May 27 Saints of the Day – John the Russian and Melangell of Wales

On this date in 1927, the Ford Motor Company shut down the assembly lines for the Model T and began retooling to build the Model A. Some historians say the letters U-Z were considered as designations for the new model; others say “B-S.”

John the RussianJohn the Russian (ca. 1690 – 1730) was born in (what is now) Ukraine, and served as a soldier during the Russo-Turkish War. He was captured in battle and sold into slavery to a Turkish cavalry commander from Prokopion (in Asia Minor). As was not infrequently the case, he was threatened, tortured, beaten, and so forth to prove to him the superiority of the religion of the people who threatened, tortured and beat him, and somehow induce him to want to join them. (Once again I am inexplicably reminded of the auto da fe.) He stood resolute in his Christian faith, and in so doing won the respect of his master. He was put in charge of the stable, which became his home as well. During the daytime he fasted (an interesting point considering the practice of Ramadan, I thought), and nights he would sneak out to keep vigil at the cave church of St. George.

Eventually his master became very rich, and attributed this to the presence of John, whom he apparently regarded as a holy man. When his master was away on hajj and his wife wasn’t, John served at the table of a dinner party she was throwing, and suggested the master might enjoy a plate of the pilau being served. Everybody laughed at him, thinking he just wanted to eat it for himself. When the master returned, he related that a serving of pilau on one of his own plates (his name was engraved upon them) miraculously appeared in his hotel room, still steaming hot. This miracle got out, and John was regarded even by the Muslims as a saint.

When he knew his end was approaching, John asked the priest to bring the Eucharist, but out of fear he sent it hidden inside an apple. John ate it, and died in peace. His relics are a church which bears his name in Euboea, Greece, except his right hand, which is at Pantaleimon on Athos. A church commemorating him was built in Moscow in 2003. His prayers are sought by/for sick children and those with cancer.

Melangell of WalesMelangell of Wales (VII cent.) (aka Monacella) was daughter of a Irish king, and (as is often the case in these stories) was at odds with her father over whether she should marry a man of his choosing, or remain a virgin dedicated to God. In fleeing the former in pursuit of the latter, she removed to a small valley in Powys, Wales, where she dwelt for years, never seeing the sight of a man. This suited her just fine, and I’m not going to blame her.

This all changed when the local prince, one Brochwel Yscythrog (add Welsh to my list of delightful name generators), was out a-hunting hare. When he rounded a corner, there was beautiful Melangell, with the hare hiding in her skirts, biting its thumb at the hounds (or whatever it is hares do to show disrespect). The hounds were cowed by the power of the virgin’s virginity (I do not make this up), and when the huntsman went to blow his horn, it stuck to his lips (and it wasn’t even freezing out). Brochwel was so impressed he gave Melangell the whole valley, and suggested she build a women’s monastery. Of course she did, and became its abbess. The church, the oldest Romanesque shrine in Great Britain, still exists, and is a popular pilgrimage site. Mass is served at noon on Thursdays year-round, and 3:00 on Sundays in Summer. Please be punctual. Tea and cakes are served after Mass on Sundays.

It is said that for a thousand years, no one would dare to kill a hare in that valley. It was also said in that region that if one saw a hare being chased by hounds, one could say, “May God and Saint Melangell be with you,” and it would be sure to escape. Melangell is of course the patroness of hares, rabbits, and all small huntable creatures.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

May 27 (Wikipedia)
John the Russian (Orthodox Wiki) – Main source
John the Russian (Wikipedia)
Melangell (Wikipedia) – Main source
St Melangell’s Church, Pennant Melangell (Wikipedia)


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.

2 comments on “May 27 Saints of the Day – John the Russian and Melangell of Wales

  1. So it’s Bugs Bunny’s Saint day.

  2. Thank you for telling us all about the future Saint for our home – Melangell. The bunnies, Clove, Hematite, and Sage, all enjoyed hearing us read the story to them and are looking forward to attempting to chew on whatever icon we can bring into our house!

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