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Monday, December 10, 2012

Twenty One Saints Everyone Must Know IX - VII


XXI - XIX Saints Gregory the Great, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp
XVIII - XVI Saints Jerome, John Chrysostom, Elijah
XV - XIII Saints Therese of Lisieux, Teresia Benedicta, Teresa of Avila
XII - X Saints John of the Cross, Benedict of Nursia, Thomas Aquinas

St. Sultana Mahdokht with her brothers and St. Abda
9-St. Sultana Mahdokht (? - 319 AD) [Martyr]
 On the Iraqi-Turkish border, approximately 60 KM northeast of the city of Dohuk is a valley called Sapna. The valley is towered by Matena Mountain from the north and Cara Mountain from the south. Nestled in this green valley is an old Chaldean village called Araden. The name of the village comes from old Aramaic language meaning the Land of Eden or Garden of Eden, signifying the beautiful natural scenery that adorns the area.  There is a church in this village that dates back to the early 4th century, around the year 325 A.D.  It is named after St. Sultana Mahdokht, whose Feast Day is celebrated on January 12th in the liturgical calendars of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of the East. Sultana Mahdokht is the sister of Meharnarsa and Adorfrowa. Their father is Prince Pholar, who is in charge of the Dorsas principality during the reign of King Shapur II of the Sassanid Empire.  Pholar is given orders by King Shapur to round up all Christians for interrogation, and put them to death if they do not renounce Christ. Sultana’s beauty and education gain fame throughout the entire Persian Empire, and she is scheduled to appear before the King’s representative who is to assess her and report back to the King. After the meeting takes place, the representative is extremely impressed with the character, beauty and knowledge of the princess and her brothers. On their way back home, they begin racing; the horse of the youngest, Meharnarasa, falls down and the prince’s thighbone is almost completely detached from the rest of his body sending him into a coma. While in this dire condition, the Bishop of a nearby village appears in the scene and is taken with compassion for the wailing princess and her brother. He kneels down and begins praying for the injured prince.  A short while afterwards, the prince is revived and the leg is reattached to the body by the prayers of the Bishop. Meharnarsa tells his brother and sister about the vision he has while in a coma. He sees the Bishop kneeling before the throne of Christ asking for the prince’s life, a request to which Christ consents. Sultana and her two brothers embrace the faith and ask to be baptized. They find themselves a cave somewhere nearby to dwell in where they remain hidden from their father’s search and rescue attempts. All sorts of spiritual gifts are given to them while living in this cave, including the gift of healing and prophesy. Three years later, as their end draws near, God sends them two angels to notify them of their imminent martyrdom. This is when a wandering horse leads two stable boys belonging to their father to the cave. The three Saints recognize the horse and the stable boys and ask the two boys to inform their father of what they have seen. Prince Pholar makes numerous failed attempts to retrieve his lost children. At this point, King Shapur has heard about Sultana’s beauty and has declared to Pholar his intentions to marry her. In every attempt Pholar makes to bring his children back, a miraculous intervention transpires that prevents his troops either from harming Sultana and her brothers or apprehending them and bringing them into custody. Finally, after the power of God becomes clearly manifest in the three Saints, they give themselves up for decapitation in the presence of their mournful father. The troops hesitate to carry out the sentence, which is issued directly by the King after finding out about their apostasy from Zoroastrianism and embracing the Christian faith. The three Saints offer to protect anyone who decapitates them. The eldest son is beheaded first, then Mehernarsa and finally Sultana Mahdokht embraces her fate joyfully instead of denouncing Christ and marrying the King of Persia. Their remains are kept in the church mentioned above located in the village of Araden. This church is built on the same ground where these holy martyrs are slain.  St. Sultana Mahdokht has performed miracles that are too many to be listed here. My own mother has seen the fruits of devotion to this holy Saint in a form of a healing from an illness the doctors could not resolve. St. Sultana Mahdokht has granted prayers of barren women who could never conceive. Her prayers of intercession have healed many sick people in the village as well as devotees from other places. May her prayers accompany us everywhere and give us the same courage to witness for Christ as she so bravely has done 17 centuries ago.  The village of Araden happens to be my village where I come from.


St. Dominic
8-St. Dominic (1170 AD – 1221 AD) The truth is we do not know much about this Saint. Of all his writings, little to nothing has survived to this day. However, his legacy has come down to us in a form of a vibrant and lively Order named after him.  His orthodoxy in a time of rampant heresy throughout Europe is inspiring.  He travels through Europe establishing different priories and houses for the Order of Preachers to defeat the Cathari heresy, which has its root from the different Gnostic philosophies that appear in the 1st century A.D. The Catharis round up multitudes of converts by utilizing on the wickedness of some clergy in the Church and using the sinful behaviour of Catholic clerics as a catalyst to spur the adherents of the Catholic faith into abandoning the Church and joining their heresy. Closely tied to Manichaeism, the Catharis teach that the universe consists of a duality, which is made of matter and spirit. Everything physical is wicked and must be treated as sinful, whereas only the spirit is good, and it must be protected from the flesh. Contrary to this view, the Catholic Church teaches that God created all things. Therefore, all things are good, including our bodies and all physical matter around us as well. However, due to Original Sin, our bodies have become corrupt. This corruption is not so extensive that our bodies cannot be salvaged. Rather, through God’s grace offered to us by the Sacraments, we are able to salvage our bodies and temper their rebellious passions, mending their unruly cravings, thereby redeeming our bodies and spirits as well. In fact, all matter in this universe is redeemed too. In Christianity, evil is not really a substance per se. Instead, evil is a corruption of good. The Dominican theology has been taught for 2000 years by the Catholic Church. St. Dominic’s inspiring sermons have won back many wayward Christians who have abandoned the Church. His order has produced numerous Saints, among which the most famous being St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Louis de Montfort, and St. Rose of Lima. May the zeal of this fervent preacher inspire us to love the sinners and desire their salvation.


St. Monica praying for her son, St. Augustin
 7-St. Monica (331 AD – 387 AD)
She is the mother of St. Augustine. St. Monica always reminds me of a faithful mother who can never bear the thought of her son, the child who has issued forth from her womb, suffering eternal damnation because of his rejection of the Gospel. This painful truth makes her cry and weep intensely. She visits St. Ambrose repeatedly to petition him to intervene in her son’s case. Finally, St. Ambrose famously responds, “woman the child of those tears will never perish” (Confessions, III, 12).  For 20 years she continues praying, crying and imploring God to save her son. This sentiment embodies the perfect love of a mother and the sweet maternal instinct in a woman who has set her priorities straight. It is good for a mother to offer food and other necessities to her children, but their eternal destiny comes first and foremost. It is more important than even the children’s life on this earth. Out of her loving concern for her rebellious son, she travels to Rome, then Milan. After her son is baptized into the Catholic Church, she speaks these words to St. Augustine, “Son, for myself, I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. What I want here further, and why I am here, I know not, now that my hopes in this world are satisfied. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly, so that I see you despising all earthly felicity, made His servant—what do I here?” (Confessions IX, 10).  Shortly after, she fell ill, and on her deathbed, she says to her two sons, “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be” (Confessions IX, 11). 

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