Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alcuin of York


Alcuin of York (Latin: Alcuinus) or Ealhwine, nicknamed Albinus or Flaccus (730s or 740s – 19 May 804) was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found" according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.

Saint Alcuin (Alcuin of York) is considered as a saint by all the main branches of Christianity: Roman Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches. He was one of the most scholarly Christian saints. Saint Alcuin had a long career as a teacher and scholar, first at the school at York, founded in AD 627 (now known as St Peter's School, York) and later as Charlemagne's leading advisor on ecclesiastical and educational matters. From 796 until his death he was Abbot of the great monastery of St. Martin of Tours where he founded a library by obtaining copies of books from libraries in his native England. He wrote the grammatical rules for the Vulgate Latin spoken by some illiterates in Europe at his time. Alcuin of York is the most influential teacher in Europe as he set the basis of the syllabus for European schools.
The majority of details on Alcuin's life come from his letters and poems. There are also autobiographical sections in Alcuin's poem on York and in the Vita Alcuini, a Life written for him at Ferrières in the 820s, possibly based in part on the memories of Sigwulf, one of Alcuin's pupils.

Alcuin was born in Northumbria, presumably sometime in the 740s. Virtually nothing is known of his parents, family background, or origin. In common hagiographical fashion, the Vita Alcuini asserts that Alcuin was 'of noble English stock,' and this statement has usually been accepted by scholars. Alcuin's own work only mentions such collateral kinsmen as Wilgils, father of the missionary saint Willibrord; and Beornred, abbot of Echternach and bishop of Sens, who was more distantly related. In his Life of St Willibrord, Alcuin writes that Wilgils, called a paterfamilias, had founded an oratory and church at the mouth of the Humber, which had fallen into Alcuin's possession by inheritance. Because in early Anglo-Latin writing, paterfamilias ("head of a family, householder") usually referred to a ceorl, Donald A. Bullough suggests that Alcuin's family was of cierlisc status: i.e., free but subordinate to a noble lord, and that Alcuin and other members of his family rose to prominence through beneficial connections with the aristocracy. If so, Alcuin's origins may lie in the southern part of what was formerly known as Deira.

The young Alcuin came to the cathedral church of York during the golden age of Archbishop Ecgbert and Northumbrian King Eadberht. Egbert had been a disciple of the Venerable Bede, who urged him to raise York to an archbishopric. King Eadbert and his brother Egbert oversaw the re-energising and re-organisation of the English church, with an emphasis on reforming the clergy and on the tradition of learning that Bede had begun. Egbert was devoted to Alcuin, who thrived under his tutelage. It was in York that Alcuin formed his love of classical poetry, though he was sometimes troubled by the fact that it was written by non-Christians.

The York school was renowned as a centre of learning, in the liberal arts, literature and science as well as in religious matters. It was from here that Alcuin drew inspiration for the school he would lead at the Frankish court. He revived the school with the trivium and quadrivium disciplines. He wrote a codex on the trivium and his student Hraban wrote one on the quadrivium.

Alcuin graduated to become a teacher during the 750s. His ascendancy to the headship of the York school, the ancestor of St Peter's School, began after Aelbert became Archbishop of York in 767. Around the same time Alcuin became a deacon in the church. He was never ordained as a priest and there is no real evidence that he became an actual monk, but he lived his life as one.

In 781, King Elfwald sent Alcuin to Rome to petition the Pope for official confirmation of York’s status as an archbishopric and to confirm the election of the new archbishop, Eanbald I. On his way home he again met Charlemagne, this time in the Italian city of Parma.

Alcuin's love of the church and his intellectual curiosity allowed him to be reluctantly persuaded to join Charlemagne's court. He joined an illustrious group of scholars that Charlemagne had gathered around him, the mainsprings of the Carolingian Renaissance: Peter of Pisa, Paulinus of Aquileia, Rado and Abbot Fulrad. Alcuin would later write that "the Lord was calling me to the service of King Charles."

He was welcomed at the Palace School of Charlemagne in Aachen (Urbs Regale) in 782. It had been founded by the king’s ancestors as a place for the education of the royal children (mostly in manners and the ways of the court). However, Charlemagne wanted to include the liberal arts and, most importantly, the study of the religion that he held sacred. He loved the thought of religion and it was so important to him that he decided to share it with his country and others. From 782 to 790, Alcuin taught Charlemagne himself, his sons Pepin and Louis, the young men sent to be educated at court and the young clerics attached to the palace chapel. Bringing with him from York his assistants Pyttel, Sigewulf and Joseph, Alcuin revolutionized the educational standards of the Palace School, introducing Charlemagne to the liberal arts and creating a personalised atmosphere of scholarship and learning, to the extent that the institution came to be known as the 'school of Master Albinus'.

In this role as adviser, he tackled the emperor over his policy of forcing pagans to be baptised on pain of death, arguing, "Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act. We must appeal to the conscience, not compel it by violence. You can force people to be baptised, but you cannot force them to believe." His arguments seem to have prevailed – Charlemagne abolished the death penalty for paganism in 797.

Charlemagne was a master at gathering the best men of every land in his court. He himself became far more than just the king at the center. It seems that he made many of these men his closest friends and counsellors. They referred to him as 'David', a reference to the Biblical king David. Alcuin soon found himself on intimate terms with Charlemagne and the other men at court, where pupils and masters were known by affectionate and jesting nicknames. Alcuin himself was known as 'Albinus' or 'Flaccus'.

Alcuin’s friendships also extended to the ladies of the court, especially the queen mother and the king's daughters. His relationships with these women never reached the intense level of those of the men around him. Modern commentators, have identified the homo-erotic tone of some of Alcuin's poetry, emphasising the spiritual and idealistic aspects of his love for his friends and his young pupils, about whom he probably had erotic fantasies in the Catholic tradition. While at Aachen, his pupils were given pet names, derived from classical allusions (mainly from Virgil's Eclogues).

In 790 Alcuin returned from the court of Charlemagne to his own country, to which he had always been greatly attached. He dwelt there for some time, but Charlemagne then invited him back to help in the fight against the Adoptionist heresy which was at that time making great progress in Toledo, the old capital of the Visigoths and still a major city for the Christians under Islamic rule in Spain. He is believed to have had contacts with Beatus of Liébana, from the Kingdom of Asturias, who fought against Adoptionism. At the Council of Frankfurt in 794, Alcuin upheld the orthodox doctrine and obtained the condemnation of the heresiarch Felix of Urgel. Having failed during his stay in Northumbria to influence King Æthelred in the conduct of his reign, Alcuin never returned home.

He was back at Charlemagne's court by at least mid 792, writing a series of letters to Æthelred, to Hygbald, Bishop of Lindisfarne, and Æthelhard, Archbishop of Canterbury in the succeeding months, which dealt with the Viking attack on Lindisfarne in July 793. These letters and Alcuin's poem on the subject De clade Lindisfarnensis monasterii provide the only significant contemporary account of these events.

In his description of the Viking attack, he wrote:- "Never before has such terror appeared in Britain. Behold the church of St Cuthbert, splattered with the blood of God's priests, robbed of its ornaments."

In 796 Alcuin was in his sixties. He hoped to be free from court duties and was given the chance upon the death of Abbot Itherius of Saint Martin at Tours, when Charlemagne put Marmoutier Abbey into Alcuin's care, with the understanding that he should be available if the king ever needed his counsel.
Alcuin died on 19 May 804, some ten years before the emperor, and was buried at St. Martin’s Church under an epitaph that partly read:
Dust, worms, and ashes now...
Alcuin my name, wisdom I always loved,
Pray, reader, for my soul.

Alcuin made the abbey school into a model of excellence and many students flocked to it. He had many manuscripts copied using outstandingly beautiful calligraphy, the Carolingian minuscule based on round and legible uncial letters. He wrote many letters to his English friends, to Arno, bishop of Salzburg and above all to Charlemagne. These letters (of which 311 are extant) are filled mainly with pious meditations, but they form an important source of information as to the literary and social conditions of the time and are the most reliable authority for the history of humanism during the Carolingian age. Alcuin trained the numerous monks of the abbey in piety and it was in the midst of these pursuits that he died.
Alcuin is the most prominent figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, in which three main periods have been distinguished: in the first of these, up to the arrival of Alcuin at the court, the Italians occupy a central place; in the second, Alcuin and the Anglo-Saxons are dominant; in the third (from 804), the influence of Theodulf, the Visigoth is preponderant.
We owe to him, too, manuals used in his educational work – a grammar and works on rhetoric and dialectics. They are written in the form of dialogues and in two of them the interlocutors are Charlemagne and Alcuin. He wrote several theological treatises: a De fide Trinitatis, commentaries on the Bible, etc.
Alcuin is credited with inventing the first known question mark, though it didn't resemble the modern symbol.
Alcuin transmitted to the Franks the knowledge of Latin culture which had existed in Anglo-Saxon England. A number of his works still exist. His letters and his poetry are equally interesting. Besides some graceful epistles in the style of Venantius Fortunatus, he wrote some long poems and notably he is the author of a history (in verse) of the church at York, Versus de patribus, regibus et sanctis Eboracensis ecclesiae.

The textbook Propositiones ad acuendos juvenes is usually attributed to Alcuin. It contains about 53 mathematical word problems (with solutions), in no particular pedagogical order. Among the most famous of these problems are: four that involve river crossings, including the problem of three jealous husbands, each of whom can't let another man be alone with his wife (Problem 17); the problem of the wolf, goat, and cabbage (Problem 18); and the problem of "the two adults and two children where the children weigh half as much as the adults" (Problem 19). Alcuin's sequence is the solution to one of the problems of that book.

In several churches of the Anglican Communion, Alcuin is celebrated on 20 May, the first available day after the day of his death (as Dunstan is celebrated on 19 May).
Alcuin College, one of the colleges of the University of York, England, is named after him.

"O quam dulcis vita fuit dum sedebamus in quieti . . . inter librorum copias."
'Oh how sweet life was when we sat quietly . . . midst all these books.'
"potius animam curare memento, quam carnem, quoniam haec manet, illa perit."
'Remember to care for the soul more than the body, since the former remains, the latter perishes.'
"Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit."
'And do not listen to those who keep saying, 'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' because the tumult of the crowd is always close to madness.'

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Saint Adalbert of Prague


Saint Adalbert, (c. 956 – April 23, 997), Czech Roman Catholic saint, a Bishop of Prague and a missionary, was martyred in his efforts to convert the Baltic Prussians. He evangelized Poles and Hungarians. St. Vojtěch was later made the patron saint of Bohemia, Poland, Hungary and Prussia.

Adalbert (Vojtěch) was born into a noble Czech family of Prince Slavník and his wife Střezislava in Libice nad Cidlinou, Bohemia. The Chambers Biographical Dictionary mistakenly gives his year of birth as 939. His father was a rich and independent ruler of the Zličan princedom that rivaled Prague (see Slavník's dynasty). Adalbert had five full brothers: Soběslav (Slavnik's heir), Spytimír, Pobraslav, Pořej, Čáslav and a half-brother Radim (Gaudentius) from his father's liaison with another woman. Radim chose a clerical career as did Adalbert, and took the name Gaudentius. Adalbert was a well-educated man, having studied for about ten years (970-80) in Magdeburg under Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg. Upon the death of his mentor, he took the name Adalbert. Gifted and industrious, Adalbert soon became well-known all over Europe.

In 980 Adalbert finished his studies at Magdeburg school and returned to Prague, where he became a priest. In 981 his father, Prince Slavnik, and both his mentors died.

In 982, still not yet thirty years old, Adalbert became the Bishop of Prague. Although Adalbert descended from a rich family and could afford comfort and luxury, he lived poorly of his own free will. He was noted for charity, austerity, and zealous service to the Church. His duty was difficult even in baptized Bohemia, as the pagan creed was deeply embedded in the peoples' minds. Adalbert complained of polygamy and idolatry, which still were not unusual among the Czechs. He also strongly resented the participation of baptized Christians in the slave trade.
In 989 he resigned from his bishop's cloth and left Prague. He went to Rome and lived as a hermit in St. Alexis Benedictine monastery.
Four years later, in 993, Pope John XV sent him back to Bohemia. Adalbert became the Bishop again. That time he founded a monastery in Břevnov, near Prague, the first one in the Czech lands. Nonetheless, the nobility there continued to oppose his ministry. Also, according to Cosmas' chronicle, high clerical office was a burden to Adalbert, and in 994 he offered it to Strachkvas who was Přemyslid and Duke Boleslav's brother. Strachkvas, nevertheless, refused.

In 995 Slavniks' former rivalry with the Přemyslids (allied with Vršovci) resulted in the storming of Libice led by Boleslaus II the Pious. During the struggle four (or five) of Adalbert's brothers were murdered. Thus the Zličan princedom became part of the Přemyslids' estate.
After the tragedy he could not stay in Bohemia and escaped from Prague, despite the Pope's call for him to return to his episcopal see. Strachkvas was eventually appointed to be his successor. However, when he was going to assume the Bishop office in Prague, he suddenly died during the ceremony itself. Circumstances of his death are still unclear.
As for Adalbert, he went to Hungary and baptized Géza of Hungary and his son Stephen in the city of Esztergom. Then he went to Poland where he was cordially welcomed by Bolesław I the Brave. After the short visit Adalbert went to Prussia with a Christian mission.

Adalbert of Prague had already in 977 entertained the idea of becoming a missionary in Prussia. After he had converted Hungary, he was sent by the Pope to convert the heathen Prussians. Boleslaus the Brave, duke of Poland (later king), sent soldiers with Adalbert. The bishop and his followers - including his half-brother Radim (Gaudentius) - entered Prussian territory and went along the Baltic Sea coast to Gdańsk.
It was a standard procedure of Christian missionaries to try to chop down sacred oak trees, which they had done in many other places, including Saxony. Because the trees were worshipped and the spirits who were believed to inhabit the trees were feared for their powers, this was done to demonstrate to the non-Christians that no supernatural powers protected the trees from the Christians.
When they did not heed warnings to stay away from the sacred oak groves, Adalbert was martyred in April 997 on the Baltic Sea coast east of Truso (currently Elbląg, Elbing), or near Tenkitten and Fischhausen  It is recorded that his body was bought back for its weight in gold by Boleslaus the Brave.

A few years later Adalbert was canonized as Saint Adalbert of Prague. His life has been written about in Vita Sancti Adalberti Pragensis by various writers, the earliest being traced to imperial Aachen and Liège/Lüttich's bishop Notger von Lüttich, although it was assumed for many years that the Roman monk John Canaparius wrote the first Vita in 999. Another famous biographer of Adalbert was Saint Bruno of Querfurt who wrote his hagiography in 1001–1004.
Notably, Bohemian rulers (i.e., Přemyslids) initially refused to ransom Saint Adalbert's body from the Prussians who murdered him, so it was purchased by Poles. This fact may be explained by Saint Adalbert's belonging to the Slavniks family; it highlights the strength of the two clans' conflict. Thus Saint Adalbert's bones were stored in Gniezno and helped Boleslaus the Brave to improve Poland's position in Europe.
According to Bohemian accounts, in 1039 the Bohemian duke Břetislav I looted the bones of Saint Adalbert from Gniezno in a raid and moved them to Prague. According to Polish accounts he took the wrong relics, those of St Gaudensius, while Saint Adalbert's relics were hidden by the Poles and remain in Gniezo. In 1127 the decapitated head, which was not in the original purchase (according to Roczniki Polskie) was found and moved to Gniezno. In 1928, one of the arms of Saint Adalbert, which Bolesław I had given to Otto III in the year 1000, was added to the bones preserved in Gniezno. Today Saint Adalbert has two elaborate shrines claiming to contain his remains, in the cathedrals of Prague and Gniezno, and which bones are authentic is not clear. For example, the saint has two skulls - one in Prague, a second in Gniezno (stolen in 1923).
The massive bronze Gniezno Doors of Gniezno Cathedral, of about 1175, are decorated with 18 reliefs of scenes from the saint's life, the only Romanesque church doors in Europe to contain a cycle illustrating the life of a saint.
April 1997 was the thousandth anniversary of Saint Adalbert's martyrdom. It was commemorated in the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Russia and other countries. Representatives of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Evangelical churches pilgrimaged to Gniezno, to the saint's tomb. John Paul II visited Gniezno and held a ceremonial divine service in which heads of seven European states and about a million believers took part.
In Kaliningrad Oblast, near Beregovoe village (former Tenkitten), where Adalbert's death hypothetically took place, a ten-meter cross was established.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Acca


Acca (b c. 660 – 740 or 742) was a Northumbrian saint and Bishop of Hexham from 709 until 732.

Born in Northumbria, Acca first served in the household of Bosa, the future Bishop of York, but later attached himself to Saint Wilfrid, possibly as early as 678, and accompanied him on his travels. On the return from their second journey to Rome in 692, Wilfrid was reinstated at Hexham and made Acca abbot of St Andrew's monastery there. After Wilfrid's death in 709 Acca succeeded him as bishop.

Acca tackled his duties with much energy, in ruling the diocese and in conducting the services of the church. He also carried on the work of church building and decorating started by Wilfrid. He once brought to the North a famous cantor named Maban, who had learned in Kent the Roman traditions of psalmody handed down from Gregory the Great through Saint Augustine.

He was also famous for his theological learning; his theological library was praised by Bede. He was known also for his encouragement of students by every means in his power. It was Acca who persuaded Stephen of Ripon (Eddius) to take on the Life of St. Wilfrid, and he lent many materials for the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum to Bede, who dedicated several of his most important works, especially those dealing with Holy Scripture, to him.

For reasons now unknown Acca either withdrew, or was driven from, his diocese in 732. Some sources say he became bishop of Whithorn in Galloway, Scotland, while others claim he founded a see on the site of St. Andrews, bringing with him relics collected on his Roman tour. He was nevertheless still buried at Hexham. Two finely carved crosses, fragments of one of which still remain, were erected at the head and foot of his grave.

He was revered as a saint immediately after his death. His body was translated at least three times: in the early 11th century, by Alfred of Westow, sacrist of Durham; in 1154, at the restoration of the church, when the relics of all the Hexham saints were put together in a single shrine; and again in 1240. His feast day was 20 October. The translation of his relics was commemorated on 19 February.

The only surviving writing of Acca's is a letter addressed to Bede and printed in his works.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Saint Acacius


Saint Acacius was Bishop of Amida, Mesopotamia (modern-day Turkey) in 400–425, during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II.

At that time, there were seven thousand Persian prisoners who were captured by the Romans and held in Amida. Filled with the utmost compassion at the sight of these men perishing from hunger and misery, St. Acacius resolved to help them. He assembled his clergy and addressed them in this manner: "Our God, my brethren, needs neither dishes nor cups; for He neither eats nor drinks, nor is in want of anything. Since then, by the liberality of its faithful members the Church possesses many vessels both of gold and silver, it behooves us to sell them, that by the money thus raised, we may be able to redeem the prisoners and also supply them with food."

Bishop Acacius sold all the precious golden and silver sacred vessels of his church and ransomed, clothed and fed the seven thousand. He even supported them for a while and furnished them with all that they needed to return to Persia.

When the ransomed captives returned home to Persia, they told their ruler of the great deeds performed by Bishop Acacius. His actions so impressed the Sassanid Emperor Bahram V that he is reported to have ordered an end to the persecution of the Christians.

Emperor Bahram V also desired to see St. Acacius face-to-face. Permission to do just that was given to Acacius by Emperor Theodosius II. St. Acacius' kindness and charity led to the termination of hostilities between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire, and Christianity was able to flourish for a while in the areas then controlled by the Sassanid Persians.

Saint Acacius' feast day is celebrated on April 9 (Roman Martyrology).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Abbo of Fleury


Abbo of Fleury (in Latin Abbo Floriacensis), also known as Abbon or Saint Abbo (c. 945 – 13 November 1004) was a monk, and later abbot, of the Benedictine monastery of Fleury sur Loire (the modern Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire) near Orléans, France.

He was born near Orléans and was educated at Paris and Reims, devoting himself to philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. He spent two years (986-987) in England, mostly in the newly founded monastery of Ramsey, assisting Archbishop Oswald of York in restoring the monastic system. He was also abbot and director of the school of this newly founded monastery from 986 to 987.
Abbo returned to Fleury in 988, where he was selected abbot of Fleury after the death of the Abbot Oilbold. But another monk, who had secured the support of the King and his son Robert, Bishop of Orléans, contested the choice, and the matter assumed national importance. It was finally settled in favour of Abbo by the famous Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II). The new abbot was active in contemporary politics: He was present at the Synod of St. Basolus (St. Basle), near Reims, at which Arnulf, Archbishop of Reims was tried for treason and deposed, to make way for Gerbert. In 996 King Robert II (Robert the Pious) sent him to Rome to ward off a threatened papal interdict over Robert's marriage to Bertha. On the way to Rome he met Pope Gregory V, who was a fugitive from the city from which the Antipope John XVI had expelled him. Between the Pontiff and the Abbot the greatest esteem and affection existed. The royal petition for a dispensation was rejected. Abbo succeeded in bringing about the restoration of Arnulf to the see of Reims. He was influential in calming the excitement and fear about the end of the world which was widespread in Europe in 1000.
In 1004 he attempted to restore discipline in the monastery of La Reole, in Gascony, by transferring some of the monks of Fleury into that community. But the trouble increased; fighting began between the two parties and when St. Abbo endeavoured to separate them he was pierced in the side by a lance. He concealed the wound and reached his cell, where he died in the arms of his faithful disciple Aimoin, who has left an account of his labours and virtues. The miracles wrought at his tomb soon caused him to be regarded in the Church of Gaul as a saint and martyr, although he does not seem to have been officially canonized by Rome. His feast is kept on 13 November.

When in England Abbo learned of the martyrdom of Saint Edmund (November 870), and wrote a passion in Latin on it. He also wrote a Latin grammar for his English students, and three poems to St Dunstan. Among his other works are a simplification of the computus, the computation of the date of Easter; an Epitome de XCI Romanorum Pontificum Vitis (book on the lives of Roman popes, which is an abridgement of the earlier Liber Pontificalis), a Collectio Canonum, with clarifications about topics of Canon Law, and other treatises on controversial topics and letters. Around 980 to 985, he wrote a commentary on the "Calculus" of Victorius of Aquitaine, before the introduction of Arabic numerals, when calculations were often quite complex. The wide range of Abbo's thought is reflected in the commentary, covering the nature of wisdom, the philosophy of number, the relationship of unity and plurality, and the arithmetic of the Calculus. Abbo drew on his knowledge of grammar, logic and cosmology to illustrate his arguments, and set it all in the broader context of his theology of Creation. Most of Abbo's works can be found in the Patrologia Latina (CXXXIX,375-582).

There is one contemporary biography, written by his disciple Aimoin of Fleury, in which much of Abbo's correspondence was reproduced. It is of great importance, among other things as a historical source of information for the reign of Robert II of France, especially with reference to the Papacy.

Richard W. Pfaff sums up his achievement as follows: "One of the most versatile thinkers and writers of his time, Abbo put his mark on several areas of medieval life and thought, but none more so than in transmitting much that was valuable from the tradition of reformed French monasticism to the nascent monastic culture of late tenth-century England."

Angela Merici


Angela Merici, or Angela de Merici, (21 March 1474 – 27 January 1540) was an Italian religious leader and saint. She founded the Order of Ursulines in 1535 in Brescia.
Saint, Angela Merici was born at Desenzano del Garda, a small town on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy. She and her older sister, whom she dearly loved, Giana Maria, were left orphans when she was about ten years old. Together they came to live with their uncle in the town of Salo. Young Angela was very distressed when her sister suddenly died without receiving the last sacraments. She joined the Third Order of St Francis, and increased her prayers to God so her sister’s soul could rest in peace. Legend says that she was satisfied by a vision of her sister in the company of the saints in Heaven. People admired Saint Angela because of her hair, she promised herself to God and did not want to be admired so she dyed her hair in soot and water.
Angela's uncle died when she was twenty years old and she returned to her previous home in Desenzano. Angela believed that better Christian education was needed for young girls; she then dedicated her time teaching girls in her home, which she had converted into a school. She later allegedly had another vision that revealed to her that she was to found an association of virgins who were to devote their lives to the religious training of young girls. This was a success and she was invited to start another school in the neighboring city, Brescia. She happily accepted this offer.
According to legend, though not substantiated by any extant documentation, in 1524, while traveling to the Holy Land, St Angela Merici became suddenly blind when she was on the island of Crete. Despite this, St Angela continued her journey to the Holy Places and was ostensibly cured of her blindness, while praying before a crucifix, at the same place where she was struck with blindness a few weeks before.In 1525, she came to Rome to gain the Indulgences of the Jubilee year. While doing this task, Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her virtue and success with her school, invited her to remain in Rome. St Angela disliked notoriety, and she soon returned to Brescia.
On 25 November 1535, St Angela Merici chose twelve virgins and started the foundation of the "Company of St Ursula" near the Church of St Afra, in a small house in Brescia. On 18 March 1537, she was elected "Mother and Mistress" (Superior) of the order. She died on 27 January 1540. Her body was clothed in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary and interred in the Church of St Afra, Brescia.
Saint Angela Merici was beatified in Rome on 30 April 1768, by Pope Clement XIII. She was later canonized on 24 May 1807, by Pope Pius VII

In life, Saint Angela Merici often prayed at the tombs of the Brescian martyrs at the Church of St Afra in Brescia. She lived in small rooms that were part of what was then known as the "Monastery of the Lateran Canons." According to her wishes, after her death, she was interred in the Church of St Afra to be near the martyrs' remains. There her body remained until the complete destruction of this church and corresponding area due to Allied bombing during the Second World War, on 2 March 1945. This structure and corresponding buildings were afterwards rebuilt and became known as the "Merician Centre."

Saint Angela Merici was not included in the 1570 Tridentine Calendar of Pope Pius V, because she was not canonized until 1807. In 1861 her feast day was inserted in the Roman Calendar – not on the day of her death, 27 January, since this date was occupied by the feast day of Saint John Chrysostom, but instead on 31 May. In 1955 Pope Pius XII assigned this date to the new feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen, and moved the feast of Saint Angela to 1 June. The celebration was ranked as a Double until 1960, when Pope John XXIII gave it the equivalent rank of Third-Class Feast. Finally, in 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the celebration, ranked as a Memorial, to the saint's day of death, 27 January

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Abbán moccu Corbmaic


Abbán moccu Corbmaic (d. 520?), also Eibbán or Moabba, is a saint in Irish tradition. He was associated, first and foremost, with Mag Arnaide (Moyarney or Adamstown, near New Ross, Co. Wexford) and with Cell Abbáin (Killabban, County Laois). His cult was, however, also connected to other churches elsewhere in Ireland, notably that of his alleged sister Gobnait.

Three recensions of the saint's Life survive, two in Latin and one in Irish. The Latin versions are found in the Codex Dublinensis and the Codex Salmanticensis, while the Irish version is preserved incomplete in two manuscripts: the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh's manuscript Brussels, Royal Library MS 2324-40, fos. 145b-150b and also the RIA, Stowe MS A 4, pp. 205–21. These Lives probably go back to a Latin exemplar written in ca. 1218 by the bishop of Ferns, Ailbe Ua Maíl Mhuaidh (Ailbe O'Mulloy), who died in 1223. His interest in the saint partly stemmed from the fact that Mag Arnaide lay within the diocese of Ferns, but as this was only a minor church in his time, more must have been involved. An episode which shows something of Ailbe's personal attachment to the saint's cult is that where the saint arrives in the area between Éile and Fir Chell, i.e. on the marches between Munster and Leinster: Abbán converts a man of royal rank from the area and baptises his son. Ailbe is known to have been a native of this area, but his own commentary as apparently preserved in the Dublin Life identifies the connection more nearly: "I who gathered together and wrote the Life am a descendant [nepos] of that son" However, the immediate circumstances which prompted the composition of the Life are likely to have been political, relating to Norman presence in the diocese of Ferns. To support his case, Ailbe made much of the saint's wider connections to other churches and saints, making him travel all across the country and in the case of the anecdote about Abingdon, even inventing tradition.

Other sources for Abbán's life and cult include the Irish genealogies of the saints and the entries for his feast-day in the martyrologies. His pedigree is given in the Book of Leinster, Leabhar Breac, Rawlinson B 502 and in glosses to his entries in the Félire Óengusso.

His pedigree in the Irish genealogies, which appear to have been composed in the interest of Cell Abbáin, suggests that he belonged to the Uí Chormaic (also Moccu Chormaic or Dál Chormaic). It identifies his father as Laignech (lit. "Leinsterman"), son of Mac Cainnech, son of Cabraid, son of Cormac, son of Cú Corb, while an Irish note to the Félire Óengusso (for 27 October) largely agrees if substituting Cabraid for Imchad. The Lives, on the other hand, state that his father was Cormac son of Ailill, king of Leinster, who died in 435 according to the Annals of the Four Masters, and name his mother Mílla, sister to St Ibar.
The Lives confuse the time of the saint's historical floruit by attributing to him a life-span of over 300 years.[10] He is brought into contact with such illustrious saints as Finnian of Clonard, Brendan of Clonfert (d. 577), Columba (d. 597), Gregory the Great, Munnu and Moling. One of the saint's foundations is said to have been repeatedly pillaged by Cormac mac Diarmata (fl. 2nd half of the 6th century), king of Leinster from the Uí Bairrche, who is portrayed in much Leinster hagiography as a rival to the Uí Chennselaig. Abbán is also made a contemporary of even earlier figures like Saint Íbar, who is claimed to be his maternal uncle, and St Patrick.
Nothing is known of Abbán's early life. The Lives tell that he was expected to succeed his father in Leinster, but that his devotion to God and the saintly miracles which he wrought while still in fosterage soon made clear that he was destined for a career in the church. The boy was sent to his maternal uncle, Bishop Íbar, with whom he travelled to Rome. In Italy, Abbán's saintly powers proved to be of much use in warding off any danger presented by men, monsters and supernatural phenomena. Throughout the text, Abbán can be seen demonstrating his powers, exercising special authority over rivers and seas.

The glosses to the two entries for Abbán in the Félire Óengusso associate him with Mag Arnaide (Co. Wexford), in the territory of the Uí Chennselaig (also Uí Buide), and with Cell Abbáin (Co. Loais), in the territory of the Uí Muiredaig.
However, Abbán's activities were also linked to many other parts of Ireland. Of special note is the tradition that St Gobnait was his sister and that his grave was to be found near her church or nunnery in Bairnech, now Ballyvourney (Muskerry, Co. Cork). As the later recensions suggest, Ailbe's original Life seems to build on this connection by claiming that Abbán founded Ballyvourney and gave it to his sister. According to his Lives, he began to found a string of churches after returning from a second visit to Rome. Other churches said to have been founded by him include Cell Ailbe (Co. Meath) and Camross (Co. Laois).
The Bollandists argued that the Abbán of Mag Arnaide and the Abbán of Cell Abbáin were originally two distinct saints, one commemorated on 16 March, the other on 27 October, but that the two were conflated from an early period.This conclusion, however, has been rejected by scholars like W.W. Heist and Charles Plummer.
There is also a brief biographical reference to Saint Abbán in the official hagiographical compilation of the Orthodox Church, The Great Synaxaristes, for May 13. This source states that he was baptized in 165 AD, became a missionary in the Abingdon area of England, and reposed in peace.

The Life puts forward the spurious claim that Abingdon, the town near Oxford, is to be explained etymologically as Abbain dun, "Abbán's town". The aetiological tale goes that the town took its name from the saint, because he had successfully converted the king and the people of the area. The story was not an isolated one. The etymology is also brought up by the author who revised the 12h-century chronicle of the house, Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis ("The History of the Church of Abingdon"). As Abingdon Abbey lay in a valley, he prefers the Irish derivation: "For we have learnt from our contemporaries that, according to the language of the Irish, Abingdon is interpreted 'house of Aben'; but according to the language of the English, Abingdon commonly means 'the hill of Aben'."

Pádraig Ó Riain proposes that the episode in the saint's Life was intended to offer some counterweight against English propaganda which asserted that the need for religious and ecclesiastical guidance justified English presence in Ireland; and that, in fact, the linguistic convenience was what made the saint of an otherwise minor church such a suitable protagonist. More specifically, Ailbe may have written his Life in response to his quarrel with William Earl Marshall, who had seized two manors near New Ross, and Normans rather than Irishmen may have been his target audience. It has been argued that the formative occasion for the story was a visit to Abingon made in 1080 by Lorcán Ua Tuathail (Lawrence O'Toole), Archbishop of Dublin, who stayed there for three weeks before accompanying Henry II to Normandy. Ailbe, being one of the archbishop's disciples, may have been present

Saint Albéric of Cîteaux


Saint Albéric of Cîteaux (died January 26, 1108), sometimes known as Aubrey of Cîteaux, was a Christian saint and abbot, one of the founders of the Cistercian Order.

Albéric was a hermit in the forest of Collan in France who, along with five other hermits, invited Saint Robert of Molesme to begin a new monastery with them that would operate under the Rule of St. Benedict. Robert led these hermits to the forest of Molesme and established a religious settlement there in 1075, Molesme Abbey. Robert served as the first abbot, and Albéric as the prior. However, as the settlement's fame grew, gifts came in and the wealth attracted new monks more lax in their observance of the rule. The Molesmes community was divided, and the monks opposed Robert and Albéric. Robert twice left the monastery to live as a hermit, and twice the pope ordered him back to his community. During one of Robert's absences, the brothers imprisoned Albéric so that they might have their way.
The stricter group left Molesme for Cîteaux. Initially, Robert was abbot of Cîteaux with Albéric serving as prior. However, the monks of Molesme petitioned Robert to return to them and vowed obedience to the Rule of St. Benedict. In 1100, Robert left Cîteaux and Albéric became the new abbot.
Albéric is credited with attaining the Cistercian Order's legal foundation. Pope Pascal II granted this legitimacy with his Bull Desiderium quod (around 1100). Albéric also decided to move the monastery's buildings a kilometer to the north and initiated construction on the first abbey church. The Church was consecrated less than six years later. Albéric also introduced the use of the while Cistercian cowl. It was given to him for the monks, according to legend, by the Virgin Mary as they were at choir praying vigils. Accordingly, the white cowl is one of Albéric's attributes in hagiographical paintings.
His feast day, together with the Robert and Stephen Harding, is celebrated on January 26. There is no alternate feast day outside the Roman Tradition.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Abakuh

Abakuh (also known as Apa Kauh) was a martyr of Bamujeh in the Al Fayyum area of Egypt. He was a zealous Christian who was martyred for his Christianity with eight companions. His feast day is January 23. He is referenced in the Synaxaire Arabe-Jacobite.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

St. Charles Borromeo


Feastday: November 4
Patron of learning and the arts.
Died: 1584

Charles was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.

In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan. He served as Pius' legate on numerous diplomatic missions and in 1562, was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1552. Charles played a leading role in guiding and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He refused the headship of the Borromeo family on the death of Count Frederick Borromeo, was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see. He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children and encouraged the Jesuits in his see. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy, was most generous in his help to the English college at Douai, and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils. He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church. He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions.

He died at Milan on the night of November 3-4, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times. His feast day is November 4th.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


Feastday: June 21
Died: 1591

St. Aloysius was born in Castiglione, Italy. The first words St. Aloysius spoke were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. He was destined for the military by his father (who was in service to Philip II), but by the age of 9 Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity. To safeguard himself from possible temptation, he would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. St. Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion. A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, St. Aloysius kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in a hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine. The last word he spoke was the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Robert wrote the Life of St. Aloysius.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blessed Helen of Poland


Also known as
Helen of Hungary
Helena
Iolantha
Joheleth
Jolanda
Jolanta
Jolenta
Yolanda of Hungary

Memorial
15 June
11 June
12 June
3 March
6 March on some calendars


Born a princess, the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary and Maria Laskaris. Niece of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, grand-niece of Saint Hedwig of Andechs, and younger sister of Blessed Cunegund of Poland, who raised her. Married to Duke Boleslas V, the devout prince of Kalishi, Pomerania; mother of three. Franciscan tertiary. Founded a Poor Clare convent in Gnesen, Poland. Widowed in 1279. She, one of her daughters, and Cunegund retired to a Poor Clare convent Cunegund had founded in Sandeck. Just before her death, Helen became superior of the convent she had founded in Gnesen.

Born c.1235 in Hungary as Jolenta
Died 11 June 1298 at Gnesen, Poland of natural causes
Beatified 26 September 1827 by Pope Leo XII (cultus confirmed)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Saint Guy of Anderlecht


Saint Guy of Anderlecht

Born in poverty, he was trained in religion by pious parents. For many years he embraced poverty as God’s will for him, and spent his time caring for the poor and sick. When he worked the fields, an angel would sometimes man the plow so that Guy could pray without distraction. He hung around the local church so much the priest made him the parish sacristan; Guy then lived in the church, and often spent all night in prayer.

A merchant from Brussels, Belgium either decided to give the boy a leg up in the world, or figured that Guy was a bumpkin who could be defrauded; versions vary. Either way, he offered Guy a part share in a new project that could make him rich. In the first ocean-going expedition in the project, the ship involved sank; Guy took it as a sign that he was right to begin with, and returned to his old life of poverty.

As penance for his bout of greed, Guy made a pilgrimage on foot to Rome, Italy then to Jerusalem where he worked for a while as a guide to pilgrims, then back to Brussels. Though he never joined any order or house, he vowed chastity, and devoted most of his time to prayer, and work as a sacristan.

Many post-mortem miracles attributed to him. An annual festival grew up in the area around his grave, with most of the activities involving horses and the people who work with them because his grave, which was lost for years, was uncovered by a horse.


Born c.950 at Anderlecht, Belgium
Died 1012 at Anderlecht, Belgium of exhaustion and related natural causes
his grave was forgotten for years until uncovered by a horse
relics translated to a nearby church in 1076
due to wars, his relics were moved and hidden in several places over the years
relics destroyed by Protestants in the 18th century


Patronage

Anderlecht, Belgium
against epilepsy
against hydrophobia
against infantile convulsions
against mad dogs
against rabies
animals with horns
bachelors
Patron saint of convulsive children
Patron saint of epileptics
horned animals
Patron saint of laborers
protection of outbuildings
protection of sheds
protection of stables
sacristans
sextons
work horses