About the Saints
Saints are souls in heaven. Some are known, others are not. The Church holds certain saints as models of virture for having led extraordinarily holy lives. They represent all walks and stages of life.
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Saint Michael the Archangel
Feast Day: September 29
Saint John Paul II
Saint Thomas Aquinas
He was a profound teacher on Eucharistic doctrine, coining the term transubstantiation, the process in which bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. He attracted thousands of people to lectures, authored over 20 volumes of work, and was consulted by popes and kings alike. His greatest work, the Summa Theologica (Summary of Theology) was honored at the Council of Trent in the 16th-century with a place of prominence alongside the Bible.
Despite his famed reputation, he remained humble and devout, resisting attempts to be made bishop.
Once, when Thomas was lost in prayer while living in the Dominican priory in Naples, a sacristan reportedly saw Thomas lifted into the air and heard Christ speak to him from the crucifix on the chapel wall, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?”
“Lord, nothing but yourself,” he heard St. Thomas reply.
Feast Day: January 28
Saint Joan of Arc
St. Joan of Arc was a peasant girl in medieval France who believed God had chosen her to lead France to defeat England in a long-running war. With no military training, she convinced the crown prince that she should lead an army to the besieged city of Orléans, where she led them to a momentous victory. After seeing the prince crowned as King Charles VII, Joan was captured by the Anglo-Burgundian forces she had defeated and was tried for witchcraft, heresy, and adultery. She was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. By the time she was canonized in 1920, the Maid of Orléans, had long been known as one of history’s greatest saints and an enduring symbol of French unity and nationalism.
Feast Day: May 30
Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Feast Day: September 5
Saint Thomas More
Saint Edith Stein
Saint John the Baptist
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist."
St. John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin and a hermit in the desert of Judea who encouraged repentance in preparation for the coming of the Jewish Messiah, our Lord, saying "I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
As Jesus began his ministry, He visited St. John along the banks of the Jordan River and asked to be baptized. Though hesitant in his humility and awe, St. John complied. As he did, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice from the heavens said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
During the days of Jesus' ministry, Herod Antipas executed St. John for publicly denouncing his divorce and remarriage.
Feast Day: June 24
Virgin of Guadalupe
Feast Day: December 12th
The Christ Pantocrator icon is one of the most common icons in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Christianity. The ancient Greek term pantocrator is most commonly translated to mean “almighty” or “all-powerful” and is used to emphasize Christ’s divinity and ability to do anything. Another popular variation of this icon has the book open and is referred to as Christ the Teacher.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel
Saint Rose of Lima
St. Rose is known for her extreme piety, severe asceticism, and care of the needy.
She was born in Lima, Peru in 1586 to a noble family who initially refused to allow her to pursue religious life, preferring instead she marry. During a ten year struggle over this, Rose took a vow of virginity and cut her hair short and blistered her skin with hot peppers to make herself less attractive. Her mother eventually relented and allowed her to become a Dominican of the third order. Due to the circumstances, Rose did not live in a convent but instead chose a life of strict enclosure and contemplation. She regularly wore a crown of thorns, fasted, seldom slept, and recounted numerous visions, particularly of the Devil. Devoted to the sick and hungry, she often cared for them in her hut. She also sold her own fine lace and embroidery and flowers she grew in her garden to donate to the poor. She was the first person born in the Western Hemisphere to be canonized a saint.
Feast Day: August 23
St. Maurice was an officer in the Roman army, who was head of a legion comprised of Christians from Egypt. At one point, the emperor ordered them to sacrifice to the Roman gods to ensure victory at an upcoming battle. Maurice and his fellow soldiers repeatedly refused to comply with the orders and the entire legion was then put to death. St. Maurice is known for encouraging his fellow soldiers in their constancy to remain faithful to Christ in the face of death.
Feastday: September 22
Saint Gregory the Great
Also known as Pope St. Gregory I, St. Gregory the Great was born in Rome around the year 540. We know little of his early life, though we do know his mother, Silvia, and two of his aunts on his father's side, Tarsilla and Æmiliana, are canonized saints. Very accomplished at an early age, Gregory served as prefect of Rome when he was in his early 30s. After much prayer, Gregory gave up his wealth and successful public life to become a monk.
In 578, the Pope ordained a reluctant Gregory as one of the seven deacons of Rome, taking him out of his monastic seclusion. He was sent as ambassador to the Emperor of Byzantium. Around 585 he returned to Rome and soon became the abbot of St. Andrew's monastery, which grew famous under his stewardship.
Gregory was an astute scholar, with many lectures on the Scripture, especially the Old Testament books. Gregory became so popular that when he once was inspired to go on a missionary journey to what is now England, the Roman people caused such an uproar that the pope called him back to Rome!
Elected as Pope in 590, Gregory served in the papacy for 14 years, during which he devoted himself to his work, accomplishing much despite his constant ill health. Throughout his life, especially as the Holy Father, he continued in the simple lifestyle he learned from monastic life. He accomplished much Liturgical reform, including strenghtening the Church's respect for doctrine. However, his contribution to his namesake Gregorian Chant is disputed.
St. Gregory the Great is honored as one of the Doctors of the Church.
Feastday: September 3
Saint Rita of Cascia
St. Rita was born in Italy at 1381. Despite her longing to become an Augustinian nun, her parents had already promised her in marriage at a young age. Accepting this as the will of God, she was married at the young age of 12 to a cruel man who was part of a family involved in a violent local fued. She endured a very difficult marriage, but her pious influence eventually prevailed and caused her husband to be a better man. He was eventually murdered by his enemies, despite having renounced violence himself. Despite Rita's public forgiveness of her husband's murderers, her two sons were encouraged by their uncle to seek vengeance for their father's death. Rita fervently prayed to God, asking Him to stop them from committing the mortal sin of murder. Her prayers were answered when they died within a year from illness.
After the pain of losing her husband and children, Rita, who was still relatively young, attempted to join the local convent. Though they knew how pious she was, they feared that her connection to the warring families would bring problems for the monastery and would not accept her. She fervently prayed to St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino to help her end the fued. When one of the heads of the families became sick with the bubonic plague, she visited him and was able to convince him to renounce the fued and was then allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36.
Rita became known for her great piety and charity. After her request to suffer like Him, Christ gave her a wound on her forehead, as if a thorn had pierced her there, which did not heal and caused her great suffering for the rest of her life. She died of tuberculosis in 1457 at the age of 76. She was buried in Cascia, Italy, and her body was later found to be incorrupt and can still be found at the St. Rita Shrine there.
Feastday: May 22
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar. Shortly after his ordination, he caught tuberculosis, which caused him poor health throughout his life. Despite this, he never complained and still worked very hard to serve God. He had a very strong devotion to Mary Immaculate and founded the Militia Immaculata (Army of Mary) to help convert atheists and enemies of the Church, publishing many books and pamphlets, including a monthly magazine that was very popular in Poland. He founded monasteries in India and Japan - including one in Nagasaki which miraculously survived the atomic blast in WWII.
After Poland was invaved by the Nazis in WWII, Kolbe was arrested multiple times for refusing to cooperate with German persecution of the Jews and was eventually sent to Auschwitz after being caught hiding Jewish people. He never abondoned his priesthood and continued to serve and minister to his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, eventually volunteering to take the place of a man who had been chosen to be starved to death.
Feastday: August 14
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Born in the 3rd century in Alexandria, Egypt to a noble family, St. Catherine converted to Christianity as a teenager after a vision of Jesus and Mary. She publicly denounced the pagan emperor Maxentius for his Christian persecution and he summoned 50 pagan scholars to debate her. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she was so eloquent in the debate that she converted many of the other scholars, who were then sentenced to death. She was then imprisoned, during which time she converted the emperors wife and 200 of his soldiers, all of whom were then also put to death. St. Catherine was then sentenced to death herself on a spiked wheel, but when she touched it it shattered, so they then beheaded her. She is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, a group of saints invoked with special confidence in the efficaciousness of their prayers.
Feastday: November 25
St. Christopher is one of the earliest and most popular saints. Tradition holds that he was a man of very large stature and great strength. His real name was Reprobus. He was determined to serve the greatest king of all and so served the king of Canaan. Then one day he saw the king cross himself at the mention of the devil and thought this must mean the devil was more powerful than the king, so he went in search of the devil. He found a man who called himself the devil and served him, but then saw him go out of his way to avoid a cross and learned the devil is afraid of Christ, so then St. Christopher decided to serve Christ. He found a Christian hermit who instructed him in the faith and then advised him to use his great strength to serve others. He dedicated himself to helping travelers cross a strong river. One day a child asked him to help him across the river. When he carried the child across the river, it began to flood and the weight of the child grew immensely heavy. It was only with great exertion that Christopher brought the child to the other side. He then asked they child why he was so heavy and the child said that he was Christ and that when Christopher carried Him that he carried the weight of the world. Thus he earned the name Christopher, meaning "bearing Christ," instead of Reprobus. He died a martyr in Lycia in 251 AD.
Feastday: July 25
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Francesco Forgione (later known as Padre Pio) was born in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887 to poor but very devout parents. At the age of 5, he dedicated himself to the service of God. He was a very devout young child who loved to attend mass and pray. He was even able to communicate with his guardian angel and, as a young boy, assumed that everyone could see and talk with their angels, too. He joined the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at the age of 15 and was ordained a priest at the age of 23.
His masses would sometimes last hours as he would pause in contemplation and awe. His great piety and devotion inspired a large following, drawing pilgrims from around the world to come visit him. He prayed almost continuously and had a great devotion to the Holy Rosary, always advising others to pray the Rosary and also to pray for the souls in Purgatory.
Padre Pio led a very austere life and kept to a strict schedule, spending long hours at work to serve God and his people. He suffered from poor health his entire life and considered it a special gift from God to be able to suffer so much. He received the Stigmata at the age of 31 and had it for the rest of his life. God also granted Padre Pio many other spiritual gifts, including the ability to bilocate, heal, read hearts, and speak languages he had never learned. There are many miraculous stories of Padre Pio and his intercession.
Padre Pio died with his rosary in his hands, repeating the words "Jesus, Mary" at the age of 81. He was canonized in 2002 by Pope St. John Paul II.
Feastday: September 23
Saint Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Ávila (also known as St. Teresa of Jesus) was born on March 28, 1515. She was very religious from a young age, at one point convincing her brother to run away with her so they could be martyred by the Moors, but was caught by a relative and returned to her family. She joined the Carmelite nuns at the age of 15, though found herself disappointed with the lack of piety in the convents of the time. She longed for a deeper relationship with God but found herself continually distracted by frivolous things. St. Teresa struggled with her prayer life until her 40s, at which point she started devoting herself more to prayer and God started rewarding her by giving her many graces and spiritual gifts. She would go into ecstasies, sometimes even floating in the air!
At the age of 43, she knew she was being called to found a new religious order - the Discalced Carmelites - that would be more simple and wholly devoted to God. She faced great opposition, but with faith in God she pursued her calling successfully. She also began writing about her mystical experiences during this time. In her 50s, she recognized it was time to spread her reform to the rest of the Church. She faced wide resistance and many attacks, but her new convents ended up being very popular and drawing many people back to the faith.
St. Teresa died at the age of 67 in 1582. She was canonized in 1622 and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 for her teachings and writings about prayer. She the first woman to be recognized as a Doctor of the Church.
Feastday: October 15
St. Cecilia was an early Christian who lived in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd century, a time of great Christian persecution. She was married to a man named Valerian whom she converted to Christianity. Valerian and his brother devoted themselves to burying the local martyred Christians and were eventually martyred themselves for refusing to sacrifice to the Gods. St. Cecilia spent her days preaching and converted hundreds of people to Christianity. She was eventually ordered to be executed by the local prefect, but despite his efforts, the executioner was unable to behead her. She bled for three days, preaching the whole time, before she eventually died. Her body was found to be incorrupt in 1599, making her the first of all incorruptible saints.
Feastday: November 22
Saint John the Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist was one of the twelve Apostles along with his brother, St. James. The two brothers are the sons of Zebedee and Salome (one of the women who went to anoint Jesus' body and discovered the empty tomb on Easter morning) and Jesus refers to them in the Gospel as "the brothers of thunder." John is often singled out with his brother, James, and Peter to witness Jesus' miracles apart from the other apostles and disciples. John is the only apostle who remained with Jesus throughout His passion and was at the foot of the cross. Before Jesus died, he told John and His Blessed Mother "Son, behold your Mother" and "Mother, behold your son" and we learned that from that day he took Mary into his house and cared for her as for his own mother.
John wrote the Gospel of John along with his three epistles (John 1, 2 and 3) and the Book of Revelation. He is the only apostle who did not die a martyr.
Feastday: December 27
Our Lady of Częstochowa
Our Lady of Częstochowa is one of the oldest venerated icons in the world. According to tradition, it was painted by St. Luke on a table made by St. Joseph from the Holy Family’s house in Nazareth. It is also known as the Black Madonna, as the years and years of incense and candles burning in front of it have darkened the image. It was miraculously preserved throughout many times of persecution, including when a looting soldier was unable to destroy the image, but struck it with his sword, leaving two gashes on Our Lady’s cheek. The icon has been in Częstochowa (Jasna Gora), Poland since the 14th century and many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady when using this icon as an aid in religious devotion.
The Holy Eucharist
Feastday: October 2
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195 to a wealthy and devout family and was originally named Ferdinand. He joined the Augustinian order at the age of 15 where he spent the next 10 years studying Scriptures and writings of the Early Church Fathers, gaining a wealth of knowledge due to his gifted memory and intellect. Later, after being inspired by the martyrdom of the Franciscan missionaries, he left the Augustinians to join the new order recently founded by St. Francis, taking the name Anthony.
After a short time in Morocco, St. Anthony had to return to Europe due to poor health. On the way back to Portugal, a storm caused his ship to land in Italy. He was taken to a local Franciscan friary and there nursed back to health and he remained in Italy to pursue a life of seclusion and prayer. Due to St. Anthony's great humility, none of his Franciscan brothers were aware of his advanced studies. One day, at an ordination mass that St. Anthony was attending, it was discovered that no one had been appointed to preach. They asked St. Anthony to give the sermon and finally discovered not only his sublime knowledge of the faith but also his great gift for preaching.
St. Francis, upon learning of St. Anthony's education, instructed him to begin teaching theology. While none of his writings remain, records of his great success as a preacher were well documented. In addition to his great learning and prodigious memory, St. Anthony also had a loud, clear voice perfectly suited for preaching. His preaching converted many sinners and his vocal cords and tongue are still incorrupt and located in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy.
St. Anthony is often referred to as St. Anthony the Wonder Worker due to the many miracles God performed through him, especially considering his short life on earth. He died at the age of 36 in Padua, Italy. He is often depicted with the Child Jesus after a story from a fellow friar surfaced after his death that Jesus had appeared to St. Anthony as a small child. The friar had promised Anthony not to tell anyone what he had seen until after his death.
Many miracles were quickly attributed to St. Anthony after his death and he was canonized in 1232, only one year after he died. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946 for his great love of the Word of God and his prayerful efforts to understand and share it.
Feastday: June 13
Saint Catherine of Siena
St. Catherine was the youngest child of a very large, lower middle-class family in Siena, Italy. She consecrated herself to Christ at the young age of 7 and when her parents tried to get her to marry at 16 she cut her hair short and fasted to make herself unattractive. Seeing her devotion to them and the rest of her siblings, they relented and let her live as she pleased. She joined the third order of Dominicans so that she could continue to live with her family and associate with the outside world. She often gave her family's belongings and food away to those less fortunate, despite their criticisms. St. Catherine spent much time caring for the sick and the poor and drew many followers as she developed an active apostolate, preaching and writing to others about the faith.
Eventually, St. Catherine began to travel and work for reform in the Church, which was undergoing the Great Schism during her lifetime. Her influence even reached the pope, whom she was able to help convince to return to Rome. She died in 1380 at the age of 33 after long suffering from poor health, often attributed to her extreme fasting throughout her life. St. Catherine wrote over 400 letters during her lifetime, along with her Dialogue, and many prayers which are all still influential theological works today. She and St. Teresa of Avila and were declared the first women Doctors of the Church in 1970.
Feastday: April 29
Saint André Bessette
St. André was born in Quebec in 1845, the 8th of 12 children. He lost both his parents as a boy and was adopted at the age of 12 by an uncle who insisted who work to earn his keep. He eventually joined the Holy Cross Novitiate, but after a year was rejected due to his poor health, which he suffered from his whole life. At the urging of the local bishop, they reaccepted him and assigned him as a simple doorkeeper due to lack of education - he did not know how to read or write.
Brother André worked as a doorkeeper for 40 years but also developed a ministry visiting the sick - whenever he heard someone was ill he would go and visit them, rubbing oil from a lamp in the chapel on them. Many people would be cured after his visits but he remained humble and devoted to St. Joseph, always reminding people, "I do not cure. St. Joseph cures."
The Order of the Holy Cross had for many years been trying unsuccessfully to buy land on nearby Mount Royal. St. André one day went with several of his fellow brothers and planted medals of St. Joseph on the hill, after which the land owners suddenly relented and sold the land. Brother André raised money to build a small chapel and continued his healing ministry there. They raised money to then build a bigger church but ran out before building a roof, leaving only walls. He placed a statue of St. Joseph in the middle and said that if he wanted a roof over his head he would get one. St. André's absolute trust in St. Joseph led to the grand Oratory of St. Joseph being built on Mt. Royal over the course of 50 years.
St. André died at 92, despite having poor health his whole life and spending so much time and energy caring for others. He is buried at the Oratory and was canonized in 2010.
Feastday: January 6
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse was born in 1873, the youngest child to a middle-class French family. Her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, are also saints and her four sisters all became nuns. Her mother died when she was only 4 years old. She suffered from poor health much of her life. She was a precocious and often mischievous child. She became devoted to God at a young age, following the examples of her older sisters who all entered religious life, and by a young age had already developed the habit of mental prayer. She joined the Carmelite nuns at the age of 15 after first being rejected for being too young and she took her final vows at the age of 17. St. Thérèse became well known by her sisters for her complete devotion to the Child Jesus and the rules of the convent. She became sick with tuberculosis and had to be ordered by her superiors to stop fasting and rest more. She was instructed to write the story of her life, which became known as the great spiritual work, The Story of a Soul. She died at the age of 24, excited at all the good she would do after her death, saying that "My Heaven will be spent doing good on earth." She was declared a saint in 1925 and a Doctor of the Church in 1997 for her Little Way, a simple yet profound trust in God.
Feastday: October 1
St. Rocco, also known as St. Roch, was born into a wealthy family in 1295 in Montpelier, France. His parents died when he was 20 and he gave his inheritance to the poor and traveled on pilgrimage but encountered areas sick with the plague on his way, always stopping to nurse the sick back to health, healing them with the sign of the cross. He eventually came down with the plague himself and retreated into the forest so as not to spread the disease to anyone else. A dog found him and kept returning with loaves of bread for him. Eventually, the dog's owner, curious as to where his dog was running off to every day, followed him and discovered St. Rocco and nursed him back to health. After his recovery, he went back to nursing the poor and sick back to health, again healing people miraculously. He returned to Montpelier but, not disclosing his true identity, was mistaken for a spy and thrown into prison where he died after 5 years. It was only after his death that his identity was learned due to the birthmark on his chest in the shape of a cross. He was then given a public funeral and numerous miracles were attributed to his sanctity.
Feastday: August 16
St. Patrick was born to a noble Roman family in Britain in 387. He was kidnapped around the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland where he learned the Celtic language and details of the pagan druid religion. He tended his master's sheep, praying many times a day and throughout the night, greatly growing in his spiritual life during this time. After 6 years, he was called by God and fled slavery, returning to Britain. There, Patrick studied theology and was ordained a priest and eventually became a bishop. Patrick was then called to convert Ireland. He traveled there and preached and performed miracles, eventually converting the entire land with his great humility and love. St. Patrick remained in Ireland for the rest of his life, continuing to travel around and nourish the churches he had founded there.
Feastday: March 17
St. Veronica was one of Jesus' followers in Jerusalem. We know little else about her except that she met Him on His way as He carried the cross and wiped his face with her veil, on which the image of his face was then imprinted. She is remembered in the prayers for the sixth Station of the Cross. Her veil was kept throughout the centuries as one of the Church's most precious relics and is stored at the Vatican.
Feastday: July 12
Saint Laura Montoya
Maria Laura Montoya Upegui was born in Colombia in 1874. At the young age of 2, she lost her father in the Colombian Civil War, leaving her family to fall into poverty, their property confiscated. She was sent to live with her grandmother, which caused her to feel abandoned and alone. During this time she sought refuge in scripture and prayer to overcome her feelings of abandonment.
Though she had no formal education herself, Laura studied hard, receiving high marks at school, and became a teacher. She was sent to teach the indigenous peoples of Colombia and felt inspired not only to give them a basic education but to introduce them to Jesus Christ and His Church.
Laura had felt a calling to become a Carmelite nun, but her experience with the Colombian natives set her heart on fire to spread Christ's love and His Gospel to all peoples as a missionary. In 1914 she founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of Immaculate Mary and St. Catherine of Siena. She and her sisters left the comforts of Medellin and traveled to the jungles to be among the native peoples and share Christ's teaching with them.
The last years of St. Laura's life were marked by illness. She had to retreat to Medellin and lived in a wheelchair. She continued writing (most of her work is aimed at her nuns) and teaching through her pain. She died on October 21, 1949. Her missionary order of nuns still exists today, where they serve in 19 countries throughout America, Africa, and Europe. Canonized in 2013, St. Laura was Colombia's first saint.
Feastday: October 21
Feast Day: June 29
Saint James the Great
St. James was, along with his brother, St. John, one of Jesus' apostles. He and his brother were so passionate about the teachings of the Lord that Jesus referred to them as "the sons of thunder." He was often singled out with both St. Peter and St. John to privately witness some of Jesus' miracles, such as the Transfiguration. After Jesus' Ascension into Heaven, James traveled around preaching the Christian faith in Israel and the Roman Empire, eventually arriving in Spain, but was unsuccessful in his ministry there, converting no one at the time. He then traveled back to Israel where he was the first apostle to be martyred, being put to death by King Herod. His remains were taken back to Spain since he was not allowed to be buried in Israel and he is believed to have been buried at Compostela, where there is now a great Cathedral and pilgrim devotion to Christ in his name.
Feastday: July 25
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a classic Byzantine icon that has also become very popular in the Western Church. Icons are meant to instruct the faithful, often tell a story about their subjects, and aid in religious devotion. This icon tells the story of a young Jesus who was shown the instruments of his future Passion by the Angels Michael and Gabriel and ran to His dear mother for comfort, almost losing one of His sandals in his haste to get to her arms. This icon instructs us to also run to Mary for help in our times of need!
Christ the King
We celebrate the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday before Advent. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast day along with devotion to Christ the King in the aftermath of World War I as a response to the turbulent times and widespread rejection of Christ around the world. The pope wanted to emphasize that Christ’s kingdom will have no end and that Christ is not only King of the world but is the eternal King, reigning in Heaven, who will one day come to judge mankind. The pope also instructed his flock to use the feast as a time to consecrate (or re-consecrate) themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Saint Raphael the Archangel
Feastday: September 29
St. Bernadette was born in 1844, the oldest of 6 children in a poor family in Lourdes, France. She suffered from poor health her whole life, often missing school due to illness so she could not read well and only spoke the local dialect instead of learning French. When she was 14, a beautiful lady (who later was revealed to be the Blessed Mother) appeared to her repeatedly for a fortnight at a local grotto where she would go gather wood and prayed the rosary with her. A following developed quickly, though no one else could see the Virgin Mary. On the last apparition, the lady requested that a chapel be built on that site. She told Bernadette to drink the water from the spring and Bernadette dug in the ground and a spring started flowing. Bernadette asked the lady who she was and she only responded "I am the Immaculate Conception" - a concept Bernadette had never heard of but had been long debated in the Church by its scholars - whether or not Mary had been conceived without sin. Mary's revelation to Bernadette confirmed not only her identity but what is now Dogma in the Church - that God preserved Mary from original sin.
Bernadette's apparitions were approved by the Church and the French government. They began drawing so many crowds that Bernadette left Lourdes to join the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. She suffered from poor health her whole life and died of tuberculosis at the age of 35 in 1879. 30 years later, her body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt. It is still on display at the convent in Nevers. A beautiful cathedral was built in Lourdes and the waters are still flowing there, drawing around 6 million pilgrims every year.
Feastday: April 16
Saint Monica and Saint Augustine
St. Monica was born in 4th century North Africa and as a young girl, though a Christian, was married off to a Roman pagan man. Her husband had a violent temper and refused to allow any of their three children to be baptized. After years of Monica's prayers, her husband finally converted on his deathbed.
Augustine, one of Monica's three children, was extremely gifted in his studies, but had a misspent youth, rejecting Christianity despite the pleadings and prayers of his mother. He lived out of wedlock with a woman for 15 years and even fathered a child with her. He fell prey to the Manichean Heresy, which teaches that physical matter is intrinsically evil while the mind was intrinsically good. This disturbed Monica to no end, and she followed him to Rome to continue to try to convert her son. At the urging of his mother, Augustine eventually made his way to Milan to study with St. Ambrose, who, along with St. Monica, finally converted Augustine at the age of 33. Monica, her work now done, died a little over a week later in the year 387.
Filled with a great zeal for Christ, Augustine left his sinful past behind and returned to Africa, becoming a priest and eventually a bishop. He was a great preacher and teacher, utilizing his education and great intellect to instruct and convert many. He gave away his wealth to care for the poor and also founded the Augustinian Order, which then spread around the world. He was a prolific preacher and writer and many of his sermons and writings are still instructive today, including his famous works, City of God and Confessions. St. Augustine died in 430, preaching fervently until his death. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1298.
Feastdays: August 27 (St. Monica) and August 28 (St. Augustine)
Saints Francisco and Jacinta
Francisco and Jacinta Marta were siblings who, along with their cousin, Lucia Dos Santos, saw the Virgin Mary every month for 6 consecutive months in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. Francisco was 9 and Jacinta was only 7 at the time of the apparition. Mary gave the children 3 secrets, now approved by the church, about the coming war and suffering and the conversion of Russia. At the last apparition, the children were given a miracle where the sun danced in the sky to prove the verity of the apparitions. A large crowd witnessed the miracle, including the atheist newpaper prevalent in Portugal at the time - and they could not explain what they witnessed.
Mary instructed the children to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners. All three of them took this message very seriously and would spend long hours in prayer and do various mortifications and fasts for sinners. Mary had also told them that they would have much to suffer for the conversion of sinners and that Francisco and Jacinta would soon die. The following year, both St. Francisco and St. Jacinta came down with the flu during the terrible Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. St. Francisco denied any hospital treatment and died at the age of 10 in 1919. St. Jacinta was taken to several places for treatment - including surgery with no anesthesia, which she offered up for the conversion of sinners - all to no avail and she finally died after much suffering in 1920.
They were beatified in 2000, at which point St. Jacinta was the youngest child to be beatified who was not a martyr, and canonized in 2017. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by 20,000 pilgrims a year.
Feastdays: February 20 (Jacinta) and April 4 (Francisco)
Saint Damien of Molokai
St. Damien, born Joseph de Veuster in 1840 in rural Belgium, joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859, taking the name of Damien. While he was still in the novitiate, he took the place of his sick brother (a priest in the same order) and was sent as a missionary to Hawaii, where he was ordained in 1864. After 10 years, he volunteered to go to Molokai to serve a colony of lepers there who had requested a priest to care for them spiritually. Upon arriving in Molokai, he found the colony in disarray, with the sick needing treatment and many lepers resorting to drunkenness and immorality. St. Damien became a leader on the island, building houses and schools and eventually a church.
Though his stay on Molokai was supposed to be only temporary, St. Damien requested to remain there and serve his people and it was granted to him. He eventually contracted leprosy himself in 1885. He continued his work, despite the disease, drawing great strength from the Holy Eucharist, saying "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation." St. Damien died in 1889, having served the people of Molokai for 16 years.
Feastday: May 10
Saint Francis of Assisi
St. Francis was born the son of a successful cloth merchant in Assisi, Italy in the late 12th century. His father greatly desired him to be a successful businessman, encouraging his education and having him work in the family business. St. Francis was gregarious and very likeable and brought great success to his father's business. He was popular even among the noble class, which made his father especially proud of him and led him to be quite permissive with Francis. Though Francis liked his status and wealth, wearing fancy clothes and attending parties, even during this time of worldliness, he was always generous with what he had, lavishing gifts on friends and even, on occasion, sharing with the poor.
During a conflict between Assisi and a neighboring region, Francis decided to become a soldier. He was captured and held as a prisoner for a year. Upon returning to Assisi, he decided to earn his glory in the Crusades. After outfitting himself lavishly and bragging to all about how he will return gloriously, he only reached about a day's travel from Assisi when God spoke to him in a dream, telling him to return home, that he would not find what his heart longed for in battle. So home he went in humiliation, with the locals mocking him after all his bragging. Thus began his search for God and how best to serve Him.
St. Francis spent long hours in prayer, much to the disappointment of his father. He eventually heard God asking him to rebuild His Church - and thought that meant the local church that was falling apart. He took money from his father to rebuild it, after which his father made the church return it and disowned Francis - to which Francis cried with joy that now "Our Father in Heaven" is truly his only Father. St. Francis gave away everything he owned, dressed in the rags of a beggar, and began to serve the poor. He slept outside and begged for scraps of food. Eventually, he began to attract followers who saw how genuinely he was trying to follow Jesus' command to His disciples to "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (Luke 9:1-3). Though St. Francis had no intention of starting a new religious order, the Franciscans had began!
St. Francis and his followers visited and cared for the sick, served the poor, cleaned churches, and preached in the streets. The order grew and began to stir reform in the Church, which was in great need of it at the time. Notable followers of Francis include St. Clare, who founded the Poor Clares and St. Anthony of Padua. St. Francis himself was torn between a life completely devoted to prayer and a life serving the poor. He decided to devote himself and his followers to the latter, but retreated to prayer and isolation whenever he could.
Due to his extreme way of living, St. Francis suffered much illness and suffering, including becoming almost blind. He received the stigmata at the age of 42 and died at the age of 44. Despite having founded an entire religious order, Francis was never a priest. He was ordained a deacon at one point, much to his objection. The Franciscans grew so rapidly that St. Francis eventually gave up direction of the order, allowing himself to become just another brother. As he neared death, he asked his superiors to remove his clothes, so that he may die laying naked on the earth, as Christ did.
Feastday: October 4
St. Benedict was born around the year 480, along with his twin sister, St. Scholastica, to a noble Roman family. He was an excellent student and went to Rome to study, but was horrified by the attitudes and ideas being taught and exemplified there, so he fled to the mountains. He eventually was called by God to live as a hermit in a cave. Word spread of his holiness, many approached him to be their spiritual director, though he warned them his ways would be too strict for them. After a few failed attempts at leading groups of religious (including one where his followers attempted to poison him because he was, indeed, too strict for their liking), he finally successfully founded a series of monasteries that, though separate, were part of one whole community - the basis for modern monasticism. His beliefs and instructions, now known as the Benedictine Rule (in short, "pray and work"), still guide monastic life today. St. Benedict also performed many miracles and preached to and converted pagan locals. God would occasionally grant him visions of the future, including of his own death, which he predicted to his monks. He died in 547 after taking Holy Communion.
Feastday: July 11 (Roman Rite) and March 14 (Byzantine Rite)
St. Faustina was born Helena Kowalska, the third of 10 children to a poor, devout family in Poland. At a young age, she felt a calling to religious life, but her parents, needing her help at home, refused to let her. She had very little schooling and worked as a housekeeper to help support her family. At the age of 19, she received a vision of Jesus, Who instructed her to leave immediately for Warsaw and join a convent - she packed her bags and left the next morning. After being rejected by several convents, she was finally accepted into the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
During a series of mystical encounters with Jesus, she asked by Our Lord to promote devotion to His Divine Mercy and was given instructions to paint the Divine Mercy Image with the test "Jesus, I trust in You." St. Faustina began telling her confessor about her encounters with Jesus, who, after having her evaluated psychiatrically, believed her and asked her to record her experiences in a diary. He promoted the message of Divine Mercy received from Our Lord that she shared with him, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and further promoted her diary after she passed away.
St. Faustina passed away in 1938, having suffered greatly from illness during the previous 8 years. She offered up all of her suffering to God, for His mercy on poor sinners. Having little education, her diary was written phonetically, with many errors, but was still widely distributed after her death. Unfortunately, a bad translation initially reached Rome and was labeled heretical, until Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope St. John Paul II) became bishop of Krakow and had a better translation made, at which point the Vatican recognized how wonderfully her diary proclaimed God's mercy and love. In the year 2000, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, in accordance with Jesus' instruction to St. Faustina.
Feastday: October 5
Saint Josephine Bakhita
St. Bakhita was born in 1869 in Darfur, South Sudan and was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of 7. She was so terrified that she was unable to tell her kidnappers her name, so they gave her the name Bakhita, which means "fortunate." She was bought and sold several times, being treated terribly and often abused, suffering brandings and beatings. Though St. Bakhita had heard nothing of Christianity, she was always in awe of Creation and knew there must be a Creator, longing to learn about Him.
She was eventually bought by an Italian diplomat who took her back to Italy and gifted her to a friend to serve as a nanny for his daughter. The young girl was attending school run by the Canossian Sisters, who also ended up teaching St. Bakhita about the Catholic Faith. St. Bakhita developed a great faith and was baptized as Josephine Margaret. When the family who "owned" her tried to take her back to Rome with them, she refused and when they went to court, the court ruled that because slavery was illegal in Italy that they could not force her to return with them. Thus, St. Josephine Bakhita was finally free! She joined the Canossian Sisters and lived there with them for the remainder of her life. She lived for about 45 years longer, teaching others to know and love God, writing in her popular biography, "If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today."
Feastday: February 8
All we know of St. Stephen is contained in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church. The Biblical account notes that many miracles and conversions were attributed to Stephen and that he was a great preacher. His popularity angered many of the Jews, who put him and trial and brought forth false witnesses to accuse him. St. Stephen, being filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the whole time, especially detailing the history of Israel and how Jesus had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. He admonished his persecutors, saying to them, "You stubborn people with uncircumcised hears and ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Upright One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. In spite of being given the Law through the angels, you have not kept it" (Acts 7:51-53). As he finished his speech, he received a vision of Jesus in Heaven at the Right Hand of the Father and, upon telling the Jews that, they took it as final proof of his blasphemy and took him out and stoned him to death. Like Christ, he beseeched the Lord on behalf of his murderers, asking for forgiveness for them with his final breath.
Feastday: December 26
Feast Day: March 19th and May 1st (St. Joseph the Worker)
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Catholic doctrine teaches that Mary is the Immaculate Conception, meaning God preserved her from original sin from the moment of conception. Devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart can be traced back as early as the Gospel of Luke where we learn that Mary keeps Jesus’ sayings and doings in her heart and ponders them. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has continued to grow through the history of the Church. The feastday of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday immediately following the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
In 1671-1673, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in France and revealed to her His Sacred Heart. At the time, Jansenism had run rampant in the Church, overemphasizing the wrath of God and the unworthiness of man. In response, Jesus shared His Sacred Heart, burning with love for humanity, emphasizing His mercy. We can honor His Sacred Heart by attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month and especially on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart, which is celebrated on the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit
The Sacrament of Confirmation grants us a special strength from the Holy Spirit - a strength with necessitates us to spread and defend the Faith by both word and deed. St. Josemaria Escriva writes, "Get to know the Holy Spirit, the great Stranger, on whom depends your sanctification. Don't forget that you are God's temple. The Advocate is in the centre of your soul: listen to Him and be docile to His inspirations." There are many feastdays on which to pay special homage to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, but we should especially remember Him on the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Catholic Church, the day the "Church was made manifest to the world [...] by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit." (CCC 1076)
Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest!