Saints: December 2010 Archives

Saint Sylvester, pope

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St Sylvester.jpgThe feast day of Saint Sylvester, located so close to the Christmas liturgical cycle was an early decision of the Fathers of the Church, but it has no relation to the Mystery of the Incarnation. Today's feast Saint Sylveser, according to Pius Parsch is among the oldest in the Church's liturgical life because his memory was among the first to receive public recognition by the laity due to his exemplary holiness and concern for the welfare of the faithful, especially the poor. He's considered to be a confessor of the faith but also acknowledged as a martyr. Sylvester's feast day was for a long time a holy day of obligation.

Sylvester was elected bishop of Rome in AD 314. He succeeded Saint Miltiades who was pope for 2 years (July 2, 311 - 10 January 314) and was succeed by Saint Mark who only served for 263 days. One of the first things he did as pope was to teach the virtue of peace and to live by example.

Notable about Pope Sylvester was that he lived in Rome as its bishop when the Council of Nicea I was held; recall that the Council of Nicea called to order not by the pope by the emperor, who by the way was a friend of Sylvester's. During his papacy the great churches of St John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St Paul's, St Lawrence's and the first St Peter's were built, among others.

Several things are attributed to Sylvester:

  • taught the orthodox Catholic faith in the face of heresy and schism
  • taught that the sign of the Cross was given to him by the Lord
  • cared for the poor and expected the clergy to do the same
  • cared for those in the Order of Virgins and Widows
  • determined that bishops had the exclusive right to consecrate chrism
  • instructed priests, when baptizing, also were to anoint with chrism
  • determined that deacons were to wear the dalmatic with a linen maniple
  • determined that bread was to be consecrated as Eucharist only a linen corporal
  • determined those ordained should be stable in that order before taking a higher order
  • instructed the laity should not sue the clergy
  • instructed the clergy should not sue another in civil court
  • called the 1st and 7th days of the week the "Lord's Day" and the "Sabbath"
  • among the first use the word "feria" (a free day) for weekdays of the liturgical calendar without a commemoration.
Some of these things perdure today.

When Pope Sylvester died in AD 335 he served the Church as bishop of Rome for 21 years, 11 months, 1 day. He was first lair to rest in the catacomb of Saint Priscilla and later moved to the church of Saint Symmachus.

Saint Thomas Becket

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St Thomas Becket, Master Francke.jpg

O God our redeemer, the Church was [is] strengthened by the blood of Thy martyr Saint Thomas Becket: so bind us, in life and in death, to the sacrifice of Christ, that our lives being broken and offered with his, we may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world.

King Saint David, prophet

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King David Ukrainian icon.jpg

Today is the feast of King David, the revered Old Testament king and prophet. The Orthodox Church remembers King David on December 26th. The Latin Church, however, does not typically commemorate David as a saint on the universal calendar but he is listed in the Roman Martyrology (2005)It is the Eastern Church that recalls and commemorates more seriously King David in the Liturgy than the Latin Liturgy does. In any event, the Roman Martyrology says:

Commemoratio sancti David, regis et prophetae, qu, filius Iesse Bethlehemitae, gratiam invenit ante Deum et oleo sancto a Samuele propheta unctus est, ut populum Israel regeret; in civitatem Ierusalem Arcam foederis Domini transtulit ac Dominus ipse mox ei iuravit semen eius in aeternum mansurum esse, eo quod ex ipso Iesus Christus secundum carnem nasciturus esset.

The translation: 

The commemoration of Holy David, king and prophet, who, the son of Jesus of Bethlehem, found favor before God was anointed with holy oil by the prophet Samuel, so that he might rule the people of Israel; he brought the ark of the Lord's covenant into the city of Jerusalem and the Lord vowed to him that his seed would endure forever; thus from it Jesus should be born according to the flesh.

We should recall what the Catechism says, "the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name" (2579), pointing to the figure of David at an OT figure of Jesus.

More on King Saint David can be found here.

St John at Patmos HBaldung Grien.jpg
This is John who reclined on the Lord's breast at the Supper. O blessed Apostle, to whom were revealed heavenly secrets! (Magnificat antiphon)

The Roman Martyrology speaks of John in this way: "Sixty-eight years after the passion and death of His Lord, he died at a ripe old age. He was buried near Ephesus." He was the lone of the 12 Apostles to die of natural causes, though he did suffer for Christ.

Perhaps no other of the Twelve than John has anyone been so close, so well-attuned to the Lord's life, love and mission. To John was given the responsibility to mind Mary, the Mother of Jesus and thus to guide the Church in her in abiding in the Lord. It is not lost on us that the symbol of Saint John the Evangelist is the eagle who scales the heights and keenly aware of all things. In John's case, he so sharply looks into reality and sees with profound depth the meaning of things.

About Saint John's self-giving sacrifice we read:
St Stephen Sermon Fra Angelico.jpgIn the blood of the holy Levite Stephen "the Church dedicates the first-fruits of martyrdom" to the King of martyrs.

The day following Christmas, December 26, is observed liturgically by the Church as Saint Stephen's Day. Saint Stephen's feast is located so close to Christmas because of his very close connection with the Lord. Stephen is the first martyr --the protomartyr-- of the New Testament (See Acts 6-7).

Today in 2010, the liturgical observance of Sunday is maintained as the Lord's Day and is not trumped by a saint's feast. The overlaying of the Holy Family feast today --observed on the Sunday following Christmas-- doesn't replace the Sunday observance nor the Scripture readings but today is the feast of the Holy Family and it is a rich feast nonetheless. But we don't forget Saint Stephen!

The Polish children would imitate the stoning of Stephen by throwing walnuts at each other. In agricultural countries horses and horse food (hay and oats, and salt) are blessed. In the UK, Saint Stephen's day is also known as "boxing day" because priests in medieval times they gave alms collected in Church to the poor. All shared in the Lord's blessings. This charitable gesture of the priests was adopted by the laity who also gave alms to the poor. What you see here is the beauty of the gospel preached by Jesus and the Apostles realized in concrete ways. Money is counted and given freely, hence the breaking of the alms boxes became known as "boxing day" because it was an invitation to be mindful of the less fortunate. German children had piggy banks made of clay taking on the same sensibility as the British children knew. The Germans sometimes call today the "pig's feast" because the clay pig bank was broken to gain access to the monetary savings to be given to others in need.
St Joseph & Jesus.jpgIn the Season of Advent there are so many people to emulate: Jesus, Mary, the martyrs, various other saints, and Joseph in particular. Saint Joseph factors into Catholicism so much that one can reasonably ask, Can any good Catholic not pay attention to Saint Joseph? Obviously not. I took as my oblation name with the Benedictine oblates "Meinrad-Joseph" primarily because of the virtues of Saint Meinrad and for the devotion shown by Joseph for Jesus; in taking the name Meinrad-Joseph I honor my father, Edward Joseph.

The Pope spoke on Sunday at the Angelus on the great foster father of Jesus and the patron saint
against doubt, cabinetmakers, Canada, carpenters, China, confectioners, craftsmen, dying people, engineers, families, fathers, happy death, holy death, house hunters, Korea, laborers, Mexico, New France, people in doubt, Peru, pioneers, protector of the Church, social justice, travelers, Universal Church, Vatican II, Viet Nam, workers, working people. AND now the Pope adds pastors to this list under Saint Joseph's care.

At Sunday's Angelus Pope Benedict XVI had this to say about Saint Joseph:

Holy Youths in fiery furnace.jpg

The Byzantine Church honors many Old Testament prophets and holy people that the Church in the West recognizes but does not commemorate in the sacred Liturgy, though the Roman Martyrology noted the holy youths yesterday. I actually think we ought to honor the OT figures as saints in our Liturgy, but greater minds will have to make that decision. Being faithful to the Divine Office you'll recall that we pray the Canticle of the Three Youths (Daniel 3:57-88; 56) at Lauds at Sunday I. The pertinent section of the canticle follows:

O Israel, bless the Lord. Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord; Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord. Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;  Holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord. Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael (Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego), bless the Lord; Praise and exalt him above all forever. Let us bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; Let us praise and exalt God above all forever. Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven; Praiseworthy and glorious forever.

Saint Lucy, martyr

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St Lucy martyrdom2 DVeneziano.jpg

In your patience, O Lucy, you possessed your soul; you have hated the things of this world, O bride of Christ, and so received glory among the angels; you vanquished the adversary, O martyr, with your own blood.

(Magnificat Antiphon, First Vespers of St. Lucy)

Today is a good day to remember in prayer before Saint Lucy the people of Sicily, those who live with blindness, diseases of the eye, salesmen and for my friend and seminarian Ken Dagliere on his birthday.

Saint Ambrose

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The patristic reading in the Office of Readings (in the Divine Office) there is a beautiful letter from Saint Ambrose about governance and the use of words. Wouldn't be good to heed Ambrose's exhortation about relying on the guidance of the Church as the surest sign of God's faithfulness, in keeping our words clean, reflective and full of meaning? Ambrose's letter bears thinking about today. Let us keep in prayer today the Church in which Ambrose lived and worked, the Archdiocese of Milan.

St Ambrose detail GPiamonte.jpg

You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church's foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.

Saint Nicholas

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St Nicholas Liberation of 3 Innocents Fra Angelico.jpgO Holy Father Nicholas, the fruit of your good deeds has enlightened and delighted the hearts of the faithful. Who cannot admire your measureless patience and humility? And who cannot wonder at your graciousness to the poor? At your compassion for the afflicted? O Bishop Nicholas, you have divinely taught all things well. And now wearing your unfading crown, you intercede for our souls with Christ, our God.

(Vesperal antiphon, Byzantine)

Saint Barbara

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St Barbara.jpegLoving God, whose service calls forth
Courage in Your servant's soul,

We here gathered sing the praise of
One who bravely reached heav'n's goal.
Claiming Christ as only Savior,
Scorning those with evil planned,
Now with white-robed brilliance vested,
Near Your throne she finds her stand.

Teach us, as You taught St. Barb'ra,
How to love and serve Your Name
That our hearts may not be conquered
By our fears or love of fame.
As she loved You to her last breath,
Give us strength to faithful be,
That our witness may be fearless
And our lives unfeigned and free.

Glory be to God, the Father,
Glory be to God, the Son,
Glory be to God, the Spirit:
Glory to the Three-in-One!
From the virgin choirs of heaven
And from tempted saints below,
Endless hymns and praise unceasing

Shall from all our hearts e'er flow.

J. Michael Thompson, © copyright.

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]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Saints category from December 2010.

Saints: November 2010 is the previous archive.

Saints: January 2011 is the next archive.

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