St. Sebastian

Sebastian was the son of a wealthy Roman family. He was educated in Milan and became an officer of the imperial Roman army, and Captain of the Guard. He was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian. During Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing both supplies and comfort. He is reported to have healed the wife of a fellow soldier by making the sign of the cross over her. During his time in the army he converted many soldiers and a governor.Charged as a Christian in 288 in Rome, Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and left for dead. However, he survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian, where the emperor then had him beaten to death.During the 14th century, the random nature of the blak plague caused people to say that the plague was intruduced to thier villages through being shot by natures archers. In desparation they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and Saint Sebastian became associated with the plague.

St. Canutus, King of Denmark

Saint Canutus, King of Denmark,  succeeded his elder brother Harold on the throne of Denmark in the year 1080. He began his reign by a successful war against the enemies of the state, and by planting the faith in the conquered provinces. Amid the glory of his victories he humbly prostrated himself at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem, and offering himself and his kingdom to the King of kings. After having provided for the peace and safety of his country, he married Eltha, daughter of Robert, Earl of Flanders, who proved herself a spouse worthy of him.The justice of Saint Canutus as sovereign was well known. He applied himself to the reform of all internal abuses. For this purpose he enacted severe but necessary laws for the strict administration of justice, the repression of violence and tyranny by the powerful, without respect to persons. He favored and honored holy men, and granted many privileges and immunities to the clergy. His charity and tenderness towards his subjects made him study all possible ways to make them a happy people.During a rebellion in his kingdom, the king was surprised at church by the rebels. He confessed his sins and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, he was struck down on his knees by the enemies of his Christian reign.

St. Charles of Sezze

Saint Charles was born John Charles Marchioni in Sezze, Italy on October 19, 1613.  His family was extremely pious. They lived in a rural area and as a child Saint Charles worked as a shepherd.  Due to his lack of education, it is said he learned only the basics and could barely read and write. He joined the Franciscans as a lay brother in Naziano, where he served as a cook, porter, and gardener.Saint Charles was known for his holiness, simplicity, and charity.  He was generous to travellers and sought out spiritual advice.  In 1656 he worked tirelessly with victims of the plague.  He also wrote several mystical works including his autobiography entitled “The Grandeurs of the Mercies of God”.  Tradition states he was called to the bedside of the dying Pope Clement IX for a blessing.Saint Charles died on January 6, 1670 in Rome of natural causes, and he is buried in Rome in the Church of Saint Francis.  He was Canonized by Pope John XXIII on April 12, 1959.

St. Anthony of Egypt

On his Jan. 17 feast day, both Eastern and Western Catholics celebrate the life and legacy of St. Anthony of Egypt, the founder of Christian monasticism whose radical approach to discipleship permanently impacted the Church. In Egypt’s Coptic Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which have a special devotion to the native saint, his feast day is celebrated on Jan. 30. Anthony was born around 251, to wealthy parents who owned land in the present-day Faiyum region near Cairo. During this time, the Catholic Church was rapidly spreading its influence throughout the vast expanses of the Roman empire, while the empire remained officially pagan and did not legally recognize the new religion. In the course of his remarkable and extraordinarily long life, Anthony would live to see the Emperor Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire. Anthony himself, however, would establish something more lasting – by becoming the spiritual father of the monastic communities that have existed throughout the subsequent history of the Church. Around the year 270, two great burdens came upon Anthony simultaneously: the deaths of both his parents, and his inheritance of their possessions and property. These simultaneous occurrences prompted Anthony to reevaluate his entire life in light of the principles of the Gospel– which proposed both the redemptive possibilities of his personal loss, and the spiritual danger of his financial gains. Attending church one day, he heard –as if for the first time– Jesus’ exhortation to another rich young man in the Biblical narrative: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.â€� Anthony told his disciples in later years, that it was as though Christ has spoken those words to him directly. He duly followed the advice of selling everything he owned and donating the proceeds, setting aside a portion to provide for his sister. Although organized monasticism did not yet exist, it was not unknown for Christians to abstain from marriage, divest themselves of possessions to some extent, and live a life focused on prayer and fasting. Anthony’s sister would eventually join a group of consecrated virgins. Anthony himself, however, sought a more comprehensive vision of Christian asceticism. He found it among the hermits of the Egyptian desert, individuals who chose to withdraw physically and culturally from the surrounding society in order to devote themselves more fully to God. But these individuals’ radical way of life had not yet become an organized movement. After studying with one of these hermits, Anthony made his own sustained attempt to live alone in a secluded desert location, depending on the charity of a few patrons who would provide him with enough food to survive. This first period as a hermit lasted between 13 and 15 years. Like many saints both before and after him, Anthony became engaged in a type of spiritual combat, against unseen forces seeking to remove him from the way of perfection he had chosen. These conflicts took their toll on Anthony in many respects. When he was around 33 years old, a group of his patrons found him in serious condition, and took him back to a local church to recover. This setback did not dissuade Anthony from his goal of seeking God intensely, and he soon redoubled his efforts by moving to a mountain on the east bank of the Nile river. There, he lived in an abandoned fort, once again subsisting on the charity of those who implored his prayers on their behalf. He attracted not only these benefactors, but a group of inquirers seeking to follow after his example. In the first years of the fourth century, when he was about 54, Anthony emerged from his solitude to provide guidance to the growing community of hermits that had become established in his vicinity. Although Anthony had not sought to form such a community, his decision to become its spiritual father – or “Abbotâ€�– marked the beginning of monasticism as it is known today. Anthony himself would live out this monastic calling for another four decades, providing spiritual and practical advice to disciples who would ensure the movement’s continued existence. According to Anthony’s biographer, St. Athanasius, the Emperor Constantine himself eventually wrote to the Abbot, seeking advice on the administration of an empire that was now officially Christian. “Do not be astonished if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man,â€� Anthony told the other monks. “But rather: wonder that God wrote the Law for men, and has spoken to us through his own Son.â€� Anthony wrote back to Constantine, advising him “not to think much of the present, but rather to remember the judgment that is coming, and to know that Christ alone was the true and Eternal King.â€� St. Anthony may have been up to 105 years old when he died, sometime between 350 and 356. In keeping with his instructions, two of his disciples buried his body secretly in an unmarked grave.

St. Marcellus, Pope 

Nothing of Marcellus’ life before his papacy has survived the centuries. He became Pope at the end of the persecutions of Diocletian in aound 308-309. The persecutions had disrupted the Church so much that there had been a gap of over a year with no Pope. Once he was elected, he faced several challenges, including reconsituting the clergy, which had been decimated and whose remnant had practiced their vocation only covertly and with the expectation of martyrdom. He worked hard to recover and welcome back all who had denied the faith in order to keep from being murdered.When a group of the apostacized, known as the Lapsi, refused to do penance, Marcellus refused to allow their return to the Church. The Lapsi had a bit of political pull, and some members caused such civil disruption that emperor Maxentius exiled the Pope in order to settle the matter. Legend says that Marcellus was forced to work as a stable slave as punishment, but this appears to be fiction, however we do know that he died of the terrible conditions he suffered in exile, and is considered a martyr because of that.He was initially buried in the cemetery of Saint Priscilla in Rome, but his relics were later transferred to beneath the altar of San Marcello al Corso Church in Rome where they remain today.

St. Paul of Thebes

On Jan. 15, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Paul of Thebes, whose life of solitude and penance gave inspiration to the monastic movement during its early years.   Surviving in the Egyptian desert on a small amount of daily food, St. Paul the Hermit lived in close communion with God. Before the end of his life at age 113, he met with St. Anthony the Great, who led an early community of monks elsewhere in the Egyptian desert.   Born in approximately 230, the future hermit Paul received a solid religious and secular education, but lost his parents at age 15. During the year 250, the Roman Emperor Decius carried out a notorious persecution of the Church, executing clergy and forcing laypersons to prove their loyalty by worshiping idols. The state used torture, as well as the threat of death, to coerce believers into making pagan sacrifices.   Paul went into hiding during the Decian persecution, but became aware of a family member’s plan to betray him to the authorities. The young man retreated to a remote desert location, where he discovered a large abandoned cave that had once been used as a facility for making counterfeit coins. He found that he could survive on water from a spring, and the fruit of a tree that grew nearby. Forced into the wilderness by circumstance, Paul found he loved the life of prayer and simplicity that it made possible. Thus, he never returned to the outside world, even though he lived well into the era of the Church’s legalization and acceptance by the Roman Empire. Later on, his way of life inspired Catholics who sought a deeper relationship with God through spiritual discipline and isolation from the outside world.   One of these faithful was Anthony of Egypt, born in the vicinity of Cairo around 251, who also lived to an old age after deciding during his youth to live in the desert out of devotion to God. Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because Anthony, around the year 342, was told in a dream about the older hermit’s existence, and went to find him. A similar knowledge about Anthony had been mysteriously given to the earlier hermit. Thus, when he appeared at Paul’s cave, they greeted each other by name, though they had never met. Out of contact with the Roman Empire for almost a century, Paul asked about its condition, and whether paganism was still practiced. He told Anthony how, for the last 60 years, a bird had brought him a ration of bread each day – a mode of subsistence also granted to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.   After 113 years, most of them spent in solitary devotion, Paul understood that he was nearing the end of his earthly life. He asked Anthony to return to his own hermitage, and bring back a cloak that had been given to the younger monk by the bishop St. Athanasius. That heroically orthodox bishop had not yet been born when Paul first fled to the desert, and Anthony had never mentioned him or the cloak in question. Amazed, Anthony paid reverence to Paul and set out to fulfill his request.   During the return trip, Anthony was shown a vision of St. Paul of Thebes’ soul, glorified and ascending toward Heaven. On returning to the first hermit’s cave, he venerated the body of its inhabitant, wrapped him in Athanasius’ cloak, and carried him outdoors. Saint Jerome, in his “Life of St. Paul the First Hermit,â€� attests that two lions arrived, demonstrated their reverence, and dug a grave for the saint.   Having given him Athanasius’ cloak, St. Anthony took back to his hermitage the garment which St. Paul of Thebes had woven for himself from palm leaves. Anthony passed on the account of his journey and the saint’s life to his own growing group of monastic disciples, and it was written down by St. Jerome around the year 375 – approximately 33 years after the death of the first hermit. Venerated on the same day by Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, St. Paul of Thebes is also the namesake of a Catholic monastic order – the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit – founded in Hungary during the 13th century and still in operation.

St. Sava, Archbishop of Serbia

Originally Prince Rastko Nemanjic, he was the first Patriarch of Serbia (1219-1233) and is an important Saint in the Serbian Orthodox Church.In his youth (around 1192) St. Sava escaped from home to join the Orthodox monastic colony on Mount Athos and was given the name Sava. He first traveled to a Russian monastery and then moved to a Greek monastery, Vatoped. At the end of 1197 his father, King Stefan Nemanja, joined him. In 1198 the former prince and king restored the abandoned monastery Hilandar, which was at that time the center of Serbian Christian monastic life.St. Sava’s father took the monastic vows under the name Simeon, and died in Hilandar on February 13, 1200. He is also canonized, as Saint Simeon.After his father’s death, Sava retreated to an ascetic monastery in Kareya which he built himself in 1199. He also wrote the Kareya typicon both for Hilandar and for the monastery of ascetism. St. Sava managed to persuade the Patriarch of the Greek/Byzantine Orthodox Church to elevate him to the position of the first Serbian archbishop, thereby establishing the independence of the archbishopic of the serbian church in the year of 1219.Saint Sava is celebrated as the founder of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church and as the patron saint of education and medicine among Serbs. Since the 1830s, Saint Sava has become the patron Saint of Serbian schools and students. After participating in a ceremony called “blessing of the waters” he developed a cough that progressed into pneumonia. He died from pneumonia in the evening between Saturday and Sunday, January 14, 1235. He was buried at the Cathedral of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Trnovo. He remained in Trnovo until May 6, 1237, when his sacred bones were moved to the monastery Mileseva in southern Serbia. Three-hundred and sixy years later the Ottoman Turks dug out his bones and burnt them on the main square in Belgrade.The temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade, whose construction was planned in 1939 and began in 1985 is built on the place where his holy bones were burned.