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Feast Days & Saints

AUGUST

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 - St Alphonsus Liguori

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 – St Eusebius of Vercelli

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 – St Peter Julian Eymard

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 – St Dominic

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 – St John Vianney

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 – Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major

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 – Feast of the Transfiguration

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 – St Pope Sixtus II

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 – St Mary of the Cross Mackillop

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 – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

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 – St Lawrence

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 – St Clare

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 – St Jane Frances de Chantal

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 – Feast of the Assumption of Mary

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


 

JULY

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 – St Junipero Serra

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 – St Thomas the Apostle

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 – St Maria Goretti

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 – St Benedict

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 – St Louis Martin and St Marie-Azélie Guérin

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 - St Bonaventure

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 – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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 – St Lawrence of Brindisi

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 – Mary Magdalene

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 – St Bridget of Sweden

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 – St James

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 – St Charbel

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 – St Joachim and Anne

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 - Saints Martha, Mary & Lazarus

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 – Saint Peter Chrysologus

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 – St Ignatius of Loyola

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.

 

JUNE

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 - Justin Martyr

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.

June 5 – Pentecost

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 – St Ephrem

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 – St Barnabas

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.

June 12 – Trinity Sunday

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 – St Anthony of Padua

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.

June 16 – Corpus Christi

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 – St Thomas More

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 – St Paulinus of Nola

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 – St John Fisher

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 – St John the Baptist

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.

June 24 – Sacred Heart

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 – St Cyril of Alexandria

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 – St Paul

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 – St Peter

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.

 

MAY

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.

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May 1 – St Joseph the Worker

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.”

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May 3 – St Philip the Apostle

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.

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May 14 – St Matthias the Apostle

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 – Feast of the Ascension

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 – Visitation

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.