Saint of the Day – 30 June – St Donatus of Münstereifel (c 140-c 180) Martyr, Roman Soldier , Confessor.. miracle-worker. Born in c 140 in Rome, Italy and died in c 180 in modern Hungary. He was buried by his mother in the Saint Agnes Catacomb outside Rome. Patronages – against lightning, against storms, against fire, bakers, wine makers, Buda, Hungary, Saint Donatus, Iowa (named in his honour by Luxembourgish immigrants). Additional Memorials – 2nd Sunday in May (Euskirchen, Germany during which a fair is held), 2nd Sunday in July (Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany during which a pilgrimage to his relics is held), 7 August (Balaton wine region in Hungary during which his intercession is asked for the wine harvest). Also known as – Donato.
Saint Donatus was a 2nd-century Roman soldier and Martyr. His parents were named Faustus and Flaminia. When Faustus was deathly ill, his wife Flaminia sought the intercession of Saint Gervasius, who assured her that her husband would recover and beget a son . This came to pass and Flaminia named the boy Donatus, which means “gift.” She educated him in the Christian faith. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the famed 12th Legion “Fulminatrix”, i.e., the “Thundering Legion.”. He rapidly rose through the ranks and soon became a personal bodyguard to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
In the year 173, the 12th Legion was engaged in the Marcomannic Wars in Moravia along the Danube frontier. According to the contemporary writer Dio Cassius, part of the legion was surrounded and nearly overwhelmed when it was miraculously saved by a divine thunderstorm. Cassius attributed the thunderstorm to the invocation of Mercurius by Aurelius’ Egyptian sorcerer, Arnuphis but Tertullian and other Christian writers, ascribed the miracle to the prayers of the many Christians in that Legion. Later legend credited Donatus as the leader of the Christians’ prayers. After the miracle, Donatus gave thanks to God and he was Martyred by the Emperor.
He was buried by his mother in the Catacombs of Saint Agnes. Over the centuries, access to the Catacombs was lost. In 1646, the Catacombs were re-opened and the relics of Donatus and many other Saints were re-discovered. Pope Innocent X bequeathed Donatus’s relics to the Jesuit Church in Muenster Eifel and they were carried in procession from Rome to the Rhineland. On 30 June 1652 the relics were at St Martin’s Church in Euskirchen. as a Jesuit priest, Fr Heerde, was saying Mass in the morning, at the conclusion of Benediction, lightning struck the Church and set the Altar and the Priest on fire. He immediately invoked the aid of Saint Donatus and was miraculously restored unharmed. This miracle spread the fame of the Roman Martyr throughout the region.
Saint Donatus is a Patron against lightning strikes. His cultus is closely linked to that of Saint Florian, who is the protector against May frost. The two together are often invoked to protect the wine harvest, particularly in Hungary. Although he is not in the Roman Martyrology, he shares an additional feast day with his namesake, Saint Donatus of Arezzo, on 7 August. He is also commonly venerated today, the anniversary of his miracle in Euskirchen. There is an annual fair in his honour in Euskirchen on the 2nd Sunday of May. The Archdiocese of Cologne sponsors an annual pilgrimage to Bad Muenstereifel on the 2nd Sunday of July. In Hungary, where he has a widespread cult in the Balaton wine region, his protection for the vintage is asked on7 August He is depicted in art wearing Roman armor, and armed with a thunderbolt.