Saints of the month and feast days
Saints and Feast days in January
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
At the Council of Ephesus (451), Mary, the mother of Jesus was proclaimed as Mother of God or Theotokos, acknowledging the very Godhead of her Son, Jesus Christ. Under this splendid title she is still honoured by most Christians around the world, and today’s feast invites us to lay our hopes and plans for the new-starting year under her motherly care and patronage.
Ss Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops, Doctors of the Church
Basil: Born about 330 at Caesarea (Turkey); died there on 1 January 379. First a hermit, then bishop of his native city. Noted for his pioneering monastic rule, and for writings which developed the doctrines of the incarnation and of the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
Gregory: Born at Nazianzus (Turkey) in 329; died there in 389. Also a hermit before becoming bishop of Constantinople. Known as the “Theologian” because of his wisdom and acumen in maintaining orthodox doctrine against the Arians.
The Most Holy Name of Jesus
Commemorated by religious orders since the 16th century, the feast was extended to the universal Church in 1721 and celebrated in the context of the Christmas season. The monogram IHS was popular in the late medieval and baroque periods. By the Holy Name, Christians honour the person of Jesus, their Lord and Saviour. At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Ph 2:6-11)
St Munchin, Bishop, Abbot
Munchin is the patron saint of the diocese of Limerick. He is known only from Dalcassian genealogies and seems to have been born in Dal Cais, where a parish and old graveyard Cell Mainchin (Kilmanaheen) existed. In the seventh century he was granted Inis Sibtonn (Ibton) in the tidal waters of Limerick, in the region of which he founded a church and had a thriving religious community.
St Charles of Mount Argus, Priest, Religious
Charles John Houben (1821-1893), was a Dutch Passionist priest who served in Dublin in the late 19th-century. He showed extraordinary compassion for the sick and those in need of guidance. Many came asking his prayers, and in latter life his reputation for healings was such that a reference is made to him by James Joyce inUlysses. He was canonized in 2007 and his feast day is January 5.
St Raymond of Penyafort, Priest, Religious
Born about 1175 near Barcelona (Spain); died there in extreme old age on 6 January 1275. Became a canon of the cathedral but soon after joined the Dominicans, eventually being elected their master general. Noted for his knowledge of canon law, especially in its application to the sacrament of penance, and for his scholarly apostolate to Jews and Muslims.
St Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop, Doctor of the Church
Born in Poitiers (France) about 315; died there on this day in 368. A married man with a family, he became a Christian and was elected bishop of his native city. Called the “Athanasius of the West” because of his strenuous defence of the divinity of Christ against the Arians, for which he was exiled by the emperor. Noted for his gentle, courteous and friendly nature, and for his contribution to the Western understanding of the Trinity.
St Ita, Virgin
Ita was born in County Waterford of noble and Christian parents. Early on she set her mind on serving Christ in religious life. She founded a monastery in Killeedy, County Limerick, which attracted a variety of young people. She was given the title ‘foster-mother of the saints of Ireland’. She died in 570.
St Fursa, Abbot, Missionary
Fursa was born in Ireland and became one of the major monastic missionaries abroad. He went first with his brothers Foillan and Ultan to live the monastic life in East Anglia. But as large numbers continued to visit him there he left his brother Foillan as abbot, and sought refuge in France around 644. A patron gave him a hermitage at Lagny on the Marne. He died about 650 at Mezerolles while on a journey. His body was buried in Peronne, which became a centre of devotion to him.
St Anthony. Abbot
Born in 251 in upper Egypt; died in 356. At an early age he gave away his possessions and sought the austere life and solitude in the desert. Yet he remained involved in the theological controversies of his day, defending the divinity of Christ. He attracted disciples who formed communities of hermits. The account of his life by Saint Athanasius (2 May) was extremely influential in the development and spread of monasticism. Honoured as the father of western monasticism.
Saints Fabian and Sebastian, Martyrs
Fabian, bishop of Rome, died as one of the first victims of the persecution under the emperor Decius in 250. In spite of being “a layman and a stranger” (Eusebius), he became bishop of Rome in 236. Reorganised the Church in Rome. Called by his contemporary, Saint Cyprian, “a man incomparable in the holiness of his life and the glory of his witness.”
Sebastian died perhaps in the late third century. Nothing of his life is known for certain. Tradition says he was a soldier who was martyred after sustaining other Christians in their trials. Venerated in Rome since the fourth century.
St Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Agnes died at Rome, perhaps in the early fourth century. One of the most widely venerated of the Roman martyrs. According to early accounts, she gave her life to preserve her virginity consecrated to Christ. Named in Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon).
St Vincent, Deacon, Martyr
Vincent died in 304, martyred in Valencia (Spain) during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian. A deacon of Saragossa. His cult spread rapidly through the whole Church of the West. Honoured as the first martyr of Spain.
St Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor of the Church
Born in Savoy (France) in 1567; died in Lyons in 1622. As a presbyter and as bishop of Geneva, he played a major part in the renewal of 17th-century French Catholicism. Seen by many as an early proponent of ecumenical dialogue. Founded the Visitation order with Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (12 December). His writings promoted a spirituality for laypeople. Honoured as a most influential preacher, writer, and spiritual director, who combined firmness with patience and gentleness.
Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
This date, first linked with the conversion of Saint Paul in the so-called Martyrdom of Jerome (c. 431), became established in the liturgy of Gaul. Celebrates the work of God’s grace at a major turning point in the life of Paul himself and in the history of the infant Church.
Ss Timothy and Titus, Bishops
Both died toward the end of the first century. Disciples and associates of Saint Paul the apostle, who seem to have attended the Council of Jerusalem with him. Timothy represented Saint Paul to various communities and, according to tradition, was eventually placed in charge of the Church at Ephesus. Titus was asked to organise the Church in Crete. Honoured as the leaders to whom the pastoral letters of the New Testament are addressed.
St Angela Merici, Virgin
Angela was born in Desenzano (Italy) about 1474; died in Brescia on this day in 1540. She became a Franciscan tertiary and subsequently founded the Company of Saint Ursula (Ursulines). Her vision provided an alternative to the forms of religious life then available for women:members remained in their own homes, living as virgins and observing a rule she composed. Honoured as a woman of prayer, for her evangelical way of life, for her pilgrimages, and for her creative response to the needs of women in the Church.
St Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor of the Church
Born near Aquino (Italy) about 1225; died on his way to the Council of Lyons in 1274. Educated at Monte Cassino, Naples, Paris, and Cologne, he became a Dominican in 1244. Regarded as one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. Despite ecclesiastical opposition at the time, the substance of his life’s work has endured as an authentic exposition of Christian teaching and carries unique official approval. Noted for his modesty, the prayerfulness of his personal life, and the abiding influence of his thought.
St John Bosco, Priest, Educator
Born in Piedmont (Italy) in 1815; died at Turin on this day in 1888. Grew up in extreme poverty and, after ordination, devoted his whole life to educating young people, especially the poor. Founded the Salesians, men and women who continue this work with youth throughout the world. Noted, like the order’s patron, Saint Francis de Sales, for his cheerfulness and trust in the providence of God.