Twenty One Saints Everyone Must Know XII - X

XXI - XIX Saints Gregory the Great, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp
XVIII - XVI Saints Jerome, John Chrysostom, Elijah
XV - XIII Saints Therese of Lisieux, Teresia Benedicta, Teresa of Avila

St. John of the Cross
12-St. John of the Cross (1542 AD - 1591 AD) [Doctor of the Church] Along with St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross is responsible for reforming the old Carmelite order and founding the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. The term discalced refers to a person who is barefooted, which in turn signifies the poverty in which the members of this Order live. The charism of this Order is mainly contemplative prayer. St. John of the Cross writes his spiritual masterpiece, the Dark Night of the Soul, to elaborate on the spiritual experience that we encounter in our path to a complete union with God. After achieving some success in our spiritual undertaking and having attained some mastery over the Seven Deadly Sins, God retracts His Spirit and leaves us in a complete desolation and aridity. This happens after the soul has tasted the profound love of God and the beauty and wonder of His delightful presence. As a result, the “wounded soul” is plunged deep into despair and misery (Dark Night of the Soul, Book II, Chapter xiii, Paragraph 8). Contrary to what a believer may think when undergoing such experience, God is actually infusing an abundant grace into this soul to provide it with enough strength enabling it to overcome its weaknesses and imperfections. At the time, the soul may imagine all sorts of horrifying possibilities while attempting to explain the aridity it experiences. It may think that God, her sole lover, has “abandoned” her due to her imperfections and wickedness (Dark Night of the Soul Book I, Chapter x, Paragraph 1). This prospect sends the soul into frenzy. It becomes terrified, scared and frightened of what its end might be. Little does the soul know that God is actually crowning her with new graces to bring her closer to a full union with Him. According to St. John, some souls experience two such Nights (not restricted to a period of time between evening and morning but rather it may be an extended period of time). The first one is harsh, and it is the lot of many. However the second one is far more severe and few people experience it. The entire process is intended to purify, purge and cleanse the soul of its imperfections. The first Night, which is the less severe, serves to cleanse the senses, while the second Night, frightening and dreadful as it may be, purges the spirit, bringing it even closer to God. If you are experiencing such Nights, then St. John of the Cross urges you to offer yourself completely and wholly to God’s work in you. Remain passive and docile to God’s work until He decides it is time to offer you some consolation or delight, depending on which Night you are experiencing, to help you continue on the path towards Him. St. John of the Cross has been a personal guide for me in certain periods of my life. For that, I am forever indebted to him.

St. Benedict of Nursia
11-St. Benedict of Nursia (480 AD – 547 AD)
St. Benedict is another man whose writings never made it down to our time. His only writing that has survived is his Rule, the Rule of St. Benedict. Everything we know about St. Benedict is passed down to us in a book written by St. Gregory the Great titled The Dialogues. St. Benedict is widely recognized as the founder of western monasticism. His ascetic lifestyle is very similar to the life of the Desert Fathers who wander into the desert to live a life of solitude, austerity and prayer. His authority over evil spirits is noteworthy.  At one time while he is tempted with the sin of flesh, he finds a thorn bush and throws himself on it while naked (do not try this at home) “and there wallowed so long that, when he rose up, all his flesh was pitifully torn” (Dialogues II, 2). Thus he is determined to defend his purity. Of all the great miracles this holy man has performed, nothing surpasses the establishment of the first monastic Order in the west. The Benedictines today are widespread throughout Europe and North America as well as wherever the Catholic Church is present. I like St. Benedict because his lifestyle is closely related to that of St. John the Baptist and Prophet Elijah, which we will read about shortly.  His renunciation of worldly pleasure of any sort is truly commendable. Another story that has been engraved onto my mind is that of his sister, St. Scholastica. After many years of separation, the two finally meet again together alone in a building not very far from his Abbey. The two spend a great deal of time speaking of spiritual matters and things of heaven. The time comes when St. Benedict has to leave, but his sister insists that he stay a little longer. St. Benedict refuses to stay a second longer. St. Scholastica puts her head down in prayer, and as soon as she raises it, storms and thunders fill the sky, making it impossible for her brother to depart at that hour. Seeing this, St. Benedicts looks at his sister and says, “God forgive you, what have you done?” (Dialogues, II, 33). They end up spending the entire night comforting each other with matters of heaven. The next day, St. Scholastica leaves to her Nunnery, and three days later, her brother sees her soul going up to heaven like a dove.

St. Thomas Aquinas
10-St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 AD – 1274 AD) [Doctor of the Church]
It is only apt that I should include the Angelic Doctor in this list because, along with St. Augustine, his writings are the most frequently cited sources in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. His Summa Theologica treats almost every subject under the sun that deals with the science of philosophy. For centuries, atheists have been attempting to disprove God’s existence. Unfortunately for them, they have to wrestle against the five proofs St. Aquinas has posited in his Summa. So far they’ve been unsuccessful. Any theist wanting to bolster his arguments is bound to resort to St. Aquinas in one way or another. The most prominent of those today who engage the atheists in public debates (I would count Dr. William Lane Craig being the most voracious of them) use the same arguments, perhaps sometimes tailored and modified in one way or another. St. Aquinas’ thorough knowledge of the Scriptures has gained him a great deal of affection and respect not just among the Catholics, but also among the Protestants as well. One thing about St. Thomas is that he is always very protective of his chastity. His family attempt to dissuade him from pursuing religious life. They send a prostitute to his chamber to seduce him. He takes a burning log and chases her out of the room. Once he returns to his room, two angels appear to him and gird him with a chord of chastity, a testament of his purity of body and soul. St. Aquinas is the Patron Saint of all scholars and students.


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