14 Important February Saints You Should Definitely Know
February is that month of dormancy, if not when we hibernate in our homes, then when we retreat into the sanctuary of our heart. Winter months invite solace and solitude, a time of rest and rejuvenation for the bustling spring and summer months ahead. What better way to prepare ourselves for Lent (which arrives early in February this year) than to ponder these inspirational saints whose feasts we celebrate this month? Perhaps we may find a kindred spirit in one or two of them and adopt their intercession throughout the year. Here are 14 important February saints you should definitely know.
1. St. Brigid of Ireland
A contemporary of St. Patrick (who likely baptized her mother), Brigid was named after a Celtic goddess. Her story is fascinating, as she was born of a slave woman (who was a Christian) and the woman’s master. She was incredibly beautiful, so much so that her father set up an arranged marriage for her and a bard. She refused, having vowed her virginity to Christ, so she prayed to be made physically unattractive (which was granted) until she made her permanent vows. St. Brigid notably founded two monasteries, one in Kildare that was deliberately built above a shrine to the Celtic goddess of her namesake. In this way, she continued St. Patrick’s mission of baptizing pagan icons. St. Brigid is the patron of newborns, cattle, dairymaids, and midwives. Her feast day is February 1.
2. St. Barbara Ch’oe Yong-i
Barbara was a very devout Catholic from a young age. When her father approached her about arranging her marriage, she immediately stated that the man must be a faithful Catholic instead of possessing nobility or wealth. At the age of twenty, Barbara married Charles Cho, and she bore a son the following year. Both Charles and Barbara encouraged each other to grow in virtue and remain faithful Catholics. When Barbara was arrested in Korea for her Catholic faith, she refused to renounce it or hand over the other practicing Christians she knew. As a result, she was severely beaten and her body was twisted. As she prepared for Heaven, she said, "How sad I am to lose my parents [due to] martyrdom! But when I think of Heaven, I am consoled and thank God for the special privilege of martyrdom. I am full of happiness in my heart!" She was martyred on February 1.
3. St. Lawrence of Canterbury
Among the Catholic clergy in the late sixth century, Lawrence joined St. Augustine of Canterbury and eventually became archbishop there. He had a devotion to St. Peter, who appeared to Lawrence in a dream when Britons began abandoning their Christian identity in favor of their historical pagan gods, because Lawrence was tempted to run from the controversy rather than face it. After this dream, Lawrence remained in England and was instrumental in a local ruler’s conversion to Catholicism, King Edbald. St. Lawrence is said to have carried physical scars on his back from scourgings he received from St. Peter, and his feast day is February 2.
4. St. Blaise
St. Blaise is known by many titles, among them “physician of souls” and “saint of the wild beasts.” He is most commonly known as the patron saint of throat illnesses, however. Many Catholic churches worldwide celebrate his feast day (February 3) with a special blessing of throats, using two blessed candles in a “v” shape across each person’s neck. Though little historical fact is known about St. Blaise, we do know that he was considered a miracle worker even in his day and lived much of his life as a hermit in a cave. Many churches have been named after him, especially in the United Kingdom. In Kent, England, there exists St. Blaise’s Well, which is claimed to have water with healing properties in it.
5. St. Francis Nagasaki
Francis was a Japanese physician who became Catholic through the instruction of a Franciscan missionary in the sixteenth century. As a result, he became a Franciscan tertiary and a catechist following his conversion. Sadly, Francis, along with twenty five other faithful Catholics was martyred by crucifixion during the persecution of Christians by the Taiko of Japan at the time, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Francis and his companions were all canonized as the martyrs of Japan in 1862 by Pope Pius IX. Their feast day is on February 6 and is listed as Ss. Paul Miki and Companions. (Though they were martyred on February 5, their feast day occurs the day after because of a conflict with St. Agatha’s feast day.)
6. St. Paschal
Most people acknowledge Paschal as a saint, though interestingly he has never formally been canonized. Even so, he is listed in the book of Roman Martyrology. Paschal, of Roman decent, served the Church as Pope, succeeding Stephen IV (V) after Stephen died in 817. Paschal is mostly remembered for his involvement in combatting the heresy of iconoclasm, which is the rejection or destruction of religious images. He urged Ss. Nicephorous and Theodore Studites in Constantinople to reject iconoclasm and offered refuge to Greek monks who fled to Rome hoping to escape the iconoclasts’ persecution. Paschal is also known for building and redecorating many Roman churches, as well as transferring relics from the catacombs to churches in Rome. His feast day is February 11.
7. St. Damian of Alexandria
Born in Syria, Damian was drawn to asceticism and spent sixteen years as a monk in the Egyptian desert of Scete, later becoming ordained in the monastery of St. John the Short. He became well known for his kindness and obedience as he served the Pope Peter IV of Alexandria, prolifically writing many theological discourses and epistles. He also fought against the heresies of tritheism (claiming that the Persons of God are three separate entities rather than one) and Chaldcedonianism (which expressed Christ’s nature in dualistic terms rather than as having one nature). St. Damian is highly honored in the Coptic Christian Church, where they celebrate his feast in April. Roman Catholics celebrate his feast day on February 12.
8. St. Catherine de Ricci
A particularly mystical saint, Catherine was given the baptismal name of Alexandrina in sixth century Italy but took the name Catherine for herself as a sign of her commitment to Christianity. By the age of six, she possessed a deep love of prayer and was placed in a convent where her aunt resided. After she briefly returned home, she chose to enter a Dominican convent at age fourteen and was quickly selected to become Mistress of Novices and then subprioress. At age twenty five, she was chosen to be perpetual prioress. Her piety was known by nearly all who encountered her. She is reported to have bilocated to her friend, St. Philip Neri, during their correspondence. St. Catherine also famously experienced her “Ecstasy of the Passion,” which occurred every Thursday from noon to Friday at 4 p.m. for twelve years. She died after battling a long illness. Her feast day is February 13.
9. Ss. Cyril and Methodius
Ss. Cyril and Methodius were born in present day Greece and, together, are most noted for influencing the Slav’s cultural development. Cyril (known throughout his life as Constantine, until shortly before his death) was ordained a priest shortly after his academic instruction, while Methodius remained a deacon for many years. They are considered “Apostles of the Slavs” and are highly honored in the Byzantine churches and other Eastern rites. Ss. Cyril and Methodius were also missionaries and are credited with creating the Glagolitic alphabet, which is the oldest known Slavic alphabet that matched specific features of the Slavic language (and is still widely used today). St. John Paul II declared them to be co-patrons of Europe, and their feast is traditionally celebrated on February 14 in the Roman Catholic rite.
Something we can ponder about these saints is their heroic contribution to making the liturgy accessible to the Slavs. We can appreciate how valuable this is to us, as well, because celebrating Mass in the vernacular is a fairly recent change. We can thank Ss. Cyril and Methodius for paving the way for all people to understand and participate in the liturgy using their own language.
10. St. Valentine
Almost everyone in western culture celebrates Valentine’s Day, though unfortunately without considering the fact that he was a saint. While there is a paucity of factual information about St. Valentine, we do know that he was born in third century Rome and was martyred after refusing to denounce his Catholic faith. It’s likely the association between the saint and courtly love occurred as a result of baptizing the pagan holiday, Lupercalia, in the eighteenth century. Because his feast day is celebrated on February 14, that is what unofficially made St. Valentine the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples, young people, and love.
11. St. Joseph of Antioch
Also known as Josippus, St. Joseph of Antioch was born in Syria and served as an ordained deacon and hymnist in the Church. He, along with seven others, was martyred during the iconoclast persecutions of Emperor Theophilus. A church in Philadelphia adopted St. Joseph of Antioch as their namesake with the nickname, “Old St. Joseph’s.” They believe their patron has interceded for their parish to enjoy decades of “every good and perfect gift,” which is pleasing to both God and their diocese. St. Joseph of Antioch’s feast day is February 15.
12. St. Agatha Lin
St. Agatha was beheaded as one of many Chinese martyrs in Mao-kin. She was born into a devout Catholic family and was well aware of the Chinese persecutions of Christians, because her father was tortured and arrested more than once for his Christian faith. She became a Christian teacher and catechist as an adult and spent some time in prison for her refusal to denounce her faith. While there, she was also mocked for her virginity. Her feast day is February 18.
13. St. Gertrude Caterina Comensoli
Gertrude was born Catherine to an Italian Catholic family with ten children; however, only three girls survived, including Catherine. She joined the Society of St. Angela Merici after secretly receiving her First Communion in 1867, and then founded (several years later) the Institute of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament (which was the origin of the Sisters Sacramentine), taking the name Sr. Gertrude. Despite bouts of illness and hardship, which became impediments to her dream of honoring Jesus in the Eucharist through a religious order, she persevered and continued to listen to God’s call for her life. The charisms she was most known for included prayer, sacrifice, mortification, obedience, humility, and charity (toward the poor). St. Gertrude was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI, and her feast day is February 18.
14. Pope St. Hilary
Hilary was born in the late fifth century in Sardinia, Italy, and he became a papal legate to the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, barely escaping with his life intact. Pope St. Leo the Great used Hilary on many assignments in this legate position, to which Hilary was undoubtedly faithful and obedient. His main legacy included strengthening the Catholic Church in France and Spain by calling councils. He also worked to rebuild Roman churches and constructed the chapel of St. John Lateran. In a feat of courage, St. Hilary publicly reprimanded Emperor Anthemius for supporting the Macedonian heresy that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate St. Hilary’s feast day on February 28.
Many of the February saints listed here had to fight against persecution and heresies of their day, which is not at all atypical for our modern epoch. Many of us must provide explanation and defense of our Catholic beliefs in the Trinity, for Mary’s perpetual virginity, in favor of the Sacraments, and so on. In this way, we are not unlike these beautiful examples of sanctity. Like them, we may find ourselves learning more about the “what” and “why” of Catholicism through apologetics, and if we do, we can invoke these saints to assist us in our fidelity and perseverance to our Catholic faith.