Thursday, July 16, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel


Mount Carmel is the mountain in the middle of the plain of Galilee on which the prophet Elijah called down a miracle of fire from the Lord to show the people of Israel who had strayed that "TheLord is God!" and that the prophets of Baal were worshipping a false god.

There is a tradition that traces the Carmelite Order's informal beginnings to the prophet Elijah himself, even though there is no evidence of this.

The formal beginnings are attributed to a group of monks who in the 13th century began living and praying on the mountain. They venerated the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and from thus was derived the name Carmelite.

In 1226 the rule of the order was apporved by Pope Honorius III and 21 years later St. Simon Stock, an Englishman, was elected superior of the order. On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon Stock and gave him the brown scapular and promised her protection to all those who wear the brown habit.

Pope Pius X decreed in the early 20th century that the blessing of the Blessed Virgin would extend to all who wear the medal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted by the Carmelites between 1376 and 1386.

Monday, July 6, 2009

St. Maria Goretti


Born into a poor peasant family of six children at the end of the 19th century in Italy, Maria Goretti's life was difficult from the beginning. Her family worked as farm hands and the children had to help feed the family as well.

Halfway through her short, saintly life, Maria's father died of malaria. For some time the family had been working in the fields with another family named Serenelli. Now Maria's mother had to work in the fields in place of her deceased husband and left Maria to take care of the smaller children.

She prayed a rosary every night for the repose of her father's soul and was noted for her piety and virtue by many of those around her.

In 1902, after many advances on Maria, all of which she rejected, Alessandro Serenelli, a 19 year old farm hand, locked her into a room and tried to force himself upon her. She refused, fighting and warning him that he was committing a sin and that he would go to hell. Enraged, he then strangled her and stabbed her fourteen times.

She was rushed to hospital when they found her bleeding to death from her wounds and she survived for two agonizing days before dying.

In hospital she was asked if she forgave Alessandro, and she replied "Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him...and I want him to be with me in Paradise."

Alessandro was sentenced to prison for 30 years. One day, eight years into his prison term, he had a vison of a young girl dressed in white gathering lilies in a garden. She smiled, came near Alessandro and encouraged him to accept the lilies. Each lily he took transformed into a still white flame. Then Maria disappeared.

This vision led to the conversion of Alessandro who repented deeply of what he had done. He served 19 more years in prison and was then released. The first thing he did on his release was to go and ask the forgiveness of Maria's mother, which she duly granted. Alessandro worked as a gardener in a Franciscan monastery for the rest of his life.

Alessandro was one of the witnesses who testified to Maria's holiness during her cause of beatification, citing the crime and the vision in prison.

Maria's mother, Assunta, was present at her canonization ceremony in 1950 - the only time in history that a parent has been present at their child's canonization - and 250,000 people were in attendance.

Maria Goretti is a patron saint of girls, rape victims, children and youth in general.

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