June 2 – Erasmus of Ochrid; Erasmus of Formiae

Erasmus of Ochrid (d. ca. 303) (aka Erazmo) was a wonderworker from Antioch who lived for a time “in strict asceticism” on Mount Lebanon, and was previously, or at the same time, or later, a bishop. Sometime later still (some sources are so-o-o vague) he was in Ochrid for reasons we may never know (other than that it’s a lovely place that time of year). He baptized many people, including the son of a man named Athanasius, whom he had raised from the dead (the son, not Athanasius). He also tore down an idolatrous altar, which got him brought before the emperor, who just happened to be vacationing nearby.

The emperor had him dragged before a copper statue of Zeus (which would sell for quite a bit these days on the scrap market) and ordered him to worship it, offer sacrifices before it, and all that. Erazmo called out, and a “terrible” dragon (not a friendly one like Puff) came out of the statue and terrified the onlookers. He then called out again and the dragon died. At this point he had his audience in the palm of his hand, and he preached such a sermon that he baptized 20,000 of them. What the emperor and his party did during the sermon and the baptisms, we are not told. Once Erazmo was done with the last baptizand, the emperor threw a tizzy, and had them all beheaded. Inexplicably he didn’t do the same to Erazmo, but tortured him and threw him in jail. That night an angel appeared and let him out, and he walked off to Campania, preached a bit, then wandered over to Hermelia and checked into a cave, wherein he lived out his days.

When it came time to die, he made three prostrations (facing East, it says—well duh), and asked God to give salvation to all those who in faith call on his name. A voice called out, “Erazmo, my little healer, it will be so.” Then he looked again and saw angels, prophets, apostles, martyrs, hagiographers, etc. coming to usher him to heaven. Which they did.

Erasmus of Formiae (d. ca. 303) (aka Elmo) also lived as a hermit on Mount Lebanon, was a bishop, and died in 303, but we’re simply not going to entertain the thought that he might be the same guy as Erasmus of Ochrid, mostly because he didn’t go to Ochrid, and because he was martyred.

His story starts with being dragged from his hermitage on Mt. Lebanon and beaten and so forth for not worshiping the idols—the usual. What was unusual is that when the other tortures failed to work, they rolled him in tar and set him on fire. This too failed to kill him, so they threw him in prison, from which he escaped. He then went to Illyricum (which is a bit west and north of Ochrid), converted some pagans, and was recaptured. He was forced to sit in a heated iron chair, which hurt, following which unfortunate things transpired involving his intestines and a windlass. This finally killed him.

Once (sometime before that), when he was preaching to a crowd, a lightning bolt hit the ground right next to him. For this reason (and perhaps the windlass), sailors in thunderstorms took to asking for his prayers, and he became known as their patron saint. The electrical phenomenon St. Elmo’s fire was named after him, as sailors took it as a sign of his protection. This phenomenon occurs in an electrically charged atmosphere and consists of a “coronal discharge,” a bright blue or violet glow seemingly shooting out of the ends of pointy things like ship masts or cows’ horns (I kid you not).

His relics are in Gaeta, Italy, and it’s a shame your intrepid hagiographer didn’t know that when he spent a fortnight in that beautiful town in 1980.