To live, grow, and share our faith, let us turn to the wisdom of six saints of August– holy and excellent priests and one famously devoted mother of a priest. These saints remind us to adore the Real Presence in the Eucharist, go to Confession regularly, pray the Rosary faithfully, be humble, evangelize, and pray ceaselessly. Their words are practical and poetic all at once.
So meet an Arthritic Bishop, a Sleepless Patron of Holy Orders, an Incomparable Preacher, a Faithful Chaplain, a Forthright Apostle, and a Prayerful Mother of a Priest!
St. Alphonsus Liguori was a lawyer who became a priest. He founded the Redemptorists and became a bishop in Italy. He suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis and endured jealousy and betrayal. The Eucharist sustained him throughout his life, and he wrote:
“If you desire to find Him immediately, He is quite close to you. Tell Him what you desire, for it is to console you and grant your prayer that He remains in the tabernacle.”
This year, the USCCB launched a National Eucharistic Revival. But whatever the year, we are called to revive our love of the Eucharist in ourselves and others. Some ways to do this include adding daily Mass to our week, Eucharistic Adoration, and even visiting a church during the off hours to spend some time with Jesus in the Tabernacle.
We should aim to not to just rush out after Mass has ended or immediately engage in conversation, but to spend time in prayer with our Eucharistic Lord whom we have just received. We should use this time to earnestly pray and talk with Him.
August 4 — St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney was a priest who, believe it or not, had trouble passing his seminary exam and did so only with great difficulty. This makes him a very endearing saint to pray to for help with our exams or theological studies. And it also goes to show that brilliant minds do not always do well on tests valued by the world.
John Vianney was ordained at 29, and assigned a tiny parish in Ars, France. He became know as the Curé d’Ars, the patron saint of parish priests and confessors, and is famous for deeply improving the spiritual life of his entire parish. Here are some famous words of wisdom from the Curé d’Ars that we would do well to follow:
“Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels and the saints. They are your public.”
St. John Vianney had a great zeal for hearing confessions and he worked tirelessly to administer that sacrament — often as many as 16 hours a day. He wouldn’t eat or get much sleep, but rather, stay in the confessional and keep at his holy work of reconciling souls to God.
In honor of St. John Vianney, let’s go to Confession this week. After saying our penance, it’s a nice idea to add a prayer for the special intentions of the priest who heard our Confession. It’s a good reminder in this year of the National Eucharistic Revival that we only receive the Eucharist if we are in a state of grace; which we do by frequent confession. Even if our sins are venial and not mortal, Confession drastically improves the state of our soul, bringing us closer to God, and is the best self-help we can give ourselves.
Guess who was so moved by the example of St. John Vianney in the confessional that he resolved to be like him? If you guessed Pope John Paul II you’d be right! He went to Confession every week. Read more about that here.
August 8 — St. Dominic
When St. Dominic, a priest, accompanied his bishop on a voyage and found many who had strayed into the dualist Albigensian heresy, he resolved to do something about it. He formed the Order of Preachers in 1216 and Pope Honorius III approved it.
St. Dominic is famous for being given the Rosary by Our Lady in an apparition as she said to him, “I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”
The Angelic Psalter is another way of explaining the Rosary, since the number of prayers of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries match the number of psalms — 150 — and help us to meditate on the Life of Christ. St. Dominic’s preaching, however powerful, was nothing compared to the power of the Rosary, though. In the words of St. Dominic,
“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.”
This powerful priest was made stronger through the Rosary. In that spirit, let’s say our daily Rosary and watch the good fruit it bears in our lives.
August 20 — St. Bernard
St. Bernard called himself, endearingly, “Mary’s faithful chaplain,” and that was the spirit with which he lived and helped to start many reforms.
At the request of popes, St. Bernard arbitrated disputes and roused the faithful throughout Europe. He was known as one of the church’s “thaumaturges,” or wonder-workers. Poor souls awaiting his healing touch would actually line the roads he traveled by the thousands. And all the while this great saint was working tirelessly, he suffered terrible stomach trouble … lasting his whole life long. In the words of this faithful chaplain,
“The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” So in the spirit of St. Bernard, let’s increase our humility by praying the Litany of Humility.
August 24 — St. Bartholomew
Mentioned in three synoptic Gospels, this apostle was known also as “Nathaniel” in John’s Gospel, where Jesus describes the saint this way: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.”
Jesus goes on to say that He saw Bartholomew/Nathanael “under the fig tree,” which means something special to Bartholomew who in, in amazement, answers Him,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:47-48). What a beautiful statement of faith!
St. Bartholomew is known as founder of the Armenian church because after the Resurrection he evangelized in India and greater Armenia. He was beheaded and died a martyr. His example of earnest love of God, without any duplicity, is a model worth following. May we be faithful and guileless witnesses to the Gospel, as he was!
August 27 — St. Monica
Many saintly and holy priests throughout church history have loved their earthly mothers greatly and been blessed and edified by their mother’s holy example. St. Augustine is no exemption; in fact, he famously credited his conversion to his mother’s ceaseless prayers and good works.
St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine (one of the most brilliant and erudite priests of all time and a great saint) is a much-beloved saint in her own right. She is a beautiful example of praying without ceasing and storming heaven for her child. She followed Augustine to Rome, then to Milan, where he became a Catholic at age 32. When she fell ill and was near death, she told him,
“I only ask this of you: that you remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you are.”
This was a parent who made faith a priority and would not rest until her son did the same, no matter how much prayer, fasting, and good works it took on her part to intercede for his soul. God rewarded her many tears and sacrifices in spades!
Saints of August, as we seek and savor your words of wisdom, pray for us!