On this day in 1690, the clarinet was invented in Nürnberg, Germany. Sadly, Benny Goodman wouldn’t be born until 1909, inspiring one to augment the saying, “If you build it, they will come,” with the word “eventually.”
Today the east celebrates St. Nino (ნინო) (ca. 296 – ca. 338/340), Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia. Nino had a dream in which the Theotokos handed her a cross entwined with grape vines and told her to go to Georgia. When she awoke, lo! there was the cross, and a print-out from Georgle Maps with a squiggly purple line leading you-know-where. Along the way, in a moment of doubt, she saw an angel with a bullet list of Bible verses convincing her that (a) yes, women can preach the gospel, and (b) she’d best get on with it. Nino girded up her ladyloins and trod on.
Arriving in the capital city of Mtskheta, she was caught up in a crowd making its way to the top of a high hill, where pagan priests were sacrificing to three very tall metal lightning rods shaped like gods. “Ack!” she prayed, “This won’t do.” Immediately the gods were struck by lightning and destroyed. Unfazed, she sauntered into the city and was greeted by a woman named Anastasia, who in short order installed her in a hut in the corner of the garden which she got her husband to build. In thanks Nino cured her of barrenness, and she became the first Christian convert in Georgia. “Whoa, that worked!” said Nino, and from that time she began to teach the locals about the Christian faith. We have the names of her earliest converts, and they were women to a man. Woman. Whatever.
Nina healed many people, up to and including the queen, who was converted and implored her husband to join her in her new faith. He held out until Nino personally saved him from another terrible storm (one begins to think Georgia doesn’t have the world’s friendliest weather). He fell down before Nino and asked her to make him worthy to become a Christian. She burst into tears of joy, which did the trick.
And the rest, as they say, is hagiography. Nino performed many more miracles, and in due time the country was converted to Christianity. After her death her miraculous cross wandered around eastern Europe for some 1500 years, and was finally returned to Georgia by Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Even throughout the communist period, Nino remained the number one name for Georgian girls, which goes to show, if Nino’s life story hasn’t already, that you can’t keep a good woman down.
The west today celebrates St. Felix of Nola, a Roman priest about whom little is known, along with another St. Felix described by Catholic Online as, “A Roman priest of whom nothing is known.” Our Felix was the son of a Roman soldier, upon whose death he went off to become a priest under St. Maximus, Bishop of Nola. When persecution came, Maximus left Nola, with Felix still inside, and fled to the hills. Thanks, Max. Felix was captured and beaten and imprisoned (a couple of my sources have a rather shocking illustration of him being beaten in his BVDs (see links)), but he was set free by an angel. He found Maximus near death, and nursed him back to health with fresh-squeezed grape juice. I kid you not.
Once, when the two were being pursued by soldiers, they ducked into a ruined building, and a cluster of spiders spun insta-webs across the open doorway, tricking the soldiers into thinking it hadn’t been used in a long time. Thanks, spiders! Eventually Maximus died, and Felix spent the rest of his life taking care of the poor. He was martyred under either Valerian or Decius. My sources beg us not to confuse him with the St. Felix of Nola whose feast day is November 15. I know I can trust you.
Benny Goodman (Wikipedia)
Saint Nino (Wikipedia)
The Life of St. Nina (The St. Nina Quarterly)
The Life of St. Nina — Equal to the Apostles (The St. Nina Quarterly)
St. Nino and the Conversion of Georgia (The St. Nina Quarterly)
St. Nino and the Role of Women in the Evangelization of the Georgians (The St. Nina Quarterly)
St. Felix (of whom nothing is known) (Catholic.org)
Felix of Nola (Wikipedia)
St. Felix of Nola (Catholic.org)
St. Felix of Nola – January 14 (Tradition in Action)
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