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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10 -- Feast of Blessed Alexander Baldrati

There are several things that appeal to me about the story of Alexander, a seventeenth century Dominican who wrecked his health through hard work and abstemious living.  The first appealing aspect is that he was sent east by sea to enforce rest so he would regain his health, but he wound up dying instead.  Okay, that doesn't seem very comical the way I wrote it, but it seemed pretty funny in my mind.  The second thing is the layers of apostasy which undid him, combined with his tactless honesty ((the third thing).  In short, reason and moderation would have saved a lot of suffering, but neither he nor his antagonists were especially interested in those. 
Seems like a nice place to convalesce, as long as you keep your mouth shut.

As I said, he was a Dominican priest whose health deteriorated as he overworked himself.  He was ordered to take a break and sail east.  "Hey, Al, how about a nice Mediterranean cruise?  Stop at some Greek islands, buy a few icons, see some ruins.  You've earned it." 

His ship stopped at Chios; he went ashore.  Looking around, he figured these folks could use some churching up, so he preached a little.  And now we come to The Apostate.  For those whose devotion borders on fanatical, there is no more despicable creature than The Apostate, he who once had salvation in his hand but swapped it for thirty pieces of silver or some other temporal consideration.  This particular Apostate took a powerful dislike to Alexander and cooked up a scheme to get him killed.  He first worked up the local Muslims, saying that the Christians were moving in and taking over.  As it happened, the archbishop of Edessa happened to be in town at the same time as Alexander, so when this former Christian warned of a takeover, it had just enough plausibility to generate panic. 

Then The Apostate went to the island's governor, a Muslim, and protested that Alexander had at one point converted to Islam.  There wasn't a word of truth in it, but how are you ever going to prove that you're not really a Secret Muslim?  After all, in March 2008, 12% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Forum indicated that President Obama is Muslim.  In August 2010, 18% of Americans surveyed said he is Muslim.  [For the record, he's not.

The Governor ordered his soldiers to arrest Alexander and bring him in for questioning.  Alexander flatly denied that he was then or had ever been a Muslim.  He did not use all his well-learned politesse, so the Governor ordered that his body at least be laid to waste.  But the Governor also ordered the other Dominicans be arrested (or at least questioned) on the charge of harboring a fugitive from Islam.  The other Dominicans beat the rap and promised to pray for Alexander's strength in the coming order -- a sure sign that they had given up hope for his exoneration.  The Governor hauled Al back into court and gave him three days to (re)commit himself to Islam.  Alexander declared that he did not need three days to confirm his belief that Muhammad was the prophet of lies.  That went over badly with the crowd, which surged forward and tried to pulp him right there. 

The guards saved him for a proper execution, one in which they'd torture him some and then burn him at the stake.  On execution day, the crowd surged forward to lay another beatdown on what was left of him, but again was held off.  The executioner, having tied Alexander to a stake, told him to raise one finger if he wanted to convert to Islam and save his life.  He raised three and declared his support for the Trinity. 

They lit a match, but the fire wouldn't burn him.  I mean, it probably singed him, but it wouldn't get going well enough to take his life, so once more the crowd stepped up to help.  This time they tore him to pieces, and when his pulped parts were scattered all around the stake and fire, someone came up with a parcel of gunpower to blow the corpse apart.

It seems to me that a little more freedom of conscience would have kept things a lot cooler.  If the religious leaders would simply agree that folks could come and go according to their consciences, everyone would be better off. Of course Alexander would have been better off to catch some rays on the deck of the ship, or better still, to have never left Venice in the first place. 

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog. This is also the Feast of St. Scholastica, the twin sister of (the First) St. Benedict. Look up one of their anecdotes to find out why she is the patron saint of violent storms!