Last year I took a break from blogging after March, so the months between April and January never had their saints of the month shared. As I keep my commitment to liturgical living, I thought it’d be nice to resume this little tradition. Compared to last year, my own liturgical planner has slimmed down, and with Palm Sunday half-way through the month, most of my holy days in 2019 revolve around Passiontide and Easter. However, in the purple days of Lent, there are a few people worth getting to know. You can always find all saints, including those I didn’t write about, in the various calendars available on diocesan websites or the Catholic apps.
April 2nd – Saint Francis of Paola
A Renaissance saint from a small town in southern Italy, he was inspired to found an order of contemplative Franciscans during a pilgrimage to Assisi as a teenager. Despite this calling, he would find himself affecting the politics of the age when ministering to the dying king of France Louis XI and advising a marriage that would bring peace between France and Brittany. He is a great example of how contemplation directs our involvement in the active world, when it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of needing to act. This is a lesson that I have been working on a lot this year.
April 4th – St Isidore of Seville
Another saint to inspire us in a divided age, this saint from the Middle Ages was born in Carthage in a family which gave us 3 more saints, and spent most of his long life in Spain, which was at the time divided between the Church and the Arian Goths. He was an incredibly learned man who educated many others, including through an encyclopedia which was used for centuries after his death. He pushed for the founding of seminaries, schools and even wrote the rule of a religious order and a liturgy still in use, while never losing his humility. He is also the patron saint of the Internet, the one corner of this broken world which probably needs to learn the most from his example of how loving, understanding and knowledge can heal divisions.
April 7th – St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle
Indulge me as I bring up an 18th century saint, but he was a fellow asthmatic who suffered with arthritis and spent his life founding schools for the poor even after his privileged start in life in a noble family had all the glory of the world ready for him. Rumour has it that he didn’t even like this work at first, but it grew on him and he persevered even in the face of harsh opposition on many fronts. His schools were all focused on creating a good Christian out of every person, and learning was seen as part of this process of sanctification which, clearly, took place in himself first and foremost.
April 8th – Saint Julie Billiart
Another French saint from the late 18th century this time, she was a chronically ill woman whose pain never stopped her strong-headed mission in serving the Lord in the poor. She was a spiritual director to many from her bed, and ended up instituting an order of sisters dedicated to the instruction of girls. She is a great reminder that the worst paralysis of all isn’t that of the body, but that of the spirit.
It is also the feast day of a poorly known saint who was bishop of Como in the 5th century, but I can’t find much info on him.
April 11th – Saint Stanislaus
The best thing about this monthly write up is, for me, that they force me to learn something new about people I didn’t know. This saint is the patron of Poland, and likely his story is well known in Eastern Europe. Alas, his courage in calling out a corrupt and unjust government even to his death is not as well known westward (at least not to me). He was also a charismatic preacher which planted the seed of conversion in many, including originally the very king who would end up killing him.
April 16th – Saint Bernadette Soubirous
There is little introduction needed for one of the most famous saints, the young girl to whom Our Lady appeared at Lourdes. She suffered from chronic health issues later in life herself, like the many people who become pilgrims to the chapel she had built after Mary’s request, and after a lot of skepticism and digging to authenticate the visions. Despite her young age, she remained steadfast and patience, almost obstinate in wanting to give “the Lady” what she asked for.
April 23rd – Saint George and Saint Adalbert of Prague
I can’t think of many saints more controversial than the patron saint of England, who as we are always reminded by the gotcha crowd on Twitter every 23rd of April, was not a white Englishman but a Cappadocian man who was martyred in Palestine under Diocletian. The idea of St George, the dragon and the conversion of Libya comes from a 12th century Italian fable, that was likely born out of the saint being a favourite patron to the crusaders and enjoying popularity. The symbolism of saints killing the dragon, which was a symbol of evil, was nothing new.
Saint Adalbert of Prague seems a fitting fellow for a warrior, as he was a bishop of noble origins who was martyred by pagans he was evangelising after facing great opposition for his clerical reforms. He was exiled twice, and asked back by the same people after the first time: one time for his reforming zeal, and the second time for excommunicating those who violated sanctuary and dragged a woman accused of adultery out of a church to kill her.
April 25th – Saint Mark
The writer of one of the gospels, which is the one most emphasising Jesus’s rejection by humanity and his ultimate triumph through the “scandal” of the Cross, he is thought to be the same Mark that is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. He was not one of the 12 apostles, although some consider him to be the young man at Gethsemane, and he is thought to have written from the oral sources of the early church in Jerusalem (first and foremost Peter) to the Gentile converts in Rome. As we go through another round of church infighting over evangelising the unchurched, looking back at the different “styles” of evangelism that we see in the 4 gospels should give us confidence that we can and indeed we must meet our audience where they’re at, knowing that the perspective they are coming from is not a hindrance to our sharing the Good News, but in fact something that can help us plant the seed.
April 28th – Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
A (sort of) contemporary saint, and one of the best things to have ever originated from Brianza (I’m sorry but I will carry on with the rivalry of my forefathers and my descendants will carry on with it too), Saint Gianna Beretta Molla is one of the Catholic feminist icons. She became a doctor, found love and married later in life and had 3 children under the age of 40. Her fourth and final child after two miscarriages was born shortly before her death, as she refused to have a hysterectomy after having her tumour removed when she was found to have uterine cancer early in her pregnancy. The Church rightly recognises her extraordinary courage and faith, as the hysterectomy would have been likely permissible under the principle of double effect. I don’t mean to judge any woman who would choose differently by saying this, as bearing the pain of the loss of a wanted child is also an act of great courage and faith and it’s between each woman and God.
Alongside this modern Italian woman and others, the Church remembers on this day the 18th century saint who is mostly known for his zeal for the consecration to Jesus through Mary. He made a total gift of himself to God, through his imitation of Mary’s total gift of herself at the Annunciation. He faced great opposition in his preaching at the time, but his example of devotion to Mary and surrendering to the will of God in her footsteps thrives to this day as more and more people consecrate themselves, whether to his own writings or books like 33 Days to Morning Glory as I did.
April 29th – Saint Catherine of Siena
Saint Catherine of Siena is one of those saints that have me go “That’s my girl!” when I read something about them, and I very much hope that she’s acting the same about me in Heaven. She was another example of complete surrender to Christ (obviously, she is a saint), but she was also known to be an intelligent and educated woman, who unsurprisingly was a Dominican tertiary (seeing a thread here?). An active public apostolate emerged from her contemplation and she inspired so many people she was one of those saintly women with a following before they were even dead. In the later years of her life, she was an advisor to the Pope and was a fervent worker and prayer warrior for unity at the time of the Great Schism.
April 30th – St Pius V
The great reformer Pope of the Council of Trent (don’t look so shocked, it is one of my favourite periods in history). I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the context of his pontificate, but for those who are not, he was the pontiff picking up the pieces of a Church damaged by the many things that started the Reformation in the first place, which Luther wasn’t the first or the last to call out the Church on, but also by the developments that followed this second schism, and to top it all off, the constant threat of Ottoman invasion. As a Dominican, he was single-minded about the success of the much-needed reforms, in the face of opposition from all the worldly powers which had benefited from the status quo, and as the Pope he kept living as he did as a friar, with long hours in prayer, strict fasting and the deprivation of many of the luxuries coming from his new position.
Let me know in the comments who are your favourite saints from this list or the other many people on the liturgical calendar, especially if not mentioned here!