St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day

July 20

Ansegisus of Fontenelle, OSB Abbot (AC)
Born c. 770; died 833. Saint Ansegisus became a monk at Fontenelle at the age of 18. He was soon chosen by Charlemagne to be the restorer of several abbeys and he ruled successively Saint Sixtus at Rheims, Saint Meuge near Châlons, Saint Germer at Flaix, Luxeuil, and Fontenelle. Ansegisus excelled as a canonist, and wrote a collection of capitularies, which became the official lawbook of the Empire. His life is a characterization of Benedictine work for Christianity and civilization during the Dark Ages of Europe (Benedictines).

Aurelius of Carthage B (AC)
Died c. 429. Bishop Saint Aurelius of Carthage was archdeacon when he was promoted, in 388, to head the Church in Africa. He is said to have had more than 500 bishops under him. Friend of Saint Augustine of Hippo. He is one of the first to detect and oppose Celestius and Pelagianism in councils held in 412 and 416. He also convened several councils to counter the Donatists. He was forced by the violence of his adversaries to invoke the civil power against them, much against his own will. Aurelius is highly praised by Saint Fulgentius (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).

Elijah (Elias), Prophet (RM)
8th century BC. The eventful life of Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament, is recorded for us in 1 and 2 Kings. He was a real but almost legendary figure, like Saint John the Baptist: hairy, dressed in animal skins, coming out of the wilderness to terrify the whole country with his announcements of impending calamity, and then disappearing.

Elijah lived during the reign of Ahab, at a time when the Jewish people had again turned to pagan gods. He appeared before Ahab and announced an extended drought. Yet no one repented, so he hid himself by the brook Cherith, where he was fed by ravens each morning and evening.

When the brook dried up, Elijah moved to Zarephath, where he met a poor widow preparing a last meal for herself and her son before they died of starvation. Nevertheless, the widow extended hospitality to the limit of her ability and was rewarded. God, through Elijah, constantly and miraculously renewed her supply of oil and grain. When her son died, Elijah restored him to life.

After three years of drought, God ordered Elijah to return to Ahab. During Elijah's absence, Ahab's wife, Jezebel, had ordered that all prophets of God by executed. Obadiah, one of the king's ministers and a minor prophet, hid 50 of them in a cave, where he met Elijah on his way to Ahab's court. Obadiah panicked when Elijah commanded him to tell Ahab that "Elijah is here" because there was a standing order to kill every prophet on sight. Nevertheless, Obadiah took Elijah to his king.

Ahab accused Elijah of bringing trouble to Israel. Elijah replied: "I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Ba'alam."

Then he proposed a public contest: "Gather all Israel on Mount Carmel, and 450 prophets of Baal." The king agreed, so the met at the appointed time and place. Elijah admonished the people to choose between Baal and Yahweh--whichever proved stronger. The prophet of God and the prophets of Baal would each chose a bullock, cut it, and lay it on wood. The true God would be the one who would cause a holocaust.

The prophets of Baal began first. For days and nights they prayed and danced about and leapt upon the altar, until Elijah derided them: "Cry louder. Perhaps your god is asleep and needs to be awakened." Baal prophets redoubled their efforts and added self mutilation. But nothing happened. Then it was Elijah's turn. He calmly prepared the altar, slaughtered the bullock, set the wood, drenched everything with water, and then prayed. At once a fire came and consumed everything.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and prayed to the living God. Elijah rounded up the priests of Baal, took them to the brook of Kishon, and killed them. Then he went to Ahab and said, "Eat and drink, for there will be an abundance of rain." And it rained.

Jezebel was furious when Ahab told her what had happened. She sent a message to Elijah that she was mete out to him the following day the same fate he gave to Baal's priests. Elijah fled into the desert, where he was fed by an angel. He set out for Mount Horeb (Sinai) by walking forty days without food or rest. Elijah was near despair when God visited him on a mountainside: "And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke the rocks into pieces before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind was an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake was a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice" that told him to anoint Elisha as a prophet. He found Elisha plowing a field. "Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah."

Before Elijah was taken up by God in a whirlwind, he asked what he should do for his successor Elisha. Elisha responded: "I pray, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." And so it was. As they walked together along the Jordan "there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up in a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and cried, 'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof. . . .' He took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from the saint, and went back. . . ."

Elijah's association with Mount Carmel is the reason that the Carmelite Order liturgically commemorates this feast of it principal patron (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).

Etheldwitha of Winchester, OSB Widow (AC)
(also known as Ealsitha)

Died 903. Etheldwitha, an Anglo-Saxon princess, was wife to King Alfred. After his death she retired to the convent she had founded at Winchester (Benedictines).

Flavian and Elias BB (RM)
Respectively died c. 512 and 518. Saint Flavian was patriarch of Antioch, and Saint Elias patriarch of Jerusalem. Both were exiled by the Monophysite Emperor Anastasius (491-518) for strenuously upholding the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon. This is the reason for their joint commemoration in the Roman Martyrology (Benedictines).

Blessed Francisca Aldea M (AC)
Born in Somolinos, Spain, December 17, 1881; died died July 20, 1936; beatified recently. One of the eight nuns who were martyrs of the Spanish Revolution. Blessed Francisca of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Aldea Araulo was born in Somolinos, Spain, on 17 December 1881. Orphaned at an early age, she was accepted as a boarding student at Saint Susanna's College in Madrid, which belonged to the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the age of 18 she entered the institute's novitiate and made her temporary vows in 1903. She was assigned to teaching and fulfilled this task with great dedication until 1916, when she was elected assistant and, later, general secretary. She was at Saint Susanna's College when the religious persecution began.

Blessed Gregory Lopez, Hermit (PC)
Born in Madrid, Spain, 1542; died in Mexico in 1596. Gregory was a page to Philip II. In 1562, he migrated to Mexico and lived as a hermit among the Indians near Zacatecas and later near the capital. Although he has a widespread cultus throughout the country, the process for his beatification, which was begun in 1752, has stalled (Benedictines).

Joseph Barsabas the Just (RM)
1st century. A follower of Jesus, Joseph was probably one of the 72 disciples commissioned by the Lord. The choice was between him and Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the Apostles (Acts 1:23-26) (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Joseph is a bishop holding a cup of poison or a child may hold the cup (Roeder).

Margaret (Marina) of Antioch (of the Latins) VM (RM)
Died c. 304. Margaret's cultus began in the East and spread to France, England, and Germany, becoming one of the most popular virgin-martyrs of the Middle Ages. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (honored as a group on August 8), who were venerated for their efficacious intercessory power. Promises Margaret supposedly made about her powers of intercession contributed to her popularity.

Margaret is said to have been a maiden of Antioch, Pisidia, martyred under Diocletian. This much is probably true; everything else related in her acta is a forgery composed by Theotimus, who claimed to have been Margaret's servant. Story takes place under Diocletian, but doesn't appear until the 10th century.

According to her acta, she was the daughter of a pagan priest of Antioch and was nursed by a Christian woman. She became a Christian and was consequently driven from home by her father. She lived with her nurse and became a shepherdess.

Margaret was admired by the prefect Olybrius, who wanted her either as a wife or a mistress, but she resisted him. He vindictively called her before his tribunal and accused her of being a Christian. She was tortured and thrown into prison. There the devil appeared to her in the form of a dragon and swallowed her, but she held a cross, which irritated his stomach, causing it to burst, and thus was freed. She confronted another demon and overcame it.

The next day attempts were made to kill her by fire and water, but they failed. Thousands of spectators were converted during these attempts, and they in turn, were executed. She was finally killed by beheading. Her executioner fell dead at her feet after killing her, a reward for not wishing to carry out his task, for in this way he could join her in heaven. Her body was taken by Theotimus and buried by a noble widow.

Margaret's voice was one of those heard by Saint Joan of Arc. Her alleged relics were stolen from Antioch in 980, brought to San Pietro della Valle, and were translated to Montefiascone in 1145. Some of her relics were translated to Venice in 1213, and many others are claimed throughout Europe (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Sheppard, White).

In art, Saint Margaret carries a small cross and has a dragon on lead (Sheppard), or trampling or standing on a dragon, or emerging from its mouth, or piercing it with a cross-tipped spear (White). She is invoked against kidney disease, by pregnant women (Sheppard) (probably because she was swallowed by a dragon and delivered whole and because she is reputed to have promised that women who invoked her during childbirth would have safe deliveries), and of death (she is reputed to have promised that whoever invoked her as they were dying would escape the devil) (White). In East known as Saint Marina (Sheppard).

Paul of Cordova, Deacon M (RM)
(also known as Paul of Saint Zoilus)

Died 851. Deacon Saint Paul belonged to the community of Saint Zoilus in Cordova. He zealously ministered to Christians who had been imprisoned by the Moors. When he was beheaded, he fellow Christians managed to secure his relics, which are enshrined in Saint Zoilus's Church (Benedictines).

Rheticus of Autun B (AC)
(also known as Rheticius, Rhetice)

Died 334. Saint Rheticus, a Gallo-Roman, became bishop of Autun about 310. Three years later he participated in the Lateran synod that condemned the Donatists (Benedictines).

Blessed Rita Dolores Pujalte Sanchez & Companions MM (AC)
Born in Aspe, Spain, February 19, 1853; died July 20, 1936; beatified recently. These eight nuns were martyrs of the Spanish Revolution. Rita's parents, Antonio Pujalte and Luisa Sanchez, raised their five children in a deeply Christian household. As a young girl she was a model of piety: she belonged to the Daughters of Mary, the Third Order of Saint Francis, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, and was a catechist as well. In 1888, she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and took her temporary vows two years later. Highly esteemed by her community, she was given positions of responsibility, and the foundress, before dying in 1899, recommended that she be elected Superior General, which she was in 1900. Mother Rita served as superior until 1928, when she retired to devote herself to prayer and recollection at Saint Susanna's College in Madrid.

On July 20, 1936, the revolutionaries attacked Saint Susanna's College, battering the doors and firing shots. Aware of the danger, all the sisters had pray the Rosary in the chapel and then were commending their souls. The superior asked the soldiers to allow the blind, 83-year-old Mother Rita and the sick Sister Francisca to leave. The two religious took refuge in a nearby apartment. Two hours later a group of armed revolutionaries dragged the two elderly sisters down the stairs and took them to a Madrid suburb, near the town of Canillejas. There the soldiers forced the two sisters out of the car and shot them. The next day the doctors performing the autopsy were astonished that the bodies were not stiff and were emitting an indescribable perfume. When the bodies were exhumed in 1940 to be taken to the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, the doctors and other witnesses said that the bodies were still flexible and retained the color of the living. Because of their reputations for holiness, in 1954 their uncorrupted bodies were taken to Villaverde, near Madrid, and installed in the chapel of their institute's college.

Six Visitation nuns also joyfully faced martyrdom for Catholic faith. They all came from devout Christian families and were all members of the Madrid house of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in France in 1610 by St. Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal.

The religious persecution intensified in early 1936. Realizing the danger of remaining in Madrid, the Visitation community moved to Oronoz, leaving behind a group of six nuns in the charge of Sister Maria Gabriela do Hinojosa. By July they were confined to their apartment, where they enjoyed relative peace. However, an antireligious neighbor reported them to the authorities; their freedom was curtailed, their belongings confiscated, and arrests followed. Nevertheless, they refused to seek refuge in the consulates to save their lives. Their fervor was stronger than the threat of death.

When their apartment was searched on November 17, they expressed a desire to die for the faith, exclaiming: "What a joy, martyrdom is not far off!" and spent the night in prayer. The following evening, a patrol of the Iberian Anarchist Federation broke into the apartment and ordered all the sisters to leave. The majestic serenity of the nuns contrasted strikingly with the noisy mob. They were taken by van to a vacant area. As they held hands, a barrage of gunfire shattered their bodies, except for the 26-year- old Maria Cecilia, who had unwittingly started to run when she felt the sister next to her fall. Moments afterwards she surrendered, declaring herself a nun. Five days later she was shot at the cemetery wall in Vallecas on the out skirts of Madrid.

  • Francisca Aldea (see separate entry).
  • Josefa Maria Darrera Izaguirre
    Born on May 23, 1881, in El Ferrol, La Coruna, Spain.
  • Maria Angela Olaizola Garagarza
    born November 12, 1893, in Azpeitia, Guipuzcoa, Spain.
  • Maria Cecilia Cendoya Araquistain
    Born January 10, 1910, in Azpeitia, Guipuzcoa, Spain.
  • Maria Engracla Lecuona Ararnburu
    Born July 2, 1897, in Oyarzun, Guipuzcoa, Spain.
  • Maria Gabriela de Hinolosa Naveros
    Born July 24, 1872, in Alhama, Granada, Spain.
  • Maria Iñes Zudaire Galdeano
    Born January 28, 1900, in Echavarri, Navarre, Spain.
  • Teresa Maria Cavestany y Anduaga
    Born on July 30, 1888, in Puerto Real, Cadiz, Spain.
Note: Because this is a recent beatification, I still don't have all the details. Some of these nuns may actually have a different feast day.

Sabinus, Julian, Maximus, & Companions MM (RM)
Date unknown. Sabinus, Julian, Maximus, Macrobius, Cassia, Paula, and ten others comprised a group of Syrians put to death for the faith at Damascus (Benedictines).

Severa (Sevère) of Villeneuve, Abbess (RM)
Died c. 680. Saint Severa, sister of Saint Modoald of Trier, was the first abbess of Saint Gemma (later Sainte-Sevère) at Villeneuve in the diocese of Bourges (Benedictines).

Severa of Öhren, OSB Abbess (AC)
Died c. 750. It may seem odd that the sister of the bishop of Trèves should have the same name as this abbess of the great Benedictine convent at Trier, but she desired to emulate her predecessor (Benedictines).

Vulmar of Samer, OSB Abbot (AC)
(also known as Ulmar, Wulmar, Vilmer)

Born near Boulogne, Picardy, Died 689. Vulmar married but was separated from his wife by force and became a Benedictine lay- brother at Haumont in Hainault. Here he was herded cattle and chopped wood for the abbey, but after a time, being considered worthy for the priesthood, he was ordained and eventually became the founder and first abbot of the monastery of Samer (Salviniacum) near Boulogne. Later the abbey was called Saint-Vulmaire in his honor (Benedictines). In art, Saint Vulmar is a hermit in a hollow tree to whom a peasant brings bread (Roeder).

Wilgefortis (Liberta, Kümmernis, Uncumber) (RM)
Fictional. Saint Wilgefortis (i.e., Virgo (virgin) Fortis (strong)), supposedly a virgin martyr in Portugal, was the result of popular imagination combining several legends together. She is also known as Uncumber (England), Kümmernis (Germany), Ontkommer or Ontkommena (Low Countries), Librada (Spain), Livrade (Gascony), and Liberata (France). Wilgefortis is a corruption of `Hilge Vartz' or `holy face' from the crucifix or Volto Santo of Lucca Cathedral. This image was popularly carried with and distributed by pilgrims in the Middle Ages. It showed Christ in a long, shroud-like garment, rather than the loincloth we are now accustomed to seeing. After the popularity of the crucifix declined (by the 12th century), the figure was misinterpreted as a women in 15th century Holland.

Among the stories surrounding the imaginary figure is this: she was one of nine sisters who were all born at one birth. When her father, the king of Portugal, wanted her to marry the king of Sicily, she miraculously grew a beard in order to escape marriage-- an answer to her prayers because she had vowed herself to virginity. The king of Sicily withdrew his suit, and her indignant father had her crucified.

This preposterous tale has nothing to do with the hermaphroditic cults of antiquity in Cyprus and elsewhere. Rather it is the result of a misunderstanding of an image. It embodies an erroneous attitude towards the saints as miracle workers, rather than as examples, heroes. The devotion is tainted with superstition (Attwater, Benedictines, Sheppard).

In art, Saint Wilgefortis is a bearded woman crucified. There are examples of a bearded woman being beheaded (Roeder). She is invoked to deliver petitioners from anxiety at the hour of death (Ohne Kummer--without anxiety) or (in England) from unwanted husbands or suitors (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.