January    February    March    April    May    June    July    August    September    October    November    December    A-Z
February 1
St. Brigid of Ireland
St. Brigid was born around the year 450 in Ireland. Her parents had been baptized by St. Patrick, who brought the faith to that country. Much of what we know about her is from legend. As Brigid grew up, she grew in her love for Jesus. She looked for him in the poor and often brought food and clothing to them. The story is told that one day she gave away a whole pail of milk. Then she began to worry about what her mother would say. She prayed to the Lord to make up for what she had given away. When she got home, her pail was full again! As a young girl, Brigid wanted to devote her life to Jesus. She became a nun with the help of St. Mel, St. Patrick’s nephew. She formed a religious community with seven other young women. Brigid started the first Irish convent at Kildare and became its abbess. She also founded a school of art, which won fame for its beautifully illuminated manuscripts. The monastery at Kildare became a center of education and spirituality. In time, the city of Kildare with its cathedral grew up around it. Brigid became known as the “Mary of the Irish” because her love and compassion reminded people of the Blessed Mother. She died in 525 and was buried at Downpatrick near St. Columba and St. Patrick.
Jesus loves each one of us. St. Brigid imitated the love and compassion of Jesus, especially for the poor. She reminds us that every person is special to God.
February 2
Presentation of the Lord
Forty days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought him to the great Temple in Jerusalem. There they presented Jesus to the Heavenly Father. That was the Jewish law. The Holy Family obeyed it with loving hearts. While they were in the Temple, Mary also fulfilled another requirement of the law. After the birth of their children, all Jewish mothers were supposed to go to the Temple for the ceremony called the Purification. Mary did her duty cheerfully. She teaches us to be humble and obedient as she was. A holy old man named Simeon was in the Temple. He had learned from God that the Infant Jesus was truly the Savior. With what joy he held Mary’s Son in his arms. ”My own eyes are looking at my salvation!” he exclaimed. God let Simeon recognize Jesus as the Savior, and Simeon put his trust in Jesus. Imagine what Mary and Joseph were thinking. Then, inspired by God, Simeon told Mary that she would have to suffer very much. He was talking about the terrible pain our Blessed Mother would feel when Jesus died on the cross. This feast of the Presentation reminds us that we belong to God first of all. Because he is our Father and Creator, we owe him our loving obedience.
We, too, can try to be like Mary and Joseph. We can cheerfully obey our parents, guardians and teachers in all that is right. We can ask the Holy Family to help us live in goodness and love.
February 3
St. Blase
St. Blase lived in the fourth century. It is believed that he came from a rich family and received a Christian education. As a young man, Blase became a priest and then bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, which is now modern Turkey. With all his heart, Blase worked to make his people holy and happy. He prayed and preached. He tried to help everyone. When the governor, Licinius, began persecuting the Christians, Blase went to live and pray and do penance by himself. He became a hermit. In his solitude, wild animals that were sick or hurt would come to him, and he would heal them. One day some hunters found Blase and brought him to the governor. Blase was sent to prison to be beheaded. On the way, people crowded the road to see their beloved bishop for the last time. He blessed them all, even the non-Christians. Just then, a poor mother rushed up to him. She begged him to save her child who was choking to death on a fishbone. The saint whispered a prayer and blessed the child. He worked a miracle that saved the child’s life. That is why St. Blase is called upon by all who have throat diseases. On his feast day, we have our throats blessed at Mass. We ask St. Blase to protect us from all sicknesses of the throat. While he was in prison, Bishop Blase brought many people to believe in Jesus. No torture could make him give up his faith in Jesus. He was beheaded in the year 316. Now St. Blase is with Jesus forever.
Even on his way to prison, St. Blase was ready to help others. He gave up his life because of his great love for Jesus. When we make little sacrifices such as doing things we don’t especially like, or giving up something that we do like, we can think of the happiness we will have in heaven, which will last forever. February 3 is also the feast of St. Ansgar.
February 4
St. Jane Valois
St. Jane was the daughter of King Louis XI of France. She was born in 1464. Since the king wanted a son, he was very disappointed at the birth of Jane. He did not even want his little daughter to live at the palace because she had been born with a physical deformity. When the princess was just five years old, she was sent to live with other people. In spite of the unkind way her father treated her, Jane was good and gentle with everyone. She was convinced that Jesus and Mary loved her. Jane also believed that the Lord would use her to do good in his name. And she was right! When she grew up, Jane decided that she did not want to get married. She had given herself to Jesus and his Blessed Mother. But her father ignored her wishes. He forced her to marry the duke of Orleans. Jane was a devoted wife for twenty-two years. After the duke became king, however, he sent Jane to live by herself in a far-off township. The queen did not let herself become resentful. Instead, she exclaimed: “God be praised! He has permitted this that I may serve him better than I have up until now.” Jane lived a prayerful life. She practiced penances and acts of kindness. She gave all her money to the poor. She even started an order of sisters called the Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She spent the rest of her life joyfully serving Jesus and his Mother. Jane died in 1505. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
When someone treats us unfairly, let’s remember that God loves us and that we are precious to him. St. Jane can help us to be as patient and forgiving as she was
February 5
St. Agatha
Most of what we know about St. Agatha is based on legend. Agatha was a beautiful Christian girl from a wealthy family in Sicily. She lived in the third century, a time when the emperor Decius was persecuting the Christians. While she was still young, she dedicated her life to God, vowing not to get married. The governor heard of Agatha’s beauty and brought her to his palace. He wanted to make her do sinful things. But she was brave and would not give in. ”My Lord Jesus Christ,” she prayed, ”I belong only to you. Help me to be strong against evil.” Then the governor tried sending Agatha to the house of a wicked woman. He hoped the woman would convince Agatha to do sinful things. But Agatha had great trust in God and prayed all the time. She kept herself pure. She would not listen to the evil suggestions of the woman and her daughters. After a month, Agatha was brought back to the governor. “You are a noblewoman,” he said kindly. ”Why have you lowered yourself to be a humble Christian?” “Even though I am a noble,” answered Agatha, “I am a slave of Jesus Christ.” “Then what does it really mean to be noble?” the governor asked. Agatha answered, ”It means to serve God.” When he realized that Agatha would not agree to the evil he wanted her to do, the governor became angry. He had Agatha whipped and tortured. As she was being carried back to prison she whispered, “Lord, my Creator, you have protected me from the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my soul.” Agatha died a martyr at Catania, Sicily, in the year 251.
We can learn from St. Agatha’s example. Like her, we can pray with all our heart when we are tempted to do anything wrong. This is the way we can develop a good and strong character.
February 6
St. Paul Miki and Companions
These twenty-six martyrs are sometimes called the martyrs of Nagasaki and the martyrs of Japan. St. Francis Xavier brought the Good News of Christianity to Japan in 1549. Many people accepted the Gospel and were baptized by St. Francis himself. Although Francis moved on and eventually died near the shores of China, the Catholic faith continued to grow in Japan. By 1587 there were 200,000 Japanese Catholics. Missionaries from various religious orders were working in the country, and Japanese priests, religious and lay people lived the faith joyfully. Paul Miki was born at Tounucumada, Japan, in 1562. He was educated by the Jesuits at Anziquiama, and joined their order in 1580. Paul was an excellent preacher and catechist. In 1588, the emperor of Japan ordered all Jesuits to leave the country within six months. Many stayed, in disguise, because they knew that faithful Catholics would need them, especially during the coming times of persecution. In 1597, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who ruled Japan in the emperor’s name, heard a false rumor that the missionaries were only bringing Christianity to the Japanese so that it would be easier for Spain and Portugal to defeat Japan. Fearing this was true, Hideyoshi ordered all the Christians to be arrested and put to death. On February 5, 1597, Paul Miki was crucified along with two other Japanese Jesuit catechists, six Franciscans from Spain, Mexico and India, and seventeen Japanese Catholic lay people, including children as young as twelve and fifteen. Paul’s last words from his cross were to encourage the community of believers to be faithful, even in the face of death. Then, at the same moment, twenty-six executioners thrust twenty-six spears into the Christians as they hung on their crosses. St. Paul Miki and his companions were canonized as the martyrs of Japan by Pope Gregory XVI in 1862.
We can pray every day for people who live in parts of the world where they are persecuted for their belief in God. We can also ask St. Paul and his companions for the courage to be faithful to Jesus.
February 7
Blessed Giles Mary
Brother Giles Mary was born near Taranto, Italy, in 1729. As a child he learned the art of rope making and was good at his trade. When he was twenty-five, Giles entered the Friars of St. Peter Alcántara in Naples. His full reli- gious name was Brother Giles Mary of St. Joseph. Brother Giles Mary became known for his simplicity and humility. Brother Giles focused all his attention on serving God with love. He was the porter, the one in charge of answering the door of the monastery. Brother Giles opened the door promptly and with a smile every time a visitor pulled the rope that rang the bell. He took gentle care of the poor, the homeless, and the lepers who came asking for help. He was given the responsibility of distributing the food and money that his community could spare. Brother Giles Mary loved to do that. No matter how much he gave to needy people, something was always left to give to others. Brother Giles knew it was St. Joseph who kept him from running out of food and money to give to the poor. After all, St. Joseph had once taken such good care of Jesus and Mary. Brother Giles Mary spent his whole life spreading devotion to St. Joseph. After a life of love and service to God and his neighbor, Brother Giles Mary of St. Joseph died on February 7, 1812. He was declared “blessed” by Pope Pius IX in 1888.
The life of Blessed Giles shows that it’s not great things or important responsibilities that make us “successful” in God’s eyes. What pleases God the most is a loving and generous heart.
February 8
St. Josephine Bakhita
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan, Africa, in 1869. When she was a child, she was captured and sold as a slave. The cruel and harsh treatment she suffered as a slave made her forget her name. The name “Bakhita,” which means “fortunate,” was given to her as a joke by the people who kidnapped her. Bakhita was taken to Italy and put into service as a nanny. She was sent to live with the Canossian Sisters in Venice. From the sisters she learned about God and Christianity. In time, she asked to be baptized, and took the name Josephine. At the age of twenty-four, Josephine felt God calling her to become one of the sisters. The Canossian Sisters accepted her into their community. For fifty-four years, Sister Josephine carried out humble services in the convent. She cooked, sewed, took care of the chapel and answered the door. During World War I, Sister Josephine helped to care for the wounded. She became known for her kindness and goodness. She was a source of comfort and encouragement to everyone who came to her in need. Someone once asked Sister Josephine how she would react if she ever met the people who had kidnapped her. She answered, ”I would kiss their hands to thank them for giving me the chance to become a Christian and a sister.” As Sister Josephine grew older, her health began to decline. She continued to live a life of loving kindness and faith even in sickness and pain. As her death drew near, she said, ”Why should I be afraid to die? Death brings us to God, and I love God and want to be with him.” Sister Josephine Bakhita died in 1947 at the age of seventy- eight. Her last words were “Our Lady! Our Lady!” She was canonized on October 1, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. St. Josephine is the patron saint of the Christian Sudanese people who still suffer persecution for their faith.
Let’s learn from St. Josephine Bakhita to put our trust in God when we have problems or when we have something to suffer. God, who loves us without limits, can bring good even out of bad circumstances.
February 9
St. Apollonia and the Martyrs of Alexandria
A holy woman named Apollonia lived in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century. Christians were being persecuted there during the reign of Emperor Philip. Apollonia had spent her whole life serving God. Now that she was growing old, she was not about to take time to rest. She bravely risked her life to comfort suffering Christians in prison. “Remember that your trials will not last long,” she would say. ”But the joys of heaven will last forever.” It was just a matter of time until Apollonia, too, was captured. When the judge asked her name, she courageously said, “I am a Christian, and I love and serve the true God.” Angry people tortured Apollonia, trying to force her to give up her faith. First, all her teeth were smashed and then knocked out. Because of this, St. Apollonia is the patron of dentists. But even this painful ordeal did not shake the woman’s faith. Apollonia was then told that if she did not deny Jesus, she would be thrown into a raging fire. The woman would not let her fear overcome her. She chose to die by fire rather than abandon her faith in Jesus. When the pagans saw how heroic she was, many were converted to faith in Jesus. Apollonia died around the year 249.
St. Apollonia and the other martyrs were willing to give up their lives for Jesus. What are we willing to do for him? Do we love Jesus enough to accept a little inconvenience without complaining?
February 10
St. Scholastica
St. Scholastica and St. Benedict were twins born in central Italy in 480. When they grew up, Benedict founded an order of monks called the Benedictines. Scholastica wanted to dedicate herself to God also, so she began a community of nuns near her brother’s monastery of Monte Cassino. Scholastica and Benedict decided that they would only visit each other once a year as a sacrifice to show their love for God. They used to meet at a house near their monasteries. When it was time to visit Benedict in 547, God let Scholastica know that it would be the last time they saw each other on earth. Because of this, she wanted to stay and talk longer than usual, but her brother said no. According to their Rule of Life, Benedict had to go back to his monastery at night, and Scholastica had to return to hers. Since Benedict would not give in, Scholastica quietly turned to God in prayer. All of a sudden, a terrible storm began. Thunder crashed overhead, light- ning lit up the sky, and rain poured down in sheets. It was impossible to step out of the house! Benedict asked in surprise, ”Sister, what have you done?” “Since you would not give me the favor I asked,” Scholastica calmly replied, ”I asked God to give it to me, and he did.” The brother and sister spent that whole night talking about God and heaven. In the morning, after the storm had ended, they each went home. Three days later, St. Scholastica died. At the same time, in his own monastery, Benedict was praying. He saw the soul of his sister flying up to heaven like a dove.
St. Scholastica and St. Benedict helped each other draw closer to God by the way they treated one another. Our parents, guardians, teachers and good friends can all help us to become closer to God.
February 11
Our Lady of Lourdes
It was on February 11, 1858, that a beautiful Lady first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in the small town of Lourdes, France. Bernadette had asthma and was often sick. Her family was so poor that they were living in a cold, damp room that had once been a jail. Even though she was fourteen, Bernadette still could not read or write. She had a bad memory and never could remember her religious instruction lessons, but she loved God very much. She tried to learn all that she could about God, and she tried even harder to please him. The beautiful Lady Bernadette saw appeared in a grotto, a kind of natural cave carved into a rocky cliff. She wore a white dress and a light blue sash. A white veil covered her head and fell over her shoulders to the ground. On her feet were two lovely golden roses. Her hands were joined and a rosary hung from her right arm. Its chain and cross shone like gold. The lovely Lady encouraged Bernadette to pray the rosary. The Lady appeared eighteen times to Bernadette. She asked her to tell the people to pray, to do penance and to recite the rosary, especially for sinners. At first, people did not believe that Bernadette was seeing a beautiful Lady at the grotto, because they could see no one. But soon large crowds began to follow her to the site. On February 25, the Lady pointed to a spot nearby and told Bernadette to scratch at the ground. A spring of water began to flow. This spring still produces 27,000 gallons of water each day! During the last apparition, on March 25, 1858, Bernadette asked the beautiful Lady her name. The Lady replied, ”I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette did not understand what this meant. She hurried to tell her pastor. The priest understood. This name meant that the Lady was Mary, the Mother of God! Bernadette entered the convent in 1866. She lived a hidden, humble life until her death on April 16, 1879. Three beautiful churches have been built at different levels on the rocky cliff where Bernadette saw the Blessed Mother. Although the apparitions took place over a hundred years ago, miracles still happen there. Many people are cured of sicknesses. Some crippled people walk again. Some blind people see again. But more importantly, people have their faith in God renewed and receive many spiritual graces. At Lourdes, where she once appeared to St. Bernadette, our Lady still shows her love for all of us.
Let’s try to say the rosary to our Blessed Mother every day, just as St. Bernadette did. Through this prayer, we receive all the graces we need for ourselves and for those we love.
February 12
St. Meletius
Meletius lived in the fourth century. The Roman persecutions were over, and Emperor Constantine had recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 315. But a serious problem was dividing Christians. While most people considered themselves Catholic, others were Arian. The Arians denied that Jesus is God. They taught that he was only a holy man. Some people believed this false teaching because they were very confused. Meletius loved the Church and was true to Jesus. He knew and believed that Jesus is God, and he was not afraid to teach this. Meletius realized that the Church needed to explain this truth to everyone. Meletius became the bishop of Antioch in 361. The Arians were not pleased. For twenty years, Meletius was a patient, loving bishop. But his life was made difficult by people who did not accept him. He often had to go into exile because other men were claiming to be the bishop of his diocese. But St. Meletius was the true bishop and would patiently return as soon as possible. When Emperor Valens died in 378, the Arians finally stopped their persecution. In 381, the famous Council of Constantinople, a special Church meeting, was called. The bishops wanted to talk about important truths of our faith. Bishop Meletius opened the council meetings and directed the sessions. Then, to the sadness of all the bishops, he died right there at one of the meetings. Great saints like John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa attended his funeral along with all the bishops at the Council. The people of Constantinople poured into the church as well. St. Gregory of Nyssa delivered the funeral homily. He spoke of Bishop Meletius’ calmness and radiant smile, his fatherly voice and gentleness. St. Gregory said that Meletius was a Christ-like bishop whom everyone loved. And he was right: everyone who loved the Church loved St. Meletius.
St. Meletius was always kind and good-natured. Many people made his life difficult, but he never lost his gentle ways. This is how he proved his love for Jesus. Let’s try to be kind even to those who are not kind to us.
February 13
St. Catherine of Ricci
Alexandrina was born in 1522 into the Ricci family of Florence, Italy. When she was about thirteen years old, she entered the Dominican order. (Girls could become sisters at a very young age in those days.) Her new name was Sister Catherine. Sister Catherine loved Jesus very much. She used to think a lot about all the sufferings he went through for all of us. From the time she was twenty until she was thirty-two years old, Jesus let her have visions of what his crucifixion was like. This happened every week. Jesus also gave Catherine the great privilege of receiving in her own body the marks of his wounds. This special gift is called the stigmata. Sister Catherine was happy to share in the sufferings of Jesus. Catherine also felt very sorry for those people who have died but are not yet ready to live with God in heaven. Their souls must be purified or made clean before they can see God. This happens in purgatory. Sister Catherine prayed and did penance for the souls in purgatory. When Catherine was thirty, she was elected the superior of her convent for life. She devoted her time to prayer, to assisting those who came to her for advice, and to helping the sick and the poor. Sister Catherine died at the age of sixty-eight, after a long, painful illness. It was February 2, 1590. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XII in 1747.
We can help the souls in purgatory with our prayers just as St. Catherine did. We can pray that they soon may be with the Lord. When they are in heaven, they will pray for us.
February 14
St. Cyril and St. Methodius
These two brothers were from Thessalonica, Greece. Methodius was born in 815 and Cyril in 827. Both became priests and shared the same holy desire to spread the Catholic faith. In 861, Emperor Michael III asked Cyril and Methodius to travel to Russia to teach the people about Jesus. The brothers learned the Russian language so that they could use it to explain the Gospel. Many people in Russia understood the message of Jesus because they heard it in their own language from Cyril and Methodius. Many asked to be baptized. Two years later Prince Rostislav of Moravia asked Cyril and Methodius to come to bring the good news of Christ to his land. This time the two brothers used the Slavonic language in preaching and in the liturgy, because it was the language the Moravians could understand. Some people at that time thought that it was wrong to use the language of the people instead of the Latin language in Church services. They complained about Cyril and Methodius and the two brothers were called to Rome by Pope Adrian II. But the Pope was so pleased with their good work in telling others about Christ, that he gave his approval and said that Cyril and Methodius should be made bishops. Cyril died soon after this in 869, and we don’t know if he was ever consecrated a bishop. But Methodius was, and he went back to Moravia. The last part of his life was spent finishing a translation of the Bible, a work he had begun with Cyril. Methodius died in 885. He and Cyril are known as the apostles to the Slavs. On December 31, 1980, Pope John Paul II declared St. Cyril and St. Methodius co-patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict.
We can learn a lot from the generosity of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. We can also ask them to help us be respectful of all people even if their religion, customs, language and culture may be different from our own.
February 15
St. Faustinus and St. Jovita
St. Faustinus and St. Jovita were brothers who lived in Brescia, Italy. They were among the early Christian martyrs. The two brothers suffered during the persecution of Emperor Hadrian in the second century. From the time they were young, Faustinus and Jovita were well known for their great love for their religion. They also performed works of Christian charity. They helped each other do good for the people who needed them. The bishop of Brescia made them both priests. They began to preach everywhere, to both the rich and the poor. They spared themselves no sacrifice to bring many people to God. Because it was a time of persecution, it was easy to be afraid. But Faustinus and Jovita would not give in to fear of the soldiers even though these soldiers were actually putting many Christians to death. When the emperor heard that Faustinus and Jovita dared to preach openly about Jesus, he sent them to prison and had them tortured. He hoped that torture would stop them from teaching about Jesus. But the emperor was wrong. No matter what the two priests suffered, they would not promise to stop preaching about Jesus. They prayed and offered all their sufferings to the Lord. Faustinus and Jovita encouraged each other to be courageous even if they, too, would have to die as martyrs for Jesus. Both brothers remained true to their belief in and love for Jesus until they were martyred. The exact date of their death was not recorded, but the Church remembers their heroic example.
God is very pleased to see brothers and sisters helping one another to study and learn about their faith. Like St. Faustinus and St. Jovita, they can encourage each other to love and live for Jesus.
February 16
St. Onesimus
Onesimus lived in the first century. He was a young slave who stole something from his master and then ran away to Rome. In Rome he went to see the great apostle, St. Paul, who was in prison for preaching about Jesus. Paul welcomed Onesimus with kindness and helped him realize that he had done wrong to steal. But more than that, Paul led Onesimus to believe in and accept the Christian faith. After Onesimus became a Christian, Paul sent him back to his master, Philemon, who was Paul’s friend. But Paul did not send the slave back alone and defenseless. He “armed” Onesimus with a brief, powerful letter. Paul hoped his letter would set everything right for his new friend, Onesimus. Paul wrote to Philemon: “I plead with you for my own son, for Onesimus. I am sending him back to you. Welcome him as though he were my very heart.” That touching letter is now in the New Testament of the Bible. Philemon accepted Paul’s letter and Paul’s advice. When Onesimus returned, Philemon set him free. Later, Onesimus went back to St. Paul and became his faithful helper. St. Paul made Onesimus a priest and then a bishop. The former slave dedicated the rest of his life to preaching the Good News that had changed his life forever.
If we ever hurt anyone in any way, let’s ask forgiveness right away. God will be pleased to see that we’re sorry and he will bless us as he blessed Onesimus.
February 17
Seven Founders of the Order of Servites
In the thirteenth century in the city of Florence, Italy, seven young men formed a group called the Praisers of Mary. They met in order to pray, and they were especially devoted to Mary. The way they came to be founders of the Servite Order is remarkable. On the feast of the Assumption, while the seven friends were deep in prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to them. She inspired them to leave everything behind and to live alone with God. After several years of living as hermits, they went to their bishop. They asked him for a rule of life to follow. The bishop encouraged them to pray and to ask for guidance from Mary. Mary again appeared to the men. This time she was carrying a black habit (a kind of robe). At her side was an angel holding a scroll with the words “Servants of Mary” written on it. In this vision, the Blessed Mother said that she had chosen them to be her servants. She asked them to wear a black habit. This was the habit they started to wear in 1240. They also began to live their religious life according to the rule of St. Augustine. The seven founders’ names are Bonfilius, Bonajuncta, Amideus, Hugh, Manettus, Sostenes, and Alexius. All of them except Alexius became priests. Alexius felt himself unworthy to be ordained. Others joined the group and the Servite Order grew. The purpose of the members was to become more and more like Jesus, to preach the Gospel, and to spread devotion to Mary, especially as Our Lady of Sorrows. The Servite Order was approved by the Vatican in 1259. The seven holy founders were declared saints by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
Like these seven saints, let’s love our Blessed Mother and ask her to help us in every need.
February 18
Blessed Elisabetta Canori-Mora
Elisabetta was born in Rome in 1774 into a well-to- do Christian family. When she was eleven years old, she began attending school with the Augustinian nuns. She was a student with the nuns for three years. She became very close to God during this time. When she was twenty-two, Elizabeth married a lawyer named Cristoforo Mora. They had four children, but two of them died when they were very young. Cristoforo turned out to be a cruel husband. He mistreated Elisabetta. After a while, he left home. Now Elisabetta had to care for her two children all by herself. Elisabetta lived in poverty. She worked as a maid and took in sewing and laundry to earn some money. Besides having to provide for her children, she also had to pay Cristoforo’s debts. But this did not keep Elisabetta from reaching out to those who had even less than she did. She shared what little she had with the poor and she took care of the sick. The doors to her home were always open to anyone who needed her help. Because she was a deeply prayerful woman, she was a source of peace and faith for the discouraged and hopeless. Instead of holding a grudge against her husband, Elisabetta prayed for him and offered up her sufferings for his conversion. After her death in 1825, Cristoforo was touched by God’s grace. He repented of his sins and eventually became a priest. Elisabetta was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.
Blessed Elisabetta faced many difficulties in her life. But they didn’t make her bitter or self-centered. Instead, she asked herself what she could do to make life easier for others. When someone is unkind to us, we can ask Blessed Elisabetta to help us be kind and forgiving instead of holding a grudge.
February 19
St. Barbatus
Barbatus was born in Benevento, Italy, in 612. He took his faith seriously and especially liked to read the Bible. As soon as he was old enough, Barbatus was ordained a priest. Later he was made a pastor. But his life as a pastor was not easy. Some people did not like it when Father Barbatus encouraged them to lead better lives or when he reminded them to be sorry for their sins. Some of the people got angry. They persecuted him and finally forced him to leave the parish. The young priest felt badly. He went back to Benevento where he had been born. He was received with great joy. But there were challenges in that city, too. Many converts to Christianity still kept pagan idols in their homes. They found it hard to destroy their good luck charms. They believed in magical powers. Father Barbatus preached against these superstitions. But the people hung on to their false gods. Barbatus warned them that because of this sin, their city would be attacked by enemies. And it was. Afterward, the people gave up their error and peace returned. Father Barbatus was made bishop. He continued his work to convert his people. He died on February 29, 682, at the age of seventy.
Good parish priests, like St. Barbatus, will challenge us to live according to the teachings of Jesus. Let’s listen to their advice and follow it.
February 20
St. Margaret of Cortona
Margaret was the daughter of a farmer in the Tuscany region of Italy. Her mother died when she was only seven years old, and her stepmother treated her harshly. When she was about sixteen, she ran away from home to live with a wealthy young man. They had a son and lived a life of luxury. Nine years after she went to live with him, the man was murdered. Margaret realized the life of sin she had been leading, and decided to change. She was twenty-five years old. Margaret went to the church at Cortona and confessed in front of everyone the sins she had committed. She and her son were taken in by two ladies in the town, and Margaret joined the Franciscan Third Order. Two Franciscan friars became her spiritual directors. They helped her through three difficult years of discouragement and troubles in prayer. They also tried to make sure that Margaret’s penances were not too severe. Because she was so sorry for the wrong things she had done, Margaret wanted to make up for her sins by fasting and performing other acts of self-denial. After some time spent living all alone, Margaret devoted herself to the poor and the sick. In 1286 she received the bishop’s approval to form a community of women who would care for the sick. She founded a hospital for this purpose. Because of her holiness of life, many people came to her from all over Italy, France and Spain to ask her advice on spiritual matters. God worked many miracles of healing through her, and she was able to help many people to be sorry for their sins. St. Margaret died at Cortona in 1297.
Instead of becoming discouraged when we do something wrong, we can be like St. Margaret and try to do better next time because we want to show our love for God.
February 21
St. Peter Damian
St. Peter Damian was born in 1007, in Ravenna, Italy. He was left an orphan as a little child. An older brother brought Peter to live with him, but he treated him as a servant and sent him to take care of the pigs. After some time, another brother named Damian, who was a priest, found out how Peter was being treated. He took over Peter’s care and treated him with love and kindness. Peter was so grateful to his brother Father Damien that he added the name “Damian” to his own name. Father Damian educated Peter and encouraged him in his studies. When Peter grew up, he became a teacher. He was very good at his work, but God had other plans for him. Peter Damian lived at a time when many people in the Church were forgetting that we are all called to live like Jesus. Peter wanted the Church to shine with the holiness of Jesus. After seven years of teaching, Peter made the decision to become a monk. He would live the rest of his life in prayer and penance so that many people in the Church would become holy. In 1035, Peter Damian went to a monastery of St. Romuald. There he wrote a rule for the monks. He also wrote a life of St. Romuald. Twice his abbot sent him to neighboring monasteries. Peter helped the monks to change their way of life and become closer to God. The monks were grateful because Peter was so kind and respectful. Around 1043, the monks elected Peter abbot. He continually encouraged his monks to live in imitation of Jesus. In 1057, Pope Stephen IX named Peter cardinal bishop of Ostia. Throughout his long life, several popes sent Peter on missions to straighten out Church affairs in different places. He also wrote many books explaining the teachings of the Church. Peter Damian died in 1072 at the age of eighty three. Because he did so much to spread the truth of the Gospel, Pope Leo XII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1828.
Even though his older brother was unkind to him when he was growing up, St. Peter Damian trusted in God’s love and help. And God took care of him. Let’s ask St. Peter to let us know how much God loves us too.
February 22
Chair of St. Peter
The feast of the Chair of St. Peter has been celebrated in Rome since the fourth century. It is a reminder to us that St. Peter established the Christian community in Rome. The chair is a symbol of authority, since a king rules from his throne. But where did St. Peter’s authority come from? In the Gospel, we read how Jesus told Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). Jesus knew that when he ascended back to his Father in heaven, his Church on earth would need a leader and guide. Jesus chose Peter to carry out this important mission. Peter would be the chief shepherd of the flock of Jesus. In John’s Gospel, the risen Jesus asks Peter three times, ”Do you love me?” And just as the weak Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night before he died, the Peter strengthened by faith in the resurrection declared three times, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you!” And three times, Jesus told Peter, ”Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” (See John 21:15-17.) The bishops of the Church are like shepherds taking care of their flocks. At first, Peter cared for God’s people in Jerusalem and in Antioch, two big cities of the east. Later, he went to preach the Gospel in Rome, the capital of the world. St. Peter was the first bishop of the Church in Rome. After he was martyred, a new bishop was chosen to take his place. From the beginning of the Church until today, there has been an unbroken line of bishops following St. Peter as the bishop of the Church of Rome. And because Jesus put Peter in charge of all his followers, Peter and his successors have also been the leaders of the whole Church throughout the world. The bishop of Rome is called by a special name. We call him the pope. On this special day, we should pray in a special way for our Holy Father the pope, who leads and guides the Church with the authority that Jesus gave St. Peter
We love and honor the pope because he takes the place of Jesus on earth. Let’s always pray for our Holy Father. We ask that God may give him strength, light and comfort.
February 23
St. Polycarp
Polycarp was born around the year 75. He became a Christian when there were still not many followers of Jesus. In fact, Polycarp was a disciple of one of the original apostles, St. John. All that Polycarp learned from St. John he taught to others. Polycarp became a priest and then bishop of Smyrna in present- day Turkey. He was Smyrna’s bishop for many years. The Christians recognized him as a holy, brave shepherd. Christians in Polycarp’s time faced persecution and death under Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Someone betrayed Polycarp to the authorities. When his captors came to arrest him, Polycarp invited them to first share a meal with him. Then he asked them to let him pray awhile. When he was brought to trial, the judge tried to force Bishop Polycarp to save himself from death by cursing Jesus. ”I have served Jesus all my life,” answered Polycarp, “and he has never done me any wrong. How can I curse my King who died for me?” After he had said this, the soldiers tied Polycarp’s hands behind his back. The old bishop was then placed on a burning pile. But the fire did not harm him. One of the soldiers then thrust a lance into his heart. And so, in the year 155, when he was eighty years old, Polycarp died a martyr. He went to live for- ever with Jesus, the Divine Master whom he had served so bravely.
St. Polycarp chose to die rather than curse Jesus. We have many choices to make every day too. If we want to be good and strong Christians like Polycarp we will choose to watch only good TV shows and videos, listen to good music, and be careful about the kinds of books and magazines we read. Our choices will also determine the kind of language we use and the way we treat our family and friends. The choices we make are very important.
February 24
Blessed Josefa Naval Girbes
Josefa was born on December 11, 1820, in a town near Valencia in Spain. When her mother died in 1833, Josefa took over the running of the household. When she was eighteen, she joined the Carmelite Third Order and took a private vow of chastity, promising never to get married. Josefa gave embroidery classes in her home. As she taught the girls the art of embroidery, she also taught them about God. She prayed with her pupils and encouraged them to lead holy lives. Because of her good example and the wonderful things she taught them about the Lord, many of the young women who took her embroidery classes were inspired to enter the religious life. As Pope John Paul II said at her beatification, ”her students filled the cloistered convents while she followed her vocation as an unmarried woman in the world.” In 1885, a cholera epidemic broke out. Josefa bravely and selflessly brought relief and comfort to the sick and dying. Josefa’s love of neighbor was a direct result of her love of God. God allowed Josefa to become very, very close to him. Josefa died on February 24, 1893. She was beatified on September 25, 1988, by Pope John Paul II.
No matter what walk of life God has called us to, we are all called to become saints. Like Blessed Josefa, we can witness to Jesus and lead lives of prayer and goodness wherever we are or whatever we’re doing.
February 25
St. Caesarius of Nazianzen
Caesarius lived in the fourth century in the area that is today the country of Turkey. His father was the bishop of Nazianzen. (At that time bishops and priests could be married.) Caesarius’ brother is St. Gregory of Nazianzen (Gregory’s feast day is January 2). Both Caesarius and Gregory received an excellent education. Gregory wanted to become a priest, and Caesarius wanted to become a doctor. The two brothers went to the schools that would help them reach their goals. Caesarius completed his studies in medicine at Constantinople. He soon became a well-known and trusted doctor. In fact, Emperor Constantius, who lived in Constantinople, wanted Caesarius to be his personal physician. Caesarius thanked the emperor but kindly refused. He wanted to go back to Nazianzen, his home city. Some time later, however, Caesarius was called to serve the new emperor at Constantinople. This emperor is known in history as Julian the Apostate. (An apostate was someone who gave up the Christian faith.) Emperor Julian had issued several official orders against the Christians. He knew that Caesarius was a Christian, but he liked him because he was such a good doctor. Julian tried to talk Caesarius into giving up his faith. He even offered him bribes and privileges. But Caesarius remained faithful. He followed the advice of his father and brother and went back to Nazianzen. In 368, Caesarius was almost killed in an earthquake. He escaped unharmed but was badly shaken by the incident. He felt that God was telling him to live a life of prayer away from the noise and flattery of the court. Caesarius gave away his possessions to the poor. He began to live a quiet, prayerful life. St. Caesarius died shortly after in 369. His brother, St. Gregory, preached the homily at his funeral.
We all have a special call or vocation to follow in life. God has given us the gifts we need to live that vocation. Like St. Caesarius, we need the wisdom to listen to people we trust. We also need to refuse to follow people who want us to use our talents or education in wrong ways.
February 26
St. Porphyry
Porphyry was born in 353 to wealthy, noble parents. He left his family when he was twenty-five. Porphyry went to Egypt to enter a monastery. After five years, he made a trip to Jerusalem. He wanted to visit the places where Jesus had actually been while he was on earth. Porphyry was very impressed by the Holy Land. His love for Jesus made him more deeply aware of the sufferings of the poor. At home in Thessalonica he had never known what it was like to be poor. Now he still owned all that his parents had left him. But not for long. He asked his friend Mark to go to Thessalonica and sell everything for him. After three months, Mark returned with the money. Porphyry then gave it away to those who really needed it. At the age of forty, Porphyry became a priest. He was given care of the relics of the true cross of Jesus. Porphyry was then made bishop of Gaza. He worked generously to lead the people to believe in Jesus. But his labors were slow and required heroic patience. Most of the people of Gaza at that time followed pagan practices and superstitions. Although Porphyry was able to stop many of these practices, he had enemies who made him suffer greatly. Others who were Christians loved and admired him deeply. They prayed and sacrificed for him. They begged the Lord to preserve him. Bishop Porphyry spent many years strengthening the Christian community. He was never afraid to teach others about Jesus. He died in 420.
The story of St. Porphyry teaches us that we should not be superstitious and believe in things such as good luck charms. God is the one who watches over us and gives us all the help we need, if we ask him.
February 27
St. Gabriel Possenti
This saint was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1838. He received the name Francis at baptism, in honor of the great St. Francis of Assisi. His mother died when he was only four. Francis’s father sent for a governess to raise him and the other children. Francis grew to be very handsome and likable. He was often the most popular person at a party. He loved to have fun, but there was another side to him, too. Even while having good times, he was sometimes bored. He couldn’t explain why. He seemed to feel in his heart a strong desire for God and the deeper things of life. Twice Francis became so sick that he nearly died. Each time he promised our Lady that if she would obtain his cure, he would become a religious. He did get better both times, but he didn’t keep his promise. One day, he saw a picture of the Sorrowful Mother that was being carried in a procession. It seemed that the Blessed Mother was looking straight at him. At the same time, he heard a voice in his heart telling him, “Francis, the world is not for you anymore.” That did it. Francis entered the Passionist monastery. He was eighteen years old. The new name he took was Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Gabriel’s great loves became the Holy Eucharist and Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. He loved to spend time thinking about the passion of Jesus and how much the Lord had suffered for him. Gabriel also learned to practice two virtues in a special way: humility and obedience. His special trademark was joy. He was always happy, and he spread happiness to those around him. After only a few short years in the Passionist Order, Gabriel died on February 27, 1862.He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Trying to have only good times will leave us empty and dissatisfied. True happiness comes from living according to God’s plan. We can ask St. Gabriel to help us find real joy and meaning in our lives.
February 28
St. Romanus and St. Lupicinus
These French saints were brothers who lived in the fifth century. As a young man, Romanus was admired by everyone for his goodness. He had a great desire to become a saint. Since he saw that in the world it was too easy to forget about God, Romanus decided to live as a hermit. First, he asked the advice of a holy monk, and then he started off. He took a book with him. It was The Lives of the Fathers of the Desert by Cassian. He also took seeds to plant and a few tools. With these supplies, he went into the forests of the Jura Mountains between Switzerland and France. Romanus found a huge fir tree and settled beneath it. He spent his time praying and reading his book. He also planted and cared for his garden, quietly enjoying nature. Soon afterward, his brother Lupicinus joined him. The two brothers were very different. Romanus was hard on himself. However, he was kind and gentle and full of understanding with others. Lupicinus was demanding with himself and usually the same with others. But he meant well. The two brothers understood each other and got along fine. Many men came to join them. They wanted to be monks, too, so they built two monasteries. Romanus was the abbot of one and Lupicinus was the abbot of the other. The monks lived simple, hard lives. They prayed much and made sacrifices cheerfully. They performed penances to strengthen themselves in their vocation. They had a farm and worked very hard growing their own food. They kept silent all the time so that they could listen to and speak to God. Romanus died in 460. His younger brother, Lupicinus, died in 480.
St. Romanus and St. Lupicinus were both saints, even though they had different personalities. God gave each of us our own unique personality, which makes us different from any other person on earth.