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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30 -- Feast of Saint Martial of Limoges

This is Saint Martial's day, and thus it should be Saint Martial's story.  Unfortunately, no reliable record of his story exists.  We know that he was the first bishop of Limoges, an area he evangelized after receiving his commission from Pope Fabian during the very dangerous reign of Emperor Decius.

This is also the story of a monk named Ademar de Charbannes, and of another monk named Benedict of Chiusa.   And of a couple of modern historians named Louis Saltet and Richard Landes.  Mostly, it is the story of revisionist history.

Brother Ademar, an eleventh century monk in the monastery of Saint-Martial, was not content with the incomplete record of his abbey's patron.  Moreover, what was known about Martial was a little modest, given the saints to whom other monasteries were dedicated.  As the author of a three-volume history of France, Ademar was in position to kick it all up a notch, so to speak.  If you're familiar with the Dr. Seuss book, And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, you have some sense of the Ademar Effect.

So Ademar got to work, writing both a biography and a Mass for Saint Martial, the cousin of Saint Peter and defender of consecrated virgins against the lust of villainous dukes.  But a wandering monk, a scholastic named Benedict of Chiusa, questioned the authenticity of Ademar's account of Martial, Apostolic Mass and all.  Actually, questioned might be too gentle a word.  Challenged?  How about denied?    So when even the liturgy was questioned, Ademar went all in and invented an  ecclesiastical council that debated and confirmed the apostolicity (I didn't make that word up) of Saint Martial.  He even wrote up a papal letter, acknowledging the Council's conclusion.

Ademar got away with it until the 1920s, and really even beyond.  An ecclesiastical historian named Louis Saltet documented the forgery, but the Church doesn't rush to overturn its apostles, even minor apostles.  Saltet's work was largely ignored until the 1990s, when another historian named Richard Landes documented the entire saga.

In the end of the Seuss book, young Marco confirms his father's low opinion by relating none of the fantastic things he dreamed up on his way home.  Saint Martial, apostle to the people of Limoges (Limousines?), probably would have been content with that.

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