On this date in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher on the field of Metaphor-for-Defeat (rhymes with “shoe”).
Leontius (d. ca. 70–79) was a Roman soldier in Phoenicia. When the governor, Adrian (if you mentally said that in Sylvester Stallone’s voice, shame on you), caught word he had been converting fellow soldiers to Christianity, he sent a contingent of soldiers under the tribune Hypatius to fetch him. Along the way, Hypatius developed a sickness unto death (as Kierkegaard might say), but an angel said to him in a dream, “You can be healed if you and all your men say aloud three times, ‘God of Leontius, help me.’”
“Wait. I’m heading to arrest this guy for having the wrong god,” Hypatius said, “and you want me to pray to said deity?” But the angel disappeared. Nevertheless, his men agreed to cry out as prescribed, and he was instantly healed. “By Jove!” he said, and he was instantly sick again. Just kidding. His friend Theodulus urged haste, so he and Hypatius left their men somewhere and ran ahead. Who should greet them and invite them ’round to his house for a quick nibble but Leontius himself? As they ate, he told them about the Gospel, and they felt their hearts strangely warmed (as Wesley might say), and not from indigestion. They asked to be enlightened, and Leontius named the persons of the Trinity just as a sudden and inexplicable rain shower fell, and thus were they baptized.
Eventually all of this got back to Adrian (Adrian! Adrian!), setting in motion the usual invitation to sacrifice to the gods, threats, cajoling, torture, promises of rewards, more torture, and so forth. Hypatius and Theodulus were beheaded, and Leontius was beaten to death while hanging from his ankles (how good our species is at inventing new methods of murder!).
A Christian woman took Leontius’ body and gave it a decent burial. When her husband was later imprisoned by Diocletian, she prayed to Leontius, who appeared to him in prison saying, “You’ll be heading home soon.” He then appeared to the Emperor, who was scared witless (to use the Cockney slang), saying, “You know that guy you threw in prison? Let him go.” He may have added some moaning noises. I would have. The Emperor got the man out, wined and dined him, and sent him home to his wife. Together they thanked Leontius, and raised a church in the saint’s honor.
Osanna of Mantua (1449 – 1505) had a vision of the Christ Child at age six, and consecrated her life to God. She begged her father for reading lessons so she could say the Divine Office, but he said it would be a waste to teach a mere woman to read. When she was fourteen her parents started looking for a husband for her, so she snuck off to the Dominicans, and came home a Tertiary. She told her father the robe was just part of a promise she’d made, and she’d take it off later. Here one of our sources interrupts the flow of the narrative to say this doesn’t condone deceit. I thought I’d better pass that along.
After a few months, Dad got suspicious, and not a little angry. But in time his heart “melted” and he came to terms with having a Tertiary in the house. Osanna did learn to read — one day she saw a piece of paper with the words “Jesus” and “Mary” on it, and from that point on she could read. Writing came about in much the same way. She found her spiritual director when a voice inside her pointed out a priest and said, “That’s the one.” As it turned out, the voice was 100% right (if only the voices in my head were so accurate). She was a visionary, ecstasticist (if that’s a word), stigmatic, and seer, and the ruling family (of somewhere) sought her for advice. Her impending death was revealed to her in a vision by her departed friend Columba of Rieti. She is the patroness, fittingly enough, of school girls.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
June 18 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Leontius at Tripoli in Syria (OCA) – Main source
Orthodox Saints commemorated in June (Abba Moses)
The Consecration of the church of St. Leontius of Tripoli (CopticChurch.Net)
Blessed Hosanna of Mantua (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Osanna of Mantua (Wikipedia)
On this date in 1871, the first international rugby football match, England v. Scotland, was played in Edinburgh. It was at this match that the international rugby slogan, “Ouch, that smarts,” was first coined.
Our unicalendric saint today is John of Egypt (305 – 395). A carpenter by trade, John was monkified at age 25 and apprenticed to a veteran anchorite. His humility was tested by being set ostensibly absurd tasks, like watering a stick every day for a year, but all this he patiently endured, which goes to show something. After the anchorite’s death he spent four years in various monasteries, then shuffled off to Mount Bolcha, near Lycopolis, where he walled himself into a diminutive cell for 40 years, with only a small window to receive food, supplies, and (on Saturdays and Sundays) visitors (the visitors stayed outside). Like most hermits, however confined, a monastic community sprang up around him, including a hospital for ailing visitors, for he was a healer. And a clairvoyant, and a prophet, and one of those guys who is able to look into men’s souls (women’s too but more on that anon).
Once Emperor Theodosius sent to him asking about a potential war with Magnus Maximus (“Really the Greatest”), who had dethroned one previous emperor and killed another. John prophesied that Theodosius would be victorious, “almost without blood.” And sure enough, the encounter went off without a hitch (unless you were Maximus, or on his side). The Emperor praised John and attributed his success to John’s prayers. The next time a usurper (Eugenius) attempted to usurp, Theodosius sent his retainer (Eutropins the Eunuch — I wonder if that was on his name badge? If I were a eunuch I’m not sure I’d go around proclaiming it) to bring John to Constantinople, but John wouldn’t fit through his window, so that didn’t happen. Nevertheless he told Eutropins the battle would be won, but with much bloodshed, and the Emperor himself would die in Italy (there are worse places to die) (although admittedly I can’t think of any at the moment). The Emperor was able to eke out a victory, but died you-know-where.
Despite John’s strict rule that he would not see women, one officer in the emperor’s employ brought his ailing wife to Lycopolis to be healed. John told the officer to buzz off (in as saintly a way as he could, of course), but the next day he came back and said he was sure his wife would die of grief if she couldn’t see the saint. “Fine,” said John. “Tell her to stay in town.” That night he appeared to the woman in a vision, applauding her great faith but scolding her for placing too much importance on mere humans such as himself. “What am I, a saint?” he asked (I’m hearing a New York Jewish accent here but your mileage may vary), adding a heaping helping of suggestions and admonitions for living a good Christian life, and oh by the way healing her of her infirmity.
Another time, when one of a group of visiting monks asked for a miraculous healing, John refused, then (perhaps with a sigh) fed him some blessed oil. The monk vomited and was healed from that moment. Yet another time, the future bishop Palladius came to see John, but while they were speaking a provincial governor hurried up and asked for advice. John had Palladius stand aside while he spoke with the official, and soon proverbial steam was pouring from Palladius’ ears. John sent a messenger to tell him to chill out, and when he finally got back to him, he said, “What are you so upset for? You’ve got all the time in the world, and this guy has to get back to his job.” He then went on to describe all of Palladius’s inner doubts, giving him counsel on how to deal with them. Palladius was so impressed he went on to write John’s vita. John is also praised by Jerome, Augustine, and John Cassian, which is not true of everybody they knew.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
March 27 (Wikipedia)
John of Egypt (St. Patrick’s DC) – Main source
Venerable John the Clairvoyant, Anchorite, of Egypt (OCA)
On this day in 44 BC, Julius Caesar, Dictator of the Roman Republic, was stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus and several other Roman senators. Fortunately Shakespeare fell through a wormhole in space and caught the whole thing, preserving it for posterity.
East of the Sun today we venerate Hieromartyr* Alexander of Side in Pamphylia (d. ca. 270). During the reign of Aurelian, he was brought before the local governor and asked who he was. “Pastor of the flock of Christ,” he said. “Where is this flock?” asked the governor. “Over all the world. People who believe in him are his sheep. People like you, who worship idols, are goats. Judgment will fall upon you guys, wait and see.” For some reason the governor took ill at this, and ordered Alexander to be whipped and tossed into a furnace. (A burning furnace, our source emphasizes — not just a cold one waiting for the next wood delivery.) But the fire couldn’t harm him, so they whipped him again and tossed him to the wild beasts. But the beasts wouldn’t touch him (perhaps because he smelled like smoke), so the governor ordered him beheaded. Immediately he (the governor) became rabid. His attendants dragged him kicking and foaming to the temple, presumably hoping the gods would heal him, but on the way “the evil spirit” (which one? doesn’t say) popped out his wicked soul and made off with it. I’m guessing it wasn’t for a pleasant stroll.
West of the Moon today we venerate Clemens Maria (né John) Hofbauer (1751 – 1820). John wanted to be a priest, but his impoverished mother couldn’t send him to seminary, and the Latin lessons with the local priest fell through, so he became a baker’s apprentice. Later he lived as a hermit and baked for a priory in Brück. When Emperor Joseph II (“the Enlightened Ruler”) outlawed hermits, he moved to Italy, took the name Clemens Maria, and as a hermit prayed for people who forget to pray (really). But that wasn’t making him a priest, so he wandered back to bake at Brück. Two local women (unnamed, ain’t that the way?) paid his tuition to the University of Vienna (the Enlightened Ruler had closed all the seminaries), but after graduation he was still unable to become a priest — Herr Enlightenment had forbidden religious communities to accept new candidates.
On another trip to Italy, he and a buddy became Redemptorists, were ordained priests, and were sent back to Vienna to found a Redemptorist church. As if! — Enlightenmentiac wouldn’t allow it. The two then went to Warsaw, where they started a tiny church and a refuge for homeless boys. Early on, Clemens went to a bakery to beg for bread, but the baker couldn’t oblige because he had no assistant. Clemens rolled up his sleeves, helped him bake the day’s bread, and took home enough to feed the lads. Another time he went into a drinking establishment to beg for donations. One of the patrons spat beer in his face, whereupon he said, “That’s fine for me, but what have you got for my boys?” The patrons liked his spirit, and he walked away with 100 silver coins. The church throve (love that word), and the orphanage grew into an academy and a home for girls. Nevertheless in the wake of the Warsaw Uprising of 1794 the whole thing was closed down by the Russians, and 40 Redemptorists were carted off to prison.
Clemens returned to Vienna, where he worked as a hospital chaplain, a parish priest, and then chaplain to the Ursulines. He got into hot water for corresponding with the Redemptorists back in Rome (apparently not an Enlightened thing to do), but after Emperor Franz had an audience with the pope, instead of banishing Clemens, he agreed to (finally) allow him to open a Redemptorist church in Vienna. Sadly it was too late for Clemens, who died before the church was opened. He was named the patron saint of Vienna in 1914 by Pope Pius X.
March 15 (Wikipedia)
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper) – Main source
Hieromartyr Alexander of Side, in Pamphylia (Wikipedia)
Orthodox Saints commemorated in March (basically the same as the Prologue)
Clemens Maria Hofbauer (Wikipedia) – main source
Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer (SQPN)
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor (Wikipedia)
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
On this day in 1961, a spark plug was found inside (what was thought to be) a 500,000-year-old rock discovered near Olancha, California. The plug was later identified as belonging to a 1963 London police box.
Eastwardly speaking, today is the feast of Martinian of Caesarea (d. ca. 422). Martinian became a hermit at age 18, and miraculously did not turn into a monastery. Some of our sources want to say that aspects of his story are of dubitable historicity. I’ll relate; you debate.
A certain “profligate” woman made a bet with some “dissolute” people that she could tempt Martinian, known throughout the neighborhood as a holy man, to sin. So the next horrible storm that hit, she dressed in rags and disfigured her face and knocked on the saint’s door, begging for shelter. Of course he let her in, made her a bed on the sofa or the equivalent, and locked himself in his inner cell. The next morning she had cleaned herself up and changed clothes, and proceeded to put the moves on Martinian. One source says that “for a whole day he came very near to assenting.” Whoa. Finally he jumped into the fire, saying he wasn’t going to burn in Hell for her (or something – accounts vary). She repented and while she tended to his feet asked what she should do. He sent her to the monastery of St Paula (whom we’ve met) in Jerusalem, and she became a model nun. I mean a good one.
Fearing that life on land was going to bring more of this sort of thing, Martinian removed to a rock in the ocean. A kindly sailor brought him food on a schedule, in return for baskets that Martinian wove. We don’t know what he did with the baskets. I can picture trying to make one’s way on a ship with baskets all over the decks. I digress. One day, there was a horrible storm, and who should wash ashore clinging to a chunk of boat but — (please imagine a loud organ chord here) — a woman! Martinian, flabbergasted, showed her his food stash, explained that a sailor would rescue her on such-and-such a date, and jumped into the sea. A pair of passing dolphins carried him ashore, where he lived as a wanderer until finally dying in a church in Athens. The Bishop, fresh from a vision, knew who he was, and buried his body with honor.
Westwardly speaking, today is the feast of Catherine de Ricci (1522 – 1590). Catherine went to live at a her abbess aunt’s monastery when she was six, but when her father found out that she wanted to become a nun too, he called her home. (“I can’t imagine how she got that idea!”) Once home she got deathly ill, and only recovered when dad relented. She went back to her monastic calling, eventually becoming prioress of an abbey.
Soon she began having visions, ecstasies, and instances of bilocation. Her fellow nuns were skeptical, largely because while she was having the visions she looked an awful lot like she was skiving off work. The skepticism ended at the monastery walls, though, and people came to see her in droves. One of her ecstasies was a weekly occurrence for twelve years — in a vision she experienced the Passion of Christ from noon on Thursday to 4:00 p.m. on Friday (our sources are very precise here), and her back showed wounds as if from scourging. Her fellow nuns got so fed up with pilgrims coming to see her that they prayed for the wounds to become less visible, which they did. (We assume they had lost some of their earlier skepticism by this point.) Our sources also say that a ring would appear on her finger when she was deep in prayer or ecstasy, symbolizing her being “married” to Christ as a nun. Catherine saw the ring as gold; the sisters saw it as coral. I’m not going to make that call. Anyway, she was beatified in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV, and her prayers are invoked against illness.
February 13 (Wikipedia)
Coso artifact (Wikipedia)
Venerable Martinian of Caesarea, in Palestine (OCA) – Main source
Omer Englebert, Lives of the Saints (book on paper)
Saint Martinian the Hermit (SQPN)
Saint Catherine del Ricci (SQPN) – Main source
Catherine of Ricci (Wikipedia)
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.