By Amanda Murthy
Saints are somewhat the super heroes of the Catholic Church, lending their names to mark buildings like schools or hospitals, aiding with intercessions and even performing miracles for the faithful.
In his 2013 message on the occasion of the Feast of All Saints, Pope Francis stressed that Saints are not ‘born perfect’ but rather are ordinary people who followed God “with all their heart.”
“They are like us, they are like each of us, they are people who before reaching the glory of heaven lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes,” Pope Francis explained.
However, Pope Francis noted that the difference is, that each Saint changed his or her life “when they recognised the love of God, they followed him with all their heart, without conditions and hypocrisies.”
“They spent their lives in the service of others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace,” he added.
Today, the world uses technology whether in the form of television, radio and the internet to communicate the Gospel, however, the Saints back then communicated the power and love of God through their presence on earth.
Think of Raphael in the Book of Tobit, leading Tobias to his soon-to-be-wife Sarah. Or, even more famously, Gabriel coming to Mary during the Annunciation and to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth.
Here are stories of some of our favourite Saints who carried the message of Christ through their words and actions.
St Maximilian Kolbe
- Feast Day: 14 August
- Patron Saint of: Amateur-radio operators, of drug addicts, of political prisoners, of families, journalists, of prisoners, and of the pro-life movement
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend – John 15:13
A Franciscan priest in 1918, St Maximillian believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis and that Christians need to fight for the world’s salvation with the means of modern communication.
This prompted him to start a newspaper publication called the Knights of Mary
Immaculate, which spread widely both in Poland and abroad.
In 1927, St Maximilian founded a Franciscan friary he dubbed “city of Mary,” which attracted many lay people. The friary was self-supported, publishing many periodicals and running its own radio station.
Three years later, he made it a point to travel to Japan where he studied Buddhism and Shintoism with the intention to learn the culture and better understand the people of that nation. With this newfound knowledge, St Maximilian published Christian faith-based articles through the Japanese edition of his newspaper, delivering the message in a way that was in harmony with Japanese culture. In Nagasaki, he set up a “Garden of the Immaculate,” which survived the atomic bomb.
St Maximilian then travelled to Malabar and to Moscow, but was recalled back home to Poland in 1936 due to health deterioration.
In 1941, he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he helped and succoured the inmates. In August of that year a prisoner escaped, and in reprisal the authorities were choosing ten people to die by starvation. One of the men had a family, and Maximilian Kolbe offered to take his place. The offer was accepted, and he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners. On 14 August 1941, St Maximilian took his last breath at the age of 47 years.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II canonised him and the man he saved was present at his canonisation.
St Clare of Assisi
- Feast Day: 11 August
- Patron Saint of: television, eye disease, gold smiths and laundry
St Clare gave up her comfortable lifestyle to be a Benedictine nun of San Paolo, under St Francis’ Spiritual Direction.
Born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio, St Clare was said to come from a wealthy family. She dedicated herself to prayer from a very young age but it was at the age 18, when she St Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service that encouraged her to approach him, asking for guidance on how to live faithfully according to the Gospel.
When her father attempted to bring her back home, St Clare refused, professing her desire to serve only God. The sisters became known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano” living simply lives of austerity, seclusion from the world, and poverty, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. Ten years after Clare’s death, the order became known as the Order of Saint Clare.
In 1224, a rough army of soldiers from Frederick II arrived to attack Assisi. St Clare stepped forward to meet them despite her grave illness, holding a Blessed Sacrament in her hands and pleading down on her knees for God to save the Sisters.
Miraculously, a sudden fright struck the attackers and they immediately fled as fast as they could without harming anyone in Assisi.
In her final days, St Clare witnessed a mystical experience on Christmas day. Too sick to attend Mass, St Clare transported to the prayers of the Friars in the new Basilica of St Francis in that moment and was able to see and hear the orders of Mass before her from bed as if she was present.
On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV declared Clare’s rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, Clare died at 59-years-old and Pope Alexander IV canonised her as Saint Clare of Assisi.
St Francis De Sales
- Feast Day: 24 January
- Patron Saint of: writers, journalists and Christian unity
The former Bishop of Geneva holds the title ‘gentlemen Saint’ for his friendly and gentle ways. Born in 1567 in the Savoy region, in what is now part of France, St Francis de Sales was no stranger to unpopularity.
Highly devoted to St Francis of Assisi from a young age, the former Bishop of Geneva entered into the priesthood in 1593 against his father’s wishes, who had pre-arranged a marriage for him.
St Francis de Sales has studied rhetoric, humanities and law in preparation for a political career, however resolved to hold to religious celibacy and held a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary for some time – but he kept this strong spiritual life secret from the world.
He faced much hostility, including death threats and would-be assassins after he volunteered to head a mission to return the Calvanist Switzerland back to the Catholic faith.
During his ministry in Switzerland, he wrote and distributed religious tracts including his famous work titled “Introduction to the devout life” that resulted to inroads among Protestants and helped between 40,000 and 70,000 return to the Catholic faith.
His feast day traditionally marks the release of the Pope’s annual message for World Communications Day.
Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 message reflected on social networks and their potential to strengthen unity and harmony between people. He also warned that these enable a mindset that rewards popularity, rather than rewarding what has intrinsic value.
St Francis de Sales began his own order after his namesake, was named Bishop of Geneva in 1602, after which he worked to restore Geneva’s churches and religious orders.
He died in 1622 in Lyons at a convent he had helped to found. Frances de Sales was canonized in 1665 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1877.
St Isadore of Seville
- Feast Day: 4 April
- Patron Saint of: the internet
A man with big ambition, St Isadore was regarded as the last scholar of the ancient world by 19th century historian Montalembert, Word is that he tried to record everything ever known, producing a 20 book opus Etymologies, also known as the Origins, and for thousands of years. St Isadore’s would be known as the encyclopedia of all human knowledge. Pope John Paul II declared him a Saint, and his sainthood did not go through the standard traditional canonization process.
St Peter Claver
- Patron Saint of: African missions and of interracial justice, due to his work with slaves in Colombia
From pages 14 to 15 of Issue 21: ‘The most Effective Communications is transformative’ of The Record Magazine