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January 20 Saints of the Day – Euthymius the Great and Fabian, Pope of Rome

Euthymius the GreatOn this day in 1892 the first official basketball game was played in Albany, New York. The final score was 1-0. In the second game a week later, players were allowed to use a ball.

Our eastern saint today is Euthymius the Great (377-473), whose birth was heralded by an angel telling his parents that he would abolish heresy and usher in an era of universal peace. This angel later received extensive continuing education, and was reassigned to a position that did not require delivery of prophecy. After his father’s death, Euthymius was presented by his mother to the local bishop (Eutrojos of Melitine, Armenia), who saw in the lad qualities the he did not see in himself, priested him under protest, and sent him off to look after the local monasteries and hermitages. Euthymius muttered into his swear jar and waited. When he was 29, he escaped and fled to Jerusalem. Actually escaping and fleeing got to be something of a theme for Euthymius, who was hounded by loyal fans from cave to cave. Ironically, he would later teach that it is bad for a monk to move about, and one should pick a place and dig in. Those of us who are parents know how he felt. Kids, don’t make the same mistakes I made.

His fame came in part from the many miraculous signs and wonders he performed. In addition to practicing medicine without a license, he also was known to drive out demons, multiply loaves (without an abacus, mind), make barren women fruitful (I mean by prayer, of course), and produce rain during times of drought. Would-be hermits should take note: if you really want to get away from the madding crowd and blend into the rockwork, flashy miracles are probably not the best way to go about it.

As you have already guessed, he eventually founded a lavra (monastery) and became its abbot. Our sources take great pains to tell us that his lavra was located on the right side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, so next time you’re in Palestine, if an unscrupulous tour guide tries to sell you a “Euthymius Slept Here” trinket from a monastery on the left side of the road, don’t buy it.

Fabian, Pope of RomeOur western saint today is Fabian, Pope of Rome (ca. 200-250). Fabian was a farmer on a tourist visa in Rome when the successor to Pope Anterus was being chosen. While he was waiting with everybody else for the holy decision, a dove flew down from heaven and landed on his head — which is better than some other things a dove can do on one’s head, as I’m sure you’ll agree — causing the crowd to demand that he be made pope, which of course he was. Rumor has it that local dove retailers made a small fortune over the next several years selling doves to ambitious clerics and training them to land on their heads, but Eusebius doesn’t mention this in his History of the Church, and he wasn’t the kind of guy to leave out a detail like that.

If the “more or less trustworthy” * stories can be trusted, Fabian rebuilt the catacombs, fiddled with the numbers and types of holy orders, gerrymandered parish boundaries, had the relics of a previous pope exhumed in Sardinia and reburied in Rome, and sent seven deacons around the city collecting stories of the martyrs. He also sent seven bishops, each famous enough to warrant his own Wikipedia page, to Gaul as missionaries. The names helped him decide where to send some of them — billeting Gatianus of Tours in Tours, for example, was a no-brainer, as was sending Trophimus of Arles to Arles — while others required a little more thought. He died a martyr under Decius, and was buried in the cemetery he himself had rebuilt.

Euthymius the Great (OrthoWiki)
Euthymius the Great (Wikipedia)
Pope St. Fabian (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Pope Fabian (Wikipedia)
St. Fabian (Catholic Online)
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
*(as the Catholic Encyclopedia (q.v.) would have it)


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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