Historians tell us that there is more intimate knowledge available about St. Augustine than of any other individual in the whole world of antiquity. Augustine the sinner is all too well known.
There is knowledge of him as a convert and author of Confessions, but little is known of his as Father of the Church and as a saint.
Augustine was born in the little town of Tegaste, Africa, on November 13, 354. He claimed that he learned the love of God from his mother Monica’s breast, and that her early Christian training influenced his entire life. He was highly educated, having studied at Madura, Africa, the University of Carthage, and Rome. He was brilliant – actually a genius, and he used his great abilities to lead men to love God.
His thousands of letters, sermons and tracts, combined with 232 books, instructed the Early Church and have relevance for the Church today. It is said that Christian scholars through the ages owe much to St. Augustine and that the full impact of his psychology and his embryonic theology will be felt in years to come. Augustine was truly a saint. He live an austere life, performing great acts of mortification and penance. He wrote, “I pray to God, weeping almost daily.” Two of his most famous books are “Confessions” which is an autobiography and “City of God”.
St. Augustine’s feast day is August 28th.
St. Monica, an African laywoman is a saint with whom most black women can readily and easily identify, because Monica epitomized the present-day black women.
St. Monica was born in Tegaste in northern Africa in about 331. She was a devout Christian and an obedient disciple of St. Ambrose. Through her patience, gentleness and prayers, she converted her pagan husband. To her son, St. Augustine of Hippo, whom she loved dearly, she gave thorough religious training during his boyhood, only to know the disappointment of seeing him later scorn all religion and live a life of disrepute. Before her death, Monica had the great joy of knowing that Augustine had returned to God and was using all his energies to build Christ’s Church, and that her youngest daughter had become a nun. St. Monica’s feast day is August 27th.
Saint Martin de Porres
On May 16, 1962, Pope John XXIII, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, made Martin de Porres the first black American saint. Martin was born on December 9, 1579, in Lima, Peru, the illegitimate son of Don Juan de Porres of Burgos a Spanish nobleman, and Ana Velasquez, a young freed Negro slave girl.
From early childhood Martin showed great piety, a deep love for all God’s Creatures and a passionate devotion to Our Lady. At the age of 11 he took a job as a servant in the Dominican priory and performed the work with such devotion that he was called “the saint of the broom”.
He was promoted to the job of almoner and soon was begging more than $2,000 a week from the rich. All that was begged was given to the poor and sick of Lima in the form of food, clothing and medicine.
Martin was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary where he became known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. In recognition of his fame and his deep devotion, his superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin was vested in the full habit and took the solemn vows as a Dominican brother.
As a Dominican brother, he became more devout and more desirous to be of service. He established an orphanage and a children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. Martin lived a life of self-imposed austerity. He never ate a meal, he fasted continuously and spent much time in prayer and meditation. He was venerated from the day of his death.
Many miraculous cures, including the raising of the dead, were attributed to Brother Martin.
Today throughout South America, Central America and the islands of the Caribbean, people tell of the miraculous powers of St. Martin de Porres. St. Martin de Porres’s feast day is November 3rd.
Saint Benedict the Moor
St. Benedict the Moor, a lay brother, was born in Sicily in 1526. He was the son of African slave parents, but he was freed at an early age. When about twenty-one, he was insulted because of his color, but his patient and dignified bearing caused a group of Franciscan hermits who witnessed the incident to invite him to join their group. He became their leader. In 1564 he joined the Franciscan friary in Palermo and worked in the kitchen until 1578, when he was chosen superior of the group. He carried through the adoption of stricter interpretation of the Franciscan rule. He was known for his power to read people’s minds and held the nickname of the “Holy Moor”. His life is austerity resembled that of St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Benedict the Moor feast day is April 4th.
Saint Moses, The Black
Saint Moses, the Black, was a desert monk, born around 330. He was an Ethiopian of great physical strength and unruly character. Moses was a big man and his enormous strength was well known. He belonged to a band of professional thieves and robbers in Egypt. Yet he was a slave. Moses was always in trouble with the law and his master.
Fearing eventual death from his Ethiopian master, or other criminals, Moses ran away into the Scete Desert. No regular people were there, only poor hermits with nothing worth stealing. The hermits converted Black Moses to Jesus; yet his former bad ways held on to him. In order to fight harder for Jesus, Moses moved further into the desert. Soon his conversion to Jesus became widely known. The report reached his former band of robbers. Some of them came and tried to turn him back to crime. He converted them.
He was chosen for priesthood, and at his ordination the bishop remarked to him, “Now the black man is made white”. Moses replied, “Only outside, for God knows I am all black within.” At age 75, was killed during a raid by Mazics on the monastery, which he refused to defend. He left seventy disciples to mourn him. St. Moses, The Black feast day is August 28th.
Saints Felicitas and Perpetua
Women persecuted for Christianity at Carthage. Perpetua is recorded for having several visions that depicted her death. At death, she called out to the crowds: “Stand fast in the Faith and love one another. Do not let out suffering be a stumbling block to you…” Felicitas was Perpetua’s slave. They died together.
St. Felicitas and Perpetua feast day is March 6th.
St. Bessarian was born in Egypt. He went to the desert to become a hermit. He is credited for many miracles. Once he made salt water fresh. He brought rain during a drought and once walked on the Nile.