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August 1
St. Alphonsus Liguori
Alphonsus was born near Naples, Italy, in 1696. He received his degree in law at the age of sixteen and became a successful lawyer. But a mistake he made in court caused him to lose an important case, and Alphonsus decided to leave his practice to follow his true calling to be a priest. His father, who had high expectations for his son, tried to persuade him not to do it. However, Alphonsus had made up his mind. He joined the Oratorians and was ordained in 1726. His life was filled with activity. He preached and wrote books. He started a religious congregation called the Redemptorists. Alphonsus offered wise spiritual direction and brought peace to people through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He also wrote hymns, played the organ, and painted pictures. St. Alphonsus wrote sixty books. This is incredible considering his many other responsibilities. He also was often sick. He had frequent headaches, but would hold something cold against his forehead and keep doing his work. Although he was naturally inclined to be hasty, Alphonsus tried to control himself. He became so humble that when the pope wanted to make him a bishop in 1762, he gently said “no.” When the pope’s messengers had come in person to tell him of the pope’s choice, they called Alphonsus “Most illustrious Lord.” Alphonsus said, ”Please don’t call me that again. It would kill me.” The pope knew that Alphonsus would help the church greatly and appointed him bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths. Alphonsus sent many preachers all over his diocese. The people needed to be reminded again of the love of God and the importance of their religion. Alphonsus told the priests to preach simple sermons. ”I never preached a sermon that the simplest person in the church could not understand,” he said. As he got older, St. Alphonsus suffered from illnesses. He had painful rheumatism and became crippled. He grew deaf and almost blind. He also had disappointments and suffered from depression. But he had great devotion to the Blessed Mother as we know from his famous book called The Glories of Mary. The trials were followed by great peace and joy and a holy death. Alphonsus died in 1787 at the age of ninety-one. Pope Gregory XVI proclaimed him a saint in 1839. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871.
We can increase our devotion to our Blessed Mother by reading about her, and especially by praying to her. Let’s ask St. Alphonsus to help us love Mary as he did.
August 2
St. Peter Julian Eymard
In 1811, Peter was born in a small town in the diocese of Grenoble, France. He worked with his father making and repairing knives until he was eighteen. Peter spent his free hours studying. He taught himself Latin and received instruction in the faith from a helpful priest. In the back of Peter’s mind was a longing to become a priest. When he was twenty, he began his studies at the seminary of Grenoble. Peter Julian became a priest in 1834 and served in two parishes during the next five years. The people realized what a gift he was to them. When Father Eymard asked his bishop’s permission to join a new religious Order called the Marists, the bishop gave his consent. Father Eymard served the Marists as spiritual director of the seminarians. In 1845, he became the superior of his Order at Lyons, France. But even though Father Eymard fulfilled many diligent responsibilities all his life, he is remembered especially for something else. Father Eymard had a glowing love for the Holy Eucharist. He was very attracted to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He loved to spend time daily in adoration. One feast of Corpus Christi (the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus), Father Eymard had a powerful religious experience. As he carried the sacred Host in procession, he felt the presence of Jesus like warmth from a fireplace. The Host seemed to surround him with love and light. In his heart, he spoke to the Lord about the spiritual and material needs of all people. He begged that the mercy and love of Jesus touch everyone, as he had been touched through the Eucharist. In 1856, Father Eymard followed an inspiration that he had prayed about for several years. With the approval of his superiors, he started a religious Order of priest-adorers of the Holy Eucharist. They became known as the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament. Two years after the Order of priests was begun, Father Eymard began an Order of sisters, the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. Like the priests, these sisters had a special love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. They devoted their lives to adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Father Eymard started parish organizations to help people be prepared to receive First Communion. He wrote several books on the Eucharist that were translated into different languages. The books are still available in English today. Father Eymard lived at the same time in history as the saint whose feast we celebrate on August 4— St. John Vianney. The two men were friends and each highly admired the other. Father Vianney said that Father Eymard was a saint and added, “A community of priests devoted to adoring the Eucharist! How fine! I will pray for Father Eymard’s work every day.” St. Peter Julian Eymard spent the last four years of his life in severe pain. He also suffered because of difficulties and criticism. But Father Eymard continued his life of adoring the Eucharist. His witness and his sacrifice helped many others find their call in his religious Orders. He died on August 1, 1868, at the age of fifty-seven. Pope John XXIII proclaimed him a saint on December 9, 1962.
We can ask St. Peter Julian Eymard to help us grow in love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. We can ask him to help us learn from him how to adore the Holy Eucharist.
August 4
St. John Mary Vianney
John Mary Vianney was born near Lyons, France, in 1786. As a child he took care of his father’s sheep. He loved to pray and when he was eighteen, he asked his father’s permission to become a priest. His father was worried about losing his help on the family farm. After two years, however, Mr. Vianney agreed. At twenty, John studied under Father Balley. The priest was very patient but Latin soon became a major problem for John. He became discouraged. It was then that he decided to walk sixty miles to the shrine of St. John Francis Regis, a popular saint in France. We celebrate his feast on June 16. John prayed for help. After that pilgrimage, he still had as much trouble as ever with his studies. But he never again grew discouraged. John was finally able to enter the seminary. Studies were hard. No matter how much he tried, he never did very well. When the final examinations came, they were spoken, not written. John had to face a board of teachers and answer their questions. He was so upset that he broke down in the middle of the test. Father Balley spoke up for John. He pointed out that John was a good and holy man, he was full of common sense, and he understood what the Church taught about the faith. It was agreed that these qualities made up for what John was lacking in learning. John was ordained. At first, he was appointed as Father Balley’s curate, assisting him until his death in 1817. Then Father Vianney was sent to a little parish called Ars, where he would spend the rest of his life. When he first arrived, the people of Ars did not care much about their faith. They drank too much, worked all day Sunday, and never went to church. Many used terrible language. Father Vianney fasted and did penance for his people. He tried to stop them from sinning. Eventually, one tavern after another closed down because business became so slow. People began to worship regularly on Sundays and attended weekday Mass. The swearing was not so frequent. What had happened in Ars? “Our priest is a saint,” the people would say, ”and we must obey him.” God gave John the power to see into people’s minds and to know the future. Because of this gift, he converted many sinners and helped people make the right decisions. Hundreds of pilgrims began to come to Ars each day. St. John Vianney often spent sixteen hours daily hearing confessions. Even though he felt he would be happier and more at peace in a monastery, he remained at Ars for forty-two years and died there in 1859 at the age of seventy-three. St. John Vianney was proclaimed a saint in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
St. John Vianney devoted an enormous amount of time to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament, our sins are forgiven and we receive the graces we need to live our life according to the teachings of Jesus. Let’s make it a point to take advantage of this sacrament by going to confession more frequently.
August 5
Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
Today we celebrate the dedication of one of the great basilicas in Rome. It was built in the fourth century under the direction of Pope Liberius. A quaint story tells of Mary herself choosing the spot where the church was to be built. She appeared to the married couple who owned the land, and also to the pope, telling them each separately that the place on the hill covered with snow was the site she had picked. The following morning on August 5, an oppressively hot time of year in Rome, there was a covering of snow on the Esquiline Hill. The married couple was honored to donate their land and the money necessary to build the church as a gift to Mary. At first the church was called the Liberian Basilica, after the pope who had it built. It was also called St. Mary of the Snow because of the remarkable way that Mary pointed out the spot for its con- struction. It was later dedicated to the Virgin Mary by Pope Sixtus III, after the Council of Ephesus declared that Mary is the Mother of God. It stands as a beautiful reminder of the love and honor that the Church has for the Mother of the Lord. The name “Major” was given because it is the first church in the West to honor Mary. Within the Basilica of St. Mary Major is the manger from Bethlehem where Mary cradled the infant Jesus. This is exposed for veneration on Christmas Day, with a silver replica of the Christ Child lying in it.
The Catholic Church honors the Mother of God with special shrines and churches that Christians can visit as a way of showing their love for Mary and of asking for graces. Making a pilgrimage to one of these, if possible, is a wonderful faith experience.
August 6
Transfiguration of the Lord
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the marvelous event of the Lord’s Transfiguration. Before he suffered and died, he let three of his apostles see him shining with great glory. He did this to make their belief in him stronger. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up Mount Tabor, which stands in the middle of Galilee. When they were by themselves, suddenly the Lord’s face began to shine bright like the sun. His robes became as white as snow. The apostles were speechless. As they watched, two famous prophets of old, Moses and Elijah, appeared. They were talking with Jesus. Imagine the joy those apostles felt. ”Lord,” said St. Peter, ”it is good for us to be here. If you want, let us set up three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter really did not know what to say, because he was trembling with wonder and awe. As he was talking, a bright cloud overshadowed them. From it the voice of God the Father was heard, saying, ”This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” When they heard that, the apostles were so struck with fear that they fell to the ground. Then Jesus came near and touched them. ”Arise,” he said. ”Do not be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus. As they came down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until he had risen from the dead. They did not understand what he meant by these words at the time. But after his glorious resurrection, they would realize what Jesus had meant.
Let’s listen to what Jesus tells us. He continues to speak to us through Scripture, through the pope, through our bishops and priests, and through other teachers in the Church.
August 7
St. Cajetan
Cajetan was born in Vicenza, Italy, in 1480, the son of a count. He graduated from the University of Padua with degrees in civil and Church law. Then he worked in the papal offices in Rome. Cajetan became a priest in 1516. He returned to his own city of Vicenza. Although it angered his rich relatives, the saint joined a group of humble, simple men who devoted themselves to helping the sick and the poor. St. Cajetan would go all over the city looking for unfortunate people and would serve them himself. He helped at the hospital by caring for people with the most disgusting diseases. In other cities, he did the same charitable work. He also kept encouraging everyone to go to Holy Communion often. “I shall never be happy,” he said, ”until I see Christians flocking to feed on the Bread of Life with eagerness and delight, not with fear and shame.” Together with three other holy men, St. Cajetan started an Order of religious priests called the Theatines. This group devoted themselves to preaching. They encouraged frequent confession and Communion, helping the sick, and other good works. Cajetan died at the age of sixty-seven. In his last sickness, he lay on hard boards, even though the doctor advised him to have a mattress. ”My Savior died on a cross,” he said. ”Let me at least die on wood.” Cajetan passed away on August 7,1547, in Naples. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement X in 1671.
In imitation of this saint, we should make the Holy Eucharist the center of our lives. We can ask St. Cajetan to help us love the Eucharist as he did. The Church also celebrates the feast of St. Sixtus II on this date.
August 8
St. Dominic
Dominic was born in Castile, Spain, in 1170. He was a member of the Guzman family and his mother is Blessed Joan of Aza. When Dominic was seven, he began to go to school. His uncle, a priest, directed his education. After years of study, he became a priest too. Dominic lived a quiet life of prayer and obedience with other virtuous priests. But God had a special plan for Dominic. He would begin a new religious Order. It would be called the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans. The Dominicans preached the faith. They helped correct false teachings called heresies. It all began when Dominic was on a trip through southern France. He realized that the heresy of Albigensianism, a false teaching, was doing great harm. St. Dominic felt such pity for the people who were being misled by it. He wanted to help them. The Dominicans helped to spread the truth with preaching and prayer, especially the Holy Rosary. Dominic also encouraged the people to be humble and to make sacrifices. Once someone asked St. Dominic what book he used to prepare his wonderful sermons. ”The only book I use is the book of love,” he said. He always prayed to be filled with true love of neighbor. He urged the Dominicans to be devoted to the study of the Bible and to prayer. No one did more than St. Dominic and his preachers to spread the beautiful practice of saying the Rosary. St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi were close friends. Their two Orders of Dominicans and Franciscans helped Christians become holier. Dominic’s friars opened centers in Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; and Rome and Bologna, Italy. He lived to see his Order spread to Poland, Scandinavia, and Palestine. The friars also went to Canterbury, London, and Oxford, all in England. Dominic died in Bologna on August 6, 1221. His great friend, Cardinal Ugolino of Venice became Pope Gregory IX. He proclaimed Dominic a saint in 1234.
We can ask St. Dominic to help us grow in our love for our Catholic faith. We can also ask him to teach us to be as devoted to the Rosary as he was.
August 9
St. Edith Stein
Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891 in a part of Germany that is now Poland. Her father died when she was two, and her mother, a woman of deep Jewish faith, struggled to run the family business and care for her children. By the time Edith was a teenager, she fell away from the practice of Judaism and considered herself an atheist. In 1911, she began studying psychology at the University of Breslau, then transferred to another school where she could enroll in the classes of Edmund Husserl, a well-known philosopher. When World War I broke out, she put her education on hold and volunteered as a nurse. She finally earned her doctorate degree in 1916, and accepted a position as Husserl’s assistant. After reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Edith felt a strong pull toward the Catholic faith. She asked to be baptized, and on January 1, 1922, she became a Catholic. Her family and friends found it difficult to understand this decision. As the Nazi party was growing stronger, they felt that Edith was turning her back on her Jewish religion at a time when Jews needed to encourage and support each other more than ever. Edith became a leader in the Catholic Women’s Movement. She taught in a school that was run by the Dominicans and translated some of St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings. In 1934, she became a Discalced Carmelite in Cologne. Her new name as a nun was Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She continued to write, but most of her work could not be published at the time because she was a woman and because of her Jewish roots. As the Nazi party became stronger and more threatening, she was forced to escape to a Carmelite monastery in Holland. When Germany invaded Holland, many Catholics of Jewish heritage were arrested and deported to the concentration camps of Auschwitz. Edith was among them. She died in Auschwitz in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 11, 1998.
As a philosopher, St. Edith Stein was devoted to seeking the truth. Her faith in Christ gave her the courage to die for the Jewish people whose heritage she shared. Our faith should make us just as courageous when we see people suffering discrimination for their beliefs.
August 10
St. Lawrence
This famous martyr of Rome lived in the third century. He was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus II was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping. ”Father, where are you going without your deacon?” “I am not leaving you, my son,” answered the pope. ”In three days you will follow me.” Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand. He even sold some of the Church’s possessions to have more to give away. The prefect of Rome, a greedy man, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. He ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. The saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people who were being supported by the Church. He showed them to the prefect and said: ”This is the Church’s treasure.” The prefect was furious. In his anger he condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted him. God gave him so much strength and joy that Lawrence is said to have instruct- ed his executioner, ”Turn me over. I am broiled enough on this side.” Before he died, he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus. He prayed that the Catholic faith would spread all over the world. Lawrence died on August 10, 258. Devotion to him spread throughout Italy and northern Africa. Emperor Constantine built a beautiful basilica in Lawrence’s honor. St. Lawrence is among the saints mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer at Mass.
When we’re inclined to complain about something that bothers us, we can ask St. Lawrence to help us be patient. The martyrs had the grace to be faithful to Christ in terrible circumstances because they had been faithful to him in the little everyday situations that we all face.
August 11
St. Clare
Clare was born around 1193 in Assisi, Italy. St. Francis of Assisi lived in the same town. Clare used to listen to Francis preach. Her heart burned with a great desire to imitate him. Like him, she wanted to live a poor, humble life for Jesus. But her parents would never agree to such a plan. So on the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, when she was eighteen years old, she left her comfortable home and her family whom she loved. In a little chapel outside Assisi, she gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and offered her a rough brown habit to wear. She stayed with the Benedictine nuns until more nuns would join her. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not. Soon her fifteen-year-old sister Agnes joined her. Other young women wanted to be “poor ladies” of Jesus, too. Before long there was a small religious community. They lived in a house at the church of San Damiano, which St. Francis himself had repaired. St. Clare and her nuns wore no shoes. They never ate meat. They lived in a poor house in an atmosphere of silent prayer. Yet they were very happy because they were living a life of poverty as Jesus had done. Once an army of rough soldiers came to attack the city of Assisi. Although very sick, St. Clare asked to be carried to the window. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed right where the soldiers could see it. Then she knelt and begged God to save the nuns and the city. “O Lord, protect these sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. And a voice within her seemed to say: ”I will keep them always in my care.” At the same time, a sudden fright struck the attackers. They fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was abbess of her convent for forty years. Twenty-nine of those years she was sick. But she said that she was joyful anyway because she was serving the Lord. Some people worried that the nuns were suffering because they were so poor. St. Clare spent most of her life defending what she called the “privilege of poverty.” The pope tried to soften her Rule’s requirement of poverty, but Clare convinced him that she and her nuns were called to live with no possessions, trusting completely in God. St. Clare died on August 11, 1253. Just two years later she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Alexander IV.
Sometimes we forget to give time to the Lord. We might be so concerned about certain things that we allow them to drown out the voice of Jesus. That’s when we can ask St. Clare to show us how to keep Jesus as the center of our lives and hearts.
August 12
St. Stanislaus Kostka
Stanislaus was born in 1550, the son of a senator in Poland. His parents hired a private tutor to educate him, and when he was fourteen they sent him to a college in Vienna, which was run by the Jesuits. Stanislaus soon distinguished himself for his devotion to prayer and to his studies. He strongly disapproved of crude jokes. His family used to warn their guests not to talk carelessly in front of Stanislaus, adding, ”We wouldn’t want him to faint!” His older brother, Paul, used to tease and bully him, making fun of his prayerfulness. After a serious sickness, Stanislaus felt God calling him to become a member of the Society of Jesus. His father was against this idea, and the Jesuit provincial in Vienna did not want to go against the senator’s wishes. But this did not stop Stanislaus. Convinced that he had a vocation as a Jesuit, he walked 350 miles to Upper Germany, where St. Peter Canisius took him in. He was then sent to Rome, where St. Francis Borgia, father general of the Jesuits, welcomed him into the Order. Stanislaus was seventeen years old. Stanislaus began his life as a Jesuit with intense devotion to prayer and penance. He valued the virtue of obedience and made an effort to do his everyday tasks as perfectly as he could. But he quickly found Rome’s summer heat to be unbearable. He fainted often, and on August 10 was so sick that he was confined to bed. On August 15, only nine months after he entered the Society of Jesus, he died in Rome. When his brother Paul learned of his death, he began to regret how he had treated his brother. Eventually, he too joined the Jesuits. Stanislaus was canonized in 1726, and is one of the patron saints of Poland.
St. Stanislaus didn’t worry about being made fun of for practicing his faith. He was able to forgive those who ridiculed him, while at the same time treating them with respect and praying for them. The closer we are to God, the less the opinions of others will matter to us.
August 14
St. Maximilian Kolbe
Raymond Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. He joined the Franciscan Order in 1907 and took the name that we know him by: Maximilian. Maximilian loved his vocation very much, and he especially loved the Blessed Mother. He added the name “Mary” when he pronounced solemn vows in 1914. Father Maximilian Mary was convinced that the world of the twentieth century needed their Heavenly Mother to guide and protect them. He used the printing press to make Mary more widely known. He and his fellow Franciscans published two monthly newsletters that soon went to readers around the world. The Mother of God blessed Father Maximilian’s work. He built a large center in Poland. This center was called “City of the Immaculate.” By 1938, 800 Franciscans lived there and labored to make the love of Mary known. Father Kolbe also started another City of the Immaculate in Nagasaki, Japan. Still another was begun in India. In 1939, the Nazis invaded the Polish City of the Immaculate. They stopped the wonderful work going on there. In 1941, the Nazis arrested Father Kolbe. They sentenced him to hard manual labor at Auschwitz. He was at Auschwitz three months when a prisoner successfully escaped. The Nazis made the rest of the prisoners pay for the escape. They chose ten prisoners at random to die in the starvation bunker. All the prisoners stood at attention, while ten men were pulled out of line. One chosen prisoner, a married man with a family, begged and pleaded to be spared for the sake of his children. Father Kolbe, who had not been picked, listened and felt deeply moved to help that suffering prisoner. He stepped forward and asked the commander if he could take the man’s place. The commander accepted his offer. Father Kolbe and the other prisoners were marched into the starvation bunker. They remained alive without food or water for several days. One by one, as they died, Father Kolbe helped and comforted them. He was the last to die. An injection of carbolic acid hastened his death on August 14, 1941. Pope John Paul II proclaimed him a saint and a martyr in 1982.
St. Maximilian Kolbe was a hero who gave up his life that someone else might live. He was such a special person because he was a great friend of the Blessed Mother. We can be friends of Mary, too, if we honor her and pray to her.
August 15
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This feast celebrates a special privilege of Mary, our Mother. When her life on earth was over, Mary was assumed, or taken up, into the glory of heaven —not only with her soul, but also with her body. The Son of God began his human life in Mary’s pure womb. It was fitting, then, that her body should be glorified by God as soon as her life here on earth was ended. Now Mary is in heaven. She is Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is the Mother of Jesus’ Church. Every time Mary asks Jesus to give us graces, he listens to her request. After the resurrection from the dead, our bodies, too, will share in our heavenly reward. After the res- urrection, our bodies will be perfect. They will not be subject to illness anymore. They will not need food and drink to keep alive. They will not get tired or worn out. They will be able to go every place without time or effort. They will be beautiful and splendid! Mary’s Assumption, body and soul into heaven, is a Church teaching. This wonderful truth was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950.
It’s so wonderful to remember that Mary is our Mother in heaven. She really does love us. She’s there for us whenever we call to her in prayer. She wants to helps us so that when our life is ended, we too will enjoy the happiness of heaven. We can pray the Hail Mary often throughout the day.
August 16
St. Stephen of Hungary
St. Stephen was born around 970 in Hungary. This saint’s name had been Vaik. When he became a Christian at the age of ten, he was given the name of Stephen. At the same time, his father, the duke of Hungary, and many nobles also became Christians. However, when Stephen himself became king, the country was still quite pagan. Some people were violent and fierce. So he decided to establish the Church solidly in Hungary. His efforts were blessed by God. The secret of St. Stephen’s amazing success in leading his people to the Christian faith was his devotion to Mary. He placed his whole kingdom under her protection and built a magnificent church in her honor. Pope Sylvester II sent a beautiful king’s crown to Stephen. This treasure became known as the crown of St. Stephen. During World War II, American soldiers captured the crown. The United States kept it in safety, and returned it to Hungary in 1978. Stephen was a strong, wise ruler. He enforced just laws. But he was also generous and kind to the poor. He loved to give gifts of money to beggars without letting them know who he was. Once he was giving these gifts in disguise when a crowd of rough beggars knocked him down and struck him. They pulled his hair and beard and stole his money pouch. They never could have imagined they were bullying their king. And they never found out from him. He took the insult quietly and humbly. He forced his thoughts to turn to Mary and prayed: ”See, Queen of Heaven, how your people have treated me, whom you made king. Since they are your Son’s subjects, I will take this joyfully, and I thank you for it.” In fact, King Stephen made a promise then and there to give more than ever to beggars. Stephen was king of Hungary for forty-two years. He died on August 15, 1038. St. Stephen was proclaimed a saint by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1083.
We don’t have to be kings or presidents to realize the powerful impact of example. Some people preach wonderful sermons every day by the way they live. When we need more courage to imitate the good example of holy people, we can ask St. Stephen of Hungary to help us.
August 17
Blessed Joan Delanoue
The youngest of twelve children, Joan Delanoue was born in 1666 in Saumur, France. Her family had a small but successful business. When her widowed mother died, she left the store to Joan. Joan was selfish and greedy, and she thought only of making money. She committed many little sins to do it. She had once been devout, but now there was little love in her heart. Her mother had always been generous to beggars. Joan, instead, would buy food just in time for dinner. This way she could tell any beggars who came to the door during the day: ”I have nothing to give you.” Joan was not happy living like this. At last, when she was about thirty, the good example of a widow named Frances Souchet helped her change her life. Then she finally saw that her “business” was not to hoard money, but to use it to help others. Joan began taking care of poor families and orphans. Eventually, she closed her shop entirely to devote her time to them. People called her house full of orphans “Providence House.” Later, she persuaded other young women to help her. They became the Sisters of St. Anne of Providence of Saumur. Joan lived a very self-sacrificing life. St. Louis Grignon de Montfort met Joan. He thought at first that her pride was causing her to be so hard on herself. But then he realized that her heart was really full of love of God. He said: ”Go on in the way you have begun. God’s Spirit is with you. Follow his voice and fear no more.” Joan died peacefully in 1736. She was seventy years old. The people of Saumur said, ”That little shopkeeper did more for the poor of Saumur than all the town councilors put together. What a woman! And what a holy person!” Joan was proclaimed blessed by Pope Pius XII in 1947, the same year St. Louis Grignon de Montfort was declared a saint.
Many people suffer every day from hunger. We can realize the importance of not wasting food. Even if we are served something that we don’t care for, we can eat it. We can ask Blessed Joan to give us her self-sacrificing spirit.
August 18
St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Jane was born in Dijon, France, in 1572. Her father, the president of the Burgundy parliament, was a devout man. He brought up his children well, after the death of his wife. Jane, whom he dearly loved, married Christopher, the baron de Chantal. Jane and Christopher loved each other very much. God blessed them with six children. Jane showed her love for God by loving her husband and children with her whole heart. Then suddenly, a great sorrow fell upon that happy home. Baron Christopher was accidentally shot by a friend on a hunting trip. When he died, Jane was heartbroken. She forgave the man who had caused his death and even became his child’s godmother. St. Jane began to ask the Lord to send a holy priest into her life for guidance. In the meantime, she prayed and brought up her children in the love of God. She visited the poor and the sick and comforted the dying. When she met St. Francis de Sales, she knew this was the holy man God had sent to guide her. We celebrate his feast on January 24. Following his plan, Jane and three other young women started the Order of the Visitation. But first, she made sure that her children, now grown, were settled. She had other responsibilities and challenges too. But Jane tried to follow God’s plan as she saw it, no matter how difficult. St. Jane was courageous in all the difficulties she faced. She opened up many convents and struggled as well with her own temptations. “Despite all her suffering,” wrote St. Vincent de Paul, “her face never lost its peaceful look. And she was always faithful to God. So I consider her one of the holiest souls I have ever met.” St. Jane died on December 13, 1641. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767.
Like St. Jane, we too can be true to God’s plan for us, even when we have to make sacrifices. We can imitate St. Jane’s courage and willpower.
August 19
St. John Eudes
John Eudes was born in Normandy, France, in 1601. He was the oldest son of a farmer. Even as a child, he tried to copy the example of Jesus in the way he treated his family, friends, and neighbors. When he was only nine, another boy slapped his face. John felt himself becoming angry. Then he remembered Jesus’ words in the Gospel and offered his other cheek to the surprised boy. John’s parents wanted him to marry and have a family. He gently but firmly convinced them that he had a priestly call. He joined the Congregation of the Oratory and studied for the priesthood. After John was a priest, the plague hit Normandy. It brought terrible suffering and death. Father Eudes volunteered to help the sick, caring for both their souls and bodies. Later, he became a popular preacher of missions in parishes. In fact, during his lifetime he preached 110 missions. St. John is responsible for the establishment of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge. Father Eudes also started the Congregation of Jesus and Mary for priests. This Congregation was dedicated to training young men to become good parish priests. St. John was very devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Holy Heart of Mary. He wrote a book about these devotions. John became sick after he preached an outdoor mission in very cold weather. He never fully recovered. John died in 1680. He was proclaimed blessed by Pope St. Pius X in 1908. This pope called John Eudes the apostle of devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925.
We can ask St. John Eudes to show us how to grow in love of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. We can also find out about devotion to the Nine First Fridays and the Five First Saturdays so that we can practice them.
August 20
St. Bernard
Bernard was born in 1090 in Dijon, France. He and his six brothers and sisters received an excellent education. When he was just seventeen, his mother died. He might have let sadness get the best of him had it not been for his lively sister Humbeline, who helped to cheer him up. Soon Bernard became very popular. He was handsome and intelligent, full of fun and good humor. People enjoyed being with him. Yet one day, Bernard greatly surprised his friends by telling them he was going to join the very strict Cistercian Order. They did all they could to make him give up the idea. But in the end, it was Bernard who convinced his brothers, an uncle, and twenty-six friends to join him. As Bernard and his brothers left their home, they said to their little brother Nivard, who was playing with other children: ”Goodbye, little Nivard. You will now have all the lands and property for yourself.” But the boy answered: ”What! Will you take heaven and leave me the earth? Do you call that fair?” And not too long after, Nivard, too, joined his brothers in the monastery. St. Bernard became a very good monk. After three years, he was sent to start a new Cistercian monastery and to be its abbot. The new monastery was in the Valley of Light and became known by that name. In French, the Valley of Light is “Clairvaux.” Bernard was the abbot there for the rest of his life. Although he would have liked to stay working and praying in his monastery, he was called out sometimes for special assignments. He preached, made peace between rulers, and advised popes. He also wrote beautiful spiritual books. He became the most influential man of his time. Yet Bernard’s great desire was to be close to God, to be a monk. He had no desire to become famous. This saint had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. He often greeted her with a “Hail Mary” when he passed her statue. It is said that one day, the Blessed Mother returned his greeting: “Hail, Bernard!” In this way, Our Lady showed how much his love and devotion pleased her. St. Bernard died in 1153. People were saddened because they would miss his wonderful influence. He was proclaimed a saint in 1174 by Pope Alexander III. He was also named a Doctor of the Church in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII.
St. Bernard reminds us that every individual makes a difference. Each of us can give the gift of our talents and our energy to make the world better. If you wonder what gifts the Lord is asking you to use, you can pray to St. Bernard for help.
August 21
St. Pius X
This great pope was born Joseph Sarto in 1835. He was the son of a mailman in Riese, Italy. Joseph was given the affectionate nickname of “Beppi.” When Joseph decided to be a priest, he had to make many sacrifices to get an education. But he didn’t mind. He even walked miles to school barefoot to save his one good pair of shoes. After he was ordained a priest, Father Sarto labored for the people in poor parishes for seventeen years. Everybody loved him. He used to give away everything he had to help them. His sisters had to hide his shirts or he would have had nothing to wear. Even when Father Joseph became a bishop, and then a cardinal, he still gave away what he owned to the poor. He kept nothing for himself. When Pope Leo XIII died in 1903, Cardinal Sarto was chosen pope. He took the name Pius X. He became known as the pope of the Holy Eucharist. Pope Pius X encouraged everyone to receive Jesus as often as they could. He also lowered the age for children to be permitted to receive Holy Communion. Before that time, boys and girls had to wait many years before they could receive the Lord. He is also the pope of religious instruction. He believed in and loved our Catholic faith. He wanted every Catholic to share in the beauty of the truths of our faith. He really cared about every single person and their spiritual and material needs. He encouraged priests and religion teachers to help everyone learn about their faith. When World War I broke out, St. Pius X suffered greatly. He knew so many people would be killed. He had said: ”I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this horrible suffering.” Toward the end of his life, he also said: ”I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor.” He never kept anything for himself, right to the end of his life. Pope Pius X died on August 20, 1914. Pope St. Pius X was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954. He was the first pope to be canonized in 242 years.
St. Pius X understood the importance of religious education. Teaching children to love God and preparing them to receive the sacraments was very close to this pope’s heart. Is there a way we can honor his legacy by helping out in our parish religious education program?
August 22
Queenship of Mary
We can think of today’s feast in connection with the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrated on August 15. Today we think of Mary united with her Son in heaven. She is there—body and soul. Even though governments today are often democracies, we can still understand the importance of kings and queens in the history of many countries. A good queen was greatly loved and served with joy. That is the kind of Queen we have in Mary. She is a kind and loving Queen. She is our Mother and Teacher, too. As our Mother, Mary takes care of us. We never have to be ashamed to ask her for anything. She will give us spiritual gifts. She will help us with our physical needs. She is also our Teacher, because she left us an example of how to be true disciples of Jesus. If we invite Mary to be our Queen, she will teach us many wonderful things about the life of Jesus in us. She will lead us to her Son. We can honor Mary every day in several ways. We can pray the Hail Mary during the day. We can spend some quiet time in prayer and say the Rosary. We can keep a little statue or picture of Mary nearby to remind us to honor her with prayer. This is the way we make Mary the center and Queen of our hearts.
We can say the Hail Mary often throughout the day: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
August 23
St. Rose of Lima
This South American saint was born in Lima, Peru, in 1586. Her real name was Isabel, but she was such a beautiful baby that she was called Rose. She received the Sacrament of Confirmation from St. Turibio, archbishop of Lima. We celebrate his feast on March 23. As Rose grew older, she became more and more beautiful. One day her mother put a wreath of flowers on her head to show off her loveliness to friends. But Rose was not impressed. She only wanted Jesus to notice her and love her. Rose did not think she was special because of her physical beauty. She realized that appearance had nothing to do with what a person was on the inside. Because of this, Rose avoided being concerned with her looks and focused on the beauty of her soul. She knew that she would be spiritually beautiful with prayer, penance, and the practice of virtue. St. Rose worked hard gardening and sewing to support her parents who were very poor. She humbly obeyed them, too, except when they tried to persuade her to marry. That she would not do. Her love for Jesus was so great that when she talked about him, her face glowed. Rose wanted to live for Jesus alone. She joined the Dominican Third Order and lived in a little hut on her parent’s property. She had many temptations from the devil. There also were times when she had to suffer terrible loneliness and sadness. During those times, God seemed far away. Yet she cheerfully offered all these troubles to him. She kept praying for her trust to grow stronger. In her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman used to pray: “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase your love in my heart.” She was just thirty-one when she died on August 24, 1617, in Lima. St. Rose of Lima was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement X in 1671. He also named her patroness of the Americas, Philippines, and West Indies.
St. Rose of Lima did not take pride in her physical beauty. She tried to grow spiritually beautiful for Jesus. When we’re overly concerned with our appearance, we can ask St. Rose to help us focus on what’s really important in our lives.
August 24
St. Bartholomew
Bartholomew was one of the first followers of Jesus. This apostle’s other name was Nathaniel. He came from Cana in Galilee. He became a disciple of Jesus when his friend Philip invited him to come and meet the Lord. Nathaniel received high praise from Jesus, who said, as soon as he saw him, “Here is a man in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus knew that Nathaniel was an honest, sincere man. His one desire was to know the truth. Nathaniel was very surprised to hear those words from the Lord. “How do you know me?” he asked. “Before Philip called you,” Jesus answered, ”I saw you under the fig tree.” That was a favorite praying place. Nathaniel must have realized then that Jesus had read his heart as he prayed. ”Master!” he cried. ”You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” And Nathaniel became one of the Lord’s faithful apostles. Like the other apostles, Nathaniel, or Bartholomew, preached the Gospel of Jesus at the risk of his life. It is believed that he went to India, Armenia, and other lands. He preached with great zeal, until he gave his life for the faith. And so, St. Bartholomew not only received the reward of an apostle, but also the martyr’s crown.
Jesus admired the honesty of St. Bartholomew. Even though Bartholomew had his own opinions, he wasn’t stubborn, so Jesus praised him. He also gave Bartholomew the grace of faith and the vocation to be an apostle. We can ask St. Bartholomew to help us grow in our faith, too.
August 25
St. Louis of France
Louis was born on April 25, 1214. His father was King Louis VIII of France and his mother was Queen Blanche. The story is told that when Prince Louis was small, his mother hugged him tightly. She said, ”I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child. But I would rather see you dead at my feet than ever to have you commit a mortal sin.” Louis never forgot those words. He grew to cherish his Catholic faith and his upbringing. When he was twelve, his father died and he became the king. Queen Blanche ruled until her son was twenty-one. Louis became a remarkable king. He married Margaret, the daughter of a count. They loved each other very much. They had eleven children. Louis was a good husband and father. And as long as his mother, Queen Blanche, lived, she was his valued advisor. Busy as he was, the king found time for daily Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office. He was a Third Order Franciscan and lived a simple lifestyle. He was generous and fair. He ruled his people with wisdom, charity, and true Christian principles. There was no separation between what he believed as a Catholic and how he lived. He knew how to settle arguments and disputes. He listened to the poor and the underprivileged. He had time for everybody, not just the rich and influential. He supported Catholic education and built monasteries. The historian, Joinville, wrote a biography of St. Louis. He recalls that he spent twenty-two years in the king’s service. He was daily in the king’s company, and he could say that he never heard King Louis swear or use any kind of profanity in all those years. Nor did the king permit bad language in his castle. St. Louis felt an urgent obligation to help the suffering Christians in the Holy Land. He wanted to be part of the Crusades. The first time, he was taken prisoner. But even in jail, he behaved as a true Christian knight. He was unafraid and noble in all his ways. He was freed and returned to take care of his kingdom in France. Yet as soon as he could, he started back for the Holy Land again. On the way, however, this greatly loved king contracted typhoid fever. A few hours before he died, he prayed, ”Lord, I will enter into your house, worship in your holy temple, and give glory to your name.” St. Louis died on August 25, 1270. He was fifty-six years old. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.
It isn’t easy to live up to Christian values at any time in history. St. Louis of France teaches us by his example that we have to make time for God and for prayer. If we’re ever tempted to think that we’re too busy to pray, we can ask St. Louis to convince us otherwise. We also celebrate the feast of St. Joseph Calasanz on this day.
August 26
St. Elizabeth Bichier
Elizabeth was born in 1773 in France. As a little girl, her favorite game was building castles in the sand. Many years later, this holy woman had to take charge of building convents for the Order of nuns she founded. “I guess building was meant to be my business,” she joked, ”since I started it so young!” In fact, by 1830, eight years before her death, Elizabeth had already opened over sixty convents. During the time of the French Revolution, Elizabeth’s family lost everything they owned. This was because the republicans were taking property from the nobility. But this intelligent young woman of nineteen studied law so she could fight her family’s case in court. When she won and saved her family from ruin, the village shoemaker exclaimed: ”All you have to do now is marry a good republican!” Elizabeth, however, had no intention of marrying anyone —republican or noble. On the back of a picture of Our Lady, she had written: ”I dedicate and consecrate myself to Jesus and Mary forever.” With the help of St. Andrew Fournet, Elizabeth started a new religious Order called the Daughters of the Cross. (For more on St. Andrew Fournet, see June 14.) This new Order was dedicated to teaching children and caring for the sick. Elizabeth would face any danger to help people. Once she found a homeless man lying sick in a barn. She brought him to the convent hospital and did all she could for him until he died. The next morning the police chief came to tell her she could be arrested for sheltering a man believed to be a criminal. Elizabeth was unafraid. “I only did what you yourself would have done, sir,” she said. ”I found this poor sick man and took care of him until he died. I am ready to tell the judge just what happened.” Of course, the saint’s honesty and charity won her great respect. People admired her straightforward, clear answers. St. Andrew Fournet, the Order’s co-founder, died in 1834. St. Elizabeth wrote to the sisters, ”This is our greatest and saddest loss.” St. Elizabeth died on August 26, 1838.She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
St. Elizabeth Bichier was courageous and energetic. We can pray to her to obtain the grace to live our Christian calling more enthusiastically. She’ll help us be generous followers of Jesus.
August 27
St. Monica
Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, was born in Tagaste, northern Africa, in 332. She was brought up in a good Christian home. Her strong training was a great help to her when she married the pagan Patricius. Patricius admired his wife, but he made her suffer because of his bad temper. Monica bore this with patience and fervent prayer. At the end of his life, Monica saw her prayers answered. Patricius accepted the Christian faith in 370. He was baptized on his deathbed a year later. His mother, too, became a Christian. St. Monica’s joy over the holy way in which her husband had died soon changed to great sorrow. She found out that her son Augustine was living a bad, selfish life. This brilliant young man had turned to a false religion and to an immoral way of life. Monica prayed and wept and did much penance for her son. She begged priests to talk to him. Augustine was brilliant, yet very stubborn. He did not want to give up his sinful life. But Monica would not give up either. When he went to Rome without her, she followed him. At Rome, she found he had become a teacher in Milan. So Monica went to Milan. And in all those years, she never stopped praying for him. What love and faith! After years of prayers and tears, her reward came when Augustine was converted. He not only became a good Christian, as she had prayed. Augustine also became a priest, a bishop, a great writer, and a very famous saint. We celebrate his feast on August 29, the day after St. Monica’s. Monica died in Ostia, outside Rome, in 387. Augustine was at her bedside. St. Monica is the patron of married women and of Christian mothers.
We shouldn’t become discouraged if our prayers aren’t answered right away. Like St. Monica, we should keep praying. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to ask with perseverance and we shall receive.
August 28
St. Augustine
St. Augustine was born in Tagaste in modern Algeria on November 13, 354. He was brought up in a Christian atmosphere by his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. Augustine went to Carthage to study. After a while, he left the practice of the Christian faith and spent many years in sinful living and in false beliefs. His mother Monica prayed daily for her son’s conversion. In Milan, the marvelous sermons of St. Ambrose made their impact too. Finally, Augustine became convinced that Christianity was the true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted after reading the life of St. Anthony of Egypt, whose feast we celebrate on January 17. Augustine felt ashamed. ”What are we doing?” he cried to one of his friends. “Unlearned people are taking heaven by force. Yet we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!” Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine went into the garden and prayed, ”How much longer, Lord? Why don’t I put an end to my sinning now?” Just then he heard a child singing the words, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended this as a message for him, he picked up the Bible and opened it. His eyes fell on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, where Paul says to stop living immoral lives and to live in imitation of Jesus. It was just what Augustine needed. From then on, he began a new life. He was baptized on Holy Saturday, 387. Four years later, he was ordained a priest. In 396, he was made bishop of Hippo when Bishop Valerius died. Augustine wrote many works to explain and defend the Catholic faith. Even today, his letters, sermons, and treatises are important to the study of theology and philosophy. On the wall of his room, he had the following sentence written in large letters: ”Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St. Augustine defended the Church’s teachings against errors, lived simply, and supported the poor. He preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. ”Too late have I loved you,” he once cried to God. But Augustine spent the rest of his life in loving God and leading others to love him, too.
Thinking over the lives of the saints, we should ask ourselves, “Can’t we do what these men and women did?” We can become saints too, if we pray each day to know and do God’s will.
August 29
Beheading of St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus. His mother was St. Elizabeth and his father was Zechariah. The first chapter of Luke’s Gospel tells of the wonderful event of John’s birth. Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 14–29, records the cruel details of John the Baptist’s death. King Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John told Herod that this was wrong. But Herod and Herodias did not want to hear how they stood with God. They wanted to make their own rules. St. John the Baptist had to pay the price for his honesty. Yet he would have had it no other way. He would never have kept silent in the face of sin and injustice. His mission was to call people to repentance and he wanted everyone to be reconciled to God. Herodias held a grudge against John, and when she had the chance, she arranged to have him beheaded. What harsh consequences John accepted for teaching the truth. John had preached a baptism of repentance, preparing people for the Messiah. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and watched with quiet joy as the Lord’s public ministry began. John encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus. He knew that Jesus’ fame would grow, while his would fade away. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, St. John the Baptist calls himself a voice crying in the desert to make straight the path of the Lord. He invited people to get ready, to prepare themselves to recognize the Messiah. His message is the same to each of us.
We can ask St. John the Baptist to help us be always ready to recognize the coming of Jesus into our lives.
August 30
St. Fiacre
Fiacre was born in Ireland in the seventh century. Looking for a place where he could live close to God in solitude, he sailed to France. The bishop of Meaux offered him part of his own land in a forest. Legend has it that the bishop told Fiacre he could have as much land as he could plow in a day. Instead of using a plow, which would have made his claim much larger, Fiacre showed how simply he wanted to live by using the point of his walking stick to turn the soil. Fiacre cleared his ground and built a little house for himself, as well as a chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin. He also built a place for travelers to stop and rest. Before long, many people were coming to him for spiritual advice. He shared whatever he had with the poor and cared for the sick, sometimes restoring their health with miracles. Even after his death, many miracles were reported to have taken place when people visited his little chapel. St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners.
St. Fiacre shows us that helping the poor isn’t only the responsibility of wealthy people. Even if we don’t have a lot, we can always share what we do have with those who have even less.
August 31
St. Aidan of Lindisfarne
Aidan was a seventh-century Irish monk. He lived at the great monastery of Iona, which St. Columban had founded. St. Oswald became king of North England in 634. He asked for missionaries to preach to his pagan people. The first missionary to go soon came back complaining that the English were rude, stubborn, and wild. The monks got together to talk about the situation. ”It seems to me,” St. Aidan said to the returned monk, “that you have been too harsh with those people.” He then explained that, as St. Paul says, easy teachings are to be given first. Then when the people have grown stronger on the Word of God, they can start to do the more perfect things of God’s holy law. When the monks heard such wise words, they turned to Aidan. “You should be the one to go to North England to preach the Gospel,” they said. Aidan went willingly. He took on his new assignment with humility and a spirit of prayer. He began by preaching. King Oswald himself translated Aidan’s sermons into English until the saint learned the language better. St. Aidan traveled all over, always on foot. He preached and helped the people. He was kind to the poor and preferred a simple lifestyle. He did much good and was greatly loved by the people. After thirty years of St. Aidan’s ministry, any monk or priest who came into the village was greeted with great joy by all the villagers. On the island of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan built a large monastery. So many saints were to come from there that Lindisfarne became known as the Holy Island. Little by little, the influence of these zealous missionaries changed North England into a civilized, Christian land. St. Aidan died in 651.
We can learn from St. Aidan’s life that the witness of a joyful, kind person truly touches others. When we need help seeing the good in people, we can pray to St. Aidan.