Pope St. Martin I


Pope St. Martin I

Feast date: Apr 13

Catholics celebrate the memory of Pope St. Martin I on April 13. The saint suffered exile and humiliation for his defense of orthodoxy in a dispute over the relationship between Christ’s human and divine natures.

Martin was born in the Italian city of Tuscany, during either the late sixth or early seventh century. He became a deacon and served in Rome, where he acquired a reputation for education and holiness. Pope Theodore I chose Martin as his representative to the emperor in Constantinople during a period of theological controversy between the imperial capital and the Roman Church.

The dispute in which Martin became involved, first as the papal nuncio and later as Pope himself, was over Christ’s human nature. Although the Church had always acknowledged the eternal Son of God as “becoming man” within history, some Eastern bishops continued to insist that Christ’s human nature was not entirely like that of other human beings.

During the seventh century, authorities within the Byzantine Church and empire promoted a version of this heresy known as “monothelitism.” This teaching acknowledged that Christ had two natures –  human and divine – but only one will: the divine. Pope Theodore condemned the teaching, and excommunicated Patriarch Pyrrhus of Constantinople for holding to it.

Martin inherited this controversy when he succeeded Theodore as Pope. At the Lateran Council of 649, he followed his predecessor’s lead in condemning Pyrrhus’ successor, Patriarch Paul II, who accepted Emperor Constans II’s decision to forbid all discussion of whether or not Christ had both a human and a divine will. Pope Martin condemned monothelitism completely, and denounced those who held to it.

He insisted that the teaching which denied Christ’s human will could not be glossed over as an irrelevant point. To refuse to acknowledge Christ’s distinct divine and human wills, he believed, was to deny the biblical teaching that Christ was like humanity in everything other than sin.

The Byzantine emperor retaliated against Pope Martin by sending his own representative to Italy during the council, with orders either to arrest the Pope or have him killed. A henchman of the emperor, who attempted to assassinate the Pope while he was distributing Holy Communion, later testified that he suddenly lost his eyesight and could not carry out the death sentence.

In 653, the emperor again sought to silence Pope Martin, this time by sending a delegation to capture him. A struggle ensued, and he was taken to Constantinople before being exiled to the island of Naxos for a year. Those who tried to send help to the exiled Pope were denounced as traitors to the Byzantine empire. Eventually he was brought back to Constantinople as a prisoner, and sentenced to death.

The Pope’s appointed executioners stripped him of his clothes and led him through the city, before locking him in a prison with a group of murderers. He was beaten so severely that he appeared to be on the verge of death. At the last moment, however, both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the emperor agreed that the Pontiff should not be executed.

Instead he was kept in prison before being banished again, to an island that was suffering from a severe famine. Pope Martin wrote to a friend that he was “not only separated from the rest of the world,” but “even deprived of the means to live.”

Although the Pope died in exile, in 655, his relics were later brought back to Rome. The Third Ecumenical Council of Constantinople eventually vindicated Pope St. Martin I, by confirming in 681 that Christ had both a divine and a human will.

St. Stanislaus


St. Stanislaus

Feast date: Apr 11

On April 11, the Catholic Church honors the memory of the 11th-century bishop and martyr St. Stanislaus of Krakow, who died for the faith at the hands of King Boleslaus II.

Canonized in 1253, St. Stanislaus is a beloved patron of the Polish nation and people. In his own country he is commemorated May 8, the date of his death in 1079.

Blessed John Paul II – who was Krakow’s archbishop in the “See of St. Stanislaus” before becoming Pope – paid tribute to him often during his pontificate. In a 2003 letter to the Polish Church, he recalled how St. Stanislaus “proclaimed faith in God to our ancestors and started in them…the saving power of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“He taught the moral order in the family based on sacramental marriage. He taught the moral order within the State, reminding even the king that in his actions he should keep in mind the unchanging Law of God.” Through St. Stanislaus, God taught the Polish Pope’s homeland to respect “the Law of God and the just rights of every person.”

Born near Krakow in July of 1030, Stanislaus Szczepanowski was the son of Belislaus and Bogna. His parents, members of the nobility, showed great zeal and charity in their practice of the Catholic faith. Their son studied for a time in his own country, and went on to learn theology and canon law in Paris. The death of his parents left him with a large inheritance, which he gave away to the poor.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Stanislaus served Church of Krakow in different pastoral and administrative posts. Following the death of the diocese’s leader, Bishop Lambert Zula, Stanislaus was chosen as his successor in 1071. He did not want the position, but obeyed Pope Alexander II’s order to accept it. Having done so, he proved to be a bold preacher of the Gospel.

This boldness brought him into conflict with Poland’s ruler, King Boleslaus II, who was becoming notorious for his violent and depraved lifestyle. After a series of disputes over his scandalous behavior and other matters, Stanislaus found no success in his efforts to reform the king.

He excommunicated the sovereign – who responded with furious anger, sending henchmen to kill the bishop. When they proved unwilling or unable to do so, Boleslaus took matters into his own hands. He ambushed Stanislaus and struck him down with a sword during his celebration of Mass.

St. Stanislaus was soon acclaimed as a martyr, while Boleslaus II lost his grip on power and left Poland. In later years the fallen monarch is said to have lived in a monastery, repenting of the murder.

St. Fulbert


St. Fulbert

Feast date: Apr 10

St. Fulbert was a scholar and philosopher, and was also the bishop of Chartres, France. He spent much of his time as bishop rigorously defending monasticism and orthodoxy.

He was born in Italy in the 10th century and studied at Rheims, France, under the celebrated philosopher Gerbert, who later became Pope Sylvester II. Gerbert took Fulbert to Rome with him. After the Pope’s death, the bishop of Chartres made Fulbert the chancellor of the cathedral, and soon Chartres became one of the best learning centers in France.

He was eventually named bishop of Chartres in 1007 and had the cathedral rebuilt after a fire destroyed it. He died in 1029.

St. Waudu


St. Waudu

Feast date: Apr 09

St. Waudu, also known as St. Waltrude, came from an extremely saintly family in Belgium. Her parents, her husband and her three children were declared saints. Her husband was the Count of Hennegau – and after their children were born, she convinced him to become a monk. He later founded an abbey at Haumont.

She gave away all of her possessions, built a small house and lived alone. However, many people still sought her wisdom and advice. Eventually, she had so many followers that she had to have a monastery built, around which the current town of Mons developed. By the time of her death in 688, she had become famous for her charity and her miraculous healings.

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord


Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Feast date: Apr 08

The Solemnity of the Annunciation celebrates the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the special mission God had chosen for her in being the mother of His only son.

We are continually reminded of the importance of this feast to our salvation in various devotional prayers. Two examples that highlight the importance of this feast are the joyous mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus.

The feast of the Annunciation began to be celebrated on this day during the fourth and fifth centuries, soon after the date for celebrating Christmas was universalized throughout the Church. This feast celebrates the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and the salvation of all mankind. This point of our salvation was deeply discussed by many of the Church fathers, to explain it to the faithful and to show the deep love God has for us. Some of the Church fathers who wrote on this were St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine.

St. Julie Billiart


St. Julie Billiart

Feast date: Apr 08

St. Julie Billiart, co-foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, came to her religious vocation late in life, at the age of 51. She was born in 1751, the fifth of seven children. As a child, she developed a great love for Jesus in the Eucharist. At 16, she began to teach to help support her family.

However, due to a murder attempt on her father, she was plunged into very poor health for 30 years, 22 of which she was completely paralyzed. During this time she was very patient, and offered all of her sufferings to God.

During the French Revolution, Julie opened her home as a hiding place for loyal priests, forcing her to flee from danger several times. She also received a vision of the Crucified Christ, surrounded by a large group of women dressed in habits. An inner voice told her that she would begin a religious institute for the Christian education of young girls.

Julie and a rich young woman began the teaching order in 1803. In 1804, Julie was miraculously cured and could walk again. She died peacefully in 1816 at age 64. Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1969.

St. John Baptist de la Salle


St. John Baptist de la Salle

Feast date: Apr 07

St. John Baptist de la Salle is known for promoting and reforming Christian education, especially amongst the poor. He is also the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, which now teaches around the world.

The French priest was one of the first pedagogues to emphasize classroom teaching in the vernacular instead of in Latin. He also founded three teachers’ colleges and, in 1705, he established a reform school for boys at Dijon.

John was born in Rheims, France to a noble family of 10 children on April 30, 1651. He studied in Paris and was ordained in 1678. He died at St. Yon, Rouen on Good Friday, April 7, 1751. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900 and named patron of teachers by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

St. Vincent Ferrer


St. Vincent Ferrer

Feast date: Apr 05

Roman Catholics celebrate the missionary efforts of St. Vincent Ferrer on April 5. The Dominican preacher brought thousands of Europeans into the Catholic Church during a period of political and spiritual crisis in Western Europe.

Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia, Spain, during 1357. His parents raised him to care deeply about his religious duties, without neglecting his education or concern for the poor. One of his siblings, Boniface, later joined the Carthusian order and became its superior general. Vincent, however, would become a Dominican, and preach the Gospel throughout Europe. He joined at age 18 in 1374.

As a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers, Vincent committed much of the Bible to memory while also studying the Church Fathers and philosophy. By age 28, he was renowned for his preaching, and also known to have a gift of prophecy. Five years later, a representative of Pope Clement VII chose Vincent to accompany him to France, where he preached extensively.

While Vincent sought to live out his order’s commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, he could not escape becoming involved in the political intrigues of the day. Two rival claimants to the papacy emerged during the late 1300s, one in Rome and another in the French city of Avignon. Each claimed the allegiance of roughly half of Western Europe.

Caught between the rival claimants, Vincent attempted to persuade the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII to negotiate an end to the schism. Benedict, who was regarded as Pope in both Spain and France, sought to honor Vincent by consecrating him as a bishop. But the Dominican friar had no interest in advancing within the Church, and regarded many bishops of his time as negligent leaders distracted by luxury.

“I blush and tremble,” he wrote in a letter, “when I consider the terrible judgment impending on ecclesiastical superiors who live at their ease in rich palaces, while so many souls redeemed by the blood of Christ are perishing. I pray without ceasing, to the Lord of the harvest, that he send good workmen into his harvest.”

Vincent not only prayed, but acted, committing himself to missionary work and resolving to preach in every town between Avignon and his hometown in Spain. In a commanding style, he denounced greed, blasphemy, sexual immorality, and popular disregard for the truths of faith. His sermons often drew crowds of thousands and prompted dramatic conversions.

Popular acclaim, however, did not distract him from a life of asceticism and poverty. He abstained completely from meat, slept on a straw mat, consumed only bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays, and accepted no donations for himself beyond what he needed to survive. He traveled with five other Dominican friars at all times, and the men would spend hours hearing confessions.

For two decades, Vincent and his group of friars undertook preaching missions in Spain, Italy, and France. When he traveled outside these regions, into Germany and other parts of the Mediterranean, those who did not know the languages in which he preached would testify that they had understood every word he said, in the same manner as the apostles experienced at Pentecost.

Although he did not heal the temporary divisions within the Church, Vincent succeeded in strengthening large numbers of Europeans in their Catholic faith. He wrote little, although some of his works have survived, and exist in modern English translations.

St. Vincent Ferrer died on April 5, 1419 at age 62, in the city of Vannes in the French region of Brittany. He was canonized in 1455, and has more recently become the namesake of a traditional Catholic community approved by the Holy See, the Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer.

St. Isidore of Seville


St. Isidore of Seville

Feast date: Apr 04

On April 4, the Catholic Church honors Saint Isidore of Seville, a bishop and scholar who helped the Church preserve its own traditions, and the heritage of western civilization, in the early middle ages.

In 653, less than two decades after his death, a council of bishops in Spain acclaimed St. Isidore as “an illustrious teacher of our time and the glory of the Catholic Church.” He is regarded as being among the last of the early Church Fathers, who combined Christian faith and classical education.

Isidore was born in Cartagena, Spain, in approximately 560. Three of his siblings – his brothers Leander and Fulgentius, who became bishops, and his sister Florentina, a nun – were later canonized as saints along with him.

As the Archbishop of Seville, Leander was an important influence on his younger brother, helping Isidore develop a commitment to study, prayer, and intense work for the good of the Church. Isidore, in turn, joined his brother’s mission to convert the generally heretical Visigoths who had invaded Spain.

When St. Leander died around the year 600, his brother succeeded him as Seville’s archbishop. Isidore inherited his brother’s responsibility for Church affairs in an intense period of change, as the institutions of the Western Roman Empire gave way to the culture of the barbarian tribes.

For the good of the Church and civilization, Isidore was determined to preserve the wisdom and knowledge of the past, maintaining the fruitful synthesis of classical Roman culture and Christian faith. He was also intent on preventing false teachings from shattering the unity of the Church in Spain.

Responsible above all for the good of the Church, Isidore also sought the common good by encouraging study and development in areas such as law, medicine, foreign languages, and philosophy. He compiled the “Etymologiae,” the first encyclopedia written from a Catholic perspective.

Under Isidore’s leadership, a series of local councils solidified the orthodoxy of the Spanish Church against errors about Christ and the Trinity. Systematic and extensive education of the clergy was stressed as a necessary means of guarding the faithful against false doctrine.

Prolific in his writings and and diligent in governing the Church, Isidore did not neglect the service of those in need.

“Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbor with action,” he declared. “It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other.”

In the last months of his life, the Isidore offered a moving testament to these words, intensifying his charitable outreach to the poor. Crowds of people in need flocked to his residence from far and wide, as the bishop offered his final works of mercy on earth.

St. Isidore of Seville died on April 4 of the year 636. Later named a Doctor of the Church, he was more recently proposed as a patron saint of Internet users, because of his determination to use the world’s accumulated knowledge for the service of God’s glory.

St. Irene of Rome


St. Irene of Rome

Feast date: Apr 03

St. Irene of Rome was the widow of the martyr Saint Castulus, a Roman military officer who was killed for spreading the Christian faith in 286. She lived in the Roman Empire during the reign of Diocletian, and died in 288.

According to legend, she attended to the wounded St. Sebastian after he was shot full of arrows as depicted in the painting by artist Vicente López y Portaña.

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