Pope Clement I, Martyr
Born at Pereaslavl, 1219; died at Vladimir, 1263; canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.
Grandprince Alexander of Novgorod, Vladimir and Kiev, saved Russia by his policy of conciliation towards the invading Tartars and firm resistance to enemies on the west. His name of Nevsky came from his victory in 1240 over the Swedes on the River Neva; he defeated the Teutonic Knights at Lake Peipus in 1242, and drove out the Lithuanians soon after. But he was no mere ambitious conqueror: "God is not on the side of force," he said, "but of truth and justice." He had several times to make long journeys to the Tartar overlords to intercede for his people, and earned much obloquy thereby from those who disapproved of his policy. He bore the unjust accusations patiently, and the religious integrity of his life, together with his great services to his people, caused him to be venerated as a saint: "Go glorified his righteous servant," it is said, "because he labored greatly for the land of Russia and for the true Christian religion." In 1938, Alexander Nevsky was made the subject of a film by Eisentein, with music by Prokofiev (Attwater).
Amphilochius of Iconium B (RM)
Died after 392. Amphilochius was a fellow student of Saint Basil under Libanius. He became a successful lawyer at Constantinople, a hermit, and finally one of the group of Cappadocian bishops, appointed by Saint Basil to the see of Iconium to counteract Arianism in Cappadocia. Amphilochius opposed the Macedonian heretics, against whom he wrote a work on the Holy Spirit that was highly commended by Saint Jerome. He presided at the synod of Sidon, which condemned the Messalians, who asserted that prayer is the only means of salvation (Benedictines).
Clement I, Pope M (RM)
Died c. 100.
"O God, make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace"
"The strong must make sure that they care for the weak. The rich must be certain to give enough to supply all the needs of the poor. The poor must thank God for supplying their needs . . . We all need each other: the great need the small, the small need the great. In our body, the head is useless without the feet and the feet without the head. The tiniest limbs of our body are useful and necessary to the whole" --St. Clement.
Details of Saint Clement's life are unknown. He may have been an ex-slave to the family of T. Flavius Clemens, the cousin of Emperor Domitian, and he may have been of Jewish descent. He is said to have been baptized by Saint Peter.
Clement was the third successor of Saint Peter (following Cletus) and governed the Church for about ten years (AD 88-97). Origen and others refer to him as the Clement whom Paul calls a fellow laborer (Phil. 4:3), but this is uncertain. Saint Irenaeus (c. 125-c. 203) says that Clement "had seen and consorted with the blessed apostles."
His acta state that, after converting a patrician named Theodora and her husband Sisinnius and 423 others, the people raised an opposition against him. He was banished by Emperor Trajan to the Crimea where he was made to work in the quarries. The nearest drinking water was six miles away, but Clement found a nearer spring for the use of the Christian captives. It is said that he preached so zealously among the prisoners working in the mines, that soon 75 churches were needed to serve the converts.
Unfortunately, his success drew further unwonted attention causing him to be condemned for his faith.
He was said to have been thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor tied around his neck, and that angels came and built him a tomb beneath the waves, which once a year became visible by a miraculous ebbing of the waves.
It was Clement's Epistle to the fractious Corinthians that made him so famous. "Under this Clement," says St. Irenaeus, "no small sedition took place among the brethren at Corinth, and the church of Rome sent a most sufficient letter to the Corinthians, establishing them in peace and renewing their faith, and announcing the tradition it had recently received from the apostles."
In the letter Clement wrote:
"Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church were persecuted and contended unto death. Look to the heroic apostles: Peter through unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but many labors, and having thus borne witness went on to his true place of glory. Paul through jealousy and strife, displayed the prize of endurance: seven times in bonds, driven into exile, stoned, a herald for the faith in east and west. . . . Associated with these great men of holy life is a great multitude of believers, suffering many tortures because of jealousy, some of them women who, though weak in body, completed the race of faith."
Clement's constant references to jealousy are to rebuke the church at Corinth, where hotheads had overthrown the lawful Christian leaders and unbelievers were mocking the Christian faith. Written in AD 95, the letter is even older than some parts of the New Testament. Using Old Testament stories he demonstrates the evil resulting from jealousy. He begs the Christians to show mutual tolerance and love and to respect those set in authority over them. He said that peace must be the aim of all who follow Jesus.
The letter is important not only for its eloquence, historical allusions, and its evidence of Roman prestige and authority at the end of the first century, but also as a model of the pastoral letter and a homily on Christian life. It established the instance of the bishop of Rome intervening authoritatively this early in the life of the Church as the pre-eminent authority in the affairs of another apostolic church to settle a dispute. It also provides evidence for the residence and martyrdom of Peter and Paul at Rome.
The letter was well-received by the Corinthians, who for many years used to have it read out in their religious assemblies. Another letter (really a sermon) and other writings bore Clement's name, but it is now known that they are not his. On the strength of the authentic letter to the Corinthians, Clement is accounted the first of the Apostolic Fathers.
Nothing of his martyrdom or place of death are known. His death may have occurred in exile in the Crimea, but the relics that Saint Cyril brought from there to Rome, after having supposedly miraculously recovered them piece by piece, with the anchor, are unlikely to have been his. These were deposited below the altar of San Clemente on the Coelian.
He is the patron saint of the Guild, Fraternity, and Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity of London, i.e., "Trinity House," which was formerly called St. Clement's, and is the authority responsible for lighthouses and lightships. The legend of his watery martyrdom has also led to such marine dedications as St. Clement's Isle in Mount's Bay (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).
In art, Saint Clement can be recognized as a pope with an anchor and fish. Sometimes there is an addition of (1) a millstone; (2) keys; (3) a fountain that sprung forth at his prayers; or (4) with a book. He might be shown lying in a temple in the sea (Roeder).
Clement of Metz B (AC)
Dates unknown. Clement, first bishop of Metz, was sent from Rome to evangelize that district of Roman Gaul (Benedictines).
Columbanus of Luxeuil, OSB Abbot (RM)
Born in West Leinster, Ireland, 530-543; died November 23, 615; feast day formerly November 21.
The life of St. Columbanus teaches the benefits of trusting obedience to God and those who are placed in authority over us. Whenever events turned seemingly bad, they led Columbanus to a new adventure, to doing even greater work for the Kingdom of God. When God closes one door, He always opens another--even closer to His inner sanctum--if we obediently follow where He leads us.
There are few extant manuscripts about the life of Columbanus, but the Abbot Jonas wrote his biography about 30 years after the saint's death. While the current view of Columbanus is one of a stern man who hurled anathemas and often flew into a rage (for example, felling a 50-year-old tree with a single blow), his biographer shows a gentle, devout, rigorous, yet soft-spoken man. If Columbanus blazed with the strength of God, he also shone with the love of Christ.
The good abbot Jonas tells us that St. Columbanus was born of a noble Leinster family and received a classical education at Clonard, the great mother-school of Ireland, which Saint Finnian had founded with a rare Gaelic blending of sanctity and scholarship.
Jonas reports that Columbanus was handsome of appearance with a fair complexion, and soon crossed swords with the devil in the form of lascivae puellae, wanton girls. Somewhere about this time the king of Cualann sent his daughter to St. Finnian at Clonard to read her Psalter in Latin. It would hardly be unreasonable to say that Clonard housed some girl students under conditions akin to modern universities.
Jonas writes of this time:
Whilst he was turning these things over within him he came to the cell of a religious woman dedicated to God. After having greeted her with lowly voice, he made as bold as he could to seek her counsel with the forwardness of youth.
When she saw him in the budding strength of youth, she said: "I, going forward with all my strength, began the battle. For 12 years I have had no home. Since I sought this place of exile--Christ being my leader--I have never followed the world; having set my hand to the plough I have never looked back. Had I not been of the weaker sex I would have crossed the seas and sought an even more hidden place of pilgrimage.
"You are aflame with the fires of youth, yet you dwell in the land of your birth. You lend your ear willy nilly to weak voices, your own weakness bending you. Yet you think you can freely avoid women. Do you remember Eve coaxing, Adam yielding, Samson weakened by Delilah, David lured from his old righteousness by Bethsheba's beauty, Solomon the Wise deceived by the love of women?
"Go," she said, "go, child, and turn aside from the ruin into which so many have fallen. Leave the path that leads to the gates of hell." Frightened by these words and--beyond what you would believe of an invincible youth--terror-stricken, he returns thanks to his chastener, and bidding farewell to his companions he sets out. His mother beseeches him not to leave her. . . . Casting herself on the ground she refuses him leave to go. But he crossing the threshold and his mother, implores her not to be broken with grief, saying that she shall see him no more in this life, but that whither soever lies the path of holiness, there will he go.
Columbanus did as he later wrote in his On Mortification regarding seeking and obeying counsel: "Nothing is sweeter than calm of conscience, nothing safer than purity of soul, which yet no one can bestow on himself because it is properly the gift of another."
For a time Columbanus withdrew from the battle living with another holy man, Sinnel, on Cluain Inis, one of the hundred islands of Lough Erne. The counsel of the holy woman did not mean that he should decline battle with his enemy, but that he should decline to do so on the enemy's own battle field. Like his Master, he accepted battle on the field chosen for him by the Spirit of God.
During his time on the island he became so well-versed in Sacred Scripture that he wrote a commentary on the Psalms.
On a nearby island Saint Comgall was preparing for his life's work by living as an anchorite. He and Columbanus may have met while living as hermits, for once Comgall began the monastery at Bangor on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, we soon find Columbanus in a wattle-hut there--one of the first monks of Bangor.
After many years at Bangor the Holy Spirit prompted Columbanus to become a missionary. Still mistrustful of interpreting the movement of the Spirit within him, Columbanus sought Comgall's permission and was refused until Comgall recognized in Columbanus's obedience the mark of a divine call.
Around 580-585 (about age 45), emulating Jesus and the Apostles, he left Ireland with a band of twelve monks and worked in Wales, where he collected more monks to go with them. Saint Gall, who evangelized the Swiss and founded a famous monastery, was one of his disciples who accompanied him. (One source says that they preached in England.)
Upon arriving in Gaul, the Irish monks preached to the people both in words and deeds of charity, penance, and devotion. Their reputation so impressed the Burgundian King Guntramnus (Gontran; a grandson of Clovis) that, about 590, he offered Columbanus ground for their first place of exile at Annegray in the mountains of the Vosges. It provided Columbanus the two things he desired most: quiet contemplation of God and work among souls. The dark mountain forests with their darker caves gave him constant isolation from the world which God's love was teaching him to fly. The simple, untaught pagans of these forests needed his teaching of the faith.
For some time the monks dwelt in a ruined castle-hamlet at Annegray in Haute-Saone, content to bivouac among the ruins. Columbanus had soon collected such a vast number of disciples that a new home had to be sought some miles distant at Luxeuil. There, built from the stones of a ruined Roman bath and temple, stands a monastery that has made Luxeuil famous not only in France but throughout the Church. Columbanus governed Luxeuil for 25 happy years.
Abbot Jonas records here that Columbanus and the community prayed for the wife of a man and she was instantly cured, though she had been ill for over a year. But he incidentally tells us how this man had brought a wagon of bread and vegetables most opportunely because the monastery was so poor that they could give a sick brother only roots and bark.
Walking through the woods one day carrying the Holy Scriptures, Columbanus debated with himself whether he would prefer to fall in with wild beasts or wicked men. He blessed himself many times as he pondered the question, going deeper and deeper into the forest. His question was answered by the appearance of twelve wolves coming toward him. Standing motionless as they surrounded him, he prayed, "God, look to my help: Lord, make haste to help me." They came nearer and nuzzled his clothes as he stood unshaken. Then they turned and went wandering again in the woods.
When he thought his question answered, he continued on his way. He had not gone far when he heard the voices of Swabian robbers who haunted the countryside. Again, his constancy was tested but they left him untouched.
Another time, diving further into the forest he saw to his ascetic delight a dark cave that he made his own by instantly taming the fierce bear to whom it belonged. (Another story says he killed the bear with his bare hands--a feat indeed!)
Yet Bishop Chamnoald, once Columbanus's disciple, says we should not marvel that bird and beast should obey the command of a man of God. Chamnoald tells that Columbanus would call to the wild creatures when he went into the woods to fast or pray, and that they would come to him at once. He would stroke them with his hand and caress them: and the wild things and the birds would leap and frisk about him for sheer joy as pups jump on their masters. The bishop said that he himself had seen this, and that even the squirrels would answer his call, climb into the hands and shoulder of Columbanus and run in and out of the folds of his cowl.
Throughout his life his chief concern was to discern the Will of God and do it. When the love he always enkindled by his gifts of soul and even of body was obvious even to himself, he fled to his bear cave to be alone with God. He seems afraid of attracting the love of others and distracting them from the love of God.
Once when he was praying in his cave, he received a divine revelation that many of his beloved monks were ill. At once he hastened home to Luxeuil. He bade the sick brethren rise and thrash the corn on the thrashing-floor. The obedient brethren, according to Jonas, were instantly cured; the disobedient stayed ill for the better part of a year and came near dying.
One day before dinner, the cellarer was drawing beer from the hogshead, when he was summoned elsewhere by Columbanus. In the hurry of the moment he forgot to put the cork in the tap. It is needless to say that on his return to the cellar the cellarer found not a drop spilled! Jonas writes of it, "O how great was the merit of him who commanded; and how great the obedience of him who did as he was bid."
The growth of Luxeuil led to the creation of a second monastery at Fountains (Fontaines). Soon his followers spread all over Europe, building monasteries in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
With this growth in numbers and influence came the inevitable opposition. Columbanus aroused hostility, especially from the Frankish bishops, by the Celtic usages he installed in his monasteries and for refusing to acknowledge the bishops' jurisdiction over them. He defended his practices in letters to the Holy See and refused to attend a Gallican synod at Chalons in 603 when summoned to explain his Celtic usages.
His outspoken protest against the disorders of the Frankish court led in 610 to King Theoderic exiling Columbanus and all his monks who were not of French blood. The quarrel recorded by Abbot Jonas is verified by history. The young king of Burgundy, Theoderic (Thierry) II, had given shelter to his grandmother Queen Brunhilda when she was driven out of her homeland by the Austrasian nobles. Brunhilda was resentful that Columbanus denied her entrance into his monastery, contrary to the Frankish custom, although Columbanus banned all women and even lay men.
Thierry and Columbanus argued over sexual morality and, of course, the saint found no support from the local episcopacy, who were dependent upon the crown. Pope Saint Gregory's letters to Queen 0903Brunhilda and her grandson on the need of ending simony, especially from the episcopate, lead us to believe that the bishops of Burgundy and Austrasia were not the men to correct Merovingian morals. If things came to a breaking point between Luxeuil and Theoderic these prelates might be expected to find their consciences coincided with the king's.
Unmarried Theoderic was already the father of four children, whom Brunhilda in the midst of her court asked Columbanus to bless. The saint replied, "Bless them! Bless the fruit of adultery, the children of shame, the testimony of all the debaucheries of their father! In the name of the Lord who chastises sinners, I curse them!"
Now this was probably a little harsh, but could these barbarian peoples understand any other? The only argument that could convince these beasts of prey, these German invaders who 150 years earlier had installed themselves in the ruins of the Roman Empire, was fear. Fear of hell, fear of eternal torment, fear of the God of vengeance--there was no other way of holding in check the violence that was ready to break loose.
But a break with such a man as the widely revered Columbanus has to be done diplomatically. A favorable opening seemed to be in the question of the keeping of Easter. It was and still is a question so obscure that some writers have accused the British and Irish Churches of being "Quartodecimans," by keeping Easter as the Jews keep their Pasch (probably as they had originally been taught by Rome), on a day determined by the full moon, even if that day were not a Sunday.
A synod of Merovingian bishops was summoned by King Theoderic on the advice of Pope Gregory to reform several matters, but not the celebration of Easter. The synod's chief concern was to indict Luxeuil for its Easter observance, so Columbanus appealed in writing to the pope as did Saint Patrick before him. He also wrote eloquently and politely to the synod, but to no avail. He and his brethren were exiled. Apparently, his letter to St. Gregory never reached its destination. (It seems that the mail in those days was as unreliable as now, or that a courtier intercepted it.)
That Columbanus bore no malice is evident when he had a vision of battle and Theoderic's violent death. He awoke in grief and was counselled to pray for the victor against Theoderic. But the old saint replied, "Your counsel is foolish and unholy. Nor is it the will of God, Who bade us pray for our enemies."
The monks were escorted by the military down the Loire through Orleans and Tours to the port of Nantes, where he wrote a famous letter to the Frankish monks left at Luxeuil. There they were put on a ship bound for Ireland. The ship, however, was driven up upon rocks where it was stranded. Thus, they never made it back to Ireland. Instead, they made their way through Paris and Meaux to the court of Theodebert II of Neustria (Austrasia), where they were offered refuge at Metz. From Metz the monks began to preach the Gospel among the pagan Alemanni around Bregenz on Lake Constanz amidst the ruins of the Roman town, where they stayed for three years and two of the monks were slain by hostile natives. In their wanderings, these Irish monks founded over 100 monasteries in France and Switzerland.
It is said that his preaching converted many, including Saint Ouen, who founded Jouarre, and Saint Fare, the daughter of a noble family who founded Faremoutiers. His influence was extensive.
Theoderic, after conquering the area of Bregenz and becoming king of Austrasia, again drove Columbanus, 70 or 80 years old, into exile with only one companion. But Columbanus found his reward of peace at the end of his life.
The province of Lombardy, which he entered when he had crossed the Alps, was ruled by Agilulph, an Arian. His wife was the wise, noble, saintly Theodelinda to whom St. Gregory dedicated his Dialogues. The fame of Columbanus seems to have already reached the court. King Agilulph, who a few years before was besieging Rome and creating a desert of the Campagna, welcomed the exiled saint almost as a national asset.
Within the Apennines between Milan and Genoa, at a spot now famous under the name of Bobbio, there was a ruined basilica dedicated to St. Peter. If, as is not unlikely, the ruins were the handiwork of these ruthless Arian Lombards, there was a quality of penance and restitution in Agilulph the Arian's gift of it to Columbanus.
One incident throws light on the undaunted worker. To restore the basilica the little group of monks cut and dragged timber from the neighboring wood. Sometimes the great trees were felled where no timber-wain could go. The monks were forced to carry the great beams on their shoulders. Yet God seemed so manifestly to help these men to help themselves that heavy logs which, on the word of Jonas, 30 or 40 men could barely have carried over level ground, were carried over rocks on the shoulders of ancient Columbanus and two or three monks. With a touch of poetry Jonas adds that the abbot and his monks carried their load "with such unfaltering feet as if moving in play and with joy."
This abbey flourished for 12 centuries until Napoleon closed it in 1802. Its library was divided among various libraries in Europe. Pope Pius XI stated that the collection from Bobbio accounted for much of the prestige enjoyed among scholars by the Ambrosian Library in Milan.
Queen Theodelinda's prayer and plan for the conversion of her Arian husband and the Lombards received sudden reinforcement by the illustrious exile from Luxeuil. The anger of one queen, Brunhilda, was the opportunity for a greater good--God works all things to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Although 10 years had elapsed since Agilulph had begun a friendship with Pope St. Gregory the Great, which might soon have born fruit in the king's conversion, St. Gregory's death had withdrawn the main clerical influence over the king's Arian mind. With the coming of Columbanus, Theodelinda saw the possibility of Gregory's influence being renewed.
But in Lombardy Columbanus met for the first time the subtle atmosphere of the two great Eastern heresies: the king and most of his subjects were Arians. The rest of his people, even the clergy, were Nestorians enmeshed in the famous controversy of the Three Chapters. Columbanus could find his peace-nurtured believing mind only bewildered by these Oriental disputations and phrase-weavings- -historians wrong both him and the original sources of his history when they see descending the slopes of the Alps only a dogmatic sleuth-hound yearning for controversial blood. Faced with such heresies, Columbanus wrote a treatise and became involved in opposing the Three Chapters, which were condemned by the fifth general council of Constantinople. The bishops of Istria and some of Lombardy defended these writings with such warmth as to break off communion with Rome.
But Queen Theodelinda saw that this undaunted lover of truth and peace was God-sent to bring peace to her king and people through the truth. Though his life was now measured only by months, he could not stint himself when Theodelinda requested help in bringing Arian and Nestorian Lombardy to faith guaranteed by the see of Rome.
At Agilulph's request St. Columbanus wrote a letter to the reigning Pope Boniface IV regarding the need to summon a synod to bring dogmatic peace. In it he says:
". . . the schism of the people is a grief to [Agilulph] on account of the queen and her son and perhaps for his own sake too; seeing that he is believed to have said that if he knew the truth he would believe. . . . The king asks you, the queen asks you, all ask you, that all things may become one as soon as possible, so that as there is peace in the fatherland there may be peace in the faith and the whole flock of Christ may henceforth be one. Rex regum! tu Petrum, te tota sequetur ecclesia (O king of kings, follow thou Peter, and the whole Church will follow thee)."
Columbanus wrote a defense of Rome and of the orthodox faith to an anonymous person, who was probably an Arian bishop of northern Italy: "Thereupon I made such reply as I could . . . for I believe that the Pillar of the Church is always unmoved in Rome."
Abbot Jonas assures us that, no doubt by the wish of King Agilulph and Queen Theodelinda, he took up his abode near Milan, that "by the weapon of the Scriptures" he might rend and destroy the deceits of the heretics, that is, of the Arian heresy, against whom he wrote a scholarly book.
He continued to preach to large crowds who were deeply moved at the sight of his long white hair and beard, and of his face which though deeply lined with age and fatigue still shone with the zeal for Christ and was able to move souls.
His loyalty to Rome was so great that he sent this book to the pope for approval or condemnation. It is the same Columbanus who appealed to Pope Gregory for a ruling on the Easter question: "This [book] I have sent to you that you may read it and correct it where it is contrary to the truth; for I dare not count myself to be beyond correction."
He witnesses that the Irish Church acknowledges the authority of the Roman Pontiff, not because of Rome but because of St. Peter:
All we Irish dwelling on the edge of the world are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of the disciples who, under the Holy Spirit, wrote the Sacred Canon. We accept nothing outside this evangelical and apostolic teaching. There was no heretic, no Jew, no schismatic, but the Catholic Faith, as first delivered to us by you, the successor of the apostles, is kept unshaken. . . . We, indeed, are, as I have said, chained to the Chair of St. Peter; for although Rome is great and known afar, it is great and honored with us only by this Chair.
In writing this last witness of an Irish saint, Columbanus was refuting beforehand the argument current since the 16th century, that the See of Rome set up by St. Peter obtained its supremacy not because of Peter but because of Rome. Two Churches, Persia and Ireland, by their witness to the Chair of Peter, are the refutation of this argument; because Persia in the East and Ireland in the West were unconquered by Rome.
Thus it was that God converted both Agilulph and his people through Columbanus. For centuries Bobbio was the citadel of scientific defense which owed its existence to the man who united culture and sanctity in one mind and heart. When ruin overtook it centuries later, the gathered treasures of its library enriched the libraries that still enrich the scholarship of the world.
Columbanus's prophecy about the death of Theodoric, the rise of Clotaire, and the brutal murder of Brunhilda lead Clotaire to invite Columbanus back to France. He would not go back asked the king to look kindly on the monks of Luxeuil.
The Church also has St. Columbanus to thank for two contributions of great worth--his Rule and his Penitential.
His rule is not original but merely embodies the stern asceticism of his fellow-countrymen and especially his fellow monks at Bangor. In the end it was found that the less exacting Rule of Saint Benedict was more acceptable to the would-be monks of the West. While the sterner rule everywhere yielded to the milder, every movement towards a reform of the Rule of St. Benedict has been a movement towards the ideal of St. Columbanus.
Even greater than his Rule is his penitential, containing the prescriptions of penances to be imposed upon the monks for every fault, however light. Of the penitential Oscar Watkins writes:
"The fact of outstanding importance with respect to the Penitential of Columbanus is that while it corresponds to no existing practice to be found anywhere in force from former times on the continent of Europe, it reproduces all the main features of the peculiar system which has been seen at work in the Celtic churches . . . As in the British and Irish systems, the penance and the reconciliation are alike private" (p. 615).
"It is not a little remarkable that by the end of the seventh century the Rule of St. Columbanus, for whatsoever reason, practically disappears, and the Rule of St. Benedict becomes supreme. But his Penitential system no only survived in the monasteries which were now being founded, but was destined in time, after the later English influence, to become the general penitential system of Western Europe" (Watkins, p. 124).
Few customs are so characteristic of the Latin Church, which is officially distinguished from the Eastern Church, as the very frequent and humble practice of confession. It is to the credit of sinful human nature that this Sacrament, which our Redeemer made not so much an obligation as a privilege, should yet be frequented almost as an obligation. Perhaps we are close to the motive of this humble practice in thinking of its connection, by way of cleansing, with the great Banquet of the Body and Blood. One of the chief glories of the fellow-countrymen of Columbanus will be that to him more than to any other individual in the Church this lowly practice seems due.
Columbanus's last literary testament is a letter to Pope Boniface IV, which would lead the reader to believe that he was an unwearied warrior for the faith, rather than bowed with ailment and age. He also wrote a charming poem in Adonic verse to his young friend Fedolius, which showed him to be less like Tertullian and more like Gregory Nazianzen or Prudentius.
The only certain date in his life is that of his dies natalis, though we don't know how he died. We do know that the exile finally made it home to his Father and was welcomed there. His body was laid to rest in the heart of the Apennines, where it remains.
His somewhat intemperate defense of the Celtic over the Roman liturgical customs and the austerity of his rule, make him a rather forbidding personality; but on the other hand, through the numerous abbeys, founded by himself and by his disciples, especially after they had become Benedictines, he exerted a determining and lasting influence on Western civilization. His submission to Rome at a time when there was a real fear that the center of Christendom might pass into the hands of the Celts, is one of the most significant events in the history of the Church. He dedicated Ireland to the Universal Church and laid that fear to rest.
In 1916, the American Bishop Edward J. Galvin, born on the feast of Columbanus in 1882, founded the Columban Missionary Society and, in 1922, the Missionary Sisters of Saint Columban. Thus, the heritage of this evangelizer continues in yet another land and time (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, MacManus, MacNabb, Metlake, Montague, Waddell, Walsh, Watkins).
St. Columbanus is represented as a Benedictine with a missioner's cross and a bear near him. Sometimes he carries an abbatial staff, a missioner's cross, and wears a sun on his chest; or he is shown in a bear's den with a fountain springing up at his prayers (Roeder).
Felicity of Rome M (RM)
(also known as Felicitas)
Died 165. What would you say if tomorrow you read in the newspaper that your next-door neighbor urged her seven sons to surrender to a killer? For their faith? Would you think she was a fanatic? Or, would you applaud her bravery? As someone once asked me, would you be willing to raise your own children to lay down their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and His Church? Would you be willing to lay your own life on the line?
It's sometimes easy to read the lives of the saints and think that they are simply fantasy figures--not flesh and blood, not real people who shed real tears, who experienced a moment of fear or vacillation, who felt real pain. But what if it were you or your neighbor?
We read the Scriptures and hear the homilies that our lives should be so absorbed in God that we would gladly do whatever He would require. Yet, so often, we cannot even bear the pricks of another's words.
I suppose that I first became interested in St. Felicity because of the similarity between her story and that of the mother of the Maccabees (2 Maccabees 7)--a story that affected me viscerally when I first read it to the assembly, unable to stop my tears.
While we know little about the real Felicity and her seven sons, her legend is large enough to call us to question the depth of our own faith. There was indeed a widow named Felicity martyred in Rome on November 23 in an unknown year and buried in the cemetery of Maximus on the Salarian Way.
The traditional account asserts that Felicity was a rich widow with seven sons and devoted herself to charitable work. She was so effective in proselytizing that the pagan priests lodged a complaint against her with Emperor Marcus Antonius Pius, who caused her to be arraigned before Publius, the prefect of Rome. He used various pleas and threats in an unsuccessful attempt to get her to worship the pagan gods and was equally unsuccessful with her seven sons who followed their mother's example.
He remanded the case to the Emperor, who ordered them all executed (or they were then brought before four different judges and sentenced to die in differing ways). Felicity was beheaded with Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial; Januarius was scourged to death; Felix and Philip were beaten to death with clubs; and Silvanus was drowned in the Tiber.
So, what would you do in St. Felicity's shoes? Let's all pray to God that we will be able to withstand the trial.
While this is a legend, in fact, there are eight martyrs by these names. Seven men with these names all died and are commemorated on July 10, and were buried in four Roman cemeteries. One of them, Silvanus, is even buried near Felicity's tomb. The proximity probably gave rise to the legend that they were brothers (the so- called Seven Brothers) and her sons, but there is no evidence that the eight were related by any blood other than the blood of martyrs.
It is likely that this Felicity, rather than the one associated with Perpetua, is the saint named in the Canon of the Mass. It is also likely that St. Felicity and Saint Symphorosa are the same person (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
In art this Felicity is enthroned in religious habit or widow's weeds, holding a palm, surrounded by her seven sons, who also hold palms. Sometimes she is shown (1) with a palm, book and four children at her feet; (2) with St. Andrew Apostle; or (3) with a sword by her. She is invoked by women who pray for sons (Roeder).
Gregory of Girgenti B (RM)
Died c. 638. Gregory, a Sicilian of the Byzantine Rite, who, after a protracted sojourn in the Eastern lauras, was nominated bishop of his native town of Girgenti (Agrigentum) by Saint Gregory the Great. His interesting commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes is still available (Benedictines).
Lucretia of Mérida VM (RM)
Died 306. The maiden Lucretia was martyred at Mérida (Emerita) in western Spain (Benedictines).
Blessed Margaret of Savoy, OP Tert., Widow (AC)
Born at Pinerolo in 1382; died 1464; beatified in 1669.
Margaret of Savoy, daughter of Duke Amadeo II, is one of three royal princesses who wore the Dominican habit and were beatified. In the 15th century, she was the glory of a family that has given several beati to the Church.
Born into the royal house of Savoy, Margaret grew up in a household in which piety and wealth were ordinary. Her own parents died when she was small, and she was educated by an uncle, who arranged an early marriage for her to the Marquis of Montferrat, Theodore Paleologus.
As queen of her fairly large domain, Margaret was the model of Christian rulers. She felt that it was her duty to exceed in charity and humility in the proportion that she was wealthier than those around her, and she devoted all of her time to God and to her neighbors. Her husband was a widower with two children, to whom she gave the greatest care. The hundreds of dependents on the large estates came to her for charity and instruction.
Disaster stuck Savoy several times in the years when she was wife and mother. Famine and plague came, making great demands on her time and her courage. Unhesitatingly, she went out to nurse the plague-stricken with her own hands, and she sent out food and clothing from her husband's stores until it was doubtful if anything would be left. After this crisis passed, war hovered over the kingdom, and she prayed earnestly that they would be delivered from the horrors of invasion.
In 1418, the marquis died. His young widow was one of the most eligible women in Europe. Margaret sorrowed for her husband, but she made it clear to her relatives that they need not plan another marriage for her, as she was going to enter a convent. In order to live a life of complete renunciation, she decided to found a convent of her own at Alba in Liguria that would follow the ancient rule of Saint Dominic. Accordingly, she took over a cloister which had fallen into ruin, having only a few poor inhabitants, and rebuilt it for Dominican use. She dedicated the house to St. Mary Magdalen.
There is one very delightful story told of her sojourn in the convent. When she had been there many years, she one day had a young visitor; he was the son of one of her step-children. Hunting nearby, he had killed a doe, and he brought her the motherless fawn to tend. It was a pretty little animal, and it soon grew to be a pet. The legends about the fawn have probably been exaggerated, as it was supposed to be able to go and find any sister she would name, and, for several years, the animal had free rein of the halls and cells of the sisters. Perhaps it was true, though, since the house confessor told her that the deer must go. She took it to the gate and told it to go. It fled into the forest, and returned only when Margaret was about to die.
Margaret attained a high degree of contemplative prayer. One time Our Lord appeared to her and asked her whether she would rather suffer calumny, sickness, or persecution. Margaret generously accepted all three. Her offer was taken, and for the remaining years of her life she suffered intensely from all three sorrows (Dorcy). It should be noted that Saint Vincent Ferrer influenced Margaret to join the Dominican tertiaries (Benedictines).
Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, Priest M (RM)
Born near Zacatecas, Mexico, on January 13, 1891; died November 23, 1927; beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.
In 1911 (age 20), Blessed Miguel entered the Society of Jesus. He studied in the United States, Spain, and Belgium, where he was ordained. Returning to Mexico, he had to carry out his priestly ministry secretly because of the religious persecution. However, his zeal in performing his duties led to his arrest on false charges by the authorities and he was condemned to death by a firing squad (R.M.). When we were raising money for the gallery of American beati and saints at St. Patrick's in Washington, I came to love poor Blessed Miguel. There were plenty of people who wanted to sponsor the icons for Mother Seton, Rose of Lima, Father Damian, and others, but poor Miguel was an orphan for a very long time. No one knew who he was or what he had done. He is so recently beatified that none of my lists of saints even include him. Blessed Miguel, pray for us and all the forgotten of the earth!
Paternian of Fermo B (AC)
Died c. 343. Towards the end of the persecution of Diocletian, Paternian escaped to the mountains. Later he was made bishop of Fano (Benedictines).
Paulinus of Wales (AC)
(also known as Polin, Pewlin, Paulhen)
Died c. 505. A Welsh abbot, pupil of Saint Illtyd, Paulinus is possibly the founder of the monastery of Whitland (Caermarthen), where he had among his disciples Saint David and Saint Teilo (Benedictines).
Rachildis of Saint-Gall, OSB Hermit (PC)
Died c. 946. Anchoress who lived walled up in a cell near that of Saint Wiborada, under the obedience of the abbot of St. Gall in Switzerland (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Sisinius of Cyzicus B (RM)
Died after 325. Bishop Sisinius of Cyzicus was a confessor of the faith under Diocletian. He was dragged by wild horses, but survived and was present at the Council of Nicaea (Benedictines).
Trudo, OSB Abbot (RM)
(also known as Trond, Trudon, Tron, Truyen, Trudjen)
Died c. 695. A Benedictine under Saint Remaclus, Trudo was ordained a priest by Saint Clodulphus of Metz, and eventually founded and governed an abbey on his paternal estate (c. 660), which was afterwards called after him Saint-Trond. It is situated between Louvain and Tongres (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Wilfetrudis of Nivelle, OSB Abbess (AC)
Died after 670. Wilfetrudis was the second abbess of the Benedictine convent of Nivelles in Brabant, which had been founded by her aunt Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (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.