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May 5 Saints of the Day – Irene of Thessalonica and Hilary of Arles

On this date in 1862, troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza halted a French invasion in the Battle of Puebla in Mexico. To celebrate, the troops went to a cheap Tex-Mex restaurant and drank Dos Equis and Corona. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Irene of ThessalonicaIrene the Great Martyr of Thessalonica (IV cent.) was born in Persia to Licinius, a governor. One day while she sat there, a dove flew in the window and dropped an olive branch on the table, an eagle brought in a wreath of flowers, and a raven dropped a snake. Her tutor Appelianos laid out the following chart by way of explanation: Dove=education; olive branch=baptism; flowers=success in life; snake=suffering and sorrow. He said the Lord wished to betroth her to himself, so she told her father she was done with the suitor thing, thank you very much. Dad tried to entice her to renounce Christ by tying her behind horses and having her dragged, but one of the horses turned on him, and he lost an arm. As the horse was dancing the Persian Rhumba on his guts, the horrified witnesses untied the saint. She rushed to her father’s side, shooed (not “shoed”) the horses, reattached his arm, and completely healed the rest of him.

Amazed, Licinius, Mrs. Licinius, and 300 witnesses turned to Christ right then and there. Lucinius resigned, and his successor Secidius tossed Irene into a pit of snakes for being a sorceress (does it occur to these guys that a real sorceress could easily take care of things like snakes? don’t answer that), but she got away. He was later deposed by his son Savorus, who was struck and killed by lightning when he refused Irene’s invitation to stop persecuting Christians.

She then became an itinerant evangelist, converting thousands to Christ. In Callinicus she was placed (sequentially) into not one, not two, but three ox-shaped bronze furnaces (that’s a lot of bull—er, bulls), emerging each time unscathed. With the help of an executioner she lost her head in Constantina, but managed to find it again and resume preaching. Finally she found the tomb she wanted to be buried in, walked inside, and asked her followers to close the door. When it was opened again two days later, it was empty.

But why Thessalonica, I hear you cry? I can’t help you there. As near as I can tell Irene never left Asia. It’s also not clear, from this version of the story, how she’s a martyr. She is nevertheless the patron saint of Greek policemen, and of people who want to get happily married in a hurry.

Hilary of ArlesHilary of Arles (ca. 400 – 449) was a pagan in Gaul. His relative St. Honoratus, abbot of Lérins, sought to convert him to the faith and drag him back to the monastery. Hilary dithered for a good while, but finally accepted the twin offers of vocation and salvation. When Honoratus became bishop of Arles, he invited Hilary to come and be his secretary. When Hilary demurred, Honoratus went to Lérins and hauled him back by the ear. When Honoratus was promoted to glory (as they say in the Salvation Army), Hilary became the bishop of Arles, and almost immediately started getting in trouble. He deposed a certain Cheledonius — bishop in an area that may or may not have been under his jurisdiction — for having married a widow, and for condemning someone to death. Cheledonius appealed to Rome, and the two of them argued before the Pope (St. Leo the Great). Cheledonius was reinstated.

Hilary later replaced a bishop who appeared to be at death’s door, but who then found his way back down the walkway and into the street of life. Now the see had two bishops, and Hilary had one angry pope. He had his authority to appoint bishops taken away, and the archbishopric was moved from Arles to Fréjus. Through all of this, however, he lived with monastic self-denial and strict hours of prayer. After his death many called him saint, including Leo who referred to him as “Hilary of sacred memory.” I want to say he’s the patron saint of people who get in trouble with their boss, but alas.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

May 5 (Wikipedia)
Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonica (OCA) – Main source
St. Irene The Great Martyr of Thessaloniki (Antiochian Archdiocese)
Irene of Thessaloniki (Orthodox Wiki)
Hilary of Arles (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Hilary of Arles (Wikipedia)
Saint Hilary of Arles (SQPN)
St. Peter’s Chains and Honoratus of Arles (Onion Dome)
Leo the Great and Colmán of Lindisfarne (Onion Dome)


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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