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Easter: May 2nd

Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Other Commemorations: St. Antoninus, Bishop (RM)


May 02, 2024 (Readings on USCCB website)



Memorial of St. Athanasius: Almighty ever-living God, who raised up the Bishop Saint Athanasius as an outstanding champion of your Son's divinity, mercifully grant, that, rejoicing in his teaching and his protection, we may never cease to grow in knowledge and love of you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.


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Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Athanasius (295-373), Bishop of Alexandria and a great defender of the orthodox faith, throughout his life opposed the Arian heresy. By denying the Godhead of the Word the Arians turned Christ into a mere man, only higher in grace than others in the eyes of God. St. Athanasius took part in the Council of Nicea in 325 and until the end remained a champion of the faith as it was defined by the Council. In him the Church venerates one of her great Doctors. He was subjected to persecutions for upholding the true teaching concerning the person of Christ and was sent into exile from his see no less than five times. He died at Alexandria in 373 after an episcopate of forty-six years.

The Roman Martyrology commemorates St. Antoninus (1389-1459), Bishop of Florence, and a member of the Dominican Order. In the exercise of his pastoral charge he showed great charity. He died in 1459.

Meditation for Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter:
Christ, our Head and the First-Fruits of our Resurrection

Christ is our Head; we form with Him a Mystical Body. If Christ is risen—and He is risen in His human nature—it is necessary that we, His members, should share in the same glory. For it is not only in our soul, it is likewise in our body, it is in our whole being that we are members of Christ. The most intimate union binds us to Jesus.

If then He is risen glorious, the faithful who, by grace, make part of His Mystical Body, will be united with Him even in His Resurrection.

Hear what St. Paul says on this subject: "Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep." He represents the first-fruits of a harvest; after Him, the rest of the harvest is to follow. "By a man came death, and by a Man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."

God, he says still more energetically, hath raised us up in His Son. How can that be? By faith and grace.
—Dom Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, p. 299.

St. Athanasius
A champion of orthodoxy! He did not die a martyr, but his life was martyrdom in the truest sense. Athanasius was the Church's greatest hero in the battle against Arianism (a heresy that denied Christ's divinity). Even as a young deacon at the Council of Nicea (325), he was recognized as "Arius' ablest enemy" and the foremost defender of the Church's faith. After the death of his bishop (328), "the entire Catholic congregation with one accord, as one soul and body, voiced the wish of the dying bishop Alexander that Athanasius should succeed him. Everyone esteemed him as a virtuous, holy man, an ascetic, a true bishop."

There followed fifty years of constant conflict. Under five emperors and by exile on five different occasions, he gave testimony to the truth of the Catholic position. His allegiance to the Church never wavered, his courage never weakened. As consolation in the face of horrendous calumnies and cruel persecution, Athanasius looked to the unwavering love of his Catholic people. Even time brought no mitigation in Arian hatred. For five years he hid in a deep, dry cistern to be safe from their raging wrath and their attempts to assassinate him. The place was known only to one trusted friend who secretly supplied necessary food.

That Athanasius enjoyed God's special protection should have been obvious to all. On one occasion when the emperor's assassins were pursuing him, Athanasius ordered the ship on which he was fleeing to double-back and sail upstream so that he might meet and by-pass his persecutors. Not recognizing the boat upon meeting in semi-darkness, they naively asked whether the ship carrying Athanasius was still far ahead. Calmly and truthfully Athanasius himself called back, "He is not far from here." So his persecutors kept sailing on in the same direction, allowing the saint to complete his escape.

Preserved by divine Providence through a lifetime of trial and danger, he finally died in his own quarters at Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Valens (373). Athanasius enriched Christian literature with many important works, some pointed toward piety and edification, others polemical and dogmatic in nature. He ruled the Church of Alexandria for forty-six years.
—Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Symbols and Representation: open book; two columns; boat on the Nile; equilateral triangle; open book between two Greek Doric columns; archbishop's pallium; scroll with quotation from his writings.
Often Portrayed As: Bishop arguing with a pagan; bishop holding an open book; bishop standing over a defeated heretic.

Patronage: Bellante, Italy

Highlights and Things to Do:

St. Antoninus
He wanted to join the Dominicans, but he was so small he scarcely reached above the tabletop in the office of Blessed John Dominici, the Dominican prior of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. To put him off, the prior told him to go home and memorize the Decrees of Gratian, a compilation of Church law. Within a year, the boy had returned, had committed the decrees to memory, and was given the habit of a Dominican.

St. Antoninus was one of the first novices at Fiesole, which Blessed John had built, and among his fellow novices was the future artist Fra Angelico. After his ordination to the priesthood, Antoninus was made prior at Rome, Gaeta, Siena, Fiesole, and finally at Florence where he founded the famous Convento di San Marco, where Fra Angelico did some of his most memorable work.

He was summoned by Pope Eugene IV to take part in the Council of Florence in 1438, and as prior of San Marco, welcomed many of the prelates and scholars to Florence for the sessions of the council that took place there. It was at this time also that the great library of San Marco was opened to the public.

In 1446, much against his will, he was appointed archbishop of Florence but continued to live as a simple Dominican friar. Then, he became a veritable dynamo of activity: he rebuilt churches, visited parishes, preached incessantly, and brought about peace between political factions and religious orders. He was in Rome at the deathbed of Pope Eugene IV and was consulted by succeeding pontiffs in the reform of the papal curia. He was a superb theologian, his writings on moral theology and economics are considered pioneer works in the changing society of his times.

Shortly before the death of Antoninus, a plague hit Florence, decimating the city, with many of his friars dying, and the people starving from famine. He sold everything to help the hungry and destitute. When a violent earthquake hit Florence, he helped to rebuild the city, housing some of the victims in his own home. He died on May 2, 1459, and Pope Pius II himself came to attend his funeral. The people of Florence, who loved Antoninus, placed his statue in the Uffizi Palace, the city's hall of fame.
—Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens

Patronage: against fever; Filicaja, Italy; Moncalvo, Turin, Italy; University of Santo Tomas Graduate School, Manila, Philippines; Saint Antoninus Parish, Municipality of Pura, Tarlac Philippines

Symbols and Representation: Lily; pair of scales in which he weighs false merchandise against God's word; scales; wearing bishop's mitre, holding the cross, and giving the sign of blessing in absolution.

Highlights and Things to Do: