St Alexis, the Man of God (411)
He was born of pious and noble parents in Rome in the time of the Emperor Honorius. His parents, Euphemianus and Agalais, set a high standard of godly living: his father, though wealthy, sat down to dine only once a day, at sunset. By his parents’ arrangement Alexis was married at a young age. However, without ever living with his new wife, he fled to Edessa in Mesopotamia, where he lived in asceticism for eighteen years, presenting himself as a beggar in order to avoid the praise of men. When, despite his efforts, he began to be known as a holy man, he fled the city and took ship for Laodicea. By divine providence, the ship was blown off course and forced to land in Rome. Taking this as a sign, Alexis, still disguised as a beggar, returned to his parents’ house, where he sat at the gates, unrecognized by any of his family. His father, not knowing who he was, allowed him to live in a hut in his courtyard. There Alexis spent another seventeen years, living only on bread and water. He died clutching a piece of paper on which he had revealed his true identity. At the time of his death, the pope of Rome heard a voice saying “Look for the Man of God,” and revealing where he should look. It is said that the Emperor Honorius, the Pope and a large retinue came to the house, where they found Alexis dead in his tiny hut, his face shining like the sun. His parents and wife were at first overcome with grief to learn that their son and husband had been secretly living near them, but they were comforted when they saw that his body healed the sick and exuded a fragrant myrrh. Thus they knew that God had glorified him. His head is preserved at the Church of St Laurus on the Peloponnese.
St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland (ca. 461)
“Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, was seized from his native Britain by Irish marauders when he was sixteen years old. Though the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest, it was not until his captivity that he sought out the Lord with his whole heart. In his Confession, the testament he wrote towards the end of his life, he says, ‘After I came to Ireland — every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed — the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was so moved that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many at night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountain; and I would rise for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm.”
After six years of slavery in Ireland, he was guided by God to make his escape, and afterwards struggled in the monastic life in Aesir in Gaul [now France], under the guidance of the holy Bishop Germanus. Many years later he was ordained bishop and sent to Ireland once again, about the year 432, to convert the Irish to Christ. His arduous labours bore so much fruit that within seven years, three bishops were sent from Gaul to help him shepherd his flock, ‘my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord — so many thousands of people,’ he says in his Confession.
His apostolic work was not accomplished without much ‘weariness and painfulness,’ long journeys through difficult country, and many perils; he says his very life was in danger twelve times. When he came to Ireland, as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life some thirty years later, about 461, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner.” (Great Horologion)
The work of St Patrick and his brethren has been called the most successful single missionary venture in the history of the Church.
It is said of St Patrick that he chanted the entire Psalter every day.