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February 9 Saints of the Day – Nicephorus of Antioch and Miguel Febres Cordero

Nicephorus of AntiochOn this day in 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, marking the beginning of the “British Invasion.” Nobody heard them.

In the east today we hail Nicephorus of Antioch (d. 260), whose very best friend was the priest Sapiricius. Finished each other’s sentences, liked the same bands, you know — they loved each other like brothers, minus the sibling rivalry. Then they got into a disagreement about something and turned into bitter enemies. Eventually Nicephorus came to his senses, and sought Sapiricius’s forgiveness, first through mutual friends and then in person. Didn’t work. Father Sap (as nobody called him) was stuck in his anger and enmity.

Along about that time the Emperor decided the Christians needed winnowing, and the local shortlist of winnowees contained one Sapiricius. When Nicephorus heard, he hurried down to the public square, shouting, “Please forgive me, martyr of God!” At this point we must imagine Sapiricius giving the third century Antiochian equivalent of our modern “I don’t think so” hand signal. God saw the hardness of Sapiricius’ heart, and withdrew his supernatural courage. “Wait!” Sapricius said to the axeman. “I’ll offer a sacrifice to the idols! Heck, I’ll offer TWO.” (I added that bit.)

Nicephorus was beside himself. “Don’t do that!” he said. Then turning to the guards he said, “Look, I’m a Christian, how about if you kill me instead and let him go free?” The guards looked at each other and shrugged. One of them texted the judge, who texted back that that would be just fine. So Nicephorus won the crown of a martyr, and Sapiricius – well, this isn’t his story. We hope he came to his senses.

Miguel Febres CorderoIn the west today we hail Miguel Febres Cordero (1854 – 1910), born Francisco Febres Cordero Muñoz in Cuenca, Ecuador. His father spoke five languages and taught English and Spanish at the local seminary; his mother was one of a family of 19 pious children that included five nuns and a priest (albeit just a Jesuit). Just the family for a future scholar saint. In early childhood, Francisco had a severe foot deformity, but he was made able to walk after a vision of the Blessed Virgin. At nine he entered the Christian Brothers school in his hometown, rapidly becoming a star pupil. He wanted to enter the Brotherhood, but his parents wanted him to follow his uncle into the priesthood, and said no. Obedient to their desires (and not grumbling too much, we hope), Francisco went to seminary, but left before the semester was over, gravely ill.

When he recovered, his parents relented. He entered the Brotherhood at 13, taking the name Miguel. He went on to become a teacher of Spanish, French, and English, publishing textbooks, a catechism, poetry, and works of Christian spirituality. His scholarship in Castilian Spanish made his texts required reading for all schools in Ecuador. Yet he always said his favorite class was the preparation for first communion he did with the little children, which is sweet, I hope you will admit. He was known throughout his life for his humility and his dedication to Our Lady.

He was ultimately elected to the National Academy of Ecuador (which included membership in the Royal Academy of Spain), the Académie Française, and the Academy of Venezuela. (Argentina returned his application unopened.) In 1907 he went to Europe to translate French religous historical documents into Spanish. He lived in Paris, then near Brussels, and finally in Barcelona. Never healthy for long after his illness in seminary, he finally succumbed to pneumonia, and was buried in Spain. His body was disturbed during the Spanish Civil War (it was a pretty disturbing war), so in 1936 his relics were returned to Ecuador, where his tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage. The centenary of his birth was marked by a parade of 30,000 children and one commemorative postage stamp (a decent ratio). He was glorified in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, and is the first Ecuadorian-born saint of the Catholic Church.


Bibliography
February 9 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Nicephorus of Antioch, in Syria (OCA)
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper) — Main source
Michael of Ecuador (St. Patrick’s, D.C.) — Main source
Saint Miguel Febres Cordero Muñoz (SQPN)


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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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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