The month of December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. With most of the month being taken up by the season of Advent, the month’s devotion to the Immaculate Conception highlights as an important time of preparation, for both Jesus and Mary, as she was prepared by God to be sinless so that she would be worthy of being the Mother of God.
- December 3 is the feast day of Saint Francis Xavier, a 16th century Spanish missionary who co-founded the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits.
Born into nobility in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506, his father died when he was just nine years old. In 1525, he went to study in Paris at the Collège Sainte-Barbe, University of Paris, where he spent the next eleven years, gaining a reputation as an athlete.
In 1529, he shared a room with his friend Pierre Favre, when a new student, Ignatius of Loyola, came to join them. Ignatius convinced Pierre to become a priest but couldn’t convince Francis. Over the next few years, he gradually won him over however.
In 1534, seven students, including Ignatius, Pierre and Francis, met in the crypt beneath the Church of Saint Denis, and made private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Pope, vowing to go to the Holy Lands to convert people. Francis began study for the priesthood that year and was ordained in 1537.
In 1539, Ignatius drew up a formula for a new religious order called the Society of Jesus. The order was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.
After another member of the order fell sick, Francis was sent on the first Jesuit mission to Asia. He departed from Lisbon in 1541 and arrived in Goa, the capital of Portuguese India in 1542. His first mission was to restore Christianity among the Portuguese settlers. His mission began to spread beyond the settlers however, to the native Indian population.
He set out for Portuguese Malacca (modern-day Malaysia) in 1545, preaching the gospel there. In 1547, Francis met a Japanese man, Anjiro, who had heard of Francis. Anjiro became the first Japanese Christian.
While Francis was forced to return to Goa for a brief period, he returned to southeast Asia and reached Japan in 1549. He was given a friendly welcome but forbidden from converting anyone to Christianity, under threat of death. Despite this, Francis worked in Japan for more than two years, helping to establish Christianity in Japan, despite it being forced underground.
In 1552, he attempted to go to Mainland China, but could only reach the island of Shangchuan. He died of fever on the island in December 1552, while waiting for a boat to take him to the mainland.
His body was initially buried on the beach on the island before being taken and temporarily rebuired in Portuguese Malacca in 1553. Later that year, it was taken to Goa, where it now sits in the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Francis was beatified by Paul V in 1619 and canonised by Gregory XV in 1622, along with his old friend, Ignatius of Loyola.
- December 4 is the feast day of Saint John Damascene, an 8th century monk, priest, hymnographer and apologist.
Born in Damascus in 675, he was raised in a Christian Arab family. His father encouraged him to not only learn about Islam, but also the Greeks. According to one account, he was tutored by a monk called Cosmas, who had been kidnapped by Arabs from his home in Sicily. Under his tutelage, he studied music, astronomy, theology, geometry and arithmetic.
Following his study, he became a priest and monk at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. When the Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III, issued an edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places, John undertook a spirited defence of holy images.
His writings played an important role in the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 when the icon dispute was settled.
According to tradition, he died at Mar Saba in 749. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1890.
- December 6 is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, an early Christian Bishop whose reputation for secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus.
Very little is known about his life because he lived during a turbulent time in Roman history and so many contemporary accounts have been lost. Traditionally, he was born in the city of Patara, a port on the Mediterranean Sea, to a family of wealthy Greek Christians. His uncle was the Bishop of Myra and ordained Nicholas as a priest.
When his parents died, Nicholas distributed their wealth to the poor. In many cases, he distributed money and other gifts to those in need, in secret.
On a trip to the Holy Land, the ship he was on endured a terrible storm but when Nicholas rebuked the waves, the storm subsided. Following his visit to the Holy Land, he returned to Myra, where he was quickly made Bishop.
Nicholas also attended the First Council of Nicaea, where he is said to have been a staunch opponent of Arianism. According to legend, he lost his termer and slapped an Arian across the face during the council which led Constantine to revoke Nicholas’s miter and pallium.
Throughout his life, he is said to have performed many miracles. He died in 343 at the age of 73.
Following his death, the traditional model of Santa Claus began to evolve from Dutch traditions of gift-giving associated with Saint Nicholas.
- December 7 is the feast day of Saint Ambrose, a theologian and statesman who served as Bishop of Milan in the 4th century and was a fierce critic of paganism and Arianism.
Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family in 339. His father died early in his life and the family moved to Rome, where Ambrose studied literature, law and rhetoric. He entered public service and became governor of the province of Liguria and Emilia in 372.
In 374, the Bishop of Milan died, several Arians challenged the succession. Ambrose went to the church where the election was to take place to prevent an uproar. His address was interrupted by calls for him to be made Bishop.
While he initially refused the office of Bishop, within a week he was baptised, ordained and consecrated as the new Bishop of Milan. He immediately adopted an ascetic lifestyle and donated all of his land, making him popular with the people.
As the heresy of Arianism began to spread through the Western and Eastern empires, Ambrose became one of its key critics, but struggled to balance the ecclesiastical unity of the Church with the true understanding of the faith.
Ambrose was a passionate theologian and his sermons helped convert Augustine of Hippo to Christianity. Ambrose also baptised Augustine.
Ambrose died in 397. His body remains in the church of Saint Ambrogio in Milan.
- December 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating the sinless life and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The feast takes place nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary and is one of the most important Marian feasts in the liturgical calendar.
Eastern Christian churches were commemorating the feast of the conception of Mary as early as the 5th century in Syria and was widely spread by the 7th century. The feast made its way into the Western Church in the 8th century.
In 1708, Pope Clement XI made the feast a Holy Day of obligation.
- December 11 is the feast day of Saint Damasus I, the Bishop of Rome in the late 4th century who presided over the Council of Rome which determined the canon of Sacred Scripture.
Born in Rome in 305, his father became a priest at the Church of San Lorenzo in Rome. Damasus began his ecclesiastical career as a deacon in his father’s church, before becoming a priest at the same church.
In 366, Damasus succeeded to the papacy following the death of Pope Liberius, in the midst of factional violence. During his papacy, he was active in defending the Church against the threat of schism, condemning Apollinarianism (belief that Christ was not fully divine or fully human) and Macedonianism (deniers of the godhood of the Holy Spirit).
He presided over the Council of Rome in 382, which helped determine the official list of Sacred Scriptrue. He commissioned Jerome to produce a new Latin translation of the Bible, which was called the Vulgate and became the Church’s officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible.
Damasus also encouraged the veneration of Christian martyrs, restoring and creating access to their tombs.
He was pope for 18 years and two months, passing away in 384. He was buried beside his mother and sister although the site of the grave has been lost.
- December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic title for Mary associated with five Marian apparitions which occurred in Mexico in the 16th century.
In 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared for times to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant Chichimec, and his uncle. The woman spoke to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language and identified herself as the Virgin Mary. She asked for a church to be built at the site in her honour.
The Archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, did not believe him at first, telling Juan Diego to ask the woman for a truly acceptable, miraculous sign to prove her identity. He would see her four more times. When his uncle became ill, Juan Diego was forced to attend to him. He journeyed to get a Catholic priest to hear his confession and minister to him on his deathbed.
After being intercepted by the Virgin Mary, she chided him for not having made resource to her, saying: "Am I not here, I who am your mother?" She assured him his uncle was now recovered and told him to gather flowers from the summit of Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren. He obliged and found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there.
The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan Diego’s cloak and when he opened his cloak later than day before Archbishop Zumárraga, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He found his uncle fully recovered to.
The Archbishop kept Juan Diego’s cloak, first in his private chapel, then in a chapel erected on Tepeyac Hill where the apparitions occurred. In 1695, the Old Basilica of Guadalupe was built on the site. Due to the huge number of pilgrims visiting the site, a new Basilica was built in the late 20th century.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most-visited Catholic shrine in the world, and the world's third most-visited sacred site.
- December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucy, a virgin and martyr who was killed during the Diocletianic Persecution of the early 4th century.
According to tradition, Lucy was born to noble parents in 283 AD. Her father died when she was just five years old.
Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God and hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. Her mother arranged for her marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Her mother suffered from a bleeding disorder and made a trip to St Agatha’s shrine to ask for a cure.
St Agatha came to Lucy in a dream and told her, her mother would be cured. She convinced her mother to give away more of her riches to the poor.
Lucy’s betrothed heard about the family’s wealth being given away and denounced her to the Governor of Syracuse, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor’s image. When she refused, she was met with death by sword, thrust into her throat.
In other accounts, she was tortured by eye gouging, however her eyes were miraculously restored when her body was being prepared for burial. Her body remained in Sicily for 400 years before it was transferred elsewhere in Italy. Today, parts of her body remain in Syracuse, while the remainder of her relics are in Venice.
- December 14 is the feast day of St John of the Cross, a Spanish priest, mystic, Doctor of the Church, and Carmelite friar who was a major figure in the Counter-Reformation.
Born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez in a small town near Avila, in 1542, he was descended from Jewish converts to Catholicism. His father, Gonzalo, married his mother, who was an orphan of a lower class and he was rejected by his family. Gonzalo died when John was just three years old.
His family moved to Medina del Campo for his mother to find work and he entered school to receive a basic education. While studying there, he was chosen to serve as an altar boy at a nearby Augustinian monastery. He later studied at a Jesuit school from 1559 to 1563. In 1563, he entered the Carmelite Order and adopted the name John of St Matthias.
He made his First Profession in 1564 and studied theology and philosophy. He was ordained a priest in 1567. He met Teresa of Avila in Medina where she was hoping to found the second of her new convents. She talking to him about seeking to restore the purity of the Carmelite Order and she asked him to follow her. In 1568, he helped found a new monastery for Carmelite friars, following in her principles.
He adopted the new name John of the Cross. He became the spiritual director and confessor to Teresa and the 130 other nuns at the Convent of the Incarnation. Over the next few years, he would remain with Teresa. During this time, he had a vision of the crucified Christ.
Tensions began to increase between the Carmelites and the reformers with Teresa and John. In 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John’s dwelling in Avila and took him prisoner, after he refused to leave the town. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a monastery, enduring a brutal regime of lashings and isolation. He managed to escaped in 1578 and was nursed by to health by Teresa’s nuns in Toledo.
In 1580, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree which authorised the separation of the new “Discalced” Carmelites, from the old order. Through the rest of his life, he helped to establish new convents, even after the death of Teresa.
While at an isolated monastery in Andalusia, he fell ill and travelled to another monastery for treatment. His conditioned worsened and he died of erysipelas in 1591. He was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X and canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.
- December 21 is the feast day of Saint Peter Canisius, a Jesuit priest who was an ardent defender of the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation.
Born in Nijmegen in the Duchy of Guelders in 1521, he was sent to study at the University of Cologne where he earned a master’s degree at the age of 19.
While studying, he met Peter Faber, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus. Canisius joined the society and through his preaching and writings, became one of the most influential Catholics of his time.
In 1574, he attended several session of the Council of Trent and became an influential figure in Germany through his German Catechism which defined the basic principles of Catholicism in the German language.
He moved to Germany and served as the main preacher in the Cathedral of Augsburg from 1559 to 1568, defending Catholicism as the wave of Protestantism swept through Germany.
By the time he left Germany, the Society of Jesus had become a powerful tool in the Counter-Reformation. He founded several educational institutions in the country.
In 1591, at the age of 70, he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed although he continued to write. He died in 1597 in Fribourg, Switzerland, at the age of 76.
He was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1864. He was canonised and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
- December 25 is the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, (commonly known as Christmas Day) celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Lord and saviour.
The birth of Christ is described in the biblical gospel of Luke and Matthew. They recount Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judaea, in a manger. His birth was announced to shepherds, who then came to adore the young Messiah.
This was followed by the Magi, who followed a bright star to find the Lord and adored him too.
During the Nativity of the Lord, we celebrate the joyous news of His Birth. It represents the first day of the Christmas season, which runs until the Baptism of Jesus in early January.
On Christmas day, we gifts with one another, sharing in the gift-giving of the Three Wise Men, who came to give gifts to the young Messiah.
- December 26 is the feast day of Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who was stoned to death for preaching the message of Christ.
Stephen was first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to serve the community of the early Church.
Stephen was also a teacher and his teachings drew the opposition of many people. His teachings were challenged by members of several synagogues but he bested them in debate. After being humiliated by them, they suborned false testimony that he had preached blasphemy and dragged him before the Sanhedrin.
In a long speech to the Sandhedrin, he appealed to the Jewish scriptures to show how Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses, not subverted them, denouncing the listeners as “stiff-necked” people who rejected the Holy Spirit.
He angered the people in the crowd, and they began to throw stones at them. Paul the Apostle was among those who began to stone him. Stephen prayed the Lord would receive his spirit and his killers would be forgiven. He sank to his knees and died.
In the aftermath of his death, the remaining disciples, except the Apostles, fled to distant lands.
He is venerated as the first of millions to die for the Christian faith, spreading the Good News of Jesus.
- December 27 is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus who wrote a number of books of the New Testament.
John was the son of Zebedee and younger brother of James the Great, another of the Twelve Apostles. He and his brother were fisherman before following Jesus.
John, along with James and Peter, had a special place in Jesus’ ministry. They were the only Apostles present at the Raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Following Jesus’ ascension, he and Peter took a prominent role in founding and guiding the Church.
Traditionally, it’s believed he was the only Apostle to not have been martyred, dying at Ephesus sometime after 98 AD during the reign of Trajan.
He is said to have authored the three Johannine epistles, the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of John.
- December 28 is the commemoration of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, when Herod the Great ordered the execution of all male children who were two years old and younger.
The event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew:
“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
“Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
These children are seen as the first Christian martyrs, who died instead of Jesus, and whose sacrifice bore the fruit of salvation for all.
- December 29 is the feast day of Saint Thomas Becket, a 12th English nobleman who served as Archbishop of Canterbury and was murdered due to his conflict with King Henry II.
Becket was born in 1119 in London to noble parents. During his childhood, Becket encountered hunting and hawking.
At the age of 10, he was sent as a student to Merton Priory in Surrey, later attending a grammar school in London. After his father suffered financial troubles, Becket was forced to earn a living as a clerk, eventually acquiring a position in the household of Theobold of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
He was entrusted with several important missions to Rome and he was sent to Bologna and Auxerre to study canon law. He was named Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154. He was appointed Lord Chancellor, in 1155, by King Henry II.
He was nominated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 following the death of Theobold. He became an ascetic during this time. He was ordained as a priest in 1162 and consecrated as archbishop a day later.
A rift began to grown between King Henry II and Becket, as Becket sought to extend the rights of the archbishopric. Becket refused to sign 16 constitutions which would have sought less clerical independence and weaker connections with Rome, which led to him fleeing to Europe.
When becket excommunicated three Bishops who intended to crown the heir apparent of King Henry II, he excommunicated all three. This led King Henry II to utter the phrase "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?".
Four knights set out to confront Becket and he was viciously killed by them in 1170.
He began being venerated as a martyr shortly after his death and was canonised by Pope Alexander III in 1173.
- December 30 is the feast day of the Holy Family, comprising Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The feast day commemorates the Holy Family as a model of tranquillity and harmony for all families.
Saint Josemaria Escrivá describes the Holy Family as a model for ordinary holiness: “What was family life in Nazareth like? In the home of the Holy Family in Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph sanctified their ordinary life, without doing anything spectacular or newsworthy. They led a life that was to all appearances, the same as that of their neighbours, a life that was important, not because of the material things they did but because of the love that they put into these things, in perfect union with the Will of God the Father.”
During the Christmas season when many families are united and reunited, the feast of the Holy Family represents a beautiful time of reflection to understand how we can emulate the Holy Family in our own family units.
- December 31 is the feast day of Saint Sylvester I, the Bishop of Rome from 314 to 335.
Little is known about his life however several large churches were founded and built during his pontificate, including the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, Old St. Peter's Basilica and several churches built over the graves of martyrs.
He did not attend the First Council of Nicaea, which took place during his pontificate, however he was represented by two legates and approved the council’s decision.
According to legend, he was responsible for the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity. He is said to have cured Constantine of leprosy through the power of God.
Following his death, Sylvester was buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla.
The month of November is dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory. During the first few days of the month, the faithful focus in particular on prayer for the deceased, both those in purgatory and those in heaven, however they are encouraged to continue this devotion through the rest of the month.
- November 1 is All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, a solemnity celebrated in honour of all the saints of the Church, both known and unknown.
Feasts commemorating martyrs were held as early as the 4th century on various dates near Easter and Pentecost. Churches in the British Isles began celebrating commemorations of all saints on November 1 and in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV extended this to the whole Catholic Church.
Liturgically, the celebration of this day begins with Vespers on the evening of 31 October, All Hallows Eve (also known as Halloween).
The day is dedicated to reflecting upon the lives of the saints and responding to the calling to be saints.
- November 2 is All Souls’ Day, a day of prayer and remembrance dedicated to the faithful departed.
On All Souls’ Day, the faithful participate in prayer, intercession, alms and visits to cemeteries to pray for the souls in purgatory and gain them indulgences.
The Church teaches that the purification of the souls in purgatory can be assisted by the actions of the faithful on earth, through prayer, alms, deeds and the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
Early Church Fathers attest to the practice of praying for the dead among early Christians. The practice evolved over the next few centuries.
In the 15th century, the Dominicans instituted a custom of each priest offering three Masses on All Souls’ Day.
During World War I, given the great number of war dead and the many destroyed churches where Mass could no longer be said, Pope Benedict XV, granted all priests the privilege of offering three Masses on All Souls Day.
- November 3 is the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres, a Peruvian lay brother of the Dominican Order, noted for his work on behalf of the poor, orphans and sick children.
Martin was born in Lima, Peru in 1579, and was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Don Juan de Porras y de la Peña, and Ana Velázquez, a freed slave of African and Native descent. Following the birth of his sister, his father abandoned the family, leaving them to grow up in poverty. During his childhood, he would spend many hours in prayer.
Under Peruvian law, descendants of Africans and Native Americans were barred from becoming full members of religious orders. He was able to join as a volunteer however. At the age of 15 he asked for admission to the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received first as a servant boy.
During this time, he is said to have started performing many miraculous cures. After eight years with the order, the prior decided to reject the law and permitted Martin to take his vows as a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic.
When he was 34, after being given the religious habit of a lay brother, he was assigned to the infirmary, where he would serve until his death. He was known for his care of the sick. He founded a residence for orphans and abandoned children in the city of Lima.
Despite initially not being received well by all his Dominican lay brothers, by the time of his death, he had won the respect of many both inside and outside the priory. He passed away in 1639 and his body was publicly displayed, allowing people to pay their respects and snip off parts of his habit as a relic.
He was beatified in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonised by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
- November 4 is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan during the 16th century who was a leading figure in the Counter-Reformation, together with Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri.
A descendant of nobility, he grew up in a wealthy family. When he was 12, he received the tonsure. He attended the University of Padua as a young man, applying himself to study civil and canon law.
When his father died in 1554, he was requested by the family to take management of their domestic affairs. He resumed his studies after a short break and earned a doctorate in canon and civil law in 1559.
That same year, his uncle Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici was elected as Pope Pius IV. The newly elected pope required his nephew to come to Rome, and on 13 January 1560 appointed him protonotary apostolic. He was made a cardinal a few weeks later.
During his four years in Rome Borromeo lived in austerity, obliged the Roman Curia to wear black, and established an academy of learned persons, the Academy of the Vatican Knights. He organized the third and last session of the Council of Trent in 1562 and 1563.
When his brother suddenly died in 1562, his family requested he return to the lay state in order to marry and have children but he refused.
He was appointed an administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan in 1560 and following that, set about to become an ordained priest. In 1963 he was ordained a priest and a short time later, consecrated a bishop. He was formally appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1564.
He devoted himself to the reform of his diocese after the 80-year absence of an archbishop. He believed that abuses in the church arose from ignorant clergy so he established seminaries, colleges and communities for the education of candidates for Holy Orders.
He helped Catholics fleeing England due to the protestant reformation and venerated St John Fisher and Thomas More who had died for their Catholic faith in England. He also helped to repress the spread of Protestantism in the Swiss valleys.
He died in 1584. Popular devotion to him arose quickly and continued to grow. In Milan, he was celebrated as though he were already a saint. He was beatified in 1602 by Pope Clement VIII and in 1610, Pope Paul V canonised him. He is the patron saint of bishops, catechists and seminarians.
- November 9 is the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, celebrating the anniversary of the dedication of the oldest and highest ranking of the four major papal basilicas.
Formally known as the Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran, it is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome and serves as the seat of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
The basilica was founded in 324 and is the oldest public church in the city of Rome and the oldest basilica in the Western world. It deteroriated during the Middle Ages, was badly damaged by two fires in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 16th century during the reign of Pope Sixtus V, renovated in the late 17th century and the façade completed in 1635 by Pope Clement XII.
The feast of the dedication has been observed since the 12th century.
- November 10 is the feast day of Saint Leo the Great, also known as Pope Leo I, who was Bishop of Rome for two decades in the 5th century.
Born around 400 AD, he was a native of Tuscany. By the year 431, he was a deacon. Near the end of the reign of Pope Sixtus III, he was dispatched at the request of Emperor Valentinian III to settle a dispute between Aëtius, one of Gaul's chief military commanders, and the chief magistrate Albinus.
While he was in Gaul, Pope Sixtus III died and Leo was unanimously elected by the people to succeed him. As Pope, he helped defend the Church against false teachings and heresies.
He was also very pastoral, organising charitable works in the city of Rome as it faced famines, an influx of refugees and poverty. It was during his papacy that the word Pope, which previously meant any bishop, came to exclusively mean the Bishop of Rome.
He was a significant contributor to the centralisation of spiritual authority and reaffirming papal authority.
Several of his sermons and letters have been preserved, with a particular focus on Christology. He stressed the important of Mariology in determining Christology, saying without Mary, the nucleus of Christianity would be destroyed.
When Attila the Hun invaded Italy in 452, heading for Rome. Leo was sent to negotiate with the invader, after which Attila withdrew. He would also meet with Vandal King Genseric when he sacked the city of Rome in 455. Leo helped to rebuild the city after the sacking.
Leo died in 461 and became the first pope to be buried within St Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Benedict XVI described Leo as one of the most important Popes in the history of the Church.
In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church, only the second ever pope in history to be honoured with the title.
- November 11 is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours, the third Bishop of Tours, who helped to suppress remnants of Gallo-Roman religion in the 4th century.
Born in 316 or 336 in Savaria (now Szombathely, Hungary), his father was a senior officer in the Roman army. After his father’s retirement, the family located to Ticinum in northern Italy, where Martin grew up.
He became a catechumen at 10, against the wishes of his parents, after attending a Christian church, still a minority faith in the empire. He was required to join the army at 15 and was stationed in Gaul at the age of 18. He was baptised halfway through his military service. He was released from military service after refusing to fight for the emperor.
He declared his vocation and become a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers’ Christian orthodoxy. He helped to convert his mother to Christianity. He was expelled from Milan by the Arian Archbishop of Milan and sought shelter on an island in the Ligurian Sea, living as a hermit.
He established a hermitage when Hilary of Poiters, who had been forced into exile, returned to his see. The site would develop into the Ligugé Abbey, the oldest monastery known in Europe.
In 371, he was acclaimed Bishop of Tours. As bishop, he ordered the destruction of pagan temples, altars and sculptures. He extended the bounds of his episcopate too.
He died in Gaul in 397. Shortly after his death, pilgrims began coming to the small chapel over his grave and in the 5th century, it had to be extended. Veneration of Martin became very popular in the Middle Ages. He was the patron saint of the French Third Republic.
- November 13 is the feast day of St Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian-American religious sister and the first US citizen to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Born Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, in the Lombard Province of Lodi, then part of the Austrian Empire, she was the youngest of 13 children of two farmers. Only four children survived beyond adolescence.
During her childhood, she was often in delicate health. At 13, she attended a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, graduating cum laude five years later with a teaching certificate.
After her parents died in 1870, she applied for admission to the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at Arluno, but was told she was too frail. She instead became headmistress of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she taught and drew a small community of women to live a religious way of life.
She took religious vows in 1877 and added Xavier to her name to honour Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionary service, planning herself to be a missionary in the Far East. In 1880, she and seven other women founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, becoming its superior general.
In 1887, she sought the Pope’s approval to establish missions in China however he urged her to go to the United States instead due to the large number of Italian migrants heading there. She left for the US in 1889 along with six other sisters.
New York Archbishop Michael Corrigan was not immediately supportive but found them housing at the convent of the Sisters of Charity. Cabrini organised catechism and education classes for Italian migrants and provided support for orphans. She also established schools, orphanages and hospitals.
She would move out from New York and in total, founded 67 missionary institutions across New York, Chicago, Des Plaines, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Her order also founded institutions in Latin America, Europe and China. She became a naturalised US citizen in 1909.
She died of complications from malaria at 67 in Columbus Hospital, Chicago in 1917. In 1933, her body was exhumed and divided as part of the process toward sainthood. She was beatified in 1938 by Pope Pius XI and canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1946.
- November 15 is the feast day of Saint Albert the Great, a German Dominican friar, philosopher, scientist, bishop and Doctor of the Church, who is hailed by some scholars as the greatest German philosopher and theologians of the Middle Ages.
Born sometime before 1200, Albert was likely raised in Lauingen, now Bavaria. Most of his family were from the ministerial class. He was likely educated at the University of Padua where he received Aristotle’s writings.
He had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who convinced him to enter Holy Orders. He became a member of the Dominican Order and studies theology at Bologna. He taught for several years. In 1245, he became master of theology and taught Thomas Aquinas.
In 1254, he was made provincial of the Dominican Order, defending it against secular attacks. He established a program of studies for the Dominicans that featured a study of philosophy.
In 1260, he was made Bishop of Regensburg by Pope Alexander IV, serving for three years and gaining a reputation for his humility. In 1263, he was relieved of his duties and asked to preach the eighth Crusade in German-speaking counties.
He was a prolific writer through his life, displaying encyclopedic knowledge in a vast number of areas.
He suffered a collapse of health in 1278 and died in 1280 in the Dominican convent in Cologne, Germany. He was beatified in 1622. He was canonised and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI.
- November 17 is the feast day of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess of the Kingdom of Hungary in the early 13th century who served the sick.
Born to King Andrew II of Hungary and Gertrude of Merania, in Hungary in 1207. Details of her early childhood aren’t known for certain. At a very early age, she was betrothed to Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia (also known as Ludwig IV).
In 1221, at the age of 14, she married Louis. Two years into the marriage, Franciscan friars arrived and Elizabeth was inspired by their ideals and began to live them out as much as possible. Louis supported his wife’s charitable efforts.
In the spring of 1226, when floods, famine and plague wrought havoc in Thuringia, Elizabeth helped distribute alms, even giving away state robes and ornaments to the poor.
She is known for the miracle of the roses. While taking bread to the poor in secret, she was forced to reveal what she was carrying in her cloak. When her cloak fell open, a vision of white and red roses could be seen.
In 1227, Louis died en route to join the Sixth Crusade. Following his death, she made solemn vows to Fr Konrad von Marburg, who had become her confessor, similar to those of a nun, including celibacy and obedience to him.
She built a hospital in Marburg for the poor and sick with the money from her dowry, where she and others cared for them. She died in 1231 at the age of 24.
After her death, many miracles were reported to have happened at her grave, including ones of healing. She was canonised in 1235 by Pope Gregory IX.
- November 18 is the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the four major papal basilicas.
The feast combines the celebration of the dedication of the churches, which were both built by the Emperor Constantine the Great during the 4th century.
The two churches honour the two great apostles, who are buried in the respective basilicas. They were originally joined by a colonnade despite being several miles apart.
The significance of the basilicas in emphasised in the obligation on Catholic bishops to make a “Quinquennial visit ad limina” in which they are required to go "to the tombs of the Apostles" in Rome every five years to report on the status of their dioceses or prelatures.
The requirement was set out by Pope Sixtus V in 1585.
- November 20 is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, commonly referred to as the Feast of Christ the King.
The feast was first instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and its observed ever year on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, ending the liturgical year.
The title of King of the Universe comes from the writings of Cyril of Alexandria who declared Christ “has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature. His kingship is founded upon the hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures."
Pope Francis declared the Diocesan celebration of World Youth Day would be transferred from Palm Sunday to Christ the King Sunday.
- November 21 is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicated to the consecration of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the temple in Jerusalem.
The event is recounted in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, which states Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne, who had been childless, received a heavenly message they would bear a child.
When the child, Mary, was born they brought her to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. She remained at the temple until her 12th year, at which point Joseph was assigned to be her guardian.
The feast is a reminder of the sacrifice Mary’s parent’s made to God, in giving Him their only daughter and consecrating her to him. This consecration also played an important role in preparing the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother of God.
The feast originated as a dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary the New. The feast was added to the Roman Missal in 1472 but suppressed in the 16th century. It returned in 1585.
- November 22 is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, a Roman Martyr who was killed in the 3rd century.
Cecilia was a noble lady of Rome, born in the early 3rd century. Despite taking a vow of virginity, he was still forced to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian, who is also venerated as a martyr. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart, singing to God in her heart.
When it came time to consummate the marriage, he told Valerian there was an angel watching over her which would punish him if he violated her. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia told him he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptised by Pope Urban I. After following her advice, he saw the angel.
Her martyrdom is said to have followed her husband’s and his brother’s, at the hands of the prefect Turcius Almachius. After being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days and asked the Pope to convert her home into a church.
She was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus and later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. When her body was exhumed in 1599, her body was found still incorrupt.
- November 23 is the feast day of Saint Clement of Rome, the fourth Bishop of Rome who is considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church.
Little is known about his life although he is said to have received Holy Orders from Saint Peter the Apostle, the first Pope. He was a leading member of the Church in Rome in the late first century.
One of his most famous writings is the First Epistle of Clement, a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter was written in response to events in Corinth, where the congregation had deposed certain elders (presbyters). Clement called on the congregation to repent, restore the elders and obey their superiors, saying the Apostles had appointed the church leadership and directed them in their ministry.
According to tradition, Clement was banished from Rome to the Chersonesus during the reign of the Emperor Trajan and set to work in a stone quarry.
It’s said that upon his arrival, he found a lack of water for the prisoners. He knelt down in prayer and upon looking up, saw a lamb on a hill. When he went to where the lamb had stood, he struck the ground with a pickaxe and released a gushing stream of clear water. The miracle resulted in the conversion of a large number of local pagans and prisoners to Christianity.
He was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea.
- November 24 is the feast day of Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, a Vietnamese priest who was executed as a martyr for preaching the faith.
Born in 1795 in Vietnam, to a non-Catholic family, he was given the name Tran An Dung. At the age of 12, he was adopted by a Catholic preacher and baptised Catholic, taking the name Andrew.
After being baptised, he was sent to the seminary where he studied for eight years. He was ordained a priest in 1823 at the age of 28. He was appointed as a parish priest.
During the Lê Văn Khôi revolt in 1833, when Vietnamese Catholics revolted against the imperial rule of Emperor Minh Mang. Catholicism was declared elicit and Andrew faced intense persecution. In 1835, he was arrested along with many of his parishioners but was released because the military officer didn’t know he was a priest.
In 1839, he was arrested again and recognised as a priest. He was brought to Hanoi for trial and was beheaded in December of that year.
He was canonised in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
- November 25 is the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a fourth century martyr who was killed at the hands of the Emperor Maxentius.
According to tradition, Catherine was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria during the reign of Emperor Maximian. Deovting herself to study at a young age, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, persuading her to become a Christian.
When Emperor Maxentius began persecuting Christians, she used her station to go to him and rebuke him for his cruelty. When the emperor summoned the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, she won the debate and several of her adversaries declared themselves Christians.
The emperor ordered her to be tortured and thrown in prison. During her confinement, she was visited by Jesus, who encouraged her in her bravery.
During her imprisonment, more than 200 people came to see her and all of them converted to Christianity, including Maxentius’ wife. After killed his wife, Maxentius tried to win over Catherine by proposing marriage but she refused. When he condemned her to death on a spiked breaking wheel, it shattered upon her touch.
She was beheaded in 305, aged just 18.
- November 30 is the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, an apostle of Jesus and the brother of Saint Peter.
Andrew was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, in Galilee. Both he and his brother were fisherman and Jesus called them to be his disciples, saying he would make them “fishers of men”.
Andrew is recalled as being present at many important occasions, as one of the disciples most closely attached to Jesus. He was one of the four disciples who came to Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Andrew preached in Scythia and went as far away as Kiev. He founded the See of Byzantium, now Constantinople) in 38 AD.
He is said to have been martyred by crucifixion in Patras, Achaea, in 60 AD. Tradition developed that the cross was an x-shaped cross, supposedly at his own request, deeming himself unworthy to be crucified on the same cross as Christ. This cross has become known as the Saint Andrews Cross.
His remains were preserved at Patras after a monk hid some of his bones. His remains were then transferred to Constantinople by order of the Roman emperor Constantius II.
The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. The rosary is one of the most well-known Catholic devotions and because October includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the whole month is dedicated towards this powerful devotion.
- October 1 is the feast day of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church.
Born in France in 1873, both her parents were devout Catholics who would eventually become the first married couple canonised together by the Church. Both her parents had considered religious life but instead chose to pursue marriage.
Thérèse was the youngest of nine children although three died as infants and one died at five years old. All four of her surviving sisters became nuns. She was educated in a very Catholic environment, including Mass attendance at 5:30 a.m., the strict observance of fasts, and prayer to the rhythm of the liturgical year.
Her mother died when she was four years old and dealt a severe blow to young Thérèse. Her father moved the family to Lisieux. She was taught at home until she was eight and then entered a school kept by Benedictine nuns.
When she was nine, her sister Pauline, who had been like a second mother to her, left to enter the Carmelite convent at Lisieux, devastating Thérèse. She became regularly sick but began to recover through prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
One Christmas Eve in 1886, she had a “complete conversion”, overcoming the pressures she’d faced since the death of her mother in an instant. She attempted to join the Carmelites a year later but was unable to because of her youth. She was eventually authorised to join the Carmelites and became a postulant in 1888. She became a novitiate in 1889, with her taking of the habit.
As a Carmelite, she prayed without great sensitive emotions, she increased the small acts of charity and care for others, doing small services. She accepted criticism in silence, even unjust criticisms, and smiled at the sisters who were unpleasant to her.
She began to be attracted to the way in which someone could pursue God with simplicity. In her quest for sanctity and in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts or great deeds. She became a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life.
Her final years were marked by a steady decline in her health. She suffered tuberculosis, which slowly devoured her flesh. She died on 30 September 1897, aged 24. On her deathbed, she is reported to have said, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me." Her last words were, "My God, I love you!"
Within 28 years, she was canonised by Pope Pius XI and in 1997, she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II.
- October 4 is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, an Italian mystic friar and founder of the Franciscans.
Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone in late-1181 or early 1182, he was one of several children born in a prosperous silk merchant. His mother had him baptised as Giovanni but his father called him Francesco.
As a youth, he was indulged by his parents and spent money lavishly. He quickly began to be disillusioned by his lavish life however and he sold his cloth in the marketplace when a beggar came to him. His friends mocked him for his charity and his father scolded him.
In 1202, he joined a military expedition against Perugia and was taken as a prisoner, spending a year in captivity. In 1205, he joined the army of Walter III, Count of Brienne but a strange vision made him return to Assisi.
He made a pilgrimage to Rome, joining the poor in begging at St Peter’s Basilica and spent some time in lonely places, asking God for spiritual enlightenment. He said he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the forsaken country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified said to him, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My church which, as you can see, is falling into ruins."
When he returned to Assisi, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a small storeroom. Francis renounced his father and for the next couple of months, wandered as a beggar in the hills behind Assisi.
In 1208, as he was taking part in a Mass, Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic, the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, he tied it around himself with a knotted rope and went about exhorting the people of the countryside to penance, brotherly love, and peace. Within a year he had 11 followers and went to Rome to establish his new order.
The order grew quickly and he began to travel across the Mediterranean, preaching and converting people to Christianity. During this time, he also established the Poor Clares, named after Clare of Assisi, who sought to live like Francis. He established a Third Order too, a fraternity composed of either laity or clergy whose members neither withdrew from the world nor took religious vows but observed the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives.
In 1224, he is said to have received a vision and received stigmata, which was unable to be treated despite him seeking care in several cities. He spent his last days dictating his spiritual testament and died in 1226 singling Psalm 141. In 1228, he was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX.
- October 5 is the feast day of Saint Faustina Kowalska, a 20th century Polish nun and mystic, whose apparition of Jesus inspired the Divine Mercy devotion.
Born Helena Kowalska in Głogowiec, Łęczyca County, northwest of Łódź, in Poland in 1905, she was the third of ten children to a religious but poor family. She first felt the call to religious life at seven but had to wait to complete her time at school to enter a convent. Her parents also refused to give her permission.
In 1924, at 18, she had a vision of a suffering Jesus who asked how long she would keep putting Him off. She went to the Łódź Cathedral, where Jesus instructed her to depart for Warsaw immediately and enter a convent. She took a train for Warsaw without asking her parents permission with just the dress she was wearing.
She was rejected a several convents until she was given a chance by the Mother Superior at the convent of Zgromadzenie Sióstr Matki Bożej Miłosierdzia (Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy). In 1926, she was clothed in the habit and received the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.
She took her first vows in 1928. In the next few years, she was posted to various convents around Poland.
In 1931, Jesus appeared to her in a white garment and told her to paint an image of him as he appeared. She could not paint and did not receive any support from the other nuns at the convent. Three years later, the first artistic render of the image was produced under her direction.
Over the next few years, she would receive more visions from Christ, which would inspire the Divine Mercy devotion, now popular among many Catholics.
In 1936, she became ill with what is suspected to be tuberculosis. She moved to the sanatorium in Krakow and spent much time in prayer. She had further visions related to the Divine Mercy devotion while she was there. She eventually died in 1938 at the age of 33.
The contents of her diary were published after her death and the Divine Mercy devotion spread quickly, even becoming a feast day. She was canonised in 2000.
- October 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as Feast of Our Lady of Victory and Feast of the Holy Rosary, dedicated to the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary.
According to Dominican tradition, Saint Dominic was attempting to convert the Albigensians, who believed in two gods, back to the Catholic faith. He initially had little success until he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who game him the rosary as a tool against heretics.
The anniversary date of the celebration commemorates the decisive victory of the combined fleet of the Holy League of 1571 over the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto. Despite the Holy League being at a severe disadvantage, Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the rosary for victory and led a rosary procession in Rome.
Following the victory, Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory, recognizing the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession in helping to win the battle.
In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the name of the feast to the Feast of the Holy Rosary. It’s name has changed over time to become the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
- October 9 is the feast day of Saint John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism and became one of its most important theologians, philosophers, writers, and scholars of the 19th century, rising to the rank of Cardinal.
Born in 1801 in the City of London, the eldest of a family of three sons and three daughters. He didn’t take part in games at school but was an avid reader. At the age of 15, he converted to Evangelical Christianity, becoming an Evangelical Calvinist, holding the belief the Pope was the antichrist. He studied at Trinity College, Oxford however he struggled due to his own anxiety to perform well.
In 1824, he was made an Anglican deacon at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. He was ordained a a priest at Christ Church Cathedral by the Bishop of Oxford, Edward Legge a year later. He became curate of St Clement's Church, Oxford.
Through his first few years of ministry, he gradually began to assume a higher ecclesiastical tone and he began reading the Church Fathers thoroughly. In 1839, he began to have doubts about Anglican theology and whether it was truly apostolic.
His doubts became so great, in 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church, much to the detriment of many of his personal relationships. He went to Rome in 1846 and was ordained a priest and awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX.
The Catholic diocesan hierarchy was re-established in England in 1850 which led to attacks on several priests and Catholic churches. Newman made a point of trying to put lay people at the forefront of defending the Church and organised several public lectures.
In 1854, he was made rector of the newly established Catholic University of Ireland, now University College, Dublin. He retired four years later.
Throughout the remainder of his life, he was a prominent writer and defender of the Catholic faith in the still very Anglican England. In 1879, he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal, but requested to not be made a Bishop and to stay in Birmingham where he was living at the time.
He lived in the Birmingham Oratory for the remainder of his life. In 1886, he began to fall ill and his health declined in the following years. He celebrated Mass for the last time on Christmas Day in 1889. He died in August 1890.
- October 11 is the feast day of Saint John XXIII, the head of the Catholic Church between 1958 and 1963, who called for the historical Second Vatican Council.
Born in 1881 as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, he was the fourth child in a family of 13 born to sharecropper parents. He received his First Communion and Confirmation at the age of 8 and in 1896, was enrolled into the Secular Franciscan Order, professing his vows as a member of that order in 1897.
He was ordained a priest in 1904 and became the secretary of Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the new Bishop of Bergamo, in 1905. Roncalli was drafted into the Royal Italian Army as a sergeant during World War I. He was discharged in early 1919.
In 1925, he was summoned to the Vatican and informed Pope Pius had decided to appoint him the Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria. He was consecrated as a bishop that year. After serving there for close to a decade, he was appointed Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece and titular archbishop of Mesembria, Bulgaria. Roncalli took up this post in 1935 and used his office to help the Jewish underground in saving thousands of refugees in Europe.
During World War II, Roncalli made several efforts to save refugees, mostly Jewish people, from the Nazis. In 1944, he was named the new Apostolic Nuncio to recently liberated France, helping to negotiate the retirement of Bishops who had collaborated with the occupying German forces.
In 1953, he was appointed Patriarch of Venice and raised to the rank of Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca by Pope Pius XII.
Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, he traveled to Rome to participate in the papal conclave and was elected Pope, taking the name Pope John XXIII Because he was 76 years old when he was elected, many assumed he would be a short-term pope.
During his five years in the papacy, he made several visits around Rome, including to prisons and hospitals, engaged in dialogue with Communist countries in the east, promoted relationships with Jews, held fast to traditional moral theology and called for an ecumenical council, less than 90 years after the First Vatican Council.
The first session of the Second Vatican Council opened in October 1962 and Pope John XXIII gave the opening address. He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer just a few weeks earlier.
By May 1963, doctors said nothing further could be done to treat his cancer. He died at the age of 81 on 3 June 1963. He became affectionately known as the Good Pope. He was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and was canonised by Pope Francis in 2014.
- October 15 is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, a Spanish noblewoman who entered the convent and became a prominent mystic, reformer, author and theologian.
Born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada in Avila, Spain in 1515, her father was a successful wool merchant and one of the wealthiest men in the Avila. She was brought up in a dedicated Christian household and was fascinated by the lives of the saints, even running away to seek martyrdom at the age of seven.
Her mother passed away when she was just 11, prompting her to embrace a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. Despite initially rejecting a call to religious life, she relented and entered the local easy-going Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at the age of 20.
She had a zeal for mortification however it caused her to become ill and she spent almost a year in bed, nearly dying. She attributed her recovery to the miraculous intercession of Saint Joseph.
She read deeply into medieval mystic guides to examination of conscience and spiritual exercises. She became fond of the writings of St Augustine. She also received visions of Jesus Christ for several years.
She began to find herself increasing at odds with the spiritual malaise at her convent. She resolved to found a reformed Carmelite convent, correcting many of the laxities in the local convent. She established her new convent in 1562 and received papal sanction in 1563.
From 1567, she began to travel to establish new convents of her order. She faced criticism from those within the Carmelite order, which briefly barred her from growing her new order.
During one of her journeys in 1582, she became ill and died. Her last words were: "My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another."
In 1622, she was canonised by Pope Gregory XV and became the patroness of Spain five years later. She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
- October 17 is the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, an early Christian writer who wrote extensively about topics such as ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Little is known about his life apart from what can be inferred from his letters. He is believed to have converted to Christianity at a young age, as a disciple of John the Apostle. He later served as the Bishop of Antioch.
During his life, he wrote several epistles, giving evidence to the very earliest operation of the Church. He emphasised loyalty to a bishop in each city, supported by priests and deacons.
He is the first writer to use the word “Catholic” to describe the Church.
He was martyred for his faith, forced to go to Rome to be executed, rather than be killed in his home town of Antioch. He was likely thrown to the lions, potentially at the Colosseum.
- October 18 is the feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist, one of the four traditionally ascribed authors of the Gospels.
Many scholars believe he was a physician, living in the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. He is mentioned in the Pauline epistles and he may have been one of the Seventy Apostles, early emissaries of Jesus. Luke was present with Saint Paul in Rome near the end of Paul’s life.
As a writer, he made the single biggest contribution to the New Testament, authoring a quarter of its contents. His writings describe the life of Jesus, all the way through to the founding of the early Church, the spreading of Christianity and the ministry of the Apostles.
He died at age 84 in Boeotia, part of modern-day Greece, according to tradition.
- October 22 is the feast day of Saint John Paul II, the most prominent Pope of the 20th century who was one of the most widely traveled Popes in history.
Born Karol Józef Wojtyła, in Wadowice, Poland on 18 May 1920, he was the youngest of three children. By the age of 12, his mother, older sister and older brother had died. As a boy, he was very athletic and in particular, enjoyed playing football as a goalkeeper. In his childhood town, games were often organized between teams of local Jewish and Catholic boys, with Wojtyła often playing on the Jewish side.
In 1941, his father died of a heart attack, leaving Wojtyła as the only surviving member of his immediate family at just 20 years old. His father’s death prompted serious discernment to the priesthood and in 1942, he knocked on the door of the Archbishop's residence in Kraków and asked to study for the priesthood.
After finished his studies at the seminary, Wojtyła was ordained as a priest on All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1946 Cardinal Sapieha. He was then sent to Rome’s Pontifical International Athenaeum Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1947 and passed his doctoral exam in 1948. During his time at the university, he visited Padre Pio for confession and was told he would ascend to the highest post in the Church.
Wojtyła returned to Poland in 1948 for his first pastoral assignment in the Niegowić, at the Church of the Assumption. He was then transferred to the parish of Saint Florian in Krakow and taught ethics at Jagiellonian University and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin.
In 1958, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII. He received episcopal consecration on 28 September 1958 and was the youngest bishop in Poland at 38 years old. He became temporary administrator of the Archdiocese in 1962 following the death of Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak.
In August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI, Wojtyła voted in the papal conclave which elected Pope John Paul I. When the Pope died after just 33 days, another papal conclave was called. When it became evident the two early front runners for the papacy were unlikely to gain enough support to prevail, Wojtyła was proposed as a compromise candidate. He won the ballot and was elected to the papacy on 16 October 1978.
He took the name Pope John Paul II in honour of his predecessor, becoming the 264th pope and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. He was also the youngest pope since Pope Pius IX.
During his pontificate, he made journeys to 129 countries, becoming one of the most traveled world leaders in history. As a priest, he had a soft spot for working with young people and that continued into his papacy, as he pioneered the international World Youth Days, presiding over nine of them between 1985 and 2002, with millions of people attending each event.
As pope, he wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught about sexuality, writing what has become known as Theology of the Body. He taught on the importance of workers, the dignity of women, the moral wrongs of abortion and euthanasia, and urged a more nuanced view of capital punishment.
His inspiration to people in parts of Eastern Europe has been credited with helping to bring about the end of Communism in the region.
The many trips, longevity as pope and assassination attempts took their toll on John Paul II however. In 2001, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In 2005, he was hospitalized with breathing problems. While he left a few days later, he was hospitalized just two weeks later and underwent a tracheotomy.
On 31 March 2005, he developed septic shock and was monitored by a team of consultants in his private residence. He was given the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanisław Dziwisz. On 2 April 2005, he spoke his final words, saying "Allow me to depart to the house of the Father". He died in his private residence that evening of heart failure.
Immediately upon his death, calls for his canonization began. He began to be referred to as John Paul the Great. His successor Pope Benedict XVI began the process for his beatification immediately, bypassing the normal restriction to wait five years.
On 19 December 2009, he was proclaimed “Venerable”. On 14 January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed a miracle involving Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who had been cured of Parkinson’s, and he was beatified.
On 27 April 2014, Pope John Paul II was canonised along with Pope John XXIII, in a mass concelebrated by 150 cardinals and 700 bishops, and attended by at least 500,000 people.
- October 28 is the feast day of Saints Simon and Jude, two Apostles of Christ who were martyred together in Lebanon for preaching the faith.
Jude was among the Apostles of Jesus and is variously identified as Jude of James, Judas (not Judas Iscariot), Jude the brother of Jesus and the writer of the Epistle of Jude. He is also known as Thaddaeus.
Simon, known also as Simon the Zealot or Simon the Canaanite or Simon the Canaanean, was one of the more obscure Apostles of Jesus.
Both men accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry and then went out to preach His word following the resurrection. Simon and Jude are often associated as an evangelizing team.
The pair traveled through Egypt, then Persia and Armenia before arriving in Beirut, Lebanon. The pair suffered martyrdom in Beirut.
Their bodies were brought back from Beirut and the pair are entombed at St Peter’s Basilica, under the main altar of St Joseph.
The month of September is dedicated to Seven Sorrows of Mary, a Catholic devotion which focuses on the sorrows Mary faced during her life.
The devotion began in the 13th century, originally in monastic circles. It centres on the imperfect life Mary was forced to endure, even as someone spared from sin by God’s grace. Despite being free from the stain of Original Sin, she still bore pain, humiliation and sorrow throughout her life.
The devotion focuses on seven key sorrows from Mary’s life including the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2), the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2), the Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2), Mary's meeting Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, (Fourth station of the Cross), the Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and especially John 19), Jesus being Taken Down from the Cross (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19), and the Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).
- September 3 is the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great, also known as Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome between 590 and 604, and initiated the Gregorian mission to convert Britain’s Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.
Gregory was born in Rome around 540, to a wealthy noble Roman family with strong connections to the church. His great-great-grandfather had been Pope Felix III. He was well educated as a child, learning grammar, rhetoric, the sciences, literature, and law.
He began a career in public life and quickly ascended, becoming Prefect of Rome, the highest civil office in the city, when he was only thirty-three years old.
When his father passed away, he converted his family’s villa into a monastery dedicated to Andrew the Apostle. He had a deep respect for the monastic life and particularly, the vow of poverty. He was ordained a deacon by Pope Pelagius II.
In 579, Pelagius II chose Gregory as his apocrisiarius (ambassador to the imperial court in Constantinople), a post Gregory would hold until 586. In 590, he was elected to succeed Pelagius II after the pope died from plague.
As pope, he bemoaned the burden of the office and the loss of the undisturbed life of prayer he had enjoyed as a monk. He had a strong focus on mission however and under Augustine of Canterbury, sent a mission to evangelise the pagan Anglo-Saxons of England. The mission was successful and missionaries were later sent out from England to evangelise other parts of Europe.
He was also known for his charity to the poor of Rome. Immediately upon his death in 604, he was canonised by popular acclaim. His relics are enshrined in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
- September 5 is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, known throughout most of her life as Mother Teresa, who founded the Missionaries of Charity and dedicated her life to caring for the poorest of the poor in India.
Born in Albania in 1910, she was given the name Anjezë Gonxhe and baptised a day after her birth. Her father died when she was just eight years old. By age 12, she had resolved that she would commit herself to religious life.
She left home at 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English with the intent of becoming a missionary. She never saw her mother or sister again.
She arrived in India a year later and began her novitiate in Darjeeling. She took religious vows in 1931 and chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux. Because another nun in the convent already had chosen the name, she opted for the Spanish spelling of Teresa. She took her solemn vows in 1937.
She taught for a number of years at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta, but became increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her. In 1946, she said she felt a call from Jesus to serve the poor of India.
In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, choosing a white sari with two blue borders as the order's habit. She dedicated her life to the care of "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone".
Throughout the next few decades, she opened new homes and brought more than 4,000 sisters into the order. Her charitable work extended through Eastern Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia. By 1996, the Missionaries of Charity had 517 missions in more than 100 countries.
While visiting Pope John Paul II in 1983, she suffered a heart attack, followed by a second one in 1989. She suffered a fall in 1996 and four months later, had malaria and heart failure. She resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity in March 1997 and died on 5 September 1997.
She received a state funeral from the Indian government the process for her beatification began almost immediately. On 4 September 2016, she was canonised in a ceremony at St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
She is remembered as one of the greatest humanitarians to have ever lived for dedicating her life to the service of the poorest of the poor.
- September 15 is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, a Marian title which refers to the sorrows the Blessed Virgin suffered through her life.
The feast likely started in the 11th century among Benedictine monks and grew in popularity through the 12th century under various different titles. The formal feast day was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1423.
Our Lady of Sorrows is often depicted with one or seven swords piercing her heart, a reference to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a Marian devotion associated with Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Seven Sorrows of Mary is a popular devotion focused on the various sorrows Mary faced throughout her life.
The devotion focuses on seven key sorrows from Mary’s life including the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2), the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2), the Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2), Mary's meeting Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, (Fourth station of the Cross), the Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and especially John 19), Jesus being Taken Down from the Cross (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19), and the Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).
- September 16 is the feast day of Saint Cornelius, who was the Bishop of Rome from 251 until his martyrdom in 253.
Very little is known about his life before he became Pope. His later writings were written in a more colloquial Latin style rather than the classic Latin most scholars used. This suggests that Cornelius came from a financially average family and was given an ordinary education as a child.
Prior to his papacy, Emperor Decius had persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire sporadically and locally. In 250, he had ordered all citizens to perform religious sacrifice in the presence of commissioners or face death. Many Christians refused and were martyrs.
After the martyrdom of Pope Fabian, the papacy remained vacant for a year. Cornellius, a moderate, was unwillingly elected as the 21st pope in March 251.
He spent his papacy trying to reconcile the position of the Novatians, who believed anyone who had stopped practicing Christianity during the persecutions could not be accepted back into the Church. He excommunicated Novatians and allowed Christians to had stopped practicing to re-enter the Church following a period of penance.
In June 251, Emperor Decius was killed in battle with the Goths and persecutions resumed under his successor, Trebonianus Gallus. Cornelius was exiled to Civitavecchia, where he died, possibly by beheading. His tomb reads “Cornelius Martyr”.
- September 17 is the feast day of St Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century German Benedictine abbess, polymath, mystic and Doctor of the Church.
She was born around 1098 to a family of free lower nobility, she began to experience visions at a very young age. Her parents offered her as an oblate to the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg. She professed vows on All Saints Day 1112.
In 1136, she was unanimously elected as magistra of the community by the other nuns. Abbot Kuno of Disibodenberg asked Hildegard to be Prioress but she instead asked if she could move the nuns to Rupertsburg. When this was declined, she was stricken by an illness she attributed to God’s unhappiness at her not following his orders. The Abbot then granted the nuns their own monastery.
During her life, she saw several visions although she was hesitant to share them. She recorded her visions in illustrations and received papal approval to document her visions as revelations from the Holy Spirit.
She also wrote many works, including visionary theology, a variety of musical compositions, several letters, records of many of the sermons she preached, two volumes of material on natural medicine and cures, and various other works.
In 1179, she passed away. Her sisters claimed they saw two streams of light appear in the skins and cross over the room where she died.
She was one of the first persons for whom the Roman canonization process was officially applied however the process was never completed. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI extended the veneration of her to the entire Catholic Church and declared her a Doctor of the Church, calling her "perennially relevant" and "an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music."
- September 17 is the feast day of Saint Robert Bellarmine, an Italian Jesuit, cardinal and Doctor of the Church who was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation.
Born to noble parents in 1542, his maternal uncle was Pope Marcellus II. As a boy, he studied and wrote poetry.
He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1560, remaining in Rome for three years before moving to a Jesuit house in Piedmont, where he learned Greek. The local superior then sent him to the University of Padua.
He studied theology at Padua in 1567 and 1568, finishing his studies at the University of Leuven in Brabant. He was ordained there and became a professor at the university for seven years. He made the journey in 1576 to Italy and was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to lecture in the new Roman College.
He became rector of the Roman College in 1592, examiner of bishops in 1598, and cardinal in 1599. He was made Archbishop of Capua in 1602 and wrote against pluralism and non-residence of bishops within their dioceses. He also put into effect the reforming decrees of the Council of Trent.
He was involved in the Galileo affair, telling him to abandon the Copernican doctrine of the mobility of the earth due to a lack of evidence.
During his life, he wrote several dogmatic works defending the Catholic faith against the wave of Protestantism sweeping through Europe. He retired to the Jesuit college of Saint Andrew in Rome and died in 1621.
He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church a year after. His remains, in a cardinal's red robes, are displayed behind glass under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius, the chapel of the Roman College.
- September 19 is the feast day of Saint Januarius, a former Bishop of Benevento and martyr who was killed during the Great Persecution.
Though little is known about his life, legend says he was born in Benevento to a rich patrician family. He became local priest of his parish at just 15 years old. He was made Bishop of Naples when he was 20.
During the one-and-a-half year long persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he hid his fellow Christians and prevented them from being caught. He was arrested however and condemned to be thrown to the wild bears in the Flavian Amphitheater at Pozzuoli.
Due to fear of public disturbances, he was instead beheaded.
Following the saint’s death, his blood was collected. Three times a year, the blood miraculously and spontaneously melts. It has liquefied in the presence of some popes too.
- September 20 is the feast day of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean-born Catholic priest and a martyr who was executed along with several thousand Christians during the Joseon Dynasty.
Born in Yangban in 1821, Kim’s parents were converts and his father was martyred for practicing the faith, due to the prohibition of Christianity in Confucian Korea. Kim was baptised at age 15 and studied at a seminary in Macau, then a Portuguese colony.
He was ordained a priest in Shanghai after nine years by the French bishop Jean Joseph Jean-Baptiste Ferréol. He returned to Korea to evangelise the population. Catholics were forced to practice their faith covertly however many thousands were still killed during this time.
In 1846, at the age of 25, Kim was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II canonised Kim along with 102 other Korean martyrs during a trip to the country.
- September 21 is the feast day of Saint Matthew the Evangelist, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus who is said to have written the Gospel of Matthew.
According to the Gospels, Matthew was a first century Galilean, the son of Alphaeus. He was likely literate and could write highly educated Greek.
Matthew was called to follow Jesus and was among his first apostles. As a disciple, he followed Jesus and was one of the witnesses of the Ascension.
According to the early Church fathers, he preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea before going to other countries. He is said to have died as a martyr, being executed for his faith.
He is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and is the patron saint of accountants, bankers, tax collectors, perfumers, and civil servants.
- September 23 is the feast day of Saint Padre Pio, a 20th century Italian Franciscan Capuchin friar, priest and mystic.
Born Francesco Forgione, he was the second boy born to a family of peasant farmers in Pietrelcina, Benevento, in 1887. He was baptised in the nearby Santa Anna Chapel and later served as an altar boy.
He said when he was five years old, he had already made the decision to dedicate his life to God. His family attended Mass daily, prayed the Rosary nightly and abstained from meat three days a week.
He was drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin. Upon asking to join the order, he was informed he would need to be better educated. His father went to the United States to help fund tutoring for him so he could enter the order.
In 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone, taking the Franciscan habit and the name Fra Pio, in honour of Pope Pius I. He commenced his seven-year study to the priesthood. When he was 17, he fell ill and he was sent to a convent to improve his health.
He made his solemn profession in 1907 and in 1910, was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. In 1916, he moved to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, located in the Gargano Mountains in San Giovanni Rotondo in the Province of Foggia, where he remained until his death.
During World War I, he was drafted into the military. Due to poor health, he was continually discharged until he was declared unfit for service and discharged completely in 1918.
After this, he began to gain attention for his many spiritual gifts, including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and pleasant-smelling wounds. He also developed stigmata, taking on the wounds of Christ from the crucifixion.
The Church initially imposed severe sanctions on him, preventing him from priestly duties. This was overturned by Pope Pius XI.
His health began to deteriorate in the 1960s and he began to feel great fatigue in September 1968. In the early morning of 23 September 1968, he made his last confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. He died later that day.
In 1997, he was declared venerable and beatified in 1999. In 2002, he was canonised by Pope John Paul II.
- September 26 is the feast day of Saints Cosmas and Damian, two 3rd century Arab physicians who were early Christian martyrs.
Next to nothing is known about their lives except that they were Arabian-born brothers who embraced Christianity and practiced medicine without a fee. They reputedly cured blindness, fever and paralysis.
They were arrested by Lysias, governor of Cilicia, because of their faith and healing. He tortured them and ordered them to recant however, they stayed true to their faith until they were finally executed by beheading.
Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius, their younger brothers, who were inseparable from them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.
- September 27 is the feast day of Saint Vincent de Paul, a 17th century priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor.
Born in 1581 in the village of Pouy, France, to peasant farmers. He demonstrated a talent for literacy early in life, but also worked herding his family’s livestock. When he was 15, he was sent to seminary, paid for by selling the family’s oxen.
He studied for three years at a college in Dax, before enrolling in theology at the University of Toulouse, financing his studies by tutoring others. In 1600, he was ordained a priest however this was against the regulations established by the Council of Trent which required a minimum of 24 years of age for ordination. He resigned from the parish he had been appointed to and continued his studies.
In 1605, while sailing from Marseilles, he was taken captive by Barbary pirates and auctioned off as a slave, spending two years in bondage. He became the slave of a former priest who had converted to Islam and was living with three wives. His second wife was drawn to Vincent and questioned him about the Christian faith. She became convinced of his faith and admonished her husband, who was remorseful and decided to escape back to France.
He returned to France in 1607 and in 1612, he was made the parish priest of the Church of Saint-Medard in Clichy but soon became tutor and chaplain to the Gondi banking family.
In 1617, he came into contact with the Daughters of Charity and they introduced him to poor families. Vincent brough them food and comfort, organizing for the wealthy women of paris to collect funds for projects, hospitals and relief funds.
He worked among imprisoned galley slaves in Paris before becoming superior of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the "Vincentians".
Vincent was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.
He died in 1660. In 1729, he was declared blessed by Pope Benedict XIII and was canonised eight years later by Pope Clement XII.
In 1833, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul was established and dedicated to the service of the poor. The society chose St Vincent as its patron. Today, it operates in 153 countries.
- September 28 is the feast day of Saint Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia who was assassinated and is venerated as a martyr.
Born in 907 in Stochov, in modern-day Czech Republic, Wenceslaus was the son of Vratislaus I, the Duke of Bohemia. His grandfather had converted to Christianity.
When he was 13, his father died, and his grandmother Ludmila became regent. His mother, Drahomira, arranged to have her killed and Ludmila was murdered. Drahomira assumed the role of regent and immediately initiated measures against Christians.
When Wenceslaus was 18, Christian nobles were successful in rebelling against Drahomira and sent her into exile. Wenceslaus took control and reimplemented Christianity within the state. He introduced German priests to his realm and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic. He also founded a rotunda consecrated to St. Vitus at Prague Castle in Prague that was the basis of present-day St. Vitus Cathedral.
In 935, a group of nobles allied with Wenceslaus's younger brother Boleslav plotted to kill him. They ambushed him and stabbed him to death. His last words were “Brother, may God forgive you.”
- September 29 is the feast day of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the three archangels named in the Bible.
The celebration originally began as a feast dedicated to St Michael, known as Michaelmas. During the second half of the 20th century, the feast was combined to celebrate all three archangels. Previously, St Gabriel’s feast had been celebrated on 24 March and St Raphael’s feast was celebrated on 24 October.
Saint Michael is the leader of all angels and the army of God, responsible for combatting Satan, escorting the faithful to heaven at the hour of death, championing all Christians and the Church, and calling me from life on Earth to their heavenly judgment.
Saint Gabriel serves as a messenger for God to certain people. Saint Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. First, in the Old Testament, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions. In the New Testament, Saint Gabriel, first appears to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. He also appears to the Virgin Mary to inform her of the birth of Jesus.
Saint Raphael stands before the throne of the Lord, and one of the only three mentioned by name in the Bible. He appears, by name, only in the Book of Tobit. Saint Raphael’s name means "God heals."
- September 30 is the feast day of Saint Jerome, a 4th century priest, confessor, theologian, historian and Doctor of the Church.
Born in Stridon between 342 and 347, he was of Illyrian ancestry. In his youth, he went to Rome to pursue rhetorical and philosophical studies. As a student, Jerome was engaged in superficial escapades and sexual lifestyle of many other students but found himself suffering guilt after.
He would visit the sepulchers of the martyrs and the Apostles in the catacombs to appease his conscience. Despite being afraid of Christianity initially, he eventually converted. He was seized with a desire for a life of ascetic penance. He went to the desert of Chalcis and spent time studying and writing.
In 390, he began translating the Hebrew Bible from the original Hebrew, completing this work by 405. From 405 until his death, he produced a number of commentaries on Scripture, offering explanations for his translation choices. Beside his Biblical works, he wrote polemical and historical essays, always from a theologian's perspective.
He also wrote letters, or epistles. He was frequently commissioned by women who had taken a vow of virginity to write to them in guidance of how to live their life. As a result, he spent a great deal of his life corresponding with these women about certain abstentions and lifestyle practices.
Due to his extensive writings and dedication to translating the bible, he is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church.
The month of August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, referring to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin.
It’s a devotion to her joys, sorrows and virtues. It’s a devotion to her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus Christ, and her motherly love for all mankind.
The Immaculate Heart is traditionally depicted pierced with seven swords or wounds, in homage to the seven dolors of Mary and roses, usually red or white, wrapped around the heart.
While the devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart is directed to his divine love for humanity, the devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart is directed to her love for Jesus and God.
- August 1 is the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church known for being a spiritual writer, composer, musician, artist, poet, lawyer, scholastic philosopher, and theologian.
Alphonsus was born in Marianella, near Naples, in 1696 and was the eldest of seven children.
Despite learning to ride and fence, his myopia and chronic asthmas prevented him from a military career, so he was educated for the legal profession. He graduated from the University of Naples with doctorates in civil and canon law at 16.
He became a successful lawyer but decided to leave at 27 after losing his firm case in eight years. He also heard an interior voice saying: “Leave the world, and give yourself to me.”
In 1723, he offered himself as a novice to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri with the intention of becoming a priest, however his father opposed the plan. The pair eventually compromised and he was ordained in 1726 at the age of 30. He became popular as a priest for his plain and simple preaching.
He founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a religious congregation dedicated to missionary work, in 1732. He was a gifted musician and composer, who wrote many popular hymns and taught them to people in parish missions.
He was consecrated Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1762 despite initially refusing the appointment due to his age. In this role he wrote sermons, books, and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He suspended those priests who celebrated Mass in less than 15 minutes and sold his carriage and episcopal ring to give the money to the poor.
In 1775, his resignation was accepted by Pope Pius VI after he became "deaf, blind, and laden with so many infirmities, that he has no longer even the appearance of a man". He died in 1787.
He was beatified in 1816 by Pope Pius VII and canonised in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.
- August 2 is the feast day of Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, a fourth century bishop who helped combat the heresy of Arianism.
Eusebius was born in Sardinia in 283. His father was martyred and he was taken to Rome by his mother where he became a lector. He became the first bishop in Vercelli in the mid 340s.
He founded a priestly community in Vercelli that resembled a monastic community.
In 354, Pope Liberius asked Eusebius to join Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari in carrying a request to the Emperor Constantius II at Milan, pleading for the emperor to convoke a council to end the dissensions over the status of Athanasius of Alexandria and the matter of Arianism.
Eusebius attended the council was refused to condemn Athanasius and was eventually exile to the Thebaid in Upper Egypt. He was persecuted there but remained steadfast in his faith.
When Julian became emperor of Rome, exiled bishops were free to return to their sees. He attended Athanasius’ synod of 362 which confirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the orthodox doctrine concerning the Incarnation.
He took the synod’s decisions to Antioch and hoped to reconcile the schism there. Unable to reconcile the factions there, he headed towards home, promulgating and enforcing the orthodox faith at various churches on his way back.
He returned to Vercelli in 363 and died in 371.
- August 2 is the feast day of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, a 19th century priest, known as the Apostle of the Eucharist for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament throughout his life.
Eymard was born in 1811, in La Mure, a commune in the French Alps. He had an intense devotion to Mary from a young age and would travel to various Marian shrines throughout France.
When his mother died in 1828, he decided to enter the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate despite his father’s objections. He was unable to complete his seminary studies however due to poor health.
In 1831, following his father’s death, he gained admission to the major seminary of the Diocese of Grenoble. He was ordained a priest in 1834.
In 1837, he entered the Society of Mary seminary at Lyon and made his profession in February 1840. He rose to be the Provincial of the Society at Lyon in 1844.
He traveled throughout France to inspect the various Marist communities and became familiar with the practice of sustained eucharistic worship during a visit to Paris in 1849.
In 1851, he was moved to establish a Marist community dedicated to eucharistic adoration. Following disapproval from his superiors however, resolved to leave the Society of Mary to begin his new religious congregation.
He would go on to found two religious institutes: the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for men in 1856 and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for women in 1858.
He suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1868 and died at the age of 57 shortly after. He was declared venerable in 1908, beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
- August 3 is the feast day of Saint Dominic, a 13th century priest who founded the Dominican Order.
Most of the Catholic world celebrates his feast day on August 8 however in Australia, we celebrate the feast of St Mary Mackillop, the first Australian saint, on that day, so St Dominic’s feast day is moved to August 3.
Dominic was born in Caleruega, Spain in 1170 and named after Saint Dominic of Silos, a 11th century Spanish monk.
His mother had been barren prior to his birth and made a pilgrimage to the Abbey at Silos. She had a dream a dog leapt from her womb carrying a flaming torch in its mouth and seemed to set the earth on fire.
At 14, Dominic was set to the Premonstratensian monastery of Santa María de La Vid and then transferred for further studies in the schools of Palencia, where he devoted six years to the arts and four to theology.
During a period of famine in Spain, Dominic gave away his money and sold his clothes to feed the hungry. At 24, he was ordained as a priest and joined the canonry of the Cathedral of Osma.
In 1215, he established himself with six followers after seeing the need for a new type of organisation to address the spiritual needs of the growing cities of the era. He went to Rome later than year to secure the approval of the Pope and was granded permission in 1217 to form the “Order of Preachers” also known as the Dominicans.
He traveled extensively through his later years, growing the order and preaching. He died at the age of 51, “exhausted with the austerities and labours of his career”. He was canonized in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX.
Two sovereign countries, Dominica and the Dominica Republic, are named after him.
- August 4 is the feast day of Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, who became well known for the radical spiritual transformation of his parish, community and its surroundings in Ars, France.
Vianney was born in 1786 in the town of Dardilly, France and was baptised on the same day. He was the fourth of six children born to Matthieu and Marie, both devout Catholics who helped the poor.
Strong anti-clericalism stemming from the French Revolution during the 1790s forced many priests to hide and so the Vianneys traveled to distant farms to attend Masses celebrated on the run. Vianney began to see the priests as heroes for risking their lives day by day to celebrate the sacraments.
The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802 and Vianney had become concerned with his future vocation. When he was 20, he left the family’s farm to attend a presbytery school. Despite struggling with school, his desire to become a priest saw him persevere.
His studies were interrupted after he was drafted into Napoleon’s armies. After praying, he deserted and lived in the mountains of Le Forez for fourteen months, assuming a fake name and establishing a school for village children.
Deserters were granted amnesty in 1810 and he was resumed his studies. He received minor orders and the subdiaconate in 1814 and was ordained a deacon in June 1815. He was ordained a priest in August 1815.
In 1818, he became the parish priest of Ars, a town of 230 inhabitants. He saw the French Revolution had led to religious ignorance and indifference in the town. He spent time in the confessional and gave homilies against blasphemy and profane dancing.
He became known internationally and by 1855, tens of thousands of pilgrims were coming to visit. He would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.
He died in 1859 at the age of 73 and his funeral was attended by 300 priests and more than 6,000 people.
He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1929, who made him the patron saint of parish priests.
- August 5 is the feast day for the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, celebrating the anniversary of the basilica which was built in the 5th century.
The Basilica of Saint Mary Major is one of only four major basilicas, along with the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and St. Peter's Basilica.
It is believed to have been built under Pope Celestine I but was consecrated on 5 August 434 to the Virgin Mary by Pope Sixtus III. It replaced an original church built during the pontificate of Pope Liberius in the mid fourth century.
Pope Pius V inserted the feast into the General Roman Calendar in 1568. Prior to that, it had only been celebrated at the church itself and then in all the churches in the city of Rome from the 14th century.
- August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, honouring and celebrating the transfiguration of Jesus.
The Gospels recount the Transfiguration, saying Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter James, and John, went to a mountain to pray. When they were there, Jesus began to shine with bright rays of light. Moses and Elijah appeared next to him, and he spoke with them.
Jesus tells the Apostles to not tell anyone of the things they have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.
The Transfiguration is a pivotal moment in both the Gospels and the Christian faith. It is the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.
The Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated by several churches for centuries but only universally recognised in 1456 by Pope Callixtus.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II selected the Transfiguration as one of the five Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.
- August 7 is the feast day of Saint Pope Sixtus II, the 24th Bishop of Rome, who was martyred along with seven deacons during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Valerian.
Sixtus was born in Greece and was formerly a philosopher. During his pontificate, he restored relations with the African and Eastern churches, which had been broken off by his predecessor.
The Roman emperor Valerian ordered the execution of Christian leaders in 257 however and numerous bishops, priests and deacons were put to death.
Sixtus was among the first victims of this persecution and was beheaded on August 6, along with deacons Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus and Agapitus. Lawrence of Rome was killed four days later.
On his tomb is the following inscription:
At the time when the sword pierced the bowels of the Mother, I, buried here, taught as Pastor the Word of God; when suddenly the soldiers rushed in and dragged me from the chair.
The faithful offered their necks to the sword, but as soon as the Pastor saw the ones who wished to rob him of the palm (of martyrdom) he was the first to offer himself and his own head, not tolerating that the (pagan) frenzy should harm the others.
Christ, who gives recompense, made manifest the Pastor's merit, preserving unharmed the flock.
- August 8 is the feast day of Mary Mackillop, the first Australian to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church, as Saint Mary of the Cross. During her life, she founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), a congregation of religious sisters that established a number of schools and welfare institutions, emphasising education for the rural poor.
Mackillop was born on 15 January 1842 in Fitzroy, Victoria, and was the eldest of eight children born to Scottish migrants Alexander and Flora Mackillop. Alexander had strived to enter the priesthood but left his studies at 29, just before he was due to be ordained.
One of her brothers became a Jesuit priest while one of her sisters became a member of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Melbourne.
Mackillop started working at 16 as a clerk in a stationary store before taking a job as a governess in Penola, South Australia a few years later in 1860. Already set on helping the poor whenever possible, she included the other farm children on the estate as well.
Two years later, she accepted a job teaching in Portland, Victoria and opened her own boarding school. In 1866, Father Julian Tenison-Woods, who she had met in her role as a governess, invited her and her sisters to open a new Catholic school in Penola.
Mackillop made a declaration of dedication to God at this time and began wearing black. She adopted the religious name of "Sister Mary of the Cross" and she and her sister Lexie began wearing simple religious habits, calling themselves the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
By the end of 1867, ten other women had joined the “Josephites” and the order expanded. By the end of 1869, more than 70 members of the order were educating children at 21 schools in Adelaide and the country.
Mackillop and several of the sisters travelled to Brisbane to establish the order in Queensland. By 1871, 130 sisters were working in more than 40 schools and institutions across South Australia and Queensland.
Mackillop was briefly excommunicated by Adelaide Bishop Laurence Sheil, citing insubordination, after she did not accede to a request which could have left the Josephite sisters homeless. Most of the Josephite schools were closed following this and Mackillop was given rent-free use of two houses in Adelaide by Jewish Merchant Emanuel Solomon. She was also sheltered by Jesuit priests. On his deathbed a few months later, Bishop Sheil lifted the excommunication on Mackillop.
She travelled to Rome in 1873 to seek papal approval for the religious congregation and was encouraged in her work by Pope Pius IX. While in Europe, she traveled widely to observe educational methods while the Josephites expanded their operations into New South Wales and New Zealand.
Mackillop returned to Australia in 1875 and she was made superior general of the order. The Josephites were forced to leave some areas over the next few years due to clashes with local bishops, but still expanded their presence.
Through her final years, she would continue to guide the order, even while relying on a wheelchair following a stroke in 1902. She died in 1909 at the Josephite convent in North Sydney.
Mackillop was beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II and in 2010 she was canonized, becoming the first Australian to be recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.
- August 9 is the feast day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a German Jewish philosopher to converted to Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun who was eventually martyred for her faith.
Born Edith Stein, she was the youngest of 11 children raised in an observant Jewish family. By her teenage years, she had become agnostic. Her father died when she was young and her mother sent Edith to study at the Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Breslau.
In April 1913, she attended the University of Göttingen and by the end of her first semester, decided to pursue her doctoral degree in philosophy, choosing empathy as her thesis topic. Her studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I as she served as a volunteer wartime Red Cross nurse.
In 1916, she moved to the University of Freiburg to complete her dissertation. Upon completing it, she became a member of the faculty.
While reading the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila during summer holidays in 1921, Stein was prompted to convert to Catholicism and eventually seek the life of a Discalced Carmelite nun. After being baptised in 1922, she was encouraged to postpone her entry to the life of a Carmelite nun.
She instead taught at the Dominican nuns’ school from 1923 to 1931. She denounced the rise of the Nazi regime, asking the Pope to openly denounce it in order “to put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name.”
She eventually entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) in Cologne-Lindenthal in October 1933 and took the religious Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The Order transferred her to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands to avoid the growing Nazi threat.
Despite this, Stein believed she would not survive the war and quietly began training herself for a life in a concentration camp by enduring cold and hunger. Eventually, Stein was arrested in 1942 after the Dutch Bishops’ Conference made a public statement condemning Nazi racism.
She was transferred to Auschwtiz, refusing the chance to escape when offered to her by a Dutch official. On August 9, she was killed in a gas chamber, just a week after her arrest.
She was beatified as a martyr in 1987 by Pope John Paul II and canonized by him 11 years later in 1998. She is one of the six patron saints of Europe.
- August 10 is the feast day of Saint Lawrence, one of the seven deacons in Rome under Pope Sixtus II to be martyred by for their faith by the order of Roman Emperor Valerian.
Born in Valencia in 225, Lawrence encountered the future Pope Sixtus II in Zaragoza, with both leaving Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became Pope in 257, he ordained Lawrence as a deacon and made him the archdeacon of Rome, trusting the care of the treasury and distribution of alms to him.
At the beginning of August 258, the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Pope Sixtus II was captured and executed shortly after.
When the prefect of Rome demanded Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church, he asked for three days to gather the wealth. During those days, he worked swiftly to distribute the Church’s property to the poor and needy.
On the third day, he presented himself to the prefect and when he was ordered to present the treasures of the Church, he presented the power, crippled, blind and suffering, declaring they were the true treasures of the Church. The act of defiance led directly to his execution and he died as a martyr.
He has gone on to become one of the most widely venerated saints in the Catholic Church.
- August 11 is the feast day of Saint Clare of Assisi, one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi and founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition.
Born into a wealthy father and devout mother, Clare was devoted to prayer a child. As a teenager, she heard St Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service and asked him to help her live after the manner of the gospel.
When she was 17, she left her fathers house to meet Francis, cutting her hair and exchanging her rich gown for a plain robe and veil. She was placed in the convent of the Benedictine nuns. While her father attempted to return her home to marry, she resisted each attempt, saying she would have no other husband but Jesus Christ.
She moved to another convent and was joined by her sister Catarina, who would also go on to be a saint. Other women joined them, and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano", living a simple life of poverty, austerity and seclusion.
Clare sought to imitate Francis’ virtues and his way of life so much she was sometimes called “another Francis”. She saw him as a spiritual father and took care of his during his final illness.
She would endure a long period of poor health in her later years before dying in 1253, aged 59. Her last words are reported to have been, "Blessed be You, O God, for having created me."
She was canonized in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV.
Today, there are more than 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries across the globe.
- August 12 is the feast day of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, the founder of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, a religious order which accepted woman otherwise rejected by other orders due to their health or age.
Born in France in 1572, she was the daughter of the royalist president of the Parliament of Burgundy. Her uncle was the prior at the Val-des-Choux monastery in Burgundy and her brother Andrew would become the Archbishop of Bourges. Her mother died when she was just 18 months old.
She married the Baron de Chantal when she was 20 and they lived in the feudal castle of Bourbilly. Their first two children died shortly after birth however they would go on to have a son and three daughters.
The Baron died in 1601 when she was just 28 so Jane Frances took a vow of chastity. By the end of 1602, she had closed up Bourbilly and moved to Monthelon.
In 1602, her father invited her to Dijon to hear Francis de Sales, the bishop of Geneva, preach the Lenten sermons. Jane Frances became close friends with him and he became her spiritual director.
De Sales purchased a small house on Lake Annecy and established the Congregation of the Visitation in 1610. The order accepted women who were rejected by other orders due to age or poor health. Unlike many orders of the time, which were cloistered, the Congregation of the Visitation was known for its publish outreach.
The Order was given the official name of The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary and canonically erected in 118 by Pope Paul V.
Jane Frances grew in her reputation and became known for her sanctity and sound management. She died in 1641, aged 69.
She was canonised in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII, when the order had grown to 164 houses. She is invoked as the patron of forgotten people, widows, and parents who are separated from their children.
- August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven, body and soul.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was born without the stain of original sin and did not suffer its consequences, among them death.
She carried the Church in the person of Christ and at the completion of her earthy life, Mary was assumed into heaven by God. Mary’s assumption to heaven was given to her as a divine gift.
No saint in history as enjoyed the same privilege because none had the same intimate relationship with Christ as Mary did, carrying him in her womb, caring for him and witnessing his death upon the cross.
Spared from the pain, suffering and death of Christ, her assumption symbolises God’s promise that through the sacrifice of Our Lord, we will one day join him in heaven.
The tradition of Mary being assumed into heaven goes back to the very beginnings of the Church although it was only defined as a dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
“Christ's definitive victory over death, which came into the world because of Adam's sin, shines out in Mary, assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. It was Christ, the "new" Adam, who conquered death, offering himself as a sacrifice on Calvary in loving obedience to the Father. In this way he redeemed us from the slavery of sin and evil. In the Virgin's triumph, the Church contemplates her whom the Father chose as the true Mother of his Only-begotten Son, closely associating her with the salvific plan of the Redemption.
This is why Mary, as the liturgy points out, is a consoling sign of our hope. In looking to her, carried up amid the rejoicing of the angelic hosts, the whole of human life, marked by lights and shadows, is opened to the perspective of eternal happiness. If our experience of daily life allows us to feel tangibly that our earthly pilgrimage is under the sign of uncertainty and strife, the Virgin assumed into heavenly glory assures us that we will never lack divine help.”
- Homily of Pope John Paul II, 15 August 2001
- August 16 is the feast day of Saint Stephen of Hungary, an 11th century ruler of Hungary who promoted the growth of Christianity throughout the country and established it as a Christian state.
His birth date is not known although it’s estimated he worn born about the year 975 and was the son of Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians, who supported Christian ministries from Western Europe.
He was given the birth name Vajk and was baptised by Bishop Adalbert of Prague. He is believed to have studied Latin during his childhood. He was wed to Gisela, daughter of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, in or after 995, in an arranged marriage.
Stephen was declared Grand Price of the Hungarians in 997 following the death of his father. The Duke of Somogy, Koppany, challenged this claim to the throne however and the two feuded. Koppany died in battle, his body was quartered and put on display across the country as a threat to those conspiring against the young monarch.
He adopted the title of King shortly after and he was coronated according to the rite of coronation of German kings. He almost immediately established an archbishopric with its see in Esztergom, ensuring the Church in Hungary would be independent of the Holy Roman Empire prelates.
He invited foreign priests in to evangelise his kingdom, slowly transforming it into a Christian state and forcing people to give up their pagan rituals. He faced intense opposition from many Hungarian Lords during his reign but remained firm.
He died in 1038 and was buried in the basilica of Székesfehérvár. He was canonized in 1083 by Pope Gregory VII.
- August 19 is the feast day of Saint John Eudes, a French priest and founder of both the Order of Our Lady of Charity in 1641 and Congregation of Jesus and Mary, also known as The Eudists, in 1643.
Eudes was born in 1601 on a farm close to the village of Ri, in Normandy, France. He had four sisters and two brothers.
At the age of 14, he took a private vow to remain chaste. He studied under the Jesuits at Caen before joining the Oratorians in 1623 at the age of 21. His religious education was characterised by a strong sense of adoration, plus pursuit of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which extended to the Holy Spirit.
He was ordained to the subdiaconate in 1624 and ordained to the priesthood in 1625. He almost immediately fell severely ill however and was bedridden until 1626.
During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese, administering the sacraments and ensuring the dead had a proper burial. In 1633, he began preaching parish missions and would travel widely in France, founding several seminaries throughout the region.
During his time preaching, he saw there was inadequate shelters for prostitutes trying to escape that life. He founded the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge in Caen to provide a refuge for prostitutes who wished to do penance, in 1641.
He also severed his connection with the Oratorians to establish the Eudists, to promote the education of priests and for parish missions, in 1643.
He wrote a number of books throughout his lifetime and taught particularly about the mystical unity of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
He died in 1680 and was canonized in 1925. It has been proposed that he may one day be declared a Doctor of the Church.
- August 20 is the feast day of Saint Bernard, a Burgundian abbot and major leader in the revitalisation of Benedictine monasticism.
He was born about 1090 to parents of Burgundy nobility. He was the third of seven children. When he was 19, his mother died and it was during this time, he thought about living a life of prayer and solitude.
In 1098, a group led by Robert of Molesme had founded Cîteaux Abbey, near Dijon, with the purpose of living literally according to the Rule of St Benedict. In 1113, Bernard sought admission into the new monetary and several were so inspired by him they followed him into monastic life.
Three years after entering, the rapidly growing community expanded to a new house at Vallée d'Absinthe, in the Diocese of Langres. During the absence of the Bishop of Langres, Bernard was blessed as abbot by William of Champeaux, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne.
He participated in the Council of Troyes in 1128 to settle disputes of the bishops of Paris, and regulate other matters of the Church of France.
Throughout his life, he founded numerous monasteries, composed a number of works and undertook many journeys in the service of God. He was offered several Bishoprics but turned them down.
When parts of the Holy Land were invaded, Bernard was commissioned to preach the Second Crusade through France and Germany. Despite rallying several people to the Crusade, the crusaders were ultimately defeated. The failure of the Second Crusade was placed largely upon Bernard and he considered it a duty to send an apology to the Pope.
Bernard died in 1153 at the age of 63, after 40 years of monastic life. He was canonized in 1174 by Pope Alexander III and named a Doctor in the Church in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII.
- August 21 is the feast day of Saint Pius X, the head of the Catholic Church from 1903 to 1914 and a vigorous opponent of modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine.
Born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto in Riese, in modern-day Italy, in 1835, he was the second oldest of 10 children. He grew up in poverty but valued his education and would walk 6 kilometres to school each day.
In 1850, he was given a scholarship to attend the Seminary of Padua where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies. He was ordained a priest in 1858 by Giovanni Antonio Farina, who would go on to be canonised in 2014.
He became archpriest of Salzano in 1867, later becoming canon of the cathedral and chancellor of the Diocese of Treviso. When the Bishop of Trevsio died in 1879, Sarto was elected vicar-capitular to care for the diocese until a new bishop was appointed in 1880.
In 1884, he was appointed bishop of Mantua by Pope Leo XIII. He became assistant at the pontifical throne in 1891. Two years later, Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal. During his time as a cardinal, he became known as one of the most prominent preachers in the Church.
When Pope Leo XIII died in 1903, Sarto was elected as pope after Emperor Franz Joseph vetoed the election of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla. He took the name Pope Pius X, out of respect for a number of his predecessors who had fought against theological liberals.
During his papacy, he is reported to have performed several miracles. Dural a papal audience, has he held a paralyzed child, the child wriggled free then ran around the room. A couple with a two-year-old with meningitis wrote to the pope and after he responded to them, their child was cured.
In 1913, he suffered a heart attack and lived in poor health after. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 reportedly sent him into a state of melancholy and he died on 20 August 1914. He was canonized in 1954.
- August 22 is the feast of the Queenship of Mary, celebrating her role as Queen of the Universe and Queen of Heaven.
The feast day was created by Pope Pius XII in 1954 and was initially celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month.
In 1969, the feast day was moved in 22 August by Pope Paul VI, the former Octave day of the Assumption, emphasising the close bond between Mary’s queenship and her glorification in body and soul next to her Son.
In his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam Pope Pius XII said:
“We are instituting a feast so that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God. We are convinced that this feast will help to preserve, strengthen and prolong that peace among nations which daily is almost destroyed by recurring crises. Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace?”
- August 23 is the feast day of Saint Rose of Lima, a 17th century member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic who became known for her life of severe penance and care of those in poverty.
Born as Isabel Flores de Oliva in Lima, Peru in 1586, she was one of many children born to Gaspar Flores, a harquebusier in the Imperial Spanish army, and María de Oliva y Herrera.
as a child after a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose. She formally took the name Rose at her confirmation.
As a young girl, she would fast three times a week and perform severe penances in secret. When she started to become admired for her beauty, she cut of her hair and rubbed pepper on her face, rejecting all suitors. She took a vow of virginity despite the wishes of her parents.
As she grew up, she began to help the sick and hungry around the community, taking care of them and even bringing them into her own room. She made and sold lace and embroidery to care for the poor but was otherwise a recluse, who only left her room to go to church.
She desired to become a nun but was forbidden by her father, so she instead entered the Third Order of St. Dominic. She donned the habit of a tertiary, would only sleep two hours a night to devote more time to prayer, and donned a heavy crown made of silver with small spikes inside.
After living this was for 11 years, she died in 1617, at the age of just 31.
In 1671, she was declared a saint by Pope Clement X, becoming the first person born in the Americas to be canonised. She is patroness of the Americas, the indigenous people of the Americas, Peru and the Philippines.
- August 24 is the feast day of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, who was martyred for having converted the King of Armenia to Christianity.
He is only briefly mentioned in the gospels, often in the company of Philip, who introduced him to Jesus.
According to tradition, following the death and resurrection of Christ, he went on a missionary tour to India, leaving behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew.
Tradition says he then traveled to Armenia along with his fellow apostle Jude Thaddeus. While there, he converted Polymius, the King of Armenia, to Christianity, enraging his brother who ordered his torture and execution. He was flayed alive and beheaded.
He is venerated as a martyr in the Catholic Church. He is the patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the patron saint of Azerbaijan.
- August 25 is the feast day of Saint Louis, also known as King Louis IX, who was ruler of France from 1226 to 1270, and enforced a strict Catholic orthodoxy.
He was born in 1214 at Poissy, near Paris and was baptised shortly afterwards. His father became king when he was just nine years old. When he was 12, his father died and Louis became King of France, crowned at Reims Cathedral.
His mother instilled a devout Christianity within him and would have a strong influence on his reign until her death in 1252. In 1234, he married Margaret of Provence, who also had a strong religious zeal.
As king, he went on two crusades, the Seventh Crusade in 1248 and the Eighth Crusade in 1270. During the Seventh Crusade, he lost his army and was captured by the Egyptians, only being released following the payment of a massive ransom.
Following his release, he spent four years in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, using his wealth to assist the Crusaders in rebuilding their defenses and conducting diplomacy with Islamic rulers.
Louis took part in the Eighth Crusade and landed at Carthage, in modern-day Tunisia. Disease broke out in the camp however and Louis, along with many of the crusaders, died of dysentery.
As a ruler, he was an extremely devout Catholic. During his captivity in Egypt, he recited the Divine Office every day. After his release from captivity, he visited the Holy Lands before returning to France. He also founded many hospitals and houses for the less fortunate.
Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the canonization of Louis in 1297 and he is the only French king to be declared a saint. He is often considered the model of the ideal Christian monarch.
- August 27 is the feast day of Saint Monica, an early North African saint and the mother of Augustine of Hippo.
Monica is believed to have been born in Thagaste, in modern-day Algeria. She was married early in life to Patricius, a Roman pagan man, who had a violent temper and was annoyed by Monica’s prayer habits.
She had three children who survived infancy, including Augustine, but was forbidden from baptizing the children by her husband. As Augustine grew up, he became wayward and lazy. He became a Manichaean, an ancient Persian religion, and Monica drove him away from her table.
After she experienced a vision, she reconciled with him, following him to Rome and throughout Italy. After 17 years of resistance, he finally converted to Christianity through her perseverance.
They spent six peaceful months together after which Augustine was baptised by Saint Ambrose in Milan. Monica and Augustine then left for Africa, stopping in Ostia, where she passed away.
Her legacy was largely forgotten until the 13th century when her story began to spread.
She is venerated for her outstanding Christian values, even in the face of resistance from both her husband and son. The faithful also seek to embody the prayerful life she dedicated to the reformation of her son, who would go on to be one of the greatest Doctors of the Church.
- August 28 is the feast day of Saint Augustine, a 5th century theologian, philosopher, bishop and Doctor of the Church, who heavily influenced the development of Western philosophy and Christianity.
Born in Thagaste, modern-day Algeria, in 354, his mother Monica was a devout Christian by his father was a pagan. He was sent to study Latin as well as pagan beliefs when he was just 11. When he was 17, he went to Carthage to continue his education, while living a hedonistic life.
While he was studying at Carthage, he read Cicero’s Hortensius which kindled in his heart, a love for wisdom and thirst for truth. He briefly became a Manichaean and entered a relationship with a young woman which would last for 15 years.
He began teaching grammar in 373 in Thagaste before moving back to Carthage where he remained for nine years. He then moved to establish a school in Rome. He then won a job in Milan, where he began to ponder Christianity after meeting with Ambrose of Milan, who would also go on to be a saint.
Ambrose adopted Augustine as a spiritual son and through the prayers and encouragement of his mother, converted to Christianity in 386 at the age of 31. He was baptised by Ambrose along with the son from his previous relationship.
He was ordained a priest in 391 and quickly became famed for his preaching. Some of his sermons would last over an hour and he would preach multiple times a week. He was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo in 395 and a full Bishop shortly after, remaining in that post until his death.
In 430, the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa, besieging Hippo as Augustine entered his final illness. He died shortly.
He was canonized by popular acclaim and was recognised as a Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298. Throughout his life, he made large contributions to theology and philosophy, becoming one of the most prolific scholars of the early Church.
He helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made significant contributions to the development of just war theory. His writings remain a cornerstone of Catholic theology and philosophy.
- August 29 is the feast day of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, commemorating his beheading and death at the hands of Herod.
According to the Gospels, Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, had imprisoned John for publicly reproving Herod for divorcing his first wife and then unlawfully taking his sister-in-law, Herodias, as his second wife.
On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter danced before the king and he was so pleased he promised to give her anything she desired. She asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Despite being appalled by the request, Herod agreed and had John executed by beheading in prison.
The Passion of John the Baptist is one of the oldest liturgical feasts in the Church calendar and was like celebrated in the very earliest days of the Church.
The month of July is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. The Precious Blood is the ransom Christ paid for the redemption of mankind. Without His Precious Blood, there is no remission of sin. The devotion is a call to repentance and reparation. Pope Pius IX instituted the feast in 1849 but the devotion is as old as Christianity.
- July 1 is the feast day of Saint Junipero Serra, an 18th century Spanish missionary of the Franciscan Order who founded several missions in North America.
Serra was born in Mallorca off the coast of Spain and worked the fields with his parents during his childhood and youth. Early on, he showed special interest in visiting the local Franciscan friary just a block away from the family house.
Just before his 17th birthday, he entered the Franciscan Order at Palma. Seven years later, he became a priest and later earned an ecclesiastical license to teach philosophy at the Convento de San Francisco.
Despite being assured a prestigious career as a priest and scholar his he stayed in Europe, he desired to embark on a foreign mission to the Americas.
In 1749, he landed in Mexico and began to reform some of the missions which had been left in disarray. He reformed several missions and even sided with locals after Spanish soldiers tried to take over some of the territory occupied by the missions.
In 1767, he was appointed president of the missions of Baja California, heading a group of 15 Franciscan friars. He founded several missions in the California area, designed to bring the Catholic faith to the native people.
Again, he often came into conflict with Spanish solders and protected native populations from their predations. In Serra’s missions, the local population were afforded human rights and protection, rights not granted to Natives in other areas of the country.
Despite suffering during his later years, he continued his mission work and traveled extensively. He died in 1784 of tuberculosis at the age of 70.
Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and canonised by Pope Francis in 2015.
- July 3 is the feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus who is commonly known for initially doubting the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Only briefly mentioned in the Gospels, Thomas is most well known for being skeptical Jesus had risen from the dead when he appeared to the other Apostles. When Jesus appeared to him later and invited him to touch his wounds, he came to believe in the resurrection.
According to traditional accounts, following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Thomas traveled east to India where he evangelised.
He is believed to have left northwest India after he was threatened. It’s alleged by some he traveled as far as China before returning to India.
He baptized many families across India but became a martyr in 72 AD after being killed by a spear in Chennai.
Due to his ministry in the country, he is regarded as the patron saint of India by its Christian population.
- July 6 is the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti, an Italian virgin-martyr who is one of the youngest saints to ever be canonized.
Born in 1890 in Corinaldo, Italy, Maria was the third of seven children to Luigi and Assunta.
When she was five, her family had become so poor they were forced to give up their farm and work for other farmers. They moved around the country every few years as a result.
When she was nine, her father passed away from malaria. While her mother and siblings worked in the fields, she would cook, sew, watch her younger siblings, and keep the house clean.
In 1902, when she was just 11, the 20-year-old son of the family they were living with, Alessandro, cornered her when she was alone and threatened to rape her. She protested however and fought desperately. She refused to submit and was stabbed by him 14 times.
After being found, she was taken to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries a day later.
Alessandro was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant until a local bishop visited him. Upon his release, he begged Maria’s mother for forgiveness and they attended mass together the next day.
He became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working there until he died in 1970 at age 87.
Maria was beatified in 1947 and canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
- July 11 is the feast day of St Benedict of Nursia, a 6th century who founded a dozen communities for monks in Italy.
Born to a Roman noble in Nursia, Umbria, he left home when he was about 20 years old to study in Rome. He left the big city shortly after however and settled down in a town called Enfide, near Subiaco.
He became a hermit and lived in a cave for three years, maturing in both mind and character.
When the abbot of a nearby monastery passed away, the community came to him and begged him to become its abbot. He reluctantly agreed but left when the monks tried to poison him.
Despite multiple poisoning attempts, he was saved from death each time by blessing the food. His miracles increased and many people came to visit him to receive guidance.
He left Subiaco in 530 and founded 12 monasteries in the vicinity of the area.
He is believed to have died of a fever at Monte Cassino, one of the monasteries he founded, in 547.
He was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
- July 12 is the feast day of Saints Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and the first spouses in the church's history to be canonized as a couple.
Louis had intended to become a monk when he was younger but was rejected because he did not succeed at learning Latin, so instead became a watchmaker.
Marie-Azélie had intended to become a nun but was turned away by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul due to respiratory difficulties and recurrent headaches. She prayed to God that she would have many children, promising to consecrate them to God.
Louis and Marie-Azélie married within three months of meeting each other and would go on to have nine children. Only five would survive infancy however all five would go on to become nuns, four of them in the Carmelite order.
Louis gave his daughters touching and naïve pet names: Marie was his "diamond", Pauline his "noble pearl", Céline "the bold and fearless one", and "the guardian angel". Thérèse was his "little queen ... to whom all treasures belonged".
The pair have become symbols of how to live out a strong, vocational marriage which fosters a love of Christ.
- July 15 is the feast day of Saint Bonaventure, an Italian cardinal and Doctor of the Church who was regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.
He was born in 1221 in Civita di Bagnoregio, then part of the Papal States. During his youth, he said he was saved from an untimely death by the prayers of Francis of Assisi.
He joined the Franciscan Order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris. He held the Franciscan chair at Paris in 1253 and in 1255 received the degree of master, the medieval equivalent of doctor.
He successfully defended his order against the reproaches of the anti-mendicant party and was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order. In 1265, he was selected for the post of Archbishop of York but was never consecrated and resigned the appointment in 1266.
Bonaventure helped procure the election of Pope Gregory X, who rewarded him with the title of Cardinal Bishop of Albano, and insisted on his presence at the great Second Council of Lyon in 1274.
He made significant contributions to the union between the Greek and Latin churches during this period, but died suddenly and under suspicious circumstances shortly after.
He left a strong legacy, having steered the Franciscans on a moderate and intellectual course that made them the most prominent order in the Catholic Church at the time. His theology was marked by an attempt completely to integrate faith and reason.
He was canonized by Pope Sixtus XI in 1482 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.
- July 16 is the liturgical feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order.
The Carmelite Order was founded in the 12th Century on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. They bult a chapel in the midst of their hermitages which they dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
One of the early priors of the Order, Saint Simon Stock, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she gave him the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also known as the Brown Scapular) promising that whoever died wearing it would be saved.
The Carmelites consider the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a perfect model of the interior life of prayer and contemplation to which Carmelites aspire, as well as a model of virtue, in the person who was closest in life to Jesus Christ.
The solemn liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was likely first celebrated in England in the later part of the 14th century. Its object was thanksgiving to Mary, the patroness of the Carmelite Order, for the benefits she had accorded to it through its difficult early years.
July 21 is the feast day of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, a 16th century priest, theologian and Doctor of the Church.
Born in Brindisi, in the Kingdom of Naples, in 1559, to a family of Venetian merchants. He showed an early gift for oratory and was chosen to address a short sermon to his compatriots on the Infant Jesus during the Christmas festivities.
He joined the Capuchins in Verona as Brother Lawrence and received further instruction from the University of Padua. As well as speaking Italian, he could read and speak Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French fluently.
He was ordained a priest at the age of 23. At 31, he was elected superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany.
In 1599, he established Capuchin monasteries in modern Germany and Austria, furthering the Counter-Reformation and bringing many Protestants back to the Catholic faith.
In 1602, he was elected vicar general of the Capuchin friars, the highest office in the order. He was elected again in 1605 but refused the office. He remained an adviser to his successors, however.
He entered service to the Holy See, becoming papal nuncio to Bavaria, then nuncio to Spain, before retiring to a monastery in 1618. He died on his 60th birthday in Lisbon.
During his traveling and preaching, he wrote some 800 sermons, blending history, mythology, law, legend, science, and art. He was a prominent Mariologist and his strong theology helped counter the reformation wave sweeping through Europe at the time.
He was beatified in 1783 by Pope Pius VI, canonised in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1959 by Pope John XXIII.
July 22 is the feast day of Mary Magdalene, a woman who traveled with Jesus during his ministry and was a witness to his crucifixion and resurrection.
Little is known about her life beyond what is mentioned in the Gospels, but it is likely she came from Magdala, a village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
It’s assumed she came from a relatively wealthy family given she’s listed as one of the women who supported Jesus’ ministry financially.
The places where women are mentioned in the Gospels indicate they were vital to Jesus’ ministry and the fact Mary Magdalene always appears first suggests she was seen as the most important of the group. She is therefore seen as having a similar role among Jesus’ female followers as Simon Peter does among the male apostles.
She was witness to Jesus to the crucifixion of Jesus and according to the Gospels, the first to discover Jesus’ tomb was empty following the resurrection.
In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I incorrectly conflated her with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, leading to her representation as a repentant prostitute.
This conflation was corrected by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and she has since become a symbol of fidelity and service to Christ. St Peter Julian Eymard calls her "the patroness and model of a life spent in the adoration and service of Jesus in the sacrament of His Love”.
In 2016, Pope Francis called for her to be referred to as the “Apostle of the apostles”, elevating her status within the Church and calling her “an example of true and authentic evangelisation, that is, an evangeliser who proclaims the joyful central message of Easter.”
July 23 is the feast day of Saint Bridget of Sweden, a 14th century mystic who founded the Bridgettines nuns and monks.
Bridget was born in 1303 to a governor and one of the richest landowners in the country. At 14, she married Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of Ulvåsa, Lord of Närke, and bore eight children, including Saint Catherine of Sweden.
She became known for her works of charity through her life, particularly towards unwed mothers and children. After returning from a family pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, her husband Ulf died and she became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, devoting herself to a life of prayer and caring for the vulnerable.
During this time, she developed the idea of establishing a new religious community, which would become the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the Bridgettines. In 1350, she made a pilgrimage to Rome to obtain authorization of the new order from the Pope.
It wasn’t until 1370 that Pope Urban V confirmed the Rule of the Order. During the intervening period, she made herself universally beloved in Rome for her kindness and good works.
She was canonized in 1391 by Pope Boniface IX. On 1 October 1999 Pope John Paul II named Saint Bridget as a patron saint of Europe.
July 25 is the feast day of Saint James, also known as James the Great, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and the first of the apostles to be martyred.
James was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of John the Apostle. He was one of the first disciples to join Jesus along with his brother. He was one of only three Apostles to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration.
He and his brother also asked Jesus to grant them seats on his right and left in his glory but he rebuked them, asking if they were ready to drink from the cup he was going to drink from and saying the honor was not even for him to grant.
According to tradition, he preached the gospel in Spain as well as the holy land.
The Acts of the Apostles records that Herod Agrippa I had James executed by sword in 44 AD, becoming the first apostle to be martyred.
According to tradition, the Chapel of St. James the Great, within the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, is where he was martyred. His head is buried under the altar, marked by a piece of red marble.
Saint James is the patron saint of Spain and hundreds of thousands of people complete the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage every year, finishing at the shrine of the apostle in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
July 24 is the feast day of St Charbel, a 19th century Maronite monk and priest from Lebanon who obtained a wide reputation for holiness and whose intercession has led to many healing miracles.
Born Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in 1828, he was one of five children. His father died when he was just three years old, and his mother remarried a man who went on to seek Holy Orders, becoming the parish priest of the village, as is allowed in the Maronite rite.
Charbel was raised in a pious home and became drawn to the hermit life and while looking after the family’s small herd of cows, would spend the day in prayer at a nearby grotto where he had installed an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1851, he left his family and entered the Lebanese Maronite Order to begin training as a monk. He received the religious habit and took the name Charbel, named after a 2nd century Christian martyr.
He made his final religious profession in 1853 and began to study for the priesthood. Among his professors at seminary was Nimatullah Kassab, who would also be declared a saint. He was ordained in 1859.
He was sent to live in the St. Maron Monastery, where he lived a life of severe asceticism. In 1875, he was granted the privilege of living as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, and spend the next 23 years living as a solitary hermit until his death in 1898.
Since his death, many miracles of healing have been credited with his intercession. He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
July 26 is the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.
According to tradition, Joachim and Anne had been infertile and were far advanced in years prior to Mary’s conception. Joachim was a rich and pious man who often gave to the poor but his sacrifice at the temple was rejected as the couple’s childlessness was interpreted as a sign of God’s displeasure.
Joachim withdrew to the desert to fast and do penance for 40 days. God heard his prayers and Mary was immaculately conceived.
It’s believed Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple of Jerusalem when she was three years old by her parents.
While little is known about their lives through any primary or church sanctioned sources, they serve as role models for parenthood, and for their devotion to God and Mary, the Mother of God.
July 29 is the feast day of Saints Martha, Mary & Lazarus, who became followers of Jesus after witnessing the miracle of He raised Lazarus from the grave.
In the Gospels, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. While Mary sits at the Lord’s feet listening intently to what he has to say, Martha is distracted by the preparations for their guest. When Martha asks the Lord to tell Mary to help her, Jesus tells her Mary has “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
After meeting with the sisters, they lament that he did not arrive in time to prevent the death of their brother Lazarus.
Jesus has Mary bring his to Lazarus’ tomb where he commands the stone to be removed from its entrance.
The stone is removed and Jesus prays and calls Lazarus forth from the tomb, alive. Jesus calls for his grave-cloths to be removed and let him go.
Just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus returns to Bethany and attends a supper with Lazarus and Martha. Jesus and Lazarus attract a lot of attention and the narrator states that the chief priests consider having Lazarus put to death because so many people are believing in Jesus on account of this miracle.
All three siblings are venerated in the Catholic Church with a joint feast day.
July 30 is the feast day of Saint Peter Chrysologus, a Doctor of the Church known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for his concise but theologically rich reflections.
Peter was born about the year 380 in Imola, Italy. The Bishop of Imola baptised him, educated him and ordained him as a deacon. He became an archdeacon and was appointed Bishop of Ravenna in 433 by Pope Sixtus III.
Pope Sixtus is said to have had a vision of Pope Peter the Apostle and Apollinaris of Ravenna, the first bishop of that see, which showed a young man, the next Bishop of Ravenna. When Peter Chrysologus visited Sixtus, the Pope immediately recognised him as the young man from his vision and consecrated him as a bishop.
He became well known as a bishop for his homilies, explaining biblical texts concisely and briefly. He advocated for daily reception of the Eucharist and his surviving works attest to the perpetual virginity of Mary. The name Chrysologus was given to him, meaning “golden-worded”.
He died in the year 450 during a visit to his hometown of Imola.
He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729.
July 31 is the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a Catholic priest who founded the religious order of the Society of Jesus (known as the Jesuits) along with Saints Peter Faber and Francis Xavier.
Ignatius was born in the castle at Loyola, in the Basque region of Spain, in 1491, to parents of minor nobility. He was given the name Íñigo in honour of Saint Íñigo of Oña, a Benedictine abbot. He was the youngest of 13 children.
He began using the name Ignatius later in life as a simple variant of his name as he traveled through Europe. He took the surname de Loyola in reference to his birth village.
In his youth, he became a page in the service of a relative, taking up dancing, fencing, gambling, the pursuit of the young ladies, and duelling. He joined the army at 17 and participated in many battles through the next few years. His leg was shattered by a cannonball in 1521 and he returned to Loyola to undergo surgery.
During his recovery, he underwent a spiritual conversion and discerned a call to religious life. After recovering, he resolved to begin a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to do stricter penances. He made the pilgrimage in 1523 with the aim of settling there but was sent back to Europe by the Fransiscans where he went on to study theology and Latin.
He traveled to France along with a number of companions including Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, where he gained a Magisterium from the University of Paris in 1535.
In 1539, he formed the Society of Jesus, which was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. He became the first Superior General or the order and sent his companions on missions to create schools, colleges and seminaries.
Ignatius died in 1556. He was beatified in 1609 and canonised in 1622. He was declared patron saint of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922.
The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The term Sacred Heart is a symbol of God's boundless and passionate love for mankind. It is one of the most widely practiced devotions in the Catholic faith. Pope Leo XIII established June as a special month of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
- June 1 is the feast day of Saint Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist who was beheaded in the second century for teaching the faith.
Saint Justin was born around 100 AD to a Samaritan family and defined himself as a Gentile. In his own works, he said he searched for a belief system, studying Stoicism, Pythagoreanism and Platonism.
He then chanced upon an old Christian man who engaged him in conversation about God, telling him of the testimonies of the prophets.
Moved by the man’s words, he decided to dedicate his life to the service of the Devine. His belief was bolstered by the lives of the early Christians and heroic examples of the martyrs.
He started his own school in Rome to teach the “true philosophy” of Christianity.
While teaching, he got into a dispute with philosopher Crescens who denounced him to the authorities.
He was tried along with six of his companions, and beheaded, becoming a martyr.
- The 50th day after Easter is Pentecost (June 5 in 2022), commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ.
It is a moveable feast, meaning its date depends on the date of Easter, rather than a specific day like other feast days.
The feast occurs after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, with the descent of the Holy Spirit completing the Holy Trinity.
The story of Pentecost is recounted in the Bible in Acts 2:1-4:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
- June 9 is the feast day of Saint Ephrem, a prominent Christian theologian and Doctor of the Church who lived in the 4th century.
Born in the year 306 in modern-day Turkey, Ephrem was baptised as a youth and was appointed as a deacon shortly after. He composed hymns and wrote biblical commentaries as part of his role.
When Nisibis, the city he was living in, was surrendered to invading Persians, the Christian population was forced to leave. He eventually settled in Edessa and spent his late fifties apply himself to ministry in his new church, continuing his work as a teacher.
During his lifetime, he composed hundreds of hymns, many of which still exist today.
After spending 10 years in Edessa, he succumbed to the plague as he ministered to its victims, dying on 9 June 373.
He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
- June 11 is the feast day of Saint Barnabas, a first century Apostolic Father who was among the most prominent Christian disciples in Jerusalem.
Originally named Joseph, he was given the name Barnabas by the Apostles, meaning “son of encouragement”.
He appears in the Book of Acts and several of Paul’s epistles, which recount he sold land he owned and gave the proceeds to the community.
Following the conversion of Saint Paul, Barnabas introduced him to the Apostles. The pair evangelised together through the Mediterranean.
Despite eventually splitting from Paul, it’s believed the two men remained good friends up until Barnabas’ death.
According to tradition, while preaching in Syria, he was tortured and then stoned to death by some Jews in the area.
- The first Sunday after Pentecost is commemorated as Trinity Sunday, celebrating the doctrine of the Trinity, the three persons of God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the early Church, there was no special day assigned for the Holy Trinity although some of the faithful were already reciting the Office of the Holy Trinity, composed by Bishop Stephen of Liège in the early 10th century, the week after Pentecost.
John XXII ordered the creation of the feast on the first Sunday after Pentecost in the 14th century and Pope Pius X raised it to the dignity of a primary of the first class in the early 20th Century.
Just a week after celebrating Pentecost, the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus, the Church appropriately turns its attention to the whole of the Holy Trinity, recognising the gift given by each of the person.
- June 13 is the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua, a 13th century Catholic priest and early friar of the Franciscan Order who became a Doctor of the Church.
Born in Lisbon, Portugal as Fernando Martins de Bulhões, to a wealth and noble family, he entered the Augustinian community of Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross at the Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon at the age of 15.
He asked to be transferred to the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra just a few years later, where he studied theology and Latin and was ordained to the priesthood.
He encountered some visiting Fransiscan friars and was strongly attracted to their simply way of life. He joined the order and adopted the name Anthony.
He set out for Morocco but became sick and was forced to return to Portugal however the ship was pushed off course and landed in Sicily.
He became well known through Italy for his preaching and teaching, coming to the attention of Francis of Assisi, the founder of his order. The two shared a bond and Anthony was assigned to provide teaching to members of the order.
Anthony traveled to see Pope Gregory in 1228 and was hailed as a "jewel case of the Bible" by the papal court.
In 1231, he became sick with ergotism and died shortly after at the age of 35 in Padua. He was canonised as a saint within a year of his death and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.
- The Thursday after Trinity Sunday is celebrated as the Feast of Corpus Christi, also called the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The feast celebrates the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, or Holy Communion, and proclaims the truth of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Mass or the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
The feast of Corpus Christi originated in 1246 when the Bishop of Liege (in present day Belgium) ordered the festival be celebrated in his Diocese after being persuaded by a young prioress who had experienced a vision. This woman, Juliana of Mount Cornillon, would be officially recognised as a saint by Pope Pius IX in 1869.
The festival did not spread until Pope Urban IV ordered the whole Church to observe the feast. Shortly before Pope Urban issued his 1264 bull, St Thomas Aquinas had undertaken and completed the task of composing both the office, or official set of prayers for the Church, and the Mass for the feast.
In some parts of the liturgy today Acquinas’ work remains, in others it has been replaced. One hymn that has been excised but still remains well known, and performed, begins with the words Panis angelicus.
Pope Clement V proclaimed the feast universal and by the 15th century it had become one of the principal feasts in the Church.
- June 22 is the feast day of Saint Thomas More, an English lawyer, judge and martyr who opposed the Protestant Reformation and was executed for opposing Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England.
More was born in 1478, the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyers and judge. He served the Archbishop of Canterbury as a household page from 1490 to 1492. The Archbishop nominated him for a place at the University of Oxford, where More began studying in 1492. He was called to the Bar in 1502 and became a lawyer.
He is believed to have considered abandoning his career at one point to become a monk.
He was elected to parliament in 1504 and became a secretary and personal advisor to King Henry VIII. More opposed the rising Protestant Reformation and actively worked to stop its influence growing in England.
When King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, More refused to acknowledge him as supreme head of the Church of England, and did not attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England.
He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason. He was found guilty by a jury after just fifteen minutes and was executed on 6 July 1535.
Pope Leo XIII beatified Thomas More, John Fisher, and 52 other English Martyrs on 29 December 1886. Pope Pius XI canonised More and Fisher on 19 May 1935.
- June 22 is the feast day of Saint Paulinus of Nola, a Roman poet and senator who abandoned his career and wealth to become a Christian, then later Bishop.
Paulinus was born in Bordeaux, in France in 352, to a notable senatorial family.
In 375, when Emperor Gratian succeeded his father Valentinian, he made Paulinus suffect consul at Rome and appointed him governor of the southern Italian province of Campania.
When Gratian was assassinated in 383, Paulinus went to Milan to attend the school of Ambrose before returning to Bordeaux in 384 and marrying Therasia.
He was baptised shortly after, crediting his conversion to St Felix, who was buried in Nola.
When the couple lost their only child eight days after birth, they decided to withdraw from the world and live a secluded, religious life.
In 393, he was ordained a presbyter by Lampius, Bishop of Barcelona and moved to Nova in late spring of 395, where he remained until his death.
His wife died some time between 408 and 410, and Paulnius received episcopal ordination shortly after, becoming Bishop of Nola where he served for 20 years. He died at Nola on 22 June 431.
The renunciation of his wealth and station in favour of an ascetic and philanthropic life was held up as an example by many of his contemporaries—including SS Augustine, Jerome, Martin, and Ambrose.
He was subsequently venerated as a saint.
- June 22 is the feast day of Saint John Fisher, an English Catholic bishop, cardinal and martyr who was executed by Henry VIII during the English Reformation.
Born in 1469 to a modestly prosperous merchant, he received early education in the school attached to the collegiate church in his hometown and later studied at Cambridge.
He received papal dispensation to enter the priesthood despite being under canonical age. He was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1504 at the personal insistence of Henry VII. His reputation for preaching meant he was appointed to preach the funeral oration for both King Henry VII and the Lady Margaret.
When King Henry VIII tried to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Fisher became her chief supporter, enraging the King. As Henry VIII’s attacks on the Church intensified, Fisher became one of its most public defenders.
When Henry VIII went through with his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Fisher was arrested and later imprisoned. He refused to acknowledge the marriage of Henry and Anne, and refused to declare the King as Supreme Head of the Church of England.
In 1535, the newly elected Pope Paul III declared Fisher a Cardinal, however this only enraged Henry VIII further. Fisher was sentenced to death for treason and executed on 22 June 1535.
In his final moments, he retained a dignified courage, profoundly impressing those around him.
He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII with Thomas More and 52 other English Martyrs on 29 December 1886.
- June 24 is the feast day of the nativity of Saint John the Baptist, an itinerant preacher who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
John was born to Zechariah, an old priest, and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of Mary, who thought they were unable to have children. His birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel.
He grew up to be a preacher, who taught about charity, baptized tax collectors and advised soldiers. He is described as wearing clothes of camel's hair and living on locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, and says another will come after him who will not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus came to John, he was baptized by him in the river Jordan, after which, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended.
Little is known about the rest of his life after this event.
Around 30 AD, John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded by Herod Antipas around after John rebuked him for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then unlawfully wedding Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I.
- The third Friday after Pentecost is the feast of the Sacred Heart.
The term Sacred Heart is a symbol of God's boundless and passionate love for mankind. It is one of the most widely practiced devotions in the Catholic faith.
While the entire month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as a feast day 19 days after Pentecost.
This feast wasn’t always on the liturgical calendar. It took many centuries before it was established and spread throughout the world.
St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun and mystic, received private revelations from Jesus on 16 June 1675, asking her to specifically promote a feast that honoured His Sacred Heart.
The first country to institute a liturgical feast was Poland and then in a decree from the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 23 August 1856, Pope Pius IX established the feast for the universal Church.
St John Paul II, a great devotee of the Sacred Heart, said: “This feast reminds us of the mercy of the love of God for the people of all times.”
On this feast day, the faithful are encouraged to discover the riches hidden in the Heart of Jesus that gives hope and trust and to love our neighbours.
- June 27 is the feast day of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, an early Church Father and Doctor of the Church.
Born circa 376, little is known about his early life however it appears he was well educated and received a formal Christian education standard for his day. His maternal uncle was Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria from 384 to 412.
In 403, Cyril accompanied his uncle to attend the "Synod of the Oak" in Constantinople, which deposed John Chrysostom as Archbishop of Constantinople.
When Theophilus died in 412, Cyril was made Patriarch of Alexandria.
In this role, he was a scholar and prolific writer, writing several exegetical documents.
He wrote extensively on the two natures of Jesus and is also noted in Church history for his fight for the title of Theotokos (God bearer) to be given to Mary and putting emphasis on her as the Mother of God.
Cyril is counted among the Church Fathers and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles Pillar of Faith and Seal of all the Fathers.
He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 28 July 1882 by Pope Leo XIII.
- June 29 is the feast day of Saint Paul, one of the most prominent and prolific Christian apostles in the first century. He wrote 14 of the 27 New Testament books and founded several Christian communities across Asia Minor and Europe.
The feast day is celebrated as the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, honouring the martyrdom of both Paul and Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome.
Paul was born to a devout Jewish family in Tarsus. He was given the name Saul and was sent to Jerusalem to receive his education but very little is known about his life after that.
At some point, Saul became a persecutor of Christians and even participated in the martyring of Stephen, an early deacon of the Church who is considered its first martyr.
Sometime after this, while traveling on the road to Damascus, he reported having a vision of Jesus who said to him: 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' He asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting'.
Paul said he was blinded for three days and was only restored when he was baptised by Ananias of Damascus.
Following his conversion, he became a prolific missionary and teacher of the Gospels. Several of his letters to various Christian communities across the region became Biblical Canon and he helped spread the word of God far and wide.
His ministry drew heavy opposition however and in 57 AD, he was arrested in Jerusalem. While travelling to Rome to stand trial, he was shipwrecked on Malta. He arrived in Rome in 60 AD and spent another two years under house arrest.
After he was put on trial, he was executed, along with St Peter, some time between 64 and 68 AD.
- June 29 is the feast day of Saint Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome.
The feast day is celebrated as the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, honouring the martyrdom of both Peter and Saint Paul the Apostle.
Named Simon at birth, Peter was a Jewish fisherman in Bethsaida. After his mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, he became one of his apostles along with his brother Andrew.
He was the most prominent of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus told him he would be the rock upon which the Church would be built.
After the resurrection of Christ, Peter began to evangelise through the region, reaching out to Jews and Gentiles alike.
He became the leader of the early Church. He founded the Church in Rome and became the first Bishop of Rome and the first Pope.
Following the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, the burgeoning Christian population in the city was blamed for the atrocity. He was crucified head down by the Emperor Nero.
According to tradition, he was martyred along with St Paul.
The month of May is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, the Blessed Virgin, Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church. The pious practice of honouring Mary during May has been especially recommended by the Popes. Parishes often have a daily recitation of the Rosary during May and crown the statue of Mary with beautiful flowers representing Mary’s beauty and virtue. It is also a reminder to strive to imitate Mary’s beauty and virtue.
- May 1 is the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker, reflecting his status as a carpenter and patron of workers.
While Saint Joseph has his principal feast day on March 19, the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker was introduced by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as an ecclesiastical counterpart to International Workers Day, also held on May 1.
Saint Joseph was the foster father of Jesus and is held up by the Church as a model of the holiness of human labour. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son”.
Pope Pius XII said Saint Joseph was a model of holiness to all workers.
“The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work,” he said.
The feast day was established to both honour Saint Joseph and to make people aware of the dignity of human work, which has long been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God.
Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens: “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society.”
- May 3 is the feast day of Saint Philip the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus who was martyred for evangelising following the Ascension.
Saint Philip was from the city of Bethsaida and was among those surrounding John the Baptist when Jesus was pointed out as the Lamb of God.
He features prominently in the Gospel of John. He was asked by Jesus how to feed the 5,000 people, and acts as a conduit between the Greek community and Jesus. He also asks Jesus at the last supper to explain the unity of the Father and Son.
Following Jesus’ Ascension, Saint Philip became a missionary, preaching with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew in Greece, Syria and Phrygia.
He was martyred in the city of Hierapolis after converting the wife of the proconsul of the city, angering the husband who had him tortured and killed.
Relics of Saint Philip are in the crypt of Basilica Santi Apostoli in Rome along with Saint James, another of the Twelve Apostles, who was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I of Judaea.
- May 14 is the feast day of Saint Matthias the Apostle, who was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following his betrayal of Jesus and subsequent death.
While he is not mentioned in the Gospels, according to the Acts of the Apostles, he had been with Jesus from the time of his baptism by John the Baptist, through to his Ascension.
Following the Ascension, the Apostles asked the 120 disciples that had followed them to nominate two men to replace Judas. Matthias was nominated alongside Joseph Barsabbas. After praying, they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias, so he was numbered with the 11 Apostles.
He went on to preach the Gospel and plant the faith in Turkey, Ethiopia and Georgia. He was martyred by crucifixion for his ministry.
It’s believed St Matthias’ remains were brought to Italy through the Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I. Part of the relics were buried in the Abbey of Santa Giustina, Padua, and the remaining in the Abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany.
- May 26 is the Feast of the Ascension, commemorating Jesus’ ascent into Heaven, completing his redemptive mission on Earth.
The Ascension is commemorated on the fortieth day of Easter, reflecting Jesus’ ascent on the fortieth day from his resurrection.
In the Gospel of Luke, on that day, Jesus led the eleven remaining disciples to the Mount of Olives and instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit.
After blessing them, he parted them and was carried up to heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father.
The Ascension has been commemorated since the very beginning of the Church, and ranks with the feasts of the Passion, Easter and Pentecost.
- May 31 is the Feast of the Visitation, commemorating the visit of Mary, pregnant with Jesus, to Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist.
The visitation is described in the Gospel of Luke.
“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.
“And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’”
World Youth Day’s theme for 2023 is “Mary arose and left with haste”, describing Mary leaving to visit her sister Elizabeth after finding out she was pregnant with Jesus.
The visit is symbolic of Mary’s desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone else, and Pope Francis has used this to underline his desire for World Youth Day 2023 to be a festival of evangelization.
The month of January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, commemorating the naming of the child Jesus following his birth at Christmas. The feast has historically been celebrated at various points through January and so the whole month has been dedicated to devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.
- January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary and her motherhood of Jesus Christ.
Mary’s title as Mother of God was first declared at the Council of Ephesus, in 431. The early Church celebrated a feast called the anniversary of the Mother of God however this began to be overshadowed and by the 7th century, it was simply celebrated as the octave day of Christmas, the eighth day following Jesus birth, when he was circumcised.
In the 13th century, January 1 began to be celebrated as the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, while still being orientated towards Mary, glorifying her maternity. In 20th century, the mention of the circumcision was removed, and the day was dedicated to Mary as the Holy Mother of God.
- January 2 is the feast day of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, 4th century bishops and two of the Cappadocian Fathers, who helped advance the development of many key elements of Christian theology.
Basil was born in 330 into a wealthy Cappadocian Greek family, receiving a formal education in Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, where he met Gregory Nazianzen. Gregory had been born to Greek parents in 329, in the village of Arianzus, near Nazianzus, in southwest Cappadocia.
After being ordained, both men went on to be bishops. Basil became Bishop of Caesarea in 370 and Gregory became Bishop of Sasima in 372. Throughout their lives, they defended the Church from the heresy of Arianism, which had been infecting the Church at the time.
Their strong stance drew fierce criticism but they remained faithful to their teachings. Their volumes of writings helped to define some of the most important elements of Christian theology, including Christ’s divinity and the Holy Trinity.
While both men were known for their intelligence and writings, they were also known for their faithfulness and piety.
Basil distributed food to the poor during famines and he encouraged all his clergy not to be tempted by wealth. He built a large complex outside Caesarea which consisted of a poorhouse, hospice and hospital to care for people.
Gregory donated most of his inheritance to the needy and lived an austere existence through his episcopate.
Both men are honoured as Doctors of the Church due to their extensive writings, contributions to Christian theology and fierce defence of the Church against heresy.
- January 3 is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, commemorating the naming of the child Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The feast has been celebrated in the Church since the end of the 15th century. Observance of the feast was officially granted to the Franciscans in 1530 and spread through the Church. It was celebrated in January although on different dates by different orders.
The day began to be celebrated towards the start of January and is now celebrated on January 3. The entire month of January is also dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.
- January 7 is the feast day of Saint Raymond of Penyafort, a 13th century Catalan Dominican friar who compiled a key collection of canonical laws, which formed a key part of Church law for close to 700 years.
Born in Vilafranca del Penedès, a small town near Barcelona in 1175, he was educated in Barcelona and at the University of Bologna where he received doctorates in both civil and canon law. He taught canon law from 1195 to 1210 and became Chair of canon law at the University of Bologna.
While teaching, he became attracted to the Dominican Order and received the habit at the age of 47 in 1222, at the Dominican Convent of Barcelona.
Having gained a reputation in the juridical sciences, Pope Gregory IX ordered Raymond, who had become his chaplain and confessor, to help in rearranging and codifying canon law, which had previously been scattered across several sets of documents.
Raymond’s collection of canon law, known as the Decretals of Gregory IX, became a standard for almost 700 years.
He is well known for a famous miracle performed while serving as confessor for King James I of Aragon on Majorca. When Raymond reproved the king and asked him to dismiss his concubine, he was told he would not be allowed to leave the island of Majorca. Raymond went to the seashore, rigged his cloak to his walking staff to form a mast and boat. He set off sailing to the astonishment of the nearby sailors and made it to Barcelona in the space of six hours.
He died at the age of 100 in Barcelona in 1275. He was canonised by Pope Clement VIII in 1601 and buried in the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Barcelona. He is the patron saint of canon lawyers.
- January 8 is the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, celebrating the revelation of Jesus Christ as God incarnate.
The feast principally commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, that even being Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. The word epiphany means manifestation or appearance.
The Epiphany was first celebrated as a feast as early as the 4th century and originally combined a celebration of his baptism. In 1955, the two celebrations were separated, and the Baptism of Jesus now follows the celebration of the Epiphany.
- January 9 is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, commemorating Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
The baptism is described in the three synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. In the Gospels, Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptised by John the Baptist. After he is baptised, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and a voice from heaven says: "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".
The baptism of Jesus is considered to be the start of his earthly ministry.
The celebration of his baptism has existed since the very early Church, but was often celebrated along with the Epiphany. In 1955, it was instituted as a separate liturgical commemoration.
- January 13 is the feast day of Saint Hilary, a 4th century Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who was a key defender of the Church against Arianism.
Born in Poitiers near the beginning of the 4th century to pagan parents, he studied Old and New Testament writings and ended up abandoning his pagan faith. His wife and daughter were baptised and received into the Church.
He became so respected by the Christians of Poitiers, they unanimously elected him as their bishop. At the time, Arianism was threatening to overrun the Western Church so Hilary undertook to repel it.
After writing to Emperor Constantius II against the persecutions by which the Arians had sought to crush their opponents, Hilary was exiled for four years in 356, although the exact reason for his banishment remains unclear.
While in Phrygia, he continued to govern his diocese and write important works of theology. In his works, he attempted to show the difference between certain doctrines and beliefs was in words, rather than ideas. During his time in exile, he made repeated requests for public debate, which proved so inconvenient, he was sent back to his diocese in 361.
After returning to his diocese in 361, he continued to spend much of his life defending the Church against heretics. He died in Poitiers in 367. He was recognised as a Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX.
- January 17 is the feast day of Saint Anthony the Great, a 4th century Egyptian monk who is known as the Father of All Monks, due to his important influence on Christian monasticism.
Anthony was in Korma in Lower Egypt to wealthy landowner parents in 251. His parents died when he was 20 years old, leaving him with the care of his unmarried sister. After placing her with a group of Christian virgins, Anthony gave away all his family’s property, donating the funds to the poor and pursuing an ascetic life.
He became the disciple of a local hermit, working as a swineherd. He maintained a strict diet of bread, salt and water, never eating meat or drinking wine. He would fast for days at a time.
During his time in isolation, he would face demons in the shape of wild beasts, who would inflict blows upon him.
After 15 years living as a hermit, he decided to retire to absolute solitude. He went into the desert to a mountain by the Nile and live in an abandoned Roman fort for 20 years. Food was thrown to him over the wall and he was visited at times by pilgrims, who he refused to see.
Over the years, a colony of hermits began to form. They begged Anthony to come out and be their guide in the spiritual life. Eventually he yielded, devoting himself to the instruction and organization of a great body of monks. After five or six years, he retreated into solitude again, although he would freely see visitors.
In 338, he left the desert to visit Alexandria and help refute the teachings of Arius.
In 356, sensing his death approaching, he commanded his disciples to give his staff to Macarius of Egypt, and to give one sheepskin cloak to Athanasius of Alexandria and the other sheepskin cloak to Serapion of Thmuis. After his death, he was interred in a grave next to his cell.
While not the first ascetic or hermit, he became known as the Father of Monasticism due to the organization of his disciples into a community.
- January 20 is the feast day of Saint Fabian, the Bishop of Rome in the mid-3rd century who is said to have been chosen as Pope after a dove descended upon his head, marking him as the choice of the Holy Spirit.
Fabian was born to a noble Roman family although little else is known about his background.
Following the short reign of Pope Anterus, Fabian came to Rome when the new papal election began. While many names were being considered, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian, a sign to the electors that he was a man of dignity. He was at once proclaimed Bishop of Rome.
During his 14 year reign, he ensured the return of the bodies of many martyrs from Sardinia, who had died in hard labour in the mines. He also initiated considerable work on the catacombs, where honoured Christians were interred.
During his papacy, he also split Rome into seven districts, each supervised by a deacon.
When Emperor Decius ascended the throne, Roman’s tolerance towards Christianity temporarily ended and he ordered everyone in the Empire to demonstrate loyalty to Rome by offering incense to deities representative of the Roman state.
Many Christians, including Fabian, refused and were imprisoned or were martyred. Fabian was martyred in 250, at the beginning of the Decian persecutions.
- January 20 is the feast day of Saint Sebastian, an early Christian martyr who was killed during the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, after initially surviving an execution attempt.
According to tradition, Sebastian was from Gallia Narbonensis, who was educated in Milan. He entered the army in Rome in 283 to assist the martyrs and became one of the captains of the Praetorian Guards, unaware he was a Christian.
When two twin brothers, Marcus and Marcellianus, who were both deacons, refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were put in prison, Sebastian succeeded in converting the son of the local prefect, Saint Tiburtius, to Christianity.
Another local official, Nicostratus, and his wife Zoe, also converted because of Sebastian. While Zoe had been mute for six years, upon her conversion, her speech returned to her. When the local prefect also converted, he set all the prisoners alongside Marcus and Marcellianus free and resigned.
Sebastian’s faith became known in 286 and he was reproached for his supposed betrayal of the Romans. He was bound to a stake and shot at with many arrows but they did not kill him. He was nursed back to health.
He went on to publicly harangue Diocletian for his cruelties against Christians. Diocletian gave orders he be beaten to death. After his death, his body was thrown in the sewer.
After appearing to a lady named Lucina, Sebastian’s body was retreated and buried in the catacombs, where the Basilica of St Sebastian now stands.
In medieval Christianity, he became strongly associated with defense against the plague and it was believed his intercession could help protect people.
- January 21 is the feast day of Saint Agnes, a 4th century virgin martyr who was killed when she was just 12 years old.
Born into a noble Roman family in 291, she was said to be very beautiful and had many suitors of high rank. She was devoted to religious purity however and had submitted her name to the pagan authorities as a follower of Christianity.
The Prefect Sempronius condemned her and ordered her to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel. As she prayed, her hair grew and completely covered her body. All men who attempted to engage her against her will were struck blind.
When the prefect’s son was struck dead, Agnes prayed for him, reviving him and causing her to be released by the prefect. A trial commenced against her however, even as Sempronius recused himself.
She was led out and bound to a stake. When the wood below her would not burn, she was beheaded.
The daughter of Constantine I, Constantina, was said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes' tomb.
She was venerated as a saint within decades of her death. She is a patron saint of girls, chastity, virgins, victims of sex abuse, and gardeners.
- January 24 is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, a 17th century bishop who was revered for his deep faith and gentle approach to religious divisions during the Protestant Reformation.
Francis was born into a noble family, in what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France in 1567. As the oldest of six sons, his father wanted him to attend the best schools to prepare him for a career as a magistrate. He enjoyed a privileged education, including at the Capuchin college in Annecy.
In 1578, he went to the Collège de Clermont to study rhetoric and humanities. In 1586, he attended a theological discussion about predestination, convincing him he was damned to hell, and a personal crisis resulted.
At the end of the year, he decided to consecrate himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicate his life to God with a vow of chastity and become a tertiary of the Minim Order.
He enrolled at the University of Padua in Italy, studying law and theology. After receiving his doctorate, he decided to become a priest, making a pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy and then returning home to Savoy.
His father secured him an appointment as a senator and chose a wealthy noble heiress for his bride, but Francis refused to marry and stayed the course for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1593.
In 1599, he became coadjutor bishop of Geneva. He was sent on a diplomatic mission to Henry IV of France to negotiate the restoration of Catholic worship in Gex.
He became Bishop of Geneva in 1602 and became known for his efficient organization, zealous clergy and well-instructed laity. He resided outside the diocese though, because Geneva remained under Calvinist control. In Evian, he had a vision of St Francis of Assisi who said, despite his desire to, he would not achieve martyrdom.
Francis gained a reputation as a spellbinding preaching, and his goodness, patience and mildness become proverbial.
He died in 1622, suffering a stroke while traveling in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy.
- January 25 is the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, commemorating the Pauline conversion on the road to Damascus which led him to stop persecuting Christians and follow Jesus.
The story is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Paul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
The feast is an opportunity to reflect on the conversion experience of every Christian, both big and small.
- January 27 is the feast of Saints Timothy and Titus, close companions of St Paul the Apostle and bishops in the early Church.
While both men lived very different lives, they are commemorated in a joint feast, noting their readiness to take on various offices despite being in difficult circumstances.
Timothy was a student of Sacred Scripture from his youth and joined Paul after the apostle visited his home region of Lycaonia. After Paul was forced to leave the city of Berea, Timothy remained to help the local church. He would travel with Paul on and off for the next few years.
He endured a period of imprisonment for his missionary work. He endured martyrdom in 93 after taking a stand against the worship of idols, leading him to be killed by a mob.
Titus was born into a pagan family but began reading the Hebrew Scriptures following a prophetic dream. He journeyed to Jerusalem and witnessed the preaching of Christ but only later received baptism from Paul.
Titus became Paul’s assistant and interpreter, accompanying him to the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in 51. He was ordained Bishop of Crete after Paul’s first period of imprisonment. He led the Church of Crete well into his 90s, dying peacefully of old age.
Both men were fundamental to the expansion of the early Church despite facing threats of martyrdom and imprisonment for their preaching and leadership.