June 29, 2018

Saint Cassius, Bishop of Narni (+ 558)

St. Cassius of Narni (Feast Day - June 29)

Saint Cassius was Bishop of Narni in Cascavel from 9 October 536 to 29 June 558. Cassius was married; his wife's name was Fausto. He was most noted for his daily celebration of the Liturgy and the giving of all his possessions to the poor. Cassius's time in office coincided with Justinian's Gothic War, a dangerous period for Italian cities.

He was praised by Saint Gregory the Great, who relates the following about him in his Dialogues (Bk. 3, Ch. 6):

"For in the time of the same Goths, the foresaid King Totila coming to Narni, Cassius, a man of venerable life, Bishop of the same city, went forth to meet him, whom the king utterly held in contempt, because his face was of a florid complexion, thinking that it proceeded not from any other cause than drinking. But almighty God, to show how worthy a man was despised, permitted a wicked spirit before his whole army, in the fields of Narni, where the king also himself was, to possess one of his guard, and cruelly to torment him. Straightway was he brought to the venerable man Cassius, in the presence of the king, who praying to God for him, and making the sign of the cross, forthwith he cast out the devil, so that never after would he presume any more to enter into his body. And by this means it happened that the barbarous king, from that day forward, did with his heart much revere the servant of God, whom before by his face he judged to be a man of no account: for seeing him now to be one of such power and virtue, he gave over those proud thoughts which before he had conceived."

Pope Gregory further relates about Bishop Cassius in his Dialogues (Bk. 4, Ch. 56):

"For Cassius, Bishop of Narni, a man of holy life, who did usually every day offer sacrifice unto God (and while he was at the mysteries of those sacrifices, did also immolate himself in tears), received from our Lord this message by one of His Priests: 'Do as you do, work as you work, let not your foot cease, let not your hand cease, upon the birthday of the Apostles you shall come unto me, and I will give you your reward.' And so, seven years after, upon that very day of the Apostles, after he had ended the solemnity of the Liturgy and received the Mysteries of the sacred communion, he departed this life."

Gregory goes into further details about the death of Cassius in Homily 37 of his Homilies on the Gospels. He died after celebrating the Liturgy as he was dismissing the faithful with the kiss of peace. Interestingly, he records that Saint Cassius celebrated the daily Liturgy on the tomb of Saint Juvenal. There must therefore have been a chapel over this tomb, which is known to have been close to the what is now known as the Sacello di San Cassio. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that it served as a funerary chapel for the bishops of Narni. This was almost certainly the site of the grave of Saint Cassius and Fausta.

Saint Cassius died at Rome after going on pilgrimage there for the feast of the Holy Apostles, which he did annually, on the 29th of June 558. In the year 878, Cassius’ relics were taken to Baggio in Lucca with those of Saints Juvenal of Narni and Cassius' wife Fausta. They were taken by Adalbert, Margrave of Tuscany, but all of the relics were returned to Narni two years later. The relics of Saint Cassius were built in a restored shrine later known as the Sacello di San Cassio, where his sixth-century grave slab can be seen that depicts him and Fausta as lambs.