St. Thomas

(d. first century) — Apostle and martyr. Best known as Thomas the Doubter, he is ranked among the Twelve Apostles in all four Gospels, although the Gospel of John is the most detailed in its inclusion of epistles involving Thomas. Called by John Didymus, Greek for “twin,” he appears in three remarkable moments.

First, he proclaims himself ready to die with Christ, saying on the way to Bethany, “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). Next, he tells the Lord, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” prompting Christ to state, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (Jn 14:5-6). Finally, Thomas doubts his fellow disciples when they tell him of seeing the risen Christ (Jn 20:25), but he cries out, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) when he actually comes face to face with the Lord.

Little is known with certainty about his later life, although Eusebius of Caesarea asserted in the Ecclesiastical History that Thomas preached among the Parthians in the East. This account is joined by a host of legends and traditions concerning Thomas’ missionary efforts in India, where he is still considered the founder of the Malabar Christians, the so-called Thomas Christians.

He was perhaps martyred near Mylapore, near Madras, a description of which was prescribed in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, written in Syriac during the third century and much influenced by the Gnostics. Other writings attributed to Thomas include the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and The Book of Thomas the Athlete. His relics are supposedly enshrined in Ortona, Italy. His symbols are the lance, ax, and carpenter’s square.

Feast day: July 3

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

(1656-80)  — The Lily of the Mohawks, a mystic and convert to the faith.

Kateri (Catherine) was the daughter of a Mohawk war chief and an Algonquin Christian woman. She was born in the Indian village of Ossernenon, Auriesville, New York, which had been the site of the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues and St. Jean de Lalande in 1646.

Kateri was orphaned in a smallpox epidemic, and the disease left her partially blind and with a disfigured face. When Father Jacques de Lamberville of France came to her village, Kateri asked for baptism. Her Catholic faith and her refusal to marry exposed Kateri to abuse by her fellow Mohawks. Fearing for her life, she fled the village with the aid of Christian warriors, going to the Christian Indian community of Sault Sainte Marie, near Montreal, Canada.

Kateri received her First Communion on Christmas Day 1677. In 1679, she took a vow of chastity, dedicating herself to Christ. During her last year on earth, she exhibited mystical gifts and was highly revered by the French and Indians.

She died on April 17 at Caughnawaga, Canada, and on her deathbed her face was rendered free of all blemish and disfigurement. Kateri began to appear to priests and Indians soon after her death, and miracles were reported through her intercession.

She was declared venerable in 1943 by Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) and was beatified on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II. She became the first Native American saint when she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.

Feast day: July 14

Mary Magdalen

(d. first century) — A devoted follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry, a model of penitence.

Mary is believed to have come from Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias. She is identified in Scriptures as the woman who anointed Christ’s feet at the house of Simon (Lk 7:36). She may have had devils cast out of her by Christ (Mk 16:9; Lk 8:2).

Mary Magdalen ministered to Christ and the Apostles in (Lk 8:2) and was at the crucifixion (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; Jn 19:25). She discovered the empty tomb with the other holy women on Easter morning and was the first person to encounter the risen Christ (Mt 28:9; Mk 16:9; Jn 20:1-18).

Mary Magdalen is traditionally reported to have accompanied St. John to Ephesus. Another tradition states that she went with St. Lazarus and his sisters to Gaul (modern France).

The Greek Church records that Mary Magdalen’s relics were enshrined in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 886. The tradition placing her in Gaul states that she was a hermitess at La Sainte-Baume. At her death she was transported to Aix and buried there.

In 745, her relics were moved to Vezelay because of a Saracen invasion. In 1279, her relics were found once again at Sainte-Baume and were placed in a sarcophagus in 1600, donated by Pope Clement VIII (r. 1592-1605). Her head was buried separately and is still revered at Sainte-Baume.

Feast day: July 22

James the Greater

(d. 44) — Apostle and patron saint of Spain, known also as Santiago, and honored at the great shrine of Compostela.

The son of Zebedee and Salome, he fished for a living with his brother John in Galilee. Matthew, Mark, and Luke attest to his calling by Christ. Jesus nicknamed James and John boanerges, “the sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17).
James was with Peter and John at the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mk 5:37; Lk 8:51). These three Apostles were also at the Trans­figuration (Mk 9:2) and at the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-33; Mt 26:37).

James is the protomartyr of the Apostles, slain by King Herod Agrippa I (r. 41-44) in Jerusalem (Acts 12:2). He was beheaded, and his martyrdom is the only one recorded for the Apostles in the New Testament.
According to tradition, he preached in Spain before his death and thus became one of the most venerated of the Spanish saints. It is generally accepted in Spain that his remains were taken to Compostela during the Middle Ages.

In liturgical art, he is depicted as an elderly man, with scallop shells as adornments. Sometimes he is depicted as a pilgrim.

Feast day: July 25

Joachim

(d. first century) — The father of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also listed as Cleophas, Eliacim, Heli, Jonachir, and Sadoc.

No details of his life are extant. He has been venerated in the Eastern Church since the ear­liest days and in the West since the sixteenth century.

The apocryphal Protoevangelium of St. James states that Joachim was born in Nazareth and married St. Anne while still young. When mocked for being childless, Joachim fasted for forty days in the desert until an angel announced that he and Anne would have a child. He is reported to have died after witnessing the presentation of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem.

Feast day: July 26

Anne

(first century B.C.) — The mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called also Ann, Anna, and Hannah (the Hebrew word for “grace”).

She was the wife of St. Joachim. Information concerning these parents of Mary is taken from apocryphal sources: The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Pseudo-Matthew, and the Protoevangelium of James.

St. Anne became popular in the Roman Church in the thirteenth century, having been venerated in the Eastern Church since earliest times. Anne and Joachim had been married for a long time without children. Both prayed for an end to their barrenness, and an angel appeared to Anne, telling her that she would conceive. The angel also told her that the fruit of her womb “shall be blessed by all the world.”

Many legends have flourished about Anne, but little is known about her life. Veneration of Anne has been constant throughout the history of the Church, particularly in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). There she was included in the calendar, one of the oldest documents of Christendom.

Her feast was instituted in the Roman calendar in 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV (r. 1471-1484), and universally by Pope Gregory XIII (r. 1572-1585).

She is the patron of widows, pregnant women, plague victims, childless women, nursemaids, and many other individual careers. Anne is also patron of the city of Florence, as the city was freed of a tyrant on her feast day. She is also patron of Naples and Innsbruck. St. Anne’s water was long considered a remedy for physical ailments. She is depicted in liturgical art as a matron, sometimes with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Feast day: July 26

Martha

(d.c. 80) — Sister of Sts. Lazarus and Mary at Bethany, Israel, and patroness of cooks and housewives.

She was the hostess of the household, probably the elder sister. When Jesus stayed at the home in Bethany, Martha was solicitous for his welfare. On one visit, recorded in Luke (10:38-42), Martha complained that Mary sat listening to Jesus, leaving her with all the work. Jesus chided her saying, “It is Mary who has chosen the better part.”

Martha thus became the prototype of the activist Christian and Mary the symbol of the contemplative life. However, Martha was the one who went out to meet Jesus when Lazarus died (Jn 11:20), while Mary remained at home.

Tradition states that Martha went with Mary and Lazarus to Gaul (modern France), serving as missionaries.

Feast day: July 29

For further reading, check out The Saints Devotional Bible.