Saints for Religious Liberty
Fortnight for Freedom Day 14 - July 4
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1900s, Italy): Known as a "Man of the Beatitudes,” Blessed Pier Giorgio was the son of a prominent, non-religious family in Turin who owned a newspaper called La Stampa. He came to know Christ and eventually became an Italian Catholic activist. He worked for justice for the poor and spoke out against political injustice and against the rise of fascism in Italy in the 1920s. He died on July 4, 1925, at the age of 24 from an illness. The poor of the city petitioned for the archbishop of Turin to begin the cause for canonization. The process was opened in 1932, and he was beatified in 1990. His feast day is July 4.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 13 - July 3
Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro (1800s-1900s, Mexico): Blessed Miguel Pro was a Mexican Jesuit priest who was executed under the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles. As a young Jesuit, he studied in Mexico until 1914, when an anti-Catholic sentiment overtook the country. His community fled to the United States, but he eventually was sent to Spain to complete his seminary studies. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925. Blessed Miguel Pro became ill and was allowed to return to Mexico, despite the religious persecution going on there. He spent much of his life ministering in secret and helping the poor. He was falsely accused in a bombing attempt on the former Mexican president and sentenced to death without a trial. He was executed in 1927 and was beatified in 1988. Blessed Miguel Pro’s feast day is Nov. 23.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 12 - July 2
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1800s-1900s, Germany/Netherlands): Born Edith Stein into a Jewish family, she became an atheist in her teenage years. She went away to a university, where she became a philosopher and earned a doctorate in 1916. She found herself moved by the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, which began a journey of faith that led to her baptism in 1922. She entered the Carmelites in 1934. Because of the dangers in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, she was moved to a convent in the Netherlands in 1938. In 1942, the Dutch bishops denouncing the Nazi activities. In retaliation, they arrested all Dutch Jews who converted to Christianity. St. Teresa Benedicta and her sister, Rosa, were arrested and died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. She was canonized in 1998. Her feast day is Aug. 9.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 11 - July 1
St. Charles Lwanga (1880s, Africa): One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga protected his fellow pages (aged 13 to 30) from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands. For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at Namugongo on June 3, 1886, by Mwanga’s order. Charles first learned of Christ’s teachings from two retainers in the court of Chief Mawulugungu. While a catechumen, he entered the royal household as assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the court pages. On the night of Mukaso’s martyrdom for encouraging the African youths to resist Mwanga, Charles requested and received baptism. Imprisoned with his friends, Charles’s courage and belief in God inspired them to remain chaste and faithful.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 10 - June 30
First Holy Martyrs of the Roman Church/ St. Stephen Protomartyr (first century, Jerusalem): St. Stephen was among a group of men of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. After a dispute with members of the Synagogue of Freedmen, he was denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses, among other things. He was tried before the Sanhedrin. He eventually was condemned and stoned to death by a mob, which was encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as St. Paul the Apostle. St. Stephen’s feast day is Dec. 26.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 9 - June 29
Sts. Peter and Paul (first century, Rome): St. Peter, one of the 12 Apostles and the first bishop of Rome, and St. Paul, a convert who spent much of his life spreading the Gospel message, were among the most influential early Christians. Both were put to death for their roles in spreading Christianity. They share a feast day on June 29.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 8 - June 28
St. Cyprian (third century, North Africa): St. Cyprian, known for his gradual escalation of conflict with Roman authorities, converted to Christianity and became a bishop in Carthage around the year 249 A.D. The following year, a persecution began and bishops were required to make sacrifice to the emperor, but St. Cyprian fled. A new persecution broke out several years later, and again St. Cyprian refused. He was exiled. St. Cyprian eventually was arrested and brought to trial. In 258, he was imprisoned again and was sentenced to die by beheading. His feast day is Sept. 16.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 7- June 27
St. Catherine of Alexandria (fourth century, Alexandria, Egypt): St. Catherine was the daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella of Alexandria. As a young adult, she visited her contemporary, the Roman Emperor Maxentius, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians for not worshipping idols. The emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate and succeeded in converting all of them to Christianity, for which the philosophers and orators were executed by an enraged Maxentius.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 6 - June 26
St. Paul Miki and Companions (1500s, Japan): St. Paul Miki was the son of a wealthy Japanese military leader. He embraced Christianity and became a Jesuit in 1580. He played a role in converting his own family and others because of his preaching. The emperor of Japan, fearful of the rising role of foreign missionaries, banished foreign ministers and arrested Christians. In 1597, St. Paul Miki and 25 companions were arrested and sentenced to death. They marched 600 miles to Nagasaki, where they were crucified and stabbed with a lance. His feast day is Feb. 6.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 5 - June 25
St. Thomas Becket (1100s, England): St. Thomas Becket was an English bishop who was martyred for his conflict over rights and privileges of the Church. In his early career, he was a civil servant and eventually became a chancellor for King Henry II. In 1162, he was nominated as archbishop of Canterbury. He was ordained a priest and consecrated as a bishop later that year. This led to a conflict between St. Thomas and King Henry. St. Thomas, realizing the importance of protecting the Church’s rights and liberties, was unwilling to allow the king to take full control of the Church. He was exiled to France for several years. Upon his return, he refused to give in to political pressure and was killed by four knights in the Cathedral of Canterbury in 1170. His feast day is Dec. 29.
Fortnight for Freedom Day 4 - June 24
St. John the Baptist (first century, Judea): One of the key religious figures of the early Church, St. John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of Christ as he led a baptismal movement along the Jordan River. He eventually baptized Christ at Bethany. Later, he continued to preach and minister around Israel, even condemning King Herod for taking a woman that wasn’t his wife. He eventually was arrested and beheaded. His feast day is June 24 (Nativity).
Fortnight for Freedom Day 3- June 23
Martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung Lac (1600s-1900s, Vietnam): The Martyrs of Vietnam refers to a large group of Vietnamese individuals who lived their faith in hostile territory. An estimated 150,000 to 300,000 individuals were martyred in Vietnam between the 17th and 20th centuries. A group of them were canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 1988 for their witness. Among the group was St. Andrew Dung Lac, a diocesan priest who tirelessly preached. He also baptized many after their conversions. As conditions were growing hostile toward Catholics in Vietnam, he was arrested there in 1835. Even after his release, he continued to minister. He was arrested a second time and eventually was beheaded in 1839 for his devotion to the Church. His feast day is Nov. 24.
Fortnight For Freedom Day 2 - June 22
North American Martyrs, St. John de Brébeuf (1593-1649, Canada) Known as the Canadian Martyrs or the Martyrs of New France, they include St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1649), St. Antoine Daniel (1648), St. Charles Garnier (1649), St. René Goupil (1642), St. Isaac Jogues (1646), St. Jean de Lalande (1646) and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649). St. John de Brebeuf and his companions, members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), primarily worked with the Huron Indians in Canada. He converted thousands Indians and composed a dictionary and catechism in the Huron language. The martyrs had helped organize resistance to Iroquois invasions during the warfare between the Iroquois and the Huron. They were captured and eventually killed by the Iroquois. Their feast day is Oct. 19.
Fortnight For Freedom Day 1 - June 21
Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher (1400s-1535, England) St. John Fisher, a English Catholic scholastic, cardinal and martyr, was executed at the order of King Henry VIII during the English Reformation because of his refusal to accept the king as head of the Church of England. He also opposed the King Henry’s divorce proceedings against his wife Catherine and resisted the encroachment of Henry on the Church. He shares his feast day with St. Thomas More, patron of lawyers, who was a lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. St. Thomas More also opposed the king’s separation from the Catholic Church and refused to accept him as the head of the Church of England. He spent much of his life writing in defense of the Catholic Church. Both saints were executed in 1535.