February
1
St. Ignatius of Antioch
Bishop & Martyr
St. Bridget of Ireland, Virgin

St. Ignatius of antioch

Bishop & Martyr

Little is known of St. Ignatius’s early life, however there are legends that he was the child whom Our Lord blessed in the gospels and that he was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. There are also varying traditions about his ordination, some saying that he was ordained bishop by St. Peter and others that Peter and Paul merely asked he be made bishop when the post (which was then occupied by St. Evodius) opened up. The second seems more likely. What is certain is that he was bishop and pastor of Antioch for some four decades. When the Emperor Trajan entered Antioch in 106 after a victorious campaign he asked that all citizens sacrifice to the gods. Ignatius appeared before him alone and attempted to convince him not to force the Christians to sacrifice. He was arrested and ordered to be thrown to the lions at Rome.

 

Ignatius was brought to Rome in chains. During this difficult journey he wrote seven letters to the Churches which he would encounter along the way. These are some of the earliest Christian writings extant and they are nothing short of extraordinary. They present a very human Ignatius who is passionately in love with his Lord and eagerly awaits the opportunity to die for Him. The doctrine contained in the letters is also remarkable. Ignatius fully articulates the modern Orthodox system of Church governance (elders and deacons in full submission to a local bishop) and a full understanding of the sacramental nature of the Eucharist (which he calls the “medicine of immortality”). He is also the first person to use the phrase “Catholic Church”. His letters are still widely used both for spiritual edification and catechesis.

 

The same day he arrived in the city, St. Ignatius was brought to the colosseum. There he proclaimed his innocence and faith in God before being exposed to two lions who pounced on him without hesitation. His only earthly remains were a few of his larger bones. His disciples brought these back to Antioch where they were lovingly venerated until the Islamic invasions saw them smuggled back to Rome. The Byzantine rite commemorates him on December 20, the day he died. The Antiochians traditionally commemorated him on October 17, the date his relics were received back by his home city, and that is when the Syrian Orthodox commemorate him to this day. The Western Tradition remembers him on the day his bones were received safely from those fleeing the Islamic invasions, February 1.

St. Bridget of Ireland

Virgin

St. Bridget was born to a Christian slave who was a convert of St. Patrick named Brocca and her pagan master Dubthach. When his wife discovered that their slave was pregnant, Dubthach was forced to sell Brocca to another man who was a druid. When Bridget turned 10 she was returned to Dubthach’s home (for he was her legal master) where she regularly gave her father’s goods away to the poor, which annoyed him greatly. Dubthach took her to the local petty king in an effort to sell her, but while the two were talking Bridget gave away her father’s jewel encrusted sword to a beggar. Her father was furious but the king, who was a Christian, interceded for her and convinced Dubthach to set her free. She returned to her mother and again worked for the druid. There she was in charge of the dairy production and, despite the fact that she was open handedly generous with her master’s milk, the trade flourished. Impressed, the druid eventually freed her mother.

 

After this Bridget began to seek admittance into the monastic life. She was consecrated as a nun by St. Patrick and was given the task of founding a monastery at Kildare, which until recently had been a major pagan religious site. Bridget served as abbess of the monastery for some forty years. She is credited with being the founder of one of the earliest double monasteries, a community for both men and women. She also did much to support sacred arts and learning in the newly Christian Ireland, giving artists materials and space to work. Her efforts helped to stabilize and support the rapid growth caused by Patrick’s efforts. She worked many miracles before reposing in peace on February 1, 525. Her relics were moved to avoid the Viking raiders in 878 and have rested ever since in the tomb of St. Patrick. Together they are known as the “pillars on which Ireland was built”.

February
3
St. Blaise
Bishop & Martyr

St. Blaise

Bishop & Martyr

Little is known of St. Blaise’s early life. He may have been a doctor before his ordination, but this is not certain. What is certain is that he was bishop of Sebaste during a time of persecution. He was forced to retreat into the woods where the wild animals would meekly come to him for his blessing. In time some hunters who were trying to capture beasts for the arena found him. He was brought before the governor to be tried, but performed two famous miracles while en route. In the first a woman came to him crying that a wolf had eaten her pig and destroyed her livelihood. Blaise told her that the pig would be returned and at that moment the wolf emerged from the woods with the pig unharmed. The second miracle occured when a small boy’s mother asked the saint to save her son who was choking on a fish bone. The saint prayed and the boy coughed up the obstruction. When they arrived at the court the governor was impressed when the hunters told him these stories and attempted to convince Blaise to renounce Christ. When he refused he his flesh was torn by steel combs used on sheep wool. Still professing Christ, he was beheaded. His cult is popular in France and Germany and as one of the fourteen holy helpers he is invoked against throat disease and for the health of domestic animals.

February
4
Martyr
St. Joseph of Aleppo
The New Martyrs of Russia

St. Joseph of Aleppo

Martyr

St. Joseph was a native of Aleppo in Syria. There he lived a quiet and pious life at peace with his Muslim neighbors. Somehow a rumor was started that he intended to convert to Islam. When he attempted to set the record straight he was accused of rejecting Islam and beaten by a mob. After this he was brought to the local judge. The judge told him to simply comply with the original rumor and convert. Additionally, as Joseph was well known as a capable and intelligent man, he was offered high positions in the government if he converted. Joseph and the judge began to debate the merits of the two faiths. Joseph pointed out the carnal nature of Islamic paradise and the absurdity of linking religious observances to observation of the moon when mere cloud cover can disrupt your plans. This whipped the crowd into a frenzy and they began to beat Joseph again. He was brought outside the city where he was beheaded on February 4, 1686.

The New Martyrs of russia

 

Often times the stories of the martyrs seem distant, belonging to an era that can seem almost mythical. Names like Nero, Hadrian, or Diocletian can sound like they belong in fairy tales or dry history books and not the living experience of real people. Today the Church remembers all those, know and unknown, who gave their lives for Christ under Russian Communism. The stories of these men and women are filled with modern objects like guns, cars, and radios that disenchant them, yet they also possess that same quality, the same fire, that draws believers to the Martyrs of Roman times. Despite the fact that all of us have met people who were alive while these saints witnessed for their Lord, it is the same mystery of martyrdom which confounded the Pagans that still confounds the Atheists, and it is that same mystery which feeds the fire in the hearts of the faithful.

Among those we remember today are: St. Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow and former missionary to North America to whom we owe the sanctioning of the modern Western Rite; St. Elizabeth, the convert from Anglicanism and member-by-marriage of the royal family who lived her last years as a nun; St. Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev; St, Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd; and the former Tsar St. Nicholas with his family.

February
5
St. Agatha
Virgin & Martyr

St. Agatha

Virgin & Martyr

St. Agatha was raised in a noble family and, although her beauty caused her to have many powerful men court her, she dedicated her virginity to God. The local judge, Quintianus, was one such suitor. When his advances were rejected he denounced Agatha as a Christian and made her stand trial. Agatha refused to deny Christ and was thus imprisoned in a brothel, though she stood firm and was never violated. After a month she was again asked to renounce the faith. Following this second refusal she was tortured in various ways, one of which was having her breasts cut off. In prison that night St. Peter appeared to her, healed her wounds, and comforted her. He also prepared her for the trials ahead. When she again appeared before the judgment seat she was asked a third time to apostatize. Upon her refusal she was publicly stripped naked, dragged over hot coals and broken glass, and returned to her cell. That night she passed to her reward while at prayer. She was fifteen years old. She is remembered in the Canon of the Mass and, more recently, as a special patroness of those suffering from breast cancer and sexual assault.

February
6
St. Photius
Bishop & Confessor
St. Dorothy, Virgin & Martyr

St. Photius

Bishop & Confessor

St. Photius was born in Constantinople in 810 to pious parents who were wealthy and influential. His parents, however, lost their power because of their support for Icons and were eventually both martyred by Iconoclasts. He was entrusted to the care of his uncle and dedicated his life to secular learning, in time being  widely recognized as the most educated man of the Empire. When the court politics that were so common to that era of Byzantium deposed Patriarch St. Ignatius, the layman Photius was elected to replace him.

St. Photius’ time as Patriarch was plagued by controversies and misunderstandings with Pope Nicholas I, who held that Ignatius had been deposed unjustly and uncanonically and refused communion with Photius. The eastern bishops resented this interference in their affairs and accused Nicholas of seeking to impose papal rule on the east. Secular politics saw Photius exiled, though in time he made peace with Ignatius and Ignatius himself requested that Photius succeed him.

 

Photius oversaw many productive and edifying projects later in his life. He sent out Ss. Cyril and Methodius to the Slavs. He also wrote several commentaries and dogmatic works. However this period of peace was not to last and he was again exiled by political enemies. This time was final and five years later he would die in prison.

St. Dorothy

Virgin & Martyr

St. Dorothy was a virgin from Cappadocia. During the persecution of Diocletian her pious life attracted the attention of the authorities and she was outed as a Christian. Torture failed to persuade her to deny Christ and two women who had renounced Our Lord from fear of torture were brought to her in an attempt to convince her to apostatize as well. However, Dorothy convinced these two to repent and return to Christ and they too died as martyrs. As Dorothy was being led out to die a young lawyer named Theophilus mocked her by asking for fruit from the paradise she insisted she would soon enter. She agreed to send them and, just before her martyrdom, an angel appeared to give her a basket of roses and apples for Theophilus. When he received these he was shaken, as it was December and there were no fresh flowers growing. He confessed Christ and died shortly after on the rack. St. Dorothy is a special patroness of gardeners.

February
7
St. Romuald
Abbot

St. Romuald

Abbot

St. Romuald was born in Ravenna around the year 951. As a young man he wasted his time in loose and pleasurable living. This changed one day when his father, Sergius, became involved in a dispute with a relative. The disagreement became so harsh that they decided to have a dual and an unwilling Romuald was asked to be his father’s second. Sergius killed his opponent and Romuald was so horrorstruck that he decided to do penance as if he himself was the murderer. To this end he fled to the monastery of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. After some hesitation, he decided to take full monastic vows and live by the rule of St. Benedict.

Romuald made great spiritual strides very quickly. Despite the fact that Sant’Apollinare was enacting the Cluniac reforms, the community was not strict enough for Romuald’s zeal. After making enemies with most of his fellow monks, who resented Romuald for revealing how lax they were (and they resented him even more for telling them how lax they were), he received permission from the abbot to go to Venice, where he placed himself under an experienced hermit named Marinus. Later, after the Governor of Venice, who had gained his position through murder, began to show remorse Romuald and Marinus convinced him to leave his position and enter a monastery. They accompanied him and set up a hermitage outside his monastery, where they lived for five years. Romuald left his hermitage to visit his father, who had become a monk but was considering leaving his vocation, and convinced him to remain in his calling. After helping his father he travelled around Italy for some thirty years establishing monasteries and preaching. He attempted to preach the gospel in pagan Hungary but was prevented by illness. He retired to his hermitage where he died alone in his cell on June 19 1027.

His piety is remarkable for its simplicity. He encouraged monks to pray the entire psalter everyday. Indeed the psalms were the focal point of his piety. He encouraged quietness of intellect. At least once while praying the psalms, in this case at the line “I will give thee understanding and will instruct thee” (Psalm 32(31):8), he was granted a vision of the uncreated light. He left simple instructions for prayer and a commentary on the psalter. In 1481 his body was found to be incorrupt and it is this discovery which we commemorate on February 7.

 

Quotes from his rule:

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

February
9
Virgin & Martyr
St. Apollonia of Alexandria
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop, Virgin & Martyr

St. Apollonia of Alexandria

Virgin & martyr

St. Apollonia was a virgin and a deaconess in Alexandria during the reign of Decius. St. Dionysius, the bishop at the time of her martyrdom, relates in a letter how a riot broke out at the instigation of a pagan poet whose aim was to destroy Christians. Several believers were killed during the turmoil. Apollonia was targeted because of her old age and well-known piety. When she refused to worship idols her teeth were all knocked out. She was then taken to a spot outside the city where a large fire was blazing. The mob demanded that she repeat some blasphemous sayings or be thrown into the flames. Apollonia asked for a moment to pull herself together, which the mob interpreted to mean that she was preparing to apostatize. When the men holding her released her she jumped into the fire so that all would know she died willingly for Christ.

Her story has caused some confusion with the traditional position of the Church against suicide, and some have even questioned if she can be called a martyr for it. St. Augustine comments on her story in The City of God (I.26):"But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience thereto a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?" St. Apollonia is counted as a special patroness of those with tooth problems and dentists.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Bishop, Confessor, & Martyr

St. Cyril was born near Alexandria to pious Christian parents. His uncle, Theophilus, was Pope of Alexandria. Cyril was given a full education in both secular and religious subjects. His uncle made him a reader and he was present in this new role at the synod which dipossed St. John Chrysostom (an act which he would only repent of late in life after having a vision in which he saw St. John in paradise with the Blessed Virgin Mary). His uncle died in 412 and Cyril was elected to take his place as Pope, however he was only able to do so after rioting which broke out between his supporters and those of another claimant. Riots were extremely common in Alexandria, which was notorious for them, and Cyril’s episcopate would be plagued by them.

Soon after taking office St. Cyril set about edifying the Church of Alexandria. He vigorously combated the Novatians who were active in the city. He was also involved with several power struggles between the secular government, the large Jewish population of the city, and those pagan influences which still remained intact, all of which had the tendency to turn quite violent. On one occasion several Jewish citizens ran through the city at night proclaiming that the church was on fire. Anyone who went out to fight the flames was killed. After the massacre, Cyril used his influence to attain the exile of large portions of the Jewish population, a move which was resented by the Prelate Orestes who perceived this as an attack on his jurisdiction. After this several riots occured between Christians who followed Cyril and other citizens of the city who supported Orestes. Cyril tried several times to restore peace but Orestes was unwilling to dialogue. Events came to a head when a notable pagan woman and advisor to Orestes named Hypatia was killed by a Christian mob. The Alexandrian Church was widely condemned for this and Orestes left the city. During this time Cyril himself used more peaceful means of fighting pagan influence, such as exorcisms of former cultic sites and the construction of churches.

 

Soon Cyril turned to more purely theological struggles. Nestorius, who believed that Christ is at once a fully divine person and a separate, fully human person (thus preventing any true meeting of human and divine natures in Our Lord and undercutting the incarnation), had become bishop in Constantinople. Cyril led the defense of Orthodox Christology. He started a vigorous writing campaign in which he sought to sway the Western Church to his side. These efforts culminated in the council of Ephesus, the third ecumenical council. There the Church declared her firm belief in the unity of Christ, that He is one person not two. The events surrounding the council were chaotic and St. Cyril was imprisoned (partly, perhaps, for his own safety). However, tensions soon calmed and he returned to Alexandria in triumph.

 

One of the main sources of contention in the Nestorian Controversy was use of the term Theotokos or Mother of God. The Nestorian party favored the word Christotokos or Mother of Christ. This arose from their belief that Our Lady only carried a human Jesus and that the divine Christ indwelt this human shell after the nativity. Cyril asserted that Jesus was the Christ (i.e. was fully God and fully Man) from the moment of the Annunciation. He wrote many books clarifying this position after his return to Alexandria. In addition, he produced refutations of Arianism and the arguments of Julian the Apostate; commentaries on Luke, John, and several epistles; and dogmatic works on Christology and the Trinity. He spent the next decade peacefully overseeing and teaching his flock. He was a kind pastor who would teach orthodox dogma to any person individually who needed it. When he died in 444, the Alexandrian Church was known as a bastion of Orthodoxy.

February
10
St. Scholastica
Virgin

St. Scholastica

Virgin

St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict. She was consecrated to God from an early age, possibly even before St. Benedict, though it was the custom at that time for nuns to continue to live at home. After Benedict established his monastery at Monte Cassino, Scholastica built a convent under the same rule five miles away at Plombariola.

The twins established a pattern where they would go and meet once a year and spend the day discussing the joys of heaven and the religious life. As the rule prevented them from entering communities of the opposite sex or spending the night outside the monastery, they would meet at a little house halfway between their homes and leave before evening. After one such meeting Scholastica asked her brother to stay with her that night. Benedict flatly refused to disobey his rule and began to leave. Scholastica prayed that he would change his mind and immediately a storm broke out that was so heavy no one could go outside. Benedict is said to have responded “God forgive you sister; what have you done?”, knowing that her prayers caused the storm. “I asked a favor of you and you refused it; I asked it of God and he has granted it” came her reply. The two spent the night in joyful conversation and then departed in the morning. Three days later St. Benedict saw a vision of his sister’s soul ascending into heaven in the form of a dove. He informed the brothers of his sister’s repose and sent for her body, which was buried in his own tomb. It was only a little over a month later that Benedict was laid to rest next to his beloved sister.

February
11
St. Gregory II
Bishop & Martyr

St. Gregory II

Bishop & martyr

St. Gregory was a native of the city of Rome. He was enlisted in the service of the Pope from a young age and was eventually made subdeacon and put in charge of the Episcopal Treasury. Later he was made Librarian and Deacon, then Papal secretary before being selected to accompany Pope Constantine to Constantinople to discuss the damage that the Quinisext council had done to East-West relations. Gregory led the negotiations and it was decided that the Latin Church could accept or reject each canon at her discretion.

 

After returning to the city Pope Constantine died and Gregory was made pope in his stead. He immediately began to rebuild the walls of the city which had been destroyed by the Lombards, but work stopped when the Tiber flooded its banks and the city. St. Gregory then devoted his resources to relief efforts. Less than a year after taking office Gregory began to direct missionary efforts amongst the Germans. To this end he made St. Boniface bishop and gave him frequent encouragement by letter. He followed developments in the new German Churches throughout his episcopacy. Locally he was a restorer of monasteries and morals. He oversaw a number of local councils aimed at rooting out immorality amongst clergy. He also restored St. Benedict's monastery at Monte Cassino. When his mother died he turned his ancestral home into the convent of St. Agatha. His great achievement in theological debates was his firm opposition to the Iconoclast Emperor Leo III who was active at this time. Gregory staunchly defended holy images and offered refuge to those fleeing the east, but he also repeatedly called for calm and loyalty to the appointed rulers when the Empire’s possessions in Italy began to talk of rebelling over the issue. Finally, after edifying the Church for sixteen years he died on 11 February 731.

February
14
St. Valentine
Priest & Martyr

St. Valentine

Priest & Martyr

 

St. Valentine was a priest in the city of Rome. Very little is known about him and some facts from his life may have been conflated with another Italian Martyr named Valentine. He enters the historical record during the persecution of Claudius where he encouraged those who were condemned to die for the faith. For this he was brought before the emperor. It seems that Valentine was a charming man, and Claudius quite liked him. Seeing this, Valentine began encouraging the Emperor to become a Christian. This did not amuse Claudius and he ordered Valentine to be brought outside the city and beaten to death.  

February
15
Ss. Faustinus & Jovita
Martyr

Ss. Faustinus & Jovita

MartyrS

 

As with most of the Church’s earliest martyrs, little is known of these men. What is known is that they were brothers. St. Faustinus was a preacher, and most likely also a priest, and Jovita was a deacon. During the time of Hadrian the bishop of Brescia hid to escape persecution. The brothers, however, fearlessly preached the gospel until they were arrested and killed. Their relics rest in Brescia, of which they are the beloved patrons. There is not a time in the Christian era that citizens of that city cannot remember trusting in their intercession.

February
18
St. Simeon of Jerusalem
Bishop & Martyr

ST. simeon of jerusalem

bishop & Martyr

 

St. Simeon was the son of Cleopas, the brother of St. Joseph the foster-father of Our Lord. He is mentioned in passing as a brother (meaning kinsmen) of the Lord in Matthew 13:55. He was one of the seventy apostles and was present at the day of Pentecost. He was a faithful assistant of St. James (the brother of Our Lord and the first cousin of St. Simeon) in his duties as the first bishop of Jerusalem. When James was killed for the faith Simeon was chosen as the second bishop of the city. When the Jewish Civil War broke out he was warned in a dream to take the believers in Christ across the Jordan River, and thus they escaped the disastrous siege of Jerusalem. They returned to the ruins and lived there until Hadrian razed even them to the ground. Under St. Simeon’s leadership the Church not only survived these times, but even flourished, and many Jews were converted to Christ. Simeon died during the persecution of Trajan, which was aimed at both Jews and Christians. Being denounced as both, St. Simeon was crucified at the age of 120.

February
24
St. Matthias
Apostle

ST. Matthias

apostle

 

We know very little of the apostle St. Matthias. He was present at the Lord’s baptism and throughout his ministry. He was one of the seventy apostles until he was chosen by lot to replace Judas in the twelve. After Pentecost he preached in Judea with the other apostles. When the Church of Jerusalem was scattered he went north to preach in Cappadocia and in the wilder parts of modern Georgia. In some accounts he was martyred there and his relics still rest in Georgia. Some accounts, however, have him returning to Jerusalem to die by stoning. St. Helen is known to have taken relics of his from Jerusalem to Rome, but whether he died there or some portion of his relics were moved from Georgia to Jerusalem only to be found by St. Helen later is not known.

February
February
25
St. Walburga of Heidenheim
Virgin

ST. walburga of heidenheim

virgin

 

St. Walburga was the daughter of a petty king in Anglo-Saxon England. Her father was St. Richard the Pilgrim and her mother was Winna, the sister of St. Boniface. When she was 11 years old, her father and two brothers, Ss. Willibald and Winibald, traveled to the Holy Land, leaving her in the care of the local Benedictine nuns. Her father would die on his journey, and her brothers would join her uncle Boniface in his efforts to evangelize the German tribes. She would be a nun in England for twenty-six years during which time she would gain an excellent education.

As the missionary work progressed, St. Boniface began to make efforts to cement the recent gains by inviting experienced religious men and women from England to establish monastic life in Germany. Thus he became the first known missionary in Church history to intentionally request the involvement of women in his efforts. St. Walburga was among those who answered his call. She and several other nuns sailed to Germany, and St. Walburga even calmed a storm which arose en route by her prayers. They stopped for some time at Antwerp and she would later develop a large devotional following there. In time she arrived at her monastery in Bischofsheim where she would stay until her brother Winibald asked her to be the abbess of the women’s section of the double monastery in Heidenheim. It is here that she would live the rest of her life in prayer. When Winibald reposed she took over the male section of the monastery as well, serving as abbess even over the men. She was a gentle and loving pastor who also composed her brother’s life, making her the first female author of both England and Germany. She reposed in peace after receiving the Holy Gifts from her brother Willibald in 779.

She was buried next to her brother Winibald. In time her cult diminished. A century later, the local bishop wished to restore the church at Heidenheim and arranged for work to be done there. During construction the workmen unknowingly disrespected the saint’s tomb. She appeared to the bishop in a dream and repremaided him. The bishop, wishing to correct his mistake, transferred the body to Eichstadt. When news of this story spread and her devotion began to grow, churches began to ask for portions of her relics. The bishop opened her coffin to distribute them and discovered an oily and sweet-smelling liquid on the bones. This oil is still produced by the saint’s relics today and many faithful people have been healed when anointed.  

February
27
St. Raphael of Brooklyn
Bishop & Confessor
St. Alexander of Alexandria, Bishop & Confessor

ST. Raphael of Brooklyn

bishop & confessor

 

The parents of the future St. Raphael were forced to flee Damascus due to a violent persecution in which over 10,000 Christians died while his mother was pregnant with him. Thus Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Beirut in 1860. As a young man he was educated at the Damascus Patriarchal School. He followed this education with studies at the Halki Seminary in Constantinople and the Kiev theological institute. Raphael was ordained to the priesthood and was placed in charge of ministering to the Syrian Christians in Russia under the Antiochian representation church in Moscow. However politics in the Arab world caused him to run afoul of the Syrian Patriarch and he was transferred directly to the Russian Church.

    

In 1895 Raphael was asked to transfer to the Russian Mission in America with the specific goal of overseeing ministries to the growing American Syria population. To this end Father Raphael organized a parish in New York, the current St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral,  and several smaller parishes throughout the country. He also edited Arabic language service books. Recognizing both his ability and the growing needs of the mission, St. Tikhon asked the Russian synod for permission to elevate Raphael to the episcopacy. Thus Raphael Hawaweeny became the first Orthodox bishop consecrated on American soil on March 12, 1904.

For the next eleven years St. Raphael was a model pastor. He traveled far and wide edifying the Church. Some of his actions were public, such as the founding of twenty-nine parishes, the publication of the still running Word Magazine, and his help in establishing St. Tikhon’s monastery. Other ministries were more personal. On one occasion he was spending the night in a small town that was a stop on the railway line. Instead of resting in his hotel room, however, he went through the city asking if there were any Orthodox Christians in the area. Upon discovering that there were in fact a few young Arabs he called on them and was received joyfully. He heard their confessions, encouraged them, and spent the whole night in fellowship. Additionally he promised to send them icons and prayer books which they couldn’t get easily. In the morning he rushed to the hotel, gathered his things, and left on the train. St. Raphael reposed in peace in his home which was next to the Brooklyn Cathedral on February 27, 1915.

ST. Alexander of Alexandria

bishop & confessor

 

Little is known of St. Alexander’s life before about the year 311. By that time he was already a respected priest in Alexandria. He and another priest, Achillias, were called to the prison where Pope St. Peter of Alexandria was awaiting execution. He informed them that he had received a vision of Christ dressed in a beautiful robe which had been torn to bits. Christ told him that the priest Arius, who had been excommunicated, was going to tear His Church apart and that Arius was not to be allowed back into communion. Achillias was made bishop after Peter’s martyrdom and led the Church for about a year. During that time he received Arius back into the Church, believing him to be repentant.

When Achillias died two names were put forward to replace him, Arius and Alexander. Alexander was selected, but this upset Arius, who soon returned to teaching that the Son is a created being. Arius refused to stop teaching this when the bishop commanded him and a council of local clergy met to discuss the matter. The priests and deacons of the city failed to reach a firm decision on the matter and Alexander called for a council of all the bishops in the country. At this council Arius admitted he believed that the Son did not share the divine nature of the father. The bishops were horrified and he was exiled. However Arius began to pollute the Churches of Palestine with his ideas and published books which gained a following all over the Mediterranean World. Alexander began to publish the first works combating these ideas. He also wrote letters to bishops all over the world warning them about the true nature of Arius’s ideas. Thus it became necessary for a general council to meet in Nicea, which firmly rejected the ideas of Arius. Alexander and his deacon St. Athanasius were the spokesmen of Orthodoxy at the council. Five months after returning to Egypt Alexander died, leaving Athanasius as bishop. While the Arian controversy was to last for many years to come, the foundation of Orthodoxy’s triumph was laid by the faithful bishop of Alexandria.

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