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St. David of Wales
David was the son of King Xantus of South Wales. When he grew up, he became a priest. He went to the Isle of Wight to live as a hermit, with a wise and holy man named Paulinus as his spiritual guide. He lived in solitude for a long time, preparing himself to carry out his ministry. Then David went out and devoted his life to preaching. He built twelve monasteries and gave the monks a rule, which was based on the lifestyle of the Egyptian monks. The rule encouraged the monks to devote themselves to hard work in the fields and to pray at all times, either with words, or by turning their minds and hearts to God. After their work was done, the monks would return to their monastery to pray, read, and write. David was asked to attend an important meeting of bishops at Brevi. His wisdom and preaching made such a good impression on the bishops, that he was made a bishop himself. As bishop, David called another meeting in which he set up regulations for the churches in Britain. David died in the middle of the sixth century, in one of his monasteries. He is the patron Saint of Wales.
St. David understood the importance of talking to God. Before beginning his important work of preaching the Gospel, he prepared himself by a long period of prayer and solitude. Before we begin each day, we should take time to ask God for the help we’ll need to do well whatever will be asked of us that day. The more we trust in God’s help, the more successful we’ll be.
Blessed Agnes of Bohemia
Princess Agnes was born in 1205. She was the daughter of King Ottokar of Bohemia. At the age of three she was promised in marriage to a nobleman named Boleslaus. (This is how things were done in those days.) Then Boleslaus died, and when Agnes was nine, it was arranged that her future husband would be Emperor Frederick II’s son, Henry. But Agnes had secretly promised to live only for God. She wanted to be a nun. So when Henry ignored the marriage arrangement and married the Duke of Austria’s daughter instead, Agnes was very happy. But then Agnes’s brother promised her in marriage to Frederick, and in 1235, the wedding plans were started. Agnes asked Pope Gregory IX to help her, explaining that she wanted to become a nun. The pope interceded for her, and she was released from the arranged marriage. The following year, Agnes built a convent in Prague. St. Clare of Assisi sent five of her nuns to live in the convent, and Agnes joined them. She later became abbess and lived a life of humility, poverty, and kindness to the poor. She died on March 2, 1282.
If we pray to know our vocation in life, God will reveal it to us, as he revealed her vocation to Blessed Agnes. While parents shouldn’t try to force their children into a particular profession or way of life, they can offer helpful advice to guide them in making the right decisions.
St. Katharine Drexel
Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 26, 1858. Her mother died when she was just a baby. Not long after, her father, a very successful banker, got married again to a kind woman named Emma. Emma was very loving to Katharine and her older sister Elizabeth. In a few years another baby girl was born into the family. Mr. and Mrs. Drexel named her Louise. The three Drexel sisters had a great time growing up together. Katharine’s parents were very religious. The family prayed together every day before an altar they had set up in their home. Mrs. Drexel devoted much of her time to helping the poor, and Katharine and her sisters learned from her the joy of sharing their wealth with those who were in need. This was how they could show their love for God. When Katharine grew up, she was a very active Catholic. She was generous with her time and her money. She realized that the Church had many needs. She directed her energies and her fortune to helping the poor and forgotten. Her work for Jesus would be among the African American and Native American people. In 1891, Katharine began a new religious community of missionaries. They were called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Katharine became known as Mother Katharine. Mother Katharine inherited her family’s great fortune. She used the money for wonderful works of charity. She and her sisters built schools, convents and churches. In 1915, they established Xavier University in New Orleans. During her long, fruitful lifetime, Mother Katharine spent millions of dollars of her inheritance to provide education and assistance to African Americans and Native Americans who were in need. She found Jesus truly present in the Eucharist and in all the people whom she so lovingly served. Mother Katharine died on March 3, 1955, at the age of ninety-seven. She was declared “blessed” by Pope John Paul II on November 20, 1988, and canonized on October 1, 2000. She is the second native born United States citizen to be declared a saint.
St. Katharine teaches us a special lesson. We could spend our lives being concerned only about ourselves and our own needs. But how much better it is to imitate Mother Katharine and do as much as we can to help others. This will make us more like Jesus!
St. Casimir
Casimir was born in Cracow, Poland, on October 3, 1458. He was the third of thirteen children born to Casimir IV, king of Poland, and Elizabeth of Austria. From his childhood, Casimir was taught to live a life of holiness and charity. He preferred to wear plain clothes rather than the fine garments a prince was expected to wear. He spent time each day in prayer, and devoted himself to penance. He got into the habit of always remembering that he was in God’s presence. Because of this, he was cheerful and kind to everyone. He was especially devoted to the sufferings of Jesus, to the Holy Mass, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her honor, he recited a beautiful hymn very often. The name of the hymn is “Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary.” His hand-written copy of this hymn was buried with him. When he was thirteen, Casimir’s father pressured him to lead an army against the king of nearby Hungary and seize the throne, making himself the king. But Casimir was convinced that he had no right to do it, so he refused. Casimir was never healthy, yet he was courageous and strong in character. He always did what he knew was right. Sometimes he would even advise his father, the king, to rule the people fairly. He did this with great respect, and his father listened to him. Casimir’s parents found a very beautiful and virtuous young woman for him to marry. But Casimir chose to remain single. He wanted to give his heart to God alone. While in Lithuania on an assignment of service for that country, Casimir became ill with tuberculosis. He died at the age of twenty-six. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo X in 1521. St. Casimir is the patron of Poland and Lithuania
St. Casimir helps us see that even if we are not physically strong or healthy, we can still be strong in character. We can always stand up for what is right, but in a kind and respectful way.
St. John Joseph of the Cross
St. John Joseph of the Cross was born in southern Italy on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1654. He was a young noble, but he dressed like a poor man. He did that because he wanted to be as poor as Jesus had been. At the age of sixteen, John Joseph entered the Franciscan Order. He wanted very much to live in imitation of Jesus. This led him to cheerfully make many sacrifices. Later he was ordained a priest. Father John Joseph became the superior at Santa Lucia’s in Naples where he spent most of his long life. He always insisted on doing the hardest work. He happily chose to do the duties that no one else wanted. John Joseph had a wonderful personality. But he did not try to be the center of attention. Instead of expecting people to recognize his gifts and reach out to him, he would reach out to others. All the priests and brothers thought of him as a loving father. He was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin, and tried to help others love her. This good priest loved God so much that even when he was sick, he kept on working. Father John Joseph died in March of 1734, at the age of eighty. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius VIII in 1839.
St. John Joseph was generous with his love for God and other people. He invites us to overcome any selfishness we may sometimes feel. Let’s really try to treat everyone with the same respect and kindness, even if we might like some people better than others.
St. Colette
Born in 1381, Nicolette was named in honor of St. Nicholas of Myra. Her parents nicknamed her Colette from the time she was a baby. Colette’s father was a carpenter at an abbey in Picardy, France. Quiet and hard working, Colette was a big help to her mother with the housework. Her parents noticed Colette’s love of prayer and her sensitive, affectionate nature. When Colette was seventeen, both her parents died. The young woman was placed under the care of the abbot at the monastery where her father had worked. She asked for and received a hut built next to the abbey church. Colette lived there for many years. She spent her time praying and sacrificing for Jesus’ Church. More and more people found out about this holy young woman. They went to see her and asked her advice about important problems. They knew that she was wise because she lived close to God. Colette received everybody with gentle kindness. After each visit, she would pray that her visitors would find peace of soul. Colette was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. The order of nuns started by St. Clare, who was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, is called the Poor Clares. In 1406 St. Francis appeared to Colette. He asked her to help the Poor Clares go back to living the way he and St. Clare had taught them. Colette must have been surprised and afraid of such a difficult task. But she trusted in God’s grace. Colette traveled to the Poor Clare convents. She helped the nuns become more poor and prayerful. She became a Poor Clare herself and was appointed superior of all the convents she reformed. The Poor Clares were inspired by St. Colette’s life. She had a great devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. She also spent much time meditating on the passion and death of Jesus. She loved Jesus and her religious vocation very much. Colette knew exactly when and where she was going to die. She died in one of her convents in Ghent, Flanders, in 1447.She was sixty-seven years old. Colette was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius VI in 1807.
St. Colette became a leader who was able to help others because she knew how to listen to God in her heart. If we take time each day to pray and to learn about the teachings of Jesus, we will give good example to others too.
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity
Perpetua and Felicity lived in Carthage, North Africa, in the third century. It was the time of the fierce persecution of Christians by Emperor Septimus Severus. Twenty-two-year-old Perpetua was the daughter of a rich nobleman. While growing up, she had received everything she wanted. But she realized that she loved Jesus and her Christian faith more than anything the world could offer. For this she found herself a prisoner on the way to execution. Perpetua’s father, who was not a Christian, was brokenhearted at the thought of losing his beloved daughter. He tried to convince her to reject her Christian beliefs. But Perpetua answered, “Can a jar be called anything else? Neither can I call myself anything else but what I am—a Christian.” This was an especially difficult decision because Perpetua knew that she would have to leave behind her husband and baby. Felicity, Perpetua’s Christian maid, had been a slave. She and Perpetua were great friends. They shared their belief in and love for Jesus. Like Perpetua, Felicity was also willing to sacrifice her life for Jesus and for her faith. She had been sent to prison with Perpetua. Felicity was a young wife and she was expecting a baby. Her baby was born while she was in prison. The baby was adopted by a good Christian woman. Felicity was happy because now she could die a martyr. Hand in hand, Perpetua and Felicity bravely faced martyrdom together at the public games in the amphitheater. They were charged by wild animals and then beheaded. They died around the year 203.
The martyrs were so faithful to Jesus that they made great sacrifices. They even gave up their lives for him. Let’s ask St. Perpetua and St. Felicity to help us accept cheerfully the little sacrifices that come our way.
St. John of God
John was born in Portugal on March 8, 1495. His parents were poor, but deeply Christian. As a young man, John became a soldier. He fought in the wars between France and Spain, and in Hungary. During these years he fell away, little by little, from the practice of his faith. Following his time as a soldier, John became a shepherd near Seville, Spain. By age forty, John began to regret the way he had lived his life. He opened a shop in Granada where he sold holy pictures and religious books. At about this time, he happened to hear a sermon by the holy priest, St. John of Avila. The sermon made John think about the way he had been living. He was so sorry for the wrong he had done that he suffered a kind of breakdown and had to spend time in the hospital. St. John of Avila visited him and helped him to form a new plan for his life. After coming out of the hospital in 1539, John began to live differently. He put prayer and penance into his daily schedule. He devoted himself to helping the poor and the sick. He opened a hospital, and other men came to help him in his work. This was the beginning of the Order of Brothers Hospitalers. It is believed that a bishop gave John his name because he changed his selfish life completely and really became a man “of God.” Some people wondered if John was as holy as he seemed. Once, a nobleman disguised himself as a beggar. He knocked on John’s door, asking for a donation. John cheerfully gave him everything he had, which amounted to a few dollars. The man did not reveal his identity at the time but went away very impressed. The next day he sent a messenger to return the borrowed money to John. The messenger also brought a letter of explanation and a large sum of money. Besides making this donation, the nobleman also had fresh bread, meat and eggs—enough for all the patients and staff— delivered every morning to the hospital that John had started. After ten years of hard work in his hospital, John became sick himself. He died on his birthday in 1550. John of God was proclaimed a saint by Pope Innocent XI in 1690. He is the patron of the sick, nurses, and hospitals.
St. John of God listened to the advice of St. John of Avila and other spiritual people. They helped him make the right choices. It’s a very good idea to ask the advice of people we trust.
St. Frances of Rome
St. Frances was born in Rome in 1384. Her parents were wealthy, but they taught Frances to be concerned about people and to live a good Christian life. She was an intelligent little girl. When she was eleven, Frances informed her parents that she had made up her mind to become a nun. Her parents encouraged her to think of marriage instead. As was the custom, they selected a good young man to be Frances’s husband. The bride was just thirteen.(This was not unusual in those days.) Frances and her husband, Lorenzo Ponziano, fell in love with each other. Even though their marriage had been arranged, they were happily married for forty years. Frances and her sister-in-law, Vannozza, prayed every day and performed penances for Jesus’ Church, which had many trials at that time. Frances and Vannozza also visited the poor. They took care of the sick. They brought food and firewood to people who needed it. Other wealthy women were inspired to help the poor by their good example. When the city was struck by a plague and famine, Frances sold her jewelry in order to help the victims. Frances led a holy life of prayer, penance, and devotion to her husband and children. She was an example for her whole household, and treated her hired help as her own brothers and sisters. Frances and Lorenzo were compassionate people. They knew what it was like to suffer. They lost two of their three children who caught the plague. This made them even more sensitive to the needs of the poor and suffering. During the wars between the real pope and the men who were claiming to be pope, Lorenzo led the armies that defended the true pope. While he was away at battle, his enemies destroyed his property and possessions. Even then, Frances cleaned up a part of the family villa that had been damaged and used it for a hospital. As hard as things were for her family, the people out on the street were in greater need. At this time Frances also formed a society of women living in the world without vows, dedicated to helping the poor. They were called the Oblates of Mary. Lorenzo was wounded and came home to be nursed back to health by his loving wife. After his death in 1436, Frances entered the community she had founded and became its superior. Frances died on March 9, 1440. She was declared a saint by Pope Paul V in 1608.
St. Frances really loved Jesus and his Church. She knew that the best way to show that love was to pray for the Church. Other ways were to take good care of her family and to look after the poor. We can ask St. Frances to help us know how to show our love for Jesus and his Church.
March 10
St. Dominic Savio
Dominic Savio was born in northern Italy in 1842. One day when he was just four years old, he disappeared. When his mother went to look for him, she found Dominic kneeling in a quiet corner praying. At five, Dominic became an altar boy. When he was seven, he received his First Holy Communion. On that day, Dominic chose a motto for himself. He promised Jesus in his heart, ”I will die, but I won’t sin!” And he prayed every day to be true to his promise. When he was twelve, Dominic went to the school run by St. John Bosco in Turin, Italy. Dominic missed his family, but he was happy to be at Don Bosco’s school. Here he would learn everything that he would need to become a priest, which is what he wanted to do with all his heart. Dominic was a good student, but he was a lot of fun to be with, too. He was the kind of person Don Bosco and the students knew they could depend on. Once Dominic broke up a fight between two angry boys. He held up a little crucifix and reminded the boys that they should forgive as Jesus did. Another time, Dominic noticed a group of bigger boys huddled in a circle. He worked his way through to see what was so interesting and found pornographic magazines. He grabbed them and ripped them up. The boys had never seen Dominic so angry. “Oh, what’s so wrong with looking at these pictures anyway?” one of the boys blurted. ”If you don’t see anything wrong,” Dominic said sadly, “that’s even worse. It means you’re used to looking at impure things!” Sometime later, Dominic began to feel sick. He was sent home to his family to get better. But even in his hometown, his health did not improve. He grew worse instead and received the last sacraments. He began to realize that he would not be going back to Don Bosco’s school. His great hope of becoming a priest was not to be fulfilled. Just before he died, Dominic tried to sit up. He said to his father, “I am seeing wonderful things. ”Then he rested his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. Dominic died in 1857, just a few weeks before his fifteenth birthday.
We can imitate St. Dominic Savio by asking ourselves, “Is this pleasing to God?” whenever we have to make a decision or a choice. This question will help us to make good choices.
March 11
St. Gemma Galgani
Gemma was born in Tuscany, Italy, in 1878. Her parents, Henry and Aurelia, were devout Catholics. Gemma was very close to her mother, who took time each day to pray with her and teach her about God. But Mrs. Galgani was very ill because she had caught tuberculosis when Gemma was only three. After five years of heroic suffering, Gemma’s mother died. Gemma longed for someone to pray with her and talk to her about holy things as her mother had done, but no one else in the family seemed to understand her needs. Gemma did well in school, and was liked by all her classmates and teachers. She helped out as much as she could at home, and she brought food and money to the poor. She also went to daily Mass and spent time every day praying. When she was about nineteen, Gemma became very sick. For two years she had to stay in bed and seemed very close to death. But then St. Gabriel Possenti, a saint of the Passionist Order, appeared to her in a vision, and she was miraculously cured. After that, Gemma wanted to become a Passionist nun. But the nuns did not accept her, probably because of her weak health. In the meantime, Gemma had been experiencing extraordinary things. She received the stigmata, or the five wounds of Jesus, and Jesus let her share every week in the sufferings he went through before his death. Jesus often visited Gemma. He also gave her the gift of being able to always see her guardian angel by her side. In the spring of 1902, Gemma became sick again with tuberculosis. For a year, she grew worse and worse. She was happy to be able to share in the sufferings of Jesus, and she offered her pain to God to make up for the sins of the whole world. Gemma died on Holy Saturday, April 11, 1903. She was twenty-five years old.
Everyone experiences sadness and difficulties sometimes. Like St. Gemma, we can offer our sorrows and sufferings to God. If we do this, God will help us to feel better and he will make us grow stronger as a person.
March 12
Blessed Aniela Salawa
Aniela was born on September 9, 1881, near Krakow, Poland. When she was sixteen, she got a job as a housekeeper. Two years later, her sister died, and Aniela began to think seriously about what she wanted to do with her life. She decided to dedicate herself to God. Aniela devoted herself to prayer, and encouraged other servants to live a life of faith and prayer. Even so, she never neglected to do any of the duties given her by her employers. In 1911, her mother, and then the woman she worked for, both died. A year later, Aniela became a member of the Franciscan Third Order. When World War I broke out, she spent her free time bringing relief and hope to the wounded in the hospitals of Krakow. Aniela became very sick in 1917. She could no longer work, or bring comfort to others. For five years, she suffered patiently, offering her pain to God in atonement for sins and praying that those who were far away from God would turn back to him. She died on March 12, 1922 at the age of forty. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on August 13, 1991.
Blessed Aniela shows us how to be open to the Holy Spirit. Let’s allow God to work in our lives, beginning here and now, by helping those around us.
March 13
St. Seraphina (Fina)
Seraphina was born in a little Italian town called San Geminiano, near Tuscany. Her parents had once been well off, but misfortune had left them poor. Seraphina, or Fina, as her family called her, was pretty and lively. She had a generous nature. Each day she saved half of her dinner for someone in the town who was poorer than she was. During the day she sewed and spun cloth to help pay the family debts. At night, she usually spent a long time praying to Jesus and Mary. When she was still quite young, her father died. Fina was struck with an illness that deformed and paralyzed her. It became almost impossible for her to move and she lay for six years on wooden planks. She was always in great pain and the only way she could bear it was to concentrate on Jesus as he was nailed to the cross. ”I unite my sufferings to yours, Jesus,” she would whisper. Fina was left alone for many hours every day because her mother had to go out to work or beg. Then, unexpectedly, Fina’s mother passed away. Now the girl was left alone. Only one neighbor, her good friend Beldia, came to care for her. Beldia tried to give Fina as much attention as she could, but she could not stay with her day and night. It soon became clear that Fina could not live much longer. She refused to feel sorry for herself. Someone mentioned to her about the great sufferings St. Gregory the Great had gone through. Fina became devoted to him. It is said that one day, as she groaned in pain, St. Gregory appeared to her. He said kindly, “Child, on my feast day God will grant you rest.” His feast day in those days was celebrated on March 12, because he had died on March 12, 604. On March 12, 1253, St. Gregory came to take Fina home to heaven.
St. Fina helps us appreciate the Christian meaning and value of suffering. Her story also shows us how important it is for us to visit shut-ins, elderly persons, and those who are sick. We can ask St. Fina to give us a sensitive heart for people who are lonely or suffering.
March 14
St. Matilda
Matilda was born about 895. She was the daughter of a German count. When she was still quite young, her parents arranged her marriage to a nobleman named Henry. Soon after their marriage, Henry became king of Germany. As queen, Matilda lived a simple lifestyle with times for daily prayer. Everyone who saw her realized how good and kind she was. She was more like a mother than a queen. She loved to visit and comfort the sick. She helped prisoners. Matilda did not let herself be spoiled by her position, but tried to reach out to people in need. King Henry realized that his wife was a special person. He told her many times that he was a better person and a better king because she was his wife. Even though their marriage had been arranged, Henry and Matilda really loved each other. Matilda was free to use the treasures of the kingdom for her charities and Henry never questioned her. In fact, he became more aware of the needs of people. He realized that he had the power to ease suffering because of his position. The couple was happily married for twenty-three years. Then King Henry died quite suddenly in 936. The queen suffered the loss very much. She decided then and there to live for God alone. So she called the priest to celebrate Mass for King Henry’s soul. Then she gave the priest all the jewels she was wearing. She did this to show that she meant to give up the things of the world from then on. After years spent in practicing charity and penance, and in building three convents and a monastery, St. Matilda died peacefully in 968. She was buried beside her husband.
From St. Matilda we can learn to use whatever we have to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Christians too.
March 15
St. Zachary
Zachary was born in San Severino, Italy, to a Greek family. He became a deacon in Rome, and then, in 741, pope. In his time, there was fighting all over Italy. Pope Zachary kept making peace and saving people from terrible wars. At times he risked his life to do it. It was because this pope was so gentle and kind that the leaders did what he asked. Zachary would do favors even for his enemies, and he gave them the kindest treatment possible. He never took revenge on them. When Pope Zachary learned that the Lombards were about to attack Rome, he asked to have a meeting with their leader. The pope and Liutprand of the Lombards met. Whatever they said to each other, the results were impressive. Liutprand canceled his attack. He also returned all the land he had taken in that area over the previous thirty years. He even released all prisoners. Liutprand signed a twenty-year treaty in which the Romans would be guaranteed freedom from attacks from the Lombards. Pope Zachary was also known as a real father toward the poor. He built homes for the poor and for travelers. His loving heart could not bear to see people suffer. Once he heard that some businessmen had bought poor slaves in Rome and were going to sell them in Africa. He called those men and scolded them for being so cruel. Then he paid them the price they were asking for the slaves and set the slaves free. When Zachary died in 752, all the people were saddened to have lost such a good and saintly father.
St. Zachary was a peacemaker because he was willing to talk to people who disagreed with him. Let’s try to be like St. Zachary and settle arguments by listening to others. We may find that they are more open to our ideas if they know we are treating them with respect.
March 16
Blessed Torello
Torello was born around 1202, in Poppi, Italy. He grew up like all the other children of his village. But after his father’s death, Torello started to change his whole way of life. He got involved with companions who drank. They hung around town all day instead of working. Torello liked his new friends and was trying hard to win their approval. Then while he was playing an outdoor sport one day, a rooster flew down from its roost. It landed on Torello’s arm and crowed three times, long and loud. Torello was speechless. He walked away and wouldn’t finish the game. He couldn’t help but think that what the rooster had done was no coincidence. He was being warned, just as St. Peter had once been warned, not to deny Jesus. Torello realized that the way he was living was leading him away from Jesus. Torello decided then and there to change his life. He went to see the abbot of San Fedele, who helped him make a good confession. Then Torello went out to a quiet, wooded area and selected a spot near a big tree. He spent eight days in prayer. At the end of that time he decided that he would be a hermit. He went back to Poppi and sold all his property. He kept only enough money to buy the small square plot of land around the big tree he had found in the woods. Next to that tree he built a shack where he spent the rest of his life. He grew his own vegetables for food and got water from the stream. He led a life of prayer and penance. Torello felt that being a hermit was what God wanted of him. This is how he peacefully spent his life. While he was alive, very few people knew of his hermit’s life. Only one friend was aware of Torello’s hidden life in the forest. Torello died in 1282 at the age of eighty after spending over fifty years as a hermit.
Blessed Torello realized that the way he had been living was not right. We should always try to remember that God has created us to be happy with him in heaven. If we think about this, it will help us to live in a way that pleases God.
March 17
St. Patrick
It is believed that St. Patrick was born in fifth century Britain to Roman parents. When he was sixteen, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland. There he was sold as a slave. His owner sent him to tend his flocks of sheep on the mountains. Patrick had very lit- tle food and clothing. Yet he took good care of the animals in rain, snow and ice. Patrick was so lonely on the hillside that he turned often in prayer to Jesus and his mother Mary. His life was hard and unfair. But Patrick’s trust in God grew stronger all the time. Six years later, when he escaped from Ireland, Patrick decided to become a priest. After years of study and preparation, he was ordained. After some time he was made a bishop. Now what Patrick wanted more than anything else was to return to Ireland and bring the light of faith in Jesus to the Irish people. It was while St. Celestine I was pope that Patrick went back to Ireland. How happy he was to bring the Good News of the true God to the people who once had held him a slave! Right from the start, Patrick suffered much. His relatives and friends wanted him to quit before the people of Ireland killed him. Yet Patrick kept on preaching about Jesus. He traveled from one village to another. He seldom rested, and he performed great penances for those people whom he loved so much. Before he died, the whole nation of Ireland was Christian. In spite of his great success, St. Patrick never grew proud. He called himself a poor sinner and gave all the praises to God. In his Confessio, Patrick wrote about his work of spreading the faith among the Irish. Most of what we know about his life comes from this writing. Patrick died in 461.
Many missionaries are working today to bring the Good News to our world just as St. Patrick did. We can pray and make sacrifices so that their hard work will lead many people to know and love Jesus.
March 18
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril was born around 315 when a new phase was beginning for Christians. Before that date, the Church was persecuted by the emperors. Thousands of Christians had been martyrs. In 313, Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion. That was a wonderful thing, but it didn’t end all the problems. In fact, during the years that followed Constantine’s Edict of 313, a whole new difficulty arose. There was confusion about some Christian beliefs. Some priests and bishops became brave defenders of Church teaching. One such bishop was Cyril of Jerusalem. When St. Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem, died, Cyril was chosen to take his place. Cyril was the bishop of Jerusalem for thirty-five years. At the time, certain priests and bishops who were trying to explain the Holy Trinity became confused. A group of them, called Arians, began to teach that Jesus Christ is not God. As bishop, Cyril explained the Church’s teachings very clearly. He reminded everyone that each of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity is God. Because Bishop Cyril disagreed with the Arians, they had him banished from Jerusalem three times. But Cyril continued to teach the truth. In 379, the Council of Antioch investigated the case and found that Cyril was teaching the correct faith. The reign of Emperor Julian the apostate began in 361. (An apostate is someone who gives up the Christian faith.) Julian decided to rebuild the famous Temple of Jerusalem. He had a definite purpose in mind: he wanted to prove that Jesus had been wrong when he declared that the Temple of Jerusalem would not be rebuilt. So Julian spent a lot of money and sent all the materials for a new Temple. Many people helped by giving jewels and precious metals. St. Cyril calmly responded to Emperor Julian’s act of pride. He was sure that the Temple could not be built, because Jesus, who is God, had said so. The bishop simply looked at all the building materials and said, ”I know that this will fail.” And sure enough, first a storm, then an earthquake, then a fire stopped the emperor! He finally abandoned the project. St. Cyril died in 386 when he was around seventy. This gentle, kindly man had lived in times of upheaval and sadness. But he never lost his courage because it came from Jesus. He was faithful to the Lord all his life. Because he was so successful in explaining the truth about Christ and about his Church in difficult times, Pope Leo XIII declared St. Cyril of Jerusalem a Doctor of the Church in 1882.
St. Cyril teaches us how important it is to have a correct understanding of our Catholic faith. Learning the teachings of Jesus and of his Church is not only for children. As we grow older and are able to understand more, we should continue to study our faith more deeply.
March 19
St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
Joseph was a good Jewish man in the family line of the great King David. His family was originally from Bethlehem in Judea, but Joseph himself was a poor carpenter living in Nazareth. Joseph was Mary’s husband and Jesus’ foster father. It was his great privilege and joy to take care of God’s own Son, Jesus, and his mother, Mary. Joseph was happy to work for his little family. He loved Jesus and Mary very much. Whatever the Lord wanted him to do, St. Joseph did at once, no matter how difficult it was. He was humble and pure, gentle and wise. Jesus and Mary loved him and obeyed him because God had placed him as the head of their family. Joseph is not mentioned in the Gospel once Jesus began his ministry. This is probably because he had died by this time. We can imagine what a beautiful death St. Joseph experienced, with Mary and Jesus there beside him. For this reason, St. Joseph is prayed to as the protector of the dying. St. Teresa of Avila chose St. Joseph as the protector of her Carmelite Order. She had great trust in his prayers. ”Every time I ask St. Joseph for something,” she said, ”he always obtains it for me.” Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph the patron of the Universal Church. Pope Leo XIII named him as a model for fathers of families.
Let’s try to obey our parents and willingly help them with the work to be done at home, just as Jesus obeyed, loved and helped Mary and St. Joseph.
March 20
St. Cuthbert
St. Cuthbert lived in England in the seventh century. He was a poor shepherd boy who loved to play games with his friends. He was very good at them, too. One of his friends scolded him for loving to play so much. In fact, his playmate said words that didn’t seem to be coming from himself. The boy said, “Cuthbert, how can you waste your time playing games when you have been chosen to be a priest and a bishop?” Cuthbert was confused and very impressed when he heard this. He wondered if he really was going to be a priest and a bishop. In August, 651, fifteen-year-old Cuthbert experienced something he would never forget. He saw a totally black sky. Suddenly a bright beam of light moved across it. In the light were angels carrying a ball of fire up beyond the sky. Sometime later, Cuthbert learned that the same night of the vision, the bishop, St. Aiden, had died. Cuthbert did not know how this all involved him, but he made up his mind about his life’s vocation and entered a monastery. There Cuthbert became a priest. From one village to another, from house to house, Father Cuthbert went, on horse or on foot. He visited people bringing them the Good News of Jesus. He could speak the dialect of the peasants because he himself had once been a poor shepherd boy. Cuthbert did good everywhere and brought many people to God. He was cheerful and kind. People felt attracted to him and no one was afraid of him. He was also a prayerful, holy monk. When Cuthbert was ordained a bishop, he worked just as hard as ever to help his people. He visited them no matter how difficult it was to travel on poor roads or in very bad weather. As he lay dying, Cuthbert urged his monks to live in peace and charity with everyone. He died peacefully in 687.
St. Cuthbert went out of his way to be kind and loving with his people. We can ask him to help us to be like him so that no one will find it hard to get along with us.
March 21
St. Serapion
Serapion lived in Egypt in the fourth century. Those were exciting times for the Church and for Serapion. As a young man, he received an impressive education in his Christian faith and in all the usual subjects taught in school. For a while, he directed the famous Christian school that taught the faith in Alexandria. Then Serapion went out into the desert and became a monk. There he met the famous hermit, St. Anthony of Egypt. Serapion tried very hard to learn from Anthony and imitate him. When he died, Anthony left Serapion one of his cloaks, which Serapion treasured for the rest of his life. Serapion became bishop of Thumis, a city in lower Egypt. He went to a very important meeting of bishops in Sardis in 347. Serapion proved to be a very brave bishop. He loved the truths of the faith and tried to protect them from those who wanted to change Christian beliefs. He worked with St. Athanasius, another brave bishop. Both were outstanding for their courage. They tirelessly explained Church teachings with their sermons and with their writings. Most of St. Serapion’s writings were lost. They were letters full of instruction about the faith and an explanation of the Psalms. His most important work, a book called the Euchologium, was lost for hundreds of years. It was found and published at the end of the nineteenth century. Emperor Constantius II, who disagreed with some Catholic teachings and with St. Athanasius, sent Serapion into exile. It seems that Serapion died around the year 370 in the place where he was exiled.
St. Serapion shows us by the way he lived that being a good Christian takes courage and honesty. Sometimes people may not understand or agree with our choices. But if we want to be true to Jesus and his Church, we will have to risk being unpopular at times.
March 22
St. Deogratias
The city of Carthage in Africa was taken over by barbarian armies in 439. The conquerors were the Vandals. They arrested the bishop and priests and put them on a large, old wooden raft and set it adrift at sea. Incredible as it may seem, the bishop and his priests reached the port of Naples, Italy, and were rescued. But Carthage, the city they left behind, was without a bishop for fourteen years. Emperor Valentinian in Rome asked Genseric, the leader of the Vandals, to permit the ordination of another bishop for Carthage. Genseric agreed, and a young priest of that city was chosen. He was respected by the conquerors and loved by the Christians. His name in Latin was “Deogratias,” which means “thanks be to God.” Bishop Deogratias labored for the faith and well-being of the people of Carthage. Then Genseric attacked Rome. He returned to Africa with hundreds of slaves—men, women and children. Whole families were kidnapped and divided up among the Vandals and Moors. Genseric allowed family members to be sold and separated from their loved ones. Bishop Deogratias heard about the tragedy. When the slave ships docked at Carthage, he bought back as many slaves as he could. He raised the money by selling the church vessels, vestments and ornaments. He was able to free many families. He found living quarters for them. When the houses were filled up, he used two large churches for this purpose. He bought everything they needed so that the people could feel at home in their new surroundings. Bishop Deogratias died in 457 after only three years as Carthage’s bishop. He was totally worn out from his life of self-sacrifice and loving service. The people he helped would never forget him.
St. Deogratias helps us realize that we can never put a price on a human life. Each person is valuable because we are all children of God, our loving Father. Let’s pray to St. Deogratias that human life will be more respected.
March 23
St. Toribio de Mogrovejo
Toribio was born in 1538 in Majorca, Spain. He became a university professor and then a famous judge. He was a fine Christian with a reputation for being honest and wise. An unusual thing happened to Toribio, and it changed his whole life. He was asked to become the archbishop of Lima, Peru. First of all, he was not even a priest. Second, Peru was in South America, far away from Spain. Many people in the Church realized that Toribio had the qualities for such a trusted position. He begged to be excused from the honor. But when he learned about the miserable condition of the native people of Peru, Toribio could not refuse. He wanted to help them and to bring them the faith. Toribio was ordained a priest and set out for Peru in 1581. As archbishop, Toribio traveled all over the country. He made his way over the snowy mountains on foot. He walked over the hot sands of the seashore. He built churches and hospitals. In 1591, he established the first seminary in the Americas. Now young men of Peru could be trained to become priests who could minister to their own people. Archbishop Toribio learned the different native languages. He wanted the people to be able to listen to homilies at Mass and go to confession in their own language. He protected the natives who were often cruelly treated by their conquerors. Toribio loved the people of Peru. He spent the rest of his life as a priest and bishop for them. He died on March 23, 1606, at the age of sixty-eight. Archbishop Toribio was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
We don’t want to be fooled into judging the importance of people by the amount of money they have or the expensive things they own. Each one is important because God is the Father of us all. We can ask St. Toribio to help us treat every person with respect and kindness as he did.
March 24
Blessed Diego
Blessed Diego was born on March 29, 1743, in Cadiz, Spain. He was baptized Joseph Francis. His parents loved their faith and practiced it. They were delighted when Joseph constructed an altar and decorated it. He liked to kneel in front of it and pray to Jesus, to the Blessed Mother and to St. Joseph. When he was old enough, Joseph learned how to serve Mass at the Capuchin Franciscan church just down the street. Joseph loved to go to Mass. He used to get up early enough to be at the church each morning to wait for the doors to be unlocked. He never missed a day. One of the Capuchins gave Joseph a book about the lives of the Capuchin saints. He read it and read it again. Joseph learned every story. He grew to love these holy men who were poor and humble like Jesus. The day came when he asked to join the Capuchin Order. He was accepted and went to Seville, Spain, for his novitiate training. He began a new life with a new name, Brother Diego. After years of preparation, Brother Diego was ordained a priest. He was sent out to preach the Good News of Jesus to the people. He loved doing this. His homilies were so clear and kind that people listened. They even brought their friends to listen. Soon an ordinary church was too small for the crowds. When Father Diego was preaching, the talks were held outdoors, usually in the town square or in the streets. Father Diego loved to preach about the Holy Trinity. He was always available to hear confessions, too. He was happy when people came to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Whenever he had some free time, he visited prisons and hospitals. He also would go to visit shut-ins in their homes. Father Diego died in 1801 and was declared “blessed” by Pope Leo XIII in 1894.
Blessed Diego lived a wonderful life for God’s people. Let’s ask him to help us make the most of the good influences in our lives. Such influences can be holy people, religious instruction, the Mass and good books or magazines.
March 25
Annunciation of the Lord
Nine months before Christmas, we celebrate the moment in which our Lord Jesus Christ became man and began to grow as a baby in Mary’s womb. We read about the Annunciation (the announcement of the coming of Jesus) in the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38). When the time had arrived for God’s Son to come down to us from heaven, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth where Mary lived. The archangel entered Mary’s little house and said, “Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you, and you are blessed among women.” Mary was surprised to hear the angel’s words of praise. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” continued Gabriel. Then he told Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior. Mary understood what a great honor God was giving her. She answered, “I am the handmaid of the Lord!” Mary knew, too, that as the mother of Jesus, she would have many sorrows. She knew she would have to suffer when her Son suffered. But with all her heart, she said, ”Let everything happen as you have said.” At that very moment, Mary became the Mother of God.
At the Annunciation our Blessed Mother gave us a wonderful example of humility and obedience. Let’s show God our love by obeying those who represent him—our parents or guardians and teachers.
March 26
St. Margaret Clitherow
Margaret was born in York, England, in the middle of the sixteenth century. Her father was a rich candle maker. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well off butcher. About two or three years later, Margaret embraced the Catholic faith. There were laws in England at the time that forbade people to be Catholics. John Clitherow was fined many times because his wife was not attending Protestant services. Because she continued to practice her Catholic faith, Margaret was put into prison for two years. As soon as she was released, she began a Catholic school for children. She rented a house where the Mass could be celebrated in secret. Catholic priests had been forced into hiding, and Margaret’s home became one of their most important hiding places. In 1584 Margaret was put under house arrest in her own home for eighteen months because she had sent her oldest son to France to receive a Catholic education. A short time later, her house was searched and a hiding place was found, containing books and articles used for Mass. Margaret was arrested and charged with hiding Catholic priests. Since this was a capital offense, she was sentenced to die on March 25, 1586. Pope Paul VI canonized brave Margaret Clitherow in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
It’s not always easy for us to stand up for what our religion teaches us. We may worry about what others will think of us. When this happens we can pray to St. Margaret for the courage to be true to our faith in everyday life. We may even find that others are grateful for our example of faith!
March 27
St. John of Egypt
A man who desired to be alone with God was to become one of the most famous hermits of his time. St. John of Egypt was born around 304. Not much is known about his childhood except that he learned the carpenter’s trade. When he was twenty-five, John decided to leave the world for good to spend his life in prayer and sacrifice for God. He became one of the famous desert hermits of that time. For ten years he was the disciple of an elderly hermit. This holy man taught him all about the spiritual life. John called him his “spiritual father.” After the older monk’s death, John spent four or five years in various monasteries. He wanted to become familiar with the way monks pray and live. Finally, John found a cave high in the rocks. The area was quiet and protected from the desert sun and winds. He divided the cave into three parts: a living room, a workroom and a little chapel. People in the area brought him food and other necessities. Many also came to seek his advice about important matters. Even Emperor Theodosius I asked his advice twice, in 388 and in 392. Such well-known saints as Augustine and Jerome wrote about the holiness of St. John. When so many people came to visit him, some men became his disciples. They stayed in the area and built a hospice, a place where travelers could stay. They took care of the hospice so that more people could come to benefit from the wisdom of this hermit. St. John was able to prophesy future events. He could read the thoughts of those who came to see him. When he applied blessed oil on those who had a physical illness, they were often cured. Even when John became famous, he kept humble and led a strict life. He died peacefully in 394 at the age of ninety.
We can ask St. John to show us how to keep close to God. St. John will help us make a real effort to put God first in our lives so that he will be able to work in and through us. sensitive and compassionate.
March 28
St. Tutilo
Tutilo lived in the late ninth and early tenth centuries. He was educated at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland. Two of his classmates have been declared “blessed.” All three gradually became monks in the monastery where they had gone to school. Tutilo was a person of many talents. He was a poet, a portrait painter, a sculptor, an orator, a metalworker and an architect. His greatest talent was music. He could play all the instruments known to the monks for their liturgies. Tutilo and his friend, Blessed Notker, composed tunes for the liturgy responses. Only three poems and one hymn remain of all Tutilo’s works. But his paintings and sculptures are still found today in several cities of Europe. The paintings and sculptures are identified with St. Tutilo because he always marked his works with a motto. But Tutilo was not proclaimed a saint because of his many talents. He was a humble person who wanted to live for God. He praised God the way he knew how: by painting, sculpting and composing music. Tutilo was proclaimed a saint because he spent his life praising and loving God. St. Tutilo died in 915.
Whether we have many talents or few, it’s important to remember that they are gifts from God. We should develop our talents and use them to do good, just as St. Tutilo did. In this way, we’ll show God that we’re grateful for the gifts he has given us.
March 29
St. Jonas and St. Barachisius
King Sapor II of Persia reigned in the fourth century. He hated Christians and persecuted them cruelly. He destroyed their churches and monasteries. Two monks named Jonas and Barachisius heard of the persecutions. They learned that many Christians had been put to death. They decided to go to help the Christians and to encourage them to remain faithful to Jesus. Jonas and Barachisius knew that they, too, might be captured. But that did not stop them. Their hearts were too full of love of others to have room for worry about their own safety. At last the two monks were taken prisoner. They were told that if they did not worship the sun, the moon, and fire and water, they would be tortured and put to death. Of course, they refused to worship anything or anyone except the one true God. They had to suffer greatly, but they prayed. They kept thinking of how Jesus had suffered for them. The two monks endured terrible tortures but would not give up their faith. They were finally condemned to death and joyfully gave up their lives for Jesus. Jonas and Barachisius were martyred in 327
When we have some little pain, we can ask St. Jonas and St. Barachisius to help us offer it to Jesus. They will show us how to be brave and cheerful.
March 30
St. John Climacus
It is believed that John was born in Palestine in the sixth century. He seems to have been a disciple of St. Gregory Nazianzen. He could have become a famous teacher, but he decided to serve God with his whole heart. John joined a monastery on Mount Sinai when he was sixteen. Then he went to live for forty years by himself. He spent all his time praying and reading the lives of the saints. At first, John was tempted by the devil. But he put all his trust in Jesus and prayed harder than ever. So the temptations never made him fall into sin. In fact, he only grew holier. He became so close to God that many heard of his holiness. They came to ask him for advice. God gave St. John a wonderful gift. He was able to bring peace to people who were upset and tempted. Once a man who was having terrible temptations came to him. He asked St. John to help him. After they had prayed together, peace filled the poor man’s soul. He was never again troubled with those temptations. When the saint was in his seventies, he was chosen abbot of Mount Sinai. He became the superior of all the monks and hermits in the country. Another abbot asked St. John to write the rules which he had lived by all his life. This way the monks could follow his example. With great humility, St. John wrote the book called The Ladder of Perfection, or The Climax of Perfection. And that is why he is called “Climacus.” St. John died in 649.
It is very wise to keep a good book in our room. We can read from it a little bit each day or before we go to bed. Reading about the lives of the saints is what helped St. John become a saint himself.
March 31
St. Guy of Pomposa
Guy lived in Ravenna, Italy, in the eleventh century. As a young man, he gave everything he owned to the poor and became a monk in Rome. He lived for three years beside the Po River with a hermit named Martin. After this he joined the monks at Pomposa Abbey. His wisdom and holiness became well known, and soon crowds of people were flocking to see him. The archbishop of Ravenna was considering closing the monastery, but changed his mind after meeting with Guy. In fact, because Guy was attracting so many disciples, another monastery had to be built! In his old age, Guy returned to a hermit’s life. He died at Borgo San Donnino in 1046, on his way to a meeting with Emperor Henry III, who needed his advice.
When we take time each day to be close to God in prayer, we find the help we need to be like St. Guy and reach out to others who are struggling with problems or difficulties.