December 2. This Polish Conventual Franciscan served in the military, but felt the call to the vowed religious life. Rafal was known for his simple and candid sermons, for his generosity, as well as for his ministry in the confessional. People of all levels of society were drawn to the self-sacrificing way he lived out his religious profession and priestly ministry. He also played the harp, lute, and mandolin to accompany liturgical singing.
December 3. Saint Francis Xavier was won over to Christ by the gentle persuasion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He then joined the Jesuits and soon after set off for the East, where he labored the rest of his life. Xavier was on his way to China when he died in 1552.
December 4. Saint John Damascene was born in Damascus, but spent most of his life in a monastery near Jerusalem. Little is known about his life, but he is remembered as the last of the Eastern Church Fathers. He gained fame as a poet and an author.
December 5. After an abusive childhood, Saint Sabas found refuge in a monastery, where he also found his vocation to the monastic life. Permitted to live as a hermit, Saint Sabas soon found others attracted to his way of life, and he eventually became the abbot of a monastic community. As a result, he is known as one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.
December 6. The absence of “hard historical facts” is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists.
December 7. One of Ambrose’s historical claims to fame is that he was instrumental in the conversion of Saint Augustine, and also baptized him. Known for his lively preaching and writing, Saint Ambrose must have been a force to be reckoned with. Maybe those qualities were what attracted Saint Augustine. But Saint Ambrose stands on his own merits--independent of his protégé.
December 8. Under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin is the patron of the United States. Thus this is a major feast--in fact a Holy Day of Obligation--for the Church in the United States of America.
December 9. The fact that Our Lady appeared to a simple peasant has been viewed as a sure sign of Mary’s care for the “little people” of society. Saint Juan Diego played a major role in the recognition of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Without his courageous witness few people would have known of her love for the indigenous peoples of Mexico—and elsewhere.
December 10. Concerned about the faith of young single men caught up in the industrial revolution in Germany, Blessed Adolph Kolping bucked social pressure by ministering to them. Today, the Kolping Society upholds the dignity of workers throughout the world.
December 11. Saint Damasus was highly praised by his secretary, Saint Jerome. This adulation must have been much appreciated, as Saint Damasus faced the trials of the papacy in his day. A fearless leader, Saint Damasus did not always achieve victory in this life.