June 30. Around the year 64, the city of Rome experienced a devastating fire. The Emperor Nero blamed it on the Christians, and a severe persecution followed. Included in the mass murder of Christians were the First Martyrs of Rome. We don’t know their names, but their witness to the faith is certain.
July 1. Embroiled in some controversy due to the interpretation of historical facts, Saint Junipero Serra was canonized by Pope Francis on the steps of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC on September 23, 2015. Known for having traveled the west coast of the country, Saint Juniper founded many of the famous California Missions in the 18th century.
July 2. Saint Oliver Plunkett may not be a household name in the United States but he certainly is well known in the British Isles. The Archbishop of Armagh, Saint Oliver Plunkett led his archdiocese through the rough days of persecution of Catholics. Finally apprehended, Saint Oliver was hanged, drawn, and quartered July 1, 1681.
July 3. We don’t know a lot about Saint Thomas the Apostle, but tradition has it that he traveled to and preached the gospel in India, where he was eventually martyred. His name means “twin,” and due to his skepticism, he is also known as “Doubting Thomas.”
July 4. Saint Elizabeth of Portugal did not have an easy life in spite of the fact that she was royalty. She spent her life seeking peace between herself and her unfaithful husband, and between many of her relatives. She had some success before retiring to a Poor Clare monastery where she died.
July 5. Saint Anthony Zaccaria lived only 36 years, but founded three religious communities, and contributed to the reformation of the Church. He insisted on various religious or devotional practices to renew the spiritual life of the clergy, religious, and laity.
July 6. Saint Maria Goretti has captured the love and affection of thousands of people because of the simplicity and purity of her life. Killed defending her chastity, Saint Maria Goretti posthumously witnessed the conversion of her murderer and his reconciliation with her family.
July 7. Franciscan friar Blessed Emmanuel Ruiz and his Companions were tortured and killed in 1860, for their faith. Little else is known about them, but the testimony of their lives speaks volumes.
July 8. The 120 martyred in China, including Saint Gregory Grassi and Companions, were the victims of political maneuverings by other countries which sparked the anti-foreigner movement in China. These Franciscan men and women, along with lay men and women, gave their lives in service of the Chinese people. Caught up in the Boxer Uprising, they were martyred on various dates in 1900.
July 9. Among the Chinese martyrs was a diocesan priest, Saint Augustine Zhao Rong, and his companions. Facing the strong anti-foreign and anti-Catholic feeling present in China at the time, these martyrs were caught up in a situation that, in many ways, had nothing to do with religion or the Church. But they stayed loyal to the Church and their people, and gave their lives in witness.