April 27 – Stephen of the Kievan Caves; Osanna of Catarro

Stephen of the Kievan Caves, Bishop of Vladimir (d. 1094) was a monk in the Kievan Caves Lavra under St. Theodosius of the Caves (May 3) whose chief responsibility was arranging music for the choir, a dangerous duty which can drive men dotty. As Theodosius lay dying, he took a poll of the monks as to who they wanted to replace him, and they all voted for Stephen (except one, as we’ll see). Stephen was an able abbot, and laid the foundation for the new church building that Theodosius had initiated.

In 1078 an evil monk convinced the brethren to drive Stephen from the monastery, for reasons the records do not relay. Stephen accepted this with humility and bitterlessness, and prayed for his betrayers. He founded a new monastery (called Klovsk) on a hill not far away (no mention of an old, rugged cross), dedicated to the Theotokos in honor of an icon the afore-alluded-to builders had brought from Greece. Ultimately he was vindicated by being made bishop of Vladimir, in which position he served unto ripe old age. Although we are not, alas, told why it matters, we know that his peaceful death came in the sixth hour of the night.

Blessed Osanna of Cattaro (1493–1565) was the daughter of a Serbian Orthodox priest in Kumano[1], Montenegro, and spent her younger days as a shepherdess named Catherine. One day she saw a beautiful child lying in the grass, but when she bent down to pick it up, it disappeared, and she was left with a feeling of sadness. She told her mother, but her mother said that the Christ Child doesn’t appear to poor people, so she stopped telling her mother about the visions, which nevertheless continued to occur. At some point she got the idea that she could pray better in Cattaro (Kotor), and after a prolonged period of pestering, her mother arranged for her to work for a rich lady there. Unbeknownst to all and sundry, this lady happened to be Catholic. Well, one thing led to another, and before you could say “she allowed her to tarry in the church while on errands for as long as she wanted to,” Catherine had converted to Catholicism and was pestering the parish priest for a blessing to become a recluse. The local parish church had a hole in the wall they could shut wannabe hermits into, and into this closet Catherine went, with but one small opening through which to hear Mass, and one through which to talk to people and receive food. (We are not told about an opening to remove—well, let’s not go there.)

Before long she had another vision telling her to go to the Dominican church of St. Paul, so she did, taking the name Osanna after a Dominican named Osanna. Life in her little cubbyhole was difficult, cold, and hungry, but she had many visions and visitations—from our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and even Satan himself, who disguised himself as Mary and suggested Osanna change her penances. “I’d better ask my father confessor,” she said, and her father confessor agreed that this particular visitor was most emphatically not the Mother of God. She was also visited frequently by other Dominican women (although they were outside the door) seeking her advice and prayers, and she was hailed as the founder of the new convent in town, even though she’d never seen it—her prayers supported those who had. Her prayers also saved the town from invasions of both Turks and germs (albeit not simultaneously). Her incorrupt body was moved in 1807 to the Church of St. Mary in Cattaro when the French army turned St. Paul’s into a warehouse (I keep finding nothing positive to say about Napoleon). She was beatified in 1934.

[1]A place which exists only in biographies of Osanna, and seems to be based on a single source. I’m guessing it may be a misspelling (mangling) of Kumanovo, a town in nearby North Macedonia.