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In his short life of not quite thirty-six years, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), developed into one of the greatest classical composers in the history of the world. During the Classical Era,
Mozart wrote more than 600 compositions, including 17 Masses, 24 operas, and more than 50 symphonies. The virtuoso also generated pieces of chamber music, choral music, and piano concertos and
frequently performing on the piano during his life.
With a paintbrush, hammer or chisel, Michelangelo Buonarroti could turn Earthly matter into a heavenly vision – a gift that did not go unnoticed by the most illustrious art patrons of the Renaissance in Europe. A favorite of the popes, Michelangelo boasted a client list that included Pope Julius II, Pope Leo X (of the Medici family), Clement VII, and Pope Paul III.
A little blind boy with a cane tapped his way across a French neighborhood to the village church three days a week. There, a parish priest tutored six-year-old Louis Braille, who had lost his sight as a toddler. If it had not been for a misfortunate accident, Braille never would have invented the system of reading and writing known as “Braille” that is still used worldwide today.
ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN
900 years ago, Pope Eugene III urged a humble nun to finish writing down descriptions of her heavenly visions which illuminated the mysteries of Creation, Redemption, and God’s relationship with
humankind. Soon, the nun was being consulted by kings and emperors and visited by humble townspeople seeking her holy advice. On October 7, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named the same nun – St.
Hildegard of Bingen – a Doctor of the Church and called her “perennially relevant.”
This famed Catholic explorer from Venice traveled on horseback halfway around the world to China to reach his friend, Kublai Khan, the great Khan of the Mongol Empire. Marco Polo’s mission was to deliver letters from the pope and holy oil from Christ’s tomb.
The honor of leading the first successful mission to circumnavigate the Earth goes to Catholic explorer Ferdinand Magellan. As the pious Magellan sailed around the world, he erected altars for
Mass on shores, carved out Confession schedules for priests with the crew and captains, preached Christianity to natives, and persuaded inhabitants to burn their loathsome wooden idols. Magellan
named sites after saints, erected crosses, convinced multitudes to be baptized, and correctly predicted that one dying native would be instantly cured when he was
One of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, French chemist and microbiologist Pasteur made time for God and his religion despite his long hours in the lab. There, he created new vaccines and life-saving remedies and worked to save his country’s industries from disaster. For Pasteur, the astonishing complexities of the physical world around him were brimming with evidence of the hand of God. His last hours on Earth were spent beholding a crucifix and clutching a rosary.
Known as the first woman to receive a medical degree in Italy, Maria Montessori proclaimed that her greatest contribution to humanity – the Montessori method of teaching – was valuable because it
tapped into the form of the Catholic Mass. In fact, Montessori described the liturgy as the “pedagogical method” of the Catholic Church for its ability to make “acts of religion real,” making
them “come to life.”
Monsignor Georges Lemaître
Most know that the Big Bang Theory is the most widely accepted theory about the origin of the universe, holding that billions of years ago, an infinitely hot and dense point violently exploded into a universe filled with stars, galaxies and planets and has been expanding ever since. But fewer people know that the Father of the Big Bang theory was a Catholic priest from Belgium who delighted in the philosophical works of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The scientific discoveries of Monsignor Georges Lemaître have been praised by popes from Pius XII to Francis and applauded by
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Known as “The Little Flower of Jesus,” St. Thérèse of Lisieux longed to make Jesus loved by souls.
Departing from this world at the early age of twenty-four, the French saint left behind her secret to spiritual advancement in her now-famous autobiography, Story of a Soul. Published a
year after her death, the book has sold millions of copies and been translated into more than fifty languages. Asserting the importance of doing little things with great love for God and others .
his new invention that forever changed the world, Johann Gutenberg began churning out copies of the most cherished book of the Catholic Church. His invention was the world’s first practical
printing press with moveable type. His project was the printing of the Holy Bible.
ST. TERESA OF AVILA
Named a Doctor of the Church in 1970, this sixteenth century Spanish nun and mystic had visions of Jesus and Mary and founded seventeen Carmelite monasteries. Also known as St. Teresa of Jesus,
St. Teresa of Avila lived the type of prayerful and penitential life that she taught was necessary to make progress on the road of spiritual perfection. Her most famous work, The Interior
Castle, describes the seven stages of development of a soul as it moves towards spiritual marriage with God.
Maria Esperanza de Bianchini, a Venezuelan visionary who is under consideration for possible sainthood by the Catholic Church, is the woman behind a famous farm in South America. The farm is called “Betania” and its most well-known visitor is the Blessed Virgin Mary. From the time Maria Esperanza and her husband purchased the Venezuela farm in 1974 until her death in 2004, her life was inextricably intertwined with the heavenly events occurring on her land and the thousands of religious pilgrims who arrived there to pray . . . .
The first woman president in the Americas, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro established the
principles of democracy in Nicaragua and worked for peace and reconciliation among political parties in the nation she led from 1990 to 1997. With integrity and a selfless drive to serve the
Nicaraguan people, Doña Violeta played a transformational role in Nicaragua’s history, bringing freedom and peace to a country that had been devastated by civil war, corruption, and poverty – the
dark legacy of previous leaders’ thirst for power and riches.
After toppling long-time dictator Ferdinand Marcos, “Cory” Aquino became president of the Philippines and the first female president of any Asian country. Relying on prayer, honesty, and
non-violent methods, Aquino peacefully restored democracy and human rights to her island nation of 55 million people. The many successes of her six-year term – 1986 to 1992 – included the
ratification of a new Constitution in 1987.
Upon discovering the Pacific Ocean, the Catholic explorer known as Balboa waded knee-high into the great blue sea while waving a banner depicting the Virgin and Child. Upon viewing the vast ocean for the first time, Balboa fell to his knees and thanked God for the discovery, one of the most dramatic discoveries since Columbus had sighted dry land in the New World.
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had spotted the ocean from a mountain peak before descending to the shore to march into the glistening water, thus forging a glorious entrance into the ocean on September 29, 1513.
Known in her time as “The Emigrant’s Friend” for her pioneering work among poor immigrants to colonial Australia, Caroline Chisholm gained widespread fame in London and Sydney, received a medal
from Pope Pius IX, and had her portrait appear on Australia’s five-dollar note for more than twenty years. It is estimated that she personally assisted eleven thousand immigrants seeking work and
a new life in the 19th century.
In the central African country of Rwanda . . . . a 100-day period of genocide targeting Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus . . . led to the death of more than 800,000 men, women, and children.
During this time of rampant violence and death, a young woman named Immaculée Ilibagiza went into hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven others for ninety-one days while killers with machetes swarmed inside and outside the house searching for Tutsis like herself . . . Today . . . she preaches forgiveness and mercy around the world.
Known as the “Father of Genetics,” this 19th century monk spent almost a decade planting 27,000 pea plants outside his Augustinian monastery to unravel the mysteries of how exactly God programmed living things and their descendants.
In cracking the puzzle, Gregor Mendel discovered that laws of inheritance governed the genetic make-up of living organisms.
Mother Angelica, the gregarious Poor Clare nun in black and white who makes her live audiences laugh and cry has responded to hundreds of live callers with compassion and wisdom. Born as Rita Antoinette Rizzo, the nun has been considered one the most influential Catholic women in modern times. Her talk show, Mother Angelica Live, aired for decades on the Catholic television network, EWTN . . . . She is the founder of that cable network giant and was the chairman and CEO of the company until 2000.
ELENA CORNARO PISCOPIA
When Elena Cornaro Piscopia received her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Padua in 1678, the brilliant Venetian philosopher became the first woman in the world to receive a degree
from a university.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Although Saint Francis spiritually squandered the first twenty-five years of his life, the beloved friar and preacher used his last twenty years to radically conform his life to the Gospel. Today, tens of thousands of Franciscan friars worldwide live in community striving to . . . .
night before he set out for the journey to Apulia, the future saint had a vision of shields, spears and other military equipment, all marked with the Cross. A voice said, “These are for you and
your soldiers.” St. Francis, who understood the words to be announcing his future military success, proudly left for Apulia, but the voice of the Lord spoke again, telling him to return home for
a spiritual work. St. Francis obeyed.
Oprah Winfrey called him “a prophet for our time.” Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – called him “the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life.” Poet Maya Angelou, who wrote the forward to one of his books, said “this is a better world because of Mattie Stepanek.”
Although he only lived to the age of thirteen, Mattie displayed the sagacity and religious maturity of a seasoned prophet as he
urged his audiences around the world to make peace locally and globally.
to the outer reaches of the known world of the early fifth century, St. Patrick came to bring the Irish into the one fold of Christ. Traveling all over the land of green, the brave Catholic
bishop and monk baptized thousands, ordained clergy and bishops, founded churches, offered Mass, and administered Confirmation to new converts who jettisoned their wooden idols and turned to the
Lord. No longer would the Celtic pagans be bonded to darkness under their Druid priests.
hope of every Catholic mother whose child has gone astray, St. Augustine of Hippo lived in sin with his long-time Carthaginian concubine from his teenage years until the age of thirty . . . . .
Today, his name is etched in history as one of the greatest Christian thinkers and saints to have ever lived. His pivotal role in shaping Christian thought and theology has earned him the
distinction as a Church Doctor.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Hailed as the greatest theologian and philosopher of the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas is known as the “Angelic Doctor” for his accurate theological writings on angels and for his angelic virtue. The saint’s masterpiece, Summa Theologica, explains and defends the body of theological truth accumulated by the Church up to his time.
MARIA GAETANA AGNESI
The first woman to author a mathematics textbook, Maria Gaetana Agnesi wrote a calculus book at a time her field was just emerging. Published in 1748, Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventú was the first complete and usable calculus book for students. . . . The acclaimed work even attracted the attention of Pope Benedict XIV, who invited Agnesi to become chair of mathematics at the University of Bologna . . .
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