February 20 — Leo of Catania; Eucherius of Orléans

Leo of Catania, the Wonderworker (708–789), was born in Ravenna, became a Benedictine, and lived a hermit’s life in Reggio while acting as archdeacon. When the bishop of Catania shuffled off the coil, the entire populace of that town had a vision telling them to find his successor living “in odour of sanctity” in a hermitage in Reggio[1]. After refusing “umpteen” times (according to one source; the others are less specific), Leo relented, and became their bishop[2],[3]. When the iconoclast heresy swept through the empire, he stood fast against it, and was forced into exile, wandering in the mountains of Sicily. Ultimately he dug a cave on the other end of the island with his fingernails. Just about when he got them clean again, he was allowed to return to Catania. Needless to say he remained firm in his support of the holy icons, although we are not told if any further unfortunate results sprang therefrom.

Once there was a Christian (either Heliodore (“lover of the sun”) or Iliodore (“lover of the Champaign-Urbana football team”) who renounced his baptism, became a disciple of the Devil, and started doing “false miracles” to lure others away from the faith. Leo tried many times to talk Iliodore into returning to the flock, but to no avail. Things came to a head one Sunday when Leo was serving at the altar: Iliodore came in, and conjured the image of a large, black elephant. Leo calmly set everything down, walked over to the false magician, and tied his omiphoron* around the man’s neck. He ordered a bonfire built in the square, and marched with Iliodore into the midst of the flames, no doubt chanting some holy tune. When it was all over, only one man walked out of the flames, unscorched (of course), and back into the cathedral to finish the service. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he wasn’t pestered by any more sorcerers after that (or elephants, one supposes).

Eucherius of Orléans (ca. 687–743) was born to a pious mother (interestingly here’s one hagiography where Dad doesn’t get a look in). His life-long ambition to stay a monk and not become bishop was thwarted when his uncle Suaveric (“suave Eric”), bishop of Orléans, died. All the good Christians of the town imposed upon the Lord Mayor, one Charles Martel, to impose the see upon Eucherius. A deputation was sent to the monastery with orders to drag back Eucherius, willing or no. He begged and pleaded with his fellow monks to prevent his bishopification, but they all suddenly found something else to do, and he was, indeed, bishopified.

A fine bishop he was too, and that would be the end of our story had he not denounced Charles Martel for appropriating a great deal of money from the diocese to fight some war or other (with Saracens, or so he said). When Charles returned from the war, he grabbed the good bishop by the ear and dragged him to Paris, whence he was exiled to Cologne. The powers-that-be there feared he would foment a rebellion, so they booted him to Liège.

When the various booting subsided, Eucherius found himself in a monastery in Belgium, happy to be a simple monk again. We are told that he saw Charles Martel one last time, in a dream, being tormented in the flames of Hell. He was so upset he asked friends to make sure Martel was still in his tomb, but when they opened it it, it was empty, with the exception of a dragon that flew out and past them. The inside was scorched and blackened as if by fire. Think on this, dear children, if you are tempted to steal from the church. Just let that collection plate go right on by.

[1] Just follow your nose, apparently.
[2] It occurs to me that very few reluctant bishops-elect ever actually get out of it. My advice: if they come knocking for you, spare yourself the bother and just do it.
[3] Fifteenth to sit that see, if that matters (and to at least one source, it did).