June is the beginning of Summer when the cold dies away and the beauty of God’s creation shines forth. But for the Church, June is also a time of memorials, solemnities, and celebrations. It’s arguably one of the most important months in the Church calendar next to December, May, and Easter.
June 5 – Pentecost
We begin this month by remembering the day the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles in the upper room and set their ministry on fire. To Jews at that time Pentecost or Shavuot, the birth of which can be found in Leviticus 23:18-21, was a celebration of the first fruits and new grain, it was the Feast of Harvest. Later Shavuot became The Time of Law because this is when tradition said Moses received the 10 Commandments. Is it any wonder that God chose this day to send down fiery tongues and set the Apostles aflame with the Holy Spirit? This is the day the Apostles harvested and presented to God their own first fruits. These recent converts, raised on the Mosaic Law, now heard the new law, through Christ.
June 16 – Feast of Corpus Christi
While this feast falls on the 16th, many dioceses will wait until Sunday to give the day a proper celebration. After Mass, the Host is ornately processed around for all to see. Because this is meant to be a public witness, the procession is most often outside, either around the block or around the church. This devotion might not have come to fruition but for a young nun in Liège, Belgium. Of her, Pope Benedict said, “She is little known, but the Church is deeply indebted to her…” Sr. Juliana envisioned a celebration venerating the Blessed Sacrament outside of Lent. Then beginning in 1208 and lasting 20 years, she received visions of Christ instructing her to seek the institution of what is today Corpus Christi. It would take another 71 years before this feast was universally celebrated in the Church, with the first Mass for this solemnity held in 1246.
June 24 – Feast of the Sacred Heart
The entire month of June is devoted to the Sacred Heart. It was on August 31, 1670, that Rennes, France celebrated the first Feast of the Sacred Heart. It wasn’t until 1856 that the devotion received its modern place of honor in the Liturgical Calendar, the Friday after Corpus Christi. This devotion had a slow development but spread more fervently thanks to the revelations of Srs. Margaret Mary Alacoque and Mary of the Divine Heart. Our Lord told Sr. Margaret Mary, that anyone who is devoted to His Sacred Heart will receive peace, consolation, blessings, fervor, and so much more. To Sr. Mary of the Divine Heart, Christ said He wanted the world consecrated to His Sacred Heart. She sent a letter to Pope Leo XIII, who initially didn’t believe her, but came to believe after she told him in a second letter that the Lord had prolonged the Pope’s life from a secret illness just so he could make the consecration a reality.
June 25 – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
How very apropos that the day following the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we honor the first woman devoted to Him and her own Immaculate Heart. A big difference between the two devotions is that, in the Sacred Heart, only God can have such a divine love for humanity that we cannot achieve this love ourselves, but only be devoted to it. But with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we have an achievable perfection: that is to love Jesus the perfect way she loved Him. We can be as devoted as she was, we can love Him as she did, and we can imitate her by seeking to imitate Christ. These two symbols of perfection, celebrated side-by-side, are the perfect example of this “new command” to love God and each other.
We also celebrate the lives and services of some important saints:
June 1 – Saint Justin Martyr
This patron saint of philosophers was born a gentile around 100 AD in Judea. Justin, an aspiring philosopher, was disenthralled by pagan philosophies. Instead, he found truth in the teachings of Christ and wrote several apologies and other works hoping to influence the rest of his region. He was beheaded sometime between 162 and 168.
June 3 – Saints Charles Lwanga and companions
These young men are the patron saints of African Catholic Youth Action, converts, and torture victims. Born around 1860 in Buganda, a kingdom within Uganda, Charles converted to Christianity during a time when Christians were killed in that kingdom. Charles protected the young pages in his care from this predatory king. However, bent on erasing Christianity from the kingdom the king had the newly baptized pages executed along with Charles on June 3, 1886.
June 11 – Saint Barnabas the Apostle
Barnabas aided St. Paul in his mission to convert the gentiles beginning around 46AD. In Acts 13, we read how Paul found Barnabas teaching in a church in Antioch and made him an Apostle and minister. Barnabas may have been the cousin of Mark the Evangelist. He is thought to have been martyred around 60 AD, though there are conflicting stories as to the method of his execution. He is the patron saint of Cyprus, Antioch, peacemakers, and hailstorms.
June 13 – Saint Anthony of Padua
Born into wealth in 1195, a priest by the age of 19, studied at the feet of St. Francis, and one of the most profound homilists of his time, St. Anthony has remained one of the most beloved Saints throughout the centuries. This Doctor of the Church is best known for his miracles in raising the dead, preaching to fish, healing the sick, and even helping you find your car keys. Even though he died in 1231, the Hammer of the Heretics is still working around the clock. He is the patron saint of finding lost things, people, or souls; the poor, oppressed, elderly, and starving; and shipwrecks.
June 24 – Birth of John the Baptist
The first prophet called by God in 400 years, this miraculously-born cousin of Jesus was the first Christian evangelizer. John is known for baptizing the Messiah and his ministry as a wilderness prophet, eating nothing but locusts and honey. He professed the coming of Christ until his death by beheading around 28-36 AD. He is the patron saint of baptisms, conversion, storms, builders, and the monastic life.
June 29 – Saints Peter and Paul
This feast honors Saints Peter and Paul as martyrs of Rome. There isn’t consistent information on the death of St. Paul, but because he was a Roman citizen he had the choice of beheading, and tradition holds he was martyred alongside St. Peter. St. Peter famously, according to tradition, was crucified upside down. Though historians believe he may have died as early as 44AD. These two brothers in Christ are honored together for their importance in spreading the Gospel. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, and Paul, a persecutor-turned-Christian-apologist are, without a doubt, the pinnacle upon which the Church was built.