When Lent is happening, usually not much else is on our minds besides penance and death. And rightfully so! But, there are still saints who are celebrated each day and they deserve some recognition. These saints also have plenty to teach us during Lent, some things that might even take your Lenten experience up a notch or two! Here are five saints to celebrate during Lent.
Sts. Felicity and Perpetua
Feast day March 7
Sts. Felicity and Perpetua are fairly well-known for being two mothers martyred in the yeah 203. Perpetua was still nursing her son when she became a Christian and was then martyred. Her father was a pagan and it was because of him that she was eventually sent to prison. While in prison, she was able to have her son with her and she said that transformed her prison into a palace. Perpetua was known for having the gift of “the Lord’s speech” and receiving messages from God. When her father tried to convince her to renounce her faith and get out of jail, she said, “We lie not in our own power but in the power of God.”
Felicity was equally badass. She was a slave and eight months pregnant when she was jailed for being a Christian. In the pitch black, crowded, dirty cell, she gave birth to her daughter days before being executed. Her daughter was adopted by a Christian woman and raised in the Faith. While in labor, the guards were making fun of her because it was a difficult and painful labor. Instead of responding bitterly to them, she calmly said, “Now I’m the one who is suffering, but in the arena, another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for him.”
In the arena, Perpetua and Felicity stood side by side as they faced the gladiators, calling out to their brothers and sisters to remain steadfast in the face. They were killed by the sword.
Lent is like the dark, crowded cell. Sometimes it is hard to see the way through and out. Perpetua and Felicity teach us that faith illuminates the darkness.
St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart
Feast day March 11
St. Teresa Margaret was a Carmelite nun in Florence, Italy in the 1700s. By those who have studied and meditated with her writings, she has come to be known as the forerunner of The Little Way. She was often ridiculed and humiliated by her prioress, but she was always cheerful. Teresa Margaret had a deeply penitential nature and always looked to transform her annoyances and other grievances into prayers and sacrifices. Once when she was sick, the nun caring for her brought her food, but Teresa Margaret was too sick to eat it. When the nun returned, she chastised Teresa Margaret for not eating it, as food would give her the strength to get better. The nun left shortly and when she returned again, Teresa Margaret had eaten everything on the plate, saying she wanted to be obedient above all.
Teresa Margaret always took to whatever task she was assigned with diligence and care, especially as a nurse. She had a special way with the deaf and those with mental illnesses. Eventually, she died of an epidemic illness that had been sweeping through their community. It left her body swollen and terribly disfigured. However, the day before her funeral, her body was discovered to be returned to an almost life-like state, no longer swollen or disfigured, and her cheeks were rosy. Today, she lays incorrupt in the Monastery of St. Teresa in Florence.
What we can learn from St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart is that every small inconvenience and every large or impossible task can be offered as a pray to God. Maybe we already know this. Teresa Margaret leads us deeper in this, though, through the revelation that God is Love. He is Love in the joys. He is Love in the sorrows. He is Love in our offerings. He is Love in our failings. Lent is a tremendous time to really internalize that Truth, just like St. Teresa Margaret.
Feast day March 17
Perhaps the most well-known saint on this list, St. Patrick died in Ireland in 461 after spending most of his life converting pagans and spreading the Gospel. One of the best known stories of him is how he taught about the nature of the Trinity through the use of the shamrock and he is, of course, revered as the patron saint of Ireland. But he wasn’t Irish!
St. Patrick was born in Britain; he was captured by Irish pirates and brought to the island as a slave. He held firm to his Christian faith the entire time and, at the age of twenty, he escaped and went home. After a few years, though, he had a vision that told him to return: “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'”
What happened after this is widely known. St. Patrick traveled across the country, converting and baptizing people and building churches. But what we can glean from him this Lent is his humility, gentleness, piety, charity, and trust. We cannot do even small things if we are not attuned with ourselves and with God. Let St. Patrick guide you in these ways this Lent!
Feast day March 23
St. Rafqa lived in Lebanon in 1800s and died there in 1914. She was an only child and a cradle Catholic! Unfortunately, tragedy struck early in her life when her mother died when she was only seven. Many difficulties followed for Rafqa and her father. Rafqa was sent away for several years to work as a domestic servant to ease their difficulties. When she returned, her new step-mother tried to convince Rafqa to marry her brother while an aunt tried to convince her to marry. Rafqa went to visit a monastery and, while gazing upon an icon of Our Lady of Deliverance, she heard God say to her, “You will become a nun.” The mother superior accepted her immediately and Rafqa was filled with joy. Instead of choosing between her suitors, Rafqa chose to follow the call from God.
What is remarkable about St. Rafqa is that, once entered into the convent, she asked Jesus to allow her to share in his sufferings. She immediately begin suffering from headaches and the pain travelled to her eyes. After a failed surgery, Rafqa eventually went blind in both eyes and began to experience paralysis. She lived the last thirty years of her life enduring these pains! But she never took back her ask; she joyfully accepted each pain as a gift she had been longing for. While her body withered, her hands remained intact and so she used them to knit socks. Then a wound developed in her shoulder, which she called “the wound in the shoulder of Jesus.”
St. Rafqa was unique in that she actually asked for suffering to be given to her, rather than simply allowing suffering to happen and to offer it back to God. No, she was an active participant in the mystery of Christ’s suffering and joyfully received the gift. It seems foolish, when you think about it. We know suffering will come no matter what we do, so we learn to accept it and use it for good. Who would want to suffer? Well, Jesus. Rafqa shows us this path of humility and holy daring to go forth and be a participant instead of a bystander.
Feast day March 25
St. Dismas is the Good Thief who, while hanging on the cross next to Jesus’, asked Jesus to forgive him and allow him entrance into heaven. Jesus granted this. That is all that’s known of St. Dismas. We do not know who he was, who his family was, or even what crime he committed to end up crucified. But we know that he repented. Not only did he repent, but upon seeing Jesus, told the other thief to stop ridiculing Jesus, for they deserved their punishment but Jesus was innocent.
In the very twilight of his life, St. Dismas recognized Christ and went to him. He entrusted himself to his mercy and asked to be forgiven for all the wrongs he had done. With the little time he had, he defended Jesus and spread the Good News. He knew that it was just for him to die for his crimes and he didn’t beg Jesus to get him off that cross. Instead, Dismas accepted his cross and knew that Jesus was dying next to him to redeem him.
We can speculate that Dismas spent his life searching for that meaning and purpose and we may say that he was imprudent to not find and follow Jesus sooner, but only when confronted with his death. But he did a tremendous work in that little time he did have. He did not excuse himself, but left his fate up to Jesus. Jesus saw this turning and purity of heart and granted Dismas heaven. May we trust God enough to do the same.
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