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Patron Saints A-Z
St. Camillus de Lellis
St. Camillus de Lellis was born at Bocchianico, Italy. He fought for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. He became a Capuchin novice, but was unable to be professed because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. He devoted himself to caring for the sick, and became director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome, enlarged their facilities in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome's harbor and in Rome. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746, was declared patron of the sick, with St. John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI. His feast day is July 18th.
St. Catherine Leboure
Zoe Laboure was responsible for one of the most significant religious icons of all time, even though she lived all her life in complete obscurity. Born in 1806 as the 9th of 17 children, Zoe lost her mother at the age of eight, and took charge of running the household and raising her younger siblings.
Shortly after joining the Sisters of Charity at age 24, she replaced her given name, Zoe, with the name by which we know her today, Catherine Laboure. Catherine had not been at her Parisian convent long when she began seeing visions of Mary in the chapel.
In November, she had her second vision, in which she saw Mary standing on the globe, with rays of light streaming from her hands. In letters of gold, appeared the words "Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." The apparition eventually began to recede, and was replaced by the letter "M" on a cross, which was placed on top of the hearts of Mary and Jesus.
Mary then instructed Catherine: "Have a medal struck on this model." Catherine shared the vision with her confessor, who obtained the archbishop's permission to have copies of the vision produced. The first of what would be millions of imprints of the Miraculous Medal were struck in 1832, and the medal soon spread worldwide in popularity.
Items such as the Miraculous Medal, like every other manifestation of the sacred, are not infrequently misunderstood. To some persons, the Miraculous Medal evokes only a simplistic, almost superstitious Catholicism of previous generations, in which the physical object of the medal is ascribed magical powers. Or the Medal may be seen as simply a kind of shorthand, expressing through pictures something which could have been didactically stated just as well in language. But, argues the Dictionary of Symbols (Paris: Chevalier, 1947), the Miraculous Medal is a symbol, something whose power derives from its expression of that which cannot be expressed in words, something that may "reveal the secrets of the unconscious, lead to the most hidden resources of activity, and open the spirit to the unknown and the infinite."
The light streaming from Mary's hands, suggests the Dictionary of Mary, symbolizes the graces which Mary transmits. The Miraculous Medal portrays Mary "ever disposed to receive the divine fecundity because she was totally open," symbolizing "the earth oriented toward the sun, so that it then becomes a transfigured earth, an earth of light."
One theologian describes the medal as showing "The triumphant Virgin, who offers and integrates the whole universe in this offering, represents the soul of the cosmic scientist who offers to God the whole cosmos integrated by the Risen Christ."
Even as the medal became world-famous, Catherine kept the secret of the medal's origin to herself and her confessor, until a few months before her death. She spent her years a menial servant at the Hopsice d'Enghien. Having vividly encountered the dynamic essence of the infinite, Catherine Laboure apparently saw her own reality in performing humble work for the destitute men of a hospice. Canonized in 1947, St. Catherine Laboure is celebrated on November 28.
St. Catherine of Siena
The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, St. Catherine started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education. She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. St, Catherine's letters, and a treatise called "a dialogue" are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.
In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian, written, like those of Chrysanthus and Daria, Julian and Basilissa, in glorification of the virginal life, and with the purpose of taking the place of the sensual romances of Daphnis and Chloe, Chereas and Callirhoe, etc., which were then popular. There may have been a foundation of fact on which the story was built up; but the Roman Calendar of the fourth century, and the Carthaginian Calendar of the fifth make no mention of Cecilia.
It is said, however, that there was a church dedicated to S. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in 500. But Symmachus held no council in that year. That held at Easter, 502, was in the "basilica Julii"; that on September 1, 505, was held in the "basilica Sessoriana"; that on October 23, 501, was in "porticu beati Petri apostoli que appelatur Palmaria." The next synod, November 6, 502, met in the church of St. Peter; that in 533, "ante confessionem beati Petri"; and that in 503 also in the basilica of S. Peter. Consequently, till better evidence is produced, we must conclude that S. Cecilia was not known or venerated in Rome till about the time when Pope Gelasius (496) introduced her name into his Sacramentary. In 821, however, there was an old church fallen into decay with the dedication to S. Cecilia; but Pope Paschal I dreamed that the body of the saint lay in the cemetery of S. Celestas, along with that of her husband Valerian. He accordingly looked for them and found them, or, at all events, some bodies, as was probable, in the catacombs, which he was pleased to regard as those of Cecilia nd Valerian. And he translated these relics to the church of S. Cecilia, and founded a monastery in their honor.
The story of S. Cecilia is not without beauty and merit. There was in the city of Rome a virgin named Cecilia, who was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, and fasted, and invoked the saints and angels and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity. And she said to her husband, "I will tell you a secret if you will swear not to reveal it to anyone." And when he swore, she added, "There is an angel who watches me, and wards off from me any who would touch me." He said, "Dearest, if this be true, show me the angel." "That can only be if you will believe in one God, and be baptized."
She sent him to Pope S. Urban (223-230), who baptized him; and when he returned, he saw Cecilia praying in her chamber, and an angel by her with flaming wings, holding two crowns of roses and lilies, which he placed on their heads, and then vanished. Shortly after, Tibertius, the brother of Valerian, entered, and wondered at the fragrance and beauty of the flowers at that season of the year.
When he heard the story of how they had obtained these crowns, he also consented to be baptized. After their baptism the two brothers devoted themselves to burying the martyrs slain daily by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius. [There was no prefect of that name.] They were arrested and brought before the prefect, and when they refused to sacrifice to the gods were executed with the sword.
In the meantime, S. Cecilia, by preaching had converted four hundred persons, whom Pope Urban forthwith baptized. Then Cecilia was arrested, and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for a night and a day, and the fires were heaped up, and made to glow and roar their utmost, but Cecilia did not even break out into perspiration through the heat. When Almachius heard this he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the bath. The man struck thrice without being able to sever the head from the trunk. He left her bleeding, and she lived three days. Crowds came to her, and collected her blood with napkins and sponges, whilst she preached to them or prayed. At the end of that period she died, and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.
Alexander Severus, who was emperor when Urban was Pope, did not persecute the Church, though it is possible some Christians may have suffered in his reign. Herodian says that no person was condemned during the reign of Alexander, except according to the usual course of the law and by judges of the strictest integrity. A few Christians may have suffered, but there can have been no furious persecutions, such as is described in the Acts as waged by the apocryphal prefect, Turcius Almachius.
Urbanus was the prefect of the city, and Ulpian, who had much influence at the beginning of Alexander's reign as principal secretary of the emperor and commander of the Pretorian Guards, is thought to have encouraged persecution. Usuardus makes Cecilia suffer under Commodus. Molanus transfers the martyrdom to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. But it is idle to expect to extract history from romance.
In 1599 Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of S. Cecilia.
St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music [because of the story that she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married], and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand.
Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not. Soon her sister, St. Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters. "O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care." At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed: "They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?" We should remember this miracle of the Blessed Sacrament when in Church. Then we will pray with great Faith to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist: "Save me, O Lord, from every evil - of soul and body." Her feast day is August 11.
Sts. Cosmas & St. Damian
Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia, who had become eminent for their skill in the science of medicine. Being Christians, they were filled with the spirit of charity and never took money for their services. At Egaea in Cilicia, where they lived, they enjoyed the highest esteem of the people. When the persecution under Diocletian broke out, their very prominence rendered them marked objects of persecution. Being apprehended by order of Lysias, governor of Cilicia, they underwent various torments about the year 283. Their feast day is September 26th. They are patron saints of pharmacists.
Before the 1969 reform of the Roman calendar, Christopher was listed as a martyr who died under Decius. Nothing else is known about him. There are several legends about him including the one in which he was crossing a river when a child asked to be carried across. When Christopher put the child on his shoulders he found the child was unbelievably heavy. The child, according to the legend, was Christ carrying the weight of the whole world. This was what made Christopher patron saint of travelers and is invoked against storms, plagues, etc.. His former feast day is July 25.
Before the formal canonization process began in the fifteenth century, many saints were proclaimed by popular approval. This was a much faster process but unfortunately many of the saints so named were based on legends, pagan mythology, or even other religions -- for example, the story of the Buddha traveled west to Europe and he was "converted" into a Catholic saint! In 1969, the Church took a long look at all the saints on its calendar to see if there was historical evidence that that saint existed and lived a life of holiness. In taking that long look, the Church discovered that there was little proof that many "saints", including some very popular ones, ever lived. Christopher was one of the names that was determined to have a basis mostly in legend. Therefore Christopher (and others) were dropped from the universal calendar.
Some saints were considered so legendary that their cult was completely repressed (including St. Ursula). Christopher's cult was not suppressed but it is confined to local calendars (those for a diocese, country, or so forth). His name Christopher, means Christ-bearer. He died a martyr during the reign of Decius in the third century.
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