St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Eusebius of Vercelli B
(Optional Memorial)
August 2

Basil the Blessed M
Died 1552; canonized by the Russian Church, c. 1580. Saint Basil was one of the yurodivy, an ascetic known as a "fool for Christ's sake." These were men who deliberately sought the humiliation and scorn of their neighbors through their senseless behavior and pretended stupidity, especially in Russia in the 16th and 19th century. Basil was a shoemaker's apprentice in Moscow. Like Saint Simeon Salus, he would act in seemingly crazy ways but devoted himself to caring for the poorest, most wretched, and most neglected. He used to steal good from shops and give them to the destitute. There are stories that he rebuked Czar Ivan IV the Terrible. The Kremlin church in which he is buried bears Basil's name (Attwater).


Boetharius of Chartres B (AC)
7th century. Saint Boetharius was the chaplain to King Clotaire II. About 595, he was consecrated bishop of Chartres, near Paris (Benedictines).


Etheldritha of Croyland, OSB V (AC)
(also known as Ælfryth, Alfrida, Alfreda, Althryda, Ethelfreda)

Died 834. Saint Etheldritha was daughter of King Offa of the Mercians and his queen, Quindreda. She was betrothed to King Ethelbert of the East Angles, who was killed by her father's treachery. Because she had wanted to consecrate her life entirely to the service of God, she left the court and established herself about 793 in a small cell on Croyland Island in the desolate marshes of Lincolnshire. There she lived as a recluse for forty years devoting herself to assiduous prayer and the practice of Christian virtue. Several miracles attested to her eminent sanctity, however, she was best known for her prophesies. Her tomb was among those arranged around that of Saint Guthlac, but her relics were lost during the ravages of the Danes when they destroyed Croyland Abbey in 870 (Benedictines, Farmer, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).


Eusebius of Vercelli B (RM)
Born on Sardinia, c. 283; died at Vercelli, Italy, on August 1, 371; feast day was formerly December 16, which marks the anniversary of his consecration as bishop.

Eusebius was the son of a martyr who died in chains. His widowed mother took Eusebius and his sister, both infants, to Rome, where Eusebius was reared, educated, and eventually ordained a lector. He served in Vercelli in the Piedmont, with such success that he was elected in 340 by the clergy and people to govern it. He is the first bishop of Vercelli who is known by name. Eusebius decided that the best way to foster the life of prayer was to live with some of his fellow-clergy as a community of monks. He was the first in the West to combine the monastic discipline with the clerical, an example that was later followed by Saint Augustine.

In 354, Pope Liberius deputed Eusebius and Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari to plead with Emperor Constantius to assemble a council to settle the differences between the Catholics and Arians. They were successful, and the council met in Milan in 355. Although the Catholic prelates outnumbered the Arians, Eusebius realized that the Arians would dominate by force, and he refused to attend until Constantius himself coerced him to do so.

Eusebius's sufferings began with his refusal to condemn the great theologian and doctor of the Church, Saint Athanasius. When the bishops were called upon to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, one of the few bishops who continued to insist that Jesus was both God and man, Eusebius resisted. Instead he presented the Nicene Creed, which he helped to write, and insisted that it be signed by all before the case of Saint Athanasius was considered. This sparked a great tumult.

The emperor sent for Eusebius, Saint Dionysius of Milan, and Lucifer of Cagliari, and demanded that they condemn Athanasius. They supported his innocence, saying he could not be condemned without being heard. They also pleaded that the emperor not use secular force to coerce ecclesiastical decisions. The emperor threatened to execute them but eventually banished them instead.

Eusebius's six years in exile began in Scythopolis in Palestine, where he was put in the charge of the Arian bishop, Patrophilus. He stayed first with Saint Joseph of Palestine, who offered the only orthodox home in the town, and was visited by Saint Epiphanius and others, and given money for subsistence by deputies of his church in Vercelli.

After Count Joseph's death, the Arians dragged Eusebius through the streets half-clothed and locked him in a small room, where they badgered him for four days to conform. Eusebius went on a hunger strike, and after fasting for four days, the Arians returned him to his lodgings. Three weeks later he was molested again; they confiscated his possessions, drove away his attendants, and dragged him away. Later he was banished to Cappadocia, and later still into the Upper Thebaid in Egypt.

Upon the death of Constantius in 361, Julian the Apostate recalled the banished prelates, and Eusebius travelled to Alexandria to plan with Saint Athanasius how to correct the evils of the Church. He took part in a council there in 362, which deputed him to travel to Antioch to effect the council's wish that Saint Meletius should be recognized as bishop there, although he had been elected primarily by Arians. It was hoped that this would heal the Eustathian schism. Unfortunately, he found that Lucifer of Caligliari, who had also participated in the council, had widened it by consecrating Paulinus, leader of the Eustathians, bishop of Carthage. This was the beginning of the Luciferian schism.

Unsuccessful, Eusebius travelled over the East and through Illyricum, bolstering the wavering faith of many and bringing others back into the fold. He returned to Italy in 363 and began working in concert with Saint Hilary of Poitiers to oppose the Arianizing Auxentius of Milan.

According to Saint Jerome, Vercelli "laid aside her garments of mourning" upon Eusebius's long-awaited return, but nothing is known of his remaining years. Sometimes he is called a martyr, but this is attributed to his sufferings and not to a violent death.

In Vercelli is treasured a very ancient manuscript of the Latin Gospels that Eusebius is reputed to have copied, the Codex Vercellensis, which is the oldest such manuscript in existence. This and his extant letters demonstrate that Eusebius was a serious scholar as well as a zealous opponent of Arianism. Though it is not absolutely certain, it is believed that he is the author of the Athanasian Creed (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Farmer, Walsh, White).


Blessed Gundechar B (AC)
Born 1019; died 1073. Bishop Gundechar of Eichstätt, Bavaria (Germany) was chaplain to Empress Agnes. He founded at least 126 churches. The Pontifical which he drew is still preserved and is of great historical significance (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).


Maximus of Padua B (RM)
Died c. 195. Saint Maximus succeeded Saint Prosdocimus as bishop of Padua. His alleged relics were found in 1053 and enshrined by Pope Saint Leo IX (Benedictines).


Peter of Osma, OSB B (AC)
Died 1109. Saint Peter is among the many monks of Cluny Abbey in France who settled in Spain between about 1050 and 1130. He was appointed archdeacon of Toledo under the Archbishop Bernard de la Sauvetat, another monk from Cluny. Sauvetat nominated Peter bishop of Osma, Old Castile, in 1101. Saint Peter is venerated as the principal patron of the diocese of Osma and its cathedral (Benedictines).


Plegmund of Canterbury, OSB B (PC)
Born in Mercia, England; died at Canterbury, England, on August 2, 914. Saint Plegmund was a hermit on an island near Chester, called Plegmundham after him and later Plemstall, who was noted for his holiness and scholarship. He was called to the court of Alfred the Great to be his tutor. He helped Alfred write the Old English version of Saint Gregory the Great's On pastoral care (Liber regulae pastoralis) and may have been responsible for the compilation of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle.

At that monarch's request, in 890, he was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Formosus in Rome. He crowned Edward the Elder at Kingston in 901, and consecrated the Newminster at Winchester in 908. Plegmund travelled to Rome again in 908, probably to secure approval of his bishopric by Pope Sergius III, because the consecrations of Formosus were condemned in 897 and 905. He returned from Rome with some of the relics of Saint Blaise.

Archbishop Plegmund divided the Wessex dioceses of Winchester and Sherbourne into Winchester, Ramsbury, Sherbourne, Wells, and Crediton (which was later called Exeter) and consecrated bishops for each of them (plus two others) on the same day. His episcopacy was noted for promoting learning and developing Canterbury's metropolitan jurisdiction. Saint Plegmund's cultus, however, was not spontaneous or immediate; he has been venerated as a saint only since the 13th century (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).


Rutilius of Africa M (RM)
Died 250. Tertullian tell us in De fuga persecutione that, during the Decian persecution, Saint Rutilius fled from his native Africa and sought refuge in many places. He even paid money to obtain exemption from offering sacrifice, but he was finally arrested and bravely confessed Christ (Benedictines).


Stephen I, Pope M (RM)
Born in Rome, Italy; died 257; feast in the Eastern Church is either August 2 or September 7. After his ordination to the priesthood, Saint Stephen, progeny of the gens Julia, was promoted to archdeacon of the Roman Church. He served under the martyr-popes Saint Cornelius and Saint Lucius, who nominated Stephen to succeed himself. Stephen was elected pope on May 3, 254, and consecrated on May 12, 254.

Almost immediately he was drawn into the Novatian controversy that raged throughout Western Christendom. Could an individual who committed a serious sin--adultery, apostasy, or murder--after baptism be forgiven and readmitted to communion? Marcian seems to have succeeded Saint Regulus as bishop of Arles (France). He embraced Novatianism and refused absolution to many even on the point of death. Bishop Faustinus of Lyons and other prelates of Gaul sent complaints against Marcian to Pope Stephen. In order to enlist Saint Cyprian in their cause, the bishops also wrote to him.

Cyprian responded by writing to the holy father: "It is necessary for you to dispatch ample letters to our fellow-bishops in Gaul, so that they will no longer suffer the obstinate Marcian to insult our college. Write to that province and to the people of Arles, that Marcian being excommunicated, a successor may be provided for his see. Acquaint us, if you please, who is made bishop of Arles in the place of Marcian, that we may know to whom we are to send letters of communion and to direct our brethren." Although we the letters of St. Stephen have not survived, he must have acted because the ancient list of the bishops of Arles does not include Marcian.

The controversy exhibited itself in Spain with no less consequence. Bishops Basilides of Merida and Martialis of Leon and Astorga had purchased libelati, pieces of paper saying that they had sacrificed to idols, to save their lives during persecution. The cowardice of Martialis was condemned in a synod and he was deposed. Basilides was so intimidated that he voluntarily resigned his see. Both were replaced; by Felix and Sabinus respectively.

Basilides repented of his actions, went to Rome, and was forgiven by Pope Stephen. He returned to Spain with letters from the pope and was received as a prelate by some of his brother bishops. Encouraged by Basilides' example, Martialis claimed the same privilege. The bishops of Spain asked Saint Cyprian how they should treat the two former apostates. He responded that those guilty of notorious crimes were disqualified by canon law from holding office in the Church, and that the successors to the apostates had been validly ordained, which could not be rescinded or nullified.

He also noted that the pope's letters had been obtained by fraud and were consequently null. He wrote, "Basilides going to Rome, there imposed upon our colleague Stephen, living at a distance, and ignorant of the truth that was concealed from him. All this only tends to accumulate the crimes of Basilides, rather than to abolish the remembrance of them; since to his former account, hereby is added the guilt of endeavoring to circumvent the pastors of the church." Cyprian does not blame Stephen, but rather Basilides for fraudulently gaining access to him. There is no account of the manner in which this affair was settled.

During his three-year papacy, Stephen was primarily occupied with the question of the validity of baptisms by heretics. He invoked the apostolic tradition in favor of the Roman practice and was met with stout opposition from Saint Cyprian. Stephen noted that baptism in the name of the Three Persons of the Trinity is valid, and was the practice even in the African church until the time of Bishop Agrippinus of Carthage at the end of the 2nd century.

Cyprian appealed to a council at Carthage convened by Agrippinus as the source of the African tradition. (Saints Augustine of Hippo and Vincent of Lérins testify to this change by Agrippinus.) In three African councils, Cyprian decreed that baptism by a heretic was always null on the faulty principle that one cannot receive the Holy Spirit at the hands of one who does not himself possess Him. By this logic, no one in mortal sin can validly administer any sacrament. We know that, as Saint Stephen taught, Christ is the principal minister in the Sacraments, whose validity and efficacy do not depend upon the grace of the human minister. He refused to receive a delegation from an African council in 255 that had declared such baptisms invalid.

Cyprian summarized his arguments in a letter to Jubaianus in 256. Many other bishops sided with Cyprian, including those of Cilicia, Cappadocia, Phrygia, Caesarea, and Tarsus. They assumed that this was a matter of discipline and not of faith, that it could vary by local tradition.

Once again the Church was guarded from error by the Holy Spirit, without Whose special protection even holy and earnest men prone to err. Pope Saint Stephen saw the implications that would result from Cyprian's belief and declared that no innovation was to be allowed and threatened Cyprian and his followers with excommunication. Eusebius mentions that Saint Dionysius of Alexandria intervened to keep this from happening. Saint Augustine writes that "Stephen thought of excommunicating them; but being endued with the bowels of holy charity, he judged it better to abide in union. The peace of Christ overcame in their hearts."

Saint Vincent of Lérins wrote: "When all cried out against the novelty, and the priests everywhere opposed it in proportion to everyone's zeal, then Pope Stephen, of blessed memory, bishop of the apostolic see, stood up, with his other colleagues, against it, but he in a signal manner above the rest, thinking it fitting, I believe, that he should go beyond them as much by the ardor of his faith as he was raised above them by the authority of his see. In his letter to the church of Africa he thus decrees: 'Let no innovation be introduced, but let that be observed which is handed down to us by tradition.' The prudent and holy man understood that the rule of piety admits nothing new, but that all things are to be delivered down to our posterity with the same fidelity with which they were received; and that it is our duty to follow religion, and not make religion follow us; for the proper characteristic of a modest and sober Christian is, not to impose his own conceits upon posterity, but to make his own imaginations bend to the wisdom of those that went before him. What then was the issue of this grand affair, but that which is usual?--antiquity kept possession, and novelty was exploded."

Tradition, as recorded by Saint Gregory the Great in his Sacramentary, says that Stephen was beheaded while seated in his presidential chair during the celebration of Mass in the catacombs (which is very similar to the story of the martyrdom of his successor, Saint Sixtus II). The earliest liturgical documents, however, present him as a bishop and confessor, not martyr. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint Callixtus. His relics were translated to Pica in 1682, where they are venerated in the church named after him. His head is enshrined in Cologne, Germany (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth).

In art, Pope Saint Stephen is depicted beheaded in his chair at Mass. He might also be shown stabbed at the altar or with a sword in his breast (Roeder).


Theodota and Her Three Sons MM (RM)
Died at Nicaea in 304. According to untrustworthy acta, Saint Theodota and her three sons--Evodius, Hermogenes, and Callista--were thrown into a furnace and perished in the flames. The sons are mentioned three times in the Roman Martyrology, with different feasts and places of death. The name Callista would indicate that there were only two sons and a daughter. This is indeed an unreliable entry with regard to the details of their martyrdom (Benedictines, Encyclopedia). Saint Theodota and her sons are portrayed in art as they are burned to death (Roeder).


Thomas Hales of Dover, OSB M (AC)
Died August 2, 1295; feast day formerly on August 5. The near contemporary vita of Saint Thomas, a Benedictine monk of Saint Martin's Priory in Dover, a cell of Christ Church in Canterbury, concentrates on a conventional list of virtues and omits any biographical details of his early life. On August 5, 1295, the French raided Dover and all the monks went into hiding except Thomas, who was too old and too infirm to run. The raiders, who are described in detail in the vita, found him in bed and ordered him to disclose the location of the church plate. He was murdered for his refusal to answer them. Miracles occurred at his tomb, which led to his veneration as a martyr. His cultus was encouraged by indulgences from the bishop of Winchester and the archbishop of Canterbury for pilgrimages to his tomb. King Richard II and "several noble Englishmen" petitioned Rome for his canonization. In 1380 Urban VI established a commission to enquire into Thomas's life and miracles. The work was delegated to the priors of Christ Church and Saint Gregory's in Canterbury, but nothing ever happened. There was an altar dedicated to him ("blessed Thomas de Halys") in the Dover Priory church in 1500, which was probably the altar of Our Lady and Saint Catherine in front of which he was buried. Thomas's his image figured among those of the English saints at the English College in Rome (Benedictines, Farmer).



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.