Saints Nereus & Achilles MM
Saint Pancras, Martyr
Diomma of Kildimo (AC)
5th century. Irish Saint Diomma taught the road to holiness to Saint Declan and other saints. He is now venerated as patron of Kildimo, County Limerick, Ireland (Benedictines).
Dionysius of Asia M (RM)
Died 304. Saint Dionysius was the uncle of the youthful martyr Saint Pancras, whose guardian he was. They came together to Rome, were converted to the faith, and martyred under Diocletian. Dionysius died in prison (Benedictines).
Dominic of the Causeway, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Dominic de la Calzada)
Born at Victoria, Biscay; died c. 1109. The Benedictines turned Saint Dominic, a Basque, away when he repeatedly tried to join the order at Valvanera. All the saint could achieve in following his vocation to live as a monk was to become a hermit near Rioja. He later moved his hermitage to one of the routes taken by pilgrims visiting the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. There he had the simple, extremely useful notion of building a road (calzada or causeway), a bridge, and a hospice, solely to ease their journey. The spot where he lived is now called La Calzada and itself has become a great pilgrimage shrine (Benedictines, Bentley).
Epiphanius of Salamis B (RM)
Born at Besanduk, Palestine, c. 315; died at sea in 403. Born into a Hellenized Jewish family, Epiphanius became an expert in the languages needed to understand Scripture. From his earliest youth he was a monk in Palestine. Later he went to Egypt and stayed at several desert communities. He returned to Palestine about 333, was ordained, and became superior of a monastery at Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin), which he had built in his youth and which he directed for 30 years.
He achieved a widespread reputation for his scholarship, austerities,
mortifications, spiritual wisdom, and advice. Called "the Oracle of Palestine," he became bishop of Constantia (Salamis), Cyprus, and metropolitan of Cyprus in 367, although still continuing as superior of his monastery. His reputation was such that he was one of the few orthodox bishops not harassed by Arian Emperor Valens, though Epiphanius preached vigorously against Arianism.
He supported Bishop Paulinus in 376 at Antioch against the claims of Metetius and the Eastern bishops, and attended a council in Rome summoned by Pope Saint Damasus in 382. Late in his life Epiphanius was embroiled in several unpleasant episodes with fellow prelates. First, he ordained a priest in another bishop's diocese.
He also denounced his host, Bishop John of Jerusalem, in John's cathedral in 394 for John's softness to Origenism (he believed Origen responsible for many of the heresies of the times). This won for Epiphanius the friendship of Saint Jerome, who was a bitter opponent of Origen. (It is said that there was a test of wills between Jerome and Origen; the winner of the crown was the one who outlived the other, Jerome.) Like Saint Jerome, Epiphanius was too immoderate in his zeal and unable to use tact and discretion in his polemics.
When Epiphanius was nearly 80, in 402, at the behest of Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, the saint went to Constantinople to support Theophilus in his campaign against Saint John Chrysostom, and the four "Tall Brothers" and then admitted he knew nothing of their teachings. Yes, even a saint can be headstrong or ornery at times.
When he realized he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against Saint John Chrysostom, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and who were appealing to the emperor, and Epiphanius started back to Salamis, only to die on the way home.
He wrote numerous theological treatises, among them Ancoratus, on the Trinity and the Resurrection; Panarion (The Medicine Box) on some 80 heresies--real and imagined--and their refutations. The number 80 was chosen to correspond with the 'fourscore concubines' of the Song of Songs (6:8). He also authored De mensuribus et ponderibus, on ancient Jewish customs and measures. He was an authority on devotion to Mary and taught the primacy of Peter among the Apostles (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).
Ethelhard of Canterbury B (AC)
(also known as Ęthilheard)
Died at Canterbury, England, c. 803-805. Some sources state that Saint Ethelhard was abbot of Louth in Lincolnshire and a bishop of Winchester, England, before he was elevated to archbishop of Canterbury; however, Farmer says that he was not bishop of Winchester. His elevation to Canterbury's episcopal throne occurred just after King Offa and the pope divided the see to establish that of Lichfield. At first Ethelhard was unacceptable to his Kentish flock because it had just fallen under the domination of Mercia.
In 796, Offa died, Kent revolted, and Ethelhard was forced to flee. Through the intervention of Blessed Alcuin, Ethelhard was restored to Canterbury the following year. In 802, Pope Leo III re-established Canterbury to its former status, put aside the idea of moving the metropolitan see to London, and abolished the see of Lichfield.
Ethelhard convened the synod of Clovesho in 803, which mandated that each newly elected bishop make a written profession of orthodoxy and pledge obedience to his metropolitan bishop.
At his death Ethelhard was buried in Canterbury's cathedral, where he is venerated primarily for having overseen the restoration of the see. His was one of the Anglo-Saxon cults suppressed by Lanfranc because there were no written documents of his life. When no later writer picked up the challenge, Ethelhard's cultus seems to have died. There are, however, extant letters from Alcuin and Pope Leo to Saint Ethelhard (Benedictines, Farmer).
Flavia Domitilla M (RM)
1st century. Flavia Domitilla was the wife of Titus Flavius Clemens, a Roman consul, and daughter of Emperor Domitian's sister. She was converted to Christianity and was banished to the island of Pandatania (Pandateria) in the Tyrrhenian Sea for her faith after her husband was martyred in 96 AD. A niece my marriage, also called Domitilla, was banished to the island of Ponza for her faith and may have been burned to death when she refused to sacrifice to the gods (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).
In art, Flavia Domitilla is portrayed as a noblewoman holding a palm, crowned by angels, with SS. Achilleus and Nereus (Roeder).
Blessed Francis (Tarlati) Patrizi, OSM (AC)
Born in Siena, Italy; died there in 1328; cultus approved in 1743. Francis was converted by a sermon of the Servite friar Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni, and was himself received into the Servite Order by Saint Philip Benizi. Francis had the great gift of being able to reconcile enemies (Benedictines). Francis is portrayed as a Servite with a lily growing out of his mouth or holding a lily and a book. His relics rest at Santa Maria dei Servi in Siena, Italy. Francis is invoked to bring about reconciliation (Roeder).
Gemma of Goriano B (AC)
Died 1249; cultus approved in 1890. Gemma, a shepherdess, was a recluse for 42 years at Goriano Sicoli in the diocese of Sulmona in the Abruzzi (Benedictines).
Germanus of Constantinople B (RM)
Born c. 634; died at Platonium c. 732. Germanus, a churchman of senatorial rank, was promoted from bishop of Cyzicus to be patriarch of Constantinople in 715. Ten years later Emperor Leo III, the Isaurian, published the first edict against the public veneration of sacred images, an enactment prompted by political as well as religious considerations. It is for his firm opposition to the emperor that Saint Germanus is chiefly remembered. In a letter he wrote "When we show reverence to representations of Jesus Christ, we do not worship paint laid on wood: we worship the invisible God in spirit and in truth."
In 730, Germanus was in effect deposed, and soon after died in exile at a very old age. A few of his writings have survived, among them six homilies on the Virgin Mary and some hymns, including the one translated as "A great and mighty wonder,/A full and holy cure!" (Attwater, Benedictines).
Blessed Imelda Lambertini, OP V (AC)
Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1322; died there on the Feast of the Ascension, May 13, 1333; cultus confirmed in 1826; named patron of first communicants by Pope Pius X.
One of the most charming legends in Dominican hagiography is that of little Imelda, who died of love on her first Communion day, and who is, by this happy circumstance, patroness of all first communicants.
Tradition says that Imelda was the daughter of Count Egano Lambertini of Bologna. Her family was famous for its many religious, including a Dominican preacher, a Franciscan mother foundress, and an aunt of Imelda's who had founded a convent of strict observance in Bologna.
Imelda was a delicate child, petted and favored by her family, and it was no surprise that she should be religious by nature. She learned to read from the Psalter, and early devoted herself to attending Mass and Compline at the Dominican church. Her mother taught her to sew and cook for the poor, and went with her on errands of charity. When Imelda was nine, she asked to be allowed to go to the Dominicans at Val di Pietra. She was the only child of a couple old enough not to hope for any more children; it was a wrench to let her go. However, they took her to the convent and gave her to God with willing, if sorrowing, hearts.
Imelda's status in the convent is hard to discern. She wore the habit, followed the exercises of the house as much as she was allowed to, and longed for the day when she would be old enough to join them in the two things she envied most--the midnight Office and the reception of Holy Eucharist. Her age barred her from both. She picked up the Divine Office from hearing the sisters chant, and meditated as well as she could.
It was a lonely life for the little girl of nine, and, like many another lonely child, she imagined playmates for herself--with this one difference--her playmates were saints. She was especially fond of Saint Agnes, the martyr, who was little older than Imelda herself. Often she read about her from the large illuminated books in the library, and one day Agnes came in a vision to see her. Imelda was delighted. Shut away from participation in adult devotions, she had found a contemporary who could tell her about the things she most wanted to know. Agnes came often after this, and they talked of heavenly things.
Her first Christmas in the convent brought only sorrow to Imelda. She had been hoping that the sisters would relent and allow her to receive Communion with them, but on the great day, when everyone except her could go receive Jesus in the Eucharist, Imelda remained in her place, gazing through tears at the waxen figure in the creche. Imelda began to pray even more earnestly that she might receive Communion.
When her prayer was answered, spring had come to Bologna, and the world was preparing for the Feast of the Ascension. No one paid much attention to the little girl as she knelt in prayer while the sisters prepared for the Mass. Even when she asked to remain in the chapel in vigil on the eve of the feast, it caused no comment; she was a devout child. The sisters did not know how insistently she was knocking at heaven's gate, reciting to herself, for assurance, the prayer that appeared in the Communion verse for the Rogation Days: "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you."
The door was opened for Imelda on the morning of the Vigil of the Ascension. She had asked once more for the great privilege of receiving Communion, and, because of her persistence, the chaplain was called in on the case. He refused flatly; Imelda must wait until she was older. She went to her place in the chapel, giving no outward sign that she intended to take heaven by storm, and watched quietly enough while the other sister went to Communion.
After Mass, Imelda remained in her place in the choir. The sacristan busied herself putting out candles and removing the Mass vestments. A sound caused her to turn and look into the choir, and she saw a brilliant light shining above Imelda's head, and a Host suspended in the light. The sacristan hurried to get the chaplain.
The chaplain now had no choice; God had indicated that He wanted to be communicated to Imelda. Reverently, the chaplain took the Host and gave it to the rapt child, who knelt like a shining statue, unconscious of the nuns crowding into the chapel, or the laypeople pushing against the chapel grille to see what might be happening there.
After an interval for thanksgiving, the prioress went to call the little novice for breakfast. She found her still kneeling. There was a smile on her face, but she was dead.
The legend of Blessed Imelda is firmly entrenched in Dominican hearts, though it is difficult now to find records to substantiate it. She may have been eleven, rather than ten when she died. The convent where she lived has been gone for centuries and its records with it.
Several miracles have been worked through her intercession, and her cause for canonization has been under consideration for many years. As recently as 1928 a major cure was reported of a Spanish sister who was dying of meningitis. Other miracles are under consideration. The day may yet come when the lovable little patroness of first communicants can be enrolled in the calendar of the saints (Benedictines, Dominicans, Dorcy).
In art, Imelda is a very young Dominican novice, kneeling before the altar with a sacred Host appearing above her. She is venerated at Bologna and Valdipietra (Roeder).
Blessed Jane of Portugal, OP V (AC)
(also known as Joanna)
Born in Lisbon, Portugal, 1452; died at Aveiro, Portugal, in 1490; cultus approved in 1693.
Joanna, a child of many prayers, was born heiress to the throne of her father, King Alphonsus V, at a time when Spain and Portugal had divided the colonial wealth of the earth between them. Her sickly brother Juan was born three years later, and soon after this their mother, Queen Elizabeth of Coimbra, died. Joanna was left to the care of a wise and pious nurse, who cultivated the child's natural piety. By age five the little princess had exceeded her teacher in penitential practices. She fasted and prayed, rose at night to take the discipline, and wore a hairshirt under her glittering court apparel.
Although Joanna would not inherit the throne of Portugal while her brother was alive, a wise marriage would do much to increase her father's power. Accordingly, he began early to arrange for her marriage. Joanna, whose knowledge of court intrigue was as good as his own, skillfully escaped several proposed matches. She had treasured the desire to enter the convent, but, in view of her father's plans, her desires met with violent opposition. She was flatly refused for a long time; finally, her father gave his reluctant consent, but he withdrew it again at her brother's insistence.
She was regent of Portugal when her father and brother went to war against the Moors, and when they defeated the Moors in 1471, her father, in the first flush of victory, granted her request to take the veil. Joanna and one of her ladies-in-waiting had long planned to enter the Dominican cloister at Aveiro, which was noted for its strict observance. But when her father finally gave consent for her to enter religion, he did not allow her to enter that Dominican convent. She had to go to the nearby royal abbey of the Benedictines at Odivellas. Here she was besieged by weeping and worldly relatives who had only their own interests at heart. After two months of this mental torture, she returned to the court.
The rest of Joanna's life is a story of obedience and trials. Her obligations of obedience varied. She was required to bend her will to a wavering father, who never seemed able to make a decision and abide by it; to bishops, swayed by political causes, who forced her to sign a paper that she would never take her solemn vows; and to doctors, who prescribed remedies that were worse than the maladies they tried to cure. The trials came from a jealous brother, from ambitious and interfering relatives, from illness, and from cares of state.
After 12 years of praying and hoping, Joanna finally received the Dominican habit at Aveiro in 1485. Once, she was deprived of it by an angry delegation of bishops and nobles, and, at another time, her brother tore the veil from her head. Despite the interruptions of plague, family cares, and state troubles, Joanna lived an interior and penitential life. She became an expert at spinning and weaving the fine linens for the altar, and busied herself with lowly tasks for the love of God. She used all her income to help the poor and to redeem captives.
Her special devotion was to the Crown of Thorns, and, in early childhood, she had embroidered this device on her crest. To the end of her life she was plagued by the ambition of her brother, who again and again attempted to arrange a marriage for her, and continually disturbed her hard-won peace by calling her back to the court for state business.
On one of these trips to court, Joanna was poisoned by a woman--a person she had rebuked for leading an evil life. The princess lived several months in fearful pain, enduring all her sufferings heroically. She died, as it says in an old chronicle, "with the detachment of a religious and the dignity of a queen," and with the religious community around her (Benedictines, Delaney, Dorcy).
Nereus & Achilles (Achilleus) MM (RM)
Died c. 100. According to Pope Saint Damasus, Nereus and Achilles were soldiers in the praetorian guard, who became Christians--baptized by Saint Peter, it is said--and decided that they must give up fighting. They escaped from the guard, but were discovered and sent into exile first to the island of Pontia with Saint Flavia Domitilla and then to Terracina. There in the reign of Emperor Trajan both saints were beheaded. Their unreliable Acta, however, state that they were servants in the household of Flavia Domitilla and were exiled with her.
The vault in which these martyrs were buried later became the cemetery of Domitilla, situated on the Via Ardeatina. Later Christians erected a church over the spot, and towards the end of the 4th century, Pope Saint Damasus inscribed a tombstone in honor of the saints. It read:
"Nereus and Achilleus the martyrs joined the army and carried out the cruel orders of the tyrant, obeying his will continually out of fear. Then came a miracle of faith. They suddenly gave up their savagery, they were converted, they fled the camp of their evil leader, throwing away their shields, armor, and bloody spears. Professing the faith of Christ, they are happy to witness to its triumph. From these words of Damasus understand what great deeds can be brought about by Christ's glory" (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley).
In art, Nereus, Achilles and Pancras (below) are presented as three richly dressed boys holding palms. At other times they may be holding swords, or, when pictured with Flavia Domitilla (today), as soldiers (Roeder). Sometimes just these two are shown together without Pancras.
Modoald(us) of Trčves B (RM)
Born in Gascony; died in Trier, Germany, 640. Saint Modoald was related by blood or friendship to most of the saints of the Merovingian period. He began his public life as advisor to King Dagobert I. In 622, he was consecrated bishop of Trier (Treves), which he governed successfully until his death (Benedictines).
Pancras M (RM)
(also known as Pancratius)
Born in Syria or Phrygia; died in Rome, Italy, c. 304. All that is known of Saint Pancras is that he was buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the Aurelian Way, which was later named after him. According to unreliable tradition recorded in Cardinal Wiseman's Fabiola, St Pancras was orphaned and brought to Rome by an uncle, where both were converted to Christianity. As a boy of fourteen, he was beheaded in Rome for his faith during the reign of Diocletian.
Pope Saint Symmachus, c. 500, built a church to mark his grave. As in the church of Saint Felix of Nola, oaths taken in Saint Pancras's church at Rome, were esteemed to have a special sacredness. In the 7th century, Pope Saint Vitalian sent some of his relics to England, where they are enshrined in his titular church in London, which gave his name to the borough and the railway station. Another church in Canterbury was dedicated in his honor by Saint Augustine of Canterbury (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Hoagland).
When Saint Pancras is not pictured with SS. Achilleus and Nereus (today), he is portrayed as a very young knight with a palm and pennant and having a cross on his lance. He may also be shown as a young, unarmed Christian martyr or with a Saracen under his feet. Pancras is invoked against cramp, false witness, headache, and perjury (Roeder).
Philip of Agirone (RM)
Date unknown. Saint Philip is venerated in the little hill town of Agirone as the first missionary sent to Sicily by the Holy See. His story abounds in contradictory and improbable details (Benedictines).
Rictrudis of Marchiennes, OSB Widow (AC)
Born in Gascony; died 688. Saint Rictrudis was born into a noble Gascon family. She married Saint Adalbald, a Frankish nobleman serving king Clovis II, despite some opposition from her family. The couple had four children, all of whom are counted among the saints: SS Adalsindis, Clotsindis, Eusebia, and Maurontius.
After 16 year of a happy married life at Ostrevant, Flanders, Adalbald was murdered while visiting in Gascony by relatives of Rictrudis who disapproved of the match. After several years, King Clovis ordered her to marry, but with the aid of her old friend and spiritual advisor, Saint Amandus, Clovis relented and permitted her to become a nun at Marchiennes, Flanders--a double monastery that she had founded. Adalsindis and Clotsindis joined her, and sometime later Maurontius, on the point of marrying, left the court and became a monk there, too. Rictrudis ruled Marchiennes as abbess for 40 years (Benedictines, Delaney).
In art, Rictrudis holds a church in her hand. She may also be pictured with her children (Roeder).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.