Nuno Alvares Pereira, born in 1360, was a descendant of Charlemagne and, by the marriage of his daughter to a son of the King of Portugal, became ancestor to many shapers of history, including Catherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor.
Saint Nuno of Saint Mary
One of his descendants was Catherine of Bragança who became Queen Consort of England by her marriage to Charles II and in whose honor our city's Borough of Queens, New York was named. She also popularized tea-drinking in England. With his friend Henry the Navigator, Nuno began the "Age of Exploration" and took the Gospel to Africa. Columbus might never have sailed without the patronage of Nuno's descendant Queen Isabella. The assassination of another descendant, Archduke Ferdinand, triggered World War I and changed the world again.
On April 26, Pope Benedict XVI, having recognized the miraculous cure of a blind woman by Nuno's intercession, declared him a saint, 578 years after his death in the same year that Joan of Arc was burned. Saint Nuno consecrated his life to the Blessed Virgin, whom we crown with flowers in the month of May because she was granted to us as our mother by her Son when he was crowned with thorns. Nuno engraved the name of Mary on the sword he wielded to protect the people of his land. He secured Portuguese independence from the Kingdom of Castile in battles against tremendous odds: Atoleiros, Aljubarrota, and Valverde. Under a banner emblazoned with Our Lady and St. George, he would stop in the middle of the fighting to fall on his knees in prayer, as once when his 6,000 troops were being attacked by a force of more than 30,000.
Like Wellington and all true soldiers, he knew that "save for a battle lost, nothing is so tragic as a battle won." Called "the Peacemaker," he nursed his wounded enemies and refused the spoils of battle. When his wife died, he distributed his wealth to his comrades in arms and orphans, and became a Carmelite monk. When former foes came to see "Fra Nuno of St. Mary" in his monastery, he showed them his armor beneath his religious habit and warned them he was ready to mount his steed again if anyone harmed the innocent. Sir Galahad was of legend; Nuno was the perfect knight in fact. He died on Easter Day as a priest was reading Our Lord's words from the Cross: "Behold your Mother." His epitaph said:
"Here lies that famous Nuno, the Constable, founder of the House of Bragança, excellent general, blessed monk, who during his life on earth so ardently desired the Kingdom of Heaven that after his death, he merited the eternal company of the Saints. His worldly honors were countless, but he turned his back on them. He was a great Prince, but he made himself a humble monk. He founded, built and endowed this church in which his body rests."
Father George William Rutler. "Saint Nuno of Saint Mary." Weekly Column for May 3, 2009.
Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.
Father George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He has written 18 books, including: Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.Copyright © 2009 Father George W. Rutler
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