Benjamin the Deacon

Benjamin was born around 329.  He was a deacon martyred around 424 in Persia. Christians in Persia, now known as Iran, had had twelve years of peace while Isdegers was the leader.  The peace was broken was Abdas, a Christian Bishop burned the Temple of Fire an important place of worship for the Persians.  This great answered the King.  He threatened to destroy all the Christian churches until the Bishop would rebuild the Temple of Fire.  

Abadas refused.  The King did as he said.  The Churches were demolished.  Abdas was put to death, and general persecution of all Christians because.  King Isdegerddied in 421, but his son, Varanes,  carried on with the persecutions. 

Benjamin was one caught up in the general persecutions.  He was imprisoned for a year for his Christian faith.  He was released with the condition that he stop preaching or speaking of his faith. The Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II through an ambassador had arranged for his release.  However, Benjamin declared that it was his duty to preach about Christ and that he could not be silent.

For this, Benjamin was tortured mercilessly until his death.  Sharpened reeds were stuck under the nails of his fingers and toes.  Then they would be removed and then reinserted.  Finally, a stake was thrust into his bowels, to tear them.  He was tortured to death in 424.

Ludovico da Casoria

Arcangelo Palmentieri was born near Naples, Italy on March 11, 1814.  He was an appearance cabinet maker as a young man. On July 1, 1832, he became a novitiate of the Order of Friars Minor, taking the name Ludovico. Five years later he was ordained and appointed to teach philosophy, mathematics, and chemistry to the younger members of the Order at the Franciscan priory of Saint Peter in Naples.

Ludovico reported having a mystical experience in 1847.  He then spent the rest of his life working to care for the poor and needy.  He founded pharmacies and orphanages. In 1852, he opened a school for the education of African boys and girls saved from slavery. He also founded institutions for the deaf and the mute. He also worked to provide care for the elderly members of his own Order. In addition to an infirmary for friars of his province, he began charitable institutes in Naples, Florence, and Assisi.

In 1859, on the advice of his superiors, he began a community of men as a religious congregation of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. The group included men who had been  Secular Franciscans. They became known as the Gray Friars of Charity because of the gray color of the Franciscan religious habit. Three years later, he began a congregation of religious women, the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth.  He placed the congregation under the protection of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She had been one of the first members of the Third Order of Saint Francis and its patron saint.

The work of the friars came to the United States.  They served the Italian American community in New Jersey.  The Pope formally approved the friars in 1877. Due to the small number of members still in the congregation, the Pope disbanded the friars in 1971. A new group of men and women, dedicated to his vision, however, currently exists in the process of forming.  The Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth currently serve in Italy, the United States of America, Ethiopia, India, Panama, and the Philippines.

Ludovico became sick with a serious and painful illness in 1876.  He never completely recovered and died nine years later, on March 30, 1885.  Within months of his death, the cause for his canonization was introduced in Rome. Pope John Paul II beatified him on April 18, 1993, and Pope Francis canonized him on 23 November 23, 2014.

Patron saint of divorced people and reformed murderers – Saint Gontrand

Saint Gontrand was born around 532 in Soissons was the king of the Kingdom of Orléans from 561 to 592. He was the third oldest and second oldest surviving son of Chlothar I and Ingunda. When his father died in 561, he became king of a fourth of the Kingdom of the Franks and made his capital at Orléans. His name means “War Raven”.

St. Gregory of Tours, often called him “good king Gontrand” The king Gontrand first took a mistress,  Veneranda, a slave belonging to one of his people.   He had a son, Gundobad, with her.  He later married Marcatrude and sent his son Gundobad to Orléans. She had a son Marcatrude and was jealous so she arranged for Gundobad’s death. She sent poison and poisoned his drink. Her son later died, with the king hating her.  She was dismissed by him and died soon after.   Then he took Austerchild, also named Bobilla. They had two sons Clothar and Chlodomer.

Gontrand became overcome with remorse for the sins of his past life and spent the rest of his life repenting of them for himself and for his nation. He fasted, prayed, wept, and offered himself to God. For the rest of his time as king, he tried to govern by Christian principles. According to St. Gregory of Tours, he was the protector of the oppressed.  He cared for the sick caregiver to the sick and cared for his subjects. He was generous with money, especially in times of plague and famine. He strictly and justly enforced the law, no matter who the person was.  He was also quick to forgive offenses against himself, including two attempts to assassinate him.  Gontrand provided funds to build and endow several churches and monasteries. St. Gregory related that the king performed many miracles both before and after his death, some St. Gregory claimed to have witnessed himself.

In 567, his older brother Charibert I died and his Kingdom of Paris lands were divided between the surviving brothers: Gontrand, Sigebert I, and Chilperic I. They shared his realm.  At first, they agreed to share Paris. Charibert’s widow, Theudechild, proposed marriage with Gontrand, the oldest remaining brother.  A council had been held in Paris in 557, had forbidden those kinds of relationships as incestuous. Gontrand decided to house her in a monastery in Arles.

In 573, Gontrand was in a civil war with his brother Sigebert I of Austrasia,  In 575, he formed an alliance with Chilperic I of Soissons. He reversed this allegiance later, because of Chilperic’s character.  He then remained an ally of Sigebert, his wife, and his sons until his death. In 575, when Sigebert was assassinated Chilperic invaded the kingdom, but Gontrand sent his general to remove him.

In 577, Chlothar and Clodomir, his two surviving children, died of dysentery and he adopted as his son and heir Childebert II, his nephew, Sigebert’s son, whose kingdom he had saved two years before.  Childebert wasn’t always faithful to his uncle. In 581, Chilperic took many of Gontrand’s cities, and in 583, he allied with Childebert and attacked Gontrand. This time Gontrand made peace with Chilperic and Childebert retreated.

In 584, he invaded Childebert’s land and captured Tours and Poitiers, but he had to leave to attend the baptism of Chlothar II, his other nephew.  Chlothar II, now ruled in Neustria.

In 584 or 585, Gundowald claimed to be an illegitimate son of Chlothar I and proclaimed himself king, taking some major cities in southern Gaul, including Poitiers and Toulouse, which belonged to Gontrand.

In 587, Fredegund attempted to assassinate him but failed.
Gontrand died at Chalon-sur-Saône in 592, and his nephew Childebert II succeeded him. He was buried in the Church of Saint Marcellus, which he had founded in Chalon. Almost immediately, his subjects proclaimed Gontrand a saint. His feast day is on March 28.

Augusta of Treviso

Saint Augusta of Treviso is venerated as a virgin martyr. Augusta was the daughter of Matrucus, pagan chief of the Alemanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes that lived on the upper Rhine river.  Matrucus had conquered the Friulians, who had been Christianized and ruled over them.   Augusta converted to Christianity secretly. Matrucus, began to suspect that the Christian Friulians were influencing her daughter with their faith and so sent spies to watch her day and night.  The spies returned and confirmed his worst fears – she had indeed become Christian and had been caught praying at night. He imprisoned her,  Viciously, he and his men beat her, yelling at her to recant her faith and return to their pagan ways. Between blows she struggled to pray to Christ, refusing to recant. Eventually, he kicked Saint Augusta so hard that he knocked out all of her teeth. Through crying eyes, she held on in prayer.

Her enraged father then tortured and decapitated her with his sword at Serravalle, a district of present-day Italy, around 100 AD.

Her feast day is celebrated on March 27th. Augusta’s relics are said to have been found a few years after her death on the hill called Santa Augusta.

Basil the Younger

We don’t know much about the early life of Saint Basil the Younger.  It is suggested he was born around 834.  As a young man, Basil began living as a Hermit near Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, Turkey.  He spoke out against the immoral lifestyles of the aristocracy including Princess Anastasia, which likely brought about his persecution.

People close to the Byzantine emperor were concerned about the way Basil looked and were more concerned by the way he influenced people, had him arrested and questioned as a spy.  

Basil wouldn’t answer their questions, but would only say he was a pilgrim and a stranger on earth.  

He survived their cruel tortures and being thrown to the lions.  He was unharmed. His executioners also tried to have him drowned but he was saved by two dolphins.  After these miracles, he was released.  Many faithful came to his hermitage for healing, prophecy, and instruction. 
Basil is said to have died on March 26, during Lent, 944.  He reportedly lived until he was 110 years old.