Ephraem, Deacon, Doctor
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, Matron (AC)
Born in Siena, Italy, May 29, 1769; died 1837; beatified in 1920.
Although she was the wife of a Roman working man, Anna Maria was consulted by royalty because she could read souls. Anna Maria Gianetti was the daughter of a druggist, who was soon impoverished and moved his family to Rome, where he was employed as a house servant. She left school at about 13 and learned the trade of wool-winding. Then she became a housemaid to a noble family. In 1970, she married Domenico Taigi, the butler of the nearby Chigi Palace, and began to live the normal life of a married woman of the working class. It was in the discharge of these humble duties that she attained a high degree of holiness, but not without a detour.
After her marriage she began to dress gaily, and then fell into grave sin--adultery with an older man. It was a momentary sin but her conscience tormented her. Worldly distractions brought her no peace.
Shortly, she changed her whole life. Walking through Saint Peter's Square with her husband, Padre Angelo (a Servite Father) gave her a piercing look, which she took as a warning of impending judgment. It is said he had a revelation that a woman would come to him to be directed in the way of sanctity and he knew the woman was Anna Maria when she passed him.
She fell on her knees over Saint Peter's tomb, then sought out a confessional, but the priest sent her away, telling her she was not one of his usual penitents. A few days later she was led to Padre Angelo's confessional and he greeted her, "So you have come at last! Be of good cheer, my child; God loves you and he asks for your whole heart in return." This was the hour of her total conversion to God. Immense joy filled her.
She put away her trinkets and became a tertiary of the Order of the Most Blessed Trinity (with her husband's permission). The day she was accepted, she heard Christ's voice saying she was chosen to convert sinners and console sufferers.
In 14 years, she bore four sons and three daughters. Three children died young. Anna Maria trusted always in the abundance of God. She instructed her children in the Catholic religion and tried to form them according to the divine Model. She was strict but merciful.
She went to daily, early morning Mass and worked far into the night. She took in sewing and washing to provide for her household and the poor. Her house was spotless; her children, well-tended. Rarely did she accept charity. In short, she was a model housewife and mother.
Domenico was not a saint, but a moderately good husband. He was ill-tempered, but after her death, said, "It is due to her that I corrected some of my faults." He always found his wife up and waiting for him when he returned from work, sometimes at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. "She was glad of an excuse to spend the quiet hours in prayer." Obedient to her husband, she honored him as the head of the household.
Anna Maria's parents spent their last years in her crowded home. Her father was an invalid, her mother irritable. Domenico testified, "It almost seems that God had given her such parents in order to try her virtue."
She was a good story-teller, merry, easy going, and her husband praised her for her virtues. She rarely dined, but rather served her family. She fasted on Saturday to honor Mary, and on Wednesday for Joseph. She practiced great mortifications on Fridays, in Lent, and on Ember fasts.
Humility and meekness were her favorite virtues. She rejoiced in humiliation and contempt, loved those who hated and spoke ill of her. She was oblivious to praise. Christ revealed to her, "The humble are always patient, and the patient sanctify themselves. Patience is the best of all penances, and he who is truly patient possesses all earthly treasure, and will receive a heavenly crown." This kind of patience entails a gentle forbearance and uncomplaining acceptance of trials.
Her mystical experiences were extraordinary: revelations, visions, rapture, and ecstasies. She had these experiences because she was a saint and not vice versa; because she tried in everything to act in conformity to God's will. Ecstasies often came at inconvenient times. Once while doing housework: "O Lord, leave me in peace! Withdraw thyself and let me get on with my work. Keep the treasures of thy love for consecrated virgins; I am only a poor wife and mother."
She saw thoughts and distant events in a symbolic, miniature sun, in which the hearts of others were revealed. Three popes and innumerable royalty sought her counsel. She also foretold many political and temporal events (Benedictines, S. Delany)
Baithin of Iona, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Comin, Cominus)
Died c. 598. Saint Baithin, first cousin of Saint Columba, succeeded Columba as abbot of Iona. He is said to have died on the anniversary of his cousin's death (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
(also known as Colum, Columbus, Combs, Columkill, Columcille, Colmcille)
Born in Garton, County Donegal, Ireland, c. 521; died June 9, 597.
"Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journey on my way;
What need I fear when Thou art near,
Oh King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand."
--Attributed to Saint Columba.
"We know for certain that Columba left successors distinguished for their purity of life, their love of God, and their loyalty to the rules of the monastic life." --The Venerable Bede.
Ireland has many saints and three great ones: Patrick, Brigid, and Columba. Columba outshines the others for his pure Irishness. He loved Ireland with all his might and hated to leave it for Scotland. But he did leave it and laid the groundwork for the conversion of Britain. He had a quick temper but was very kind, especially to animals and children. He was a poet and an artist who did illumination, perhaps some of those in the Book of Kells itself. His skill as a scribe can be seen in the Cathach of Columba at the Irish Academy, which is the oldest surviving example of Irish majuscule writing. It was latter enshrined in silver and bronze and venerated in churches.
About the time that Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave, Columba was born. He came from a race of kings who had ruled in Ireland for six centuries, directly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, and was himself in close succession to the throne. From an early age he was destined for the priesthood; he was given in fosterage to a priest. After studying at Moville under Saint Finnian and then at Clonard with another Saint Finnian, he surrendered his princely claims, he became a monk at Glasnevin under Mobhi and was ordained.
He spent the next 15 years preaching and teaching in Ireland. As was the custom in those days, he combined study and prayer with manual labor. By his own natural gifts as well as by the good fortune of his birth, he soon gained ascendancy as a monk of unusual distinction. By the time he was 25, he had founded no less than 27 Irish monasteries, including those at Derry (546), Durrow (c. 556), and probably Kells, as well as some 40 churches.
Columba was a poet, who had learned Irish history and poetry from a bard named Gemman. He is believed to have penned the Latin poem Altus Prosator and two other extant poems. He also loved fine books and manuscripts. One of the famous books associated with Columbia is the Psaltair, which was traditionally the Battle Book of the O'Donnells, his kinsmen, who carried it into battle. The Psaltair is the basis for one of the most famous legends of Saint Columba.
It is said that on one occasion, so anxious was Columba to have a copy of the Psalter that he shut himself up for a whole night in the church that contained it, transcribing it laboriously by hand. He was discovered by a monk who watched him through the keyhole and reported it to his superior, Finnian of Moville. The Scriptures were so scarce in those days that the abbot claimed the copy, refusing to allow it to leave the monastery. Columba refused to surrender it, until he was obliged to do so, under protest, on the abbot's appeal to the High King Diarmaid, who said: "Le gach buin a laogh" or "To every cow her own calf," meaning to every book its copy.
An unfortunate period followed, during which, owing to Columba's protection of a refugee and his impassioned denunciation of an injustice by King Diarmaid, war broke out between the clans of Ireland, and Columba became an exile of his own accord. Filled with remorse on account of those who had been slain in the battle of Cooldrevne, and condemned by many of his own friends, he experienced a profound conversion and an irresistible call to preach to the heathen. Although there are questions regarding Columba's real motivation, in 563, at the age of 42, he crossed the Irish Sea with 12 companions in a coracle and landed on a desert island now known as Iona (Holy Island) on Whitsun Eve. Here on this desolate rock, only three miles long and two miles wide, in the grey northern sea off the southwest corner of Mull, he began his work; and, like Lindisfarne, Iona became a center of Christian enterprise. It was the heart of Celtic Christianity and the most potent factor in the conversion of the Picts, Scots, and Northern English.
Columba built a monastery consisting of huts with roofs of branches set upon wooden props. It was a rough and primitive settlement. For over 30 years he slept on the hard ground with no pillow but a stone. But the work spread and soon the island was too small to contain it. From Iona numerous other settlements were founded, and Columba himself penetrated the wildest glens of Scotland and the farthest Hebrides, and established the Caledonian Church. It is reputed that he anointed King Aidan of Argyll upon the famous stone of Scone, which is now in Westminster Abbey. The Pictish King Brude and his people were also converted by Columba's many miracles, including driving away a water "monster" from the River Ness with the Sign of the Cross. Columba is said to have built two churches at Inverness.
Just one year before Columba's migration to Iona, Saint Moluag established his mission at Lismore on the west coast of Scotland. There are constant references to a rivalry between the two saints over spheres of influence, which are probably without foundation. Columba was primarily interested in Gaelic life in Scotland, while Moluag was drawn to the conversion of the Picts.
While leading the Irish in Scotland, Columba appears to have retained some sort of overlordship over his monasteries in Ireland. About 580, he participated in the assembly of Druim-Cetta in Ulster, where he mediated about the obligations of the Irish in Scotland to those in Ireland. It was decided that they should furnish a fleet, but not an army, for the Irish high-king. During the same assembly, Columba, who was a bard himself, intervened to effectively swing the nation away from its declared intention of suppressing the Bardic Order. Columba persuaded them that the whole future of Gaelic culture demanded that the scholarship of the bards be preserved. His prestige was such that his views prevailed and assured the presence of educated laity in Irish Christian society.
He is personally described as "A man well-formed, with powerful frame; his skin was white, his face broad and fair and radiant, lit up with large, gray, luminous eyes. . . ." (Curtayne). Saint Adamnan, his biographer wrote of him: "He had the face of an angel; he was of an excellent nature, polished in speech, holy in deed, great in counsel . . . loving unto all." It is clear that Columba's temperament changed dramatically during his life. In his early years he was intemperate and probably inclined to violence. He was extremely stern and harsh with his monks, but towards the end he seems to have softened. Columba had great qualities and was gay and lovable, but his chief virtue lay in the conquest of his own passionate nature and in the love and sympathy that flowed from his eager and radiant spirit.
On June 8, 597, Columba was copying out the psalms once again. At the verse, "They that love the Lord shall lack no good thing," he stopped, and said that his cousin, Saint Baithin must do the rest. Columba died the next day at the foot of the altar. He was first buried at Iona, but 200 years later the Danes destroyed the monastery. His relics were translated to Dunkeld in 849, where they were visited by pilgrims, including Anglo-Saxons of the 11th century.
The year Columba died was the same year in which Saint Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury to convert England. Perhaps because the Roman party gained ascendancy at the Synod of Whitby, much of the credit that belongs to Saint Columba and his followers for the conversion of Britain has been attributed to Augustine. It should not be forgotten that both saints played important roles.
Saint Columba is also important as patron of the Knights of Saint Columba, known in the United States as the Knights of Columbus and by other names in various parts of the world. Like Saint Malachy, whose apocryphal prophecies concerning the succession of popes are universally known, Saint Columba left a series of predictions about the future of Ireland. These were published in 1969 by Peter Blander under the title, The Prophecies of Saint Malachy and Saint Columbkille (4th ed. 1979, Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross Buckshire).
Unsurprisingly, devotion to Columba is especially strong in Derry. On April 13, the king signed the Catholic Emancipation Act in London. On that same day in Derry, the statue of a Protestant leader of the siege of Derry, which stood on the city walls was smashed apart of its own accord. The destruction of this symbol of dominion was attributed to the intercession of Saint Columba (Anderson, Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Menzies, Montague, Simpson).
The following legends about Saint Columba are the gentlest things recorded about the heroic and tempestuous abbot who founded Iona. The countryside where he was fathered is Gartan in Donegal, at the ingoing of the mountains and the great lake; a gentle countryside, and more apt a birthplace for the bird than the saint. The life written about 690 by Saint Adamnan, himself an Irishman and an abbot of Iona, is a rugged piece of work: but the deathdays of Saint Columba, and the crowding torches that discovered him dying in the dark before the high altar at midnight on June 9, are one of the tidemarks in medieval prose. The work itself owes much to Adamnan's imagination and more to unreliable sources, but it is a primarily a narrative of the miracles worked through Columba.
In the first story Columba bids his brother monk to go in three days to a far hilltop and wait, "'For when the third hour before sunset is past, there shall come flying from the northern coasts of Ireland a stranger guest, a crane, wind tossed and driven far from her course in the high air; tired out and weary she will fall upon the beach at thy feet and lie there, her strength nigh gone. Tenderly lift her and carry her to the steading near by; make her welcome there and cherish her with all care for three days and nights; and when the three days are ended, refreshed and loath to tarry longer with us in our exile, she shall take flight again towards that old sweet land of Ireland whence she came, in pride of strength once more. And if I commend her so earnestly to thy charge, it is that in the countryside where thou and I were reared, she too was nested.'"
The brother obeyed and all happened as Columba had foretold. "And on his return that evening to the monastery the Saint spoke to him, not as one questioning but as one speaks of a thing past. 'May God bless thee, my son,' said he, 'for thy kind tending of this pilgrim guest; that shall make no long stay in her exile, but when three suns have set shall turn back to her own land.'" And so it happened (Adamnan; also in Curtayne).
The second story recalls how Columba's heart would be touched when he saw a sad child. From time to time he would leave Iona to preach to the Picts of Scotland. "Once he visited a Pictish ruler who was also a druid, or pagan priest. When he was there he noticed a thin little girl with a face like a ghost. He asked who she was and was told that she was just a slave from Ireland. The way it was said seemed to mean: 'Why do you ask such silly questions? Who cares who she is, as long as she brushes and scrubs and does what she is told?'
"Columcille was troubled; he could see plainly that the little girl was miserable. So he asked the druid to give her freedom and he would get her home to Ireland. The druid refused. Columcille went away with a picture of an unhappy little girl in his mind.
"Shortly afterward, the important druid became ill; there was nobody near to tell him what to do to get well so he sent for the Abbot of Iona, who had a great reputation for curing people. Columcille did not leave Iona but sent a message back that he would cure the druid if he let the little girl free.
"The druid was angry and again refused. 'What on earth is he troubling himself for about that little bit of a good-for-nothing?' grumbled the druid as he tossed about in bed. But the messenger had hardly left for Iona with the refusal when the druid got worse; he had much pain and he thought he would die. So he sent off another message to Columcille: 'Yes, you can have the slave-girl, only come and do something for me. I am very bad and will die if you don't come soon.'" Columcille, however, did not trust the priest, so he sent two of his monks to bring the girl back. When the girl was safe, Columcille set out for the druid's house and cured him of his sickness (Curtayne).
Anther story occurs in May, when Columba set out in a cart to visit the brethren at their work. He found them busy in the western fields and said, 'I had a great longing on me this April just now past, in the high days of the Easter feast, to go to the Lord Christ; and it was granted me by Him, if I so willed. But I would not have the joy of your feast turned into mourning, and so I willed to put off the day of my going from the world a little longer.' The monks were saddened to hear this and Columba tried to cheer them. He blessed the island and islanders and returned in his cart to the monastery.
On that Saturday, the venerable old saint and his faithful Diarmid went to bless a barn and two heaps of grain stored therein. Then with a gesture of thanksgiving, he spoke, 'Truly, I give my brethren at home joy that this year, if so be I might have to go somewhere away from you, you will have what provision will last you the year.'
Diarmid was grieved to hear this again and the saint promised to share his secret. "'In the Holy Book this day is called the Sabbath, which is, being interpreted, rest. And truly is this day my Sabbath, for it is the last day for me of this present toilsome life, when from all weariness of travail I shall take my rest, and at midnight of this Lord's Day that draws n, I shall, as the Scripture saith, go the way of my fathers. For now my Lord Jesus Christ hath deigned to invite me; and to Him, I say, at this very midnight and at His own desiring, I shall go. For so it was revealed to me by the Lord Himself.' At this sad hearing his man began bitterly to weep, and the Saint tried to comfort him as best he might.
"And so the Saint left the barn, and took the road back to the monastery; and halfway there sat down to rest. Afterwards on that spot they set a cross, planted upon a millstone, and it is to be seen by the roadside to this day. And as the Saint sat there, a tired old man taking his rest awhile, up runs the white horse, his faithful servitor that used to carry the milk pails, and coming up to the Saint he leaned his head against his breast and began to mourn, knowing as I believe from God Himself--for to God every animal is wise in the instinct his Maker hath given him--that his master was soon to go from him, and that he would see his face no more. And his tears ran down as a man's might into the lap of the Saint, and he foamed as he wept.
"Seeing it, Diarmid would have driven the sorrowing creature away, but the Saint prevented him, saying, 'Let be, let be, suffer this lover of mine to shed on my breast the tears of his most bitter weeping. Behold, you that are a man and have a reasonable soul could in no way have known of my departing if I had not but now told you; yet to this dumb and irrational beast, his Creator in such fashion as pleased Him has revealed that his master is to go from him.' And so saying, he blessed the sad horse that had served him, and it turned again to its way" (Adamnan; also in Curtayne).
In art, Saint Columba is depicted with a basket of bread and an orb of the world in a ray of light. He might also be pictured with an old, white horse (Roeder). He is venerated in Dunkeld and as the Apostle of Scotland (Roeder).
Cumian of Bobbio, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Cummian, Cummin)
Died early 8th century. Saint Cumian was an Irish bishop who in his wanderings through Italy visited and remained in Bobbio as a monk. By this time Bobbio was already a Benedictine abbey; Cumian himself was an ardent advocate of the Roman observances (Benedictines).
Blessed Diana, Caecilia, and Amata, OP VV (AC)
Died 13th century; beatified in 1891. Diana, Caecilia, and Amata were the first members of Saint Agnes Dominican Convent in Bologna, Italy. They all knew Saint Dominic personally. Little is known of Sister Amata except that she was a good friend of Saint Dominic, who, according to legend, gave her the name Amata ('beloved'). Dominic either sent her to the reformed convent of Saint Sixtus when the nuns left Saint Mary's across the Tiber during a time of drastic reform, or he was instrumental in allowing her to stay there. There was an Amata from whom Dominic cast out seven devils, but it was probably not this Amata.
Caecilia Caesarini was a high-spirited young Roman of an ancient family; she threw her considerable influence into the reform movement at the time Saint Dominic was attempting to get the sisters into Saint Sixtus and under a strict rule. When the saint came to speak to the sisters at Saint Mary's, it was Caecilia (then 17) who urged the prioress to support his cause. She was the first to throw herself at Dominic's feet and beg for the habit and the rule he was advocating, and her hand is evident in the eventual working out of the touchy situation. In 1224, Caecilia and three other sisters from Saint Sixtus, including Amata, went to Saint Agnes in Bologna to help with the new foundation. Sister Caecilia was the first prioress there and proved to be a very strict one.
Caecilia is responsible for relating nearly everything now known about the personal appearance and habits of Saint Dominic. In her extreme old age, she was asked by Theodore of Apoldia to give him all the details of the saint's personality, and all that she could recall of the early days of the order, so that he could record them for posterity. Though nearly 90, her memory was keen and specific. She recalled how Dominic used his hands, the precise shade of his hair, the exact line of his tonsure. If she erred, there were still people alive who could have corrected her, though there was probably no one with her descriptive power left to tell the tale.
Through a woman's eyes, she saw the founder from a different angle than his fellow preachers were apt to see, and remarked on his gentleness with the sisters, and the little touches of thoughtfulness so characteristic of him. While the men who worked with him would recall his great mind and his penances, and appreciate the structural beauty of the order he had founded, Caecilia saw the glow of humanity that so many historians miss.
The most colorful of the three was Sister Diana, the spoiled and beautiful daughter of the d'Andalo and Carbonesi families of Bologna, who lost her heart to the ideal of the Dominicans when listening to Reginald of Orléans preach. She espoused the cause of the friars, who were new in Bologna, and begged her father until she obtained from him the church of Saint Nicholas of the Vineyards, of which he had the patronage.
Having established the brethren, she wanted a convent of the Dominican sisters in Bologna. When Saint Dominic came there on his last journey, she talked with him, and all her worries departed. She knelt at his feet and made a vow to enter the Dominicans as soon as it should be possible to build a convent at Bologna. Saint Dominic, going away to Venice on a trip from which he would only return to die, made sure before leaving that the brethren understood about Diana. Four of the fathers from the community of Saint Nichola were under obedience to see that her convent was built.
In the meantime, Diana's father refused her permission to enter the convent. Stealing a leaf from the life of Saint Clare, she ran away to the Augustinians outside the city. In full armor, her brothers came after he, and Diana was returned, battered but unconvinced, to the paternal home. She nursed a number of broken ribs and several explosive ideas in silence.
The death of Saint Dominic was a great grief to Diana, as she was still living in a state of siege at home, waiting for some action on the question of the new convent. However, she soon acquired a new friend, who was to be her greatest joy in the years of her mortal life--Jordan of Saxony, master general of the order following Dominic. Jordan, as provincial of Lombardy, inherited the job of building the Bologna convent, but his relations with Diana were not to be merely mundane. Their friendship, of which we have the evidence in Jordan's letters, is a tribute to the beauty of all friendship, and a pledge of its place in religious life.
Diana was resourceful. She made another attempt to elope to the convent. This time her family gave up in despair. She remained peacefully with the Augustinians until the new convent was built. In 1223, Diana and several other young women received the Dominican habit from Jordan of Saxony. Diana was the prioress for a time, but perhaps Jordan felt that she was too volatile for ruling others, because, as soon as the sisters came from Saint Sixtus, he established Sister Caecilia as prioress. Diana, who was used to being not only her own boss, but the one who gave orders to others, seems to have made no protest.
If we had the letters written by Diana, we should possess a fascinating picture of the early years of the order and the people who made it what it is. We are indebted to Diana for what we do have of the correspondence, for she carefully saved all of Jordan's letters. They tell us of the progress made by the friars in various lands, and ask her to remind the sisters to pray for the missionaries. Jordan counts the successes when many good novices have come into the order, begging her prayers in the low moments when promising novices leave.
More than this, these are letters of spiritual direction, which should give a pattern to all such correspondence, for they infer that Diana is a willing and energetic Christian who will follow the advice she is given, not simply keep the correspondence going for the joy of it.
Diana died in 1236. She was buried in the convent of Saint Agnes. Her remains were transferred when a new convent was built, and Sister Caecilia--who died 60 years later--was buried near her, along with Sister Amata. The relics were transferred several times, all three together. The head of Blessed Diana was placed in a reliquary near the tomb of Saint Dominic (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Ephrem of Edessa, Deacon, Doctor (RM)
(also known as Ephraem, Ephraim)
Born c. 306 in Nisibis (Syria), Mesopotamia; died at Edessa (Iraq) on June 9, 373; declared Doctor of the Church in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV; feast day formerly June 18 and February 1.
Ephrem passed his entire life in his native Mesopotamia (Syria). He was long thought to be the son of a pagan priest, but it is now believed his parents were Christians. He was baptized at eighteen, served under Saint James of Nisibis, became head of his school, and probably accompanied him to the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Syrian sources attribute the deliverance of Nisibis from the Persians in 350 to his prayers, but when in 363 Nisibis was ceded to the Persians by Emperor Jovian, he took residence in a cave near Edessa in Roman territory. Edessa (Urfa in Iraq), the site of a famous theological school, was where he did most of his writing.
Tradition says he visited Saint Basil at Caesarea in 370 and on his return helped alleviate the rigors of the famine of winter 372-73 by distributing food and money to the stricken and helping the poor (one of the jobs of deacons).
Ephraem's fame rests on his writings, above all on his metrical homilies, to be read aloud, and his hymns. The latter in particular were designed for popular use and were didactic in character, often directed against various current heresies (Attwater). He is largely responsible for introducing hymns into public worship. Particularly outstanding are his Nisibeian hymns and the canticles for the seasons.
Compositions attributed to him are still much used in the Syrian churches, and his reputation spread to the Greek-speaking world before his death. The English hymns 'Receive, O Lord, in Heaven above/Our prayers' and 'Virgin, wholly marvelous' are translated from Saint Ephraem's Syriac.
He wrote commentaries on a considerable number of books of the Bible, and a personal 'Testament' which seems to have been added to by a later hand. He countered the heretics--especially the Arians and the Gnostics--and wrote on the Last Judgment.
All Saint Ephraem's work is elevated in style, flowery in expression, and full of imagery: even as a theologian he wrote as a poet. He has always been regarded as a great teacher in the Syrian churches and many of his works were early translated into Greek, Armenian, and Latin.
Ephraem was devoted to the Blessed Virgin. He is often invoked as a witness to the Immaculate Conception because of his absolute certainty about Mary's sinlessness. He is quoted by other authors but we lack a critical edition, which has prevented further examination.
He was called 'the Harp of the Holy Spirit,' and proclaimed a doctor of the Church, the only Syrian so honored. He is especially venerated in the Eastern Church (Attwater, Delaney).
In art, Saint Ephraem is a hermit sitting on a column. There may be fiery pillars in heaven above him. He might also by shown (1) in a cave with a book, (2) with a cross on his brow, pointing upwards, or (3) his eyes cast up, full of tears (Roeder).
Blessed Henry the Shoemaker (PC)
(also known as Henry Michael Buche)
Born in Luxembourg; died in Paris in 1666. Henry Michael Buche, affectionately known at "der gute Heinrich," was a shoemaker by trade. In 1645, he settled in Paris, France, and with the help of Baron de Renti, founded the confraternity of SS. Crispinus and Crispinianus (Frères Cordonniers), for his fellow craftsmen (Benedictines).
Julian of Syria (RM)
Died c. 370. Saint Julian was a Christian from the West who was sold into slavery in Syria. After he regained his freedom, he became a monk under Saint Ephraem in Mesopotamia (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Maximian of Syracuse, OSB B (RM)
Born in Sicily; died in Syracuse, 594. Maximian was a monk at Saint Andrew's Abbey on the Coelian Hill in Rome under Saint Gregory the Great. Maximian served as Aposcrisarius in Constantinople to both Pope Pelagius and Gregory the Great. Gregory recalled him to Rome to serve him as minister and, in 591, appointed him bishop of Syracuse and apostolic delegate in Sicily (Benedictines).
Pelagia of Antioch VM (RM)
(also known as Margarita, Marina)
Died c. 311; feast day formerly on October 8, when it is celebrated in the East. There are six saints named Pelagia (which means 'of the sea' as does Marina) entered on the Roman calendar. Some of them may be legendary; others perhaps not. Today's Saint Pelagia was a 15-year-old martyred at Antioch. The stories told of her are pious fiction, which gave rise to a whole series of later tales about Marina, Margaret, Euphrosyne, Eugenia, and others.
The most popular story told about the fictional Pelagia of October 8, nicknamed Margarito or Margaret because of the fineness of her pearls, relates that she was a notoriously licentious dancing-girl or actress at Antioch. During a synod there, she passed Bishop Saint Nonnus of Edessa and caught his attention. He reputedly said, "This girl is a lesson to us bishops. She takes more trouble over her beauty than we do about our souls and our flocks."
The next day she went to hear him preach. His sermon moved her to repentance and baptism. She gave her wealth to Nonnus to distribute to the poor and left Antioch for Jerusalem disguised as a man. She lived as a hermitess in a cave on the Mount of Olives, under the name Pelagius. For the balance of her life she lived in austerity and performed penances. Known as 'the beardless monk,' her sex was not discovered until her death some years later.
The more historical version tells of Pelagia being a disciple of Saint Lucian. When soldiers were sent to arrest her, asked to be allowed to change her clothes. She went upstairs on that pretext and threw herself from her rooftop in an attempt to escape and avoid defilement. Unfortunately, she died in the process. Saint John Chrysostom, a native of Antioch, wrote two homilies in honor of Pelagia that praised her courage, which he attributes to divine inspiration. She is also remembered in the Ambrosian Canon (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, White).
Saint Pelagia is generally portrayed being baptized by Saint Nonnus. She may, however, be shown (1) praying before a crucifix in her cell or a cave; (2) as she is discovered by the monks at her death to be a woman; (3) as her body is brought in procession to Jerusalem; or (4) listening to Saint Nonnus preaching (Roeder).
Pelagia is the patroness of actresses and penitents (Roeder).
Primus and Felician MM (RM)
Died c. 297. The untrustworthy acta of Felician and his 80- year-old brother Primus relate that they were Roman patricians who had converted to Christianity. They devoted themselves to relieving the poor and visiting prisoners. They were arrested. Upon refusing to sacrifice to the public gods, the brothers were imprisoned and scourged. They were brought singly before the judge, Promotus, who tried to convince each that the other had apostatized. After they had been tortured, the brothers were beheaded under Diocletian at Nomentum (12 miles from Rome) A church was built over their tombs on the Via Nomentana. They are of particular interest because they are the first martyrs of whom it is recorded that their bodies were later reburied within the walls of Rome; in 640, Pope Theodore I had the relics taken to the church now called San Stefano Rotondo (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer). In art, these brothers are portrayed at their martyrdom. Felician is nailed to a tree and Primus is forced to swallow molten lead (Roeder).
Richard of Andria B (RM)
Born in England; died after 1196. The English Saint Richard became bishop of Andria in Italy. He was known for miracles and his extraordinary sanctity. The date of his life is often erroneously given as 5th century; however, no bishop is recorded in that see prior to the 8th century and the English were not converted before the 7th century (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Blessed Silvester Ventura, OSB Cam. (AC)
Born in Florence, Italy; died 1348. Silvester was a carder and bleacher of wool by trade. At the age of 40 he joined the Camaldolese at Santa Maria degli Angeli at Florence as a lay brother and served the community as cook. He was favored with ecstasies and heavenly visions, and the angels were wont to come and cook for him. His spiritual advice was in great demand (Benedictines).
Vincent of Agen, Deacon M (RM)
Died c. 292. Deacon Saint Vincent preached the faith in Gascony in Gaul. When he interrupted a Druid feast, he seized at Agen and condemned by the governor. His fate was to be stretched flat on the floor, fixed to the ground by four stakes. In that exposed position he was scourged and then beheaded. Saint Gregory of Tours in the 6th century and Fortunatus of Poitiers in the 7th century recorded that many flocked to Agen from throughout Europe to visit Vincent's tomb (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
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.