St. Peter Claver

Peter Claver (1580-1654) — The “Apostle of the Negroes” who gave his life to the conversion of the slaves brought to the New World.

Born near Barcelona, Spain, he was the son of a farmer. After studying at the University of Barcelona, he entered the Society of Jesus at Tarragona in 1602. Sent to study at Majorca, he came under the influence of St. Alphonsus Rodríguez, who convinced him to embark on missionary labors in the New World.

In 1610, he reached Cartagena, in modern Colombia, where he found vast numbers of West African slaves who had been brought to the Americas to work in the Spanish colonies. Their plight was so frightful and the conditions of their slavery so inhumane that Peter pledged himself to be “the slave of the negroes forever.”

His remaining years were spent on behalf of the slaves, and he endured humiliations and resistance from local officials and members of Spanish colonial society. Regularly, he rowed out to the crowded, disease-ridden slave ships to bring food and solace to the afflicted slaves. He also defended their rights as human beings. It is estimated that he baptized as many as three hundred thousand Africans.

Beatified in 1850 by Blessed Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-1878), he was canonized on February 15, 1888, by Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903); in 1896 he was named patron of Catholic missions among the blacks.

Feast day: September 9

Matthew

(d. first century) — Apostle, also called Levi, or Matthew the Levite. He was probably born in Galilee and worked as a tax collector at Capernaum (Mt 9:9-13) when Christ called him to follow him (Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27-32). Matthew was the author of the first Gospel, written between 60 and 90. It was probably in Hebraic or in Aramaic in its original form. Some scholars believe Matthew was in Antioch, Syria, when he wrote the Gospel. This apostle preached in Jerusalem and then went to Ethiopia, where he was martyred in Persia (modern Iran) or in Ethiopia. Matthew provides a telling portrait of Christ in his Gospel, including his genealogy, ministry, Passion, and Resurrection. The entire work is designed to provide a true recognition of Christ as the Messiah. Matthew is represented in liturgical art by an angel holding a lance, a coin, a pen, or a money box.

Feast day: September 21

St. Vincent de Paul

(c. 1580-1660) —Founder of the Lazarist Fathers and Sisters of Charity and one of the greatest French saints. A native of Ranquine, Gascony, France, he was the son of a peasant farmer. After studies under the Franciscans at Dax, he received ordination in 1600 and made further studies at the University of Toulouse. Five years later (in 1605) he was traveling by sea when his ship was captured by Barbary pirates and he was taken into slavery. After two hard years in captivity, he escaped, going to Rome and then reaching Paris, France, in 1609. There he came under the influence of Cardinal Pierre de Berulle. At his urging, Vincent gave himself completely to the life of charitable works and first distinguished himself in the parish of Clichy. In 1613, he was named to the household of the powerful nobleman, the Comte de Gondi, and spent much of his time on the galleys of which the count was the commanding admiral. Vincent sought to end the terrible suffering of the rowers.

Upon returning to Paris, he continued to devote his energies to the poor, establishing confraternities of men and women to organize aid for the poor and the large numbers of sick. Essential to his efforts were the donations made by wealthy noblewomen who made possible the founding of hospitals and an orphanage. In 1625, in Paris, Vincent founded the Congregation of the Missions, called the Lazarites or Vincentians, a society of priests charged with missionary efforts, the training of clergy, and preaching among the country people. In 1633, with St. Louise de Marillac (f.d. April 28), he founded the Sisters of Charity, the first congregation of women to care for the sick and poor outside of the convent. During Vincent’s life, the Vincentians increased in number and spread across the world. In 1643, Vincent was named to the Council of Conscience of Queen Anne of Austria, regent for King Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715). He was responsible for organizing relief during the bitter wars of the Fronde, which troubled France from 1648-1653. Throughout his long years of service to the poor, Vincent stood as the conscience of the kingdom. But he recognized that he faced opposition from the wealthy of the time who found it easier to forget the poor and from the poor themselves who lacked appreciation and whom Vincent called hard taskmasters. He died in Paris on September 27 and was canonized by Pope Clement XII (r. 1730-1740) in 1737.

Feast day: September 27

Archangels

Feast day: September 29

Gabriel
The "Angel of the Annunciation," mentioned as the angel sent to Zachariah (Lk 1:11-19), in the Book of Daniel (8:16, 9:21), and to proclaim the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). Gabriel is associated with the Incarnation of Christ. He announced the coming of Christ in the Old Testament, and he told Zachariah of the birth of St. John the Baptist. His cult was started very early in Rome. In traditional angelology, Gabriel is also believed to guard the Tree of Life and may have been the heavenly being who expelled Adam and Eve from Eden. He is usually depicted as a handsome archangel, holding a scroll emblazoned with the Ave Maria. Gabriel is patron of modern telecommunications and of postal services. His emblem is a spear and shield emblazoned with a lily.

Michael
Archangel and one of the three angels (with Gabriel and Raphael) whom the Church venerates by name. Michael’s name means "who is like God," and in Christian lore, he is one of the chief angels in heaven. The Church honors Michael with four main titles. First, he is the Christian angel of death, assisting the soul of each person in its journey after death to heaven for judgment. One tradition states that Michael grants a final chance to all people to redeem themselves before death and so causes consternation for the devil and his minions. Second, he is the special patron and protector of the Chosen People of the Old Testament. Third, he is the supreme foe of Satan and the fallen legions, being named specifically in the Book of Revelation as fighting against Satan and coming at the end of the world to command the hosts of the Lord in the final struggle. Finally, he is the guardian of the Church.

Michael appears twice in the Old Testament. In Daniel (10:13), he is termed "Michael, one of the chief princes," and then "the great prince" (12:1). His prominence in Jewish legend and traditions as a powerful angelic leader, an angel of healing, and prince of the archangels made certain his significant role in the Christian tradition of angels. Veneration of Michael dates to a very early time in Christian history, accompanied by an extensive body of legends. He supposedly visited Emperor Constantine I (r. 306-337), made a dramatic appearance over the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) in Rome in answer to an appeal during an outbreak of plague (the plague stopped and ever since the mausoleum has been called the Castel Sant’Angelo in his honor), and intervened in assorted wars and battles. St. Joan of Arc (d. 1431) credited Michael as one of the holy spirits who aided her and gave her the courage to save France from the English during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). Numerous theologians examined Michael, including the Greek Fathers, such as St. Basil the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas, who devoted a section of the Summa Theologiae to angels.

Michael’s role as an angel of healing was celebrated by churches in Asia Minor, where he was reputed to have caused healing springs to flow and where churches in his name were visited frequently by the sick and lame. Sailors in Normandy invoke him as their patron, and in 1950 Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) named him the patron of policemen. The famed monastery, Mont-Saint-Michel, is named in his honor. A truly beloved angel, Michael has long been a favorite subject of art, depicted usually as a tall, handsome angel holding a sword and shield, lance, banner, or scales; often he is shown doing battle with Satan or a dragon.

Raphael

One of the angels venerated by name in the Church, with Michael and Gabriel. The name Raphael means "the Healer of God," and the angel is considered one of the angels of healing. He is honored in Christian lore as the head of the guardian angels, the angel of knowledge, and the angel of science. In the Old Testament, Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit, in which he provides much needed assistance to Tobias, helping to rid him of the frightful torments of the demon Asmodeus. At the end of the book, he tells Tobias: "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (12:15). He is not mentioned in the New Testament, but a certain tradition identifies him as the angel of the sheep pool in John (5:2). Raphael is also a prominent figure in the angelic lore and customs of Judaism (such as the legend that he was one of the three angels who visited Abraham prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). Poets have also made Raphael a part of their famous compositions, such as Milton, in Paradise Lost, in which the angel was termed "the sociable spirit, that deigned to travel with Tobias" (Book V). In liturgical art, he is depicted as a young man carrying a staff or a fish.

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