St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Solemnity of Mary
Mother of God
January 1



Circumcism of Our Lord
and
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Jesus was subjected to the sacrament of the Old Law: Circumcism eight days after his birth, during which he received the name announced by Gabriel to Mary. Obviously, there was no need for Jesus to be circumcised to be marked as one of the chosen ones of God, but He subjected Himself willingly and freely.

Many have listed reasons for Christ's circumcision. Concisely, as our Lord identified Himself with humanity by becoming a man, so He identified Himself with the Jews by unity of blood and religion and suffering, thus proving Himself to be that man foretold by the prophets.

Historically viewed, the Feast of the Circumcism is at the same time a celebration of the Octave of Christmas, of the Virgin Mother's special role in the Incarnation, as well as a penitential protest against the pagan excesses of the New Year.

More recently, emphasis has been placed on honoring Mary as the Mother of God on the first day of the year.


Blessed Adalbero of Liége B (PC)
Died 1128. Adalbero, brother of Count Godfrey Le Barbu of Louvain, was a canon of Metz and the appointed bishop of Liége, where he founded the abbey of Saint-Gilles (Benedictines).


Almachius, Hermit M (RM)
(also known as Telemachus)

Died c. 400. Almachius was a hermit monk who came to Rome from the East. The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret tells of an ascetic named Telemachus who sought to put an end to gladiatorial contests in the amphitheater, which he felt were cruel and unchristian. One day he ran into the arena to separate the combatants, and was killed by being cut into pieces, either by the infuriated spectators or by the gladiators at the order of the city prefect Alipius. It is said that in consequence the Emperor Honorius abolished such shows and declared Telemachus a martyr. The Roman Martyrology tells how a certain Almachius was slain by gladiators when he protested their superstitions and worship of idols. Some claim that the idol-worship condemned by Almachius was the Roman games which Telemachus tried to stop and that the two are identical; others contest the historical reality of either saint (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill).


Basil of Aix B (AC)
Died 521. Popular legends credit this priest of Arles and bishop of Aix in Provence, France, with exceptional sanctity and works, some of which may have been miracles (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Beoc, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Beanus, Dabeoc, Mobeoc)

5th or 6th century. Beoc was a Cambro-Briton, who crossed over from Wales to Ireland and founded a monastery on an island in Lough Derg, Donegal (Benedictines).


Blessed Bonannus, OSB Cel. (AC)
Died c. 1320. Bonannus, a Benedictine of the Celestine Congregation, was a monk of the monastery of Saint Laurence in Abruzzi, Italy (Benedictines).


Clarus, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Clair)

Died c. 660; cultus approved in 1907. A Latin life of Saint Clarus says that he was a monk in the abbey of Saint Ferreol and later abbot of Saint Marcellus in Vienne, Dauphiny, France. He was noted for his capabilities as a spiritual director, which he exercised at the convent of Saint Blandina where his own mother had taken the veil. He was also known for his deep and 'clear' (whence perhaps his name; 'clarus' is Latin for clear) understanding of theological matters (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Concordius of Spoleto M (RM)
Died c. 175. Saint Concordius was a Roman subdeacon, who spent most of his life alone in prayer and meditation. He was captured during the systematic persecution of Marcus Aurelius and brought to trial at Spoleto, Italy. The governor of Umbria, Torquatus, promised to release the saint if only he would renounce his faith and worship a statue of Jupiter. Concordius refused, so Torquatus order his soldiers to beat him with clubs.

Still Concordius didn't seem to care about Torquatus's threats but treated the governor with scorn. When Torquatus demanded his name, Concordius merely answered, "I have already told you, I am a Christian and confess Jesus Christ."

The governor decided to torture the saint on a rack. While this was being done, Concordius is said to have sung and rejoiced, giving praise to Jesus. Torquatus flung Concordius into a prison for two days. Then the soldiers came to behead him. They made one more attempt to persuade him to sacrifice to an idol. Instead the saint spat at it. This was too much for his persecutors, who executed him immediately (Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).


Connat V (AC)
(also known as Comnatan)

Died c. 590. Abbess of Saint Brigid's convent in Kildare (Benedictines).


Cuan, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Mochua, Moncan)

6th century. An Irish abbot, who founded many churches and monasteries and who lived to be nearly 100 (Benedictines).


Elvan and Mydwyn (AC)
2nd century. Elvan and Mydwyn are said to have been the Britons sent by King Saint Lucius to Pope Saint Eleutherius to petition for missionaries to be sent to Britain (Benedictines).


Eugendus, Abbot (RM)
(also known as Oyend)

Died c. 510. Saint Eugendus was the fourth abbot of Condat Monastery in Mount Jura near Geneva, Switzerland, which was later called after him Saint-Oyend (and still later Saint-Claude). He entered the abbey at age seven and lived there until his death at 61. Eugendus was known for the most extreme austerity and simplicity of life, for his spirit of almost continual prayer, and for his meekness and good cheer. He refused to be ordained a priest (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Euphrosyne VM (RM)
Died 470. A religious fiction makes Euphrosyne the daughter of wealthy Paphnutius in Alexandria, Egypt, born after many years of his childless marriage. She was betrothed to a wealthy young man but began to give her possessions to the poor. While her father was on retreat, she consulted with an old monk whose prayers had reputedly brought about her birth, and he gave her the veil. Fearful of her father's reaction, she donned men's clothing, became a monk at the monastery her father frequented, and took the name Smaragdus. Euphrosyne became famous for her holiness and spiritual wisdom. She was consulted by her father, who did not recognize her, and she did not reveal her identity to him until she was dying. After her death, her father became a monk and lived in her cell for 10 years.

This story appears to be only a replica of similar stories, e.g., Saints Pelegia and Eugenia. It is doubtful whether Saint Euphrosyne ever existed (Benedictines, Delaney). In art, she is depicted as the maiden companion of Saint Ursula. She holds a green branch, wreath, and a book (Roeder).


Fanchea of Rossory V (AC)
(also known as Fainche, Garbh)

Died c. 585. Many challenge the existence of Fanchea because of the fantastic stories related about her in the life of Saint Enda, who is generally regarded as the father of Irish monasticism. Others argue that it is possible to set aside items of a fabulous character and to see her as an early nun with special capabilities as a directress of souls. In either case, Fanchea is said to be a native of Clogher, who persuaded her brother, Saint Enda, to become a monk. She was the abbess-founder of a convent at Rossory, Fermanagh, and was buried at Killane (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Montague).


Felix of Bourges B (AC)
Died c. 580. Saint Felix is celebrated as a dedicated bishop of Bourges, France, who had special devotion to the Eucharist and for the many miraculous cures attributed to his intercession. He is said to have taken part in the council of Paris in 573. Felix is still venerated at Bourges (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Fulgentius of Ruspe B (RM)
Born at Thelepte, c. 467; died at Ruspe, January 1, 533; feast day was January 3.

Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius was born into a family of senatorial rank in Carthage in North Africa and received an excellent education. He helped his widowed mother manage the family estate after his father's death and became well-known for his ability. Because of this he was appointed procurator of his native town and tax receiver of Byzacena.

At age 22 he gave up this post to enter a monastery there governed by an orthodox bishop, Faustus, who had been driven from his see by Arian King Huneric. Fulgentius's mother caused such an uproar with her vociferous objections to Faustus' accepting her son into the monastery that Faustus was obliged to leave, and Fulgentius also left, to enter a nearby monastery where the abbot, Felix, insisted that he rule equally with him. Thereafter his life was one of extreme austerity and simplicity.

The two ruled together for six years until in 499 they were forced to flee invading Numidians and went to Sicca Veneria. There they were arrested on the demand of an Arian priest, scourged, and tortured, but refused to apostatize from their orthodoxy and were then released.

Fulgentius set out to visit the monks in the Egyptian desert but instead went to Rome in 500 to visit the tombs of the Apostles. He returned to Byzacena soon after, built a monastery of which he was abbot and lived as a hermit in a cell nearby.

In 507, he was elected bishop of Ruspe (Kudiat Rosfa, Tunisia) against his will, but he used his influence to begin a monastery there in which to continue his austere lifestyle. The Arian Vandals occupied North Africa at this time, and Fulgentius had hardly taken over his see when, with scores of other orthodox bishops, he was banished to Sardinia. Encouraged by supplies and money from Pope Saint Symmachus, they persisted in their faith. Fulgentius founded a monastery at Cagliari and became spokesman for the exiled bishops.

During his exile at Cagliari, Fulgentius devoted himself to study and writing several treatises, including his Answer to Ten Objections, a reply to questions raised against orthodoxy by the Vandal king, Thrasimund. This attracted the king's attention and, in 515, he had Fulgentius brought to Carthage for discussions with the Arian clergy. Fulgentius also wrote Three Books to King Thrasimund, a refutation of Arianism. Fulgentius' influence over the Arian clergy was so powerful that, in 518 or 520, he was sent back to Sardinia, where he built another monastery near Cagliari.

Thrasimund's successor, Hilderic, finally let all the bishops return to their respective sees in 523. Thus nearly half of Saint Fulgentius' episcopate was passed in exile. Upon his return he set about reforming the abuses that had crept into his see during his absence. About 532 he attempted to retire to a monastery on the island of Circinia, but he was so beloved by his flock that they prevented him from passing his last years in seclusion. Later that same year he returned to Ruspe, where he died.

Fulgentius used his splendid gifts of oratory and administration on behalf of the Church to such an extent that his fellow citizens buried him within his church, contrary to the law and custom of his age.

Fulgentius was a theological writer, especially against Arianism, of some importance for the history of the Arian persecutions but of little originality; some of his opinions (e.g., concerning the destiny of unbaptized children) would seem shocking today, but were not uncommon in his time and place (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).


Blessed Hugolinus of Gualdo, OSA (AC)
Died 1260; cultus approved in 1919. Blessed Hugolinus, a hermit, was prior of the Augustinian monastery at Gualdo, Umbria, Italy (Benedictines).


Joseph Mary Tommasi, Cardinal (RM)
Born at Alicata, Sicily, in 1649; died in Rome on January 1, 1713; beatified in 1803; canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Joseph was the son of the duke of Palermo, Italy. Although his family was wealthy and influential, they were very devout. Four of his sisters became nuns and even his mother and father eventually entered religious life. After receiving an excellent education, Joseph joined the Theatines at the age of 16.

From 1673, he was stationed in Rome, where, for a time, he was overly scrupulous and lived nearly as a hermit. Joseph devoted his great natural gifts to the methodical study of the liturgy and produced several very valuable works on the subject, including texts of the Sacramentaries and the Psalter. In 1697, he worked for the Vatican and, in 1704, he was appointed theologian to the congregation in charge of religious orders.

He was the confessor of Cardinal Albani, who, upon being elected pope (Clement XI), was ordered by Blessed Joseph to accept the papacy under pain of mortal sin. The pope retaliated by appointing Joseph cardinal.

Joseph continued his simple life even as a cardinal: his food was sparse, he went to choir with his community, and the only music he allowed at his Mass was plainsong accompanied by the organ. Even in this baroque age of over-wrought ornamentation in art and music, people from all parts of Rome flocked to hear him say Mass. He was wont to teach the catechism himself to the children in his titular church. And the poor continued to flock around him.

In late 1712, he prophesied his own death and chose the spot for his burial in his titular church. He celebrated Christmas for the last time in spite of illness and later delirium. Cures were wrought around his deathbed and through the agency of his clothing. This prince of liturgists blended constant and exacting scholarship with an exemplary life of poverty and simplicity (Benedictines, Farmer).


Justin of Chieti (RM)
Died c. 540. Since time immemorial Saint Justin has been venerated in Chieti, Italy. Some writers describe him as a bishop of that city (Benedictines).


Maelrhys (AC)
6th century. Maelrhys, a saint from the isle of Bardsey, was probably born in Brittany. He is venerated in northern Wales (Benedictines).


Magnus M (RM)
Dates and all details unknown, but mentioned in the Roman Martyrology (Benedictines).


Odilo of Cluny, OSB, Abbot (RM)
During his 54 years in office he brought the other Cluniac houses into closer and closer dependence upon the mother house, and increased the number of foundations from 37 to 65. Among his general activities was the support he gave to Abbot Richard of Saint-Vanne for the acceptance in France of the institution called the Truce of God (Treuga Dei), whereby military hostilities were regularly suspended at certain times (Fridays through Mondays, Advent, and Lent). This measure had economic as well as religious and social significance and also guaranteed sanctuary to those seeking refuge in a church. Odilo also effectively promoted the Pactum Dei, whereby ecclesiastical persons and property were protected against attack in war.

In 998 (or 1031 by some accounts) he ordered that in all Cluniac houses November 2, the day after the Feast of All Saints, should be observed in memory of and prayer for all the dead; this observance, All Souls' Day, afterwards spread to the whole Western Church.

Though he was a friend of princes and popes, he was exceedingly gentle and kind and known throughout Christendom for his liberality to the needy. Odilo's concern for the people was also shown by the lavish help he gave during several famines, especially in 1006, when he sold Church treasures to feed the poor, and again from 1028-1033.

Saint Odilo's physical appearance was unimpressive, belying the strength of his character. He practiced great personal austerities (he wore a hair-shirt and studded iron chains) on himself, but liberality and kindness toward others. He experienced ecstasies. It is obvious that he was beloved by his contemporaries; Fulbert of Chartres surnamed Odilo "the Archangel of Monks."

Odilo united in his character gentleness with firmness, organizational skills with the ability to reconcile enemies. His favorite saying is that he would rather be damned for being too merciful than for being too severe. He promoted the spirit of true monasticism and tried to remove its abuses. During his rule, he sought to promote the close unity of Cluny and the Holy See.

It is appropriate that he should die during the Octave of Christmas because his favorite topic for sermons was the mystery of the Incarnation. The place of the Blessed Virgin was also worked out by Odilo, to whose writings the Mariology of Saint Bernard owes much.

His duties involved him in much travelling about, though he was ill during the last five years of his life. It was on a journey of inspection that he died, at the priory of Souvigny; he was about 86 (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).

In art Saint Odilo is portrayed as a Benedictine abbot with a skull and crossbones at his feet. Because he instituted the Feast of All Souls, at times he may be shown (1) saying Mass with purgatory open at his side; or (2) with angels releasing souls from purgatorial fire (Roeder). He is invoked on behalf of souls in purgatory and against jaundice (Roeder).


Peter of Atroa, Abbot (RM)
Born near Ephesus, Asia Minor, 773; died at Atroa on January 1, 837. Saint Peter, the eldest of three children, was christened Theophylact. Not unexpectedly, he became a monk when he was 18. He said that the Blessed Virgin directed him to join Saint Paul the Hesychast, who named him Peter at Crypta, Phrygia. On the day his was ordained several years later at Zygos and at the door of the very church, he cured a man possessed of an unclean spirit.

Almost immediately thereafter, Peter set out with Paul on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but instead God directed them in a vision to go to Mount Olympus in Bithynia, where Paul was to found a monastery at the chapel of Saint Zachary near Atroa. This they did.

When Paul died in 805, he named the 32-year-old Peter to succeed him as abbot. The monastery flourished but after ten years Peter decided to close the monastery because of the iconoclastic persecution under Emperor Leo the Armenian. Peter went back to Ephesus and on to Crete (or Cyprus), and when he returned found he was a wanted man. He escaped the imperial troops seeking him by miraculous means (by making himself invisible), and wandered with a companion named Brother John from place to place. He visited his own home where his brother Christopher and widowed mother received monastic habits from his hands.

Eventually, Peter settle for several years at Kalonaros near the Hellespont. Unfortunately, his fame as a wonder-worker and reader of souls was so great that he was never left in peace for long. He made several journeys to various points in western Asia Minor and each was punctuated with a miracle. At one point, he was accused of practicing magic and using the devil because of the miracles he performed, but he was completely cleared by Saint Theodore Studites.

Peter again resumed his eremitical life near Atroa, restored Saint Zachary Monastery, and reorganized several other monasteries, but when there was another outbreak of iconoclasm. Because his own bishop was an iconoclast, he again dispersed the monks and sent them into hiding, but stayed nearby for a time. When the persecution became more violent, Peter retired to Saint Porphyry Monastery on the Hellespont. But soon Peter decided to return to Olympus to visit his friend Saint Joannicus at Balea, from where he returned to St. Zachary's.

A few weeks later, Joannicus had a vision. In it he was talking with Peter of Atroa at the foot of a mountain whose crest reached to the heavenly courts. As they talked, two shining figures appeared and each grabbed one of Peter's arms in order to lift him upwards in a halo of glory. At that same moment, while his monks were singing the night office, Peter died at Atro after lovingly addressing his brethren one last time (Delaney, Walsh).


30 Soldiers Martyred at Rome MM (RM)
Died c. 304. These died during the persecution of Diocletian. Nothing else is recorded (Benedictines).


William of Dijon, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as William of Saint Benignus)

Born near Nocera (Novara) in 962; died at Fécamp, Normandy, on January 1, 1031. William, son of Count Robert of Volpiano, was born in the family castle on San Giuglio Island in Lake Orta while his father was defending the island against the attacking Emperor Otto, who became his sponsor when he captured the island. At age seven, William entered the Benedictine abbey of Locadio near Vercelli, where he received his education. After becoming a monk there, William joined Saint Majolus at Cluny in 987.

William reorganized Saint Sernin Abbey on the Rhône, before being named abbot of Saint Benignus at Dijon with the mission of restoring it. In 990, William was ordained to the priesthood. Under his direction the abbey became a great center of spirituality, education, and culture, and the mother monastery of some 40 others in Burgundy, Lorraine, Normandy, and northern Italy. He travelled widely, spreading the Cluniac reform.

Saint William was famed for his great zeal for the Church. He demonstrated gentleness with and tender concern for the poor, but in his dealings with the great he showed remarkable firmness. Towards the end of his life he founded the abbey of Fruttuaria in Piedmont. He died at Fécamp Monastery in Normandy, which he had rebuilt (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).


Zdislava Berka, OP, Matron (RM)
(also known as Zedislava Zemberka)

Born in Bohemia (Czech Republic), 1210; died there on January 1, 1252; cultus approved by Pope Pius X in 1907; canonized by Pope John Paul II in Olomouc, Czech Republic, in 1995.

Born of a warrior race to noble parents, Zedislava lived in a fortified castle on the borders of Christendom, in an age when the fierce Mongol hordes were the world's worst menace. Her whole life was spent within the sound of clashing arms, and the moans of the dying. The gentleness and purity of her life stand out in surprising beauty against the dark background of a warlike and materialistic people.

Zedislava learned Christian charity early in life from her mother, who taught her not only the secrets of preparing medicinal herbs but also the healing balm of prayer. Going each day to the castle gate with alms and medicines for the poor and the wretched who crowded there for help, she was soon well acquainted with human misery. Cheerful, prayerful, and alert to see the sorrows of others, the child became a light of hope to the miserable. Because of her sweetness and natural charm, she was able to teach many lessons to those about her.

As a child, she is said to have fled from her home for a time to live as a hermit, but she returned to live a more normal life that included an early marriage to a soldier, the duke of Lemmberk, who, like her own father, was a rich nobleman in command of a castle on the frontier. The couple produced four children. Zedislava cared judiciously for her own family and lavished great care on the poor, especially the fugitives and victims of the Tartar invasions.

Her husband was a good man, but a rough and battle-hardened soldier who liked nothing better than the clash of swords. He may have treated Zedislava badly and he certainly tried his young wife's patience and obedience in a thousand ways. He insisted that she dress in her finest gowns and attend the long and barbarous banquets that pleased him so. (In return, she tried his patience because of her generosity towards the poor.)

Being of a retiring disposition and much given to prayer--and, moreover, having a family and a large castle to care for--she found this a real sacrifice. However, obedience and patience had been an important part of her training, and she taught herself to spiritualize the endless trials that would beset the mother of four children in a medieval fortress.

The Polish missionaries, Saint Hyacinth and Blessed Ceslaus, brought Zedislava the first knowledge of the new religious order which had begun but a few years before. Saint Dominic, a Spaniard, had met them in Italy, where he had gone to have his order approved. Begun in France, the Dominican Order was already international, and with the profession of Zedislava as the first Slavic Tertiary, its world-wide scope became apparent.

Enchanted with the possibilities of an order that allowed her to share in its benefits and works while caring for her family, Zedislava threw herself into the new project with enviable zeal. She encouraged her husband to build a hostel for the many poor pilgrims who came homeless to the gate. She visited the prisoners in the frightful dungeons, and used her influence to obtain pardons from the severe sentences meted out to them. She fed and cared for the poor, taught catechism to the children of the servants, and showed all, by the sweetness of her life, just what it meant to be a Christian lady and a Dominican Tertiary. On the occasion of a Mongol (Tartar) attack, when homeless refugees poured into the castle stronghold, her calm, invincible charity was a bulwark of strength to all.

With her own funds, Zedislava determined to build a church (Priory of Saint Lawrence) where God might be fittingly worshipped. As an act of zeal and penance, she herself carried many of the heavy beams and materials that went into the building. She did this at night so that no one would know of her hard work.

Zedislava experienced visions and ecstasies during this time. She also received Holy Communion nearly every day in an age when this was not customary.

Her death came soon after the completion of the church. The mourning people who knelt by her deathbed could see evidence of her strong Christian virtues in the monuments she had left: her children, her church, and the inspiration of a saintly wife and mother. She consoled her husband in life and appeared to him in glory after death, which strongly encouraged his desire for conversion.

Numerous miracles are ascribed to Saint Zedislava, including the raising of the dead to life, though Pope Pius X did not refer to these in his approval of the cultus given to her in her native country (Benedictines, Dorcy, Farmer).

In art she is depicted as a Dominican tertiary with a crucifix wound with roses, lying in the place of a sick person in bed (Roeder). Venerated in Bohemia (Roeder).



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.