May 21. Saint Cristóbal Magallanes and Companions, 21 diocesan priests and three laymen, belonged to the Cristero movement during the 20th-century persecution of the Church in Mexico. Martyred over a number of years in eight Mexican states, they were beatified and canonized together.
May 22. Saint Rite of Cascia was a wife, widow, and mother before becoming an Augustinian nun. She seems to have done most of her ministry within the convent, yet counseled many lay people who came to the monastery. Rita was known for her austerity and charity, along with prayerfulness.
May 23. Saint Gregory VII, originally known as Hildebrand, was a reformer before and during his papacy (1073-1085). He struggled to gain the Church's freedom from undue civil influence and paid a price for his efforts. Gregory VII died in exile in 1085. Thirty years after his death, the Church won its struggle.
May 24. Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi is known as the “ecstatic saint” because of her unusual gifts from God. To safeguard the authenticity of her visions, her confessor had her dictate them to fellow sisters. The result was five volumes encompassing ecstasies, letters, and inspirational sayings. But her life was not all sweetness; she also battled with temptations.
May 25. Saint Bede the Venerable almost never left his monastery once he became a monk, but he influenced the entire Church of his day. One of the most well-rounded scholars, he wrote and taught in all areas of knowledge. Bede's writings were read in church even before his death.
May 26. For many years after his student days, Saint Philip Neri lived as a layman engaged in prayer and apostolic works in Rome. During this time, he attracted many to join him—poor and rich. After ordination, he became a noted confessor and eventually founded the Oratory, a religious institute, with some of his followers.
May 27. Saint Augustine of Canterbury, a monk, was the first bishop of Canterbury. While he only labored for another eight years after establishing the diocese, his influence lives on. Part of his success, limited though it was, was due to his compassionate approach to the local peoples.
May 28. Born in Haiti and brought to New York City as a slave, Venerable Pierre Toussaint lived an exemplary Catholic life both before and after gaining his freedom. Married and then widowed, Pierre continued his charitable works well into his elder years. He originally was buried outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, a church to which he was once refused entrance because of his race.
May 29. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat lived in France during the French Revolution. Concerned about the education of children, especially girls, and feeling a call to the religious life, she founded the Society of the Sacred Heart. The sisters worked for the education of the poor and ran boarding schools for the well-to-do.
May 30. Saint Joan of Arc has been the subject of many plays and books, and her life is riddled with legend. But we know that she was a very spiritual young woman who led the French in battle against the English. In a politically motivated trial, Joan was condemned to death and burned at the stake.