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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31 -- Reformation Day

It says post no bills.  It didn't say "Post No Theses"
Yes, this is a departure from the normal saint post, and it is especially questionable since the Reformation led to the destruction of so many saints' shrines and even relics.  Nonetheless, I will not pretend that the complaints raised by Dr. Luther were invalid.  Moreover, I will even assert that his objections ultimately strengthened the Church in Rome by forcing the cardinals to clean up the house a little. 

Background:  On October 31, 1517, a priest of the Augustinian Order, Martin Luther, sent a letter to Albrect of Mainz protesting some corrupt and theologically unsupported practices.  In it, he enclosed a copy of his disputation on indulgences, which came to be called the 95 Theses.  Most scholars now reject the notion that the theses were nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg, where Dr. Luther taught theology.  It hardly matters, however.  The stercus hit the fan and the western Christian Church blew up like a slow-motion grenade. Thus began (or at very least accelerated) a process known as the Reformation. 

Today, lots of Protestant Christian churches celebrate Reformation Day on the closest Sunday before Halloween.  The most puritanical of churches don't acknowledge Halloween, of course.  It is all Hallows' Eve, the night before All Saints' Day, and they of course do not approve of the veneration of saints.  Moreover, there is a strong association with witchcraft, which is patently unacceptable.
In the German states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, West Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, Reformation Day is a school holiday. If you're in Germany, have a good day off, kids.  If you're elsewhere, Happy Halloween if you celebrate it, or Reformation Day if you don't. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30 -- Feast of Blessed Benvenuta Bojani

Strict Ascetic and Mystic from an Early Age 

Blessed Benvenuta Bojani was born in Cividale del Friuli, Italy, in 1256.  There's a great story about her name -- let's hope it is true.  The family had six daughters and no sons; being a thirteenth century Italian man, Papa Bojani was naturally hoping to snap his streak.  When the midwife announced yet one more daughter, Dad said "She too shall be welcome!"  Benvenuta, of course, means welcome.

 Hagiographers extoll her natural (preternatural?) the childhood games and feminine vanities to which her sisters introduced her.  Some even fault her sisters, suggesting some sort of corrupt temptations.  I have little patience for this stripe of Puritanism.  Even Saint Paul wrote (Corinthians 13:11) "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."  It does not stretch the  verse too far to say that Paul does not disapprove of letting kids be kids.  Lauding Benvenuta for her pint-sized hair shirt and half-length rope belt (more on that below) is fine, but calling her sisters out for sharing their ribbons and eyelash curlers is too far.  Let the children play!

Benvenuta was wearing a hair shirt and rope belt by the time she was twelve.  As she grew, the rope belt became embedded in her flesh.  By the time her folks insisted that she remove it, surgery seemed required.  Benvenuta, however, prayed -- and the belt dropped to her feet. 

Although she never moved into a convent, remaining a Dominican tertiary her whole life, she stuck to the most strict monastic austerities imaginable.  That's probably why she only lasted thirty-eight years, five of which were spent confined to bed.  One of her sisters used to hoist her on her back to carry her to Mass.  One the Eve of the Feast of Saint Dominic, the Saint appeared in a vision to her.  Then the Holy Mother and Infant also appeared.  By morning, she was miraculously healed. 

She often had visions at home.  Angels and demons appeared to her; she strove long with the demons, but could banish them with the help of the Holy Mother.  And yet with all her suffering and austerity, she had the reputation for unceasing cheerfulness, which is encouraging.  It's fine that she had no interest in dolls and girly things, but happy saints are always preferable to grumpy, morose saints. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29 -- Feast of Saint Narcissus of Jerusalem

 Ancient Bishop Who Helped Establish Easter Sunday

The wrong Narcissus
There is no debate that Easter is a moveable feast, but the question of when it falls has vexed Christianity for a long time.  These days, the Western Church calculates it by one formula but the Eastern Church uses another.  [I shouldn't even call it Easter which properly shouldn't even be called Easter, since that was a spring festival of resurrection for an Ishtar-like goddess.]  The Eastern feast of Jesus' resurrection often comes a week after the Western one, which allows Greeks and Russians to pay half-price for chocolate eggs and marshmallow chicks -- nice for them.

Wrong Again
Way, way back -- long before the Brits quarreled over the date of Easter at the Synod of Whitby -- a Council was held in Jerusalem to determine whether Easter would always align with Passover or would always be on a Sunday.  Today's saint, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, co-chaired the Council and fell squarely on the side of Sunday.  Obviously, his faction prevailed, a decision that weathered every schism Christianity has since suffered.

Narcissus was eighty when he took over as Patriarch of Jerusalem.  Being bishop anywhere for the first few centuries was a risky gig -- and Jerusalem was a very high profile spot.  Actually, at the time, the city was called Aelia Capitolina, having been rebuilt by order of the Emperor Hadrian in the 130s after Vespasian's army demolished it in 70.  Narcissus was consecrated in180, and he was the thirtieth bishop.  That's an average tenure of five years, by my calculation.
That's the old boy

Eusebius credits Narcissus with a lot of miracles, but only one seems to get repeated by all the internet sources. I'll repeat it to.  Having already determined that the feast of the Resurrection would fall on Sunday, Narcissus was distressed to find one year on the Saturday prior that the church had run out of lamp oil.  He filled the lamp with water, prayed really hard, and the water was turned to oil.

Water to oil
At some point in his career, Narcissus was accused of something foul.  No one ever says what it was, but it must have been a heavy crime because he abandoned Jerusalem and went to live in the wilderness.  The folks who accused him were eventually found to be liars -- one source indicates that they suffered appropriate punishments for their false witness -- but by then another Patriarch had been appointed.  When that man died, folks assumed that Narcissus must have also died, so they appointed yet another.  When he died, Narcissus returned to Jerusalem and was warmly welcomed back to his old See.  He was thus the 30th and 33rd Patriarch of Jerusalem, though he shared the spot with Saint Alexander of Cappadocia for his last several years.  He lived to be 116 or 117.