Ambrose Autpert(us), OSB Abbot (AC)
Born in Gual; died c. 778. Saint Ambrose tutored Charlemagne at the court of Pepin the Short. He went to Italy as the king's envoy and visited the Benedictine abbey of Saint Vincent on the Volturno River in the duchy of Benevento. Immediately, he became a monk there and, eventually, abbot. He was an able exegete and his works were considered as authoritative as those written by the greatest Latin Fathers. In fact, though not in title, his is one of the Doctors of the Church (Benedictines).
Arsenius the Great, Hermit (RM)
(also known as Arsenius the Roman or Arsenius the Deacon)
Born probably in Rome c. 354; d. near Memphis, Egypt, c. 450.
"I know a great deal of Greek and Latin learning. I have still to learn even the alphabet of how to be a saint." --Saint Arsenius
Legend has it that, c. 383, Pope Saint Damasus recommended the erudite Arsenius to Emperor Theodosius the Great, who summoned the Roman deacon of senatorial rank to Constantinople and appointed him tutor of his sons, Arcadius and Honorius. He was rewarded with money and servants, honor and possessions. Supposedly after a decade of luxury and influence, he kept hearing the voice of God telling him that only by abandoning it all could he be saved. Nevertheless, modern hagiographers doubt that Arsenius was a deacon or had served as a tutor in Constantinople.
It is verified that about 395 he abandoned the court and joined the monks in Alexandria, Egypt. On the death of Theodosius (c. 400), saddened and sickened by his pupils' weakness of character and quarrels--for which he felt some responsibility as their former teacher, he became a desert monk in the Wadi Natrun (Skete). There he was tutored in the eremitical customs by Saint John the Dwarf. Initially suspicious of his dedication, Saint John tested Arsenius's humility by throwing his bread upon the floor. When Arsenius ate it, undismayed, Saint John became convinced of his devotion.
He lived in the greatest austerity, refusing the legacy left him by a relative who was a senator, preferring the solitary life to a life of luxury. He said, "I died before he did" and tore the will in two.
Forced to leave Skete about 434 because of the barbarian raids, he spent the next 10 years on the rock (Petra) of Troë in Memphis and some time on the island of Canopus near Alexandria, before dying at Troë.
He became known for his sanctity, and he shunned the company of others. His disciples included Alexander, Zoilus, and Daniel. He felt learning was unimportant and could even be a hindrance in a relationship with God. To an educated Roman who expressed puzzlement at the high degree of contemplation achieved by uneducated Egyptians, he responded, "We make no progress because we dwell in the exterior learning which puffs up the mind; but these illiterate Egyptians have a true sense of their own weakness, blindness, and insufficiency."
The simple maxims for which he was known and the doings recorded of him are characteristic of the desert fathers, marked by strict self-discipline and shrewdness about human nature. He constantly repeated: "I have always something to repent having spoken, but never for having held my tongue." Arsenius feared damnation because of his former self-centered ways. He had learned in a hard school, and expected others to do the same, and he seems to have been more than usually averse to the company of his fellow men. But he was not wanting in compassion, and sometimes modified his brusqueness.
Ancient writers emphasize the Arsenius had the 'gift of tears' in a surprising degree--his handkerchief (sudarium) was always handy--and his self-depreciation sometimes seems excessive. He continually shed tears for his feebleness and the shortcomings of others, especially Honorius--so many tears that he was said to have worn away his eyelashes. He felt a lifelong guilt for the weakness of Arcadius and Honorius.
He died at Troë and left a fellow monk all his earthly possessions: a skin coat, palm leaves woven into sandals, and a goat-skin shirt. The life of Arsenius was written by Saint Theodore the Studite, but this was too long after to be very reliable. Forty-four written maxims and moral anecdotes are attributed to Saint Arsenius (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White)
In art he is shown weaving baskets of palm leaves, which was a common occupation of the desert monks (White). Take a look at these images of Arsenius: 16-century Greek icon and a Russian icon of him with Saints John Climacus and John Damascene.
Aurea (Aura) of Cordova, Widow M (RM)
Born at Cordova, Spain; died 856. Sister of SS. Aldolphus and John, who were martyred at Cordova, Saint Aurea was the daughter of a Moorish father and a Christian mother. Aurea became a Christian and a nun at Cuteclara. At some point she is said to have abjured her faith, but then, filled with remorse, repented, and was herself martyred by beheading after her own family denounced her Christianity (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Bernard of Rodez, OSB Card. (AC)
(also known as Bernard of Ruthenis)
Died 1079. Abbot Bernard of Saint Victor in Marseilles (from 1064) was a close friend of Saints Gregory VII, Hugh of Cluny, and William of Hirschau. He promoted the Cluniac reform with great zeal. Bernard was made a cardinal and, in 1077, legate to Germany. Then in 1078, he was sent as legate to Spain (Benedictines).
Epaphras BM (RM)
1st century. Epaphras was a companion of Saint Paul, who speaks of him (Col. 1:7) as the "most beloved fellow servant." There is a tradition that he was bishop of Colossae and that he was martyred there. But beyond what we read in the New Testament (Col. 4:12 and Philemon 23), we know nothing of his life (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Felix (Felicinus) of Verona B (RM)
Date unknown. A bishop of Verona, Saint Felix has been venerated there as a saint from time immemorial (Benedictines).
Blessed Hroznata of Bohemia, O. Praem. M (AC)
Born in 1160; died 1217; cultus approved in 1897; the Praemonstratensians celebrate his feast on July 14. Hroznata was a noble Bohemian who, after the sudden death of his wife and only child, founded the Premonstratensian abbey of Tepl in Bavaria. He professed himself at Tepl. He died of starvation in a dungeon, into which he had been thrown by robbers (Benedictines).
Jerome of Pavia B (AC)
Died 787. Bishop of Pavia, Italy, from 778 to 787 (Benedictines).
Justa (Justus) and Rufina VV MM (RM)
Born in Seville, Spain; died there in 287. Two sisters of Seville who made and sold earthenware pots to support themselves and many of the poor. They were martyred under Diocletian, after all their goods were broken, because they refused to sell their wares for use in pagan sacrifices. After boldly confessing Christ, the sisters were stretched on the rack and their sides torn with iron hooks. When Justa (Justus in early manuscripts) died on the rack, the judge ordered Rufina strangled and both bodies burned. The two are highly honored in the Mozarabic Liturgy (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth). SS. Justa and Rufina are sometimes shown individually in art and at other times are pictured together with earthenware pots, holding palms. The may be represented with bowls and platters, or with books on which are two lumps of potter's clay (Roeder). They are patrons of Seville and of potters (Roeder).
Macrina the Younger V (RM)
Born at Caesarea, Cappadocia, c. 327; died in Pontus, December 379. Macrina grew up surrounded by holy people. Her paternal grandmother was Macrina the Elder and for siblings she had SS. Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebastea. All four were among the ten children of SS. Basil and Emmelia.
Macrina was well educated by her mother, who used the Biblical Books of Wisdom for reading practice, rather than the then popular classical poems. This gave Macrina a great familiarity with Scripture. Emmelia also taught her spinning and weaving and the management of a household. She was betrothed at age 12 to a young lawyer, but when her fiancé died suddenly , the beautiful young girl decided to dedicate her life to God by her devotion to her family.
As the eldest child, she exercised a strong influence over her younger brothers. When, as most young boys, they displayed inflated egos about their intellectual accomplishments, she deflated them with affectionate, but pointed, jibes. In particular, Gregory tells us that Basil returned from the university at Athens "puffed up beyond measure with the pride of oratory . . . excelling in his own estimation all the local dignitaries." Macrina taught him humility so well that he renounced his property in order to become a monk.
To her youngest brother, Peter, she was "father, teacher, guide, mother, giver of good advice," for Basil the Elder had died just as he was born. Her example encouraged them to seek perfection and to love God above all things. She did a good job, it appears: Basil, Gregory, and Peter became bishops and leading defenders of orthodoxy against the Arian heresy. Another handsome brother, Naucratius, became a hermit and supported the poor by going on fishing expeditions. He died tragically while still young. At that time Macrina had to be her mother's strength.
On the death of her father (c. 370), mother and daughter voluntarily adopted the standard of living of their servants. Within a short time, they retired to the family estate at Annesi on the Iris River in Pontus and lived a life of prayer and contemplation in an ascetical community they formed there for which Macrina wrote a rule. She often brought home and cared for poor and hungry women. Eventually, many of them joined the community, as did many women of their own social class. At some point, Macrina developed a painful cancer, which was healed to a black spot upon Emmelia's making the Sign of the Cross over it.
Macrina led the group from the time of her mother's death until her own. She sold all that was left of their estate, gave the money to the poor and lived, as did the other nuns, on what could be earned by the labor of her hands. This community became the inspiration for her brother Basil's founding of Eastern monasticism, whose rule is followed in various forms by all monks in the Eastern Church.
Basil died at the beginning of 379, and Macrina fell ill just nine months later. Gregory of Nyssa, visiting her after an eight-year absence due to having been exiled from his see, found her sick with a raging fever, very weak, lying on a bed of two boards. He was comforted by her cheerfulness and encouragement, and impressed by the fervent love with which she prepared herself for death. So impressed, in fact, that he used her discussion of eternal life as the basis of his treatise De anima et resurrectione (On the soul and the resurrection). She died happily at Vespers following her last almost inaudible prayer:
"You have freed us from the fear of death. You have made the end of this life the beginning of true life. . . . One day You will take again what You have given, transfiguring with grace and immortality our mortal and unsightly remains. . . . May my soul be received into Your hands, spotless and undefiled, as an offering before You."
Her poverty was so acute that nothing could be found to cover her body when it was carried to the grave but her old hood and coarse veil; therefore, Gregory provided a linen episcopal cloak. She did wear around her neck an iron cross and a ring. Gregory gave the cross to a nun named Vestiana and kept for himself the ring, containing a bit of the True Cross.
Bishop Araxius, Saint Gregory, and two priests themselves carried the bier in the funeral procession, choirs singing Psalms all the way to the place of burial at the Church of the Forty Martyrs; but the press of the crowd and lamentations of the people, especially of some of the women, much disturbed the solemnity of the chant. Macrina was laid in the same vault as her mother.
Accounts of her life and conversation were written by her brother Gregory, who was with her when she died (Attwater, Benedictines, Clarke, Delaney, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kiefer, Walsh).
Martin of Trèves BM (RM)
Died c. 210. Saint Martin was the tenth bishop of Trier (Trèves), Germany, as the records show. But there is no conclusive evidence of his martyrdom (Benedictines).
Stephen of Lupo, OSB Abbot (AC)
Died 1191. Saint Stephen was a Benedictine monk of San Liberatore di Majella, and afterwards abbot-founder of Saint Peter's Abbey at Vallebona near Manopello, Italy. He is said to have been befriended by a wolf; hence his nickname of "del lupo" (Benedictines).
Blessed Stilla of Abenberg V (AC)
Died c. 1141; cultus confirmed in 1927. Stilla, daughter of Count Wolfgang II of Abenberg and sister to Archbishop Conrad I of Salzburg, found Saint Peter's Church in Abenberg (near Nuremburg). She was buried therein and venerated as a saint (Benedictines).
Symmachus, Pope (RM)
Born on Sardinia; died 514. Symmachus was the son of Fortunatus. He was baptized in Rome, where he became archdeacon of the Church under Pope Anastasius II, whom he succeeded on November 22, 498. That same day the archpriest of Saint Praxedes, Laurence, was elected pope by a dissenting faction with Byzantine leanings. Laurence was supported by Emperor Anastasius, but Gothic King Theodoric ruled against him and in favor of Symmachus.
In 501, the pro-Byzantine group, led by Senator Festus, accused Symmachus of various crimes, but the pope refused to appear before the king to answer the charges, asserting that the secular ruler had no jurisdiction over him. A synod called by Theodoric exonerated Symmachus, whereupon Theodoric installed Laurence in the Lateran as pope. The schism continued for four years when Theodoric ended it by withdrawing his support of Laurence.
Symmachus was a holy and able pope. He helped the African bishops exiled to Sardinia by the Arian Thrasimund, founded three hospices, aided the victims of the barbarian raids in northern Italy, and helped ransom captives. His generosity to the poor led to the well-deserved bestowal of the title "father of the poor" (Benedictines, Delaney).
(William) John Plessington, Priest M (RM)
Born at Dimples Hall near Garstang, Lancashire, England; died at Boughton near Chester, England, July 19, 1679; beatified in 1929; canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
The son of a Royalist Catholic, John was educated at Saint Omer's in France and the English college at Valladolid, Spain. He was ordained in Segovia in 1662. Returning to England the following year, he worked in the area of Cheshire, using the aliases Scarisbrick and William Pleasington.
In 1670, Father John became the tutor of the children of a Mr. Massey at Puddington Hall near Chester. He was arrested and charged with participating in the "Popish Plot" to murder King Charles II, a fabrication of Titus Oates. Despite the evidence that Oates perjured himself during the trial, Father John was found guilty and hanged at Barrowhill at Boughton (Benedictines, Delaney).
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.