St. Audrey (Etheldreda)
St. Audrey was an East Anglian princess, and later a queen. Driven
to do so by her parents, she first married a prince named Tonbert,
who died three years after their marriage. He had permitted her
to keep her virginity perfectly preserved. Later, she was forced
to marry a powerful king from Norththumberland, named Egfrid. After
12 years of married life, still preserving her virginal purity,
she was permitted, with her husband’s consent, to become a
nun. She founded a monastery on the Island of Ely. Three of her
sisters are saints: Sts. Sexburga, Withburga and Ethelburga.
The great St.Wilfrid was one of her spiritual advisers and protectors.
For centureis, Audrey was one of the most loved and venerated saints
England ever had. She was not quite 50 years old when she died,
and her precious body is still incorrupt.
St. Libert (1076)
St. Libert was Bishop-founder of Cambrai, France, sometimes called
Liebert or Leitbert. He was a noble who became bishop in 1051. In
1054, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, discovering that the holy
city was in the hands of Saracens. Returning to Cambrai, Libert
built the church and monastery of the Holy Sepulcher. He was exiled
by the nobleman Hugh of Cambrai and cruelly persecuted.
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (1
John the Baptist was the miraculous son of Sts. Zachary and Elizabeth,
given to them when Elizabeth was well beyond the years of childbearing.
He was sanctified in his mother’s womb three months before
his birth. This was when Our Lady came to Elizabeth’s house
at the time of the Visitation, with the Child Jesus in her womb.
John the Baptist is the last of the prophets. The other prophets
had foretold what would come, but this saint pointed to Jesus directly,
and showed what had come when he declared, “Behold the Lamb
of God Who takest away the sins of the world!” John the Baptist
was six months older than Jesus, but he died six months younger
than Jesus was when He died; just one year before Our Lord. St.
John was confined for a year in prison, and then his head was cut
off by the wicked Jewish tetrarch, Herod Antipas, at the order of
an indecent woman named Herodias. The head of John the Baptist was
served on a dish to her and her guests at table by her daughter
Salome. When his head was placed on the table where Herodias was
eating, she took a knife and stabbed again and again the tongue
which had rebuked her for her viciousness and impurity. John the
Baptist was the one who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan.
The sacrament of Baptism was instituted by Jesus. This is the sacrament
of water and the Holy Ghost which is necessary for all for
admission to the Catholic Church and for salvation. St. John the
Baptist’s body was destroyed and dispersed under Julian
the Apostate, but part of his head has been preserved and is kept
in the Church of Saint Sylvester in Capite, in Rome. St. John has
two feast days, one for his birth, on June 24, and one to honor
his beheading, on August 29. The feast of his holy parents, Sts.
Zachary and Elizabeth, is on November 5.
the Abbot (1142).
Of the many saints and holy people named William, none is better
remembered than St. William of Monte Vergine, in Italy. After a
pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James at Compostella, in Spain, he
retired to a mountain named Monte Vergine (Mount of the Blessed
Virgin), and lived there until his death. This is where a beautiful
picture of Our Lady is preserved and where many miracles take place.
St. William lived, and gave his monks to live, the Rule of St. Benedict,
the father of Western monasticism.
and Paul (362).
These two notable Roman soldiers were martyred under the rule of
the cruel Julian the Apostate. They were executed for refusing to
support Julian’s defection from the dogmatic truths of
the Catholic Church. Sts. John and Paul were asked to worship idols.
With the beautiful clarity and courage of soldiers, they refused
and were put to death. They are two of the most beloved saints in
the Catholic Church. Their names are mentioned in the Roman Canon
of the Mass, and always in the Litany of the Saints.
St. Anthelm (1178)
St. Anthelm was a Carthusian monk and bishop, defender of papal
authority. He was born in 1107 in a castle near Chambery, in Savoy,
France. He was ordained a priest and visited the Carthusian Charterhouse
at Portes, where he entered the Order at the age of thirty. Two
years later, in 1139, he was appointed abbot of Le Grande Chartreuse,
which had been damaged. Anthelm made the monastery a worthy motherhouse
of the Carthusians, constructing a defensive wall and an aqueduct.
As minister-general, Anthelm also united the various charterhouses
of the Order. Rules were standardized, and women were given the
opportunity to enter the Carthusians in their own charterhouses.
After a few years as a hermit, starting in 1152, Anthelm returned
to Le Grande Chartreuse and defended Pope Alexander III against
the antipope Victor IV. In 1163, the pope appointed him as bishop
of Belley, France. Anthelm reformed the clergy and regulated affairs,
going as far as to excommunicate a local noble, Count Humbert of
Maurienne, who had taken one priest captive and murdered another
priest trying to free him. When Humbert appealed to Rome and won
a reversal, Anthelm left Belley in protest. Pope Alexander then
sent Anthelm to England to mediate the dispute between Henry II
and St. Thomas Becket. Anthelm was unable to undertake that journey.
He returned to Belley to care for the poor and for the local lepers.
On his deathbed, Anthelm received a penitent Count Humbert. Anthelm
died on June 26, 1178. His feast has been celebrated by the Carthusians
since 1607. His relics were enshrined in Belley. In liturgical art,
Anthelm is depicted with a lamp lit by a divine hand
St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (June 26, 1975)
St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was born in Barbastro,
Spain, on January 9, 1902, the second of six children of Jose and
Dolores Escriva. Beginning in 1918, Josemaria sensed that God was
asking something of him, although he didn't know exactly what it
was. He decided to become a priest, in order to be available for
whatever God wanted of him. He was ordained a priest and began his
pastoral ministry in 1925.
On October 2, 1928, while making a retreat in Madrid, God showed
him his specific mission: he was to found Opus Dei, an institution
within the Catholic Church dedicated to helping people in all walks
of life to follow Christ, to seek holiness in their daily life and
grow in love for God and their fellow men and women. From that moment
on, he dedicated all his strength to fulfilling this mission, certain
that God had raised up Opus Dei to serve the Church. In 1930, responding
to a new illumination from God, he started Opus Dei's apostolic
work with women, making clear that they had the same responsibility
as men to serve society and the Church. Meanwhile Opus Dei spread
from Madrid to several other Spanish cities, and as soon as World
War II ended in 1945, began starting in other countries.
The first edition of The Way, his most widely read work, was published
in 1934 under the title Spiritual Considerations. Expanded and revised,
it has gone through many editions since then; more than four million
copies in many different languages are now in print. His other spiritual
writings include Holy Rosary; The Way of the Cross; two collections
of homilies, Christ Is Passing By and Friends of God; and Furrow
and The Forge, which like The Way are made up of short points for
prayer and reflection.
While celebrating Mass in 1943, Fr. Josemaria received a new foundational
grace to establish the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which
made it possible for some of Opus Dei's lay faithful to be ordained
as priests. The full incorporation of both lay faithful and priests
in Opus Dei, which makes a seamless cooperation in the apostolic
work possible, is an essential feature of the foundational charism
of Opus Dei, affirmed by the Church in granting Opus Dei the canonical
status of a personal Prelature. In addition, the Priestly Society
conducts activities, in full harmony with the bishops of the local
churches, for the spiritual development of diocesan priests and
seminarians. Diocesan priests can also be part of the Priestly Society,
while at the same time remaining clergy of their own dioceses.
Beginning in 1948, full membership in Opus Dei was open to married
people. In 1950 the Holy See approved the idea of accepting non-Catholics
and even non-Christians as cooperators-persons who assist Opus Dei
in its projects and programs without being members. The next decade
saw the launching of a wide range of undertakings: professional
schools, agricultural training centers, universities, primary and
secondary schools, hospitals and clinics, and other initiatives,
open to people of all races, religions, and social backgrounds but
of manifestly Christian inspiration. It now (2002) has more than
84,000 members in sixty countries.
Monsignor Escriva's death in Rome came suddenly on June 26, 1975,
when he was 73. Large numbers of bishops and ordinary faithful petitioned
the Vatican to begin the process for his beatification and canonization.
On May 17, 1992, Pope John Paul II declared him Blessed before a
huge crowd in St. Peter's Square. He is to be canonized-formally
declared a saint-on October 6, 2002.
of Alexandria (444).
A Doctor of the Church, St. Cyril was “the soul of the Council
of Ephesus” in 431. This was the third Ecumenical Council
which defended the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary against
a diabolical heretic, a bishop named Nestorius. It was this Council,
and largely due to Saint Cyril’s inspiration, which gave us
the last half of the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,” to which was later added, “now
and at the hour of our death, Amen.”
Lady of Perpetual Help (Thirteenth Century).
In the thirteenth century, a beautiful picture of Our Lady holding
the Child Jesus, with the Angels Michael and Gabriel on either side
of her, was painted in the East. In the 15th century, this picture
was brought from the Island of Crete and was taken to Rome, and
placed in the Church of St. Matthew, in Rome. There, for 300 years,
pilgrims came to reverence and pray before this holy picture, because
everyone loved its simplicity, beauty and truth. After the French
Revolution, when the vicious Napoleon desecrated 30 Catholic
Churches in Rome, this precious picture of Our Lady of Perpetual
Help was hidden away. In 1862, it was rediscovered, and then placed
in the Church of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, founder of the
Redemptorist Order in Rome, where it is now kept. The purpose of
this lovely picture is by way of simple and innocent symbol to teach
us that Our Lady is our help in all things, and our help at all
times. Many Catholic churches in all countries are called by the
name, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
St. lrenaeus (202).
This great saint was born to Christian parents in Asia Minor, and
died when he was 72, the same age as Our Lady at her death. Irenaeus
is one of the Fathers of the Church and is sometimes called “the
father of Catholic theology.” He was a disciple of St. Polycarp
who was in turn a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. Irenaeus
was sent to Lyons, France, and was ordained a priest. He heroically
opposed the heresy of Montanism, started by a blasphemer named Montanus,
who pretended to be the Holy Spirit. During a fierce persecution
of the Catholics in Lyons, when the streets were full of blood,
Irenaeus himself was martyred. His body and relics were placed in
the Church of St. John in Lyons. They were desecrated there by the
Calvinists in the year 1562, in the century of the so-called “Reformation.”
The most noted of the books he wrote is one called Against Heresies,
an important part of true Catholic teaching in our seminaries today.
and Paul (67).
Peter the Apostle, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, was the
son of a fisherman in Galilee, named Jona. He was born and lived
in the town of Bethsaida. St. Peter’s name was originally
Simon, but Jesus changed it to Peter because of its meaning, which
is rock. He was the Rock upon which the Catholic Church was built.
He and his brother, St. Andrew, were both disciples of John the
Baptist and fishermen. They saw Our Lord, heard His teachings, and
gave up all to follow Him. The whole Gospel story is concerned,
in one place or another, with Peter, and with what he said, did
and preached. One-third of the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles
is concerned with St. Peter, and two-thirds of it relates to St.
Paul. Peter wrote two Epistles in the New Testament. After staying
in Jerusalem for three years, in the year 36 he went to Antioch,
and was Bishop there. His presence at Antioch made it the primatial
see of the Catholic Church for over six years. Peter went to Rome
in the year 42, the year that St. James, the brother of St. John,
was beheaded by the Jews. Peter ruled the Church at Rome for 25
years. His hostess in Rome was a beautiful noblewoman named Priscilla.
Peter stayed with Priscilla and her son Pudens, a senator, his wife
Claudia and their four children: Praxedes, Pudentiana, Novatus and
Timothy. This family made it possible for the Holy See to have a
place in Rome where the truths of salvation could be dispensed,
taught and regulated. Every member of this charitable family—so
holy did their lives become under St. Peter’s influence—is
honored in the Catholic Church as a saint. Peter was the first Pope
and there has been no Pope named Peter since his time. There was
a Pope in the thirteenth century who is now called Saint Peter Celestine,
but this was only because after he resigned from the papacy he was
given back his baptismal name, which was Peter. His name as Pope
was Celestine. Peter was crucified on June 29 in the year 67, in
the same year and on the same day on which Saint Paul was beheaded.
At his own request, Saint Peter was crucified upside down. St. Peter’s
name occurs everywhere in the prayers of the Church: at Mass, in
the holy Office, in the litanies and invocations. His special feasts
are now three: the Chair of St. Peter on February 22; the crucifixion
of St. Peter and the beheading of St. Paul on June 29; and the Basilicas
of Sts. Peter and Paul on Nov. 18.
St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, though
a Jew and of the tribe of Benjamin, was born in the Gentile country
of Cilicia, in a city called Tarsus. He was born a Roman citizen.
St. Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel, the renowned teacher who became
a Christian and a saint. Paul first opposed the Christians, and
he was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first martyr,
in Jerusalem. Paul’s name was Saul, when he lived as a Jew.
On the road to Damascus, after the martyrdom of Stephen, he heard
the voice of Our Lord speaking to him from Heaven and saying, “Saul,
Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Saul was his Jewish name,
but so anxious was he after his conversion to become the true apostle
to the non-Jews that he changed his name to Paul, after meeting
and converting a notable Gentile named Sergius Paulus. St.
Paul was baptized a Christian at Damascus by St. Ananias. Paul soon
became very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
He would not let his name be connected with hers overtly because
of the way he had persecuted Christians before his conversion. But
in the midst of all his journeys, he was constantly returning to
Jerusalem to see her. It was Our Lady who caused St. Paul’s
name to be put immediately after Peter’s in all the litanies
where the Apostles are mentioned. It was Paul’s disciple,
St. Luke—a Gentile— who wrote the third Gospel, which
is properly called “the Gospel of Our Lady.” Paul wrote
14 Epistles in the New Testament, and has three feast days: June
29; the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25; and the feast of the
Basilicas of Peter and Paul on November 18. The head of St. Paul
is kept with that of St. Peter in the Church of St. John Lateran
in Rome. Part of his body, along with part of Peter’s, is
lovingly guarded at the Vatican. The rest of his body, along with
the rest of Peter’s is kept in the Church of St. Paul’s-outside-the-Walls.
Paul was beheaded, just outside the city of Rome, in the year 67.
As his head bounced three times on the ground, his mouth was heard
to utter, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Three fountains of
water miraculously sprang up from the three places where his head
struck the ground. Three of the Roman soldiers who assisted at the
execution of St. Paul were at once converted to the Catholic Faith.
St. Mary, the Mother of Mark (First
St. Mary was the mother of Saint Mark the Evangelist, whose full
name was John Mark. She was a wealthy woman who lived in Jerusalem.
It was at her house that the Last Supper was held, and the Blessed
Sacrament instituted. It was at her house that the Holy Ghost descended
upon the Apostles at the first Pentecost. It was at her house that
Our Lady lived, in Jerusalem, until she died in the year 58. It
was at her house that Peter, the first Pope, often visited, and
to her house he immediately went on his deliverance from prison
in Jerusalem, as we are told in the Bible. It is simple to say and
to prove that St. Mary, the mother of Mark, was the greatest hostess
in the history of the Catholic Church. Her house after the Last
Supper was called “the Cenacle.” Mary, the mother of
St. Mark, was the hostess to Jesus at Jerusalem. Priscilla, the
mother of St. Pudens, was the hostess to St. Peter in Rome.
St. Emma (1045).
She was the wife of a landgrave in Austria. After she was widowed,
she became a nun and founded a double monastery
St. Judith (9th Century).
She was a widow from Bavaria who supported St. Salome, an English
princess exiled from her country. She was a Benedictine.
Martyrs of Rome (64).
On this day the Church lovingly remembers the first fruits of the
martyrs of the Church at Rome, the disciples of the Apostles, who
perished under the Emperor Nero. They were falsely accused of having
set fire to the city and were put to death after suffering the most
cruel and unheard of torments. Sts. Peter and Paul later died in
the same persecution.