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, April 30, 2013

April 30 -- Feast of Pope Saint Pius V

If you're going to be a hard-ass, you need to be consistent.  I think Machiavelli makes that point twenty or thirty times in The Prince.  Saint Pius V, baptized Antonio Ghislieri, may not have read The Prince, but he surely understood that principle well.  [Pius V's predecessor, Pius IV, put added The Prince to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, but that didn't stop folks -- even clergy -- from reading it.]

At fourteen, Antonio entered the Dominican Order.  He was ordained at twenty-eight and spent the next sixteen years lecturing against the heresies of the day.  He was pretty good at this, eventually scoring himself a position in the Inquisition.  He also turned his attention back into the Dominican Order, smacking some of the more lax brothers back into line.  His advancement continued through a couple of bishoprics, a cardinal's hat, and the supreme inquisitor's office.  However, when he criticized Pope Pius IV (to his face, no less) for giving a cardinal's hat to a thirteen-year old relative and supporting a nephew out of the Vatican treasury, he lost a little ground.  That sweet office in the Lateran Palace got reassigned to someone a little more... collaborative and his inquisitory (inquisitive?) powers were diminished.

The death of Pius IV was a tidal change in his fortune.  Antonio generously took his predecessor's name when he was elected Pope in 1566, just ten days shy of his sixty-second birthday.  His first order of business was to clean house in Rome.  The prostitutes were expelled from the City.  Expenses at the papal household were slashed.  Residency requirements for clergy "working" at the Vatican were enforced.  In short, the worst excesses of the Roman Catholic Church were curtailed or eliminated, causing some grumbling but not much active opposition within the lower Church ranks.

Of course, he took it to the Protestants as much as to his own flock.  Huguenot clergy in France were excommunicated, as was Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Probably none of those folks minded very much,as they were tossing around that phrase "Whore of Babylon" every time someone mentioned Rome. 

If success is evidence of divine favor, then surely Heaven smiled down on Pope Pius V.  If the Divine Watchmaker is letting the world spin without interference, then the credit for the victory goes to Pius and his allies.  You see, the Ottoman Empire had been pushing into Europe for centuries, and pretty much having it all their own way.  The Pope organized an alliance called the Holy League.  Getting squabbling European princes to set aside the vain machinations is no easy task, but he did it.  The Ottoman navy struck and was defeated at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.  Although Pius was in Rome, the Holy League's victory was revealed to him before any messengers reached the city. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22 -- Feast of Saint Theodore of Sykeon Part II

baby double for Prince Saint Arwald
There's not much to say about some saints.  Take, for example, little Saint Arwald, who was murdered by King Caedwalla on the day after his baptism.  Caedwalla didn't sail to the Isle of Wight just to kill Arwald, of course.  He iced the whole royal family and a lot of other people who got in the way. 

Little Prince Arwald of the Isle of Wight was lucky, in a way.  Had Caedwalla invaded two days earlier, Arwald would have been consigned to Limbo, or maybe Hell if there is no Limbo, as an unbaptized soul.  A splash of water, a few syllables of Latin, and the sign of the Cross and then the little fella is a saint instead. 

Other saints have such detailed vitae that I can't everything into a single post.  Last year, we left an adolescent Saint Theodore as he walked away from a precipice where the Devil had just tempted him toward his death.  Saint George, whose feast is tomorrow, was young Theodore's personal patron and guardian. 
Go Ted Go!

In spite of his fasting and countless hours of prayer, he became a very fast distance runner.  On occasion, he would win races against horses, but mostly he used his speed to attend evening Mass fifteen miles away and still be home before Midnight. 

Theodore sought the blessing of an old monk named Glycerius.  Apparently collecting blessings from venerables was something aspiring young saints did in those days.  Glycerius suggested that they test their favor with the Lord by praying for an end to the drought.  As they knelt in prayer, clouds rolled up and drenched the land.  This, said the venerable monk, was a sign that God would not refuse a prayer from his servant Theodore. 

holy men and rivers -- but the Ganges is warmer
Ted entered a monastery shortly after that.  His mom used to bring him home-cooked meals, which he gratefully accepted to make her feel good, but then promptly left on a rock behind the monastery for the birds, or wandering travelers, or less mortified monks. Ted's own mortification went further -- on January 6 (Epiphany), he went down to the river and stood all day in the icy water, singing psalms and reading from the prophets.  Icy mud stuck to his feet as he waded ashore at sunset.  He then walked to a crypt under the altar of the monastery chapel and stayed there until Palm Sunday, fasting except for what little fruit or vegetable he took from his grandmother on Saturdays and Sundays. 

The text I used said that the monks all gave thanks that these things were revealed to their Brother Theodore.  I understand that to mean that the monks were grateful that they had not been inspired to do these things.  Nonetheless, Theodore thrived, more or less.   He was seized by an influenza demon, but Saint George exorcised it and then announced that Theodore would thenceforth also have the power to drive out demons.  This was shortly put to the test when a father and son arrived at the monastery seeking exorcism.  Actually, the dad sought exorcism for his son, who wasn't so sure. 

Exorcism -- more than he signed up for
Truth be told, Theodore wasn't sure either, but the old man handed the young saint a whip and told him to start driving.   For two days Theodore whipped the kid raw.  On the third day, the demon howled and raged and said unkind (but true) things about Ted's mom, but eventually he fled in defeat.  Ted looked at the bloody remains of the kid at his feet and wondered if he had killed him, but they picked the boy up, revived him, and nursed him back to health.  Not long after that, Ted decided that the life of a desert hermit might actually be his calling... this monastery business might have played itself out. 

Tune in next year for another installment of Saint Theodore of Sykeon's holy life.