On July 30, 1941, a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi camp in Poland. In retaliation, the commandant lined up inmates of cell block fourteen and ordered that ten of them be selected for death. When one of the ten cried out that he would never see his family again, another prisoner stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. That person was Maximilian Kolbe. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Agnes was born in Prague, where her father was the king of Bohemia. Despite the privileges of her station, she enjoyed no freedom to decide her own destiny. She was simply a commodity to be invested wherever she might bring the highest return for her family and its dynastic interests. Starting at the age of three, she was shipped to various kingdoms and betrothed to strangers she had never met. Through chance or providence, all these engagements came to nothing. Click here to read or listen to her story!
Jacopone Benedetti was a prosperous lawyer in the Umbrian town of Todi. His life took a tragic turn one day when his young wife was killed in an accident. This terrible loss was compounded by the belated discovery of his wife’s piety. As she lay dying before his eyes, he loosened her gown and was surprised and deeply moved to find that she wore a secret hair shirt, a penance he believed she must have undertaken to atone for his own sins. Click here to read or listen to his story!
John Duns, later known as the Subtle Doctor, was called Scotus on account of his birth in Scotland. He entered the Franciscans at the age of fifteen and was later ordained a priest. After studies in Oxford and Paris, he went on to hold teaching positions in Paris and Cologne, where he was acclaimed as one of the greatest of the Scholastic theologians. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Thomas More was one of the most highly respected men of his time. A successful barrister, an honest judge, a famous scholar, he rose to the highest status of any commoner in England, appointed by Henry VIII to the office of lord chancellor. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Junipero Serra is celebrated as one of the fathers of California. Born in Majorca, Serra entered the Franciscan order at sixteen. After earning a doctorate in theology, he taught as a professor for many years before volunteering for the missions in New Spain. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Barbara Koob, who was born in Germany, immigrated with her family to the United States when she was less than two years old. At the port of entry, the family name became Cope. In 1862, Barbara entered the Third Order Regular of Franciscans and received her religious name, Sr. Marianne. Click here to read or listen to her story!
On October 28, 1958, a new pope greeted the Church from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. There stood the smiling, rotund figure of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the son of peasants and recently the patriarch of Venice. “I am called John,” he said. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Matt Talbot was one of twelve children born to a poor family in Dublin. His addiction to alcohol began at twelve, when he got his first job with a wine merchant. Before long, drink had become the primary focus of his life. All the wages he earned carrying bricks went to support his addiction. What funds he lacked, he begged, borrowed, or stole. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Bonaventure, who was born to a wealthy family in Orvieto, joined the Franciscans around 1238 in the midst of his studies at the University of Paris. Saint Francis had died only some dozen years before, but already his order was rapidly changing the face of the Church in Europe. To Bonaventure, it seemed that the Franciscan Order “was not invented by human providence but by Christ. In it, the learned and the simple lived as brethren.” Click here to read or listen to his story!
Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant and devout Catholic, was executed for refusing to serve in Hitler’s army. He was known in his village of St. Radegund as a man of honesty and principle, devoted to his family and his faith, a sacristan in his parish church, who in 1940 had joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Solanus Casey, the son of Irish immigrants in Wisconsin, felt called to the priesthood after witnessing a drunken sailor stabbing a woman. Somehow, this scene of sin and suffering caused Casey to dedicate himself to God and to promote God’s love as the answer to the world’s troubles. Click here to read or listen to his story!
Saint Margaret was raised in a poor family in Tuscany. Following the death of her mother when Margaret was just eleven, a new stepmother turned her out of the house. Eventually, with few apparent options, she eloped with a young nobleman, who kept her as his mistress. Though she bore him a son, he would not marry her. Click here to read or listen to her story!
Padre Pio, a Capuchin friar of peasant background, spent virtually his entire life in a monastery in southern Italy. In most respects he was indistinguishable from his fellow friars. But for some mysterious purpose, Padre Pio was set apart. For the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to hear him say Mass, or to have him hear their confessions, or simply to rest their gaze on his bandaged hands, he was living proof for the existence of God. Click here to read or listen to his story!