Saint of the Week

Saint of the Week 
December 4th
2nd Sunday of Advent


Saint Nicholas, Bishop c. Third–Fourth Century
Feast Day December 6
Patron Saint of Russia, sailors, merchants, and children

Santa Claus signed the Nicene Creed

     Traditions the world over are so embedded in the rhythms of daily life that their ubiquity goes unnoticed. Why a birthday cake with lighted candles? Why make a wish and then blow those candles out? The origin of this charming tradition is obscure. Why shake hands, toast by clinking glasses, cross fingers for good luck, or have bridesmaids? The sources of many traditions are so historically remote and culturally elusive as to allow diverse interpretations of their meaning. Today’s saint is without doubt, however, the man behind the massively celebrated tradition of Santa Claus, the most well-known Christmas figure after Jesus and the Three Kings. Santa Claus’ mysterious nocturnal visits to lavish children with gifts at Christmastime is not a tradition whose origin is lost in the mists of history. It is a tradition firmly rooted in Christianity.

      Little is known about the life of Saint Nicholas; besides that, he was the Catholic Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the early fourth century. It is likely that he suffered under the persecution of Diocletian and certain that he later attended the Council of Nicea in 325. “Nicholas of Myra of Lycia” appears on one of the earliest and most reliable lists of the Bishops at Nicea. Some of the bishops at Nicea looked like soldiers who had just crawled off the battlefield; eyes gouged out, skin charred black, stumps for legs. These were the front-line torture victims of Diocelatian. The Emperor Constantine had called the Council, and when he entered the dim hall to inaugurate the great gathering, this colossus, the most powerful man in the world, dressed in robes of purple, slowly walked among the hushed and twisted bodies and did something shocking and beautiful. He stopped and kissed each eyeless cheek, each scar, gash, wound, and mangled stub where an arm had once hung. With this noble gesture, the healing could finally begin. The Church was free. The mitred heads wept tears of joy, and Saint Nicholas was among them.

     At his death, Saint Nicholas was buried in his see city. Less than a century later, a church was built in his honor in Myra and became a site of pilgrimage. And the Emperor Justinian, in the mid-500s, renovated a long-existing church dedicated to Saint Nicholas in Constantinople. In Rome, a Greek community was worshipping in a basilica dedicated to Saint Nicholas around 600. The church can still be visited today. These churches, and hundreds of others named for Saint Nicholas, prove that devotion to our saint was widespread not long after his death.

        When Myra was overrun by Muslim Turks in the 1000s, there was a risk that the saint’s bones would disappear. So in 1087, sailors from Bari, Italy, committed a holy theft and moved Saint Nicholas’ relics to their own hometown. In 1089 the Pope came to Bari to dedicate a new church to Saint Nicholas. And just a few years later, Bari became the rendezvous point for the First Crusade. Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of travelers and sailors, making him popular with the crusading knights. These knights, in turn, later brought the devotion to Saint Nicholas they learned in Bari back to their villages dotting the countryside of Central and Western Europe. Thus, it happened that a saint famous along the shores of the Mediterranean became, in ways not totally understood, the source of gift-giving traditions that perdure until today in every corner of Europe.

       Legends state that Nicholas saved three sisters from lives of shame by secretly dropping small sacks of gold through their family’s window at night, thus giving each a marriage dowry. Other legends relate that Nicholas secretly put coins in shoes that were left out for him. Nicholas’ legacy of gift-giving became a Central-European and Anglo-Saxon expression of the gift-giving formerly exclusive to the Three Kings. Christmas night gift-giving in Northern lands thus slowly replaced the more biblically solid traditions of giving gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany, a custom more popular in Southern Europe and in lands which inherited its traditions.

      The antiquity of the Church means it has played a matchless role in the formation of Western culture, a role that no faux holidays or new “tradition” can replicate. Santa Claus has roots. He wears red for the martyrs. He dons a hat resembling a bishop’s mitre. He often holds a sceptre similar to a bishop’s crozier. And he distributes gifts to children in humble anonymity on the night of Christ’s birth. Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus is real, in one sense. In all likelihood, he signed the Nicene Creed. Our “Santa,” then, was an orthodox Catholic bishop who argued for correct teaching about our Trinitarian God. The gift of the truth was, then, his first and most lasting gift to mankind.

     Saint Nicholas, your service as a bishop included not only teaching correctly the mysteries of our faith but also generous and humble charity in alleviating the material needs of your neighbor. Help all of us to combine good theology with Christian action like you did.







Saint of the Week 
November 27th
1st Sunday of Advent

Saint Andrew the Apostle First Century
Feast Day November 30th
Patron Saint of Scotland, Greece, fishermen, sailors, and spinsters

A big-hearted fisherman becomes a daring Apostle of the Lord

       Andrew was a fisherman from Bethsaida in Northern Israel. He lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which is really a lake, where many of Jesus’ miracles took place. Jesus chose mostly fishermen and small farmers to be His disciples, perhaps because in these professions a man can plan, sweat, and calculate, and still, in the end, fail. Success is not appreciated unless failure is an option. Farmers and fishermen must depend on God’s providence for success. No amount of preparation can make the clouds open, and the rains pour down, and no amount of careful planning will make the nets burst with fish. Farmers and fishermen are hard-working, careful, thoughtful, and yet entirely dependent on the weather and other factors outside of their control. They must work, pray and trust in God in equal measure. They must have the discipline of faith. These are the qualities that made Andrew and others such great disciples.

         Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew was at John’s side when a man whom John had recently baptized walked by. “Look, here is the Lamb of God,” John exclaimed (Jn 1:36). Andrew was curious and, along with a few of John’s other disciples, followed the mysterious man. The next day Andrew breathlessly told his brother Simon “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41) and brought him to Jesus, who renamed Simon as Peter. From that point forward, Andrew became one of Jesus’ most reliable Apostles, a leader among the Twelve whose name recurs time and again in the Gospels. There are various traditions about where Andrew evangelized after the Ascension of the Lord, with most focusing on Greece, Turkey, and north of the Black Sea. There are no certain facts about his manner of death, although various apocrypha state that he was tied to an x-shaped cross and then preached from that high pulpit for days until he died.

        Saint Andrew sat at the table of the Last Supper, felt the hot breath of the Holy Spirit on his cheeks at Pentecost, saw the radiant body of the risen Lord with his own eyes, and endured physical hardships as he carried a new religion into old lands. We can suppose that he, like many of the Apostles, was content with his way of life before he met the Lord. Fishing on the tranquil waters of a lake, sharing daily meals with his extended family, chatting in the evenings with old friends before a fire. The Apostles did not abandon their lives to follow Jesus because their lives were miserable. It was a question of more. More meaning. More truth. More fulfillment. More challenge. More daring. There is nothing wrong with a good life, but there is something better about a great life.

        The Apostles were mostly simple, intelligent, hardworking men whose outstanding characteristics were courage and daring. Many people who could have followed the Lord did not. The rich young man went away sad for he had many possessions. Perhaps the greatest thing that young man had was his youth. Andrew and Peter and John and Simon and all the others were young too. Yet they did not go away sad. They stayed, they followed, they were challenged, and they were contented. Andrew renounced his father, his boat, his nets, and all that was known and comfortable. He traded what was good for what was better. And for that generosity and daring we remember him today, so many centuries later. He was of that generation of pathbreakers who sowed the seeds whose harvests the Christians of today have reaped and enjoyed.

Saint Andrew, we ask your intercession as an Apostle in heaven to make all Christians more generous in responding to the Lord’s invitation to follow Him. Embolden us to share the faith with our families, as you did with your brother Simon Peter, and to be outspoken in our beliefs.



Saint of the Week 
November 20th
34th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr. Third Century
Feast Day November 22
Patron Saint of Music and Musicians

A girl martyr’s mysterious death seizes the imagination

      The First Eucharistic Prayer, also known as the Roman Canon, is principally a liturgical document. But like so many things liturgical, it also has immense historical value. Only a tiny fraction of the ancient world’s documents has survived. Archives flood, libraries burn to ash, monasteries collapse, castles are sacked, and coastlines erode—the cities perched above them crumbling into the waves, everything lost, as the sea pushes inland. When documents disappear, historians must work from scraps of pottery and marble, or from the detritus of watery shipwrecks, to gather just tiny pieces of the fuller mosaic of what once was. The Catholic Church is a phenomenal exception to culture’s progressive Alzheimer’s. In its law, catechisms, calendar, feasts, buildings, hierarchy, and most especially in its liturgy, the Church’s past is never really past. Catholicism’s collective memory is stored, not in rack upon rack of digital servers in hermetically sealed rooms, but in the minds of its hundreds of millions of adherents. The faithful are the cloud. Priests and religious in particular circulate the living faith, ensuring that it is perpetually churning, flowing, and spreading like a rushing river.

      The names of the martyrs listed in the Roman Canon include today’s saint, Cecilia. From one perspective, that is all we need to know. She lived. She was martyred. She was remembered. Cecilia’s name was included in the only Eucharistic Prayer then said at Sunday Mass, presumably because she stood out from the many other martyrs for a particular reason. That reason has been lost. Perhaps a stirring homily, committed to writing, preserved moving details of Cecilia’s life and tragic death. But maybe that homily was converted to cinders and slowly floated away when the enormous library of the Monastery of Cluny burned during the French religious conflicts of the 1500s. Perhaps there was a biographically detailed marble epitaph over Cecilia’s grave in the catacombs. Yet maybe that epitaph was wrenched from the wall by a barbarian plunderer who later used it as a sturdy doorstep for his house in Aachen. Cecilia’s details are lost, for reasons unknown. But the Roman Canon is not lost, and it gathers together some notable virgin martyrs of the first few centuries: “…Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia…” Like flies in amber, their names are preserved, to be heard in hundreds of languages by millions of people every week until the end of time.

      Cecilia was likely martyred by cuts to her neck after attempts to steam her to death were unsuccessful. She was then buried in a loculus near the papal crypt in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus. After being the object of devotion in the catacombs for centuries, Cecilia’s remains were transferred by the Pope in the early 800s to her own Basilica in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. During some restoration work on the Basilica in 1599, Cecilia’s body was uncovered and found to be incorrupt. Before contact with the atmosphere caused her fragile, paper-Mache like skin to disintegrate, an artist carefully noted what he saw. His sculpture of Saint Cecilia is evocative and justly famous. The marble itself seems to rest in peace. It is not a forward, glorious pose in the Counter-Reformation tradition dominant when the statue was executed. The marble is white, reflecting Cecilia’s purity. The saint’s face and hair are mysteriously covered by a sheet, inviting the mind to wonder. Cecilia’s fingers seem to form a cryptic Christian symbol of the Trinity—Three in One. And her neck is sliced by the stroke of an axe. The sculptor’s personal testimony is embedded in the floor near his work: “Behold the body of the Most Holy Virgin, Cecilia, whom I myself saw lying uncorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture and body.” We don’t know the full story of our saint, but we are certain of her end—a generous act of self-gift to Christ.

Saint Cecilia, you died an early death, preserving your virginity and choosing Christ over all others. Be an example to all youth of the true goal of their lives. Help them to seek God first and the good and holy pleasures of life only after Him.


Saint of the Week 
November 13th
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious 1207–1231 

Feast Day November 17
Patron Saint of the Third Order of Saint Francis

A faithful wife and mother lose her husband and becomes a model lay Franciscan

       The marriage of today’s saint was not any less happy for being arranged. Elizabeth of Hungary’s parents betrothed her at the age of four to a young German nobleman named Ludwig and sent her away as a child to live in his family’s court. Elizabeth wed Ludwig when she was fourteen and he twenty-one. Only in a post-industrial age have the teenage years been understood, in some countries but not all, as a time of self-discovery, boundary pushing, rejection of tradition, and excuse for total confusion. Puberty, not the entire span of teen years, was historically understood as the passage to adulthood, responsibility, and a professional life. It was typical of her era, and many other eras, that Elizabeth would marry at fourteen. She was ready and became a contented, serious, and successful wife and mother, bearing three children, while still a teen.

       Before Ludwig left on Crusade in 1227, he and Elizabeth vowed never to remarry if one were to die before the other. Then Ludwig died on his way to the Holy Land. Elizabeth was distraught but fulfilled her promise. So at the age of twenty, her already pious and prayerful soul waded into deeper Christian waters. Her mortifications became more rigorous, her financial generosity more total, and her prayer time more all consuming. Most of all, Elizabeth’s life now began to revolve almost uniquely around the poor, the aged, and the sick. She opened a hospice near a relative’s castle and there welcomed anyone in need.

      Elizabeth also fell under the spell of a charismatic and over-bearing spiritual director who insisted that she make the most severe emotional and physical sacrifices in her quest for perfection. As a sign of her commitment to the poor, and to aid her in conquering herself, Elizabeth took the habit of a Third Order Franciscan in 1227. Franciscanism was spreading like wildfire throughout Europe, and Elizabeth was not the only noblewoman far from Assisi to be drawn to the message of Saint Francis so soon after his death. A native Hungarian, who came in search of Elizabeth in Germany at this time, was shocked to find her dressed in drab grey clothes, poor, and sitting at a spinning wheel in her hospice. He begged Elizabeth to return to her father’s royal court in Hungary. She refused. She would stay near the tomb of her husband, stay near her children, now in the care of nuns and relatives, and stay close to the poor whom she loved so much.

       Most likely worn out by her austerities and near constant contact with the sick, Elizabeth died at the age of twenty-four on November 17, 1231. Miracles were attributed to her intercession soon after her burial, and testimonies to her holiness were collected so rapidly that she was canonized by the pope just four years after her death. In 1236 a shrine was dedicated to her memory in Marburg, Germany, and her remains were transferred there amidst great ceremony. Pilgrims continued trekking to her shrine throughout the Middle Ages, until a Lutheran prince, full of dissenting Protestant spit and vinegar, removed Elizabeth’s relics from her shrine in 1539. They have never been recovered.

      Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, we seek your heavenly intercession on this date of your early death. Help all young mothers to persevere in their vocations and all young widows to not despair but to be confident as they walk forward in life, knowing that Christ is at their side.


Saint of the Week 
November 6th
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop c. 336 – 397
Feast Day November 11

Patron Saint of France, soldiers, and conscientious objectors

He gave half his cloak to a beggar, had a dream, and then gave all his life to Christ

Many great and holy men and women are unknown to history because they lacked the one crucial ingredient to become well known—a biographer. Today’s saint was one of the fortunate ones. A historian named Sulpicius Severus personally knew and interviewed Martin in the last years of Martin’s life and put it all on parchment. In an age of few books, Sulpicius’ Life of Saint Martin was a blockbuster. Over many decades and centuries, it slipped into the bloodstream of European culture until, by the medieval age, the Life was standard reading in all monasteries. Virtually every priest and monk in Europe was deeply familiar with the details of the life of Saint Martin of Tours.

The typical biography of a saint for the first few centuries of Christianity worked from the back to the front, from death to life. The real drama was how the saint died, not how he or she lived. Tales of bloody martyrdom, solitary exile, starvation and exposure were as moving and unfortunate as they were common. The Life of Saint Martin told of Martin’s adventures and heroism in living the faith, not just about his last few breaths. He was a saint for the new age of legalized Christianity. Martin of Tours died in his bed.

Martin was born to pagan parents in present-day Hungary but desired to become a Christian from a young age. His father resisted his son’s holy desires and obliged Martin to follow in his footsteps and serve as a soldier in Rome’s Imperial Guard. Martin was serving in France when the most iconic moment of his life took place. Martin was slowly approaching the city gates of Amiens on horseback one cold winter evening. A half-naked man shivered on the ground, begging for help. No one stopped. No one helped. So, Martin, clad as a soldier, pulled the cloak from his back, drew his sharp sword from its scabbard, and sliced his cloak in two. The poor man’s skeletal frame was covered with just half of the cloak. That same night, when Martin fell asleep, he had a dream. Jesus appeared to him clad in the cloak and said “Martin, still a catechumen, covered me with this garment.” Upon awakening, Sulpicius tells his reader, “Martin flew to be baptized.”

Martin subsequently befriended one of the great men of Gaul of that era, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, who ordained him into minor orders. After various apostolic adventures, Martin was chosen the Bishop of Tours in 372. In his twenty-five years as bishop, Martin was zealous, and jealous, for the House of the Lord. He aggressively tore down pagan temples, which he understood to be dedicated to demons. He traveled incessantly and was untiring in evangelizing the people of the countryside of Gaul and in founding churches. Martin also developed a reputation as a miracle worker and prophet. He cured the eye problems of Saint Paulinus of Nola, Saint Augustine’s good friend.

By the time of his peaceful death, Bishop Martin of Tours had a well-deserved reputation for holiness. Devotion to Martin spread as Sulpicius’ biography was copied and shared. Numerous churches were named in Martin’s honor in every country of Europe. England had one hundred seventy-three churches dedicated to Martin of Tours in 1800. The Shrine over Martin’s tomb was one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in all of Europe until France was riven by Reformation violence in the 1560s. In an interesting vestige of Martin’s enduring historic importance, Martin’s feast day in the Breviary is more fully elaborated with prayers and antiphons than almost any comparable saint on the Church’s calendar.

Saint Martin of Tours, your encounter with the beggar has fired the imagination of countless Christians. You were generous in every single way in living your faith. Through your intercession in heaven, assist us now to see Jesus in everyone, just as you did then.


Saint of the Week 
October 30th
31st Sunday of Ordinary Time


Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop 1538 – 1584
Feast Day November 4
Patron Saint of bishops, cardinals, and seminarians

A young nobleman becomes a Cardinal, exemplifies holiness, and reforms the Church

       Today’s saint was born in a castle to an aristocratic family. His father was a count, his mother a Medici, and his uncle a pope. This last fact was to determine the trajectory of Charles Borromeo’s entire life. Pope Pius IV (1559–1565) was the brother of Charles’ mother. At the tender age of twelve, Charles received the external sign of permanent religious commitment, the shaving of the scalp known as tonsure. He was industrious and extremely bright and received advanced degrees in theology and law in his native northern Italy. In 1560 his uncle ordered him to Rome and made him a Cardinal at the age of just twenty-one, even though Charles was not yet ordained a priest or bishop. This was brazen nepotism. But in this instance it was also genius. The Cardinal-nephew was a man of rare gifts and his high office afforded him a wide forum to give those gifts their fullest expression.

      At the Holy See, Charles was loaded down with immense responsibilities. He oversaw large religious orders. He was the papal legate to important cities in the papal states. He was the Cardinal Protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, and Switzerland. And, on top of all this, he was named administrator of the enormous Archdiocese of Milan. Charles was so bound to his Roman obligations, however, that he was unable to escape to visit Milan’s faithful who were under his pastoral care. Non-resident heads of dioceses were common at the time. This pained Charles, who would only be able to minister in his diocese years later. Cardinal Borromeo was a tireless and methodical laborer in the Holy See who nevertheless always found ample time to care for his own soul.

       When Pope Pius IV decided to reconvene the long-suspended Council of Trent, the Holy Spirit placed Cardinal Borromeo in just the right place at just the right time. In 1562 the Council Fathers met once again, largely due to the energy and planning of Charles. In its last sessions the Council completed it most decisive work of doctrinal and pastoral reform. Charles was particularly influential in the Council’s decrees on the liturgy and in its catechism, both of which were to have an enduring and direct influence on universal Catholic life for over four centuries. Charles was the driving force and indispensable man at the Council, yet he was still just in his mid-twenties, being ordained a priest and bishop in 1563 in the heat of the Council’s activities.

      In 1566, after his uncle had died and a new pope granted his request, Charles was at last able to reside in Milan as its Archbishop. There had not been a resident bishop there for over eighty years! There was much neglect of faith and morals to overcome. Charles had the unique opportunity to personally implement the Tridentine reforms he had played such a key role in writing. He founded seminaries, improved training for priests, stamped out ecclesiastical bribery, improved preaching and catechetical instruction, and combatted widespread religious superstition. He became widely loved by the faithful for his personal generosity and heroism in combating a devastating famine and plague. He stayed in Milan when most civil officials abandoned it. He went into personal debt to feed thousands. Charles attended two retreats every year, went to confession daily, mortified himself continually, and was a model Christian, if an austere one, in every way. This one-man army for God, this icon of a Counter Reformation priest and bishop, died in Milan at the age of forty-six after his brief but intense life of work and prayer. Devotion to Charles began immediately, and he was canonized in 1610.

        Saint Charles Borromeo, your personal life embodied what you taught. You held yourself and others to the highest standards of Christian living. From your place in heaven, hear our prayers and grant us what we ask for our own good and that of the Church.


Saint of the Week 
October 23rd
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles First Century

Feast Day October 28
Patron Saints of hopeless causes (Jude) and tanners (Simon)

The Apostles laid the foundation for a later generation’s household of faith

      There is often a crosshatch of bloody scratches on the right cheek of statues of the suffering Christ in Latin America. It’s called the “Judas Kiss,” a reminder of Judas Iscariot’s act of both affectionately greeting Christ and betraying Him in one sinister gesture. No one kneels before a statue of Judas Iscariot in a Catholic church. No one lights a candle to Judas asking that he restore their lost sight or heal their child’s cancer. But Judas Iscariot wasn’t the only Judas among the Twelve Apostles. Today’s Saint Jude (or Judas) was often confused with his evil contemporary. Since Judas Iscariot was so despised and ignored, and since he shared a name with the good Jude, a tradition gathered over the centuries of petitioning today’s saint only when all other saints had failed to answer one’s prayers. Saint Jude became the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, then, probably because of the faithful’s reluctance to seek the intercession of one whose misfortune it was to share a name with Christ’s betrayer. Out of confusion or an abundance of caution, Saint Jude thus became a saint of last resort. When the dam was barely holding, when a pulse could no longer be felt, when the rains wouldn’t come, a candle was lit to Saint Jude, hoping against hope, that he would respond.

     Saint Simon the Apostle is called the “Zealot” in Saint Luke’s Gospel. This may describe his zeal for the house of the Lord or denote his membership in a radical Jewish sect. Zeal is, in any case, a virtue. It must be joined with prudence to ensure that it does not offend for the sake of offending. A zealous soul will, however, lovingly provoke others to consider the things of God through his words, actions, and appropriate silences. Zeal for the house of the Lord has migrated to other concerns in many parts of today’s world. While religious zeal has unfortunately come to be understood as a negative virtue, zeal for planet earth and various other more “acceptable” causes are now seen as positive. The intentional disciple, however, understands zeal in its historical sense as a burning concern for perennial truths, not mere fads, and as a proactive form of love for all those things that lead mankind to God. God is a person, after all, and depends on His friends to defend Him.

      Saints Simon and Jude disappear from the pages of the Gospels after the brief mentions of their names. Nothing is known of either of them with any certainty, not even where they evangelized or where they met death. As Apostles, however, we know with certainty that they were key factors in laying the deep foundations of the Church in the rock-solid substrata of the Middle Eastern culture in which they lived. The Catholic Church is the household of faith. An earthly family is united by blood, while the theological family of the Church is united by the Sacraments and the Creed. But it is not sufficient for a family to be united by biological or theological DNA. A family is little if it is not a household. A household works together, prays together, and eats together. A household is where a family feels like a family. A boy may know who his father is, but if he doesn’t share everyday life with that father, their family relationship means little. It is in the household that life happens all over the globe. Mom and dad, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, in the kitchen, around the table, in the garden, at Mass, a band united in both mundane and sacred duties. The Church is the household of faith where God’s family gathers week in and week out, century after century. Christians must not only be united intellectually, but must live united, and feel that unity in their bones. Today’s saints worked long ago to build the household we now enjoy. They dug the well so that we could pull up the water and drink. They planted so that we could reap. They lit the fire so that we could warm ourselves close to the flames, one universal family living in one universal household we call the Church.

    Saints Simon and Jude, we ask for your intercession in heaven as members of the Twelve Apostles. Approach the Lord Jesus with our needs in your hands. Answer the prayers we present. Fulfill the petitions we seek. 


Saint of the Week 
October 16th
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

St. Luke, Evangelist & Gospel Writer First Century

Feast Day October 18

Patron Saint of artists, physicians, and surgeons

A first-generation disciple of Christ gives the Church two foundational works

       Saint Luke was one of the four Evangelists but not one of the Twelve Apostles. Like Saint Mark, Luke was not among that select group who walked step by step alongside Jesus as he journeyed through Palestine. Luke was more likely a disciple of Saint Paul, who mentions a Luke who accompanies him on his missionary journeys. Little is known with certainty of Luke’s life. What is known is that he wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles over a quarter of the New Testament. The two volumes of Luke and Acts are foundational works for knowing Jesus Christ and the early Church.

      The third Gospel does not name its author and does not even claim to be an eye-witness account. But the earliest known manuscripts of the third Gospel are attributed to Luke, and even Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, writing in the late second century, names Luke as its author. Every one of the four Gospels has a unique perspective, is written for a specific audience, and relates certain details and stories the other Gospels do not. Saint Luke likely wrote for a non-Jewish crowd. He translates into the Greek language words that the other Gospels leave in their original language, a hint that Luke’s readers were non-Jews who could not read Hebrew and Aramaic. Luke alone tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man who repents of having ignored him. To Luke alone do we owe our knowledge of the Incarnation. It is as if he is just behind the young Mary in the room when the Archangel Gabriel announces that she will be the Mother of God. Only Luke writes down the Virgin’s Magnificat and gives us the scriptural basis for the “Hail Mary.” Yet in all of this, Luke himself does not appear. He must have been humble, because he recedes into the crowd while the whole cast of the Gospel climbs on stage.

      Luke’s Acts of the Apostles is a diary of the very early Church. Acts is often told from a first-person perspective with the use of the word “we.” Without this journal there would be yawning gaps in our knowledge of the nascent Church. It is to Luke, especially, that we are indebted for our knowledge of Pentecost and the workings of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Luke is clearly on Saint Paul’s missionary team and remains at the great evangelist’s side until the bitter end. When Paul is imprisoned in Rome, with his beheading just over the horizon, he is abandoned by all his coworkers save one. From his prison cell, Paul writes “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tm 4:11).

        Saint Augustine writes in the Confessions that the present tense of past things is called memory. The past is not really the past, then, if we remember it accurately. Memory can be ill-used when it carries a grudge and blocks forgiveness, or when it doesn’t let the past recede but allows it to invade the present so forcefully that no one is allowed to grow beyond their worst five minutes. Understood in a healthy way, memory makes the good past live again. When committed to writing, memory makes the past forever present for posterity. The written Gospels make Christ come alive. Their pages are not Christ in full, as no one can be reduced to just their documentary trace. But the Word made flesh, the Word alive today in heaven, was captured at a certain moment in time by the words of Saint Luke. Christians believe that the Gospels capture the essentials of the life of Jesus Christ which God desires the faithful to know. And when these Gospels are read in the light of the living Gospel of the Church and supplemented by the grace of the Sacraments, the witness of the saints, the governance of the hierarchy, and the teachings of the Catechism, we have all that we need to achieve heaven. The Evangelists make the original events of the life of Christ present today. Without these inspired records, God would not cease to be God, but He would certainly be less vivid to us living so many centuries after His Son became man.

        Saint Luke, your words preserving the life of Christ make Him knowable and lovable to the world today. Through your intercession in heaven, we ask that the riches of your Gospel, especially your words about the Blessed Mother, may inspire us to be more faithful disciples.


Saint of the Week 
October 9th
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time


Saint John XXIII, Pope 1881 – 1963
Feast Day October 11
Patron Saint of papal delegates

A smart, holy priest with a fatherly personality becomes a warm-hearted pope

      The first Pope John XXIII was an amoral antipope. He was one of three competing popes between 1409–1417, the confusing, final chapter of the Western Schism whose power struggles and political intrigues tore at the fabric of the Church between 1378–1417. When today’s saint was elected Bishop of Rome in 1958, being well versed in church history, he chose the name John XXIII to put to rest forever and always any lingering confusions about the historical status of the first John XXIII.

       Pope Saint John XXIII was born Angelo Roncalli into a large, humble, rural family in a mountainous region of Northern Italy. He entered the local minor seminary at the age of eleven and persevered in his philosophical and theological studies, both locally and in Rome, until his ordination in 1904. Angelo had the good fortune to know, serve, and study under a succession of well-educated, charitable, and holy pastors. Both his formal and informal Church-sponsored education created in him the winning combination of rustic common sense, broad historical vision, and cultural openness that would mark his entire life. His simple, but not simplistic, farm background, stellar education, profound life of prayer, and total immersion in the rich Catholic life and history of his native region formed and molded him into a great man.

      After his ordination, Father Angelo Roncalli became secretary to his bishop, a saintly and pastoral prelate whose total dedication left a deep impression on the young priest who was at his side for everything for almost ten years. Father Roncalli also edited a monthly journal, taught theology and history in the seminary, gave priestly guidance to various groups, and served as an army medic and military chaplain during World War I. His engaging personality and deep wisdom left a deep impression. He was, simply, an outstanding priest. In 1921 the Pope called him to Rome to serve the universal church in various roles, including as the Vatican representative in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece, and then as the Apostolic Nuncio to Paris near the end of WWII and beyond. In 1953 he was made a Cardinal and the Patriarch of Venice, and thus returned to some of the direct pastoral duties he loved so much, and which had been so reduced during his long administrative service to the Church.

In October 1958 his accumulated knowledge and experience were placed at the service of the universal Church, when at the age of seventy-six he was elected pope. He surprised the world soon afterward by calling for an Ecumenical Council, the meeting of all the world’s bishops that became known as Vatican II. As pope, he published some important social encyclicals, waded into the dawning theological debates of the Council, and then died in 1963, after reigning for only four and a half years.

From the age of fourteen, John XXIII had kept a spiritual journal he allowed to be posthumously published as Journal of a Soul. It reveals a trusting soul with a deep love of Jesus Christ and the Church, a man aware of all the major currents of culture, and a man of refined spirituality and profound humility. It reveals a saint. Pope John had said that he wanted to be like Pope Saint Pius X—to be born poor and to die poor. In his last will and testament, he left $20 to each of the surviving members of his family. It was all he had. John XXIII was canonized on the same day as Pope Saint John Paul II on April 27, 2014. His feast day is not his date of birth, death, or ordination but the date of the opening session of Vatican II in 1962. His largely incorrupt body is visible to the faithful in a glass coffin in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Saint John XXIII may your long life of dedicated and selfless service to the Church and to her faithful be an example for all priests and bishops. May they see in you an example of the Good Shepherd who cares for his flock with wisdom and tenderness


Saint of the Week 
October 2nd

St. Francis of Assisi 1182 – 1226
Feast Day October 4
Patron Saint of animals, ecology & merchants. Co-patron of Italy

A merchant’s son of eccentric sensibilities goes radical

        Though originally baptized by his mother as Giovanni (John) in honor of Saint John the Baptist, today’s saint was renamed Francesco, or “Frenchy,” by his father Pietro de Bernardone after Pietro returned home from trading in France. Pietro loved France, and his son’s romantic, troubadour spirit likely flowed from that same cultural source. Francesco grew up in a middle-class home that engaged in the sale of fine cloth. Francis was a skilled merchant in the family business, but he enjoyed spending money more than earning it. He was a man about town, a leader among his friends, and well liked for his concern for others. He was also a failed knight. When he was twenty, Francis joined a civic-minded Assisi militia in a battle against a neighboring city. When the militia was routed, Francis was spared death and instead held for ransom due to his fine livery. He was held prisoner in a rank dungeon for a year before the ransom was paid. He returned to Assisi a more reflective man. Subsequent military service for the Papal States ended abruptly when Francis heard a voice tell him, “Follow the master rather than the man.” He sold his expensive armor and horse, returned home, and began to spend hours in prayer.

        Shortly after this turning point, Francis met a leper on the outskirts of Assisi. He initially recoiled, but then dismounted, gave the man some money, and kissed his putrid hand. This was the start of his frequent visits to leper houses and hospitals. When Francis heard a voice from the cross say to him, “Francis, go and repair my church, which as you can see is in ruins,” he sold a large amount of cloth and his father’s horse at a neighboring market town. Coming back to Assisi, he donated the proceeds to a priest at the church of San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi. Francis’ father was irate. His son had sold cloth from the family store, and a horse, and had then given away money that was not his. This was stealing, and Francis was put in prison. A dramatic scene then unfolds between Francis and his father in a church square, in the presence of Bishop Guido of Assisi and his court. Pietro demands the return of his money. The Bishop supports him and says the Church cannot accept stolen money. Francis returns the coins. But then Francis goes further. Piece by piece, he removes his clothing until he is naked before everyone’s eyes. He then says, “From now on I will not say ‘My Father, Pietro Bernardone’ but ‘Our Father, who art in heaven.’” There is not a single reference in any contemporary Franciscan document to Pietro after this dramatic incident. Francis was now cut off, disinherited, and on his own.

       Francis eventually begins to wear a rough smock which he ties around his waist with a cord. He lives alone in absolute poverty, prays, helps the sick, rebuilds nearby run-down chapels, and preaches and begs in Assisi. Men begin to follow his lead, and the first fire of the worldwide Franciscan order ignites. The “Lesser Brothers of Assisi” is recognized by the Pope, Francis is ordained a deacon, and the Order’s explosive growth can only be called miraculous. Saint Francis is the first great founder of a religious order since Saint Benedict in the 500s. By sheer allure of personality, holiness, and vision, not intellect or organizational skill, he imparted a mysteriously powerful charism to his followers. He was ardent in his love for the Holy Eucharist and insisted that churches be well kept in honor of the Lord’s physical presence. Francis died in his forty-fourth year and was canonized just two years later, in 1228. Saint Francis may be the most well-known person of the second millennium. A measure of his massive impact can be gauged by observing that it is not uncommon for Saint Francis to be seen as the ideal of Christian virtue and poverty, even over and above the religion’s very founder.

      Saint Francis of Assisi, you held the Holy Eucharist in such holy reverence you dared not be ordained a priest. Your love of the Word of God complimented your love of His creation. Help all Christians to have your same balance of love for God, the Sacraments, and all God’s creation.