parents wanted him to marry and have a family. He gently but firmly
convinced them that he had a priestly call. He joined the congregation
of the Oratory and studied for the priesthood. After John was a
priest, the plague hit Normandy. It brought terrible suffering and
death. Father Eudes volunteered to help the sick, caring for both
their souls and bodies. Later, he became a popular preacher of missions
in parishes. In fact, during his lifetime he preached 110 missions.
St. John is responsible for the establishment of important religious
congregations: the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd
nuns. Father Eudes also started the Congregation of Jesus and Mary
for priests. This congregation was dedicated to training young men
to become good parish priests.
was very devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Holy Heart
of Mary. He wrote a book about these devotions. John became sick
after he preached an outdoor mission in very cold weather. He never
fully recovered. John died in 1680. He was proclaimed "blessed"
by Pope St. Pius X in 1908. This pope called John Eudes the apostle
of devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart
of Mary. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925.
St. Bernard was born in 1090 in Dijon, France. He and his six brothers
and sisters received an excellent education. His heart was broken
when his mother died. He was just seventeen. He might have let sadness
get the best of him had it not been for his lively sister Humbeline.
She cheered him up and soon Bernard became a very popular man. He
was handsome and intelligent, full of fun and good humor. People
enjoyed being with him.
day, Bernard greatly surprised his friends by telling them he was
going to join the very strict Cistercian order. They did all they
could to make him give up the idea. But in the end, it was Bernard
who convinced his brothers, an uncle and twenty-six friends to join
him. As Bernard and his brothers left their home, they said to their
little brother Nivard, who was playing with other children: "Good-bye,
little Nivard. You will now have all the lands and property for
yourself." But the boy answered: "What! Will you take
heaven and leave me the earth? Do you call that fair?" And
not too long after, Nivard, too, joined his brothers in the monastery.
St. Bernard became a very good monk. After three years, he was sent
to start a new Cistercian monastery and to be its abbot. The new
monastery was in the Valley of Light and became known by that name.
In French, the Valley of Light is "Clairvaux." Bernard
was the abbot there for the rest of his life.
he would have liked to stay working and praying in his monastery,
he was called out sometimes for special assignments. He preached,
made peace between rulers, and went to advise popes. He also wrote
beautiful spiritual books. He became the most influential man of
his time. Yet Bernard's great desire was to be close to God, to
be a monk. He was not trying to become famous. This saint had a
great devotion to the Blessed Mother. It is said that he often greeted
her with a "Hail Mary" when he passed her statue. One
day, the Blessed Mother returned his greeting: "Hail, Bernard!"
In this way, Our Lady showed how much his love and devotion pleased
St. Bernard died in 1153. People were saddened because they would
miss his wonderful influence. He was proclaimed a saint in 1174
by Pope Alexander III. He was also named a Doctor of the Church
in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII.
ST. PIUS X
St. Pius X, the great pope, was named Joseph Sarto. He was born
in 1835, the son of a mailman in Riese, Italy. Joseph was given
the affectionate nickname of "Beppi." When Joseph felt
that God wanted him to be a priest, he had to make many sacrifices
for his education. But he didn't mind. He even walked miles to school
barefoot to save his one good pair of shoes. After he was ordained
a priest, Father Sarto labored for the people in poor parishes for
seventeen years. Everybody loved him. He used to give away everything
he had to help them. His sisters had to hide his shirts or he would
have had nothing to wear. Even when Father Joseph became a bishop,
and a cardinal, he still gave away what he owned to the poor. He
kept nothing for himself.
Pope Leo XIII died in 1903, Cardinal Sarto was chosen pope. He took
the name of Pius X. He became known as the pope who loved the Holy
Eucharist. Pope Pius X encouraged everyone to receive Jesus as often
as they could. He also made a law permitting young children to receive
Holy Communion too. Before that time, boys and girls had to wait
many years before they could receive the Lord. He is also the pope
of religious instruction. He believed in and loved our Catholic
faith. He wanted every Catholic to share in the beauty of the truths
of our faith. He really cared about every single person and their
spiritual and material needs. He encouraged priests and religion
teachers to help everyone learn about their faith.
the terrible World War I broke out, St. Pius X suffered greatly.
He knew so many people would be killed. He had said: "I would
gladly give my life to save my poor children from this horrible
suffering." Toward the end of his life, he also said: "I
have lived poor, and I wish to die poor." He did so much to
help the poor that people wondered where all the money came from.
He never kept anything for himself, right to the end of his life.
Pope Pius X died on August 20, 1914. The last pope before him to
be declared a saint was Pope St. Pius V. Pope Clement X had canonized
him in 1672. We celebrate the feast of St. Pius V on April 30. Joseph
Sarto, Pope St. Pius X, was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII
ST. ROSE OF LIMA
St. Rose, the South American saint, was born in Lima, Peru, in 1586.
Her real name was Isabel, but she was such a beautiful baby that
she was called Rose. She received the sacrament of Confirmation
from St. Turibius, archbishop of Lima. We celebrate his feast on
March 23. As Rose grew older, she became more and more beautiful.
One day her mother put a wreath of flowers on her head to show off
her loveliness to friends. But Rose was not impressed. She only
wanted Jesus to notice her and love her.
did not think she was special because of her own beauty. She realized
that beauty is a gift from God. She even became afraid that her
beauty might be a temptation to someone. She noticed people staring
at her with approval. She heard them say that her complexion was
smooth and beautiful. So she did an unusual thing: she rubbed her
face with pepper until her skin became all red and blistered. She
certainly did not have to worry about receiving compliments for
worked hard to support her parents who were very poor. She humbly
obeyed them, too, except when they tried to get her to marry. That
she would not do. Her love for Jesus was so great that when she
talked about him, her face glowed. Rose prayed that her parents
would be more accepting of her way of life. She wanted to live for
Jesus alone. She had many temptations from the devil. There also
were times when she had to suffer terrible loneliness and sadness.
During those times, God seemed far away. Yet she cheerfully offered
all these troubles to him. She kept praying for her trust to grow
stronger. In her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young
woman used to pray: "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with
them increase your love in my heart." She was just thirty-one
when she died on August 24, 1617, in Lima.
St. Rose of Lima was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement X in 1671.
He also named her patroness of the Americas, Philippines and West
"Bartholomew" was one of the first followers of Jesus.
This apostle's other name was Nathaniel. He came from Cana in Galilee.
He became a disciple of Jesus when his friend Philip invited him
to come and meet the Lord. Nathaniel received high praise from Jesus,
who said, as soon as he saw him, "Here is a man in whom there
is no guile." Jesus meant that Nathaniel was an honest, sincere
man who would never deceive anyone. His one desire was to know the
was very surprised to hear those words from the Lord. "How
do you know me?" he asked. "Before Philip called you,"
Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree." That was
a favorite praying-place. Nathaniel must have realized then that
Jesus had read his heart as he prayed. "Master!" he cried.
"You are the Son of God, the King of Israel." And Nathaniel
became one of the Lord's faithful apostles.
Like the other apostles, Nathaniel, or Bartholomew, preached the
Gospel of Jesus at the risk of his life. It is believed that he
went to India, Armenia and other lands. He preached with great zeal,
until he gave his life for the faith. And so, to the reward of an
apostle, St. Bartholomew added the martyr's crown.
ST. LOUIS OF FRANCE
St. Louis was born on April 25, 1214. His father was King Louis
VIII of France and his mother was Queen Blanche. The story is told
that when Prince Louis was small, his mother hugged him tightly.
She said, "I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can
love her child. But I would rather see you dead at my feet than
ever to have you commit a mortal sin." Louis never forgot those
words. He grew to cherish his Catholic faith and his upbringing.
When he was twelve, his father died and he became the king. Queen
Blanche ruled until her son was twenty-one.
became a remarkable king. He married Margaret, the daughter of a
count. They loved each other very much. They had eleven children.
Louis was a good husband and father. And as long as his mother,
Queen Blanche lived, he showed her full respect. Busy as he was,
the king found time for daily Mass and the recitation of the Divine
Office. He was a Third Order Franciscan and lived a simple lifestyle.
He was generous and fair. He ruled his people with wisdom, charity
and true Christian principles. There was no separation between what
he believed as a Catholic and how he lived. He knew how to settle
arguments and disputes. He listened to the poor and the underprivileged.
He had time for everybody, not just the rich and influential. He
supported Catholic education and built monasteries.
Joinville, wrote a biography of St. Louis. He recalls that he was
twenty-two years in the king's service. He was daily in the king's
company. And he could say that he never heard King Louis swear or
use any kind of profanity in all those years. Nor did the king permit
bad language in his castle.
felt an urgent obligation to help the suffering Christians in the
Holy Land. He wanted to be part of the Crusades. Twice he led an
army against the Turks. The first time, he was taken prisoner. But
even in jail, he behaved as a true Christian knight. He was unafraid
and noble in all his ways. He was freed and returned to take care
of his kingdom in France. Yet as soon as he could, he started back
to fight the enemies of the faith again. On the way, however, this
greatly loved king contracted typhoid fever. A few hours before
he died, he prayed, "Lord, I will enter into your house, worship
in your holy temple, and give glory to your name." St. Louis
died on August 25, 1270. He was fifty-six years old. He was proclaimed
a saint by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297
ST. JOSEPH CALASANZ
St. Joseph was born in 1556, in his father's castle in Spain. He
went to college and became a lawyer. He was ordained a priest at
the age of twenty-eight. Joseph was given high positions and he
did his work well. Yet he felt that God was calling him to do some
special work for poor children in Rome. Obedient to the Lord's call,
he gave up everything he had in Spain and went to Rome. There his
heart was filled with pity for all the orphans and homeless children
he saw everywhere. They were ignorant and neglected. Joseph began
to gather them together to teach them all the regular subjects,
and especially their religion. Other priests joined him. Soon Joseph
became the superior of a new religious order. But he never let his
duties as founder and superior stop him from teaching his beloved
children. He would even sweep the classrooms himself. He often led
the little ones to their homes after school was over.
St. Joseph had much to suffer from people who tried to take over
his order. They wanted to run it their way. Once he was even led
through the streets like a criminal. He was almost put in jail,
although the good priest had done nothing wrong. When he was ninety
years old, the saint received terrible news. His order had been
forbidden to continue in the way he had started it. Yet despite
this suffering, Joseph only said: "The Lord gave and the Lord
has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. My work has been
done simply out of love for God."
later, in 1648, the saint died a calm, peaceful death. He was ninety-two
years old. Several years afterward, his order, the Piarist Fathers,
was allowed to continue St. Joseph's wonderful mission. He was proclaimed
a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. Pope Pius XII declared him
patron of Christian schools in 1948.
ST. ELIZABETH BICHIER
St. Elizabeth was born in 1773. As a little girl, her favorite game
was building castles in the sand. Many years later, this holy French
woman had to take charge of building convents for the order of nuns
she founded. "I guess building was meant to be my business,"
she joked, "since I started it so young!" In fact, by
1830, eight years before her death, Elizabeth had already opened
over sixty convents.
the time of the French Revolution, Elizabeth's family lost everything
they owned. This was because the republicans were taking property
from the nobility. But this intelligent young woman of nineteen
studied law so she could fight her family's case in court. When
she won and saved her family from ruin, the village shoemaker exclaimed:
"All you have to do now is marry a good republican!" Elizabeth,
however, had no intention of marrying anyone republican or noble.
On the back of a picture of Our Lady, she had written: "I dedicate
and consecrate myself to Jesus and Mary forever."
the help of St. Andrew Fournet, Elizabeth started a new religious
order called the Daughters of the Cross. We celebrate St. Andrew
Fournet's feast on May 13. This new order taught children and cared
for the sick. Elizabeth would face any danger to help people. Once
she found a tramp lying sick in a barn. She brought him to the convent
hospital and did all she could for him until he died. The next morning
the police chief came to tell her she could be arrested for sheltering
a man believed to be a criminal. Elizabeth was unafraid. "I
only did what you yourself would have done, sir," she said.
"I found this poor sick man, and took care of him until he
died. I am ready to tell the judge just what happened." Of
course, the saint's honesty and charity won her great respect. People
admired her straight, clear answers. The order's co-founder, St.
Andrew Fournet, died in 1834. St. Elizabeth wrote to the sisters,
"This is our greatest and most sad loss." St. Elizabeth
died on August 26, 1838. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius
XII in 1947.
St. Monica, the famous mother of St. Augustine, was born in 332
in Tagaste, northern Africa. She was brought up as a good Christian.
Her strong training was a great help to her when she married the
pagan Patricius. Patricius admired his wife, but he made her suffer
because of his bad temper. Still Monica never answered back and
never complained about him to anyone. Instead she prayed for him
fervently. Patricius admitted his belief in Christianity in 371.
He was baptized on his deathbed in 372. His mother, too, became
joy over the holy way in which her husband had died soon changed
to great sorrow. She found out that her son Augustine was living
a bad, selfish life. This brilliant young man of nineteen had turned
to a false religion and to immoral habits. Monica prayed and cried
and did much penance for her son. She begged priests to talk to
him. Augustine was brilliant, yet very stubborn. He did not want
to give up his sinful life. But Monica would not give up either.
When he went to Rome without her, she followed him. At Rome, she
found he had become a teacher in Milan. So Monica went to Milan.
And in all those years, she never stopped praying for him. What
love and faith! After years of prayers and tears, her reward came
when Augustine was converted. He not only became a good Christian,
as she had prayed. Augustine also became a priest, a bishop, a great
writer and a very famous saint. St. Monica died in Ostia, outside
Rome, in 387. Augustine was at her bedside.
St. Augustine was born in Tagaste in modern Algeria on November
13, 354. This famous son of St. Monica spent many years in wicked
living and in false beliefs. He was one of the most intelligent
persons who ever lived. Augustine was brought up in a Christian
atmosphere by his mother. Unfortunately, he became so proud and
immoral that eventually he could not see or understand spiritual
truths anymore. His mother Monica prayed daily for her son's conversion.
The marvelous sermons of St. Ambrose made their impact too. Finally,
Augustine became convinced that Christianity was the true religion.
Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could
never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men
who had suddenly been converted after reading the life of St. Anthony
of the Desert. We celebrate his feast on January 17. Augustine felt
ashamed. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius.
"Unlearned people are taking heaven by force. Yet we, with
all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in
the mud of our sins!"
of bitter sorrow, Augustine went into the garden and prayed, "How
much longer, Lord? Why don't I put an end to my sinning now?"
Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!"
Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up
the Bible and opened it. His eyes fell on St. Paul's letter to the
Romans, chapter 13. It was just what Augustine needed. Paul says
to stop living immoral lives and to live in imitation of Jesus.
That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.
baptized and ordained a priest and bishop. He was a famous Catholic
writer and founder of the Augustinian order. He became one of the
greatest saints who ever lived. On the wall of his room, he had
the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do
not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies,
lived simply and supported the poor. He preached very often, and
prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late
have I loved you," he once cried to God. But Augustine spent
the rest of his life in loving God and leading others to love him,
BEHEADING OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
St. John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus. His mother was St. Elizabeth
and his father was Zechariah. The first chapter of Luke's Gospel
tells of the wonderful event of John's birth. Mark's Gospel, chapter
6:14-29, records the cruel details of John the Baptist's death.
What harsh consequences John accepted for teaching the truth.
King Herod and his wife refused to hear how they stood with God.
They wanted to make their own rules and live their own lives. St.
John the Baptist had to pay the price for his honesty. Yet he would
have had it no other way. He would never have kept silent while
sin and injustice were happening. He called people to repentance
and wanted everyone to be reconciled to God. He recognized that
true happiness comes from God.
had preached a baptism of repentance, preparing people for the Messiah.
He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and watched with quiet joy
as the Lord's public ministry began. John encouraged his own disciples
to follow Jesus. He knew that Jesus' fame would grow, while his
would fade away. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, St.
John the Baptist calls himself a voice crying in the desert to make
straight the path of the Lord. He invited people to get ready, to
prepare themselves to recognize the Messiah. His message is the
same to each of us.
St. Pammachius was a distinguished Christian layman who lived in
the fourth century. As a young student, he had become friends with
St. Jerome. They remained friends all their lives and kept an ongoing
correspondence. His wife was Paulina, the second daughter of St.
Paula, another good friend of St. Jerome. When Paulina died in 397,
St. Jerome and St. Paulinus of Nola wrote deeply moving letters
filled with sympathy, support and the promise of prayers.
was heart-broken about his wife's death. He spent the rest of his
life serving in the hospice he and St. Fabiola built. There pilgrims
coming to Rome were welcomed and made comfortable. Pammachius and
Fabiola willingly accepted and even preferred the poor, the sick
and the handicapped. Pammachius felt that his deceased wife was
with him as he performed his works of mercy. Paulina had been known
for her love for the poor and suffering. Her husband now believed
that by caring for them, he was paying the best possible tribute
to her memory.
was much more gentle with his words and ways than the fiery St.
Jerome. He often suggested to Jerome that he soften or reword his
letters, but Jerome usually did not. For example, a man named Jovinian
was teaching serious errors. Jerome wrote a harsh essay exposing
Jovinian's errors. Pammachius read the essay and made some good
suggestions about rewording the overpowering expressions. St. Jerome
thanked his friend for his concern, but did not make the corrections.
Pammachius also tried to heal a quarrel between his friend St. Jerome
and a man named Rufinus. But it does not seem that he could move
Jerome to become more mild in his handling of the person or issues.
had a church in his house. Today it is the Passionist church of
Saints John and Paul. St. Pammachius died in 410 as the Goths were
taking over Rome. St. Pammachius knew how to be a good friend. He
was supportive and honest. We can ask him to help us be true to
our friends as he was.
St. Aidan was a seventh-century Irish monk. He lived at the great
monastery of Iona, which St. Columban had founded. St. Oswald became
king of North England in 634. He asked for missionaries to preach
to his pagan people. The first missionary to go soon came back complaining
that the English were rude, stubborn and wild. The monks got together
to talk about the situation. "It seems to me," St. Aidan
said to the returned monk, "that you have been too harsh with
those people." He then explained that, as St. Paul says, first
easy teachings are to be given. Then when the people have grown
stronger on the Word of God, they can start to do the more perfect
things of God's holy law.
the monks heard such wise words, they turned to Aidan. "You
should be the one to go to North England to preach the Gospel,"
they said. Aidan went willingly. He took on his new assignment with
humility and a spirit of prayer. He began by preaching. King St.
Oswald himself translated Aidan's sermons into English until the
saint learned the language better. St. Aidan traveled all over,
always on foot. He preached and helped the people. He did much good
and was greatly loved by the people. After thirty years of St. Aidan's
ministry, any monk or priest who came into the village was greeted
with great joy by all the villagers.
island of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan built a large monastery. So many
saints were to come from there that Lindisfarne became known as
the Holy Island. Little by little, the influence of these zealous
missionaries changed North England into a civilized, Christian land.
St. Aidan died in 651. We can learn from St. Aidan's life that the
witness of a joyful, kind person is a powerful influence on others.
When we need help seeing the good in people, we can whisper a prayer
to St. Aidan.