Bishop Saint Isidore, Doctor
Agathopus (Agathopedes) & Theodulus MM (RM)
Died 303. In Thessalonica, Saint Agathopus, a deacon, and Saint Theodulus, a young lector, were thrown into the sea at Salonika with a stone around their necks during the reign of Maximinian Herculius for refusing to give up the sacred books (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Aleth of Dijon, Widow (PC)
(also known as Alethe, Aleidis, Aleydis, Alice)
Died 1105. Mother of Saint Bernard and many other holy children, Aleth was the daughter of the lord of Montbard and wife of Tecolin (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). Her relics were at the Abbey of Saint Benignus in Dijon, France, in 1110, and transferred to Clairvaux in 1250 (Roeder). In art, Christ appears to Saint Aleth as she receives viaticum. Sometimes she is shown standing with her son, Saint Bernard (Roeder).
Benedict the Black, OFM (RM)
(also known as Benedict the Moor)
Born near Messina, Italy, in 1526; died at Palermo, Italy, April 4, 1589; beatified in 1743; canonized in 1807. Benedict was the son of freed negro slaves of Sicily. He was about 21 when he was publicly insulted on account of his race, and his patient and dignified demeanor on that occasion was observed by the leader of a group of Franciscan hermits.
Benedict was invited to join the group at Montepellegrino. When their superior died, he was made superior of the community. When he was about 38 (1564), Pope Pius IV disbanded communities of hermits and they were absorbed into the Friars Minor of Observance. Thus, Benedict became a Franciscan lay brother and the cook at Saint Mary's monastery near Palermo.
In 1578, Benedict was appointed superior (guardian) of the convent when it opted for the reform, though he was an illiterate laybrother. With understandable reluctance he accepted the office, and, rule with many evidences of direct supernatural aid, successfully carried through the adoption of a stricter interpretation of the Franciscan.
After serving as superior, he became novice master but asked to be relieved of this post and returned to his former position as cook. Benedict's reputation for holiness, working miracles, and as a sympathetic and understanding religious counsellor brought hordes of visitors to see the obscure and humble cook.
Saint Benedict is the patron of African-Americans in the United States. The surname 'the Moor' is a misnomer originating from the Italian il moro (the black) (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill).
Blessed Gaetano Catanoso (AC)
(also known as Cajetan)
Born at Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy, February 14, 1879; died April 4, 1958; beatified May 4, 1998. Gaetano was the son of wealthy, pious Christian parents. After his ordination in 1902, he gained a reputation for holiness while serving as a parish priest. His sensitivity to sin and desire to make reparation for them caused him to establish a confraternity of the Holy Face in his parish, which spread through a newsletter launched in 1920. In addition to this lay association, Gaetano founded the Poor Clerics to encourage priestly vocations.
In 1921, he was transferred to Santa Maria de la Candelaria in Reggio Calabria, where he revived Marian and Eucharistic devotions, intensified catechetical instruction, and crusaded for observance of liturgical feasts. He also encouraged cooperation among parish priests to provide missions, especially during Lent and May, by going to different parishes than their own to preach and hear confessions.
For 29 years Father Catanoso served as spiritual director to various religious institutes, the local prison, a hospital, and the archepiscopal seminary. In 1929, he offered himself as "a victim of love" to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1935 in Ripario, Reggio Calabria, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Veronica (Missionaries of the Holy Face) to offer continual prayers of reparation, catechesis, and other service to poor children, priests, and the elderly. His holiness was exhibited in his docility in obeying his archbishop's request that he curtail the activities of the congregation. Nevertheless, the constitutions of the institute, which he had written, were approved by the diocese March 25, 1958 (L'Observattore Romano)
Gwerir of Liskeard, Hermit (AC)
(also known as Guier)
9th century. A taciturn hermit monk in Liskeard, Cornwall, England, at whose grave King Alfred is said to have been cured of a serious illness. Saint Gwerir's cell was occupied after his death by Saint Neot (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Henry of Gheest, OSB Cist. (AC)
(also known as Henry of Villers)
Died c. 1190. The relics of the Cistercian monk Henry of Villers in the diocese of Namur were solemnly raised in 1599 (Benedictines).
Hildebert of Ghent, OSB (AC)
Died 752. Abbot Hildebert of the Benedictine monastery of Saint Peter's in Ghent was killed by some fanatics for his defense o;f holy images; therefore, he is venerated as a martyr (Benedictines).
Isidore of Seville B, Doctor (RM)
Born at Cartagena, Spain, c. 560; died in Seville, Spain, in April 4, 636; canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1598; and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Innocent XIII in 1722.
Saint Isidore was born into a noble Hispano-Roman family, which also produced SS. Leander, Fulgentius, and Florentina. Their father was Severian, a Roman from Cartagena, who was closely connected to the Visigothic kings. Though Isidore became one of the most erudite men of his age, as a boy he hated his studies, perhaps because his elder brother, Saint Leander, who taught him, was a strict task master.
It is probably that Isidore assisted Leander in governing his diocese, because, in 601, Saint Isidore succeeded his brother Leander to the archiepiscopal see of Seville. During his long episcopate, Isidore strengthened the Spanish church by organizing councils, establishing schools and religious houses, and continuing to turn the Visigoths from Arianism. He presided over the Council of Seville in 619 and that of Toledo in 633, where he was given precedence over the archbishop of Toledo on the ground of his exceptional merit as the greatest teacher in Spain.
Aware of the great boon of education, Isidore insisted that a cathedral school should be established in every diocese in Spain-- centuries before Charlemagne issued a similar decree. He thought that students should be taught law and medicine, Hebrew and Greek, as well as the classics. These schools were similar to contemporary seminaries.
For centuries Isidore was known as 'the schoolmaster of the middle ages,' because he wrote a 20-volume Etymologies or Origins, an encyclopedia of everything that was known in 7th century Europe. His Chronica Majora summarized all the events in the world from creation to his own time drawn from other church historians but with the addition of Spanish history. Another book completed Saint Jerome's work of biographies of every great man and woman mentioned in the Bible plus those of many Spanish notables. His history of the Goths and Vandals is very valuable today. He also wrote new rules for monasteries, including one that bears his name and was generally followed throughout Spain, and books about astronomy, geography, and theology.
While not an original or critical thinker, Saint Isidore's works were highly influential in the middle ages as demonstrated by the very large number of manuscripts of his writings. Dante mentions him in the Paradiso (x, 130), in the company of the Venerable Bede and the Scottish Richard of Saint-Victor. In fact, at the time of his death, Bede was working on a translation of extracts from Isidore's book On the wonders of nature (De natura rerum).
Isidore longed to convert the Spanish Goths, who were Arians. He rewrote the liturgies and breviaries of the Church for their use (known as the Mozarabic Rite, which had been began by Leander), and never wearied of preaching and teaching those in error during his 37 years as archbishop. He also sought to convert the local Jews, but by highly questionable methods.
This extraordinary man loved to give to the poor, and towards the end of his life scarcely anyone could get into his house in Seville, crowded as it was with beggars and the unfortunate from the surrounding countryside.
When he felt that death was near, he invited two bishops to visit. Together they went to the church where one of them covered him with sackcloth and the other put ashes upon his head. Thus clad in the habit of a penitent, he raised his hands to heaven and prayed earnestly for forgiveness. Then he received the viaticum, asked for the prayers of those present, forgave those who had sinned against him, exhorted all to charity, bequeathed his earthly possessions to the poor, and gave up his soul to God.
The archbishop of Seville was considered the most learned man of his century. Not only for the reason that the Church was able to proclaim him Doctor a short time after his death, or because he is the author of the Etymologies, but because knowledge permeated his whole being. The nexus of sanctity and learning gladdens this heart.
Learning did not turn Saint Isidore away from sanctity. Indeed, it was sanctity that surely made such a learned man of him. The saint, possessed by God, is full of gifts of the Holy Spirit; and learning is one of them. This learning, the true science which contains all other sciences, favors new discoveries and multiplies it in every domain that is approached.
Saints are most exclusively the savants of God and their private works are no less important. And savants are a type of saint because any discovery discloses something of God. The philosopher as well as the painter, the seeker as well as the poet, is a savant.
Recall another Spanish saint, John of the Cross, whose works nearly brought a contemporary philosopher to the edges of sanctity. The bird in Braque's last painting is a figure of grace. This revelation leads me to believe that the patient hand that was the means of painting could not have been anything other than that of a man on the way to sanctity. One can paint birds without making them suggest such a presence as Braque's painting does. This presence is not that of the artist, he has absolutely effaced himself; it is the presence of that which finally transcends him, the presence of God.
The most learned persons have perceived the richness, the 'odor' of sanctity. Our age may see it flower; how could it have a taste for anything else after having plumbed the depths of nothingness and despair, if, of course, it still wants something to which it can aspire. Our generation needs something solid, substantial. It is dying of weariness and thirst.
A life-giving stream is still running, all we need to do is bend down to drink it in order to renew the ancient gestures and enter humbly, without hesitation or compromise, into that which does not go out of fashion and does not age: into this Church in which today we pray to Saint Isidore, who is the patron of savants. Saint Isidore, pray for us and for them (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Walsh).
In art, Saint Isidore is an old bishop with a prince at his feet. At times he may be depicted (1) with pen and book (often his Etymologia); (2) with a beehive or bees (rare, but symbolizes oratorical eloquence); or (3) with his brothers and sister, SS. Leander, Fulgentius, and Florentina (Roeder).
Peter of Poitiers B (AC)
Died 1115. Saint Peter was bishop of Poitiers, France, from 1087 until his death. During his long tenure, Peter was a fearless prelate who publicly denounced the sacrilegious tyranny and licentiousness of King Philip I and William VI, count of Poitiers and duke of Aquitaine. He also helped Blessed Robert d'Arbriselle in the founding of the abbey of Fontrevault (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Plato of Sakkudion, Abbot (RM)
Born in Constantinople, c. 734; died on March 19, 813. Saint Plato was younger than 13 when his parents were killed by a plague afflicting Constantinople. At that time, his uncle, the high treasurer of the empire, took over his education and Plato acted as his apprentice. He was accomplished at taking down business affairs in shorthand, yet even more advanced in affairs of the spirit.
Because of his high birth, virtue, and skill, he came to be regarded as a prize catch for those seeking a husband for their daughters. Plato, however, was more attracted to prayer and seclusion than marriage. He convinced his three brothers to devote themselves to God, and live in a state of celibacy. Then, seeking to free himself from worldly attachments, he freed all his slaves and sold his large estates. Before retiring to Symboleon on Mount Olympus, Bithynia, he used some of the money to obtain spouses for his two sisters--who became the mothers of saints--and distributed the rest among the poor.
Having discharged his duties, Plato bid adieu to his family, friends, and country and travelled with one servant to Bithynia (now in Turkey). There he sent his servant back to Constantinople with all his clothes except the coarse ones that he was wearing and entered the monastery Symboleon. There Plato made great progress in his spiritual growth through the practice of humility, devotion, and obedience under the guidance of the holy abbot Theoctistus.
Prayer and pious reading were the delight of his soul. In the hours allotted to labor he rejoiced to see the meanest employments assigned to him from making bread to fertilizing the fields with manure, though his skills were usually employed in copying manuscripts. When Theoctistus died in 770, the 36-year-old Plato was chosen abbot against his will. In order to ensure that such power would not corrupt him, he increased the severity of his penances: He never drank anything but water (sometimes only once in two days); his diet was bread, beans, or herbs without oil. He would never eat or wear anything which was not purchased by the labor of his own hands; by which he also maintained several poor.
After the death of the tyrant Constantine Copronymus, Saint Plato went to Constantinople on business and was received with great honor. He used this opportunity to encourage others to grow in holiness and love of virtue. The patriarch unsuccessfully tried to convince Plato to receive episcopal consecration, but Plato escaped back to his refuge at Symboleon.
In 782, his family prevailed upon him to leave Symboleon and take over the governance of Sakkudion Monastery near Constantinople, which was founded by his sister Theoctista. Her whole family embraced the religious state and it was fitting that Plato should join them. After directing Sakkudion for 12 years, he resigned in favor of his nephew, Saint Theodore Studites.
Life became difficult for Saint Plato when he opposed the actions of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who repudiated his empress, Mary, and took to his bed Theodota, a relative of Saint Plato. Patriarch Saint Tarasius unsuccessfully threatened and exhorted the emperor against this action; Plato went further. He published a sentence of excommunication against the emperor among the monks. Joseph, the treasurer of the church, and several other mercenary priests and monks, tried to convince Plato to approve the emperor's divorce; but he resisted their solicitations and the emperor's own plea. Instead he suffered imprisonment and other hardships till the death of Constantine in 797.
When the Saracens invaded Byzantium, the monks of Sakkudion abandoned their monastery and moved to the Studium, which had been almost destroyed by the persecution of Constantine Copronymus. There Saint Plato vowed obedience to his nephew Theodore and retired to a narrow cell so that he could engage in perpetual prayer and manual labor. He chained one foot to the ground with a heavy iron chain that he carefully hid with his cloak when anyone came to see him.
When Saint Nicephorus, a layman of great virtue, was appointed patriarch of Constantinople in 806, Saint Plato opposed it because of the irregularity of naming a layman as bishop. Opposition to Plato increased when, in 807, Emperor Nicephorus appointed Joseph, the priest who had married the adulteress to the emperor Constantine, was restored his position as treasurer of the church. Plato loudly condemned the emperor's action as contrary to the discipline of the church. The emperor retaliated by placing him under house arrest for a year, before calling him to account at a council of court bishops. Then he was unjustly convicted of fictitious crimes and sentenced to banishment on an island in the Bosphorus for four years.
Although the repentant emperor died before mitigating Plato's sentence, his successor, Michael I, immediately restored the saint to grace and received him with great respect. Plato retired again to his cell and perceiving that he was near death, he asked that his grave to be dug, and himself to be carried to it and laid down by it. Here he was visited by Constantinople's dignitaries, including Patriarch Saint Nicephorus, who had been reconciled to Plato and who performed his funeral rites. Plato's vita was written by his nephew, Saint Theodore (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Tigernach of Clogher B (AC)
(also known as Tigernake, Tierney, Tierry)
Died 549. Abbot Saint Tigernach of Cluanois (Clones) Abbey in Monaghan succeeded Saint Macartan as bishop of Clogher, Ireland. While the details of his life are unreliable because they were written from tradition centuries after his death, he is said to have had a tragic childhood and to have died blind. They say that he was the son of a famous general named Corbre and Dearfraych, the daughter of an Irish king named Eochod. He was baptized by Bishop Saint Conleth of Kildare with Saint Brigid as his godmother. While still a youth, he was captured by pirates and taken to the British king, who placed him in the monastery of Rosnat. There he learned to serve God with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. When he returned to Ireland, he was reluctantly consecrated bishop, and, upon the death of Macartan in 506, took over that see (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Zosimus of Palestine, Hermit (RM)
5th century. Zosimus is said to have been an old Palestinian anchorite who lived on the banks of the Jordan River. He is supposed to have discovered Saint Mary the Egyptian, brought her the Eucharist one Easter, and found her dead the next. The story goes on to say that he became her biographer, though there is no evidence of it (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Zosimus's portrayal in art is that of a monk bringing the Eucharist to Saint Mary of Egypt or talking to her across the River Jordan (Roeder).
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.