St Joseph Barsabbas — July 20
Today’s saint is named in the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles. St. Peter wanted to replace Judas after Jesus’ resurrection. Peter asked the community to suggest someone. He wanted a person who had been among the disciples from the time Jesus was baptized by John until the Lord’s death/resurrection. The first Christians proposed two men, both of whom were qualified to be apostles. One was Joseph, called Barsabbas, and the other was Matthias. “One of these men must become a witness with us of Jesus’ resurrection,” Peter said. The community prayed. “Lord,” they said, “you are familiar with each of us here. Help us to know the person who should take the place of Judas.” Then they “cast lots.” The man selected was Matthias. He was added to the company of apostles. Not much is known of Matthias or Joseph Barsabbas. The early Church writer, Eusebius, considered Joseph one of the seventy-two disciples. Soon the disciples spread out and went to other places. This was necessary to avoid persecution. It is believed that Joseph Barsabbas preached in many places. He spent his energy to spread the Good News. Little else is known. In fact, his death is not even recorded. But his love for the Church and his dedication whether he was chosen or not, are his gift to us. St. Joseph Barsabbas focused on living an honest life. He was not interested in positions of power and esteem. That is easier said than practiced. The next time we feel upset because we did not receive the praise we felt we deserved, we can pray to St. Joseph Barsabbas. We can ask him to help us give generously, even when the “other person” is chosen.
Wilgefortis, also known as Liberata, Kummernis in Germany, in England as Uncumber, and in France as Livrade, among other names, her story is a pious fiction more folktale than religious, according to which she was one of nine daughters of a paganPortuguese King. When her father wanted her to marry the King of Sicily, despite her vow of virginity, she prayed for help in resisting the marriage, whereupon she grew a beard and mustache and the suit was withdrawn. Her father was so furious he had her crucified. Father Charles Cahier, S.J., wrote, for my part, I am inclined to think that the crown, beard, gown and gown and cross which are regarded as the attributes of this marvelous maiden (in pictorial representations), are only a pious devotion to the famous crucifix of Lucca, somewhat gone astray. This famous crucifix was completely dressed and crowned, as were many others of the same period. In course of time, the long gown caused it to be thought that the figure was that of a woman, who on account of the beard was called Vierge-forte. We may add that the crucifix of Lucca was shod with silver to prevent the wearing away of the wood by the kissing of the feet by pilgrims. This also has been turned to the glorification of St. Wilgefortis. For it is said that a poor minstrel playing an air before the saint’s statue was rewarded by her giving him one of her precious shoes. St. Wilgefortis’ feast day is July 20.
St. Apollinaris of Ravenna
According to tradition, he was a native of Antioch in Roman Province of Syria. As the first Bishop of Ravenna, he faced nearly constant persecution. He and his flock were exiled from Ravenna during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source). On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to Saint Romuald.
Other legends have him martyred under the Emperor Valens.
The early 20th-century Catholic Encyclopaedia rendered the traditional version as follows:
He was made Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, by Saint Peter himself. The miracles he wrought there soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the Faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of the idolaters, who beat him cruelly and drove him from the city. He was found half-dead on the seashore, and kept in concealment by the Christians, but was captured again and compelled to walk on burning coals and a second time expelled. But he remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization. We find him then journeying in the Roman province of Aemilia [in Italy]. A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death; but after four days he was put on board a ship and sent to Greece. There the same course of preachings, miracles and sufferings continued; and when his very presence caused the oracles to be silent, he was, after a cruel beating, sent back to Italy. All this continued for three years, and a fourth time he returned to Ravenna. By this time Vespasian was Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was passing out of the gates of the city, was set upon and savagely beaten, probably at Classis, a suburb, but he lived for seven days, foretelling meantime that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph. It is not certain what was his native place, though it was probably Antioch. Nor is it sure that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as has been suggested. The precise date of his consecration cannot be ascertained, but he was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.