Saint Felix of Nola
Blessed Amadeus of Clermont, OSB Cist. (AC)
Died c. 1150. Lord of Hauterives (Drôme), he entered the Cistercian Abbey of Bonnevaux with 16 of his vassals. Later he spent some time at Cluny to attend to the education of his son, Blessed Amadeus of Lausanne. He founded four monasteries: Leoncel, Mazan, Montperoux, and Tamis. He eventually returned to Bonnevaux where he died (Benedictines).
Barbasymas and Companions MM (AC)
(also known as Barba'shmin, Barbascemin)
Died 346. The persecution of Christians in Persia under King Shapur II was one of extreme violence and persecution. Three bishops in a row were martyred: Simeon Barsabba'e in 341, Shahdost (Sadoth) in 342, and finally Barba'shmin in 346, who was imprisoned with sixteen companions for 11 months. They were all tortured before being executed. After that the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was vacant for nearly 40 years; thousands of Christians perished, and many fled abroad during the persecution (Attwater, Benedictines).
Datius of Milan B (RM)
Died 552. Saint Datius was elected bishop of Milan sometime after 530. His whole diocese was overrun by the Arian Ostrogoths, and he had to flee to Constantinople, where he spent the rest of his life. Here he defended Pope Vigilius in the dispute about the "Three Chapters" (Benedictines).
Euphrasius B (RM)
Date unknown. Saint Euphrasius may be identical with Saint Eucrathius, a correspondent of Saint Cyprian; or else, a bishop martyred in Africa by the Arian Vandals (Benedictines).
Felix of Nola M (RM)
Born in Nola (near Naples), Italy; died in Nola on January 14, 260.
Hermias, a Syrian officer of the Roman army, retired at Nola, where he had some land. Upon his death he bequeathed his property to his two sons. The younger, like his father before him, joined the Roman army and followed Caesar; the elder, Felix, happy by name and nature, distributed his inheritance, was ordained priest by Bishop Saint Maximus of Nola, and became a soldier of Christ. After his ordination he served the aged bishop as his assistant. When the persecution broke out under Decius in 250, the old man escaped to the hills, leaving his diocese in charge of Felix and nominating him as his successor.
When a search was made for Maximus and he was not to be found, Felix was arrested in his place, and thrown into prison. Maximus, meanwhile, a fugitive in the mountains, was perishing from cold and hunger, and suffering all the more on account of his great age.
In prison Felix was treated with brutality, but, in course of time, and following a vision, Felix escaped with the help of an angel and sought out his old friend. After prolonged and difficult search he found Maximus, alone, prostrate with illness, and helpless. Felix revived him with food and wine, and carried him on his back, under cover of night, to the home of a pious and aged woman who took him into her care. Felix himself then went into hiding until the outbreak of persecution had passed with the death of Decius in 251.
When, later, there was a fresh outburst of hostility against the Christians, his life was again in danger. He was accosted in the street by a search party, but fortunately went unrecognized. After this narrow escape he concealed himself in a ruined building, creeping in through a small hole which he found in its broken walls and finding an inner and secret hiding place. We are told that there came a spider who let down a thread and weaved its web over the entrance, so that when the search party was going through the building, they were deceived by the cobweb and passed by the place where he lay hidden.
For some months Felix lay in hiding, most of the time living among the same ruins in a unused well. When the persecution had ceased, he resumed his ministry in Nola. On the death of Maximus he was naturally elected bishop but declined the honor in favor of Quintus, a senior priest, though he had been ordained but seven days before him. This was characteristic of his graciousness and humility. Felix lived out the rest of his days as a simple priest, revered for his goodness and his sufferings under persecution.
His own property having long been confiscated, he rented a plot of some three acres of barren ground, which he tended with his own hands, growing his own food, supporting himself so far as he could, and giving generously to the poor.
He lived to a good age and had a brave and gallant spirit. While he didn't actually die a martyr's death, Saint Felix is venerated as such because of the sufferings he underwent during the persecution.
The little that is known about Saint Felix derives chiefly from the poems of Saint Paulinus of Nola, who wrote over 100 years later, and built a church in honor of Saint Felix. Paulinus incorporated legendary material the had accumulated around Felix's name in the intervening century. Paulinus relates that Felix was tortured but not killed in time of persecution, and afterwards enjoyed a fruitful apostolate, notable for conversions and miracles. (The Venerable Bede wrote a summary of Paulinus's work.) Soon after Felix's death crowds of people came from distant parts to visit Saint Felix's tomb. In fact, a miraculous cure at his tomb was the cause of Saint Paulinus's own conversion.
The cultus of Felix is recognized in the martyrologies of Jerome and of Carthage and by many ancient sacramentaries. His church at Nola, decorated by murals of Old Testament subjects, was a notable pilgrimage center from the 4th century. Hagiographers have often confused things by attributing his work to many people or consolidating many of the 66 Roman Martyrology entries of "Felix" into one. Felix of Nola can be found in the Sarum calendar and in 15 English Benedictine ones (Delaney, Farmer).
Usually Felix is portrayed by artists with a spider, or with an angel removing his chains, or with a bunch of grapes symbolizing his care of the aged Maximus, or bearing the old man upon his shoulders (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill). His emblem is the cobweb which concealed his hiding place. Normally he is a young priest in all these pictures. He may also be shown chained in prison with a pitcher and potsherds near him. Occasionally he is dressed as a deacon, rather than a priest.
He is the patron of domestic animals, and invoked against eye troubles (Roeder).
Felix of Rome (AC)
Date unknown. The Roman priest Felix is often confused with Saint Felix of Nola (Benedictines).
Isaias, Sabas & Companions MM (RM)
Died 309. Thirty-eight monks on Mount Sinai massacred by pagan Arabs. These massacre was followed by several others in the neighborhood of the Red Sea (Benedictines).
Kentigern of Glasgow B (AC)
(also known as Mungo)
Died c. 603-612; Farmer lists feast day as January 13. Most of what we know about Saint Kentigern mixes fact and fiction, because the only sources date from the 11th and 12th centuries. Many of the folkloric elements predate the written documents.
Kentigern is said to have been a native of Lothian, the son of Saint Thenaw (Thaney, Thenog, Theneva), a British princess, and the grandson of, perhaps, Prince Urien. When it was learned that she was pregnant by an unknown man, she was hurled from a cliff (in a cart at times) and, when discovered alive at the foot of the cliff, set adrift in a boat (or barrel) on the Firth of Forth. She reached Culross, was sheltered by Saint Serf, and gave birth to a child to whom Serf gave the name Mungo (darling). The legend continues that Kentigern was raised by the saint, became a hermit at Glasghu (Glasgow) and was so renowned for his holiness that he was consecrated bishop of Strathclyde about 540 by an Irish bishop. There is reason to believe that he actually began his missionary efforts at Cathures on the Clyde, thus founding the church at Glasgow, and continued his missionary activities in Cumbria generally. He was, indeed, the first bishop of Strathclyde. During his bishopric, he revived the cultus of Saint Ninian and restored his church in Glasgow. His mother gave her name to Saint Enoch's Square and Railway Station in that city.
It is further related that political disorder drove him into exile in Carlisle and then into Wales, where he is said to have stayed with Saint David at Menevia. Reputedly he also founded the monastery of Llanelwy, being succeeded as abbot there by Saint Asaph when he was recalled to the north by the Christian King Rederech around 553; but the evidence for these particulars is altogether insufficient. In the north again he is said to have lived at Hoddam (Dumfries) and Glasgow, where the saint died while taking a bath (an odd bit of trivia). He was buried in Glasgow cathedral.
Mungo (Munghu) is a Celtic nickname commonly used for Kentigern; it is usually explained as meaning 'darling' or 'most dear,' but this is questionable. Montague states that Kentigern was probably Irish because "his nickname Mungo is compounded with the prefix 'Mo,' a purely Irish custom."
The ring and fish displayed on the heraldic arms of the city of Glasgow refer to a legend about Saint Kentigern, in which he miraculously saves an unfaithful wife from the anger of her royal husband. The queen had given her husband's ring to her lover. The king discovered it, threw it into the sea and told his wife she must find it again in three days. Kentigern told her not to worry: One of his monks had extracted the ring from a salmon he caught.
There are several Scottish and nine English, mainly Cumbrian, dedications to the saint under his moniker, Mungo. Although it is unlikely that Kentigern founded the 1,000-monk monastery in northern Wales, the story may be true that he traded pastoral staffs with Saint Columba near the end of Columba's life (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Montague).
In art Saint Kentigern is represented as an enthroned bishop with a monk at his feet presenting a salmon with a ring in its mouth; a queen with a ring and a king with a sword are near him. At times he may be portrayed meeting Saint Columba with a column of fire above him; or holding a mulberry leaf (Roeder).
Saint Kentigern is venerated at Carlisle and Saint Asaph. Together with his mother, Kentigern is the patron of Glasgow (Roeder).
Macrina the Elder, Widow (RM)
Died at Neocaesarea, c. 340. Saint Macrina was mother to Saint Basil the Elder and grandmother of Saint Basil, Saint Macrina the Younger, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Peter of Sebastea. During her youth her spiritual director was Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus.
As if this isn't enough to qualify anyone to be a saint, Macrina was known for her great sense of justice and the faith with which she and her husband endured their sufferings during the persecutions under Galerius. During the persecution of Diocletian she and her husband were forced to remain in hiding in Pontus on the shores of the Black Sea for six or more years. They had much to suffer--hunger, deprivation, loss of property--then and under later persecutions. Nevertheless, they succeeded in rearing up one of the most saintly families in Cappadocia and, perhaps, in Christendom (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
In art, Saint Macrina is portrayed as a recluse with two stags near her or with two hinds (Roeder).
Malachy, Prophet (RM)
5th century BC. The last of the twelve minor prophets. The tradition is that he was a native of Sapha. The Jews erroneously identify him with Esdras (Ezra) (Benedictines).
Martyrs of Raithu (RM)
Died c. 510. A large number of hermits who lived in the desert of Raithu near the Red Sea were massacred by savages from Ethiopia or by the Saracens (Benedictines).
Blessed Odo of Novara, O. Cart. (AC)
Born in Novara c. 1105; died in Italy c. 1200; cultus confirmed in 1859. Saint Odo, a Carthusian monk, was prior of Chartreuse Order at Geyrach in Slavonia. He resigned due to difficulties with the bishop and became chaplain to a convent at Tagliacozzo in Italy, where he died at a very advanced age (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Sava of Serbia B (AC)
(also known as Sabas)
Born in Serbia, in 1174; died at Trnovo (Tirnovo), Bulgaria, January 14, 1237.
Ratsko (Rastho) was the youngest of three sons of Stephen I, founder of the Serbian dynasty of the Nemanydes. He became a monk on the Greek peninsula of Mount Athos at age 17 (1191) and took the name Sabas (Sava in Serbian). He was later joined there by his father, who abdicated in 1196 and took the name Simeon. They founded Khilandari Monastery for Serbian monks on Mount Athos, which remains one of the 17 ruling monasteries of the Holy Mountain. During the Middle Ages, it was the center of Serbian culture.
Sava became abbot, and he was known for is gentleness and skill in training novices. He began to translate books into Serbian, and there is at Khilandari a psalter and ritual that are signed by the copier, "I, the unworthy, lazy monk Sava." (It should be noted that several sources, with less reliable dates, say that Sava was nearly 70 before anything that follows happened. I think it's more judicious to trust the dates given.)
In 1207 he returned home when his brothers, Stephen II and Vulkan, began to quarrel and civil war broke out. He also found the country in a state of religious disorder. Clergy were scattered and mostly illiterate. Sava sent the monks who had accompanied him to do missionary and pastoral work. (Farmer says that Sava brought back to Studenitsa Monastery his father's relics in 1208.)
From his headquarters at Studenitsa Monastery, where he had settled, Sava founded a number of smaller monasteries near the inhabited areas and began the reformation and education of his homeland. He was sent by his brother, Stephen II, to Nicaea to see the Eastern emperor and patriarch, who had sought a harbor there from the Frankish invaders at Constantinople.
He succeeded in obtaining Serbian emancipation from the jurisdiction of the Greek archbishop of Okhrida in Bulgaria. Sava himself was designated the first metropolitan of the new Serbian hierarchy by Emperor Theodore II Laskaris (related to Sava's family) at Nicaea; and was ordained, though for political reasons unwillingly, by the exiled Byzantine Patriarch Manuel I (or Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople) in 1219 at Nicaea.
He returned home by way of Mount Athos, bringing books and more monks with him. He set about reforming and organizing the Church and, in 1222, Sava crowned his brother Stephen II, King of Serbia. (Stephen II had already been crowned by a papal legate in 1217; but this time Pope Honorius III sent a crown in response to a request from Sava, who had informed the Holy See of his episcopal ordination.) Through his efforts, Sava finished the uniting of his people that had been begun by his father. Serbs, Greeks, and Latin-speaking natives learned to live together under his leadership.
He is credited with giving the Serbians bishops and clergy of their own nationality, founded eight bishoprics, built churches in Zica, (his cathedral), Pec, Milesevo, and others. He also did much to further education in that country, including the translation of religious works into Serbian and the establishment of schools. He composed two Typica or Rules for his monastery, wrote a vita and Office of his father Simeon (canonized in 1216), and penned the Law of Simeon and Sava, which provides us with some insights regarding the Serbian peasantry. He also commissioned translations of Greek religious works, which propounded doctrinal orthodoxy and refuted the errors of the Bogomils.
Even with all this activity, Sava was always a monk at heart. He had left Mount Athos simply for the sake of his countrymen: "If you listen to me, and if God enables me to do good among you, if you become holy and one in God, there will be twofold gain and salvation will be ours."
From time to time he would retire to an inaccessible hermitage near Studenitsa to gain strength for perseverance in the tasks he had set himself. He made two trips to Palestine and the Near East. On his way home from the second trip (1230), during which he had founded a hospice for Serbian pilgrims to Jerusalem, built the monastery of Saint John there, and arranged for the reception of Serbian monks at Mount Sinai and other distant monasteries, he was taken ill and died at Trnovo in Bulgaria. His people called him 'Saint Sava the Enlightener.'
When he died his followers attributed to him all manner of wisdom. The most delightful is that he taught the Serbs that they could plough a field both ways, instead of dragging the plough backwards after each furrow to start again from the same end of the field, as they did before. King Ladislaus translated his relics to Milesevo in 1237, where they were destroyed by the Turks in 1594. Nevertheless, his cultus continued to spread through the rich iconographical tradition and by the revival of Serbian nationalism in the 19th century.
Sava promoted worship in the vernacular, which sometimes is read as though he deliberately sought separation from Rome; however, his feast is still kept in Latin as well as Orthodox calendars in Croatia and Serbia, where he is venerated as the patron saint of Serbia (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Farmer, Walsh, White).
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.