St. Lucy - Patroness of Those With Eye Trouble - December 13th
This beloved Saint lived in Syracuse in Sicily. She was the daughter of very noble and rich parents. Her father died while she was still young, and Lucy secretly promised Jesus that she would never marry so that she could be His alone.
Now Lucy was a lovely girl, with beautiful eyes. More than one young noble set his heart on her, and her mother urged her to marry one whom she had chosen for Lucy. But the Christian maiden would not consent. Then she formed a plan to win her mother. She knew her mother was suffering from hemorrages, so she convinced her to go to the shrine of St. Agatha and pray for her recovery. Lucy went along with her and together they prayed. When God heard their prayers and cured her mother, Lucy told her of her vow to be Christ’s bride. Her mother left her free to follow her vocation, out of gratitude for her cure.
But the young pagan to whom she had promised Lucy was furious at losing out. In his bitter anger, he accused her of being a Christian and threatened her with torture, but she was even willing to lose both her eyes rather than belong to anyone but Jesus. Many statues show us St. Lucy holding her lovely eyes in the palm of her hand. To reward her for her heroic love, Jesus worked a miracle and gave her back her eyes, more beautiful than ever.
The pagan judge tried to send the Saint to a house of sinful women in the hope that she might be tempted to give up Christ. But when they tried to carry her away, God made her body so heavy that they could not budge her! In the end, she became a martyr for Jesus, being killed by a knife blow.
The date of Lucy's martyrdom was December 13, 304.
SAINT LUCY IN THE SHRINE OF THE APPARITIONS JACAREÍ DE-SP-BRAZIL
On July 31, 2002, Pope John Paul II canonized the seer, Juan Diego
The “Event of Guadalupe”
We are in Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) in 1521: The capital city of the Aztec empire falls under the Spanish forces. Less than 20 years later, 9 million of the inhabitants of the land, who professed for centuries a polytheistic and human-sacrificing religion, are converted to Christianity. What happened in those times that produced such an incredible and historically unprecedented conversion?
In 1531, a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to a poor Indian at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of Mexico City. She identified Herself as the Mother of the True God, instructed him to have the bishop build a temple on the site, and left an image of Herself imprinted miraculously on his tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years, but which shows no sign of decay 471 years later, and today still defies all scientific explanations of its origin. It apparently even reflects in Her eyes what was in front of Her in 1531!
The Lady asked to be called “the ever-virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe”. Why should the Virgin Mary, when appearing to an Indian in recently-conquered Mexico, and speaking to him in Nahuatl, call Herself “of Guadalupe”, a Spanish name? Did She want to be called de Guadalupe because of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Estremadura, Spain?
It is believed that the name “Guadalupe” came about because of the translation from Nahuatl to Spanish of the words used by the Virgin during the Apparition to Juan Bernardino, the ailing uncle of Juan Diego. It is believed that Our Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and which sounds remarkably like the Spanish word Guadalupe. Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as “the”, while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So Our Lady must have called Herself the one “who crushes the serpent.”
We must remember that the Aztecs offered annually at least 20,000 men, women, and children in human sacrifice to their gods. The early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children in Mexico was sacrificed. The climax of these ritual killings came in 1487 for the dedication of the new, and richly decorated with serpents, temple of Huitzilopochtli, in Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), when in a single ceremony that lasted for four days and four nights, with the constant beating of giant drums made of snakeskin, the Aztec ruler and demon worshiper Tlacaellel presided over the sacrifice of more than 80,000 men.
Certainly, in this case, the Virgin Mary crushed the serpent (as it is written in the Book of Genesis, “a woman shall crush your head”) by putting an end to these barbaric human sacrifices, and a few years later, millions of the natives were converted to Christianity.
Today, the ancient serpent is certainly achieving big hits in its attack upon human life. Millions of unborn children are killed every year around the globe, in procedures that in some countries are not only legal but are also officially supported and financed. This is why Our Lady of Guadalupe has been chosen by the Church as the Protectress of the Unborn, to put an end to abortions.
The present Basilica of Guadalupe was constructed on the site of an earlier 16th-century church that was finished in 1709, the Old Basilica. When this basilica became dangerous, due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the New Basilica was built nearby, between 1974 and 1976; the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is now housed in this New Basilica.
An incredible list of miracles, cures, and interventions are attributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit Her Basilica, making Her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican. Altogether 24 popes have officially honored Our Lady of Guadalupe, His Holiness John Paul II visited Her Sanctuary four times: on his first apostolic trip outside Rome as Pope in 1979, and again in 1990, 1999, and on July 31, 2002, for the canonization of the poor Indian who saw Our Lady in 1531: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
St. Juan Diego
Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name “Cuauhtlatoatzin” (“the talking eagle”) in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people. He devoted himself to hard work in the fields and to manufacturing mats. He owned a piece of land and a small house on it. He was happily married but had no children. Between 1524 and 1525, he was converted and baptized, as well as his wife, receiving the Christian name of Juan Diego, and his wife, the name of Maria Lucia. His wife, Maria Lucia, became sick and died in 1529. Juan Diego then moved to live with his uncle Juan Bernardino in Tolpetlac, which was closer (9 miles) to the church in Tlatelolco-Tenochtitlan.
He walked every Saturday and Sunday many miles to church, departing early in the morning, before dawn, to be on time for Mass and religious-instruction classes. He walked on naked feet, like all the people of his class, the Macehualli. Only the higher social classes of the Aztecs wore cactlis, or sandals, made with vegetal fibres or leather. He used to wear, in those chilly mornings, a coarse-woven cactus cloth as a mantle, a tilma or ayate made with fibres from the maguey cactus. Cotton was only used by the upper Aztec classes.
During one of this walks to Tenochtitlan, which used to take about three-and-a-half hours between villages and mountains, the first Apparition occurred, on December 9, 1531. He was 57 years old, certainly an old age in a time and place where the male-life expectancy was barely above 40.
After the Miracle of Guadalupe, Juan Diego moved to a room attached to the chapel that housed the sacred image, after having given his business and property to his uncle. He spent the rest of his life propagating the account of the Apparitions to his countrymen. He died on May 30, 1548, at the age of 74. Juan Diego deeply loved the Holy Eucharist, and by special permission of the Bishop, he received Holy Communion three times a week, a highly unusual occurrence in those times.
The first Apparition
On December 9, 1531, a Saturday, just before dawn, Juan Diego was on his way to pursue divine worship and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, the break of day came, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling the singing of varied beautiful birds. Occasionally the voices of the songsters would cease, and it appeared as if the mount responded.
The song, very mellow and delightful, excelled that of pretty-singing birds. Juan Diego stopped to look, and said to himself: “By fortune, am I worthy of what I hear? Maybe I am dreaming. Am I awake? Where am I? Am I now in the terrestrial Paradise which our elders had told us about? Perhaps I am now in Heaven?”
He was looking toward the east, on top of the mound, from whence came the precious celestial chant, and then it suddenly ceased, and there was silence. He then heard a voice from above the mount, saying to him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” Then he ventured and went to where he was called. He was not frightened in the least; on the contrary, he was overjoyed!
Then he climbed the hill, to see by whom he was being called. When he reached the summit, he saw a Lady, who was standing there, and who told him to come hither. Approaching Her presence, he marveled greatly at Her superhuman grandeur. Her garments were shining like the sun, the cliff where She rested Her feet, pierced with glitter, resembling an anklet of precious stones, and the earth sparkled like the rainbow. The mezquites, nopales, and other different weeds which grow there appeared like emeralds, their foliage like turquoise, and their branches and thorns glistened like gold. He bowed before Her and heard Her words, tender and courteous, like someone who charms and esteems you highly.
She said: “Juanito, the most humble of My sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My Lady and Child, I have to reach Your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco, to pursue things divine, taught and given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.” She then spoke to him: “Know and understand well, you, the most humble of My sons, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God, for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all My love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love Me, invoke and confide in Me, to listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what My clemency pretends, go to the palace of the Bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest My great desire, that here on this plain, a temple be built to Me. You will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain for what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard My mandate, My humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”
At this point, he bowed before Her, and said: “My Lady, I am going to comply with Your mandate; now I must part from You, I, your humble servant.” Then he descended to go to comply with the errand, and went by the road which runs directly into Mexico City.
The visit to the Bishop
Having entered the city, and without delay, Juan Diego went straight to the Bishop's palace, who was the recently arrived prelate named Father Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan religious. On arrival, he endeavored to see him; he pleaded with the servants to announce him; and after a long wait, he was called and advised that the Bishop had ordered his admission. As he entered, he bowed, and on bended knees before him, he then delivered the message from the Lady from Heaven; he also told him all he had admired, seen, and heard. After having heard his chat and message, it seemed incredible. Then the Bishop told him: “You will return, my son, and I will hear you at my pleasure. I will review it from the beginning, and will give thought to the wishes and desires for which you have come.” Juan Diego left and seemed sad, because his message had not been realized in any of its forms.
Riding in his popemobile, on a carpet of flowers, John Paul II salutes the crowd in Mexico City, on July 31, 2002. On the left, the New Basilica of Guadalupe, completed in 1976, and on the right, the Old Basilica. 10 million people gathered along the streets on the day to see the Pope. Mo human being has ever drawn so many people in one day in history.
He returned on the same day. He came directly to the top of the hill, met the Lady from Heaven, who was awaiting him, in the same spot where he saw Her the first time. Seeing Her, prostrated before Her, and said: “Lady, I went where You sent me to comply with Your command. With difficulty I entered the prelate's study. I saw him and exposed Your message, just as You had instructed me. He received me benevolently and listened attentively, but when he replied, it appeared that he did not believe me. I perfectly understood by the manner in which he replied that he believes it to be an invention of mine – that You wish that a temple be built here to You, and that it is not Your order. Now I exceedingly beg, Lady, that You entrust the delivery of Your message to someone of importance, well known, respected, and esteemed, so that they may believe in him; because I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf, and You, my Lady, You send me to a place where I never visit nor repose. Please excuse my great unpleasantness, and let not fretfulness befall, my Lady and my All.”
The Blessed Virgin answered: “Hark, My son the least, you must understand that I have many servants and messengers, to whom I must entrust the delivery of My message and carry My wish, but it is of precise detail that You yourself solicit and assist, and that through your mediation My wish be complied. I earnestly implore, My son the least, and with sternness I command, that you again go tomorrow and see the Bishop. You go in My name, and make known My wish in its entirety – that he has to start the erection of a temple which I ask of him. And again tell him that I, in person, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, sent you.”
Juan Diego replied: “Lady, let me not cause You affliction. Gladly and willingly I will go to comply with Your mandate. Under no condition will I fail to do it, for the way is not even distressing. I will go to do Your wish, but perhaps I will not be heard with liking, or if I am heard, I might not be believed. Tomorrow afternoon, at sunset, I will come to bring You the result of Your message with the prelate's reply.” Juan Diego then left to rest in his home.
The Bishop asks for a sign
The next day, Sunday, after hearing Mass and being counted, and after the crowd had dispersed, Juan Diego went to the palace of the Bishop. Again with much difficulty was he able to see him. He knelt before his feet. He was sad and cried as he expounded the mandate of the Lady from Heaven, so that he would believe his message and the wish of the Immaculate, to erect Her temple where She willed it to be. The Bishop, to assure himself, asked many things, like where he had seen Her and how She looked, and he described everything perfectly to the Bishop.
Notwithstanding his precise explanation of Her figure and all that he had seen and admired, which in itself reflected Her as being the ever-virgin Holy Mother of the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, nevertheless, Bishop Zumarraga did not give it credence, and said that for his request to be granted, a sign was very necessary, so that he could be believed that he was sent by the true Lady from Heaven.
Juan Diego was again with the Blessed Virgin, relating the answer he brought from the Bishop. The Lady, having heard, told him: “Well and good, My little dear. You will return here tomorrow so you can take to the Bishop the sign he has requested. With this he will believe you, and in this regard he will not doubt you, nor will he be suspicious of you. And know, My little dear, that I will reward your solicitude and effort and fatigue spent on My behalf. Lo! Go now. I will await you here tomorrow.”
The miracle of December 12
On the following day, Monday, when Juan Diego was to carry a sign so he could be believed, he failed to return, because, when he reached his home, his uncle, named Juan Bernardino, had become sick, and was gravely ill. First he summoned a doctor, who aided him. But it was too late; he was gravely ill. By nightfall, his uncle requested that by break of day he go to Tlatilolco and summon a priest, to prepare him and hear his confession, because he was certain it was time for him to die, and that he would not arise nor get well.
On Tuesday, before dawn, Juan Diego came from his home to Tlatilolco to summon a priest; and as he approached the road which joins the slope to the Tepeyac hilltop, toward the west, where he was accustomed to cross, he said: “If I proceed forward, the Lady is bound to see me, and I may be detained, so I can take the sign to the prelate, as prearranged. I must first go hurriedly to call a priest, as my poor uncle certainly awaits him.”
Then he rounded the hill, going around, so he could not be seen by Her who sees well everywhere. He saw Her descend from the top of the hill, and was looking toward where they previously met. She approached him at the side of the hill, and said to him: “What's there, My son the least? Where are you going?” Was he grieved, or ashamed, or scared? He bowed before Her. He saluted, saying: “Lady, I am going to cause You grief. Know that a servant of Yours is very sick, my uncle. He has contracted the plague, and is near death. I am hurrying to Your house in Mexico to call one of Your priests, beloved by Our Lord, to hear his confession and absolve him, because, since we were born, we were taught to prepare for death. But if I go, I shall return here soon, so I may go to deliver Your message. Lady, forgive me, be patient with me for the time being. I will not deceive You. Tomorrow I will come in all haste.”
After hearing Juan Diego's chat, the Most Holy Virgin answered: “Hear Me and understand well, My son the least, that nothing should frighten nor grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under My protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within My fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now from it. Be assured that he is now cured.” At this very moment, his uncle was cured, as it was later learned. (See picture.)
When Juan Diego heard these words from the Lady from Heaven, he was greatly consoled. He was happy. He begged to be excused to be off to see the Bishop, to take to him the sign or proof, so that he might be believed. The Lady from Heaven ordered him to climb to the top of the hill, where they had previously met. She told him: “Climb, My son the least, to the top of the hill where you saw Me and I gave you orders. You will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, and then come and bring them before My presence.”
Immediately, Juan Diego climbed the hill, and as he reached the summit, he was amazed to see that so many different varieties of exquisite roses de Castilla were blooming, long before the time when they were to bud, because, being out of season, they would freeze. They were very fragrant and covered with dewdrops of the night, which resembled precious pearls. Immediately he started to cut them. He gathered them all and placed them in his tilma. The hilltop was no place for any kind of flowers to grow because it had many crags, thistles, thorns, nopales, and mezquites. Occasionally weeds would grow, but it was now the month of December, when all vegetation was destroyed by frost.
He immediately went down the hill and brought the different roses which he had cut to the Lady from Heaven, who, as She saw them, took them with Her hand and again placed them back in the tilma, saying:“My son the least, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the Bishop. You will tell him in My name that he will see in them My wish, and that he will have to comply to it. You are My ambassador, most worthy of all confidence! Rigorously, I command you that only before the presence of the Bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers, and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”
After the Lady from Heaven had given Her advice, he was on his way by the road that goes directly to Mexico. He was happy and assured of success, carrying with great care what he bore in his tilma, being careful that nothing would slip from his hands, and enjoying the fragrance of the variety of the beautiful flowers.
The miraculous image
Juan Diego reached the Bishop's palace, and waited a long time. The servants of the Bishop came near to him to see what he had and to satisfy their curiosity. Juan Diego, seeing that he could not hide what he had, and on account that he might be molested, pushed or mauled, uncovered his tilma a little, and there were the flowers. Upon seeing that they were all different roses de Castilla, and out of season, they were thoroughly amazed, because they were so fresh and in full bloom, so fragrant and so beautiful. They tried to seize and pull some out three times, but they were not successful. They were not lucky because, when then tried to get them, they were unable to see real flowers. Instead, they appeared painted or stamped or sewn on the cloth. Then they went to tell the Bishop what they had seen, and that the Indian who had come so many times wished to see him.
Upon hearing this, Bishop Zumarraga realized that what he carried was the proof he needed to confirm and comply with what the Indian requested. Immediately, he ordered his admission. As he entered, Juan Diego knelt before him, as he was accustomed to do, and told him that he had brought with him the sign the Bishop had asked for – roses that he had picked high on the hilltop of Tepeyac.
He unfolded his white cloth, where he had the flowers, and when all the different varieties of roses scattered on the floor, there suddenly appeared the drawing of the precious image of the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, in the manner as She is today kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
When the Bishop saw the image, he and all who were present fell to their knees. She was greatly admired. They arose to see Her. They shuddered and, with sorrow, they demonstrated that they contemplated Her with their hearts and minds.
The Bishop, with sorrowful tears, prayed and begged forgiveness for not having attended to Her wish and request. When he rose to his feet, he untied from Juan Diego's neck the cloth on which appeared the image of the Lady from heaven. Then he took it to be placed in his chapel. Juan Diego remained one more day in the Bishop's house, at his request. The following day, he told him: Well! show us where the Lady from Heaven wished her temple be erected.”
After the dedication of the new church, the sacred image was transferred there, so that the people would see and admire it. The entire city was aroused; they came to see and admire the image and to pray. They marveled at the fact that Our Lady appeared as did Her divine miracle, because no living person of this world had painted Her precious image.
An enigma for science
Modern technology has revealed even more the prodigious character of the image formed on Juan Diego's tilma on December 12, 1531. This image remains unexplained — an enigma for science — more than 450 years after it was created, despite the many tests by scientists. First of all, the tilma, which constitutes the “canvas” of the miraculous picture, usually lasts no longer than twenty years.
In 1936, Fritz Hahn, a professor in Mexico City, took, from the tilma, two fibres: one red, the other yellow, and then brought them to Germany for a close examination. There, Dr. Richard Kuhn, Nobel Prize Winner and director of the Department of Chemistry of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, came to the conclusion that the fibres in question contained no known artificial colouring — neither mineral, vegetal, animal, nor synthetic.
In 1951, Jose Carlos Salinas Chavez, examining a good photograph of the face, discovers the image of what clearly appears to be a bearded man reflected in the right eye of the Virgin, and locates it on the left eye too. Since then, many people have had the opportunity to inspect closely the eyes of the Virgin on the tilma, including more than 20 physicians and ophthalmologists. They all came to the conclusion that the bearded man was Juan Diego.
Moreover, the image has been mysteriously protected from malevolent attacks over the centuries. For example, on November 14, 1921, Luciano Perez, a worker, came to lay a wreath of flowers on the main altar of the basilica, just in front of the miraculous image of the Virgin. He had hidden a bomb in the wreath, which exploded when he left the church. The blow destroyed the steps of the altar, the candelabras, even the windows of neighboring homes, but the window protecting the image remained intact.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of America, protect us, and protect the unborn!
The Angels transport Our Lady of Loreto and the Holy House of Nazareth
The Angels transport Our Lady of Loreto and the Holy House of Nazareth
The Angels carried the Holy House of Nazareth, high above the mountains and deserts of the Holy Land, across the expansive Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to Illyria. On May 10, 1291, it quietly set down in the little hamlet of Tersatto, in Illyria now known as Croatia), far from the battle cries of Palestine.
It was early in the morning, when the local people discovered, to their great surprise, a house resting on the ground.
There was no foundation under it!
Curious to see what it was, they ventured inside. They found a stone Altar. On the Altar was a cedar statue of Mother Mary standing with Her Divine Son in Her arms.
The Infant Jesus had the two first fingers of His Right Hand extended in a blessing, and with His Left Hand, He held a golden sphere representing the world. Both Mary and Jesus were dressed in robes. Golden crowns were poised on both Their heads.
The villagers were awestruck, but confused, until a short time later, Our Lady of Loreto appeared to the local Priest and said,
"Know that the house which has been brought up of late to your land, is the same in which I was born and brought up. Here, at the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of all things. Here the Word of the Eternal Father became Man. The Altar which was brought with this house was consecrated by Peter, Prince of the Apostles.
"This house has come from Nazareth to your shores by the power of God, of Whom nothing is impossible. And now, in order that you may bear testimony of all these things, be healed. Your unexpected and sudden recovery shall confirm the truth of what I have declared to you."
The Priest, who had suffered for years from an illness, was immediately cured. He promptly told all the people, about the words of Our Lady of Loreto, and word of this Gift from God, spread throughout the countryside.
Pilgrimages began coming immediately to the Holy House of Nazareth, in Illyria. God had chosen to bring it to this little village, and the villagers lovingly responded by erecting a modest, quite primitive building over the house, to protect it from the elements.
However, the joy, the Croatians had experienced at having this most precious gift in their midst, was short-lived. Three years and five months later, on December 10, 1294, the Holy House disappeared overnight from Croatia, never to return.
Saddened by the loss, Nicholas Fangipani, a devout man from Tersatto, built a small church, a replica of the Holy House, on a hill where the original had stood. He placed an inscription:
"The Holy House of the Blessed Virgin came from Nazareth on the 10th of May, in the year 1291, and left on the 10th of December, 1294."
The people from Croatia continued venerating Our Lady of Loreto in their replica church. So great was their devotion that Pope Urban V sent the people of Tersatto an image of Our Lady in 1367, which was said to have been painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist.
The people from Tersatto, or Fiume, as it was also called, grieved over the loss of the Holy House and the image of Our Lady. A Franciscan recalled a group coming across to Loreto from Dalmatia as late as the 16th Century.
He wrote: "In one particular group, there were about 500 pilgrims from Tersatto, with their Priests. They began their procession into the church of the Holy House on their knees, crying and weeping. As they approached the Holy House, they wailed in their own tongue, `Come back to Fiume (Tersatto) O Mary, come back to Fiume, O Mary O Mary.’ Repeating these words over again, and with bitter tears, they reached the Holy House. On seeing Her when the doors were opened, their fervour renewed and they began to repeat the same words again, mixed with many tears. And they went on with their chant as they went round the Holy House on their knees."
Another eyewitness account of pilgrims from this area, took place in 1784. "I myself have heard and seen them in great numbers every year kneeling nearly whole summer nights in front of the closed doors of the Shrine of Loreto; not content with having worshipped, kissed and bathed with their tears the walls of Mary’s blessed House all day, and then sung their chants outside, and prayed to Her, weeping to remember them, in such a way that anyone who saw the repetition of that sorrowful scene was moved to devotion and compassion."
To this day, pilgrims from that area of Croatia, are given special privileges at the Holy House in Loreto, not because of who they are as much as in sympathy for their great loss.
The Angels move the Holy House to Italy.
December 10th, 1294, in the area of Loreto, Italy (across the Adriatic Sea and southwest of Tersatto,) shepherds reported seeing a house in the sky, flying across the sea, supported by Angels. They reported, one of the Angels (Michael) wore a red cape, and seemed to be leading the others. They saw Our Lady and the Baby Jesus seated on top of the house. The Angels continued inland, about four miles, and landed with their precious house and its Royal Passengers into a wooded area called Banderuola.
The news spread, quickly drawing many people to pilgrimage to the House in Banderuola. But they were not all working on the same agenda. Robbers came to waylay, rob, and beat the pilgrims. The faithful stopped coming, and the house quickly fell into neglect.
The Angels, who had been put in charge of protecting the House, lifted it again and set it down on a small hillin the middle of a farm. The only problem was, this land was owned by two brothers, named Antici, who began fighting immediately over ownership of the house.
So the Angels moved the house and Our Lady of Loreto, a third time, to another hill.
This time they placed it down on the middle of a road, the site it occupies now, and has for the last 700 years. Tradition tells us that as soon as the house moved off the brothers’ property, they became the best of friends. The Angels had moved the Holy House three times in one year .
Defending Catholicism without compromise and facing martyrdom with a sense of humour - The life of St John Roberts
St John Roberts - Benedictine martyr
Childhood and conversion
John Roberts was born into a Welsh family in Trawsfynydd in 1575. His parents were called John and Anna, and they seemed to have been the local landowners of the substantial Rhiw Goch farm. In fact, it is possible that John was descended from Welsh nobility, and it is certain that he receiveded a good preliminary education - a rare privilege at that time. Indeed, it is thought that one of his early teachers was a former monk of the nearby dissolved abbey of Cymer, and that this man instilled in him a sense of Catholic identity. After his initial schooling, John Roberts continued his studies at the relatively Catholic St John's College, Oxford. Whilst not graduating with a degree, his time at Oxford was followed by a spell at one of the Inns of Court in London - where he intended to become a lawyer.
During a holiday to celebrate the end of his studies, spent with a friend in Paris, something quite extraordinary and life-changing happened to John Roberts. Whilst in France, he decided to be reconciled to the old Faith - an act he might have been contemplating for some time. As a result of this decision, he was received into the Catholic Church at Notre Dame de Paris and abandoned any notion of being called to the bar. Soon after his conversion, John Roberts went even further - risking all in order to study for the priesthood with the intention of working as a missionary in his now Protestant homeland.
From seminary to cloister
John Roberts entered the newly erected Royal English College at Valladolid in 1598, but didn't stay long in this Jesuit run seminary, which had been founded by King Philip II of Spain soon after the Spanish Armada. In fact, he had abandoned his studies before the academic year was out. An anecdote from the time relates that John had left the College because he felt that the food on offer there wasn't wholesome enough. Somehow, though, I doubt this was the real reason for John Roberts' departure. It seems that what actually led him to abandon his studies for the secular priesthood was his fractious relationship with the then Rector, Father Robert Persons SJ. In all, five men left the English seminary at Valladolid to enter the local Benedictine monastery at the same time (early 1599), which suggests that the seminary was going through some sort of crisis. Whatever the immediate reasons for John's decision to test his monastic vocation, it is true to say that he had actually been feeling a genuine calling to the religious life for some time.
The old Abbey of San Benito in Valladolid
The concepts of simplicity, silence, penance, and the holiness of the cloister have always been popular ones in the Welsh imagination, and might also have been the real inspiration behind John Roberts' move to the local Benedictine abbey at Valladolid. This monastery was relatively close to the College – one can still walk there quite easily in less than half an hour (though it now belongs to the Augustinians). Having made up his mind, John entered the monastic life in 1599, at which time he became known as Fray Juan de Mervinia (Brother John of Merionnydd). He soon left the city of Valladolid altogether, though - being sent to complete his novitiate at the Benedictine abbey in Santiago de Compostela. Living so close to his former College might have proved difficult both for John and his former Rector - especially seeing that there might also have been some tensions at the time between the Spanish monks and the English Jesuits.
Missionary priest and prisoner of Jesus Christ
Soon after his ordination to the sacred priesthood on St Stephen’s Day 1602, John Roberts was sent to England to work as a missionary monk. At the time, many professed Benedictines left the cloister in order to enter the English mission - following the example of the old British saints of the 5th and 6th centuries, most of whom were also missionary monks. At times of crisis, it seems that this form of monastic life - a dedicated and contemplative priesthood - becomes both necessary and beneficial to the Church's survival.
Before re-entering the British Isles, John Roberts would have been aware that the punishment for preaching the Catholic faith in England as a priest was a most horrific form of execution. Whilst ministering to the Catholics of England, then, not only would the newly ordained Father John have had to contend with plague and poverty, but he would also have had to evade the tyrannical machinations of the state and its network of spies. On several occasions he was arrested and exiled – yet back he came to minister to the poor and persecuted Catholic population of London. He was also imprisoned on several occasions, and would therefore have faced deprivations of all kinds for the sake of his faith. Yet, he remained steadfast - refusing to bow to fear, unwilling to compromise the truth and determined not to capitulate for the sake of an easier life. During one of his banishments, John Roberts actually became the first prior of the new English Benedictine foundation at Douai – this monastic community was later re-founded as the great Abbey of St Gregory at Downside (a well-known English monastery and school to this day).
Like so many other missionary priests of the time, St John Roberts constantly returned from exile to serve the people of his country – even in the face of imprisonment, torture and execution. In fact, it seemed that the prospect of martyrdom might have been a motivation for his persistent returns to England. Like so many other priests working in post-Reformation England and Wales, such as St John Southworth (whose remains are to be found in Westminster Cathedral), John Roberts was kept for long periods as a prisoner at the Gatehouse in Westminster. This was the old prison attached to Westminster Abbey, and served as a semi-open prison where inmates could sometimes come and go. In 1609, though, John Roberts was arrested after having escaped from the Gatehouse to minister to local Catholics. As punishment, he was placed in the hellish Newgate Prison. Aware of his plight, the French ambassador, Antonie de la Broderie, appealed to King James I on his behalf, and John Roberts narrowly escaped execution. Instead, he was exiled to France, where he returned to his beloved monastery at Douai. Needless to say, though, John Roberts was back in London before too long - determined to preach the gospel and reconcile Protestant England to Rome.
After being arrested seven times, escaping from prison twice and being banished three times, the Welsh Benedictine priest was apprehended for the last time on 2 December 1610 - whilst celebrating Mass in secret for his persecuted flock. He was immediately dragged through the streets back to Newgate Prison, whilst still dressed in his vestments. His trial was unjustly held only three days after his arrest and during it John Roberts was quickly found guilty of being a Catholic priest and therefore of high treason against the Crown. He was executed only five days later, on 10 December 1610.
An arrow points to St John Roberts as he stands with the other Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
The Martyrs' Crown, well deserved
John Roberts suffered the horrendous execution reserved for traitors - being hanged, drawn and quartered. But he refused to be overcome at the thought of the horror that was about to befall him. Known for his keen sense of humour, and like many a martyr before him, St John Roberts joked right to the end. Whilst being led to the scaffold, someone in the crowd suggested that he should wear his cap. "Why?" he asked, "are you afraid that I might catch a cold?" Also, when John Roberts saw the flames in which his bowels were to be burned, he is said to have exclaimed, "I see you have prepared a hot breakfast for us!"
Due to the affection of the crowd who knew all about the way he had cared for the poor and dispossessed of Westminster, John Roberts was actually spared the more gruesome horrors of his sentence. The people who had gathered at Tyburn that day also remained silent and horrified throughout the Saint's execution - many could not believe that the Crown would do such a thing to an obviously holy man. There was no rejoicing amongst the usually exuberant execution-watchers that day. Not even the most Protestant of Englishmen could find much to celebrate over the death of this Welsh Catholic priest on that cold December morning.
After his painful martyrdom, St John Roberts' body was taken back to his monastic community, St Gregory’s in Douai. As happened to St John Southworth's body, John Roberts' remains were lost during the French Revolution. Whereas, though, John Southworth’s body was rediscovered in the 1920s, and returned to Westminster Cathedral, all we have of St John Roberts are a few relics, which are mainly to be found at Downside Abbey, the Catholic church at Gellilydan (Trawsfynydd), and Tyburn Convent - near the site where he offered his life to God for the sake of Christ's true Church and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Pope Leo XIII approved the opening of John Roberts' Cause on 4 December 1886. He was subsequently beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970, along with the other representative Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.