HUGH OF GRENOBLE
St. Hugh was born in 1052 in France. He grew up to be tall and handsome,
gentle and courteous. Although he always wanted to live for God
as a monk, he was given important positions instead. He was ordained
a priest and then a bishop. As bishop, Hugh began at once to correct
the sinful customs of some people in his diocese. He made wise plans,
but that was not all he did. To draw God's mercy upon his people,
St. Hugh prayed with his whole heart. He practiced hard penances.
In a short time, many became very virtuous and pious. Only some
of the nobility continued to oppose him.
Bishop Hugh still thought about the life of a monk. That's what
he truly wanted. He resigned as bishop of Grenoble and entered a
monastery. At last, he was at peace. Yet it was not God's will for
Hugh to be a monk. After a year, the pope commanded him to go back
to Grenoble again. St. Hugh obeyed. He knew it was more important
to please God than to please himself.
For forty years, the bishop was sick nearly all the time. He had
severe headaches and stomach problems. Yet he forced himself to
keep working. He loved his people and there was so much to do for
them. He suffered from trials and temptations, too. But he prayed
and never gave in to sin. St. Hugh died on April 1, 1132, two months
before his eightieth birthday. He had been a generous and saintly
bishop for fifty-two years. In 1134, just two years after.
ST. FRANCIS OF PAOLA
Francis was born in the tiny village of Paola, Italy, around 1416.
His parents were poor but humble and holy. They had prayed to St.
Francis of Assisi for a son. When he was born, they named him after
the saint. The boy went to a school taught by the Franciscan priests.
There he learned to read. When he was fifteen, with his parents'
permission, he went to live in a cave. He wanted to be a hermit
and spend his life for God alone.
When he was twenty, other young men joined him. St. Francis left
his cave. The people of Paola built a church and monastery for him
and his followers. He called his new religious order the "Minims."
"Minims" means "the least of all." Everyone
loved St. Francis. He prayed for them and worked many miracles.
He told his followers that they must be kind and humble, and do
much penance. He himself was the best example of the virtues he
preached. Once someone visited the saint and insulted him to his
face. When the man was finished, Francis did something unusual.
He quietly picked up some hot coals from the fireplace and closed
his hands tightly around them. But he was not burned at all. "Come,
warm yourself," he said to his accuser kindly. "You are
shivering because you need a little charity." At such a miracle,
the visitor changed his mind about Francis. From then on, he admired
King Louis XI of France had not lived a very good life. He called
for St. Francis when he was dying. Just the thought of dying made
the king terrified. He wanted Francis to work a miracle to cure
him. Instead, the saint gently helped the frightened man to prepare
well to die a holy death. The king had a change of heart. He accepted
God's will and died quietly in the arms of the saint. St. Francis
lived a long life praising and loving God. He died on Good Friday
in 1507, at the age of ninety-one.
ST. RICHARD OF CHICHESTER
St. Richard was born in England in 1197. He and his brother became
orphans when Richard was very young. His brother owned some farms.
Richard gave up his studies to help him save the farms from going
to ruin. He worked so hard that his grateful brother wanted to give
the farms to him, but Richard would not accept them. He also chose
not to marry because he wanted to go away to college to get a good
education. He knew that because he had very little money, he would
have to work hard to pay his tuition and support.
Richard went to Oxford University and eventually was given an important
position at the university. Later, St. Edmund, who was archbishop
of Canterbury, gave him responsible assignments in his diocese.
When St. Edmund died, St. Richard attended the Dominican House of
Studies in France. There he was ordained a priest. Then he was made
the bishop of Chichester, England, and that is why he is called
Richard of Chichester. King Henry III wanted someone else to be
bishop. He had a friend in mind, but this person did not have the
qualifications. Richard was the true bishop of Chichester. King
Henry III refused to let Richard in his own cathedral. The king
also threatened the people of Chichester with punishment if they
offered Richard hospitality. But some brave people helped him anyway,
like one of the priests of Chichester, Father Simon of Tarring.
The two men became great friends. When the pope threatened to excommunicate
the king, he stopped interfering and let the new bishop alone.
As bishop, St. Richard did his duties well. He was always gentle
and kind with the people. Once in a while, he had to be stern. He
was courageous and confronted people when they were doing wrong
and were not sorry.
It is said that when St. Richard became ill, he foretold his death,
because God had let him know the exact place and time when he would
die. His friends, including Father Simon of Tarring, were at his
bedside. He died at the age of fifty-five in 1253. He was proclaimed
a saint by Pope Urban IV in 1262.
ST. ISIDORE OF SEVILLE
This saint was born in 556. Isidore's two older brothers, Leander
and Fulgentius, became bishops and saints, too. Their sister, Florentina,
a nun, is also a saint.
Isidore's family was probably Roman in roots. Isidore was to become
the bishop of Seville, Spain. This is where he made a great impact
on the Church of his day. He was bishop of Seville for thirty-seven
years. During that time, he took up the work of the former bishop,
his brother, St. Leander. These two brothers were responsible for
the conversion of the Visigoths to the Catholic Church.
As a child, Isidore had received a first-rate education. His older
brothers saw to that. He was supervised by Leander. Little Isidore
thought Leander was just about the meanest person in the whole world.
All he did was push the boy to do his lessons. But the day came
when Isidore realized that Leander had really been a wonderful friend.
He taught Isidore that we can do so much good for Jesus' Church
when we take our education seriously. Isidore lived long before
the Council of Trent, which started seminaries to train priests.
But St. Isidore believed that every diocese should have a seminary
and a Catholic school for advanced learning. Both of his dreams
would some day come true when the great Catholic universities as
well as seminaries would be started.
St. Isidore was an organizer, too. He was asked to direct two important
Church meetings called Councils. The first was in Seville, Spain,
in 619, and the other in Toledo, Spain, in 633. These Councils helped
the Church be more united. This saint wrote many books, too. He
wrote a history of the Goths. He wrote about Bible heroes and heroines.
He even wrote a dictionary. Bishop Isidore was available for his
people. The poor of Seville knew where to go for help. There was
a continuous line every day, all day, at the bishop's house. Isidore
prayed and led a life of sacrifice, too. He really was a holy and
much loved bishop. He died in 636. St. Isidore was proclaimed a
Doctor of the Church by Pope Innocent XIII in 1722.
ST. VINCENT FERRER
A most wonderful Christian hero was St. Vincent Ferrer. He was
born in Valencia, Spain, in 1350. He had a special devotion to the
Blessed Mother. Whenever anyone spoke of her, it made him very happy.
When he was seventeen, Vincent entered the Dominican order. He was
very intelligent and did well in his studies. He was handsome too,
but he wasn't proud or boastful. First, Father Vincent taught at
different colleges. Then he became a well-known preacher. The Dominicans
are called the Order of Preachers. For twenty years, Father Vincent
preached all over Spain and France. Although there were no microphones
in those days, his voice could be heard from a great distance. Many
people were converted just by listening to him. Even a well-known
rabbi, Paul of Burgos, became a Catholic. He then became a priest
and eventually bishop of Cartagena, Spain.
Many Catholics were so impressed by Vincent's sermons and example
of holiness that they became more fervent. Catholics who were not
practicing their faith often changed. They became fervent for the
rest of their lives.
St. Vincent counted on God. He also asked for the prayers and penance
of many people for the success of his sermons. He knew it was not
his words or his talents that won people over. That is why he prayed
before every sermon. But it is said that one time, when he knew
that a very important person was going to listen to him, he worked
harder than usual on his sermon. He ran out of time to pray. This
sermon which he had prepared so carefully did not affect the nobleman
much at all. God let that happen to teach Vincent not to count on
himself. Another time, this same important person came to listen
to Father Vincent preach. But this time the priest did not know
it. He prayed and counted on God, as usual. The nobleman listened
to the sermon and was greatly impressed by what he heard. When Vincent
was told, he said: "In the first sermon it was Vincent who
preached. In the second sermon, it was Jesus Christ."
St. Vincent died in 1419. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Nicholas
V in 1455.
This Benedictine monk had once been a sickly child. He had a very
noticeable speech impediment all his life. Notker was determined
not to let it get in his way. This made him even more likable than
he already was. He and two other friends, Tutilo and Radpert, were
very happy monks. They encouraged each other in their vocations
at the monastery of Saint Gall in Germany. Their common love for
God and for music made them lifelong friends. You can read about
St. Tutilo on March 28.
King Charles visited the great monastery from time to time. He
highly respected Notker and asked him for advice. Unfortunately,
he didn't usually follow the advice. One time King Charles sent
his messenger to ask to see the monk. Notker was taking care of
his garden. He sent this message: "Take care of your garden
as I am taking care of mine." King Charles understood that
he should be taking better care of his own soul and of his kingdom.
The king's personal chaplain was educated but very conceited. He
was upset because the king valued Notker's opinion so much. In front
of everybody at court one day, he asked Notker, "Since you
are so intelligent, tell me what God is doing right now." The
priest smiled at the monk, thinking he would never have an answer.
Instead, Notker responded quickly, "God is doing now what he
has always done. He is pushing down those who are proud and is raising
up the lowly." The people started laughing as the chaplain
quickly left the room. Blessed Notker spent the rest of his life
in his chosen vocation. He did many little extra things to make
monastery life pleasant for the monks. With his friends, Tutilo
and Radpert, he created beautiful music for the worship of God.
ST. JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE
St. John Baptist de la Salle was born in Rheims, France, on April
30, 1651. His parents were from the nobility. John was used to elegant
living. But he was a devout boy, too. He loved Jesus and his Church.
In fact, he was studying to become a priest when both his parents
died. He had to leave the seminary and go home to take care of his
brothers. But while he was teaching and training them, he kept on
studying too. His brothers turned out to be fine young men. When
their studies were completed, John Baptist was ordained a priest.
At that time, the nobles, like Father de la Salle's family, had
the chance to be well educated. However, the common people remained
poor and ignorant. They had no opportunity to go to school. St.
John Baptist felt very sorry for the children of the poor. He decided
to do something about the situation. He began to open schools for
them. To provide teachers, he started a new order, the Brothers
of the Christian Schools. Although Father de la Salle also taught
the children himself, he spent most of his time training the teaching
brothers. For them he wrote a rule of life and a book explaining
the best way to teach. He was one of the best educators of all time.
He believed in teaching in the language of the people, not in Latin,
as others did. He grouped the students into classes. He stressed
the importance of silence while the lesson was being taught.
After a while, the brothers opened more schools. They taught the
sons of the working people and nobles, too. Many difficulties faced
the new order. St. John Baptist's constant prayer and sacrifices
blessed the work. It continued to grow and spread. Father de la
Salle's health was never good. His asthma and arthritis caused him
constant pain. Despite this, he would never allow himself to take
on an easier lifestyle. He died on Good Friday, April 7, 1719, at
the age of sixty-eight. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII
in 1900. Pope Pius XII declared him the patron of teachers in 1950.
ST. JULIE BILLIART
Mary Rose Julie Billiart was born in Belgium in 1751. Her uncle,
the village school teacher, taught her to read and write. She especially
loved to study her catechism. In fact, when she was just seven,
Julie would explain the faith to other little children. When her
parents became poor, she worked hard to help support the family.
She even went to harvest the crops. Yet she always found time to
pray, to visit the sick, and to teach catechism.
While she was still a young woman, she became very ill and completely
paralyzed. Although helpless, St. Julie offered her prayers so that
many people would find eternal happiness with God. She was more
united to God than ever and kept on teaching catechism from bed.
She was a very spiritual person. People came to her for advice because
she helped them grow closer to Jesus and practice their faith with
more love. She encouraged all to receive Holy Communion often. Many
young women were inspired by Julie's love for God. They were willing
to spend their time and money for good works. With Julie as their
leader, they started the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
Once a priest gave a mission in the town where Julie was. He asked
her to make a novena with him for an intention which he would not
tell her. After five days, on the feast of the Sacred Heart, he
said: "Mother, if you have faith, take one step in honor of
the Sacred Heart of Jesus." Mother Billiart, who had been paralyzed
for twenty-two years, stood up and was cured! St. Julie spent the
rest of her life training young women to become sisters. She watched
over her congregation. She had to suffer much from those who did
not understand her mission, but she always trusted God. Her favorite
words were: "How good is the good God." He assured her
that someday her religious congregation would be very large. And
that is just what happened. Although St. Julie died on April 8,
1816, today there are many of St. Julie's sisters all over the world.
Mother Julie was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
Waldetrudis was born in Belgium in the seventh century. Her mother,
her father and her sister have all been declared saints. She grew
up to be a beautiful girl. Even when she was enjoying herself, she
had a way of edifying people. Several young men wanted to marry
her. In those days, parents chose husbands for their daughters.
Her parents chose Count Madelgar. They could not have picked a better
man, because he became a saint too. He is St. Vincent Madelgar.
The couple had four children. Incredibly, all have been declared
St. Waldetrudis was happy that God had given her such a wonderful
family. Yet she had to suffer very much in her lifetime. Jealous
ladies spread terrible stories about her. The women were not pure
and kind as she was. They did not want people to think that she
was better than they. So they said she only prayed and did good
deeds to hide her secret sins. Of course, that was a lie, but the
saint did not defend herself. She thought of how Jesus had suffered
on the cross and, like him, she forgave her enemies. Quite a while
after the birth of their last child, St. Vincent explained that
he wanted very much to be a monk. In fact, he hoped to spend the
rest of his life in the monastery. His wife understood and gave
him her permission. St. Vincent made sure that his family was well
provided for. The couple was going to miss each other very much.
But Waldetrudis would not hold her husband back. She made the sacrifice
Two years later, Waldetrudis decided to become a nun. She lived
a very self-sacrificing life and was generous with the poor. People
came to her for spiritual advice and some who came reported healings.
St. Waldetrudis died in 688. After her death, many people who prayed
at her tomb reported miraculous healings.
BLESSED ANTHONY NEYROT
Anthony was born in northern Italy in the fifteenth century. He
joined the Dominican order in Florence, Italy. The prior at that
time was another saint, Antoninus. We celebrate his feast on May
10. This saint was to have a great influence on Blessed Anthony.
Brother Anthony was sailing from Naples to Sicily when pirates
captured the ship. Anthony was taken to Tunis and sold as a slave.
He was able to win his freedom, but fell away from the Church. He
denied his faith in Jesus and abandoned his religious vocation.
He accepted the Koran, the sacred book of the Muslims. For several
months, he practiced the Muslim religion. He also married.
In the meantime, his former Dominican prior, the saintly Antoninus,
died. This led Anthony to have a shocking experience. It seems that
one night, Anthony had something like a dream. St. Antoninus appeared
to him. The conversation between the two men was to lead to a radical
change in Anthony. He became truly sorry for having betrayed the
Lord. He knew that in his heart he could never give up his faith
in Jesus. He knew that he could only be a Catholic. And he realized
that he still wanted very much to be a Dominican brother.
Blessed Anthony sent his wife back to her family. He then put on
his white Dominican habit. In spite of his fear, he went to see
the ruler of Tunis. A large crowd gathered and the ruler came out
to the courtyard. Brother Anthony publicly admitted he had made
a terrible mistake. He was a Catholic. He believed in and loved
Jesus. He was a Dominican and wanted to be so for all his life.
The ruler was angry. He threatened and then made promises of rewards
if only Anthony would take back what he was saying. But Anthony
would not. He knew this meant his death. Anthony knelt and began
to pray for the courage to give his life for Jesus. Suddenly he
felt the large stones pounding him. He just kept praying for the
strength to remain true to the Lord. Then he lost consciousness.
Anthony died a martyr in 1460. Some merchants from Genoa, Italy,
took his remains back to his own country.
St. Stanislaus was born near Cracow, Poland, in 1030. His parents
had prayed for thirty years for a child. When Stanislaus was born,
they offered him to God because they were so grateful to have him.
When he grew up, he studied in Paris, France. After his parents
died, he gave all the money and property they had left him to the
poor. Then he became a priest.
In 1072, Stanislaus was made the bishop of Cracow. (Before he became
pope, John Paul II was also bishop of Cracow many centuries later.)
Bishop Stanislaus won the love of all the people. They especially
appreciated the way he took care of the poor, the widows and the
orphans. Often he served them himself. Poland's king at that time
was Boleslaus II. He was cruel and impure. The people were disgusted
with his lifestyle and were afraid of him. Bishop Stanislaus first
corrected him privately. The bishop was kind and respectful. But
he was honest, too, about what the king was doing wrong. The king
seemed sorry, but soon fell back into his old ways again. He committed
even more shameful sins. The bishop then had to put him out of the
Church. King Boleslaus flew into a rage at that. To get revenge,
he ordered two of his guards to kill St. Stanislaus. Three times
they tried and failed. Then the king himself, in a mad rage, rushed
into the bishop's chapel. He murdered St. Stanislaus as he was celebrating
Mass. It was April 11, 1079.
God worked many miracles after St. Stanislaus' death. All the people
called him a martyr. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Innocent
IV in 1253.
ST. JOSEPH MOSCATI
His brother's death made a deep impression on Joseph. He asked Jesus
in the Eucharist and Mary for answers. Suffering had to have a purpose.
He also became convinced of the importance of expert medical care.
Most important though, he realized that in this life we are journeying
toward eternity. It is up to us to help people and serve them as
we journey. Joseph wondered and prayed about what he should do with
his life. He decided that he wanted to help cure physical pain.
Joseph would become a doctor.
When he was twenty three, Dr. Moscati began his service at the
Hospital of the Incurables in Naples. Later he opened his own office.
All patients were welcome whether they could pay or not. He would
write prescriptions for poor patients, then pay for the medicine
out of his own pocket. Every day was long and hard, but Dr. Moscati
remained gentle and kind. He made the effort to listen carefully
to his patients. He encouraged them and prayed for them.
Besides being an excellent doctor, he was holy too. How did he do
it? Each morning he went to Mass and spent time in prayer. Then
the doctor would visit the sick poor in the slums of Naples. From
there he would go to the hospital and begin his rounds. For twenty-four
years, Joseph worked and prayed for his patients. He poured all
his strength into his life's calling. On the afternoon of April
12, 1927, Dr. Moscati did not feel well, so he went to his office
and relaxed in an arm chair. There he had a stroke and died. He
Dr. Joseph Moscati was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II on
October 25, 1987.
St. Joseph's life was marked by selfless love for others who couldn't
give anything in return. Do I know people like this to whom I could
St. Martin was a priest of Rome who had a reputation for being well-educated
and holy. He became pope in July, 649. When people were arguing
over the truths about Jesus, Pope Martin called a meeting of bishops.
This meeting was the Council of the Lateran. It explained clearly
what we believe about certain truths. However, some Christians were
not pleased about it. Pope Martin knew the Council's explanations
were true. It was his duty as pope to teach people the truth.
Some powerful men did not appreciate Pope Martin's activities.
One such person was Emperor Constans II of Constantinople. He sent
his soldiers to Rome to capture Martin and bring him to Constantinople.
The soldiers kidnapped the pope. They took him right out of the
Lateran Cathedral and snuck him onto a ship. Pope Martin got sick,
but they continued their journey. In October, 653, he was put in
jail in Constantinople for three months. He was given only a little
food and water each day. He wasn't even allowed to wash himself.
Pope Martin was put on trial, publicly humiliated and condemned
to death. But then he was sent back to the same prison for three
more months. Patriarch Paul of Constantinople pleaded for the pope's
life. So instead of death, the pope was sentenced to be exiled.
Pope Martin was put on a ship that took him across the Black Sea.
In April, 654, it landed on the Russian peninsula called the Crimea.
Pope Martin was shocked at the neglect he suffered from those who
were in charge of his captivity. He wrote his own account of those
sad days. The pope said that he felt very bad to be forgotten by
his relatives and members of the Church in Rome. He knew they were
afraid of the emperor. But at least, he said, they could have sent
supplies of corn, oil and other basic needs. But they did not. They
abandoned the pope because of fear. The pope's exile lasted two
years. He died around 656. Because of his terrible sufferings, he
was proclaimed a martyr. He is the last of the popes so far to be
considered a martyr.
The name Lidwina means "suffering." Lidwina was from Holland.
She was born in 1380 and died in 1433. When she was fifteen, Lidwina
dedicated herself completely to God. She might have eventually become
a nun. But in a single afternoon, her entire life was changed. The
girl went skating with her friends. One of them accidentally bumped
her. Lidwina fell down hard on the ice and broke a rib. She was
in pain. But the fall triggered other problems, too. In the days
ahead, she had severe headaches, nausea, fever, pain throughout
her whole body and thirst.
Crying, Lidwina told her father she could not stand the pain anymore.
But the pain increased. She developed sores on her face and body.
She became blind in one eye. Finally, she could no longer leave
her bed. Lidwina was frustrated and bitter. Why had God let this
happen to her? What did he want from her? And what could she still
give to him anyway? Her parish priest, Father John, came to visit
and pray with her. He helped her think of what Jesus had suffered.
She began to realize the beautiful gift that she would give to Jesus:
she would suffer for him. She would offer her sufferings to console
him, who had suffered so much on the cross. Her suffering became
a beautiful prayer to God. Little by little, Lidwina began to understand.
For thirty-eight years, Lidwina suffered. It seemed impossible
that she could remain alive in such serious condition. But she did.
God comforted her in many ways. Lidwina was good to everyone who
came to her poor little room. She prayed to God and suffered for
their special intentions. They knew God would listen to Lidwina.
Lidwina's special love was for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. For
many years, she seemed to live only on Holy Communion.
BLESSED DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI
Joseph "Jeff" de Veuster was born in 1840, the son of
Belgian farmers. He and his brother, Pamphile, joined the congregation
of the Sacred Hearts. These missionaries were responsible for the
Catholic faith on the Hawaiian Islands. Jeff chose the name "Damien."
Brother Damien was tall and strong. His years of helping on the
family farm had given him a healthy look. Everybody liked him because
he was good-natured and generous.
More missionaries were needed in the kingdom of Hawaii. In 1863,
a group of Sacred Hearts priests and brothers were chosen to go.
Pamphile, Damien's brother, was selected. Just before the departure
date, Pamphile came down with typhoid fever. He could no longer
consider going to the missions. Brother Damien, still studying to
become a priest, asked to take his place. The father general accepted
Damien's offer. He went home to his family for a loving farewell.
Then he took the ship from Belgium to Hawaii, a journey of eighteen
weeks. Damien finished his studies and was ordained a priest in
Hawaii. He spent eight years among the people of three districts.
He traveled on horseback and by canoe.
The people loved this tall, generous priest. He saw that they responded
to ceremonies. He used the little money he could raise to build
chapels. He and volunteer parishioners built the chapels themselves.
But the most incredible part of Damien's life was soon to begin.
The bishop asked for a volunteer priest to go to the island of Molokai.
The very name struck the people with fear and dread. They knew that
the section of the island called Kalawao was the "living graveyard"
of people dying of leprosy. There was so much ignorance about the
disease and such great fear of contagion that lepers were mostly
abandoned. Many just despaired. There was no priest, no law enforcement
agent on Molokai, no health-care facilities. The Hawaiian government
sent some food and medical supplies, but it was not sufficient.
And there were no organized means to distribute the goods. Father
Damien went to Molokai. Faced with the poverty, corruption and despair,
even Damien was shaken. But he made up his mind that for him there
was no turning back. The people were desperately in need of help.
He went to Honolulu to confront the members of the board of health.
They told him that he could not travel back and forth to Molokai
for fear of contagion. Their real reason was that they didn't want
him on Molokai. He was creating too many problems for them. So Damien
had to make a choice: if he went back to Molokai, he could never
leave. The board of health didn't know Damien. He chose Molokai.
He labored for eighteen years until his death on Molokai. With the
help of the lepers and generous volunteers, Molokai was transformed.
The word Molokai took on a whole different meaning. It became an
island of Christian love. Father Damien eventually became a leper
himself. He died on April 15, 1889, at the age of forty-nine and
was buried there. He was proclaimed "blessed" by Pope
John Paul II in 1994.
ST. BENEDICT JOSEPH LABRE
This French saint, born in 1748, led a most unusual life. He was
the son of a store owner and was taught by his uncle, a priest.
When the good priest died, Benedict tried to enter a monastery.
However, he was told he was too young. Then he contacted another
order of monks. He loved the life of prayer and penance. But when
he joined them, Benedict became thin and frail. It was suggested
that he return home to lead a good Christian life. He went home
and slowly gained back his health. He prayed for God's help. Then
he felt he was given an answer. He would become a pilgrim, a person
on a holy journey of prayer and penance. As a pilgrim, he would
travel to the famous shrines of Europe.
Benedict began his journey on foot. He visited one church after
another. He wore a plain cloth robe, a crucifix over his heart and
a rosary around his neck. He slept on the bare ground. The only
food he had was what kind people gave him. If they gave him money,
he passed it on to the poor. His "suitcase" was a sack.
In it he carried his own Gospel, as well as medals and holy books
to give to others. St. Benedict paid no attention to the beautiful
sights in the cities he visited. His only interest was in the churches
where Jesus dwelt in the Blessed Sacrament.
As the years passed, St. Benedict looked more and more like a beggar.
He was ragged and dirty. He ate crusts of bread and potato peels.
He never asked for anything that would make his life more comfortable.
In some places, children threw stones at him and called him names.
People who didn't know him tended to avoid him. But when St. Benedict
knelt in front of the tabernacle, he became as still as a statue.
His pale, tired face glowed. He would talk to Jesus and to the Blessed
Mother. He would whisper, "Mary, O my Mother!" He was
truly happy when he was keeping Jesus and the Blessed Mother company.
He died in 1783 at the age of thirty-five. The fame of this poor
holy man spread far and wide. His journey had ended. The pilgrimage
was over and he would be with Jesus and Mary forever. A century
after his death, St. Benedict Joseph Labre was proclaimed a saint
by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
ST. STEPHEN HARDING
Stephen was a young Englishman who lived in the twelfth century.
He was a good student who liked to learn. Stephen was especially
interested in literature. He was serious about life and prayed daily.
Once Stephen and his friend set out on foot as pilgrims for Rome.
When they returned, Stephen joined a very poor and holy group of
monks. These men prayed, fasted and worked hard. That was their
way of showing their love for God. Stephen noticed how happy they
were. Their abbot was another saint, St. Robert.
For a while, Stephen served God joyfully with them. But little
by little the monks did not want to live such a strict life anymore.
So St. Robert and St. Stephen and twenty of the monks started a
new monastery. They built it themselves in the wilderness in France
called Citeaux. They lived a life of work and great poverty. They
wanted to imitate the poverty of Jesus. They kept strict silence.
When St. Stephen became the abbot, he had many troubles. The monks
had just a little food. Then over half of the monks became sick
and died. It looked as though the community would come to an end.
They needed new, young members to continue their life. Stephen prayed
with faith. And his prayer was rewarded. God sent to these monks
called Cistercians thirty young men who wanted to join them. They
arrived at the monastery gate all together. Their leader was to
become a great saint, too. His name is St. Bernard. We celebrate
his feast day on August 20. This was a marvelous day for St. Stephen
and the monks.
St. Stephen spent the last few years of his life writing a book
of rules for the monks. He also trained St. Bernard to take his
When he lay dying, St. Stephen heard the monks around him whispering.
They were saying that Stephen did not have to be afraid to die.
He had worked so hard and loved God so much. But St. Stephen said
that he was afraid he had not been good enough. And he really meant
it. That shows us how humble this great saint was. He died in 1134.
BLESSED MARY OF THE INCARNATION
Barbara was born in France in 1566. She was married to Peter Acarie
when she was seventeen. She and her husband loved their Catholic
faith and practiced it. The couple had six children and their family
life was happy. Barbara tried to be a good wife and mother. Her
family learned from her a great love for prayer and works of charity.
Once, when her husband was accused unjustly of a crime, Barbara
herself saved him. She went to court, and, all alone, proved that
he was not guilty. Although she was busy with her own family, she
always found time to feed those who were hungry. She instructed
people in the faith. She helped the sick and dying. She gently encouraged
people who were living sinfully to change their ways. The good deeds
she performed were works of mercy.
When her husband died, Barbara entered the Carmelite order. She
was to spend the last four years of her life as a nun. Her three
daughters had become Carmelites, too. Barbara's new name as a nun
was Sister Mary of the Incarnation. She joyfully worked in the kitchen
among the pots and pans. When her own daughter became the superior
of the monastery, Blessed Mary willingly obeyed her. So humble was
she that as she was dying, she said: "The Lord forgive the
bad example I have given you." The nuns were really surprised
because she had tried so hard to live a good life. Blessed Mary
died in 1618. She was fifty-two.
BLESSED JAMES DUCKETT
James Duckett was an Englishman who lived during the reign of Queen
Elizabeth I. As a young man he became an apprentice printer in London.
This is how he came across a book called The Firm Foundation of
the Catholic Religion. He studied it carefully and believed that
the Catholic Church was the true Church. In those days, Catholics
were persecuted in England. James decided that he wanted to be a
Catholic anyway and would face the consequences. The clergyman at
his former church came to look for him because James had been a
steady church goer. He would not come back. Twice he served short
prison terms for his stubbornness. Both times his employer interceded
and got him freed. But then the employer asked James to find a job
James Duckett knew there was no turning back. He sought out a disguised
Catholic priest in the Gatehouse prison. The old priest, "Mr.
Weekes," instructed him. Duckett was received into the Catholic
Church. He married a Catholic widow and their son became a Carthusian
monk. He recorded much of what we know about his father.
Blessed Duckett never forgot that it was a book that had started
him on the road to the Church. He considered it his responsibility
to provide his neighbors with Catholic books. He knew these books
encouraged and instructed them. So dangerous was this "occupation"
that he was in prison for nine out of twelve years of his married
life. He was finally brought to trial and condemned to death on
the testimony of one man, Peter Bullock, a book binder. He testified
that he had bound Catholic books for Blessed Duckett, a "grave
offense." Bullock turned traitor because he was in prison for
unrelated matters and hoped to be freed.
Both men were condemned to die on the same day. On the scaffold
at Tyburn, Blessed Duckett assured Bullock of his forgiveness. He
kept encouraging the man as they were dying to accept the Catholic
faith. Then the ropes were placed around their necks. Blessed Duckett
was martyred in 1602.
ST. AGNES OF MONTEPULCIANO
This saint was born near the city of Monte pulciano, Italy, in 1268.
When she was just nine years old, she begged her mother and father
to let her live at the nearby convent. Agnes was very happy with
the sisters. They led a quiet, prayerful life. They worked hard,
too. Even though she was young, Agnes understood why the sisters
lived and prayed so well. They wanted to be very close to Jesus.
The years passed. St. Agnes received her training as a novice. She
was such a good nun that the other sisters were pleased to have
her. Agnes prayed with all her heart. She gave the sisters a good
example. Some young women came to join them. Agnes and the sisters
belonged to the Order of Preachers, called Dominicans.
Eventually, Agnes was chosen superior or "prioress" of
the convent. She tried to be fair and honest with each sister. She
kept reminding herself that everything she did was for Jesus. She
believed that Jesus was really in charge of the convent. He was
taking care of them.Mother Agnes performed hard penances. She was
kind and gentle even when she didn't feel like it. God filled Agnes
with joy and sometimes gave her spiritual favors. One time he even
let her hold the Christ Child in her arms.
Agnes was a sickly woman. But she was patient even when she was
very ill. She never complained or felt sorry for herself. Instead,
she offered everything to God. Toward the end of her life, the sisters
realized she was not going to get better. They were very sad. "If
you loved me, you would be glad," Agnes said. "I am going
to enter the glory of Jesus." St. Agnes died in 1317 at the
age of forty-nine. She was proclaimed a saint in 1726. Her tomb
became a place of pilgrimage. Many people came to pray to this holy
woman and to seek her help. Among the pilgrims was the famous St.
Catherine of Siena. We celebrate St. Catherine's feast day on April
Anselm was born in northern Italy in 1033. From his home he could
see the Alps mountains. When he was fifteen, Anselm tried to join
a monastery in Italy. But his father was against it. Then Anselm
became sick. Not long after he got better, his mother died. He was
still young and rich and clever. Soon he forgot about wanting to
serve God. He began to think only of having good times. After a
while though, Anselm became bored with this way of life. He wanted
something better, something more important. He went to France to
visit the holy Abbot Lanfranc of the famous monastery of Bec. Anselm
became Lanfranc's very close friend and the abbot brought him to
God. He also helped Anselm decide to become a Benedic-tine monk.
Anselm was then twenty-seven.
Anselm was a warm-hearted man who loved his brother monks dearly.
Even those who first resented him soon became his friends. He became
the abbot in 1078. When he had to leave Bec to become archbishop
of Canterbury in England, he told the monks that they would always
live in his heart. The people of England loved and respected Anselm.
However, King William II persecuted him. Anselm had to flee into
exile in 1097 and in 1103. King William even forbade Anselm to go
to Rome to ask the pope's advice. But Anselm went anyway. He stayed
with the pope until the king died. Then he went back to his diocese
Even in the midst of his many duties, St. Anselm always found time
to write important books of philosophy and theology. He also wrote
down the many wonderful instructions he had given the monks about
God. They were very happy about that. He used to say: "Would
you like to know the secret of being happy in the monastery? Forget
the world and be happy to forget it. The monastery is a real heaven
on earth for those who live only for Jesus." St. Anselm died
on April 21, 1109. He was declared a great teacher or Doctor of
the Church by Pope Clement XI in 1720.
ST. SOTER AND ST. CAIUS
St. Soter was pope long ago in the times of the Roman emperors.
He was a real father to all Christians. He gave much help to those
who were poor. He took special care of those who had been condemned
to work in dangerous mines. They were sent there because they would
not give up their faith in Jesus. These brave Christians were hungry
all the time. They were allowed only a little rest. Other Christians
were chained in prisons. Good Pope Soter did everything he possibly
could to comfort and help them.
St. Soter also helped Christians who were far away from Rome. This
holy pope was a great preacher. All the Christians loved to listen
to him explain our religion. He spoke with such love. He inspired
them with the courage to die for Jesus rather than sacrifice to
false gods. St. Soter himself gave his life for Jesus in the year
174 after having been pope for ten years.
St. Caius was pope about one hundred years later. He, too, lived
in times of persecution. This pope did all he could to prepare people
to keep the faith at any sacrifice. To be of more help to his people,
he lived eight years in underground rooms, called catacombs. These
were cemeteries where the Christians often met in secret to pray
and receive the sacraments. This was their hiding place from the
cruel pagan soldiers. The Christians knew they would be killed if
they were caught. St. Caius was pope for twelve years. Then he,
too, was martyred. He died in the year 296.
Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to rescue
a beautiful lady. The dragon stands for wickedness. The lady stands
for God's holy truth. St. George is slaying the dragon because he
has won the battle against the devil.
Not much is known about St. George except that he was a martyr.
He was a soldier in the army of Diocletian, a pagan emperor. Diocletian
was a bitter enemy of the Christians. In fact, he put to death every
Christian he could find.
It is believed that St. George was one of Diocletian's favorite
soldiers. When George became a Christian, he went to the emperor
and scolded him for being so cruel. Then he gave up his position
in the Roman army. St. George paid a very high price for his bravery.
He was cruelly tortured and beheaded. So boldly daring and so cheerful
was St. George in declaring his faith that people felt courage when
they heard about it. Many songs and poems were written about this
martyr. Soldiers, especially, have always been devoted to him. He
was named the patron of England in 1222.
ST. FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN
This saint's name was Mark Rey. He was born in Germany in 1578.
Mark went to the famous University of Freigburg to become a lawyer.
Even as a student, he likes to visit the sick and the poor. He spent
time praying daily. His brother chose to be a Capuchin Franciscan
priest. Mark, instead, finished his studies and became a famous
Mark often took on the cases of poor people who had no money to
pay. This won him the nickname, "The Poor Man's Lawyer."
Because he was very honest, Mark became disgusted with the dishonesty
of the law courts. He decided top follow his brother and become
a priest. He received his religious habit and took the name Fidelis,
which means "faithful."
Father Fidelis was filled with joy when he was assigned to Switzerland
there were many enemies of the Catholic faith. Father Fidelis wanted
to win these people back to the Church. His preaching brought wonderful
results. Many people were converted. Enemies of the Church grew
angry at his success.
St. Fidelis admitted that his life was in danger, yet he went right
on preaching. In the middle of a sermon one day, a shot was fired,
but the bullet missed. Father Fidelis knew he had to leave the town
at once. He did, but as he was walking down the road to the next
town, a mob of angry men stopped him. They ordered the priest to
give up the Catholic religion. St. Fidelis said firmly, "I
will not give up the Catholic faith." The men pounced on him
with their clubs and crude tools.
The wounded priest pulled himself up to a kneeling position. He
prayed: "Lord, forgive my enemies. They do not know what they
are doing. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me! Holy Mary, my Mother, help
me!" The men attacked him again until they were certain he
was dead. St. Fidelis died a martyr in 1622 at the age of forty-four.
Pope Benedict XIV proclaimed him a saint in 1746.
ST. MARK THE EVANGELIST
Mark lived at the time of Jesus. Although he was not among the original
twelve apostles, he was a relative of St. Barnabas, an apostle.
Mark is well-known because he wrote one of the four Gospels. That
is why he is called an evangelist, a Gospel writer. Mark's Gospel
is short, but it gives many little details that are not in the other
While still young, Mark went with the two great saints, Paul and
Barnabas, on a missionary journey to bring the teachings of Jesus
to new lands. Before the journey was over, though, Mark seems to
have had a disagreement with St. Paul. Mark suddenly returned to
Jerusalem. Paul and Mark later worked out their differences. In
fact, Paul wrote from prison in Rome that Mark came to console and
Mark also became a beloved disciple of St. Peter, the first pope.
St. Peter called St. Mark "my son." Some think that Peter
meant to say that he had baptized Mark. Mark was consecrated a bishop
and sent to Alexandria, Egypt. There he converted many people. He
worked hard to spread love for Jesus and his Church. It is believed
that he went through long and painful sufferings before he died.
St. Mark's relics were brought to Venice, Italy. He is the patron
saint of that famous city. People go to the beautiful basilica of
St. Mark to honor him and to pray to him.
This saint lived in ninth-century France. No one knows who his parents
were. They left their newborn infant on the doorstep of Notre-Dame
convent. The nuns loved and cared for the baby. They named him Radbertus.
When he was old enough to be educated, Radbertus was sent to the
monks of St. Peter nearby.
The boy loved learning and especially enjoyed the Latin classics.
When he grew up, he lived a quiet, scholarly life. He remained a
lay person for several years. Then he felt the call to become a
monk. He joined a community led by two fervent abbots, St. Adalhard
and his brother who succeeded him, Abbot Wala. Radbertus tried to
be a holy monk. He often accompanied the two abbots on their journeys.
He wrote their biographies after they died.
Radbertus became a Scripture scholar. He wrote a long commentary
on the Gospel of St. Matthew. He produced other explanations of
parts of the Bible, too. But his most well-known work is called
"The Body and Blood of Christ."
Radbertus did not feel that he had a vocation to be a priest. But
he was persuaded to accept the appointment of abbot for a seven-year
term. Then he insisted that he return to his life of prayer, meditation,
study and writing. His term as abbot was very difficult for him
although he did the best he could. He spent the rest of his life
praying, writing and doing the tasks assigned him. Radbertus died
Zita is known as the patron saint of domestic workers. She was born
in the village of Monte Sagrati, Italy, in 1218. Her parents were
deeply religious and raised Zita in a loving, Christian way. It
was the custom of poor couples to send their teenage daughters to
trustworthy families who could afford servants. The young women
would live with the families for a time and were employed to do
the domestic tasks. Zita was sent to the Fatinelli family in Lucca
when she was twelve.
Mr. and Mrs. Fatinelli were good people who had several workers.
Zita was happy to be able to work and send money to her parents.
She tried to live responsibly. She formed habits of praying that
fit in with her schedule. She rose early to go to daily Mass.
Zita was diligent in her work. She felt it was part of her very
self. But the other workers were annoyed. They tried to do as little
as they could get away with. They began to pick on Zita and oppose
her without their employers noticing. Zita was hurt but she prayed
for patience. She never told on the workers. She insisted on doing
her work as well as possible no matter what they thought.
When one of the workers tried to kiss her, Zita fought him off.
He left the room with several scratches on his face. Mr. Fatinelli
questioned her privately about the incident. She told him honestly
what had happened. After that, Zita became the head housekeeper.
The Fatinelli children were placed under her care. Best of all,
the other workers stopped persecuting her. Some even began to imitate
Zita spent her whole life with the Fatinelli family. While others
came and went, she stayed. She served them lovingly. She loved them
like she loved her own family. By her example, she helped people
see that work is beautiful when it is done with Christian love.
Zita died peacefully on April 27, 1278. She was sixty years old.
ST. PETER CHANEL
St. Peter Chanel was born near Belley, France, in 1803. From the
time he was seven, he took care of his father's sheep. Though poor,
he was intelligent and loved his faith, too. One day, a good parish
priest met him. He thought so much of Peter that he asked his parents
if he could educate the boy. In this priest's little school, and
later in the seminary, Peter studied hard. When he became a priest,
he was sent to a parish where just a few Catholics still practiced
their faith. Father Chanel was prayerful. He was kind and patient
with everyone. In just three years there was a big improvement.
Many people became full of love for Jesus and his Church again.
St. Peter Chanel had a great desire to become a missionary. He
joined a religious order called Marist missionaries. He hoped he
would be sent to bring the Gospel to people who did not yet believe
in God. After a few years, his wish came true. He and a group of
Marist missionaries were sent to the islands of the South Pacific.
Father Chanel and one brother were assigned to the island of Futuna.
There the people willingly listened to Father Chanel preach. "This
man loves us," one of the people said. "And he himself
practices what he teaches us to do."
Unfortunately, the chief of this tribe became jealous of the priest's
success. When the chief's own son was baptized, he was furious.
He sent a band of his warriors to kill the missionary. All the priest
said as he lay dying was, "It is well with me." St. Peter
Chanel was killed on April 28, 1841. Within a short time after his
martyrdom, the whole island became Christian. Peter was declared
a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954.
ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA
Born in 1347, this well-known saint is the patroness of Italy, her
country. Catherine was the youngest in a family of twenty-five children.
Her mother and father wanted her to be happily married. However,
Catherine wished only to be a nun. To prove her point, she cut off
her long, beautiful hair. She wanted to make herself unattractive.
Her parents were very upset and scolded her frequently. They also
gave her the heaviest housework to do. But Catherine did not back
down. Finally, her parents stopped opposing her.
St. Catherine was very honest and straight forward with Jesus.
Once she asked him, "Where were you, Lord, when I had such
shameful temptations?" And Jesus answered, "Daughter,
I was in your heart. I made you win with my grace." One night,
many people of Siena were out on the streets celebrating. Jesus
appeared to Catherine who was praying alone in her room. With Jesus
was his Blessed Mother. She took Catherine's hand and lifted it
up to her Son. Jesus put a ring on the saint's finger and she became
In Catherine's time, the Church had many problems. There were fights
going on all over Italy. Catherine wrote letters to kings and queens.
She even went to beg rulers to make peace with the pope and to avoid
wars. Catherine asked the pope to leave Avignon, France, and return
to Rome to rule the Church. She told him it was God's will. He listened
to St. Catherine and did what she said.
Catherine never forgot that Jesus was in her heart. Through her,
Jesus helped the sick people she nursed. Through her Jesus comforted
the prisoners she visited in jail. This great saint died in Rome
in 1380. She was just thirty-three. She was proclaimed a saint by
Pope Pius II in 1461. In 1970, Pope Paul VI declared St. Catherine
a Doctor of the Church. She received this great honor because she
served Jesus' Church heroically during her brief lifetime.
ST. PIUS V
This holy pope was born in Italy in 1504. He was baptized Anthony
Ghislieri. He wanted to become a priest, but it seemed as though
his dream would never come true. His parents were poor. They had
no money to send him to school. One day, two Dominicans came to
his home and met Anthony. They liked him so much that they offered
to educate him. And so at the age of fourteen, Anthony joined the
Dominican order. That is when he took the name "Michael."
Eventually, he became a priest. Then he became a bishop and cardinal.
Courageously he defended the teachings of the Church against those
who opposed them. He continued to live a life of penance. When he
was sixty-one, he was chosen pope. He took the name Pope Pius V.
He had once been a poor shepherd boy. Now he was the head of the
whole Catholic Church. Yet he remained as humble as ever. He still
wore his white Dominican habit, the same old one he had always worn.
And no one could persuade him to change it.
As pope, Pius V had many challenges to face. He drew strength from
the crucifix. He meditated every day on the sufferings and death
of Jesus. At this time, the Turks were trying to conquer the whole
Christian world. They had a great navy on the Mediterranean Sea.
A Christian force went to battle them at a place called Lepanto,
near Greece. From the moment the army set out, the pope prayed the
Rosary. He encouraged the people to do the same. Thanks to the help
of the Blessed Mother, the Christians won a great victory. In gratitude
to Mary, St. Pius V established the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
We celebrate it each year on October 7.
Pope Pius V died in Rome on May 1, 1572. His feast is celebrated
today because May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Pius
V was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XI in 1712.