This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30 -- Feast of Saints Leopardus

Cranky old St Jerome
Well, in the last couple years I picked the low-hanging fruit by writing about Saints Jerome and Gregory the Illuminator.  The Episcopalians and Lutherans share in the celebration of Jerome today, which doesn't offer me much.  In the East, they're celebrating Gregory the Illuminator, which also doesn't help.  So in spite of the paucity of Leopardian detail, he's our saint today. 

Tom Leppard is not Saint Leopardus
He was a slave in the household of Julian the Apostate.  Julian, you might recall, was the nephew of Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who legalized Christianity throughout the Empire.  Although Julian was raised a Christian, he read some Neoplatonic philosophy and became an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries.  In the twilight of the old Roman pantheon, mystery cults like the Eleusinian became more popular among spiritual seekers.  I'm not knocking those folks -- Christianity appealed to the same market, but sadly for lots of folks, Eleusiniana appealed more to Julian. 
Neither is Leopardman

By the fourth century, the death of most emperors triggered rebellions and wars of succession.  Julian rose to prominence in one of these, shoring up Gaul and the German frontier for Emperor Constantius while rebuking his troops for their efforts to proclaim his Augustus.   Constantius undiplomatic redeployment of half of Julian's army threatened to cause a war between them, but the Emperor's  death resulted in Julian's elevation to the imperial throne. 

Saint Mercurius' spirit smiting Julian in Persia
As an emperor, Julian sought to restore religious toleration and parity.  He perceived that the Christians had gained the upper hand, and so began discriminatory policies in order to restore paganism.  He took as his role models Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian, emperors from long before when the office was still "first among equals" rather than a living god.  [Hadrian was somewhat theatrical about the office, dressing as Hercules and all that, but he was still considered human.]  Julian even ordered the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem though the project failed due to earthquake and fires -- bad omens for a religious enterprise. 

His reforms went nowhere, of course.  After his death during the invasion of Persia, the pre-eminence of Christianity was restored, and then eventually codified as the sole official and legal religion in the Empire. 

Poor Leopardus doesn't factor in very much.  I try to imagine his life and his faith.  The life must have been okay as far as slaves when.  Palace slaves generally at well, slept comfortably -- some even grew wealthy and powerful.  Free paupers lived much shorter, nastier lives than imperial slaves, as a rule.  But the faith of Leopardus was such that he could not do something -- declare something he didn't believe or sacrifice to something he did not venerate.