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April 24 Saints of the Day – Elizabeth the Wonderworker and Fidelis of Sigmaringen

On this date in 1184 BC(E), Troy fell to the Greeks, through trickery made possible by the Trojans’ acquisitiveness – always their Achilles’ heel.

Elizabeth the WonderworkerElizabeth the Wonderworker of Constantinople (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th century), after a pious childhood, matriculated at either the Cosmos & Damian or St. George Monastery in Constantinople, and later became abbess of same. The former would be fitting because she was a wonderworker, able to heal all manner of physical and spiritual infirmities. The latter would be fitting because she was a dragon-killer. Her personal manner of life was very strict — she ate very little (and not at all during Lent), always went barefoot, and constantly wore a hair-shirt that didn’t keep her warm.

Elizabeth's DragonThe dragon (you knew I’d get back to that) was on a piece of land that the emperor (Leo I according to one source) had given the monastery, and was the reason he let it go at such a fire-sale price. This dragon had spread sorrow and despair throughout the capital, but Elizabeth knew neither, nor fear, neither. (Read that again if you need to). Once the ink was dry on the deed, she went to the property with a cross in her hand. She prayed for God’s aid, then called out, “Hey dragon, front and center.” The beast slunk out of his lair and over to where she stood, with a surly, “Yes, ma’am.” Elizabeth made the sign of the cross over him, spat on him, grabbed his head, and stomped on his back with her foot, and he immediately expired. She, on the other hand, lived to a ripe old age, intentionally holding out until the day after St. George’s Day.

Fidelis of SigmaringenFidelis of Sigmaringen (1577 – 1622) was born in Hohenzollern as Mark Rey, and after a whirlwind six-year study tour through the chief cities of Europe (during which he won great esteem among his companions for his piety and generosity to the poor — it is said he sometimes literally gave them the clothes off his back), he went to law school. After graduation he practiced law in Alsace, where he became known as “the Poor Man’s Lawyer” for his generosity. He refused to use the dirty tricks of the lawyers in that place and time (I’m so glad unethical lawyers are a thing of the past), and finally the unscrupulosity got to be too much. He gave all his money to the poor, took the name Fidelis (not sure who from) and joined the Capuchins, who were saving him a spot next to his brother. While in seminary he proved a wonderworker, and later healed many people (especially soldiers) during an epidemic.

After a few stints heading monasteries, he was sent to the Grisons in Switzerland to preach to Zwinglians (no, I wouldn’t do it either), which earned him plaudits and death threats, depending upon the source. He won many Protestants back to the Catholic fold, both through his preaching and the various pamphlets he published anonymously (of which alas none have survived). He became a representative for (and the first martyr of) the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was formed to apply a trowel where just decades before a butter knife had been sufficient. The counter-reformation was “hotting up,” as the kids say.

As was Fidelis’ life — he was fired at while preaching on the subject “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” The irony was not wasted on him, but the musket ball was. It missed him and lodged in the wall, just below the writing that said his martyrdom was near. A Calvinist offered to hide him, but he demurred, saying his life was in God’s hands. On the way to his next gig he was attacked by a pack of feral Protestants, who demanded he recant his faith. When he replied, “I came to annihilate heresy, not embrace it,” they stabbed him to death. He died asking God to forgive them. His body was returned to his former monastery at Feldkirch, except his head and left arm, which went to the cathedral at Coire.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

Fidelis of Sigmaringen (detail)Bibliography
April 24 (Wikipedia)
St Elizabeth and the Dragon – Main source
St Elizabeth the Wonderworker of Constantinople (OCA)
Fidelis of Sigmaringen (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Fidelis of Sigmaringen (Wikipedia)
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Wikipedia)
Graubünden (Wikipedia)
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples


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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