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Thursday, September 20, 2012

St. Eustace and His Companions

(2nd c. AD)

Feastday: September 20

The charming legend of Saint Eustace tells how a Roman general named Placidus was once out hunting. He pursued a noble stag, which suddenly turned and approached him. Between the stag's antlers Placidus saw a crucifix. A voice was calling him by name.

The hunter himself had been caught. The vision converted Placidus. He changed his name to Eustace, and gave away much of his money.

The saint still felt able to serve the Roman emperor. Taking up his command again, he led the legions to great victories. By this time his family had become Christian too, and all four of them ­ Eustace, his wife Theopista, and his sons Agapetus and Theopestus ­ refused to make sacrifices to pagan gods in the celebrations following his own victories.

All four were accordingly put to death in a bizarre fashion. They were taken to the colosseum in Rome, encased in a bronze bull, and roasted to death.

Although these events are supposed to have taken place around the year 118, no account of Saint Eustace and his family has been found prior to the seventh century. Yet he became one of the most popular saints in the middle ages, celebrated in prose and poetry as well as in art and popular devotion. Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and he is venerated as the patron of hunters.

Excerpted from the A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

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