Agnes of Montepulciano, OP V (RM)
Born in Gracchiano-Vecchio, Tuscany, Italy, in 1268; died at Montepulciano, Tuscany, on April 20, 1317; canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726.
Agnes was not a child martyr like her Roman patroness but she exhibited the same simplicity, and some of her best-known legends concern her childhood. Her birth into the wealthy de Segni family was announced by great lights surrounding the house where she was born. From her infancy she was especially marked for dedication to God: she would spend hours reciting Pater Nosters and Ave Marias on her knees in the corner of some room.
By the time Agnes was six, she was already urging her parents to let her enter the convent. When they assured her that she was much too young, she begged them to move to nearby Montepulciano, so she could make frequent visits to the convent. Because of the local political instability, her father was unwilling to move from his safe haven but did allow his little girl to visit with the sisters occasionally.
On one of these visits an event occurred that all the chroniclers record as being prophetic. Little Agnes was traveling in Montepulciano with her mother and the women of the household, and, as they passed a hill on which stood a bordello, a flock of crows swooped down and attacked the girl. Screaming and plunging, they managed to scratch and frighten her badly before the women drove them away. Upset by the incident, but devoutly sure of themselves, the women said that the birds must have been devils, and that they resented the purity and goodness of little Agnes, who would one day drive them from that hilltop. Agnes did, in fact, build a convent there in later years.
When she was nine, Agnes insisted that the time had come to enter the convent del Sacco. She was allowed to go to a group of Franciscans in Montepulciano, whose dress was the ultimate in primitive simplicity: they were known, from the cut of the garment, as the Sacchine or 'sisters of the sack.' The high-born daughter of the Segni was not at all appalled at the crude simplicity with which they followed their Father Francis; she rejoiced in it. Her religious formation was entrusted to an experienced older sister named Margaret, and Agnes soon edified the whole house by her exceptional progress. For five years she enjoyed the only complete peace she would ever have; she was appointed bursar at the age of 14, and she never again was without some responsibility to others.
During this time Agnes reached a high degree of contemplative prayer and was favored with many visions. One of the loveliest is the one for which her legend is best known: the occasion of a visit from the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady came with the Holy Infant in her arms, and allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Unwilling to let Him go, Agnes hung on when Our Lady reached to take Him back. When she awakened from the ecstasy, Our Lady and her Holy Child were gone, but Agnes was still clutching tightly the little gold cross He had worn on a chain about His neck. She kept it as a precious treasure.
Another time, Our Lady gave her three small stones and told her that she should use them to build a convent some day. Agnes was not at the moment even thinking about going elsewhere, and said so, but Our Lady told her to keep the stones--three, in honor of the Blessed Trinity--and one day she would need them.
Some time after this, a new Franciscan convent opened in Procena, near Orvieto, and the sisters there asked the ones of Montepulciano to send them a mother superior. Sister Margaret was selected, but stipulated that Agnes must be allowed to come to help her in the foundation of the new community. There Agnes served as housekeeper--a highly responsible position for a 14-year-old! Soon many other girls joined the convent at Procena simply became they knew that Agnes was there.
To the distress of young Agnes, she was elected abbess. Since she was only 15, a special dispensation was needed--and provided by Pope Nicholas IV--to allow her to take the office. On the day when she was consecrated abbess, great showers of tiny white crosses fluttered down on the chapel and the people in it. It seemed to show the favor of heaven on this somewhat extraordinary situation.
For 20 years, Agnes lived in Procena, happy in her retreat and privileged to penetrate the secrets of God in her prayer. She was a careful superior, as well as a mystic; several times she worked miracles to increase the house food supply when it was low. The nun's self-discipline was legendary. She lived on bread and water for fifteen years. She slept on the floor with a stone for a pillow. It is said that in her visions angels gave her Holy Communion.
Once her visions of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and angels had become known, the citizens of Montepulciano called her back for a short stay. She went willingly enough, though she hated leaving the peace of her cloister for the confusion of travelling. She had just settled down, on her return, with the hope that she had made her last move and could now stay where she was, when obedience again called her back to Montepulciano--this time to build a new convent. A revelation had told her that she was to leave the Franciscans, among whom she had been very happy, and that she and her future sisters should become Dominicans.
In 1306, Agnes returned to Montepulciano to put the Lord's request into action: she was to build a convent on the former site of the brothels. All she had for the building of the convent were the three little stones given her by the Blessed Virgin, and Agnes--who had been bursar and knew something about money--realized that she was going to have to rely heavily on the support of heaven in her building project.
After a long quarrel with the inhabitants of the hilltop she wanted for her foundation, the land was finally secured, and the Servite prior laid the first stone, leaving her to worry about from where the rest of the stones would come. Agnes saw the project to its completion. The church and convent of Santa Maria Novella were ready for dedication in record time, and a growing collection of aspirants pleaded for admittance to the new convent.
Agnes had become convinced that the community must be anchored in an established Rule in order to attain permanence. She explained that the rule was to be Dominican, not Franciscan. All the necessary arrangements were made, she was established as prioress, the Dominicans agreed to provide chaplains and direction, and the new community settled down. They had barely established the regular life when one of the walls of the new building collapsed. It was discovered that the builders had cheated, and that the whole convent was in danger of falling on top of them. Agnes met the new problem with poise. She had many friends in Montepulciano by this time, and they rallied to rebuild the house.
When the convent was once again completed, and had become, as hoped, a dynamo of prayer and penance, Agnes decided to go to Rome on pilgrimage. It is interesting to note that Second Order convents of the 14th century were so flexible in the matter of enclosure. She made the trip to Rome and visited the shrines of the martyrs. The pope was at Avignon, so she did not have the happiness of talking to him. But she returned to Montepulciano full of happiness for having seen the holy places of Rome.
At the age of 49, Agnes's health began to fail rapidly. She was taken for treatment to the baths at Chianciano--accompanied, as it says in the rule, by 'two or three sisters'--but the baths did her no good. She did perform a miracle while there, restoring to life a child who had fallen into the baths and drowned.
Agnes returned to Montepulciano to die in the night. When she knew she was dying after a long and painful illness, Agnes told her grieving nuns that they should rejoice, for, she said, "You will discover that I have not abandoned you. You will possess me for ever." The children of the city wakened and cried out, "Holy Sister Agnes is dead!" She was buried in Montepulciano, where her tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage.
One of the most famous pilgrims to visit her tomb was Saint Catherine of Siena, who went to venerate the saint and also, probably, to visit her niece, Eugenia, who was a nun in the convent there. As she bent over the body of Saint Agnes to kiss the foot, she was amazed to see Agnes raise her foot so that Catherine did not have to stoop so far!
In 1435, her incorrupt body was translated to the Dominican church at Orvieto, where it remains today. Clement VIII approved her office for the use of the order of St. Dominic, and inserted her name in the Roman Martyrology (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Dorcy, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, Walsh).
In art, Saint Agnes is a Dominican abbess (white habit, black mantle) with a lamb, lily, and book. She might also be portrayed (1) gazing at the Cross, a lily at her feet, (2) with the Virgin and Child appearing to her; (3) with the sick healed at her tomb (Roeder); (4) with Saint Catherine of Siena; or (5) as patroness of Montepulciano, of which she holds a model in her hand. Tiepolo presents Agnes as one of the saints surrounding the Blessed Virgin in the Jesuit church at Venice, Italy (Farmer). She is venerated at Montepulciano (Roeder).
Caedwalla of Wales, King (AC)
(also known as Cadwallader or Cadwallador)
Died in Rome on April 20, 689. Saint Caedwalla, descendent of King Ceawlin of Wessex, became the King of the West Saxons in 685 or 686 by conquest. He subjugated Sussex, made Surrey and Kent dependencies, and conquered the Isle of Wight, whose pagan inhabitants he annihilated. Nevertheless, while still a pagan, he showed himself to be less cruel than many other conquerors of his time, especially after he came under the influence of Saint Wilfrid to whom he gave 300 hides of the conquered Isle of Wight.
Under Caedwalla, Wessex became a powerful kingdom, but in 688, he was converted by Saint Wilfrid, resigned his throne, and went to Rome for baptism. He was baptized there on Easter Eve, April 10, 689, by Pope Saint Sergius I and took the name Peter. Caedwalla, aged about 30, died a few days later still wearing the white robe of the neophyte, and was buried in Saint Peter's on April 20. Still to be seen on his tomb in Saint Peter's is his metrical epitaph, ordered by Sergius and written by Archbishop Crispus of Milan, preserved on the original stone. There is no clear evidence of any ancient liturgical cultus for Saint Caedwalla; however, Saint Bede writes of his reputed sanctity--perhaps because of the belief that Baptism remits all sin and, therefore, the individual immediately enters heaven if no further sin is committed. Saint Caedwalla is the first of four Anglo-Saxon kings to die in Rome. Do not confuse with Cadwallador, King, celebrated on November 12 (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).
Blessed Dominic Vernagalli,, OSB Cam. (AC)
(also known as Dominic of Pisa)
Born in Pisa, Italy; died 1218; cultus confirmed in 1854. Dominic was professed a Camaldolese in the abbey of Saint Michael in Pisa, where he founded a hospital for the monastery (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed Francis Page, SJ M (AC)
Born in Antwerp, Belgium; died at Tyburn, England, in 1602; beatified in 1929. The parents of Francis Page were English Protestants from Harrow-on-the-Hill. He converted to Catholicism, studied in the seminary at Douai, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1600. He was sent to the English missions, where he was captured. During his imprisonment prior to his execution, Francis was received into the Jesuits (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Gundebert M (AC)
8th century; feast day formerly April 29. According to tradition, Saint Gundebert, brother of Bishop Saint Niard of Rheims, left his monastery in order to migrate to Ireland. He was martyred there by pagan invaders (Benedictines).
Blessed Harduin of Fontenelle, OSB Monk (AC)
Born near Rouen, France; died 811. Harduin began his religious career as a monk at Fontenelle in 749. After a time he asked permission to live as a hermit near the monastery. In his quietude, Harduin copied the writings of the Fathers of the Church (Benedictines).
9th century. Heliane was a young girl of Lauriano, who was neglected by her family. It is said that she lived on herbs and Hail Marys (Encyclopedia).
Hildegund, OSB Cist. V (PC)
(also known as Joseph)
Died at Schönau, Germany, in 1188. Hildegund's father, a knight of the Rheinland, took her on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land dressed as a boy in order to protect her from some of the dangers of travel. He died on his way home and she, still posing as a boy, experienced a series of extraordinary adventures. At Schönau, Germany, still hiding her sex, she donned the Cistercian habit as Brother Joseph. There she died as a novice and her identity was discovered. While there are several saints with similar stories, e.g., Pelegia and Marina, Hildegund's is one of the few that seems to be based on fact. Her cultus has never been formally approved (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Hildegund is a maiden in the habit of a male Cistercian novice. Sometimes she may be shown with an angel on horseback near her or at the moment of her death when her sex is discovered (Roeder).
Hugh of Anzy-le-Duc, OSB (AC)
Born at Poitiers, France; died at Anzy-le-Duc, c. 930. As a child, Saint Hugh was placed in the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Savin in Poitou. His fervor for monastic life was so great that he became a monk. Hugh's reputation for wisdom and miracles was such that he was sent to reform several other houses. His success in reorganizing other led him to the newly founded Cluny Abbey where he helped Blessed Berno. Hugh's relics were raised in 1001 (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed James Bell and John Finch MM (AC)
Died Lancaster, England, in 1584; beatified in 1929. This is another pair of martyrs for the faith in England. James was born in Warrington, Lancashire, and educated at Oxford. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest during the reign of Queen Mary, but converted to Anglicanism under her sister. Unable to reconcile his conscience with his actions, he rejoined the Catholic Church and for this he was hanged, drawn, and quartered at age 64. John Finch, a yeoman farmer of Eccleston, Lancashire, was similarly hanged for being reconciled to the Church and harboring priests (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed John of Grace-Dieu, OSB Cist. Abbot (PC)
Died 1280. John initiated his monastic vocation at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Denis. Later he became a Cistercian and became abbot of Igny, then Clairvaux (1257), and finally Grace-Dieu (c. 1262) (Benedictines).
Marcellinus of Embrun BM,
Vincent, & Domninus MM (RM)
Died c. 374. Marcellinus, an African priest, crossed over to Europe with fellow missionaries Vincent and Domninus. They preached the Gospel in what was later called the Dauphiné. Marcellinus was consecrated the first bishop of Embrun by Saint Eusebius of Vercelli. Numerous legends tell of cures and other miracles worked by Marcellinus, some of which are reported by Saint Gregory of Tours. Near the end of his life, he was persecuted by the Arians, whom he bitterly opposed, and was forced to live in isolation in the Auvergne hills. The relics of the three saints are venerated at Digne, in the Alps of Savoy (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia).
Marcian of Auxerre (RM)
(also known as Marcion, Marian)
Born in Bourges, France; died at Auxerre, c. 470-488. Marcion, who was of humble birth, entered Saint-Germain Abbey in Auxerre as a lay brother when he was exiled from Bourges by the invading Visigoths. He "sanctified himself in a lifetime of watching the herds" of the abbey and is said to have possessed a remarkable power over all animals (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Gill).
Blessed Margaret of Amelia, OSB V (PC)
Died 1666. Margaret, a Benedictine abbess of Saint Catherine Convent at Amelia, possessed many mystical gifts (Benedictines).
Blessed Oda of Rivroelles, O.Praem. V (PC)
Born in Brabant; died 1158. This is another tale of a lovely, young noblewoman who disfigured her face to be able to follow her heart. God was calling her to the consecrated life, while her parents desired a suitable marriage for her. Her only recourse seemed to be to make herself undesirable to human suitor. Thereafter her parents allowed her to follow her religious vocation in the Premonstratensian convent of Rivroelles. Eventually she became its prioress (Benedictines).
Blessed Robert Watkinson M (AC)
Born at Heminbrough, Yorkshire, England; died at Tyburn in 1602; beatified in 1929. After studying for the priesthood at Douai and Rome, Robert was ordained in 1602 at the age of 23. That same year he died for his vocation outside London (Benedictines).
Blessed Simon Rinalducci, OSA (AC)
Born in Todi, Italy; died 1322; cultus confirmed in 1833. The Augustinian friar Simon Rinalducci became a famous preacher. For a time he was provincial in Umbria. He kept silence under an unjust accusation rather than cause scandal among his brothers (Benedictines).
Sulpicius and Servilian MM (RM)
Died c. 117. These early Roman martyrs, beheaded under Trajan, are said to have been converted to the faith by the prayers of Saint Flavia Domitilla (Benedictines).
Theodore Trichinas, Hermit (RM)
Born in Constantinople; died after 330. The hermit Theodore was surnamed Trichinas or "the hairy" because his only garment was a rough hair-shirt (Benedictines).
Theotimus of Tomi B (RM)
Died 407. Bishop Theotimus (of Scytha or Tomi on the Black Sea), whose sanctity won the admiration even of the barbarians, defended Origen against Saint Epiphanius of Salamis. He evangelized the tribes of Huns of the Lower Danube (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Victor, Zoticus, Zeno, Acindynus, & Comp. MM (RM)
Died c. 303. Victor, Zoticus, Zeno, Acindynus, Caesareus, Severian, Chrysophorus, Theonas, and Antoninus were martyred at Nicomedia. The apocryphal Acta of Saint George connect them with his martyrdom (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.