|Optional Memorial of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr|
Associate of, converted by, and disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Friend of Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Papias; spiritual teacher of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon. Fought Gnosticism. Bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey). Revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century. The Asia Minor churches recognized Polycarp's leadership and chose him representative to Pope Anicetus on the question the date of the Easter celebration. Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has survived, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia. At 86, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna; the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned. The Acts of Polycarp's martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr's death. Apostolic Father.
• stabbed to death c.155 at Smyrna
• body burned
• against dysentery
• against earache
medals and pendants
Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, 'firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,' helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man. - Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians
When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off all his outer clothes and loosened his under-garments. There and then he was surrounded by the material for the pyre. Whey they tried to fasten him also with nails, he said, "Leave me as I am. The one who gives me the strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails." So they did not fix him to the pyre with nails, but only fastened him instead.
Looking up to heaven, he said, "Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body through the power of the Holy Spirit.
"I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him by glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen."
When he had said, "Amen" and finished the prayer, the officials at the pyre lit it. But, when a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Like a ship's sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr's body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum. - from a letter by the Church of Smyrna on the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp
• Serenus of Billom
• Cerneuf, Serenusa, Sireno, Sinero, Sirenatus
10 May (in Billum, France)
Serenus abandoned his home and people to live as a hermit in Sirmiun, Pannonia (modern Hungary) where he directed his thought to prayer, his labour to working a garden of fruit and herbs.
One day he found a woman and her daughters walking in the garden around noon. He recommended they withdraw, and return in the cool of the evening, but the way he said it led her to believe he was simply chasing them out. The woman's husband was an imperial guard, and he convinced Emperor Maximian to avenge this imagined insult. Serenus was arrested and brought to trial, but simply repeated what he had said, and was immediately acquitted. However, his demeanor led the judge to suspect that Serenus was a Christian, which was illegal. When questioned about it, Serenus admitted his faith. He was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods; he refused, and was sentenced to death.
His story was very popular in times past due to his being a simple man brought to ruin not through any fault of his own, but as a result of the arrogance of the ruling class, a theme which has resonated in many an age, and because many writers and preachers liked to use the metaphor of the garden as an example of a proper Christian life.
beheaded 23 February 303 at Sirmiun, Pannonia (modern Hungary)
• falsely accused people
It has pleased God to reserve me for this present time. It seemed awhile ago as if he rejected me as a stone unfit to enter his building, but he has the goodness to take me now to be placed in it; I am ready to suffer all things for his name, that I may have a part in his kingdom with his saints. - Serenus at his trial
24 February (monastery of Bivongi, Italy)
• Giovanni Terestes
• Giovanni Theristus
• John the Reaper
When his mother was pregnant with Giovanni, she was enslaved and taken to Palermo, Sicily by Saracen raiders; his father was killed in the same attack. At age 14, Giovanni returned to his parent’s home town of Stilo, Italy and was baptized by his bishop, Giovanni, at one of the old monasteries around the town. The area Christians, including the bishop, were surprised and suspicious that a young man dressed as an Arab wanted to become a Christian. As an adult, Giovanni was drawn to religious life, and became an Eastern style monk. He would help reapers in the field and then give all he had earned to the poor. A miracle worker, he once prayed for help to save a harvest that was about to be destroyed by a storm; an angel appeared and instantly harvested the crop, saving the peasants from starving. Founded the monastery at Bivongi, Italy; the house was later re-named in his hounour.
c.995 in Palermo, Italy
• c.1050 in Stilo, Calabria, Italy of natural causes
• relics in the church of San Giovanni Theristi in Stilo, Italy
Son of a wheelwright. Well educated. Priest. Canon at Hildesheim, Germany. Noted speaker. Chaplain to Emperor Otto II. Chancellor of Germany in 971. Archbishop of Mainz, Germany in 973. Archchancellor of the Holy Roman Empire in 975. Vicar apostolic to Germany in 975, ordained by Pope Benedict VII. He crowned the infant Otto III as Holy Roman Emperor in 983, and served in the regencies of Empress Theophano and Empress Adelaide. Assisted at the consecration of Pope Gregory V in 996. Participated in the synod in 996, and spoke for the return of Saint Adalbert of Prague, whom he had consecrated as bishop, to his diocese. Worked to insure the choice of Emperor Henry II in 1002, and consecrated the the emperor. Presided at the Synod of Frankfort in 1007. He sent missionaries to Scandinavia, founded churches, built roads and bridges, supported artists and monasteries, and rebuilt the cathedral of Mainz. Though he was known as a brilliant statesman and politician, he was a Church man first, and was also known for the care he took in educating priests, and choosing them for their assignments.
at Schoningen, Germany
• 23 February 1011 of natural causes
• interred in the Church of Saint Stephen
bishop with a wheel, a symbol of his father's trade, and an emblem he had chosen for his coat of arms
• Giuditta Vannini
• Giuseppina Vannini
Orphaned as a small child. Raised in the Torlonia Conservatory on Via Sant' Onofrio, under the guidance of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Entered the Daughters' novitiate in Siena, Italy, but was forced to leave due to poor health.
On retreat in 1891 she met Blessed Louis Tezza, procurator general of the Camillians. He had been thinking of founding a women's community for the care of the sick. He invited Josephine to help establish the new community, she prayed over it, and decided "yes." In 1892 she and two companions received the scapular of Camillian tertiaries, and a year later professed private vows, adding service to the sick, even at risk of their lives. They took their perpetual vows in 1895, and Josephine was elected Superior General. Blessed Louis was sent to Lima, Peru in 1900, responsibility for the new congregation rested with Mother Vannini, and under her leadership the congregation spread to France, Belgium and Argentina.
7 July 1859 at Rome, Italy
23 February 1911 in Rome, Italy of natural causes
16 October 1994 by Pope John Paul II
Born to the nobility. Studied in Constantinople. Soldier and officer in the imperial army for four years. Adult convert to Christianity who read himself into the faith, and took his example from the words of Christ to the young rich man - he sold all his goods and became a hermit in Syria for several years. At one point he came back to the city; there he burned a pagan temple, and was imprisoned; he spent his time there bringing his jailers to Christianity. Released, he returned to the life of a hermit for several years, but felt called missionary work, and worked in Antioch, but with no success. Founded monasteries in Mesopotamia, Constantinople and Gomon, and at one point led 400 monks. Converted Rabulas, bishop of Edessa. Alexander began the liturgical service in which his monks sang the Divine Office continuously day and night.
4th century on one of the Aegean Islands of Greece
403 in Gomon of natural causes
Daughter of an imperial Roman official, Romana was drawn to Christianity. Around age 16, to avoid marriage, she fled her family home. With the help of an angel, she made it to the cave on Mount Soracte where Pope Saint Sylvester was hiding from the persecutions of Diocletian. She explained to him her desire for Christian religious life; he baptized her and left, leaving her the cave as a home. Her reputation for holiness soon spread, and she attracted so many students that they founded a community around her cave.
While such a saint may well have lived in the cave, and such people certainly attracted would-be students and followers, the tales that grew up around her are likely pious fiction that was later mistaken for history.
• c.324 in her cave on Mount Soracte near Rome, Italy of natural causes
• her parents were brought to the cave, and buried her there
Ordained on 13 March 1937. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1939, Stefan was shuttled through the concentration camps Fort Seven, Stutthof, Grenzdorf, Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen and finally Dachau. Spiritual leader of other prisoners wherever he was imprisoned. He contracted typhus while working with fellow prisoners dying of the disease, and is thus considered a martyr of charity.
22 January 1913 in Chelmza, Poland
23 February 1945 of typhus at the Dachau concentration camp, Germany
7 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II at Torun, Poland
Milburg, Milburge, Mildburg, Mildburga, Milburgh
25 June (translation of relics)
Daughter of Merewalh, King of Mercia, and Saint Ermenburga. Sister of Saint Mildred and Saint Mildgytha. Took the veil from archbishop Saint Theodore. Benedictine nun. Founded Much Wenlock abbey in Shropshire, England, and was abbess there. Miracle worker. Had a mysterious power over birds; they would avoid damaging the local crops when she asked them to.
7th century England
• 715 at the Much Wenlock Abbey, Shropshire, England of natural causes
• relics re-discovered in 1101 and enshrined in the nearby priory church
Priest in the diocese of Verdun, France. Imprisoned on a ship in the harbor of Rochefort, France and left to die during the anti-Catholic persecutions of the French Revolution. One of the Martyrs of the Hulks of Rochefort.
16 February 1745 in Bar-le-Duc, Meuse, France
23 February 1795 of unspecified disease aboard the prison ship Washington, in Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France
1 October 1995 by Pope John Paul II
Born to a wealthy family. Married to Joseph Vilallong at age 18. Mother and grand-mother. Widow. Founded the Institute of the Sisters of Guardian Angels to work with abandoned and neglected children.
16 January 1843 in Bilbao, Vizcaya, Spain
23 February 1900 in Bilbao, Vizcaya, Spain
30 September 1984 by Pope John Paul II
• Ludivico Mzyk
• Ludvig Mzyk
12 June as one of the 108 Polish Martyrs
Priest in the Society of the Divine Word. Martyred in the Nazi persecutions of Catholics.
22 April 1905 in Chorzów, Slaskie, Poland
23 February 1942 in Poznan, Wielkopolskie, Poland
13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II
Born to a wealthy family, she grew up wanting and working to help the poor. Nun in the diocese of Como, Italy. Founded the Nursing Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows.
24 June 1807 in Como, Italy
23 February 1872 in Como, Italy of smallpox
20 September 2014 by Pope Francis
Spiritual student of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne. Monk. Abbot at the abbey of Melrose, Scotland. Teacher and spiritual director of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne and Saint Eghert. Bible scholar. Had the gift of prophecy. Noted preacher.
Northumbrian (in modern England)
• 661 of the yellow plague
• relics at Durham, England
Professed religious in the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle Brothers). Martyred in the Spanish Civil War.
10 December 1913 in Cortiji-Lorca, Murcia, Spain
23 February 1937 in Madrid, Spain
13 October 2013 by Pope Francis
Virgin martyr in the persecutions of Decius.
• beheaded in 250 at Astorga, Spain
• relics enshrined in the abbey of Ribas de Sil and at Ters
Hermit in Syria. Spiritual teacher of many monks, including Saint Maro and Saint Polychronius.
5th century of natural causes
Merald, Merault, Meraut
Benedictine monk at Saint-Evroult, Ouche, France. Abbot of Vendome, France.
850 of natural causes
Bishop of Brescia, Italy for 40 years. Fierce opponent of Arianism.
Priest in Rome, Italy who was known for his ministry to people imprisoned for their faith.
Sixth-century desert hermit whose deep prayer life led to deep personal holiness.
1287 of natural causes
Benedictine monk in Sahagun, Leon, Spain. Bishop of Astorga, Spain in 1062.
1066 of natural causes
c.485 in Seville, Spain
73 Christians who were martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian. We know no details about them, and only six of their names - Antigonus, Libius, Rogatianus, Rutilus, Senerotas and Syncrotas.
c.303 at Syrmium, Pannonia (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia)
• Alerino Rembaudi
• Elizabeth of France
• Milo of Benevento
• Primianus of Ancona
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