Saint John of God was born João Duarte Cidade (Portuguese form, the Spanish form is João Cidade Duarte) in Montemor-o-Novo, now in the District of Évora, Kingdom of Portugal, the son of André Cidade and Teresa Duarte, a once-prominent family that was impoverished but had great religious faith. One day, he heard a visiting Spanish priest speak of adventures in the new world with the discovery of America. That very night he ran away from home to travel with the priest and never saw his parents again. According to his original biography, his mother died from grief soon after this and his father joined the Franciscan Order.
The young João soon found himself a homeless orphan in the streets of Oropesa, near Toledo, Spain. There, in a foreign land, he had no one to care for him, nothing on which to live and he had to be content with whatever food he could find. He was eventually taken in by a man called Francisco Mayoral and the boy settled down as a shepherd caring for his sheep in the countryside until he was 27.
The farmer was so pleased with João’s strength and diligence that he wanted him to marry his daughter and to become his heir. Feeling pressure to marry the manager’s daughter, whom he loved as a sister, João left to join the Spanish army in the war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and pillaging that his comrades enjoyed. One day he was accused of being involved in the theft. He was condemned to death, and that would have been his fate had not some more tolerant officer intervened to win his pardon.Read More »
Saint David (Welsh: Dewi Sant, Latin: Davidus; c. 500 – c. 589) was born near Capel Non (Non’s chapel) on the South-West Wales coast near the present city of Saint David. Dewi is said to have been of royal lineage. His father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, who was prince of Ceredigion, a region in South-West Wales. His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain. Legend has it that Non was also a niece of King Arthur. Dewi was educated in a monastery called Hen Fynyw, his teacher being Paulinus, a blind monk. He stayed there for some years before going forth with a party of followers on his missionary travels.
Dewi travelled far on his missionary journeys through Wales, where he established several stdavid3churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and Cornwall as well as Brittany. It is also possible that he visited Ireland. Two friends of his, Saints Padarn and Teilo, are said to have often accompanied him on his journeys, and they once went together on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch.
Dewi is sometimes known, in Welsh, as ‘Dewi Ddyfrwr’ (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life – he is said to have drunk nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture.Read More »
Saint Conrad was born Corrado Confalonieri, a member of one of the noblest families of Piacenza, in the town of Calendasco, a fiefdom of his family. He married an aristocratic young woman named Ephrosyne when he was quite young. Though pious, he led the normal way of life for a man of his station.
One day, as he was engaged in his usual pastime of hunting within his family’s domain, he ordered his attendants to set fire to some brushwood in which game had taken refuge. The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly to nearby fields, forests, towns and villages. Upon seeing this, Conrad ran away in fear.
A peasant who happened to be found near where the fire began was accused of starting the blaze and was imprisoned, tortured to confess, and condemned to death. As the man was being led to execution, a remorseful Conrad publicly admitted his guilt to the Signoria of the city. As punishment and reparation for the damages he had caused, the city seized all his assets, only sparing his life due to his noble status.Read More »
In his childhood and youth, Saul learned how to “work with [his] own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). His trade, tent making, which he continued to practice after his conversion to Christianity, helps to explain important aspects of his apostleship. He could travel with a few leather-working tools and set up shop anywhere. It is doubtful that his family was wealthy or aristocratic, but, since he found it noteworthy that he sometimes worked with his own hands, it may be assumed that he was not a common labourer.
Until about the midpoint of his life, Saul was a member of the Pharisees, a religious party that emerged during the later Second Temple period. What little is known about Paul the Pharisee reflects the character of the Pharisaic movement. Pharisees believed in life after death, which was one of Saul’s deepest convictions. They accepted nonbiblical “traditions” as being about as important as the written Bible; Saul refers to his expertise in “traditions” (Galatians 1:14). Pharisees were very careful students of the Hebrew Bible, and Saul was able to quote extensively from the Greek translation.
By his own account, Saul was the best Jew and the best Pharisee of his generation (Philippians 3:4–6; Galatians 1:13–14), as later he claimed to be the best apostle of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:22–3; 1 Corinthians 15:9–10)—though he attributed his excellence to the grace of God.Read More »
Mary Magdalene has a special place among Jesus’ disciples.
It was St. Mary Magdalene‘s great love for Christ that kept her standing at the foot of the Cross, weeping and grief-stricken, until her Savior died. It was her heartbreaking pain of loss that drove her to his tomb at the first light of day in order to anoint his body.
As a reward for her great love and faithfulness, she is the privileged person to whom Jesus first appeared on Easter Sunday morning; she was the very first witness of the Resurrection.
It was Mary Magdalene, a woman, who went and told the twelve Apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead; for this she is called “Apostle to the Apostles.”
After Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, Mary Magdalene continued her mission as an evangelizer, contemplative, and mystic in the heart of the Church.
According to tradition, after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the Magdalene—a wealthy woman of some importance—boldly presented herself to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with an egg in hand to illustrate her message.
Holding the egg out to him, she exclaimed for the first time what is now the universal Easter proclamation among Christians, “Christ is risen!”Read More »
St. Damien of Molokai, also called Father Damien, original name Joseph de Veuster, was born in rural Belgium on 3 January 1840, the youngest of seven children. He was educated at the college of Braine-le-Comte, and in 1858 he joined the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus Fathers) at Leuven, Belgium.
Growing up on a farm, it was assumed that he would eventually take over the farm. Instead, Jozef attended college in Braine-le-Comte, then entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven. He took the name of Brother Damianus (Damiaan in Dutch, Damien in French) in his first vows, presumably in reference to the first Saint Damian, an early Christian saint who was said to perform miracles.
Following in the footsteps of his older sisters Eugénie and Pauline (who had become nuns) and older brother Auguste (Father Pamphile), Damien became a “Picpus” Brother (another name for members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) on 7 October 1860. His superiors thought that he was not a good candidate for the priesthood because he lacked education. However, he was not considered unintelligent. Because he learned Latin well from his brother, his superiors decided to allow him to become a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies, Damien prayed daily before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. Read More »
The legend of Saint Ursula is based on a 4th- or 5th-century inscription from the Church of St. Ursula, located on Ursulaplatz in Cologne. It states that the ancient basilica had been restored on the site where some holy virgins were killed. In Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda Aurea (1265–66; Golden Legend) Ursula is a British princess who went to Rome accompanied by 11,000 virgins and was killed with them by the Huns on the return from the pilgrimage. Although it is generally agreed that Ursula was of Romano-British descent and that prior to her untimely demise she was betrothed to a man of high rank and was completing a holy pilgrimage through Europe to Rome before her marriage.
Ursula was raised up by God to preserve the maidens and widows of her time from seduction and dishonor, and to enroll them in the celestial army of crowned martyrs. She accomplished her mission with extraordinary energy and constancy, with the guide of The archangel Raphael who appeared on her dream.
Ursula had vowed herself to God since at the young age. She was not exactly beautiful; she was tall and strong, resolute and energetic, of a very grave countenance and masculine bearing. She was, at the time of her martyrdom, thirty-three years old.
A warrior, powerful and renowned, requested of her father the privilege of witnessing the exercises of the maidens of whom he had heard so much. Though embarrassed by the request, Ursula’s father dared not refuse. He tried, at first, to put him off; but the man insisted until he gained his point. He was charmed with Ursula’s skill and beauty and at once, asked her in marriage, saying that her young companions should espouse his officers in a country beyond the sea not yet peopled.Read More »