Saint Paul the First Hermit
& Saint Maur, Abbot
Bonet of Clermont, OSB B (RM)
(also known as Bonitus, Bont)
Born in Auvergne, France, in 623; died c. 710. Saint Bonet was chancellor to King Sigebert III, before being appointed governor of Provence, and finally bishop of Clermont in Auvergne. After 10 years as bishop, he resigned, owing to a scruple of conscience, and retired to the Benedictine abbey of Manlieu, where he became a monk and died in extreme old age (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Ceolwulf, OSB, King, Monk (AC)
(also known as Ceowulf, Ceolwulph)
Died 764 (or perhaps a few years earlier). King Ceolwulf of Northumbria, England, abdicated his throne after reigning for eight years to become a monk at Lindisfarne. Or so some sources would have you believe. Apparently the story is deeper, Ceolwulf ascended the throne of Northumbria in 729 and just two years later he was captured and forcibly tonsured. Later that year he was released and continued his rule.
Somehow God was working even in the evil of civil unrest. In 737 or 738, Ceolwulf did indeed willingly give up civil power in exchange for the grace of the evangelical counsels at Lindisfarne. He was so highly venerated that the Venerable Bede dedicated his Ecclesiastical History to "the Most Glorious King Ceolwulf." Bede praised Ceolwulf's piety but was reserved regarding the king's ability to govern.
At Lindisfarne, which he endowed so generously that the monks could then afford to drink beer or wine (formerly, like many ascetics, they drank only water or milk), Ceolwulf encouraged learning and the monastic lifestyle. Ceolwulf was buried near Saint Cuthbert at the monastery, where miracles were believed to prove his sanctity. The relics of both saints were translated in 830 to Egred's new church at Norham-on- Tweed. Later Ceolwulf's head was transferred to Durham (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Gill).
Emebert B (AC)
(also known as Ablebert)
Died c. 710. Saint Emebert is said to have been a brother of Saints Rainaldes (Reineldis) and Gudula. He was bishop of Cambrai in Flanders (Benedictines).
Ephysius of Sardinia M (RM)
(also known as Efeso, Efisio, Ephysus of Cagliari)
Died 303 (?). Saint Ephysius was said to have been martyred in Sardinia under Diocletian, one of the fiercest persecutions. Nothing is known of his life, except his martyrdom. An ancient church was dedicated to him and there was an early translation of his relics to Capo di Pula (12 miles from Cagliari). The enduring cultus of Ephysius is witnessed by a series of paintings by Spinello Arietino in Pisa cathedral and by confraternities in his honor that held processions on May 1. During the Italian wars against the French in the last century, his cultus received new impetus when the defeat of the French was attributed to Ephysius's intercession, and he was named commander-in-chief of the Sardinian forces. Thus, in modern times, this local saint's posthumous help in battle was found credible and worthy of civil recognition. He is still greatly venerated on the island, while his relics lie at Pisa (Benedictines, Farmer).
In art Saint Ephysius is a young warrior receiving a banner and a sword from an angel. At times (1) Christ appears to him before battle, (2) in an oven or at the stake with the flames turning on his tormentors, or (3) beheaded at Cagliari (Roeder). He is the patron of Pisa and Sardinia (Roeder).
Blessed Francis Ferdinand de Capillas, OP M (AC)
Born in Vacherim de Campos or Palencia (Valencia?), Spain, 1608; died 1648; beatified by Pope Pius X in 1909 and proclaimed the Proto-Martyr of China.
The 17th century was a period of great missionary activity. Many martyrs shed their blood on distant shores. Dominicans and Jesuits contributed a great share to the blood of martyrs. Among this glorious company, the Dominican Francis de Capillas has become the type and exemplar of them.
Nothing is known of his childhood. He entered the Dominicans at Valladolid at age 17. The Spain of his youth was still ringing with the missionary zeal of Saints Louis Bertrand, Philip de las Casas, and Francis Xavier; the report of the martyrdom of Alphonsus Navarette (June 1), in Japan, was news at the time. Perhaps the bravery of these men helped to fire the young Francis with apostolic longing, for he volunteered for the Philippine mission while he was a deacon. At age 23 (1631) he left Spain and was ordained in Manila. Here, at the gateway to the Orient, the Dominicans had founded a university in 1611, and the city teemed with missionaries travelling throughout the Orient.
The young priest labored for 10 years in the province of Cagayan, the Philippines, where heat, insects, disease, and paganism leagued against the foreigner to make life very hard. But it was not hard enough for Francis. He begged for a mission field that was really difficult; perhaps, like many of the eager young apostles of that time, he was hoping for an assignment in Japan, where the great persecution was raging. He was sent to Fukien, China, where he worked uneventfully for some years. Then a Tartar invasion put his life in jeopardy. He was captured by a band of Tartars and imprisoned as a spy.
Francis, like his Master, was subjected to a mock trial. Civil, military, and religious officials questioned him, and they accused him of everything from political intrigue to witchcraft. He was charged with disregarding ancestor worship, and, finally, since they could "find no cause in him," he was turned over to the torturers.
He endured the cruel treatment of these men with great courage. Seeing his calmness, the magistrates became curious about his doctrines. They offered him wealth, power, and freedom, if he would renounce his faith, but he amazed and annoyed them by choosing to suffer instead. They varied the tortures with imprisonment, and he profitably used the time to convert his jailor and fellow prisoners. Even the mandarin visited him in prison, asking Francis if he would renounce his faith or would he prefer to suffer more. Being told that he was glad to suffer for Christ, the mandarin furiously ordered that he be scourged again "so he would have even more to be glad about."
Francis was finally condemned, as it says in the breviary, as "the leader of the traitors," these being (presumably) the rebel army that was besieging the city. The official condemnation is stated in those words: "After long suffering, he was finally beheaded and so entered into the presence of the Master, who likewise suffered and died under a civil sentence" (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Habacuc, Prophet (RM)
(also known as Habbakuk)
5th century BC. One of the 12 lesser prophets of the Old Testament. He prophesied in Judea during the time of captivity. His name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology because his relics were allegedly found by Bishop Zebenus of Eleutheropolis under Theodosius the Great (379-383). Churches have been dedicated to him in the Holy Land (Benedictines).
Isidore of Alexandria (the Egyptian) (RM)
"If we consider what the Son of God has done for us, we can never allow ourselves any indulgence in sloth." --Saint Isidore.
Saint Isidore was an ascetic Egyptian priest who managed a hospital to care for sick pilgrims in Alexandria. He defended Saint Athanasius and suffered at the hands of the Arians. Accused of Origenism by Saint Jerome, Isidore went to Constantinople where he was befriended by Saint John Chrysostom. Blessed with the gift of tears, Saint Isidore said, "I weep for my sins; if we had only once offended God, we could never sufficiently bewail this misfortune" (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Gill, Husenbeth).
Ita of Limerick V (AC)
(also known as Deirdre, Ida, Ide, Meda, Mida, Ytha)
Died c. 570. Saint Ita is the most famous woman saint in Ireland after Saint Brigid, and is known as the Brigid of Munster. She is said to have been of royal lineage, born in one of the baronies of Decies near Drum in County Waterford, and called Deirdre.
An aristocrat wished to marry her, but after praying and fasting for three days and supposedly with divine help, she convinced her father to allow her to lead the life of a maiden. She migrated to Hy Conaill (Killeedy), in the western part of Limerick, and founded a community of women dedicated to God, which soon attracted many young women. She also founded and directed a school. It is said that Bishop Saint Ere gave into her care Saint Brendan, who would become a famous abbot and missionary (though the chronology makes this unlikely). Many other Irish saints were taught by her for years. For this reason, she is often called "foster-mother of the saints of Ireland."
Brendan is supposed to have once asked her what three things God especially loved. She replied, "True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit, and open-handedness inspired by charity."
An Irish lullaby for the Infant Jesus is attributed to her. Saint Ita's legend stresses her physical austerities. The principle mark of her devotion was the indwelling of the Holy Trinity. Like other monastic figures of Ireland, she spent much time in solitude, praying and fasting, and the rest of the time in service to those seeking her assistance and advice.
She and her sisters helped to treat the sick of the area. Many extravagant miracles are also attributed to her including one in which she is said to have reattached the head to the body of a man who'd been decapitated, and another which claimed that she lived only on food from heaven.
Although her life is overlaid by much mythical material, because she has been so popular and her vita was not written for centuries, there is no reason to doubt her existence. There are church dedications and place names that recall her both in her birthplace and around her monastery. She is also mentioned in the poem of Blessed Alcuin, and her cultus is still vibrant (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Montague, Riain, Walsh, White).
John Calybites, Hermit (RM)
(also known as John Calabytes)
Born in Constantinople; died c. 450. At 12, Saint John became a monk at Gomon on the Bosphorus, and after some years returned home changed in appearance. Disguised in the rags of a beggar, Saint John lived in a small hut (Calybe in Greek) close to the door of his parents without them recognizing him until the moment of his death. Do we recognize the homeless around us? Do we really look at them or do we cover our eyes in shame that we have so much and they so little? Do we see in each face the face of our Lord and brother, Jesus? If we do not, we have reason to fear the Judgment (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
In art Saint John is a beggar with the Gospel in his hand. At times he may be shown revealing himself to his parents on his deathbed. (This story is also told of Saint Alexis) (Roeder).
Lleudadd of Bardsey, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Laudatus)
6th century. The Welsh Saint Lleudadd, abbot of Bardsey (Carnarvon), accompanied Saint Cadfan to Brittany. He may be identical to Saint Lô of Coutances (Lauto) (Benedictines).
Macarius the Elder of Alexandria, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Makarios the Great)
Born in Upper Egypt c. 300; died 390.
"Receive from the hand of God poverty as cheerfully as riches, hunger and want as plenty, and you will conquer the devil and subdue all your passions." --Saint Macarius.
Saint Macarius was a cattle herder in his youth but early became a hermit who was known for his great austerities. In his childhood he stole a few figs and ate one of them, and from his conversion to his death he never ceased to weep bitterly for this sin. He retired to a solitary hut, where he combined assiduous prayer with the tending of sheep and the plaiting of baskets.
He was accused of assaulting a woman but proved his innocence and became somewhat of a hero for his patience and humility during the ordeal. He even provided for her with his paltry earnings. She went into labor and could not be delivered until she named the true father of her child. To escape the adulation of those whose rage was turned to admiration, he retired to the desert of Skete (Scetis) when he was 30.
Macarius knew and followed the teachings of Saint Antony. Like Antony, Macarius attracted many others, because of his spiritual wisdom, who became anchorites under his rule. The bishop compelled him to receive ordination to the priesthood about 340, so that he could say daily Mass for the several thousand members of the monastic colony.
Macarius's austerities, like those of so many of the desert fathers, were excessive. He generally ate but once a week. To deny his own will, he did not refuse a little wine when others desired him to drink, but then he would punish himself by abstaining several days from drinking anything, even under the intense sun of the desert.
During his lifetime, he was highly esteemed in monastic circles, and his counsel was sought out by such as Saint Evagrius. He delivered his instructions in few words and generally stressed silence, humility, mortification, retirement, and continual prayer. He taught, "In prayer you need not use many or lofty words. You can often repeat with a sincere heart, Lord, show me mercy as You know best! or, Assist me, O God!"
The devil told him once, "I can surpass you in watching, fasting, and many other things, but humility conquers and disarms me!"
Like so many who practice extreme austerity, God humbled Macarius by showing him that he had not attained the perfection of two married women in the nearby town. In visiting them he learned that they sanctified themselves by carefully guarding their tongues and living in the constant practice of humility, patience, meekness, charity, resignation, mortification of their own will, and conformity to the moods of the husbands and family, where God's law didn't contradict. In a spirit of recollection, they sanctified all their actions by ardent ejaculations praising God, and most fervently consecrating their entire beings to the divine glory.
A young man seeking spiritual direction from Macarius was told to go to the cemetery and upbraid the dead. Then to return and flatter them. Of course, he reported to Macarius that they were unmoved by either injuries or praise. Macarius then told him, "The go, and learn neither to be moved with injuries or flatteries. If you die to the world and to yourself, you will begin to live in Christ."
In order to counter the Hieracite heresy denying the Resurrection, Macarius raised a dead man to life.
He was exiled for a time on a small island in the Nile with Macarius the Younger, Isidore, and other monks when the Arian Lucius of Alexandria tried to drive out the desert monks. Later, Macarius was allowed to return. During their exile, they converted all the inhabitants of the island. He died after living in Skete for 60 years and is believed to have been the first hermit to live there.
It appears that Macarius may have experienced a stigmatization similar to that of Saint Francis of Assisi 900 years later. A considerable number of writings have been attributed to him, most probably erroneously. Various anecdotes about Macarius can be found in the Apothegmata Patrum and in the Lausiac History, but not all of this is necessarily historically true (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth).
In art Saint Macarius is portrayed as an old hermit with long, white hair wearing a girdle of leaves with two lions near him (he could be confused with Saint Onuphrius). At times he may be shown dispelling the devil with a cross (Roeder). This anonymous Russian icon shows Macarius with Saints Onuphrius the Great and Peter of Athos, and this Coptic icon portrays Macarius alone.
From an early Coptic text, we have the colorful story of Saint Macarius and the grateful hyena (which I have paraphrased).
One day a hyena came to the door of Macarius's cell with her whelp in her mouth. She knocked on his door with her head. Macarius came out thinking one of his brother monks had come to visit. Seeing the hyena, he mused, "What does she want here?"
The hyena filled her mouth with the whelp, and weeping, held it out to the old man. The old man took the animal in his steady hands and examined it for the problem. Then he saw that it was blind in both eyes. He took it, groaned, spat on its face, signed it upon the eyes with his finger and immediately the whelp saw, went to its mother, and began to suckle. The animals then made their way into the marsh.
Once annually the Libyans bring their sheep to the marsh of Skete to eat the shoushet, as the herdsmen of Pernouj bring their oxen. The day following the cure, the hyena came to the old man with a sheepskin in her mouth, thick with wool and freshly killed. Once again she struck the door with her head. When Macarius saw it was the hyena with a sheepskin over her head, he asked, "Where have you been? Where did you find this, if you have not eaten a sheep? As that which you've brought me comes of violence, I will not take it."
The hyena struck her head upon the ground. She bent her paws. And on her knees she prayed him, as if she had been a man, to take it. He said to her, "I have but now told you that I will not take it, unless you make me this promise: I will not vex the poor by eating their sheep."
She made many movements of her head, up and down, as if she were promising him. Again he repeated it to her, "Unless you promise me, saying, 'I will not kill a creature alive'; from today you will eat your prey when it is dead. If you are distressed, seeking and finding none, come here, and I will give you bread. From this hour, do hurt to no creature."
And the hyena bowed her head to the ground, and dropped to her knees, bending her paws, moving her head up and down, looking at his face as if she were promising him. And the old man perceived in his heart that it was the purpose of God Who gives understanding to the beasts for a reproach to us, and he gave glory to God, Who lives for ever, for the soul has honor. He said, "I give glory to You, O God, Who was with Daniel in the lion's den, Who gave understanding to beasts. Also You have given understanding to this hyena and have not forgotten me: but You have made me perceive that it is Your ordering."
And the old man took the skin from the hyena, and she went away. From time to time she would come to seek the old man; if she had not been able to find food, she would come to him and he would throw her a loaf. She did this many times. And the old man slept on the skin until he died. "And I have seen it with my own eyes" (Amelineau).
Malard of Chartres B (AC)
Died after 650. As bishop of Chartres, Saint Malard participated in the council of Châlon-sur-Saône (650) (Benedictines).
Maur(us), OSB, Abbot (RM)
Died c. 580. Saint Maurus was a disciple of Saint Benedict. His noble Roman father, Eutychius (Equitius), placed the 12-year-old Maurus under the founder's care in 522 (when Benedict was still at Subiaco). The youth grew up in faithful obedience to the rule--a model monk.
Saint Gregory tells the story of Placido, a fellow monk, son of the senator Tertullius, who fell into the lake when he was sent to fetch water, and was carried some distance from the bank. Praying in his cell, Saint Benedict saw this in spirit and sent Maurus to pull him out. Maurus obeyed immediately. It is said that Maurus walked upon the waters without perceiving it and dragged Placido out by the hair without sinking at all himself. Maurus attributed the miracle to the prayers of Saint Benedict, but the holy abbot to the obedience of the disciple (Husenbeth).
(It should be noted that Saint Placido's October 10 feast was removed from the general calendar in 1969, together with that of a Sicilian martyr of the same name. The 6th century saint's name had been added in the 16th century based on a forged document from the 12th century. He was probably a real disciple of Saint Benedict, according to Saint Gregory the Great, a near contemporary, Placido was the son of Tertullius, saved from drowning by Maurus, and went with Benedict to Monte Cassino, which was a gift of Placido's father. That's all that is known until the 12th C. On October 5 Monte Cassino celebrated feast of Placid, also a Sicilian martyr on that day and of that name, so Peter the deacon, undertook to merge the two stories. On August 8, 1588, in the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Messina, 33 bodies found and attributed to Placido and companions (Sheppard, pp. 104-108).)
When Benedict migrated to Monte Cassino around 525, he left Maurus in charge of the monasteries in Subiaco. That legend makes Saint Maurus abbot-founder of Glanfeuil in France is now completely discredited (Benedictines).
Saint Maurus is represented as a young Benedictine commanded by Saint Benedict to walk across the water to the rescue of the drowning Saint Placidus. He may also be shown as a Benedictine abbot with a book and a pastoral staff. He is invoked against colds (Roeder).
Maximus of Nola B (RM)
Died after 250. More about Saint Maximus can be found in the life of Saint Felix of Nola, whom Maximus ordained to the priesthood. During the Decius's persecution of the Christians, Saint Maximus was forced to flee his see of Nola. In the mountains of southern Italy, he nearly died of exposure and hunger but was rescued by Saint Felix and died as a result of his hardships under tender care of his flock (Benedictines). In art Saint Maximus has grapes growing on brambles near him. He may also be shown ordaining Saint Felix (Roeder).
Micah, Prophet (RM)
(also known as Michaeas)
8th century BC. Another of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament and said to be a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. His book contains the prophecy of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread" (just a little more food for thought!) (Benedictines).
Paul the First Hermit (RM)
(also known as Paul of Thebes)
Born in Thebaid, Egypt c. 230; died c. 342; feast day in the West was January 10 until the cultus was suppressed in 1969; Eastern feast day is either January 5 or 15.
Saint Paul was from the lower Thebaid in Egypt and lived during a period in which Christians were hunted down like criminals for endangering the safety of the state. Paul, orphaned at 15, had a property inheritance; and his pagan brother-in-law saw a double opportunity in betraying him to the officers of Emperor Decius: first to get the reward promised to those who turned in Christians, and second to obtain for himself the inherited property.
The 22-year-old Paul, already in hiding in a remote village, was warned by his sister and fled into the desert, not so much as a permanent place to live as much as a refuge because he feared that his faith may not be strong enough to endure persecution. Later, however, the thought of returning to his home left him, and the vastness of the desert surged up before him as the place where he would find God. (Remember that this is part of our Judaic heritage. The Israelites "found" God in the desert, where He led them as a pillar of fire.)
Silence and solitude frighten most of us; we are afraid to be really alone. That was the first fruit of the life in the desert for Paul: he was strengthened in spirit, he learned to consecrate his soul to God alone, and to be alone with the alone. All masks fall away in such a solitary place; God's voice is no longer choked.
Second, Paul learned in the desert to trust in God to supply all his needs. Having renounced all things, Paul needed very little: a palm tree to clothe him and perhaps to protect him from the sun, bread to nourish his body, and water to slake his thirst. The palm tree also provided his only food until he was 43 (about 21 years). Then, it is said that, like Elias, he was fed miraculously each day; a raven descended carrying just the right amount of bread for the day. Whether we trust such stories or not, life must have been difficult enough and it must have taken an enormous simplicity and trust in God for Paul to survive.
The story of Paul is full of the comings and goings of a 'rival' hermit of the desert: Saint Antony. How they overcome their singular rivalry; how they sit down to eat their miraculous banquets together; how they pray and fast in a combat of spirituality: these are the tales biographers give us. They also suggest the profound friendship that must have existed at the deepest possible level for these two men of identical, yet altogether unusual, vocations.
It is said that God first revealed Paul's existence to Antony, because he was tempted to vanity at the thought that he had served God longest in the desert. After the revelation, Antony searched three days to find Paul (here Jerome's narrative becomes a little bizarre with centaurs and satyrs, etc.). Finally, he followed a thirsty she-wolf into a cave thinking to find water for himself, and found Paul, too. They knew each other at once and praised God.
While they were talking, a raven flew towards them, and dropped a loaf of bread before them. Upon which Paul said, "Our good God has sent us dinner. In this manner I have received half a loaf every day these 60 years past; now you are come to see me, Christ has doubled his provision for his servants."
On that first meeting, it seemed that they would never eat. Paul insisted that his guest must have the privilege of breaking the bread, whereas the 90-year-old youngster Antony wanted to defer to the elder Paul. The stalemate was broken before the bread grew too stale--they acted simultaneously.
Paul predicted to Antony the time of his death, and asked him to wrap and bury his body in a cloak given to Antony by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. Rushing to obtain the cloak, Antony saw Paul's body in a vision carried up to heaven attended by angels, prophets, and apostles. He found Paul's body kneeling in prayer with his arms stretched out, as was the custom. For the rest of his own life, Saint Antony cherished Paul's palm-leaf clothing, and wore it himself on important church feasts.
According to Saint Jerome who was one of the hermit's biographers, Paul died in 342 at age 113, having spent about 90 years in the desert. It is said that two lions came and dug his grave.
He is called Paul the First Hermit, not because he was the first desert solitary--though he may have been the first who was Christian, but in order to distinguish him from other hermits named Paul. Saint Jerome's Life of Paul, based on a Greek original, is almost the only source for the details of the hermit's life, but it is a mixture of fact and fantasy (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Butler, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Waddell).
In art Saint Paul can be identified as an old man in plaited palm leaves breaking bread with Saint Antony (). At times (1) a raven brings them bread, (2) he is naked with only a girdle of palms leaves (not to be confused with Onuphrius) (3) with a hind by him, or (4) buried by Saint Antony with two lions nearby (Roeder). Scenes from Paul's life, especially the meeting with Antony, are depicted on the Ruthwell cross (c. 700) and on some Irish crosses. He also appears on the 15th-century rood-screen of Wolborough (Devon) with other monastic saints (Farmer).
Blessed Peter of Castelnau, OSB Cist. M (AC)
Born near Montpelier, France; died 1208. Blessed Peter became archdeacon of Maguelonne in 1199 and a Cistercian monk at Fontfroide around 1202. The following year Pope Innocent III appointed him apostolic legate and inquisitor for the Albigensians to lead the famous expedition of evangelization in which Saint Dominic participated. While engaged in that work he was run through by a lance at the hands of one of the Albigensians. As he died, he said: "May God forgive you, brother, as fully as I forgive you" (Benedictines).
6th century. Saint Sawl was the Welsh chieftain who fathered Saint Asaph. The traditions concerning Sawl are very obscure (Benedictines).
Secundina VM (RM)
Died c. 250. Saint Secundina's guards were converted by the testimony of this Roman maiden's martyrdom near Rome under Decius (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Tarsicia of Rodez V (AC)
(also known as Tarsitia)
Died c. 600. Saint Tarsicia was said to have been a granddaughter of Clotaire II and sister of Saint Ferreol of Uzès. She lived as a hermit near Rodez, where she is now venerated (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.