Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dec. 22-30

Well, I probably don’t need to tell you what the biggie is this week. Interestingly, there are a couple of important saints whose feast days also fall on this week – saints whose feast days tend to get pretty well overlooked. I’m talking, in particular, about John the Apostle, Stephen, and Thomas a Becket. There are also some pretty obscure saints as well – saints that honestly ought to be overlooked. Saints like these …

#10  Odoardo Focherini (Dec 27)

Hard to believe, but this guy with the super weird name also just so happens to be a very modern saint. He was, in fact, martyred during WWII – for helping Jews escape the Nazis (and would himself die in a concentration camp). He would later be recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Focherini was very much the layman – an insurance company employee and journalist, he was also married with 7 children.

By the way, Odoardo is just an Italian version of Edward.

#9  John the Apostle (Dec 27)
Patronage: compositors

Why people who composite, of course.

This is actually just one of those professions that really don’t exist anymore. It’s really just a fancy term for a typesetter.

Why is John their patron? I honestly don’t know. He is very popular with folks in publishing – authors, publishers, editors, engravers, bookbinders, papermakers … Actually, all of that probably comes from his extensive writings, which include the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

Other than that, John was a fisherman, the brother of James the Greater, and possibly Jesus’s favorite (he’s referred to in the Gospels as the “Beloved Disciple”). He was also the only apostle not to deny Jesus, was the first to reach the tomb after the Resurrection, was the first to recognize the risen Jesus, did considerable missionary work, and was the last apostle living (and the only one not to die a martyr’s death).

#8  Stephen the Martyr (Dec 24)
Representation:  deacon with rocks on his head

Note that that’s on his head, by the way. Not in his head.

This representation may actually be a polite way to show that Stephen was stoned to death. In fact, Stephen was the first martyr.

Surprisingly, we don’t know that much more about him. We do know that he was a Greek-speaking Jew. Upon conversion, he was made a deacon, in charge of distributing food and aid to the poor. The martyrdom happened in Jerusalem, in the year 33. It’s featured in the Acts of the Apostles.

#7  Theophylact of Ohrid (Dec 31)

I’m assuming that last bit’s so as not to confuse this guy with all the other Theophylacts out there.

Well, it looks like there’s actually only one other – Theophylact of Nicomedia. If you’re like me, though, you still probably get the two of them confused all the time anyway.

Our Theophylact was actually fairly well known. He was an archbishop in Ohrid, part of the Byzantine Empire and in what is now Macedonia. He was active in the 11th and 12th Centuries.

His main claim to fame, though, was his writing. He wrote a biography, the more secular The Education of Princes, extensive letters, homilies, and numerous biblical commentaries – much of which survives to this day. He was also famous for helping introduce Christianity to the Slavs and in supporting the Orthodox side against the Roman Catholics during the Great Schism.

#6  Dagobert II of Austrasia (Dec 23)

No, I didn’t spell that last bit wrong. That “s” should not be an “l.”

Austrasia was part of the Merovingian kingdom, which occupied a good deal of Europe during the 5th through 9th Centuries, and was also the basis of the later Holy Roman Empire. Austrasia was the heartland of the kingdom, and occupied bits of the Netherlands, Germany, and France, as well as all of Belgium.

Oh, Dagobert? He was an Austrasian king (hence the “II”). He ascended the throne as a child, was then exiled, returned to reclaim the throne, and then was martyred not too soon after.

His death involved getting lanced through the eye by his own godson while the two were on a hunting trip. It would also mark the end of the Merovingians and the beginning of the Capetians, the royal line of France up to the 19th Century.

#5  Hanno of Worms (Dec 24)

Famous for his well-known diet.

And if you got that last bit, you probably know your church history. The Diet of Worms was basically where Martin Luther defied the Catholic Church. Though the name can be readily explained (a Diet is a political assembly, with this particular one held in the German city of Worms), it also sounds really, really funny.

Oh, Hanno? All I could find (in English at least) that he was a monk, abbot, and bishop who lived in 10th Century Germany. Using Google Translate, though, I was also able to find out that:

13 years later (950) Hanno was at the behest of the emperor and his appointment the 15th Bishop of Worms . 952 he took the Holy. Ulrich at the Synod of Augsburg in part. be held 964 Bishop Hanno in Rome on; in Engelweihbulle concerning the Swiss Benedictine Maria Einsiedeln , called him Pope Leo VIII. 11 November of the year among the prelates, who came from Germany to Rome and were drawn by him in this matter for advice. 970 stayed Hanno again in Italy, where he on 29 March, to Ravenna , next to the Empress and Crown Prince Otto appears as a witness an act of Emperor Otto I for the Trier monastery of St. Maximin. 976 gave him Emperor Otto II  the Benedictine Mosbach .

None of which, unfortunately, I could understand.

Google Images gives me no Hannos
... but lotsa worms

#4  Hryhorii Khomyshyn (Dec 28)

I’m thinking if you played either of these names in Scrabble, you’d be clearing at least 100 points easy.

This guy (I ain’t gonna type that in again) is another 20th Century saint. Unlike Odoardo, though, Hryhorii (on the other hand, thank God for cut and paste) died during the Soviet occupation after WWII. And that makes him one of the Martyrs Killed Under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. HK (let’s just keep it simple, shall we?) was a Greek Catholic, and a bishop in what is now Ukraine.

BTW, if that name wasn’t bad enough for you, how about one of the following alternatives:
  • Gregory Khomyshyn
  • Gregory Chomyshyn
  • Gregor Khomysyn
  • Grzegorz Chomyszyn
  • Hryhory Khomysyn
  • Hryhory Khomyshyn
  • Hryhorij Khomysyn
  • Hryhorij Khomyshyn

#3  Zoticus of Constantinople (Dec 31)

So as not to be confused with all the other Zoticuses out there.

And, this time, we’ve got quite a few. In addition to our guy, we’ve also got them from Africa, Egypt, Comana, Nyon, and Nicomedia. We also have some who were Martyrs and Philosophers as well. In sum, that’s 8 Zotici.

Our guy was a Roman who moved to Constantinople when it became the imperial capital (during the 4th Century). There, he became a priest, giving away his fortune (and part of Constantine’s) to the poor. When the Arian emperor Constantius came to power, some fellow Arians contrived to have Zoticus put to death for embezzlement. Here’s how it all played out (according to one random website out there):

The heartless Emperor ordered that Zoticus be tied behind wild mules and dragged until dead. The mules ran down the hill, breaking the Saint's body upon the rocks and brush. Then, of their own accord, they returned to the top of the hill, still dragging the body, and, like Balaam's ass, spoke and proclaimed that the Martyr must be buried on that hill. The astonished and repentant Emperor ordered the Martyr buried with honor, and commanded that a hospital for lepers be built there, staffed by the best physicians and caretakers.

Our guy is also known as Zotico and Feeder of Orphans. Actually, put those two together, and we’ve got a possible early Christian superhero on our hands – Zotico, Feeder of Orphans!

#2  Zeno of Nicomedia (Dec 22)

Not to be confused with Zoticus of Nicomedia.

Or Zeno of Gaza, or Zeno of Rome, or Zeno of Verona, or Zeno of Armenia, or Zeno of Philadelphia. Or Zenone of Nicomedia, for that matter. Yup, they’re all real.

Like Zoticus, our Zeno was also a Roman – a soldier, in fact. He lived a century before Zoticus, during the reign of the evil Diocletian.

In fact, Zeno’s story starts with his being present when Diocletian happened to be performing a sacrifice to the goddess Ceres. No biggie there – unless, like Zeno, you happened to burst out laughing. And that’s how Zeno of Nicomedia became a martyr. Sorry, not much out there on him other than totally awesome story.

#1  Ebrulf of Ouche (Dec 29)

Isn’t this the sound you make when you cough and sneeze at the same time?

Ebrulf was a courtier in Merovingian France (remember them?). He and his wife gave it all up, however, to become monk and nun.

Ebrulf would later ditch the monastery for the wild forest of Ouche, in his native Normandy. There, though, he would become surrounded by admirers, including a band of robbers he converted, causing him to start his own monastery. He also founded a number of other monasteries as well.

Honorable Mention
  • Secundus Pollo
  • Quartillosa of Carthage
  • Amaswinthus of Málaga
  • Athernaise of Fife
  • Thorlac Thorhallsson
  • Wisinto of Kremsmünster
  • Adelheidis of Tennenbach
  • Frithbert of Hexham
  • Walto of Wessobrunn
  • Simon the Myroblite

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