January is the month of the Holy Name of Jesus and the feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, when the three wise men bring forth their gifts. It is also the month we make new resolutions and reflect upon our goals and hopes for the new year.
During January, we would do well to savor the advice of the saints about how to keep our holy resolutions in the new year.
Five saints of January reflect the importance of resolving to honor God’s holy name and the spirit of giving their whole lives as a gift to God. May we turn to their words the next time we need a good reminder!
So spend time with a socialite convert, a neighbor-loving matchmaker, the father of monasticism, a famous martyr, and a Carmelite mystic whose plans famously changed! They all have something powerful to teach and can all help to make our New Year’s resolutions holier!
January 4 – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a wealthy socialite from a prominent American family and she married William Seton, with whom she had five children. She lived a life of obedience to God, which included traveling to Italy, discovering the Catholic faith through Italian friends, converting to Catholicism as a widow, and leaving the Episcopalian church into which she had been born.
As she herself said, “I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself.”
Later Elizabeth Ann Seton became the founder of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph
and also the founder of the American parochial Catholic school system.
Here is a novena to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. In her own words,
The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the
manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.
January 12 – Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)
St. Marguerite was born in France to a large family. The governor of Montreal invited
Marguerite to travel to New France (Canada) to start up a mission and a school there and
she recruited other women to serve as teachers. She also cared for women who had traveled from France to Canada looking to marry and become some of the colony’s first families.
Marguerite was a holy matchmaker, interviewing potential suitors for these women and making sure each match would be based on suitability and virtue. Her community of women became an official group of “secular Sisters,” known as the Congregation Notre-Dame. She felt strongly that people should cultivate the love of neighbor as well as the love of God.
Here is a prayer to St. Marguerite. In her own words:
It is true that all I have ever desired most deeply and what I still most ardently wish is that the great precept of the love of God above all things and of the neighbor as oneself be written in every heart.
January 17 – Saint Anthony, Abbot (251-356)
St. Anthony, Abbot famously responded with action after being at Mass and hearing the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:21: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” So Anthony did indeed sell the enormous wealth he had inherited and went out into the desert to live. Followers came to follow him and thus St. Anthony of the Desert is known as “the father of monasticism.”
Here is a prayer to St. Anthony the Abbot. In his own words,
The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross.
January 20 – Saint Sebastian (died approx 300 AD)
Saint Sebastian is one of the most famous of Catholic martyrs. He is frequently depicted in classic works of art bearing the wounds of his martyrdom. His death came during the terrible persecutions of Diocletian. He survived an onslaught of arrows sent to kill him, and was finally beaten to death. With his last words, he showed tremendous love of neighbor and forgiveness. These were the dying words of St. Sebastian: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
January 28 – Blessed Archangela (1460-1495)
The life of Blessed Archangela (born Elanor Girlani) teaches us that we must always leave the plans we make up to the will of God and be prepared to be re-directed!
Blessed Archangela was on her way to join a Benedictine monastery when her usually obedient horse suddenly refused to move. She took this as a sign that God had other plans for her. She returned home and prayed for guidance. In time, she met a Carmelite monk who introduced her to Carmelite sisters and she took this as the sign of God’s will for her life.
Archangela is known for a special devotion to the Holy Trinity, a true Carmelite devotion mirrored again in the life of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity. Archangela was known for mystic prayer, ecstasies, and even levitation. It is said that she lived out her prayer life with such intensity and love that it was as though she were already in heaven. She founded a new Carmelite monastery in Mantua.
There is such inspiration and wisdom as we recall the dying words of Blessed Archangela. These words were the last she ever spoke: “Jesus, My Love.” She had been known to utter these words often during her life, as well.
As we set our course for a new year, full of plans, let us remember to pray to Jesus, our
Love, to guide us just as he guided Blessed Archangela… directing our path to exactly where He wants us.
To sanctify our resolutions, we ought to filter them through the reminders these saints of January offer. These reminders are: Do the will of God, love your neighbor, make sacrifices, forgive, and cultivate a deep love for Jesus. If we can improve all of these things in 2023, it will be our best year yet!
Holy saints of January, as we seek and savor your words of wisdom, pray for us!