May the Saints & Feast Days for the month of July inspire you to grow closer to Christ Jesus. The month of July is dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus.
July 3: St. Thomas the Apostle (72 AD)
St. Thomas is best known for this role in verifying the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thomas became known as “Doubting Thomas” due to his insistence that the other apostles had not seen the risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday. Eight days later, on Christ’s second appearance, Thomas was gently rebuked for his skepticism. Jesus gave him the evidence he had demanded – seeing in Christ’s hands the point of the nails and putting his fingers in the place of the nails and his hand into His side. At this, St. Thomas became convinced of the truth of the Resurrection and exclaimed: ‘My Lord and My God,’ thus making a public profession of faith in the divinity of Jesus.
Tradition holds that when the apostles dispersed after Pentecost, Thomas went to evangelize the Parthians, Medes, and Persians (Eusebius) and that he ultimately reached India, bringing the faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Marco Polo reported that Christians went on pilgrimage to his tomb and when the Portuguese first landed in India in 1498, they found established Christian communities there. St. Thomas is believed to have been martyred by a spear at the hands of Hindu priests in 72 AD.
“Thomas answered Jesus, ‘my Lord and my God’. Jesus said to him, ‘you have believed because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’”– John 20:28-29
July 6: St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902)
St. Maria Goretti was born in Italy. The daughter of a poor peasant family, Maria was well known to her neighbors for her cheerfulness and time spent in prayer. When she was twelve, she was a victim of assault.Without warning, Alessandro Serenelli who lived with his father in the same house as the Goretti’s, burst upon her intent on destroying her childlike purity. She preferred to die rather than to lose her virginity. Alessandro stabbed Maria repeatedly, and Maria forgave him before she died in a hospital. Alessandro was captured shortly after she died.
Because he was a minor he was not sentenced to life in prison. He received a sentence of thirty years. He was unrepentant until he had a dream in which Maria appeared to him in a garden and gave him flowers. After 27 years in prison, he was released. Alessandro went directly to Maria’s mother begging for forgiveness. Her mother said:
“If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness?”
Alessandro sat next to Maria’s mother at the beatification. Her mother’s presence at the 1950 beatification is the first time a parent attended their child’s canonization.
July 14: St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656- 1680)
St. Kateri was born in New York and is the first person born in North America to be canonized as a saint. Her mother was a Christian, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk tribe. When she was four, St. Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. She was moved by the words of the Jesuit missionaries who lodged with her uncle, but fear of her uncle’s disapproval of the Catholic faith kept her from seeking instruction. Later she refused to marry a Mohawk man at nineteen and decided to be baptized on Easter Sunday.
In the prayer for her canonization, Kateri Tekakwitha is referred to as “this young lover of Jesus and of His Cross.” St. Kateri herself said, “I have given my soul to Jesus in the Eucharist and my body to Jesus on the Cross.” When St. Kateri lay dying on Wednesday of Holy Week, 1680, the last words she spoke were, “Jesus, I love You!” As St. Pope John Paul II stated at her beatification, these simple words summarize her life “like a noble hymn.”
July 22: Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
On June 10, 2016, the liturgical celebration honoring St. Mary Magdalene was raised from a memorial to a feast, putting her on par with the apostles. She has the honor of being the first to see the empty tomb and the first to hear the truth of His resurrection. Christ has a special consideration and mercy for this woman, who shows her love for Him, looking for Him in the garden with anguish. Because she was an eyewitness to the Risen Christ, she was also the first to testify before the apostles. She fulfills the mandate the Risen Christ gives her: ‘go to my brothers and say to them … Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. In this way she becomes an evangelist who announces the good news of the resurrection of the Lord; as she announces to the apostles what they in turn will announce to all the world. She is the witness to the Risen Christ and announces the message of the resurrection of the Lord, like the other apostles.
“Jesus said to her, “stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”-John 20:17
July 25: Feast of St. James, Apostle
St. James the Greater was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, a son of Zebedee. He and his older brother John were called by Jesus while fixing their nets at the Lake of Gennesaret. The gospel relates that James was one of the three apostles present for the miracle of Jairo’s daughter and the Transfiguration, and later with Jesus during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
According to tradition, sometime after Pentecost, Saint Peter cast lots with the Apostles to determine which portions of the world each Apostle would go to. The lot of the Roman Province of Spain fell to the Apostle James. He confronted great difficulties and saw very few conversions. Tradition says that when he was at his lowest point of discouragement, while he was sitting by the banks of the Ebro River, Mary appeared to him. The Virgin Mary appeared with the Child Jesus in her arms standing on a pillar. She asked Saint James and his disciples to build a church on the site, promising that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.” The church of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, is the first church dedicated to Mary in history and it remains standing to this day, having survived invasions and wars. Our Lady of the Pillar is recognized as the first Marian apparition in the history of Christianity and is the only one that happened while the Virgin Mary was still alive.
James returned to Jerusalem and was later seized by King Herod Agrippa and beheaded. He was the first apostolic martyr. According to the medieval tradition of Compostela, the physical remains of Saint James were transferred from Jerusalem to northern Spain and eventually brought inland for burial at Compostela. After the third century Roman persecutions in Spain, his tomb was abandoned. The tomb was rediscovered in 814 by the hermit Pelayo after the monk observed strange lights in the night sky (hence the name “Campus Stellae” or “Field of Stars”). The local bishop confirmed the miracle and the relics of Saint James. Pope Leo XIII verified the relics of Saint James as authentic in his 1894 bull Omnipotens Deus. This is the current site of the Basilica of Compostela, a destination for millions of pilgrims over the centuries.
“About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.”– Acts 12:1-3
July 29: Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Throughout Church history there has been a debate as to whether Mary of Magdala was the same person as Mary of Bethany. This ambiguity was reflected in the universal Church calendar, Mary of Magdala had a feast day on July 22nd, and on the octave of that feast Martha had a feast day on July 29th, implying a link between the two. However, based on biblical research the Roman Martyrology was updated in 2004 to reflect that Mary of Magdala and Mary of Bethany were two separate people. This year Pope Francis updated the universal calendar to reflect these findings establishing a feast day for Martha, Mary and Lazarus of Bethany.
The home in Bethany, where Jesus was welcomed as a Friend, Savior, and King is a model of enthroning the Sacred Heart in our hearts and homes. Just as a home enthronement leads us to a deeper union with Christ, over time, you can see the same progression in the visits by Christ to Bethany recorded in the New Testament. In the first visit (Luke 10:38-42) we see that Jesus encourages Martha to cast her anxieties and cares upon Him and to listen to His voice as Mary does. In the second visit (John 11:1-44) Martha and Mary learn that God has His own timing in answering their prayers. They were asking for Jesus to come and heal Lazarus, instead He exceeded their expectations and raised him from the dead – showing that He is the Resurrection and the Life. In the third visit (John 12:1-8) Mary does not seek her own consolation, but consoles the heart of Jesus by anointing Him with oil in preparation for His passion.
“Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” – John 12:3
July 31: St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556)
St. Ignatius had a military career and at the age of 30 was severely wounded in battle. While recovering, he read the only books that were available — the life of Christ and books on the saints. During this time he surrendered his life to Christ and the protection of the Blessed Mother. St. Ignatius founded the Jesuit order, wrote the Spiritual Exercises, and was a tremendous force of missionary zeal at a time when the Church was in an upheaval during the Protestant Reformation. St. Ignatius died unexpectedly of a fever at the age of 65.
“One of the most admirable effects of Holy Communion is to preserve the soul from sin, and to help those who fall through weakness to rise again. It is much more profitable, then, to approach this divine Sacrament with love, respect, and confidence, than to remain away through an excess of fear and scrupulosity.”– St. Ignatius of Loyola