Home  »  Volume XI: November  »  St. Joannicius, Abbot

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

November 4

St. Joannicius, Abbot

THIS saint, by holy penance after a dissolute youth, arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity, as to be ranked by the Greek church amongst the most illustrious saints of the monastic Order. He was a native of Bithynia, and a hog driver; afterwards he rode in the guards of Constantine Copronymus, or at least of his son and successor Leo IV., surnamed Chazares, and was distinguished by a robust constitution, big stature, intrepid courage, and many military exploits, but was carried away with the torrent of the times, and became a violent persecutor of holy images. By the conversation of a holy monk in the reign of the Catholic empress Irene, he was reclaimed from his error and dissolute life, and, touched with compunction, spent his time in tears, fasting, and prayer for six years, during which he continued in the army. These sentiments making every day deeper wounds in his heart, at forty years of age he quitted the service, and retiring to Mount Olympus in Bithynia, near Prusa, lived in several monasteries till he had learned to read, and to recite the psalter by heart, and had instructed and exercised himself in all the duties of a monastic life. His prayer was continual; and he had always a devout aspiration in his mouth, which he called the seasoning of his heart. He afterwards led an eremitical life for twelve years: then took the religious habit in the monastery of Ereste, and became famous over all the East for the gifts of miracles and prophecy, and for his heavenly prudence in directing others in the paths of perfect virtue. He zealously defended the use which the church makes of holy images, in the persecuting reigns of Leo the Armenian, and Theophilus; and had a share in the triumph of the truth, when the pious empress Theodora restored holy images. In his old age he built himself a cell near his monastery on Mount Antides, and in this retirement prepared himself for his passage to eternity, which happened in 845. Three days before his death he received a visit from the patriarch St. Methodias. Some make him a hundred and sixteen years old at his death; others ninety-four, and others only eighty-one. See his life in Surius, which Baronius and Baillet ascribe to Metaphrastes; but Pagi to some anonymous author. Papebroke (in Ephrem. Gr. Mosch.) promises more authentic memoirs of this saint from Sabas and Peter, both monks of his community. See Lambecius, t. 8, p. 266.  1