While Italy was going through one of the darkest periods of its history, beset by famine and substantial anarchy, the figure of Saint Gregory I (540-604), known as ‘the Great’, was a beacon of light. In the 14 years of his pontificate he carried out a profound moral reform of the Church and played a decisive role as peacemaker in the most dramatic phase of the Lombard invasion.
We do not know much about the life of Saint Elpidius (4th century). A disciple of St John Chrysostom speaks of him. Elpidius was originally from Cappadocia and had lived for 25 years as an anchorite in the caves near Jericho, natural shelters for various other men eager to dedicate themselves to the contemplation of God
Saint Giles (Aegidius) (c. 640 - c. 720) was a hermit and abbot. According to the Vita sancti Aegidii (dating back to the 10th century) he was born in Athens and moved to France, where he is mainly referred to as Saint Gilles. He settled in the southern part of France, spending his days in prayer and contemplation
Saint Raymond Nonnatus (c. 1200-1240) lived during the Reconquista of Spain. He wore the habit of the Mercedarians, that is, of those religious who professed a fourth vow - called “of redemption” - and undertook to free the Christians enslaved by the Muslims. To this end they offered their goods in exchange or even took the place of prisoners at risk of renouncing the faith.
One of the greatest geniuses in the history of thought, the ecclesiastical writer most quoted in the Catechism, the man of faith capable of attracting an innumerable number of people to Christ, one of the first four Doctors of the Church, would have been like a pile of talents thrown to the wind had he not agreed to accept the Grace of God.
Saint Monica (331-387), that exemplary model of bride and mother, powerfully reminds us of the meaning of our life down here: the conquest of eternal salvation, towards which she guided her loved ones with immeasurable love. She was in fact instrumental in the conversion of both her husband and her most famous son, St Augustine.
The Church commemorates with a liturgical feast the Apostle Saint Bartholomew. That man who at first sight seems harsh would receive from Our Lord one of the greatest praises conveyed by the Gospel texts: “Behold indeed an Israelite in whom there is no falsehood”.