Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year: Volumes One–Four

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About this Four–Volume Series:

If a list were made of the greatest human beings who have ever lived, the saints in this four-volume series would be at the top. Though historians often attempt to judge greatness from a subjective perspective, there must be objective criteria by which human greatness is judged. The only Being capable of establishing that criteria is God. The criteria that God has established are the virtues, as identified by Jesus and revealed by Him through the holy Gospels.

The goal of this four-volume series is to present each saint found on the Catholic liturgical calendar (as a Solemnity, Feast, or Memorial) in such a way so as to identify the Godly virtues that place each one on that list. The Church has already confirmed the saints’ greatness and their heroic virtues. Importantly, God chose the men and women found in these pages, not only for greatness in their lifetimes, but also as models of holiness in ours. These men and women are gifts to you, given by God through the Church.

Every saint is unique, but every saint is similar because each one became a living witness to Christ and the Gospels for a world in need. Some saints were united to God through martyrdom, some through virginity and chastity, some through works of charity, and some through lives of intense prayer. The saints have come from every culture, every socio-economic background, every level of education, and every personality type. Within every saint, God shines forth, radiating His abundant mercy through the diversity of their lives. In the end, it is not their personality, preferences, gifts, or any other unique qualities that unite them as the one communion of saints. It is God and God alone Who floods their souls and forms them into a united song of praise of God’s eternal glory.

Why read about the saints? Why learn about their lives? Why ponder what they said and did? The answer is simple. You are called to be among their company. You are called to become as holy as they were, transformed by God’s grace, and to radiate that grace in the world today.

At first, the virtues of the saints might seem to be out of your reach. The saints can appear to be superhuman. The truth is that the saints became fully human by becoming who God created them to be. They rejected the deceptions of the devil, the seductions of the world, and the weaknesses of the flesh. Instead, they discovered the truths of God, sought out the riches of Heaven, and became filled with the strength of every virtue.

As you read about the lives of the saints, ponder their words and actions, study their heroic virtues, and learn from their lives of prayer, allow yourself not only to be inspired by them but also to desire to imitate them. Nothing is stopping you from being counted among the saints in Heaven. God promises to lavish every grace upon you that you need to walk down that holy path. Only when you refuse His grace is that mission thwarted.

 

How to Use these Books

There are three ways one can read this four-volume series. First, it is arranged according to the liturgical year. The saints and feasts contained in these volumes are those that are on the General Roman Calendar (the universal calendar), with the additions unique to the United States. Therefore, the structure of these volumes enables the reader to prayerfully learn about the saints and feasts as they are celebrated throughout the year.

A second way to use this book is to reference the feasts and saints in alphabetical orderA third way to use this book is by using a chronological listing of the saints and feasts. For those who wish to use these volumes as a source of study, the chronological approach is ideal. By tracing the history of the Church from the very beginning, moving century by century, you will gain a clearer understanding of the way the Holy Spirit orchestrated the Church through the various historical, political, and cultural periods to date. More will be said on this chronological approach later in this Introduction.

 

The Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar

The liturgical year itself is a precious gift to the Church. The Scriptural feasts during the year are chronologically arranged to help us walk through the entire mystery of salvation every year. We begin with Advent when we ponder the first coming of Christ, as well as His final coming at the end of time. During Advent, we ponder the Blessed Mother’s pregnancy and all that leads up to Jesus’ birth. The Christmas Octave gives us eight days to celebrate the glorious nativity of Christ in Bethlehem and concludes with the new calendar year Solemnity of the Mother of God on January 1. During that octave we also honor the Holy Innocents, whose blood was shed by King Herod, and the Holy Family who lived as a community of love in Nazareth. The Christmas season is short and includes the Epiphany when the Magi from the East came to do homage to the newborn King.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a transitional feast between Jesus’ hidden life in Nazareth and His public ministry upon which we reflect during Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time presents us with the many teachings and miracles our Lord performed during the three years leading up to His death and resurrection.

Lent presents us with an opportunity to join our Lord for forty days in the desert and to turn from sin and temptation. Holy Week begins with His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem when the people cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). Through the week we ponder the growing hostility of the scribes and Pharisees, the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Jesus’ agony in the garden, His arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment. On Good Friday we prayerfully ponder Jesus’ mock trial, scourging, sentencing to death, and crucifixion. Holy Saturday commemorates Jesus’ sleep in the tomb and His descent to the dead. On Easter Sunday, we begin the octave celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection that culminates with the relatively new Solemnity of Divine Mercy Sunday. We continue to ponder His resurrection appearances throughout the Easter Season. Forty days after Easter we celebrate His Ascension into Heaven, and fifty days after Easter we celebrate the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the Church at Pentecost.

At the completion of the Easter Season, we return to Ordinary Time and immediately celebrate several glorious feasts that transcend time—the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, and the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As Ordinary Time continues, we rejoice in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Other mysteries of our faith are celebrated during this period, such as the Triumph of the Cross, the Feast of the Archangels, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

The last Sunday in Ordinary Time draws our attention to the glorious and final things to come—the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This final solemnity of the liturgical year turns our attention to the Second Coming of Christ and the New Heavens and New Earth. By using this book as a source of reflection on these glorious annual celebrations, you are invited to ponder the full mystery of the history of salvation, giving thanks to God for His grace and invitation to eternal joy.

 

The Saints of the Liturgical Year

The ordering of the saints within the liturgical year is primarily based upon significant dates in their lives. Many saints are honored on the day they died. Others are assigned a particular day because that day holds particular significance in their life for other reasons.

Though the celebration of the saints on the day each is assigned within the liturgical year is important, it is also useful to reflect upon their lives according to the historical context in which they lived. The second appendix in the back of this book is helpful to those who wish to learn more about the evolution of the Church since its birth on Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit Who has guided the Church and continues to guide the Church through the ministry of the saints.

For those who would like to study the history of the Church, and especially ways in which the Holy Spirit continues to guide our Church leaders, the lives of the saints are the truest guide. Appendix Two in the back of this volume is especially for those who wish to prayerfully ponder the ways that God has led the Church through both glorious and tumultuous times. God has raised up reformers, martyrs, mystics, and teachers in each age to meet the particular needs of that age. A chronological pondering of the saints helps reveal some of the most fruitful periods in the history of the Church when God was exceptionally active, calling His people to exceptional holiness. For those interested in prayerfully pondering the chronological intervention of the Holy Spirit in the history of the Church, the introduction in Appendix Two will be helpful.

No matter which approach you choose to take, let us pray for God to guide you as you prepare to enter into prayerful reflection on the feasts and saints of the liturgical year. The saints are among the greatest teachers of our faith by their writings and example, and the Scriptural celebrations of the mysteries of our salvation are essential to our understanding of God’s love for us and His ongoing work in our lives. May you be blessed as you read about the heroes of our faith and the ways in which our Lord and His Blessed Mother transformed humanity by their sacred intervention and transformation of human life.

Saints of God, you now dwell in Heaven, fully united to your loving God. While here on earth, you struggled valiantly and faithfully through the many challenges of life. As you gaze upon my soul from Heaven, please pray fervently for me. Pray that I learn to imitate your virtues, discover true prayer, and love and serve the will of God to the same height as you did. I want to become holy. I want to be filled with every virtue. I want to radiate the love and mercy of God in my life. I want to become one with our loving God. I want to become a saint. Saints of God, pray for me, pray for all those struggling through this life, and pray for those enduring their final purification after death. Saints of God, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.

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