March 24 Saints of the Day – Parthenius of Constantinople and Catherine of Sweden

On this day in 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated six concertos to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt. By the time he realized that Christian was a margrave and not a mangrove, it was too late to rename the arboreally-themed concertos.

Parthenius of ConstantinopleOur eastern saint today is Parthenius of Constantinople (d. 1657). Born on Lesbos, he was (some while later) elected metropolitan of Chios, and then (some while later still) elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His chief claim to fame (other than getting killed, but we’ll get to that) was to speak out against the catechism of Peter Mogila, Metropolitan of Kiev. Parthenius felt the document, which was accepted by pretty much everybody else at the time, was too heavily influenced by western (especially Jesuit) theology. Perhaps in thanks for his vote of no confidence, the Jesuits of Wallachia accused him of conspiring against the Ottoman state. Alternately, a letter he wrote to Russia (then an enemy of the Ottomans) (come to think of it, I’m not sure they were ever good buds) was intercepted and used as evidence of his treason. However it was, he was put on trial for treason, and when he was found innocent, the Sultan (Mehmed IV, dispraise be unto him) decided to hang him anyway, as a warning to any potential future traitors (or anybody who might be thinking about being mistaken by somebody else as a traitor). He was offered amnesty if he would convert to Islam, but I wouldn’t be writing this if he had. His body was thrown to the fish, but was fished out and buried by Christians on the island of Chalki.

Catherine of VadstenaOur western saint today is Catherine of Vadstena (ca. 1332 – 1381), daughter of Ulf Gudmarsson, Lord of Ulvåsa (that’s in Sweden) and Birgitta Birgersdottir of Finsta, more commonly known as St. Bridget of Sweden. Educated at a nearby convent, Catherine was dragged out and married at twelve (or maybe thirteen or fourteen) to Lord Eggyrt Lydersson van Kyren, a half-Swedish, half-Westphalian whole-nobleman. (I hope you enjoy these names as much as I do.) Eggyrt, an invalid, agreed to live chastely with Catherine, and she tended him tenderly. After Ulf died, Bridget founded a monastery (Vadstena) and then moved to Rome. Catherine became very depressed, and, as she confided years later, never smiled at all. With Eggyrt’s permission she traveled to Rome for the 1350 Jubilee to reunite with her mother. Shortly after she got her bags unpacked, she learned of her husband’s death, and between that, her mother’s protectiveness, and the dreary state of fourteenth century Rome, she remained an unhappy camper.

What made life interesting during this period (for certain values of “interesting”) was fending off suitors (“dissolute young lords” per one source; “unchaste youths” per another), who had heard of the beautiful young widow and who could be fairly insistent (read, “obnoxious”). One even lay in ambush for her, intent on kidnapping (or worse), but he was distracted at just the right (wrong) moment by a hart running by. Others were blinded (whether temporarily or permanently, our sources do not say). Finally she started going out disguised as a person wearing rags, in hopes of keeping the suitors at bay. Apparently it worked, as she remained unmarried.

When Birger, her brother, came down from Sweden, the three of them made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a happy final memory as Bridget died not long thereafter. In accordance with her mother’s wishes, Catherine accompanied her remains back to Sweden, where she was interred at the monastery she had founded. This became the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order (aka the order of St. Saviour), and Catherine became the abbess. She worked hard to get the monastery up and running, then traveled to Rome for an audience with Pope Urban VI to officialize the order and canonize her mother. She succeeded at the former but failed at the latter, although Bridget was made a saint some 16 years later.

Catherine’s prayers are invoked against abortion and miscarriage.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

March 24 (Wikipedia)
Patriarch Parthenius III of Constantinople (Wikipedia) – Main source
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper)
Peter Mogila (Wikipedia)
Catherine of Vadstena (St. Patrick’s, DC) – Main source
Catherine of Vadstena (Wikipedia)
Saint Catherine of Sweden (SQPN)
Saint Bridget of Sweden (SQPN)