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Holy Days in February

Brigid (1st February)
Abbess of Kildare c. 525. Refusing many good offers of marriage, she became a nun and received the veil from St. Macaille. With seven other virgins she settled for a time at the foot of Croghan Hill, but removed thence to Druin Criadh, in the plains of Magh Life, where under a large oak tree she erected her Convent of Cill-Dara, that is, "The church of the oak"(now Kildare),

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2nd February)

Anskar (3rd February)
Archbishop of Hamburg Anskar, who was born in 801, was trained in the monastery of Corbey near Amiens and had been transferred with other monks to the monastery of New Corbey near Hoxter on the River Weser. Anskar was placed in charge of the monastic school. He was also accustomed to preach to the public congregation. He became a missionary in Denmark and Sweden.

Gilbert (4th February)
Born at Sempringham, on the border of the Lincolnshire fens, between Bourn and Heckington. Being ill-favoured and deformed, he was not destined for a military or knightly career, but was sent to France to study. His life henceforth became one of extraordinary austerity, its strictness not diminishing as he grew older. Founded and ruled for many years the Order of Gilbertines,

The Martyrs of Japan (6th February)
It was not until 1587, when there were 200,000 Christians in Japan, that an edict of persecution, or rather of prescription, was passed to the surprise of everyone, at the instigation of a bonze, Nichijoshonin. Twenty-six residences and 140 churches were destroyed; the missionaries were condemned to exile, but were clever enough to hide or scatter. They never doubted the constancy of their converts; they assisted them in secret and in ten years there were 100,000 other converts in Japan. We read of two martyrdoms, one at Takata, the other at Notsuhara; but very many Christians were dispossessed of their goods and reduced to poverty.

Scholastica (10th February)
Sister of St. Benedict. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighbourhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a community of nuns, about five miles from that of St. Benedict.

Cyril and Methodius (14th February)
These brothers, the Apostles of the Slavs, were born in Thessalonica, in 827 and 826 respectively. Though belonging to a senatorial family they renounced secular honours and became priests. They were living in a monastery on the Bosphorous, when the Khazars sent to Constantinople for a Christian teacher. Cyril was selected and was accompanied by his brother. They learned the Khazar language and converted many of the people. Soon after the Khazar mission there was a request from the Moravians for a preacher of the Gospel. The Moravians wished for a teacher who could instruct them and conduct Divine service in the Slavonic tongue. On account of their acquaintance with the language, Cyril and Methodius were chosen for this work. In preparation for it Cyril invented an alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and the necessary liturgical books into Slavonic. They went to Moravia in 863, and laboured for four and a half years.

Valentine (14th February)
At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14th February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as  bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury's time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighbourhood.  Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

Sigfrid (15th February)
Bishop and Apostle to Sweden. John Sigfrid, an Englishman from Northumbria, who had been court bishop to King Olaf Tryggvasson from 977 to 1000,  left Norway for Sweden in 1002 and worked for six years in Westergötland. About 1008 he arrived at Vexiö, and with great success preached Christianity to the heathens of Varend. He built a wooden church at Vexiö and remained there until his death.

Thomas Bray (15th February)
Priest and founder of the SPCK and SPG, 1730. In 1696 Thomas Bray, an English country parson, was commissioned to report on the condition of the Church in the colony of Maryland. He spent only ten weeks in the colony, but he radically re-organized and renewed the Church there, providing for the instruction of children and the systematic examination of candidates for pastoral positions. He founded thirty-nine lending libraries and numerous schools. Both in Maryland and upon his return to England, he wrote and preached in defence of the rights of enslaved Africans, and of Indians deprived of their land. Back in England, he worked for the reform of prison conditions, and for the establishment of preaching missions to prisoners. He persuaded General Oglethorpe to found a American colony (Georgia) for the settlement of debtors as an alternative to debtors' prison. He founded a missionary society, the SPG (Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel) and an educational and publishing society, the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge), both of which are still active today.

Janani Luwum (17th February)
Archbishop of Uganda who was martyred in 1977. Early in 1977 there was a small army rebellion that was put down with only seven men dead. However, Amin determined to stamp out all traces of dissent. His men killed thousands, including the entire population of Milton Obote's home village. On Sunday, 30th January, Bishop Festo Kivengere preached on "The Preciousness of Life" to an audience including many high government officials. The government responded on the following Saturday (5th February) by an early (1:30am) raid on the home of the Archbishop, Janani Luwum, ostensibly to search for hidden stores of weapons. The Archbishop called on President Amin to deliver a note of protest at the policies of arbitrary killings and the unexplained disappearances of many persons. Amin accused the Archbishop of treason, produced a document supposedly by former President Obote attesting his guilt, and had the Archbishop and two Cabinet members (both committed Christians) arrested and held for military trial. The three met briefly with four other prisoners who were awaiting execution, and were permitted to pray with them briefly. Then the three were placed in a Land Rover and not seen alive again by their friends.

Polycarp (23rd February)
Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna (today known as Izmir), a city on the west coast of Turkey. He is said to have known the Apostle John, and to have been instructed by him in the Christian faith. He was denounced to the government, arrested, and tried on the charge of being a Christian. When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: "Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" The magistrate was reluctant to kill a a gentle old man, but he had no choice. Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. As he waited for the fire to be lighted, he prayed. The fire was then lit and shortly thereafter a soldier stabbed Polycarp to death by order of the magistrate. His friends gave his remains honourable burial, and wrote an account of his death to other churches

George Herbert (27th February)
Priest and Poet. George Herbert was born in Montgomery, Wales on April 3, 1593, the fifth son of Richard and Magdalen Newport Herbert. He took holy orders in the Church of England in 1630 and spent the rest of his life as rector in Bemerton near Salisbury. At Bemerton George Herbert preached and wrote poetry; helped rebuild the church out of his own funds. He cared deeply for his parishioners and came to be known as "Holy Mr. Herbert" around the countryside in the three years before his death of consumption on March 1st, 1633.

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