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Saints for the Lenten Season


As you observe Lent this year, take time to learn about and reflect on the lives of these saints whose feast days fall within the season.

February 22: The Chair of St. Peter

While the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated on June 29,  focuses on the martyrdom of St. Peter, this celebration draws attention to his role in the Church. The "Chair of St. Peter" is an image of his seat of authority – an authority that was given not for his own personal gain, but so that he could be a source of unity for the Church.  Jesus told Peter "I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32-33). Today, this feast reminds us of the significance of the ministry of St. Peter and the succession of popes who followed in his footsteps.

February 23: St. Polycarp

This disciple of St. John the Apostle was appointed bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey), perhaps by John. Representing the Asia Minor Churches, he went to Rome about 155 to discuss when to celebrate Easter. The result was that the Eastern and Western Churches continued to calculate the date as before. Shortly after his return, Polycarp was arrested and urged to renounce God. He refused and was sentenced to be burned alive. When the flames did not harm him, he was killed by a sword, as recounted in an early Christian document.

March 3: St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel, belle of the ball and heiress of millions, asked the Pope for more missionaries… and he told her to become one!  She left her life of privilege and founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.  She dedicated her life to becoming a servant of the poor and establishing schools for Native and African American children.  Learn more about St. Katharine here

March 4: St. Casimir

Born in Krakow, Casimir was the son of Casimir IV, king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania, and Elizabeth of Austria.  Known for his refusal to take up arms, personal piety, generosity to the poor and devotion to the Blessed Mother, he rejected the idea of marrying in favor of voluntary chastity.  During a visit to Lithuania, he fell ill, died from tuberculosis at the age of 25 and was buried in the cathedral in Vilnius. Canonized in 1521, he is the patron of Poland and Lithuania.

March 7: Sts. Perpetua and Felicity

One of the proofs of a really close friendship is when you can't say one person's name without thinking of the other. This shows up in history, with names like Lewis and Clark. It's in story books, with names like Hansel and Gretel, or Jack and Jill. When it comes to saints, there are many examples, but one of the most prominent duos is Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua was a young Christian noblewoman and Felicity was a young Christian slave. The two were arrested for their belief in Christ, during the persecution of Emperor Septimius Severus: at this time, Perpetua was a new mother, and Felicity was eight months pregnant. Together, the two women helped each other through the heat, darkness and brutality of the guards in the prison. Two days before their scheduled death, Felicity gave birth to her daughter in the prison, and the child was adopted by a Christian woman. Perpetua and Felicity were sent out to face the arena together, and after being exposed to the beasts, were killed by having their throats cut. These last days of the women were recorded by Perpetua, whose diary became one of the most famous accounts in the early church of the suffering of the martyrs. 

March 8: St. John of God

Taken from his Portuguese parents at age 8, John led an irregular life in Spain as a estate manager and soldier.  His conversion at about 40 took such extreme forms that he sometimes was confined for lunacy.  In 1538 he began the hospital work that brought him respect and renown.  Thereafter he devoted himself to sheltering and caring for the needy, including prostitutes and vagabonds.  After his death, his followers were organized into the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.

March 9: St. Frances of Rome 

This laywoman and foundress, born a Roman aristocrat, married Lorenzo Ponziano when she was thirteen; they had several children. In 1409, their palazzo was pillaged by Neapolitan soldiers and Lorenzo was exiled for  ve years, returning home a broken man. He died in 1436. Frances, known for her great charity during epidemics and civil war, organized a women's society dedicated to self-denial and good works. It became the Oblates of Tor de Specchi, which she directed for her last four years. She is the patron saint of motorists, perhaps because of the tradition that an angel lit the road before her with a lantern to keep her safe when she trav elled. She was guarded for twenty-three years by an archangel visible only to her. Her last words were "The angel has finished his work. He is beckoning me to follow."

March 17: St. Patrick

St. Patrick, the apostle to Ireland, once wrote: "Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me." He was captured and sold into slavery in Ireland as a teenager. He escaped, but he dreamed Ireland's children were calling to him, and returned to Ireland as a missionary.  As Patrick once did, Pope John Paul II challenged the youth of Ireland.

March 18: St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril lived when the Arian heresy was roiling Christianity. Raised and educated in Jerusalem, he was ordained by St. Maximus and succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem around 350. His episcopate lasted until his death, but he spent 16 years in exile, turned out by emperors influenced by the Arian bishop of Caesarea who claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Jerusalem. The Council of Antioch sent St. Gregory of Nyssa to investigate Cyril and his diocese. He reported that Jerusalem was rife with factionalism and Arianism, but that Cyril was orthodox. He is famous for his extant "Catechetical Instructions," some of which consist almost entirely of carefully interwoven scriptural passages. Pope Leo XIII named him a doctor of the church in 1882.

March 19: Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Silence is golden… St. Joseph, the model of humility, and one of the world's greatest saints, is often mentioned as being silent. This silence speaks volumes. In it, the Church realizes his faithfulness, his love and his acceptance of the Holy Will of God. St. Joseph was not a man of many words: he was a man of action. We have only one direct statement about his personality: in Matthew's Gospel, he is described as "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:19). His actions alone reveal everything else we know about him. He brings Mary and the Child she bears into his home when, in the sight of the world, he would be justified in divorcing her. He leads the expectant Mary into Bethlehem, and flees with her and her Child into Egypt. When it is safe, he returns with the two into Galilee. He does all of this, because God asks it of him. He never hesitates. Each time we read that the angel spoke to Joseph, the following sentence begins with the action St. Joseph took. "Joseph awoke," "Joseph rose," "He went." Each time he received a summons, his reaction was to follow the call immediately. Never once did he hesitate. Read more about the poignant silence of Joseph.  

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