Saint of the Day – 4 January – Saint Pharaildis of Ghent (c 650-c 740) Virgin, although married, she remained a virgin during her marriage, apostle of charity, miracle-worker. Born in c 650 in Ghent, Belgium and died in c 740 of natural causes. Patronages – against childhood diseases, of toothache, difficult marriages, poultry, victims of abuse, widows, Ghent, Belgium, Smetlede, Belgium, Bruay, France. Also known as – Farahilde, Farailde, Pharaild, Pharailde, Pherailde, Vareide, Varelde, Veerhilde, Veerle, Verylde. The name of this Saint, very popular in Flanders, varies according to the various local dialects.
The Roman Martyrology states: ”In Bruay-sur-l’Escaut near Valencienne nell’Artois in Neustria, in modern-day ||Belgium, Saint Pharaildis, widow, who, forced to marry a violent man, is said to have embraced a life of prayer and austerity until old age.”
A native of a noble Belgium family, Pharaildis was the daughter of the Duke of Lotharingia called Witger and St Amalberga of Maubeuge. Her sister was Saint Gudule (c 646-c 700) and they were nieces of Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (c 628- 659).
After making a private vow of virginity, Pharaildis was given in marriage against her will, to a noble and rich suitor who treated her brutally, perhaps because she, who had consecrated her virginity to God, preferred to spend the nights in prayer in the Churches of the City rather than in the nuptial bed.
When Pharaildis was widowed, she was still a virgin and dedicated herself to charity.
Pharaildis is often depicted with a loaf or loaves of bread, in memory of one of her miracles, when she turned the loaves, into stone, that a miserly woman had refused to give to a beggar. She is also invoked by mothers concerned about their children’s health and against toothache.
A legend has it that to water thirsty reapers, Pharaildis made a spring gush out, whose waters were considered therapeutic.
The cult of Pharaildis has been documented as early as the eighth century. About the year 754, Agilfrid, Abbot of Saint Bavo’s Abbey, acquired her relics and brought them to Ghent. , where her feast is celebrated today.
Madonna delle Rose / Our Lady of the Rose s(Albano Sant’Alessandro, Italy) (1417) – 4 January:
A few kilometers from Bergamo, on the way to Trescore Balneario , in a pleasant plain, lies Albano St. Alexander , a Town famous for its Roman origin and for many historical events and bloody battles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Today it is famous for the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of the Roses.
Until 1855, anyone travelling along this road came upon a small, rustic Chapel that appeared to manifest nothing special, neither painted nor written, which makes the unique devotion it attracted even more amazing. The Parish Priest of Albano, zealous and pious , devoted himself to research among the ancient documents the history of this powerful devotion. From this story , printed in Bergamo in 1880 , we are able to establish the origin of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Roses in Albano St. Alexander.
The events of the night between 3 and 4 January 1417, are as follows: – two Roman merchants travelling from Bergamo to Brescia, got lost and found themselves in a thicket near the Village called Albano. Bergamo is only eight miles away but for them, in the dark, between bushes and marshes covered by snow, they felt as if they would never find their way and would die of cold and fear . They turned so fervently to the Madonna with invocations and a vow to build a Chapel, if they would be rescued. Suddenly rays of bright light penetrated the darkness and a strip of luminous light shows them the way. With hearts relieved and grateful, they followed the light to the path and heard “This is the way, walk in it,” until its junction with the main road. Accompanied by a friendly glow they very quickly reached the City of Bergamo .
Desiring to thank the Blessed Virgin , they went to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore but given the hour of the night, it was closed. They found shelter in the nearby ruined tower, ruined by war. There, a great light stopped them and they saw the Immaculate Virgin sitting on a wreath of roses, which surrounded her completely, quite high up from the ground. The Blessed Virgin held the Divine Child close to her breast and the Child Jesus held, in one hand, a small bouquet of white roses, in the act of offering them to His Mother. The eyes of the Blessed Virgin and of the Divine Child, were turned compassionately towards the two merchants, who prostrated themselves at this heavenly vision.
Since that night, the site of the apparition was called “the Hill of Roses.” When day came, the merchants spread the news and attended at the Bishop’s house. After much investigation and many miracles at the Hill of Roses, the Bishop confirmed the miraculous event, judging it as a heavenly sign of mercy and protection for the City of Bergamo beset by many problems, for Italy plagued by discord and enmity, for the Church, torn by division and schism.
St Bernardine of Siena, who at this time was in Bergamo, was appointed as the final arbiter of the Blessing of Our Lady of the Night and of the Hill of Roses. The same Saint also had a vision of the Madonna in the same year, in Siena . The Holy Virgin appeared with great splendour to him, promising to help him in his mission to convert sinners.
All were eager to erect a Church in gratitude for so many graces from the Virgin Mary, The new Pope, Martin V also appointed in 1417, authorised the construction of a new Church. The two blessed visionaries returned to Albano to the site where they had been lost and seen the immense light. ,They bought the land at the place where the path of light guided them to Bergamo and there built the Chapel that would, for 438 years, in future generation,s attract the devotion of countless numbers of the faithful , until 1855. Then a terrible cholera epidemic ravaged the area and by unanimous vote of the population , they erected a new Sanctuary to the Blessed Virgin in thanksgiving and veneration. The epidemic subsided and on 20 September 1855 the construction of the Sanctuary began. The apse and dome of the Church are decorated with frescoes by Luigi Tagliaferri, the walls are adorned with paintings of the Nativity of Mary and the Descent of Jesus from the Cross by Vittorio Manini, the central painting above the High Altar depicting the Apparition to the two merchants and the medallions of the vault, are by Arturo Compagnoni. The Madonna of the Roses was canonically crowned in 1917. The terrible war that plagues the whole world prevented the solemn ceremony, which only occurred on 14 September 1920 celebrated by Don Mario Morra SDB.
St Celsus of Trier Bl Chiara de Ugarte St Chroman St Dafrosa of Acquapendente St Ferreolus of Uzès St Gaius of Moesia St Gregory of Langres St Hermes of Moesia St Libentius of Hamburg Bl Louis de Halles
St Mavilus of Adrumetum St Neophytos St Neopista of Rome St St St Oringa of the Cross Bl Palumbus of Subiaco St Pharaildis of Ghent (c 650-c 740) Virgin St Rigobert of Rheims Bl Roger of Ellant St Stephen du Bourg St Theoctistus
Martyrs of Africa – 7 saints: A group of Christians martyred together in the persecutions of the Arian Vandal king Hunneric. Saint Bede wrote about them. – Aquilinus, Eugene, Geminus, Marcian, Quintus, Theodotus and Tryphon. In 484 in North Africa.
Martyrs of Rome – 3 saints: Three Christians martyred together in the persecutions of Julian the Apostate for refusing to renounce Christianity as ordered. – Benedicta, Priscillianus and Priscus. In 362 in Rome, Italy.