August 11 – Euplus of Catania; Clare of Assisi

Euplus (d. 304) was an archdeacon in Catania, which is in Sicily (to be fair that can be said of many cities). He was known to always carry a gospel book, for which he was arrested and dragged before the governor, Calvin—erm, Calvisinus[1]. Commanded to worship Mars, Apollo, and Aeculapius, Euplus replied he worshiped the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After a little rack time, they tossed him in jail, where he was refreshed by a miraculous spring that appeared in his cell (one hopes it had an outflow, or he knew how to swim).

At his second trial, he repeated his earlier confession, and denounced the authorities for killing Christians. They hung his gospel around his neck, and after relieving him of his ears, hauled him off to the decapitation specialist. He asked for and was granted some time to pray, whereupon he opened the gospel book and preached to the bystanders, converting many. Finally, he was beheaded. His relics reside in Vico bella Batonia, near Naples.

Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) was the daughter of a Count and Countess, which may or may not count for anything. They wanted to marry her off (shock!), but agreed to wait until she was eighteen. Little did they know. When she was eighteen, she heard St. Francis preaching in the streets, and knew it was time. She sought him out and told him she desired to live “after the manner of the holy Gospel.” He promised to help her, and the two became lifelong friends. One Palm Sunday she stayed in her pew while the others went forward to receive palms. The bishop himself came down from the sanctuary and placed a palm in her hand, right in front of God and everybody. She took this to be a sign (Virgo), and that night she ran away to become a religious* (as opposed to “become religious” which she already was). She was greeted by Francis & Co. holding lights, like they had been expecting her or something. Francis shaved off her hair and clothed her in a robe of rough homespun (at least it had no tags). Her father came by some days later to drag her back to where her fiancé was tapping his foot (I’m guessing right foot), but unsuccessfully. He was dissuaded by his daughter Agnes, who had come to join Clare in her nundom. (As did their mother, eventually.)

Francis made Clare an abbess against her will, and in retaliation she founded the Order of Poor Ladies, later the Order of San Damiano, finally the Order of Saint Clare, which she headed for forty years. She wrote a very stringent Rule, and defended it against successive popes who wanted to water it down—until Innocent IV approved it for good and aye (two days before she died). Today there are over 20,000 “Poor Clares” in 75 different countries.

Clare loved music and “well-crafted” sermons (which were apparently as rare in those days as they are in ours). Touchingly, she would wake up in the middle of the night and go around putting the blankets back on sisters who had kicked them off in their sleep. She meditated daily upon the Passion of our Lord, and was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, once, when her convent was about to be attacked, she carried a monstrance to the gates and prayed before it, and the attackers fled. Thus she is often depicted holding a monstrance, although it might not be the same one.

Toward the end of her life she became too ill to attend Mass, but a moving (in motion, not emotionally moving) (although that too) image of the service appeared on the wall of her cell, which is why she is the patroness of television[2]. She was canonized a mere two years after her death.

[1] Really.
[2] See Note 1.