Catholic Saints

patron saint of sports saint sebastian's important message for athletes

I’d imagine every Roman Catholic has a different favorite Saint to call upon whenever faced with a particularly difficult challenge or when a particular Saint can help them through a crisis. The vivid stories of all the Saints, most of whom bravely defended their faith in the face of adversity, serve to inspire and strengthen us all.

painting of saint sebastian shot with arrows tied to a tree

Remember, however, that praying for a Saint’s support is not only good practice during times of need, but is also there at any time to support and strengthen you.

Luckily, practically all our endeavors have been placed under the guardianship of a Saint. We pray to Saint Anthony when we’ve lost something, implore Saint Jude when all else has failed and call upon Saint Francis to bless our animals and pets. The intercession of Saints serves to strengthen our faith and add weight to our prayers.

Most Catholics have a special relationship with a small number of Saints, and whenever we need help, we pray to one of these, hoping to receive support. The Saint becomes our representative before God – rightly so – because after all, these Saints have all displayed a greater love and commitment to God than most men and women.

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The Most Popular Patron Saints and Angels

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of choosing patron Saints. Today, a simple internet search will quickly produce a list of hundreds of patron Saints, all of whom have a special area of expertise.

Patron Saints are often selected because of the life they lead. Saint Francis of Assisi loved animals and nature and is, therefore, the patron Saint of ecologists. Francis de Sales was a writer and has, consequently, become an advocate for journalists and authors. Whatever profession, art or situation, you can find a patron Saint and ask for her/his assistance.

Angels and archangels are also exceedingly popular. Thousands of people pray for the protection of Archangel Michael or the assistance of Angel Gabriel. Among the most popular patron Saints are Saint Anthony, Saint Jude, Saint Francis, Saint Sebastian, Saint Christopher, Saint Patrick, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Joseph, Saint Cecilia, Saint Valentine, Saint Therese of Lisieux, St Padre Pio and Saint Christopher. These Saints have become part of our everyday spiritual landscape and can be an enormous source of comfort and strength.

graphic - most popular patron saints list

To illustrate what a powerful role patron Saints can play in our daily activities, let’s look at the lives of two of the most popular Saints: Saint Sebastian, who is an advocate for athletes, and Saint Christopher, whose medal many of us have on our car key ring or pendant.

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Saint Sebastian – Patron Saints of Sports

Recently, Saint Sebastian has become very popular. He was even named Patron Saint of last year’s Olympic games in Rio. Athletes and sports people have sought inspiration and intercession from Saint Sebastian, and we have to take a look at his life story to understand why Saint Sebastian has become the patron Saint of athletes.

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Saint Sebastian’s Life Story

Saint Sebastian is believed to have come from France and was educated in Milan. In 283 AD, he joined the army, serving the Roman emperor Diocletian. Diocletian was particularly brutal in his treatment of Christians, arresting and executing them in large numbers. Many believe that Sebastian joined the army and became an undercover preacher so he could minister to the Christians in the army and those in custody.

Because he was a highly capable soldier, he moved up the ranks quickly and became a Praetorian Guard for the Emperor, Diocletian. Secretly, Sebastian spent much of his time preaching to soldiers and prisoners, and he soon became known as a powerful healer. Throughout his life in the army, he also converted many soldiers to Christianity.

However, after several years, he was caught and sentenced to death by Diocletian. Soldiers brought him to a field and tied him to a tree. He was used as an archery target and hit by countless arrows. The soldiers eventually left, believing he was dead.

saint sebastian's journeys quote

A woman, known as Irene of Rome, bravely recovered Sebastian. Her husband had been martyred by the same emperor and consequently, she wanted to help Sebastian. Within weeks, she nursed him back to full health.

Having regained all his strength and realizing what had happened, Sebastian decided to publicly denounce Diocletian. He knew a place where the emperor would pass, waited for him and publically admonished him for his treatment of Christians.

Surprised to see Sebastian alive, Diocletian quickly had him arrested and once again sentenced to death. This time, he ordered soldiers to beat him to death with clubs. Sebastian died, and his body was thrown into the local sewer.

In a vision, Sebastian asked a woman to recover his body. She obliged, and Sebastian was buried in the catacombs of Rome. Later, his remains were dispersed, and many relics from his remains are on display in churches throughout Europe.

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Prayer to Saint Sebastian

Because of Sebastian’s strength and tenacity, many athletes pray for his intercession. The following prayer is the most well-known prayer to Saint Sebastian.

Dear Commander at the Roman Emperors court,

You chose to be also a soldier of Christ and dared to spread

The faith in the King of Kings – for which you were condemned to die.

Your body, however, proved athletically strong, and the executing arrows extremely weak.

So, another means to kill you was chosen, and you gave your life to the Lord.

May athletes be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint clearly has been. Amen

Many athletes recite this prayer before competition and may also carry a Saint Sebastian medal.

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What We Can Learn from Saint Sebastian

When we reflect on the life of Saint Sebastian, there are several qualities we can aspire to attain:

aged painting of saint sebastian tied to a post
  • Work Ethic: Saint Sebastian was deeply dedicated to his work in the army, as well as to his service to Christ. His quick rise to higher ranks illustrates a strong work ethic, even in the face of great adversity. His dedication to Christ was even more pronounced. By joining the army to spread the word of God and support Christians in the army and in prison, he put his own life in danger.
  • Courage: Saint Sebastian displayed enormous courage, not just during his time as an undercover soldier, but especially after the first execution attempt. He risked his life to serve Christ and preach the gospel.
  • Endurance: Saint Sebastian bravely endured and survived the first execution attempt. This can be particularly inspiring for athletes who feel like giving up during an endurance test or competition.

It seems fitting that Saint Sebastian is the patron Saint of sports.

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Catholic Athletes

As Catholics with a public profile, athletes have a responsibility to live out their faith. Catholic athletes like Bonnie Blair (a speed skater) are involved in organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services. Some other notable Catholic athletes are:

  • Jordan Speith (Golf)
  • Brett Favre (Football)
  • Timothy Goebel (Figure Skater)
  • Joe DiMaggio (Baseball)
  • Kobe Bryant (Basketball)
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Saint Christopher – Patron Saint of Travelers and Motorists

Even though Saint Christopher was never canonized by the Catholic Church, he is one of the most popular Saints. The story of how he carried Christ across a ferocious river is well known, and many people pray for his protection before traveling.

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Saint Christopher’s Life Story

Finding Saint Christopher in history books is difficult. The name “Christopher” means “Christ-bearer” and is associated with the Egyptian Saint, Menas. Christopher may also have been a martyr by the name of Reprobus, who died in 251 AD. However, many legends and popular stories speak about the Saint Christopher we know and love today.

In these stories, he is described as a man of exceedingly tall stature. One day, he decided to serve the greatest king on earth and went to offer his services to the local ruler. who gladly accepted Christopher’s offer. When Christopher saw the king making the sign of the cross at the mention of the devil, he deemed the devil to be more powerful than the king and decided to serve the devil instead. He joined a band of thieves, the leader of which called himself the devil.

Believing he was now serving the most powerful king, Christopher was surprised to see the devil avoiding the sign of the cross and once again realized there was someone even mightier.

st christopher with baby painting patron saint of travellers

Wishing to find out about Christ, Christopher went to a local hermit to seek advice. The hermit educated him about Christ’s life and teachings and told Christopher to fast and pray.

But because Christopher was so tall and strong, he vehemently objected to fasting and asked if there was another way to serve the Lord. Following deep reflection, Christopher offered to help travelers across a nearby river, reassured by the hermit that doing so would please Christ.

The river was extremely dangerous, and many people had lost their lives trying to get to the other side. One day, a small child approached Christopher and asked to be taken across. Mid-stream, the waters suddenly rose, and the child became exceedingly heavy. Exerting himself completely, Christopher finally managed to bring the child to safety.

When Christopher inquired as to why he was so heavy, the child told him that he was Christ and that Christopher had indeed carried the whole world on his shoulders. The child then vanished from Christopher’s sight.

According to legends, Christopher left and started to evangelize people and eventually arrived in Lycia, Asia Minor. After several attempts to execute him, Christopher was eventually captured and beheaded.

Christopher only became popularized in the 7th century, when several churches were named after him. Even though he was never officially beatified, Saint Christopher is one of the most cherished Saints in the Catholic tradition.

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Prayer to Saint Christopher

Many people pray to Saint Christopher before setting off on a journey.

Saint Christopher “Motorist’s Prayer:

Grant me O Lord a steady hand and watchful eye.

That no one shall be hurt as I pass by.

Thou gravest life, I pray no act of mine

May take away or mar that gift of Thine.

Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company,

From the evils of fire and all calamity.

Teach me to use my car for others need;

Nor miss through love of undue speed

The beauty of the world; that thus I may

With joy and courtesy go on my way.

St. Christopher, holy patron of travelers,

Protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.

st christopher silver medal charm on bracelet
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What We Can Learn from Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher continues to inspire us with his strength and courage, and perhaps we can try to replicate some of his many qualities:

  • Humility: Throughout his life, Saint Christopher wanted to serve the greatest king, despite his own strength and power. He humbled himself to imitate Christ’s humility
  • Desire to Serve Others: Saint Christopher served and protected whomever he brought across the river. After carrying Christ, he went on to serve Christ by evangelizing thousands of people.
  • Endurance: Saint Christopher endured adversity throughout his life and remained dedicated to serving Christ.
  • Desire to Protect Others: Today, we pray to St. Christopher for protection, knowing of his desire to protect the people he carried across the river.

Saint Christopher displayed such strength and determination that it is apt for us to ask for his intercession whenever we travel. Despite the power of the river and the weight of Christ, Saint Christopher endured and brought each person across the river safely.

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Saints Inspire and Strengthen Us

Being a good Christian can be difficult, particularly when we are going through difficult times. Sometimes, we struggle to believe and often feel alone.

woman praying in pew at catholic cathedral

During such times, reflecting on the Saints and asking for their intercession can be an enormous source of strength as well as inspiration. The special prayers to Saints can comfort and encourage us throughout our lives.

Perhaps Saints are positioned between Christ and us, because they were fully human but managed to dedicate their lives entirely to Christ. In that sense, they are human just like us, while also possessing strength and grace far greater than our own could ever be. Consequently, they inspire, guide and protect us.

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Patron Saints – A Source of Everyday Comfort

Patron Saints are undoubtedly a great source of comfort. Whatever activity we engage in, we can ask for the support of the relevant patron Saint. Saint Sebastian has undoubtedly inspired thousands of athletes, and Saint Christopher continues to offer protection on our journeys. It is immensely comforting to know there is a patron Saint for all occasions and activities.

Patron Saints can play a role in our everyday lives and in our most ordinary activities. By praying for their intercession and reflecting on their inspirational strengths we can perhaps grow in faith, love and courage.

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Saint Valentine is easily one of the most famous, and most misunderstood, saints within the canon of Roman Catholic priests. It’s possible he was more than one person whose stories were put together, or he may have simply moved around and let his legend follow him. Whatever the case, the story is endlessly inspiring, and Saint Valentine is worthy of a prayer and devotion this February.

Prayer to St. Valentine Card

Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

So, why do we celebrate this odd moment in February? No one knows for sure, and there are several accounts. However, according to the legend, Saint Valentine was a priest around 280 A.D. He served under Emperor Claudius II and was a staunch Christian during a time when believers were persecuted.

However, Valentine persevered and spoke to anyone who would listen about his faith. In the meantime, Claudius needed soldiers and had a theory: if young men were single, they would fight more valiantly and be willing to die more than married men. Therefore, Claudius decided to pass an edict that no young people could marry, and he worked to bring young men into his army.

Despite Claudius’ ruling, Valentine felt that any young couple ready to take their vows should have access to a Christian wedding. He began marrying couples in secret in the Christian church. Keep in mind, this was a time when the old pagan faiths were the dominant belief system. Many people were polygamous but were drawn to the idea of being in a more simplified, monogamous couple. Many of them came to see Valentine and ask for his help to convert and, consequently, keep the young male off the battlefield.

The priest was eventually caught and jailed by the Emperor and locked up in jail for a time. His jailer, or so the story goes, had a blind daughter that Valentine grew very fond of, and the two became good friends. The jailer was dismissive of their relationship and Valentine’s faith, and, one day, he challenged Valentine to restore his daughter’s sight if his god was so powerful.

There are several versions of what happened next; some claim that Valentine prayed with his hands over the girl’s eyes and restored her vision while her father watched. Others claim the girl found she could see again after Valentine’s death. However the miracle happened, it inspired the girl and her father to become Catholics themselves.

Painting of St. Valentine

The priest Valentine was tortured throughout his stay in prison and, on February 14th, was killed and beheaded at the hands of Emperor Claudius. The day he died he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it “Your Valentine.” He was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 496, and the day of his death was marked as a feast day that became associated with romantic love.

More than anything, the story of Saint Valentine is a reminder that true faith sometimes means a Catholic must be willing to break laws or even lay down their lives to stay true to what they believe. He is also there to remind us that our love, sexuality, and marriages are sacred and blessed by God, but they forever have the shadow of the cross over them and come with very real responsibilities.

Saint Valentine's Day Devotion and Prayer

Saint Valentine is deserving of prayer. Here are some devotional words to offer up this February.

Saint Valentine taught those around him how to devote their love to one another and to our heavenly father. He defied the powerful men around him in the name of the Lord our God and helped young lovers marry and express their love in the purest form possible. He died for his faith so that we might devote ourselves to those we love now, in life and without fear of persecution.

Young woman praying

Let us pray:

Oh glorious protector Saint Valentine,

Defender of marriage and true believers,

Defier of pagans and idols, I offer this prayer to you.

Help me in my marriage and in my daily battle to keep my faith,

Help me to defy doubts and forget my fears,

Help me devote my life to the Lord as you devoted yours.

Saint Valentine, I ask you to bless me in my time of need.

I will devote the 14th of February to you and hold your name in my heart.

Please help me see the truth and the way and the light.

Just as you fought for the young people who needed your guidance, draw your sword for me, carve a path for me. Forgive me for the sin of temptation and help me to leave temptation behind.

One Our Father

One Hail Mary

One Glory Be

Final Thoughts

May your February be a time of joy and celebration for the loves in your life. Remember those who fought for your freedom to love and be with the person you choose, and be sure to offer up your thanks this Valentine’s Day.

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Baptism of St. Augustine stained glass window

What Is the Cathedral Basilica?

The Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine is the oldest Catholic Church in St Augustine, Florida, as well as the seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Looking at the cathedral walls, a visitor will see adornments reminiscent of the old New World and Spain’s expansion into Florida and the Caribbean: exquisite stained glass windows and murals depicting the city’s rich history of Catholic expansion and French-British-Spanish conflict. Prominently featured is Saint Augustine of Hippo, a popular saint for whom the city was named.

For 450 years, worshipers of St. Augustine and travelers have gathered each Sunday to praise the Lord in this congregation.

Its History

Painting in basilica of St Augustine

This cathedral serves one of the oldest Catholic congregations in America. The Catholic congregation of St. Augustine was originally established in 1565, with the arrival of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his four accompanying priests. St. Augustine’s first mass, as depicted above, took place on the following September 8th, the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The original cathedral constructed in 1565 was a humble wooden structure, which had to repeatedly be rebuilt due to destruction from enemies and natural forces. In 1786, King Felipe V ordered that a new cathedral should be built. This Cathedral Basilica is designed in the Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles of the 18th century, featuring arched corridors, buttresses, terraced bell towers, wide eaves, and low, sloping tile roofs.

Construction of the Cathedral Basilica started on December 8th, 1786 and ended in 1797. Significantly, December 8th is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On December 8th of 1797, the cathedral was dedicated to this day. In celebration, Father Miguel O’Reilly (an Irish priest) led a procession of parishioners from St. Augustine’s Catholic parish’s bishop’s rectory to the new cathedral, carrying the Blessed Sacrament.

The Cathedral as a Minor Basilica

Technically, a basilica is a cathedral of elevated status to the Catholic Church. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine was not immediately given this status. It was not until December 4th, 1976 that Pope Paul VI deemed St. Augustine’s cathedral to be a “minor basilica.” In order for a cathedral to be elevated to a minor basilica, four conditions must be met:

1) The church must have stood out as a center for active liturgy and have been dedicated to God in a liturgical rite.

2) The cathedral should be sufficiently large, including a spacious sanctuary, so that further religious celebrations can be carried out exemplarily.

3) The church must have a historical renown because it was dedicated to God in a particular historical or religious fashion, significant relics of saints are present in it, or a sacred image is venerated especially.

4) Religious celebrations throughout the liturgical year are performed in a praiseworthy manner.

The cathedral stood for 200 years before the Catholic Church formally recognized its surpassing of the above requirements.

The Beacon of Faith

Crucifix in Catholic Church

You may have seen the image of The Beacon of Faith in popular Christian media, but have not known where in the world it was or what it signified. It is the towering, 208-foot, 70-ton steel cross free-standing on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios, where Menendez and his priests landed on in 1565. Although not directly at the basilica’s location, this Great Cross is a celebration of St. Augustine’s long history of Catholic praise.

Miraculously, St. Augustine has not been devastated by a major hurricane since the Great Cross was erected.

Marker of Catholic Heritage

Located in the Cathedral Basilica’s narthex is the Catholic Heritage of Florida Plaque, erected in 1999 by the International Order of Alhambra, noting how the Franciscan missionaries spread their Catholic faith throughout the region:

“LONG BEFORE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, CATHOLIC

MISSIONARIES FOUNDED MORE THAN A HUNDRED MISSIONS

IN WHAT IS NOW THE STATE OF FLORIDA WHERE AT

LEAST TEN MISSIONARIES BECAME MARTYRS FOR THE FAITH.

THOUGH DOMINICANS AND JESUITS WERE ALSO INVOLVED IN

PLANTING THE SEEDS OF RELIGION AND CULTURE IN FLORIDA,

THE FRANCISCANS WERE EXCEPTIONAL BECAUSE THEY SPREAD

OUT FROM THE ST. AUGUSTINE MISSION TO ESTABLISH MOST

OF THESE MISSIONS. RECOGNIZING THIS, WE HAVE ERECTED

THIS PLAQUE AND PROCLAIMED THIS CATHEDRAL–BASILICA

OF THE DIOCESE, WITHIN WHICH MANY OF THESE MISSIONS

EXISTED, A NATIONAL CATHOLIC HISTORICAL SITE.”

The Franciscans of St. Augustine were notable in traveling and spreading Catholicism to the indigenous peoples of southeastern America and the Caribbean.

Today and Now

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine is a stately edifice, with a grandeur all the public may enjoy. If you ever find yourself in the St. Augustine, Florida area, do make the pilgrimage to see “The First Parish” and appreciate its centuries-old beauty.

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Monument to St. Catherine in Rome, Italy

2016 was rough. Or it was great… depends on your perspective and if you’re a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person. Either way, we are now facing 2017. And each time we face a new year, it’s shiny and new and full of possibility.

As we approach the New Year, we ask God and Mother Mary for a peaceful, more harmonious world. Praying to a patron saint to intercede on our behalf brings great comfort and hope to Catholics. Even if you don’t see them, miracles happen every day and, as the Bible tells us, prayer is the answer.

Below is a list of seven patron saints to whom you can direct your prayers to heal you or your loved ones in 2017 in seven different ways.

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican

#1: Health: Raphael the Archangel

Known as the patron saint of healing, Raphael is a familiar figure in Christendom. His name indicates his healing powers. When translated ad litteram, Raphael means God Heals, or, God, please heal.

Raphael the Archangel is mentioned in the Gospel of John, as well as in the Book of Tobit. He is also the protector of travelers, Christian marriages, matchmakers, happy meetings, and medical workers. So, if you are praying on behalf of you or your loved one’s health, Raphael the Archangel will be there for you.

#2: Faith: Saint Monica, Patron Saint of Lapsed Catholics

Saint Monica is another powerful patron in the Catholic Church. The mother of Saint Augustine, she prayed for her son and her pagan husband. After 17 years, her prayers were answered, and her husband converted to Catholicism. She became the patron saint of all those who stray from the Church.

So, if you have someone dear to you who has left the Church, pray to Saint Monica, and, through the grace of God, she will help you bring your loved ones back into the protective arms of Catholicism.

#3: Love: Saint Valentine, Patron Saint of Happy Marriages

Widely known inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church, Saint Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated by Catholics and Protestants alike. However, as little is known about Saint Valentine, in 1969 the Church removed the recognized date of February 14th from the Roman Calendar.

Saint Valentine is best remembered as a martyr (something most sources agree on). Considered to be the protector of happy marriages and love that is pure in the eyes of God, Saint Valentine is the patron to pray to if you are planning to get married.

Orchid with Madonna and Child

#4: Physical: Saint Sebastian, Patron Saint of Athletes

As a new year begins, we all make promises to ourselves—to be better humans, to read more, to be closer to God and his light, to take better care of our bodies, and so on. Among all New Year’s resolutions, the most common ones are to exercise more for the good of our bodies.

Saint Sebastian is known to be the protector of athletes and soldiers, and, although you may not be a pro athlete, he can still help you maintain the willpower to make exercise a regular part of your routine in 2017.

A soldier himself, Saint Sebastian became a martyr in the early days of Christianity. Nowadays, people who want healthy bodies and a clean soul look up to him, and, with prayer and God by your side, he can help you, too!

#5: Heart: Saint Vincent de Paul, Patron Saint of Volunteers and Charity Workers

Saint Vincent was a priest who lived in the 17th century and dedicated his entire life to helping the poor. People often pray for him and ask that they lead the same kind of life: to volunteer and help those less fortunate.

If you want to be a better person next year and help those less fortunate, Saint Vincent de Paul will stand by your side. Pray to him and God to give you the strength, willpower, and love to help create a better, more caring world.

As our Lord Savior Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

#6: Personal Finance: Saint Matthew, Patron Saint of Those with Money Problems

We should not pray for riches but, rather, for the generosity of our souls and for our power to overcome obstacles. And, yet, God understands that in today’s world we need a stable financial situation to help ourselves and our families deal with life’s troubles.

Saint Matthew, the author of the first gospel in the New Testament and one of Christ’s twelve disciples, was a tax collector during his life on Earth. He is the saint to whom you pray to help you manage your money and increase your earnings in God’s name.

If your financial situation needs help, pray to Saint Matthew. With faith, your prayers are sure to be heard.

#7: Business: Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Patron Saint of Entrepreneurs

Although Saint Maximilian Kolbe was canonized relatively recently compared to many other saints, his life proves God is still with us and miracles still happen. Maximilian Kolbe’s life is one of true candor and generosity. Saint Kolbe founded monasteries, a publishing house, and charities. He was imprisoned at Auschwitz and eventually killed.

In addition to being the patron saint of entrepreneurs, he is also the patron saint of the pro-life movement.

Saint Kolbe, with God’s help, can assist you in healing your new business in the coming year. Pray for the ability to think clearly, make good decisions, and achieve prosperity.

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The number of ways St. Michael has been depicted in art is innumerable. He holds the Book of Life on the Sistine Chapel courtesy of Michelangelo; Raphael painted St. Michael Vanquishing Satan in 1518, but St. Michael slayed his first serpent on canvas in the 4th century after Constantine commission a portrait of himself defeating a snake, later to be replaced by St. Michael. Continue reading What Does it Mean? The Imagery of St. Michael the Archangel

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The Christmas season is a time steeped in religious tradition and ceremony. It is a time that is especially important to the Catholics of the world. During this time, the giving of gifts is a beloved tradition that continues. Some of the most popular items to give are memorabilia that honor Pope Saint John Paul II. Continue reading Christmas Gifts for Admirers of Pope John Paul II

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I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this… but every once in awhile we get an order for an item we didn’t even know we had.

And it happened today. An order for 50 St. John Berchmans medals came across the order table. And there they were 2 feet from my face the whole time (and by “whole time” I mean “3 years”).

The natural reaction whenever an obscure inventory item pops up is to research! (Being that Travis is a high school debate coach – research is a favorite past time around here.) Here’s what I found:

At 7 (SEVEN!!) John (who was named for John the Baptist) would get himself out of bed early – 5 a.m. early – so that he could serve 2-3 Masses for the priests each day. Hence why he is the patron saint of altar servers.

Try to think back when you were 7. If you were anything like me, sitting through a single Mass on Sunday morning was difficult. Now multiply that times 7 (each day of the week) and that times 2-3 (# of Masses served per day). Somehow this child was imbued with an understanding or a thirst at an incredibly young age. Beyond serving at Mass he was known for his love of the rosary and prayed it while walking through the streets. All of this from the age of 7-9 (about 1606 to 1608). He often said “If I do not become a saint when I am young I shall never become one.”

Granted, standards of behavior were much stricter then and there (born 1599 in Diest, Belgium; died 1621 in Rome) than they are here and now, but even in that atmosphere the difference in John that was noticed by priests and family was his eagerness and yearning for perfection. John sought to follow the rules of the Jesuits as perfectly as possible. One of the symbols that appear in images of St. John Berchmans is a Jesuit rule book.

John had a reputation for volunteering for more chores and harder chores than his peers. He sought opportunities to work hard. He was a boots-on-the-ground Catholic. I imagine that in today’s world he wouldn’t be the one to make Facebook posts about social ills, he’d be out in the community finding ways to fix them. He was known to be friendly and easy to talk to. 

In the fall of 1618 John walked 1,000 miles to Rome in order to continue his philosophy studies that he began in Belgium. He died of dysentery there almost 3 years later in August of 1621. 

Sometime during his short life, St. John Berchmans composed the Chaplet of Immaculate Conception, stemming from his deep devotion to Mary.

St. John Berchmans was beatified 244 years later in 1865 and canonized in 1888. Although it took a long time for sainthood, his image was printed and spread across Belgium due to the large number of miracles attributed to him. However, the miracle that tipped him into sainthood took place in Louisiana in 1866 when a very ill novice Mary Wilson prayed for his intercession, had a vision of John Berchmans, and was immediately healed.

EWTN notes that it wasn’t anything extraordinary about John Berchmans that made him a saint – no single deed or heroic action – it was that “He made kindness and courtesy as well as constant fidelity an important part of his holiness”. And that may not be something we can all attain, but we can reach for it.

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Every once in awhile one of our customers will request engraving that hits me right in my heart. One in particular that I still tear up over when I think about it. 

It was for her granddaughter. She bought a St. Joan of Arc medal and on the back had engraved “You’re brave too. Love G-ma.”

Ugh. My eyes are doing it again. 

I love it when we get submissions like this. I wish I had the creativity to come up with these. But as I have learned, our customers are far better at this than we are.

So I’ve decided to get a few ideas from past submissions, and I’m hoping you can help us out. I’d like to create a free guide for our customers eventually.

Below is a starting list. What would you add?

Saint

Engraving

St. Joan of Arc

You're brave too

Maximilian Kolbe

There is hope

St. Anne or St. Joseph

You are mine

St. John of the Cross

Create!

St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Always be learning

Padre Pio

Pray, hope & don't worry

Mother Teresa

Spread Love Everywhere

St. Catherine of Siena

Be who God meant you to be.

St. Catherine of Siena

Set the world on fire

St. Teresa of Avila

God alone suffices

St. Francis

Sow love

St. Ignatius de Loyola

Give. Don't count the cost

St. Clare of Assisi

Love God, serve God; everything is in that

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Have you ever noticed — in artwork such as paintings, statues and sculptures — how saints are depicted with certain objects or symbols?

For example, the young St Maria Goretti holds lilies. St Teresa of Avila is usually seen with a book or pen, and a dove hovering above her. St Anthony of Padua carries the Infant Jesus and/or loaves of bread. St Therese of Lisieux is pictured with roses. St Peter the Apostle is portrayed as looking to the heavens and holding keys.

 

What were the symbols for?

You may have even noticed that some saints have similar symbols. These symbols have certain meanings, enabling those who were unable to read to understand what that saint’s story was all about.

“When Christian religious ceremonies were conducted entirely in Latin, foreign or written words were therefore inappropriate for conveying the Christian message to the majorities. However, the Catholic symbols which were adopted enabled people, who adhered to the same Catholic Christian religion, could understand the meaning of a symbol regardless of understanding the written word or whatever county they were in. The use of Catholic symbols made it possible for everyone to understand the figures and the messages which were portrayed in Christian art or in the images and objects included on stained glass windows or the actual architecture of Catholic Churches.” (Source: http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/)

 

Here is a list of some saints and the objects portrayed with them:

St Peter – crossed keys, symbolizing the keys to the Kingdom and his God-given authority to “bind and loose”.

St John the Apostle – a chalice, referring to what Jesus said, “Of My cup, you shall drink”.

St Paul – a book, pertaining to the epistles in the New Testament that he had written.

St Lucy, St Apollonia, St Stephen – these saints, all of whom are martyrs, are depicted with a palm branch, symbolizing the ultimate victory of life over death; palm branches are also reminiscent of Jesus being greeted with palm branches as He entered Jerusalem before His Passion.

St Maria Goretti – her white garb and white lilies refer to her purity and virginity.

St Francis of Assisi, St Mary Magdalene – they are sometimes depicted with skulls, skulls representing the meaninglessness of vanity.

St Teresa of Avila – shown with a book to show her important writings and a spear symbolizing the vision she had of an angel piercing her with a spear that set her afire with love for God.

There are many other symbols and objects attached to various saints. Aside from telling the stories of the saints, they also teach the faithful various elements and concepts of Catholicism, as well as “add mysticism to the Catholic Christian religion.” (Source: http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/)

 

Who are your favorite saints? What symbols and objects are portrayed with them? How do these deepen your knowledge of their exemplary lives?

Sources:

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The Role of the Holy Angels

“Angels we have heard on high/Sweetly singing o’er the plains….” So goes a classic Christmas carol. With the holidays in full swing, decorations related to the season abound, among them various forms and styles of angels.

But there is so much more to angels than the images that beautify shelves and mantles.

All these halos and wings have me wondering how much my mental image of angels matches up with what the Church teaches about angels. Are they real? What is their purpose? How do we know they’re real?

 

Holy angels are not fantasy; they are real. The most obvious place to turn to first is the Bible where we find these examples:

In the Old Testament —

  • An angel called out to Abraham, telling him not to harm his son, Isaac, while the former was about to sacrifice his son. (Genesis 22:11-12)
  • An angel appeared to Moses as fire in the burning bush. (Exodus 3:2)
  • An angel accompanied Israel as they were brought out of Egypt and through their sojourn in the desert. (Numbers 20:16)

 

In the New Testament —

  • The Angel Gabriel announced the good news to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of the Savior. (Luke 1:26-35)
  • Angels came to minister to Jesus after He was tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:11)
  • An angel, sitting on the stone of the empty tomb, proclaimed to the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead. (Matthew 28:5-6)

 

What are angels?

The word “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos,” which means “messenger” or “one who is sent.”

They are pure spirit — meaning they have no physical bodies — who have intelligence and will. They may, at times, take on human form as is seen in the book of Tobit when St. Raphael helps Tobiah on his journey (St Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica).

From the Catechism:

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.’”188 With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”. (CCC329)

 

What do angels do?

Fr John A Hardon, SJ, explains that angels have a twofold role: “They are to worship God and venerate His divine majesty through all eternity, and they are to assist us in our probation here on earth in order that we might join the angels in heavenly glory.”

 

Guardian Angels

Guardian angels are not bedtime stories to make our children feel better. They are a very real and important part of the Catholic Church. Each of us has our own, as do nations and churches.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (334, 336) shows us their current function: “The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels…. From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”

 

Angels are here to aid us

Holy angels are wonderful blessings from God. Of the more popular prayers are the St Michael Prayer and the Guardian Angel Prayer. Let us thank God for the unseen holy angels who have come to our aid numerous times, for they are “ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).

 

Learn More

Hopefully this has provided you with a little more clarity concerning angels.

As for me, now I’ve started down this rabbit hole and I can’t wait to learn more. I highly recommend you read the CCC 328-336 found here.  My next stop will be to read this book on angels from Father Pascal Parente. I’ll update a reading list as I find more.

 What are your thoughts on angels? What have you read that has helped you understand these beings?

 

Sources:

 

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