Saint of the Day

May 21: Blessed Hemming of Abo

Blessed Hemming of Abo was born in Sweden in the late thirteenth century and studied in Paris before becoming a priest. One of his fellow students was the man who became Pope Clement VI.

Hemming served as bishop of Abo for twenty-eight years, and he improved the training of his priests, served as a peacemaker, and was an effective administrator of his diocese. Saint Bridget of Sweden was a contemporary and friend.

He died in 1366, but so many miracles were reported at his tomb that it had become a place of pilgrimage by 1400.

Blessed Hemming, help me to find holy friends.

Saint of the Day

May 20: Blessed Columba of Rieti

Blessed Columba (1467-1501) was born in the city of Rieti, Italy, into a modest family of weavers and tailors. Though she was named Angiolella at birth, everyone called her Columba.

The story of Columba’s life bears a striking similarity to that of the great Saint Catherine of Siena. Like Catherine, she dedicated her life to God when she was still a young girl. Like Catherine, she experienced visions. Like Catherine, she cut off her hair to make herself less marriageable when her parents tried to arrange a match for her. And she too became a Dominican tertiary, living at home and praying. Columba began serving others when she was nineteen years old, notably bringing a convicted murderer to repentance before his execution.

Pope Alexander VI, who is best known today for his illegitimate children and lavish lifestyle, was impressed with Columba and asked her advice about certain matters. Since her response came with warnings and reproaches, the details were apparently never made public. Unsurprisingly, one of the pope’s illegitimate children took a great dislike to the virgin-prophet of Rieti and instigated a persecution of her. Columba was falsely accused of performing magic and was deprived of her priest-confessor as a result. But she bore the scandal and false accusations with patience until eventually the matter blew over.

Columba died of a painful illness, praying for and encouraging Christians to charity, when she was only thirty-four years old.

Blessed Columba, teach me patience in my suffering.

Saint of the Day

May 19: Blessed Augustine Novello

Blessed Augustine Novello (d. 1309) was given the name Matthew at birth and grew up in Termini, Italy. He became a brilliant lawyer in the city of Bologna, so brilliant that be became chancellor to the king. During a great battle, the king was killed, and Matthew was wounded and left for dead. He vowed that if he recovered, he would give his life to God.

So he did. As soon as he was well enough, he entered the brand new order of Hermits of Saint Augustine. But he did so as a mere laybrother and told no one of his past life and education. In time, the community found itself ensnared in a complicated lawsuit. Brother Augustine (the name Matthew took when he entered religious life) offered to help. He summarized the community’s response so expertly that the opposition’s lawyer recognized it almost immediately as the work of the famous and presumed dead Matthew of Termini.

The order quickly took advantage of Augustine’s abilities and put him to work creating the constitutions required by Rome for the establishment of a new order. Augustine served as prior general for a time before retiring to live as a hermit. He died on this date.

Blessed Augustine, help me to take the lowest place.

Saint of the Day

May 18: Saints Theodotus and Thecusa

Today the Church commemorates Saints Theodotus and Thecusa, along with other unnamed Christians who were martyred with them. Their city was Ancyra (in modern Turkey), and we believe they died in the year 304, when the persecution of Christians was particularly fierce. Some say that the Roman emperor Diocletian wasn’t particularly opposed to Christians at the start of his reign, but by this point, he’d come to see them as a danger to the safety of the empire. Not believing in the Roman gods was seen as an act of treason.

That’s about all we know about today’s saints for certain. But a lovely story–of dubious reliability–expands on these details.  According to that tradition, Theodotus was an innkeeper who risked his life to bury other Christian martyrs before being arrested and tortured to try to make him give up his faith. Thecusa was a young Christian woman who had also been imprisoned. During an annual feast for the goddess Athena, women who were about to consecrate themselves to the goddess publicly disrobed and bathed in a fountain, in sight of everyone. The governor ordered Thecusa to join them. When she (of course) refused, she was executed.

Holy Martyrs, show me how to behave like a true follower of Christ.

Saint of the Day

May 17: Blessed John Ziatyk

Blessed John (Ivan) Ziatyk was born in Poland in 1899 and was ordained a Catholic priest of the Greek rite. He entered the Redemptorist order in 1935 and became well known as a preacher.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, John served as prior in a monastery. After World War II, he became Vicar General of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—but primarily because all of his superiors had been arrested or expelled by the Communist government. In 1950, the facts that he continued to remain faithful to the Church and was a Redemptorist priest were sufficient to cause him to be arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to a labor camp. While in a camp in Irkhutsk, Russia, he was beaten so badly that he died three days later; it was Easter Sunday, May 17, 1952.

Blessed John, help me to forgive with the heart of Christ.

Saint of the Day

May 15: Saint Caleb

Saint Caleb was known as Elesbaan and was the sixth century king of Ethiopia when Christians living in the Arabian peninsula were being attacked. Byzantine emperors Justin I and Justinian supported Elesbaan when he led his soldiers in battle to protect the Christians living there.

Later in his life, Elesbaan abdicated his throne, took the name of Caleb, and lived as a hermit. He died while he was living as a monk in Jerusalem, around the year 555.

Saint Caleb, show me how to stand up for those who are being persecuted.

Saint of the Day

May 14: Saint Erembert

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Saint Erembert (d. c. 672) was a Benedictine monk when the king of France nominated him as bishop of Toulouse. One event in his life has survived over the centuries.

He had traveled to his hometown to visit his brother when a fire threatened to destroy the town. Erembert prostrated himself outside the church and prayed. A wind diverted the flames, and the city was saved. His brother and his two nephews were so inspired by Erembert’s holy example that they also entered a Benedictine monastery and donated the family estates to it.

Saint Erembert, show me how to trust God with everything in my prayers.

Saint of the Day

May 13: Saint Servatius

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Saint Servatius lived in the fourth century and became the bishop of Tongres in modern Belgium. When Saint Athanasius, the famous archbishop who spoke out against the Arian heresy, was banished, Servatius not only wrote against Arianism but also sheltered Athanasius during his banishment. Servatius predicted that the Huns would invade the area—which they did several decades later—and he went on a pilgrimage to Rome to beg for the protection of his people.

Servatius was greatly revered for his faithfulness and holiness during the middle ages, and several relics of his were venerated during that time.

Saint Servatius, help me to stand up for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Saint of the Day

May 12: Blessed Jane of Portugal

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Blessed Jane (d. 1490) was a princess of Portugal at her birth, and when her brother and mother died, she seemed to be the likely heir to her father’s throne. Despite her royalty, she lived the life of an ascetic—praying two hours late each night, wearing a hair shirt as a penance, and devoting herself to the practice of her faith.

Her father refused her repeated requests to join religious life until a successful expedition against invaders—and a younger brother and heir—made it possible. She immediately distributed all her personal possessions and left for a Dominican priory. Her family refused to let her take vows for a long time and kept trying to arrange politically expedient marriages for her, but she ultimately achieved her heart’s desire of living as a simple nun in the house and performed the same lowly tasks as every other member. She died at the age of thirty-eight and was perhaps poisoned by a disgruntled woman whom Jane had rebuked for her scandalous life.

Blessed Jane, show me how to rid my life of things that separate me from God.

Saint of the Day

May 11: Saint Gengulf

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Saint Gengulf (d. 760) was a trusted knight serving under Pepin the Short (who was at the time Mayor of the Palace but later became King of France). When Gengulf discovered that his wife had been repeatedly unfaithful to him, he tried to reconcile with her and restore their marriage. She refused. So he left her and lived a penitential, simple life in solitude. Several years later, it’s said that his wife’s lover snuck in and killed him during the night. Miracles through his intercession caused him to be named a saint.

Saint Gengulf, help me to love those who betray so much that I will even offer penances for them.