Saints of the Week: Christ the King, Mary, British & Vietnam Martyrs, Catherines, Cecilia, Philemon, Columbanus, Miguel Pro, Pope Clement, & More
Happy Tuesday! As we approach the season of Advent (which has already begun if you’re Byzantine Catholic), it is important to examine in what ways we can improve spiritually and morally before the birth of Christ. We can take inspiration in this task from the lives of the saints we celebrated this past week.
November 26 was the feast of Christ the King in the new Roman calendar. Jesus Christ is the Divine King of Heaven and Earth. He was born into the Jewish royal family of David, and the Angel Gabriel predicted Christ’s eternal reign to Christ’s mother Mary (Lk. 1:32-33), “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.” For Americans, this feast is particularly meaningful, since we rejected an earthly monarch altogether and only recognize Christ’s kingship; hence we rewrote Britain’s song “God Save the King” with lyrics that end, “Protect us by thy might, great God our King.”
Our Lady of Kibeho (Nov. 28) is the name of a series of apparitions of Jesus’s Mother Mary in Rwanda, to a high school girl named Alphonsine Mumureke. Mary identified herself as “Nyina wa Jambo” or “Mother of the Word.” Two other young girls also saw the apparitions. Our Lady specifically emphasized devotion to the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary.
The British Protestant monarchs and Oliver Cromwell killed thousands of Catholics for their faith during the 1500s and 1600s; 85 of these brave men and women are commemorated Nov. 22 as the Martyrs of England, Scotland, and Wales. They include Marmaduke Bowes (Nov. 26), Hugh Taylor (Nov. 26), Christopher Robinson, Edward Thwing, John Sugar, Montfort Scott, Richard Flower, William Knight, Thomas Sprott, George Haydock, Roger Cadwallador, Richard Yaxley, Arthur Bell, Henry Heath, and Robert Nutter.
November 24 is the collective feast of the Martyrs of Vietnam. The first Portuguese missionary arrived in Vietnam in 1533. From the 16th century “through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the twentieth, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, some nuns or brothers, some lay people; some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and countrymen.” Sadly, we have no idea how many Christians were martyred in Vietnam over the centuries, but more than a hundred of them have been canonized, including Andrew the Catechist, Ðaminh Trach Ðoài, Anrê Tran An Dung, Giuse Tuân, John Baptist Con, Francis Trung Von Tran, Tôma Toán, Vinh Son Tuong, Jean-Théophane Vénard, Anrê Tran Van Trông (Nov. 28), and the fisherman, husband, and father to whom I have a particular devotion, Phêrô Dung. It is fitting that Our Lady of La Vang, patroness of Vietnam, was also celebrated this week (Nov. 22).
St. Catherine of Alexandria (Nov. 24/25) was a young noblewoman born in Alexandria, Egypt, in the late third century. She converted after seeing a vision of Jesus and Mary and became a highly successful evangelist. After denouncing the Roman emperor’s persecution of Christians, she brilliantly debated some fifty pagan orators and philosophers, converting many; her converts may have included the emperor’s own wife. Catherine was tortured, and would not yield. Nor would she accept the emperor’s proposal of marriage, preferring her virginity and her faith to a crown. She was supposed to be executed on a “breaking wheel,” an “ancient form of torture where a person's limbs are threaded among the spokes and their bones are shattered by an executioner with a heavy rod.” The wheel shattered as soon as Catherine touched it and she was beheaded instead. A hugely popular saint for many centuries, she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
St. Catherine Labouré (Nov. 28) was born as Zoe to a 19th century French farm family. She didn’t learn to read or write but she knew she wanted to serve God. After running the house following her mother’s death and then being a waitress, she joined the Order of St. Vincent de Paul after seeing him in a vision. She is famous for the visions she saw of the Blessed Virgin, in which Our Lady instructed her to have medals made, promising special graces to those who wore them piously. So many miracles have been associated with the medal based on Catherine’s vision that it is called the Miraculous Medal. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is also celebrated Nov. 27.
St. Cecilia (Nov. 22), the patroness of musicians, was a beautiful young Roman in the third century. She became a Christian and vowed virginity, but she was forced to marry the pagan Valerian. Her area of patronage comes from being described as singing a hymn to Christ in her heart during her wedding. Cecilia explained her faith and vow of virginity to her new husband, and both he and his brother converted; Cecilia’s Guardian Angel appeared and crowned the newlyweds with flowers. Valerian and his brother were martyred for burying their fellow Christians, and Cecilia, after reportedly preaching to hundreds of people, was herself arrested and martyred by beheading; some sources say she sang as she was executed. More than a thousand years later, Cecilia’s body was discovered in the catacombs in a miraculous state of preservation. Her name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.
St. Philemon (Nov. 22), his wife Apphia, his son Archippus, and their companions were among the first followers of and martyrs for Christ. St. Paul sent one of the New Testament epistles to Philemon. It is a short letter but full of holy love, and particularly significant in that Paul wrote to Philemon to beg him to free the slave St. Onesimus: “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season from thee, that thou mightest receive him again for ever: Not now as a servant, but instead of a servant, a most dear brother, especially to me: but how much more to thee both in the flesh and in the Lord?” (Phil. 15-16) Paul refers to Onesimus not as some sub-human inferior but as a brother of his former master in Christ, and asks for the slave’s freedom. Philemon was in charge of the Christian community in Colossae, and he and Apphia were eventually martyred for the faith.
St. Columbanus (Nov. 23) was born in Ireland c. 543, but later left his native land to establish monasteries at the invitation of King Childebert of Burgandy. Columbanus was accused of using the Celtic instead of the Roman date for celebrating Easter, but it seems that his critiques of the Burgundian court were the actual motivation behind the accusations. Columbanus appealed to Pope Gregory the Great to establish his innocence. He evangelized the Allemani tribe in Switzerland, but fled to Italy when the Burgundians took over the area. He founded a monastery in Bobbio and died there. Besides being a poet, Columbanus wrote a monastic rule and a penitentiary.
Bl. Miguel Agustín Pro (Nov. 23) was one of eleven children of a Mexican mining engineer. He was ordained in Belgium and returned to Mexico, where he used various disguises to minister to the people during the persecutions of the anti-Catholic Mexican government of the time. Fr. Pro and his brothers were arrested after falsely being accused of an assassination attempt against a government official, and condemned to death. Fr. Pro was executed in 1927 by firing squad, with his final words being “Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)”
Pope Clement I (Nov. 23/25) and St. Peter of Alexandria (Nov. 25): “[ECPubs] Clement ruled the Church of Rome third after blessed Peter the Apostle and wrote an outstanding letter to the Corinthians to strengthen the peace and concord among themselves. The burial of his body on this day in Rome is honored, his relics having been restored to the Eternal City by Saints Cyril and Methodius [d. c. 101]. Peter came to the [bishop’s] throne of Alexandria in the year 299, and died a martyr by the grave of the holy Apostle Mark. He fought against [the heretic] Arius and his teaching, and drove him out of the city.”
St. John of the Cross (Nov. 24) was born to a noble Spanish father disowned for marrying a poor woman; John was orphaned young. He studied at university and entered the Carmelite Order. He and St. Teresa of Ávila enacted a reform of the Carmelites, living in strict poverty and humility. Imprisoned for months in a tiny cell, John did not become bitter, instead focusing on communing with God. He put down his mystical experiences in poetic form. After his escape, he held leadership positions and wrote reflections for the reformed Carmelites.
St. Felicity and sons (Nov. 23): “Felicity was a rich, noble widow. She was a mother of seven sons, all of whom were martyred. Felicity devoted her life to charity and caring for the poor. She was arrested for her faith and ordered to worship pagan gods; she refused. Her sons were arrested and given the same order; they refused. After a series of appeals, all of which were turned down, they were all ordered executed by emperor Antoninus. Felicity was forced to watch as her children were murdered one by one; after each one she was given the chance to denounce her faith but she didn’t and stood firm. She was beheaded [circa] 165 at Rome, Italy.” Her sons were Januarius, Felix, Philip, Silvanus, Alexander, Vitalius and Martial.
Sts. Josaphat and Barlaam (Nov. 27) lived in India in the early centuries of Christianity. Josaphat was a prince converted by the hermit Barlaam in spite of his father’s antipathy to Christianity. The king eventually converted too. Josaphat ruled for a time but eventually left his royal throne for a prayerful life with Barlaam. Miracles were reported at their graves.
St. Mercury (Nov. 24/25) “was an Armenian soldier in the army of the emperor Decius. In a battle, an angel of the Lord appeared to Mercury and steeled him for combat. After this victory, he was made a commander by the emperor, but was denounced to him as a Christian by jealous soldiers. He was beheaded in Cappadocia, sometime [circa] 251-259 [ECPubs].”
Sts. Leonard of Port Maurice and Delphine of Glandèves are celebrated Nov. 26. Leonard was an Italian Franciscan priest who, after a miraculous recovery, dedicated his life to converting sinners. His preaching drew such huge crowds he had to give his sermons outside, and he encouraged everyone to live a well-examined life. He founded a House of Retreat and gave many retreats to religious and priests. Leonard spread devotion to Our Lady and the Stations of the Cross (d. 1751). Delphine, meanwhile, lived in a chaste marriage with St. Elzear. The married nobles joined the Third Order of Franciscans together and, after her husband’s death, Delphine lived as a prayerful recluse (d. 1358).
St. Albert of Louvain (Nov. 24) was a 12th century knight and priest, deposed from his bishopric of Liege by the emperor for political reasons. Upon appeal, the pope sided with Albert, who was ordained a cardinal. Albert was eventually murdered, but his would-be replacement was excommunicated and the emperor was forced to do penance for his role in Albert’s death.
St. Sylvester Gozzolini (Nov. 26) was a 13th century nobleman and founder of the Sylvestrian Order. He was also a prophet. Attacked by the devil himself, Sylvester was healed by Our Lady. He died a nonagenarian, famed for his holiness and miracles.
St. Laverius (Nov. 27) was a pagan Roman soldier who converted to Christianity. He was arrested, tortured, and publicly abused for preaching the Faith. He refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, but the wild animals in the amphitheater knelt before him, and an angel freed him from prison so he could go to Grumentum, Italy. Laverius’s preaching and baptizing there led to his arrest and execution in 312 AD.
St. James of the Marches (Nov. 28) was a Franciscan monk, preacher, evangelist, legal scholar, and Inquisitor who opposed heretics. He founded monasteries in multiple countries and tried to reunite the Western and Eastern churches at the Council of Florence. James fasted every day until the pope himself told James to eat more (d. 1476).
St. Stephen the Younger and companions (Nov. 28): “[ECPubs - Stephen was] at Constantinople, [8th century] monk and martyr, who, under Constantine Copronymus, was tortured by various punishments for [defending] sacred Images and confirmed the Catholic truth by his shed blood.”
There were two early Irish saints celebrated this week. St. Secundinus of Ireland (Nov. 27) was born in Gaul (France) but evangelized in Ireland at the same time as St. Patrick. Secundinus was the first bishop of Dunshaughlin and composed a hymn about Patrick considered the first poem of the Irish Church. St. Kenan of Damleag (Nov. 24) was born to Irish royalty but was a peace hostage as a child. Spiritual student of St. Martin of Tours and admired by St. Patrick, Kenan was the bishop of Duleek and the first in Ireland to build a stone cathedral, constructed on the site of a pagan altar Kenan destroyed.
St. James the Persian (Nov. 27): “[ECPubs] A noble at the Persian court, James offered sacrifice to idols despite his baptism. His mother and wife reproached him, begging him to repent. Moved by this, he repented bitterly and returned to Christ. The king sentenced him to death by being cut to death, bit by bit, until the end. He praised God and forgave his persecutors till they cut off his head. [d. 421].”
Sts. Flora and Mary of Cordoba (Nov. 24) were 9th century Spanish Christians martyred by Muslims. St. Chrysogonus (Nov. 24) brought many to the faith and worked miracles, but was martyred during the persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian. St. Amphilochius of Iconium (Nov. 22/23) was a 4th century lawyer who became a hermit and then a bishop, who worked with and was admired by multiple great saints of his day. Pope St. Siricius (Nov. 26) expanded papal authority, fought schism and heresy, and held synods (d. 399).
Bl. Salvatore Lilli (Nov. 22) was a 19th century Franciscan priest who was martyred by Muslims with multiple companions in Armenia. Bl. Elizabeth Achler (Nov. 25) was a German Franciscan tertiary and mystic who had the stigmata (wounds of Christ) and survived only consuming Holy Communion. Bl. Margaret of Savoy (Nov. 23) was a married noblewoman who founded a monastery and served as abbess after her husband’s death. St. Virgilius of Salzburg (Nov. 27) was an 8th century Irish Benedictine monk, scientist, and pilgrim who became bishop of Salzburg, Austria. St. Clement of Metz (Nov. 23) drove away a poisonous serpent and became bishop of Metz, France.
St. Petrus Yi Ho-yong (Nov. 25) was a married Korean catechist tortured and martyred in the 1800s. Bl. Margaret of Savoy (Nov. 23) was a married noblewoman who founded a monastery and served as abbess after her husband’s death. St. Bellinus of Padua (Nov. 26) was an Italian bishop and miracle-worker murdered by a sinner Bellinus had rebuked. Bl. Bernardine of Fossa (Nov. 27) was a Franciscan historian, legal scholar, and missionary in Italy (d. 1503). Bl. Beatrice d'Ornacieux (Nov. 25) was a 13th century French Carthusian nun deeply devoted to Christ’s Passion. St. Colman of Cloyne (Nov. 24) was a 6th century Irish poet, musician, priest, evangelist, and bishop.
Bl. Tommaso Reggio (Nov. 22) was a bishop who founded a religious order; later Archbishop of Genoa. St. Konrad of Konstanz (Nov. 26) was a German bishop, pilgrim, and miracle-worker. Bl. Luis Campos Górriz (Nov. 28) was a married lawyer and father who was martyred during the Spanish Civil War. Bl. Anna Kolesárová (Nov. 22) was a Czechoslovakian laywoman murdered by a Soviet soldier who was trying to rape her. Bl. Gaetana Sterni (Nov. 26) founded a religious congregation to minister to the sick and poor after her husband and baby died (d. 1889).
You can also read about Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, Ananias of Arbela, and Benignus of Milan (Nov. 22); Enrichetta Alfieri, Cecilia Yu Sosa, Trudo of Hesbaye, Detlev, and Loëvan of Brittany (Nov. 23); Romanus of Le Mans, Bieuzy, Hitto, Archangel of Anspagh, Pierre Dumoulin, and Eanfleda of Whitby (Nov. 24); Moses of Rome, Audentius of Milan, and Ekbert of Muensterschwarzach (Nov. 25); Pontius of Faucigny, Vacz, Nicon, Alypius Stylites, Ida of Cologne, and Humilis of Bisignano (Nov. 26); Maximus of Riez, Severinus the Hermit, Bronislao Kostkowski, Martyrs of Nagasaki and Antioch, and Fergus the Pict (Nov. 27); and Sosthenes of Colophon, James Thompson, Simeon Logothete, Hilary and Quieta, Fionnchu, and Irenarcus (Nov. 28).
Have a blessed week!
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