Saints for Holy Week

April 1, 2015

Simon of Cyrene:

  • Simon was from the town called Cyrene, which is in what we now call Libya, and at the time of Christ, it had a population of 100,000 Jews. And because it had so many Jewish people, they maintained a synagogue in Jerusalem as a base for the many feasts people from here attended in the Holy City.
  • All of what we know about Simon is that he was from Cyrene and that he was forced to help Our Lord carry His cross.
  • What we know about his sons, however, may be different. Tradition tells us that their names were Alexander and Rufus, and the Church counts them today as saints.
  • According to tradition, Rufus was a disciple of the apostles living in Rome, and Paul mentions him in Romans 16, and Mark says he and Alexander were Simon's sons. Other than this, we know for certain about Rufus or his brother.

St. Veronica:

  • The first thing we should know about St. Veronica is that this wasn’t her name. Veronica comes from the Latin words for “True Image”: Vero = True; Ica or icon = image. And the reason for this is that a number of places claimed to have the towel with Jesus’ face on it. So to distinguish the one in Rome from other claimants, people took to calling it the vera icon, which became in our language “Veronica.”
  • Also most people don’t realize this: Proof for her is confined to Sacred Tradition. You will not find her mentioned in Sacred Scripture, except maybe by another name, and we just don’t recognize the connection.
  • The story goes after Christ’s death, she brought the towel with her to Rome.
  • Why Rome? Good question.
  • According to legend, she went to Rome, bringing with her this image of Christ. In Eusebius’ History of the Early Church, he writes about how Our Lord received a summons from a governor or ruler to the north, asking Him to come and cure Him. Jesus replied in a letter—to our knowledge the only writing actually attributed to Him—that He would send someone afterward. Supposedly the job was entrusted to St. Jude Thaddeus, who brought with him Veronica’s towel. This is why pictures of him look like he’s wearing a medal with the face of Christ on it.
  • So from early times, miraculous powers were attributed to the towel.
  • Later, Veronica supposedly brought the towel to Rome to heal the very ill Emperor Tiberius.
  • Being that she was already in Italy, she stays in Rome and has an apostolate alongside Ss. Peter and Paul. Following her death, the legend says she gave it to Pope St. Clement, the Church's fourth pontiff, and it became part of Catholicism's patrimony.
  •  If you’re ever in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, right by Bernini’s altar in one of the piers that support the huge dome, you will see a statue of a woman holding a veil etched with Christ’s face. Look above that, and you’ll see what looks like a theatre box. That is actually a chapel, and inside of there is supposedly Veronica’s towel.
  • Some people, however, believe that is actually the towel that covered Christ’s face at His burial, whereas Veronica’s veil is actually housed in the Italian town of Manoppello.
  •  It’s obviously an open question. There are good arguments both ways.

The holy women at the foot of the cross:

  • At the foot of the cross, we had first and foremost the Blessed Virgin.
  • Then next to her was her sister, Mary, wife of Cleophas. Drawing on Mark 15 and Matthew 27, most scholars says she was the mother of St. James the Less and a man named Joseph. Since James and Joseph are counted as "brothers" -- that is relatives -- of Jesus, it is quite likely that Mary was St. Mary's sister-in-law. St. Hegesippus, an early Church historian, says Mary's husband Clopas was St. Joseph's brother, so this would make sense. We can't say for certain, however, because there is some confusion with the names. For instance, if Clopas was James' Father, why does Luke say James was the son of Alphaeus? Maybe she was just Mary's cousin, keeping in mind that Hebrew and the Greek of the time had no word for such a relation.
  • Then there was St. Mary Magdalene. Unlike the Latin Fathers, who equated the sinful woman, the sister of Lazarus, and the named St. Mary Magdalene as being the same person, the Greek Fathers thought these were three separate people. Leaving that controversy aside, The Greek Church maintains that the saint retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin and there died, that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Gregory of Tours supports the statement that she went to Ephesus. However, according to a French tradition), Mary, Lazarus, and some companions came to Marseilles and converted the whole of Provence. Magdalen is said to have retired to a hill nearby, La Sainte-Baume, where she gave herself up to a life of penance for thirty years. When the time of her death arrived she was carried by angels to Aix and into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum; her body was then laid in an oratory constructed by St. Maximinus at Villa Lata, afterwards called St. Maximin. History is silent about these relics till 745, when according to the chronicler Sigebert, they were removed to Vézelay through fear of the Saracens. No record is preserved of their return, but in 1279, when Charles II, King of Naples, erected a convent at La Sainte-Baume for the Dominicans, the shrine was found intact, with an inscription stating why they were hidden. In 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Sainte-Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the center of so many pilgrimages.
  • For centuries, it has been the custom of many Christians to share dyed and painted eggs, particularly on Easter Sunday. The eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb. Among Eastern Orthodox Christians this sharing is accompanied by the proclamation "Christ is risen!"
  • One tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed, "Christ is risen!" The Emperor laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house.[100]
  •  Another version of this story can be found in popular belief, mostly in Greece. It is believed that after the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary put a basket full of eggs at the foot of the cross. There, the eggs were painted red by the blood of the Christ. Then, Mary Magdalene brought them to Tiberius Caesar.[citation needed]

The Good Thief:

  • The legend about the Good Thief is that his name is Dismas. And if you go into the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Church in Rome, you will see what is reputed to be his cross bar.
  • The story goes that on their flight into Egypt, the Holy Family was held up by a band of robbers, and one of these was the young Dismas. Although he wanted to rob them of their possessions, seeing the Baby Jesus, he demurred.
  • According to St. Anselm, "...  the Divine Infant allowed Himself to be caressed by that criminal. Upon seeing the respect of the thief for the Child, Mary Most Holy solemnly assured him that he would be rewarded for his action before his death. Dismas continued his life of crime, but he always conserved the memory of that promise, trusting that it would be fulfilled.”
  • Fast forward 33 years. By this time, sin “had so darkened his soul that he recognized neither Jesus nor Mary.”
  •  “The crosses were raised on Mount Calvary, and for three hours Dismas, like Jesus, witnessed the blasphemies of the multitude, which represented the entire world. He also joined in the blasphemies. But Mary, looking at him, recognized him and prayed for him.”
  • It was shortly after this that he rebuked the impenitent thief, called Gestas.