01 April 2008

Bl. Nonius Alvares Pereira

Today is the feast of Bl. Nonius Alvares Pereira a cousin of the founder of the Braganza family, born in Santares (Portugal) on 24 July 1360. He was Constable of the kingdom of Portugal, a famous Knight and Prior in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Afterwards he left everything and became a lay-brother in the Carmelite order, where he was remarkable for his devotion to Our Lady and humbly undertook the meanest duties in the friary. He had no hesitations about begging alms from door to door and was outstandingly generous and charitable towards the poor. He died on 1 April 1431, which was Easter Sunday.

O God, who called blessed Nonius to lay down the weapons of this world and follow Christ under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, grant through the intercession of this former member of our order that we too may deny ourselves and cling to you with all our hearts. Through the same Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The text of this page is quoted from: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997

I found this biography at the web site of the Blessed Nuno Society in Duluth, MN. It is a Catholic prayer apostolate and mission society made up of laity, clergy, and religious who have joined together to form a union of prayer. The primary purpose of the Society is the individual sanctification of its members. The special object of the Society's work is to aid the educational, medical, spiritual, and general welfare needs of orphaned and homeless children.

Blessed Nuno of St. Mary (Nuno Alvares Pereira) died as a simple Carmelite brother on April 1, 1431 and was beatified on January 23, 1918. Before entering the monastery as a widower, Nuno lived as a great knight, husband and father, and patriotic hero of his native Portugal. He was the Third Count of Ourem and Founder of the Royal House of Braganca. After the marriage of his daughter, he renounced his many titles and gave away all his possessions. One third of his wealth was given to the poor and orphans. He built several churches including the beautiful Carmelite monastery in Lisbon, which he later entered as a humble brother. He did much to spread the devotions of the rosary and the scapular in Portugal and is known as the "Precursor of Fatima", "The Holy Constable", and the "Peacemaker". His memorial Mass is celebrated on April 1.
Blessed Nuno was selected as our Patron because of his devotion to Our Lady, his great awareness of the need for prayer, his love of poor children, and his spiritually heroic victory over self and the world. The life of Blessed Nuno reflected a balance between spiritual and corporal acts of mercy which continues to inspire the members of this charitable prayer apostolate.

Blessed Nuno is remembered in secular history for his military victory at Aljubarrota in 1385, yet he hated war and is often referred to as "the Peacemaker". Although he died in 1431 (the same year as Joan of Arc), the great knight known as the "Precursor of Fatima" was not beatified until January 23, 1918, just 102 days after the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. At Aljubarrota, Nuno led a group of 6,500 volunteers against a Castilian force of 30,000 soldiers. By human estimation, he could not win. Indeed, his death in that battle seemed certain. At stake was very independence of Portugal and the determination of whether Portugal would reject the legitimate pope.Miraculously, by the end of the day, Nuno had secured victory for Portugal and the Castilian army was in retreat. Had Nuno died at Aljubarrota during that battle on August 14, 1385, history, as we know it, would be impossible to recognize. His direct descendants included Isabella the Catholic, supporter of Christopher Columbus, Emperor Charles V, who ruled over more territory that any other European monarch (including most of the Americas), and Archduke Ferdinand, whose death triggered the World War which was tearing Europe apart at the time of Our Lady's Fatima apparitions. Also descended from Blessed Nuno were the members of the Royal House of Braganca, monarchs of Portugal and Brazil, including England's Queen Catherine, for whom the Borough of Queens, New York was named. Nuno himself was born out of wedlock, an unlikely candidate to become the founder of Royal Houses. But it happened because of a victory at Aljubarrota ....a victory he attributed to the Blessed Virgin, whose name was inscribed on his sword.What sort of man was Nun' Alvares Pereira? He would kneel in the heat of battle to pray. In time of war, he fed the hungry populations of his Castilian opposition at his own expense. He customarily refused to share in the spoils of battle. Once, he was so hungry that he traded his horse for six loaves of bread, then gave every loaf to a group of English knights who were looking for food. He allowed squires from the enemy forces to meet him in peace, just because they wanted to see "the Great Nuno" about whom they had heard so many stories. He grew up wanting to be a pure and perfect knight like Sir Galahad of legend and became, perhaps, the only knight in history to ever truly achieve that dream. He supported the ideas of his close friend, Prince Henry the Navigator, and traveled with him to Ceuta, thus beginning the "Age of Explorations". He remained a faithful and loving husband to the daughter of King John until her death, then entered the very monastery he had paid to construct. He helped to spread the devotions of the Rosary and the Scapular throughout Portugal. Blessed Nuno gave away his wealth to assist the poor, including countless orphaned children, and even agreed to become godfather to many of them. He died in poverty as a Carmelite brother on April 1, 1431 just as the priest, who was reading the Passion of Christ to him pronounced Our Lord's Words from the Cross: "Behold thy Mother"

1 comment:

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

What an amazing historical figure he is! Gee, I feel like I've been living in a hole or something...why have I never heard of this man? I'd better hit the history books again!


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