Saint of the Day – 14 November – Saint Serapion of Algiers OdeM (c 1179–1240) Mercedarian Priest and Martyr, Soldier and Crusader, Born in c 1179 as Serapion Scott in the British Isles and died by being crucified, stabbed and dismembered alive in Algeria in 1240. He was the first of his Order to merit the Palm of Martyrdom. Patronages – against arthritis, of the Diocese of Azul, Argentina. Also known as – Serapion of the Bristish Isles, Serapio, Serapius.
The Roman Martyrology states today: “At Algiers in Africa, the blessed Serapion, of the Order of Our Blessed Lady of Ransom, for the Redemption of the faithful in captivity and the preaching of the Christian Faith. He was the first of his Order to deserve the Palm of Martyrdom by being crucified and cut to pieces.”
Serapion was a noble, born at the turn of the year 1178 in the British Isles and was a relative of the Scottish Monarch. And even though the exact dates of his childhood and youth are unknown, later on, he is seen at the side of King Richard the Lionhearted on the Third Crusade, fighting for the Faith and for the liberation of the land where Jesus lived. Even then, he was busy caring for the captives who were being liberated in Palestine.
He too suffered in prison at the hands of the Duke of Austria, until he was set free by the latter’s son, Leopold VII, whom he went on to accompany in the battles against the Saracens in Spain, at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. After the victory, he retired to Burgos, leaving that City to accompany Leonore of Castile in 1221, who was headed to Aragon to marry King James I.
In the following year, he became acquainted with Saint Peter Nolasco in Daroca and entered the Order of Mercy.
Impelled by charity for the captives, he carried out several redemptions. In 1229, on one of the redemption missions, he was accompanied by Saint Raymond Nonnatus in 1229 and ransomed more than 150 captives. During the redemption mission in 1240, which he carried out with his companion Fr Berenguer de Bañares in Algiers, he was taken hostage. Saint Peter Nolasco wrote to Fr Guillermo de Bas, asking him to collect–without delay–the necessary goods with which to come to the aid of the redeemer. Since they did not have the price of ransom in time, St Serapion was crucified on a cross like Saint Andrew, suffering a cruel Martyrdom, as reflected in the Mercedarian iconography. He is said to have pronounced the following words while hanging on the cross:
“O sweet and precious wood, the perfect image of the Wood on which my beloved Jesus died, through you, I hope to ascend to eternal happiness!”
Because of his cruel martyrdom on the cross, he is the Patron Saint of those who suffer bone and joint paints. The blessing of oil in his honour is an ancient tradition of the Order that is included in the current Ritual.
Saint Serapion appears in the ancient Mercedarian liturgy, specifically in the 1560 Breviary of Master General Miguel Puig, with a proper antiphon and prayer.
His process of Beatification was started in 1717 in Barcelona and Genoa, conducted by Manuel Ribera and José Rimón as procurators. On 14 July 1728, a decree was issued confirming his immemorial cult. he was Canonised on 14 April 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII and on 24 August 1743, he was included in the Roman Martyrology.