On this date in 1899, the first traffic ticket in the U.S. was issued, to cab driver Jacob German for doing 12 mph down Lexington in New York City. Although now legal, achieving 12 mph in Manhattan can still be difficult.
Asclas of Antinoe (d. ca. 287) suffered under Egyptian governor Arrian, who was under Emperor Diocletian, who was under the impression he could wipe out Christianity through state-sponsored terrorism. Invited to sacrifice to the pagan gods, Asclas refused, and moreover prophesied that Arrias would be forced to call Jesus Christ the true God. Arrias ordered him viciously tortured, but when one of those present said, “I think he’s dead,” Asclas replied, “No, I’m not.”
Arrias had a meeting across the Nile in Antinoe the next day, and ordered Asclas carried across, hoping to pop in on the execution during the lunch break. In answer to Asclas’ prayers, Arrias’ boat stopped in the middle of the river. Strain as they might, the oarsmen could make no headway at all. At the time, the governor was writing (or dictating) the charges against Asclas, and when he wrote (said), “he worships Jesus, the true God,” the boat was freed, and they were able to complete their crossing.
He ordered Asclas burned, and when that didn’t work, drowned, which worked. As he was being hauled to the river, the holy martyr told the Christians encouraging him, “Find my body and the rock, and bury them together.” The soldiers tied a rock around his neck and flung him in. Three days later, the Christians found his body, and the rock, and buried them together.
Columba of Rieti (1467 – 1501) was serenaded by angels on the day of her birth, and visited by a white dove on the day of her baptism. Her parents were perpetually poor out of charity and almsgiving. She learned to read from the local nuns, and memorized the Little Office by listening to it a lot. Throughout her life she was a devotée of Catherine of Siena.
At twelve she prayed to know her vocation, and had a vision of saints standing around the throne of Christ. Consulting her copy of Dream Interpretation for Italian Adolescents, she took a private vow of chastity, planning a life of solitude. Unfortunately, she neglected to inform her parents of these plans. They of course had procured a nice young man to marry her, neglecting on their part to inform her — until he was actually sitting in the parlor, waiting to take her to dinner and a movie.
In a vision she was informed of a custom by which cutting off all one’s hair and giving it to one’s unwanted suitor would make him realize one desired to be a nun. Fortunately her suitor also knew this custom (presumably through more pedestrian channels), and got the hint. (There is no word about what he did with the hair.) This enraged Columba’s brothers, who tormented her about it (up to and including attempted murder) until she left home.
Throughout her life, Columba had visions and ecstasies, including events from the life of our Lord. After one particularly vivid ecstasy of the Passion, she prayed not to have that one again, lest it kill her. (Mel Gibson, eat your heart out.) In another vision she saw the Christ Child, which made up for the nativity set her confessor had promised her but kept forgetting to give her.
At nineteen she was received into the Dominican tertiaries, and immediately set off on a pilgrimage to Viterbo, about 100 km west on the S S79. Along the way she exorcised a woman who had been possessed by a demon for 18 years, and her fame went before her to such an extent that when she got to Narni, the people there decided to kidnap her and adopt her as their own pet wonderworker. She managed to outsmart them and return to Rieti.
Eventually she was made Mother Superior of a Dominican Tertiary community in Perugia, which she ruled with compassion and tenderness until her death from unspecified “natural causes.” She is called upon in the prayers of those suffering from magic, sorcery, temptation, or living in Perugia.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 20 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Asclas of Egypt (OCA) – Main source
Saint Asclas of Antinoe (SQPN)
Blessed Columba of Rieti (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Blessed Columba of Rieti (SQPN)
On this date in 1536, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, lost her head, primarily for not having an heir-raising experience.
Cynethryth, mother of Dunstan of Canterbury (909 – 988), was in church on Candlemas when all the candles blew out. Suddenly hers and only hers burst into flame again. This foretold that her future son would bring eternal light to the Church in England. Eternity hasn’t happened yet, but we’re still reading about him 1000 years later, and that’s a pretty good start.
Young Dunstan was schooled by Irish monks at Glastonbury, served under Uncle Anselm at Canterbury, and finally joined the court of King Æthelstan. He quickly became a favorite, which aroused jealousy, which resulted in a charge of witchcraft, which in turn resulted in being ejected from the court, which was closely followed by being beaten and thrown into a cesspool. He was nursed back to health by a friend, and removed to Winchester to serve his uncle, Bishop Ælfheah.
Uncle Ælf (as his nephew assuredly never called him) suggested the monastic life, but Dunstan doubted he had the celibacy gene. A terrible attack of tumours (possibly a result of the beating) changed his mind (not sure why — it is perhaps best we don’t try to reconstruct his reasoning). He was monkified and returned to Glastonbury, where he lived in a tiny cell, played his harp, and worked in the smithy. It was there that he had a close encounter with the devil’s nose — Dunstan was attacked with temptation, and fought back with tongs.
When Æthelstan died, his successor Edmund summoned Dunstan to his seat at Cheddar (no cheesy jokes, please) and made him a minister. Once again jealousies arose, and Dunstan was dismissed, but not for long. Soon thereafter, when Edmund was hunting stag and found himself careening headlong toward a precipice, his entire treatment of Dunstan flashed before his eyes. He promised he would make amends if his life were spared, whereupon the horse stopped at the very cliff edge. He (Edmund, not the horse) was as good as his word, and appointed Dunstan abbot of Glastonbury. As abbot, Dunstan established the Rule of Benedict, rebuilt buildings that had fallen into ruin, and put his brother Wulfric in charge of preventing monks from escaping (don’t ask).
When, some years later, then-King Eadwig was late for a meeting, Dunstan went to find him and walked in on the king, um, entertaining a young noblewoman and her mother. When the king refused to, um, break it off, Dunstan physically dragged him to the meeting and forced him to denounce the girl (but, curiously, not her mother) as a “strumpet.” Eadwig, enraged, had the monastery sacked and plundered. That day, Dunstan saw a travel brochure extolling the wonders of Flanders, and caught the next boat train. Not long after, Eadwig was deposed by his brother Edgar. Dunstan was recalled to England and made bishop of first London and then Worcester. When word came that the appointed Archbishop of Canterbury had died crossing the Alps (going to procure the pallium from the Pope), Dunstan was conferred the honor. Fortunately, he survived his pallium-procurement peregrination.
Upon his return, he became de facto Prime Minister, and effectively ruled both church and state. He ended the practices of simony and clerical nepotism, enforced monastic celibacy, and implemented many other reforms. Interestingly, the coronation service he wrote for Edgar has been used for every crowned head of England/Britain since.
When, a few kings later, Æthelred the Unready took the throne under questionable circumstances, Dunstan spoke up, and (was) “retired” to Canterbury, whence he continued to strengthen and reform the Church. When he knew his end was near, he shopped for a tomb, then went to bed for the last time. He was buried at Canterbury, and although the monks at Glastonbury claimed his body had been moved there in 1012, they were proved wrong when Canterbury produced the bones. Sady, these were destroyed in the Reformation.
Dunstan is the patron of every kind of metalsmith, as well as lighthouse keepers.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 19 (Wikipedia)
Dunstan (Wikipedia) – Main source
(I compared other sources, notably OCA, SQPN, and St. Patrick’s, but found nothing there worth incorporating)
On this date in 1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet, producing two long meteor showers. There were rocks around the clock, all right.
David & Terichan of Georgia (d. 693) lost their father when they were small, and their mother Tagine’s pagan brother Theodosius seized all their possessions. If his villainy had ended there, this would be a happier story. Somehow thinking it would take their mind off his treachery, he resolved to convert his nephews to his faith, whatever exactly it was (you know how sources are). He started on Tagine, saying, “Hey, Sis, if you and the boys convert to my faith, whatever exactly it is, I’ll adopt them as my own sons.” Sis wasn’t buying it. “First you steal their inheritance on earth, and now you want to steal their inheritance in heaven.” Theodosius glowered at her. If his villainy had ended there, this would be a happier story.
Next he appealed directly to the boys, plying them with sweetmeats and soft words, saying, “You are my sons and all that is yours is mine — I mean all that is mine is yours. Now be good boys and join my religion, whatever exactly it is.” The boys thought for a moment, then said (whether in unison or in parts, our source does not specify), “You’re not our real dad! We’ll stick with Christ, even if it kills us.” Theodosius glowered at them. If his villainy had ended there, this would be a happier story.
Tagine feared her brother, so she and the boys moved to the Tao that could be spoken. Theodosius sent spies, learned where his newphews were shepherding, and went to meet them with a passel of armed men. Seeing his uncle coming, David ran to embrace him, whereupon he was stabbed to death. He let go his staff, and it turned into a great tree, which was later whittled into bits for souvenirs or relics, take your pick. Seeing this, Terichan raced to the nearest village, but the aforementioned armed men got him first, and he soon joined his brother in Paradise. At that moment, Theodosius’s eyes were put out by an unseen hand. Before long he came to see (in a manner of speaking) that he had done evil.
Coming upon her sons’ bodies, Tagine wept bitter tears, and said some bitter words about her brother too, as you can well appreciate. Coming up to her, he said, “I am unworthy, but I want to become a Christian. Please pray to the holy martyrs for my soul.” Tagine realized the “holy martyrs” he referred to were her sons, and she forgave her brother. She took some of the mud that their blood had made in the dust, and anointed his eyes, and his sight was restored. He later repented before the Catholicos himself, was baptized, and built a church to the honor his nephew David. The local villagers built another to house Terichan’s relics.
Pope Saint John I (d. 526) was old and frail when he was made pope, but that didn’t stop the heretic King Theodoric from sending him to Constantinople to ask Emperor Justin to slacken up on the Arians. Theodoric was not happy that the Latins and Greeks were getting along so well — he feared it portended the return of Italy to imperial control, which he considered less than optimal. Nasty dude that he was, he intimated he’d be, um, unkind to Trinitarians in Italy if John failed, so John went.
John was the first pope ever to travel to Constantinople, and he was well received there, but his diplomatic mission was not a rousing success — he won only minor concessions. When he got back to Ravenna (Theodoric’s capital), he found the evil king had killed his personal friend, the great philosopher Boethius. John himself was arrested for conspiracy, and left to die of ill health in jail, for which reason he is accounted a martyr (by some — there appears to be some controversy). His remains were removed to Rome, and are buried at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 18 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Tarechan of Georgia (OCA) – Main source
John I, Pope (St. Patrick DC) – Main source