The Birth of John the Baptist
Agoard, Agilbert, and Others MM (RM)
5th-7th century. The Roman Martyrology repeats the legend: "In the neighborhood of Paris, in the village of Creteil, the passion of the holy martyrs Agoard and Aglibert, and numberless others of both sexes." The Jesuit Bollandists date their martyrdom between the 1st and 3rd centuries, but some claim it was more likely to have occurred at a later date--perhaps about AD 400. They were said to have migrated to Creteil, been converted by Saint Altinus, pulled down a pagan temple, and suffered the consequence of death by the sword. A church was later erected over their burial site, where their relics are now enshrined. There feast is kept in the diocese of Paris on June 25 (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
Alena of Brussels VM (AC)
Born near Brussels, Belgium; died c. 640. Saint Alena was baptized without the knowledge of her pagan parents. She was killed while secretly travelling to hear Mass (Benedictines). Saint Alena is depicted in art as a princess with one arm torn off. She might also be portrayed healing a blind man or with an angel encouraging her (Roeder). She is venerated in Brussels and is invoked for eye troubles and toothache (Roeder).
Amphibalus of Verulam M (AC)
Died c. 304. The original acta of Saint Alban say only that the protomartyr put on the cloak (amphibalus) of the priest, was arrested in his stead, and was martyred. Geoffrey of Monmouth took the word amphibalus as the name of the priest. Thus, in later versions of the story, the priest is martyred with or just after Saint Alban (Benedictines).
Bartholomew of Farne, OSB Hermit (AC)
(also known as Bartholomew of Durham)
Born at Whitby, England; died c. 1193. Of the many pious men who were led by the example of Saint Cuthbert to become solitaries on the island of Farne, off the Northumbrian coast, not the least remarkable was this Bartholomew, for he spent no less than 42 years upon that desolate haunt of birds. His parents, who may have been of Scandinavian origin, called him Tostig, but because the name made him a laughing-stock it was changed to William. He determined to go abroad, and his wanderings led him to Norway, where he remained long enough to receive ordination as a priest. He returned home, and went to Durham, where he took the monastic habit and took the name Bartholomew. A vision he had of Saint Cuthbert inspired him to dedicate the rest of his life to God in the cell which Cuthbert had once occupied at Farne.
Upon his arrival he found another hermit already installed--a certain Brother Ebwin, who strongly resented his intrusion and who strove by petty persecution to drive him away. Bartholomew attempted no reprisals, but made it quite clear that he had come to stay. Ebwin eventually retired, leaving him in solitary possession.
The mode of life he embraced was one of extreme austerity, modelled upon that of the desert fathers. Later he was joined by a former prior of Durham called Thomas; but they could not agree. Their chief cause of dissension--sad to relate--was the amount of food ration. Thomas could not manage with as little as Bartholomew, and he went so far as to question the authenticity of what appeared to be his brother's extraordinary abstemiousness. Bartholomew, who seems to have been sensitive to criticism, was so offended at being charged with hypocrisy that he left the island and returned to Durham. There he remained in spite of the apologies of Thomas, until the bishop, a year later, ordered him back to Farne, when a reconciliation took place. Forewarned of his approaching death, Bartholomew announced it to some monks, who were with him when he died, and buried him on the island. He left a reputation for holiness and miracles, but there is no evidence of a liturgical cultus (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Walsh).
"From ancient time long past, this island has been inhabited by certain birds whose name and race miraculously persists. At the time of year for building nests, they gather here. And such gracious gentleness have they learned from the holiness of the place, or rather from those who made the place holy by their way of living there, that they have no shrinking from the handling or the gaze of men. They love quiet, and yet no clamor disturbs them. Their nests are built everywhere. Some brood above their eggs beside the altar. No man presumes to molest them or touch the eggs without leave. . . . And they in turn do harm to no man's store for food. They seek it with their mates upon the waves of the seas. The ducklings, once they are reared, follow behind their mothers who lead the way, and once they have entered their native waters, come no more back to the nest.
"The mothers too, their mild and gentle way of life forgotten, receive their ancient state and instinct with the sea. This is the high prerogative of the island, which, had it come to the knowledge of the scholars of old time, would have had its fair fame blazoned through the earth.
"But at one time it befell, whilst a mother was leading her brood, herself going on before that one of the youngsters fell down a cleft of a creviced rock. The mother stood by in distress, and let no one doubt but that she was then endowed with human reason. For she forthwith turned about, left her youngsters behind, came to Bartholomew, and began tugging at the hem of his cloak with her beak, as if to say plainly: 'Get up and follow me and give me back my son.'
"He rose at once for her, thinking that he must be sitting on her nest. But as she kept on tugging more and more, he perceived at last that she was asking something from him that she could not come at by voice. And indeed her action was eloquent, if not her discourse. On she went, she first and he after, till coming to the cliff she pointed to the place with her bill, and gazing at Bartholomew, intimated with what signs she could that he was to peer inside.
"Coming closer, he saw the duckling, with its small wings clinging to the rock, and climbing down he brought it back to its mother, who in high delight seemed by her joyous look to give him thanks. Whereupon she took to the water with her sons, and Bartholomew, dumb with astonishment, went back to his oratory" (Geoffrey).
Blessed Erembert I of Kremsmünster, OSB Abbot (AC)
Died after 1050. Erembert was elected abbot, in 1050, of Kremsmünster monastery in Austria (Benedictines).
Faustus and Companions MM (RM)
Date unknown. The acta of this group of 24 Roman martyrs headed by Faustus have been lost. They may be identical to the Roman martyrs, including Saint Lucy, celebrated on June 25 (Benedictines).
Henry (Heric) of Auxerre, OSB (AC)
Born in Hery (Yonne); died c. 880. Saint Henry was a Benedictine monk and the headmaster of Saint-Germain abbey school at Auxerre. He was also a hagiographer (Benedictines).
Ivan of Bohemia, Hermit (AC)
Died 845. Saint Ivan renounced a brilliant career as a courtier to live as a hermit in Bohemia. He was buried by Duchess Saint Ludmilla of Bohemia (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Ivan is a hermit with a horse near him. He is venerated in Bohemia (Roeder).
John the Baptist, The Birth of (RM)
1st century. John the Baptist, the last of the prophets and the forerunner of our Lord, was a man of the desert. The son of a priestly line, born of aged parents as if by a miracle, brought up as a Nazarite, that is, dedicated from birth to God's service with lifelong obligations never to shave, take wine, or indulge in human pleasures. He lived in the wilderness, a rugged and magnetic figure, clothed in the skin of a camel, living on locusts and wild honey.
He is the most startling figure in the Gospel narrative, a man of mystery, not as other men, bronzed by the desert sun, with piercing words of ominous malediction, uncompromising and aggressive. No greater contrast can be imagined than the appearance by the river of this prophet of fire and the figure of Jesus as 'the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.'
Crowds followed him, held by his hypnotic power and rugged eloquence and lashed by his bitter invective. "You offspring of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The axe is laid to the rotten trees." The wheat is being threshed and the stubble burnt in the empty fields. It was the voice of the old dispensation, the last echo of Moses and Elijah, the final challenge of the fire and thunder of the God of the ancient Jews.
But John also prepared the way for Jesus,and with all his fierceness exercised a vital and realistic ministry. With it went a surprising humility and tenderness, for he recognized his own limitations and that he was but a forerunner and a road-builder; and when the time came, he graciously made way for our Lord. He shrank even from the thought of baptizing Him, and spoke of Him with wonder and devotion. I am not the Christ, he said, I am but a voice. "He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear."
His end was tragic, the result of a squalid intrigue. With characteristic boldness he had denounced the unlawful marriage of the infamous Herodias, and, as a result, had been thrown into the gloomy fortress of Machaerus on the shores of the Dead Sea. Then, to gratify the cruel and frivolous whim of a dancing girl, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, who had been prompted by her mother, Herod, to his own disgust, but unwilling to take back his word, put him to death, and there followed the shameful display of his head on a charger.
Thus ended the life of this sublime and extraordinary figure who blazed the trail for our Lord. The disciples gave his body decent burial and then broke the tragic news to Jesus, who, overcome by grief and unable to face the crowds that thronged Him, took a boat and retired for a while to a desert place apart (Gill).
John of Tuy, Hermit (AC)
9th century. Saint John, who born in Spanish Galicia, was a hermit near Tuy. His body is now enshrined in the Dominican church there (Benedictines).
Orentius, Heros, Pharnacius, Firminus, Firmus, Cyriac & Longinus MM (RM)
Died c. 304. The Roman Martyrology describes this group of martyrs as seven brothers, who were discharged from military service by Maximian because of their faith, taken to various locations, and killed (Benedictines).
Blessed Raingardis of Marcingy, OSB Widow (PC)
Died 1135. While Raingardis has never been canonically beatified, she is the mother of Peter the Venerable of Cluny. In her widowhood she became a Benedictine nun at Marcigny. She was venerated as a saint by the Cluniac Benedictines (Benedictines).
Roman Martyrs under Nero (RM)
Died 64. On a summer's day, July 19, in the reign of the Emperor Nero, the city of Rome caught fire. For six days the fire raged, from the foot of the Palatine Hill to the outer suburbs, and only by the demolition of property to create a gap in the path of the flames were four districts of the city preserved.
The mystery of the fire's origin was never solved, but it was thought to be due to incendiarism. There was an ugly rumor that Nero himself had set fire to his own capital, and that slaves of the imperial household had been seen spreading the flames. Nero was at Antium when it occurred, and for three days, despite urgent messages, made no move and issued no instructions; only after this delay did he return to the capital, and from the Tower of Macaenas he surveyed the blazing city.
With a lyre in his hand and in a theatrical pose, he declaimed Homer's account of the destruction of Troy, and it was this incident which gave rise to the legend that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Though it is unlikely that he caused the calamity, the suspicion was strengthened by his annexation, after the fire, of a considerable part of the desolated area for the erection of his 'Golden House,' a palace of immense size, with triple colonnades a mile long, where, he declared, 'now at last he was housed like a human being.'
But the growth of the rumor spread by the outraged population who were homeless and without food, and also the fear of revolution, obliged him to take counter measures. The imperial gardens were thrown open as a refuge to the destitute, temporary buildings were improvised, welfare and food services were organized; and, to divert attention from himself, he turned upon the Christians and openly declared that they were responsible.
Then began the most ruthless persecution. He ranged against them not only him own bitter hostility but also the rage and hatred of the populace. Tacitus records the grim story: "They died in torments and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses, others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to the fury of dogs, others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of night." Rarely has the world known such a spectacle of horror as when the gardens of Nero blazed with this fiendish carnival.
How many suffered is beyond compute. We only know that through the deserted streets and among the smoldering ruins the Christians were hunted like rats and, when caught, became the victims of Nero's insensate fury. They were nights of horror and days when no man could trust his neighbor. Whole families were rounded up and sent to death. In the pages of the martyrs there is an honored place for these unknown victims who suffered for the faith and in the patience of Christ, and left behind them an imperishable memory (Gill).
Simplicius of Autun B (RM)
Died c. 360. Saint Simplicius lived in continence with his wife, prior to being made bishop of Autun. He worthily bore the pastoral staff as he zealously and successfully uprooted paganism (Benedictines).
Theodulphus of Lobbes, OSB B (RM)
(also known as Thiou)
Died 776. Saint Theodulphus was the third abbot-bishop (chorepiscopus) of the Benedictine monastery of Lobbes near Liége in Belgium (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
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.