Saint of the day

St. Deogratias

The city of Carthage in Africa was taken over by barbarian armies in 439. The conquerors were the Vandals. They arrested the bishop and priests and put them on a large, old wooden raft and set it adrift at sea. Incredible as it may seem, the bishop and his priests reached the port of Naples, Italy, and were rescued. But Carthage, the city they left behind, was without a bishop for fourteen years.

Emperor Valentinian in Rome asked Genseric, the leader of the Vandals, to permit the ordination of another bishop for Carthage. Genseric agreed, and a young priest of that city was chosen. He was both respected by the conquerors and loved by the Christians. His name in Latin was “Deogratias,” which means “thanks be to God.” Bishop Deogratias labored for the faith and well-being of the people of Carthage.

Then Genseric attacked Rome. He returned to Africa with hundreds of slaves—men, women and children. Whole families were kidnapped and divided up among the Vandals and Moors. Genseric allowed family members to be sold and separated from their loved ones.

Bishop Deogratias heard about the tragedy. When the slave ships docked at Carthage, he bought back as many slaves as he could. He raised the money by selling the church vessels, vestments and ornaments. He was able to free many families. He found living quarters for them. When the houses were filled up, he used two large churches for this purpose. He bought everything they needed so that the people could feel at home in their new surroundings.

Bishop Deogratias died in 457 after only three years as Carthage’s bishop. He was totally worn out from his life of self-sacrifice and loving service. The people he helped would never forget him.

St. Deogratias helps us realize that we can never put a price on a human life. Each person is valuable because we are all children of God, our loving Father. Let’s pray to St. Deogratias that human life will be more respected.

See you tomorrow!