|Saint Julian the
St. Julian's legends are silent about when he lived, and most likely he never did. His cult has been suppressed in the Roman Catholic Church.
But what a good story to lose! While hunting, St. Julian meets a stag that predicts he will kill his parents. He leaves his homeland in horror, but after a cruel series of circumstances the prediction comes true. In penance, he and his wife leave home and establish a hospice for travelers and the poor. One day they are visited by a leper who is shivering from the cold. St. Julian takes him in and even warms him in his own bed. The leper turns out to be an angel with a message that the Lord has accepted his repentance.
The story is unusual in its appreciation for domestic tragedy of the kind that haunts ordinary people. Comparisons to the Oedipus story are obvious, but the differences point to a more intense level of emotional unity in the family. After St. Julian disappears from home, his parents leave their own lives behind in order to search for him, a search that ends in his unwittingly killing them as they sleep together in the dark. St. Julian's wife is innocent of the crime yet she insists on sharing his penance because "like as I have had joy of you, so will I have pain and heaviness." It is not hubris but love that drives the characters, and that brings the final forgiveness.
Like Masaccio's painting of the murder (above), the St. Julian story speaks courageously of the ambiguities in life, where bad deeds often look much like good ones, and even the best can lead to uncertain ends. Yet St. Julian and his wife rise above the vagaries of experience through determined charity.
Feast day: February 12 (now suppressed in the Roman Catholic Church)
Taddeo Gaddi, 1340sWith other saints:
In Carpaccio's St. Vitalis on Horseback, 1514Hagiography: