Here are Matthew’s saints and commemorations for the coming week.
Sunday, November 3
“What light is light, if Silvia be not seen? What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?” This is more or less how St. Gregory the Great must have felt about his beautiful mother, whose portrait he had painted in her old age. It is unfortunate that we know little about her apart from the fact that her eyes were blue and that she was a woman of extraordinary piety who took great pains in the education of her children. Her intercession has been begged by pregnant women anxious for their babies’ safe delivery for more than a thousand years.
Monday, November 4
SS. Vitalis and Agricola
Agricola was a man of great wealth and distinction whose piety inflamed the hatred of his enemies. He was arrested along with Vitalis, his faithful servant whom he had catechized. The latter was subjected to the most revolting torture; it is said by the authorities that not a single part of his body was left without a wound. During his misery he saw an angel holding a crown—the coronal of martyrdom that he would soon receive. Agricola’s life was spared for some time in the hope that the suffering undergone by Vitalis would encourage him to apostatize. He was soon crucified.
Tuesday, November 5
One book we have not cited often enough in this space is the Dictionary of Saintly Women, published in two volumes from 1904 to 1905. I do not know much about the author, one Agnes Baillie Cunninghame Dunbar, but she seems to have been as learned as Butler and Baring-Gould and somewhat more practical. One thing I like very much is that Dunbar always takes the time to tell us what causes and patronages her saints are associated with. St, Berthild, for example, is “invoked against goître, swelling, sore throats, diseases of horses, storms, [and] hernia in children.” I would welcome any more information about Dunbar, whom I cannot trace beyond an entry in Debrett’s.
Wednesday, November 6
Winoc was a native Briton who fled to the continent during the early ravages of the Saxons. He made his way eventually to the abbey of St. Bertin, where he and several companions adopted the habit. The abbey was desecrated during the Revolution and further damaged during the Second World War. It is now a ruin.
Thursday, November 7
Prosdecimus was consecrated bishop by St. Peter himself, the first ever in what is now the Diocese of Padua. He died near the beginning of the second century.
Friday, November 8
The Four Crowned Brothers
This is a rather confusing story. It actually involves not four but nine men martyred in two groups under similar circumstances. In the barest telling, one can say that in the reign of Diocletian a group of brothers zealous in their confession of the faith were captured at Rome and beaten with lead-tipped whips until they died and were buried on the side of a road. Two years later the same fate befell siblings who refused to devote their skill as craftsman to the making of idols. Severus, Severian, Carpophorus, and Victorinus comprised one group; Claudius, Castorius, Symphorian, Nicostratus, and Simplicius the other. Which was first is a question that has been debated for many centuries—in my opinion, somewhat needlessly.
Saturday, November 9
The Dedication of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran
I learned only recently that presidents of the fifth French republic have retained the title of honorary canon of the Lateran. This title was declined by MM. Pompidou, Mitterrand, and Hollande. Last year Emmanuel Macron joined de Gaulle, Giscard, Chirac, and Sarkozy in accepting it. During his visit to Rome, the current president gave Pope Francis a copy of Diary of a Country Priest. “I’ve already read it. Many times,” the Holy Father replied.
We ask our readers to pray for all the faithful departed and for the safety of millions in California.