June 7 – Daniel of Scetis; Meriadoc of Vannes

Daniel of Scetis (V cent.) was a monk under Arsenios the Great (May 8), and then abbot himself for 40 years. He then “retired to the desert,” which I will assume means he lived as a hermit somewhere sere (as if Scetis isn’t sere in its own right). I’m guessing he wasn’t drawing a pension. Three times he was kidnapped by highwaymen. The first two times he was rescued (I’m seeing a big St. Bernard[1] with a keg around its neck, but maybe not). The third time he arranged his own escape, which involved hitting one of his captors with a rock, which wasn’t good for him. The captor, I mean. He died.

Daniel was mortified. He went and confessed to Patriarch Timothy of Alexandria, but the latter’s soothing words left him without peace. So he went to Rome, and confessed to the pope, but the pope was on the same codex as the patriarch. Not one to give up easily, Daniel visited in turn the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem. None would give him the harsh penance he felt he deserved.

Finally he turned himself in to the authorities in Alexandria, saying, “I’m a murderer. Lock me up.” The bailiff looked at the jailer. The jailer looked at the bailiff. They shrugged. They locked him up. When his trial came, he told the governor the whole story, begging to be put to death for the sake of his eternal soul. The governor looked at him with amazement and said, “Go in peace, father, and pray for me, even if you kill seven more!”

In the end, Daniel designed his own penance: he found a leper and tended him lovingly in his own cell until he died. Then another, and another, until he himself died. In this way, the Prologue says, “he brought peace to his conscience.”

Meriadoc of Vannes (IV or V or VI cent. or d. 688) (aka Meriasek and Meriadeg) was of royal parentage of either Brittany or Wales. He escaped his rich family, gave all his wealth and/or lands to the poor and/or needy, got himself priested, and went to Cornwall. There he founded churches, including one at Camborne of which he is patron. He lived a life (does that strike anybody else as redundant? what else can you live if not a life?) of strict asceticism, dressing in rags, eating simple foods, living in poverty, and in general distancing himself from his former life at court.

When King Teudar started making a fuss, Meriadoc returned (or went for the first time) to Brittany. He founded a church in Josselin, which at the time was under the purview of the Viscount of Rohan (as God is my witness this is in the sources). There he healed lepers and disabled people, calmed storms, rerouted groundwater through solid rock, and in short exhibited all the signs of a holy wonderworker. To escape his growing reputation he moved to Pontivy. At some point in there his family showed up to drag him back to his inheritance, but the viscount spoke for him when he offered his services as a sort of holy sheriff (if not by that name). In this office he cleaned up the neighborhood by the expedient and efficient method of calling down fire from heaven on any brigands who wouldn’t quit the district.

Ultimately he was made bishop of Vannes, but even then he lived at Asceticism Level Hairshirt, and dedicated himself to ministry to the poor. He died with the prayer of St. Philip on his lips. Then his skull went to Plougasnou, and his bell to Stival. The latter is said to heal the deaf and migraine sufferers if placed on their heads. A miracle play was written about him in Cornish sometime before 1508. His prayers are invoked, as you might guess, against deafness.

An aside to Tolkien fans (I know you’re out there): you got the allusions, right?

[1] The dog, not the twelfth century Cistercian monk (Aug 20).