May 14 – Isidore of Rostov; Boniface of Tarsus

Isidore of Rostov (d. 1474), of either Slavic or Prussian extraction, was born near Brandenburg. It bothered him that Slavs in the area were pressured to convert to Catholicism, so he foreswore his inheritance—gold rings, parents, power yacht—and took to wandering, searching for the perfect swamp to build a hut in. He finally found it in Rostov (near Moscow). Choosing a spot just above mean higher high water, he stuck some bulrushes together and called it home. By then he had become Orthodox, and he took to wandering the streets committing random acts of foolishness: sleeping on dung heaps, decrying wickedness, dispensing spiritual advice to those who approached him from upwind—that sort of thing.

One day a ship was foundering at sea (somewhere), and the crew cast lots, determining that a merchant from Rostov was their Jonah (let the reader understand). They chucked him overboard and tossed him a plank, and as he sank with a prayer, he saw Isidore walking on the water. “Isidore! Save me!” he cried. “This is just between us, okay?” said the saint, hauling him onto the board. The two of them surfed on it back to the ship, and before he could say, “Thanks, Isidore,” the merchant was back on board and the saint had disappeared. Whenever they met after that, the merchant would prostrate himself, and Isidore would say, “Not a word.”

Another time Isidore heard that the archbishop was coming to the prince’s house. Wanting to bless the prince à la Matthew 10:42, he hurried to the house and asked one of the servants for a cup of water in the name of the Lord. The servant drove him away, and when the family sat down to dine, they found they were all out of wine. The prince asked the servants if anything, you know, different had happened that day, and he learned how Isidore had been refused a drink. He sent a servant to find the fool, but the fool wasn’t findable. Then, as the meal was ending, Isidore appeared. He handed the archbishop a piece of prosfora, saying, “I just got this from the Metropolitan in Kiev” (Kiev being about 1100 km (about 685 miles) west of Rostov on the M03.) Suddenly the wine casks were full again.

When Isidore died, his body immediately gave off a sweet scent which could be smelt throughout the town. The merchant related the whole story of his rescue, and with the bishop’s blessing built a wooden church on the site of the little hut. It was later replaced with a stone church.

The Holy Apostle Matthias (d. 80) is sometimes called “the forgotten apostle,” as he is mentioned briefly in the New Testament Book of the Acts of the Apostles, then promptly dropped. To briefly recap the story: after Judas Iscariot’s death subtracted one from Twelve, Peter argued the remaining Eleven needed to refill their number. They put forth two men who had been with them all along, prayed, and drew lots. Thus it is that the only apostle more forgotten than Matthias is the guy who lost, who had two names: Barsabbas, and Justus. You can read all about this in Acts 1:12–26.

Tradition remembers Matthias, however, as preaching for at least 30 years in the Levant, in Egypt, and as far south as Ethiopia. His message apparently centered on the need for mortification of the flesh. Along the way he was forced to drink a poison potion, but he not only survived, he healed others blinded by it.  He was imprisoned in Tianum-and-Sinope, but was released (details are sadly lacking—jailbreak? paid his bail? converted the jailer? my sources are mute) by (St.) Andrew the First-Called (Nov 30).

Matt was either stoned in Jerusalem or crucified in Colchis. His relics call Trier, Germany, as well as Rome, home. Maybe elsewhere as well. He is the patron of (among other things) reformed alcoholics, tailors, and both Gary, Indiana, and Great Falls–Billings, Montana.