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Archive for February, 2012

Feastday: February 26

Saint Isabelle of France (March 1225 – 23 February 1270) was the daughter of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She was a younger sister of Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) and Alfonso, and an older sister of Charles I of Sicily.

She refused offers of marriage from several noble suitors to continue her life of virginity consecrated to God. She died there on February 23, and her cult was approved in 1521.

She lived there in austerity but never became a nun and refused to become abbess. She ministered to the sick and the poor, and after the death of her mother, founded the Franciscan Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Franciscan Abbey of Longchamp) at Longchamps in the part of the Forest of Rouvray now called the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris in 1256.

Isabelle died in her house at Longchamp on 23 February 1270, and was buried in the convent church. After nine days her body was exhumed, when it showed no signs of decay, and many miracles were said to have been wrought at her grave. In 1521 Pope Leo X allowed the Abbey of Longchamp to celebrate her feast with a special office. On 4 June 1637, a second exhumation took place. On 25 January 1688, the nuns obtained permission to celebrate her feast with an octave and in 1696 the celebration of the feast. On 31 August was permitted to the whole Franciscan Order.

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Feastday: February 25

730 – 806

Saint Tarasios (or Saint Tarasius) was born and raised in the city of Constantinople. A son of a high-ranking judge, Tarasios was related to important families, including that of the later Patriarch Photios the Great.  St. Tarasius was subject of the Byzantine Empire. He was raised to the highest honors in the Empire as Consul, and later became first secretary to the Emperor Constantine and his mother, Irene.

Since he exhibited both Iconodule sympathies and the willingness to follow imperial commands when they were not contrary to the faith, he was selected as Patriarch of Constantinople by the Empress Irene in 784, even though he was a layman at the time. Nevertheless, like all educated Byzantines, he was well versed in theology, and the election of qualified laymen as bishops was not unheard of in the history of the Church.

He reluctantly accepted, on condition that church unity would be restored with Rome and the oriental Patriarchs. To make him eligible for the office of patriarch, Tarasios was duly ordained to the deaconate and then the priesthood, prior to his consecration as bishop.

When being elected Patriarch of Constantinople, he consented to accept the dignity offered to him only on condition that a General Council should be summoned to resolve the disputes concerning the veneration of sacred images, for Constantinople had been separated from the Holy See on account of the war between the Emperors.

The Council was held in the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople in 786; it met again the following year at Nice and its decrees were approved by the Pope. The holy Patriarch incurred the enmity of the Emperor by his persistent refusal to sanction his divorce from his lawful wife. He witnessed the death of Constantine, which was occasioned by his own mother; he beheld the reign and the downfall of Irene and usurpation of Nicephorus.

St. Tarasius’ whole life in the Episcopacy was one of penance and prayer, and of hard labor to reform his clergy and people. He occupied the See of Constantinople twenty-one years and two months. His charity toward the poor was one of the characteristic virtues of his life. He visited in person, all the houses and hospitals in Constantinople, so that no indigent person might be overlooked in the distribution of alms. This saintly Bishop was called to his eternal reward in the year 806. His feast day is February 25th.

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Feastday: February 19

Patron of Benevento

610 – 682

Saint Barbatus of Benevento, also known as Barbas, was born in Italy about 612 and was ordained in Morcone. According to his saint’s life (which was written later), he received a Christian education, and spent a good deal of time studying the Christian scriptures. He took holy orders as soon as allowed to do so, and was immediately employed by the local bishop as a preacher, a task for which he had considerable talent.

Shortly thereafter, he was made the curate of St. Basil’s Church in nearby Morcone. The parishioners there objected to Barbatus’ remarking upon their falling short of the Christian ideal, and persecuted him to quiet him. He continued in the same vein, causing these same people to slander his character. He was eventually obliged to cease his charitable works because of these slanders

Sent to Benevento, Barbatus evangelized and converted many. When the city was put under siege by Byzantine Emperor Constans II in 663, Barbatus predicted that the assault would end. When peace came, Barbatus was named bishop of Benevento. He was the bishop of Benevento, Italy from 663 to 682. He succeeded Hildebrand in this capacity. He assisted in a church council called by Pope Agatho in Rome in 680 and in 681 attended the Third Council of Constantinople against the Monothelites. On 19 February 682, Barbato died, under Pope St. Leo II (682-683).

He is recorded in the Roman Martyrology as one of the chief patrons of the city of Benevento. The relics of St. Barbato Montevergine rest partly in the Cathedral of Benevento, where they were pinned by Cardinal Orsini in the year 1687.

It is now remembered and celebrated on February 19 and is also the patron of Benevento, Cicciano, Castelvenere, Casalattico and Valle dell’Angelo. On this day, to Castelvenere, his hometown, there is the traditional “Day of Thunder”, a competition between three pyrotechnic disabled firemen.

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Feastday: February 18

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, we read of St. Simon or Simeon who is described as one of our Lord’s brethren or kinsmen. His father was Cleophas, St. Joseph’s brother, and his mother, according to some writers, was our Lady’s sister. He would therefore be our Lord’s first cousin and is supposed to have been about eight years older than He. No doubt he is one of those brethren of Christ who are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as having received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

St. Epiphanius says that when the Jews massacred St. James the Lesser, his brother Simeon upbraided them for their cruelty. The apostles and disciples afterwards met together to appoint a successor to James as bishop of Jerusalem, and they unanimously chose Simeon, who had probably assisted his brother in the government of that church.

In the year 66 civil war broke out in Palestine, as a consequence of Jewish opposition to the Romans. The Christians in Jerusalem were warned of the impending destruction of the city and appear to have been divinely ordered to leave it. Accordingly that same year, before Vespasian entered Judaea, they retired with St. Simeon at their head to the other side of the Jordan, occupying a small city called Pella.

After the capture and burning of Jerusalem, the Christians returned and settled among the ruins until the Emperor Hadrian afterwards entirely razed it. We are told by St. Epiphanius and by Eusebius that the church here flourished greatly, and that many Jews were converted by the miracles wrought by the saints.

When Vespasian and Domitian had ordered the destruction of all who were of the race of David, St. Simeon had escaped their search but when Trajan gave a similar injunction, he was denounced as being not only one of David’s descendants, but also a Christian, and he was brought before Atticus, the Roman governor. He was condemned to death and, after being tortured, was crucified. Although he was extremely old – tradition reports him to have attained the age of 120 – Simeon endured his sufferings with a degree of fortitude which roused the admiration of Atticus himself. His feast day is February 18.

St. Simon, like the other Apostles, is regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.

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Feastday: February 12

Patron of hotel keepers, travelers, and boatman

According to a pious fiction that was very popular in the Middle Ages, Julian was of noble birth and while hunting one day, was reproached by a hart for hunting him and told that he would one day kill his mother and father. He was richly rewarded for his services by a king and married a widow. While he was away his mother and father arrived at his castle seeking him. When his wife realized who they were, she put them up for the night in the master’s bed room. When Julian returned unexpectedly later that night and saw a man and a woman in his bed, he suspected the worst and killed them both. When his wife returned from church and he found he had killed his parents, he was overcome with remorse and fled the castle, resolved to do a fitting penance. He was joined by his wife and they built an inn for travelers near a wide river, and a hospital for the poor. He was forgiven for his crime when he gave help to a leper in his own bed; the leper turned out to be a messenger from God who had been sent to test him. He is the patron of hotel keepers, travelers, and boatmen. His feast day is February 12th.

There are three main theories of his origin:

  • Born in Le Mans, France, possibly from confusion with Saint Julian of Le Mans
  • Born in Ath, Belgium around 7 AD (The Belgian flag is sported around the town during, and not only, the two feasts)
  • Born in Naples, Italy

Together with Archangel Saint Raphael and Saint Christopher, he was known as the patron of travelers, as well as of the cities of Ghent and Macerata. The Paternoster (Our Father prayer) of St. Julian can be found as early as 1353 in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and is still passed on by word of mouth throughout some places in Italy. The legend is included the 13th-century Leggenda Aurea of Genoan Giacomo da Varazze, a Dominican priest. Beautiful stained glass depicting St. Julian by an unknown artist in the Cathedral of Chartres also dates back to the 13th century. Early fresco paintings of him are found in the Cathedral of Trento (14th century) and the Palazzo Comunale di Assisi.

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Feastday: February 11

Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a native of Rome. He studied at the Lateran, was named head of St. Stephen’s monastery, which housed pilgrims to Rome, and was elected Pope to succeed Pope Stephen IV (V) on the day Stephen died, January 25, 817. He was pope from 25 January 817 to 11 February 824. He was raised to the pontificate by the acclamation of the clergy shortly after the death of Pope Stephen IV and before the sanction of the emperor Louis the Pious had been obtained – a circumstance for which it was one of his first tasks to apologize.

Emperor Louis the Pious agreed to respect papal jurisdiction, but when Louis’s son Lothair I came to Rome in 823 to be consecrated king, he broke the pact by presiding at a trial involving a group of nobles opposing the Pope. When the two papal officials who had testified for the nobles were found blinded and murdered, Paschal was accused of the crime. He denied any complicity but refused to surrender the murderers, who were members of his household, declaring that the two dead officials were traitors and the secular authorities had no jurisdiction in the case. The result was the Constitution of Lothair, severely restricting papal judicial and police powers in Italy.

Paschal was unsuccessful in attempts to end the iconoclast heresy of Emperor Leo V, encouraged SS. Nicephorous and Theodore Studites in Constantinople to resist iconoclasm, and gave refuge to the many Greek monks who fled to Rome to escape persecution from the iconoclasts. Paschal built and redecorated many churches in Rome and transferred many relics from the catacombs to churches in the city. The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere was restored and Santa Maria in Domnica rebuilt by him. He also extensively renovated the basilica of Santa Prassede, which includes the famous Episcopa Theodora mosaic of his mother.

In 822, he gave the legateship over the North (Scandinavia) to Ebbo, Archbishop of Rheims. He licensed him to preach to the Danes, though Ebbo failed in three different attempts to convert them. Only later did Saint Ansgar succeed with them.

Paschal died in Rome while the imperial commissioners were investigating the circumstances under which two papal officials that were testifying against the pope had been seized at the Lateran, blinded and afterwards beheaded. The Roman people refused him the honor of burial within St. Peter’s Basilica, but he now holds a place in the Roman calendar (prior to 1963, 14 May; currently 11 February).

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Feastday: February 5

Saint Agatha of Sicily (died 251) is a Christian saint. Her memorial is on 5 February. Agatha was born at Catania, Sicily, and she was martyred in approximately 251. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

She belonged to a rich, important family. When she was young, she dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. One of these men, Quintian, was of a high enough rank that he felt he could force her to acquiesce. Knowing she was a Christian in a time of persecution, he had her arrested and brought before the judge himself. He expected her to give in to when faced with torture and possible death, but she simply affirmed her belief in God by praying: “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep, make me worthy to overcome the devil.”

Legend tells us that Quintian imprisoned her in a brothel in order to get her to change her mind. Quintian brought her back before him after she had suffered a month of assault and humiliation in the brothel, but Agatha had never wavered, proclaiming that her freedom came from Jesus. Quintian sent her to prison, instead of back to the brothel – a move intended to make her more afraid, but which probably was a great relief to her. When she continued to profess her faith in Jesus, Quintian had her tortured. He refused her any medical care but God gave her all the care she needed in the form of a vision of St. Peter. When she was tortured again, she died after saying a final prayer: “Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul.”

Because one of the tortures she supposedly suffered was to have her breasts cut off, she was often depicted carrying her breasts on a plate. It is thought that blessing of the bread that takes place on her feast may have come from the mistaken notion that she was carrying loaves of bread.

Because she was asked for help during the eruption of Mount Etna she is considered a protector against the outbreak of fire. She is also considered the patroness of bell makers for an unknown reason though some speculate it may have something to do with the fact that bells were used as fire alarms.

She is the patron saint of Catania, Molise, Malta, San Marino and Zamarramala, municipality of Segovia in Spain. She is also the patron of martyrs, wet nurses, fire, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mount Etna. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.

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