St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Pope Saint John I, Martyr
(Optional Memorial)
May 18



Blessed Camilla Gentili V (AC)
Died 1486; cultus approved in 1841. Camilla was a holy virgin who is venerated at the church of the Dominican friars at San Severino (Benedictines).


Conval of Strathclyde (AC)
6th century. Despite the efforts of Protestant reformers to eradicate the memory of Conval, archdeacon to Saint Kentigern, there is a church still in Glasgow dedicated to his memory. He was active throughout the region of Strathclyde, south of Glasgow, especially in Renfrewshire (Montague).


Dioscorus of Kynopolis M (RM)
Died c. 305. Dioscorus was a lector of the church of Kynopolis, Egypt. He was burnt with hot irons and died under torture (Benedictines). In art, Dioscorus has torches applied to his sides. Ouch! (Roeder).


Elgiva of Shaftesbury, OSB Widow (AC)
(also known as Ælgifu, Algyva, Ælgytha)

Died 971. As the mother of Kings Edwy and Saint Edgar the Peaceful and wife of King Edmund of Wessex (921-46), Saint Elgiva was "the adviser and ennobler of the whole kingdom." On the death of her husband, Elgiva retired to the convent of Shaftesbury, where she ended her days and which is the center of her cultus. William of Malmesbury praised her for her generosity, wise counsel, and the gift of prophecy. He also wrote about the miracles wrought at her intercession (Benedictines, Farmer, Gill).


Eric of Sweden, King M (RM?)
(also known as Henry)

Died at Uppsala, Sweden, on May 18, 1160. Eric IX, son of Jedvard of Vastergotland, claimed the throne of Sweden in 1150 through his marriage to Princess Christine and reigned as king for ten years. During that time he did much to consolidate Christianity in his realm and spread the faith into Finland. In an effort to conquer and convert them, he led a victorious expedition against the marauding Finns and persuaded English Bishop Saint Henry of Uppsala to remain in Finland to evangelize the natives.

He was responsible for codifying the laws of his kingdom, which became known as King Eric's Law (also the Code of Uppland). Additionally, he established a monastic chapter in Old Uppsala, which had come from the Danish abbey of Odense.

In reaction to Eric's insistence that tithes be paid to support the Church as they were elsewhere in Europe, some Swedish nobles joined forces with Magnus, son of the king of Denmark. Eric was accosted near Uppsala at Ostra Aros as he was leaving church after hearing Mass on Ascension Day by the rebelling Swedish nobles. He was thrown to the ground from his horse, tortured, ridiculed, then beheaded.

The king was buried in the church of Old Uppsala, which he had rebuilt around the burial mounds of his pagan predecessors. In 1167, his body was enshrined; and his relics and regalia were translated to the present cathedral of Uppsala, built on the site of Eric's martyrdom, in 1273.

In an effort to consolidate his position, Eric's son Knud encouraged the cultus of his father as a martyr. The translation of Eric's relics extended the depth of his cultus. On his feast there were processions from the cathedral to Old Uppsala to petition for a good harvest. Oftentimes politically motivated cults have little merit; however, King Eric was a man of much personal goodness, who sincerely desired to spread the faith in Sweden.

The ancient belief in a special heavenly destiny, Valhalla, for those killed in battle doubtless had a part in the idealization of Eric and other Scandinavian heroes. Though never formally canonized, Eric has long been considered the patron of Sweden (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).

Saint Eric is portrayed in art as a young king being murdered during Mass with the bishop Henry of Uppsala (Roeder). In Uppsala cathedral there is a series of late medieval paintings depicting Eric and Henry of Uppsala (Farmer).


Felix of Cantalice, OFM Cap. (RM)
Born in Cantalice near Rieti, Apulia, Italy, in 1513; died in Rome in 1587; canonized in 1712 (or 1709 or 1724)--the first Capuchin friar to attain this honor. Born to peasant farmers, Saint Felix began life as a farm laborer and shepherd. After a narrow escape from death at age 30, when bulls charged him while he was ploughing, he joined the Capuchins at Città Ducale in Rome as a lay brother.

From 1545 until his death 42 years later, he begged the daily alms for the friary and also pocketed insults to which he invariably responded, "thanks be to God." He made his rounds barefoot and dressed in a shirt of mail studded with spikes. A legend says that one stormy night, while making his usual rounds to collect food for the friary, a radiant child appeared to him, gave him a loaf of bread, and then, with a benediction, vanished.

Felix never learned to read. He said that he knew only five red letters--the five wounds of Christ. Nevertheless, learned theologians came to him for counsel. Often he could help them find solutions because he had the gift of reading hearts. Others of evil conscience avoided him because he would remonstrate with those in most need of conversion.

He was a friend of Saint Charles Borromeo and an intimate of Saint Philip Neri. In response to the excesses of the Roman carnival, Felix and Philip Neri conceived a unique procession. The Oratorians marched with the cross in front, followed by the Capuchins. At the tail was Saint Felix leading Fra Lupo, a well- known Capuchin preacher, by a cord around his neck to represent Jesus as he was led before Pilate. When the procession reached the center of the festival gathering, Fra Lupo gave such an impressive sermon against vicious living that the carnival dispersed.

Felix was given the nickname of Brother "Deo Gratias" because that was his habitual ejaculation.

The saint had a special love of children. He gathered them around himself and sang to them improvised song, which they then popularized. Benefactors called him into their homes; in thanks he would sing to them and give them advice. His characteristic virtue was spiritual joy--I think I like this saint a lot. The day after his death, Pope Sixtus V demanded a report of Felix's life so that he could beatify him. The entire city flocked to the church to say farewell to their beloved beggar friar. So many people crowded into the church that some died in the press of the crowd and another exit had to be created to relief it. When Felix's body was exhumed later, it was found to be incorrupt. Many miracles are recorded at his shrine (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Schamoni, Tabor).

In art, Saint Felix is an old Capuchin embracing the Christ-Child. The picture may include (1) the Christ-Child putting a loaf into his wallet; (2) the words Deo Gratias near him; or (3) SS. Philip Neri and/or Charles Borromeo (Roeder). He may also be simply a Capuchin carring a beggar's wallet (Tabor).

Saint Philip Neri asked the painter Giuseppe de Cesari for a picture of Saint Felix. One day when the saint came for his alms, Cesari detained him and sketched a portrait while they talked without letting Felix know what he was doing. On the back of the little wooden tablet, the artist wrote a few lines and sent the picture to Saint Philip. The extant image, kept in the Gallery of Prince Gaëtani in Rome, shows a sweet, old man with down-like hair, a full white beard, and long bumpy Roman nose (Schamoni).


Felix of Spoleto BM (RM)
Died c. 304. Saint Felix was a bishop of either Spoleto or of the neighboring town of Spello (Hispellum) in Umbria. He was martyred under Diocletian (Benedictines).


Feredarius of Iona, Abbot (AC)
Born in Ireland; died after 863. Saint Feredarius was chosen abbot of Iona in 863. During his abbacy the relics of Saint Columba were removed to Ireland for fear of the invading Danes (Benedictines).


John I, Pope M (RM)
Born in Tuscany, Italy; died May 18 or 19, 526; feast day formerly May 27. Saint John became archdeacon in Rome, and on August 13, 523, was elected pope to succeed Saint Hormisdas. At that time he was already very old and frail. Despite his protests, he was sent by the Arian King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths to Constantinople to secure a moderation of Emperor's Justin's decree of 523 against the Arians, compelling them to surrender to Catholics the churches they held in the East. Theodoric threatened that if John should fail in his mission, there would be reprisals against the orthodox Catholics in the West.

Theodoric also resented the increasing cordiality between the Latin and Greek churches, fearing that it might lead to the restoration of imperial Byzantine authority in Italy, which he ruled. John was warmly received by Justin and huge crowds; however, his mission was not a success for Theodoric. He won only minor concessions from the Eastern emperor.

When Pope John returned to Ravenna (Theodoric's capital) he discovered that Theodoric had murdered his friend and confidant, the great philosopher Severinus Boëthius, as well as his father-in-law Symmachus. Theodoric had John arrested as soon as he landed in Italy on the suspicion of having conspired with Emperor Justin. He was imprisoned at Ravenna, where he died of neglect and ill treatment. Some modern writers contest his claim to martyrdom.

Pope Saint John is responsible for introducing to the West the Alexandrian calculation for the date of Easter (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).

John I is depicted in art as looking through the bars of a prison or imprisoned with a deacon and a subdeacon. He is venerated at Ravenna and in Tuscany (Roeder).


Merililaun M (AC)
(also known as Merolilaun)

8th century. Merililaun was a British pilgrim who met his death violently near Rheims while on his way to Rome and has since been popularly venerated as a martyr (Benedictines).


Potamon of Heraclea BM (RM)
Died c. 340. Potamon, bishop of Heraclea, Upper Egypt, was a double martyr under the pagans and under the Arians according to Saint Athanasius. A contemporary letter and Saint Paphnutius record that, in 310, he was sentenced to the mines in 310, lamed in one leg, and deprived of one eye during the persecution of Maximinus Daia. Released after Constantine's decree of toleration, he was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Potamon zealously supported his metropolitan, Saint Athanasius against the Arian heresy. He accompanied and defended Athanasius at the Council of Tyre in 335 (related in the Athanasius's vita). As a result, Potamon was fiercely beaten with clubs and ultimately killed by the Arians (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Husenbeth).


Theodotus, Thecusa & Companions MM (RM)
Died at Ankara, Turkey, 304. According to a pious fiction, Saint Theodotus of Ancyra (Ankara), Galatia (Turkey), was an innkeeper who not only sold wine but also sheltered his Christian friends from persecution. Whenever he could, he also recovered the bodies of the martyred and gave them Christian burial. When returning one day to Ancyra in the company of fellow Christians, he stopped for a meal by the roadside and sent one of his companions to a nearby village to invite a Christian priest, who lived there, to join them. The priest came and invited them to his own house, but they decided that it was pleasant eating in the open, and Theodotus remarked: "What a lovely spot for a confession! Why don't you build an oratory here?"

The priest replied: "My friend, you are too precipitous. We must have the martyr before we can have the church."

To which Theodotus answered: "Ancyra is the scene of many conflicts now. Build the church, and I will provide you with the martyr. Here, take this as the token and return it when I have redeemed the pledge." And removing a gold ring from his finger, he placed it on the priest's.

A tragic episode followed. Seven Christian women--Thecusa, Alexandra, Claudia, Faina (Phaina), Euphrasia, Matrona, and Julitta--including the aunt of the innkeeper, were called before the magistrates and condemned to suffer gross indignities. Stripped and mocked, they were compelled to take part in offensive processions and ceremonies with an image of a pagan goddess, after which they were drowned in a lake, each with a heavy stone attached to her neck, and a guard was posted to prevent the recovery of their bodies.

Then Theodotus went with others, armed with sickles to cut the cords that bound the stones to the dead women. It was a dark, stormy night with lightning and thunder, and their way lay past the place of public execution with its grinning skulls and headless bodies. In pouring rain and through thick mud they made their way to the lake where, fortunately, the guards had left their posts to take shelter, and Theodotus and his friends were able to wade into the water and recover the bodies of the victims, which they loaded on to pack animals and removed for burial.

When the loss of the bodies was discovered, the authorities had no mercy. Theodotus was betrayed by his own brother and, though warned to escape, strode boldly turned himself into the court. He resisted every torture and finally was executed, and a night-watch of soldiers was set to guard his body.

That same night the priest was journeying to Ancyra with a load of wine, and at midnight came upon this group of soldiers, who told him the tavern was closed and invited him to share their camp. He untethered his ass and joined them, but when he learned from them the story of the dead victim in their care, he made them drunk with his wine and while they slept, recovered the body of his friend and returned with it to his own village.

"Ah, Theodotus," he said, "you have indeed redeemed your pledge." And taking the gold ring from his hand, he replaced it on that of his friend, and buried him in the place where he had begged him to build a church. The Bollandist Father Delehaye contends that the story is merely a moral tale (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Gill).

In art, Saint Theodotus is depicted with a torch and sword. He is, of course, patron of innkeepers (Roeder).


Venantius of Camerino M (RM)
Died c. 250. Little is known of Venantius. Legend says that he died at Camerino near Ancona, Italy, when he was about 17 during the Decian persecutions. There his relics can be found today. The story is filled primarily with an account of the savagery of his persecutors, who scourged him, burned him with flaming torches, hanged him upside-down over a fire, knocked his teeth out, broke his jaw, threw him to lions (who merely licked his feet), tossed him over a high cliff, and finally cut off his head. Pope Clement X, a former bishop of Camerino, raised the feast of Saint Venantius to the double rite (under the old system) and composed proper hymns for his office (Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Venantius is portrayed as a young man with a banner holding the city wall. At times he may be shown (1) holding the citadel of Camerino, (2) holding the city, a palm, and a book, or (3) crucified upside-down with smoke coming from his head. He may be easily confused with Terenziano, who is also a young man, and who holds the citadel of Pesaro (Roeder). He is the patron of Camerino (Roeder).


Blessed William of Naurose, OSA Erem. (AC)
Born in Toulouse, France, in 1297; died 1369; cultus confirmed in 1893. William joined the Augustinian hermits and was famed as a very zealous missionary priest (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.