May 18  Saint John I

When John I became pope in 523.  Italy was ruled by an Arian.  Theodoric the Goth, who had reversed his policy of tolerance toward Christians because of trouble between Rome and the emperor of Constantinople, Justin I.  When his subjects appealed to him.  Theodoric organized a delegation to negotiate with the emperor and ordered a reluctant Pope John to head the mission.  Enthusiastically received.  John did win some concessions, but Theodoric was not satisfied.  In 526, when the delegation returned to Ravenna, the pope and his entourage were imprisoned.  John died soon after, probably of starvation.  

To Pope St John I goes the credit for the adoption of the Paschal Cycle of the Alexandrian Church in Catholic Liturgy and the custom of dating years from the Incarnation, rather than by the years of the reigning emperor.  

May 20  Feast of Saint Catherine of  Siena

Born of distinguished parents on 8 September 1380 at Massa Marittima near Siena (Italy, St Bernardine of Siena was orphaned early in life an brought up by a maternal aunt in stern self-discipline in an atmosphere that fostered an ardent love for God in the poor.  At the age of 17, i.e. midway through his study of canon and civil law, this “Apostle of Italy” joined the severely ascetical “Confraternity of Our Lady” which was attached to the famed hospital of Siena for the relief of the sick and the poor.  When the plague broke out in the city during the Jubilee hear he, with 12 young friends, voluntarily ran the overcrowded and understaffed hospital for four months, bringing hope an succor as much by his charitable ministrations.  Two years later he distributed his inheritance among the poor and joined the strict Observantines of the Franciscan Order. 

Contemporary biographers like St John Capistran have described how the people, by the tens of thousands, flocked to attend his early Mass in an open square, after 3hich he would preach penance and propagate devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.  His passionately sincere and vivacious preaching in the vernacular made for a pungent directness and was thus readily understood also by the unlearned.  A series of 45 sermons – embracing every topic from the dignity of man.  Christian moral education, sanctification of the family and desirability of peace to the proper ethics to be observed in business and government – held on consecutive days and sometimes lasting three or four hours, and each taken down verbatim by a regular listener, has come down to us together with his amusing anecdotes and jokes, all timeless in charm and freshness.  So great came to be his influence that, on the one hand, cities embodied his suggestions in their laws under the titles of  “Reforms of Brother Bernardine” and even recalled political exiles and returned their confiscated possessions; on the other, he restored strict observance in his order, especially in the matter of poverty.

In connection with his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine, who is probably the author of Litany of the Holy Name, used, with remarkable  success, the trigram IHS, an abbreviation for the name of Jesus.  Invented by Bernardine himself, it was to be the one banner that all contending parties could enthusiastically follow and through it be led back to Christ.  On many houses and public buildings it replaced the old armorial crests.  When he was maliciously accused of introducing a new and quasi-idolatrous devotion, the explanations and clarifications he and John Capistran gave before the Pope, resulted in the triumphant vindication of his orthodoxy, with the Holy Father ordering him to preach in Rome for 80 Consecutive days.

Bernardine was known to have declined the bishopric at least thrice; but from 1438 to 1443 he was Vicar General of the Observants, and they grew during his lifetime from 130 friars to 4,000.  He died on 20 May 1444 on his way to Naples while the monks were intoning the versicle for the day: “Father I have manifested your name to me; I come again to you!” The numerous miracles that followed his death led to an early canonization, i. e., on 24 May 1450, during the reign of Pope Nicholas V.

The mortal remains of St. Bernardine of Siena, initially buried in the Church of St. Francis D’Assisi,, were transferred on 17 May 1471 to a magnificent shrine within a nearby Basilica erected in his honour.

Thought for the day: “In all your actions see in the first place the Kingdom of God and his glory persevere in brotherly charity, and practice first all that you desire to teach others”  (St. Bernardine of Siena).

May 22 Saint Rita of Cascia 

Saint Rita was born in Umbria, Italy, in 1386.  Although she wanted to be a nun, her parents betrothed her to a cruel, ill-tempered man whom she married at age 18.  When her husband was murdered 18 years later, her twin sons were determined to avenge his murder.  Rita pleaded with them to forgive the murderers, and her prayers eventually prevailed.  Now a widow, Rita sought to enter the convent but was initially refused because some relatives were members.  In time, through prayer and her personal intercession, a promise of peace and reconciliation was secured and she was admitted to the Augustinian convent at Cascia, living there 40 years in prayer, contemplation and service of the poor.  She was canonized in 1900 and is a patron of impossible causes.

May 24 Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau

Louis-Zephirin Moreau was born in Becancour, Quebec, in 1824.  The fifth of 13 children, Louis-Zephirin was educated in the seminary but was initially rejected but was initially rejected for the priesthood because of his frail health.  His desire was strong, however, and his persistence resulted in his ordination in 1846.  He soon became secretary for the diocese of Montreal, and later and later for the newly founded diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe, where he was named bishop in 1875.  Popularly known as the “good Bishop Moreau,” he had compassion for the poor workers of his diocese, helping to establish the forerunners of today’s mutual societies and credit unions.  He also oversaw the foundation of several religious communities.  In spite of his poor health, Louis-Zephirin worked tirelessly and died in Saint-Hyacinthe in 1901.  He was beatified in 1987.