Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Saint - Just Not in Either Martyrology

St John the Hermit, Priest of Ortega (so named after the nettles there, urtica in Latin), or, as he is called in Spanish, San Juan de Ortega – amusingly rendered into English as St John of the Nettle(s), or even, of the Thistle! – is a curious example of an undoubted saint, who nonetheless appears neither in the EF nor the OF Martyrology.

His feast, as found in many Spanish Breviaries, was and still is celebrated (by a fiesta, procession and Mass in his resting place) on the 2nd of June, the day of his death in 1163. The relevant volume of the Acta Sanctorum, published in 1695, details this and other accounts of his holy life, spent in the service of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela; the tiny hamlet of San Juan de Ortega, named after him, is one of the stops along the Camino Francés, and his relics are still venerated there.

According to the Bollandists, Neque per Romani Breviarii susceptionem abolitum est festum, sed mutatum Officium – "And neither by the taking up of the Roman Breviary [in place of the old Diocesan Breviaries of Spain] was [his] feast abolished, but the Office was changed"; that said, I cannot find a copy thereof. At least, from the A.S., I have uncovered the Collect of his feast:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui beatum Joannem, Confessorem tuum atque Presbyterum, Sanctorum tuorum collegio sociasti; concede nobis, adhuc in valle lacrymarum laborantibus, ut ejus preces et merita, ad impetrandam gratiam tuam tuta præstent auxilia. Per. 
(Almighty, everlasting God, who hast joined blessed John, thy Confessor and Priest, to the college of thy Saints, concede to us, still labouring in this vale of tears, that by his prayers and merits, his secure assistance may be provided for obtaining thy grace. Through…)

It ought be noted that in 1971 the Vatican, at the request of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, appointed him Patron Saint of Surveyors, which is not an honour conceded to mythical persons or those whose claim to sanctity is dubious. Furthermore, the particular calendar of the Archdiocese of Burgos  lists him on the 2nd of June.

How annoying an oversight, then, that even in the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology, his name does not appear! I spent quite a bit of time searching in my copy through all the many Saints named John, to no avail.

Now for rubricians, a question: according to the letter of the law, in both the modern and 1962 Missals, a Votive Mass may be celebrated of any Saint listed in the relevant edition of the Roman Martyrology; thus, according to the letter of the law, it would seem that it is impossible to offer a Votive Mass in honour of St John of the Nettle – however, as his cultus is ancient and undoubted (it was good enough for the Servant of God Queen Isabella the Catholic, who visited in 1477), could the spirit rather than the letter be applied, and such a Votive be offered, for the intention of the many pilgrims traipsing across Spain to the tomb of St James?

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