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Saints & Sacred


It would have been easy for St. Francis Caracciolo to be a name dropper; born at Naples into Italian nobility in 1563, he was related on his mother's side to the great St. Thomas Aquinas. But the word that described him best was humility, for it was this virtue that guided him throughout his life.

When he was 22, Francis developed a skin condition resembling leprosy; he vowed that, if he was cured, he would devote the rest of his life to God. When the condition disappeared, Francis made good on his promise; he sold everything he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, and went to Naples to study for the priesthood.

While there, he became cofounder of a religious order, the Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular. Members of this new order took the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to which they added a fourth–that they would not actively seek positions of authority either within the Church or the order itself. Even though elected superior several times, Francis kept that vow by doing whatever menial tasks the members needed.

Francis, the patron saint of Naples, died of natural causes in 1608. His feast day is June 4.

Sources for these articles include:


Paoli, Francesco. "St. Francis Caracciolo." The Catholic Encyclopedia.Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.

"Saint Francis Caracciolo," CatholicSaints.Info. 29 May 2015.

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.



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It is ironic, perhaps, that it was the witness of the martyrs that helped inspire the conversion of St. Justin from paganism to the Christian faith; it was because he clung to and defended that faith that his own life would end in martyrdom in 165.

Though his exact birth date is unknown, scholars surmise that he was born into a pagan family sometime around the year 100. As a young man, he was drawn to the study of philosophy as a way of discovering truth, and he spent a great deal of time reading and contemplating the works of Plato. As profound as those works were, they did not satisfy his desire to fully understand the most basic and important questions he was asking about life.

It was a chance meeting on a beach that led him toward the answers he was seeking. There he fell into conversation with an old man who shared with him the message of Jesus Christ. This, coupled with the witness of the Christian martyrs, convinced him that the truths he sought could be found, not in the speculations of philosophy alone, but in the person of the Word made Flesh–Jesus of Nazareth.

Justin, however, did not abandon his intellect or his intellectual pursuits. He simply put them to use defending his newfound faith, writing Christian apologies (a word which means, in a theological sense, explanations of the faith) for both Jews and Romans. He was able to combine the best elements of Greek philosophy with Christian theology to both defend Christianity and correct erroneous assumptions about it. Some of those errors–such as believing that Christians were "cannibals" because they spoke of "eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ"–we would find preposterous today. However, in Justin's time, such misconceptions were believed and his writings did much to dispel these misunderstandings. Two of his "Apologies," one each written to the Roman emperor and to the Roman Senate, as well as a "Dialogue to the Jew Tryphon" have survived.

When Marcus Aurelius became emperor in Rome in 161, an era of increased persecution of Christians began. Among those martyred for the faith was St. Justin, whose name would even come down to us with the cognomen "Martyr." One of Christianity's greatest apologists, Justin Martyr is honored as the patron saint of philosophers. His feast day is celebrated June 1.


Sources for these articles include:


Lebreton, Jules. "St. Justin Martyr." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Justin Martyr," CatholicSaints.Info. 8 August 2015. 

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

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Joan of Arc, FEAST DAY MAY 30

Both the world and the Church have changed so much in the past 600 hundred years that many parts of the story of Joan of Arc sound very foreign to us today. Yet, despite the obvious differences in culture, there are two things regarding this saint that remain constant–the first is her willingness to respond to God, and the second is her commitment to persevere in that response no matter what the cost.

St. George, FEAST DAY APRIL 23

Some of the more colorful stories about this patron of England are not substantiated by fact, but that doesn't mean that the legends surrounding St. George have any less power on the imagination. In fact, the most common depiction of the saint, in which he is slaying a dragon, persists, even though it derives from a 12th century Italian fable.

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Pope St. Martin I, FEAST DAY APRIL 13

Because they were resolved more than a thousand years ago, many of the heresies that plagued the early Church are unfamiliar to modern Catholics; often, they had to do with the struggle to understand the true nature of Christ. Arianism, for instance, which taught that Jesus, although the Savior, was not equal to God but merely His highest creation, was one of the most pernicious and took two ecumenical councils, one at Nicea and another at Constantinople, to finally refute.

Another heresy, perhaps less well known, was Monothelitism. This teaching, championed by the Byzantine Emperor himself, maintained that while on earth Jesus, rather than having a human and divine will as well as a human and divine nature, had only one will – a divine one. Although this, too, was finally refuted at an ecumenical council in 680-681, it was not before it was vigorously opposed by a pope, Martin I. Refusing to back down before the Emperor would cost Martin his life, and he thus became the last pontiff to be venerated as a martyr in the Church.

This was in an age when secular rulers – kings and emperors – saw themselves as people who could, and did, make ecclesiastical and theological decisions that should really have fallen within the purview of the Church. When Martin I, for instance, became pope, he did so without the confirmation and consent of the Byzantine Emperor, Constans II. That act alone would have set him on a collision course with royal authority, but when he went one step further and censured the documents that Constans had promulgated containing the heresy of Monothelitism, his fate was virtually sealed.

After trying unsuccessfully to turn the bishops and the faithful against Martin, Constans then decided to have the pope assassinated. This too failed and, enraged by the continued challenge to his authority, the emperor finally had the pope arrested and dragged in chains from Rome to Constantinople. Convicted of treason but narrowly avoiding execution, the elderly Martin none-the-less died in exile in the year 655 from the torture and ill treatment he suffered at the hands of the emperor.

Martin I would be vindicated 25 years later. When the Third Council of Constantinople was convened, the monothelitist heresy was decisively condemned and the teaching that Jesus possessed a perfectly united divine and human nature was upheld. Martin's feast day is celebrated on April 13.


Sources for this article includes:
Mershman, Francis. "Pope St. Martin I." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
"Pope Saint Martin I." CatholicSaints.Info. 29 June 2015.
Schreck, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to Z." Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.
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