Wonder Worker of Britain – Saint Cuthbert

We don’t know exactly when Saint Cuthbert was born. It is believed to be around the year 637.  His family was probably from the noble class.  We do know he was a shepherd for a time in the north of Britain. He decided to become a monk after a vision the night Saint Aidan died. He was educated and wanted to go to Melrose Abbey and become educated. For a time, he was a traveling priest in remote villages, until he ended up at Lindisfarne. It was an island abbey, where he eventually became the prior.  He became known for his piety and obedience. He continued his missionary work and gained a reputation for healing.  This caused people to call him the Wonder Worker of Britain.

The attention caused him to want complete solitude. He spent more than 10 years as a hermit.  Britain was getting close to complete paganism and he wasn’t allowed to stay in complete seclusion. He was elected to be the bishop of Lindisfarne. He gradually helped the people leave their pagan practices. For the last two years of his life Cuthbert was Bishop of Lindisfarne.  When he knew he was near death, he asked to be returned to Farne.  He died March 20, 687.  

In England, Saint Cuthbert is the patron saint of the North.

The real Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. The date of his birth is not known but he was an active missionary in Ireland during the late 450’s. He is called the founder of Christianity in Ireland.

Patrick was born in Roman-controlled Britain. His father was a deacon and one of his grandfathers was a priest. When Patrick was 16, he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They were held captive for six years. While captive, he worked shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God becoming a Christian.

He was eventually able to escape after having a dream from God telling him to leave by going to the coast. He traveled 200 miles to aboard a boat, sailed for 3 days, and walked for 28 days. Nearly starving to death, he prayed and found some wild boars. The visions made him study for the priesthood. At 43, he was ordained a bishop. He had a dream that all the children of Ireland were stretching out their hands to him. He understood vision meant he was to take the Gospel to Ireland.

Patrick arrived in Slane, Ireland on March 25 433. There are several legends about what happened next. One story says he met the chieftain of one of the druid tribes, who tried to kill him. God stopped the chieftain. Patrick was able to convert the chieftain and preach throughout Ireland. He often used the shamrock to explain the Trinity and kingdoms were converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick. Patrick preached and worked in Ireland for 40 years. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, and founded many monasteries. He did many miracles and wrote of his love for God. After years of living in poverty and traveling, he died on March 17, 461.

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Engineers.

Patron Saints of Mothers – Saints Perpetua and Felicity

Felicity and Perpetua lived in the North African city of Carthage. Carthage at the time was part of the Roman Empire. In 202, Emperor Severus declared the penalty for being a Christian was death. There were seven martyrs in this group, Perpetua, her infant son, Felicity, who was pregnant, and four men.

Perpetua began a diary when she was baptized. She had to go against her father’s wishes. She told her father, I cannot call myself anything else other than what I am. Being a follower of Christ was more important than anything, including her life. She knew she must be baptized even knowing the price.

She was arrested with the others, a few days after their baptism. She was able to keep her baby with her in prison. While waiting for her trial Perpetua had visions of Jesus. These visions showed she was going to have to suffer. She should not have hope for the world they were living in.

The Romans gathered a large crowd and questioned the group about their faith. Her father was there with her baby. He begged her to deny her faith. They were condemned to die with the beasts. With great joy, the group returned to prison. They were held for the birthday of the emperor’s son. They would be taken to the amphitheater and given to wild animals. Perpetua kept having visions. She knew she would become a martyr.

Felicity was incredibly sad because of her pregnancy. Her martyrdom would be delayed. It was against the law for a pregnant woman to be killed. She prayed for her baby to be born. Two days before the birthday, she gave birth to a baby girl.

The day of their martyrdom came. They looked as though they were on their way to heaven. The soldiers tried to make the group put on costumes of the pagan gods. Perpetua refused until the soldiers gave in. Two men were killed by the animals. Felicity and Perpetua were charged by a mad bull. Both women were bruised but helped each other up. They started to head for the gate where those who had been victorious were allowed to leave. The mob at the arena shouted for them to be killed. They were beheaded in 203. Perpetua and Felicity are the patron saints of mothers and expectant mothers.

First US born saint- Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia, on November 26, 1858.  Her mother died just after her birth.  She and her older sister were raised by an aunt and uncle for a few years until their father remarried. She had a third sister after she returned to her father’s home. She and her sisters were educated at home by private tutors.  They regularly toured Europe with their family. Twice a week the Drexel family gave food, clothing, and money to those in need.  They always gave quietly to protect the dignity of those in need.

Katharine attended dances and other social functions. Her step-mother became ill. This taught Katharine money could not keep her from pain or death. She had always been interested in the Native Americans. She saw their suffering and poverty. She wanted to do something specific to help. After her father died in 1885, Katharine and her sisters donated money to the St. Francis Mission in South Dakota.

She was considering joining a religious order. Her spiritual mentor told her to wait and pray. The Drexel sisters went to Europe in 1886. In January 1887, they were seen by Pope Leo XIII.  They asked him for missionaries to help some of the Indian missions.  Pope Leo suggested Katherine become a missionary herself. She met again with her spiritual mentor and entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1889.

On February 12, 1891, she took religious vows. She began working with Native Americans and African Americans in the southwestern United States.  She was soon joined by 13 other sisters. She established a religious order. After three years, she and her followers opened her first boarding schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By the time she died, she established 145 missions, 50 schools for African American 12, schools for Native Americans. She helped establish Xavier University of Louisiana. This is the only historically black Catholic college in the United States.

She died on March 3, 1955, at the age of 96.

When a chair is not a Chair – The Chair of Saint Peter

There is an actual physical object known as the Chair of St. Peter. It is at the Vatican, at the back of St. Peter’s Basilica. The actual chair is about 22 inches above the ground about 3 feet wide.  The sides are about 2 feet wide and the back is about 3 and a half foot high.  The entire chair is about four and a half feet high.

More important is what this chair represents.

After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene is told by the angels, “Christ has risen, tell his disciples and Peter.” John and Peter raced to the tomb and believed. They didn’t fully understand until Pentecost.  Pentecost was when Jesus returned to heaven and gave us the Holy Spirit. It is then that Peter can become the spokesman for the disciples. He led the others against the civil Roman government who want to stop their preaching.  He led at the Council of Jerusalem.  He was the first to preach to the Gentiles. With the healing power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit in him, he raised a person from the dead and cured the crippled.  People would carry the sick into the streets so when Peter passed by his shadow would touch the sick.

This did not mean that Peter didn’t make mistakes, For a time Peter stopped eating with Gentiles because he didn’t want to upset the Jewish Christians.  Paul told Peter he was wrong and Peter returned to eating with the Gentiles.

Before Jesus left, he foretold Peter of his death which would glorify God. Peter was martyred under Nero’s reign.

This feast remembers Jesus choosing Peter to lead the Church. It is celebrating the office of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome, which makes the person holding that position as the head of the Church.

Did St. Peter really sit in this chair? Just a few years ago Pope Benedict said the chair is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his successive popes.  The feast of the Chair of Peter is important and celebrates the mission Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter and the popes who followed him. That mission is to safeguard and share the faith with the Christian community.

For more information and teaching materials:
Chair of Saint Peter lesson plans