March 3 — Eutropius of Amasea; Katharine Drexel

Eutropius of Amasea (d. ca. 308), along with his brother Cleonicus and their might-as-well-be-a-brother best friend Basilicus, was arrested shortly after the martyrdom of Theodore the Recruit, who was Basilicus’ uncle (although not secretly—don’t confuse him with Racer X). After they converted many of their fellow prisoners with their preaching, the governor (Asclepiodotus) (say that five times fast) tried various things to get them to deny their Christianity. He offered Eutropius a great deal of silver (150 liters according to one source), for instance, but it was but to no avail. He dragged them into the temple to force them to sacrifice to Artemis, but Eutropius prayed, and an earthquake struck, toppling the statue of the goddess, which (obligingly) shattered. He tied them to stakes and had hot tar poured upon them, but it flowed around them and injured his own servants. There were some other tortures too, too gruesome to report. Through all of this, the three saints kept their faith in God, and the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them. Finally the brothers were crucified (Basilicus was beheaded a couple of months later), but they praised God for being found worthy to suffer the same way Christ did.

Katharine Drexel (1858–1955) was born Catherine Drexel in Philadelphia to a rich but philanthropic investment banker. She was moved by the poverty and despair of Native Americans on a family trip out west (our sources are annoyingly vague here), so when her father died, she and her sisters started funding mission work among Indians in South Dakota.

In a private audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1887, she asked him to send workers into the field. The pope suggested that she, too, might become a missionary, so she did. With the blessing of her spiritual director she joined the Sisters of Mercy, taking the name Mother Katharine, having decided (apparently) that spelling her name the normal way wasn’t very monastic. Her uncle tried to dissuade her (about the monasticism; he probably didn’t care about the name), and the rich crowd her family ran with in Philly were shocked and appalled. One of the dailies even ran a banner headline announcing her decision to enter religious life.

The sisters’ inheritance came to about $15 million ($250M in “today’s dollars,” which are different because they have “In God We Trust” on them), set up in a trust fund that paid them about $1,000 a day each. This money she poured into her missionary work. Eventually she created a new order, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which did a great deal of work among American Indians and African Americans, especially in opening schools and missions. This work was blocked or threatened at almost every turn by racists of various stripes. When the Sisters opened a school in a church in Beaumont, Texas, for example, a notice was placed on the door by the local Klan saying that “flogging with tar and feathers” would follow if the church didn’t stop holding services. A few days later the local Klan headquarters was destroyed in a severe thunderstorm. Wham!

The Sisters set up schools for poor black children in 13 states, and missions for Indians in 16 states, as well as Xavier University in New Orleans, the first university in the United States specifically for black students. (Racists smashed all the windows when it became known that the Sisters had purchased buildings for the university.) In all, Mother Katharine donated $20M of her own money to her work, buying and building schools and missions, and hiring teachers and missionaries. She died at the ripe old age of 95, and was glorified as only the second American-born saint by John Paul II in 2000.