Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop
Augustine (Austin) of Canterbury B (RM)
Born in Rome; died on May 26, 604-607; feast day formerly May 26.
"God, in his promises to hear our prayers, is desirous to bestow Himself upon us; if you find anything better than Him, ask it; but if you ask anything beneath Him, you put an affront upon Him, and hurt yourself by preferring to Him a creature which He framed: Pray in the spirit and sentiment of love, in which the royal prophet said to Him, 'Thou, O Lord, are my portion.' Let others choose to themselves portions among creatures, for my part, You are my portion, You alone I have chosen for my whole inheritance." --Saint Austin.
Saint Augustine was a Roman, the prior of Saint Andrew's monastery on the Coelian Hill in Rome. In 596, Pope Saint Gregory the Great sent him with 30-40 of his monks to evangelize the English. By the time they had reached southern France, they were frightened by stories of the brutality of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangerous nature of the Channel crossing and his company wanted to return to civilization.
Augustine sought help from the pope, who sent encouragement. Gregory said, "It is better never to undertake any high enterprise than to abandon it once it has started." He added, "The greater the labor, the greater will be the glory of your eternal reward." Gregory also persuaded some French priests to aid the mission and the group landed near Ebbsfleet near Ramsgate on the isle of Thanet in 597. They were welcomed by King Ethelbert of Kent, then the most sophisticated of the Anglo- Saxon kingdoms. Ethelbert's wife Bertha was the daughter of the king of Paris and already a Christian, which made it much easier for the missionaries to gain a foothold in the land. The king himself was baptized within a year of their arrival. Augustine would later help Ethelbert to write the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws to survive.
Augustine went to France to be consecrated bishop of the English by Saint Virgilius, metropolitan of Arles, and upon his return to England was so successful in making converts that he sent to Rome for more assistance. Among those who responded were Saint Mellitus, Saint Justus, and Saint Paulinus, who brought with them sacred vessels, altar cloths, and books.
Augustine rebuilt a church and laid the foundation for what would become the monastery of Christ Church. On land given to him by the king, he built a Benedictine monastery at Canterbury, called SS. Peter and Paul (later called Saint Augustine's).
He was unable to convince the bishops in Wales and Cornwall to abandon their Celtic rites and adopt the disciplines and practices of Rome. He invited leading ecclesiastics to meet him at Wessex, known as "Augustine's Oak." He urged them to follow Roman rites and to cooperate with him in the evangelization of England, but fidelity to local customs and resentment against their conquerors made them refuse. A second conference, at which Augustine is said to have failed to rise upon the arrival of the ecclesiastics, drove them further apart.
He was never able to extend his authority to the existing Christians in Wales and southwest England (Dumnonia). These Britons were suspicious and wary, Augustine was perhaps insufficiently conciliatory, and the British bishop refused to recognize him as their archbishop.
He spent the rest of his life spreading the word, and he established sees at London and Rochester. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury and was called the "Apostle of the English" (as opposed to Roman Britain), though his comparatively short mission was perforce confined to a limited area. That he was a very conscientious missionary is clear from the pages of Bede, who gives what purports to be the text of Pope Gregory's answers to Augustine's requests for direction on various matters arising out of his mission.
He adapted a gradual course of conversion outlined for him by Pope Saint Gregory. The holy father has asked him not to destroy pagan temples and allowed that innocent pagan rites could be incorporated into Christian feasts, operating under the belief that "He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps."
Augustine's patience became well known, as is illustrated by an episode that occurred in Dorsetshire, when a town of seafaring people attached fishtales to the backs of the Italians' robes. He was buried in the unfinished church of the monastery that would one day bear his name (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Deanesly, Delaney, White).
In art, Saint Augustine is portrayed as a bishop baptizing the king of Kent (Roeder), in the black habit of the order, with a pen or book (one of his own works), or obtaining by prayer a fountain for baptizing (White).
Bruno of Würzburg B (RM)
Died 1045. In 1033, Saint Bruno was consecrated bishop of Würzburg, Germany. He spent all his private fortune building many churches throughout the diocese. He was killed instantly while dining with Emperor Henry III at Bosenburg, when a gallery gave way (Benedictines).
Eutropius of Orange B (RM)
Born in Marseilles, France; died after 475. Saint Eutropius succeeded Saint Justus as bishop of Orange, France, at a time when the diocese had been destroyed by the Visigoths (Benedictines).
Frederick of Liège B (AC)
Died 1121. Saint Frederick was an excellent bishop, chosen in 1119 to succeed the rather venial Alexander of Liège. It is believed that he was poisoned to death by the count of Louvain, one of Bishop Alexander's supporters (Benedictines).
Blessed James of Nocera, OSB (AC)
Born in Nocera, Umbria, Italy; died 1300. James was a monk of Santa Croce di'Fontavellana (Benedictines).
Julius of Dorostorum (the Veteran) and Companions MM (RM)
Died c. 302. Julius was a veteran soldier of 27-years' service in the Roman army and seven military campaigns, who was accused by his fellows of being a Christian. When questioned by the prefect Maximus, Julius noted that he had re-enlisted as a veteran and that during his entire service he had worshipped the God who made heaven and earth. The judge employed praise and promises and a bribe of a 10-year bonus to sway Julius, but he remained steadfast in his desire to die rather than denounce his Savior.
When asked why he feared a dead man more than the living emperors, Julius responded: "It was he who died for our sins to give us eternal life. This same man, Christ, is God and abides for ever and ever. Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life; whoever denies Him will have eternal punishment." Next Maximus tried to play on Julius's sense of compassion. He asked the saint to sacrifice out of pity and continue to live. Julius replied: "To live with you would be death for me. . . . I have chosen death that I might live with the saints for ever." Thus, he was condemned to death by the sword.
En route to the place of execution, Saint Hesychius, another Christian soldier, said to him: "Go with courage, and run to the crown which the Lord hath promised; and remember me, who shall shortly follow you. Commend me to the servants of God, Pasicrates and Valentio, who, by confessing the holy name of Jesus, are gone before us." Julius responded with an embrace and the words of encouragement: "Dear brother, make haste to come to us; they whom you salute have already heard you."
Julius was one of a small group of comrades, including Pasicrates, Valentio, and Hesychius, all beheaded about the same time for tenaciously adhering to the Christian faith, at Durostorum on the Danube in Lower Moesia (near Silistria in Bulgaria). The authenticity of the surviving simple account of Saint Julius's death has not been questioned (Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Blessed Mary Bartholomeo Bagnesi, OP V (AC)
Born in Florence, Italy, 1511-1514; died 1577; beatified in 1804 by Pius VII.
Marietta Bagnesi's type of sanctity is not pleasing to today's psychiatrists, and, indeed, it is somewhat of a puzzle. The fact that she was so disgusted with the very thought of marriage that she became ill and was bedridden the rest of her life seems more than a little strange to us. One has to remember that God calls his children to heaven by very diverse paths.
Marietta was a beautiful and appealing child, with big eyes and a constant smile. Because she was tiny, she was always called Marietta, rather than Mary. Her mother neglected her when she was a baby, leaving her to the casual care of others, and the little girl was often hungry and cold. She never protested, but was always gay and charming, and she was the special darling of her sister, who was a Dominican nun.
The sisters made quite a pet of the little girl, and she ran through the cloisters unhampered, singing for the sisters from the throne of the community-room table. What brought about her utter disgust with marriage is hard to tell. When her father proposed that she marry an eligible young man, she reacted with horror. She had been managing the household since the death of her mother, and her father felt that having a home of her own would be the best thing in the world for her. When he suggested this, Marietta fell into a faint, and she remained in that condition for days. When she recovered, she could not stand up, and had to be put to bed.
At this point a strange interlude brings, which can only be explained by the fact that God does not operate in the same fashion we do. Marietta's father was fond of quack doctors, and quacks of the 16th century were really fantastic. Without protest the girl endured all the weird and frightful treatments they devised, suffering more from the treatments than she ever had from the malady. Today her ailment would probably be diagnosed as some type of spastic nerve malady. Packing her in mud and winding her in swaddling bands until she, according to her own account, "felt like a squashed raisin" could not have helped anything but the quack doctor's purse. The ailments continued unabated for 34 years.
Marietta had hoped to be a nun; four of her sisters were already in the convent. Because such a life was, of course, impossible for an invalid, her father attempted to better her spirits by having her accepted into the Third Order. A priest came from Santa Maria Novella and received her into the order in 1544, but he excused her from the obligation of saying the Office because of the desperate nature of her illness. When he came the following year, she made her profession. For a little while after her profession, Marietta was able to get out of bed and could even walk a little. She could see and enjoy the beauties of the city. The she fell ill again and went back to bed; this time she had asthma, pleurisy, and a kidney ailment.
The doctors continued their experimentation through all the years of her life. A mystic, who sometimes conversed with the angels, saints, and devils, Marietta was suspected by the neighbors of being in league with the devil. Her protests that "she had seen him all right but he wasn't a friend of hers," fell on deaf ears; they obtained permission to have her exorcised. Her confessor left her; he was afraid of becoming involved. Another priest who came to her, mostly out of curiosity, stayed on as her confessor and directed her strange and troubled path for 22 years.
Marietta's little room became a sort of oratory, and troubled people came there to find peace. She had an unusually soothing effect on animals; several pet cats made her the object of their affection. One of them used to sleep on the foot of her bed, and if she became sick during the night would go out to find someone to care for her. Once, when the cat felt that Marietta was being neglected, it went out and fetched her a large cheese. The cats, according to the legend, did not even glance at the songbirds that she had in a cage beside the bed.
Marietta's spiritual life is hard to chronicle against such an odd background. In her last years, she was in almost constant ecstasy. The chaplain said Mass in her room, and she went to confession daily. She never discussed the sorrowful mysteries, because she could not do so without crying, but she often talked with great animation and a shining face, about the glorious mysteries. Once she was raised out of her bed in ecstasy. She shared her visions with another mystic, the Carmelite, Mary Magdalen de Pazzi. Because of her devotion to Saint Bartholomew, she added his name to her own, and usually used it instead of her family name (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Blessed Matthew Gam M (AC)
Born in Tonkin; died 1847; beatified in 1900. Blessed Matthew carried the members of the Paris Foreign Missions from Singapore to Annam in his boat. He was imprisoned in 1846, tortured, and later beheaded (Benedictines).
Melangell (Monacella) V (AC)
Died c. 590 (possibly 7th or 8th century); feast day formerly on January 31. Melangell is commemorated in some Welsh calendars. She seems to have been a hermit in Montgomeryshire, who later became abbess of a small community in remote Pennant Melangell (now Powys). Her church and shrine have been restored recently. She is another of those saints who cultus flourished locally long before any vita was written; the only source still available is a 15th-century version that appears to have been based on an earlier source. Her story connects Melangell with King Brochwel Ysgithrog of Powys, who happened upon her while he was hunting in her neighborhood. At that time she had been living at Pennant Melangell for 15 years after having fled from an unwanted marriage in Ireland. Brochwel gave her land for a convent and a sanctuary for the hares she had befriended. The saint is reputed to have lived another 33 years after this encounter. The text explicitly states that she was a virgin, which may provide some that she and Saint Winifred are the only two female saints from Wales who have Latin biographies. It ends with someone named Elise attempting to ravish the nuns and meeting a grisly end (Benedictines, Farmer). Melangell is the patron of hares (Farmer).
Ranulphus (Ragnulf) of Arras M (RM)
Died c. 700. Ranulphus, a martyr of Thélus near Arras, was the father of Saint Hadulph, bishop of Arras-Cambrai (Benedictines).
Restituta of Sora VM and Companions MM (RM)
Died 272. Restituta is said to have been a Roman maiden of patrician parentage, who fled to Sora in Campania to escape the persecution under Aurelian. She was nevertheless martyred there with several companions (Benedictines). In art, Saint Restituta has an angel, her guardian, above her (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.