St Thomas of Canterbury | photo by Lawrence OP | flickr

Saint Thomas Becket

December 29. Saint Thomas Becket, the well-known archbishop of Canterbury, England, is a saint with a checkered past. As depicted in the movie "Becket," Thomas did not at first take his responsibilities as a deacon seriously, but when King Henry II tried to use his friend’s lukewarm devotion to his advantage, he found a converted cleric who was a worthy match for any king.

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The Massacre of the Innocents | Angelo Visconti

Holy Innocents

December 28. Based on an account in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, King Herod slaughtered a number of male babies in an attempt to rid himself of the perceived threat of a usurper of his throne. What he didn’t realize is that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world─a fact that emerges later in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.

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Detail of the central panel of a triptych | Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John | Pietro Perugino | photo by The Yorck Project

Saint John the Apostle

December 27. Saint John the Apostle, also known as the Beloved Disciple, was the writer of the fourth Gospel, and presumably, the only apostle who was not martyred. He is also the disciple to whom Jesus entrusted his mother from the cross. Symbolized as an eagle, Saint John’s Gospel “soars” in its theological treatment of the good news.

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St Stephen | Domenico Ghirlandaio | photo by www.wga.hu

Saint Stephen

December 26. If it weren’t for Saint Luke telling us about the selection and martyrdom of Saint Stephen in Acts of the Apostles, we would know nothing about him at all. The little we do know, however, speaks volumes about what kind of man he was, his love for Jesus, and the early Church community.

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Nativity | Martin Torner

The Nativity of the Lord

December 25. All feast days celebrate, in one way or another, the gifts of God granted to us human beings. Today we celebrate THE gift─the Son of God made flesh. A gift granted to all people of all times and places. Truly we have been gifted.

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The Christmas celebration in the forest of Greccio | Giotto di Bondone | Fresco in the Upper Church of Saint Francis, Assisi | photo by The Yorck Project

Christmas at Greccio

December 24. Being a man who wanted to experience things with all of his senses, Saint Francis decided one Christmas to depict the birth of Jesus with live animals and real people. This “first crèche” was created in Greccio in 1223. Our tradition of having a Christmas crèche in our homes and churches continues the practice begun all those years ago.

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Tomb of Saint John Cantius | Krakow, Poland | flickr

Saint John of Kanty

December 23. Saint John of Kanty was a beloved priest in Kraków, Poland, where he taught Scripture. A simple, humble man, Saint John was often taken advantage of, but maintained his generous attitude to those in need. He died on Christmas Eve of 1473.

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Blessed Jacopone da Todi | Paolo Uccello | photo by The Yorck Project

Blessed Jacopone da Todi

December 22. Blessed Jacopone da Todi’s life changed radically when his wife died in an accident at a local tournament. Turning from his self-indulgent life, he eventually became a Franciscan friar, but life was not easy even then. Jacopone is most known for writing the beautiful hymn, "Stabat Mater," in the later years of his life.

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Detail | Saint. Petrus Canisius | photo by SchiDD

Saint Peter Canisius

December 21. An important Catholic reformer in Germany, Saint Peter Canisius earned a master’s degree at age 19, and then joined the Jesuits. He was a great writer and patron of the sick and imprisoned. Peter Canisius was an active member of the Council of Trent, and implemented its decisions. He also taught at the university level and helped found many colleges and seminaries.

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