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January 10 Saints of the Day – Gregory of Nyssa and Peter Urseolus

Gregory of NyssaAccording to my sources, “No one [was] elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame” on this day in 1945. Presumably somebody was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on every other day of 1945, making it a very productive year indeed for Cooperstown. Or, the person who edited my favorite “this day in history” website should be sent to bed without supper. Yeah, that seems more likely.

The eastern church today commemorates St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335–ca. 395), bishop of Nyssa and brother of St. Basil the Great and St. Macrina the Younger. Indeed, their family clearly had the sainthood gene, as they had two other saints for siblings, one for a grandmother, and one perhaps for a dad, although here our historical sources are at odds. The sources also disagree about the total number of siblings in the family, where Gregory studied, and whether St. Theosebia the Deaconess was his wife or his sister. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was his sister, since it seems unlikely that there could be two families with that much sanctity in the same town.

It is known however that his wife died young, freeing Gregory to get thrown out of town by the Arians on false charges of embezzlement, which after a brief stint as bishop he proceeded to do. Within two years he was back in the saddle, however, and he went on to attend the First Annual Council of Constantinople, where he may have given a famous sermon and may have helped write part of the Creed. Sadly the council failed to live up to its “Annual” billing, and that word was expunged from the record and all the brochures were destroyed.

After the Council he was given the title of gadfly with portfolio, and was sent to settle disputes in Arabia and Jerusalem. Unlike sanctity, however, conflict resolution was not in the family genome, and he struck out in both places, forever ruining his chances for the 1945 Hall of Fame ballot. Upon his return home he was harried by his Metropolitan Helladius, until like everyone else in his family had or eventually would, he died. Gregory got the last laugh on his pesky Metropolitan, though, when he was made a saint and Helladius was not. One is forced to conclude they weren’t related.

Peter UrseolusIn the west, today is the commemoration of St. Peter Urseolus (928-987), also known as Pietro I Orseolo, Doge of Venice. Although he perhaps should be known as Peter the Proto-Lucrezia for his alleged role in the poisoning death of his predecessor Pietro IV Candiano. On this we have no less an authority than St. Peter Damian, a man of such piety and sanctity that Dante placed him in one of the highest circles of his Paridisio, and in some unpublished manuscripts even licensed him to sell “blessed by the Pope” souvenirs.

At any rate upon ascending the throne, or whatever it is the Doge sits on, Urseolus set about at once to rebuild the war-torn city, care for widows, orphans, and pilgrims, and in general make himself popular and useful, which is a nice combination for anybody to have, murderer or not. After about two years of this he disappeared without warning, wandered off to France, and eventually turned up at a monastery there, at which he lived a life of extreme asceticism. After faxing his son, who became Doge in his wake, a fatherly admonition to live a Christian life and avoid poisoning people, he wandered off again, this time into the nearby forest, where he lived as a hermit for the last 7 years of his life. In 1965 he went wandering one last time, when his feast day was moved from January 14 to January 10. He is not mentioned by name in Dante’s Inferno, but were he not an official saint of the Church we might be concerned that the name of the church he is buried in is, in some dialects, “Prada.”

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


In the news today is an article stating that once again whoever they are who cast ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame have decided not to nominate anybody for this year’s induction into that august institution. On the 10th of January. I was not able to determine if those repeating this bit of history failed to remember the 1945 vote, so Santayana’s famous dictum cannot be definitively said to apply.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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