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April 16 Saints of the Day – Agapia, Chionia, & Irene, and Bernadette of Lourdes

On this date in 1962, Walter Cronkite took over as the lead news anchor of the CBS Evening News, eventually becoming “the most trusted man in America.” Modern news anchors seeking to reproduce his career but overlooking the simple expedient of “tell the truth” have failed to gain the trust he enjoyed, for some reason.

Agape, Irene, & ChioneOur eastern saints today are the virgin-sister-martyrs Agapia, Chionia & Irene (d. 304), whose story starts at a trial before the emperor Diocletian, who urged them to renounce Christ and marry three of his courtiers to be named later. “Uh, no,” they said, adding that idols were made by human hands, they were betrothed to Christ, and suchlike. He sent them to Macedonia to be tried by the governor Dulcititus, who was aroused to “impure passion” by their beauty, and promised to set them free if only they would — you know. “Uh, no,” they said. Dulcititus tried to break into where they were being kept that night, but was unable to get into their cell, or indeed out of the building — he ended up sleeping in an ash heap in the kitchen. The next day he ordered the women stripped, but their clothes would not come off. Oddly he fell asleep at the trial, and only awoke when they carried him home. He sent the women to Sisinius for further trial.

Sisinius started by pestering Irene, the youngest, and when that failed he sent her back to prison and started in on Agapia and Chionia. Unable to persuade them to renounce their faith, he ordered them burned alive. But when the fire went out, their bodies were retrieved whole from the ashes, and even their clothing had been untouched by the fire. The next day he had Irene hauled off to a brothel to be defiled, but the soldiers leading her to Brothelville were overtaken by two men (angels in disguise) who said, “New plan — Sisinius says take her to such-and-such a mountain.” When they got back to Sisinius they realized they had been tricked. Everybody ran out to the mountain, but they couldn’t approach Irene. Finally one of them shot her with an arrow, and as she died she yelled, “I mock your impotent malice!” which I’m sure you’ll agree brings it right home to a guy. Later Great Martyr Anastasia came and buried all three sisters.

Bernadette of LourdesOur western saint today is Bernadette of Lourdes (1844 – 1879). A poor and sickly girl, Bernadette was gathering sticks one day when she saw a vision of a beautiful woman enhaloed with light. (Isn’t “enhaloed” a lovely word? It was in my source.) This was near a cave in a cliff on the banks of the river that flowed through the town of Lourdes. In sum she had 18 visions, although people witnessing them saw and heard nothing other than she herself, so skepticism abounded. The Lady told her to pray for sinners, and to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also said she wanted people to visit the grotto. When Bernadette finally asked for the Lady’s name (it was March 25, let the reader understand), she said three times, “I am the immaculate conception.” (Not in English of course, but in the local dialect, Gascon Occitan, which is like French but not quite.)

People of course began coming to the place in droves, and tales of miracles began to multiply so rapidly that a medical bureau was set up there to document healings (“Ah, yes, healed of your rheumatism; you want form 1214-C”). Bernadette was disturbed both by the tactless naysayers and the tacky yaysayers, and ultimately removed herself to a convent in Nevers, some 700 km north on the A20. The nuns there treated her harshly, calling her a “stupid, good-for-nothing little thing,” but she counted it all as part of her salvation, and called herself happy right up to her last breath. Lourdes of course went on to become a huge pilgrimage destination, basilica, and gift shop, but that was all after Bernadette was gone. She is the patroness of, among others, people ridiculed for their piety.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
April 16 (Wikipedia)
Virginmartyr Irene in Thessalonica (OCA) – Main source
Bernadette Soubirous V (RM) (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes (SQPN)
Lourdes (Wikipedia)
Occitan language (Wikipedia)

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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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