Ordinary Time: January 15th
Wednesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time; Our Lady of Prompt Succor; Black Christ of Esquipulas (Guatemala)
Old Calendar: St. Paul, confessor, the first Hermit; St. Maurus, abbot; Our Lady of Prompt Succor
It was from St. Jerome (+ 420) that the west learned of the life of St. Paul the Hermit; the book, which he devoted to the life of the first Christian hermit, charmed and instructed generations of the faithful and formed the inspiration of many artists. St. Paul is said to have died in 341, in a hermitage in the region of Thebes in Egypt after having received at the age of 113 a visit from St. Antony. According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, St. Paul is celebrated as a Confessor, III class and St. Maurus is commemorated.St. Maurus was one of the first disciples of St. Benedict. In this son of a patrician Roman family, entrusted by his parents to the father of western monasticism, Benedictine tradition celebrates the perfect monk, and the model of childlike obedience. Many monasteries, particularly in France, adopted him as patron. He died about A.D. 580.In some places today is the feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of the State of Louisiana. The feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas (Santo Cristo de Esquipulas) appears in Appendix I of the U.S. edition of the Misal Romano, Tercera Edicion (2018). Respecting the liturgical norms, this feast may be celebrated for pastoral reasons whnever Votive Masses are permitted.
St. Paul, the first hermit
St. Paul is called "the first hermit" in the Missal and Breviary, a rare distinction, for such titles are seldom appended. Our saint was the standard-bearer of those courageous men who for the love of Christ left the world and entered the wilderness to dedicate themselves wholly to contemplation amid all the privations of desert life. The hermits were the great men of prayer in those difficult times when the Church was locked in fierce struggle with heresy after heresy. For centuries the example of their lives served as the school of Christian perfection. Their action set the background for the rise of monasticism and religious orders in the Church.
- Bake a loaf of bread to celebrate this feast, as it is recounted in the Golden Legend how St. Paul received his daily bread every day from God.
- Read St. Jerome's account of the Life of St. Paul.
- The Order of St. Paul the Hermit (Paulines) runs the Shrine of Our Lady of Chestochowa in Doylestown, PA. Read more about the order and if in the neighborhood pay a visit (or a virtual visit) to the Shrine.
In Benedictine history Maurus holds a distinguished place, taught and trained by St. Benedict himself. While still very young, Maurus and another youth, Placid, were brought by their parents to be reared in monastic life by the Patriarch of Monks. An incident reveals Maurus' spirit of childlike obedience. One day Placid was sent to a near-by lake to draw water. Soon he was at the shore, where, boy that he was, he fell victim to his own heedlessness. Eager to fill the vessel quickly, he reached out too far and was dragged in by the rapidly filling jar. He was being borne along by the waves when from his cell St. Benedict realized what had happened. "Hurry, run to the lake! Placid has fallen in!" he called to Maurus. Stopping only for his spiritual father's blessing, Maurus sped to the lake, seized Placid by the hair and brought him ashore.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor dates back to 1802, when the Ursuline Order in New Orleans pleaded for help in sustaining the Order with new sisters from France. Their prayers were answered with papal permission for sisters to be transferred from France to New Orleans. In thanksgiving for this favor, the Ursulines dedicated a statue in their convent chapel to Our Lady of Prompt Succor in 1810.
- Read a brief but remarkable history of the devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.
Black Christ of Esquipulas
The statue of the Black Christ (El Cristo Negro) was commissioned by Spanish conquistadors for a church in Esquipulas. It was carved in 1594 by Quirio Cataño in Antigua and installed in the church in 1595. By 1603, a miracle had already been attributed to the icon, and it attracted increasing numbers of pilgrims over the years.The history of the Basilica begins in 1735, when a priest named Father Pedro Pardo de Figueroa experienced a miraculous cure after praying before the statue. When he became Archbishop of Guatemala, he commissioned a beautiful basilica to properly shelter the beloved statue. The church was completed in 1759.The main church, which the Vatican upgraded to the category of Basilica in 1968, is the home of the “Cristo Negro de Esquipulas” or “Black Christ of Esquipulas,” in English. It is one of the most popular images of the Catholic faith, because of the many miracles attributed to it, devotees all over the country pray to the Black Christ for personal petitions.The sculpture of the Black Christ dates back to 1595 and is made of cedar wood. It was commissioned by Spanish conquistadors for a church in Esquipulas. It was carved in 1594 by Quirio Cataño in Antigua and installed in the church in 1595. It inspires one of the most important Catholic pilgrimages, topped only by the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Mexico. Quirio Cataño sculpted the dramatic art piece in March 9, 1595. Nine years later, in 1603, it had already performed at least one miracle. In 1736, the Bishop of Guatemala XV and first metropolitan Archbishop Fray Pedro Pardo de Figueroa began the process of the construction of a grand Baroque temple to house the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas. On November 4, 1758, the church was inaugurated, that now shelters the venerated image . The Basilica Esquipulas is the second most important religious site in the Americas, after the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Mexico.