Saint Thorlac - 23 December

Saint Thorlac Thorhallsson. Bishop. Patron saint of Iceland. Thorlak was bishop of Skalholt from 1178 until his death.

Born in 1133, at Hlíðarendi in the see of Skálholt in southern Iceland, Thorlac came from an aristocratic family. He was ordained deacon before he was 15 and consecrated a priest at the age of 18. He studied abroad in Paris and possibly Lincoln.

Returning to Iceland in 1161, Thorlac founded a monastery of Canons Regular at Þykkvibær after refusing to marry a rich widow. There he devoted himself to a strictly religious life, refusing to marry (many other Icelandic priests were married at that time) and devoting himself to reciting the Our Father, the Creed, and a hymn, as well as 50 Psalms.

Thorlac was consecrated as bishop by Augustine of Nidaros and worked to regulate the Augustinian Rule in Iceland, as well as eradicate simony, lay patronage, and clerical incontinency.

Thorlac's life and dozens of his miracles are described in great detail in the Icelandic Saga of Saint Thorlak, republished in Icelandic on the occasion of John Paul II's visit to Iceland in 1989. It seems likely that Thorlac's informal sanctification in the Church in Iceland, promoted by Latin texts on which this was based, 'was arranged in Icelandic ecclesiastical circles, clerics of both dioceses being conspicuous in reports of early miracles'.

Thorlac was officially recognised as a saint of the Catholic Church on January 14, 1984, when John Paul II canonized him and declared him the patron saint of Iceland.

Thorlac's Mass is celebrated on the date of his death, 23 December. It is considered the last day of preparations before Christmas. Therefore, on St Thorlac's Day, the house is cleaned and preparations for the Christmas meal are begun. Most people in Reykjavík go into town in the night to meet others and do the last shopping before Christmas. Fish was usually eaten on this day since December 23 was the last day of the Catholic Christmas fast. In western Iceland, it was customary to eat cured skate on this day; this custom spread to the whole of Iceland. The skate is usually served with boiled or mashed potatoes, accompanied by a shot of Brennivín.

Also St John Cantius (Jan Kanty) 

Polish priest, scholastic philosopher, physicist and theologian.

Jan Kanty was born in 1390, Kęty, a small town near Oświęcim, Poland, to Stanisław and Anna Kanty. He attended the Kraków Academy at which he attained bachelor, and licentiate. In 1418 he became a Doctor of Philosophy. Upon graduation he spent the next three years conducting philosophy classes at the university, while preparing for the priesthood.

Upon his ordination, he became rector at the school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher in Miechow. While there, he was offered a professorship of Sacrae Scripturae (Sacred Scripture) back at his alma mater, the Kraków Academy, which would later be named the Jagiellonian University. He attained a doctorate in theology and eventually became director of the theology department. He held the professorship until his death in 1473. John spent many hours copying manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, theological tracts, and other scholarly works.

In physics, he helped develop Jean Buridan's theory of impetus, which anticipated the work of Galileo and Newton.

During his time in Krakow, John Kanty became well known in the city for his generosity and compassion toward the poor, especially needy students at the university. He subsisted on what was strictly necessary to sustain his life, giving alms regularly to the poor. He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem and four pilgrimages on foot to Rome.

Michael Miechowita, the medieval Polish historian and the saint's first biographer, described the saint's extreme humility and charity.

He died while living in retirement at his alma mater on 24 December 1473, aged 83. His remains were interred in the Collegiate Church of St Anne, where his tomb became and remains a popular pilgrimage site. He is the patron of the diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec (since 1992), and of the students.

John Cantius was beatified in Rome by Pope Clement X on March 28, 1676. He was named patron of Poland and Lithuania by Pope Clement XII in the year 1737. Ninety-one years after his beatification, Blessed John Cantius was canonized on July 16, 1767, by Pope Clement XIII.

The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor not a bishop who has been given this honor in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

St John Cantius is a popular saint in Poland. A number of churches and schools founded by Polish diaspora communities throughout North America are named in his honour, in cities as far-ranging as Cleveland, Ohio; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Philadelphia, Erie, and Windber, Pennsylvania; New York City and Buffalo, New York.

In 1998, a new religious institute was founded, based in Chicago, which took St John Cantius as their patron saint. Thus they are the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius.

When Saint John Cantius's feast day was first inserted into the General Roman Calendar in 1770, it was initially assigned to 20 October, but in the 1969 revision it was moved to the 23 December, the day before the anniversary of his death, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1473.

Tags: 23 December, Saint of the Day, Saint Thorlac, St Jan Kanty

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