St. Mary of Egypt

April 1 is the feast of a little-known saint whose story demonstrates the power of the Church as the home of forgiveness, redemption and mercy. St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute for 17 years before she received the Eucharist and chose the life of a hermit. Born in 344 A.D., Mary of Egypt moved to the city of Alexandria when she was 12 years old and worked as a prostitute. With the intention of continuing her trade, she joined a large group that was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On the feast day itself, she joined the crowd as it was headed to the church in order to venerate the relic of the True Cross, again with the intention of luring others into sin. When she got to the door of the church, she was unable to enter. A miraculous force propelled her away from the door each time she approached. After trying to get in three or four times, Mary of Egypt moved to a corner of the churchyard and began to cry tears of remorse. Then she saw a statue of the Blessed Virgin. She prayed to the Holy Mother for permission to enter the church for the purposes of venerating the relic. She promised the Virgin Mother that if she were allowed to enter the church, she would renounce the world and its ways. Mary of Egypt entered the church, venerated the relic and returned to the statue outside to pray for guidance. She heard a voice telling her to cross the Jordan River and find rest. She set out and in the evening, she arrived at the Jordan and received communion in a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The next day, she crossed the river and went into the desert, where she lived alone for 47 years. Then, while making his Lenten retreat, a priest named Zosimus found the hermitess. She asked him to return to the banks of the Jordan on Holy Thursday of the following year and to bring her Communion. The priest was true to his word and returned bearing the Eucharist. Mary told him to come back again the next year, but to the place where he had originally met her. When Zosimus returned in a year’s time, he found Mary’s corpse. On the ground beside it was a written request that she be buried accompanied by a statement that she had died one year ago, in 421 A.D., on the very night she had received Holy Communion.  

Bl. Jane of Toulouse

Blessed Jane lived in the French town of Toulouse during the 13th century. A Carmelite monastery was founded in the same town in 1240 which exposed Jane to the Carmelite lifestyle and spirituality. In 1265 when St. Simon Stock, a 13th century reformer of the Carmelites, was passing through Toulouse, Jane met him and requested to be affiliated with the Carmelites. Simon agreed and Jane became the first Third Order Carmelite.Jane vowed herself to perpetual chastity and applied herself completely to the Carmelite Rule. In addition to many daily holy practices and penances, she reached out to the community and worked to help the sick and poor. One of Jane’s primary missions was encouraging the boys of the town to help her serve the poor and help them discern whether or not they were called to be Carmelites.  Blessed Jane is considered to be a founder of the Carmelite tertiary order and is considered to be its first member. She died in 1286.

St. John Climacus

St. John Climacus was born around the year 525 in Palestine. As a youth, he excelled in his studies and was highly regarded by his peers for his knowledge. At the age of 16, John decided to leave the world and retired to a hermitage near the base of Mount Sinai. For the next four years, John spent his time in prayer, fasting, meditation and discernment while preparing to take solemn vows to the religious life. Through the direction of Martyrius, John curbed his vices and worked to perfect his virtues.After professing his solemn vows, John began to spend more of his time studying scriptures and the early fathers of the Church. He became very knowledgeable in these subjects but his humility caused him to hide his talents and not presume to share them with others. Near the end of his life, he was encouraged to share his knowledge with others and wrote the “Climax” also known as “The Ladder of Paradise.” This work was a collection of sayings and examples to illustrate how to live the monastic life. From this work, he received the name Climacus, a derivative from the Latin root for climax or ladder.As John progressed in years and wisdom, many of the religious living on Mount Sinai began to seek his advice in spiritual matters. He freely offered his advice and was highly regarded for his wisdom and holiness. Around the year 600 the abbot of all the religious in the region of Mount Sinai died and John was chosen to replace him. John ruled until his death in 605 and always tried to lead through his own example.

St. Joseph of Arimathea

St. Joseph of Arimathea is a disciple of Jesus Christ who is mentioned in each account of the Passion narrative. After the Passion of the Lord, Joseph, a member of the Jewish council went to Pilate and asked for possession of the body of Jesus. After receiving this permission, Joseph had Jesus laid in a nearby tomb.The Gospels tell us that Joseph was a just and devout man waiting for the kingdom of God. He followed Jesus’ public ministry but feared the repercussions from the other members of the Jewish council.

St. Sixtus III, Pope

Not much is known about the history and youth of St. Sixtus, but we do know that he was born in Rome, Italy and ascended to the papacy in 432.As the 44th Pope, he approved the results of the Council of Ephesus and actively protested against the heresies of Nestorianism and Pelagianism. He restored many Roman basilicas and corresponded frequently with St. Augustine of Hippo. He died on August 18 in the year 440 of natural causes.

St. Rupert

On March 27 the Catholic Church remembers the monk and bishop Saint Rupert, whose missionary labors built up the Church in two of its historic strongholds, Austria and Bavaria. During his lifetime, the “Apostle of Bavaria and Austriaâ€� was an energetic founder of churches and monasteries, and a remarkably successful evangelist of the regions – which include the homeland of the Bavarian native Pope Benedict XVI.Little is known about Rupert’s early life, which is thought to have begun around 660 in the territory of Gaul in modern-day France. There is some indication that he came from the Merovignian royal line, though he embraced a life of prayer, fasting, asceticism and charity toward the poor.This course of life led to his consecration as the Bishop of Worms in present-day Germany. Although Rupert was known as a wise and devout bishop, he eventually met with rejection from the largely pagan population, who beat him savagely and forced him to leave the city.After this painful rejection, Rupert made a pilgrimage to Rome. Two years after his expulsion from Worms, his prayers were answered by means of a message from Duke Theodo of Bavaria, who knew of his reputation as a holy man and a sound teacher of the faith. Bavaria, in Rupert’s day, was neither fully pagan nor solidly Catholic. Although missionaries had evangelized the region in the past, the local religion tended to mix portions of the Christian faith – often misunderstood along heretical lines – with native pagan beliefs and practices. The Bavarian duke sought Rupert’s help to restore, correct, and spread the faith in his land. After sending messengers to report back to him on conditions in Bavaria, Rupert agreed. The bishop who had been brutally exiled from Worms was received with honor in the Bavarian city of Regensburg. With the help of a group of priests he brought with him, Rupert undertook an extensive mission in Bavaria and parts of modern-day Austria. His missionary journeys resulted in many conversions, accompanied by numerous miracles including the healing of diseases. In Salzburg, Rupert and his companions built a great church, which they placed under the patronage of St. Peter, and a monastery observing the Rule of St. Benedict. Rupert’s niece became the abbess of a Benedictine convent established nearby.Rupert served as both the bishop of Salzburg and the abbot of the Benedictine monastery he established there. This traditional pairing of the two roles, also found in the Irish Church after its development of monasticism, was passed on by St. Rupert’s successors until the late 10th century.St. Rupert died on March 27, Easter Sunday of the year 718, after preaching and celebrating Mass. After the saint’s death, churches and monasteries began to be named after him – including Salzburg’s modern-day Cathedral of St. Rupert (also known as the “Salzburg Cathedralâ€�), and the Church of St. Rupert which is believed to be the oldest surviving church structure in Vienna.

St. Margaret of Clitherow

St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England around the year 1555 to a protestant family. Margaret was known throughout the town for her wit and good looks, and in 1571 she married John Clitherow, and together they bore two children.Several years after her marriage to John, Margaret was introduced to the Catholic faith, and converted. She was a zealous defender of Catholicism and hid fugitive priests in her home. Eventually, Margaret was turned in to the sheriff and tried for the crime of harboring Catholic priests.While Margaret was on trial, many efforts were made to encourage her to deny the Catholic faith, but she held firmly. Finally, Margaret was condemned to be pressed to death upon sharp rocks. She was executed on March 25, 1586. Pope Paul VI canonized Margaret in 1970.

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Annunciation celebrates the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the special mission God had chosen for her in being the mother of His only son.We are continually reminded of the importance of this feast to our salvation in various devotional prayers. Two examples that highlight the importance of this feast are the joyous mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus.The feast of the Annunciation began to be celebrated on this day during the fourth and fifth centuries, soon after the date for celebrating Christmas was universalized throughout the Church. This feast celebrates the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and the salvation of all mankind. This point of our salvation was deeply discussed by many of the Church fathers, to explain it to the faithful and to show the deep love God has for us. Some of the Church fathers who wrote on this were St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine.

St. Catherine of Sweden

St. Catherine was born near the beginning of the fourteenth century to parents Ulfo and St. Bridget of Sweden. At the age of seven, Catherine was sent to the Abbey at Risburgh by her parents and placed under the care of the abbess to receive an education and to build a foundation for her spiritual life.At the age of 13, Catherine was taken from the abbey and given in marriage to Egard, a German nobleman. Upon meeting Egard, Catherine persuaded him to make a mutual vow of perpetual chastity with her. Catherine and Egard dedicated themselves to the service of God and encouraged each other in works of mortification, prayer and charity.Around the year 1349, after the death of her father, Catherine accompanied her mother on a pilgrimage to Rome to visit the relics of the Roman Martyrs. The two spent several years living in Rome. In 1373 St. Bridget died and Catherine returned to Sweden with her mother’s body. Two years later, Catherine returned to Rome to promote the cause for her mother’s canonization and to gain approval for a Rule she had written for a group of religious women.After gaining approval for her rule, Catherine returned to Sweden and became abbess of Vadzstena. Catherine served as abbess of Vadzstena until her death in 1381. During the final 25 years of her life, Catherine was known for her austere lifestyle and her practice of making daily use of the Sacrament of Confession. St. Catherine was canonized in 1484 by Pope Pius II.