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)
It is May 15. On this date in 1953, the first Pinewood Derby was held in Manhattan Beach, California. It was so much fun that the next year, the dads let the Cub Scouts participate, too.
Pachomius the Great (ca. 292 – 346/348) was a soldier in the Roman army who benefitted from C.A.R.E. (Christians Aiding Roman Enlistees) packages, and vowed to investigate Christianity upon his discharge. He did, was baptized, and within three years was apprentice-hermiting under Palaemon. After seven years he struck out on his own, imitating St. Anthony of Egypt, whom he admired and lived near. One day he heard a voice telling him to build a monastery. “Monastery?” he said. “What’s that?” Not long after, an angel dressed as a schemamonk (of which there were none yet) explained the concept and gave him a rule to use on his future monks. (This means a set of principles to guide them, not a stick to hit them with.) Thus he became not only the first hermit to become an abbot, but the one of the few to do it on purpose. For this reason he is called the Father of Monasticism. He also invented the prayer rope, but due to some unknown injustice he is not called the Father of Prayer Ropism.
Pachomius himself founded nine monasteries, and within a generation after his death there were 7,000 monks and nuns living the cenobitic life — that is, as members of a monastic community with a common rule of life. His sister, if tales be true, was the first abbess. His cenobitic, rule-based idea was taken to Caesarea by St. Basil, and from there it spread, ultimately inspiring St. Benedict of Nursia, whose Rule, based in part on Pachomius’, is the backbone of western monasticism. He (Pachomius) died from some kind of illness (the sources hint at, but won’t commit to, plague), after passing on the mantle to his disciples. He is one of few post-biblical saints to be honored by both Catholics, Orthodox, and the Oriental churches (Copts, Ethiopians, Armenians).
Isidore the Farmer (ca. 1070 – 1130) was a day-laborer on a farm near Madrid. After their son died young, he and his wife chose to live in Continence, which was a little to the west of Reproductionville. (She now drops out of the story, but at least she has a name — Maria de la Cabeza.) Isidore worked hard, but he always showed up late for work on account of going to daily Mass. The other laborers complained to the farm owner, so the next day he spied on Isidore to see if this were true. It was. After church he followed Isidore into the fields, and saw beside Isidore’s furrow a second plough, drawn by ghostly white oxen, but there was no one at the helm (so to speak). He ran towards it awefully, but it vanished, leaving only Isidore and his plain, ordinary oxen (whose names are not given, but you can call them José and Jorge, if you like). The farmer, whose name was Juan (really), asked Isidore about it, but he said, “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
One snowy winter’s day (which seems redundant, but then they’ve been having some odd Spring weather in Minnesota, I’m told), Isidore, who had a kindly heart for all beasts and most men, saw some pitiful birds looking pitiable. He took pity on them and, opening the sack of grain he was carrying to the mill, poured out fully half of it (which is an oxymoron, for pity’s sake). All of the other laborers laughed and called him names, and vowed to never let poor Isidore join in any day-laborer games. Yet when they got to the mill, Isidore’s sack was full again, and what’s more, when it was ground, it yielded double the amount it had any right to.
Isidore died in peace, and a shrine, a cultus, a hagiography, and a body of miracles soon grew up around him. Aside from farmers, ranchers, laborers, and twenty-odd other cities, he is the patron saint of Madrid.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 15 (Wikipedia)
Pachomius the Great (Wikipedia) – Main source
Venerable Pachomius the Great, Founder of Coenobitic Monasticism (OCA)
Pachomius the Great (Orthodox Wiki)
Isidore the Farmer (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Isidore the Laborer (Wikipedia)
Saint Isidore the Farmer (SQPN)
On this date in 1720, German nobleman Baron Münchhausen was born. Fearing for his health, his mother had him baptized by proxy.
Cyril and Methodius (827 – 869 and 815 – 885) are called Enlighteners of the Slavs and Equals to the Apostles, and they fairly well deserve it. Their story starts with Constantine (Cyril’s birth name) mastering Arabic and Hebrew at University, and being sent first to the Caliph in Baghdad to explain the Trinity (he didn’t buy it) and then to the king of Khazar to prevent his adopting Judaism as the state religion (it didn’t work). He fell back to the capital and taught philosophy at the U, while his brother ran a monastery and hobnobbed with the political elite.
Their fortunes changed when Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia asked Constantinople for missionaries to convert his subjects to Christianity, which may have been politically motivated (on both sides) but what the hey. Cyril immediately created a written form of the Slavic language, including an alphabet euphoniously called Glagolitic (it was replaced not long after by the inaccurately-named Cyrillic) and a religious vocabulary borrowed (well, stolen) mostly from Greek. The brothers then started translating the scriptures and church services into Old Church Slavonic (as the natives didn’t call it). When the German bishops started howling about use of the vernacular (which may also have been politically motivated), C&M were “invited” to Rome to defend themselves before the Pope (Nicholas I), who thanked them for the gift of St. Clement’s relics (politically motivated), and could find no fault with them.
The next Pope (Adrian II) authorized their use of the vernacular and sent them back, but Constantine, feeling under the weather, took the monastic habit (as Cyril) and promptly died. At this point it gets complex. Having learned that Rastislav had been deposed by his nephew (the delightfully-named Svatopluk), Methodius skirted Moravia and landed in Pannonia, which made the bishop of Salzburg spit nails. Methodius was imprisoned, then sent to Rome again. He was throughout supported by the Pope-du-jour, even when hostile Teutonic bishops were breathing down his klobuk, but that doesn’t always help when you’re in the hinterlands. By invitation of Prince Boris, he ended up in Bulgaria, where his Slavonic liturgy was finally accepted and implemented. From there it, and Cyril’s alphabet, spread throughout the Slavic world (except the parts where it didn’t, like Poland and Croatia). The western church eventually embraced the use of the vernacular at the Second Vatican Council (1965), by which time there were no ninth century German bishops left to vote against it. Cyril and Methodius are patrons of (ironically enough) church unity.
Francis de Geronimo (1642 – 1716), the apostle of Naples, was born near Taranto, Italy, and (as far as we know) never jumped out of an airplane. He fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a Jesuit by becoming a Jesuit, after serving as prefect of students at the college of nobles in Naples (which is fun to say). He had a yearning to go to the far east, but his superiors told him Naples was about as far east as he ever need go, and they turned out to be right. In Naples he preached in the open air in the seediest districts, as well as in brothels and on slave ships, where he converted many a Moorish slave to Christianity. He also worked to feed and shelter the poorest of the city’s poor, who were pretty poor. He had a special devotion to the Mother of God, which he proclaimed every Tuesday (says my source) in a sermon at the church of St. Mary of Constantinople. When not busy in town, he gave retreats at monasteries and convents in the surrounding countryside.
Francis had a bit of trouble with some jealous Jesuits, who argued that his hanging out with slaves and prostitutes was unbecoming of a priest giving monastic retreats (or vice versa). For a while he was forbidden to do one or the other, but eventually the bishop got wise and he was unfettered. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 11 (Wikipedia)
Equal of the Apostles and Teacher of the Slavs, Cyril (OCA) – Main source
Saints Cyril and Methodius (Wikipedia)
Cyril and Methodius (Orthodox Wiki)
Saint Methodius (SQPN)
Saint Cyril (SQPN)
Wells, Colin. Sailing from Byzantium. (book on paper)
Francis de Geronimo (Wikipedia) – Main source
St. Francis Jerome: The pastor of Naples (Jesuits)
Saint Francis of Girolamo (SQPN)
On this date in 1862, troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza halted a French invasion in the Battle of Puebla in Mexico. To celebrate, the troops went to a cheap Tex-Mex restaurant and drank Dos Equis and Corona. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Irene the Great Martyr of Thessalonica (IV cent.) was born in Persia to Licinius, a governor. One day while she sat there, a dove flew in the window and dropped an olive branch on the table, an eagle brought in a wreath of flowers, and a raven dropped a snake. Her tutor Appelianos laid out the following chart by way of explanation: Dove=education; olive branch=baptism; flowers=success in life; snake=suffering and sorrow. He said the Lord wished to betroth her to himself, so she told her father she was done with the suitor thing, thank you very much. Dad tried to entice her to renounce Christ by tying her behind horses and having her dragged, but one of the horses turned on him, and he lost an arm. As the horse was dancing the Persian Rhumba on his guts, the horrified witnesses untied the saint. She rushed to her father’s side, shooed (not “shoed”) the horses, reattached his arm, and completely healed the rest of him.
Amazed, Licinius, Mrs. Licinius, and 300 witnesses turned to Christ right then and there. Lucinius resigned, and his successor Secidius tossed Irene into a pit of snakes for being a sorceress (does it occur to these guys that a real sorceress could easily take care of things like snakes? don’t answer that), but she got away. He was later deposed by his son Savorus, who was struck and killed by lightning when he refused Irene’s invitation to stop persecuting Christians.
She then became an itinerant evangelist, converting thousands to Christ. In Callinicus she was placed (sequentially) into not one, not two, but three ox-shaped bronze furnaces (that’s a lot of bull—er, bulls), emerging each time unscathed. With the help of an executioner she lost her head in Constantina, but managed to find it again and resume preaching. Finally she found the tomb she wanted to be buried in, walked inside, and asked her followers to close the door. When it was opened again two days later, it was empty.
But why Thessalonica, I hear you cry? I can’t help you there. As near as I can tell Irene never left Asia. It’s also not clear, from this version of the story, how she’s a martyr. She is nevertheless the patron saint of Greek policemen, and of people who want to get happily married in a hurry.
Hilary of Arles (ca. 400 – 449) was a pagan in Gaul. His relative St. Honoratus, abbot of Lérins, sought to convert him to the faith and drag him back to the monastery. Hilary dithered for a good while, but finally accepted the twin offers of vocation and salvation. When Honoratus became bishop of Arles, he invited Hilary to come and be his secretary. When Hilary demurred, Honoratus went to Lérins and hauled him back by the ear. When Honoratus was promoted to glory (as they say in the Salvation Army), Hilary became the bishop of Arles, and almost immediately started getting in trouble. He deposed a certain Cheledonius — bishop in an area that may or may not have been under his jurisdiction — for having married a widow, and for condemning someone to death. Cheledonius appealed to Rome, and the two of them argued before the Pope (St. Leo the Great). Cheledonius was reinstated.
Hilary later replaced a bishop who appeared to be at death’s door, but who then found his way back down the walkway and into the street of life. Now the see had two bishops, and Hilary had one angry pope. He had his authority to appoint bishops taken away, and the archbishopric was moved from Arles to Fréjus. Through all of this, however, he lived with monastic self-denial and strict hours of prayer. After his death many called him saint, including Leo who referred to him as “Hilary of sacred memory.” I want to say he’s the patron saint of people who get in trouble with their boss, but alas.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
May 5 (Wikipedia)
Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonica (OCA) – Main source
St. Irene The Great Martyr of Thessaloniki (Antiochian Archdiocese)
Irene of Thessaloniki (Orthodox Wiki)
Hilary of Arles (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Hilary of Arles (Wikipedia)
Saint Hilary of Arles (SQPN)
St. Peter’s Chains and Honoratus of Arles (Onion Dome)
Leo the Great and Colmán of Lindisfarne (Onion Dome)