Fra Angelico

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – February 18, 1455), born Guido di Pietro, was an Early Italian Renaissance painter described by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists as having “a rare and perfect talent”. He was known to his contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John from Fiesole) and by Vasari as Fra Giovanni Angelico (Brother John the Angelic One).

Fra Angelico is known in Italy as il Beato Angelico, the term “Il Beato” (“Blessed One”) being already in use during his lifetime or shortly thereafter, in reference to his skills in painting religious subjects. In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making this title official. Fiesole is sometimes misinterpreted as being part of his formal name, but it was merely the name of the town where he took his vows as a Dominican friar, and was used by contemporaries to separate him from other Fra Giovannis. He is listed in the Roman Martyrology as Beatus Ioannes Faesulanus, cognomento Angelicus—”Blessed Giovanni of Fiesole, nicknamed Angelico”.

Vasari wrote of Fra Angelico:  But it is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.

Early life, 1395–1436

Fra Angelico was born Guido di Pietro at Rupecanina,[7] in the Tuscan area of Mugello, near Fiesole towards the end of the 14th century and died in Rome in 1455. Nothing is known of his parents. He was baptized Guido or Guidolino. The earliest recorded document concerning Fra Angelico dates from October 17, 1417 when he joined a religious confraternity at the Carmine Church, still under the name of Guido di Pietro. This record also reveals that he was already a painter, a fact that is subsequently confirmed by two records of payment to Guido di Pietro in January and February 1418 for work done in the church of Santo Stefano del Ponte. The first record of Angelico as a friar dates from 1423, when he is first referred to as Fra Giovanni, following the custom of those entering a religious order of taking a new name. He was a member of the Dominican community at Fiesole. Fra, an abbreviation of frate (from the Latin frater), is a conventional title for a friar or brother.

According to Vasari, Fra Angelico initially received training as an illuminator, possibly working with his older brother Benedetto who was also a Dominican and an illuminator. San Marco in Florence holds several manuscripts that are thought to be entirely or partly by his hand. The painter Lorenzo Monaco may have contributed to his art training, and the influence of the Sienese school is discernible in his work. He had several important charges in the convents he lived in, but this did not limit his art, which very soon became famous. According to Vasari, the first paintings of this artist were an altarpiece and a painted screen for the Carthusian Monastery of Florence; none such exist there now.[2]

From 1408 to 1418 Fra Angelico was at the Dominican friary of Cortona where he painted frescoes, now destroyed, in the Dominican Church and may have been assistant to or follower of Gherardo Starnina. Between 1418 and 1436 he was at the convent of Fiesole where he also executed a number of frescoes for the church, and the Altarpiece, deteriorated but restored. A predella of the Altarpiece remains intact in the National Gallery, London which is a superb example of Fra Angelico’s ability. It shows Christ in Glory, surrounded by more than 250 figures, including beatified Dominicans.

San Marco, Florence, 1436–1445

In 1436 Fra Angelico was one of a number of the friars from Fiesole who moved to the newly-built Friary of San Marco in Florence. This was an important move which put him in the centre of artistic activity of the region and brought about the patronage of one of the wealthiest and most powerful members of the city’s Signoria, Cosimo de’ Medici, who had a large cell (later occupied by Savonarola) reserved for himself at the friary in order that he might retreat from the world. It was, according to Vasari, at Cosimo’s urging that Fra Angelico set about the task of decorating the monastery, including the magnificent Chapter House fresco, the often-reproduced Annunciation at the top of the stairs to the cells, the Maesta with Saints and the many smaller devotional frescoes depicting aspects of the Life of Christ that adorn the walls of each cell.

In 1439 he completed one of his most famous works, the Altarpiece for St. Marco’s, Florence. The result was unusual for its times. Images of the enthroned Madonna and Child surrounded by saints were common, but they usually depicted a setting that was clearly heavenlike, in which saints and angels hovered about as divine presences rather than people. But in this instance, the saints stand squarely within the space, grouped in a natural way as if they were able to converse about the shared experience of witnessing the Virgin in glory. Paintings such as this, known as Sacred Conversations, were to become the major commissions of Giovanni Bellini, Perugino and Raphael.

The Vatican, 1445–1455

In 1445 Pope Eugenius IV summoned him to Rome to paint the frescoes of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament at St Peter’s, later demolished by Pope Paul III. Vasari claims that at this time Fra Angelico was offered by Pope Nicholas V the Archbishopric of Florence, and that he refused it, recommending another friar for the position. While the story seems possible and even likely, if Vasari’s date is correct, then the pope must have been Eugenius and not Nicholas. In 1447 Fra Angelico was in Orvieto with his pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli, executing works for the Cathedral. Among his other pupils were Zanobi Strozzi.

From 1447 to 1449 he was back at the Vatican, designing the frescoes for the Niccoline Chapel for Nicholas V. The scenes from the lives of the two martyred deacons of the Early Christian Church, St. Stephen and St. Lawrence may have been executed wholly or in part by assistants. The small chapel, with its brightly frescoed walls and gold leaf decorations gives the impression of a jewel box. From 1449 until 1452, Fra Angelico was back at his old convent of Fiesole, where he was the Prior.

Death and beatification

In 1455 Fra Angelico died while staying at a Dominican Convent in Rome, perhaps in order to work on Pope Nicholas’ Chapel. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

When singing my praise, don’t liken my talents to those of Apelles.
Say, rather, that, in the name of Christ, I gave all I had to the poor.

The deeds that count on Earth are not the ones that count in Heaven.

I, Giovanni, am the flower of Tuscany.

—Translation of epitaph

Pope John Paul II beatified Fra Angelico on October 3, 1982 and in 1984 declared him patron of Catholic artists.

Angelico was reported to say “He who does Christ’s work must stay with Christ always”. This motto earned him the epithet “Blessed Angelico”, because of the perfect integrity of his life and the almost divine beauty of the images he painted, to a superlative extent those of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Pope John Paul II

From various accounts of Fra Angelico’s life, it is possible to gain some sense of why he was deserving of canonization. He led the devout and ascetic life of a Dominican friar, and never rose above that rank; he followed the dictates of the order in caring for the poor; he was always good-humored. All of his many paintings were of divine subjects, and it seems that he never altered or retouched them, perhaps from a religious conviction that, because his paintings were divinely inspired, they should retain their original form. He was wont to say that he who illustrates the acts of Christ should be with Christ. It is averred that he never handled a brush without fervent prayer and he wept when he painted a Crucifixion. The Last Judgment and the Annunciation were two of the subjects he most frequently treated.

William Michael Rossetti

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Be Still My Soul~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side….

Lent and Advent seem to be mirrors of what we do all day, every day, all year, every year: We are waiting, waiting on the Lord. And it also seems like everyone, from Abram in today’s First Reading to you and me, we have been waiting forever.

Now some of us, like myself, are going to say, “OK, I can wait a little longer, if you don’t mind…”, but that is because we believe the words of the hymn that I started with:

Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to they God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul! thy best, they heav’nly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Because we have faith that there will be a peaceful end and a heavenly homeland. Well, most of the time we believe this. Sometimes we…or should I more properly say “I”…mostly believe this. Yes, admittedly, there are days when I have my doubts. Do you? These are day that are usually filled with some physical or emotional travail. Some pain or sorrow that I don’t seem to be able to get away from. And it comes upon me like a dead weight, a frightening phantom, an empty abyss.

Oh it is hard to get away from these terrors.

Abram seemed to need quite a lot of convincing that the Lord was on his side, over much of his life. Today we hear that he had to be shown all the stars in the firmament, five animals to sacrifice, a flaming torch, and God making a covenant with him. And this was God speaking directly to him!

In today’s Psalm, the prophet is on the one hand expressing his belief in God and on the other, bucking himself up to be stouthearted and courageous in the face of anguish. And the Apostle Paul is telling the Philippians, again as he says, to “stand firm in the Lord.”

So it seems as though everyone in the Bible and scriptures needs constant pep-talks, constant reminders of what they believe and what is in store for them.

And isn’t that true in our own lives? We, and almost everyone we know, need pep-talks at one time or another…sometimes many times or another! Throughout literature, history, current affairs, our heroes and  we are buoyed up by some one or some thing and we are buoying up our friends and family. It seems like a constant endeavor. Maybe because it is in our makeup to ride the roller coaster of feelings. I know I am cursed – or blessed – with this phenomenon. I can recount many, many times that I have either needed or given encouragement, with the emphasis on “courage.”

Helping others, this act of friendship which we call comfort or reassurance, is deep-rooted in society, especially in societies such as religious orders. And yes, it is found throughout the New Testament. For example, in 1 Thessalonians Paul says, “Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” And Peter: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” And again Paul, in that famous passage: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

And so, in the days of Lent, each day can be a lesson for us, with the Resurrection as the prize. And we should not be hesitant to anticipate that prize, because look, in today’s Gospel, Peter, John, and James were initiated in a way into the divinity of Jesus and as we know, it was not until after the Resurrection that they truly understood and believed, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even the Transfiguration and the spirits of Moses and Elijah were not enough for them; so much so that they did not tell anyone what they had seen. I’ve always thought that it was so fantastical to them that they were afraid to be thought of as foolish.

But don’t lets us be foolish. Let us remember past Lenten days and past Easters and remember those times God has spoken to us in the quiet of our souls and sing again the old hymn “Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side….”

Lord, thank you for being on our side. As we go through this Lenten season, help us to remember these words every day.

Amen.

Blessed Peter Geremia

 

God has a mission for each of us and has given us the gifts to successfully complete the purpose for which He created us. Our job is to discern our role in His creation. The gifts He has given us can be the instrument of our damnation when used against His purposes; when we discern correctly through prayer and spiritual direction these same talents and abilities can sanctify us and those around us. It’s not too late to seek God’s will for your life–in fact, we should attempt to understand His will for our every action, each day, using all the gifts his has given us.

Peter Geremia was unusually gifted. He was sent early to the University of Bologna, where he passed his studies brilliantly, and attracted the attention and praise of all. On the brink of a successful career as a lawyer, he experienced a sudden and total conversion.

Having retired one night, he was pleasantly dreaming of the honors that would soon come to him in his work, when he heard a knock at the window. As his room was on the third floor, and there was nothing for a human to stand on outside his window, he sat up, in understandable fright, and asked who was there.

A hollow voice responded that he was a relative who had just died, a successful lawyer who had wanted human praise so badly that he had lied to win it, and now was eternally lost because of his pride. Peter was terrified, and acted at once upon the suggestion to turn, while there was still time, from the vanity of public acclaim. He went the next day to a locksmith and bought an iron chain, which he riveted tightly about him. He began praying seriously to know his vocation.

Soon thereafter, God made known to him that he should enter the Dominican Order. He did so as soon as possible. His new choice of vocation was a bitter blow to his father, who had gloried in his son’s achievements, hoping to see him become the most famous lawyer in Europe. He angrily journeyed to Bologna to see his son and demanded that he come home. The prior, trying to calm the excited man, finally agreed to call Peter. As the young man approached them, radiantly happy in his new life, the father’s heart was touched, and he gladly gave his blessing to the new undertaking.

Peter’s brilliant mind and great spiritual gifts found room for development in the order, and he became known as one of the finest preachers in Sicily. He was so well known that Saint Vincent Ferrer asked to see him, and they conversed happily on spiritual matters. He always preached in the open air, because there was no church large enough to hold the crowds that flocked to hear him.

Being prior of the abbey, Peter was consulted one day when there was no food for the community. He went down to the shore and asked a fisherman for a donation. He was rudely refused. Getting into a boat, he rowed out from the shore and made a sign to the fish; they broke the nets and followed him. Repenting of his bad manners, the fisherman apologized, whereupon Peter made another sign to the fish, sending them back into the nets again. The records say that the monastery was ever afterwards supplied with fish.

Peter was sent as visitator to establish regular observance in the monasteries of Sicily. He was called to Florence by the pope to try healing the Greek schism. A union of the opposing groups was affected, though it did not last. Peter was offered a bishopric (and refused it) for his work in this matter.

At one time, when Peter was preaching at Catania, Mount Etna erupted and torrents of flame and lava flowed down on the city. The people cast themselves at his feet, begging him to save them. After preaching a brief and pointed sermon on repentance, Peter went into the nearby shrine of Saint Agatha, removed the veil of the saint, which was there honored as a relic, and held it towards the approaching tide of destruction. The eruption ceased and the town was saved.

This and countless other miracles he performed caused him to be revered as a saint. He raised the dead to life, healed the crippled and the blind, and brought obstinate sinners to the feet of God. Only after his death was it known how severely he had punished his own body in memory of his youthful pride (Benedictines, Dorcy).

A Holy Lent: Ash Wednesday~The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI

Although it can be a little grim, I love the Ash Wednesday service. More than any other single service in the entire Christian year, it expresses the two great truths of our faith.

First, we acknowledge our mortality and our sin. We are marked with ashes and reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Then comes Psalm 51 and the long “litany of penitence” in which we confess the many ways we fail to live as we should in the short time allotted to us.

There is something refreshingly honest in that. Even if we mostly try not to think about it, we all know that we will die someday, and we all know that we do not always act the way we should.

But, if we stopped there, we would be left without hope. Thankfully, our service continues with the words of God’s forgiveness and love, and the sacrament that unites us to Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.

And that, in a nutshell, is our faith. We move(or rather, we are moved) from sin and death…to life and love.

Just like Ash Wednesday, Lent, which begins right now, is all about the move from sin and death to life and love.

During the service, the Priest will invite you all, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent. some of the things we can do in order to observe a holy Lent are: Self-examination and repentance. Prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

Now, those are all good things to do anytime. But more than any other season in the Christian year, Lent is a time for us to be brutally honest with ourselves about where we stand in our relationship with God.

Lent invites us to reflect on our priorities. I don’t mean what we say we value. I mean the priorities that are reflected in the way we live, how we spend our money, where we put our emotional energy. What would the people who know us best say is important to us? What would they say about our love of God and neighbor?

For me, I suspect for most of us, answering those questions can be painful.

Sin is bad enough. The fact is, I do things I ought not to do. I leave undone things I ought to do. I sin against God and neighbor in thought and word and deed.

It is even worse to think about my own death or the death of the people I love. One of the hardest things for us to do as Priests is saying Last Rites.  I did so for a woman who died a few hours later. As I prayed for her, it hit me that someday I will be the one lying there.

Those are hard truths, and most of the time we turn away from them. Perhaps that is as it should be. But we cannot really escape the hard truths of our own lives, not indefinitely. At some point, we have to turn and face our sin and our mortality. Lent is the season when the Church invites us to face those hard truths, beginningg with this service.

And so we work at self-examination and repentance and the other Lenten disciplines.

But as in this service, so in the rest of Lent, there is the good news. Even in Lent, we hear the word of God’s forgiveness and love! Even in Lent, we hear the good news of Christ’s victory! Even in Lent, we hear the good news of God’s kingdom of justice and mercy and love!

Indeed it is the good news of God’s love for us that makes it possible for us to face the hard truths of our lives with courage and faith and hope. We can acknowledge our sin, because we know that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven. We can acknowledge that we will die, because we know that someday we will live again with Christ our Lord.

I am grateful for the good news that we hear even in Lent. But we should not hurry too quickly to the good news of Easter. Nor should we linger too long with our sin and mortality. Rather, Lent is about the move from one to the other.

What Lent adds to the lessons of Ash Wednesday is time:  time to practice, time to grow, time to come closer to God, time to experience that move from sin and death to love and life.

I have a friend who is currently on one of those new fad diets. For now, my friend is eating no gluten and no processed food and no sugar and no alcohol and hardly any fruit or carbohydrates. It all sounds grim to me, and she says I am right.

Her plan is to stay on this diet for a few weeks while she gets all the toxins out of her body.

Lent is like a spiritual version of that diet. For a few weeks, we adopt practices that help to purify our spiritual systems. To the degree that we can, we avoid sin and live right. We give up those things that sdistract us from God. We take on practices that support our efforts to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

And because Lent is just six weeks, we can commit to things that we might not be able to sustain indefinitely. I am giving up soda, tea and beef. Come Easter, I intend to return to all three! But I can give them up for a while.

But a kind of spiritual detox, important as it is, does not exhaust the meaning of Lent. The goal of Lent is for us to draw closer to God permanently.

This, too, is a little like my friend’s diet. For now, she is giving up everything that makes eating worthwhile. After a few weeks, she will relax and eat some of that stuff again. But her long-term hope is that this diet will change how she eats in an ongoing way. Going forward, she will eat some carbohydrates, for example, but not as much as she used to.

Lent is like the strict period of my friend’s diet. But coming out of Lent, we can hopefully have developed new and spiritually healthy habits.

So, for example, if you do not have a morning prayer routine, you might try saying the service of Morning Prayer every day during Lent. It takes about fifteen minutes. Then, if that is too much, and it may well be, you could continue after Lent ends with a scaled down prayer routine. You are spending a few minutes in prayer every morning.

All of this is one long way of saying that I encourage you to take the invitation to a holy Lent seriously, to spend time prayerfully reflecting on what you could do in this holy season to grow closer to God, and to reflect prayerfully on habits that you could begin to form that will draw you closer to God in an ongoing way.

And I urge this in the name of Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.

Blessed Henry of Suso

His father belonged to the noble family of Berg; his mother, a holy woman from whom he took his name, to a family of Sus (or Süs). When thirteen years of age he entered the Dominican convent at Constance, where he made his preparatory, philosophical, and theological studies.

From 1324 to 1327 he took a supplementary course in theology in the Dominican studium generale at Cologne, where he sat at the feet of Johann Eckhart, “the Master”, and probably at the side of Tauler, both celebrated mystics. Returning to Constance, he was appointed to the office of lector, from which he seems to have been removed some time between 1329 and 1334. In the latter year he began his apostolic career. About 1343 he was elected prior of a convent, probably at Diessenhofen. Five years later he was sent from Constance to Ulrn where he remained until his death.

Suso’s life as a mystic began in his eighteenth year, when giving up his careless habits of the five preceding years, he made himself “the Servant of the Eternal Wisdom”, which he identified with the Divine essence and, in a concrete form, with the personal Eternal Wisdom made man. Henceforth a burning love for the Eternal Wisdom dominated his thoughts and controlled his actions. He had frequent visions and ecstasies, practised severe austerities (which he prudently moderated in maturer years), and bore with rare patience corporal afflictions, bitter persecutions and grievous calumnies.

He became foremost among the Friends of God in the work of restoring religious observance in the cloisters. His influence was especially strong in many convents of women, particularly in the Dominican convent of Katherinenthal, a famous nursery of mysticism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in that of Toss, where lived the mystic Elsbeth Stagel, who turned some of his Latin into German, collected and preserved most of his extant letters, and drew from him the history of his life which he himself afterwards developed and published.

In the world he was esteemed as a preacher, and was heard in the cities and towns of Swabia, Switzerland, Alsace, and the Netherlands. His apostolate, however, was not with the masses, but rather with individuals of all classes who were drawn to him by his singularly attractive personality, and to whom he became a personal director in the spiritual life.

It has often been incorrectly said that he established among the Friends of God a society which he called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom. The so-called Rule of the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom is but a free translation of a chapter of his “Horologium Sapientiae”, and did not make its appearance until the fifteenth century.

HIS WRITINGS

The first writing from the pen of Suso was the “Büchlein der Wahrheit”, which he issued while a student at Cologne. Its doctrine was unfavourably criticized in some circles — very probably on account of its author’s close relations with Eckhart, who had just been called upon to explain or to reject certain propositions — but it was found to be entirely orthodox.

As in this, so in his other writings Suso, while betraying Eckhart’s influence, always avoided the errors of “the Master”. The book was really written in part against the pantheistic teachings of the Beghards, and against the libertine teachings of the Brethren of the Free Spirit. Father Denifle considers it the most difficult “little book” among the writings of the German mystics.

Whereas in this book Suso speaks as a contemplative and to the intellect, in his next, “Das Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit”, published early in 1328, he is eminently practical and speaks out of the fullness of his heart to “simple men who still have imperfections to be put off”. Bihlmeyer accepts Denifle’s judgment that it is the “most beautiful fruit of German mysticism”, and places it next to the “Homilies” of St. Bernard, and the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis. In the second half of the fourteenth and in the fifteenth century there was no more widely read meditation book m the German language.

In 1334 Suso translated this work into Latin, but in doing so added considerably to its contents, and made of it an almost entirely new book, to which he gave the name “Horologium Sapientiae”. Even more elevating than the original, finished in language, rich in figure, rhythmic in movement, it became a favourite book in the cloisters at the close of the Middle Ages, not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands, France, Italy, and England.

To the same period of Suso’s literary activity may belong “Das Minnebüchlein” but its authenticity is doubtful.

After retiring to Ulm Suso wrote the story of his inner life (“Vita” or “Leben Seuses”), revised the “Büchlein der Wahrheit”, and the “Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit”, all of which, together with eleven of his letters (the “Briefbüchlein”), and a prologue, he formed into one book known as the “Exemplar Seuses”.

Suso is called by Wackernagel and others a “Minnesinger in prose and in the spiritual order.” The mutual love of God and man which is his principal theme gives warmth and colour to his style. He used the full and flexible Alamannian idiom with rare skill, and contributed much to the formation of good German prose, especially by giving new shades of meaning to words employed to describe inner sensations. His intellectual equipment was characteristic of the schoolmen of his age. In his doctrine there was never the least trace of an unorthodox tendency.

For centuries he exercised an influence upon spiritual writers. Among his readers and admirers were Thomas à Kempis and Bl. Peter Canisius.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII
Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910, Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of Ne

Born: March 21, 1295 at Uberlingen, Germany as Heinrich von Berg

Died: January 25, 1361 at Ulm, Germany

Beatified: 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI

Representation: Dominican with the Holy Name on his chest

Works: Book of the Eternal Wisdom, The Thirst of God

Blessed Christopher of Milan

Nothing is known of the early years of Blessed Christopher. He received the Dominican habit in the convent of San Eustorgio in Milan, Italy, in the early 15th century. He is recorded as being “holy and abstemious, humble and studious”–the ordinary virtues that we have come to take for granted among the beati; there is nothing to indicate the type of person Christopher was, or what peculiar circumstances might have led him to the Dominicans. He is noted especially for his preaching and for his gift of prophecy.

The age in which Christopher lived was a rough and dangerous one, and a time for prophets and penitents to thrive. He was himself an apostolic preacher throughout Liguria and the Milanese, famous for the impact of his sermons on sinners. He had a vivid power of description and this, coupled with his gift of prophecy, made his sermons unforgettable.

Christopher worked in many parts of Italy, but his name is particularly venerated in Taggia, where he spent many years. As a result of his preaching, the people of Taggia built a monastery and church dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy and Christopher became its first abbot. A great wave of spiritual revival was felt in Taggia during his tenure, but he was not optimistic about the future.

In a vision he saw that most of the population would be carried off by plague. Twenty years before anyone was paying any attention to the Turks, he told the people of Taggia that Turks would invade the city, and they did, as he had prophesied. A disastrous flood swept the area, fulfilling another of his prophesies. He wrote four volumes of sermon aids, containing scriptural examples and quotations from the Fathers of the Church.

In 1484, when he was absent from Taggia preaching a mission, Christopher fell ill and knew that he was about to die. He insisted on returning to his own monastery at Taggia. There he received the last sacraments and immediately died (Benedictines, Dorcy).

Born: In the early part of the 15th century

Died: 1484 at Our Lady of Mercy convent, Taggia, Italy of natural causes

Beatified: 1875 by Pope Pius IX

Blessed Villana, Matron

Blessed Villana was the daughter of Andrew de’Botti, a Florentine merchant, and was born in 1332. When she was thirteen she ran away from home to enter a convent but her attempts were unsuccessful and she was forced to return. To prevent any repetition of her flight, her father shortly afterwards gave her in marriage to Rosso di Piero. After her marriage she appeared completely changed; she gave herself up to pleasure and dissipation and lived a wholly idle and worldly life. One day, as she was about to start for an entertainment clad in a gorgeous dress adorned with pearls and precious stones, she looked at herself in a mirror. To her dismay, the reflection that met her eyes was that of a hideous demon. A second and a third mirror showed the same ugly form.

Thoroughly alarmed and recognizing in the reflection the image of herself sin-stained soul, she tore off her fine attire and, clad in the simplest clothes she could find, she betook herself weeping to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella to make a full confession and to ask absolution and help. This proved the turning point of her life, and she never again fell away. Before long Villana was admitted to the Third Order of St. Dominic, and after this she advanced rapidly in the spiritual life. Fulfilling all her duties as a married woman, she spent all her available time in prayer and reading. She particularly loved to read St. Paul’s Epistles and the lives of the saints. At one time, in a self-abasement and in her love for the poor, she would have gone begging for them from door to door had not her husband and parents interposed. So completely did she give herself up to God that she was often rapt in ecstacy, particularly during Mass or at spiritual conferences; but she had to pass through a period of persecution when she was cruelly calumniated and her honor was assailed.

Her soul was also purified by strong pains and by great bodily weakness. However, she passed unscathed through all these trials and was rewarded by wonderful visions and olloquies with our Lady and other saints. Occasionally the room in which she dwelt was filled with supernatural light, and she was also endowed with the gift of prophecy. As she lay on her deathbed, she asked that the Passion should be read to her, and at the words “He bowed His head and gave up the ghost”, she crossed her hands on her breast and passed away. Her body was taken to Santa Maria Novella, where it became such an object of veneration that for over a month it was impossible to proceed with the funeral.

People struggled to obtain shreds of her clothing, and she was honored as a saint from the day of her death. Her bereaved husband use to say that, when he felt discouraged and depressed, he found strength by visiting the room in which his beloved wife had died.

Born: 1332 in Florence, Italy

Died: December of 1360 of natural causes; body taken to Santa Maria Novella; the Fathers were unable to bury her for a month due to the constant crowd of mourners

Beatified: March 27 1824 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Leo XII