You’ve heard of Teresa de Avila, Juan de la Cruz, and Ignacio de Loyola, right? These dynamic saints have written Spirit-inspired gems — beautiful reflections and works of literature — that add to our faith.
It just so happens that these three are from Spain, the “Madre Patria,” or motherland, of many people of Hispanic origin. But these aren’t the only Spanish-speaking saints in our Church. I’ve come up with a little list of awesome saints who also spoke the romantic Castilian language (one of Spain’s five official languages, simply known here as español).
Maybe these new friends can intercede for you as you take on Spanish class, or help you navigate life with Hispanic parents, holiday parties with lots of relatives, and abuelas who try overfeed you without understanding the concept of veganism (“What, you don’t eat pork?!”)
1. The Saintly Schoolgirl
Who: Bl. Laura Vicuña
Lived until: 13
Patronage: Abuse victims, loss of parents, martyrs
Most famous saying: “Suffer silently and smile always.”
You know that one girl who is always so sweet and so holy, you just don’t know how she does it? (Well, actually, you do know: she prays a lot.) That was Laura. Her life goal was to live a life of piety. Her greatest concern was for her mother, who had strayed from the faith due to the abusive relationship she was in. Upon learning that her mother was living in a state of mortal sin, Laura decided to offer up her life for her mother’s salvation.
Unfortunately, Laura was a victim of physical abuse, which negatively impacted her health. Laura eventually succumbed to tuberculosis. Before she died, she said, “Mamma, I am offering my life for you; I asked our Lord for this. Before I die, Mother, would I have the joy of seeing you repent?” Her mother immediately vowed to be reconciled and returned to church, and Laura died happily at age 13.
2.The Cute Chemist
Who: Bl. Francesc Castello
Lived until: 22
Patronage: Attractive sanctity (I made that up, but why not?)
Most Famous Saying: “Always forward” and “To be better each day.”
Francesc was like the guy involved in all the extra-curricular activities at school, the guy who was involved in all the language clubs. Speaking of multiple languages, Francesc knew that drill. Hailing from the Catalan-speaking region of Spain, he would have also spoken Castilian (Spanish) in school and work. Francesc was a graduate of chemistry but he desired to serve the poor and working class. It was a bold and risky move for him to be involved in youth groups because Spain was growing intensely anti-Catholic, but Francesc was a bold and extroverted guy. In fact, when an instructor spewed offensive remarks, Francesc spoke up: “Sir, I ask that you limit yourself only to what you are obliged to do and that you stop hurting the feelings of those among us who believe.”
Francesc was imprisoned for his faith, but not even prison could stop him. In jail, he recruited others to pray the rosary with him, evangelized to his cellmates, and spoke of the importance of living a life of faith. On several occasions, he was asked to sign a document to deny his religious beliefs and being a part of Christian groups, but he continually refused. Taken to a “people’s court” and given a death sentence, he was asked once more to renounce his faith. He was proud to be a Christian and stated he would be glad to die for Jesus Christ. Just a few moments before he was shot, he said to his executioners, “I forgive you all until the end.”
3. The Teenage Missionary
Who: St. Pedro Calungsod
Lived until: 16
Patronage: Altar boys, catechumens, Filipino youth
Pedro was a bit like the new kid at school: no one knows his backstory, nor where he came from exactly, but there’s just something about him.
Pedro was sent to Guam to evangelize the native Chamorro people. While there, he dealt with typhoons, low provisions, jungles, and crazy hikes on rough terrain. Many people were baptized and catechized, but some troublemakers didn’t like the idea of religion, so they began spreading ugly rumors about missionaries. Soon enough, Pedro and the priest he accompanied became targets of assassination. He was martyred but became a national hero, so who’s got the last laugh?
4. The Little Flower of the Andes
Who: St. Teresa of the Andes
Lived until: 19
Patronage: Young people, illness
Most Famous Saying: “He is my infinite wealth, my happiness, my heaven.”
She was that girl that loved to have fun: singing, dancing, tennis, piano, you name it. Saint Teresa also knew what it was like to grow up in big a Catholic family and deal with gatherings full of relatives. On one very annoying occasion, her sister Rebeca hit her. An angry Teresa grabbed her sister for payback, but gave her a kiss instead. Her sister brushed her off, saying, “Get out of here! That’s a Judas-kiss!” That same little sister who once provoked her later entered the Carmelite order Teresa was a part of, showing just how much of a positive influence you can be on your family.
Teresa wrote to Rebeca, “Join me, my dear sister, in doing everything for Love, accepting every suffering with joy in order to console the God-Man… I cannot but feel happy that I have renounced everything superfluous in order to possess God. He is my infinite wealth, my happiness, my heaven. Love Him in this way sister; that you may be happy.”
Venerable Henriette De Lille: Foundress of a religious order in Louisiana; discriminated against for her multi-ethnic background of Spanish, French, and African descent. She didn’t actually speak Spanish, but was such an amazing lady so I had to at least mention her.