Studying the lives of the saints and holy people helps build family faith and inspires Catholic kids. Feast days are an opportunity to remember and be inspired by the lives of the saints, who are examples of holiness for us today. Children and families in your Catholic religious education program can use the short biographies and printable activities below to celebrate popular saint feast days in November!
We’ve also bundled the biographies and activities featured in this article into a Catholic Saints with November Feast Days Resource Kit! Kit includes biographies and activities for:
On November 3, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres.
Download an activity to celebrate the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres. The activity is a simple animal matching activity to help kids remember that Brother Martin took special care of animals.
Martin was born in the city of Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579. At this time, Lima was a relatively new city. Francisco Pizarro, a conquistador, had founded it in 1535. During the time of Saint Martin, Lima was the main source of the wealth of the country of Spain. Lima was a rich source of gold and silver deposits. All the wealth that went to other Spanish colonies in South America passed through Peru, and Spanish control was strong. However, this wealth came at a human price. Slavery was legal, and, while there were uprisings of the exploited natives against the colonial power of Spain, they were quickly and easily suppressed by the Spanish authorities who had taken over Peru.
Saint Martin de Porres was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed black slave. When Martin's father was appointed governor of Panama in 1567, he arranged for Martin, at the age of twelve, to be apprenticed to a barber. At that time, barbers did more than cut hair. They were the medical professionals of the day, and Martin learned to care for wounds and fractures. He also learned to prescribe medicine, an education he had begun with his mother, who was well known as a practitioner of herbal medications.
At sixteen, Martin was accepted by the Dominican order as donado—not a full member, but someone who receives food and lodging in exchange for manual labor. When he was twenty-four, he made profession, or commitment, as a lay brother.
As we look at the life of Saint Martin de Porres we remember his poverty, his humility, his gifts of healing, his care and concern, and his friendship with all, including the least of God's creatures.
He became friends with people of all walks of life, including Saint Rose of Lima and Saint John Macías. He died on November 3rd, 1639. At his death he was carried to his grave by bishops and noblemen, and mourned by rich and poor alike. Now the Church honors Martin as the patron of social justice and race relations.
Saint Martin de Porres’ life illustrates to perfection this verse which the Prophet Samuel speaks when choosing the shepherd boy David as the future king of Israel: "Man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
As we look at the life of Saint Martin de Porres we remember his poverty, his humility, his gifts of healing, his care and concern, and his friendship with all, including the least of God's creatures. We remember Saint Martin de Porres for his great heart and his great love.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini on November 13.
Download and share a printable activity for Catholic kids to celebrate the feast day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. This activity harkens back to a childhood activity that Francesca Cabrini used to play as a girl. When she was a girl, she made boats out of paper, put flowers in them, and floated them down the river. She pretended that the flowers were missionaries and that the boats were taking them to China. Children are invited to color a boat with flowers to represent missionaries.
Francesca Cabrini was born in Italy in the year 1850. She had always wanted to be a missionary, but her sights had always been set on China and the Far East. She studied with the Daughters of the Sacred Heart and became a primary school teacher. Her desire for religious life led her to request entrance to two different communities, but both refused her due to her poor health.
Her pastor then suggested her to become the director of an orphanage for girls called the House of Providence. She did her best as the director, but the orphanage closed a few years later due to circumstances beyond her control.
Francesca had not given up on her dream of becoming a missionary. She began to make plans for her own missionary community, which she called the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. It was a revolutionary idea. Up until that time, Catholic missionaries had always been men. After some resistance, she was allowed to found this new community of missionary women, and in 1880 her Rule of Life was approved.
She began in Italy and then, in 1887, went to Rome to explore the possibilities of mission work abroad. In an audience with Pope Leo XIII, she explained her desire to do mission work in the Far East. After listening carefully and weighing what he already knew about the terrible conditions of Italian immigrants in the United States, the Pope gave his decision. He asked her to minister to the Italians who had emigrated to the United States and were living in "Little Italy," an Italian immigrant neighborhood in New York City. Mother Cabrini accepted the challenge. With six of her sisters, she became an immigrant to the United States herself, and later a citizen.
As a founder of schools, orphanages, child-care centers, and hospitals, Mother Cabrini influenced the lives of countless Italian-Americans.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini said, "It is he [Jesus] who is doing everything, not us."
Mother Cabrini's work in New York was only the beginning. She and her sisters soon spread out over the entire country—wherever Italian immigrants could be found. She went to Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Buffalo, Chicago, Saint Louis, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans. She even started a prison ministry, visiting prisoners on death row and caring for their relatives. She expanded her work to Central America and Argentina as well. She traveled often to Italy to oversee her houses there, where the Sisters were trained for their missionary work. On December 22, 1917, in one of her own hospitals in Chicago, she died. Working until the end, she had been wrapping little packages of candy to be given to parochial school children as Christmas treats.
As a founder of schools, orphanages, child-care centers, and hospitals, Mother Cabrini influenced the lives of countless Italian-Americans. Through her active and courageous witness to God's love for the poor, she strengthened the Church in America and won the loyalty and gratitude of generations of Italian Catholics. Mother Cabrini was very clear that her mission was to Italian immigrants. She knew them, she knew their language, she knew what they needed. They were "her own.” This strong sense of mission gave her courage and strength as she spent herself, day after day, in service to those in need.
In "taking care of her own" Mother Cabrini became the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be declared a saint. She became the patron of immigrants of all nationalities. She never lost sight of her dreams, and her life is a reminder that, when something ends, it may simply mean that something else is beginning.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Margaret of Scotland on November 16.
Download a primary activity in English or Spanish to celebrate her feast day with the students in your religious education program. With this activity students celebrate Saint Margaret of Scotland's love for books and learning.
Saint Margaret of Scotland was born around the year 1045, Margaret was an English princess who grew up in exile in Hungary. As a child, Margaret developed a great love of reading and prayer. She learned about the duties and manners involved in being a princess. She was also impressed by the importance of the practice of the Catholic faith in Hungary.
When Margaret's father became heir to the throne of England, the family returned to England. At this time, Edward the Confessor ruled England. When King Edward died, Norman invader William the Conqueror seized the English throne. Margaret’s family decided to return to safety in Hungary. En route, a storm forced the family to land in the kingdom of Scotland, where King Malcolm III welcomed and protected them. Soon, Margaret and Malcolm married, making Margaret queen of Scotland.
Saint Margaret of Scotland saw her position as queen as an opportunity to help others. She used her resources and influence to improve the lives of her people.
Margaret also cared for their eight children and supervised their education. She knew that they might grow up to be rulers as well, and wanted them to be prepared for that honor and responsibility. Margaret and Malcolm's daughter married the king of England and was known as Good Queen Maud for her kindness to the poor. Their son, David, became king of Scotland, and after his death was canonized a saint.
Saint Margaret of Scotland saw her position as queen as an opportunity to help others. She used her resources and influence to improve the lives of her people. Her example inspired her family and the people of Scotland to take seriously their responsibility to others.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne on November 18.
Download a printable activity in which children learn about Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne and complete a fun crossword puzzle about her life and work.
Rose Philippine Duchesne was born into a large, happy, and well-off family on August 29, 1769. She was educated by private tutors and by the Visitation nuns. She loved to study history. As a teenager, she enjoyed listening to the stories of a visiting Jesuit missionary and his work among the Native Americans of Louisiana. Rose Philippine began to hope for a missionary life. She entered the local Visitation convent when she was seventeen.
The French Revolution began in 1789, when Rose Philippine was about twenty years old. The Revolution affected both France's government and the Church. The king of France, Louis XVI, was overthrown. Church land and buildings were taken away and given to the state or to individuals. Priests were persecuted, religious communities were outlawed, and public devotions (for example the ringing of Church bells, processions, and public displays of the cross) were forbidden. In 1798, the French army invaded the Vatican in Rome. They defeated the papal troops and took Pope Pius IV prisoner. It was not until the Concordat of 1801, an agreement between the Catholic Church and the government of France, that stability returned to relations between the Church and state in France.
Rose Philippine Duchesne reminds us that we do not need all the gifts in the universe to follow Christ. If we use the ones we are given, with love, that is enough.
Philippine's missionary life did not begin until 1818, fourteen years later. Philippine and four other sisters left Bordeaux, France, for Louisiana on March 21, 1818. Their first house on American soil was in St. Charles, Missouri. There they opened the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi River. Both teachers and children were bilingual. They spoke French, mixed with Creole, and English. After a year, the bishop moved the community to Florissant, nearer to St. Louis. The bigger house there gave Philippine the idea of opening a novitiate (a place to train novices, or beginners, in the religious life) and on November 22, 1820, a young woman named Mary Layton became the first American to receive the habit of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Pioneer life was hard. But Philippine expanded the mission to New Orleans, to St. Louis, and then back again to reopen the first house and school in St. Charles. When she was seventy-one years old, she went to live in St. Louis. She was then sent to teach the Potawatomi Indians at Sugar Creek, Kansas. The Potawatomi language was impossible for her to learn, so she devoted herself to prayer and caring for the sick instead of teaching. The tribe called her "Woman Who Prays Always." The children would sneak up behind her as she knelt in the chapel and toss bits of paper on the back of her skirt. When the children returned an hour later, the bits of paper were undisturbed.
After a year, she returned to St. Charles and where she lived a life of great simplicity and austerity until she died at the age of eighty-three. A simple shrine in the chapel of the convent where she was buried commemorates her life.
As a teacher and educator and a founder of schools, she reminds us of the great value of education and the sacrifices it may demand of us. Having left her family, her country, and her friends to face the Missouri wilderness, she kept her aim in view: schools. Schools for poor children, schools for girls, schools for Native Americans, schools for all God's children! That was the need, and that was her gift.
The English language was difficult for her, and the Potawatomi language was impossible. Yet, Philippine Duchesne spoke another language, easily understood by all: the language of the heart. Rose Philippine Duchesne reminds us that we do not need all the gifts in the universe to follow Christ. If we use the ones we are given, with love, that is enough.
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Cecilia on November 22.
Saint Cecilia sang songs of praise to God even when she was afraid. When we participate in music and the arts we can praise God, too. Download a printable activity to remind children how music can lift our hearts and make us happy. In this activity, children are invited to write lyrics to a familiar tune and turn it into a song of praise like those sung by Saint Cecilia.
Though the dates of her birth and death are unknown, Cecilia is believed to have lived in Rome during the third century.
During the time of the Roman Empire, members of the upper class were called patricians. They held positions of power in the government and set many of the rules for life in Roman society. Women from patrician families could not vote or hold political office. Many decisions in their life were made for them, most importantly who they would marry. They lived under the authority of their fathers until they married, and then under their husbands’ authority. They did, however, have a certain amount of influence because of their family’s wealth and noble position. A patrician woman was expected to take charge of the household and support her husband’s career.
Saint Cecilia is the patron of music because of the way she sang during times of great trial and suffering during her life. Music expressed her great love for Christ, and her joyful belief that God would watch over her.
Cecilia lived during a time of persecution in the early Church. Valerian and Tiburtius were arrested and executed because they would not deny their faith. After burying her husband and her brother-in-law, Cecilia continued to practice her faith openly. She was soon arrested and sentenced to death. She asked that her belongings be given to the poor and that her home be turned into a church after her death. While dying she is said to have sung songs of praise to God.
The story of Saint Cecilia has been passed along for centuries as a testimony to her courage and dedication to her faith. She is the patron of music because of the way she sang during times of great trial and suffering during her life. Music expressed her great love for Christ, and her joyful belief that God would watch over her.
The saints’ love and prayers for the Church are constant. Teaching children about saints provides inspiring examples of discipleship and models for living out their faith. Children in Catholic religious education programs can use the activities in this article at home or in the classroom to celebrate saint feast days in November!
Looking for more resources about popular saints for kids? Let Catholic kids and their families be inspired by these and other Catholic saints any time of year!