• Lauren

Liturgical Living for Busy Families in January

Welcome to January, friends, the Month of the Holy Name of Jesus! We start the month of January off still celebrating the liturgical season of Christmas (you can read more about the 8, 12, or 40 days of Christmas here) before moving into Ordinary Time on January 11. Two of the major feast days this month, the Epiphany and the Baptism of Our Lord, are movable feasts, so you’ll want to check the Church calendar to figure out what date they’re being celebrated from year to year. In this post, you'll find low-prep, no/low-cost ideas to deepen your devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus throughout the month, as well as ideas to celebrate the following major feast days and memorials:

  • All Month Long: Holy Name of Jesus

  • Movable Feasts: Epiphany and the Baptism of Our Lord

  • January 1 – Mary, Mother of God

  • January 3 – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

  • January 4 – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

  • January 5 – St. John Neumann

  • January 6 – St. Andre Bessette

  • January 7 – St. Raymond Peñafort

  • January 8 – Our Lady of Prompt Succor

  • January 13 – St. Hilary

  • January 17 – St. Anthony the Great

  • January 20 – St. Sebastian

  • January 21 – St. Agnes

  • January 22 – Prayer of Protection for the Unborn

  • January 23 – St. Vincent of Saragossa

  • January 24 – St. Frances de Sales

  • January 25 – The Conversion of St. Paul

  • January 26 – Sts. Timothy and Titus

  • January 28 – St. Thomas Aquinas

As always, if you have a liturgical living idea or favorite saint that I missed, send me an email, find me on Instagram, or let me know in the comments – I always love hearing from you! Happy feasting!


All Month Long (and Feast on January 3): Holy Name of Jesus


The celebration of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus officially begins on the January 3 feast day and continues throughout the month of January. All throughout the month, the prayers of the Church honor and give thanks for His name, which was chosen by God Himself. At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive a Son by the Holy Spirit, and His name shall be Jesus (Luke 1:31). The name “Jesus” is derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua (Joshua), meaning to save, deliver, or rescue. Thus, the very name of Jesus captures the enormity of His love for us and His mission.


More than simply reminding us of Who He is, the Holy Name of Jesus itself confers the very power of deliverance and authority. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Church in Philippi that "[i]n the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10). When the blind man called out the name of Jesus, his sight was restored. (Luke 18:38). The apostles cast out demons in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:18, 19:16), and the Church continues to do so to this day in its exorcism rites. Jesus Himself reminded us that where two or three are gathered in His name, He would be present (Matthew 18:20).


St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes stirringly about the power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus:


“The name of Jesus is more than light; it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can so enrich the man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? . . . Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart.”

When you feel lost for words in prayer or find yourself in a hopeless situation, simply pray the name of Jesus, a practice that has been recommended by the Church and countless saints throughout the centuries. Another beautiful prayer to pray and meditate on throughout the month is the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus.


To celebrate with the children, read some of the Bible stories referenced above that show the power of the Holy Name (the Annunciation in Luke 1:26-38, the healing of the blind beggar in Luke 18:35-42, and the exorcisms performed by Paul and other early Christians in Acts 16:16-18 and 19:13-20). Make an acrostic poem using the Holy Name of Jesus and talk about the meaning of His name and the meanings of the names in your family. For lunch one day this month, serve Alphabet Soup!


Finally, if using the Lord’s name in vain or euphemisms such as “oh my gosh!” are a struggle for you or your family, resolve this month to cut those expressions out of your speech altogether. Not only should the power of the Holy Name of Jesus in and of itself deter you, but it’s also a violation of the Third Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” When you hear other people use these expressions, silently say a mental prayer for them or an act of contrition, such as “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” or “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”


Movable Feasts: Epiphany and the Baptism of Our Lord


Epiphany


The Epiphany occurs every year on January 6 or the first Sunday after January 1. In 2021 in the United States, the Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday, January 3. The Epiphany marks the end of the traditional 12 Days of Christmas (and, in Louisiana, the start of the Mardi Gras season!) and celebrates the visit of the Maji to the infant Jesus. Contrary to many Nativity scenes and paintings, the visit of the Magi did not occur on the night of His birth but likely happened sometime between one- and two-years following.


It’s also highly probable that there were more than just three Wisemen, a misconception that likely arose over the fact that an unnamed number of Magi are mentioned as bringing three gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each gift has spiritual and prophetic significance: gold representing Jesus’s kingship, frankincense pointing to His purity and function as high priest, and myrrh signifying his role as anointed prophet and eventual death. Traditionally, the name assigned to the “three” Wisemen are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

Celebrate today by singing or listening to the traditional carol, “We Three Kings” and reading the Biblical account of the Wiseman in Matthew 2:1-12. If you haven’t already, place the Wisemen in your Nativity scene (another fun activity in the days leading up to the Epiphany are to have your Nativity-scene Wisemen “travel” around your home making their way to the Christ Child. Each morning, the children can try to spy their new location!). Some families celebrate today by giving each other small, homemade gifts, or you can buy or put together your own kits containing the actual gifts of the Magi, as seen here. Making Epiphany Window Stars is an easy craft to do with the children to help you meditate on the Feast of the Epiphany. Today is also the traditional day to take down your Christmas ornaments (unless you’re leaving them up until the Presentation of Our Lord on February 2!).


In Louisiana, King Cakes are readily available for Epiphany and subsequent Mardi Gras celebrations, but you can also make your own New Orleans style King Cake or traditional Galette de Rois. Draw names out of a hat to crown an Epiphany King or Queen for the day, and read (or listen on YouTube to) Tomie dePaola’s classic, Strega Nona’s Gift. Conclude your celebrations with a traditional Epiphany House Blessing (you can have Father bless your chalk at mass that day prior to your celebration, just remember that following the blessing, the chalk is a sacramental and should not be put back into the chalk box! Bury it or save it for use again next year).


Baptism of Our Lord


The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord occurs on January 9 or the Sunday after the Epiphany. In 2021 in the United States, the Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated on Sunday, January 10.

If Jesus was God, why did He need to be Baptized? St. John the Baptist asked the same question, protesting “It is I who needs to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14). Jesus answered him, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Jesus wasn’t baptized because He needed to be, He did it for us! Pope Benedict XVI writes:


“[Through His baptism,] Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down to the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday 2007, 18)

Today, read the account of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:13-17, and pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Conclude by sprinkling each member of the family with Holy Water and renewing your own baptismal promises. Today is also a great day to help the children make cards for their godparents or to set up a FaceTime or Zoom call with them. If you’re a godparent, make sure to give your godchild a call and spend some extra time in prayer for them today.


January 1 – Mary, Mother of God


Today’s Solemnity is a Holy Day of Obligation, so get thee to Mass! It is also the end of the Octave of Christmas and commemorates the day Jesus was circumcised and formally given His name in accordance with Jewish tradition. Through His circumcision, Jesus’s blood was spilled for the first time, thus beginning His redemptive work. His circumcision is traditionally understood to reflect both His humanity and the fact that He came to fulfill the law of the Old Covenant.


The title of Mary as Mother of God is the oldest officially-observed Marian feast days and the first declared Marian Dogma. It originated at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, which met to challenge the Nestorian heresy that claimed Jesus’s human and divine natures were separate. Nestorius claimed that Mary should be called Christotokos, meaning bearer of Christ and the mother of only His human nature, rather than Theotokos, meaning the bearer of God and the mother of both His divine and human nature.


In rejecting Nestorianism, the Council affirmed Christ’s hypostatic union (meaning He is one person containing two united natures, Divine and human). Since Mary is the mother of the one person of Jesus Christ, then, she is aptly called the Mother of God, confirming once again that everything the Catholic Church teaches about the Blessed Virgin derives from its understanding of Who Jesus Christ is and what the earliest Christians understood. Following the declaration of Mary as Theotokos by the Council, the people streamed into the streets in joyful celebration shouting, “Praised be the Theotokos!”


Celebrate today with your own Marian procession (just have the children hold small statutes or pictures of Our Lady and march around the backyard yelling, “Praised by the Theotokos!”) and pray the Litany of Loreto. You can also gain a plenary indulgence by reciting the ancient hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus,” which is especially appropriate for the first day of the calendar year as it calls upon the Holy Spirit at the beginning of something new.


Since January 1st is a Solemnity, December 31st was traditionally observed as a day of fasting and abstinence. You can also gain a plenary indulgence by praying the Te Deum on December 31st in anticipation of today’s feast.


January 4 – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York City during the midst of the American Revolution. Raised Episcopalian and married to a businessman at age 19, she became the widowed mother of 5 of her own children as well as the guardians of six of her husband’s younger siblings by the young age of 29. She started a boarding school, and within a year converted to Catholicism! As a result of anti-Catholic sentiments, most of the students subsequently withdrew from her boarding school.


It was around this time that Elizabeth met a priest who was the president of St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Baltimore, and together they dreamed of establishing a Catholic education system throughout the United States. Under his direction and at his encouragement, Elizabeth established the first Catholic parochial school in the United States in about 1809. She also took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and from that time on became known as Mother Seton.


In 1812, Elizabeth established a religious community in Maryland governed by the Rule of the Sisterhood based on the Rule St. Vincent de Paul wrote for the Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, she established two orphanages as well as an additional school.


By the time of her death in 1821, St. Elizabeth and the congregation of religious she established were running schools all over the country, and six groups of sisters can trace their origins to Mother Seton’s foundation today. In 1975 she became the first American-born canonized saint!


Celebrate today by praying for and thanking a Catholic school teacher or administrator! Send a treat to your parish’s school, cater lunch for them, or simply send them a thank you card for all their hard work. Even if your own children do not attend a parochial school, the men and women who teach and work in our country’s Catholic schools are playing a huge role in the formation of the future of the Catholic Church in America. For dinner, have New York style pizza or bagels with lox and cream cheese!


Since St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was also a convert, today is a great day to ask her intercession for all those in need of conversion and those who are planning to be received into the Church this coming Easter Vigil.


January 5 – St. John Neumann


St. John Neumann is another American saint who was born in the Czech Republic in 1811 and moved to New York at age 25, where he was ordained as Redemptorist. He began work as a missionary in New York, eventually working in Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio, later becoming the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. He was instrumental in organizing the diocesan school system in Philadelphia. He attended Pope Pius IX’s proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and in 1854 established the Third Order of Sisters of St. Francis. He died in 1860, well known for his preaching and spiritual writings.


Today, pray for all missionaries, both foreign and abroad, and talk to your children about how we are all called to evangelize through our daily lives. St. John Neumann’s motto as Bishop was “Passion of Christ Strengthen Me,” so spend some time in prayer and meditation today over the paradox of the cross and how we can unite our sufferings to Christ and thereby be strengthened by them.


January 6 – St. Andre Bessette


As Pope Francis declared 2021 the Year of St. Joseph, St. Andre Bessette, better known as Brother Andre, is well worth special devotion and celebration this year! Born in 1845 in Montreal, Brother Andre was a lay brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He suffered from frail health and served as porter at the College of Notre-Dame in Cote-des-Neiges, Quebec, as well as sacristan, laundry worker, and messenger. He is quoted as saying, "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained 40 years.”


He had an immense devotion to St. Joseph, and had a particular place in his heart for serving those who were sick, rubbing them lightly with oil from the sanctuary lamp and praying to St. Joseph for them. His prayers were so effective and so many were cured that the trickle of sick people became a veritable flood. He needed 8 secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year from those asking for his prayers to St. Joseph on their behalf!


In 1904 he was led by the Holy Spirit to undertake a campaign to build a chapel in Montreal in honor of St. Joseph, which is now known as St. Joseph’s Oratory. St. Andre did not live to see the completion of the basilica, dying in 1937 at the age of 91. He is known today as the “Apostle of St. Joseph,” and more than 1 million people passed by his coffin at his funeral mass.

Today, take a virtual tour of St. Joseph’s Oratory and pray St. John Paul II’s prayer from the occasion of St. Andre’s canonization:


Saint Brother Andre Bessette, porter of the college, and custodian of the Oratory of St. Joseph, give hope to all those who continue to seek your help. Teach them confidence in the virtue of prayer, and with it, the path of conversion and the Sacraments. Through you, and through St. Joseph, may God continue to pour out his blessings. Amen.

January 7 – St. Raymond Peñafort


Born in 1175 to a noble family in the Catalonia region of Spain, St. Raymond of Peñafort became a gifted philosopher and teacher, eventually earning his doctorate in secular and canon law in Bologna, Italy. He became a Dominican at age 41 and worked as confessor to Pope Gregory IX before serving briefly as the archbishop of Tarragona and later as head of the Dominican Order. A contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast day we will celebrate at the end of the month, St. Raymond was instrumental in convincing St. Thomas to write his book Against the Gentiles. St. Raymond lived to the ripe old age of 100!


Today, listen to the miraculous story of St. Raymond and his “cloak-boat” on the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast Episode 1. My favorite Spanish dish is paella, which I always recommend for all the Spanish saint feast days. St. Raymond is also the patron saint of lawyers, so offer prayers today for all who work in the legal field and for justice in our legal system.


January 8 – Our Lady of Prompt Succor


Our Lady of Prompt Succor is a favorite Marian title in Louisiana, as she is the patroness of New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. There are two great stories associated with her help. The first occurred on Good Friday in 1788, when a horrific fire raged throughout the City of New Orleans. Terrified residents gathered at the Ursuline Convent and prayed ardently for Our Lady to spare them from the flames that were being whipped through the city by strong winds. Within minutes, the winds died down and the fir burned out, leaving the convent unharmed, although nearly 800 buildings in the city were destroyed.


The second event occurred on January 7, 1815, the night before the Battle of New Orleans. The Ursuline nuns had refused to evacuate the convent despite the urgings of General Andrew Johnson. Instead, they kept an all-night prayer vigil, begging Our Lady to give General Jackson the victory despite terrible odds. The battle, fought over the key port of entry to the Mississippi River, was over within 30 minutes on January 8, claiming over 2,000 British lives while only a few dozen American lives were lost. General Jackson, a Protestant, personally thanked the nuns for their prayers. A Mass of Thanksgiving is now said every year on January 8 in the Ursuline Convent.


Louisianans now pray to Our Lady of Mount Succor every hurricane season, and my own parish recently acquired an absolutely gorgeous statute in her honor. If you’re in the Louisiana area, try to plan a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor sometime this month. If not, celebrate today with a classic Louisiana dish such as gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole, or red beans and rice!


January 13 – St. Hilary


St. Hilary of Poitiers was born in 300 AD and is a confessor and doctor of the Church best known for his defense against the Arian heresy, which essentially denies the divinity of Jesus. Raised in a Neo-platonic philosophical tradition, Hilary converted to Christianity when he began reading the Scriptures and became a bishop despite being married and having a daughter (who eventually became St. Abra!). He was exiled by Emperor Constantius for his refusal to sign a condemnation of St. Athanasius, a fellow opponent of Arianism. He was eventually welcomed home after he challenged the Arians to a debate who, dreading the debate, begged instead for the Emperor to lift his order of exile!


St. Hilary reminds us that we are to be in the world, not of it. As such, we must expect to face opposition for living authentic Christian lives. Today, search your own heart for ways that you may be called to retreat further in your heart from the world. Pray for faith and courage for yourself, your spouse, and your children, and talk to your children about the virtues of courage and fortitude. St. Hilary was known as the “Velvet Hammer,” so remember that we are called to speak truth with charity.


January 17 – St. Anthony the Great


St. Anthony the Great, also known as St. Anthony of Egypt or St. Anthony of the Desert, was born in 251 AD to a wealthy Egyptian family of Coptic Christians. After becoming orphaned at age 18, Anthony gave away all his possessions to the poor and retreated to an isolated hermitage, originally located in an abandoned tomb. There he was beset by the Devil, who tempted him with all variety of sins, causing him to flee farther and farther away from the wiles of the world and deeper into the desert. Despite his isolation, he was constantly sought after for spiritual advice, recommending the hermit’s life or prayer and penance to all. He lived to the ripe old age of 105, and following his death, his disciples founded the oldest monastery in the world in the mountains of Egypt near the Red Sea. Years later, St. Athanasius’s biography of St. Anthony, Life of Anthony, would be instrumental in the conversion of St. Augustine and several of his friends.


St. Anthony is often depicted in iconography with a pig, so celebrate today with bacon for breakfast or pork loin for dinner! While many of us are not called to the life of a hermit, we can still heed the advice of St. Anthony and work continually to cloister our hearts by spending time in recollected silence before Our Lord each day. If you do not already have a prayer space in your house, spend some time today setting up a simple prayer area – perhaps a corner or chair with a candle, some rosary beads, prayer cards, an icon or statue, and a Bible or other spiritual reading material within reach. Help your children make a prayer basket with similar items for their rooms. Then, resolve to spend time each day in prayer and, most importantly, silence with God.


January 20 – St. Sebastian


St. Sebastian is described as a “handsome youth with an exquisitely angelic face,” a veritable “Christian Apollo," making him the irresistible subject of many paintings of the Renaissance masters, including Raphael, Titian, Holbein, and Van Dyck. He lived in the late 200s AD and served as a member of the Praetorian guard under the Emperor Diocletian. In reality, he was a Christian spy and worked undercover to convert members of the Roman army and give aid to imprisoned and persecuted Christians.


When Diocletian discovered his duplicity, he ordered Sebastian to be executed by his archers and left for dead. According to accounts, Sebastian was so full of arrows he resembled a porcupine! Irene, the widow of another Christian martyr, ministered to him, and as soon as he was sufficiently (and miraculously) recovered, Sebastian confronted the Emperor and begged him to end his persecution of Christians. The Emperor, terrified and thinking he was visited by a ghost, had Sebastian beaten to death by the Praetorian guard, the very men Sebastian formerly served with. His now-for-real-dead body was found by St. Lucina and buried in an abandoned mine beneath the city of Rome, now known as the Catacombs of San Sebastiano.


Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of archers, so if you’re able, visit an archery range! You can also craft your own bow and arrows with the children today. If you’re in need of a homeschool art study activity, check out the many paintings of St. Sebastian linked above. For dinner, serve shish kabobs or anything speared with a toothpick (think cocktail weenies, little sandwiches, etc.).


January 21 – St. Agnes


The life of St. Agnes resembles that of other young, female early Christian martyrs: born in 291 AD, Agnes was extremely beautiful. Many handsome and rich young men sought her hand in marriage, but Agnes would have none of them, instead consecrating her virginity to God and replying “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse” to the men who proposed.


One young man was so enraged by her rejection that he turned her over to the authorities, who intended to parade her naked through the town to a house of ill repute. When they stripped her of her clothes, her hair grew long to cover her and the men who tried to glimpse her were instantly struck blind. The authorities then had her bound to a stake to be burned, but the flames would not touch her. She was finally beheaded with a sword.


Today is a good day to, in an age-appropriate way, teach your children about the value of virginity and the virtue of chastity. For younger children, check out the Theology of the Body Institute’s books for children that teach them that their bodies are good and deserving of respect. There are also some great resources here for older children and teens and parents, including the book Theology of the Body for Beginners (also a great read for the adults!). Since agnus means lamb in Latin and St. Agnes is often depicted with a lamb in iconography, serve lamb for dinner.


It is also customary for the Pope to bless two lambs on the Feast of St. Agnes. The lambs are then delivered to the Convent of St. Cecilia where they are kept as the pets of the sisters there until Holy Thursday, when their wool is shorn and woven into twelve archibishops’ palliums. The palliums are then kept in an urn at the tomb of St. Peter until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. At that time, they are given by the pope to the newly appointed archbishops as a sign of their power and union with the pope. You can watch the Pope’s blessing of the lambs from last year’s feast day here.


January 22 – Prayer of Protection for the Unborn


January 22, 1973 marks the date the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion in all 50 states. In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Bishops recommend observing today by prayer and fasting for the lives of the unborn and all those touched by abortion. In addition to fasting, participating in a local March for Life or the national March for Life in D.C., praying outside an abortion center in your area, or volunteering time at or donating money to your local crisis pregnancy center (two Louisiana centers are here and here) are all wonderful ways to help.


While this is another delicate subject to discuss with children, abortion touches just about every life, so the earlier we can properly form our children with respect to abortion, the better. The most recent data available suggests that 1 in 4 women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. It is our job, as parents, to teach our children from an early age about the dignity of the human life so that when they inevitably encounter anti-Christian views in the secular world, they are prepared to deal with them in a thoroughly Christian manner.


As with any difficult topic, keeping it simple is best at the younger ages. For my own children, I have explained that there are some women who, for many reasons, don’t feel like they are able to be mothers and that we should pray for them, the fathers, and, most especially, their babies, that they can find the help and peace they need to take care of themselves and their children during those difficult times. A lovely book to read to young children today to begin to introduce the beauty of life in the womb is Angel in the Waters.


January 23 – St. Vincent of Saragossa


We know little about St. Vincent other than the fact that he was a Spanish deacon who served the Bishop of Saragossa, St. Valerius. Like the bishop he served, he was eventually tortured and killed for being a Christian by the infamous Roman Emperor Diocletian. It is said his body was guarded by ravens until it was recovered by his fellow Christians. During the period of Moorish Rule, the place where his shrine was located was called the Church of the Ravens until his relics were moved in the 12th century to Lisbon. The ravens allegedly accompanied them on their journey via ship!


St. Vincent is considered the patron saint of winemakers for a variety of reasons. One reason may be that the French pronunciation of his name, “Vin-sang,” literally translates to wine blood, which occurs when the vines are pruned. Coincidentally, January 22 (the date his feast was traditionally celebrated) marks the mid-point in the vine’s growing cycle and the time for pruning. Finally, a legend involving St. Vincent maintains that while wandering through a vineyard, St. Vincent’s donkey nibbled some of the vines, in effect pruning them. The workers noticed during the harvest later that year that the pruned vines performed better than the non-pruned ones, thus, St. Vincent helped discover the art of pruning grapes.


For the adults, visit a vineyard (if possible!) or enjoy a nice glass of wine today in honor of St. Vincent. Grape juice will do just as nicely for the underage set!


January 24 – St. Frances de Sales


Francis was born on August 21, 1567 in France to wealthy parents. He was the first-born of 13 children and was named after Francis of Assisi. From an early age he felt a call to the priesthood, and studied at the Jesuit College in Paris, later undertaking further studies in theology and law at the University of Padua. After his ordination, he spent a great deal of time trying to re-establish the Catholic Church in Geneva, Switzerland, which had been swept up into Calvinism. Despite the tense situation, Francis was adamant that his missionary work in Geneva must be done with charity and characterized by prayer, alms, and fasting. He spent time studying Calvin’s writings to better understand the Calvinist objections to Catholicism, and over time he experienced great success in reconciling a great number of the population with the Church.


In 1604 on his return to France, he met a young widow, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, and became her spiritual director. Together the established a new religious order known as the Visitation, which allowed nuns to visit people in their homes to minister to them rather than remaining cloistered.


Check out the story of the friendship between St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane Francis de Chantal in the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast Episode 3. Help the children write letters to their friends, reminiscent of the many letters Frances and Jane exchanged over their lifetimes encouraging one another in their spiritual lives and endeavors.


For the adults, consider reading St. Frances’s Introduction to the Devout Life or his Treatise on the Love of God this month, both spiritual classics. What makes France’s writings unique is that in that time period, much of what was written was for use by those in religious orders, but Frances felt called to write something to specifically help lay people on their spiritual journeys.


January 25 – The Conversion of St. Paul


The story of the Conversion of St. Paul is one of the more dramatic conversion stories in the history of Christianity. Recounted in Acts 9, we first encounter Saul, a Pharisee, if not directly engaged in, then certainly enthusiastically supporting the persecution of Christians as the cloak of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is laid at his feet following Stephen’s stoning. Saul then travels to Damascus to arrest more Christians, and along the way he encounters the risen Christ, who asks him why he is persecuting Jesus! Saul is blinded by the light emanating from Jesus, who commands Saul to continue on to Damascus and seek for a man named Ananias. In the meantime, Jesus also appears to Ananias and tells him that the infamous Saul is coming to seek him for healing. When Saul finally arrives at Ananias’s house, he has been blind for three days. Ananias heals him, and with that, Saul becomes Paul – devoted Christian, missionary, and eventual author of the majority of the New Testament!


Today, read the story of the conversion of St. Paul in Acts 9. Today is also a wonderful day to discuss as a family that conversion is an ongoing activity, one we are meant to undertake for life. Spend some time in quiet reflection about those areas of your heart that Jesus is calling into deeper union with Him. Consider praying as a family or offering some sacrifice today specifically for the conversion of a friend or loved one. For some tongue in cheek fun, play a game of blind man’s bluff!


January 26 – Sts. Timothy and Titus


Timothy and Titus were friends, cohorts of St. Paul, and recipients of New Testament letters from Paul (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).


Timothy was born of a Greek father and a converted Jewess. He joined St. Paul, replacing St. Barnabas as his companion, when Paul preached in Lystra, and accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey In 64 AD, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to lead the church there as bishop. The apocryphal work of the Acts of Timothy states that in the year 97 at the age of 80, Timothy tried to disrupt a procession in honor of the goddess Diana by preaching the gospel and was stoned to death for his efforts.


Titus was a native of Crete, the son of a pagan, and was eventually converted and baptized by St. Paul. Following his conversion, Titus served as Bishop of Crete, but left for a time to accompany Paul to Rome, where he served Paul during his imprisonment. Following Paul’s martyrdom, Titus returned to Crete and performed numerous miracles that led many pagans to convert. At one point when worshippers of the goddess Diana refused to listen to him, Titus prayed to God and the idol of Diana shattered before a great crowd of witnesses. Another time, Titus prayed that the pagans would not be successful in erecting a new temple to Zeus, and the temple collapsed. St. Titus, in contrast to St. Timothy, died peacefully at the age of 97.


We may be tempted to think we are past needing to worry about the 1st Commandment (thou shalt have no other gods before me) today. A closer inspection, however, reveals that we are just as guilty of breaking this commandment as our ancestors, only instead of worshipping the ancient Roman gods and goddesses, our idols tend to look more like our Instagram accounts, social status, clothing, reputation, salary, etc. On the Feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus, spend some time talking with your children about how easy it is to let other things take priority over our relationship with God in our lives. Examine your own life to see if there are some priorities that need to be re-organized, and commit to doing a better job of putting God first in the new year.


January 28 – St. Thomas Aquinas


Born in 1225 to Italian nobility, Thomas’s desire to join the Dominican order enraged his family, particularly his mother, who imprisoned him in the family castle at Monte San Giovanni Campano. Over the course of his imprisonment, his mother prayed ardently for Thomas to change his mind, only to find that over time, the Holy Spirit had changed her mind instead! Not willing to lose face, however, Thomas’s mother orchestrated for Thomas to “escape” his imprisonment rather than being set free. His sisters smuggled him a rope ladder, and Thomas climbed out of his tower window to his Dominican brothers who were waiting below to take him to the monastery.


Today, St. Thomas Aquinas is known as the most preeminent theologian and philosopher in Catholic tradition, but it was not always so! In fact, his Dominican brothers often called him a “dumb ox!” His teacher, the great Albertus Magnus, however, declared that in time, “the bellowing of this ‘dumb ox’ will fill the world.” Thomas went on to teach at the University of Paris in 1252 and began his lifelong work of adapting the teachings of Aristotle to Catholicism, which culminated in his famous Summa Theologica. Thomas died on his way to the Council of Lyons on March 7, 1274 and was canonized in 1323.


To celebrate today, enjoy some oxtails candy as a treat or make oxtail soup for dinner. Listen to any of Thomas’s beautiful hymns, such as Pange Lingua Gloriosi, Adoro Te Devote, or Tantum Ergo. Check out the story of St. Thomas’s daring escape from imprisonment in the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast Episode 56. For the adults, check out Matt Fradd’s Pints with Aquinas Podcast for great discussions and debates on all manner of Catholic philosophical questions. I find the Summa to be beyond my scholastic capabilities, but if you’re interested in studying Aquinas, One Minute Aquinas is a great place to start!


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