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March 23 Saints of the Day – Nikon of Sicily and Gwinear

On this day in 1929, the first telephone was installed in White House. It was a wrong number.

Nikon of SicilyEasterlings today venerate Nikon of Sicily (d. ca. 250). Nikon grew up unbaptized but secretly instructed in the Christian faith by his mother. He was still a pagan, though, when his army company were surrounded by enemies. Suddenly remembering his mother’s teachings, he crossed himself and promised God he’d get baptized if only he got out of this predicament alive. Suddenly he was filled with strength from on high, and (without even the jawbone of an ass) slew enough of the enemy that his company was saved. Naturally he returned home to tell his mother about this triumph (the mails were notoriously untrustworthy), and she suggested he find a priest and fulfill his vow. Sadly there were none in the vicinity, so he sailed to nearby Chios (some 650 miles SE), where he climbed a mountain and spent a week in fasting and prayer, begging God to help him find where the priests were — or at least one of them.

After eight days an angel from Rand McNally appeared and led him to Mount Ganos (some 190 miles NE), where Bishop Theodosius and 199 monks were hiding from the government. They greeted Nikon with joy, baptized him, and monkified him. After three years an angel came to the bishop, saying Nikon should be made bishop, and take all the monks to Sicily. Theodosius explained his vision, made Nikon a bishop, and promptly died. Nikon and the monks (great name for a rock group or what?) sailed away, stopping to say Hi to Nikon’s mom in Naples. She greeted him with tears of joy at his being both a monk and a bishop, and promptly died.

Once in Sicily, they had some years of peace before the governor decided that the island’s Christian-to-Pagan ratio needed lowering. He berefted 199 of them of their heads, keeping Nikon aside for torturing. That worked as well as it ever does in this kind of story. They tried to burn him, but the flames wouldn’t touch him. They tried to drag him behind horses, but the horses wouldn’t move. They threw him from a high cliff, but he was unharmed. And so on. Eventually they beheaded him, and left his several parts to feed carrion. Just then a shepherd possessed by an evil spirit happened by. Coming upon Nikon’s body, he fell to the ground, and the evil spirit came out of him, shrieking about being in the presence of a saint, I’m tormented, where can I flee — the usual. The shepherd went into town and told his tale, and when the bishop of Messina heard of it, he and his clergy went out and buried the martyrs.

GwinearWesterlings today venerate Gwinear (d. 460). Son of (pagan) King Clito of Ireland, Gwinear met Patrick when he visited their court, and later converted while hunting on horseback (however that might work). He let the horse (which has no name) run free, and took up living as a hermit. When Clito died he went back to the palace, rounded up 770 people (including his sister Piala), and sailed to Wales and Brittany (consecutively? in separate vessels?) to do missionary work. One day, whilst near Pluvigner in Brittany, he ran out of water. No doubt cognizant of the time-honored method of producing water out of nowhere, he struck the ground, and not one, not two, but three springs gushed forth — one for him, one for his horse, and one for his dog.

Gwinear was martyred by King Teudar of Cornwall, who had a penchant for throwing Christians into a reptile pit. Gwinear was, fortunately for him, merely beheaded, and spared being gator (or whatever was in that pit) chow. A basilica was built on the site of his grave, and there is a town in Cornwall named after him (which is more than you can say for Teudar). In Pluvigner he is known as Saint Guigner, and a well there bears his name. Oh, and for you Tolkien fans: one of his companions was named Meriadoc.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History for 23rd March
Martyr Nikon in Sicily (OCA) – Main source
Saint Nicon of Sicily (SQPN)
Gwinear, Phiala & Comp (St. Patrick’s, DC) – Main source
Saint Gwinear (SQPN)


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.

One comment on “March 23 Saints of the Day – Nikon of Sicily and Gwinear

  1. Nikon and the Monks. “My Girl Awaits on Ganos,” right? Didn’t they share a bill with Mitch & Micki (“There’s a Kiss at the End of the Rainbow”) of ‘A Mighty Wind’ fame? Good times. And, entire pits of reptiles in Cornwall? I bet they couldn’t muster a gallon of ginks in Cornwall. Then again, it was a king … kings can import whatever they want. That’s the thing about kings.

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