February: A preview of the saints of the month

La Purificacion, Luis de Vargas,
Jl FilpoC, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

There are thousands of saints in the calendar of the Catholic Church, which means that there are hundreds of saints every month. In my book about saints, I tried to make that number a bit more manageable by only including a few saints per day and limiting the descriptions of each one to a short biography. But if even that seems a bit overwhelming for you, here’s another way to help you focus on the saints in a regular but more limited fashion.

The Church’s calendar arranges the days in the liturgical calendar in the following order (from highest ranking to lowest ranking).

A solemnity is a celebration of a belief, event, or person of the greatest importance and with universal significance to the Church. Christmas is a solemnity.
A feast is a day of celebration that is of lesser importance than a solemnity but of greater importance than a memorial. The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a feast day, as are all the days celebrating the Twelve Apostles.
A memorial is a day of celebration that is less significant than a feast or a solemnity. The most prominent saints, such as Saints Agatha and Polycarp, are remembered with memorials.
Optional memorials are, obviously, optional; a priest can choose to celebrate them at Mass or not. Many well known but less prominent saints, such as Saints Blaise and Ansgar, are remembered with optional memorials.

Why all these distinctions? If a saint is remembered with a memorial or feast, the life of that holy man or woman is of greater significance to the universal Church than the other saints of that day. Local churches may have their own adaptations. On February 8, for example, a priest in Italy may be more inclined to celebrate the optional memorial of Saint Jerome Emiliani, while a priest in Africa may be more inclined to celebrate the optional memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita.

What does all this mean? If you find it difficult to remember to turn to the saints every day, try looking up just the following saints on their dates. Although all the saints are holy examples for us to learn from, it is not unfair to think of these as the greatest of the saints of February—and to turn to them for assistance this month.

DateTitleDescriptionType of Day in Liturgical Calendar
Feb. 2The Presentation of the LordCommemorates the date that Jesus was presented to His Father in the Temple as an infant.Feast
Feb. 3Saint BlaiseHe was the martyred bishop of Armenia (d. 316) and patron of throat ailments.Optional Memorial
Feb. 3Saint AnsgarNinth century monk and bishop who evangelized Sweden and Denmark.Optional Memorial
Feb. 5Saint AgathaVirgin-martyr who endured severe tortures before her death around the year 250.Memorial
Feb. 6Saint Paul Miki and CompanionsIn 1597, twenty-six Catholics were martyred together in Japan.Memorial
Feb. 8Saint Jerome EmilianiItalian priest who founded a religious order to care for orphans in the sixteenth century.Optional Memorial
Feb. 8Saint Josephine BakhitaRose from slavery in the Sudan to become a religious sister in Italy.Optional Memorial
Feb. 10Saint ScholasticaBenedictine nun and abbess from the sixth century who was also the twin sister of Saint Benedict.Memorial
Feb. 11Our Lady of LourdesCommemorates the apparition of the Blessed Mother to Saint Bernadette and the subsequent messages encouraging prayer and healing.Optional Memorial
Feb. 14Saints Cyril and MethodiusApostles to the Slavic peoples in the ninth century.Memorial
Feb. 17Seven Holy Founders of the Servite OrderCommemorates the seven holy men who founded a monastic order in the thirteenth century, calling themselves the “Servants of Mary”.Optional Memorial
Feb. 21Saint Peter DamianBenedictine abbot, cardinal, and Doctor of the Church who lived in the eleventh century.Optional Memorial
Feb. 22The Chair of Saint PeterCommemorates the role of Saint Peter, Vicar of Christ’s Church.Feast
Feb. 23Saint PolycarpBishop of Smyrna (Turkey) and Father of the Church who died a martyr in 107.Memorial
See my book for more details about these and other saints.
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