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October 1
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus
St. Thérèse, often called the Little Flower, was born in Normandy, France, in 1873. She was the youngest of the five daughters born to Louis and Zelie Martin. Thérèse was a very lively, lovable little girl. Her father called her his “little queen.” Yet she could be overly sensitive. In the story she wrote of her life, The Story of a Soul, she tells how the Infant Jesus helped her overcome this weakness. It was Thérèse’s great desire to enter the Carmelite convent where two of her sisters were already nuns. But since she was only fifteen, permission was not granted. Thérèse felt sure that Jesus wanted her to spend her life loving him and only him. She kept praying and asking the prioress to admit her. She even dared, on a trip to Rome, to ask Pope Leo XIII himself to grant her heart’s desire. And finally she was allowed to enter. Although she was only fifteen, Thérèse did not expect to be babied. ”Obedience, prayer, and sacrifice” were her program. She had a thirst to suffer for love of God. Thérèse had the spiritual courage of a real heroine. “May Jesus make me a martyr of the heart or of the body—or better, both!” she wrote. And she meant it. In winter she suffered from the cold and dampness of her plain bedroom. There were other kinds of sufferings, too. Whenever she felt humiliated or misunderstood, she would offer her pain to her beloved Jesus. She would hide her hurts under a smile. She went out of her way to spend time with people who were hard to get along with. She told Jesus to do with her whatever was his will. Sister Thérèse tried hard to be humble. She called her great confidence in God her “little way” to holiness. She always had a burning desire to become a saint. The young nun wanted to find a “short cut,” or an “elevator,” to take her quickly to sanctity. So she looked in the Bible and found the words, ”Whoever is a little one, come to me.” When she lay dying, she could say: ”I have never given the good God anything but love, and it is with love that he will repay. After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” The Little Flower died on September 30, 1897. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
St. Thérèse taught us her “little way.” To follow this way, we can offer our small sacrifices joyfully to Jesus throughout each day. We can go out of our way to be kind to difficult people. If our feelings are hurt, we can offer this to Jesus, instead of holding a grudge.
October 2
Guardian Angels
Today we celebrate God’s messengers who protect each and every one of us. We read about them throughout the Bible. Angels delivered special messages from God, protected people from dangers and rescued them. In chapter 12 of the New Testament Acts of the Apostles, we read how St. Peter was set free from his chains and led out of prison by an angel. The Church has taught for many centuries that human life is under the watchful care of angels from infancy until death. The picture of a guardian angel that we often see is an angel protecting two small children as they cross a small bridge. In reality, angels are spirits and do not have bodies as humans do. That is why we cannot see our guardian angel, who never leaves our side! In 1608, Pope Paul V added today’s feast to the calendar of saints and celebrations. It is very encouraging to know that we each have an angel guarding and protecting us. Our guardian angel is a gift from our loving God.
We can say this brief prayer often throughout the day: Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
October 3
Blessed Bartolo Longo
Bartolo was born on February 11, 1841, in southern Italy. He received a good education from the Piarist Fathers. He later studied law, but the university he attended had little respect for Gospel values or the Church. Bartolo’s faith began to weaken, and in time he became interested in demonic rituals. Fortunately, Bartolo remained friends with a professor who was a devout Catholic and a deeply spiritual man. Together with a Dominican priest, this professor was able to bring Bartolo back to the practice of his Catholic faith. Bartolo earned his law degree and became an attorney in his hometown. He began living a holy life of prayer and good deeds. He was especially devoted to praying the Rosary. Bartolo went to Naples in order to help the poor in the city’s slums. He became tutor to the children of a wealthy widow. He traveled with her when she visited her properties, and he saw firsthand the poverty and ignorance of her tenant laborers. He knew that God was calling him to bring faith and hope to these people. He decided that the best way to present the faith to people who couldn’t read was to teach them to pray the Rosary. By meditating the mysteries of the Rosary, they would learn of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord, and of Mary’s important role in leading Christians to her Son. Soon, people were crowding the little church in Pompeii to pray the Rosary before a picture of Mary, which he had found at a flea market. The church had to be enlarged, and Bartolo began raising funds for a magnificent basilica in honor of Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary. He also began a magazine called The Rosary and the New Pompeii, featuring articles explaining the faith. In order to live out the Gospel message, and not just write about it, Bartolo built an orphanage and a home for children whose parents were in prison. Bartolo was often misunderstood and ridiculed by people who did not agree with him. As he grew older, he suffered from illness. But he never gave up trusting in the power of the Rosary to accomplish all that God asked of him. He spent the last years of his life in continual prayer. On October 5, 1926, this holy layman died at the age of eighty-five, his rosary still in hand. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The Rosary is a simple prayer, yet it brings us into contact with the deepest mysteries of our faith. We should make an effort to pray at least a part of the Rosary each day, so that we will often call to mind the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Rosary is a special homage to Mary, who is our Mother as well as Christ’s.
October 4
St. Francis of Assisi
Francis was born in Assisi, Italy, around 1181. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, he dressed himself in the finest clothes and spent money freely. He was popular and fun-loving, spending his time and money throwing parties for his friends. Seeking adventure and glory, Francis went to war when he was about twenty. He was taken prisoner and became seriously ill. He was freed after a year and returned home. When he recovered from his sickness, he tried again to go into battle, hoping to become a knight. But on the way he heard the Lord telling him to go back to his home in Assisi, where he would learn what he was to do with his life. Back home, Francis realized that he had been wasting precious time. He became aware that he should be serving Jesus. He began by praying more and making sacrifices to grow strong in spirit. He often gave money to the poor, and once he even traded his own clothes for a poor man’s rags so that he could experience the man’s extreme poverty. He took care of the lepers in the nearby hospital. Still, he felt he must do more. It is not hard to imagine how his former rich friends must have looked at him now! His father was ashamed of his son’s strange new ways, and he brought Francis to the bishop of Assisi, hoping the bishop would be able to bring the young man to his senses. Instead, Francis returned to his father everything he had received from him and declared that he was no longer dependent on him. From that moment on, God in heaven became his Father, and Francis placed himself under the protection of the bishop. Francis became a “knight” of the “Lady Poverty,” and he began to live as a beggar. His food was what kind people gave him. Everywhere he went, he urged people to stop sinning and return to God. Soon many people began to realize how close to God this poor man was, and they became his disciples. That is how the great Franciscan family of priests and brothers, sisters, and lay people began. They helped the poor and sick and preached everywhere. Even after the Order had spread all over Italy, Francis insisted that they should not own anything. He wanted the friars to love poverty as he did. St. Francis lived the Gospel as perfectly and as joyfully as he could. He tried to make his life a copy of the life of Jesus. As a reward for his great love, Jesus gave him his own wounds in his hands, feet, and side. This happened in 1224, two years before Francis died. Toward the end of his life, he became very sick. With joy, he welcomed death as a sister. He asked to be laid on the ground and covered with an old habit. Then he urged his brothers to love God, to love being poor, and to live the Gospel. ”I have done my part,” he said. ”May Jesus teach you to do yours.” Francis died on October 3, 1226. He was proclaimed a saint a short time later by Pope Honorius III.
St. Francis’ life of poverty was a sign that it’s not material things that make us satisfied and happy. True joy comes from loving God and patterning our lives on Christ. We can ask St. Francis to show us how to live a life of Gospel simplicity and joy.
October 5
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska
When this saint was born in Poland on August 25, 1905, her parents named her Helen. In her short life on earth, she carried out the important mission of teaching the world about the mercy of Jesus. From the time she was seven years old, Helen knew she wanted to live a life consecrated to God as a sister. When she was twenty-five, she entered the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, taking the name Sister Faustina. Her work was simple. She cooked, tended the convent garden, and answered the door. Her kindness, serenity, and spirit of recollection were remarkable. But few people knew the real depths of her spirituality. God blessed Sister Faustina with many extraordinary gifts, including visions, prophecy, and invisible stigmata. In one of the visions Sister Faustina had, Jesus appeared in a white garment. He raised one hand in blessing and touched his heart with the other. Two rays of light, one red, the other pale, spread out from his heart. The red ray represented the saving blood of Christ; the pale ray stood for the cleansing water of Baptism. Jesus said, “Have an image painted just as you see me, with the words ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’” Jesus told Sister Faustina that the Sunday after Easter was to be the Feast of Divine Mercy. Sister Faustina kept a diary in which she wrote down everything that Jesus wanted the world to know about his mercy. In it, she wrote about prayer as a loving relationship with God. Jesus told her that she was his secretary. It was her special work to encourage people to trust in the limitless mercy of God. Jesus promised forgiveness and abundant graces to anyone who would honor the Feast of Divine Mercy. Devotion to Divine Mercy consists in trusting in God’s goodness, loving one’s neighbor, remaining in the state of grace with the help of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and receiving Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. After only thirteen years of religious life, Sister Faustina died of tuberculosis on October 5, 1938. She was thirty-three years old.
Jesus told St. Maria Faustina, “I expect you to show mercy always and everywhere. You cannot excuse yourself from this.” The best way to show that we trust in the mercy of Jesus is to be merciful and forgiving to the people who hurt us. Are we willing to do this?
October 6
Blessed Marie Rose Durocher
Eulalie Durocher was born in 1811 in Quebec, Canada. She was the tenth of eleven children. When she was eighteen, Eulalie’s mother died, and her brother, who was a priest, invited his younger sister to his parish. She became a lay apostle. She took charge of the household duties for her brother. She also started the first parish sodality in Canada. The thirteen years she was involved in the life of the Church and the parish were preparing her for a special work for God. In 1843, when Eulalie was thirty-two, the bishop of Montreal asked her to begin a very special mission. Eulalie started a new religious congregation of women called the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Their particular work for Jesus would be to educate the poorest and most neglected children. Eulalie became Mother Marie Rose. Others came to join this generous woman. They, too, believed in the importance of educating children for the love of Jesus. Mother Marie Rose lived only six years after her congregation began. However, she helped her sisters from heaven because the community continued to grow and open new convents. They started a mission in the United States, too. They went to Oregon in 1859. Today the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary are spread throughout the world. Mother Marie Rose Durocher was declared a blessed by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.
We can thank Blessed Marie Rose for the sacrifices she made to educate children. When we’re tempted to “take it easy” at school, we can ask her to give us the willpower to try our best. The Church also celebrates the feast of St. Bruno on this date.
October 7
Our Lady of the Rosary
It was St. Dominic who, in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, encouraged everyone to say the Rosary. St. Dominic was greatly saddened by the spread of a terrible heresy called Albigensianism. With the members of his new Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, he was trying his best to spread the truth and put an end to this dangerous heresy. He begged the Blessed Virgin for help, and it is said that she told him to preach devotion to the Holy Rosary. St. Dominic obeyed and he was very successful in stopping the heresy. The Holy Rosary is a simple devotion, which can be practiced by all people—old and young, learned and unlearned. It can be said anywhere, at any time. While we repeat the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and Glory to the Father, we think about great moments in the lives of Jesus and Mary. In this way, we grow closer and closer to Jesus and his Blessed Mother. We learn to imitate their holy lives. Mary is very pleased when we say the Holy Rosary often and well. She used to say it with St. Bernadette when she appeared to her at Lourdes. The three little children of Fatima learned from Mary the power of the Rosary. Mary taught them that the Rosary obtains graces to live a life close to God. A Dominican pope, St. Pius V, established today’s feast. It is to show our gratitude to Mary for a military victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571.
Let’s acquire the beautiful habit of saying the Rosary every day. If we carry a rosary in our pocket, it’ll be easy for us to find the time each day to pray this beautiful prayer.
October 8
St. Simeon
Holy Simeon lived in the first century. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, we read about when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. That is where they met Simeon. God had promised this holy man that, before he died, he would see the Messiah, the Savior of the world. But Simeon did not know when this would happen. Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon came to the Temple at the same time the young couple from Nazareth arrived with their baby. He looked into the eyes of the Child and felt a burst of joy in his heart. His eyes glowed. He lifted Jesus into his arms, then held him up and prayed: ”Now, my God, I can die in peace. I have seen with my own eyes the world’s salvation. You have prepared this for all your people.” Mary and Joseph looked at one another. They were silently amazed. Then the elderly man turned to Mary. His eyes became sad as he said softly, ”Your own soul will be pierced by a sword.” Mary did not understand what this meant, and she prayed to God for courage. Holy Simeon had received the gift that God had promised. He remained in joyful thanksgiving as the couple and their baby left.
We can imitate St. Simeon’s trust in God. By reading the Holy Bible, and staying open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we, too, can become holy. Like Simeon, we can trust that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled in the time that he chooses.
October 9
St. John Leonardi
Born around 1540, John became a pharmacist in Lucca, Italy. When he was twenty-five, John felt the call to become a priest. He began his studies and was ordained in 1572. He spent his time teaching children the faith and training catechists. His active ministry also took him to hospitals and prisons. Several young men in Lucca joined Father John and helped him with his wonderful works. Eventually, this group was to become a new religious congregation of priests. They were called the Clerks of the Mother of God. The Congregation was officially recognized by Pope Clement VIII in 1595. Father Leonardi was given a church as his headquarters in Lucca. His followers took care of the spiritual needs of the people in their new parish. Father Leonardi moved to Rome where his good friend St. Philip Neri lived. St. Philip was his spiritual director. Father Leonardi’s work was hard at times because of all the political and spiritual turmoil in Europe. But St. Philip believed in Father Leonardi and in the good his congregation of priests was doing. St. Philip gave him his own house in Rome for the congregation. The house was called “St. William of Charity.” With the building came St. Philip’s cat. St. John gladly took care of it. St. John Leonardi died on October 9, 1609, of the plague, which he had contracted while ministering to the sick. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1938.
This saint teaches us to recognize that human beings require spiritual as well as physical care. We can ask St. John Leonardi to remind us to pay attention to the needs of our souls as well as our bodies. The Church also celebrates the feast of St. Denis and Companions on this date.
October 10
St. Francis Borgia
Francis was born near Valencia in Spain in 1510. His uncle, the archbishop of Saragossa, provided for his education. Francis felt called to the religious life, but he was quickly swept up in a whirlwind of choice appointments in the court of Emperor Charles V. In 1529, Francis married Eleanor de Castro. They had a happy marriage blessed with eight children. In 1539, the emperor’s lovely wife Isabella died after being sick for a short time. On the day of the funeral, when Francis saw her corpse already decomposing, he was startled. He began to realize how quickly life passes and started to focus more on the eternal life of heaven. He became the emperor’s adviser and then viceroy of Catalonia. When his father died in 1543, Francis took his place as duke of Gandia and head of the Borgia family. In 1546, Francis’ wife died, after seventeen happy years of marriage. Francis was heartbroken at the loss and found comfort in prayer and the sacraments. At the age of thirty-six, he decided to join the Society of Jesus. He gave his inheritance to his son and was ordained in 1550. Father Francis traveled through Spain and Portugal, preaching to enormous crowds. The founder of the Jesuits himself, St. Ignatius, gave Francis a high position in the Order. In 1565, he became superior general of the Jesuits. For the next seven years, he opened new foundations of the Society of Jesus, helped lead the Catholic Reformation, and encouraged the men in his Order to participate in missionary work in foreign countries, including the Americas. After a pastoral visit through Spain in 1572, Francis returned to Rome worn out from the trip. He died two days later on September 30. Because of his untiring work in helping his Order to grow and spread to other countries, St. Francis Borgia is sometimes called the second founder of the Jesuits. He was canonized in 1671.
From early adulthood, St. Francis Borgia was entrusted with positions of responsibility. He was able to do his duties well, because he was a person of faith and prayer. We can imitate this great saint by doing well whatever we’re expected to do each day, without losing sight of the final goal of life— heaven.
October 11
St. Kenneth
This saint, who is sometimes called St. Canice, lived in the sixth century. He was born in Ireland and is well known in both Ireland and Scotland. His father was a bard, that is, a professional singer of ballads. As a young man, Kenneth went to Wales to study for the priesthood. St. Cadoc was his teacher. After he became a priest, he went to visit Rome. He then returned to Ireland to study at the school of St. Finnian. Kenneth became good friends with three other Irish saints—Kieran, Comgall, and Columba. After preaching throughout Ireland, St. Kenneth went with St. Columba to Scotland on a mission to the pagan King Brude. When this king angrily seized his sword to strike the two missionaries, it is said that St. Kenneth made the Sign of the Cross and a miracle took place. The king’s hand was suddenly paralyzed, and the saints were saved. St. Kenneth and St. Columba were always close friends. Once Columba was sailing with some companions. Kenneth was far away in his monastery in Ireland. Suddenly he became aware that Columba was in great danger at sea. He jumped up from the dinner table and ran to church to pray for his beloved friend. Out at sea, Columba cried to his frightened companions: “Don’t be afraid! God will listen to Kenneth. Right now he is running to church with only one shoe on to pray for us!” And, as he said, they were saved. St. Kenneth started several monasteries and converted many nonbelievers. He became famous for his zealous preaching of the Gospel. Even more, he became well known for the perfect way in which he himself practiced the teachings of Jesus.
St. Kenneth knew how to make the best of a difficult situation. His good humor won him many friends and helpers in preaching the Good News. We can ask St. Kenneth to show us how to be as good and cheerful a friend as he was.
October 12
St. Seraphim of Montegranero
Seraphim was born in 1540 in Italy. As a boy, he tended sheep to earn a living. His parents died while he was still young and his older brother took him in. But this brother was very unkind to Seraphim and mistreated him. Throughout his difficult childhood and teenage years, Seraphim trusted in God and spent as much time as he could in prayer. Even without the presence of loving parents, he knew that God was a loving Father who cared for him. When he was sixteen, Seraphim felt God calling him to live a holy life. He decided to join the Capuchin Franciscan Order as a lay brother. Here at last was a family of brothers who loved one another. He soon became well known for his wisdom and holiness of life. People came to him from all over to ask his guidance in spiritual matters. Seraphim was especially devoted to helping the poor. He received the strength and grace to reach out to others from Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. St. Seraphim of Montegranero died on October 12, 1604, and was canonized in 1767.
Even though St. Seraphim was not blessed with a happy childhood in a loving family, he knew he was loved by God, the Father of us all. It was this love he experienced that made him able to love others. If we truly believe that God loves us, we will want to pass that love on to others with kindness and understanding.
October 13
St. Edward
King St. Edward was one of the best loved of all the English kings. He lived in the eleventh century. Because of enemies in his own country, he had to live in Normandy, France, from the time he was ten until he was forty. However, when he returned to England as king, all the people welcomed him with great joy. St. Edward was able to rule his country well and keep peace most of the time. This was because he trusted in God and held firm when necessary. King Edward went to daily Mass. He was a gentle, kind man who never spoke sternly. To poor people and foreigners, he showed special charity. He also helped monks in every way he could. It was his justice toward everyone and his love for God’s Church that made St. Edward so popular with the English people. They would cheer him as he rode out of the castle. Although he was a king with great power, St. Edward showed his honesty by the way he kept his word—to God and to people. While he was still living in Normandy, he had made a promise to God. He said that if his family would see better times, he would go on a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb in Rome. After he was made king, he wanted to keep his vow. But the nobles knew that if he left, there would be no one to keep the peace among the warlike people in the land. So, although they admired his devotion, they did not want him to go. The whole matter was brought to Pope St. Leo IX. He decided that the king should stay home. He suggested that King Edward give to the poor the money he would have spent on the trip. He also asked the king to build a monastery in honor of St. Peter in Westminster. Obediently, the king carried out the pope’s decision. He died in London in 1066 and was buried in the marvelous monastery he had built. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Alexander III in 1161.
St. Edward teaches with his life that those who have money and power are to use them responsibly and for the good of others. We can ask St. Edward to bless world leaders with his values so that all people can live peaceful, joyful lives.
October 14
St. Callistus I
This great pope and martyr lived in the first part of the third century. He was once a young slave in Rome, who got into serious trouble. His master had put him in charge of a bank. Somehow, Callistus lost the bank’s money. In fear, he ran away from Rome. He was caught after jumping into the sea to try to get away. His punishment was to be chained and put to hard labor in a mill. From this punishment Callistus was released, only because his creditors hoped he could get some of their money back. But once again he was arrested, this time for having gotten into a fight. He was sent to the mines of Sardinia. When the emperor freed all the Christians who had been condemned to those mines, Callistus was freed, too. From that time on, things began to go better for him. Pope St. Zephrinus came to know and trust the freed slave. He placed him in charge of the public Christian cemetery in Rome. This cemetery is now named after St. Callistus himself. Many popes were buried in it. Callistus proved himself worthy of the pope’s confidence in him. St. Zephrinus not only ordained him a priest, but also made him his friend and advisor. Later on, St. Callistus himself became pope. Some people complained because he showed too much mercy to sinners. However, the holy pope ruled that, if they truly repented, even murderers could be admitted to Communion after they had done penance for their sin. This great pope always defended the true doctrine of Jesus. He was martyred in 222, having been killed in an uprising.
Because St. Callistus was so aware of God’s forgiveness in his own life, he was more than willing to be forgiving toward others. Do we treat others with the same forgiveness that we hope to receive from God?
October 15
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515. As a little girl in her parents’ rich home, Teresa and her brother Rodrigo loved to read the lives of the saints and martyrs. It seemed to them that the martyrs got to heaven an easy way. The two children set out secretly to go to a faraway land, where they hoped they would die for Christ. But, fortunately, they had not gotten far when they met an uncle! He took them back to their worried mother at once. Next the children decided to be hermits in their garden. This didn’t work out either. They could not get enough stones together to build their huts. St. Teresa herself wrote down these amusing stories of her childhood. The fact is that when she became a teenager she changed. Teresa read so many novels and foolish romances that she lost much of her love for prayer. She began to think more of dressing up to look pretty. But after she recovered from a bad illness, Teresa read a book about the great St. Jerome. Then and there, she made up her mind to become a bride of Christ. She entered the Carmelite Order in 1536. As a nun, Teresa often found it hard to pray. Besides that, she had poor health. Teresa wasted time every day in long, foolish conversations. But one day, in front of a picture of Jesus, she felt great sorrow that she did not love God more. She started then to live for Jesus alone, no matter what sacrifice had to be made. In return for her love, the Lord gave St. Teresa the privilege of hearing him speak to her. She learned to pray in a marvelous way, too. St. Teresa of Avila is well known for having opened sixteen new Carmelite convents. These convents were filled with nuns who wanted to live holy lives. They made many sacrifices for Jesus. Teresa herself gave them the example. She prayed with great love and worked hard at her daily tasks. St. Teresa was a great leader and true lover of Jesus and his Church. She died in 1582 and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. In 1970, Pope Paul declared her the first woman Doctor of the Church.
Whenever we need a little “spiritual push” to pray with more attention and love, we can ask St. Teresa. We can ask her to help us find practical ways to fit prayer time into every day.
October 16
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Margaret Mary lived in the seventeenth century. As a child, she was a happy little girl who loved the nuns at school. But when she was ten, she became very sick. It was five years before she was well again. Her father had died, and an aunt had moved into their home. This aunt and her husband made Margaret Mary and her mother suffer very much. Almost every day, the teenager would hide in the garden to cry and pray. What hurt her most was seeing her mother suffer. Yet Margaret Mary grew to know good times. A few years later, she was deciding between religious life and marriage. Her mother wanted her to marry and so did her relatives. They were worried about her, especially when she brought beggar children into the garden to try to teach them. Margaret Mary hesitated a while, neither marrying nor entering the convent. At last she decided on the convent. She joined the Visitation sisters and was a kind, humble sister. Often she made others impatient since she was slow and clumsy. But she was dear to Jesus. He began to appear to Sister Margaret Mary to show her how much he loves us all. Jesus wanted her to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart. It was a very hard thing to do. Many people thought Sister Margaret Mary had not really seen Jesus at all. Some were angry with her for trying to spread the new devotion. This brought her great suffering. Yet she did her best to carry out the Lord’s wish. Jesus blessed her hard work and pain. Today, this wonderful devotion to the Sacred Heart is practiced all over the world. St. Margaret was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Our Lord made great promises to St. Margaret Mary for those who are devoted to his most Sacred Heart. Some of these promises are: “I will comfort them in all their afflictions. I will establish peace in their homes. I will bestow abundant blessings on all their undertakings. I will bless every place where a picture of my Heart shall be displayed and honored.” The greatest promise Jesus made is this: “My divine Heart shall be the safe refuge in the last moment to all those who receive Holy Commun
October 17
St. Ignatius of Antioch
St. Ignatius of Antioch has been well known since the earliest Christian times. He was born in the middle of the first century. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch. This is the city where St. Peter labored before he moved to Rome. It is also the city where followers of Jesus were first called Christians. After leading the Church at Antioch for forty years, Ignatius was condemned to death during the reign of Emperor Trajan. He was brought under military guard from Antioch to Rome by ship. On his journey to Rome, the ship stopped at various ports along the way. At each of these places, crowds of Christians would gather to greet the holy bishop of Antioch. Two of these cities were Smyrna and Troas. From each of those cities, he wrote letters to the Christian communities. In this way, he used the same methods of preaching the Good News as the great St. Paul. One of the letters Ignatius wrote from Troas was to St. Polycarp, a fellow bishop, who is also a martyr. We celebrate his feast on February 23. When the beloved Ignatius arrived in Rome, he joined the brave Christians in prisons. It was the last day of the public games, December 20, and the bishop was pushed out into the amphitheater. Two fierce lions devoured him. He left behind a beautiful witness to the Gospel in his life and in his letters. St. Ignatius died around 107.
The next time we feel overwhelmed by an unpleasant situation, we can pray to St. Ignatius of Antioch. He’ll show us how to turn problems into opportunities, as he did, by offering our whole selves to Christ in love.
October 18
St. Luke
It is generally believed that Luke was a gentile doctor. He was a good, kind man who came to know the Lord from the great apostle Paul. After he had become a Christian, he sometimes traveled with Paul. Luke was a great help to him in spreading the faith. The Bible calls Luke “the beloved physician.” St. Luke is the author of two books in the Bible: the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Although he did not meet Jesus while the Lord was on this earth, he wanted to write about him for new converts. So he talked to those who had known Jesus. He wrote down all that they had seen the Lord do and heard him say. It is Luke who tells us some of the best-known stories about Jesus. Luke tells us the story of the first Christmas. He tells about Jesus lost in the Temple when he was twelve years old. He also tells us the story of Zaccheus the tax collector, who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Luke repeats for us the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. Luke also wrote the story of how the apostles began to teach the message of Jesus after he went back to heaven. It is in Luke’s book, the Acts of the Apostles, that we learn how the Church began to grow and spread. St. Luke is the patron saint of painters and doctors. We are not sure when or where Luke died. He is one of the four evangelists, or Gospel writers.
Luke’s Gospel speaks especially of God’s mercy for people who are sorry for their sins. Sometimes we become discouraged because of our sins and mistakes. We can ask St. Luke to show us how to have confidence in Jesus’ mercy, as he did.
October 20
Blessed John XXIII
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in northern Italy in 1881. He was one of thirteen children born to a hardworking farming family. He entered the seminary in Rome and began preparing for the priesthood. He studied theology, and after some time he earned a degree in canon law. During World War I, Father Roncalli was drafted into the Italian army, and he served as a medic and chaplain in the front lines. After the war, he became a Vatican diplomat and visited Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. In Turkey, during World War II, he helped people who had fled from Nazi Germany. In 1944 he was chosen to be the papal nuncio to France. Because of his success in carrying out his difficult tasks, he was made a cardinal by Pope Pius XII, and later he was named patriarch of Venice at the age of seventy-one. It seemed, due to his age, that this would be the last appointment he would be entrusted with. But six years later, much to his surprise, he was elected pope when Pius XII died in 1958. He took the name John. Then it was his turn to surprise the world by calling for an ecumenical Council. Vatican Council II, the first Council in almost 100 years, had the goal of renewing and updating the Catholic Church. In opening the Council, Pope John spoke with hope and optimism about the Church’s role in the modern world. He reached out not only to Catholics, but also to all humanity with warmth and honesty. People of all faiths and from all around the world saw him as a man of goodness and truth, devoted to peace and understanding between peoples and nations. He broke with tradition and left the “prison of the Vatican” to travel outside Rome. In his encyclicals Mater et Magister and Pacem in Terris, he stressed the importance of upholding human rights and working together for peace. Vatican Council II brought about important changes in the Church, but Pope John was not to see its conclusion. He died on June 3, 1963, one of the best-loved popes in recent centuries. Pope John XXIII was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.
From this beloved pope we can learn to get along with others whose beliefs and opinions are different than ours. It’s easy to be at peace with those who agree with us. Pope John XXIII challenges us to be open and respectful toward people who disagree with us.
October 21
St. Hilarion
Hilarion lived in the fourth century. He was not yet a Christian when he left his home in Palestine to go to school in Egypt. There he learned about the Christian faith, and soon he was baptized. Hilarion was only about fifteen at the time. His conversion started him out on a glorious journey leading him closer to God. Before long, he was off to visit the famous St. Anthony in the desert. (We celebrate his feast on January 17.) Like St. Anthony, Hilarion wanted to be alone to serve Jesus, whom he had just come to know and love. Hilarion stayed two months with St. Anthony. But it was not quiet enough there for him, because so many people came to St. Anthony for help. Hilarion could not find the peace he was looking for, so he left. After giving everything he had to the poor, he went into the wilderness to live as a hermit. Hilarion had to battle many temptations. At times it seemed to him as if none of his prayers were heard at all. Yet he did not let these temptations stop him from praying even harder. After twenty years in the desert, the holy man worked his first miracle. Soon many people began coming to his hut to beg his help. Several men asked him to let them stay with him to learn from him how to pray and do penance. In his great love for God and people, the saint invited them to stay. But finally, when he was sixty-five, he began to travel from one country to another in search of peace and quiet. However, the fame of his miracles of mercy always brought crowds of visitors. A few years before his death in 371, Hilarion at last found the solitude he had been searching for and felt that he was truly alone with God. He was eighty years old when he died.
When we think that people and circumstances get in the way of our relationship with God, we can pray to St. Hilarion. He will show us how to find the Lord, even when we also have to give our attention to other people and things.
October 22
Blessed Timothy Giaccardo
Joseph Giaccardo was born on June 13, 1896, in Narzole, Italy. His parents were hardworking farmers. Joseph acquired many good habits from them. They loved their Catholic faith and passed it on to their son. Joseph prayed to Jesus in the Eucharist and to Mary. He had a little statue of Mary on a shelf in his room. Joseph served at Mass regularly. That is how he met a young priest who came to help at St. Bernard’s Church. The priest was about to begin a new religious congregation, the Society of St. Paul. His name was Father James Alberione. Joseph liked him very much. Father Alberione was impressed with Joseph, too. He guided Joseph in the spiritual life. The boy entered the seminary in Alba to study for the priesthood. In 1917, Joseph asked his bishop for permission to leave the seminary. He wanted to join Father Alberione’s new congregation, which had been started three years earlier. The bishop reluctantly permitted Joseph to enter the Society of St. Paul. Joseph professed his vows in 1920. He chose the name “Timothy,” after the best-loved disciple of St. Paul. Father Timothy was ordained two years later, the first priest in Father Alberione’s new congregation. Father Timothy’s particular vocation as a Pauline priest was to be a media apostle. He wrote, edited, printed, and distributed the Word of God. He performed many responsible tasks with courage and humility. Some people did not understand the apostolates of the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul. They wondered how priests, brothers, and sisters could be publishers. How could they use the media as their tools for communicating the Good News? Father Timothy helped people understand the marvelous vocation of the Paulines. He also was a great teacher of the priests and religious who were called to this new apostolate. He served the Lord in northern Italy and in Rome. He became Father Alberione’s closest associate. In fact, Father Alberione called Blessed Timothy the “most faithful of the faithful.” But he was not going to be the founder’s successor, as Father Alberione had hoped. Father Timothy became very ill with leukemia. He died on January 24, 1948. He was proclaimed a blessed by Pope John Paul II on October 22, 1990.
Here’s a prayer we can say to Blessed Timothy to inspire us to be careful in choosing the media we use: Blessed Timothy, may the books and magazines I read, the programs I watch, the music I listen to, and the games I play, lead me closer to Jesus. Help me to avoid any media that I know is displeasing to God. Amen.
October 23
St. John of Capistrano
St. John of Capistrano was born in Italy in 1386. He was a lawyer and the governor of the city of Perugia. When enemies of the city threw John into prison, he started to think about the real meaning of life. John’s political enemies were not in a hurry to release him. He had plenty of time to realize that what mattered most was the salvation of his soul. So, when he was set free, John entered a Franciscan monastery. He was thirty at the time. For John, life as a poor friar was a big change. He had to sacrifice his independence for the love of Jesus. And he tried with all his heart to do this. After he became a priest, John was sent out to preach. He and his former novice master, St. Bernardine of Siena, spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus everywhere. John preached throughout Europe for forty years. All who heard him were moved to love and serve the Lord better. An outstanding moment in the life of this saint came at the battle of Belgrade. The Turks had made up their minds to conquer Europe and to wipe out the Church of Jesus. The pope sent St. John of Capistrano to all the Christian kings of Europe to beg them to unite to fight the mighty Turkish army. The kings obeyed this poor, barefoot friar. He stirred up their love of God and their courage with his fiery words. Even though a big army of Christians came to fight Mohammed II and his army, it looked as though they would lose. The enemy army was much bigger. Then it was that the saint himself, though he was seventy years old, ran to the front lines and encouraged the men to keep fighting. Holding his crucifix up high, this thin, small old man kept crying, “Victory, Jesus, victory!” And the Christian soldiers felt full of more courage than ever. They fought until the enemy ran away in fear. St. John of Capistrano died of the plague a short time later, on October 23, 1456. He was proclaimed a saint in 1690.
With the help of God, one person can do great things. We can ask St. John of Capistrano to share with us some of his enthusiasm and courage to do what’s right.
October 24
St. Anthony Mary Claret
Anthony was born in Spain in 1807. It was the same year that Napoleon invaded that country. Perhaps that was a hint of the exciting events that would follow Anthony throughout his life. He became a priest in 1835 and was assigned to his home parish. For the next ten years, he preached missions and retreats in Catalonia. Later he went to the Canary Islands and worked in the missions for about a year. In 1849, Anthony started a new religious Order called the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They are known as Claretians. This Order is dedicated to the work of preaching missions in parishes. Queen Isabella II of Spain thought highly of St. Anthony. She suggested that he was the best person to become archbishop of Santiago, Cuba. His apostolate in Cuba turned out to be an exciting seven years. Archbishop Anthony visited parishes, speaking out against social evils, especially slavery. He blessed marriages and baptized children. He was a reformer who had enemies who opposed the changes he introduced. He received death threats often, and was wounded in an assassination attempt, but he did not stop his wonderful work until he was recalled to Spain in 1857. During Anthony’s priesthood he was head of a seminary in Madrid. He established the school of St. Michael to foster the study of arts and literature, and he even tried to start a school of agriculture. Father Anthony was convinced of the power of the printed word. He wrote 144 books and pamphlets, and preached over 25,000 sermons! His best-known book, The Right Way, has reached millions of people. He went to Rome to attend Vatican Council I in 1869, and he died in 1870. St. Anthony Mary Claret was declared a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
St. Anthony Claret shows us how to have a missionary heart. We can pray for people all over the world, especially those who are suffering and poor. We can also help bring the light of the Gospel to other lands by giving some of our spending money to the missions.
October 25
St. Richard Gwyn
Richard was a Welshman who lived in the sixteenth century. He was raised in the Anglican Church and attended Oxford University and St. John’s College in Cambridge. After completing his studies, he returned to Wales and opened a school. He got married and had six children. It was at this time that Richard converted to the Catholic faith. Wales was ruled by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Many people in Wales were Catholic, but the queen introduced many strict laws to enforce the Anglican religion as the only one in her reign. Catholic priests or people who were loyal to the Holy Father were put in prison. They were often tortured and killed. Before long, Richard was a hunted man. He escaped from jail once, and the following year he was arrested again. ”You will be freed,” he was told, ”if you will give up the Catholic faith.” Richard absolutely refused. He was brought to an Anglican church by force. He upset the preacher’s whole sermon by clanking his chains loudly in protest. Furious, the officials put him in the stocks for eight hours, and many people came to abuse and insult him. More prison time and torture sessions followed. The queen’s men wanted him to give them the names of other Catholics, but Richard would not. At his trial, men were paid to lie about him, as one of them later admitted. The men on the jury were so dishonest that they asked the judge whom he wanted them to condemn. After Richard was sentenced to death, his wife and baby were brought to court. ”Do not imitate your husband,” the poor woman was told. In disgust, she bravely snapped, “If you want more blood, you can take my life with my husband’s. If you give more money to your witnesses, they will surely find something to say against me, too.” As Richard was being martyred, he cried out in terrible pain: “Holy God, what is this?” One of the officials mockingly answered: “An execution of her majesty, the queen.” “Jesus, have mercy on me!” exclaimed the martyr. The beautiful religious poems Richard wrote in prison are still in existence. In them, he begged his countrymen of Wales to be loyal to the Catholic faith. Richard died a martyr in 1584. He was proclaimed a blessed by Pope Pius XI in 1929. In 1970, Pope Paul VI canonized him as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
We can greatly admire St. Richard for his bravery. His willingness to suffer for what he believed in was inspiring. Let’s ask St. Richard to make us as strong in our convictions as he was.
October 26
The Eleven Martyrs of Almeria, Spain
The Spanish Civil War began in 1936. It has been described as a struggle between atheism and belief in God. One particular object of persecution was the Catholic Church. In three years, twelve bishops, 4,184 priests, 2,365 monks, and 300 nuns died for the faith. Today we celebrate eleven of those martyrs: two bishops, a diocesan priest, seven brothers of the Christian Schools, and a young laywoman. The bishops were from Almeria and Gaudix, Spain. The seven brothers of the Christian Schools were teachers at St. Joseph College in Almeria. Father Pedro Castroverde was a well-known scholar and founder of the Teresian Association. Victoria Diez Molina belonged to the Teresians. She had found a spiritual treasure in the way this group prayed and lived their Christian lives. Victoria was a teacher in a country school and was very active in her parish. All eleven martyrs chose to die for Jesus rather than give up their Catholic faith. Brother Aurelio Maria, the director of St. Joseph College, said: ”What happiness for us if we could shed our blood for the lofty ideal of Christian education. Let us double our fervor so as to become worthy of such an honor.” Bishop Medina of Gaudix said: “We have done nothing to deserve death. But I forgive you so that the Lord will also forgive us. May our blood be the last shed in Almeria.” Bishop Ventaja of Almeria had many opportunities to flee the country. He chose instead to remain with his suffering people, his suffering Church. Father Castroverde, the Teresian founder, wrote in his diary: ”Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire. May I speak as you want me to speak. May I work as you want me to work.” He was killed on July 28, 1936. Victoria Molina was jailed on August 11, 1936. She and seventeen others were led to an abandoned mineshaft and to their death. Victoria comforted the others and said: ”Come on, our reward is waiting for us.” Her last words were: ”Long live Christ the King!” Pope John Paul II proclaimed these martyrs blessed on October 10, 1993.
We can ask these eleven heroes of God to teach us courage. We could make the prayer of Blessed Pedro Castroverde our own: Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire .May I speak as you want me to speak. May I work as you want me to work. Amen.
October 27
Blessed Contardo Ferrini
Contardo was born in 1859 in Milan, Italy. His father was a teacher of mathematics and physics and passed on his love for study to his little son. As a young man, Contardo could speak many languages besides Italian. He did very well in every school and college he went to. His great love for study and for his Catholic faith made his friends nickname him their own “St. Aloysius.” (St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a young Jesuit saint known for the goodness and generosity of his life.) It was Contardo who first started clubs for college students to help them become good Christians. When he was twenty-one, he was offered a chance to continue his study of law at the University of Berlin in Germany. It was hard for him to leave his home in Italy, but he was happy to meet devout Catholics at the university. He wrote down in a little book what he felt the first time he received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a foreign land. It thrilled him to realize that the Catholic Church is really the same everywhere a person goes. Contardo decided to live his life for God. Even though he was very busy as a successful professor of law, he was very active in helping the poor, and he also devoted careful attention to his spiritual life. He became a member of the Franciscan Third Order and also joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society. While enjoying his favorite sport of mountain climbing, he would think of God, the Creator of all the beauty he saw. People noticed that there was something different about Professor Ferrini. Once, when he had passed by with his usual warm smile, someone exclaimed, ”That man is a saint!” Contardo Ferrini died of typhoid fever on October 17, 1902. He was only forty-three years old. He was declared a blessed by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
It is important to the life of the Church that every member do his or her part to bring about the kingdom of God. This is not just the work of priests and religious. Blessed Contardo can inspire us to take our own place in the Church and do whatever it is God may be calling us to do.
October 28
St. Simon and St. Jude
These two apostles of Jesus are honored on the same day. St. Simon was called “the zealous one” because he had so much devotion to the Jewish law. Once he had been called by the Lord to be an apostle, he gave his heart and his energy to preaching the Gospel. With the other apostles, he received the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. Then it is believed that he went to Egypt to preach the faith. Afterward, he went to Persia with the apostle St. Jude, and the two of them were martyred there. St. Jude is sometimes called Thaddeus, which means “the brave one.” He is known for the question he asked the Lord at the Last Supper. Jesus had said: “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” And St. Jude wanted to know: ”Lord, how is it that you are about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus gave him the answer: ”Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). St. Jude is sometimes called the saint of “desperate or impossible cases.” People pray to him when things seem hopeless. Often God answers their prayers through the intercession of this beloved apostle.
These two apostles had unique and different personalities, but each was greatly loved by the Lord. We can ask St. Simon and St. Jude to show us how to accept ourselves and use our gifts to help spread Jesus’ message.
October 29
St. Narcissus
Narcissus lived in the second and early part of the third centuries. He was an old man when he was made bishop of Jerusalem. Narcissus was an excellent bishop. Everyone admired his virtues—everyone except people who chose to live evil lives. Three enemies of the saint accused him of a terrible crime. One said: “May I die by fire if it is not true!” The second said: “May I be wasted away by leprosy if it is not true!” The third said: ”May I be struck blind if it is not true!” Yet no one believed their lies. The people had seen Narcissus’ good life. They knew the kind of person he was. Although no one believed the wicked story, Narcissus felt it was a good reason for him to go off to live in the desert. His whole trust was in God, whom he had served so lovingly. After several years, Narcissus returned to be bishop of Jerusalem, to the great joy of his people. Although he was even older, he seemed to be more zealous than ever. In fact, for a few years, he seemed stronger than ever. Then he became too weak to carry on alone. He asked Alexander of Cappadocia, another great saint, to assist him. With great love and zeal, they governed the diocese together. Narcissus lived to be over 116 years old. He died in the year 215.
God never abandons those who trust in him. We might worry over what people say about us. That’s when we can ask St. Narcissus to teach us his secret for remaining peaceful.
October 30
Blessed Angelo of Acri
This saint was born in Acri, Italy, in 1669. As a young man, he decided to devote his life to God in the religious life. But he would meet with some obstacles first. He tried to enter the Capuchin Order, but was refused. Certain that he had a vocation, he tried a second time, and again he was told he could not be admitted. Angelo was not one to give up easily. He put his faith in God and tried one more time to be accepted as a Capuchin. He was finally accepted and became a Capuchin at the age of twenty-one. This seems to have been the pattern for his life. After he was ordained, he began preaching, but had little or no success. It seemed as though he wasn’t cut out to be a preacher. But once again, Angelo put his trust in God instead of himself. He kept trying. After about ten years, he was sent to Naples during Lent, 1711. For the first time, his preaching was a success! Many people came to hear him speak and were deeply touched by his message. For the rest of his life, he devoted himself to preaching missions in Calabria and Naples. Crowds of people came to listen to his words, and thousands were inspired to turn their lives around because of what he said. God gave Angelo not only the grace to preach well, but also many supernatural gifts, including healing and prophecy. Because of this, people came from far away to listen to his sermons and to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with him. He was able to read their souls and give them just the right spiritual advice. Blessed Angelo died in the Capuchin house at Acri when he was seventy years old. He was beatified in 1825.
Sometimes we’re ready to give up after one try. Blessed Angelo can help us avoid becoming discouraged. By praying to him, we can receive the grace to trust more in God and less in ourselves. It’s this combination of humility and faith that will help us succeed.
October 31
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
This Spanish saint was born in 1532. When he was fifteen, he was sent to study at the Jesuit College in Alcala. When his father died, Alphonsus had to leave school in order to help his mother run the family wool business. Three years later, he got married. He and his wife, Mary, were blessed with two children, a boy and a girl. But a time of suffering now came to Alphonsus. His business began to fail, his wife and mother became very sick, and in a short period of time his wife, children, and mother passed away. Alphonsus began to think about what God might have in mind for him. He had always been a devout Christian. But from then on, he prayed, did penance, and received the sacraments more than ever before. Alphonsus asked to be admitted into the Society of Jesus. However, he was told that he must study first. So he went back to school. Little boys made fun of him. He had to beg for his food, because he had given all his money to the poor. At last, he was accepted as a lay brother and was made doorkeeper at the Jesuit College in Majorca. “That brother is not a man—he is an angel!” his superior said of him years later. Priests who knew him for forty years never heard him say or do anything wrong. His kindness and obedience were known to all. Once, all the chairs in the house, even the chairs from the bedrooms, had been used for a Forty Hours devotion. By mistake, Brother Alphonsus’ chair was not returned until the following year. Yet he never mentioned the fact to anyone. He was happy to do without a chair. Many people came to Alphonsus for spiritual advice. He inspired a young Jesuit named Peter Claver to offer his life in the missions of Latin America. (We celebrate the feast of St. Peter Claver on September 9.) During his long life, St. Alphonsus had to conquer very strong temptations. Besides that, he had physical pains. Even as he lay dying, he spent a half hour in terrible agony. Then, just before he died, he was filled with peace and joy. He kissed his crucifix and looked lovingly at his fellow religious. He died in 1617 with the name of Jesus on his lips.
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez taught many lessons with his life. One very important lesson is the way he accepted all the events in his life from the loving hands of God. He never lost hope. We can ask St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to teach us how to trust.