October 11 Saints of the Day – Zenaida & Philonilla and Pope John XXIII

On this day in 1976, President Gerald Ford approved George Washington’s posthumous appointment as General of the Armies of the United States. This would have raised Martha’s widow’s pension, if she hadn’t been dead for 174 years.

ZenaidaZenaida and Philonilla of Tarsus (I-II cent.), holy unmercenaries, were relatives of the Apostle Paul. Rich and extremely intelligent, they sought an education in medicine (such as it was in those days). Having learned of the gospel from St. Jason, they were baptized, and began to apply Christian principles to their medical learning, seeking to heal body and soul (add ten points if your mental iPod just played Coleman Hawkins). After their residency in Tarsus they moved to Thessaly to be near the mineral springs, hoping to open a water-bottling plant. Of course I kid. They created a mini-proto-monastery in a springy cave, and opened a clinic for the poor and destitute, who were being ignored by the pagan doctors, who only treated rich patients, disgracing their Hippocratic Oath, is this a great run-on sentence or what.

The sisters’ love for the poor drew many to the Christian faith, and they healed many through their wise practice of medicine, their wonderworking prayers, and their copy of Gray’s Anatomy that fell backwards in time through a wormhole (okay maybe not). They are called the “Friends of Peace” because they preached that calm and peaceful living could both heal and prevent illness. Philonella was the scientist of the outfit, seeking to establish evidence-based medicine free of magic, superstition, and overcrowded waiting rooms. Zenaida became a spiritual guide for many, both women and men; she also came to see depression and other psychiatric conditions as illnesses to be treated and cured medically, which is more than you can say for some 21st century bloggers. After Zenaida died, Philonella entrusted the clinic to her students, and retired to a contemplative life.

So the next time someone tells you women aren’t fit to be doctors, tell them about Zenaida and Philonilla, the first (after Luke) Christian physicians. But don’t stick out your tongue and say “nyah.” Say “aah.”

Pope John XXIIIPope John XXIII (1881 – 1963) was related to Italian nobility, but his parents worked as sharecroppers. After earning a doctorate in theology, he became in turn a priest (in 1904), episcopal secretary, lecturer, titular archbishop, apostolic visitor, apostolic delegate, titular bishop again, apostolic delegate again and yet again, nuncio, cardinal-priest, patriarch, aaaaand (inhale) Pope of Rome (in 1958). See what you can accomplish in a mere 54 years if you only apply yourself?

John served as a chaplain in the Great War, and in the Nightmare Years and Second War he escapified many Jews from the Nazis. In 2011 he was nominated to Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile (pending). Once the conclave smoke cleared and John settled into poping, he almost immediately removed the word “perfidious” (said of the Jews) from the Good Friday liturgy, and issued a confession of the Church for centuries of anti-Semitism. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he offered to broker peace between Khrushchev and Kennedy (at any time an invitation you can’t decline, yet they did). In 1962 he was Time’s Man of the Year. He was also awarded honors by the Italian and American governments for his work for peace. (Reports that he installed Coca-Cola machines in the Vatican apartments have not been verified.)

Probably John’s greatest legacy, however, is the Second Vatican Council, which opened on this date in 1962. “This holy old boy doesn’t realize what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up,” said one Cardinal. He was wrong, of course; it wasn’t hornets John had stirred up, it was African killer bees. The Council made sweeping changes to the worship of the Roman Catholic Church, allowing the Mass to be said in the vernacular (which many thought a good thing), and inaugurating “guitar Masses” featuring the music of popular vocal group The St. Louis Jesuits (which fewer thought a good thing).

John was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and canonized on 27 April 2014 (don’t ask me, I just report these things) by Pope Francis.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

October 11 (Wikipedia)
Martha Washington (Wikipedia)
Zenaida and Philonilla of Tarsus in Cilicia (Orthodox Wiki) – Main (only) source
Icon of Zenaida from OCA (copyright unknown)
Pope John XXIII (Wikipedia) – Main source
Pope Blessed John XXIII (SQPN)
Second Vatican Council (Wikipedia)
Killer Queen Lyrics – Queen (Sing365.com)
Photo of effigy of John by Wikimedia member Justin Ennis used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) and its use here says nothing, and we do mean nothing, about Mr. Ennis’ approval or disapproval of anything, and we do mean anything.


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.

3 comments on “October 11 Saints of the Day – Zenaida & Philonilla and Pope John XXIII

  1. “Yad” Vashem, I believe it should be. (Thanks for doing these, by the way.)

  2. […] better. Alex always adds just the right amount of humor to his posts over at The Onion Dome, and today’s post about Zenaida and Philonilla is a great […]

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