Tag Archives: saints

St Phocas the Gardener

Today we remember St. Phocas the Gardener. He is the patron of farmers, fieldworkers, agriculture, and gardeners. He was a man connected to his land and to his neighbor, and who understood ecology in the deep sense of not living just for oneself but for all. He was both a bishop and a simple farmer, and he devoted everything he grew to be given to the poor.

He is also the patron of hospitality. When soldiers came looking for him to execute him for being a Christian, he welcomed them with open arms, and practicing the command of Christ to love one’s enemies, he fed them and treated them as Christ himself. The soldiers did not realize that their host was the same Phocas they were to execute, and St. Phocas promised them that he would help them find their target.

When Phocas revealed himself to them, they were reluctant to kill him. Phocas, however, refused to fight them or to hinder their duty, and instead invited the soldiers to do what they were there to do, offering his neck. For this he was martyred.

St. Phocas is also the patron of sailers. There is an old sailing custom whereby at each meal, a portion is set aside called ‘St. Phocas portion.’ This portion is sold and the money collected is donated to the poor whenever port is reached. In this way, Phocas’ love for strangers, enemies, the poor, the land, and his neighbors continued to extend even past his death.

Holy Phocas, pray for us!

thanks to In Communion

St Rita of Cascia

The liturgical memorial of St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) is today. Several years ago when I was visiting a friend in Italy we visited the Benedictine monks at Norcia and by surprise, we were taken to Cascia to venerate the relics of St. Rita and imbibe the monastic house. At that time I didn’t really have a devotion to St. Rita even though her personal narrative is quite interesting; only recently two friends, independent of one another, told me of St Rita’s love and affection for honey bees. As a beekeeper I am always looking for divine intercession as I care for the bees.

Due various things in her life, Rita eventually became an Augustinian nun giving witness to the meaning of forgiveness, prayer, humility, patience, and perseverance. She dedicated her life to heroic charity and penance as she closely united herself and her life of deep suffering to Christ. Notice in the image that Rita has something in her forehead. While praying before a crucifix, St. Rita mystically received a thorn in her forehead (stigmata) from Jesus’ Crown of Thorns.

St. Rita is the patron saint of impossible causes, difficult marriages, abuse victims, and honey bees. Can we model St. Rita’s perseverance today?

St Simeon of Thessalonica

On the Eastern liturgical calendar we have our father among the saints, Simeon, Archbishop of Thessalonica. The Liturgy speaks of Simeon in this manner:

By the light of your wisdom and virtue, O holy father, Simeon, the spirit of God revealed you as a true shepherd of Salonica and a divinely inspired master of the mysteries of grace. Because of this, we look upon you as a teacher sent by God himself, and in our joy we exclaim: Glory to Christ for glorifying you. Glory to him who crowned you. Glory to him who gives us grace through you.

The point of the troparion is to highlight Simeon’s gifts of being a shepherd and a teacher of the divine mysteries. Gifts we ought to beg the Holy Spirit to bestow upon us. The faith community is desperate to have great shepherds and teachers again! Yet, St Simeon has often gifts we aspire to live by.

A New Skete hagiographical sketch of the archbishop says thus. “Simeon was a native of Constantinople, where he also became a monk. In 1416 he was made archbishop of Thessalonica. During most of his episcopate, the city was under a vise-like threat from Venetians on one side and Turks on the other. In those years of turmoil, all looked to Simeon for his pastoral prudence and courage under stress.

Simeon was a successor to Gregory Palamas in the see of Thessalonica, and heir to his theology, refracted through the humanism of Nicholas Cavasilas: “He was the noblest of the latter’s pupils. Simeon never claimed to be a mystic himself, but like his master, he believed that the highest mystical experience was to be found in the liturgy. And though he argued against the Latins, he clearly longed to reach an understanding with them. His peacemaking attitude and compassionate administration made him so well loved in his diocese that when he died, six years after the city had been sold to the Venetians and four months before it fell to the Turks, not only did the Italians mourn him along with the Greeks, but the Jews, a race that seldom had cause to love Byzantine hierarchs, joined sincerely in the mourning.

From Simeon’s writings we have descriptions of the last use of the cathedral rites of Byzantium, which in his day had been replaced in Constantinople herself by Palestinian monastic forms. While the archbishop lamented the change, he made practical pastoral adjustments in his own churches to accommodate the new forms.

In addition to his liturgical works, his writing spanned political, historical, canonical, dogmatic, apologetic, moral, and pastoral themes as well. He may be considered the last true theologian of the Byzantine period.

After his death in September, 1429, he was revered by many as a saint. But, perhaps because of the centuries of Turkish occupation, it was not until modern times that he was officially canonized. This occurred in his own cathedral in Thessalonica in 1981.

Brother Santiago named a Martyr for the Faith

Yesterday, 7 November 2018, Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, where it was decided that James Alfred Miller was a martyr for the faith.

James Alfred Miller – in religion he was Leo William and known also as Brother Santiago. He was a professed member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Miller was a native of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Brother Santiago was a missionary in several Central America countries and over the years his life was threatened. The Brothers of the Christian Schools sent to him to teach agricultural studies and give witness to Jesus Christ. On February 13, 1982, Brother Santiago’s life was sacrificed for the faith as he was shot several times by three hooded men and he died instantly. Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized that Brother Santiago was indeed a martyr.

You may read a brief biography of Brother Santiago here.

St Denys of Paris



Saint Denys, first bishop of Paris, and a 3rd century martyr. Since 1568, Denys has been on the Roman liturgical calendar for today.

Saint Denys is one of two patron saints of Paris. He is commonly thought to be one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and is regularly invoked to intercede with God for those who live with headaches.

Saint Denys, pray for us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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