Solemnity of the
Annunciation of the Lord
Annunciation of the Lord
Today, 'Lady Day'--nine months before Christmas, we think of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who became the Mother of God. Her story is wrapped in mystery for we have only the details that Saint Luke recorded at the beginning of his Gospel. We know that she was a village maiden, probably of Nazareth, of humble circumstances, betrothed to a carpenter, though in her veins, as in those of Saint Joseph, flowed the blood of the kings of Judah.
With great simplicity and beauty Saint Luke tells us of her maidenhood: "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a village of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." She was naturally puzzled, "greatly troubled" we are told, for she was a simple woman, and the wonder of it overwhelmed her; but with calmness and dignity she accepted her destiny, trusting that God's will would be done.
Throughout the centuries, this scene has fascinated preachers and artists who meditated on the wondrous event. Only one artist, Lotto, captured the startling nature of the occurrence. In his painting a cat is seen in the background frightened. Yet the Virgin Mother appears to be much more practical.
She asks quietly and naturally: "How shall this be?" To which came the answer containing the secret of the mystery: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God." To which she answered with unique faith and submission: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word." Then, in the familiar words of the Magnificat, which echo the words of Samuel's mother Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10), her heart found an outlet: "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
How remarkably calmly Mary accepts God's will! She knew that she could be subject to stoning for bearing a child outside of wedlock.
Yet she trusted. Let us reflect on this miracle of faith when we, too, are asked by God to do things that seem beyond our strength. Let's also trust that God is with us every moment of every day with His hands upon us.
Alfwold of Sherborne B (AC)
Died c. 1058-1075; formerly March 26. Saint Alfwold, a monk of Winchester, was chosen to be bishop of Sherborne in 1045. He was known for his great devotion to Saints Cuthbert and Swithun, whose cults he propagated. He set up Swithun's image in his church and often visited Cuthbert's shrine. William of Malmesbury recorded the reminiscences of a priest from his diocese who knew Bishop Alfwold. Unlike most members of the episcopacy, he used only common wood eating utensils and was known for his habitual abstinence at a time when self-indulgence was the rule. He quarrelled at least once with Earl Godwin of Wessex, who was suddenly stricken ill and recovered only after the saint pardoned him. After Alfwold's death his see in Dorset and that of Ramsbury were reunited to become the diocese of Salisbury (Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill).
Barontius (Barontus) & Desiderius, OSB Monks (RM)
Died c. 725. Barontius was a gentleman of Berry who, together with his son, became a monk at Lonrey in the diocese of Bourges. As a result of a vision, he asked permission to become a hermit, set out for Italy, and established himself in the district of Pistoia. There he lived a most austere life with another saintly monk, Desiderius (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Dismas the Good Thief (RM)
1st century. The Good Thief, who was crucified with Christ on Calvary, was given the name Dismas; the other thief is known as Gestas (Luke 23:39-42). A popular myth during the Middle Ages in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy said that the two thieves held up the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt. In this tale, Dismas bought off Gestas with forty drachmas to leave them unmolested, whereupon the Infant Jesus predicted that they would be crucified with him in Jerusalem and that Dismas would accompany him to paradise.
Tradition assumes that because Jesus told Dismas: "Today you will be with me in Paradise," his salvation was assured and he could therefore be invoked as a saint. Because so little is known of Saint Dismas--not even his name, which means "dying"--perhaps the Mass for his feast can give us some insights.
Introit: Psalm 130:6: "My soul waited for the Lord, more than the night watchmen wait for the dawn." Psalm 121:1, "I rejoiced when I heard them say, 'Let us go up to the house of the Lord.'"
Reading from Ezekiel 33:11-12: "I am living says the Lord. It is not the death of the sinner that I want. What I want is that he be converted, and that he live. Be converted, be converted, change your way of life! And why would I condemn you to die? Let the prophet say to his people: 'The just are just in vain, for it is not his justice which will save him, if one day he sin. And it is not for his sin that the sinner will be judged, if one day he is converted.'"
Gospel from Luke 23:39-43 [RSV]: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, `Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other rebuked him, saying, `Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, `Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And he said to him, `Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'"
Communion antiphon: "Happy is he who sees his debts paid, and whose sins are forgiven! Happy is the man whom the Lord does not punish as he deserves, and who does not try to defraud him" (Psalm 31:1-2) (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
In art, Dismas is represented as carrying his cross immediately behind Christ in pictures of the Harrowing of Hell. He may also be shown (1) crucified at Christ's right hand, or (2) naked, holding his cross, often with his hand on his heart to signify penitence (Roeder). Dismas is the patron of criminals, condemned men, and thieves (Farmer, Roeder).
Dula the Slave VM (RM)
Date unknown. Saint Dula was the slave of a pagan soldier in Nicomedia, Asia Minor, who wanted to make her his mistress. When she resisted, he stabbed her to death (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). Saint Dula is portrayed after she has been killed by her master (Roeder). She is the patroness of maid-servants (Roeder).
Harold of Gloucester M (AC)
Died 1168. Another child, like SS. William of Norwich and Simon of Trent, reputed to have been put to death by Jews. He died at Gloucester (Benedictines, Shepperd).
Blessed Herman of Zähringen, OSB (AC)
Died 1074. Herman was the margrave of Zähringen, who became a monk at Cluny (Benedictines).
Hermenland, OSB Abbot (RM)
(also known as Hermeland, Herbland, Erblon)
Born in Noyon; died c. 720. Saint Hermenland served as royal cup- bearer in his youth. Later he withdrew to Fontenelle and became a monk under Saint Lambert. Following his priestly ordination, Hermenland was sent with a band of 12 monks to become the first abbot of a new abbey on the island of Aindre in the estuary of the Loire, which had been founded by Saint Pascharius. Hermenland had the gift of prophecy and could read minds (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Humbert of Marolles, OSB Abbot (AC)
Died c. 680. A disciple of Saint Amandus, who became the co-founder and first abbot of the abbey of Marolles in Flanders (Benedictines). In art, Saint Humbert is shown as an angel appears and shows him the Cross. At times (1) an angel makes a cross on his brow; (2) there is a star on his forehead (which makes it is to confuse him with Saint Benedict); or (3) a bear carries his baggage (like Saint Corbinian) (Roeder).
Isaac, Patriarch (RM)
Son of Abraham, lamb of God, a symbol of Jesus (Encyclopedia).
Blessed James Bird M (AC)
Born in Winchester, England; died 1593; beatified in 1929. James Bird was just 19, when he was hanged, drawn, and quartered in his native city for having been reconciled to the Church (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Kennocha V (AC)
(also known as Kyle, Enoch)
Died 1007. Saint Kennocha was a Scottish nun of the convent in Fife. Formerly she was held in great veneration in Scotland, especially in the district around Glasgow. Said to have been the only daughter of a wealthy family, she rejected the attraction of worldly goods and all suitors in order to pursue a life of prayer. By an extraordinary love of poverty and mortification, a wonderful gift of prayer, and purity or singleness of heart, she attained to the perfection of all virtues. She became famous because of several miracles God wrought on her behalf (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Lucy Filippini V (RM)
Born in Corneto or Tarquinia, Tuscany, Italy, January 13, 1672; died at Montefiascone, Italy, on March 25, 1732; canonized in 1930.
Marc'Antonio Cardinal Barbarigo discovered the pedagogical genius of Lucia Filippini, who had been orphaned while still quite young. In her native town of Corneto, he saw young and old gathered about a little girl in the market place, listening to the child as she explained the catechism. He took the little girl with him on the very same day to the episcopal city of Montefiascone, and had her instructed by the Poor Clares.
She joined Blessed Rosa Venerini in training school mistresses at Montefiascone. Although Rose began the work, she died before it matured into the flourishing Italian institute of the Maestre Pie, or Filippine, of which Saint Lucy is venerated as the co-foundress. Lucy devoted the rest of her life to improving the status of women, and founding schools and educational centers for girls and women throughout Italy. In 1707, she was called to Rome by Pope Clement XI to establish the first school of the institute there. Lucy endeared hereself to the people of Rome during her tenure.
In a parchment laid in her grave at the Cathedral of Montefiascone, the saint is lovingly described: "After she had lost both her parents, Cardinal Marc'Antonio Barbarigo of blessed memory took her into his care. He later availed himself of her services in the founding of schools of Christian doctrine for young girls. Active with the greatest ardor for this foundation and its propagation, she fully realized the importance of this work for the glory of God, the saving of souls, and the Christian education of women.
"Her ability and experience made her work flourish and spread to our diocese and to many others. Her endeavors earned her the name of una donna forte--a strong woman. Though she lived wholly for her foundation, she never ceased praying at the feet of the Lord, thus uniting, in admirable fashion, the virtues of Martha and Mary.
"To set her up also as a model of invincible patience, God put her to the severest tests. She died on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1732, at the age of 60, of cancer, in terrible pain, which she endured with supreme patience."
A portrait reveals that she was a very pretty woman (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Schamoni).
Margaret Clitherow M (RM)
Born in York, England, c. 1556; died there 1586; beatified in 1929; canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; feast day formerly April 2.
Margaret was the daughter of a prosperous candlemaker, Thomas Middleton, who later became sheriff, but who died when she was about nine. Her mother remarried. In 1571, Margaret married John Clitherow, a prosperous grazier and butcher, who held various civic offices. He was an honorable, kind, easy-going, and generous man. Contemporaries described Margaret as well-liked, attractive, merry, and witty. "Everyone loved her and would run to her for help, comfort, and counsel in distress."
The couple, who lived in the Little Shambles of York, had three children. The eldest, Henry, was predestined to carry on the family trade. Next came Anne, then another little boy.
Margaret had been reared a Protestant but three years after her marriage to another Protestant, who never converted, she became a Catholic. From her earliest childhood, Margaret spent much time in prayer and had thought upon God with profound love and great reverence. Honestly and without any consideration of worldly advantage of peace she had prayed for light, that she might be able to distinguish which faith was the true one. When she felt sure that she knew this, she acted without fear or wavering.
Her husband, now the chamberlain of York, was fined repeatedly because Margaret did not attend Protestant services, yet he stood by her. That was how the state attempted to keep Catholics from the Mass--break them down to penury. When they could no longer pay the fines, they were thrown into prison. But this was not Margaret's problem.
She was religiously vocal and active and was imprisoned for two years for not attending the parish church. She was confined in a filthy, cold, dark hole, fed on the poorest prison fare, separated from her loved ones, yet she herself refers to this time as 'a happy and profitable school.' Here no one could be inconvenienced by her fasting and austerities.
While in prison she learned to read; after she was released, she organized in her house a small school for her children and her neighbors' children. Nevertheless, her husband stood by her for she was "a good wife, a tender mother, a kind mistress, loving God above all things and her neighbor as herself." By the sweetness of her nature, she bore witness to the charm of piety.
In a specially built room she hid priests who sought refuge from penal laws, and her home became one of the most important hiding places of the time. Masses were said by the guests, and Margaret would station herself behind the others, nearest the door, possibly to give the alarm in case of discovery.
In 1584, she was confined to her home for a year and a half, apparently for sending her eldest son to Douai in France to be educated. She made barefoot pilgrimages to the execution places of martyred priests, doing so at night to evade spies. These pilgrimages to the spot soaked with the blood of martyrs gave her courage to face the troubles and dangers of daily life.
Her husband remained silent about her activities, but he was summoned before the court in 1586 to give an account of why his son, who was attending a Catholic college, was abroad. While he was thus occupied, his house was raided, but no trace of priests or sacred vessels could be found.
His children were interrogated and gave nothing away, but a Flemish student broke down under threats and revealed the secret room. Vessels and books for celebrating Mass were discovered, and Margaret was accused of hiding priests, a capital offense, and taken to prison. She was joined two days later by her friend, Mrs. Ann Tesh (or Agnes Leech according to another account), whom the boy had also betrayed. She and her friend joked to keep up their spirits.
Her children, the servants, and poor John Clitherow himself were divided among various prisons, and little Anne Clitherow, a child of 10, was ill-treated for refusing to disclose anything of her mother's affairs, or to cease praying as her mother had taught her.
When called before the judge in the Guildhall of York, Margaret said, "I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty." She was urged by Judge Clinch to choose a trial by jury, but she resisted because she did not want her children, servants, and friends to have to testify, and thus have to perjure themselves and offend God or testify against her--and know that they had caused her death, which she knew was inevitable. "Having made no offense, I need no trial. If you say I have offended, I will be tried by none but by God and your own conscience."
Her replies under examination show that this self-taught woman was able to support her faith by purely intellectual arguments and to correct the various Protestant clergymen's erroneous assertions regarding Catholic dogmas and practice.
One Puritan who had argued with her in prison courageously declared in court that to condemn someone on the charge of a child was contrary to the law of God and man. The judge wished to save her but was overruled by the council, and so he sentenced her to the penalty for refusing to plead, the peine forte et dure, which is to be pressed to death.
She was not allowed to see her children, and she was still visited by people who tried to change her mind, including her stepfather, who was mayor of York that year. She saw her husband once. One clergyman spoke kindly to her. Margaret begged him to say no more:
"I ground my faith upon Jesus Christ, and by Him I steadfastly believe to be saved, as is taught in the Catholic Church through all Christendom, and promised to remain with Her unto the world's end, and hell gates shall not prevail against it: and by God's assistance I mean to live and die in the same faith; for if an angel come from heaven, and preach any other doctrine than we have received, the Apostle biddeth us not to believe him. Therefore, if I should follow your doctrine, I should disobey the Apostle's commandment."
On the eve of her death, March 25, 1586, Margaret requested companionship, and a Protestant woman in jail for debt was provided. She did not know what to say, so she watched as Margaret knelt for hours in prayer gaining a radiant calm as she did so.
Thus, at the age of 30, Margaret went to her death smiling, carrying over her arm a long white robe; her shroud, which she had made in prison. On reaching the vaulted cellar where she was to die, she prayed for the Catholic clergy, and for Queen Elizabeth, that God would change her faith and save her soul. She refused to pray with Protestants in attendance.
Margaret was executed in the Toolboothe at York, the first woman to suffer the ultimate penalty of the new penal code. She was made to strip and lie flat on the ground, with a sharp stone under her back, and her hands were bound to posts. A large oak door was laid over her and weights totalling seven or eight hundred pounds were placed upon it until she burst (though she had suffocated first). It took about 15 minutes for her to die, and her last words were: "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me!"
She had sent her hat to her husband "in sign of her loving duty to him as to her head," and her shoes and stockings to her daughter, that she should follow in her steps. The child became a nun at Saint Ursula's Convent in Louvain, and both of Margaret's sons became priests.
Margaret's body was buried in a rubbish heap outside the city wall. Six weeks later some Catholics disinterred it and carried it away but no one knows where. But one hand had been severed from the body--this is the relic of Margaret Clitherow that is venerated today at Saint Mary's Convent in York.
No one had told Margaret's two imprisoned children that their mother was dead. In fact, little Anne was told by some Protestants that if she would not go to their church and hear a Protestant sermon, her mother would be put to death. So the child went, to save her mother's life.
Her biography was written by her confessor, Father John Mush. One of Margaret's hands is preserved in a reliquary at the Bar Convent in York. She shrine is in a road off the Shambles of York (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Claridge, Delaney, Farmer, Undset, White).
In art, Saint Margaret is depicted as an Elizabethan housewife, kneeling; or standing on a heavy wooden door (White). A contemporary portrait shows her to be charming in appearance with irregular, intelligent, and delicate features surrounded by the becoming matron's coif of the period, a broad and open forehead, finely drawn eyebrows, and a sweet little mouth (Undset).
Melchizedek, Priest (RM)
Priest of the Most High God, honored by Abraham (Encyclopedia).
Pelagius of Laodicea B (RM)
Died after 381. Bishop Saint Pelagius championed the Catholic cause against Arianism and on that account was banished by the Arian emperor Valens. Gratian recalled him. He was among the luminaries present at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The date of his death is unknown (Benedictines, Encyclopedia)
Quirinus of Rome M (RM)
Died c. 269. Saint Quirinus suffered martyrdom under Claudius II. He had been one of those befriended and buried by SS. Marius, Martha, and Companions (Benedictines).
Quirinus, King M (RM)
Died 130. Legendary son of the Emperor Philip (Roeder). In art, he is depicted as a king with a crown, scepter, and orb; or imprisoned, scourged, and beheaded (Roeder). Quirinus is venerated in Dalmatia, Venice, and the Tyrol. He is invoked against plague (Roeder).
Robert of Bury Saint Edmunds M (AC)
Died 1181. Another of the presumed child martyrs, Saint Robert was said to have been killed by the Jews on Good Friday at Bury Saint Edmunds, where his relics were enshrined in the abbey church (Benedictines).
Blessed Thomas of Costacciaro, OSB Cam. Hermit (AC)
(also known as Thomasius, Tomasso)
Born at Costacciaro, Umbria, Italy; died 1337. Thomas was the son of poor peasants. He joined the Camaldolese at Sitria, then retired to Monte Cupo as a hermit, where he lived for many years. At the time of his death, his existence had been almost forgotten until he was accidentally found (Attwater2, Benedictines). Blessed Thomas is portrayed in art as a Camaldolese changing water into wine (or carrying water to do so) (Roeder). He is venerated in Umbria.
Two Hundred Sixty-Two Roman Martyrs (RM)
Date unknown. This group may be identical with that found on March 1 (Benedictines).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.