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Ordinary Time: January 19th
Saturday of the First Week of Ordinary Time
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Old Calendar: Sts. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum, martyrs; St. Canute, martyr; St. Henrik, martyr
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of Sts. Marius, Martha, Audivax and Abachum, a group of Persian martyrs of the third century who died for the faith in Rome. St. Canute was king of Denmark; he was put to death out of hatred of his faith and his zeal in working for its extension in his kingdom. He was killed in St. Alban's Church in Odense.
It is also the feast of St. Henrik or Henry an Englishman, and preached the faith in the North with his countryman, Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear, the apostle of Norway, and legate of the holy see, afterward Pope Adrian IV. by whom he was raised to this see, in 1148. Saint Eric, or Henry, (for it is the same name,) was then the holy king of Sweden. Our saint, after having converted several provinces, went to preach in Finland, which that king had lately conquered. He deserved to be styled the apostle of that country, but fell a martyr in it, being stoned to death at the instigation of a barbarous murderer, whom he endeavored to reclaim by censures, in 1151. His tomb was in great veneration at Upsal, until his ashes were scattered on the change of religion, in the sixteenth century.The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
St. Marius and Family
Their feast does not appear in the Roman calendar until the twelfth century. The Acts of these martyrs are wholly legendary. They give the following details. Marius was a Persian of noble extraction. With his wife, who was also noble-born, and his two sons, Audifax and Abachus, he came to Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (268-270) to venerate the graves of the martyrs. They visited the Christians in prison, encouraged them by word and deed, and shared with them their goods. And like Tobias of old, they buried the bodies of the saints.
It was not long before they themselves were arrested; and when neither threats nor allurements could make them offer sacrifice to the idols, they were savagely flogged. Martha was the first to die, but not before she had fervently exhorted her husband and sons to endure steadfastly whatever tortures might be inflicted for the faith. All were beheaded in the same place and their bodies thrown into the fire. Felicitas, a saintly Roman woman, succeeded in recovering the half-burnt bodies and buried them on her estate.
St. Canute, king of Denmark, was murdered in St. Alban's Church, Odense, July 10, 1086. The Martyrology confuses him with his nephew, St. Canute the Duke, who died on January 7, 1131, and was canonized November 8, 1169, by Pope Alexander III. St. Canute is also called Canute the holy, or Danish Knut, or Knud, Den Hellige, or Sankt Knut, or Knud.
The son of King Sweyn II Estrithson of Denmark, Canute succeeded his brother Harold Hen as king of Denmark. Canute opposed the aristocracy and kept a close association with the church in an attempt to create a powerful and centralized monarchy.
In ecclesiastical matters, Canute generously patronized several churches, including the Cathedral of Lund, Denmark's archbishopric; established a Benedictine abbey at Odense; and supported apostolic preaching throughout Denmark. In temporal matters, he attempted an administrative reform, particularly an enforced levying of tithes that incurred the wrath of the rural aristocracy. In 1085 he reasserted the Danish claims to England and, with the count of Flanders and King Olaf III of Norway, prepared a massive invasion fleet that alarmed the Norman-English king William I the Conqueror.
Canute's plan, however, had to be abandoned suddenly, for those aristocrats who opposed his tax policy revolted as he was preparing to embark for England. He fled from the rebels, led by his brother Prince Olaf, to St. Alban's Church, Odense, which he had founded, and was assassinated there with the entire royal party.
Canute was buried in St. Alban's, renamed c. 1300 St. Canute's Cathedral. Miracles were recorded at his tomb, and, at the request (1099) of King Erik III Evergood of Denmark, he was canonized (1101) by Pope Paschal II. Patron:
Zeeland, Denmark. Symbols:
Knight with a wreath, lance, and ciborium.
To call St. Henrik obscure is only possible to an English speaking Catholic. For us, he is so obscure that he does not even have an entry in the voluminous 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. But, to Finnish Catholics, he is the nation's patron and one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, and of today.
Henrik was born Henry, an Englishman, sometime in the early 12th century. It is unknown where he began his ecclesiastical career, but in 1152 he appears as a companion of papal legate and fellow Englishman Nicholas Breakspear (later Pope Adrian IV), who spent two years in Scandinavia trying to organize the Church in that region. Henrik appears to have remained behind, where he was later appointed Bishop of Uppsala, primatial See of Sweden, in 1156. This was around one year after Eric IX Jedvardsson, also known as King Eric the Saint, took the throne of Sweden. Henrik, who had a heart for missionary work, found a friend and supporter in the zealous King Eric, who was anxious to spread the Faith into neighboring Finland as a means of not only winning souls, but stabilizing his own borders.
Allegedly, Eric organized a sort of crusade to bring Finland under Swedish rule and spread the Faith, although there is no contemporary evidence of such a military adventure. What is certain is that, at the behest of King Eric, the Bishop of Uppsala was persuaded to go to Finland to spread the Faith in that region. He was not in Finland long when he was murdered by a pagan Finn, to whom tradition assigns the name Lalli. According to some accounts, his martyrdom occurred as a result of Henrik attempting to enforce a canonical penalty on a murderer; in the more popular tale, Henrik stops to purchase some food from a local woman before crossing a frozen lake by slegde. When the woman's husband Lalli returns home, she tells him only that Henrik came and took the food but neglects to mention that he also paid for it. In anger, Lalli follows Henrik out upon the ice of the lake where he murders him and takes his mitre home in gloating triumph. According to tradition, Henrik was martyred on January 20th, 1156.
Finnish cultural tradition has taken a macabre interest in speculating about the fate of Lalli, the murderer. All traditions agree that Lalli died soon after Henrik, unrepentant and tormented. The favorite story of Lalli tells how he came home from the murder wearing the bishop's mitre. When he went to remove it from his head, his scalp came off with it; thus St. Henrik is often depicted in medieval iconography standing on top of Lalli, who is always depicted as bald. Other stories tell of Lalli being pursued relentlessly by a band of mice who constantly tried to eat him alive. There are tales of Lalli climbing a tree or moving from house to house to escape the gnawing mice; finally he seeks refuge at sea, but the mice some how find him and he and the mice end up drowning together. The gnawing mice which relentlessly seek to devour Lalli are an apt symbol of the gnawing of conscience.
Henrik soon became the national saint of Finland, although he was largely ignored outside of Scandinavia. In Scandinavian countries, his feast day (January 20th) is the occasion of a tremendous festival called Heikinpäivä. The Heikinpäivä festival, though originally a Finnish solemnity, is actually more important in other areas of the world that were settled by Finns than in Finland itself, which has lost touch with much of its Catholic past. The region of the world that is best known for its festive celebration of Heikinpäivä is Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which was settled by Finns in the 19th century. The Michigan celebrations are largely civic and cultural in nature, having lost a lot of the relevance to the martyr-saint, but it is still a real treat to visit the north during the time of the this festival.
Excerpted from Unam Sanctam CatholicamPatron:
Against storms, Finland.Symbols:
Bishop being murdered at Mass with young King Saint Eric; bishop being murdered by a man wielding an axe; trampling on Lalli.Things to Do:
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS: Justice and Only Justice You Shall Pursue
Day Two: Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes,’ or ‘No, No’ (Matthew 5:37)
God of righteousness, grant us wisdom to distinguish right from wrong. Let our hearts be guided by honesty and our lips speak the truth. Give us courage to be truthful even when others go against us. Keep us from spreading deceit; make us, rather, agents of unity and peace, spreading good news for all people. We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.