Alexis of Rome (RM)
(also known as Alexius, Alessio)
Early 5th century. Since the 10th century the story of Saint Alexis, called the "Man of God" by his unknown biographer, has been popular throughout the West. It was introduced from the East by some Greek monks who were given the Benedictine abbey of Saint Boniface on the Aventine, which was renamed Saint Boniface and Saint Alexis. In 1216, his bones were discovered by Pope Honorius III and reverently placed under the high altar of the church.
Though much of the legend is probably apocryphal, there is no doubt that there was a man of God called Alexis and that he achieved a great reputation for holiness at Edessa. It is, however, likely that he lived, died, and was buried at Edessa, and that the man whose bones were found in Saint Boniface's were not his. The legend appears to be a conflation of the life of Saint John Calybites and that of the Man of God Mar Riscia of Edessa.
According to an almost contemporary account, a nameless man died in a hospital at Edessa in Mesopotamia about 430. He had lived by begging, and shared the alms he received with other poor people. After his death, it was learned that he was the son of a Roman patrician, who had left a wealthy bride on his wedding day and gone to live in poverty in Syria. An account of this man, which called him Alexis, was written in Greek, and a further narrative was produced in Latin.
According to the expanded late medieval version, Alexis was the only son of Euphremian, a Roman senator of enormous wealth and influence, and his wife Aglae (Agloe). They were devout Christians and brought up their son in the spirit of the Gospel. Even as a child, Alexis was known for his charity.
When Alexis reached manhood he allowed himself to be betrothed to an heiress who was related to the imperial family, though he had already determined to give his life to God. Their wedding took place with great pomp and dignity. As soon as the ceremony was ended, Alexis took off the gold ring that had just been placed on his finger, gave it to his bride. They separated by mutual consent and he fled from his home disguised as a beggar.
He set sail for Syria and then made his way on foot to the church of Our Lady of Edessa, famous as a shrine for pilgrims, where he lived in a shack adjoining the church. The Syrian text of his legend says: "During the day he remained steadfastly in the church and in the martyrium, refusing alms from those who offered them, for he wished to do without food during the day and thus forced himself to fast until the evening.
"In the evening, he stood in the doorway of the church and held out his hand, receiving the alms of those who entered the church. But as soon as he had received what he needed, he closed his hand and would take no more. Nor did he ever cease to live among the poor. Such was his life every day. Of his earlier condition and status he said not a word, nor did he even wish to reveal his name."
After living this life for 17 years, his identity was revealed; some say that he was recognized by a sacristan, others that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the people and said: "Seek the man of God." To avoid discovery, Alexis fled and took ship for Tarsus, but a tempestuous wind drove his ship to Italy.
He went to Rome and to his father's house, where he found that his parents were still living. He did not make himself known, nor did anyone recognize him, and when he asked for lodging he was given permission to sleep under the staircase of his own sumptuous home; and so he lived, begging his bread in the streets and working in the kitchen, where he was often insulted by the servants and sharing crumbs of what was rightly his.
Seventeen years later while Pope Innocent I was celebrating Mass before the emperor, he heard a voice saying: "Seek the man of God." Guided by the selfsame voice, he and the emperor went to the house of Euphremian, but when they arrived they found Alexis dead. His body was lying clothed in rags beneath the staircase, and in his hand he was holding a parchment that gave his name and history.
There is no mention of Saint Alexis in the ancient martyrologies or other liturgical records. Attempts to identify him with Alethius, a correspondent of Saint Paulinus of Nola, have failed. By the 12th century, his story had reached England, where his name is found in the Albani Psalter that probably belonged to Saint Christina of Markyate (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
In art, Saint Alexis is portrayed as a beggar or pilgrim holding a staircase (his emblem). He may also be shown (1) asleep by the stairs, dirty water emptied on him; (2) as a pilgrim with a staff and scrip; or (3) as a pilgrim, kneeling before the pope, to whom he gives a letter (Roeder). Alexis is the patron of beggars and pilgrims (Roeder).
Andrew Zorard M (AC)
Born in Poland; died c. 1010. Saint Andrew lived on Mount Zobar in Hungary, near a Benedictine monastery. He trained Saint Benedict of Szakalka, with whom he shared his gifts of austerity and contemplation. Andrew's life was written by Blessed Maurus of Pécs (Benedictines).
Ansuerus and Companions, OSB MM (AC)
Died after 1066. Saint Ansuerus was a noble of Schleswig. He became a monk, later abbot, of the Benedictine monastery of Saint Georgenberg near Ratzeburg, Denmark, which became the center for the evangelization of the region. All 29 members of the community were stoned to death by the Wends in reaction to the death of Emperor Henry III (Benedictines).
Blessed Benignus Visdomini, OSB Vall. Abbot (AC)
Died 1236. God's mercy can cover any sin; His grace can soften any heart. Benignus was a priest of Florence, Italy, who fell into sin. He threw himself on God's mercy and entered Vallombrosa Abbey. He eventually became abbot-general but, because he was always conscious of his past guilt, he resigned and lived the rest of his life as a hermit (Benedictines).
Blessed Carmelite Nuns of Compiègne MM (AC)
Died 1794; beatified in 1906. Sixteen nuns of the Carmel of Compiègne, France, who were guillotined in Paris during the French Revolution. As they mounted the scaffold, they sang the Salve Regina. Among the 16 are:
Anne Mary Thouret.
Doorkeeper (touriére) for the community; neither she nor her sister Teresa were in vows. She was beatified in 1904.
Born at Belfort in 1752 and professed at Compiègne in 1771. She was subprioress.
Frances de Croissy
Born in Paris, 1745, professed in 1764. She was prioress from 1779 to 1787 and novice mistress at the time of her death.
Juliette Verolot (Soeur Francis Xavier)
Born in the diocese of Troyes. She was the last Carmelite to be professed at Compiègne (January 12, 1789) before the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Mary Ann Piedcourt (Soeur de Jésus Crucifié)
Solemnly professed choir sister.
Mary Hanisset (Soeur Therèse du Coeur de Marie)
Professed choir sister.
Mary Magdalen Lidoin (Mère Therèse de Saint Augustine)
Prioress of the community.
Mary Trésel (Soeur Therèse de Saint-Ignace)
Professed choir sister.
Mary Dufour (Soeur Sainte-Marthe)
Rose Chrétien (Soeur Julia Louise de Jesus)
Born in Évreux in 1741. She married when she was very young and became a Carmelite at the time of her husband's death.
A maid in the service of Princess Lamballe, who attached herself to the Carmelite Nuns at the time of the French Revolution. Catherine was her sister (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Ceslas Odrowatz of Poland, OP (AC)
Born in Kannen, Silesia, Poland, 1180; died 1242. Ceslaus Odrowatz was a near relative, probably a brother, of Saint Hyacinth, and shared with him the apostolate of Northern Europe. Little is known of his youth. He was born in the ancestral castle and educated with Saint Hyacinth, by his uncle, a priest of Cracow.
Both young men became priests and, being well-known for their holiness, were chosen to be canons in the cathedral chapter in Cracow. When their uncle received an appointment as bishop of Cracow, the two young priests accompanied him on his trip to Rome, where he would be consecrated.
It was in Rome that the two zealous young priests first heard of the work of Saint Dominic. The order was then only four years old, and its eager members had penetrated to almost all parts of Christendom and were pushing into the lands of the Tartars and the Mohammedans.
The new bishop strongly desired that some of the friars should come to Poland. Since Saint Dominic was then in Rome, they went to him for missionaries. Dominic was deeply regretful that he had no friars who were able to speak the languages of the North. However, he was much drawn to the bishop's two young nephews, and promised to make them Dominican apostles if they would remain with him.
After their novitiate training, Hyacinth and Ceslaus went home. Ceslaus went to Prague, and other parts of Bohemia, where he founded convents of Friar Preachers and also established a group of nuns. Then he went to Silesia, where he founded the convent of Breslau that was to become his center of activities. He also acted as the spiritual director for duchess Saint Hedwig of Poland.
The life of Blessed Ceslaus, like that of Saint Hyacinth, is a record of almost countless miracles, of unbelievable distances travelled on foot through wild and warlike countries, and of miracles of grace. He cured the sick and the maimed, raised the dead to life, and accomplished wonders in building convents. His most remarkable miracle was the raising to life of a boy who had been dead for eight days.
In 1241 the Tartars swooped down upon the Christian kingdoms and laid waste the labor of centuries. Blessed Ceslaus was in Breslau at the time the Tartars laid siege to the city. He and his community fasted and prayed incessantly that the city would be saved, and when the cause looked darkest, Ceslaus mounted the ramparts with a crucifix in his hand. While the Tartars gazed in astonishment, a huge ball of fire descended from heaven and settled above him. Arrows of fire shot out from the heavenly weapon, and the Tartars fled in terror, leaving the city unmolested.
Our Lady came to receive the soul of Blessed Ceslaus, who had been tireless in preaching her glories (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Clement Slovensky of Okhrida and Companions (AC)
Died at Okhrida, Bulgaria, on July 17, 916. Probably of Slavic descent and from southern Macedonia, he became a bishop during the reign of Khan Simeon, the first Slav to become a bishop. Clement founded a monastery at Okhrida near Velitsa, Bulgaria, which became his primatial see and of which he is considered the founder and first bishop. He was so successful in his missionary work with the Bulgars that he is one of the Seven Apostles of Bulgaria (Benedictines, Delaney).
Cynllo of Wales (AC)
5th century. Little is known of this saint who gave his name to several churches in Wales (Benedictines).
Ennodius of Pavia B (RM)
Born 473; died 521. Magnus Felix Ennodius was a Gallo-Roman professor of rhetoric. After his conversion he became bishop of Pavia, Lombardy, Italy. The pope entrusted him with two missions to Byzantium in connection with the Eutychian controversy. Many of the hymns that he wrote are still extant (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Fredegand of Kerkelodor, OSB Abbot (AC)
(also known as Fregaut of Dorne)
Died c. 740. This monk and abbot of Kerkelodor, near Antwerp, was saint to have been an Irish companion of Saint Foillan, which is unlikely. It is more probable that he was a fellow worker with Saint Willibrord. His feast day is celebrated with an annual procession of the Blessed Sacrament to commemorate a plague that stopped at his intercession 400 years ago. Fredegand is venerated throughout Belgium and northeastern France (Benedictines, Montague).
Generosus of Tivoli M (RM)
Date unknown. Generosus is venerated at Tivoli, where his relics are enshrined in the cathedral under the high altar, but nothing else is known about him (Benedictines).
Hyacinth of Paphlagonia M (RM)
Date unknown. Hyacinth is a martyr of Amastris, Paphlagonia, put to death for having cut down a tree consecrated to an idol (Benedictines).
Kenelm (Cynehelm), King M (AC)
Died c. 812-821. According to a popular legend of the Middle Ages, Kenelm was seven when his father, King Kenulf (Coenwulf) of Mercia, died, and he succeeded to the throne. His sister Quendreda (Cynefrith or Quoenthryth) bribed his tutor, Ascebert, to murder him in the forest of Clent so that she could claim the throne. Ascebert did, but when the body was discovered and enshrined at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, all kinds of marvels occurred at his grave. All three are actual figures, but Kenelm did not die at seven and may even have died before his father. It is certain that he lived until his adolescence and may have been killed in battle (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Kenelm is depicted as a young prince with a blossoming rod. The picture may also contain a dove with a letter in its mouth (Roeder). He was highly honored in England during the Middle Ages as a saint and martyr, and still is venerated at Gloucester and Winchcombe, where his relics are enshrined (Encyclopedia, Roeder).
Leo IV, OSB Pope (RM)
Born in Rome, Italy; died in Rome on July 17, 855. Leo was probably of Lombard ancestry though born in Rome. He studied at Saint Martin's Monastery in Rome, was made subdeacon of the Lateran Basilica by Pope Gregory IV, and soon after was named cardinal by Pope Sergius II. Leo was unanimously elected pope to succeed Sergius and was consecrated on April 10, 847.
He immediately began to repair the fortifications of Rome in anticipation of another Saracen attack on the city, built a wall around Saint Peter's and Vatican Hill, giving the area its name of the Leonine City. Through his prayers and exhortations to the soldiers, the Saracens from Calabria were utterly routed at Ostia.
Leo also restored many churches in Rome. In fact, he benefactions to churches take up 28 pages in the Liber pontificalis. He tightened clerical discipline with a synod at Rome in 853 and was confronted with numerous problems during his pontificate.
A papal legate he sent to Archbishop John of Ravenna and his brother, the duke of Emilia, was murdered by the duke, and Leo went to Ravenna, tried him, and found him guilty. Duke Nomenoe deposed a number of bishops and erected a metropolitan see at Dol without papal permission, actions the pope was unable to do anything about.
Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople had deposed Gregory Asbestas, the bishop of Syracuse, and Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, and was forbidding clerics from appealing to Rome, actions that Leo refused to confirm. In 850, Leo crowned Louis, son of Lothair, emperor. In 853, King Ethelwulf of the West Saxons sent his son, Alfred, to Rome, where Pope Leo stood as god-father for him at his Confirmation.
Just before his death, Leo was accused by a military officer (a magister militum) named Daniel of plotting with the Greek emperor to overthrow Emperor Louis, a charge he easily disproved, though his death sentence on Daniel was remitted through the intercession of the emperor (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).
Marcellina of Rome V (RM)
Born in Rome, Italy; died c. 398. Saint Marcellina was the elder sister of Saint Ambrose of Milan and Saint Satyrus. Their mother moved the family back to Rome after the death of their father, who was the prefect of Gaul. Once there Marcellina was entrusted by her pious mother with the education of her brothers, whom she inspired by word and example to thirst for Christian virtue.
She received the veil of a consecrated virgin from the hands of Pope Liberius on Christmas Day, 353, in Saint Peter's Basilica. During his homily on that occasion he exhorted her to the evangelical virtues and to behave in church with the utmost respect. He reminded those present of the page of Alexander the Great, who, for fear of disturbing the solemnity of a pagan sacrifice by shaking off a piece of burning wax that had fallen on his hand, let it burn him to the bone. For the rest of her life, she lived in a private home, first with her mother and after her mother's death with another virgin.
Although Marcellina practiced great austerity, she outlived both her brothers. She fasted daily until evening when she would partake only of simple fare and water. Sometimes she went for days without eating anything. Marcellina spent most of the day and night in prayer, pious reading, and tears of divine love and compunction. She slept only when it overcame her body.
In her later years, Saint Ambrose, who mentions Marcellina in De virgine (c. 1-4) and two of his epistles (20 and 22), advised her to moderate her austerities, but redouble her fervor in tears and holy prayer. He recommended especially that she often recite the Psalms, Lord's Prayer, and Creed, which he calls the seal of a Christian and the guard our hearts. She survived Ambrose but after her death Marcellina's body was enshrined at Milan (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Mary Magdalen Postel (RM)
(also known as Julia Frances Catherine Postel)
Born at Barfleur, Normandy, France, November 28, 1756; died at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, July 16, 1846; canonized 1925; feast day formerly on July 16.
Julia Frances Catherine Postel was educated at the Benedictine convent at Valognes. At age 18, she opened a girls' school at Barfleur in France. When the French Revolution broke out, the revolutionaries closed the school and she became a leader in the underground Church. Under the stairs of her home, she created a secret chapel where priests could say Mass for those who refused to recognize the 'constitutional' clergy imposed by the state. During that time she was (like other women elsewhere under abnormal conditions) given charge of the reserved Eucharist and allowed to minister it to the sick.
Only when the pope made a concordat with Napoleon in 1801 could Julie take up teaching again as her life's work. Then, at the age of 51, she decided to set up a group of religious women to teach the young, inspire them to love God, and help the poor in their misery.
In 1807, Julie and three other teachers took religious vows before Abbé Cabart, who had encouraged her in her work. Julie also took a new name, Mary Magdalen Postel. Sister Mary Magdalen reopened her school at Cherbourg, which became the foundation of the Sisters of the Christian Schools of Mercy. She was named superior of the community.
Within three years 200 girls were being educated. For some time Sister Mary Magdalen Postel and her nine fellow teachers lived in great poverty in a barn next to their schoolroom. These earlier years were discouraging but Sister Mary Magdalen refused to give up. The community was forced to move several times before it settled at Tamersville in 1815.
Whatever work they could find--as farm-laborers, seamstresses, etc.--was eagerly seized so that they could carry on with their teaching. But their tenacity triumphed. In 1830, they moved into an abandoned, derelict abbey at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte near Coutances. The congregation was formally recognized seven years later.
Mary Magdalen died at the age of 90, having seen the ruined abbey rebuilt and her community spreading the Christian Gospel ever farther afield. She is venerated for her holiness and miracles (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Nerses Lampronazi B (AC)
(also known as Narses Lambronazzi or Lampronats)
Born at Lampron, Cilicia, Armenia, 1153; died at Tarsus, July 17, 1198. Nerses was the son of the prince of Lampron and the nephew of Saint Nerses Glaiëtsi ("the Gracious"). He was educated at Skeyra Monastery and became an outstanding scholar, theologian, and exegete, skilled in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic.
When his father died, he was ordained in 1169, lived as a hermit for a time, and in 1176 was consecrated archbishop of Tarsus. He strongly supported the reunion of the Armenian Church with Rome at a council at Hromkla in 1179, but nothing came of it when the supporter of the move, Emperor Manuel Comnenus, died the next year.
Nerses actively engaged in the negotiations that led to the reunion of Lesser Armenia (west of the Euphrates) with Rome in 1198. "To me," Nerses declared to critics of his endeavors, "Armenians, Latins, Greeks, Egyptians, and Syrians are all one. My conscience is clear." He died six months after the reunion was confirmed by the crowning of Leo II as king of Lower Armenia (Little Armenia) by the papal legate with a crown sent by Pope Celestine III.
Nerses wrote on the liturgy, scriptural commentaries, hymns, and lives of the desert saints, and translated Saint Benedict's Rule, Saint Gregory's Dialogues into Armenian, and many Western works into Armenian (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).
Seven Apostles of Bulgaria (AC)
7th and 8th century. The Bulgarians venerate liturgically their first seven apostles. These include SS. Cyril and Methodius, as well as Gorazd, Nahum, Sabas, Angelarius, and Clement of Okarida, who was most important after Cyril and Methodius and is detailed under a separate listing today (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Speratus and Companions (Scillitan Martyrs) (RM)
Died at Carthage in 180. The name Scillitan Martyrs designates a group of seven men and five women from Scillium in Proconsular North Africa under Septimus Severus; their authentic acta is the earliest of such documents in Latin. Their names are listed as Speratus, Narzales, Cythinus, Veturius, Felix, Acyllinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestina, Donata, and Secunda.
After their arrest they were taken to Carthage and interrogated by the proconsul Saturninus, Saint Speratus being their chief spokesman. He was carrying a satchel, and when asked what was in it he answered, "The sacred books, and the letters of a righteous man named Paul." All agreed in refusing to give up their beliefs, and the offer of a month's remand in which to change their minds was ignored. There were therefore sentenced to immediate death by the sword, to which Speratus replied for them all, "Thanks be to God" (Attwater, Benedictines).
Theodosius of Auxerre B (RM)
Died 516. Bishop of Auxerre, France, from about 507 to 516 (Benedictines).
Theodota of Constantinople M (RM)
Died c. 735. Saint Theodota, a lady of Constantinople, was martyred under Emperor Leo the Isaurian for hiding three holy icons from the imperial officers seeking to destroy them (Benedictines).
Turninus of Antwerp (AC)
8th century. Saint Turninus, an Irish monk and priest, worked as a missionary in the Netherlands with Saint Foillan, especially in the area around Antwerp, where he died. His relics were translated to Liége, where they are enshrined in a monastery on the Sambre (Benedictines, 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.