Saint Callistus I

Callistus was originally a slave in the imperial Roman household. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled, and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish synagogue. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia. Through the influence of the emperor’s mistress he was released and went to live at Anzio.

After winning his freedom, Callistus was made superintendent of the public Christian burial ground in Rome—still called the cemetery of Saint Callistus—probably the first land owned by the Church. The pope ordained him a deacon and made him his friend and adviser.

Callistus was elected pope by a majority vote of the clergy and laity of Rome, and thereafter was bitterly attacked by the losing candidate, Saint Hippolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church. The schism lasted about 18 years.

After the death of Zephyrinus (217), Callistus was elected pope but was opposed by his theological adversary Hippolytus, who attempted to supplant him and who accused him of favouring modalist, or Patripassian, doctrines, both before and after his election. (Callistus, however, condemned and excommunicated Sabellius [fl. c. 215–c. 220], the most prominent champion of modalistic monarchianism, called Sabellianism, a heretical doctrine that denied personal distinctions within the Godhead.) Hippolytus also accused him of certain relaxations of discipline: it appears that Callistus reduced the penitential severities against fornication and adultery, which the church had previously regarded as irremissible except by God.Read More »

Saint Alexius Of Rome

Saint Alexius, born in Rome in the fourth century, was the only son of parents pre-eminent among the Roman nobles for both their virtue and their great wealth. They were particularly noted for their almsgiving; three tables were prepared every day for all who came for assistance — pilgrims, the poor and the sick. Their son, fruit of their prayers, was married with splendid feasting to a noble young lady of the imperial family, but on his wedding night, by God’s special inspiration, he secretly left Rome, longing for a solitude where he could serve God alone.

Alexius went to Edessa in the far East, disguised as a beggar and lived as a hermit. He gave away all that he had brought with him, content thereafter to live by alms at the gate of Our Lady’s church in that city. His family, in the deepest grief, could not fathom the mystery of his disappearance, and would have been consoled if God had taken him instead through death.

It came to pass that the servants of Saint Alexius, whom his father had sent in search of him, arrived in Edessa, and seeing him among the poor at the gate of Our Lady’s church, gave him an alms, not recognizing him. Whereupon the man of God, rejoicing, said, I thank You, Lord, who have called me and granted that I should receive for Your Name’s name’s sake an alms from my own slaves. Deign to fulfill in me the work You have begun.Read More »

Saint Wenceslaus (Václav); Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia

Born in 907, Wenceslaus was a member of the Přemysl dynasty that would rule Bohemia from the ninth century to 1306. His father was the founder of the Přemyslids, Bořivoj I, the duke of Bohemia from 870 to 889 who installed Christian values in his son. Wenceslaus’ mother, Drahomíra, came from a pagan background but was baptized when she married Bořivoj, according to some sources. Wenceslaus was an impressionable 13 years old when his father died, and then it was paternal grandmother, Ludmila of Bohemia turn to raise him.

However, Drahomíra argued with Christian subjects and aspired to gain recognition from the nobility. Because Ludmila had encouraged Wenceslaus in Christian beliefs, Drahomíra had Ludmila killed September 15, 921by strangled by them with her veil. Drahomíra then assumed the role of regent and immediately initiated measures against the Christians. When Wenceslaus was 18, those Christian nobles who remained rebelled against Drahomira. The uprising was successful, and Drahomira was sent into exile to Budeč.

After Wenceslaus took over the government at age 18, he scored an impressive victory against the rebel duke of Kouřim, Radislav. Ever since the Great Moravian Empire had been destroyed in 902, Saxon duke and East Frankish King Henry the Fowler (Jindřich I. Ptáčník) had posed a threat to the Czech lands, so his relationship with Bohemia was of great significance. When Henry the Fowler took office, he gave many privileges to Bavarian duke Arnulf the Bad. The Saxon duke expanded his territory, threatening Bohemia even more. Wenceslaus longed for the Czech principality to become independent.Read More »

Saint John Gualbert (Giovanni Gualberto)

Born in Florence, Italy, around the year 993, Giovanni Gualberto was born into a noble family, and led a predictably frivolous life as a youth, being concerned only with the pursuit of vain amusements and romantic intrigues.

However, when he was still a young man, his elder brother Ugo was murdered, and Giovanni  was so overtaken with grief that he vowed to avenge him. His only desire was to find the murderer and kill him.

One day – it was Good Friday – as he was riding through the town, Giovanni  spotted his brother’s murderer and drew his sword to kill him. The man fell to his knees and begged for mercy.  At this instant Giovanni had a vision of Christ on the Cross, and powerfully moved by the example of the love of Christ who forgave His enemies, and he did the same.

Giovanni  entered the Benedictine church at San Miniato al Monte to pray and the figure on the crucifix is said to have bowed its head to him in recognition of his generous and merciful act. Giovanni  begged pardon of his sins and that week cut off his hair and began to wear an old habit that he had borrowed. This tale forms the subject of Burne-Jones’s picture “The Merciful Knight” and Shorthouse adapted this in “John Inglesant”.Read More »

Saint Severus of Antioch

Severus was born in the city of Sozopolis in Pisidia in c. 459, or c. 465, into an affluent Christian family, however, later monophysite sources would assert that his parents were pagan. According to Severus’ hagiography, he was named after his paternal grandfather as he had received a vision in which he was told, “the child who is for your son will strengthen Orthodoxy, and his name will be after your name”.

He came from a wealthy family and was sent to Alexandria to study after his father’s death. He continued his studies in Beirut where he came under the influence of a group of Christian students. He began to study the writings of Ss Gregory of Nazianzen and Basil and at some time in this period he was baptised.

Once, the saint was strolling outside the city, a shut-in saint came out of his cave crying, “Welcome to you Severus, teacher of Orthodoxy, and Patriarch of Antioch.” Severus marveled at how he called him by his name, for he did not know him before, and how he foretold what would become of him.

In 508, he journeyed with two hundred monks to Constantinople to defend the doctrine and remained there about three years until 511. A year and a few more months later, Flavian II, patriarch of Antioch, was deposed, and Severus was elected by the Holy Spirit to succeed him to the Apostolic See. He was consecrated a patriarch in Antioch on November 06th, 512, after which he opened the treasures of his knowledge in preaching and explaining the realities of faith and morals.Read More »

St. Ferdinand III of Castile

Ferdinand III (Spanish: Fernando III), 1199/1201 – 30 May 1252  was born at the Monastery of Valparaíso (Peleas de Arriba, in what is now the Province of Zamora), son of Alfonso IX of León and his second wife Berengaria of Castile.

In 1217 Ferdinand became King of Castile, which crown his mother renounced in his favour, and in 1230 he succeeded to the crown of Leon, though not without civil strife, since many were opposed to the union of the two kingdoms. He took as his counsellors the wisest men in the State, saw to the strict administration of justice, and took the greatest care not to overburden his subjects with taxation, fearing, as he said, the curse of one poor woman more than a whole army of Saracens.

His devotion to the Virgin Mother of God was most tender, and he used to call Her, “My Lady”: in return, Mary Most Holy procured for him victory in all his battles, and kept away all pestilence and famine from the country during his entire reign, which, as his contemporary chroniclers observed, was an evident miracle, considering the circumstances of that period. A large picture of Our Lady was carried before him into battle, while a small picture of Our Lady was attached to his saddle.  Read More »