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Feast of the Guardian Angels

Painting titled The Guardian Angel
Image: The Guardian Angel | Marcantonio Franceschini

Saint of the Day for October 2

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The Story of the Feast of the Guardian Angels

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined. Yet guardian angels are not only for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer, and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. Saint Benedict gave it impetus and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honor of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.


Reflection

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God’s enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out.


Click here for more on angels!


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The enduring legacy of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, martyred for celebrating the Mass

St. Edmund Arrowsmith | An altar display of items associated with 17th century English Martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith. / Wikimedia (CC0) | Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Manchester, England, Oct 1, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

As Mass finished on a recent late-summer Sunday morning in northern England, people sang heartily “Faith of Our Fathers,” the anthem to the men and women who were executed by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

No sooner did the chords die down than the people started forming a solemn queue. As they passed by a small cylinder enclosing a withered hand — COVID’s aftermath means they still cannot touch or kiss the reliquary — each worshipper prayed a silent prayer.

The hand belongs to Edmund Arrowsmith, a priest who was executed for celebrating Mass in the 17th century.

An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell
An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Like other martyrs of that era, he was hanged until nearly unconscious and then cut down only to be dragged through the streets lying on a hurdle before arriving at his final execution spot, where he was cut open and mutilated. (Picture the final scene of the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart,” when William Wallace is disemboweled.) As a further deterrent, his body parts were displayed prominently to scare others from defying the monarch.

Brave devotees salvaged these relics, which is how the hand of now St. Edmund Arrowsmith has pride of place in the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester.

“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

A persecuted family

The Jesuit and martyr was born Brian Arrowsmith around 1585 into a Catholic family that was constantly harassed for practicing the “old” faith.

One uncle died in prison, and Arrowsmith had to be cared for by neighbors, as his parents were carried off to jail when he was a child. A relative of his mother’s, Father John Gerard, wrote the classic account of life as an illegal pastor in his book “Autobiography of a Hunted Priest.” Gerard was tortured in the Tower of London and staged a daring escape from the prison in which so many Catholics were incarcerated.

Given this heritage, it was no surprise the future saint became a priest. Using his confirmation name, Edmund, he served as a missionary from 1612 to 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican bishop of Chester.

Arrowsmith was released when King James I of England ordered an amnesty for all arrested priests as part of negotiations to arrange a Spanish marriage for his son.

During this period, restrictions ranged from punitive to murderous, but for six years, Arrowsmith was able to travel around the northwest of England, tending to the needs of a far-flung flock. Sadly, his rebuke of a couple for their sexual immorality saw him reported to the authorities, and he tried to flee his pursuers on horseback.

The house where he was based is called Arrowsmith House in the village of Brindle near the city of Preston. Holy Mass is celebrated once a year in the upstairs room where St. Edmund said his final Mass before fleeing.

The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish
The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish

This time, there was no reprieve, as the horse refused to clear a ditch. He was kept overnight in the cellar of a local pub, where his captors used his money to buy beer.

Arrowsmith was kept in Lancaster Castle before his execution but not before another priest to be martyred, now St. John Southworth, heard his confession. (Southworth’s remains are enclosed in a case in Westminster Cathedral, London.)

After his execution in Lancaster, the Arrowsmith family kept St. Edmund’s hand as a relic before it went to its present home in 1929 — the year of his beatification. The saint was one of the 40 English martyrs canonized by St. Paul VI in 1970.

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, feels the weight of the saint’s history on his shoulders.

“I feel like I am the custodian of his legacy, which is a very big responsibility,” he said. “As I told the people in my homily for the feast day [Aug. 28] this year, we are not likely to be executed for our faith but what we believe is not popular in the current climate. We all have to have the same fidelity of St. Edmund.”

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

House of Saints: Visiting St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Home Has Inspired Conversions

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What St. Thérèse of Lisieux Can Teach College Students

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The rosary: common myths and facts

null / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the “Month of the Rosary.” Here are seven common myths and facts about this devotion to Our Lady.

Only Catholics can pray the rosary. 

False. While rosaries are typically associated with Catholics, non-Catholics can certainly pray the rosary — and in fact, many credit it with their conversion. Even some Protestants recognize the rosary as a valid form of prayer.

Praying the rosary is idolatry. 

False. Some have objections to the rosary, claiming it idolizes Mary and is overly repetitive. 

Just like any practice, the rosary could be abused — just as someone might idolize a particular pastor or priest, form of worship, or fasting. But the rosary itself is not a form of idolatry. 

The rosary is not a prayer to Mary — it is a meditation on the life of Christ revealed in five mysteries “with the purposes of drawing the person praying deeper into reflecting on Christ’s joys, sacrifices, sufferings, and the glorious miracles of his life.” 

When we pray the Hail Mary, we are not adoring Mary, we are asking for her intercession — just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us. 

Second, any prayer can lose its meaning if we do not intentionally meditate on it. Focusing on the mysteries with purpose and intention is key to the rosary’s transforming power. As one author encourages: “The rosary itself stays the same, but we do not.”

You can wear a rosary as a necklace.

It depends. It is typically considered disrespectful and irreverent to wear a rosary around one’s neck, even though the Church does not have an explicit declaration against doing so. 

However, Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law says that “sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”

It is important to treat the rosary with respect and intention. If you intend to wear the rosary as a piece of jewelry, this would not be respectful and should be avoided. It goes without saying that wearing the rosary as a mockery or gang symbol would be a sin. 

But if it is your intention to use the rosary and be mindful of prayer, then it could be permissible. It is not uncommon in some cultures, like in Honduras and El Salvador, to see the rosary respectfully worn around the neck as a sign of devotion.

Rosary rings or bracelets might be a better option if you want to keep your rosary close at hand as a reminder to pray, as they are kept more out of sight and would not be as easily misconstrued to be a piece of jewelry. 

The rosary is an extremist symbol.

False. A widely-shared Atlantic article this summer went viral for accusing the rosary of being an “extremist symbol.” 

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” the article read.

The author also cited the Church’s stance on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life as evidence of “extremism” and claimed that Catholics’ tendency to call the rosary a “weapon in the fight against evil” as dangerous. 

As CNA reported this year, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary since 1571 — often referring to the rosary as a prayer “weapon” and most powerful spiritual tool. 

The rosary is not biblical.

Untrue! Most of its words come directly from Scripture.

First, the Our Father is prayed. The words of the Our Father are those Christ taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9–13.

The Hail Mary also comes straight from the Bible. The first part, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” comes from Luke 1:28, and the second, “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is found in Luke 1:42.

Finally, each of the decades prayed on the rosary symbolizes an event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The decades are divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, the majority of which are found in Scripture. 

A rosary bead, or pea, can kill you.

Somewhat true. A rosary pea, or abrus seed, is a vine plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds of the vine, which are red with black spots, are often used to make beaded jewelry — including rosaries. Rosary pea seeds contain a toxic substance called abrin, which is a naturally-occurring poison that can be fatal if ingested. However, it’s unlikely for someone to get abrin poisoning just from holding a rosary made from abrus seeds, as one would have to swallow them. 

Today, most rosaries are made from other non-toxic materials, such as olive wood, plastic, or glass — eliminating this concern.

Carrying a rosary can protect you.

True. The rosary has proven to be a miraculous force for protecting those of faith and bestowing upon them extra graces, such as the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto after St. Pius V implored Western Christians to pray the rosary.

Many great saints across history, including Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Lucia of Fatima, have also recognized the rosary as the most powerful weapon in fighting the real spiritual battles we face in the world. 

We know that spiritual warfare is a real and present danger: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11–12). 

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin … If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors,” Pope Pius XI said. 

House of saints: Visiting St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s home has inspired conversions

The backyard of St. Thérèse’s childhood home in Lisieux, France. / Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Scenes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s beloved spiritual autobiography “Story of a Soul” come alive when walking through the rooms of her childhood home in northern France.

The red brick home in Lisieux in the region of Normandy nurtured a household of saints under one roof.

In addition to the youngest doctor of the church, Thérèse’s parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, were canonized together in 2015, and the cause of her older sister, Léonie, is currently being examined by the Vatican.

Sister Veronique, a Carmelite who assists visitors to St. Thérèse’s childhood home, told CNA that visits to the house have resulted in “many conversions.”

“People are very touched by the witness of the Martin family when they come into this house. They realize how much love was exchanged between the parents and the children,” she said.

“They feel that love and that this house has a soul.”

The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The Martin family settled in the house in Lisieux in 1877 after Thérèse’s mother, Zélie, died of cancer when Thérèse was only 4 years old.

Thérèse was the ninth child in the family — four of her siblings, two of whom were boys, died before she was born.

After the death of his wife, Louis Martin “educated his girls well by placing God at the forefront of the family,” Sister Veronique said.

“He went to Mass every morning and when his daughters saw their father pray, they imagined him as a saint. Truly all of the Martin girls realized that they had parents who were saints and followed their example.”

Thérèse chose her older sister Pauline as her “second mother.” When Thérèse learned that Pauline planned to enter the local Carmelite convent as a cloistered religious sister, she was very distressed and eventually became ill. Her father asked for a novena of Masses to be offered for 10-year-old Thérèse’s healing. His prayers were soon answered.

The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

In Thérèse’s bedroom, on the second floor of the house, one can stand in the spot where a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at Thérèse and she experienced a miraculous healing on May 13, 1883.

Thérèse recounted the event in “Story of Soul”: “I turned to my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words to describe. The expression of Our Lady’s face was ineffably sweet, tender, and compassionate, but what touched me to the very depths of my soul was her gracious smile.”

With the grace of the smile from the Blessed Virgin, Thérèse was cured. The white Marian statue currently in Thérèse’s bedroom is a copy of the original, which can be found above the shrine in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux.

Hanging on the wall in the bedroom is St. Thérèse’s real hair, cut before she entered Carmel.

The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The dining room contains the original kitchen table and chairs where the Martin family would gather for their daily meals. The clock on the wall is signed “Louis Martin” by Thérèse’s father, who was both a jeweler and a clockmaker.

Sister Veronique’s favorite story from the life of St. Thérèse took place near the fireplace where Thérèse received a “Christmas grace” of complete conversion at the age of 14 in 1886.

The Little Flower wrote: “I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child, which proves that my sisters still treated me as a baby.”

However, Thérèse overheard her father complaining that she was too old to behave like such a little child. Though greatly upset, she did not cry, as she would have before.

“Choking back my tears, I ran down to the dining-room, and, though my heart beat fast, I picked up my shoes, and gaily pulled out all the things, looking as happy as a queen.”

Thérèse pinpointed this moment as the time that she “regained, once for all, the strength of mind which she had lost at the age of four and a half.”

Less than two years later, Thérèse left the childhood home where she had spent 11 years of her life and entered the Carmel, where she remained until her death from tuberculosis at 24 years of age on Sept. 30, 1897. Her house has been a place of pilgrimage since 1913.

“My mission — to make God loved — will begin after my death,” she said before she died. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares