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St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Born in Genoa Italy on April 2, 1587, Virginia was raised in an aristocratic family which was nonetheless pious, and from a young age she longed to consecrate herself to God in the religious life. However, she was pressured into an arranged marriage at the age of 15 on account of her social status, and had two daughters.Her husband, a drinker and gambler, died after only five years of marriage, and Virginia dedicated her time to raising her children, prayer and works of charity, which she devoted herself to entirely once her children had grown up, caring for the sick, elderly and abandoned.She founded a refuge center in Genoa in 1625, which soon became overrun with the needy, and she rented an empty convent in 1631 where she cared for the sick with the help of other women, and she instructed the women in the faith in addition to thier work.She constructed a church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge, and soon the women who worked with her in the hospital were formed into two congregations: the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary, and the Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary.Victoria retired from the administration of the orders, and performed manual labour and begged for alms, but was called back to administrative duties soon after.She began to receive visions and locutions in the later years of her life. She died in Genoa on December 15, 1651 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2003.

Bring the Gospel Back into Christmas

We ask ourselves, what is to be done, what can we do to bring the Christ of the Gospel back into Christmas in a way that is more than a bumper sticker slogan that ends up being mainly a political football? How can we bring the Christ of the Gospel back into our daily lives so that we actually live out the teachings of the Gospel where we first learned the story of Christ? Brother Thomas of Celano says of St. Francis, “His greatest care, his most vivid desire, his supreme resolution was to observe the holy Gospel….” And this very Gospel emphasizes over and over again the imperative of reaching out to those who, like the man in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, have fallen among thieves, which in turn calls to mind the rapaciousness of those forces and structures that control our economy and of the many who are left by the wayside. How, then, can we today reach out to those fallen and to the thieves, as well?

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis 

Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

Prepare the Way

Then as he was walking through the forest joyfully singing in French and praising God, he was suddenly set upon by robbers. They threatened him and asked him who he was but he replied intrepidly with the prophetic words, “I am the herald of the great King.” Then they beat him and threw him into a ditch full of snow, telling him, “Lie there, rustic herald of God.” With that they made off and Francis jumped from the ditch, full of joy, and made the woods re-echo with his praise to the Creator of all. God’s love was so deeply rooted in Francis that he was not deeply shaken by an incident such as this one. He wanted them to know what a great inheritance they were ignoring and patiently tried to get that message across to all people. A herald prepares people for the arrival of a more important person. In that sense, John the Baptist was a herald for Jesus. If people want to look down on the herald’s role as demeaning, they have already set themselves on a dead-end path because they will almost certainly claim what does not belong to them. 

—from the book Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi

Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi

Dark Days and Dark Moods

Dark days can mean dark moods. This natural turn of the seasons helps explain the timing of Christmas. It is the festival of light, the return of the sun and longer periods of daylight. It’s a time of renewal and hope, sentiments we feel as we watch the skies and see faint signs of the sun returning. What happens in December in the northern hemisphere is a natural symbol. You don’t need a dictionary or an encyclopedia to know that the dark sky parallels your darkened heart. You feel it in your body and then in your emotions. The sky mirrors your feelings, and your pulse beats with the special rhythms of night and day. The turn of the sun on the day of solstice may well coincide with a turn in your spirits.

—from the book The Soul of Christmas

The Soul of Christmas

 

What Waits in the Dark?

Ancient storytellers observed that the sun makes a journey every night. To their eyes, the sun slipped out of sight in the western sky and descended into the dark earth or ocean, only to reappear far to the east at dawn. The old ones watched this daytime voyage of light across the sky. They understood that the sun’s light inspired the process of photosynthesis. It warmed the desert and opened the flowers. But at night, when the sun descended into the dark, they understood that even more was taking place. Do we make this same journey? Is that what this is all about? What waits in the dark?

—from the book Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds As Light

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God’s Promise of Fulfillment

One of our deepest longings as human beings, as social beings, is to be understood even (or perhaps especially) in our most perplexing and difficult moments. We long to be loved for who we are, with the worst of our shortcomings and the best of our gifts. We want people in our lives who will rejoice with us, who will weep with us, who will simply be present to us. In these moments of deep connection with one another, we truly experience the presence of God in our midst, renewing us in his love. This is the promise of the prophets, a promise that came to fulfillment in the incarnation.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent

Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent

Follow Christ in His Incarnation

This is the commitment of being a Christian: following Christ in his incarnation. And if Christ is God in his majesty who becomes a humble man even to dying like a slave on the cross and who lives with the poor, that’s what our Christian faith should be like. A Christian who doesn’t want to live this commitment of solidarity with the poor is not worthy of being called a Christian.

—from the book Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations

Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations

Hold Back Nothing

In his Letter to the Whole Order, Saint Francis writes: “Let humanity kneel in fear, let the whole universe tremble, and let heaven rejoice when Christ the Son of the Living God is on the altar in the hands of the priest! O wonderful ascent, O stupendous descent! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity that the Lord of the Universe, God and Son of God, should so humbly hide himself for our salvation in what seems to be only a small piece of bread! Look, then, upon the humility of God! And pour out your hearts before him. Humble yourselves that he might exalt you. Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that he may receive your all who gave his all to you.”

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis 

Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

Making Christ Flesh in History

Mary becomes Salvadoran and makes Christ flesh in the history of El Salvador. And Mary takes on your last name and my last name to bring forth the history of your family, of my family, in the eternal life of the Gospel. Mary identifies with each one of us to make Christ live in our individual story.

—from the book Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations

Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations

God Alone Is All We Need

Advent reminds us that the One who has come into the world and is always coming into our lives in new ways is the source of our salvation. We don’t need novelty and “magic bullet” solutions to our concerns. We simply need to return again and again to the rock-solid foundation of our lives: God and God alone. The mystery of the Incarnation is that by entering into our time and into our world, Jesus can show us the way to the gift that is beyond all time.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent

Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent