zeal, new means and a new expression to the great challenges which confront the Church of Latin America"(John Paul II).
August 26 | Saint Liberatus, Boniface & Companions, Martyrs
In 484, some 34 years after the death of Saint Augustine, the Vandal king, Hunneric, issued a decree ordering the closure of all Christian monasteries and the consignment of all monks and nuns to the Moors. The seven members of the monastery of Gafsa, Tunisia, founded under Augustinian inspiration, were taken prisoners. They were the Abbot Liberatus, Deacon Boniface, Subdeacons Servus and Rusticus and the lay monks Rogatus, Septimus and Maximus. They were taken to Carthage where efforts were made, in vain, to have them renounce the faith. The youngest, Maximus who was only 15 years old was particularly pressured to abandon his confreres and his Christian way of life, but refused, preferring to accept the same fate as the rest. They were then ordered to be burned alive. When it proved impossible to set the wood of their funeral pyre afire, they were clubbed to death.
Constant in their Christian resolve and fidelity to one another, these seven monks offered wonderful witness to the faith as well as to their fraternal communion. Our Order was granted the right to celebrate their liturgical memorial on June 6, 1671.
August 27 | Saint Monica
Monica was born in Tagaste, present day Algeria, in 331, to a deeply Christian family of some means. She was given in marriage to Patricius, a pagan, who was a small land-owner. Together they had three children, Augustine, Navigius, and a daughter whose name is not known to us. Strong of character as well as of faith, she sought to guide her family in their human and Christian development most of all by her own example and prayer but, when necessary, also by her persuasive words and diligent actions. Thus she brought her husband to discover the beauty of the Catholic faith, as well as the son of her many tears, Augustine. Monica figures significantly in Augustine's journey all the way through to his eventual conversion, and is remembered in history - according to his own words - as the mother "who brought me to birth, both in her flesh, so that I was born into this temporal light, and in her heart, that I might be born into eternal light" (Conf. 8, 17). Her great joy was to witness the baptism of Augustine, after his long and restless journey to the faith of the Church, by Bishop Ambrose in Milan in 387. Some months later, as mother and son, together with Augustine's own son and a small group of friends were making their way back to North Africa to begin living a monastic life, Monica died at Ostia while awaiting the ship. There she was buried and in time the site of her burial was lost. Later, however, it was rediscovered and her remains were transferred to the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Rome where they are now venerated.
Monica is that wise and prudent woman about whom Scripture speaks, not afraid to live her faith openly nor to share it with others. It would not be fair to characterize her, however, as an over-bearing and meddling woman. Just as she knew how to win the heart of her husband through silence and patience, she learned how to touch that of her son through her words and persistent attention.
August 28 | Our Father, Saint Augustine, Bishop & Doctor
Augustine was born in Tagaste, Souk-Ahras, Algeria on November 13, 354 to Patricius, a pagan, and Monica, a fervent Catholic. He was endowed with abundant human and intellectual gifts as well as an inquisitive mind and a passionate spirit, all of which brought him great pain at times, while leading him to great discoveries about himself, life, and God, as well. Through the generosity of a family friend he was able to do studies beyond the basic course in his hometown, and became an accomplished rhetorician and teacher in Africa and later in Rome and Milan. Though he had been admitted to the catechumenate of the Catholic Church by his mother as a child, he did not find satisfaction in the Church during adolescence and young adulthood, and instead was drawn to other forms of spiritual expression, especially in the Manichean sect and later in astrology. Finally, he embraced skepticism. In retrospect, however, he was able to discern various moments of spiritual growth or conversion until a final climactic moment when he decided to embrace Christ fully in the Catholic Church. He had already separated from the woman with whom he had lived for many years and who bore him a son, and was preparing for marriage with another, but his conversion, he felt, required that he abandon altogether any possibility of marriage and commit himself instead to a life of chastity as a celibate 'servant of God'. Following baptism in Milan in 387, together with his son and some friends, he returned with them to his hometown of Tagaste to begin a monastic life. Against his personal wishes, he was ordained priest in Hippo in 391, and became bishop of that See in 397, all the while continuing in his monastic lifestyle.
Augustine was a prolific writer, an accomplished preacher, a monastic leader, a theologian, pastor, contemplative, and mystic. He died on August 28, 430 at almost 76 years of age, as North Africa was being invaded by the Vandals and the Church there was being devastated. His remains were taken to Sardinia and later to Pavia, Italy, where they are now preserved in the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro.