September 25 – Euphrosyne of Suzdal; Hermann von Reichenau

Euphrosyne of Suzdal (1212–1250) didn’t come along until her parents (Great Prince Michael of Chernigov and his great wife Theophania) had made multiple pilgrimages to the Caves Monastery in Kiev (Kyiv) and received three visitations from the Theotokos telling them to be patient and they’d get pregnant. She (Euphrosyne) was raised in faith and piety, and her education and beauty soon had potential suitors knocking down the door. (Figuratively.) She was eventually betrothed to Prince Theodore, brother to Alexander Nevsky (Nov 23), who was famous for something. (Irony.) My sources say Ted was forced into the marriage by his father, but he found a way out of it—he died just as the guests began to arrive for the nuptials. “That’s it,” said the bride, “I’m going to a monastery.” And she did, taking the name Euphrosyne.

Euphrosyne was a model nun—smart, insightful, and abstinential. She was visited by our Lord Himself, who encouraged her to be both vigilant and positive. She took this as a command (as, seriously, who wouldn’t?), and fulfilled it to the best of her ability. She became a source of spiritual insight and instruction to many, giving EUPH Talks[1] on love, prayer, obedience, and humility, as a result of which many of her listeners monasticized.

Even the abbess went to Euphrosyne for advice, and as a result of her suggestion, divided the monastery into a virgins’ wing and a widows’ wing, for reasons my sources do not make clear. (Maybe so the widows could talk about certain stuff without the bother of explaining it to the virgins?) It was apparently a very good thing, and there was much rejoicing.

The Lord told Euphrosyne about the coming Mongol invasion (in 1238), and through her prayers she saved the monastery, although she could not save the city, which burned down around them. After she died her grave became the locus of many miracles, and she was canonized by Metropolitan Hilarion of Suzdal in 1698.

Blessed* Hermann von Reichenau (1013–1054) was born with a list of unfortunate maladies. Unfortunately, the list has been lost. We do know he had a cleft palate, a partially-paralyzing neurological condition, and something wrong with his spine. He could not walk, and had difficulty speaking, and is sometimes called Hermann the Lame (especially by people who can’t pronounce “Reichenau”). When it became impossible for his parents to take care of him (age seven according to one source), they gave him to the Benedictines on Reichenau, an island in the Bodensee (also named Lake Constance, after the fact that it’s still there).

There he proved that his mind was sharp, whatever the condition of his body. He was a prolific musical composer, and wrote treatises on the science of music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy (including instructions for how to build an astrolabe, enabling people to make their own and not depend on expensive imports from The Sharper Image). While not busy with these projects, he composed a history of the first Christian millennium, drawing on multiple chronicles the monks had lying around or could get through interlibrary loan. He also built musical instruments, was literate in Greek, Latin, and maybe Arabic, and was the most famous poet in Europe (his Salve Regina still has legs).

Sadly he went blind later in life and had to give up writing, but if you figure he started writing at 20 (when he was monkified) and went blind at say 30 or 35, he got a good bit done. “Prolific” is almost insultingly understatemental. He was beatified (his cultus was confirmed) in 1863 by Pope Pius IX.


[1] Think TED Talk but by someone whose name starts with EUPH.