Catherine of Siena

Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347, one of twenty-five children. She became a Dominican tertiary combining contemplative prayer and mystical experience with active care for the poor and sick.

She also had a suprisingly effective political role, acting as became increasingly sought out as an ambassador and adviser to the pope and influencing his decision to return to Rome from Avignon, and helping the Italian states live in peace.  She died on this day in the year 1380. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970. She is one of the two patron saints of Italy, together with Francis of Assisi.


God of compassion,
who gave your servant Catherine of Siena
a wondrous love of the passion of Christ:
grant that your people
   may be united to him in his majesty
and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Note: with Catherine I complete my year of Celebrating the Saints. If I have time at some point I will create an index page for the entries, but for now please use the search box as a shortcut to find a saint you are looking for.

Peter Chanel, Missionary in the South Pacific

Peter Chanel was born in France in 1803 and became a Marist missionary in 1831, leaving in 1836 for the islands of the South Pacific. His mission took medicines as well as the gospel and was much loved and respected. On the island of Futuna in the Fiji group, however,  the chief’s son asked for baptism, which so infuriated his father that he ordered his murder, and he died on this day in the year 1841. The blood of the martyr proved the seed of the church and within a year the whole island was Christian and Peter became revered throughout the Pacific Islands and Australasia as its protomartyr.

Christina Rossetti, Poet

Christina Rossetti

Image via Wikipedia

Christina Rossetti was born in 1830 and was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Her brother, Dante, was a prominent member of the PRB, and her elder sister became an Anglican Religious. Her own poetry deals mainly with religious subjects but also the sadness of unrequited or disappointed love. She died on this day in the year 1894.

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.
Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
which adore.
Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
When I am dead my dearest, sing no sad song for me,
Plant thou no roses at my head, nor shady cypress tree.
See the green grass above me with showers and dewdrops wet,
And if thou wilt, remember, and if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows, I shall not feel the rain,
I shall not hear the nightingale sing on as if in pain.
And dreaming throughout the twilight that doth not rise nor set,
Hap’ly will remember, and happily will forget".
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Mark the Evangelist

  • Associated with John Mark of the New Testament
  • Jewish by birth
  • His mother was a prominent member of the earliest group of Christians in Jerusalem
  • Cousin to Barnabas
  • Accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey.
  • Then went to Cyprus with Barnabas (after a dispute with Paul)
  • And to Rome with first Paul and then Peter.
  • His gospel is generally regarded as the earliest
  • A strong theory is that it was written in Rome
  • And based as much on Peter’s preaching and memories
  • Traditionally said to be the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place
  • And also the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested
  • And traveled to Alexandria and formed what is now known as the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness
   of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded
   in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Mellitus, first Bishop at St Paul’s, Archbishop of Canterbury

A page divided into 12 sections, each section displaying a scene from the bibleMellitus came to England from Rome, where he was an abbot, as part of the Gregorian mission. He worked alongside Augustine, who consecrated him Bishop of the East Saxons with his see at London and his first church that of St Paul, although difficulties there meant that he spent most of his time in north France. He followed Augustine as archbishop in 619 and died on this day in the year 624.

Picture: Passion scenes from the St Augustine Gospels, possibly brought by Mellitus to England

George, Patron Saint of England

Saint George by Gustave Moreau.We think of St George as very English, but he was probably a soldier in Palestine martyred in about the year 304, and was known throughout the East as ‘The Great Martyr’.  The story of the dragon could have been transferred from St Michael (usually shown in armour) or derive from Perseus’s slaying of the sea monster.

George replaced Edward the Confessor as Patron Saint of England because of the enthusiasm for him of soldiers returning from the Crusades, and he was made patron of the Order of the Garter by Edward III.



God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury

Anselm was born in Italy in 1033 but became rooted at the great abbey of Bec in France, where Lanfranc persuaded him to become a monk. He stayed there 34 years writing important theological, philosophical and devotional works, before succeeding Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury. Like other Anglo-Norman archbishops he championed the rights of the Church against the authority of the king and was twice exiled as a result; but perhaps the same stubborn austerity meant that he was also admired by the Norman nobility as well as loved by his monks.


Eternal God,
who gave great gifts to your servant Anselm
   as a pastor and teacher:
grant that we, like him, may desire you with our whole heart
and, so desiring, may seek you
and, seeking, may find you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury

st alphege I first heard Alphege’s name when my dad talked about being part of the youth club at St Alphege’s in North London just before the second world war. I think he (dad not Alphege) played in goal for them at a match at Wembley, which is remarkable since he soon afterwards was not allowed into the army because of his poor eyesight … 

Later as a mediaevalist I started to appreciate these early apostles of our country more, and Alphege’s story is a powerful and moving one.

Alphege was a monk of Deerhurst (near Gloucester) and later withdrew to be a hermit in Somerset. Archbishop Dunstan called him back to be Abbot of Bath and from there he went on to be Bishop of Winchester and, in 1005, Archbishop of Canterbury in his turn. He retained his austere style of life, giving away much of his episcopal income, and was unsurprisingly well-loved. He crowned his saintly life when, after capture by the Danes, he forbad the payment of a huge ransom for him and was a result murdered by his captors at Greenwich on this day in 1012.


Merciful God,
who raised up your servant Alphege
to be a pastor of your people
and gave him grace to suffer for justice and true religion:
grant that we who celebrate his martyrdom
may know the power of the risen Christ in our hearts
and share his peace in lives offered to your service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Isabella Gilmore, Deaconess

Isabella GilmoreBorn in 1842, Isabella Gilmore was born in 1842 and was the sister of William Morris. She served as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital before being asked by Bishop Thorold of Rochester to pioneer deaconess work in his diocese. An Order of Deaconesses was formed and Thorold ordained her into it in 1887. The training house she set up at North Side, Clapham Common, was later called Gilmore House in her memory. She died on this day in 1923.

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George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand


Vivat Selwyn! I speak as an alumnus of Selwyn College Cambridge so am of course parti pris on this. Selwyn was born in 1809 and educated at Cambridge himself.

He became the first Bishop of New Zealand (moving later to Lichfield, where he died on this day in 1878). He cut a serious swathe as a missionary bishop, being the first ‘colonial bishop’ for instance to challenge the wording of his Letters Patent, which purported to derive his spiritual authority from the Crown as well as his jurisdiction. He struggled with Henry Venn of CMS to discern whether the society’s aim of missionary dioceses based on indigenous clergy, alongside expatriate provision, or his own preferred model of a single diocese for all races, committed to mission together, was better. He was instrumental in the founding of the Lambeth Conference, and in building better relationships with the Anglican Church in America. (Don’t imagine it was ever an easy relationship…) … And also wrote a pamphlet Are Cathedral Institutions useless ? A Practical Answer to this Question.