St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Polycarp BM
(Memorial)
February 23



Alexander Akimetes, Abbot (AC)
Died 430; feast day formerly on January 15.

The story of Alexander is that of a Greek army officer who, moved by Christ's words to the rich young ruler, sold his possessions and became a monk. But he was too energetic for a solitary life. After seven years, in a fit of enthusiasm he left his retreat and set fire to a pagan temple. For this he was imprisoned, but, like Saint Paul, succeeded in converting the governor, who was baptized with all his household.

Securing his freedom, Alexander returned to the desert and fell in with a band of robbers. The result was remarkable, for under his influence they also accepted the Christian faith, and when their leader died, Alexander turned them into a band of monks and their robber's den into a monastery. Appointing one of them as abbot, he went on his way, this time to Mesopotamia, where he established a monastery on the Euphrates.

Alexander was a somewhat restless archimandrite, fond of new places and faces. So, he formed a travelling monastery. With 150 monks he journeyed from place to place, until his followers numbered 300. These he divided into six choirs, to sing in turn the divine office and thus maintain, day and night, unceasing praise, and hence came their name of the Sleepless Ones (akoimetoi). One of these houses he established at Constantinople (Benedictines, Gill).


Boisil (Boswell) of Melrose, Abbot (AC)
Died c. 664. Saint Boisil was the prior of the famous abbey of Melrose (Mailross), situated on the Tweed River in a great forest in Northumberland, while Saint Eata was abbot. Both were English youths trained in monasticism by Saint Aidan.

Saint Bede says that Boisil was a man of sublime virtues, imbued with a prophetic spirit. His eminent sanctity drew Saint Cuthbert to Melrose rather than to Lindisfarne in his youth. It was from Boisil that Cuthbert learned the sacred scriptures and virtue.

Saint Boisil had the holy names of the adorable Trinity ever on his lips. He repeated the name Jesus Christ with a wonderful sentiment of devotion, and often with such an abundance of tears that others would weep with him. With tender affection he would frequently say, "How good a Jesus we have!" At the first sight of Saint Cuthbert, Boisil said to bystanders, "Behold a servant of God!"

Bede produces the testimony of Saint Cuthbert, who declared that Boisil foretold to him the chief things that afterwards happened to him. Three years beforehand he foretold of the great pestilence of 664, and that he himself should die of it, but that Eata the abbot should survive.

In addition to continually instructing his brothers in religion, Boisil made frequent excursions into the villages to preach to the poor, and to bring straying souls on to the paths of truth and life. He was also known for his aid to the poor.

Again, Boisil told Cuthbert, recovering from the plague, "You see, brother, that God has delivered you from this disease, nor shall you ever feel it again, nor die at this time; but my death being at hand, neglect not to learn something from me so long as I shall be able to teach you, which will be no more than seven days." So Cuthbert asked, "And what will be best for me to read which may be finished in seven days." To which Boisil replied, "The Gospel of Saint John, which we may in that time read over, and confer upon as much as shall be necessary."

Having accomplished the reading in seven days, the man of God, Boisil, became ill and died in extraordinary jubilation of soul, out of his earnest desire to be with Christ.

During his life he repeatedly instructed his brothers, "That they would never cease giving thanks to God for the gift of their religious vocation; that they would always watch over themselves against self-love and all attachment to their own will and private judgment, as against their capital enemy; that they would converse assiduously with God by interior prayer, and labor continually to attain to the most perfect purity of heart, this being the true and short road to the perfection of Christian virtue."

Bede relates that Saint Boisil continued after his death to interest himself particularly in obtaining divine mercy and grace for his country and his friends. He appeared twice to one of his disciples, giving him a charge to assure Saint Egbert, who had been hindered from preaching the Gospel in Germany, that God commanded him to repair the monasteries of Saint Columba on Iona and in the Orkneys, and to instruct them in the right manner of celebrating Easter.

The relics of Boisil were translated to Durham, and deposited near those of his disciple, Saint Cuthbert, in 1030 (Benedictines, Delaney, Husenbeth).


Dositheus of Gaza, Monk (AC)
Died c. 530. Dositheus, who had spent his youth in worldly pursuits and gross ignorance of spiritual matters, went to Jerusalem out of curiosity because he had heard it mentioned so often in discourse. In Jerusalem he became so strongly affected by the sight of a picture representing hell, and by the exposition given to him about it, that he immediately forsook the world and entered a monastery at Gaza.

The abbot Seridon gave him the monastic habit and commended him to the care of a monk named Dorotheus, an experienced director. Dorotheus understood the difficulty of extreme swings of fervor and left Dositheus to his own devices regarding food, but was careful to instill in him the necessity of perfect renunciation of his own will in all things great and small.

Dositheus went from eating six pounds of bread daily to eight ounces. Thus Dorotheus proceeded with his pupil in other monastic duties and by a constant and unreserved denial of his own will, and a perfect submission to his director, he surpassed in virtue the greatest fasters of the monastery. All his actions seemed to have nothing of choice, nothing of his own will in any circumstances; the will of God alone reigned in his heart.

At the end of five years he was entrusted with the care of the sick, an office he discharged with incomparable vigilance, charity, and sweetness. The sick were comforted by the very sight of him. Dositheus himself became sick with a lung disease (spitting up blood, possibly consumption), but continued to the end to deny his own will and was extremely vigilant to prevent any of its suggestions taking place in his heart, unlike most of us who when sick think we should be allowed everything.

Dositheus's poor health prevented him from fasting, and moreover he did not work any miracles; these facts scandalized his fellow monks. Nevertheless, his abbot considered him a saint, since he had completely given up his own will. Unable to do anything but pray, he asked continually, and followed, in all his devotions, the directions of his master; and when he could no longer perform his long exercises of prayer, he declared this with his ordinary simplicity to Saint Dorotheus, who said to him, "Be not uneasy, only have Jesus Christ always present in your heart."

Dositheus begged Dorotheus to pray for an early release from his sufferings. Dorotheus answered, "Have a little patience. God's mercy is near." Soon after he said to him, "Depart in peace and appear in joy before the blessed Trinity, and pray for us."

After Dositheus's death, Dorotheus declared that he had surpassed the rest in virtue without the practice of any extraordinary austerity (Benedictines, Husenbeth).


Felix of Brescia B (RM)
Died c. 650. The 20th bishop of Brescia, Saint Felix governed the diocese for over 40 eventful years during which he was occupied in combatting Lombard Arians and other heretics (Benedictines).


Florentius of Seville (RM)
Died c. 485. Saint of Seville who is much venerated there and nearby (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Jurmin (AC)
7th century. Saint Jurmin was an east Anglian prince--either the son or nephew of King Anna. It is more likely that he was a nephew because modern historians doubt the Anna had any sons. He may have been the son of Æthelhere, the brother and successor of Anna. His relics were laid at Blythburgh in Suffolk before being enshrined at Bury Saint Edmunds in 1095. William of Malmesbury mentions his tomb at Bury (with Botulf's) but reports that he could learn nothing more about him than that he was a brother of Saint Etheldreda (Benedictines, Farmer).


Lazarus the Painter (RM)
(also known as Lazarus Zographos)

Died c. 867. Saint Lazarus was a monk of Constantinople, and a skilled painter, who in the time of Theophilus (829-842), one of the iconoclast emperors, busied himself in restoring the sacred images defaced by the heretics. For this he was cruelly tormented by the emperor. Later he was restored to honor and sent as ambassador to Rome (Benedictines). In art, Saint Lazarus is shown with his hands burned but still painting for churches and/or restoring damaged paintings (Roeder).


Martha of Astorga VM (RM)
Died 252. Beautiful Spanish virgin and a true Christian, Saint Martha was beheaded for the faith in Astorga under Decius. Her relics are enshrined in the old Benedictine abbey of Ribas de Sil and at Ters, diocese of Astorga (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Martyrs of Sirmium (RM)
Died c. 303. One of two anonymous groups of martyrs at Sirmium (now Mitrovica in the Balkans) included in the Roman Martyrology. This group included a band of 72 (Benedictines).


Medrald of Vendôme, OSB Abbot (AC)
(also known as Mérald, Méraut)

Died c. 850. Saint Medrald was a monk of Saint-Evroult (Ebrulfus) of Ouche. He later became abbot of Vendôme (Benedictines).


Milburga of Wenlock, OSB Abbess (RM)
(also known as Milburgh)

Died c. 700 or 722; feast of the translation of her relics, June 25. The ruins of Wenlock Abbey in Shropshire, dating from the 11th century, remind us of Saint Milburga, whose name still lingers in that area. She was one of a family of eminent saints and belonged to the royal house of Mercia.

How often a good mother is blessed in her children! Her mother Domneva (Domna Ebba or Ermenburga), princess of Kent, had three daughters: Milburga, Mildred, and Mildgytha, each of whom grew up to follow the pattern of her mother's faith, and each, after a life wholly devoted to Christ, was canonized as a saint.

Those were the days when the daughters of kings were proud and eager to dedicate their wealth and talents in Christian leadership and to pour out their youth and strength in the service of the Church. They founded and ruled great abbeys, taught the young, cared for the sick, and relieved the poor.

Milburga, like her mother before her, surrendered her high estate, forsook the luxury and comfort of her home, and counted it her highest privilege to serve God in a consecrated Christian life. Helped by her father, Merewald, an Anglian chieftain, and her uncle Wulfhere, king of Mercia, she founded the monastery of Wenlock, which was placed under the direction of Saint Botulf of East Anglia. Its first abbess was Liobsynde, a French nun from Chelles. Its second was Milburga, who was consecrated abbess by Archbishop Saint Theodore. It was no ordinary monastery; everything about it reflected the grace and fragrance of her own pure spirit. The gardens were full of the choicest flowers, the orchards bore the sweetest fruits, and within its walls was found, we are told, the very peace of heaven.

By her sheer goodness Milburga converted many to the Christian faith, and this in a dark and primitive age when, outside the monastery walls, the countryside was wild and remote, and full of unknown dangers. One day, for example, on one of her errands of mercy, she was terrified by a neighboring princeling who, wishing to marry her, intercepted her with a band of soldiers, but she providentially escaped. In her flight she crossed a small stream called the Corve, and he, following, found when he reached it that the waters had risen and his plan was thwarted. The place where it happened it called to this day Stoke Saint Milburgh.

She loved flowers, birds (over which she had a mysterious power), country life, and country people, to sit and work in the sun and tend the herbs in her garden, and to visit in the villages around. People came to her with their troubles and ailments and even ascribed to her miraculous cures. Milburga was venerated for her humility, holiness, the miracles she performed, and for the gift of levitation she is said to have possessed.

According to Boniface, the famous Vision of the Monk of Wenlock occurred during Milburga's abbacy. Goscelin also preserved her testament, which is a long, apparently authentic list of lands that belonged to her at her death.

When she was on her deathbed, she said to her followers, "I have been mother to you. I have watched over you like a mother, with pious care. And in mercy, I go the way of all flesh. A higher call invites me." One by one they said farewell, gave her the sacraments, and after her death buried her body near the altar of the abbey.

Her tomb was long venerated but its site was unknown when the Cluniac monks from La-Charité-sur-Loire refounded Wenlock in 1079. The church had a silver casket that contained her relics and documents describing the site of her grave, near an altar then unknown. Apparently, the church was destroyed by the Danes.

After consulting Saint Anselm, the monks excavated an old, disused church. Thus, centuries later, two boys who were playing among its ruins fell through the pavement by the broken altar, as a result of which her tomb was rediscovered. When opened, according to legend, there came from it a heavenly sweetness, and the lost garden of the monastery seemed filled again with the fragrance of the flowers she had planted. Details of this discovery and of cures in 1101 were described by Cardinal-Bishop Otto of Ostia the following year.

Among the miracles documented were the healing of lepers and the blinds, and, the vomiting of a worm that had caused a wasting disease. The approval of so distinguished a personage, ensured the revival of Milburga's cultus. Goscelin wrote her vita in the late 11th century. Her feast was common in English calendars from the Bosworth Psalter (c. 1000) onwards (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Milburgh holds the abbey of Wenlock. There may be geese near her. She is venerated at Stoke (Roeder).


Mildgytha, OSB V (AC)
Died c. 676; feast day formerly on January 17. Saint Mildgytha was the granddaughter of the pagan king Penda, youngest daughter of the chieftain Merewald of the Angles and Saint Ermenburga of Kent, and sister to Saints Mildred and Milburga. One tradition holds that she became a nun in Northumbria and that she was buried there. The tradition of the Isle of Thanet maintains that the Mercian princess entered the Minster of Eastry, and succeeded the abbess Mildred; or that the monastery was founded and governed by her mother, whom she succeeded as abbess. The story continues that when the Danes destroyed Thanet, the bones of both abbesses were hidden at Lyming until Blessed Lanfranc translated in 1085 them to his hospital of Saint Gregory at Canterbury (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Gill).


Milo of Benevento B (PC)
Born in Auvergne; died 1076. Milo was a canon of Paris and dean of the chapter, and finally, in 1074, consecrated archbishop of Benevento, Italy. He died two years later (Benedictines).


Blessed Nicholas of Prussia, OSB (PC)
Born in Prussia in 1379; died 1456. Nicholas was one of the original members of the reformed abbey of Saint Justina of Padua under the Venerable Ludovico Barbo, founder of the Benedictine Cassinese congregation. He lived successively at Padua, Venice, Padolirone, and finally at the abbey of San Niccolo del Boschetto near Genoa, where he was novice-master and prior. His cultus has not yet officially been approved (Benedictines).


Ordonius of Sahagún, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Ordoño)

Died 1066. Monk of the Benedictine abbey (Cluniac observance) of Sahagún in the province of León, Spain, and afterwards bishop of Astorga from 1062 to 1066 (Benedictines).


Polycarp of Rome BM (RM)
Died c. 300. A Roman priest mentioned in the acta of the martyrs for his zeal in ministering to those detained in prison for their faith (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Polycarp of Smyrna BM (RM)
Died 2:00 p.m., February 23, c. 156; feast day formerly January 26.

"To change your mind from good to bad is the height of absurdity. True goodness changes from evil to righteousness."

--Saint Polycarp

"I thank God that I am being allowed my share in the sufferings of his martyrs. He who gives me strength to endure fire will enable me to stand unmoved to the end." --Saint Polycarp

"God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, increase us in faith and truth and gentleness, and grant us part and lot among His saints."

--Prayer of Saint Polycarp.

The earliest record of Christian martyrdom outside the Bible is that of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. It speaks of the sufferings of the Christians: "Who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?-- who when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them."

Polycarp had known those who had known Jesus and was a disciple of the beloved Apostle John the Divine, who had converted him about 80 AD. He taught, says his own pupil Irenaeus of Lyons, the things that he learned from the Apostles, which the Church hands down, which are true. Irenaeus, who as a young boy knew Polycarp, praised his gravity, holiness, and majesty of countenance.

He kissed the chains of Saint Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom in Rome. Saint Ignatius wrote a special letter to encourage Polycarp when he was a young bishop and asked him to watch over his church at Antioch and to write in his name to the churches of Asia that he could not attend himself. Polycarp was probably the leading Christian in Roman Asia in the second century and an important link between the apostolic age and the great Christian writers of the second century.

He had lived near Jerusalem and was proud of his early associations with the Apostles. "I can tell," he wrote, "the very place in which the blessed Saint Paul used to sit when he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the stamp of his life, and his bodily appearance, and the discourses which he held towards the congregation, and how he would describe his intercourse with those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words."

Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna c. 96 and ruled the see for 70 years. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy and an energetic opponent of heresy, especially Marcionism and Valentinianism (the most influential of the Gnostic sects). A letter to him from Saint John has survived, as has his Epistle to the Philippians, in which he quotes from 1 John 4:3 and warns the Philippians against the false teachings of Marcion, whom he once called "the first-born of Satan," and which was so esteemed that it was widely read in Asian churches even during Saint Jerome's lifetime, but was not included in the canon of Scripture.

Toward the end of his life he visited Pope Saint Anicetus in Rome, and when they could not agree on a date for Easter decided each would observe his own date. To testify his respect and ensure that the bonds of charity were unbroken, Anicetus invited Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in the papal chapel on this occasion.

Soon after he returned to Smyrna, a youth called Germanicus was killed at a pagan festival. The crowd cried out: "Away with the atheists [meaning the Christians who refused to worship the state gods]. Fetch Polycarp." And so, at age 90 (or 80 according to Eusebius), when the persecution under Marcus Aurelius was at its height and men marvelled at the incredible resistance of the Christians, he suffered grievously, despite his great age and feebleness, at the hands of the mob. He had refused to sacrifice to the gods and acknowledge the emperor's divinity.

He had been warned that they would arrest him, and had been persuaded to retire to a farm outside the city, where he was betrayed by one of his own household, who had been threatened with torture. The police came armed as against a robber, and when they saw him marvelled at his age and calmness. "Was so much effort needed," they said, "to capture such a venerable man?" It was the evening and Polycarp had retired to rest, but he came down and, with great courtesy and hospitality, offered them food and wine. He then asked leave that he might pray, and stood and prayed for all whom he had known and for the whole Church throughout the world.

Seating him on an ass, they brought him to Smyrna, where the governor, on meeting him, took him into his own chariot, begging him to recant, and on his refusal cast him out upon the road so that he dislocated his leg. Lame and exhausted, he was dragged to the crowded arena and was met by the deafening tumult of the spectators, who, seeing before them the most eminent of the Christians, called upon him to blaspheme.

To this he replied: "For eighty and six years I have served Christ and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior now! If you require of me to swear by the genius of Caesar, as you call it, hear my free confession: I am a Christian; if you wish to learn the Christian doctrine, choose a day and hear me." The proconsul said, "Persuade the people." To which Polycarp joyfully and confidently answered, "I address myself to you; for we are taught to give due honor to princes, so far as it is consistent with religion. But before these people I cannot justify myself."

The proconsul admired his courage, but already the herald had thrice proclaimed in the stadium: "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian," and the crowd called for him to be thrown to the lions, but the time of the games was already over. The Roman proconsul threatened to throw him into a fire. To which Polycarp responded, "You threaten me with a fire that will certainly die out. You know nothing of the eternal fire that is reserved for the wicked." So, as he had already foretold, Polycarp was ordered to be burned alive. He uttered a prayer of praise and glory to God, and offered up himself.

In 155 AD the Christians of Smyrna described the attempted execution of Saint Polycarp by burning. The funeral pyre was made ready, the multitude gathering wood and faggots, and the aged father of the Christians laid aside his garments; but when they were about to nail him to the stake he said: "It is unnecessary. He who gives me strength to endure in the flame will enable me to stand firm," and as the fire reached him he broke into praise and prayer.

Initially the fires failed to harm the bishop and witnesses later described how 'the flames made a sort of arch, like a ship's sail filled with the wind, and they were like a wall round the martyr's body; and he looked, not like burning flesh, but like bread in the oven or gold and silver being refined in a furnace.' They watched Polycarp surrounded by flames but unharmed and perceived 'such a fragrant smell, as if it were the wafted odor of frankincense or some other precious spice.'

In the end the bishop was dispatched by an executioner with a dagger. It is said that a dove came forth as well as enough blood to quench the fire. His body was burned to ashes to prevent the Christians from taking it.

The Martyrium Polycarpi, written in the name of the church of Smyrna, addressed to the church of Philomelius in Pisidia, and evidently from eyewitness accounts of his arrest, trial, and martyrdom, is the oldest authentic example of the acta of a martyr (introductory note to the epistle). Twelve others of his flock were martyred with Polycarp. The translated narrative of his martyrdom can be found in Ancient Christian Writers series, no. 6 (1957). The date of his death is debated; it may have been 166 or 177; but the earlier date seems more likely.

The account of his martyrdom is precious evidence for the cultus of saints as early as the 2nd century; and his vita of the variation in the dates of Easter from an early period (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Farmer, Gill, Harrison, Walsh, White).

In art, Saint Polycarp is represented as a bishop roasted inside a brazen bull. At times he may be shown refusing to sacrifice to an idol or roasted in an oven (Roeder). He may also be depicted trampling on a pagan; with a funeral pyre near him; stabbed and burned to death; or being burned in various ways (White). Polycarp is invoked against earache (Roeder).


Romana of Todi V (RM)
Died 324. A spurious legend reports that the virgin Saint Romana was baptized by Pope Saint Sylvester. She died at the age of 18 while living in seclusion in a cave on the banks of the Tiber (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). Sometimes Saint Romana is painted together with Pope Saint Sylvester (Roeder).


Serenus the Gardener M (RM)
(also known as Cerneuf, Sirenus of Billom)

Born in Greece; died February 23, c. 303. The garden represents the continual progress of the Christian on the path of virtue. Plants reach upwards and continue growing until they reach the maturity that God has prescribed for them. All the nourishment they are given should be used to this end, any superfluous growth is a waste and a kind of disease.

So it is for Christians. Everything should carry us toward the perfection that God has ordained for us, the reason for which He made each individual. Every desire of our souls, every action should be a step toward God. When all our energies are directed toward God, we can make great progress.

The saints possessed heroic virtue because all their actions were regulated by the yearning for perfection: their meals, their studies, their conversations and visits, their business and toil. Every action had the love of God as the motive and the accomplishment of His will their only ambition. Our desire for God and tender affection for others in His name allow all our actions to be consecrated to God. A virtuous life is the sweetest, most beautiful flower we can offer to our Lord.

According to his probably fictitious legend, Saint Serenus left his home and friends in Greece to serve God in an ascetic life of celibacy, penance, and prayer. He went to Sirmium in Pannonia (Mitrovica, Yugoslavia), where he bought a garden to cultivate with his own hands. He lived on the fruits and herbs it produced.

When the persecution of Christians began in the area, Serenus hid himself for some months but later returned to his garden. One day a woman and her two daughters took a walk through his garden. When asked what she wanted, the lady replied that she particularly liked visiting it. Thinking that she was up to mischief because the Romans normally rested during this noon hour, he asked her to leave and return at a more proper time.

She took affront and wrote about it to her husband, a guard in the legion of Emperor Maximian. The husband went to the emperor to demand justice, saying, "While we are waiting on your majesty's person, our wives in distant countries are insulted." The emperor gave him a letter to take to the governor of Pannonia to enable him to obtain satisfaction and he set off for Sirmium.

Upon receiving it the governor had Serenus brought before him and questioned about the insult to the wife of an officer. Serenus could remember no insult, then he recalled the woman, "I remember that, some time ago, a lady came into my garden at an unseasonable hour, with a design, as she said, to take a walk: and I own I took the liberty to tell her it was against decency for one of her sex and quality to be abroad at such an hour."

This caused the officer to blush at his wife's action, which was too plain an indication of her wicked purpose, and he dropped his accusation against Serenus. But the governor, understanding by this answer that Serenus was a man of virtue, suspected that he might be a Christian and therefore continued to question him. Serenus admitted that he was a Christian.

"Where have you concealed yourself? And how have you avoided sacrificing to the gods?" Serenus replied, "It has pleased God to reserve me for this present time. It seemed awhile ago as if he rejected me as a stone unfit to enter his building, but he has the goodness to take me now to be placed in it; I am ready to suffer all things for his name, that I may have a part in his kingdom with his saints." For this, Serenus was sentenced to beheading.

The acta of Serenus, attributed to Saint Jerome and published at Lucca, Italy, by Florentinius, joined Serenus to 62 others martyred at Sirmium. The Roman Martyrology says that there were 72 others (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).


Willigis of Mainz B (AC)
Born at Schöningen, Brunswick; died at Mainz, Germany, in 1011. Saint Willigis was a man of humble origin, son of a wheelwright, who by 975 was imperial chancellor to Otto II, and archbishop of Mainz. As a canon of Hildesheim (near Hanover), Willigis attracted the attention of Otto II through Otto's precentor Wolkold, who became archbishop of Meissen in 969. Willigis also served Otto III as chaplain and chancellor, and left his mark as a capable and conscientious ecclesiastical statesman.

Through his efforts Christianity increased in Schleswig-Holstein and southern Scandinavia; he consecrated a succession of excellent bishops, provided for the building of several great churches and other public works, and established or restored collegiate churches in Mainz and Halberstadt. His personal life included daily study of the Scriptures and the organized relief of the poor. Willigis was a notable patron of the arts; his motto was "by art to the knowledge and service of God."

On the death of Otto, Willigis became one of the most important and influential people in the empire. Confirmed by Benedict VII in the right to coronate emperors, Willigis crowned Otto III and later influenced him in favor of abandoning Italy and concentrating his resources north of the Alps. Otto III died young in 1002. The succession was disputed but ended with Willigis crowning Saint Henry II and his wife Saint Cunegund at Paderborn. He then served his third monarch faithfully.

Unhappily Willigis had a long disagreement with Saint Bernward of Hildesheim about jurisdiction over the convent of Gandersheim, a quarrel apparently provoked by one of the nuns, a sister of Otto III. At long last Willigis admitted he was in the wrong and gracefully withdrew his claims. This seems to have been the only blot on a vigorous and beneficent episcopate.

After he died of old age, Willigis's body was buried in St. Stephen's Church in Mainz. His cultus arose immediately and spontaneously. It is claimed that some of his Mass vestments have survived (Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer).

Saint Willigis is represented in art as a bishop with a wheel, which he chose as his insignia to symbolize his father's trade (Roeder). He is the patron of carters and wheelwrights, who is venerated at Hildesheim and Schoeningen (Roeder).


Zebinus of Syria, Hermit (AC)
5th century. As a hermit in Syria, Saint Zebinus trained Saint Maro, Saint Polychronius, and others in the monastic life (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.