Dedication of Saint Mary Major
Abel of Rheims, OSB B (PC)
Died c. 751. The English or Irish Saint Abel accompanied Saint Boniface of Crediton in his evangelizing activities on the Continent. The Apostle of Germany had Saint Abel appointed archbishop of the most important sees of the Church--Rheims, in whose cathedral the French kings were crowned. His election was ratified by the council of Soissons in 744 and by Pope Saint Zachary. But Abel was never able to take possession of his cathedra because another, Milo, was intruded. As Abel was forced out of his diocese by warring factions, he retired to Lobbes in Belgium, where he later became abbot. When he died, his tomb was embellished with an episcopal cross and the fleur-de-lys of France (Benedictines, Montague).
Addai and Mari BB (AC)
1st century (?). There was a Christian colony in Edessa, Syria, by the 2nd century, and from there it appears the faith spread to Mesopotamia and Persia. However, a local ecclesiastical tradition in these latter areas attributes their evangelization to Saint Thomas, who is said to have been the Apostle of India, and who sent Saint Addai who converted Saint Aggai who converted Saint Mari. This story (recorded in Walsh) is a combination of the narratives of Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical history and the Syriac The doctrine of Addai (written about 400):
"At the time when our Lord was still incarnate upon earth there reigned in Osroene a king called Abgar the Black, who lived at Edessa. He suffered from some incurable disease and, having heard of the miracles of healing of our Lord, he sent to Him a letter by the hand of his secretary, Hannan. In it he addresses Christ as 'the good Physician' and asks Him to come to Edessa and heal him. Hannan found our Lord in the house of Gamaliel, and He replied to Abgar that, 'I am about to return to my Father, all for which I was sent into the world being finished. But when I shall have ascended to Him I will send one of my disciples, who shall heal you of your sickness and bring you and yours to eternal life.'"
According to Eusebius our Lord wrote out this message Himself and it was accordingly greatly reverenced throughout Christendom during the middle ages. The Syriac document states that Hannan also brought back to Abgar a portrait of our Lord which he had painted (later, 'not-made-by-human-hands'). This is the beginning of the legend of the Mandylion (possibly the Holy Shroud), which is said to have been kept at Edessa until it was taken to Constantinople in the 8th century.
After the Ascension, Thomas sent Addai (Thaddeus), one of the 72 commissioned by Jesus, to the Abgar's court. He lodged with a Jew, named Tobias, and when he was presented to the king, he healed him and taught him the faith. Addai converted Abgar and multitudes of his people, among other the royal jeweller, Aggai, whom he made bishop and his successor, and Palut, whom Addai ordained priest on his deathbed.
Eventually, Aggai was martyred and Palut went to Antioch to be consecrated by Saint Serapion, who had been consecrated by Pope Saint Zephyrinus at Rome. This seems improbably because Serapion died in 199 and Zephyrinus became bishop that same year. Confusion also seems to surround Abgar. There was another Abgar who was a Christian king, probably the first, of Edessa from about 179 to 213. Therefore, it is most unlikely that Serapion consecrated a convert of one of the 72. So it seems that Addai was a missionary to Edessa, who like many other saintly men was attached to the apostles to emphasize the connection to Jesus--and isn't that what we are here for, to grow as close as possible to our Savior?
Saint Mari's existence is even questioned. His acta claim that he was a disciple of Saint Addai, who sent him to Nisibis, where he preached before renewing the work of Jonas the prophet at Nineveh. He then travelled down the Tigris River until he began "to smell the smell of the Apostle Thomas," and died near Seleucia- Ctesiphon after consecrating its bishop Papa bar Aggai, who was indeed the first katholikos of the East Syrian churches--at the beginning of the 4th century. We are told that wherever Mari went, he made numerous converts, destroyed temples, built churches, and founded monasteries--on a scale rarely found in sober history.
Nevertheless, even with all these historical problems, Addai and Mari have been venerated since the earliest times as the evangelists of the Tigris-Euphrates region, and still are by their successors, the Catholic Chaldeans and the Nestorians of Iraq and Kurdistan (Benedictines, Delaney, Walsh).
Afra of Augsburg VM (RM)
Died c. 304. Saint Afra was probably a martyr during the Diocletian persecution at Augsburg, Germany. Her unreliable vita is probably historically worthless, although it does appear to be an embroidery of some historical reference. It says that Afra, a prostitute in Augsburg from Cyprus, had been converted when the Bishop of Gerona, driven from his diocese by persecution, reached Augsburg, Germany, and took refuge in her mother's house.
The transformation of her life was complete, though Afra never ceased to live as if she were doing penance for her former sins. When her time came to suffer she saw this too as a form of atonement. The pagan judge before whom she was brought, accused of being a Christian, told her that her own Lord would have nothing to do with such a sinner as she had been. But Afra replied that although she was without a doubt unworthy to be called a Christian, Jesus Christ had indeed admitted her as one.
"My body has sinned," confessed the saint at her trial. "Let it suffer. I will not ruin my soul by idolatry." Her executioners tied her to a stake on an island in the River Lech. Dried vine branches were piled up around her and set alight. That night Afra's mother and three other women, who are said to be Afra's servants and former prostitutes themselves, sailed to the island, gathered up Afra's body and buried it in a large tomb at Augsburg. The pagan authorities saw them performing this last act of mercy. The four women were shut up in the family tomb, which was then set on fire. They, like Saint Afra, were burned to death.
The Benedictine abbey in Augsburg is dedicated to Saint Afra (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).
In art, Saint Afra is depicted crowned and enthroned, holding a dead tree. She might also be shown (1) suspended from a tree and scourged; (2) bound to a tree and burned; (3) surrounded by flames; (4) boiled in a cauldron; or (5) holding a fir cone (Roeder). She is the patron saint of Augsburg, Germany, and invoked by penitent women (Roeder).
Cantidius, Cantidian, and Sobel MM (RM)
Date unknown. Martyrs in Egypt (Benedictines).
Cassian (Cassyon) of Autun B (RM)
Died c. 350. Cassian succeeded Saint Rheticius as bishop of Autun, France, from 314 to 350. During his long episcopacy, he became renowned as a miracle-worker. A 9th-century vita styles him as an Egyptian. His cultus spread to England, where there is a church dedicated to Cassyon at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire (Benedictines, Farmer).
Dedication of St. Mary Major
AD 435. There are three basilicas in Rome in which the holy father celebrates Mass on different feasts: Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter's on Vatican Hill, and Saint Mary Major, which was the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. It was founded by Pope Liberius in the 4th century, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin by Pope Saint Sixtus III about 435. The church is sometimes called, Saint Mary ad Nives (of the Snow), because a miraculous snow fell upon the area in summer about the time a patrician named John had a vision of the Virgin requesting the building of the church. He donated the money for its building.
In the church the Holy Manger of Bethlehem with a silver image of the baby Jesus is on display in a large subterranean chapel. Touching this presumed relic excited the religious fervor of such saints as Jerome and Paula when it was still at Bethlehem (Husenbeth).
Eusignius of Antioch M (RM)
Died 362. Saint Eusignius was a old soldier in the army of Constantius Chlorus. At the age of 110, he was commanded to sacrifice to the gods by Julian the Apostate. Upon his refusal, he was scourged and beheaded in Antioch, Syria (Benedictines).
Gormgal (Gormcal) of Ardoilen, Abbot (AC)
Died 1016. An Irish abbot of the monastery of Ardoilen in Galway (Benedictines).
Blessed James Gerius, OSB Camb. (AC)
Died 1345. This Camaldolese devotee of the "Sacred Will of God" was only 33 years old when he died in Florence, Italy (Benedictines).
Memmius of Châlons-sur-Marne B (RM)
(also known as Menge, Meinge)
Died September 30, c. 300. In the province of Champagne, where Attila the Hun was finally defeated, Saint Memmius labored to spread the Good News. Although he was not a disciple of Saint Peter, as is sometimes claimed, he was the apostle and first bishop of Châlons at the end of the 3rd century. Memmius's relics are enshrined in silver gilt in the Basilica of Saint Memmius together with those of his sister, Saint Poma, as well as those of his two immediate successors, Saints Donatian and Domitian, and Saints Elaphius (13th bishop) and Leudomerus (14th bishop).
Memmius was famous for the miracles he worked before and after his death. Saint Gregory of Tours relates that as he was travelling through Châlons, his servant fell dangerously ill. Gregory prostrated himself in prayer on his servant's behalf in front of the tomb of Saint Memmius. The next morning the youth was perfectly recovered (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Nonna of Nazianzen, Matron (RM)
Died 374. A Christian, Saint Nonna married Gregory, a magistrate of Nazianzus, Cappadocia, who was a member of the Hypsistarians, a Jewish-pagan group, and converted him to Christianity. He became a priest and then bishop and is Saint Gregory Nazianzen the Elder. Their three children all became saints: Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Caesarius of Nazianzen, and Gorgonia. But each followed a different path to sanctity because she was a good mother who realized that God's plan was different for each of them and encouraged them to follow His calling. Caesarius was a court physician, Gregory a monk and bishop, and Gorgonia a wife and mother.
Nonna is the model of a perfect Christian mother who is dissatisfied with simply bringing her children into the world and preparing them to live in it. She desired that they all be brought to heaven. Her son Gregory wrote: "My father was in truth a second Abraham and was a man of the highest virtue. . . . My mother was a worthy companion for such a man and her qualities were as great as his. She came from a pious family, but was even more pious than they. Through in her body she was but a woman, in her spirit she was above all men. . . . Her mouth knew nothing but the truth, but in her modesty she was silent about those deeds which brought her glory. She was guided by the fear of God. . . ." (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Paris of Teano B (RM)
Died 346. The veneration of Saint Paris in his diocese of Teano near Naples has led to many embellishments to his true vita. He is said to have been born in Greece (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Theodoric of Cambrai B (AC)
Died 863. Bishop of Cambrai-Arras from about 830 to 863 (Benedictines).
Venantius of Viviers B (AC)
Died 544. Saint Venantius is one of the most celebrated ancient bishops of Viviers, France. He life was not recorded until the 12th century and is worthless as a historical document (Benedictines).
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.