Saints: December 2007 Archives

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This morning in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received a group of people belonging to the Italian Catholic Action Movement for an exchange of Christmas greetings. The Holy Father spoke of the Venerable Servant of God, our little Nennolina.

Words of the Holy Father

It pleased me that, a moment ago, you quoted a little girl, Antonia Meo, called Nennolina. Just three days ago I decreed the recognition of her heroic virtues and I hope that her cause of beatification may be brought quickly to a happy conclusion. What a luminous example has this little member of yours left us! (Note: Nennolina was enrolled in the "Benjamins" section of the Italian Catholic Action Movement.)

Nennolia, a child of Rome, in her very short life — only six and a half years —demonstrated a faith, a hope, a special charity, and other Christian virtues as well. Though she was a frail little girl, she succeeded in giving a strong and robust witness to the Gospel and has left a deep impression in the diocesan community of Rome. Nennolina belonged the Catholic Action Movement; today she would certainly be inscribed in the A.C.R. (Childrens' Catholic Action)!

For all of you can consider her your friend, a model to inspire you. Her existence, so simple and, at the same time, so important, demonstrates that holiness is for every age; for little children and young people, for adults and for the elderly. Every season of our existence can be good for us to decide seriously to love Jesus and to follow Him faithfully. In a few years, Nennolina reached the summit of Christian perfection that we are, all of us, called to ascend, she ran quickly the "highway" that leads to Jesus. And so, as you yourselves recalled, Jesus is the true "way" who leads us to the Father and to our permanent home, which is Paradise. You know that Antonia now lives in God, and from heaven, she is close to you; you sense that she is present with you, in your groups. Learn to know her and follow her examples. I think that she also will be happy about this: to be involved still in Catholic Action.

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Anniversary of Nennolina's First Holy Communion

Nennolina received her First Holy Communion 71 years ago on Christmas Eve, 1936, in the chapel of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 38, Via Germano Sommeiller. Witnesses of her First Holy Communion said that the little girl was transfigured in a kind of ecstatic adoration of her Jesus. A few months before her First Holy Communion, Nennolina had written to Jesus:

"Dear Jesus Eucharist I love You so much! . . .
Really very much!
Not only because You are the Father of all the world, but also because You are the King of all the world, I always want to be Your lamp which burns night and day before You and near You in the Sacrament of the altar.

I'd like You to grant me three favours the first - make me saint, and this is the most important favour;
the second - give me some souls;
the third - make me walk normally, to tell the truth this is the least important.
I'm not saying to give me back my leg, I gave it to You!


Dear Jesus I like my teacher Sister Noemi very much.
I love her so, help her to do all the necessary things that You want her to do.
Dear Jesus Eucharist!
I love You so much so that I'm really longing for Christmas.
Make my heart shine to You when You come into my poor heart.
Dear Jesus, I'll make a lot of sacrifices that I'll offer to You
when I do the First Holy Communion.

Dear Jesus Eucharist! . . .
I want to suffer a lot to redeem also the sins of men, especially of the very bad ones.
Dear Jesus Eucharist I say good-bye to You and I kiss You.
Your Antonietta.
Good night Jesus good night Mary."

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"I desire that my Face, which reflects the intimate afflictions of my Soul,
the sorrow and the love of my Heart, should be honoured more.
One who contemplates me, consoles me.

There are those perhaps who fear that the devotion and worship of my Holy Face
may diminish the devotion and worship of my Heart. Tell them that, on the contrary, it will be completed and augmented. Contemplating my Face, souls will share in my sorrows and will feel the need to love and and to make reparation. Is this not perhaps the true devotion to my Heart? "


Nennolina
was not alone in having her heroic virtues recognized by the Church this morning. There were seven others; among them was Mother Maria Pierina Di Micheli. Born on 11 September, 1890, Giuseppina De Micheli entered the Congregation of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception in Milan on 15 October 1913. She received the habit and the name Maria Pierina on 16 May 1914, made religious profession 23 May 1915, and left for the motherhouse of the Congregation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1921. She returned to Italy in 1921, and died on 26 July 1945.

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Mother Maria Pierina was privileged, from the age of twelve, with graces of intimacy with Our Lord, who invited her to contemplate His Holy Face. On the evening of 31 May 1938, as Mother Maria Pierina was praying, a beautiful Lady presented herself to her on the altar steps, in a blaze of light. She was holding in her hand a scapular made of two pieces of white flannel held together by a cord. One piece bore the image of the Holy Face of Jesus with the inscription, "Illumina Domine Vultum Tuum super nos"; the other piece bore the image of a radiant Host with the inscription, "Mane nobiscum Domine."

The Lady approached Mother Pierina and said, "Listen well and refer this to your Father Confessor. This scapular is an arm of defense, a shield of might, a token of mercy that Jesus wants to give the world in these times of sensuality and of hatred toward God and the Church. True apostles are few. A divine remedy is necessary, and this remedy is the Holy Face of Jesus. All those who will wear a scapular like this one, and who will visit, if possible, the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesdays to make reparation for the outrages that the Holy Face of my Son Jesus received during His Passion, and receives every day in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, will be strengthened in the faith, made ready to defend it, and to overcome all difficulties inward and outward. They will, moreover, have a serene death, beneath the loving gaze of my Divine Son."

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The scapular of the Holy Face became, with the approval of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the medal of the Holy Face, widely distributed by Mother Maria Pierina, by her spiritual father, Abbot Ildebrando Gregori, O.S.B., and today, by His Eminence Fiorenzo Cardinal Angelini and the Congregation of the Benedictine Reparatrices of the Holy Face.

I was privileged, last month, to preach a retreat — Seeking God: the Holy Face of Jesus in the Rule of Saint Benedict — to a dynamic group of novices and professed Sisters of the Benedictine Reparatrices of the Holy Face from Italy, India, the Republic of the Congo, and Romania at the Casa San Francesco in Carsoli, Aquila, Italy.

Te Deum Laudamus

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Dear Jesus,
I want to be Thy lamp that, close to Thee,
burns with a flame of love,
Thy lily that remains always to adorn Thy altar
and to adore Thee.

Today, 17 December 2007, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI received in a private audience His Eminence, the Most Reverend Lord Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the heroicity of the virtues of the Servant of God Antonietta Meo, called Nennolina, a little girl born in Rome, in the parish of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, on 15 December 1930, where she also died on 3 July 1937. Nennolina is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The Venerable Servant of God attended the school of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also in the parish of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.


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December 14
Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Isaiah 48:17-19
Psalm 1 (R. Jn 8:12)
Matthew 11: 16-19

Liturgical Coincidences

It often happens that the sacred texts given us in the Lectionary for the occurring ferial day correspond wonderfully to the saint whom we are commemorating. And so it happened today, on this feast of Saint John of the Cross.

The Light of Life

Did you hear — I mean really heed with the ear of the heart — the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm? It was taken not from Psalm 1 as one might expect, but rather from the eighth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. There Our Lord says: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

It is the allusion to darkness that invites us to relate this word to the life and teaching of Saint John of the Cross. Did not Saint John embrace the mystery of the Cross in the obscurity of a dark night? Does not he come to us just one week before the longest and darkest night of the year? Is not Saint John of the Cross our best guide through the darkness of the night, which no one of us can avoid, or delay, the dark night of faith?

One Little Word Changed

Now, be attentive! What does the Church do with this word of Our Lord when she chants it in her liturgy? She changes one single word. Our Lord says, “He that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). The Church, having heard this word of Our Lord (lectio), and having repeated it over and over again in the recollection of her heart (meditatio), turns it into a prayer (oratio) addressed directly to Him who pronounced it, by saying: Qui sequitur te, Domine, habebit lumen vitae, “He that followeth Thee, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

Lectio Divina

We have everything to learn from this procedure. It is the Church’s own way of praying. All prayer begins not with our word or words to God, but with the word that He addresses us. Prayer begins in the hearing of the word, and this is what the tradition calls lectio. Once heard, the word has to be remembered and, in order to remember it, we must repeat it over and over again. This is what the tradition calls meditatio. The same word, heard, and then repeated, becomes the word by means of which we lift our mind and heart to God, and this the tradition calls oratio. “He that followeth Thee, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). One who prays in this way will find himself drawn into a mysterious inner stillness. There all becomes silent. There we experience a sweet and irresistible force that compels us to adore. Tacere et adorare. To be silent and to adore in the presence of the Thrice Holy God.

Inter-Abiding in Love

If we yield to this sweet and irresistible force — the action of the Holy Spirit — we will find that the silence that is the fruit of the word heard, repeated, and prayed, becomes the sacrament of a mysterious union with God, of what I can only describe as an “inter-abiding” in love. And this is what the tradition calls contemplatio.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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