Saints Basil &
Gregory the Great
Abel, Patriach (AC)
Abel, the second son of Adam, was killed by his brother Cain who was jealous that God preferred gentle Adam's offering to his own (Genesis 4). Cain's legacy was descendants and the record of brute masculine strength. Abel, however, left far more. Unwittingly, Abel bequeathed a spirit that has proven invaluable in tempering the cruelties of the sons of Cain. He left the conviction that the worth of a sacrifice depends not upon the nature of the offering, but upon the disposition of the offer. Faint faith receives but faint reward, while he who has much gets more. Even Jesus mentions Abel, calling him the first martyr (Matt. 23:35). Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying, and there is a reference to his sacrifice in the Canon of the Mass (Benedictines, Mead).
Adalhard, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Adalard, Adelard, Alard)
Born 753; died at Corbie Monastery, Picardy, France, in 827. There are many other variation of his name.
Grandson of Charles Martel and son of Bernard, King Pipin's brother, he probably studied under Blessed Alcuin. He became a monk at Corbie, Picardy, France, in 773, and later moved to Monte Cassino in the hopes of greater retirement. Though he preferred the life of the monastery, he was brought to court by his cousin Charlemagne, and became one of his advisers. He was chief minister to Charlemagne's oldest son, Pepin, and when Pepin died in 810 was named tutor of Pepin's son Benard.
Adalhard was exiled to an island off the coast of Aquitaine when accused of supporting a revolt against Emperor Louis the Debonair. After five years Louis decided he was innocent and recalled him to the court in 821, but he was soon after again banished, this time to Corbie, where his reputation for holiness, austerity, and concern for the poor and the sick soon spread.
He established another monastery, New Corbie (Corway or Corvey) in Paderborn (Saxony?), and made both monasteries centers of learning and teaching, not only in Latin, but also in the vernacular of German and French (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
In art, Saint Adalhard is depicted as an abbot digging a garden with his crown lying nearby. He may also be shown (1) as an angel crowns him with thorns, (2) overcoming a dragon with IHS, or (3) giving alms (Roeder).
Airaldus, O.Cart. B (AC)
(also known as Ayraldus)
Died 1160. The son of William II, Count of Burgundy, Airaldus entered the Carthusians at Portes in the diocese of Belley and eventually became prior. In 1132 Airaldus was required to leave his life of seclusion to accept the rule of the see of Maurienne in Savoy until 1156 (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Argeus, Narcissus & Marcellinus MM (RM)
Died 320. These martyrs were brothers enlisted as soldiers in the army of the emperor Licinius. They were tried and put to death at Tomi, Pontus, on the Black Sea. SS. Argeus and Narcissus were beheaded. It was a bit different for Marcellinus, of whom the Roman Martyrology says, was only "a boy enrolled as a recruit, who, on refusing to perform military service, was first flogged most cruelly, then kept long in prison, and lastly thrown into the sea" (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Aspasius of Auch B (AC)
Died c. 560. Aspasius was the bishop of Eauze (now Auch), who took part in the councils of Orléans in 533, 541, and 549. He also convened a provincial council at Eauze in 551. He is venerated in the diocese of Meaux, especially at Melun (Benedictines).
Basil the Great B Doctor (RM)
Born in Caesarea, Cappadocia, Asia Minor (now central Turkey), in 329; died there on January 1, 379; Doctor of the Church; feast celebrated January 1 in the Eastern Church; feast day in the West formerly on June 14, which was the day of his consecration.
"Be aware of God's compassion, that it heals with oil and wine. Do not lose hope of salvation. Remember what is written--the one who falls shall rise again, and the one who turns away shall turn again, the wounded is healed, the one caught by wild beasts escapes, the one who confesses is not rejected.
"For the Lord does not want the sinner to die, but to return and live.
"There is still time for endurance, time for patience, time for healing, time for change. Have you slipped? Rise up. Have you sinned? Cease. Do not stand among sinners, but leap aside. For when you turn away and weep, then you will be saved."
-- Saint Basil
Prayer of Saint Basil on his Feast Day
"Lord our God, teach us to ask for the right blessings. Steer the vessel of our life toward You, tranquil haven of all storm-tossed souls. Show us the course wherein we should go. Renew a willing spirit within us. Let Your Spirit curb our wayward senses, and guide and enable us unto that which is our true good, to keep Your laws, and in all our works everywhere to rejoice in Your glorious and gladdening Presence. For Yours is the glory and praise from all Your saints for ever and ever. Amen."
Saint Basil was born into one of those glorious families of ten children that included Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Macrina the Younger, and Saint Peter of Sebastea. His father, Saint Basil the Elder, and his mother, Saint Emmelia, were wealthy and landed. His early years were spent in the home of his grandmother, Saint Macrina, whose teaching was to influence him greatly.
The persecution of Christians had ceased by the time Basil was born, but his parents had lived through them. Much as with the children of Holocaust survivors, their persecution colored his life and strengthened his fervor.
Basil received the best possible education at Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens (351-356) with the intention of becoming a lawyer and orator. He associated with the more serious-minded students, including his friends Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian, the future apostate emperor.
He returned to Caesarea and taught rhetoric in the city for some years, but on the threshold of a brilliant career, his sister Macrina, who had helped to educate and settle her siblings, retired with their widowed mother and other women to live a communal life on one of their estates at Annesi on the River Iris.
Around this time, under the influence of Macrina, Basil was baptized and determined to serve God in poverty. In 357, he visited the principal monastic colonies of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia to study religious life. Julian invited him to court, but he refused. Upon his return in 358, he settled himself in a wild spot in Pontus, separated from Annesi by the River Iris, devoting himself to prayer and study.
With disciples, including his friend Gregory, who gathered there, he formed the first monastery in Asia Minor. They preached to the people and practiced a contemplative life. Basil's principles and rules for living have been carried down to the present day for monks in the Eastern Church. Although he lived as a monk in the strict sense of the word for only five years, his legacy was as great as that of Saint Benedict (another one from a family of saints) in the West. In fact, his influence was greater. He was not a legislator as Saint Benedict was, but the life of all monks in the Orthodox Church is still based on the principles he established in his Regulae fusius tractatae(Longer Rules) and Regulae brevius tractatae (Shorter Rules).
Basil would not permit an excess of austerity, saying that it made a man unfit for work, which is more important than extreme fasting. He also expressed a definite preference for the communal life of the monastery over the solitary life of the hermit, arguing that the Christian life of mutual love and service is communal by its nature. The rule was sufficiently flexible to allow for the development of almsgiving, hospitals, and guest houses in which the monks worked, while it avoided the dangers of activism by a strong contemplative emphasis.
These were the years between the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (325) and the Second at Constantinople (381), years in which it was uncertain whether the Church would stand by the declaration made at Nicaea that the Logos was fully God, equal to the Father, or seek a more flexible formula in the hope of reconciliation with the Arians, who declared themselves unalterably opposed to the Nicene Creed as worded.
In 363, Basil was ordained a deacon and then priest at Caesarea by Archbishop Eusebius, who became jealous of his influence, so Basil returned to Pontus. Realizing that Basil's brilliant preaching could convert many unbelievers to Christianity, in 365, his friend Saint Gregory of Nazianzus persuaded him to leave the monastery to support the faith against Arianism in Nazianzus. He returned to Caesarea and was reconciled with Eusebius. He operated as Eusebius's right hand, while diplomatically giving him all the credit.
During a drought and resultant famine in 367-368, Basil depleted his material inheritance in helping the needy. He sold his family's extensive land holdings in order to buy food for the starving and persuaded many others to follow suit. Donning an apron, he opened a food kitchen for the hungry. During this crisis, he absolutely refused to allow any distinction to be made between Jew and Christian, saying that the digestive systems of the two are indistinguishable.
In 370, Eusebius, a supporter of Arius, died, and Basil was elected to replace him as metropolitan (archbishop) of Caesarea, which placed about 50 suffragan bishops under his care. His election chagrined the Arian Emperor Valens, especially because Basil worked to unite the so-called semi-Arians with the Nicene party against the outright Arians. He did this by using the formula "three persons (hypostases) in one substance (ousia)," thus explicitly acknowledging a distinction between the Father and the Son (a distinction that the Nicene party had been accused of blurring), and at the same time insisting on their essential unity. As bishop he more visibly protested the persecution of orthodox Christians by Valens, and was called before the local prefect to justify himself (one source says this happened before Emperor Valens rather than his prefect).
The prefect threatened Basil with deprivation, exile, and even death. Basil replied that as he owned only a few rags for clothing and some books, therefore, deprivation was no threat. Neither was exile, since he lived as a stranger on the earth, en route to the kingdom of God. As for torture and death, Basil admitted that his body was weak. But, he said, "only the first blow will hurt me. As for death, that will benefit me, bringing me even closer to my God for whom I completely live." So stiff was Basil's attitude that the prefect expressed astonishment at his temerity: "Perhaps you have never before had to deal with a proper bishop," retorted Basil. His defiance of civil authority has led him, together with Saint Ambrose, to being regarded in later centuries as a champion of the Church's liberty against secular encroachments.
Valens retaliated by dividing the province of Cappadocia into two provinces, with the result that the Arian Bishop of Tyana became metropolitan of the new province of Western Cappadocia. Basil responded by going political. He ramrodded his brother Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus into bishoprics that they did not want, and for which they were totally unsuited, so that he would have the votes of those bishoprics when he needed them. (Neither Gregory ever quite forgave him for this.)
Basil's interests were not exclusively theological. He denounced and excommunicated those who owned houses of prostitution. He worked to secure justice for the poor against those who oppressed them. He fought simony--the purchase and sale of spiritual things- -and severely disciplined clergy who used their office to accumulate money or to live too well at the expense of the faithful. He also strove to develop and discipline his clergy and fearlessly denounced evil wherever he detected it. His archdiocese became a model of organization and discipline.
One of Basil's greatest works was the provision at Caesarea of an estate that included dwellings, a hospital complex, a church, a hostel for travellers, a staff of medical professionals and artisans. As a whole it was so large that it was called Basiliad-- a new town.
Nevertheless, controversy disturbed the whole of Basil's episcopate. He was involved in difficult relations with Pope Saint Damasus and the Western church. In the complex matter of the Antioch succession, Pope Damasus refused to recognize Basil's candidate and friend Meletius, which led to considerable friction.
On the death of Saint Athanasius, Basil became the champion of orthodoxy in the East and strove to rally Christian support, which had been weakened by Arian tyranny and troubled by schisms and dissension. His advances were misread by some as being ambitious and heretical. Appeals made to Pope Saint Damasus and the Western bishops for help met with little response, and aspersions against him were made in Rome.
Basil and the two Gregorys (his brother and his friend) continued to promote the teachings of Saint Athanasius in the East as they further refined it. He proclaimed the unity of the Trinity as one in ousia (substance) and went on to identify what differentiates each Person: each hypostasis is distinguished by certain modes of existence (tropoi hyparxeos) and individual characteristics: the Father is ungenerated, the Son begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeding. This ended the concept of subordinationism within the Trinity. The Father's only priority is logical, not temporal, involving no superiority.
Throughout this time, Basil ministered. He introduced a custom, observed during his travels, of singing Psalms in church before sunrise. The crowds who attended his eloquent speeches were so huge that he himself compared them to the sea. Despite ill health, he made frequent trips to the mountainous districts.
In 378, Valens was killed in battle and Gratian, who had come under the influence of Saint Ambrose of Milan, succeeded bringing an end to the Arian ascendancy. This news reached Basil on his deathbed and comforted him. Worn out by his austere lifestyle, hard work, and a painful disease, he died at the age of 49.
The weeping crowds at Basil's funeral testified to his popularity with his flock. All of Caesarea--Christian and non-Christian, rich and poor alike--mourned his loss. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as "the Great Basil, the minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth." In the Eastern Church, Basil is the first of the three Holy Hierarchs, also known as the Cappadocian Fathers, that includes the two Gregorys.
He was largely responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East; the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82 was due primarily to his efforts. Basil saved the whole of Cappadocia for the Catholic faith.
Much of what is known about Saint Basil's life is derived from his own letters and sermons, which give a vivid picture of his many- sided character and activities. He was erudite, accomplished in statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great rhetoricians of Christianity. He had a strong practical sympathy with the poor and downtrodden and was merciless towards the enormities of the wealthy. But he was inclined to be headstrong and tactless, which contributed to some of his disappointments: "For my sins, I seem to fail in everything," he once wrote dispiritedly.
He was an articulate and prolific writer, penning about four hundred letters that clearly reveal his personality; more than 300 of them are still extant. Among his better-known treatises are On the Holy Spirit (De Spiritu Sancto; 375) and Philokalia, a selection of passages from Origen, which he compiled with Gregory. The work on the Holy Spirit, still unsurpassed in Catholic theology, discusses the divinity of the Third Person of the Trinity and the appropriateness of worshipping Him together with the Father and Son.
Some of his other works include Against Eumonius (three books)in which he defends the deity of Christ against an Arian writer, Ascetia, and On the Psalms. The Hexameron (The Six Days), is a series of nine sermons on the days of creation, in which he speaks of the beauties of the created world as revelations of the splendor of God. He also edited the Eucharistic Liturgy that still bears his name and that is used in the Eastern Church ten times each year. It differs from the more usual Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in having a more elaborate anaphora (the prayer of consecration offered over the bread and wine), expressing some of his characteristic turns of thought.
He believed that incorporating the best of secular culture, especially philosophy, was the superior approach to theology. In one treatise (Address to Young Men) he advises his nephews to make prudent but full use of classical pagan literature in preparing themselves for a deeper understanding of Christianity, a point of view not very common in his day.
Basil's cultus spread quickly in the West, partly through Greek monks in Italy and partly through Saint Benedict's recognition in his Rule of the inspiration of 'our holy father Basil' (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Davies, Delaney, Farmer, Fox, White).
In art Basil is shown with a dove on his arm or hand, giving him a pen; or with the Church in his hand; or in company with the Greek Fathers, usually distinguished by name (White). Roeder says his emblem is as a Greek bishop with supernatural fire near him. At times he may be shown with (1) a column of fire and a dove over his head; (2) a dove on his arm and a hand giving him a pen; (3) his grandmother Saint Macrina as he dressed as a monk holding a book and crozier; (4) a vision of Saint Mercurius piercing Julian the Apostate with a lance; (5) with his church; (6) with the Prefect Modestus in disputation; (7) the offerings of the faithful; or (8) him giving food to the poor (Roeder). He is amply portrayed by Eastern artists, especially with other Doctors of the Church, such as John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen (Farmer).
Basil is the patriarch of Eastern monks and the patron saint of Russia (White). He is one of the Three Holy Hierarchs of the Eastern Church (Roeder).
Blessed Bentivoglio de Bonis, OFM (AC)
Born at San Severino, Italy; died December 25, 1232; cultus confirmed by Pope Pius IX. Blessed Bentivoglio was one of Saint Francis of Assisi's earliest disciples. As such he is mentioned in the Fioretti (Benedictines).
Blidulf of Bobbio, Monk (AC)
(also known as Bladulph)
Died c. 630. A monk of Bobbio (northern Italy), who courageously denounced the heresy of the Lombard king Ariovald (Benedictines).
Caspar del Bufalo (RM)
(also known as Gaspare)
Born in Rome, 1786; died in Rome on December 28, 1837; beatified in 1904; canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII; feast day formerly December 28.
Saint Caspar was the son of a cook. He was educated at the Collegio Romano and ordained in 1808. After Napoleon Bonaparte captured Rome, Caspar was banished to Corsica for five years with the other clergy who refused to swear allegiance to Napoleon and renounce allegiance to Pope Pius VIII. On his return in 1814, he became a general missioner engaged in pastoral work because of the decline in religion due to the absence of priests and the sacraments for five years.
While conducting a mission at Giano (near Spoleto), he conceived the idea of founding a congregation for mission work. He began immediately to realize this concept even in the face of considerable difficulties. Starting with a house at Giano and the help of Cardinal Cristaldi, in 1815, he received formal approval for the Missionaries of the Most Precious Blood from Pope Pius VII. The pope gave him the house in Giano and the adjoining church of San Felice. In addition to the house at Giano, Caspar founded houses at Albano in 1819, and, despite tremendous problems, six in the Kingdom of Naples. Caspar's dream was to have a house in every diocese and to evangelize the world. In time, the congregation did spread all over Italy.
Caspar encountered difficulties under Pope Leo XII; but these were cleared up and, in 1824, the houses of the congregation were opened to young clergy who wished to be trained specially as missioners. Their training included the encouragement of devotion to Jesus and Mary. "A missioner," Caspar said, "must be ready for anything: like soldiers and sailors, they must never surrender." Therefore, he required not only devotion in his recruits, but also intense study of foreign languages, theology, and scripture.
He was also active in charitable works for the needy of all backgrounds, including the establishment of institutions. Saint Caspar's missionary methods were dramatic in a high degree: the contemporary Saint Vincent Strambi said of his preaching that it was 'like a spiritual earthquake.' Indeed, some of the methods his missioners used were dramatic: they flagellated themselves in the public square, which always resulted in many conversions. On the last day forbidden firearms, obscene books, and anything else offensive would be burned publicly. A cross would be raised in memoriam, a solemn Te Deum sung, and then the missioners would leave quietly.
He died in the cholera epidemic of 1836, during which he had given his last mission in Rome at the Chiesa Nuova. Feeling his strength failing, he returned to Albano and prepared for death. He asked to be left alone as much as possible, so that he might pray uninterruptedly. After the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, he went to Rome to die. On December 19, the doctor forbade him to say Mass; he received the last sacraments on December 28 and died that same day. He is buried at Santa Maria in Trivio. Miracles were recorded during his life and after his death (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Walsh).
Blessed Gerard Cognoli, OFM (AC)
Born at Valenzo (near Pavia), Italy; died 1345; cultus confirmed in 1908; feast day formerly on December 30. Gerard was born of a noble family. After the death of his mother, he became a hermit on Mount Etna in Sicily. After some years in isolation, he joined the Franciscans as a lay-brother and fulfilled the office of cook. He was the recipient of many extraordinary divine favors, probably because of the childlike simplicity for which he is known (Benedictines).
Gregory Nazianzen B, Doctor (RM)
Born in Arianzus, Cappadocia, c. 329; died in Nazianzus on January 25, 389; Doctor of the Church; feast day formerly May 9 and a second one on June 11 to celebrate the translation of his relics to Rome; in the East his feasts are January 25 and 30.
"Let it be assured that to do no wrong is really superhuman and belongs to God alone."
--Saint Gregory Nazianzen.
Gregory was the eldest son of Saint Nonna and Saint Gregory Nazianzen the Elder, who was a Jew converted by his wife and who was bishop of Nazianzus for 45 years. It is quite obvious that Gregory's family life prepared him for sainthood--both his siblings also became saints: Caesarius of Nazianzen and Gorgonia. He is one of the four great Greek doctors of the Church, and closely associated with two of the 'Cappadocian fathers,' Saint Basil and Basil's brother Gregory of Nyssa, in the final defeat of the Arian heresy.
Gregory studied at Caesarea, where he was introduced to Saint Basil (see above), the rhetorical school at Caesarea in Palestine, and then studied law for ten years at Athens, where fellow pupils included Saint Basil and the future Emperor Julian the Apostate. Gregory returned to Nazianzus when he was about 30 and joined Saint Basil in the beautiful surroundings at Pontus on the Iris River. There he lived in solitude for two years. Their frequent discussions on theology and monasticism bore fruit in the active organization of Basil and the theological depth and penetration of the contemplative Gregory.
Though he would be best suited to continuing the life of solitude, Gregory returned home to help his aged (over 80) father to administer his see and estates. He was ordained against his will by his father in 362, and ran away to Basil at Annesi for ten weeks because he really wanted to be a monk, but returned to his new duties. He wrote an apologia for his action, which would become a classic on the nature and responsibilities of priests.
Meanwhile, Basil had been consecrated metropolitan of Caesarea and, in an effort to fight Arianism, he founded new sees to consolidate his influence as metropolitan. About 372, Gregory was, again unwillingly, consecrated by Saint Basil as bishop of the small, border township of Sasima. It was an unfortunate appointment, for this Arian area was divided by civil strife, and Gregory, a gentle, peace-loving, and private person, was more fitted for the life of a contemplative scholar than that of an active administrator in a hostile environment. He never went to Sasima, refusing to accept the see, which led Basil to accuse him of slackness. Instead, Gregory continued to assist his father as coadjutor, and after his father's death in 374, administered the see until a new bishop was chosen.
It was this appointment to Sasima that broke the friendship between Basil and Gregory. Though they were reconciled later, their friendship never recovered its former warmth. The break was really healed only by Basil's death in 379. Three years later Gregory preached a great panegyric of his friend, invoking memories of their days together in 'golden Athens.'
On his relationship with Saint Basil, Gregory wrote: "Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come. . . . We followed the guidance of God's law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong."
After suffering a breakdown in 375, he lived for five years in a monastery at Seleucia, Isauria. On the death of Emperor Valens and the mitigation of his persecution of the orthodox, a group of bishops invited Gregory to Constantinople to help revitalize the Church in the East by restoring orthodoxy to the Arian-dominated city. Once again Gregory protested. For over 30 years the capital had been dominated by Arians; orthodox believers even lacked a church.
Although the intrigue and violence of Constantinople were utterly repugnant to him, in 379, Gregory accepted the charge of the orthodox community of Constantinople. In spite of his distaste, his evident poverty, and premature old age, the next few years were the most important of his life. In Constantinople his eloquent preaching at the Church of Anastasia (his house that he converted into a church) brought floods of converts, and torrents of abuse and persecution from the Arians and Apollinarians. Arians attacked him with slander, insults, and violence but he persisted in preaching the faith and doctrine of Nicaea.
While he was ill, Maximus made an effort to depose him, but he held fast. His faithfulness was rewarded when, on February 27, 380, the newly baptized Emperor Theodosius decreed that his subjects must be orthodox and that the Arian leaders must submit or leave (they left).
Nevertheless, the Council of Constantinople firmly established and confirmed the conclusions of Nicaea as authentic Christian doctrine. Both in this and in other doctrinal conclusions Gregory played an important part. Gregory was acclaimed archbishop of Constantinople during the council and installed in the basilica of Santa Sophia. A few weeks after his consecration, hostilities arose again, and the validity of his election was questioned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, at which he presided. He resigned his office in the hopes of restoring peace.
He returned to Nazianzus, which was still without a bishop, and administered the see until a successor was appointed. About 384 he retired to an austere private life. He spent his time pursuing his love of study, writing and enjoying his garden with its fountains and shady groves. To these years belong his religious poems and his autobiography. Here in Nazianzus he died.
The tragedy of his life was his promotion to the rank of bishop. Gregory was a man of sensitive, retiring disposition, ill-suited for public life and affairs which he disliked. His sermons and other speeches show him to have been one of the finest orators of his time, and he was a poet as well. His numerous surviving letters throw further light on the character and friends of this attractive personality, as does a long autobiographical poem.
As a writer, however, he stands far above most other Greek Doctors. Gregory is often called "the Theologian" or "the Divine" for the depth and eloquence of his defense of orthodoxy. Among his best known works are his sermons on the Trinity, Five Theological Orations, which were delivered at the Church of Anastasia (the Resurrection); a long poem, De vita sua; letters; and a selection of writings by Origen (compiled with Saint Basil).
His relics were translated first to Constantinople and later to Saint Peter's in Rome (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Davies, Delaney, Farmer, White).
He is portrayed in art as reading with "Wisdom and Chastity" appearing before him (Roeder, White).
Isidore of Antioch BM (RM)
4th century (?). Isidore may have been an Eastern bishop martyred at Antioch by the Arians, but the evidence for his introduction into the Roman Martyrology is dubious. Baronius added Isidore based on a notice in Saint Jerome's martyrology that reads: In Antiochia Siridoni episcopi eiusdem loci. No such bishop is known (Benedictines).
Isidore of Nitria B (RM)
4th century. Isidore is mentioned by Saint Jerome as "a holy venerable bishop" who had welcomed him to Egypt. Some think that he is identical to Isidore of Pelusium (Benedictines).
Died 304. Many Christians suffered at Lichfield (Lyke-field, the field of dead bodies) in England during the persecution of Diocletian (Gill).
Macarius of Alexandria, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Macarius the Younger)
Died c. 394-408. Often confused with Macarius the Elder, this one was also a desert monk in the same neighborhood as his fellow. Saint Macarius was a successful businessman (confectioner or fruit merchant) in Alexandria, Egypt, who was converted to the faith and baptized.
He gave up his business about 335 to become a monk in the Thebaid, Upper Egypt, and spent the remaining years of his life as a hermit in penance and contemplation. At first he lived near Saint Antony, the famous hermit of the Thebaid. Stories are told of the association of Antony and Macarius, some of which stretch credulity.
One day, the story goes, Macarius saw some palm branches that Antony had made into wreathes, and he asked to be given some of them. "It is written," Antony replied, "though shall not covet thy neighbor's goods." With that the branches dried up immediately, as if a violent fire had scorched them. From this Macarius learned that he, who lived in almost absolute rigor and austerity, was called to even greater poverty of spirit. Struck by the miracle, Antony placed his hands upon Macarius and said: "The spirit of God has reposed on you in a special way, Macarius. You are called to do great things."
Aiming at still greater perfection, in 373, Macarius moved to the desert of Nitria in Lower Egypt. En route under a scorching sun and at the end of his strength, the devil appeared to him and said, "Since you have the virtue of Antony, why not ask God for the food and strength necessary to continue your journey?" "The Lord is my strength and glory," Macarius responded. "Do not try to tempt a servant of God."
Making a new attempt to test the virtue of Macarius, the devil set before his eyes the vision of a camel laden with all kinds of appetizing food. Macarius was delighted with the vision and prepared to satisfy his hunger. Nevertheless, he suspected a trap and first rose to pray. Immediately, the camel disappeared as if swallowed up in the desert.
Stories like these abound in the only records we have of this great hermit's life. His brothers filled the profound silences of the desert with tales of his virtuous exploits, with embroiderings on his rigors, and the way he encouraged all to make themselves over into vessels of charity and kindness.
Arriving in Lower Egypt, he was ordained a priest, lived a life of great austerity, and was known for his miracles. He built cells in the deserts of Skete and Nitria, but spent most of his time in the area called the Cells. The brothers lived in separate cells completely devoid of any comforts or conveniences so that no distraction might interrupt their contemplation.
From the stories related of life there, the monks seem to have competed with one another in their austerities, and, of course, Macarius excelled. For seven years he lived only on raw vegetables dipped in water with a few crumbs of bread, though on important feast days, he moistened this scant food with drops of oil.
Having conquered hunger, Macarius next undertook to conquer sleep. He himself told his biographer, Palladius, how he once spent 20 days and 20 nights without entering his cell for sleep, by day burnt by the hot sun and at night frozen by the bitter cold. "My mind dried up because of lack of sleep, and I had a kind of delirium," the hermit admitted. "So I gave in to nature and then returned to my cell."
Uneasy about his chastity, Macarius called upon heroic courage to conquer his temptations. He condemned himself to spend six months naked in the marshes. The mosquitoes of the place, said the narratives of the event, were as big as bees, had such a penetrating force that they pierced even the skin of wild boars. But Macarius is said to have abandoned his body to them, with the result that when he later returned to his brothers, they recognized him only by the sound of his voice.
Records state how the most perfect charity prevailed among the cenobites. On one occasion a young brother offered Macarius some very fine grapes. The old fruit dealer was getting ready to taste them when, wishing to mortify himself, he sent them to one of his brothers who was ill. The latter, for the same reason, passed them on to another brother and the grapes thus made the rounds of all the cells of the desert until they were returned to Macarius. He, reflecting on the great virtue of his monks, would not touch the grapes until he first knelt down to praise God for their charity.
In his old age Macarius made a long journey to visit a famous monastery where 1,400 hermits lived under the rigid rule of the famous Saint Pachomius. Not recognized upon his arrival, Macarius was refused admittance. "You are very old," Pachomius said, "for such great rigor as we have here. One should be trained in it from childhood, or else one cannot stand it. At your age your health would quickly fail and you would curse us for harming you." Undisturbed by his failure to gain entry, Macarius stood at the gate of the abbey for seven days and nights-- without sleep, without food, without saying a word.
Finally, the monks relented and he was received. It so happened that it was Lent--a time when the rules did not prescribe any limit to mortification and each monk had complete liberty in this matter. Macarius noted how his new brothers lived: some ate only during the evening, some every other day, the best trained could wait for five days. Certain monks spent the night standing, in prayer. He decided to surpass them all. He took himself to a remote corner of the monastery and stood there in complete silence for the entire period of Lent, living only upon a few cabbage leaves each Sunday "more to avoid ostentation," says his biographer, "than because of any real need."
Unfortunately, the monks became so jealous of the prodigious austerity of their new brother and finally went to Pachomius with their complaint. "From where did this man come to us?" they asked him, "this man without flesh. He is a shame and a reproach. Have him leave here or else all of us will leave."
Pachomius then asked God to reveal to him who this old man was. When he learned that it was Macarius, he went to see him and said: "My brother, I have wanted to meet you for many years. I thank you for the lesson you have given my sons. It will prevent their boasting about their modest mortifications. But you have edified us sufficiently. Return to your own monastery and pray for us each day." (By the way, it's unlikely that Pachomius and Macarius met-- Pachomius died in 348 and Macarius, at the earliest estimate, in 394.)
Macarius went back to Skete and set about correcting what he regarded as his worst vice: his craze to travel. Soon the devil suggested that he depart for Rome to chase out the demons there. Disturbed by the need to make such a voyage on behalf of the Church, yet not willing to succumb to his vice again, Macarius filled a large basket with sand, put it on his back and set out across the desert. When someone offered to help him, he said, "Leave me alone. In this way I punish the one who torments me. Does he not wish to lead me, old and weak as I am, on a distant and vain voyage?" With that, he returned to his cell, his body broken with fatigue but cured of his temptation.
Toward the end of his life, however, Macarius had to make one more trip in spite of his resolution. He was banished for a time with Macarius the Elder and other monks to an island in the Nile for his unswerving fidelity to orthodoxy by Lucius, the intruded Arian Patriarch of Jerusalem, but was later allowed to return. Marcarius wrote a constitution for the monastery at Nitria named after him, and some of its rules were adopted by Saint Jerome for his monastery (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill).
Saint Macarius's emblem in art are flies which sting the hermit in the desert. Sometimes he is shown with a lamp or lantern, or leaning on a crutch (tau staff) conversing with a skull. There is much confusion between the Younger and Elder Macarius (Roeder). Because Macarius was a confectioner, he is the patron of pastry chefs (Roeder).
Many Martyrs Who Suffered in Rome (RM)
Died c. 303. Many martyrs who suffered under Diocletian for refusing to surrender the holy books (Benedictines).
Martinian of Milan B (RM)
(also known as Matinian, Maternian)
Died c. 435. Bishop of Milan from 423 until his death, Martinian took part in the Council of Ephesus and wrote against the Nestorians (Benedictines).
Munchin of Limerick B (AC)
(also known as Luimnich, Maincin, Manchen)
7th century (or earlier). Munchin is venerated as the patron of Limerick, Ireland, because it grew up around his foundation at Innis Ibhton on the Shannon, and derived its name Luimnich from him. In three early martyrologies, he is called "the Wise" and "Maincin" (Little Monk). While little is certain about his life, he is believed to have belonged to the clan of the Dal Cais, who lived near the west coast of County Clare (Ennistimon area). A ruling prince gave him the island of Limerick, possibly in exchange for his claim to supremacy of his own people. He is believed to have established the school at Mungret. Tradition also has him the first bishop of Limerick, though scholars doubt whether he was a bishop (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Montague).
6th century. A Welsh saint whose memory is perpetuated by the name of the island of Ynys-Seiriol (Benedictines).
Seraphim of Sarov, Mystic
Born at Kursk, 1759; died at Sarov (near Moscow, Russia), 1833; canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903.
Prokhor Moshnin was the son of a builder. He studied hard as a boy, and at age 20 he entered the monastery of Sarov, taking the name Seraphim. Here the regimen was stringent: total abstinence from meat and only one meal daily except on Wednesdays and Fridays when a total fast was required. Each monk engaged in long hours of study of Scripture and the Fathers, choral prayer, and manual labor in the bakehouse and carpentry shop.
In 1780, Seraphim fell ill and was bedridden for three years. During this time he was consoled with visions of the Blessed Virgin and the Apostles. When he recovered, he made an altar of cypress for the infirmary chapel.
In 1793, Seraphim was ordained a priest and thereafter, unlike the majority of his contemporary Russian priests, he used his priestly faculties to celebrate the Mass daily. The following year, saddened by the death of his abbot, Seraphim became a hermit. Thereafter his life reads like the story of a desert monk of Egypt in the fourth century.
For 16 years he lived alone in a shack in the depths of a neighboring forest, growing vegetables for food, felling trees, studying Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, and praying continually. Like Saint Godric, he also engaged in manual labor: cutting wood, baking bread, and caring for wild animals.
In 1804 he was beaten up by robbers with his own axe and left for dead. Nevertheless he managed to drag himself the two-hour walk to the monastery. Suffering badly from shock, he was cared for in the monastery for five months and then returned to his solitude. Thereafter he was left with a perpetual stoop and needed the assistance of a walking stick.
There for some years he in a measure emulated Saint Simeon the Stylite, spending much of his time in prayer on a high outcrop of rock. In 1807, the abbot of Sarov died and Seraphim was offered, but refused, the position. He submitted himself to the "trial of silence," speaking to no one until 1810.
By 1810 Father Seraphim's strength was failing, he could no longer get to the monastery on Sundays and feast days. So he was given a small room in the house, where he could live as a recluse within the community in a cell without a bed, heat, or lighting. Here he continued to live so far as possible as before. Although another vision of the Blessed Virgin in 1832 prompted him to forego the solitary life and instead give help and comfort to the numerous visitors who came to him. This included providing spiritual direction to the nuns of a neighboring convent of Diveyev, where Seraphim experienced his last vision in the presence of a nun.
During his life a number of cures of spiritual and physical ills were attributed to him. Among these, that of Nicholas Motovilov, who for three years had suffered from rheumatism and other complaints. This cure is notable because it led to the beneficiary's writing down a conversation he had with Seraphim on the Holy Spirit in Christian life. A work that has been published in English more than once.
In this teaching, Seraphim emphasized that the Holy Spirit, source of light, transfigures the soul of the mystic. He also taught the importance of service and of poverty.
On January 2, 1833, he was found dead on the floor of his cell, his clothes burnt by a candle that had fallen from his hands, his face turned towards an icon of the Virgin.
Whatever elements of legend may have gathered round Saint Seraphim, there is no doubt that he was a man of remarkable spiritual and prophetic gifts, who summed up in himself the Russian ideal of the holy monk and elder (starets); and the more-than-natural facial transfiguration recorded in the conversation with Motovilov- -a spiritual irradiation manifesting itself outwardly in a 'blinding light'--is a phenomenon recorded of other outstanding holy men and women in both East and West (Attwater, Farmer, Zander).
Siridion B (RM)
Dates unknown. Probably a scribe's error for Isidore or Isiridion of Antioch, mentioned by Saint Jerome (Benedictines).
Blessed Stephana de Quinzanis, OP V (AC)
(also known as Stephanie)
Born near Brescia, Italy, in 1457; died January 2, 1530; cultus confirmed in 1740 by Pope Benedict XIV.
It was Blessed Stephanie's good fortune always to live with holy people and to have the edifying example of many holy friends. She was born of pious parents in a little village in northern Italy. While she was still very small, her father became a Dominican Tertiary. On visits with him to the Dominican convent, she met the holy stigmatic, Blessed Matthew Carrieri, whose influence was to last throughout her long life. He taught her the catechism and much of his own spirit of sanctity. In fact, he told her that one day she was to be his spiritual heiress. She did not understand this for many years.
Early trained to sanctity, Stephanie responded with the love of a true saint. She fasted and did penance from her earliest years. The visions that were to sweeten her mystical life began when she was seven, and at that time she made the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She was favored with a beautiful visitation from Our Lord and several of the Dominican saints, and was given a splendid ring--as a token of her espousal to Christ. From then on, her heart and mind were centered on God, and no earthly attraction had power to distract her.
When Stephanie was 14, Blessed Matthew Carrieri died, and, shortly thereafter, appeared to her. Wounded with a terrible pain, the girl realized that she had received the sacred stigmata. This was the legacy the Blessed Matthew had promised her. Now she intensified her penances, and she meditated almost ceaselessly on the Passion. In addition to her physical endurance of the Passion, she had to undergo a spiritual desolation and dryness. This aridity lasted forty years.
At age 15, Stephanie was given the Tertiary habit of the Dominicans at Soncino and devoted herself to ministering to the poor and sick. Some years later, she founded a community (San Paolo) of Third Order sisters in her native town of Soncino and became its first abbess. As a Tertiary, she had been able to go out to minister to others; as a member of a regular community, she continued her charity, dispensing both material and spiritual riches. People of all classes came to consult her and ask for her prayers; Saint Angela Merici and the Dominicans, Augustine of Biella and Blessed Osanna of Mantua, were among these.
The life of Blessed Stephanie is a series of marvels. Only under obedience she revealed the principal visions and ecstasies long after they happened, though many people witnessed her in the state of ecstasy. She participated in various stages of the Passion of our Lord, which was attested to by 21 witnesses in 1497 in a still extant account.
She lived in constant union with God, and her every action had upon it the imprint of His favors. Keeping an almost perpetual fast, she punished her body with instruments of penance. Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Passion of Our Lord was intense. She could discuss the most profound truths of mystical theology, and had the ability to read the hearts and minds of those around her, and to prophesy future events. She was credited with performing numerous miracles of healing.
Of the saints of the order to whom she had a great devotion, she was particularly drawn to Saint Thomas Aquinas, for one time, to overcome temptation of thought against purity, she threw herself upon a cartload of thorns. Rising exhausted from this penance, she prayed fervently to Saint Thomas, and, like that great saint, she was girded by angels with a cord, which they tied so tightly around her waist that she cried out in pain.
Blessed Stephanie died, after having prophesied the day of her death and the place where she would be buried. Her tomb became a pilgrimage site almost immediately. Her intercession was often felt in the convent that she had founded, where the sisters obtained both material and spiritual help through her intercession (Benedictines, Delaney, Dorcy).
Vincentian, Hermit (AC)
(also known as Viance, Viants)
Died c. 730. A disciple of Saint Menelaus, who became a hermit in the diocese of Tulle (Auvergne) (Benedictines).
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.