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1. St. Giles
2. Blessed John DuLau and the September Martyrs
3. St. Gregory the Great
4. St. Rose of Viterbo
5. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
6. Blessed Bertrand of Garrigues
7. Blessed John Duckett and Blessed Ralph Corby
8. Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
9. St. Peter Claver
10. St. Nicholas of Tolentino
11. St. Lawrence Justinian
12. Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
13. St. John Chrysostom
14. Exaltation of the Holy Cross
15. Our Lady of Sorrows
16. St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian
17. St. Robert Bellarmine
18. St. Joseph of Cupertino
19. St. Januarius
20. St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn and St. Paul Chŏng Hasang
21. St. Matthew
22. St. Thomas of Villanova
23. St. Pio of Pietrelcina
24. St. Thecla
25. St. Sergius
26. St. Cosmas and St. Damian
27. St. Vincent de Paul
28. St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions
29. St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael
30. St. Jerome
September 1
St. Giles
Giles was born in Athens, Greece, in the eighth century. When his parents died, he used the large fortune they left him to help the poor. For this reason and especially because he worked many miracles, Giles found himself a greatly admired young man. He did not want this praise and fame at all. So, to be able to serve God in a hidden life, he left Greece and sailed to France. There he went to live alone in a dark forest. He made his home in a rough cave behind a thick thorn bush. Giles lived there contented, safe from the danger of becoming conceited at hearing himself praised. But one day, a certain king and his men went hunting in the forest. They chased a deer that often came to Giles’ cave. The deer escaped by going into Giles’ cave, which was hidden behind the large thorn bush. One of the men shot an arrow into the thorn bush, hoping to hit the deer. When they forced their way in, they discovered Giles sitting wounded by the arrow. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” demanded the king. St. Giles told them the story of his life. When they heard it, they asked his forgiveness. The king sent his doctors to take care of the saint’s wound. Although Giles begged to be left alone, the king felt such respect for him that he came often to see him. Giles never would accept the king’s gifts. Finally, however, he agreed to let the king build a large monastery there. Giles became its first abbot. This monastery became so famous that a whole town grew up there. When the saint died, his grave at the monastery became a great shrine where many people came on pilgrimage.
St. Giles realized that only God can make us really happy. The next time we notice that we’re being self-centered, we can pray to St. Giles. He’ll help us become God-centered in our lives and generous with our time.
September 2
Blessed John DuLau and the September Martyrs
Blessed John was the archbishop of Arles, France. He and his companions are celebrated today because they died heroic martyrs’ deaths during the French Revolution. The people were being forced to take an oath to uphold the Constitution of 1790, which was against the Church. If they did not take the oath, they were imprisoned. By 1792, the punishment was death. Many brave bishops, priests, religious, and lay people would not sign the oath supporting the new Constitution. They knew they would be betraying God and his Church. Pope Pius VI told them that they were right and denounced the Constitution. It was a sad time for the people of France. On September 2, 1792, a crowd of several hundred people rioted and broke into a former monastery, which was now a prison for priests and religious. The mob approached several priests and told them to sign the oath. Each priest definitely refused. Each was slain on the spot. Among the martyrs was Blessed Alexander Lenfant, a Jesuit. Just a few minutes before he died, he had been hearing the confession of a fellow priest. Both were killed moments later. The rioters then went to the Carmelite church, which was also being used as a prison. Blessed John, archbishop of Arles, and other bishops and priests were being held there. All refused to take the oath and all were murdered. On September 3, the same mob went to the Lazarist seminary. It was also a temporary prison, with ninety priests and religious. Only four escaped death. By the time the terrible Revolution had ended, 1,500 Catholics had been killed. Several were bishops, priests, and religious. The September Martyrs, whom we celebrate today, number 191. They were proclaimed blessed in 1926 by Pope Pius XI.
We can ask today’s martyrs to help us understand that we should cherish the precious gift of our Catholic faith. We never want to take our religion for granted.
September 3
St. Gregory the Great
St. Gregory was born in 540 in Rome. His father was a senator. His mother was St. Celia. Gregory studied philosophy and while still young became prefect of Rome. When his father died, Gregory turned his large house into a monastery. For several years he lived as a good and holy monk. Then Pope Pelagius II made him one of the seven deacons of Rome. When the pope died, Gregory was chosen to take his place. He did not want that honor at all. He was so holy and wise, however, that everyone knew he would be a good pope. For fourteen years he ruled the Church. Gregory was one of the greatest popes the Church has ever had. He wrote many books and was a wonderful preacher. He cared for people all over the world. In fact, he considered himself the servant of all. He was the first pope to use the title “Servant of the Servants of God.” All the popes since have used this title. St. Gregory took special, loving care of poor people and strangers. During a famine, he fed the hungry people. He restored Rome, which had earlier been devastated by invasions and earthquakes. He was also very sensitive to the injustices people suffered. It is said that when he was still a monk, he saw some boys up for sale in the slave market of Rome. He asked where they were from and was told that they were from England. The saint felt a great desire to go to England to bring the love of Jesus to those pagans. When he became pope, one of the first things he did was to send some of his best monks to tell the English about Christ. The last years of this holy pope’s life were filled with great sufferings, yet he continued working for his beloved Church until the very end. St. Gregory died on March 12, 604.
Every morning we can decide to do at least one good deed or act of kindness during the day. Then we’ll imitate St. Gregory the Great, who knew that true greatness lies in reaching out in loving service to our neighbor for the love of Jesus.
September 4
St. Rose of Viterbo
Rose was born around 1235 in Viterbo, Italy. She was a poor girl who lived at the time when Emperor Frederick had conquered land that belonged to the Church. Rose’s special mission was to make the people of her own city and nearby cities remain faithful to the Church and the Holy Father. And this she did when she was just a teenager. In fact, Rose was only eight years old when our Blessed Mother appeared to her while she was sick and told her that she was to wear the habit of St. Francis. Our Lady also told Rose to give good example by her words and actions. Slowly the girl regained her health. She began to think more and more about how much Jesus suffered for us and how much he was offended by sin. She prayed and made sacrifices to show Jesus how much she loved him. When she was twelve, this daring girl began to preach in the streets of the city. She told people to stand up to the emperor who had taken land from the Church. So many people listened to the saint that Rose’s father became frightened. He told her he would punish her if she did not stop preaching. She answered gently, “If Jesus could suffer for me, I can suffer for him. I do what Jesus has told me to do, and I must not disobey him.” For two more years Rose preached with such success that the enemies of the pope wanted her killed. In the end, Rose and her parents had to leave the city. She foretold the death of the emperor a few days before it happened. Back in Viterbo, the saint tried to become a nun, but was not accepted; so she returned to her own home. There she died in 1252, when she was only seventeen. Her body is still preserved and venerated in Viterbo.
In her very short life St. Rose did much good. She did what she knew was the right thing to do, even though it was difficult and did not make her popular. We can ask her to help us be as energetic and courageous every day as she was.
September 5
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in 1910, in what was then Yugoslavia. Her parents were Albanian. By the time she was twelve years old, she knew she wanted to be a missionary. When she was eighteen, she entered the community of the Loreto Sisters in Calcutta, India. Sister Teresa taught geography at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta. She later became principal. Her students were all from well-off families. The poor children from Calcutta’s slums were not allowed admission. There was a big difference between the comfortable lifestyle in the convent and the wretched poverty just outside. On September 10, 1946, while riding on a train, Sister Teresa felt an unmistakable call from God to serve the poorest of the poor. By the spring of 1948, she had received permission to go out of her safe convent walls and work among the poor. In August, she put on a white cotton sari edged in blue, which was to become her new Order’s habit. After taking a nurse’s training course, Mother Teresa opened a school in Moti Jheel, the poorest section of Calcutta. Soon other young women joined her and in 1950 the Missionaries of Charity became a new community in the Church. Mother Teresa and her sisters lived among the poor in order to serve them better. Each sister was allowed only two saris, which cost about a dollar each. In this way, they could teach by their example that it is possible to keep clean with only one change of clothing. Mother Teresa valued poverty so highly, that she only accepted gifts from benefactors if they could be used to help the poor. She once turned down a donation of $500,000 because the donor said it must be used only as security for the Order. Mother Teresa knew that God would provide for her community’s future. It was up to her to help the poor today. Mother Teresa knew that she and her sisters would not have the strength needed to do this work if they did not stay united to Jesus in the Eucharist. They began each morning with Mass and Communion. They ended each day with an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. As she became known throughout the world, she remained humble and poor. She took every opportunity to speak out for the poorest of the poor, for the helpless people on the fringes of society, and for unborn children. She challenged people with power and means to take responsibility for those who had none. Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 2003.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said: “Christ will judge us on our love for him, how we fed him, not only with rice and bread, but with the understanding love we showed in our own homes, in our own communities.” We can ask Blessed Teresa to help us feel and show this love, too.
September 6
Blessed Bertrand of Garrigues
Bertrand lived at the turn of the thirteenth century. His country, France, was troubled by civil war. There was also great confusion about Church teaching. Bertrand’s parents managed to live a peaceful life and they brought up their son in the true faith. In 1200, the Cistercian monasteries were attacked by an army led by Raymond of Toulouse. He believed in an erroneous teaching called Albigensianism. He attacked people who did not believe as he did. Raymond of Toulouse especially persecuted the Cistercian monks because they were trying very hard to help people understand the true Catholic faith. Bertrand became a Cistercian priest. Around 1208, he met St. Dominic. This was God’s invitation to him to begin a very important ministry. He was one of the six men who joined Dominic in 1215 to form a new religious congregation, the Order of Preachers. They are often called “Dominicans,” after their founder. Blessed Bertrand was sent to Paris to start the Order there. After a short while, St. Dominic called for Friar Bertrand to go to Bologna to establish the Order of Preachers there. Bertrand obeyed happily. Meanwhile, the Order was growing. They preached the Gospel message in the towns and countryside. They wanted people to know and love their Catholic faith. In 1219, Bertrand accompanied St. Dominic on a trip to Paris. He loved and admired St. Dominic very much. In 1221, the Dominicans had a big meeting called a General Chapter. Bertrand was there. The Order was divided into eight provinces so that the religious and their ministries could be more effective. Bertrand was made the superior or provincial of southern France. He spent the rest of his life preaching and helping people grow closer to God. He died in 1230 and was proclaimed blessed by Pope Leo XIII in 1881.
When we wonder about what to do with our lives, we can pray to Blessed Bertrand. By living our faith and taking time each day for prayer, we’ll learn God’s plan for us.
September 7
Blessed John Duckett and Blessed Ralph Corby
This is the second time the name Duckett appears as we go through the calendar of saints and blesseds. The story of James Duckett, an English martyr, is found on April 22. He was related in some way to one of today’s martyrs, John Duckett. Both John Duckett and Ralph Corby were priests. They lived in the seventeenth century and died as martyrs for the faith in 1644. Father John studied at the English college of Douay and became a priest in 1639. He studied for three more years in Paris and spent several hours each day in prayer. Before being sent back to his persecuted England, he spent two months with the Cistercian monks, devoting that time to prayer and solitude. The young priest labored for a year in England. He was caught with holy oils and a book of rites. When his captors threatened harm to his family and friends if he did not confess his identity, he admitted that he was a priest. He was brought to a prison in London. There he met a fellow priest, Ralph Corby, a Jesuit. Father Corby had been laboring in England for twelve years before he was caught celebrating Mass. The Jesuit Order tried feverishly to save Father Corby. Finally, a reprieve came. Father Corby insisted that Father John Duckett, who was younger, use it. But Father John would not allow himself to walk away and leave his friend. Actually, neither priest would have been allowed to take advantage of the reprieve. The judges ignored it and condemned both priests to death. On September 7, 1644, at ten o’clock, the two men mounted the cart that would take them to Tyburn, the place of execution. Their heads were shaved and they wore their cassocks. Each made a short speech, then embraced the other before the two were executed. They would meet again in the presence of the Lord of glory.
Who can ever really understand why injustices take place? It’s hard to forgive when innocent people suffer. When we’re angered by injustice, we can pray to Blessed John Duckett and Blessed Ralph Corby. We can ask them to help us be forgiving as they were.
September 8
Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
We do not usually celebrate the birthdays of the saints. Instead, we celebrate the day each died, because that is the day each was born into the joys of heaven. But the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, is an exception. We do celebrate her birthday because she came into this world full of grace and because she was to be the Mother of Jesus. The birth of Our Lady was like a dawn. When the sky starts to turn a rosy pink early in the morning, we know the sun will soon come up. In the same way, when Mary was born, she brought great happiness to the world. Her birth meant that soon Jesus, the Sun of justice, would appear. Mary was the wonderful human being whose privilege it was to bring the Lord Jesus to all people. Even today, if we have Mary, we have Jesus. This is because Mary always brings her Son. When we go to Mary, she leads us to Jesus. Whoever is very devoted to her is very close to the heart of Jesus.
We can make Mary’s birthday special by saying the Hail Mary often throughout the day.
September 9
St. Peter Claver
This Spanish priest of the Society of Jesus was born in 1580. He is known as the “apostle of the slaves.” While he was still studying to become a Jesuit, he felt a burning desire to go to South America as a missionary. He volunteered and was sent to the seaport of Cartagena in present day Colombia. There, great shiploads of African slaves were brought to be sold. Peter felt great pity at the sight of those poor people, sick and suffering, all crowded together. He made up his mind to help them as much as he could. As soon as a slave ship arrived, he would go among the hundreds of sick slaves. He gave them food and medicine. He taught them about Christ and baptized those who accepted the faith. He cared for the sick. It was hard work in terrible heat. One man who went once with St. Peter could not bring himself to face the heartbreaking sight again. Yet Peter did it for forty years. He baptized some 300 thousand people. He was always there when the ships came in. He cared for and loved those who were treated so unjustly by society. Although the slave owners tried to stop Father Claver, he taught the faith to the slaves anyway. It was slow, discouraging work. Many people criticized him, saying it was all a waste of time. They thought the slaves would never understand and keep the faith. But St. Peter was patient and he trusted that God would bless his people. He also went to visit his converts after they left Cartagena, staying in the slaves’ quarters. He wanted to see firsthand how the slaves were being treated, and what their living conditions were. The priest never stopped urging the slave owners to take care of the souls of their slaves and to become better Christians themselves. During the last four years of his life, Father Claver was so sick that he had to stay in his room. He could not even celebrate Mass. Almost everyone forgot about him, but he never complained. Then suddenly at his death on September 8, 1654, it was as if the whole city woke up. They realized that they had lost a saint. He would never again be forgotten. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him a saint in 1888.
Prejudice against people because of their race, religion, gender, culture, or birthplace offends God, the good Father of us all. We can ask St. Peter Claver to help us love everybody as God’s children. We can also ask him to help us get rid of any prejudice that may be in our hearts.
September 10
St. Nicholas of Tolentino
Nicholas was born in 1245 in Ancona, Italy. His parents had waited long and anxiously for a child. Nicholas was the answer to their prayers and a pilgrimage the couple had made to the shrine of St. Nicholas of Bari. The couple was so grateful to the saint that they named their baby after him. When the boy grew up, he talked about becoming a priest. He was prayerful and wanted to live close to God. Friends of his family wanted him to be a priest in a wealthy parish where Nicholas would be promoted. Nicholas didn’t say much, but he quietly searched and prayed. One day he slipped into a church. A fervent Augustinian priest was preaching a sermon. He said: ”Don’t love the world or the things of this world because this world is passing away.” Nicholas thought about this. He went away with the words dancing in his head. He realized that God had used that preacher to touch his own life. He became convinced of the importance of preaching God’s Word. He made up his mind to ask to join the same Order to which that priest belonged. The Order was the Augustinian Friars and the priest was Father Reginald, who became his novice master. Friar Nicholas professed his vows when he was eighteen. Then he began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained around 1270. Father Nicholas performed his preaching ministry in various parishes. Then while praying in church one day, he seemed to hear a voice saying: “To Tolentino, to Tolentino. Stay there.” Shortly afterward, he was assigned to the town of Tolentino. He spent the remaining thirty years of his life there. There was great political unrest in those times. Many people did not come to church to hear the Word and to worship the Lord. The friars of St. Augustine decided that preaching in the streets was necessary. St. Nicholas was chosen to be part of this initiative. He preached in outside gathering places willingly. People listened and many repented of their sins and lack of caring. They led better lives. Father Nicholas spent hours in the poor areas of Tolentino. He visited the lonely. He brought the sacraments to the sick and dying. He took care of the needs of children and visited prisoners. Miracles were reported while St. Nicholas was still alive. He once touched a diseased child and said, ”May the good God make you well,” and the child was cured. St. Nicholas of Tolentino was sick for about a year before he died on September 10, 1305. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Eugene IV in 1446.
St. Nicholas of Tolentino was an answer to his parents’ prayers. Because he listened to the call of God in his heart, he was able to help many people find the Lord. We can ask St. Nicholas of Tolentino to help us be good listeners to the voice of God.
September 11
St. Lawrence Justinian
Lawrence was born in Venice, Italy, in 1381. His mother sometimes thought her son was aiming too high. He always told her that he wanted to become a saint. When he was nineteen, he felt he should serve God in a special way. He asked the advice of his uncle, a holy priest of the community of St. George. ”Do you have the courage to turn down the delights of the world and to live a life of penance?” asked his uncle. Lawrence was quiet for a long time. Then he looked up at a crucifix and said, “You, O Lord, are my hope. In this cross there is comfort and strength.” His mother wanted him to marry, but Lawrence joined the community of St. George. His first assignment was to go out among the people of his city and seek donations for the support of the community. Lawrence was not ashamed to beg. He realized that the offerings of money or goods would help God’s work. He even went in front of his own home and asked for donations. His mother would try to fill up his sack with food so that he could go back to the monastery early. But Lawrence would only accept two loaves of bread and then would be off to the next house. In this way, he learned how to make little acts of self-denial and grew very dear to God. One day a friend of his came to try to persuade Lawrence to leave the monastery. Instead, the saint spoke of how short life is and how wise it is to live for heaven. His friend was very impressed and was persuaded to become a religious himself. Later, Lawrence was made a bishop. His people soon learned what a kind and holy man their bishop was. Crowds came to him for help every day. Bishop Lawrence became known for his works of charity and his success as a peacemaker. When he was dying, he would not lie on a comfortable bed. ”That shall not be!” he exclaimed humbly. “My Lord was stretched out on a hard and painful tree.” St. Lawrence Justinian died in 1455.
Let us pray for priests, that they’ll be full of faith and love in their service of God’s people, the Church. We can ask God to give them consolation, strength, and joy.
September 12
Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Honoring Mary’s name in the liturgy goes back to the sixteenth century, when individual churches celebrated the feast of the Name of Mary. In 1683, Pope Innocent XI made September 12 a feast of the universal Church to honor Mary’s name and to thank her for her protection. Mary’s name means “star of the sea” in Hebrew. Just as sailors caught in a storm will use the stars to keep their coarse, we can look to Mary as our “star” who keeps us on the path that Jesus marked out for us. If we get off track in our life, we can look to Mary and she will guide us back to Jesus and his Church. St. Bernard wrote: “As you struggle through the stormy sea of life, do not turn away from Mary, star of the sea. If the winds of temptation blow your little boat, or if you are headed toward the rocks of suffering, look at the star—call Mary! If you are tossed by waves of ambition or envy, look at the star—call Mary! If anger or greed rocks the little boat of your heart, look at Mary! If you are getting discouraged because of your sins, think of Mary! In dangers and difficulties, remember Mary—call Mary! Do not let her name be far from your lips. Keep the thought of her fixed in your heart! She will keep you from losing your way. She will protect you so you have nothing to fear. She will guide you to Jesus, your Savior!”
When we experience sadness, doubt, or disappointment, do we think of Mary and call to her? Do we believe that Mary truly loves us and wants us to be happy? How is Mary leading us closer to Jesus?
September 13
St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom was born in Antioch around 344. His father died when he was a baby. His mother chose not to marry again. She gave all her attention to bringing up her son and daughter. She made many sacrifices so that John could have the best teachers. He was very intelligent and could have become a great man in the world. When he gave speeches everyone loved to listen to him. In fact, the name Chrysostom means “Golden-mouthed.” Yet John wanted to give himself to God. He became a priest and later was made bishop of the great city of Constantinople. St. John was a wonderful bishop and accomplished a tremendous amount of good. He preached once or twice every day, fed the poor, and took care of orphans. He corrected sinful customs and stopped bad plays from being performed. He loved everyone, but he was not afraid to tell even the empress when she did something wrong. Because he fought sin, St. John had enemies, even the empress herself. She had him sent away from Constantinople. On the trip he suffered greatly from fever and from lack of food and sleep. Yet, he was happy to suffer for Jesus. Just before he died, he cried out, ”Glory be to God!” St. John died in Turkey on September 14, 407. A terrible hailstorm fell on Constantinople when he died. Four days later, the empress died, too. Her son honored St. John’s body and showed how sorry he was for the harm his mother had done.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. If we do everything as well as we can for him, then we don’t have to be afraid of what others say or do against us. We can ask St. John Chrysostom to give us courage.
September 14
Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today we celebrate our gratitude and love for Jesus through our respect for his cross. The cross was once the greatest symbol of shame. Death by crucifixion was reserved for the lowest of criminals. Jesus took on the suffering of the cross in order to obtain our salvation. With that suffering came shame. By his death on the cross, Jesus has made it a symbol of eternal life and glory. The cross has become the most sacred Christian symbol. When the cross has the image of the suffering Christ on it, it is called a crucifix. The crucifix on our bedroom wall and the crucifix or cross we wear around our neck are reminders for us that Jesus paid a price for our salvation. For centuries, relics of the true cross have been cherished by devout Christians. It is believed that Emperor Heraclius recovered pieces of wood from the cross of Jesus in 629. He and his group of pilgrims honored the relics and invited all the people in the area to join them. Even before that time, Christians honored and loved the symbol of the cross. The word “cross” can also mean the sufferings that come our way. When we accept them lovingly and with patience, as Jesus did his cross, we become “cross-bearers” like Jesus.
Let’s consider what the symbol of the cross means to us Christians. We might like to say the following short prayer today: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
September 15
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady had many great joys as the Mother of Jesus, but she had much to suffer, too. Her great love for her divine Son caused Mary to suffer when she saw Jesus treated cruelly by his enemies. Mary is the Queen of Martyrs because she went through spiritual torments greater than the bodily agonies of the martyrs. Her heart was like an altar when on Calvary she offered up her beloved Jesus to save us. What a terrible suffering it was for so loving a mother to see her Son die on the cross! We especially remember seven occasions of great suffering in Mary’s life. The first was when she took Baby Jesus to the Temple. There the prophet Simeon told her that a sword of suffering would pierce her heart. This would be when Jesus was put to death. Her second sorrow was when she and St. Joseph had to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod’s soldiers were trying to kill him. The third suffering came when Mary searched three days in Jerusalem for Jesus. She finally found him in the Temple. Our Lady’s fourth sorrow was when Jesus was whipped and crowned with thorns. Her fifth great pain was caused by seeing him lifted on the cross, where he died after three hours of agony. Mary’s sixth sorrow was the moment when Our Lord’s lifeless body was placed in her arms. And her seventh suffering came when he was buried in the tomb. Mary did not pity herself or complain because she had to suffer so much during her life. Instead, she offered her sorrows to God for our sakes. She is our Mother. Because she loves us dearly, she was happy to suffer along with Jesus her Son, so that we might some day share her joy with Jesus in heaven.
In honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, today we can offer up some little sacrifice without complaining. We can also think about each of the seven sorrows of Mary and thank her for her great love for us.
September 16
St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian
In the middle of the third century the Church was still being suppressed. The fierce persecution of Emperor Decius claimed the life of Pope St. Fabian. The Church was without a pope for nearly a year. A holy priest of Rome, Cornelius, was elected in 251. He accepted because he loved Christ. He would serve the Church as pope even if his ministry would cost him his life. That is why Pope Cornelius was so greatly admired throughout the world. The bishops of Africa were especially outspoken in their love and loyalty to the pope. Bishop Cyprian of Carthage sent him letters of encouragement and support. Cyprian had been a convert at the age of twenty-five. He had astonished the Christians of Carthage by pledging a vow of perpetual chastity right before his Baptism. He had eventually become a priest and, in 248, a bishop. Bishop Cyprian greatly encouraged and supported Pope Cornelius. St. Cyprian’s writings explain the love that Christians should have for the whole Church. This love should be for the pope as well as for the local diocese and parish. Cyprian wrote a scholarly work on the unity of the Church. This remains an important topic for all times, including our own. Pope St. Cornelius died in exile at the port of Rome in September of 253. Because he suffered so much as pope, he is considered a martyr. St. Cyprian died five years later during the persecution of Valerian. He was beheaded at Carthage on September 14, 258. Together they share a feast day to remind us of the unity that the Church should always enjoy. This unity is a sign of the presence of Jesus as Head of the Church.
We can ask St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian to help us grow in our love for the Church—for the pope, bishops, priests, religious, and lay people everywhere. They can help us to be true to our Christian faith even in difficult times.
September 17
St. Robert Bellarmine
Robert was born in Italy in 1542. As a boy, he was not interested in playing games. He liked to spend his time repeating to his younger brothers and sisters the sermons he had heard. He also liked to explain the lessons of the catechism to the little farm children of the neighborhood. Once he had made his first Holy Communion, he used to receive Jesus every Sunday. It was his great desire to become a Jesuit priest, but his father had different plans for him. Robert’s father hoped to make a famous gentleman out of his son. For this reason, he wanted him to study many subjects and music and art, too. For a whole year, Robert worked to persuade his father. At last, when he was eighteen, he was permitted to join the Jesuits. As a young Jesuit, he did very well in his studies. He was sent to preach even before he became a priest. When one good woman first saw such a young man, not even a priest yet, going up into the pulpit to preach, she knelt down to pray. She asked the Lord to help him not to become frightened and stop in the middle. When he finished his sermon, she stayed kneeling. This time, however, she was thanking God for the magnificent sermon. St. Robert Bellarmine became a famous writer, preacher, and teacher. He wrote thirty-one important books. He spent three hours every day in prayer. He had a deep knowledge of sacred matters. Yet even when he had become a cardinal, he considered the catechism so important that he himself taught it to his household and to the people. Cardinal Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. He was proclaimed a saint in 1930 by Pope Pius XI. In 1931, the same pope declared St. Robert Bellarmine a Doctor of the Church.
We can ask St. Robert to help us realize how important our religious instruction classes are. We should make an effort to be on time for classes, to pay attention and complete our assignments, and to take the study of our faith seriously.
September 18
St. Joseph of Cupertino
Joseph was born on June 17, 1603, in a small Italian village to poor parents. He was very unhappy as a boy and a teenager. His mother considered him a nuisance and treated him harshly. Joseph soon became very slow and absentminded. He would wander around as if he were going nowhere. But he had a temper, too, and so he was not very popular. He tried to learn the trade of shoemaking, but failed. He asked to become a Conventual Franciscan, but they would not accept him. Next, he joined the Capuchin Order, but eight months later he was advised to leave. He could not seem to do anything right. He dropped piles of dishes and was very forgetful. His mother was not at all pleased to have the eighteen-year-old Joseph back home again. She finally got him accepted as a servant at a Franciscan monastery. He was given the Franciscan habit to wear and was assigned to care for the horses. About this time, Joseph began to change. He grew more humble and gentle. He became more careful and successful at his work. He also began to do more penance. It was decided that he could become a member of the Order and could start studying to become a priest. Although he was very good, he still had a hard time with studies. But Joseph trusted in God’s help and he was ordained a priest. God began to work miracles through Father Joseph. Over seventy times people saw him rise from the ground while celebrating Mass or praying. He would be suspended near the ceiling like a star at the top of a Christmas tree. Often he went into ecstasy and would be completely wrapped up in talking with God. He became very holy. Everything he saw made him think of God. Father Joseph became so famous for his miracles that he was sent to Assisi to avoid unwanted publicity. This made him happy for the chance to be alone with his beloved Lord. Jesus was always in his heart, and one day came to bring him to heaven. Joseph died in 1663 at the age of sixty. He was proclaimed a saint in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII.
Maybe we feel that we are not very special. We might even put ourselves down. That’s when we can pray to St. Joseph of Cupertino. He’ll help us have confidence in ourselves. He’ll remind us that Jesus lives in our hearts and that we’re very special to him.
September 19
St. Januarius
Januarius lived in the fourth century. He was born either in Benevento or Naples, Italy. He was the bishop of Benevento when Diocletian’s persecution began. St. Januarius is popularly called “San Gennaro.” According to common belief, San Gennaro learned that some Christian deacons had been put in prison for their faith. The bishop was a gentle, compassionate man. He truly cared about his people and went to the prison to visit them. The jailer reported him to the governor, who sent soldiers to find San Gennaro. The bishop was arrested along with a deacon and a lector. They joined the other prisoners. San Gennaro and six others were martyred for their faith. Their deaths took place near Naples around 305. The people of Naples have claimed a special love for and devotion to “San Gennaro.” In fact, he is considered their patron saint. The people of Naples remember San Gennaro for another special reason: his martyr’s blood was preserved centuries ago in a vial. The blood has become dark and dry. But at certain times of the year the blood liquefies. It becomes red, sometimes bright red. At times, it even bubbles. The special case containing the vial of blood is honored publicly on the first Saturday of May, on September 19 (the feast of San Gennaro), within the octave (or eight days after the feast), and at times on December 16. The liquefied blood has been seen and honored since the thirteenth century.
We can ask San Gennaro to give us loving, compassionate hearts so that we can bring joy and comfort to the people around us as he did.
September 20
St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn and St. Paul Chŏng Hasang
St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn was a priest and St. Paul Chŏng Hasang was a layperson. These two martyrs represent the many Catholics who died for their faith in Korea. They were proclaimed saints by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Korea in 1984. Christianity was brought to Korea by lay people in the seventeenth century. Believers quietly grew and flourished, nourishing their faith on the Word of God. Missionary priests arrived in Korea from France and introduced the Korean people to the sacramental life of the Church. Off and on throughout the nineteenth century the Christian faith came under attack by the Korean government. A total of 103 Korean Catholics were killed between 1839 and 1867. Ten members of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris were martyred too: three bishops and seven priests. This brought the total number of martyrs to 113. St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn and St. Paul Chŏng Hasang represent the courageous Korean Catholics who paid with their lives for their love for Christ. St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn, the first Korean priest, was martyred on September 16, 1846, just a year after his ordination. Andrew’s father had been martyred in 1821. St. Paul Chŏng Hasang was a heroic lay catechist. He was martyred on September 22, 1846. The Church continues to grow rapidly in Korea. The gift of faith is received and nurtured because of the sacrifices of the martyrs who paved the way.
Every martyr preaches a lesson without ever saying a single word. When we consider the death of a martyr, we hear the message. Let’s ask the Korean martyrs to help us love Jesus and his Church as much as they did.
September 21
St. Matthew
Matthew was a tax collector in the city of Capernaum, where Jesus was living. He was a Jew, but he was working for the Romans, who had conquered the Jews. For this reason, his countrymen disliked him. They would not have anything to do with these “public sinners,” as tax collectors like Matthew were called. But Jesus did not feel that way. One day, Jesus saw Matthew sitting in his booth and said, “Follow me.” At once, Matthew left his money and his position to follow Jesus, becoming one of the twelve apostles. Matthew gave a big supper for Jesus. He invited other friends like himself to meet Jesus and listen to him teach. Some people found fault with Jesus for sharing a meal with those whom they considered sinners. However, Jesus had a ready answer: “Those who are well do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners to repentance.” After Jesus ascended into heaven, St. Matthew stayed in Palestine. He remained there for some time, preaching about the Lord. We are familiar with the Gospel according to Matthew, which is the story of Jesus and what he taught. This Gospel was inspired by and named after St. Matthew, but we are not sure if he was actually involved in writing it. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is presented to his own Jewish people as the Messiah who the prophets had said would come to save us. After preaching the Gospel to many people, St. Matthew ended his life as a martyr for the faith.
Do we sometimes label people as “bad” or as “sinners”? Then we should pray to St. Matthew. We can ask him to help us avoid labels. We don’t want to imitate the wrong things people might do, but we shouldn’t look down on them either. We should just say “no” to sin and treat the person who committed the sin with compassion and understanding.
September 22
St. Thomas of Villanova
Thomas was born in Spain in 1488. From his kind parents, he learned to be very charitable with the poor. He did well in school and became a teacher of philosophy when he finished his studies. Next he joined the Augustinian Order. After he became a priest, he was given many important responsibilities. Finally, he was made archbishop of the city of Valencia. His priests tried to convince him to change his old, mended habit for more dignified robes. However, St. Thomas told them his old clothes had nothing to do with his duty. He would take good care of the spiritual needs of his people. Every day he fed hundreds of poor people. When he received a large sum of money to buy furniture for his house, he gave it to a hospital, saying, “What does a poor monk like me want with furniture? “ No wonder he was called the “father of the poor”! St. Thomas was very gentle with sinners at a time when most people were not. Once when he tried to encourage one man to change his sinful ways, the man angrily insulted him and stormed out of the room. ”It was my fault,” said the humble archbishop. “I told him a little too roughly.” Never would he permit anyone to criticize someone who wasn’t there. “He may have had a good reason for doing what he did,” the saint would say. ”I, for one, believe he did.” Before he died, St. Thomas of Villanova gave to the poor everything he had. He even directed that his bed be sent to the jail for prisoners to use. St. Thomas died in 1555. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Alexander VII in 1658.
We can remember St. Thomas of Villanova’s words when we need to be more generous. He used to say: “If you want God to hear your prayers, you should help those who are in need.”
September 23
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Francisco Forgione was born on May 25, 1887 near Naples, Italy. His parents were poor and hardworking. From childhood, Francisco had a deep love for prayer and a strong desire to be holy. When Francisco was ten years old, a Capuchin Franciscan friar came to Pietrelcina. Francisco was impressed by his simplicity and humility. He decided that he would one day be a Capuchin priest. To help make his son’s dream a reality, Francisco’s father traveled to the United States to find work and earn the money needed to give Francis an education. On January 6, 1903, Francisco entered the Capuchin community in Morcone. He was given the name Brother Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910. Because of poor health, his superiors thought it would be better for him to spend some time in his hometown. He was assigned to his own parish church to assist his pastor. It was during this time that Padre Pio received a special grace. In order to be more like the suffering Jesus, he began to feel the nail marks of the crucifixion in his hands and feet, and the spear wound in his side. After a while they became permanent, but were invisible. On September 20, 1918, this stigmata would become visible and last for fifty years until his death. After seven years in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio was sent to the Capuchin friary in Foggia. He was happy to be among his Franciscan brothers at last. And his community was happy to have him with them too, because he was always cheerful and witty. He began hearing confessions and soon crowds of people were coming to him for advice. In July of 1916, Padre Pio’s superiors sent him to San Giovanni Rotondo, a remote village where they hoped he would have some peace and quiet. Here his health improved. But he also was experiencing extraordinary gifts from God. He could read souls, and was even able to help people in confession by reminding them of details he could only have learned from God himself. He also had the gift of bilocation (the ability to be in two places at the same time), and his stigmata gave off a fragrance of roses and violets. Padre Pio’s superiors questioned whether or not these special gifts were real. In case they were a hoax, Padre Pio was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public and to hear confessions. This was a heavy cross for him, but he accepted it as another opportunity to be like Jesus. After a while, he was again permitted to administer the sacraments, and once again vast numbers of people crowded the church for his Mass and lined up to go to confession to him. Often, he heard over 100 confessions in one day! Padre Pio spent most of his priesthood hearing confessions and giving hope and encouragement to countless people from all around the world. He did this right up to his death on September 21, 1968. He was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Do we believe that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we meet the Lord himself, who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we ever could? Let’s ask St. Pio to enlighten us so we can see the things in our life that keep us from following Jesus more closely. Then we can celebrate Reconciliation more fruitfully.
September 24
St. Thecla
According to legend, Thecla was a beautiful, young, pagan noblewoman who lived in the first century. She was from the city of Iconium, in Turkey. She read many philosophy books, yet nothing satisfied her desire to know about her Creator. When St. Paul the apostle came to preach the Gospel of Jesus in Iconium, Thecla’s prayer to know the one true God was answered. From St. Paul she also learned that a young woman could remain unmarried and become the bride of Christ. By this time, Thecla desired nothing else than to give herself entirely to God. Thecla’s pagan parents tried their best to make her give up her Christian faith, but she would not. Her fiancé, Thamyris, begged her not to break their engagement. However, Thecla had made up her mind. She wanted to be Christ’s bride not his. At last, in great anger, Thamyris denounced her to the legal authorities. When she still refused to give up her faith in Jesus, they ordered that she be burned to death. The beautiful young woman bravely prepared to die. However, it is said that no sooner had the fire been lit than a storm from heaven put it out. Later, she was condemned to be eaten by lions. Once again, however, God saved Thecla’s life. Instead of clawing her, the fierce beasts walked gently up to her, lay down at her side, and licked her feet like pet kittens. At last, in fear, the judge set Thecla free. She went to live in a cave where she spent the rest of her long life. She prayed and taught the people who came to visit her about the Lord Jesus.
If we want to deepen our faith in and love for Jesus, we can ask him for the help we need to live each day generously. By putting God first, and loving him above all things, we’ll be able to truly love the other people in our lives.
September 25
St. Sergius
This famous Russian saint lived in the fourteenth century. He was given the name of Bartholomew when he was baptized. He was not as bright as his two brothers, but he did learn to read and write. This made him very happy because he greatly desired to read the Bible. Bartholomew’s parents were nobles. While he was still a boy, the family had to flee from enemies. They had to go to work as peasants. After his parents died, Sergius and his brother Stephen went off to live as hermits. They built a little church from trees they had cut down. The church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. When his brother went to Moscow to enter a monastery, Bartholomew lived alone. He wore the habit of a monk and took the name Sergius. He was a tall, husky young man. He was strong enough to stand the biting cold and fierce winds of his forest home. He was happy praying to God and loving him with all his heart. He said that fire and light were his companions, and he even made friends with bears! Before too long, other young men came to share St. Sergius’ holy life. They asked him to be their abbot and he agreed. He was ordained a priest and ruled his monastery very wisely. Once, when some of the monks together with his own brother, Stephen, who had come back, disagreed with Sergius, he went away so as to keep peace. Four years later, he was asked to return. The monks were so happy to see him and welcomed him back enthusiastically. Powerful rulers often went to ask St. Sergius for advice. He became so famous that he was asked to become bishop of the greatest Russian diocese. But he was too humble to accept. Once, the prince of Moscow was not sure if he should try to fight the terrible Tatars who were oppressing the Russians. St. Sergius said, ”Do not fear, sir. Go forward with faith against the foe. God will be with you.” And the Russians were victorious. St. Sergius died in 1392.
It was not great learning that brought people to trust and love St. Sergius. It was his confidence in God and his desire to help everybody. When someone disagrees with us or starts an argument, we can remember that the same thing happened to St. Sergius. We can ask him to help us remain peaceful.
September 26
St. Cosmas and St. Damian
These two martyrs were twin brothers from Syria who died at the beginning of the fourth century. They were very famous students of science and both became excellent doctors. Cosmas and Damian saw in every patient a brother or sister in Christ. For this reason, they showed great charity to all and treated their patients to the best of their ability. Yet, no matter how much care a patient required, neither Cosmas nor Damian ever accepted any money for their services. For this reason, they were called by a name in Greek, which means “the penniless ones.” Every chance they had, the two saints told their patients about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because the people all loved these twin doctors, they listened to them willingly. Cosmas and Damian often brought health back to both the bodies and the souls of those who came to them for help. In 303, when Diocletian’s persecution of Christians began in their city, the saints were arrested at once. They had never tried to hide their great love for their Christian faith. Nothing could make them give up their belief in Christ. They had lived for him and had brought so many people to faith in him. They were put to death along with their three other brothers. These holy martyrs are named in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.
Like St. Cosmas and St. Damian, we can be signs of Christian faith for those we meet each day. By seeing Christ in others and treating all people fairly and with kindness, we’ll set an example of loving others as Jesus loves us.
September 27
St. Vincent de Paul
Vincent, the son of poor French peasants, was born in 1581. When he grew up and became famous, he loved to tell people how he had taken care of his father’s pigs. Because he was intelligent, his father sent him to school; and after finishing his studies, Vincent became a priest. At first, he was given an important position as the teacher of rich children, and he lived rather comfortably. Then one day, he was called to the side of a dying peasant. In front of many people, this man declared that all his past confessions had been bad ones. Suddenly Father Vincent realized how badly the poor people of France needed spiritual help. When he began to preach to them, crowds went to confession. He finally decided to start a congregation of priests to work especially among the poor. The charities of St. Vincent de Paul were so many that it seems impossible for one person to have begun so much. He ministered to the galley slaves who worked on the sailing ships. He started the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. He opened hospitals and homes for orphans and the elderly. He collected large sums of money for poor areas, sent missionaries to many countries, and bought back Christian slaves from northern Africa. Even though he was such a charitable man, however, he humbly admitted that he was not so by nature. “I would have been hard, rough, and ill-tempered,” he said, “were it not for God’s grace.” Vincent de Paul died in Paris on September 27, 1660. He was proclaimed a saint in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.
Jesus asks us to be good to others, especially to those who suffer. He says to us, “As long as you did it to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). We can put these words of our Lord into practice and follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul by reaching out to those around us when we see them in need.
September 28
St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions
Today’s celebration honors a layperson from the Philippines. St. Lawrence Ruiz and his fifteen companions were martyred for their faith in 1637, in Nagasaki, Japan. Born in Manila, Lawrence was married and had three children. He joined a group of nine Dominican priests, two brothers, and four lay volunteers who were going to Japan to preach the Gospel. All were associated with the Dominican Order and all died rather than give up their faith in Jesus. They were men and women who had originally come from France, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, and Spain. What a wonderful reminder they are that the Church reaches out to the whole world! These martyrs suffered greatly before they died, but they would not give up their Catholic faith. It is recorded that St. Lawrence Ruiz told his judges that if he had a thousand lives to give for Christ, he would gladly offer each one. This group of heroes was proclaimed saints by Pope John Paul II on October 18, 1987.
Let’s ask St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companion martyrs to inspire Christians who are living now to be fervent and generous followers of Jesus. The more we learn about our faith, the more we’ll love it and want to share it with others. The feast of St. Wenceslaus is also celebrated on this day.
September 29
St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael
Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are called “saints” because they are holy. But they are different from the rest of the saints because they are not human. They are angels; more specifically, archangels. They are protectors of human beings and we know something about each of them from the Bible. Michael’s name means “who is like God?” Three books of the Bible speak of St. Michael: Daniel, Revelation, and the Letter of Jude. In the book of Revelation, chapter 12, verses 7–9, we read of a great war that took place in heaven. Michael and his angels battled with Satan. Michael became the champion of loyalty to God and the protector of the People of God. We can ask St. Michael to make us strong in our love for Jesus and in the practice of our Catholic faith. Gabriel’s name means “the power of God.” He, too, is mentioned in the book of Daniel. He has become familiar to us because Gabriel is an important person in Luke’s Gospel. This archangel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of our Savior. Gabriel also announced to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son and call him John. Gabriel is the messenger of the Good News. We can ask him to help us be good messengers as he was. Raphael’s name means “God has healed.” We read the touching story of Raphael’s role in the Bible’s book of Tobit. He brought healing to the blind Tobit, and accompanied Tobit’s son Tobiah on his journey. At the very end of the journey, Raphael revealed his true identity. He said he was one of the seven angels who stand before God’s throne. We can ask St. Raphael to protect us in our travels, even for short journeys, like going to school. We can also ask him to help when we or someone we love becomes sick.
We can say a short prayer like this one to these three archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, be with me today. Protect me from whatever could cause spiritual or physical harm. Help me to be faithful to Jesus and a good messenger of his divine love. Amen.
September 30
St. Jerome
Jerome was a Roman Christian who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. His father instructed him in the Christian faith, but sent him to a famous pagan school. There, Jerome grew to love pagan writings and lost some of his love for God. Yet, in the company of a group of holy Christians, with whom he became great friends, his heart was turned completely to God and he was baptized. Later, this brilliant young man decided to live alone in a wild desert. For four years he lived a life of prayer and penance, struggling against temptations. He learned Hebrew and wrote a biography of St. Paul of Thebes. He became such a great scholar of Hebrew that he could later translate the Bible into Latin, which, at that time, was understood by anyone who could read. Many more people were then able to read and understand the Holy Bible. After his time in the desert, Jerome went to Antioch and was ordained a priest. He went to Constantinople to study Scripture and then to Rome, where he revised the Latin version of the Gospels. St. Jerome spent long years of his life in a little cave at Bethlehem. There he prayed, studied, and translated the Bible. He taught many people how to serve God. He wrote a great many letters and books to explain the faith. St. Jerome died in Bethlehem in 419 or 420. He is a Doctor of the Church.
To overcome his strong temptations, St. Jerome worked and studied hard. He also read the Bible. We can imitate Jerome’s wonderful habits of hard work, serious study, and frequent reading of the Bible. God’s holy Word has the power to change us for the better.