Friend of Saint John – Polycarp

Saint Polycarp heard stories from Saint John the Evangelist because he was a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. He was also a friend to Saint Ignatius. He embraced the teachings of Christ around the year 80. Polycarp was a holy man. He was made the Bishop of Smyrna by Saint John the Evangelist. Smyrna is in modern Turkey. He wrote many letters, but only one has been saved.

Polycarp was met by the leader of one of the heresies. A heresy is a teaching against the Church. The leader demanded respect and his ideas be respected. Polycarp said, “I recognize you as the son of Satan.”
The churches in Polycarp’s area asked him to meet with the Pope. They helped decide the date to celebrate Easter in Rome. This was one of many major problems in the early Church.

The Romans were having Christians attacked by wild animals in the Roman arena. The crowd demanded, “More atheists. Bring Polycarp!” The Romans called Christians atheists. They did this because Christians didn’t believe in the many Roman gods. Instead, Christians believe in the One True God. Polycarp left the city and hid at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer. During his prayers, he had a vision of a pillow turned to fire.

He was arrested and asked for time to pray. He fixed his captors a meal while he prayed for everyone he had known and for the Church. He was taken to the arena. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven, “Be brave, Polycarp.”
The government official begged Polycarp to say, “Away with the atheists.”
Polycarp faced the crowd and said, “Away with atheists.”

The official begged him “Swear by Caesar.”

Polycarp responded, “You do not know who I am. I am a Christian.”
The official asked reminded him of the wild animals unless he changed his mind.

Polycarp said,”Change of mind from better to worse, is not a change allowed us.”

He was supposed to be burned. When the fire began, it burst up like an arch around him. Instead of him being burned, he glowed. The flames would not hurt him. He ended up being killed. A Roman guard then ordered his body be burned.

Saint Polycarp is the patron saint of earaches.

Lesson plans for Saint Polycarp.

Patron saint of slaves – Peter Claver

Peter Claver was born in Spain in 1581. He joined the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. In 1610, he moved to Cartagena, in South America. He wanted to be a missionary. In 1610, he became a priest.

Cartagena was a place slaves were taken to from Africa. Many slaves died in ships on the trip. Father Claver wanted to help the slaves when the ships came in. He gave them food and medicine. He would tell the slaves of God’s love. It was hot, hard work. He helped 300,000 people in 40 years. The slave owners didn’t like Father Claver’s help. He helped them anyway. Father Claver thought God would bless all His people. He even asked the owners to be better Christians.

Father Claver became ill and died September 8, 1654. He became a saint in 1888. He is the patron saint of black slaves.

Lesson plans for Peter Claver.

Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe was born January 8, 1894, in Poland. His father was a weaver and his mother was a midwife. He had four brothers. When he was 12,  he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, she came to him carrying two crowns. One was white representing purity. The other crown was red, representing martyrdom. She asked which he was willing to accept. He said both. When he was 13, in 1907, he and his older brother joined a Franciscan seminary. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 and earned a doctorate in theology by the time he was 28.

Maximilian organized the Army of the Immaculate One after he saw people demonstrating against Pope Pius X and Benedict XV. He tried to convert Freemasons, sinners. and enemies of the Church with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1918, he was ordained a priest. He continued promoting Mary throughout Poland. He went on to teach in at a seminary, created many publications, and found many monasteries in Japan and India.

In 1936, Maximilian’s poor health caused him to return to Poland. He was one of the only brother’s who stayed at the monastery when Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II. He opened an aid station to help those in need from the invasion. He was sent to prison but released three months later.

Maximilian refused to sign papers which would make him a German citizen. He helped hide 2,000 Jews from the Germans. He issued many anti-Nazi writings. On February 17, 1941, the monastery was shut down and he was arrested. He ended up at the concentration camp Auschwitz. He continued to be a priest even though it made him a victim of harassment and violence. Men were chosen to be starved, as a warning to others. Maximilian wasn’t chosen but volunteered to take the place of another man who had a family.

Maximilian continued to pray with Mary for others. He was the last of the group to remain alive after two weeks of dehydration and starving. The guards gave him a lethal injection.

Maximilian Kolbe died on August 14, 1941. He was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982. He is the patron saint of prisoners, families and the pro-life movement.

Patron Saint of Astronomers – Saint Dominic

Saint Dominic was born in Caleruega, Spain, in 1170. His parents, Felix and Juana, were members of the Spanish nobility. They were related to the King and Queen of Spain. His father was the leader of the village and his mother was Blessed Joan of Aza.

After Dominic’s much older brothers were grown, his mother prayed for another son. Legend says before Dominic’s birth, his mother dreamed a dog leaped from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth. The dog set the world on fire. She had another dream where St. Dominic of Silos told her she would have a son who would be a shining light to the Church. She decided to name the child Dominic. His mother saw a moon on his forehead. At his baptism, Dominic’s godmother saw a star on his forehead.
Dominic was raised by his parents, and his mother’s uncle, an archpriest. Dominic studied the arts for six years and theology for four years. Studying the arts meant he studied arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory, grammar, logic, public speaking, and Latin. He was a great student.

In 1191, a famine left many people homeless and starving throughout Spain. Dominic sold everything he had to buy food for the poor. He even sold his books to help pay for food. When he was asked about it, he said how could he study when people were starving. In 1194, at age 25, Dominic joined the Canons Regular. They followed the teachings of Saint Augustine. In 1204, he and a bishop began a program to convert the Cathars, who were a Christian group, with different beliefs. They did not follow the teachings of the Church.
In 1215 Dominic and six followers saw the need for a new type of spiritual organization. They would help the spiritual and educational needs in the growing cities. The followed monastery rules of prayer and penance. The bishop also gave them permission to preach. Dominic went to Rome to gain the approval of the Pope for his new order. It took a year, and the order was named “The Order of Preachers”, O.P., and is known as the Dominican order.
In his later years, he traveled to check on the members of his growing order. He made his headquarters in Rome. Dominic lived an ascetic life. Ascetic means to practice self-discipline from luxury for religious reasons. He didn’t eat meat. He observed fasts and periods of silence. He never allowed himself the luxury of a bed.
Dominic died in 1221 at the age of 51. Saint Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers, astronomy, and falsely accused people.

Father of Western monasticism – Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict was born in the small Italian town of Nursia around 470.  He was sent to Rome for school as a young boy.  Student life was more fun than studying.  Benedict realized if he wasn’t going to be pulled into the partying, he was going to have to leave Rome.  

Benedict and an elderly family member left Rome and went to the small village of Enfide.  They stayed for a short time when he worked a miracle for her.  This was the first of many miracles Benedict did.  When the people of Enfide heard of the miracle, crowds of people began to visit him.  

Benedict decided he needed to move.  This time he went alone higher into the mountains.  There were a few monks that lived in the area.  One of them helped Benedict move into a cave high in the wall of a cliff, where he stayed for the next three years.  His only contact with people was with the friendly monk who lowered food to him in a basket.  

During this time Benedict spent his time in prayer and penance. It was difficult for him because he was tempted to return to all that the world had to offer.  At the end of three years, Benedict decided God wished him to continue living in solitude as a monk.  Benedict was able to continue living as a monk, but not alone.  

Monks from a nearby monastery, heard of Benedict when their abbot died.  The head of a monastery is an abbot. They sent people to ask Benedict to be their new abbot.  Benedict agreed.  When he arrived he began to make some much needed changed.  This caused problems. Most of the monks had enjoyed their life of not living holy. They decided they didn’t want the young abbot’s changes.  One evening poison was put in Benedict’s cup of wine.  When Benedict make his usual sign of the cross over the cup it shattered.  Benedict told the monks to find a different abbot. He left the monastery and returned to his cave.

Living alone was now impossible for him. His reputation became known and crowds of people came to see him. Most were people who wanted to leave a Christian life, in a world where most people had little use for Christianity. Benedict saw these men needing guidance and agreed to again leave his cave to become their leader.  He founded twelve monasteries. A monastery is where a group of monks live.

He realized that something different was needed from the type of monastery which was popular. Monks had no common life. They tried to outdo each other with their penances and wandered around from monastery to monastery. Benedict created a life centered around a common task, chanting the Opus Dei, which is also called the Divine Office. They also spent their times working, privately praying and doing reasonable forms of penance.

Benedict wrote regulations for monastic life in his Rule. This became one of the most important documents in the history of Europe. The main idea of this is to pray and work. European civilization was largely preserved through the work of Christian monks who had Benedict at their spiritual director.

Benedict died not long after the last visit with his sister Saint Scholastica. He died of a fever on March 21, 543. He is the patron saint of Europe and students.