August 8th is the Feast Day of Saint Dominic de Guzmán, the founder of the Order of Preachers (the Dominican Order.) While he was born in Spain, he lived in Italy for several years, as the order was headquartered in Rome, and is beloved there. He believed in rigorous study of Scripture, philosophy, natural sciences and theology to preach and teach about Christ. He received the Rosary from the Blessed Mother herself and the Dominicans have spread the devotion ever since. His relics reside in the “Ark of Saint Dominic”, decorated by some of the most skilled artists including Michelangelo. It resides in Dominic’s Chapel in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna. He is the patron of astronomers & natural scientists.
St. Clare of Assisi was a devoted follower of St. Francis of Assisi, who helped her found the religious order that eventually was called the “Poor Clares.” Completely devoted to Christ and contemplation of Him, she insisted the order follow extreme poverty, seclusion from the world, and almost complete silence. They constantly prayed, slept on the ground, ate no meat, and performed manual labor barefoot. Clare was the abbess of her monastery, a powerful position for a woman at that time, which enabled her to prevent even the Pope from changing the rule of life of their community to an easier one. She had a strong devotion to Christ in the Eucharist and is credited with saving Assisi from the Saracens by adoration of the Eucharist. In 1958, Pope Pius XII made her the patron saint of television, telephone, and telegraph because when she was ill, she was able to see & hear Mass on the wall of her room. It seems fitting that her spiritual daughter, Mother Angelica, who was a Poor Clare, founded EWTN, the largest radio & TV religious network in the world! St. Clare’s relics reside at the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, in the Province of Perugia. Her feast day is August 11th.
St. Eusebius of Vercelli was born in Sardinia, Italy in 283. He was the first bishop of Vercelli in Piedmont in northern Italy. His father was a martyr and he suffered exile by strongly affirming the divinity of Jesus & the Nicene Creed, and defending the Church against the Arian heresy. He died in 371 & is buried in the Vercelli Cathedral. His feast day is August 2nd.
Maria Goretti was born into extreme poverty in 1890, in Corinaldo, the Province of Ancona, in the Kingdom of Italy. The third of seven children, her family had to leave their farm and eventually moved to Nettuno, in Lazio, south of Rome. Her father died when she was nine and her mother and siblings had to work the fields to survive, while she needed to cook, clean and take care of her baby sister, in a rented house with a man and his 20 year old son, Alessandro. Alessandro attempted to rape the 11-year old Maria three times, each time she vehemently protected her virginity, and pleaded with him not to attack her because it was a mortal in that would send him to hell. In the final attempt, after being told “God does not want it! It is a sin!” he violently stabbed her 14 times with an awl. She died the next day at age 11, while praying & forgiving him. Her attacker went to prison, and converted after seeing her in a dream handing him lilies that then burned him horribly. When he got out of prison he went to her mother and begged her forgiveness, and eventually joined a monastery to live out the rest of his life in penance. He attended her canonization. St. Maria’s relics reside at the Passionist Basilica Nostra Signora delle Grazie e Santa Maria Goretti in Nettuno. She is the patron of teens and rape victims. Her feast day is July 6th.
St. Bonaventure. Born in 1221 in Bagnorea, Italy he became one of the Church’s great philosophers and theologians, which led to him being appointed a Cardinal, and later proclaimed as a Doctor of the Church in 1588. As a Franciscan mystic he believed the goal of all art & science is to lead one to contemplation of God. Some interesting facts: He was healed from an illness as a child by St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Aquinas was his good friend. He died in 1274. He is considered the second founder of the Franciscan Order, having given the Order much needed structure and organization. His relics rest at the Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure in Bagnoregio, Italy, of which he is patron. His feast day is July 15th.
St. Benedict was a monk and abbot born in Nursia, in Umbria, Italy in 480. His father was a Roman noble, his mother died at his birth. Founder of the Benedictine religious order, he is considered to be the “Father of Western Monasticism,” and he founded several monasteries, as well as working many miracles. His prime achievement was his rules for monks, the “Rule of St. Benedict,” known for its balanced discipline, and the rule “Ora et Labora” – Pray and Work, eight hours each of prayer, work, and sleep. Associated with him is the popular “Jubilee Medal” of St. Benedict, worn “to call down God’s blessing and protection upon us, wherever we are, and upon our homes and possessions, especially through the intercession of St. Benedict.” Benedict survived an attempt on his life when someone poisoned his cup. After saying a prayer over the cup, it shattered, preventing him from consuming the poison. He passed away of a fever at Monte Cassino, 80 miles southeast of Rome, in 547, not long after his twin sister, St. Scholastica died, and they are both buried there. He is the patron of Europe. His feast day is July 11th.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Born in Turin, Italy in 1901, Bl. Pier was an avid skier, mountain climber, swimmer, and most of all, lover of the poor. He gave up family vacations to help the poor, even giving the up the clothes and shoes he was wearing. When he died at 24 years old of an unexpected and quick case of polio, the streets were filled with mourners, hundreds of the poor followed his coffin. He is still beloved by young Catholics today, and there are Frassati groups around the world to encourage people in their faith and to help the poor. For more info: Read the book, and listen to Teresa Tomeo’s interview with the author about Bl. Frassati. His feast day is July 4.
St. Anthony of Padua. St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, but served the poor in the town of Padua in northern Italy. He’s known as the patron of sailors, fisherman, priests, travelers, and a wonder-worker and finder of souls. This is why many pray asking for his intercession when things are lost. He died June 13, 1231. His relics reside in Padua at the Basilica of St. Anthony. His feast day is June 13th.
Considered a “model shepherd,” St. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini was born in Fino Mornasco, in the Province of Como, in the Lombardy region of Italy, near the border with Switzerland. He burned with zeal for God & his people. Pius IX called him the “Apostle of the Catechism.” As bishop of Piacenza, he exhausted himself spreading the catechism, love for the Eucharist, and tending the sick & poor, especially Italian emigrants forced to leave to other countries to survive. He started new religious orders, reformed seminaries, comforted prisoners, saved farmers and workers from famine by selling his valuables, chalice, and his horses, and afterward walking on foot to visit the people of his diocese. This amazing saint was newly canonized in October 2022, he is the patron of Italian immigrants, missionaries & catechists. His feast day is June 1st. For more information about St. Giovanni click here.
St. Bona of Pisa. Born in 1156, St. Bona was an Augustinian tertiary at 10 years old, traveled to Jerusalem from Pisa to find her father, and was captured by Islamic pirates, then rescued, at 14. A visionary and mystic, she led pilgrims nine times on the 1000 mile journey to Santiago de Compostela and Spain. St. Bona died in 1207. She is the patron saint of travelers, tour guides, pilgrims, flight attendants, and the city of Pisa, Italy. Her feast day is May 29th.
St. Philip Neri, whose feast day in the Catholic Church is May 26th, was known as the “apostle of Rome” even though he was born and raised in the Renaissance City of Florence. The Italian priest, who died in 1595, was well educated and came from a wealthy family. He was designated to take over a prosperous family business, but a profound mystical vision led to a major Christian conversion. He quickly lost interest in the family business and felt a call to serve God, so he headed for Rome. His goal was to help the poor and evangelize the Eternal City whose residents were no longer living moral Christian lives. He preached everywhere and anywhere including on street corners and in the piazzas or public squares. He encouraged faith-based gatherings and discussions and was known for starting conversations with the questions, “well brothers, when shall we begin to do good?” The “apostle of Rome” is also one of the city’s five patron saints. St. Philip was canonized 400 years ago this year! His Relics reside in the beautiful Baroque “Chiesa Nuova,” Santa Maria in Vallicella Church, in Rome, the principle church of the Oratorians, the religious order St. Philip founded.
St. Bernadine of Siena was born in Massa Marittima, in the province of Siena, Italy in 1380. He was a priest and Franciscan missionary, carer of plague sufferers, scholastic economist, and said to be the greatest preacher of his time, especially against the rampant paganism and sins of his day. He was devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus and devised a symbol consisting of the first three letters in Greek of Jesus’ name, IHS on the background of the sun, in order to honor Him and counteract the many superstitious symbols popular at that time. Due to this connection, he is the patron of advertisers and public relations workers. He also is the patron of gambling addicts, the Diocese of San Bernadino in California, and several other cities that bear his name, especially in Italy. He died in 1444 and was quickly canonized a saint in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V. He is buried in the Basilica of San Bernardino, in L’Aquila, Italy, in the province of Abruzzo. His feast day is May 20th.
St. Corona. An early martyr who died in 176 AD along with St. Victor, has been a patron of “steadfastness in faith, for requests against storms and crop failures, for averting epidemics and for requests for help in the small needs of everyday life,” in eastern Austria for hundreds of years. She now is the patron against pandemics worldwide. Her feast day is May 14th.
Caterina di Jacopo di Benincasa, commonly known as Catherine of Siena, was born in Siena, Italy in 1347, the youngest of 25 children, most of whom did not survive childhood. A mystic, renowned for her holiness, she lived at home as a Third Order Dominican, tending to the sick and hungry, but her reputation was so great she traveled to Avignon, France to convince Pope Gregory XI to return the Papacy to Rome. She wrote some of the greatest works of Tuscan literature while in ecstasy, such as her Dialogues. She died in 1380 and is the patron saint of nurses, the sick, Italy, Europe, and Rome. She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. Her relics reside at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome & the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena. Her feast day is April 29th.
St. Fina, lived her very short life in the 13th century and is beloved and greatly venerated to this day San Gimignano, a town outside of Siena, Italy. Serious illness left her paralyzed and during her sickness she lost her parents. Despite all of the suffering, instead of complaining she thanked God for her numerous trials. She is known as a patron of handicapped (or physically challenged) people. Her feast day is March 12th. Visit here to learn more about St. Fina.
St. Joseph. Patron of the Universal Church and beloved patron of Sicily. His feast, La Festa Di San Giuseppe in Italy honors this husband to the Virgin Mary and earthly father to Jesus. Italy celebrates his feast day, March 19th, as Father’s Day.
St. Artemide Zatti was a poor farm boy born in Boretto, in the province of Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. He dropped out of school at nine years of age due to his family’s poverty. His family moved to Argentina to find work when he was 17 years old. Inspired by the life of Don Bosco and the example of Salesian priests, he joined the Salesians with the intention of becoming a priest himself, but because of his lack of education and his contracting tuberculosis from a young priest he nursed, he was unable to fulfill that desire. Artemide made a promise to Our Lady, Help of Christians, that if she would obtain a cure for him, he would serve the sick poor for the rest of his life. Miraculously cured of the TB by the Blessed Mother, he joined the Salesian Brothers and eventually became a pharmacist, nurse, operating room assistant, & hospital director, all the while spreading holiness and joy. Newly canonized in October of 2022, he is the patron saint of pharmacists and immigrants. His feast day is March 15th. For more information on St. Artemide click here.
St. Peter Damian. A Benedictine monk, Bishop of Ostia, Italy, a Cardinal, & a Doctor of the Church, Peter Damian was born in 1007 in Ravenna, Italy. Famous for reforming the Church in its day, he died in 1072. His relics were moved six times & finally rest in the Chapel of St. Peter Damian in the Cathedral of Faenza, in the northeastern region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy. He is the patron saint of Faenza. His feast day is February 21st.
St. Valentine. There are several St. Valentines. Not much is known about them. The most popular of these is St. Valentine of Rome who was martyred by beheading around 270 AD for possibly marrying young Christian couples, when Christianity was forbidden. This would certainly give him his romantic reputation. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages, beekeeping, epilepsy, the plague, fainting & traveling. His feast day is February 14th.
Twin sister of St. Benedict, St. Scholastica was born in Nursia, Umbria, Italy in 480. Little is known about her except she is the founder of the Benedictine Nuns. And a charming legendary story of the last time she talked with her brother Benedict. She died in 543 in Monte Cassino, Italy. After theft of her and her brother’s relics, and the World War II destruction of the monastery that held them, monasteries in both Monte Cassino and France claim to have her relics, but the evidence is disputed. She is the patron of schools, tests, reading, and against rain and storms. Her feast day is February 10th.
St. Agnes of Rome. Saint Agnes’ feast day is January 21st. She lived in Rome during the last major persecution of the early Church under the Emperor Diocletian who called for churches to be destroyed and their books burned. She was martyred for her faith and is a patron saint of young girls, chastity & rape survivors. Her relics are in the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls in Rome.
St. Angela Merici was born in Desenzano, Italy in 1474. She was orphaned as a girl, and grew up with her heart centered on Christ. Angela joined the Third Order of St. Francis, lived austerity and helped the poor. In a vision, she felt called to found a “company” of women, which she founded at 60 years old named after St. Ursula. It later became the Ursuline religious order. Angela Merici died in Brescia, Italy, in 1540. Her incorrupt relics reside in Saint Angela Merici Church in Brescia. Her feast day is January 27th. She is the patron saint of educators, the sick, those who lose parents, of courage, strength and determination.
St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most brilliant theologians and philosophers in the history of the Catholic Church, and perhaps the world. Using the thoughts of Aristotle, Aquinas showed that faith and reason are completely compatible since they both originate from God. His feast day is January 28th. Learn more about St. Thomas Aquinas: Click Here.
St. Hyacintha Mariscotti, born in Viterbo, Italy in 1585 into a wealthy, noble family, was self-absorbed and vain. The man she wanted to marry rejected her for her sister, and her petulant attitude caused her family to force her to join a Franciscan convent as a teenager. She refused the life of poverty, insisting on living a luxurious life even in the convent. After several years, her confessor discovered this, and urged her to be more humble. She changed her life and became well known for her devotion to the poor. She is a great example that if we are having trouble with humility, not to give up. Read more about her here. Her relics reside in the Chiesa di Santa Giacinta Marescotti in Viterbo. Her feast day is January 30th.
St. John Bosco. Born in Becchi, Italy in 1815, his father died when he was three and he grew up in great poverty, eventually becoming a farm worker. He learned to juggle to entertain other children. At 12, having left home because his older brother beat him to prevent him from learning to read, he begged a priest to educate him. He eventually became a priest himself, and working tirelessly, dedicated his life to helping poor children, educating them, and preventing them from being exploited and abused. He founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (the Salesians), and the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters), to continue his work. By the time he died in 1888, his sanctity was well known. His feast day is January 31st. His relics reside at the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians in Turin, in the Piedmont region of Italy. Click Here to watch a video on his life and tour the museum in Rome dedicated to him.
Not much is known of the first century Saint Syrus of Pavia, Lombardy, Italy. Legend says he could be the boy with the five loaves of bread in the Gospels. He is thought to have followed St. Peter to Rome, and then was sent to northern Italy, where he preached in all the major cities there. He vigorously fought the heresy of Arianism, which denied the Trinitarian nature of God. He was appointed the first Bishop of Pavia by the Apostles and is a patron saint of Pavia. His relics reside in the Cathedral of Pavia. His feast day is December 9th.
St. Andrew, the first apostle named by Jesus, was a fisherman and the brother of St. Peter. He was a disciple of John the Baptist first, and was the one who first introduced Peter to Jesus. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Andrew evangelized the cities all around the Black Sea, and up into Kiev and Novgorod (now modern-day Russia), a trip of over 1000 miles from the Black Sea. Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross in the year 60 in the city of Patras, in what is now Greece. He is the patron saint of many countries including Scotland, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Greece, as well as being a patron of Amalfi, Italy, and of fishermen, pregnant women, singers, butchers, and farm workers. Many of his relics reside in the Piazza Duomo (Cathedral) in Amalfi. Since 1304 his relics exude a supposedly miraculous liquid four times a year, called “St. Andrew’s Manna.” His feast day is November 30th.
St. Cecilia. A young roman woman was martyred between 176-180AD for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Sentenced to death first by suffocation in baths, then with three ax blows to the neck, she survived three days. She is the patron saint of music and her feast day is November 22nd. Her relics reside at the Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
Beloved of Italian-American immigrants, especially in New York and Chicago, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, or “Mother Cabrini” was born in 1850 in what is now Lodi, Italy. She became a nun, and at 30 years old founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus religious order. She yearned to be a missionary in China, but Pope Leo XIII instead sent her and her nuns to New York City to tend to the Italian immigrants. Even with her ever-present fragile health, she tirelessly founded 67 hospitals, orphanages, schools, convents and other institutions all over North, Central, and South America, and in France, Spain, and Italy. Mother Cabrini died in 1917 of malaria. She was the first American citizen canonized a saint, in 1946. In 2021, we celebrate her 75th anniversary of sainthood. Her feast day is November 13th. Learn more about this beloved saint online at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago, IL & at the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan, where her remains reside.
St. Charles Borromeo. Born in 1538, his father was a Count and his mother from the House of Medici. Despite having a speech impediment, he pursued his studies and became a doctor in both canon and civil law. Made a cardinal and the Archbishop of Milan before he was ordained a priest at 25, he is best known for his work in the Counter-Reformation and for ministering to thousands of the sick and dying during the plague. He died in 1584 at 46. His body rests in the Cathedral of Milan. His feast day is November 4th.
St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionist religious order grew up in the beautiful mountain town of Ovada that’s home to a specialty grape. Learn more about him and his hometown in my blog Ovada, Italy: Hometown of St. Paul of the Cross and the Dolcetto Grape. St. Paul’s feast day is October 19th.
St. Francis of Assisi, the famous patron of the poor, of animals, and of Italy itself, was born in 1182 to a wealthy family. He gave up everything to dedicate his life to prayer and preaching God. He died in 1226 at 45. To protect his relics, his body was hidden, and the place eventually forgotten. It was found in 1818. His body is now kept in a crypt in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. His feast day is October 4th.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, is one of the most famous saints in the 20th century, and the patron saint of Italy. He was well known for his daily long hours in the confessional, his miracles, bilocations and most famously for the stigmata. His monastery and the surrounding town of San Giovanni Rotondo is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Italy. Learn more about him here. His feast day is September 23rd.
St. Joseph of Cupertino was learning disabled but completely devoted to God from a very young age. So much so that, despite serious hardships, he became a priest, and through being called to deep prayer with visions and ecstasies, was a miracle worker who famously levitated. He is the patron saint of pilots, the learning disabled, and exam takers. His feast day is September 18th. Learn more about his difficult but amazing life here.