April 17 – Acacius of Melitene; Clare Gambacorta

Acacius, Bishop of Melitene (d. ca. 435), child of his parents’ old age, was presented when young to the bishop, as they had promised God when they were yet barren. Acacius thus grew up in the church, becoming reader, deacon, priest, and bishop (in exactly that order), the latter when his bishop stepfather passed away. He was by all accounts a good bishop, and he argued forcefully for the two natures of Christ at the Third Ecumenical Council.

He obtained the gift of wonderworking “by his firm faith, humility, and deeds,” so impious rumours about mail orders and proofs of purchase can be safely discounted (while supplies last). Anyway, here’s some wonders. During a drought, he decided to move the celebration of the Divine Liturgy out of doors, and before the service was over, rain was falling on the people and the holy table and everything, to the joy of all. During a flood, he took a rake—oh wait, that was Frigidian (Mar 18). He took a rock, placed it on the land, and told the river, “No further.” And there it halted. Finally, one day the dome of a church where he was celebrating Liturgy began to collapse. The people started hurriedly testing the adequacy of the fire exits, when Acacius yelled out, “The Lord is the defender of my life! Whom shall I fear?” The dome stopped in mid-collapse, everybody came back inside, and the service went on to its natural end. Acacius was the last to leave the building, and his heel had just crossed the threshold when the dome finally gave way. (I will refrain from making a pun about his Acacius’ Heel.)

Blessed Clare Gambacorta (1362–1419) (née Victoria), daughter of the Doge of Pisa, married at twelve and widowed at fifteen, ran away to the local Poor Clares (there taking the name Clare) to avoid being married off again. Her brother and some of his heavies dragged her back, and locked her up at home for five months. She was not even allowed to take the sacrament, although she did manage to give her jewelry away, instructing her friends to sell it and give to the poor. Finally either her mother or her sister-in-law snuck her to mass on St. Dominic’s Day (Aug 8), while the menfolk were off doing guy stuff instead of going to mass as they should have been doing on St. Dominic’s Day.

When a Spanish bishop passed through, the Doge asked him to talk some sense into the girl’s hard head, not knowing that this bishop was none other than the confessor to St. Bridget of Sweden (Jul 23), and as such not at all averse to women choosing the religious life over marriage. He talked some sense into a hard head all right—the Doge’s. Clare was allowed to leave, joined the Dominicans, and in no time became the abbess of her own convent (of course).

Along about then, a political usurper assassinated her father and some of her brothers, and she watched while a mob murdered another of her brothers right outside her convent door. She took ill, and many thought she was dying. She called her nuns together and asked them to procure food for her from the table of her father’s (and brothers’) assassin. The man’s wife sent a basket of bread and fruit, and when Clare ate the bread, she was healed. Her surviving brother, who had become a hermit about the time she ran away to the Poor Clares, wanted to abandon his eremitic life and avenge the murders, but Clare talked him out of it. Eventually the usurper was murdered, and Clare gave his wife and daughters asylum in her convent. Because she was that kind of person (saintly).

Ultimately of course she passed away, and is interred at the convent, but it is said that whenever a sister there is about to die, Clare’s bones will rattle in their crypt, as if to say, “Yep, it’s your time.”