8 February, Wednesday — Seeking Sanctity  

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

St. Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick and housed orphans in his own home. At night, he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

  • Patron Saint Index

St. Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gen 2:4-9,15-17  
Mk 7:14-23

…it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.

Today’s gospel alludes to a particularly difficult doctrine of the Catholic church — Original Sin. Indeed, the first reading is a precursor of this original sin, since God has already told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (but we know full well that he will). As Jesus tells His disciples, “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly” come from the heart of man.

As a neophyte, this doctrine is particularly difficult to accept. If God made us in His image, how is it possible that we are inherently bad or evil? For many converts, it is a difficult pill to swallow. Indeed, how can God make anything bad, if He is the pinnacle and representation of all that is good? Yet, we continue to get the nagging feeling that somehow, not all is well within us.

St Augustine says as much, when he ruminates on the crying baby, and how if given the ability to, a baby that is throwing a tantrum would wreak havoc and damage on the world around it. Yes, even a new-born baby, unsocialised and untainted by the things of this world, can possess so much anger and resentment, and even worse, a self-centred desire for comfort. Indeed, how does one square this circle?

As with all things, the answer lies in Jesus. Yes, we may be imperfect and filled with imperfect desires, but God loved us enough to send His Son to save us, to die for us. In that singular act, God has reconciled us to Him, but accepting, even assuming, our human form – the very same human form that had rebelled against Him in the Garden of Eden.

Furthermore, He has given us something else — our free will. Even if we are indeed filled with much evil and vileness, we can, through our free will, choose to reject these things and seek out sanctity instead, the very same sanctity that Jesus has taught us to seek out.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength to resist and reject sin, and for the grace to continue living a good and holy life, even in our fallen state. We pray for God’s forgiveness for the times that we have fallen short of the graces that He has showered us within in abundance.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always loving us, despite our sinful nature. Let us always give thanks for the God who loves us fully and unconditionally.


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