Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen: close friends, and great figures of the Eastern Church in the fourth century. Basil was Bishop of Caesarea and active in promoting the monastic life, writing a rule which is still observed today. Gregory was Bishop of Constantinople, and because of his great learning is still known in the East as Gregory the Theologian; he eventually retired from the episcopacy to return to his monastery in Nazianzus. Gregory summed up their lives: Our great concern, our great name, was to be Christians and be called Christians.
The Most Holy Name of Jesus: The greatest promoters of this devotion were Saint Bernardine of Siena and Saint John of Capistrano, who used the monogram of the Holy Name in their preaching. Because the manner in which Saint Bernardine preached this devotion was new, he was accused before Pope Martin V, but was successfully defended by John. This feast reminds us that the word Jesus means God Saves, and our salvation comes through Christ alone.
Saint Raymond of Penyafort: at the age of forty-seven Raymond entered the Dominican Order; he then became confessor to Pope Gregory IX, and collated the decrees of Popes and Councils into the Book of Decretals; he also compiled the Summary of Cases, a text book on The Sacrament of Penance for the use of priests. He died, aged around 100, in 1275.
Saint Aelred of Rievaulx: born in 1110, Aelred died at Rievaulx (Yorkshire) on this day in 1167. The son of a priest, he was educated at Durham and in the household of King David of Scotland. In 1134 he visited the newly founded Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, and was so attracted to it that he chose to become a monk there, and was eventually elected abbot. He is remembered for his gift of friendship, for his sensitive and gentle rule, and for his enduringly popular spiritual writings, especially that on friendship.
Saint Hilary: born of pagan parents in Poitiers in France in 315; he and his family were baptised, and shortly afterwards Hilary was chosen as bishop of Poitiers; he fought strenuously against Arianism, being exiled to Phrygia for this. He died in 367, after publishing works outstanding in their doctrine.
17 JanuarySaint Anthony: inspired by the words of the Lord Sell everything you own and give it to the poor Anthony retired to the Egyptian desert at the age of twenty; he attracted many followers, who shared his ascetic life, and bequeathed to the Church an example of life spent in solitude and total devotion to prayer. He died in the year 356, aged about 105.
Saint Wulstan: Wulstan was born in Warwickshire about 1008, and died in 1095. He became a Benedictine monk of the cathedral priory of Worcester, but in 1062 was appointed bishop, and was one of the few Anglo-Saxons in high office to survive the Norman Conquest. He was renowned as a confessor, and his care for the poor and sick and for the high standards he demanded of his clergy.
Saint Fabian: chosen as Bishop of Rome in 236; he gave a great example of steadfastness in face of the persecution of the Church begun when the Emperor Decius decided to restore pagan worship in 250even though this meant Fabian died a martyrs death. He was buried in the catacombs of St Callistus on the Via Appia.
Saint Sebastian: the last great persecution of the Christians in Rome was under the Emperor Diocletian between 303 and 305: it was at this time that Sebastian, a native of Milan, was martyred in Rome. He was buried on the Via Appia, and his tomb subsequently attracted great devotion, being the only one of the ancient catacombs known and visited throughout all subsequent centuries.
Saint Agnes: martyred at the age of twelve or thirteen, according to Saint Ambrose, around the year 300.
Saint Vincent: a deacon from Saragossa in Spain, Vincent died in the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian; as Saint Augustine says: The flesh suffered and the Spirit spoke; and when the Spirit spoke, not only was impiety overcome, but weakness itself was strengthened.
Saint Francis de Sales: born into a noble family in Annecy in 1597, he was ordained priest and worked strenuously for the Church by distributing printed essays on the Catholic faith; he became Bishop of Geneva, exemplary in his pastoral care. He also wrote The Introduction to the Devout Life, a handbook to holiness. He is patron saint of journalists and writers.
Saints Timothy and Titus: disciples and companions of Saint Paul, they were entrusted with the care of the Christian communities of Ephesus and Crete respectively. In the New Testament are preserved Pauls letters of pastoral advice to them.
Saint Angela Merici: born near Brescia, Italy, around 1470, Angela entered the Third Order of St Francis and gathered girls around her to share the work of charity. She founded the Ursulines (who were devoted to education of poor girls) in Brescia in 1535 and died in 1540.
Saint Thomas Aquinas: born in Aquino, Italy, around 1225; entered the Dominican Order, and studied under St. Albert the Great in Cologne; outstanding writer and teacher of philosophy; he died, aged forty-nine, in 1274.
Saint John Bosco: born near Turin in 1815, John was ordained priest and laboured to improve the education of young people, founding in 1859 a religious congregation, called the Salesians, for this purpose.