ST. EDMUND CAMPION
St. Edmund lived in the sixteenth century. He was a very popular
young English student who was a great speaker. In fact, Edmund was
chosen to deliver a welcoming speech to Queen Elizabeth when she
visited his college. A group of his fellow students were attracted
by his happy nature and his many talents. They made him their leader.
Even the queen and her chief ministers were fond of this attractive
young man. But Edmund was troubled about his religion. He kept thinking
that the Catholic Church might be the only true Church. He did not
hide his feelings. Therefore, the government, which was persecuting
Catholics, became very suspicious of him. Edmund knew that he would
lose the queen's favor and all his chances for a great career if
he chose to become a Catholic. The young man prayed and reached
his decision. He would become a Catholic anyway.
After he had escaped
from England, Edmund studied to become a priest. He entered the
Society of Jesus. When the Holy Father decided to send some Jesuits
to England, Father Campion was one of the first to go. The night
before he left, one of his fellow priests felt urged to write over
his doorway: "Father Edmund Campion, martyr." Although
he knew what danger faced him, the holy priest set out cheerfully.
In fact, he had many a laugh because of his disguise as a jewel
merchant. In England he preached with great success to Catholics
who had to meet with him in secret. Spies of the queen's men were
everywhere trying to catch him. He wrote: "I won't escape their
hands much longer.
Sometimes I read letters that say 'Campion has been caught'!"
It was a traitor who finally brought about the Jesuit's capture.
Edmund was visited in jail by the government officials who had been
so fond of him. It seems that even Queen Elizabeth came. But none
of their threats or promises could make him give up the Catholic
faith. Nor could tortures break him. In spite of all his sufferings,
he still defended himself and his fellow priests in such a marvelous
manner that no one could answer him. Yet the enemies of the Church
condemned him anyway. Before he was put to death, St. Edmund forgave
the man who had betrayed him. He even helped save the man's life.
St. Edmund Campion died in 1581. He was about forty-one years old.
St. Bibiana's father Flavian had been prefect of the city of Rome
in early Christian times. He and his wife were known as fervent
Christians. In fact, when Emperor Julian left the Catholic faith,
he began persecuting it. That is when Flavian was arrested. He was
branded on the face with a hot iron and then exiled.
After he died, his wife
Dafrosa was also made a prisoner in her own house. This was only
because of her good Christian life. Then she, too, was put to death.
Left alone with her sister, Demetria, Bibiana tried with all her
heart to trust in God and pray. Everything they had was being taken
from them. Then the two young women were brought to court. Poor
Demetria was so frightened that she dropped dead at the judge's
feet. Bibiana was handed over to a sinful woman, who was supposed
to make the girl as evil as she was. This woman tried by sweet words
and many clever tricks to make Bibiana fall. However, the saint
could not be moved. She was brought back to court and beaten. Yet
she held to her faith and purity as strongly as ever. St. Bibiana
was beaten to death with leaden scourges. A priest buried her at
night beside her mother and sister.
ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary, was born at Xavier Castle
in Spain in 1506. He went to the University of Paris when he was
eighteen. Here he met St. Ignatius Loyola, who was about to start
the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius tried to get Francis to join
him. At first the happy-go-lucky young man would not think of it.
St. Ignatius repeated to him the words of Jesus in the Gospel: "What
does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his own
soul?" At last, Francis saw clearly that his place in life
was among the Jesuits.
When Francis was thirty-four,
St. Ignatius sent him as a missionary to the East Indies. The king
of Portugal wanted to give him presents to take along and a servant.
Francis refused his kind offer and explained: "The best way
to acquire true dignity is to wash one's own clothes and boil one's
own pot." During the course of his amazing career in Goa, India,
Japan and other lands of the east, St. Francis made thousands of
converts. In fact, he baptized so many people that he became too
weak to raise his arms. He gathered the little children around him
and taught them the Catholic faith. Then he made little lay apostles
of them. He invited them to spread the faith they had learned. There
was nothing St. Francis wouldn't do to help people. Once he faced
a fierce band of raiders, alone, with no weapon but his crucifix.
They backed up and did not attack his Christian tribes. The saint
also brought many bad-living Christians to repentance. His only
"tools" were his gentle, polite ways and his prayers.
In the midst of his painful
journeys and great labors, the saint was full of a special joy coming
from God. St. Francis longed to get into China, into which no foreigner
was permitted. At last, the arrangements were made, but the great
missionary became ill. He died almost alone in 1552 on an island
off the Chinese coast. He was just forty-six-years-old. Francis
Xavier was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. He was
in the best of company at the canonization ceremony in Rome. Ignatius
of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer were
also proclaimed saints that day.
ST. JOHN DAMASCENE
St. John lived in the eighth century. He was born in the city of
Damascus of a good Christian family. When his father died, he became
the governor of Damascus. At this time, the emperor made a law.
It forbade Christians from having statues or pictures of Our Lord
and the saints. St. John Damascene knew the emperor was wrong. He
joined with many others to defend this practice of the Christians.
The pope himself asked John to keep telling people that it is a
good thing to have statues and holy pictures. They make us think
of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and the saints. But the emperor
would not give in to the Holy Father. He continued to forbid statues
to be put in public places. St. John bravely wrote three letters.
He told the emperor to give up his wrong ideas.
The emperor became so
furious that he wanted revenge. John decided he should resign as
governor. He gave away all his money to the poor and became a monk.
He kept on writing marvelous books to defend the Catholic religion.
At the same time he did all kinds of humble work in the monastery.
One day he even went to sell baskets in the streets of Damascus.
Many of those who had known him before were mean enough to laugh
at him. Here was the man who had once been the great governor of
the city now selling baskets. Imagine how St. John must have suffered.
But he knew that the money received would be put to good use at
the monastery. He thought of Jesus, the Son of God, who wanted to
be born in a stable. Then he felt happy to imitate Our Lord's humility.
St. John died a peaceful, happy death in the year 749.
St. Sabas, born in 439, is one of the most famous monks of Palestine.
His father was an officer in the army. When the officer had to go
to Alexandria, Egypt, he left his young son with his brother-in-law.
Since his aunt treated him badly, young Sabas ran away to another
uncle. When an argument arose between the two uncles, Sabas felt
terrible. He liked to see people at peace. So he ran away to live
in a monastery. His two uncles felt ashamed of themselves. They
told Sabas to come out and they would give him all his property.
But by this time, Sabas was too happy in the monastery. He did not
want to leave. Even though he was the youngest monk, he was the
When he was eighteen,
Sabas went to Jerusalem. He wanted to learn to live alone with God.
He was advised to live in another monastery there for a while because
he was still young. He obeyed and joyfully did all the hard work.
He chopped wood for the fires and carried the heavy jugs of water.
One day, St. Sabas was sent to Alexandria, Egypt, as the traveling
companion of another monk. There he saw his father and mother! They
tried their best to make him come with them. They wanted him to
enjoy the same honors his father had won. Not Sabas! He would not
even take the money they tried to give him. Finally he accepted
three gold pieces. Then when he got back to the monastery, he gave
them to the abbot.
At last, he was able
to spend four years completely alone, as he desired. But after that,
he had to start a new monastery. Many disciples came to him to learn
how to be monks. Before long, he was put in charge of all the monks
in Palestine. Sometimes Sabas was sent to the emperor on important
Church affairs. Even then, he wore his poor cloth habit, and kept
to his hours of prayer. St. Sabas died in 532.
St. Nicholas is the great patron of children and of Christmas giving.
He lived in the fourth century. Santa Claus is a short form of St.
Nicholas. This famous saint was born in Asia Minor, which is modern-day
Turkey. After his parents died, he gave all his money to charity.
Once a certain poor man was about to abandon his daughters to a
life of sin because they did not have the money for a dowry. Nicholas
heard about his problem. He went to the man's house at night and
tossed a little pouch of gold through a window. This was for the
oldest daughter. He did the same thing for the second daughter.
The grateful father kept watch to find out who was being so good
to them. When St. Nicholas came a third time, the man recognized
him. He thanked Nicholas over and over again.
Later St. Nicholas became
bishop. He loved justice. It is said that once he saved three men
who had been falsely condemned to death. He then turned to their
accuser. He made the man admit that he had been offered money to
get rid of the three men.
St. Nicholas died in
Myra, and a great basilica was built over his tomb. Many churches
were dedicated in his name. When his relics were brought to Bari,
Italy, this city became a famous shrine for pilgrims from all over
Europe. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and prisoners. With St.
Andrew, he is the patron of Russia.
St. Ambrose was born around 340. He was the son of the Roman governor
of Gaul. When his father died, his mother took her family back to
Rome. She and her daughter, St. Marcellina, brought Ambrose up well.
He became an outstanding lawyer. Then he was made governor of Milan
and the territory around it. But by a strange event, Ambrose the
governor became Ambrose the bishop. In those days the people used
to suggest to the pope the name of the one they would like as bishop.
To Ambrose's great surprise, the people of Milan chose him. He tried
to escape, but it seemed to be God's will. Thus, Ambrose became
a priest and then bishop of Milan.
Ambrose became a great
model and father to his people. He also resisted all evil with amazing
courage. He faced an attacking army and convinced the leader to
turn back. Another time, Emperor Theodosius came from the east.
He wanted to save Italy from invaders. He urged all his officers
to respect the bishop of Milan. Yet when this emperor committed
a very serious sin, Ambrose did not hesitate to confront him. He
also made Theodosius do public penance. The emperor did not become
furious and take revenge. He realized that the saint was right.
Very humbly he publicly made penance for his sin. Ambrose had shown
the world that no human being, even if he or she is the ruler, is
higher than the Church.
People were afraid of
what would happen to Italy when Ambrose died. When he became sick,
they begged him to pray for a longer life. The saint replied, "I
have not behaved myself among you in such a way that I should be
ashamed to live longer; nor am I afraid to die, for we have a good
Master." Bishop Ambrose died on Good Friday in the year 397.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY
Our first parents offended God by sinning seriously. Because of
the fall of Adam and Eve, every baby is born into the world with
original sin. We are all children of our first parents. Therefore,
we all inherit their sin. This sin in us is called original sin.
But the Blessed Virgin
Mary was given a marvelous privilege. She was conceived in the womb
of her mother, St. Anne, without this original sin. Our Lady was
to be the mother of Jesus, God's only Son. The evil one, the devil,
should have no power over Mary. There was never the slightest sin
in our all-beautiful mother. That is why one of the Church's favorite
hymns to Mary is: "You are all-beautiful, O Mary, and there
is no sin in you."
great privilege of Our Lady is called her Immaculate Conception.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed to the whole world that there was
no doubt at all that Mary was conceived without sin. Four years
later, she appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes. When St. Bernadette
asked the lovely lady who she was, Mary joined her hands and raised
her eyes toward heaven. She said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
BLESSED JUAN DIEGO
St. Juan Diego is well-known because the Mother of God appeared
to him. It was to Juan Diego that Mary first introduced herself
to the world as Our Lady of Guadalupe. He lived in the sixteenth
century when Mexico City was known as the Valley of Anahuac. Juan
was a member of the Chichimeca people. They called him the talking
eagle. His Christian name was Juan Diego.
After Juan's particular
mission was completed, it is said that he became a hermit. He spent
the rest of his life in prayer and penance. His little hut was near
the first chapel that was built on Tepeyac Hill. He was greatly
esteemed. Parents considered it their fondest wish to have their
children grow up to be like Juan Diego.
Juan took care of the
little church and met the pilgrims who began to come there to honor
their Mother of Guadalupe. He would show them the miraculous tilma
or cloak that preserves Mary's beautiful image. Pope John Paul II
declared Juan Diego "blessed" on May 14, 1990. The pope
personally visited the magnificent church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
He prayed there for all of the people of Mexico. He prayed especially
for those who were killed during the terrible persecution of the
Church in the early part of this century. He prayed for all the
pilgrims who come to this beautiful church with such faith in the
Mother of God.
ST. JOHN ROBERTS
St. John was born in Wales in 1577. Although he was not a Catholic,
he was taught by an elderly priest. So, as he said later, at heart
he was always a Catholic. John went to Oxford University in England
for a while. Then he took a trip to France to have a good time.
As it turned out, this trip brought him more than fun. It was in
Paris, France, that he found great happiness in joining the Catholic
Church. John lost no time after this in taking steps to become a
priest. He went to an English college in Spain and became a Benedictine
monk. Then his great dream of going back to England came true three
years later. He and another monk were given permission to set out
for that land. They knew the dangers they would meet. In fact, they
did not have long to wait before trouble began. They entered England
wearing plumed hats and swords at their sides. Soon, however, they
were arrested for being priests and sent out of the country.
St. John Roberts went
back to England again. He worked day and night to keep the faith
alive during Queen Elizabeth's terrible persecution. Several times
he was captured, put in prison, and exiled, yet he always came back.
The last time Father John was arrested, he was finishing Mass. There
was to be no escape. When asked, he declared he was a priest and
a monk. He explained that he had come to England to work for the
salvation of the people. "Were I to live longer," he added,
"I would continue to do what I have been doing." St. John
was given an unfair trial and condemned to death.
The night before he was
to be hanged, a good Spanish lady arranged for him to be brought
into the company of eighteen other prisoners. They were also suffering
for Christ's sake. During their supper together, St. John was full
of joy. Then he thought perhaps he should not show so much happiness.
"Do you think I may be giving bad example by my joy?"
he asked his hostess. "No, certainly not," she replied.
"You could not do anything better than to let everyone see
the cheerful courage you have as you are about to die for Christ."
The next day, St. John was hanged. The crowds were so attracted
by the personality of this young priest that they did not let the
executioners make him suffer. St. John Roberts was martyred in 1610.
ST. DAMASUS I
ST. Damasus was born in Rome and lived in the fourth century-exciting
times for the Church. He was a priest who was generous and self-sacrificing.
When Pope Liberius died in 366, Damasus became the pope. He faced
many grave difficulties. There was a false pope named Felix. He
and his followers persecuted Damasus. They lied about him, especially
about his personal moral life. The pope had to stand trial before
the Roman authorities. He was proved innocent, but he suffered very
much through it all. His great friend, St. Jerome, spoke emphatically
for the virtue of this pope. And Jerome had high standards. Pope
Damasus realized that the city clergy were living too wealthy a
lifestyle. The country priests were much more austere. Damasus asked
the priests to simplify their lifestyles and not to accumulate money
and possessions. He set a wonderful example himself.
There were also many
false teachings during his time as pope. Damasus explained the true
faith. He also called the Second Ecumenical Council which was held
in Constantinople. Pope Damasus greatly encouraged love of the scriptures.
He assigned St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin. He also
changed the official language of the liturgy from Greek-except for
the Kyrie-to Latin. Pope St. Damasus died at the age of about eighty
on December 11, 384. He was buried with his mother and sister in
a little chapel he had built.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
We celebrate the event of Mary's appearances on Tepyac Hill in Mexico.
The heavenly visitor came to her people on December 9, 1531. Juan
was a fifty-five year old Catholic convert. He was going to Mass
when Our Lady intercepted him as he was making his way down Tepyac
Hill. Mary asked him to go to the bishop. She wanted a great church
built on the very spot where she was standing. The Indian was overwhelmed.
He wanted with all his heart to do what the Lady commanded. But
how could he approach the bishop? How could anyone believe such
an unusual request? Juan Diego went to the bishop. The bishop must
have been pleased with himself when he thought of a way to handle
the situation. "Ask for a sign," he told Juan. Juan was
caught in the middle. The Lady knew what she wanted; the bishop
had the power to make her wish come true, but he wanted proof.
the early morning of December 12, Juan Diego was hurrying along
the path. His uncle was dying and he was going for the priest. Mary
met Juan and told him that his uncle was better. In fact, Juan found
out a little later that his uncle had been cured at that moment.
The Lady asked Juan to go back to the bishop. She wanted him to
build a church. Juan remembered the bishop's request and asked Mary
for a sign. Mary sent Juan into the rocky area nearby and told him
to gather the roses that were there. Juan was puzzled. He knew there
were no roses. It was winter and the bushes were bare. But Juan
followed the instructions and there really were roses, beautiful
roses. Juan picked them all and went to the bishop. He carried them
carefully in his tilma (cloak). Juan clutched his cloak and made
his way into the room where the bishop was. Slowly he let down his
cloak and the beautiful roses fell to the floor. Juan smiled and
then realized that something else was capturing the bishop. He followed
the bishop's eyes which were riveted to his cloak. And then he saw
her, his beautiful lady, on his tilma. Her image was life-size,
exactly as she had appeared. The bishop had received his sign and
Mary would have her church.
Today a great church, called a basilica, marks the event when Our
Lady of Guadalupe came to her people. Our Lady of Guadalupe was
named patroness of Mexico by Pope Benedict XIV. She is also patroness
of Latin America and the Philippines.
St. Lucy, the beloved saint, lived in Syracuse, Sicily. She was
born toward the end of the third century. Lucy was the daughter
of very noble and rich parents. Her father died when she was still
young. Lucy secretly promised Jesus that she would never marry so
that she could be his alone. She was a lovely girl, with beautiful
eyes. More than one young noble set his heart on her. Her mother
urged her to marry one whom she had chosen for Lucy. But the girl
would not consent. Then she thought of a plan to win her mother.
She knew her mother was suffering from hemorrhages. She convinced
her to go to the shrine of St. Agatha and pray for her recovery.
Lucy went along with her and together they prayed. When God heard
their prayers and cured her mother, Lucy told her of her vow to
be Christ's bride. Her mother let Lucy follow her vocation, out
of gratitude for her cure.
But the young pagan to
whom she had promised Lucy was furious at losing out. In his bitter
anger, he accused her of being a Christian. He threatened her with
the frightening torture of being blinded. But Lucy was even willing
to lose both her eyes rather than belong to anyone but Jesus. And
that is just what happened. Many statues show St. Lucy holding her
lovely eyes in the palm of her hand. Jesus rewarded her for her
heroic love. He worked a miracle and gave her back her eyes, more
beautiful than ever.
The pagan judge tried
to send the saint to a house of sinful women. He hoped that Lucy
might be tempted to give up Christ. But when they tried to carry
her away, God made her body so heavy that they could not budge her.
In the end, she was stabbed and became a martyr for Jesus in the
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
St. John was born in Spain in 1542. He was the son of a weaver.
He went to a school for poor children and became a servant to the
director of a hospital. For seven years, John worked as a servant
while also studying at a Jesuit college. Even as a youth, he liked
to do penance. He understood the value of offering up sufferings
for the love of Jesus. When he was twenty-one, his love of God prompted
him to enter the Carmelite order. With St. Teresa of Avila, St.
John was chosen by God to bring a new spirit of fervor among religious.
But his life was full of trials. Although he succeeded in opening
new monasteries where his holy way of life was practiced, he himself
was criticized. He was even thrown into prison and made to suffer
terribly. At one time, too, he had fierce temptations. God seemed
to have left him alone, and he suffered greatly. Yet when these
storms of trouble passed, the Lord rewarded his faithful servant.
He gave him deep peace and joy of heart. John was very close to
his God. In fact, the Blessed Mother herself showed John how to
escape from his prison cell.
St. John had a marvelous
way with sinners. Once a beautiful but sinful woman tried to make
him do wrong. He talked to her so that she was led to change her
life. Another lady, instead, had such a temper that she was nicknamed
"the terrible." Yet St. John knew how to calm her down
by his kind manners.
St. John of the Cross
asked God to let him suffer every day for love of Jesus. To reward
him, Our Lord revealed himself to St. John in a special way. This
saint is famous for his spiritual books which show us how to grow
close to God. He died on December 14, 1591. John of the Cross was
proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926.
St. Nino was a Christian girl who lived in the fourth century. She
was captured and carried off to Iberia as a slave. In that pagan
country, her goodness and purity made a great impression on the
people. Noticing how much she prayed, they asked her about her religion.
The simple answer she gave them was that she adored Jesus Christ
God chose this pure,
devout slave-girl to bring Christianity to Iberia. One day, a mother
brought her sick child to Nino, asking her to suggest a cure. The
saint wrapped the baby in her cloak. Then she told the mother that
Jesus Christ can cure the worst cases of sickness. She handed the
child back and the mother saw that her child was completely cured.
The queen of Iberia learned of this miracle. Since she herself was
sick, she went to the saint. When she, too, was healed, she tried
to thank the Christian girl. However, Nino said: "It is Christ's
work, not mine. And he is the Son of God who made the world."
queen let the king know the whole story of her cure. She repeated
to her husband what the slave-girl had said of Jesus Christ. Shortly
after this, the king got lost in a fog while out hunting. Then he
remembered what his wife had told him. He said that if Jesus Christ
would lead him safely home, he would believe in him. At once, the
fog lifted, and the king was true to his promise. St. Nino herself
taught the king and queen the truths of Christianity. They gave
her permission to teach the people. Meanwhile, the king began building
a Christian church. Then he sent messengers to the Christian emperor,
Constantine, to tell him of his conversion. He asked the emperor
to send bishops and priests to Iberia. So it was that a poor slave
brought a whole country into the Church.
St. Adelaide was born in 931. At the age of sixteen, this Burgundian
princess was married to King Lothair. Three years later, her husband
died. The ruler who is believed to have poisoned him tried to get
Adelaide to be his wife. She absolutely refused. In anger, he treated
her with great cruelty. He even locked her up in a castle on a lake.
Adelaide was saved when
King Otto the Great of Germany conquered this ruler. Although she
was twenty years younger than he, Otto married the lovely Adelaide
on Christmas Day. When he took his new queen back home, the German
people loved her at once. She was as gentle and gracious as she
was pretty. God sent five children to the royal couple. They lived
happily for twenty-two years. When Otto died, Adelaide's oldest
son became the ruler. This son, Otto the Second, was good, but too
quick to act without thinking. He turned against his own mother
and she left the palace. In her great sorrow, she appealed to the
abbot, St. Majolus. He made Otto feel sorry for what he had done.
Adelaide met her son in Italy and the king begged her forgiveness.
She in turn prayed for her son, sending offerings to the great shrine
of St. Martin of Tours.
In her old age, St. Adelaide
was called on to rule the country while her grandson was still a
child. She started many monasteries and convents and worked to convert
the Slavic people. All her life, this saintly empress had obeyed
the advice of holy people. She had always been willing to forgive
those who had hurt her. St. Addle of Cluny called her a "marvel
of beauty and grace."
She died on December 16, 999.
St. Olympias was born around the year 361. She belonged to a great
family of Constantinople. When she was left an orphan, she was given
into the care of a wonderful Christian woman. Olympias had inherited
a large fortune and was both sweet and attractive. So her uncle
found it easy to marry her to Nebridius, a man who had been governor
of Constantinople. St. Gregory Nazianzen apologized for not being
able to attend the wedding. He even sent a poem full of good advice
Nebridius died very soon
afterward, however, and the emperor urged Olympias to marry again.
She answered: "Had God wished me to remain a wife, he would
not have taken Nebridius away." And she refused to marry again.
St. Gregory called her "the glory of the widows in the Eastern
Church." With a number of other pious ladies, Olympias spent
her life performing works of charity. She dressed plainly and prayed
much. She gave her money away to everyone. Finally, St. John Chrysostom
had to tell her to be careful in giving away her goods. "You
must not encourage the laziness of those who live upon you without
necessity," he said. "It is like throwing your money into
St. John Chrysostom became
archbishop of Constantinople. As their archbishop, he guided St.
Olympias and her disciples in their works. The women started a home
for orphans and they opened a chapel. They were able to give help
to great numbers of people. St. John Chrysostom became Olympias'
dearest guide. When he was exiled, she was deeply grieved. She then
had to suffer persecution, too. Her community of widows and single
women was forced to stop their charitable works. Besides this, Olympias
was in poor health and was being criticized. Yet St. John wrote
to her: "I cannot stop calling you blessed. The patience and
dignity with which you have borne your sorrows, your prudence, wisdom
and charity have won you great glory and reward." St. Olympias
died in 408, when she was about forty. Someone described her as
"a wonderful woman, like a precious vase filled with the Holy
St. Flannan lived around the seventh century. He was the son of
an Irish chieftain named Turlough. Flannan was educated by the monks.
He also learned farming from them. When he was a grown man, Flannan
decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In Rome, Pope John IV made
him a bishop. The pope did this because he recognized the wisdom
and holiness of the man. When St. Flannan returned to Ireland, all
the people of his region, Killaloe, came to meet him. They were
eager to learn the instructions the saint had brought back from
the pope of Rome.
St. Flannan taught his
people so well that even his father decided to become a monk. The
old chieftain went to St. Colman to be instructed in the life of
a monk. At the same time, he asked for a blessing for his family,
since three of his sons had been killed. St. Colman predicted: "From
you shall seven kings spring." And so it happened.
St. Flannan was afraid
that since he was one of the family, he, too, might be made king.
So he prayed to become ugly, and his face was soon covered with
big scars and rashes. He made this unusual request because he wanted
to be free to follow his vocation. He wanted to devote himself entirely
to the service of God and his people.
BLESSED URBAN V
Blessed Urban's name before he became pope was William de Grimoard.
He was born in France in 1310 and became a Benedictine monk. After
being given many high positions, he became pope. At this time, the
pope lived in a city called Avignon, in France. However, Urban made
up his mind to go to Rome, because that is where the pope should
live. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and Urban knew that his place
was in Rome. There were many difficulties. The people in France
objected to his going, but Urban did what he felt was right.
The people of Rome were
overjoyed to have the pope back. They were especially joyful to
have such a holy man as was Urban V. He set about at once to repair
the great churches of Rome. He helped the poor, and encouraged the
people to be fervent and devout again. Emperor Charles V showed
great respect to the Holy Father. But Urban had a great many problems.
For one thing, he was getting sicker and weaker all the time. Many
of his cardinals kept urging him to go back to Avignon. So at last
he gave in. As he prepared to leave Rome, the people of the city
begged him to stay. He was very sad, but left anyway. About three
months later, he died. It was in the year 1370.
It was not right for
Urban to leave Rome, because as the bishop of Rome he belonged there.
But aside from this weakness, he was a very holy and good man. He
did much for the Church, for schools and universities, and for the
people. He was called "a light of the world and a way of truth."
ST. DOMINIC OF SILOS
St. Dominic, a Spanish shepherd boy, was born at the beginning of
the eleventh century. He spent many hours alone with his sheep at
the bottom of the Pyrenees mountains. It was there that he learned
to love to pray. Soon he became a monk and a very good one. Dominic
was appointed abbot of his monastery and brought about many changes
for the better.
One day, however, King
Garcia III of Navarre, Spain, claimed that some of the monastery's
possessions were his. St. Dominic refused to give them to the king.
He did not think it was right to give the king what belonged to
the Church. This decision greatly angered the king. He ordered Dominic
to leave his kingdom. Abbot Dominic and his monks were given a friendly
welcome by another king, Ferdinand I of Castile. Ferdinand told
them they could have an old monastery called St. Sebastian at Silos.
This monastery was located in a lonely spot and was very run-down.
But with Dominic as the abbot, it soon began to take on a new look.
In fact, he made it one of the best known monasteries in all Spain.
Dominic worked many miracles to cure all kinds of sicknesses.
Many years after his death, Dominic appeared to a wife and mother.
Her name was Joan. Now she is called Blessed Joan of Aza. Dominic
told her that God would send her another son. When that son was
born, Joan gratefully named him Dominic. And this son became the
great St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order. We celebrate
his feast on August 8. Today's saint died on December 20, 1073.
ST. PETER CANISIUS
ST. Peter, a Dutch man, was born in 1521. His father wanted him
to be a lawyer. To please him, young Peter began to study law before
he had finished all his other studies. Soon enough, however, he
realized that he would never be happy in that life. About that time,
people all over were talking about the wonderful preaching of Blessed
Peter Faber. He was one of the first members of the Jesuit order.
When Peter Canisius listened to him, he knew he, too, would be happy
serving God as a Jesuit. So he joined the order. After more years
of study and prayer, he was ordained a priest.
The great St. Ignatius
soon realized what an obedient and zealous apostle St. Peter Canisius
was. He sent him to Germany where Peter labored for forty years.
It would be hard to name all St. Peter Canisius' great works, prayers
and sacrifices during that time. His concern was to save many cities
of Germany from the heresies of the day. He also labored to bring
back to the Catholic Church those who had accepted false teachings.
It is said that he traveled about twenty thousand miles in thirty
years. This he did on foot or on horseback. In spite of all this,
St. Peter Canisius still found time to write many books on the faith.
He realized how important books are. So he made a campaign to stop
bad books from being sold. And he did all he could to spread good
books to teach the faith. The two catechisms St. Peter Canisius
wrote were so popular that they were printed over two hundred times
and were translated into fifteen languages.
To those who said he
worked too hard, St. Peter Canisius would answer, "If you have
too much to do, with God's help, you will find time to do it all."
This wonderful saint died in 1597. He was proclaimed a Doctor of
the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925.
ST. CHAEREMON AND ST. ISCHYRION AND OTHER MARTYRS
The third century was marked by Roman persecutions of the Church.
Today's saints were martyred during the reign of Emperor Decius.They
lived in Egypt. Many of the Christians were driven out into the
desert. There they died in a variety of ways: hunger, thirst, cold
nights, wild animals, criminals. Naturally, if the Christians tried
to return to civilization, they were killed. The young, healthy
Christians were sold into slavery.
St. Chaeremon was a priest
and bishop of Nilopolis. He was very old when the persecution became
extreme. The elderly bishop and a companion went for shelter to
the mountains of Arabia. They were never seen again, nor were their
bodies ever found.
Ischyrion worked for an official in one of Egypt's cities. It may
have been Alexandria. His employer required that he sacrifice to
the gods. Ischyrion refused because this was against the first commandment.
The official was angry and insulted. He had Ischyrion killed. A
great many other martyrs are included here who gave their lives
for Jesus at this time in Egypt.
JOHN OF KANTY
St. John, the Polish saint, was born in 1390, the son of good country
folk. Seeing how intelligent their son was, they sent him to the
University of Krakow. He did well in his studies. Then John became
a priest, a teacher, and a preacher. He was also well-known for
his great love of the poor. Once he was eating in the university
dining hall. At the beginning of the meal, he happened to see a
beggar passing by the window. Immediately, he jumped up and brought
the man his dinner.
Some people became very
jealous of St. John's success as a teacher and preacher. They finally
managed to have him sent to a parish as a pastor. Here, he put his
whole heart into the new life. At first, however, things did not
go well at all. The people did not particularly care for John, and
John was afraid of the responsibility. He did not give up, however,
and his efforts brought results. By the time he was called back
to the university, the people of his parish loved him dearly. They
went part of the way with him. In fact, they were so sad to see
him go that he had to tell them: "This sadness does not please
God. If I have done any good for you in all these years, sing a
song of joy."
in Krakow, St. John taught Bible classes and again became a very
popular teacher. He was invited to the homes of rich nobles. Still,
however, he gave everything he had to the poor and dressed very
poorly himself. Once he wore an old black habit, called a cassock,
to a banquet. The servants refused to let him in. St. John went
home and changed into a new one. During the dinner, someone spilled
a dish of food on the new cassock. "Never mind," said
the saint with good humor, "my cassock deserves some food,
anyway, because without it, I wouldn't have been here at all."
St. John lived to be eighty-three. Again and again during all those
years he cleaned out everything he owned to help the poor. When
people burst into tears on hearing that he was dying, he said, "Don't
worry about this prison which is decaying. Think of the soul that
is going to leave it." He died in 1473 and was proclaimed a
saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767.
ST. MARGUERITE D'YOUVILLE
St. Marguerite was born in Quebec, Canada, on October 15, 1701.
Her father died in 1708 and the family lived in poverty. Relatives
paid her tuition at the Ursuline convent school in Quebec. Her two
years at the boarding school prepared her to teach her younger brothers
and sisters. Marguerite was gracious and friendly. She helped support
her family by making and selling fine lace. In 1722, Marguerite
married Francois D'Youville. It seemed like the marriage was going
to be a truly happy one. But Francois' real self came out as the
months passed. He was more interested in making money than in being
with his family. His job was illegal liquor trading. He left Marguerite
alone with her two children and did not take care of them.
Francois died quite suddenly
in 1730 after eight years of marriage. He left Marguerite with large
debts to pay. A kind priest named Father du Lescoat gave her courage.
He told her that she was loved by God. Soon she would begin a great
work for God. The prophecy would come true. Mother D'Youville took
in a blind, homeless woman on November 21, 1737. This marks the
beginning of a marvelous work of caring for the sick poor in hospitals.
These hospitals would be run by the sisters of her new order. She
and her first companions became known as the "Grey Nuns."
Their religious habit was grey. The sisters took over the general
hospital in Montreal. It was run-down and very much in debt. People
made fun of the sisters. What were they trying to do, anyway? But
Mother D'Youville and her sisters did not lose heart. They worked,
and built, and fixed. Above all, they welcomed everyone in need.
No one was too poor or too sick to come to their hospital. In 1765,
a fire destroyed the hospital, but Mother D'Youville and her nuns
had it rebuilt in four years.
Marguerite's two boys
became priests: Charles, pastor of Boucherville, and Francois, pastor
of St. Ours. In 1769, Father Francois broke his arm. His mother
hastened to take care of him. She spent five days at the rectory.
Mother D'Youville was equally generous when an epidemic of smallpox
spread through the Indian missions of Montreal. And during the Seven
Years War between the French and British, she helped soldiers on
both sides. She hid the British soldiers in the dark rooms of the
convent cellar. There her sisters quietly nursed them back to health.
Mother Marguerite D'Youville died on December 23, 1771. She was
proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II on December 9, 1990. She
is Canada's first Canadian-born saint.
St. Charbel was born Youssef Makhlouf on May 8, 1828, in a mountain
village in Lebanon. His life was very ordinary. Youssef attended
the small school and the parish church. He loved the Blessed Mother
and he loved to pray. He had two uncles who were monks. Although
Youssef did not tell anyone, he prayed to Our Lady to ask her help
in becoming a monk. His parents wanted him to marry. There was a
very nice girl in the village who would make an ideal wife, they
thought. But Youssef believed it was time to follow his call to
become a monk. He joined the monastery of Our Lady at the age of
twenty-three. He took the name Charbel, after an early martyr by
that name. He professed solemn vows in 1853 when he was twenty-five.
Charbel studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1858. He
remained at the monastery of St. Maron for sixteen years.
Father Charbel was a
profound person whose love for prayer became his outstanding quality.
From time to time he would retreat to the order's hermitage for
stronger prayer times. The last twenty-three years of his life,
Charbel spent in the peace of the hermitage. He chose to lead a
very hard life. He made sacrifices, ate little, slept on the hard
ground, and prayed long hours. The years passed, and Charbel became
a person totally in love with Jesus. Then as he celebrated the Mass
on December 16, 1898, he suffered a stroke during the consecration.
Charbel lingered for eight painful days, then died on December 24,
Miracles began to happen
at the holy monk's grave. Some of those miracles were accepted for
declaring Charbel "blessed" and then "saint."
Father Charbel was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul VI on October
9, 1977. The pope explained that St. Charbel taught us by his life
the true way to God. He said that our culture glorifies wealth and
comfort. Charbel, instead, teaches by his example the value of being
poor, self-sacrificing and prayerful.
CHRISTMAS, THE BIRTHDAY OF JESUS
The time had come for the Son of God to become man for love of us.
His mother Mary and St. Joseph had to leave their home in Nazareth
and go to Bethlehem. The reason for this journey was the Roman emperor's
request to count the number of his subjects. So every Jewish family
had to go to the city of their ancestors. Since Mary and Joseph
belonged to the royal family of David, they had to go to David's
city of Bethlehem. The emperor had made the law, but it served to
fulfill God's plan. The Bible said that the Savior was to be born
It was a slow, hard journey
for our Blessed Mother over mountainous country. But Mary was calm
and peaceful. She knew she was doing God's will. She was happy thinking
of her Divine Son soon to be born. When Mary and Joseph reached
Bethlehem, they found that there was no place for them to stay.
At last, they found shelter in a cave. There, in that rough stable,
the Son of God was born on Christmas Day. His Blessed Mother wrapped
him up warmly and laid him in a manger. Our Lord chose to be born
in such poverty so that we would learn not to desire riches and
comforts. The very night in which Jesus was born, God sent his angels
to announce his birth. The angels were not sent to the emperor or
the king. They were not sent even to the learned doctors and chief
priests. They were sent to poor, humble shepherds. These men were
watching their flocks on the hillside near Bethlehem. As soon as
they heard the angels' message, they hurried to adore the Savior
of the world. Then they went home giving praise and glory to God.
The great patriarchs
and prophets of the Old Testament had been comforted by the thought
that someday the Savior would come into the world. Now he had been
born among us. Christ came for all of us. The Bible says: "God
so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son." If
those who lived in the hope of his coming were happy, how much more
ought we to rejoice. We have his teachings, his Church and Jesus
himself on our altars at every Eucharistic Celebration. Christmas
is the time when we realize more than ever how much God loves us.
St. Stephen's name means crown. He was the first disciple of Jesus
to receive the martyr's crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early
Church. We read about him in chapters 6 and 7 of the Acts of the
Apostles. Peter and the apostles had found that they needed helpers
to look after the care of widows and the poor. So they ordained
seven deacons. Stephen is the most famous of these.
God worked many miracles through St. Stephen. He spoke with such
wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus.
The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful
St. Stephen's preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him.
They could not answer his wise arguments, so they got men to lie
about him. These men said that he had spoken sinfully against God.
St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without any fear.
In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face
of an angel.
Stephen spoke about Jesus,
showing that he is the Savior God had promised to send. He scolded
his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose
up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to heaven.
He said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the
right hand of God. His hearers plugged their ears and refused to
listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city
of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, "Lord
Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell to his knees and begged
God not to punish his enemies for killing him. After such an expression
of love, the martyr went to his heavenly reward.
ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE
St. John was a fisherman in Galilee. He was called to be an apostle
with his brother, St. James. Jesus gave these sons of Zebedee the
nickname, "sons of thunder." St. John was the youngest
apostle. He was dearly loved by the Lord. At the Last Supper, it
was John who was permitted to lean his head on the chest of Jesus.
John was also the only apostle who stood at the foot of the cross.
The dying Jesus gave the care of his Blessed Mother Mary to this
beloved apostle. Turning to Mary, he said, "Behold your mother."
So the rest of her life on earth, the Blessed Mother lived with
St. John. He alone had the great privilege of honoring and assisting
the all-pure Mother of God.
On Easter morning, Mary
Magdalene and the other women went with spices to Jesus' tomb to
anoint his body. They came running back to the apostles with exciting
news. The body of Jesus was gone from the tomb. Peter and John set
out to investigate. John arrived first but waited for Peter to go
in ahead of him. Then he went in and saw the neatly folded linen
cloths. Later that same week, the disciples were fishing on the
lake of Tiberias without success. A man standing on the beach suggested
they let down their nets on the other side of the boat. When they
pulled it up again it was full of large fish. Now John, who knew
who this man was, called to Peter, "It is the Lord." With
the descent of the Holy Spirit the apostles were filled with new
courage. After the Ascension, Peter and John cured a crippled man
by calling on the name of Jesus.
lived nearly a century. He himself was not martyred, but he did
lead a life of suffering. He preached the Gospel, and became bishop
of Ephesus. In the last years of his life, when he could no longer
preach, his disciples would carry him to the crowds of Christians.
His simple message was, "My dear children, love one another."
St. John died in Ephesus around the year 100.
THE HOLY INNOCENTS
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Wise Men came from the east
to worship him. Some say they were kings, others astrologers. They
went to Herod, the king, seeking the newborn king of the Jews, the
Savior. Herod was a cruel, clever tyrant. When he heard these Wise
Men speak of a newborn king, he began to worry about losing his
throne. But he did not let the Wise Men know what he was thinking.
He called in his chief priests and asked them where the Bible says
the Messiah was to be born. They answered: Bethlehem.
"Go and find out about this child," the wicked king said
to the Wise Men. "When you have found out where he is, come
and tell me. Then I, too, will go and worship him." The Wise
Men went on their way. They found Jesus the Messiah, with Mary and
Joseph. They adored him and offered their gifts.
Meanwhile, they were warned in their sleep not to go back to Herod.
And an angel came to tell St. Joseph to take Mary and Baby Jesus
into Egypt. In this way, God spoiled the murderous plans of Herod
concerning the Divine Child.
When Herod realized that the Wise Men had not come back to him,
he became furious. He was an evil, violent man, and now the fear
of losing his throne made him worse. He sent his soldiers to kill
all the boy babies of Bethlehem in the hope of killing the Messiah,
too. The soldiers carried out the bloody order. There was great
sorrow in the little town of Bethlehem, as mothers wept over their
murdered babies. These little children are honored today by the
Church as martyrs. They are called the Holy Innocents.
ST. THOMAS BECKET
St. Thomas Becket was born in 1118, in London, England. After his
parents died, he went to work in an office. As a young man, he loved
hunting and other sports. When Thomas was about twenty-four, he
found a position in the household of the archbishop of Canterbury.
He began to study to become a priest. He was handsome, very intelligent
and pleasant to talk with. Before long, he became a great favorite
of King Henry II himself. People said that the king and Thomas had
only one heart and one mind-such close friends were they. When Thomas
was thirty-six, King Henry made him his chancellor.
chancellor of England, Thomas had a large household and lived in
splendor. Yet he was also very good to the poor. Although Thomas
was proud and quick-tempered, he performed many hidden acts of penance.
He prayed long hours, often into the night. When the archbishop
of Canterbury died, the king wanted the pope to give Thomas this
position. It would just mean that Thomas would have to be ordained
a priest. But Thomas told him plainly that he did not want to be
the archbishop of Canterbury. He realized that being in that position
would put him in direct conflict with Henry II. Thomas knew that
he would have to defend the Church and that would mean trouble.
"Your affection for me would turn into hatred," he warned
Henry. The king paid no attention and Thomas was made a priest and
a bishop in 1162. At first, things went along as well as ever. All
too soon, however, the king began to demand money which Thomas felt
he could not rightly take from the Church. The king grew more and
more angry with his former friend. Finally, he began to treat Thomas
harshly. For a while, Thomas was tempted to give in a bit. Then
he began to realize just how much Henry hoped to control the Church.
Thomas was very sorry that he had even thought of giving in to the
king. He did penance for his weakness, and ever after held firm.
day, the king was very angry. "Will no one rid me of this archbishop?"
Some of his knights took him seriously. They went off to murder
the archbishop. They attacked him in his own cathedral. He died,
saying, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church,
I am willing to die." It was December 29, 1170. The entire
Christian world was horrified at such a crime. Pope Alexander III
held the king personally responsible for the murder. Miracles began
to happen at Thomas' tomb. He was proclaimed a saint by the same
pope in 1173.
St. Anysia lived in Thessalonica toward the end of the second century.
Thessalonica was an ancient city to which St. Paul himself had first
brought the faith of Jesus. Anysia was a Christian and after her
parents' death, she used her good fortune to help the poor. In her
day, there was a cruel persecution of Christians in Thessalonica.
The governor was especially determined to stop all Christians from
meeting together for Mass. But Anysia started out one day to try
to go to a Christian meeting. As she passed a certain gate, called
Cassandra, a guard took notice of her. Stepping out in front of
her, he demanded to know where she was going. Frightened, Anysia
stepped backwards, tracing a cross on her forehead. At that, the
soldier grabbed her and shook her roughly. "Who are you"
he shouted. "And where are you going?" Anysia took a deep
breath and replied, "I am a servant of Jesus Christ,"
she said. "I am going to the Lord's assembly."
yes?" sneered the guard. "I will stop that. I will take
you to sacrifice to the gods. Today we worship the sun." At
the same time, he snatched off her veil. Anysia put up a good struggle,
and the pagan grew more and more furious. Finally, in a rage, he
drew his sword and ran it through her. The saint fell dead at his
feet. When the persecution ended, the Christians of Thessalonica
built a church over the spot where St. Anysia had given her life
for Christ. Anysia died around 304.
St. Sylvester dates back to early Christian times, to the reign
of Constantine, in fact. Sylvester I became pope in 314 and he reigned
until his death in 335-twenty-one years. The story is told that
Constantine had at first persecuted Pope Sylvester. The emperor
contracted leprosy and was going to have a pagan ritual of some
kind performed. He was desperate for a cure. It seems that Constantine
had a dream in which St. Peter and St. Paul spoke to him. They told
the emperor to go to Pope Sylvester for a cure. Constantine asked
the pope to be baptized and he was, in the basilica of St. John
Lateran. It was during the reception of Baptism that Constantine
was completely cured. From then on, Constantine not only permitted
the Christian religion to exist, but encouraged it.
Devotion to Pope Sylvester
I was well-known during the early Church. He is the first pope not
a martyr to be proclaimed a saint. In the basilica of St. John Lateran
in Rome, an impressive mosaic decorates one wall. It shows Jesus
giving keys of spiritual power to Pope St. Sylvester I.