Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.
Mateo Correa Magallanes
Mateo Correa lived most of his life in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. For most of that he was a quiet parish priest assigned to small and quiet parishes. But it was a time of tumult for the Church in Mexico. In 1917, Mexico had in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution implemented a secularist constitution, and Article 130 was explicit in requiring state control of churches: churches had to be registered with the government, to become a priest or minister was to give up rights that were standard for other citizens, and the like. At first, this was enforced with a very light hand, as less strict prior attempts at a secularist constitution had usually been. But under the administration of President Plutarco Elias Calles, this changed; Calles concluded that the Catholic Church was beginning to push back in ways significant enough that a very strict enforcement of the secularist provisions was required, and this is what he implemented in 1926. Peaceful resistance to the regime began occasionally to flare up, and then a full-scale revolution broke out, which is known as the Cristero War. The Cristeros were fighting at a considerable disadvantage, but they were not completely without resources. The Knights of Columbus had begun to become popular in certain parts of Mexico (Fr. Correa himself was a member), and they provided a network that kept the Cristeros from completely being overwhelmed. In 1927, still early in the war, Fr. Correa was arrested from the government as he went to attend a dying invalid, on charges of participating in the revolution, although it's likely that he was not himself directly involved. He was kept in a prison camp for some days, during which he heard the confessions of his fellow-prisoners. He was brought before General Ortiz, who demanded that the priest tell him what had been confessed by one of the men. When Fr. Correa refused to violate the seal of the confessional, the General had a gun put to his head, threatening to kill him then and there. However, when he continued to refuse, he was put before a firing range and shot, on February 6, 1927. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000, and May 21 is his feast day.
Born into a Catholic family in Oxford in the 1560s, Nicholas Owen grew up learning the family trade, which was carpentry. Throughout his early life, the strictures imposed by Queen Elizabeth I against Catholics became increasingly heavy, and young Nicholas Owen became involved in helping priests who were evading the law. He served for a time as St. Edmund Campion's servant, eventually being thrown into prison for a while for protesting Campion's own imprisonment. Afterward, he began working with Fr. Henry Garnet, and began the work for which he has become most famous: constructing cleverly designed priest-holes in Catholic houses where priests could be hidden from authorities trying to find them. It was a truly extraordinary task. Not only did it require considerable skill and ingenuity of mind to find ways to hide rooms so that they could not easily be discovered from the outside, the work required such immense secrecy that Owen often had to do it entirely by himself. This was not a small matter, since Owen was very short, lame, and suffered from a hernia, and the work, which usually had to be done as quietly as possible in a single night, was gruelingly hard labor. But he did it, and he did it all for free. The quality of his work was unmatched, and his trade as a carpenter meant that he could move around the country fairly freely. He is generally thought to have been the person who was behind Fr. John Gerard's famous escape in 1597 from the Tower of London; they had both been arrested in 1594, but Owen had been set free because he gave up no useful information in torture and the authorities immediately involved didn't realize how important the physically unimpressive carpenter actually was. Owen was arrested again in 1606 in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot; he deliberately put himself in the way of being arrested in an attempt to protect Fr. Garnet from being arrested by distracting the authorities. The distraction attempt did not work, and this time the authorities knew what a catch he was. He was tortured for information, but died during torture from complications arising from his hernia. He was canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Knud IV and Knud Lavard
Knud, or Canute, was born into the royal family of Denmark in the eleventh century, being the Grandnephew of Canute the Great. After his older brother Harald died, he became King Knud IV. He was an extraordinarily active person, and from the very beginning of his reign began a massive set of projects, most of which he successfully carried out. One of his major projects as strengthening the position of the Church: holy days were treated as holidays througout the Kingdom, he gave massive financial support to church-building, founded a cathedral school, and made tithing a legal requirement. Part of the reason for this was piety, but another reason for it was that the Kingdom required something capable of unifying it to a greater degree than anyone had managed before. We can see the same motivation in some of his other projects, many of which involved limiting the power of nobles to act unaccountably and protecting peasants and merchants from coercion. These efforts, which involved changes to longstanding customs, made him quite unpopular, and sometimes unpopular with people he was trying to protect. One of his failed projects was the attempt to mount an invasion of England in imitation of his great-uncle; the increase of other military threats made it risky, forcing delays, and during one of these delays a peasant rebellion broke out. Canute was caught off guard and was eventually trapped in a church in Odense; the rebels stormed the church and Canute was slain before the altar as he prayed. His general piety was well known, however, and vast numbers of Danes were shocked at what was not only regicide but desecration of a church, and veneration began almost immediately. When a serious famine struck during the reign of his successor, it was seen as an act of divine justice, and the veneration spread. He was raised to the universal calendar by Pope Paschal II in 1101, and his feast day is July 10. He is often, however, confused and conflated with his nephew, St. Canute Lavard, who has a wider devotion, and so he is in some places commemorated on the popular Scandinavian holiday of St. Knud's Day, January 7, which is in reality the feast of St. Canute Lavard.
The son of King Eric I of Denmark, Knud (or Canute) Lavard was made Jarl of Schleswig by his uncle, King Niels of Denmark, in order to try to handle the complicated border disputes that had begun to arise there between Denmark, the Holy Roman Empire, and various minor local powers. He was very successful, and, being an active admirer of the Germannic chivalric culture of the Holy Roman Empire, eventually became a Holy Roman vassal and the Duke of Holstein, while retaining his Danish position as well. He was very popular but his dual political situation made other nobles very suspicious of his loyalties. When Emperor Lothair III actively rewarded Canute Lavard with a considerable boost in power and lands, his uncle King Niels and his cousin Magnus reacted by killing him in an ambush in Haraldsted Forest in 1131. As Canute Lavard had been a major candidate for the Danish throne, the murder tied up the Danish nobles in various civil wars for some years after. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1169.
Mariana de Jesús de Paredes
Mariana was born, the youngest of eight children, to an aristocratic family in Quito, Ecuador, in 1618, but she was orphaned at a young age. She was raised by an older sister and her husband, and had a quiet and prayerful life. Her sister and brother-in-law encouraged her to become a nun, but something about the suggestion did not seem right to Mariana, and instead she chose to live in relative seclusion in her sister's house, fasting and engaging in bodily mortifications, as well as supporting the local Jesuits in various ways. According to the Franciscans of the time, she became a Third Order Franciscan, but some of the evidence suggests that she may have not become one officially, but may have simply adopted the vestments and some of the practices as being appropriate to her way of life. She developed a reputation for fasting so severely that she was sustained only by the Eucharist, and also for having prophetic visions of the future. During the terrible 1645 earthquake, she offered herself in prayer as a sacrificial victim on behalf of the people of Quito, and died shortly thereafter; many people attributed their survival of the earthquake to her prayers. She was beatified in 1853 by Bl. Pius IX and canonized in 1950 by Pius XII; her feast day is May 26.
Joseph Vaz was born in Goa, India, in 1651 and became a priest in the Archdiocese of Goa in 1676. At some point, Joseph conceived the plan of becoming a missionary to Sri Lanka. Goa was part of Portuguese India, and under the Padroado agreement between Portugal and the Holy See, certain things that would normally be given to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith were given instead to the Portuguese; this was apparently to make things easier, but in fact the agreement caused more problems than it ever solved. As time had gone on, disputes had arisen about what the borders and limitations of the agreement were, with the result that there was a major jurisdictional dispute between the Padroado authorities and the Propaganda over the territory of Kanara. For this reason, it was decided to send Vaz there instead. It was a mess of a situation; the Catholics in the territory were essentially split between the Padroado Catholics and the Propaganda Catholics, with both sides excommunicating each other on the assumption that they were the rightful Catholic authorities in the area. When Vaz arrived, he noted that the whole matter was an occasion of scandal, leading many who might otherwise have become Catholic to avoid such a contentious group of people. Vaz arranged to meet the leader of the Propaganda Catholics, Thomas De Castro, and, having ascertained that De Castro had legitimate documentation from the Pope, arranged an agreement in which Vaz recognized De Castro's authority but was still allowed to function as a representative of the Padroado. He spent much of his time building churches and schools, but his major contribution was the development of confraternities to help deal with the massive shortage of priests that had occurred as Catholics were converted at a faster rate than priests could be provided; the confraternities would worship on their own at small shrines, to which priests would visit on special occasions. So it went for a few years, but he eventually returned to Goa, where he spent his time preaching and developing the local Oratorian community. In 1686 he was finally given permission to head a mission to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka at the time was controlled by the Dutch, who had outlawed Catholicism, so he traveled incognito in the garb of a Buddhist monk, carefully connecting to the pockets of Catholic communities that were already there. He eventually settled in the independent kingdom of Kandy, where the kings became favorably disposed to him and actively protected him. He would die there on January 16, 1711. He became known as the Apostle of Ceylon; he was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1995 and canonized by Francis in 2015.
A Moravian from Křižanov in the modern Czech Republic, Zdislava was, despite wanting to be a nun or hermit, married off to Lord Havel of Markvartice, a wealthy Bohemian, with whom she lived at Lemberk Castle. She became a Dominican tertiary and continued trying to live an ascetic life as a married woman, and particularly to engage in charitable activities toward those in need. There were many in need throughout the land in her day. The Mongols under Subutai began invading Central Europe in 1240. Poland, Hungary, and smaller Carpathian territories were hit with devastating attacks; people fled in vast numbers, often able to take only what they could carry and having no likely hope of ever returning to their homes. Zdislava opened the castle doors to these desperate refugees. This caused some tension with her husband for a while, but it is said that once he checked in on a beggar she had admitted and discovered on the bed not the beggar but a crucifix. Chastened by this, he helped Zdislava to found a Dominican convent, which she supported the rest of her life. She died in her early 30s in 1252, was beatified by Pius X in 1907, and was canonized in 1995 by John Paul II. Her feast day is January 4.
Caterina Fieschi Adorno
Born in Genoa in 1447, Caterina married Giuliano Adorno, probably in the very Italian attempt to quell a feud that had arisen between the two families. They were not a good match for each other; Adorno was unfaithful, very bad with money, violent of temper, and thus having all the three of the kinds of worldliness that are the worst possible traits for a husband to have. Her life a considerable misery, she reached a point at which she began praying to God to make her terribly ill. Then one day, on March 22, 1473, while giving her confession, she had a mystical experience, one that shook her to her core; in fact, she was so astounded by it that she left the confessional without having completed her confession. From that point on, she became actively devoted to a life of prayer, and began actively assisting the sick at the hospital in Genoa. Her husband, who had reduced them to poverty by his bad spending habits, eventually began helping her there and praying as well. Through the hospital, whose treasurer she had become, she met Father Marabotti, who began collecting a memoir of her spiritual experiences. At this time she might have also begun the work for which she is best known, the highly influential Treatise on Purgatory. She died in 1510, was beatified by Clement X in 1675, and was canonized by Clement XII in 1735. Her feast is September 15.
Pietro I Orseolo
The Orseolo family was one of the most powerful families in Venice. In 976, the Doge, Pietro IV Candiano was killed in a revolution. Pietro was elected his successor; it was widely thought at the time that he was one of the instigators of the revolution, and it is likely true that he was at least associated with it in some capacity. In any case, Orseolo turned out to have considerable administrative and financial talent, to the general benefit of Venice. He helped to settle things down by generosity to victims of the revolution, and, as St. Mark's Basilica had been damaged by revolutionary fighting, he paid for its restoration out of his own pocket. Then suddenly, in 978, he disappeared from Venice. He had left -- apparently without letting anyone know, including his own family -- on a mission with St. Romuald to join the abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa as a Benedictine monk. He spent years of ascetic discipline there, and eventually founded a hermitage in the nearby forest, where he died. He was locally recognized as a saint, as well as by the Camaldolese order founded by St. Romuald, and this was confirmed by Pope Clement XII in 1731. His feast day is January 10.
Ðaminh Hà Trọng Mậu
Born in 1794 in Phu-Nai, where French missionaries had first brought the gospel to Vietnam, St. Dominic Mau entered the Dominican order in 1829, just as persecution of Catholics was heating up under the emperor, Minh Mạng, he held his flock together through that persecution, then through the less severe persecution under Minh Mạng's son, Thiệu Trị. When the next emperor, Tự Đức, took the throne, the persecution heated up again, and in August of 1858, Fr. Mậu was arrested. He was kept in prison for some time and regularly tortured in the hopes that he would recant, until on November 5, 1558, he was beheaded with twenty-one other Catholics. He was canonized in 1988 by St. John Paul II, and is celebrated on November 24 among the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs.
Jeanne-Françoise Frémiot de Chantal
Born in Dijon, France, in 1572, Jeanne-Françoise, or Jane Francis as she is often known in English, was the daughter of a member of the Parliament of Burgundy. Since her mother died when she was very young, her father was the primary influence on her early years, and he went through great trouble to ensure that she grew up happy, devout, and well-educated. She married the Baron de Chantal, but he was killed in a hunting accident in 1601. Jane Francis was suddenly the sole manager of the Baron's estate and sole provider for four children. As it turned out, despite the difficult transition that often happened when a widow took over her husband's estates and creditors came calling, she was excellent at it, showing an extraordinary talent for finances and a capacity for negotiating even with difficult people. She continued for some time in this state of life, taking a vow of chastity and donating generously to the poor out of her thriving accounts, but she led her life with a resentment that she could not erase against the man who had accidentally killed her husband. Then one day she heard a sermon by St. Francis de Sales and it changed her attitude and her life. She took Francis as a spiritual director, and eventually founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose existence was formalized in 1610. The idea behind the Congregation was a new one. Unlike most female religious orders and societies, which had restrictions on who could join, in order to keep the order sustainable, the Congregation of the Visitation was open to all women, even the sickly, the dying, and the very old. It was also not cloistered. The idea, suitable to Jeanne-François's talents, was to be actually active in the world. This received a great deal of protest and pushback, and eventually St. Francis and St. Jane Francis were required to transform the Congregation of the Visitation into a more standard style of cloistered religious order. Even so, the Congregation thrived, and the fact that it was headed by a woman of known practical ability was a significant factor, since women with financial and other difficulties would come to St. Jeanne-Françoise for advice, and the quality of the advice spread the name of the community widely. St. Francis de Sales eventually died, and Jane Francis took on a new spiritual director, St. Vincent de Paul, and the community continued to thrive. She died in 1641, was beatified by Benedict XIV in 1747, and was canonized by Clement XIII in 1767. Her feast day has jumped around quite a bit; currently it is August 12.
Stephen Min Kŭk-ka
Stephen's mother died in childbirth, so he was raised by his father and brothers. They family was not originally Christian, instead participating in local pagan traditions. Eventually all of the men in the family converted to Catholicism, however, Stephen among them. He did not have a particularly happy life; not only did he never know his mother, but his first wife would die shortly after their marriage, and his second wife would die some time after the birth of their daughter, who also died, leaving him alone. At this juncture he decided to become a catechist, which was a dangerous ministry at the time, putting a layperson at the forefront of evangelism in a period when the Korean government was cracking down on the spread of religions. He was very successful, converting many people, which inevitably meant that he came to the attention of the government and was arrested. They attempted, with torture, to get him to deny his faith, but he refused, until they got tired of trying to break him and strangled him to death in 1840 at the age of 53. His feast day is January 20; he is also celebrated with the Holy Korean Martyrs on September 20.
Rabanus Maurus Magnentius
From a noble family in Mainz, Rabanus (Rhabanus, Hrabanus) had one of the finest educations of his day, studying under Alcuin. It was Alcuin who, recognizing his excellence as a student, gave him the nickname Maurus, after St. Benedict's disciple, St. Maurus. He was put in charge of the abbey school at Fulda, which under his care soon became a major educational institution. After he was ordained a priest, he seems to have had a falling out with the abbot, and disappears for a short while, returning on the historical scene when the new abbot was chosen. After that abbot's death, Rabanus himself became abbot, an office he performed well, but which he did not like because it took away time from study. He eventually resigned, but a few years after was elected the Archbishop of Mainz, which see he occupied until his death in 856. He is generally thought to be the author of the hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus", and after that is probably most famous today for his highly sophisticated image poems. He also, however, had a massive influence on the commentary tradition in the West, and between that and the influence of his students has often been referred to by the title, 'Instructor of Germany'. While he is not on the universal calendar, he is listed as a saint in the Roman Martyrology for February 4. He was, as Pope Benedict XVI noted, all at once an "exegete, philosopher, poet, pastor and man of God."
An image poem by Rabanus:
And the hymn associated with him:
This is the tenth year for All Saints posts; to celebrate, there will be two more All Saints posts later today.
2018 All Saints Post
Gianna Beretta Molla, Margaret of Scotland, Yu Tae-chol Peter, Justa and Rufina of Seville, Giuseppe Moscati, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghaţţas, Salomone Leclerq, Arnulf of Metz, Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Frumentius of Tyre, Jeanne Jugan, Joseph Zhang Dapeng, Maroun and Abraham of Harran, Magnus Erlendsson, Callixtus I, Hippolytus, Urban I, Pontian, Anterus, Fabian, Jean de Brébeuf
2017 All Saints Post
John Ogilvie, Leo IV, Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs, Theodore the Studite, The Martyrs of Gorkum, Margaret Ward and John Roche, Mesrop Mashtots, José María Robles Hurtado, Genevieve of Paris, Pedro Calungsod, Isaac of Nineveh, George Preca, Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa, Anthony of Padua
2016 All Saints Post
Theodore of Tarsus, Nilus the Younger, Anne Line, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Elisabetta Hesselbad, Sergius of Radonezh, Anna Pak Agi, Jeanne de Valois, Vigilius of Trent, Claudian, Magorian, Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander, Euphrasia Eluvathingal, José Sanchez del Rio, Andrew Kaggwa, Roberto Bellarmino
2015 All Saints Post
Margaret Clitherow, Kaleb Elasbaan of Axum, Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin, Gertrude of Nivelles, Pius V, Clare and Agnes of Assisi, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Scholastica, Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm, Thorlak Thorhallson, John Damascene
2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor
2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom
2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga
2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga
2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon