History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyr: Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond

Along with Marist Brother Henri Verges, Sr. Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond became the first person in the modern era to undergo martyrdom in Algeria on May 8, 1994.

Sister was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongst the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Archbishop Teissier says she was someone who “chose what she wanted to do and she did it.”

Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongs the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Reflecting on the violence that then reigned, she wrote that “one must start oneself to fight against one’s own violence.” To Msgr. Teissier who warned her of the danger all were facing, she replied, “Father, our lives are already given anyway.”

Sister, an engineer by training, had lived 30 years in the Maghreb (i.e., northern Africa from Morocco to Libya’s western border) serving the people there. Upon her retirement, rather than returning to France, she moved to the capital to assist Brother Henri Vergès in running the library, which served 1,200 young people from neighboring schools.

The French Wikipedia article on her says, “She was very helpful, unfailingly generosity, of a very logical mind, of a lively intelligence, and possessed of a great memory. However, her frankness, her outspokenness, and her lack of tact caused her relational difficulties, and her determined character sometimes made her difficult to live for the other nuns, but her humility, her fraternal spirit and capacity for dialogue promoted reconciliation. Her vast culture and knowledge also makes her known as ‘Madame Encyclopédie.’ The depth of her faith helped her to overcome her inner struggles. She remained very attached to prayer, individual and community.

Church News, History, News About Saints, Saints Stories

Algerian Bishops on the Announcement of the Beatification of Their Nation’s Martyrs

Announcement of the beatification of our nineteen brothers and sisters

Statement of the Bishops of Algeria

Our Church is full of Joy.  Pope Francis has just authorized the signature of the decree of beatification of “Monsignor Pierre Claverie and his 18 men and women companions”.  Continue reading

Church News, News About Saints

July Decrees for the Causes of Saints

 From the Holy See’s Press Office today:

The great news in the following is that American Servant of God Bishop Servant of God Alphonse Gallegos, OSA, is now Ven. Alphonse Gallegos. 

Vatican City, 8 July 2016 – This morning the Holy Father Francis received in a private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he authorized the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


– A miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Servant of God Louis-Antoine Rose Ormières, French priest and founder of the the Congregation of the Sisters of the Guardian Angel (1809-1890).


– Servants of God Antonio Arribas Hortigüela, Spanish, and 6 companions, missionaries of the Sacred Heart, killed in hatred of the faith on 29 September 1936;

– Servant of God Jozef Mayr-Nusser, layperson, born in Bolzano in 1910 and killed in hatred of the faith on 24 February 1945 in Erlangen.


– Servant of God Alphonse Gallegos, of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, American bishop, auxilary of the diocese of Sacramento (1931- 1991);

– Servant of God Rafael Sánchez García, Spanish diocesan priest (1911 -1973);

– Servant of God Andrés Filomeno García Acosta, Spanish professed layperson of the Order of Friars Minor (1800 – 1853);

– Servant of God Giuseppe Marchetti, Italian professed priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo (1869 -1896);

– Servant of God Giacomo Viale, Italian professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor, parish priest (1830- 1912);

– Servant of God Maria Pia of the Cross (née Maddalena Notari), Italian woman religious, founder of the Congregation of the Crucified Sisters Adorers of the Holy Eucharist (1847 -1919).

Spiritual Reflections, This and That

Praying to the Saints … or Not

From the time I was a wee lad, my dear ol’ pappy drilled several lessons into me, one of which was, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” Another was, “Don’t do something half-baked,” although he used a different word than “baked.”

Maybe this explains why I’ve always been a stickler for the rules, and why it’s always bugged me when people do things sloppily or don’t follow them.

Do it right or go home

So for instance, in my fraternity, when it came time to initiate new brothers, I couldn’t stand that some guys would wear a coat, tie … and sneakers. ‘This is important,’ I thought. ‘Dress accordingly. Show respect for the awesome ceremony in which you’re about to participate and are about to give witness. Don’t dress like some slob who doesn’t care. And if you truly don’t care, scram.’

Or when there was a portion of the fraternity’s “liturgy” that was supposed to be recited from memory … and the brother reciting that part read from the ritual book. It wasn’t as though he didn’t have time to learn his lines. He was just lazy.

For me it’s the same thing when a priest doesn’t “say the black” and “do the red” in the Mass.

Hey, Father: We don’t need your improvisations. No matter how creative and wonderfully “pastoral” you are, nothing you can conjure is going to be as good as what the Church has given us. Plus the Second Vatican Council and the Popes since then have said no one has a right to change a single jot or tittle of the rubrics on their own. Ergo knock it off, will ya?

This disregard for rules and protocols, we see it everywhere today, don’t we? Maybe we even do it ourselves (yes, I’ve three fingers pointing at me; crossing at crosswalks is super difficult, after all).

Hard to miss that one

One big place we see it in the Church is with those who are on their way to possible beatification, the Servants of Gods and Venerables.

“Oh, come on,” some will think. “Don’t we have more important things to worry about?”

Of course. That doesn’t mean this isn’t important, however. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any concern over this. If it’s true that “in the Mass everything matters” (as one seminary professor I know of teaches his students), shouldn’t we also be careful and diligent in the other things pertaining to God and what He’s given us through His Church?

For the Church tells us to do things and how to do them for a reason. We don’t get to – or shouldn’t – decide on our own where the Church is wrong. That will lead – and always has led – to some really bad things happening.

Saint So-and-So … pray for us!

What am I talking about, already? Simple: Prayers to the saints. Or in this instance, prayers to saints in the making.

If we’re praying to a canonized saint, we can pray directly to them. If we’re praying to a beato or beata (i.e., someone who’s been beatified), we can pray directly to them.

Why? Because despite the differences in titles, both saints and blesseds (aka, beati) are in heaven. We have the Church’s infallible assurance of this.

The same cannot be said of Servants of God and Venerables. They may be in heaven. They may be in purgatory. In some rare – hopefully exceedingly rare – instances, they may even be in hell. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1033 and 1035 for the reason why.

Absent a miracle or a declaration by the Pope of a person’s or persons’ martyrdom—which are the ordinary ways we ask God to reveal someone is with Him in the Beatific Vision—we have no way of knowing the disposition of their soul.

Judge not

For Jesus’ injunction to “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself” speaks not to judging someone’s actions (we have to judge the rightness or wrongness of actions – stealing, murder, alcoholism, addiction, sexual crimes, sins of all types, etc. – or else we’d have chaos). Rather it warns against judging the eternal disposition of someone’s soul. He is the Judge. We are not.

That works both negatively and positively.

So we’re not to say someone is roasting in eternal fires, no matter how wicked, sinful, and evil they were while alive. You will notice the Church does not claim to know whether one single soul is in hell, even Judas or Hitler or Osama bin Laden or Mao or anyone.

Similarly we’re not to claim someone is in heaven without definitive proof. The Church will and often has made that determination, but only after thorough investigation and examination and God has revealed this.

Until we have that certainty, we are not to pray directly for that person’s intercession.

So while I could ask Bl. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich of New Jersey or St. Pietro Parenzo for their intercession, I can’t ask, say, the Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, SJ, for his.

The proof is in the prayers

Don’t believe me? OK, don’t take it from me. Take it from the beatification causes of two “saints-in-waiting,” let’s call them.

First let’s look at one of my favorites, the Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ, who spent years incarcerated by the Soviets, first in solitary confinement in the terrible Lubyanka Prison and then in Siberian labor camps.


Here is a prayer asking for his intercession:

Almighty God, we love, adore, and praise You as our Creator and Loving Father. Look with compassion and mercy upon us. Hear our prayer in this time of special need and through the intercession of Father Walter Ciszek, grant the following favor if it is Your Holy Will.

(Mention the Request)

Most loving God, accept our gratitude for hearing this prayer. May the knowledge of the virtues and holiness of Father Walter be recognized and known to provide a lasting example to draw sinners to reconciliation and to lead souls to sanctity.

For You are our God, and we are Your people, and we glorify You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

What doesn’t happen in this prayer to the Servant of God? Nowhere do we say, “Fr. Ciszek, pray for us.” Instead the prayer is addressed to “Almighty God.”


Now let’s look at a prayer from the cause of Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, who also is up for beatification.

O Father, fountain of all life and holiness, You gave Fr. Bruno Lanteri great faith in Christ, Your Son, a lively hope, and an active love for the salvation of his brethren. You made him a prophet of Your Word and a witness to Your Mercy. He had a tender love for Mary, and by his very life he taught fidelity to the Church. Father, hear the prayer of Your family, and through the intercession of Fr. Lanteri, grant us the grace for which we now ask…. May he be glorified on earth that we may give You greater praise.

We ask this through Your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Au contraire?

“But wait! But wait! The website promoting the cause of my favorite Venerable says, ‘Ven. So-and-So, pray for us’! What about that, eh?”

“But wait! But wait! Father always asks for the prayers of the Servant of God directly. Father would never do anything wrong or against the Church.”

It’s true. Various causes do this. That doesn’t mean they’re supposed to.

And Father may be unassailable in his orthodoxy and fidelity to the Magisterium.

That doesn’t mean in both instances ignorance isn’t involved. Very likely, it is.

Bottom line

In life, if we do something, we should do it right. Shouldn’t that especially be true when it comes to venerating the saints, especially if the person in question isn’t yet a saint?

Some people will pooh-pooh what I’ve written. But ask yourself: What do you have to lose being obedient to the Church? What do you have to gain by ignoring her?

You don’t need a saint’s intercession to discern the answer.

Saints Stories, Uncategorized

March 2: St. Quintus the Wonder Worker

Today’s feast memorializes St. Quintus the Thaumaturge (i.e., wonder/miracle worker). He is considered another St. John the Evangelist, because like John he had been tortured in an effort to make him a martyr. However he endured and survived these ordeals and died peacefully of old age.

A native of Phrygia (modern day western Turkey) and from a Christian family, he went to the town of Aeolis (on Turkey’s western shore off the isle of Lesbos), and here he devoted himself to assisting the poor. During the time of Emperor Aurelian (270-275), the local governor was named Rufus. By having him tortured, he tried to force Quintus to sacrifice to idols according to the imperial decrees. He eventually released the holy man, however, because the saint’s prayers had freed him from  demonic obsession.

The Greeks’ Synaxaria (like a martyrology) tell us this happened in the city of Cyme, where an earthquake struck the pagan statues and the temple of idols, putting to flight all who were present there. Quintus was blamed for this. Therefore, 40 days after his release, Quintus was arrested again by another magistrate, this one named Clearchus. He proved more intransigent than Rufus, and he subjected the righteous one to torture, including having his legs broken. But when God immediately healed Quintus’ wounds, the pagans again released him, and no one ever bothered him from that point forward.

As a result, he went about his ministry healing the sick and aiding the poor for another 10 years, he died in about 280-85.

Quintus was a fairly common name among the Romans and indicates he was the “fifth child.”

Saints Stories, Uncategorized

The Saint Who Helped Start a War

St. Auguste Chapdelaine
Memorial: February 29

Auguste Chapdelaine was born on February 6, 1814, in the tiny northwestern French village of La Rochelle-Normande.

Not much is known of his early life other than that his family were farmers, he was strong, and for this reason his parents were reluctant to “lose” him to the priesthood since they needed able-bodied people to work their land, especially as they grew older.

Ironically, it was the sudden death of two of his brothers that made his parents realize God’s calling for their youngest, and so they submitted to His will. Auguste entered the minor seminary at age 20.

He was much older than his fellow students, most of whom were ages 12-13. As a result, they called him, “Pops.” The nickname stuck for the rest of his life.

He received ordination in 1843, and after several months waiting for an assignment at home, his bishop appointed him as a parochial vicar in Boucey, France.

Before this appointment, he had told another one of his brothers, “I did not become a priest for those who already know God but for those who don’t.” Nonetheless he bided his time, and for seven years served the roughly 650 souls in the village.

Finally, around 1851, he was able to join the Foreign Missions of Paris (PIME) to work in one of their mission fields. The people of Boucey had grown to love him so much, they packed the church for his last Mass. Some didn’t understand why he wanted to leave them when he was so well regarded and his work so valued. Others perfectly understood his zeal to spread the Good News and blessed him on his way.

Before leaving for mission territory, he had to be evaluated by his PIME superiors at their seminary in Paris, called the “Polytechnic Institute of Martyrs” due to the huge number of its graduates who had given the ultimate witness for the Faith.

During his stay, he wrote a Carmelite who taught in Boucey, “If it’s true what they say, that Paris is the center of dissoluteness, it is also the home of much virtue.”

Finally after about a year in the French capital, he had his evaluation. Afterward he wrote his mother, “I am being sent to China. You must treat this as a sacrifice made for God, and He will reward you in eternity. At your death, you shall appear before Him in confidence [and He will remember] your generosity for His greater glory in sacrificing what is dearest to you. Please sign the letter you will send me as soon as possible s a sign of your consent and also as a sign of your forgiveness for all the sorrow I have caused you. And as sign of your blessing, please add a cross after your name.”

He then wrote his brother, Nicolas, “I thank God for the wonderful family He has given me and for the conduct of all its members…. It has been my greatest happiness on earth to have had such an honorable family.”

The journey was arduous. Departing in May from Le Havre, Netherlands, it took two weeks for the storm-tossed ship he and six other missionaries had boarded  just to exit the English Channel. Then because of unfavorable winds, rather than going around Africa, the ship’s captain headed west at the Canary Islands and made for Brazil, where they landed June 6, 1852. The seven men were in a 4’x6’ cabin with no ventilation, and once they passed the Equator, their room became unbearably hot. When they reached the southern tip of South America, of course they were in winter. Then, once around the Horn, instead of heading straight to China, bad winds forced them to make for Australia. They had not touched land in three months but finally landed in Singapore in September. They then made their way to Vietnam where, after some time, a Portuguese ship offered them passage to Hong Kong. But being monsoon season, they had to take refuge in Borneo and then head to the Philippines. All along the way, storms and hurricanes buffeted their ship.

They finally landed in Macau on Christmas Day, and reached Hong Kong on January 10, 1853.

First he stayed in Hong Kong for a period. Then in October 1853, he took a journey of three days to the west, during which he was beaten and robbed. Finally he arrived at the village of Yaoshan, Xilin County, Guangxi Province. He celebrated his first Mass there for 300 souls on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1854. Accompanying him was the lay catechist and future martyr, St. Jerome (aka, Hieronymus) Lu Tingmei († January 28, 1858). Ten days later authorities arrested him for illegal missionary activities.

The reason was that at this time in China’s history, Christianity was only legal in five open ports. Everywhere else, it was not permitted. Because of the threats he received after his release from jail, he traveled to neighboring Guizhou (aka, Kweichow) Province. By the end of the year, however, he had returned to minister to his people. His efforts led to several hundred people forswearing paganism, embracing Christ as their Savior, and entering the Church.

In February 1855, the pagan wife of a new convert didn’t like her husband chastising her for not being more like the Christian wives he knew. She complained to her brother and uncle, who denounced St. Auguste. Thus he was again arrested sometime between February 22 and the night of February 24-25, 1856 (sources vary), charged with the crime of propagating an illegal religion. Under Chinese law at the time, this was a capital crime.

When the local mandarin attempted to question him, Father, like Christ at His own trial, said very little. Furious at what he considered to be disrespect, the official had him flogged 150 times on the cheeks. The very first lash drew blood. We can only imagine what damage the other 149 blows did. Next Father received 300 lashes with a cane on his back. They stopped only when they saw he could not move.

But when they went to drag him back to his cell, after only a few steps, he rose and began walking as if in perfect health. The Chinese couldn’t believe their eyes. The saint told them, “It is the good God Who protects and blesses me.”

They next placed him in a custom made cage. His head fit through a hole in the top, and it was just tall enough for him to barely touch his toes on the ground. Furthermore the cage was constructed to hold his arms in place so that he could not use them to pull himself up in order to breath more easily. Thus he was always hovering between suffocation and barely breathing.

The mandarin offered to spare his life, however, provided he came up with a ransom of 400 silver talents. “I have no money,” he said, “only books.” What about 150 talents, then? he was asked. He replied, “Let the mandarin do what he pleases with me. I am in his hands.” Thus on February 29, 1856, they beheaded him. They needn’t have bothered, though. He had been beaten so badly and his body had been so tortured, he was already dead.

He had not sought out martyrdom. Not long before his arrest, he was reputed to have said, “He Who gives us our lives demands that we should take reasonable care of the gift. But if the danger comes to us, then happy those who are found worthy to suffer for His dear sake.” Nonetheless die he did.

Martyred at around this same time was St. Agnes Tsao Kou Ying, one of his lay catechists who had been stuck in the same sort of cage as he had been. Their cages were placed side-by-side, and while they could see one another, they could not talk. Doing so was impossible.

Also giving his life was St. Lawrence Bai Xiaoman, a layman who had promised to accompany Father to death if need be for the sake of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls.

Learning of his death, the head of the French mission at Hong Kong sent this protest to Ye Ming-Chen, governor of Guangdong:

“The captivity of Mr. Chapdelaine, the torture he suffered, his cruel death, and the violence that was made to his body constitute, noble Imperial Commissioner, a blatant and odious violation of the solemn commitments to which he was consecrated. Your government therefore needs to give [some reparation] to France. You will not hesitate to give it me fully and entirely. You will propose the terms: I will have to then decide if the honor, dignity, and interests of the Government of my great Emperor allow me to accept. My desire is also to go to Canton and to confer in person with Your Excellency. You know an hour of friendly conversation more often than not advances the solution to important affairs than a month of written correspondence.

The Chinese were frankly tired of the foreign powers throwing their weight around. China, after all, has always been a great and mighty nation. Were it not for the Europeans’ advanced military technology—ironically, technology that had its birth in China—China would have swatted these “bearded foreign devils” away like flies.

Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the Chinese government refused to apologize or offer compensation or any satisfaction for the life of Fr. Chapdelaine. After all, had he not clearly broken Chinese law by breaching the interior and preaching an illegal religion? He had. And was not the punishment for this beheading? It was. So for what was there to apologize? Abbé Chapdelaine wasn’t the only French citizen arrested for such activity. At the time, six of his countrymen were in custody for attempting to spread the gospel.

Furthermore, Father’s activities took place in territory where rebels were active (see the Christianity-inspired Taiping Rebellion here). How could it not be that a Frenchman – whose Christian government had not shown itself overly friendly or necessarily an ally to China – was doing something other than preaching religion? In fact, the Chinese viceroy asserted that Father’s activities had nothing whatsoever to do with religion. He was an agitating agent working against the government.

This turn of affairs was not necessarily disadvantageous to the French. Many of their countrymen had suffered martyrdom for their missionary work, and their government had never once taken action or retaliated. Now the sense was, “Enough is enough.” As the aforementioned minister wrote his nation’s Foreign Office:

If, in a word, the Representative of His Imperial Majesty would not but fail in his duty if he did not take advantage of the opportunity offered him to fix with one blow the errors or mistakes of the past and to bring out of the martyrdom of a missionary the complete emancipation of Christianity [in China].

As a result of the Chinese government’s refusal to apologize in any way, France thus used the incident as a pretext to join the United Kingdom in the Second Opium War. Britain’s purpose for the war was to have China legalize the opium trade (heroin comes from opium), expand its access to near-slave-wages Chinese labor (abuses of Chinese workers had led their government to cut off English access to such labor), and get China to exempt foreign imports from internal transit duties.

The war lasted until 1860. While it obtained for foreign missionaries access to China’s interior, all in all it was a shameful mess. One could say about it what the English politician Gladstone said about the First Opium War: “I feel in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China…. [This is] a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace.”

Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Auguste and other Chinese martyrs on October 1, 2000, the same day (perhaps not coincidentally) as the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The next day the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily released an article showing all the ways those canonized were actually bandits and other types of miscreants. It accused St. Auguste of raping women, of living with a woman named Cao, and of bribing officials on behalf of “bandits.”

Needless to say, the charges were the sorts of lies and politically motivated propaganda at which all communists excel.

God have mercy on their piddling souls.



Father’s cage.