To all who are facing lost income and lost jobs during this difficult time, here are some saints to intercede for you.
With tens of millions of people filing for unemployment in the United States alone, now’s a good time to remember that financial prosperity has nothing to do with holiness.
And while many saints deliberately embraced poverty, there have been plenty who lived in poverty that was forced upon them, who worked and fought and saved to bring themselves and their families out of destitution. To all who are facing lost income and lost jobs during this difficult time, here are some saints to intercede for you.
Bl. Catherine of Racconigi (1486-1547) was the youngest child of an unemployed Italian blacksmith whose discouragement over his lack of work led him into a years-long depression; as a result, their home was tense and rife with conflicts. Catherine worked to help her mother earn money for the family. Even when she wanted to enter religious life, her family objected because of the potential loss of income. Catherine became a third order Dominican but as she began to work miracles and experience the stigmata, neither the Dominicans nor her family wanted anything to do with her. Though distraught over her constant rejection, Catherine was able to move to a town where her gifts were ultimately valued.
Bl. Simon Hwang Il-gwang (1756-1802) was born to a poor family of butchers, a profession disdained by Korean society. As such, he expected to be ignored or abused by those of a higher class, and he was—until he became a Christian. Then he found that the other Christians weren’t put off by his poverty or his social status. They treated him as a brother, unconcerned with the class distinctions they had been raised with. Il-gwang was stunned by this, saying, “Here, everybody treats me as a human person despite my low-class status. Now, I believe that Heaven exists here and hereafter.” Though Il-gwang still struggled to make ends meet (selling firewood to survive), being treated with dignity changed his experience of poverty. He lived as a Christian for 10 years before he was martyred.
St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879) was living in such poverty at the time Our Lady appeared to her that her family was compelled to move into a one room basement, an old jail that was deemed unfit for criminals to live in. There Bernadette lived with her eight younger siblings, suffering from asthma that was likely exacerbated by the damp conditions in their home. She was out gathering sticks to heat her home when Mary first appeared to her, showing once again the deep love God has for the poor.
Bl. Isidore Bakanja (1887-1909) grew up in poverty in what’s today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When he was a teenager, he left home to find work as a mason, where he first encountered missionaries and was baptized. He then looked for a position as a servant to a Belgian man, in spite of the warnings of his friends who insisted that the man was cruel to his African servants and particularly hated Christians. But Bakanja needed a job, so he took one that would eventually cost him his life. His employer demanded that Bakanja remove his scapular; when the young man refused, the enraged Belgian beat him viciously. Left without medical care, Bakanja’s wounds became infected. It took six months for him to die of the infection.
Ven. Margaret Sinclair (1900-1925) was born in a tenement in Edinburgh, one of nine children raised in a two-bedroom basement apartment. Her father was a garbage collector and her mother frequently ill, so Margaret worked from a young age at various odd jobs before leaving school at 14 and beginning work in a factory. She was a factory worker and union representative until she lost her job after World War I. After a time of unemployment, Margaret found work at another factory, where she was employed until she entered the Poor Clares in London. Margaret died of tuberculosis at 25.
Ven. Rutilio Grande (1928-1977) was born into poverty in El Salvador, the youngest of six children. His parents divorced when he was four and his father moved to Honduras looking for work, leaving Rutilio to be raised by an older brother and grandmother. The children attempted to eke out a living by farming their small plot of land under exploitative conditions from the landlords. Rutilio’s experience of poverty as a child made him a powerful advocate for the poor once he was ordained a priest. He was so outspoken that the oppressive government had him killed; it was his murder that precipitated the conversion of heart of St. Oscar Romero (then already an archbishop) and led to his own activism and ultimate martyrdom.