St. John of Capistrano
(entered heaven in 1456)
Talents Humbly at the service of God
St. John of Capistrano was born in central Italy, and finished up his studies in the city of Perugia. He made such an impression on the people there that when he graduated they elected him governor.
Political squabbles ended up with his capture and imprisonment by local adversaries.
In the prison John was forced to reflect on the passing nature of worldly glory (before this, his only desire), and on the reality of death (prisons in 1400 were death traps of disease and filth). He emerged from prison with a determination to put his life at the service of God and the eternal Kingdom.
He humiliated himself by riding through town sitting backwards on a donkey, with a huge paper cone on his head where he wrote out in bold letters all his most ugly sins. As he made his way through the streets, children and adults alike laughed at him, and pelted him with mud and stones. In this condition, he requested entry at the Franciscan friary, and began his preparations to become a Franciscan priest.
By the time he was ordained a priest, everyone was familiar with his extraordinary abilities as a preacher and miracle worker. He spent the rest of his life traveling from province to province and tirelessly calling people to repentance.
Wherever he went, huge crowds gathered to hear him and to ask him to cure their sick. His zeal for the Church won many fallen-away Christians back into the fold.
Throughout his life, St John began every day with the same activities: rising before dawn, he prayed for an hour and celebrated Mass, only then would he go forth to build the Kingdom.
Perhaps you are not called to be a priest or nun, but if you carve time out of your social life for some study, prayer, and personal reflection – even if it’s only a little – you will find a deeper happiness and a bigger mission: real friendship with Christ and helping others to know and love him.
Patroness of music, Virgin and martyr
(entered heaven probably in the third century)
Sticking to her values and winning the hearts of others
Sticking to noble ideals is difficult. Yet, true fulfillment and happiness flow precisely from these values.
Cecilia was from an important Roman family, and she grew up Christian in a time when Christians were violently persecuted. She fell deeply in love with Christ as a young girl: so much so that she privately vowed her virginity to Christ when she was still a teenager.
Of course, her father had other plans for her, and insisted on her marrying an up-and-coming nobleman by the name of Valerian. She couldn’t do anything to avoid the wedding, but during the festivities, as the families were feasting and dancing, she stole away by herself and sang to her heavenly spouse in the silence of her heart (which is why she is the patroness of music).
That night, when she and Valerian withdrew to their bedroom, she took courage and told her husband that she had made a vow of virginity to Christ, and that she had a guardian angel who would protect her virginity, and that if he (Valerian) were to touch her in the way of marriage, the angel would be displeased and make him suffer, but if he respected her, the angel would love and protect him as well.
Valerian expressed his doubts and asked to see the angel. Cecilia promised that if he believed in the one true God and was baptized, the angel would appear to him. So he went to the bishop to be baptized, and when he returned, sure enough he saw the angel standing beside his wife. The angel crowned them both with wreathes of roses and lilies.
Eventually Cecilia and her husband Valerian were discovered as Christians and were killed. During her interrogation, Cecilia helped convert several important officials to Christianity. The story has it that Cecilia died with a song of love for Christ upon her lips.
Perhaps the thought of Cecilia’s courage and vigorous evangelizing spirit can help us when we feel discouraged and alone. When it is difficult, let’s go back into our heart, and renew the deeper purpose of our lives – following Christ and bringing others to his love.