Saint Anna the Prophetess was the daughter of a man named Phanuel who was of the tribe of Aser, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. She was one of the very, very few faithful Jewish girls who believed with all her heart in the revelations of God in the Old Testament, and who awaited their fulfillment in the New Testament. Saint Anna was married when she was fourteen. She became a widow at twenty-one. She was the one in charge of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the time Mary was presented in the Temple at the age of three until she was betrothed at the age of fourteen. Saint Anna was seventy-two years old when she first met Our Lady. She was eighty-four years old when Mary presented Jesus in the Temple. All other Jewish women in the Temple at that time ignored Jesus. Only Anna greeted Him (Luke 2:36-38). All the Jewish priests ignored Jesus. Only Simeon greeted Him and held Him in his arms, and declared while Anna was listening, “Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace.” The name Anna means grace. Mary was not only full of grace, but was companioned by grace all during her childhood.
Practically every page in the history of the French Revolution is stained with blood. What is known in history as the Carmelite Massacre if 1792, added nearly 200 victims to this noble company of martyrs. They were all priests, secular and religious, who refused to take the schismatic oath, and had been imprisoned in the church attached to the Carmelite monastery in Paris. Among these priests were a Conventual, a Capuchin, and a member of the Third Order Regular. John Francis Burte was born in the town of Rambervillers in Lorraine. At the age of 16 he joined the Franciscans at Nancy and there he also pronounced his solemn vows. In due time he was ordained a priest and for some time taught theology to the younger members of the order. He was at one time also superior of his convent. After Pope Clement XIV, formerly a Conventual friar, had ordered the merging of the province of the Franciscans, to which John Francis belonged, with the Conventuals, Father john Francis was placed in charge of the large convent in Paris and encouraged his brethren to practice strict observance of the rule. His zeal for souls was outstanding, and he zealously guarded the rights of the Church in this troubled period of history. When the French Revolution broke out, he was reported for permitting his priests to exercise their functions after they refused to take the infamous oath required by the government, and which was a virtual denial of their Faith. He was arrested and held captive with other priests in the convent of the Carmelites. His constancy in refusing to take the sacrilegious oath won for him a cruel martyrdom on September 2, 1792. Apollinaris of Posat, who was John James Morel before his entrance into religion, was born near Friboug in Switzerland in 1739, and received his education from the Jesuits. In 1762 he joined the Capuchins in Zug and before long became a prominent preacher, a much-sought confessor, and an eminent instructor of the young clerics of the order/ He impressed on their minds the truth that piety and learning are the two eyes of a priest, and humility was a dominating virtue in his life. In 1788 he was to be sent to the East as a missionary, and so he paused at Paris to study Oriental languages in preparation for his new appointment. But the French Revolution broke out while he was there, and because he steadfastly refused to take the oath of allegiance, he, too, was imprisoned in the Carmelite convent and suffered a cruel martyrdom on September 2, 1792. The priest of the Third Order Regular was Blessed Severin, formerly George Girault, whose undaunted courage merited the grace to be numbered among these martyrs of Christ. He was born at Rouen in Normandy, and early in life joined the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. Because of his eminent mental gifts he was chosen a superior of his order. In the exercise of his priestly duties he displayed marked zeal for souls, and as chaplain of the convent of St. Elizabeth in Paris he was a prudent director in the ways of religious perfection. He was also summoned to take the civil oath, and upon his refusal to do this he was seized and confined in the Carmelite convent where so many other confessors of Christ were being detained. On September 2, while he was saying his Office in the convent garden, the raving assassins made him the first victim of their cruel slaughter. These three members of the Franciscan Order, together with 182 other servants of God who suffered martyrdom at this time, were solemnly beatified by Pope Pius XI, and the Franciscan Order was granted permission to celebrate their feast annually with an Office and special Mass.
Pope St. Gregory was born in Rome, the son of a wealthy Roman Senator. His mother was St. Sylvia. He followed the career of public service that was usual for the son of an aristocratic family, becoming Prefect of the City of Rome, but resigned within a year to pursue monastic life. He founded with the help of his vast financial holdings seven monasteries, of which six were on family estates in Sicily. A seventh, which he placed under the patronage of St. Andrew and which he himself joined, was erected on the Clivus Scauri in Rome. For several years, he lived as a good and holy Benedictine monk. Then Pope Pelagius made him one of the seven deacons of Rome. For six years, he served as permanent ambassador to the Court of Byzantium. In the year 586, he was recalled to Rome, and with great joy returned to St. Andrew’s Monastery. He became abbot soon afterwards and the monastery grew famous under his energetic rule. When the Pope died, Gregory was unanimously elected to take his place because of his great piety and wisdom. However, Gregory did not want that honor, so he disguised himself and hid in a cave, but was found and made Pope anyway. He was elected Pope on September 3, 590, the first monk to be elected to this office. For fourteen years he ruled the Church. Even though he was always sick, Gregory was one of the greatest popes the Church has ever had. He reformed the administration of the Church’s estates and devoted the resulting surplus to the assistance of the poor and the ransoming of prisoners. He negotiated treaties with the Lombard tribes who were ravaging northern Italy, and by cultivating good relations with these and other barbarians he was able to keep the Church’s position secure in areas where Roman rule had broken down. His works for the propagation of the faith include the sending of St. Augustine of Canterbury and his monks as missionaries to England in 596, providing them with continuing advice and support and (in 601) sending reinforcements. He wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality, and morals, and designated himself “servant of the servants of God”, a title which all Popes have used since that time. He never rested and wore himself down to almost a skeleton. Even as he lay dying, he directed the affairs of the Church and continued his spiritual writing. He codified the rules for selecting deacons to make these offices more spiritual. Prior to this, deacons were selected on their ability to sing the liturgy and chosen if they had good voices. Because he loved the solemn celebration of the Eucharist, St. Grergory devoted himself to compiling the Antiphonary, which contains the chants of the Church used during the liturgy (the Gregorian Chant). He also set up the Schola Cantorum, Roman’s famous training school for chorusters. St. Gregory died on March 12, 604 and was buried in St. Peter’s Church. He is designated as the fourth Doctor of the Latin Church. His feast is celebrated on the date of his election as Pope.
St. Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, was a descendant of the great Charlemagne. She was born at Palermo in Sicily. In her youth, her heart turned from earthly vanities to God. She left her home and took up her abode in a cave, on the walls of which she wrote these words: “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.” She remained there entirely hidden from the world. She practiced great mortifications and lived in constant communion with God. Afterward she transferred her abode to Mount Pellegrino, about three miles from Palermo, in order to triumph entirely over the instincts of flesh and blood, in sight of her paternal home. She is said to have appeared after death and to have revealed that she spent several years in a little excavation near the grotto. She died alone, in 1160, ending her strange and wonderful life unknown to the world. Her body was discovered several centuries later, in 1625, during the pontificate of Pope Urban VIII. Her feast day is September 4th.
St. Raymond was born at Portella, Catalonia, Spain. He was delivered by caesarean operation when his mother died in childbirth. Hence his name non natus (not born). He joined the Mercedarians under St. Peter Nolasco at Barcelona. He succeeded Peter as chief ransomer and went to Algeria to ransom slaves.
He remained as hostage for several slaves when his money ran out and was sentenced to be impaled when the governor learned that he had converted several Mohammedans. He escaped the death sentence because of the ransom he would bring, but was forced to run the gauntlet. He was then tortured for continuing his evangelizing activities but was ransomed eight months later by Peter Nolasco. On his return to Barcelona in 1239, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, but died at Cardona a short distance from Barcelona the next year while on the way to Rome.
He was canonized in 1657. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives because of the nature of his own birth. Although his mother died in labor, Raymond miraculously survived the ordeal. His feast day is August 31.
Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community’s compassionate care of elderly poor people. When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19). After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend’s death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England. Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne’s reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community’s constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009.
St. John the Baptist was called by God to be the forerunner of his Divine Son. In order to preserve his innocence spotless, and to improve the extraordinary graces which he had received, he was directed by the Holy Ghost to lead an austere and contemplative life in the wilderness, in the continual exercises of devout prayer and penance, from his infancy till he was thirty years of age. At this age, the faithful minister began to discharge his mission. Clothed with the weeds of penance, he an- nounced to all men the obligation they lay under of washing away their iniquities with the tears of sincere compunction, and proclaimed the Messiah, who was then coming to make his appearance among them. He was received by the people as the true herald of the Most High God, and his voice was, as it were, a trumpet sounding from heaven to summon all men to avert the divine judgments, and to prepare themselves to reap the benefit of the mercy that was offered them. The tetrarch Herod Antipas having, in defiance of all laws divine and human, married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, who was yet living, St. John the Baptist boldly reprehended the tetrarch and his accomplice for so scandalous an incest and adultery, and Herod, urged on by lust and anger, cast the, Saint into prison. About a year after St. John had been made a prisoner, Herod gave a splendid entertainment to the nobility of Galilee. Salome, a daughter of Herodias by her lawful husband, pleased Herod by her dancing, insomuch that he promised her to grant whatever she asked. On this, Salome consulted with her mother what to ask. Herodias instructed her daughter to demand the death of John the Baptist, and persuaded the young damsel to make it part of her petition that the head of the prisoner should be forthwith brought to her in a dish. This strange request startled the tyrant himself; he assented, however, and sent a soldier of his guard to behead the Saint in prison, with an order to bring his head in a charger and present it to Salome, who delivered it to her mother. St. Jerome relates that the furious Herodias made it her inhuman pastime to prick the sacred tongue with a bodkin. Thus died the great forerunner of our blessed Saviour, about two years and three months after his entrance upon his public ministry, about a year before the death of our blessed Redeemer.