St. Catherine of Siena
Feast Day: April 29’th
St. Catherine of Siena was born during the outbreak of the plague in Siena, Italy on March 25, 1347. She was the 25th child born to her mother, although half of her brothers and sisters did not survive childhood. Catherine herself was a twin, but her sister did not survive infancy. Her mother was 40 when she was born. Her father was a cloth dyer.
At the age of 16, Catherine’s sister, Bonaventura, died, leaving her husband as a widower. Catherine’s parents proposed that he marry Catherine as a replacement, but Catherine opposed this. She began fasting and cut her hair short to mar her appearance.
Her parents attempted to resist this move, to avoid marriage, but they were unsuccessful. Her fasting and her devotion to her family, convinced them to relent and allow her to live as she pleased. Catherine once explained that she regarded her father as a representation of Jesus and her mother as Our Lady, and her brothers as the apostles, which helped her to serve them with humility.
Despite Catherine’s religious nature, she did not choose to enter a convent and instead she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, which allowed her to associate with a religious society while living at home.
Fellow Dominican sisters taught St. Catherine how to read. Meanwhile, she lived quietly, isolated within her family home.
St. Catherine developed a habit of giving things away and she continually gave away her family’s food and clothing to people in need. She never asked permission to give these things away, and she quietly put up with their criticisms.
Something changed her when she was 21. She described an experience she referred to as her “mystical marriage to Christ.” There are debates over whether or not St. Catherine was given a ring with some claiming she was given a bejeweled ring, and other claiming the ring was made of Jesus’s skin. St. Catherine herself started the rumor of the latter in her writings, but she was known to often claim the ring itself was invisible.
Such mystical experiences change people, and St. Catherine was no exception. In her vision, she was told to reenter public life and to help the poor and sick. She immediately rejoined her family and went into public to help people in need.
She often visited hospitals and homes where the poor and sick were found. Her activities quickly attracted followers who helped her in her mission to serve the poor and sick.
St. Catherine was drawn further into the world as she worked, and eventually she began to travel, calling for reform of the Church and for people to confess and to love God totally. She became involved in politics, and was key in working to keep city states loyal to the Pope. She was also credited with helping to start a crusade to the Holy Land. On one occasion, she visited a condemned political prisoner and was credited with saving his soul, which she saw being taken up to heaven at the moment of his death.
St. Catherine allegedly was given the stigmata, but like her ring, it was visible only to herself. She took Bl. Raymond of Capua has her confessor and spiritual director.
From 1375 onwards, St. Catherine began dictating letters to scribes. She petitioned for peace and was instrumental in persuading the Pope in Avignon to return to Rome.
She became involved in the fractured politics of her time, but was instrumental in restoring the Papacy to Rome and in brokering peace deals during a time of factional conflict and war between the Italian city states.
She also established a monastery for women in 1377 outside of Siena. She is credited with composing over 400 letters, her Dialogue, which is her definitive work, and her prayers. These works are so influential that St. Catherine would later be declared a Doctor of the Church. She is one of the most influential and popular saints in the Church.
By 1380, the 33-year-old mystic had become ill, possibly because of her habit of extreme fasting. Her confessor, Raymond, ordered her to eat, but she replied that she found it difficult to do so, and that possibly she was ill.
In January of 1380, her illness accelerated her inability to eat and drink. Within weeks, she was unable to use her legs. She died on April 29, following a stroke just a week prior.
St. Catherine’s feast day is April 29, she is the patroness against fire, illness, the United States, Italy, miscarriages, people ridiculed for their faith, sexual temptation, and nurses.
Feast day: April 25’th
John Mark, later known simply as Mark, was a Jew by birth. He was the son of that Mary who was proprietress of the Cenacle or “upper room” which served as the meeting place for the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He was still a youth at the time of the Savior’s death. In his description of the young man who was present when Jesus was seized and who fled from the rabble leaving behind his “linen cloth,” the second Evangelist might possibly have stamped the mark of his own identity.
During the years that followed, the rapidly maturing youth witnessed the growth of the infant Church in his mother’s Upper Room and became acquainted with its traditions. This knowledge he put to excellent use when compiling his Gospel. Later, we find Mark acting as a companion to his cousin Barnabas and Saul on their return journey to Antioch and on their first missionary journey. But Mark was too immature for the hardships of this type of work and therefore left them at Perge in Pamphylia to return home.
As the two apostles were preparing for their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin with him. Paul, however, objected. Thereupon the two cousins undertook a missionary journey to Cyprus. Time healed the strained relations between Paul and Mark, and during the former’s first Roman captivity (61-63), Mark rendered Paul valuable service (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and the Apostle learned to appreciate him. When in chains the second time Paul requested Mark’s presence (2 Tim. 4:11).
An intimate friendship existed between Mark and Peter; he played the role of Peter’s companion, disciple, and interpreter. According to the common patristic opinion, Mark was present at Peter’s preaching in Rome and wrote his Gospel under the influence of the prince of the apostles. This explains why incidents which involve Peter are described with telling detail (e.g., the great day at Capharnaum, 1:14f)). Little is known of Mark’s later life. It is certain that he died a martyr’s death as bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. His relics were transferred from Alexandria to Venice, where a worthy tomb was erected in St. Mark’s Cathedral.
The Gospel of St. Mark, the shortest of the four, is, above all, a Roman Gospel. It originated in Rome and is addressed to Roman, or shall we say, to Western Christianity. Another high merit is its chronological presentation of the life of Christ. For we should be deeply interested in the historical sequence of the events in our blessed Savior’s life.
Mark was a skilled painter of word pictures. With one stroke he frequently enhances a familiar scene, shedding upon it new light. His Gospel is the “Gospel of Peter,” for he wrote it under the direction and with the aid of the prince of the apostles. “The Evangelist Mark is represented as a lion because he begins his Gospel in the wilderness, `The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord,’ or because he presents the Lord as the unconquered King.”
Patron: Against impenitence; attorneys; barristers; captives; Egypt; glaziers; imprisoned people; insect bites; lions; notaries; prisoners; scrofulous diseases; stained glass workers; struma; Diocese of Venice, Florida; Venice, Italy.
Symbols: Winged lion; fig tree; pen; book and scroll; club; barren fig tree; scroll with words Pax Tibi; winged and nimbed lion; lion.
St James (The Lesser) / St. Philip
Feast Day: May 3rd
This observance celebrates the lives of Saint Philip and James the Lesser, two of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Philip is the patron saint of hat makers and pastry chefs. He is also the patron saint of Luxembourg and Uruguay. He is famous for being one of Jesus’ first disciples. James, sometimes called James the Lesser, is known as the writer of the epistle of James in the Bible. He was bishop of Jerusalem in the early church.
The mother of St James, Mary was either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of Jesus.
The Roman Catholic feast day of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles, is held May 3. It honors James, traditionally considered to be the brother of Jesus, and Philip, considered by scripture to be one of Jesus’ earliest disciples (John: 1:43).
St James the Lesser is the patron saint of hat makers, the dying and also one of the patron saints of Uruguay.
Philip teaches us … to let ourselves be won over by Jesus, to be with him and also to invite others to share in this indispensable company; and in seeing, finding God, to find true life. – St. Benedict XVI.
National Day of Prayer
Day: May 4’th
Many Christians are unaware that they live in a nation that has a law in place requiring our President proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year on the first Thursday in May.
The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals. (Public Law 105-225)
The origins of National Day of Prayer date back to 1787, when Benjamin Franklin asked President George Washington to open each day with prayer, and to realize that prayer is deeply intertwined in the fabric of the United States. However, it was not until February 1952 during the Korean War that Reverend Billy Graham petitioned support of Representative Percy Priest to observe a national day of prayer. On April 17, 1952 President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming National Day of Prayer, to encourage Americans to turn to God in prayer and meditation.
As citizens and residents of the United States and as believers in Christ Jesus, we not only have a spiritual responsibility according to 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to pray, but a civic duty as well to heed our President’s call to stand in the gap for our nation. Who but God’s people have the ability to enter into the very throne room of Heaven with prayers and petitions.
Editor: Evan Macklin