Patron Saints


St. Sebastian - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Saint Sebastian.

Saint Sebastian died in the year 288. He was a Christian saint and martyr, who is said to have been killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature as tied to a tree and shot with arrows. This is the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian; however, he did not die from this event he lived to tell the tale and was nursed back to health by Irene of Rome, when he was back to full health he was clubbed to death sometime later for criticising the emperor. Saint Sebastian is venerated in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Saint Sebastian was known for having encouraged the faith of two Christian prisoners due for martyrdom, Mark and Marcellian, who were being persuaded by their family to forswear Christ and offer token sacrifice to the Roman gods.

According to tradition, Mark and Marcellian were twin brothers and were deacons. They were from a distinguished family and were both married, living in Rome with their wives and children. The brothers refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were arrested. They were visited by their father and mother, who attempted to persuade them to renounce Christianity.

Sebastian ended up converting both the mother and father, as well as Saint Tiburtius, the son of Chromatius, the local prefect. Nicostratus, another official, and his wife Zoe were also converted. It has been said that Zoe had been a mute for 6 years. However, she made known to Sebastian her desire to be converted to Christianity. As soon as she had, her speech returned to her. Nicostratus then brought the rest of the prisoners; these 16 persons were also converted by Sebastian.

Diocletian reproached Sebastian for his supposed betrayal, and he commanded him to be led to a field and there to be bound to a stake to be shot at. "And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin," leaving him there for dead. Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him. The widow of Castulus, Irene of Rome, went to retrieve his body to bury it, and found he was still alive. She brought him back to her house and nursed him back to health. The other residents of the house doubted he was a Christian. One of those was a girl who was blind. Sebastian asked her "Do you wish to be with God?", and made the sign of the Cross on her head. "Yes", she replied, and immediately regained her sight. Sebastian then stood on a step and harangued Diocletian as he passed by; the emperor had him beaten to death and his body thrown into a privy. But in an apparition Sebastian told a Christian widow where they might find his body undefiled and bury it "at the catacombs by the apostles."

Because Sebastian had been thought to have been killed by the arrows, and yet was not, he is sometimes known as the saint who was martyred twice.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Sebastian is commemorated by an optional memorial on the 20th of January. In the Church of Greece, Sebastian's feast day is on 18 December.

Saint Sebastian was also known as the protector from the bubonic plague, and Sebastian was formerly one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The connection of the martyr shot with arrows and the plague seems a bit strange however In Greco-Roman myth, Apollo, the archer god is the deliverer of pestilence; the figure of Sebastian Christianizes this folkloric association.

Sebastian, like Saint George, was one of a class of military martyrs and soldier saints of the Early Christian Church whose cults originated in the 4th century and culminated at the end of the Middle Ages, in the 14th and 15th centuries both in the East and the West. In Roman Catholicism, Sebastian is the patron saint of archers and of a holy death.

Saint Sebastian also happens to be the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

May your intercession me the grace to obey God more than man and to be a soldier of Christ. Amen.


Our Lady of Aparecida - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Our Lady of Aparcedia, Patroness of Brazil.

Our Lady of Aparcedia has a great story! The official account of the apparition took place in October 1717, when the Governor São Paulo was passing through a small city in the Paraiba river valley.

The people of the area decided to hold a feast in his honour, and three fishermen went down to the Paraíba waters to fish for the feast. They prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and asked for God's help because it wasn’t the best season for fishing.

After several hours they had not caught any fish, and they were ready to give up when Joao cast his net once more. This time Instead of fish, he hauled in the body of a statue with a missing head. The fishermen cast their net out again, and brought up the statue's head. After cleaning the statue, they found that it was a black version of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Legend has it that when the fishermen recovered the body, then the head, the slender figure of the Aparecida Virgin became so heavy that they couldn't budge it.

The fishermen named the statue Our Lady of the Appeared Conception, wrapped it in cloth and continued to fish; now their catch was so great that they returned to port because the weight of the fish threatened to sink their craft.
The statue is widely venerated by Brazilian Roman Catholics, who consider her as the principal patroness of Brazil. The dark statue is currently housed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparcedia, Sao Paulo. The Catholic Church in Brazil celebrates her feast day every October 12.

Since the basilica's consecration in 1980 by Pope John Paul II, her feast day has become a public holiday in Brazil. The Basilica is the fourth most popular Marian shrine in the world, being able to hold up to 45,000 worshippers. 
The statue has also merited worldwide controversy in May 1978, when a Protestant intruder stole the clay statue from its shrine and broke it into pieces, and another in 1995, when a Protestant minister slandered and vandalized a copy of the statue in national Brazilian television.

Devotion to the statue grew rapidly, particularly among Afro-Brazilians, not only for its black Madonna status, but also because one of the first miracles attributed to the image was reportedly performed to an enslaved young man. Over the years following its apparition, veneration of the Virgin increased as many miracles were attributed to her.

For the following fifteen years after the statue was pulled from the river it remained within Filipe Pedroso's family and neighbors came to venerate it. Stories of Our Lady of Aparecida's miracles were spread throughout Brazil and the Pedroso family built a chapel which soon became too small for so many worshippers. In 1737, the priest of Guaratinguetá built her a chapel on the Coqueiros hill, and public visits began in July 1745. The number of worshippers increased dramatically and in 1834 work on a larger church was begun; this became known as the "old Basilica" when work on the even larger "new Basilica" was started in 1955.

Mother of God and my Lady, don't cease in praying for my family. Today, I dedicate to you! Amen


St. Antonio Galvao de Santana - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Frei Galvão, also known as Saint Antonio of Saint Anne Galvão - the first Brazilian born saint!

Frei Galvão is one of the best-known religious figures in Brazil, renowned throughout the country for his healing powers. He was born in São Paulo in 1739, and was the fourth of ten children in a deeply religious family of high social and political status.

At age 13, Galvão was sent to the Jesuit-run seminary in Cachoeira, Bahia by his father. He aspired to become a Jesuit priest, but the anti-Jesuit persecution led by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo made him move to a Franciscan convent in Taubaté, following the advice of his father.

At age 21, on April 15, 1760, Galvão gave up a promising future and his family's influence on society, becoming a novice at the Saint Bonaventure Friary in Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. There, he adopted the religious name of Antonio of Saint Anne Galvão, in honor to his family's devotion to Saint Anne. During his novitiate, he was known for his piety, zeal and exemplary virtues. Galvão made his solemn profession on April 16, 1761, taking the Franciscan vow to defend the Blessed Virgin Mary's title of "Immaculate", which was still a controversial doctrine at that time.

On July 11, 1762, Galvão was ordained a priest and transferred to Saint Francis Friary the city of São Paulo, where he continued his studies in theology and philosophy. From 1769 to 1770 he served as confessor to the "Recolhimento de Santa Teresa", a house of Recollect women devout to Saint Teresa in the city of São Paulo. There, he met Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, a penitent nun who claimed to have visions of Jesus. Galvão studied these messages and consulted with others who recognized them as valid and supernatural.

Galvão was a man of great and intense prayer, and certain mystic phenomena are attributed to him, such as telepathy, premonition and levitation. Cases of bilocation are also famous in his life; he was reported to be in two different places at the same time in order to take care of sick or dying people which asked for his help.

He was also sought for his alleged healing powers, in a time where medical resources were scarce. At one occasion, he wrote a Latin phrase from the Office of Our Lady ("After childbirth thou didst remain a Virgin: O Mother of God, intercede for us") in a piece of paper, rolled it like a pill, and gave it to a young woman in danger of death. She was cured! The story of the miracle pill spread, and Galvão had to teach the Recollect sisters to make the pills in order to give them for people in need, which they still do nowadays. They are handed out for free to some 300 faithful who require them daily.

In 1811 he founded Saint Clare Convent in Sorocaba. Eleven months later, he returned to the Saint Francis Friary in the city of São Paulo. In his old age, he obtained permission from the Bishop and the guardian to stay at the Recollect house. He died there on December 23, 1822, and was laid to rest in the Recolhimento Church.

On May 11, 2007, he became the first Brazilian-born canonized Saint, during Pope Benedict XVI's five day visit to Brazil. Saint Antonio of Saint Anne Galvão was also the first saint Pope Benedict XVI canonized in a ceremony held outside the Vatican City.

Saint Antonio’s tomb continues to be a destination for pilgrimages of the faithful who obtain graces through his intercession. The site of his tomb will be a popular stop over for pilgrims travelling through Brazil on the road to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013.

Pray that, with your example, I will be a promoter of peace and love in all the moments of my life. Amen.


Saint Therese of Lisieux - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was born on the 2nd of January 1873 and died in 1897, she is also referred to as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. Therese was a French Carmelite nun and she is also referred to as the “The Little Flower of Jesus”.

As a young girl she felt an early call to religious life and overcoming various obstacles, at the early age of 15 she became a nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. She is famous for her autobiographical manuscripts titled “The Story of a Soul”, which were received extremely well and she rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century.

She was beatified in 1923, and canonized in 1925. Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions 1927, and named co-patron of France with Joan of Arc in 1944.

She was also named a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul ll, and is the youngest person to be declared a Doctor of the Church which is a special title which is given to individuals for their contribution to theology of doctrine. 
At fourteen Thérèse had understood her vocation to pray for priests, to be "an apostle to apostles." In September 1890, at her canonical examination before she professed her religious vows, she was asked why she had come to Carmel. She answered "I came to save souls, and especially to pray for priests."

Thérèse lived a hidden life and "wanted to be unknown," The depth of her spirituality, has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness and nothingness, she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. Saint Therese wrote "I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus." The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

Thérèse is well known throughout the world, with the Basilica of Lisieux being the second largest place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes. In her quest for holiness and sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or "great deeds", in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

Saint and her “Little Way” developed an approach to the spiritual life that people of every background can understand and adopt. For Therese prayer wasn’t a complicated thing she would talk very simply to God what she would want to say, and she wrote “ He always understands me.”

St Thérèse of Liseux is one of the most popular Catholic Saints since apostolic times. As a Doctor of the Church, she is the subject of much theological comment and study, and, as an appealing young woman whose message has touched the lives of millions, she remains the focus of much popular devotion.

Grant me your missionary spirit to bring Jesus to all the villages! Amen.


Blessed John Paul II - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Blessed John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day! 

John Paul II also called John Paul the Great, was born Karol Józef Wojtyla on the 18 May 1920, in Poland. He reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was the second-longest serving Pope in history. 

John Paul II was acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. 
Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, and by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, he was also widely praised for his firm, orthodox Catholic stances. 

He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. 

A key goal of his papacy was to transform and reposition the Catholic Church. His wish was "to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great religious armada". On the 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on the1st of May 2011. 

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 129 countries travelling more than 1,100,000 kilometres whilst doing so. 

He consistently attracted large crowds; some amongst the largest ever assembled inhuman history, such as the Manila World Youth Day, which gathered up to 4 million people, the largest Papal gathering ever, according to the Vatican. 

Whilst he was Pope he wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught about "The Theology of the Body". 

In the year 2000, he publicly endorsed the Jubilee 2000 campaign on African debt relief fronted by Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono, and famously interrupted a U2 recording session by telephoning the studio and asking to speak to Bono. 

Pope John Paul II travelled extensively and met with believers from many divergent faiths. Pope John Paul II made considerable efforts to improve relations between Catholicism and Islam on the 6th of May 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first Catholic pope to enter and pray in a mosque. 

Also Pope John Paul ll did great things to improve the relationship between Buddhism and Catholicism, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, visited Pope John Paul II eight times, more than any other single dignitary. The Pope and the Dalai Lama held many similar views and understood similar plights, both coming from nations damaged by communism and both serving as heads of major religious bodies. 

Relations between Catholicism and Judaism also improved during the pontificate of John Paul II. He spoke frequently about the Church's relationship with the Jewish faith. In 1979, John Paul II became the first pope to visit the German Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where many of his compatriots (mostly Polish Jews) had perished during the Nazi occupation in World War II. In 1998 he issued "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" which outlined his thinking on the Holocaust. He became the first pope known to have made an official papal visit to a synagogue, when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in1986. 

In 1994, John Paul II established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith. In honour of this event, Pope John Paul II hosted ‘The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust’. This concert, which was conceived and conducted by American Maestro Gilbert Levine, was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of Italy, and survivors of the Holocaust from around the world. 

In March 2000, John Paul II visited Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Israel, and later made history by touching one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews). 

In part of his address he said: "I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place", he added that there were "no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust". 

Israeli cabinet minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who hosted the Pope's visit, said he was "very moved" by the Pope's gesture. 

In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said that never in history did anyone do as much for Christian-Jewish dialogue as Pope John Paul II, adding that many Jews had great respect for the late pope. Schudrich praised John Paul II for condemning anti-Semitism as a sin, which no previous pope had done. 

On the13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by an assassin named Mehmet Ali Agca, in 1983; John Paul II visited Agca in prison. John Paul II and A?ca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. When asked by the press about what they spoke about John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.? 

On Saturday 2 April 2005 John Paul II spoke his final words, "Let me depart to the house of the Father". 

The Mass of Requiem on the 8th of April was said to have set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at a funeral. 

It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended alongside the faithful. It is likely to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity ever, with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in Rome. 

We will finish this podcast on John Paul ll with one of his quotes: 

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. 

"It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” 

Grant me, through your intercession, the grace to win the hearts of true friends like you were to young people! Amen. 


Saint Rosa of Lima - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Saint Rosa of Lima, Patron Saint of South America and the Philippines.

Isabel Flores of Olive was born in Lima to a family that was deeply rooted in Christian values and education. Her family nicknamed her ‘Rose’ as she was such a beautiful baby. Growing up, Rose participated in the spiritual life of the Dominican community through their spiritual center in colonial Lima at St. Dominic’s Cathedral. There she regularly received the Lord in the Eucharist, and learnt to pray. At the age of 20 she felt called to contemplative religious life, but to live this call within her family life.

Rose found a way to enter the Order of Preachers of St. Dominic’s. She built a small chapel in the yard of her father’s house, where she spent countless hours in prayer. From there, she served the poor and sick of Lima, who would come to her house looking for help.

Rose lived a profoundly spiritual life with a strong foundation in prayer and discipline. She explains in her writings that discipline is necessary to be filled by the Holy Spirit, to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to be able to go beyond oneself and truly change the world.

Rose becomes an advocate for, and symbol of, the value of prayer. Despite her personal perseverance in prayer for 15 years, Rose suffered a spiritual aridity that she overcame, and consequently strengthened her relationship with God. Other pillars of her spiritual life included the Eucharist, and her deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. She was a great proponent of praying the Rosary, saying that every Christian “should preach it to the world and have it engraved on their heart.”

St. Rose of Lima was not a nun; rather she was a lay tertiary, spending most of her life at her family home as she worked hard to help support the family. She was renowned for her incredible beauty, but was so devoted to her vow of chastity that she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. St. Rose was a mystic and visionary, who received many mental and physical sufferings, including invisible stigmata.

She died a saintly death at the age of 31 in 1617. Her canonization took place in 1671, making her the first Saint to be born on the American continent.

She is the Patron Saint of South America and the Philippines.

Help me in my search of faithfulness to God's will for my life. Amen.


Blessed Albertina Berkenbrock - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Blessed Albertina Berkenbrock!

Albertina - what an amazing girl! She was born in São Luís, Brazil on the 11th of April 1919. From a young age she had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who is known as a model of purity and is the patron saint of her home town.

Sadly, on June 15, 1931 one of Albertina’s father's employees, tried to rape her. She fought back, and when the attacker realized he would fail and she would identify him, he killed her. This is such a cruel story – she was only 12 years old. Albertina is a martyr and a Saint, who defended her purity, even though it meant death. She was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on October 20, 2007.

It is important to remember that Blessed Albertina is not considered a Saint solely because she fought back against an assault. Yes she is a martyr, but she was also beatified because during her short life, she developed a great sensitivity in her relationship with God and with the others. There are many holy people who have experience abuse, and could not fight back. This does not mean that they are less holy, or that God loves them less, rather it means they are called to be witnesses of Christ’s suffering in a different way to Blessed Albertina. They are called to be Saints by their heroic example – and they really are incredible examples of how to be strong in what can be an unjust world.

Blessed Albertina is not only a great patron of purity – but she is also a patron for mercy and justice. We celebrate her feast day on the 15th of June.

Through your intercession may I find the happiness 
that come from persevering on the way 
of living the values of the Gospel. Amen.


Blessed Chiara Luce Badano - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano!

Chiara “Luce” Badano was a teenage Italian member of the Focolare Movement – you may have heard of them as they always send a group to World Youth Day! They are a very active international movement, with a mission to work towards Christian unity.

Chiara was born in 1971 in Italy, the only child of a truck driver and his wife, who originally thought they could not have any children. Chiara lived a simple life in a village in Italy. She did not witness any miracles during her lifetime, she did not change the world in a physical sense, she did not become famous while she was alive... but she did live a life of total devotion to God. Those who knew her said that she transmitted happiness wherever she went, even though she was constantly in pain as she suffered from bone cancer. In 1991 Chiara died in at the age of 19. During her beatification ceremony in September 2010, Archbishop Angelo Amato said that Chiara is an example for all young people, showing us that “the brief season of youth can be lived in holiness”. 

Are you happy, even when things are tough? Can you go against the grain and be Holy, despite obstacles? If Chiara can do it, so can we!

Help me overcome the challenges faced by youth today so that my life will be given over to Jesus Christ without reservation. Amen.


Blessed Adilio Daronch - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Blessed Adilio, a martyr at 15!

Blessed Adilio was a Brazilian teenager who died as a martyr! He was born on 25th October 1908, and was the third child of a big family of 8 kids! He was passionate about spreading the Catholic faith – his young age could not stop him – and so as a teenager, Adilio started to accompany the famous missionary, Blessed Manuel Gómez González, on his long and tiring pastoral visits to the native Indians in the region.

During one of these missionary trips, on 21 May 1924 when Adilio was nearly 16 years old, he and Blessed Manuel were shot and killed by revolutionaries. Blessed Adilio Daronch was beatified as a martyr, along with Blessed Manuel Gómez González, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Adilio reminds us that we never know when and where we might be challenged to defend our faith. Sure we are not likely to be killed for being Catholic – although that does still happen in some parts of the world – but most of us are likely to be asked to defend particular teachings of the Church at some stage in our lives, or we might need to speak out against an injustice when we see it. This can be so hard at times, especially when the majority does not agree with you. But be adventurous, be rebelious against anti-Christian sentiments that you will be faced with at university, in the work place, what you see in the media! Adilio was only 15 – what an example for us all!

That with the example of your virtues, we may be recieved among the friends of Christ, in this life and the life that is to come! Amen.


He was young and athletic. Loved skiing and going out with friends. He also tried to improve society through politics. This is the story of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was named an intercessor of WYD 2013.


Blessed Isidore Bakanja - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Blessed Isidore Bakanja.

Blessed Isidore Bakanja was born in 1887 in Belgian Congo in Africa, which is now called Democratic Republic of Congo. He was baptized on 6th May 1906 at age 18 after receiving instruction from Trappists missionaries. Isidore worked on a Belgian rubber plantation, but was subjected to brutal treatment from his supervisors, many of whom were very anti-Catholic. 

Isidore had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Much to their surprise, his fellow workers would see him constantly with rosary beads in his hands, and the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel around his neck – I guess these symbols of his faith gave him the strength to endure the harsh treatment on the plantation. Even though he had no formal education, Isidore spent hours teaching his fellow workers about the Catholic faith, and he became known by all as ‘the catechist’.

During one confrontation with a supervisor on the plantation, Isidore was told that he had to stop teaching the workers how to pray, and was ordered to remove his scapular. When he refused, he was beaten over 100 times with a whip of elephant hide with nails on the end. He was then chained to a single spot for 24 hours a day. Isidore was eventually discovered by an inspector visiting the site, who, as you can imagine, was horrified by his injuries. The inspector took Isidore into his home to heal, but Isidore knew his time had come, and he asked the inspector to pass on this message: "If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet a priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian."

Before he died, Isidore forgave the man who killed him, saying, “When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much." He died in 1909 at the age of 21, with his rosary beads in his hands and the scapular around his neck.

That with the example of your faith we will be strengthened against the adversities of life and be protected by Mary, our Mother. Amen


Blessed Frederick Ozanam - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of Frederick Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society! 

Frederick Ozanam famously said "Those who mock the poor insult their Maker". Frederick was born in 1813, and lived during a turbulent time in France, when unemployment and poverty was extreme! While in college studying law, Frederick realized that he although he was a good practicing Catholic, he was not doing enough to help those suffering around him. Surely being Catholic is more than knowing your faith – you need to live it! Ironically, this change in Frederick’s life actually came during a debate with an atheist, who asked him what he does other than ‘just talk’ to prove he has faith. 

At the age of just 20, Frederick established the St Vincent de Paul Society – one of the biggest charities in the world today! 

At this time, the people of France were experiencing tremendous political and social upheaval: changes of government, the Industrial Revolution and unjust employment practices. Frederick gathered some colleagues and began to respond in practical ways to the poverty and hardship he saw in the lives of people around him. They visited people in their homes and offered friendship and support. This practice, known today as ‘home visitation’, remains a core activity for St Vincent de Paul Society members and volunteers. 

Frederick married a girl called Amelie in 1841, and they had one daughter – meanwhile, the St. Vincent de Paul Society was growing throughout Europe. The French revolution of 1848 left many Parisians in desperate need of the services of the St. Vincent de Paul, and so the movement developed into a global institution, bringing volunteers from all around Europe to assist the needy in Paris. After years of failing health, Frederick died on September 8, 1853. His example showed generations that we should never demean the poor - each man, woman and child was too precious for that. 

This is how a small group of young people, under the leadership of a 20-year-old law student, started St. Vincent de Paul, and changed the world! What a message for each one of us... 

With your intercession, we may truly share favor with the most needy and give relief to those who suffer. Amen. 


Saint George - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

 A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of St. George!

We have all seen the image – St. George, dressed in English armour, riding a white horse, and of course slaying a dragon. What is funny about this image is that St. George was not English at all – his father was a Roman army official, and his mother was born in Palestine... and somehow I doubt that he actually slayed a dragon! So what is the real story behind St. George? Is it just a myth?

The fact is, St. George was not only a very real person, but he is also an incredible example for all Christians. George was a successful soldier in the Roman army, and had a bright career ahead of him. However in the year 302, Emperor Diocletian issued an edict demanding that every Christian soldier in the Roman army be ordered to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, or be imprisoned and put to death. Proud of his faith and showing great courage, St. George approached the Emperor and denounced the edict in front of his fellow soldiers. He then proudly proclaimed himself to be a Christian.

Emperor Diocletian desperately attempted to convert George, who was an exceptional soldier, and a favourite of the emperor’s – and George was promised land, money and slaves if he would give up Christianity. But the 28 year old George refused, and left with no alternative, Diocletian was forced to put his former favourite soldier, to death.

As a soldier and martyr of the Church, the story of St. George spread through Europe, Churches were built in his honour, and he became the Patron Saint of England and of Soldiers. Artists depicted George as a knight killing a dragon, which symbolized the way he defended the Church against evil and injustice. So although the story of St. George might be filled mythology – the message is clear... if a 28 year old guy can hold fast to his principles in an era when the world was against Christianity, we can too!

With your example, may we be strengthened in faith and strengthened before the onslaught of evil, awaiting the coming of Christ. Amen.


St. Andrew Kim & Companions - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

A brief profile on one of the 18 patron saints and intercessors, chosen for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. Here is the story of St. Andrew Kim and the martyrs of Korea...

Saint Andrew Kim was the first native Korean priest. His parents were Korean converts... in fact his father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred for his faith in 1839 and was beatified in 1925. What a family!

Andrew was baptised at the age of 15, and wanted to become a Priest as soon as possible. So he traveled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria, as a Priest. While he was working in the underground Church in Korea, serving the Korean converts and helping missionaries enter the country; St. Andrew Kim was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital of Korea.

When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984, he canonized Andrew Kim, as well as man named Paul Chong Hasang (a lay apostle and married man), 98 other Koreans, and three French missionaries, who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867 in Korea. Because of their example and courage there are almost 5 million Catholics in Korea today. This story really shows us that a martyr is not a wasted life. Even though their lives were cut short, they changed Korea... they changed the world!

Please pray tirelessly for me, that I am always linked Christ and persevere in my faith, so that I may bring your truth to those who trust in me. Amen.