Saint John Eudes

How little we know where God’s grace will lead. Born on a farm in northern France, Jean Eudes died at 79 in the next “county” or department. In that time, he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities, and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Jean Eudes was born on 14 November 1601 on a farm close to the village of Ri to Isaac Eudes (born circa 1566) and Martha Corbin; he had four sisters and two brothers, including the historian François Eudes de Mézeray (1610-10 July 1683). He made his First Communion on 26 May 1613 (Pentecost) and at age 14 took a private vow to remain chaste.

Eudes studied under the Jesuits at Caen before he decided to join the Oratorians on 25 March 1623. His masters and models in the spiritual life were Pierre de Bérulle (who welcomed him into the order) and the contemplative and ascetic Charles de Condren. As a student of de Bérulle, he became a member of the French school that promoted a Christocentric approach to spiritual affairs. This was characterized by a strong sense of adoration, plus pursuit of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and of the dimensions of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Jacques Camus de Pontcarré inducted Eudes into the subdiaconate on 21 December 1624.

Jean Eudes joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, during the plague he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field.Read More »

Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem

Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus around 560. He was patriarch during the time that Jerusalem fell to Umar I and his Saracens in 637. He was of Arab descent. Nothing is known of his early life. He was a monk and theologian. A teacher of rhetoric, he became an ascetic in Egypt about 580 and then joined the Monastery of St. Theodosius near Bethlehem.

From his youth he was distinguished for his piety and his love for classical studies. He was especially proficient in philosophy, and so he was known as Sophronius the Wise. The future hierarch, however, sought the true philosophy of monasticism, and conversations with the desert-dwellers.

He arrived in Jerusalem at the monastery of Saint Theodosius, and there he became close with the hieromonk John Moschus, becoming his spiritual son and submitting himself to him in obedience. They visited several monasteries, writing down the lives and spiritual wisdom of the ascetics they met. From these notes emerged their renowned book, the LEIMONARION or SPIRITUAL MEADOW, which was highly esteemed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

To save themselves from the devastating incursions of the Persians, Saints John and Sophronius left Palestine and went to Antioch, and from there they went to Egypt. In Egypt, Saint Sophronius became seriously ill. During this time he decided to become a monk and was tonsured by Saint John Moschus.Read More »

Saint Apollinaris of Ravenna

Apollinaris of Ravenna is a Syrian saint, whom the Roman Martyrology describes as “a bishop who, according to tradition, while spreading among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ, led his flock as a good shepherd and honoured the Church of Classis near Ravenna by a glorious martyrdom.”

He was made Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, by Saint Peter himself. The miracles he wrought there soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the Faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of the idolaters, who beat him cruelly and drove him from the city. He was found half-dead on the seashore, and kept in concealment by the Christians, but was captured again and compelled to walk on burning coals and a second time expelled. But he remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization. We find him then journeying in the Roman province of Aemilia [in Italy].

A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death; but after four days he was put on board a ship and sent to Greece. There the same course of preaching, miracles and sufferings continued; and when his very presence caused the oracles to be silent, he was, after a cruel beating, sent back to Italy. All this continued for three years, and a fourth time he returned to Ravenna.

By this time Vespasian was Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was passing out of the gates of the city, was set upon and savagely beaten, probably at Classis, a suburb, but he lived for seven days, foretelling meantime that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph. It is not certain what was his native place, though it was probably Antioch. Nor is it sure that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as has been suggested. The precise date of his consecration cannot be ascertained, but he was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.

Ignatius of Loyola

Íñigo López de Loyola (sometimes erroneously called Íñigo López de Recalde) was born in the municipality of Azpeitia at the castle of Loyola in today’s Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain. He was baptized Íñigo, after St. Enecus (Innicus) (Basque: Eneko; Spanish: Íñigo) Abbot of Oña, a Basque medieval, affectionate name meaning “My little one”. It is not clear when he began using the Latin name “Ignatius” instead of his baptismal name “Íñigo”. It seems he did not intend to change his name, but rather adopted a name which he believed was a simple variant of his own, for use in France and Italy where it was better understood.

Ignatius was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died soon after his birth, and he was then brought up by María de Garín, the local blacksmith’s wife. Ignatius adopted the surname “de Loyola” in reference to the Basque village of Loyola where he was born.

The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began. Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat near Barcelona. He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.Read More »

Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn

Born Matilda von Hackeborn-Wippra, in 1240 or 1241, Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn belonged to one of the noblest and most powerful Thuringian families; her sister was the illustrious Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn. The family of Hackeborn belonged to a dynasty of Barons in Thuringia who were related to the Hohenstaufen family and had possessions in northern Thuringia and in the Harz Mountains.

So fragile was she at birth, that the attendants, fearing she might die unbaptized, hurried her off to the priest who was just then preparing to say Mass. He was reported as a person of “great sanctity,” and after baptizing the child, is reported to have made a statement to this effect, judged by some to be prophetic: “What do you fear? This child most certainly will not die, but she will become a saintly religious in whom God will work many wonders, and she will end her days in a good old age.”

When Mechtilde was seven years old, having been taken by her mother on a visit to her elder sister Gertrude, at that time a nun in the Cistercian monastery in Rodersdorf, she became so enamoured of the cloister that her pious parents yielded to her requests and allowed her to enter the alumnate. Here, being highly gifted in mind as well as in body, she made remarkable progress in virtue and learning.

Ten years later (1258) Mechtilde followed her sister, who, now abbess, had transferred the monastery to an estate at Helfta given her by her brothers Louis and Albert. As a nun, Mechtilde was soon distinguished for her humility, her fervour, and that extreme amiability which had characterized her from childhood and which, like piety, seemed almost hereditary in her clan. She joined the convent and eventually became the headmistress of the convent school. Mechtilde was employed in the convent looking after the library, illuminating scripts, and writing her own texts in Latin. Mechtilde wrote many prayers. In 1261, the abbess committed to her care a child of five who was destined to shed glory and fame upon the monastery of Helfta.Read More »

Saint Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa

Saint Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa was born in 1889 in Madrid as the fourth of eighteen children to José Alejandro March Reus and Nazaria de Mesa Ramos de Peralta. While the parents had their children receive the sacraments, they were not very devout Catholics. Nazaria received a special favor on the day of her First Holy Communion, November 21, 1898. At this time, she heard the voice of Jesus summoning her by saying, “You! Nazaria, follow me.” She immediately committed herself to Jesus, trying to attend Mass frequently. She talked to her parents, informing them of her desire to enter religious life.

Strongly against their daughter becoming a nun, they hoped to temper her desires by forbidding her to receive the sacraments. Then they sent Nazaria to live with her maternal grandmother in Seville, about 500 kilometers southwest of Madrid.

As time went on — and probably with their persuaded by her grandmother — Nazaria’s parents allowed her to receive Confirmation, on 1902. Furthermore, her parents then allowed Nazaria to join the Franciscan Third Order and once again to receive the sacraments more frequently. As a result of her piety, sacrifices, and good example, Nazaria also brought several of her relatives back to the Catholic Church.Read More »

Saint Bridget Of Sweden

Bridget was the daughter of a wealthy governor who used his riches generously. He donated money for good causes and helped the poor. He worked for the just and fair treatment of all the people. Bridget, who was born in 1303, learned these lessons early in her life.

From age 7 on, Bridget had visions of Christ crucified. It is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter.”

“Who has treated you like this?” cried little Bridget.

Jesus answered, “Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget tried to stop people from offending Jesus.

Bridget married into the Swedish royal family, the Swedish king Magnus II, and lovingly raised eight children, one of whom came to be known as St. Catherine of Sweden. Bridget and her husband followed her father’s example of caring for people in need. It is said that she even arranged for a hospital to be built on their estate. The hospital was open to all.

All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.Read More »