Patron Saint of the United States – Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena was born March 25, 1347 in Italy.  This was during the time of the Black Death. She is believed to have had her first vision of Christ when she was 5 or 6 years old. At 7 years old she gave her life to Christ. When Catherine was 16, her older sister died giving birth. Her parents wanted Catherine to marry, her sister’s former husband. Catherine did not want to do that. She began fasting. She also cut off her hair as a protest.   

She began serving her family humbly, to grow spiritually. To be humble means to show a great deal of respect to others and to make others more important than yourself.  She refused to marry. She had a vision of Saint Dominic. She chose to live a life as the Dominicans did the Dominicans live a life of prayer and service. Then she became seriously ill. This caused her parents to change their mind, and allow her to join the Dominicans. Once she joined, her health was restored.  

She was allowed to be a Third Order Dominican. This meant she would not enter a convent but would still belong to a religious community. She returned home to live with her family.  Dominican sisters taught her how to read. She chose to live in almost total silence and solitude in her family home.

It was her custom to give away clothing or food without asking anyone.  This was expensive for her family, but she never asked for anything for herself. She said she didn’t need to eat, she was waiting for her table in Heaven.

In 1368, when she was 21 she had vision of Jesus where she was told to leave her life of solitude. She rejoined her family. She helped the poor and the sick. She took care of them in hospitals or at their homes. She had many people who started following her. She then began to travel to central and northern Italy. She told people to repent and renew their love of God. She wrote letters and preached asking for peace between the regions of Italy. She asked the seat of the Church be returned from Avignon back to Rome.

She returned to Rome in 1377, and formed a convent. For most of her life she fasted. Even when she was ordered to eat properly she could not. On April 21, 1380, she suffered a stroke.  She died eight days later on April 29. She is the patron saint of the United States, Italy, fire prevention, and nurses.

Saint Mark

Mark is the author of the Gospel of Mark.  He is believed to have been Jewish. He and his mother, Mary were loved in the new Christian community. His mother’s house in Jerusalem was a meeting place for Christians there. When Peter was to be killed after the Passover, he went to Mark’s mother’s home. Mark was not one of the twelve apostles. We don’t know if he actually knew Jesus.

Paul and Barnabas took Mark on their first missionary trip, but Mark alone returned to Jerusalem. Paul refused to let Mark go on the second missionary trip, even when Barnabas insisted. Mark had displeased Paul.  It did not last long because Paul later asks Mark to visit him in prison

Peter met Mark on the way to Antioch. Mark the Evangelist wrote down the sermons of Peter, around the year 60. It is believed to have been written in Italy. These are the Gospel according to Mark. He wrote it in Greek. for the Roman Gentiles who had converted to Christianity. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest and shortest of the Gospels.

. In 49, about 19 years after the Ascension of Jesus, Mark went to Alexandria. There he founded the Church of Alexandria. He became the first Bishop of Alexandria and founded Christianity in Africa.  He was martyred in 68. He is the patron saint of notaries. A notary is a person who makes sure someone signing a paper is who they say they are.

Magnificent Doctor – Saint Anselm

Saint Anselm was born to noble parents in Italy in 1033.  At age 15 he wanted to enter a monastery, but was refused because his father didn’t want him there. After several additional years, he went to a French monastery to lead a quiet life of quiet life of prayer and study. He was there three years when he was made prior of the monastery. He was put in charge of the school  With Anselm leading the school, it became one of the great centers of learning during the medieval years.

In 1087, Anselm was elected abbot of the monastery. In 1092, the archbishop of Canterbury died.  King William Rufus would not allow the position to be filled. The king took the money from the Church. The king promised there would be no archbishop  of Canterbury while he was living. The king immediately became so ill, it was believed he would die. Anselm had been recommended to be the archbishop, but Anselm didn’t want the job.  He was afraid of the king.

As the king recovered from being ill, his greed returned.  The king demanded huge sums of money from Anselm. Anselm was forced to flee to Rome. The king refused to allow Anselm to return to England. He king was nearly ex-communicated. Ex-communication is an extreme penalty for the most severe sins. This means  you aren’t part of the Church until you are sorry for your sins. Anselm kept the king from being excommunicated. He was afraid of what that might do to everyone in England.

King Rufus died in 1100. Archbishop Anselm was able to return to England.  He was greeted by the people and by King Henry I. King Henry claimed he had the right to appoint all bishops. King Henry insisted he reinvest Anselm.  Anselm refused. Many letters were sent between the king and the pope, who supported Anselm. The argument between the pope and the king continued and grew more intense. It seemed that England would separate from the Church after all. King Henry was threatened with excommunication. Anselm was exiled again. The king finally backed down. He not only made up with Anselm, but he also returned the money to the Church. He also agreed he did not have the right to invest bishops or abbot.

The last two years of Anselm’s life were spent as the Archbishop. He died on Holy Wednesday, April 21, 1109.  At the Council of Tours in 1163, Thomas Becket asked Pope Alexander to make Anselm a saint. Anselm was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Clement IX in 1720. He is known as the Magnificent Doctor.

Harmless girl, declared enemy of the State–Blessed Julie Billiart

Blessed Sister Julie Billiart

Julie Billiart was born in Cuvilly, France on July 12, 1751. She lived her early life in the village. She had an unusual piety and intelligence. She knew the catechism when she was seven years old. She often helped other children understand it

Her faith was noticed by the village priest, Father Dangicourt. He allowed her to make her First Communion when she was nine. That was very young at that time. When she was fourteen, she was allowed to take a vow of chastity. She continued to with her family because she needed to help work. When someone tried to kill her father, she was so shocked she became paralyzed.

While Julie was helpless she learned the virtue of fortitude. Fortitude is courage while in pain. She practiced daily prayer and receiving communion.
In 1790, the French Jacobin government sent a constitutional priest to her village. Julie lead a boycott of him. This caused her to have to go into hiding. She was a young crippled girl, living quietly, and praying.  She also taught the faith to small groups of children during the French Revolution. She made linens and laces for the altar. She was a peaceful, harmless seemingly unimportant person. Yet she ended up being declared an enemy of the state. She was hunted down from house to house. She had to be hidden by friends and carried around on a stretcher.

Why were the Jacobins so afraid of her? She wasn’t helpless at all. She had the hearts and imaginations of the people. She was called “the saint Cuvilly” by the people. There wasn’t room for a saint in the new French Republic. Her ideas were thought to be dangerous.

Father Varin had been a member of the suppressed Jesuits. He asked her and a group of women to help teach thousands of children, who had grown up without religion.

On June 1, 1804, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Julie Billiart stood up and walked. She had been completely cured.

She took her religious vows on October 15, 18014. She founded the Institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame, with three other sisters. By June 19, 1806, when approved, there were 30 sisters. The Sister educated girls and provided religious training of teachers.

Their work spread from France and into Belgium. In twelve years, Mother Julie founded fifteen convents, made one hundred twenty trips. She died on April 8, 1816, while praying the Magnificat. Her feast day is April 8.

Founder of Catholic Schools – Saint John de la Salle

John Baptist de la Salle was born in France on April 30, 1651. He was oldest of ten children. He studied in Paris.  He is known for his work educating poor children.

La Salle devoted his life to God when he was eleven. He attended college and earned a Master of Arts degree before entering the seminary to become a priest. A seminary is a school to prepare a man to become a priest, minister or rabbi. He had to leave the seminary for a time when his parents died to take care of his siblings. He eventually returned and was ordained a priest in 1678. Two years later he also earned a Doctorate of Theology degree.

At the time education in France was only for the nobles and wealthy. La Salle changed that. He was chaplain to a group of Sisters who were caring for and educating poor girls He met the French educator Adrian Nyel. With his help, and a financial gift from a wealthy benefactor he began a school for poor boys. He became convinced this was God’s purpose for him. He also discovered that even the teachers needed inspiration and instruction on how to teach.

La Salle founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This was the first Catholic teaching religious institute which did not include any priests. It grew quickly and soon parish priests were sending young men to the Institute so they could return and be schoolmasters in their own villages.He wrote the “Manual for Christian Schools” which included original and practical ideas for education. He divided students into classes, according to their age and abilities. He taught in French for the first time, instead of in Latin. His curriculum included ethics, literature, physics, philosophy, and mathematics.

While living in exile in France, King James II of England urged La Salle to found a school for Irish boys living in France as well. There were about 50 boys at this school.  He began another school which provided technical education with religious teachings.

Father La Salle died on April 7, 1719.  His Institute continued to grow until the French Revolution when it suffered great losses.  In 1799, the community grew and expanded steadily expanded into Europe, England, Ireland, North and South America and Australia.

He was make a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.  He considered the founder of Catholic Schools and is the patron saint of teachers.