St. Joseph of Leonissa Feast date: Feb 04 Joseph of Leonissa, OFM Cap.; was the third of eight children born at Leonessa (Italy) on January 8, 1556.At baptism he was given the name Eufranio.Impressed by the example of Matthew Silvestri, who had left the medical profession to embrace the Capuchin life and whose holiness was evident, Eufranio was inspired to become a Capuchin. After overcoming family opposition, he was admitted to the novitiate and received the habit and the name Joseph and made profession on January 8, 1573.On May 21, 1581, the Capuchin general vicar issued patents for preaching, the ministry in which Joseph would be engaged for the remainder of his life.Relying solely on grace and with a mission crucifix always tucked in his cincture, Joseph negotiated the most obscure, mountainous regions of Umbria, Lazio and the Abruzzi in an intense and extensive mission of evangelization among those who were poor.Joseph enjoyed such great success in preaching because of his intimate union with God which was cultivated by incessant prayer. He would pray and meditate on the road, while holding his crucifix. Assigned to Constantinople he was appointed as chaplain to some 4,000 Christian slaves who worked in the penal colony of Qaasim-pacha. He immediately went to work bringing the gospel and charitable relief to those who were languishing in inhumane conditions. Many times he offered himself as a substitute in order to obtain the release of a slave who was near death. His offer was never accepted.When the plague broke out in the penal colonies, the Capuchins immediately took up the ministry of assisting those who were sick and dying. Two Capuchins, Peter and Dennis, died doing so. Although Joseph became ill, he and Brother Gregory alone survived to remain at the mission. After converting a Greek bishop who had renounced the faith, Joseph devised a plan which entailed approaching the sultan, Murad 111, to seek the recognition of the right of freedom of conscience for anyone who was converted or returned to the Christian faith.When Joseph attempted to enter the sultan's chambers, he was arrested and bound in chains. He was condemned to an immediate death by being hung on hooks. He was hung from the gallows with one hook through the tendons of his right hand and another through his right foot. Near death, on the evening of the third day, the guards cut him down.Joseph quickly left Turkey and arrived at Rome where he and the converted Greek bishop presented themselves to Pope Sixtus V. Following Joseph's return to Italy, in the autumn of 1589, he took up residence at the Carcerelle in Assisi.In the aftermath of the Council of Trent, Joseph spent much time and energy catechizing. He began a ministry of evangelization among shepherds who lacked even rudimentary knowledge of the faith, prayer and the commandments. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell, reminding parents to send their children to catechism class.When he became deathly ill, Joseph asked to be taken
St. Blaise Feast date: Feb 03 Blaise was a hard-working bishop dedicated to encouraging the spiritual and physical health of his people in Sebastea, Armenia. Although the Edict of Toleration which granted freedom of worship in the Roman empire had been signed five years prior, religious persecution still raged in the country. According to a legend, a mother came to him with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Bishop Blaise's command, the child coughed up the bone. In another tale, Blaise was being led to the prison in Sebastea, and on the way came across a poor old woman whose pig had been stolen by a wolf. Blaise commanded the wolf return the pig, which it did -alive and uninjured - to the amazement of all. In 316 he was beheaded for not sacrificing to the pagan gods. The account of his life was written nearly 400 years later. The Germans and Slavs hold him in special honor and for decades many United States Catholics have sought the annual St. Blaise blessing for their throats.
Presentation of the Lord Feast date: Feb 02 At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15.This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemass.
St. Brigid of Ireland Feast date: Feb 01 On Feb. 1 Catholics in Ireland and elsewhere will honor Saint Brigid of Kildare, a monastic foundress who is – together with Saint Patrick and Saint Columcille – one of the country’s three patron saints. St. Brigid directly influenced several other future saints of Ireland, and her many religious communities helped to secure the country's conversion from paganism to the Catholic faith. She is traditionally associated with the Cross of St. Brigid, a form of the cross made from reeds or straw that is placed in homes for blessing and protection. Some Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also celebrate her feast. St. Brigid has been profiled many times by both ancient and modern writers, but it is notoriously hard to establish the historical details of her life, and the various accounts make many conflicting claims. According to one of the more credible biographies of Brigid – Hugh de Blacam's essay in “The Saints of Ireland,” on which the following account is based – most historians place her birth around the year 450, near the end of Saint Patrick's evangelistic mission. Brigid was born out of wedlock, the daughter of a pagan cheiftain named Dubthach and a Christian slave woman named Broicsech. The cheiftain sold the child's pregnant mother to a new master, but contracted for Brigid to be returned to him eventually. According to de Blacam, the child was probably baptized as an infant and raised as a Catholic by her mother. Thus, she was well-formed in the faith before leaving Broicsech's slave-quarters, at around age 10, to live with Dubthach and his wife. Within the new circumstances of the cheiftain's household, Brigid's faith found expression in feats of charity. From the abundance of her father's food and possessions, she gave generously to the poor. Dubthach became enraged, threatening to sell Brigid – who was not recognized as a full family member, but worked as a household servant – to the King of Leinster. But the Christian king understood Brigid's acts of charity and convinced Dubthach to grant his daughter her freedom. Released from servitude, Brigid was expected to marry. But she had other plans, which involved serving God in consecrated life. She even disfigured her own face, marring her beauty in order to dissuade suitors. Understanding he could not change her mind, Dubthach granted Brigid permission to pursue her plan, and material means by which to do so. Thus did a pagan nobleman, through this gift to his illegitimate daughter, play an unintentional but immense part in God's plan for Ireland. While consecrated religious life was part of the Irish Church before Brigid's time, it had not yet developed the systematic character seen in other parts of the Christian world by the fifth century. Among women, vows of celibacy were often lived out in an impromptu manner, in the circumstances of everyday life or with the aid of particular benefactors. Brigid, with an initial group of seven companions, is credited
St. John Bosco Feast date: Jan 31 On Jan. 31, the Roman Catholic Church honors St. John Bosco (or “Don Bosco”), a 19th century Italian priest who reached out to young people to remedy their lack of education, opportunities, and faith. John Bosco was born in August of 1815 into a family of peasant farmers in Castelnuovo d'Asti – a place which would one day be renamed in the saint's honor as “Castelnuovo Don Bosco.” John's father died when he was two years old, but he drew strength from his mother Margherita's deep faith in God. Margherita also taught her son the importance of charity, using portions of her own modest means to support those in even greater need. John desired to pass on to his own young friends the example of Christian discipleship that he learned from his mother. At age nine, he had a prophetic dream in which a number of unruly young boys were uttering words of blasphemy. Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary appeared to John in the dream, saying he would bring such youths to God through the virtues of humility and charity. Later on, this dream would help John to discern his calling as a priest. But he also sought to follow the advice of Jesus and Mary while still a boy: he would entertain his peers with juggling, acrobatics, and magic tricks, before explaining a sermon he had heard, or leading them in praying the Rosary. John's older brother Anthony opposed his plan to be a priest, and antagonized him so much that he left home to become a farm worker at age 12. After moving back home three years later, John worked in various trades and finished school in order to attend seminary. In 1841, John Bosco was ordained a priest. In the city of Turin, he began ministering to boys and young men who lived on the streets, many of whom were without work or education. The industrial revolution had drawn large numbers of people into the city to look for work that was frequently grueling and sometimes scarce. Don Bosco was shocked to see how many boys ended up in prison before the age of 18, left to starve spiritually and sometimes physically. The priest was determined to save as many young people as he could from a life of degradation. He established a group known as the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, and became a kindly spiritual father to boys in need. His aging mother helped support the project in its early years. John's boyhood dream came to pass: he became a spiritual guide and provider along with his fellow Salesian priests and brothers, giving boys religious instruction, lodging, education, and work opportunities. He also helped Saint Mary Dominic Mazzarello form a similar group for girls. This success did not come easily, as the priest struggled to find reliable accommodations and support for his ambitious apostolate. Italy's nationalist movement made life difficult for religious orders, and its anti-clerical
St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti Feast date: Jan 30 Born of a noble family near Viterbo (Italy,) Hyacintha entered a local convent of sisters who followed the Third Order Rule. However, she supplied herself with enough food, clothing and other goods to live a very comfortable life amid these sisters who had pledged to mortification.At one point in her time there, a serious illness required that Hyacintha’s confessor bring Holy Communion to her room. Upon entering, he was scandalized to see how soft of a life she had provided for herself, so he advised her to live more humbly. After hearing this, Hyacintha then disposed of her fine clothes and special foods. She eventually became very penitential in food and clothing, and was ready to do the most humble work in the convent. She developed a special devotion to the sufferings of Christ and by her penances became an inspiration to the sisters in her convent. The people loved her so much that her veil had to be replaced multiple times due to people clipping off pieces of it to keep for themselves. She was canonized in 1807.
St. Gildas the Wise Feast date: Jan 29 St. Gildas was probably born around 517 in the North of England or Wales. His father's name was Cau (or Nau) and, came from noble lineage, and he most likely had several brothers and sisters. There is writing which suggests that one of his brothers, Cuil (or Hueil), was killed by King Arthur (who died in 537 AD), and it also appears that Gildas may have forgiven Arthur for this.There are two accounts of the life of St. Gildas the Wise, neither of which tell the same story.He lived in a time when the glory of Rome had faded from Britain. The permanent legions had been withdrawn by Maximus, who used them to sack Rome and make himself Emperor.Gildas was noted in particular for his piety and good education, and was not afraid to publicly rebuke contemporary monarchs at a time when libel was answered by a sword rather than a Court order.Gildas lived for many years as a very ascetic hermit on Flatholm Island in the Bristol Channel. There he established his reputation for that peculiar Celtic sort of holiness that consists of extreme self-denial and isolation. At around this time, according to the Welsh, he also preached to Nemata, the mother of St David, while she was pregnant with the Saint.In about 547 he wrote a book De Excidio Britanniae (The Destruction of Britain). In this he writes a brief tale of the island from pre-Roman times and criticizes the rulers of the island for their lax morals and blames their sins (and those that follow them) for the destruction of civilization in Britain. The book was avowedly written as a moral tale.He also wrote a longer work, the Epistle, which is a series of sermons on the moral laxity of rulers and of the clergy. In these Gildas shows that he was well read in the Bible and some other classic works.He was also a very influential preacher. Because of his visits to Ireland and the great missionary work he did there, he was responsible for the conversion of many on the island, and may be the one who introduced anchorite customs to the monks of that land.From there he retired from Llancarfan to Rhuys, in Brittany, where he founded a monastery. Of his works on the running of a monastery (one of the earliest known in the Christian Church), only the so-called Penitential, a guide for Abbots in setting punishment, survives.He died around 571, at Rhuys.He is regarded as being one of the most influential figures of the early English Church. The influence of his writing was felt until well into the middle ages, particularly in the Celtic Church. He is also important to us today as the first British writer whose works have survived fairly intact.
St. Thomas Aquinas Feast date: Jan 28 On Jan. 28, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century theologian who showed that the Catholic faith is in harmony with philosophy and all other branches of knowledge.Blessed John Paul II, in his 1998 letter “Fides et Ratio,” said St. Thomas “had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason,” knowing that “both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God … Hence there can be no contradiction between them.”Thomas was born during 1225 into a noble family, having relatives among the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. His father Landulph was the Count of Aquino, and his mother Theodora, the Countess of Teano. At age five, Thomas was sent to study at Monte Cassino, the abbey founded by St. Benedict.The boy's intellectual gifts and serious disposition impressed the monks, who urged his father to place him in a university by the time he was 10. At the University of Naples, he learned philosophy and rhetoric while taking care to preserve his morals against corruption by other students.It is said that a hermit, before Thomas' birth, told Theodora that she would have a son who would enter the Dominican Order “and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him.” In his adolescence, Thomas' friendship with a holy Dominican inspired him to join them.His family, however, did not envision the brilliant young man as a penniless and celibate preacher. His brothers kidnapped him from the Dominicans, took him to the family's castle, and at one point even sent a woman to seduce him – whom Thomas drove out by brandishing a poker from the fireplace.Under pressure from both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Thomas' brothers allowed him to escape from captivity. He traveled to Rome and received the Pope's blessing upon his vocation, which would soon take him to Paris to study with the theologian later canonized as Saint Albert the Great.Thomas' silent demeanor caused other students to nickname him “the Dumb Ox.” Albert, however, discovered that the young man was a brilliant thinker, and proclaimed: “We call him the Dumb Ox, but he will give such a bellow in learning as will be heard all over the world.”By the time he was 23, Thomas was teaching alongside his mentor at the university of Cologne. During 1248, he published his first commentaries on the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose insights on nature, logic, and metaphysics would inform Thomas' approach to Catholic theology.Around the middle of the century Thomas was ordained to the priesthood, in which he showed great reverence for the liturgy and skill as a homilist. In keeping with the Dominican order's charism for preaching, he strove to bring his own family to a sincere practice of the faith, and largely succeeded.St. Thomas' best-known achievements, however, are his works of theology. These
St. Angela Merici Feast date: Jan 27 Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Sisters, was born in the small Italian town of Desenzano on the shore of Lake Garda in 1474. As a young girl, Angela lost in succession her sister and both of her parents. She went to live with a wealthy uncle in the town of Salo where, without benefit of formal schooling, Angela grew in poise, wisdom, and grace. The age in which Angela lived and worked (the 16th Century), was a time which saw great suffering on the part of the poor in society. Injustices were carried on in the name of the government and the Church, which left many people both spiritually and materially powerless and hungry. The corruption of moral values left families split and hurting. Wars among nations and the Italian city-states left towns in ruins. In 1516, Angela came to live in the town of Brescia, Italy. Here she became a friend of the wealthy nobles of the day and a servant of the poor and suffering. Angela spent her days in prayer and fasting and service. Her reputation spread and her advice was sought by both young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular, male and female. But still, Angela had not yet brought her vision to fruition. After visiting the Holy Land, where she reportedly lost her sight, Angela returned to Brescia, which had become a haven for refugees from the many wars then wracking Italy. There she gathered around her a group of women who looked toward Angela as an inspirational leader and as a model of apostolic charity. It was these women, many of them daughters of the wealthy, some orphans themselves, who formed the nucleus of Angela's Company of St. Ursula. Angela named her company after St. Ursula because she regarded her as a model of consecrated virginity. Angela and her original company worked out details of the rule of prayer, and promises, and practices by which they were to live. The Ursulines opened orphanages and schools. In 1535, the Institute of St. Ursula was formally recognized by the Pope and Angela was accorded the title of foundress. During the five remaining years of her life, Angela devoted herself to composing a number of Counsels by which her daughters could happily live. She encouraged them to "live in harmony, united together in one heart and one will. Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with one another in Christ Jesus; if you really try to live like this, there is no doubt that the Lord our God will be in your midst." In 1580, Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan, inspired by the work of the Ursulines in Brescia, encouraged the foundation of Ursuline houses in all the dioceses of Northern Italy. Charles also encouraged the Ursulines to live together in community rather than in their own homes. He also exhorted them to publicly profess vows
Sts. Timothy and Titus Feast date: Jan 26 On Jan. 26, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, close companions of the Apostle Paul and bishops of the Catholic Church in its earliest days. Both men received letters from St. Paul, which are included in the New Testament. Pope Benedict XVI discussed these early bishops during a general audience on Dec. 13, 2006, noting “their readiness to take on various offices” in “far from easy” circumstances. Both saints, the Pope said, “teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realizing that this also entails a service to the Church herself.” The son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Timothy came from Lystra in present-day Turkey. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are known to have joined the Church, and Timothy himself is described as a student of Sacred Scripture from his youth. After St. Paul’s visit to Timothy’s home region of Lycaonia, around the year 51, the young man joined the apostle and accompanied him in his travels. After religious strife forced Paul to leave the city of Berea, Timothy remained to help the local church. Paul later sent him to Thessalonica to help the Church during a period of persecution. The two met up again in Corinth, and Timothy eventually journeyed to Macedonia on Paul’s behalf. Problems in the Corinthian Church brought Timothy back for a time, after which he joined Paul and accompanied the apostle in subsequent travels. Like Paul, Timothy endured a period of imprisonment in the course of his missionary work. His release is mentioned in the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. Around the year 64, Timothy became the first bishop of the Church of Ephesus. During that same year, he received the first of two surviving letters from St. Paul. The second, written the next year, urges Timothy to visit St. Paul in Rome, where he was imprisoned before his martyrdom. Ancient sources state that St. Timothy followed his mentor in dying as a martyr for the faith. In the year 93, during his leadership of the Church in Ephesus, he took a stand against the worship of idols and was consequently killed by a mob. The pagan festival he was protesting was held Jan. 22, and this date was preserved as St. Timothy’s memorial in the Christian East. In contrast with Timothy’s partial Jewish descent and early Biblical studies, St. Titus – who was born into a pagan family – is said to have studied Greek philosophy and poetry in his early years. But he pursued a life of virtue, and purportedly had a prophetic dream that caused him to begin reading the Hebrew Scriptures. According to tradition, Titus journeyed to Jerusalem and witnessed the preaching of Christ during the Lord’s ministry on earth. Only later, however – after the conversion of St. Paul and the beginning of his ministry – did Titus receive baptism from the apostle,