Holy and Great Martyr Catherine the All-Wise of Alexandria

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine, patron saint of philosophers.

For a little bit about her life and why some churches celebrate St. Catherine’s day on the 24th, read this piece from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Online Chapel:

Saint Catherine, who was from Alexandria, was the daughter of Constas (or Cestus). She was an exceedingly beautiful maiden, most chaste, and illustrious in wealth, lineage, and learning. By her steadfast understanding, she utterly vanquished the passionate and unbridled soul of Maximinus, the tyrant of Alexandria; and by her eloquence, she stopped the mouths of the so-called philosophers who had been gathered to dispute with her. She was crowned with the crown of martyrdom in the year 305. Her holy relics were taken by Angels to the holy mountain of Sinai, where they were discovered many years later; the famous monastery of Saint Catherine was originally dedicated to the Holy Transfiguration of the Lord and the Burning Bush, but later was dedicated to Saint Catherine. According to the ancient usage, Saints Catherine and Mercurius were celebrated on the 24th of this month, whereas the holy Hieromartyrs Clement of Rome and Peter of Alexandria were celebrated on the 25th. The dates of the feasts of these Saints were interchanged at the request of the Church and Monastery of Mount Sinai, so that the festival of Saint Catherine, their patron, might be celebrated more festively together with the Apodosis of the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos. The Slavic Churches, however, commemorate these Saints on their original dates.

A fuller account of her life can be found here.

Troparion of Great Martyr Katherine Tone 5
Let us praise Katherine, protectress of Sinai,
Bride of Christ and our helper.
With the sword of the Spirit she silenced the wisdom of the wicked.
She is crowned as a martyr and asks mercy for us all.

Kontakion of Great Martyr Katherine Tone 2
You lovers of martyrs raise a chorus now
in honour of wise Katherine.
She preached Christ in the stadium
and spat on the knowledge of philosophers.

Holy and Great Martyr, All-Wise Catherine, pray for us that we may take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ, and pray that we may be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our Father Among the Saints, Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland

Troparion of St Patrick Tone 4
Most glorious art Thou, Christ our God/ Who didst establish our Father Patrick/ as the Enlightener of the Irish and a torch-bearer on earth,/ and through him didst guide many to the true Faith./ Most Compassionate One, glory to Thee.

Apolytikion of St Patrick Tone 3
O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion of St Patrick Tone 4
The Master revealed thee as a skilful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who hounour thy memory.

The Confessio of St. Patrick; same translation here – and in .pdf here (the Latin text)

St. Patrick’s Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (the Latin text)

On St. Patrick and the Shamrock

Continue reading “Our Father Among the Saints, Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland”

Our Father Among the Saints, Benedict of Nursia, Father of Monks

Troparion Tone 1

By thine ascetical struggles, O Godbearing Benedict,/ thou didst prove true to thy name./ For thou wast the son of benediction, and didst become a model and rule/ to all who emulate thy life and cry:/ Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee;/ glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion Tone 8

Like a sun of the Dayspring from on high/ thou didst enlighten the monks of the West and instruct them by word and deed./ By the sweat of thine ascetical achievements/ purge from the filth of passions us who honour thee and cry:/ Rejoice, O Father Benedict.

Prayer to St. Benedict of Nursia

O holy Father, St. Benedict, blessed by God both in grace and in name, who, while standing in prayer, with hands raised to heaven, didst most happily yield thy angelic spirit into the hands of thy Creator, and hast promised zealously to defend against all the snares of the enemy in the last struggle of death, those who shall daily remind thee of thy glorious departure and heavenly joys; protect me, I beseech thee, O glorious Father, this day and every day, by thy holy blessings, that I may never be separated from our dear Lord, from the society of thyself, and of all the blessed. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Note: In the West, St. Benedict’s death is celebrated 21 March, and his feast day is celebrated 11 July]

St. Gregory the Great’s Life of St. Benedict

An account of the uncovering of St. Benedict’s relics

The Rule of St. Benedict (in English)

Regula Sancti Benedicti

About the Rule of St. Benedict

About the medal of St. Benedict

About St. Scholastica, St. Benedict’s twin sister

A brief account of St. Benedict, his life and influence (Roman Catholic Order of St. Benedict website)

From the OCA Website:

Saint Benedict, founder of Western monasticism, was born in the Italian city of Nursia in the year 480. When he was fourteen years of age, the saint’s parents sent him to Rome to study. Unsettled by the immorality around him, he decided to devote himself to a different sort of life.

At first St. Benedict settled near the church of the holy Apostle Peter in the village of Effedum, but news of his ascetic life compelled him to go farther into the mountains. There he encountered the hermit Romanus, who tonsured him into monasticism and directed him to live in a remote cave at Subiaco. From time to time, the hermit would bring him food.

For three years the saint waged a harsh struggle with temptations and conquered them. People soon began to gather to him, thirsting to live under his guidance. The number of disciples grew so much, that the saint divided them into twelve communities. Each community was comprised of twelve monks and was a separate skete. The saint gave each skete an igumen from among his experienced disciples, and only the novice monks remained with St. Benedict for instruction.

The strict monastic Rule St. Benedict established for the monks was not accepted by everyone, and more than once he was criticized and abused by dissenters.

Finally he settled in Campagna and on Mount Cassino he founded the Monte Cassino monastery, which for a long time was a center of theological education for the Western Church. The monastery possessed a remarkable library. St. Benedict wrote his Rule, based on the experience of life of the Eastern desert-dwellers and the precepts of St. John Cassian the Roman (February 29).

The Rule of St. Benedict dominated Western monasticism for centuries (by the year 1595 it had appeared in more than 100 editions). The Rule prescribed the renunciation of personal possessions, as well as unconditional obedience, and constant work. It was considered the duty of older monks to teach the younger and to copy ancient manuscripts. This helped to preserve many memorable writings from the first centuries of Christianity.

Every new monk was required to live as a novice for a year, to learn the monastic Rule and to become acclimated to monastic life. Every deed required a blessing. The head of this cenobitic monastery is the igumen. He discerns, teaches, and explains. The igumen solicits the advice of the older, experienced brethren, but he makes the final decisions. Keeping the monastic Rule was strictly binding for everyone and was regarded as an important step on the way to perfection.

St. Benedict was granted by the Lord the gift of foresight and wonderworking. He healed many by his prayers. The monk foretold the day of his death in 547. The main source for his Life is the second Dialogue of St. Gregory.

St. Benedict’s sister, St. Scholastica (February 10), also became famous for her strict ascetic life and was numbered among the saints.

Medal of St Benedict

As mentioned in my previous post, I purchased a St Benedict medal when in Rome in the summer of ’98. The following is some information about the medal:


One side of the medal bears an image of St. Benedict, holding a cross in the right hand and the Holy Rule in the left. On the one side of the image is a cup, on the other a raven, and above the cup and the raven are inscribed the words: “Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti” (Cross of the Holy Father Benedict). Round the margin of the medal stands the legend “Ejus in obitu nro praesentia muniamus” (May we at our death be fortified by his presence).


The reverse of the medal bears a cross with the initial letters of the words: “Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux” (The Holy Cross be my light), written downward on the perpendicular bar; the initial letters of the words, “Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux” (Let not the dragon be my guide), on the horizontal bar; and the initial letters of “Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti” in the angles of the cross. Round the margin stand the initial letters of the distich: “Vade Retro Satana, Nunquam Suade Mihi Vana — Sunt Mala Quae Libas, Ipse Venena Bibas” (Begone, Satan, do not suggest to me thy vanities — evil are the things thou profferest, drink thou thy own poison). At the top of the cross usually stands the word Pax (peace) or the monogram I H S (Jesus).

More from the article:

The medal just described is the so-called jubilee medal, which was struck first in 1880, to commemorate the fourteenth centenary of St. Benedict’s birth. The Archabbey of Monte Cassino has the exclusive right to strike this medal. The ordinary medal of St. Benedict usually differs from the preceding in the omission of the words “Ejus in obitu etc.”, and in a few minor details. (For the indulgences connected with it see Beringer, “Die Ablässe”, Paderborn, 1906, p. 404-6.) The habitual wearer of the jubilee medal can gain all the indulgences connected with the ordinary medal and, in addition: (1) all the indulgences that could be gained by visiting the basilica, crypt, and tower of St. Benedict at Monte Cassino (Pius IX, 31 December, 1877); (2) a plenary indulgence on the feast of All Souls (from about two o’clock in the afternoon of 1 November to sunset of 2 November), as often as (toties quoties), after confession and Holy Communion, he visits any church or public oratory, praying there according to the intention of the pope, provided that he is hindered from visiting a church or public oratory of the Benedictines by sickness, monastic enclosure or a distance of at least 1000 steps. (Decr. 27 February, 1907, in Acta S. Sedis, LX, 246.) Any priest may receive the faculties to bless these medals.

It is doubtful when the Medal of St. Benedict originated. During a trial for witchcraft at Natternberg near the Abbey of Metten in Bavaria in the year 1647, the accused women testified that they had no power over Metten, which was under the protection of the cross. Upon investigation, a number of painted crosses, surrounded by the letters which are now found on Benedictine medals, were found on the walls of the abbey, but their meaning had been forgotten. Finally, in an old manuscript, written in 1415, was found a picture representing St. Benedict holding in one hand a staff which ends in a cross, and a scroll in the other. On the staff and scroll were written in full the words of which the mysterious letters were the initials. Medals bearing the image of St. Benedict, a cross, and these letters began now to be struck in Germany, and soon spread over Europe. They were first approved by Benedict XIV in his briefs of 23 December, 1741, and 12 March, 1742.

Meeting St. Benedict

I first became aware of St. Benedict during my time at a Protestant Bible college, specifically during spring semester of 1990. I was in a period of my life where I began to search for the historic Church, and a period of spiritual struggle when I became extremely dissatsified with the way of life my heritage churches, and evangelical Christianity in general, had given me for spiritual growth. I had been for a long time just spinning my wheels with the schema of morning devotions (read a couple of chapters in the Bible and pray), praise choruses, and church attendance. I wanted something more. My searches combined in a return to the historic Church and monasticism.

If you read anything about monasticism in the West, you pretty quickly come across St. Benedict of Nursia. And I did. I happened across a book by Esther de Waal, entitled Living with Contradiction, which contained the whole of the Prologue to the saint’s Rule, and a bit more than a hundred pages of meditations and reflections on the themes of the Prologue. I was instantly hooked. I didn’t know much about St. Benedict himself, nor even about what role the saints played in the Church, but I knew enough to realize St. Benedict was a teacher and father in God from whom I could learn much.

It was only a handful of months later that one of those serendipitous, coincidental moments happened that later leave you wondering if a divine appointment, unbeknownst to oneself, had occurred. I had gone with some classmates and a professor to our sister school for a conference, and happened one of the afternoons to be in the campus bookstore. As I browsed the shelves without any real purpose, other than to look for titles that might interest me, my eyes happened to notice a little red pocketsized book entitled RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English. It was $1.99. Without a second’s hesitation, I picked it up and made my way to the checkout to buy it.

Over the years since then, I have read several books on St. Benedict and his Rule, and my relationship with him has grown. For many years his role in my life was simply that of teacher. I tried to emulate the balance in my life that his Rule exhibits; proportionate time for work, study and prayer. Eventually I began to pray the hours of the Church, and his Rule guided me in praying the Psalter and reading the Scriptures. As an Episcopalian, I grew to appreciate his life in ways I had not as a Restoration Movement Christian, but he was still a teacher more than anything else. When I was in Rome several years ago, I purchased one of the saint’s medals, and wore it from time to time. I became associated with a Benedictine monastery in the Episcopal Church, and went there a handful of times on retreat.

But it wasn’t until I began moving toward the Orthodox Church that I realized the role of the saints in the life of the Church and the individual believer. I grew to understand that without me realizing it, St. Benedict had become one of my patron saints. (The other is Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina, who is as yet not formally canonized.) In the fifteen years since I first met St. Benedict, I cannot knowingly attribute any dramatic and miraculous answers to prayer. St. Benedict does not work quite that way in my life. Rather, after coming to Orthodoxy I simply began to ask his intercessions daily and to daily venerate his icons: to pray that I might crucify the passions, be attentive in my prayers, and become more like Christ. One thing I can attribute to his answered prayers for me is for my strengthening in the Church’s disciplines and to being mindful of the passions when they are as yet but thoughts.

I now regularly read from his Rule, and at lunch often read selections from his Life by St. Gregory the Dialogist (whose feast we celebrated this past Monday). I still go to the Rule for guidance, not only when I seek to reassert balance to my life, but for teaching on simply struggling in the Christian faith toward theosis. My own experience is that St. Benedict is a faithful and sure guide.

God is glorified in his saints, and the glory of God shines brightly in the life and witness of St. Benedict. Holy Father of Monks, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

[Note: I have posted the prologue to St. Benedict’s Rule on my Wisdom blog here. ]

Our Father Among the Saints, Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome

Troparion of St Gregory Tone 3
Thou didst excellently dispense the Word of God,/ endowed with discretion of speech, O Hierarch Gregory;/ for by thy life thou didst set the virtues before us,/ and dost radiate the brightness of holiness./ O Righteous Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion of St Gregory Tone 8
We praise thee, God-inspired harp of the Church and God-possessed tongue of wisdom;/ for thou didst prove to be an image and model of the Apostles and didst emulate their zeal./ Wherefore we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Gregory the Dialogist.

The Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory (starts with Part I, clicking on the “> Page” button at the top and bottom of the page brings you to the next part; entire Rule is available online)

The Dialogues of St. Gregory (starts with Book I, clicking on the “> Page” button at the top and bottom of the page brings you to the next book; entire Dialogues are available online; Book II is the life of St. Benedict)
Continue reading “Our Father Among the Saints, Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome”

Our Father Among the Saints, John Cassian the Roman, Abbot of Marseilles


Troparion Tone 6
In thy divine teachings thou wast a physician for souls, O Father Cassian,/ and setting aright the thoughts of monastics by grace,/ thou didst lead them to life everlasting./ Wherefore, we all honor thee with love.

Kontakion Tone 2
Having delighted in discipline, abstinence, and continence,/ O divinely wise one,/ and having bridled your carnal desires,/ you were seen increasing in faith./ And you flourished like the tree of life in the midst of Eden,/ O all-blessed, most sacred Father Cassian.

Note: St. John’s feast day is actually 29 February, but is translated in non-leap-years to 28 February.

St John’s The Institutes (begin) and The Conferences (begin) are among his most well-known works, but he also has an anti-Nestorian work On the Incarnation (begin).

St. John is also falsely by some in the West labelled a semi-Pelagian, and his synergisitic understanding of grace called a heresy. I defend him against such misunderstandings and calumny in my “St John Cassian: On Grace and Free Will” (a part of the soteriology diablog).

Continue reading “Our Father Among the Saints, John Cassian the Roman, Abbot of Marseilles”