Saint of the Day – 23 February – St Serenus the Gardener (Died 307) Martyr – born in Greece and was beheaded on 23 February 303 at Sirmiun, Pannonia (modern Hungary). Patronages – bachelors, falsely accused people, gardeners.
Serenus was by birth a Grecian. He left his family estate, friends and country to serve God in celibacy, penance and prayer. With this design he bought a garden in Sirmium in Pannonia, which he cultivated with his own hands and lived on the fruits and herbs it produced.
One day a woman came to his garden with her two daughters. Serenus, seeing them come up, advised them to withdraw and to conduct themselves in future as decency required in persons of their sex and condition. The woman, stung at our Saint’s charitable remonstrance, retired in confusion but resolved on revenging the supposed affront. She accordingly wrote to her husband that Serenus had insulted her.
He, on receiving her letter, went to the emperor to demand justice, whereupon the emperor gave him a letter to the governor of the province to enable him to obtain satisfaction. The governor ordered Serenus to be immediately brought before him. Serenus, on hearing the charge, answered, “I remember that, some time ago, a lady came into my garden at an unseasonable hour and I own I took the liberty to tell her it was against decency for one of her sex and quality to be abroad at such an hour.” This plea of Serenus having put the officer to the blush for his wife’s conduct, he dropped his prosecution.
But the governor, suspecting by this answer that Serenus might be a Christian, began to question him, saying, “Who are you and what is your religion?” Serenus, without hesitating one moment, answered, “I am a Christian. It seemed a while ago as if God rejected me as a stone unfit to enter His building but He has the goodness to take me now to be placed in it; I am ready to suffer all things for His name, that I may have a part in His kingdom with His Saints” The governor, hearing this burst into rage and said, “Since you sought to elude by flight the emperor’s edicts and have positively refused to sacrifice to the gods, I condemn you for these crimes to lose your head.”
The sentence was no sooner pronounced than the Saint was carried off and beheaded, on 23 February, in 307.