Discover more from Pro Deo et Libertate
Saints of the Week: The Assumption, Bernard, Joachim, Samuel, Max Kolbe, Helena, Stephen of Hungary, and More
Happy Sunday! This week we celebrated Mary’s Assumption, reminding us that death for Christians is not the end of life but the beginning of a new and better life. There are many saints this week whose faith in that promise of Heaven carried them through severe hardships and even martyrdom.
Aug. 15 was the feast of Mary’s Assumption or Dormition and St. Isidore Bakanja, and you can read my previous article for more details. The Assumption or Dormition of Mary commemorates when Jesus’s Mother “fell asleep” or died and then was taken up body and soul into Heaven by her Divine Son. Isidore Bakanja was from the Congo, converted to Christianity by Trappist missionaries. He was zealous to evangelize, carried his Rosary about with him, and wore a scapular around his neck as part of his devotion to Mary. He was violently beaten and abused for this by atheist Belgian colonizers. One atheist in particular wounded Isidore so horribly that it led to his death, after six months of suffering. Isidore died having forgiven his murderer and with his Rosary and scapular on him.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Aug. 20), “born of noble Burgundian parents, was a monk of the Cistercian Order, a branch of the Benedictine Order. He became Abbot of the famous monastery of Clairvaux, which he himself had founded. The writings, sermons, and letters of this great Doctor rendered invaluable services to the Church. He also preached the second crusade, and died at Clairvaux in 1153.”1
St. Joachim (Aug. 16, Latin Mass calendar) was the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandfather of Jesus Christ. Tradition says that he and his wife St. Anne were already old when God blessed them with a daughter, her birth foretold to them in a vision.
St. Maximilian Kolbe (Aug. 14) is perhaps the most famous martyr of World War II, a Polish Franciscan priest martyred in Auschwitz. He founded the evangelization movement under the patronage of Jesus’s Mother Mary, the Milita Immaculatae, and successfully reached many through his writings and work in Poland and Japan. He was arrested in Feb. 1941 by the Nazis, charged with aiding Jews and the Polish Underground, and ended up in Auschwitz concentration camp. There, “prisoner 16670” did awful and humiliating work, which never killed his charity and priestly zeal, a fact that brought harsh beatings on him from camp guards. In July, a prisoner escaped, and 10 others were to be killed in revenge; one man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!” Kolbe immediately volunteered to take the man’s place and was killed by lethal injection after weeks of starvation and ministering to his fellow victims. Gajowniczek survived the war to spread the story of Kolbe’s heroism and to attend Kolbe’s beatification.
Samuel the Prophet (Aug. 20) is one of the most famous Old Testament sages, whose reply to God as a young boy is a good model for the rest of us to adopt; “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam./1 Kings 3:10):
“Fifteenth and last of the Judges of Israel, he lived approximately eleven hundred years before Christ. Born in the tribe of Levi, son of Elkanah and Hannah, he was promised to the Lord by his till-then barren mother. At the age of twelve, Samuel had his first revelation from the Lord God. Samuel preached repentance to the children of Israel, and led the people to victory over the Philistines. Asked by the people to give them a king, he warned them that God was the only true king of Israel, but they insisted. It was Samuel who anointed Saul son of Kish as the first King of Israel, and David son of Jesse as its second and greatest ruler. He died in Ramah and was buried there.”
St. Helena (Aug. 18) was the mother of Constantine, the famous Roman emperor who legalized Christianity after his miraculous victory under the standard of the Cross. Helena worked for good her whole life, but she is most famous for leading an expedition to find the True Cross on which Jesus was killed. Finding several crosses on the site, Helena and her companions identified Jesus’s cross by placing a sick woman on each; upon touching the wood of Jesus’s cross, the woman was miraculously healed.
St. Stephen of Hungary (Aug. 16) converted from paganism to Christianity as a child. King of the Hungarian Magyars, he married Bl. Gisela of Ungarn, Emperor St. Henry II’s sister, and fathered St. Emeric. Stephen united the Magyars into one nation. He was an evangelizer who also founded monasteries.
St. Hyacinth (Aug. 17) was Polish, “originally a canon of the Cathedral of Cracow. Having gone to Rome, he became acquainted with St. Dominic and was admitted into the Order of Friars Preachers by the holy Founder himself. He labored for the establishment of the Order in Poland and died in 1257.” He famously saved a large crucifix and a statue of Mary during an attack on the monastery. Hyacinth preached through Poland, Pomerania, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Scotland, Russia, Turkey, and Greece.
St. Rosa Fan Hui (Aug. 16) was a laywoman and Christian convert in China, a zealous catechist. She and her friends spent the night of the Assumption (Aug. 15) feast in prayer as the Boxer Rebellion’s anti-Christian forces moved on her village, where the Christians were arrested the next day. Rosa, being such an active and open Christian, was beaten and stabbed as an example to her fellow Christians; but she refused repeatedly to renounce her Christian faith, and was martyred in the year 1900.
Sarah the Matriarch (Aug. 19) was the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac in her old age. Barren until elderly, Sarah laughed when she heard the Lord tell Abraham she would have a child, and so named her miraculous son Isaac, which means “laughter.” Abraham, Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob are the three great founding patriarchs of the Jewish people.
St. Zacchaeus (Aug. 20) was a despised publican, a dishonest tax collector, when Jesus came to his town. Zacchaeus, being short, climbed a tree to see Jesus, Who stopped and told the publican that He would stay in his house. People murmured at Jesus so honoring a sinner, but Zacchaeus swore, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.” (Lk. 19:8) Jesus replied, “This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” After Jesus’s death and Resurrection, tradition says Zacchaeus spread the Gospel.
St. Tarcisius (Aug. 15) was a young acolyte “or perhaps a deacon at Rome. He was accosted and beaten to death on the Appian Way by a mob while carrying the Eucharist to some Christians in prison.” Tarcisius died defending the Eucharist.
This week’s feasts also included St. Eusebius of Rome (Aug. 14), a 4th century physician and priest who fought the Arian heresy and died in prison; St. Roch (Aug. 16), a deeply pious child who grew to be a Franciscan pilgrim, miraculous healer, and a patron saint of dogs who died in unjust imprisonment; St. Agapitus (Aug. 18), an Italian teen martyred in 275 AD; Bl. Noël-Hilaire Le Conte (Aug. 17), a priest and one of the Martyrs of the Hulks of Rochefort during the French Revolution; the Old Testament Prophet Micah (Aug. 14); Sts. Simplician of Milan and Alipius of Tagaste (Aug. 15), bishops and friends of St. Augustine; St. Serena (Aug. 16), Christian wife of the cruel Roman Emperor Diocletian; and St. Daig MacCairaill (Aug. 18), a bishop, founder of a monastery, and “one of the Three Master Craftsm[e]n of Ireland.”
Also commemorated were Bl. Thomas, Maria, and Jacob Gengoro (Aug. 16), martyrs in 17th century Japan; St. John Eudes (Aug. 19), a French priest, preacher, writer, and founder of religious orders; the 802 Martyrs of Otranto (Aug. 14), killed by Ottoman Muslims in the 1400s; Bl. David Roldan-Lara and other martyrs of the Mexican Revolution (Aug. 15); St. Jeroen van Noordwijk (Aug. 17), a Scottish noble and missionary to the Netherlands martyred by Vikings; St. Jordan of Pisa (Aug. 19), a zealous Italian Dominican preacher; and Bl. Teofilius Matulionis (Aug. 20), a Lithuanian archbishop imprisoned, persecuted, and exiled by the Soviets.
You can also read about Stanislaw Kostka (Aug. 15); Enrique Garcia Beltran (Aug. 16); Pope Eusebius, Nicolò Politi, Clare of Montefalco, Mamas, Beatrice da Silva Meneses, and Michaël Kurobyoie (Aug. 17); Macarius the Wonder-Worker and Florus and Laurus (Aug. 18); Sebald, Pope Sixtus III, Martyrs of Nagasaki, Gregorio Martos Muñoz, and Andrew Stratelates and soldiers (Aug. 19); and Oswine of Deira, Philibert of Jumièges, Maria de Mattias, and Heliodorus of Persia and companions (Aug. 20).
Let us believe, as these saints did, in the promise of life after death; that, like Mother Mary, all faithful Christians will one day experience the resurrection of the dead and rejoice body and soul with God in Heaven.
This quote and St. Hyacinth’s are from the 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, Angelus Press, 2014.