On this day in 1939, the non-existent word “dord” was discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary (Second Edition), an artifact of a string of editorial errors. The word was withdrawn before any unsavory definitions could be proposed, and during that period all letters from other dictionary publishers were returned unopened.
Orthodoxically speaking, today is the feast of Nicholas (Salos) of Pskov (d. 1576), the Fool for Christ. When Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s nasty Oprichniki had finished devastating Novgorod, Ivan himself came to Pskov, on hearing rumors that the city was planning to go over to the Lithuanians (and can you blame them?). Bread and salt were left outside every door, but not a soul was in sight, save the brave mayor and Nicholas the holy fool. The mayor held a tray with the traditional offering, but the Tsar dashed it from his hands (just one of many reasons for his nickname). Nicholas rode up on a cock-horse and cried, “Ivanushka! Ivanushka!* Eat our salt and bread, and stop eating Christian blood!” Ivan sent his troops to catch the holy fool, but he got away.
Ivan then went to a moleiben service at the cathedral, and venerated the holy relics there. Nicholas again met him and told him to stop despoiling God’s churches, or his finest horse would die. Ivan stole the cathedral’s bell. The horse died. Ivan went to the holy fool’s cell (no doubt to give him a stern talking-to), and Nicholas greeted him with a piece of raw meat, saying, “Ivanushka, eat!” The Tsar protested, “I am a Christian. I do not eat meat during Lent!” To which the saint replied, “No, you do something worse. You feed on the flesh and blood of men. You forget Lent and God.” The tyrant was actually taken aback (or afraid), and left the city unsacked. When the holy fool died, he was buried in the cathedral, an honor which up to that point had only been given to princes.
Catholically speaking, today is the feast of Romanus of Condat (ca. 390 – ca. 460). Born in Upper Bugey (no, that doesn’t mean “dance” in French), Romanus did something for 35 years, then entered a monastery in Lyons. But he wanted to be a hermit, so, taking The Lives of the Desert Fathers and Cassian’s Institutions (with permission, we hope), he sauntered off east to find a likely spot. This as it turned out was Saint-Claude (although since St. Claude wasn’t going to be born for at least another 175 years, the natives (of whom there were none) called it Condat). There he settled in, like any hermit, with the hope of remaining alone and untroubled with his prayers, manual work, and reading. You know what’s coming, don’t you? First his brother Lupicinus, then his sister Yole, moved in, and before they knew it, monasteries were sprouting up all over the neighborhood — Condat, Lauconne (ruled by Lupicinus), and La Beaume (ruled by Yole), all of which subsequently got renamed for famous people who died or were buried there.
Apparently Romanus and Lupicinus (who also became a saint) were quite different in temperament, the former being as laid back as the latter was uptight. Lupinicus was always nagging Romanus to be pickier about his novices, and Romanus would reply that until God casted them out, he wasn’t going to. (Cue “Dueling Banjos.”) Romanus was made a priest by none other than Hilary of Arles. (You might not think that’s important, but every one of my sources points it out, so it must be.) Among the many miracles attributed to our saint, one is actually mentioned in my sources: two lepers came to greet him, and were amazed that he didn’t stand back from them, but actually walked right up to them and embraced them. After they had parted company with the saint, they looked at each other and realized they had been healed.
Romanus died peacefully in the company of his brother and sister, and was buried at La Beaume.
February 28 (Wikipedia)
Blessed Nicholas (Salos) of Pskov the Fool-For-Christ (OCA) – Main source
Apropos to the feast of St. Nicholas the Fool for Christ
Ivan the Terrible (Wikipedia)
Massacre of Novgorod (Wikipedia)
Omer Englebert, Lives of the Saints (book on paper) – Main source
Gregory of Tours: Vita Patrum (book on paper)
Saint Romanus of Condat (SQPN)
Saint-Claude, Jura (Wikipedia)
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
* “Dear Little Ivan” – a double diminutive; not the sort of thing you call the Tsar.