St. Donan (d. 617 A.D.), also known as St. Donnán of Eigg, was a prominent Celtic missionary and Gaelic priest. Little is known of his life except that he was likely an Irishman who traveled as a missionary throughout Galloway and northward along the west coast of Scotland. He is thought to have been a contemporary of St. Columba. Donan formed a religious community on the tiny northwest island of Eigg in Scotland. The community grew to fifty-two men. One year, after celebrating the Easter Vigil Mass, they were unexpectedly attacked and martyred either by pirates or a band of Viking raiders. Tradition holds that the community was gathered together and killed in the refectory on the night of April 17, 617. The martyrdom of Christian missionaries at this time was rare, leading many to suspect the attack was instigated by a malicious local queen who viewed St. Donan and his monks as a threat to her power. His feast day is April 17.
St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was born in Italy, the fifth of eight children born to a prosperous pharmacist. When she was young, Gemma’s mother and three of her siblings died of tuberculous. When she was 18 her father died as well, leaving Gemma to help care for her younger siblings. She rejected two marriage proposals and became a housekeeper while trying to enter the religious life as a Passionist. She was rejected due to her poor heath, and later became a Tertiary member of the order. Gemma developed spinal meningitis but was miraculously healed, which she attributed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Throughout her life she united herself with the Passion of Christ and experienced great suffering as a result, but not without receiving many remarkable graces as well. She experienced many mystical visions and was often visited by her guardian angel, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. For this she was known as a great mystic, and, according to her spiritual director, developed the stigmata at age 21. After a selfless life of love given to God for the conversion of sinners, she died on the Vigil of Easter at the age of 25. She is the patron saint of pharmacists, loss of parents, back illnesses, temptations, and those seeking purity of heart. Her feast day is April 11th.
Blessed Thomas Maria Fusco, also known as Tommaso, (1831-1891) was born to a noble and pious family in Italy, the seventh of eight children. He was orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle, a priest, who oversaw his education. He had a deep love for the faith, especially to the Passion of Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows. He became a priest at the age of 24 and opened a school in his own home. He later became an itinerant missionary throughout southern Italy. After traveling for a number of years he opened another school, this time to train priests on how to be good confessors. He also founded the Priestly Society of the Catholic Apostolate to support the missions, which gained papal approval. During his work with the poor he discerned a call to start a new religious order of sisters, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, to minister to orphaned children. In addition to all of this, Fusco was also a parish priest, a confessor to a group of cloistered nuns, and a spiritual father to a lay group at the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He died of liver disease at the age of 59. He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2001. His feast day is February 24.
St. Walburga (710-777 A.D.) was born near Devonshire, England, the daughter of St. Richard the Pilgrim (a Saxon king) and the sister of Sts. Willibald and Winebald. When she was eleven her father and brothers went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while her father placed her in a convent famous for its holiness. She was well educated according to her rank, became a nun, and lived there for twenty-six years. Her uncle, St. Boniface, then brought her to what is now Germany to help him evangelize that country and establish the Church there. In this missionary activity she joined her brothers who were also laboring for the faith in that country, one as an abbot, the other as a bishop. Because of her education she was able to document the travels of her brother in the Holy Land, and for this work she became the first female author of England and Germany. She was known as a miracle worker and healer both in her life and after her death. St. Walburga’s relics have the miraculous property of exuding oil to which many cures have been ascribed through the centuries. St. Walburga is the patron saint of sailors, mariners, and farmers, and against hydrophobia, famine, coughs, rabies, plague, and storms. St. Walburga’s feast day is February 25th.
St. Gabriel Possenti’s Story (March 1, 1838 – February 27, 1862)
Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, Saint Gabriel lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.
His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.
Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.
When we think of achieving great holiness by doing little things with love and grace, Therese of Lisieux comes first to mind. Like her, Gabriel died painfully from tuberculosis. Together they urge us to tend to the small details of daily life, to be considerate of others’ feelings every day. Our path to sanctity, like theirs, probably lies not in heroic doings but in performing small acts of kindness every day.
Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows is a Patron Saint of:
St. Juliana of Nicomedia (c. 270 A.D.), also known as St. Juliana of Cumae, was the daughter of noble pagan parents, born in Nicomedia, a Greek city in ancient Turkey. Although her father was hostile to Christians, Juliana secretly accepted baptism. Her father arranged her marriage to a pagan nobleman and Roman senator. When the time for her wedding came, Juliana refused her consent to be married unless her betrothed converted to the Christian faith. Her father retaliated by mercilessly abusing her, but Juliana would not give in. Her betrothed then denounced her as a Christian before the tribunal under the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. St. Juliana was unwavering in her faith, even after the devil himself appeared to tempt her during her sufferings. She was then publicly tortured by being burned, boiled in oil, and finally beheaded. Some accounts say she died together with St. Barbara. Many were converted to the Christian faith upon witnessing her fortitude in the face of her tortures. St. Juliana is the patron saint of sickness and bodily ills. Her feast day is February 16th
Blessed Bartholomew of Olmedo (1485-1524) was a Spanish Mercedarian priest, and the first priest to arrive on Mexican soil in 1516 at the age of 31. He was chaplain for the expedition of Spanish Conquistador Fernando Cortés, who began the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the downfall of the Aztec empire. Bartholomew was well-liked by the native people. He taught them the Christian faith and exhorted them to end their practice of human sacrifice. He also defended them against injustice and restrained Cortés from acting out in violence against them. Bartholomew taught the native Mexicans devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mercy, which they embraced. Blessed Bartholomew of Olmedo baptized more than 2500 people before he died in Mexico in 1524 at the age of 39. He was buried in Santiago de Tlatelolco. His feast day is February 11.
St. Catherine del Ricci (1522-1590) was born with the name Alessandra in Florence, Italy, to a respectable merchant family. Her mother died while she was very young, so that from her childhood Alessandra took the Blessed Virgin Mary as her mother. She was given to prayer and religious fervor, and at the age of fourteen decided to enter a strict Third Order Dominican convent, taking Catherine as her religious name. She developed into a great mystic with an intense devotion to the Passion of Christ. For many years Catherine would go into ecstasy from noon every Thursday through 4 p.m. on Friday, experiencing in a mystical manner the sufferings of Christ during his Passion. She was also given the spiritual gift of the stigmata; Christ’s wounds would appear on her body through the course of the ecstasy. After enduring much humiliation for years on account of these sufferings, she was eventually accepted as a holy woman and later became prioress. Her advice was widely sought on many spiritual and practical matters. Despite being cloistered, she kept up a loving correspondence with many relatives, friends, and her spiritual children. Among those in her correspondence were three future popes, Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII, and Pope Leo XI. Her feast day is February 13.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) was born in Germany to a devout peasant family. From a young age she received divine knowledge imparted to her through extremely detailed visions of the lives of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. As a child her guardian angel often appeared to her, and Jesus himself visited her while she was tending sheep. The suffering souls in purgatory often called upon her assistance to offer prayers and penances on their behalf. At the age of 28, after many years of longing for the religious life, Anne Catherine entered the novitiate with the Augustinians. She devoted her life to waging a spiritual battle for suffering souls, and in her great charity she accepted extreme physical, yet supernatural, sufferings which ultimately left her bedridden. This strange phenomena of physical suffering for the spiritual condition of other souls was not always accepted by others, and she endured much ridicule due to the astonishing manner in which her experiences displayed themselves. Her daily visions gave her special insight into the spiritual realm which have been recorded into now-popular books, and were used to discover what is believed to be the house of Mary in Ephesus. Her feast day is February 9th.
St. Jane of Valois (1464-1505) was born to French King Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy. Much of her life was marked by neglect and emotional abuse. Her father resented her because she was a sickly and deformed female child. He sent her away to a remote country home where she was carelessly raised before being married off at the age of nine to her cousin, the Duke of Orléans. Her husband likewise despised and publicly humiliated her, and their marriage was never consummated. Jane had a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary from a young age, especially in the mystery of the Incarnation. One day Our Lady appeared to Jane and told her that in the future she would found a religious community. Through her veneration of the Blessed Mother, Jane found the strength to be a loyal and devoted wife during her painful twenty-two year marriage. When her husband became king, he had their marriage annulled. This left Jane free to found the Order of the Annunciation dedicated to imitating Mary’s virtues, as Our Lady foretold. She also gave her Order the duty of constant prayer for the souls of her father and husband who both mistreated her. St. Jane of Valois’ feast day is February 4th.