Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor
Abbots of Cluny (RM)
When the Roman Calendar was reorganized in 1968, it appears that this feast day was added to honor all the saintly abbots of the influential Abbey of Cluny. They are still individually honored on their own feast days, but most are no longer individually honored liturgically universally. More information on the individual abbots may be found on their festal day: Berno, Odo, Mayeul, Odilo, Hugh, Aymard, and Peter the Venerable.
Agapius and Companions MM (RM)
Died c. 259. Agapius and Secundinus, Spanish bishops or priests, were banished to Cirta, Numidia (Algeria) during the persecution of Valerian. There they were martyred together with the virgins Tertullia and Antonia, and a woman with her twin children. The martyr Emilian mentioned in the Roman Martyrology is not included in the acta (Benedictines).
Ava of Dinant, OSB Abbess (AC)
(also known as Ave, Avia)
Died after 845. A blind Belgian woman, niece of King Pepin, who in her youth was miraculously healed through the intercession of Saint Renfroi (Rainfredis). She entered a convent at Denain, Hainault, where she became abbess (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Catherine of Siena, OP Tert., Virgin
Born in Siena, Italy, March 25, 1347, in Florence, Italy; died there on April 29, 1380; canonized in 1461; declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
"Those in union with God when aware of the sins of others live in this gentle light. . . . Therefore they are always peaceful and calm, and nothing can scandalize them because they have done away with what causes them to take scandal, their self-will. . . . They find joy in everything.
"They do not sit in judgement on my servants or anyone else, but rejoice in every situation and every way of living they see. . . . Even when they see something that is clearly sinful, they do not pass judgement, but rather feel a holy and genuine compassion, praying for the sinner."
--Saint Catherine of Siena.
"Whenever you think God has shown you other people's faults, take care: your own judgment may well be at fault. Say nothing. And if you do attribute any vice to another person, immediately and humbly look for it in yourself also. Should the other person really possess that vice, he will correct himself so much the better when he sees how gently you understand him, and he will say to himself whatever you would have told him."
Fourteenth century Italy was desolated by plague, schism, and political turmoil. When we are tempted to think that we live in the worst of times, we should remember the life of Saint Catherine. Those days were so black that many saints and scholars believed it heralded the end of the world. The popes deserted Rome for Avignon in 1305. Rome itself was in anarchy. Yet in the midst of confusion and dissent within the Church, God raised up Catherine, one of many saints who prove that our hope in the Lord is never in vain.
Siena had established itself as a military power by conquering Florence in 1260. The city, which possessed a university with a school of medicine and superb cathedral, was governed by the Governo dei Nove (Government of Nine). Art was closely bound to life in Siena. Sienese artists were the most faithful interpreters of the sentiments and ideas of its great mystics. Legend says that Siena was founded by Romulus and Remus or by Remus's sons Ascius and Senius, who created its black and white flag.
Giacomo di Benincasa had a thriving cloth dying business on the Vicolo del Tiratoio (Street of the Dyers) with three of his sons: Bartolommeo, Orlando, and Stefano, plus two journeymen and two apprentices. The family lived upstairs. The also had a family farm.
When Benincasa's domineering and shrewish wife Lapa, daughter of a now forgotten poet, gave birth to twin daughters, Catherine and Giovanna, she already had 22 children. Lapa kept Catherine and breastfed her, but didn't have enough milk for her twin, who was given to another's care and eventually died. A 25th child was born and named Giovanna also, though she lived only a few years. Thirteen of the children lived to adulthood and all remained at home until they were married. Eventually eleven grandchildren were included in the household, which was big enough to include a foster son Tommaso della Fonte, whose parents died in the plague of 1348.
Though Catherine was not a pretty child, she was popular in the neighborhood because of her gaiety and wise little sayings. According to her first biographer Blessed Raymond of Capua she always had the ability to charm others. She was slight and pale, her features delicate, the texture of her skin exquisite, and her hair long, thick, lustrous, and golden. She was animated, cheerful, friendly, sensitive, and charming. All her movements were swift and graceful.
Prayer came naturally to her. At the age of five she would kneel on each step of the stairs of her home and say a prayer. She was only seven when she reported her first vision--of Jesus seated on a throne surrounded by saints, when returning with a younger brother from visiting one of her married sisters. The young child dragged at her hand, but she was lost in ecstasy. From that day she was consecrated to His service and engaged herself entirely in prayer, meditation, and acts of penance in which she encouraged her friends to join her.
Raymond of Capua, her confessor and biographer, wrote "... taught entirely by the Holy Spirit, she had come to know and value the lives and way of life of the holy Fathers of Egypt and the great deeds of other saints, especially Blessed Dominic, and had felt such a strong desire to do what they did that she had been unable to think about anything else."
The Benincasas owned a small farm out the outskirts of San Rocca a Pilli, 14 km from Siena, where Catherine spent time. She had a passion for flowers and wove them into little crosses for her early confessor Padre Tommaso. She often dreamed that angels descended from Heaven and crowned her with white lilies.
Her parents wanted her to marry and encouraged her to enhance her looks. For a time she submitted to the ministrations of a hair dresser and to be decked out in fashionable clothes, but she soon repented of her concession meant to please her mother and sister Bonaventura. At age 16, when a real courtship was imminent, however, she told her mother she had taken a vow of perpetual virginity when she was seven. When her mother didn't take her seriously, she cut off her luxurious golden hair (Saint Rose of Lima did the same in a similar situation).
Her mother was enraged, discharged their maid, and decided Catherine should dress like a servant and perform a servant's tasks. Catherine accepted her tasks cheerfully and performed them capably. The men of the family objected but were overruled by Lapa; however, her father promised her that she would not be forced into marriage and he insisted that she be given a room to herself and time to pray because he had seen a white dove hovering above her head.
She dreamed that she encountered Saint Dominic and was overcome with a desire to enter the Third Order of the Dominican Sisters of Penance. At that time there were about 100 devout older women and spinsters in Siena who were known as Mantellates, because of the black capes they wore over their white habits.
Still unpersuaded that her daughter would not marry, Lapa took her to the spa at Vignone hoping to fatten her up in preparation for marriage. A week later they returned. Catherine had scalded herself at the source of the hot springs in order to disfigure herself. She had also contracted smallpox.
During her illness she extracted a promise from Lapa to ask the sisters to accept her daughter. The Mother Superior said Catherine was too young (pleasing Lapa) but Catherine insisted that the order had no rule about it. Lapa assured her that Catherine had cut off her hair, scalded herself, and now had smallpox, so that she would no longer be attractive. Then the Mother agreed to visit Catherine. Several weeks later Catherine received the mantle and habit.
For three years she left her bare room only to attend Mass, broke her silence only for confession or to meet an emergency, ate sparingly and alone, and recited the Divine Office during the hours when she knew that the Dominican friars slept.
She underwent periods of aridity, but was never subject to temptation. On Shrove Tuesday, 1367, she prayed for the "fullness of faith" and had a vision in which she saw Jesus, Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Paul, and Saint Dominic, the founder of her order. During this vision, the Blessed Virgin presented her to Jesus, who espoused Himself to her. He placed on her finger a gold ring with four pearls set in a circle in it and a wonderful diamond in the middle, saying to her, "receive this ring as a pledge and testimony that you are mine and will be mine for ever." No one else could see the ring but it was always before her eyes.
She had many marvelous religious experiences. At the age of 26, she first felt the pain of Christ's suffering in her own body. Two years later during a visit to Pisa, she received Communion in the little church of Santa Christina. As she meditated in thanksgiving upon the crucifix, five blood-red rays seemed to come from it which pierced her hands, feet, and heart. Thus, she received the five visible wounds of His suffering--the stigmata. It caused such acute pain that she swooned. Unable or unwilling to eat, Catherine went for eight years without food or liquid other than the Blessed Sacrament. She prayed that the marks not be conspicuous, though they are traceable on her incorruptible body by a transparency in the tissues.
Oftentimes she was seen levitated in the air during her prayer. Once, as she was being given Holy Communion, the priest felt the Host become agitated and fly, as if of its own volition, from his fingers into her mouth. In the Life of Saint Catherine, Mother Francis Raphael relates that the saint was immune to fire. She tells of a time that Catherine fell forward into a fire in the kitchen during a religious ecstasy. The fire was large and fierce, but when Catherine was pulled out of the smoking embers neither she nor her clothes were damaged.
But none of these divine favors would have meant much to a needy world if Catherine had remained hidden in her home. In 1370, she heard a divine voice that commanded her to leave the cell and enter His service in the world to promote the salvation of her neighbors. Thousands came to see her, to hear her, and to be converted by her. A mystical circle of members of religious orders, secular priests, and lay people gathered around her.
Of course, public opinion in Siena was sharply divided about Catherine. It may have been in consequence of accusations made against her that she was summoned to Florence to appear before the chapter general of the Dominicans. If any charges were made, they were certainly disproved, and shortly thereafter the new lector of Siena, Blessed Raymond, was appointed as her confessor.
The core of her teaching was: Man, whether in the cloister or in the world, must live in a cell of self-knowledge, which is the stall in which the pilgrim must be reborn from time to eternity. The press of the repentant was so great that the three priests of her neighborhood, who had been provided by the pope to hear the confessions of those who were induced by her to amend their lives, could hardly cope with it.
She dispatched letters that often had been dictated in ecstasy, to men and women of all ranks, entered into correspondence with kings and princes and with the Italian city-states. She took part also in public affairs, and Catherine welcomed all who came to call--the curious, the seeking, the devout. She collected information from them all.
Even the pope relied upon her good judgment. At this time the papacy was tragically weakened by contested papal elections, pope and antipope denouncing each other. Catherine supported the true Pope Urban VI against his opponents; but he was a somewhat graceless man, and her letters to him never hesitated to reprove the pope for this fault, while remaining entirely loyal to him.
Twice at least she successfully intervened in matters of high politics. Catherine made peace between cities torn by factional strife: she made peace between the pope and the city of Florence. On June 18, 1376, Catherine arrived in Avignon as unofficial ambassadress, and induced the pope to return to Italy, and--this was the greatest work of her life--brought to an end the Babylonian captivity of the popes. Thus, on September 13, 1376, Pope Gregory XI started from Avignon to travel by water to Rome.
It was a month before Catherine arrived back in Siena, from where she continued to exhort the pope to contribute to the peace of Italy. By his special request, she went again to Florence, still rent by factions and obstinate in its disobedience and under interdict. There she remained for some time amid daily murders and confiscations, in danger of her life but never daunted, even when swords were drawn against her. Finally, she established peace between Florence and the Holy See.
Catherine dictated from memory The Dialogue in five days before she left Siena forever. It is her account of her visions. She was clairaudient and clairvoyant, also awareness of communion with Jesus. She was illiterate, but yearning to be able to read the breviary, when suddenly she could read--either through the help of Father Tommaso della Fonte or Alessia Saracini (her friend), or through a miracle.
Her foster brother Tommaso della Fonte became a priest and her confessor during the time of her novitiate. He provided her with other books, such as a short history of the Church, lives of the saints, the Psalms and other portions of the Bible. She later astonished learned ecclesiastics with her grasp of these subjects.
She loved music and to sing, was passionately fond of children. She began to make friends again, first among the Mantellate and Dominicans, then among the priests and physicians at the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, where she began her nursing career, then among the intelligentsia. She had the gift of healing. Much of what she did was met with ingratitude.
Catherine loved working amongst the sick. Unlike most other volunteers, she would care for those with the most repulsive diseases, such as leprosy, which was then virtually incurable. She gathered round her many friends, and when a fearful plague broke out in Siena, she led them boldly among those who had caught it-- sometimes even digging graves and burying the dead herself.
Catherine also suffered moral temptations, and often it seemed that God had deserted her. Was it for this that she had forsaken all to follow Him? A woman suffering from cancer, to whom she had given devoted care, pursued her with a vicious tongue and poured out upon her all the irritability and despair which were provoked by her hopeless condition, but Catherine remained incredibly patient and forbearing; her visions returned and her heart was strengthened. "O my Savior, my Lord," she cried, "why did You forsake me?" "My child," came the answer, "I have been with you through all. I was in your heart all the while."
She gave freely from her father's resources to the poor beggars, some of whom she claimed were saintly visitors in disguise. Through all her arduous life she remained gentle and forgiving, serving Christ in the lives of the poor, following Him into mean streets and crowded hovels, taking upon herself the burden of pain and sin that she met with, nourished and sustained by her frequent visions. Our Lord appeared to her holding in one hand a crown of gold and in the other a crown of thorns, and asked which she would choose. Without hesitation she reached out her hand for the crown of thorns.
Francesco di Vanni Malavolti, a famous philanderer, so desired Catherine's friendship that he went immediately to confession. They had an spontaneous and lasting friendship because of their mental harmony. After the death of his wife, he entered the monastery and spent the remainder of his days in prayer and contemplation.
Andrea Vanni was a friend whose portrait of her remains in the Church of San Domenico in Siena. He and Catherine's brother Bartolo led the revolution that toppled the government.
For thirty years this brave and devoted soul showed how there is a Power that transcends our earthly life, and awakened many, by conversion, to a sense of the Eternal. "Her prayers," we are told by an eyewitness, "were of such intensity, that one hour of prayer more consumed that poor little body than two days upon the rack would have done another."
When the great Western schism broke out following the death of Pope Gregory in 1378, the new pope, Urban VI, called her to Rome. A rival pope was established at Avignon by some cardinals who declared Urban's election was illegal. Christendom was divided into two camps. She spoke to the cardinals in open consistory, wrote to the chief sponsors of the schism, to foreign princes, and through her influence, helped to overcome the French anti-pope in Italy. She also continued to write to Urban, sometimes urging him to remain patient in trials and other times admonishing him to abate his harshness that was alienating even his supporters.
Instead of resenting her reproofs, Urban invited her to come to Rome to advise and assist him. In obedience, she left Siena forever and took up residence in the Eternal City. There she labored indefatigably by her prayers and exhortations to gain new adherents to the true pontiff.
After she had offered her life as a sacrifice to God, and had seen and felt in a vision the Almighty God pressing out her heart as a balm over the Church, she fell mortally ill and died in the arms of Alessia Saracini after eight weeks of most acute suffering at the age of 33--the age at which her Master had died. And when she died, she was merry and joyful.
Catherine is one of the greatest mystics of all time. In her, the extraordinary mystical states that are the preparation for true sanctifying graces and the counterpart of the burdens of sainthood, became particularly evident. The history of literature gives the saint a place of honor beside Dante and Petrarch (Bentley, Gill, Harrison, Keyes, Schamoni, Walsh).
In art, Saint Catherine is always portrayed as a Dominican tertiary (white habit, black mantle, white veil) with a stigmata, lily, and book. Sometimes she is portrayed (1) with a crown of thorns and a crucifix; (2) with her heart on a book; (3) with her heart at her feet and a scourge or skull, book, and lily; (4) with the devil under her feet; (5) crowned by angels with three crowns; (6) celebrating her mystic marriage with Christ; (7) giving clothes to a beggar, who is really Christ (Roeder). Catherine is the patron of Italy together with Saint Francis of Assisi (Roeder).
1st century. Daughter of King Cercylinus, Cercyre was converted by Saint Jason. Her angry father delivered her to an Ethiopian, whom she converted. But, alas, she did not escape alive; she perished by being hung over a fire (Encyclopedia).
Daniel of Gerona M (AC)
9th century. According to an unreliable legend, the hermit Daniel was a native of Asia Minor, who lived during the time of Charlemagne. The circumstances of his martyrdom are unknown, but he is the patron of the abbey-church of the Benedictine nuns of Gerona, Spain (Benedictines).
Dichu of Ulster (AC)
5th century. Dichu, son of an Ulster chieftain and a swineherd in his youth, succeeded to the kingdom of Lecale in County Down, Ireland, and bitterly opposed Saint Patrick when he landed there in 432. He became Patrick's first Irish convert, gave Patrick a church in Saul, capital of Lecale, the first of Patrick's foundations in Ireland, and the two became close friends (Benedictines, Delaney).
Endellion V (AC)
(also known as Endelient)
6th century. Saint Endellion is another of the numerous children of the saintly King Brychan of Brecknock. Nothing is known of her life, but she gave her name to a place in Cornwall, where part of her tomb survives and where two wells honor her memory. A chapel was dedicated to her at Tregony, where she is reputed to have lived on the milk of only one cow. This animal was killed by the lord of Tregony because it trespassed on his land. Her godfather, a great man, had the lord killed for this offense, but Endellion miraculously brought him back to life. There is another chapel dedicated to her at Lundy Island, opposite her brother Nectan's settlement at Hartland in Devonshire (Farmer).
Fiachan of Lismore (AC)
(also known as Fiachina, Fianchne)
Born in Desies, Munster, Ireland; 7th century. An Irish monk of Lismore, whose sterling quality was obedience, Saint Fiachan was the disciple of Saint Carthage the Younger. He is titular saint of the parish of Kill-Fiachna, in the diocese of Ardfert (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Hugh of Cluny, OSB Abbot (RM)
(also known as Hugh the Great)
Born at Semur (Samur, near Autun), Burgundy, France, in 1024; died at Cluny in 1109; canonized by Pope Callistus III in 1120.
Hugh, eldest son of Count Dalmatius of Semur, entered the monastery at Cluny, France, at age 15. It was unusual that a nobleman would allow his heir to chose this vocation so early in life, especially when he seems destined to a notable career in the world. Nevertheless, Hugh's father may have realized that his son was more suited for the monastery, than the court. The youth was overly studious and too clumsy to be a knight. In fact, though, Hugh may have professed himself a monk at Cluny (c. 1040) in defiance of his father.
Hugh was ordained five years later, was named prior shortly thereafter, and in 1049, at the tender age of 25, succeeded Saint Odilo as abbot. By then, Hugh had grown tall and handsome, able and sympathetic, focussed yet detached--the perfect person to executive the plans God had for him. The abbacy carried with it the leadership of the powerful Benedictine confederation that depended upon Cluny. He also continued Saint Odilo's policy of bringing the more than 200 constituent monasteries of the congregation into closer dependence on the mother house. In the 60 years of Hugh's governance, the number of dependents expanded from about 60 to about 2,000 with various forms of association, in Italy, France, Spain, and England.
Hugh attended the Council of Rheims and eloquently supported the reforms of Pope Saint Leo IX, denouncing simony and the relaxation of clerical discipline. Hugh went back to Rome with Leo, attended a synod condemning Berengarius of Tours in 1050, and in 1057, as papal legate, effected peace between Emperor Henry IV and King Andrew of Hungary.
Hugh assisted Pope Nicholas II in drawing up the decree on papal elections at a council in Rome in 1059 and continued in close relationship with the Holy See when Hildebrand, who had been a monk at Cluny, was elected pope as Gregory VII. Hugh worked closely with Gregory to reform the Church and revive spiritual life in it. In 1068, settled the usage for the whole Cluniac order. In 1095, he had Pope Urban II consecrate the high altar of the basilica at Cluny, then the largest church in Christendom, and was a leader at the Council of Clermont in organizing the First Crusade.
He served nine popes, was adviser of emperors, kings, bishops, and religious superiors. Hugh's list of friends could be a 'who's who' of the period: Saint Anselm, Blessed Urban II, and Saint Peter Damien. Hugh's integrity and generosity were known to all; when Saint Anselm fell out with King William II of England, it was to Hugh at Cluny that he first went for counsel. He also mediated in the bitter feud between Pope Gregory and Emperor Henry IV at Canossa in 1077. Hugh also founded a hospital at Marcigny in which he loved to wait upon the lepers with his own hands.
He championed reforms wherever he went. Universally admired for his intellectual and spiritual attainments and as a simple man of great prudence and justice, he exercised a dominant influence on the political and ecclesiastical affairs of his times. Hugh was a man of eminent psychological insight and diplomatic ability. Hugh's saintly life impressed such varied men as Saint Peter Damian and William the Conqueror (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).
Joseph Benedict Cottolengo (RM)
Born in Bra (near Turin), Piedmont, Italy, on May 3, 1786; died at Chieri, Italy, on April 30, 1842; beatified in 1917; canonized in 1934; feast day formerly April 30.
Joseph Benedict Cottolengo's middle-class mother once surprised him as he was measuring his room with a stick. He explained that he wished to see how many beds he could get into the room because he wanted to turn the house into a hospital when he grew up.
He attended the seminary in Turin, and, in 1811, he was ordained a priest and engaged in pastoral work for a short time in his native city and in Corneliano, before continuing his studies in Turin and taking his degree there. In 1819, he entered the congregation of secular priests of the Order of Corpus Domini and was named canon of the Church of the Trinity in Turin.
In 1828, he was called to a very sick woman, who had not been able to obtain admission to any hospital. The saint rented an unfurnished room, and placed a few beds in it for the poorest and most neglected. Following the example of Saint Vincent de Paul, here no one was to be refused admittance. A doctor, who was his friend, and a benevolent pharmacist helped him. He sought out pious women to nurse the sick and men to serve the male sick. When it became to expand, he organized the volunteers who had been manning it into the Brothers of Saint Vincent and the Daughters of Saint Vincent (Vincentian Sisters). The congregation of young girls he founded renounced the world and were to devote themselves wholly to God and the care of the sick.
Cottolengo had overcome the initial difficulties and his work was growing when, in 1831, cholera broke out. The police closed the hospice, so the Vincentians nursed the poor in their own homes until Joseph was allowed to open a new one outside the city at Valdocco. There they continued ministering to the stricken.
It was opened in the following year and was known as the Little House of Divine Providence. God's providence had moved the little house out to that spot so that it might grow up to be a whole city. Soon there rose about it a House of Faith, a House of Hope, and a House of Love to minister to the crippled, insane, and wayward girls.
His Piccola Casa became a gigantic set of institutions, a city really of more than 7,000 paupers, patients, orphans, cripples, idiots, and penitent women. Today it serves an average of 8,000 to 9,000 inmates daily, and the Cottolengo Institute has several foundations in other areas of the world. Today the Little House at Turin, with its thousands of beneficiaries, is one of the most impressive places in Europe. Here can be seen on a large scale human suffering in its most horrifying forms side by side with human selflessness and love raised to a supernatural degree by a Power beyond itself.
For his growing organization, the saint founded 14 communities, some of which were purely contemplative and were to assist the others by their life of prayer, and to supplement, by spiritual charity, the temporal works of mercy through prayer for those who needed special assistance, above all the dying and the dead. These congregations included the Daughters of Compassion, the Daughters of the Good Shepherd, the Hermits of the Holy Rosary, and the Priests of the Holy Trinity.
The saint relied completely on the boundless mercy of God, and, as one of his friends used to say, had more trust in God than all the citizens of Turin together. As soon as money was given to him, it was spent. Queried about the secret sources of the money with which one tried to explain his gigantic achievements, he answered: "Providence sends me everything." He learned, however, that Providence may provide bread for today, but not at the same time for tomorrow or the day after. (Remember the story of the Manna in the desert.)
He paid everything, yet amid constant difficulties. "In the Little House," he used to say, "we progress as long as we possess nothing. We decline when we live on endowments." Saint Joseph would have had problems today. He depended upon alms to maintain these many and varied institutions, yet he kept no books of accounts and made no investments.
King Charles Albert frequently proposed to let the government take over the protectorate of the foundations. "Why?" answered Cottolengo. "They are under the protection of Divine Providence; protection by the state is superfluous."
This trust in Providence, however, did not keep him from strenuous work and effort. He slept but a few hours, often only on a chair or a bench, and persevered in his task of prayer and work. But therewith he wore himself out.
In 1842, he handed the administration of the institutes to his successor. The doctors persuaded him to go to his brothers at Chieri, where he died a few days later of typhoid. He had promised the sisters as he left: "When I am in Heaven, where everything is possible, I will cling to the mantle of the Mother of God and I will not turn my eyes from you. But do not forget what this poor old man has said to you."
Saint Joseph Cottolengo's example was one of the inspirations for Saint John Bosco, who in the earlier years of his priesthood helped occasionally at the Piccola Casa (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Schamoni, White).
Martyrs of Corfu (RM)
(also known as Seven Holy Thieves)
1st century. The story of the Seven Holy Thieves is found in a Greek menology. Seven criminals were converted by Saint Jason, a disciple of our Lord (Acts 17:5), on the island of Corcyre (Corfu). Saturninus, Inischolus, Faustian, Januarius, Massalius, Euphrasius, and Mannonius were roasted in a cauldron of wax, pitch, and sulphur for having professed faith in Jesus Christ (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Paulinus of Brescia B (RM)
Died c. 545. Saint Paulinus was bishop of Brescia from c. 524 to 545. His relics are enshrined in San Pietro in Oliveto (Benedictines).
Peter Martyr, OP M (RM)
(also known as Peter of Verona)
Born in Verona, Italy, 1206; died April 6, 1252; canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253--a single year after his death.
Peter's parents belonged to the heretical sect of the Cathari, theological descendants of the Manichees. Miraculously, though he was ridiculed for his faith throughout his youth, it was preserved in purity and he became a Dominican. His father sent him to a Catholic for his early education, thinking that the environment at home would keep Peter from being deceived by the teachings of the Church.
Nevertheless, one of the first things Peter learned there was the Apostle's Creed, which the Cathari abhorred. Making conversation on day, his uncle asked him his lesson. The boy recited the creed and explained it in the Catholic sense, especially in those words: Creator of heaven and earth. In vain his uncle tried to persuade him it was false. He said that it was not God, but the evil principle that made all things that are visible; the Cathari viewed the physical world as ugly and bad, which is inconsistent with the concept of an infinitely perfect being. The boy's resolute steadiness concerned his uncle, but his father laughed at his brother's fears believing that the world would corrupt his son.
When he was 15, Peter was sent to the University of Bologna, a hotbed of licentiousness. There he met Saint Dominic, and instantly threw himself at the saint's feet to beg admission to the Order of Friar Preachers. Peter was present at the death of the founder soon after, and shared in the primitive zeal and courage of the sons of a saint.
While still a student, Peter experienced a severe trial. He was publicly reprimanded and punished because a brother, passing Peter's cell late at night, thought he had heard women's voices in his room. The voices were those of angels, who frequently visited the saint: but in his humility, he thought it better to accept the punishment and say nothing about the favors God had granted him. He was sent to the remote little Dominican convent of Jesi, in the marquisate of Ancona, to do penance, and his ordination was delayed.
Peter found great strength in prayer. Nevertheless, he was human and felt the sting of the disgrace. One day he complained to the Lord: "Lord, You know that I am innocent of this: Why do you allow them to believe it?" A sorrowful voice replied from the crucifix: "And I, Peter, what have I done that they should do this to Me?" Peter complained no more. The truth was eventually discovered, and Peter resumed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood.
Peter soon became a celebrated preacher throughout northern and central Italy, and, in 1232, an inquisitor to fight against the heresy that had infected his family and others in Lombardy. Many miracles (filling 22 pages in folio in the Acta Sanctorum) were worked through his prayers, to the rage of the heretics. Crowds nearly pressed him to death many times: some to ask his blessing, others to offer the sick to him to be cured, others to receive his holy instructions.
In one city, a prominent man had been won to heresy, because the devil, taking the form of the Blessed Virgin, appeared at the heretics' meetings and encouraged him to join them. Peter, determined to win the man back to the truth, went to the meeting and, when the devil appeared in his disguise, held up a small pyx in which he had placed a consecrated Host. "If you are the Mother of God," cried Peter, "adore your Son!" The devel fled in dismay and many were converted.
Among other miracles, he predicted that he would be murdered by heretics, who indeed waylaid him on the road between Como and Milan. Peter went to his death singing the Easter Sequence, and fell unprotesting beneath the blows of his assassins. Carino cut his head with an ax, and then his companion Dominic stabbed him. As Peter rose to his knees and commended himself to God, Carino killed him with a blow of his axe to Peter's side. One of his murderers, "Blessed" Carino, was touched by grace at the sight of a saint, was converted, and eventually became a Dominican at Forli. To him as to us, Peter had pointed out the way to heaven when he traced on the dust of the road, in his own blood, the creed that had lighted his path: "Credo in unum Deum."
Peter's body was ceremoniously buried in the Dominicans' church dedicated to St. Eustorgius, in Milan, where it still rests. His head is kept separately in a crystal and gold case. So many miracles were worked at his shrine that many of the Cathari asked to be admitted to the Catholic Church (Benedictines, Dorcy, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
In art, Saint Peter is a Dominican with a gash or knife in his head. Occasionally, the knife is in his shoulder. Sometimes he is portrayed (1) with his finger on his lips; (2) writing credo in unum deum in the dust as he dies; (3) stabbed in the forest with his companion; or (4) with the Virgin and four female saints appearing to him (Roeder). Peter is the patron of midwives and inquisitors and venerated in Verona (Roeder).
Robert of Molesme, OSB Cist. Abbot (RM)
Born near Troyes, Champagne, France, in 1018; died on March 21, 1110; canonized in 1222. Born of noble parents, Robert was one of the founders of the Cistercian movement, which, like the monks of Cluny in the 10th century, was of Benedictine stock. The Rule of Saint Benedict had lost none of its value since its foundation in Italy in the 6th century. Absolute fidelity to this rule, and its greatest possible extension in the religious life were the two aims Robert pursued throughout his life.
Saint Alberic joined Robert in this pursuit, followed by Saint Stephen Harding. But would they have taken the initiative without Robert? Or would they have postponed it. Or might they not have become discouraged while en route? For Robert was endowed with an uncommon will to overcome all obstacles.
There was no lack of obstacles. Like Stephen Harding, Robert had received Benedictine training at Moutier-La-Celle beginning when he was 15. He was appointed prior soon after his novitiate, then abbot of Saint Michael of Tonnerre at a very early age. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to reform the abbey. The scandals at the abbey were the motivation behind Robert's activity.
How did it happen that the Benedictines had forgotten Saint Benedict and his rule to this extent? It was not that the rule was antiquated but men who were wicked, and his first desire was to convince them of their error. But since they did not listen to him, his second desire was to leave. "But whatever town you enter, and they do not receive you-- go out into the streets and say, 'Even the dust from your town, that we shake off against you'" (Luke 10:10-11).
Robert returned to Moutier-La-Celle, after having learned about a little group of seven hermits in forest of Collan, near Tonnerre, whom he greatly desired to join and who in turn wanted him to live with them. But Robert first of all owed obedience to the abbot of Moutier-La-Celle who sent him to Saint-Ayoul. Nothing less than a decree issued by Pope Alexander II was required before Robert and the hermits could come together again; the decree appointed him their superior. But they did not last long in Collan, since Robert decided to leave that unhealthy site for a more salubrious setting in the forest of Molesmes (c. 1075).
It was there at Molesmes that Robert met Stephen Harding. For Stephen Harding, as for posterity, Robert was always to be known as Robert of Molesmes. What Robert accomplished there, what Stephen saw there was the model, in miniature but perfect, of what the Cistercians were to become later: cells, which were mere huts grouped around a chapel that was really an oratory, and men who formed a little republic according to the Spirit, governed by an elected abbot, and who had given themselves as a constitution the famous Benedictine Rule.
These men, who spent their days divided into alternate periods of silence and common prayer, of contemplation and manual labor, had greater dependence on God than on the world. They practiced the evangelical counsels--poverty, chastity, and obedience--and found that they were both viable and profitable, enabling them to live in an atmosphere of peace and joy.
The austerity and holiness of the members of the rejuvenated community led to a great influx of ill-qualified candidates, and when Robert was unsuccessful in raising the standards to their previous level and stymied by the bishop of Troyes, who caused its constitution to be violated. Robert once more shook the dust from his feet, leaving Alberic and Stephen Harding behind, to retire to a hermitage at Or.
Recalled again to Molesmes, and again disgusted with the laxity of the monks, Robert, again shook the dust from his feet, this time took Alberic and Stephen Harding with him. They escaped the jurisdiction of the bishop of Troyes to fall under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Langres, and finally received approval from the archbishop of Lyons, the papal legate (in 1098), to found their new republic at Cīteaux, near Dijon, in the diocese of Chalon- sure-Saone, which gave its name to the order. The new community was dedicated to strict observance of the rule of Saint Benedict.
Robert was elected abbot in which post, however, he remained for just a year because the monks of Molesmes appealed to Rome and Urban II responded by ordering Robert to return to Molesmes in 1099. It was in Molesmes, regenerated on the model of Cīteaux, that Robert died, after having governed this abbey for nine years. But in Robert's mind Cīteaux and Molesmes were only guideposts.
The Lord could have said to this man: "Your plans are grandiose but you will not realize them all. Like Moses you will die before reaching the Promised Land. You will be the inventor, the architect. Another will be the contractor, he will exploit your invention. Another will steal from you the title of founder, this man will be Bernard of Clairvaux.
"It was necessary that I concern myself with your personal sanctity. It is not the least of things that the first of the Cistercians be a saint. You will not have stolen this title of saint, and nobody will steal it from you. You love the Truth, but you are not notable for your patience. You want to discover the great Benedictine current of spirituality at its source, you want to inundate France and Europe with it.
"You think that the truth which dwells in it is beautiful and good for all men. You count on the indwelling force of this truth to prevail by virtue of its appeal. You do not want to do violence to consciences. You want them to feel violence being done to them from within.
"But you forget that there are closed consciences which must be opened, that the kingdom of truth does not arrive without a struggle. This is why I shall place obstacles in your path. You shall be bound by wills other than your own, and you will go where you do not wish to go. But that which you will have done for the salvation of others, even without success, will at least be useful to your own salvation for without these self-imposed troublesome tasks, you would never have become a saint" (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Saint Robert is portrayed in art as a Cistercian monk writing a book. He may also be shown with a cross and ring, and the arms of the abbey of Molesmes by him; or with Stephen Harding (Roeder).
Blessed Robert of Bruges, OSB Cist. Abbot (AC)
(also known as Robert Gruthuysen)
Born in Bruges, Belgium; died 1157. In 1131, Robert followed Saint Bernard to Clairvaux, and eight years later he was sent back to Belgium as abbot of Dunes. In 1153, Robert succeeded Bernard as abbot of Clairvaux (Benedictines).
Senan of North Wales, Hermit (AC)
7th century. A legend relates that Senan was a hermit in northern Wales, but there is so much confusion in the records among the various saints of this name that it is impossible to give any precise history (Benedictines).
Severus of Naples B (RM)
Died 409. Bishop Severus of Naples was a renowned miracle worker. He raised a dead man to life in order that he should bear witness in favor of his persecuted widow (Benedictines).
Blessed Theoger of Metz, OSB B (PC)
(also known as Theogar, Diethger)
Born in Alsace?, France; died 1120. Theoger was successively canon of Mainz, monk of Hirschau, prior of Reichenbach on the Murg, abbot of Saint Georgen in the Black Forest (1090), and bishop of Metz (1118). After his episcopal consecration at Corbie, he retired to the abbey of Cluny, where he died (Benedictines).
Torpes of Pisa M (RM)
Died c. 65. All that is really known is that Torpes was martyred in Pisa under Nero. The rest is unreliable legend (Benedictines).
Tychicus of Paphos B (RM)
1st century. A disciple of Saint Paul the Apostle (Acts 20:4, 21:29) and his fellow worker (Col. 4:7; Eph. 6:21ff), Saint Tychicus is said to have ended his days as bishop of Paphos in Cyprus (Benedictines).
Wilfrid the Younger, OSB B (AC)
Died at Ripon in 744. Saint Wilfrid was one of the five future bishops who were educated by Saint Hilda at Whitby. This indefatigable bishop of York was the favorite disciple of Saint John of Beverly at Whitby. But first he was appointed abbot of the cathedral community at York, and shortly thereafter coadjutor of John of Beverly, whom he succeeded as bishop. Little is known of Wilfrid's episcopate except that he was zealous for education. Twelve years before his death at Ripon Abbey, Wilfrid retired to a monastery in order to be free to serve God with his whole soul. In the 10th century, two different groups claim to have taken the relics of Saint Wilfrid the Great from Ripon; most likely one party took those of Wilfrid the Younger. This saint's feast is attested in the Calendar of Winchcombe and later martyrologies, though he does not seem to have had a widespread or popular cultus (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
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.