St. Denis

Our Parish celebrates the Feast of our Patron Saint on October 9th. And we commemorate this Holy Helper with a stained glass window to the left of the tabernacle in an alcove devoted to Sts. Mary, Joseph and Denis. Below is a short history of St. Denis followed by a reflection on the stained glass window as well as the novena prayers in honor of St. Denis, which are prayed from the 1st of October until his feast day.

Short Biography (Catholic Encyclopedia
St. Denis (derived from the Latin and Greek name Dionysius) was Bishop of Paris, and a martyr. Born in Italy, nothing is definitely known of the time or place, or of his early life. His feast is kept on 9 October. He is usually represented with his head in his hands because, according to the legend, after his execution the corpse rose again and carried the head for some distance. That, however, while still very young he was distinguished for his virtuous life, knowledge of sacred things, and firm faith, is proved by the fact that Pope Fabian (236-250) sent him with some other missionary bishops to Gaul (present day France) on a difficult mission. The Church of Gaul had suffered terribly under the persecution of the Emperor Decius and the new messengers of Faith were to endeavor to restore it to its former flourishing condition. Denis with his inseparable companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius, arrived in the neighborhood of the present city of Paris and settled on the island in the Seine. The earliest document giving an account of his labors and of his martyrdom, dating from the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century is interwoven with much legend, from which, however, the following facts can be gleaned.

On the island in the Seine, Saint Denis built a church and provided for a regular solemnization of the Divine service. His fearless and indefatigable preaching of the Gospel led to countless conversions. This aroused the envy, anger and hatred of the heathen priests. They incited the populace against the strangers and importuned the governor Fescenninus Sisinnius to put a stop by force to the new teaching. Denis with his two companions were seized and as they persevered in their faith were beheaded (about 275) after many tortures.

stdenisReflection on the Stained Glass Window
First Point:
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50,7)

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, Jesus set his face to journey to Jerusalem. (Luke 9,51)

  1. Notice St. Denis “setting his face” towards Paris as he holds the map. St. Denis knew he was being sent on a difficult assignment – to spread the faith anew to an area that was being persecuted and subsequently, the Faith had declined. He knew it would be personally dangerous and his eyes even reflect the cross. His face evokes the Scripture passage of Isaiah, which itself becomes attributed to our Lord in the Gospel of Luke. When have you had to “set your face like flint”? When have you had to call on your faith in the statement that in following God’s ways in the face of evil, you “know I shall not be put to shame? How does St. Denis’ assignment to reinvigorate the faith of the people of Paris inspire you to participate in the “New Evangelization” – which has the same goal in mind for fallen away Catholics today? Pray for God to give you the grace to have faith to live your faith in spite of opposition in this world, and not just that, but to also have the inspiration to spread the Catholic Faith.
  2. Notice the Fleur-de-lis in the upper-right hand corner in the field of red glass. The red glass reminds us of St. Denis as martyr. The fleur-de-lis, a stylized lily, is used as a decorative design or motif of things French as it appears in the coat-of-arms of the French monarchs. Many Catholic saints of France, particularly the national patron saint of France – St. Joseph and our St. Denis, are depicted with this design. In this window, the fleur-de-lis calls to mind St. Denis as patron saint of Paris as well as pure in his intention and holiness as a bishop. From a very early age, as noted in the biography, St. Denis was distinguished for his virtuous life, knowledge of sacred things, and firm faith. How is God calling our young people today to be noted for virtuous lives, knowledge of sacred things, and a firm faith? How can you support the young people in your life to aspire to holiness? How has your youth shaped you as the Catholic you are today? Who, in your life, do you need to thank God for who has shaped your faith and life of virtue? How is God calling you to live the noble call of discipleship today?
  3. Note the quill and map in St. Denis’ hands. Although anachronistic, the quill gives a sense of history and along with the map he is holding, the quill can represent St. Denis “writing history” by living the life of discipleship that he was called to live by God – being a member of the Catholic Church, being called to a vocation of priesthood (he is wearing the chasuble of a priest), by being called to be a bishop (he is wearing the miter of a bishop), by being called to be a missionary (represented by the map), by being sent as the first bishop of Paris, by preaching the Good News and bringing many to Faith in Jesus Christ (hence the folk story that after his beheading, St. Denis picked up his head and kept preaching) and celebrating the Sacraments. Do you feel part of the history of the Roman Catholic Church? Why?/Why not? You are a part of the history by just being you and following God’s Will in the vocation God calls you to. We are called, by our baptism, to the Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly dimensions of life – which absolutely impact the history of the Church for good or ill by your Prayer, Teaching/Example, Works of Mercy. Do you feel like “an instrument in God’s Hands” as the quill is an instrument in the hands of St. Denis? How does God work though you? How does God want to work through you? What has God “mapped” out for you? Where do you need direction? How do you give direction to others (the prophetic role of the baptized Catholic)?
  4. Looking at the stained glass window overall, what strikes you? What aspect of the life of St. Denis impacts you? What does it mean for you to have St. Denis as your Patron Saint? What do you need St. Denis to intercede for you?

Novena to St. Denis
Preparatory Prayer
Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshipping Your Divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before You and invoke with filial trust Your supreme generosity and mercy. Illuminate the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Your Heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Your Divine Love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the Saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following their example imitate, as they did, the life of Your Divine Son.

Moreover, I beseech You to graciously grant me, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through them I humbly place before You, devoutly saying, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."

Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it is to Your greater glory and the salvation of my soul. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of Saint Denis
O God, Who conferred Your saving Faith on the people of France through Your holy bishop and martyr Denis, and did glorify him before and after his martyrdom by many miracles. Grant us, through his intercession, that the Faith practiced and preached by him may be our light on the way of life, so that we may be preserved from all anxieties of conscience, and if by human frailty we have sinned, we may return to You speedily by true penance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of Saint Denis
Glorious servant of God, St. Denis, with intense love did you devote yourself to Christ after learning to know Him through the apostle St. Paul. Preaching His saving name to the nations, and bringing the knowledge and love of God, for Who’s sake you did not shrink from martyrdom. Implore for me a continual growth in the knowledge and love of Jesus, so that my restless heart may experience that peace which He alone can give. Help me by thy powerful intercession with God to serve Him with a willing heart, to devote myself with steadfast love to His service, and thereby to attain the eternal bliss of heaven. Amen.

My Lord and my God! I offer up to You my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Your Son, together with the merits of His Immaculate and Blessed Mother, Mary ever Virgin, and of all the Saints, particularly with those of the Holy Helper, St. Denis, in whose honor I make this novena. Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Your Grace and Your Love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

divine mercy

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