Saint of the Day – 11 February – Saint Lazarus of Milan (Died 449) Archbishop of Milan from 438 to 449.
We have almost no information about the life and episcopate of St Lazarus, though his name means “he who is assisted by God.” He probably studied in Milan and is reported to have been of stern appearance. A late tradition, with little historical basis, associates Lazarus with the Milan’s family of the Beccardi. It is believed that he resisted the Manichaeans, in the footsteps of St Pope Leo the Great.
St Lazarus became Bishop of Milan in 438. The times were volatile and troublesome, for the Goths were ravaging Italy and were masters of Milan but although Lazarus had much to suffer at their hands, he ruled his flock prudently and faithfully.
St Magnus Felix Ennodius (c 473-521), the Bishop of Pavia and Rhetorician and Poet (Feast day – 17 July), includes him in a list of twelve holy Bishops of Milan, of whom St Ambrose was the first and most eminent.
Lazarus is chiefly remembered in connextion with the Rogationtide litanies which, it is believed, he was the first to introduce. To invoke the protection of God at that distressful period, he ordered a three days’ fast with processions, litanies and visits to various Churches from the Monday to the Wednesday within the Octave of the Ascension. Afterwards, it is believed that St Mamertus introduced these litanies into the Diocese of Vienne and changed the date to the three days before Ascension day. The first Council of Orleans (511) ordered that this observance should be general throughout France and it spread quickly to England and elsewhere.
Later still, Archbishop Stephen Nardini and St Charles Borromeo did much to encourage and establish this custom in Milan, which continues to the present day. 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.
Lazarus died on 14 March in the year 449, after having been the Archbishop of Milan for eleven years but his Feast is kept on today, 11 February because Saints’ days are not celebrated during Lent, in the Diocese of Milan which, as is well known, follows its own Ambrosian rite.