Saint of the Day – 11 April – Saint Barsanuphius the Hermit (Died c 563) Hermit, Spiritual guide gifted with the charism of Prophecy, miracle-worker – also known as St Barsanuphius of Gaza, of Palestine and of Oria and Barsanofio (Italian). Patronage – Oria, City and Diocese.
Saint Barsanuphius was born in Egypt (the year of his birth is unknown). From his youth, he began to lead an ascetic life. Later he built a cell near the monastery of Saint Seridon of Gaza in Palestine. Locked in his cell, the ascetic led a life of silence. He lived in absolute seclusion for fifty years. ‘United to all and separated from all’. St Barsanuphius devoted himself entirely to prayer and he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection.
After spending a long time in seclusion, Saint Barsanuphius, thereafter and until the death of Saint John the Prophet, began to serve others by instructing them on the path to salvation, as St Dorotheus testifies. Saint Barsanuphius replied to those seeking his spiritual direction through Saint John, sometimes instructing him to give the answers.
It is these letters, of varying length, that constitute the “Correspondence” of Barsanuphius, published with that of St John the Prophet in a Collection . The more than 800 documents preserved, contain, in addition to their spiritual interest, a wealth of information on the situation of the Palestine Church in the sixth century and on the relations of Abbot Seridos’ monastery with the outside world.
The precepts of Saints Barsanuphius and John clearly show the degree of their moral perfection and their love for people but contain scant facts about their lives. Saint Barsanuphius survived his disciple and friend but after St John’s death, embraced complete silence and refused to give answers to anyone. We do not know exactly when Saint Barsanuphius died, some sources say around 563.
His relics arrived in Oria, in Italy, with a Palestinian monk in 850 and were placed in the present-day church of San Francesco da Paola by Bishop Theodosius. During a Moorish siege and taking of the city, the relics were lost but then later rediscovered and placed in the city’s Cathedral Basilica where his feast is celebrated with great devotion, on 20 February each year. The Statue above is in the Basilica and the one at the end is also somewhere in Oria – see the note from the local news there: “Oria: everything is ready for the Feast of the Patron Saint San Barsanofio – At the end of the Mass, after the ritual of the symbolic handover of the keys by the Mayor of Oria to the Statue of San Barsanofio, … a procession will proceed through the City with a stop at the Church of San Francesco di Paola and the crypt of San Barsanofio…”
At Oria he is considered to have saved the city from destruction wrought by foreign invaders. A legend states that he repelled a Spanish invasion by appearing before the Spanish commander armed with a sword. During World War II, he is said to have spread his blue cape across the sky, thus causing a rainstorm and preventing an air bombing by Allied Forces.
From the tenth century onwards, his cult is attested to in Constantinople, where his memory is celebrated in August.