This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17 -- Saint Sabinus of Piacenza

What's more powerful: a demon or a river? 

A statue of the saint in his hometown
The question is not idle.  Matthew 10:1 tells us that Jesus gave his first twelve disciples "power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease."  Three centuries later, Bishop Sabinus of Piacenza (b.333  d.420) stopped the river Po from flooding by writing a command on something and throwing it in the river.  The rising flood subsided and Piacenza was saved. 

I know this isn't the first miracle over nature story that I have reported, so you might be wondering why I am suddenly busting poor Sabinus' chops, questioning his power, when I've let all the others slide?  Timing is everything.  I just happened to be reading Matthew 10 today and picked up on the specific powers delegated to the apostles.  Was this a complete list of their powers?  What this delegation of powers the last they received?  Did they have the power to command natural, elemental forces, or was that just Jesus' power?  And if the apostles didn't get the power over natural elements, is it conceivable that later bishops and monks would get this power?  So many questions!

Three boxes in his reliquary -- the dome on the right is his skull
The less troubling details of Sabinus' life are simple.  Being a fourth and early fifth century Church leader, he was around for the establishment of orthodoxy and the delineation of heresies. He was a friend of Saint Ambrose of Milan and commented on the first drafts of some of Ambrose's writings.  He helped establish the Council of Antioch and attended the Council of Aquileia.  He died of natural causes, which is nice.  His relics are still there, which is also nice (I think so anyway). 

And now, a final note about the command to the river.  Saint Gregory the Great recorded the story, describing the object written upon as paper.  Some folks have noted that paper was not introduced to Europe from Damascus during his lifetime.  So perhaps it would be more correct to say papyrus or parchment though Romans were accustomed to magic orders being pressed into lead sheets, or perhaps scratched onto pottery shards. Or perhaps it could have been painted onto a thin piece of wood, like an announcement at a temple, or even inscribed in a wax tablet.  It doesn't matter what the order was written on IF the power of the Holy Spirit was working through the saint.  But that takes me back to Matthew 10 and the question of the powers of the apostles. 

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