I know it’s the 5th of March, and one of the biggest saints had his feast on the 1st, but as we stare at the chaos that the Italian Republic (biggest mistake since the unification of Italy as far as I’m concerned) is facing in the aftermath of yesterday’s elections, it seems more important than ever to look at the saints of the month ahead, for two big reasons: we need all the intercession we can get, and we need a reminder that good people actually are a thing.
We are in the last bit of Lent; this month’s topic in the Blessed is She year challenge is self-control, and I can tell you that, unlike last month which had the topic of repentance (and few do Catholic Guilt as well as I do), I am entirely failing at that. My stress level reaches a red warning by 10am more regularly than well, TMI. So I’m failing at the whole Lent thing, but hopefully this will be an inspiration to do better in the last push, for me as much as you.
St David, Patron Saint of Wales
1st of March
A native Welsh, his most famous miracle has been defined the “most superfluous” miracle ever, as it involves the raising of the ground where he stood to form a hill.
He was an ascetic monk, and founded some communities with a very strict rule, and he’s reputed to have given the advice of doing the little things in life in his last sermon. I really admire such attitude, especially since I have lost my favourite Welshman almost two years ago. Sometimes we get lost in big plans and life gets out of control and we forget what truly matters.
Ss. Perpetua and Felicity
7th of March
For some inexplicable reasons they seem to be missing from the calendar of the church in England and Wales despite being among the saints we remember in the Mass. Martyred for the faith in the 3rd century Carthage, a woman of a wealthy family and a slave working in her family’s household, they were allowed to give birth to their children before the death sentence was carried out, and the faith that upheld them up to the gruesome death they suffered has prompted the conversion of at least one of their guards. They stand as a great reminder of what St Paul meant when he said “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
St John of God
8th of March
The patron saint of the sick and of hospital is a saint I should be very fond of as a I have been ill for weeks. He cared for the needs of the poor in their health and their spirituality in 16th century Spain, that time of European history when, if you believed a mainstream history textbook, you’d believe there is no living faith in the Catholic Church and all the warriors for God were Protestants (he died in 1550). He was a significantly humble man: it is reported that “people accused him of taking in tramps and corrupted people. The archbishop asked John if this was true. John replied by saying that the only bad person he knew of at the hospital was himself”. May we all have such an attitude about others, instead of judging from our self-defined moral high horse.
St Catherine of Bologna
9th of March
The patroness of artists, she was educated at the court of Ferrara in the 15th century, as her father was a politically influential man. She went on to become the superior of the order of the Poor Clares. Her works of art are still on display in Venice, and include illuminated manuscripts which, if you ask me, are pretty hard work that require good talent. As we often think of Medieval crafts as male-dominated, it’s amazing how the Church celebrates the talents of a godly woman who chose a life of poverty and prayer over one of wealth and prestige.
St Domenico Savio
9th of March
I know I’m looking at two saints for the same day but a) it’s a Friday so that kinda means we need to do more spiritual things, right? and b) his story is so tragic that it’s worth telling.
He was a poor child from a remote Italia village whose potential and great faith was discovered by Father John Bosco, who took him to his newly founded school. Domenico was intent on becoming a priest once his studies were over, but he would never see that day as he died of an illness at 14 of age. People objected to his canonisation because he was too young, but Pope Pius XII described him as “small in size, but a towering giant in spirit”, and he is a reminder that no matter who we are and our circumstances, holiness is something we can achieve, too, if only we put Jesus at the centre of our lives the way this young boy did.
St Matilda, Queen of Germany
14th of March
Another powerful woman to counter our idea that women in the past had no agency whatsoever. She used her position to help the poor, and once her husband died and son ascended to the throne and banished her for wasting family money, she had to go back to the palace to help him keep the kingdom together as he was not able to command the authority necessary to rule. She was then able to resume caring for the poor as she wanted.
St Patrick, Patron saint of Ireland
17th of March
Forget the green parades, lots of Guinness and Shamrock Shakes (no, actually, don’t forget the Shamrock Shakes), there’s more to St Patrick than that. The tales of the lives of this Roman apostle to the Celts are many and creative, from using shamrocks to explain the Trinity, to driving away all snakes from the island. I don’t think there really is much to say about him that isn’t widely know, but I really like Shamrock Shakes.
19th of March
Father’s day in the old country, St Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and so the father of Jesus. A faithful man, he listened to the angel and took on his miraculously pregnant betrothed as his wife, and the rest is history. He was a carpenter, and so he is the patron saint of workers.
St Rafqua Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayes
23rd of March
Another saint not on the EW calendar, this 19th century Lebanese woman is an example of piety and strong faith as she risked her life to save a child during a political conflict in her home country. She was also a member of two Eastern orders (the Mariamettes and from their dissolution the Maronites) which, when we often think of the Church as a very Western thing, seems to me a good reason to mention her.
Blessed Oscar Romero
24th of March
Archibishop of San Salvador at the height of political struggles and Church persecutions, he was gunned down while celebrating Mass and his extremely well attended funeral was bombed. Often associated with liberation theology, he spent his life to the last calling for non-violence and for people to submit to the Gospel rather than the government, as his view was that “Protest for change must always take place within Gospel teaching”. The government of El Salvador formally apologised for the assassination in 2010. As a budding politician, I often feel like it’s easy to want change at any cost, forgetting that I am not here to build a kingdom of this world, but the kingdom of Heaven.
St Margaret Clitherow
25th of March
One of the English Martyrs of the Reformation, I was privileged to visit her shrine during my visit to York. She is a candidate for my confirmation saint if I were to be confirmed in my adult life, instead of just going through the motions when 11. She was raised a Protestant and converted, and her crime who cost her martyrdom age 30 was harbouring priests and have Mass celebrated in her house for the secret Catholic community. She was reported to the authorities when trying to send her children to France to get a Catholic education, which was also illegal, but they went on to become a nun and two priests.