June 10 – Bassian of Lodi; John Dominici

Bassian of Lodi (d. 430), son of a Sicilian governor, sought from an early age to learn about Christianity, which he did whilst in Rome ostensibly being educated about other stuff. At his baptism he saw an angel standing (or hovering or whatever angels do in baptismal fonts), holding his baptismal robe. When Bassian asked, “who are you? where are you from?” the angel said, “I was sent to help you know Christ, and then to become invisible.” Both of which it did.

Bassian’s manner of life began to change, and his servants began to get suspicious. They sent a letter back to Syracuse, and the governor demanded they ship Bassian home immediately. Bassian however had received a visiongram from St John the Theologian (see Sep 26) telling him to clear out, so he sold his worldly goods (no doubt bitterly disappointed at how little he got for his textbooks), gave the proceeds to the poor, and removed to Ravenna.

There he developed such a reputation as a wonderworker that a man falsely accused of a capital crime called out for Bassian’s help, and received it in this wise: as the executioner’s sword was slicing the air immediately above the condemned neck, it flew out of his hands. Three times. Then another three with a second headsman. At this point they knocked off for the day and sent a report to the emperor about the goings-on, receiving word by return runner that the convicted man should be set free.

This miracle was the last straw for the people of the town, who immediately demanded Bassian be ordained. Later, when the bishop of Lodi (no, not the one in California; the one about 250 km. NW of Ravenna on the A1) died, the dean of the cathedral had a revelation naming Bassian as his replacement, in which capacity he (Bassian) served out his days. His relics have mostly stayed in Lodi (Italy), except for an involuntary sojourn to Milan between 1158 and 1163. He is the patron of Lodi, and three other Italian locales.

Blessed John Dominici (1356–1419) was born in Florence, and grew up poor, uneducated, and speech impedimented. He was determined, however, to join the “preaching friars” (Dominicans), despite their refusals which, although not including “over our dead bodies,” were somewhat categorical. “Go home and support your aging parents,” they said. “We’re fine. Let him into the order,” the parents countered. After two years of this, the order relented. John began his novitiate, and turned out to be a voracious and efficient scholar.

They sent him to Paris to round out his education, and once he was round enough, he returned to Florence and was priested. But he still couldn’t preach on account of his speech impediment. “This is a job for a saint,” John reasoned, so he sought the prayers of Catherine of Siena (Apr 29), who judging by the dates couldn’t have been dead for more than a year. It was enough, though—John was healed and went on to spend twelve years preaching in Vienna (and they could use it, by all accounts). From there he went to Rome and helped Raymond of Capua to rebuild the order after the devastation caused by the plague. He founded many Dominican houses and convents, helped restore discipline to the order (is it just me, or are there a lot of medieval Western saints whose activities include restoring discipline to flabby orders?), supported Christian education, and helped to heal the Western Schism (the Avignon/anti-pope thing). Somewhere in there he was made a cardinal. He died while preaching in Buda[1], Hungary, against the heretic John Hus. (Well, not died while preaching, but died while in Buda, where he went in order to preach.) His tomb was for a time a site of miracles, until it was destroyed by the Turks, about whom I have even fewer nice things to say than I do about Napoleon or Henry VIII.

[1] Not to be confused with Pest.