Wednesday, November 01, 2023

All Saints

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. [1 Jn 3:2-3 NIV]


Gaius Sollius Modestius Sidonius Apollinaris, Hesychius I, Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus, Apollinaris

Sidonius Apollinaris was born around the 430s in Lugdunum, modern-day Lyon, to a very aristocratic Roman family in Gaul. He married Papianilla, the daughter of the Western emperor, Eparchius Avitus, and was eventually named prefect of the city of Rome by a later emperor, Procopius Anthemius, who later also made him Patrician and Senator. He was appointed bishop of Averna (modern-day Clermont) in 469, apparently against his will, but he was an impressive bishop, and it is said that he could both say the entire Mass from memory without having to consult a sacramentary and improvise a homily on the spot. In the 470s, Clermont was attacked by the Arian Visigoths, and Sidonius and his brother-in-law Ecdicus  organized the defense of the city. They were able to hold out for quite a while, but were eventually conquered, and Sidonius was captured and thrown in prison. He seems to have impressed the Visigothic king, Euric, though, because he was eventually allowed to return to his see. We don't know much about his death, although we know it was sometime before 490. He left behind an extensive body of poems and letters.

We know very little about Hesychius I of Vienne, although some sources suggest that he had been a senator before later becoming bishop of Vienne. He was certainly related to Sidonius, although we don't know the exact connection. He had married a woman, Audentia, who seems to have been of good family, and they had two sons, Avitus and Apollinaris, and a daughter, Fuscina. Hesychius was succeeded as bishop of Vienne by his son Avitus. Avitus was very active in Church affairs, and also with negotiating and occasionally converting Arians from the Germanic nations. Avitus left behind a body of letters, and also a long Latin poem, the Poematum de Mosaicae historicae gestae, which is often considered to be one of Milton's influences in the writing of Paradise Lost. St. Avitus's younger brother, Apollinaris, was made bishop of Valence in 486, and seems to have become immensely popular among the people, whom he actively served until his death in about 520.

The whole family seems primarily notable for the competence and care with which they approached their episcopal duties. St. Sidonius Apollinaris is commemorated on August 21; St. Hesychius I of Vienne is commeorated on March 15 in many local calendars; St. Avitus of Vienne is commemorated on February 5; and St. Apollinaris of Valence is commemorated on October 5.

Juvenal of Jerusalem

The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed by Rome in AD 70, and spent a considerable time in ruins until the Emperor Hadrian built a new city in the same general location, which he called Aelia Capitolina. Juvenal became bishop of Aelia Capitolina in the 420s, and set about to restore his see, now merely a suffragan of the greater city of Caesarea, to its former status as the patriarchate of Jerusalem. Indeed, he was almost obsessive about it. A somewhat ruthless power-player, he negotiated and finagled and pleaded and wheedled to try to restore Jerusalem's status as a patriarchate. He regularly violated canon law and standard norms of behavior, occasionally treating himself as already a patriarch with no obligations to Caesarea. The two most powerful figures in the Church of the day were St. Leo I of Rome and St. Cyril of Alexandria; he annoyed them incessantly, and they continually had to push him off. According to Leo, at one point he tried to forge documents in support of his claims, and Cyril seems to have regarded him an irritation that unfortunately had to be endured in the struggle against Nestorius. Nonetheless, he was a very active ally of both, and perhaps their major supporter at the Council of Ephesus, although his support was always mixed in with an attempt to argue that one of the sins of the Nestorians was not properly recognizing the importance of the See of Jerusalem. When the Robber Council of Ephesus was called by Dioscorus of Alexandria, he was active in that, as well, as supporting the miaphysite compromise with the Monophysites, but when the Council of Chalcedon was called in response to it, he switched sides and became a major supporter of Chalcedon. He finally managed to leverage this into formal recognition of Jerusalem as at least an honorary patriarchate. It didn't do him a lot of immediate good, since the Monophysites dominated the area, and they were not pleased with his side-switching. He was chased out and only eventually restored by the Imperial troops. But once that was done, he had a few years of peace before his death in 458, during which he was active in his support of Chalcedon. A cunning ecclesiastical politician, although not on the level of St. Leo and certainly not on the level of St. Cyril, much of his career consists of him doing rather dubious things. But there's a peculiarity about him; he does not seem at any point to have been doing these things for self-aggrandizing reasons. His behavior is entirely consistent with the interpretation that he honestly believed that Jerusalem was being denied its appropriate rights, and he was willing to endure any number of humiliations in order to insist on it. And despite his odd priorities, he played an active, and apparently sincere, role in the success of both the Council of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon. His feast is on July 2.

Wilfrid of Northumbria

Wilfrith, or Wilfrid, was born somewhere around 633 in Northumbria; he's generally thought to have come from a noble family, although we do not know for sure. He went into religious life, his education apparently sponsored by Queen Eanflaed, and eventually met St. Benedict Biscop, whom he accompanied on a pilgrimage to Rome, although he spent time in Lyon while the rest of the pilgrimage went on. After completing the last leg of the pilgrimage later on his own, he returned to Lyon. The pilgrimage and the time in Lyon would have an important historical effect, because in the course he learned Roman and Frankish liturgical customs, which he would bring back to Britain on his return. When he did return, he was put in charge of organizing a monastery by King Ahlfrith of Deira, who was a sort of subordinate king of the greater Northumbrian kingdom. The monks were largely Irish, and there was a subsequent power struggle over whether Celtic or Roman customs, including over the dating of Easter, would win out; Wilfrid won, and the abbot and a number of other monks, including St. Cuthbert, were expelled. Wilfrid at the time was not a priest; it's unclear from historical sources (which are inconsistent on this point) whether he was even a monk himself, rather than just a layman authorized by the king to organize the monastery. However, he did become a priest not long after the dispute. The Easter dispute was getting very heated, so King Oswiu of Northumbria called a meeting, the Synod of Whitby, to clarify the matter. Wilfrid, because of his background, was chosen as part of the team who were to argue for the Roman customs. He was immensely successful in this task; the Synod of Whitby voted in favor of the Roman party. Because of this success, Wilfrid was made a bishop, although we don't know exactly which diocese was his seat (another point at which the sources are very inconsistent). Not having any bishops of the Roman party available and refusing to be consecrated as a bishop by an Anglo-Saxon bishop, Wilfrid went to Paris to be consecrated by St. Agilbert, whom he had met and interpreted for at the Synod of Whitby. He took such a long time doing this, however, that when he came back, he found the diocese had been given instead to a less picky bishop. Because of this, he ended up as the abbot of a monastery in Ripon for a while, until the situation changed and Wilfrid was finally given a diocese -- probably York. He was extremely effective in that role, reorganizing the churches in Northumbria and founding monasteries. He was often criticized, however, for dressing and living like a king and going around with an armed retinue. Changing political winds led to Wilfrid being exiled; the dispute is occasionally somewhat murky, but part of the issue seems to have been whether York or Canterbury would be the primary see of Britain, and, if the latter, whether York would have full authority over the north of England. St. Wilfrid pushed the authority claims for York, but he was opposed by a number of people who did not like the way he did things, including St. Hilda of Whitby, who had extensive political connections, and he was also opposed by a very effective new  Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Theodore of Tarsus. After being expelled, Wilfrid went to Rome to appeal to the pope, an unusual thing at the time. Pope St. Agatho held a synod to discuss the matter, and (mostly) backed St. Wilfrid in the dispute. When he returned to Northumbria with the papal decree, however, the king responded to it by first imprisoning and then exiling him again. He therefore spent time preaching to pagan populations in Sussex with the help of St. Earconwald (also known as Erkenwald), the bishop of London. Some stories hold that in this period he was reconciled with St. Theodore, and it is true that Theodore eventually interceded on Wilfrid's behalf and got him restored. Another dispute, this time over whether his monastery at Ripon should be split off of his diocese, led to his expulsion again, during which he spent time in Mercia. Wilfrid appealed to the pope again, this time Pope John VI, where he discovered that the papal court now spoke Greek (John VI was from Ephesus), and Wilfrid's rhetorical skills were rather blunted by translation. The pope referred the matter back to a council in Britain; Wilfrid, however, was warned by the king of Northumbria never to enter the kingdom. He was only allowed in again in 706, in the reign of King Osred. He died somewhere around 710. He left a large network of monasteries and at his death, left them a very large amount of money, thus securely establishing the monastic system. Ironically, his endless contentious disputes probably made it easier for him to be canonized; practically everyone in England knew who he was, and his exiles (combined with his undeniable practical competence) had led to him enriching the spiritual life of many of the kingdoms of the land.. His feast day is October 12, although in local calendars the older date of April 24 is often used.

Peter of Athos

We know relatively little that is certain about St. Peter of Athos. He certainly lived in the ninth century. According to tradition, he was a soldier who was captured by a Muslim army in Syria; he prayed to St. Nicholas and St. Simeon the Righteous for aid in escape, promising that if he was successful, he would become an ascetic. When he did escape, he went to Rome to learn how to be a monk. Tradition says that he received the approval of the Pope -- we don't know which one, although Gregory IV is a reasonable guess if the tradition is accurate -- and received the monastic habit from him personally. Following a vision of the Holy Virgin, he journeyed to Mount Athos, in modern day Greece, and there remained a hermit until his death several decades later. He was the first hermit to live at Mount Athos, and it is said that it is partly through his reputation for sanctity that other hermits and monks eventually began making their way to the monastic isle. St. Peter is commemorated on June 12.

Mildburh, Mildrith, and Mildgytha

Mildburh, Mildrith, and Mildgytha were three daughters of King Merewalh of Magonsaete, a kingdom in the greater Kingdom of Mercia, in the seventh century. A neighboring prince is said to have tried to take Mildburh (or Milburga) as wife, and, when she was reluctant, to force her into the marriage; she fled to the monastery of Wenlock, in modern-day Much Wenlock; she was eventually made abbess by St. Theodore of Canterbury. In that capacity, she did many works for the surrounding Shropshire country, playing a significant in its Christianization, and developed a reputation for healing. In legends she is often closely associated with birds; this may be due to devotion to her replacing earlier pagan customs. 

Her younger sister, Mildrith, became the abbess of Minister-in-Thanet, a monastery closely associated with the family, and probably founded under the patronage of their mother, Queen Domne Eafa (also known as Domneva).  Her grave became a popular local pilgrimage site. She is the sister for whom we have the most direct historical information, much of it consisting in fragments and minor records concerned with the everyday concerns of the abbey; even given the fragmentary nature of what we have, however, the record still clearly shows that she was an active player in the region, corresponding and interacting regularly with kings.

The youngest sister, Mildgytha, is less well known than her sisters, in part because she seems to have died quite young. She spent at least part of life at a convent in Northumbria, with which region she is most closely associated, and her tomb became an active pilgrimage site, apparently not long after her death.

In hagiographies, the sisters are often associated with the theological virtues: St. Mildburh with faith, St. Mildrith with hope, and St. Mildgytha with charity. St. Mildburh's feast is February 23; St. Mildrith's feast is July 13; and St. Mildgytha's feast is January 17.

Jean-Gabriel Perboyre

Born to a farming family in Montgesty in France, Jean-Gabriel first became interested in the religious life when he helped his Louis settle into the Vincentian abbey he had joined. He joined the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Lazarists, and particularly wanted to participate in overseas missions. However, his often poor health kept him in France until, after Louis died on a journey to China, he volunteered to take Louis's place. After studying Chinese in Macau, he joined the Henan Mission, where, after a period of illness from which he had to recover, he participated in the missionary work, preaching and teaching and helping the poor, for several years until he was transferred in 1838 to the mission in the Hubei province. In 1839, the magistrates of Hubei province began implementing an active policy of persecution for Christians; the priests were hidden by the local population, but a catechist after being tortured gave away the location of Fr. Jean-Gabriel and he was arrested. As the magistrates wanted to make an example of him, he was subject to multiple trials before multiple courts, then tortured and put to death on September 11, 1840. He was beatified by Leo XIII in 1889 and canonized by St. John Paul II in 1996; his feast day is September 11.

Margaret of Città di Castello

In 1287, Margaret della Metola was born in Perugia. She was born with dwarfism, so that she was never taller than about four feet; she was also blind and had a deformation of her spine that would prevent her from walking easily the rest of her life. Her parents, mortified at their daughter's appearance, hid her from the world, locking her away in a room. The room, however, adjoined the chapel, so that she was able to attend Mass and receive the sacraments, and the priest taught her the catechism. In 1303, her parents took her to a Franciscan shrine in Castello, hoping for a miracle; when no miracle occurred, her parents abandoned her there. Local poor families helped to support her and in return she opened a small catechetical school. She got along very well with the Dominicans, and so eventually joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. She died on April 12, 1320. She was beatified by Paul V in 1609 and canonized by Francis I in 2021. Her feast day is April 13.

Germanus I of Constantinople

Germanus was born in the 630s, apparently to a patrician family in Constantinople. He was sent to a monastery for his education, and eventually became Bishop of Cyzicus. For all of his early life, the Empire was roiled by controversies connected with the heresy of Monothelitism. When Anastasius II became Emperor in 713, he began to roll back the Monothelite-supporting decisions of his predecessor, Philippikos Bardanes; this included removing the Patriarch of Constantinople, John VI, who was a Monothelite. Germanus was elected in his place, and soon reaffirmed the orthodox position of the Third Council of Constantinople against the Monothelites, but a new controversy was beginning to ramp up: that over the heresy of Iconoclasm. Leo III the Isaurian became Emperor in 717 and after a very effective period of consolidation of power began imposing Iconoclasm on the Empire throughout the 720s and beyond. Germanus seems to have been deposed at some point over this and retired to his family residence, where he died in 740. His feast day is May 12.

Hemma von Gurk

We know very little about Hemma's early life, but she married a Carinthian nobleman, William II of Friesach, with whom she had two sons. However, both her husband and her sons were murdered, probably as an act of revenge due to aristocratic politics. Their deaths led to Hemma receiving extraodinarily wealthy inheritances, which she began to spend on the poor in the region around her home in Gurk, Carinthia. She also established several churches and monasteries, including Gurk Abbey, where she eventually resided. She died there in 1045. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1938 and her feast is June 27.


2022 All Saints Post
Gildas the Wise, Clelia Barbieri, Marguerite Bourgeoys, Charles Eugene de Foucauld de Pontbriand, Lazaros the Iconographer, Arialdo and Erembaldo, Devashayam Pillai, Gerard Majella, David Uribe-Velasco, Inácio de Azevedo and the Martyrs of Tazacorte, Angelus of Jerusalem, Laura of St. Catherine of Siena, Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, Damien of Molokai

2021 All Saints Post
Niklaus von Flue, Contardo of Este, Peter of Verona, Virginia Centurione Bracelli, Fulrad, Ivan of Rila, Austregisilus, Sulpitius the Pious, Desiderius, Amandus, Remaclus, Theodard, Lambert, The Martyrs of Shanxi, Tôma Khuông, Maria Teresa Goretti, Lidwina of Schiedam, Oliver Plunkett, Mariam Baouardy, Marinus, Nunzio Sulprizio

2020 All Saints Post
André de Soveral, Domingos Carvalho, and the Martyrs of Cunhau, Henry of Uppsala and Eric IX the Holy, Adelaide of Burgundy, Junípero Serra y Ferrer, Maria Restituta Kafka, Venantius Fortunatus, Radegund, Junian of Maire, and Gregory of Tours, Magdalene of Nagasaki, Jeanne-Antide Thouret, Louis IX, Peter Nolasco, Tarasios of Constantinople, Albert Chmielowski

2019 All Saints Post, Part III
Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Gregory II and Gregory III, Katarina Ulfsdotter, Marko Stjepan Krizin, István Pongrácz, Melchior Grodziecki, Amandus and Bavo of Ghent, Zhang Huailu, Colette of Corbie, Alphonsus Rodriguez, Marie-Margeuerite d'Youville, Anthony of the Caves, Teresa of Calcutta

2019 All Saints Post, Part II
Bartolomeu dos Mártires, Manuel Moralez, Apollonius the Apologist, Henry II the Exuberant and Cunigunde of Luxembourg, Ramon Nonat, Francis Xavier Cabrini, Juliana of Liège, Aelia Pulcheria, John Henry Newman, Anna Schäffer, Ivo of Chartres, Paul I of Constantinople

2019 All Saints Post, Part I
Matteo Correa Magallanes, Nicholas Owen, Knud IV and Knud Lavard, Mariana de Jesús de Paredes, Joseph Vaz, Zdislava Berka, Caterina Fieschi Adorno, Pietro I Orseolo, Ðaminh Hà Trọng Mậu, Jeanne-Françoise Frémiot de Chantal, Stephen Min Kŭk-ka, Rabanus Maurus Magnentius

2018 All Saints Post
Gianna Beretta Molla, Margaret of Scotland, Yu Tae-chol Peter, Justa and Rufina of Seville, Giuseppe Moscati, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghaţţas, Salomone Leclerq, Arnulf of Metz, Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Frumentius of Tyre, Jeanne Jugan, Joseph Zhang Dapeng, Maroun and Abraham of Harran, Magnus Erlendsson, Callixtus I, Hippolytus, Urban I, Pontian, Anterus, Fabian, Jean de Brébeuf

2017 All Saints Post
John Ogilvie, Leo IV, Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs, Theodore the Studite, The Martyrs of Gorkum, Margaret Ward and John Roche, Mesrop Mashtots, José María Robles Hurtado, Genevieve of Paris, Pedro Calungsod, Isaac of Nineveh, George Preca, Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa, Anthony of Padua

2016 All Saints Post
Theodore of Tarsus, Nilus the Younger, Anne Line, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Elisabetta Hesselbad, Sergius of Radonezh, Anna Pak Agi, Jeanne de Valois, Vigilius of Trent, Claudian, Magorian, Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander, Euphrasia Eluvathingal, José Sanchez del Rio, Andrew Kaggwa, Roberto Bellarmino

2015 All Saints Post
Margaret Clitherow, Kaleb Elasbaan of Axum, Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin, Gertrude of Nivelles, Pius V, Clare and Agnes of Assisi, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Scholastica, Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm, Thorlak Thorhallson, John Damascene

2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor

2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon