Aganus of Airola, OSB Abbot (PC)
Born c. 1050; died 1100. Aganus was abbot of Saint Gabriel's monastery at Airola, Campania, Italy, in the diocese of Saint Agatha dei Goti (Benedictines).
Blessed Bernard Scammacca, OP (AC)
Born in Catania, Sicily; died 1486; cultus approved 1825. Born of wealthy and pious parents, Bernard was given a good education. In spite of this good training, he spent a careless youth. Only after he was badly injured in a duel was he brought back to his senses. His long convalescence gave him plenty of time to think, and once he was able to go out of the house, he went to the Dominican convent of Catania and begged to be admitted to the order.
Bernard, as a religious, was the exact opposite of what he had been as a young man. Now he made no effort to obtain the things he had valued all his life, but spent his time in prayer, solitude, and continual penance. There is little recorded of his life, except that he kept the rule meticulously, and that he was particularly kind to sinners in the confessional. Apparently, he did not attain fame as a preacher, but was content to spend his time in the work of the confessional and the private direction of souls.
One legend pictures Bernard as having great power over birds and animals. When he walked outside in the gardens, praying, the birds would flutter down around him, singing; but as soon as he went into ecstasy, they kept still, for fear they would disturb him. Once, the porter was sent to Bernard's room to call him, and saw a bright light shining under the door. Peeking through the keyhole, he saw a beautiful child shining with light and holding a book, from which Bernard was reading. He hurried to get the prior to see the marvel.
Bernard had the gift of prophecy, which he used on several occasions to try warning people to amend their lives. He prophesied his own death. Fifteen years after his death, he appeared to the prior, telling his to transfer his remains to the Rosary chapel. During this translation, a man was cured of paralysis by touching the relics (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Elias, Jeremy, Isaias, Samuel, and Daniel MM (RM)
Born in Egypt; died at Caesarea Maritima in 309. The church historian Eusebius, who was living in Caesarea at the time, recorded the acta of these saints. Out of Christian kindness these five Egyptians visited and brought succor to some of their brethren who were condemned to work in the mines of Cilicia during the reign of Galerius Maximinus. On their return home Elias and his four companions were stopped at the gates of Caesarea, Palestine, and questioned. They gave as their names those of the prophets and their city as Jerusalem (meaning the heavenly city). They were brought before the governor, Firmilian, in an effort to extract more precise information. They remained mute, were accused of being Christian, tortured, then beheaded.
When Porphyry, a youthful servant of Saint Pamphilus, demanded that the bodies be buried, he was tortured by being flayed alive and then burned to death when it was found he was a Christian. Porphyry lay in the midst of the flames for a considerable time, singing the praises of God, and invoking the name of Jesus; till at length, quite broiled by the fire, he consummated a slow, but glorious martyrdom. Seleucus witnessed his death and applauded his constancy in the face of his terrible death; whereupon he was arrested by the soldiers involved in the execution, brought before the governor, and was beheaded at Firmilian's order (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Husenbeth).
Faustinus of Brescia B (RM)
Died 381. Saint Faustinus succeeded Saint Ursicinus about 360 as bishop of Brescia, Lombardy, Italy. He is said to have been a collateral descendant of Saints Faustinus and Jovita and to have compiled their acts (Benedictines). In art, Saint Faustinus is represented as a bishop holding a bunch of arrows. He might also be shown interceding for Brescia with Saints Faustinus and Jovita. He is invoked against plague (Roeder).
Gilbert of Sempringham, Founder (RM)
Born at Sempringham, Lincolnshire, England, c. 1083-85; died there, February 4, 1189; canonized 1202 by Pope Innocent III at Anagni; feast day formerly on February 4.
Saint Gilbert, son of Jocelin, a wealthy Norman knight, and his Anglo-Saxon wife, was regarded as unfit for ordinary feudal life because of some kind of physical deformity. For this reason, he was sent to France to study and took a master's degree.
Upon his return to England, Gilbert started a school for both boys and girls. From his father, he received the hereditary benefices of Sempringham and Torrington in Lincolnshire, but he gave all the revenues from them to the poor, except a small sum for bare necessities. As he was not yet ordained, he appointed a vicar for the liturgies and lived in poverty in the vicarage.
In 1122, Gilbert became a clerk in the household of Bishop Robert Bloet of Lincoln and was ordained by Robert's successor Alexander, and was offered, but refused, a rich archdeaconry. Instead, upon the death of his father in 1131, Gilbert returned to Sempringham as lord of the manor and parson. By his care his parishioners seemed to lead the lives of religious men and, wherever they went, were known to be of his flock by their conversation.
That same year of 1131, he organized a group of seven young women of the parish into a community under the Benedictine rule. They lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining Sempringham's parish church of Saint Andrew. As the foundation grew, Gilbert added laysisters and, on the advice of the Cistercian Abbot William of Rievaulx, lay brothers to work the land. A second house was soon founded.
In 1148, Gilbert went to the general chapter at Cīteaux to ask the Cistercians to take on the governance of the community. When the Cistercians declined because women were included, Gilbert provided chaplains for his nuns by establishing a body of canons following the Augustinian rule with the approval of Pope Eugene III, who was present at the chapter. Saint Bernard helped Gilbert draw up the Institutes of the Order of Sempringham, of which Eugenius made him the master. Thus, the canons followed the Augustinian Rule and the lay brothers and sisters that of Cīteaux. Women formed the majority of the order; the men both governed them and ministered to their needs, temporal and spiritual. The Gilbertines are the only specifically English order, and except for one foundation in Scotland, never spread beyond its border.
This order grew rapidly to 13 foundations, including men's and women's houses side by side and also monasteries solely for canons. They also ran leper hospitals and orphanages. Gilbert imposed a strict rule on his order. An illustration of the enforced simplicity of life was the fact that the choir office was celebrated without fanfare.
As master general of the order, Saint Gilbert set an admirable example of abstemious and devoted living and concern for the poor. Gilbert's diet consisted primarily of roots and pulse in small amounts. He always set a place at the table for Jesus, in which he put all the best of what was served up, and this was for the poor. He wore a hair-shirt, took his short rest in a sitting position, and spent most of each night in prayer.
And, he was never idle. He travelled frequently from house to house (primarily in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire), forever active in copying manuscripts, making furniture, and building.
The later years of his long life were seriously disturbed. When he was about 80, he was arrested and charged with assisting Saint Thomas į Becket, who had taken refuge abroad from King Henry II after the council at Northampton (1163). (Thomas, dressed as a Sempringham lay brother, was said to have fled north to their houses in the Lincolnshire Fens before doubling back on his tracks south to Kent.) Though he was not guilty of this kindness, the saint chose to suffer rather than seem to condemn that which would have been good and just. Eventually the charge was dropped, although Gilbert still refused to deny it on oath.
Later still there was a revolt among his laybrothers, who grievously slandered the 90-year-old man, saying that there was too much work and not enough food. The rebellion was led by two skilled craftsmen who slandered Gilbert, obtained funds and support from magnates in the church and state, and took the case to Rome. There Pope Alexander III decided in Gilbert's favor, but the living conditions were improved.
Saint Gilbert lived to be 106 and passed his last years nearly blind, as a simple member of the order he had founded and governed. He had built 13 monasteries (of which nine were double) and four dedicated solely to canons encompassing about 1,500 religious. Contemporary chroniclers highly praised both Gilbert and his nuns. His cultus was spontaneous and immediate. Miracles wrought at his tomb were examined and approved by Archbishop Hubert Walter of Canterbury (who ordered the English bishops to celebrate Gilbert's feast) and the commissioners of Pope Innocent III in 1201, leading to his canonization the following year. His name was added to the calendar on the wall of the Roman church of the Four Crowned Martyrs soon after his canonization. His relics are said to have been taken by King Louis VIII to Toulouse, France, where they are kept in the Church of Saint Sernin.
Because the Gilbertine Order was contained within the borders of England, it came to an end when its 26 houses were suppressed by King Henry VIII (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Graham, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).
Honestus of Nīmes M (AC)
Died 270. Saint Honestus, an ordained priest, left his hometown of Nīmes under the sign of Jesus with Saint Saturninus to preach the Good News in Spain. After a fruitful ministry, he appears to have been martyred at Pamplona, Spain (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Julian of Egypt and Companions MM (RM)
Date unknown. It is said that this Saint Julian was the leader of 5,000 martyrs who suffered in Egypt. Nothing, however, is known of him and his fellow-sufferers. One text substitutes militibus for millibus, i.e., five soldiers for five thousand persons (Benedictines).
Juliana of Nicomedia VM (RM)
Died at Cumae or Naples, 305. Juliana's struggle with the devil was one of the favorite stories of the medieval Church. What still fascinates is its deep psychological meaning: for the devil is said to have appeared to the saint as an angel of light. His aim was to persuade her that what she had renounced in this world was in fact good. On the face of it, the devil was right, for Juliana had turned against both her father and her suitor, a Roman prefect named Evilasius.
Her father, Africanus, an ambitious functionary in the Roman legions, despised her simply because she had become a Christian. When her suitor realized that she would not become his wife, he decided that she should be no one's bride. Her calling left her without a family of her own. Both men, failing to get their own way with this determined saint, treated her brutally: Juliana's father scourged and tortured her. Evilasius flung her into jail where she was seen to be fighting with the disguised devil, finally binding him and throwing him to the ground.
Juliana died a martyr's death. First she was partially burned in flames; then she was plunged into a boiling cauldron of oil; finally the long-suffering saint was freed from the torments of this world by the mercifully instantaneous act of beheading.
The Roman Martyrology describes Juliana's suffering at Nicomedia in Asia Minor, but it is more probable that she died in Naples, perhaps Cumae, where her relics are said to be enshrined. Some of them are now in Brussels, Belgium, in the church of Our Lady of Sablon. Though her story was the source of many romantic tales, Juliana is clearly an historical figure as attested by Saint Gregory the Great, who requested relics of her from Bishop Fortunatus of Naples for an oratory that a lady had built on her estate in Juliana's honor, and others. Her cultus in England dates back to Bede's martyrology, and her feast was on the Sarum Calendar (Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth).
In art, Saint Juliana is hung up naked by her hair. Sometimes she may be shown in a cauldron, leading the devil in chains, or crowned wearing a cross on her breast. She is invoked against infectious diseases (Roeder). In the paintings and stained glass of the Middle Ages, Saint Juliana is frequently shown battling with a winged devil; usually she carries a chain in order to bind him (Bentley). She may also be seen with a dragon at her feet (as in stained glass at Martham and on screens at Hampstead and North Elmham, Norfolk) (Farmer).
Onesimus M (RM)
Died c. 90. Onesimus, meaning 'helpful' or 'profitable,' was a run-away slave who is the subject of Saint Paul's shortest letter. Onesimus had been in the service of Philemon, to whom Paul addresses the missive. Philemon, a leading citizen of Colossae, Phrygia, was an intimate friend of Paul; indeed, the letter could only have been written to one with whom he was on the closest terms of friendship. Probably he was one of Saint Paul's converts. He was obviously a rich man, of high and generous character and given to hospitality, for Saint Paul asks him to prepare a lodging for him, and he had a church in his home.
Behind the letter lies a painful story. Onesimus had run away from Philemon and over a matter of money. We can only conjecture that he had been dishonest or had been under suspicion, for Saint Paul says: "If he has wronged you at all or owes you anything, put that to my account. I, Paul, write it with my own hand. I will repay it" (Philemon 1:18-19).
Whatever it was, Onesimus had been in disgrace and had run away. He had then come under the influence of Saint Paul, now an old man, and had served him in his imprisonment. He had confessed his fault and been converted, for Saint Paul says he begat him in Christ, and he had become a true son of the Gospel. Indeed, he had found him so profitable and helpful that he would like to keep him permanently with him, but was constrained by a sense of duty, and by his regard for Philemon, to return him. Saint Paul was thus faced with the difficult task of writing this delicate letter.
He makes no attempt to condone the fault; on the contrary, he lays open the whole matter. "Perhaps this is why he was away from * you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me" (vv. 15- 17).
Evidently, Onesimus went back to Philemon and, no longer in disgrace, was accepted as a brother, because in Colossians (4:7-9) Paul mentions Onesimus with Tychichus as the bearer of the epistle to the Colossians.
The further story of Onesimus is unknown, though Saint Jerome said that Onesimus became a preacher of the Word and later a bishop, though probably not the Bishop Onesimus of Ephesus who was the third successor to Timothy, showed hospitality to Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and was stoned to death in Rome, as stated in the Roman Martyrology. The Apostolic Constitutions account Onesimus as bishop of Berea in Macedonia, and his former master Philemon, bishop of Colossae. Some sources say Onesimus preached in Spain and suffered martyrdom (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill, Husenbeth, White).
Saint Onesimus is pictured at the time of his martyrdom: He is a bishop being stoned to death (Roeder, White).
Blessed Philippa Mareria, Poor Clare (AC)
Born in Cicoli, Abruzzi, Italy; died at Rieti, Italy, 1236. Born into a wealthy family, Philippa met Saint Francis of Assisi in her parents' home. She decided to become a hermit on a mountain above Mareria. Eventually, she founded and ruled as first abbess a Franciscan convent at Rieti under the direction of Blessed Roger of Todi (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Porphyrius and Seleucius MM (RM)
Died 309. Palestinian martyrs put to death at Caesarea whose Acta were recorded by the historian Eusebius. Porphyrius, a youth and servant of Saint Pamphilus, protested that the bodies of Saint Elias and his companions should be buried. This drew the unwonted attention of the governor Firmilian who ordered Porphyrius to be apprehended.
Upon discovering that Porphyrius was a Christian and would not sacrifice to the gods, Firmilian ordered that his sides be torn with hooks until his bones and bowels were exposed to view. Porphyrius underwent this torment without so much as a sigh or tear.
Unmoved by such heroic constancy, Firmilian next gave orders for a fire to be built with a vacant space to be left in the midst of it in which the martyr was to be laid after removal from the rack. There the saint lay for a long time, singing God's praises and invoking the name of Jesus as the flames drew closer. At length he died.
The soldiers heard Seleucus, an eye-witness of this victory, applauding the martyr's resolution. He, too, was brought before Firmilian and beheaded without further questions (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
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.