St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day

Saint Anthony Zaccaria
(Optional Memorial)
July 5

Agatho and Triphina MM (RM)
Died 306. Sicilian martyrs about whom nothing further is known. There is doubt even about the sex of Triphina (Benedictines).

Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest (RM)
Born in Cremona, Italy, 1502; died there, July 15, 1539; canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1897.

"That which God commands seems difficult and a burden. . . . The way is rough; you draw back; you have no desire to follow it. Yet do so and you will attain glory."

Antony studied medicine at the University of Padua. In 1524, at the age of 25, he set up his practice in his hometown. As a medical man he found himself ministering not only to the sick but also to the dying and the bereaved. He found man and women sick not only in the body but spiritually, and so he turned to the study of theology to learn more about the comfort and ways of God.

By 1528, it seemed natural that the young doctor should be ordained as a secular priest who pursued a spiritual and corporeal ministry. Soon he moved to work in Metan near Milan. His zeal, molded on that of Saint Paul, knew no bounds.

In 1530, he and a few other priests, including Venerable Bartholomew Ferrari and Venerable James Morigia, founded the congregation of Clerks Regular of Saint Paul, the members of which were neither monks nor friars but lived under a rule "to revive the love of divine worship and a true Christian way of life by continual preaching and faithfully administering the sacraments."

They worked among the plague-stricken Milanese, in the midst of wars, and during Luther's reforms. The group so invigorated the city's spiritual life that it was approved by Pope Clement VI in 1533 with Antony as its first provost general. The order became known as the Barnabites when, in the last year of Antony's life, the church of Saint Barnabas in Milan became the order's headquarters.

Antony resigned in 1536, helped spread the community, and worked ceaselessly to reform the Church. Under his direction, Louisa Torelli founded the congregation of women called Angelicals, who protected and rescued girls who had fallen into disreputable lives. Antony was only 37 when he died as a result of his unceasing apostolic toil (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

Athanasius of Jerusalem M (RM)
Died 462. Deacon Athanasius, denounced the heretic Theodosius, who had supplanted the Catholic Saint Juvenal in the see of Jerusalem. For this act he was seized by the military and beheaded (Benedictines).

Athanasius the Athonite, Abbot (AC)
Born at Trebizond c. 920; died c. 1003. Son of an Antiochene and baptized Abraham, Athanasius studied at Constantinople. He was successful in his studies and a safe career in the civil service was his for the asking. But instead he became a monk at Saint Michael's monastery at Kymina, Bithynia. This was a laura, i.e., a group of monasteries where the monks lived individual lives around their church.

To avoid being named abbot of Saint Michael's when the abbot, Saint Michael Maleinos, died, Athanasius hid in a cell at Karyes, changed his name, and pretended to be illiterate. He migrated to Mount Athos in Greece. Mount Athos, one of the three peaks on the Chalcedonian Peninsula which juts out into the Aegean Sea, is one of the most exquisitely lovely places in the world. It is a land of red and ocher and gold, of cypresses and begonias and bougainvilleas, of fantastic roofs and brilliant sunlight, of sparkling sea and arid mountain.

Saint Athanasius was not the first holy man to live on Mount Athos, for since the 9th century anchorites, such as Peter the Athonite and Euthymius the Thessalonian, had lived in caves among the rocks.

When he reached Mount Athos in 958, an old friend from Constantinople, Nicephorus Phocas, asked his help in preparing an expedition against the Saracens in 961. Phocas insisted on appointing him almoner of his fleet.

On its successful completion, Athanasius returned to Mount Athos and with money given him by a grateful Phocas began the first monastery on Athos in 961. Athanasius wanted to found a new kind of monastery, the so-called idiorhythmic monastery, where each inmate could follow his own rhythm and tempo. His hope was that anchorites, hermits, wandering monks, and cenobites could all live together in his laura.

When Nicephorus Phocas became emperor in 963, the year the monastery was dedicated, Athanasius fled to Cyprus to avoid being called to court, but the emperor found him, reassured him, and gave him money to continue his work on Athos.

Athanasius encountered great opposition from hermits living on the mountain long before he had arrived there as he attempted to install the laura system there. He escaped two murder attempts, and resistance ended only when Emperor John Tzimisces forbade any opposition to Athanasius.

In time he became superior over 58 communities of monks and hermits on the mount. Thousands of monks still live and pray there today in 20 monasteries; it is now and has been for centuries the center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism and not in communion with Rome since shortly after the saint's death. The monastery that Athanasius founded is still the largest.

Though celibate--indeed every woman, every female animal and every smooth-faced creature is banned--they are not held to fasting or abstinence. They are obliged to obey an abbot, but they do not have to attend services except on major feast days. They provide their own food and are not bound to poverty, and in fact many of them keep their personal wealth.

It might perhaps sound as if they are indulgent to themselves and giving themselves too much personal freedom. But, in fact, the system confers heightened value on their virtuous acts, because they are done freely, and not out of constraint of obedience.

The idiorhythmic rule that Athanasius established was far in advance of his times--a radical departure from the customs of other monasteries. He made his monastery as little like a barracks as possible. He did, however, force his monks to read and study the Bible and one of his first concerns was to open a school next to the monastery.

Throughout his life he despised worldly honors as greatly as he despised ignorance. He had a particular contempt for gluttony, even going so far as to excommunicate those monks he found guilty of it. Since his day his monks have lived an independent existence, taking gifts from no one and providing their own simple needs themselves.

His memory is preserved not only in the rule that he established and the buildings that he erected but also in the hundreds of trees that he planted in the courtyards and on the terraces, in the imposing library he founded, and in the reliquaries of Nicephorus Phocas, whom he had served.

A Catholic one was being added to the monastery, a church in the form of a Greek cross where the "nikterinos" or night office was to be recited. Athanasius, who was supervising the work, and five of his monks were killed when the arch of a church on which they were working collapsed (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).

An anonymous Russian icon of Athanasius with Saints Barlaam and Joasaph is available on the web.

Cyrilla of Cyrene M (RM)
Died c. 300. Although the aged widow of Cyrene, Saint Cyrilla, was condemned to death, she seems to have died in the torture chamber rather than as planned. Several other martyrs suffered with her (Benedictines).

Domitius of Phrygia M (RM)
Died 362. Domitius, a Persian or Phrygian monk, was stoned to death under Julian the Apostate, under much the same circumstances as the Saint Domitius honored on March 23 Benedictines, (Encyclopedia).

Edana (Edaene, Etaoin) of West Ireland V (AC)
Date unknown. Edana, an Irish saint, is the patron of the parishes of Tuarnia in western Ireland in the dioceses of Elphin and Tuam. A famous holy well bear her name. She appears to have lived near the confluence of the rivers Boyle and Shannon. Some have thought her to be identical with Saint Modwenna (Benedictines, Husenbeth).

Blessed Elias (Elie) of Bourdeilles, OFM B (PC)
Born in Périgord, 1407; died 1484. Elias was born into the family of the counts of Bourdeilles. He took the Franciscan habit at the age of 10. He was successively bishop of Périgueux at the age of 24, archbishop of Tours in 1468, and cardinal in 1483. Though he was King Louis XI's confessor, he defended the rights of the church against the king. In 1452, he drew up a report vindicating Saint Jeanne d'Arc. The process of his beatification was begun in 1526, but has never been completed (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).

Erfyl (Eurfyl) V (AC)
Date unknown. Saint Erfyl was a British maiden, who founded the church of Llanerfyl in Montgomeryshire (Benedictines).

Fragan and Gwen (Blanche) (AC)
5th century. During the troubled times following the Roman departure from Britain, Saints Fragan and Gwen became refugees in Brittany, where many churches are dedicated to each of them. They are the parents of Saints Winwaloë, Jacut, Guethenoc, and Gunthiern (Benedictines).

Grace and Probus of Cornwall (AC)
Date unknown. Saints Probus and Grace were husband and wife, who lived in Cornwall. They are patrons of the Cornish parish of Probus (Benedictines).

Marinus, Theodotus and Sedolpha MM (RM)
Date unknown. This trio suffered martyrdom at Tomi on the Black Sea (Benedictines).

Modwenna (Edana, Medana, Moninne, Merryn) of Whitby V (AC)
Died c. 695. Four or five saints of this name are listed in different menologies, but their lives are hopelessly confused. This one, often confused with Saint Modwenna of Polesworth, seems to be one of the more important ones. This Modwenna is said to have succeeded Saint Hilda as abbess of Whitby (Attwater, Benedictines).

Numerian (Memorian) of Trèves, OSB B (RM)
Died c. 666. Numerian, son of a rich senator, became a monk in Trèves (Trier, Germany) under Saint Arnulf. Later he migrated to Luxeuil, which was then under the direction of Saint Waldebert. He grew in holiness and eventually was appointed bishop of Trier (Benedictines).

Philomena of San Severino V (RM)
Died c. 500. This Philomena is included in the old Roman Martyrology, whose cultus at San Severino (Septempeda) near Ancona, Italy, is unsatisfactory and bears a remarkable similarity to that of the Philomena honored on August 11. Nothing is now known of her (Attwater, Benedictines). In art, she is a maiden with a lily or anchor and three arrows. Sometimes she is shown with a palm and a scourge (Roeder).

Stephen of Reggio BM (AC)
1st century. Saint Stephen is said to have been ordained the first bishop of Reggio by Saint Paul and to have been martyred under Nero. It is only since the 17th century, however, that this story has gained currency and that he has been venerated as the principal patron of Reggio (Benedictines).

Zoë (Zoa) of Rome M (RM)
Died c. 286. Zoë, a Roman matron, wife of a high official of the imperial court, is reputed to have been martyred under Diocletian (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). In art, Zoë is shown hung by her hair from a tree (Roeder).

About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on 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.