The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 8, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

Gaining a position in court

St. Methodius opposed emperor and found favor in the eternal court

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Who of us hasn't had the experience of going to look for something we had our heart set on, only to end up with something quite different?

That certainly happened to St. Methodius I. He was born at Syracuse, Sicily. After completing his education there, he set out for Constantinople with his eye on securing a position in the imperial court.

Instead, he became a monk.

He built a monastery on the island of Chios, in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. Eventually, he was summoned back to Constantinople by Patriarch Nicephorus and became a vigorous opponent of iconoclasm, a heresy that sought to destroy religious objects and opposed their veneration.

His efforts against iconoclasm were compounded in 815 when Emperor Leo the Armenian began persecuting anyone opposing the heresy. When Patriarch Nicephorus was deposed and exiled, Methodius went to Rome, apparently to inform Pope St. Paschal I of what was happening in Constantinople.

Methodius returned to Constantinople in 821 when Emperor Michael the Stammerer took the throne. Methodius brought with him a letter from Pope Paschal. In it, the pontiff asked the new emperor to allow Nicephorus to return to his see.

Instead of following Paschal's request, the emperor arrested Methodius as a troublemaker. He had him scourged and imprisoned in a mausoleum with two thieves - one of whom died and was left to rot. Methodius remained there for seven years and looked like a skeleton when he was released.

Despite all that, once free, Methodius again began opposing iconoclasm under Emperor Theophilus. Finally, Methodius was vindicated when the emperor died in 842 and his widow, Theodora, who ruled as regent for their infant son, Michael III, repealed all decrees against images and recalled all exiled priests.

After that, Methodius was named Patriarch of Constantinople, replacing John the Grammarian, who was an iconoclast. As patriarch, Methodius called a synod at Constantinople that supported the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea in favor of icons.

Methodius also became involved in a controversy with some monks of St. Theodore Studites, also an opponent of the iconoclasts. Although Theodore had been a supporter of Methodius, the latter condemned some of Theodore's writings, causing a division.

Methodius died of dropsy in 847 at Constantinople on June 14, the day on which we celebrate his feast.

Despite his reputation as a writer, little remains of his work other than a life of St. Theophanes.

(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints and Dictionary of Saints.)

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