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11 Popular Catholic Saints 8 - 11


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St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897)
Francoise-Marie Thérèse, the youngest of five daughters, was born on January 2, 1873. When she was four, her mother died and left her father with five girls to raise on his own. Two of her older sisters joined the Carmelite order of nuns, and Thérèse wanted to join them when she was just 14 years old. The order normally made girls wait until they were 16 before entering the convent or monastery, but Thérèse was adamant.

She accompanied her father to a general papal audience of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII and surprised everyone by throwing herself before the pontiff, begging to become a Carmelite. The wise pope replied, “If the good God wills, you will enter.” When she returned home, the local bishop allowed her to enter early. On April 9, 1888, at the age of 15, Thérèse entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux and joined her two sisters. On September 8, 1890, she took her final vows. She showed remarkable spiritual insights for someone so young, but it was due to her childlike (not childish) relationship with Jesus. Her superiors asked her to keep memoirs of her thoughts and experiences.

At the age of 23, she coughed up blood and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She lived only one more year, and it was filled with intense physical suffering. She died on September 30, 1897.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887–1968)
Padre Pio was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy. Because he showed evidence of having a priestly vocation early in his youth, his father went to the United States to make enough money so Francesco (his baptismal name) could attend school and seminary. At the age of 15, he took the vows and habit of the Friars Minor Capuchin and assumed the name of Pio in honor of Pope St. Pius V, patron of his hometown. On August 10, 1910, he was ordained a priest. Catholics believe that less than a month later, on September 7, he received the stigmata, just like St. Francis of Assisi.

During World War I, he served as a chaplain in the Italian Medical Corps. After the war, news spread about his stigmata, which stirred up some jealous enemies. Because of false accusations that were sent to Rome, he was suspended in 1931 from saying public Mass or from hearing confessions. Two years later, Pope Pius XI reversed the suspension and said, “I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed.”

Catholics believe that he was able to read souls, meaning that when people came to him for confession, he could immediately tell if they were lying, holding back sins, or truly repentant.

He became so well loved all over the region and indeed all over the world that three days after his death on September 23, 1968, more than 100,000 people gathered at San Giovanni Rotundo to pray for his departed soul.

Pope St. John XXIII (1881–1963)
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was the third of 13 children and grew up in the North of Italy near Bergamo. His family was poor but devout. He was ordained a priest in 1904. Angelo was an army chaplain in World War I, secretary to his diocesan bishop, and spiritual director at the local seminary.

He became a bishop in 1925 and served as an apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece, and eventually Papal Nuncio (Ambassador) to Paris. In 1953 he was made the Cardinal Archbishop of Venice.

When Pope Pius XII died in 1958, Roncalli was elected his successor after 11 ballots on October 28, 1958, at age 76. He took the name John XXIII. Many cardinals thought he would be a “caretaker pope” after the 19-year reign of Pius. John XXIII surprised everyone by convening an Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) from 1962–1965. It was the first council since the First Vatican Council ended in 1870.

Pope St. John XXIII was a very popular pope even though he did not live long, dying during the sessions of Vatican II from stomach cancer. Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 2000, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.

Pope St. John Paul II, the Great (1920–2005)
Pope John Paul II, a highly visible Catholic of the modern era, was the 264th pope and the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years.

He was born Karol Józef Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, the son of Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died nine years after his birth, followed by his brother, Edmund Wojtyla, a doctor, in 1932, and then his father, a noncommissioned army officer, in 1941.

Pope Paul VI died in August 1978. Albino Cardinal Luciani was elected his successor and took the name John Paul to honor Paul VI and John XXIII, the two popes of Vatican II. But John Paul I lived only a month. So on October 16, 1978, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was elected bishop of Rome and took the name John Paul II.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote 84 combined encyclicals, exhortations, letters, and instructions to the Catholic world, beatified 1,338 people, canonized 482 saints, and created 232 cardinals.

He traveled 721,052 miles (1,243,757 kilometers), the equivalent of 31 trips around the globe. During these journeys, he visited 129 countries and 876 cities. While home in Rome, he spoke to more than 17.6 million people at weekly Wednesday audiences.

At 5:19 p.m. on May 13, 1981, a would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot Pope John Paul II and nearly killed him. A five-hour operation and 77 days in the hospital saved his life, and the pope returned to his full duties a year later.

When he died on April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II had the third-longest reign as pope (26 years, 5 months, 17 days), behind only Pius IX (31 years) and Saint Peter himself (34+ years). John Paul II’s funeral was attended by 4 kings, 5 queens, 70 presidents and prime ministers, 14 leaders of other religions, 157 cardinals, 700 bishops, 3,000 priests, and 3 million deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and laity.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, beatified Pope St. John Paul II on May 1, 2011, the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope Francis canonized him on April 27, 2014.

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