St Stephen the ProtoMartyr (c 05-c 34) (Feast) The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
St Stephen’s Story:
Madonna della Acheropita, Maria Santissima Acheropita / Our Lady of Acheropita, Rossano, Italy (1140) – 26 December:
The Abbot Orsini relates: “Tradition has it that one night, a woman in great brightness appeared to a watchman on duty where a new Church was being built in Rossano, Italy. She asked him to withdraw from the place. The next morning there was seen in the building a picture of the Blessed Virgin, painted but not by the hand of man. For that reason it came to be called “Acheropita,” not made by human hands.”
The latest historical research has established that the image of Acheropita – a fresco on a pillar – was found in a small Chapel near the cave of one of the many hermits who formed the aura of Saint Nicholas of Vallone in the 6th century.
It seems a holy hermit named Ephrem was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the year 580, a certain Captain Mauricio, was deflected from his course by the winds and landed near present day Rossano. The hermit Ephrem went to meet him with the strange sounding greeting of:
“It was not the winds that brought you here but Our Lady, for once you are appointed emperor, you will build a Church here.”
A mere two year later, in the year 582, Mauritius was crowned Emperor and remembering the prophesy, had artists brought to the cave to paint a fitting image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although the artists toiled all day, during the night their work always mysteriously disappeared. The Governor, unsure of what was happening, ordered that the cave be guarded at night.
That night as the guards went about their duty in front of the cave, a young woman of rare beauty came out of nowhere amidst a bright light wearing a white silk cape. She asked the guard to depart from the site, which they did. Informed the next morning of what had happened, the Governor went to the Church. To everyone’s surprise he observed an image that perplexed him, for painted on the bottom of the inner wall was a beautiful picture of Our Lady, similar to the Byzantine icons he had seen before. It was exactly where his artists had been trying in vain to draw the image.
The news of the miracle soon spread throughout the City. The faithful began arriving to the place, shouting in wonder and cheering in tears with songs of praise, “Acheropita! Acheropita!”
The image became an object of veneration for the people of Rossano and a new Church had to be built to satisfy popular piety in a more worthy manner. That Church is now known as the Rossano Cathedral, and it was built next to the grotto where the image is still preserved. It is also said, that later, the Saracens attacked, trying to surprise the City of Rossano but they were repulsed by Our Lady, who appeared dressed in purple and holding in her hand a lighted torch. The sight of her majesty terrified the Saracens, who turned and fled.
On 26 May 1949, the Diocesan Cathedral was erected at the Shrine. From 16 August to 16 October 1949, a silver Statue of Our Lady was carried on a triumphal pilgrimage through the Archdiocese. 15 August is the annual date for the celebration of the Madonna Acheropita and it is said that during the celebration a wonderful atmosphere envelops the whole of the City, with the festival offering an opportunity for the faithful to demonstrate their love for the Blessed Virgin.
On 18 June 1950, Cardinal Micara crowned the image of the Blessed Virgin.
St Abadiu of Antinoë
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Bl Bibiana Khamphai
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Bl Daniel of Villiers
St Pope Dionysius (Died 268) Bishop of Rome from 22 July 259 to his death on 26 December 268. According to early Church records, Dionysius was the first pope not Martyred for his Faith.
St Euthymius of Sardis
St Evaristo of Constantinople
Bl Giovanni Orsini
Bl Jean of Hainaut
Bl Lucie Khambang
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Bl Marinus of Rome
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St Tathai of Wales
St Theodore the Sacristan
St Vincenza Maria Lopez (1847- 1890) Religious Sister, Founder of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate.
St Zeno of Gaza
St Pope Zosimus (Died 418) Bishop of Rome from 18 March 417 to his death on 26 December 418.