Archive for the ‘St. Simeon of Syracuse’ Tag

Feast of St. Simeon of Syracuse (June 1)   Leave a comment


Above:  A Map of Europe in 1000 CE


Roman Catholic Monk

I found the name of St. Simeon Syracuse in the 1980 edition of the Dictionary of Saints, by John J. Delaney.  I purchased the book on October 3, 2011, at the public library sale in Winder, Georgia.  This volume has already led me to pursue many paths of research.  And more will follow.

The lifespan of St. Simeon places him close to the formal rupture between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.  This fact becomes important for understanding something which says about him:

One of the last great figures linking the [Catholic] West with the Orthodox East.

Actually, the website said “Orthodox West” and “Orthodox East,” but “Catholic West” makes more sense.

St. Simeon of Syracuse, a native of Syracuse, Sicily, educated at Constantinople, then the Byzantine imperial capital, became a hermit along the River Jordan after making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  After some time he became a monk at Bethlehem then, for two years or so, a hermit attached to the monastery at Mt. Sinai.  Then he began a dangerous mission to Normandy.

Now I combine hagiography with royal history according to encyclopedias and other reference works I consulted.  Richard II, Duke of Normandy, called Richard the Good (reigned 996-1026), had promised to make a donation to Mt. Sinai monastery.  (Richard II, by the way, was a nephew of Hugh Capet, King of France (reigned 987-996), founder of the Capetian line, which remained uninterrupted until 1792.  I wonder how good Richard II was, for he crushed at least one peasant uprising.)  Anyhow, Richard II had not paid the money yet.  So St. Simeon went to collect it.

As I mentioned, this was a perilous journey.  Pirates attacked the ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and killed everyone aboard except St. Simeon.  He swam ashore, where he met one Cosmas, who traveled with him from Antioch to Belgrade (where they spent time in custody) then to southern France.  There Cosmas died.  St. Simeon arrived at the ducal court to discover that Richard II had died and that the new duke refused to pay the promised money.

Who was this duke?  No source I have consulted is certain.  Richard II had two sons who succeeded him.  The first was Richard III (reigned 1026-1027).  After he died,  Robert I (reigned 1027-1035) governed.  Robert had two nicknames:  the Magnificent and the Devil, the latter of which referred to a rumor that he had killed his way to the throne.  Given the length of each reign, Robert I was more likely to be the duke who refused to pay the money.  He was also the father (by a mistress) of his successor, William II the Bastard (reigned 1035-1087).  William is more more famous as the Duke of Normandy who claimed his right (established via his aunt Emma’s marriage into the English royal family) to the English throne in 1066.  So William II the Bastard became William I the Conqueror (reigned 1066-1087).

Back to our regularly scheduled program….

St. Simeon, in western Europe, met Poppo, Archbishop of Trier.  They made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land then returned to Trier, where the saint lived his remaining years a hermit under the direction of the Abbot of St. Martin’s Monastery.  St. Simeon died of natural causes in 1035.

The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 1042.  This was a formal process consistent with canonizations since 993.  Canonizations prior to 993 had been informal affairs.

This has been an adventure story which has overlapped with dynastic histories.  But what does it have to do with anything important, one might ask?  One purpose of reading hagiographies is to learn about church history.  This is a laudable goal.  (I am a history buff; of course I claim that this is a laudable goal.)  But there is another purpose:  to learn valuable moral lessons.  St. Simeon of Syracuse traveled far and wide for God.  He placed himself at great risk for this purpose.  And he preferred to be alone with God, based on his chosen lifestyle.  We all need solitude with God to feed our souls, so may we never starve ourselves with too much activity.  And, regardless of where we ought to go for God–and at what risks–may we obey that call.





O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an ordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Saint Simeon of Syracuse,

may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or 9:57-62

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 722

Posted April 25, 2012 by neatnik2009 in June 1, Saints of 1000-1099

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