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11 Popular Catholic Saints 4 - 7

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St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226)
The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro Bernadone, Francis was one of seven children.

Even though he was baptized Giovanni, his father later changed his name to Francesco (Italian for Francis or Frank). He was handsome, courteous, witty, strong, and intelligent, but very zealous. He liked to play hard and fight hard like most of his contemporaries. Local squabbles between towns, principalities, dukedoms, and so on were rampant in Italy in the 12th century.

Sometime around 1210 he started his own religious community called the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), which today is known as the Franciscans. They took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but unlike the Augustinian and Benedictine monks who lived in monasteries outside the villages and towns, St. Francis and his friars were not monks but mendicants, which means that they begged for their food, clothes, and shelter. What they collected they shared among themselves and the poor. They worked among the poor in the urban areas.

Catholics believe that in 1224, St. Francis of Assisi was blessed with the extraordinary gift of the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ imprinted on his own body.

St. Francis of Assisi loved the poor and animals, but most of all he loved God and his Church. He wanted everyone to know and experience the deep love of Jesus that he felt in his own heart. He is credited with the creation of two Catholic devotions: the Stations of the Cross and the Christmas crèche.

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
St. Anthony was born as Ferdinand, son of Martin Bouillon and Theresa Tavejra. At the age of 15 he joined an order of priests called the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. Later he transferred to the newly formed Order of Friars Minor (OFM), or Franciscans, where he took the religious name of Anthony.

He is famous for being an effective orator. Anthony’s sermons were so powerful that many Catholics who strayed from the faith and embraced false doctrines of other religions would repent after hearing him. This skill led to his nickname, “Hammer of Heretics.”

St. Anthony is invoked as the patron saint of lost items. On one occasion, a little boy appeared in the town square, apparently lost. Anthony picked him up and carried him around town looking for the boy’s family. They went to house after house, but no one claimed him. At the end of the day, Anthony approached the friary chapel. The boy said, “I live there.” Once in the oratory, the child disappeared. It was later discerned that the child was in fact Jesus. Since then, Catholics invoke St. Anthony whenever they lose something, even car keys or eyeglasses.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
The greatest intellect the Catholic Church has ever known was born of a wealthy aristocratic family, the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, and Theodora, Countess of Teano. Thomas’s parents sent him at the age of five, which was customary, to the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino. It was hoped that if he didn’t show talents suited for becoming a knight or nobleman, he could at least rise to the rank of abbot or bishop and thus add to his family’s prestige and influence.

However, ten years later, Thomas wanted to join a new mendicant order, which was similar to the Franciscans in that it didn’t go to distant monasteries but worked in urban areas instead. The new order was the Order of Preachers (O.P.), known as Dominicans.

Thomas Aquinas is best known for two things:

His monumental theological and philosophical work, the Summa Theologica, covers almost every principal doctrine and dogma of his era. What St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure were able to do with the philosophy of Plato regarding Catholic Theology, St. Thomas Aquinas was able to do with Aristotle. (Philosophy has been called the handmaiden of theology because you need a solid philosophical foundation in order to understand the theological teachings connected to it.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church has numerous references to the Summa some 800 years later.

He composed hymns and prayers for Corpus Christi at the request of the pope, and he wrote Pange Lingua, Adoro te Devote, O Salutaris Hostia, and Tantum Ergo, which is often sung at Benediction.
He died while on the way to the Second Council of Lyons, where he was to appear as a peritus (expert).

St. Patrick of Ireland (387–481)
There are many stories surrounding the origin of St. Patrick. The most credible says that he was born in Britain during Roman occupation and was a Roman citizen. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather was a priest in the Catholic Church. Much of what we know about Patrick we get from his autobiography, The Confessions. At 16 years of age, he was abducted by pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. The Celtic pagan tribes who lived in Ireland were Druids. After several years he escaped and returned to Britain, but with a love for the people of Ireland.

Patrick did not follow in his dad’s footsteps and become a Roman soldier. He felt called to serve the Lord and His Church by being ordained a priest. He went back to Ireland to convert the people who had originally kidnapped him. While there, he became a bishop and was very successful in replacing paganism with Christianity.

Legend has it that he explained the mystery of the Holy Trinity (Three Persons in One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the Irish king by using a shamrock. Folklore also has him driving out all the snakes from Ireland.



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