December 1

Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)

An officer of the French Army who became a Trappist monk. As a young man, Charles rejected his Catholic faith in favor of a life of sensual pleasure, squandering his inheritance on gambling, prostitutes, and fine food. After quitting the army, he wandered the desert country of northern Africa disguised as a Russian Jew; he eventually wrote a book about his travels. The Jews and Muslims he met during his exploration of Morocco inspired him to take up his faith again; he became a Trappist monk, and eventually went to live as a hermit in the Algerian desert among the Tuareg people, where he offered hospitality to travelers of every religion. He dreamed of forming a religious institute, but was martyred by bandits in 1916. While the religious institute he had dreamed of founding was never realized during his lifetime, after his death, his writings and way of life eventually inspired others to form religious communities and orders, most notably the Little Brothers of Jesus.

 

December 2

Blessed Liduina Meneguzzi (1901-1941)

Sister Liduina was sent as a missionary to Dire-Dawa in Ethiopia in 1937. There, she worked in the local hospital. When the hospital was bombed during World War II, her courage and selflessness in rescuing and caring for the wounded and dying earned her the respect of both the soldiers and the natives.

 

Blessed Rafal Chylinski (1694 – 1741)

Fr. Rafal was born with the name Melchior in Poland. He was deeply religious even as a child, and his family called him, “the little monk”. He went to a Jesuit college, was a cavalry officer, and joined the Conventual Franciscans after his service in the military. He served most of his ministry caring for people who suffered natural disasters and illness.

 

December 3

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)

One of the founding members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was sent on missions all over Asia, including India, Japan, and Malaysia. Wherever he went, he lived with the poor and tried to learn the local language and customs; he even adopted Japanese dress to better evangelize the people. Overwhelmed by the need of the peoples he met, he begged for more missionaries to be sent; in the meantime, he trained the children of one village to visit the sick, reciting the creed and assuring them that if they believed, they would be healed. According to his testimony, many were; he baptized thousands into the faith, leaving flourishing churches wherever he went.

 

December 4

St. John of Damascus (c. 676 -749)

A writer, poet, priest and defender of the faith, John was one of the last fathers of the Eastern Church. He lived among Arab conquerors and was able to gain their esteem and was given high rank. He wrote three treatises on aspects of Christianity that were very popular. He wrote poetry and songs for the comfort of others–a man had lost his brother, and John wrote a hymn for him that eased his grief. He defended the use of icons and images in the Church fiercely, which earned him the title, “The Doctor of Christian Art”.

 

December 5

Saint Sabas (c. 439)

Sabas was born in Palestine in the 5th century. He was abused as a small child and ran away from home to a monastery, where he was taken in and cared for. He loved the monk’s life, and decided to become one himself. When he was 18 years old, he went to Jerusalem which eventually lead him to a desert near Jericho where he went to live as a hermit in a cave. He survived mostly on wild herbs, but sometimes people would bring him food. His holiness attracted others and a community formed around him, but all he wanted was to be alone to pray, so he would wander off periodically. He often traveled around Palestine, and through conversations with them, brought many people back to the Church.

 

December 6

St. Nicholas (270-343)

The saint everyone thinks they know, but probably don’t. The bishop of Myra was one tough cookie, hanging out with sailors and soldiers, getting imprisoned for his faith at least twice—once during the Roman persecution, and again later by the Council of Nicea for slapping the heretic Arius across the face for, well, being heretical. Then there’s the time he grabbed the sword out of the executioner’s hands in order to save the lives of three innocent men, whom he marched back to the shocked governor’s palace to demand their exoneration. When said governor begged forgiveness, the hot-headed Nicholas initially refused to forgive him, but later relented. Ho, ho, ho, indeed!

 

December 7

St. Ambrose (340-397)

The Roman governor whose election as bishop makes the U.S. election process look sane by comparison. Another no-nonsense bishop, Ambrose not only composed many new liturgical hymns, but also refused to allow the emperor to attend Mass after the emperor massacred thousands of innocent people. Another time, he holed up in a basilica from Palm Sunday until Easter with a crowd of Catholics to prevent the empress from taking it over for the Arians.  “To occupy their time, Ambrose taught them hymns composed by himself, which they sang under his direction, divided into choirs singing alternate stanzas,” according to EWTN. No more complaining about the length of those Holy Week services, kids!

 

December 8

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

On the Solemnity of the
Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the immaculate (“stainless”) conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That means that Mary was free of original sin from the moment Mary’s mother, Anne, became pregnant with her, (This day is not about Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus!) That made her the perfect mother for Jesus, the holy Son of God, who came to take away all sin.

 

December 9

St. Juan Diego (1474-1548)

The humble Mexican Indian to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on this date in 1531. She spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native language, saying, “Juanito, my son, where are you going?” His feast day falls three days before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 

December 10

Blessed Adolph Kolping (1813-1865)

The shoemaker-turned-priest who ministered to young working men in the cities of Germany; founder of the Young Workmen’s Society (now the Kolping Society).

 

December 11

Venerable Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

Born in Illinois, Fulton Sheen was a highly regarded philosopher, theologian, and archbishop who wrote 73 books but is best remembered for his popular radio and television programs. He began his radio show, The Catholic Hour, on the NBC radio network in 1930; later, he went on television with  his programs, Life Is Worth Living and The Fulton Sheen Show, explaining Christianity in warm and friendly terms that the average person could understand. His shows were hugely popular, attracting as many as 30 million viewers. He won two Emmy awards and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. He used his influence to raise money to feed and house the poor, and to speak out against the evils of communism, racism, and war. He said: “Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?”

 

December 12

Our Lady of Guadalupe

The name given to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to an Indian convert in 1531. You’ll find plenty of resources to share with your kids in Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 

December 13

St. Lucia of Syracuse (d. 304)

A young Christian martyr (d. 304) about whom little is known. Later accounts of her martyrdom included a story about her eyes getting gouged out; that, along with the date of her feast, led to the celebration of her feast as a festival of light, especially In Scandinavian cultures: “There, a young girl dressed in a white dress and a red sash (as the symbol of martyrdom) carries palms and wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head,” according to Wikipedia. “In both Norway and Sweden, girls dressed as Lucy carry rolls and cookies in procession as songs are sung. It is said that to vividly celebrate St. Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.”

 

December 14

John of the Cross (1541-1591)

Together with St. Teresa of Avila, reformed the Carmelite order in the sixteenth century. He is also well-known for his spiritual writings, which had an enormous impact on the development of the Catholic contemplative tradition as well as other outstanding religious figures who came after him, including St. Therese of Lisieux and St. John Paul II. Among his most famous works are Ascent of Mount CarmelDark Night of the SoulLiving Flame of Love, and Spiritual Canticle, the latter written during nine months of cruel imprisonment by his own order. His writings will be accessible only to precocious teens, but younger kids may be fascinated to hear the story of his imprisonment and daring nighttime escape.

 

December 15

Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (1819-1876)

The founder of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis. Besides caring for the sick, the sisters took in prostitutes, and helped prisoners find jobs after their release, despite the objections of their supporters. The sisters also tended to the wounded in the U.S. Civil War.

December 16

St. Adelaide of Italy (931-999)

She was married to the King of Italy at the age of fifteen; when he was poisoned, his enemy had Adelaide locked up in prison. With the help of friends, she escaped through a tunnel and hid in nearby marshes. She sent for help to Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor; they married, and she became empress, and one of the most powerful women in tenth-century Europe. She worked to build up the Church and establish peace between warring kingdoms.

 

 

December 17

 

 

December 18

Blessed Anthony Grassi (1592-1671)

When he entered the Oratorian Fathers at the age of 17, he earned a reputation as a “walking dictionary” because he was such a good student. He eventually became a priest. At the age of 29, he was struck by lightning while he was praying at the Holy House at Loreto; the lightning cured him of a stomach ailment, and deepened his devotion to God. He gained a reputation as a fair and gentle leader and an excellent confessor who had the gift of reading souls, and sometimes foreseeing the future. “Antony was called ‘The Angel of Peace’ because of the gift he had of reconciling enemies. He was also called ‘The Father of the Poor,’ because he continually gave away all his possessions, even his clothes, to those in need,” says the Birmingham Oratory. “He who hears Mass with devotion every morning cannot fail to be a friend of God.”

 

St. Flannan (7th century)

The Irish monk and bishop who prayed to become ugly.

 

December 19

Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)

The humble Benedictine monk  and man of the people who, as pope, lived simply and pressed for reform. He worked to curb abuses among the clergy, forbade the harassment or forced conversion of Jews, founded several universities and colleges, and planted vineyards around Rome. Interestingly, he was elected pope only after the man elected by the cardinals as pope declined the job, and the cardinals turned to someone outside their number, according to Franciscan Media.

 

December 20

Saint Dominic of Silos (c. 1000-1073)

Dominic was born in about the year 1000 as a poor boy in Spain. His youth was spent farming, and he became a Benedictine priest in his adulthood. He founded a Beneditcine community where people used to come from far and wide for healing. After he died, a woman made a pilgrimage to his tomb where Dominic appeared to her and told her she would have a son. That son turned out to be Saint Dominic who founded the Dominican Order.

 

December 21

St. Peter Canisius (1529-1597)

The great Jesuit theologian, Catholic reformer, preacher, and Doctor of the Church who wrote the first Catholic catechism. His fellow Jesuits used to urge him to stop working so hard, to which he said: “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”

 

December 22

Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)

The lawyer who lived a lavish lifestyle until the death of his holy wife. Her accidental death prompted him to give all his possessions to the poor and become a Franciscan penitent, doing penance for his sins in public. His old friends mocked him as “crazy Jim.” After many years, he joined a monastery and composed many hymns, including Stabat Mater.

 

December 23

St. John Kanty (1390-1473)

The Polish priest and theologian who served the poor and lived a humble, penitential life.

 

December 24

Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

 

December 25

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

 

December 26

St. Stephen (d. 36)

The deacon who became the first Christian martyr. The Acts of the Apostles says he was one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and money more fairly to Greek members of the early church. St. Stephen is a martyr “by love, will, and blood”: that is, he loved Christ so much, he chose to give up his life for him.

 

December 27

St. John the Apostle (6-100)

The apostle who, with his brother James, immediately followed Jesus’ call. Five books of the Bible contain his teaching: the Gospel of John, three letters, and the Book of Revelation. St. John was a martyr by love and will: he chose to give his whole life to Jesus, but he died peacefully. He was the only apostle (other than Judas) not to be killed.

 

December 28

Holy Innocents

The children who died in the place of Christ because of King Herod’s sin. They are martyrs by blood alone.

 

December 29

St. Thomas Beckett (1118-1170)

Thomas Beckett (1118-1170) was a close advisor to King Henry II, but after being named the Archbishop of Canterbury, he clashed with the king over issues of how much power the king had over the Church. On December 29, 1170, four of the king’s knights ambushed the archbishop during evening prayers in Canterbury Cathedral, killing him. As they did, he shouted: “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.”

December 30

Saint Egwin (d. c. 720)

Egwin was a Benedictine priest and bishop in the 7th century. Local people loved him because he was a fair judge and protector of the poor and vulnerable. Church people didn’t like him that much because they felt that his reforms and corrections were too harsh. When he went to the Pope to have his ruling, the Pope said he was acting properly.

 

December 31

Saint Sylvester I (d. 335)

Suffering succotash! Sylvester was the Pope between 315 and 335, and worked very hard to keep the Church safe and holy under Emperor Constantine’s making Christianity the state religion. Bishops were finding it both difficult and dangerous to stay true to what the Church leadership required, and did their best to follow Sylvester’s example in tough situations.