Franciscan Saints and Blessed
May 4 - BL. THOMAS BULLAKER, HENRY HEATH, ARTHUR BELL, JOHN WOODCOCK AND CHARLES MEEHAN
Friars Minor. Martyrs in England and Wales
During the persecutions of King Henry VIII and his successors in England in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, many Catholics were martyred. Among them were these Franciscan priests. Thomas Bullaker (in religion John Baptist) studied at Valladolid in Spain. He was ordained in 1628 and returned to England where he worked as a priest, often secretly. He was guardian of Oxford and provincial secretary. He was betrayed in 1642 and dragged through the streets of Tyburn where he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Henry Heath was a Protestant who studied at Cambridge before he became a Catholic. He then studied at Douai and became a friar, taking the name Paul of St Magdalene. Moving back to England, he was arrested for being a priest and imprisoned at Newgate. He died a martyr’s death in 1643. Arthur Bell came from a Catholic family and, as the persecutions increased, he fled to the continent. He was ordained at Valladolid in Spain in 1618. Shortly afterwards, he joined the fiars receiving the name, Francis. At Douai, he became guardian and definitor. Returning to England in 1634, he did his best to solidify the Franciscan presence among the suffering. Captured in 1643, he was tried, found guilty and hanged at Tyburn. John Woodcock joined the friars in 1631 with the name, Martin of St Felix and was ordained four years later in Douai. His health was not good but he was allowed to return to England. He was arrested and held in Lancaster Castle and he was hanged in 1646. Charles Meehan belonged to the Irish Province of Franciscans and spent some of 1676 at St Isidore’s College in Rome. Attempting to return to Ireland from the continent where he had been ordained, he was shipwrecked and landed in Wales. He was arrested in 1678 and imprisoned at Denbigh. He went on trial the following year at Ruthin in north Wales where he was condemned and hanged. Charles, as well as Henry, Arthur and John, were among 85 martyrs beatified in 1987 by John Paul II, while Thomas was among 135 martyrs beatified in 1929 by Pius XI.
(First Reading: Heb. 10: 32-36; Gospel: Luke 9: 23-26)
May 8 - OUR LADY MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES
A long Franciscan tradition holds that Our Lady’s unique role in the redemption is worthy of this special feast. Mary herself was redeemed by Christ, her Son. Then through her powerful intercession, she obtains for us the graces that God wishes to bestow on the human race. In the 15th century, the Franciscan friar, St Bernardine of Siena wrote: “I do not hesitate to say that she (Mary) has received a certain jurisdiction over all graces... They are administered through her hands to whom she pleases, when she pleases, as she pleases and as much as she pleases.” In the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II states: “In the work of the Savior, she (Mary) cooperated in an altogether singular way, by her obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls.”
(First Reading: Gal. 4: 4-7; Gospel: Luke 1: 39-47)
May 9 - ST. CATHERINE OF BOLOGNA (1413-1463)
Poor Clare. Virgin
Daughter of John de' Vigri and Benvenuta Mammolini, Catherine was born in Bologna, and later educated at the court of d'Este family in Ferrara. She then joined a group of Secular Franciscans in Ferrara who embraced the Rule of St. Clare in 1431. As mistress of novices in Ferrara, she wrote some spiritual books. At Christmas 1445, she experienced an intimate vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Divine Child. Artistic and of lively temperament, obedience and charity came only with years of struggle. In 1456, she founded in Bologna another Poor Clare Convent, a real center of spirituality. Catherine was canonized in 1712 by Clement XI.
(First Reading: Song of Songs 8: 6-7; Gospel: Mt. 16: 24-27)
May 12 - ST. LEOPOLD MANDIĆ OF HERCEG NOVI (1866-1942)
Eleventh of twelve children to Peter Anthony Mandić and Carol Zarević, Bogdan (=Deodatus), John Mandić was born in Herceg Novi, Montenegro next to the Adriatic Sea on 12th May 1866. He took the name Leopold on becoming a Capuchin in 1882, and was ordained a priest in 1890. Leopold's prayer life was directed towards the union of the Oriental and Catholic Churches. Administration of the sacrament of penance formed his lifelong apostolate, in Venice, Zara, Capodistria and finally in Padua where he spent most of the last 31 years of his life. Leopold suffered from oesophagus cancer which eventually led to his death on 30th July 1942. Canonized in 1983 by John Paul II, St. Leopold is hailed as the apostle of unity.
(First Reading: 1 John. 4: 7-16; Gospel: John 10: 11-16)
May 13 - ST. PETER REGALADO (1390-1456)
Born of wealthy and devout parents at Valladolid in Spain, Peter Regalado, from an early age loved quiet places where he would sit for hours in prayer and devotion. Not too unusual in those times, he was allowed to enter the Franciscan convent at the age of 13. A stricter observance of the Rule was introduced into Spain at this time and Peter attached himself to it with enthusiastic zeal. In the small friary of Aguilar in the diocese of Osma, he prepared for the priesthood with deep study and constant prayer. Ordained in 1413, he founded other friaries of the reform movement. Whatever he taught, his brother friars saw him observe most perfectly in his own life. God rewarded him with extraordinary graces of levitation and bilocation. His love of neighbor was so great that he often brought the poor and sick with him into the friary and cared for them with great love. Immediately after his death, his grave became the location for many miracles. He was canonized by Benedict XIV in 1746.
(First Reading: Acts 4: 32-35; Gospel: Mt. 25: 14-23)
May 16 - ST. MARGARET OF CORTONA (1247-1297)
Secular Franciscan. Penitent
Margaret was born in Laviano in the province of Perugia, Italy. She was neglected by her father, and by her step-mother on her father's re-marriage following the death of her mother. She left home at 18 years of age, lived with a young nobleman, Arsenius, in Montepulciano for nine years, bearing him a son out of wedlock. The murder of her lover shocked Margaret into a change of life. She became a Secular Franciscan, and her son subsequently joined the Friars Minor. Her life of penance and reparation was accompanied by assistance to the poor for whom she founded a hospital and a special group of women to look after it. She received great mystical graces, and was a messenger of peace to citizens at war with each other. Margaret died in Cortona on 22nd February 1297. She was canonized in 1728 by Benedict XIII.
(First Reading: Ezek. 18: 21-23, 27-28; Gospel: Luke 15: 1-10)
May 17 - ST. PASCHAL BAYLÓN (1540-1592)
Paschal was born on 24th May 1540 in Torre Hermoso in Aragon, his parents being Martin Baylon and Elizabeth Jubeira. Lacking any formal education, he succeeded in teaching himself. When he joined the Alcantarine Franciscans at Monteforte in 1564, he opted to be a lay friar rather than an ordained one, as he had been invited. His main work was that of porter at the friary. The dominant features of Paschal's life were extreme penance, prayer, and devotion to the Eucharist. His insight into religious matters was penetrating. Canonized in 1690 by Alexander VIII, he was also declared patron of Eucharistic societies and congresses in 1897 by Leo XIII.
(First Reading: 1 Cor. 1: 26-31; Gospel: Mt. 11: 25-30)
May 18 - ST. FELIX OF CANTALICE (1515-1587)
Felix was the third of four sons born to Santi and Santa Porri on 18th May 1515 in Cantalice in the Rieti valley, Italy. He was a farm worker until 28 years of age. In 1543 he entered the Capuchins keeping his baptismal name. From 1547 onwards, Felix was a familiar figure in Rome as he quested for the friary. His simplicity and open innocence of life influenced many towards leading a good Christian life. Friend of the poor, he was well known to people like St. Philip Neri and St. Charles Borromeo. He died in Rome on his 72nd birthday, 18th May 1587, and was canonized by Clement XI in 1712, the first Capuchin to be so honored.
(First Reading: Acts 2: 44-47; Gospel: Luke 12: 22-31)
May 19 - ST. THEOPHILUS OF CORTE (1676-1740)
Biagio de Signori was born at Corte in Corsica of a rich and noble family. As a youth, he joined the Franciscans, receiving the name of Theophilus. After profession, he went to Aracaeli in Rome where he studied philosophy with distinction. He did his theology in Naples, blending virtue with learning. Shortly after his ordination, he went to Bellegra, a friary renowned for austerity and prayer. He thrived in this atmosphere. After 34 years away, in 1730 Theophilus returned to Corsica where he set up a new “ritiro” in Zuani and was guardian there. He was recalled to Rome in 1734 and spent the remainder of his life setting up retreat houses in many parts of Italy. No difficulties would ever stop him when it came to doing good, visiting the sick, assisting the needy, hearing confessions. He was canonized by Pius XI in 1930.
(First Reading: 1 John 3: 14-18; Gospel: John 15: 1-8)
May 20 - ST. BERNARDINE OF SIENA (1380-1444)
Bernardine was the only child of Tollo Albizzeschi and Rainera degli Avveduti, born on 8th September 1380 at Massa Marittima in the province of Siena, Italy. He entered the friars in 1402 and was ordained priest in 1405. A noted preacher of popular style, he denounced the extravagances of the socially and politically powerful and the immoral customs of his day. From 1417 onwards he propagated devotion to the holy Name of Jesus. Apart from being one of the pillars of the movement among the friars towards a more radical observance of the Rule, he was also influential in the reform of the Poor Clare Convent of St. Ursula in Milan around 1418. Bernadine died at L'Aquila in 1444 and was canonized in 1450, six years after his death, by Nicholas V.
(First Reading: Acts 4: 8-12; Gospel: John 14: 12-17)
May 24 - DEDICATION OF BASILICA OF ST FRANCIS
Gregory IX laid the foundation stone of what is called the lower church on 17th July 1228. When construction was finished, the remains of St. Francis were brought secretly from St. George's church and buried deep in the new crypt on 25th May 1230, remaining undiscovered until 1818. When the upper church was completed, Innocent IV solemnly consecrated the whole edifice on 25th May 1253. It was given the rank of papal chapel by Benedict XIV on 25th March 1754.
(First Reading: Apoc. 21: 1-5; Gospel: John 10: 22-30)
May 30 - ST. BAPTISTA VARANO (1458-1524)
Poor Clare. Virgin
Camilla da Varano, daughter of Julius Caesar da Varano and Joanna Malatesta, was born in Camerino, 9th April 1458. On hearing a sermon on the Passion when she was 18 years of age, she resolved to meditate on the sufferings of Christ every Friday. Camilla took the name Baptista on entering the Poor Clares in Urbino in 1481. Three years later, she was one of the founding sisters of a new convent in her native Camerino, where she served as abbess on several occasions. Her father and three brothers were murdered in a popular uprising in 1502 though her mother and youngest brother escaped. She is best known for her work, “The Mental Sufferings of Jesus in his Passion” (1488). Baptista died in Camerino on 31st May 1524 and was canonized by Benedict XVI in 2010.
(First Reading: Song. 8: 6-7; Gospel: Lk. 10: 38-42)