Solemnity of All Saints
Today we celebrate all saints—that is, everyone who lives in heaven. Th at’s a lot of saints! Th e Church publicly recognizes some saints in a special way because their lives showed “heroic virtue”—they’re kind of like Christian heroes, showing the rest of us how to live the way of Jesus and inspiring us on our own journey to holiness. These are the “canonized” saints. But anybody can be a saint. In fact, every person on Earth is called to be a saint . . . including you!
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Not everyone who dies is ready to go straight to heaven. Before anyone can be with God in heaven, they need to get rid of anything that isn’t true, good, and beautiful. They need to be made perfectly pure. Th e Church calls this process of being made pure purgatory. God and the angels help people get through purgatory, and so do the prayers of the Church on Earth! We can pray for those who have died because we are united by God’s love as one family, and death cannot separate us.
St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)
The son of a Spanish noble-man and a freed African slave, Martin was apprenticed to a barber who taught him the practice of medicine. At age 15, Martin went to work in a Dominican monastery, where he healed the sick, cared for the poor, and worked many miracles, including communicating with animals.
“Compassion is preferable to cleanliness.”
St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)
Charles Borromeo was made a cardinal and appointed to important leadership positions by his uncle, the pope, at a very young age. Fortunately, he was a good leader, caring for the poor in times of famine and helping to write a new catechism.
“We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible.”
Blessed Bernard Litchtenberg (1875-1943)
The German priest who publicly prayed for the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and who condemned Nazi leaders for their persecution of the Jews. When they arrested him, they offered to let him go free if he would be silent. Instead he asked to be sent to a concentration camp for Jews.
“I recognize the Jews as my neighbor, who possess an immortal soul shaped aft er the likeness of God.”
St. Theophane Venard (1829-1861)
The French priest and martyr who served the people of Vietnam, converting even his jailers with his kindness.
“Courage! God asks only of us our good will, his grace does the rest.”
Blessed Joan Mary de Maille (1332-1414)
As a girl, Joan’s prayers managed to save a neighbor boy, Robert, after he nearly drowned in a pond. When the they grew up, Robert and Joan married and adopted three orphan children. Later, Robert was kidnapped by an invading army; he escaped, and he and Joan devoted themselves to ransoming other prisoners of war. Joan continued this work long after Robert’s death.
St. Didacus (1400-1463)
The Franciscan brother who was a wandering hermit and a missionary in the Canary Islands; he miraculously cured some of his fellow brothers who were sick by making the sign of the cross over them. His generosity to the poor sometimes irked his fellow brothers. “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven”
“Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.”
Blessed John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308)
Blessed John Duns Scotus was one of the most influential theologians of the High Middle Ages, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy admits. “His brilliantly complex and nuanced thought, which earned him the nickname ‘the Subtle Doctor,’ left a mark on discussions of such disparate topics as the semantics of religious language, the problem of universals, divine illumination, and the nature of human freedom.” Wow, right? And they forgot to mention that he also laid the foundation for the doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin (i.e., the Immaculate Conception).
“At the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved free from the stain of original sin, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.”
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906)
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (Wednesday), who is often compared to St. Therese of Lisieux for the similarity of their life stories. Elizabeth entered a Carmelite convent when she was 21 and died just five years later. The notebooks of her spiritual writings were published after her death, revealing a wisdom beyond her years.
“I feel I have found heaven on earth, because heaven is God and God is in my soul. The day I understood this a light went on inside me, and I want to whisper this secret to all those I love, so they too, in whatever circumstances, will cling increasingly to God.”
Dedication of St. John Lateran
The day we remember the dedication of the pope’s cathedral, and therefore the unity of the Church.
St. Leo the Great (d. 461)
Pope Leo I helped the Church sort out true beliefs about Christ from false beliefs (heresies); he presided over Church councils; he argued for the authority of the pope; and if that weren’t enough, he had to persuade Attila the Hun not to invade Rome.
“There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.”
St. Martin of Tours (316-397)
St. Martin of Tours, who was conscripted into the Roman army as a teen but later (famously) refused to fight because of his conversion to Christianity; he is also well known for cutting his cloak in two in order to give half to a beggar. He went on to become a monk, founding the first monastery in France; the residents of Tours tricked him into becoming their bishop by sending word that a sick person needed his presence. When he showed up, he was escorted to the church instead, where some of the consecrating bishops questioned his suitability on the grounds that he was apparently having a bad hair day. Nice to know the saints had hair issues.
“Up to now, I have served you as a soldier; allow me hence-forth to serve Christ. … I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to fight.”
Venerable Catherine McAuley (1778-1841)
Venerable Catherine McAuley spent twenty years caring for an elderly Quaker couple, during which time she also taught the poor. On their deathbeds, they converted to Catholicism and left her their estate, which allowed her to found the first House of Mercy for poor women and orphans and, eventually, the Sisters of Mercy.
“God knows I would rather be cold and hungry than the poor in Kingston or elsewhere should be deprived of any consolation in our power to afford.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)
A missionary to the United States from Italy, and the first U.S. citizen to be canonized. “Small and weak as a child, born two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her life,” says Wikipedia. “When she went to visit to her uncle, Don Luigi Oldini of Livagra, a priest who lived beside a swift canal, she made little boats of paper, dropped violets in them, called the flowers missionaries, and launched them to sail off to India and China.” Deemed too frail to join an existing order, she and six companions started her own, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Still dreaming of going to China as a missionary, she appealed to Pope Leo XIII for permission, but he sent her west, not east. She and her small congregation ended up ministering to poor Italian immigrants in New York City; she went on to found 67 schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions across the U.S. and throughout the world.
“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.”
St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302)
Until the age of 24, Gertrude was a fairly distracted and half-hearted nun; but then, on June 23 1281 (a date she recorded in her writings), she had a vision of Christ as a young adolescent that changed her life forever. She took up the study of Scripture and theology, and eventually became a prolific writer, not to mention one of the great mystics of her age. Her longest surviving work is Herald of Divine Love. She especially loved the sacred heart of Jesus.
“O Jesus, you who are immensely dear to me, be with me always.”
St. Albert the Great (1206-1280)
This German Dominican friar, bishop, and Doctor of the Church was one of the greatest philosophers and scientists of his age. “His scholarship laid the groundwork for modern scientific inquiry centuries later, including Galileo’s heliocentric model of the solar system,” says U.S. Catholic. His writings fill 36 large volumes and cover all fields of knowledge: botany, law, logic, geography, justice, astronomy, zoology, theology, and more. He helped the Church make sense of the writings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and taught the great theologian Thomas Aquinas. He is the patron saint of the natural sciences.
“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God.”
St. Margaret of Scotland (1050-1093)
The queen of Scotland who, with the support of her husband, King Malcolm, built hospitals, churches, homes for the poor, and monasteries throughout the land. She also called a council of bishops to bring the Church in Scotland more in line with Rome, worked to prevent wars between Scottish lords, and made sure all workers got to rest on Sundays. She and King Malcolm personally served the poor and sick at the castle on most days. You can read a kid-friendly biography of her life at the Baldwin Project.
“Lord Jesus Christ who, according to the will of the Father, hast by Thy death given life to the world, deliver me.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)
The queen who was so generous to the poor that royal officials worried she would give away everything in the castle. They expelled her and her children from the castle when her husband died; she kept serving the poor anyway. You can read a short story about her service to the poor in Meet Elizabeth of Hungary! • Saints for Kids or read a longer story at the Baldwin Project.
“Lord, you want to be with me and I want to be with you, and never do I want to be apart from you.”
Venerable Henriette DeLille (1812-1862)
Henriette DeLille was a free woman of color who had a religious conversion at the age of twenty-four that led her to break away from her social circle and comfortable way of life. Rejected by existing religious congregations, she founded an order of Creole women, the Sisters of the Holy Family, to serve slaves and the poor in New Orleans. As her obituary later stated, ” … for the love of Jesus Christ she had become the humble and devout servant of the slaves.”
“I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God.”
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852)
The French nun who founded schools on the American frontier and devoted the last years of her life to ministering to the Potawatomi Indians, who called her “Woman Who Prays Always.”
“We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing.”
St. Agnes of Assisi (1197-1253)
The younger sister of St. Clare, Agnes ran away from home at the age of 14 to join her sister in following St. Francis. When her father’s men tried to drag her home, she became so heavy, they had to give up. She became one of the original “Poor Clare” sisters.
“I come, O Lord, into your sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul.”
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852)
The French nun who founded schools on the American frontier and devoted the last years of her life to ministering to the Potawatomi Indians, who called her “Woman Who Prays Always.
“There are no difficulties except for those who worry too much about tomorrow.”
Presentation of Mary
The Memorial of the Presentation of Mary recalls Mary’s dedication to holiness from the time of her childhood. According to legend, when an angel told Mary’s mother, Anna, that she would bear a daughter, Anna responded by vowing that the child would be dedicated to the Lord. At the age of three, Mary was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she was “presented” to the Lord. According to this legend, she was raised in the Temple.
St. Cecilia (3rd century)
St. Cecelia was an early Christian martyr, but this is all we know about her for sure. Later legends said that when she was forced to marry the pagan nobleman Valerian, she “sang in her heart to the Lord” during the wedding. She is the patron saint of musicians.
“To die for Christ is not to sacrifice one’s youth, but to renew it.”
Bl. Miguel Pro (1891-1927)
Fr. Miguel Pro defied laws banning priests from Mexico by serving the people in secret. Eventually he was arrested. At his execution, he blessed the firing squad. With a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, he held his arms out wide and shouted, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Photos of his execution were printed in the newspapers to scare people; instead, tens of thousands came to his funeral.
“May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!”
St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions (19th century)
A Vietnamese priest and one of 117 martyrs among the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics killed for their faith.
St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 310)
Catherine was an 18-year-old convert to Christianity who turned down the emperor’s off er to spare her life if only she would marry him. He sent his best philosophers to persuade her to give up her faith; instead, she persuaded them to become Christian. Much of her story is legendary, based on the lives of several young martyrs.
Fr. James Alberione (1884-1971)
After praying for four hours before the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Alberione felt called to preach the Gospel to all peoples in the spirit of the Apostle Paul. He did this by publishing popular books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers. Today, the communities he founded—the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul—continue his evangelizing work by producing all sorts of Catholic media.
“I felt deeply obliged to prepare myself to do something for God and the men of the new century in which I would live.”
St. Josaphat (unknown)
The legendary Indian prince who renounced his throne to seek “the pearl of great price” as a monk.
St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)
The Franciscan friar who preached to hundreds of thousands across Europe, promoting the Holy Name of Jesus and performing miracles. To help the poor, he established places where they could get low-interest loans on pawned items. “Beloved and most holy word of God! . . . You make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven.”
Our Lady of Kibeho
The name given to a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Kibeho High School in Rwanda between Nov. 28, 1981, and Nov. 28 1989. During that time, the Blessed Virgin, calling herself “Mother of the World,” appeared to three teenage visionaries attending the high school, which was run by the Congregation of Benebikira Sisters. The apparitions are believed to have foretold the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which one of the visionaries was killed.
Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
Pope Francis, in his address to the U.S. Congress, said of Dorothy Day: “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.” Born in 1897 to a nominally Protestant family, Day followed in the footsteps of her father, a newspaper reporter, from an early age, publishing several short stories in a Chicago newspaper in her primary school years. Her lifelong search for God and compassion for the poor led her to mix with communists, activists, and prominent literary figures in 1920s New York City, where she wrote for various socialist newspapers. The birth of her daughter, Tamar, led to a profound encounter with God and her eventual conversion to the Catholic faith. She would go on to team up with a former Christian Brother, Peter Maurin, to found the Catholic Worker, a newspaper intended to communicate the Church’s social teaching to the Catholic working class, who at the time were being actively courted by Communists. The newspaper exploded in popularity, topping 100,000 before plummeting as a result of the paper’s pacifist stance during World War II (“Forget Pearl Harbor,” one editorial read). Nonetheless, “houses of hospitality” associated with the movement sprang up across the nation; more than one hundred continue in operation today, usually run by laypeople. The Catholic identity of the movement Dorothy and Peter started varies widely among these independent communities. Nonetheless, John Allen argues in Crux that it would make a lot of sense for Pope Francis to canonize her as a saint. “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.”
St. Andrew (c. 60?)
Originally a disciple of John the Baptist, Andrew began following Jesus at John’s urging. Th ere are many legends about what Andrew did aft er the resurrection of Jesus; many say he preached the Gospel in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Tradition says he was martyred by crucifixion on an x-shaped cross, today known as a St. Andrew’s Cross. His relics were returned “We have found the Messiah.”