The Many Royal Feast Days in July
On July 4, we have the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. She was born in Spain in 1271, daughter of King Pedro II of Aragon. She was espoused to Denis, the King of Portugal, and suffered greatly as his Queen on account of his weaknesses and infidelities. She attended Holy Mass everyday and daily gave alms to the poor as she walked to the local church. Her prayers for her husband drew grace for his later conversion. After his death, she put off her royal robes and wore the habit of a Third Order Franciscan. She died in 1336. Elizabeth was the grandniece of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named.
On July 11, we have the feast of Saint Olga of Russia. She was born in Kiev in 890 before Russia was converted to Christianity. In 903, she was married to Prince Igor of Kiev.. When he was murdered by a rebellious tribe called the Drevlians, she, as regent, had them all killed and their city destroyed. She was regent from 945-964 for her young son Svyatoslav, and never remarried. Olga, whose cruelty was so barbarous, converted to the Catholifc Faith in 957 and was baptized in Constantinople. Queen Olga, during her twelve years as a Christian, completely embraced the Faith and did much to prepare her nation for its complete conversion under her grandson, Saint Vladimir. Her son, Svyatoslav, however, resisted her efforts to convert the Kievans. Had it not been for the holiness and zeal of Saint Vladimir of Rus, Olga would have never been revered as a saint herself. She died in 969. Then, again, Vladimir could not have been worse of a scoundrel (worse than Olga) before his own conversion. His rap sheet reads like a pagan king of the Old Testament. With these two saints we are assured of one thing: the mercy and grace of God can make one sins of scarlet as while as snow.
Also on this day is celebrated the feast of Saint Mabel, daughter of an Anglo-Saxon king, she lived as a nun in the convent of Saint Armand, in Rouen France. She died in 634.
On July 13, we have the feast day of Saint Henry II the Holy Roman Emperor. He was born in 972 and died in 1024. He and his wife, Saint Cunegunda, lived a life of perpetual continency and chastity. Henry was a patron of the Benedictines, whose many dilapidated monasteries he restored. Saint Pius X declared him the patron saint of Benedictine Oblates.There is one other royal couple that I came across who are both canonized. They are the Welsh king and queen, Gwynllyw (10th century)) and his wife Gwladys (Claudia). They also had a son who is a saint, Cadoc, whose vita is the first saint’s life to mention King Arthur. If Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary, who was beatified in 2004, and Venerable Empress Zita are canonized they would be a third king and his queen to be raised to the altar.
Also on this day we have the feast of Saint Mildred, who was the daughter of Saint Ermenburga, a princess of Kent in England. Her mother’s two siblings are also saints, Ethelred and Ethelbert. Mildred was educated in France, but served in England as a Benedictine abbess. She died in the year 700.
On July 18, we have the feast of Saint Frederick who was the grandson of Radbod, King of the Frisians. He was appointed the Bishop of Utrecht in 825. Bishop Frederick exercised zeal in fighting the many vices and moral lapses of the newly converted Catholics in that part of what was then Germany (the Netherlands) — the Frisians had been converted (alhough not in the north) by Irish missionaries in the seventh century and Saint Willibrord in the eighth. Bishop Frederick had also sent Saint Odulf to the still pagan frontiers of the north. Because of his uncompromising zeal the holy bishop was martyred by two assassins with daggers at the foot of the altar as he made his thanksgiving having just finished his Mass. The day was July 18 in the year 838.
On July 23, we have the feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden She was born of very pious parents. Her father was a nobleman and judge in Upperland Sweden. Bridget had a vision of Our Lord on His cross when she was only a child. She cried out “Who has done this to you?” And Jesus answered, “Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” Although she was not a princess, Bridget’s mother was of the royal clan of King Magnus Eriksson and Queen Blanche of Namur. When Bridget’s mother died the king asked her to come to court and be the lady-in-waiting for his French wife and teach her the ways of Sweden. This she did. Before leaving her home, when only thirteen, she was married to Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children. In her widowhood Bridget had many mystical experiences and visions of Our Lord’s passion (the popular devotion of the Magificent Promises comes from her revelations). She also founded an order later known as the Bridgettines. Her daughter Catherine of Sweden is also a saint. Catherine and her husband, a very pious German nobleman, took vows of virginity. After her husband’s death Catherine succeeded her mother as abbess of the Bridgettines in Sweden. Saint Bridget died in 1373. Saint Catherine died not long after in 1381.
Finally, July 29, we have Saint Olaf, King of Norway. He was fifteen years-old when he was baptized in 1010. As king, he sent missionaries throughout his realm. Olaf had to flee to Russia from the invading Danes who, actually, were invited in by some of his own rebellious noblemen. When he returned in 1030, he was slain in battle against King Canute’s Danes on the 29th of July in Stiklestad, Norway. It was King Olaf who converted the Icelander Leif Erickson, who was hosted by the king when he attended the University of Bremen. Imagine that! A Catholic Viking University educating young men in the year 1000.