Saint Isidore, Farmer
(Memorial in the United States)
Achilles of Thessaly B (AC)
(also known as Achillius)
Died c. 330. Metropolitan Achilles of Larissa (Thessaly) is supposed to have attended the Council of Nicaea. His relics have been venerated at Presba (Achilli) in Bulgaria since 978 (Benedictines).
Blessed Andrew Abellon, OP (AC)
Born at Saint Maximin, France, in 1375; died at Aix-en-Provence on May 15, 1450; cultus confirmed in 1902. Blessed Andrew was born near the world-famous shrine of Mary Magdalen. His entire life was centered around the shrine, and it is greatly due to his efforts that devotion to the great penitential has become so well established.
As a young man, Andrew may have heard the stirring sermons of Saint Vincent Ferrer, who was at that time preaching in France. Perhaps the purity and penitential zeal for which this great preacher was renowned gave the young Andrew the pattern for his own life. He soon demonstrated his choice of purity and penance by joining the Dominicans in his home town. After a happy and holy novitiate, he made his profession and was ordained. In a few years, a preacher and a guide for souls, he turned his attention to the neglected shrine of Saint Mary Magdalen.
This rugged and penitential region of France had been honored from the time of the Apostles as the chosen retreat for Mary Magdalen, who did penance there for the sins of her youth. From earliest days, it had been a place of pilgrimage, but had no definite arrangements for the care of pilgrims, nor any way of supplying their spiritual needs. In Blessed Andrew's time, Dominican fathers from Saint-Maximin had taken over the spiritual care of the pilgrims as a mission work, but without financial help, and in the face of great trials.
Seeing the need of a permanent foundation at the shrine, Andrew set about creating one. He interested the queen in his project, and obtained enough money from her to build a monastery, which was a gem of architecture as well as a source of spiritual power. Andrew had studied art before his entry into the order, and he used his talents in building, beautifully and permanently, whatever he was called upon to do.
A lover of great beauty in the physical order, Andrew was the same in the spiritual. He was famous as a confessor, and his wise government as prior gave help to the spiritual growth of the new convent. A practical man as well as deeply spiritual, Andrew established two mills near the shrine that would provide the people with a means of earning a living while remaining there. Quite naturally, a priest who interested himself in the welfare of the people to this extent could hope for great influence with them, and this he had, both at Saint Maximin and at Aix, where an altarpiece he painted may still be seen.
After his death, Blessed Andrew was buried in the Church of the Magdalen. His tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage; his help especially was sought in the cure of fevers (Benedictines, Dominicans, Dorcy).
Bertha and Rupert (AC)
9th century. Saint Bertha was related to the dukes of Lorraine. She owned extensive properties on the Rhein, married a pagan, and when he was killed in battle, devoted herself to raising her son Rupert as a Christian. She founded several hospices for the poor, and after a visit to Rome, they gave away their possessions and became hermits near Bingen, Germany. The hill where they lived has since been called after him Rupertsberg. He died when twenty and Bertha spent the remaining 25 years of her life there. In the 12th century, Saint Hildegard fostered the cultus of both saints (Benedictines, Delaney).
Britwin of Beverley, OSB Abbot (AC)
(also known as Brithwin, Brithun)
Died c. 733. When Saint John of Beverley resigned his bishopric at York, his good friend Abbot Saint Brithwin received him into his monastery at Beverley (Benedictines).
Caesarea V (AC)
Date unknown. Caesarea, an Italian maiden, sought refuge in a cave near Otranto in southern Italy in order to preserve her virtue. There she lived out the balance of her days as a recluse. The cave is now a place of popular pilgrimage (Benedictines).
Cassius, Victorinus, Maximus, & Companions MM (RM)
Died 260. These saints were martyred at Clermont, Auvergne, France at the hands of Chrocas, chief of the invading Teutonic barbarians (Benedictines).
Colman McO'Laoighse, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Columbanus)
6th century. A disciple of Saint Columba and Saint Fintan of Clonenagh, Saint Colman founded and governed the monastery of Oughaval (Benedictines).
Dympna of Gheel VM (RM)
(also known as Dymphna, Dympne)
Died c. 650. Variations of the legend of Saint Dympna are to be found in the folklore of many European countries. In fact, it is a classic example of a folktale adapted as the life-story of a saint. In the early 13th century, the bones of an unknown man and woman were discovered at Gheel near Antwerp, Belgium. The name Dympna was found on a brick with the two ancient, marble coffins and may have been taken as a variation on the name Saint Damhnait (Damhnade).
Dympna is said to have been the daughter of a pagan Irish (from Monaghan?), British, or Amorican king and a Christian princess who died when she was very young, but who had baptized her daughter. As Dympna grew into a young woman, her uncanny resemblance to her dead mother aroused an incestuous passion in her father.
On the advice of her confessor, Saint Gerebernus, Dympna fled from home. Accompanied by Gerebernus and attended by the court jester and his wife, she took a ship to Antwerp. She then travelled through wild forest country until she reached a small oratory dedicated to Saint Martin on the site of the present-day town of Gheel (25 miles from Antwerp). The group settled there to live as hermits and during the several months before they were found, Dympna gained a reputation for holiness because of her devotion to the poor and suffering.
Dympna's father had pursued her to Antwerp, and he sent spies who found them by tracing their use of foreign coins. The king tried to persuade her to return, but when she refused, the king ordered that she and Gerebernus be killed. The king's men killed the priest and their companions but hesitated to kill Dympna. The king himself struck off her head with his sword. The bodies were left on the ground. They were buried by angelic or human hands on the site where they had perished.
The whole story gripped the imagination of the entire countryside especially because, according to tradition, lunatics were cured at her grave. Great interest in her cultus was renewed and spread when the translation of the relics of Dympna was followed by the cures of a number of epileptics, lunatics, and persons under evil influences who had visited the shrine. Thus, in the 13th century, a bishop of Cambrai, faced with the growing veneration of Dympna and increasing interest in mental illness, arranged for her biography to be written by a man named Pierre who collected the oral tradition. Ever since, she has been regarded as the patroness of the mentally ill.
Under her patronage, the inhabitants of Gheel have been known for the care they have given to those with mental illnesses. By the close of the 13th century, an infirmary was built. Today the town possesses a first-class sanatorium, one of the largest and most efficient colonies for the mentally ill in the world. It was one of the first to initiate a program through which patients live normal and useful lives in the homes of farmers or local residents, whom they assist in their labor and whose family life they share. The strength of Dympna's cultus is evidenced by this compassionate work of the people of Gheel for the mentally ill at a time when they were universally neglected or treated with hostility.
The body of Dympna is preserved in a silver reliquary in the church bearing her name. Only the head of Gerebernus rests there, the remains have been removed to Sonsbeck in the diocese of Muenster. Three churches in Belgium have altars dedicated to her (Attwater, Benedictines, D'Arcy, Delaney, Farmer, Kenney, Montague, O'Hanlon, White).
In art, Saint Dympna is a crowned maiden with a sword and the devil on a chain. Sometimes she may be shown (1) kneeling before her confessor, Saint Gerebernus, (2) kneeling at Mass while her father murders the priest Gerebernus (Roeder), (3) praying in a cloud surrounded by a group of lunatics bound with golden chains, or (4) being beheaded by the king (White). The more common image now seen of Saint Dympna (shown here and in a larger size), clearly illustrates that she is a virgin (lily) and Irish (note the shamrock on the book). For an interesting image that has larger cultural implications, see La Cadena--El Hogar.
Dympna is invoked against insanity, mental illness of all types, asylums for the mentally ill, nurses of the mentally ill, sleepwalking, epilepsy, and demoniac possession (Roeder). A lovely set of nine prayers to Saint Dymphna are worth studying.
Her feast day is kept in Ireland and Gheel. In the United States, her cultus centers on her shrine in Massillon, Ohio, which is next to one of the most modern hospitals in the world. The Franciscan Mission Associates in America conduct a world-wide correspondence in her name to fund their activities for the poor and suffering, especially in Central America (Montague).
Gerebernus M (AC)
(also known as Gereborn, Gerebrand, Genebrard)
7th century. As an aged Irish priest Gerebernus accompanied Saint Dympna, whom he had baptized in her infancy, to Belgium and shared in her martyrdom at Gheel. He is the patron saint of the village of Sonsbeck (Santbeck), Cleves, in the Rhineland, Germany, where his relics are enshrined, except for his head, which is in Gheel. Curiously, he was the subject of "holy robbers of Xanten" who specialized in stealing holy relics, although they were unable to remove those of Dympna. His intercession is sought against gout and fever (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Husenbeth).
Halward of Oslo M (AC)
(also known as Hallvard, Hallward)
Died c. 1043; feast day formerly May 14. The traditional story of Saint Halward relates nothing about his life except his death. He was the son of the royal family or a landowner at Husaby, Norway (a site familiar to the readers of Undset's Kristan Lavransdatter, "Mistress of Husaby"). One day as he was about to cross the Drammenfjord in a boat, a woman called to him for help; she had been falsely accused of stealing and was in fear for her life.
Halward took her aboard, but was unable to get clear before the woman's pursuers reached them. They called for him to give her up, but he would not, for the woman swore that she was innocent. At this, one of the pursuers shot at Halward and the woman with a bow, killing them both. Halward's body was thrown into the sea with a stone attached, but it refused to be lost and continued to float. He was revered by the people as a martyr because he died in defense of innocence; his body was later enshrined at Christ Church in Oslo, and he is still revered as the patron of the city (Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer).
In art, Saint Halward is a young prince holding a millstone. He is patron of Oslo, Norway (Roeder).
Hilary of Galeata, Abbot (AC)
Born in Tuscany, Italy; died 558. Saint Hilary was first attracted to the religious life when only 12. Soon after, he left home, built a hermitage near the Ronco River, and was the founding abbot of Galeata Monastery, now known as Sant'Ilaro run by the Camaldolese. He persuaded the invading Theodoric the Goth not to destroy his monastery and even convince him to grant him land (Benedictines, Delaney).
Isidore of Chios M (RM)
Died c. 250. A martyr of Chios under Decius (Benedictines). Saint Isidore is depicted in art as a bearded early Christian layman dragged over the rocks by a horse. At times he may be shown (1) in a ship with two companions, (2) being met by three ladies at the gates of Chios, (3) arguing with the devil, (4) baptizing a woman, or (5) being beheaded (Roeder). He is venerated at Chios and Venice (Roeder).
Isidore the Farmer (RM)
(also known as Isidoro, Isidro)
Born in Madrid, Spain, 1070; died there in 1130; canonized in 1622; feast day formerly on May 10 and March 22, and October 25 in the U.S.A.
Saint Isidore's feast is celebrated in Madrid, Spain, with ringing church bells and streets decorated for a procession in his honor. The saint was poor into a peasant family and baptized Isidore in honor of the famous archbishop of Seville. His unreliable biography was written about 150 years after his death and many concern the miracles associated with his name.
Isidore was a day laborer, working on the farm of the wealthy John de Vergas at Torrelaguna just outside Madrid. He married a poor girl, Maria de la Cabeza (Torriba), and had a son who died while still a baby. Thereafter, the couple took a vow of continence to serve God. Isidore's life is a model of simple Christian charity and faith. He prayed while at work, and he visited many churches in Madrid and the area while on holidays. He shared what he had--even his meals--with the poor, often giving them the more liberal portions.
He was steady and hard-working, but a complaint was made against him to his employer that he arrived late to work because he attended early morning Mass each day. When charged with his offense, he did not deny it and explained to his employer: "Sir, it may be true that I am later at my work than some of the other laborers, but I do my utmost to make up for the few minutes snatched for prayer; I pray you compare my work with theirs, and if you find I have defrauded you in the least, gladly will I make amends by paying you out of my private store."
His employer said nothing, but remained suspicious, and, being determined to find out the truth, rose one morning at daybreak and concealed himself outside the church. In due course, Isidore appeared and entered the building, and afterwards, when the service was over, went to his work. Still following him, his employer saw him take the plough into a field, and was about to confront him when, in the pale, misty light of dawn, he saw, as he thought, a second plough drawn by white oxen moving up and down the furrows. Greatly astonished, he ran towards it, but even as he ran it disappeared and he saw only Isidore and his single-plough.
When he spoke to Isidore and enquired about the second plough he had seen, Isidore replied in surprise: "Sir, I work alone and know of none save God to whom I look for strength." Thus the story grew that so great was his sanctity that the angels helped him even in his plowing. It was characteristic of Isidore's whole life. He was a simple ploughman, his speech clear and direct, his conduct honest as the day, his faith pure and steadfast. He was a poor man, but gave away what he could, with a good and generous heart, and with such sympathy and goodwill that his gifts seemed doubly blessed. Indeed, he could never neglect doing a kindness to man or beast.
One snowy day, when going to the mill with corn to be ground which his wife had gleaned, he passed a flock of wood-pigeons scratching vainly for food on the hard surface of the frosty ground. Taking pity on the poor animals, he poured half of his sack of precious corn upon the ground for the birds, despite the mocking of witnesses. When he reached the mill, however, the bag was full, and the corn, when it was ground, produced double the expected amount of flour.
In such simple tales we find reflected the spirit of Saint Isidore, who never ruled a diocese or was martyred for his faith, but who as truly served God in the fields and on the farm as those in higher places and who bore more famous names.
His saintly wife survived Isidore for several years. Forty years after his death, his body was transferred to a shrine, and his cultus grew as a result of miracles attributed to his intercession. He is said to have appeared in a vision to King Alphonsus of Castile in 1211, and to have shown him an unknown path, which he used to surprise and defeat the Moors. His canonization occurred at the insistence of King Philip III, who attributed his recovery from a serious illness to Isidore's intercession (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Gill, Tabor, White).
In art, Saint Isidore is portrayed as a peasant holding a sickle and a sheaf of corn. He might also be shown (1) with a sickle and staff, (2) as an angel ploughs for him, (3) giving a rosary to children by a well, mattock on his feet, water springing from the well, (4) striking water from dry earth with an angel plowing in the background (Roeder), (5) before a cross, or (6) with an angel and white oxen near him (White).
In Spanish art his emblems are a spade or a plough (Tabor). He is the patron of Madrid, Spain (Roeder), farmers and farm laborers, and the U.S. National Catholic Rural Conference (White).
Blessed Leonard of Camaldoli, OSB Camb. Hermit (AC)
Died c. 1250. A monk-hermit at Camaldoli, Italy (Benedictines).
Blessed Mary Magdalen Albrizzi, OSA V (AC)
Born at Como, Italy; died 1465; cultus approved in 1907. Mary- Magdalen entered a convent at Brunate near Como, and later became prioress. While prioress, she affiliated the convent with the Augustinian friars. She was remarkable for her promotion of frequent communion among her nuns (Benedictines).
Nicholas the Mystic B (AC)
Died 925. Patriarch Nicholas of Constantinople was deposed and exiled by Emperor Leo the Wise because he would not permit the monarch to marry a fourth time, which is forbidden in the Eastern Church. He is surnamed "the Mystic" because he was the oldest member of the mystic, or secret, council of the Byzantine court (Benedictines).
Peter of Lampsacus, Paul, Andrew, Dionysia & Decius MM (RM)
Died 251. Peter was a young man of Lampsacus on the Hellespont, who was martyred at Troas together with SS. Paul, Andrew, Dionysia, and Decius. Peter was remarkable for his physical beauty and the natural endowments of his mind, as well as his faith and virtue. He was captured and brought before Proconsul Optimus who said, "You have before your eyes the edicts of our invincible princes: sacrifice to the goddess Venus, as they command."
Peter answered: "I am surprised that you should endeavor to persuade me to sacrifice to an infamous lewd woman, whose actions modesty forbids me to mention, and are such as are punishable by your own laws."
Optimus ordered him to be extended on a wheel, with pieces of wood so disposed and bound on his body with iron chains, that the wheel being put in motion it might gradually occasion the breaking of his bones. The martyr, turning his eyes towards the heavens, said, with a cheerful countenance: "I praise and thank you, O Lord Jesus Christ, for vouchsafing me patience to overcome this cruel tyrant." Optimus, seeing his unshaken resolution, ordered his head to be struck off.
After this execution, three other Christians, Andrew, Paul, and Nicomachus, were brought before him. He asked their origin and religion Nicomachus answered loudly with impatience, "I am a Christian." When ordered to sacrifice to the gods, Nicomachus answered: A Christian must not sacrifice to devils." The proconsul gave orders that he should be hung on the rack and tortured. When he was just ready to expire under his torments, he unhappily lost his crown, and cried out: "I never was a Christian, and am ready to sacrifice to the gods."
The proconsul immediately caused him to be taken off the rack, but no sooner had the miserable man offered sacrifice than he was seized by the devil, fell on the ground, and beat it with his head in violent agonies, in which he expired. God afforded his other two servants a comfort under their affliction for this loss.
Dionysia, a tender virgin about sixteen years old, who was standing by, was struck at this misfortune, and said: "Unfortunate wretch! Why did you bring upon yourself eternal torments for the sake of a moment's ease?" Optimus, hearing these words, asked if she was a Christian: she confessed she was. He then required her to sacrifice, and threatened to expose her to prostitution, and burn her alive in case of refusal.
Finding his threats made no impression on her constancy, he ordered her to be put into the hands of two young men to be deflowered. They took her with them to their lodgings, but she resisted so strenuously that she tired them out. About midnight they were surprised at the appearance of a young man, glittering with light, which diffused itself over the whole house. Seized with fear, they threw themselves at the feet of the holy virgin. She raised them up, and told them not to be afraid, saying: "This is my guardian and protector." They asked her to intercede for them that they would not be harmed.
The next morning, the mob, stirred up by the priests of Diana, beset the house of the proconsul, demanding in a tumultuous manner to have Andrew and Paul delivered up to them. The proconsul, to humor them, had them brought forth and commanded them to sacrifice to Diana. Upon their refusal, Optimus had them scourged and then threw them to the rabble who stoned them to death.
When Dionysia heard the raucous noise surrounding their execution, she began to weep and wail bitterly. She escaped her guards and ran to the place where they were. Upon seeing her fellows, she cried out: "That I may live with you eternally in heaven, I will die with you on earth." The proconsul being informed of the wonderful preservation of her chastity, her escape, and desire to die with the martyrs, ordered her to be taken away from Andrew and Paul, and to be beheaded at a distance (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Silvanus of Tabennisi, Hermit (AC)
4th century. Saint Silvanus was an actor who abandoned the world to become a monk at Tabennisi under Saint Pachomius. For some time he led an undisciplined life, trying to entertain the other monks and often transgressing the rule of silence. Pachomius endeavored to reform him by remonstration, prayers, sighs, and tears, for his poor soul. It was a fruitless endeavor for a long time, but Pachomius persisted until one day he explained to the impenitent Silvanus the dreadful judgments which threaten those that mock God.
From that moment Silvanus began to lead a life of great edification to the rest of the brethren and began to bewail his past misdemeanors. When others entreated him to moderate the floods of his tears, "Ah," said he, "how can I help weeping, when I consider the wretchedness of my past life, and that by my sloth I have profaned what was most sacred? I have reason to fear lest the earth should open under my feet, and swallow me up, as it did Dathan and Abiron. Oh! suffer me to labor with ever-flowing fountains of tears, to expiate my innumerable sins. I ought, if I could, even to pour forth this wretched soul of mine in mourning; it would be all too little for my offenses."
His sentiments of contrition helped him so to progress in virtue that the holy abbot proposed him as a model of humility to the rest. After eight years in this penitential course, God had called Silvanus to himself. Saint Pachomius was assured by a revelation, that his soul was presented by angels a most agreeable sacrifice to Christ. The saint was favored with a spirit of prophecy, and with great grief foretold the decay of monastic fervor in his order in succeeding ages. He is especially honored among the Greeks (Benedictines, Husenbeth). In art, Saint Silvanus is a hermit watering flowers. He is venerated by the Greeks (Roeder).
Simplicius of Sardinia M (RM)
Died 304. Saint Simplicius was martyred in Sardinia by being buried alive during the reign of Diocletian (Benedictines).
Torquatus and Companions MM (see list) (RM)
1st century. According to a relatively modern legend, Saint Torquatus was one of the first seven missionaries, known as "Varones Apostolicos," sent out by Peter and Paul to evangelize Spain. The others were Caecilius at Granada, Ctesiphon at Verga (Vierzo?), Euphrasius at Andujar, Hesychius at Gibraltar, Indaletius at Urci near Almeria, and Secundius at Avila. Torquatus worked with great success at Guadix near Granada. Apparently all seven were martyrs, Torquatus at Cadiz. The relics of Euphrasius were taken to Samos in Galicia for safety when the Saracens invaded Spain. The Mozarabic liturgy had a common feast for all seven. Euphrasius is the patron of Corsica and Ajaccio, possibly because of a second translation of his relics (Benedictines, Delaney, 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.