Pope Saint Vitalian

Pope Vitalian is believed to have been born September 27, 580,  near Rome, little else is known of his early life.  He was consecrated as pope on July 30, 657.  He did several things in his fifteen years as pope. Vitalian tried to restore the connection with Eastern Church at Constantinople by sending a friendly letter to Emperor Constans II.  The emperor agreed Vaitalia was the Holy See and head of the Church in the West.  He sent to Rome a book of the Gospels in a cover of gold richly ornamented with precious stones as a gift.  Vitalian returned the kindness toward Constans when he came to Rome in 663 to spend twelve days there.

He was able to bring disagreeing parties together over the date of Easter with the Catholic Church in England.  He appointed a new archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus.  Vitalian was a fair judge, too.  Bishop John of Lappa, Greece, was illegally dismissed by his archbishop.  John appealed to Pope Vitalian.  John was thrown into jail for asking the pope to intervene.  Pope Vitalian asked a group of clergy to hear the case.  They found John innocent.  Pope Vitalian wrote the archbishop commanding him to reinstate John, and quit dismissing good bishops. 
Vitalian died on January 27, 672. The introduction of church organ music is traditionally believed to date from the time of Vitalian’s papacy

Apostles Saint Timothy and Saint Titus

Timothy was born in Lystra.  This is now in the country of Turkey.  His father was Greek and his mother was a Jew who had become a Christian. Timothy’s grandmother Lois introduced him to Paul. He replaced Barnabas and joined Paul when Paul was preaching in the area for a second time. Timothy was already a respected member of the Christian community.  He became one of Paul’s closest friends. He went with Paul on his second missionary trip. When Paul was forced to leave Berea, because of the anger of the Jews there, Timothy was able to stay for a while.  He was eventually sent on the Thessalonica in Greece. He to report on the condition of the Christians there and to encourage them while they were being persecuted. The time Timothy spent in Thessalonica is part of what caused Paul to write his first letter to the Thessalonians. Paul and Timothy were able to meet up at Corinth. Timothy and Erastus were sent to Macedonia in 58, and went to Corinth to remind the Corinthians of Paul’s teaching.  Paul wrote two letter to Timothy. The first letter was written about 65 while Paul was in Macedonia.  The second from Rome while Paul was waiting for his execution. 
Timothy was with Paul when he was imprisoned at Caesarea and Rome. Timothy was also imprisoned and freed. He went on to Ephesus, where he became the first bishop of Ephesus before being stoned to death around 97, when he opposed the pagan festival in honor of the Roman god Diana. Saint Timothy is the patron saint of stomach disorders.

Titus was a disciple and friend to Paul. Paul calls Titus “my true child in our common faith” It is believed he was a Greek, Gentile from Antioch. Paul converted him to Christianity. He may have been Paul’s assistant and interpreter. He is mentioned in Galatians where Paul writes of traveling to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Titus later stayed on the island of Crete to help organize the Church. He served as the first bishop of Crete. Saint Titus is the patron saint of the United States Army Chaplains. A chaplain is a priest or pastor in a hospital, private institution, or the military.

Timothy and Titus are celebrated January 26, the day after the Conversion of Saint Paul.

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Saint Paul is one of the most important saints.  Many of his writings are included in the New Testament of the Bible.  Saint Paul was originally known as Saul.  He was a Roman citizen and a Jewish Pharisee. The Pharisees were the Jewish people who believed in the strictest following of the law. He was a person of privilege. Being a person of privilege means you have special rights or advantages that other people don’t have. His parents had sent him to Jerusalem to get an education in Jewish law.  He studied under a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish courts. He also needed to learn a trade according to Jewish law.  He probably learned to make tents.  

He supervised the persecutions of early Christians.  He was present when Saint Stephen was martyred. He was so good at persecuting the early Christians that even his name caused terror to the faithful. He had people pulled from their homes, put them in chains, and sent them to prison. He then seized their property. 

The Conversion is believed to have happened between 33-36 AD.  Saul’s entire life changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul had nearly reached the city of Damascus, at about noon.  He and his men were surrounded by a light brighter than the sun. They heard a voice, but only Saul understood the voice asking, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul was blinded and was taken to a Jew’s house in Damascus.  He didn’t eat or drink for three days. 

Then God told Ananias to go to Saul and heal him. Even Ananias shook at Saul’s name, but he went anyway. Ananias put his hands on Saul and told him Jesus who he had seen on the road was the same Jesus who was now healing him. Something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see.  Saul was baptized, changed his name to Paul.  He stayed with the disciples for a few days before going out and preaching.  

His sudden change must have confused many Jews.  They grew very angry with him, having him arrested and trying to kill him. He became one of the church’s greatest preachers. Paul’s life became about telling and living out the message of the Cross.  

Saint Paul is one of the only saints who has a feast day on his conversion instead of his death.

Pratulin Martyrs

 Russian czars wanted to bring all Eastern-rite Catholics into the Orthodox Church. Catherine II suppressed the Greek Catholic church in Ukraine in 1784. Nicholas I did the same in Belarus and Lithuania in 1839. Alexander II did too, in the Eparchy of Chelm in 1874, and officially suppressed the Eparchy in 1875. The bishop and the priests who refused to join the Orthodox Church were deported to Siberia or imprisoned. The laity, left on their own, had to defend their Church, their liturgy, and their union with Rome.

 The Pratulin Martyrs were a group of 13 Greek Catholic men and boys who were killed by soldiers of the Imperial Russian Army on January 24, 1874, in the village of Pratulin.  Russian authorities forcibly converted all Greek Catholics in Poland to the Russian Orthodox Church. This forced conversion was called the Conversion of Chelm Eparchy.  

The Greek Catholic community protested the force to Russians and confiscation of the church by gathering in front of the church.  Soldiers tried to disperse the people but failed. Their commander tried to bribe the parishioners to abandon the Roman Catholic faith but failed. He threaten them with assorted punishments, but this failed to move them. Deciding that a show of force was needed, the commander ordered his troops to fire on the unarmed, hymn-singing laymen. Russian forces killed 13 of the protesters. The Ruthenian Catholic Church has erected a shrine to their memory there. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 6, 1996. In 1998, some of their relics were transferred to the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite church in nearby Kostomłoty, where the Shrine of the Martyrs of Pratulin was established.

We know almost nothing about their lives outside of this incident. Their families were not allowed to honor them or participate in the funerals, and the authorities hoped they would be forgotten. They were

Patron Saint of Toledo Spain – Saint Ildefonsus

Ildefonsus was born December 8, 607, to an important Visigothic family in Toledo Spain, during the reign of Witteric. Civil wars were ongoing throughout the Visigothic kingdom during most of Ildefonsus’ life. His uncle Eugenius, who later became the Bishop of Toledo, taught Ildefonsus.  He began his religious career around 632 when Bishop Eladius of Toledo ordained him as a deacon. Ildefonse did not follow his family’s wishes to become a priest, instead, he became a monk at the Agali monastery outside the city. While he was a monk, he founded and endowed a community of nuns.In 650 Ildefonsus was elected its abbot of Agali. While abbot, he attended two conferences of the Church on the Iberian peninsula.  These were called the 8th and 9th Councils of Toledo. When his uncle Bishop Eugenius II died in 657, Ildefonsus was elected his successor as bishop of Toledo. King Recceswinth made him accept the position, as Ildefonsus later complained to his successor, Bishop Quiricus of Barcelona.

Cixila, Archbishop of Toledo, told the story once, that Ildephonsus was praying one day before the relics of Saint Leocadia when the martyr rose from her tomb and thanked him for the devotion he showed towards the Mother of God.  It was reported that on December 18, 665 he experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin when she appeared to him in person and presented him with a priestly vestment, to reward him for honoring her. As Bishop Ildefonsus and the congregation sang Marian hymns, light engulfed the church, causing most worshippers to flee. Ildefonsus stayed with a few deacons, saw Mary descend and sit in the priest’s chair.  She praised Ildefonsus for his devotion and gave him a special chasuble.  She told him to wear it only during Marian festivals.
Ildefonsus died after a decade as a Bishop on January 23, 667.  He was buried at his basilica, Toledo’s Church of Santa Leocadia. Even during the Muslim occupation, when the basilica was converted into a mosque, the area where the vision occurred remained sacred and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.