August 11th, the Feast of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194 – 1253), offers an opportunity to explore the life of a woman of shining virtue. Her religious vocation was a direct outgrowth of that of her contemporary and mentor, the beloved Saint Francis (1182 – 1226).
For Franciscans worldwide, August 2nd marks a very important, special feast day – the Feast of Our Lady of Angels. The title of Our Lady which this feast commemorates has a direct connection to Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226) and to the Religious Orders which he founded. The “little portion,” or Portiuncula, brings to mind significant events which resound in our hearts as we celebrate this feast day once again.
“[Jesus] entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’” (Lk 10:38-42).
On this feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, being a wife and mother myself, I find it quite natural to feel myself being drawn to Saint Anne and the problems she must have encountered after the birth of her daughter, particularly following that world-changing event, the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38).
If we could have traveled to a poor sharecropping farm in central Italy early in the 20th century, we would have seen a humble building – formerly a cheese factory – sheltering two families of tenant farmers.
“The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a doubt the Heart of Mary, His Immaculate Mother, and for this very reason the liturgy holds them up together for our veneration” (Pope Benedict XVI).
Saint Anthony of Padua (1195 – 1231), whose feast we celebrate on June 13th, enjoys popular renown, of course, as the patron saint of finding lost articles. Two lesser-known facts about him, however, are that he was Portuguese and not Italian by birth, and that he began his life in religion as an Augustinian, not as a Franciscan friar.
“When they entered the city, they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:13 – 14).
The lovely month of May – Mary’s month, the month of the Mother of God – comes to a close most beautifully with one of the most moving Marian feasts, the Feast of the Visitation. Recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (1:39 – 56), the passage describes Our Lady’s journey from her home in Nazareth to the hill country of Judea to spend time with her kinswoman Elizabeth; but this was no typical visit.
These lyrics are a familiar component of the annual May Crowning, the Marian devotion which takes place in many parishes around the time when we celebrate Mother’s Day. This rite is one traditional aspect of the dedication of the month of May to Mary, the Mother of God, and also our Mother.