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, March 1, 2013

March 1 -- Feast of Saint Rudesind

Saint Rosendo in Cuba
I've often noted how regrettable it has been for folks to martyr themselves needlessly when they could do so much more good work by living.  I was somewhat surprised, therefore, to find myself a little disappointed by Rudesind's choice.  It was a momentary reaction, of course.  Any rational person would have acted as he did.  But the fact that he chose to live (and is still a saint) forces the question: what is worth dying for and what is not?  Under which circumstances is martyrdom appropriate and when is it folly?

Beardless at the San Salvator Monastery, Galicia
Born in 907 to a well-connected noble family in Galicia, Spain, young Rosendo (Rudesind) rose quickly -- very quickly -- through the ecclesiastical ranks.  I've said that about saints before, but I don't recall anyone making bishop at eighteen.  Then again, he had a singularly auspicious start to life.  I'm not talking about his parents, though his dad Count Gutierre Menéndez (brother of King Ordoño II) and his mother Ilduara Eriz (cousin of King Alfonso III) probably greased the skids a little.  Even before he was born, his mom got a sign of his vocation.  She was on an expedition with her husband and King Alfonso III.  Having lost all her previous children to childhood illnesses, Ilduara hiked alone and barefoot up Mount Coruba to pray at the hermitage of San Salvador.  Michael the Archangel visited to tell her that her son would be a great and holy man.  She stayed, sending word that a full church needed to be constructed on that site. The Count and the King were game.  At last, it came time for a baptism, but the cart bearing the baptismal font broke down on its way up the mountain.  Count Gutierre sent for a new cart, or at least a new axle, but in the meantime, Archangel Michael showed up and bore the broken cart to the new church himself.  So maybe becoming bishop at eighteen isn't out of the question.  

Sources agree about most of his career, but the there are some points of contention.  No one disagrees that he was the governor of Celanova, and then promoted to be the governor of Galicia.  In this role, he led an army against both the Moorish and Norman invaders.  Here's one of the points of contention.  Most of the sources  say that the King fired the previous governor of Galacia and bishop of Iria Flavia, Rudesind's cousin Sisnand, replacing him with Rudesind.  Wikipedia says without citation that Bishop Sisnand, the warlord of Galicia, was killed in battle against the Norsemen (Normans).  Of course, the author of that entry describes the See as Santiago de Compostela, which is not quite true.  That holy shrine is within the See, but it was officially Iria Flavia at that time.  

The discrepancy about Sisnand is no minor point.  In all the other accounts, he was imprisoned by the King but escaped following a regime change.  He stormed his cousin's cathedral and demanded that Rudesind resign.  Faced with death or imprisonment, Rudesind set down the crozier and walked out.  Had he chosen the sword, or even captivity, he would no doubt be hailed as a martyr.  Instead, he retired to one of the monasteries he had founded, serving as its abbot.  

Had the ultimatum he faced been over an article of faith, martyrdom would not have been an inappropriate choice.  Since it was merely a question of a ring, a chair, a staff, and a hat, walking away is the right call. 

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