These Saints of October Will Inspire You
October is full of great saints that can teach us many lessons. Here is a brief introduction to some of them.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) (Feast: October 1)
St. Thérèse lived a short but powerful life. She lost her mother at the age of 5. As she grew, she desired to follow her two older sisters into the Carmelite Order. After originally being denied due to being too young, she received special permission to enter the convent at age 15. She died at age 24.
Her life was actually marked by being in many ways unremarkable. In fact, this is the secret to her great place in the church. She is known for what has come to be called her “little way”. This central teaching which proclaims that the way to heaven is to do ordinary daily actions with great love for God was her hallmark and it is precisely the way she lived. Despite her in many ways ordinary life, she is one of three women honored with the title Doctor of the Church.
Interestingly, she is the patron of foreign missionaries despite never leaving the convent. This is because she always had a great desire to be a missionary, even though she had to subjugate it to follow her calling into the convent. Ultimately, she became a missionary through her “little way” and through her autobiography The Story of a Soul which is one of the most renowned Christian writings of all time.
St. Thérèse teaches us that holiness is comprised not of great deeds but of faithfulness in small matters. Each daily task is placed before us by God as an opportunity.
St. Francis of Assisi (Feast: October 4)
St. Francis is one of the most well-known and well-loved saints of the Catholic Church. He was the first-born son of a wealthy merchant and heir to a great fortune. One day while praying in the church of San Damiano, he heard God ask him to “rebuild my church”. He immediately began to gather stones to repair the little church. This, however, was not what God had in mind.
Francis gave up everything to live a life of radical poverty so that no possession might separate him from the love of God. He took up a begging and preaching, always sharing even what little he received with the poor. Over time, Francis’s unconditional commitment to God began to draw followers. Others came to join him, giving up everything. This movement became the Franciscan Order and led to a great renewal (and rebuilding) of the Church.
St. Francis teaches us that living a holy life is the key to transforming the world. How often do we lament the evils we observe and feel powerless to stop them? The reality is that even one truly holy life can overcome great evil.
For an entertaining portrayal of the life of St. Francis, check out the radio theater audio drama Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi from the Augustine Institute (available at www.formed.org.)
Saint Denis and Companions (Feast: October 9)
Relatively little is known about St. Denis and companions. He was sent as a missionary Bishop to Gaul (modern day France) where he and his companions settled on an island in the Seine river just outside the present city of Paris. His preaching led to many conversions which angered the local heathen priests, the Druids. He and his companions were eventually martyred.
I have always been enthralled by companion saints. Saints, who even though they had names, are often nameless in the eyes of history. Their witness reminds us that so often the actions which lead to holiness are unrecognized by the world. Hopefully, we will be numbered among the countless unrecognized saints one day.
Saint John XXIII (Feast: October 11)
John XXIII became Pope in 1958 at age 76. He served in the military on two occasions: first as a young man prior to becoming a priest and then as a military chaplain during World War I. These experiences, no doubt, were formational in his commitment to pursuing world peace and his understanding of human dignity presented in his encyclical Pacem in Terris. In his first address as Pope, he proclaimed his desire to be a “pastoral” Pope.
“It was likely this desire that led him to convene the second Vatican council or Vatican II in 1962 with the central themes of re-presenting the faith to the modern world and the universal call to holiness. Through Vatican II, Pope John XXIII re-emphasized the call to holiness for lay people. He reminds us that Christianity must be a lived reality in our daily life. Holiness is not something reserved for priests, bishops, and popes. Holiness is God’s plan for each one of us.”
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (Feast: October 17)
Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary throughout her life encouraging her to proclaim a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion which proclaims the great mercy of Jesus has become one of the most widely practiced devotions in the Catholic Church. Jesus has promised 12 great benefits to those who undertake this devotion which consists of going to confession, attending Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and receiving Communion on the first Friday of 9 consecutive months. Here are the promises:
I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
I will give peace in their families and will unite families that are divided.
I will console them in all their troubles.
I will be their refuge during life and above all in death.
I will bestow the blessings of Heaven on all their enterprises.
Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
Tepid souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall rise quickly to great perfection.
I will bless those places wherein the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored and will imprint My love on the hearts of those who would wear this image on their person. I will also destroy them all disordered movements.
I will give to priests who are animated by a tender devotion to my Divine Heart the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: they will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions, Martyrs (Feast: October 19)
Often referred to as the North American Martyrs, the story of saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, and companions is among the most impressive of witnesses to the faith. These French missionaries shed their blood under some of the most gruesome tortures, giving witness to the Huron tribe near Quebec. The Huron tribe experienced constant raids from the warring Iroquois who despised both the Huron and the “black robe” Christian missionaries.
The missionaries were martyred over a period of years starting with the capture of René Goupil and Isaac Jogues. René Goupil was killed first. Isaac Jogues was tortured and then escaped and travelled back to Europe. After only a few months, he would return to the mission fields where he was eventually captured again and martyred. Saint John de Brébeuf and his companion Gabriel Lalemant were brutally tortured in an attempt to break their faith, yet both went to their death praying “Jesus have mercy on us.” These are but a few of the stories. One must note that many Christian Huron were also brutally treated and gave their lives in this period.
The North American Martyrs remind us that the faith of our land was won at a cost. Even here, where we experience so much freedom, we can expect persecution. The faith cannot be lived without great courage.
(Here is a more complete account from which the above description was compiled.)
St. Ignatius of Antioch (Feast: October 17)
Saint Ignatius learned the faith directly from John the Apostle and became Bishop of Antioch (which was the location of Peter’s first church). He was arrested in Antioch and condemned to death by the Emperor Trajan. He was then sent from Antioch to Rome where he was eaten by lions in the Roman coliseum in the year 107 AD. On the journey, Ignatius wrote 7 letters which are among the greatest works in Christian history.
His letters address a new heresy within the church called Docetism. Docetism translates to “appearance” or even “make believe”. The Docetists differed from the early Christians in one key point of theology. They denied that Jesus had become true man and hence believed Jesus had not acted in human flesh. Therefore, his suffering was not really efficacious—and nor were the sufferings that Christians might be asked to bear under the Roman persecution. In this way, the Docetists were offering a “make believe” version of Christianity in which actions did not matter. It was very appealing because it allowed followers to claim the salvation offered by Christ, yet compromise His teaching to avoid persecution by the state.
In response, Ignatius wrote “Where the shepherd is, there you, being sheep must follow….if a man chooses to be a dissenter, he severs all connection with the Passion” and “Let no one do anything touching the Church apart from the bishop… Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Rod Bennett, Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words). For Ignatius, the Church and Christ were one. He punctuated his answer to the Docetists by giving his life.
How often are we tempted to compromise on the teachings of Christ because they are unpopular? Let us remember, like Ignatius, that the Church and Christ are one. We cannot pick and choose which teachings to follow without losing our redeeming connection to Christ.
St. Paul of the Cross (Feast: October 20)
St. Paul of the Cross is a testament to the redeeming power of suffering. A story from his childhood exemplifies his approach to suffering. One day while praying in church, a heavy bench fell on his foot leaving a bloody wound. However, the boy was undisturbed in his prayer later referring to the wound as a “rose sent from God”. He ovce had a vision of a “scourge with the word “love” written on its lashes” which he took as a sign that his desire for penance would be satisfied. St. Paul of the Cross would go on to found the order of the Passionists (Fr. Alban Butler, Lives of the Saints).
St. Paul of the Cross teaches us that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28), even the hardships we endure. When we accept them with joy rather than resignation they can have powerful redeeming value. He also teaches us to perform penance as a means to grow in love of God. When we embrace penances such as fasting, or make other sacrifices, we are making an intentional decision to love God no matter the cost. Penance is a sure road to the love of God.
Saint John of Capistrano (Feast: October 23)
Saint John of Capistrano was born in Capistrano, Italy in the 1386. A lawyer by profession, he became governor of Perugia. He was taken prisoner when Perugia was conquered. While a prisoner, he had a vision of St. Francis of Assisi inviting him to become a Franciscan priest. He became a great preacher and reformer of the Franciscan Order. After the fall of Constantinople, Turkish forces attacked Belgrade. Saint John led the Christian Army in defense at 70 years old. He died just months after the battle was won. He also spent time as a missionary in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Poland and earned the title Apostle of Europe.
Saint John of Capistrano served the church and the Franciscan Order to the very end of his life. He teaches us to work tirelessly to spread the faith until the end of our days.
Saint Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870) (Feast: October 24)
Saint Anthony Mary Claret was a missionary, an Archbishop, and confessor to a Queen. He was ordained a priest in Spain in 1835. He wrote 144 books, but was most widely known for his preaching which always focused on the call to conversion and was driven by his desire to rescue souls. His work was often accompanied by miraculous signs.
Most of his priesthood was devoted to preaching missions as he traveled village to village by foot. In 1848, he was sent as a missionary to the Canary Islands. In 1850, he became Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba. As Archbishop, he continued to travel from village to village throughout Cuba. He was then recalled by Queen Isabella II to act as her personal confessor. He reluctantly agreed as long as he would still be allowed to spend his time preaching rather than at court.
St. Anthony Mary Claret gained a wide reputation as a confessor. He had the gift of reading souls, often reminding penitents of sins they had forgotten. He would spend hours a day in the confessional and people would wait for hours to see him for confession.
This was in no small part due to the great gentleness and love for souls which was at the heart of his preaching and exemplified in the confessional. His sights were never focused so much on the sin, but rather on the conversion of the sinner. He could not bear to think that souls should be lost to Hell and committed his life to preventing this.
St. Anthony Mary Claret reminds us that each of us has an eternal soul which hangs in the balance. We must never lose sight of this fact. We are called first to renew our own conversion and then tirelessly seek the salvation of souls. Let us begin this work today, by praying daily and offering penances for the conversion of sinners.
(For a brief and interesting read on the life of Saint Anthony Mary Claret visit https://www.olrl.org/lives/claret.shtml.)