Oct 9 | Blessed Anthony Patrizi, Priest
Anthony Patrizi was born in Siena sometime in the thirteenth century, although the exact date and year are not known. He belonged to the monastery of Lecceto, renowned for its emphasis on contemplative life and the holiness of many of its members. It was here that other well known friars such as Clement of Osimo, Agostino Novello and William Flete also lived at various times. Anthony died in 1311 in our friary at Monticiano where he was staying while on a visit to Friar Peter of the hermitage of Camerata. In the book A Brief Life of Some Hermit Friars by the Anonymous Florentine, the story of Anthony's death is recounted. It tells of how, on the night on which he died, caregivers of an elderly and gravely ill couple who lived nearby, were looking out a window of the sick couple's house which faced the monastery. They saw coming from the monastery a brilliant light that appeared to touch the sky. At first they thought that the monastery had caught fire, but as they watched they saw that it was not a fire, but that there must be in the monastery someone whose holiness touched the heavens. The sick couple also came to the window, saw the light, and began to pray, asking that this unknown holy person would heal them of their illness. Immediately they were restored to health. They went to the monastery, told the friars what had happened and asked to see the holy man. The friars went to the room of their guest and discovered that Anthony had died. Pius VII confirmed the cult of Anthony in 1804.
Unfortunately, the details of the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, who in their own time were renowned for holiness, are unknown to us. Nonetheless, the awareness that there has been "a great cloud of witnesses" throughout the ages giving testimony to the validity of the Augustinian way of life continues to be a source of encouragement as well as a challenge to us today. At the same time, the memory of a friar such as Anthony, dedicated to contemplation and the common life, reminds us of essential components of our own vocation.
Oct 10 | Saint Thomas of Villanova, Saint
Thomas Garcia Martinez was born about 1486 in Fuenllana, Spain, and was raised in Villanueva de los Infantes, with which town his name is forever linked. He studied at the University of Alcalá and later at Salamanca, where he entered the Order and was professed on November 25, 1517. On December 24, 1518 he was ordained priest. He then taught theology in Salamanca and was entrusted with the duties of prior of the friary there and later at others as well. He served also at various times as Prior Provincial and Visitator. In 1544 Charles V nominated him to the See of Valencia. Though he tried to decline, his provincial ordered him to accept. On October 10, 1544, Pope Paul III made the appointment. He was consecrated at Valladolid where he was then prior. The See of Valencia was ranked as first class because of its size and resources. However, it was not in good condition. For the whole previous century there had been no resident bishop. Thomas undertook a widespread reform, beginning with visitation within weeks of his arrival. He drew up statutes, founded the first seminary, helped young women to find employment rather than fall into disrepute, and saved many orphans from poverty. Personally, however, he sought to live always as a simple friar, preferring to wear his religious habit and giving generously to the poor. By his preaching he made a great impression and drew many to religious life, including the future Augustinians, Alonso de Orozco and Juan de Muñatones, who was to become bishop of Sergobe. The sermons which Thomas left number more than 400 and have run some 19 editions. Thomas died on September 8, and was buried in our friary of Our Lady of Help in Valencia as he had desired. Later his remains were moved to both the cathedrals of Valencia and Salamanca. He was beatified on October 7, 1618 by Paul V and canonized on November 1, 1658 by Alexander VII.
Thomas was thoroughly Augustinian in his preferential choice of life, his spirituality, his preaching, teaching, and in his ministry, especially as a bishop. He demonstrated the power of reform and renewal from within by his own example, becoming symbol of hope in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. He resembles Augustine in his learning, in his preaching, and his inclination toward the contemplative life, while at the same time responding generously to the needs of others.
Oct 11 | Blessed Elías Del Socorro Nieves, Priest & Martyr
Elías was born in Yuriria, Mexico of modest farming parents in 1882. While young he had a great desire to become a priest, but when he was 12 years old his father was killed by robbers and he was forced to put aside his studies in order to support his family. In 1904, at the age of 21 he was admitted to the Augustinian high school in Yuriria. Though he had to face the challenge of being much older than his fellow students, was lacking financial resources, and suffered from a weak constitution, he was determined to pursue his vocation. In gratitude for all he had received and with intense devotion to our Blessed Lady, on his profession of vows in 1911 he added to his name ‘del soccorso’ - in reference to Our Lady of Help. He was ordained in 1916 and exercised his ministry in various places. In 1921 he was named associate pastor of La Cañada de Caracheo (Gto.), an extremely poor pueblo. In 1926 when there began a great persecution of the Mexican Church, priests were ordered to relocate to the cities from small towns. Despite his reticent character, Elías refused to obey and hid in a cave in the hills outside the pueblo in order to continue his ministry under cover. He did this for 14 months before he was finally discovered. He admitted that he was a priest and was arrested with two laymen who offered to stay with him. On March 10, 1928 the three were taken to the city of Cortazar. On the way the two laymen were shot. A little farther along it was the turn of Fr. Elías. The captain of the guard said to him, “Now it is your turn, let’s see if dying is like celebrating the Mass.” Elias blessed the soldiers and recited the Creed. His last words were: “Long live Christ the King”. His remains are preserved in the parish church of La Cañada. Elías was beatified with Mother Teresa Fasce on October 12, 1997.
Fidelity to vocation is a striking characteristic of Blessed Elías, first in his resolve to pursue religious life and priesthood despite multiple, difficult odds, and later in his commitment to minister to his people even at the risk of his own life. Elias stands out as a man of principle and zeal, who witnesses to the power of God’s grace to accomplish mighty deeds in the humble and the meek.
Oct 12 | Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce, Virgin
Maria Giovanna Fasce was born into a family of means in Torriglia, in the region of Genoa, Italy, on December 27, 1881. As a young girl she received a good education and served as a catechist in her parish church, Our Lady of Consolation, under the care of the Augustinian Friars. Inspired by the example of Saint Rita, she determined to enter religious life and despite many obstacles, entered the convent of Cascia in 1906, taking the name Maria Teresa Eletta. She made her solemn profession in 1912 and served her community as director of novices and vicar. In August, 1920, she was elected abbess and was confirmed in this office nine times throughout the following 27 years until her death. The great ambition of Mother Teresa, which she succeeded in converting into a plan of action, was the enrichment of the religious spirit of her community and of each one of the nuns. Her influence, however, reached far beyond the walls of the cloister by means of the initiatives she undertook to spread devotion to Saint Rita and to promote the well-being of her adopted town. Among these were the publication of the magazine “From the Bees to the Roses”, the establishment of an orphanage for girls, the founding of a seminary for candidates to the Order and the construction of the Basilica as a place of pilgrimage and the fitting resting place of the saint to whom she was so devoted. During the Second World War she courageously protected the convent and defended the rights of the nuns as well as members of the resistance under attack. Throughout her life Mother Teresa suffered many physical ailments, including cancer and a debilitating condition which at times made it difficult for her to walk. All of this she bore with complete resignation and patience and was an example of fortitude and serenity to the nuns and people of Cascia. She died peacefully on January 18, 1947 and was beatified together with Blessed Elías Nieves on October 12, 1997. Her body is venerated in the lower shrine of the Basilica which she made possible.
Mother Teresa Fasce was a cloistered contemplative nun, not only in name, but also in fact, during the several decades of her religious life. At the same time she was a woman of great vision and action, who had the capacity to inspire others even as she was inspired by the life and message of her patroness, Saint Rita. She reminds us that there is no contradiction between contemplation and service: both are motivated by love and must be expressed in love.
Oct 14 | Blessed Gonzalo of Lagos, Priest
Monica was born in Tagaste, present day Algeria, in 331, to a deeply Christian family of some means. ShGonzalo was born about the year 1360, in Lagos (Algarve), in the south of Portugal, the son of a fisherman. He joined the Augustinians in Lisbon around 1380 and became a distinguished theologian and preacher. His special interest, however, was to instruct children, laborers, and the uneducated, with whom he always maintained a close rapport. He was also a gifted artist, and used this talent to illustrate liturgical books for the monasteries of Lisbon and Santarem. Gonzalo was appointed religious superior in several Augustinian communities, some of them extremely poor, where he enjoyed serving his brothers even in the humblest tasks. In 1412 he was named Prior of the friary of Torres Vedras, not far from Lisbon, where he remained for the remainder of his life. There he continued his tireless activity in service to the poor who held him in great reverence. Gonzalo died in Torres Vedras on October 15, 1422 and his remains were interred in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, once in the care of the Augustinians. Gonzalo is revered as the patron of the youth of the Diocese, as well as of fishermen and sailors. Pius VI declared him Blessed on May 23, 1778.
Blessed Gonzalo, born to working class parents who earned their livelihood through daily manual labor, never lost touch with his roots. Though he became a learned theologian and notable preacher, he remained always close to the people who shared his background and devoted himself to their service, putting the gifts God had given him to use for their benefit. A man of authentic humility, filled with the simple spirit of generosity, the affection of the people for Gonzalo was the ultimate proof of his own devotion to them.
Oct 20 | Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki, Virgin & Martyr
Magdalene was born in 1611 near Nagasaki, Japan, the daughter of devout Christian parents. While she was still young her mother, father, and siblings were martyred for the faith. In 1624 she became acquainted with two Augustinians, members of the Recollect Congregation, Francis of Jesus and Vincent of Saint Anthony, and was attracted by their deep spirituality. She became an Augustinian tertiary, teaching catechism to the young, seeking alms for the poor, encouraging her people in times of persecution. When these two friars were martyred, she placed herself under the spiritual guidance of two other Augustinians who eventually also received the crown of martyrdom. In 1629 she sought refuge in the hills of Nagasaki, sharing the sufferings of her fellow Christians, baptizing the young and visiting the sick. Because many Christians were renouncing their faith in the face of torture, she decided to encourage them through her own acceptance of persecution. In September 1634, dressed in the habit of a tertiary, she turned herself in to the anti-Christian civil authorities. In October of that same year she was subjected to the torture of the pit for 13 days. On the last day the pit was filled with water and she was drowned. Her body was burned and her ashes were dispersed to prevent the Christians from having any relics of her. Magdalene was beatified in 1981 and canonized by John Paul II on October 18, 1987.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Saint Magdalene followed the example of Jesus by accepting physical suffering in order to strengthen the spiritual resolve of her fellow Christians. She is a convincing example of a young person totally devoted to the Gospel and the service of others, whose love for God and neighbor knew no limit.
Oct 23 | Saint William the Hermit &
Blessed John the Good, Religious
Both of these hermits belong to the period of the Order’s pre-history. William, who was never personally associated with the Augustinians, and who died, in fact, 100 years before the Grand Union, was born in France. He became a penitent pilgrim to many shrines of Christianity, and eventually became a hermit in the region of Tuscany, in a place called Malavalle (Grosseto), where he spent the remainder of his life in prayer, silence, fasting and penance until his death in 1157. He did not found a religious community, nor did he write a Rule. But in the last months of his life a disciple who cared for him, wrote “The Rule of Saint William,” after the saint’s death. William’s burial site was soon being visited by many pilgrims, some of whom remained in Malavalle to imitate William’s heremitical and penitential life and considered William their holy patron. Innocent III confirmed his cult in 1202. With his canonization, devotion to William continued to spread as did the number of disciples who founded new houses in various places throughout central and northern Italy, as well as in what are now Belgium, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary. In 1244 they became the Order of Saint William. In 1256 this Order was called by the Holy See to become part of the expanding Order of Saint Augustine, though many Williamites withdrew from the Union shortly after.
John was born in Mantua, Italy, about 1168, and at the age of 40, after years of frivolity and a serious illness, vowed to devote his life to God as a hermit in the region of Budrioli. He attracted disciples who gathered together and built a monastery, while John continued to live a very penitential life apart as a hermit, focusing on prayer, fasting and bodily mortification. Those who lived with him – some for 30 years – speak of him as humble, kind and charitable, with a reputation as a miracle worker who attracted many visitors. He was illiterate all his life, the last 10 years of which he spent in even greater contemplation, once he had handed direction of his community over to others. At the beginning of October 1249 he set off with some of his disciples for his native town of Mantua where he died on October 16th. The process for his canonization began shortly after his death, but various obstacles delayed its progress. Pope Sixtus IV authorized his cult in 1483. His remains are now in the cathedral of Mantua. Lanfranco of Settala, who became Prior General at the time of the Grand Union in 1256, was a member of John’s community.
William and John are reminders to us of the strong foundation of the lay heremitical movement out of which the Order grew in the 13th Century. The desire for contemplation, penance and a certain detachment from society for the sake of the Gospel, provided, and still provides, the context out of which Augustinians are called to be of service to the Church and the world. They are necessary elements fostering a focus on the interior life which Augustine recommends not only to religious but to all Christians.
Oct 25 | Saint John Stone, Priest & Martyr
Almost everything we know about John Stone regards his imprisonment and death. Presumably he joined the Augustinians at Canterbury, England, where the Order was founded in 1318. In December 1538, a former Dominican, Richard Ingsworth, one of Cromwell’s men, appeared in Canterbury. He closed both the Franciscan the Dominican houses on December 13th, and the following day appeared at Austin Friars. Each friar had to sign an explicit acknowledgement of Henry VIII as head of the English Church. John refused and made a lengthy attack on Henry’s usurpation of the Church's rights. He was taken prisoner, brought to London to Cromwell, but refused to recant. After a year’s detainment, on October 27, 1539, he was sent to be tried and executed at Canterbury. An eyewitness to his imprisonment testified, “John Stone was invested with the crown of martyrdom at Canterbury. But before that, having poured forth prayers in prison to God and having fasted continuously for three days, he heard a voice, though he saw no one, which addressed him by name and bade him to be of good heart and not to hesitate to suffer death with constancy for the belief which he had professed. From which afterwards he gained such eagerness and strength as never to allow himself by persuasion or terror to be drawn from his purpose.” The date of the execution was probably Saturday, December 27, 1539 amid much publicity. The place of execution was a landmark, called the Dungeon, now renamed Dane John, and from the scaffold John could look down on his former friary. He was hung, but not to death. While still conscious his heart was removed; his head and limbs were severed and parboiled. They were placed over the city gates as a warning to other rebels. John was beatified on December 9, 1886 by Leo XIII. He was canonized by Paul VI with 39 other English martyrs on October 25, 1970.
Though all of us are called to holiness, the paths we take to get there are very different. Many of those proclaimed as saints are noted for their exceptionally virtuous lives. In others, like John, however, many of life’s virtues are hidden and only the heroism of fidelity shines forth, but to such a degree and to such an end, that its validity cannot be misinterpreted. Greater love no one has than to lay down his own life for a Friend!