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March 16th, 2009

St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco – “Apostle of Youth” – Patron of Editors – Feast Day : January 31

What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren’t they just random images of our mind?

In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John Bosco because he wouldn’t take his dreams seriously enough. Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint who worked with neglected boys, he learned of the dreams that John had been having since the age of nine, dreams that had revealed God’s will for John’s life. So Pius IX had made a request, “Write down these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely and in their natural sense.” Pius IX saw John’s dreams as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration for those he ministered to.

Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd to try to stop them — by fighting and shouting. Suddenly a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge of these unruly gang. The man said, “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness.” As adults, most of us would be reluctant to take on such a mission — and nine year old John was even less pleased. “I’m just a boy,” he argued, “how can you order me to do something that looks impossible.” The man answered, “What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge.” Thenthe boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like. The man told John that this is the field of John’s life work. Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and strength, he would see a change in the children — a change that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned into gentle lambs.

When John told his family about his dream, his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd, a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage advice we have heard through the years, “You mustn’t pay any attention to dreams.” John said, “I felt the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out of my head.”

Eventually that first dream led him to minister to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once he had their attention he would teach them and take them to Mass. It wasn’t always easy — few people wanted a crowd of loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who promised to help would get frustrated and leave.

Two “friends” even tried to commit him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him. But instead of getting in, John said, “After you” and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off as fast as he could go!

Through it all he found encouragement and support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, “How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn’t a worry in the world. No troubles at all!” Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Often John acted on his dreams simply by sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the dream. “Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed my mind,” he would say.

The groups he most often shared with were the boys he helped — because so many of the dreams involved them. For example, he used several dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life. In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds — tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread, which represented the state of the boys’ souls. He said he would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion to give them moral guidance.

He was also the favourite teacher of St. Dominic Savio, who told him to  “make a new suit out of me for Our Lord”

He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.

Prayer:

Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us to care less about the laughter of the world and care more about the joy of the Lord. Amen.

March 16th, 2009

St. Dominic Savio

St. Dominic Savio

St. Dominic Savio – Patron of choir boys and the falsely accused – Feast Day : March 9

St. Dominic Savio was born in Italy in 1842. One day when he was just four, he disappeared and his good mother went looking for him. She found the little fellow in a corner praying with his hands joined and his head bowed. He already knew all his prayers by heart! At five, he was an altar boy. When he was seven, he received his First Holy Communion. On that solemn day, he chose a motto: “Death, but not sin!” and he kept it always.

“A teenager such as Dominic, who bravely struggled to keep his innocence from Baptism to the end of his life, is really a saint,” said Pope St. Pius X.

Dominic was an ordinary boy with an extraordinary love for God.

At the age of twelve, Dominic entered the school run by St. John Bosco. Don Bosco examined him first and at the end of the questions, Dominic asked,

“What do you think of me?”

“I think you’re good material,” answered the priest, with a big smile.

“Well, then,” said Dominic, “You are a good tailor, so if the material is good, take me and make a new suit out of me for Our Lord!”

Everyone in the school saw from the way he prayed that this boy was different. He greatly loved all the boys, and even though he was younger, he used to worry about them. He was afraid that they would lose the grace of God by sinning.

One day, a fellow brought a magazine full of bad pictures to school. In a minute, a group of boys had gathered around him to see it. “What’s up?” wondered Dominic, and he, too, went to look. Just one peek was enough for him. He grabbed the magazine and tore it to pieces! “Poor us!” he cried in the meantime, “Did God give us eyes to look at such things as this? Aren’t you ashamed?”

“Oh, we were just looking at these pictures for the fun of it,” said one boy. “Sure, for fun,” answered Dominic, “and in the meantime you’re preparing yourselves to go to hell!”. – “Oh, what’s so wrong about looking at these pictures anyway?” another fellow demanded. Dominic had a ready answer. “If you don’t see anything wrong,” he said sadly, “this is even worse. It means you’re used to looking at shameful things!”. No one said anything after that. They all realized that Dominic was right.

Another time he stopped a terrific stone-throwing fight between two angry boys. Holding up a little crucifix between them, he said, “Before you fight, look at this and say, ‘Jesus Christ was innocent and He died forgiving His murderers. I am a sinner, and I am going to hurt Him by not forgiving my enemies.’ Then you can start – and throw your first stone at me!” . The two boys were so ashamed of themselves that they apologized, and promised to go to confession too.

One day Dominic began to feel sick and was sent home to get better. While at home he grew worse, instead, and received the last Sacraments. He was only fifteen then, but he did not fear death. In fact, he was overjoyed at the thought of going to Heaven. Just before he died, he tried to sit up.

“Goodbye,” he murmured to his good father. Suddenly his face lit up with a smile of great joy and happiness. “I am seeing such wonderful things!” he exclaimed. Then he spoke no more, for he had gone to Heaven.

Dominic is the patron saint of choir boys and of the falsely accused.

This latter title was given to him due to the following incident. One time, two boys filled the school stove with snow and garbage during the cold winter months. When the teacher came back into the room, they falsely accused Dominic of doing the “dirty” deed. Although disciplined in front of the entire class, Dominic refused to tell on the two mischievous boys. When the truth was later revealed, Dominic was asked why he didn’t confess to his innocence. He remarked that he was imitating Our Lord, Who remained silent during His persecutions and crucifixion.

March 16th, 2009

St. Jude Thaddaeus

St. Jude Thaddaeus

St. Jude Thaddaeus – Patron of Desperate Cases – Feastday : October 28

St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus , was a brother of St. James and a relative of Our Saviour.

He was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62, and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

He is an author of an epistle (letter) to the Churches of the East, particularly the Jewish converts, directed against the heresies of the Simonians, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. This Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom in Armenia, which was then subject to Persia. The final conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity did not take place until the third century of our era.

Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life. Legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa; possibly martyred with St. Simon in Persia.

Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Therefore, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and his feast day is October 28.

Some people mistake St Jude for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Our Lord, but he is not the same person.

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