Pontianus of Spoleto

Pontianus of Spoleto was believed to have been born in 156.  He was martyred during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Pontianus was a young man from a local noble family of Spoleto.  When he was 18  he was denounced as a Christian to the Roman authorities. He was brought before Flavian the judge.  He chose torture and death rather than renounce his faith. He was condemned to death.  Pontian was subjected to a wide variety of tortures before his death: First, he was scourged then forced to walk on hot coals. Then he was tortured with iron claws, has been thrown to the lions, but would have done nothing to him. He was denied food and finally molten lead was poured onto his neck.  When none of that worked he was beheaded on January 14 175.  Legend says that a healing spring emerged where his head landed.

Pontianus’ body was buried in the local cemetery. The Basilica of San Ponziano was eventually built over his grave as a shrine to his memory. In Spoleto, Italy, he is invoked for protection against earthquakes.

Saint Prisca

We don’t know the actual birth or death dates of Saint Prisca. She was a young Roman woman tortured and executed for her Christian faith. Legend says that Saint Prisca was of a noble family. She was thirteen when she was accused of being a Christianity before Emperor Claudius. He ordered her to make a sacrifice to the god Apollo. She refused because of her Christian faith.  She was then beaten and sent to prison. After her release from prison, she kept her faith in Jesus Christ. This time her punishment included flogging, the pouring of boiling tallow on her, and second imprisonment. Finally, she was at last thrown to a lion in the amphitheater, but it quietly lay down at her feet.

She was starved for three days in a slaves’ prison-house and tortured on the rack. Pieces of flesh were torn from her body with iron hooks, and she was thrown on a burning pile.  She miraculously stayed alive but was beheaded at the tenth milestone on the road from Rome to Ostia. Christians buried her body in a catacomb where she died.  The church of St. Prisca now stands there.   She is honored as a child martyr.

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.

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.

Saint Valentine

There are actually a few saints with the same name who are called Saint Valentine. One was a bishop of Terni. Another was a priest and doctor in Rome.  Saint Valentine from Rome is likely who is celebrated since he is a martyr.  Valentine’s priestly life kept him close to his people.

One legend says Saint Valentine was under house arrest.  While discussing religion and faith with Judge Asterius. Valentine said Jesus was the one true God. The judge put Valentine and his faith to the test immediately. Judge Asterius’s daughter was brought to Valentine.  She was blind. Valentine was told to restore her sight. The judge said if Valentine succeeded, he would do anything for Valentine.  Valentine placed his hands on the girl’s eyes and restored her ability to see.Judge Asterius followed Valentine’s requests.  He removed and destroyed all idols in his home. He fasted. He was baptized along with his family and 44 members of his household.  He went on to free all of his Christian inmates.

Valentine was arrested again for converting people to Christianity. He was sent to Emperor Claudius II. He was imprisoned for helping persecuted Christians. He was also secretly marrying Christian couples. This may have meant that husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. There was a law which said the marriage of young people was illegal.  It was believed unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers. Married soldiers may have worried about their family if they died. Roman society was very permissive at this time. The Church teaches that marriage is very important. It is between one man and one woman, and for life.  Marriage was encouraged. This was very much against what Roman society believed.

Claudius and Valentine began to talk. A friendship began. Then Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius was furious. He demanded Valentine renounce his faith.

Emperor Valerian issued a law in 257 forbidding Mass or sacraments. Valentine was martyred under Emperor Claudius. Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution, beating, stoning and finally beheading. He was martyred in 269.  Saint Valentine is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages.