What is a Saint?
In the Catholic Church, the saints are ordinary people like you and me who made it to heaven. They’ve done nothing that you and I cannot do, if we persevere in following Jesus Christ and living our lives according to His teaching.
Catholic devotion to the saints is nothing more than respect and admiration for the memory of the deceased heroes of the Church. We honor them as men and women of heroic virtue who can serve as our role models. They were no more perfect than are we; but, at the end of their lives – and hopefully, ours – they received from Our Lord his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We also ask the saints to intercede for us. Have you ever asked anyone to pray for you when you were having a hard time? That is how Catholics “pray to” the saints – we pray with saints, not to them. As the Letter of James says, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
Well-known saints like those below often are remembered in a special way on particular days during the year.
This Weeks Saints
Our Lady of Loreto
Pope St. Damasus I
Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. John of the Cross
St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli
St. Adelaide of Burgundy
St. Juan Diego Cuautlatoatzin
December 9: Memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuautlatoatzin
Nestled between two great Marian celebrations (Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12) is the optional memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (“the talking eagle”). He was raised in the pagan Aztec tradition from an early age. At the age of 50, he and his wife Maria Lucia were baptized by Franciscan missionaries, and became two of the first Native American converts in Mexico.
Juan Diego would walk great distances to receive religious instructions and to attend mass. In 1531, while on his way to the mass celebrating the Immaculate Conception, he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess, who said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. When the bishop pressed him for proof, Juan appealed to the woman who promised him a sign on the next day, December 11. Because his uncle took ill, he was unable to meet the woman on that day.
When he encountered her on the following day and told her of his uncle, she replied, “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” (Am I not here, I who am your mother?). She promised him his uncle would be restored to health and directed him to the top of a hill, where Juan found roses growing in the frozen December ground. He filled his tilma or cloak, and took the flowers to the bishop. When he opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the ground before the bishop, revealing an image of the lady imprinted on the tilma. With the Bishop’s permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the tilma was kept in a place of honor. There he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray, until his death at the age of 74. The same tilma is still displayed in a place of honor in the Basilica of Guadalupe.
“I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf”–St. Juan Diego
Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (“the talking eagle”) was a Native American convert born in what is now a part of Mexico City. In 1531, while on his way to daily mass, he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess, who said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. When the bishop pressed him for proof, Juan appealed to the woman who directed him to the top of a hill, where Juan found roses growing in the frozen December ground. He filled his tilma or cloak and took the flowers to the bishop. When he opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the ground before the bishop, revealing an image of the lady imprinted on the tilma.
With the Bishop’s permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the tilma was kept in a place of honor. There he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray. The same tilma is still displayed in a place of honor in the Basilica of Guadalupe. Despite all odds, the image of our lady is still fresh and vibrant, on a piece of rough peasant clothing which should have disintegrated hundreds of years ago.
St. Lucy of Syracuse
St. Lucy (283-304) was born in Syracuse, Sicily, where she was also martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian. She was of a noble Greek family, and – her father having died when she was only 5 – was brought up as a Christian by her mother. Her mother was ill with a bleeding disorder and, fearing for her daughter’s future welfare, betrothed her to a young man. Three years later, when she was miraculously cured at the shrine of St. Agatha in Catania, she acceded to Lucy’s request that she remain unmarried.
This so angered the youth to whom she had been unwillingly betrothed that he denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Sicily. When it was decided to commit her to a brothel, Lucy, with the help of the Holy Spirit, could not be physically moved by the guards, even after they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her to be tortured and executed. After her eyes were torn out, a fire was built around her, but again God protected her and the burning bundles of wood around her went out. As she prophesied against her tormentors, she was finally stabbed in the neck with a dagger and died.
Legend has it that, before she died, her sight was restored. Lucy, whose name can mean “light” or “lucid,” is the patron saint of the blind. Pope Saint Gregory the Great, familiar with the Christian traditions of Sicily through his family, inserted the names of the Sicilian virgin martyrs, Agatha and Lucy, into the Roman Canon.
O St Lucy, preserve the light of my eyesAnon
so that I may see the beauties of creation,
the glow of the sun,
the colour of the flowers
and the smile of children.
St. John of the Cross
St. John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Fontiveros, Avila, Spain in 1542. His wealthy father was disowned when he married a poor weaver’s daughter, and John grew up in grinding poverty. His father died when he was only 3, and his older brother died of malnutrition two years later.
At 14, he took a job serving the sick in a hospital of Medina, and 7 years later, became a lay brother to the Carmelite friars, who had him ordained a priest. He became an expert on the Bible and translated the Song of Songs from Latin into Spanish. John sought a simple and quiet life, and persistently lived a life that was far more austere and strict than was called for by the rules of the Carmelite order.
Seeing this, St. Teresa of Avila asked him to help her in the reform of the Carmelite Order. Many of his brother monks resented the austerity that John attempted to impose, and had him arrested and confined to a 6×10 cell in Toledo; once a week he was publicly flogged. He escaped after nine months, but in that dark and desolate cell, he found Light itself, and there he composed some of his most beautiful poetry.
Escaping, he continued to write many poetical and mystical theological works, which earned him the title of Doctor of the Church. He became the spiritual director of the Spanish Carmelite novices, and died of a painful infection in 1591.
In the blessed nightFrom Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross
In secret that none saw me
Nor I beheld aught
Without any other light or guide
Save that which was burning in the heart