MONTH OF APRIL
of our Saints of the Month page come from a two-volume book published by the
Pauline Books and Media, Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, MA, entitled "Saints
for Young Readers for Every Day of the Year." Visit their website www.pauline.org.
ST. 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.
Today let us pray to God to help us know what he desires for us.
ST. FRANCIS OF PAOLA
St. 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 him greatly.
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.
"Beloved Jesus, preserve the just; justify sinners; have compassion on all the faithful, living and dead; be merciful to me, although I am nothing more than an unworthy sinner."-St. Francis of Paola
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.
How can the love of Jesus become the center of everything I do?
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.
What difference can I make in this world today? What is my dream to make it a better world?
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.
To whom do I especially give credit and offer thanks for the success or achievement that comes my way?
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.
"God is doing now what he has always done. He is pushing down those who are proud and is raising up the lowly."-Blessed Notker
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.
"I adore God's manner of acting in all things in my regard."-St. John Baptist de la Salle
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.
"How good is the good God." -St. Julie Billiart
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 saints.
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 for God.
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.
There are sad events at times in our lives. We especially pray to have the courage to act, as Jesus would do in these situations to feel his comfort.
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.
Could I make the Sacrament of Reconciliation more a part of my life? What difference would this make?
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.
Being evaluated is never easy. Can I see it as an opportunity to become a better person?
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 was forty-seven.
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 give something?
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.
Can I appreciate the gifts of others and be thankful for them, or do I fall into the trap of envying them?
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.
Let us pray today for a heart able to appreciate the meaning of human suffering.
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.
Blessed Damien showed a remarkable courage and generosity even to the point of giving his life. How is my witness as a Christian? Do I show love and support to those around me?
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.
Mary, O my Mother!" We can make this whisper of love to Mary our own and think of her often.
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 place.
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.
We might consider finding some "quiet time" each day to let God work in our minds and hearts.
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.
Despite her many responsibilities, Blessed Mary of the Incarnation sought God first in everything. What would happen if I put God first in my life?
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 elsewhere.
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.
We pray today for all those who work in the media of social communication-journalists, TV producers, screenwriters, movie artists, disc jockeys, and webmasters.
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 29.
Let us pray today for those who have dedicated their whole lives serving others.
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 in England.
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.
"You were looking for God, and you have discovered that he is the Supreme Being, and that you could not possibly imagine anything more perfect. You have discovered that this Supreme Being is life itself, light, wisdom, goodness, eternal blessedness, and blessed eternity."-St. Anselm
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.
Let us pray that the Lord may give strength and courage to those who are persecuted throughout the world because they are Christians.
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.
Am I willing to give up something when I know it hinders my relationship with God?
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 lawyer.
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.
Do I believe that God uses me in a unique way to bring others closer to him?
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 Gospels.
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 help him.
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.
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)
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 in 860.
May we always praise God for the gift of our life.
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 her.
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.
The life of this saint tells us that work is beautiful when it is done with Christian love. How do I value my work?
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.
Do I desire and hope to bring the gospel to people who do not yet believe in God?
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 his bride.
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.
"You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul, I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light." --St. Catherine of Siena
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.
We pray today for all the bishops, priests and ministers of the Church.