The new year is upon us and if you have not already done so, it’s not too late to pick a saint for the year. This may already be an established tradition for you, but if not, it’s a beautiful one to start participating in. The saints are a wonderful example of how to draw closer to Jesus in our daily lives and they can and want to pray for us. Learning about their lives is a great way to help us stay focused on the things of heaven rather than the things here on Earth.
If you’re wondering where to start and don’t feel drawn to a particular saint, you may want to begin by praying for the Holy Spirit to send you one that can guide and inspire you throughout the year. Jennifer Fulwiler also has an easy tool to use called the Saint Name Generator. You simply click the “find a saint for me!” button and the name of your saint for the year is displayed. After that, you can start learning about their life, asking for their intercession, and cultivating a devotion to them. Some ideas to keep them close in mind and at heart would be to put a statue of the saint in your home, display their holy card where it’s easily visible, and celebrate their feast day. Wearing a piece of jewelry, such as Stella & Tide’s Custom Saint Jewelry, is also a great daily reminder of their love and friendship.
Studying the lives of the canonized saints doesn’t have to stop with the one you are focusing on for the year. There are many feast days throughout the year that provide us the opportunity to reflect on the lives of particular saints–lives they led rooted in faith, hope, and charity–as well the trials they faced and overcame. Our goal is heaven, and the saints, such as the following three that we celebrate this month, can help guide us on our journey there.
Saint Francis de Sales (January 24)
- Saint Francis de Sales is the patron saint of writers and the hearing impaired. His role as the patron saint of the hearing impaired is the result of his years of catechesis of a young hearing-impaired man through a system of sign language he developed for sacramental preparation. His spiritual writings, which include Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, led him to be the patron saint of writers.
- He was born in 1567 in a region that is now part of France and was destined by his father to be a lawyer. He received his doctorate in both civil and canon law, but much to his father’s disapproval, he desired to enter the priesthood.
- After Francis was ordained, he ministered to the Calvinist families in the area of Chablais. He had remarkable success in converting many Protestants to Catholicism through preaching and distributing the pamphlets he had written, which explained the true Catholic doctrine. His success was not achieved lightly, as he faced much hostility including death threats.
- He was named Bishop of Geneva in 1602 and continued to preach, catechize, and offer spiritual direction. His work and writings are addressed to the laypeople in an effort to make them understand that they are called to be saints.
- He had a spiritual friendship with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who he worked with to establish the Sisters of the Visitation.
- A humble man who was known for his gentle spirit, St. Francis de Sales died in 1622.
“Never be in a hurry: do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
- Saint Francis de Sales
Saint Thomas Aquinas (January 28)
- Saint Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of Catholic colleges and universities, teachers, philosophers, theologians, and students.
- It is believed that he was born in 1225 in the castle of Roccasecca near Naples, Italy. He was sent to the Monastery of Monte Cassino to receive his early education when he was 5 years old.
- He went on to study at the University of Naples where he was influenced by Dominicans. Abandoning his family’s plan for him to become a bishop, he secretly joined the order.
- When he was traveling to Rome to continue his studies with the Dominicans, he was captured by his brothers and held captive in his family’s castle. After receiving pressure from the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, his family allowed him to escape from the castle to rejoin the Dominicans.
- Thomas was nicknamed the “Dumb Ox” by his classmates because of his quiet manner and big stature.
- A master theologian, Thomas compiled more than 20 volumes of work including the incredible Summa Theologica and many treatises and hymns. Through his writing, he showed that one could use pure reason to defend and prove the existence of God.
- Near the end of his life, Thomas had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him and is said to have told him, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward would you have?” Thomas is said to have replied, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
- After his vision, he abandoned his writing of the Summa Theologica, his most popular work, as he said, “All that I have written seems like straw to me.”
- Thomas became sick during his travels and passed away on March 7, 1274.
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
- Saint Thomas Aquinas
Saint John Bosco (January 31)
- Saint John Bosco is the patron saint of schoolchildren, editors, and apprentices.
- He was born in 1815 and raised primarily by his mother, Margherita, after his father passed away when he was two. His mother had a deep faith in God, which she passed along to her children, and was declared venerable by the Church in 2006. Despite being poor, his mother always found enough to share with those in need.
- At the age of 9, John had a prophetic dream which influenced the rest of his life and led him to discern his calling as a priest. In the dream, a group of young boys were uttering works of blasphemy as they played, when Jesus and Mary appeared to John indicating that in meekness, humility, and charity, he would bring such youth to God.
- While still a boy, John began to entertain other kids with magic tricks and acrobatics, followed by either a sermon he had heard or leading them in praying the Rosary.
- He was driven out of his home to work on a farm at the age of 12 by the hostility of his brother, who opposed his plan to be a priest; however, he moved back home a few years later to finish school before attending seminary.
- Following six years in the seminary, John was ordained a priest in 1841 and assigned to the city of Turin, which had widespread poverty. He was given the opportunity to minister to boys who lived on the street. After visiting the prisons and seeing how many young boys it held, John dedicated his life to educating and saving as many as he could from ending up there.
- By the 1860’s, with the help of his mother who became known as “Mamma Margherita”, Fr. Bosco was providing lodging for 800 boys.
- Fr. Bosco established the Society of St. Francis de Sales (the Salesians), which still exists today and helps boys with their faith formation. Although Italy’s nationalist movement made life difficult for religious orders, the Salesians still expanded. By the end of John’s life, they were helping 130,000 children in 250 houses.
- He helped St. Mary Mazzarellos found a similar group to work with girls in the Salesian tradition.
- St. John Bosco died on January 31, 1888 and was canonized on Easter Sunday in 1934 when he was given the title, “Father and Teacher of Youth”.
“Do not put off till tomorrow the good you can do today. You may not have a tomorrow.”
- Saint John Bosco
These three saints, as well as the multitude of others, are models of human excellence who perfected their lives by devoting themselves to Christ and loving their neighbors. Diving into their life history is an encouraging reminder that they were still human beings who faced trials and made mistakes–just like we do. However, adversity can be overcome and sanctity is attainable if we follow the example of the saints, our holy friends in heaven, and cooperate with God’s grace the best we can every single day.