St. Giles was born in Athens, Greece, in early times. When his parents
died, he used the large fortune they left him to help the poor.
For this reason and especially because he worked many miracles,
Giles found himself a greatly admired young man. He did not want
this praise and fame at all. So, to be able to serve God in a hidden
life, he left Greece and sailed to France.
he went to live alone in a dark forest. He made his home in a rough
cave behind a thick thorn bush. Giles lived there contented, safe
from the danger of becoming conceited at hearing himself praised.
But one day, a certain king and his men went hunting the forest.
They chased the deer that often came to Giles' cave. The deer lost
them by going into Giles' cave, which was hidden behind the large
thorn bush. One of the men shot an arrow into the thorn bush, hoping
to hit the deer. When they forced their way in, they discovered
Giles sitting wounded by the arrow.
are you and what are you doing here?" demanded the king. St.
Giles told them the story of his life. When they heard it, they
asked his forgiveness. The king sent his doctors to take care of
the saint's wound. Although Giles begged to be left alone, the king
felt such respect for him that he came often to see him. Giles never
would accept the king's gifts. Finally, however, he agreed to let
the king build a large monastery there. Giles became its first abbot.
This monastery became so famous that a whole town grew up there.
When the saint died, his grave at the monastery became a great shrine
where many people came on pilgrimage.
BLESSED JOHN DU LAU AND THE SEPTEMBER MARTYRS
Blessed John was the archbishop of Arles, France. He and his companions
are celebrated today because they died heroic martyrs' deaths during
the French Revolution. The new constitution of 1790 was against
the Church. The people were being forced to sign their agreement
with an oath. If they did not, they were punished. By 1792, the
punishment was more than a prison term. Now it meant death.
Many brave bishops, priests, religious and lay people would not
sign the oath supporting the French constitution. They knew they
would be betraying God and his Church. Pope Pius VI told them that
they were right. It was a sad time for the people of France. On
September 2, 1792, a crowd of several hundred people rioted and
broke into a former monastery. It was now a prison for priests and
religious. The mob approached several priests and told them to sign
the oath. Each priest definitely refused. Each was slain on the
the martyrs was Blessed Alexander Lenfant, a Jesuit. Just a few
minutes before he died, he had been hearing the confession of a
fellow priest. Both were killed moments later. The rioters then
went to the Carmelite church which was also being used as a prison.
Blessed John, archbishop of Arles, and other bishops and priests
were being held there. All refused to take the oath and all were
murdered. On September 3, the same mob went to the Lazarist seminary.
It was also a temporary prison, with ninety priests and religious.
Only four escaped death.
the time the terrible Revolution had ended, 1,500 Catholics had
been killed. Several were bishops, priests and religious. The martyrs
we celebrate today number 191. They were proclaimed "blessed"
in 1926 by Pope Pius XI.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT
St. Gregory was born in 540 in Rome. His father was a senator. His
mother is a saint, St. Celia. Gregory studied philosophy and while
still young, became governor of Rome. When his father died, Gregory
turned his large house into a monastery. For several years he lived
as a good and holy monk. Then Pope Pelagius made him one of the
seven deacons of Rome. When the pope died, Gregory was chosen to
take his place. He did not want that honor at all. He was so holy
and wise, however, that everyone knew he would be a good pope. Gregory
even disguised himself and hid in a cave, but he was found and made
years he ruled the Church. Even though he was always sick, Gregory
was one of the greatest popes the Church has ever had. He wrote
many books and was a wonderful preacher. He cared for people all
over the world. In fact, he considered himself the servant of all.
He was the first pope to use the title "servant of the servants
of God." All the popes since have used this title.
took special, loving care of poor people and strangers. Every day
he used to feed them a good dinner. He was also very sensitive to
the injustices people suffered. Once, when he was still a monk,
he saw some blond boys up for sale in the slave market of Rome.
He asked where they were from and was told that they were from England.
The saint felt a great desire to go to England to bring the love
of Jesus to those pagans. When he became pope, one of the first
things he did was to send some of his best monks to convert the
English to Christ. The last years of this holy pope's life were
filled with great sufferings, yet he continued working for his beloved
Church until the very end. St. Gregory died on March 12, 604
ST. ROSE OF VITERBO
St. Rose was born in 1235 in Viterbo, Italy. She lived at the time
when Emperor Frederick had conquered land that belonged to the Church.
Rose's special mission was to make the people of her own city and
nearby cities remain faithful to the Holy Father. And this she did
when she was just a teenager. In fact, Rose was only eight years
old when our Blessed Mother told her while she was sick that she
was to wear the habit of St. Francis. Our Lady also told Rose to
give good example by her words and actions. Slowly the girl gained
her health. She began to think more and more about how much Jesus
suffered for us and how much sinners hurt him. She prayed and made
sacrifices to show Jesus how much she loved him.
on, this daring girl began to preach in the streets of the city.
She told people to stand up to the emperor who had taken land from
the Church. So many people listened to the saint that Rose's father
became frightened. He told her he would beat her if she did not
stop preaching. She was only about thirteen, but she answered gently,
"If Jesus could be beaten for me, I can be beaten for him.
I do what Jesus has told me to do, and I must not disobey him."
more Rose preached with such success that the enemies of the pope
wanted her killed. In the end, the ruler sent Rose and her parents
out of the city. But she said that the emperor was going to die
soon and that is just what happened. Back in Viterbo, the saint
was not permitted to become a nun, so she returned to her own home.
There she died in 1252, when she was only seventeen. Her body is
still preserved and venerated in Viterbo.
ST. LAWRENCE JUSTINIAN
St. Lawrence Justinian was born in Venice, Italy, in 1381. His mother
sometimes thought her son was aiming too high. He always told her
that he wanted to become a saint. When he was nineteen, he felt
he should serve God in a special way. He asked the advice of his
uncle, a holy priest of the community of St. George. "Do you
have the courage to turn down the delights of the world and to live
a life of penance?" asked his uncle. Lawrence was quiet a long
time. Then he looked up at a crucifix and said, "You, O Lord,
are my hope. In this cross there is comfort and strength."
wanted him to marry, but Lawrence joined the community of St. George.
His first assignment was to go out among the people of his city
and seek donations for the support of the order. Lawrence was not
ashamed to beg. He realized that the offerings of money or goods
would help God's work. He even went in front of his own home and
asked charity. His mother would try to fill up his sack with food,
so that he could go back to the monastery early. But Lawrence would
only accept two loaves of bread and then would be off to the next
house. In this way, he learned how to make little acts of self-denial
and grew very dear to God.
a friend of his came to try to persuade Lawrence to leave the monastery.
Instead, the saint spoke of how short life is and how wise it is
to live for heaven. His friend was very impressed and was persuaded
to become a religious himself.
Lawrence was made a bishop, even though he was not happy about it.
His people soon learned what a kind and holy man their bishop was.
Crowds came to him for help every day. When he was dying, he would
not lay on a soft bed. "That shall not be!" he exclaimed
humbly. "My Lord was stretched out on a hard and painful tree."
St. Lawrence Justinian died in 1455.
Blessed Bertrand lived in the last half of the twelfth and first
part of the thirteenth centuries. His country, France, was troubled
by religious wars. There was great confusion about Church teaching.
Bertrand's parents managed to live a peaceful life and they taught
the true faith to their son. In 1200, the Cistercian monasteries
were attacked by an army led by Raymond of Toulouse. He believed
in a heresy called Albigensianism. He attacked people who did not
believe as he did. He especially persecuted the Cistercian monks.
They were trying very hard to help people know about the true Catholic
became a Cistercian and a priest. Around 1208, he met St. Dominic.
This was God's invitation to him to begin a very important ministry.
He was one of the six men who joined Dominic in 1215 to form a new
religious congregation, the Order of Preachers. They are often called
"Dominicans" after their founder. Blessed Bertrand was
sent to Paris to start the order there. After a short while, St.
Dominic called for Friar Bertrand to go to Bologna to establish
the order there. Bertrand obeyed happily. Meanwhile, the Order of
Preachers was growing. They preached the Gospel message in the towns
and countryside. They wanted people to know and love their Catholic
faith. In 1219, Blessed Bertrand accompanied St. Dominic on a trip
to Paris. He loved and admired St. Dominic very much.
had a big meeting in 1221, called a General Chapter. Bertrand was
there. The order was divided into eight provinces so that the religious
and their ministries could be more effective. Bertrand was made
the superior or provincial of southern France. He spent the rest
of his life preaching and helping people grow closer to God. He
died in 1230 and was proclaimed "blessed" by Pope Leo
XIII in 1881.
BLESSED JOHN DUCKETT AND BLESSED RALPH CORBY
Blessed James Duckett studied at the English college of Douay and
became a priest in 1639. He studied for three more years in Paris,
and spent several hours each day in prayer. Before being sent back
to his persecuted England, he spent two months with the Cistercian
monks, devoting that time to prayer and retreat. The young priest
labored for a year in England. He was caught with holy oils and
a book of rites. When his captors threatened harm to his family
and friends if he did not confess his identity, he admitted that
he was a priest. He was brought to prison in London. There he met
a fellow priest, Ralph Corby, a Jesuit. Father Corby had been laboring
in England for twelve years before he was caught celebrating Mass.
The Jesuit order tried feverishly to save Father Corby. When the
"reprieve" came, he insisted that Father John Duckett
who was younger, use it. But Father John would not allow himself
to walk away and leave his friend.
neither priest would have been allowed to take advantage of the
reprieve. The judges ignored it and condemned both priests to death.
On September 7, 1644, at ten o'clock, the two men mounted the cart
that would take them to Tyburn, the scene of execution. Their heads
were shaved and they wore their cassocks. Each made a short speech,
then embraced each other. They would meet again in the presence
of the Lord of glory.
BIRTH OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
We do not usually celebrate the birthdays of the saints. Instead
we celebrate the day they died, because that is the day they were
born into the joys of heaven.
But the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, is an exception. We
do celebrate her birthday because she came into this world full
of grace and because she was to be the Mother of Jesus.
of Our Lady was like a dawn. When the sky starts to turn a rosy
pink early in the morning, we know the sun will soon come up. In
the same way, when Mary was born, she brought great happiness to
the world. Her birth meant that soon Jesus, the Sun of justice,
would appear. Mary was the wonderful human being whose privilege
it was to bring the Lord Jesus to all people. Even today, if we
have Mary, we have Jesus. Whoever is very devoted to her is very
close to the heart of Jesus.
ST. PETER CLAVER
St. Peter Claver, the Spanish priest of the Society of Jesus was
born in 1580. He is known as the "apostle of the slaves."
While he was still studying to become a Jesuit, he felt a burning
desire to go to South America as a missionary. He volunteered and
was sent to the seaport of Cartagena. There great shiploads of African
slaves were brought to be sold.
sight of those poor people all crowded together, sick and suffering,
Peter felt great pity. He made up his mind to help them and to convert
them. As soon as a shipload arrived, he would go among the hundreds
of sick slaves. He gave them food and medicine. He baptized the
dying and the little babies. He nursed the ill. It was hard work
in terrible heat. One man who went once with St. Peter could never
face the heart-breaking sight again. Yet Peter did it for forty
years. He baptized some three hundred thousand people. He was there
when the ships came in. He cared for and loved those who were treated
so unjustly by society.
the slave owners tried to stop Father Claver, he taught the faith
to the slaves anyway. It was slow, discouraging work. Many people
criticized him, saying it was all a waste of time. They thought
the slaves would never keep the faith. But St. Peter was patient
and he trusted that God would bless his people. He also went to
visit his converts after they left Cartagena. The priest never stopped
urging the slave owners to take care of the souls of their slaves
and to be better Christians themselves.
During the last four years of his life, Father Claver was so sick
that he had to stay in his room, He could not even celebrate Mass.
Most everyone forgot about him, but he never complained. Then suddenly
at his death on September 8, 1654, it was like the whole city woke
up. They realized that they had lost a saint. From then on he was
never forgotten again. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him a saint in 1888.
ST. NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO
St. Nicholas was born in 1245 in Ancona, Italy. His parents had
waited long and anxiously for a child. Nicholas was the answer to
prayer and a pilgrimage the couple had made to the shrine of St.
Nicholas of Bari. The couple was so grateful to the saint that they
named their baby after him. When the boy grew up, he talked about
becoming a priest. He was prayerful and wanted to live close to
God. Friends of his family wanted him to be a priest in a wealthy
parish where Nicholas would be promoted. Nicholas didn't say much,
but he quietly searched and prayed. One day he slipped into a church.
A fervent Augustinian priest was preaching a sermon. He said: "Don't
love the world or the things of this world because this world is
passing away." Nicholas thought about this. He went away with
the words dancing in his head. He realized how God had used that
preacher to touch his own life. He became convinced of the importance
of preaching God's Word. He made up his mind to ask to join the
same order to which that priest belonged.
order was the Augustinian Friars and the priest was Father Reginald
who became his novice master. Friar Nicholas professed his vows
when he was eighteen. Then he began his studies for the priesthood.
He was ordained around 1270. Father Nicholas performed his preaching
ministry with love in various parishes. Then while praying in church
one day, he seemed to hear a voice saying: "To Tolentino, to
Tolentino. Stay there." Shortly afterward, he was assigned
to the town of Tolentino. He spent the remaining thirty years of
his life there. There was great political unrest in those times.
Many people did not come to church to hear the Word and to worship
the Lord. The friars of St. Augustine decided that street-preaching
was necessary. St. Nicholas was chosen to be part of this initiative.
He preached outside and in gathering places willingly. People listened
and many repented of their sins and lack of caring. They led better
lives. Father Nicholas spent hours in the slum areas of Tolentino.
He visited the lonely. He brought the sacraments to the sick and
dying. He took care of the needs of children and visited prisoners.
Miracles were reported while St. Nicholas was still alive. He touched
a diseased child and said, "May the good God make you well,"
and the child was cured.
Nicholas of Tolentino was sick for about a year before he died on
September 10, 1305. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Eugene IV
BLESSED LOUIS OF THURINGIA
Blessed Loius, the German prince, lived during the last part of
the twelfth and first part of the thirteenth centuries. He married
St. Elizabeth of Hungary when he was twenty-one and she was just
fourteen. The marriage had been arranged by their parents. This
was the custom. But they both loved God, and he gave them great
love for each other. So it was that they were very happy together.
Their joy increased when God sent them their three children. The
youngest was Blessed Gertrude.
helped his wife in her many works of charity for the poor. He also
joined her in devout prayer. Time after time, the people saw their
handsome prince and his lovely wife helping the poor. It is said
that once Elizabeth brought a leper into their castle and nursed
him in their bed. For a moment, when Louis saw that, he was angry.
Then, suddenly, instead of the leper, he saw our crucified Lord
lying there. After that proof of how much Jesus appreciated Elizabeth's
charity, Louis had a hospital for lepers built.
One long, bitter cold winter, Louis had to be away from his land.
When he returned, Elizabeth was overjoyed. The next year Louis left
on a Crusade to free the Holy Land from the Muslims. But on the
way, he caught malaria, and soon was dying.
he had always lived in close union with Jesus, the brave ruler felt
no fear of death. He received the Last Sacraments and died peacefully
ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
St. John Chrysostom was born in Antioch around 344. His father died
when he was a baby. His mother chose not to marry again. She gave
all her attention to bringing up her son and daughter. She made
many sacrifices so that John could have the best teachers. He was
very intelligent and could have become a great man in the world.
When he gave speeches everyone loved to listen to him. In fact,
his name, Chrysostom, means "Golden-mouthed." Yet John
wanted to give himself to God. He became a priest and later was
made bishop of the great city of Constantinople.
St. John was a wonderful bishop. Although he was always sick, he
accomplished a tremendous amount of good. He preached once or twice
every day, fed the poor and took care of orphans. He corrected sinful
customs and stopped bad plays from being performed. He loved everyone,
but he was not afraid to tell even the empress when she did wrong.
he fought sin, St. John had enemies- even the empress herself. She
had him sent away from Constantinople. On the trip he suffered greatly
from fever, from lack of food and sleep. Yet, he was happy to suffer
for Jesus. Just before he died, he cried out, "Glory be to
John died in Turkey on September 14, 407. A terrible hailstorm fell
on Constantinople when he died. Four days later, the evil empress
died too. Her son honored St. John's body and showed how sorry he
was for what his mother had done.