St. Marcella

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St. Marcella, Widow

SHE is styled by St. Jerom the glory of the Roman ladies. Having lost her husband in the seventh month of her marriage, she rejected the suit of Cerealis the consul, uncle of Gallus Cæsar, and resolved to imitate the lives of the ascetics of the East. She abstained from wine and flesh, employed all her time in pious reading, prayer, and visiting the churches of the apostles and martyrs, and never spoke with any man alone. Her example was followed by many virgins of the first quality, who put themselves under her direction, and Rome was in a short time filled with monasteries. We have eleven letters of St. Jerom to her in answer to her religious queries. The Goths under Alaric plundered Rome in 410. St. Marcella was scourged by them for the treasures which she had long before distributed among the poor. All that time she trembled only for her dear spiritual pupil, Principia, (not her daughter, as some have reputed her by mistake,) and falling at the feet of the cruel soldiers, she begged, with many tears, that they would offer her no insult. God moved them to compassion. They conducted them both to the church of St. Paul, to which Alaric had granted the right of sanctuary with that of St. Peter. St. Marcella, who survived this but a short time, which she spent in tears, prayers, and thanksgiving, closed her eyes by a happy death, in the arms of St. Principia, about the end of August, in 410, but her name occurs in the Roman Martyrology on the 31st of January. See St. Jerom, Ep. 96. ol. 16. ad Principiam, t. 4. p. 778. Ed. Ben. Baronius ad ann. 410. and Bollandus, t. 2. p. 1105. 1

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.


Saint John Bosco

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Saint John Bosco


Saint John Bosco accomplished what many people considered an impossibility; he walked through the streets of Turin, Italy, looking for the dirtiest, roughest urchins he could find, then made good men of them. His extraordinary success can be summed up in the words of his patron Saint, Francis de Sales: The measure of his love was that he loved without measure.

John’s knowledge of poverty was firsthand. He was born in 1815 in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and reared on his parents’ small farm. When his father died, Margaret Bosco and her three sons found it harder than ever to support themselves, and while John was still a small boy he had to join his brothers in the farm work. Although his life was hard, he was a happy, imaginative child. Even as a boy, John found innocent fun compatible with religion. To amuse his friends he learned how to juggle and walk a tightrope; but he would entertain them only on condition that each performance begin and end with a prayer. Continue reading

Pope Clement VIII

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Pope Clement VIII


Born at Fano, March, 1536, of a distinguished Florentine family; died at Rome, 5 March, 1605. He was elected pope 30 January, 1592, after a stormy conclave graphically described by Ranke (Geschichte der römischen Päpste, 9th ed., II, 150 sqq.). In his youth he made excellent progress in jurisprudence under the direction of his father, an able jurist. Through the stages of consistorial advocate, auditor of the Rota and the Datary, he was advanced in 1585 to the dignity of Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St. Pancratius and was made grand penitentiary. He won the friendship of the Hapsburgs by his successful efforts, during a legation to Poland, to obtain the release of the imprisoned Archduke Maximilian, the defeated claimant to the Polish throne. During the conclave of 1592 he was the unwilling candidate of the compact minority of cardinals who were determined to deliver the Holy See from the prepotency of Philip II of Spain. His election was greeted with boundless enthusiasm by the Italians and by all who knew his character. He possessed all the qualifications needed in the Vicar of Christ. Blameless in morals from childhood, he had at an early period placed himself under the direction of St. Philip Neri, who for thirty years was his confessor. Upon Clement’s elevation to the papacy, the aged saint gave over this important office to Baronius, whom the pope, notwithstanding his reluctance, created a cardinal, and to whom he made his confession every evening. The fervour with which he said his daily Mass filled all present with devotion. His long association with the Apostle of Rome caused him to imbibe the saint’s spirit so thoroughly, that in him St. Philip himself might be said to have ascended the papal chair. Though vast political problems clamoured for solution, the pope first turned his attention to the more important spiritual interests of the Church. He made a personal visitation of all the churches and educational and charitable institutions of Rome, everywhere eliminating abuses and enforcing discipline. To him we owe the institution of the Forty Hours’ Devotion. He founded at Rome the Collegio Clementino for the education of the sons of the richer classes, and augmented the number of national colleges in Rome by opening the Collegio Scozzese for the training of missionaries to Scotland. The “Bullarium Romanum” contains many important constitutions of Clement, notably one denouncing duelling and one providing for the inviolability of the States of the Church. He issued revised editions of the Vulgate (1598), the Breviary, the Missal, also the “Cæremoniale”, and the “Pontificale”. Continue reading

Saint Martina

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Saint Martina

(† 226)

Saint Martina, a Roman virgin, was the child of a noble Christian consul, of whom it was said that he was extremely merciful towards the poor, and very zealous for faith in the Most Holy Trinity. His daughter lost both her parents while she was still very young, and for love of Christ she distributed all she inherited to the poor, that she might be more free to hasten towards martyrdom, during the persecution which had recently begun.

Under the emperor Alexander Severus she was discovered in a church one day by three officers of a search party, and commanded to follow them to a temple of Apollo. She cheerfully agreed, saying she would do so after praying for a short time and taking leave of her bishop. The officers reported their important capture to the emperor, believing she would readily renounce her faith. But when he ordered her to speak, she replied that she would sacrifice to none other than the true God, and never to idols, the handiwork of men. She was tortured by iron hooks, but her executioners were thrown to the ground amid a great light as she prayed, and arose converted, like Saint Paul, to the Christian faith. Continue reading


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Francis de Sales is known as “the gentleman saint,” for he was born in 1567 in a castle and into the nobility of the House of Savoy. He received the finest education and grooming that a man of his station could receive. The eldest of thirteen children, he experienced the added privileges associated with the right of primogeniture. His parents had great ambitions for him, hoping to see him pursue a political or military career. He was tall and handsome, intelligent and wise. He was educated in rhetoric and the study of the humanities, and for social graces he learned how to fence, dance, and ride horses. He was also assigned a priest tutor to aid him in his formal university classes. But Francis was by nature a very spiritual man, and while he conceded for a time to his parents’ desire to prepare him for a glorious career in the secular realm, he held an inner desire to serve and dedicate his life to God. Continue reading