July 19, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr

St. Apollinaris
On July 20th, the Church celebrates the feast of one of her first bishop/martyrs. Saint Apollinaris was a revered bishop in his day. Popular piety attests that St. Apollinaris was ordained a Bishop by Saint Peter before serving as a missionary in Ravenna during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Renowned for his powers to heal in Christ's name, he was tortured and imprisoned numerous times for the faith. On July 23, 79, Apollinaris died in prison after being mercilessly beaten for preaching the Good News. Below is Msgr. Paul Guérin's account of Apollinaris' first miraculous healing.

"His first miracle was on behalf of the blind son of a soldier who gave him hospitality when he first arrived in the city of Ravenna. When the apostle told him of the God he had come to preach and invited him to abandon the cult of idols, the soldier replied: Stranger, if the God you preach is as powerful as you say, beg Him to give sight to my son, and I will believe in Him. The Saint had the child brought and made the sign of the cross on his eyes as he prayed. The miracle was instantaneous, to the great amazement of all, and news of it spread rapidly." (Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, Msgr. Paul Guérin, 1882, Vol. 8.)

The Life of St. Apollinaris

Apollinaris came to Rome from Antioch with the prince of the apostles, by whom he was consecrated bishop, and sent to Ravenna to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He converted many to the faith of Christ, for which reason he was seized by the priests of the idols and severely beaten. At his prayer, a nobleman named Boniface, who had long been dumb, recovered the power of speech, and his daughter was delivered from an unclean spirit; on this account a fresh sedition was raised against Apollinaris. He was beaten with rods, and made to walk barefoot over burning coals; but as the fire did him no injury, he was driven from the city.

He lay hidden some time in the house of certain Christians, and then went to Aemilia. Here he raised from the dead the daughter of Rufinus, a patrician, whose whole family thereupon believed in Jesus Christ. The prefect was greatly angered by this conversion, and sending for Apollinaris he sternly commanded him to give over propagating the faith of Christ in the city. But as Apollinaris paid no attention to his commands, he was tortured on the rack, boiling water was poured upon his wounds, and his mouth was bruised and broken with a stone; finally he was loaded with irons, and shut up in prison. Four days afterwards he was put on board ship and sent into exile; but the boat was wrecked, and Apollinaris arrived in Mysia, whence he passed to the banks of the Danube and into Thrace.

In the temple of Serapis the demon refused to utter his oracles so long as the disciple of the apostle Peter remained there. Search was made for some time, and then Apollinaris was discovered and commanded to depart by sea. Thus he returned to Ravenna; but on the accusation of the same priests of the idols, he was placed in the custody of a centurion. As this man, however, worshipped Christ in secret, Apollinaris was allowed to escape by night. When this became known, he was pursued and overtaken by the guards, who loaded him with blows and left him, as they thought, dead. He was carried away by the Christians, and seven days after, while exhorting them to constancy in the faith, he passed away from this life, to be crowned with the glory of martyrdom. His body was buried near the city walls.

Excerpted from Roman Martyrology.

Patron: Ravenna, Italy.

Symbols: White vestments and black cross; club; hot coals; raven; crown; stones; cauldron of boiling water; chains; sword.

Often Portrayed As: Bishop with a club; standing or seated on hot coals; bearded, in a chasuble and pallium, with sheep around him; preaching to sheep.

Collect Prayer

Direct your faithful, Lord, in the way of eternal salvation, which the Bishop Saint Apollinaris showed by his teaching and martyrdom, and grant, through, his intercession, that we may so persevere in keeping your commandments as to merit being crowned with him. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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