Monday, October 04, 2021

A Litany of Elderly Saints

St. Jerome (photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, OP)
The “International Day of Older Persons” is observed every year on October 1, as per a United Nations resolution in 1990 that went into effect in 1991. I don’t really know how many people observe it or, frankly, know about its existence. At a time when there are so many “days of XYZ” (some of them rather absurd), it’s impossible to keep track, or even to wish to do so. And anything emanating from the United Nations is not typically going to win approval from the orthodox or the rational. Nevertheless, no one reading this will disagree that the modern West—with the secular hedonism of the capitalist-socialist juggernaut that slaughters infants and walls up the elderly in order to free the young and strong from their human responsibilities—is guilty of failing to love, care for, and appreciate the elderly on a scale never before seen in history.

As one who reads the Roman Martyrology daily with the Office of Prime, I have been struck, at this or that moment, by various “categories” or “types” of saints who pass by in triumphal procession. I refer not only to the classic categories of the Missal, such as virgins, martyrs, confessors, bishops, but also to more distinctive attributes: iconophiles, senators, soldiers, matrons, hermits, teachers, children, the elderly. While it’s clear that the Martyrology makes no attempt to be consistent in offering descriptions (that is, it does not go out of its way to identify all the attributes of a saint—there are many who died in a ripe old age but whose age will not be mentioned), nevertheless there are a considerable number of saints whose elderly status is noted, sometimes with a touch of amazement at the longevity. I decided to make a list of such saints to see how many there were, and it turns out to be quite suitable as a Litany of Elderly Saints for private devotional use, either to pray for oneself or for loved ones.

A Litany of Elderly Saints
(for private use)
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Mother, pierced with seven swords, pray for us.
Holy Mother, assumed body and soul into heaven, pray for us.

St John, Apostle and Evangelist, founder and ruler of churches, pray for us.
St Jerome, devastator of heresies and sage of Scripture, pray for us.
St Simeon, privileged to hold the Divine Child in the temple, pray for us.
St Simeon, kinsman of the Saviour and wondrous in constancy, pray for us.
St Felician, crowned with martyrdom in thine extreme old age, pray for us.
St Alexander, glorious for thy repeated professions of the faith, pray for us.
St Alexander of Alexandria, ejector of the accursed Arius, pray for us.
St Alexander of Constantinople, by whose prayer Arius was struck down, pray for us.
St Alexander of Cappadocia, devout pilgrim of the holy places, pray for us.
St Alexis Falconieri, comforted by the presence of Christ and of angels, pray for us.
St Theodulus, nailed to a cross to merit the martyr’s palm, pray for us.
St Pacian, remarkable for thy life and preaching, pray for us.
St Dorotheus, triumphant victim of Julian the Apostate, pray for us.
St Eusignius, courageous rebuker of Julian the Apostate, pray for us.
St Onuphrius, who sought the face of God in the desert wilderness, pray for us.
St Domitian, hermit and inspiration to other God-seekers, pray for us.
St Simeon, monk and hermit, pray for us.
St Marinus, scourged, hung upon a tree, lacerated, and cast to the beasts, pray for us.
St Mamas, lifelong sufferer for the Name of Jesus, pray for us.
St Fantin, who suffered much at the hands of the Saracens, pray for us.
St Zachary, faithful prophet of Israel, pray for us.
St Narcissus, praiseworthy for holiness, patience, and faith, pray for us.
St Licinius, a holy old Bishop, pray for us.
St Faustus, sent into exile and finally slain with the sword, pray for us.
St Columban, founder of monasteries and father of a multitude of monks, pray for us.
St Saturninus, enfeebled in prison, racked, scourged, burned, and beheaded, pray for us.
St Valerian, protector of the sacred vessels, pray for us.
St Asella, virgin dedicated to fasting and prayer, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Thou hast taught me, O God, from my youth:
R. And unto old age and grey hairs, forsake me not. (cf. Ps 70:17–18)

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, Ancient of Days, that the intercession of Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Joseph, her most chaste Spouse, and all the venerable and God-loving saints now reigning in Thy Kingdom, may everywhere gladden us, so that, while we commemorate their merits, we may experience their protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sources in the

January 24.
At Foligno in Umbria, St Felician, who was ordained bishop of that city by Pope Victor the First, and in his extreme old age was crowned with martyrdom, under Decius, after many labours.

January 30. Also of blessed Alexander, who was arrested in the persecution of Decius, and gave up his spirit amid the torments of the torturers, glorious for his venerable age and his repeated professions of the faith.

February 17. At Florence, the birthday of St Alexis Falconieri, Confessor, one of the seven founders of the Order of Servants of Blessed Mary the Virgin, who in the 110th year of his life fell asleep in blessedness, comforted by the presence of Christ Jesus and of angels. His feast, with that of his companions, is kept on February 12.

February 17. At Caesarea in Palestine, St Theodulus, an old man, who was of the household of Firmilian the governor. Roused by the example of the martyrs, he confessed Christ with constancy, was nailed to a cross, and by his noble triumph merited the martyr's palm.

February 18. At Jerusalem, the birthday of St Simeon, Bishop and Martyr, who is said to have been the son of Cleophas, and a kinsman of the Saviour according to the flesh. He was ordained Bishop of Jerusalem after James the Lord's brother, and was afflicted in the persecution of Trajan with many punishments, and died a martyr. All who were present, and the very judge himself, marveled that a man 120 years old should bear the torment of the cross so bravely with such constancy.

February 26. At Alexandria, St Alexander, Bishop, a glorious old man, full of zeal for the faith, who, having succeeded blessed Peter, bishop of the same city, cast out of the Church Arius, a priest of his, depraved by heretical impiety, and by divine truth convicted. Later, with 318 fathers in the Council of Nicaea, he condemned the same Arius.

March 9. At Barcelona in Spain, St Pacian, Bishop, remarkable both for his life and his preaching, who reached the end of his days in extreme old age under the Emperor Theodosius.

March 18. At Caesarea in Palestine, the birthday of blessed Alexander, Bishop, who came from his own city in Cappadocia, where he was bishop, with the desire of visiting the holy places in Jerusalem; and as Narcissus, the bishop of that city, who ruled its church, was now an old man, Alexander, by divine inspiration, took upon himself its government. Shortly after, in the persecution of Decius, when he was already honored for his venerable old age, he was taken to Caesarea where he was imprisoned, and finished his martyrdom for the faith of Christ.

June 5. At Tyre in Phoenicia, St Dorotheus, Priest, who suffered much under Diocletian, but survived until the time of Julian, and during his reign, when 107 years old, glorified his venerable old age with martyrdom.

June 12. In Egypt, St Onuphrius, an anchorite, who for sixty years lived a religious life in a vast desert, and, famous for great virtues and merits, passed into heaven. His mighty deeds were recorded by the Abbot Paphnutius.

July 1. In the district of Lyons, the death of St Domitian, Abbot, who there first led the life of a hermit, and after gathering together many in the service of God, and being very famous for great virtues and glorious miracles, was gathered to his fathers at a ripe old age.

July 26. In the monastery of St Benedict in the district of Mantua, St Simeon, monk and hermit, who, renowned for many miracles, fell asleep in a good old age.

August 5. At Antioch, St Eusignius, a soldier, who in his 110th year reproached Julian the Apostate with the faith of Constantine the Great, under whom he had fought, and accused him of having forsaken the piety of his fathers; wherefore. the emperor commanded that he be beheaded.

August 8. At Anazarbus in Cilicia, St Marinus, an old man, who under the Emperor Diocletian and the governor Lysias was scourged, hung upon a tree, and lacerated. Finally, he was cast to the beasts and died.

August 17. At Caesarea in Cappadocia, the birthday of St Mamas, Martyr, the son of SS. Theodotus and Rufina, Martyrs, who suffered a prolonged martyrdom from childhood to old age, and at length happily consummated it, under the governor Alexander, at the command of Aurelian. The holy fathers Basil and Gregory Nazianzen gave him the highest praise.

August 28. At Constantinople, St Alexander, Bishop, a renowned old man, by the power of whose prayer Arius, condemned by the judgment of God, burst asunder and his entrails gushed out.

August 30. At Thessalonica, St Fantin, Confessor, who suffered much at the hands of the Saracens and was driven from the monastery where he had lived in amazing abstinence. After he had brought many to the way of salvation, at last he died at a good old age.

September 6. In Palestine, St Zachary, Prophet, who returned from Chaldea to his native land when he was an old man, and dying there lies buried near the prophet Aggeus.

September 30. In Bethlehem of Judah, the death of St Jerome, Priest, Confessor and Doctor of the Church. He was very learned and, becoming an imitator of the monks he approved, he overthrew by the sword of his doctrine many monstrous heresies. At last, when he had lived to extreme old age, he rested in peace, and was buried near the Crib of the Lord; afterwards his body was translated to Rome, and buried in the Basilica of St Mary Major.

October 8. On the same day, the birthday of blessed Simeon, the old man, who, as is related in the Gospel, took the Lord Jesus in his arms and prophesied about him, when he was presented in the temple.

October 29. At Jerusalem, the birthday of blessed Narcissus, Bishop, a man praiseworthy for holiness, patience and faith, who passed to the Lord when 116 years old.

November 1. At Angers in France, the burial of St Licinius, Bishop, a holy old man.

November 19. On the same day, St Faustus, Deacon of Alexandria, who was first sent into exile, with St Denis, in Valerian's persecution, and later, in his old age, suffered martyrdom, being slain with the sword in Diocletian's persecution.

November 21. In the monastery of Bobbio, the death of St Columban, Abbot, who founded many monasteries, was the father of a multitude of monks and renowned for many virtues, died in a good old age.

November 29. At Rome, on the Via Salaria, the birthday of the holy martyrs Saturninus, an old man, and Sisinnius, a Deacon, under the Emperor Maximian: after they had been enfeebled for a long time in prison, the prefect of the city ordered them to be placed on the rack and stretched with straps, scourged with whips and scorpions, and then that fire should be applied to them, and they should be taken from the rack and beheaded.

December 6. At Rome, St Asella, Virgin. St Jerome in his writings bears witness that she was blessed from her mother's womb and spent her life in fasting and prayer until her old age.

December 15. In the same place, St Valerian, Bishop, who when more than eighty years old, in the Vandal persecution, under the Arian King Genseric, was ordered by him to give up the sacred vessels of his church. On his constant refusal to do so, he was ordered to be driven forth from the city alone: and, when it was commanded that no man should permit him to dwell either in his house or in his field, he lay exposed in the public street under the open sky for a long time, and in his confession and defense of Catholic truth ended the course of his blessed life.

December 27. At Ephesus, the birthday of St John, Apostle and Evangelist, who, after writing his Gospel, suffering banishment and composing the divine Apocalypse, survived even to the time of Trajan, founded and ruled Churches over all Asia, and, worn out with old age, died in the sixty-eighth year after the Lord's Passion, and is buried near the city.

(Just a little note at the end: I find it fascinating that St John has been depicted so much less frequently in art as an old man on Patmos than as the virgin disciple at the foot of the Cross, which has dominated iconography. In fact, even depictions of him receiving the revelations that make up the book of that name tend to show him looking a lot younger than he would have been. Here is a stained glass window from Ireland that shows the elderly John beholding Christ.)

Loughrea, St. Brendan's Cathedral, East Aisle: John the Evangelist by Michael Healy

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