September
1
Abbot
St. Giles
The Holy Twelve Brothers, Martyrs 

St. Giles

Abbot

St. Giles was born into a noble Greek family in Athens around the year 650. Early in life he gained a reputation for sanctity and, fearing the temptation of pride, fled to southern France. At first he lived near the mouth of the Rhone but, when his reputation as a holy man spread, he moved deep into the forests of Nimes. He lived in these forests for years in total solitude, conversing only with God.

Despite his desire for solitude and obscurity, he would end up playing a major role in the spiritual history of Europe. It came to pass one day that a hind, who was so comfortable around the saint that she let him milk her, came across some hunters. She fled to St. Giles, who was hit by a stray arrow meant for the deer. The man who fired it was in fact the King, who was horrified by what he’d done. The wound was not mortal however, and the King came to know St. Giles as a spiritual father. Through the King, news of the hermit spread until he was pressed upon to found a monastery, which he placed under the rule of St. Benedict.

A town sprung up around the city, the modern Saint-Gilles. Many handicapped beggars came to the city looking for alms. St. Giles was kind to them, and the fact he was crippled for life from the arrow allowed him to identify with them. It is for this reason that he became known as a patron of the handicapped. He reposed in peace in the year 710.

 

St. Giles is venerated all over Europe. His shrine, while a major pilgrimage site by its own, was also along the Way of St. James. This led his cult to being spread as far as the British and Baltic peoples. In 1562 his relics were moved away in secret to avoid destruction by the Huguenots, but were eventually returned to his monastery. Despite this, his cult never recovered fully from the drop in popularity which resulted from the disruption. He is one of the fourteen holy helpers and was originally involved against the Black Plague, but is more commonly regarded as the helper of the handicapped, blacksmiths, beggars, and anyone seeking a good confession.


Let us pray.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed

Giles may commend us unto thee : that we, who have no power of ourselves to

help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight. Through Christ our

Lord. Amen.

The Holy Twelve Brothers

Martyrs

These brothers were natives of the North African city of Hadrumetum. Their parents, Ss. Boniface and Thecla, were both martyred, although we don’t know when. The brothers were arrested around the year 303. They were brought to Carthage where they were tortured. When they still refused to renounce the faith they were brought to Italy, chained together by the neck. Following their arrival in Italy they were sent to various cities for execution: Honoratus, Fortunatus, Arontius, and Savinian died at Potenza on August 27; Septiminus, Januarius, and Felix were killed at Venosa on August 28; and Vitalis, Sator, and Repositus earned their crowns at Velleiano on August 29th. Another Felix and a Donatus were also martyred on September 1 at Sentiano. These last two were not blood relatives of the first ten, but have been commemorated as their brothers from around 760 when the relics of all twelve were translated to Benevento.

September
2
St. Stephen
King of Hungary & Confessor

St. Stephen

King of Hungary & Confessor

The parents of the future St. Stephen ruled the Magyars in the territory of modern Hungary from the 970s until 997. They accepted baptism, but this seems to have been solely political and Stephen’s father continued to practice pagan rites. Stephen was baptized with them at around the age of 10. He was 21 years old when he became grand prince and, unlike his father, he ruled as a Christian. After a series of wars with the tribal lords of the area his power was firmly established and he sent St. Astrik to Pope Sylvester II with a two fold mission, gain recognition for Stephen as the first king of Hungary and gain permission to establish a church hierarchy with Astrik as the first Archbishop. These were both granted.

 

Stephen and Astrik took a gradual approach to church growth, only establishing bishoprics when there were Magyar clergy to fill them. Stephen also made sure that this growth was sustainable. The people were asked to build a church in one out of every ten towns at their own expense (though the furnishings would be provided by the crown) and tithes were established to provide for the needs of the clergy and the poor. Overall he established one archbishopric, six bishoprics and three Benedictine monasteries. He established laws to ensure Christian morals, outlawing cohabitation outside of Christian marriage, blasphemy, or the worship of idols - which he took special care to destroy when possible. He also more firmly established secular order, reorganizing the tribal system into a system of counties and codifying laws against murder, theft, and other crimes. He took a special pleasure in being the defender of the poor, and his doors were always open to hear the complaints of the powerless.

 

On one occasion he was distributing alms in disguise when some robbers beat him and stole his purse. He accepted this in good humor. When he returned to the court his nobles good naturedly teased him for being robbed, but only to conceal their fear. They suggested that he never go out in disguise again, but he refused humbly, making a new resolution to serve the poor. His example deeply imprinted itself on his nobles and many lived pious lives.

 

St. Stephen died in peace on the feast of the Assumption in 1038 and was buried in the Church of the Virgin Mary that he had built. He was canonized in 1083 and thousands of people attended the ceremony. When his tomb was opened a sweet scent filled the air. His biographer, Hartvic, described the ceremony:  

“Having completed the office of Vespers the third day, everyone expected the favors of divine mercy through the merit of the blessed man; suddenly with Christ visiting his masses, the signs of miracles poured forth from heaven throughout the whole of the holy house. Their multitude, which that night were too many to count, brings to mind the answer from the Gospel which the Savior of the world confided to John, who asked through messengers whether he was the one who was to come: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the crippled are set straight, the paralyzed are cured”

 

St. Stephen is remembered as the father of his nation and a great pillar of the church. His feast is observed on August 20 (the translation of his relics) in Hungary, with a separate feast on May 30 commemorating the memory the discovery of his right hand (Holy Dexter) in 1084 which had been stolen and through which many miracles were performed. His feast on September 2 was established by Pope Innocent XI and commemorates the recapture of the city of Buda from the Turks in 1686, which is in part credited to his intercessions. As this day caused joy throughout all of Christendom, this is the day appointed for his universal feast.

September
4
of Prague
St. Gorazde

St. Gorazde

of Prague

Matthias Pavlik was born on May 26, 1879 in what would later become the Czech Republic. He attended seminary as a young man and upon completion of his studies was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest. He became involved in Catholic reform movements and began to study the Eastern Tradition. In 1918 Czechoslovakia became an independent nation. When this happened the long standing Austrian restrictions on Orthodoxy disappeared and many Eastern Catholics, fueled in part by Slavic revivalist fervor, sought admittance into the Orthodox Church. The Serbian Orthodox Church agreed to take them in, but wanted a native Czech leader for the new body. Matthias, who was now ready to become Orthodox, was chosen to be the new bishop. He was received into Orthodoxy in 1920 and a year later was made bishop.

Matthias took the name Gorazde, a disciple of St. Methodius who had worked in the modern Czech lands, to identify the Moravian people with the wider Orthodox Church. He then set out to edify the new Czech Orthodox Church by translating the basic services into Czech, working to incorporate the former Eastern Catholics into the wider Orthodox body, and organizing new parishes. In all, eleven parishes were founded during the years leading up to the Second World War.

St. Gorazde did his best to shepherd his flock through the difficult years of the Nazi Occupation. Czechoslovakia had the great trial of being governed by Reinhard Heydrich, a man so evil Adolf Hitler once said he had an iron heart and who went by names like “Hangman”, “Butcher” and “Young Evil God of Death”. On 27 May, 1942 Heydrich was famously assassinated by Czech Resistance fighters. The assassins took refuge in the Orthodox Cathedral in Prague and when they were arrested St. Gorazde stepped forward to take the blame for hiding them, in a futile effort to save the Orthodox Church from unjust reprisals. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually shot on September 4, 1942. The Church was declared illegal and her parishes were closed. In was only after the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the USSR that the Church opened its doors again.

September
8
Martyr
St. Hadrian

St. Hadrian

Martyr

St. Hadrian (also called Adrian) was a pagan and an officer in the Roman Army. While living in Nicomedia he was guarding a group of twenty-two Christians who were going to be executed. Seeing their resolve in the face of sufferings he asked what they expected to receive from such treatment. They responded with the words of St. Paul “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). St. Hadrian was suddenly struck with a sense of God’s grace and declared himself a Christian. He was immediately imprisoned with the others.

 

Hadrian’s wife, St. Natalia, was herself a Christian. When she heard what her husband had done she rushed to his side to encourage him and the others. The night before the scheduled execution Hadrian bribed the guards to let him go see Natalia. When she saw him at the door she assumed he had denied Christ and refused to let him in! Hadrian managed to convince her that he intended to return to prison in the morning and that he only wanted to see her. She was relieved and they spent the night together preparing for the next day’s trial.

 

In the morning all of the prisoners were beaten. The soldiers then cut their hands and feet off. In some accounts the men bled to death, in others they were beheaded as well, but either way they passed to their reward. Natalia managed to escape with the hand of St. Hadrian. The Romans tried to burn the rest of the men’s earthly remains but a sudden rainstorm prevented this. St. Hadrian’s hand was buried in Constantinople and the rest of the Martyrs were brought to a city near Byzantium called Argyroupolis where they were buried honorably. Natalia reposed in peace at her husband’s tomb. Later, his remains were translated to a church built in his honor at the Roman Forum. His feast day, September 8th, commemorates this event. He is especially venerated in Northern Europe and the Low Countries where a relic of his in an Abbey dedicated to him worked many miracles. He is most often depicted as a soldier and is often with the anvil on which his limbs were broken.

September
9
Martyr

St. Gorgonius

Martyr

St. Gorgonius was one of the first martyrs of the Diocletian persecution. He worked in the household of Diocletian with a number of others who secretly practiced the Christian faith. When the Emperor decreed that the Christians must sacrifice to the gods or face death he turned immediately to his own household to purge it of the faithful. He ordered everyone to sacrifice to the gods, but the butler Peter refused. Ousted as a Christian, Peter was hung from the ceiling and the pagans cut strips of flesh from his body. Gorgonius and Dorotheus protested this treatment and were revealed to be Christians as a result. They were both beheaded and Peter was burned alive. The bodies of all three were thrown into the sea, but recovered by Christians and given a proper burial. Gorgonius’ body was later moved to Rome and buried on the Via Labicana where Pope St. Damasus composed this Epigram:

 

“This martyr's tomb beneath a great hilltop

holds Gorgonius, guardian of the altars of Christ.

Whoever comes to seek here the thresholds of the saints

will find that in the nearby dwelling

abide the blessed whom likewise,

as they went, piety bore to heaven.”

St. Gorgonius
September
11
Ss. Protus & Hyacinth
Martyrs

Ss. Protus & Hyacinth

Martyrs

These two brothers were both natives of Egypt. They served in the house of Eugenia, daughter of the governor of Alexandria. Soon after receiving the faith they converted her and all three were baptized together. Together they lived in the deserts of Egypt learning from the different monastics. While there, St. Eugenia pretended to be a man. Accused of sleeping with a woman, St. Eugenia was dragged to her father’s throne for judgment. There it is was discovered who she was she was declared innocent and her father became a Christian. He was executed shortly thereafter. Ss. Protus and Hyacinth fled to Rome with Eugenia. There, the brothers were arrested for the faith by Emperor Valerian, scourged, and beheaded on September 11. St. Eugenia would be martyred in the city on December 25.

September
15
St. Nicomedes
Martyr

ST. Nicomedes

Martyr

Very little is known about this early saint. He was one of the very first martyrs in the city of Rome, contending for the faith before the close of the first century. He was a priest in the city and came to the attention of the pagan rulers because of his practice of providing for imprisoned Christians and burying the martyrs honorably. He was arrested and, when he refused to sacrifice to the idols, was killed, likely by being beaten to death with clubs. He was buried in a catacomb along the Via Nomentana. The Church built over his grave is historically one of the most important in Rome.

September
16
Ss. Cornelius & Cyprian
Bishops & Martyrs
Ss. Euphemia, Lucy & Geminian

Ss. Cornelius & Cyprian

Bishops & Martyrs

St. Cornelius was bishop of Rome and St. Cyprian bishop of Carthage during the mid 3rd century. From their separate regions, they worked together to address the issue of Christians who had apostatized in the face of persecution, or “Lapsi”. They were both martyred and St. Jerome dated both martyrdoms on September 16, about 5 years apart. Their similar struggles and St. Jerome’s dating led to a joint feast day which is held on September 16.

 

St. Cornelius was born in 180. He was a Roman and beyond this we know nothing of his early life. He enters history with the death of his predecessor, Pope St. Fabian in 251. Among the Christians of the city there were two main schools of thought on Lapsi. The first held that they had lost their salvation and needed to be re-baptized. The second group believed that they could be received back into the Church after a fitting penance. Cornelius firmly belonged to the second group and when he was elected pope (against his will in fact) the first group schismed. These schismatics elected their own pope, named Novatian. Due largely to the endorsement of St. Cyprian, the rest of the Church recognized Cornelius as the true pope, but the schism would outlive him and plague several of his successors. His pontificate is known for little beyond this struggle for he was exiled only fifteen months after his election and he died, either from mistreatment or beheading, in 253.

St. Cyprian was a wealthy Berber from Carthage who was born around 210. Nothing else is known about his early life beyond the fact that Cyprian himself seems to have lamented the sinful tendencies of his youth. Of his conversion and baptism at the age of 35, Cyprian says this:

“When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God's mercy was suggesting to me... I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins... But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart... a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner every doubt began to fade.... I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly” (Ad Donatum, 3-4)

 

Following this second birth he distributed his goods to the poor and shortly after became a deacon and then bishop. It seems that many clergy disapproved of his appointment, though the poor of the city loved him for his generosity. He had not been bishop for long when a persecution broke out. In order to shepherd his flock through the ordeal he fled the city and pastored his people through letters. He defended his actions by citing Christ’s command to flee to another city when persecuted, but this did not endear him to his detractors. The persecution ended when a plague swept through the city and, free from fear of the authorities, he returned home.

In the wake of the persecution there were many Lapsi. St. Cyprian maintained that anyone who sought readmittance to the Church needed to do public penance. His opponents used this as an excuse to break with Cyprian and set up their own bishop who would receive the fallen back, no questions asked. This sparked a debate on the nature of the Church and the need of the people to follow the bishop and it was Cyprian’s position on the matter (the Church is where the Bishop is) that has become the position of the Orthodox Church. In addition to those who held he was too strict, there were some who thought he was too merciful and a third bishop was elected to lead the faction who desired re-baptism and sought communion with anti-pope Novatian. Still, his personal sanctity and courage in the face of the plague led most christians in the city to follow him.

In 256 the Valerian persecutions broke out. Cyprian was brought before the authorities and refused to deny the faith. He was exiled, but continued to edify the church through letters exhorting the faithful to die before denying Christ. He used what was left of his money to support those suffering at the hands of the pagans. In 258 he was brought back to Carthage and condemned to be beheaded. The next day he calmly walked to the execution site, blindfolded himself, ordered his deacons to pay the executioner twenty-five gold pieces and prepared for the blow. His last words were “thanks be to God”.

Ss. Euphemia, Lucy & Geminian

These martyrs are commemorated together because they all suffered on September 16, albeit in different places.   

 

St. Euphemia was a native of Chalcedon. She was a young girl who consecrated herself to virginity for the sake of Christ. When the governor declared that the whole city must sacrifice to the idols she and forty-nine other Christians refused. All were tortured, but Euphemia was chosen for special cruelty as she was the youngest and weakest. She endured the rack, beatings, fire, and the wheel. When her tormentors realized that she would not deny Christ she was throne to the beasts. The animals meekly licked her feet until one of them, by tradition a bear, quickly and painlessly inflicted a mortal injury. She was honored greatly by the Christians of Chalcedon and later by those of the whole world when, at the fourth Ecumenical Council, the Tome of Pope St. Leo and the doctrinal definitions of Eutychius were both placed on her chest. In the morning her hand was found clutching St. Leo’s Tome and Eutychius’ documents were at her feet.

St. Lucy was a seventy-five year old widow in Rome who was betrayed as a Christian by her own son. She was placed in a pit of boiling tar but survived unharmed for three whole days. She was then taken in chains to be beheaded. Her conduct converted a nobleman named Geminian and he died with her.

September
19
Martyrs
St. Januarius & Companions
St. Theodore of Canterbury

St. Januarius & Companions

Martyrs

Little is known about St. Januarius. He was born into a rich family in a heavily pagan area of Southern Italy about the mid-to-late third century. He is believed to have become a priest at the remarkably young age of 15 and to have been bishop of Benevento at 20. He hid Christians from the authorities during the Diocletian persecutions, but was himself captured while ministering to his friend and deacon St. Sossius in prison. He and his companions were condemned to be thrown to the beasts. As they approached the arena several Christians attempted to rescue him, but he intervened, telling them to allow him to suffer martyrdom and not to do anything to excite tensions. The beasts, however, refused to touch the saints. Believing the holy men to possess magic powers the pagan rulers had them beheaded after various torments, together with Deacons Festus and Proculus, Reader Desiderius, and the laymen Eutyches and Acutius. St. Januarius is most famous for the frequent miracle of his blood, which reliquifies when it is brought into contact with his skull.

St. Theodore

of Canterbury

St. Theodore was from Tarsus, the city of St. Paul. His early life was marked by wars in his homeland, though we know nothing of his experience in them. These wars gave him a knowledge of Persian and Syrian culture in addition to the Greek culture of his fathers. He likely studied at Antioch, and he certainly became a proponent of the Antiochian school of biblical exegesis. At some point before he turned 35 he fled to Constantinople, probably because of the Islamic Invasions. There he studied law, medicine, astronomy, and many other useful subjects. He moved to Rome and became a monk at the Eastern Rite Monastery of St. Anastasius sometime before he turned 60.

 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury St. Deusdedit died in 664, a man named Wighard was selected for the post. He was sent to Rome to be consecrated by the Pope but died of plague while in Rome. Rather than have the English Church select a new candidate and send him to meet the Pope thus wasting all the time that would take, Pope St. Vitalian eventually selected Theodore for the post on the advice of St. Adrian. Theodore was still a layman despite the fact he was 66, and hesitated to take the job. The Pope persuaded him, however, and he set out in 668 with Adrian to lead the Church in a country he had never seen.

 

St. Adrian was sent by the Pope not only to advise St. Theodore, but also out of fear that Theodore might be sympathetic to the Monothelitism that was so common at the time in his homeland. There was no need worry however, and Theodore proved himself completely orthodox. The English church was as divided by tribalism as the English people and St. Theodore was recorded by St. Bede as “the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed”. He reorganized the diocesan system, established a school in Canterbury which united the clergy in theology and ritual, built and restored churches, introduced the study of the Greek language, and destroyed any inklings of the very heresy of which he was unjustly suspected. He ran his Church with the peace of Christ and brokered worldly peace between the warring kings. He united the English Church and set it on a trajectory to overcome the last vestiges of Paganism on the island. He reposed in peace on 19 September 690 and not only left the English Church in a golden age, but also left the whole Western Church one of its most beloved prayers, the Litany of Saints.

September
20
St. Eustace & Companions
Martyrs

St. Eustace & Companions

Martyrs

St. Eustace was born Placidus and was a Roman general. While hunting a stag one day the animal turned to him and he perceived the shape of a crucifix in its antlers. Suddenly struck with a sense of the grace of God he fell to his knees. Shortly after this he became a Christian with his wife and two sons. He was then subjected to a series of trials not unlike Job. He lost his goods to theft, a plague killed many of his servants, his wife was kidnapped, and his sons were lost during a journey. Yet, he did not lose faith in his new God. Soon after he was commanded by the Emperor to lead the army in a campaign against the invading barbarians. During the campaign he regained his wealth and honor and was reunited with his family. Upon returning victorious he was asked to sacrifice to the gods in thanksgiving. When he confessed himself a Christian he and his family were thrown to the lions, but they did not harm them. After that they were placed into a bronze bull which was heated until they died. St. Eustace is commemorated as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers and is invoked against family discord.

September
21
St. Matthew
Apostle & Evangelist

St. Matthew

Apostle & Evangelist

St. Matthew was a Jew from the city of Capernaum. He was a publican, or tax-collector, for the Roman occupiers. His native people thought very poorly of his career, and anyone in that line of work was (usually accurately) assumed to be corrupt. His conversion came quickly and the Gospels record his reaction to an encounter with Our Lord: “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). This simple encounter was all it took to transform a corrupt traitor into an apostle.

After Pentecost St. Matthew preached in Palestine. After a few years he was asked to record his experiences with the Christ, and thus the first Gospel was written. Traditionally it has been held that St. Matthew wrote his gospel in Aramaic and that either he or a disciple of his translated it into Greek soon after. He continued to be a presence in Palestine for about a decade until he fled the area during persecutions.

It is generally agreed that St. Matthew fled to Ethiopia where he preached for many years with a disciple named St. Platon. A ruler named Fulvian ordered him killed. The story goes that he was tied to a post and set on fire, but that he did not burn. Fulvian ordered idols brought out and placed around the fire but they melted due to the heat. When the flames started to spread toward him, Fulvian asked St. Matthew for mercy. St. Matthew prayed and the flames went out, but the ordeal was hard on the old man and he died a few moments later. Fulvian put Matthew’s body in a led box and cast it into the sea promising that if his God protected Matthew’s body from water as he had from fire he would renounce idols and worship Him. St. Matthew appeared to Platon and told him where to find his body. Amazed by the miracle, Fulvian converted, buried St. Matthew in a church that Matthew had built, and received baptism under the apostle’s name. In 954 his relics were brought to Salerno, Italy, where they now rest. St. Matthew is sometimes depicted as a winged man - which refers to the living creature in Revelation with which his gospel is associated.

 

Let us pray.

May we be assisted, O Lord, by the prayers of the blessed Apostle and

Evangelist, Matthew, that what our effort obtaineth not, may be granted us by his

intercession. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

September
22
St. Maurice & Companions
Martyrs

St. Maurice & Companions

Martyrs

St. Maurice was born in upper Egypt during the third century. He openly admitted that he was a Christian and lived a pious life, but this did not seem to affect his status in the world. He was the commander of the Theban Legion, a unit of the Roman army made up almost entirely of Christians. This unit was sent to Gaul to put down a rebellion of peasants. Before going into battle they were asked to sacrifice to the pagan gods, but St. Maurice refused to allow his men to do so. This placed the unit under a lot of suspicion and, when they refused to harass local Christians, the men were commanded to renounce Christ or face decimation. They refused to deny their Lord and one out of every ten were put to death. St. Maurice encouraged the condemned men to remain faithful in their struggle. When the survivors again refused to deny Christ a second decimation was ordered, but this turned into a general massacre. It seems likely that many of the men escaped the ensuing confusion with their lives, but this was the end of the Theban Legion. St. Maurice was one of those found dead. He and his fellow martyrs were honored greatly in France and throughout the militaries of Europe as patrons of soldiers. In 1664, near a chapel of his which was in ruins, he appeared to a shepherd girl and announced that this chapel had been dedicated to him and that she was to take her sheep into the nearby valley. When she arrived in the valley Our Lady was waiting for her and spoke with her, eventually asking that a chapel be built in the valley where many sinners would be converted. This chapel at Laus was of great comfort to the French people and oil from a vigil lamb in the chapel continues to work healings there.

September
23
Pope & Martyr
St. Linus
St. Thecla, Virgin & Martyr

St. Linus

Pope & Martyr

Little is known about St. Linus. He was born in Tuscany and his mother’s name was Claudia. Both seem to have been disciples of St. Paul and Paul mentions that Linus and a Claudia (although it is unclear if this is the same Claudia who is the mother of Linus) are with him in Rome at the end of his second letter to St. Timothy: “Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:21-22). What is clear is that Linus received holy orders from St. Paul and was the second bishop of Rome after the martyrdom of St. Peter. He held office for twelve years and when he died he was buried next to St. Peter on Vatican Hill. It is not entirely clear how he died. The Canon of the Mass mentions his as a martyr, but the place and method of his martyrdom are unknown.

St. Thecla

Virgin & Martyr

St. Thekla was a native of Iconium and the daughter of wealthy pagans. She was converted by the preaching of St. Paul and vowed to follow Christ and remain a virgin. This naturally upset her fiance and her parents who conspired to have Paul put to death. Paul was stoned, but survived. Thekla, when she still refused to submit to marriage, was condemned to be burnt alive, but a sudden rainstorm saved her life. The governor was embarrassed that fate did not seem to be cooperative with his judgment and she was instead condemned to exile.

Thecla found St. Paul outside the city and asked to be baptized. Paul responded that she would be baptized in God’s timing. She traveled with him as he preached until they came to Antioch. While there she was publicly assaulted by a young nobleman who lusted after her. She fought him off but was arrested for attacking the nobleman. She was thrown to the beasts, but a female lion defended her against the male animals. When the lioness was killed, Thekla jumped into a water tank and asked for Christ Himself to baptize her. All of the animals began to leave her alone. In a last effort to kill her, she was tied to wild bulls who ran in different directions in order to rip her apart, but the rope broke unexpectedly and she was not harmed. She was then released.

After the death of St. Paul, Thekla retreated into the hills of Syria, where she lived a quiet life. She also preached to the locals and performed many acts of healing, but was most widely known as a peaceful contemplative. At the age of 90 she escaped assault for the last time when a young pagan tried to defile her and, after calling to Christ, the rocks split and she slipped through them to escape. She died in peace around the year 120. She quickly became widely venerated in Syria, Greece, and Gaul. Despite the fact she died in peace, her life of adversity has awarded her the title of proto-martyr.

September
24
Ss. Peter & Juvenaly
Martyrs

Ss. Peter & Juvenaly

Martyrs

These two men were the first Martyrs of the Orthodox Church on the American Continent . Little is known about the life of St. Peter. He was one of many native Alaskan converts to the Orthodox faith. Many Aleuts made a living trading even as far south as California. St. Peter and thirteen other Aleuts were imprisoned during a trip to California and were placed under the care of the local Franciscans. While in prison they were pressured to accept the Roman Catholic Faith. Although they maintained that they were already Christians, Peter was tortured as a schismatic and heretic. His joints were cut off one by one until he bled to death, still professing himself to be a Christian. His captors threatened to return the next day and do the same to all of the men until they accepted Roman Baptism, but orders came that night that the men were to be released and they returned to Alaska. When St. Herman received the news he is said to have called out “Holy New Martyr Peter pray for us!”

St. Juvenal entered a monastery in Russia at the age of 30, just after the death of his wife. He was a part of the first mission to Alaska where he baptized at least 900 people. He was killed by locals for unknown reasons. A witness to his martyrdom latter told the other missionaries that St. Juvenal had made no attempt to escape or reist, he only begged that the natives he had baptized be spared. The witness claimed that St. Juvenal’s body got up after he was killed and exhorted the people to repent. His murderers beat his body until it became silent, but when they turned to leave it leapt up and began to preach again. This happened several times and they had to hack the saint’s body to pieces to stop it from happening. At this point a bright light shot into heaven. The local shaman attempted to cast a spell with the saint’s pectoral cross but was unable to do so and began to levitate unexpectedly leaving him to remark that greater powers than he possessed were at work.  

September
26
Ss. Cyprian & Justina
Martyrs

Ss. Cyprian & Justina

Martyrs

The future St. Cyprian was dedicated to the worship of demons by his parents while still an infant. He traveled throughout the known world learning pagan rites and magical arts. He became well known for his ability to conjure up the dead and invoke demonic aid. One young man named Aglaides was in love with a Christian woman named Justina, who had taken vows of virginity. Aglaides went to Cyprian to ask him to cause Justina to “fall in love” with him, something Cyprian was capable of doing by directing demons to inflame lust. When he tried this on St. Justina her prayers and the sign of the cross protected her from the demonic assault.

 

Cyprian had never seen anyone resist his magic before. He was so impressed with this religion that could stop demons that he decided within himself to leave their service. The demons were angered by this and turned on him. In fear, Cyprian made the sign of the cross and the demons left him alone. This led Cyprian to realize the depth of evil that he had sunk to in his life, and he despaired of ever being forgiven. Yet, he went to visit the local bishop, Eusebius, who guided him to the faith. Cyprian burned all of his books and received baptism, along with Aglaides. Not long after this, Cyprian was made priest and later bishop.

 

St. Justina retired to a convent where she was made abbess. St. Cyprian’s conversion and testimony so thoroughly shook paganism in the area, that there were no priests left to make offerings to the idols, for they had all become Christians. This happy state was not to last, however, for in 304, during the persecutions of Diocletian, both Cyprian and Justina were arrested as leaders of the Church. Neither was willing to denounce the faith and both were tortured. When torments did not cause them to renounce Christ they were beheaded, along with a soldier who had been converted by their testimony named Theoctistus. The bodies of the martyrs lay where they died for nine days before they were taken away in secret by Christian sailors and given an honorable burial at Rome.

 

Let us pray.

O Lord, who never failest to look down in mercy on them on whom thou

bestowest the succour of thy Saints : grant, we beseech thee ; that the

intercession of the blessed Martyrs Cyprian and Justina, may evermore avail to

comfort and defend us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

September
27
Ss. Cosmas & Damian
Martyrs

Ss. Cosmas & Damian

Martyrs

These twin brothers were martyred in the Roman province of Syrian. Their father was a pagan who died while they were young. Their mother raised them in the faith, along with their three younger brothers. When they grew up they became doctors and, inspired by the words of Christ, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), they attended to anyone in need and never charged for their services. This quickly endeared them to the local population and they became very well known. When persecution broke out under Diocletian their reputation made them easy targets, and they were arrested. The saints were subjected to many torments but refused to deny the faith and they were beheaded along with their younger brothers Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius on or about September 27 in the year 287. Their examples as “Holy Unmercenaries” (doctor saints who did not charge for their services) has led to their being made patrons of pharmacists. They are remembered in the canon of the Mass and the Litany of Saints.

 

Let us pray.


Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who observe the
heavenly birthday of blessed Cosmas and Damian, thy Martyrs, may
be their intercession be delivered from all evils that beset us.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

September
28
St. Wenceslas
Duke & Martyr

St. Wenceslas

Duke & Martyr

St. Wenceslas was the grandson of the Duke of Bohemia Borivoj and his wife St. Lumilia, both converted to the faith by Ss. Cyril and Methodius. His father died while he was a young man and, as he was too young to assume leadership of his people, his grandmother became regent. His mother, Drahomira had been baptized in order to marry his father, but had not truly converted. She grew jealous of the power that the Saintly Lumilia had over the country and had her killed so that she could assume the recency.

 

Wenceslas assumed the throne when he turned 18, in either 924 or 925. One of his first acts was to have his mother exiled for her crime. He then turned his attention to the building up of the Church and the care of his people. Every morning before dawn he would walk barefoot to every church in Prague and distribute alms. He also refurbished the many churches which had fallen into disrepair under his mother’s leadership and he built the impressive cathedral of St. Vitus in which he saw his grandmother reinterred and canonized as a martyr. There was also a shortage of priests when he came to the throne. St. Wenceslas asked the Latin Rite German Christians for priests, changing his people’s worship from the Eastern to the Western Rite.

 

Under his peace loving leadership the Bohemians suffered some strategic military setbacks, which, though largely bloodless, left the nobles discontent. A group of these traitors united with the Saint’s brother, Boleslav, in a plot to have Wenceslas killed. Boleslav invited Wenceslas to come to Mass with him for the feast of Ss. Cosmas and Damian and, as Wenceslas was entering the Church, four of these nobles stabbed him to death. His body was buried at St. Vitus cathedral which quickly became a popular pilgrimage destination and the site of many miracles.


Let us pray.

O God, who through the victory of martyrdom didst exalt thy blessed Saint Wenceslas from his earthly principálity to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom: we pray thee, at his intercession, to defend us against all adversities ; and to suffer us to rejoice in his eternal fellowship. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

September
30
St. Gregory of Armenia
Confessor & Doctor
St. Jerome, Priest, Confessor & Doctor

St. Gregory of Armenia

Confessor & Doctor

St. Gregory was born into one of the most powerful families in Armenia in the year 257. His father, Anak, was power hungry and plotted to take the throne for himself. He assassinated the king, but was unable to take power. Anak was executed and his family fled the country. Gregory was taken to Cappadocia by his nurses and given to Euthalius, the bishop of Caesarea, to be raised in the faith. Gregory built a life in Caesarea, marrying a woman named Miriam and having two sons, Vrtanes and Aristaces. Sometime later he and his wife separated so they could pursue monastic vocations.

 

Gregory became convinced that he needed to do penance for his father’s crime. He resolved to bring the Gospel to Armenia. There had been Christians in Armenia from the time of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, but they were still relatively disorganized. When he arrived in the country, Gregory served for some time in the court of King Tiridates. However this term of service ended when Tiridates discovered that Gregory was not only a Christian, but also the son of the man who had killed his father. Tiridates had Gregory tortured and thrown into a pit to die. Gregory did not die, but lived in the pit for fourteen years, supported by a pious Christian widow who threw bread to him each day.

 

Tiridates continued to rule during this time. He formed an alliance with the Roman Emperor Diocletian who betrayed him and subjected large parts of Western Armenia to Roman rule. This betrayal greatly harmed Tiridates’ mental state. In addition he made advances on the Christian Virgin St. Rhipsime who rejected him. In response he had her and several other Christian nuns executed. The dark life he lived, spurred on in part by his poor mental state, left him open to demonic influences. When he became possessed, he began to search for relief from his demonic oppressors. It was revealed in a vision given to his sister that only St. Gregory could help Tiridates, but it was assumed he had died when he was thrown into the pit. However he was found to be alive and was hauled up like Jeremiah the Prophet. Tiridates was saved from the demonic powers, repented for his crimes, and received Baptism.

Tiridates now gave St. Gregory full state support for the conversion of the country. After fasting for seventy days Gregory began to preach. He was asked to visit Caesarea in order to be appointed bishop by the Christians of Cappadocia and then returned to organize the scattered communities of Armenia into a cohesive Church. He built temples, appointed bishops, and organized monastic communities. He also arranged worship services in the language of the people. He stepped down to allow his son Aristaces to take over as Catholicos (Patriarch) in order to ensure a smooth transition. He then helped organized missionary efforts to the non-Armenian peoples of the Caucasus under his grandson Gregory, who would die a martyr. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion at one of his monasteries. He reposed in peace in 331 and is commemorated on September 30, the translation of his relics. For centuries his relics were split between the Armenians and the Byzantines. However, most of his relics that were in the Byzantine Empire were brought to Naples by Nuns during the Iconoclastic period. There a church was built for them which is still active today.

St. Jerome

Priest, Confessor & Doctor

St. Jerome is known as one of the four original doctors of the Church for his great contributions to Latin Christianity. He was born in the modern day region of either Croatia or Slovenia in 347. His parents were very well off Christians who tried to raise Jerome well, but the boy was poorly behaved. At the age of 12 he traveled to Rome to pursue his studies. He did well, but his free time was filled with pleasure seeking. These sins bothered the young man’s conscience and he would often make himself feel better by going into the catacombs where, surrounded by the tombs of martyrs, he would imagine himself in hell. While unusual, the practice did instill some form of piety in him, but did little to change his behaviour.

    

The change in his life would come through the influence of a friend named Bonosus. Inspired by Bonosus, Jerome was baptized by Pope St. Liberius in 366. His interests changed to Ecclesiastical studies and he soon left for the school of Trier, accompanied by Bonosus. Jerome traveled some during this time, meeting several leading church figures, and was inspired to take up monasticism. A falling out with Bonosus pushed him to travel to Antioch, where he would become a hermit.

However, Jerome was a poor hermit. He had an academic mind and was drawn to write, teach, and discuss ideas. In addition his health was poor and, when he was ordained against his will in 378, he traveled to Constantinople to study with St. Gregory Nazianzen. From there he returned to Rome in 382 where he became the personal assistant of Pope St. Damasus I. Jerome began to have a following during this time. He became the spiritual father of many of the city’s wealthy women and he also began his famous translation of the Bible, the Vulgate.

When St. Damasus died in 385 Jerome was left politically exposed. He was very close to many powerful women, which threatened some people. Additionally he could be mean. He was very sarcastic and quick witted and, while none of his opinions were wrong exactly, they were rarely popular. Rumors began to appear about his relationships with some of his spiritual daughters and Jerome moved back east. He toured Egypt and studied at the Catechetical School in Alexandria before settling in Bethlehem. There, in a cave which was very close to the site of Our Lord’s birth (some believe he may have actually live in that cave), he adopted a semi-hermetic life where he saw visitors often and produced many literary works. He completed his translation of the Scriptures, wrote many commentaries, defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, and kept a healthy correspondence with most of the leading men of the day. While the calm of his last years were somewhat disturbed by Bedouin raiders who attacked the surrounding region, he died peacefully in his cave on September 30, 420.


Let us pray.


O God, who for the exposition of thy holy Scriptures didst bestow upon thy Church the wondrous teachings of blessed Jerome thy Confessor and Doctor : grant, we beseech thee ; that by his intercession, we may of thee be enabled to perform those things which he taught in word and deed.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen

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