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January 16 Saints of the Day – St. Peter’s Chains and Honoratus of Arles

St. Peter's ChainsOn this day in 1920, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect, banning the sale, transportation, and manufacturing of alcohol. Millions of gallons of alcohol impounded by police were poured into the sewers, leading to widespread alcoholism in fish populations across the country. 90 years later, it is still difficult to find a “dry” fish in the nation’s waters.

Today in the east we celebrate, and I quote, the Veneration of the Precious Chains of the Holy and All-Glorious Apostle Peter. Most Christians and other interested parties will know that Peter, born Simon bar Jona (ca –1 — 67), was the chief of Christ’s twelve apostles, and is commonly heralded as the first Pope of Rome. This of course goes to show that even a poor fisherman’s son can become Somebody if he just buckles down, does his homework, and happens to fall in with the Son of God.

Peter was thrown in jail in about A.D. Acts 12 by Herod Agrippa, but while he was sleeping in his cell, the Good Book says, an angel of the Lord came down, smacked him, and told him to put his clothes on and clear out. The brethren (King-James-speak for “other Christians”) were so delighted to get him back that they went and fetched his chains, keeping them around Jerusalem and bringing them out for visiting dignitaries and so on. (One can imagine the conversations they must have had. “Wanna see something cool?” “Yeah, yeah, you have Peter’s chains. Fine, I’ll look at them.”)

Finally in 437 or 439 (CDXXXVII looks a lot like CDXXXIX, as you must admit) they were brought to Constantinople by Empress Eudokia, who kept one (the left one, I’m thinking) and sent one to her daughter Eudoxia in Rome, which hardly seems fair since Rome already had the chains Peter had been given by Nero.

Honoratus of ArlesOur western saint for today is Honoratus of Arles (350-429), who was born somewhere in the north of Gaul, and died on January 6, 14, or 15 (but who’s counting?). He was converted to Christianity with his brother Venantius, and the two immediately embarked on an all-expenses-up-front, cash-only tour of the Holy Land, the Egyptian Desert, and other ports of call. Sadly, Venantius shuffled off the mortal coil in Methoni, on the far western end of the Peleponnese, which is a beautiful place to die (if dying is the best you can manage), although it’s not quite the Levant (let alone Egypt). This brought the trip to a juddering halt, and Honoratus in great sorrow fell back to Gaul, determined to live as a hermit. Actually the sources say nothing about great sorrow, so I’m interpolating there, but it makes him seem more human, and fills out the word count.

At any rate, having had a taste of the warm Mediterranean climate, he wasn’t about to go back to north Gaul, so he settled down in the Lérins archipelago on the Riviera, on an island that shares his name. There he founded the famous Lérins Abbey, mainly because monk wannabes kept turning up on his doorstep and he had to find something for them to do. As if that weren’t bad enough for the would-be hermit, in 426 he was dragged kicking and screaming from Île Saint-Honorat and made bishop of Arles, which at least is still down on the Med. From that point everything becomes conjecture. None of his writings have been preserved, and nobody seems to know what exactly he did when he was bishop, other than that he appears to have cleaned up the Arian problem, and conducted the monastery “from the chair” (so to speak). He died in the arms of his trusty deputy and successor, Hilary, about whose episcopal adventures we know a whole lot more, but he has to wait until May.

Honoratus is the patron, delightfully, of divided precipitation loyalties, which is to say he the patron both “against rain” and “for rain.”

The Holy Bible (A good online Bible is at BibleGateway.)
Prohibition in the United States (Wikipedia)
St. Peter ad Vincula (Wikipedia)
Veneration of the Precious Chains of the Holy and All-Glorious Apostle Peter (OCA).
Saint Peter (Wikipedia)
St. Honoratus of Aries [sic] (Catholic.org)
Honoratus (Wikipedia)
Arles (Wikipedia)
Hilary of Arles (Wikipedia)
Lérins Islands (Wikipedia)
Lérins Abbey (Wikipedia)
Methoni, Messenia (Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


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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