June 18 – Leontius, Hypatius, and Theodulus; Osanna of Mantua

Leontius (d. ca. 70–79) was a Roman soldier in Phoenicia. When the governor, Adrian (if you mentally said that in Sylvester Stallone’s voice, shame on you), caught word he had been converting fellow soldiers to Christianity, he sent a contingent of soldiers under the tribune Hypatius to fetch him. Along the way, Hypatius developed a sickness unto death (as Kierkegaard might say), but an angel said to him in a dream, “You can be healed if you and all your men say aloud three times, ‘God of Leontius, help me.’”

“Wait. I’m heading to arrest this guy for having the wrong god,” Hypatius said, “and you want me to pray to said deity?” But the angel disappeared. Nevertheless, his men agreed to cry out as prescribed, and he was instantly healed. “By Jove!” he said, and he was instantly sick again. Just kidding. His friend Theodulus urged haste, so he and Hypatius left their men somewhere and ran ahead. Who should greet them and invite them ’round to his house for a quick nibble but Leontius himself? As they ate, he told them about the Gospel, and they felt their hearts strangely warmed (as Wesley might say), and not from indigestion. They asked to be enlightened, and Leontius named the persons of the Trinity just as a sudden and inexplicable rain shower fell, and thus were they baptized.

Eventually all of this got back to Adrian[1], setting in motion the usual invitation to sacrifice to the gods, threats, cajoling, torture, promises of rewards, more torture, and so forth. Hypatius and Theodulus were beheaded, and Leontius was beaten to death while hanging from his ankles (how good our species is at inventing new methods of murder!).

A Christian woman took Leontius’ body and gave it a decent burial. When her husband was later imprisoned by Diocletian, she prayed to Leontius, who appeared to him in prison saying, “You’ll be heading home soon.” He then appeared to the Emperor, who was scared witless (to use the Cockney slang), saying, “You know that guy you threw in prison? Let him go.” He may have added some moaning noises, and perhaps some rattling chain sounds. I would have. The Emperor got the man out, wined and dined him, and sent him home to his wife. Together they thanked Leontius, and raised a church in the saint’s honor.

Osanna of Mantua (1449–1505) had a vision of the Christ Child at age six, and consecrated her life to God. She begged her father for reading lessons so she could say the Divine Office, but he said it would be a waste to teach a mere woman to read. When she was fourteen her parents started looking for a husband for her, so she snuck off to the Dominicans, and came home a Tertiary*. She told her father the robe was just part of a promise she’d made, and she’d take it off later. (Here one of our sources interrupts the flow of the narrative to say this doesn’t condone deceit. I thought I’d better pass that along.)

After a few months, Dad got suspicious, and not a little angry. But in time his heart “melted” and he came to terms with having a Tertiary in the house. Osanna did learn to read—one day she saw a piece of paper with the words “Jesus” and “Mary” on it, and from that point on she could read. Writing came about in much the same way. She found her spiritual director when a voice inside her pointed out a priest and said, “That’s the one.” As it turned out, the voice was 100% right (if only the voices in my head were so accurate). She was a visionary, ecstasticist (if that’s a word), stigmatic, and seer, and the ruling family (of Mantua, presumably) sought her for advice. Her impending death was revealed to her in a vision by her departed friend (St.) Columba of Rieti (May 20). She is the patroness, fittingly enough, of school girls.

[1] Adrian! Adrian!