Saint Francis Xavier

On April 7, 1506, Francis Xavier was born in Xavier Castle, located near Sangüesa, in the kingdom of Navarre (part of present-day Spain). He was a member of a noble family, and his childhood was one of privilege—however, it was disrupted by his father’s death, as well as by outside efforts to take control of Navarre.

He was the third son of the president of the council of the king of Navarre, most of whose kingdom was soon to fall to the crown of Castile (1512). Francis grew up at Xavier and received his early education there. As was often the case with younger sons of the nobility, he was destined for an ecclesiastical career, and in 1525 he journeyed to the University of Paris, the theological centre of Europe, to begin his studies.

In 1529 Ignatius of Loyola, another Basque student, was assigned to room with Francis. A former soldier 15 years Francis’s senior, he had undergone a profound religious conversion and was then gathering about himself a group of men who shared his ideals. Gradually, Ignatius won over the initially recalcitrant Francis, and Francis was among the band of seven who, in a chapel on Montmartre in Paris, on August 15, 1534, vowed lives of poverty and celibacy in imitation of Christ and solemnly promised to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and subsequently to devote themselves to the salvation of believers and unbelievers alike. Francis then performed the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditations lasting about 30 days and devised by Ignatius in light of his own experience of conversion to guide the individual toward greater generosity in the service of God and humankind. They implanted in Francis the motivation that carried him for the rest of his life and prepared the way for his recurrent mystical experiences.Read More »

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac

Born in 1795 in the Tonkinese town of Bac-Nihh in North Vietnam, Tran An Dung was the son of pagan parents.

Christianity came to Vietnam through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan.

In search of work for themselves in 1807, his parents moved to the ancient citadel of Hanoi. Here their twelve-year-old son was taken care of by a catechist and for three years was instructed in the Catholic faith. Baptized in Vinh-Tri, he received the Christian name Andrew (Anrê) in baptism and went on to learn both Chinese and Latin and himself became a catechist.

He was selected for further studies in theology and was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1823. An exemplary pastor, Andrew was ardent and indefatigable in his preaching, often fasted, and drew many to the Faith by his simple and moral life.Read More »

Saint Albert The Great

Born on earth around 1200 and in heaven in 1280, Saint Albert the Great of the Order of Preachers is a great saint for our time so badly in need of his preaching and teaching. We live in a world where many scientists proclaim their lack of belief in God and increasing numbers of young people declare they believe in science rather than religion, assuming in the ignorance of their miseducation that the two must be opposed. As Pope Saint John Paul II declared in 1998 in his Fides et Ratio (on the relationship between faith and reason), we live in a day when scientism grows rampant and many people believe that science and technology provide all the answers to all the problems that plague humanity. On the other hand, some Christians who recognize that science can certainly tell us how to do things, but not whether we ought to do them, fall into the opposing error of fideism, “which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God.” We live in a day of increasing polarization, presented with the false dichotomy of having to choose between the scientism of the intelligent, courageous, and godless secular scientists and the fideism of ignorant, benighted, and bigoted fundamentalist Bible-thumpers.

The saint and doctor of the Church who would be known as Albertus Magnus was born in Bavaria, a fact we infer because he referred to himself as “Albert of Lauingen,” a town which still stands today in southern Germany. He attended the University of Padua where he learned about Aristotle and his writings. He excelled in his studies and later became a lecturer for the Dominicans at Cologne. He also travelled around the region to lecture gaining regional, then international acclaim. At the same time he started lecturing, Albert produced “Summa de Bono,” after collaboration with Phillip the Chancellor, who was a renown theologian from France.Read More »

Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych

St. Josaphat was born John Kuncevic about 1580 in Vladimir, a village of the Lithuanian Province of Volhynia (then a part of the Polish Kingdom begun under the Jagellonian Dynasty). His parents belonged to the Eastern Rite Church of Kyiv (Ukraine) which was then separated from Rome.

When John was just a child, his mother explained the icons in church. Years later he told a friend that he felt a spark of fire leave the wounded side of the Crucified and enter his own heart, which was filled with joy. This event influenced the rest of his life. He began to memorize the Church rituals and psalms. Within him grew the desire to suffer poverty and death for his Savior.

John’s father sent him to Vilno in Lithuania to learn more about the family business. Nevertheless, he spent much of his leisure in reading the lives of the Saints and observing the religious ferment in the local church. The Ruthenians (the ethnic origin of his family) had been evangelized from Constantinople-modern Istanbul-and generally followed the lead of the Byzantine Church there. But because of the absorption of the Ruthenians into the Polish Kingdom, always staunch Roman Catholics, the question of reunion with Rome was hotly debated.Read More »

Saint Narcissus of Jerusalem

Saint-Narcissus-
Saint-Narcissus-

Born toward the end of the first century, Narcissus was advanced in age when he was elected bishop of Jerusalem. Life in second- and third-century Jerusalem couldn’t have been easy, but St. Narcissus managed to live well beyond 100.

Many miracles were attributed to the saintly prelate, one of which the historian Eusebius relates: the deacons being out of oil for the lamps to be used in the Easter Vigil liturgical solemnities, the bishop bade them draw water from a well.

Pronouncing a blessing over this water, he poured it into the lamps, and it immediately turned to oil to the astonishment of all the faithful. Some of this oil was still preserved when Eusebius wrote of the miracle.

The general veneration of all good men for this holy bishop could not shelter him from evil tongues. Three incorrigible sinners, resentful of Narcissus’ strictness in the observance of ecclesiastical discipline, accused him of an atrocious crime, which Eusebius does not specify.Read More »

Saint Frumentius of Ethiopia

Saint Frumentius was still a child when his uncle, a Christian philosopher of Tyre in Phoenicia, took him and his brother Edesius on a voyage to Ethiopia. In the course of their voyage the vessel anchored at a certain port, and the barbarians of that country slew with the sword all the crew and passengers, except the two children.

Because of their youth and beauty they were taken to the king at Axuma, who, charmed with the wit and sprightliness of the two boys, took special care of their education, and later made Edesius his cup-bearer and Frumentius, who was a little older, his treasurer and secretary of state. The king, on his deathbed, thanked them for their services and in reward gave them their liberty.

After his death the queen begged them to remain at court and assist her in the government of the state until the young prince came of age; this they did, using their influence to spread Christianity. When the young king reached his majority, Edesius desired to return to Tyre, and Frumentius accompanied him as far as Alexandria. With the blessing of Saint Athanasius, Frumentius was elevated to become Bishop of Abyssinia and he returned to that country, which had sheltered him from his childhood.

After he returned from his consecration, Saint Frumentius began to perform miracles, bringing many people to the Church. The emperor said to him, “You have lived among us for many years, yet we never saw you perform such wonders. Why is it that you do so now?” The saint replied, “This has nothing to do with me, but is due to the grace of the priesthood.” Then the emperor and many of his subjects received holy Baptism.

Having accomplished the apostolic task of converting the Abyssinian nation to Christ, Saint Frumentius zealously and fruitfully guided the Church entrusted him by God for many years. Vested with this sacred character he gained great numbers to the Faith by his discourses and miracles, and the entire nation embraced Christianity with its young king, thus fulfilling a famous prophecy of Isaiah, uttered 800 years before Christ. (Isaiah 45:14) Saint Frumentius continued to feed and defend his flock until it pleased the Supreme Pastor to call him home and reward his fidelity and labors, in about the year 383.