Saint Antoninus, Bishop
Saints Gordian & Epimachus
Alphius, Cyrinus, and Philadelphus MM (RM)
Died 251. These three Sicilian brothers appear to have suffered under Decius. They are highly venerated among the Greeks and in Sicily, especially at Lentini, of which they are patrons (Benedictines).
Antoninus of Florence, OP B (RM)
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1389 (or 1384?); died there on May 2, 1459; canonized in 1523.
The story of Antonino Pierozzi is that of a great soul in a frail body, and of the triumph of virtue over vast and organized wickedness. His father, Niccolo Pierozzi, had been a noted lawyer, notary to the Republic of Florence. He and his wife Thomassina had their only child baptized as Antonio, but because the saint was both small and gentle people called him by the affectionate diminutive 'Antonino' all his life.
The world in which he lived was engrossed in the Renaissance; it was a time of violent political upheaval, of plague, wars, and injustice. The effects of the Great Schism of the West, over which Saint Catherine had wept and prayed a generation before, were still tearing Christendom apart when Antoninus was born--in the same year as Cosimo de'Medici. The fortunes of Florence were largely to rest in the hands of these two men.
There are only a few known details about the early life of Antoninus, but they are revealing ones. He was a delicate and lovable child. His stepmother, worried over his frailty, often gave him extra meat at table. The little boy, determined to harden himself for the religious life, would slip the meat under the table to the cats. Kids!
From the cradle his inclination was to piety. His only pleasure was to read the lives of saints and other good books, converse with pious persons, or employ himself in prayer. Accordingly, if he was not at home or at school, he was always to be found at Saint Michael's Church before a crucifix or in our Lady's chapel there. He had a passion for learning, but an even greater ardor to perfect himself in the science of salvation. In prayer, he begged nothing of God but His grace to avoid sin, and to do His holy will in all things.
Antoninus hitched his wagon to the star of great austerity and, at 14, discovered the answer to all his questions in the preaching of Blessed John Dominici, who was then the prior of Santa Maria Novella and later became cardinal-archbishop of Ragusa and papal legate. Antoninus went to speak with the preacher and begged to be admitted to the order.
At the time, Blessed John was reforming the Dominican priories of the area according to the wishes of Blessed Raymond of Capua. John planned to build a new and reformed house at Fiesole (near Florence), which he hoped to start again with young and fervent subjects who would revivify the order. It had declined under the plague and the effects of the schism. As yet, he had no building in which to house the new recruits.
Even were the monastery completed, it was to be a house of rigorous observance, and Antoninus looked far too small and frail for such an austere community. John Dominici, not wishing to quench the wick of youthful eagerness, had not the heart to explain all this. He told Antoninus to go home and memorize the large and forbidding book called Decretum Gratiani, supposing that its very bulk would discourage the lad.
Antoninus, however, was possessed of an iron will. He went home and began to read the book straight through. By the end of the year, he had finished the nearly impossible task set before him, and returned to Blessed John to recite it as requested. There was now no further way to delay his reception into the order, so he was received into the Dominican Order "for the future priory of Fiesole" in 1405 by Blessed John.
Due to the unsettled state of the Church, the order, and Italian politics, the training of the young aspirants was conducted at several different locations, including Cortona, and, for a time, the regular course of studies could not be pursued. Antoninus, nothing daunted, studied by himself. He was happily associated during these years with several future Dominican saints and beati, including Lawrence of Ripafratta, the novice master; Constantius of Fabriano; Peter Capucci; and his great friend, the artist, Fra Angelico.
Ordained and set to preaching, Antoninus soon won his place in the hearts of the Florentines. Each time he said Mass, he was moved to tears by the mercy of God, and his own devotion moved other hearts. He was given consecutively several positions in the order. While still very young, he was made prior of the Minerva in Rome (1430). He served the friars in various priories in Italy (including Cortona, Fiesole (1418-28), Naples, Gaeta, Siena, and Florence). As superior of the reformed Tuscan and Neapolitan congregations, and also as prior provincial of the whole Roman province, Antoninus zealously enforced the reforms initiated by John Dominici with a view to restoring the primitive rule. Antoninus became a distinguished master of canon law and assisted popes at their councils. There is evidence that at some point he served as a judge on the Rota. Pope Eugenius IV summoned him to attend the general Council of Florence (1439), and he assisted at all its sessions.
In 1436, he founded the famous priory of San Marco in Florence with the financial aid of Cosimo de'Medici in buildings abandoned by the Silvestrines. Under his guidance and encouragement, the San Marco's monastery became the center of Christian art. He called upon his old companion, Saint Fra Angelico, and on the miniaturist, Fra Benedetto (Angelico's natural brother), to do the frescoes and the choir books which are still preserved there. He also ensured that an outstanding library was collected.
Antoninus is still remembered today in the exquisite 'Cloister of Saint Antoninus' with its wide arches and beautiful ionic capitals, designed in the saint's lifetime by Michelozzo for San Marco. In the lunettes of the cloister Bernardino Poccetti and others painted scenes from Antoninus's life. (When Giambologna restored and altered the church of San Marco in 1588, he built for the saint's body a superb chapel.)
To his horror, Antoninus's wisdom and pastoral zeal made him a natural choice by Pope Eugenius IV for archbishop of Florence in 1446. Although Tabor reports that the pope had first chosen Fra Angelico, whose purity and wisdom had become known when he was painting in Rome. The artist entreated the holy father to choose Fra Antoninus instead, who had done great service by his unworldliness and gentle but irresistible power.
Antoninus's appointment as bishop was a genuine heartbreak to a scholar who could never find enough time to study; in fact, he had been in Naples for two years reforming the houses of the province when he received word of the nomination and confirmation by the Florentines. For a time he tried to escape accepting the dignity by hiding himself on the island of Sardinia. That did not work. So he tried begging the holy father to excuse him because of his weak physical constitution. The pope would accept no excuses; he commanded Antoninus to proceed immediately to Fiesole under the pain of excommunication for disobedience.
While he obeyed with trepidation, it was a blessing for the people of Florence that he was consecrated bishop in March 1446; they were not slow in demonstrating their appreciation of their good fortune. He was the 'people's prelate' and the 'protector of the poor' for he discharged his office with inflexible justice and overflowing charity. His love extended to the rich, too. The next year, the dying Pope Eugenius summoned Antoninus to Rome in order to receive the last sacraments from the holy bishop before dying in his arms on February 23, 1447.
For the remainder of his life, Antoninus combined an amazing amount of active work with constant prayer. He allowed himself very little sleep. In addition to the church office, he recited daily the office of our Lady, and the seven penitential psalms; the office of the dead twice a week; and the whole psalter on every festival. His prayer life allowed him to exhibit an exterior of serenity regardless of the situation. Francis Castillo, his secretary, once said to him, bishops were to be pitied if they were to be eternally besieged with hurry as he was. The saint made him this answer, which the author of his vita wished to see written in letters of gold: "To enjoy interior peace, we must always reserve in our hearts amidst all affairs, as it were, a secret closet, where we are to keep retired within ourselves, and where no business of the world can over enter."
Because of his reputation for wisdom and ability, Antoninus was often called upon to help in public affairs, civil and ecclesiastical. Pope Nicholas V sought his advice on matters of church and state, forbade any appeal to be made to Rome from the archbishop's judgements, and declared that Antonino in his lifetime was as worthy of canonization as the dead Bernardino of Siena, whom he was about to raise to the altars. Pius II nominated him to a commission charged with reforming the Roman court. The Florentine government gave him important embassies on behalf of the republic and would have sent him as their representative to the emperor if illness had not prevented him from leaving Florence. Yet he also busied himself with the beauty of the chant, and personally attended the Divine Office at his cathedral.
A distinguished writer on international law and moral theology, his best known work is Summa moralis, which is generally thought to have laid the groundwork for modern moral theology. He was conscious of the new problems presented by social and economic development, and taught that the state had a duty to intervene in mercantile affairs for the common good, and to give help to the unfortunate and needy. He was among the first Christian moralists to teach that money invested in commerce and industry was true capital; therefore, it was lawful and not usury to claim interest on it (combine this information with the fact that he was a staunch opponent of usury). All his many books were of a practical nature, including guidance for confessors (Summa confessionis) and a chronicle of the history of the world.
His first concern, however, was always for the people of his diocese, to whom he set an example of simple living and inflexible integrity. He preached regularly, made a yearly visitation of all the parishes in the diocese on foot, put down gambling, opposed both usury and magic, reformed abuses of all kinds, and served as the example of Christian charity. Each day he held an audience for anyone who wished to speak with him. No one appealed for his help, material or spiritual, in vain.
Antoninus was probably best known for his kindness to the poor, and there were many in the rich city of Florence. He pulled up his own flower garden and planted vegetables for the poor. He drove his housekeeper to distraction by giving away even his own tableware, food, clothing, and furniture. He never possessed any small precious objects, such as plates or jewels. His stable generally housed one mule, which he often sold to relieve some poor person. When that happened, some wealthy citizen would buy the animal and offer it as a present to the charitable archbishop. He kept in personal contact with the poor of the city, particularly with those who had fallen from wealth and were ashamed to beg. For their care he founded a society called the "Goodmen of Saint Martin of Tours," who went about quietly doing much-needed charitable work--much in the fashion of our modern Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. His particular establishment now provides for about 600 families.
His charity did not end with the poor, but also extended to his enemies. A criminal, named Ciardi, who was called before the bishop to answer accusations, attempted to assassinate the archbishop. The saint narrowly escaped the thrust of his poniard, which pierced the back of his chair. Yet Antoninus freely forgave the potential assassin and prayed for his conversion. God answered his prayers so that he had the comfort of seeing Ciardi become a sincere Franciscan penitent.
When the plague again came to Florence in 1448, it was the saintly archbishop who took the lead in almsgiving and care of the sick. Many Dominicans died of the plague as they went about their priestly duties in the stricken city; sad but undaunted, Antoninus continued to go about on foot among the people, giving both material and spiritual aid. During the earthquakes of 1453-1455, he was similarly self-giving. The example of his own charity led many rich persons to likewise provide for the afflicted.
Antoninus's was a role model in other ways, too. When he learned that two blind beggars had amassed a fortune, he took the money from them and distributed it to others in dire necessity. Was this an injustice? No, he provided for all the needs of the two for the rest of their lives. The bishop tried to hide his virtue from others and himself, until he would see reflections of them in his flock. By accident he discovered one such flame that he had sparked in a poor, obscure handicraftsman who continually practiced penance. The man spent Sundays and holidays in the churches, secretly distributed to the poor all he earned beyond that needed for subsistence, and kept a poor leper in his home, joyfully serving the ungrateful beggar and dressing his ulcers with his own hands. The leper, increasingly morose and imperious, carried complaints against his benefactor to the archbishop, who, discovering this hidden treasure of sanctity in the handicraftsman, secretly honored it, while he punished the insolence of the leper.
Cosimo de'Medici, who did not always have compliments for the Dominicans, admitted frankly, "Our city has experienced all sorts of misfortunes: fire, earthquake, drought, plague, seditions, plots. I believe it would today be nothing but a mass of ruins without the prayers of our holy archbishop."
After 13 years as bishop, Antoninus died surrounded by his religious brothers from San Marco and mourned by the whole city. His whole life was mirrored in his last words, "to serve God is to reign." Pope Pius II assisted at his funeral, when he was buried in San Marco's church. Pius eulogized Antoninus as one who "conquered avarice and pride, was outstandingly temperate in every way, was a brilliant theologian, and popular preacher."
His hairshirt and other relics were the vehicle for many miracles. It is significant that the canonization of Saint Antoninus was decreed by the short-lived Pope Adrian VI (August 31, 1522, to September 14, 1523), whose ideas for church reform were radical and drastic. His body was found uncorrupted in 1559, when it was translated with pomp and solemnity into a chapel richly adorned by the two brothers Salviati (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Dominicans, Dorcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Jarrett, Tabor, Walsh).
Antonius of Florence is generally portrayed in art as a Dominican bishop with scales. He might be shown (1) weighing false merchandise against the word of God; (2) as a Dominican with a pallium; (3) as a young man giving alms; (4) drifting down a river in a boat; or (5) holding a book in a bag (Roeder). The likeness of the archbishop was recorded by contemporary artists, as in the bust at Santa Maria Novella and a statue at the nearby Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Antonio del Pollaiuolo's painting of him at the foot of the Cross survives at San Marco, as does a series of scenes from his life in its cloister of San Antonino (Farmer) and a portrait by Fra Bartolomeo (Tabor).
Aurelian of Limoges B (AC)
1st or 3rd century. Saint Aurelian was a disciple of Saint Martial and eventually succeeded him as bishop of Limoges (Benedictines).
Blessed Beatrix d'Este I, OSB V (AC)
Born in 1206; died 1226; cultus confirmed in 1763. Beatrix was the daughter of the Marchese Azzo d'Este, who died when she was six years old. At age 14 the orphan secretly left her home and, against the wishes of her relatives, became a Benedictine nun at Solarola, near Padua. Shortly afterwards she was transferred to Gemmola, where she died a victim of loving self-immolation (Benedictines).
Calepodius, Palmatius, Simplicius, Felix, Blanda & Comp M (RM)
Died 222 to 232; feast day formerly May 16. This entry in the Roman Martyrology includes a number of Roman martyrs who suffered under Alexander Severus during the pontificate of Callistus I. Calepodius, a priest, was the first to suffer; he has given his name to a Roman catacomb. Saint Palmatius, of consular rank, died with his wife and children and 42 members of his household. Saint Simplicius, a senator, was martyred with 65 of his family and dependents. SS. Felix and Blanda were husband and wife. All were victims of an outburst of fury on the part of the heathen mob (Benedictines). In art, these martyrs are represented as a priest and companions being thrown into the Tiber. Calepodius is dressed as an early Christian priest in Mass vestments with a book. They are venerated in Rome, particularly at Santa Maria in Trastevere (Roeder).
Catald of Taranto B (RM)
(also known as Cataldus, Cathaluds, Cattaldo, Cathal)
Born in Munster, Ireland, 7th century. Saint Cataldus was a pupil, then the headmaster of the monastic school of Lismore in Waterford after the death of its founder, Saint Carthage. Upon his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he was shipwrecked at Taranto in southern Italy and chosen by the people as their bishop. He is the titular of Taranto's cathedral and the principal patron of the diocese. This epitaph if given under an image of Saint Catald in Rome:
Me tulit Hiberne, Solyme traxere, Tarentum Nunc tenet: huic ritus, dogmata, jura dedi.
Which has been loosely translated as:
Hibernia gave me birth: thence wafted over, I sought the sacred Solymean shore. To thee Tarentum, holy rites I gave, Precept divine; and thou to me a grave.
It is odd that an Irishman, should be so honored throughout Italy, Malta, and France, but have almost no recognition in his homeland. His Irish origins were discovered only two or three centuries after his death, when his relic were recovered during the renovation of the cathedral of Taranto. A small golden cross, of 7th- or 8th- century Irish workmanship, was with the relics. Further investigations identified him with Cathal, the teacher of Lismore.
Veneration to Catald spread, especially in southern Italy, after the May 10, 1017, translation of his relics when the cathedral was being rebuilt following its destruction at the hands of Saracens in 927. Four remarkable cures occurred as the relics were moved to the new cathedral. When his coffin was open at that time, a pastoral staff of Irish workmanship was found with the inscription Cathaldus Rachau. There is a town of San Cataldo in Sicily and another on the southeast coast of Italy (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Neeson, Tommasini).
Saint Catald is depicted in art as an early Christian bishop with a miter and pallium in a 12th century mosaic at Palermo (Roeder). He is the subject of a painting on the 8th pillar of the nave on the left in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem (D'Arcy, Montague). There are also 12th-century mosaics in Palermo and Monreale depicting the saint (Farmer). Catald is invoked against plagues, drought, and storms (Farmer).
Conleth of Kildare B (AC)
(also known as Conleat)
Died c. 519; feast day formerly on May 3. Conleth, an Irish recluse at Old Connell (County Kildare) on the Liffey, was a metal- worker and very skilled as a copyist and illuminator. Saint Brigid, according to her vita by Cogitosus, came to know him and invited him to make sacred vessels for her convent and asked him to be the spiritual director of her nuns at Kildare. Eventually, he became the first bishop of Kildare, which the Annuario Pontificio quotes as being founded in 519.
Conleth, Tassach of Elphin (Saint Patrick's craftsman), and Daigh (craftsman of Kieran of Saigher were acclaimed the "three chief artisans of Ireland" during their period. Conleth, who was the head of the Kildare school of metal-work and penmanship, is traditionally regarded as the sculptor of the crozier of Saint Finbar of Termon Barry, which can now be seen in the Royal Irish Academy. He also created the golden crown that was suspended over Brigid's tomb.
A gloss in an Irish martyrology says that he was devoured by wolves on his way to Rome--a journey undertaken against the wishes of Brigid. This could be an explanation of his name: coin "to wolves" and leth "half" (Benedictines, Curtayne, D'Arcy, Farmer, Montague, Neeson).
Dioscorides of Smyrna M (RM)
Date unknown. All that is known is that Dioscorides was a martyr in Smyrna in Asia Minor (Benedictines).
Blessed Enrico Rebuschini (AC)
Born at Gravedona, Lake Como, Italy, April 25, 1860; died at Cremona, Italy, 1938; beatified May 4, 1998.
Although Enrico Rebuschini was born into a wealthy family, he always loved the poor to whom he would give all he had. When his vocation to the priesthood was opposed by his father, he went to the University of Pavia to study for a secular career. Unable to tolerate the school's anti-clerical atmosphere, he returned home after only a year.
Without the necessary education to achieve much, he entered military service, then received a diploma in accounting. He used this skill for two years at his brother-in-law's silk factory. Yet God was still calling him to the priesthood.
The diocese sent him to Rome to study at the Gregorian University, where he progressed well until he fell gravely ill. After recovering at home, he embarked on a life of rigorous asceticism in order to give himself to God completely. Through his prayer and penance, he came to understand that God was calling him to serve the poor.
He was blessed with the ability to see Christ in the faces of those in need, especially the sick, and the gift of contemplative prayer. In 1887, he joined the Camillian Servants of the Sick in Verona. On April 14, 1889, he was ordained to the priesthood by the future Pope Saint Pius X. In 1891, Enrico was assigned to the hospital in Verona. He migrated to the community at Cremona in 1899, where he lived until his death.
At Cremona, he was administrator of the new Saint Camillus clinic (1903-1937) and superior of the house for 11 years. The Spirit of Christ grew in Enrico so that It shined in his countenance. As he walked through the city's streets, people saw his holiness and called him the "mystic of the streets." He died of bronchial pneumonia a few days after celebrating Mass for someone who was ill (L'Osservatore Romano).
Gordian and Epimachus MM (RM)
Died c. 362 (Gordian) and c. 250 (Epimachus); feast sometimes celebrated on May 6 or May 9. While there would seem to be no connection between these two--Epimachus suffered at Alexandria under Decius with another saint named Alexander, and Gordian was martyred much later, probably under Julian the Apostate--the relics of both were buried in the same tomb in Rome. Their acta, which make Gordian a minister of Emperor Julian, are untrustworthy. However, Eusebius quotes Saint Dionysius of Alexandria with regard to the death of Epimachus and Alexander, who were imprisoned for a long time before they were beaten with clubs, flayed, and then burned in lime. Gordian, according to his funeral inscription, was a boy who gave mature witness to the faith before his beheading in Rome. The Benedictine abbey of Kempton, Bavaria, Germany, now possesses a major portion of their relics, which the monks received from Charlemagne's wife. There is some confusion between this Epimachus and the Alexandrian martyr of the same name whose relics were translated to Constantinople. Gordian is mentioned in the martyrology of Bede and the feast of Epimachus was on the Sarum calendar (Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Job, Patriarch (RM)
1500 BC (?). This Old Testament patriarch teaches us the omnipotence of God, the value of patience endurance of hardship, and the reward of faith trust in God's providence. His liturgical cultus endures in the Eastern Church, but this man "simple and upright and fearing God and avoiding evil" is an example to us all (Benedictines). The Web Museum has William Blake's Satan Inflicting Boils on Job
John of Ávila, Priest (RM)
Born at Almodovar del Campo, New Castile, Spain, in January 6, 1499; died at Montilla, Spain, on May 10, 1569; beatified in 1894; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Born of wealthy parents of Jewish extraction, John studied law at the University of Salamanca beginning when he was age 14. He was attracted to the religious life instead and left to live a life of austerity. Three years later he went to Alcalá (Complutum) to study philosophy under Dominic de Soto for six years. There he met Peter Guerrero and was ordained. Left wealthy when his parents died, he disposed of his riches to aid the poor.
After his ordination in 1525 he was preparing to sail for the missions of the West Indies and Mexico, but was detained by the archbishop of Seville. The southernmost province had been ruled by the Moors and needed the Gospel message to be preached again. Instead of evangelizing foreign lands, John spent 40 years of his priestly career preaching the Gospel to the natives of his own Andalusia. He soon achieved fame as a powerful preacher, drawing huge crowds to his missions. He made enemies by his fearless denunciation of evil even in high places, which led to his imprisonment by the Inquisition at Seville. They accused him of teaching rigorism and the exclusion of the rich from heaven. When the charges were dismissed and he was released, his popularity reached new heights. He continued preaching all over Spain.
Not only did John evangelize in the pulpit, he also did so through his writing and spiritual direction. He was spiritual adviser to SS. Teresa of Ávila, John of God, John of the Cross, Francis Borgia, and Peter of Alcántara, among others. Francis Borgia and John of God owed their conversions to him. His ascetical writings, chiefly his letters, rank high among the Spanish classics. They are substantial in quantity and notable for their spiritual depth. The most famous is Audi filia, a treatise on Christian perfection written in 1530 for Donna Sancha Carillo, who had renounced wealth and status to lead a life of prayer and solitude.
John was ill for much of the last 15 years of his life. His admiration for Saint Ignatius Loyola inclined him to join the Society of Jesus, but he was dissuaded by the provincial of Andalusia. The "Apostle of Andalusia" was, however, buried in the Jesuit church at Montilla (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).
Quartus and Quintus MM (RM)
Date unknown. Quartus and Quintus were citizens of Capua, Italy, who were condemned and executed in Rome. There relics were returned to Capua and enshrined (Benedictines).
Solangia of Bourges VM (AC)
(also known as Solange of Bourges of Genevieve du Berry)
Born at Villemont, near Bourges, France; died c. 880. Solangia was born into a family of poor vine-dressers. At an early age, she vowed to serve god and remain a virgin. She worked as a shepherdess, watching her father's sheep. When her hour of prayer approached, she is said to have been attended by a guiding star that shone brightly over her head. She was said to have a great affinity for animals and to have the gift of healing.
One of the sons of the count of Poitiers, hearing of her beauty, came to see her. When she resisted Bernard's advances, he pulled her up onto his horse by force. She extricated herself but was injured in the process, and he murdered her with his hunting knife. Legend had it that she then rose and carried her head in her hands to the Church of Saint-Martin-du-Cros. In its cemetery an altar was built in her honor in 1281. The field in which she liked to pray came to be called le Champ de Sainte Solange (Benedictines, White).
In art, Saint Solangia can be identified as a shepherdess with a star over her head, near a crucifix. She may also be portrayed (1) with a hunting knife in her throat; (2) with a knife in her breast, distaff, flowers, cross, and sheep around her; or (3) carrying her head (Roeder). She is patron of Bourges and the province of Berry, and protector of little children and shepherds, and invoked for rain (Roeder).
William of Pontoise (AC)
Born in England; died in Pontoise, France, 1192. Saint William, who may have been a Benedictine of St. Martin's Abbey, lived as a hermit in Pontoise (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.