July 23 – Apollinaris of Ravenna; Bridget of Sweden

Apollinaris of Ravenna (d. ca. 75) was made bishop of Ravenna by the Apostle Peter (Jun 29), something few other Ravennian bishops can say. Upon his arrival he found a certain Iranaeus, and converted him to Christianity via the expedient of healing his blind son. Using Iranaeus’ house as a base for his evangelism, he was soon healing and converting up a storm. He ordained two presbyters and two deacons, and between them they soon had the pagan priests on the run.

This displeased the pagan priests (spoilsports), and they appealed to the governor, leading to a trial, torture, and an attempted burial at sea. Apollinaris was still alive, however, and was fished out of the drink by a pious Christian woman. He soon gave away his location by healing one of the locals (natch), leading to another round of conversions, another round of tortures, an expulsion, more preaching, and another expulsion. When he got back he went right on preaching, leading to his banishment to the Pointless Forest. Sorry, to somewhere on the distant Danube, which may seem like overkill, but they did things right in Ravenna in those days. Their ship foundered, but happily the bish, his clergyguys, and their two soldier-guards survived. The latter were so impressed they converted.

They all wandered to Mycea, where Apollinaris healed a leper, converted a passel of locals, and was eventually (after three years) packed up and sent back to Ravenna with a sealed note saying, “We will thank you to not burden us with your problems.” Once home he was dragged into the temple of Apollo, whereupon the idol fell and shattered. He was dragged off to the governor, Taurus (April 19–May 20), for trial. Apollinaris healed Taurus’ son, and Taurus shielded him from the wrath of the priests of the temples of Syrinx. Erm, Apollo.

Not about to give up, the priests sent a letter to Emperor Vespasian asking him to do something about this “sorcerer.” The emperor wrote back and said, “Any god worth his salt can defend his own honor.” Not trusting Apollo to be worth his salt, they seized Apollinaris one last time, and either beat him to death or ran him through with a sword. He is the patron saint of Ravenna, sufferers of gout, and Düsseldorf, where some portion of his relics resides.

Bridget of Sweden (1304–1373), daughter of the governor of Upland, was married at fourteen to Ulf Gunmarsson. Their happy, 28-year marriage produced (St.) Catherine of Vadstena (Mar 24) and seven normal kids. After some years tending the family estate, she became lady-in-waiting to Blanche of Namur, the flighty wife of the weak-willed King Magnus (II) Eriksson. She tried to whip them into shape, drawing on her personal revelations which included the importance of washing. (Clothes? Hands? Flagstones? It doesn’t say.) Failing at this, she gave up and went with Ulf on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella (see Apr 30). On the way back Ulf fell ill, and even received the last rites. The two promised that if he recovered, they would retire to separate monasteries, and when he did so, they did so.

At that point, revelations and visions started coming fast and thick (or vice versa), and Bridget, fearing they were of less-than-wholesome origin, submitted them to her priest. He proclaimed them genuine, which was a load off her mind. One vision told her to tell Magnus to straighten up and fly right, which he took to heart for as long as it took to endow a double monastery* at Vadstena, which Bridget ruled. She traveled to Rome for the 1350 Jubilee, and settled in. While there she sent Pope Clement VI a stinging letter telling him to get his little Papal bottom back to Rome. She died shortly after a trip to the Holy Land, and her body was carted back to Vadstena for burial. She is one of the five patrons of Sweden, and six patrons of Europe.