It's a tradition we've tried to carry on with our own children who are all named after great saints. We wish the child "Happy Feast Day," and we will often have a special dessert and usually a special prayer to ask for God's graces through the intercession of the patron saint on that day.
My parents have continued the tradition in more elaborate fashion—sending gifts to the grandchildren on their feast day or "name day," as it is sometimes called.
Here, Therese revels in the excitement of a batch of gifts—books—sent by Grandma Kate & Poppy on her feast day.
The patron saints for our children are as follows:
Anna Marie: St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus
In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Ann come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.
The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.
The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.
Joachim and Ann—whether these are their real names or not—represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.
Kathleen: St. Catherine Laboure
St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, 1806. At an early age she entered the community of the Daughters of Charity, in Paris, France. Three times in 1830 the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, who then was a twenty-four year old novice.
On July 18, the first apparition occurred in the community's motherhouse. St. Catherine beheld a lady seated on the right side of the sanctuary. When St. Catherine approached her, the heavenly visitor told her how to act in time of trial and pointed to the altar as the source of all consolation. Promising to entrust St. Catherine with a mission which would cause her great suffering, the lady also predicted the anticlerical revolt which occurred at Paris in 1870.
On November 27, the lady showed St. Catherine the medal of the Immaculate Conception, now universally known as the "Miraculous Medal." She commissioned St. Catherine to have one made, and to spread devotion to this medal. At that time, only her spiritual director, Father Aladel, knew of the apparitions. Forty-five years later, St. Catherine spoke fully of the apparitions to one of her superiors. She died on December 31, 1876, and was canonized on July 27, 1947. Her feast day is November 25.
William: St. William of York
A disputed election as archbishop of York and a mysterious death. Those are the headlines from the tragic life of today's saint.
Born into a powerful family in 12th-century England, William seemed destined for great things. His uncle was next in line for the English throne—though a nasty dynastic struggle complicated things. William himself faced an internal Church feud.
Despite these roadblocks, he was nominated as archbishop of York in 1140. Local clergymen were less enthusiastic, however, and the archbishop of Canterbury refused to consecrate William. Three years later a neighboring bishop performed the consecration, but it lacked the approval of Pope Innocent II, whose successors likewise withheld approval. William was deposed and a new election was ordered.
It was not until 1154—14 years after he was first nominated—that William became archbishop of York. When he entered the city that spring after years of exile, he received an enthusiastic welcome. Within two months he was dead, probably from poisoning. His administrative assistant was a suspect, though no formal ruling was ever made.
Despite all that happened to him, William did not show resentment toward his opponents. Following his death, many miracles were attributed to him. He was canonized 73 years later.
Andrew: St. Andrew the Apostle
Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).
John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).
Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).
Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.
Therese: St. Therese of Lisieux (otherwise known as The Little Flower)
"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are the words of Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. [In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.] And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24.
Life in a Carmelite convent is indeed uneventful and consists mainly of prayer and hard domestic work. But Thérèse possessed that holy insight that redeems the time, however dull that time may be. She saw in quiet suffering redemptive suffering, suffering that was indeed her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the Carmel convent "to save souls and pray for priests." And shortly before she died, she wrote: "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth."
[On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, the third woman to be so recognized in light of her holiness and the influence of her teaching on spirituality in the Church.]
Marguerite: St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
“God closes a door and then opens a window,” people sometimes say when dealing with their own disappointment or someone else’s. That was certainly true in Marguerite’s case. Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence.
Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.
In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.
Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.
Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” Marguerite was canonized in 1982.