During the month of November, the Church celebrates many saints with feast days and memorials, honoring their unique contributions to the faith and reflecting on their examples of holiness. From compassionate humanitarians like Martin de Porres, to the first disciple called by Jesus, these saints each have something to teach us. Read about five saints celebrated in November and why you should know their stories.
November 3 – Martin de Porres
Martin de Porres was born out of wedlock in Lima in 1569, to a Spanish man and a formerly enslaved Peruvian woman. Though his father enjoyed a position of power as governor, he sought to distance himself from his mixed-race son and left his mother to raise him. When he was just 12, Martin began training to be a barber – a profession which, at the time, entailed surgical procedures such as tooth pulling and bloodletting in addition to cosmetic services! About three years later, Martin joined a Dominican monastery where he eventually served as head of the infirmary. Not only did Martin found an orphanage and a hospital for abandoned infants, but his medical services expanded to the streets of Lima, where he would pick up ailing vagabonds and nurse them back to health. Being of African heritage himself, he also had a particular compassion for enslaved people, often fulfilling the basic needs their overseers neglected.
Throughout all his endeavors, Martin demonstrated the utmost love and charity, and became a lay brother of the Dominicans at the suggestion of his superiors. In addition to his work in hospitals and social justice, he also started an animal shelter at his sister’s house to care for cats and dogs. He passed away at age 60 on November 3, 1639, and was canonized in 1962. You can find him portrayed in the Basilica in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, the Second Coming mosaic, and the Trinity Dome.
November 10 – Leo the Great
Little is known about Leo’s early life, except that he was born in Tuscany in the beginning of the fifth century. In approximately 430 A.D., Leo earned a place as a deacon of the Church of Rome and was consecrated as the new Pope a decade later. At the time of Leo’s succession, the Roman Empire had fallen and was frequently threatened by barbarian attacks, and there was division in the Church over the true nature of Christ. Leo used his position to provide a steadying hand to the Church and to Rome. In 451, when 350 Bishops gathered in the Council of Chalcedon to discuss Christology, Leo developed a terminology which allowed the Church to clarify the confusion that had emerged regarding the humanity and divinity of Christ. According to the treatise Leo presented to the Council, he stated that Christ is “one Person [with] two natures,” a statement which allowed the Church to settle the argument once and for all, adopting this idea as a key concept of orthodoxy (Butler).
The most notable event of Leo’s papacy took place in 452, when his diplomacy rescued Rome from the destruction of the Huns. Leo served as Pope for over 21 years, until his passing in 461. Saint Leo’s life serves as a faithful reminder to us that even in the face of impossible odds, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!
November 16 – Margaret of Scotland
The daughter of a Hungarian princess and an English prince, Margaret was raised in the court of Edward the Confessor in England. When William the Conqueror and the Normans invaded the country, she faced grave danger as one of the last members of the Anglo-Saxon royal family. Seeking to escape, she set off towards Hungary, but was shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland, where King Malcolm III offered her a safe place to stay. In 1070, she married Malcolm and became queen of Scotland. Together, they had eight children.
Margaret practiced a lifestyle of asceticism and selflessness, dedicating herself to many good works for churches and abbeys – from creating needlework for church paraments, to establishing new schools and churches in the country. Her devotion to prayer, holiness, and caring for others was so profound that it began to affect her husband. Though previously known for his volatile temper, Malcolm grew more patient and began to join her in her spiritual practices. Sadly, there was a brutal attack on the castle in 1093 that resulted in the death of Malcolm and their son Edward. Margaret, who had already been suffering from poor health, passed away four days later at age 47. She was canonized in 1250 and declared patroness of Scotland in 1673.
November 22 – St. Cecilia
According to some accounts, Cecilia was born into an affluent Roman family in the days of the early Church. Cecilia was coerced into an arranged marriage with a man named Valerian, who was not a Christian. On her wedding night, she requested that her husband forego consummating the marriage, saying that it would upset her guardian angel. Valerian responded by asking to see this angel, and Cecilia said that it would only be visible if Valerian was a Christian. Valerian then accepted Christ, and was able to see the angel of which she spoke.
Cecilia lived out her vow of virginity, and Valerian was baptized, along with his brother Tiburtius. Together they undertook the work of burying Christians who had been martyred – a practice which was illegal at the time. The brothers were arrested and pressed to renounce their faith and sacrifice to the Roman gods. When they refused, they were scourged and beheaded, and Cecilia was arrested for burying their bodies. When the authorities tried to execute her, however, they ran into difficulties. They first attempted to suffocate her by locking her in her bathroom and heating the furnace to an unbearable temperature, yet she was unharmed. Next, they attempted to behead her, slashing her neck three times without success. Cecilia lived for three days after the attack before she passed away.
St. Cecilia is honored in the Basilica in the Saint Cecilia Chapel, where she is depicted in mosaic of 60,000 individual tesserae.
November 30 – Andrew the Apostle
On November 30, we observe the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the first disciple to be called by Jesus. As related in Matthew’s account, there was no hesitation on Andrew’s part in pursuing Jesus; he “immediately” followed Him, even leaving his father behind. One moment, Andrew and his brother Peter were casting their nets for fish, the next, they were with Jesus sharing the Gospel and performing miracles as “fishers of men.” Jesus commissioned Andrew with the other eleven apostles, equipping him to preach and heal in His name (Matthew 10:5-8). In the well-known story of feeding the five thousand, it is Andrew who calls attention to the boy with the five loaves and two fishes, which Jesus uses to perform the miracle (John 6:5-9,11).
Andrew continued to be present throughout Christ’s ministry, and ultimately for the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. As the early church grew, Andrew went on to share the Gospel in Scythia and Greece, fulfilling the Great Commission to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19) We can look to Andrew’s example of faithful discipleship as an inspiration in our own walk with Christ. May we not hesitate to follow him, share the truth of his gospel, and be willing to be used for his glory.
Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley
Cowan’s The Way of Saints
Benedict XVI – General Audience – Paul VI Audience Hall, 5 March 2008. The Vatican