SAINT APOLLINARIS of RAVENNA (?-c.79), bishop and martyr
Patron saint of Ravenna, Italy, and those who suffer from epilepsy and gout
Today, the Church honors Saint Apollinaris, one of the first great martyrs of the church, who was made bishop of Ravenna by Saint Peter himself.
When Saint Peter set out for Rome, after having left Antioch and serving the Christian community there as its spiritual leader, he took with him Apollinaris, who was a disciple of Jesus. Peter later consecrated him bishop and sent him to Ravenna, the capital city of a province in central Italy, as its first bishop.
The miracles that Bishop Apollinaris wrought and the success of his evangelization in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for many were converted to the faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of those who practiced idolatry. They, in turn, beat him cruelly and drove him from the city.
He was found half dead on the seashore and kept in concealment by faithful Christians, but was again captured and compelled to walk on burning coals, and a second time he was expelled. But Bishop Apollinaris remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization.
After journeying to the province of Emilia in northern Italy, he returned a third time to Ravenna, after which he was again captured, assaulted and cut with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and then, loaded with chains, was flung into a dungeon to starve to death; but, after four days, he was placed on a ship and sent to Greece.
Even in Greece, the same course of preachings, miracles and sufferings continued. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy, where he returned to Ravenna again for a fourth time, truly embracing what it meant to suffer for Christ.
By this time, Vespasian was the Roman Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans throughout his empire, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was leaving through the gates of the city of Ravenna one day, he was set upon and savagely beaten. He died seven days later from his wounds on July 23rd about the year 79.
The exact date of his consecration as bishop is unknown, but he was bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years. His remains are currently interred in the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.
We commemorate his feastday on July 20.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org catholicculture.org, newadvent.org and stfrancisenid.com)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Apollinaris of Ravenna)
“God of power and mercy, You gave Apollinaris, Your martyr, victory over pain and suffering. Strengthen us who celebrate this day of his triumph and help us to be victorious over the evils that threaten us.
“Grant this 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.”