Happy Sunday! As we approach the penitential season of Advent, which leads up to Christmas, it’s a good time to reflect on what it means to sacrifice and suffer for God, as the saints we celebrated this week did.
St. Martin of Tours (Nov. 11) was a Roman soldier and convert who famously cut his cloak to give half to a beggar, and then later saw a vision where Jesus revealed He had been the beggar Martin helped! Martin later decided his faith prevented him from continuing to fight, and he went to be a spiritual student of St. Hilary of Poitiers and founder of a monastery. He became the reluctant bishop of Tours, in modern France, and governed his diocese while living in a hermit’s cell. He preached against the heresy of Arianism but asked that heretics not be executed. He saw visions, and did much good for his people—once an angel woke up the emperor to tell him Martin was coming to ask for mercy for a prisoner!
St. Josaphat Kuncevyc (Nov. 12): “[B]ishop of Polotsk. Josaphat Kuncewicz, bishop of the Greek Catholic Church and martyr, spurred his flock to Catholic unity by his constant effort and nurtured the Byzantine-Slavic Church by his pious love. At Vitebsk in Belarus (then under the control of Poland), he was cruelly seized by an angry mob and died for the unity of the Church and in defense of the Catholic truth [died 1623. ECPubs].”
The title of Archangels (Nov. 8, Byzantine calendar) refers to two groups: the second of the nine choirs of angels, and also more particularly (Tobit 12:15) “the seven [angels], who stand before the Lord.” The archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are all mentioned in the Bible.
Pope St. Leo the Great (Nov. 10) was a theologian and bishop who fought against the heresy of Nestorianism, which taught that Christ had two persons (instead of two natures)—divine and human—and rejected Mother Mary’s title of “Theotokos,” or “God-bearer” (they argued that Mary only carried the human person of Christ). The true doctrine is that Christ has two natures united in one person, meaning Mary was in fact the Theotokos. Leo also argued against the heresy of Eutyches—which said Jesus had only one nature—and other heresies too, including by calling the Council of Chalcedon. He saved Rome from destruction by Attila the Hun. When Leo came out to stop Attila from attacking Rome, the invader saw a vision of a priest threatening to strike him with a sword, and left (the vision is generally believed to be St. Peter). Pope Leo also interceded to protect his people from the invasion of Genseric. Leo is a Doctor of the Church (d. 461).
Bl. John Duns Scotus (Nov. 8) was a Scottish Franciscan, a professor at Cambridge, University of Paris, and Oxford, and a brilliant theologian. John borrowed from many thinkers—pagan, Christian, and Muslim—but was nevertheless an original thinker too. His defense of the teaching of Mary’s Immaculate Conception—that Mary was preserved from sin through the foreseen merits of Christ from the moment of her conception—was so powerful that it became the official teaching of the University of Paris and later led to the pope’s doctrinal definition of the Immaculate Conception. John died while teaching in Germany.
St. Peter Wu Guosheng (Nov. 7) was an 18th century married Chinese innkeeper who converted to Catholicism and began enthusiastically evangelizing others. Arrested for his refusal to abandon the faith, Peter led other prisoners in prayer and wrote letters to his wife encouraging her to focus on Heaven. As he arrived at the execution site, where he was hanged, he reportedly exclaimed, “Heaven, heaven, my hometown! I saw the glory of heaven, I saw the Savior Jesus! I saw the Mother of God and my guardian angel coming down to meet me!”
Read the rest on Substack.
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