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St. Athanasius

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria

Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church

Athanasius was born in the late third century to a Christian family in Alexandria. He was ordained a deacon by St. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, and assisted Alexander at the Council of Nicaea, which anathematized the infamous and widespread heresy of Arianism that denied the divinity of Christ. Not long after the council, Alexander died, and Athanasius succeeded him as bishop. For almost his entire life Athanasius was persecuted by the Arians, who hated him for his orthodoxy and his effective role at Nicaea. He was exiled five separate times, and was often on the run or in hiding from threats to his life. At one point Pope Liberius, the first pontiff to never be canonized, was forced by Arian pressure to directly suppress Athanasius. At this height of the crisis, so many bishops and others had succumbed to the heresy, or to threats, that the intrepid bishop became known as Athanasius Contra Mundum, or Athanasius Against the World. He remained a beacon of truth to the entire Church, and died peacefully in the year of Our Lord 373 after seven years of relative peace in his see, with the eventual defeat of the heresy in sight.


Traditional Roman Martyrology for May 2nd

AT Alexandria, the birthday of St. Athanasius, bishop of that city and Doctor of the Church, most celebrated for sanctity and learning. Although almost all the world had formed a conspiracy to persecute him, he courageously defended the Catholic faith, from the reign of Constantine to that of Valens, against emperors, governors, and a multitude of Arian bishops, whose perfidious attacks forced him to wander as an exile over the whole earth without finding a place of security. At length, however, he was restored to his church, and after fighting many combats, and winning many crowns by his patience, he departed for heaven in the forty-sixth year of his priesthood, in the time of the emperors Valentinian and Valens.

At Rome, the holy martyrs Saturninus, Neopolus, Germanus, and Celestine, who after much suffering were thrown into prison, where they rested in the Lord.

Also the holy martyrs Exuperius and Zoe, his wife, with their sons, Cyriacus and Theodulus, who suffered under the emperor Adrian.

At Seville, St. Felix, deacon and martyr.

The same day, St. Vindemial, bishop and martyr, who with the holy bishops Eugenius and Longinus, combated the Arians by his teaching and miracles, and was decapitated by order of king Hunneric.

At Avila, in Spain, St. Secundus, bishop, who is also mentioned with others on the 15th of this month.

At Florence, the bishop St. Antoninus, of the Order of Preachers, renowned for holiness and learning. His feast is kept on the 10th of this month.

℣. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.

℟. Thanks be to God.

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