During the month of January, the Church celebrates the feast days and memorials of many notable saints, honoring their contributions to the faith. From servant leaders like John Bosco, who ministered to the homeless boys of his community, to intellectual giants like Thomas Aquinas, each played a vital role in furthering the Gospel and shaping the Church. Learn more about five saints celebrated this month.
January 5th — St. John Nepomucene Neumann
The first male American citizen to be canonized, St. John Neumann felt an early and strong call to the ministry. Although he had intended to be a priest in his home country of Bohemia, when he finished his theological training, there was a greater need for priests abroad. He decided to sail to the United States with only $40 to his name. Shortly after his arrival, he was ordained and began working with German immigrants in Buffalo, later joining the Redemptorists. Neumann eventually became the bishop of Philadelphia, dedicating himself to building schools, churches, and a cathedral, and offering education to immigrants. He also wrote two catechisms that would become standard texts in the Church.
January 23 — St. Vincent Pallotti
The son of a grocer, St. Vincent Pallotti was born in Rome and ordained to the priesthood at age 23. Vincent’s passion was helping all people recognize the value and dignity of their work, regardless of their profession. He founded an agricultural school, educating laborers in cutting-edge methods of farming and livestock production. His training initiatives were not limited to agriculture; he also held classes for joiners, shoemakers, coachmen, and tailors, equipping working-class people with both the skills and the mindset to succeed. In 1835, Pallotti’s vocational programs inspired the founding of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, which is dedicated to sharing the Gospel and providing training to the poor and working class. Comprised of priests, nuns, and lay people, the organization continues to carry out this mission today with over 2,300 members worldwide.
January 27 — St. Angela Merici
The founder of the Order of St. Ursula, St. Angela Merici was born in Italy in 1474. After losing her parents and sister at a young age, she joined the Third Order of St. Francis, pledging herself to Christ. Later, upon returning to her hometown of Desenzano, she was struck with the plight of the young women there. She resolved to improve their educational opportunities, and eventually founded a teaching order under the patronage of St. Ursula.
At the age of 50, Merici lost her vision while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Though she was inhibited, she continued her journey as planned, and on her way back, while stopping in Crete, her vision was miraculously restored. She took this experience as a reminder from God not to close her eyes to the needy surrounding her.
January 28 — St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas was born in Northern Italy in the 13th century. When he joined the Dominicans at age 13, his family was aghast. They had hoped their son would join a respected Benedictine order rather than one that entailed a life of poverty and begging. Determined to discourage Thomas from his Dominican ambitions, his brother kidnapped him and kept him captive in the family castle for over a year. However, Thomas put this time to good use, studying the works of Aristotle and Peter Lombard, as well as memorizing Scripture. When he was finally released, he continued his education and received a doctorate from the University of Paris, where he later became the chair of theology. His prolific career of writing, teaching, and preaching culminated in his best-known work, Summa Theologiae, which relied on arguments from reason to prove spiritual truths such as the existence and characteristics of God.
January 31 — St. John Bosco
Born in the Italian countryside in 1815, John Bosco had a difficult childhood. He lost his father when he was only two, and grew up in poverty. At age nine, John Bosco had a strange dream that influenced the course of his life. In his dream, he was surrounded by fighting children, and a woman came into their midst, quieting them and saying: “Softly, softly, if you wish to win them, take your shepherd’s staff and lead them into a pasture.” Upon waking, John knew that it was his mission in life to lead the “lost lambs” of the world in loving care.
As a young man, John became a street entertainer, performing acrobatics, magic tricks, and other amusements. On Sunday mornings, his antics captured the attention of children passing by, whom he encouraged to attend Mass. When John was 16, he studied theology in Turin, where he also started a homeless shelter for boys, teaching them different trades so that they could make a living for themselves once they were of age.
Throughout the course of his life, youth continued to be a central focus in his ministry; in 1859, he founded the Salesian Order, which was focused on caring for homeless boys, and later he worked with Mary Mazarello to create a similar ministry for girls called the Daughters of Mary. Today, these ministries have thousands of members around the globe, continuing St. John Bosco’s legacy of love.
Butler’s Lives of the Saints (ed. by Bernard Bangley)
Cowan’s The Way of Saints
“Saint Angela Merici,” Catholic News Agency
“Saint Angela Merici,” Catholic Online
“Saint Angela Merici, Franciscan Media