Saints Cyrus and John

Saints Cyrus and John are venerated as martyrs. They are especially venerated by the Coptic Church and called Wonderworking Unmercenaries because they healed the sick free of charge.

There is little information about Saints Cyrus and John who are venerated as martyrs especially in Coptic Catholic Church.  There is no surviving information about the parents, birth, or the early years of these men.  Most of the information that does still exists comes from Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who died in 638.   Some sources indicate Cyrus and John were both Alexandrians; other sources say Cyrus was a native of Alexandria and John of Edessa.  

Cyrus practiced medicine and had a workshop which was changed into a church dedicated to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ministered to the sick without charge and also worked as a disciple of the Faith.  He converted many people from pagan superstition. He would say, “Whoever wishes to avoid being ill should refrain from sin, for sin is often the cause of bodily illness.” This took place under Emperor Diocletian. He was turned in to authorities.  He fled to Arabia where he took refuge in a town near the sea called Tzoten. While there he became a monk, gave up his practice of medicine, and began his life as a hermit.  

John belonged to the army, in which he held a high rank.  He was well known by Emperor Diocletian.  He heard about Cyrus and his work. John went to Jerusalem in fulfillment of a vow, and then to Alexandria and finally to Arabia where he became the companion of St. Cyrus as a hermit.

Martyrdom of Cyrus and John
During the persecution of Diocletian,  three holy virgins, fifteen-year-old Theoctista, Theodota, thirteen years old, and Theodossia, eleven years old, together with their mother Athanasia, were arrested at Canopus and brought to Alexandria. Cyrus and John were afraid these girls might deny their faith because of their age, innocents, and the viciousness of their torture.   Cyrus and John decided to go into the city to comfort and encourage them to remain faithful even to martyrdom.  When this became known they were also arrested, tortured and they were all beheaded on the 31st of January.

Saint Balthild, Queen

Balthild was born in 626.  She was beautiful, intelligent, modest, and cared about the needs of others. Balthild was sold into slavery as a young girl and served in the household of Archibald, the mayor of the palace of Neustria to Clovis. Archibald’s first wife had died.  He was attracted to Balthild and wanted to marry her, but she did not want to marry him. She hid and waited until Archibald had remarried. Because of Archibald, Clovis noticed her and asked her to marry him.  

Balthild remained humble and modest, even as queen. She is famous for her charitable service and generous donations. She donated enough to have the abbeys of Corbie and Chelles were founded.  She also helped fund the abbeys at Jumièges, Jouarre, and Luxeuil were also founded.  She provided support for Claudius of Besançon and his abbey in the Jura Mountains.

Balthild had three of Clovis’ sons.  All three became kings.  When Clovis died, around 657, his oldest son Clotaire succeeded to the throne. His mother Balthild acted as the queen regent. As queen, she was a capable stateswoman. She abolished the trading of Christian slaves.  She tried to free the children who had been sold into slavery like she had.  Balthild and Eligius worked together on their favorite charity, the buying and freeing of slaves.  After a time, Balthild withdrew to her favorite Abbey of Chelles near Paris.  

Balthild died on 30 January 30, 680, and was buried at the Abbey of Chelles. Balthild was canonized by Pope Nicholas.

Gildas the Wise

Saint Gildas the Elder also known as Gildas the Wise was born around 500 in the Kingdom of Strathclyde, which was one of the early medieval kingdoms of the Britons, this is now part of southern Scotland and northern England. 
There are different versions of the Life of Saint Gildas.  He was the son of a royal family. Caunus, king of Alt Clut in the Hen Ogledd, in the region of northern Britain. He had four brothers.  His brother Cuillum became kind when his father died.  The rest of the brothers became monks. Gildas was sent as a child to the College of Theodosius.  He was under the care of St Illtud He was supposed to be educated in liberal arts and divine scripture, but Gildas decided to study only holy doctrine, and give up his royalty for a religious life, as a monk.  He was then asked by Ainmericus, king of Ireland to restore order to the church in Ireland. Gildas obeyed the king’s summons and traveled all over the island, converting the inhabitants, building churches, and establishing monasteries. He then traveled to Rome where he performed many miracles, including slaying a dragon while in Rome. Intending to return to Britain, he instead settled on the Isle of Houat off Brittany where he led a hermit’s life. His life of solitude didn’t last long.  Students came looking for him and begged him to teach them.  He eventually founded a monastery for these students at Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys in Brittany.  After he founded his monastery he stay and wrote criticizing British rulers and telling them to turn from their sin and embrace the true Christian faith. He is thought to have died at Rhuys and was buried there.

He was then asked by Ainmericus, king of Ireland to restore order to the church in Ireland. Gildas obeyed the king’s summons and traveled all over the island, converting the inhabitants, building churches, and establishing monasteries. He then traveled to Rome where he performed many miracles, including slaying a dragon while in Rome. Intending to return to Britain, he instead settled on the Isle of Houat off Brittany where he led a hermit’s life.
He died at Rhuys on 29 January 29, 570, and his body was placed on a boat and allowed to drift, according to his wishes. Three months later, on May 11, men from Rhuys found the ship in a creek with the body of Gildas still intact. They took the body back to Rhuys and buried it there.

Gildas was a subject of the mythical King Arthur, whom he loved and desired to obey

Gildas is best known for writing De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Gildas’ explains his work and gives a brief narrative of Roman Britain from its conquest under the Principate to Gildas’ time. He describes the Romans and the Groans of the Britons when the Britons make one last request for military aid from the departed Roman military. He condemns five British kings, Constantine, Aurelius Conanus, Vortiporius, Cuneglas, and Maelgwn. Then talks about the clergy of the time.

Gildas’ relics were venerated in the abbey at Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys where they are visible at various times of the year at a dedicated “treasury” in the village. Gildas is the patron saint of several churches and monasteries in Brittany, and his feast day is celebrated on January 29.

Saint Joseph Freinademetz

Saint Joseph Freinademetz was the fourth of 13 children of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz in the Austrian Empire, now a part of Italy. He studied theology and was ordained a priest on July 25, 1875. As a priest, he was assigned to the community not far from his home.

During his studies and the three years after Freinademetz always felt a calling to be a missionary. He contacted Arnold Janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary order in the Netherlands. With the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to the Society of the Divine Word Order in the Netherlands,  in August 1878. There he received training as a missionary.

In March 1879, he and Johann Baptist von Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong.  They arrived five weeks later and stayed there for two years. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung Peninsula until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. In 1881 they moved to the Province of Shantung, where they had been assigned. When they arrived, there were 12 million people living in thet province and 158 had been baptized.Freinademetz was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests. He wrote a catechism in Chinese.  He considered it an important part of their missionary work.  In 1898, he was sick with laryngitis and tuberculosis, the bishop and other priests convinced him to go to Japan to recuperate. He returned but was still not fully cured. When Anzer had to leave China for a journey to Europe in 1907, the administration of the diocese was assigned to Freinademetz.

There was an outbreak of typhus at this time.   He helped wherever he could until he became ill, and eventually died, on January 28, 1908.

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