Saints of the Church
Saint Martin I’s Story
When Martin I became pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world. The struggles that existed within the Church at that time were magnified by the close cooperation of emperor and patriarch. A teaching, strongly supported in the East, held that Christ had no human will. Twice, emperors had officially favored this position: Heraclius by publishing a formula of faith, and Constans II by silencing the issue of one or two wills in Christ. Shortly after assuming the office of the papacy—which he did without first being confirmed by the emperor—Martin held a council at the Lateran in which the imperial documents were censured, and in which the patriarch of Constantinople and two of his predecessors were condemned. In response, Constans II first tried to turn bishops and people against the pope.
Failing in this and in an attempt to kill the pope, the emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin and to bring him back to Constantinople. Already in poor health, Martin offered no resistance, returned with Calliopas, the exarch of Constantinople, and was then submitted to various imprisonments, tortures, and hardships. Although condemned to death and with some of the imposed torture already carried out, Martin was saved from execution by the pleas of a repentant Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.
Tortures and cruel treatment having taken their toll, Martin died shortly thereafter. He is the last of the early popes to be venerated as a martyr.
Saint Crescentia Hoess’ Story
Crescentia was born in 1682, the daughter of a poor weaver, in a little town near Augsburg. She spent play time praying in the parish church, assisted those even poorer than herself and had so mastered the truths of her religion that she was permitted to make her first Holy Communion at the then unusually early age of 7. In the town, she was called “the little angel.”
As she grew older, she desired to enter the convent of the Tertiaries of Saint Francis. But the convent was poor, and because Crescentia had no dowry, the superiors refused her admission. Her case was then pleaded by the Protestant mayor of the town to whom the convent owed a favor. The community felt it was forced into receiving her, and her new life was made miserable. She was considered a burden and assigned nothing other than menial tasks. Even her cheerful spirit was misinterpreted as flattery or hypocrisy.
Conditions improved four years later when a new superior was elected who realized her virtue. Crescentia herself was appointed mistress of novices. She so won the love and respect of the sisters that, upon the death of the superior, Crescentia was unanimously elected to that position. Under her, the financial state of the convent improved and her reputation in spiritual matters spread. She was soon being consulted by princes and princesses; bishops and cardinals too sought her advice. And yet, a true daughter of Francis, she remained ever humble.
Bodily afflictions and pain were always with her. First it was headaches and toothaches. Then she lost the ability to walk, her hands and feet gradually becoming so crippled that her body curled up into a fetal position. In the spirit of Francis, she cried out, “Oh, you bodily members, praise God that he has given you the capacity to suffer.”
Despite her sufferings, she was filled with peace and joy as she died on Easter Sunday in 1744. She was beatified in 1900 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2001. The liturgical feast of Saint Crescentia Hoess is celebrated on June 15.
Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo’s Story
Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years. Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. He succeeded too well. But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events.
When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.
He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. Turibius was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies and suffering to this area first.
He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. Turibius confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was the future Saint Rose of Lima, and possibly the future Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590, he had the help of another great missionary, Francis Solanus, now also a saint.
Though very poor, his people were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.
Saint Frances of Rome’s Story
Frances’ life combines aspects of secular and religious life. A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.
Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth. But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband. As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer. So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.
Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met. The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter. With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.
The family flourished under Frances’ care, but within a few years, a great plague began to sweep across Italy. It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’ second son dead. In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need. When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. Later, Frances’ daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.
Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows. They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor. Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband. She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.
Saint Casimir’s Story
Casimir, born of kings and in line to be a king himself, was filled with exceptional values and learning by a great teacher, John Dlugosz. Even his critics could not say that his conscientious objection indicated softness. As a teenager, Casimir lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy.
When nobles in Hungary became dissatisfied with their king, they prevailed upon Casimir’s father, the king of Poland, to send his son to take over the country. Casimir obeyed his father, as many young men over the centuries have obeyed their governments. The army he was supposed to lead was clearly outnumbered by the “enemy”; some of his troops were deserting because they were not paid. At the advice of his officers, Casimir decided to return home.
His father was irked at the failure of his plans, and confined his 15-year-old son for three months. The lad made up his mind never again to become involved in the wars of his day, and no amount of persuasion could change his mind. He returned to prayer and study, maintaining his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor’s daughter.
He reigned briefly as king of Poland during his father’s absence. He died of lung trouble at 25 while visiting Lithuania, of which he was also Grand Duke. He was buried in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Saint Polycarp’s Story
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, disciple of Saint John the Apostle and friend of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.
Saint Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.
Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.
At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 155.
Things you can do in the Season of Lent
Make a commitment to read the Sunday scriptures before Sunday Mass. Familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time will help you experience them in a deeper way on Sunday.
Think about what you usually spend your money on. Do you buy too many clothes? Spend too much on dinner out? Pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and then give the money you would usually spend to a local charity.
Take something on — 40 days of letter writing, 40 acts of kindness, 40 phone calls to the important people in your life.
If you don’t have a cross in your apartment or house, buy a simple one and put it in your bedroom.
Think about a habit that has kept you from being whom God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.
Spend at least one weekend or evening volunteering during Lent. If you feel comfortable volunteering in person, help package meals at your local soup kitchen or stock shelves at a food pantry. If you’d rather volunteer from home, reach out to your parish to see how your skills might help serve on one of the church committees.
Make a commitment to fast from insensitive, cruel comments about others - no gossiping, etc.
Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself, plan a dinner, or bring food to an older person on your block.
Read the Works of Mercy as Jesus describes them in Matthew 25:31-46. Then put this teaching into practice and choose an act of service you can perform throughout Lent.
A Lenten Reflection
Every Lent is also a reminder to us of our own mortality. "Remember you are dust and to dust you will return" is a time for us to pause and reflect. During these forty days called Lent, the Lord Jesus Christ himself invites us to walk with Him on the Way of the Cross. This simple but solemn Ash Wednesday service is an invitation every year to all who have the spiritual eyes to see its opportunity and open hearts to receive its invitation. Like all gifts, it is up to us to accept it and open its potential through our response, our free choice, to follow the way.
Forty stands for a time of fulfillment or completion.
There are several forty periods in the history of Salvation found in the Old Testament of our Bible. For example, the Forty days Moses was on the Mountain and received the Law (Exodus 24:18). The story of the spies recorded in the Book of Numbers results in their being sentenced for Forty years, (Numbers 13:26, 14:34). There were Forty days for the great Prophet Elijah in Horeb, (1 Kings 19:8). The prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh for Forty days. and of course, the Israelites wandered in the desert for Forty years. Each of the forty day or forty-year periods mentioned above was preparatory. So, it can be for us as enter each year into Lent in the path of our life on this earth, which is meant to prepare us for the life to come. The Church, our Mother and Teacher, invites us to empty ourselves through fasting, abstinence, prayer, charity and alms-giving.
Saint Jerome Emiliani’s Story
A careless and irreligious soldier for the city-state of Venice, Jerome was captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon. In prison Jerome had a lot of time to think, and he gradually learned how to pray. When he escaped, he returned to Venice where he took charge of the education of his nephews—and began his own studies for the priesthood.
In the years after his ordination, events again called Jerome to a decision and a new lifestyle. Plague and famine swept northern Italy. Jerome began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving the sick and the poor, he soon resolved to devote himself and his property solely to others, particularly to abandoned children. He founded three orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes and a hospital.
Around 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a congregation, the Clerks Regular of Somasca, dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth. Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick. He was canonized in 1767. In 1928, Pius Xl named him the patron of orphans and abandoned children. St. Jerome Emiliani shares his liturgical feast day with St. Josephine Bakhita on February 8. He is the Patron Saint 0f Orphans and Abandoned children
Very often in our lives it seems to take some kind of “imprisonment” to free us from the shackles of our self-centeredness. When we’re “caught” in some situation we don’t want to be in, we finally come to know the liberating power of another. Only then can we become another for “the imprisoned” and “the orphaned” all around us.
Saint Angela Merici’s Story
Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. As a young woman, she became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like Saint Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership.
She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.
At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of Saint Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty, and obedience. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.
Saint Sebastian’s Story
Almost nothing is historically certain about Sebastian except that he was a Roman martyr, was venerated in Milan even in the time of Saint Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way, probably near the present Basilica of St. Sebastian. Devotion to him spread rapidly, and he is mentioned in several martyrologies as early as 350.
The legend of Saint Sebastian is important in art, and there is a vast iconography. Scholars now agree that a pious fable has Sebastian entering the Roman army because only there could he assist the martyrs without arousing suspicion. Finally he was found out, brought before Emperor Diocletian and delivered to Mauritanian archers to be shot to death. His body was pierced with arrows, and he was left for dead. But he was found still alive by those who came to bury him. He recovered, but refused to flee.
One day he took up a position near where the emperor was to pass. He accosted the emperor, denouncing him for his cruelty to Christians. This time the sentence of death was carried out. Sebastian was beaten to death with clubs. He was buried on the Appian Way, close to the catacombs that bear his name.
St. Kentigern was also known as Mungo ("dear one" or "darling"), his mother was a British princess named Thenaw (or Thaney or Theneva). When it was discovered that she was pregnant of an unknown man, she was hurled from a cliff and, when discovered alive at the foot of the cliff, was set adrift in a boat on the Firth of Forth. She reached Culross, was given shelter by St. Serf, and gave birth to a child to whom Serf gave the name Mungo. Raised by the saint, he became a hermit at Glasgow and was so renowned for his holiness that he was consecrated bishop of Strathclyde about 540. Driven to flight because of the feuds among the neighboring chieftains, he went to Wales, met St. David at Menevia, and founded a monastery at Llanelwy. About 553, Kentigern returned to Scotland, settled at Hoddam, and then returned to Glasgow, where he spent his last days. He is considered the first bishop of Scotland and with Thenaw is joint patron of Glasgow.
Five treasures we possess that we can share with others
Once, a very poor man came to Buddha.
He asked: Why am I so poor?
Buddha answered: You are poor because you don’t practice generosity. You don’t practice charity.
Poor Man: But how can I practice charity if I don’t have anything to give?
Buddha: You have five treasures that you can share with others.
First, you have your *Face.*
You can share your smiles with others. It’s free and has an amazing and lasting impact on others.
Second, you have your *Eyes.*
You can look at others with eyes full of love and care. Genuinely you can impact millions. Make them feel so good.
Third, you have your *Mouth.*
With this mouth, you can say nice things to others. Talk good. Make them feel valued, spread joy and positivity.
Fourth, you have your *Heart.*
With your loving heart, you can wish happiness to others. Make others feel a bundle of emotions. Touch their lives.
Fifth, the last treasure that you possess is your *Body.*
With this body, you can do many good things for others.
Help the people who need.
Help is not money.
A small caring gesture can light up lives.
Remember: True wealth is that which no one can take away from you. It increases as you give it away.
Money is not the only means by which we can do charity. Giving love, a smile, talking positively may bring joy and happiness in a person’s life!