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Saint of the Day—available on the iPhone!

Saint of the Day
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

September 23
Blessed Pica Bernardone



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Though never formally beatified, Pica Bernardone is blessed in the popular mind as the mother of St. Francis of Assisi.

Pica was a noble French lady who married the wealthy Italian cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone. The story is told that when she was in difficult labor with her first child, a stranger in pilgrim's attire appeared who told her and her husband that the child would not be born until she had been transported to a stable. A little chapel is now built on the spot of that stable where Francis Bernardone, now known as Francis of Assisi, was born.

It was Pica who taught Francis his faith by both her word and example. It was she who gave him his love of poverty. And it was she who set him free after his father had locked him up for selling his horse and his father's cloth to rebuild a small church.

After the death of her husband, Pica went to Francis for spiritual guidance, wore the penitential garb of the Third Order of St. Francis and devoted her life to works of charity and piety.



Comment:

What a tightrope Pica walked! Her son and her husband were hopelessly at odds. She watched her boy ride off to war with a pain familiar to too many mothers. And when he returned with his dreams of glory shattered, she surely worried about him. When he rejected his father’s wealth—indeed, his father himself—part of her surely rejoiced, for it was she who had tried to teach him that there are more important things in the world than earthly glory. Still, the rift between father and son must have continued to grieve her. She is surely a friend to any parent who suffers the same perplexing difficulty.


Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

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