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St. Hugh of Grenoble
St. Hugh was born in 1052 in France. He grew up to be tall and handsome, gentle and courteous. Although he always wanted to live for God as a monk, he was given important positions instead. He was ordained a priest and then a bishop. As bishop, Hugh began at once to correct unjust customs of some people in his diocese. He made wise plans, but that was not all he did. To draw God’s mercy upon his people, Bishop Hugh prayed with his whole heart and offered sacrifices. In a short time, many of the people became virtuous and prayerful. Only some of the nobility continued to oppose him. Bishop Hugh still thought about the life of a monk. It was what he truly wanted. He resigned as bishop of Grenoble and entered a monastery. At last, he was at peace. Yet it was not God’s will for Hugh to be a monk. After a year, the pope sent him back to Grenoble again. Hugh obeyed. He knew it was more important to please God than to please himself. For forty years, Bishop Hugh was sick nearly all the time. He had severe headaches and stomach problems. But he kept on working. He loved his people and there was so much to do for them. Bishop Hugh died on April 1, 1132, two months before his eightieth birthday. He had been a generous and holy bishop for fifty-two years. In 1134, just two years after his death, Hugh was proclaimed a saint by Pope Innocent II.
Sometimes we think we know what’s best for us, as St. Hugh thought it was best for him to be a monk. We may feel more comfortable doing one thing rather than another. But God may want us to do something completely different. We should pray to know God’s will and then follow it. Doing the will of God is what makes us really happy.
St. Francis of Paola
Francis was born in the tiny village of Paola, Italy, around 1416. His parents were poor but humble and holy. They had prayed to St. Francis of Assisi for a son. When their baby was born, they named him after the saint. When Francis was old enough, he went to a school taught by the Franciscan priests. When he was fifteen, he asked for and received his parents’ permission to become a hermit and spend his life for God alone. After this, Francis went to live in a cave. In 1436, two of his friends joined him. They built a monastery, and Francis wrote a rule of life stressing charity, humility and penance. He added a vow of fasting and abstinence from meat. In this way Francis and his community hoped to set an example for so many Christians who at that time did not take their Lenten obligations of fasting and avoiding meals of meat on certain days seriously. Francis’s Order was approved by Pope Sixtus IV in 1474. They were called the Minim Friars, meaning “the littlest ones.” This name was chosen because of the importance of the virtue of humility for Francis and his friars. Everyone loved Francis. He prayed for them and worked many miracles. He told his followers that they must be kind and humble. He himself was the best example of the virtues he preached. When King Louis XI of France was on his deathbed, he asked the pope to send Francis to him. Francis was such a source of hope and comfort for the dying king, that the king’s son, Charles VIII, became Francis’s lifelong friend and benefactor. Charles built a monastery in Plessis, France, for the Minims, and this is where Francis spent the rest of his life. Francis of Paola died on Good Friday, April 2, 1507 at the age of ninety-one. He was canonized a saint in 1519.
St. Francis knew that it’s very important while we’re living on this earth to get ready for the life we want to spend with God forever in heaven. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in music, television shows, videos and computer games that we forget all about God. Saying our prayers every morning when we get up and every night when we go to bed are two important ways to keep close to God.
St. Richard de Wyche
St. Richard was born in England in 1197. He and his brother became orphans when Richard was very young. His brother owned some farms. Richard gave up his studies to help him save the farms from going to ruin. He worked so hard that his grateful brother wanted to give the farms to him, but Richard would not accept them. He wanted to go away to college to get a good education. He knew that because he had very little money, he would have to work hard to pay his tuition. Richard went to Oxford University. He was eventually given an important position at the university. Later, St. Edmund, who was archbishop of Canterbury, gave him responsible assignments in his diocese. When St. Edmund died, Richard attended the Dominican House of Studies in France. There he was ordained a priest. Then he was made the bishop of Chichester, England, and that is why he is also known as Richard of Chichester. King Henry III wanted someone else to be bishop. He had a friend in mind, but this person did not have the qualifications. The matter was brought to the pope in Rome and in 1245, Pope Innocent IV ruled that Richard was the valid bishop of Chichester. King Henry III was angry and refused to let Richard into his own cathedral. The king also threatened the people of Chichester with punishment if they offered Richard hospitality. But some brave people, like Father Simon, a priest from Chichester, helped Bishop Richard anyway. The two men became great friends. King Henry only gave in when the pope threatened to excommunicate him if he continued to interfere. As bishop, Richard did his duties well. He was always gentle and kind with the people. Once in a while, he had to be stern. He was courageous and confronted people when they were doing wrong and were not sorry. It is said that when Bishop Richard became ill, he foretold his death, because God had let him know the exact place and time when he would die. His friends, including Father Simon, were at his bedside. He died at the age of fifty-five in 1253. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Urban IV in 1262.
As a farmer, a student, a priest and a bishop, St. Richard did his duties as well as he could. Let’s ask him to help us always try our very best at home and at school.
St. Isidore of Seville
Isidore was born around the year 560 in Cartagena, Spain. His two brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, were bishops who became saints. His sister Florentina, a nun, also became a saint. Isidore was taught by his older brother Leander. Little Isidore thought Leander was just about the meanest person in the whole world because Leander always made him study and do his homework. But the day came when Isidore realized that Leander had really been a wonderful friend. He taught Isidore that we can do so much good for Jesus’ Church when we take our education seriously. Leander became bishop of Seville, and when he died around the year 600, Isidore took his place. Isidore was bishop of Seville for thirty-seven years. He continued Leander’s work of bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the Visigoths. Isidore was an organizer, too. He was asked to direct two important Church meetings called Councils. The first was held in Seville, Spain, in 619. The second Council took place in Toledo, Spain, in 633. These Councils helped the Church become more united. Isidore is considered one of the most learned men of his times. He understood the importance of a good education. He founded schools to train priests. These were similar to the seminaries we have today. Isidore also wrote many works on theology, astronomy, geography, and history, as well as some biographies. Besides Spanish, he could speak and write in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Isidore led a strict life and shared what he had with the poor. There was a constant stream of people at his door from morning till night. They came from all over the country because they knew he would help them. Isidore died on April 4, 636. He was canonized in 1598. In 1722, Pope Innocent XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.
The story of St. Isidore reminds us that our minds are a special gift from God. And it’s a gift that we don’t want to waste. We can ask St. Isidore to help us apply our minds to things that are really worthwhile.
St. Vincent Ferrer
Vincent Ferrer was a wonderful Christian hero. He was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1350. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and was happy whenever anyone spoke of her. When he was seventeen, Vincent entered the Dominican Order, also called the Order of Preachers. He was very intelligent and did well in his studies. He was handsome too, but he wasn’t proud or boastful. From the age of twenty-one, Father Vincent taught at different colleges. Then in 1398, while he was recovering from a serious illness, Jesus appeared to him in a vision with St. Dominic and St. Francis and told Vincent to preach. For twenty years, Father Vincent preached all over Spain and France. Although there were no microphones in those days, his voice could be heard from a great distance. Many people were touched by his words. They were so impressed by Vincent’s sermons and example of holiness that they became more fervent. Catholics who were not practicing their faith often changed and began to live lives of fervor. Vincent counted on God. He also asked people to pray and offer God sacrifices for the success of his sermons. Vincent knew that it was not his words or his talents that won people over. That is why he prayed before every sermon. But it is said that one time, when he knew that a very important person was going to listen to him, he worked harder than usual on his sermon. He ran out of time to pray. This sermon, which he had prepared so carefully, did not affect the nobleman much at all. God let that happen to teach Vincent not to count on himself. Another time, the same important person came to listen to Father Vincent preach. But this time the priest did not know it. He prayed and counted on God as usual. The nobleman listened to the sermon and was greatly touched by what he heard. When Vincent was told about it, he said, ”In the first sermon it was Vincent who preached. In the second sermon, it was Jesus Christ.” Vincent died in 1419. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Nicholas V in 1455.
Let’s never brag about ourselves, or act as though we can do things on our own, without God’s help. God will continue to help us all our lives if we recognize our need for him. We can ask St. Vincent to help us understand this.
Blessed Notker
This Benedictine monk had once been a sickly child. He had a very noticeable speech impediment all his life. But Notker was determined not to let it get in his way. This made him even more likable than he already was. He and two other friends, Tutilo and Radpert, were very happy monks. They encouraged each other in their vocations at the monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland. Their common love for God and for music made them lifelong friends. (You can read about St. Tutilo on March 28.) Emperor Charles visited the great monastery from time to time. He highly respected Notker and asked him for advice. Unfortunately, he didn’t usually follow the advice. One time Emperor Charles sent his messenger to ask to see Notker. Notker was taking care of his garden. He sent the emperor this message: ”Take care of your garden as I am taking care of mine.” Emperor Charles understood that he should be taking better care of his own soul and of his kingdom. The priest who served as the emperor’s personal chaplain was very educated but very conceited. He was upset because the emperor valued Notker’s opinion so much. In front of everybody at court one day, he asked Notker, ”Since you are so intelligent, tell me what God is doing right now.” The priest smiled at the monk, thinking that he would never have an answer. Instead Notker responded quickly, ”God is doing now what he has always done. He is pushing down those who are proud and is raising up the lowly.” The people started laughing as the chaplain quickly left the room. Blessed Notker spent the rest of his life in his chosen vocation. He did many little extra things to make monastery life pleasant for the monks. With his friends, Tutilo and Radpert, he created beautiful music for the worship of God. When Blessed Notker died in 912, the entire community of monks wept.
Each of us has gifts and talents. Each of us also has weak points. It doesn’t make sense to just focus on those things that we can’t do well and ignore the things we’re good at. Let’s ask Blessed Notker to help us be grateful for our talents and use them to honor God and to help our neighbor.
St. John Baptist de la Salle
John Baptist de la Salle was born in Rheims, France, on April 30, 1651. His parents were from the nobility. John was used to elegant living. But he was a prayerful boy, too. He loved Jesus and his Church. In fact, he was studying to become a priest when both his parents died. John had to leave the seminary and go home to take care of his brothers. But while he was teaching and training them, John kept on studying too. His brothers turned out to be fine young men. When their studies were completed, John Baptist was ordained a priest. At that time, the nobles, like Father John Baptist’s family, had the chance to be well educated. But the common people remained poor and ignorant. They had no opportunity to go to school. Father John Baptist felt very sorry for the children of the poor. He decided to do something about their situation. He began to open schools for them. To provide teachers, he started a new order, the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Although Father John Baptist also taught the children himself, he spent most of his time training the teaching brothers. For them he wrote a rule of life and a book explaining the best way to teach. Father John Baptist was one of the best educators of all time. He believed in teaching in the language of the people, not in Latin, as others did. He grouped the students into classes. He stressed the importance of silence while the lesson was being taught. After a while, the brothers opened more schools. They taught the sons of the working people and nobles, too. Many difficulties faced the new order. But Father John Baptist’s constant prayer and sacrifices blessed the work. It continued to grow and spread. Father John Baptist’s health was never good. His asthma and arthritis caused him constant pain. In spite of this, he would never allow himself to take on an easier lifestyle. He died on Good Friday, April 7, 1719, at the age of sixty-eight. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. Pope Pius XII declared him the patron of teachers in 1950.
St. John Baptist de la Salle and his religious congregation teach us how important our education is. Do we really try to learn from all the wonderful things we’re taught in school? Do we pay attention in class and do our homework? When we begin studying, we can pray to St. John Baptist to help us.
St. Julie Billiart
Marie Rose Julie Billiart was born in France in 1751. Her uncle, the village school teacher, taught her to read and write. She especially loved to study about God. In fact, when she was just seven, Julie would explain the Catholic faith to other little children. When her parents became poor, she worked hard to help support the family. She even went to harvest the crops. Yet she always found time to pray, to visit the sick, and to teach catechism. While she was still a young woman, Julie became very ill and completely paralyzed. Although helpless, Julie offered her prayers so that many people would find eternal happiness with God. She was more united to God than ever and kept on teaching catechism from her bed. She was a very spiritual person. People came to her for advice because she helped them grow closer to Jesus and practice their faith with more love. She encouraged everyone to receive Holy Communion often. Many young women were inspired by Julie’s love for God. They were willing to spend their time and money for good works. With Mother Julie as their leader, they started the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Once a priest came to preach in the town where Julie lived. He asked her to make a novena (nine days of prayer) with him for a special intention, which he would not tell her. After five days, on the feast of the Sacred Heart, he said: ”Mother, if you have faith, take one step in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Mother Julie, who had been paralyzed for twenty-two years, stood up and was cured! Julie spent the rest of her life training young women to become sisters. She watched over her congregation. She had to suffer much from those who did not understand her mission, but she always trusted God. Her favorite words were: ”How good is the good God.” The Lord promised her that someday her religious congregation would be very large. And that is just what happened. Julie died on April 8, 1816. Today there are many of her sisters all over the world. Mother Julie was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
Whenever we’re worried about something, let’s pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.” This will help us remember the goodness of God, as St. Julie always did. God never stops loving us and watching over us.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in Burgundy, France, on December 12, 1779. Her father was a barrel maker, and she received her education from her older brother Louis. Louis was very strict, and taught Sophie to live a disciplined life. When Louis entered the seminary, he made sure that his sister had a share in what he himself was studying. Afterwards, Louis took her to Paris to continue her studies. She stayed with a good Catholic woman, and with a group of other girls she studied, prayed, worked, and even taught classes for poor girls. Sophie wanted to become a nun, but because of the French Revolution, all the convents had been closed. As years passed, the little group of young women who prayed, worked and taught together seemed more and more like a religious community. A priest named Father Varin wanted to begin a new religious order for women who would dedicate themselves to educating girls. Louis heard about this and recommended his sister. Sophie and three of her friends joyfully agreed and in 1800 they became the first sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The following year they opened their first convent and school, with Sophie, although the youngest at twenty-three, as the superior of the little community. Mother Barat, as Sophie was now called, encouraged her sisters and students to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She rejoiced when there were twenty-four sisters in the community. Now they could take turns, hour by hour, to adore Jesus in the Eucharist day and night. The Society of the Sacred Heart grew, and convents and schools opened all over France. One of the sisters, Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne, who became a missionary to the United States, is also a canonized saint. Mother Barat lovingly guided her sisters for sixty-three years. She experienced many difficulties in traveling to open new schools, establish new convents, and visit her sisters. By the time she died in 1865, her order had over a hundred houses and schools in twelve different countries.
God gave St. Madeleine Sophie the gift of being very good at teaching. God has given each of us special gifts and talents too. By developing our natural abilities, we can better serve God and our neighbor.
April 10
Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam
Frédéric Ozanam was born on April 23, 1813, in Milan, Italy. He was raised and educated in Lyons, France. As a teenager, he experienced a period of time when he struggled with the truths about God that he had been taught. But his teacher patiently explained these things in a way that helped young Frédéric overcome his doubts. Frédéric was always grateful to this teacher who helped him to form clear ideas about the truths he believed. All through his life, remembering this experience helped him to explain the Catholic faith to others in a spirit of understanding and kindness. When he grew up, Frédéric went to Paris to study law. While he was there, he met many important Catholic thinkers of his time. Following their example, he dedicated himself to explaining the Catholic Church’s teachings, which were under attack by some people at that time. In May of 1833, Frédéric formed a group that would later be known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This society would put the teachings of Jesus into practice by helping the poor. After practicing law in Lyons, Frédéric returned to Paris to study literature and history. He continued his activities in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He also wrote articles for the Catholic newspapers. Frédéric always stood up for the rights of the poor and encouraged other Catholics to do the same. In June 1841, Frédéric married Amelie Soulacroix. They had a daughter named Marie. Frédéric was a wonderful husband and father. At the same time he continued his visits to the poor and his work for social justice. He died on September 8, 1853, in Marseilles, France. Pope John Paul II declared him blessed in 1997.
Blessed Frédéric teaches us that as true followers of Jesus we have the duty to do what we can to bring justice and charity to all members of society. Today, if we see someone being treated unfairly, let’s ask Blessed Frédéric to help us be courageous in standing up for that person.
April 11
St. Stanislaus
St. Stanislaus was born near Kracow, Poland, in 1030. His parents had prayed for thirty years for a child. When Stanislaus was born, they offered him to God because they were so grateful to have him. When he grew up, Stanislaus went to study in Paris, France. After his parents died, he gave all the money and property they had left him to the poor. Then he became a priest. In 1072, Stanislaus was made the bishop of Kracow. Bishop Stanislaus won the love of all the people. He was an excellent preacher, and many people turned to him for spiritual advice. They especially appreciated the way he took care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. Often he served them himself. Poland’s king at that time was Boleslaus II. He was cruel and was living in a sinful way. The people were disgusted with his lifestyle and were afraid of him. Bishop Stanislaus first corrected him privately. The bishop was kind and respectful. But he was honest, too, and told the king that what he was doing was wrong. The king seemed sorry, but soon fell back into his old ways. He committed even more shameful sins. The bishop then had to put him out of the Church. King Boleslaus flew into a rage at that. To get revenge, he ordered two of his guards to kill Stanislaus. Three times they tried, and three times they failed. When the king heard this, he was angrier than ever. He himself rushed into the bishop’s chapel and murdered Bishop Stanislaus as he was celebrating Mass. It was April 11, 1079. God worked many miracles after Stanislaus’s death. All the people called him a martyr. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Innocent IV in 1253. St. Stanislaus is the patron saint of Poland.
It takes courage to correct people who are hurting others and giving bad example. Sometimes we might have to be corrected for our own mistakes. Let’s ask St. Stanislaus to help us correct our faults and bad habits. Let’s also ask him to help us to be grateful to those who challenge us to become better.
April 12
St. Joseph Moscati
Joseph Moscati was born on July 25, 1880, in Benevento, Italy. He was the seventh of nine children. His father became a judge in Naples, so the entire family moved there. There was a hospital near the Moscati home. Each day, as Joseph saw the sick and suffering patients of the hospital, he thought more and more of how he could help them. He decided to become a doctor, and enrolled in Naples University. When he was twenty-two, Dr. Moscati began his service at the Hospital of the Incurables. Later he opened his own office. All patients were welcome whether they could pay or not. Dr. Moscati would write prescriptions for poor patients, then pay for the medicine out of his own pocket. Every day was long and hard, but Dr. Moscati remained gentle and kind. He made the effort to listen carefully to each of his patients. He encouraged them and prayed for them. In 1906, when Mt. Vesuvius became active, Dr. Moscati risked his life to go to a hospital in the area of the volcano and evacuate the patients. The roof of the hospital fell in soon after the last patient was moved out. Besides being an excellent doctor, Joseph Moscati was holy too. How did he do it? Each morning he went to Mass and spent time in prayer. Then the doctor would visit the sick poor in the slums of Naples. From there he would go to the hospital and begin his rounds. For twenty-five years, Joseph worked and prayed for his patients. He knew that the well-being of the soul often affected the health of the body. Along with prescriptions for medication, Dr. Moscati would prescribe prayer and a return to the sacraments, often with dramatic results! He poured all his strength into his life’s calling. On the afternoon of April 12, 1927, Dr. Moscati did not feel well, so he went to his office and relaxed in an armchair. There he had a stroke and died. He was forty-seven years old.
We can ask St. Joseph to help us be as honest, kind and sympathetic as he was. We can also ask him to teach us how to appreciate the Mass and to love Mary as he did.
April 13
St. Martin I
Martin was a priest of Rome who had a reputation for being wise and holy. He became pope in July, 649. When people were arguing over the truths about Jesus, Pope Martin held a special meeting of bishops. This meeting was called the Council of the Lateran. It explained clearly what we believe about certain truths of our faith. Some Christians were not pleased with the results of the meeting. But Pope Martin knew that the Council’s explanations were true, and it was his duty as pope to teach people the truth. Some powerful men did not appreciate Pope Martin’s activities. One such person was Emperor Constans II of Constantinople. The emperor sent his soldiers to Rome to capture Martin and bring him to Constantinople. The soldiers kidnapped the pope. They took him right out of the Lateran Cathedral and brought him onto a ship. Pope Martin got sick, but they continued their journey. In October, 653, the pope was put in jail in Constantinople for three months. He was given only a little food and water each day. He wasn’t even allowed to wash himself. Pope Martin was convicted of treason without a hearing. He was publicly humiliated and condemned to death. But then he was sent back to the same prison for three more months. Patriarch Paul of Constantinople pleaded for the pope’s life. So instead of death, the pope was sentenced to be exiled. Pope Martin was put on a ship that took him across the Black Sea. In April, 654, it landed on the Russian peninsula called the Crimea. Pope Martin suffered very much while he was in prison. He wrote his own account of those sad days. The pope said that he felt very bad to be forgotten by his relatives and members of the Church in Rome. He knew that they were afraid of the emperor. But at least they could have sent him food and clothing. But they did not. They abandoned the pope out of fear. Pope Martin’s exile lasted two years. He died of neglect and ill-treatment around 656. Because of his terrible sufferings, he was proclaimed a martyr. He is the last of the popes so far to be considered a martyr.
When the Church teaches us something, we can be sure that it is true and good, even if some people disagree with it. The Church cannot teach us anything that is false because it is guided by the Holy Spirit. We want to be like St. Martin and always follow the truth.
April 14
Blessed James Duckett
James Duckett was an Englishman who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As a young man he became an apprentice printer in London. This is how he came across a book called The Firm Foundation of the Catholic Religion. He studied it carefully and believed that the Catholic Church was the true Church. In those days, Catholics were persecuted in England. James decided that he wanted to be a Catholic, even if he had to face the serious consequences. The clergyman at his former church came to look for him because James had been a steady churchgoer. But James would not go back. Twice he served short prison terms for his refusal to attend Protestant services. Both times his employer interceded and got him freed. But then the employer asked James to find a job somewhere else. James knew there was no turning back. He sought out a disguised Catholic priest in the Gatehouse prison. The old priest, who went by the name of “Mr. Weekes,” instructed him. James was received into the Catholic Church. He married a Catholic widow and their son became a Carthusian monk. The monk is the one who wrote down much of what we know about his father. James Duckett never forgot that it was a book that had started him on the road to the Church. He considered it his responsibility to provide his neighbors with Catholic books. He knew these books encouraged and instructed them. So dangerous was this “occupation” that he was in prison for nine out of twelve years of his married life. James was finally brought to trial and condemned to death on the testimony of one man, Peter Bullock, a bookbinder. Mr. Bullock testified that he had bound Catholic books for James Duckett, and this was a “grave offense.” Mr. Bullock turned traitor because he was in prison for unrelated matters and he hoped to be freed. Both men were condemned to die on the same day. On the scaffold at Tyburn, James Duckett assured Peter Bullock of his forgiveness. He kept encouraging the man as they were dying to accept the Catholic faith. Blessed Duckett was martyred in 1602.
The story of Blessed James shows us how powerful the media—books, television shows, movies and music—are. Reading just one good book changed his whole life. Let’s ask Blessed James to help us to watch, listen to and read only what is good.
April 15
Blessed Anna Schäffer
This saint was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1882. When she was old enough to help support her large family, Anna started working. She hoped that one day she would be able to enter the convent and become a missionary sister. In order to prepare herself, Anna offered her life to God and did all she could to help others in need. When she was nineteen, Anna had a terrible accident in the laundry where she worked. She fell into a tub of boiling bleach. She spent a year in the hospital, and was treated by specialists. The doctors tried their best, but they were unable to heal her wounds. Anna was confined to her bed for the rest of her life. Because she was unable to work, she was forced to live in poverty. At first, Anna felt angry about the way things had turned out for her. But little by little, she began to understand the value of suffering, especially when it was united to Jesus’ sufferings on the cross. She realized that she could still help others, but in a different way than she had originally hoped. She could offer her sufferings to Jesus for the salvation of souls. The priest who brought Anna Holy Communion every morning noticed the change in her. At the end of her life, he could say that he never heard her complain in the twenty-five years that he knew her. Besides offering her sufferings to God, Anna was able to use her sewing needle to embroider beautiful linens for churches. She especially liked to embroider images of Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Anna also wrote letters to people in Austria, Switzerland, and America. These people wrote to her and asked for prayers and advice, and she wrote back to them with words of faith and hope and love of God. By writing these letters, Anna had become a missionary after all. Anna Schäffer died in 1925. Pope John Paul II declared her blessed in 1999.
We are all called to do what we can to help other people grow closer to God. Is there anyone you know who is sad or suffering? Why not do what Blessed Anna did and send a little note or card to cheer that person up and promise him or her your prayers.
April 16
St. Benedict Joseph Labre
This French saint, born in 1748, led a most unusual life. He was the son of a storeowner and was taught by his uncle, a priest. When the good priest died, Benedict tried to enter a monastery. But he was told that he was too young. Next Benedict contacted another order of monks. He loved their life of prayer and penance. But after he joined them, Benedict became thin and weak. The monks suggested that he return home to lead a good Christian life. Benedict went home and slowly gained back his health. He prayed for God’s help. Then he felt he was given an answer. He would become a pilgrim, a person on a holy journey of prayer and penance. As a pilgrim, he would travel to the famous shrines of Europe. Benedict began his journey on foot. He visited one church after another. He wore a plain cloth robe, a crucifix over his heart and a rosary around his neck. He slept on the bare ground. The only food he had was what kind people gave him. If they gave him money, he passed it on to the poor. His “suitcase” was a sack. In it he carried his own Gospel, as well as medals and holy books to give to others. Benedict paid no attention to the beautiful sights in the cities he visited. His only interest was in the churches where Jesus dwelt in the Blessed Sacrament. In 1774, Benedict stayed in Rome. People began calling him “the beggar of Rome.” He never asked for anything that would make his life more comfortable. Sometimes children threw stones at him and called him names. People who didn’t know him tended to avoid him. But when Benedict knelt in front of the tabernacle, he became as still as a statue. His pale, tired face glowed. He would talk to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother. He would whisper, “Mary, O my Mother!” He was really the happiest when he was keeping Jesus and the Blessed Mother company. Benedict died in Rome in 1783 at the age of thirty- five. The fame of this poor holy man spread far and wide. His journey had ended. His pilgrimage was over. Now he would be with Jesus and Mary forever. One hundred years after his death, Benedict Joseph Labre was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
Even if we can’t imitate the poverty of Jesus in the way St. Benedict Joseph did, we can imitate his love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Let’s go to church as often as we can to visit Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and talk to him about all that is in our hearts. Jesus is the best friend we have!
April 17
St. Stephen Harding
Stephen was a young Englishman who lived in the twelfth century. He was a good student who liked to learn. Stephen was especially interested in literature. He was serious about life and prayed daily. Once Stephen and his friend set out on foot as pilgrims for Rome. When they returned, Stephen joined a very poor and holy group of monks. These men prayed, fasted and worked hard. That was their way of showing their love for God. Stephen noticed how happy they were. Their abbot was another saint, St. Robert. For a while, Stephen served God joyfully with them. After a while, St. Robert, Stephen and twenty other monks received permission to start a new monastery. They built it themselves in a wilderness in France called Citeaux. There they lived a life of work and great poverty because they wanted to imitate the poverty of Jesus. They also kept strict silence. The monks of this new monastery were called Cistercians. When Stephen became the abbot of the monastery, he had many troubles. His monks had only a little food. Then over half of them became sick and died. It looked as though the community would come to an end. The monks needed new, young members to continue their life. Stephen prayed with faith. And his prayer was rewarded. God sent thirty young men who wanted to join the monks. They arrived at the monastery gate all together. Their leader, Bernard, was to become a great saint, too.(We celebrate St. Bernard’s feast day on August 20.) It was a wonderful day for Abbot Stephen and his monks! Stephen spent the last few years of his life writing a book of rules for the monks. He also trained Bernard to take his place. St. Stephen Harding died in 1134.
We might not think about it much, but it’s important to spend some quiet time each day lis- tening to God who speaks in our hearts. St. Stephen knew that this is why some silence in our lives is important. We can ask him to remind us to sometimes turn off our TVs, CD players, and computers to spend time listening to and talking to God!
April 18
Blessed Marie of the Incarnation
Barbara was born in France in 1566. She was married to Peter Acarie, an aristocrat, when she was seventeen. She and her husband loved their Catholic faith and practiced it. The couple had six children, and their family life was happy. Barbara tried to be a good wife and mother. Her family learned from her a great love for prayer and works of charity. Once, when her husband was unjustly accused of a crime, Barbara herself saved him. She went to court, and, all alone, proved that he was not guilty. Although she was busy with her own family, Barbara always found time to feed those who were hungry. She instructed people in the faith. She helped the sick and dying. She gently encouraged people who were living sinfully to change their ways. The good deeds she performed were works of mercy. When her husband died, Barbara entered the Carmelite Order. She spent the last four years of her life as a nun. Her three daughters had become Carmelites, too. Barbara’s new name as a nun was Sister Marie of the Incarnation. She joyfully worked in the kitchen among the pots and pans. When her own daughter became the superior of the monastery, Sister Marie willingly obeyed her. She wanted to be humble, as Jesus was. Blessed Marie died in 1618. She was fifty-two years old.
Blessed Marie became close to God even though her life was always very busy. She had many responsibilities. She took care of her family. She also was thoughtful about helping others. Let’s ask her to help us to be responsible and generous with our lives, too.
April 19
Blessed Marcel Callo
Marcel was born in France on December 6, 1921. He was one of nine children, and his parents belonged to the working class. Marcel went to school until he was twelve. Then he went to work with a printer as an apprentice (someone who is being trained). He also joined a group called the Young Christian Workers, which gave him an opportunity to reach out and help those in need. In 1942 Marcel was just beginning to make plans to get married when the Nazis moved into France and took over. Marcel, the leader of the Young Christian Workers, organized his friends and together they helped many people escape. The Nazis then forced him to go to Germany to work in a weapons factory. Full of faith and hope, Marcel saw this as a chance to help others who were having doubts about God and their faith. He started a Young Christian Workers group in the labor camp. He was arrested in 1944 for practicing his Catholic faith and for making arrangements to have a Mass celebrated. Marcel was sent from one concentration camp to another. He and his fellow prisoners were put to work building airplanes. They worked underground in terrible living conditions and they were not given enough to eat. But Marcel’s faith did not weaken. He tirelessly reached out to the other prisoners with encouragement and hope. In January of 1945, Marcel was hospitalized. Two months later he died of malnutrition and exhaustion at Mauthhausen Concentration Camp in Austria. Pope John Paul II declared him “Blessed” on October 4, 1987.
How strong is our faith and hope? When things go wrong, do we get easily discouraged? We can pray to Blessed Marcel to help us be persons of faith and hope even in difficult situations.
April 20
St. Agnes of Montepulciano
This saint was born near the city of Montepulciano, Italy, in 1268. When she was just nine years old, she begged her mother and father to let her live at the nearby Dominican convent. Agnes was very happy with the sisters. They led a quiet, prayerful life. They worked hard, too. Even though she was young, Agnes understood why the sisters lived and prayed so well. They wanted to be very close to Jesus. When she was old enough, Agnes received her training as a novice. She was such a good nun that the other sisters were pleased to have her. Because of Agnes’ example of prayer and holiness, many young women came to join the community of Dominican nuns. When she was only fifteen years old, Agnes was chosen superior or “prioress” of the convent. She tried to be fair and honest with each sister. She kept reminding herself that everything she did was for Jesus. She believed that Jesus was really in charge of the convent. He was taking care of them. Mother Agnes lived a life of penance. She was kind and gentle even when she didn’t feel like it. God filled Agnes with joy and sometimes gave her spiritual favors. One time he even let her hold Baby Jesus in her arms. Agnes did not have good health. But she was patient even when she was very ill. She never complained or felt sorry for herself. Instead, she offered everything to God. Toward the end of her life, the sisters realized she was not going to get better. They were very sad. ”If you loved me, you would be glad,” Agnes said. ”I am going to enter the glory of Jesus.” Agnes died in 1317 at the age of forty-nine. She was proclaimed a saint in 1726. Her tomb became a place of pilgrimage. Many people came to pray to this holy woman and to ask her to pray to God for them. Among the pilgrims was the famous St. Catherine of Siena. (We celebrate St. Catherine’s feast day on April 29.)
The story of St. Agnes teaches us that we are never too young to begin serving God. When we love the Lord and spend each day for him, our lives become beautiful gifts that we give back to God.
April 21
St. Anselm
Anselm was born in northern Italy in 1033. From his home he could see the Alps mountains. When he was fifteen, Anselm tried to join a monastery in Italy. But his father was against it. Then Anselm became sick. Not long after he got better, his mother died. He was still young and rich and clever. Soon he forgot about wanting to serve God. He began to think only of having good times. After a while though, Anselm became bored with this way of life. He wanted something better, something more important. He went to France to visit the holy Abbot Lanfranc of the famous monastery of Bec. Anselm became Lanfranc’s very close friend and the abbot brought him closer to God. He also helped Anselm decide to become a Benedictine monk. Anselm was then twenty-seven. Anselm was a warm-hearted man who loved his brother monks very much. He became the abbot in 1078. When he had to leave Bec to become archbishop of Canterbury in England, he told the monks that they would always live in his heart. The people of England loved and respected Anselm. However, King William II persecuted him. Anselm had to flee into exile in 1097 and in 1103. King William even forbade Anselm to go to Rome to ask the pope’s advice. But Anselm went anyway. He stayed with the pope until the king died. Then he went back to his diocese in England. Even in the midst of his many duties, Anselm always found time to write important books of philosophy and theology. He also wrote down the many wonderful instructions he had given the monks about God. They were very happy about that. He used to say: ”Would you like to know the secret of being happy in the monastery? Forget the world and be happy to forget it. The monastery is a real heaven on earth for those who live only for Jesus.” St. Anselm died on April 21, 1109. He was declared a great teacher or Doctor of the Church by Pope Clement XI in 1720.
There’s nothing wrong with having good, clean fun. But what we need to remember, as St. Anselm found out, is that fun is not the same as true happiness. We will only be really happy when we are spending our time doing worthwhile things for God and our neighbor.
April 22
Blessed Lidwina
The name Lidwina means “suffering.” Lidwina was from Holland. She was born in 1380 and died in 1433. When she was fifteen, Lidwina dedicated herself completely to God. She might have become a nun some day. But in a single afternoon, her entire life was changed. When she was sixteen, Lidwina went skating with her friends. One of them accidentally bumped into her. Lidwina fell down hard on the ice and broke a rib. This was very painful. But the fall triggered other problems, too. In the days ahead, she began to have severe headaches, and experience nausea, fever, thirst, and pain throughout her whole body. Crying, Lidwina told her father she could not stand the pain anymore. But the pain increased. She developed sores on her face and body. She became blind in one eye. Finally, she could no longer get out of bed. Lidwina became frustrated and bitter. Why had God let this happen to her? What did he want from her? And what could she still give to him anyway? Her parish priest, Father John, came to visit and pray with her. He helped her think of what Jesus had suffered. Ludwina began to realize the special gift that she could give to Jesus: she would suffer for him. She would offer her sufferings to console Jesus, who had suffered so much for all of us on the cross. Little by little, Ludwina’s suffering became a beautiful prayer that she offered to God. Lidwina was very sick for thirty-eight years. It seemed impossible that she could remain alive in such a serious condition. But she did. And God comforted her in many ways. Lidwina was good and kind to everyone who came to visit her poor little room. She helped her visitors by praying for them and their special intentions. Lidwina’s special love was for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. For the last nineteen years of her life, she needed no other food except Holy Communion. This was a special gift God gave her.
Blessed Lidwina shows us that we can offer any physical pain to Jesus as an act of love. Her story also reminds us that we should always thank God for our health.
April 23
St. Adalbert
This saint was born in Bohemia in 956. He went to school in Magdeburg. After his teacher died, Adalbert returned to Bohemia. He was named bishop of Prague in 982. After a while, it seemed to Adalbert that his preaching and work as a bishop were not having any effect on the people of Prague, and he became discouraged. He went to Rome in 990 and became a Benedictine monk. But the Duke of Poland asked the pope to send Adalbert back to Prague, and he returned. One day, a woman of Prague was accused of a sin whose punishment was death. Bishop Adalbert let her stay in the church for protection, but a furious crowd stormed the church, dragged her out and killed her. Bishop Adalbert excommunicated (someone who is excommunicated is separated from the Church and can no longer receive the sacraments) everyone involved with the woman’s murder. Because of this incident, he was forced to leave Prague once again, and went back to the Benedictine monastery in Rome. Pope Gregory V ordered Adalbert to go back to Prague, but his enemies were ready to use violence if he returned. So Adalbert was sent instead to Pomerania, Hungary and Russia to preach the Gospel. People who mistook them for Polish spies murdered Bishop Adalbert, together with his two missionary companions, Benedict and Gaudentius, in 997.
What matters to God is that we try our best to do our duty, whatever it might be. We shouldn’t get discouraged if we’re not successful, or if others are against us. When we love God and make an honest effort to do what is right, as St. Adalbert did, we’re always a success in God’s eyes.
April 24
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
This saint’s name was Mark Rey. He was born in Germany in 1578. Mark went to the famous University of Freiburg to become a lawyer. Even as a student, he liked to visit the sick and the poor. He spent time praying daily. His brother chose to become a Capuchin Franciscan priest. Mark, instead, finished his studies and became a very good lawyer. Mark often took on the cases of poor people who had no money to pay. This won him the nickname, “The Poor Man’s Lawyer.” Because he was very honest, Mark soon became disgusted with the dishonesty of the law courts. He decided to follow his brother and become a priest. He received his religious habit and took the new name Fidelis, which means “faithful.” Father Fidelis was filled with joy when he was assigned to Switzerland to preach the Good News. At that time in Switzerland there were many people who had left the Catholic faith. Father Fidelis wanted to win these people back to the Church. His preaching brought wonderful results. Many people were converted. But enemies of the Church grew angry at his success. Fidelis knew that his life was in danger, yet he went right on preaching. In the middle of a sermon one day, someone fired a shot at him, but the bullet missed. Father Fidelis knew he had to leave the town at once. As he was walking down the road to the next town, a mob of angry men stopped him. They ordered him to give up the Catholic religion. “I will not give up the Catholic faith,” Father Fidelis answered firmly. Then the men pounced on him and beat him with their clubs and tools. The wounded priest pulled himself up to a kneeling position. He prayed: “Lord, forgive my enemies. They do not know what they are doing. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me! Holy Mary, my Mother, help me!” The men attacked him again until they were certain he was dead. Fidelis died a martyr in 1622 at the age of forty-four. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746.
It’s a great honor to be able to help others come to know Jesus and his Church. Let’s try by prayer, good example and kind words, to be real apostles in imitation of St. Fidelis.
April 25
St. Mark the Evangelist
Mark lived at the time of Jesus. Although he was not among the original twelve apostles, he was a relative of St. Barnabas the apostle. Mark is well known because he wrote one of the four Gospels. That is why he is called an “evangelist,” which means “Gospel writer.” Mark’s Gospel is short, but it gives many little details that are not in the other Gospels. While he was still young, Mark went with the two great saints, Paul and Barnabas, on a missionary journey to bring the teachings of Jesus to new lands. Before the journey was over, though, Mark seems to have had a disagreement with St. Paul. Mark suddenly returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Mark later worked out their differences. In fact, Paul wrote from prison in Rome that Mark came to console and help him. Mark also became a beloved disciple of St. Peter, the first pope. St. Peter called St. Mark “my son.” Some think that Peter meant to say that he had baptized Mark. Mark was consecrated a bishop and sent to Alexandria, Egypt. There he converted many people. He worked hard to spread love for Jesus and his Church. It is believed that he went through long and painful sufferings before he died around the year 74. St. Mark’s relics were brought to Venice, Italy. He is the patron saint of that famous city. People go to the beautiful basilica of St. Mark to honor him and to pray to him. In art, St. Mark’s symbol is the lion.
We can remember St. Mark when we have a disagreement with someone, or when we find it hard to get along with someone. At those times, we can ask St. Mark to help us work out our disagreements in kindness and respect.
April 26
St. Zita
Zita is known as the patron saint of housekeepers. She was born in the village of Monte Sagrati, Italy, in 1218. Her parents were deeply religious and raised Zita in a loving, Christian way. In those days it was the custom of poor couples to send their teenage daughters to trustworthy families who could afford servants. The young women would live with the families for a time and were employed to do the household tasks. Zita was sent to the Fatinelli family in Lucca when she was twelve years old. Mr. and Mrs. Fatinelli were good people who had several other employees. Zita was happy to be able to work and send money home to her parents. She formed habits of praying that fit in with her new schedule. She even got up early to go to daily Mass. Zita was very conscientious and always did her best. To her, work was an expression of her love for God. But the other workers were annoyed. They tried to do as little as they could get away with. They began to pick on Zita and oppose her without their employers noticing. Zita was hurt, but she prayed for patience. She never told on the workers. She insisted on doing her work as well as possible no matter what the others thought of her. After some time, Zita was made the head housekeeper. The Fatinelli children were placed under her care. Then the other workers stopped bothering her. Some of them even began to imitate her. Zita spent her whole life with the Fatinelli family. While other workers came and went, she stayed. She loved the Fantinellis like she loved her own family and she served them well. By her example, she helped people see that work is beautiful when it is done with Christian love. Zita died peacefully on April 27, 1278. She was sixty years old.
St. Zita has a wonderful lesson for us all. She reminds us that what we do reflects the kind of person we are. Our work and our study take effort. But they’re worth the trouble because God will reward us in heaven.
April 27
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Gianna Beretta was born on October 4, 1922, near Milan, Italy. She grew up in a Christian home, and her parents carefully passed on to her their Catholic faith. As a teenager, she was active as a member of Catholic Action groups. When she was sixteen, she made up her mind that she would rather die than commit a mortal (very serious) sin, and that she wanted to do everything for Jesus. Her parents’ deaths, four months apart in 1942, were a heavy blow to Gianna, who was just beginning medical school at the University of Milan at that time. After six semesters, she continued her preparation at the University of Pavia, where she earned a doctorate in medicine on November 30, 1949. Gianna opened a clinic in 1950. She soon had many patients. In addition to her work as a physician, Gianna also devoted her time to community projects. She continued to be an active member of Catholic Action groups too. She organized talks and retreats, hikes and social events, and was very successful in reaching out to young people. Pietro Molla, a prosperous engineer, who belonged to one of the Catholic Action groups, was impressed with this dynamic young doctor who cared so much about others. Gianna had been planning to become a medical missionary sister in Brazil. Her brother was a priest there, and she knew he would be happy to have her help him. But once she got to know Pietro, Gianna wondered if it was God’s will for her to marry him and start a family. After much prayer, she asked the advice of her confessor. The priest answered her, “If every good Catholic girl became a nun, there would be no Christian mothers!” Pietro and Gianna were married on September 24, 1955. Gianna was thirty-three. In 1956, their first child, Pierluigi was born. Mariolina was born in 1957, and Laura came along in 1959.After that, Gianna lost two more babies before they were born. But she became pregnant again in 1961. After two months, she started to experience pain, and her doctor found a tumor in her uterus. Before undergoing the necessary surgery, Gianna gave her surgeons strict orders to keep her unborn child safe. The following April, just before the baby was to be born, Gianna told her doctor, ”If you have to choose between my life and the life of the baby, I demand that you save the baby’s life.” As a doctor herself, Gianna was well aware of the risks she was facing, and she wanted her wishes known. On April 21, Gianna had a healthy baby girl, who was baptized Gianna Emanuela. But Gianna was dying from complications in the delivery. She asked Pietro to take her home so she could die in her own room. There, on April 28, 1962, Doctor Gianna Beretta Molla died. Her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, who has been called the “living relic of her mother,” followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a doctor. On April 24, 1994, with understandable joy and pride, she was present at the beatification ceremony for her mother, who selflessly gave her own life so that she could live. Gianna was named a saint ten years later in 2004.
Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a loved one” (John 15:13). That’s exactly what St. Gianna Beretta Molla did. Let’s ask this brave and unselfish saint to help everyone understand the sacredness of human life.
April 29
St. Peter Chanel
Peter Chanel was born near Belley, France, in 1803. From the time he was seven, he took care of his father’s sheep. Though poor, he was intelligent and loved his faith, too. One day, a good parish priest met him. He thought so much of Peter that he asked his parents if he could educate the boy. In this priest’s little school, and later in the seminary, Peter studied hard. When he became a priest in 1827, he was sent to a parish where just a few Catholics still practiced their faith. Father Peter was prayerful. He was kind and patient with everyone. In just three years there was a big improvement in his parish. Many people became full of love for Jesus and his Church again because of Father Peter’s help and example. Father Peter had a great desire to become a missionary. He joined a religious order called the Marists. He hoped he would be sent to bring the Gospel to people who did not yet know about Jesus. After a few years, his wish came true. He and a group of Marist missionaries were sent to the islands of the South Pacific. Father Peter and one brother were assigned to the island of Futuna. There the people willingly listened to Father Peter preach about Jesus. ”This man loves us,” one of the people said. ”And he himself practices what he teaches us to do.” Unfortunately, the chief of this tribe was not happy with Father Peter’s preaching. When the chief found out that his own son wanted to be baptized, he was furious. He sent a band of his warriors to kill the missionary. All the priest said as he lay dying was, “It is well with me.” Father Peter Chanel was killed on April 28, 1841. Within a short time after his martyrdom, the whole island became Christian. Peter was declared a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954.
We are all called to spread the Gospel of Jesus, each in our own way. The example of St. Peter shows us that practicing kindness and patience is the best way to bring the love of Jesus to others.
April 30
St. Pius V
This holy pope was born in Italy in 1504. He was baptized Anthony Ghislieri. Anthony wanted to become a priest, but it seemed as though his dream would never come true. His parents were poor and didn’t have enough money to send him to school. One day, two Dominicans came to his home and met Anthony. They were so impressed with him that they offered to educate him. And so at the age of fourteen, Anthony joined the Dominican Order. That is when he took the new name “Michael.” Eventually, Michael became a priest. Then he became a bishop and cardinal. Cardinal Michael courageously defended the teachings of the Church against those who opposed them. He continued to live a life of penance. When he was sixty-one, he was chosen pope. Again he took a new name— Pius V. He had once been a poor shepherd boy. Now he was the head of the whole Catholic Church. But he remained as humble as ever. He still wore his white Dominican habit, the same old one he had always worn. And no one could persuade him to change it. Pope Pius V simplified the way things were done at the Vatican. He finished the new catechism of the Council of Trent and revised the prayer book used by priests and nuns every day and the missal used at Mass. He gave large sums of money to the poor, and personally visited hospitals and consoled the sick. Pope Pius V drew strength from the crucifix. He meditated every day on the sufferings and death of Jesus. He encouraged people to pray the rosary and established the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. We celebrate it each year on October 7. Pope Pius V died in Rome on May 1, 1572. Pius V was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XI in 1712.
The story of St. Pius V reminds us that the Lord chooses the people he wants for the jobs that he wants done. We are all very important to him because he is our Father. Let’s keep in contact with God through our daily prayers and by receiving the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation often.