As well as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church honours as saints other leading members of the early church: Mary’s husband St. Joseph and her parents, St Joachim and St. Anne, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Stephen, the Holy Innocents and St. Martha; St. Peter and the other Apostles including St. Mathias; St. Paul and his missionary companions St. Barnabas, St. Luke, St. Mark, St. Timothy and St. Titus. A number of these were martyrs for the faith: St. Paul, St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen, St. Peter and all the Apostles except St. John.
Their work of spreading the gospel was carried on by other great saints such as, St. Justin, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Iranaeus all of whom became martyrs for the faith. During these first centuries because of successive persecutions of Christians, there were very many martyrs for the faith including women as well as men. We celebrate feasts of popular virgin martyrs such as: St. Cecilia, St Agnes, St. Agatha, St. Lucy and three from North Africa, St. Perpetua, St. Felicity and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Thirty of the first thirty-three Popes including Pope St. Victor 1 from Africa, laid down their lives for the faith.
We remember and honour some of the early saints who were great teachers of the faith, and are revered as fathers and doctors of the church such as: St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrysostom. Some of these made very important contributions to the first general councils of the church in particular: St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Cyril.