Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Acisclus and Victoria MM (RM)
(Acisclus is also known as Ascylus, Ocysellus)
Born at Cordova, Spain; died 304. Saints Acisclus and Victoria were siblings, who suffered martyrdom probably under Diocletian. Their home was turned into a church. They are the principal patrons of Cordova and are greatly venerated throughout Spain and southern France, especially in Provence (Benedictines). Saints Acisclus and Victoria are represented in art as a young man and woman crowned with roses (Roeder).
Alphaeus and Zachaeus MM (RM)
Died 303. Alphaeus was a reader and exorcist at Caesarea, Palestine, and Zachaeus, his cousin, a deacon at Gadara beyond the Jordan. They were beheaded at Caesarea under Diocletian (Benedictines).
Anianus of Orléans B (RM)
(also known as Aignan)
Died 453. Saint Anianus, the fifth bishop of Orléans, helped in the defense of the town when it was besieged by Attila the Hun. He met Attila as he approached the city, thus saving it. He was greatly venerated by the people of Orléans immediately after his death and became the subject of many legends (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Dionysius of Alexandria B (RM)
(also known as Dionysius the Great)
Died at Alexandria in 265. A native of Alexandria, Egypt, Saint Dionysius was converted to Christianity by a vision. He became a pupil of Origen in the Alexandria catechetical school and succeeded him in 232 as its head, which he directed for about 14 years. In 247-48 he was made patriarch (bishop) of Alexandria. Persecution soon broke out there, and Dionysius was arrested; but he was enabled to escape, and directed his church from a hiding- place in the Libyan desert until the death of the persecuting Emperor Decius in 251.
In the controversy that followed about those who had lapsed under persecution and then repented, Dionysius was a zealous supporter of lenient treatment for them. He upheld Pope Saint Cornelius against the antipope Novatian, and denounced and fought Novatianism.
Dionysius was reproved by Pope Saint Stephen I for his mistaken view in supporting Cyprian that baptism by heretics was invalid and by Pope Saint Dionysius for his view on the Trinity, which Dionysius explained in an apologia to the Pope. Nevertheless, he is considered an indefatigable defender of the faith.
At the beginning of Valerian's persecution in 257, Dionysius was again arrested, and was exiled from Alexandria to Kephro in Libya by Emilian, prefect of Egypt. Restored under Gallienus in 261, he returned to a city that was demoralized by civil strife, plague, and famine: it was as dangerous for a man to stay at home as to go out, wrote the bishop, easier to go from East to West than from one street in Alexandria to another. He devoted himself to aiding the persecuted Christians and the victims of the plague. He died in Egypt in 265.
Despite all the disturbances of his 17 years as bishop, Saint Dionysius took an active part in church affairs and wrote extensively, but few of his writings have been preserved. He was a student of pagan as well as Christian literature, but he is best known as an outstanding theologian and Biblical scholar.
His virtues and learning were widely recognized; Saint Athanasius styles him "the teacher of the whole Church" and Saint Basil referred to as Dionysius "the Great." Several of his works, Extant Fragments, Exegetical Fragments, Letter to Basilides, are available on the Internet (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Elizabeth of Hungary, Queen, OFM Tert. (RM)
Born in Pressburg (Bratislava) or Saros-Patak, Hungary, 1207; died in Marburg, Hesse, Germany, November 17, 1231; canonized by Gregory IX in 1235; feast day formerly on November 19.
I love Saint Elizabeth of Hungary because she refused to defend herself against the unjust accusations of others. She felt that to defend herself would mean breaking the law of love as written in her heart. She was barely more than a child when she died before her 24th birthday, a pure soul who nobly endured all the sufferings of this earth, an innocent spirit against whom neither evil nor misfortune could prevail. The princess (Landgräffin) who became a beggar for the less fortunate could still say, "heaven opened, and that sweet Jesus, my Lord, stooping down to me and consoling me. . . ."
She is said to have experienced a real conversion as she walked from Wartburg to Eisenach and met a beggar who looked like Jesus. Her husband Count Ludwig IV of Thuringia is also popularly esteemed a saint but died at age 27. One of her three children, Gertrude was beatified.
In the Life of Saint Elizabeth, Dietrich von Apolda relates that one evening in 1207 the minnesinger Klingsohr from Transylvania announced to the Landgraf Hermann I of Thuringia that a daughter had been born to the king of Hungary that night, who should be exalted in holiness and become the wife of Hermann's son.
Indeed Saint Elizabeth was born that night, the daughter of Queen Gertrude of Andechs-Meran and Andrew II, two years after he was crowned king of Hungary. Her lineage also included Saint Hedwig, another married saint, who was her aunt.
At her baptism she was carried to the church under a canopy of the richest cloth to be found in the country. From her earliest days she was the delight of her parents. It is said that her first word was a prayer, and almost the first thing she did was an act of kindness to the poor. Even when she was only four, her sweetness of character was such that people in other countries had heard about her.
At the age of four she was sent 350 miles from home to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, Germany, as the betrothed of the 11-year-old Count Ludwig IV of Thuringia and Hesse. His father, the haughty and powerful Duke Hermann I of Thuringia, cousin to the German emperor, dispatched an embassy to the Hungarian court where, with full protocol, the child-fiancee was handed over to be educated by Hermann's wife Sophie as Ludwig's future bride.
Elizabeth and Ludwig had a wonderful relationship built upon their childhood friendship full of shared sorrows and fired by passionate devotion to each other. When Elizabeth was six, her mother was assassinated and Ludwig comforted her. Soon afterwards Ludwig's elder brother died and, about 1216, the insane Duke Hermann died violently while under the ban of the Church. Suffering and sympathy in their youth bound Elizabeth and Ludwig as a couple. And Elizabeth had further suffering to come.
She loved to visit the sick and the poor. No road was too rough or day too stormy to keep her from going on some errand of mercy to a wretched cabin. Because Wartburg Castle was located on a steep rock, which the ill were unable to climb, Elizabeth even built a hospital at its foot and often fed and cared for the patients herself.
In church one day she saw a large crucifix. So full of love for Christ was she that she took off her crown, thinking it inappropriate for his servant to wear a crown of gold and jewels while He wore a crown of thorns.
She provided for helpless children, especially orphans, founded another hospital with 28 beds, and fed hundreds of persons daily, in addition to making provisions for others throughout the kingdom. Ludwig's family and their peers began to criticize the young princess for associating with the common folk, but she bore their insults patiently without ever replying in anger, probably because Ludwig supported her in this work.
When Ludwig returned from his knightly training, his family tried to dissuade him from marrying her. They urged him to send her back to Hungary. To his credit Landgraf Ludwig would not listen to his mother's and household's slanders against Elizabeth. He defended her and married Elizabeth in 1221.
When they married Elizabeth was only 14 and Ludwig, 21. Everyone remarked what a handsome couple they made. He was tall, good looking, and manly. Elizabeth was young, beautiful, and sweet in every way. They understood each other well, and were very happy together.
What was intended to be a marriage of convenience, a uniting of two powerful families, was actually a marriage of tender love and mutual affection, in which both found tremendous joy and peace. (It is said that Ludwig never forgot to bring Elizabeth a present after one of his journeys--not necessarily identifying married bliss with gifts .)
The year after their wedding (1222) their son Hermann was born; in 1224 Sophie, and in 1227 another daughter Gertrude. (Hermann died as Landgraf at age 19. Sophie married the Duke of Brabant, Henry II and lived to age 60. Blessed Gertrude became Abbess of Altenburg.)
Saint Francis died six years after they had married; Elizabeth was influenced by one of his friars--Brother Roger, who shortly after her wedding told her about Francis and Christ's message to him. He urged her to seek release from her marriage vows, so as to be free to serve Christ. Elizabeth desired to surrender herself utterly, in an all-absorbing love. That she did not do this was probably the restraining influence of her confessor--Master Conrad of Marburg, who had been appointed to this post by Pope Gregory IX.
Conrad, a learned, able and insensitive man, whose harsh methods of guiding her spiritual life have been sharply criticized, may be forgiven his ruthlessness because he was an irreproachable ascetic himself and scrupulous in the performance of his duties. He moderated her ambition to be a mendicant and lessened her generosity to the poor. She took a vow of obedience in all things, but those related to spousal rights, to Conrad in front of her mother-in-law and her children in 1225.
As a child she was unequalled in her devotion: devotion to the Church, obedience and complete dedication to virtue. As a woman she was pious and almost obsessed with the spirit and letter of the law of love and its precepts. With her there were no half measures, no restraint, no compromises, no appeasement. It was all or nothing. That Christ must come first was impressed upon her when, during Mass one day, she was admiring her husband and looked up at the bells of the Consecration to see Blood pouring from the elevated host. So, she devoted herself to meditation on the things of God, and acts of charity with the blessing of Ludwig.
Her servant Irmingard, during the canonization process said that Conrad had forbidden her to eat or use anything which she did not certainly know had been produced without injustice. For this reason Ludwig had allowed her to observe a particular rule of diet. She disciplined her body by fasting and scourging and made her servants chastise her on Fridays and fast days.
Though she arrayed herself in purple and gold to please her husband and his court, underneath these costly robes she wore a horsehair shirt. When her husband was away she put on humble garments and sat with her maids to spin wool. She continued to refuse to wear her jewelled coronet when she entered a church. She longed to suffer as Christ did; hence her self-denial, poverty, sacrifice, and penance. Nevertheless she was spontaneous and mischievous. Often before a party she would do penance. Yet she appeared cheerful and happy, when it was time for gaiety.
When she was home she ate little. One day Ludwig returned to find she had taken nothing but bread and water at her meals. He asked her to take better care of her health. She told him to taste the water left in a glass from which she had been drinking. To his great astonishment he found that it tasted like the very best wine.
Elizabeth was not satisfied with giving money and food to the poor. She knew that God wants us to sacrifice ourselves as well as our treasure. So she herself waited beside sickbeds, cooked the meals, cleaned houses, milked cows, and even dressed the sores of her patients. One day she carried into the castle a small child suffering from leprosy, and laid him on a couch. In horror at the sight, the ladies called Ludwig to show him what his wife had done. Ludwig looked at the poor leper, but saw instead the Christ Child Himself!
One day, while returning from the woods in the middle of winter, Ludwig met Elizabeth carrying food in her mantle. She opened it to show him that she bore, not bread, but the most beautiful red and white roses. At the same time he noticed a beautiful cross in the air over her head. He took one of the roses, and went on his way. It is said that he kept the rose for the rest of his life.
It's seems unfortunate that Ludwig kept the rose for so short a time. Their idyllic marriage lasted only six years. In 1227, Ludwig was called with the knights of Christian Europe to fight the Turks in the Holy Land. Before leaving he promised to send back his signet ring if anything should befall him.
He left for the Fifth Crusade but died of the plague in the seaport town of Otranto near Brindisi, Italy, before leaving Europe and just 18 days before the birth of his daughter Gertrude. Shortly after her birth, messengers came with Ludwig's ring to Elizabeth, who grieved piteously. When she heard the news, Elizabeth is said to have run crazily throughout the castle shrieking, "O Lord my God, the whole world and all that was joyful in the world is now dead to me! But Thy will be done!" But there was worse to come (some of the details are uncertain).
Ludwig's relatives, who had never liked her ways, accused her of mismanaging the estate because of her great charity. She was forced to leave Wartburg, probably by her brother-in-law Heinrich, regent for her young son, who may have wanted Ludwig's estate. She was put out of the castle in the depths of winter on a wet night with the baby at her breast. The people of Eisenach were forbidden to shelter her or her children, so for a time she slept in a pigsty. Poverty didn't seem to really bother Elizabeth, rather she embraced it as God's gift.
An old woman she met, while crossing a stream on some stepping stones, pushed her into the water and said: "There! That's where you belong. When you were a princess you wouldn't act like one. I wouldn't stoop to help you either!" That was the thanks she received, she who had done so much for the poor--why should we expect gratitude?
In any case, she suffered much until she was taken away from Eisenach by her aunt Matilda, abbess of Kitzingen, who gave shelter to Elizabeth and her children. She next visited her uncle Eckembert, bishop of Bamberg, who put his castle of Pottenstein at her disposal. She travelled there with her son Hermann and the baby Gertrude, leaving her daughter Sophie with the nuns at Kitzingen.
Eckembert had plans for her remarriage, but she refused to consider them. She and Ludwig had pledged never to remarry. When Emperor Frederick II proposed marriage to her, she refused saying that she had promised to serve God and Him alone for the rest of her life. Eckembert locked her up in a keep, where she continued to pray confidently and humbly. (Nothing is said of how or when she was released.)
Early in 1228, Ludwig's body was returned to Elizabeth according to most accounts and buried in the abbey church at Reinhardsbrunn. On Good Friday that same year, in the church of the Franciscan friars of Eisenach, she became a member of the third order of Saint Francis. With her hand on the altar of a chapel, she renounced, "her family, her children, her own will, and all the pomps of the world." Her confessor, Conrad, had intervened to prevent her from also renouncing her dowry and the property that remained to her.
Some say that that the returning Crusaders reproached her brother- in-law and wanted to wrest his property from the hands of Heinrich, but Elizabeth refused to allow it.
Heinrich finally did return Elizabeth's dowry with which she later founded a hospital with her life-long friends Guda and Ysentrude. Others say that she was restored to Wartburg, but insisted that all revenues be turned over to the poor.
Elizabeth had developed a love of poverty from the Friars Minor but had been unable to act upon it while she was Landgraeffin. Once her children had been provided for by relatives, and she was free to live in Marburg, she lived for a time in a tiny house at Wehrda. Returning to Marburg, she built a small house just outside, and devoted herself to caring for the sick, the aged, and the poor at a hospice she founded there.
Christian charity for her was not simply philanthropy; it bore the wounds of the love of Christ and conformed itself to the special conditions of life with Him. The love of Christ for her implied the love of His Cross and the bearing of it after him. She adopted a little orphan who was chronically sick. Day and night she tended him, washing him, and changing his clothes. Filth, suppuration, and mucus soiled her noble hands, but it never bother her for in tending the littlest, she cared for Jesus.
She begged door to door for food for herself and others, until Conrad of Marburg, still her confessor, stopped her from begging, divesting herself of all her goods, giving more than a certain amount in alms, and exposing herself to diseases such as leprosy. Nevertheless, he was a hard director.
He overshadowed the closing years of her young life, treating her ruthlessly and, at times, brutally. She admitted how much she feared him. But his methods did not break her spirit: with remarkable humility she submitted to his harsh discipline and obeyed.
Conrad forbade her the joy of seeing her children. When she thought she had given up everything, he forced her to part from the two friends she had known and loved since she came to Germany from Hungary at age four, replacing them with a lay brother, a pious unattractive young woman, and a harsh irritable noble widow--cruel women who reported all she did to him. The loss of all she held dear--her family and friends--was compensated by Our Lord and his Blessed Mother who appeared to her frequently bringing her the sweetest consolations.
Conrad would slap Elizabeth's face for disobeying his smallest command and sometimes beat her with a rod that left its mark for weeks. After each chastisement Elizabeth arose strong and unhurt, in her words, like grass bent by heavy rain.
Until her health failed Saint Elizabeth was tireless in serving the wants of those in need: the princess who made garments for the poor went fishing to get them food and cleaned the homes of the sick. One day a Magyar noble arrived at Marburg, and at the hospice he found Elizabeth at her spinning wheel in her plain gray habit of the Order of Penitence. He asked her to return with him to the court of Hungary and leave her life of hardships, but Elizabeth would not go.
She led a life of exceptional poverty and humility, though some say that the usurper allowed her to come back to the castle four years before her death, and that Heinrich also recognized her son's succession to the title of landgraf.
She died at Marburg on November 17, not yet 24. She is certain to have heard the angelic choirs ineffably singing the resurrection at her death and seen the hands of light stretched out eternally towards those who willingly suffer expiation. To be poor is generally a sign of honesty. To know how to be poor is a sign of modesty. To want to be poor is a sign of virtue. To sacrifice everything, including oneself, to the poverty of others is a sign of holiness.
More beggarly than the beggar, this king's daughter chose to follow the painful road the underprivileged toil along. More initiated than the initiated, this innocent girl knew what many of us still refuse to know--the promise, the gift of God: for in hearing the pleas of those suffering from fever, she knew who it was that was asking her for a drink.
Her relics were translated to the Church of Saint Elizabeth in Marburg, where they remained as an object of popular pilgrimage until 1539, when the relics were removed to an unknown place by the Lutheran Philip of Hesse.
Soon after her death, miracles were reported at her tomb. So numerous and wonderful were they that she was canonized just years after her death. Her father, mother, three children, and many relatives were present at the canonization to hear the Voice of God, through His Church, declare her a saint. She has ever since been one of the most beloved saints of the German people (including this Austro-German American woman who took her name--but vacillates between Elizabeth of Hungary and the mother of John the Baptist) (Ancelet-Hustache, Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Condenhove, J. Delaney, S. Delaney, Encyclopedia, Martindale, Melady, White)
In art, Saint Elizabeth is depicted as a queen with a double crown surrounded by beggars, to whom she gives food and clothing, or combs their hair. Sometimes she is shown (1) carrying a pitcher and loaf; (2) carrying bread which turns to roses in her lap; (3) with three crowns at her feet, beggar under her mantle; (4) crowned, pitcher in one hand, bird on the other, beggars and cripples in the background; (5) with angels bringing garments to her to give to the poor; (6) crowned among her women spinning for the poor; (7) with a loaf and fishes; (8) in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary; (9) crowned, kneeling before the bishop (her confessor Conrad), who hands her a palm branch, behind him Saint Francis holding shears; (10) girt with the Franciscan cord, she kneels before Saint Francis of Assisi (Roeder).
Among the images of Saint Elizabeth on the Internet are:
An anonymous, 14th- century Sienese medallion
Death of St. Elizabeth (14th-century French illumination)
James Collinson's St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Simone Martini's St. Clare and St. Elizabeth of Hungary
She is sometimes confused with Saint Dorothy (but she does not lead the Christ-child by the hand). Also with Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, who was also a royal tertiary, who was said to carry bread which turned to roses. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary is, however, the more famous of the two (Roeder)
Elizabeth of Hungary is the patroness of bakers, beggars, confraternities engaged in good works, countesses, the falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, Sisters of Mercy, charitable organizations, lacemakers, widows, and young brides. She is invoked against toothache (Roeder).
Eugene of Florence (RM)
Died 422. Saint Eugene, a deacon of of Florence, Italy, under the bishop Saint Zenobius, was a disciple of Saint Ambrose in Milan (Benedictines).
Gregory the Wonder-Worker B (RM)
(also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus)
Born at Neocaesarea c. 213; died there c. 270. Saint Gregory was the son of pagan parents of rank, and had a good education in letters and law. About 233, he and his brother Athenodorus accompanied their sister, who was joining her husband at Caesarea in Palestine. They were supposed to continue on to Beirut to further their study of law, but instead they came under Origen's influence, entered his catechetical school in Caesarea, studied theology, and were baptized. After studying under Origen for five years, and Gregory returned to Pontus as a missionary with an intention also to practice law.
Soon after 238 he was, in spite of his youth, elected bishop of Neocaesarea by the 17 Christians of the city. It soon became apparent that he was gifted with remarkable powers. He preached so eloquently that in the course of some 30 years he is said to have converted practically the whole population of the city. He was a much sought after arbiter for his wisdom, legal knowledge, and ability. He so ably proselytized by word and deed that it is reported that at the time of his death only 17 unbelievers were left in the city.
His apostolic work was carried on in heartbreaking conditions of war, plague, and persecution. When Decius's persecution of the Christians broke out in 250, he advised his flock to go into hiding, and fled to the desert with his deacon. On his return, he ministered to his flock when plague struck his see, and when the Goths devastated Pontus, 252-54, which he described in his Canonical Letter. He participated in the Synod of Antioch, 264-65, against Samosata, and fought Sabellianism and Tritheism.
Not much is known about it, but he is the first missionary of whom it is related that he popularized Christian observances by adding secular attractions to religious festivals.
Saint Gregory left a number of theological and other writings and he has always been highly regarded in the Greek Church. He wrote a panegyric to Origen, a treatise on the Creed, and a dissertation addressed to Theopompus. Many of his works are available on the Internet, including:
A Declaration of Faith
A Metaphrase of the Book of Ecclesiastes
A Sectional Confession of Faith
On the Trinity
Twelve Topics on the Faith
On the Subject of the Soul
On All the Saints
On Matthew 6:22-23
The reason for his more popular fame is indicated by the epithet given to him, Thaumaturgus, 'the Wonder-Worker.' Extraordinary marvels are attributed to him, which were written down a century after his time by Saint Basil and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who had learned of the wonder-worker from their grandmother Saint Macrina who had known him and had heard him preach in her youth. On the testimony of the last named, he was the first recorded person to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision; with her, we are told, appeared Saint John the Evangelist, and they communicated to Gregory a statement of doctrine on the Blessed Trinity.
Saint Gregory also records that when today's Gregory was returning to the wilderness, he had to seek shelter in a pagan temple during a violent rain storm. Upon entering, he made the sign of the cross several times to purify the air, then spent the night there in prayer with his companion.
The next day the temple priest tried to call forth his normal oracles, but the demons declared that they could stay there no longer because Gregory had cleansed the temple. The angry priest threatened to go to the magistrates and the emperor with his complaint against Gregory. Unemotionally, Gregory told the priest that the demons would do his bidding in the name of Christ. The priest's fury turned to admiration, when Gregory complied with his desire. As he left the place, he handed the priest a paper on which was written, "Gregory to Satan: Enter," and the demons returned.
The priest, surprised that his gods would readily obey Gregory's God, ran after the bishop, who explained the Christian faith to the priest. Shocked at the doctrine of the Incarnation and desiring that the truth be reinforced by a sign, the priest requested that Gregory miraculously transport a huge rock from one place to another. The stone, too, obeyed, by the power of Him who promised His disciples that by faith they could move mountains. By this miracle, the priest was converted and left behind his home, family, and friends to be instructed in the divine wisdom. The priest later become Gregory's companion and deacon.
At other times Gregory laid hands upon the sick and they recovered their health of mind, body, and spirit, while receiving also the gift of conversion. So many were healed and converted, that Gregory was forced to build a church for their use in Neocaesarea. Saint Jerome and the Venerable Bede both record that when a rock impeded the building, Gregory commanded that it yield its place--and it did.
In order to hold back the floods of the River Lycus, which often overflowed its banks, Gregory fixed his staff near the bank and prayed the the waters might not exceed that bound; and they obeyed his voice. The staff also took root and grew into a large tree.
Two men hoped to take advantage of Gregory's compassionate nature. One pretended to be dead, while the other besought funds with which to bury the first. Gregory, in a hurry, tossed his coat upon the impostor. When he had left, the second laughed to let the other know the coast was clear. Unfortunately, the impostor was really dead.
Another time, two brothers were fighting each other over the ownership of a lake, which was part of their inheritance. The night before the dispute was to be ended with a battle to the death between the tenants of each side, Gregory spent the night in prayer on the spot. The next day, the combatants found that the lake had become dry land and could be divided without an engagement of forces.
During the renewed persecutions of Decius in 250, Gregory withdrew into the desert with his deacon. The authorities had learned of his hiding place and sent soldiers to bring him back. They returned empty-handed, saying that they had seen nothing at the place except two trees. The informer went again to the place to verify the news and, finding in prayer the bishop and deacon whom the soldiers mistook for two trees, judged their escape to be miraculous, threw himself at Gregory's feet, and became a Christian (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).
Saint Gregory is generally portrayed as a bishop driving devils out of the temple, though sometimes he is shown bringing the miter to Alexander Carbonarius (Roeder). Carol Gerten's site contains an anonymous 12th-century Russian icon of St. Gregory the Miracle-Worker
He is invoked against floods and earthquakes (at one time he reportedly stopped the flooding Lycus, and at another, he moved a mountain) (Delaney).
Gregory of Tours B (RM)
Born at Clermont-Ferrand, c. 538; died at Tours c. 596.
Gregory of Tours is remembered chiefly as an historian of the Franks, but his feast day as a saint is celebrated at Tours and in some other French dioceses.
Gregorius Florentius belonged to an important Gallo-Roman family of Auvergne that contained many other saints and bishops, and took the name Gregory later in life. He was raised by his uncle Saint Gallus of Clermont, after the death of his father, studied Scripture under Saint Avitus, a priest of Clermont.
Saint Gregory was appointed to the see of Tours in 573. He was an influential, energetic, and much-travelled bishop, whose difficulties were greatly increased by civil disturbances and political fluctuations; his faithfulness to his religious office made enemies for him in high places, notably the notorious Queen Fredegund.
He soon came into conflict with King Chilperic when Tours came under the king's control in 576, and Gregory supported Meroveus, the king's son, against the king. The differences culminated in the charge of treason against Gregory by Leudastis, whom Gregory had removed as count of Tours. The charges were proven false by a council appointed to investigate them, and Leudastis was punished for perjury.
Things improved with subsequent monarchs after Chilperic's death in 584. Gregory rebuilt the cathedral and several churches, converted heretics, and was known for his ability, justice, charity, and religious fervor. He was a great bishop much revered by Saint Gregory the Great.
Of Gregory's extensive writings the most valuable is the History of the Franks, a source book for the Middle Ages in western Europe, written with verve and enthusiasm to show his Frankish contemporaries the error of their ways. His book is now the best historical source of the Merovingian period.
His hagiographical works, the Glory of the Martyrs, the Life of the (Gallic) Fathers, and others, are less Lives of saints than collections of wonders related of them. Gregory formed a library from which Venantius Fortunatus did not disdain to borrow; all his writing was done after he became bishop, a sufficiently remarkable performance seeing that bad health was added to his episcopal labors (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
In art Saint Gregory of Tours has the fish near him, with whose liver he healed his father. Because he was a great historian, he is sometimes shown with a pen and book (Roeder).
Hilda (Hild) of Whitby, OSB Abbess (AC)
Born in Northumbria in 614; died at Whitby in 680.
Hilda was a grandniece of King Edwin of Northumbria and daughter of Hereric. Both she and her uncle were baptized by Saint Paulinus at York in 627, when she was 13. She lived the life of a noblewoman until 20 years later she decided to join her sister Saint Hereswitha at the Chelles Monastery as a nun in France. In 649, Saint Aidan requested that she return to Northumbria as abbess of the double monastery (with both men and women, in separate quarters) in Hartlepool by the River Wear.
After some years Saint Hilda migrated as abbess to the double monastery of Whitby at Streaneshalch, which she governed for the rest of her life. Among her subject monks were Bishop Saint John of Beverly, the herdsman Caedmon (the first English religious poet), Bishop Saint Wilfrid of York, and three other bishops.
At the conference she convened in 664 at Whitby abbey to decide between Celtic and Roman ecclesiastical customs, Saint Hilda supported the Celtic party. Nevertheless, she and her communities adhered to the decision of the Council of Whitby to observe the Roman rule and customs. Her influence was certainly one of the decisive factors in securing unity in the English Church.
Hilda became known for her spiritual wisdom and her monastery for the caliber of its learning and its nuns. Saint Bede is enthusiastic in his praise of Abbess Hilda, one of the greatest Englishwomen of all time: she was the adviser of rulers as well as of ordinary folk; she insisted on the study of Holy Scripture and on proper preparation for the priesthood; the influence of her example of peace and charity extended beyond the walls of her monastery; 'all who knew her called her Mother, such were her wonderful godliness and grace' (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
Saint Hilda is represented in art holding Whitby Abbey in her hands with a crown on her head or at her feet. Sometimes she is shown (1) turning serpents into stone; (2) stopping the wild birds from ravaging corn at her command; or (3) as a soul being carried to heaven by the angels (Roeder).
Hugh of Lincoln, O.Cart. B (RM)
(also known as Hugh of Avalon)
Born in Avalon Castle, Burgundy, France, c. 1140; died in London, England, on November 17, 1200; canonized 1220, the first Carthusian to be so honored.
Saint Hugh had the advantage of faithful parents. His father William, lord of Avalon, was known for his works of charity. Mother Anna, who cared for lepers and the sick, died when Hugh was eight. Thereafter he was raised and educated at a convent at Villard-Benoit. He was professed at 15, ordained a deacon at 19, and was made prior of a monastery at Saint-Maxim.
While visiting Grand Chartreuse with his prior in 1160, Hugh decided to join the Carthusian Order and was ordained a priest. In 1173 he was appointed procurator (in charge of monastery business and care of guests). He became known for his love of the poor and animals, who would feed from his hands.
In 1175, King Henry II invited him to establish a monastery at Witham in Somerset, England, between Bruton and Frome (penance for murdering Saint Thomas Becket. When Hugh arrived in Witham, he found that the monastery still needed to be built.
He immediately clashed with the king over matters of justice. Hugh refused to undertake the office of prior until the king had given alternative accommodation and compensation 'to the last penny' to the peasants whose land was seized for the monastery. After interviewing his earthly sovereign, Hugh would hurry back to his prayers and his pets, including his pet swan. Hugh's reputation for holiness spread all over England and attracted many to the monastery.
He also chided Henry for keeping sees vacant to enrich the royal coffers (since income from vacant sees went to the royal treasury). Soon thereafter (1186) he was reluctantly consecrated bishop of Lincoln, the largest see in England, which had been kept vacant for more than a decade. He relented and accepted the post only when ordered to do so by the prior of Grand Chartreuse.
Hugh arrived at his consecration dressed as a shabby monk riding on a mule, which caused embarrassment to the knights. He walked barefoot into the cathedral and threw a great feast afterwards for all the poor of Lincoln, rather than for the nobility.
Saint Hugh quickly restored clerical discipline, labored to restore religion to the diocese, and became known for his wisdom and justice. He had differences with Henry over the appointment of seculars to ecclesiastical positions. He rebuilt the fire-damaged Norman cathedral and founded a famous school of theology.
He had the gift of healing and visited the sick. He brought lepers into his own rooms to minister to them. His acts of charity included feeding the poor, protecting the outcast, caring for the sick, and burying the dead. Hugh set aside one-third of his revenues for the poor.
During the pogroms (1190-91) against the 2,000 English Jews following Henry's death (during the crusades of King Richard), Hugh acted as protector to the Jews of Lincoln, repeatedly facing down armed mobs and making them release their victims. It is said that after such a showdown he would go to play with children, tend the neglected sick, or visit outlying parts of his diocese--I guess to him seeking justice was just part of another day's work for the Kingdom.
In Northampton, Hugh dealt with a cult that arose around the death of a local boy, John, who had allegedly been killed by Jews. There was evidence that John was a thief murdered by his partner. Hugh, with his own hands, tore down the shrine to John. (A similar situation arose around 'Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln' 60 years after the bishop's death--see Saints who never were.)
With all his burdens and spiritual earnestness, he was full of liveliness and gaiety, but he was easily aroused to anger by injustices of any sort. He vigorously supported the common people against the king's foresters and fought the Forest Laws, which hunted down the poor. He excommunicated one forester. (He used excommunication rather than fines in the ecclesiastical court.)
In 1197 King Richard demanded monies from bishops and barons to subsidize his war against King Philip Augustus in France. Hugh challenged that churches and religious houses are the property of God, not the crown. Hugh won the long legal battle.
Then Richard demanded 300 men. Hugh flatly refused, saying he had an obligation only to provide men for home defense. Supported by the bishop of Salisbury. Richard tried to seize property of both, but officers were afraid of excommunication. They begged Hugh to work it out with the king.
King Richard said of Hugh, "if all the prelates of the Church were like him, there is not a king in Christendom who would dare raise his head in the presence of a bishop." Though he had clashed with Henry and Richard, his leadership was such that he remained on good terms with both monarchs. Dealing with able and overbearing men is never easy but Hugh's sense of humor, even temper, and steady firmness compensated.
Hugh said of himself that he was 'peppery'; his admirers said 'he was a good man, fearless as a lion in any danger,' and his bravery was without bluster. He calmed the rage of the fierce Henry II with a joke--a daring joke at the king's expense; he calmed the rage of the fierce Richard I with a kiss--and still refused to pay taxes to finance the king's war with France: an early case of the refusal of a money-grant demanded directly by the Crown.
In 1199, Hugh went on a diplomatic mission to France for King John, and returned from the trip in poor health after visiting the Grande Chartreuse, Cluny, and Cîteaux. A few months later while attending a national council in London, he was stricken and died at the Old Temple in London.
His will gave 'everything which I appear to possess to our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of His poor.' He was so venerated during his lifetime that at his magnificent funeral the kings of England and Scotland helped carry his bier. (John Ruskin found him "The most beautiful sacerdotal figure known to me in history.") Many of the sick were healed as his funeral procession passed from London to Lincoln Cathedral (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Douie, Markus, Thurston, Woolley).
His emblem in art is a 'swan,' because he had a pet wild swan that would follow him and keep watch over his bed. He sometimes holds a chalice in which the Christ Child sits, which relates to a miracle witnessed as he was celebrating Mass at Buckden when a vision of Christ was manifested as Hugh consecrated the bread and wine. At other times he may be shown (1) with the swan by his deathbed; (2) as a bearded bishop giving a blessing; (3) helping to build Lincoln Cathedral; or (4) raising a dead child to life (Markus, Roeder).
Hugh of Noara, OSB Cist. Abbot (AC)
Died after 1172. First abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Noara, Sicily, founded in 1172 by the community of Sambucina (Benedictines).
Blessed Jane of Segna V (AC)
Born at Segna (near Florence), Italy; died 1307; cultus approved in 1798. Blessed Jane was a shepherdess, whom both the Vallumbrosans and the Franciscans claim as one of their tertiaries (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Namasius of Vienne B (AC)
(also known as Naamat, Namat, Namatius)
Died c. 559; cultus confirmed in 1903. Twenty-second bishop of Vienne, France (Benedictines).
Martyrs of Paraguay, SJ (AC)
Died 1628; beatified in 1934; canonized in 1988. Three Spanish Jesuits--Roch (Roque) Gonzalez, Alphonsus Rodriguez, and John de Castillo- -founders of the "reduction" of the Assumption on the Ijuhi River in Paraguay. In 1628 they established the new mission of All Saints in Caaro in southern Brazil, and it was here that they were murdered by order of the local chief. Frs. Gonzalez and Rodriguez were tomahawked to death on November 15. Two days later, Ijuhi was attacked and Fr. Castillo was stoned to death. The Martyrs of Paraguay were the first martyrs in the Americas to be beatified (Benedictines).
Raverranus of Séez B (AC)
8th century. Saint Raverranus was a pupil of Saint Wandrille (Encyclopedia). This may or may not be the same saint celebrated on November 7, who died in 682. The likelihood that the century given in the Encyclopedia is in error because Wandrille died in 668.
Roque Gonzalez, SJ M
(also known as Roch)
Born in Asunciön, Paraguay, 1576; died November 15, 1628; beatified in 1934; canonized 1988 as one of the Martyrs of Paraguay.
As early as 1537, Pope Paul III, at the instigation of Bartolome de las Casas and the Dominicans, had condemned the enslavement and dispossession of Native Americans. Though also condemned in theory by the Spanish Crown, in practice encomienda system was enslavement.
In Paraguay in 1586 the encomienda system was in place. In Peru's mines Quechuan labor was exploited without regard for marriage ties, which led to Indian uprisings, suppression by the conquistadors, and a reluctance on the part of the Quechuans to accept the religion of their masters.
Roque Gonzalez was born of noble Spanish parents (some say of mixed blood--Creole) in Asunciön, Paraguay. (Whatever his bloodline, there is no doubt that his family was influential: his brother was the governor of Asunciön for a time.) Roque has been described as tall and slender with a broad forehead, fine lips, and a sympathetic expression.
Here in Asunciön he was educated, ordained at 23, became a beneficed priest of the Cathedral of Asunciön and began he priestly career working among the Indians. He participated in the local synod of 1603, during which the enslavement of Indians was again condemned. It ordered that they should be gathered into settlements for protection.
At 32 (in 1609), Roque became a Jesuit and was posted to a settlement south of Asunciön called San Ignacio. With other Jesuits he opposed Spanish imperialism, the imported Spanish Inquisition, and enslaving the Indians--for all of which he was bitterly opposed by the Spanish authorities.
He worked among and for the Indians for two decades, heading the first Paraguayan reduction of San Ignacio for three years and establishing another six in the Parana and Uruguay river regions. The reductions were similar to communes in that the members worked common land but each family also had its own plot.
It is a blessing that he was such a talented man. He was an architect, mason, and carpenter, and laid out a plaza in the Spanish fashion with Indian houses on three sides and a church with its rectory on the fourth. Roque spoke the Indian language and instituted a school for the study of Guarani as well as more traditional subjects. He introduced sheep and cattle herding.
He wrote hymns (which my friend Fr. Peter, a Russian priest, has rediscovered and is now studying while working in Paraguay among his beloved Guarani), organized processions, and compiled a catechism in rhyming verse.
The Franciscans in pueblos near Asunciön had neophytes work daily for settlers for a legal wage. In San Ignacio they worked for themselves and paid the Crown directly.
Roque believed the Gospel had to be preached in love from a position of trust not power and refused the normal military escort. In ten years he established a chain of settlements in Argentina and Uruguay. Indians flocked to the settlements for protection. After long and careful instruction, they would be baptized. They were taught valuable skills: weaving cotton, boat building, joinery, cart-making, farming, etc.--and the making of musical instruments, painting manuscripts, printing books, dancing, singing, and painting.
Contemporary accusations of the paternalism of the system disregards the political concepts of the 17th century. The Jesuits created the communities in an urgent defense of life. The administration and authority within the communities was in the hands of the Indians themselves--each had a mayor and council. In fact this was the only region of the Americas which was governed by the indigenous peoples themselves. Jesuit educational methods enriched and defended indigenous culture. Paraguay is still today the only officially bilingual country on the continent.
One of the last settlements founded by Gonzalez was in the forest north of the Rio Iyui (Ijuhi) Grande in an area dominated by the witch doctor and chieftain Nezu. In 1628 a settlement there and later in the year a pueblo at Caaro in southern Brazil.
Roque was opposed by Nezu, who instigated a raid by the Indians on the new reduction during which both Fr. Gonzalez and his brother priest Fr. Rodriguez were killed on November 15. Roque was struck in the head by an Indian, who broke Gonzalez's skull. Fr. Alonso Rodriguez suffered a similar fate. And two days later, Ijuhi was attacked and Fr. Castillo was stoned to death (see under Martyrs of Paraguay).
Fr. Gonzalez had spent his life seeking justice for the Guarini. The Indians who killed him thought he was just another White man. When they learned whom they had killed, it is said: "The Indians themselves lamented the death of Gonzalez, their 'pa'i' or protector, bitterly regretting their involvement in his death" (Benedictines, Delaney, Markus).
Rose-Philippine Duchesne, ISH V (AC)
Born in Grenoble, France, August 29, 1769; died November 18, 1852; beatified in 1940; canonized on July 3, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
Rose, also known as "The Lady of Mercy," was the daughter of a prosperous merchant. At the age of eight, her interest in mission work was enkindled by the visit of a Jesuit who had labored in Louisiana. She was educated by the Visitation nuns of Sainte- Marie-d'en-Haut, near Grenoble. At 17, against the opposition of her parents who wished to arrange a marriage for her, she joined the Visitation nuns. Her father, however, was successful in blocking her profession.
During the Reign of Terror in 1791, the nuns were repressed and expelled from their convent. Rose returned home from where she nursed the sick, taught children, visited imprisoned priests, and gathered together a community there. After the concordat of 1801 between Pope Pius VII and Napoleon had restored peaceful relations between the state and the Church, she attempted unsuccessfully to rebuild the convent where she had been educated. Nevertheless, she remained in the house and with one other took vows in what was intended to be a new congregation, the Daughters of the Propagation of the Faith. When the new community still faltered, in 1804, she convinced Mother Madeline Sophie Barat to accept it for her recently founded Society of the Sacred Heart.
Rose became a postulant of the society in December 1804 and was professed the next year. Her interest in the missions was again engaged by a visit from the abbot of La Trappe, who had been one of the first Cistercians sent to North America. Although she wished to be a missionary, Rose Philippine held administrative offices for 14 years.
In March 1818, she was sent as superioress with four sisters to the United States in answer to a request for help from Bishop Dubourg of Louisiana. Landing in New Orléans on May 29, the small group of women travelled up the Mississippi and founded the first American Sacred Heart house at Saint Charles, Missouri--in a log cabin. The group opened the first free school west of the Mississippi but moved to a brick building in Florisant near Saint Louis the next year. They accepted their first American postulant in 1820.
The community thrived after some difficulties, including the language barrier (they had received inadequate education in English), and by 1828, six houses had been established along the Mississippi River. She opened several schools in Missouri and Louisiana, insisting upon a high standard of education and compliance with French modes of behavior and discipline.
She received some criticism for not learning English, but she was known to have an endearing personality, which shone through despite the shock of the reality of mission life, which was so different from her imaginings.
On house they founded at Grand Côteau, about 150 miles from New Orléans, took four weeks to reach. The nine-week return journey was a nightmare. Rose Philippine was on a boat infected with yellow fever. After tending to the sick, she contracted the disease and was put ashore at Natchez (Mississippi). There she could find no shelter except the bed of a woman who had just died of yellow fever.
Still wanting to be an active missionary, she resigned as head of the American branch of the Sacred Heart in 1840. The following year, at the age of 71, Rose Philippine began a school for the Pottowatomy Indians in Sugar Creek, Kansas, at the request of the Jesuit Father de Smet. The Indians called her the "Woman-Who- Prays-Always."
After a year, unable to master the native language and her health failing, she was forced to leave the mission. She retired to Saint Charles. It was decided that the foundation should be closed, but Mother Duchesne campaigned to kept it open, and eventually succeeded. There was an apparent break down in communication between Rose Philippine and Mother Barat after the former's return to Saint Charles. It seems that a nun confiscated the correspondence. The relationship between the saints was finally when the puzzled Mother Barat sent Mother Duchesne's niece to find her. Rose Philippine, revered by all who knew her, died at the convent in Saint Charles (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Walsh, White).
Blessed Salomea of Poland, Poor Clare Widow (AC)
Born in Poland c. 1219; died in Skala, Hungary, 1268; beatified in 1673.
Queen and Poor Clare. They sound like two irreconcilable titles, and yet they could be given to another woman--the Virgin Mary. For wasn't she the queen of queens, and didn't she live the life of a Franciscan long before Saint Francis? Saint Francis only rediscovered the simplicity of her life. Every humble task of every woman in the world was known to Mary, the Queen.
Mary, Queen and Poor Clare! The titles crown our earthly Virgin like a crown of white thorns. The hedges are full of them at the moment. But let us return to Salomea, whose path on the earth runs alongside that of the Blessed Virgin.
Salomea was the daughter of Prince Lesko of Poland. At the age of three, like Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, she was taken from her parents to be betrothed to Prince Coloman of Hungary. An archbishop took her to the Hungarian court, where she would be taught the customs of the country. At 13, she was married to her lord.
Coloman, Salomea's husband, died young, leaving her a widow at age 22. He was killed in battle in 1241, and our queen, leaving the government to his brother, could now devote herself entirely to the religious life. She founded the convent of Poor Clares at Zawichost, later removed to Skala, where she became a Poor Clare.
Unlike the Blessed Virgin, Salomea bore no earthly children, but undertook the maternal responsibilities of an abbess. In the convent that she had founded, she would have preferred to take the last place rather than the first, but so great was her merit that whatever place she took, even if it were the last, at once became the first.
Unable to escape this leadership, she humbly accepted it and became the abbess. And if we turn back to Mary we see that she saw herself as the servant, but was the Queen. If we consider the little group of disciples and saintly women as the first Community, then wasn't Mary the Mother also their abbess?
Salomea died after 28 years of religious life, and like Mary went to heaven (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.