Placed as it is between the seasons of Christmas and Lent, Ordinary Time in winter is associated for many with quiet, everyday sacredness. Beginning the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord, and running to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday on March 5, this season’s feasts celebrate saints whose varied holy lives reflect the mystery of Christ.
On Jan. 21, we remember St. Agnes (Jan. 21), whose short life ended in the chaos of political and social violence. Agnes means “lamb,” and on her feast day, two lambs are blessed whose wool will then be used to make the pallia given by the pope to metropolitan archbishops as a symbol of their jurisdiction.
On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25), the Church celebrates the singular event by which a persecutor of Christians became the Apostle to the Gentiles, who proclaimed the Gospel to all the nations. The Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus (Jan. 26), bishops in Asia Minor and Greece, recipients of letters from St. Paul, serve as reminders of spirit and mission. There are many others to acknowledge: St. Frances de Sales (Jan. 24); St. Thomas Aquinas (Jan. 28), St. John Bosco (Jan. 31), and the sibling saints Cyril and Methodious, and of course, St. Valentine (Feb. 14).
There are several other martyrs whose memorials are observed during this winter season. St. Agatha (Feb. 5), a third-century believer who was tortured because of her Christian faith and put to death. St. Paul Miki (Feb. 6), a Jesuit scholastic, suffered the same fate, along with twenty-five companions—crucified in Japan—there are the protomartyrs of the Far East. St. Polycarp (Feb. 23), disciple of St. John the Evangelist and one of the most revered Apostolic fathers, is one of the oldest Christian martyrs—burned at the stake at the age of eighty-six, after many years of service as bishop of Smyrna.