Saint John the Baptist was called by God to be the precursor of His divine Son. In order to preserve his innocence spotless, and to improve upon the extraordinary graces which he had received in his earliest infancy, he was directed by the Holy Spirit to lead an austere and contemplative life in the wilderness. There he devoted himself to the continuous exercise of devout prayer and penance.
Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Church (354-430)
Saint Augustine was born in 354 at Tagaste in Africa. He was brought up in the Christian faith but did not receive baptism, result of the practice, common in the first centuries, of deferring it until adulthood. An ambitious schoolboy of brilliant talents and violent passions, he early lost both his faith and his innocence. He pursued with ardor the study of philosophy. He taught grammar, rhetoric and literature for nine years in his native town of Tagaste, and in Carthage. He persisted in his irregular life and doctrinal errors until he was thirty-two. Then one day, stung to the heart by the account of some sudden conversions, he cried out, The unlearned rise and storm heaven, and we, with all our learning, for lack of courage lie inert! The great heart of this future bishop was already evident.
The first of the seven joys of Mary was the Annunciation, which the Franciscans express in these words: “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully conceived Jesus by the Holy Ghost.” Read the account, clear, brief, and uplifting, in the first chapter of Saint Luke, how the Angel Gabriel came from God and told the Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God. Imagine the joy in the heart of Mary to learn from the messenger of the Almighty that she, who was willing to be but a handmaid or servant in the household of the Lord, that she was to be really the Mother of God. What joy and happiness at the greeting of the angel. What joy to know that now within her womb she carried the Son of God.
Founder of the Clerks Regular of Religious Schools (Piarists) (1556-1648)
Saint Joseph Calasanctius was born in Aragon in 1556 of a noble family, who gave him a very Christian education. When only five years old, he led a troop of children through the streets to find the devil and slay him. He became a priest, and was engaged in various reforms when he heard a voice saying, Go to Rome, Joseph and had a vision of many children who were being taught by him and by a company of Angels. When he reached the Holy City, his heart was moved by the vice and ignorance of the children of the poor, and he saw clearly that ignorance was the mother of vice and misery. Sunday catechism lessons were insufficient to remedy the situation. When he could find no collaboration under the existing frameworks, the children’s need mastered his profound humility, and he undertook to found personally the Order of Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools, or the Piarists.
Saint Zephyrinus, a native of Rome, succeeded Victor I in the pontificate in the year 198. In 202 Septimus Severus, a military despot, raised the fifth and most bloody persecution against the Church, which continued for nine years until the death of the emperor in 211. Until this furious storm ended, the holy pastor remained concealed for the sake of his flock, supporting and comforting the distressed disciples of Christ. He suffered by charity and compassion what every confessor underwent. The triumphs of the martyrs were indeed his joy, but his heart received many deep wounds from the fall of apostates and heretics. Nor did this latter affliction cease when peace was restored to the Church. The holy Pope had the affliction of witnessing the fall of Tertullian. He saw to his joy, however, the conversion of Natalis, who had become a heretical bishop when he lapsed into the Theodotian heresy. God, wishing to bring him back to the Church, sent him a solid correction which opened his eyes, and he came to kneel at the feet of the Vicar of Christ, wearing a hair shirt and humbly asking pardon for his revolt.