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On track to become the first Central American named as a Roman Catholic saint, Pedro Betancur was born in Vilaflor, the Canary Islands, on September 18, 1626.  As a young man he worked as a shepherd, but he decided to migrate to Guatemala to make a new life for himself with the help of a relative in government service there.  He moved to Cuba, but he stayed only long enough to replenish his depleted purse to cover his travel on to Central America.  He had decided to become a priest and associated with the Jesuits, but he found himself unable to fulfill the educational requirements.  thus, in 1655, he joined the Franciscan order.

During his first three years as a Franciscan, Betancur organized a hospital, a homeless shelter, and a school, all aimed to serve the poor.  Understanding that faith is for everyone, he became concerned for the wealthier elements of society and initiated walking tours through their neighborhood, during which time he would ring a bell and call for repentance.  In the end, he organized a new order just to care for the several benevolent services he founded, the Order of Belen.

Besides his social service, Betancur became known for his severe acts of penance.  He was known for self-flagellation, sleep deprivation, and lying with his hands outstretched on a full-size cross.  These actions contributed greatly to his reputation for saintliness.  He is also said to have thought up the idea of a procession on Christmas Eve in which participants assume the roles of Mary and Joseph and seek a night’s lodging from their neighbors.  Over the years, the practice spread throughout Central America and Mexico.

Betancur lived most of his life in Antigua, and he was buried there in the Church of San Francisco.  There are now a set of related sites in Antigua that have become the focus of pilgrimage.  First is the tree he is said to have planted.  The sacristy of the Church of San Francisco houses many relics of the saint, including pieces of his clothing and a skull he used for meditating upon death.  The original tomb inside the church still exists, though his body was put in a new tomb in 1990.  There is also a display of crutches, canes, and other mementos left by people who were healed as a result of their visit to the church.  Prayers to Saint Pedro are often made with candles that are rubbed on the tombs and then on the bodies of the afflicted.  Those healed may leave messages of thanks, while those not immediately healed may leave behind their requests for Saint Pedro’s intercession on their behalf.

Brother Pedro was nominated for sainthood as early as 1729, but his cause languished from more than two centuries.  Meanwhile, in the mid-twentieth century, the church was heavily damaged in an earthquake.  In the 1960s, the local Franciscans began to promote devotion to Pedro and began cataloguing the miracles claimed by pilgrims to Antigua.  They also began to lobby for the reconstruction of the damaged church.  Over the following decades, both concerns were answered.  Betancur was beatified in 1980 and canonized by Pope John Paul II during a trip to Guatemala on July 31, 2002.  The new church has become a leading pilgrimage site for Central American Catholics.

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In Christian legend, a military saint in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. Patron of Flemish brewers. Feast, 8 September.

The life of St. Adrian is found in The Golden Legend, a collection of saints’ lives written in the 13th century by Jacobus de Voragine. Adrian was a pagan officer at the imperial Roman court at Nicomedia. When some Christians were arrested he witnessed their strength and was converted, saying he was to be accounted with them. When the emperor heard this he had Adrian thrown into prison. His wife, Natalie, who secretly was a Christian, ran to prison and “kissed the chains that her husband was bound with,” according to The Golden Legend. She often visited her husband in prison, urging him on to martyrdom. When the emperor heard that women were entering the prison, he ordered the practice stopped. But “when Natalie heard that, she shaved her head and took the habit of a man, and served the saints in prison and made the other women do so.”

This state of affairs, however, could not continue. The saint was eventually martyred in the most gruesome way. The prison guards “hewed off his legs and thighs, and Natalie prayed them that they would smite off his hands, and that he should be like to the other saints that had suffered more than he, and when they had hewn them off he gave up his spirit to God.” Natalie took her husband’s remains and fled the city, settling in Argyropolis, where she died in peace, though she is included among Christian martyrs in the Roman church calendar of saints.

In Christian art St. Adrian is portrayed with an anvil in his hand or at his feet. Sometimes a sword or ax is beside him. His sword was kept as a relic at Walbeck in Saxony, Germany. Emperor Henry II used it when preparing to go against the Turks and Hungarians.

 

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Saint Malachy, best known for his prophecies concerning the lineage of popes and their end in the present time, was a Roman Catholic bishop.  He was born in Armagh and ordained to the priesthood in 1119.  Five years later he was named bishop of Connor.  He became head of the Irish church as archbishop of Armagh in 1132.  He had an interesting and historical episcopate, quite apart from his prophecies, though these need not concern us here.  Early in 1139 he visited Rome, during which time he asked for special favors for the dioceses of Armagh and Chashel.  He again headed for Rome in 1148, but he became ill on the journey and died before reaching his goal.

It was during his first visit to Rome that he reputedly compiled his most famous prophecies concerning the popes.  Reportedly, the prophecies came in a vision of the future in which a long list of the pontiffs from the twelfth century to the end of time were presented to him.  The list included some 112 individuals, beginning with Celestine II (elected in 1130).  Each individual is designated by a short phrase or mystical title that must be interpreted.  Those who follow the prophecies explain these titles as referring to trait, historical fact, or other reference to the particular pope so designated.  For example, the title assigned to the person who became Urban VIII was Lilium et Rosa ("the lily and the rose").  Some have suggested the title refers to the coat of arms of Florence, which includes a fleur-de-lis, and his escutcheon, which has three bees (insects who gather honey from lilies and roses).

Of particular interest in the twenty-first century, Pope John Paul II would be the pope #110 on Malachy’s list.  thus, following him would be one more pope and then the last pope, of whom it is said, "In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.  The End."

Reputedly, Malachy gave his manuscript to Innocent II, the pope who reigned at the time of his visit, and that the document containing the prophecies passed to the church’s archives where they were lost for four centuries.  they were rediscovered in 1590 and published a few years later by Benedictine monk Arnold de Wyon.

Apart from the prophecies, a number of miracles were reported of Malachy.  He was canonized a half-century after his death 1199.  But what of his prophecies?  Soon after their publication, critics question their authenticity.  The basis of the critique has been the 400 years between their supposed origin and the time of their revelation.  There is no mention during Malachy’s lifetime that such a document existed.  there has been some hint that their publication was an attempt to affect the upcoming election of a new pope.  More recent critiques have centered on the often torturous process to find some fact about each pope to make them fit Malachy’s list.  That being said, Malachy’s prophecies have retained considerable support both outside and inside the Catholic Church.

 

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