The Holy North American Martyrs are eight in number; five died in what is now Canada, three in what is now the United States. All are Jesuits, all are French in origin. They came in the 1640’s to New France, to add their strength to that of the Franciscan Recollets, who had preceded them by a few years. There was not yet any bishop to assist them; the first bishop of Quebec, Blessed Monsignor Francis Montmorency de Laval, arrived only in 1658.
Saint Finbarr, who lived in the sixth century, was a native of Connaught, Ireland. He founded a monastery or school at Lough Eire, to which great numbers of disciples flocked, changing, as it were, a desert into a large city. This was the origin of the city of Cork, built chiefly upon stakes on marshy little islands formed by the river Lea.
The baptismal name of our Saint was Lochan; the surname Finbarr, or Barr the White, was afterwards given him. He was Bishop of Cork for seventeen years, and died in the midst of his friends at Cloyne, fifteen miles from Cork. His body was buried in his own cathedral at Cork; his relics were put into a silver reliquary a few years later and kept in the great church, which bears his name to this day. Saint Finbarr’s cave, or hermitage, used to be shown in a monastery situated to the west of Cork, which tradition affirms was established by the holy bishop.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
Passionist Priest, Bishop of Macerata and Tolentino (1745-1824)
Born in 1745 at Civitavecchia near Rome, the son of a wealthy businessman, Saint Vincent Strambi never showed any inclination for any occupation other than the service of God. He found his vocation when after his ordination as a deacon in 1767, he made a retreat amid the Passionists of Monte Fogliano, where Saint Paul of the Cross, their founder, was residing at the time. The Passionist houses are called retreats, and by their Rule must be situated outside cities. Saint Paul of the Cross told his brethren on his deathbed, as he had taught them during his active years, to conserve always the spirit of prayer, solitude and poverty; in that way the apostolic success of their works would also be conserved. The life of contemplation, essential formation for any fruitful works, was what Saint Vincent Strambi already desired.
The story of Our Lady of Ransom is, at its outset, that of Saint Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. At the age of twenty-five he took a vow of chastity and made over his vast estates to the Church. After making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montserrat, he went to Barcelona where he began to practice various works of charity. He conceived the idea of establishing an Order for the redemption of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain itself; they were being cruelly tormented in their African prisons to make them deny their faith. He spoke of it to the king of Aragon, James I, who knew him well and already respected him as a Saint; for the king had already asked for his prayers when he sent out his armies to combat the Moors, and he attributed his victories to those prayers.