St. Casimir of Poland


St. Casimir of Poland

Feast date: Mar 04

On March 4, the Catholic Church honors Saint Casimir Jagiellon, a prince whose life of service to God has made him a patron saint of Poland, Lithuania, and young people.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II addressed Lithuanian pilgrims commemorating the 500th anniversary of the prince’s death. He said the Church “proclaimed Casimir a saint and placed him before us not only to be venerated but also that we might imitate his heroic virtues and follow his example of holiness.”

“His witness of great faith and fervent piety continues to have special meaning for us today,” the Pope said, noting especially the “challenging call” he offers to young people.

“His life of purity and prayer beckons you to practice your faith with courage and zeal, to reject the deceptive attractions of modern permissive society, and to live your convictions with fearless confidence and joy.”

Casimir Jagiellon was born in 1458, the third of thirteen children born to Poland’s King Casimir IV and his wife Elizabeth of Austria. He and several of his brothers studied with the priest and historian John Dlugosz, whose deep piety and political expertise influenced Casimir in his upbringing.

The young prince had a distaste for the luxury of courtly life, and instead chose the way of asceticism and devotion. He wore plain clothes with a hair shirt beneath them, slept frequently on the ground, and would spend much of the night in prayer and meditation on the suffering and death of Christ.

Casimir showed his love for God through these exercises of devotion, and also through his material charity to the poor. He was known as a deeply compassionate young man who felt others’ pains acutely.

The young prince was only 13 years old when his father was asked by the Hungarians to offer his son as their new king. Casimir was eager to aid the Hungarians in their defense against the Turks, and went to be crowned. This plan was unsuccessful, however, and he was forced to return to Poland.

After his return Casimir resumed his studies with Dlugosz, while developing a canny grasp of politics by observing his father’s rule. In 1479 the king left Poland to attend to state business in Lithuania, leaving Prince Casimir in charge of the realm between 1481 and 1483.

Advisers to the prince joined his father in trying to convince Casimir to marry. But he preferred to remain single, focusing his life on the service of God and the good of his people.

After experiencing symptoms of tuberculosis, Casimir foresaw his death and prepared for it by deepening his devotion to God. He died en route to Lithuania on March 4, 1484, and was buried with a copy of a Marian hymn he frequently recited. Pope Adrian VI canonized him in 1522.

Five centuries after his death, Pope John Paul II recalled how St. Casimir “embraced a life of celibacy, submitted himself humbly to God’s will in all things, devoted himself with tender love to the Blessed Virgin Mary and developed a fervent practice of adoring Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.”

“To all,” the Pope said, “he was a shining example of poverty and of sacrificial love for the poor and needy.”

St. Katharine Drexel


St. Katharine Drexel

Feast date: Mar 03

On March 3, the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family’s fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and American Indian populations of the United States.

Katharine was born November 26, 1858 into a wealthy and well-connected banking family. The family’s wealth, however, did not prevent them from living out a serious commitment to their faith. 

Her mother opened up the family house three times a week to feed and care for the poor, and her father had a deep personal prayer life. Both parents encouraged their daughters to think of the family’s wealth not as their own, but as a gift from God which was to be used to help others.

During the summer months, Katharine and her sisters would teach catechism classes to the children of the workers on her family’s summer estate. The practice would prepare her for a life of service, with a strong focus on education and attention to the poor and vulnerable.

While traveling with her family through the Western U.S., Katharine witnessed the poor living conditions of the Native Americans. Eventually, while still a laywoman, she would give much of her own money to fund the missions and schools in these seriously deprived areas.

Eventually, however, the young heiress would give more than just funding to these much-needed missions and schools. She would decide to devote her whole life to the social and spiritual development of black and American Indian communities.

The inspiration for this work came to her during a visit to Rome, where she was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. During that time, Katharine had been considering a vocation to cloistered contemplative life as a nun. But when she asked Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to Wyoming, he told Katharine she should undertake the work herself.

In February of 1891, she made her first vows in religious life – formally renouncing her fortune and her personal freedom for the sake of growing closer to God in solidarity with the victims of injustice. 

Although African-Americans had been freed from slavery, they continued to suffer serious abuse and were often prevented from obtaining even a basic education. Much the same situation held in the case of the native American Indians, who had been forcibly moved into reservations over the course of the 19th century.

Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of living with these communities while helping them acquire education and grow in faith.

Between 1891 and 1935 she led her order in the founding and maintenance of almost 60 schools and missions, located primarily in the American West and Southwest. Among the prominent achievements of Drexel and her order is New Orleans’ Xavier University, the only historically black Catholic college in the U.S.

Katharine was forced into retirement for the last 20 years of her life after she suffered a severe heart attack. Although she was no longer able to lead her order, she left the sisters with her charism of love and concern for the missions.

She died on March 3, 1955 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.

St. Angela of the Cross


St. Angela of the Cross

Feast date: Mar 02

St. Angela of the Cross is the Foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross.

Born on January 30, 1846 in Seville, Spain, and given the baptismal name “Maria of the Angels” Guerrero Gonzalez, the future Saint was affectionately known as “Angelita”. Her father worked as a cook in the convent of the Trinitarian Fathers, where her mother also worked doing the laundry. They had 14 children, with only six reaching adulthood.

Angelita was greatly influenced by the teaching and example of her pious parents, and was taught from an early age how to pray the Rosary. She could often be found in the parish church praying before the image of “Our Lady of Good Health”, while her mother prepared a nearby altar. In their own home, a simple altar was erected in honour of the Virgin Mary during the month of May, where the family would recite the Rosary and give special honour to Our Lady.

Angelita made her First Communion when she was eight, and her Confirmation when she was nine. She had little formal education, and began work as a young girl in a shoeshop. Her employer and teacher of shoe repair, Antonia Maldonado, was a holy woman; every day the employees prayed the Rosary together and read the lives of the Saints. Canon José Torres Padilla of Seville was Antonia’s spiritual director, and had a reputation of “forming saints”. Angelita was 16 years old when she met Fr. Torres and was put under his direction.

Angelita’s desire to enter religious life was growing, and when she was 19, she asked to enter the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz but was refused admission because of her poor health. Instead, following the advice of Fr Torres, she began caring for destitute cholera patients, because a cholera epidemic was quickly spreading among the poor.

In 1868 Angelita tried once again to enter the convent, this time the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Although her health was still frail, she was admitted. The sisters tried to improve her health and sent her to Cuenca and Valencia, but to no avail. She left the Daughters of Charity during the novitiate and returned home to continue working in the shoeshop.

Fr Torres believed that God had a plan for Angelita, but this plan was still a mystery. On 1 November 1871, at the foot of the Cross, she made a private vow to live the evangelical counsels, and in 1873 she received the call from God that would mark the beginning of her “new mission”. During prayer, Angelita saw an empty cross standing directly in front of the one upon which Jesus was hanging. She understood immediately that God was asking her to hang from the empty cross, to be “poor with the poor in order to bring them to Christ”.

Angelita continued to work in the shoeshop, but under obedience to Fr Torres she dedicated her free time to writing a detailed spiritual diary that revealed the style and ideal of life she was being called to live. On 2 August 1875 three other women joined Angelita, beginning community life together in a room they rented in Seville. From that day on, they began their visits and gave assistance to the poor, day and night.

These Sisters of the Company of the Cross, under the guidance of Angelita, named “Mother Angela of the Cross”, lived an authentically recluse contemplative life when they were not among the poor. Once they returned to their home, they dedicated themselves to prayer and silence, but were always ready when needed to go out and serve the poor and dying. Mother Angela saw the sisters as “angels”, called to help and love the poor and sick in their homes who otherwise would have been abandoned.

In 1877 a second community was founded in Utrera, in the province of Seville, and a year later one in Ayamonte. Fr Torres died that same year, and Fr José María Alvarez was appointed as the second director of the Institute.

While Mother Angela was alive, another 23 convents were established, with the sisters edifying everyone they served by their example of charity, poverty and humility. In fact, Mother Angela herself was known by all as “Mother of the Poor”.

Mother Angela of the Cross died on 2 March 1932 in Seville. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 5 November 1982.

With her characteristic humility, she once wrote these words:  “The nothing keeps silent, the nothing does not want to be, the nothing suffers all…. The nothing does not impose itself, the nothing does not command with authority, and finally, the nothing in the creature is practical humility”.

St. Agnes of Prague


St. Agnes of Prague

Feast date: Mar 02

St. Agnes was born in Prague in the year 1200, and probably died in the year 1281. She was the daughter of Ottocar, King of Bohemia and Constance of Hungary, who was a relative of St. Elizabeth. At an early age she was sent to the monastery of Treinitz, where she was educated in the hands of the Cistercian religious, who would eventually become her rank.

She was betrothed to Henry, son of the Emperor Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, but when the time arrived for the solemnization of the marriage, they backed out of the agreement. Ottokar then planned for Agnes to marry Henry III of England, but this was vetoed by the Emperor, who wanted to marry Agnes himself.

She then dedicated herself to the resolution of consecrating herself to the service of God in the sanctuary of the cloister. Emperor Frederick is said to have remarked: “If she had left me for a mortal man, I would have taken vengeance with the sword, but I cannot take offence because in preference to me she has chosen the King of Heaven.”

The servant of God entered the Order of St. Clare in the monastery of St. Saviour at Prague, which she herself had erected. She was elected abbess of the monastery, and through this office became a model of Christian virtue and religious observance for all. God favored her with the gift of miracles, and she predicted the victory of her brother Wenceslaus over the Duke of Austria.

The exact year of Agnes’ death is not certain, but 1281 is the most probable date. She was beatified in 1874 by Pope Pius IX and canonized by Pope John Paul II on November 12, 1989.

St. David of Wales


St. David of Wales

Feast date: Mar 01

Among Welsh Catholics, as well as those in England, March 1 is the liturgical celebration of Saint David of Wales.

St. David is the patron of the Welsh people, remembered as a missionary bishop and the founder of many monasteries during the sixth century.

David was a popular namesake for churches in Wales prior to the Anglican schism, and his feast day is still an important religious and civic observance.

Although Pope Benedict XVI did not visit Wales during his 2010 trip to the U.K., he blessed a mosaic icon of its patron, and delivered remarks praising St. David as “one of the great saints of the sixth century, that golden age of saints and missionaries in these isles, and…thus a founder of the Christian culture which lies at the root of modern Europe.”

In his comments, Pope Benedict recalled the saint’s dying words to his monastic brethren: “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.” He urged that St. David’s message, “in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church.”

From a purely historical standpoint, little is known of David’s life, with the earliest biography dating from centuries after his time. As with some other saints of sixth-century Wales, even the chronology of his life is not easy to ascertain.

David’s conception is said to have occurred as a result of rape – a detail that seems unlikely to have been invented by later biographers, though it cannot (like almost all of the traditions surrounding his life) be established with certainty. His mother Saint Nonna, or Nonnita, has her traditional feast day on March 3.

David appears to have been the cousin of his contemporary Saint Teilo, another Welsh bishop and monk. He is described as a pupil of the monastic educator Saint Paulinus, who was one of St. Teilo’s teachers as well. There are doubts, however, about the story which holds that David and Teilo traveled to Jerusalem and were ordained together as bishops.

It is clear that David served as the Bishop of Menevia, an important port city linking Wales and Ireland in his time. His leading role in two local councils of the Church is also a matter of record.

Twelve monasteries have their founding ascribed to David, who developed a reputation for strict asceticism. His monks modeled their lives on the earliest desert hermits – combining hard manual labor, silence, long hours of prayer, and a diet that completely excluded meat and alcohol.

The monks did not use animals to take care of their fields, and lived off of only bread, vegetables, and water.

One tradition places his death in the year 601, but other writers believe he died in the 540s. David may well have survived to an advanced age, but evidence is lacking for the claim (made by his 11th-century biographer) that he lived to the age of 147. Pope Callistus II canonized St. David of Wales in 1120.

St. Oswald


St. Oswald

Feast date: Feb 29

St. Oswald was a king of Northumbria from 634 until his death and is venerated as a saint.

Oswald spread the Christian faith throughout Northumbria. He had a cult following, and was generous with the poor.

There are many legends surrounding his reign.

Blessed Villana de’Botti


Blessed Villana de’Botti

Feast date: Feb 28

Villana de’Botti was a wife and a Third Order Dominican. She was born in Florence in 1332. She was a very pious child, and at age 13 she ran away from home to join a convent. She was refused and returned home. Soon after, her family married her to Rosso di Piero.

The rejection at the convent and the marriage seemed to change Villana. She became lazy and worldly, concerned only with pleasure. One day, as she was getting dressed, her reflection in her mirrors suddenly changed to a demon. Villana understood this to be a reflection of her sinful soul. She tore off her clothes, put on something poor and simple, and ran to the Dominican Fathers for help.

She became a Dominican tertiary, concentrated on her vocation of married life, and spent her free time praying and reading Scripture and the lives of the saints. She was given to religious ecstasies at Mass, visions of Our Lady and the saints, and had the gift of prophecy. She became the object of much ridicule and slander, but even her fiercest opponents eventually came to see her as a living saint.

She died in 1361 of natural causes at the age of 30. Her body was taken to the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, which was under the care of the Dominican Fathers. The priests were unable to bury her for a month due to the constant crowd of mourners. She was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1824.

Blessed Maria Caridad Brader


Blessed Maria Caridad Brader

Feast date: Feb 27

Mother Maria Caridad Brader was born into a pious family in Kaltburn, Switzerland, in 1860. Maria was unusually intelligent and her mother, a widow, went through great pains to give her a good education.

Despite her mother’s opinion, Maria entered a Franciscan convent in 1880. She made her final vows two years later and began teaching at the convent school.

At the end of the 19th century, it became permissible for cloistered nuns to work as missionaries. Maria volunteered to be one of the first of six sisters to work in Ecuador.

Maria served as a teacher and catechist in Ecuador.

In 1893, she was transferred to Colombia to attend to the sick and rejected.

In response to an urgent need for missionaries, Maria founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate in 1893 in Colombia. Maria served as the congregation’s superior general until 1919 and again from 1928 to 1940.

Maria urged her sisters to combine contemplation and action with great care. Her congregation also emphasized good education for both the sisters and their students.

“Do not forget that the better educated, the greater the skills the educator possesses, the more she will be able to do for our holy religion and the glory of God,” Maria told her sisters. “The more intense and visible her external activity, the deeper and more fervent her interior life must be.”

Maria died in 1943 in Colombia and her grave immediately became a popular pilgrimage site.

She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 2003.

 

St. Alexander


St. Alexander

Feast date: Feb 26

St. Alexander succeeded St. Achillas as bishop of Alexandria in 313.

Alexander was a champion of orthodox Catholic teaching.

The majority of his ministry was dedicated to fighting against the Arian heresy. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, claimed Jesus was not truly God and that there was a time when the Son, the second person of the Trinity, did not exist.

The bishop was gentle with Arius but when Arianism started accumulating a larger following, Alexander finally excommunicated Arius. The sentence of excommunication was confirmed in the year 320.

Alexander’s epistle on the Arian heresy has survived and remains an important part of ecclesiastical literature.

It is assumed that St. Alexander drew up the acts of the first General Council of Nicaea in 325, where Arianism was formally condemned.

He died in Alexandria two years after his return from the council.

St. Alexander was also famous for his charity to the poor and his doctrine on life.

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani


Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani

Feast date: Feb 25

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani was born into a noble family in Naples, Italy in 1806. Her father was an alcoholic and was exiled after being involved in a revolt. Maria’s grandmother raised her. When her grandmother died, the 10 year-old was sent to a boarding school until she was 17.

During these years, Maria declined several marriage proposals because she preferred to lead a quiet life of prayer.

When she turned 21, she entered the Benedictine Community in St. Peter’s Monastery and took the name Maria Adeodata. She made her solemn profession two years later.

In the cloister, Maria was a seamstress, sacristan, porter, teacher and novice mistress. Her fellow nuns and many people outside the cloister benefited from her charity.

Maria Adeodata wrote various works, the most well-known of these is a collection of her personal reflections between the years 1835 and 1843 titled “The mystical garden of the soul that loves Jesus and Mary”.

She was an abbess from 1851 to 1853 but had to retire from her duties because she suffered from heart problems.

On Feb. 25, 1855, at the age of 48 and in poor health, she dragged herself to the chapel for Mass, against her nurse’s advice. After receiving Communion, she had to be carried back to bed where she died soon afterward.

She had a simple funeral and was buried in the monastery’s crypt the following day.

Maria was remembered for her sanctity, love of the poor, self-imposed sacrifices, and ecstasies so complete that she was seen levitating.

She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 2001.