Being Catholic is super awesome and having such a huge gang of saints to pray and intercede for us and provide us models of how to live Christian lives makes it all the better. Common folks know a lot of the common saints, but there are dozens upon dozens of other saints and they’re pretty rad! Here are some lesser-known saints evert hipster need to know about.
St. Toribio Romo González
Toribio was a Mexican priest who lived during the Cristero War when the government prohibited him from publicly saying Mass or the rosary. But he was undeterred! He took up residence in an abandoned factory and continued to celebrate Mass there. Eventually, government troops stormed into his residence while he slept and shot him. Toribio died in his sister’s arms who cried out, “Courage, Father Toribio . . . merciful Christ, receive him! Long live Christ the King!”
St. Margaret of Cortona
Margaret was born in Tuscany in 1217 and her mother died when she was just seven years old. Her father remarried but her stepmother had little care for Margaret, so she eloped with a young man. The two never married but had a son and then the young man was murdered after nine years together. Margaret went back to her father as a penitent but he refused to accept her and her son. So they found asylum with the Franciscan Friars Minor in Cortona. She struggled with sexual temptation, but repented. Margaret served the sick poor and subsisted solely on alms. Eventually, she joined the Third Order of St. Francis and her son also later became a Franciscan priest.
St. Claude de la Colombière
St. Claude was a Jesuit priest and spiritual director to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. St. Margaret Mary said of him that his spiritual gift “was that of bringing souls to God along the Gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us.” He is regarded today as one of the best and wisest spiritual directors of all time. He believed her visions of the Sacred Heart, supported her, and helped promulgate devotion to the Sacred Heart. St. Claude also served in England, was accused of being part of the Popish Plot, and then expelled from England. He returned to France and died due to his poor health and a severe hemorrhage.
St. Albert Chmielowski
St. Albert was a popular and talented painter who lived in Poland and lost a leg during the January Uprising. His leg was amputated without the use of anesthesia and all Albert said about it was, “Give me a cigar—that will help me pass the time.” He was smuggled out of the hospital where he was being held by enemies, in a coffin. He eventually joined the Third Order of St. Francis and founded the Servants of the Poor and also a women’s congregation known as the Albertine Sisters. He died on Christmas Day 1916 due to stomach cancer.
Rafqa’s mother died when she was only seven years old and she and her father lived an unstable life afterwards due to financial difficulty. She eventually left her home in Himlaya, Lebanon to Damascus to find work. When she returned years later, she found her father remarried. Rafqa’s stepmother wanted Rafqa to marry her brother and Rafqa’s aunt wanted Rafqa to marry her cousin, but Rafqa wanted to marry neither man. Instead, she joined the Mariamettes and became a nun. St. Rafqa once saved a child being chased by soldiers from death by hiding him in the skirts of her habit. Later, her congregation merged with another and she was given some options. She decided to become a cloistered nun and joined the Lebanese Maronite Order of St. Anthony (the Abbot). St. Rafqa once asked to share in Jesus’s sufferings and began to experience pain above her eye. A doctor recommended immediate surgery, which Rafqa endured without anesthesia. At one point during the surgery, her eye popped out of its socket and fell to the floor. Instead of panicking, she said, “For Christ’s passion, God bless your hands and may God repay you.” Though blindness and paralysis set in, Rafqa still had use of her hands, so she knit socks. St. Rafqa died on March 23, 1914.
As a young boy, St. Charbel would look after his family’s flock of sheep. He would take them to a nearby grotto where he had placed a picture of Our Lady and would then spend the rest of his day in prayer. When he was twenty-three, Charbel joined the Lebanese Maronite Order. He was later granted permission to live a solitary life as a hermit, which he did for twenty-three years, until he died from a stroke on Christmas Eve 1898. After he died, there was seen a bright light around his grave. His superiors opened the grave to find his body still intact and a blood-like liquid flowing from his body. On December 5, 1965, Pope Paul VI presided at his beatification and said of him,
“A hermit of Mount Lebanon is enrolled in the number of the blessed…a new eminent member of monastic sanctity has by his example and his intercession enriched the entire Christian people…may he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”
As a boy, Nimatullah attended a school run by the Lebanese Maronite Order and so, when he finished his studies there, he joined the order. After taking his vows, he would often spend whole nights in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He was later, after ordination, sent to the Order’s seminary to teach and be the director of seminarians; there he encountered St. Charbel as one of his students. He died in 1858 and his body was found incorrupt.
St. Melania the Younger
Melania was one of the Desert Mothers and is the granddaughter of St. Melania the Elder. She married her cousin Valerius Pinianus but after the early loss of two children, the couple embraced aestheticism and lived celibately afterwards. They left Rome in A.D. 408 and upon going in Africa in 410, befriended St. Augustine of Hippo. She and her husband founded a convent of which she became Mother Superior, and a cloister. She founded a second convent near the Mount of Olives and after her husband’s death, built a cloister for men, and a church where she spent the rest of her days.
St. Gabriel Possenti
St. Gabriel Possenti, also known as Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and Gabriel of Abruzzi, was a Passionist clerical student who had an incredible devotion to the Sorrows of Our Lady. Gabriel was born Francesco in Assisi, Italy and baptized in the same font St. Francis of Assisi had been baptized in. He joined the Passionists in 1856 and given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. He continued his studies for the priesthood at the Order’s monastery in Abruzzi but Gabriel came down with tuberculosis and died before he could be ordained. Many miracles have been attributed to his intercession and he is the patron of the Abruzzi region of Italy (sidenote: all of my Italian family comes from this region!) and of those studying for the priesthood. St. Gemma Galgani holds that St. Gabriel appeared to her and cured her of a dangerous disease. She credited him with leading her to her Passionist vocation.
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was a doctor who served the poor for free and he was a respected Christian in his Chinese hometown. However, he became an opium addict after he developed a violent stomach illness and treated himself with opium (which was a reasonable thing to do at the time). Ji continued to try to kick his addiction and confessed it regularly. But because addiction was not recognized as a disease in his time, his confessor thought that Ji was displaying no sign of true amendment of life and would not offer him absolution. For thirty years, Ji was unable to receive the sacraments because of this. But he kept showing up. That’s perhaps what is most remarkable about him—he kept showing up. Ji prayed during this time to die a martyr because he thought it was the only way to redeem himself and accept salvation. The Lord answered him. In 1900 when the Boxer Rebels turned on Christians, Ji and his family were rounded up to be executed. As Ji was beheaded, he sang the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Mary of Egypt
Mary was a hermitess who lived alone in the desert of Egypt for forty-seven years as penance for her previously sinful life. In a chance meeting approximately one year before her death, she encountered St. Zosimas and recounted her life story to him. She told him that she had run away to Alexandria as a child and had lived a lascivious lifestyle completely taken over by her sexual passions. After many years of that lifestyle, she repented and then lived the rest of her life in the desert as penance. When St. Zosimas returned to her the next year, he found her dead but incorrupt.