24 July: Astonishing Saints and good red wine

A glance through the Martyrologium Romanum today will produce astonishment.

Among the many saints listed today you will find,

St. Charbel
St. Christina, virgin and martyr
Sts. Boris and Gleb
St. Balduin
St. Cunegunda
Bl. Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam, and Richard Simpson
Bl. Jopseh Lambton
St. John Boste
A whole rft of Spanish martyrs…


10*. Sancti Trudonis in Brabantia, baetae Christinae, cognomenato Mirabilis, virginis, quia in ea, tum corpore afflicta, tum spiritu rapta, Dominus mirabiliter operatus est.

Yes, it is the feast of St. Christine the Astonishing today.

St. Christina was born in Brusthem, Belgium in 1150. She was orphaned at 3. At 21 she reportedly experienced something like an epileptic fit and she appeared that she had died.  When Mass was being said for her, her body suddenly levitated to the ceiling of the Church. When the priest commanded her to return to earth, she did.  Christine said that she had been to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. She was to return to earth to pray for souls in Purgatory.  She explained later that she floated up to the roof of the church because she could not stand the smell of the people’s sins.  Her description of the damned is sobering.

Probably in part because people thought she was crazy, St. Christina was very shy and avoided people, going so far as to climb trees or hiding in ovens. In those enlightened days many thought she was insane.  She lived a very austere life, passing the last years of her life in St. Catherine’s convent in Saint-Trond. She died 25 July 1224.

Wikipedia recounts:

As chronicled by her contemporaries, she threw herself into burning furnaces and there suffered great tortures for extended time uttering frightful cries, yet coming forth with no sign of burning upon her. In winter she would plunge into the frozen Meuse River for hours and days and weeks at a time all the while praying to God and imploring His Mercy. She allowed herself to be carried by the currents down river to the mill where the wheel "whirled her round in a manner frightful to behold" yet she had no dislocations or broken bones. She was chased by dogs that bit and tore her flesh. She ran from them into thickets of thorns, and though covered in blood she would return with no wound or scar.

I have no doubt people were astonished by Christine.

As far as the other St. Christine is concerned, the 3rd c. virgin martyr, you can visit her tomb and a nice catacomb in Bolsena in northern Lazio near Tuscany.  Her tomb, which in centuries past was highly sought and venerated, is in the very church where the Eucharistic miracle occurred which sparked the feast of Corpus Christi.  Bolsena is on the Via Francigena, which stretches between the doorway of Canterbury Cathedral and the threshold of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome.

I recommend that you prepare a nice supper tonight and enjoy, in honor of the Christines and other saints celebrated today, a glass of the nice and inexpensive Tuscan red Santa Cristina made by Antinori. 

It is not, perhaps, an astonishing wine, but it will fit in every budget and it will make this day a little more special. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. M Heller says:

    Whenever I hear the name Cunegunda, I think of my aunt’s German mother who was named Cunegunda Messenschlager (!). We have a stained glass window dedicated to St. Cunegunda and her husband, St. Henry, in my parish church (founded by Germans). St. Henry was Duke of Bavaria, and later became emperor. So, if red is not your thing,(especially in New York’s 100+ temps today) you might uncork a chilled Gewurtztraminer or Riesling this evening. Prosit!

  2. Believe it or not, St. Christian the Astonishing was the subject of an Australian rock song by Nick Cage and the Bad Seeds. Can’t say it does much for me, but it does follow the Golden Legend of her Life quite closely . . . Here goes:


  3. catholicmidwest says:

    I enjoy celebrating the saints. We have thousands of them and martyrs too.

    But at the same time it saddens me because if the Church doesn’t get its stuff together SOON, all that’s going to be left of it is these saints and a few faithful being battered to pieces by the culture and perhaps chased by the cops. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a progressive by any description. In fact, I’m a convert and pretty much in love with the Church, just very worried about her.

    I understand that we can’t be run by civil authorities in the way that the public culture would like (ie, turn our miscreants over to them, period, because that has disastrous precedent,think 3rd Reich etc), but we have got to think of some way of dealing with our problems and act on it. Lay people like me are losing our faith in the ability of the church to operate decently and carry out the real purpose of its existence which is to continue the work of salvation until the end of time.

    The saints must be mortified for us, those of us who don’t have sense to be mortified for ourselves.

    I am hoping the new Mass translation will help over time to straighten out this colossal mess we’ve made. I wish there were more we could do.

  4. catholicmidwest says:

    And on a happier note, at http://www.catholic.org/saints/f_day/jul.php there is a list of the saints for every day. There are supposed to be 10,000 saints but I don’t know where the definitive head count is or if we even have one. But on pretty much every day, you can take your pick of a saint to think about. =)

  5. Dr. Eric says:

    I had the privilege of worshiping with the Maronites in Peoria, IL for about a year when I worked at St. Francis hospital. They are some of the most devoted people in the Catholic Church. The Liturgy is beautiful and exotic, yet familiar.

    St. Charbel is one of my favorite saints. He has been noted recently as coming back and burning people with his hands (perhaps he is like the seraphim.)


    He also performs surgery when he’s not praising God.


  6. Gail F says:

    Boy that’s a weird song.

  7. Mashenka says:

    The other Christina, as told by the “other lung” (a pretty distressing life and death in her own right…):


    Let us celebrate together the victory of all the saints and martyrs who now rejoice in the glory of God!

    Nosdovya! Yassou! Slainte!

  8. The best Santa Cristina that I can remember was the ’97, though I have not come across a bottle and do not know how it might have held up. It is not a cellar wine, but it is reliably tasty and can be served with a wide variety of things, or taken alone (it is not usually too vinoso), or with some finger snacks.

    An excellent recommendation, Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

    I had let the S. Cristina slip off my radar, and will be acquiring a few bottles as soon as practicable (i negozi ormai so’ chiusi).


  9. *come across a bottle of ’97 recently.

  10. I hunted up a bottle on my grocery run. Under $10.

  11. Elly says:

    catholicmidwest, thank you for that link! i was looking for something like that. If I ever have children I thought it would be neat to name them after a saint whose saint’s day is on their birthday. Just an idea, but only if there is a name I like on their birthday.


  12. q7swallows says:

    Fr. Z,

    You totally made my day! Thank you!


  13. Jane says:

    I read about St. Christina the astonishing some years ago. She sure lives up to her title. Last night our family watched a DVD about St. Joseph of Cupertino. The DVD is entitled: The Reluctant Saint. St. Joseph of Cupertino is famous for his flying (without benefit of a plane) and his other miracles. One of my children asked me if any other saints could fly. I said that I am sure that there were some, but I could not think of any just then, now I can give an answer: St Christina the astonishing. I like the fact that she had a devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Everyone should have a devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

    Some helpful information to do that, is at this link:


    There is also information on the web page giving examples of how the Holy Souls in Purgatory generously repay their benefactors.

    I have had a few interesting experiences with another of today’s saints: St Charbel. Here is one of my testimonies regarding his intercession.

    The healing of pain
    During one of my pregnancies some of my ligaments had softened up in preparation for childbirth. This caused me a fair bit of pain. The pain had been occurring for several weeks. One night my husband and I went to a Mass which was celebrated according to the Maronite Rite. When I went up to receive Holy Communion it was obvious to many people that I was in pain, because they could see the way that I was limping. After the Mass a group of ladies approached me and said something in Lebanese, (a language which I do not speak) and they then ushered me over to a side chapel. They prayed in front of a large picture of Saint Charbel and doused me with water from a baptismal font that was in front of the picture. The next night we attended Mass at the same church. All the pain had gone. This was also apparent to people by the way that I walked when going up to Holy Communion. After the Mass the same group of ladies approached me and again ushered me to the chapel of Saint Charbel in order to give thanks for the obvious healing of my pain. (Australia)

    The story above is in my book about answers to prayer, which can be read free online at the following link:


    I have done two print editions of the book (which is a non-commercial venture. The book is an apostolate), and I am always on the lookout for more suitable stories of answers to prayer for the on-line version and a possible third print edition of the book.

    The print editions and the online version are very similar. The major difference being that two of the stories in the print edition are not in the on-line version.

  14. ikseret says:

    Is St. Daniel the Prophet still commemorated on JULY 21st?

    As I recall, the latest Roman Martyrology (2004) completely omitted him?
    Could it be an oversight or was it intentional?

  15. C. says:

    Could Christina be a patroness for those unjustly denied Communion for their misunderstood piety?:

    One time a priest, who did not know her, was so frightened by her appearance that he refused to give her Communion; she raced wildly through the streets, leaped into the Meuse, and swam away.

    BTW, here’s a better recording of the Nick Cave song.

  16. Tina in Ashburn says:

    As a Christine myself, I found the story astonishing. But oh that I could be astonishing in a GOOD way. LOL

    St Christine, pray for us!

    – Jane, I like your story too!

  17. jlmorrell says:

    Having never tried Santa Cristina, I picked up a bottle (2008 yr) this afternoon. Got mine for just under $10 and am enjoying it now. I’ve always liked Sangiovese – thanks for the recommendation Fr. Z.

    John M.

  18. Three people have sent photos of their bottles of Santa Cristina!

    jlmorrell: I am glad you like it.

  19. The Cobbler says:

    Jane mentioned other flying Saints — wasn’t it Padre Pio who, during one of the world wars (shoot, now I wish I’d paid more attention last time this story was told), flew up to a bomber who was en route to destroy a city full of civilians and convinced him to turn back (which, I imagine, was easy after flying up there and being seen in the sky in the first place)?

    By the way, about this one bit… “One time a priest, who did not know her, was so frightened by her appearance that he refused to give her Communion; she raced wildly through the streets, leaped into the Meuse, and swam away.”
    Anyone besides me want to reevaluate his thoughts on medieval elf sprite type creatures now? I hadn’t thought any humans were in the habit of sprinting/flitting off into the wild (not in the wide open land sense but the, well, raging rivers and other normally impassable abodes of nature sense) like so much faerie-ness, but it sounds like this Saint did just that.

  20. C. says:

    For future reference, here is her Vita in the original Latin by Thomas de Cantimpré, O.P.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:


    It’s an old Scandinavian custom to have two birthday celebrations — your own birthday, and your “name day” i.e. the feast day of the saint for whom you are named. Your name day is an occasion for a party and so forth.

    Here’s a painting by a Swedish artist, Fanny Brate: Namnsdag. Note the painting on the wall behind . . . !

    Being named for a saint on your own birthday would be kind of like being born right around Christmas, you get shortchanged a bit in the matter of birthday parties, etc. Friend of mine’s oldest was born on December 26th, they developed the habit of celebrating her birthday on June 26th.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:


    It was Padre Pio — story is told in Bernard Ruffin’s book. I think it was San Giovanni Rotondo they were on the way to bomb, or a nearby town.

  23. Gaz says:

    I’m just being lazy. There are many old testament characters mentioned in the Martryology. Is Hannah, mother of Samuel one of them?

  24. Elly says:

    AnAmericanMother, thanks for the info. That is an interesting point. Should I follow that custom though? Maybe I can start a tradition in my family. But I hope to have a lot of children and that might be too many parties!

  25. AnAmericanMother says:


    You can NEVER have too many parties! They don’t need to be BIG parties. Perhaps a little present on the breakfast plate, and a special dessert with dinner, with the honoree given a special chair, and allowed to lead the grace. Those are the sort of ‘little treats’ that we had growing up, and that I tried to continue with my kids.

    By the way, our local grocery store carries not one but three different Santa Cristina wines, but I was unable to buy any of them because of the Sunday Blue Laws (is that a Southern phenomenon?) I’ll pick one up sometime today.

  26. irishgirl says:

    I don’t drink wine myself-or any other ‘strong drink’ for that matter-so I’ll raise an ‘invisible glass’ to all the Saints whom Father Z mentions!

    Slainte, as the Irish say! Cheers!

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