Helpers, Heroes and Friends

Helpers, Heroes & Friends:
Learning how to follow Christ by knowing the Saints

Saints have always been a part of the rich history of the Catholic Church. From Saint Ulrich of Augsburg, canonized in 993 by Pope John the XV, to Blessed Carlos Acutis, set to be the next Saint named in the church, the Saints have been a source of spiritual inspiration. Join us as we explore the lives of the Saints and learn how, through their ordinary lives, they have become extraordinary examples of Christian living. Through their example, and the wide variety of their backgrounds, we can see that holiness is for everyone!

NEW Saint Augustine (Feast Day: August 28) - St. Augustine, a sinner turned Saint, converted to Christianity at 33, became a priest at 36, and a bishop at 41. A renowned theologian and prolific writer, he was also a skilled preacher and rhetorician. The prayers of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures, redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.


Saint Monica (Feast Day: August 27) - Saint Monica prayed for 17 years for the conversion of her son, Augustine. Her prayers were answered as he was Baptized shortly before her death and dedicated his life in service to God. She is the Patron Saint for mothers and wives and was an exemplary woman who never gave up hope and her faith in God among all tribulations in her family life.


Our Lady of the Assumption (Feast Day: August 15) - On August 15, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Pius XII declared that the “Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Throughout her life, Mary was a faithful disciple of her Son, Christ Jesus. In Baptism, we share in both the dying and rising of Christ. So this feast of Mary is also a feast of our future: the future in which we, like Mary, will share body and soul in the glory of Christ’s eternal and new creation. 


Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, martyr - He was leading an ordinary life as a farm hand in Austria, but then he found himself swept up in the dilemmas and dangers of the Nazi triumphs in Europe. Suddenly, Franz Jägerstätter faced a fundamental question – can you fight in Hitler’s army and still call yourself a “Catholic?” Although his family (and even his bishop!) told him to just keep quiet and ‘fit in,’ Franz Jägerstätter stood against Hitler’s evil tyranny and remained faithful to the Gospel.


Saint Titus Brandsma (Feast Day: July 27) - The Nazi's called him 'that dangerous little friar." Why was he dangerous? Because he insisted that Catholics can and should stay faithful to the Gospel, even when it appears that the political life of a nation would make such faithfulness dangerous! Titus Brandsma was born in the Netherlands, and became a Carmelite priest, teacher and journalist. When the Nazi's took over in the Netherlands, Brandsma boldly declared that Catholic newspapers could not print Nazi propaganda if they wanted to naintain their Catholic identity. He preached that the followers of Jesus could not cooperate with the evils of the Nazi regime. When the world is awash in lies, the truth-tellers become dangerous. Bradsma was ultimately arrested and was killed at Dachau on July 26, 1942. Pope John Paul II declared him to be a martyr in 1985.  


Saint Mary Magdalene (Feast Day: July 22) - She came from a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. Then along came a preacher named Jesus… and her life was changed. She accompanied Jesus as he traveled to preach, teach and heal. Some pious traditions identify Mary as a reformed sinner… but then again, aren’t ALL of us called to be ‘reformed sinners?’ What we do know is this: Mary Magdalene was the first person to hear the news that Jesus was risen from the dead. She was sent to proclaim that Easter message to the Apostles. As such, she is called the “Apostle to the Apostles.” She was sent to bring the Good News to those who needed to hear it… and so are we! St. Mary Magdalene has much to teach us!


Saint Bonaventure (Feast Day: July 15) - How does a boy from a small Italian village become one of the greatest theologians in Christian history? Perhaps our humble beginnings never limit what the Lord can do with our lives! Saint Bonaventure came from humble beginnings, but in his adult life he was a Cardinal Archbishop, and one of the leading theologians in Europe. He was the kind of man who could write exquisite theology one minute, and wash the dishes the next minute. He was one of the most intelligent men of his era, yet he always said that the purpose of human knowledge is “not to speculate, but to love.” Hmmm… a man who learned how to put human learning at the service of Christian loving? Couldn’t we use some saints like that today?


Saint Maria Goretti (Feast Day: July 6) - She died at the age of 12, yet the Church celebrates her as a saint! How did that happen? Maria grew up in an Italian home which was full of faith, and she was thrilled to receive First Holy Communion. When a 19 year old neighbor named Alesandro made sexual advances toward this young girl, she resisted. Alesandro stabbed young Maria, and as she lay dying in a local hospital, she told her mother that she ‘forgave Alesandro for the love of Jesus.’ Alessandro was convicted of this horrible crime and spent 30 years in prison. But he lived long enough to give testimony which helped to bring Maria forward for beatification and canonization. This young girl died in a tragic and horrible way, but she reminds us that holiness is not reserved for those who have reached old age. Everyone, of every age, can do heroic things ‘for the love of Jesus.’


Saint Peter (Feast Day: June 29) - He was a married man who had a small fishing business in a town called Capernaum. He worked hard, in conditions that were often dangerous. And then, one day, an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth met Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee - and Peter's life was changed forever. Jesus invited Peter to follow him... and Peter abandoned his boats and his nets, and he started the adventure of following Jesus. Peter was a passionate man, who had an occasional habit of putting his foot in his mouth. He had a charisma which made him a natural leader among the first group of disciples. He could be intensely faithful. Yet he could also deny that he even knew Jesus. After the Resurrection, our Lord asked Peter to lead the early Christians. Peter stayed faithful to Christ, eventually becoming a martyr in the city of Rome.


Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (Feast Day: June 21) - His father wanted him to be a soldier, and at the age of 6, Aloysius managed to accidentally fire a loaded canon in a military camp! While he could be ‘mischievous’ at times, Aloysius also developed a deep love for Christ. He disappointed his parents by announcing that he wanted to become a Jesuit. During his seminary training in the 16th century, the Plague broke out in central Italy. While many people fled the City of Rome to protect their health, Aloysius and other Jesuits remained behind to care for the sick. Even after Aloysius himself contracted the Plague, he asked for permission to remain in Rome to work at the Jesuit hospital. He died at the age of 23, giving his life as he served Christ by serving his neighbor.


Saint Alice (Feast Day: June 15) - She lived at a time when a strange, foreign disease was causing great suffering, loss, and isolation. She herself became ill and had to live apart from the people that she loved. Wait a minute – is this 21st century America, or 13th century Belgium? Saint Alice contracted leprosy while she was very young, and her illness led to a life of segregation and loneliness. She found strength in one thing – the Eucharist! Perhaps this young woman from Belgium has a lot to teach all of us in Short Pump! 


Saint Anthony of Padua (Feast Day: June 13) - Have you ever lost anything? Have you ever felt lost yourself? If so, then Saint Anthony is your new best friend! He thought God wanted him to preach in Morocco, but he ended up in an obscure country location in Italy. Perhaps Anthony thought that God had forgotten about him – but by the end of his life, Anthony was known as the most passionate preacher of the Gospel in Italy. Oh, and if you lose your car keys, or your hat, or your hope, ask Saint Anthony to intercede for you.


Saint Norbert (Feast Day: June 6) - A successful and handsome young man who planned to have a great career in the political circles of 12th century France. But after he had a powerful conversion experience, he founded a religious order of priests and eventually became an archbishop. He was dedicated to serving the poor, and lived a life of such simplicity that he was occasionally mistaken as a beggar himself! He spent a great deal of energy seeking to reconcile groups of people who were divided by angry hostilities. He often made people quite uncomfortable, simply because he did the right thing.


Saint Philip Neri (Feast Day: May 26), a priest from Rome, who believed that laughter and joy were essential in preaching the Gospel to the poorest residents of every city.


Saint Rita of Cascia (Feast Day: May 22), a woman who married a cantankerous man, raised two sons, and then became a widow at a relatively young age. She spent the rest of her life as a nun, serving the poor and inspiring others.


Saint Isidore the Farmer (Feast Day: May 15) and his wife Saint Maria, a married couple from Spain who worked hard, prayed hard, and served the Lord.


Saint Nunzio Sulprizio (Feast Day: May 5), a 19-year-old poor kid from Italy who “couldn't catch a break”, but he spread the joy of the Gospel to everyone he met.