St. Benjamin, Martyr (Feast Day – March 31) The Christians in Persia had enjoyed twelve years of peace during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III, when in 420 it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of Abdas, a Christian Bishop who burned the Temple of Fire, the great sanctuary of the Persians. King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all the churches of the Christians unless the Bishop would rebuild it.
As Abdas refused to comply, the threat was executed; the churches were demolished, Abdas himself was put to death, and a general persecution began which lasted forty years. Isdegerd died in 421, but his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with great fury. The Christians were submitted to the most cruel tortures.
Among those who suffered was St. Benjamin, a Deacon, who had been imprisoned a year for his Faith. At the end of this period, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople obtained his release on condition that he would never speak to any of the courtiers about religion.
St. Benjamin, however, declared it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. Although he had been liberated on the agreement made with the ambassador and the Persian authorities, he would not acquiesce in it, and neglected no opportunity of preaching. He was again apprehended and brought before the king. The tyrant ordered that reeds should be thrust in between his nails and his flesh and into all the tenderest parts of his body and then withdrawn. After this torture had been repeated several times, a knotted stake was inserted into his bowels to rend and tear him. The martyr expired in the most terrible agony about the year 424.
Also Peter Regalado, Franciscan reformer. Peter was born at Valladolid, Spain, to a noble family, and entered the Franciscan Order in his native city at the age of thirteen. After several years, he transferred to a far more austere monastery at Tribulos, where he became known for his severe asceticism as well as his abilities to levitate and enter into ecstasies. A success as abbot, he gave himself over to bringing needed reforms to the monastery and to promoting reforms in other Franciscan houses. For his zeal in adhering to the rules of the community he was designated Regulatus.
Considered by some historians to be the founder of the Carmelite Order. He was born in Limoges, France, and proved a brilliant student at the University of Paris. Ordained a priest, Berthold joined his brother, Aymeric, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, in Turkey, on the Crusades. On Mount Carmel he found a group of hermits, joined them, and established a rule. Aymeric appointed Berthold the first Carmelite superior general. Berthold tried to reform the Christian soldiers in the region, having had a vision of Christ, and headed the Carmelites for forty-five years.
Dominican preacher and missionary crusader. A native of Bergamo, Italy, he joined the Dominicans in 1319 and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant preacher, attracting huge crowds throughout northern Italy. Pleased with his ability to reach large numbers of believers, he announced in 1335 his intention to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. When Pope Benedict XII (r. 1334-1342) learned of the pilgrimage, he feared Venturino might be planning to crown himself pope, and so forbade the friar to proceed. This decree was joined by one issued by the Dominicans themselves at the Chapter in London (1335). Ignorant of these bans, Venturino proceeded to Rome and then to Avignon where he was arrested and imprisoned until 1343. He is also known for helping to organize a crusade, at the behest of Pope Clement VI (r. 1342-1352), against the Turks who were then menacing Europe.
Bishop and missionary, also listed as Robert of Hrodbert. A member of a noble Frankish family, he was appointed bishop of Worms, Germany, and then dedicated himself to spreading the faith among the Germans. With the patronage of Duke Thedo of Bavaria, he took over the deserted town of luvavum about 697, which was renamed Salzburg, Austria. Rupert founded a church, a monastery, and a school; brought in groups of missionaries; and established a nunnery at Nonnberg with his sister, Eerentrudis, serving as the first abbess. He died at Salzburg and is venerated as the first archbishop of this major diocese in the West. Rupert is revered as the Apostle of Bavaria and Austria.
St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. Possessed of good looks and full of wit and merriment, she was a charming personality. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do grazier and butcher (to whom she bore two children), and a few years later entered the Catholic Church. Her zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but the holy woman stood firm. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with unbearable weights. Her bones were broken and she died within fifteen minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: “The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise.” Her feast day is March 26th.
All that is known of Dismas is that he is the Good Thief crucified with Christ on Calvary. The other thief is known as Gestas. A completely unsubstantiated myth from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy that enjoyed great popularity in the West during the Middle Ages had two thieves who held up the Holy Family on the way to Egypt. Dismas bought off Gestas with forty drachmas to leave them unmolested, whereupon the Infant predicted that they would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem, and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise. His feast day is March 25th.
Abbot and miracle worker, called “the Wise.” Born in Capua, Italy, he became a monk in Monte Cassino and was called to the attention of a Princess Aloara of the region. When she built a new convent in Capua, Alder became the director of the religious in the established house. He performed many miracles in this capacity. Aldemar was reassigned by his abbot to Monte Cassino, a move that angered the princess. As a result, Aldemar went to Boiana, Italy, where a companion involved in the dispute tried to kill him. Aldemar fled into the region of Bocchignano, Abruzzi, where he founded several more religious houses.
Bishop and defender of the rights of the native Indians in Peru, Born in Mayorga, Spain, he studied law and became a lawyer and then professor at Salamanca, receiving appointment-despite being a layman-as chief judge of the court of Inquisition at Granada under King Philip II of Spain. The king subsequently appointed him in 1580 to the post of archbishop of Lima, Peru. After receiving ordination and then consecration, he arrived in Peru in 1581 and soon demonstrated a deep zeal to reform the archdiocese and a determination to do all in his power to aid the poor and defend the rights of the Indians who were then suffering severely under Spanish occupation. He founded schools, churches, hospitals, and the first seminary in the New World. To assist his pastoral work among the Indians, he also mastered several Indian dialects. He was canonized in 1726.
A letter which St. Jerome wrote to St. Marcella provides the only information we have about St. Lea, a devout fourth century widow. Upon the death of her husband, she retired to a Roman monastery and ultimately became its Superior. Since his correspondence was acquainted with the details of St. Lea’s life, St. Jerome omitted these in his letter. He concentrated instead on the fate of St. Lea in comparison with that of a consul who had recently died. “Who will praise the blessed Lea as she deserves? She renounced painting her face and adorning her head with shining pearls. She exchanged her rich attire for sackcloth, and ceased to command others in order to obey all. She dwelt in a corner with a few bits of furniture; she spent her nights in prayer, and instructed her companions through her example rather than through protests and speeches. And she looked forward to her arrival in heaven in order to receive her recompense for the virtues which she practiced on earth. “So it is that thence forth she enjoyed perfect happiness. From Abraham’s bosom, where she resides with Lazarus, she sees our consul who was once decked out in purple, now vested in a shameful robe, vainly begging for a drop of water to quench his thirst. Although he went up to the capital to the plaudits of the people, and his death occasioned widespread grief, it is futile for the wife to assert that he has gone to heaven and possesses a great mansion there. The fact is that he is plunged into the darkness outside, whereas Lea who was willing to be considered a fool on earth, has been received into the house of the Father, at the wedding feast of the Lamb. “Hence, I tearfully beg you to refrain from seeking the favors of the world and to renounce all that is carnal. It is impossible to follow both the world and Jesus. Let us live a life of renunciation, for our bodies will soon be dust and nothing else will last any longer.” Her feast day is March 22.