Saint of the Day – 11 May – St Mamertus (Died c 475) also known as Mamertius, Mammertus – Archbishop of Vienne in Gaul – present day France, Theologian, Writer, Founder of the introduction of litanies prior to Ascension Day as an intercession against earthquakes and other disasters, called “Rogation Days.” Rogation days are days of prayer and fasting in Western Christianity. They are observed with processions and the Litany of the Saints. The major rogation is held on 25 April, the minor rogations are held on Monday to Wednesday preceding Ascension Thursday. The word rogation comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning “to ask”, which reflects the beseeching of God for the appeasement of His anger and for protection from calamities.
His feast day is the first of the Ice Saint, who are St Mamertus (or, in some countries, St Boniface of Tarsus), St Pancras and St Servatius. They are so named because their feast days fall on the days of 11 May, 12 May and 13 May respectively, known as “the black-thorn winter” in Austrian, Belgian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, North-Italian, Polish, Slovene and Swiss folklore.
Prior to his elevation to the see of Vienne, little has been recorded about Mamertus’ life. The fact that his brother, Claudianus Mamertus, the theological writer, received in his youth a sound training in rhetoric and enjoyed the personal acquaintance of Bishop Eucherius of Lyons (434-50), suggests that the brothers belonged to a wealthy Gallic family from the neighbourhood of Lyons. Like his brother, St Mamertus was distinguished for his secular learning as well as theology and, before his elevation to the episcopate, appears to have been married.
His election and consecration took place shortly before 462. As bishop he enlisted the services of his brother, who had withdrawn to a cloister and ordained him priest of Vienne. The activity of the brothers is described in one letter of Sidonius Apollinaris, while another is addressed to Bishop Mamertus.
St Mamertus was the founder of the Rogation Processions, according to Sidonius Apollinaris and his second successor, Avitus. In connexion with these intercessory processions, Mamertus summoned a synod at Vienne between 471 and 475.
Amidst the scourges of the time, wars, famines and natural disasters, which were seen as divine anger against the sinful lives of the people, which threatened their entire destruction, St Mammertus received a token of the divine mercy. A terrible fire happened in the city of Vienne, which baffled the efforts of men but by the prayers of the good bishop the fire on a sudden went out. This miracle strongly affected the minds of the people. The holy prelate took this opportunity to make them sensible of the necessity and efficacy of devout prayer and formed a pious design of instituting an annual fast and supplication of three days, in which all the faithful should join, with sincere compunction of heart, to appease the divine indignation by fasting, prayer, tears and the confession of sins.
The Church of Auvergne, of which St Sidonius was bishop, adopted this pious institution before the year 475 and it became in a very short time a universal practice.
During his episcopate, the remains of St Ferreolus were discovered and were translated by Mamertus to a church in Vienne, he built in honour of that martyr.
About 475 he attended a synod at Arles, which dealt with the predestination teaching of Lucidus, a Gallic priest. As this is the latest information we possess concerning him, we may assume that he died shortly afterwards.