"Saint Spes and Saint Eutizio with Christ"
Saint Fiorenzo of Preci
Today is the Feast of three rather obscure Saints to whom I gained a devotion while in Norcia (aka Nursia, where Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica were born).
They are mentioned in today's entry of the 2004 Roman Martyrology:
6. In the region of Nursia (Norcia), the commemoration of Saint Eutizio, Abbot, who in the narrative of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, first with Saint Fiorenzo led the solitary life and took charge to lead many for the purpose of exhorting them to God, thereafter he ruled over a holy monastery nearby.
7. And also at Nursia, Saint Spes, Abbot, who for forty years bore blindness with extraordinary patience.
Here is something I wrote up based on the information I could find.
St. Spes, St. Eutizio, and St. Fiorenzo
Feast: May 23rd
After the year 400 there were many violent theological debates in the East which displaced many monks and hermits. Many of whom went West. Some settled in an area near Norcia, earning the region the knick-name: “The Thebaide of Umbria.” (The Thebaide was a region in Egypt where the first Monks and Hermits lived, it is basically the birthplace of monastic life (St. Antony of the Desert was there)).
The first source of St. Eutizio, St. Spes and St. Fiorenzo is Pope St. Gregory the Great in the first Book of his Dialogues (written in the 590’s) (the second book is the most famous because it tells the life of Saint Benedict) These books were written to make known Italian Saints, and to be used for inspiration for the faithful. They are similar to the Martyrology we know today.
St. Spes, St. Eutizio, and St. Fiorenzo were all from Syria, fleeing the persecutions mentioned above.
The monastery of Sant’Eutizio, (which is in the area where the three saints lived, although at that time there was no monastery but just a “laura” of hermits living in caves in the area), is near the town of Preci in Umbria, Italy, just a 20 minute drive from Norcia. To this day, the region has hermits. There is one currently living near the monastery of Sant’Eutizio whom I met (Br. Matthias, I believe).
St. Spes (died in A.D. 417?, he definitely lived in the 5th century) (St. Benedict and St. Scholastica were born in 480)
He was Abbot of the “laura” (community of hermits), and possibly its founder (in later liturgies he is named as the founder)
He was an example of patience and joy in the Holy Spirit.
He was blind for over forty years. Apparently God revealed to him that he would receive his sight back right before his death. And this is what happened.
Succeeded St. Spes as Abbot of the “laura.”
St. Eutizio and St. Fiorenzo were close companions.
(From what I could gather from a really dodgy translation, after his death St. Eutizio became known for his intercession for rain. Apparently when his hairshirt is venerated and he is prayed to, there have been several miracles of rain in times of drought.)
Close companion of St. Eutizio.
When St. Eutizio succeeded St. Spes as Abbot, St. Fiorenzo prayed to God for another companion. God answered his prayers when St. Fiorenzo befriended a gentle bear. The bear was most useful and was even able to watch over St. Fiorenzo’s flock. It would lead the flock out during the day, allowing St. Fiorenzo to pray, and then lead them back in at night. When the news and popularity spread, some of the other monks became jealous and killed the bear. So when the bear did not return one evening, St. Fiorenzo went out and found the dead bear. He realized what had happened. He became angry and wished a curse upon the instigators. Soon afterwards they died. St. Fiorenzo realized the evil he had done and repented. He was so remorseful that he spent the rest of his life living in great austerity and penance making atonement for his curse.
These saints would have been influential in the lives of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, giving them not only examples of sanctity, but also examples of how to live a religious life. Hence, the first thing that St. Benedict did when he fled the debauchery of Rome was become a hermit at Subiaco. And St. Benedict is considered the Father of Western Monasticism. So these Saints could be considered the “Grandfathers” of Western Monasticism.
They are mentioned in the Book III of the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great:
The Dialogues, Book III, by Pope Saint Gregory the Great:
Chapter Fifteen: of the servants of God Euthicius (Eutizio) and Florentius (Fiorenzo).
GREGORY. Neither will I pass over that with silence, which I heard from the mouth of that reverent Priest, Sanctulus, one of the same country: and of whose report I am sure you make no doubt, for you know very well his life and fidelity.
At the same time, in the province of Nursia there dwelt two men, observing the life and habit of holy conversation: the one was called Euthicius and the other Florentius; of which Euthicius bestowed his time in spiritual zeal and fervour of virtue, and laboured much by his exhortations, to gain souls to God; but Florentius led his life in simplicity and devotion. Not far from the place where they remained, there was an Abbey, the governor whereof was dead, and therefore the monks made choice of Euthicius, to take the charge thereof: who, condescending to their petition, governed the Abbey many years. And not to have his former oratory utterly destitute, he left the reverent man Florentius to keep the same; who dwelt there all alone, and upon a day, being at his prayers, he besought almighty God to vouchsafe him of some comfort in that place; and having ended his devotions, he went forth, where he found a bear standing before the door, which by the bowing down of his head to the ground, and shewing in the gesture of his body no sign or cruelty, gave the man of God to understand that He was come thither to do him service, and himself likewise did forthwith perceive it. And because he had in the house four or five sheep which had no keeper, he commanded the bear to take charge of them, saying: "Go and lead these sheep to the field, and at twelve of the clock come back again ": which charge he took upon him, and did daily come home at that hour: and so he performed the office of a good shepherd, and those sheep, which before time he used to devour, now fasting himself, he took care to have them safely kept. And when God's servant determined to fast until three of the clock, then he commanded the bear to return with his sheep at the same hour; but when he would not fast so long, to come at twelve. And whatsoever he commanded his bear, that he did, so that bidden to return at three of the clock, he would not come at twelve; and commanded to return at twelve, he would not tarry till three. And when this had continued a good while, he began to be famous far and near for his virtue and holy life. But the old enemy of mankind by that means which he seeth the good to come unto glory, by the same doth he draw the wicked through hatred to procure their own misery; for four of Euthicius' monks, swelling with envy that their master wrought not any miracles, and that he who was left alone by him was famous for so notable a one, upon very spite went and killed his bear. And therefore, when the poor beast came not at his appointed hour, Florentius began to suspect the matter: but expecting yet until the evening, very much grieved he was that the bear, whom in great simplicity he called his brother, came not home. The next day, he went to the field, to seek for his sheep and his shepherd, whom he found there slain; and making diligent inquisition, he learned quickly who they were that had committed that uncharitable fact. Then was he very sorry, bewailing yet more the malice of the monks than the death of his bear; whom the reverent man Euthicius sent for, and did comfort him what he might; but the holy man Florentius, wonderfully grieved in mind, did in his presence curse them, saying: "I trust in almighty God, that they shall in this life, and in the sight of the world, receive the reward of their malice, that have thus killed my bear which did them no harm"; whose words God's vengeance did straight follow, for the four monks that killed the poor beast were straight so stricken with a leprosy, that their limbs did rot away, and so they died miserably: whereat the man of God, Florentius, was greatly afraid, and much grieved, that he had so cursed the monks; and all his life after he wept, for that his prayer was heard, crying out that himself was cruel, and that he had murdered those men. Which thing I suppose almighty God did, to the end that he should not, being a man of great simplicity, upon any grief whatsoever, afterward presume to curse any.
PETER. What? is it any great sin, if in our anger we curse others?
GREGORY. Why do you ask me whether it be a great sin, when as St. Paul saith: Neither cursers shall possess the kingdom of God? Think, then, how great the sin is, which doth exclude a man out of heaven.
PETER. What if a man, haply not of malice, but of negligence in keeping his tongue, doth curse his neighbour?
GREGORY. If before the severe judge idle speech is reprehended, how much more that which is hurtful. Consider, then, how damnable those words be, which proceed of malice, when that talk shall be punished which proceedeth only from idleness.
PETER. I grant it be most true.
GREGORY. The same man of God did another thing which I must not forget. For, the report of his virtue reaching far and near, a certain Deacon, that dwelt many miles off, travelled unto him, to commend himself to his prayers. And coming to his cell, he found it round about full of innumerable snakes; at which sight being wonderfully afraid, he cried out, desiring Florentius to pray: who came forth, the sky being then very clear, and lifted up his eyes and his hands to heaven, desiring God to take them away in such sort as he best knew. Upon whose prayers, suddenly it thundered, and that thunder killed all those snakes. Florentius, seeing them all dead, said unto God: "Behold, O Lord, thou hast destroyed them all, but who shall now carry them away?" And straight as he had thus spoken, so many birds came as there were snakes killed, which took them all up, and carried them far off, discharging his habitation from those venomous creatures.
PETER. Certainly he was a man of great virtue and merit, whose prayers God did so quickly hear.
GREGORY. Purity of heart and simplicity, Peter, is of great force with almighty God, who is in purity most singular, and of nature most simple. For those servants of his, which do retire themselves from worldly affairs, avoid idle words, labour not to lose their devotion, nor to defile their soul with talking, do especially obtain to be heard of him, to whom, after a certain manner, and as they may, they be like in purity and simplicity of heart. But we that live in the world, and speak oftentimes idle words, and that which is worse, sometime those that be hurtful: our words and prayers are so much the farther off from God, as they be near unto the world: for we are drawn too much down towards the earth, by continual talking of secular business: which thing the prophet Esaye did very well reprehend in himself, after he had beheld the King and Lord of armies, and was penitent, crying out: Woe be to me for being silent, because I am a man that have defiled lips: and he sheweth straight after the reason why his lips were defiled, when he saith: I dwell in the midst of a people that hath defiled lips. For sorry he was that his lips were defiled, yet concealeth not from whence he had them, when he saith, that he dwelt in the midst of a people that had defiled lips. For very hard it is that the tongues of secular men should not defile their souls, with whom they talk; for when we do sometime condescend to speak with them of certain things, by little and little we get such a custom, that we hear that spoken with pleasure which is not meet to be heard at all, so that afterward we are loath to give that over, to which at the first, to gratify others, we were brought against our wills. And by this means we fall from idle words to hurtful speeches, and from talk of small moment to words of great importance: and so it cometh to pass that our tongue is so much the less respected of God when we pray, by how much we are more defiled with foolish speech, because, as it is written: He that turneth away his ear that he hear not the law, his prayer shall be execrable.18 What marvel, then, is it, if, when we pray, God doth slowly hear us, when as we hear God's commandments, either slowly or not at all? And what marvel if Florentius, when he prayed, was quickly heard, who obeyed God in observing his commandments?
PETER. The reason alleged is so plain, that nothing with reason can be said against it.
GREGORY. But Euthicius, who was companion to Florentius in serving of God, was famous also for miracles after his death. For the inhabitants of that city do speak of many: but the principal is that which, even to these times of the Lombards, almighty God hath vouchsafed to work by his coat: for when they had any great drougth the citizens, gathering themselves together, did carry that, and together with their prayers offer it in the sight of our Lord. And when they went with that through the fields, praying to God, forthwith they had such plenty of rain as the dryness of the ground required: whereby it was apparent, what virtue and merits were in his soul, whose garment shewed outwardly did pacify the anger of almighty God.
Monastery of Sant'Eutizio
I regret that I don't have and pictures of the inside of the church at the monastery. It is a beautiful church which has about 15 steps that go up to the sanctuary. It is quite impressive and a very cool design for a church.