This holiday offers us an opportunity to celebrate the example of national heroes, the people who we can hold up as truly great patriots. One problem, though: Some of our forebears were not saints. Thus this idea: Why not also think about truly admirable saints on this day?
Unless you’re part of Roman Catholic traditions, you may not be aware of the multitude of named saints who have been part of our faith family over centuries. They were ordinary people who went about God’s work in venerable ways. Not all of them perfect—that’s how it is among saints—but exemplary because they lived what they believed.
Today I’ve included a few examples of designated faith heroes whose lives we can observe on July 4th. I’ve included links so that you can get a fuller picture of their influence and ministries. (For a full listing of these and other July 4th saints, see CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » 4 July .)
Saint Elizabeth of Portugal—Given in marriage to the 13th century King Diniz of Portugal when she was only 12, this Queen Elizabeth had to deal with an abusive husband and, later in life, with political/military conflicts that required her intervention as peacemaker. During her reign, she generously contributed her influence, energy, time and wealth to help the poor and sick. When her husband died, she distributed her property to the poor, gave up the throne and became a lay Franciscan. ( CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » Saint Elizabeth of Portugal)
Blessed Maria Crocifissa Curcio –Suffering from lifelong diabetes and its complications, Maria nevertheless followed her passions for a spiritually directed life, becoming an Italian Carmelite in 1890 at age 13. Over time, she worked among and managed several religious organizations serving those who were poor. Eventually she established her own order, the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. Extending its influence to other parts of the world, her congregation is still active today! (CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » Blessed Maria Crocifissa Curcio)
Blessed Pier Giorgio Grassati—Born into a wealthy, influential family in Turin, Italy in 1901, he was only an average student, but became an outstanding athlete and mountain climber. Handsome and outgoing, he was extremely popular with his peers, known by the nickname “Terror” due to his practical jokes. He was attracted to the teachings and work of several religious/political groups emphasizing social justice. When he was 22, he became a lay Dominican, using his fortune to benefit the sick and needy people he visited. He died when he was only 24, contracting the polio that was prevalent in those communities. (CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati )
Saint Theodore of Cyrene—A 4th century scribe and copyist of Scriptures, he later became bishop of Cyrene (a city in today’s Libya). When he was arrested during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, he refused to give up his copies of the Bible. He was scourged, his tongue was cut out and he was then beheaded. (CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » Saint Theodore of Cyrene)
(One group of saints also deserves our attention on this national holiday that honors the highest principles of democracy, nationhood and sainthood. They were all martyrs of the Second World War. Their collected witness is observed on June 12th.)
The Blessed Polish Martyrs – This group of 108 Polish Christians was persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and later murdered by the Nazis. Primarily priests, nuns and other religious, these men and women served their congregations and institutions, helped and hid Jewish people, worked among the country’s needy populations, and ministered to prisoners in concentration camps. (CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » 108 Martyrs of World War II)
Perhaps most instructive and motivating are the lives of saints that still surround us: Neighbors, family members, friends, people in our churches, law enforcement officers, political leaders, philanthropists, community activists, missioners, members of the armed forces, religious leaders, medical and emergency personnel, volunteers, tradespeople, skilled artisans—you get the picture. These individuals—perhaps you among them—combine the witness of their lives to make this nation great.
All saints, set apart to do God’s holy work, can continue to inspire this nation!
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