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St. Michael
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do you, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. Advertise Now





"Jesus' Baptism"

Why did Jesus, the sinless one sent from the Father in heaven, submit himself to John's baptism? John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). In this humble submission we see a foreshadowing of the "baptism" of Jesus bloody death upon the cross. Jesus' baptism is the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God's suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12). He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father's will. Out of love he consented to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Do you know the joy of trust and submission to God? Read More »


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St. Edmund lived in the sixteenth century. He was a very popular young English student who was a great speaker. In fact, Edmund was chosen to deliver a welcoming speech to Queen Elizabeth when she visited his college. A group of his fellow students were attracted by his happy nature and his many talents. They made him their leader. Even the queen and her chief ministers were fond of this attractive young man. But Edmund was troubled about his religion. He kept thinking that the Catholic Church might be the only true Church. He did not hide his feelings. Therefore, the government, which was persecuting Catholics, became very suspicious of him. Edmund knew that he would lose the queen's favor and all his chances for a great career if he chose to become a Catholic. The young man prayed and reached his decision. He would become a Catholic anyway.

After he had escaped from England, Edmund studied to become a priest. He entered the Society of Jesus. When the Holy Father decided to send some Jesuits to England, Father Campion was one of the first to go. The night before he left, one of his fellow priests felt urged to write over his doorway: "Father Edmund Campion, martyr." Although he knew what danger faced him, the holy priest set out cheerfully. In fact, he had many a laugh because of his disguise as a jewel merchant. In England he preached with great success to Catholics who had to meet with him in secret. Spies of the queen's men were everywhere trying to catch him. He wrote: "I won't escape their hands much longer.

Sometimes I read letters that say 'Campion has been caught'!" It was a traitor who finally brought about the Jesuit's capture. Edmund was visited in jail by the government officials who had been so fond of him. It seems that even Queen Elizabeth came. But none of their threats or promises could make him give up the Catholic faith. Nor could tortures break him. In spite of all his sufferings, he still defended himself and his fellow priests in such a marvelous manner that no one could answer him. Yet the enemies of the Church condemned him anyway. Before he was put to death, St. Edmund forgave the man who had betrayed him. He even helped save the man's life. St. Edmund Campion died in 1581. He was about forty-one years old.



St. Bibiana's father Flavian had been prefect of the city of Rome in early Christian times. He and his wife were known as fervent Christians. In fact, when Emperor Julian left the Catholic faith, he began persecuting it. That is when Flavian was arrested. He was branded on the face with a hot iron and then exiled.

After he died, his wife Dafrosa was also made a prisoner in her own house. This was only because of her good Christian life. Then she, too, was put to death. Left alone with her sister, Demetria, Bibiana tried with all her heart to trust in God and pray. Everything they had was being taken from them. Then the two young women were brought to court. Poor Demetria was so frightened that she dropped dead at the judge's feet. Bibiana was handed over to a sinful woman, who was supposed to make the girl as evil as she was. This woman tried by sweet words and many clever tricks to make Bibiana fall. However, the saint could not be moved. She was brought back to court and beaten. Yet she held to her faith and purity as strongly as ever. St. Bibiana was beaten to death with leaden scourges. A priest buried her at night beside her mother and sister.



St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary, was born at Xavier Castle in Spain in 1506. He went to the University of Paris when he was eighteen. Here he met St. Ignatius Loyola, who was about to start the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius tried to get Francis to join him. At first the happy-go-lucky young man would not think of it. St. Ignatius repeated to him the words of Jesus in the Gospel: "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" At last, Francis saw clearly that his place in life was among the Jesuits.

When Francis was thirty-four, St. Ignatius sent him as a missionary to the East Indies. The king of Portugal wanted to give him presents to take along and a servant. Francis refused his kind offer and explained: "The best way to acquire true dignity is to wash one's own clothes and boil one's own pot." During the course of his amazing career in Goa, India, Japan and other lands of the east, St. Francis made thousands of converts. In fact, he baptized so many people that he became too weak to raise his arms. He gathered the little children around him and taught them the Catholic faith. Then he made little lay apostles of them. He invited them to spread the faith they had learned. There was nothing St. Francis wouldn't do to help people. Once he faced a fierce band of raiders, alone, with no weapon but his crucifix. They backed up and did not attack his Christian tribes. The saint also brought many bad-living Christians to repentance. His only "tools" were his gentle, polite ways and his prayers.

In the midst of his painful journeys and great labors, the saint was full of a special joy coming from God. St. Francis longed to get into China, into which no foreigner was permitted. At last, the arrangements were made, but the great missionary became ill. He died almost alone in 1552 on an island off the Chinese coast. He was just forty-six-years-old. Francis Xavier was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. He was in the best of company at the canonization ceremony in Rome. Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer were also proclaimed saints that day.



St. John lived in the eighth century. He was born in the city of Damascus of a good Christian family. When his father died, he became the governor of Damascus. At this time, the emperor made a law. It forbade Christians from having statues or pictures of Our Lord and the saints. St. John Damascene knew the emperor was wrong. He joined with many others to defend this practice of the Christians. The pope himself asked John to keep telling people that it is a good thing to have statues and holy pictures. They make us think of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and the saints. But the emperor would not give in to the Holy Father. He continued to forbid statues to be put in public places. St. John bravely wrote three letters. He told the emperor to give up his wrong ideas.

The emperor became so furious that he wanted revenge. John decided he should resign as governor. He gave away all his money to the poor and became a monk. He kept on writing marvelous books to defend the Catholic religion. At the same time he did all kinds of humble work in the monastery. One day he even went to sell baskets in the streets of Damascus. Many of those who had known him before were mean enough to laugh at him. Here was the man who had once been the great governor of the city now selling baskets. Imagine how St. John must have suffered. But he knew that the money received would be put to good use at the monastery. He thought of Jesus, the Son of God, who wanted to be born in a stable. Then he felt happy to imitate Our Lord's humility.
St. John died a peaceful, happy death in the year 749.



St. Sabas, born in 439, is one of the most famous monks of Palestine. His father was an officer in the army. When the officer had to go to Alexandria, Egypt, he left his young son with his brother-in-law. Since his aunt treated him badly, young Sabas ran away to another uncle. When an argument arose between the two uncles, Sabas felt terrible. He liked to see people at peace. So he ran away to live in a monastery. His two uncles felt ashamed of themselves. They told Sabas to come out and they would give him all his property. But by this time, Sabas was too happy in the monastery. He did not want to leave. Even though he was the youngest monk, he was the most fervent.

When he was eighteen, Sabas went to Jerusalem. He wanted to learn to live alone with God. He was advised to live in another monastery there for a while because he was still young. He obeyed and joyfully did all the hard work. He chopped wood for the fires and carried the heavy jugs of water. One day, St. Sabas was sent to Alexandria, Egypt, as the traveling companion of another monk. There he saw his father and mother! They tried their best to make him come with them. They wanted him to enjoy the same honors his father had won. Not Sabas! He would not even take the money they tried to give him. Finally he accepted three gold pieces. Then when he got back to the monastery, he gave them to the abbot.

At last, he was able to spend four years completely alone, as he desired. But after that, he had to start a new monastery. Many disciples came to him to learn how to be monks. Before long, he was put in charge of all the monks in Palestine. Sometimes Sabas was sent to the emperor on important Church affairs. Even then, he wore his poor cloth habit, and kept to his hours of prayer. St. Sabas died in 532.



St. Nicholas is the great patron of children and of Christmas giving. He lived in the fourth century. Santa Claus is a short form of St. Nicholas. This famous saint was born in Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. After his parents died, he gave all his money to charity. Once a certain poor man was about to abandon his daughters to a life of sin because they did not have the money for a dowry. Nicholas heard about his problem. He went to the man's house at night and tossed a little pouch of gold through a window. This was for the oldest daughter. He did the same thing for the second daughter. The grateful father kept watch to find out who was being so good to them. When St. Nicholas came a third time, the man recognized him. He thanked Nicholas over and over again.

Later St. Nicholas became bishop. He loved justice. It is said that once he saved three men who had been falsely condemned to death. He then turned to their accuser. He made the man admit that he had been offered money to get rid of the three men.

St. Nicholas died in Myra, and a great basilica was built over his tomb. Many churches were dedicated in his name. When his relics were brought to Bari, Italy, this city became a famous shrine for pilgrims from all over Europe. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and prisoners. With St. Andrew, he is the patron of Russia.



St. Ambrose was born around 340. He was the son of the Roman governor of Gaul. When his father died, his mother took her family back to Rome. She and her daughter, St. Marcellina, brought Ambrose up well. He became an outstanding lawyer. Then he was made governor of Milan and the territory around it. But by a strange event, Ambrose the governor became Ambrose the bishop. In those days the people used to suggest to the pope the name of the one they would like as bishop. To Ambrose's great surprise, the people of Milan chose him. He tried to escape, but it seemed to be God's will. Thus, Ambrose became a priest and then bishop of Milan.

Ambrose became a great model and father to his people. He also resisted all evil with amazing courage. He faced an attacking army and convinced the leader to turn back. Another time, Emperor Theodosius came from the east. He wanted to save Italy from invaders. He urged all his officers to respect the bishop of Milan. Yet when this emperor committed a very serious sin, Ambrose did not hesitate to confront him. He also made Theodosius do public penance. The emperor did not become furious and take revenge. He realized that the saint was right. Very humbly he publicly made penance for his sin. Ambrose had shown the world that no human being, even if he or she is the ruler, is higher than the Church.

People were afraid of what would happen to Italy when Ambrose died. When he became sick, they begged him to pray for a longer life. The saint replied, "I have not behaved myself among you in such a way that I should be ashamed to live longer; nor am I afraid to die, for we have a good Master." Bishop Ambrose died on Good Friday in the year 397.



Our first parents offended God by sinning seriously. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, every baby is born into the world with original sin. We are all children of our first parents. Therefore, we all inherit their sin. This sin in us is called original sin.

But the Blessed Virgin Mary was given a marvelous privilege. She was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without this original sin. Our Lady was to be the mother of Jesus, God's only Son. The evil one, the devil, should have no power over Mary. There was never the slightest sin in our all-beautiful mother. That is why one of the Church's favorite hymns to Mary is: "You are all-beautiful, O Mary, and there is no sin in you."

This great privilege of Our Lady is called her Immaculate Conception. In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed to the whole world that there was no doubt at all that Mary was conceived without sin. Four years later, she appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes. When St. Bernadette asked the lovely lady who she was, Mary joined her hands and raised her eyes toward heaven. She said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."



St. Juan Diego is well-known because the Mother of God appeared to him. It was to Juan Diego that Mary first introduced herself to the world as Our Lady of Guadalupe. He lived in the sixteenth century when Mexico City was known as the Valley of Anahuac. Juan was a member of the Chichimeca people. They called him the talking eagle. His Christian name was Juan Diego.

After Juan's particular mission was completed, it is said that he became a hermit. He spent the rest of his life in prayer and penance. His little hut was near the first chapel that was built on Tepeyac Hill. He was greatly esteemed. Parents considered it their fondest wish to have their children grow up to be like Juan Diego.

Juan took care of the little church and met the pilgrims who began to come there to honor their Mother of Guadalupe. He would show them the miraculous tilma or cloak that preserves Mary's beautiful image. Pope John Paul II declared Juan Diego "blessed" on May 14, 1990. The pope personally visited the magnificent church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He prayed there for all of the people of Mexico. He prayed especially for those who were killed during the terrible persecution of the Church in the early part of this century. He prayed for all the pilgrims who come to this beautiful church with such faith in the Mother of God.



St. John was born in Wales in 1577. Although he was not a Catholic, he was taught by an elderly priest. So, as he said later, at heart he was always a Catholic. John went to Oxford University in England for a while. Then he took a trip to France to have a good time. As it turned out, this trip brought him more than fun. It was in Paris, France, that he found great happiness in joining the Catholic Church. John lost no time after this in taking steps to become a priest. He went to an English college in Spain and became a Benedictine monk. Then his great dream of going back to England came true three years later. He and another monk were given permission to set out for that land. They knew the dangers they would meet. In fact, they did not have long to wait before trouble began. They entered England wearing plumed hats and swords at their sides. Soon, however, they were arrested for being priests and sent out of the country.

St. John Roberts went back to England again. He worked day and night to keep the faith alive during Queen Elizabeth's terrible persecution. Several times he was captured, put in prison, and exiled, yet he always came back. The last time Father John was arrested, he was finishing Mass. There was to be no escape. When asked, he declared he was a priest and a monk. He explained that he had come to England to work for the salvation of the people. "Were I to live longer," he added, "I would continue to do what I have been doing." St. John was given an unfair trial and condemned to death.

The night before he was to be hanged, a good Spanish lady arranged for him to be brought into the company of eighteen other prisoners. They were also suffering for Christ's sake. During their supper together, St. John was full of joy. Then he thought perhaps he should not show so much happiness. "Do you think I may be giving bad example by my joy?" he asked his hostess. "No, certainly not," she replied. "You could not do anything better than to let everyone see the cheerful courage you have as you are about to die for Christ."
The next day, St. John was hanged. The crowds were so attracted by the personality of this young priest that they did not let the executioners make him suffer. St. John Roberts was martyred in 1610.



ST. Damasus was born in Rome and lived in the fourth century-exciting times for the Church. He was a priest who was generous and self-sacrificing. When Pope Liberius died in 366, Damasus became the pope. He faced many grave difficulties. There was a false pope named Felix. He and his followers persecuted Damasus. They lied about him, especially about his personal moral life. The pope had to stand trial before the Roman authorities. He was proved innocent, but he suffered very much through it all. His great friend, St. Jerome, spoke emphatically for the virtue of this pope. And Jerome had high standards. Pope Damasus realized that the city clergy were living too wealthy a lifestyle. The country priests were much more austere. Damasus asked the priests to simplify their lifestyles and not to accumulate money and possessions. He set a wonderful example himself.

There were also many false teachings during his time as pope. Damasus explained the true faith. He also called the Second Ecumenical Council which was held in Constantinople. Pope Damasus greatly encouraged love of the scriptures. He assigned St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin. He also changed the official language of the liturgy from Greek-except for the Kyrie-to Latin. Pope St. Damasus died at the age of about eighty on December 11, 384. He was buried with his mother and sister in a little chapel he had built.



We celebrate the event of Mary's appearances on Tepyac Hill in Mexico. The heavenly visitor came to her people on December 9, 1531. Juan was a fifty-five year old Catholic convert. He was going to Mass when Our Lady intercepted him as he was making his way down Tepyac Hill. Mary asked him to go to the bishop. She wanted a great church built on the very spot where she was standing. The Indian was overwhelmed. He wanted with all his heart to do what the Lady commanded. But how could he approach the bishop? How could anyone believe such an unusual request? Juan Diego went to the bishop. The bishop must have been pleased with himself when he thought of a way to handle the situation. "Ask for a sign," he told Juan. Juan was caught in the middle. The Lady knew what she wanted; the bishop had the power to make her wish come true, but he wanted proof.

On the early morning of December 12, Juan Diego was hurrying along the path. His uncle was dying and he was going for the priest. Mary met Juan and told him that his uncle was better. In fact, Juan found out a little later that his uncle had been cured at that moment. The Lady asked Juan to go back to the bishop. She wanted him to build a church. Juan remembered the bishop's request and asked Mary for a sign. Mary sent Juan into the rocky area nearby and told him to gather the roses that were there. Juan was puzzled. He knew there were no roses. It was winter and the bushes were bare. But Juan followed the instructions and there really were roses, beautiful roses. Juan picked them all and went to the bishop. He carried them carefully in his tilma (cloak). Juan clutched his cloak and made his way into the room where the bishop was. Slowly he let down his cloak and the beautiful roses fell to the floor. Juan smiled and then realized that something else was capturing the bishop. He followed the bishop's eyes which were riveted to his cloak. And then he saw her, his beautiful lady, on his tilma. Her image was life-size, exactly as she had appeared. The bishop had received his sign and Mary would have her church.

Today a great church, called a basilica, marks the event when Our Lady of Guadalupe came to her people. Our Lady of Guadalupe was named patroness of Mexico by Pope Benedict XIV. She is also patroness of Latin America and the Philippines.



St. Lucy, the beloved saint, lived in Syracuse, Sicily. She was born toward the end of the third century. Lucy was the daughter of very noble and rich parents. Her father died when she was still young. Lucy secretly promised Jesus that she would never marry so that she could be his alone. She was a lovely girl, with beautiful eyes. More than one young noble set his heart on her. Her mother urged her to marry one whom she had chosen for Lucy. But the girl would not consent. Then she thought of a plan to win her mother. She knew her mother was suffering from hemorrhages. She convinced her to go to the shrine of St. Agatha and pray for her recovery. Lucy went along with her and together they prayed. When God heard their prayers and cured her mother, Lucy told her of her vow to be Christ's bride. Her mother let Lucy follow her vocation, out of gratitude for her cure.

But the young pagan to whom she had promised Lucy was furious at losing out. In his bitter anger, he accused her of being a Christian. He threatened her with the frightening torture of being blinded. But Lucy was even willing to lose both her eyes rather than belong to anyone but Jesus. And that is just what happened. Many statues show St. Lucy holding her lovely eyes in the palm of her hand. Jesus rewarded her for her heroic love. He worked a miracle and gave her back her eyes, more beautiful than ever.

The pagan judge tried to send the saint to a house of sinful women. He hoped that Lucy might be tempted to give up Christ. But when they tried to carry her away, God made her body so heavy that they could not budge her. In the end, she was stabbed and became a martyr for Jesus in the year 304.



St. John was born in Spain in 1542. He was the son of a weaver. He went to a school for poor children and became a servant to the director of a hospital. For seven years, John worked as a servant while also studying at a Jesuit college. Even as a youth, he liked to do penance. He understood the value of offering up sufferings for the love of Jesus. When he was twenty-one, his love of God prompted him to enter the Carmelite order. With St. Teresa of Avila, St. John was chosen by God to bring a new spirit of fervor among religious. But his life was full of trials. Although he succeeded in opening new monasteries where his holy way of life was practiced, he himself was criticized. He was even thrown into prison and made to suffer terribly. At one time, too, he had fierce temptations. God seemed to have left him alone, and he suffered greatly. Yet when these storms of trouble passed, the Lord rewarded his faithful servant. He gave him deep peace and joy of heart. John was very close to his God. In fact, the Blessed Mother herself showed John how to escape from his prison cell.

St. John had a marvelous way with sinners. Once a beautiful but sinful woman tried to make him do wrong. He talked to her so that she was led to change her life. Another lady, instead, had such a temper that she was nicknamed "the terrible." Yet St. John knew how to calm her down by his kind manners.

St. John of the Cross asked God to let him suffer every day for love of Jesus. To reward him, Our Lord revealed himself to St. John in a special way. This saint is famous for his spiritual books which show us how to grow close to God. He died on December 14, 1591. John of the Cross was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926.



St. Nino was a Christian girl who lived in the fourth century. She was captured and carried off to Iberia as a slave. In that pagan country, her goodness and purity made a great impression on the people. Noticing how much she prayed, they asked her about her religion. The simple answer she gave them was that she adored Jesus Christ as God.

God chose this pure, devout slave-girl to bring Christianity to Iberia. One day, a mother brought her sick child to Nino, asking her to suggest a cure. The saint wrapped the baby in her cloak. Then she told the mother that Jesus Christ can cure the worst cases of sickness. She handed the child back and the mother saw that her child was completely cured. The queen of Iberia learned of this miracle. Since she herself was sick, she went to the saint. When she, too, was healed, she tried to thank the Christian girl. However, Nino said: "It is Christ's work, not mine. And he is the Son of God who made the world."

The queen let the king know the whole story of her cure. She repeated to her husband what the slave-girl had said of Jesus Christ. Shortly after this, the king got lost in a fog while out hunting. Then he remembered what his wife had told him. He said that if Jesus Christ would lead him safely home, he would believe in him. At once, the fog lifted, and the king was true to his promise. St. Nino herself taught the king and queen the truths of Christianity. They gave her permission to teach the people. Meanwhile, the king began building a Christian church. Then he sent messengers to the Christian emperor, Constantine, to tell him of his conversion. He asked the emperor to send bishops and priests to Iberia. So it was that a poor slave brought a whole country into the Church.



St. Adelaide was born in 931. At the age of sixteen, this Burgundian princess was married to King Lothair. Three years later, her husband died. The ruler who is believed to have poisoned him tried to get Adelaide to be his wife. She absolutely refused. In anger, he treated her with great cruelty. He even locked her up in a castle on a lake.

Adelaide was saved when King Otto the Great of Germany conquered this ruler. Although she was twenty years younger than he, Otto married the lovely Adelaide on Christmas Day. When he took his new queen back home, the German people loved her at once. She was as gentle and gracious as she was pretty. God sent five children to the royal couple. They lived happily for twenty-two years. When Otto died, Adelaide's oldest son became the ruler. This son, Otto the Second, was good, but too quick to act without thinking. He turned against his own mother and she left the palace. In her great sorrow, she appealed to the abbot, St. Majolus. He made Otto feel sorry for what he had done. Adelaide met her son in Italy and the king begged her forgiveness. She in turn prayed for her son, sending offerings to the great shrine of St. Martin of Tours.

In her old age, St. Adelaide was called on to rule the country while her grandson was still a child. She started many monasteries and convents and worked to convert the Slavic people. All her life, this saintly empress had obeyed the advice of holy people. She had always been willing to forgive those who had hurt her. St. Addle of Cluny called her a "marvel of beauty and grace."
She died on December 16, 999.



St. Olympias was born around the year 361. She belonged to a great family of Constantinople. When she was left an orphan, she was given into the care of a wonderful Christian woman. Olympias had inherited a large fortune and was both sweet and attractive. So her uncle found it easy to marry her to Nebridius, a man who had been governor of Constantinople. St. Gregory Nazianzen apologized for not being able to attend the wedding. He even sent a poem full of good advice for Olympias.

Nebridius died very soon afterward, however, and the emperor urged Olympias to marry again. She answered: "Had God wished me to remain a wife, he would not have taken Nebridius away." And she refused to marry again. St. Gregory called her "the glory of the widows in the Eastern Church." With a number of other pious ladies, Olympias spent her life performing works of charity. She dressed plainly and prayed much. She gave her money away to everyone. Finally, St. John Chrysostom had to tell her to be careful in giving away her goods. "You must not encourage the laziness of those who live upon you without necessity," he said. "It is like throwing your money into the sea."

St. John Chrysostom became archbishop of Constantinople. As their archbishop, he guided St. Olympias and her disciples in their works. The women started a home for orphans and they opened a chapel. They were able to give help to great numbers of people. St. John Chrysostom became Olympias' dearest guide. When he was exiled, she was deeply grieved. She then had to suffer persecution, too. Her community of widows and single women was forced to stop their charitable works. Besides this, Olympias was in poor health and was being criticized. Yet St. John wrote to her: "I cannot stop calling you blessed. The patience and dignity with which you have borne your sorrows, your prudence, wisdom and charity have won you great glory and reward." St. Olympias died in 408, when she was about forty. Someone described her as "a wonderful woman, like a precious vase filled with the Holy Spirit."



St. Flannan lived around the seventh century. He was the son of an Irish chieftain named Turlough. Flannan was educated by the monks. He also learned farming from them. When he was a grown man, Flannan decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In Rome, Pope John IV made him a bishop. The pope did this because he recognized the wisdom and holiness of the man. When St. Flannan returned to Ireland, all the people of his region, Killaloe, came to meet him. They were eager to learn the instructions the saint had brought back from the pope of Rome.

St. Flannan taught his people so well that even his father decided to become a monk. The old chieftain went to St. Colman to be instructed in the life of a monk. At the same time, he asked for a blessing for his family, since three of his sons had been killed. St. Colman predicted: "From you shall seven kings spring." And so it happened.

St. Flannan was afraid that since he was one of the family, he, too, might be made king. So he prayed to become ugly, and his face was soon covered with big scars and rashes. He made this unusual request because he wanted to be free to follow his vocation. He wanted to devote himself entirely to the service of God and his people.



Blessed Urban's name before he became pope was William de Grimoard. He was born in France in 1310 and became a Benedictine monk. After being given many high positions, he became pope. At this time, the pope lived in a city called Avignon, in France. However, Urban made up his mind to go to Rome, because that is where the pope should live. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and Urban knew that his place was in Rome. There were many difficulties. The people in France objected to his going, but Urban did what he felt was right.

The people of Rome were overjoyed to have the pope back. They were especially joyful to have such a holy man as was Urban V. He set about at once to repair the great churches of Rome. He helped the poor, and encouraged the people to be fervent and devout again. Emperor Charles V showed great respect to the Holy Father. But Urban had a great many problems. For one thing, he was getting sicker and weaker all the time. Many of his cardinals kept urging him to go back to Avignon. So at last he gave in. As he prepared to leave Rome, the people of the city begged him to stay. He was very sad, but left anyway. About three months later, he died. It was in the year 1370.

It was not right for Urban to leave Rome, because as the bishop of Rome he belonged there. But aside from this weakness, he was a very holy and good man. He did much for the Church, for schools and universities, and for the people. He was called "a light of the world and a way of truth."



St. Dominic, a Spanish shepherd boy, was born at the beginning of the eleventh century. He spent many hours alone with his sheep at the bottom of the Pyrenees mountains. It was there that he learned to love to pray. Soon he became a monk and a very good one. Dominic was appointed abbot of his monastery and brought about many changes for the better.

One day, however, King Garcia III of Navarre, Spain, claimed that some of the monastery's possessions were his. St. Dominic refused to give them to the king. He did not think it was right to give the king what belonged to the Church. This decision greatly angered the king. He ordered Dominic to leave his kingdom. Abbot Dominic and his monks were given a friendly welcome by another king, Ferdinand I of Castile. Ferdinand told them they could have an old monastery called St. Sebastian at Silos. This monastery was located in a lonely spot and was very run-down. But with Dominic as the abbot, it soon began to take on a new look. In fact, he made it one of the best known monasteries in all Spain.

St. Dominic worked many miracles to cure all kinds of sicknesses.

Many years after his death, Dominic appeared to a wife and mother. Her name was Joan. Now she is called Blessed Joan of Aza. Dominic told her that God would send her another son. When that son was born, Joan gratefully named him Dominic. And this son became the great St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order. We celebrate his feast on August 8. Today's saint died on December 20, 1073.



ST. Peter, a Dutch man, was born in 1521. His father wanted him to be a lawyer. To please him, young Peter began to study law before he had finished all his other studies. Soon enough, however, he realized that he would never be happy in that life. About that time, people all over were talking about the wonderful preaching of Blessed Peter Faber. He was one of the first members of the Jesuit order. When Peter Canisius listened to him, he knew he, too, would be happy serving God as a Jesuit. So he joined the order. After more years of study and prayer, he was ordained a priest.

The great St. Ignatius soon realized what an obedient and zealous apostle St. Peter Canisius was. He sent him to Germany where Peter labored for forty years. It would be hard to name all St. Peter Canisius' great works, prayers and sacrifices during that time. His concern was to save many cities of Germany from the heresies of the day. He also labored to bring back to the Catholic Church those who had accepted false teachings. It is said that he traveled about twenty thousand miles in thirty years. This he did on foot or on horseback. In spite of all this, St. Peter Canisius still found time to write many books on the faith. He realized how important books are. So he made a campaign to stop bad books from being sold. And he did all he could to spread good books to teach the faith. The two catechisms St. Peter Canisius wrote were so popular that they were printed over two hundred times and were translated into fifteen languages.

To those who said he worked too hard, St. Peter Canisius would answer, "If you have too much to do, with God's help, you will find time to do it all." This wonderful saint died in 1597. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925.



The third century was marked by Roman persecutions of the Church. Today's saints were martyred during the reign of Emperor Decius.They lived in Egypt. Many of the Christians were driven out into the desert. There they died in a variety of ways: hunger, thirst, cold nights, wild animals, criminals. Naturally, if the Christians tried to return to civilization, they were killed. The young, healthy Christians were sold into slavery.

St. Chaeremon was a priest and bishop of Nilopolis. He was very old when the persecution became extreme. The elderly bishop and a companion went for shelter to the mountains of Arabia. They were never seen again, nor were their bodies ever found.

St. Ischyrion worked for an official in one of Egypt's cities. It may have been Alexandria. His employer required that he sacrifice to the gods. Ischyrion refused because this was against the first commandment. The official was angry and insulted. He had Ischyrion killed. A great many other martyrs are included here who gave their lives for Jesus at this time in Egypt.



St. John, the Polish saint, was born in 1390, the son of good country folk. Seeing how intelligent their son was, they sent him to the University of Krakow. He did well in his studies. Then John became a priest, a teacher, and a preacher. He was also well-known for his great love of the poor. Once he was eating in the university dining hall. At the beginning of the meal, he happened to see a beggar passing by the window. Immediately, he jumped up and brought the man his dinner.

Some people became very jealous of St. John's success as a teacher and preacher. They finally managed to have him sent to a parish as a pastor. Here, he put his whole heart into the new life. At first, however, things did not go well at all. The people did not particularly care for John, and John was afraid of the responsibility. He did not give up, however, and his efforts brought results. By the time he was called back to the university, the people of his parish loved him dearly. They went part of the way with him. In fact, they were so sad to see him go that he had to tell them: "This sadness does not please God. If I have done any good for you in all these years, sing a song of joy."

Back in Krakow, St. John taught Bible classes and again became a very popular teacher. He was invited to the homes of rich nobles. Still, however, he gave everything he had to the poor and dressed very poorly himself. Once he wore an old black habit, called a cassock, to a banquet. The servants refused to let him in. St. John went home and changed into a new one. During the dinner, someone spilled a dish of food on the new cassock. "Never mind," said the saint with good humor, "my cassock deserves some food, anyway, because without it, I wouldn't have been here at all." St. John lived to be eighty-three. Again and again during all those years he cleaned out everything he owned to help the poor. When people burst into tears on hearing that he was dying, he said, "Don't worry about this prison which is decaying. Think of the soul that is going to leave it." He died in 1473 and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767.



St. Marguerite was born in Quebec, Canada, on October 15, 1701. Her father died in 1708 and the family lived in poverty. Relatives paid her tuition at the Ursuline convent school in Quebec. Her two years at the boarding school prepared her to teach her younger brothers and sisters. Marguerite was gracious and friendly. She helped support her family by making and selling fine lace. In 1722, Marguerite married Francois D'Youville. It seemed like the marriage was going to be a truly happy one. But Francois' real self came out as the months passed. He was more interested in making money than in being with his family. His job was illegal liquor trading. He left Marguerite alone with her two children and did not take care of them.

Francois died quite suddenly in 1730 after eight years of marriage. He left Marguerite with large debts to pay. A kind priest named Father du Lescoat gave her courage. He told her that she was loved by God. Soon she would begin a great work for God. The prophecy would come true. Mother D'Youville took in a blind, homeless woman on November 21, 1737. This marks the beginning of a marvelous work of caring for the sick poor in hospitals. These hospitals would be run by the sisters of her new order. She and her first companions became known as the "Grey Nuns." Their religious habit was grey. The sisters took over the general hospital in Montreal. It was run-down and very much in debt. People made fun of the sisters. What were they trying to do, anyway? But Mother D'Youville and her sisters did not lose heart. They worked, and built, and fixed. Above all, they welcomed everyone in need. No one was too poor or too sick to come to their hospital. In 1765, a fire destroyed the hospital, but Mother D'Youville and her nuns had it rebuilt in four years.

Marguerite's two boys became priests: Charles, pastor of Boucherville, and Francois, pastor of St. Ours. In 1769, Father Francois broke his arm. His mother hastened to take care of him. She spent five days at the rectory. Mother D'Youville was equally generous when an epidemic of smallpox spread through the Indian missions of Montreal. And during the Seven Years War between the French and British, she helped soldiers on both sides. She hid the British soldiers in the dark rooms of the convent cellar. There her sisters quietly nursed them back to health. Mother Marguerite D'Youville died on December 23, 1771. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II on December 9, 1990. She is Canada's first Canadian-born saint.



St. Charbel was born Youssef Makhlouf on May 8, 1828, in a mountain village in Lebanon. His life was very ordinary. Youssef attended the small school and the parish church. He loved the Blessed Mother and he loved to pray. He had two uncles who were monks. Although Youssef did not tell anyone, he prayed to Our Lady to ask her help in becoming a monk. His parents wanted him to marry. There was a very nice girl in the village who would make an ideal wife, they thought. But Youssef believed it was time to follow his call to become a monk. He joined the monastery of Our Lady at the age of twenty-three. He took the name Charbel, after an early martyr by that name. He professed solemn vows in 1853 when he was twenty-five. Charbel studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1858. He remained at the monastery of St. Maron for sixteen years.

Father Charbel was a profound person whose love for prayer became his outstanding quality. From time to time he would retreat to the order's hermitage for stronger prayer times. The last twenty-three years of his life, Charbel spent in the peace of the hermitage. He chose to lead a very hard life. He made sacrifices, ate little, slept on the hard ground, and prayed long hours. The years passed, and Charbel became a person totally in love with Jesus. Then as he celebrated the Mass on December 16, 1898, he suffered a stroke during the consecration. Charbel lingered for eight painful days, then died on December 24, 1898.

Miracles began to happen at the holy monk's grave. Some of those miracles were accepted for declaring Charbel "blessed" and then "saint." Father Charbel was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul VI on October 9, 1977. The pope explained that St. Charbel taught us by his life the true way to God. He said that our culture glorifies wealth and comfort. Charbel, instead, teaches by his example the value of being poor, self-sacrificing and prayerful.



The time had come for the Son of God to become man for love of us. His mother Mary and St. Joseph had to leave their home in Nazareth and go to Bethlehem. The reason for this journey was the Roman emperor's request to count the number of his subjects. So every Jewish family had to go to the city of their ancestors. Since Mary and Joseph belonged to the royal family of David, they had to go to David's city of Bethlehem. The emperor had made the law, but it served to fulfill God's plan. The Bible said that the Savior was to be born in Bethlehem.

It was a slow, hard journey for our Blessed Mother over mountainous country. But Mary was calm and peaceful. She knew she was doing God's will. She was happy thinking of her Divine Son soon to be born. When Mary and Joseph reached Bethlehem, they found that there was no place for them to stay. At last, they found shelter in a cave. There, in that rough stable, the Son of God was born on Christmas Day. His Blessed Mother wrapped him up warmly and laid him in a manger. Our Lord chose to be born in such poverty so that we would learn not to desire riches and comforts. The very night in which Jesus was born, God sent his angels to announce his birth. The angels were not sent to the emperor or the king. They were not sent even to the learned doctors and chief priests. They were sent to poor, humble shepherds. These men were watching their flocks on the hillside near Bethlehem. As soon as they heard the angels' message, they hurried to adore the Savior of the world. Then they went home giving praise and glory to God.

The great patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament had been comforted by the thought that someday the Savior would come into the world. Now he had been born among us. Christ came for all of us. The Bible says: "God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son." If those who lived in the hope of his coming were happy, how much more ought we to rejoice. We have his teachings, his Church and Jesus himself on our altars at every Eucharistic Celebration. Christmas is the time when we realize more than ever how much God loves us.



St. Stephen's name means crown. He was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Church. We read about him in chapters 6 and 7 of the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and the apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons. Stephen is the most famous of these. God worked many miracles through St. Stephen. He spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful St. Stephen's preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise arguments, so they got men to lie about him. These men said that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without any fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.

Stephen spoke about Jesus, showing that he is the Savior God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to heaven. He said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him. After such an expression of love, the martyr went to his heavenly reward.



St. John was a fisherman in Galilee. He was called to be an apostle with his brother, St. James. Jesus gave these sons of Zebedee the nickname, "sons of thunder." St. John was the youngest apostle. He was dearly loved by the Lord. At the Last Supper, it was John who was permitted to lean his head on the chest of Jesus. John was also the only apostle who stood at the foot of the cross. The dying Jesus gave the care of his Blessed Mother Mary to this beloved apostle. Turning to Mary, he said, "Behold your mother." So the rest of her life on earth, the Blessed Mother lived with St. John. He alone had the great privilege of honoring and assisting the all-pure Mother of God.

On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and the other women went with spices to Jesus' tomb to anoint his body. They came running back to the apostles with exciting news. The body of Jesus was gone from the tomb. Peter and John set out to investigate. John arrived first but waited for Peter to go in ahead of him. Then he went in and saw the neatly folded linen cloths. Later that same week, the disciples were fishing on the lake of Tiberias without success. A man standing on the beach suggested they let down their nets on the other side of the boat. When they pulled it up again it was full of large fish. Now John, who knew who this man was, called to Peter, "It is the Lord." With the descent of the Holy Spirit the apostles were filled with new courage. After the Ascension, Peter and John cured a crippled man by calling on the name of Jesus.

John lived nearly a century. He himself was not martyred, but he did lead a life of suffering. He preached the Gospel, and became bishop of Ephesus. In the last years of his life, when he could no longer preach, his disciples would carry him to the crowds of Christians. His simple message was, "My dear children, love one another." St. John died in Ephesus around the year 100.



When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Wise Men came from the east to worship him. Some say they were kings, others astrologers. They went to Herod, the king, seeking the newborn king of the Jews, the Savior. Herod was a cruel, clever tyrant. When he heard these Wise Men speak of a newborn king, he began to worry about losing his throne. But he did not let the Wise Men know what he was thinking. He called in his chief priests and asked them where the Bible says the Messiah was to be born. They answered: Bethlehem.

"Go and find out about this child," the wicked king said to the Wise Men. "When you have found out where he is, come and tell me. Then I, too, will go and worship him." The Wise Men went on their way. They found Jesus the Messiah, with Mary and Joseph. They adored him and offered their gifts.
Meanwhile, they were warned in their sleep not to go back to Herod. And an angel came to tell St. Joseph to take Mary and Baby Jesus into Egypt. In this way, God spoiled the murderous plans of Herod concerning the Divine Child.
When Herod realized that the Wise Men had not come back to him, he became furious. He was an evil, violent man, and now the fear of losing his throne made him worse. He sent his soldiers to kill all the boy babies of Bethlehem in the hope of killing the Messiah, too. The soldiers carried out the bloody order. There was great sorrow in the little town of Bethlehem, as mothers wept over their murdered babies. These little children are honored today by the Church as martyrs. They are called the Holy Innocents.



St. Thomas Becket was born in 1118, in London, England. After his parents died, he went to work in an office. As a young man, he loved hunting and other sports. When Thomas was about twenty-four, he found a position in the household of the archbishop of Canterbury. He began to study to become a priest. He was handsome, very intelligent and pleasant to talk with. Before long, he became a great favorite of King Henry II himself. People said that the king and Thomas had only one heart and one mind-such close friends were they. When Thomas was thirty-six, King Henry made him his chancellor.

As chancellor of England, Thomas had a large household and lived in splendor. Yet he was also very good to the poor. Although Thomas was proud and quick-tempered, he performed many hidden acts of penance. He prayed long hours, often into the night. When the archbishop of Canterbury died, the king wanted the pope to give Thomas this position. It would just mean that Thomas would have to be ordained a priest. But Thomas told him plainly that he did not want to be the archbishop of Canterbury. He realized that being in that position would put him in direct conflict with Henry II. Thomas knew that he would have to defend the Church and that would mean trouble. "Your affection for me would turn into hatred," he warned Henry. The king paid no attention and Thomas was made a priest and a bishop in 1162. At first, things went along as well as ever. All too soon, however, the king began to demand money which Thomas felt he could not rightly take from the Church. The king grew more and more angry with his former friend. Finally, he began to treat Thomas harshly. For a while, Thomas was tempted to give in a bit. Then he began to realize just how much Henry hoped to control the Church. Thomas was very sorry that he had even thought of giving in to the king. He did penance for his weakness, and ever after held firm.

One day, the king was very angry. "Will no one rid me of this archbishop?" Some of his knights took him seriously. They went off to murder the archbishop. They attacked him in his own cathedral. He died, saying, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church, I am willing to die." It was December 29, 1170. The entire Christian world was horrified at such a crime. Pope Alexander III held the king personally responsible for the murder. Miracles began to happen at Thomas' tomb. He was proclaimed a saint by the same pope in 1173.



St. Anysia lived in Thessalonica toward the end of the second century. Thessalonica was an ancient city to which St. Paul himself had first brought the faith of Jesus. Anysia was a Christian and after her parents' death, she used her good fortune to help the poor. In her day, there was a cruel persecution of Christians in Thessalonica. The governor was especially determined to stop all Christians from meeting together for Mass. But Anysia started out one day to try to go to a Christian meeting. As she passed a certain gate, called Cassandra, a guard took notice of her. Stepping out in front of her, he demanded to know where she was going. Frightened, Anysia stepped backwards, tracing a cross on her forehead. At that, the soldier grabbed her and shook her roughly. "Who are you" he shouted. "And where are you going?" Anysia took a deep breath and replied, "I am a servant of Jesus Christ," she said. "I am going to the Lord's assembly."

"Oh yes?" sneered the guard. "I will stop that. I will take you to sacrifice to the gods. Today we worship the sun." At the same time, he snatched off her veil. Anysia put up a good struggle, and the pagan grew more and more furious. Finally, in a rage, he drew his sword and ran it through her. The saint fell dead at his feet. When the persecution ended, the Christians of Thessalonica built a church over the spot where St. Anysia had given her life for Christ. Anysia died around 304.



St. Sylvester dates back to early Christian times, to the reign of Constantine, in fact. Sylvester I became pope in 314 and he reigned until his death in 335-twenty-one years. The story is told that Constantine had at first persecuted Pope Sylvester. The emperor contracted leprosy and was going to have a pagan ritual of some kind performed. He was desperate for a cure. It seems that Constantine had a dream in which St. Peter and St. Paul spoke to him. They told the emperor to go to Pope Sylvester for a cure. Constantine asked the pope to be baptized and he was, in the basilica of St. John Lateran. It was during the reception of Baptism that Constantine was completely cured. From then on, Constantine not only permitted the Christian religion to exist, but encouraged it.

Devotion to Pope Sylvester I was well-known during the early Church. He is the first pope not a martyr to be proclaimed a saint. In the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, an impressive mosaic decorates one wall. It shows Jesus giving keys of spiritual power to Pope St. Sylvester I.

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