St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Bridget, Religious
(Optional Memorial)
July 23



Anne (Susanna) of Constantinople V Hermit (AC)
Born in Constantinople c. 840; died c. 918. Anne was orphaned at an early age and inherited a large fortune, which attracted many unsuitable men. She refused their offers of marriage, spent her money in the service of the poor, and finally lived half a century as a solitary on the Leucadian promontory of Epirus (Benedictines).


Apollinaris of Ravenna BM (RM)
Died c. 75. Apollinaris was the first bishop of Ravenna, Italy. According to his late and unreliable acta, he was a disciple of Saint Peter and a native of Antioch, who at one time survived a shipwreck in Dalmatia, was driven from his see three times, went into hiding the fourth time when Emperor Vespasian banished all Christians, and was discovered and beaten by a mob. But nothing is known with certainty about him--even the date of his death is debatable. Saint Bede's martyrology reports that he governed Ravenna for 20 years and was killed during Vespasian's reign.

Some say he was repeatedly tortured for the faith and to have died in the process. But he may be a martyr only because he suffered for Christ; he may not have died of it. The best literary witness to his existence is Saint Peter Chrysologus (died c. 450), who left a sermon in honor of Apollinaris. In it Chrysologus styles his subject as a martyr, but adds that although he spilled his blood many times for Christ and desired to lay down his life, God preserved him.

His shrine is at the Benedictine Abbey of Classe in Ravenna, which became famous throughout Christendom. Saint Fortunatus exhorted his friends to make pilgrimages to his tomb, and Saint Gregory the Great ordered parties in doubtful lawsuits to be sworn before it. Apollinaris's best memorials are the superb churches of Ravenna dedicated to name; however, Pope Honorius built one in Rome dedicated to him about 630. There is a fine mosaic representing him as a shepherd of his flock in Ravenna. The feast of Apollinaris occurs in all martyrologies, and the high veneration which the church paid early to his memory is a sufficient testimony of his eminent sanctity and apostolic spirit (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, White).

In art, Saint Apollinaris is an early Christian bishop with a club. He may also be shown (1) beaten with a club by the devil; (2) standing or seated on hot coals; (3) bearded, in a chasuble and pallium, with sheep around him (in a mosaic); or (4) preaching to sheep. The sheep in early Christian mosaics signify that he was a pastor (Roeder).


Apollonius and Eugene MM (RM)
Date unknown. The Roman martyr Apollonius was pierced with arrows at the stake and Eugene was beheaded (Benedictines).


Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden, Religious (RM)
Born in 1304; died 1373; feast day formerly on October 8.

"True wisdom, then, consists in works, not in great talents, which the world admires; for the wise in the world's estimation . . . are the foolish who set at naught the will of God, and know not how to control their passions." --Saint Brigit of Sweden.

Bridget was the daughter of Birger, the wealthy governor of Upland, Sweden, and his second wife, Ingeborg, the daughter of the governor of East Gothland. When Bridget was 12, her mother died, and she was raised by an aunt at Aspenaes on Lake Sommen. When she was 14, she was wedded to 18-year-old prince Ulf Gunmarsson. The fruit of their happy, 28-year marriage was eight children, including another saint, Karin or Catherine of Vadstena.

For several years she acted as the feudal lady on her husband's estate at Ulfasa, and, uncharacteristically for women of the period, she cultivated friendships with many erudite men. In 1335, she was summoned to be chief lady-in-waiting at the court of King Magnus Eriksson (Magnus II), who had married Blanche of Namur. Magnus was weak-willed and Blanche, rather frivolous. It was Bridget's duty to correct the lives of the immature king and queen.

Bridget's personal revelations, which were to make her famous later, were already guiding her opinions on subjects as varied as the necessity of washing, to the terms for peace between England and France. The court remained largely deaf to her suggestions and some whispered against her. Bridget became more preoccupied with her own family when her daughter made an unfortunate marriage and her youngest son, Gudmar, died in 1340.

The saint made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Olaf of Norway at Trondheim. When she returned to court, she renewed her efforts to guide the steps of the young royal couple. Still unsuccessful in this task, she begged leave and was given permission to make a pilgrimage with her husband to Santiago de Compostella.

On the way home, Ulf fell ill and received the last sacraments at Arras. He finally recovered as Bridget had foreseen in a vision of Saint Denis, and the couple vowed to devote their lives to God in religious houses. Ulf entered the Cistercian monastery at Alvastra, where he died in 1344. Bridget continued to live as a penitent at that double-monastery for another four years.

When her visions and revelations became frequent, she grew afraid that she might be imaging them all. After experiencing the same vision three times, she submitted them to Master Matthias, canon of Linkoeping. He pronounced her visions to be originated from God. From that point until her death, she submitted them to Peter, the prior of Alvastra, who copied them down in Latin.

A vision commanded her to go to court and warn Magnus of the judgment of God on his sins. She did so, denouncing the whole royal court in her warning. Magnus briefly changed his ways, and endowed a monastery, which Bridget, in response to a vision in 1344, planned to found at Vadstena on Lake Vattern.

The monastery provided for 60 nuns. There was a separate enclosure for monks, including 13 priests (in honor of the twelve apostles and Saint Paul), four deacons (representing the four great Latin Doctors of the Church), and eight choir brothers not in orders, totalling the number of the Lord's apostles and disciples (12 plus 72 or 84 in all).

Bridget prescribed a constitution, which was said to have been dictated to her by the Savior in a vision. The men were subject to the abbess of nuns in temporal matters, but the women were subject to the men in spiritual ones, the reason for which men were asked to join. The convents were separate, and while they used the same church, it was designed so that the men and women could not see one another. The community was named the Order of the Most Holy Savior, or the Bridgettines, as they came to be called.

Extra income from the monastery was given to the poor, and ostentatious buildings were forbidden. The religious were allowed to have as many books for study as they wished, however, and the monastery was to become the intellectual center of Sweden in the 15th century.

In 1349, Bridget travelled to Rome with her confessor, Peter of Skeninge, and others for the 1350 Jubilee even though no Pope in residence there. She hoped to obtain approval for the order. In Rome she settled down to devote herself to the poor, reform monasteries, and to lobby for the return of the pope to the city.

She is associated with the churches of Saint Paul's Outside-the- Walls and San Francesco a Ripa. In Saint Paul's, a crucifix of Cavallini is said to have spoken to her. In San Francesco a Ripa, she was visited by a vision of Saint Francis of Assisi. She took this to be an invitation to visit Assisi, which she did. Bridget toured the shrines of Italy for two years.

Her prophecies and revelations made reference to the prominent religious and political events of the day, both in Rome and in Sweden. She refused to support Magnus in his crusade against the pagans in Latvia and Estonia, saying it was an excuse for a marauding expedition. She wrote to Pope Clement VI telling him that a vision demanded that he return to Rome and that he secure peace between England and France. She prophesied that the pope and emperor would be able to meet peacefully in Rome. Like her contemporary, Saint Catherine of Siena, Bridget was famous for her criticism, even of popes.

In 1371, in response to another vision, she travelled on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with her daughter Karin, sons Charles (Karl) and Birger, Alphonsus of Vadaterra, and others. Her son Charles became involved with Queen Joanna I, who despite the fact that both were already married, wanted to marry him. Horrified, Bridget prayed ceaselessly for a resolution. It came when Charles was sickened by a fever and died in her arms a few weeks later. He had been one of her favorite children.

After the funeral, she went to Cyprus, grieving terribly. She nearly drowned in a shipwreck off Jaffa, but her journey to holy places was enriched by a series of comforting visions of things that had occurred there. She returned to Rome in 1373, but ailing. Bridget died after receiving the viaticum from her friend Peter of Alvastra. Her body was taken to Vadstena.

Bridget's visions were written in a book called Revelations.

Today there are only 12 Bridgettine convents left (Martindale, White).

In art, Saint Bridget is portrayed as a crowned Brigittine abbess with a cross on her brow, holding a book and a pilgrim's staff. She may also be shown (1) writing with a pilgrim's attributes near her; (2) as Christ and the Virgin appear while she is writing; (3) reading, holding a cross, with builders in the background; (4) in ecstasy before the crucifix with instruments of the Passion nearby; (5) as a small child present at the Scourging of Christ (one of her revelations); (6) as a nun with a cross on her brow witnessing the Birth of Christ (another revelation); (7) enthroned, with Christ above her and hell below, she gives books to the emperor and kings; or (8) giving a book to Saint Augustine (Roeder).

Bridget is the patron saint of Sweden (White).


Blessed Jane of Orvieto, OP Tert. V (AC)
(also known as Giovanna, Vanna)

Born at Carnajola, near Orvieto, Italy; died 1306; cultus approved in 1754. Blessed Jane was a Dominican tertiary (Benedictines).


John Cassian, Abbot (AC)
Born c. 360; died at Marseilles, France, July 23, c. 433. The world is full of collectors, but Saint John Cassian was a different sort of collector. What interested him was living saintliness, the Gospel in action. He knew that a good example was worth more than a good sermon, and so he made an enormous collection of concrete examples. He gathered them over the course of several years as he travelled from one monastery to another in Egypt.

Cassian's two books, Conferences (which I highly recommend) and Cenobitic Institutes had, and indeed still have, an enormous influence, both in the teaching of ascetic and mystic theology and in the practices of those in monastic life.

Perhaps in order to teach us that Cassian was the perfect example of a monk, Providence has decreed that we should know nothing of his birth or childhood, thereby reserving our attention for what was truly important in his life. It is likely that he was born in Provence in France, although some historians say that he was born in Romania, some in Syria, still others say in Palestine, and Gennadius (5th century) says he was born in Scythia; however, they all agree on the approximate date of his birth.

The first thing known about Cassian with any certainty is that, about 380, he and his friend Germanus became monks at Bethlehem, in a monastery near the place of the Nativity--a good place to be born into the new life. They stayed there until Cassian was 25 (c. 385), by which time he had learned all that they had to teach him.

He left because he had an urgent desire to travel; not as a tourist who gapes at different scenes, because for a contemplative person all men are the same with the unhappiness and all countries are the same with their stones and trees and houses. He travelled to see the work of God, the reflection of God in his creation, and the means whereby men united themselves with God; all the rest is vanity.

And so Cassian and Germanus, equipped with the permission and blessing of their superiors, stout pilgrims' sticks, and an ardent desire to visit the great masters of saintliness, set out boldly for Egypt to satisfy both pious curiosity and a longing for perfection. For 12 or 13 years, until about 400, the two companions travelled throughout Lower Egypt and the Nile delta, staying with the most famous monks and anchorites who were the spiritual descendants of the great Saint Antony. They lived for a time as hermits under Archebius, were influenced by Evagrius Ponticus, and then went to Skete. And all the time Cassian, who surely deserves to be the patron of journalists, recorded everything he saw, setting it down with a vivid style and minute accuracy, a sense of humor, and an eye for the picturesque.

On leaving Egypt the two men went to Constantinople, where Saint John Chrysostom ordained Germanus a priest and Cassian a deacon. In 405, after Chrysostom was deposed, they went to Pope Saint Innocent I in Rome, bringing a letter from the clergy of Constantinople on behalf of their bishop who was being persecuted. Germanus then disappears without a trace. Cassian is ordained a priest, and 10 years later we find him again in Marseilles, France, where he founded two monasteries: Saint Victor for men and Saint Savior for women.

As part of the rule, the monks would prostrate themselves at each Gloria; otherwise, the generally prayed with their arms outstretched. The Psalms were an important vehicle for meditation for the community. Cassian said they should be prayed with the heart as one's own prayers, "...recognize that the words were not only fulfilled formerly in the person of the prophet, but that they are fulfilled and carried out daily...[in our own case]."

Cassian's "Nocturnes" (otherwise known as Matins) prayed at midnight included three psalms sung antiphonally while standing; three psalms led by a cantor with the rest responding while seated; three lessons recited from memory; then everyone bowed for more private prayer before returning to bed.

All awakened again at 2:30 a.m. for Lauds, which followed the pattern of Nocturns and included Pss. 148, 149, and 150. Prime (or Second Mattins) at daybreak included Psalms 51, 62, and 90. Terce at 9 a.m. (the third hour) reminded the monks of the time the Holy Spirit first descended upon the Apostles assembled for prayer. Sext at midday recalled the Crucifixion at the sixth hour of the day. Nones at 3 p.m. reflected on the time Jesus yielded up his spirit.

A neighboring bishop, Castor of Apt, who had himself founded some monasteries, asked Cassian to compile a summary of all the observations that he had made and all the teachings that he had learned during his travels. And so, perhaps reluctantly, the pilgrim became an author.

Cassian first wrote Cenobitic Institutes and the Remedies for the Eight Captial Sins. This 12-volume work gives a full account of the rules and organization of communities in Egypt and Palestine, and of the means used by the monks in their spiritual combat the eight chief hindrances to a monk's perfection.

His next work were the 24 Conferences on the Egyptian Monks, which were addressed to different people, among them Saint Honoratus, the abbot and founder of Lérins. In them Cassian tells of the discussions or conferences that he had with the monks; however, the doctrine that he expressed in them was often unorthodox, and in the opinion of Saint Augustine gave too much importance to human free will in the virtuous act and not enough to divine grace. This whiff of heresy, which went under the name of 'semi-Pelagianism,' earned the author public reproof, and his Conferences were officially relegated to the ranks of the apocrypha by a decree attributed to Pope Saint Gelasius. Nevertheless, Saint Benedict prescribed the Conferences as one of the books to be read aloud to his monks after supper.

Though Cassian was in bad odor with the Holy Office, the success and popularity of his works in no way diminished, particularly among the monks of southern France, who were strongly anti- Augustinian. In about 430, Cassian was commissioned by the future Pope Saint Leo to write seven books entitled On the Incarnation of the Lord against the heretic Nestorius. This work was evidently written in haste and does not compare with the other two works. Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople, was solemnly condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431, whereas Cassian, the champion of semi- Pelagianism, was not condemned by a council until 529.

Cassian's answer to the theological bickering and to the violent attacks against his works was one of silence, for he desired only to live in peace and watch over the pious souls who had come to his monasteries to seek the way of perfection.

Though Cassian studied the lives of the desert anchorites, he did not recommend their extreme asceticism for the monks of the West. His first essential rule is that perfection does not consist in the solitary life and tightening the belt a notch a day, but is instead a matter for the soul, and above all of the charity and loving- kindness that makes man most like God.

He regarded sadness and melancholy as vices, for a person who knows that he is loved by God, and who loves God as his Father and all men as his brothers, ought to be joyful. He insisted on the importance of the Gospel precept that commands us to go into our room and close the door and pray; but he added that this is less a matter of physical circumstances than of withdrawing our hearts from the cares and thoughts of the world and entering into an intimate colloquy with God.

We pray with the door closed when we pray without opening our lips, for God sees into our hearts rather than listens to our words. Fasts, meditation on the Scriptures, poverty, and asceticism are only the means to perfection, and not perfection itself.

In many ways Cassian was the precursor of Saint Benedict, who drew on him heavily, though he also altered a great deal. Every generation has found in Cassian one of its best guides. His works, which have been endlessly republished and translated, have been quoted by a large number of spiritual writers, from Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas down to the Jesuit father Rodriguez. Cassian, in short, was and still is one of the great teachers of the religious life (Attwater, Benedictines, Chadwick, Delaney, Encyclopedia).


Liborius of Le Mans B (RM)
Died 390. Liborius, the second or third bishop of Le Mans (348 to 390), is the patron of Paderborn, to which his relics were translated in 836 (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). In art, Saint Liborius is depicted as a bishop with a peacock. He may be carrying small stones on a book (Roeder). Liborius is invoked against colic, fever, and gallstones (Roeder).


Martyrs of Bulgaria (RM)
9th century. An unknown number of Bulgarian Catholics who were martyred for their faith during the war between the Greek emperor, Nicephorus, and the Bulgars, who were not yet Christians. Many fell on the battlefield. Others were more traditional martyrs. There is much uncertainty as to the exact circumstances, but they have always been accounted martyrs (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Primitiva of Rome VM (RM)
(also known as Primitia, Privata)

Date unknown. Saint Primitiva was a very early martyr, probably of Rome. She may be the same Primitiva celebrated on February 24 (Benedictines).


Rasyphus of Rome M (RM)
Date unknown. Rasyphus is another very early martyr of which little is known. He may be identical to Saint Rasius, whose relics are enshrined in the Pantheon (Benedictines).


Rasyphus and Ravennus MM (AC)
5th century. These British natives fled to northern France to escape invaders. There they became hermits and were finally martyred for the faith at Macé in the diocese of Séez. Their relics are enshrined in the cathedral at Bayeux (Benedictines).


Romula, Redempta, and Herundo VV (RM)
Died c. 580. Three Roman maidens who lived lives of austerity and prayer in or near the church of Saint Mary Major. They were venerated by Saint Gregory the Great (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


The Three Wise Men (AC)
1st century; feast day formerly January 6. It is related, in Matthew 2:1-2, that wise men came from the East to worship the Infant Jesus. They were queried by Herod as to the child's whereabouts, found the child, "did him homage," and "offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh."

Warned in a dream, they returned to their own country by a different route so that they did not have to report to Herod where Jesus could be found. Ancient tradition calls them "magi" and says there were three of them--probably because of the three gifts-- named Balthasar, Caspar (Gaspar), and Melchoir.

The Old Testament foretells that 'The kings of Tarshish and the islands shall bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts. May all the kings bow before him, all nations serve him. For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help . . . " (Psalm 72:10-12). By connecting this prophecy with the wisemen, Christians have decided that they must have been kings. Modern scholars, however, believe they were astrologers from Babylonia or Arabia.

These three are the first non-Jews to have worshipped Jesus. Very early in the Christian era they became a favorite subject of Christian art, painted on the walls of a catacomb in the early second century. Early in the next century they were given their names. Artists began to paint one as a young king, another in mid- life, and the third as an old man. Later the artists reasoned that if they came from the east, at least one of them must have been a black man. A magnificent Medieval shrine in Cologne, Germany, contains their reputed bones.

Soon Christians began to speculate on the significance of the three gifts. Gold obviously symbolized Jesus as a king himself. Frankincense for the devotion of the wise men to Jesus. But myrrh was used to embalm bodies: This gift foreshadowed Jesus's death on the Cross, the means of our salvation (Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney).


Trophimus and Theophilus MM (RM)
Died c. 302. Martyrs beheaded at Rome under Diocletian (Benedictines).


Valerian of Cimiez B (AC)
Died c. 460. Saint Valerian was a monk of Lérins who later became bishop of Cimiez, which is now part of the diocese of Nice, France (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.