25 April 2009

Saint Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira

At 10 a.m. on Sunday 26 April, third Sunday of Easter, the Pope will celebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square and canonise five Blesseds, including one of the Blesseds of the Order of Malta, Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431), Portuguese religious of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Although Saint Nuno later in life entered the Carmelite Order he was for a number of years a Knight of Malta and his feast celebrated by the Order on April 1st.

Let us ask now Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira to give us his courage and his piety to fight for the cause of Our Lady and the Holy Church so threatened in our days, even when we must fight against great odds. Also let us ask Our Lady to restore Christendom and establish her Reign, so that those magnificent values that existed in the time of Blessed Nuno can once again shine in society.

Here is an excerpt of an article from Inside the Vatican,

Almost a century ago, Pope Benedict XV beatified Nuno (January 23, 1918), and proposed him as a model for the Catholic soldiers then engaged in combat during World War 1. So one Pope Benedict, the 15th, beatified Nuno, and a second, Benedict XVI, will canonize him.

Nuno is considered the founder of the Bragança Royal Family Dynasty of Portugal which ruled from 1640 until 1910. (Nuno’s daughter, Beatriz, married Alfonso, son of John I, whom he helped bring to power, starting the Aviz Dynasty.) The majority of Catholic royal families in Europe and Brazil claim lineage from him, including the recently beatified Charles of Austria, the last Hapsburg Emperor. Queen Isabella of Spain was one of Nuno’s granddaughters.

Nuno even had descendants in the British royal family: Isabella’s daughter (his great-granddaughter) was Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, and her daughter (his great-great-granddaughter) was Queen Mary Tudor. Catherine of Aragon had many miscarriages, a still-born daughter and three short-lived sons before giving birth to Mary. King Henry VIII, desirous of a male hair, sought permission from Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) to annul his marriage to Catherine, but Clement refused, leading Henry to divorce her and break with Rome, beginning the Anglican Church.

Another descendant was Catherine of Bragança, wife of King Charles II (all his children were illegitimate to mistresses) who conversely became a Catholic on his deathbed in 1685.

Blessed Nuno is most highly regarded in his country for masterminding the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. There, Portugal, in concert with England, stopped an invasion by Castile. Both allied nations were then in obedience to Pope Urban VI in Rome, whilst Castile and France followed the Antipope of Avignon, Clement VII(1378-1394). Nuno fought and won many other battles between 1383 and 1411, and, after peace was established with Castile, Nuno participated in the expedition in 1415 to Ceuta in North Africa, an action that was considered the first European missionary effort.

Equine monuments to him are scattered throughout Portugal and in many former Portuguese overseas colonies. Long before the introduction of the Euro, his effigy was on Portugal’s currency. He was made the 3rd Count of Ourém in 1383, and his main feudal castle was in Ourém, the county where Fátima is located. He believed prayer, penance and commitment to the poor and needy, to be the true calling of nobility and, following the death of his wife, Nuno entered a Carmelite monastery he had established, taking the religious name Friar Nuno of Saint Mary.

He was renowned for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is considered the Founder of the Secular Order because the secular Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, better known as the Confraternity of the Holy Constable, which he founded in Lisbon to support his work with the poor with contributions from its noble members, eventually evolved into the present Carmelite Third Order. This original Confraternity was re-established last year on November 6 (Nuno’s Feast Day) and hopes to be an active branch of the Secular Order providing funds for work with the poor and homeless of Lisbon in remembrance of Dom Nuno.

When fighting the Castilians, he was renowned for his fairness to his enemies, and three times crossed the border to feed the peoples in the neighboring kingdom during famines, and to provide for the widows and orphans of the war.

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