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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Saints & Angels: The TLB Prime Series

First week of July is chock-full of great saintly individuals that are remembered on the Christian calendar - but were, somehow, nearly forgotten by me! Ow! Mea culpa! :(

It is never too late to make amends though and do the right thing! :)
Hence, let's go over their "cases" (as the Vatican would say...) - TODAY!

July 3rd was Saint Thomas' day - don't say that you will only believe it if you see it marked on the calendar now, please!
The 4th of July was actually the feast day remembering St. Elizabeth of Portugal (although it should be July 8th...? All these feast days and holidays that have different dates depending on the data source - sheesh! Yet another bad thing that stemmed from the splitting up of the Church into many churches... But I digress!)
Elizabeth of Portugal is the niece (grand-niece to be specific) of another saint named Elizabeth - St Elizabeth of Hungary. Note though that the name "Elizabeth" is known as "Isabel" in Portugal (even Queen Elizabeth II of England -yes, Charles' mom and Camilla's mother-in-law now - ugh!) is still referred to as "queen Isabel" in Portugal today! Now however I beg you all to focus on the saintly life of the Queen Elizabeth of the 1300s in Portugal - and forget about the contemporary one! The latter one was never known as a "peacemaker" - and barely an ambassador. The queen of Portugal was head and shoulders above her indeed and here is the evidence, straight from the Catholic Encyclopedia -

Queen (sometimes known as the PEACEMAKER); born in 1271; died in 1336. She was named after her great-aunt, the great Elizabeth of Hungary, but is known in Portuguese history by the Spanish form of that name, Isabel. The daughter of Pedro III, King of Aragon, and Constantia, grandchild of Emperor Frederick II, she was educated very piously, and led a life of strict regularity and self-denial from her childhood: she said the full Divine Office daily, fasted and did other penances, and gave up amusement. Elizabeth was married very early to Diniz (Denis), King of Portugal, a poet, and known as Ré Lavrador, or the working king , from his hard work in is country's service. His morals, however, were extremely bad, and the court to which his young wife was brought consequently most corrupt. Nevertheless, Elizabeth quietly pursued the regular religious practices of her maidenhood, whilst doing her best to win her husband's affections by gentleness and extraordinary forbearance. She was devoted to the poor and sick, and gave every moment she could spare to helping them, even pressing her court ladies into their service. Naturally, such a life was a reproach to many around her, and caused ill will in some quarters. A popular story is told of how her husband's jealousy was roused by an evil-speaking page; of how he condemned the queen's supposed guilty accomplice to a cruel death; and was finally convinced of her innocence by the strange accidental substitution of her accuser for the intended victim.

Diniz does not appear to have reformed in morals till late in life, when we are told that the saint won him to repentance by her prayers and unfailing sweetness. They had two children, a daughter Constantia and a son Affonso. The latter so greatly resented the favours shown to the king's illegitimate sons that he rebelled, and in 1323 war was declared between him and his father. St. Elizabeth, however, rode in person between the opposing armies, and so reconciled her husband and son. Diniz died in 1325, his son succeeding him as Affonso IV. St. Elizabeth then retired to a convent of Poor Clares which she had founded at Coimbra, where she took the Franciscan Tertiary habit, wishing to devote the rest of her life to the poor and sick in obscurity. But she was called forth to act once more as peacemaker. In 1336 Affonso IV marched his troops against the King of Castile, to whom he had married his daughter Maria, and who had neglected and ill-treated her. In spite of age and weakness, the holy queen dowager insisted on hurrying to Estremoz, where the two king's armies were drawn up. She again stopped the fighting and caused terms of peace to be arranged. But the exertion brought on her final illness; and as soon as her mission was fulfilled she died of a fever, full of heavenly joy, and exhorting her son to the love of holiness and peace. St. Elizabeth was buried at Coimbra, and miracles followed her death. She was canonized by Urban VIII in 1625, and her feast is kept on 8 July.


And onwards to July 6th - the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti. Her story is another remarquable path indeed, all the more so for it was so short; Born on October 16th, 1890 at Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy - the beautiful, pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria's father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.


In 1902 at age twelve, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm-hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her fourteen times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God's forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. Counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro's conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.


Maria Goretti is, veritably, as angel-like as anyone born of woman can possibly be!

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