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Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr; Saint Marianne Cope, Virgin
Saint Vincent of Zaragossa’s Story
Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius. His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler. But Saint Augustine, in one of his sermons on Saint Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him. We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.
According to the story we have, the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life. Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend Saint Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain. The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia. Hunger and torture failed to break them. Like the youths in the fiery furnace, they seemed to thrive on suffering.
Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound very modern were tried. But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself. He had the torturers beaten because they failed.
Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict? He would not. Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself. Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer. Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.
Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest. When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.
The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do. It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful. But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering. God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments. God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.
Patronage: São Vicente, Lisbon; Diocese of Algarve; Valencia; Vicenza, Italy, vinegar-makers, wine-makers; Order of Deacons of the Catholic Diocese of Bergamo (Italy).
St. Vincent of Saragossa
Menologion of Basil II, 10th century
Ordinary Time: January 23rd
Optional Memorials of St. Vincent of Saragossa, deacon & martyr; St. Marianne Cope
Meditation: 2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19
Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
David . . . came dancing before the Lord with abandon. (2 Samuel 6:14)
Prayer can take many forms. Consider the scene in today’s first reading, when David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. He not only had many sacrifices offered, but he also danced before God with childlike abandon. This probably wasn’t what most people expected of their king. They were likely surprised at his lack of decorum. Yet David was so filled with joy that he couldn’t help but dance freely before the God who had been so good to his people.
Our prayer, too, can and should take many forms. Don’t you sometimes feel like dancing before God in your prayer time? Go ahead! How about singing a song? Give it a try. What about marching around the room like the Israelites marched around Jericho? Or walking meditatively through the forest, delighting in God’s gift of the created world? Or letting out a big laugh because the Lord has made you joyful? Or maybe kneeling before the Lord, saying the name of Jesus over and over again?
These, as well as so many other forms of prayer, can be just as valid as sitting before God in silence, praying the Rosary, or talking to God as familiarly as you would talk to your neighbor.
We can sometimes feel constrained by structured forms of prayer. Certainly, traditional prayers have their place and can be very effective in helping us build up our relationship with God. But God also wants us to feel free to express ourselves spontaneously. An unscripted expression of praise, love, or gratitude may very well help us break through to a deeper relationship with God.
Remember that God is your Father. He loves you as his very own child. Children are naturally spontaneous and free, and you can be this way before God. He delights in seeing his children coming before him in many different ways. Why not take a chance and become a little spontaneous as you let your Father know how much you love him?
“Jesus, as you rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, teach me also to express my joy and worship. You are great, O Lord, and I take delight in you!”
Today’s saint was a model female Franciscan who emulated Saint Francis’ heroic example of personally caring for those outcasts of all outcasts—lepers. Saints are not born, of course; they are made. And Saint Marianne Cope came from a specific time, place, and family. She could have developed her abundant talents in many directions and used them for many purposes, but she re-directed what God loaned her to serve and honor Him, His Church, and mankind. The Church, the Franciscans, and Hawaii were the arenas in which this elite spiritual athlete exercised her skills. She was asked for much and gave even more. She became a great, great woman.Marianne Cope was born in Germany and was brought to New York state by her parents when she was still a baby. She was the oldest of ten children. Her parents lived, struggled, and worked for their kids. She saw generosity in action at home everyday. She quit school after eighth grade to work in a factory to financially support her ailing father, her mother, and her many siblings. The challenges inherent to migration, a new culture, illness, a large family, and poverty turned Marianne into a serious, mature woman when she was just a teen. She fulfilled her long delayed desire to enter religious life in 1862. Once professed, she moved quickly into leadership positions. She taught in German-speaking Catholic grade schools, became a school principal, and was elected by her fellow Franciscans to positions of governance in her Order. She opened the first hospitals in her region of central New York, dedicating herself and her Order to the time-honored religious vocation of caring for the sick, regardless of their ability to pay for medical services. She was eventually elected Superior General. In her early forties she was already a woman of wide experience: serious, administratively gifted, spiritually grounded, and of great human virtues. But this was all preparation. She now began the second, great act of her drama. She went to Hawaii.
In 1883 she received a letter from the Bishop of Honolulu begging her, as Superior General, to send sisters to care for lepers in Hawaii. He had written to various other religious Orders without success. Sister Marianne was elated. She responded like the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Here I am, send me” (Is 6:8). She not only sent six sisters, she sent herself! She planned to one day return to New York but never did. For the next thirty-five years, Sister Marianne Cope became a type of recluse on remote Hawaii, giving herself completely to the will of God.
Sister Marianne and her fellow Franciscans managed one hospital, founded another, opened a home for the daughters of lepers, and, after a few years of proving themselves, opened a home for women and girls on the virtually inaccessible island of Molokai. Here her life coincided with the final months of Saint Damien de Veuster. Sister Marianne nursed the future saint in his dying days, assuring him that she and her sisters would continue his work among the lepers. After Father Damien died, the Franciscans, in addition to caring for the leprous girls, now cared for the boys as well. A male Congregation eventually relieved them of this apostolate.
Sister Marianne Cope lived the last thirty years of her life on Molokai until her death in 1918. She was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and canonized by him in 2012. She loved the Holy Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Church. And because she loved God first, she loved those whom God loves, her brothers and sisters in Christ. She sacrificed for them, left home and family for them, put her health at risk for them, and became a saint through them.
Patronage: Lepers, outcasts, those with HIV/AIDS, Hawaii