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May 11 Saints of the Day – Methodius & Cyril and Francis de Geronimo

On this date in 1720, German nobleman Baron Münchhausen was born. Fearing for his health, his mother had him baptized by proxy.

Cyril and MethodiusCyril and Methodius (827 – 869 and 815 – 885) are called Enlighteners of the Slavs and Equals to the Apostles, and they fairly well deserve it. Their story starts with Constantine (Cyril’s birth name) mastering Arabic and Hebrew at University, and being sent first to the Caliph in Baghdad to explain the Trinity (he didn’t buy it) and then to the king of Khazar to prevent his adopting Judaism as the state religion (it didn’t work). He fell back to the capital and taught philosophy at the U, while his brother ran a monastery and hobnobbed with the political elite.

Their fortunes changed when Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia asked Constantinople for missionaries to convert his subjects to Christianity, which may have been politically motivated (on both sides) but what the hey. Cyril immediately created a written form of the Slavic language, including an alphabet euphoniously called Glagolitic (it was replaced not long after by the inaccurately-named Cyrillic) and a religious vocabulary borrowed (well, stolen) mostly from Greek. The brothers then started translating the scriptures and church services into Old Church Slavonic (as the natives didn’t call it). When the German bishops started howling about use of the vernacular (which may also have been politically motivated), C&M were “invited” to Rome to defend themselves before the Pope (Nicholas I), who thanked them for the gift of St. Clement’s relics (politically motivated), and could find no fault with them.

The next Pope (Adrian II) authorized their use of the vernacular and sent them back, but Constantine, feeling under the weather, took the monastic habit (as Cyril) and promptly died. At this point it gets complex. Having learned that Rastislav had been deposed by his nephew (the delightfully-named Svatopluk), Methodius skirted Moravia and landed in Pannonia, which made the bishop of Salzburg spit nails. Methodius was imprisoned, then sent to Rome again. He was throughout supported by the Pope-du-jour, even when hostile Teutonic bishops were breathing down his klobuk, but that doesn’t always help when you’re in the hinterlands. By invitation of Prince Boris, he ended up in Bulgaria, where his Slavonic liturgy was finally accepted and implemented. From there it, and Cyril’s alphabet, spread throughout the Slavic world (except the parts where it didn’t, like Poland and Croatia). The western church eventually embraced the use of the vernacular at the Second Vatican Council (1965), by which time there were no ninth century German bishops left to vote against it. Cyril and Methodius are patrons of (ironically enough) church unity.

Francis de GeronimoFrancis de Geronimo (1642 – 1716), the apostle of Naples, was born near Taranto, Italy, and (as far as we know) never jumped out of an airplane. He fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a Jesuit by becoming a Jesuit, after serving as prefect of students at the college of nobles in Naples (which is fun to say). He had a yearning to go to the far east, but his superiors told him Naples was about as far east as he ever need go, and they turned out to be right. In Naples he preached in the open air in the seediest districts, as well as in brothels and on slave ships, where he converted many a Moorish slave to Christianity. He also worked to feed and shelter the poorest of the city’s poor, who were pretty poor. He had a special devotion to the Mother of God, which he proclaimed every Tuesday (says my source) in a sermon at the church of St. Mary of Constantinople. When not busy in town, he gave retreats at monasteries and convents in the surrounding countryside.

Francis had a bit of trouble with some jealous Jesuits, who argued that his hanging out with slaves and prostitutes was unbecoming of a priest giving monastic retreats (or vice versa). For a while he was forbidden to do one or the other, but eventually the bishop got wise and he was unfettered. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Cyril and Methodius (detail)
Francis de Geronimo (detail)Bibliography
May 11 (Wikipedia)
Equal of the Apostles and Teacher of the Slavs, Cyril (OCA) – Main source
Saints Cyril and Methodius (Wikipedia)
Cyril and Methodius (Orthodox Wiki)
Saint Methodius (SQPN)
Saint Cyril (SQPN)
Wells, Colin. Sailing from Byzantium. (book on paper)
Francis de Geronimo (Wikipedia) – Main source
St. Francis Jerome: The pastor of Naples (Jesuits)
Saint Francis of Girolamo (SQPN)

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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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