Saint of the Day

April 20: Saint Marcian

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Saint Marcian was just a young man running away from the destruction caused by Visigoth armies when he entered a monastery at Auxerre, France. He was an obedient, devout novice when his abbot gave him a lowly task: caring for the cows and sheep of the abbey. It wasn’t long before everyone noticed that the animals were thriving under Marcian’s care. Not only domestic animals, but wild animals seemed to obey the humble monk. When he died, the monks changed the name of their abbey to honor Saint Marcian in death, around the year 488.

Saint Marcian, give me your tender devotion to God and His Creation.

Saint of the Day

April 18: Blessed Mary of the Incarnation Acarie

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Barbara Avrillot was born in sixteenth century France. She was pious from a young age and wanted to be a nursing sister of the poor. But her parents wanted their only child to marry, so she did. Her husband, Peter Acarie, was a young lawyer from a noble family. He was, like Barbara, pious and charitable to the poor, but he was not always wise in his decision-making, which caused difficulties to their family.

Barbara became the devoted mother of six children; she was so attentive to their spiritual life that some asked her if she intended them for religious life. “I am preparing them to carry out God’s will,” was her reply. (Three daughters ultimately became nuns; one son became a priest.)

Barbara’s husband had incurred debts as a supporter of the Catholic League in France, and when a new king reigned, his property was seized, and he was forced to leave Paris in disgrace. Barbara and their children were so poor that at one point they didn’t have anything to eat. But she bravely stepped up to prove her husband’s innocence in the courts, recovered some of their property, and made it possible for Peter to return to Paris.

At this point, she became aware of the reformation of the Carmelite order under Saint Teresa of Avila and initiated multiple foundations of the Discalced Carmelites into France. Though still married, she became a sort of unofficial novice mistress to the Carmelite nuns and received advice from Saint Francis de Sales. No one was surprised when, at her husband’s death, she entered the Carmelite order herself and became known as Mary of the Incarnation. Though she had suffered for decades with a limp as a result of a broken leg, she cheerfully and humbly cleaned pots and pans and obeyed her own daughter, who was sub-prioress of the house. Despite her busy life, Mary had a deep spiritual life and was known for the spiritual truths that were revealed to her in her times of contemplative prayer. She died in 1618 on Easter Sunday at the age of fifty-two.

Blessed Mary of the Incarnation, teach me humility.

Saint of the Day

April 17: Blessed Clare of Pisa

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

When Theodora (known to her family as Thora) was born in 1362, her father was the leader of the republic in the city of Pisa, Italy. As such, he betrothed her to the son of a wealthy family when she was only seven years old. Thora was deeply devout, practiced personal mortifications, and clearly desired religious life. But she acquiesced to her father’s wishes and was married at the age of fifteen. Her in-laws were not overjoyed with Thora’s generosity to the poor and her decision to join other ladies in caring for the sick. But an epidemic took the life of her husband soon after she was married.

Seeing that her family was planning a second marriage for her and with the encouragement of her contemporary, Saint Catherine of Siena, Thora stole out of the house one night and entered an enclosed convent of Poor Clare nuns. She took the name in religious life of Clare, but her brothers showed up at the convent soon afterward and demanded her release. The nuns were afraid of violence and dropped her over the wall to her waiting relatives. Clare spent five months in her father’s house, alternately threatened and starved, as they tried to make her give in and remarry. She refused. Finally, her father relented. He not only allowed her to join the Dominicans as a nun, he even built another house for the order.

Clare spent the rest of her life as a nun and later prioress of her house. She was a good administrator of her convent’s finances and even founded a hospital with donations she was given.

In addition to her wisdom, her willingness to forgive her enemies was one of the reasons she’s now known as Blessed Clare. Her own brother showed up at the door of the convent, being pursued by enemies of their family. Opening the door to her brother would put all the nuns under her care in certain danger. She kept the convent’s entrance closed to protect them, but her brother was killed on her front doorstep. Clare became ill was a result. She not only forgave her brother’s killer but later provided for the man’s widow and daughters when they became poor. Clare died peacefully but in great suffering in 1419.

Blessed Clare, help me to forgive.

Saint of the Day

April 16: Saint Optatus and Companions

If you enjoy this daily blog of lesser-known saints, see my book, which contains short biographies of saints for every day of the year.

Not many saints have the honor of being memorialized in a poem by a famous writer. Prudentius (348-405) was a poet from northern Spain who lived after the Roman emperor Constantine had permitted the practice of the Catholic faith. As an unabashed Christian living in the Roman empire, Prudentius used his writing skills to remind people of the bravery of the many Christians who had died for the faith during preceding centuries. In his poem Liber Peristephanon or, in English, Crown of Martyrs, Prudentius wrote about many early martyrs, particularly pointing out how they showed their courage under pressure.

All that said, we know very little about today’s saints, Saint Optatus and his seventeen companions. We know they were arrested for being Christians in the year 304 under the persecution initiated by the Roman governor Dacian. We know that this occurred in Prudentius’ hometown of Saragossa. We know that some of these eighteen people were tortured before execution and that some of them died of the effects of their torture.

As is always the case of the early Church martyrs, it is no small matter that Christians noticed and continued to remember these martyrs for decades and centuries. The Roman empire used public torture and execution as entertainment (and an effective form of crowd control), so the deaths of eighteen Christians should have been quickly forgotten. The fact that the Christians of Saragossa did not forget their bravery teaches us that we should not forget either.

Saint Optatus and companions, pray for me to be faithful during the difficulties I face today.

Saint of the Day

April 15: Saint Abundius

For the next month, there will be a daily post of a lesser-known saint each day. These are saints who aren’t in my book but who are still saints of the Church, as listed in the 2004 Martyrologium Romanum, the official list of saints published by the Vatican. These daily posts will give you a feel for my book, which is still slated to be released in May, 2020.

We know very little about Saint Abundius (sometimes spelled Acontius). We know that he has been remembered for centuries on this date. We know that he died in the late sixth century. And we know that Pope Saint Gregory the Great thought Abundius’ Christian example was worth describing in his work, the Dialogues, a collection of contemporary miracle stories that he wrote down to encourage the faithful that miracles still happen. According to Saint Gregory, Abundius served as sacristan at a church in Rome, perhaps a few decades before Gregory became pope. Everyone remembered Abundius as possessing “extraordinary humility and gravity” in fulfilling his duties.

The miracle story recounted by Saint Gregory the Great is as follows. A girl who lived in Saint Abundius’ parish was paralyzed. She prayed fervently to Saint Peter the Apostle to be cured for some time, until one night when she had a vision of Saint Peter. In the vision, Saint Peter told her to go speak to the sacristan Abundius, instead of himself, to be healed. The girl obediently went to Abundius and relayed the message from the saint. Abundius told the girl that, if she had been sent by Saint Peter, “get up on your feet”. Which the girl did.

Saint Abundius, pray for me to be humble, and, if it is God’s will, pray for ____ to be healed.