Basil of Ancyra M (RM)
Died June 29, 362. Saint Basil suffered and died for his confession of the true faith in opposition to the Arians, who denied the divinity of Jesus. He was a priest of Ancyra, Galatia (now Ankara, Turkey), who loyally supported his Catholic bishop, Marcellus, against the heretics, even after the latter's banishment in 336 by Emperor Constantius. In 360, the Arians tried to stop Saint Basil even from leading Christian worship; but he despised the unjust order; and boldly defended the Catholic faith before Constantius himself.
Basil's refusal to give way to the Arians (and the fact that he was running through the streets urging Christians to remain steadfast), under severe threats, led the authorities to claim that he was unfaithful to the emperor Julian the Apostate. He was captured, tried, and tortured at Ancyra. At Caesarea in Palestine he was hung up, first by the wrists, and then upside down from his ankles. His body was torn with rakes and finally he was slaughtered. His acta appear to be authentic. This is the longer version of what they say:
Julian the Apostate was travelling from Constantinople to Antioch in preparation for his Persian expedition. He stopped en route at the famous temple of Cibele in Galatia to offer sacrifice. "When Julian arrived at Ancyra, Basil was presented before him, and the crafty emperor, putting on an air of compassion, said to him: 'I myself am well skilled in your mysteries; and I can inform you, that Christ, in whom you place your trust, died under Pilate, and remains among the dead.'
"The martyr answered: 'You are deceived; you have renounced Christ at a time when he conferred on you the empire. But he will deprive you of it, together with your life. As you have thrown down his altars, so will he overturn your throne: and as you have violated his holy law, which you had so often announced to the people [Julian had been a reader in the church], and have trodden it under your feet, your body shall be cast forth without the honor of a burial, and shall be trampled upon by men.'
"Julian replied: 'I intended to let you go, but your impudent manner of rejecting my advice . . . force me to do you ill. It is therefore my command, that every day your skin be torn off in seven different places, till you have no more left.'. . ."
Julian went on his way; Basil endured the torture several days then asked to speak to the emperor. Julian ordered that the two should meet in the temple of Esculapius. Julian "pressed him to join him sacrifices. But the martyr replied that he could never adore blind and deaf idols. And taking a piece of his flesh which had been cut out of his body that day, and still hung to it by a bit of skin, he threw it upon Julian. The emperor went out in great indignation: and count Frumentinus, fearing his displeasure, studied how to revenge an insult . . . He therefore mounted his tribunal, and ordered the torments of the martyr to be redoubled; and so deep were the incisions made in his flesh, that his bowels were exposed to view, and the spectators wept for compassion. The martyr prayed aloud all the time, and at evening was carried back to prison.
"Next morning Julian set out for Antioch, and would not see Frumentinus. The count resolved to repair his disgrace, or at least to discharge his resentment by exerting his rage upon the servant of Christ. But to his thundering threats Basil answered: 'You know how many pieces of flesh have been torn from my body: yet look on my shoulders and sides; see if any wounds appear? Now that Jesus Christ this night hath healed me. Send this news to your master Julian, that he may know the power of God whom he has forsaken. He has overturned his altars, who was himself concealed under them when he was sought by Constantius to be put to death. But God hath discovered me that his tyranny shall be shortly extinguished with his life.'
"Frumentinus seemed no longer able to contain his rage, and Frumentinus commanded the saint to be laid upon his belly, and his back to be pierced with red-hot iron spikes. The martyr expired under these torments" (Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth). Saint Basil is depicted in art with a lioness by his side, sometimes he is torn by the lioness (Roeder).
Benvenuto Scotivoli, OFM B (RM)
(also known as Benvenutus of Osimo)
Born at Ancona, Italy; died 1282; canonized by Martin IV. Benevenuto studied law at Bologna, where he was a fellow-student of Saint Sylvester Gozzolini. He joined the Franciscans at Ancona. He was appointed archdeacon of Ancona, and finally bishop of Osimo in 1264 (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Callinica and Basilissa MM (RM)
Died 250. Rich ladies of Galatia (Turkey), Asia Minor, who comforted imprisoned Christians and were martyred for doing so (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Darerca, Widow (AC)
5th century. Saint Darerca is alleged to have been the sister of Saint Patrick of Ireland and the mother of fifteen sons, some of which became saints. Her name is derived from the Irish Diar-Sheare, which means constant and firm love. (Benedictines, Montague).
Deogratias of Carthage B (RM)
Died 457; the ancient calendar of Carthage places his feast on January 5. In 439, Arian Vandals seized Carthage and threw out its bishop, Saint Quodvultdeus. For 14 years the city was without a chief pastor. Then the Arian leader Genseric relented and allowed the Christians there to make a priest named Deogratias their bishop in 456. Two years later Genseric took Rome and removed from the city hundreds of captives.
Genseric and his dejected captives returned to Africa, where whole Christian families were split up and given to Vandals and Moors as slaves. Deogratias determined to free them. The only possible method was to ransom them. For this purpose the bishop sold everything he possibly could, including the rich gold and silver plate of the church and many precious ornaments. He managed to ransom so many families that there were not enough rooms in Carthage to house them. Undeterred, Bishop Deogratias gave them rooms inside his churches. Each day he made sure that they were properly fed, until they could once again look after themselves. And, although he was decrepit with age, each day he visited the sick to comfort them.
Many Arians resented the saint's work and a number tried--and failed--to kill him. Nonetheless he died, worn out by his enormous labors, after only one year as a bishop (Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Blessed Dina Bélanger (AC)
(also known as Marie Sainte-Cecile of Rome)
Born in Québec, Canada, 1897; died 1929; beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993. When Dina joined the Sisters of Jesus-Marie in Rome (founded by Saint Claudine Thevenet), she took the name Marie Sainte-Cecile of Rome to honor the patron of musicians because she was herself an accomplished pianist. During the course of her life as a sister, her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament transformed her into a woman of infectious joy despite illness. Her autobiography was published in Québec in 1984 (Catholic World News, May 1, 1997).
Blessed Epaphroditus B (RM)
1st century. Epaphroditus is mentioned with affection and esteem by Saint Paul (Phil. 2:25-30):
With regard to Epaphroditus, my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister in my need, I consider it necessary to send him to you. For he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed ill, close to death; but God had mercy on him, not just on him but also on me, so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. I send him therefore with the greater eagerness, so that, on seeing him, you may rejoice again, and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy and hold such people in esteem, because for the sake of the work of Christ he came close to death, risking his life to make up for those services to me that you could not perform (NAB).
He is traditionally considered the first bishop of Philippi, Macedonia. Both Andriacia in Lycia and Terracina in Italy also list an Epaphroditus as their first bishop. These three are said to have been among the 72 disciples commissioned by Christ (Luke 10). More likely, there is one saint named Epaphroditus who was venerated in three different locations (Benedictines, Delaney).
Failbhe of Iona, Abbot (AC)
Born in Ireland; died c. 680. Saint Failbhe, abbot of Iona and brother of Saint Finan of Rath, is one of about 20 saints of the same name commemorated in Irish and Scottish menologies (Benedictines).
Blessed Hugolinus Zefferini, OSA (AC)
(also known as Blessed Hugolinus of Cortona)
Died c. 1470; cultus confirmed in 1804. The little available information on this Augustinian hermit, indicates that he lived either at Cortona or Mantua, Italy (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed Isnard(o) de Chiampo, OP (AC)
Born in Chiampo (near Vicenza), Italy; died 1244; cultus confirmed in 1919. From the springtime of the Dominicans in Bologna, Italy, comes the story of Blessed Isnard. He was born into a wealthy family but little else is known of his boyhood. In 1219, as a student at the University of Bologna, he met Saint Dominic and decided to join his new order. Soon after completing his novitiate in Bologna, Isnard distinguished himself as a preacher. His first assignment was in Pavia, where his work of founding and ruling the priory was complicated by the war between the pope and the emperor.
Blessed Isnard plunged courageously into the work. He knew that he was risking death in doing so, and a less stout-hearted man might have found some excuse for going to a more peaceful place. Blessed Isnard insisted on meeting the situation head-on.
One of his first encounters was with the forces of evil, quite undisguised. A possessed man had become the mouthpiece of the devil and was being used by heretics to discredit the preaching of the friar who had so recently come to Pavia to preach the faith. The devil, speaking through the lips of the possessed man, issued a challenge to the friar: "If you are from God, cast me out and cure this man."
Isnard realized that one does not lightly take up open battle with the powers of wickedness. The condition of the poor man, whose name was Martin, was enough to strike terror into any heart. The challenge came when Isnard was in the pulpit preaching. The possessed man was brought into the church, screaming, and in convulsions. The preacher realized that he must cure him or lose the interest of his audience in the cause of Christ.
Stepping down from the pulpit, he approached the possessed man, put his arms around him and, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, demanded that the evil spirits depart. Martin was freed from his tormentor, and he ended his days, according to legend, as a lay brother in the local monastery.
At another time when Isnard was preaching, a hardened heretic refused to listen to him and called out loudly, "I shall believe in the sanctity of this man only if he makes that barrel on the corner of the square come loose and strike me." Immediately, the barrel jumped from its place and struck the scoffer, breaking his leg.
Isnard spent his life preaching and working in Pavia, regardless of the fact that in spite of his life of self-mortification "he was excessively fat and people used to ridicule him about it when he was preaching." At his death, it presented a quite different appearance from the godless and strife-ridden city it was when he had arrived (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Dorcy).
Lea of Rome, Widow (RM)
Died 384. Roman lady who on becoming a widow entered the community of Saint Marcella, of which she later became the superior. She was noted for the austerity of her life and her extreme penances. Saint Jerome (Ep. 20 to Marcella) wrote a panegyric in her honor (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Nicholas of Flüe, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Brder Klaus)
Born at Flüeli near Sachseln, Obwalden (Unterwalden), Switzerland, March 21, 1417; died at Ranft, Switzerland, March 21, 1487; cultus approved in 1669; canonized 1947; feast day formerly March 21; feast day in Switzerland is September 25.
"My Lord and my God, remove from me all that may keep me from you. My Lord and my God, give me all that I need to bring me to you. My Lord and my God, take me from myself and give me to yourself." --Nicholas von Flüe.
Nicholas was born into a family of prosperous farmers, who owned the Kluster Alp and the estate of Flüeli on the Sachsterberg (near Lucerne), from which their surname derives. At various times Saint Nicholas was a soldier, peasant, patriot, and judge in Switzerland. His father held a civil post; his mother was very devout and raised her sons to belong to the brotherhood of the Friends of God (Gottesfreunde). The society sought to live a strict life, to meditate on the passion of the Lord, and to seek a close relationship with God. They lived with their families in small communities or as hermits. Thus, Nicholas was pious from childhood. He was also illiterate.
In his youth Nicholas fought in defense of Swiss Confederation liberties, especially against the Hapsburgs. After the siege of Zurich in 1439, he was commissioned in the army. He defended women and children and the Church, fighting "with a sword in one hand, and a rosary in the other!"
He loved solitude and prayer, but, by 1447, he married pious and comely Dorothea Wysling, daughter of one of the chief families of Sachseln. In the 30 years of their marriage, he had 10 children: John, Rudolph, Walter, Henry, Nicholas, Dorothea, Marguerite, Katherine, Veronica, and another girl who died in infancy. John was elected Landmann of Unterwald. Nicholas (the youngest) studied at the University of Basle and became a priest; another became a governor of the province. Dorothea's piety led her to be called "the consolation of the Church."
Nicholas would rise at dawn to tend the flocks, eat at 9:00 a.m. with his family and servants at the same table, and again at the end of the day they would gather for Vesperbrod and end the evening with family prayers. While working in the fields, he was often rapt in ecstatic prayer, experiencing visions and revelations. He continued the devout practices of his youth, fasted frequently, and often spent the night in prayer.
In 1460, Thurgau was invaded by Austria and Nicholas commanded 100 men. During this campaign at Katharinental the Swiss troops were faced with a situation that anticipated in miniature that at Monte Cassino in 1944: When the Swiss succeeded in capturing the village of Diesenhofer, many Austrian soldiers sought refuge in the church of the Dominican Convent of Saint Catherine. The Swiss command was going to burn the church, but Nicholas prayed for divine guidance before the crucifix in the cloister, then he asked the command to revoke its order stressing the moral gravity of the act. The order was canceled. Nicholas was awarded a gold medal when peace was declared, in thanks for his services.
Fellow-citizens wanted him to accept the office of Landmann (governor), but he twice refused. He was appointed magistrate, served as judge for the canton, and was sent as a deputy for Obwalden to councils. When, in 1465, a powerful family appealed his fair decision and was rendered an unjust one against a humble peasant, he resigned. "Later he testified that he could see and feel flames of fire, of a disgusting odor, issuing from the mouths of the judges as they pronounced their unjust sentence; and he knew that they already had a foretaste of hell within themselves." Though the elite turned against him and spoke calumnies of him, Nicholas was still sought out by his neighbors and people from the adjoining cantons to settle disputes.
In 1467 (age 50), fourteen months after the birth of the tenth child, Nicholas heard God's command to live as a hermit and told his wife immediately. He resigned his offices and, with his devout wife's permission, left his family to live for the next 20 years as a hermit in almost perpetual prayer. Dorothea was overcome by the news but put no obstacles in his way because she recognized the call. "She wept as she made the supreme sacrifice" of allowing her husband to leave. His relatives and neighbors, however, were full of indignation, which he disregarded. Nicholas and his wife drew up an agreement and told the family and servants that Dorothea was thenceforth head of the family.
He left barefoot and bareheaded, wearing a drab habit and carrying a rosary and a staff. Thus clad as a pilgrim, Nicholas became known as Brother Klaus. He appears to have been headed for Strasbourg, France, where the headquarters of the Gottesfreunde lay, looking for a hermitage in which to spend his final years. On his way, however, he wandered toward Basle, where he was put up by a peasant who was a Friend of God, who told him that the Swiss were unpopular in Alsace and that he might not find there the life that he sought.
That night during a violent thunderstorm, Nicholas looked at a little town beyond the frontier and saw that lightning made it appear to be in flames. He took this as a divine confirmation of the peasant's advice and turned back. When Brother Klaus decided to follow the peasant's suggestion, he felt a violent pain in his intestines and was surrounded by light. Thereafter, he "never felt the need of human food or drink, and have never used them." Hunters brought back to his family the news that they had seen him living on his pastureland in a shelter of boughs. Family members went to beg him not to stay there and fall prey to exposure.
So, he finally moved to Ranft, where the people of Obwalden built him a cell and a small chapel. He lived many years in this lonely place above a narrow gorge within earshot of the mountain stream spending most of his time in prayer. He prayed and meditated from midnight to midday, attended Mass in Sachseln every Sunday, and paid an annual visit to Lucerne for the Musegger procession. He never ate or drank anything except the Blessed Sacrament.
Abbot Oswald Isner wrote:
"When Nicholas had abstained for 11 days from taking natural food, he sent for me and asked me secretly whether he should take some food or continue to fast. He had always desired to live without eating, the better to separate himself from the world. I touched the parts of his body where little flesh was left; all was dried up; his cheeks were hollow and his lips were very thin.
"When I had seen and understood that it could come only from divine love, I advised brother Nicholas to continue to this test as long as he could stand it without the danger of death. That is what brother Nicholas did; from that moment until his death, that is for about twenty-one and a half years, he continued to take no food for the body.
"Since the holy brother was more familiar with me than with anyone else, I asked him many times how he managed to do it. One day in his cell he told me, in great secrecy, that when the priest celebrated communion he received the strength which alone permitted him to live without eating or drinking."
When those seeking his counsel asked him about eating nothing, Nicholas would reply, "God knows." Cantonal magistrates had his cell watched for a month to ensure themselves of the fact that no one brought him food.
Nevertheless, Nicholas held that "holy obedience is the highest virtue." When Bishop Thomas visited him and commanded him to eat bread and a little wine after 18 months of nothing, Nicholas hesitated to obey. When he did try to eat a tiny fragment of a morsel, he almost choked to death and the bishop finally believed.
Until he had a chaplain, he attended Sunday Mass and Holy Days at the parish church of Sachseln. Nicholas founded a chantry for a priest with donations and thus was enabled to assist at Mass daily. In 1470, Pope Paul II granted the first indulgence to the sanctuary at Ranft and it became a place of pilgrimage. Occasionally Klaus would make a pilgrimage to Engleburg or Einsiedeln.
He received the great (including Emperor Frederick III), the humble, and children. Many pilgrims came for counsel. He could speak with authority to married people and children. His wife and children also attended Mass in his chapel and listened to his spiritual counsel.
In 1481, the Swiss Confederation had gained its independence from Charles the Bold of Burgundy, the rulers of Europe sought its alliance, and it was on the verge of breaking apart over how to divide the spoils gained during the conquests. Internal disputes threatened its solidarity, but an agreement was reached and put forth in the Compromise of Stans. Still unresolved, however, was the issue of the inclusion of Fribourg and Soleure, and it caused such controversy that in 1481 civil war was feared. A parish priest of Stans recommended seeking a final opinion from the 64- year-old Nicholas. This was agreed to, and he went to Nicholas, whose counsel had been sought at various stages of the drafting of the edict, and it has even been said that it was drawn up in his cell. After the priest's return to Stans, the council arrived at a unanimous decision within an hour and maintained the unity of the land.
Despite his lack of education and experience with the world, his mediation led to permanent national unity for Switzerland. He could not even write; he used a special seal as a signature. Letters of thanks to him from Berne and Soleure still survive.
Six years later, he became ill for the last time. He suffered greatly for eight days, received Holy Viaticum, then died peacefully in his cell with his wife and children by his bed. Nicholas was buried at Sachseln and the Flüe family still survives in Switzerland.
His wife and children were probably none the worse for his becoming a hermit. It may be that his prayers and spiritual counsel did more for his family than his remaining with them would have. We do not blame explorers and soldiers for leaving their families, why blame a saint?
His canonization was delayed because a fire destroyed the documents relating to it. Nevertheless, he is the patron saint of Switzerland.
Several accounts survive of visitors' memories of Bruder Klaus: one described him as tall, brown, and wrinkled with then grizzled locks and a short beard, bright eyes, white teeth, and a shapely nose. This corresponds well with a Fribourg portrait of him done in 1492 (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, J. Delaney, S. Delany, Encyclopedia, Farmer, White).
Saint Nicholas is portrayed as a hermit being thrown into a thorn bush by the devil. At other times he may be shown praying in a mountainous landscape or entering a house while carrying a staff tipped with a cross. Nicholas is greatly venerated in Switzerland (Roeder).
Nicholas Owen M (RM)
Born in Oxford, England; died in the Tower of London, 1606; beatified in 1929; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; feast day formerly March 12.
Saint Nicholas was probably the most important person in the preservation of Catholicism in England during the period of the penal laws against the faith. He was a carpenter or builder, who saved the lives of countless Jesuit priests in England for two decades by constructing hiding places for them in mansions throughout the country. He became a Jesuit lay brother in 1580, was arrested in 1594 with Father John Gerard, and despite prolonged torture would not give the names of any of his Catholic colleagues; he was released on the payment of a ransom by a wealthy Catholic.
Brother Nicholas is believed to have been responsible for Father Gerard's dramatic escape from the Tower of London in 1597.
Nicholas was arrested a third time in 1606 with Father Henry Garnet, whom he had served 18 years, Father Edward Oldcorne, and Father Oldcorne's servant, Brother Ralph Ashley. He refused to give any information concerning the Gunpowder Plot. They were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Nicholas was subjected to such vicious torture, which literally tore his body to pieces, that he died of it.
Nicholas was also known as Little John and Little Michael and used the aliases of Andrewes and Draper (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney).
Octavianus and Companions MM (RM)
Died 484. Octavian was archdeacon of Carthage who with his companions, said to number several thousand, were martyred by the Arian king Hunneric (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Paul of Narbonne and Companions MM (RM)
Died after 250 (c. 290?). Saint Gregory of Tours informs us (Hist. Franc. I, 30), that Saint Paul was consecrated priest at Rome from where he was sent with other preachers to plant the faith in Gaul. There Saints Saturninus of Toulouse and Dionysius of Paris were crowned with martyrdom. Saints Paul of Narbonne, Trophimus of Arles, Martial of Limoges, and Gatian of Tours survived, established churches in their respective sees amidst many dangers, and died in peace. Prudentius says, that Paul's association with the city of Narbonne had made it famous. A much later legend identifies Paul with the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, who was converted by Saint Paul the Apostle (Acts 13) (Attwater2, Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Saturninus and Companions MM (RM)
Date unknown. A group of ten martyred in northwest Africa (Benedictines).
Trien of Killelga, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Trienan)
5th century. Saint Trien, abbot of Killelga monastery, was on of Saint Patrick's disciples (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.