Time to Honor Ss. Peter, Paul and Magdalene

By McBrien, Richard P. | National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 1995 | Go to article overview

Time to Honor Ss. Peter, Paul and Magdalene


McBrien, Richard P., National Catholic Reporter


I was drawn recently, for some reason, to the "Liturgical Calendar" table in the new HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. I was struck by the number of major saints, representing some of the most important movements in the history of the church, whose feasts are clustered together during the summer.

We acknowledge Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29) as dual apostolic pillars of the church. One represents the church's stability, the other its missionary impulse.

Three other apostles are commemorated during the summer -- four if you count Sept. 21 as the season's last day.

St. Thomas (July 3) is best known for his doubts about the resurrection, but there is also a tradition that he carried the gospel to India and was martyred there. To this very day Malabar Christians are called Thomas Christians. He is patron saint of architects and the East Indies, but he could very well have been named patron of those who have occasional doubts about the faith. His petitioners would be legion.

St. James the Great (July 25), the brother of John, was one of the fishermen whom Jesus called among his first disciples. Jesus gave them the nickname "sons of thunder." James is patron of pilgrims, pharmacists, Spain and Chile.

Little is known of St. Bartholomew (Aug. 24), but there is a tradition that, like Thomas, he founded a local Christian community in India, along the Malabar coast. He's patron of plasterers.

St. Matthew (Sept. 21) might also be included among our summer saints. Traditionally regarded as the author of the first gospel, he is also known for his despised profession: He was a tax collector. Not surprisingly, he is patron of accountants and bookkeepers. Perhaps a more appropriate feast day for him would be April 15, at least in the United States.

Some of the greatest founders of religious orders are also included on the summer calendar. St. Benedict of Nursia (July 11), generally regarded as the founder of Western monasticism and author of the famous Rule of St. Benedict, is one of the patron saints of Europe. Of speleologists, too (people who study caves).

St. Ignatius of Loyola (July 31) is founder of the Society of Jesus. His great insight was to "see God in all things," and his spiritual genius was to bring together contemplation and action, prayer and service to others. He is patron saint of soldiers -- he had been one himself -- and of retreats, so many of which follow the Ignatian method. …

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