As you observe Lent this year, take time to learn about and reflect on the lives of these saints whose feast days fall within the season:
March 3: St. Katharine Drexel
St. Katharine Drexel, belle of the ball and heiress of millions, asked the Pope for more missionaries… and he told her to become one! She left her life of privilege and founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She dedicated her life to becoming a servant of the poor and establishing schools for Native and African American children. Learn more about St. Katharine here. . . .
March 4: St. Casimir
Born in Krakow, Casimir was the son of Casimir IV, king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania, and Elizabeth of Austria. Known for his refusal to take up arms, personal piety, generosity to the poor and devotion to the Blessed Mother, he rejected the idea of marrying in favor of voluntary chastity. During a visit to Lithuania, he fell ill, died from tuberculosis at the age of 25 and was buried in the cathedral in Vilnius. Canonized in 1521, he is the patron of Poland and Lithuania.
March 7: Sts. Perpetua and Felicity
One of the proofs of a really close friendship is when you can’t say one person’s name without thinking of the other. This shows up in history, with names like Lewis and Clark. It’s in story books, with names like Hansel and Gretel, or Jack and Jill. When it comes to saints, there are many examples, but one of the most prominent duos is Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua was a young Christian noblewoman and Felicity was a young Christian slave. The two were arrested for their belief in Christ, during the persecution of Emperor Septimius Severus: at this time, Perpetua was a new mother, and Felicity was eight months pregnant. Together, the two women helped each other through the heat, darkness and brutality of the guards in the prison. Two days before their scheduled death, Felicity gave birth to her daughter in the prison, and the child was adopted by a Christian woman. Perpetua and Felicity were sent out to face the arena together, and after being exposed to the beasts, were killed by having their throats cut. These last days of the women were recorded by Perpetua, whose diary became one of the most famous accounts in the early church of the suffering of the martyrs.
March 8: St. John of God
Taken from his Portuguese parents at age 8, John led an irregular life in Spain as a estate manager and soldier. His conversion at about 40 took such extreme forms that he sometimes was confined for lunacy. In 1538 he began the hospital work that brought him respect and renown. Thereafter he devoted himself to sheltering and caring for the needy, including prostitutes and vagabonds. After his death, his followers were organized into the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.
March 9: St. Frances of Rome
This laywoman and foundress, born a Roman aristocrat, married Lorenzo Ponziano when she was thirteen; they had several children. In 1409, their palazzo was pillaged by Neapolitan soldiers and Lorenzo was exiled for five years, returning home a broken man. He died in 1436. Frances, known for her great charity during epidemics and civil war, organized a women’s society dedicated to self-denial and good works. It became the Oblates of Tor de Specchi, which she directed for her last four years. She is the patron saint of motorists, perhaps because of the tradition that an angel lit the road before her with a lantern to keep her safe when she traveled. She was guarded for twenty-three years by an archangel visible only to her. Her last words were “The angel has finished his work. He is beckoning me to follow.”
March 17: St. Patrick
St. Patrick, the apostle to Ireland, once wrote: “Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.” He was captured and sold into slavery in Ireland as a teenager. He escaped, but he dreamed Ireland’s children were calling to him, and returned to Ireland as a missionary. As Patrick once did, Pope John Paul II. . . challenged the youth of Ireland.
March 18: St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril lived when the Arian heresy was roiling Christianity. Raised and educated in Jerusalem, he was ordained by St. Maximus and succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem around 350. His episcopate lasted until his death, but he spent 16 years in exile, turned out by emperors influenced by the Arian bishop of Caesarea who claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Jerusalem. The Council of Antioch sent St. Gregory of Nyssa to investigate Cyril and his diocese. He reported that Jerusalem was rife with factionalism and Arianism, but that Cyril was orthodox. He is famous for his extant “Catechetical Instructions,” some of which consist almost entirely of carefully interwoven scriptural passages. Pope Leo XIII named him a doctor of the church in 1882.
March 19: Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Silence is golden… St. Joseph, the model of humility, and one of the world’s greatest saints, is often mentioned as being silent. This silence speaks volumes. In it, the Church realizes his faithfulness, his love and his acceptance of the Holy Will of God. St. Joseph was not a man of many words: he was a man of action. We have only one direct statement about his personality: in Matthew’s Gospel, he is described as “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). His actions alone reveal everything else we know about him. He brings Mary and the Child she bears into his home when, in the sight of the world, he would be justified in divorcing her. He leads the expectant Mary into Bethlehem, and flees with her and her Child into Egypt. When it is safe, he returns with the two into Galilee. He does all of this, because God asks it of him. He never hesitates. Each time we read that the angel spoke to Joseph, the following sentence begins with the action St. Joseph took. “Joseph awoke,” “Joseph rose,” “He went.” Each time he received a summons, his reaction was to follow the call immediately. Never once did he hesitate. Read more about the poignant silence of Joseph. . . .
March 23: St. Toribio of Mogrovejo
Born in Spain, Toribio taught law at the University of Salamanca until 1574. In 1580, he was named Archbishop of Lima, Peru. He arrived in Lima in 1581 and spent over 25 years as a missionary in Peru. He traveled across the diocese visiting his people, worked on reforming the clergy, and wrote catechisms in native languages. Toribio also opened the first seminary in the Americas and encouraged Indigenous men to become priests.
March 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38). Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church/ LG, 56).
April 4: St. Isidore
St. Isidore of Seville was a scholar, writer and fearless defender of the faith in the 4th and 5th centuries. He succeeded his brother as the Archbishop of Seville in Spain. He was known as a charitable archbishop giving many of his possessions to the poor. His most prominent work the “Etymologiae” was the first Catholic encyclopedia that was used for centuries in seminaries and schools. Because of this notable contribution, and because he believed that knowledge in all areas of study can be used at the service of the Gospel, he was declared patron saint of the Internet users.
April 5: St. Vincent Ferrer
Born in Valencia, Spain, Vincent joined the Dominican friars in 1367 and became a noted preacher, converting numerous people. St Vincent was truly a missionary disciple- he did missionary work in France, Spain and Italy. His preaching would draw huge crowds even though he only spoke Spanish, those who heard him preach would hear him in their native language. Let us pray for St Vincent’s missionary spirit!
April 7: St. John Baptist de la Salle
He was the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, commonly known as the Christian Brothers. He was the oldest of 11 children from a noble, French family. John cut his studies short, when his parents died to take care of his brothers and sisters. He finally finished school and was ordained a priest in 1678. Coming from a noble family, John was named a Canon of the Reims Cathedral. As Canon, he was challenged by a layman who had established free schools for the poor in Rouen to do the same in Reims. John slowly became more and more involved with the poor children of Reims. Eventually, he would found the Christian Brothers as an Order of religious brothers dedicated to teaching the poor. He insisted that the Christian Brothers’ schools be free for all students and taught in the vernacular language of the people they served. When describing his vocation, John said God led him “in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time so that one commitment led to another in a way that I did not foresee in the beginning.” In 1950 was declared the patron saint of teachers.