Saint of the Day

St. John Francis Regis


St. John Francis Regis

Feast date: Jun 16

On June 16 the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of Saint John Francis Regis, a 17th-century French Jesuit known for his zealous missionary efforts and his care for the poor and marginalized.

In a 1997 letter to the Bishop of Viviers, Pope St. John Paul II commemorated the fourth centenary of St. John Francis Regis’ birth, honoring him as a “lofty figure of holiness” and an example for the Church in the modern world.

“In less than 10 years of ministry, this saintly Frenchman succeeded, with God’s help, in leading back to Christ an immense crowd of men, women and children of all ages and walks of life,” the Pope recalled. He urged the faithful to imitate the saint and “put themselves in God’s hands with total trust.”

Born in 1597, John Francis Regis was the son of a wealthy merchant father and a mother descended from nobility. As a boy he was sensitive, devout, and eager to please his parents and teachers. Educated by Jesuits from the age of 14, he entered the Society of Jesus in December of 1616.

As he followed the traditional Jesuit path of teaching and extensive studies, John also became known as a skilled catechist. He was eager to enter the priesthood, and offered his first Mass in 1631. John spent much of the rest of that year caring for victims of a plague outbreak in the city of Toulouse.

In 1632, John received his assignment as a missionary to the French Protestants – known as Huguenots – as well as the country’s lapsed Catholics and others in need of evangelization. The rest of his life would be devoted to this mission, with remarkable success.

John’s missionary work spanned both a large geographical distance and a broad social spectrum. In over 50 districts of France, he preached the Gospel to children, the poor, prisoners, and others forgotten or neglected by society. His best-known work involved helping women escape prostitution.

John’s labors reaped a harvest of conversions. However, his boldness – perceived as arrogance in some cases – led to a conflict with certain other priests, a period of tension with the local bishop, and even threats of violence from those whose vices he condemned.

Against these obstacles, the priest persevered, sustained by fervent prayer and severe asceticism. His missionary work involved difficult winter journeys, and a witness at his beatification testified to John’s habit of preaching outdoors all day, then hearing confessions throughout the night.

St. John Francis Regis died at age 43, in late December of 1640. Though suffering from a lung ailment, he insisted on preaching a parish mission and hearing confessions. A penitent found him unconscious in the confessional, though he revived long enough to receive the last rites before dying.

Hailed as a confessor of the faith and a model for Jesuit missionaries, St. John Francis Regis was beatified in 1716 and canonized in 1737. Although June 16 was established as his feast day, there are differing local and particular customs, including the Jesuits’ celebration of his feast on July 2.

St. Lutgardis


St. Lutgardis

Feast date: Jun 16

St. Lutgardis is the patron saint of the blind and physically disabled. Born in the 12th century, she came to her vocation in part due to her father’s bad business sense. Her father lost her dowry in a failed business venture and sent her to a Benedictine convent at the age of 12.

A few years later, she received a vision of Christ showing her his wounds, and at age 20 she became a Benedictine nun. Her visions continued and she is said to have levitated and dripped blood from her head when meditating on the Passion.

Seeking a stricter life, she joined the Cistercians and displayed the gifts of healing, prophecy, spiritual wisdom and teaching on the Gospels.

She accepted the blindness that afflicted her for the last 11 years of her life as a gift that helped reduce the distractions of the outside world. In her last vision, Christ told her when she was to die, the day after the Feast of the Holy Trinity, June 16, 1246. She was 64.

St. Germaine Cousin


St. Germaine Cousin

Feast date: Jun 15

June 15 is the feast day of St. Germaine Cousin, a simple and pious young girl who lived in Pibrac, France in the late 1500s. Germaine was born in 1579 to poor parents. Her father was a farmer, and her mother died when she was still an infant. She was born with a deformed right arm and hand, as well as the disease of scrofula, a tubercular condition.

Her father remarried soon after the death of her mother, but his new wife was filled with disgust by Germaine’s condition. She tormented and neglected Germaine, and taught her siblings to do so as well.

Starving and sick, Germaine was eventually kicked out of the house and forced to sleep under the stairway in the barn, on a pile of leaves and twigs, because of her stepmother’s dislike of her and disgust of her condition. She tended to the family’s flock of sheep everyday.

Despite her hardships, she lived each day full of thanksgiving and joy, and spent much of her time praying the Rosary and teaching the village children about the love of God. She was barely fed and had an emaciated figure, yet despite this she shared the little bread that she had with the poor of the village.

From her simple faith grew a deep holiness and profound trust in God. She went to Mass everyday, leaving her sheep in the care of her guardian angel, who never failed her. Germaine’s deep piety was looked upon with ridicule by the villagers, but not by the children, who were drawn to her holiness.

God protected Germaine and showered his favor upon her. It was reported that on days when the river was high, the waters would part so that she could pass through them on her way to Mass. One day in winter, when she was being chased by her stepmother who accused her of stealing bread, she opened her apron and fresh summer flowers fell out. She offered the flowers to her stepmother as a sign of forgiveness.

Eventually, the adults of the village began to realize the special holiness of this poor, crippled shepherdess. Germaine’s parents eventually offered her a place back in their house, but she chose to remain in her humble place outside.

Just as the villagers were realizing the beauty of her life, God called her to Himself. Her father found her body on her bed of leaves one morning in her 22nd year of life.

Forty-three years later, when a relative of hers was being buried, Germaine’s casket was opened and her body was found incorrupt. People in the surrounding area began praying for her intercession and obtaining miraculous cures for illnesses.

St. Germaine was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867 and inscribed into the canon of virgins.

St. Methodius of Constantinople


St. Methodius of Constantinople

Feast date: Jun 14

St. Methodius worked for unity and reconciliation in the Eastern Church and served as the Patriarch of Constantinople the last five years of his life.

Born in Syracuse, he first felt the call to enter religious life while in Constantinople, where he had gone to seek a position at court. He left for the island of Chinos, where he built a monastery and started a monastic community.

However, his time at the monastery was short-lived since he was summoned by the Patriarch of Constantinople to help govern the diocese and create unity after a debate broke out on the use of icons in worship. While in Rome seeking the Pope’s help, he was exiled for seven years. He returned as patriarch in 842 and continued to work for unity.

St. Anthony of Padua


St. Anthony of Padua

Feast date: Jun 13

On June 13, Catholics honor the memory of the Franciscan priest St. Anthony of Padua. Although he is popularly invoked today by those who have trouble finding lost objects, he was known in his own day as the “Hammer of Heretics” due to the powerful witness of his life and preaching.

The saint known to the Church as Anthony of Padua was not born in the Italian city of Padua, nor was he originally named Anthony. He was born as Ferdinand in Lisbon, Portugal during 1195, the son of an army officer named Martin and a virtuous woman named Mary. They had Ferdinand educated by a group of priests, and the young man made his own decision to enter religious life at age 15.

Ferdinand initially lived in a monastery of the Augustinian order outside of Lisbon. But he disliked the distraction of constant visits from his friends, and moved to a more remote house of the same order. There, he concentrated on reading the Bible and the Church Fathers, while living a life of asceticism and heartfelt devotion to God.

Eight years later, in 1220, Ferdinand learned the news about five Franciscan friars who had recently died for their faith in Morocco. When their bodies were brought to Portugal for veneration, Ferdinand developed a passionate desire to imitate their commitment to the Gospel. When a group of Franciscans visited his monastery, Ferdinand told them he wanted to adopt their poor and humble way of life.

Some of the Augustinian monks criticized and mocked Ferdinand’s interest in the Franciscans, which had been established only recently, in 1209. But prayer confirmed his desire to follow the example of St. Francis, who was still living at the time.

He eventually obtained permission to leave the Augustinians and join a small Franciscan monastery in 1221. At that time he took the name Anthony, after the fourth-century desert monk St. Anthony of Egypt.

Anthony wanted to imitate the Franciscan martyrs who had died trying to convert the Muslims of Morocco. He traveled on a ship to Africa for this purpose, but became seriously ill and could not carry out his intention. The ship that was supposed to take him to Spain for treatment was blown off course, and ended up in Italy.

Through this series of mishaps, Anthony ended up near Assisi, where St. Francis was holding a major meeting for the members of his order. Despite his poor health, Anthony resolved to stay in Italy in order to be closer to St. Francis himself. He deliberately concealed his deep knowledge of theology and Scripture, and offered to serve in the kitchen among the brothers.

At the time, no one realized that the future “Hammer of Heretics” was anything other than a kitchen assistant and obedient Franciscan priest. Around 1224, however, Anthony was forced to deliver an improvised speech before an assembly of Dominicans and Franciscans, none of whom had prepared any remarks.

His eloquence stunned the crowd, and St. Francis himself soon learned what kind of man the dishwashing priest really was. In 1224 he gave Anthony permission to teach theology in the Franciscan order –  “provided, however, that as the Rule prescribes, the spirit of prayer and devotion may not be extinguished.”

Anthony taught theology in several French and Italian cities, while strictly following his Franciscan vows and preaching regularly to the people. Later, he dedicated himself entirely to the work of preaching as a missionary in France, Italy and Spain, teaching an authentic love for God to many people – whether peasants or princes – who had fallen away from Catholic faith and morality.

Known for his bold preaching and austere lifestyle, Anthony also had a reputation as a worker of miracles, which often came about in the course of his disputes with heretics.

His biographers mention a horse, which refused to eat for three days, and accepted food only after it had placed itself in adoration before the Eucharist that Anthony brought in his hands. Another miracle involved a poisoned meal, which Anthony ate without any harm after making the sign of the Cross over it. And a final often recounted miracle of St. Anthony’s involved a group of fish, who rose out of the sea to hear his preaching when heretical residents of a city refused to listen.

After Lent in 1231, Anthony’s health was in decline. Following the example of his patron – the earlier St. Anthony, who had lived as a hermit – he retreated to a remote location, taking two companions to help him. When his worsening health forced him to be carried back to the Franciscan monastery in Padua, crowds of people converged on the group in hopes of paying their homage to the holy priest.

The commotion surrounding his transport forced his attendants to stop short of their destination. After receiving the last rites, Anthony prayed the Church’s seven traditional penitential psalms, sung a hymn to the Virgin Mary, and died on June 13 at the age of 36.

St. Anthony’s well-established holiness, combined with the many miracles he had worked during his lifetime, moved Pope Gregory IX – who knew the saint personally – to canonize him one year after his death.

“St. Anthony, residing now in heaven, is honored on earth by many miracles daily seen at his tomb, of which we are certified by authentic writings,” proclaimed the 13th-century Pope.

St. Leo III, Pope


St. Leo III, Pope

Feast date: Jun 12

(December 26, 795 – June 12, 816)

Leo came from a modest family in southern Italy. He was elected to the office of St. Peter unanimously by the clergy of Rome following the death of Pope Hadrian. The papacy had dramatically changed over the 8th century, and many Pope’s had separated themselves from the protection the Byzantine emperors and their governors in Ravenna. Pope Stephen II had, in 754, sought the support of the Frankish king Pepin to defeat the invading Lombards. The pope would receive from Pepin the lands formally conquered by the Lombards, therefore creating the Papal States. The Lombards remained, and Leo soon found that he had other enemies within Rome, many of the aristocratic families of the city including relatives of the late Pope Hadrian who accused the pope of perjury and adultery.

On April 25, 799, Leo was attacked while riding in a procession by a gang who sought to cut out his eyes and tongue. While Leo survived the attack, he was arrested by his enemies, deposed as pope and imprisoned in a monastery. Leo managed to escape north to the Franks, who refused to accept the deposition. Leo was escorted back to Rome where the Franks began an investigation both of the charges against the pope and the attack upon his person. The emperor Charlemagne arrived in Rome in November 800 to review the charges in solemn council. The emperor stated that no one on earth could judge the Apostolic See, but he accepted the pope’s statement of innocence after Leo took an oath purging himself of all charges on December 23rd.

At Christmas mass at St. Peters some two days later, Leo crowned Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor, giving Charlemagne equal status with the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople. This relationship provided protection for the Holy See and allowed Leo to administer the Papal States, bestowed several decades earlier by Pepin. However Charlemagne extracted a high price for his support, often interfering in the work of the church and expecting Leo’s tacit approval in all things. Leo began a building program in Rome, restoring and embellishing churches. A great apse was added to Santa Susanna and a magnificent Byzantine mosaic was installed in the apse, depicting both Leo and Charlemagne. Leo died on June 12, 816 and was buried in the old Constantinian basilica of St. Peter. Leo is listed as a saint based on the miracle of his restored eyes and tongue, following the attack on his person in 799, his feast day is June 12.

St. Gaspar Bertoni


St. Gaspar Bertoni

Feast date: Jun 12

St. Gasper was born in Verona, Italy in 1777. He was baptized the day after. It is known that he was from an affluent family, and that his family’s faith-life was also quite notable.

Gasper was an only child as his baby sister passed away. He had the benefit of an excellent education both at home and at St. Sebastian’s school which was run by Jesuits.

From the grace of his first Holy Communion at age 11, Gaspar Bertoni was called to a life of mystical union. His vocation to the priesthood matured, and at 18, he entered the seminary. In frequenting the theological course as an extern student, he found in his professor of moral theology, Fr. Nicholas Galvani, an excellent spiritual director.

He was known to have helped the sick and hurt during the invasion of French armies in 1796, the beginning of a 20 year period of upheaval during which he tended to those in need. He took over the spiritual direction of a community founded then by St. Magdalena of Canossa at St. Joseph’s Convent (May 1808).

On November 4, 1816, with two companions, he moved into a small house, adjacent to a suppressed Church, that bore the title of “the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis (from this, the name of his community was eventually adapted; in this small church, he also worked to spread the devotion to the Passion and the wounds of Christ). In a very unostentatious manner, the new community opened a tuition-free school, offering this and other gratuitous services to the Church and society. The men lived together a common life of strict observance and penance. An intense life of contemplation was joined to a broad apostolate, including the Christian education of the youth, the formation of the clergy and missionary preaching, in perfect availability to the requests of the bishop.

Right after an ecstasy that he experienced praying before a Crucifix (on May 30, 1812), he suffered a first attack of “miliary fever” that brought him to the very threshold of death. Almost miraculously, he did recover but for the rest of his 41 years of life he remained in poor health, all this while giving a wonderful example of patience and heroic confident abandonment to God.Even from his sick-bed, suffering indescribable discomfort, he became the “angel of counsel” for countless persons who sought him out.

His Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, enriched by so many sufferings, gradually spread beyond Verona, to other cities in Italy, and then to the United States, to Brazil (where it presently has 6 Bishops), to Chile, to the Philippines and to mission territories: South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Thailand.

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