During the month of September, the Church celebrates many saints with feast days and memorials, honoring their contributions to the faith and reflecting on their examples of holiness. From eloquent orators like John Chrysostom and Robert Bellarmine, to gifted scholars like Gregory the Great, these saints each have a wealth to teach us. Read about five saints celebrated in September and why you should know their stories.
September 3 – St. Gregory the Great
Though the world would remember him as “St. Gregory the Great,” Pope Gregory always considered himself a “servant of the servants of God.” Born into a wealthy, well-connected family in the year 540, he used his gifts of leadership, eloquence, and integrity to ascend into the highest echelons of Roman politics. But when his father died in 575, he abandoned his coveted government position for a life of servitude, turning his parents’ estate into a monastery and becoming a monk himself. He later described this as the happiest time of his life.
Fifteen years later, Gregory became pope. Throughout threats of starvation, plague, and invasion, he guided the Church with wisdom, all while writing prolifically and caring for the vulnerable. Over the course of his lifetime, he wrote over 800 letters, a number of religious works – perhaps most notably, his six-part commentary on the Book of Job – and many songs and hymns, including the Gregorian chant. During his tenure as pope, he provided food and clothing for the impoverished, defended the religious freedom of the Jewish people, and advocated for missions to England.
Because of the leadership and direction Gregory provided not only for the Church, but also the people of Rome as a whole, he was canonized immediately after his death in 604. Today, he serves as an example of godly leadership and Christlike humility.
September 10 – St. John Chrysostom
Meaning “golden-tongued,” Chrysostom is a title St. John earned through his captivating oratory, which artfully blended incisive scholarship with practical instruction. Despite fierce cultural opposition, John was unafraid to criticize the evils of his society and government, no matter what the cost.
The son of an army officer, John was born in Antioch, Syria in 347, and became a Christian at age 23. Upon his conversion, he went to live with the monks in the mountains, cloistering himself in a damp cave until poor health forced him to return to the city. In 397, he became bishop of Constantinople and began to gain notoriety for his preaching.
Many of John’s sermons criticized the sensuous and lavish lifestyles led by the wealthy while the poor languished in the slums. During his lifetime, some of the aristocratic practices surrounding modesty were not only dehumanizing to servants and slaves, but very often led to the exploitation of the lower classes. John’s fearless excoriation of these customs led people to accuse him of specifically criticizing the empress Eudoxia, resulting in his exile to a remote town on the Black Sea. Unfortunately, he was forced to make the journey on foot in the middle of a blazing summer, pushed onward at an impossible pace by inhumane guards. Just a few months later, he was carried to a nearby chapel, where he died of exhaustion. His last words were, “Glory be to God for all things.”
September 14 – St. Robert Bellarmine
St. Robert Bellarmine was born into a wealthy family in Montelpuciano, Italy in 1542. From a young age, he distinguished himself as a gifted poet and scholar, and following his studies in theology at the University of Padua and the University of Leuven in Brabant, was eventually appointed Cardinal of Naples. During the Counter-Reformation, he rose to prominence for his arguments against the divine right of kings and the authority of the popes over secular rulers. Bellarmine’s view – that the pope only held indirect, not direct, authority – was so controversial that it was nearly blacklisted.
In addition to his persuasive lectures and scholarship, Bellarmine also wrote prolifically on theological and spiritual topics. Some of his best-known works include his commentary on the Psalms and his Art of Dying Well. A passionate advocate for truth, he passed away peacefully in 1621 and was canonized in 1930.
September 21 – St. Matthew the Evangelist
Though as a tax collector, Matthew was a practitioner of one of the most corrupt trades in Israel, Christ still chose him to be one of His disciples. His transformation into an apostle, saint, and author of one of the Gospels is a testament to the radically redemptive power of Christ.
Little is known about St. Matthew’s life outside what can be gleaned from his Gospel account – chiefly, his closeness to Christ as a disciple, and the promptness of his response in agreeing to follow Him. His Gospel account is particularly concerned with demonstrating the continuity of Christ’s life with Hebrew tradition, including nearly 100 references to the Old Testament and almost 60 direct quotations. Many of these draw attention to occasions in which Christ’s life fulfills Old Testament or Hebrew prophecies; in the Nativity account alone, he points out the Virgin Birth (Matt. 1:23), Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:6), the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt (Matt. 2:15), the Massacre of the Holy Innocents (Matt. 2:18), and his designation as a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23).
The patron saint of bookkeepers and bankers, St. Matthew serves as a reminder that Christ came to save all who are lost—even the chief of sinners.
September 29 – St. Vincent De Paul
Born on a French farm in 1581, St. Vincent De Paul ascended from humble beginnings to the esteemed office of priesthood while he was still young. At the time, the priesthood often promised comfort, and when Vincent set out to Marseilles to claim his inheritance in 1605, his future seemed bright. However, while Vincent was en route, pirates kidnapped him and sold him into slavery in Algeria. He lived there for two years before escaping back to France and resuming his place amongst the elite, serving as Chaplain to Queen Margaret of Valois and tutor to Count de Gondi.
He had narrowly eluded a life of misery, but his experiences as a slave forever changed him. In the years that followed, he increasingly found himself drawn to ministering to the poor and downtrodden. He became the chaplain to the local slaves, and later founded a congregation for French peasants called the Lazarists, or the Vincentians. The sheer breadth of his life work was astonishing; not only did he reform French prisons, train laypeople to help the poor, establish orphanages, found hospitals, and start seminaries, but he also ransomed slaves from North Africa, began ministries for the underprivileged, and created relief organizations to supply areas hurt by disasters. Perhaps the most lasting aspect of his legacy was his cofounding of the first non-enclosed order, the Sisters of Charity, in 1633 with Louise de Marillac. Because of his humility, tireless diligence, and love for the poor, he was later named the Universal Patron of Charity.
Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour Book. Washington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.
Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley
The Way of Saints, Dr. Tom Cowan
“St. Robert Bellarmine,” Catholic.org