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1. Blessed Junípero Serra
2. St. Oliver Plunket
3. St. Thomas the Apostle
4. St. Elizabeth of Portugal
5. St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
6. St. Maria Goretti
7. Blessed Roger Dickenson, Blessed Ralph Milner, and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey
8. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
9. St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions
10. St. Veronica Giuliani
11. St. Benedict
12. St. John Gaulbert
13. St. Henry II
14. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
15. St. Bonaventure
17. St. Leo IV
18. St. Camillus de Lellis
19. Blessed Peter ToRot
20. St. Apollinarius
21. St. Lawrence of Brindisi
22. St. Mary Magdalene
23. St. Bridget of Sweden
24. St. Sharbel Makhlouf
25. St. James the Greater
26. St. Joachim and St. Anne
27. Blessed Titus Brandsma
28. Blessed Mary Magdalen Martinengo
29. St. Martha
30. St. Peter Chrysologus
31. St. Ignatius of Loyola
Blessed Junípero Serra
Junípero Serra was born in Petra, on the island of Mallorca, Spain, on November 24, 1713. The boy became a student at the Franciscan school in Palma, twenty-five miles away. He joined the Franciscan Order on September 14, 1730, a few months before his seventeenth birthday. During his novitiate, Junípero read a biography of Franciscan saints. The saint whose life captivated him most was St. Francis Solano, who had lived from 1549 until 1610. This missionary priest to South America had just been declared a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. The young novice decided that, if it were God’s will, he, too, would be a missionary. Junípero was ordained a priest in 1736. He became a professor of philosophy. After he had been in the Order twenty years, he was given a wonderful opportunity. Franciscan friars were asked to volunteer for the mission territories called “New Spain” (now Mexico and California). Junípero and his close friend, Friar Francisco Palou, joined the missionary band at Cadiz, Spain, a seaport city. From there they sailed the Atlantic Ocean to Vera Cruz, Mexico. They landed on December 6, 1749. Junípero and another friar walked the next part of the journey from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, a distance of 240 miles. They began on December 15, 1749, and arrived on January 1, 1750. From Mexico City, Junípero and Friar Francisco Palou were sent to work among the Pame Indians at the Franciscan Mission of the Sierra Gorda. Several of the friars were then assigned to missions in Lower California. Junípero, Francisco, and a handful of other Franciscans were asked to bring the Gospel to the native peoples in Upper California. Junípero started Mission San Diego on July 16, 1769, when he was fifty-six years old. The mission was an open invitation to his beloved people to come and meet Jesus. Gradually, they trusted the friars. Some people were baptized and began to live the Christian faith. Father Serra and the friars loved and protected their people. The chain of new missions grew: Mission San Carlos in Monterey on June 1, 1770; Mission San Antonio de Padua on July 14, 1771; Mission San Gabriel Archangel, September 8, 1771; Mission San Luis Obispo, September 1, 1772; Mission San Francisco de Asis, October 9, 1776; Mission San Juan Capistrano, November 1, 1776; Mission Santa Clara de Asis, January 12, 1777; Mission San Buenaventura, March 31, 1782. Eventually, 6,000 native peoples were baptized. Blessed Junípero made his final tour of the missions in Upper California from the last part of 1783 until July of 1784. He died peacefully at Mission San Carlos on August 28, 1784, and is buried there. In 1988 Pope John Paul II declared Father Junípero Serra blessed.
Our world can become very small when we’re wrapped up in ourselves. We can ask Blessed Junípero Serra to teach us to be compassionate and concerned for others. This will lead us to reach out to others in need, in the spirit of the Gospel.
St. Oliver Plunket
Oliver Plunket was born in Ireland on November 1, 1629. He attended school at St. Mary’s Benedictine Abbey in Dublin. When he was sixteen years old he went to Rome to continue his studies and prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1654 and remained in Rome for fifteen years as a professor of theology. He was also named the Procurator for the Irish bishops. In 1669, he became archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland. At this time, England’s king, Charles II, was trying to stabilize the Anglican Church in England, Scotland, and Ireland. He did this by trying to do away with other religions, including the Catholic Church. Archbishop Plunket returned to Ireland in disguise. He wore civilian clothes and called himself Captain Brown. By May, 1670, the persecution of Catholics eased up, and Archbishop Plunket was able to work throughout his diocese without a disguise. Over the next three years he confirmed about 10,000 Catholics, reorganized his diocese, ordained new priests, and opened new schools. But in 1673 the persecution of Catholics was renewed. Oliver Plunket was forced into hiding. In 1678, a man named Titus Oates reported that the Catholics were planning to murder the king and place his Catholic brother on the throne. It was later found out that Oates made the whole thing up, and he was imprisoned for perjury (lying under oath). In the meantime, Catholic bishops and priests were ordered to leave Ireland. Oliver Plunket was arrested on December 6, 1679, and sentenced to nine months of solitary confinement in London. In an unfair trial, he was convicted of high treason. He was hanged on July 1 at Tyburn, the last Catholic to be martyred in England. Oliver Plunket was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.
We should pray for our Church leaders, that they’ll have the courage and zeal to serve the people entrusted to them, even in the face of danger and difficulty. We should also pray that they’ll be consoled and helped by the faithful support of their people.
St. Thomas the Apostle
Thomas was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. In the Syriac language his name means “twin.” Once when Jesus was going to face the danger of being killed, the other apostles tried to keep the Master back. St. Thomas said to them, ”Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). When Jesus was captured by his enemies, Thomas lost his courage. He ran away with the other apostles. His heart was broken with sorrow at the death of his beloved Lord. Then on Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to his apostles after he had risen from the dead. He showed them the wounds in his hands and side. Thomas was not with them at the time. As soon as he arrived, the other apostles told him joyfully, ”We have seen the Lord.” They thought Thomas would be happy. Instead, he did not believe their message. He hadn’t seen Jesus as they had. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,” he said, ”and put my finger into the nailmarks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, Jesus appeared to his apostles again. This time, Thomas was there, too. Christ called him and told him to touch his hands and the wound in his side. Thomas fell down at the Master’s feet and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus said, ”Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” You will find this story in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 24–29. After Pentecost, Thomas was strong and firm in his belief and trust in Jesus. It is said that he went to India to preach the Gospel. He died a martyr there, after proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to many people.
We often hear of St. Thomas referred to as the “doubter.” But the moment he saw the Risen Christ he made an unwavering act of faith. When the priest lifts the sacred Host at Mass, we too can pray the words of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Elizabeth, a Spanish princess, was born in 1271. She was named after her aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whose feast day is November 17. She married King Denis of Portugal at the age of twelve. (For political reasons, in those days it was not uncommon for important marriages to be arranged involving very young people, even children.) Elizabeth was beautiful and very lovable. She was also devout and went to Mass every day. Elizabeth’s husband was fond of her at first, but soon he began to cause her great suffering. Though a good ruler, he did not have his wife’s love of prayer and virtue. In fact, his sins of impurity were well-known scandals throughout his kingdom. St. Elizabeth tried to be a loving mother to her children, Alphonso and Constance. She was also generous and loving with the people of Portugal. Even though her husband was unfaithful, she prayed that he would have a change of heart. Elizabeth refused to become bitter and resentful. Gradually, the king was moved by her patience and good example. He began to live a better life. He apologized to his wife and showed her greater respect. In his last sickness the queen never left his side, except for Mass. King Denis died on January 6, 1325. He had shown deep sorrow for his sins and his death was peaceful. Elizabeth lived eleven more years. She joined the Franciscan Third Order and performed loving acts of charity and penance. She was a wonderful model of kindness toward the poor. This gentle woman was also a peacemaker between members of her own family and between nations. St. Elizabeth of Portugal died on July 4, 1336. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Urban VIII in 1626.
St. Elizabeth found the strength for daily living each morning at Mass. We can ask her to help us appreciate the great treasure of the Mass, participating in it with attention and devotion.
St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
Anthony was born in Italy in 1502. While he was still young, his father died. His mother encouraged Anthony in the special love he felt for the sufferings of poor people. Mrs. Zaccaria sent her son to the University of Padua so that he could become a doctor. He was only twenty-two when he graduated. The young doctor was very successful. Yet he did not feel satisfied. He realized that he wanted to become a priest. Anthony began to study theology. He also continued to care for the sick and to comfort and inspire the dying. He started to use all his spare moments to read and meditate on the Letters of St. Paul in the Bible. He had read the life of the great apostle Paul many times and had given much thought to his virtues. Now Anthony was burning with a strong desire to become a saint and to bring everyone to Jesus. After he was ordained a priest, St. Anthony Mary moved to the great city of Milan. There he would be able to help many more people. He also started an Order of priests. They are the Clerics Regular of St. Paul. People call them “Barnabites” after their head- quarters at the Church of St. Barnabas in Milan. In imitation of the apostle Paul, St. Anthony and his priests preached everywhere. They repeated the words and sentences of Paul. They explained Paul’s message with words that were easy to understand. The people loved and appreciated this. St. Anthony also had a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and introduced the Forty Hours Devotion. St. Anthony Mary was only thirty-seven when he died on July 5, 1539. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him a saint in 1897.
St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria had a great devotion to the apostle, St. Paul. He used to say, “I have never asked St. Paul for a grace without having received it.” Let’s read the letters of St. Paul, asking him for the graces we need the most.
St. Maria Goretti
Maria was born in 1890 in Italy. Her father died of malaria ten years later. By the time she was twelve, Maria helped her mother on the farm, in the house, and with the care of the other children. She never complained because they were so poor. In fact, she cheered up her mother and was a great comfort to her. She went to Mass regularly even though it meant a two-hour walk. Maria also received the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as she could. A young neighbor, Alexander, tried a few times to make Maria sin against purity. She absolutely refused. She did her best to avoid him. July 5, 1902 was a hot summer day. Maria was alone in the cottage mending clothes. Alexander came again to try to make her sin. Maria refused once more. He attacked her and dragged her into an inner room. Maria managed to keep saying, ”No, no! What you are doing is a mortal sin. God doesn’t want it. If you do this, you will go to hell.” And she struggled as much as she could. Alexander panicked. He stabbed her furiously with a dagger he had made. Then he ran away. Maria was taken to a hospital, where she died about twenty-four hours later. During her last hours, she forgave her attacker. Her only worry was for her mother. With great joy, the girl received Jesus in Holy Communion. Then she went to heaven. Alexander was sent to prison. For eight years he refused to repent of his horrible crime. Then one night he had a dream or a vision of Maria offering him flowers. From that moment on, he was a changed man. When he was freed from prison after twenty years, his first visit was to the Goretti home. He asked Maria’s mother for forgiveness. Then Alexander spent the rest of his life as the gardener in a nearby monastery. Maria was declared blessed by Pope Pius XII on April 27, 1947. The pope appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s with Maria’s eighty-two-year-old mother, Assunta. Three years later, on July 25, 1950, the same pope declared Maria a saint. He called her “a martyr of holy purity.”
We can help ourselves live our Christian values if we participate in the Mass and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. We can also choose good movies, videos, books, and magazines. When we feel weak, we can ask St. Maria Goretti to help us be the kind of Christian she was.
Blessed Roger Dickenson, Blessed Ralph Milner, and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey
These three martyrs lived in England during the persecution of the Catholic Church by Queen Elizabeth I. Ralph Milner was a husband and father. He worked as a farm laborer and was brought into the Church through the good example of his neighbors. The day he made his First Communion he was put into prison for being a Catholic. The jailer liked Mr. Milner so his prison confinement was not strict at first. For several years, he went on “parole” to find supplies of food and whatever the other prisoners needed. While on parole, he was of great help to Father Stanney, a Jesuit, and “Mr.” Roger Dickenson, an undercover diocesan priest. The day came when Father Dickenson, too, was caught. He and Mr. Milner were brought to trial together. Father Dickenson was tried for the crime of being a Catholic priest. Mr. Milner was tried for helping Father Dickenson perform his ministry. The judge looked at the crowd in the courtroom. He thought of Mrs. Milner and the couple’s eight children. He wanted to free Milner at all costs. ”All you have to do,” he said, ”is visit a Protestant church, just for a few minutes, to say you have been there. I’ll let you go free to be with your family.” Mr. Milner quietly and firmly refused. He and Father Dickenson went bravely to their deaths. It was July 7, 1591. The third martyr, Lawrence Humphrey, had been brought into the Church by Father Stanney. He would not give up the faith he had so recently acquired. Lawrence was just twenty-one years old when he was martyred.
Every martyr reminds us that a treasure is worth defending. The martyrs recognized the value of their Catholic faith. They would not give it up for any reason. We can pray to Blessed Roger, Blessed Ralph, and Blessed Lawrence. They’ll lead us to love and cherish our beliefs as they did.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio Frassati was born on April 6, 1901, in Turin, Italy. His father, Alfredo, was the founder and director of an Italian newspaper and a politician. His mother, Adelaide, was a painter. Mr. and Mrs. Frassati were not exactly ideal parents. Alfredo antagonized his children, and Adelaide was high-strung and critical. They attended Mass because it was an obligation. From his early childhood, Pier Giorgio was sensitive to the needs of others. One day a poor woman knocked at the door of the Frassati home. She held in her arms a child who had no shoes. Without a moment’s hesitation, four-year-old Pier Giorgio took off his shoes and socks and gave them to the child. Pier Giorgio was more deeply religious than his parents. At the age of fourteen, he began attending Mass and receiving Communion almost every day. Pier Giorgio joined the Dominican Third Order, attracted by the Dominican spirituality combining contemplation and active ministry. Pier Giorgio’s ministry was to the poor. He went into the squalid homes of the poor or to the bedside of the sick, always remembering that it was Christ he was visiting. Even though his family was well off, he went without certain things in order to be able to give to the poor from his own allowance. He did not want to take advantage of his family’s wealth. Pier Giorgio’s friends knew him as a lively prankster who enjoyed mountain climbing and skiing. He was also a social justice activist, taking part in religious demonstrations against Fascism. He ended up in jail after one of these marches, and spent the time calmly praying his Rosary and encouraging his friends. In 1925, he contracted polio from one of his patients. By June, he was severely ill, but kept his sufferings secret because his grandmother was dying in the Frassati home at the time. He claimed to have the flu and his family gave him little thought. By the time his grandmother died, no one knew that Pier Giorgio was close to death. His mother, who stayed home with him instead of attending the funeral, criticized him for coming down with the flu at such an inconvenient time. But soon she realized that her son was very ill—and not with the flu. Pier Giorgio would die three days later. His last hours were spent in quiet prayer and in giving last minute instructions for helping the poor, who were always on his mind. Then, early in the morning of July 4, 1925, he died quietly after receiving the Sacrament of Anointing. He was twenty-four. Soon after his death, the Frassati family was astounded when crowds of people came to the church for his funeral. They were the many poor people that Pier Giorgio had helped in his short life. They came to pay their last respects to this remarkable young man. Pier Giorgio was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990.
Blessed Pier Giorgio put Christ first in his life. Instead of feeling sorry for himself when his family did not understand him, he focused his attention on those less fortunate than he was. Because of this, he’s a witness to true Gospel joy. We can ask him to help us give joyously to others, too.
St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions
On this day, the Church celebrates the many people throughout Chinese history who have been heroic examples of Christian faith. St. Augustine Zhao Rong is one of the 122 Catholics who died for their faith as martyrs between 1648 and 1930. In 1815, a bishop named John Gabriel Dufresse was arrested. It was against the law to practice Christianity. One of the Chinese soldiers who was guarding him was deeply impressed by the bishop’s calmness and patience under persecution. After Bishop Dufresse was put to death, the soldier asked to become a member of the Catholic Church. He was baptized, taking the name Augustine. Augustine then entered the seminary and studied to become a priest. Soon after he was ordained, he was arrested for being a Christian. He was tortured in an attempt to try to make him give up his faith in Christ. But his sufferings only made him stronger and surer of his beliefs. He was put to death, and his name was added to the list of brave Chinese men, women, and children who sacrificed their lives in testimony to their faith. This list of heroes includes seventy-six lay people, some of them children as young as seven years old, eight seminarians, twenty-four priests, and six bishops. Of these people, eighty-eight were Chinese and thirty-four were missionaries from other countries, who had made China their home.
Let us follow the example of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companion martyrs of China. Like them, we can live our faith joyfully. We can be courageous in standing up for what’s right, even when it’s not the popular thing to do.
St. Veronica Giuliani
Ursula Giuliani was born in Italy in 1660. From a very young age, she was drawn to live a holy life. Even though her father wanted her to be married, at the age of seventeen she joined a community of Capuchin nuns. She took the name Veronica. When she was thirty-seven, Sister Veronica began to experience in her own body the sufferings that Christ had endured during his passion and death. She received the stigmata, the wounds of the nail marks in her hands and feet. The bishop, after investigating these wounds, declared that they were a supernatural gift from God. Sister Veronica devoted herself to a life of contemplative prayer combined with great activity. As novice mistress, she guided the young sisters in her community for thirty-four years. Her sisters elected her their abbess, and she held that office for the last eleven years of her life. Toward the end of her life, Veronica’s confessor gave her the task of writing down her spiritual experiences. Veronica Giuliani died on July 9, 1727. She was canonized in 1839, and is considered one of the greatest mystics of the eighteenth century.
St. Veronica Giuliani was very devoted to the sufferings of Christ. A good way to practice this devotion is to read about the passion and death of Jesus in the Gospels. This will inspire us to live a holier life and to love God and our neighbor more selflessly.
St. Benedict
St. Benedict was born in Nursia, Italy, in 480. He was from a rich Italian family. His life was full of adventure and wonderful deeds. As a boy, he went to Rome to study in the public schools. When he was a young man, he became disgusted with the corrupt lifestyle of pagan Rome. Benedict left the city and went looking for a place where he could be alone with God. He found the right spot. It was a cave in the mountain of Subiaco. A monk named Romanus taught Benedict about the life of a hermit and gave him a habit. He also brought Benedict some of his own food each day. Benedict spent three years there alone. The devil often tempted him to go back to his rich home and easy life. However, Benedict overcame these temptations by prayer and penance. One day, the devil kept making him think of a beautiful woman he had once seen in Rome. The devil tried to make him go back to look for her. Benedict almost gave in to the temptation. But instead, he devoted himself even more to prayer and penance. From then on, his life was calm. He did not feel powerful temptations like that again. After three years, people learned that Benedict was living in the mountain cave and started coming to him. They wanted to learn how to become holy. Some monks, whose abbot had died, asked him to be their new spiritual leader. But when he tried to make them do penance, they grew angry. It is said that they even tried to poison Benedict. He made the Sign of the Cross over the poisoned wine and the glass shattered to pieces. Benedict left those monks and returned to his cave. From there he started twelve monasteries. Then he went to Monte Cassino where he built his best-known monastery. It was here that Benedict wrote the wonderful Rule for the Benedictine Order. He taught his monks to pray and work hard. He taught them especially to be humble always. Benedict and his monks greatly helped the people of their times. They taught them how to read and write, how to farm, and how to work at different trades. St. Benedict was able to do good because he prayed all the time. He died on March 21, 547. In 1966, Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron of Europe.
St. Benedict reminds us that there’s a deep need in us to spend some time with God. But we don’t have to go to a mountain cave. We can stop in at church and make a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We can also have a prayer corner in our room. We’ll grow close to God through our daily conversations with Jesus.
St. John Gaulbert
St. John was born in Florence, Italy, at the end of the tenth century. He and his father were devastated when John’s only brother, Hugh, was murdered. The man who did it was supposed to have been Hugh’s friend. Urged on by his father and by his own anger, John began looking for a way to avenge his brother’s death. He felt that his personal honor depended on it. One Good Friday, he came face to face with the murderer in a narrow city passageway. John drew his sword and started toward the man. Hugh’s killer fell to his knees. He crossed his arms on his chest and begged forgiveness for love of Jesus who died on the cross. With a tremendous effort, John dropped his sword! He embraced his enemy and moved on down the road. When he came to a monastery church, he went in and knelt before the crucifix. He asked forgiveness for his sins. Then a miracle happened! Christ, on the cross, bowed his head. It was as if to tell John that he was pleased with him for forgiving his enemy. John felt that his own sins were forgiven. Such a change came over him that he went straight to the abbot of that monastery. He asked if he could join the monks. When John’s father heard about it, he said he would burn the whole monastery if his son did not come out. The monks did not know what to do. John solved the problem by cutting off his hair and borrowing a habit from one of the monks. His father was so impressed with his commitment that he let him remain. St. John later went off to live a stricter life. He started his own community of monks. John became a model for imitating the simple lifestyle of Jesus. He also took wonderful care of all the poor people who came to the monastery gate. God granted him power to work miracles and to give wise guidance. Even Pope St. Leo IX went to St. John to seek his advice. St. John died on July 12, 1073. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Celestine III in 1193.
Even the greatest sins can be forgiven by God. If we forgive those who wrong us, God will also forgive our sins. We can ask St. John Gaulbert to help us have forgiving hearts like his.
St. Henry II
Henry was born in 972. He became the duke of Bavaria in 995. One night he had an unusual vision. St. Wolfgang, who had been his beloved teacher when he was a boy, appeared to him. Wolfgang pointed to the words, “after six,” written on the wall. What could that mean? Perhaps Henry was to die in six days? With that thought, he prayed with great fervor for six days. At the end of the six days, however, he was in perfect health. Perhaps it meant six months? The duke devoted himself to doing good more than ever. At the end of six months, he was healthier than before. So he decided he had six years to get ready for death. But instead of dying after that time had passed, he was elected emperor of Germany. Then he understood what the vision had meant. Henry worked hard to keep his people happy and his country united. To defend justice he fought many wars. He was honest in battle and insisted that his armies be honorable, too. Henry married a very gentle and loving woman named Cunegund around 998. She, too, has been proclaimed a saint. Henry and Cunegund went to Rome in 1014. They were crowned emperor and empress of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a great honor because Pope Benedict VIII himself crowned them. Emperor Henry was one of the best rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. He promoted Church reform. He encouraged the growth of new monasteries and built beautiful churches. He showed his own love for Jesus and the Church with sincerity. He was a man of prayer and was greatly attracted to religious life, but he accepted his role as husband and ruler and fulfilled his responsibilities generously. Henry was just fifty-two when he died in 1024. He was proclaimed a saint by Blessed Eugene III in 1146. Pope St. Pius X named Emperor Henry the patron of Benedictine Oblates.
God calls people of all walks of life and occupations to lives of holiness. No one should think they’re too busy or too important to put God first in their lives. In fact, when God comes first, everything else falls into place. God must be our top priority.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Between the years 1642 and 1649, St. Isaac Jogues and his companions came from France to preach the Gospel in the New World. They were killed by Mohawks while evangelizing the Huron Indians. Ten years after the death of St. Isaac Jogues, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village where he had died. (We celebrate the feast of St. Isaac and the North American Martyrs on October 19.) Tekakwitha was born in Auriesville, New York, in 1656. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin Native American. Her father was a non-Christian Mohawk chief. Tekakwitha’s parents and brother died of smallpox when she was four. The same disease left Tekakwitha with impaired vision and a disfigured face. Her uncle, a Mohawk chief, raised her. This is how Tekakwitha met the missionaries. On one occasion, her uncle had three Jesuit missionaries as his guests. Tekakwitha began to receive instructions in the faith. She was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1676. That is when she took the name Kateri, which means Katherine. The village in which she lived was not Christian. In fact, there were no other Christians in her lodge. The Indians did not appreciate her choice to remain unmarried. They insulted her and some resented that she did not work on Sundays. But Kateri held her ground. She prayed her Rosary every day, even when others made fun of her. She practiced patience and suffered quietly. Kateri’s life grew harder because of the villagers’ persecution. She fled to a Christian village near Montreal. There, on Christmas Day, 1677, she received her First Communion. It was a wonderful day. Father Pierre Cholonec, a Jesuit, guided her spiritual life for the next three years. She and an older Iroquois woman named Anastasia lived as joyful, generous Christians. Kateri made a private vow of virginity on March 25, 1679. She was just twenty-four when she died on April 17,1680. Three hundred years later, on June 22, 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”
Blessed Kateri received the gift of belief in Jesus because of the sacrifices of the missionaries. We can thank Jesus for those who brought the Catholic religion into our lives, too. Who are they? Our parents? Grandparents? Other relatives? Parish priest? Religion teacher? We can ask Blessed Kateri to teach us how to be grateful by sharing our faith with others.
St. Bonaventure
Bonaventure was born in 1221 in Tuscany, Italy, and was baptized John. Bonaventure joined the Franciscan Order, which was still new. In fact, St. Francis of Assisi, who started the Franciscans, was still alive when Bonaventure was born. As a young Franciscan, Bonaventure left his own country to study at the University of Paris in France. He became a wonderful writer about the things of God. He loved God so much that people began to call him the “Seraphic Doctor.” Seraphic means angelic. One of Bonaventure’s famous friends was St. Thomas Aquinas. His feast day is January 28. Thomas asked Bonaventure where he got the ideas for all the beautiful things he wrote. St. Bonaventure took his friend and led him to his desk. He pointed to the large crucifix that always stood on his desk. ”It is he who tells me everything. He is my only Teacher.” Another time, when he was writing the life of St. Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure was so full of fervor that St. Thomas exclaimed: “Let us leave a saint to write about a saint.” Bonaventure always kept himself humble even though his books made him famous. In 1265, Pope Clement IV wanted Bonaventure to become an archbishop. He begged the pope to accept his refusal. The pope respected his decision. However, Bonaventure did agree to be minister general of his Order. He fulfilled this difficult task for seventeen years. In 1273, Blessed Pope Gregory X made Bonaventure a cardinal. The pope sent two papal messengers, who found Bonaventure working at the large washtubs. He was taking his turn scrubbing the pots and pans. The papal messengers waited patiently until Bonaventure finished the last pot. He rinsed and dried his hands. Then they solemnly presented him the large red hat that symbolized his new office. Cardinal Bonaventure was a great help to this pope, who called the Council of Lyons in 1274. Thomas Aquinas died on his way to the Council, but Bonaventure made it. He was very influential at the assembly. Yet he, too, died rather suddenly on July 14, 1274, at the age of fifty-three. The pope was at his bedside when he died. Bonaventure was proclaimed a saint in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V declared him a Doctor of the Church.
We, too, should have crucifixes in our homes. Then we can turn often to Jesus for help and strength as St. Bonaventure did. Images of Christ, his mother, Mary, and the saints are good reminders for us to live as they did.
St. Leo IV
St. Leo lived in the ninth century. He was Roman by birth and spent his life in that city. Leo was educated in the Benedictine monastery near St. Peter’s Basilica. He was ordained a priest and performed his ministry at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Leo was well known and admired by two popes: Gregory IV, who made him a subdeacon, and Sergius II, who named him a cardinal. The death of Pope Sergius II was to have an immediate effect on Leo. Rumors of a barbarian invasion of Saracens had Romans terrified. They did not want to be left without a pope. Neither did the cardinals. They quickly elected the successor to Sergius II. He is known to history as Pope Leo IV. As pope, Leo had the city walls repaired. The walls had been damaged the previous year by another Saracen attack. He restored churches and brought many relics to Rome. He started a renewal program for the clergy. In fact, in 853, he called a synod for all Roman priests. He passed forty-two rules that helped priests live more fervent, prayerful, and joy-filled lives. A few bishops caused Leo great suffering, because of the way they lived. They defied the pope openly and would not change their ways. No matter how much Pope Leo was insulted, he remained just, patient, and humble. He never let his troubles get the best of him. Leo kept giving his time and energy for Jesus and his Church. He loved the beautiful prayers of the liturgy and encouraged liturgical chant and music. People loved St. Leo. Even during his lifetime, he was considered a miracle worker. It is said that he put out a terrible fire in Rome by making the Sign of the Cross. Pope Leo IV continued serving the Church with cheerfulness right up to the end of his life. He died on July 17, 855.
Pope St. Leo IV lived during frightening times. He had many troubles and challenges, but he always kept calm and joyful. When we get upset, we can ask St. Leo IV to help us find peace and calm by trusting in God.
St. Camillus de Lellis
Camillus de Lellis was born in Naples, Italy, in 1550. He did not start out his life as a saint. As a young man, he enlisted in the army and developed a gambling problem, which left him penniless by the age of twenty-four. Wanting to change his life, he entered the Capuchin Order in Naples. But he was unable to make his profession in the Order because his leg, injured in battle when he was a soldier, had become incurably diseased. Instead, he began to take care of the sick in Rome and became the director of the hospital of St. James. Camillus’ spiritual director, St. Philip Neri, whose feast day is May 26, was a very holy priest of Rome. Fr. Philip helped Camillus to become a priest. Once he was ordained, Fr. Camillus decided to begin a religious group devoted to caring for the sick. With two companions, he started the Order of the Ministers of the Sick, who are also called the Camellians. They worked in hospitals in Rome and Naples and helped plague victims on board ships in the harbors of Rome. Camillus and his priests and brothers went to poor, sick people who had no one else to care for them. They risked their own lives to bring comfort and hope to people suffering from contagious diseases. In time, the Order grew and had more members. Camillus was able to send assistance to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia. This was the first medical unit on a battlefield. Camillus de Lellis died in Rome on July 14, 1614, after a long illness. He was canonized in 1746. Pope Leo XIII named him patron saint of the sick. Pope Pius XI made him the patron of nurses.
St. Camillus de Lellis wanted to serve God, but his first idea did not work out. Instead of giving up all together, he was open to trying something dif- ferent. Because he let himself be led by the will of God, he was able to fulfill his dream of being a priest. We may not know exactly what God’s will for us is, but if we remain open to loving God and serving him in others, God will work out his special plan in our lives.
Blessed Peter ToRot
Peter ToRot was born in 1912 on an island of Papua New Guinea. His father, the village chief, had invited Catholic missionaries to teach his people. Peter’s father and mother were fervent Catholics, helping the poor and orphans, often in their own home. As a teenager, Peter was drawn to prayer and the Eucharist. The parish priest and Peter’s father recognized Peter’s faith and abilities. They encouraged Peter to become a catechist. Most of the evangelization in New Guinea was carried out by catechists. Their role was to give instructions to those preparing for Baptism, hold prayer services, and take care of the sick and those in need. Peter was assigned to work in his own village. He organized prayer groups and classes for instruction in the faith. He knew the Bible well, always carried it with him, and relied on it heavily in his teaching. His gentleness and genuine concern for everyone in his tribe drew people to him. They could tell that he practiced what he preached. On November 11, 1936, Peter married Paula LaVarpit, a young Catholic woman from a nearby village. They had three children. Peter was a kind and loving husband and father. Every day he and his family would gather together and pray. In March of 1942, during World War II, the Japanese occupied the little island. After a time of religious tolerance, the Japanese began to restrict missionary activity. Soon, all missionaries, Catholic and Methodist, were confined. When the priest in Peter’s village was forced to leave, he shook Peter’s hand and said, ”I am leaving my work in your hands. Take care of these people. Don’t let them forget about God.” Peter did just that. He and the other catechists helped to keep the Catholic faith alive. Peter learned some Japanese and was able to get along well with the Japanese Naval Authorities. But then the Military Police took over. They thought the Christians were praying for a Japanese defeat. Christian worship was forbidden, and a decree was issued that the people should go back to the ancient practice of a man having more than one wife. Peter publicly protested this. Peter continued holding his prayer meetings, but in smaller, less noticeable groups. He encouraged his parish community to keep praying and to have faith. That was his work as a catechist. Peter was arrested when the Japanese Military Police found out he was organizing prayer groups. His family came to the prison every day to bring him food. Methodist and Catholic chiefs of different tribes tried to have Peter released, but could not. Peter told them, ”Don’t worry. I’m a catechist. If I die, I die for the faith.” In July, 1945, Peter was given a lethal injection by a Japanese doctor. A fellow prisoner watching from a distance reported Peter ToRot’s death to the other prisoners. His family was called to take his body home to bury it. The crowd that gathered for the simple funeral proclaimed Peter a martyr for the faith. After an investigation, the Church agreed. Pope John Paul II proclaimed him blessed on January 17, 1995.
Blessed Peter ToRot considered himself a simple catechist, just doing his duty. But he was faithful to his duty in very difficult circumstances. His faith was clear and decisive, and he bravely stood up to defend it. He was a model of faithfulness for the people he catechized. He’s also a model for us.
St. Apollinarius
This saint lived in the first century. Much of what we know about him comes from early reports by people such as St. Bede and a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus. Apollinarius was born in Antioch. He became a disciple of St. Peter, who made him a bishop and sent him as a missionary to Ravenna, Italy. There he drew many people to accept Christianity by the example of his holy life and by his preaching. He had the power to heal the sick in the name of Christ. Apollinarius was bishop during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. Because of persecutions of the Christians, he was forced into exile four times. It is not certain if he was actually put to death for the faith, but he was imprisoned and tortured on different occasions during his twenty years as bishop of Ravenna. He is considered a martyr because of the persecutions he endured for Christ, even though he survived them.
A martyr is a witness to Christ and to the Gospel. We’re all called to be an example for others by the way we live our faith. The life of St. Apollinarius shows us that the martyrs not only witnessed to Christ because they died, but because they remained faithful to the Gospel during their lifetime, even in the face of opposition.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi
Caesar Rossi was born in Brindisi, Italy, in 1559. Brindisi was part of the Kingdom of Naples. Caesar took the name Lawrence when he became a Capuchin Franciscan at the age of sixteen. He was sent to the University of Padua to study theology, philosophy, and Scripture. Lawrence also studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, and Syriac. After he was ordained a priest, he became a popular preacher. Because he could speak many languages, he was able to reach out to many different people. Later, St. Lawrence was sent to establish his Order in Austria. The emperor, Rudolph II, did not want them to come, but Lawrence’s tender care for victims of a plague won Emperor Rudolph to his cause. Next, the emperor asked Lawrence to persuade the German princes to fight the Turks, who were trying to conquer Hungary. Lawrence did convince the princes. However, the leaders insisted that he go with the army into battle to make the victory certain. When the soldiers saw how large the Turkish army was, they wanted to quit. So St. Lawrence himself rode in the lead. He was armed only with a crucifix. The German soldiers took heart and fought bravely. The Turks were completely defeated. St. Lawrence received the praise, but he never took pride in his success. He put his trust in God and gave him the glory. In 1602, St. Lawrence became the vicar general of his Order. He worked, preached, and wrote to spread the Good News. He went on important peace missions to Munich, Germany, and Madrid, Spain. The rulers of those places listened to him and the missions were successful. But St. Lawrence was very sick. He had suffered exhaustion by traveling in the unbearable summer heat. He died on his birthday, July 22, in 1619. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. He was honored as a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.
Prayer is the secret of success in life. We can ask St. Lawrence of Brindisi to help us set aside time each day for conversation with God.
St. Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was from Magdala near the Sea of Galilee. She had been possessed by seven devils until Jesus cast them out of her. After that she became his follower and was one of the holy women who helped Jesus and the apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of his cross. She stayed with the Blessed Mother and St. John, unafraid for her own safety. All she could think about was that her Lord was suffering. After Jesus’ body had been buried, Mary went to the tomb early Easter Sunday morning. She was shocked when she saw that the large stone was rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran to tell Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord, but I don’t know where!” Peter and John ran to the tomb and found everything just as Mary had said. Mary stayed at the tomb after Peter and John went back home. She began to weep. Suddenly she saw someone she thought was the gardener. She asked him if he knew where the body of her beloved Master had been taken. Then the man spoke in a voice she knew so well: ”Mary!” It was Jesus, standing right there in front of her! He was risen from the dead! Mary fell at his feet and cried, ”Teacher!” The Gospels show Mary as being sent by the Lord himself to announce the Good News of the resurrection to Peter and the apostles. In the early centuries of the Church, Mary Magdalene’s feast was celebrated with the Mass of an apostle.
St. Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord and the first to bring the Good News of the resurrection to the disciples. She can help us to proclaim the same Good News by living lives of faith and joy.
St. Bridget of Sweden
Bridget was born in Sweden in 1303. From the time she was a child, she was greatly devoted to the sufferings of Jesus. When she was only ten, she seemed to see Jesus on the cross and hear him say, “Look at me, my daughter.” ”Who has treated you like this?” cried little Bridget. ”They who despise me and refuse my love for them,” answered Jesus. From then on, Bridget tried to stop people from offending Jesus. When she was fourteen, she married eighteen-year-old Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God, and they both joined the Franciscan Third Order. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Catherine of Sweden. Bridget and Ulf served the Swedish court. Bridget was the queen’s lady-in-waiting. Bridget tried to help King Magnus and Queen Blanche lead better lives. For the most part, they did not listen to her. All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them. After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes. She lived as a poor nun. Later, she started the Order of the Most Holy Savior, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere. And through all this activity, Jesus continued to reveal many secrets to her. These she received without the least bit of pride. Shortly before she died, the saint went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in that place. All St. Bridget’s revelations on the sufferings of Jesus were published after her death. St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX in 1391.
St. Bridget of Sweden had a deep appreciation for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We can ask her to help us be sensitive and grateful followers of Jesus.
St. Sharbel Makhlouf
Joseph Makhlouf was born in Lebanon in 1828. He was from a poor family, and his father died when Joseph was very young. Joseph and his brothers and sisters were raised by their mother and an uncle. Their upbringing was very devout, and they learned to understand and love their faith. Joseph was an altar server, and he sang in the church choir. Joseph’s job was to take care of the sheep, and he spent his time alone in prayer and meditation. Two of Joseph’s other uncles were monks, and he liked to visit them in order to imitate their way of life. When he was twenty-three, he entered a monastery himself, taking the name Sharbel (or Charbel). As a monk, he studied theology and philosophy. He was ordained a priest, and lived a life of prayer, penance, and hard work. This was just what he wanted, and he was very happy. In 1866, Sharbel moved to a small hermitage in order to live a life of even greater solitude. He felt God was calling him closer by this type of life. He lived in his little room for twenty-three years, devoting most of his time to prayer, especially the Mass. Even though he hid himself away, many people were led to him to ask for spiritual advice and prayers. In 1898, Sharbel had a stroke while he was celebrating Mass. He was brought back to his room without being able to finish the Mass. He died eight days later, on Christmas Eve. His grave became a place of pilgrimage, and in 1950 there were about 15,000 people coming to the spot every day! Sharbel was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
When we pray, we are doing something very important and very useful, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. When we see difficulties and problems that we don’t know how to change, let’s follow the example of St. Sharbel and use the powerful means of prayer that each of us has at our disposal.
St. James the Greater
James was a fisherman like his father Zebedee and his brother John. He was on his father’s boat mending his nets when the Lord passed by. Jesus called James and John to become fishers of people, to join him in spreading the Good News. Zebedee watched as his two sons left the boat to follow Jesus. With St. Peter and St. John, James was a special companion of Jesus. With them James was permitted to witness what the other apostles did not see. With them he watched as Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus to life. With them he was taken up the mountain to see Jesus shining like the sun, with his robes as white as snow. This event is called Jesus’ Transfiguration. On Holy Thursday, the night before he died, Jesus led the apostles into the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew’s Gospel tells us he invited Peter, James, and John to accompany him to a secluded area to pray. They watched as the Master’s face became saddened with grief. It was a very difficult time for the Lord, but the apostles were exhausted. They fell asleep. Then St. James ran in fear when the enemies of Jesus took him away. James was not near the foot of the cross on Good Friday. But the Lord met up with him on Easter Sunday evening in the upper room. The resurrected Jesus came through the locked door and said, ”Peace be to you.” St. James and the other apostles would find that peace after the Holy Spirit’s coming on Pentecost. St. James began his ministry as an impulsive, outspoken man. He asked Jesus bluntly for a seat of honor in his kingdom. He demanded that Jesus send fire down on the villages that did not receive the Lord. But he had great faith in Jesus. Eventually, James learned to become humble and gentle. And he did become “first” in a way he could never have imagined. He was given the honor of being the first apostle to die for Jesus. Chapter 12 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that King Herod Agrippa had St. James put to death by the sword. As a martyr James gave the greatest witness of all.
We can ask St. James for the humility and honesty to recognize our weaknesses. He’ll help us to learn from Jesus what we need to change about ourselves in order to improve.
St. Joachim and St. Anne
St. Anne and St. Joachim are honored as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They spent their lives worshiping God and doing good. They had one great sorrow, however: for decades they had not been blessed with children. For years and years Anne had begged the Lord to give her a child. She promised to consecrate the baby to him. When she was already old, God answered her prayer in a far better way than she could ever have dreamed. The child born to St. Joachim and St. Anne was the Immaculate Virgin Mary. This holiest of all women was to become the Mother of God. Anne took tender care of little Mary for a few years. Then she gave her to the service of God, as she had promised she would. Mary went to live in the holy Temple of Jerusalem. St. Joachim and St. Anne continued their lives of prayer until God called them home to heaven. Christians have always been especially devoted to St. Anne. Many beautiful churches have been built in her honor. Perhaps one of the most famous is the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Canada. Great crowds go there all year around to ask St. Anne’s help in their sufferings.
St. Anne and St. Joachim were the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. We can ask them to bring us closer to Jesus and Mary.
Blessed Titus Brandsma
Anno was born into a poor peasant family in the Netherlands in 1881. He entered the Carmelite Order when he was seventeen, taking the name Titus. As a novice, he published a Dutch translation of St. Teresa of Avila’s writings. He also created a magazine for his Carmelite Order that eventually was made available to all Dutch Catholics. Titus was ordained to the priesthood when he was twenty-four. After studying in Rome, he returned to the Netherlands and continued his work of translating the writings of St. Teresa. He began a new magazine of Carmelite spirituality and even helped to edit the local newspaper. He taught philosophy from 1923 to 1942. During this time he became well known as a journalist. He was very outspoken against the Nazi party, attacking their philosophy and their anti-Semitic crimes. He defended the Catholic schools and would not allow Jewish students to be excluded from them after the Nazis occupied Holland. Using his reputation as a journalist, he convinced Catholic newspaper editors not to publish Nazi propaganda. The Gestapo arrested Titus on January 19, 1942. While in prison, he wrote poetry and meditations on the Stations of the Cross. In June, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany. He was put to death by lethal injection on July 26, 1942. Pope John Paul II declared Titus Brandsma blessed in 1985.
Jesus calls us to love everyone—people of all nations, races, and religions. Since God is Father of all, we should think of everyone as a brother or sister. As Christians, we must do what we can to make sure others are being treated fairly.
Blessed Mary Magdalen Martinengo
Mary Magdalen Martinengo was born in Brescia, Italy, in 1687. Her mother died shortly after she was born. As a child, she was influenced by the lives of the saints and tried to imitate them in prayer and by practicing penances. At the age of eighteen, she joined the community of Capuchin nuns in her hometown. She lived a life of prayer and penance and received special gifts from God, including the gift of being able to perform miracles. Sister Mary was especially devoted to Jesus on the cross and would meditate often on each of the particular sufferings that Jesus endured for the salvation of sinners. Many people came to her for advice, and she was able to give them encouragement and to help them see what they needed to do to straighten out their lives. At times, she was even able to read their thoughts and foretell future events. Sister Mary Magdalen Martinengo served her community as novice mistress and portress, and she was elected prioress twice. She was wise, generous, and capable in everything she was asked to do. She died in 1737, at the age of fifty, and was declared blessed in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.
We can imitate Jesus Crucified by doing well whatever we’re asked to do, especially if it’s something we’d rather not do! Instead of complaining about doing chores and schoolwork, we can see them as penances that will help us become more and more like Our Lord.
St. Martha
Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus. They lived in the little town of Bethany near Jerusalem. They were dear friends of Jesus, and he often came to visit them. In fact, the Gospel tells us: ”Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary and Lazarus.” It was St. Martha who lovingly served the Lord when he visited them. One day, she was preparing a meal for Jesus and his disciples. She realized that the task would be easier if her sister would help. She watched Mary sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. “Lord, tell my sister to help me,” Martha suggested. Jesus was very pleased with Martha’s loving service. However, he wanted her to know that listening to God’s Word and praying is even more important. So he said gently, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part.” St. Martha’s great faith in Jesus was seen when her brother Lazarus died. As soon as she heard that Jesus was coming to Bethany, Martha went to meet him. She trusted Jesus and felt the freedom to say: ”Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise. He said, “He who believes in me, even if he die, shall live. Do you believe this?” And Martha answered, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.” Jesus worked a great miracle and raised Lazarus from the dead! Later, Jesus came again to have supper with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. St. Martha served them at table as usual. This time, though, Martha had a much more loving attitude. She served with a joyful heart.
St. Martha is an example of hospitality. When we welcome and serve others, Jesus considers it as done to himself. St. Martha is also a model of faith and trust. She was a close friend of Jesus and knew she could believe his every word. She’ll help us to develop a close relationship with the Lord as well.
St. Peter Chrysologus
Peter was born in the small town of Imola, Italy. He lived in the fifth century. Bishop Cornelius of Imola educated him and ordained him a deacon. Even as a boy, Peter understood that a person is truly great only if he can control his passions and put on the spirit of Christ. When the archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, died, Peter was appointed by Pope Sixtus III to succeed him. This was around 433. As a priest and bishop, St. Peter was effective. He worked hard to wipe out the paganism still practiced in his diocese. He helped his people grow in faith. It was as a preacher that St. Peter became famous. Indeed, ”Chrysologus” means “golden word.” Yet his sermons or homilies were all short and simple. But St. Peter’s message was more valuable than gold. He preached with such enthusiasm and fire that people listened to him breathlessly. In his sermons, St. Peter urged everyone to receive Jesus often in Holy Communion. He wanted people to realize that the Body of the Lord should be the daily food for their souls. This good archbishop also worked for the unity of all the members of the Catholic Church. He tried to prevent people from getting confused about what Catholics believe. He also tried to keep peace. St. Peter Chrysologus died in 450, in his hometown of Imola. For his wonderful sermons, so rich in teaching, Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter to be a Doctor of the Church in 1729. About 180 of these sermons still exist.
St. Peter Chrysologus preached a simple message that was easy to understand. We can be like him by putting the Gospel into practice with little acts of kindness. This is a message that everyone can understand and appreciate.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
This famous founder of the Jesuits was born in 1491. He was from a Spanish noble family. As a boy, he was sent to be a page at the royal court. There he lived on the desire to someday become a great soldier and marry a beautiful lady. Later, he did indeed win honor for his courage in the battle of Pamplona. However, a wound from a cannon ball forced him to spend months in bed at Loyola Castle. Ignatius asked for some books to read. He preferred stories of knights, but only biographies of Jesus and the saints were available. Having nothing else to do, he read them. Gradually, the books began to make an impression on him. His life began to change. He said to himself: “These were men and women like me, so why can’t I do what they have done?” All the glory he had wanted before seemed worthless now. He began to imitate the saints in their prayers, penances, and good works. When he recovered, he made a pilgrimage to Monserrat. He left his sword there at the altar and gave his rich clothes to a poor beggar. He went on to Manressa where he spent 1522 and 1523 in a prayerful retreat. In the hopes of becoming a priest, Ignatius began his education by studying grammar in Barcelona. The rest of the students were much younger than Ignatius, who was thirty-three. Yet Ignatius went to the class because he knew he would need this knowledge to help him in his ministry. With patience and even a laugh now and then, he took the boys’ jeers and taunts. During this time, he tried to teach and encourage people to pray. For this he was suspected of heresy and put in jail for a while! But that was not going to stop Ignatius. ”The whole city does not contain as many chains as I desire to wear for love of Jesus,” he said. He was found innocent and released. He went on to Paris to perfect his Latin and study philosophy. Ignatius was forty-three when he graduated from the University of Paris. With six other students, he professed religious vows in 1534. Ignatius and those of his companions who were not yet priests were ordained in 1539. They promised to work for God in whatever way the Holy Father thought best. In 1540, their Order was officially recognized by the pope. Before Ignatius died, there were 1,000 members of the Society of Jesus or “Jesuits.” They were doing much good work teaching and preaching. Ignatius often prayed, ”Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.” St. Ignatius died in Rome, on July 31, 1556. Pope Gregory XV proclaimed him a saint in 1622.
St. Ignatius read biographies of Jesus and the saints. These books gave him a deeper awareness of Jesus, Mary, and the Church. We, too, can choose to read books of lives of saints for the encouragement we need to be generous followers of Jesus.