June is literally the month of martyrs. Almost every day has at least one martyr if not a group, from lesser known ones to SS. Thomas More and John Fisher to of course SS Peter and Paul (holy day of obligation except this year -2019- when it’s transferred to the Sunday). I guess it makes sense, since it is also the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 2019, a number of major feast days are falling in June: Pentecost (09/06), Jesus the Eternal High Priest (13/06), the Most Holy Trinity (16/06), Corpus Christi (23/06) and the aforementioned Sacred Heart of Jesus (28/06) as well as two Marian feasts, Mary Mother of the Church (10/06) and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (29/06).
You can, as always, find the full list of each and every saint remembered on each day on Catholic.org, but here’s the usual list of key names, badass female saints and obscure Northern Italian people that you come to this blog every month for.
1st of June – St Justin Martyr
An early Christian and really clever guy who has written a lot of apologetics. He converted at a time of persecution entirely conscious of what he was signing up for.
3rd of June – St Albert of Como
He was first a Benedictine hermit, then an abbot in the monastery attached to the earliest church in Como and then the bishop of the city. I believe that the site of the church and original monastery, which was suppressed in the 18th century, is now a convent for another order but either way the church remains the parish one of the hospital where I was born. Sweet.
13th of June – St Anthony of Padua
Most of you will know him as the guy who finds your lost items, but for me it’s the patron saint of my late grandmother’s family. She never missed one issue of the Messenger, and the last thing she left me before she died was a St Anthony prayer card (go figure why my aunt thinks she only went to church so she had an excuse to leave the house). He was a Franciscan friar originally from Portugal, and his preaching was so good that when he was exhumed over a year after his death his tongue was found uncorrupted. It is said that once they had a joint Mass with the Dominicans and nobody had prepared a homily he was tasked to say whatever the Holy Spirit prompted and he left the Dominicans speechless. It is only one of many anecdotes about how persuasive his preaching was (God had fish gather around to listen to him!), but the reason we remember him for interceding on lost objects is that a novice stole a valuable book and he prayed it’d be returned to him, and not only the thief returned it, but returned to the order himself also.
17th of June – St Harvey
I confess this is only making the list because it allows me to name any future sons I may have after Harvey Specter without the priest objecting that there is no saint by that name. It turns out he is an interesting fellow who was blind, became an abbot and is not only the patron saint of eye problems but also of sick horses. I have made a new saint friend.
19th of June – St Juliana Falconeri
One of the many 13th/14th century saintly Italian women (they were a real phenomenon, I wrote a paper on this topic), she was born in humble circumstances in Genoa, and is credited as being the foundress of the Servite nuns even though initially they were merely organised as a group of lay women dedicated to prayer and good works around herself as a Servite tertiary.
21st of June – St Aloysius Gonzaga
Can you imagine being alive at the time of the Council of Trent and receiving your first communion from St Charles Borromeo? And your last rites from St Robert Bellarmine? That’s what happened in this young Jesuit’s life. He reportedly said the Holy name of Jesus as his first word (#childgoal), and by the age of 9 he was set on the religious life, eventually settling on the Jesuits (because when you are a teenager in the 1580s what else would you want to be?). He is one of the patron saints of young people.
22nd of June – St Alban, St Thomas More and St John Fisher
St Alban was the first martyr of England, but his fame would be eclipsed by the more famous Reformation ones with whom he shares a feast day (if not perhaps because a whole town is named after him!). During a time of persecution in Roman times, he hid a priest in his home and came to faith as a result. When coming to his own martyrdom, the soldier charged with the task also came to faith and became a martyr himself.
Then obviously we have two of the most famous among the Martyrs of the English Reformation. St John Fisher, a bishop who refused to take the oath after Henry VIII moved to make her marriage with Catherine of Aragon null and void despite the Church’s dispensation and later refusal to annul it, and therefore his daughter Mary not legitimate and therefore ineligible for the line of succession. He was then made a Cardinal by the Pope, precipitating his execution after he was imprisoned in the Tower the year before, and St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor and friend of the king, who also refused to take an oath acknowledging the break from Rome and Anne Boleyn as queen. He wasn’t just a man of integrity and deep faith despite being in politics (for which he is the patron saint of politicians), but a doting father and humanist scholar who is known to have educated his wife and daughters as if they were men, a pretty unusual thing at the time. There is a reason he is my favourite.
24th of June – The Nativity of St John The Baptist
Weeks after we celebrated the feast of the visitation we celebrate the first of two feast days to remember the last of the Prophets, who came to pave the way for Christ and preached a baptism of repentance before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave us the baptism of the Holy Spirit as we all know it.
26th of June – St Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer
The founder of Opus Dei, he had a really interesting life (training in the law, as St Thomas More did also), and as a priest in the middle of the 20th century he was instrumental in the developments around the call to holiness of the laity that culminated with the documents of the Second Vatican Council on which all further encyclical rest. One thing that attracts me to him is, unsurprisingly, that he began Opus Dei with lay women long before he was given the foundational grace to establish the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (which is integrally united in the prelature of Opus Dei). As I spent the best part of the past 4 years teaching university students how to use Catholic Social Teaching to live out their faith in the workplace, I’m very sympathetic to the spirit behind Opus Dei and its emphasis on holiness in daily life whatever your work of life.
28th of June – St Irenaeus
One of the Fathers of the Church, he not only wrote a great deal that was foundational to the Christian faith, but also he is the one credited for spelling out the doctrines that defeated the Gnostic heresy, in its original incarnation anyway.
29th of June – St Peter and St Paul
They don’t need any introduction unless you have lived under a rock, but for the sake of anyone reading who is a complete newbie to the New Testament, Peter was one of the original 12 Apostles, he denied knowing the Lord 3 times but was still made the rock on which Jesus built His church (hence why Peter, when his real name is Simon). Hagiography holds that he was crucified upside down on his protestations that he wasn’t worthy of dying the same death as Our Lord. His episode in the boat is totes relatable.
St Paul was Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee and great persecutor of the Church, until he had an apparition of the Lord on the way to Damascus, which left him blind until he engaged with a Christian who was sent by the Lord despite being at first wary of being told by Him to go see Saul. Aside from the Gospels, most of the New Testament has something to do with him, be it the story of his life or his own letters.