November is just around the corner, which means it’s time to honor all those who have passed. We have All Soul’s Day, where we pray for all of our dead, and All Saint’s Day, where we honor all of those we know to be in heaven interceding for us. But what about the people who fall in between? There are many ordinary, everyday Catholics whose causes for beatification are open. They’ve made it through the first round of the process and have been declared “venerable”, which means they lived a life of virtue we can all learn from.
I chose three of my favorite venerables so you can start learning about them before they’re all cool and canonized. As an added bonus, all three had cameos by other saints and/or possible saints in their lives. Remember: Saints have saints for friends.
Note: I took all of my research from the books Saintly Men of Modern Times and Saintly Women of Modern Times by Joan Carroll Cruz. Both books are full of stories like these, and I cannot recommend them highly enough!
1. Venerable Giacomo Gaglione
Giacomo Gaglione was born a healthy child in Italy in 1896. Just before his 16th birthday, he came down with a disease that eventually paralyzed his legs. He was miserable and bitter, resentful of the idea of having an irreversible handicap.
By God’s providence, Giacomo was exposed to two great saints. The first, St. Guiseppe Moscati, was a physician at the University of Naples (expect a post on him later this month). Then, when Giacomo was 23, he met Padre Pio. Padre became Giacomo’s spiritual director. Some accounts even claim that Padre Pio used his gift of bilocation (the ability to be at two places at the same time) to direct Giacomo and help him embrace his sufferings.
The influence of two saints was enough to help Giacomo accept his bed-ridden fate. He began to see being paralyzed so young as a gift from God. He started an organization called the Apostolate of Suffering, through which he helped patients embrace their fates and offer their pain for the good of others. Giacomo died 50 years after his paralysis set in. He spent those 50 years dependent upon his mother and sisters for care. He is remembered for his joy, and for the many people who benefited from his prayers, example and apostolate. He was named Venerable in 1994.
2. Venerable Edel Quinn
Venerable Edel Quinn was an Irish women who was deeply involved in the Legion of Mary, started by Frank Duff, whose cause for beatification is also open. Edel was a mischevious but extraordinarily kind child. One of the sisters who ran her primary school described her as “a real imp at school, not indeed bold, but instead bubbling over with good spirits…she was the center of every group bent on fun or mischief.”
Edel was also deeply religious. As her association with the Legion would suggest, she had a strong devotion to Our Lady. She was also devoted to her schoolwork, but had to leave school when she was 17 to help support her family. She worked cheerfully as a secretary until her siblings were grown and her family financially stable. Then, at the age of 25, she made arrangements to enter the Poor Clares. However, shortly before she was scheduled to enter, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
She stayed in a sanatorium for awhile, but it was clear that the treatments didn’t help and Edel didn’t want to continue to be a financial burden on her parents. She resigned herself to the fact that she had limited time left, and decided to serve as much as she could with it. To be fair, she did “[permit] herself to take a day’s rest from work when she experienced a hemorrhage of the lungs.”
The Legion of Mary had just begun to explore the idea of opening a mission in Africa. Edel volunteered to go alone, knowing full well she would probably never come back to Ireland. She arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on Nov, 24, 1936, and discovered a multitude of difficulties. Her mission field included over 20 African tribes and several European groups, nearly all of whom lived apart from one another and spoke different languages. There was also the problem of weather–the rainy season made the roads unsafe to drive, so she would often have to slog through the mud to her various meetings. At other times, she would walk through extreme heat and dust, which could not have been pleasant for someone with lungs that would occasionally hemorrhage. But she never complained. She used her hours of walking for prayer.
Perhaps that’s why her mission was such a success. She would go to a village, start a Legion of Mary chapter, then correspond with the locals to help with any problems. Essentially, she did discipleship-model small group evangelization long before CRU or FOCUS made it popular. Despite her tuberculosis and malaria, she overcame all of the cultural, geographical and linguistic barriers and helped establish hundreds of chapters of the Legion of Mary. She only weighed 75 pounds toward the end of her life, but still insisted on travelling to see her spiritual children. After her death in 1944, her grave in Nairobi became a place of pilgrimage.
3. Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot
Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot lived during the early to mid-1800s in Lyons, France. Even though she had been raised Catholic, her early formation was heavily influenced by a heresy known as Jansenism. Jansenism enforced a strict code of morals, leading to an intense spiritual anxiety in the young Pauline that led her constant confession and doubts about God’s mercy.
As she grew older, she seemed to react against this by becoming, of her own admission, self-involved. She earned a reputation as a flirt, an extravagant dresser and, to put it mildly, quite the bombshell. Then, when she was about 16 years old, she fell from a chair. Her injury caused her significant pain for eight months, and her health was never quite the same.
She tried to return to her old social scene once she had recuperated, but would often burst into tears for no discernible reason. When she was 17, she heard a priest give an intense homily against vanity. That was her conversion moment. She began to visit the poor and sold her jewelry to help them. She even gave away all of her pretty clothes, keeping only an ugly purple dress she hated. She wrote that, “I took such extreme measures because, if I had not broken off all at once, I would not have done it at all.”
Pauline made a vow of perpetual chastity in 1816. Shortly after that, her extraordinary gift of organization began to manifest. She gathered vulnerable girls her own age on the streets and found them work in a silk factory. She organized them into a small group in which they followed a rule of life and served others in the community.
Next, she started an aid for foreign missions. She started a system of collections known as the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which is still contributing millions to foreign missions today. In fact, according to the society’s website, Venerable Fulton Sheen served as its head from 1950 to 1966.
Unfortunately, the success of her society drew sharp criticism from Church leaders who did not appreciate a lay woman interfering in Church business. She was only able to quiet their criticism by relinquishing control to a group of local Catholic laymen.
The rest of Pauline’s life follows a pattern of illness, followed by organizing a new wildly successful apostolate, drawing criticism for her success, and then becoming ill again.
People began to say that Pauline was using the money from her organizations for herself, so she went to Rome to get the pope’s approval. She stayed with St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, champion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while in Rome. She became ill, so the pope actually came to her at Mother Barat’s convent. He told Mother Barat as he left that he thought Pauline was dying. However, Pauline experienced a miraculous recovery at the shrine of St. Philomena a few weeks later.
Pauline went back to France and started a home where other lay women lived with her and helped serve the poor. St. John Vianney was a frequent visitor. In fact, he became Pauline’s spiritual director.
With Father Vianney’s blessing, she started a new ministry to help working men earn an honest wage and be able to educate their children. Unfortunately, the men she put in charge of the money for this project embezzled funds. Pauline was held accountable to the investors for all of the stolen money, which forced her to sell the land she had used for the ministry. She even had to apply for a pauper’s certificate.
She tried to ask for assistance from the Propagation of the Faith, but they refused, even after Pope Pius IX sent his cardinal vicar to the archbishop of Lyons to intercede for her. During all of these troubles, Father Vianney gave Pauline a wooden cross on which was written, “God is my witness, Jesus Christ is my model, Mary is my support. I ask for nothing but love and sacrifice.”
Pauline became ill again. Her lung and heart conditions finally made it impossible for her to beg for money for missionaries. She suffered an increase in bodily fluids, which caused her to bloat horribly. The poor she had served during her health now had to bring her food.
Pauline, formerly a rich socialite, died disgraced, disfigured and humiliated on January 9, 1862. However, it does not appear that her mind was on her sufferings, as her last words were, “Mary, my Mother, I am all yours!”