Saintly Inspiration

Draw inspiration from our selection of Saints this November.

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St Cecilia (22 November)

St Cecilia, Guido Reni, 1606, Source: WikiArt

Although very little evidence exists surrounding the life of St Cecilia, she was an incredibly popular and famous Saint and Roman Martyr of the early church. Her feast has been celebrated since at least 545 AD.

Legend records that she was a young Christian of high rank who, although forced into marriage, maintained her virginity and converted her husband to Christianity. Her husband and his brother were later martyred for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Cecilia also met the same fate not long after – however, legend surrounding her death states that she continued to live for three days after being struck three times on the neck with a sword. During that time she gave all she had to the poor, preached the Gospel for the conversion of many and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.

Since the Renaissance, St Cecilia has usually been portrayed with a viola or small organ and has become the Patron Saint of musicians. She has come to symbolise the integral role of music in the liturgy and the importance of singing praises to God (both in our hearts and sometimes with our voices). Just as King David said in the Psalms: I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music. (Psalm 101:1).

St Joseph (19 March)

Saint Joseph, Église Saint-Sulpice – Le Bugue, photo by MOSSOT, Source: Wikimedia Commons

St Joseph was wholeheartedly obedient to God by taking Mary as his wife and in the naming of Jesus (Matthew 1:19-25). He also took his family to Egypt to keep them safe (Matthew 2:13-23), and lovingly raised Jesus as his own son (Luke 4:22). It is generally believed that Joseph died before Jesus started his public ministry, and therefore it is assumed that he died with Jesus and Mary close by.

St Joseph is the Patron Saint of (among others): Carpenters, Fathers, Happy death, Workers

St John the Baptist (29 August)

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, c.1607, Source: WikiArt

St John followed in the footsteps of the great prophets of the Old Testament, calling upon the people to repent and be ready for the coming Messiah. He baptised with water but spoke of the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). He pointed Jesus out as the promised Lamb of God (John 1:35-37) and baptised him (Matthew 3:13-17). He had a great following among the people but he always directed away from himself and lived an ascetic lifestyle. His life was centred on God and on his calling.

Herod, despite fearful of John’s popularity among the people, had John beheaded after an oath he made to Herodias at his birthday party (Matthew 14:1-12).

St John’s cult is exceedingly ancient in both the East and West and he was particularly popular during the middle ages. St John is believed to be buried in Samaria.

He is the Patron Saint of the Knights Hospitaller and is believed to protect pilgrims to and from the Holy Land.

St Mary Magdalene (22 July)

Saint Mary Magdalene, the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Wethersfield, Essex, Head hands and feet, Photo by Simon Webster, Source: flickr

St Mary Magdalene is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles”. She had stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother and is the first witness to his Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18). Last year, Pope Francis raised her July 22 memorial to a feast day in the Church’s calendar – reserved for significant events and for saints of particular importance.

Mary is an example and model for women and men in the church alike with her faithful testimony of the Good News. However, the myth’s surrounding Mary have often remembered her more as a prostitute than as a first witness to the Resurrection. Most Scholars today challenge the basis for this and argue that Mary has been wrongly confused with the repentant sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears in Chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel.

St Mary Magdalene is the Patron Saint of Penitents and Perfumers.

St Matthew (21 September)

St Matthew and the Angel, Guido Reni, 1635-1640, Source: Wikimedia Commons

St Matthew witnessed some of the incredible events recorded in the Gospels first hand. Matthew’s calling is recorded in Matthew 9:9-13. It does not hide the despised position Matthew once held. He was a Jew who worked for the Romans as a tax collector, and therefore was considered a traitor and sinner by fellow Jews. However, when Jesus asked Matthew to follow him, Matthew agreed immediately.

Matthew’s Gospel was attributed to him very early on in the history of the church and was likely gathered together by 80 AD. The intended audience included Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus as there are repeated references to the Old Testament, and of how Jesus is the fulfilment of the Jewish prophets and the promise of the Messiah in those Scriptures.

Little is known of Matthew’s later life and death although according to tradition, he was killed on the orders of the king of Ethiopia while celebrating Mass at the altar.

Matthew is the Patron Saint of Accountants, Bankers and Tax collectors among others.

St Mark (25 April)

St Mark, Church Santa Maria della Visitazione – Venice, photo by Didier Descouens, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Paul and Barnabas took Mark along on the first missionary journey and he is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12 (whose mother welcomed Peter into her home when he escaped from prison).

The Gospel of Mark is the oldest and shortest of the Gospels. It was probably written between 60 and 70 AD (after the deaths of Peter and Paul) and for Gentile converts in Rome. It is an action-packed Gospel, with Jesus immediately declaring the Good News that the Kingdom of God had arrived and performing many miracles and healings; displaying that his authority and power comes from God. Mark is keen to show that Jesus is our saviour and the Gospel ends with the Great Commission to preach the Good News to the whole creation (Mark 16:14-16).

St Mark’s body is believed to be buried in Venice, having been taken there in 828 AD by two Venetian merchants who had stolen his body from Alexandria. He is the Patron Saint of the city of Venice and a statue of him stands tall at the port entrance to welcome all sailors as they arrive.

St Luke (18 October)

Saint Luke, Guido Reni, 1621, Source: WikiArt

St Luke’s two-volume work comprises the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. His Gospel is the only one written by a Gentile Christian and he likely wrote it between 70 and 85 AD. Luke was thorough in his research and interviewed eye witnesses when composing his works. Luke’s writing is warm and his Gospel is often summarised as the Gospel of Mercy.

Luke was a disciple of Paul, first appearing in Acts during Paul’s second missionary journey to Philippi. He was a faithful missionary companion of Paul’s and stayed nearby when Paul was imprisoned. Paul refers to Luke as “our beloved physician”.

St Luke is the Patron Saint of Artists/Painters and Physicians/Surgeons.

St John (27 December)

The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene [detail of the middle panel], Pietro Perugino, c. 1482, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tradition has assigned the fourth Gospel to St John, along with three New Testament letters and the Book of Revelation. He was one of Jesus’ first followers, a fisherman working with his father and brother James (who also became Jesus’ disciple) as recorded in Matthew 4:21-22. John holds a privileged position as only he alongside James and Peter (also fishermen) were present at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37-43) and the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42). John was also the only disciple present at the crucifixion of Jesus and the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his mother (John 19:26-27). John is repeatedly described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2), albeit, only in his own Gospel. When we read this ‘son of thunder’s’ beautiful gospel, we see how it reaches heights of understanding beyond the other gospels. It is for this reason that John is given the symbol of the Eagle.

According to Church tradition, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, John went to Ephesus and then later became banished to the Greek Island of Patmos; where he wrote the Book of Revelation. John is believed to be the only apostle not to die a martyr’s death and to live to an old age.

St John is the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendships, and authors.

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (29 September)

St Michael and the Devil, Raphael, c. 1504 – c. 1505 or 1518, Source: Wikimedia Commons
Archangel Gabriel Annunciate, Fra Angelico, 1431 – 1433, Source: WikiArt
Archangel Raphael with Tobias, Pietro Perugino, c.1496 – c.1500, Source: WikiArt

Angels, or messengers from God, appear at key moments in Scripture and always point to the wonderful works of God and inspire worship of God.

St Michael appears a few times throughout the Bible, in Daniel’s vision as “the great prince” who defends Israel against enemies (Daniel 10:13-21) and in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12:7-9) as leading God’s armies in the final victory over evil. Devotion to Michael began in the East during the 4th Century. Michael is the Patron Saint of Police Officers and his symbol is a sword.

St Gabriel is best known for his encounter with Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) but he also appeared in Daniel’s visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). Gabriel is the Patron Saint of broadcasters and his symbols are a trumpet and a lily.

St Raphael’s appearance is recorded in the Book of Tobit where he guides Tobias (Tobit’s son) on his journey to restore his family’s wealth. On the way Raphael protects Tobias, leads him to and heals his future wife, and heals Tobit of his blindness on their return. St Raphael is the Patron Saint of travellers, the blind, ill health, happy meetings, nurses, doctors and care workers. He is often pictured holding a staff and either holding or standing on a fish.

St Brigid of Ireland (1 February)

Saint Brigid, unknown author, illumination from the manuscript “Ruskin Hours”, c. 1300, ms. Ludwig IX 3, f. 106v, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

St Brigid was devoted to the poor and many miracles are attributed to her involving the multiplication of food such as butter. For this reason she is often depicted in icons with a cow lying at her feet. Another miracle attributed to her involves the changing of bath water into beer.

St Brigid founded Kildare Abbey and several other Abbeys in Ireland. Next to St. Patrick, she is Ireland’s most beloved Saint.

The miracle of food multiplication can be found in several places in the Bible, you may want to read the account of Jesus multiplying the 5 loaves and 2 fish in the Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14) or Elijah’s prophecy that the Widow at Zarephath’s flour and oil would not run out before the end of the drought (1 Kings 17:7-16).

She is the Patron Saint of (among others): Ireland, poets and dairymaids.

Saint Teresa of Avila (October 15)

Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Saint Teresa of Avila was a Spanish noblewoman born in 1515. She was called to convent life and entered the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She was a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her ongoing conversion was a lifelong struggle of purification and suffering. She was a contemplative and mystic whose writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers and continue to do so today.

She was active during the Catholic Reformation and reformed the Carmelite Orders. The Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross joined her in this initiative and together they cofounded the Discalced Carmelites – friars and nuns who dedicate themselves to a life of prayer living in cloistered (enclosed) monasteries and following a completely contemplative life. She holds the rare distinction of being the first female declared a Doctor of the Church in recognition of her outstanding spiritual legacy to Catholicism.

Saint Teresa of Avila is the Patron Saint of relief from headaches.

St Stephen (26 December)

Saint Stephen, Giotto, c.1320 – c.1325, Source: WikiArt

St Stephen is described in Acts as ‘a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…’ (Acts 6:5), ‘full of God’s grace and power’ (Acts 6:8) and with a face like that of an angel (Acts 6:15). Because others could not argue with the wisdom with which Stephen spoke he was dragged before the Sanhedrin. There he gave a speech summarising the history of Israel and accusing them of having an idolatrous spirit like that of their ancestors. He was dragged into the street and stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60).

Stephen died looking up to heaven with a vision of God before his eyes and with words of forgiveness on his lips. It’s a death that mirror’s Jesus’. As Tertullian says “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. So Stephen, by dying in this way, as the first Martyr, sets the example of bravery, forgiveness and absolute trust in God. It is also significant that Saul of Tarsus, later renamed Paul, was present at Stephen’s stoning and would later go on to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. 

St Stephen, as a Deacon himself, is the Patron Saint of Deacons.

St Barnabas (11 June)

St Barnabas, the Church of St Barnabas, Heaton, West Yorkshire, England. Photo by Storye book, Source: Wikimedia Commons

St Barnabas introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles, serving as a kind of mediator between them.

He was sent to Antioch to welcome the new Christian community there into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year. Barnabas and Paul fell out over Barnabas’ desire to take Mark with them as they revisited places that had been evangelised. In the end Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus and Paul took Silas to Syria (Acts 15:36-41). Paul, Barnabas and Mark are shown to later reconcile from Paul’s kind mentions of them both in his Epistles (1 Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11).

Legends say that Barnabas was put to death by fire.

St Barnabas is the Patron Saint of Cyprus.

SS Timothy and Titus (26 January)

Saint Timothy (orthodox icon), unknown author, Source: Wikimedia Commons
Saint Titus (orthodox icon), unknown author, 14th Century, Source: Wikimedia Commons

St Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 AD and later became the first bishop of Ephesus. Timothy had fragile health, hence Paul’s advice to him in his letter is often quoted… and followed: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

St Titus is shown to be a peacemaker, administrator and great friend of Paul’s, preaching the Gospel alongside him and becoming the first bishop of Crete. Paul states in his letter to Titus: ‘This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you’ (Titus 1:5).

Both Timothy and Titus ministered to mainly Gentile converts and we learn a lot about their work governing these young communities through the letters of Paul to them (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus).

Due to Saint Timothy’s fragile health, Saints Timothy and Titus are the Patron Saints of Stomach Disorders.

St Joan of Arc (30 May)

Joan of Arc, John Everett Millais, 1865, Source: Wikimedia Commons

When St Joan of Arc was only 12, she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later claimed were Saints Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch calling her to lead France in battle against the English invaders (during the Hundred Years War). Joan gained entry into the French court and was allowed to lead the French troops against the English. She had remarkable success but was betrayed and sold to the English who placed her on trial for heresy and witchcraft. She was burned at the stake as a heretic on 30 May 1431. As she died she looked upon a cross and called on the name of Jesus. Her ashes were thrown into the River Seine. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict and she was Canonized in 1920.

Joan’s life has inspired hundreds of artistic and cultural works. She has been portrayed in art, operas, plays, novels, films, songs and even video games.

Joan’s leadership and boldness in battle can be compared to Deborah in the Bible. You can read her story in Judges 4-5.

St Joan of Arc is the Patron Saint of France and Military Members.

St Padre Pio (23 September)

Padre Pio Portrait, Solomenco Bogdan, 2010, Source: Wikimedia Commons

St Padre Pio was born into a devout Roman Catholic family in 1887. He had a deep relationship with God from a young age and joined the Capuchin order at age 15 where he devoted himself to the discipline of poverty. He received the stigmata in 1918 and they remained with him until his death. Other signs that drew large numbers of pilgrims to him included his gifts of healing, discernment of the many peoples’ souls who came to him for confession, levitation and bilocation: his ability to be in two places at once.

St Padre Pio was deeply devoted to the Eucharist. He prayed to share in Christ’s suffering and daily offered himself in union with the sacrifice of the Mass. A famous quote of his is: “it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the holy Mass.” He had a profound veneration of Our Lady and spent his nights praying the rosary.

Many reported the unmistakable aroma of violets and roses upon visiting him and those closest to him said this aroma of flowers emanated from the stigmata.

His life was met with scepticism by the Roman Curia who banned him from offering Mass in public for a time. This ban was lifted by Pope Pius XI in 1933. He died in 1968 and was canonised in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. The Sanctuary of St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is located in San Giovanni Rotondo, Province of Foggia, Italy.

Blessed Carlo Acutis (Beatified 10 October, Feast Day 14 October)

Photograph of Carlo Acutis, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Carlo Acutis is the youngest person to feature on our list and the most modern. He was an English-born Italian Catholic who died of leukemia in 2006, at the age of 15. On 10 October 2020 he was beatified at a special Mass in the city of Assisi and is now just one step away from sainthood.

Carlo had a very special love for God from a young age and encouraged his parents to attend Mass in Italy where they lived. His witness of faith led to a deep conversion in his mum. He loved to pray the rosary, went to Mass daily, to confession weekly and asked his parents to take him on pilgrimages. He also had an interest in gaming, computer programming and football, just like so many boys his age, although he only allowed himself to play video games for an hour a week. Carlo used his knowledge of programming and the internet to spread his faith, creating a website to catalogue and promote Eucharistic miracles.

When he was diagnosed with leukemia he offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying “I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the Pope, and the Church.” He is buried in the Church of St Mary ‘Maggiore’, Assisi, Italy. In February 2020, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him.