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February 1 - St. Brigid of Ireland
A few years after St. Patrick arrived, a little girl named Brigid was born at Faughart, County Louth, in Ireland. Her father was an Irish lord named Dubthac and her mother was a Christian salve named Brocca.
As Brigid grew up, her love for Jesus grew deep. She once heard St. Patrick preach and never forgot his teaching for the rest of her life. She looked for Jesus in the poor and often brought food and clothing to them.
One day she gave away a whole pail of milk and then she began to worry about what her mother would say. She prayed to the Lord to make up for what she had given away. When she got home, her pail was full again.
Brigid was very pretty and her father thought that it was time for her to marry. But, she had decided in her heart to give herself entirely to God. She did not want to marry anyone.
When she realized that young men wanted to marry her because of her beauty, she made an unusual request to God. She asked God to take away her beauty and God granted her request.
Seeing that his daughter was no longer pretty, Brigid’s father gladly agreed when Brigid asked to become a nun. She even started a convent with just seven nuns so that other young women could become nuns, too.
As Brigid took her vows in the convent, a miracle happened. Brigid became beautiful again! She reminded people of the Blessed Mother because she was so lovely and gentle. Some called her the “Mary of the Irish.” St. Brigid died in 525.
February 2 - Presentation of the Lord
Forty days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought him to the great Temple in Jerusalem. There they presented Baby Jesus to the Heavenly Father. That was the Jewish law. The Holy Family obeyed it with loving hearts.
This was a very popular feast called Candlemas in past centuries and candles were blessed and carried in procession, to show the entry of Jesus as the light of the world.
While they were in the Temple, Mary also attended the Purification ceremony which was another custom. After the birth of their children, all Jewish mothers were supposed to go to the Temple for this ceremony. Mary did her duty cheerfully. She teaches us to be humble and obedient as she was.
A holy old priest of the Temple named Simeon learned from God that the Infant Jesus was truly the Savior. He held Mary’s Son Jesus in his arms with joy and awe. “My own eyes are looking at my salvation,” he exclaimed.
God allowed him recognize Jesus as the Savior and Simeon put his trust in the little Child. Imagine what Mary and Joseph were thinking. Then, inspired by God, Simeon told Mary that she would have to suffer very much. He was talking about the terrible pain our Blessed Mother would feel when Jesus died on the cross.
This feast of the Presentation reminds us that we belong to God first of all. Because he is our Father and Creator, and we owe him our loving obedience.
February 3 - St. Blase
St. Blase was an Armenian who came from a rich family and was given a Christian education. As a young man, Blase thought about all the sufferings and troubles in the world. He found that only spiritual joys can make a person really happy.
He became a priest and then bishop of Sebaste in Armenia which is now modern Turkey. Blase worked wholeheartedly to make his people holy and happy. He prayed and preached; he tried to help everyone.
Later he lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He had the gift of healing and both men and animals were brought to him to be healed. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer.
When the governor, Licinius, began to harass the Christians, St. Blase was captured. He was sent to prison to be beheaded. On the way, people crowded the road to see their beloved bishop for the last time. He blessed them all, even the pagans.
A poor mother rushed up to him. She begged him to save her child who was choking to death from a fishbone. The saint whispered a prayer and blessed the child. He worked a miracle that saved the child’s life. That is why St. Blase is called upon by all who have throat diseases. On his feast day, we have our throats blessed. We ask him to protect us from all sicknesses of the throat.
In prison, the saintly bishop converted many non-believers. No torture could make Blase give up his faith in Jesus. Thrown into a lake to drown, Blase stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was beheaded. Now St. Blase is with Jesus forever.
February 4 - St. Jane Valois
St. Jane was a princess and the daughter of King Louis XI of France and Charlotte of Savoy. Since the king wanted a son, he was very disappointed when Jane was born deformed. He did not even want his little daughter to live at the palace. When the princess was just five years old, she was sent to live with other people.
Although she was not wanted by her own father, Jane was good and gentle with everyone. She was convinced that Jesus and Mary loved her. Jane also believed that the Lord would use her to do good in his name. And she was right.
When she grew up, Jane decided that she did not want to marry. She had given herself to Jesus and his Blessed Mother. But her father forced her to marry the duke of Orleans for political reasons. Jane accepted God’s will and was a devoted wife for twenty-two years.
After the duke became king, however, he sent Jane to live by herself in a far-off town-ship. The queen did not let herself become resentful. Instead, she exclaimed: “God be praised! He has permitted this that I may serve him better than I have up until now.”
Jane lived a prayerful life. She practiced penances and acts of kindness. She gave all her money to the poor. She even started an order of sisters called the Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She spent the rest of her life joyfully for Jesus and his Mother. St. Jane died in 1505.
Reflection: Let us pray for the gift of seeing hardships as opportunities to strengthen our faith in Christ, and may we respond to every hardship by giving it an eternal value.
February 5 - St. Agatha
A beautiful Christian girl named Agatha lived in Sicily in the third century. The governor heard of Agatha’s beauty and brought her to his palace. He wanted to make her commit sins, but she was brave and would not give in. “My Lord Jesus Christ,” she prayed, “you see my heart and you know my desire. I am all yours. Save me from this evil man. Make me worthy of winning out over the devil.”
The governor then sent Agatha to the house of a wicked woman and hoped she would become bad too. But Agatha had great trust in God and prayed all the time. She kept herself pure. She would not listen to the evil ideas of the woman and her daughters.
After a month, she was brought back to the governor. He tried again to win her. “You are a noblewoman,” he said kindly. “Why have you lowered yourself to be a humble Christian?”
“Even though I am a noble,” answered Agatha, “I am a slave of Jesus Christ.” “Then what does it really mean to be noble?” the governor asked. Agatha answered, “It means to serve God.”
When he realized that she would not sin, the governor became angry. He had Agatha whipped and tortured. As she was being carried back to prison she whispered, “Lord, my Creator, you have protected me from the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my soul.” Agatha soon died a martyr at Catania, Sicily, in the year 250.
February 6 - St. Paul Miki and Companions
Paul Miki was born to a wealthy family at Tsunokuni in Japan. His father Miki Handayu was a military leader.
St. Francis Xavier brought the Good News of Jesus to Japan in 1549. Many received the Word and were baptized by St. Francis himself. Although Francis later left to continue his mission in other countries, the faith had grown in Japan.
Paul Miki felt the call to follow Jesus. He studied at the Jesuit college at Azuchi and Takatsuki and became a Jesuit priest in 1580. He too worked hard as a Catechist and was able to bring many people to Jesus.
By 1587 there were over two hundred thousand Catholics. Missionaries from various religious orders came to work in Japan. Japanese priests, religious and lay people lived the faith joyfully.
In 1597, forty-five years after St. Francis Xavier came to Japan, a powerful Japanese official, Hideyoshi, listened to the gossip and lies of a Spanish merchant. The merchant said that the missionaries were traitors of Japan who would cause Japan to be defeated by Spain and Portugal.
Hideyoshi overreacted and had twenty-six people arrested. The group included six Franciscans from Spain, Mexico and India; three Japanese Jesuit catechists, including St. Paul Miki; and seventeen Japanese Catholic lay people, including children.
The twenty-six were led to the place of execution outside Nagasaki. Each of them was tied to a cross with chains and cords and had iron collars clamped around their necks. Then they were killed with spears. They died almost immediately.
These twenty-six martyrs are sometimes called the martyrs of Nagasaki and the martyrs of Japan. Their blood-stained clothes were treasured by the Christian community and miracles happened through their intercession.
Each martyr was a gift to the Church. Before he died on February 5, 1597, St. Paul Miki fearlessly gave a sermon from the cross as he encouraged the Christian community to be faithful until death.
February 7 - Blessed Giles Mary
Francis Pontillo was born near Taranto, Italy, to a pious family and raised in the village there. As a child he learned rope-making and was good at his trade.
When he was twenty-five, Francis became aware of a call from the Lord to give his life to God. He wanted very much to become a priest but because he did not have enough education to become one, he entered the Friars of St. Peter Alcantara in Naples as a lay brother.
His complete name as a religious was Brother Giles Mary-of-St.-Joseph. The two virtues that guided his whole religious life were simplicity and humility.
Brother Giles Mary approached each day with an attitude of wanting to serve God. He was grateful for his calling and it showed. Brother Giles walked up and down the halls of the monastery’s seminary, as he was the porter and gate-keeper. He opened the door promptly and with a smile every time a visitor pulled the rope that rang the bell.
He took gentle care of the poor, the homeless, the ill who came to that door. He had a special ministry to the sick. He worked with lepers, traveling outside the city to help those who had to live alone because of their disease.
He was given the duty of distributing the food and money that his community could spare. Brother Giles Mary loved to do that. No matter how much he gave to needy people, so much remained for others.
He knew it was St. Joseph who did this. After all, St. Joseph had once taken such good care of Jesus and Mary. Brother Giles Mary spread devotion to St. Joseph throughout his whole religious life.
After a life of faithfulness to God and his chosen vocation, Brother Giles Mary-of-St.-Joseph died peacefully while he was praying on February 7, 1812.
February 8 - St. Jerome Emiliani
Jerome was born to a noble family of Venice, Italy. He loved the good life and spent his youth carelessly enjoying the pleasures of this world. When he grew up he became a soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains.
One day, his post was attacked by troops of Maximilian I. Jerome was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in that miserable prison, he had time to think about his life. He began to regret the careless way he had been living. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God. He was sorry for wasting so many years living a wicked life.
Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and by a miracle he was able to escape to safety. Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary’s altar.
After returning to Venice, he took charge of the education of his young nephews while he studied to be a priest. When he finally became a priest he was devoted to works of charity.
Plague and famine struck northern Italy. Jerome began feeding the sick and the hungry with whatever money he had. He was especially concerned about the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He taught them about Jesus and the Catholic faith.
St. Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth.
He did all he could for the peasants, too. St. Jerome would work with them in the fields and would talk to them of God’s goodness while he worked by their side. He died while caring for plague victims in 1537.
St. Jerome Emiliani was a gift to the people of his time and to all the Church. By totally turning his life around, he became an image of the love of God. He gave hope to those who were poor and abandoned. He is the patron saint of orphans and homeless children.
February 9 - St. Apollonia and the Martyrs of Alexandria
At Alexandria in Egypt, in 249 during the reign of Emperor Philip, an angry mob rose against the Christians. The pagans (non-believers) of Alexandria started making the Christians suffer under instructions of a magician of that city.
Metras, an old man, was the first to die. His eyes were pierced with reeds, and he was stoned to death. A woman named Quinta was next. She was led to a temple and told to worship the false gods there; when she refused she too was stoned to death.
After this the houses of the Christians were robbed and destroyed; but the Christians accepted their suffering with joy.
A holy virgin, Apollonia, who also lived in Alexandria, had spent her whole life serving God. Now that she was growing old, she was not about to take time to rest. She bravely put her own life in danger to comfort suffering Christians in prison. “Remember that your trials will not last long,” she would say. “But the joys of heaven will last forever.”
Not long after, Apollonia, too, was captured. When the judge asked her name, she boldly said, “I am a Christian and I love and serve the true God.”
Angry people tortured Apollonia, trying to force her to give up her faith. First, all her teeth were smashed and then knocked out. Strangely enough, that is why people often pray to St. Apollonia when they have a toothache. But even though this was very painful Applolonia’s faith remained strong.
They then lit a huge fire and she was told that if she did not deny Jesus, she would be thrown into the fire. She was silent for a moment, and then, with special strength she received from the Holy Spirt, she walked into the fire and died in its flames rather than give up her faith in Jesus.
When the pagans saw how heroic she was, many were converted. The judges themselves were amazed at the huge number of Christians who came on their own to die for Jesus and receive the crown of martyrdom.
February 10 - St. Scholastica
Born in 480 of wealthy parents, Scholastica and Benedict were brought up together until he left central Italy for Rome to continue his studies.
Little is known of Scholastica’s early life. She founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino at Plombariola, five miles from where her brother governed a monastery.
The twins visited each other once a year in a farmhouse because Scholastica was not permitted inside the monastery. They spent these times discussing spiritual matters.
According to the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, the brother and sister spent their last day together in prayer and conversation. Scholastica sensed her death was close at hand and she begged Benedict to stay with her until the next day.
He refused her request because he did not want to spend a night outside the monastery, thus breaking his own Rule. Scholastica asked God to let her brother remain and a severe thunderstorm broke out, preventing Benedict and his monks from returning to the abbey.
Benedict cried out, “God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?” Scholastica replied, “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it.”
Brother and sister parted the next morning after their long discussion. Three days later, Benedict was praying in his monastery and saw the soul of his sister rising heavenward in the form of a white dove. Benedict then announced the death of his sister to the monks and later buried her in the tomb he had prepared for himself.
February 11 - St. Gregory II
Born in Rome, Gregory became involved in Church affairs from an early age. It was Pope St. Sergius I who noticed the fine qualities of the pious young man and ordained Gregory a subdeacon. He served under the next four popes as treasurer of the church, then librarian. He was assigned important missions and accompanied Pope Constantine to Constantinople for discussions with Emperor Justinian II. Upon the death of Constantine, Gregory was chosen pope and installed in 715.
Gregory served as pope for 15 years. During that time he held synods to correct abuses, stop heresy and promote discipline and morality. He rebuilt a great portion of the walls of Rome to protect the city against attacks by the Lombards. He restored many churches, and was especially solicitous of the sick and aged. The great monastery near the church of St. Paul was reestablished, as was the abbey of Monte Cassino which had been destroyed by the Lombards 150 years before. He consecrated St. Boniface and St. Corbinian as bishops to go as missionaries to the tribes in Germany. Under Gregory, pilgrims from England increased in numbers to such an extent that they required a church, a cemetery and a school of their own.
It was in his dealings with Emperor Leo III that Gregory’s spirit of strength and patience was best shown. Leo demanded the destruction of all holy images and severely penalized those who did not follow his orders. When bishops failed to convince him of his error, they disobeyed and appealed to the pope. On the one hand, Gregory tried his best to change the thinking of the emperor. On the other, he counseled the people to maintain their allegiance to the prince, all the time encouraging the bishops to oppose the heresy.
Gregory II died in 731.
February 12 - St. Meletius
Meletius was born in the city of Melitene to one of the noblest families of Lesser Armenia. He was very pious and meek and became a priest.
Many years later, Meletius was made a Bishop of the Church. But this was not an easy task at all. The Church was divided. Some people were Catholic while others were Arian. The Arians refused to believe that Jesus was God and believed that he was only a man. They believed this only because things were not clear to them.
Bishop Meletius loved the Church and was true to Jesus. He believed that Jesus is God and realized that the Church would have to speak up clearly about who Jesus is.
When Meletius became bishop of Antioch the Arians were not pleased. For twenty years, Meletius was a patient, loving bishop who did his best to teach the people about the Holy Trinity. But his life was made difficult by people who did not like him.
He often had to go into hiding and live in the desert because other men were claiming to be the bishop of his diocese. But St. Meletius was the true bishop and would patiently return as soon as possible. When Emperor Valens died in 378, the Arians finally stopped harassing him.
In 381, the famous Council of Constantinople, a large Church meeting, was called. The bishops wanted to talk about important truths of our faith. Bishop Meletius opened the Church Council meetings and directed the sessions.
When the Arians were arguing about the Holy Trinity in a rude way, Bishop Meletius rose and showed the people who had asked for his teaching three fingers, representing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity; then, moving back two fingers, and leaving one in place, he blessed the people. At that moment a miracle happened and fire surrounded him, like unto lightning, and the holy Bishop cried aloud: “We understand three Persons and we speak of one God.”
Then, to the sadness of all the bishops, he fell ill and peacefully died right there at one of the meetings.
Great saints like John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa attended his funeral along with all the bishops at the Council. His body was taken with honor to Antioch, where it was enshrined to defend the city for the glory of Christ our God, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is glorified forever.
The people of Constantinople poured into the church as well. St. Gregory of Nyssa spoke of a meek, Christ-like bishop whom everyone loved. And he was right: everyone who loved the Church loved St. Meletius.
February 13 - St. Catherine of Ricci
Alexandrina was born into the Ricci family of Florence, Italy. Here mother died when she was a baby. Although she was raised by her Godmother she loved Our Lady and considered her as her true mother.
As a child she could talk with her guardian Angel and her Angel taught her how to pray the Rosary. When she was six she entered the convent school of Montecelli where her aunt was the Abbess.
Then when she was thirteen, Alexandrina joined the Dominican order as a nun and she chose the name Catherine.
Even at that young age, Sister Catherine had a deep love for the passion of Jesus Christ. She used to think about Our Lord’s sufferings often. Jesus gave her the great honor of receiving in her own body the marks of his wounds.
For twelve years every week from Thursday afternoon until Friday afternoon she would suffer the five wounds of Jesus. She was happy to accept all the pains of these wounds.
Catherine also felt very sorry for the poor souls suffering in purgatory. She realized how they longed to be with God in heaven. She realized, too, that this time in purgatory seemed to drag on endlessly.
St. Catherine prayed and did penance for them. Once God let her know that a certain man was in purgatory. So great was her love that she offered to suffer for him. God listened to her prayer and she suffered greatly for forty days.
Thousands of people came to see her and ask for her prayers including three future popes. After a long, painful illness, St. Catherine died on February 2, 1590, at the age of sixty-eight.
February 14 - St. Cyril and St. Methodius
Cyril and Methodius were brothers from Thessalonica in Greece. In their youth they learnt how to speak many languages, including Slavonic which at that time was not written down. Methodius was a provincial governor and the younger brother Cyril was a distinguished professor of Philosophy in Constantinople.
They both became priests and shared the same holy desires to spread the faith. Then the prince of Moravia asked for missionaries. He wanted them to bring the Good News of Jesus and the Church to his country. The prince added one more request: that the missionaries speak the language of his people.
The two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, volunteered and were accepted. They realized that they were being asked to leave their own country, language and culture behind out of love for Jesus. They did this willingly. They became missionaries to the Slav nations of Moravia, Bohemia and Bulgaria.
Cyril and Methodius invented a Slav alphabet. They translated the Bible and the Church’s liturgy into the Slav language. Because of them, the people were able to receive Christianity in words they could understand.
Some people in the Church at that time did not approve of the use of a native language in the Church’s liturgy and complained about the two brothers to the pope. Pope Nicholas I called them to Rome for a meeting to solve the problem.
But by the time they arrived, Adrian II had became pope and he was in favor of using the local language of the people in the liturgy. The pope showed his gratitude and admiration for the two missionaries. He approved their methods of spreading the faith and named them bishops.
Unfortunately, Cyril died on February 14, 869 before he could actually be consecrated a bishop and is buried in the Church of St. Clement in Rome. But Methodius became bishop, returned to the Slav countries and continued his labors for fifteen more years. He died on April 6, 885.
Cyril and Methodius were Greeks, under the authority of a Roman Pope, working together with the authorities of the Eastern Church. They symbolized bridge-building and connection between the two churches and are now seen as patron saints of ecumenism (unity) between the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom (Christianity).
St. Cyril and St. Methodius are also named co-patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict.
February 15 - St. Faustinus and St. Jovita
St. Faustinus and St. Jovita were brothers born in a noble family and lived in Brescia, Italy. From the time they were young, Faustinus and Jovita were well-known for their great love for God. They were eager professors of the Christian religion, which they preached without fear in their city of Brescia in Lombardy, during the persecution of Adrian.
They also performed works of Christian charity. They helped each other do good for the people who needed them. The bishop of Brescia made them both priests. They began to preach everywhere, to both the rich and the poor.
They spared themselves no sacrifice to bring many people to God. Because it was a time of persecution, it was easy to be afraid. But Faustinus and Jovita would not give in to fear of the soldiers even though these soldiers were actually putting many Christians to death.
They were preaching the Gospel fearlessly in the region when Julian, a pagan officer, arrested them. They were commanded to adore the sun, but replied that they adored the living God who created the sun to give light to the world.
The statue before which they were standing was brilliant and surrounded with golden rays. Saint Jovita, looking at it, cried out: “Yes, we adore the God reigning in heaven, who created the sun. And you, vain statue, turn black, to the shame of those who adore you!” At his word, it turned black. The Emperor commanded that it be cleaned, but the pagan priests had hardly begun to touch it when it fell into ashes.
They were left without food in a dark jail cell, but Angels brought them strength and joy for new combats. And no matter what the two priests suffered, they would not promise to stop preaching about Jesus. They kept an attitude of prayer even in that terrible prison. In fact, they willingly offered up their sufferings to the Lord.
The two brothers were sent to the amphitheater to be eaten by lions, but four lions came out and lay down at their feet. The flames of a huge fire did not burn them, and a large number of people who saw this were converted and became Christians at the sight.
Finally the Emperor ordered that they be beheaded, and they knelt down and received the death blow. The city of Brescia honors them as its chief patrons and treasures their relics (remains).
February 16 - St. Onesimus
Onesimus was born in Phrygia and was a slave who robbed his master Philemon and ran away to Rome. In Rome he went to see the great apostle, St. Paul, who was a prisoner for his faith.
Paul received Onesimus with the kindness and love of a good father. Paul helped the young man realize he had done wrong to steal. But more than that, he led Onesimus to believe in Jesus and baptized him.
After Onesimus became a Christian, Paul sent him back to his master. Philemon had earlier been converted by Paul and was Paul’s friend. But Paul did not send the slave back alone and defenseless.
He “armed” Onesimus with a short, powerful but beautiful letter that we know as the Epistle to Philemon. Paul hoped his letter would set everything right for his new friend, Onesimus.
Paul wrote to Philemon: “I plead with you for my own son, for Onesimus. I am sending him back to you. Welcome him as though he were my very heart.” Paul asked Philemon to accept him “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me”.
That touching letter is in the New Testament of the Bible. Philemon accepted Paul’s letter and Paul’s advice. When Onesimus returned to his master, he was set free. Afterwards, he went back to St. Paul and became his faithful helper.
St. Paul made Onesimus a priest and then a bishop. Later, as Saint Jerome and other Fathers tell us, he became a fervent preacher of the Good News that had changed his life forever.
He was cruelly tortured in Rome, for eighteen days, by a governor of that city, who became angry by his preaching of the Gospel. His legs were broken and he was then stoned to death.
February 17 - Seven Founders of the Servite Order
These seven saints all came from among the richest families in Florence, Italy. Each had a great love for Mary, the Mother of God. They were active members of a confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary popularly known as the ‘Laudesi’ or Praisers.
The eldest was Buonfiglio Monaldo, who became their leader. The others were Alexis Falconieri, Benedict dell’ Antella, Bartholomew Amidei, Ricovero Uguccione, Gerardino Sostegni, and John Buonagiunta. Their spiritual director was St. James of Poggibonsi, who was chaplain of the Laudesi, a man of great holiness and spiritual insight.
On the feast of the Assumption, while the seven men were deep in prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to them. She inspired them to leave the world and to live alone with God.
After many years of living as hermits, they went to their bishop. They asked him for a rule of life to follow. The bishop encouraged them to pray and to ask for guidance from Mary.
Mary appeared to the men carrying a black habit. At her side was an angel bearing a scroll with the words “Servants of Mary” written on it. In this vision, the Blessed Mother said that she had chosen them to be her servants. She asked them to wear a black habit and to follow the Rule of St. Augustine.
These wonderful men helped each other love and serve God better. Six of them were ordained priests. The seventh founder, Alexis, remained a wonderful religious until death. In his humility, he chose not to be ordained to the priesthood.
Many young men came to join these holy founders. They were known as Servants of Mary or Servites.
February 18 - St. Bernadette
Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France to Francois and Louise Casterot who were very poor. She was the oldest of six children but was frail and often sick.
On Thursday, February 11, 1859, around the time of her First Communion, Bernadette was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood. And this is the story she had to tell, which was taken from a letter she wrote:
“I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them.
Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads.
At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it, and my hand just fell down.
Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself, and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads clip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished.”
The beautiful lady who appeared to Bernadette above a rosebush in the grotto of Massabielle was God’s Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette eighteen times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray for sinners and do penance.
The Lady also told her to have a chapel built there in her honor. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer very much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water.
When Bernadette was older, she became a sister. She was always very humble and did not want to be praised. She did not want to receive special treatment just because she had actually seen the Blessed Virgin.
Although her own health was poor, she helped care for the sick and elderly sisters. She died in 1879 at the age of thirty-six. Her last words were: “Holy Mary, pray for me, a poor sinner.”
February 19 - St. Barbatus
Barbatus was born in Benevento, Italy. He liked to read the Bible and as soon as he was old enough, he was ordained a priest.
Being a fiery preacher, he was made a pastor. Although he was very good at his work, his life as a pastor was not easy. St. Barbatus encouraged the people that belonged to his flock, to lead better lives. He reminded them to be sorry for their sins. Some people did not like him telling them how to live and were angry. They treated him very badly and finally forced him to leave.
Young St. Barbatus resigned from his parish and went back to Benevento where he had been born. He was received with great joy.
There were challenges in that city, too. Many converts to Christianity still kept pagan idols in their homes. They found it hard to destroy their good luck charms. They worshiped a golden viper and animal skin hung in a tree. They believed in magic powers.
St. Barbatus preached against such superstitions. But the people hung on to their false gods. The saint warned them that because of this sin, their city would be attacked by enemies and it was. The army of Emperor Constans besieged Benevento.
The people then listened to the preacher, soon gave up their error and peace returned. Barbatus then cut down the tree with his own hand, and melted down the golden viper to make a chalice for the altar.
St. Barbatus was made bishop. He continued his work to convert his people and assisted the Pope in a council. He died on February 29, 682, at the age of seventy.
February 20 - St. Eucherius
St. Eucherius was born in Orleans, France. He was very pious in his youth as he received a Christian upbringing and he was also highly educated.
A sentence from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians made a big impression on him: “This world as we see it is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). It made Eucherius realize that our lives on this earth are very short and that heaven and hell last forever. He decided to seek the joys of heaven by living for God alone.
In 714, St. Eucherius left his rich home and entered a Benedictine abbey as a monk. There he spent seven years in close union with God. After the death of his uncle, the bishop of Orleans, the people asked for Eucherius to take his place.
Eucherius was then only twenty-five and he was very humble. He did not want to leave his beloved abbey. With tears, he begged to be allowed to remain alone with God in the monastery. But finally, he gave in for love of obedience. Eucherius became a holy, wise bishop and did much good to his priests and people.
A powerful man Charles Martel sold some of the Church’s property to support his wars. Because Bishop Eucherius told him that was wrong, when Charles won the war, he had Eucherius taken prisoner.
He was sent away to Cologne in Germany. The people there greeted him with joy and he was given the job of distributing the governor’s alms. Later he was transferred to a fort near Liege.
But the governor in whose charge Martel had placed the bishop was touched by Eucherius’ meekness toward his enemies. Sometime later, the governor quietly released the bishop from prison and sent him to a monastery. Here the saint spent all his time peacefully in prayer until his death in 743.
February 21 - St. Peter Damian
St. Peter Damian was born at Ravenna, in Italy. His parents died when he was a child and he was left an orphan. He went to live with an older brother who mistreated him badly. He often left him hungry and starving and made him look after his herd of swine to earn his keep. Another brother named Damian found out about the trouble little Peter was having and brought him to his own home.
That was when Peter’s life changed completely. He was treated with love, affection and care. He was so grateful that when he became joined a religious order he took the name Damian after his loving brother. Damian educated Peter and encouraged his studies.
Peter later became a great teacher and taught at the university while he was in his twenties. But the Lord was directing him in ways he could never have thought of.
Peter lived in times when many people in the Church were more interested in collecting wealth. Peter realized that the Church is divine and has the grace from Jesus to save all people. He wanted the Church to shine with the holiness of Jesus.
After seven years of teaching, he decided to become a Benedictine monk. He wanted to live the rest of his life in prayer and penance. He would pray and make sacrifices so that many people in the Church would become holy. His health suffered when he tried to replace sleep with prayer.
He went to a monastery of St. Romuald and wrote a rule for the monks. He also wrote about the life of their holy founder, Romuald. Peter wrote many books about religious studies to help people deepen their faith.
Twice his abbot sent him to neighboring monasteries so he could help the monks change their lives so that they could live closer to God. The monks were grateful because Peter was so kind and respectful.
Peter was finally called from the monastery. He became a bishop and a cardinal. He was sent on very important missions for various popes throughout his long life. St. Peter Damian died in 1072 at the age of sixty-five. Because he was a champion of truth and a peacemaker, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.
February 22 - Chair of St. Peter
St. Peter was the prince of the apostles and the first pope. Jesus said to him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The name ‘Peter’ means rock.
After Jesus went back to heaven, St. Peter preached the Gospel. He guided the small but growing Christian community. At first, Peter worked hard in Jerusalem and in Antioch, two big cities of the east. Later, he went to preach the Gospel in Rome, the capital of the world.
How would Peter carry out his great mission for the Lord? Jesus, his Master had been crucified but then had risen from the dead. Who would believe that?
The evils of the Roman Empire that did not believe in the living God would drown his voice no matter how dedicated he may be.
But the Holy Spirit was alive in Peter. He boldly took up the ministry Jesus had given to him. Never again would Peter deny his Lord. Never again would Peter put his own personal well-being before the good of the Church.
The feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome reminds us that St. Peter started the Christian community in that city. The special chair is a symbol of the authority that was given to him by Jesus. Kings of old sat on thrones and ruled. Peter’s chair is a symbol of his authority from Jesus to rule the Church.
St. Peter was put to death and died a martyr for his faith in Jesus, but down through the ages there has always been a bishop of Rome. He is the pope. The pope rules the whole Church, as St. Peter did, in Jesus’ name. We call the successor of St. Peter the Holy Father.
February 23 - St. Polycarp
St. Polycarp became a Christian when the followers of Jesus were still few. In fact, Polycarp was a disciple of one of the first apostles, St. John. He was also a friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
All that Polycarp learned from St. John he taught to others and he was a well respected Christian leader. He was a new kind of Christian for his time. He was not a Jew and did not know the Old Testament Scriptures; instead he knew well the customs and beliefs of the Apostles.
Polycarp became a priest and then bishop of Smyrna in present-day Turkey. He was Smyrna’s bishop for many years and the Christians loved their holy and brave shepherd. The Churches in Asia Minor chose St. Polycarp to go on their behalf and discuss with Pope Anicetus an important matter - the date of the Easter celebration in Rome.
During that time Christians faced torture and death under Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Polycarp was shown to his enemies by a traitor. When his captors came to arrest him, he invited them first to share a meal with him.
Then he asked them to let him pray a while. The judge tried to force Bishop Polycarp to curse Jesus and save himself from death. “For eighty-six years I have served Jesus Christ,” answered the saint, “and he has never done me any wrong. How can I curse my King who died for me?”
The soldiers tied St. Polycarp’s hands behind his back and placed him on a burning pile but the fire did not harm him. One of the soldiers then stabbed a dagger into his heart and killed him. And so, in the year 155, Polycarp died a martyr.
He went to be forever with his Divine Master Jesus Christ whom he had served so bravely.
February 24 - St. Montanus, St. Lucius and Companions
Emperor Valerian tortured and punished the Christians during the days of the early Church. He had allowed a Roman officer to put St. Cyprian to death in September 258.
The Roman officer himself died soon after and the new official, Solon, was nearly killed by some rebels. He suspected that they tried to kill him in revenge for the death of St. Cyprian and arrested eight innocent people.
They were all Christians; mostly deacons, priests and bishops. Each of them had been a devoted follower of St. Cyprian. These Christians were taken down into dark dungeons where they found others whom they knew.
These deep dungeons were dirty and damp and the high walls surrounded the group. They realized that they would soon be put to death. The Christians were kept many months in the prison.
They were made to work during the day and were often kept without food and water for no reason. The cruel treatment, made these Christians grow close together and they helped one another bear their sufferings. The ordinary people protected the bishops, priests and deacons at whom the emperor’s cruelty was specially aimed at.
When the Christians were finally called to the place of execution, each was allowed to speak. Montanus, who was tall and strong, spoke bravely to the entire Christian crowd. He told them to be true to Jesus and to die rather than give up the faith.
Lucius, who was small and in poor health, walked quietly to the place where he was to die. He was weak from the hard months in prison. In fact, he had to lean on two friends who helped him to the place where the executioner waited. The people who watched asked him to remember them when he went to heaven.
As each of the Christians were beheaded one after another, the Christians who watched became braver and stronger. They wept for those who suffered such injustice. But they were also filled with joy when they realized that these martyrs would bless them from heaven.
Montanus, Lucius and their companions willingly died for their faith in Jesus in 259.
February 25 - St. Caesarius of Nazianzen
Caesarius lived in present-day Turkey. His mother was St. Nonna and his father St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder was the bishop of Nazianzen. At that time bishops and priests could marry.
Caesarius’ brother was St. Gregory of Nazianzen, a close friend of St. Basil. Besides being a saint, Gregory is an important writer from the early Church. His books are still read today.
Both Caesarius and Gregory received an excellent education. But while Gregory wanted to be a priest, Caesarius wanted to be a medical doctor. Both went to the schools that would help them carry out their goals.
Caesarius completed his studies in medicine at Constantinople. He soon became a well-known and trusted doctor. In fact, Emperor Constantius, who lived in Constantinople, wanted Caesarius to be his personal physician. Caesarius thanked the emperor but gently refused. He wanted to go back to Nazianzen, his home city.
Sometime later, however, Caesarius was again called to serve the emperor at Constantinople. This time the emperor was Julian the apostate. An apostate was someone who gave up his Christian faith and Julian was against the Christians.
But he was willing to excuse Caesarius, since he was such a good doctor. Julian tried to charm the doctor into giving up his faith. Caesarius was offered high positions, bribes and many good things if he did. Caesarius’ father and brother advised him not to accept the offers. They asked him to return home to practice medicine instead.
In 368, Caesarius was almost killed in an earthquake. He escaped unharmed but was badly shaken by the incident. He felt that God was telling him to live a life of prayer away from the noise and flattery of the court.
Caesarius gave away all his belongings to the poor and began to live a quiet, prayerful life. One year later St. Caesarius died and at his funeral the sermon was preached by his brother, St. Gregory.
February 26 - St. Porphyry
Porphyry was born at Thessalonica, in Greece to wealthy, noble parents. He left his family when he was twenty-five and went to Egypt to enter a monastery as a Hermit, in the desert of Skete. After five years, he made a trip to Jerusalem. He wanted to visit the places where Jesus had actually been while he was on earth.
Porphyry was very fascinated by the Holy Land. His love for Jesus made him more deeply aware of the sufferings of the poor. At home in Thessalonica he had never known what it was like to be poor. Now he still owned all the property and wealth that his parents had left him, but not for long.
He asked his friend Mark to go to Thessalonica and sell everything for him. After three months, Mark returned with the money. This, Porphyry gave away to those who really needed it. He then lived for a while as a Hermit in Palestine on the banks of the river Jordan.
At the age of forty he became a priest and was given care of the relics (remains) of the true cross of Jesus. Porphyry was then made bishop of Gaza in Palestine. He worked generously to lead the people to believe in Jesus and to accept the faith.
But it was hard and slow work that required a great amount of patience. Most of people who lived there at that time were pagans who worshiped false gods and had wrong ideas. Although Porphyry was able to stop many of these pagan practices, he had enemies who made him suffer much.
Others who were Christians loved and admired him very much. They prayed and made sacrifices for him begging God to protect him. Bishop Porphyry spent many years strengthening the Christian community, teaching and preaching about all that Christianity stood for. He died in 420.
February 27 - St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
This lovable saint was born at Assisi in Italy. He received the name Francis at Baptism, in honor of the great St. Francis of Assisi. His mother died when he was only four years old. Francis’ father hired a governess to raise his thirteen children.
Francis Possenti grew to be very handsome and likable. He was often the most popular person at a party. He loved to have fun and enjoyed hunting and attending the theater. But there was another side to him, too. Even while having good times, he was sometimes bored. He couldn’t explain why.
He seemed to feel in his heart a strong desire for God and the deeper things of life. Twice he became so sick he nearly died. Each time he promised Our Lady that if she would help cure him, he would become a priest. He got better both times, but he did not keep his promise.
One day, he saw a picture of the Sorrowful Mother that was being carried in a procession. It seemed that the Blessed Mother was looking straight at him. At the same time, he heard a voice in his heart telling him, “Francis, the world is not for you anymore.”
That did it. At the age of eighteen, Francis entered the Passionist monastery and took the name Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother. The Passionists were preachers of the Passion of Jesus.
Gabriel’s great loves became the Holy Eucharist and Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. He loved to spend time thinking about the passion of Jesus and how much the Lord had suffered for him. His great devotion to Mary also caused him to think deeply about her sorrows over the suffering of Jesus.
Gabriel learned to practice two virtues in a special way: humility and obedience. His special trademark was joy. He was always happy and spread that happiness to those around him.
After only four years in the Passionist order, Gabriel died of tuberculosis on February 27, 1862 at Abruzzi in Italy. After his death many miracles took place when people prayed to him.
February 28 - St. Romanus and St. Lupicinus
These French saints were brothers. Everyone who knew St. Romanus as a youth admired him for his goodness. He had a great wish to become a saint. Since he saw that it was very easy to forget about God in this world, at the age of thirty five, Romanus decided to go away to a quiet place and live as a hermit.
First, he asked the advice of a holy monk, and then he started off. He took a book with him called The Lives of the Fathers of the Desert by Cassian. He also took seeds to plant and a few tools.
With these supplies, he went into the forests of the Jura mountains between Switzerland and France and settled down beneath a huge fire tree at a place called Condat. There he found a spot of land good for growing his garden and food, and some trees from which he could eat a kind of wild fruit. He spent his time praying and reading his book. He also planted and cared for his garden, quietly enjoying nature.
Soon afterward, his brother Lupicinus joined him. Romanus and Lupicinus were very different. Romanus was hard on himself but he was kind and gentle and full of understanding with others. Lupicinus was tough and very strict with himself and usually the same with others but he only meant good and did not do it to hurt anyone. The two brothers understood each other and got along peacefully.
Many men came to join them. They wanted to be monks, too, so they built two monasteries. Romanus was the abbot of Condat (now Saint Claude) and Lupicinus was the abbot of Leuconne. Later they built the convent of La Beaume for nuns (now St. Romain de la Roche).
The monks lived simple, hard lives. They ate simple food which was mainly bread made of barley or bran and pulses and slept on the ground or on hard boards. St. Lupicinus wore a tunic made of skins of animals with a cowl: and wore wooden shoes.
They prayed much and made sacrifices cheerfully. They did penance to strengthen themselves against the temptations of the devil. They worked very hard farming to grow their food and kept silent all the time.
They lived like this because they wanted to grow close to God and when they were silent they were able to pray and talk with God. Their lifestyle helped them become more holy.
St. Romanus died in 460 and was buried at the abbey of Beaume. His younger brother, St. Lupicinus, died in 480.