According to tradition Dymphna was born the daughter of Damon, a pagan king of Ireland. Early in her life she was secretly baptized and became a Christian. When she was only 15 years of age, her mother, a devout Christian, died and her father was wrought by grief. He sent messengers far and wide to find another to be his wife, only none could be found. He proposed to his daughter that they marry. She refused and fled from her father’s castle with Saint Gerebran, her confessor, and two other friends.
Their boat landed in Belgium where Damon found them and proposed his offer once again. At this, Gerebran rebuked the king for his proposition and urged Dymphna to remain in opposition. Damon then ordered his servants to kill the priest. When Dymphna persisted in her refusal, Damon drew his sword and killed her. Saint Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom in defense of her purity about the year 620.
Shortly after her death, five people with mental afflictions wandered to the countryside where she was killed, and slept the night there, only to awaken cured. A church was built on this site and has been joined by a house for the mentally ill. Her feast day is May 15 and she has been invoked as the patron of those suffering with nervous, mental, and spiritual afflictions.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)
Mother Seton is a keystone of the American Catholic Church. She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage.
At 19, Elizabeth married a wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed and he died of tuberculosis. At 30, Elizabeth was widowed, penniless, with five small children to support.
While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth witnessed Catholicity in action through family friends. Three basic points led her to become a Catholic: belief in the Real Presence, devotion to the Blessed Mother and conviction that the Catholic Church led back to the apostles and to Christ. Many of her family and friends rejected her when she became a Catholic in March 1805.
She died January 4, 1821, and became the first American-born citizen to be canonized (1975). She is buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Her feastday is January 4 and she has been invoked as the patron of widows, young brides, and sailors.
Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
The Gospel call to leave everything and follow Christ was the rule of Anthony’s life. Over and over again, God called him to something new and every time Anthony responded with renewed zeal and self-sacrificing.
His journey began when he joined the Augustinians in Lisbon, giving up a future of wealth and power to be a servant of God. Later when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city where he was stationed, he was again filled with an intense longing to be one of those closest to Jesus himself: those who die for the Good News.
Therefore, Anthony entered the Franciscan Order where he became known as a great man of prayer and a great Scripture and Theology scholar, eventually making his home in Padua.
In the spring of 1231 Anthony withdrew to a friary at Camposampiero where he prayed and prepared for death.
On June 13, he became very ill and asked to be taken back to Padua, where he died after receiving the last sacraments. Anthony was canonized less than a year later and named a Doctor of the Church in 1946. His feast day is June 13, and he is invoked as the patron of lost items or people, and nomadic travelers.
The Infant of Prague
The history of the Infant Jesus of Prague started in the 17th century when a statue of the Infant Jesus was brought into Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and given to the Discalced Carmelites in Prague. Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide to go and honor the Holy Child. Many graces, blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been received by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus.
The original wooden statue is 18 inches high and since 1629 has been kept in Our Lady of Victory Church in Prague. That church adjoins a house of Carmelite friars.
In his left hand, Jesus holds a globe with a cross on the top, symbolizing Christ’s kingship of the world. This statue’s right hand is raised in blessing.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe is rooted in the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.
On Saturday morning December 9, 1531, on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady, 57 year old Juan Diego, a widower, saw the Blessed Mother on a hill known as Tepyac in Mexico City. She told Juan to have a chapel built in her honor. When he went to ask the local bishop about this, the bishop did not believe in the vision Juan described.
Three days later Mary appeared again to Juan and this time she gave him a sign for the bishop. “Take these roses to the bishop,” she said, as she arranged in his cloak, or tilma, the beautiful roses she had him pick from the hillside, although it was winter.
On December 12, when Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma where the roses had been appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.
Mary appeared to Juan Diego dressed as an Aztec woman to show her love and compassion to an oppressed group of people. Mary had heard the prayers and pain of these people, and she came to give them hope. The image on the tilma is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy family but shunned his good fortune. Voluntarily embracing poverty, he astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and with great humility.
Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi’s youth. Prayer led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer.
Many began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no intention of founding a religious order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity.
During the last years of his relatively short life Francis was nearly blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. His feast day is October 4, and he has been invoked as the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology.
Saint Patrick (387-461)
Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.
Details of his life are uncertain, but it is certain that he was a man of action with a rocklike belief in his vocation and his great desire was to proclaim the good news to the Irish.
Patrick was emphatic in encouraging widows to remain chaste and young women to consecrate their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils, founded several monasteries and continually urged his people to greater holiness in Christ.
One of the few certainly authentic writings is his Confessio, above all an act of homage to God for having called Patrick, unworthy sinner, to the apostolate. His feast day is March 17, and he has been invoked as the patron of Ireland, and engineers.
Saint Peregrine (1230-1645)
Born in Forli, Italy, Peregrine Lazios was a member of an anti-papal party until he encountered Saint Philip Benizi and began to channel his energies in new directions. He engaged in good works and was eventually ordained a priest. Returning to his hometown he became known for his preaching and holiness, as well as his devotion to the sick and poor. Peregrine developed varicose veins and, in turn, cancer of the foot. The wound became painful and diseased and all medical treatment failed. The local surgeon determined amputation of the leg was called for.
Tradition has it that the night before surgery was scheduled, Peregrine spent much time in prayer before the crucified Jesus, asking God to heal him if it was God’s will to do so. Falling asleep at one point, Peregrine had a vision of the crucified Jesus leaving the cross and touching his cancerous leg. When Peregrine awoke, the wound was healed and his foot and leg, seemingly miraculously cured, were saved. He lived another 20 years.
Peregrine was canonized in 1726. His feast day is May 1 and he is invoked as the patron saint of persons suffering from cancer.