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.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8 -- Feast of Julian of Toledo

Good bug: Conscience
If you hang in with me through my tirade about Julian, I'll tell you the funny story of Saints Apollonius and Philemon at the end.  True, you could skip all the invective and jump straight to the good stuff, but that you be cheating.  Always let your conscience be your guide. 

Julian of Toledo, archbishop in the Visigothic kingdom of Hispania during the seventh century, is a saint.  And yet...
Bad bug: Earwig, close to Erwig
  • He is accused of conspiring to poison King Wamba, elevating Erwig -- a total puppet of the bishops -- to the throne.  Erwig's the guy who then gave Julian the primacy of Iberian peninsula.   I know that accused is not convicted, but "innocent until proven guilty" is hardly a standard for canonization. 
    Saint (?) Julian
  • He then wrote a biography of Wamba, as if they were tight.  Add an accusation of hypocrisy.  
  • His ancestry was Jewish, and yet he presided over a renewed and more systematic persecution of the Jews.  At the Twelfth Council of Toledo, he and Erwig restored corporal, and even capital, punishment for practicing Judaism.  They promulgated a total expulsion, but then moderated their position to be the choice of baptism or expulsion. 
I don't have much good to say about this guy by way of balance.  Apparently the rank and file clergy didn't think much of him.  True, he did write some stuff that wasn't hypocritical or hateful.  For example, he wrote a book on death and a book on the afterlife.  But I'm hard-pressed to find anything that warrants canonization.  I get that perceiving anti-Semitism as a sin is a twentieth century innovation, but after so much Bible study, surely the parable of the Good Samaritan and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself must have meant something to him. 

And now for something completely different.  There are at least three versions of their story, but the sanctuary dedicated to them (and some soldiers who converted and were killed with them) had been built in Egypt within a century of their deaths. 

Apollonius was a deacon in southern Egypt during the last great persecution.  He was ordered to show up and eat some meat that had been sacrificed to those polytheistic gods of barbeque.  He didn't really want to apostatize, but neither did he want to lose his life.  His plan?  Hire an actor to show up and eat the spare ribs in his place.  Philemon the Flute Player, always glad of a free meal and a paycheck, took the job.  But just as he stepped up to get his vittles, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and declared himself to be a Christian. 

Saints A & P
The Prefect took a close look and recognized the actor.  He reminded Philemon that he wasn't really a Christian; he hadn't even been baptized.  A tiny raincloud then gathered over Philemon and poured water down on him.  That sort of miracle didn't impress the Prefect much -- he ordered Apollonius to be bagged up and tossed into the sea.  Philemon might have been shot through with arrows, since there's an additional miracle in which he demonstrated the power of Christ.  At his execution, he asked that a baby be put in a basket (where did the baby come from?  the basket?) and then shot through with arrows.  The soldiers complied (why?).  The infant was unhurt, even though the basket looked like a porcupine. 

Combining the other versions, Apollonius and Philemon are cellmates.  The Deacon is awaiting execution, but the flute-player is in for unspecified, non-capital crimes. Being a polytheist and a performer, he starts a stand-up routine about "you Christians."  Apollonius takes the abuse with good humor and gently instructs about faith and compassion.  By the end of their time in Cellblock D, Philemon has converted and is asking to be executed beside his new friend.  They are slated to be burned at the stake, but a local cloudburst extinguished the fire.  The next form of execution is to be shot through with arrows, which is very effective.  However, someone needed serious practice first as one of the arrows hits the Prefect, Arianus,  in the eye.  A bystander suggests taking blood from one of the Christian martyrs and putting it on the Prefect's wound.  He is healed, of course, and converts, of course, and so is summoned to Alexandria for judgment and execution.  He's locked in a cistern, but an angel lets him out and takes him to Diocletian's bedchamber.  There he confronts the emperor, who orders him bagged and thrown in the sea.  This is done, but a dolphin brings to body ashore to be properly venerated as relics.

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