Saint George, Martyr
Adalbert of Prague, OSB BM (RM)
(also known as Adelbert, Voitech, Voytiekh)
Born at Libice, Bohemia, c. 956; died in Pomerania, 997. Born of a princely family and christened Voytech, Saint Adalbert took the name of the archbishop who healed and educated him, Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg. Upon the death of his mentor, today's saint returned to Prague with a prized collection of books. In 983, while still under 30, he became bishop of Prague. As a man of high moral as well as intellectual standards, he visited the imprisoned and the poor, and divided his revenues according to the guidelines established by Saint Gregory the Great. With the zeal of Christian youth, he tried to convert Hungary and Bohemia, but the pastoral and political difficulties were such that in 990 he withdrew in desperation to Rome and there became a Benedictine at SS. Boniface and Alexius on the Aventine.
At the request of Duke Boleslas, who agreed to support Adalbert's exercise of authority, Pope John XV sent him back to his diocese. There he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Brevnov with the help of Majolus of Cluny; but again he met with trouble. A penitent adulterous noblewoman, who had been given sanctuary in a convent by Adalbert, was dragged out and killed by her accusers. He encountered such opposition to his ministry from the nobility whom he excommunicated because of this affair that he again retired to Rome in 995. This time some of Adalbert's relatives were massacred and the people of Prague refused to receive him back.
Thus, it became apparent that there was no hope of his working unmolested in Prague, and he was allowed to turn his attention to the heathen Prussians of Pomerania. But he had no more success there. He and his fellow missionaries nevertheless persevered in their mission, preaching in Poland, Prussia, Hungary, and even Russia. Eventually the missionaries were executed as suspected Polish spies by the Prussians, perhaps near Königsberg or Danzig.
Despite the disappointments of his career, Saint Adalbert of Prague seems to have had considerable influence. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III, encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and inspired Saint Boniface of Querfurt. The bishop was buried at Gniezno, but in 1039 his relics were translated to Prague. Adalbert's cultus was widespread in central Europe, reflecting his importance in the conversion of the people. He in his turn was influenced by the ideals of the great monastery of Cluny. The saint is also credited with the composition of Czech and Polish hymns in the vernacular (Attwater, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
In art, Saint Adalbert holds a two-headed cross, two lances, and a club. At times he may have a lance with a club at the lower end or he may be shown pierced by three lances and beheaded (Roeder). An 11th-century sculpture of Saint Adalbert can be found today in the church of S. Bartholomeo all'Isola Tiberina. Bronze doors dating to about 1175 at the church at his original burial site bear an image of him receiving the pastoral staff from Otto III (Farmer). He is the Apostle of Bohemia (Roeder).
Felix, Fortunatus & Achilleus MM (RM)
Died 212. Saint Felix, a priest, and his two deacons, Fortunatus and Achilleus, were sent by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons to evangelize the district of Vienne, France. After a most successful apostolate they were martyred. The extant acta are of a much later composition (Benedictines).
George the Great M (RM)
(also known as Giorgio or Joris of Cappadocia)
Born in Cappadocia; died c. 303. Many legends have gathered around the name of Saint George, one of the 14 Holy Helpers, and there are differing accounts of his origin. There is evidence that George was, indeed, a real martyr who suffered at Diospolis (Lydda, Ludd) in Palestine before the time of Constantine, probably under Diocletian. He was probably born of Christian parents in Cappadocia, where his father was a martyr.
Later he himself took refuge in Palestine, where he became a Roman soldier and displayed courage. He is said to have been raised to the rank of military tribune of the imperial guards. On his mother's death he inherited a fortune and attached himself to the court of the Emperor Diocletian in the hope of finding advancement.
Once when the emperor was present, heathen priests were consulting the entrails of animals to foretell the future. Those Christians among the guards made the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads. The emperor was extremely angry and ordered them flogged and dismissed. He then sent out an edict ordering the Christian clergy to make sacrifice to the pagan gods.
On the outbreak of persecution, George declared himself a Christian and distributed his money to the poor. When the decree which preceded the persecution was published against the churches in Nicomedia, "a certain man," Eusebius tells us in his History, "of no mean origin, but highly esteemed for his temporal dignities, stimulated by a divine zeal, and excited by an ardent faith, took it as it was openly placed and posted up for public inspection, and tore it to shreds as a most profane and wicked act." This man who showed such courage is believed to have been Saint George, and such a bold and defiant action well suits what we know of his character.
As a result, he was subjected to nameless tortures over a period of seven years. He was tied to a revolving wheel of blades and swords, thrown into a pit of quicklime, made to run in red-hot shoes, scourged with thongs of hide, beaten with sledge-hammers, and cast over a precipice; his limbs were broken and exposed to flame, and he suffered many other torments. He is said to have miraculously escaped from a cauldron of burning oil after he destroyed the temple of Apollo. One version says that by making the Sign of the Cross, he remained unhurt in all these intermediate trials. Frustrated that their tortures had little effect, George was beheaded.
His story also takes other forms, mainly legendary, the most familiar of which concerns his fight with the dragon. It is said that George was riding through the province of Lybia (Libya?), and came upon a city named Sylene. Near the city was a marsh in which a dragon lived. The people had attempted to kill it but were poisoned by the creature's fetid breath.
To placate the dragon, they offered it two sheep each day, but when they began to exhaust their supply of sheep, they were forced to substitute a human each day instead, using a lottery to determine who would be sacrificed. At the time of George's arrival, the lot had just fallen to the king's daughter, Cleodolinda. No one volunteered to take her place, so she was dressed in bridal finery and sent to meet the dragon, weeping as she went.
George rode in upon this scene. The princess urged him to hurry on so that he would not also die. Instead of acting prudently (according to the wisdom of the world), Geoge made the Sign of the Cross and then attacked the dragon. After an energetic battle, the saint speared it with his lance. He then fastened the princess's girdle around its neck, and the girl led the dragon into the city. The people were frightened and started to run away, but George told them not to be afraid--that if the whole city would believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized, he would slay the dragon.
The king and the people agreed, and more than 15,000 were baptized. George killed the dragon, and it was carried away on four ox carts. He accepted no reward for this service, but he asked the king to build churches, honor priests, and to maintain compassion for the poor.
The above legend is of Italian origin from a much later date than George himself. Words, however, attributed to him in these imaginary tales are characteristic of his faith and courage, and may well have been upon his lips as he faced his actual torture, such as: "Christ, my Captain, my Lord, I have no strength but what You give me. Help me this day, and the glory shall be Yours for ever and ever."
He preached the Gospel and baptized many into the Christian faith. The Greeks called him "the great martyr." His name and influence also spread far into the West under the influence of the Crusaders; however, devotion to him there predates the Crusades. Since the 5th century many churches could be found in the West bearing his name. It was in England, however, that his fame became most popular.
It is uncertain why he is the patron saint of England, though his cultus travel to the British Isles before the Norman Conquest (1066). William of Malmesbury states that SS. George and Demetrius, "the martyr knights," were seen helping the Franks at the Battle of Antioch in 1098, and it appears probable that the crusaders, in particular King Richard I, who placed himself and his soldiers under George's protection, returned from the East with a belief in the power of George's intercession. His veneration as protector of England was officially approved by Pope Benedict XIV.
He is also patron of Britain's oldest order of knighthood. King Edward III found the Order of the Garter about 1347, of which George has always been patron, and for which the chapel of Saint George at Windsor was built by Edward IV and Henry VII.
"Saint George's arms" became the basis of the uniforms of British soldiers and sailors, and George's red cross appears on the Union Jack (British flag) (Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Gill, Sheppard, Tabor, White).
In art, George is portrayed as a youth in armor, often mounted, killing or having killed a dragon with his lance (sometimes broken) or sword (Tabor). His shield and lance pennant are a red cross on a white field (White). Generally, there is a princess near him. In some portrayals, (1) the princess leads the dragon; (2) Saint Margaret is the princess; (3) George is in armor standing on the dragon (not to be confused with the Archangel Michael, who is always winged); (4) George is in the robes of the Order of the Garter; (5) with Saint Demetrius in icons; or (6) as George is martyred in a brazen bull, dragged by horses, beheaded with a sword (Roeder). An excellent icon of Saint George can be found in the frescoes of San Giorgio degli Sciaoni, Venice, by Carpaccio (Tabor).
The "dragon" initially connoted the evils of paganism that were overcome by the saints (primarily missionaries). But the symbol gave rise to legends of deliverance from fierce dragons that were intent upon devouring whole populations. This was the source of the story about Saint George related in the Golden Legend (Appleton).
Saint George is the patron of England, the Order of the Garter, Boy Scouts, the Italian calvary (which had retained a devotion to the holy knight), chivalry, Istanbul, Aragon, Portugal, Germany, Genoa, and Venice. In the East, he is the patron of soldiers, and also of husbandmen, due to a play on the Greek form of his name (Delaney, Roeder, White). He is invoked against the plague, leprosy, syphilis (White), and herpes (Sheppard).
Gerald of Toul B (RM)
(also known as Gerard, Geraud)
Born in Cologne, Germany, 935; died at Toul in 994; canonized in 1050 by Pope Saint Leo IX, who succeeded him as bishop of Toul. Gerald was born into a noble family headed by his father Ingranne. Gerald was educated at the cathedral school in Cologne. After his mother, Emma, was killed by lightning, he understood the precariousness of life and devoted himself to God. When his reputation for piety reached the ears of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, Gerald was removed from the semi-monastery of the Canons of Saint Peter in Cologne and, in 963 at the age of 28, compelled to accept consecration as bishop of Toul, which he governed for 31 years.
His zeal never slackened. Along with executing the duties of his office, each day Gerald recited thirteen canonical hours because he joined the office of the monks with that of the canons. The holy scriptures and the lives of the saints he read daily, and meditated on them good part of the night.
Gerald was a noted preacher himself, and sent likewise talented clergymen to preach in the countryside. He made Toul a center of learning by bringing Irish, Scottish, and Greek monks into the diocese. Dreading the intellectual hubris that often accompanies erudition, Gerald ensured that all scholars, especially those studying for the priesthood, applied themselves with greater fervor to the development of their interior life than to their studies. This was his own rule of conduct; thus, he did not have the regret that some men have expressed in their last moments that they took more pains to cultivate understanding of science than to correct and improve their will by virtue. By mortification and sweet contemplation, Gerald nourished in his soul a constant spirit of devotion.
Gerald also rebuilt churches (including the cathedral of St. Stephen) and monasteries (including Evre or Aper, Saint Mansuet, and Saint Martin near Sorcy), and founded the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Toul. His charity was recognized by Emperor Otto II, who placed all the monasteries of the country under the care of Gerald, who had worked hard to relieve the famine of 982 and the victims of the plague that followed. Gerald also obtained from the emperor a confirmation of the privilege granted his predecessor which recognized the independence of Toul under its bishop.
Gerald's vita was written by Abbot Widric of Saint Aper's Abbey in 994. On October 30, after his canonization in 1050, Pope Leo had Gerald's body exhumed and enshrined. After this ceremony Widric added a second book to the life of Saint Gerard (about his canonization), and later added a third on the translation of his relics, with an account of some miracles (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Blessed Gerard of Orchimont, OSB Abbot (AC)
Died 1138. Gerard was a Benedictine monk who later became abbot of Florennes (1126-1136) (Benedictines).
Blessed Giles of Assisi, OFM (AC)
(also known as Egidius)
Born in Assisi, Italy; died at Perugia, Italy, 1262. One of the first and liveliest companions of Saint Francis, Giles is described delightfully as the "Knight of the Round Table" in the Fioretti . After receiving the habit from Francis in 1208, Giles accompanied Francis on many of his missions around Assisi.
He made pilgrimages to Compostella, the Holy Land, and Rome, then went to preach to the Saracens in Tunis. His mission was a failure; the Christians of Tunis, fearful of the repercussions of his religious fervor, forced him back on a boat as soon as he had landed.
The rest of his life he spent in Italy, being eagerly consulted by all sorts of people on spiritual matters. From about 1243, Giles could be found at the Monte Rapido hermitage on the outskirts of Perugia. He experienced ecstasies, had a vision of Christ at Cetona, and is considered the most perfect example of the primitive Franciscan. Known for his austerity and silence, Giles' The Golden Sayings of Brother Giles is noted for its humor, deep understanding of human nature, and optimism (Benedictines, Delaney, Gill).
Blessed Giles of Saumur B (AC)
(also known as Gilles)
Born in Saumur; died at Dinat, Belgium, 1266. Giles lived as bishop of Damietta (1243-1245) and archbishop of Tyre (1245-1266) under the inalterable protection of King Saint Louis of France, whom he served as chaplain. He accompanied the king on crusade (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Helen Valentini, Widow (AC)
Died 1458; cultus confirmed in 1848. Helen, a lady of Udine, married a Florentine with whom she lived for 27 years. After her husband's death she became a Augustinian tertiary. She attracted attention toward the end of her life by her devotional practices, charity, and austerity (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Ibar of Meath B (AC)
(also known as Iberius or Ibhar of Beg-Eri)
5th century. Perhaps a missionary to Ireland before Patrick, but more probably one of his disciples, Ibar preached in Leinster and Meath. There are indications that he was ordained a bishop at Rome, then preached with Saints Declan, Ailbeus, and Kieran. Usher (Antiq., c. 16), however, tells us that Patrick consecrated him bishop. He also founded a monastic school on the island of Beg-Eire (Beggery), where he trained many including his nephew Prince Saint Abban, who succeeded Ibar as abbot of Magarnoide in Kenselach. His relics were kept with singular veneration in his monastery at Beg-Eire, which attracted the attention of the English agents of the Reformation. In an attempt to stamp out his cultus and the many legends surrounding his wooden image in his little chapel, they tried to burn the image. Each time it was restored to its proper place without damage (Benedictines, Delaney, Husenbeth, Montague).
Marolus of Milan B (RM)
(also known as Marole)
Died 423. A Syrian by origin, Marolus became bishop of Milan in 408. His virtues were soon sung in verse as penned by the Christian poet Ennodius (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
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.