Feast of the
Dedication of St. John Lateran
Agrippinus of Naples B (RM)
(also known as Arpinus)
2nd or 3rd century. Bishop Agrippinus of Naples has been highly venerated in that city from time immemorial. His relics are enshrined under the high altar of the cathedral together with the bodies of Saints Eutychius and Acutius, companions of Saint Januarius (Benedictines).
Alexander of Salonica M (RM)
4th century. A martyr of Salonica under Maximian Herculius (Benedictines).
Benen of Ireland B (AC)
(also known as Benignus)
Died c. 468. Son of the Meath chieftain Sechnan (Sessenen or Sesgne), Benen grew up in the district around Duleek. He and his family were converted in his childhood and baptized by Saint Patrick. The story is told that Benen worshipped Patrick as a hero. He had heard the tale of the great saint's chariot driver laying down his life to save Patrick. He was in awe, but too young to do much. So when after baptizing Benen, Patrick fell into an exhausted sleep in a quiet corner of the family's garden, he wondered what he could do to honor the saint. He noticed the dust of the road on Patrick's clothes was attracting insects, so he scattered some strongly scented flowers over the sleeping man. When the boy was chastised for doing this, Patrick responded: "Don't send him away. He's a good boy. It may be that he will yet do wonderful things for the Church."
At that moment Benen became the apostle's disciple and companion. We are told that when the apostle wanted to continue his journey, Benen rolled himself into a ball in Patrick's chariot, clung to the saint's feet, and begged to accompany him to Tara. Patrick agreed to take the youngster with him, although everyone else thought he was too immature. Patrick assured them that Benen would be fine-- and he was. He never returned home.
And so, as Benen matured, he became Patrick's confidant, 'Psalmsinger,' and right-hand man. He sang for every Mass said by Patrick, thereby learning how to teach and preach the faith. Eventually Benen was ordained priest, and in time succeeded Patrick as archbishop of Ireland. Benen is known for his gentleness, charm, and beautiful singing voice.
The story is told that once on an Easter Sunday when Saint Patrick, his eight companions, and the boy Benignus were going from Slane to Tara to confront the high king, Laoghaire, they were miraculously turned into deer and so avoided the attempts of the king's guards to intercept them en route. The fawn in the rear, according to the legend, was Benignus. The Tripartite Life tells it this way:
"Patrick went with eight young clerics and Benen as a gillie with them, and Patrick gave them his blessing before they set out. A cloak of darkness went over them so that not a man of them appeared. Howbeit, the enemy who were waiting to ambush them, saw eight deer going past them, and behind them a fawn with a bundle on its back. That was Patrick with his eight, and Benen behind them with his tablets on his back."
He is credited with evangelizing Clare, Kerry, and Connaught, and reportedly headed a monastery at Drumlease in Kilmore, built by Patrick, for some 20 years.
Benen's connection with Glastonbury has no historical basis; however, William of Malmesbury relates that Benen resigned his see in 460, and went to Glastonbury, to seek out his old master. Patrick is said to have sent him out to live as a hermit at the first place where his staff should burst into leaf and bud. It is related that this happened in the swampy environs of Feringmere, which is where Benen died and was buried. In 1091, someone's relics were translated from that site to Glastonbury Abbey, but they were not Benen's because there is no truth in the association of Saint Patrick and Saint Benen with Glastonbury (Benedictines, Bieler, Concannon, D'Arcy, Delaney, Curtayne, Healy, Montague, Ryan).
Eustolia and Sopatra VV (RM)
Died 7th century. It is uncertain whether both of these virgins were daughters of Emperor Maurice of Constantinople (582-602) or only one of them. They were from the first revered as saints (Benedictines).
Blessed George Napper M (AC)
Born at Holywell Manor, Oxford, England; died at Oxford, 1610; beatified in 1929. George Napper was educated at Corpus Christi College and then studied for the priesthood at Douai where he was ordained in 1596. Sent to the English mission, he labored in Oxfordshire and was finally condemned for his priesthood and executed (Benedictines).
Blessed Ilona of Hungary, OP V (PC)
(also known as Helen)
Died c. 1270. Ilona was the novice mistress of the Dominican convent of Vesprim, where she trained the future Saint Margaret of Hungary in the ways of holiness. She was one of the first sisters in the community founded by Paul of Hungary in 1222. Ilona was known for her gift of contemplative prayer that often led to ecstasy.
Sometimes God gave visible signs of her sanctity, which were not always understood by her community. Once she was watched by another sister as she prayed alone. The corpus on the crucifix came to life, reached down, and took her hand in His. It took a full day for the sisters to pry her hand from that of the corpus. Another time the large crucifix from the altar suspended itself over her until she finished her prayer, at which time she replaced it.
Ilona is reputed to have been the first Dominican marked with the stigmata. Before 1237, she received a mark in her right hand on the Feast of Saint Francis about 10 years after his death as she prayed for some of the saint's intense love for heavenly things. As she went into a state of ecstasy, her hand sparkled and gave off rays of light. In the center of her palm a circle of gold appeared and from this a dazzlingly bright lily grew. When she returned to a normal state of consciousness, she prayed that the wound would be invisible. Later a similar wound appeared in her left hand. God did not answer that prayer until near the time of her death. The lilies of light that appeared during her prayer is unique in the annals of the Church.
Ilona was dearly loved within her community, which she served as novice mistress and then as prioress. Her great desire was that her sisters might remain faithful to the rule and the offering of penance. She also had a "green thumb" with houseplants--her touch could restore withered plants. Other miracles are recorded of her: she levitated; candles lit themselves on the altar at her passing; and she revived a dead, pet goat. Saint Ilona lived for 30 years after Saint Margaret was removed to the more protected monastery at Budapest.
When Ilona was at the point of death, she was rapt in ecstasy. Her body glowed with a radiance that made it impossible for her sisters to determine the exact moment of her passing. At some point she also received wounds in her side and feet, which healed; however, when her tomb was opened 17 years after her death, the wound in her side reopened of its own volition and rays of light poured forth from it.
Ilona is venerated in Hungary and within the Dominican Order although she has never been formally beatified (Benedictines, Dorcy, Harrison).
Nectarius Kephalas B
Born in Greece, 1846; died on Aegina, Greece, 1920; canonized by the Orthodox Church. While rector of the Rhizarion ecclesiastical college, Nectarius began restoring a convent on the island of Aegina in 1904. After 1908, he used his energies full-time on this project. He died on the island where he was revered during his lifetime and where he was buried. His relics at the restored convent have been the destination of pilgrims since 1953 (Attwater).
Orestes of Cappadocia M (RM)
Died 304. A martyr of Cappadocia, tortured to death under Diocletian (Benedictines).
Pabo of Brittany (AC)
Died c. 510. Surnamed 'Post-Prydain,' Pabo was the son of a chieftain on the Scottish border and at first a soldier. Later he came to Wales and founded the monastery called after him Llanbabon, in Anglesey. Britain and Brittany are often confused in old hagiographical records (Benedictines).
Theodore Tiro (RM)
(also known as Theodore the Recruit)
Died 306. Theodore was a young man newly enlisted (tiro means recruit) in the Roman army when severe regulations were published continuing under the new rulers of the empire the persecutions that had been started by Diocletian. His legion was wintering at Amasea in Pontus on the Black Sea when orders came that everyone should join in pagan worship. The recruit refused to do so. Though his life was seriously at risk, Theodore made no attempt to conceal his faith in Christianity.
The tribune of the legion and the governor of Pontus summoned the soldier before them, asking why he proclaimed belief in Jesus Christ when the Roman authorities threatened anyone who did so with death. "Jesus Christ is my one God," replied Theodore. "Since you dislike my words so much, why not cut out my tongue. There is no limb that I am not ready to sacrifice when God demands it."
Both the tribune and the governor had no desire to put their new recruit to death. They sent him back to his quarters, resolved to try to convert him to paganism later. Theodore, believing that the time had now come for a public demonstration of his hatred for the pagan idols, went to the center of nearby Euchaïta, where a temple to Cybele, the mother-goddess, had been erected and set fire to it.
Even now the governor and the tribune were disposed to be lenient. They bribed the young soldier with the promise that he would be made a priest of Cybele, if only he would recant and deny Jesus. Theodore pointed out that the pagan priests were the most reprehensible of all, since they misled the rest.
At this the authorities sentenced Theodore to be whipped. He made no cry of pain as his skin was lashed. He spent a further time in jail awaiting sentence, which was that he should be burned alive in the place where he incinerated the temple. On February 17, 306, the young recruit was thrown into a furnace and perished. A good Christian woman name Eusebia buried the ashes.
The story is untrustworthy, and its later forms so contradictory and complicated by incredible embroideries that another Saint Theodore Stratelates, 'the General,' was invented to account for them. There is good evidence that there was a martyred Theodore in Pontus; he was venerated from the fourth century and his burial place at Euchaïta was an important religious center.
He became the third of the highly venerated 'soldier-saints' of the East, with Saint George and Saint Demetrius. A contest with a dragon (metaphoric for evil) seems to have been attributed to Theodore before it was to George (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney).
Saint Theodore is represented as a young warrior with a lance. Pictured may be (1) Saint Acacius (in Byzantine art); (2) Theodore setting fire to the temple with a torch; (3) Christ appearing to him in prison; (4) a crown of thorns; (5) a funeral pyre; or (6) a dragon or crocodile at his feet (Roeder). Click here to see an anonymous Byzantine mosaic or a Russian icon of Saints Theodore Stratelites and Theodore the Tyro.
He is greatly venerated in the Eastern Church as the patron of soldiers. He is invoked against storm (Roeder).
Ursinus of Bourges B (RM)
(also known as Ursin)
Died 3rd century. Ursin was actually the first bishop of Bourges and lived during the third century. Yet it has been claimed that Ursin was once called Nathaniel, that he was a friend of the apostle Philip, that he read at the Last Supper, that he was present at the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, and that he was one of the many missionaries sent to Gaul by Saint Peter. All of which only proves that Christians have never like doctrinal innovators.
Is all this a lie? Not really. Throughout the ages Christians have gone to great lengths to hold on to Jesus Christ by every possible means. Pseudo-Christs have never been very frequent, nor have they enjoyed much success. The life of Christ is so transcendent that in all ages people have tried to come close to Him, and to the lives of the Apostles, even if in doing so they have had to stretch the historical truth. While it is good and helpful to know the historical truth, it is more important that the stories of the saints convey the Truth, as does the tale of Ursin at Bourges, than that they should be accurate.
What the people at Bourges and elsewhere are saying is that the new religion was not Ursin's, nor Nathaniel's, nor Stephen's, but Jesus Christ's; it seems intelligent of them to have aged Ursin by several centuries to bring him closer to Jesus Christ, and so bring us nearer to Him, too.
When Ursin went to Bourges, he stayed with a poor family. He wasn't a popular orator, nor did he find fault with the great or attack anyone. He didn't prepare learned discourses. Instead he went to live with a poor family, worked during the day and in the evening told them all that he knew about Jesus Christ: This was the first church at Bourges.
Guess who spread the Gospel there? Gossips! Think about it. We who call ourselves Christians often mentally condemn those who would spread every rumor, adding details as they go. Condemnation doesn't belong to the Christian, however, Jesus can use even the sins of others for good.
The poor family where Ursin lived must have repeated his story to their neighbors, who retold it to others, so that within a few days everyone in the area knew the story of Jesus Christ. They all wanted to see this man Ursin, who worked with his hands and wasn't proud--and who listened to them. And so they came to the poor family to hear the Gospel. He retold the story countless times and everyone was impressed. His gossips succeeded as well as Paul and his rhetoricians!
But as generally happens to prophets, Ursin drew the attention of the jealous who soon spread malicious gossip about him, causing him to be scorned by nearly everyone--but Jesus, who wanted Ursin for himself. One day Ursin was chased out of town by dogs, street urchins, and the rabble. It was all over he thought. Ursin was a gentle man, so he didn't reproach the gossips or defend himself. Instead he went to live in a hut in the woods, and waited to see what would happen.
Not long afterwards people came to find him. There had been a change of opinion as people asked themselves why they had let him go because he was such a good man who had done no harm. Everybody knew him well and had a story to tell about his kindness.
So Ursin was persuaded to return and began retelling the story of Jesus Christ. They saw that he didn't ask money from them and he didn't play the prophet, so the again started listening. They even looked for another bigger place for their meetings. Senator Leocade spent only a few days each year in Bourges, so messengers were sent to ask him for the loan of his stables. Leocade agreed, and that was the second church in Bourges.
Everything went so well that soon the stables were too small. Another place had to be found--perhaps Leocade's palace? Ursin didn't like the idea; Leocade was an important man and his palace would be too grand. But he was persuaded to go to Lyons and ask Leocade to allow them to use his palace.
Leocade not only agreed but also converted and gave all his property in the district to found new churches. Ursin then returned to Bourges and moved his church into the palace--the third church in Bourges.
Ursin died, not a martyr, but greatly venerated by the gossips and everybody else.
It was the same Jesus Christ that he taught in the humble cottage, in the big stables, and in the grand palace; and it is the same Jesus Christ that is preached today from the bishop of Bourges in his magnificent cathedral: and that is the most wonderful thing of all (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Vitonus of Verdun B (AC)
(also known as Vanne, Vaune)
Died c. 525. It is said that Vitonus took the monastic habit in his youth, and then was chosen to be bishop of Verdun about 498. He shepherded his flock for about 26 years until his death--never slacking in his zeal or practice of austerity. Though little is known of his life, Vitonus is credited with many miracles. At a later period a great Benedictine abbey of Lorraine was dedicated to him, which in 1604 became the center of the Congregation of Saint- Vannes. He is the patron of Verdun (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with permission of the author. Source references are available. HTML formatting © 2007 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.