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, June 26, 2013

June 26 -- Feast of Saint Pelagius and Hrosvitha

I hope that young Saint Pelagius, a tenth century lad martyred before his fifteenth birthday, won't mind sharing his feast with an uncanonized (except here, of course) nun.  Given that she was his first biographer, I figure they have been linked for a millennium, so there's no harm in giving them a joint feast.

In truth, I don't understand how the hagiographers overlooked [Saint]  Hrosvitha of Gandersheim.  Sure we don't know much about her life except that she lived in an ascetic and high brow convent, but given the number of narrative verses and dramas that she wrote, she could hardly have time to have sinned.  As for heroic virtue, her work extolling the legends of saints -- historical and contemporary -- and condemning sin surely counts.  She wrote the first poetic treatment of the Faust myth.  Her six dramas, among the earliest in the post-Classical period, were inspired by Terence, who  did some heavy deriving from popular Greek comedies.  In spite of the literary pedigree which she acknowledged, we must give Hrotsvitha credit for much originality in creating dialogues about Christian martyrs.  When her play Dulcitius concludes with the villain besmirched and ruined while the three heroines go happily to martyrs' graves, we find something rare if not unique in literature; not until the rise of post-modernism would a comedy of errors again end with the deaths of the protagonists.
As I mentioned, Saint Pelagius was a contemporary of Saint Hrotsvitha.  Pelagius was the nephew of Hermogius, the Bishop of Tuy.  When Uncle Hermie got himself captured in battle by the Spanish  mMoors under Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III, ten-year-old Pelagius was swapped out as a hostage.  Tree years later, the handsome young Christian was still unredeemed and the Caliph had begun to wonder if the Christians just ditched the kid.  The question was less important to Pelagius, who wasdetermined to accept the will of The Lord and suffer whatever he must, not for his family's sake, but for the sake of Jesus.  Thus, when the Caliph offered rich food, fine clothes, and one side of a warm soft bed to sleep in, Pelagius was not tempted to apostatize.  Whether or not the Caliph would have bedded an under-nourished teen-aged non-apostate is unrecorded; fellow prisoners later testified that the negotiations moved quickly from incentives to disincentives.  If Pelagius had wanted to keep his ears and fingers and all the skin on his back, he probably shouldn't have hit he Caliph and calld him a bugger.  The boy died after six hours of torture, and his fellow prisoners, eventually redeemed, returned to Christian Europe with the story.  Apparently, at least one even spoke with Hrotsvitha, giving her plenty of details for her version of the story.

Hrotsvitha and Pelagius also share more than a full measure of obscurity.  While she did what she could to celebrate his virtue, he is certainly not up there with  Sebastian, Stephen, and the other holy martyrs.  There is a festival of Saint Pelagius, and it is. A huge bash with live music, good food, and fireworks, but unfortunately it is in August, in Croatia, and in honor of a different Pelagius.  And even though we have her works accessible now, Hrotsvitha's work was forgotten for four centuries an even now remains pretty darn obscure.  Moreover, she has yet to be canonized (except here).   As I
consider their joint obscurity, I am even more convinced that they wouldn't mind sharing the day together.

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