Bona of Pisa
Born at Pisa, Italy, c. 1156; died there in 1207. This story is found only in Attwater.
It is said that Bona experienced vision from early childhood, in one of which she was blessed by Saint James the Greater. By the age of 10 she had dedicated herself under the Augustinian rule, and at 14 she made her first journey, going off to see her father who was fighting in the crusades near Jerusalem.
On the way back she was captured by Islamic pirates in the Mediterranean, wounded and imprisoned. Rescued by some fellow Pisans, she made her way home. However, nothing daunted, she set out again, this time taking with her a large number of pilgrims to make the 1,000-mile journey to Compostella.
From this time she became one of the official guides on this famous pilgrimage route, under the auspices of the Knights of Saint James. She made the journey nine times, "full of energy, helpful, and unselfish, ready to reassure with her smile those who were sick."
Already ill, she attempted a final pilgrimage, but was overcome not far from home. She was able to return to Pisa, and died in her little room near the church of San Martino. In recent times Saint Bona has come to be associated as patron of travellers along with Saint Christopher, and in particular of couriers, guides and air-hostesses, receiving acknowledgement not least from airline companies (Attwater).
Conon (Father) and Conon (Son) MM (RM)
Died 275. Conon the Elder retired into seclusion after the death of his wife and offered his son to the service of the Church. At age 12, the younger was already a lector and later he was ordained a deacon. Soon after Aurelian had issued an edict against the Christians, his officer Domitian went to Iconium in Asia Minor. Both Conons were among the first brought before the judge to answer charges of impiety. The officer, moved with compassion for the venerable old man, asked him why he had chosen so severe and mortified a life. To which the saint replied: "Those who live according to the spirit of the world are fond of pleasures and ease; but those who live according to the Spirit of God, study to purchase the kingdom of heaven by pain and tribulation. As for me, my desire is to forfeit my life here, that I may forever reign with Jesus Christ." The son and his father were roasted near a slow fire and then racked to death. Their relics were later translated to a church dedicated to their memory at Acerra, near Naples. While their acta are not original, they are ancient (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Cyril of Caesarea M (AC)
Died c. 251. Cyril, a boy of Caesarea, Cappadocia, embraced Christianity without the knowledge of his parents. When his father discovered his treason, he threw him out of the house. When the governor caught wind of Cyril's new-found faith, he had Cyril arrested and brought before him. In an attempt to resolve the difference amicably, the governor cajoled the youngster, promising reconciliation with his father and restoration of his inheritance. The child, moved by the Holy Spirit, replied, "I rejoice in suffering reproaches for what I have done. God will receive me, with whom I shall be better than with my father. I cheerfully renounce earthly estates and house, that I may be made rich in heaven. I'm not afraid of death, because it will procure me a better life." At this Cyril was bound and led to the place of execution. The governor was reluctant to kill one so young; therefore, he privately ordered that Cyril be frightened into apostatizing. They stood Cyril before a huge fire and threatened to throw him into it. Again the judge tried to sway Cyril, who answered: "You have done me a real prejudice in calling me back. I neither fear the fire nor the sword; God will receive me. Put me to death without delay, that I may the sooner go to him." All wept to hear him speak this way because they understood how it must end. After again expressing his hope in heaven, Cyril was killed by the sword. His acta are authentic, probably compiled by Bishop Saint Firmilian of Caesarea, and his cultus was old enough to have been included in the Martyrology of Saint Jerome and that by Florus (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Eleutherius of Rocca d'Arce (RM)
Date unknown. Saint Eleutherius, an English pilgrim, was said to have been the brother of SS. Grimwald and Fulk. He died at Rocca d'Arce near Aquino in southern Italy. He is venerated there as a principal patron saint (Benedictines).
Gerald of Mâcon, OSB B (AC)
Died 927. Saint Gerald was a monk of Brou who became bishop of Mâcon. After a 40-year episcopacy, he resigned his office to return to his abbey and prepare for death (Benedictines).
Blessed Gerardesca of Pisa, OSB Cam. Widow (AC)
Born in Pisa, Italy; died at San Salvio, Italy, c. 1260; cultus confirmed in 1856. Some years after marrying a Pisan, Gerardesca convinced her husband to become a monk at San Salvio, while she lived nearby as a recluse under the obedience of the abbey (Benedictines).
This story and name are found only in Bentley. It is uncertain who exactly this is. "Joachim, an Italian abbot, is reputed to have been extremely vain in his younger days, and to have conquered this by great austerities. The story is told that the Empress Constance summoned him to her palace at Palermo, seeking to be shriven by the abbot one Good Friday. Saint Joachim found Constance on a lofty throne, set up incongruously in her prayer-room. She motioned him to sit on a lowly stool beside her. Joachim responded, 'As I now occupy the place of Christ and you that of the penitent Mary Magdalene, get down, sit on the ground and confess your sins honestly to me. Otherwise I shall not listen to you.' The empress humbly obeyed the abbot's apostolic authority" (Bentley).
John de Atarés, Hermit (AC)
Died c. 750. Saint John had a hermit's cell under a huge rock in the diocese of Jaca in the Aragonese Pyrenees. This was the later site of the Benedictine abbey of Saint John de la Peña. The saint and the place are famous in Spanish history, because the abbey of La Peña became the cradle of the Christian kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon (Benedictines).
Maximinus of Trèves (Trier) B (RM)
Born at Silly (near Poitiers), France; died c. 349. Maximinus was the brother of Saint Maxentius of Poitiers and may have been a native of that city. He travelled to Trier, Germany, as a young man, perhaps drawn there by the reputation of its bishop Saint Agritius. He completed his education, and he succeeded Saint Agritius as bishop in 333.
The exiled Saint Athanasius was welcomed to Trier by Maximinus in 336 and stayed for two years. During that time he wrote about Maximinus's courage, vigilance, and nobility. Saint Paul, bishop of Constantinople, also sought refuge in Trier.
Maximinus was reputed to have performed miracles. He convened the synod of Cologne, condemning Euphratas as a heretic and deposing him from his see. He cautioned the Emperor Constans, whose favorite home was at Trier, against the Arians. Because he was such a vocal opponent of Arianism at the councils of Milan, Sardica, and Cologne, Maximinus was named with Saint Athanasius in an excommunication the Arians declared.
Although he was apparently a prolific writer, nothing of his work survives. Saint Jerome describes him as "one of the most courageous bishops of his time" (Benedictines, White).
In art, he is depicted (1) receiving Saint Athanasius at Trier, (2) with a bear at his side, or (3) commanding a bear to carry his luggage (White).
Maximus of Verona B (RM)
6th century. Maximus was a bishop of Verona, but not even the dates of his episcopacy are certain (Benedictines).
Blessed Peter Petroni, O. Cart. (AC)
Born in Siena, Italy; died 1361. Peter became a Carthusian monk at Maggiano near Siena in 1328. His thoughtful charity was instrumental in the conversion of Boccaccio (Benedictines).
Restitutus of Rome M (RM)
Died c. 299. Nothing is known of Restitutus except that he was martyred in Rome under Diocletian (Benedictines).
Blessed Richard Thirkeld (Thirkild) M (AC)
Born in County Durham, England; died at York, England, 1583; beatified 1886. Richard was educated at Queen's College, Oxford. When he was already past his prime, he completed his studies for the priesthood at Douai and Rheims and was ordained in 1579. He ministered to the Catholics of Yorkshire and was condemned and executed for his priesthood at York (Benedictines).
Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander MM (RM)
Died 397. While their acta are fictitious, they were real martyrs at Milan, who were praised by their contemporaries Saints Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, and Maximus of Turin. They were sent to evangelize the Tyrol at the recommendation of Saint Ambrose. Saint Vigilius of Trent received them. He ordained Sisinnius a deacon, Martyrius a lector, and Alexander a porter, and sent them on their way to preach in the Alps. They proceeded with their mission despite ill-treatment and opposition. After winning some souls to the faith, Sisinnius built a church in the village of Methon, where he continued with their catechization.
The unconverted felt threatened by the new-found faith of their neighbors. They were enraged with the new Christians refused to participate in pagan festival of Ambarvalia and proceeded to the church were the divine praises were being sung. Their they beat the Christians, including Sisinnius, to death with clubs. The next morning Alexander and Martyrius continued their work undaunted. When the two holy preachers heard the mobs returning, they hid. Martyrius was found in the garden and dragged over rough stones until he gave up his soul to the Redeemer. Later they found Alexander and tried to persuade him to renounce his faith as they burned the bodies of Sisinnius and Martyrius before his eyes. Unsuccessful, the mob threw him into the fire. It is reported that the faithful collected the ashes of the martyrs and carried them to Trent. Later Saint Vigilius erected a church on the site of their martyrdom and sent reports of their triumph to several bishops. His letters to Saints Simplicianus of Milan and John Chrysostom are still extant (Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Theodosia of Constantinople VM (AC)
Died 745. Theodosia, a nun of Constantinople, lived in Constantinople in the mid-8th century when the emperor was destroying all the images of Jesus, his mother, and the saints. One image of Christ was greatly loved by Theodosia. The emperor sent one of his officers to smash it to pieces. When he climbed a ladder to reach the icon above the main door of her convent and perform the sacrilegious act, Theodosia shook it so hard that he fell off and was killed.
Not content with this, Theodosia led a group of women to stone the palace of the heretic patriarch of Constantinople, who was supporting the destruction of icons. The authorities took their revenge. All these warlike Christian women were punished, but Theodosia, who had inspired their rebellion, was viciously tortured and killed (Benedictines, Bentley).
Theodosia VM and Companions MM (RM)
Died c. 303. Theodosia, allegedly the mother of Saint Procopius, is said to have been martyred with 12 other women at Caesarea Philippi in Palestine under Diocletian. The whole story seems to have been a fabrication (Benedictines).
Blessed Ulric of Einsiedeln, OSB (AC)
Died after 978. Ulric, son of Saint Gerold, became a monk at the Swiss abbey of Einsiedeln and was appointed its treasurer. After his father's death, he became a hermit in his father's cell. He is venerated at Einsiedeln (Benedictines).
Votus, Felix, and John, Hermits (AC)
Born in Saragossa, Spain; died c. 750. Votus and Felix were brothers who went in search of a hermitage and found one in the Aragonese Pyrenees under a huge rock (Peña). It was already inhabited by Saint John. The three lived together and died about the same time. Shortly after their deaths, the great Benedictine monastery of Saint John de la Peña arose (this is the same Saint John of Atarés as above) (Benedictines).
William, Stephen, Raymund, and Companions MM (AC)
Died 1242; beatified in 1866. One of the earliest of the many martyrs of the Dominican Order was Blessed William Arnaud. He died with eleven companions in Avignonet, who are known as the "Martyrs of Toulouse."
Nothing is known about William's early life. In 1234, he and two other Dominicans were commissioned as inquisitors by Pope Gregory IX to combat Albigensianism in Languedoc, France. He and his companions were driven out of Toulouse, Narbonne, and several other towns by the heretics.
With him on the preaching mission were a fellow Dominican, Bernard of Rochefort; the Franciscans, Steven of Narbonne and Raymond of Carbonier, and two unnamed others; the Benedictine, Prior Raymond; the clerks, Bernard Fortanier and Admer; and the Dominican lay brother, Garcia d'Aure; and Peter the Notary. There were others who worked with him through the long and difficult years in Toulouse, but these were the ones who died in the martyrdom of Avignonet.
After the death of Saint Dominic, the party of Count Raymond of Toulouse rose to power again. In a short time it regained possession of Toulouse and several armed strongholds nearby. When William Arnaud and his companions came into the vicinity, they found every gate closed against them. None of the cities under the command of Raymond's troops would allow them to come in, and, by order of the heretic commander, the citizens of Toulouse were forbidden under pain of death to supply the inquisitor's party with any food. They took refuge in a farmhouse outside of Avignonet and preached around the countryside for some time. Because they had some measure of success, the heretics intensified their efforts to entrap and kill the inquisitors.
The members of the commission realized that they were only one step from death. They might have escaped and gone safely to some other part of the country had they chosen to do so. Instead, they remained where obedience had assigned them, and at the end of May 1242, they were given a heavenly warning that they were about to receive the crown of martyrdom. William was absent from the rest of the group when the plot was formed to kill them. Being told of a vision of martyrdom by one of the brothers, he hurried back to rejoin his group. The heretics completed their plans to massacre the entire party.
Scheming carefully, they set the scene at the country castle of one of the wealthy members of their group. In order to make sure of getting the inquisitors into the trap, they sent word to William that a confirmed heretic of his acquaintance wished to abjure his heresy and return to the faith.
Knowing well that it was a trap, William still could not refuse to go. He and his eleven companions went, on the evening of the Ascension, May 28, to the castle of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The soldiers of Raymond were concealed in the great hall. They fell upon the helpless group and killed all but four of the members. These four were taken out by friends who had know about the plot and hurried to the church.
William Arnaud and Steven of Narbonne were murdered in the sanctuary of the church as they sang the Te Deum. This was a crime almost unparalleled in medieval times when the right of sanctuary was one of the few strongholds against barbarism. The bodies of the martyrs were thrown into a deep ravine, and rocks were rolled down on them. During the night, some hours after the martyrdom, bright lights radiating from the bodies of the martyrs brought the faithful to gather up the relics.
The church of Avignonet was placed under interdict because of the sacrilege, and for 40 years no Mass was said there. The doors remained closed. Finally, when the interdict was lifted, the bells rang of themselves, according to legend, to let people know that Avignonet was once more a member of the living Church.
There is a curious footnote to this story of martyrdom. Shortly after the interdict was lifted, there appeared one day on the steps of the church a fairly large statue of the Blessed Virgin. Who had put it there has never been discovered. It is difficult to see how anyone in such a small town could have successfully concealed a statue of that size, for small towns are notoriously poor places to hide secrets. The statue appeared on the steps in broad daylight, yet no one saw it being placed there. The people took it as a sign that they were forgiven for their part in the outrage, and also as a sign that they should rebuild the devotion to Our Lady, which the Dominicans had preached. The statue was named "Our Lady of Miracles," and they petitioned for a special feast in honor of their own Miracle lady.
Until very recently, a strange little ceremony was held in the Church of Our Lady of Miracles on every May 28. It was a night ceremony, in memory of the night martyrdom of William Arnaud and his companions, and it was called "The Ceremony of the Vow." Carrying lighted candles, the people proceeded across the entire width of the church on their knees, praying for forgiveness for the people who committed the massacre (Benedictines, Delaney, Dorcy).
Blessed William Arnaud is invoked by people who suffer from neuralgia, in memory of a miracle of healing which he performed on one of the sisters of Prouille (Dorcy).
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.