During the month of June, the Church celebrates a variety of saints with feast days and memorials, honoring their unique contributions to the faith and reflecting upon their examples of holiness. From the great martyrs of the ages like Saints Justin and John, to men like Saints Irenaeus and Cyril, who defeated some of history’s most pernicious heresies, these saints each have something to teach us. Read about eight saints who we are celebrating this June and why you should know their stories.
An eminent philosopher and apologist for the faith, Justin is known for his Apologies and Dialogue with Trypho, and his efforts to convince Roman officials of the disadvantages of persecuting Christians. Justin is also one of the earliest scholars to have given a cohesive framework for how the Church’s beliefs inform the practice of Liturgy.
Though he ultimately lost his life in defense of Christianity, his bravery continues to stand as a testimony to the faithful today.
On June 3, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga, who remained steadfast in his faith in the face of persecution. When his country plunged into a reign of hostility towards Christianity, he was unafraid to stand for the truth amidst corruption and cultural opposition to his beliefs.
St. Barnabas was an influential leader in the early Church, cultivating its growth and bringing many to Christ. During a time when many converted Jews still looked down on Gentiles, Barnabas and Paul made it clear that the Gospel was for all who would believe – not just for the Jews. Through his work, not only did the church at Antioch flourish, but numerous churches were planted throughout Asia Minor.
When St. Anthony first came to the Franciscan Order, he was only the janitor and dishwasher. But when the plans for a speaker at an ordination ceremony fell through, Anthony was asked to give a speech on the spot – and it was masterful. With St. Francis’ blessing, Anthony started a highly effective preaching mission, often speaking in outdoor settings, without using notes. His persuasive style convinced many people to turn away from their sin, to forgive their enemies, and live more pious lives.
Remembered for his magnificent oratory skills and astute thinking, Anthony is the patron saint of lost things – learn more about his life, patronage, and where you can find him in the Basilica.
On June 21, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a tireless servant of the suffering. Though the world offered him a life of decadence and luxury, he chose humble service to Christ – even when his parents shunned him. While his father ensured that he was raised in the royal courts and pushed him to pursue a military career, he sought to learn as much about the saints as he could and joined the Society of Jesus.
His dedication to selfless service ultimately culminated in a trip to Rome to care for the sick during an outbreak of the plague – a mission which ultimately took his life. Learn more about his example of faith and compassion, and where you can find him portrayed in the Basilica.
St. John is perhaps best known for his baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, marking the beginning of Jesus’ public career. Central to John’s message was a theme of repentance – a key aspect of his mission of “preparing the way” for Jesus. He baptized countless individuals in the Jordan, and crowds flocked to hear him exhort individuals to abandon their selfish ways. John was bold not only in proclaiming the truth of Christ’s saving power, but in condemning evil, being unafraid to censure King Herod Antipas for his marriage to Herodias. Herod imprisoned John for his criticism, and eventually, at the request of his stepdaughter Salome, ordered John’s execution. Yet despite Herod’s attempts to silence him, the power of Christ’s message and John’s legacy as messenger would live on.
A fiery man with a passion for the truth, St. Cyril struggled against his impulsive nature. Born in 376 A.D., he grew up in an era of rebirth for Christianity in Egypt’s capital and took his uncle’s position as bishop in 412. While he zealously defended what he believed in, he often acted rashly. He closed the churches of the Novatian heretics, fell into spats with civic authorities, and battled paganism with force.
Over the course of his life, Cyril became more even-tempered and took the helm in the fight against Nestorianism. Thanks to his efforts, this pernicious heresy was defeated, and Nestorius was condemned by the Roman Church. St. Cyril’s life is proof of how God can take anyone – no matter how weak and flawed they may be, and use them for His divine purpose.
St. Irenaeus- June 28
One of the Church’s first systematic theologians, Irenaeus is considered one of the most influential early Christian thinkers. During Irenaeus’ lifetime, Gnosticism was a pervasive heresy threatening the church. For the Gnostics, secret religious knowledge was required for salvation, and human beings needed to be freed from the inherently evil physical world to pass into the spiritual realm. Irenaeus took the lead in combatting this heresy, and thanks to his unflagging efforts, it eventually lessened in popularity and lost influence. Learn more about his life and where you can find him portrayed in the Basilica.