St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Blase BM
Saint Ansgar B
(Optional Memorials)
February 3



Aelred, OSB Cist. Abbot (AC)
(also known as Ailred, Ethelred)

Born in Hexham, Northumberland, England, c. 1109; died at Rievaulx Monastery, Yorkshire, England, on January 12, 1167; canonized by the General Chapter of Cîteaux in 1250 (and Attwater says he was canonized in 1191 but he is not in the Roman Martyrology so this statement may be in error); today is the feast celebrated by the Cistercians, feast day on calendar also on March 3, when it is celebrated in Hexham, Liverpool, Middleborough, and by the Cistercians; feast day formerly on January 12. Aelred belonged to a noble family. He was the son and grandson of parish priests of Hexham--sainthood was probably in his genes. He was educated at Durham in the arts, letters, and the new humanism of the time.

At about age 20, Aelred was taken into the service of King Saint David at the beginning of his reign. Aelred became a clerk and then high steward of the household in the Scottish court because he was so beloved for his piety, gentleness, humility, and spirituality by King David, who, though son of Saint Margaret, considered the sword and knighthood more certain guarantees of his kingdom whose districts and frontier fiefs were in continual legal disputes.

The favors that Aelred received at court won him enemies. One of the king's knights, a jealous man, developed a hatred for Aelred because of the favors constantly bestowed upon him. One day his intense hatred burst out in the presence of the king himself. Bitter reproaches and insults followed.

Aelred replied without emotion: "You are right, Sir Knight, and you have said the truth: your words are exact, and I see that you are a true friend of mine." The soldier begged his pardon immediately, and swore that henceforth he would do everything he could for Aelred. "I am very happy you have repented," said Aelred, "and I like you the more for it, because your jealousy has been for you a means of advancing in the love of God."

Aelred formed a close relationship with David's son, Earl Henry. His soul was so torn between answering God's call to the cloistered life and remaining at court with Henry. Aelred considered friendship a most precious gift. His dilemma was solved when he visited the recently-founded Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx on his return from an interview with the archbishop of York.

Aelred chose not to return to the Scottish court. Thus, at age 24 (c. 1134), Aelred enter Rievaulx, where Saint Bernard had appointed his secretary William as abbot over the monks from Clairvaux who formed the community. In spite of delicate health, Aelred conformed to the austere regime and became so esteemed by his community that he was chosen as envoy to Rome in 1142 over the disputed election of Saint William of York and, soon afterwards, as master of novices.

Within a short time, he was obliged to change monasteries to avoid being named a bishop; but no sooner had he relocated himself than he was chosen to be abbot of a new Cistercian monastery in Revesby, Lincolnshire, in 1143. His biographers say that this new position did not prevent his "living a life of the severest asceticism." Under his rule, the house prospered, increasing in size to 150 choir monks and 500 lay brothers and lay servants--the largest in England. It expanded to five other foundations in England and Scotland.

Inspired by the writings of Saints John Chrysostom and Augustine and augmented by Aelred's own gentle holiness and natural charity, he was able to humanize the intransigence of Cistercian monasticism and attracted men of similar character to his own. Through his many friends as well as his writings, Aelred became a figure of national importance. He was chosen to preach at Westminster for the translation of Saint Edward the Confessor. This led him to compose a vita of Edward; he had already completed one on Saint Ninian and one the saints of Hexham.

Four years later he returned to Rievaulx as abbot, succeeding Abbot Maurice. During his abbacy the number of monks at Rievaulx rose to over 600, attracted by his kindly, humane nature. In addition to looking after these he had every year to visit other Cistercian houses in England and Scotland, and even to go as far afield as the Cistercian centers of Cîteaux and Clairvaux. These journeys must have been a great trial to him, for during his later years Aelred suffered from a painful disease in addition to rheumatism.

Aelred became known for his prudence and holiness throughout England. He was admitted to the councils of the highest dignitaries in the land and was constantly called upon to settle disputes. King Henry II of England was his friend, and, in 1160, during the papal schism, he was able to influence the king on behalf of Pope Alexander III.

In 1164, he went to Galway in Ireland as a missionary but the following year he returned to England. Famed for his preaching, energy, sympathetic gentleness, and asceticism, Aelred was consider a saint in his own lifetime. He was also considered a delightful companion because of his wit, easy speech, and brilliant mind.

His biographer and disciple, Walter Daniel records: "I lived under his rule for 17 years, and in that time he did not dismiss anyone from the monastery." Aelred's name, indeed, is particularly associated with friendship--human and divine. One of his two best known writings is a little work On Spiritual Friendship which is delicately beautiful. Only when Aelred's enormous capacity for friendship was transformed by charity was finally able to write the unique treatment of the subject. It resembles Cicero's dialogue on the topic, but is identifiably Christian in its approach.

Aelred also penned the Mirror of Charity (Seculum caritas), a treatise on Christian perfection. His sermons on Isaiah are also fine writing and he also composed biographies of the saints. He was in the process of writing a treatise on the human soul, which was left unfinished, by his death at age 57. His writings and sermons are characterized by a constant appeal to the Bible and to a love of Christ as friend and savior that was the mainspring of his life.

Saint Aelred's frequent travel and writings merited for him the title of "a second Saint Bernard" or "the Bernard of the North." On his way to his Scottish foundations, Aelred used to visit his friend Saint Godric of Finchale. In the last year of his life, he could no longer travel. After being for a time virtually in a state of physical collapse, Saint Aelred died his monastery, in a shed adjoining the infirmary that he had made his quarters. The historian of monasticism in England, Professor David Knowles, says that Aelred is "a singularly attractive figure . . . No other English monk of the 12th century so lingers in the memory."

Saint Aelred was buried in the chapter house. Later his relics were translated to the church. Aelred was never formally canonized; however, his local cultus was approved by the Cistercians who promulgated his feast (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Powicke, Squire).


Anatolius of Salins B (AC)
(9th? or) 11th century. A Scottish or Irish bishop who went as a pilgrim to Rome and settled as a hermit at Salins in the diocese of Besançon, Burgundy, about 1029. He live the rest of life in a mountain retreat overlooking a favorite stopover of Irish pilgrims near the oratory of Saint Symphorian. At a later date a church was built in his honor at Salins. His biographer said that it would be impossible to enumerate all the miracles he worked in his lifetime (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Kenney, O'Hanlon).


Ansgar B (RM)
(also known as Anskar, Anschar, Anscharius, Scharies) Born near Amiens, Picardy, France in 801; died in Bremen, Germany on February 3, 865.

With the coming of the barbarian after the death of Charlemagne, darkness fell upon Europe. From the forests and fjords of the north, defying storm and danger, came a horde of pirate invaders, prowling round the undefended coasts, sweeping up the broad estuaries, and spreading havoc and fear. No town, however fair, no church, however sacred, and no community, however strong, was immune from their fury. Like a river of death the Vikings poured across Europe.

It's hard to believe that there would be an outbreak of missionary activity at such a time, but in Europe's darkest hour there were those who never faltered, and who set out to convert the pagan invader. Saint Ansgar was such a man. As a young boy of a noble family he was received at Corbie monastery in Picardy and educated under Saints Abelard and Paschasius Radbert. Once professed, he was transferred to New Corbie at Westphalia. He once said to a friend, "One miracle I would, if worthy, ask the Lord to grant me; and that is, that by His grace, he would make me a good man."

In France a call was made for a priest to go as a missionary to the Danes, and Ansgar, a young monk, volunteered. His friends tried to dissuade him, so dangerous was the mission. Nevertheless, when King Harold, who had become a Christian during his exile, returned to Denmark, Ansgar and another monk accompanied him. Equipped with tents and books, these two monks set out in 826 and founded a school in Denmark. Here Anskar's companion died, and he was obliged to move on to Sweden alone when his success in missionary work led King Bjoern to invite him to Sweden.

On the way, his boat was attacked by pirates and he lost all his possessions, arriving destitute at a small Swedish village. After this unpromising start, he succeeded in forming the nucleus of a church--the first Christian church in Sweden--and penetrated inland, confronting the heathen in their strongholds and converting the pagan chiefs.

Ansgar became the first archbishop of Hamburg, Germany, and abbot of New Corbie in Westphalia c. 831. The Pope Gregory IV appointed him legate to the Scandinavian countries and confided the Scandinavian souls to his care. He evangelized there for the next 14 years, building churches in Norway, Denmark, and northern Germany.

He saw his accomplishments obliterated when pagan Vikings invaded in 845, overran Scandinavia, and destroyed Hamburg. Thereafter, the natives reverted to paganism. Ansgar was then appointed first archbishop of Bremen around 848, but he was unable to establish himself there for a time and Pope Nicholas I united that see with Hamburg. Nicholas also gave him jurisdiction over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Ansgar returned to Denmark and Sweden in 854 to resume spreading the Gospel. When he returned to Denmark he saw the church and school he had built there destroyed before his eyes by an invading army.

His heart almost broke as he saw his work reduced to ashes. "The Lord gave," he said, "and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." With a handful of followers he wandered through his ruined diocese, but it was a grim and weary time. "Be assured, my dear brother," said the primate of France, who had commissioned him to this task, "that what we have striven to accomplish for the glory of Christ will yet, by God's help, bring forth fruit."

Heartened by these words, and with unfailing courage, Anskar pursued his Swedish mission. Though he had but four churches left and could find no one willing to go in his place, he established new outposts and consolidated his work.

King Olaf had cast a die to decide whether to allow the entrance of Christians, an action that Ansgar mourned as callous and unbefitting. He was encouraged, however, by a council of chiefs at which an aged man spoke in his defense. "Those who bring to us this new faith," he said, "by their voyage here have been exposed to many dangers. We see our own deities failing us. Why reject a religion thus brought to our very doors? Why not permit the servants of God to remain among us? Listen to my counsel and reject not what is plainly for our advantage."

As a result, Ansgar was free to preach the Christian faith, and though he met with many setbacks, he continued his work until he died at he age of 64 and was buried at Bremen. He was a great missionary, an indefatigable, outstanding preacher, renowned for his austerity, holiness of life, and charity to the poor. He built schools and was a great liberator of slaves captured by the Vikings. He converted King Erik of the Jutland and was called the 'Apostle of the North.' Yet Sweden reverted completely to paganism shortly after Ansgar's death.

Ansgar often wore a hairshirt, lived on bread and water when his health permitted it, and added short personal prayers to each Psalm in his psalter, thus contributing to a form of devotion that soon became widespread.

Miracles were said to have been worked by him. After Ansgar's death, the work he had begun came to a stop and the area reverted to paganism. Christianity did not begin to make headway in Scandinavia until two centuries later with the work of Saint Sigfrid and others. A life was written about Ansgar by his fellow missionary in Scandinavia, Saint Rembert (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Robinson, White).

In art Ansgar shown with converted Danes near him (White), wearing a fur pelisse (Roeder). He may sometimes be shown otherwise in a boat with King Harold and companions or in a cope and miter, holding Hamburg Cathedral (Roeder).

Saint Ansgar is the patron of Denmark, Germany, and Iceland (White). He is venerated in Old Corbie (Picardy) and New Corbie (Saxony) as well as in Scandinavia (Roeder).


Anskar B (RM)
While the Roman calendar lists both Anskar and Ansgar on this day-- as two separate individuals. It appears that they are one and the same person.


Berlinda of Meerbeke, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Berlindis, Bellaude)

Died 702. A niece of Saint Amandus, Berlinda was disinherited by her father, the rich Count Odelard, in a fit of rage. He had leprosy and thought that she would not take proper care of him. She fled to Saint Mary's convent at Mooriel (Moorsel), near Alost, Belgium, where she became a Benedictine nun. After her father's death, she became a hermit at Meerbeke near his tomb and spent her life helping the poor and suffering (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia).

Saint Berlinda is pictured as a Flemish nun with a cow and either a pruning hook or branch. Sometimes she is portrayed with Saints Nona and Celsa. She is venerated at Mooreel (Mooriel) convent and Meerbeche (Meerbeke) (Roeder). Berlinda is protectress of trees and invoked against cattle diseases (Roeder).


Blaise of Sebaste BM (RM)
(also known as Blase, Blasien, Blasius, Biagio)

Died c. 316. As someone who loves to sing and suffers from frequent sore throats, I always look forward to the feast of Saint Blaise. Since the 16th century, the throats of the faithful are blessed on this day using the sacramental of two crossed or intertwined candles. I hope this is still customary in all Catholic churches. The reason for Blaise's patronage of throats is that he reportedly revived a boy who choked to death on a fishbone (in some versions he raised the already dead boy). The candles used during the blessing are derived from the candles brought to Blaise in prison by the grateful mother. (I also wonder if there is some significance to the candles that were blessed the day before at Candlemas--Feast of the Presentation--being used to bless?) In the acta of Saint Eustratius, who perished in 303 under Diocletian, it is said that Blaise received his relics, deposited them with those of Saint Orestes, and executed every article of his last will and testament. This is all that can be confirmed of Saint Blaise with any accuracy as there is no evidence of a cultus for Blaise prior to the 8th century. According to Blaise's legendary acta, which date no earlier than the 8th century, he was born into a rich and noble family, received a Christian education, and was consecrated a bishop of Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Armenia), while still quite young. Blaise was a physician in Sebaste, as well as bishop. As a doctor Blaise went into every home at all hours of the day and night, knew both the rich and the poor, comforted, cured, and advised them all. As a bishop, he did the same thing.

When the governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia, Agricolaus, began persecuting Christians, Bishop Blaise of Sebastea hid in a cave where the wild beasts, including lions, tigers, and bears, tended him because he cared for them whenever they were hurt. His hiding place was discovered by hunters seeking animals for the amphitheatre, who observed him curing sick and wounded animals. Because the wild animals were so tame around him, they thought that Blaise was a wizard and wanted to present him as such to the governor.

As he was being brought to Governor Agricolaus, a poor woman appealed for help because a wolf had taken her pig and Blaise persuaded the wolf to release the pig unharmed. Blaise was presented to the governor, who had him scourged and decided to starve Blaise to death in prison. But his plans were thwarted when the grateful woman secretly brought Blaise food and candles to dispel the darkness of his gloomy prison. When it was discovered that Blaise was still alive, the governor ordered soldiers to rake away the saint's skin with a woolcomb, and then Blaise was beheaded.

This is only one version of Blaise's story. In another he is repeatedly tortured, but refuses to give in. He is thrown into a nearby lake, but the waters remain frozen like ice, unwilling to be an accomplice in the death of this holy man. So, he is finally killed by the sword. Canterbury claimed his relics, and at least four miracles were said to have occurred at his shrine, one dated 1451. Parson Woodforde described a solemn procession in his honor at Norwich on March 24, 1783 (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Sheppard, Tabor, Walsh, White).

In art he is a bishop with a metal comb and a tall candle. Sometimes he may be shown: (1) with crozier and two candles (no comb); (2) martyred by being torn with iron combs; (3) in a cave with wild animals; (4) discovered by hunters, a fawn near him (not to be confused with the monk, Saint Giles); (5) blessing the birds in front of a cave; (6) rescuing a poor woman's pig from a wolf; (6) saving the life of a boy who swallowed a fishbone; or (7) with the city of Dubrovnik in his hand or being carried over the city by angels (Roeder). The following images of Blase can be found on the web:

Saint Blaise is the patron of wild animals (Coulson), physicians, sick cattle, wax-chandlers, and woolcombers. He is invoked against afflictions of the throat (Bentley, Roeder). Water with the blessing of Saint Blaise is also given to sick cattle (Farmer). As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blaise was much venerated throughout Central Europe.


Caellainn (Caoilfionn) V (AC)
6th century. An Irish saint listed in the Martyrology of Donegal A church in Roscommon perpetuates her name (Benedictines).


Celerinus of Carthage M (RM)
Died after 250. An African who, without shedding his blood, earned the title of martyr because of the sufferings he endured under Decius during a visit to Rome. Set at liberty, he returned to Carthage where he was ordained a deacon by Saint Cyprian. A church was dedicated to his honor in Carthage (Benedictines).


Celsa and Nona VV
Date unknown. Virgins of Brabant, whose bodies were found near that of Saint Berlinda (Encyclopedia).


Deodatus of Lagny, OSB (AC)
8th century. A monk of Lagny in the archdiocese of Paris (Benedictines).


Elinand of Froidmont, OSB Cist. (AC)
(also known as Helinand)

Born in Pronleroy, Oise, France; died 1237. Elinand, a court singer before his conversion, became a Cistercian of Froidmont. Beloved by Philip-Augustus, he was also a poet and writer of many lines about the saints. The Cistercians venerate him as a saint, though he is otherwise considered a beatus (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Felix, Symphonius, Hippolytus & Comps. MM (RM)
Dates unknown. A group of martyrs who suffered probably in proconsular Africa (Benedictines).


Hadelin of Dinant, OSB, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Adelin of Dinant)

Died c. 690. Hadelin, a native of Gascony, followed Saint Remaclus first to Solignac, then to Maestricht (Aquitaine) and Stavelot. He became the founder of Celles, in the diocese of Liége, Belgium. Hadelin lived as a hermit near Dinant on the Meuse (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Hadelin is portrayed as a Benedictine abbot being visited by King Pepin and his knights. He might also be enthroned before the Abbey of Celles (Roeder).


Ia of Cornwall VM (AC)
(also known as Hia, Hya, Iia, Ives)

Died 6th century or 450 (sources are evenly split between the two dates); another feast on October 27. According to the late medieval legend, the sister of Saints Ercus (or Euny) and Herygh, Saint Ia, was a holy maiden who came from Ireland to Cornwall--sailing on a leaf that grew to accommodate her--and landed and settled at the mouth of the Hayle River where Saint Ives, formerly called Porth Ia, now stands. She is said to have crossed with Saints Fingar, Phiala, and other missionaries. In Cornwall she erected a cell where she lived the life of prayer and austerities. This version relates that Ia suffered martyrdom in Cornwall at the mouth of the Hayle River. Leland saw her vita at Saint Ives, which depicted her as a noble of Saint Barricus; a church was built at her request by Dinan, a great lord of Cornwall. Breton tradition makes her a convert of Saint Patrick, and says that she went to Armorica with 777 disciples, where she was martyred. She is the eponym of Plouyé, near Carhaix. Do not confuse her with Saint Ives of Saint Ives, Huntingdonshire (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, D'Arcy, Farmer, Montague, Moran).


Blessed John Nelson, SJ M (AC)
Born in Skelton near York, England; died at Tyburn, England, in 1578; beatified in 1886. At age 40, John Nelson began his studies for the priesthood at Douai and was ordained in 1575 (or 1576). He was sent to the English mission but was soon arrested in London and sentenced for refusing the Oath of Supremacy. He became a Jesuit shortly before his death by hanging, drawing, and quartering at Tyburn outside London (Attwater2, Benedictines).


Blessed John Zakoly B (PC)
(also known as John of Csanad)

Died in 1494. Bishop John of Csanad, Hungary, entered the Pauline Order and died as prior of the monastery of Diosgyör (Benedictines).


Laurence the Illuminator B (AC)
(also known as Laurence of Spoleto)

Died at Farfa Monastery in 576. Saint Laurence, a Syrian Catholic was driven into exile with 300 other Catholics during the persecution by the Monophysite patriarch Severus of Antioch in 514. Laurence was ordained to the priesthood in Rome and sent to preach in Umbria, where he founded a monastery near Spoleto. Laurence was elected bishop of Spoleto and served as its prelate for 20 years. He then resigned and retired to the famous monastery of Farfa in the Sabine Hills near Rome, which he had founded. Saint Laurence was renowned as a peacemaker who helped the parties to see the situation from the other side. It is said that he attained the surname "the Illuminator" because he had a special gift for healing blindness--both physical and spiritual (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson).


Laurence of Canterbury, OSB B (RM)
Died February 2, 619; feast day was February 2. Saint Laurence was one of the 13 monks of Saint Andrew's Monastery, Rome, sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great with Saint Augustine of Canterbury to England in 597. Augustine sent him back to Rome to report on the progress of the English mission and to bring back reinforcements for the work. He also brought back Gregory's answers to Augustine's questions about the organization of the Church in Canterbury. As Augustine's most trusted helper, he named Laurence succeeded him as Archbishop of Canterbury in 604 (Augustine irregularly consecrated Laurence before his own death).

As archbishop of Canterbury, Laurence followed Augustine's policy of consolidation in the southeast of Britain and attempted cooperation with the British bishops in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. Unsuccessful in convincing the Britons to accept the Roman liturgical practices, Laurence was faced with even greater difficulties when Eadbald succeeded his father, Ethelbert, as king of Kent in 616, married his father's wife, and allowed the country to lapse into pagan practices. Saints Mellitus and Justus retired temporarily to Gaul. Laurence considered joining them there but, according to Bede, was rebuked, then physically beaten black and blue by Saint Peter in a dream for thinking about abandoning his flock. The story seems to be a conflation of the Quo Vadis? legend of Saint Peter and a famous letter of Saint Jerome. Whether the story Bede tells is true, Laurence decided to remain, and the day after his vision converted King Eadbald to Christianity when he displayed the stripes on his back to the king and told him their origin.

Laurence was buried in the monastery church of Saints Peter and Paul (later called Saint Augustine's), Canterbury, which he had himself consecrated. His body and those of other early saints of Canterbury were translated in 1091. His tomb was opened in 1915. The Irish Stowe Missal commemorates him by name in the canon of the Mass and marks his feast. There is a feast of the translation of his relics at Canterbury on September 13 (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill).

Saint Lawrence is pictured being scourged by Saint Peter or showing his stripes to King Eadbald (Roeder).


Laurentinus, Ignatius, and Celerina MM (RM)
3rd century. African martyrs, of whom Saint Cyprian writes movingly in one of his epistles. Saints Laurentinus and Ignatius were uncles of and Saint Celerina an aunt of the deacon Saint Celerinus, who is also commemorated today (Benedictines).


Lupicinus and Felix BB (RM)
5th century. The martyrologies describe both as bishops of Lyons, France. To Saint Lupicinus the usual date of death is assigned as 486. Nothing else is known about either saint (Benedictines).


Margaret "of England," OSB Cist. V (AC)
Born in Hungary (?), died 1192. Saint Margaret was possibly born in Hungary to an English mother and is probably related to Saint Thomas of Canterbury. She took her mother on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where they both led an austere life of penance for some years in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Her mother died there but Margaret continued on to Our Lady of Montserrat in the Spanish Catalonia, before joining the Cistercian nuns at Seauve-Bénite, in the diocese of Puy-en-Velay. She was greatly venerated in that district. Miracles followed her burial at Seauve-Bénite and her shrine became a principle feature of the church. Crowds came there to invoke 'Margaret the Englishwoman.' The local tradition that she was English was accepted by the Maurists and Gallia Christiana, yet an older French manuscript preserved by the Jesuits of Clermont College in Paris relates that she was indeed a Hungarian of noble birth (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer, Husenbeth).


Blessed Matthew of Girgenti, OFM B (AC)
Born in Girgenti, Sicily; died at Palermo, 1450; cultus confirmed in 1767. Matthew became a Conventual Franciscan in his hometown. Then he turned to the Observants and worked zealously under Saint Bernardino of Siena, with whom he became close friends as they travelled together on Bernardino's preaching missions. He himself gained a reputation as a great preacher. Pope Eugene IV forced him to accept the bishopric of Girgenti. Once he accepted it as God's will, he set about reforming the see. As a result of the opposition the changes raised, he resigned the see. Then he was refused admittance to the friary he himself had founded because he was deemed to be too much of a firebrand. Matthew died in a Franciscan friary at Palermo (Attwater2, Benedictines).


Blessed Odoric Mattiuzzi, OFM (AC)
(also known as Odericus of Pordenone)

Born in Villanova near Pordenone, Friuli, Italy, in 1285; died at Udine in 1331; cultus confirmed in 1775. Odoric Mattiuzzi became a Franciscan hermit, who made one of the most remarkable journeys of the middle ages. He became a missionary about 1317 and penetrated into Tibet by travelling through Armenia, Baghdad, Malabar, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. He was in Beijing for three years and returned home via Lhasa. Some believed he reached Japan. Odoric dictated an account of his adventures but does not recount much of his evangelical activities, though they were considerable. After 16 years in the mission fields, he returned to Europe to report to the pope at Avignon, but died en route (Attwater2, Benedictines, Gill).


Oliver of Portonuovo, OSB (AC)
(also known as Oliverius, Liberius)

Died c. 1050. A Benedictine monk of Santa Maria di Portonuovo at Ancona, Italy (Benedictines).


Philip of Vienne B (AC)
Died c. 578. Bishop of Vienne in Gaul from about 560 to about 578 (Benedictines).


Blessed Simon Fidati, OSA (AC)
(also known as Simon of Cascia)

Born in Cascia, Umbria, Italy, c. 1295; died 1348; cultus confirmed in 1833. Simon joined the friar-hermits of Saint Augustine and was a prominent writer and preacher, who was called upon to participate as an adviser in the public life of central Italy. Some ascetical works previously attributed to the Dominican Dominic Cavalca are now believed to be those of Fidati. In recent times scholars have claimed to find injudicious statements in his book De gestis Domini Salvatòris were the source of several of the Augustinian Luther's heretical doctrines (Attwater2, Benedictines).


Blessed Stephen Bellesini, OSA (AC)
Born at Trent, Italy, in 1774; died 1840; beatified in 1904. Stephen joined the Augustinian hermits at Bologna, Italy, and completed his studies in Rome. After the outbreak of the French Revolution and the dispersement of his community, he retired to his home in the Trentino, where devoted himself to the instruction of children. For a time, he held the post of government inspector of schools. As soon as the disturbances died down, he returned to his community at Bologna. Shortly thereafter he was appointed novice master in Rome and later parish priest at the shrine of our Lady of Good Counsel at Genazzano. Here he died as a result of his devoted ministrations to the victims of a cholera epidemic (Attwater2, Benedictines).


Theodore of Marseilles B
Died c. 594. Saint Theodore was exiled three times from his bishopric in Marseilles because of local persecutions (Encyclopedia).


Tigrides and Remedius BB (RM)
Date unknown. Two bishops who succeeded one another in the see of Gap (French Alps) (Benedictines).


Werburg of Mercia, OSB, Matron (AC)
Died c. 785. When Ceolred of Mercia died, his wife Werburg retired to a convent (Bardney?) of which she became abbess (Benedictines).


Werburga of Chester, OSB V (AC)
(also known as Werburg, Werebrurge, Werbyrgh)

Born at Stone, Staffordshire, England; died at Threckingham, England, c. 690-700; feast of her translation at Chester, June 21.

The patroness of Chester, England, Saint Werburga, was born of a line of kings, being a daughter of Wulfhere, King of Mercia. From her mother, the saintly Ermingilde (Ermenilda), she learned as a child the Christian faith. By temperament she was pious and virtuous, and her beauty attracted many admirers, among them a prince of the West Saxons, who offered her rich gifts and made flattering proposals, and also Werbode, a powerful knight of her father's court. But refusing all her suitors, she secured, after much persuasion, her father's permission to enter a convent (or she did so after her father's death).

When the time came, he and his courtiers escorted her in great state to the abbey of Ely, where they were greeted at the gates by her aunt, the royal abbess, Ethelreda, and her nuns. Werburga fell upon her knees and asked that she might be received as a novice, and to the chanting of the Te Deum they entered the cloister, where she was stripped of her costly apparel, exchanged her coronet for a veil, and in a rough habit began her new life.

She made good progress, and after many years, at the request of her uncle, King Ethelred, was chosen to superintend all the convents of his kingdom. This opened to her a large and fruitful sphere of duty, and the religious houses under her care became models of monastic discipline. Through the wealth and influence of her family she also founded new convents at Trentham in Staffordshire, Hanbury near Tutbury, and Weedon in Northamptonshire, and secured the interest of Ethelred in establishing the collegiate Church of Saint John the Baptist in Chester, and in giving land to Egwin for the great abbey of Evesham.

Werburga won many from dissipation and vice, and God crowned her life with many blessings. Her work was deeply rooted in prayer and discipline. She took but one meal daily and that only of the coarsest food; she set before her the example of the desert fathers; and she recited the whole of the Psalter daily upon her knees.

She lived to a ripe age, and before her death she journeyed to all her convents, paying to each a farewell visit; she then retired to Trentham (Threckingham in Lincolnshire), where she died. She was buried in the monastery of Hanbury in Staffordshire. Later, her remains were transferred with great ceremony in the presence of King Coolred and many bishops to a costly shrine in Leicester, which attracted many pilgrims.

In 875, for fear of the Danes, her relics were removed to Chester. In 1095, they were translated within Chester, where in the course of time a great church, now the cathedral, was built over it, and where the remains of it may still be seen, carved with the figures of her ancestors, the ancient kings of Mercia. On its four sides the deep niches remain, where the pilgrims knelt, seeking healing, afterwards receiving a metal token to show that they had visited her shrine. This final translation was the occasion for Goselin to write her vita. The shrine was destroyed under King Henry VIII, although part of its stone base survives. Twelve ancient English churches were dedicated to her, including Hanbury and Chester (Attwater, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill).

In art Saint Werburga holds the abbey, while her crown lays at her feet. Sometimes there are wild geese near her (Roeder), because, according to Goselin she restored one to life (see below); however, the writer borrowed the story from his own vita of the Flemish Saint Amelburga (Farmer). She is, of course, the patroness of Chester (Roeder).

Like a cheerful gossip, William of Malmesbury writes this tale of a local miracle wrought by Saint Werburga:

"It was in the city of Chester that the girl Werburga, daughter of Wulfhere, King of Mercia, and Ermenilda . . . took her vows, and her goodness shone for many years. The story of one miracle done by her I now shall tell, which made a great stir and was long told about the countryside.

"She had a farm outside the walls, where the wild geese would come and destroy the standing corn in the fields. The stewart in charge of the farm took all shifts to drive them off, but with small success. And so, when he came to wait upon his lady, he added his complaint of them to the other tales he would tell her of the day.

"'Go,' said she, 'and shut them all into a house.' The countryman, dumbfounded at the oddness of the command, thought that his lady was jesting: but finding her serious and insistent, went back to the field where he had first spied the miscreants, and bade them, speaking loud and clear, to do their lady's bidding and come after him. Whereupon with one accord they gathered themselves into a flock, and walking with down-bent necks after their enemy, were shut up under a roof. On one of them, however, the rustic, with no thought of any to accuse him, made bold to dine.

"At dawn came the maid, and after scolding the birds for pillaging other people's property, bade them take their flight. But the winged creatures knew that one of their company was missing; nor did they lack wit to go circling round their lady's feet, refusing to budge further, and complaining as best they could, to excite her compassion. She, through God's revealing, and convinced that all this clamor was not without cause, turned her gaze upon the steward, and divined the theft.

"She bade him gather up the bones and bring them to her. And straightway, at a healing sign from the girl's hand, skin and flesh began to come upon the bones, and feathers to fledge upon the skin, till the living bird, at first with eager hop and soon upon the wing, launched itself into the air. Nor were the others slow to follow it, their numbers now complete, though first they made obeisance to their lady and deliverer.

"And so the merits of this maid are told at Chester, and her miracles extolled. Yet though she be generous and swift to answer all men's prayers, yet most gracious is her footfall among the women and boys, who pray as it might be to a neighbor and a woman of their own countryside" (Malmesbury).



About Saints of the Day
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