St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint John Neumann, Bishop
(Memorial in the United States)
January 5



Blessed Alacrinus of Casamari, OSB Cist. B (PC)
Died 1216. Cistercian prior of Casamari, diocese of Veroli, he was sent as papal legate to Germany under Popes Innocent III and Honorius III (Benedictines).


Apollinaris Syncletica V (RM)
Died c. 450. The heroine of a religious romance. Saint Apollinaris was said to be a woman of high rank who became a desert dweller. She disguised herself in boy's clothing and lived her life in an Egyptian hermitage as a disciple of Macarius (not sure which one); but her existence is disputed (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Gill).


Cera of Kilkeary V (AC)
(also known as Ciar, Cyra, Cior, Ceara)

7th century. This Tipperary native governed as abbess two Irish convents: one at Kilkeary and the other at Tech Telle (now Tehelly) (Benedictines).


Charles of Sezze, OFM (RM)
(born John Charles Marchioni)

Born at Sezze, Roman Campagna, Italy, October 19, 1616; died in Rome in January 6, 1670; beatified in 1882; canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1959; feast day may be January 6 or 7. Born of humble parents in the Roman Campagna, John Charles Marchioni (or possibly Melchoir) became a shepherd and wanted to become a priest. When unable to do so because of his poor scholarship (he barely learned to read and write), he became a lay brother of Franciscan Order at Naziano (in Rome?), served in various menial positions--cook, porter, gardener--at different monasteries near Rome and became known for his holiness, simplicity, and charity. His was a life of great mystical experiences; it is told that his heart was pierced by a ray of light proceeding from the Sacred Host, which left a visible wound. He wrote several mystical works, lived a life of great mortifications, and worked heroically to help the stricken in the plague of 1656 (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Perotti).


Convoyon of Redon, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Conwoion)

Died 868; cultus confirmed with the title of saint in 1866. A Breton by birth, Convoyon became successively deacon of Vannes, recluse, monk at Glanfeuil, and finally, in 831, abbot-founder of the great Benedictine abbey of Saint Savior near Redon, Brittany. He was driven from his abbey by the Norsemen and died in exile (Benedictines).


Dorotheus the Younger, Abbot (AC)
Born at Trebizond in 11th century; feast day formerly on June 5. Dorotheus was a monk at Samsun on the Black Sea and afterwards abbot-founder of a monastery at Khiliokomos nearby (Benedictines).


Gaudentius of Gnesen, OSB B (AC)
Died c. 1004. Younger brother of Saint Adalbert of Prague and his fellow monk at the Benedictine abbey of Sant'Alessio, on the Aventine, Rome, and again his companion on his mission to Prussia. He escaped the massacre in which his brother was martyred and in 1000 was appointed first archbishop of Gnesen by Otto III (Benedictines).


Gerlac of Valkenberg, Hermit (AC)
(also known as Gerlach)

Died c. 1170. A licentious Dutch military man and brigand, who experienced a moral conversion upon the death of his wife. Thereafter, he went to Rome where he spent seven years nursing the sick and doing penance for the sins of his youth. He then returned to his native Holland, gave his possessions to the poor, and became a hermit in a hollow tree on his estate near Valkenberg, where he was noted for his extreme austerity. The last years of his life were embittered by a dispute with neighboring monks who wanted him to enter their monastery. He had a spiritual pact with Saint Hildegard (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill). Saint Gerlac is portrayed in art as a hermit with an ass near him. Sometimes he may be shown living in his hollow tree or with a thorn in his foot (Roeder). Venerated at Valkenberg, the Netherlands (Roeder).


John Nepomucene Neumann B (RM)
Born in Prachititz, Bohemia (now Czech Republic), March 28, 1811; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, on January 5, 1860; beatified 1963; canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul IV, the first American male saint. John was the third of six children of a German father, Philip, and Czech mother, Agnes. His parents owned a small stocking factory. John was named after a 14th-century Bohemian martyr, John Nepomucene.

As a young boy he showed great intellect as well as a religious vocation. He was educated in Budweis (original home of that now famous American beer/swill) and began at the diocesan seminary there in 1831. John was especially interested in botany and astronomy, in addition to theology and Scripture. Two years later he continued his study of theology at the Charles Ferdinand University in Prague. Because of the overabundance of clergy, the Austrian government delayed his ordination, so he decided to go to America as a missionary.

He arrived in Manhattan (New York) in June 1836, and was warmly welcomed by Bishop John DuBois of New York, even though he was unannounced. On June 28, 1836, John was ordained by Bishop James, who sent him to engage in pastoral work among German-speaking Catholics, who were clearing forests in the district of Niagara (upstate New York).

Four years of constant and isolated labor left him with a knowledge of his own need for support and an appreciation of the value of community activity in missionary work. Therefore, he entered the novitiate of the newly-established branch of the Redemptorists at Saint Philomena's in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1840. When he made his vows in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1841, he became the first Redemptorist to take his vows in the United States.

He continued his missionary activities as a mission preacher in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He became rector of Saint Philomena's in 1844. In 1847, John was named vice regent and superior of the American Redemptorists, while he was a parish priest in Baltimore. Most of his parish work involved the establishment of parochial schools. Because of his outstanding pastoral work, John was appointed the fourth bishop of Philadelphia in 1852 by Pope Pius IX--a diocese that had not accepted him when he first came to America.

During his episcopate he followed the full spirit of the Redemptorist founder, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, by making especially his own the care of the materially and spiritually impoverished. Much of his time was spent in visiting the remote and hitherto neglected areas of his diocese. Diminutive in stature and lacking in 'charisma,' John Neumann devoted time to encouraging others, especially nuns and other laypeople, to lives of hidden sanctity.

He reorganized the diocese, inaugurating a widespread program of new parish building (100 additional churches) and expanding the parochial school system with 80 new schools. The population of his schools increased 20-fold after he attracted a number of teaching orders to staff them. He founded the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who observe the rule of the 'active' Franciscan Third Order, for religious teaching and to staff his orphanage. He also introduced the devotion of Forty Hours and began work on a cathedral.

He made his ad limina visits to Rome and was there in 1854 at the formal declaration of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (American bishops in council at Baltimore had already chosen Mary under this title as patroness of the United States).

He wrote much during this time--including articles for newspapers-- and produced two catechisms that were very popular in the United States in the 19th century. The catechisms were endorsed by the American bishops at their first Plenary Council in 1852. He continued to compose his most important works in German, although he was fluent in seven other languages.

At the time of his sudden death in 1860 on Vine Street in Philadelphia, he was worn out by his labors. Already he was renowned for his holiness, charity, pastoral work, and preaching. Popular devotion preceded the official investigation and approval of his cultus. After over 100 years, with the continued support of both his diocese and the Redemptorists, he was canonized (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Walsh, White).


Martyrs of Egypt (RM)
Died 303. The Roman Martyrology (RM) lists two groups of anonymous martyrs and confessors of Egypt, including the entry for today: "In Egypt the commemoration of many holy martyrs, who were slain in the Thebaid . . . under Diocletian" (Benedictines).


Paula, OSB Cam. (AC)
Born in Tuscany in 1318; died 1368. In childhood, Paula was entrusted to the Camaldolese nuns and remained with them her entire life. She was instrumental in bringing the feuds between Pisa and Florence to a peaceful settlement (Benedictines).


Simeon Stylites the Elder, Hermit (RM)
Born in Sis, Cilicia (near Nicopolis, Syria), c. 390; died at Telenissus in 459.

Son of a Cilician shepherd and born on the Syrian border of Cilicia, he was a shepherd in his childhood. When he was 13 had a vision that he later interpreted as foretelling his later life on pillars. As a youth Simeon read the Bible and puzzled over it, especially the Sermon on the Mount. Hearing it in church one day, he asked a bystander what it meant. He was told that happiness is achieved through the Cross--through persecutions, humiliations, tears, fastings, vigils, and continual prayer. Simeon was moved by what he heard and decided to take these words to heart. From that time onwards he subjected himself to ever-increasing bodily mortifications and austerities, especially fasting from food.

Following a vision in which he was exhorted to dig ever deeper in preparing the foundations of a house, he begged to be allowed to live in a nearby monastery working as the lowest of all the servants. He proved himself worthy of acceptance by neither eating nor drinking anything for five days until the abbot, Timothy, told him to enter. He spent two years there and the monks grew to love him.

But he grew to believe that the life he had chosen was not rigorous enough, so Simeon then became a monk at a stricter monastery ruled by Heliodorus at Eusebona (Tell'Ada near Antioch), where he practiced such severe mortifications that he nearly died. He ate nothing during Lent and only once a week the rest of the year, but that isn't what almost killed him. He wore a rope of twisted palm leaves next to his skin that ate into his flesh, which could only be removed by three days' treatment of being softened by liquids and then separated by incisions. After his recovery he was dismissed from the monastery for not obeying the order to temper his appetite for austerity.

After his dismissal, Simeon first descended a deep well, and without food or sleep, was brought again near the point of death. He was rescued by his former comrades of the monastery, but left them after his recovery because they began to reverence him as a saint. Thus, ended his 20 years as a monk in northern Syria.

Simeon then moved to a cell of dry stones and earth at the foot of Mount Teleanissae (Dar Sem'an) near Antioch. His first Lent alone he spent without any food or drink. A priest, Bassus, who knew of his plans, left him ten loaves and some water in case of emergency. These were found untouched at Easter, together with an unconscious Simeon. He was revived by the Eucharist and a few lettuce leaves.

After three years in this cell, Simeon moved to the top of the mountain, where he lived in a small building that had no roof. There he chained himself to a rock, but a representative of the patriarch of Antioch told him that a firm will, assisted by divine grace, would enable him to remain in his chosen state without such artificial aids. Simeon immediately sent for a blacksmith to cut him loose. It's a good thing that Simeon was not permanently chained to that rock, or he would not have been able to escape the numerous visitors that interrupted his solitude, visitors that went so far as to snip off a piece of his tunic to keep as a relic.

To have accomplished the great feats of mortification detailed in Simeon's life, he must have been a man of tremendously robust constitution and fantastic will-power, and equipped with a capacity for religious devotion and perseverance that exceed all imagination. Word of his holiness began to attract hugh crowds. They came to seek his advice, to pray with him, and some just to see him.

Because he could not seem to escape the world horizontally, he attempted to avoid the distractions of the crowds by moving vertically. In 423, he erected a ten-foot (about 3 meters) high pillar in Telenissus (Dair Sem'an) and lived on top of it for about four years; he spent the rest of his life living on successively higher pillars (stylites is from the Greek word stylos, meaning pillar), which were no wider than six feet (2 meters) in diameter at the top; his last pillar was 60 feet (20 meters) high. At the top of the pillar was a platform with a balustrade, which has been calculated to have been about 12 feet square.

Lent continued to be a time of increased penance for Simeon. The first two weeks would be spent praising God in an upright position; the next two, while sitting; and the last two, prone, because of weakness from his total fast.

His attempt to find solitude was futile. Many more people flocked to him--pilgrims and curiosity seekers, emperors and beggars. He practiced great austerities, slept little if at all, was clad only in the skins of wild animals, and fasted completely during Lent for 40 years. Before dawn Simeon would stand with his arms and eyes raised to heaven in prayer. And talk about praying with your body! Every day Simeon repeatedly bowed his body in prayer: one visitor counted, it is said, 1,244 prostrations within the day.

He soon became greatly venerated as a holy man and had extraordinary influence. He preached twice daily exhorting his endless stream of listeners to greater holiness and converting many, and was listened to and consulted by all. Men had the privilege to consult him face to face by climbing a ladder. He was especially sought out by Bedouin Arab tribesmen who came to him for baptism and spiritual advice. Disputes among individuals or whole tribes were remedied. Bishop Theodoretus of Cyrus writes that literally thousands of Arabs from the desert had been enlightened by his teaching: "I was eyewitness and I heard how they renounced their native godlessness and accepted the evangelical teaching."

Simeon was full of kindliness and sympathy, and his discourses were marked by practical common sense and freedom from fanaticism. He exhorted positively to sincerity, justice, and prayer, and denounced swearing and usury with special energy. Among the crowds were the lame, sick, blind and possessed who obtained cures. When Simeon saw among the crowd a native of distant Gaul, he entrusted him with an affectionate message for his sister, Saint GeneviŤve, the patroness of Paris.

Those who could not make the long journey to northern Syria consulted him by letter. He would dictate his answers to bishops, emperors, and other officials. The Emperor Theodosius and the Empress Eudocia reverenced him as a saint and listened to his counsels. The Emperor Leo paid respectful attention to a letter Simeon had written in favor of the Council of Chalcedon.

Simeon, like many of the stylites, was completely orthodox in his theology. He was a champion of the doctrines of Chalcedon. It may be important to note that Simeon lived in a chaotic age. The Roman Empire had fallen into ruin and Rome itself was sacked by the Vandals. The Franks followed by Attila the Hun brought destruction in their wake. Heresies of all sorts--Monophysitism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism and Pelagianism--were rocking the foundations of the Church. Through all this Simeon prayed and did penance, like so many other saints for whom God kept the world going. At this same time Patrick was entering Ireland, Augustine was writing his City of God, GeneviŤve was praying and fasting for Paris, and John Cassian. Only God knows what terrible events would have taken place at that time had Saint Simeon not done penance and prayed for causes and individuals who were fighting for the Church Militant. In an age and land of license and luxury, Simeon bore witness to the claims of virtue and selflessness in so striking a fashion that no one could fail to see it.

From Saint Simeon, atop his column uniting heaven and earth, we learn the principle that the children of God should be "in" the world but not "of" the world. In Saint Simeon God has given us a concrete and picturesque example of the highest and most perfect way of serving Him by a combination of the active and contemplative life. He reminds us that Jesus said Mary had chosen the "better" part in wishing to remain at his feet; she had not chosen the "best" part--a combination of contemplation and action; of receiving God's grace and passing it on. Most of us will not be called to his extreme asceticism, but we are all called to holiness and to worship.

Simeon was the first of many stylites, who found that life at the top of a column offered unexpected advantages: it was conducive to the stability that was so dear to the hearts of monks in retreat; and it added to his ascetic sufferings. Although stylites rejected the "world" in the New Testament sense of the word, unlike the desert monks, the stylites performed a prophetic ministry and were visited by many people. They preached, gave counsel, reconciled enemies, reproved sinners and led them to repentance, cast out devils, and often manifested a gift of prophecy.

Modern Christians have trouble understanding this kind of asceticism; however, it exemplified the tendencies of Syrian asceticism in general. The Syrian monks mortified their bodies by going without rest or simple hygiene, and by taking only enough food to avoid suicide. Is this insanity? Not if it is understood.

The purpose of such ascetic practices is to use all their powers to prevent the demands of the body from interfering with their spiritual aspirations. Clearly the idea that the body is essentially evil underlay such terrible asceticism; nor is this surprising in view of the influence Manicheeism had on the attitudes and faith of the Syrian Christians.

The rule is this: The more the body suffers, the more the spirit flowers. We can set aside the picturesque and the eccentric aspect. The prophets, too, had strange ways for the ways of the Lord are not our ways. We can also set aside the psycho- physiological aspects--the manifold extensions of the strength of the spirit and the extreme longevity of the stylites--and concentrate on essentials.

The theory of the stylites, which they practiced with magnificent heroism, is faithful to the mystical theology of the Eastern Church, in accordance with which supernatural peace is to be obtained by blessed tranquility (hesychia) preceded by perfect temperance (encrateia) and impassiveness (apatheia), or in other words indifference to the needs and claims of the body. Discipline and asceticism were the means to attain these. The stylites held, very logically, that the more severe the discipline, the harsher the asceticism, the greater the hope of winning the palm that Saint Paul promised to the winner of the race.

Before this first of the pillar ascetics died on September 2 (or perhaps July 24), he did all these things. People contended physically with one another to obtain his relics, which they then carried about for an entire year in celebration of his heroic virtues. His body was buried at Antioch, accompanied by bishops and many of the faithful. After his death a monastery and sanctuary were built over the spot, and amidst the imposing ruins the base of Simeon's column can still be seen (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).

The above facts are quite authentic for they are based on the testimony of eye-witnesses. Simeon's disciple Antonius recorded the following story:

"The fame of the holy man increased throughout the world, and they built him a pillar 12 cubits high, and he stood upon it 12 years. And again they built him a pillar 20 cubits high, and he stood upon it 12 years. Then all that dwelt in that place came together, and they built two churches beside the pillar, and a pillar 30 cubits high, and he stood upon it four years, and began to do miracles. . . . And many people he turned to the Christian faith, namely Saracens and Persians and Armenians and Laotians and the Foreigners. . . .

"And after these days they again built him a pillar 40 cubits high, and he stood upon it for 16 years until his death. Now at that time there was a exceeding large dragon that lived close by, in the country to the north: and because of him no grass ever grew there: and a branch of a tree fell into his right eye. And lo, one day the blind dragon came, dragging himself along, and he applied himself to the pillar which was the habitation of the man of God, and winding himself into a wheel as if to ask pardon, lay with his head bowed low. And the blessed Simeon gazed down upon him, and straightway, the branch fell out of his eye: and it was a cubit in length. And indeed all that saw it glorified God, notwithstanding that they fled from him in terror. But the creature coiled itself up and stayed quiet in one place, whilst all the people went by. Then rising up, it worshipped at the gate of the monastery for well-nigh two hours, and so returned to its den, and did no hurt to any (Antonius).

Of course, in art Simeon is depicted as sitting on top of a column, often surrounded by many people. He may be shown as an emaciated hermit holding a column (Roeder). He is the patron of shepherds (Roeder).


Syncletica V (RM)
Died c. 400. A wealthy lady of Macedonia, who abandoned the world and lived as a recluse in a unused tomb until she was 84. For a long time she suffered from temptations and spiritual desolation, and in her later years from cancer and consumption (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Talida of AntinoŽ V (AC)
4th century. Palladius relates that Talida was abbess of one of the 12 convents at AntinoŽ, Egypt, and that she had already lived 80 years at her convent when he visited her (Benedictines).


Telesphorus, Pope M (RM)
Died 136. Saint Telesphorus was born in Greece, followed Pope Saint Sixtus I to the papacy, and reigned for ten years. Of the fourteen bishops who succeeded Saint Peter, to the end of the 2nd century, every one is listed as a martyr. In the case of some of them, martyrdom is historically improbable, and for none of them does good historical evidence for the correctness of the tradition still exist, with one exception: Saint Telesphorus. Even for him the circumstances are not known; Saint Ireneaus (c. 125-203) simply says that he suffered a glorious martyrdom under the Emperor Hadrian. Saint Telesphorus is commemorated in both the Greek and Latin churches (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney). In art, Saint Telesphorus is shown as a pope with a chalice, over which three Hosts hover, there might also be a club nearby (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.