Clare is one of my sisters in #cathsorority, and she has been looking to do a little more guest blogging. I was so happy when she decided to use this here place as part of her venture. She did a bang up job of marrying her love of the Saints with her Lenten promise to evangelize more. You can believe me, or you can read it. Or you can do both.
We are about halfway through Lent. Yay! Good job! This is the time when I usually feel like “screw this. GIMME CHOCOLATE!” (This year I didn’t give up chocolate. I decided to try to be a better evangelizer. So, no crabbiness this year. Woot!) So – to get us through the rest of Lent, I’ve put together a list of five saints who had to fight their battles to fulfill God’s will.
St. Nicholas Owen (One of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales)
We tend to think that saints are these perfect people, portrayed on holy cards with glowing lights all around them. Saints are definitely above-average people, but not because of that iridescent glow: it’s because of the extraordinary things they have accomplished through the grace of God.
St. Nicholas Owen was a carpenter and a lay Jesuit brother. His carpentry was so incredible, that for twenty years he was employed to build secret passages and rooms in various mansions to conceal persecuted Catholics from the authorities. Under the pseudonym of John Owen (affectionately nicknamed “Little John” due to his short stature) Nicholas worked on these mansions as an innocent-looking mason by day, so that the authorities would not question his presence there. Before each new project, he would receive the Eucharist, to steel him for the new challenge.
He saved countless priests and laymen, and even masterminded the escape of two of his fellow Jesuits from the Tower of London. He was caught once and released, then caught again and tortured, and the torture led to his death on March 1, 1606.
St. Patrick (Bishop, Apostle of Ireland)
As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.
During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was 20, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.
He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”
Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country.
Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.
St. Francis of Assisi
Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy and his baptismal name was John, but his father renamed him Franceso, in honor of his love for France. The son of a wealthy merchant, Francis had time and money to host lavish banquets for young nobles who proclaimed him “King of Feasts.” Parties and selling cloth left Francis little time for God.
He dreamed of knighthood and longed for the adventurous life of chivalry. In pursuit of that dream, he joined in the war between Assisi and Perugia at the age of 20.
In that war, Francis fought with youthful enthusiasm, but was wounded and taken prisoner. Spending the next year in a dungeon, he contracted malaria. Ransomed by his father, a more reflective Francis returned to Assisi. Sickness overtook him and in that languishing experience he heard the first stirrings of a vocation to peace and justice.
The military victories of Count Walter of Brienne revived Francis’ desire for knighthood. Under Brienne’s command, he hoped to win his favor and become a knight. On his way to join Brienne, Francis stopped in Spoleto and heard the shocking news of his death. Overcome by depression, his malaria returned.
One night a mysterious voice asked him, “Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?” Francis Answered, “The Master.” The voice continued, “Why do you leave the Master for the servant?” Francis realized the servant was Count Walter. He left Spoleto convinced God had spoken to him.
From that moment on, Francis began to care for the sick and the poor — especially the lepers — convinced that this was what God had called him to do.
A further call came in 1205, when, in a dramatic moment of prayer in the abandoned Church of San Damiano, Francis heard a voice coming from the crucifix which challenged him to rebuild the church. At first he thought it meant that he should rebuild San Damiano, so he sold some of his father’s cloth to raise money to build the Church at San Damiano. His father, who was already upset about the life he was leading, took him to court, where was ordered him to pay back the money. Francis complied with a dramatic gesture, renouncing his inheritance and handing his expensive clothing to him as well. Dressed only in a workman’s smock, he left town and spent the next two years as a hermit, taking a vow of poverty and dedicating his life his life to God.
Francis begged for his food, wore old clothes, and preached peace. He began to attract followers, and in 1209 with the papal blessing he founded the Friars Minor (Franciscans). Then in 1212 with St. Clare of Assisi he founded the foundation of the Order of “Poor Ladies,” now known as the “Poor Clares.” He also founded the “Third Order of Penance” (the Third Order) which included lay people. He was the first person (recorded) to receive the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ) in 1224. Out of humility Francis never accepted the priesthood but remained a deacon all his life.
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in Avila on March 28, 1515. She was educated in an Augustinian convent and, about 1535, entered the local Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation.
In 1555, after many years marked by serious illness and increasingly rigorous religious exercises, she experience a profound awakening, involving visions of Jesus Christ, hell, angels, and demons; at times she felt sharp pains that she claimed were caused by the tip of an angel’s lance piercing her heart.
Long troubled by the slack discipline into which the Carmelites had relapse, she determined to devote herself to the reform of the order. Through papal intervention in her behalf, she overcame the bitter opposition of her immediate ecclesiastical superiors and in 1562 succeeded in founding at Avila the Convent of Saint Joseph, the first community of reformed, or discalced, Carmelite nuns. She enforced strict observance of the original, severe Carmelite rules at the convent. Her reforms won the approbation of the head of the order, and in 1567 she was authorized to establish similar religious houses for men. Teresa organized the new branch of the old order, with the aid of Saint John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic and Doctor of the Church. Although she was harassed at every step by the powerful and hostile church officials, she helped to establish 16 foundations for women and 14 for men. Two years before her death the Discalced Carmelites received papal recognition as an independent monastic body.
Teresa died in Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582. Teresa was a gifted organizer endowed with common sense, tact intelligence, courage, and humor as well as a mystic of extraordinary spiritual depth. She purified the religious life of Spain and, in a period when Protestantism gained ground elsewhere in Europe, strengthened the forces that reformed the Roman Catholic church from within. Teresa’s writings, all published posthumously, are valued as unique contributions to mystical and devotional literature and as masterpieces of Spanish prose.
Teresa was canonized in 1622; she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, the first woman to be so named, in 1970.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church — and with good reason.
In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Biblewas to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.
In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, “My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible.”
This time of Elizabeth’s life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will’s father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will’s seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family’s importing business. Now events began to move fast – and with devastating effect. Both Will’s business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will’s health, the Setons sailed for Italy, whereWill had business friends. Will died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth’s one consolation was that Will had recently awakened to the things of God.
In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her own kindness, patience, good sense, wit and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instructions.
At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school in America.
Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton’s initial foundation.
Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975.