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Black Catholic Initiative
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 Black Saints – November

November 3 – St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579. His father was a Spanish nobleman and his mother a black freed-slave from Panama. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there - as a barber, farm laborer, almoner, and infirmatian among other things.

Martin had a great desire to go off to some foreign mission and thus earn the palm of martyrdom. However, since this was not possible, he made a martyr out of his body, devoting himself to ceaseless and severe penances. In turn, God endowed him with many graces and wondrous gifts, such as, aerial flights and bilocation.

Martin’s love was all-embracing, shown equally to humans and to animals, including vermin, and he maintained a cats and dogs hospital at his sister’s house. He also possessed a spiritual wisdom, demonstrated in his solving his sister’s marriage problems, raising a dowry for his niece inside of three day’s time, and resolving theological problems for the learned of his Order and for bishops. A close friend of St. Rose of Lima, this saintly man died on November 3, 1639 and was canonized on May 6, 1962.

November 3 – Mother Henriette Delille

Born into a world where people were enslaved, and considered nothing more than property, Henriette Delille sacrificed a life of luxury, prosperity and security and became to the poor, oppressed and forgotten, a servant, for the sake of God. Henriette, a free woman of African heritage, was born 1813 in New Orleans.

Henriette rejected a life of luxury as the mistress of a European-American man, preferring to serve God and his people rather than to live a life of comfort and security. As a teenager, while most of her peers were going to balls in order to find men and secure their futures, Henriette was aiding the sick and the old, in addition to sharing with them, her Catholic faith. In fact, together, with some of her dedicated friends, she developed a deep prayer life. In fact, she had dreams of forming an order of black nuns dedicated to the enslaved. Although her first attempts in the 1820s and 1830s failed, she did not give up.

Her association with blacks was not welcomed by her family, who desired that she try to pass for white. Henriette was proud of her African heritage, and not ashamed of it. Henriette remained firm in her convictions despite the disapproval of her family and the despair of her mother. She rejected the practices of the quadroons, refusing to go to the balls, and in 1836 sold all her property in order to form a religious community which eventually failed.

Henriette’s efforts gave new dignity and meaning to the lives of many southern black slaves. She made efforts to enable sacramental Catholic marriages between black slaves, a practice, which had been considered illegal, because under the law, slaves were not considered to be human, but property.

Eventually, in 1838, Father Rosselon was granted by the Bishop the permission to form an order of black nuns under the leadership of Henriette. Consisting of three women, the sisters of the new order lived in poverty, dedicating their lives to the education and aid of slave children. In 1847, the small order formed a partnership with a group of free, colored, lay persons of the Association of the Holy Family. As a result of this partnership, Henriette’s small order acquired the financial and moral support necessary to continue with their task of serving the poor, the sick and the aged. In fact, in 1847, the Hospice of the Holy Family was dedicated for this purpose. In 1852, Henriette made he vows publicly, with the other two women of her order. The sisters were known as the Sisters of the Holy Family, and under Henriette’s direction, schools, orphanages and homes for the aged were built.

Although Delille had always suffered from poor health, she refused to slow down as long as there were souls who needed her ministry. Finally, worn out by her work, Henriette died on November 17, 1862. In her obituary it was written, “The crowd gathered for her funeral testified by its sorrow how keenly felt the loss of her who for the love of Christ had made herself the humble servant of slaves.”

The American bishops voted unanimously to endorse “the appropriateness and timeliness” of Mother Henriette’s cause for sainthood. After a formal biography is submitted, the Vatican will appoint historians and theologians to review it for thoroughness and accuracy. If everything is in order, then a study must be written on the virtues Delille possessed. If the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints and the pope approve, then she could be called “Venerable.” At least two miracles, such as a cure for a disease for which no medical explanation is possible are required. If canonized, Henriette Delille will be the first native-born Black American saint.

Today, the Sisters of the Holy Family, continue to operate in the Untied States and several South American countries. What Mother Henriette Delille started with little more than faith and her love of Jesus Christ has become a lasting tribute to what such faith can produce.

November 4 – St. Pierius
(4th century)

Scholar and confessor, Pierius was the director of the Catechetical School of Alexandria and was called “the Younger” owing to the doctrinal errors of the elder Origen, which found their way into Pierius’ writings. A priest, he was the author of various treatises on philosophy and theology and was brilliant preacher and teacher praised by both Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Jerome. He died in Rome, but not from the persecution of the times.

November 7 – St. Achilias

Head of religious instruction in Alexandria.

November 11 – St. Mennas
(c. 300)

An Egyptian soldier in Phyrgia, who fled from persecution and became a hermit.

November 17 – Sts. Valentine and Dubatitus

Were executed for their faith at Cartage.

November 21 – St. Gelasius

St. Gelasius, Pope, was born in Rome, in the fifth century, the son of an African named Valerius. Later, ordained a priest, he was elected Pople on March 1st, 492. Gelasius had a reputation for learning, justice, holiness, and charity. However, he was burdened with difficulties caused by a conflict with Euphemius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, over the Acacian heresy. He also protested the encroachments by Constantinople on Alexandria and Antioch. Gelasius was influential in setting aside Roman pagan festivals. Moereover, in opposition to the Manichaeans, he ordered reception of the Eucharist under both species. Gelasius is known to have composed liturgical Prefaces and Orations for Sacramentaries, which may be part of the Leonine Sacramentary. However, he had nothing to do with the Gelasian Sacramentary or the Gelasian Decree, which have been erroneously attributed to him. He died at Rome on November 21, 496.

November 25 – St. Catherine of Alexandria
(4th century Virgin and martyr)

St. Catherine is believed to have been born in Alexandria of a noble family. Converted to Christianity through a vision, she denounced Maxentius for persecuting Christians. Fifty of her converts were then burned to death by Maxentius.

Maxentius offered Catherine a royal marriage if she would deny the Faith. Her refusal landed her in prison. While in prison, and while Maxentius was away, Catherine converted Maxentius’ wife and two hundred of his soldiers. He had them all put to death.

Catherine was likewise condemned to death. She was put on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel broke, she was beheaded. She is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers. St. Catherine’s was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Maxentius’ blind fury against St. Catherine is symbolic of the anger of the world in the face of truth and justice. When we live a life of truth and justice, we can expect the forces of evil to oppose us.