April 5 – Mark of Trache; Vincent Ferrer

Mark of Trache (d. ca. 400) (aka Mark the Anchorite of Athens) was a philosopher, but when his parents died, desiring to prepare his soul for the next life, he sat on a plank in the sea and prayed, “God, take me where you will.” God took him to Ethiopia (or Egypt or maybe Libya), where he found a cave on a mountain called Trache, and dwelt there for 95 years. At first he was plagued by demons who said things like, “You’re not welcome here. Scram.” And indeed, he saw no other people, birds, or beasts. He subsisted on dirt and seawater, which strikes me as perhaps a little too paleo.

After 30 years of this the demons gave up, and an angel began daily to bring bread, fish, and fruit[1]. (Fresh water, too, we hope.) At the end of his life, he was visited by (St.) Serapion. “So how’s the Church doing these days?” Mark asked, and was delighted to hear that idolatry had been totally eradicated (Serapion apparently only took one paper, and only read the sports page).

“Are there lots of people working wonders, like our Lord said in the gospel, ‘If anyone have faith as big as a mustard seed he shall say to this mountain, “Move from this place,” and it will move’?” As he said that the mountain started moving. “Whoa, what are you doing?” he said. “I didn’t tell you to move.” It stopped. He explained the use/mention distinction (and people question the utility of studying philosophy), and told it to move back. It did. Serapion fell down in fright, but Mark lifted him by the hand, saying, “I take it there aren’t a lot of mountains being moved out there in the world?” Serapion had to admit this was the case. “Then they are Christians in word but not deed,” Mark said sorrowfully.

He then invited Serapion to dine, and the angel brought them food and water. Serapion admitted that it was the best fish, bread, fruit, and even water he’d ever tasted. Mark said, “Look at that! Every day I get one fish, but with you here, I get two. God is truly gracious to his servants.” After the meal he prayed for all the world, told Serapion to bury him by sealing the cave, and died. As Serapion was shifting rocks, he saw the angels usher Mark’s soul to heaven. He then hurried to tell the story to somebody else before he forgot it. As you can see, he succeeded.

Vincent Ferrer (1350–1419) was born painlessly[2], and his childhood was graced with twice-weekly fasting, delivering alms to the poor, and contemplating the Passion of Christ. Then he turned eight and began his studies in the classics, to which he added philosophy at twelve and theology at fourteen. At eighteen he entered the local Dominican monastery. In his first year he was sorely tempted to give up and go home (by demons and parents alike), but he stuck it out. He memorized the whole of Scripture, wrote a thesis on Dialectic Suppositions (me neither), and was commissioned to lecture on philosophy—all before he was 21. He was at times a political advisor, a prior, an advocate for the healing of the Avignon/Rome schism, and an itinerant preacher throughout western Europe and the British Isles[3].

Once some street urchins mocked him: one of their number lay in the dirt, and the others said, “He’s dead, bring him back to life!” Vincent bent over him and said, “He really is dead,” and sure enough he was. (We aren’t told through what agency, which is probably just as well.) “Do something!” they cried, terrified. “Okay,” he said, and he raised the child to life. Vincent died in Brittany (as had been prophesied by (St.) Colette (Mar 6)), and is the patron of the storm-tossed in Brittany, the orphanages in Spain, and builders everywhere.

[1]Well, the angel began once, then did it daily after that.
[2]To his mum, we mean.
[3]If saints like this don’t make you think you’ve been an underachieving bum your entire life, God bless you.