Ordinary Time: October 16th
Optional Memorial of St. Hedwig, religious; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, virgin
Old Calendar: St. Hedwig, widow; St. Gerard Majella (Hist)
Hedwig (1174-1243), the aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, was married at an early age to Henry, Duke of Silesia. After their six children had been born, they both strove to advance in sanctity and to enrich Silesia and Poland with monasteries, hospitals, and leper asylums. When Henry died in 1238, Hedwig took the habit of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (where one of her daughters was the abbess), but retained the administration of her property so that she could give personal relief to the suffering.After a girlhood marked by painful illness and even more painful family discord, Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) entered the Visitation convent of Paray-le-Monial, France, at the age of 22. She was ignorant, sickly, and clumsy, but she had great charity and humility. Our Lord chose her to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart, at a time when rebellion without (Protestantism) and heresy within (Jansenism) were doing their best to separate Catholics from their faith and their God.According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the feast of St. Margaret Mary is celebrated on October 17. St. Gerard Majella, listed in the Roman Martyrology, was a native of Muro in southern Italy. He was apprenticed to a tailor before asking to be received by the Redemptorists as a lay-brother. He continued his trade in the monastery, where he soon attracted the attention of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, who shortened his novitiate. His wonderful and well authenticated life was a series of supernatural phenomena — bilocations, reading of consciences, prophecies, multiplying of food, etc. He was canonized in 1904 and is the patron of expectant mothers and unborn children.
Hedwig was born in 1174 in Bavaria, the daughter of the Duke of Croatia. She was the maternal aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She married Duke Henry of Silesia and raised seven children, with the boys being quite a handful. She outlived all but one of her children, Gertrude. Hedwig persuaded her husband to use her dowry to found a Cisterian monastery for nuns at Trebnitz. Their daughter Gertrude later became abbess of the monastery.
- On this feast in Poland, there is a bread called Hedwigsohlen (Shoe Soles of St. Hedwig) that used to be distributed to the poor of Trebnitz on her feast day. The shoe soles remind us of her generosity to the poor, and the fact that she sacrificed her own comfortable shoes in walking to church. A recipe can be found in Cooking with the Saints by Ernest Schuegraf, but any recipe for a bread that can be formed into a specific shape can be used. Form them into soles of shoes.
- One of the great Eastern Europe/Slovakian (including Polish) traditions is the colored Easter eggs, or pisanki (pysanky — multiple-colored eggs) and krashanki (single colored eggs). These eggs seem to have been associated with burial customs and the oldest written knowledge connects St. Hedwig with this custom. After her canonization in 1267 this miracle was attributed to Hedwig:
When the son of a prominent judge was still unable to walk at eight years of age, his mother brought the boy to the grave of St. Hedwig in her arms and was praying to St. Hedwig to heal him when, lo!, a miracle happened. In the presence of the priest who baptized him and the abbess of the monastery, the boy suddenly stood up, took an egg that lay before him and walked around the saint's grave. The abbess took other decorated eggs and threw them at the feet of the young boy, compelling him to walk further from the tomb. This miracle is said to have happened near Easter between 1274 and 1287" (p. 107, Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab).
- Find out more about these Easter eggs, and try your hand at making these works of art.
- October is harvest time all over the world, but especially in Poland. Late September usually brings frost, so usually only the root crops, like cabbage, turnips, beets and carrots are remaining to be harvested. Old Polish legends talk about harvesting these late root crops and sowing of winter wheat on or just after October 15 which is St. Hedwig’s Day or Sw. Jadwiga in Poland. It is said that she sweetens these crops if they are left till then. See Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab for more details.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
A self-effacing nun in the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial, France, was inspired by the Lord Jesus to establish the devotion of the Holy Hour. Her name was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and from the age of seven, when she received her first Holy Communion, she had always manifested an intense love of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord appeared to her often, usually as the Crucified Christ. Her simplicity caused her to feel that these apparitions were also granted to others who had recourse to Jesus in the sacrament of His love. Once the Master appeared to the young girl as she was returning from a dance and reproached her for not espousing Him.
- Find out more about the Jansenist heresy.
- Read the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Strive to fulfill the obligation for the Nine First Fridays.
- Find out more about the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, and establish this practice in your home. A book to read on this is Enthronement of the Sacred Heart by Francis Larkin, SS.CC. Find out more information from Congregation of the Sacred Hearts Online.
St. Gerard Majella
St. Gerard was born in southern Italy on April 6, 1726. His father died while Gerard was still young, forcing him to be apprenticed to a tailor. His frail health, quiet disposition, and gentle ways led him to being bullied by fellow workers and by his employers.
- Read this longer life of St. Gerard at Ligouri Publications. They also have books and devotional items available for purchase.
- If you live close to Trenton, NJ make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of St. Gerard where an annual procession is held on his feast day or you can pay a virtual visit to the website.
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