September 15 – Asclepiodote, Maximus, and Theodotus; Catherine of Genoa

Asclepiodote and Maximus (IV cent.), unlike Theodotus (whom we’ll get to), were prominent citizens of Marcianopolis of Thrace (near present-day Devnya, Bulgaria). They were female and male, respectively, although the source doesn’t make clear if they were wife and husband. Howe’er it was, they were responsible for converting a lot of Thracians, and when official persecution came (as was its wont), they were called on the mosaic pavement and invited to renounce their faith.

“No,” they said (or the nearest Thracian equivalent), so they were beaten. Just then Theodotus (told you we’d get to him) stepped forward and said, “Stop! This is barbaric.” So he was grabbed and lashed to a tree, and tormented with tormenty things. After the tormentors had had their jollies for the day, our three heroes were thrown into jail, then dragged across the countryside (not literally) (at least my sources don’t mention it) by the governor (whose name was Tris) so he could have them tortured at his leisure. When they got to Adrianopolis (later renamed Edirne by people who couldn’t pronounce “opolis”) (or “Adrian”), he ordered them tortured with white-hot plates. They heard a Voice from heaven saying, “Hang in there,” so they hung in there. Next they were introduced to a bear, with whom they threw a snuggle party. Aski was tied to a bull, who suddenly got cold (for values of cold = “immobile”) feet. Then he (Tris, not the bull) schlepped them to Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv, Bulgaria), where he had them beheaded. For his pains, he was atomized by a lightning bolt. Hope his life insurance was paid up.

Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510), from the illustrious yet fishy—sorry, Fieschi—family of Genoa, wanted to enter her sister’s convent at thirteen, was turned down as being too young, and gave up the idea entirely. She was married at sixteen to a family enemy, in hopes to end the feud. It didn’t work. Giuliano was a lech, a hothead, and a spendthrift, and Catherine’s life was a living Gahenna. After five years of this she “turned to the world” as an anodyne. We’re not told exactly what it was she did in the world, except that her pleasures were “innocent.” Okay. Her faith cooled to room temperature, and she fell into depression. She stayed in her room (when home) and prayed for a return of her earlier fervor.

After five years of this, she visited her sister at the convent. “Why not go to our confessor?” Sis suggested. “Whatever,” Catherine agreed. While confessing, however, just as the priest said, “Something’s come up, I’ll be right back,” she had a piercing vision of her own sinfulness and God’s lovingkindness, and fell into an ecstasy. She came to as the priest came back, said, “Um, I forgot something at home, can we finish this later?” and hurried out. (The sources seem to indicate this was not the usual thing a priest would do in these circs.)

From this point on her life became one of penance (for her sins) and great and abiding joy (for God’s love), which she could hardly explain, although she did so at great length in her books, and (after 25 years) to Father Marabotti, who became her friend, confessor, spiritual guide, and biographer. She explained to him (as best she could) what she had been experiencing. Presumably Fr. M.’s response to her amazing story would have been more than I could have mustered, which I imagine to be, “Wow, okay, mm-hmm, wow [repeat].”

She managed to convert her husband, and they lived for a time in peace and constancy, until he predeceased her. She devoted herself to care of the sick, dying, and so on in the great hospital of Genoa (eschewing, I guess, the mediocre hospitals of Genoa), of which, in time, she became manager and treasurer. Finally, worn out by her physical labors and the divine love that burned within her, she died. She was beatified in 1675 (by Clement X) and canonized in 1737 (by Clement XII). She is, naturally, one of the patron saints of victims of adultery, and people in bad marriages.