St. Felix II
St Felix II, the pope is an ancestor of the future Pope St. Gregory
the Great who lived from 540 to 604. Gregory wrote that when his
aunt, St. Tharsilla, was dying, Pope Felix appeared to her. He beckoned
her to heaven. Who was Pope St. Felix? And what events unfolded
in his life that had led him to sainthood?
Although there are not many details, we know that Felix was a Roman.
He was honest and courageous in troubled times. Felix became pope
in 483. Groups of people within the Church were divided because
of false teachings. Political factors complicated the ministry of
this pope. But Felix proved himself a brave defender of the truths
of our faith and the rights of the Church. Many compared him to
Pope St. Leo the Great who had died in 461. Pope Felix was truly
universal in outlook. He tried to grasp and solve the problems of
the Church in various parts of the world.
Felix spent nine years of his life as pope. He will be remembered
as totally dedicated to Jesus and his Church. Pope St. Felix died
Blessed Charles the Good
Count Charles of Flanders, was called "the good" by the
people of his kingdom. They named him for what they found him to
truly be. He was the son of St. Canute, king of Denmark. Charles
was just five years old when his father was murdered in 1086. When
Charles grew up, he married a good young woman named Margaret. Charles
was a mild and fair ruler. The people trusted him and his laws.
He tried to be an example of what he expected the people to be.
Some nobles accused Charles of unjustly favoring the poor over the
rich. He answered kindly, "It is because I am so aware of the
needs of the poor and the pride of the rich." The poor of his
realm were fed daily at his castles.
Charles ordered the abundant planting of crops so that the people
would have plenty to eat at reasonable prices. Some wealthy men
tried to hoard grain to sell at very high prices. Charles the Good
found out and forced them to sell immediately and at fair prices.
An influential father and his sons had been reprimanded by Charles
for their violent tactics. They joined the little group of enemies
who now wanted to kill him.
The count walked every morning barefoot to Mass and arrived early
at the Church of St. Donatian. He did this in a spirit of penance.
He longed to deepen his own spiritual life with God. His enemies
knew that he walked to church and also that he prayed often alone
before Mass. Many people who loved Charles feared for his life.
They warned him that his walks to St. Donatian could lead to his
death. He replied, "We are always in the middle of dangers,
but we belong to God." One morning, as he prayed alone before
the statue of Mary, his attackers killed him. Charles was martyred
Blessed Katharine Drexel
Blessed Katharine was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November
26, 1858. Katharine's mother died when she was a baby. Her father
married a wonderful woman named Emma. She raised their own child,
Louise. She was also a loving mother to Mr. Drexel's two little
girls by his former marriage. They were Elizabeth and Katharine.
The girls had a wonderful childhood. Even though their family was
wealthy, they were taught to be loving toward their neighbors. They
were taught to be especially concerned about the poor. This was
how they could show their love for God.
When Katharine grew up, she was a very active Catholic. She was
generous with her time and her money. She realized that the Church
had many needs. She turned her energies and her fortune to the poor,
the forgotten. Her work for Jesus would be among the African American
and Native American people. In 1891, Katharine began a new religious
community of missionaries. They were called the Sisters of the Blessed
Sacrament. Katharine would become known as Mother Katharine.
The sisters of her order center their life around Jesus in the
Eucharist. They devote their love and talents to African and Native
Americans. Mother Katharine inherited her family's fortune. She
poured the money into wonderful works of charity. She and her sisters
started schools, convents and missionary churches. In 1925, they
established Xavier University in New Orleans. During her long, fruitful
lifetime, Mother Katharine spent millions of dollars of the Drexel
fortune for the wonderful works that she and her sisters accomplished
for the poor. She believed that she found Jesus truly present in
the Eucharist. So, too, she found him in the African and Native
Americans whom she lovingly served. Mother Katharine died on March
3, 1955, at the age of ninety-seven. She was declared "blessed"
by Pope John Paul II on November 20, 1988.
St. Casimir was born in 1458, son of Casimir IV, king of Poland.
Casimir was one of thirteen children. With the help of his virtuous
mother and his dedicated teacher, Casimir received an excellent
When he was thirteen, Casimir had the chance to become king of neighboring
Hungary, but he refused. He spent the rest of his life trying to
live his Christian ideals. He went out of his way to be cheerful
and friendly with everybody. Beneath the surface of his busy life,
he made the effort to help himself to grow spiritually. He often
fasted and slept on the floor of his room as penance. He prayed
daily, sometimes even during the middle of the night. He loved to
think and pray about the passion of Jesus. He recognized this as
a good way to learn to love God. Casimir also loved the Blessed
Virgin Mary with a special love. In her honor, he recited a beautiful
hymn very often. The name of the hymn is "Daily, Daily, Sing
to Mary." His hand-written copy of it was buried with him.
Casimir was never healthy, yet he was courageous and strong in character.
He would always do what he knew was right. Sometimes he would even
advise his father, the king, to rule the people fairly.
He always did this with great respect and his father listened to
him.St. Casimir had a great love and respect for virginity. His
parents found a very beautiful and virtuous young woman for him
to marry. However, Casimir chose to give his heart to God alone.
While in Lithuania on an assignment of service for that country,
Casimir became ill with tuberculosis. He died at the age of twenty-six.
He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo X in 1521.
St. John Joseph of the Cross
St. John Joseph of the Cross was born in southern Italy on the feast
of the Assumption, 1654. He was a young noble, but he dressed like
a poor man. He did that because he wanted to be as poor as Jesus
had been. At the age of sixteen, John Joseph entered the Franciscan
order. He wanted very much to live a self-sacrificing life as Jesus
had. This led him to cheerfully make many sacrifices. He slept just
three hours a night and ate very plain food.
Later he was ordained a priest. Father John Joseph became the superior
at Santa Lucia's in Naples where he spent most of his long life.
He always insisted on doing the hardest work. He cheerfully chose
to do the duties that no one else wanted. St. John Joseph had a
very loving nature. But he did not try to be the center of attention.
Instead of waiting for people to recognize his gifts and reach out
to him, he would reach out to others. All the priests and brothers
thought of him as a loving father. He greatly loved the Blessed
Virgin, too, and tried to help others love her.
This good priest loved God so much that even when he was sick, he
kept on working.St. John Joseph died on March 6, 1734, at the age
of eighty. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius VIII in 1839.
St. Nicolette was named in honor of St. Nicholas of Myra. She was
born in 1380. Her loving parents nicknamed her Colette from the
time she was a baby. Colette's father was a carpenter at an abbey
in Picardy. Quiet and hard-working, Colette was a big help to her
mother with the housework. Her parents noticed the child's liking
for prayer and her sensitive, loving nature.
When Colette was seventeen, both her parents died. The young woman
was placed under the care of the abbot at the monastery where her
father had worked. She asked for and received a hut built next to
the abbey church. Colette lived there. She spent her time praying
and sacrificing for Jesus' Church. More and more people found out
about this holy young woman. They went to see her and asked her
advice about important problems. They knew that she was wise because
she lived close to God. She received everybody with gentle kindness.
After each visit, she would pray that her visitors would find peace
Colette was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. She knew
that the religious order of women who followed St. Francis' lifestyle
are the Poor Clares. They are named after St. Clare, their foundress,
who was a follower of St. Francis. During Colette's time, the Poor
Clares needed to go back to the original purpose of their order.
St. Francis of Assisi appeared to Colette and asked her to reform
the Poor Clares. She must have been surprised and afraid of such
a difficult task. But she trusted in God's grace. Colette traveled
to the Poor Clare convents. She helped the nuns become more poor
and prayerful. The Poor Clares were inspired by St. Colette's life.
She had a great devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. She also spent
time frequently meditating on the passion and death of Jesus. She
loved Jesus and her religious vocation very much. Colette knew exactly
when and where she was going to die. She died in one of her convents
in Ghent, Flanders, in 1447. She was sixty-seven. Colette was proclaimed
a saint by Pope Pius VI in 1807.
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity lived in Carthage, North Africa, in
the third century. It was the time of the fierce persecution of
Christians by Emperor Septimus Severus.
Twenty-two-year-old Perpetua was the daughter of a rich nobleman.
While growing up, she had received everything she wanted. But she
realized that she loved Jesus and her Christian faith more than
anything the world could offer. For this she found herself a prisoner
on the way to execution. Perpetua's father was a pagan. He did everything
possible to persuade his daughter to give up her Christian faith.
He tried to convince her of the importance of saving her life. But
the woman would not give in, even though she knew that she would
have to leave behind her husband and baby.
Felicity, Perpetua's Christian maid, had been a slave. She and Perpetua
were great friends. They shared their belief in and love for Jesus.
Felicity, too, was willing to sacrifice her life for Jesus and for
her faith. For this she also found herself a prisoner on the way
to execution.Felicity was also a young wife. While in prison for
her faith, she became a mother as well. Her little baby was adopted
by a good Christian woman. Felicity was happy because now she could
die a martyr. Hand in hand, Perpetua and Felicity bravely faced
martyrdom together. They were charged by wild animals and then beheaded.
They died around the year 202.
St. John of God
St. John was born in Portugal on March 8, 1495. His parents were
poor, but deeply Christian. John was a restless boy. For a while
he was a shepherd, then a soldier, then a storekeeper. During his
adult years he was not religious. He and his friends had lost any
awareness of God. By the time John was forty, he began to feel empty.
He was sad about the life he was wasting away. In church he heard
a homily by the holy missionary, John of Avila. The impact of his
life hit John of God. He began to weep right out loud. During the
days ahead, St. John of Avila helped John begin his life again with
hope and courage.
John of God began to live differently. He put prayer and penance
into his daily life. It is believed that a bishop gave John his
name because he changed his selfish life completely and truly became
"of God." Gradually, John of God realized how much poverty
and suffering filled the lives of people. He began to spend his
time nursing the sick in the hospitals and asylums. Then he realized
sadly that many people were too poor to have hospital care. Who
would take care of them? He decided that, for the love of God, he
When he was forty-five, John obtained a house for the care of the
sick poor. The house became a small hospital where every person
in need was welcomed. Those who came to help John gradually formed
a religious order for the care of the poor. They are called Brothers
of St. John of God. Some people must have wondered if John was as
holy as he seemed. Once, a marquis disguised himself as a beggar.
He knocked on John's door, asking for alms. John cheerfully gave
him everything he had, which amounted to a few dollars. The marquis
did not reveal his identity at the time but went away very impressed.
The next day a messenger arrived at John's door with a letter of
explanation and his money returned. In addition, the marquis sent
150 gold crowns. He also had fresh bread, meat and eggs delivered
every morning to the hospital enough for all the patients and staff.After
ten years of hard work in his hospital, St. John became sick himself.
He died on his birthday in 1550. John of God was proclaimed a saint
by Blessed Pope Innocent XI in 1690.
St. Frances of Rome
St. Frances was born in 1384. Her parents were wealthy, but they
taught Frances to be concerned about people and to live a good Christian
life. She was an intelligent little girl. Frances informed her parents
when she was eleven that she had made up her mind to be a nun. Her
parents encouraged her to think of marriage instead. As was the
custom, they selected a good young man to be Frances' husband. The
bride was just thirteen.
Frances and her husband, Lorenzo Ponziano, fell in love with each
other. Even though their marriage was arranged, they were happily
married for forty years. Lorenzo admired his wife and his sister-in-law,
Vannozza. Both women prayed every day and performed penances for
Jesus' Church, which had many trials at that time. Frances and Vannozza
also visited the poor. They took care of the sick. They brought
food and firewood to people who needed it. Other wealthy women were
inspired by their example to do more with their lives too. All the
while, Frances became more and more prayerful. She really grew close
to Jesus and Mary in her everyday life.
Frances and Lorenzo were compassionate people. They knew what it
was like to suffer. They lost two of their three children from the
plague. This made them even more sensitive to the needs of the poor.
During the wars between the legitimate pope and the anti-popes,
Lorenzo led the armies that defended the true pope. While he was
away at battle, his enemies destroyed his property and possessions.
Even then, Frances cleaned up a part of the family villa that had
been wrecked and used it for a hospital. As hard as things were
for her family, the people out on the street were in greater need.
Lorenzo was wounded and came home to be nursed back to health by
his loving wife. He died in 1436. Frances spent the remaining four
years of her life in the religious congregation she helped to start.
St. Frances of Rome died on March 9, 1440. She was declared a saint
by Pope Paul V in 1608.
St. Simplicius became pope in 468. Sometimes it seemed to him that
he was all alone in trying to correct evils that were everywhere.
Conquerers had taken over vast territories. Even Rome itself was
occupied by invaders. The people were hungry and poor.
They had been taxed and robbed by former Roman officials. Poverty
prowled the streets and removed all joy. The new Conquerers at least
had not asked for taxes. Pope Simplicius tried in every way to uplift
his people and to work for their good. He was always there for them,
no matter how small his efforts seemed to him. And because he was
holy, he never gave up. More than by words, he taught with the example
of his holy life.
St. Simplicius had to suffer greatly as pope for another reason
as well. Some of his own Christians stubbornly held on to their
wrong opinions. Then with great sorrow, St. Simplicius had to put
them out of the Church. When he corrected people who were doing
wrong, he was kind and humble. Simplicius was pope for fifteen years
and eleven months. Then the Lord called him to receive the reward
of his labors. St. Simplicius died in 483 and was buried in St.
Peter's Basilica in Rome.
St. Eulogius of Spain
St. Eulogius lived in the ninth century. His family was well-known
and he received an excellent education. While he learned his lessons,
he also learned from the good example of his teachers. Eulogius
loved to read about and study the Bible. His Bible-reading helped
him love the Word of God. He wanted to bring God's message to everyone.
When he grew up, he became a priest and the head of a famous school.
At this time the Muslims had taken over Spain. They were opposed
to Christianity. At first they tried to make the people give up
their faith. When the people refused to change their religion, they
were put in prison. Some were even killed. Eulogius and his bishop
were put in prison along with many other Christians. In the prison,
Eulogius read the Bible out loud to encourage the prisoners. As
they listened, they no longer felt afraid to die for Jesus. During
this time, St. Eulogius wrote a book encouraging Christians to die
rather than give up their holy faith.
The saint himself wanted to be a martyr more than anything else.
Instead, he was let out of prison. As soon as he was free, St. Eulogius
began to preach and he converted many. His former captors were so
angry that they arrested him again. In front of the judge, he bravely
declared that Jesus is God. Eulogius was condemned and offered his
life for Jesus. He died in 859.
St. Fina (Seraphina)
St. Fina was born in a little Italian town called San Geminiano.
Her parents had once been well off, but misfortune had left them
poor. Seraphina, or Fina, as her family called her, was their daughter.
Fina was pretty and lively. She had a generous nature. Each day
she saved half of her dinner for someone in the town poorer than
she. During the day she sewed and spun cloth to help pay the family
debts. At night, she usually spent a long time praying to Jesus
When she was still quite young, her father died. Fina was struck
with an illness that deformed and paralyzed her. Movement became
almost impossible and Fina lay for six years on wooden planks. Pain
rushed through her whole body. The only way she could bear it was
to concentrate on Jesus as he was nailed to the cross. "I unite
my sufferings to yours, Jesus," she would whisper. Sometimes,
when the pain was horrible, she would say, "It is not my wounds
but yours, O Christ, that hurt me." Fina was left alone for
many hours every day because her mother had to go out to work or
beg. The neighbors knew about Fina, but her sores had become so
foul smelling that people made excuses for not going to visit her.
Unexpectedly, Fina's mother passed away. Now the girl was left alone.
Only one neighbor, her good friend Beldia, came to care for her.
Beldia tried to give Fina as much attention as she could, but Fina
was usually left alone. It was obvious that she could not live much
longer. She refused to lose heart. Someone mentioned to her about
the tremendous sufferings St. Gregory the Great had endured. Fina
became devoted to him. It is said that one day, as she groaned in
pain, St. Gregory appeared to her. He said kindly, "Child,
on my feast day God will grant you rest." His feast day in
older calendars had been celebrated on March 12, because he had
died on March 12, 604. So on March 12, 1253, St. Gregory came to
take Fina home to heaven.
St. Euphrasia was born in the fifth century to deeply Christian
parents. Her father, a relative of the emperor, died when she was
a year old. The emperor looked after her mother and her. When the
girl was seven, her mother took her to Egypt. There they lived in
a large house near a convent of nuns. Euphrasia was fascinated by
She begged her mother to let her serve God in the convent in which
the holy nuns lived. She was just a little girl, but she wasn't
about to give up the idea or forget her request. Soon after, Euphrasia's
mother took her to the convent and put her in the care of the abbess.
Years passed. When Euphrasia's mother died, the emperor reminded
the young woman that her parents had promised her in marriage to
a rich young senator. Of course Euphrasia wanted to belong to no
one but Jesus. So she wrote a respectful letter to the emperor.
In it she said, "I belong to Jesus, and I cannot give myself
to anyone else.
My only desire is that the world should forget about me completely.
I humbly beg Your Majesty to take all the riches my parents left
me and give them to the poor. I ask Your Majesty to free all the
slaves of my family. Please cancel all the debts people owe me."
The emperor thought her letter was so beautiful that he read it
out loud to all the senators. Then he did everything she had asked.
Euphrasia spent the rest of her life as a nun. She never regretted
that the Lord had chosen her to be a religious. Euphrasia died in
St. Matilda was born about 895, the daughter of a German count.
When she was still quite young, her parents arranged her marriage
to a nobleman named Henry. Soon after their marriage, Henry became
king of Germany.
As queen, Matilda lived a simple lifestyle with times for daily
prayer. Everyone who saw her realized how good and kind she was.
She was more like a mother than a queen. She loved to visit and
comfort the sick. She helped prisoners. Matilda did not let herself
be spoiled by her position, but tried to reach out to people in
need. King Henry realized that his wife was an extraordinary person.
He told her many times that he was a better person and a better
king because she was his wife. Even though their marriage had been
arranged, Henry and Matilda really loved each other. Matilda was
free to use the treasures of the kingdom for her charities and Henry
never questioned her. In fact, he became more aware of the needs
of people. He realized that he had the power to ease suffering because
of his position. The couple were happily married for twenty-three
years. Then King Henry died quite suddenly in 936. The queen suffered
the loss very much. She decided then and there to live for God alone.
So she called the priest to celebrate Mass for King Henry's soul.
Then she gave the priest all the jewels she was wearing. She did
this to show that she meant to give up the things of the world from
Although she was a saint, Matilda made a big mistake. She favored
her son, Henry, more than her son, Otto, in the struggle to be king.
She was sorry for having done this. She made up for it by accepting
without complaint the sufferings that came her way.After years spent
in practicing charity and penance, St. Matilda died peacefully in
968. She was buried beside her husband.
St. Zachary was a Benedictine monk from Greece who lived in the
eighth century. He became a cardinal and then pope. In his time,
there was fighting all over Italy. Pope St. Zachary kept making
peace and saving people from terrible wars. At times he risked his
life to do it.
It was because the saint was so gentle and kind that the leaders
did what he asked. Even for his enemies he would do favors and give
them the kindest treatment possible. He never took revenge on them.
When Pope Zachary learned that the Lombards were about to attack
Rome, he asked to have a meeting with their leader. The pope and
Liutprand of the Lombards met. Whatever they said to each other,
the results were impressive. Liutprand canceled his attack. He also
returned all territory taken in that area over the previous thirty
years. He even released all prisoners. Liutprand signed a twenty-year
treaty in which the Romans would be guaranteed freedom from attacks
from the Lombards.
St. Zachary was also known as a real father toward the poor. He
built homes for the poor and for travelers. His loving heart could
not bear to see people suffer. Once he heard that some businessmen
had bought poor slaves in Rome and were going to sell them in Africa.
He called those men and scolded them for being so cruel. Then he
paid them the price they were asking for the slaves and set the
slaves free.When St. Zachary died in 752, all the people were saddened
to have lost such a good and saintly father.
Blessed Torello was born in 1202, in Poppi, Italy. His life as a
child in the village was ordinary and uneventful. But after his
father's death, Torello started to change his whole way of life.
He got involved with companions who drank. They hung around town
all day instead of working. Torello liked his new friends and was
trying hard to win their approval.
Then while he was playing an outdoor sport one day, a rooster flew
down from its roost. It landed on Torello's arm and crowed three
times, long and loud. Torello was speechless. He walked away and
wouldn't finish the game. He couldn't help but think that what the
rooster had done was no coincidence. He was being warned, just as
St. Peter had once been warned. Torello's irresponsible way of living
would lead him away from Jesus.
Torello decided then and there to change his life. He went to see
the abbot of San Fedele who helped him make a good confession. Then
Torello went out to a quiet, wooded area and selected a spot near
a big tree. He spent eight days in prayer. At the end of that time
he decided that he would be a hermit. He went back to Poppi and
sold all his property. He kept only enough money to buy the small
square plot of land around the big tree he had found in the woods.
Next to that tree he built a shack where he spent the rest of his
life. He grew his own vegetables for food and got water from the
stream. He prayed and performed penances, the hardest of which was
sleeping only three hours a night.
Torello felt that being a hermit was what God wanted of him. This
is how he peacefully spent his life. While he was alive, very few
people knew of his hermit's life. Only one friend was aware of Torello's
hidden life in the forest. He died at the age of eighty after spending
over fifty years as a hermit. Blessed Torello died in 1282.
St. Patrick was believed born in fifth-century Britain to Roman
parents. When he was sixteen, he was captured by pirates and taken
to Ireland. There he was sold as a slave. His owner sent him to
tend his flocks on the mountains. Patrick had very little food and
clothing. Yet he took good care of the animals in rain, snow and
ice. Patrick was so lonely on the hillside that he turned often
in prayer to Jesus and his Mother Mary. His life was hard and unfair.
However, Patrick's trust in God grew stronger all the time.
Later, when he escaped from Ireland, he studied to become a priest.
But Patrick always felt that he had to go back to Ireland to bring
that pagan land to Christ. At last his wish came true. He became
a priest and then a bishop. It was while St. Celestine I was pope
that Patrick went back to Ireland. How happy he was to bring the
Good News of the true God to the people who once had held him a
Right from the start, Patrick suffered much. His relatives and friends
wanted him to quit before the pagan Irish killed him. Yet the saint
kept on preaching about Jesus. He traveled from one village to another.
He seldom rested, and he performed great penances for those people
whom he so loved. Before he died, the whole nation was Christian.
Despite such great success, St. Patrick never grew proud. He called
himself a poor sinner and gave all the praises to God. Patrick died
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
St. Cyril was born around 315 when a new phase was beginning for
Christians. Before that date, the Church was persecuted by the emperors.
Thousands of Christians had been martyrs. In 315, Emperor Constantine
recognized Christianity as a legal religion. That was a wonderful
thing, but it didn't end all the problems. In fact, during the years
that followed the Edict of 315, Christians learned about an entirely
new difficulty. There was confusion about what Christians believe
and don't believe. There were many false teachings called "heresies."
Some priests and bishops became brave defenders of Church teaching.
One such bishop was Cyril of Jerusalem.
When St. Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem, died, Cyril was chosen to
take his place. Cyril was the bishop of Jerusalem for thirty-five
years. Sixteen long years of that time were spent in hiding and
exile. Three times he was run out of town by influential people
who wanted him removed. They were trying to force Cyril to accept
false teachings about Jesus and the Church. But he would not bend.
The reign of Emperor Julian the apostate began in 361. Julian decided
to rebuild the famous Temple of Jerusalem. He had a definite purpose
in mind: he wanted to prove that Jesus had been wrong when he declared
that the Temple of Jerusalem would not be rebuilt. He decided to
prove it. So he spent much money and sent all the materials for
a new Temple. Many people helped by giving jewels and precious metals.
Yet St. Cyril faced the difficulty with outward calm. He was sure
that the Temple could not be built, because Jesus, who is God, had
said so. The bishop looked calmly at all the materials and said,
"I know that this will fail." And sure enough, first a
storm, then an earthquake, then a fire stopped the emperor. He finally
abandoned the project. St. Cyril died in 386 when he was around
seventy. This gentle, kindly man had lived in times of upheaval
and sadness. But he never lost his courage because it came from
Jesus. He was faithful to the Lord all his life. Cyril was heroic
in teaching the truth about Jesus and his Church.
St. Joseph is a great saint. He was Jesus' foster-father and Mary's
husband. Joseph was given the great privilege of taking care of
God's own Son, Jesus, and his Mother, Mary. Joseph was poor all
his life. He had to work very hard in his carpenter shop, but he
did not mind. He was happy to work for his little family.
He loved Jesus and Mary so much. Whatever the Lord wanted him to
do, St. Joseph did at once, no matter how difficult it was. He was
humble and pure, gentle and wise. Jesus and Mary loved him and obeyed
him because God had placed him as the head of their family. What
a joy for St. Joseph to live with the Son of God himself. Jesus
obeyed him, helped him, and loved him.
We pray to St. Joseph as the protector of the dying for a special
reason. It is believed that Joseph died peacefully in the arms of
Jesus and Mary. St. Teresa of Avila chose St. Joseph as the protector
of her order of Carmelite sisters. She had a great trust in his
prayers. "Every time I ask St. Joseph for something,"
she said, "he always obtains it for me." Pope Pius IX
proclaimed St. Joseph the patron of the Universal Church.
St. Cuthbert lived in England in the seventh century. He was a poor
shepherd boy who loved to play games with his friends. He was very
good at them, too. One of his friends scolded him for loving to
play so much. In fact, his playmate said words that he didn't seem
to be saying himself.
The child said, "Cuthbert, how can you waste your time playing
games when you have been chosen to be a priest and a bishop?"
Cuthbert was confused and very impressed. He wondered if he really
was going to be a priest and a bishop.
In August, 651, fifteen-year-old Cuthbert had a religious experience.
He saw a totally black sky. Suddenly a bright beam of light moved
across it. In the light were angels carrying a ball of fire up beyond
the sky. Sometime later, Cuthbert learned that the same night of
the vision, the bishop, St. Aiden, had died. Cuthbert did not know
how this all involved him, but he made up his mind about his life's
vocation and entered a monastery. Cuthbert became a priest and a
From one village to another, from house to house, St. Cuthbert went,
on horse or on foot. He visited the people to help them spiritually.
Best of all, he could speak the dialect of the peasants because
he had once been a poor shepherd boy. He did good everywhere and
brought many people to God. Cuthbert was cheerful and kind. People
felt attracted to him and no one was afraid of him. He was also
a prayerful, holy monk. When Cuthbert was ordained a bishop, he
worked just as hard as ever to help his people. He visited them
no matter how difficult the travel on poor roads or in very bad
weather. As he lay dying, Cuthbert urged his monks to live in peace
and charity with everyone. He died peacefully in 687.
St. Serapion lived in Egypt in the fourth century. Those were exciting
times for the Church and for St. Serapion. As a young man, he received
an impressive education in Christian theology and secular subjects.
For a while, he directed the famous Christian school that taught
the faith in Alexandria. Then Serapion went out into the desert
and became a monk. He met the famous hermit, St. Anthony of Egypt.
Serapion tried very hard to learn from and imitate him. When he
died, Anthony left Serapion one of his cloaks, which he treasured
for the rest of his life.
Serapion became bishop of Thmuis, a city in lower Egypt. He went
to a very important meeting of bishops in Sardica in 347. Serapion
proved to be a very brave bishop. He loved the truths of the faith
and tried to protect them from those who wanted to change Christian
beliefs. He worked with St. Athanasius, another brave bishop. Both
were outstanding for their courage. They combated false teachings
or heresies with their homilies and with their writings. Most of
St. Serapion's writings were lost. They were letters full of instruction
about the faith and an explanation of the Psalms. His most important
work, called the "Euchologion," was lost for hundreds
of years. It was found and published at the end of the nineteenth
Another famous saint of that time, Jerome, said that Emperor Constantius
sent Serapion into exile. It seems that Serapion died around the
year 370 in the place where he was exiled.
St. Deogratias was ordained bishop of the City of Carthage when
it was taken over by barbarian armies in 439. The conquerors were
the Vandals. They arrested the bishop and priests and put them on
a large, old wooden raft and set it adrift at sea. Incredible as
it may seem, they reached the port of Naples and were rescued. But
the city they left behind was without a bishop for fourteen years.
Emperor Valentinian in Rome asked Genseric, the leader of the Vandals,
to permit the ordination of another bishop for Carthage. Genseric
agreed and a young priest of that city was chosen. He was respected
by the conquerors and loved by the Christians. His name in Latin
was "Deogratias," which, in English, means "thanks
be to God." Bishop Deogratias labored for the faith and well-being
of the people of Carthage.
Then Genseric sacked Rome. He returned to Africa with hundreds of
slaves-men, women and children. Whole families were kidnapped and
divided up among the Vandals and Moors. Genseric totally disregarded
natural ties. Family members were sold individually and separated
from their loved ones.
Bishop Deogratias heard about the tragedy. When the slave ships
docked at Carthage, he bought back as many slaves as he could. He
raised the money by selling the church vessels, vestments and ornaments.
He was able to free many families. He found living quarters for
them. When the houses were filled up, he used two large churches
for this purpose. He bought bedding and other necessary items so
that the people could feel at home in their new surroundings.
Bishop Deogratias died after only three years as Carthage's bishop.
He was totally worn out from his life of self-sacrifice and loving
service. The people he helped would never forget him. He died in
St. Turibius of Mongrovejo
St. Turibius was born in 1538 in Leon, Spain. He became a university
professor and then a famous judge. He was a fine Christian with
a reputation for being honest and wise. An unusual thing happened
to him that changed his whole life. He was asked to become the archbishop
of Lima, Peru. First of all, he was not a priest. Second, Peru was
in far away South America. This happened because Lima needed an
archbishop. Many people in the Church realized that Turibius had
the qualities for such a trusted position. He begged to be excused
from the honor. But when he learned about the miserable condition
of the native people of Peru, he could not refuse. He wanted to
help them and to bring them the faith. He was ordained a priest
and set out for Peru.
As archbishop, St. Turibius traveled all over the country. He made
his way over the snowy mountains on foot. He walked over the hot
sands of the seashore. He built churches and hospitals. He started
the first school in Latin America for the training of priests. Such
a school is called a seminary. He learned the different native languages.
He wanted the people to be able to listen to homilies at Mass and
go to confession in their own language. He protected the natives
who were often cruelly treated by their Conquerers.
St. Turibius loved the people of Peru. He spent the rest of his
life as a priest and bishop for them. He died on March 23, 1606,
at the age of sixty-eight. St. Turibius was proclaimed a saint by
Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
Blessed Didacus Joseph was born on March 29, 1743, in Cadiz, Spain.
He was baptized Joseph Francis. His parents loved their faith and
practiced it. They were delighted when their child constructed an
altar and decorated it. He would kneel and pray to Jesus, to Our
Lady and to St. Joseph.
When he was old enough, Joseph learned how to serve Mass at the
Capuchin Franciscan church just down the street. Joseph learned
to love the Mass. He used to get up early enough to be at the church
each morning to wait for the doors to be unlocked. He never missed
a day. One of the Capuchin priests or brothers gave Joseph a book
about the lives of the Capuchin saints. He read it and read it again.
Joseph learned every story. He grew to love the holy men who were
poor and humble like Jesus. The day came when he asked to join the
order. He was accepted and went to Seville, Spain, for his training,
called a novitiate.
He began a new life with a new name, Brother Didacus.
After years of preparation, Brother Didacus was ordained a priest.
He was sent out to preach to the people the Good News of Jesus.
He loved doing this. His homilies were so clear and kind that people
listened. They even brought friends to listen. Soon an ordinary
church was too small for the crowds. When Father Didacus was preaching,
the talks were held outdoors, usually in the town square or in the
streets. Father Didacus loved to preach about the Blessed Trinity.
He was always available to hear confessions, too. He was happy when
people came to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Whenever he had
some free time, he visited prisons and hospitals. He also would
pay calls at the homes of shut-ins.
Father Didacus died in 1801 and was declared "blessed"
by Pope Leo XIII in 1894.
ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
The time arrived for Jesus to come down from heaven. God sent the
Archangel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth where Mary lived. The
glorious archangel entered Mary's little house and found her praying.
"Hail Mary, full of grace!" said the angel. "The
Lord is with you, and you are blessed among women." Mary was
surprised to hear the angel's words of praise.
"Do not be afraid, Mary," said Gabriel. Then he told her
that she was to be the mother of Jesus, our Savior. Mary understood
what a great honor God was giving her. Yet she said, "Behold
the handmaid of the Lord!" At that very moment, she became
the Mother of God. And still she called herself his handmaid, his
Mary knew, too, that as the mother of Jesus, she would have many
sorrows. She knew she would have to suffer when her Son suffered.
Yet with all her heart, she said, "Be it done to me according
to your word."
St. Ludger was born in northern Europe in the eighth century. After
he had studied hard for many years, he was ordained a priest. Ludger
began to travel far and wide preaching the Good News. He was very
happy to share all that he had learned about God with everyone who
listened to him. Pagans were converted and Christians began to live
much better lives. St. Ludger built many churches and monasteries.
Then suddenly barbarians called Saxons attacked his land and drove
the priests out. It seemed as though all St. Ludger's work would
be lost. But he would not give up. He first found a safe place for
his disciples. Then he went to Rome to ask the Holy Father what
he should do. For over three years, Ludger lived in the Benedictine
monastery as a good, holy monk. But he did not forget his people
at home. As soon as he could get back into his country, Ludger returned
and continued his work. He labored very hard and converted many
of the pagan Saxons.
When he was made a bishop, Ludger gave an even better example by
his great kindness and piety. Once, jealous men spoke against him
to King Charlemagne. The king ordered him to come to court to defend
himself. Ludger went obediently to the castle. The next day, when
the king sent for him, Ludger said he would come as soon as he had
finished his prayers. King Charlemagne was angry at first. But St.
Ludger explained that although he had great respect for the king,
he knew that God came first. "Your Majesty will not be angry
with me," he said, "for you yourself have told me always
to put God first." At such a wise answer, the king realized
that Ludger was very holy. From then on, Charlemagne admired and
loved him very much. St. Ludger died on Passion Sunday in 809. He
performed his duties in the service of God even on the day he died.
St. John of Egypt
St. John was man who desired to be alone with God was to become
one of the most famous hermits of his time. He was born around 304.
Not much is known about his childhood except that he learned the
carpenter's trade. When he was twenty-five, John decided to leave
the world for good to spend his life in prayer and sacrifice for
God. He was one of the famous desert hermits of that time.
For ten years he was the disciple of an elderly, seasoned hermit.
This holy man taught him the spiritual life. St. John called him
his "spiritual father." After the older monk's death,
St. John spent four or five years in various monasteries. He wanted
to become familiar with the way monks pray and live. Finally, John
found a cave high in the rocks. The area was quiet and protected
from the desert sun and winds. He divided the cave into three parts:
a living room, a work room and a little chapel. People in the area
brought him food and other necessities. Many also came to seek his
advice about important matters. Even Emperor Theodosius I asked
his advice twice, in 388 and in 392.
Such well-known saints as Augustine and Jerome wrote about the holiness
of St. John. When so many people came to visit him, some men became
his disciples. They stayed in the area and built a hospice. They
took care of the hospice so that more people could come to benefit
from the wisdom of this hermit. St. John was able to prophesy future
events. He could look into the souls of those who came to him. He
could read their thoughts. When he applied blessed oil on those
who had a physical illness, they were often cured. Even when John
became famous, he kept humble and did not lead an easy life. He
never ate before sunset. When he did eat, his food was dried fruit
and vegetables. He never ate meat or cooked or warm food. St. John
believed that his self-sacrificing life would help him keep close
to God. He died peacefully in 394 at the age of ninety.
St. Tutilo lived in the late ninth and early tenth centuries. He
was educated at the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Gall. Two of
his classmates have been declared "blessed." All three
gradually became monks in the monastery where they had gone to school.
St. Tutilo was a person of many talents. He was a poet, a portrait
painter, a sculptor, an orator and an architect. He was also a mechanic.His
greatest talent was music. He could play all the instruments known
to the monks for their liturgies. He and his friend, Blessed Notker,
composed tunes for the liturgy responses. Only three poems and one
hymn remain of all Tutilo's works. But his paintings and sculptures
are still found today in several cities of Europe. The paintings
and sculptures are identified with St. Tutilo because he always
marked his works with a motto.
But Tutilo was not proclaimed a saint because of his many talents.
He was a humble person who wanted to live for God. He praised God
the way he knew how: by painting, sculpting and composing music.
Tutilo was proclaimed a saint because he spent his life praising
and loving God. St. Tutilo died in 915.
St. Jonas and St. Barachisius
King Sapor of Persia reigned in the fourth century. He hated Christians
and persecuted them cruelly. He destroyed their churches and monasteries.
Two brothers named Jonas and Barachisius heard of the persecutions.
They learned that many Christians had been put to death. They decided
to go to help them and to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ.
Jonas and Barachisius knew that they, too, might be captured. But
that did not stop them. Their hearts were too full of love of others
to have room for a thought of themselves.
At last the two brothers were taken prisoner. They were told that
if they did not worship the sun, the moon, the fire and water, they
would be tortured and put to death. Of course, they refused to worship
anything or anyone except the one true God. They had to suffer greatly,
but they prayed. They kept thinking of how Our Lord had suffered
for them. The two brothers endured terrible tortures but would not
give up their faith. They were finally condemned to death and joyfully
gave up their lives for Jesus. Jonas and Barachisius were martyred
St. John Climacus
St. John was believed born in Palestine in the seventh century.
He seems to have been a disciple of St. Gregory Nazianzen. He could
have become a famous teacher, but he decided to serve God with his
whole heart. He joined a monastery on Mount Sinai when he was sixteen.
Then he went to live for forty years by himself. He spent all his
time praying and reading the lives of the saints.
At first, St. John was tempted by the devil. He felt all kinds of
bad passions trying to make him give in and sin. But he put all
his trust in Jesus and prayed harder than ever. So the temptations
never made him fall into sin. In fact, he only grew holier. He became
so close to God that many heard of his holiness. They came to ask
him for advice.
God gave St. John a wonderful gift. He was able to bring peace to
people who were upset and tempted. Once a man came to him who was
having terrible temptations. He asked St. John to help him and said
how hard it was for him to fight these temptations. After they had
prayed together, peace filled the poor man's soul. He was never
again troubled with those temptations. When the saint was seventy-four
years old, he was chosen abbot of Mount Sinai. He became the superior
of all the monks and hermits in the country. Another abbot asked
St. John to write the rules which he had lived by all his life.
This way the monks could follow his example. With great humility,
St. John wrote the book called The Ladder of Perfection, or The
Climax of Perfection. And that is why he is called "Climacus."
St. John died in 649.
Blessed Joan of Toulouse
In 1240, some Carmelite brothers from Palestine started a monastery
in Toulouse, France. The great Carmelite priest, St. Simon Stock,
passed through Toulouse twenty-five years later. A devout woman
asked to see him. She introduced herself simply as Joan. She asked
the priest earnestly, "May I be part of the Carmelite order
as an associate?" St. Simon Stock was the head of the order.
He had the authority to grant the woman's request. He said "yes."
Joan became the first lay associate. She received the habit of the
Carmelite order. In the presence of St. Simon Stock, Joan made a
vow of perpetual chastity.
Joan continued her quiet, simple life right in her own home. She
tried to be as faithful as possible to the rules of the Carmelites
for the rest of her life. Joan went to daily Mass and devotions
at the Carmelite church. She filled the rest of the day with visits
to the poor, the sick and the lonely. She trained the altar boys.
She helped the elderly and infirm by performing useful tasks and
running errands. Joan prayed with them and brightened many lives
with her cheerful conversations.
Blessed Joan carried a picture of the crucified Jesus in her pocket.
That was her "book." Every now and then, she would pull
out the picture and gaze at it. Her eyes would light up. People
said that Joan read some new and wonderful lesson every time she
studied the picture.