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May Saints

2 May

Saint Athanasius: foremost in the fight against Arianism, Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria; for his work against Arius, he was vilified and exiled several times. He died in 373.


3 May

Saints Philip and James: Philip was born at Bethsaida. Formerly a disciple of John the Baptist, he became a follower of Christ. James, the son of Alphaeus and cousin of the Lord, ruled the Church at Jerusalem, wrote a Letter and was martyred in the year 62.


4 May

The English Martyrs: on this day in 1535 there died at Tyburn three Carthusian monks, the first of many martyrs. Of these martyrs, forty-two have been canonised and a further 242 declared blessed, but the number of those who died on the scaffold, perished in prison, or suffered harsh persecution for their faith in the course of a century and a half cannot now be reckoned. They came from every walk of life; there are among them rich and poor, married and single, women and men. They are remembered for the example they gave of constancy in their faith, and courage in the face of persecution.


12 May

Saints Nereus and Achilleus: Roman soldiers who converted to Christianity; for this they were executed. Their tomb is in a cemetery on the Via Ardeatina in Rome, where a basilica was erected in their honour.


12 May

Saint Pancras: Pancras suffered martyrdom under Diocletian (c.304), and was buried on the Via Aurelia, again with a basilica over his tomb. Tradition tells that he was only 12 or 14 at the time of his death.


13 May

Our Lady of Fatima: The Blessed Virgin appeared six times to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, between May 13 and October 13, 1917 in the little village of Fatima (Portugal). The message given at Fatima is one of repentance, so that the world may be transformed into the place of grace and peace willed by Almighty God.


14 May

Saint Matthias: chosen by the apostles to take the place of Judas Iscariot, so that the number of apostles might remain as twelve. Tradition has it that Matthias went on to preach in Ethiopia. Note: there is a misprint in today’s First Reading (Lectionary II p.1023): the middle of the penultimate paragraph should read: “...someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising…”


18 May

Saint John I, Pope: John comes from a strange and dark period of history at the beginning of the sixth century: the Roman Empire in the West was in ruins, and was ruled by Theodoric the Goth; meanwhile the glory of Rome lived on in Constantinople. There, the Emperor (Justin) began a ruthless persecution of the Arians: Theodoric, who was himself an Arian, sent the Pope to restrain the Emperor, but was furious when John returned - accusing him of plotting. He had him imprisoned at Ravenna for the rest of his life. John is therefore honoured as a martyr.


19 May

Saint Dunstan: Dunstan was born near Glastonbury in 909, and died in Canterbury on this day in 988. He studied secular arts and literature before becoming a monk, then abbot, at Glastonbury. He was the principal agent in the restoration of English monasticism after the Viking devastations. In rapid succession, he became bishop of Worcester, bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury. A man of many talents, he was renowned as a painter, musician, and worker in metals, besides being a counsellor of kings and a zealous reforming bishop.


20 May

Saint Bernardine of Siena: born near Siena (Italy) in 1380, Bernardine became a Franciscan and was ordained priest in 1404; he gained a reputation as a great preacher, and propagated devotion to the holy name of Jesus. He died in 1444.


21 May

Saint Christopher Magallanes: Born to a farm family, and worked as a shepherd in his youth. He was ordained priest, and helped to found schools, a newspaper, catechism centres for children and adults, carpentry shops, and an electric plant. Arrested and shot without trial on 21 May 1927 while en route to celebrate Mass, his final words were “I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serves toward the peace of our divided Mexico.”


22 May

Saint Rita of Cascia: Despite an early desire to enter religious life, Rita was married at the age of 18; after the violent death of her abusive husband, and the death of her children, she joined the Augustinian monastery in Cascia (Italy) at the age of 36. Rita lived as a wife, mother, widow, and nun, buried her family, helped bring peace to her city - and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.


25 May

Saint Bede the Venerable: Bede was born in 673, and was educated by the Benedictines; he eventually joined the monastery there, and began a life of great erudition, producing many writings: he particularly worked on the interpretation of the Scriptures and the History of the Church in Britain. He died in the year 735.


26 May

Saint Philip Neri: renowned for his prayerfulness and sense of fun and humour, Philip was born in Florence in 1515; he arrived in Rome, and after a mystical experience in the catacombs, gathered a community of friends to look after the sick, which eventually became the Oratory. He died in 1595.


27 May

Saint Augustine of Canterbury: in 597 Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine, then a monk of the monastery of Saint Peter on the Celian hill in Rome, to evangelise the people of Britain. Despite turning back once, Augustine succeeded in converting king Ethelbert and founding the see of Canterbury. He died in 605.