St. Justin, martyr

St. Justin was born around A.D. 100 at Flavia Neapolis, Italy, and died a martyr at Rome in 165. Justin's aggressive presentation of the Faith made many enemies at Rome and ultimately cost him his life. He was beheaded for refusing to worship the Roman gods.

Feast day: June 1

St. Anthony of Padua

(1195-1231) Doctor of the Church, a Franciscan called "the Hammer of the Heretics," "the Wonder-Worker," and "the Living Ark of the Covenant." He was born Fernando Martin de Bulhom in Lisbon, Portugal, the son of a knight of the court of King Alfonso II (r. 1152-1196). In 1212, he became a canon regular of St. Augustine in Lisbon and was educated at Coimbra in 1219 or 1220. The arrival of relics of five Franciscan martyrs of Morocco in 1221 led Anthony to join the Franciscans. He went on a mission to Morocco but returned because of ill health and attended the general chapter (meeting) of the order in Assisi in 1221.

Becoming known as a preacher and for his zeal and eloquence, Anthony traveled throughout Italy for his order and assumed various administrative positions. From 1222 to 1224, Anthony preached against the Cathars. From 1224 to 1227, he confronted the heretical Albigensians. Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227-1241) gave him permission in 1230 to put aside other duties to continue this preaching mission.

Anthony settled in Padua, reformed the city, abolished the debtors’ prison, and aided the poor. In 1231, he suffered from exhaustion and dropsy, and recovered briefly in Camposanpiero. On his return to Padua, he collapsed and died at a Poor Clare convent at Arcella, on June 13, 1231
Anthony was called "the Wonder-Worker" for his many reported miracles. He preached to crowds in the rain, but his audiences remained dry despite the downpour. He was hailed as a thaumaturgist after healing a man’s severed leg and restoring life to a man so that he could testify in a murder case. The Christ Child also appeared to Anthony in a halo.

Anthony is patron of Padua, Lisbon, Split, Paderborn, Hildesheim, children, travelers, married couples, women, animals, and miners. He is invoked against infertility, demons, fevers, wars, shipwrecks, and plagues and is a popular saint for retrieving lost items. In liturgical art, he is shown as a Franciscan, sometimes with the Christ Child. He was canonized in 1232 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

Feast day: June 13

The Holy Trinity

A movable observance held on the Sunday after Pentecost, solemnity. Commemorates the most sublime mystery of the Christian faith, i.e., that there are Three Divine Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- in one God (Mt 28:1820). A votive Mass of the Most Holy Trinity dates from the seventh century; an Office was composed in the 10th century; in 1334, John XXII extended the feast to the universal Church.

Celebrated on May 31, 2015

St. Thomas More

(1478-1535) Lord chancellor of England, humanist, scholar, and famed English martyr. Thomas was born in London on February 6, 1478, the son of John More, a lawyer and judge. At the age of twelve he went into the service of John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury, as a page. He then attended Oxford University and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, receiving admission to the bar in 1501 and entering Parliament in 1504. The following year he married Jane Colt, at the advice of his spiritual director, John Colet. The couple had three daughters and a son. Jane died in 1511, and that same year Thomas wed the widow Alice Middleton. During this time, he emerged as one of the leading figures of the late Renaissance, becoming friends with Desiderius Erasmus and William Grocyn.

In 1510, a year after the succession of King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547), Thomas began a meteoric rise in English political life: undersheriff (1510); participant in a mission to Flanders (1515); participant in a mission to Calais (1517); master of requests and royal councilor (1518); companion to King Henry on his famous trip to the Continent, including his encounter with Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1558) on the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520); knighted (1521); speaker of the House of Commons (1523); high steward for the University of Cambridge and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster (1525); and chancellor of England (1529) in succession to Cardinal Wolsey who had fallen from favor and power owing to Wolsey’s failure to secure a divorce between Henry and Queen Catherine of Aragon.

When Henry insisted that his divorce should proceed without the approval of the pope and began taking severe measures against the Catholic Church in England, More resigned as chancellor on May 16, 1532. He retired to his estate in Chelsea and there faced the royal displeasure, political exile, and financial difficulties. When he refused to take the Oath of Succession, he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London on April 17, 1534. He remained there until July 1535 when he was tried and condemned for treason, largely through the perjury of Richard Rich (later chancellor himself). Thomas was beheaded on July 6, 1535, the same year as the other famed saint and martyr, John Fisher (f.d. June 22, with Thomas More). Thomas’ last words were that he was "the King’s good servant, but God’s first." Thomas’ head was displayed on the Tower Bridge until taken and buried in the Roper Vault at St. Dunstan’s, Canterbury. His body rests at St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London.

One of the greatest intellectuals of his age, Thomas was also a prolific writer. His works included: Utopia (1516), a criticism of his English society and his most renowned book; epigrams; translations of Lucian’s dialogues (1506); a defense of King Henry’s treatise Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, which had been authored in defense of the sacraments against Martin Luther; translations of Pico della Mirandola; The Four Last Things (1520); Dialogue Concerning Heresies and Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, against the writing of the Protestant reformer Matthew Tyndale; and the treatise Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (published in 1553) and the unfinished treatise on the Passion (published in 1557), which were composed during his imprisonment.

Long revered as one of the great martyrs, Thomas was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) and was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI (r. 1922-1939). He was declared patron of politicians on October 31, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. Many portraits exist of Thomas, the most famous being that of Holbein, the original of which is housed in the Frick Museum in New York City.

Feast day: June 22

Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ; moveable)

A movable observance, celebrated on the Thursday (or Sunday, as in the U.S.) following Trinity Sunday, solemnity. Commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist (Mt 26:26-28). The feast originated at Liège in 1246 and was extended throughout the Church in the West by Urban IV in 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast.

Birth of St. John the Baptist

The precursor of Christ, whose cousin he was, was commemorated universally in the liturgy by the fourth century. He is the only saint, except the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose birthday is observed as a feast. Another feast, on Aug. 29, commemorates his passion and death at the order of Herod (Mk 6:14-29).

Feast day: June 24

Sacred Heart of Jesus

A movable observance held on the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost (Corpus Christi, in the U.S.), solemnity. The object of the devotion is the divine Person of Christ, whose heart is the symbol of his love for all people -- for whom he accomplished the work of Redemption. The Mass and Office now used on the feast were prescribed by Pius XI in 1929. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was introduced into the liturgy in the 17th century through the efforts of St. John Eudes who composed an Office and Mass for the feast. It was furthered as the result of the revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque after 1675 and by the work of St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J. In 1765, Clement XIII approved a Mass and Office for the feast, and in 1856 Pius IX extended the observance throughout the Roman rite.


Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Saturday following the second Sunday after Pentecost, memorial. On May 4, 1944, Pius XII ordered this feast observed throughout the Church in order to obtain Mary’s intercession for “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue.” Two years earlier, he consecrated the entire human race to Mary under this title. Devotion to Mary under the title of her Most Pure Heart originated during the Middle Ages. It was given great impetus in the 17th century by the preaching of St. John Eudes, who was the first to celebrate a Mass and Divine Office of Mary under this title. A feast, celebrated in various places and on different dates, was authorized in 1799.


St. Peter

(d.c. 64) Simon Peter or Cephas (“the Rock”), the first pope, Prince of the Apostles, and founder, with St. Paul, of the see of Rome. Peter was a native of Bethsaida, near Lake Tiberias, the son of John, and worked, like his brother St. Andrew, as a fisherman. Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus, and Christ called Peter to become a disciple (Mt 4:18-20; Mk 1:16-18; Lk 5:1-11; Jn 1:40-42). In Luke is recounted the story that Peter caught so large an amount of fish that he fell down before the feet of Jesus and was told by the Lord, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (5:10). Jesus also gave Simon a new name: Cephas, or “the Rock” (hence Peter, from the Greek petros, for “rock”).

Becoming a disciple of Jesus, Peter acknowledged him as “the Messiah, the son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Christ responded by saying: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18). He added: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). Peter was always listed as the first of the Apostles in all of the New Testament accounts and was a member of the inner circle of Jesus, with James and John. He is recorded more than any other disciple and was at Jesus’ side at the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:37), and the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:33; Mt 26:37). He helped organize the Last Supper and played a major role in the events of the Passion. When the Master was arrested, he cut off the right ear of a slave of the high priest Malchus (Jn 18:10-11) and then denied Christ three times as the Lord predicted (Mt 26:34). Peter then “went out and began to weep bitterly” (Mt 26:75).

After the Resurrection, Peter went to the tomb with the “other disciple” (probably John) after being told of the event by the women. The first appearance of the risen Christ was before Peter, ahead of the other disciples, and when the Lord came before the disciples at Tiberias, he gave to Peter the famous command to “feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). In the time immediately after the Ascension, Peter stood as the unquestionable head of the Apostles, his position made evident in the Acts. He appointed the replacement of Judas Iscariot (1:15-22); he spoke first to the crowds that had assembled after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (2:14-41); he was the first Apostle to perform miracles in the name of the Lord (3:1-10); and he rendered judgment upon the deceitful Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11).

Peter was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. He baptized the Roman pagan Cornelius (10:1-11:18), and at the Council of Jerusalem (c. 49) he gave his support to preaching to Gentiles, thereby permitting the new Church to become universal. Imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa I (r. 41-44), he was aided in an escape by an angel. He then resumed his apostolate in Jerusalem, and his missionary efforts included travels to such cities of the pagan world as Antioch, Corinth, and eventually Rome. He made reference to the Eternal City in his first Epistle (5:13) by noting that he writes from Babylon (a name commonly used for Rome among the early Christians). It is certain that Peter died in Rome and that his martyrdom came during the reign of Emperor Nero (r. 54-68), probably in 64. Testimony of his martyrdom is extensive, coming from a number of sources including Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Pope St. Clement I of Rome (r. 88-97), St. Ignatius, and St. Irenaeus. According to rich tradition, Peter was crucified on the Vatican Hill upside down because he declared himself unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. He was then buried on Vatican Hill; excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica have unearthed his probable tomb, and his relics are now enshrined under the high altar of St. Peter’s.

From the earliest days of the Church, Peter was recognized as the Prince of the Apostles and the first supreme pontiff; his see, Rome, has thus enjoyed the position of primacy over the entire Catholic Church.

While Peter’s chief feast day is June 29, he is also honored on February 22 and November 18. In liturgical art, he is depicted as an elderly man holding a key and a book. His symbols include an inverted cross, a boat (for the barque of Christ), and the cock (for the triple denial of Christ).

Feast day: June 29

St. Paul

(d.c. 67) Apostle of the Gentiles, martyr, and one of the greatest missionaries, mystics, and theologians in the history of the Church. He was born in the city of Tarsus, Cilicia (modern Turkey), of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin. A Roman citizen originally called Saul, he was raised as a Pharisee (the most rigid of the Jewish sects of the period) in Tarsus, learned the craft of tent making (a profession he used in later life while traveling the Roman Empire), and studied Jewish law as well as Greek and Latin. Sent at some time to Jerusalem, he found there a teacher, the famed rabbi Gamaliel, at whose feet (Acts 22:3) he mastered the Torah. After developing strong ties to Jerusalem, he returned to Tarsus - almost certainly before the commencement of Jesus’ public ministry -- and there gradually came into contact with the new sect of the Nazarenes, as the early followers of Christ were called, a few years after the crucifixion. Saul became a dedicated opponent of the new Church and was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen; in fact, he guarded the robes of those who stoned the protomartyr and was “consenting to his execution” (Acts 7:58-8:1). Setting out for Damascus to carry on the persecution of the Nazarenes, he underwent his renowned conversion (Acts 9:1-19; 22:5-16; 26:12-18) while on the road.

Left blind by the light, which he understood to be Christ himself, he was taken to Damascus and sat for three days in the darkness. Baptized by Ananias, his sight restored, he left the city to spend several years in Arabia in prayer and meditation. Returning to Damascus, he took up preaching the faith and met such heated resistance that he had to make a secret escape from the city by being lowered down the city wall in a basket.

He went to Jerusalem where he met with Peter and other skeptical Apostles, convincing them, with the aid of Barnabas, of his sincerity. After preaching in Cilicia (modern Turkey) and Caesarea (modern Israel), Paul embarked on the first of his great missionary journeys in about the year 45. Joined by Barnabas and Mark, Paul (as he was forever after known) sailed to Cyprus and Asia Minor, establishing communities in Antioch, Pisidia, Iconium, and elsewhere. His missionary efforts created much upheaval in some cities - he was even stoned and left for dead by a mob - but they also found fertile spiritual soil among the Gentiles. Paul returned to Antioch (c. 49) with the news that “he had opened a door of faith” (Acts 14:27) to the Gentiles. This opportunity sparked the first major controversy within the Nazarene community, a dispute settled by the Council of Jerusalem circa 49, at which it was decided that conversions should be promoted among the Gentile population. Paul, henceforth, was the most ardent missionary among the pagan populations of the Roman Empire.

About 50, he set out on his second missionary journey with Silas, traveling to Asia Minor and then to Macedonia and Greece. In Athens, he met with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers before moving on to Corinth where he remained a year.

Paul’s third missionary journey began circa 55. He journeyed to Asia Minor and Greece, spending two years in Ephesus and visiting Colossa, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Corinth. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was attacked by Jewish enemies and was saved from certain death by a squad of Roman soldiers. Charged by the Sanhedrin with bringing Gentiles into the temple of Jerusalem, he used his privileges as a Roman citizen to be sent to Caesarea for trial before the governor. He spent two years in prison, and when the trial was finally held, he appealed to Rome. He was sent by ship to Caesar under a Roman guard, only to be shipwrecked at Malta. Finally tried in Rome, he was acquitted.

Paul’s remaining years are quite obscure. It is believed that he went to Syria, Palestine, Greece, Crete, and Spain. Arrested once more, he was taken back to Rome and placed in close confinement. He wrote of his expected fate in his Second Letter to Timothy (4:6-8). His martyrdom came about the year 67 at the command of Emperor Nero (r. 54-68). Paul was most likely beheaded (as reported by Tertullian); according to the apocryphal Acts of St. Paul, he was slain on the left bank of the Tiber. He was said to have been buried in a cemetery on the Via Ostia owned by a Christian named Lucina, the site where, in later years, the basilica of St. Paolo Fuori le Mure (St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls) was built.

One of the most imaginative, eloquent, and passionate Christian writers, Paul was imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, flogged, stoned, banished, and finally martyred for his faith. Throughout his missionary travels, he wrote extensively, and fully one-third of the New Testament is comprised of his letters. His writing had a profound effect on Christian theology, especially Christology, and on the doctrines on grace, predestination, free will, baptism, and the attainment of Christian perfection. His writings are: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

Liturgically, Paul is commemorated on June 29, with St. Peter, and on January 25, the feast of his conversion. In liturgical art, he is portrayed with a sword or a book, and his symbol is traditionally the book and the sword.

Feast day: June 29

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