Posted in PATRONAGE - GARDENERS, FARMERS, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 23 July – St Phocas the Gardener (Died c 303) Martyr

Saint of the Day – 23 July – St Phocas the Gardener (Died c 303) Layman Martyr, Apostle of the poor and needy. Died by beheading c 303 in Sinope, Pontus (in modern Turkey). Also known as – Phocas of Hovenier, Phocas of Sinop, Focas, Fokas. Patronages – against insect bites, against poisoning, against snake bites, agricultural workers, farm workers, farmers, field hands, boatmen, mariners, sailors, watermen, gardeners, husbandmen, market-gardeners.

Christian gardener who lived at Sinope, in Paphiagonia, on the Black Sea and was put to death during the persecutions launched by Emperor Diocletian. Phocas is sometimes confused with Phocas of Antioch, although there is no doubt about the historical act of his martyrdom. According to tradition, he gave welcome to the Roman soldiers sent to find and execute him and, as they did not know who he was, he agreed to take them to the Phocas whom they sought. After giving them a meal and allowing them to sleep in his house, he went out and dug his own grave, using the rest of the night to prepare his soul. In the morning, he led them to his prepared grave and informed them of his identity. When they were aghast and hesitated to slay him, he encouraged them to complete their task and behead him. He is especially venerated in the East and was long considered a Patron Saint for gardeners and farmers.

Phocas dwelt near the gate of Sinope, a city of Pontus and lived by cultivating a garden, which yielded him a handsome subsistence and wherewith, plentifully to relieve the indigent and hungry. In his humble profession, he imitated the virtue of the most holy anchorites and seemed, in part restored, to the happy condition of our first parents in Eden. To prune the garden without labour and toil was their sweet employment and pleasure. Since their sin, the earth yields not its fruit but by the sweat of our brow.

But still, no labour is more useful or necessary, or more natural to man and better adapted to maintain in him, vigour of mind and health of body, than that of tillage. Nor does any other part of the universe, rival the innocent charms which a garden presents to all our senses, by the fragrancy of its flowers, by the riches of its produce and the sweetness and variety of its fruits; by the melodious concert of its musicians, by the worlds of wonders which every stem, leaf and fibre exhibit to the contemplation of the inquisitive philosopher and by that beauty and variegated lustre of colours which clothe the numberless tribes of its smallest inhabitants and adorn its shining landscapes, vying with the brightest splendour of the heavens. And in a single lily, surpassing the dazzling lustre, with which Solomon was surrounded on his throne in the midst of all his glory.

And what a field for contemplation does a garden offer to our view in every part, raising our souls to God in raptures of love and praise, stimulating us to fervour, by the fruitfulness with which it repays our labour and multiplies the seed it receives and exciting us to tears of compunction for our insensibility to God, by the barrenness with which it is changed into a frightful desert, unless subdued by assiduous toil!

Our Saint joining prayer with his labour, found in his garden itself, an instructive book and an inexhausted fund of holy meditation. His house was open to all strangers and travellers who had no lodging in the place and after having, for many years most liberally bestowed the fruit of his labour on the poor, he was found worthy also, to give his life for Christ.

Although his profession was obscure and thought lowly by the world, he was well known over the whole country, by the reputation of his charity and virtue.

Posted in PATRONAGE - A HOLY DEATH & AGAINST A SUDDEN DEATH, PATRONAGE - EPILEPSY, PATRONAGE - GARDENERS, FARMERS, PATRONAGE - TRAVELLERS / MOTORISTS, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 25 July – Saint Christopher (Died c 251) Martyr

Saint of the Day – 25 July – Saint Christopher (Died c 251) Martyr and “Christ-Bearer” – Born at Canaan as Offero and Martyred in the reign of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249–251) – Additional Memorials – 9 March (Greek calendar), 9 May (some Eastern calendars), 16 November (Cuba), 10 July (some areas of Spain).   Also known as Christobal, Christoval, Cristobal, Kester, Kitt, Kitts, Offero Patronages – against bad dreams, epileptics; against epilepsy, against floods, against hailstorms, against lightning, against pestilence, against storms, against sudden death, against toothache, Air Forces, archers, motorists, bachelors,bookbinders, bus drivers, taxi drivers, civil aeronautics, fruit dealers, fullers, gardener, of a holy death, truck drivers, mariners, sailors, market carriers, mountain climbers, porters, relief from pestilence, transportation, transportation workers, travellers, travellers in the mountains, Saint Christopher’s Island, Saint Kitts, 13 cities.Borgianni-Orazio-St-Christopher-carrying-the-infant-Christ-c1598-1602-oil-on-canvas-Museo-del-Prado-Madrid.jpg

He was a man of many names, Offero being one of them.   Born in the third century in Asia Minor, son of a king, he would grow to be a restless young man of considerable size. The early years of his life were spent in search of riches, of purpose, of a cause worthy of his allegiance.saint-christopher-carrying-the-christ-child-mateo-cerezo.jpg

As the story goes, a young Offero, looking for the strongest and boldest ruler to follow, briefly courted Satan.   When his new master cowered in fear at a holy cross on the side of a road, Offero abandoned Satan, choosing light over darkness.   During this period of transition, a holy hermit awakened the restless wanderer to Christianity, schooling and baptising him.   From then on, Offero pledged his life to Christ and vowed to serve God’s people along the banks of an untamed river.   So he built a hut and set up camp with a new purpose—to be a boatman to the world.st christopher 5.jpg

His popularity was solidified when a small child once approached him, wanting safe passage across the water.   He hoisted the boy on his shoulders and, with his trusty staff, began the journey.   As the river deepened, the child began to grow heavier.   Waters quickly rising, the precious cargo continued to weigh the giant down.   As he reached the banks of the river, Offero said, “Child, thou hast put me in great peril, thou weighest almost as if I had all the world upon me – I might bear no greater burden.”

“Christopher,” the little boy responded, “thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee but thou hast borne Him that created and made all the world, upon thy shoulders.”

The child instructed Christopher (meaning “Christbearer”) to cross the river again and plant his staff in the ground, telling the ferryman that life would spring forth.   To Christopher’s astonishment, by morning his staff had taken root—bright flowers and fruit grew from it.st christopher.jpg

The rest of Christopher’s life is even sketchier in detail.   One legend states that many in the immediate area converted to Christianity based on his encounter, which drew unwanted attention.   In Lycia—present-day Turkey—under Emperor Decius, he was imprisoned, shot with arrows, burned and then beheaded around 251.

st christopher and st peter
St Christopher and St Peter

Though the life of this mighty martyr was later questioned by historians, Saint Christopher’s story and his worldwide appeal have proven invulnerable.   Amen and alleluia, glory be to God!st christopher lg