Category Archives: Saints

Saint John the Evangelist

the Evangelist JohnThe Beloved Disciple and Evangelist, Saint John, is honored by the Church in her Liturgy today. He’s known as “the Divine” and historically known as one of the sons of Zebedee, and his mother’s name was Salome [Matthew 4:21, 27:56; Mark 15:40, 16:1]. John’s date of death cannot be fixed with any precision, but we know he lived to an advanced age and he’s known not to have been martyred as the other Apostles were. Some have claimed he made his residence in Ephesus in 97.

Saint John is represented holding a chalice from which a dragon comes out,  as he is supposed to have been given poison, which was, however, neutralized. Today is a day on which we typically bless wine. The eagle also represents John and his gospel (look closely to the image here).

Who is the Beloved Disciple, John the Divine?

From biblical study we know that John and family lived on the shores of Galilee. The brother of Saint John, considerably older, was Saint James. The mention of the “hired men” [Mark 1:20], and of Saint John’s “home” [John 19:27], implies that Salome and her children were not impoverished

Saints John and James followed the Baptist when he preached repentance in the wilderness of Jordan. There can be little doubt that the two disciples, whom Gospel does not name (John 1:35), who followed when the Baptist exclaimed with prophetic utterance, “Behold the Lamb of God!” were Andrew and John. They followed and asked the Lord where he abided. “Come and see” is the famous line. From here they entered into a profound friendship with the Eternal Word of God.

When Jesus appeared on the shore early in the morning, John was the first to recognize him. The last words of the Gospel reveal the attachment which existed between the two apostles. Peter came to know his destiny and that of his friend –the Acts of the Apostles gives evidence that they are still connected as entered together as worshippers into the Temple [Acts 3:1], and later protesting the threats of the Sanhedrin [Acts 4:13].

It’s very likely that Saint John remained at Jerusalem until the death of Mary, though tradition of no great antiquity or weight asserts that he took her to Ephesus. The exact date when he went to Ephesus is uncertain; we know that he was at Jerusalem fifteen years after Saint Paul’s first visit there [Acts 15:6]. There is no trace of his presence there when Saint Paul was at Jerusalem for the last time.

Early Christian writers such as Saint Irenaeus write that Saint John did not settle at Ephesus until after the death the Apostles Peter and Paul. He certainly was not there when Timothy was appointed bishop of that place. Moreover, Jerome thinks he governed all the Churches of Asia.. During the persecution of Domitian John was taken to Rome, and was placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, outside the Latin gate, without the boiling fluid doing him any injury. [Eusebius makes no mention of this. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Jerome]. There are some biblical experts who say that John was sent to labor at the mines in Patmos. When Nerva became the political leader John  was set free, returned to Ephesus, and there it is thought that he wrote his gospel and had a hand in the composition of other letters. Of his zeal and love combined we have examples in Eusebius, based on the authority of Irenaeus, that  John once fled out of a bath on hearing that Cerinthus was in it, lest, as he asserted, the roof should fall in, ending his reign.

Saint Juan Diego

St Juan Diego Martha Orozco

The Church prays:

O God, Who, through Saint Juan Diego, did show forth the special love of the Most Holy Virgin Mary toward Your people, grant us, at his intercession, so to obey the admonitions given by our Mother of Guadalupe, that we may ever be able to carry out Your will.

Today’s liturgical memorial connects with the one for Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12) because it is Saint Juan Diego who recognizes and advocates for the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary when others doubted. Saint Juan Diego was the messenger of the Mother of God to the rest of humanity.

The tradition holds that on 9 December 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous peasant, received a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The beautiful lady told him to build a church exactly on the spot where they were standing. Wondering what this message meant, Juan Diego told the local bishop who asked for some proof. The vision happened a second time. But this time Juan Diego asked the lady to answer the bishop’s requirement of proof. The Lady told him to  “Bring the roses behind you.” When he opened his poncho, instead of roses, there was an image of the young lady in the vision. The tilma is now a relic of the experience in Mexico.

Is the gospel and teachings of the Church an integral part of your Christian life? Do you carry the message and manner of living commanded by God to others? Is there joy in the message? Is God’s will an important factor in life?

Patriarch Abraham

Holy Patriarch AbrahamThe feast of Abraham recalls the person, our father in monotheistic Judaism who opened the door to human faithfulness before the holiness of a God who revealed Himself to humanity in a new way. The holy Patriarch’s liturgical memorial is not celebrated in the Latin Church but in the Byzantine Church does so today. He is, however, recalled in the Roman Canon of the Mass and in several of the prayers used during the year. What we believe, and why we pray is expressed in the hymn texts of the Divine Liturgy. By looking at the liturgy we know what we believe and how to live. Here, the holy Patriarch Abraham is extolled a light to follow and a man of God who mediates for humanity before the Throne of Grace.

In the night universal of ignorance towards God, and in that starless, profound gloom bereft of heavenly light, you, O Abraham, were kindled in the firmament, burning with bright far-shining faith in the Everlasting light. Who shines forth to us from your seed, entreat Him with fervor, that He enlighten us and save our souls. (Troparion, Tone 1)

You were a servant, a mortal fashioned from the earth, your master was God, Lord and Fashioner of creation, yet, well-pleased to glorify your celestial greatness, the Lord of all called Himself the God of Abraham Procure for us mercies from your merciful God. (Kondak, Tone 2)

Saint Bruno

Monastic Family of BethlehemThe Statutes of the Carthusian Order begin with, “Blessed is the glory of the Lord, The Christ, Word of the Father, for all times men were chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead a life of solitude and to unite them in an intimate love. Answering this calling, Master Bruno, year of our Lord 1084, entered the desert of Chartreuse with six companions and began life there.” The life is wholly devoted to the Lord in solitude from the world, rarely having interaction with others.

But the person of Bruno is one that we are keen to know. Very briefly, the Liturgy tells us that he was man who was intent on rejecting the distractions of the world that would take him away from his only love, God. A witness from one of Bruno’s brothers in Calabria :

“Bruno deserves to be praised for many a thing, but especially in this matter: he was always a man of even temper, that was his specialty. His face was always joyful, and he was modest of tongue; he led with the authority of a father and the tenderness of a mother. No one found him too proud, but gentle like a lamb.”

930 years later, people still follow Saint Bruno into the solitude of the cloister. In the USA, there is one monastery of monks in Vermont, and there is a group of nuns who follow the spirituality of Bruno in a relatively new order founded called the Monastic Family of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, NY.

May Saint Bruno teach how to love God alone.

Blessed Bartolo Longo

Bartolo LongoThere is a marvelous figure of holiness inscribed on the calendar today: Blessed Bartolo Longo, the great Apostle of the Rosary and the founder of the shrine of the Madonna of the Rosary at Pompei in Italy. Born in 1841, Blessed Longo died in 1926. He was a contemporary of Saint Faustina. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1980. Several times in his pontificate, Saint John Paul II called our attention to the example of this holy layman, calling him “l’uomo della Madonna,” Our Lady’s man.

Divine Mercy Displayed

Blessed Bartolo Longo’s story is a dramatic illustration of Divine Mercy. The mystery of Mercy announced by Saint Faustina played itself out in the life of Blessed Longo. As a young man, following studies in Law, Bartolo Longo abandoned his faith and allowed himself to be drawn into paths of great spiritual darkness. He practiced spiritism, found himself entrenched in the occult, and became a practicing Satanist. Longo went so far as to have himself ordained a priest of Satan. He very nearly lost his sanity, becoming a mere shadow of himself.

Spiritually Sick

In one particular séance Longo was distressed to see the face of the deceased king of Naples and the Two Sicilies: Ferdinand II. That same night he saw the soul of his mother circling his bed, begging him to return to the Catholic faith. His practice of the occult had so affected him that he was barely recognizable to those who once knew him as a handsome young man, full of vitality and promise. A Catholic friend, seeing him in such a pitiful spiritual, psychological, and physical state, begged him to at least meet with Father Radente, a wise Dominican priest. After some time, Longo made a thorough confession and, under the direction of this priest, began the reform of his life. He entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic, receiving the name, Brother Rosario.

Conversion and Healing

Bartolo’s Dominican spiritual father told him that the Mother of God promised that anyone who promoted her Rosary would assuredly be saved. The rest of Blessed Barolo’s life was dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. The Rosary was his lifeline. The Rosary was the anchor of his salvation. The Rosary was the means by which the Holy Mother of God brought him back from hell. It was through the prayer of the Rosary that the Blessed Virgin healed his soul, restored him to health, and entrusted him with a mission. Later Blessed Bartolo wrote, “What is my vocation? To write about Mary, to have Mary praised, to have Mary loved.

Rosary Apostolate

Blessed Longo reached out to the desperately poor, ignorant, and needy people of the town of Pompei. He taught them to pray the Rosary. The Rosary did for that entire town what it had done for him in his personal life; it brought healing, refreshment, holiness, joy, and peace. With the help of the Countess Mariana de Fusco whom he later married on the advice of Pope Leo XIII, while preserving with her his vow of chastity, Bartolo Longo undertook the construction of the church of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei. The city that grew up around it became the City of the Rosary.

He founded a congregation of Dominican Sisters to care for the poor. He established a school for boys. He wrote tirelessly in the service of Madonna and of her Rosary. His beautiful supplication to the Madonna of the Rosary has been translated into countless languages. Pope John Paul II prayed it when, on October 7, 2003, he visited Pompei to conclude the Year of the Rosary. In Italy, every year on the first Sunday of October, everything comes to a halt at noon while people, young and old, poor and rich, healthy and sick, pause to pray Blessed Longo’s supplication to the Virgin of the Rosary.

Divine Mercy Available to All

Saint Faustina made known the mystery of Divine Mercy. Blessed Bartolo Longo experienced Divine Mercy in a dramatic and deeply personal way. The same Divine Mercy is available to us: the mercy that brings back from hell, the mercy that raises the soul from spiritual death, the mercy that heals, restores, forgives, and repairs the past.

The Divine Mercy comes to us through the intercession of the Mother of God and, most efficaciously, through the humble prayer of the Rosary. It comes to us in the Sacrament of Penance: the mystery of the blood and the water from the side of Christ washing over the soul. And the Divine Mercy comes to us in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Mass is the real presence of Crucified Love. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Divine Mercy flowing from the Heart of the Lamb, making saints out of sinners.

Father Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB
Silverstream Priory

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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