It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of preparing for Christ’s birth and lighting the Advent candles.
But don’t forget to celebrate the feast days of these incredible saints, whose feast days and memorials occur during this season of preparation.
1. Saint Francis Xavier
This saint’s memorial kicks off the Advent liturgical season on December 3. He is the patron saint of Catholic missions, African Missions, and China. Along with Saint Therese of Lisieux, he is the co-patron of missions.
Born in 1506, Francis was the youngest son of the finance minster to King John III of Navarre. His family castle still stands and is owned by the Jesuits.
He became close friends with Peter Favre in college and thew two men were mentored by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who saw Francis’ priestly vocation.
After becoming a priest in 1537, Francis served as a missionary to the people of India, Malaysia, and Japan. While in Japan, he dreamed of going to China to spread the gospel, but he died before reaching the country.
Noteworthy quote: “I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus who do not know him or have forgotten him.”
2. Saint John Damascene
Although he’d received a classical education and planned to follow in his father’s footsteps as a government official to the Arabs, John spent most of his life in the Monastery of Saint Sabas near Jerusalem.
John is known for his defense against the iconoclasts, a group of people who thought the veneration of images was evil. He also famously penned the “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” which sums up the history of the Greek Fathers. Some say it is the Summa for the Eastern Church.
Finally, John is known as a poet, and particularly loved to write and think about the Blessed Mother and her feast days. He died in 749, and the Church celebrates his life on December 4.
Noteworthy quote: “The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.”
3. Saint Nicholas
This is a saint who doesn’t go forgotten during the holiday season. Nicholas is honored in both the Eastern and Western Churches. Although depictions of him can be found everywhere throughout the world, not much is known about his life.
What is known is that Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop of Myra, a province of Asia-Minor. Before discerning his vocation, Nicholas’ parents tragically died and the young man was raised by an uncle.
After being elected bishop, Nicholas was seized by government officials who imprisoned him along with other Christians. When Constantine took the throne, Nicholas was allowed to return to Myra.
Saint Methodius wrote that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison.” Today, he is the patron saint of bakers, married couples, children, Greece, and travelers. The Church celebrates him on December 6.
Noteworthy quote: “The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic his giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”
4. Saint Ambrose
Ambrose, also known by Aurelius Ambrosius, is one of the four original doctors of the Church. Born in 340 to a Christian family, legend says that a swarm of bees circled around the child’s face, leaving behind a single drop of honey. His family took this as a sign that Ambrose would grow up to be an incredible speaker.
Read more: Are You More Western or Eastern Catholic?
He became Bishop of Milan in 374. He donated all of his money to the poor and gave up his land. The saint would go on to baptize the future Saint Augustine. Saint Monica referred to him as “an angel of God who uprooted her son from his former ways and led him to his convictions of Christ.”
Ambrose also penned some of the Church’s most beautiful hymns, including the “Te Deum,” believed to be inspired by the baptism of Augustine. Today he is celebrated on December 7 as the patron saint of bee keepers, beggars, learning, and Milan.
Noteworthy quote: “It is not enough just to wish well; we must also do well.”
5. Saint Lucy
Lucy is another saint who the Church remembers during Advent. Although not much is known about the saintly woman, she’s inspired Christians for centuries with her bravery.
A man desired to marry Lucy in the early 300s, and she refused. He reported her Christian faith to authorities and she was martyred in Sicily in 304.
The Church remembers Lucy on December 13, and her name is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer.
6. Saint John of the Cross
John was ordained a Carmelite priest when he was twenty-five years old. After meeting Saint Teresa of Avila, John dedicated his life to living the primitive Rule of the Carmelite order. Together, the two saints worked to reform their religious order.
John was imprisoned because of his desire to reform, and his cell was so small that the saint could barely lie down. During this time, John wrote poems on paper guards secretly smuggled into his cell. He escaped his cell nine months later.
The Carmelite priest died in 1591 as a result of a skin condition that progressed to an infection. Today, the Church celebrates this patron saint of mystics on December 14.
Noteworthy quote: “In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but on how well we have loved.”
7. Saint Peter Canisius
Peter played a key role for the Church during the time of the Reformation. Some refer to him as the “second apostle of Germany,” since his evangelization efforts mirrored the earlier work of Saint Boniface.
He earned his master’s degree by age nineteen, and was convinced by Peter Favre to join the Society of Jesus. Peter was well-versed in the writings of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and Saint Leo the Great. He went on to teach in German universities and seminaries.
His letters now fill eight books, and offer encouragement and wisdom to Christians today. He was seventy when he underwent a paralytic seizure, but he still asked his secretary to help him write and preach up until his death in 1597.
The Church celebrates this Doctor of the Church’s life on December 21.
Noteworthy quote: “Never was a whimpering bit of humanity so powerful that, while lying on His bed of straw, He could command the very stars to direct whom He wished to visit Him.”