Help from the Saints in April

Saint Mary of Egypt, by Domenico Fetti, Wikimedia Commons

It is easy for the saints of the past to seem, well, out of date. After all, early Church martyrs and cloistered nuns didn’t have to deal with the problems we have today, right?

Wrong. With a little effort, it’s easy to find at least one saint commemorated by the Church every day of April* who has something to teach us about dealing with our modern problems.

April 1Concerned about the women (and men) who are forced into a life of prostitution because of pornography? Pray for the intercession of Saint Mary of Egypt (d. 421), who lived as a prostitute for seventeen years before repenting and spending the rest of her life in the desert as a penitent and holy woman.
2Ever been asked by your boss to do something impossible? Saint Francis of Paolo (d. 1507) had such a reputation as a miracleworker that the king of France asked him to come pray over him and heal him. (Francis managed to convince the king to be resigned to God’s will for his health.
3Proving that sibling rivalry happens to saints too, Saint Richard of Wyche (d. 1253) only earned his brother’s resentment when he saved his family from debt. After their parents’ death, Richard was the one who threw himself into the hard work of recovering the family fortunes. His older brother grudgingly offered him the family title. Fortunately, Richard had very different plans for his life and disinterestedly left it all behind to become a priest and bishop.
4Those who have suffered under a harsh teacher can ask Saint Isidore of Seville (d. 636) for help in forgiveness. Isidore’s older brother may have been a demanding teacher, but Isidore eventually learned to love learning—and became a Doctor of the Church.
5Ever had to confront a friend with his sinful behavior? One of the friends of Saint Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419) was an anti-pope. Three men claimed to be the pope at the same time, which caused violence and confusion all over Christendom. When Vincent’s friend, anti-pope Benedict XIII, refused to stop calling himself the pope, Vincent had to publicly oppose him.
6All those who hope for a revival of sacred music today can ask for the intercession of Blessed Notkar Balbulus (d. 912). Although his name sounds awkward to us and although he had a stutter, he composed beautiful music for Mass.
7Those suffering from throat cancer can ask for the intercession of Blessed Edward Oldcorne (d. 1606). Edward was miraculously healed of cancer after a pilgrimage; he died a martyr in anti-Catholic England.
8Trauma victims have a patroness in Saint Julie Billiart (d. 1816), who was paralyzed for decades after experiencing the traumatic experience of seeing someone shoot at her father. Her paralysis was later cured, but not until after she had begun her work as a founder of a religious teaching order.
9The Holy Family of Nazareth is not the only holy family. Saint Waldetrudis (d. 688) can pray for holiness in our families; her parents, husband, sister, and four children are also saints.
10Need comfort during any trial? Try reading and memorizing the Bible. Saint Terence was one member of a group of Catholics who were arrested during the third century because they were Christian; he recited passages from the Gospels to strengthen himself during interrogation.
11Afraid of being ridiculed for being too devout? Ask Saint Gemma Galgani (d. 1903) to help. People made fun of her too, until the stigmata appeared on her hands and feet every Thursday night through Friday afternoon.
12If you suffer from stubbornness, ask for the help of Saint Teresa of the Andes (d. 1920). Teresa worked hard to train her stubborn nature to obey God; she died a holy novice to the Carmelite order when she was only twenty years old.
13Saint Caradoc of Wales (d. 1124), an English hermit, is an excellent patron for those who love animals as he did.
14Those who love to build things (Lego projects or buildings) should turn to Saint Benedict (d. 1184). Following divine inspiration and with little training or help, he built a bridge to help travelers.
15Concerned about a family member who is far from the Church? Blessed Cesar de Bus (d. 1607) is the perfect intercessor. He lived a wild life until the memory of a deceased friend and an image of the Blessed Mother brought him to a complete conversion.
16If you are ever tempted to look down on a homeless person on the street, remember Saint Benedict Labre (d. 1783). He chose to be homeless so that he could make innumerable pilgrimages to holy sites and live only for God.
17Do your kids think you are too strict? Saint Robert of Molesme (d. 1111) had a similar problem as abbot. Some of his monks were so resentful of the way he ordered monastic life that he left them to their own devices twice. (The pope ordered him to return and straighten them out.)
18Our priests always need our prayers. Blessed Robert Moreau (d. 1794) was executed for merely being a priest during the French Revolution.
19Pope Saint Leo IX (d. 1054) is an excellent person to remember when preparing oneself for death. After being imprisoned, his health deteriorated. At the end of his life, he asked to be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica and laid next to his coffin, as a reminder of the need to prepare to face God.
20Difficult teenagers in your life? Saint Agnes of Montepulciano (d. 1317) was only fifteen years old when she was made abbess of a new convent. Ask her to intercede.
21Need help defending the faith to others? Ask for the prayers of Saint Apollonius (d. 185). He was a Roman senator when he began studying philosophy and discovered Christianity. He gave an eloquent explanation of the faith—before he was executed.
22If your family of origin is far from perfect, Saint Theodore of Sykeon (d. 613) is the saint for you. His mother never married and was apparently a prostitute who ran an inn. (Some say she repented and later lived a good Christian life.)
23Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu (d. 1939) is yet another patroness for difficult adolescents. She was the kind of teen who would stubbornly criticize any request from a parent—but then go do what was asked. Her love for Christ softened her heart, and she died as a Trappist nun.
24The legal profession needs prayers in every age; Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (d. 1622) was a lawyer who gave up the profession because of rampant dishonesty and became a priest and martyr.
25Saint Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (d. 1667) was a Franciscan tertiary who encouraged people to pray for one another and care for the poor. That recommendation is needed in every age.
26We can always pray for priests who will celebrate Mass in a manner which is both beautiful and prayerful, just as did Saint Stephen of Perm (d. 1396).
27Mothers everywhere can ask for the wisdom and humility of Saint Zita of Lucca (d. 1278), who lived her life as the housekeeper of a large household and brought peace and charity to all those who lived under the same roof with her.
28Not comfortable with devotion to Mary? Ask for help from Saint Louis de Montfort (d. 1716), a French priest whose writings have inspired generations of Catholics with a greater love of the Blessed Mother.
29Do you want a greater devotion to the Blessed Sacrament? Pray for the intercession of Saint Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), a Dominican tertiary who lived on Communion—and nothing else—for the final years of her life.
30Don’t know what to do when life seems out of control? Follow the example of Pope Saint Pius V (d. 1572). While the future of Europe was hanging in the balance during the Battle of Lepanto, he prayed the rosary and encouraged others to do the same.

All you saints, pray for us!

* Note that Holy Week begins during the latter part of March and early part of April in 2021. Saints are therefore not commemorated by the Church in the liturgy on those dates.

April 2020: The Saints’ Secrets to Facing Calamities

Attributed to Joshua Benoliel. This file has been extracted from another file: ChildrensofFatima.jpg, Public Domain,

Since the COVID-19 virus has begun to spread globally, many Catholics have remembered the two young visionaries of Fatima in Portugal: Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Both died during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early twentieth century, so they are great intercessors to help us pray for an end to our own pandemic. But there’s much more that the saints can do besides praying for us from Heaven: we can learn from them while here on earth. More specifically, the saints from the month of April can teach us many lessons to help us respond to the problems that we’re currently facing.

People like to focus on the fact that Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), whose feast day is April 29, influenced the decisions of popes. But she was still only an unknown young woman living in her hometown when she began serving the sick. Catherine had no illusions that she would be safe from contracting the diseases of those she cared for, and she later told her followers that, while daily attending a woman with leprosy, she saw the signs of the disease on her own body. But she accepted this horrifying disease with peace before (according to her) God miraculously and completely healed her. We can thank God for that too, because sparing Catherine from an early death gave her time to deepen in her spiritual life. This not only blessed the people of her time through her personal example but has helped generations of future Catholics through the writings she left behind.

There are many reasons to consider Pope Saint Pius V (1504-1572) one of our greatest popes. But as we remember him on April 30, perhaps we can focus on his strength and leadership in the face of a seemingly impossible problem: the imminent invasion of Europe by Muslims. We may remember the Battle of Lepanto as a great victory that saved Europe and Christianity from invasion, but the battle was far from an easy one. Virtually everyone in Europe thought they were outmanned and outgunned by Islamic forces, and when the Christians later claimed the victory was a miracle, that’s because it was. This victory was primarily the result of one man negotiating, pleading, and working for years to unite the many different and disorganized leaders of Christian nations to fight together and protect their people. That one man’s secret was his rock-solid faith in God. On the day of battle, Pius V united all of Christendom by asking them to pray for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and the impossible became possible.

Saint Lidwina of Schiedam in Holland (1380-1433), while not a commonly known saint, shouldn’t be overlooked on her feast day, April 14. After a fall on the ice at the age of fifteen (depicted below), she suffered from many incurable and painful medical problems throughout her life. At the same time, God blessed her with visions and miracles. Modern studies point out that her symptoms sound a lot like multiple sclerosis, an unknown disease at the time, but the inexplicable nature of her condition led to vicious rumors that she was not sick but possessed by the devil. Lidwina could have been bitter or angry over her pain, her illness, and her social isolation; instead, she patiently waited for God to sort out truth from fiction. And, of course, He did, since she’s now considered a saint of the Church.

Public Domain,

Saint Francisco Marto’s feast day is April 4, the date of his death at the age of ten. Francisco and his sister aren’t considered saints merely because they saw apparitions; they were recognized as saints because of the holy, penitential way they lived and died during their short lives. Most particularly, Francisco took to heart the message he had heard and seen directly from Our Lady of Fatima, and he willingly accepted little penances, even while he was sick and dying, for his own salvation and for the sake of sinners.

Fear of contracting an illness, fear of a seemingly impossible situation, fear of isolation, and fear of death are not modern inventions. They’re as old as Adam and Eve. But our all-too-human fears of today deserve Christian responses, as the saints have taught us in the past. What all four of these saints possessed in abundance—and what the world will always lack—is what will help us face COVID-19 and every other calamity. That “something” is as simple and as profound as one little word: trust. When we place our trust in God—while humbly accepting the help provided by medicine, technology, and other people—we will not only know the secrets of the saints, we will know the peace that God gives to those who love Him.

Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?

James 2:5