May 17 – Euphrosyne of Moscow; Paschal Baylon

Euphrosyne of Moscow (d. 1407) was born Евдокия Дмитриевна (Eudoxia Dmitrievna), daughter of the Grand Prince of Nizhny Novgorod (or maybe Suzdal). She married the Grand Prince of Moscow, thus bringing stability between Suzdal (or maybe Nizhny Novgorod) and Moscow. She was a spiritual disciple of (St.) Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (Feb 12), and (St.) Sergius of Radonezh (see Aug 24).

Eudoxia did not shirk her political and religious duties, even while raising her five (or maybe twelve) children (this seems an odd thing for sources to disagree on). While her husband was off fighting the Blue Horde (which, when combined with the White Horde, became the Gold Horde—don’t ask; hordes aren’t paint), she held the fort in Moscow. (She wanted to leave, but the Muscovites wouldn’t let her.) She arranged to have the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos transferred to Moscow, and this was believed to have turned the tide of war. She also commissioned the icon of the Archangel Michael that became the focal point of the Kremlin’s Archangel Cathedral. In short, she was the very image of an iconodule.

After her husband’s death, she founded the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, now the oldest building in Moscow, as well as the Ascension Monastery. At the latter she later was nunnified, taking the name Euphrosyne, and it is there that she is buried.

Paschal Baylon (1540–1592) was born on Whitsunday, and was therefore named “Easter,” due to exigencies of the Spanish language it probably wouldn’t pay to go into. He worked for his parents as a shepherd, carrying religious books into the field and tapping passers-by for reading lessons, which (amazingly enough) worked. He attempted to join the Franciscans after a vision at age 18, but they sent him away. He read a few more books interovinially[1], and was accepted when he came back at 24.

He served as doorkeeper or cook for various impoverished friaries (places where impoverished friars grow—not to be confused with chippies, which are places where fatty fish & chips grow). When he wasn’t doorkeeping or cooking, he liked to spend time in the presence of the reserved Sacrament, about which he had no reservations. He is called the “Seraph of the Eucharist” (not the “Cherub of the Eucharist,” for obvious reasons) because of this devotion. He often experienced visions and ecstasies while kneeling before the altar, but he played these down. He shied from taking credit for his piety, which is to his credit, ironically.

For reasons entirely not elaborated, he was sent to bear a personal message to the head of the Observants (the Franciscan Friars—keeping track of the various threads of Franciscanery can be a chore; I do not blame the reader for not taking notes), who was in France at the time. Given the religious wars then going on, walking on foot from eastern Spain over the Pyrenees Mountains and on into France was not as easy as it sounds. Paschal insisted on wearing his habit, however, which led him into several scrapes. At one point he was accosted by a Calvinist preacher and got into a protracted argument in which, before an audience of onlookers, he defended the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. History does not report who won the argument, but I would have put my money on Paschal. He also got stoned by a party of Huguenots, by which we mean he had rocks thrown at him, sustaining injuries that plagued him to the end of his days.

The end of his days came on a Whitsunday, just as the bells were ringing for Mass. He was buried in Villareal, and his tomb became a pilgrimage destination, until it and his relics were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, about which grrr. He is the patron saint, against all reason, of Italian women.

[1] Between the sheep.