Sep 4 | Mary, Our Mother of Consolation
The title of Our Mother of Consolation has been the principal devotion to Mary within the Order at least since the 17th Century. Its origin among the Augustinians is directly tied to the life of Saints Monica and Augustine who are commonly depicted together with the figures of Mary and the Child Jesus in renditions of the image. The other title of the devotion is Our Lady of the Cincture. According to tradition, Monica, immersed in sorrow because of the death of her husband and the waywardness of her son, was granted a vision of Mary and the Child Jesus, who sought to offer her comfort or consolation. Mary handed her a leather cincture which she asked Monica to wear as a continual reminder of her presence and thus, a visible sign of encouragement. From that moment Monica wore the cincture and, after his conversion, recommended it also to her son as an indication of Mary's abiding protection. Thus, by this same tradition, it became historically, the principal and common symbol for all who follow Augustine's Rule.
The various titles by which the Order venerates Mary - Help, Grace, Good Counsel, Consolation - all suggest an understanding of the Mother of God as benefactress or patroness of her people, as one who responds to the many needs which humanity experiences. Mary is truly mother and sister to us, because as faithful disciple of her Son, she learned well the lessons of selfless love and generous service. As Mother of Consolation she is particularly near to those in need of companionship and comfort.
Sep 10 | Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Priest
Nicholas is the first member of the Order to have been canonized, and for much of the Order's history served as the model - par excellence - of the perfect integration of a life of contemplation with that of active ministry among God's people. He was born in 1245 in Sant'Angelo in Pontano, Italy, and joined the Order there shortly after the Grand Union. The early years of his life as a friar were devoted to preaching in various houses of his province, but his last thirty years were spent in Tolentino, where he was engaged principally as confessor, benefactor of the poor and diligent minister to the sick. Nicholas was a man filled with compassion and charity toward his brothers in the monastery, great hospitality to visitors and generous attention to all in need. At the same time his life of prayer and recollection, of penance and fidelity to the common life won the admiration of all. His devotion to the faithful departed and his prayers for their salvation earned him the title Patron of the Souls in Purgatory. Nicholas died on September 10, 1305 and his body is venerated in his Basilica in Tolentino. He was canonized by Eugene IV in 1446.
Nicholas holds a special place on our calendar and in our history, not only because he was the first member of the Order to be canonized, but because he exemplifies well the balance between two essential elements of Christian - and Augustinian - life: love of God and love of neighbor; prayer and good works; and for friars, a life of contemplation combined with a life of generous service in ministry.
Sep 19 | Saint Alonso de Orozco, Priest
Alonso was born on October 17, 1500 in Oropesa, Toledo, Spain, to deeply Christian parents. When he was still young the family moved to the nearby city of Talavera de la Reina, where he received his schooling. At the age of 14 Alonso’s parents sent him to the University of Salamanca where his brother Francisco was already a student. At the time, Thomas of Villanova was preaching in Salamanca and many were touched by his words, including a number of young people who were drawn to religious life. Among them were the two Orozco brothers, Francisco and Alonso, who entered the novitiate together in 1522 at the monastery of San Agustin. On June 9, 1523 Alonso made his profession, but his brother was unable to do so because of illness and died shortly thereafter. Francisco's death had a deep effect on Alonso who began to suffer physical and spiritual afflictions that lasted for many years, all of which served to purify him, however, for he continued to live religious life with great fidelity. Following ordination he was assigned to preach and served, as well, as prior in various houses of his province. Later he volunteered to go as a missionary to Mexico but on the way he became ill and was ordered to return home. In 1554 he was named preacher of the royal court, but lived always as a simple friar, in absolute poverty and in the humblest of conditions. Ever attentive to the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, he became known as ‘the saint of San Felipe’. Alonso was also a prolific writer, publishing about 50 books, including a commentary on the Rule, works on Saint Augustine and the saints of the Order, and his own Confessions. Moved by a desire for reform within the Order, he founded several friaries and convents of contemplative nuns. He died on September 19, 1591. His body is venerated in the church of the Augustinian nuns of Madrid. Alonso was beatified by Leo XIII on January 15, 1882 and canonized on May 19, 2002 by John Paul II.
Though called to exercise his ministry among the powerful and wealthy of his day, Alonso remained steadfastly faithful to the life of simplicity he had professed. His preference was to serve the poor and the needy, to whom he always remained available, and to use his talents in instructing the common people through his preaching and writings. He was one of the first to use the vernacular in his writings on prayer and contemplation precisely to benefit ordinary people.
Sep 28 | Blessed Peter De Zuñiga, Thomas of St. Augustine, Priests & Companions, Augustinian Martyrs of Japan
The first Augustinians arrived in Japan in 1602 and quickly drew many people not only to the Catholic faith but also to the Augustinian way of life as religious, tertiaries and confraternity members. In January, 1614, a Decree of Extinction ordered the suppression of Christianity, however, and several years later, fierce persecution of the Christians began. Among those who suffered martyrdom were members of the Order from Spain, Portugal and Mexico as well as many native Japanese. Fr. Ferdinand of Saint Joseph, the Augustinian protomartyr of Japan, along with Andrew Yoshida, a catechist who worked with him, were beheaded in 1617. Fr. Peter Zúñiga, a Spaniard from Seville, who grew up in Mexico but later joined the Order in his native country, was burned to death in 1622. Br. John Shozaburo, Oblates Michael Kiuchi Tayemon, Peter Kuhieye, Thomas Terai Kahioye, and tertiaries Mancio Scisayemon and Lawrence Hachizo were beheaded in 1630. Fr. Bartholomew Gutiérrez, Fr. Vincent of Saint Anthony Simoens, Fr. Francis of Jesus Terrero, Fr. Martin of St. Nicholas Lumbreras and Fr. Melchior of St. Augustine Sánchez were burned to death in 1632.
Thomas of St. Augustine, who was the first Japanese Augustinian to be ordained a priest, was born in about 1602. He was educated by the Jesuits, becoming proficient in Latin and public speaking. He later moved to Macao to continue his studies, returning five years later to work as a catechist and preacher, often forced to flee from place to place to do his work. In 1622 he went to Manila to join the Order for the great admiration he had for the Augustinians and their work in Japan. He was professed at Intramuros in 1624 and was ordained in Cebu. After several attempts he was able to return to Nagasaki in 1631. Being Japanese he was able to keep his priesthood secret and even obtained a position in the governorship of Nagasaki with the name Kintsuba. On All Saints Day, 1636, after being arrested for being a Christian, he then revealed to his captors, “I am Father Thomas of Saint Augustine Jihioye, of the Order of Saint Augustine.” He was tortured for several months with excruciating punishments but would not renounce the faith. On August 21, 1637 he was taken with 12 others, men and women, some of whom were tertiaries, some members of the Confraternity of the Cincture, to be subjected to the torture of the pit in which they were suspended by their feet in a hole in the ground. Finally, on Thursday, November 6th he was taken to the pit for the last time together with four others, and died, as witnesses recalled, one of the greatest martyrdoms of the period. In November 1982 he was included in a list of 188 martyrs whom the Japanese bishops proposed for canonization.
The death of these Augustinians, religious and laity, men and women, natives of Japan and missionaries from foreign lands, bears witness to the universality and unity of the Order and of the Church. The grace of Christ and the bonds of fraternity inspired and sustained the faith and fidelity of our brothers and sisters under horrendous circumstances.