Get Inspiration from These Great Saints
There are many inspiring saints celebrated in August. Here are the stories of 10 great men and women that pursued the path of holiness out of love for Christ. Let us follow their example.
St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Born at the end of the 17th century, Saint Alphonsus is remembered as the founder of the Redemptorists and as a guiding light in the development of the moral theology of the Church. Raised in a noble family of Naples, Italy, Saint Alphonsus demonstrated perfection in all of his pursuits from an early age. He was admitted to the bar at the age of 16 and it is said that he didn't lose one case in the ten years following. At age 26, he chose to leave public life after losing a case of considerable importance because of his inaccurate reading of a document.
His failure to read the document correctly caused a deep crisis that resulted in his completely abandoning the world. What his father called “obstinancy” was for him, however, a great virtue; he seemed to have seen a deeper meaning in the circumstances of his life and from thereon consistently strived to live according to his conscience. “I follow my conscience, and when reason persuades me I make little account of moralists.”
St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney
Reputed to be one of the most amazing directors of souls, St. Jean Vianney shows us that gaining worldly approval and meeting the expectations of the members of society does not assist us in accomplishing our vocations. God calls us to humble service in His Work, and we realize that service when we strive to find God’s will as manifested in the circumstances of life.
A failure in school most of his life, St. Jean-Baptiste became a priest after deserting Napoleon's army. He did not desert because of conscientious objections, but because he spent too much time in prayer. While attempting to rejoin his regiment, he was persuaded by the local townspeople to hide there and become a teacher.
He was reputed to have supernatural gifts and shows us that God’s Work in us is not a function of intellectual understanding or of performance obligations, but of a profoundly generous heart that seeks to encounter Christ in others. A role model for parish priests, St. Jean spent hours in the confessional, to his own merit and the salvation of many souls.
Passing to his eternal reward on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6), St. Dominic shows us the personal transformation of life that we can all attain by our cooperating with God’s call to personal holiness in the service of the Church.
From his early life as a priest, Saint Dominic was a reformer. His efforts to reform, however, were not his own personal indictments of the activities of others. His holiness and understanding of the Gospel created a disposition that caused others to ask him to assist in the reformation of church discipline.
Though heresy reached a point of crisis in the 12th century, a pervasive apathy stifled any powerful response from orthodox Catholics. In reply, Saint Dominic gathered a company of men who could demonstrate personal holiness as an effective remedy for heresy.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Born a little more than 100 years ago, Saint Teresa “Blessed of the Cross” demonstrates that our own personal response to life’s circumstances is what merits eternal life for us. Her birth name—and the name by which many know her—was Edith Stein. “There is no chance,” she said, “the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes.” This powerful conviction could not have been held by Saint Teresa had she not been willing to submit her powerful intellect to the government of the Divine Mind.
Raised in a Jewish family, St. Teresa studied under some of the intellectual luminaries of her day. She was a suffragette, scholar, and atheist, but she abandoned all of those circumstances and found peace in joining a Carmelite monastery for the sake of a fervent embrace of the Holy Cross. During World War II, she was killed by the Nazis because of her Jewish heritage.
St. Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was one of the many, many martyrs that came about because of various political regimes persecuting the Church in the 20th century. As a Polish priest and member of the Conventual Franciscan Order, St. Maximilian founded the Militia Immaculata in order to promote personal sanctification by devotion and consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
His constant desire was to wake people up to the indifference created by our culture, saying: “The most deadly poison of our times is indifference; and this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.” His own personal choice to take the place of a fellow prisoner and accept being condemned to death teaches us, among other things, to be compassionate to the sufferings of others.
St. Stephen of Hungary
Born at the end of the 10th century, Saint Stephen holds the title of “First King of Hungary.” As a convert to the Faith, Saint Stephen labored to unite the different tribes of Hungary under his rule in order to create a single Christian nation. The majority of his life as a king was peaceful and he worked alongside the Church to establish a fruitful life for his people that would remain for many years.
The life of Saint Stephen shows us that rulers of nations have a profound duty to work for the common good of their citizens, and that the ideal of the common good can be realized best when the governing agencies of a nation seek to encourage and inculcate a transcendent spiritual identity in the people for whom they work.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Born in the 11th century, Saint Bernard is a great reminder to us that institutions within the Church will always need reform and personal holiness and sanctification is the best kind of reform for the entire Church. Even from a young age, Saint Bernard was disposed to study and the wealth of his family allowed him to take up studies at an early age. We see his love for art and classical literature in his many treatises, theological works, and sermons.
Saint Bernard had the most tender devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and the prayer “Memorare” is attributed to him. He worked with many people of his day and seemed to be at the center of a number of controversies. One of his gifts to the Church was his participation in the reform of the Benedictine Order and he is held to be one of the founders of the Cistercian monks (who would later be reformed again and called “Trappists”).
His treatise On Consideration advocated the notion that the reform of the Church must begin by personal holiness and sanctity at the highest levels. His own life is a witness to that doctrine.
Sts. Monica and Augustine
Saint Monica is the mother of Saint Augustine. They demonstrate the reciprocal nature of the Christian life: Although we are saved, as individuals by our personal faith, that faith does not happen in a vacuum, it is lived out in a real community that begins in the home.
Raised as a Christian, Saint Monica married a pagan and had three children with him. Saint Augustine had a reputation of being dissipated and lazy. He studied in Carthage and embraced the Manichean heresy while he was there. Monica drove him away from home, but her regret at his lack of baptism caused her to follow him to Rome to seek his conversion.
In Rome, Monica introduced Augustine to Saint Ambrose who was able to persuade him to return to the full embrace of Catholic teaching. We see the hand of Providence in Saint Augustine’s life: Had he not strayed away from the Church, we would not have his vast teaching on many different things. His book Confessions is a classic story of the soul’s longing for the Divine and the struggle each of us has to embrace our call to holiness by participation in the Church.
St. Rose of Lima
The first canonized saint born in the Americas, Saint Rose shows us that the path to holiness is found primarily by embracing personal suffering as it comes to us. There are many philosophies of life that either attempt to explain away suffering as unimportant or refuse to understand how we find meaning in suffering.
From an early age, however, Saint Rose understood that it is only by our embracing suffering in life that we can become perfected as children of God and attain our inheritance in heaven. Her primary virtue as a child was obedience and she never failed to submit her own will to the will of her parents or family. She practiced frequent mortifications and gained an intimate knowledge of God by nights spent in prayer and adoration.
At 20 years of age, she embraced the habit of the Dominicans. She was renowned for her docility and constant efforts to find additional mortifications so that all of her human powers might be submitted to the Divine will.