For more information about the saints, especially if you are looking for a Confirmation name, check out http://www.catholic.org/saints/
St. Agnes was an early martyr of the Church. At the tender age of about 12, she was accused of being a Christian when that was still a crime in the Roman Empire. She refused to renounce her faith when taken before a judge, and she was martyred by the sword on January 21 (her feast day) in the year 304. She is a patron saint of girls, young women, engaged couples, gardeners, chastity, and rape victims.
St. Albert the Great was born in 1206 in Swabia, Germany. His teacher, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, inspired him to join the Dominicans. He studied and taught philosophy at Cologne and Paris, and he became one of the most noted philosophers of his day. At Cologne he was famous as the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a prolific writer on religious and philosophical subjects, but his interests also extended to the physical sciences, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology. He was beatified in 1622, and he was effectively canonized in 1931 when Pope Pius XI declared him a Doctor of the Church. His feast day is November 15, and he is a patron saint of scientists and philosophers.
St. Andrew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was a follower of John the Baptist who then became a follower of Jesus. He also led his brother Simon Peter to become a follower of Christ. After the Resurrection and Pentecost, Andrew spread the faith in Greece and perhaps as far as Russia. He was martyred in Greece by being crucified on an X-shaped cross. To this day, flags adorned with a simple X design are known as St. Andrew’s Cross. He is a patron saint of fishermen, of Russia, and of Scotland. His feast day is November 30.
St. Angela Merici was born in the Lombardy region of Italy in 1474. She became an orphan at age 15, and she soon joined the Third Order of St. Francis. While still a young women, she founded an association of young women to start a school for girls. This program met with great success. Later, she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and she became blind during an illness while stopped on the island of Crete. On her way back to Italy after the pilgrimage, she stopped there again and was cured of her blindness while she prayed at the very same spot where she had become blind. Finally, in 1535, Angela Merici joined with 12 companions and founded the Order of St. Ursula, which we know today as the Ursulines, and which was devoted even then to running orphanages and schools. She died on January 27, 1540, and January 27 is her feast day.
St. Angela of the Cross was born in 1846 in Seville, Spain, to humble parents who both worked in a convent. As a young woman, Angela twice attempted to join religious communities, but she was rejected because of her bad health. Nevertheless, she continued to live a life of prayer and service to the poor. In 1875, three other women joined her in her simple life of poverty, prayer, and service, and gradually a full-fledged religious community grew up around Angela. Calling themselves the Sisters of the Company of the Cross, these nuns devoted themselves to contemplation and prayer while at home and to caring for the poor and the dying when they went out into the world. By the time Mother Angela died in 1932, 24 convents for her nuns had been established. She was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on May 4, 2003, and her feast day is March 2.
St. Anne and St. Joachim are, by long tradition, honored as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their stories are not told in the Bible, but the tradition tells us that they lived in Galilee, that they moved to Jerusalem in their old age, and that there Anne conceived and gave birth to their daughter Mary. According to the tradition, Anne and Joachim died in Jerusalem as well. Although nothing else specific is known about their lives and deeds, Anne and Joachim are honored for having raised their daughter to be a worthy mother of God. Anne is honored as a patron saint of mothers and of women in labor. And as the grandparents of Jesus Himself, Anne and Joachim would certainly make great Confirmation names for anyone who feels that being a grandparent is his or her great vocation in life. The feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim is July 26.
St. Anne Line lived in England from 1567 to 1601. She and her brother converted to Catholicism and were disowned by their father as a result. From about 1594, Anne participated in a conspiracy to house and hide Catholic priests who would surreptitiously make their way into England to offer Mass illegally for Catholics. Caught by the authorities in 1601, she was tried on February 26 and executed by hanging the next day. She said, “I am sentenced to die for harboring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having done so, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.” She is a patron saint of converts, widows, and childless people. Her feast day is February 27.
St. Augustine was one of the early Church Fathers, the bishop of Hippo in Africa, and one of the greatest Christian theologians who has ever lived. He was born in 354 in what is now Algeria, and his parents were St. Monica (the patron saint of our parish) and a pagan named Patricius. Augustine was brilliant but lived a wild and dissolute life as a youth. After experimenting with many philosophies and heresies, he was finally converted to Christianity by St. Ambrose (and, undoubtedly, the many prayers of St. Monica). He was ordained a priest in 390 and became bishop of Hippo in 395. From then until his death in 430, St. Augustine governed his diocese, preached to his flock, and wrote voluminous works such as Confessions and City of God. He is recognized as a Doctor of the Church, and he is a patron saint of theologians, printers, brewers, those who suffer from sore eyes, and several cities. His feast day is August 29.
St. Benedict is one of our greatest saints. He was born in around 480, which was a chaotic time in the history of Western Civilization. (Recall that the western half of the Roman Empire is generally considered to have fallen in the year 476.) In this dark time, Benedict retreated to a cave on Mount Subiaco near Rome to live a contemplative life of prayer as a hermit. But word of his holiness spread, and he attracted followers. He was one of the first to organize a new style of communal religious life—the monastery. Ultimately, he founded a famous and very large monastery for his monks at Monte Cassino, Italy. He is famous for writing a “Rule,” or a kind of instruction manual for how to run a monastery, that is still used in Benedictine monasteries today. It is in the public domain, and is easily findable on the internet. St. Benedict died in about the year 547. His feast day is July 11, and he is a patron saint of Europe, of monks, and of poison sufferers (presumably because there is a story that some of his monks found Benedict’s rules too hard to live by and tried to poison him!).
St. Bernadette Soubirous lived from 1844 to 1879. She lived in poverty in the southern French town of Lourdes. At the age of 14, she experienced a number of apparitions of a beautiful woman who identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception.” A spring of water began to flow from the apparition site, and many miraculous cures are associated with that spring. Bernadette became a nun at age 22 and died at age 35. Her feast day is April 16. The date of the first apparition, February 11, is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux lived from 1090 to 1153. Born into wealth, he decided to enter religious life at age 22. In 1115 he was sent to found a new Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux. He was widely respected, and his advice was much sought after for both Church and government affairs. He is a Doctor of the Church. He is a patron saint of Cistercians, beekeepers, candlemakers, Burgundy, and Gibraltar. His feast day is August 20.
St. Blaise lived in the 200s-300s in Armenia. He was a bishop during a time of persecution of Christians, and he was eventually captured by the authorities, tortured, and suffered a martyr’s death in 316. A famous story about St. Blaise recounts that his blessing saved the life of a young boy who was choking on a fish bone. Because of this, he is a patron saint of those with throat ailments, and on his feast day of February 3 many Catholic churches still offer a blessing of the throat, using two crossed candles, in the name of St. Blaise.
St. Brigid is one of Ireland’s patron saints. She was born in about the year 450 to an Irish chief and a female slave. Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick himself, and Brigid was known for her holiness from a young age. In around the year 470, Brigid founded the first convent in Ireland, near what is now Kildare. Over the coming years, she founded other religious communities throughout Ireland, and her prayers and holiness spurred the early growth of the Church in Ireland. She was renowned for her joy, her energy, and her care for the poor. She died in about the year 525, and she is regarded as a patron saint of scholars and dairy workers as well as of Ireland. Her feast day is February 1.
St. Casimir lived from 1458 to 1484. Although he was a son of the king of Poland, Casimir had a horror of luxury and grew up a pious young man. He was especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin. He was occasionally involved in political controversies at home and abroad, but he became increasingly religious as time passed, and he was also known for his charity and good deeds for the poor. He contracted tuberculosis and died in the Lithuanian town of Vilnius. He has long been honored as a patron saint of Poland and Lithuania, and in 1948 Pope Pius XII also named him a special patron saint of all youths. His feast day is March 4.
St. Catherine Laboure lived from 1806 to 1876. In 1830, she joined a religious order, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. There she experienced at least two apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During one of those apparitions, Our Lady showed Catherine an image of what is now known as “the Miraculous Medal,” which shows Mary among other symbols and contains the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Over 50 years after her death, her body was exhumed and discovered to be incorrupt. Her feast day is November 28.
St. Catherine of Alexandria lived in Egypt in the fourth century. She converted to Christianity during her teens and then, in turn, began converting many others to the faith. She also denounced the Emperor Maxentius for persecuting Christians. Because Catherine was beautiful and wealthy, Maxentius actually proposed marriage to her, which she refused. She was then condemned to death and executed. Her feast day is November 25. She is a patron saint of philosophers and preachers.
St. Catherine of Genoa lived from 1447 to 1510. She wanted to enter the convent, but her parents compelled her to enter an arranged marriage at age 16. She endured a difficult and abusive marriage for some years, but her husband eventually converted. She received a number of private revelations relating to Purgatory, and she wrote many works, including “Dialogues of the Soul and Body” and “Treatise on Purgatory.” She is a patron saint of brides, childless people, difficult marriages, people who are ridiculed for their piety, victims of unfaithfulness, and widows. Her feast day is September 15.
St. Catherine of Siena lived from 1347 to 1380. She was a Dominican nun from the age of 18, and in the following years she was famed for converting thousands and for her heroic care of a sick during a plague. Later, she took a greater interest in worldly affairs, carrying on correspondence with popes, kings, and queens. She was especially active in trying to heal the great schism that developed when there were rival claimants to be pope. Catherine also wrote a famous Dialogue between a soul and God. For a time, she suffered from the visible stigmata — the wounds of Christ crucified. She is honored as a Doctor of the Church, and she is a patron saint of fire prevention, of Italy, and of Europe. Her feast day is April 29.
St. Cecilia comes to us by way of stories dating back to the 300s. Mostly we just know the story of her martyrdom. She was a Christian in the second or third century after Christ, and she longed to remain a virgin for Christ’s sake. But she was given in marriage to a Roman named Valerian. Through her prayers, he and his brother were both converted to Christianity. A persecution arose, and Valerian and his brother were put to death. Shortly thereafter, Cecilia also was martyred for the faith. According to the legend, the executioner was unable to cut her head off despite striking her neck with a sword three times. Cecilia lingered for three days, still able to speak to and pray for the crowds who went to see her, before she finally died. She is a patron saint of musicians and singers, because according to the stories she heard heavenly music in her heart on her wedding day. Her feast day is November 22.
Pope St. Clement I was a Roman of Jewish origin. He became a Christian and was ordained by St. Peter himself. The two popes after St. Peter were St. Linus and St. Cletus, and in about 91 A.D., Clement became pope. Pope St. Clement is remembered in particular for a letter he wrote to the church in Corinth to help resolve a quarrel that had arisen between the clergy and the lay people. His letter was preserved and widely read in the early Church. He is thought to have died, possibly by martyrdom, in around the year 100. He is a patron saint of marble-workers, and his feast day is November 23.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived from 1774 to 1821 and is famous for being the first native-born American to be canonized a saint. She was raised Episcopalian, and she and her husband William had five children. After William died in 1803, Elizabeth converted to Catholicism and founded a new religious community devoted to Catholic education, and she is a patron saint of Catholic schools. Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1975. Her feast day is January 4. Her shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland is very nice and well worth visiting. You might also be interested to know that actress Kate Mulgrew portrayed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in a 1980 TV movie called “A Time for Miracles.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary was born in 1207, the daughter of the king of Hungary. From infancy she was betrothed to Louis, the infant son of the ruler of the region of Thuringia in present-day Germany, and they were eventually wed. They were both religious, and the marriage seems to have been a happy one. Elizabeth devoted herself to works of charity, taking bread to the poor and even having a hospital built near the castle where she lived and caring for the sick herself. Tragically, Louis died when Elizabeth was only 20 years old, and she left the royal court to live the Franciscan way of life. She continued to spend her time caring for the sick, dying herself at the young age of 24. She was canonized in 1235, and her feast day is November 17. She is a patron saint of many causes, including bakers, the homeless, nurses, widows, and young brides.
St. Eugene de Mazenod was born in France in 1782. He was born into a wealthy and noble family, but the French Revolution forced the family to flee to Italy. His father failed to find work, and his mother eventually divorced him and returned to France. After a few more years in Italy, Eugene rejoined his mother in France and enjoyed a good life from the worldly perspective. But he was dissatisfied, and increased church involvement and charitable works eventually led to a strong religious experience on Good Friday when he was 25 years old. After that he entered the seminary and became a priest. He devoted himself to evangelizing the poor and outcast, and he eventually organized a group of priests drawn to the same mission. This group became known as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and it was approved by the Pope in 1826. The Missionaries proved so successful that they began spreading their work internationally, always reaching out to the most abandoned peoples wherever they went. They are still active today, and you can easily find out more about them online. Father Eugene himself became bishop of Marseilles, France, in 1837, and he served his flock faithfully there until his death in 1861. He was canonized (officially recognized as a saint) by Pope St. John Paul II in 1995. His feast day is May 21, and he is a patron saint of dysfunctional families.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized a saint. She was born in Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children in her family. She took religious vows in 1877, and that is when she added the name “Xavier” to her own, to honor the great missionary Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier. She and some other sisters founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in 1880 she left for America. Despite many difficulties and obstacles, she persevered, founding schools, orphanages, and hospitals. By the time of her death in 1917, she had founded 67 institutions across America and abroad. She was canonized in 1946, and her feast day is November 13. She is a patron saint of immigrants. Her National Shrine stands in Chicago and can be visited to this day.
St. Francis de Sales was a Frenchman born in 1567. He was religious from a young age, and after studying in Paris and Padua he entered the priesthood. The Protestant Reformation was still young, and religious passions ran high throughout Europe. But Francis was a very meek and restrained soul, and he was eventually given the great challenge of trying to convert the Swiss from Calvinism back to Catholicism. He undertook this challenge with his customary gentleness, and he was known for writing sermons by hand and sliding them under people’s doors. It is said that, after years of labor, he converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism; he also became bishop of Geneva. He also wrote works intended to encourage and instruct the laity in living holy lives, which was something of a novelty at the time. His book “Introduction to a Devout Life” became popular all over Europe. Francis died in 1622, and he was canonized in 1665. He is a patron saint of journalists and writers. His feast day is January 24.
St. Francis of Assisi lived from about 1181 to 1226. Born into a wealthy family, he lived a life of youthful frivolity until a serious illness caused him to re-examine his life and renounce his wealth for a life of great simplicity and poverty. He attracted many followers, and Pope Innocent III approved his new order of religious, the Friars Minor. He made a missionary journey to the Holy Land and even attempted to convert the sultan from Islam to Christianity. Two years before his death he began to experience the stigmata–the wounds of Christ’s passion. He died at the age of 44 after a long and painful illness. He is a patron saint of Italy, animals, ecologists, and merchants. His feast day is October 4.
St. Genevieve lived from about 422 to 512. She lived in what is now France, and when she was only seven years old a bishop named Germanus (later a saint himself) passed through her town and, seeing her, predicted that she would live a life of great sanctity. From then on, she devoted herself to prayer and acts of penance. After Genevieve’s parents died, she moved to Paris and lived with her grandmother. At the age of 15, she sought the bishop’s permission to become a nun. She frequently had visions of angels and saints, and she had some influence with the kings of Gaul, as France was then known. When Attila the Hun and his army approached Paris, Genevieve persuaded the people not to flee the city, but instead to stay in their homes fasting and praying. Lo and behold, Attila unexpectedly changed his route and did not attack the city. St. Genevieve’s feast day is January 3, and she is a patron saint of the city of Paris.
Pope St. Gregory the Great lived from 540 to 604, and he was pope from 590 to 604. He was a zealous reformer and is remembered for his contributions to Church music (Gregorian chant), for promoting the primacy of the papacy, and for collecting the writings of the early Church Fathers. He also sent missionaries to Christianize England. He is a patron saint of students, teachers, musicians, singers, and England, and he is a Doctor of the Church. His feast day is September 3.
St. Hildegard of Bingen lived from 1098 to 1179. She was pious from a young age and became prioress of a house of nuns in 1136. She was known for her visions and prophecies, and for her many learned writings on science, medicine, music, theology, and Sacred Scripture. She was an advisor to kings and popes alike. An asteroid has been named in her honor, in recognition of her scientific works. She is also a Doctor of the Church. Her feast day is September 17.
St. Ignatius of Antioch lived from about 35 A.D. to 108. He was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, and according to legend he is the child taken in Christ’s arms in Mark chapter 9. During a persecution of Christians, he was taken to Rome for execution, and during the journey he wrote seven letters that among the earliest expositions of many Christian doctrines. He is a patron saint of the churches of the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Africa. His feast day is October 17.
St. Jerome was born in the 340s in what is now Croatia. He was a scholar and traveled widely, going to Rome, Trier in Germany, Antioch in Syria, Constantinople, and finally landed in Bethlehem in the Holy Land. Throughout his life he used his scholarship to engage in debate about the theological controversies of the day, and he was famous for his bad temper, which was often reflected in his writings and made him many enemies. But he was also swift to feel remorse, and he was very severe with himself and his shortcomings. After a lifetime of scholarship, he embarked upon his greatest work of all: the translation of the Bible into Latin, which had become the common language of the Roman Empire. His translation is called the Vulgate, which simply means “commonly used.” He died in 420. St. Jerome is a patron saint of librarians. His feast day is September 30.
St. Joachim. See entry for St. Anne and St. Joachim.
St. Joan of Arc was born on January 6, 1412, to a peasant family in the obscure village of Domremy, France. From a young age, she heard voices—those of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. In May 1428, the voices instructed her to go to the King of France, whose reign was under attack by both the king of England and the Duke of Burgundy. Being given a small army and the age of only 17, Joan led the French to victory after victory, and the king was able to regain his crown. But in 1430 she was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, and eventually convicted of heresy and sorcery. She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. She was exonerated 30 years later and canonized in 1920. She is a patron saint of soldiers and of France. Her feast day is May 30.
St. John Neumann lived from 1811 to 1860. He was born in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) and felt the calling to be a priest. In a turn of events that seems incredible today, his bishop declined to ordain him because there were too many priests in Bohemia! Sure of his vocation, John wrote to bishops in other dioceses, and the bishop of New York agreed to ordain him. So John set out for America, where he was ordained in 1836. He devoted himself to Catholic education and to serving the poor, and in 1852 he was ordained bishop of Philadelphia. He died in 1860 at the age of only 48, and he was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977. There is a shrine to St. John Neumann within St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.
St. John of the Cross was born into poverty in Spain in 1542. He became a priest in the Carmelite order at the age of 25. Soon thereafter, he became the friend of St. Teresa of Avila, and she involved him deeply in the reform of the Carmelite order that she was pursuing. But plenty of Carmelites didn’t want to be reformed, and they fought back. John himself was imprisoned and badly mistreated in an anti-reform Carmelite monastery for nine months. Although he escaped and later became a leader of the separate community of reformed Carmelites, that new community itself became bitterly divided, and John lost his leadership roles. At the age of 49, he was sent to a monastery where he contracted a fever and died. Over the years, he wrote many books on prayer and the spiritual life that are still read today, and well as many works of poetry. He was canonized in 1726 and is a patron saint of poets. His feast day is December 14.
St. John the Baptist is a very familiar New Testament figure. John was the son of Elizabeth, who was a kinswoman of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because Elizabeth was six months’ pregnant at the time of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced the birth of the Savior, we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist six months before Christmas, on June 24. We celebrate the martyrdom of John on August 29, and the story of his martyrdom is told in chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel. He is considered a patron saint of many things and many places, including Puerto Rico and French Canada.
St. Juan Diego lived in the 1400s and 1500s in the area that is now Mexico City. He was a pious Catholic, and on December 9, 1531 he experienced an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She told him to build a church on the spot. The local bishop was skeptical when Juan told him about this experience, but later the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan again and gave him miraculous flowers that he gathered in his cloak or tilma. He returned to the bishop with the flowers, and lo! The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been impressed on the inside of Juan’s cloak. To this day, that cloak hangs in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (“Our Lady of Guadalupe” being the way we refer to these particular apparitions of Mary, as contrasted to “Our Lady of Lourdes” or “Our Lady of Fatima”). The mother church of our own diocese is a cathedral in downtown Dallas dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9, and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is December 12.
St. Katharine Drexel lived from 1858 to 1955. She was the second native-born American to be canonized, which took place in 2000. From a prominent Philadelphia family, Katharine gave up all worldly ambitions to serve the Native American and African-American communities by founding schools to serve them. She also founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Native Americans and African Americans. When she died, there were more than 500 sisters teaching in 63 schools across the country. Her feast day is March 3.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in central New York state, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. A smallpox epidemic killed her immediate family when she was only 4, and it left her face badly scarred as well. She was adopted by relatives, but when she was baptized around the age of 19 or 20, she became an outcast among her own people. Eventually she fled to a community of Native American Christians in Canada, and there she became well-known for her piety, her life of prayer, and her care for the sick and elderly. She herself died at the young age of 24. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II, and she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012–the first Native American to be canonized. Her second miracle was a notable one. It was the miraculous healing of a young boy in Washington state in 2006. He had contracted the flesh-eating bacteria and was not expected to live. But through the intercession of Blessed Kateri (as she was called before her canonization), he miraculously survived the disease. Her feast day is July 14.
Pope St. Leo the Great lived from 400 to 461. He came from a noble Roman family and was a very good student of theology and scripture. He became a deacon, a priest, and, in 440, the pope. He defended the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the pope), helped define the doctrine of the Incarnation, and fought many heresies. Notably, he turned Attila the Hun away at the gates of Rome, and he later persuaded the invading Vandals not to sack Rome when they occupied it. He is a Doctor of the Church. His feast day is November 10.
St. Lucy was born in Sicily in the late 200s, and she was raised as a Christian by her widowed mother. She secretly made a vow of virginity, which she revealed to her mother after her mother was cured of a chronic illness at the tomb of St. Agatha. A man who desired Lucy as his wife was outraged at her refusal and accused her of being a Christian. She was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately martyred during the savage persecution under the Emperor Diocletian in about 304 or 305. She is a patron saint of the blind because there is a legend that she was blinded during her tortures. Her feast day is December 13.
St. Marcellus the Centurion was a Roman soldier and a Christian. In the year 298, while Marcellus was stationed in Spain, a decree went out that all should offer sacrifices to the pagan gods in the celebration of the birthday of Emperor Maximian. Marcellus refused, and he was thrown into prison. Although the governor of Spain was favorably disposed towards Christians, Marcellus’s case was eventually sent to a Roman official in Africa, and he was condemned to death. Cassian, the notary of the court, refused to write the sentence because he believed it to be unjust, so he was condemned to death too. St. Marcellus was beheaded on October 30, his feast day, and St. Cassian was executed on December 3. St. Marcellus is the patron saint of the city and province of León in Spain.
St. Margaret of Scotland was born in 1045 in Hungary; her father was an English prince who had been sent into exile, and her great-uncle was King Edward the Confessor. Her family eventually returned to England, but after the Norman Conquest in 1066 she and her family fled north. She wound up in Scotland, where she married King Malcolm III. She was renowned for her piety, her life of self-denial, her love for the poor, and her care of her eight children with Malcolm. Her husband and oldest son died in battle in 1093, and Margaret herself died only a few days later. Her feast day is November 16, and she is a patron saint of Scotland and of widows.
St. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad was born to a Lutheran family in Sweden in 1870. She emigrated to the United States at the age of 16 to earn money for her family. While studying nursing in New York City, she encountered many Catholic patients. Eventually she herself converted to Catholicism in 1902. Later she went on a pilgrimage to Rome and visited a house where her countrywoman, St. Bridget of Sweden, had lived centuries before. She felt called to work for Christian unity. She moved to Rome permanently, became a nun, and refounded the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget, attracting other nuns to join her in 1911. During World War II, she worked tirelessly for the poor and also hid Jews in her convent to save them from the Nazis. After the war she continued to work against racism and for inter-faith dialogue. She died on April 24, 1957. Pope Francis canonized her in 2016. Her feast day in June 4.
St. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala is a modern Mexican saint. She was born in 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, and her father ran a religious-goods store in front of the basilica there. She felt a vocation to the religious life, and in 1901 she founded a congregation of religious known as the Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Poor. Maria spent most of her time serving as a nurse and as the Mother Superior General of the congregation. She was devoted to the poor, and she sometimes begged for money on the street to help her congregation and the patients she served. During the persecution of the Church in Mexico, she sometimes hid priests and even an archbishop in her hospital. After the persecutions ended, her organization continued to grow, and today the Handmaids are active in five countries including Mexico. St. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala died on June 24, 1963, and she was canonized by Pope Francis in 2013. Her feast day is June 24.
St. Martin de Porres is one of our American saints. He was born at Lima, Peru in 1579, the son of a Spanish gentleman and a freed slave. He was a lay brother at a Dominican friary in Lima and spent his whole life there, working in many capacities including as a barber, a farm laborer, and a caretaker for the sick. He loved animals as well as people, and even set up a hospital for cats and dogs at his sister’s house! He was widely known for his wisdom, both practical and theological. He died in 1639, was canonized in 1962, and is a patron saint of hairdressers, health workers, innkeepers, and of persons of mixed race. His feast day is November 3.
St. Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of Christ’s followers a few times in the Gospels. She is mentioned in Luke 8, verse 2, as one of Christ’s followers as he traveled from town to town preaching. Luke also notes that seven demons had been cast out of her; Mark recites specifically that Jesus performed this miracle at Mark 16:9. John recounts that she was present at the crucifixion in chapter 19, verse 25, and like Mark he reports that she was the first to encounter the risen Lord. Because Mary carried the news of the Resurrection back to the Apostles, she has sometimes been called “Apostle to the Apostles.” There is a legend that years after Christ’s death, she was miraculously transported to the south of France, where she lived out the rest of her days. Her feast day is July 22.
St. Matthew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was a tax collector, and thus much despised by his fellow Jews for being a collaborator with the hated Romans. He answered Jesus’ call to discipleship, and he is most famous for being the author of one of the Gospels. He wrote his Gospel especially for his fellow Jews, emphasizing that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah. Where he pursued his missionary work after the Ascension is in some doubt, as is the manner of his death. He is the patron saint of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, and tax collectors. His feast day is September 21.
St. Maximilian Kolbe was another twentieth-century martyr who died at the hands of the Nazis. He was born in Poland in 1894 and became a Franciscan (that is, he joined a religious order devoted to the way of life inspired by St. Francis of Assisi). Ordained at 24, he founded a new organization called the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of virtuous living, prayer, work, and suffering. He traveled as far as Japan and India to promote the work of the Immaculata. After he returned home to Poland, World War II broke out, and he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. In 1941, a prisoner escaped, and the commandant chose ten men at random to be executed in reprisal. Father Kolbe was not chosen, but he volunteered to take the place of a young husband and father who had been chosen. Amazingly, the commandant permitted it. Father Kolbe and the other nine were locked in a cell to be left to starve to death. Father Kolbe led his fellow prisoners in song and prayer through their ordeal. On August 14, Father Kolbe was executed by lethal injection. Father Kolbe was canonized in 1982, and the man he saved, Francis Gajowniczec, was present at the ceremony. He is a patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, and the pro-life movement. His feast day is August 14.
St. Michael the Archangel is one of the three angels named in Scripture (along with Gabriel and Raphael). His name means “Who is like God,” and he is often depicted as conquering Satan. (A statue outside our church on the Midway Road side depicts just that.) He is a patron of grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police officers, and many others. His feast day is September 29.
Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro was born in Mexico in 1891 and began studying to become a Jesuit priest in 1911. He studied abroad and was ordained a priest in Belgium in 1926. Even though a persecution of the Catholic Church was underway in Mexico at that time, he returned to his native country and carried out his priestly duties in secret. Nevertheless, he soon attracted the attention of the anti-Catholic authorities, and he was arrested on false charges. He was executed by firing squad on November 23, 1927, and his feast day is November 23. Pope John Paul II beatified Father Pro on September 25, 1988.
St. Monica, patroness of our parish, lived from 333 to 387. She suffered many trials in her life, such as being married to a pagan husband who had a violent temper, and having to live with her mother-in-law, who was also very difficult. Through Monica’s piety, both her husband and her mother-in-law eventually converted to Christianity. Her brilliant son Augustine, who later became one of the Church’s greatest theologians, also made Monica suffer greatly as he lived a licentious lifestyle and embraced many non-Christian beliefs before he too was finally converted to the faith. Monica is a patron saint of wives, widows, mothers, alcoholics, and abuse victims. Her feast day is August 27.
St. Nicholas was born in the 200s and died in about the year 342. He lived in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) and was a monk in the monastery of Holy Zion near Myra. Nicholas eventually became the abbot of the monastery and then archbishop of the entire area. He was renowned for his holiness and his charity for the poor. One of the most famous stories about St. Nicholas is that he became aware of a man with three daughters who had become impoverished and so could not pay the dowries to gain them respectable marriages. When the situation became dire for the oldest daughter, Nicholas stealthily threw a bag of gold into the man’s house through an open window. Later he did the same for the second daughter, and when he did the same for the third daughter, the man was waiting to discover who the secret benefactor was and was profoundly grateful to the holy man. Perhaps our custom of gift-giving at Christmastime is remotely descended from this story of pious charity. Nicholas is also known for stoutly opposing the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. We celebrate St. Nicholas’s feast day on December 6, and he is a patron saint of bakers, pawnbrokers, and children.
St. Patrick is believed to have been born to Roman parents in Scotland in the 380s. He was kidnapped by pirates when he was a teenager and sold into slavery in pagan Ireland. There, he served as a humble herdsman, and he cultivated a rich prayer life while tending his animals. He managed to escape back to England when he was about 20 or so, and there he pursued studies to be a priest. Patrick later became a bishop, and he received the mission for which he is known throughout the Church—the conversion of the Irish to Christianity. He returned to Ireland in 433, and he spent the rest of his life successfully preaching the Gospel to the Irish. To this day we associate the shamrock with the story that he used the humble plant as a visible image of the Blessed Trinity. He died on March 17, 461, and he is, of course, a patron saint of Ireland.
St. Paula was an ancient Roman whose story is somewhat similar to that of American saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Paula was a wealthy Roman woman who was happily married and had five children. But then her husband died when Paula was only 32, and she decided to renounce worldly cares and to serve the poor. She met St. Jerome, the great translator of the Bible, and she followed him to the Holy Land. Paula and her son founded a convent and a monastery in Bethlehem, and she became Jerome’s closest friend and confidante. She died at the age of 56 in the year 404. She is a patron saint of widows. Her feast day is January 26.
St. Polycarp lived from 69 to 155 A.D. and is known as an “Apostolic Father” because he was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. He became Bishop of Smyrna, and although he wrote several letters, only his Letter to the Philippians survives. He was martyred by being burned at the stake and stabbed to death. He is a patron saint of earache sufferers, and his feast day is February 23.
St. Scholastica was Benedict’s sister, perhaps his twin. She was a holy person from her youthful days, and after Benedict had established his monastery at Monte Cassino, Scholastica founded a monastery for women religious about five miles away. Apparently women were not allowed to enter Monte Cassino, and when Benedict would visit his sister once a year, they would meet instead at a house nearby. There is a famous story that Scholastica felt that she was near death during one of these visits with her brother, and she didn’t want him to leave. When he appeared insistent, Scholastica prayed that he not leave, and a violent thunderstorm ensued, forcing Benedict to spend the night there. She died in about 543, and she is a patron saint of nuns and of convulsive children. Her feast day is February 10.
St. Sebastian was martyred in the early 300s. According to the stories that have come down to us, he was born in Gaul and educated in Milan. Already a Christian, he entered the army in Rome in about 283 to try to render assistance to other Christians. Eventually discovered, he was condemned to death, shot up with arrows, and left for dead. But he survived that ordeal with the aid of a pious widow, and he recovered and again began to stand up for the Christians. The emperor again ordered him to be executed, and this time he was. His feast day is January 20. St. Sebastian is a patron saint of archers, athletes, and soldiers.
St. Stephen was the first recorded martyr of the Church, in roughly 34 or 35 A.D. He was one of the first deacons, a man appointed by the Apostles to help them in their work. After he was accused of blasphemy, he gave testimony and witness to Christ, and he was martyred by stoning. His story is found in chapters 6 and 7 of the Acts of the Apostles. He is a patron saint of deacons, stonemasons, headache sufferers, casket makers, and horses. His feast day is December 26.
St. Sylvia was a holy Sicilian woman who lived in the 500s. She married a Roman named Gordian who also became a saint. They had two sons, one of whom has been lost to history but the other of whom became Pope St. Gregory the Great. After St. Sylvia’s husband died, she lived a quasi-monastic existence in Rome near her famous son, and the story has come down to us that she used to send Gregory vegetables on a silver platter. (Another story says that Gregory once encountered a beggar and, having no money, gave the silver platter to the beggar.) St. Sylvia’s feast day is November 3, and she is a patron saint of expecting mothers.
St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus, was born in Spain in 1515. Her father sent her to live in a convent after her mother died, and Teresa decided to remain a nun once she became an adult. Beautiful and charming, she struggled with the sin of vanity, and she also struggled with her prayer life for many years. She also struggled with illnesses such as malaria. But in her 40s she experienced a breakthrough, and she began to have mystical experiences such as visions of Jesus and Mary. Although some doubted her, others were convinced her experiences were real. Later in her life, she and St. John of the Cross worked to found the Reform of the Discalced Carmelites, and by the time of her death in 1582, thirty-two monasteries of the Reformed Rule had been established. Her spiritual writings are well known, especially The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. She was canonized in 1622 and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1970. She is a patron saint of headache sufferers, of Spanish Catholic writers, and of those who are ridiculed for their piety. Her feast day is October 15.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was a twentieth-century martyr. She was born in 1891, the youngest child in large Jewish family in what is now Poland. Then named Edith Stein, she became an atheist at the age of 14 and later became a brilliant philosopher, earning her doctorate in 1916. After reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she became interested in Catholicism, and she converted and was baptized in 1922. She entered the Carmelite Order of nuns in 1934, and it was then that she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. As the political climate in Germany worsened, she was sent to Holland, where she wrote a philosophical study of St. John of the Cross. After the Nazis invaded Holland, Teresa and her sister Rose (also a convert) were arrested in retaliation for the Dutch bishops’ open opposition to Nazi racism. Teresa and Rose were sent to Auschwitz, and executed. She was canonized in 1998 and is recognized as one of the patron saints of Europe. Her feast day is August 9.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux lived from 1873 to 1897. She was from a middle-class family and was the youngest of five surviving children. From a very young age she wanted to follow two of her older sisters into the convent, but her bishop told her she was too young. He finally relented when she was about 14, and she never left the convent after that. She cultivated a spiritual path she came to call “the little way,” which is rooted in childlike humility before God the Father and doing simple and ordinary deeds out of great love. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24, and her spiritual memoir The Story of a Soul is well known. She has been named a Doctor of the Church, and she is often called “The Little Flower.” She is a patron saint of aviators, florists, the missions, those who suffer from AIDS or tuberculosis, and the nation of France. Her feast day is October 1.
St. Thomas Aquinas lived from 1226 to 1274. His noble family opposed his religious vocation, but he persevered and eventually became a Dominican priest. He became famous for his learning, especially his ability to synthesize philosophy and theology in works such as the Summa Theologica. He is a Doctor of the Church and is a patron saint of students and of universities. His feast day is January 28.
St. Vincent de Paul was born in France in about 1580. He was ordained a priest in 1600. While on a sea voyage in 1605, he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in northern Africa, but he managed to escape a couple of years later and made his way back to France. Charity was his great mission, and he eventually founded the order of religious that came to be known as the Congregation of the Mission–nowadays commonly called the Vincentians. He organized the wealthy women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded hospitals, collected aid for victims of war, and ransomed many slaves. He was also a pioneer in the training of priests and was instrumental in establishing seminaries. He died in 1660, and he is a patron saint of charitable societies. His feast day is September 27.