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St. Helena of Constantinople

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St. Helena is famous for many things, one of the premier of which is being the mother of Emperor Constantine I, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity and in many ways the progenitor of the so-called "Holy Roman Empire".  However, St. Helena's accolades go much further than being a mother to one of the most influential figures in history. She is also credited with discovering the relic of the True Cross on which Jesus was executed, as well as (according to various accounts) several other relics including the nails of the crucifixion, the holy tunic, and the rope that tied Christ to the cross. Helena was instrumental in founding churches at several holy sites, including the believed sites of the Nativity, the Ascension, and the Crucifixion of Jesus as well as the Burning Bush where Moses spoke to God. And for lovers of cats, according to tradition Helena imported hundreds of cats to Cyprus to solve a local snake problem, and is the reason for the Cyprus cat br

St. Lawrence

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St. Lawrence is one of the most well-known deacon saints, notably for his method of martyrdom (being burned alive on a gridiron), and for the waterway bearing in name in the US and Canada. The Gulf of St. Lawrence was so named because the French explorer Jacques Cartier first arrived there on St. Lawrence's feast day in 1535. Lifetime:  225 to 258 Region:  Rome Patronages:  Comedians; Firefighters; Librarians Iconograpy:  Gridiron; Deacon robes; Censer Feast Day: August 10 Lawrence was born in a region of what is now Spain, which was at the time a Roman province. According to church tradition, both of Lawrence's parents, Saints Orentius and Patientia, were also martyred for their faith. Before his famous martyrdom, however, Lawrence was a layperson who happened to meet a wise teacher in his home town. That teacher would go on to become Pope Sixtus II (the same Sixtus that is referenced in the Communicantes  of the Roman Canon during Mass alongside Lawrence himself). Both left S

Bl. Solanus Casey

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I was blessed to be able to attend Father Solanus Casey's beatification in Detroit in 2017, though I had not yet joined the Church. It was lauded in the media as the "Catholic equivalent of the Super Bowl", and an estimated 60,000 pilgrims were in attendance. And no, that isn't a Tardis, I just happened to have blue Lego doors laying around. Though if they chose to base the next Doctor on a beatified Franciscan priest noted for his humility, I surely wouldn't complain. Lifetime:  1870 to 1957 Region:  Detroit, Michigan Patronages:  Porters; Failure and setbacks; Skin conditions; Detroit Iconograpy:  Door; Red glasses; Franciscan habit Feast Day: July 30 Solanus Casey was born Bernard "Barney" Francis Casey and was one of sixteen children. When he was seven, he contracted an illness that permanently damaged his voice and killed two of his siblings. Because his family moved several times when he was young, Barney never completed an education. He started wo

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang

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The opium epidemic in China, spurred on by British trade, plagued the country for over 100 years, leading to countless lives ruined or outright lost, and two actual wars. But amidst that, St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, an addict for 30 years of his life, found a way to love God deeply despite being denied Eucharist due to his addiction. Lifetime:  1834 to 1900 Region:  Hengshui, Hebei, China Patronages:  Drug addicts Iconograpy:  Opium pipe; Long mustache; Palm of martyrdom Feast Day: June 9 Before he became addicted to opium, Mark Ji was a doctor. Born to a Christian family and raised Christian himself, he wanted to help where he could, and even treated poor people in his clinic for free. Sadly, when Mark Ji was in his mid 30s, he contracted a serious illness, and prescribed himself opium as a treatment. At the time, the effects of opium were not yet known, and it was a common medicine for many illnesses. As was the case for many, he became addicted to the drug. Through the rest of his life,

St. Columba of Iona

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Along with Saints Patrick  and Brigid , Columba is one of the patron saints of Ireland. Because of his relocation to the island of Iona, and his subsequent evangelization in Scotland, he also has patronage over that country, as well as the Irish city of Derry. He's also considered one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Lifetime:  521 to 597 Region:  Ireland; Scotland Patronages:  Floods; Bookbinders; Ireland; Scotland Iconograpy:  Celtic tonsure; Dove or seabird; Coastline Feast Day: June 9 Columba was called Colmcille in his native tongue, though he may have had a different name at birth. In Irish, Colmcille means "church dove". He was descended from a legendary high king of ancient Ireland, and was therefore raised as a sort of minor royalty, though he joined a monastery at a young age.  Legends around Columba's life abound, and it's impossible to know for sure what is true about his life, but his impact as an evangelist in Scotland, among the Picts, and in his

St. Charles Lwanga

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Charles Lwanga, or Kaloli Lwanga in his native Luganda, was executed by the king he served for refusing to abandon the Christian faith which he converted to just a year earlier. He was only 26 when he was burned at the stake. Lifetime:  1860 to 1886 Region:  Buganda, Uganda Patronages:  Converts; Torture victims; African Catholic Youth Action Iconograpy:  Flame; White robe; Palm Feast Day: June 3 Little is known about Kaloli's early life. When he was first encountered by the White Fathers, African missionaries from a French colony in Algeria, Kaloli was already working in the home of his king, first as chief of the pages, and later as the majordomo of the king's house. The king was a cruel man who abused the boys and young men who served his house. Around Kaloli's own conversion, the king killed a group of missionaries. A steward of the house, who had been close friends with the king, and had recently converted to Christianity himself, scolded the king for his action. The k

St. Christopher Magallanes

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Known in his life as Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, St. Christopher Magallanes was arrested on his way to celebrate Mass and killed shortly after without trial on May 25, 1927. He and the other Saints of the Cristero War were canonized for facing death after continuing their ministry during the Mexican government's suppression of religion via anticlerical laws such as outlawing wearing priest's garments in public or priests speaking out against the government. 25 martyrs of the Cristero war were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, all sharing the same feast day of May 21. Pope Benedict XVI declared several more Blessed in 2005, with the shared feast day of November 20, the anniversary of the start of the Mexican Revolution. Pope Francis canonized one more, José Sánchez del Río in 2016, a boy of 14 who was tortured and killed by his government for refusing to deny his faith. His feast day is February 10. Lifetime:  1869 to 1927 Region:  Jalisco, Mexico Patronages:  Cancer Iconog

St. Dymphna

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St. Dymphna is most well known as the patron saint of mental illness and anxiety, including mental and neurological disorders, depression, and sleep disorder. She's the inspiration behind St. Dymphna's Playbook , an excellent podcast about mental health and the Catholic faith which I recommend to everyone, but especially to those struggling with any mental health issues or with loved ones who do. Lifetime:  600s Region:  Ireland; Belgium Patronages:  Mental illness; Runaways; Anxiety Iconograpy:  Sword; Lily; Crown Feast Day: May 15 Dymphna was born in Ireland sometime in the 600s. Her father was a pagan king (another princess saint!), but her mother was Christian and raised Dymphna with a strong faith. So strong, in fact, that Dymphna took a vow dedicating herself and her body to Christ when she was just 14. Sadly, her mother died very soon after Dymphna's vow, and her mother's death led her father to suffer from extreme mental health issues. Her father's advisors

St. Catherine of Siena

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St. Catherine of Siena is one of the most famous Dominican saints, one of 36 Doctors of the Church , and an influential mystic and author. Nearly 400 letters, 26 prayers, and a treatise penned by Catherine are known today, even though she didn't learn to write until she was 30 (though many of her letters were dictated to scribes). Some of her letters were later carried by soldiers as a sort of good luck charm during battle. Lifetime:  March 25, 1347 to April 29 1380 Region:  Alexandria, Egypt Patronages:  Fire; Miscarriages; Illness; Italy Iconograpy:  Crown of thorns; Lilies; Dominican habit Feast Day: April 29 Catherine was the 23rd child born to her mother, though half of her older siblings had died young. Catherine was a joyful and pious child, earning the Greek word for "joy" as a family nickname, having her first vision of  Jesus at five or six, and declaring at seven her intention to dedicate her life to God. When Catherine was 16, one of her older, married sisters

St. Mark the Evangelist

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St. Mark the Evangelist is most famous for authoring the Gospel book that bears his name, but there are actually three to four different accounts of relevant people named "Mark" in the early church. Besides the gospel author, there is also a man referred to as "John Mark" in the book of Acts, and a Mark who is the cousin of Barnabas in the Epistles. Finally, Mark is mentioned alongside Luke in 2 Timothy. These Marks could be anywhere from all one person to four different people, but the two main traditions either interpret them as one or two individuals. The Catholic church distinguishes between Mark the Evangelist, and John Mark as two separate people. Lifetime:  5 to 68 Region:  Alexandria, Egypt Patronages:  Barristers; Venice; Egypt Iconograpy:  Writing in a scroll or book; Winged lion Feast Day: April  25 As with many saints of the very early church, not much is known about Mark's life. Instead, I'll focus on how he is depicted in iconography, some of t

St. Dismas, the Penitent Thief

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Did you know there was a saint canonized by Jesus Christ himself? It's in the Gospel of Luke! St. Dismas is the traditional name given to the penitent thief, the one who is being crucified alongside Jesus and asks Jesus to remember him when he enters the Kingdom. Jesus then promises that Dismas will see him in Paradise, thus making the executed criminal the first saint canonized by the church.  Though he is unnamed in Luke's gospel, the name Dismas comes from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. A few other non-canonical sources provide other names for him. Lifetime:  1st Century Region:  Galilee Patronages:  Prisoners; Funeral directors; Repentant thieves Iconograpy:  Being crucified; Often contorted Feast Day: March 25 Not much is known about Dismas, including whether that is even his name. That makes it kind of hard to write a bio about him, so instead I'll write some interesting information about the Penitent Thief here. Iconography The Penitent Thief is usually portraye

St. Gertrude of Nivelles

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  St. Gertrude of Nivelles shares her feast day with the much more well-known St. Patrick on March 17, but any fans of cats will be interested to learn about her, as that is one of the areas over which she is a patron. She is also a patron of several Belgian and Dutch towns, as well as the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, a religious order more commonly known as the Croziers. Lifetime: 628-659 Region:  Austrasia (modern Belgium and Netherlands) Patronages:  Cats; Travellers; Gardeners; Mental illness Iconograpy:  Cat or mice/rats; Flowers; Benedictine habit Feast Day: March 17 In a pattern that should sound familiar to anyone who knows the history of many early women saints, Gertrude was born to a noble family and grew up surrounded by wealth and politics. When she was ten, her father held a party where the king offered her to be betrothed to a duke. She lost her temper and refused, vowing even at such a young age that she would marry only Christ. Before her father could

St. Peter Damian

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St. Peter Damian is one of the thirty (at time of writing) Doctors of the Church . He was a major reformer against the scandals of the church in his day, and was an influence on Dante Alighieri and St. Francis of Assisi .  Lifetime: 988 to 1072 Region:  Northern Italy Patronages:  Faenza and Font-Avellano, Italy; Insomniacs Iconograpy:  Quill and book; Knotted rope; Grey robes Feast Day: February 21 Peter was the last born to a large noble family who was, despite their titles, rather poor. He became an orphan at a young age, and was adopted by an older brother. Unfortunately, this brother didn't seem to take in young Peter out of the kindness of his heart; Peter was treated like a slave, underfed and forced to care for the brother's pigs. One of Peter's other brothers, who was a priest, eventually took pity on Peter and gave him money to go to school. This brother's name was Damian, and Peter was so moved by his sibling's kindness that he added the brother's na

St. Josephine Bakhita

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So first of all, I need to say that our favorite Danish brick toy company has a severe shortage of women of color, especially those without glowing eyes or alien face paint. St. Bakhita's later forgiveness for -- nay, appreciation of  -- her captors truly demonstrates the power of God to forgive all things. Lifetime: 1868 to 1947 Region:  Sudan; Italy Patronages:  Sudan; Victims of human trafficking Iconograpy:  Simple habit and head wrap; Broken chain Feast Day: February 8 Bakhita forgot the name she was born with. That's because, when she was 7 or 8, she was enslaved by slavers and the trauma of her capture caused her to lose that memory. Her captors are the ones who gave her the name Bahkita, which means "lucky". They also made her convert to their religion. Before she was taken, Bakhita was part of a loving family, with three brothers and three sisters. Her uncle was the chief of her village. A year before Bakhita's enslavement, one of her older sisters was t

St. Felix of Nola

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When I was converting to the Catholic faith, St. Felix was one of the first saints I learned about. Mostly because, as a horror writer and bug lover, I was Googling things like "spookiest Catholic saints".  Nonetheless, the scant details of St. Felix's life are an inspiration today, and a lesson about facing our fears and trusting in God. And it's just cool that there's a patron saint of spiders. Lifetime: ~200 to ~250 Region:  Nola, Campania, Italy Patronages:  Spiders; Against eye disease; Nola, Italy Iconograpy:  Spider or spider web; Prison chains; Grapes  Feast Day: January 14  Felix, in a refrain that is very common among early church saints, grew up wealthy, but sold off his estate and gave his money and possessions to the poor. He soon became the assistant to the local bishop Maximus (who himself would go on to be canonized as well). I don't want to gloss over that, though, just because it was common among the canon. Could you imagine growing up in a

St. Seraphim of Sarov

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Though St. Seraphim lived well after the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, he is recognized by both, with Pope St. John Paul II referring to him as a saint in 1995. St. Seraphim is also one of the few saints to leave the Earth, as  in 2016, cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin carried a relic of St. Seraphim on his 155 day journey aboard the International Space Station. Lifetime:  July 30, 1754 to January 14, 1833 Region:  Sarov, Russian Empire Patronages:  Nuclear weapons Iconograpy:  Peasant clothes; Bear Feast Day: January 2  Seraphim was born with the name Prochor, named after one of the first seven deacons mentioned in the books of Acts and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, Prochorus. At the age of 10, Seraphim fell, but was healed after a vision of Mary promised to cure him and his mother lifted him up to an icon of the Theotokos during a procession. From then on the young Seraphim loved to spend time in prayer, attend church, and read about the saints in between shif