On this day in 1903, steam locomotive “The Old 97” crashed, giving rise to the song of the same name. The driver was a sad case; he had a jones for speed.
Callistratus (d. ca. 300) was a native of Carthage, descended in straight line from Neochorus, one of the soldiers who witnessed our Lord’s crucifixion and was subsequently converted to faith in Christ. Callistratus followed in old great-to-the-nth granddad’s footsteps, both in confession and profession.
It was Calli’s practice to stay up late to pray while his more pagan comrades were asleep. One night an insomniac pagan (the worst kind) heard him saying Jesus’ name, and reported it to the commander, who demanded that Callistratus sacrifice to idols — the usual story. (Those pagans were SO predictable!) Our saint was beaten, then dragged over sharp stones. (Not smooth stones, nooooo. It had to be sharp ones.) When that didn’t break his spirit, he was sewn up in a leather sack (no mere burlap or hemp for these guys) and tossed into the sea, but in a stroke of both good and bad fortune, he hit a jagged rock (ouch!) and the bag was ripped open (yay!). He was then escorted to the beach by dolphins, causing 49 onlookers to express a desire to become Christians.
They were then all thrown in jail, where Callistratus catechized them, then thrown into a lake to drown, where he baptized them. Their bonds broke, and they waded to shore. Witnesses saw crowns coming down from heaven to crown the martyrs, and heard a voice from heaven encouraging them. We know this because those witnesses (135 of them) became Christians, and after the martyrs were finally slain by the sword (actually probably many swords), buried them. Still later they built a church in their honor.
Vincent de Paul (1581 – 1660) was born, which is not uncommon, in Gascony, which is more so. His peasant father sold the family’s oxen to send him to school, and after studying humanities in Dax and theology in Toulouse, he turned 20 and was priestified. On the return leg of a trip to Marseilles (where he was inheriting something), he was seized by pirates, hauled off to Tunis, and sold as a slave. As providence would have it, his owner was an apostate Christian. Vincent convinced him to return to the fold, and the two of them returned to Europe together. Or his master’s wife secretly freed all the family’s slaves. (We’ve had this talk about bickering sources before, and it always ends the same way.)
Once back in Yurp he worked a series of odd jobs (papal vice-legate, almoner, abbot, priest, curé, tutor), most notably founding missions for the poor, and seminaries for the poorly-educated priest wannabes. Eventually his work among the poor evolved into a new order, the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission, commonly known as the Vincentians (for reasons left as an exercise to the reader).
This was during the Thirty Years’ War, and things in France just weren’t as tourist-friendly as one might have preferred. There was great poverty and misery, and Vincent was determined to work to alleviate it as much of it as he could. He was helped by a number of Parisian women and ladies, whom he organized into the Daughters of Charity, Ladies of Charity, and Sisters of Charity (one or two of these might have already existed; my source is vague). In addition to giving alms, they worked in the hospitals that Vincent was founding, tending the sick, and running the gift shop.
Somewhere in there he was appointed as chaplain to the nation’s convict galley slaves, whose living conditions were horrible and whose hearts were bleak. Vincent and his followers ministered to their physical and spiritual needs. He also rescued orphans, street women, and every other class of destitute, poor, hapless, and unfortunate persons he could find. His work lives on in his orders, as well as in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization founded by French university students in 1833. He is the patron saint of (among other things) hospitals and (of all things) Madagascar.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
September 27 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Callistratus – Main (only) source
Image of Callistratus from the St. Joseph Melkite Catholic Church. Copyright unknown
St. Vincent de Paul (Catholic Encyclopedia) – Main source
Vincent de Paul (Wikipedia)
Saint Vincent de Paul (SQPN)
Image of Vincent by Wikimedia user Selvejp via Wikimedia. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license. Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use. But maybe he’d approve if approached in the right frame of mind.