“The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.” These are the words that Father Cyril of the Mother of God, O.C.D., a Carmelite priest, heard from a statue of the Infant Jesus in 1637. January 14th is a date of honor for the Infant Jesus.
St. Gertrude the Great was a German abbess, a mystic and an early adherent to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She had many writings which still resonate nearly 700 years later about her struggle to reconcile her humanness with her role as a bride of Christ. Her title “the Great” was conferred by Pope Benedict XIV in the 17th century making her the only woman saint to be called “the Great”. This attribute refers to her prowess as a theologian and writer; and to distinguish her from Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn under whom Gertrude the Great lived and learned until succeeding her as abbess in about 1286.
St. Jerome was a 4th century influencer whose writing, theological ideas and translation of the Bible into Latin (“the Vulgate”) continues to resonate today. His ascetic life had characteristics of St. John the Baptist – “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’” (John 1:23) . St. Jerome spent four of his early adult years in the desert of Chalcis in Syria where he composed the first group of his many letters on theology and asceticism. His life was so impactful, that he was among a group of four men who were declared Doctors of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in the 13th century. His Feast Day is September 30th in the Roman Catholic Church and June 15th in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Feast Day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael is September 29th. The adventure story of the Angel Raphael is told in the Book of Tobit. Although called “Saints”, the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are angels, rather than “saints” who have been seemingly around since the beginning of time. An angel is a being described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows: “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.” The purpose of angels is described as, “With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God.”
St. Ludmila is a favorite of people of Czech heritage and in-laws; and the patroness of Bohemia. She is the grandmother of the famed St. Wenceslaus and was instrumental in the spread of Christianity in Bohemia during her reign and that of her grandson.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Martyr and a mass-media evangelizer with a great devotion to the Blessed Mother – which he promoted through his writings and actions. His inspiring life was centered on Mary as the Mediatrix and intercessor to lead to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. He spread devotion through his Militia Immaculata established to fight evil through the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Three important “Apostolic fathers” of the Church are celebrated within a few days of each other. On June 29 is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul who had great influence on the Western Church; and on July 3 is the Feast of Saint Thomas, who had a great impact on the Eastern Church. Each of these apostles of Jesus contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity in the early years of the Church after Jesus death.
The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a Solemnity this year on June 11. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the following day. Both of these feasts are focused on love with the heart as a symbolic representation. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reflection on Jesus’ heart full of love for humanity, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary shows the fullness of Mary’s heart with love for the Savior.
May 1st is known as “May Day”, a celebration of working classes and laborers, that was started in 1889 in response to difficult working conditions and long hours during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. In order to incorporate the sacredness of work into the secular holiday, in 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to be celebrated on May 1st.
The Feast of The Annunciation occurs on March 25th of each year, nine months before Christmas Day. The Annunciation commemorates Mary’s “Fiat” – the acceptance of her role as the Mother of Jesus. The scene is a favorite topic for inspirational stained-glass windows as shown below.