Saint Stories- October 27 – January 5
Vigil of SS. Simon and Jude, Apostles – October 27
SS. Simon and Jude share a common feast on account of their similar apostolate and brotherhood in martyrdom. Simon was a simple Galilean, called by our Lord to be one of the pillars of His Church. Zelotes, “the zealot,” was the surname which he bore among the disciples. Armed with this zeal he went forth to the combat against unbelief and sin, and made conquest of many souls for his divine Lord. The apostle Jude, whom the Church commemorates on the same day, was a brother of St. James the Less. They were called “brethren of the Lord,” on account of their relationship to His Blessed Mother. St. Jude preached first in Mesopotamia, as Simon did in Egypt; and finally they both met in Persia, where they won their crown together. The feasts of the apostles should remind us that nothing is more vital to the Church than the purity of her faith. This faith, in which we are baptized, has been faithfully handed down to us from the apostles; it is the link which binds us to Christ, keeping us in the truth that leads us to God
Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King – October 27
Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King as a solemn affirmation of our Lord’s kingship over every human society; he is King, not only of the soul and conscience, intelligence and will of all men, but also of families and cities, peoples and states and the whole universe. In his Encyclical Letter “Quas primas” the Pope showed how laicism or secularism, organizing society without any reference to God, leads to the apostasy of the masses and the ruin of society, because it is a complete denial of Christ’s Kingship. This is one of the great heresies of our time, and the Pope considered that this annual, public, social and official assertion of Christ’s divine right of Kingship over men in the liturgy would be an effective means of combating it. That Christ is King over all creation is the theme of the whole Mass and Office of the feast. The Mass begins with the magnificent apocalyptic vision of the Lamb of God, sacrificed but henceforth glorified forever, acclaimed by the innumerable host of Angels and Saints. By its position on the last Sunday of October, towards the end of the Liturgical year and just before All Saints Day, the feast of Christ the King comes as the climax of our celebration of all Christ’s mysteries and a kind of earthly anticipation of His everlasting reign over the elect in the glory of heaven. It sums up the Christian message that by His death and Resurrection Christ has conquered sin and death and reigns in the glory of His victory among the elect who are its fruit. Christ is the creative Word; He is the Man-God, seated at the right hand of the Father; he is our Savior; these are His three titles to kingship.
Vigil of All Saints – October 31
As early as the fourth century there were churches in Rome dedicated to the chief martyrs, where the anniversaries of their death, or rather, of their birth in heaven, were annually celebrated. In addition to this, Masses were drawn up to be said in honor of martyrs whose names were not recorded and who had no special feast day. Later on, when the worship of saints who were not martyrs was introduced into the Liturgical calendar, these Masses were given a more general character; finally, in the eighth century, the Gregorian Sacramentary included among them a Mass in honor of all the Saints. In the following century this was appointed to be said on November 1st, which became the feast of All Saints; for this feast today’s vigil is a preparation. This account of its origin explains why the texts of this Mass are also to be found in the Common of Martyrs.
All Saints Day – November 1
The Church pays, day by day, a special veneration to some one of the holy men and women who have helped to establish it by their blood, develop it by their labors, or edify it by their virtues. But, in addition to those whom the Church honors by special designation, or has inscribed in her calendar, how many martyrs there are whose names are not recorded! How many humble virgins and holy penitents! How many just and holy anchorites or young children snatched away in their innocence! How many Christians who have died in grace, whose merits are known only to God, and who are themselves known only in heaven! Now should we forget those who remember us in their intercessions? Besides are they not our brethren, ancestors, friends, and fellow Christians, with whom we have lived in daily companionship – in other words, our own family? Yea it is one family; and our place is marked out in this home of eternal light and eternal love.
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed – November 2
The Church teaches us that the souls of the just who have left this world soiled with the stain of venial sin remain for a time in a place of expiation, where they suffer such punishment as may be due to their offences. It is a matter of faith that these suffering souls are relieved by the intercession of the Saints in heaven and by the prayers of the faithful upon earth. To pray for the dead is, then, both an act of charity and of piety. We read in Holy Scripture: “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” And when our Lord inspired St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, towards the close of the tenth century, to establish in his Order a general commemoration of all the faithful departed, it was soon adopted by the whole Western Church, and has been continued unceasingly to our day. Let us, then, ever bear in mind the dead and offer up our prayers for them. By showing this mercy to the suffering souls in Purgatory, we shall be particularly entitled to be treated with mercy at our departure from this world, and to share more abundantly in the general suffrages of the Church, continually offered for all who have slept in Christ.
St. Andrew Avellino, Confessor – November 10
After a holy youth, Lancelot Avellino was ordained priest at Naples. At the age of 36 he entered the Theatine Order, and took the name of Andrew to show his love for the cross. For fifty years he was afflicted with a most painful rupture; yet he would never use a carriage. Once he was carrying the Viaticum, and a storm had extinguished the lamps, a heavenly light encircled him, guided his steps and sheltered him from the rain. But as a rule his sufferings were unrelieved by God or man. On the last day of his life, St. Andrew rose to say Mass. He was in his eighty-ninth year, and so weak that he could scarcely reach the altar. He began the “Judica me,” and fell forward in a fit of apoplexy. Laid on a straw mattress, his whole frame was convulsed in agony while the fiend, in visible form, advanced to seize his soul. Then, as his brethren prayed and wept, the voice of Mary was heard, bidding the Saint’s guardian angel send the tempter back to hell. A calm and holy smile settled on the features of the dying Saint, as, with a grateful salutation to the image of Mary, he breathed forth his soul to God. He died on November 10, 1608.
SS. Tryphon, Respicius, and Nympha, Martyrs – November 10
Tryphon was born in Phrygia. During the Decian persecution he was taken to Nicfa about the year 250 and put to death in a horrible manner after he had converted the heathen prefect Licius.Respicius appears as Tryphon’s companion. The relics of both were preserved together with those of a holy virgin named Nympha. Nympha was a virgin from Palermo who was put to death for the Faith at the beginning of the fourth century. According to other versions of the legend, when the Goths invaded Sicily she fled from Palermo to the Italian mainland and died in the sixth century at Savona.
St. Martin, Bishop and Confessor – November 11
When a mere boy, Martin became a Christian catechumen against his parents’ wish; and at 15 was therefore seized by his father, a pagan soldier, and enrolled in the army. One winter’s day, when stationed at Amiens, he met a beggar almost naked and frozen with cold. Having no money, he cut his cloak in two and gave him the half. That night he saw our Lord clothed in the half cloak and heard Him say to the angels: “Martin, yet a catechumen, hath wrapped me in this garment.” This decided him to be baptized, and shortly after he left the army. He succeeded in converting his mother; but being driven from his home by the Arians; he took shelter with St. Hilary, and founded near Poitiers the first monastery in France. In 372 he was made bishop of Tours. His flock, though Christian in name, was still pagan in heart. Unarmed and attended only by his monks, Martin destroyed the heathen temples and groves and completed by his preaching and miracles the conversion of the people, whence he is known as the Apostle of Gaul. His last eleven years were spent in humble toil to atone for his faults, while God made manifest by miracles the purity of his soul.
St. Mennas, Martyr – November 11
At Cotyaeum in Phrygia, during the persecution of Diocletian, the celebrated martyrdom of St. Mennas, an Egyptian soldier, who cast off the military belt and obtained the grace of serving the King of heaven secretly in the desert. Afterwards, coming out publicly and freely declaring himself a Christian, he was first subjected to severe torments; and finally kneeling in prayer, giving thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, he was slain with the sword. After his death he became renowned for many miracles.
St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr – November 12
St. Martin I, pope from 649 to 655, was a courageous defender of the faith against heresy. He held a council at Rome which condemned the Monothelite heresy which that Christ had no human but only a divine will. The heretical emperor, Constans II, had him treacherously arrested and taken to Constantinople. After many sufferings and humiliations he was banished to the Chersonesus, where, exhausted by ill usage, he died. His body, brought back to Rome, was laid in the church already dedicated to SS. Sylvester and Martin of Tours.
St. Didacus, Confessor – November 13
St. Didacus was born in Spain, in the middle of the fifteenth century. He was remarkable from childhood for his love of solitude, and when a youth retired and led a hermit life, occupying himself with weaving mats,like the fathers of the desert. Aiming at still higher perfection, he entered the Order of St. Francis. His want of learning and his humility would not allow him to aspire to the priesthood, and he remained a lay-brother till his death, perfect in his close observance of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and mortifying his wilt and his senses in every way that he could contrive. At one time he was sent by his superiors to the Canary Islands, whither he went joyfully, hoping to win the crown of martyrdom. Such, however, was not God’s will, and after making many conversions by his example and holy words, he was recalled to Spain. There, after a long and painful illness, he finished his days, embracing the cross, which he had so dearly loved through his life. He died with the words of the hymn “Dulce lignum” on his lips.
St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr – November 14
St. Josaphat, a Catholic of the Ruthenian rite, was an apostle of the return of the Orthodox schismatics to the Church of Rome. At the age of twenty he became a Basilian monk, and while still young was made superior of his monastery, then archimandrite of Vilna and finally archbishop of Polotsk. The young archbishop’s zeal for the cause of the “uniates” aroused the hatred of the schismatics, and he was murdered by a mob at Vitebsk in 1623 at the age of 43. His prayer obtained the conversion of his murderers. He is one of the patrons of Poland.
St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor – November 15
Born in Swabia, St. Albert, through the advice and prayers of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, joined the Order of Preachers; he studied and taught philosophy and theology at Cologne and Paris, where he became one of the most famous masters of the university. On his return to Cologne he had St. Thomas Aquinas among his pupils. He became bishop of Ratisbon and combated the errors of William of St. Amour. He died at Cologne in 1280 and was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pius XI in 1931.
St. Gertrude, Virgin – November 16
Gertrude was born in the year 1263, of a noble Saxon family, and placed at the age of five for education in the Benedictine Abbey of Rodelsdorf. Her strong mind was carefully cultivated, and she wrote Latin with unusual elegance and force; above all, she was perfect in humility and mortification, in obedience, and in all monastic observances. Her life was crowded with wonders. She has in obedience recorded some of her visions, in which she traces in words of indescribable beauty the intimate converse of her soul, with Jesus and Mary. She was gentle to all, most gentle to sinners; filled with devotion to the saints of God, to the souls in Purgatory, and above all to the Passion of our Lord and to His Sacred Heart. She ruled her abbey with perfect wisdom and love for forty years. Her life was one of great and almost continual suffering, and her longing to be with Jesus was not granted until 1334, when she had reached her seventy-second year.
St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop and Confessor – November 17
St. Gregory was famous for sanctity and wisdom, but even more for the miracles which God wrought through him in such numbers that he was called “Thaumaturgus,” the wonderworker, even during his lifetime. His faith was “able to remove mountains,” and there is a legend that he indeed obtained by his prayers, that a mountain moved to leave room for the building of a church. – St. Gregory was bishop of Neocaesarea in Asia Minor and suffered greatly in the persecution of Decius and the barbarian invasion; he died in the year 270.
The Dedication of the Basilicas of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul November 18
St. Peter’s on the Vatican hill and St. Paul’s outside the Walls, both built under Constantine on the sites of the Apostles’ martyrdom, are scarcely second in importance to St. John Lateran. – St. Peter’s on the site of Nero’s circus, with the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles below its high altar, has become the center of the Christian world, although it is not the cathedral church of Rome. The fourth century building was already a remarkable one, and was later enlarged. In the sixteenth century it had to be replaced because it was falling into ruin. Julius II and Leo X called on the greater artists of the Renaissance, and Bramante and Michael Angelo both had a share in the planning of the largest and most magnificent church in the world. It was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626. – St. Paul’s basilica is situated on the opposite side of the city over the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles. It was almost wholly destroyed by fire in 1823, and was rebuilt with unparalleled magnificence by Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX. Pius IX consecrated it on December 10, 1854; nevertheless he ordered that the commemoration of the two dedications should remain joined on the anniversary day of the first.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Widow – November 19
St. Elizabeth, daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, was married to the Landgrave Louis IV of Thuring, and bore him three children. Her husband, who was a saint, encouraged her charity, and her inexhaustible goodness made her a mother to the poor, the sick and the lepers. At the death of her husband the new landgrave, her brother-in-law, drove her from the castle of Wartburg and left her homeless. She took the habit as a tertiary of St. Francis and died in the greatest austerity in 1231, aged scarcely 24 years.
St. Felix of Valois, Confessor – November 20
St. Felix of Valois left the royal court of France and renounced the world to embrace a solitary life. Later, with St. John of Matha, he founded the Trinitarian Order for the ransom of captives from the Mohammedans. Ready to suffer hunger and thirst and every sort of hardship to deliver their brethren, generously assisted by King Philip Augustus, they founded the monastery of Cerfroi which was the center of their order. St. Felix died in 1212.
The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – November 21
Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to the divine service and love, both before and after their birth. Some amongst the Jews, not content with this general consecration of their children, offered them to God in their infancy, by the hands of the priests in the Temple, to be lodged in apartments belonging to the Temple, and brought up in attending the priests and Levites in the sacred ministry. It is an ancient tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was thus solemnly offered to God in the Temple in her infancy. This festival of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin the Church celebrates today. The tender soul of Mary was then adorned with the most precious graces, an object of astonishment and praise to the angels, and of the highest complacence to the adorable Trinity; the Father looking upon her as His beloved daughter, the Son as one chosen and prepared to become His mother, and the Holy Ghost as His darling spouse. Mary was the first who set up the standard of virginity; and, by consecrating it by a perpetual vow to our Lord; she opened the way to all virgins who have since followed her example.
St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr – November 22
In the evening of her wedding, with the music of the marriage ringing in her ears, Cecilia, a rich, beautiful, and noble Roman maiden, renewed the vow by which she had consecrated her virginity to God. “Pure be my heart and undefiled my flesh; for I have a spouse you know not of – an angel of my Lord.” The heart of her young husband Valerian was moved by her words; he received baptism, and within a few days he and his brother Tiburtius, who had been brought by him to knowledge of the faith, sealed their confession with their blood. Cecelia only remained. “Do you not know,” was her answer to the threats of the prefect, “that I am the bride of my Lord Jesus Christ?” The death appointed for her was suffocation, and she remained a day and a night in a hot-air bath, heated seven times its wont. But “the flames had no power over her body, neither was a hair of her head singed.” The lector sent to dispatch her struck with trembling hand the three blows allowed, and left her still alive. For two days and nights Cecilia lay with her head half severed on the pavement of her bath, fully sensible, and joyfully awaiting her crown; on the third day the agony was over, and in 177 the virgin saint gave back her pure spirit to Christ.
St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr – November 23
St. Clement is said to have been of noble birth and to have been consecrated bishop by St. Peter himself. With the words of the apostles still ringing in his ears, he began to rule the Church of God; and thus he was among the first, as he was among the most illustrious, in the long line of those who have held the place and power of St. Peter. He lived at the same time and in the same city with Domitian, the persecutor of the Church; and besides external foes he had to contend with schism and rebellion within. The Corinthian Church was torn by intestine strife, and its members set the authority of their clergy at defiance. It was then that St. Clement interfered in the plenitude of his apostolic authority and sent his famous Epistle to the Corinthians. He urged the duties of charity and, above all, submission to the clergy. He did not speak in vain; peace and order were restored. St. Clement had done his work on earth, and shortly after sealed with his blood the faith which he had learned from Peter and taught to the nations.
St. Felicitas, Martyr – November 23
At Rome, St. Felicitas, mother of seven martyred sons. After them she was beheaded for Christ by order of Emperor Marcus Antoninus.
St. John of the Cross, Confessor and Doctor – November 24
St. John of the Cross was the great ally of St. Teresa in the reform of the Carmelites; he introduced the primitive observance among the friars as he did among the nuns. He was a man of complete self-renunciation, great love of the Cross and profound spirit of prayer; his mystical writings have made him the Doctor of the contemplative life. He died in 1591. Pius XI proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1926.
St. Chrysogonus, Martyr – November 24
The birthday of St. Chrysogonus, martyr. After a long imprisonment in chains for the constant confession of Christ, he was ordered by Diocletian to be taken to Aquileia, where he completed his martyrdom by being beheaded and thrown into the sea.
St. Catharine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr – November 25
St. Catharine was a noble virgin of Alexandria. Before her baptism, it is said, she saw in vision the Blessed Virgin asking her Son to receive her among His servants, but the Divine Infant turned away. After baptism, Catherine saw the same vision, when Jesus Christ received her with great affection, and espoused her before the court of heaven. When the impious tyrant Maximin II came to Alexandria, fascinated by the wisdom, beauty and wealth of the saint, he in vain urged his suit. At last, in his rage and disappointment, he ordered her to be stripped and scourged. She fled to the Arabian mountains, where the soldiers overtook her, and after many torments put her to death. Her body was laid on Mount Sinai, and a beautiful legend relates that Catherine having prayed that no man might see or touch her body after death, angels bore it to the grave.
St. Sylvester, Abbot – November 26
St. Sylvester owed his religious vocation to the sight of a relative’s dead body. He at first lived a solitary life, but later founded a monastery under the Rule of St. Benedict. When he died in 1267, at the age of ninety, the Sylvestrine branch of the Benedictine Order already had twenty-five houses in Italy and in Ceylon.
St. Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr – November 26
St. Peter governed the Church of Alexandria during the persecution of Diocletian. The sentence of excommunication that he was the first to pronounce against the schismatic, Melitius and Arius, and which, despite the united efforts of powerful partisans, he strenuously upheld, proves that he possessed as much sagacity as zeal and firmness. But his most constant care was employed in guarding his flocks from the dangers arising out of persecution. He never ceased repeating to them that, in order not to fear death; it was needful to begin by dying to self, renouncing our will, and detaching ourselves from all
St. Saturninus, Martyr – November 29
Saturninus went from Rome, by dire-ction of Pope Fabian, about the year 245, to preach the faith in Gaul. He fixed his Episcopal See at Toulouse, and thus became the first Christian bishop of that city. There were but few Christians in the place. However, their number grew fast after the coming of St. Saturninus; and his power was felt by the spirits of evil, who received the worship of the heathen. His power was felt the more because he had to pass daily through the capitol, the high place of the heathen worship, on the way to his own church. One day a great multitude was gathering by an altar, where a bull stood ready for the sacrifice. A man in the crowd pointed out Saturninus, who was passing by, and the people would have forced him to idolatry but the holy bishop answered, “I know but one God, and to Him I will offer the sacrifice of praise. How can I fear gods who, as you say, are afraid of me?” On this he was fastened to the bull, which was driven down the capitol. The brains of the saint were scattered on the steps. His mangled body was taken up and buried by two devout women.
St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr – November 30
St. Andrew was one of the fishermen of Bethsaida, and brother, perhaps elder brother, of St. Peter, and became a disciple of St. John the Baptist. He seemed always eager to bring others into notice; when called himself by Christ on the banks of the Jordan, his first thought was to go in search of his brother, and he said, “We have found the Messiah,” and he brought him to Jesus. It was he again who, when Christ wished to feed the five thousand in the desert, pointed out the little lad with the five loaves and fishes. St. Andrew went forth upon his mission to plant the faith in Scythia and Greece, and at the end of years of toil to win a martyr’s crown. After suffering a cruel scourging at Patrea in Achaia, he was left, bound by cords to die upon a cross. When St. Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. “O good cross!” he cried, “made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He Who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee.” Two whole days the martyr remained hanging on the cross alive, preaching, with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.
St. Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr – December 2
St. Bibiana was a native of Rome. Flavian, her father, was burned in the face with hot iron, and banished to Acquapendente, where he died of his wounds a few days later; and her mother, Dafrosa, was some time after beheaded. Bibiana and her sister Demetria, were stripped of all they had in the world and suffered much from poverty. Apronianus, governor of Rome, summoned them to appear before him. Demetria, having made confession of her faith, fell down and expired at the foot of the tribunal, in the presence of the judge. Apronianus gave orders that Bibiana should be put into the hands of a wicked woman named Rufina, who was to bring her to another way of thinking; but Bibiana, making prayer her shield, remained invincible. Apronianus, enraged at the courage and perseverance of a tender virgin,
ordered her to be tied to a pillar and whipped with scourges loaded with leaden plummets till she expired. The saint underwent this punishment cheerfully, and died in the hands of the executioners.
St. Francis Xavier, Confessor – December 3
The Society of Jesus, which has always had many missionaries in its ranks, glories in possessing the great sixteenth century apostle, St. Francis Xavier, among its founders. St. Ignatius, his fellow student in Paris, won him to the cause of Christ. Sent to the Indies, he embarked on a wonderful and triumphal apostolic campaign. Alone and in spite of every sort of opposition but supported by God’s grace and working innumerable miracles, he converted great numbers of the peoples he visited. He passed from India to Japan and died in 1552, still scarcely 46 years old, at the gates of the enigmatical Chinese Empire, which it was his dream to win to the Gospel.
St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor – December 4
St. Peter was given the name of Chrysologus, “the golden speaker,” on account of his eloquence. The Collect refers to the apparition of St. Peter to Pope Sixtus III, which was the miraculous cause of his being made bishop of Ravenna. As such, he showed himself truly the salt of the earth and light of the world, giving himself up wholly to his work as preacher of the truth. He composed over one hundred sixty homilies full of solid doctrine, which have won him the title of Doctor of the Church. One of his sayings was: “Those who laugh with Satan will never be able to rejoice with Christ.” He died at Imola in 450.
St. Barbara, Virgin and Martyr – December 4
St. Barbara was brought a heathen. A tyrannical father, Dioscorus, had kept her jealously secluded in a lonely tower which he had built for the purpose. Here in her forced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study, and contrived to receive instruction and baptism by stealth, from a priest. Dioscorus, on discovering his daughter’s conversion, was beside himself with rage. He himself denounced her before the civil tribunal. Barbara was horribly tortured, and at last was beheaded, her own father, merciless to the last, acting as her executioner. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus, and he was hurried before the judgment-seat of God.
St. Sabbas, Abbot – December 5
The monastic order had to be represented in the escort of the Immaculate Virgin, of the Apostles, Pontiffs and Virgins, who walk before Christ, Therefore the Church commemorates St. Sabbas, a celebrated anchorite who in the fifth century filled Palestine with the fame of his virtues and austerities. He organized monastic communities in Palestine and founded among others, the celebrated monastery which bears his name. He died in 531 at the age of ninety-four.
St. Nicholas, Bishop and Confessor – December 6
St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Russia, was born toward the end of the third century. His uncle, the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, ordained him priest, and appointed him abbot of a monastery; and on the death of the archbishop he was elected to the vacant see. Throughout his life he retained the bright and guileless manners of his early years, and showed himself the special protector of the innocent and the wronged. Nicholas once heard that a person who had fallen into poverty intended to abandon his three daughters to a life of sin. Determined to save their innocence, Nicholas went out by night, and, taking with him a bag of gold, flung it into the window of the sleeping father and hurried off. He, on awakening, deemed the gift a godsend, and with it dowered his eldest child. Nicholas, overjoyed at his success, made like venture for the second daughter; but the third time as he stole away, the father, who was watching, overtook him and kissed his feet saying, “Nicholas, why dost thou conceal thyself from me? Thou art my helper, and he who has delivered my soul and my daughters’ from hell.” St. Nicholas died in 342. His relics were translated in 1807, to Bari, Italy, and there, after fifteen centuries, “the manna of St. Nicholas” still flows from his bones and heals all kinds of sick.
St. Ambrose, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor – December 7
Ambrose, born at Treves about 335, belonged to an illustrious family of Roman magistrates. He was governor of Milan when called by the people to become bishop of the city. He was a great churchman who exerted a considerable influence. As an imperial counselor he resisted heresy; his unruffled energetic insistence brought the Emperor Theodosius to public penance for a horrible massacre perpetrated at Thessalonica. St. Ambrose had the the glory of converting and baptizing St. Augustine, whose conversion was to mean so much to the Church; both are honored among the four great Doctors of the Church. St. Ambrose enriched the divine office with hymns, and introduced into the West the singing of antiphons and the chanting of psalms by alternate choirs. His name remains attached to the special rite of the Church of Milan. He died on Holy Saturday, April 4, 397; December 7 is the anniversary of his consecration as bishop.
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 8
On this day, so dear to every Catholic heart, we celebrate, in the first place, the moment in which Almighty God showed Mary, through the distance of ages, to our first parents as the Virgin Mother of the divine Redeemer, the woman destined to crush the head of the serpent. And as by eternal decree she was miraculously exempt from all stain of original sin, and endowed with the richest treasures of grace and sanctity, it is meet that we should honor her glorious prerogatives by this special feast of the Immaculate Conception. We should join in spirit with the blessed in heaven, and rejoice with our dear Mother, not only for her own sake, but for ours, her children, who are partakers of her glory and happiness. Secondly, we are called upon to celebrate that ever-memorable day, the 8th of December, 1854, which raised the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Lady from a pious belief to the dignity of a dogma of the Infallible Church, causing universal joy among the faithful.
St. Melchiades, Pope and Martyr – December 10
Melchiades succeeded Eusebius in the see of Rome, being chosen on July 2, 311, in the reign of Maxentius. Constantine vanquished that tyrant on the 28th of October in 312, and soon after issued edicts, by which he allowed Christians the free exercise of their religion, liberty of building churches, and ensured to all religion except heresies, liberty of conscience, prayer addressed to the one only God; and no idolater could scruple at such a practice. Pagan festivals were abolished. This holy pope saw a door opened by the peace of the church to the conversion of many, and he rejoiced at the triumph of the cross of Christ. St. Melchiades died on the 10th of January, 314, having sat two years, six months, and eight days, and was buried on the Appian road, in the cemetery of Calixtus; is named in the Roman Martyrology, and in those of Bede, Ado, Usuard, etc.. In some calendars he is styled a martyr, doubtless on account of his sufferings in preceding persecutions.
St. Damasus, Pope – December 11
St. Damasus was born at Rome at the beginning of the fourth century. He was archdeacon of the Roman Church in 355, when Pope Liberius was banished to Berda, and followed him into exile, but afterward returned to Rome. On the death of Liberius our saint was chosen to succeed him. Ursinus, a competitor for the high office, incited a revolt, but the holy Pope took only such action as was becoming to the common father of the faithful. Having freed the Church of this new schism, he turned his attention to the extirpation of Arianism in the West and of Apollinarianism in the East, and for this purpose he convened several councils. He rebuilt the Church of St. Laurence, which to this day is known as St. Laurence in Damaso; he made many valuable presents to this church and settled upon it houses and lands in its vicinity. He likewise drained all the springs of the Vatican, which ran over the bodies that were buried there and decorated the sepulchers of a great number of martyrs in the cemeteries, and adorned them with epitaphs in verse. Having sat eighteen years and two months, he died on December 10, 384, being near fourscore years of age.
Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12
On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared on one of the hills of the Guadalupe range, to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian. Our Lady told him to have the bishop build a chapel in her honor on the place of the apparition, and left him with a picture of herself impressed upon his mantle, and caused a miraculous spring to arise, in the waters of which many people were cured. The sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in the New World.
St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr – December 13
The mother of St. Lucy suffered four years from an issue of blood, and the help of man failed. St. Lucy reminded her mother that a woman in the Gospel had been healed of the same disorder. “St. Agatha,” Lucy said, “stands ever in the sight of Him for whom she died. Only touch her sepulcher with faith and you will be healed.” St. Lucy and her mother spent the night praying by the tomb until, overcome by weariness, both fell asleep. St. Agatha appeared in vision to St. Lucy, and calling her sister, foretold her mother’s recovery and her own martyrdom. That instant the cure was affected; and in her gratitude the mother allowed Lucy to distribute her wealth among the poor, and consecrate her virginity to Christ. A young man to whom she had been promised in marriage accused her as a Christian to the heathen; but our Lord, by a special miracle, saved from outrage this virgin whom He had chosen for His own. The fire kindled around her did not hurt her. Then the sword was plunged into her heart and the promise made at the tomb of St. Agatha was fulfilled.
Octave Day of the Immaculate Conception – December15
“Your garments are white as snow,” says the second Antiphon at Vespers. In the language of the liturgy white garments are symbolic of supernatural and divine glory. Thus in Old Testament, Daniel pictures God in His glory clothed in white, and the Evangelists tell us that at our Lord’s Transfiguration His garments became “white as snow.” During the Octave
St. Eusebius, Bishop – December 16
St. Eusebius was born of a noble family, in the island of Sardinia, where his father is said to have died in prison for the faith. The saint’s mother carried him and his sister, both infants, to Rome. Eusebius having been ordained, served the Church of Vercelli with such zeal that on the Episcopal chair becoming vacant he was unanimously chosen, by both clergy and people, to fill it. The holy bishop saw that the best and first means to labor effectually for the edification and sanctification of his people was to have a zealous clergy. He was at the same time very careful to instruct his flock, and inspire them with the maxims of the Gospel. The force of the truth which he preached, together with his example, brought many sinners to a change of life. He courageously fought against the heretics, who he had banished to Scythopolis, and thence to Upper Thebais in Egypt, where he suffered so grievously as to win the title of martyr. He died in the latter part of the year 371.
St. Thomas, Apostle – December 21
St. Thomas was one of the fishermen on the Lake of Galilee whom our Lord called to be His apostles. By nature he was slow to believe, too apt to see difficulties, and to look at the dark side of things, he had withal a most sympathetic, loving, and courageous heart. Once when Jesus spoke of the mansions in His Father’s house, St. Thomas, in his simplicity, asked: “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” When Jesus turned to go toward Bethany to the grave of Lazarus, the desponding apostle at once feared the worst for his beloved Lord, yet cried out bravely to the rest: “Let us also go and die with Him.” After the Resurrection, incredulity again prevailed, and whilst the wounds of the crucifixion where imprinted vividly on his affectionate mind, he would not credit the report that Christ had indeed risen. But at the actual sight of the pierced hands and side, and the gentle rebuke of his Savior, unbelief was gone forever; and his faith and ours has ever triumphed in the joyous utterance into which he broke: “My Lord and my God.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin – December 22
St. Frances Cabrini, the last of thirteen children, was born on July 15, 1850, at Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, Italy. At thirteen years of age, she consecrated her virginity to God. At the age of thirty years she founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She founded schools and hospitals for the unprotected young and Italian immigrants and became known as their mother. She died at Chicago, December 22, 1917, and was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 7, 1946. A naturalized American, she is considered the first saint of the United States.
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – December25
The world had subsisted about four thousand years when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, having taken flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and being made man, was born of her, for the redemption of mankind, at Bethlehem to be enrolled, and, unable to find shelter elsewhere, they took refuge in a stable, and in this lowly place Jesus Christ was born. The Blessed Virgin wrapped the divine Infant in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger. While the sensual and the proud were asleep, an angel appeared to some poor shepherds. They were seized with great fear, but the heavenly messenger said to them: “Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of exceeding joy, that shall be to all the people. For this day is born to you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you; you shall find the Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laying in a manger.” After the departure of the angel the wondering shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see the word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shown to us.” They immediately hastened thither, and fund Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. Bowing down they adored Him, and then returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God.
St. Stephen, First Martyr – December 26
There is good reason to believe that St. Stephen was one of the seventy-two disciples of our blessed Lord. After the Ascension he was chosen one of the seven deacons. The ministry of the seven was very fruitful; but Stephen especially, “full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.” Many adversaries rose up to dispute with him, but “they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit that spoke.” At length he was brought before the Sanhedrim, charged, like his divine Master, with blasphemy against Moses and against God. He boldly upbraided the chief priests with their hard-hearted resistance to the Holy Ghost and with the murder of the “Just One.” They were stung with anger, and gnashed their teeth against him. But when, “filled with the Holy Ghost and looking up to heaven, he cried out, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God,’ they rushed upon him, and dragging him forth without the city, they stoned him to death.”
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – December 27
St. John, the youngest of the apostles in age, was called to follow Christ on the banks of the Jordan during the first days of our Lord’s ministry. He was one of the privileged few present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. At the Last Supper his head rested on the bosom of Jesus, and in the hours of the Passion, when others fled or denied their Master, St. John kept his place by the side of Jesus, and at last stood by the cross with Mary. From the cross the dying Savior bequeathed His Mother to the care of the faithful apostle, who “from that hour took her to his own;” thus fitly, as St. Austin says, “to a virgin was the Virgin entrusted.” After the Ascension, St. John lived first at Jerusalem, and then at Ephesus. He was thrown by Domitian into a caldron of boiling oil, and is thus reckoned as a martyr, though miraculously preserved from hurt. Afterwards he was banished to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the heavenly visions described in the Apocalypse. He died at a great age, in peace, at Ephesus, in the year 100.
The Holy Innocents, Martyrs – December 28
Herod, who was reigning in Judea at the time of the birth of our Savior, having heard that the Wise Men had come from the East to Jerusalem in search of the King of the Jews, was troubled. He called together the chief priests, and learning that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, he told the Wise Men “When you have found Him bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him.” But God having warned them in a dream not to return, they went back to their homes another way. St. Joseph, too, was ordered in his sleep to “take the Child and his Mother and fly into Egypt.” When Herod found that the Wise Men did not return, he was furious, and ordered that every male child in Bethlehem and its vicinity of the age of two and under should be slain. These innocent victims were the flowers and the first-fruits of His martyrs, and triumphed over the world, without having ever known it or experienced its dangers.
Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – January 5
The Church reveals to us the wonders of the Incarnate Word by singing the glories of His name. Among the Jews a child was named when he was circumcised, and for this reason the Church repeats today the Gospel appointed for the feast of the Circumcision giving particular emphasis to the final sentence, “His name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” The name of Jesus means Savior and “there is no other name under heaven,” says St. Peter, “given to men, whereby we must be saved.” St. Bernard says, “In the name of Jesus the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear.” This name of Jesus, “a remedy for our souls, sweet to the lips like honey, tuneful to the ears, gladness to the heart,” should be often on our lips here below if we desire to have the joy of seeing our names written in heaven under His glorious Name. The origin of this feast goes back to the sixteenth century when it was already celebrated by the Franciscan Order. In 1721 Innocent XIII extended its observance to the whole world. Pope Pius X fixed it at its present date. There is an indulgence of 300 days for the pious invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus or Mary: plenary once a month for daily recitation under the usual conditions; plenary also at the moment of death under the usual conditions, for the invocation with the lips, or at least in the heart, with an act of acceptance of death as a punishment for sin.
St. Telesphorus, Pope and Martyr – January 5
St Telesphorus was a Greek who had been an Anchorite. He ruled the Church in the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius. To St. Telesphorus are attributed some Church practices which endure to this day. According to the “Liber Pontificalis” he ordered a fast for seven weeks before Easter. That the Lenten fast goes back even before the time of Telesphorus, St. Iranaeus gives testimony. But the length of the fast varied considerably in those days. It is probable enough that Pope St. Telesphorus did make some regulation as to the length of the Lenten fast. A custom much loved even today is also attributed to St. Telesphorus. He is said to have ordered that although Mass was not celebrated before the hour of tierce, at Christmas time Mass should be celebrated at night. This is the first mention of the beloved Mid-night Mass. He is said also to have decreed that the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” be sung at the Christmas Mass and only at the Christmas Mass. This magnificent hymn of praise is not said at all Masses even today. As late as the eleventh century, though the pope could say it more often, priests were not allowed to say it except at Easter. St. Telesphorus died a martyr as is known by the “Liber Pontificalis” but also from the earlier testimony of St. Iranaeus. He was buried near St. Peter in the Vatican. His feast is kept on January 5th in the Roman liturgy and February 22nd in the Greek.