MAY Calendar of Deacon Saints
Acius (or Ache), deacon and martyr, with subdeacon Aceolus, martyred near Ambianum (modern Amiens in northern France) in 303.
They were taken prisoner during the persecution of Diocletian (emperor 284-305). Both are revered in Amiens, a city and commune in Picardy.
Felix of Seville, deacon and martyr, killed probably by Muslims at Seville, date unknown.
Diodorus and Rhodopianus, deacons and martyrs, killed at Aphrodisias, a small city near the southwest coast of Asia Minor, in the province of Caria (now an archeological site near the village of Geyre in Turkey), early 4th century.
As a provincial metropolis, Aphrodisias became the see city of the diocese of Caria, in the ecclesiastical arrangements institutionalized at the Council of Nicaea. The earliest attested bishop of Aphrodisias was Ammonius who attended Nicaea in 325. We know very little about Christianity at Aphrodisias before this date. A confused account of two martyrs at Aphrodisias is conserved in the Martyrologium Syriacum, the Laterculi Hieronymiani, and the Synaxaria Constantinopolitana (all in the Acta Sanctorum), and in a Latin passion narrative published by P. Peeters. Almost all the sources agree that the martyrdoms took place at Aphrodisias on April 30, under Decius, emperor 249-251 (Passio), or more likely Diocletian, emperor 284-305 (Synax. Const.). The names of the two martyrs vary but are most probably Diodoretus (or Diodorus) and Rhodopianus. The name Diodorus, but not Diodoretus, is attested in inscriptions on the site; Rhodopianus is not attested, but a Rhodopaeus appears in the sixth century. According to one source, Rhodopianus was a deacon (Synax. Const.). They were attacked by a crowd in the Agora and stoned to death there (Synax. Const.) or outside the city (Passio).
Curcodomus of Auxerre, a deacon of Rome, sent by the Pope to help Peregrinus, first bishop of Auxerre (originally Autissiodorum, in what is now the Burgundy region of central France), on a mission to Gaul, eighth century.
Euthymius, deacon and martyr at Alexandria, date unknown.
Robert Pantutun, deacon of Mota in the Banks Group in Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides),
Melanesia, died in 1910.
Robert Pantutun of Mota island was ordained deacon 17 Nov 1872 in “Pitcairn church” (All
Saints, Norfolk Island). According to Bishop H. H. Montgomery of Auckland, The Light of Melanesia: A Record of Fifty Years’ Mission Work in the South Seas (New York: E. S. Gorham, 1904):
“In 1883 the Rev. E. Wogale died at Vipaka, on the island of Lo, where the first school had been opened. In the next year Robert Pantutun began work here. He is a Mota man, though his wife is a native of Lo. The bishop also took some boys with him, in 1880, to Norfolk Island. Two of these were brothers, and are now teachers, William Wulenew and Ernest Tughur. Robert Pantutun is a deacon. He was one of Bishop [John Coleridge] Patteson’s earliest scholars, and has been a steady worker for years. His son John is in this year (1892) the organist of the chapel at Norfolk Island, and most striking it is to watch a Melanesian in that beautiful little church, a boy with frizzly head and bare feet, making full use of the pedals, and playing with taste and feeling the music of most of the great composers of sacred music. It can easily be realized what a deprivation it is to these native organists when they return to their homes as teachers, and are debarred from the use of musical instruments, for no harmonium has yet been invented which will stand the damp and the insect pests of these tropical islands. . . .
“One hot and brilliant morning I landed at Vava, and made the acquaintance of the Rev. Robert Pantutun. . . . The road up to the village was broad and open, according to the custom of the people, for the sake of their burial rites. The church in this village is beautifully built, and is perhaps better appointed than any in these parts. Mr. Robin was away, and therefore there were no confirmations, but upon our return Robert Pantutun hoped to present a class of adults for baptism.”
Sixteen deacons (nine men and seven women), with bishop Audas (or Abdas) of Cascar in eastern Persia, and seven presbyters, martyred at Leda in Persia in 420.
Audas was martyred on a Friday in May during the reign of Yazdegerd I (Sassanid king of Persia 399-421) with 28 members of his flock, including seven presbyters, nine men deacons, and seven virgins (i.e., women deacons). Their deaths marked the beginning of a long period of slaughter of Christians, in favor of Zoroastrians, throughout the Persian empire. Cascar is now Kashgar in western China near the border with Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Alcuin of York, deacon and abbot of Tours, died 19 May 804. [Episcopal Church places him on May 20.]
Alcuinus or Ealhwine was a scholar, ecclesiastic, poet, and teacher from York in Northumbria. He liked to be called by the Latin nickname Albinus, and at the academy of Charlemagne’s palace he took the surname Flaccus (after an ancient Roman family). He was born around 735 close to Eboracum (York), perhaps in the city itself. He was a noble, related to Willibrord, first bishop of Utrecht, whose father founded the monastery of St. Andrew, which Alcuin would later inherit. Alcuin of York had a long career as a teacher and scholar, first at the school at York now known as St. Peter’s School (founded in 627) and later as Charlemagne’s leading advisor on ecclesiastical and educational affairs. From 796 until his death he was abbot of the great Abbey of Saint-Martin at Tours.
Alcuin came to the cathedral school of York in the golden age of Egbert and Eadbert. Egbert had been a disciple of the Venerable Bede, who urged him to have York raised to an archbishopric. Eadbert was the king and brother to Egbert. These two men oversaw the reenergizing and reorganization of the English church with an emphasis on reforming the clergy and on the tradition of learning begun under Bede. Alcuin thrived under Egbert’s tutelage. In York he formed his love of classical poetry, although he was sometimes troubled by the fact that it was written by non-Christians.
The York school was renowned as a center of learning not only in religious matters but also in literature and science, known as the seven liberal arts. It was from here that Alcuin drew inspiration for the school he would lead at the Frankish court. He revived the school with disciplines such as the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). Two codices were written, by himself on the trivium, and by his student Hraban on the quadrivium. Alcuin graduated from student to teacher sometime in the 750s. His ascendancy to the headship of the York school began after Aelbert became archbishop of York in 767. Around the same time Alcuin became a deacon. He was never ordained priest, and there is no real evidence that he became an actual monk, but he lived his life like one.
In 781 King Elfwald sent Alcuin to Rome to petition the Pope for official confirmation of York’s status as an archbishopric and to confirm the election of a new archbishop, Eanbald I. It was then, on his way home, that Alcuin met Charles, king of the Franks, later known as Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Alcuin was reluctantly persuaded to join Charles’ court. His love of the church and his intellectual curiosity made the offer one he could not refuse. He was to join an already illustrious group of scholars that Charles had gathered around him like Peter of Pisa, Paulinus, Rado, and abbot Fulrad. He would later write that “the Lord was calling me to the service of King Charles.”
Alcuin was welcomed at the Palace School of Charlemagne. The school had been founded under the king’s ancestors as a place for educating the royal children, mostly in manners and the ways of the court. Charles wanted more than this—he wanted to include the liberal arts and, most importantly, the study of the religion that he held sacred. From 782 to 790, Alcuin had as pupils Charlemagne himself, his sons Pepin and Louis, the young men sent for their education to the court, and the young clerics attached to the palace chapel. Bringing with him from York his assistants Pyttel, Sigewulf, and Joseph, Alcuin revolutionized the educational standards of the Palace School, introducing Charlemagne to the liberal arts and creating a personalized atmosphere of scholarship and learning to the extent that the institution came to be known as the “school of Master Albinus.”
Charlemagne was a master at gathering the best men of every nation in his court. He became far more than just the king at the center. He made many of these men his closest friends and counselors. They referred to him as “David,” a reference to the biblical King David. Alcuin soon found himself on intimate terms with the king and with the other men at court to whom he gave nicknames to be used for work and play. Alcuin himself was known as “Albinus” or “Flaccus.” Like many of his learned contemporaries, Alcuin was an astrologer. Alcuin’s friendships also extended to the ladies of the court, especially the queen mother and the daughters of the king. His relationships with these women, however, never reached the intense level of those with the men around him.
In 790 Alcuin went back to England, to which he had always been greatly attached. He dwelt there for some time, but Charlemagne then invited him back to help in the fight against the Adoptionist heresy which was making great progress in Toledo, Spain, the old capital town of the Visigoths and still a major city for the Christians under Islamic rule in Spain. He is believed to have had contacts with Beatus of Liébana, from the kingdom of Asturias, who fought against Adoptionism. At the Council of Frankfurt in 794, Alcuin upheld the orthodox doctrine and obtained the condemnation of the heresiarch Felix of Urgel.
Having failed during his stay in England to influence King Aethelraed of Northumbria in the conduct of his reign, Alcuin never returned to live in England. Alcuin was back at Charlemagne’s court by at least mid-792, writing a series of letters to Aethelraed, to Hygbald, bishop of Lindisfarne, and to Aethelheard, archbishop of Canterbury, in the succeeding months, which deal with the attack on Lindisfarne by Viking raiders in July 792. These letters and Alcuin’s poem De clade Lindisfarnensis monasterii provide the only significant contemporary account of these events.
In 796 Alcuin was in his sixties. He hoped to be free from court duties and was given the chance when abbot Itherius of Saint-Martin at Tours died. Charlemagne gave the abbey into Alcuin’s care with the understanding that he should be available if the king ever needed his counsel. He made the abbey school into a model of excellence, and students flocked to it; he had many manuscripts copied, the calligraphy of which is of outstanding beauty. He wrote many letters to his friends in England, to Arno, bishop of Salzburg, and above all to Charlemagne. These letters, of which 311 are extant, are filled mainly with pious meditations, but they further form a mine of information as to the literary and social conditions of the time, and they are the most reliable authority for the history of humanism in the Carolingian age. He also trained the numerous monks of the abbey in piety, and it was in the midst of these pursuits that he died.
Alcuin is the most prominent figure of the Carolingian renaissance, in which three main periods have been distinguished: In the first of these, up to the arrival of Alcuin at the court, the Italians occupy the central place; in the second, Alcuin and the Anglo-Saxons are dominant; in the third, which begins in 804, the influence of Theodulf the Visigoth is preponderant. We owe to Alcuin, too, some manuals used in his educational work: a grammar and works on rhetoric and dialectics. They are written in the form of dialogues, and in the two last the interlocutors are Charlemagne and Alcuin. He also wrote several theological treatises, including De fide Trinitatis and commentaries on the Bible. Alcuin transmitted to the Franks the knowledge of Latin culture that had existed in England. We still have a number of his works. They include letters and poetry. Besides some graceful epistles in the style of Fortunatus, he wrote some long poems, and notably a history in verse of the church at York: Versus de patribus, regibus et sanctis Eboracensis ecclesiae.
Alcuin died on 19 May 804, some ten years before Charlemagne. He was buried at the abbey church of Saint-Martin under an epitaph he wrote in Latin, which partly reads in English:
Dust, worms, and ashes now . . .
Alcuin my name, wisdom I always loved, Pray, reader, for my soul.
Timothy, Polius, and Eutychius, deacons and martyrs, of the African province of Mauretania Caesariensis (mainly in present Algeria), killed under Diocletian (emperor 284-305).
Winebald and Worad, deacons and martyrs, monks of the abbey of Saint-Bertin in the Pas-de- Calais region of France, with monks Gerbald and Reginhard, killed by the Danes in 862.
Paschasius, deacon of Rome, author of De Spiritu Sancto, several theological works on the Holy Spirit that have become lost, died about 512.
Gregory the Great, Dialogues, IV, Chap. 40, “of the soul of Paschasius the Deacon” (1911 trans.):
“For when I was yet in my younger years, and lived.a secular life, I heard from the mouth of mine elders, who knew it to be true: how that Paschasius, a Deacon of this Roman church (whose sound and eloquent books of the holy Ghost be extant amongst us), was a man of a wonderful holy life, a marvellous giver of alms, a lover of the poor, and one that contemned himself. This man, in that contention which, through the exceeding hot emulation of the clergy, fell out betwixt Symmachus and Lawrence, made choice of Lawrence to be Bishop of Rome: and though he was afterward by common consent overcome, yet did he continue in his former opinion till his dying day: loving and preferring him, whom the Church, by the judgment of Bishops, refused for her governor. This Deacon ending his life in the time of Symmachus, Bishop of the Apostolic see: a man possessed with a devil came and touched his dalmatic, as it lay upon the bier, and was forthwith delivered from that vexation. Long time after, Germanus, Bishop of Capua (before mentioned), by the counsel of physicians, for the recovery of his health went to the baths: into which after he was entered, he found there standing in those hot waters the foresaid Paschasius, ready to do him service. At which sight being much afraid, he demanded what so worthy a man as he was did in that place: to whom Paschasius returned this answer: ‘For no other cause,’ quoth he, ‘am I appointed to this place of punishment, but for that I took part with Lawrence against Symmachus: and therefore I beseech you to pray unto our Lord for me, and by this token shall you know that your prayers be heard, if, at your coming again, you find me not here.’ Upon this, the holy man Germanus betook himself to his devotions, and after a few days he went again to the same baths, but found not Paschasius there: for seeing his fault proceeded not of malice, but of ignorance, he might after death be purged from that sin. And yet we must withal think that the plentiful alms which he bestowed in this life, obtained favour at God’s hands, that he might then deserve pardon, when he could work nothing at all for himself.”