Archive for the ‘Saints of the 450s’ Category

Feast of St. Leo the Great (November 10)   3 comments

Above:  St. Leo I “the Great”

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT LEO I “THE GREAT” (LATE 300S-NOVEMBER 10, 461)

Bishop of Rome

Former Western feast day = April 11

Eastern feast day = February 11

The number of Roman Catholic Supreme Pontiffs called “the Great” is short.  St. Leo I is deservedly on that list.

St. Leo I, of Tuscan parentage, was a deacon immediately prior to becoming the Pope.  Under his two immediate predecessors, St. Celestine I (in office September 10, 422-July 27, 432) and St. Sixtus III (in office July 31, 432-August 19, 440), St. Leo I had been an influential advisor.  St. Leo I had been an influential advisor.  He was on a diplomatic mission in Gaul in August 440, during the Papal election.  St. Leo I, back in Rome, assumed the office on September 29, 440.

As the Pope, St. Leo I dealt with challenges, theological and political.  He defended Papal authority via words and deeds.  Our saint resisted heresies, such as Manichaeism (dualistic), Arianism (Christ is a created being), Pelagianism (we can save ourselves via free will), and Priscillianism (the human body is evil).  St. Leo I’s theology vis-à-vis Christology defined the Definition of Chalcedon (451):  Jesus, one person, had two natures (human and divine).  Our saint also corrected ecclesiastical abuses, resolved disputes, and insisted on the uniformity of liturgical practice.

The Western Roman Empire was crumbling during the lifetime of St. Leo I.  This reality led to circumstances in which our saint rose to the occasion.  In 452 he met with Atilla the Hun near Mantua and persuaded Atilla to withdraw.  Three years later, St. Leo I spoke with Gaiseric, the King of the Vandals, outside the walls of Rome.  Our saint persuaded the Vandal king not to burn the city and massacre the inhabitants.

St. Leo I died on November 10, 461.  Pope Benedict XIV declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1754.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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O Lord our God, grant that your Church, following the teaching of yours servant Leo of Rome,

may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption,

and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man,

neither divided from our human nature and not separate from your divine Being;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-33

Psalm 77:11-15

2 Timothy 1:6-14

Matthew 5:13-19

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 673

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Feast of Sts. Euphrosyne and Paphnutius of Alexandria (September 25)   1 comment

Above:  Sts. Euphrosyne and Paphnutius of Alexandria

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAPHNUTIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (DIED IN 480)

Monk

Feast day = September 25

father of

SAINT EUPHROSYNE OF ALEXANDRIA (400S)

Monk

Also known as Smaragdus of Alexandria

Alternative feast days = January 1, January 16, February 11, February 15, March 8, and September 24

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Sts. Paphnutius and Euphrosyne came to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church, mainly.  This is an ancient story, one which many scholars consider to be a work of fiction.  That is frequently a risk when pondering ancient hagiographies.  I conclude, however, that this story is, at a minimum, plausible.

The Episcopal Church, at its General Convention of 2018, added St. Euphrosyne (yet not her father) to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.

St. Euphrosyne was an only child.  Her mother died when our saint was quite young, so St. Paphnutius raised his daughter alone.  The family was pious; father and daughter even visited monasteries.  St. Paphnutius arranged for St. Euphrosyne to marry a handsome and wealthy young man from a prominent Alexandrian family.  This was not what our saint wanted, though.  She, angry, left home immediately.  She cut her hair, dressed in men’s clothing, and called herself Smaragdus.

“Smaragdus” became a monk at one of the monasteries outside Alexandria.  Years passed.  “He” grew spiritually.  Eventually St. Paphnutius, still mourning the daughter he presumed dead, sought consolation at that monastery.  The abbot sent St. Paphnutius to visit “Smaragdus,” who provided spiritual guidance for years, during weekly visits.  He did not recognize the monk as his daughter until “Smaragdus” was dying.  St. Paphnutius tended to his dying daughter.  After she died, he became a monk and lived in her cell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Merciful God, who places all of your children in families,

we confess that those whom we love the most are often strangers to us.

Give to all parents and children, we pray,

the grace to see one another as they truly are and as you have called them to be.

All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:20-31

Psalm 19

Luke 14:25-33

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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Feast of St. Peter Chrysologus (July 30)   2 comments

Above:  The Roman Empire in 450 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS (406-DECEMBER 2, 450)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Ravenna and Defender of Orthodoxy

Alternative feast day = July 31

Former feast day = December 4

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Anyone who wishes to dance with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.

–St. Peter Chrysologus

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St. Peter Chrysologus, or the “Golden-Worded,” was a renowned preacher and an opponent of the Arian and Monophysite heresies.  He, born in Imola, Italy, in 406, was a protégé of Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, who baptized, educated, and ordained him.  St. Peter became the Bishop of Ravenna in 433.  (Ravenna was the capital of the Roman Empire at the time.)  Immediately he won the favor and patronage of the Empress Aelia Galla Placidia (c. 390-450), half-sister of Emperor Honorius (reigned 395-423), wife of the Emperor Constantius III (reigned 421), and the mother of the Emperor Valentinian III (reigned 425-455), and the Regent from 425 to 437.  The Empress Regent financed the construction of several beautiful churches in Ravenna.  St. Peter, known for his piety, defended the doctrine of the Incarnation against Arians and Monophysites.  He died on December 2, 450.

Many of the homilies bearing our saint’s name came from other people.

Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter a Doctor of the Church in 1729.  Thus our saint joined the elite club among Roman Catholic saints, receiving recognition as a great theologian defined by sanctity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Saint Peter Chrysologus,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus,

our Savior and Lord, who lies and reigns with you and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Sts. Flavian and Anatolius of Constantiople, St. Agatho, St. Leo II, and St. Benedict II (July 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT FLAVIAN OF CONSTANTINOPLE (DIED AUGUST 449)

Patriarch of Constantinople

His feast transferred from February 17

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SAINT ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE (LATE 300S-458)

Patriarch of Constantinople

His feast = July 3

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SAINT AGATHO (DIED JANUARY 10, 681)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from January 10

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SAINT LEO II (DIED JULY 3, 683)

Bishop of Rome

His feast = July 3

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SAINT BENEDICT II (DIED MAY 8, 685)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from May 7

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DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

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INTRODUCTION

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Sometimes the most effective way to tell the story of a saint’s life or a portion thereof is to include other saints.  This generalization applies to St. Anatolius of Constantinople and St. Leo II, who have separate feasts on this day, according to the Roman Catholic calendar.

These five saints lived in times when theological debates were political.  Christological disputes were matters of imperial policy, frequently with negative consequences for those who opposed the Emperor at Constantinople.

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PATRIARCHS OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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St. Flavian of Constantinople, Patriarch of Constantinople from 446 to 449, opposed monophysitism, the heresy that Jesus had just one nature–divine.  The Patriarch excommunicated Eutyches, the founder of that heresy.  Eutyches had political allies, though.  He managed to turn Dioscorus, the Bishop of Alexandria, to his side.  Thus Dioscorus presided over the “Robber Council,” which acquitted Eutyches, condemned St. Flavian, and ended with Dioscorus and monks physically abusing St. Flavian, binding him in chains, and sending him into exile.  St. Flavian died in August 449.

St. Anatolius of Constantinople presided over the posthumous exoneration of St. Flavian.  St. Anatolius, born in Alexandria, Egypt, in the late 300s, was a man who lived simply and aided the poor.  He also stood on the side of Christological orthodoxy.  In 431 he and his mentor, St. Cyril of Alexandria, who had ordained him to the diaconate, attended the Council of Ephesus, which affirmed that Christ had two natures, called St. Mary of Nazareth the Mother of God (not just the Mother of Christ), and therefore condemned the Nestorian heresy.  As the Patriarch of Constantinople (449-458) St. Anatolius attended the Council of Chalcedon (451), convened by Pope St. Leo I “the Great” (in office 440-461), which refuted the monophysite heresy.  That council also canonized St. Flavian of Constantinople.  St. Anatolius, who also composed liturgical hymns, experienced much political difficulty due to his orthodoxy.  He might even have been a martyr at the hands of heretics.

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BISHOPS OF ROME

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The monothysite heresy remained an issue into the seventh century.  Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV (reigned 668-685) had used the monothelitist heresy (that Jesus had just one will–divine) to maintain peace with the monophysites in his realm.  He decided to abandon that strategy.

Pope Donus (in office November 2, 676-April 11, 678) died.  His successor was St. Agatho, in office from June 27, 678, to January 10, 681.  St. Agatho, once a monk, was a Sicilian who knew Latin and Greek well.  In 678 St. Agatho received a letter (addressed to Donus) proposing a conference to discuss how many wills Jesus had and whether the churches should reunite.  The Pope agreed to the conference, but held synods in the West prior to the Third Council Constantinople (680-681).  The papal delegation carried a condemnation of monothelitism signed by 150 bishops, as well as a document affirming Rome as the custodian of the Christian faith.  The Third Council of Constantinople, with Constantine IV presiding, affirmed that Jesus had two wills and anathematized monothelitist leaders.

St. Agatho, a kind and cheerful man, died on January 10, 681, while the council was in progress.  His successor was St. Leo II, elected in January 681 yet not installed until August 17, 682, due to imperial politics.  Emperor Constantine IV delayed the ratification of St. Leo II’s election due to the process of ratifying the decrees of the council.  St. Leo II, during his brief papacy, ratified the decrees of the council and ordered their translation from Greek into Latin.  He also readmitted repentant former monothelitists to the Church.

St. Leo II, also a Sicilian, like his predecessor, was a cultured and eloquent man with a fine singing voice.  He, a patron of the poor, asserted papal control over the bishops of Ravenna, autonomous since 666.  St. Leo II died on July 3, 683, after less than a year as the Pope.

St. Benedict II was a gentle and humble man who cared for the poor also.  He, elected Pope in July 683, did not enter into that office until June 26, 684, due to Constantine IV delaying the ratification of the election.  St. Benedict II, a Roman, not a Sicilian, secured an agreement by which the Exarch of Ravenna ratified papal elections, thereby preventing such long delays between papal elections and installations.  The Pope died on May 8, 685, after less than a year in office.

The spirit of cooperation with Constantinople broke down during the reign of Emperor Justinian II (reigned 685-695, 705-711).

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CONCLUSION

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The challenges faithful Christians face vary, depending on who, when, and where one is.  One can study the lives of one’s ancient predecessors in the faith, ponder the challenges they confronted, and take comfort in the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR

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Almighty God, you have raise up faithful bishops of your church, including

Saint Flavian of Constantinople,

Saint Anatolius of Constantinople,

Saint Agatho,

Saint Leo II, and

Saint Benedict II,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following their example and the teaching of their holy lives,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and

reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of St. Patrick (March 17)   Leave a comment

st-patricks-cathedral-armagh

Above:  St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, Ireland, Circa 1854

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PATRICK (BETWEEN 387 AND 390-BETWEEN 461 AND 464)

Apostle of Ireland

Many legends populate accounts of St. Patrick‘s life.  We can be reasonably sure of some details, though.

The native of the borderlands of England and Scotland grew up in a Christian family.  His grandfather was a priest and his father, Calpornius, was a deacon and a member of the local town council.  Despite his upbringing, St. Patrick was not especially pious at first.  When our saint was 16 years old Irish slaves abducted him.  He spent the next five years as a poorly clad shepherd in Ireland.  During this time St. Patrick began to take religion seriously.  Eventually he escaped from Ireland and slavery.  St. Patrick credited God for this.

Next St. Patrick, back in Britain, studied for ministry.  Circa 431 the newly minted bishop returned to Ireland.  Has was neither the first missionary nor the first bishop on the Emerald Isle, for there were already Christians, who had a bishop, there.  Yet St. Patrick was the most influential missionary bishop in Irish history.  He established his see at Armagh and presided over a campaign of evangelism.  He had churches built on holy sites and crosses carved on Druidic altars.  St. Patrick also baptized tens of thousands of people and ordained hundreds of priests.

Irish hagiography is replete with people whom St. Patrick ordained, baptized, confirmed, or befriended.  This fact comfirms the centrality of our saint on the Emerald Isle for a certain period of time.

I Bind Unto Myself Today,” attributed to St. Patrick, is a theologically sound text and my favorite hymn.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be an apostle to the Irish people,

to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you:

Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 36:33-38

Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12

1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12

Matthew 28:16-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 273

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Feast of St. Simplicius (March 10)   Leave a comment

st-simplicius

Above:  St. Simplicius

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SIMPLICIUS (DIED MARCH 10, 483)

Bishop of Rome

St. Simplicius and his immediate successors in the papacy had to contend with diplomatic difficulties and the overlapping monophysite heresy.  The native of Tivoli became the Bishop of Rome in 468.  He rejected an attempt by Acacius, the Patriarch of Constantinople from 472 to 489, to grant the See of Constantinople equivalency with the See of Rome.  St. Simplicius also refused to make peace with monophysitism (the heresy that Jesus had only a divine nature), as in the compromise Henoticon (482), which Acacius and the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno supported.  The Patriarch and the Emperor were also installing monophysite bishops in the East.  St. Simplicius resisted Acacius and Zeno, with little success.

The next Supreme Pontiff was St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492 and great-grandfather of Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (reigned 590-604).  Felix was, according to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 1986), intransient, harsh, and authoritarian.  In 484 St. Felix excommunicated Acacius, thereby causing the Acacian Schism (484-519).

Pope St. Gelasius I (reigned 492-496) defended the excommunication of Acacius and insisted on papal supremacy.

Pope Anastasius II (reigned 496-498) was somewhat conciliatory toward Acacius and his successor as the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Pope St. Symmachus (reigned 498-514) was, according to Emperor Anastasius I (reigned 491-519), an “illegally ordained” pontiff and a heretic–allegedly a Manichean, to be precise.  Anastasius eventually attempted reconciliation, but his letter arrived in Rome after St. Symmachus died.

Pope St. Hormisdas (reigned 514-523) presided over the end of the Acacian Schism.  The new emperor, Justin I (reigned 519-527), rejected monophysitism.  Also related to the end of the Acacian Schism were imperial designs to recover Italy.

These chapters in ecclesiastical history demonstrate the folly of uniting church and state.  The former suffers from that union more than the latter does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN, A.K.A. MUNGO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Saint Simplicius

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household

as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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Feast of Sts. Anna of Oxenhall, Wenna the Queen, Non, Samson of Dol, Cybi, and David of Wales (March 1)   Leave a comment

st-david-of-wales-and-family

Above:  A Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT CYBI (CIRCA 483-NOVEMBER 8, 555)

Welsh Prince, Priest, Bishop, and Abbot

His feast transferred from August 13 and November 8

son of

SAINT WENNA THE QUEEN (CIRCA 472-OCTOBER 18, 544)

Queen of Cerniw

Also known as Saint Gwen

Her feast transferred from October 18

sister of 

SAINT NON (BORN CIRCA 475)

Welsh Nun

Also known as Saint Nonna, Nonita, and Nonnita

Her feast transferred from March 2, 3, and 5

mother of

SAINT DAVID OF WALES (DIED CIRCA 601)

Welsh Abbot and Primate

Also known as Saint Dewi

His feast = March 1

Half-Nephew of

SAINT SAMSON OF DOL (CIRCA 485-JULY 28, 565)

Welsh Priest, Abbot, Hermit, Bishop, and Missionary

son of

SAINT ANNA OF OXENHALL (BORN CIRCA 445)

Welsh Princess

Mother of Saints Samson of Dol, Wenna the Queen, and Non

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Work on this post began when I started taking notes on St. David of Wales, the patron saint of Wales.  His feast day is March 1.  Of that we can be certain; this is more than we can say about other portions of his official biography.  While taking notes on this saint I read references to many other Celtic saints, including five relatives.  I could have included many more saints than I did in this post, but I decided to keep it relatively simple and to focus on three generations of one family instead.  I, as one trained in history, have noticed discrepancies between dates in various sources.  I have done my best to honor chronology.  I have also done my best to recognize the difference between legend and objective reality.  King Arthur recurs in the hagiographies of some of these saints.  He was, of course, a composite figure and a legend–a fish story, if you will, O reader.  Instead of one big fish, fishes of various sizes existed.  By focusing on six members of one family I can be coherent while fulfilling one of my goals for the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.    That goal is to emphasize relationships and influences.

The first of six saints was St. Anna of Oxenhall (born circa 445), mother of three other saints and grandmother of two more.  She, a daughter of Vortimer Fendigaidof, King of Gwertheflyrwig (now Gwent, Wales), married twice.  Her first husband was Cynyr the Fair-Bearded, Lord of Coer Goch.  According to legends, they were the foster parents of Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur.  St. Anna’s first marriage produced at least six children, including St. Wenna the Queen (born circa 472) and St. Non (born circa 475).  The widowed St. Anna married Amon Ddu, Prince of Brittany.  They had several children, including St. Samson of Dol (circa 485-565).  The other two children also entered religious life.  Amon ended his days as a monk.

St. Wenna the Queen married Salom, King of Cerniw (now Cornwall, England).   Among their children was St. Cybi (circa 483-555), heir to the throne.  He received a fine education and became a priest, a bishop, and the Abbot of Caer Gybi.  At the age of 27, upon returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, St. Cybi learned that his father was dead and that he was the new king.  Our saint declined royal authority and opted instead to serve God via the Church.  He founded congregations throughout the Celtic world as political circumstances forced him to relocate.  St. Cybi also interacted with his esteemed cousin, St. David of Wales.  Among St. Wenna’s pious deeds was the founding of a Christian congregation in Morval, in the Cornwall region of England.

St. Non became a nun.  Scandal affected her when Sant (a.k.a. Sanctus), Prince of Ceredigian, raped and impregnated her.  Thus she became the unwed mother of Dewi Sant, a.k.a. St. David of Wales.  Mother and son founded a convent at Hanon.  Late in life she moved to Cerniw, to be close to her sister, St. Wenna the Queen.

The hagiographies of St. David are legion.  Many of them contain contradictory information.  For example, was the year of his birth closer to 500 or to 544?  I conclude that the former option is probable, based on issues of chronology.  Also, did he died closer to 589 or 601?  And, while we are pondering different chronologies, did the Synod of Brefi occur closer to 520, 550, or 560?  550 or a few years prior seems like a probable year to me, based on relevant facts.  560 is too late, due to the death of St. Dubricius circa 550.  Furthermore, I reject obviously legendary stories out of hand.  For example, I refuse to accept that a hill once rose while he was speaking, so that the audience could hear him better.  Horatio, friend of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was correct that heaven and earth hold more than human philosophies attest, but even saints and land adjacent to them must obey the laws of nature.

St. David rose to become the primate of Wales.  As a young man he founded the first of a series of monasteries.  Our saint, an ascetic who survived on water and vegetables, required his monks to care for travelers, engage in study, and perform manual labor.  He was also a priest and, in time, a bishop–by whose hands, where, and when are matters of dispute.  An oft-repeated story tells us that St. David’s rebuttal of the Pelagian heresy (that people can save themselves from damnation by their free will alone) at the Synod of Brefi led to the installation as the primate of Wales.  Or perhaps that was not how he became the primate, becoming the handpicked successor of St. Dubricius.  Regardless of the reality of St. David’s life, he was an influential and respected figure in the Celtic Church.

St. David’s half-uncle (half-brother of Sts. Non and Wenna) was St. Samson of Dol (circa 485-565), a child of St. Anna of Oxenhall and her second husband, Prince Amon Ddu.  St. Samson studied at the Abbey of Llanilltud Fawr, Glamorganshire, Wales.  His teacher was St. Illtud (born circa 480), a former soldier and the founder of that monastery.  St. Samson had to depart that abbey because he had become unpopular with his teacher’s nephews.  St. Samson relocated to a monastery on Caldey Island, Wales.  Eventually he became the abbot there and reformed the abbey.  Next our saint spent time as a hermit before becoming a missionary bishop in the region of Cerniw.  Eventually St. Samson moved to Brittany, where he made Dol his see city.  He also founded monasteries at Dol and at Pental, Normandy.

People influence each other directly and indirectly.  Regardless of where reality ended and legends began with regard to the events of our six saints’ lives, a few concluding statements are certain:

  1. The faith that St. Anna of Oxenhall and her husbands instilled in their children took root;
  2. Those children passed that faith down to others; and
  3. The legacy of St. Anna of Oxenhall, her husbands, and their faithful descendants continues to influence Christian faith in people, frequently without them knowing it.

That is impressive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servants

Saint Cybi,

Saint Wenna the Queen,

Saint Non,

Saint David of Wales,

Saint Samson of Dol, and

Saint Anna of Oxenhall,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724

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