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The Saints

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

No one guessed which saint I was going to do today… Now I am depressed…

Continuing my series about saints, I have chosen someone who is not technically canonized yet, but he is a blessed who has a feast day, so he counts close enough. His name is Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky.

Vasyl was born in Stanislaviv, in then Austria-Hungary on June 1, 1903 (an excellent day and year which I remember vividly). In 1920 he entered the seminary in Lviv and five years later, he was ordained a priest and took religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, better known as the Redemptorists. In other words, he was a priest-monk type (or so I can put it no plainer). He preached and taught in Volyn. In 1942 he became abbot of the monastery in a city called Ternopil. What happens next is the fault of the Communists. (they may be the ones a person would always blame if he sees the green-skinned Wood-Elves in the 1977 cartoon, The Hobbit, but that can be ignored).

Bl. Vasyl was arrested in 1945 by the NKVD and sent to Kiev during the religious persecution. The official punishment was death, but the Soviets nicely changed it to ten years in hard labor (in other words, a cruel concentration camp) because they were just so nice in that way.

On release in 1955 Vasyl went back to Lviv, and was ordained a bishop in 1963. What the Soviets should have learned from the Romans is that persecution never works to actually quell Christianity and the proper way to do so is to make Christians grow comfortable and lukewarm, but apparently the Soviets were no history scholars. In 1969 Vasyl was imprisoned again for three years for his religious activities. Released in 1972, he was exiled outside the USSR. He then did what anyone does if he does not like the political climate at the time—he moved to Canada. He went to God on account of his injuries from prison in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 30, 1973. He was seventy years old (why his feast day is three days too early, I do not know.

Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsky’s body was found to be almost incorrupt, except for the fact that his toes had fallen off, which were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics (it is a very Catholic thing to distribute body parts of holy people throughout the world, by the way).

He was beatified in 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II. On July 20, 2014, at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Zarvanytsia in Ukraine, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, solemnly proclaimed Vasyl patron of prison ministry for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. A prison minister might as well pray to him—especially, I think, if the minister is trying to share Christ with the inmates. Also, if the reader happens to be a prisoner somewhere under the charge of religious activity (which I sincerely hope is not the case now) or risking it (which is also unfortunate), I think you ought to ask Bl. Vasyl for his intercession.

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

Pray for us

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

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The Saints

St. Florentina of Cartagena

I have been feeling somewhat overwhelmed with school lately (or rather, I had been feeling busy when I wrote this; by the time this is posted, it will be summer). So I decided to do something a little different this week—that is, talk about a saint, specifically a lesser known one. Today, June 20, is the feast of St. Florentina of Cartagena and she is the topic of discussion for this article.

St. Florentina was born in roughly the middle of the sixth century in Cartagena, Spain. She was raised a Christian and her family definitely definitely had no deficit of…sanctity. She had three brothers, St. Leander, St. Isidore, and St. Fulgentius—which means she had a lot of saints. They became Iberian bishops in the time of the Visigothic dominion, so there were a lot of clergy as well in her family and she never got any nieces or nephews (or, according to the gender neutral term, “nephlings”). Unfortunately, I do not have any clergy in my immediate family. My father was one of thirteen and raised Catholic, but only three of them actually kept the Catholic Faith. My mother was raised Protestant. I have two sisters—neither of whom, of course, are eligible to become clergymen, but they do not seem to be discerning a religious vocation at the moment. Well, hopefully they will at least become saints. At the moment, I do not have anyone canonized in the family…

Anyway, returning to St. Florentina, her older brother, St. Leander, actually entered the monastic life before becoming a bishop. He seems to have been a good influence on his younger sister, since he led her to also have interest in the ascetic life. Florentina associated herself with a number of virgins and started a religious community. Their convent is said to have been the convent of S. Maria de Valle near Ecija (Astigis), where Florentina’s brother, St. Fulgentius, was bishop.

The exact date she became a nun is not known, but it must have occurred before 601, since her brother, St. Leander, who died in 600 or 601, wrote an extant work for her dealing with a nun’s rule of life and with contempt for the world (“Regula sive Libellus de institutione virginum et de contemptu mundi ad Florentinam sororem”, P.L. LXXII, 873 sqq.). Leander lays out a rule for how cloistered sisters should live their lives. He strongly advises them to avoid interaction with women living in the world, and with men, especially youths. He advises strict temperance in eating and drinking, gives advice concerning the reading of and meditation on Scripture, enjoins equal love and friendship for all those living together in community, and exhorts his sister earnestly to remain true to her holy state in life. Florentina regulated her life according to her brothers advice.

It might also be noted that St. Isidore wrote a work called De Fide Catholica Contra Judæos which he wrote at his sister’s request and dedicated to her. It is unknown precisely when she died, but it must have been in the early seventh century. She is only venerated as the patroness of the diocese of Plasencia, but I think it also reasonable to call on her if the reader happens to be a young woman, or even a young person in general, who is discerning a religious or monastic vocation. Those currently living the monastic or cloistered lifestyle might as well call on her if they are feeling discouraged or wearied by their life. And in general, one more saint to pray to can never hurt.

Next week, I will probably be doing another saint and see if I can start a series. For those of you who are disappointed by the lack of apologetics in this article, never fear: the Chivalric Apologist will return! In the meanwhile, I want you to guess on whom I will write next. It will be on June 27 and I seem to be able to find seventeen saints whose feasts fall on those days. It will be someone I had not heard of before, since I think the lesser known saints are in more need of articles.

St. Florentina of Cartagena

Pray for us

St. Florentina
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The Saints

St. Catherine of Alexandria: Patron of Apologists

Today on November 25 is the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, patron of students, unmarried girls, apologists. I fall into two of those categories so I thought this was important to mention. St. Catherine was born in 287 in Alexandria, Egypt. According to our tradition, she was of noble birth, possibly a princess. As a member of the nobility, she was also educated and was very intelligent. Around the age of fourteen, she saw a vision of our Lady and the child Jesus, and she decided to become a Christian. It was around that time when Maxentius became emperor and started persecuting the Christians. Saints being what they are, Catherine visited the emperor and denounced him for his cruelty. Maxentius thought the best way to stop this, probably because he did not wish to kill the princess of Alexandria, was to send fifty of his best orators and philosophers to debate her (showing that this was a long time ago before secular society basically abandoned caring about reason). Catherine, however, moved by the Holy Spirit, defended the Faith and converted a number of them. It is said that Maxentius’ wife, Valeria Maximilla, also converted on account of Catherine (which if I may say so, probably annoyed the emperor). So the emperor decided, since he could not beat her due to good rhetoric, to torture her and put her to death. Maxentius made a final attempt to persuade Catherine to stop being Christian by proposing marriage to her, which would have made her an empress. After all, since she had converted his old wife to Christianity, he needed a new one. Catherine refused, saying that she was married to our Lord and had dedicated her virginity to him. Maxentius finally ordered her to be executed on a breaking wheel, which is an ancient form of torture where a person’s limbs are threaded among the spokes and their bones are shattered by an executioner with a heavy rod. However, when Catherine touched the wheel, it miraculously shattered. Finally she was beheaded.

I think Catherine really shows our Lord’s words: “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Mat. 10:19) She is the patron saint of apologists, beating even St. Augustine (who is somehow patron of brewers) and St. Thomas Aquinas (the patron saint of students and universities). I am sure she was intelligent and well-educated, but that is not really what converts people. The only One who actually converts people is the Holy Spirit. I think we ought to all remember that as apologists. We can give perfectly sound arguments, but if we have not charity, we can still lose a soul. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us. If He is not guiding us, we will convert no one.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr, pray for us!

I am the Catholic of Honor