Vogue Venerables: People to love before they’re beatified

November is just around the corner, which means it’s time to honor all those who have passed. We have All Soul’s Day, where we pray for all of our dead, and All Saint’s Day, where we honor all of those we know to be in heaven interceding for us. But what about the people who fall in between? There are many ordinary, everyday Catholics whose causes for beatification are open. They’ve made it through the first round of the process and have been declared “venerable”, which means they lived a life of virtue we can all learn from.

I chose three of my favorite venerables so you can start learning about them before they’re all cool and canonized. As an added bonus, all three had cameos by other saints and/or possible saints in their lives. Remember: Saints have saints for friends.

Note: I took all of my research from the books Saintly Men of Modern Times and Saintly Women of Modern Times by Joan Carroll Cruz. Both books are full of stories like these, and I cannot recommend them highly enough!

1. Venerable Giacomo Gaglione

Venerable Giacomo Gaglione Picture from: http://www.giacomogaglione.it/galleria-foto.html

Giacomo Gaglione was born a healthy child in Italy in 1896. Just before his 16th birthday, he came down with a disease that eventually paralyzed his legs. He was miserable and bitter, resentful of the idea of having an irreversible handicap.

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St. Guiseppe Moscati (not Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World, common mistake) Photo from wikicommons

By God’s providence, Giacomo was exposed to two great saints. The first, St. Guiseppe Moscati, was a physician at the University of Naples (expect a post on him later this month). Then, when Giacomo was 23, he met Padre Pio. Padre became Giacomo’s spiritual director. Some accounts even claim that Padre Pio used his gift of bilocation (the ability to be at two places at the same time) to direct Giacomo and help him embrace his sufferings.

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St. Pio Photo from vatican.va

The influence of two saints was enough to help Giacomo accept his bed-ridden fate. He began to see being paralyzed so young as a gift from God. He started an organization called the Apostolate of Suffering, through which he helped patients embrace their fates and offer their pain for the good of others. Giacomo died 50 years after his paralysis set in. He spent those 50 years dependent upon his mother and sisters for care. He is remembered for his joy, and for the many people who benefited from his prayers, example and apostolate. He was named Venerable in 1994.

2. Venerable Edel Quinn

Venerable Edel Quinn. Photo from: http://www.findagrave.com/

Venerable Edel Quinn was an Irish women who was deeply involved in the Legion of Mary, started by Frank Duff, whose cause for beatification is also open. Edel was a mischevious but extraordinarily kind child. One of the sisters who ran her primary school described her as “a real imp at school, not indeed bold, but instead bubbling over with good spirits…she was the center of every group bent on fun or mischief.”

Edel was also deeply religious. As her association with the Legion would suggest, she had a strong devotion to Our Lady. She was also devoted to her schoolwork, but had to leave school when she was 17 to help support her family. She worked cheerfully as a secretary until her siblings were grown and her family financially stable. Then, at the age of 25, she made arrangements to enter the Poor Clares. However, shortly before she was scheduled to enter, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

She stayed in a sanatorium for awhile, but it was clear that the treatments didn’t help and Edel didn’t want to continue to be a financial burden on her parents. She resigned herself to the fact that she had limited time left, and decided to serve as much as she could with it. To be fair, she did “[permit] herself to take a day’s rest from work when she experienced a hemorrhage of the lungs.”

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Servant of God Frank Duff. Photo from wikicommons

The Legion of Mary had just begun to explore the idea of opening a mission in Africa. Edel volunteered to go alone, knowing full well she would probably never come back to Ireland. She arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on Nov, 24, 1936, and discovered a multitude of difficulties. Her mission field included over 20 African tribes and several European groups, nearly all of whom lived apart from one another and spoke different languages. There was also the problem of weather–the rainy season made the roads unsafe to drive, so she would often have to slog through the mud to her various meetings. At other times, she would walk through extreme heat and dust, which could not have been pleasant for someone with lungs that would occasionally hemorrhage. But she never complained. She used her hours of walking for prayer.

Perhaps that’s why her mission was such a success. She would go to a village, start a Legion of Mary chapter, then correspond with the locals to help with any problems. Essentially, she did discipleship-model small group evangelization long before CRU or FOCUS made it popular. Despite her tuberculosis and malaria, she overcame all of the cultural, geographical and linguistic barriers and helped establish hundreds of chapters of the Legion of Mary. She only weighed 75 pounds toward the end of her life, but still insisted on travelling to see her spiritual children. After her death in 1944, her grave in Nairobi became a place of pilgrimage.

3. Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot

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Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot. Photo from http://www.kkindonesia.org/

Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot lived during the early to mid-1800s in Lyons, France. Even though she had been raised Catholic, her early formation was heavily influenced by a heresy known as Jansenism. Jansenism enforced a strict code of morals, leading to an intense spiritual anxiety in the young Pauline that led her constant confession and doubts about God’s mercy.

As she grew older, she seemed to react against this by becoming, of her own admission, self-involved. She earned a reputation as a flirt, an extravagant dresser and, to put it mildly, quite the bombshell. Then, when she was about 16 years old, she fell from a chair. Her injury caused her significant pain for eight months, and her health was never quite the same.

She tried to return to her old social scene once she had recuperated, but would often burst into tears for no discernible reason. When she was 17, she heard a priest give an intense homily against vanity. That was her conversion moment. She began to visit the poor and sold her jewelry to help them. She even gave away all of her pretty clothes, keeping only an ugly purple dress she hated. She wrote that, “I took such extreme measures because, if I had not broken off all at once, I would not have done it at all.”

Pauline made a vow of perpetual chastity in 1816. Shortly after that, her extraordinary gift of organization began to manifest. She gathered vulnerable girls her own age on the streets and found them work in a silk factory. She organized them into a small group in which they followed a rule of life and served others in the community.

Next, she started an aid for foreign missions. She started a system of collections known as the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which is still contributing millions to foreign missions today. In fact, according to the society’s website, Venerable Fulton Sheen served as its head from 1950 to 1966.

Unfortunately, the success of her society drew sharp criticism from Church leaders who did not appreciate a lay woman interfering in Church business. She was only able to quiet their criticism by relinquishing control to a group of local Catholic laymen.

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St. Madeleine Sophie Barat Photo from wikicommons

The rest of Pauline’s life follows a pattern of illness, followed by organizing a new wildly successful apostolate, drawing criticism for her success, and then becoming ill again.

People began to say that Pauline was using the money from her organizations for herself, so she went to Rome to get the pope’s approval. She stayed with St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, champion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while in Rome. She became ill, so the pope actually came to her at Mother Barat’s convent. He told Mother Barat as he left that he thought Pauline was dying. However, Pauline experienced a miraculous recovery at the shrine of St. Philomena a few weeks later.

Pauline went back to France and started a home where other lay women lived with her and helped serve the poor. St. John Vianney was a frequent visitor. In fact, he became Pauline’s spiritual director.

With Father Vianney’s blessing, she started a new ministry to help working men earn an honest wage and be able to educate their children. Unfortunately, the men she put in charge of the money for this project embezzled funds. Pauline was held accountable to the investors for all of the stolen money, which forced her to sell the land she had used for the ministry. She even had to apply for a pauper’s certificate.

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St. John Vianney. Picture from http://www.catholicculture.org/

She tried to ask for assistance from the Propagation of the Faith, but they refused, even after Pope Pius IX sent his cardinal vicar to the archbishop of Lyons to intercede for her. During all of these troubles, Father Vianney gave Pauline a wooden cross on which was written, “God is my witness, Jesus Christ is my model, Mary is my support. I ask for nothing but love and sacrifice.”

Pauline became ill again. Her lung and heart conditions finally made it impossible for her to beg for money for missionaries. She suffered an increase in bodily fluids, which caused her to bloat horribly. The poor she had served during her health now had to bring her food.

Pauline, formerly a rich socialite, died disgraced, disfigured and humiliated on January 9, 1862. However, it does not appear that her mind was on her sufferings, as her last words were, “Mary, my Mother, I am all yours!”

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”