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Ordinary Time: July 20th
Optional Memorial of St. Apollinaris, bishop and martyr
Other Commemorations: St. Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr (RM); Elijah (Elias) the Prophet (RM); St. Frumentius, bishop (RM)
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Early accounts report that Saint Apollinaris was ordained Bishop by Saint Peter himself and sent as a missionary bishop to Ravenna during the reign of the emperor Claudius. Renowned for his powers to heal in the name of Christ, he was frequently exiled, tortured and imprisoned for the faith, and finally martyred.
This optional memorial is new to the USA liturgical calendar and will be inscribed on July 20. It was dropped from the General Roman Calendar in 1968, at that time this feast was celebrated on July 23. This was the feast of St. Jerome Emiliani whose optional memorial is now celebrated on February 8. Today was also the commemoration of St. Margaret of Antioch, probably a virgin martyr of the third century. Her veneration spread from the East to the West at the time of the crusades. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
Elias the Prophet's feast is celebrated today by the Eastern Church. He is revered as the spiritual Father and traditional founder of the Catholic religious Order of Carmelites. In addition to taking their name from Mt. Carmel where the first hermits of the order established themselves, the Calced Carmelite and Discalced Carmelite traditions pertaining to Elijah focus upon the prophet’s withdrawal from public life. The medieval Carmelite Book of the First Monks offers some insight into the heart of the Orders' contemplative vocation and reverence for the prophet.
Apollinaris came to Rome from Antioch with the prince of the apostles, by whom he was consecrated bishop, and sent to Ravenna to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He converted many to the faith of Christ, for which reason he was seized by the priests of the idols and severely beaten. At his prayer, a nobleman named Boniface, who had long been dumb, recovered the power of speech, and his daughter was delivered from an unclean spirit; on this account a fresh sedition was raised against Apollinaris. He was beaten with rods, and made to walk barefoot over burning coals; but as the fire did him no injury, he was driven from the city.
He lay hidden sometime in the house of certain Christians, and then went to Aemilia. Here he raised from the dead the daughter of Rufinus, a patrician, whose whole family thereupon believed in Jesus Christ. The prefect was greatly angered by this conversion, and sending for Apollinaris he sternly commanded him to give over propagating the faith of Christ in the city. But as Apollinaris paid no attention to his commands, he was tortured on the rack, boiling water was poured upon his wounds, and his mouth was bruised and broken with a stone; finally, he was loaded with irons, and shut up in prison. Four days afterward he was put on board ship and sent into exile; but the boat was wrecked, and Apollinaris arrived in Mysia, whence he passed to the banks of the Danube and into Thrace.
In the temple of Serapis the demon refused to utter his oracles so long as the disciple of the apostle Peter remained there. A search was made for some time, and then Apollinaris was discovered and commanded to depart by sea. Thus he returned to Ravenna; but on the accusation of the same priests of the idols, he was placed in the custody of a centurion. As this man, however, worshipped Christ in secret, Apollinaris was allowed to escape by night. When this became known, he was pursued and overtaken by the guards, who loaded him with blows and left him, as they thought, dead. He was carried away by the Christians, and seven days after, while exhorting them to constancy in the faith, he passed away from this life, to be crowned with the glory of martyrdom. His body was buried near the city walls.
—Excerpted from Roman MartyrologyPatron:
White vestments and black cross; club; hot coals; raven; crown; stones; cauldron of boiling water; chains; sword.Often Portrayed As:
Bishop with a club; standing or seated on hot coals; bearded, in a chasuble and pallium, with sheep around him; preaching to sheep.Things to Do:
- The Basilica of St. Apollinaris is considered the cradle of the Christian Faith in Italy and preserves the body of St. Apollinaris. Read the Pope John Paul II's message on the 1,450th anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica.
- View some of the beautiful mosaics in the Basilicas of St. Apollinaris and St. Vitalis (German site—click on the main graphic, you don't have to speak German to enjoy the beautiful pictures!) and also this site on Ravenna Mosaics which includes some history.
- This link gives a little information about Byzantine Italy.
- This link will give you the historical background on how Ravenna, Italy ended up with the glories of Byzantium in its Basilicas.
- Read what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about Ravenna.
- Go here for additional information.
St. Margaret of Antioch, Virgin and Martyr
St. Margaret's feast has been suppressed because there is not much historical information about her life. There was great devotion to this saint, especially during the Middle Ages. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers
and one of the saints that appeared and spoke to St. Joan of Arc.
"This same day brings before us a rival of the warrior-martyr, St. George: Margaret, like him victorious over the dragon, and like him called in the Menaea
of the Greeks, the Great Martyr. The cross was her weapon; and, like the soldier, the virgin, too, consummated her trial in her blood. They were equally renowned in those chivalrous times when valor and faith fought hand in hand for Christ beneath the standard of the saints. So early as the seventh century our Western island rivaled the East in honoring the pearl drawn from the abyss of infidelity. Before the disastrous schism brought about by Henry VIII, the Island of Saints celebrated this feast as a double of the second class; women alone were obliged to rest from servile work, in gratitude for the protection afforded them by St. Margaret at the moment of childbirth—a favor which ranked her among the saints called in the Middle Ages auxiliaries or helpers. But it was not in England alone that Margaret was invoked, as history proves by the many and illustrious persons of all countries who have borne her blessed name."
—Excerpted from The Liturgical Year
, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.Patron:
against sterility; childbirth; dying; escape from devils; exiles; expectant mothers; falsely accused people; kidney disease; loss of milk by nursing mothers; Lowestoft, Suffolk, England; martyrs; nurses; peasants; people in exile; Queens College Cambridge; women; women in labour. Symbols:
Chained dragon; dragon burst asunder; girdle; sheep; garland of pearls; daisy; wreath of marguerites; long cross; crown.Often Portrayed As:
shepherdess; woman carrying a small cross in her hand; woman carrying a small girdle in her hand; woman leading a chained dragon; woman standing next to a cauldron or large vessel; woman standing with, on, or beside a dead dragon.Things to Do:
Holy Prophet Elias
Elias is one of the greatest of the prophets and the first dedicated to virginity in the Old Testament—he was born in Galaadian Thesbia (Tishbe) into the Levite tribe 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus gives the following account about the birth of the Prophet Elias: "When Elias was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision, that handsome men greeted him, they swaddled him in fire and fed the fiery flame". The name Elias (the Lord's strength) given to the infant defined his whole life. From the years of his youth he dedicated himself to the One God, settled in the wilderness and spent his whole life in strict fasting, Divine-meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service afront the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery zealot of the true faith and piety. During this time the Israelite nation had fallen away from the faith of their fathers, they abandoned the One God and worshipped pagan idols, the worship of which was introduced by the impious king Jereboam. An especial advocate of idol-worship was the wife of king Ahab, the paganess Jezebel. The worship of the idol of Baal led the Israelites towards complete moral decay. Beholding the ruin of his nation, the Prophet Elias began to denounce king Ahab for impiety, and exhorting him to repent and turn to the True God. The king would not listen to him. The Prophet Elias then declared to him, that in punishment there would then be neither rain nor dew upon the ground, and the dryness would cease only through his prayer. And indeed, through the prayer of the prophet the heavens were closed, and there befell drought and famine throughout all the land. The nation suffered from the incessant heat and hunger. The Lord through His mercy, seeing the suffering of the people, was prepared to forgive all and send rain upon the earth, but did not want to annul the words of the Prophet Elias, sorrowed with the desire to turn about the hearts of the Israelites to repentance and return them to the true worship of God. Having saved the Prophet Elias from the hands of Jezebel, the Lord during this time of tribulation sent him into a secret place of the stream Horath. The Lord ordered rapacious ravens to bring food to the prophet, moving him to pity for the suffering nation. When the stream Horath dried up, the Lord sent the Prophet Elias to Sidonian Sarepta to a poor widow, who suffered together with her children in the expectation of death by starvation. At the request of the prophet she prepared him a bread with the last measure of flour and the remainder of the oil. Thereafter through the prayer of the Prophet Elias, flour and oil were not depleted in the home of the widow for all the duration of the famine. By the power of his prayer the prophet did another miracle – he resuscitated the dead son of the widow. After the end of three years of drought the Merciful Lord sent the prophet to king Ahab to bring an end to the misfortune. The Prophet Elias gave orders to gather upon Mount Carmel all Israel and the pagan-priests of Baal. When the nation had gathered, the Prophet Elias proposed the building of two sacrificial altars: one— for the pagan-priests of Baal, and the other – for the Prophet Elias in the service of the True God. "Upon whichever shalt come down upon it fire from the heavens, that one wilt be shewn to have the True God,—said the Prophet Elias,—and all shalt be obliged to worship Him, and if not invoking Him shalt be given over to death". The prophets of Baal rushed off first to offer sacrifice: they called out to the idol from morning till evening, but in vain – the heavens were silent. Towards evening the holy Prophet Elias built up his sacrificial altar from 12 stones – the number of the tribes of Israel; he placed the sacrifice upon the fire-wood, gave orders to dig a ditch around the altar and commanded that the sacrifice and the fire-wood be soaked with water. When the ditch had filled with water, the fiery prophet turned to God with a prayer and asked, that the Lord send down fire from the heavens to teach the wayward and obdurate Israelite people and turn their hearts to Himself. Through the prayer of the prophet there came down fire from the heavens and it fell upon the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and even the water. The people fell down to the ground, crying out: "In truth the Lord is the One God and there is no other besides Him!". Then the Prophet Elias had put to death all the pagan-priests of Baal and he began to pray for the sending down of rain. Through his prayer the heavens opened and there came down an abundant rain, watering the parched earth.
King Ahab acknowledged his error and repented his sins, but his wife Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet of God. The Prophet Elias fled into the kingdom of Judea and, grieving over his failure to eradicate idol-worship, he asked of God his death. An Angel of the Lord came before him, strengthened him with food and commanded him to go upon a long journey. The Prophet Elias went for forty days and nights and, having arrived at Mount Horeb, he settled in a cave. Here after a terrible storm, an earthquake and a burst of flame the Lord appeared "in a quiet wind" (3 Kings 19: 12) and revealed to the grieving prophet, that He preserved seven thousand faithful servants who were not worshippers of Baal. The Lord commanded the Prophet Elias to anoint Elisei (Elisha) unto prophetic service. Because of his fiery zeal for the Glory of God the Prophet Elias was taken up alive to Heaven on a fiery chariot. The Prophet Elisei (Elisha) began with the testimony of the ascent of the Prophet Elias to the heavens on a fiery chariot and received together with his fallen-down mantle (cloak) a gift of prophetic spirit twice as great, than the Prophet Elias had possessed.
According to the tradition of Holy Church, the Prophet Elias will be a Fore‑Runner of the Terrible Second Coming of Christ upon the earth and during the time of preaching will be a sign of bodily death.
The life of the holy Prophet Elias is recorded in the Old Testament books (3 Kings; 4 Kings; Sirach/Ecclesiastes 48: 1-15; 1 Maccabees 2: 58). At the time of the Transfiguration, the Prophet Elias conversed with the Saviour upon Mount Thabor (Tabor) (Mt. 17: 3; Mk. 9: 4; Lk. 9: 30).
The iconographic tradition portrays the Prophet Elias rising up on a chariot with fiery wheels, which are encircled on all sides with flames and harnessed to four winged horses.
—Excerpted from Holy Trinity OrthodoxPatron:
the Carmelite Order and vehicle blessings.Things to Do:
- Elizas the Prophet is an important saint to the Carmelite Order. At different times in its history the Carmelite Order has looked to one or more aspects of the prophet’s life: he is active and contemplative; one who heard and spoke the word of God; a friend of the dispossessed. Read more here and here.
- Read St. Elijah, Spiritual Father of the Carmelite Order.
Edesius and Frumentius, brothers from Tyre, Phoenician, introduced Christianity into Abyssinia; the latter a saint and first Bishop of Axum is styled the Apostle of Abyssinia, d. about 383.
When still mere boys they accompanied their uncle Metropius on a voyage to Abyssinia. When their ship stopped at one of the harbor of the Red Sea, people of the neighborhood massacred the whole crew, with the exception of Edesius and Frumentius, who were taken as slaves to the King of Axum. This occurred about 316. The two boys soon gained the favor of the king, who raised them to positions of trust and shortly before his death gave them their liberty.
The widowed queen, however, prevailed upon them to remain at the court and assist her in the education of the young prince Erazanes and in the administration of the kingdom during the prince's minority. They remained and (especially Frumentius) used their influence to spread Christianity. First they encouraged the Christian merchants, who were temporarily in the country, to practice their faith openly by meeting at places of public worship; later they also converted some of the natives.
When the prince came of age, Edesius returned to his friends and relatives at Tyre and was ordained priest, but did not return to Abyssinia. Frumentius, on the other hand, who was eager for the conversion of Abyssinia, accompanied Edesius as far as Alexandria, where he requested St. Athanasius to send a bishop and some priests to Abyssinia. St. Athanasius considered Frumentius himself the most suitable person for bishop and consecrated him in 328, according to others between 340-46.
Frumentius returned to Abyssinia, erected his episcopal see at Axum, baptized King Aeizanas, who had meanwhile succeeded to the throne, built many churches, and spread the Christian Faith throughout Abyssinia. The people called him Abuna (Our Father) or Abba Salama (Father of Peace), titles still given to the head of the Abyssinian Church.
In 365 Emperor Constantius addressed a letter to King Aeizanas and his brother Saizanas in which he vainly requested them to substitute the Arian bishop Theophilus for Frumentius (Athanasius, "Apol. ad Constantium" in P.G., XXV, 631).
The Latins celebrate the feast of Frumentius on 27 October, the Greeks on 30 November, and the Copts on 18 December.
Abyssinian tradition credits him with the first Ethiopian translation of the New Testament.
—Excerpted from the Catholic EncyclopediaThings to Do: