June 20, 2018

Saint Leukios the Confessor, Bishop of Brindisi

St. Leukios of Brindisi (Feast Day - June 20)

Saint Leukios (Leucius) the Confessor was born probably in the mid-fourth century in the city of Alexandria of pious parents named Eudykios and Euphrodisia. They gave their son the name Eupressios. The mother died when the lad was eleven years old, and his father took monastic tonsure at the Monastery of Saint Hermias,* taking along his son with him to the monastery. The boy was raised under the spiritual guidance of the Abbot Niketas and also experienced monastic elders. The boy showed himself to be very capable, and assiduously he studied Holy Scripture. Eupressios grew up into a quiet, meek and obedient lad. When he reached age eighteen, the Abbot Niketas died.

The brethren of the monastery unanimously chose Eupressios as Abbot, even though he was not yet tonsured into monasticism. Reckoning himself unworthy to guide monks when he was not a monk himself, Eupressios refused. For seven years the Monastery of Saint Hermias remained without a head. During these years Eupressios, struggling at monastic labors, attained to an high degree of virtue and spirituality.

One time Eupressios set off on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God to visit all the churches of the Dormition around the city of Alexandria. At the celebrations Hellios, Bishop of Heliopolis, presided together with his clergy. At the same time he visited the monastery headed by the Abbot Theodore. It was at this monastery that both father and son then remained. By night Eudykios had a revelation about his own approaching end, and also that his son would become a bishop and enlighten with the light of the Christian faith the city and region of Brundisium (now Brindisi in Calabria-Apuleia) in Italy.

And in this same vision a new name for Eupressios was revealed: Leukios, meaning “white”. And it was on the feast of the Dormition in the Church of the Mother of God that Bishop Hellios heard a voice from Heaven, blessing Leukios for archpastoral service, and he directed the archdeacon to inquire of those praying who it was that bore this name. Then with love he blessed Saint Leukios and his father.

The monks of the Hermias Monastery earnestly besought the Bishop to install Saint Leukios as abbot of the monastery. Although the ascetic initially refused, considering himself unworthy, he then submitted himself to the Bishop and was ordained to the priesthood and was made abbot.

From this time Saint Leukios intensified his efforts, and God granted him the grace of working miracles, and casting out demons. The first of these is the healing of Melanzia, a noble Alexandrian woman suffering from dropsy. Another is an exorcism of an Ethiopian who recently converted to the Christian faith. The devil is nested in his body and tries in every way to tear him from the divine light to induce him to be nefarious and miserable. Saint Leukios works to free the Ethiopian from the evil one. But the devil, not wanting to give up, undergoes a series of transformations. First it takes on the shape of a snake and kills anyone who meets it along its path and causes storms, floods and earthquakes. In a second moment it assumes the appearance of a dragon and has calmed its anger only when he has thrown himself into the sea. Saint Leukios, spotting along the edges of the streets, hundreds of lifeless bodies, invites the faithful to collect water and, after having blessed it, sprinkles it on the lifeless bodies and invokes the Heavenly Father. Thus it restores life to the unfortunate poor. With this miracle he astounded many, so much that on that day more than three thousand people were baptized.

During this period Philip, a Bishop of Alexandria, died a martyr, and Saint Leukios was chosen in his place. Seeing that Saint Leukios was converting many pagans to Christianity, the eparch Saturninus decided to kill him. Wishing to defend their archpastor, some of the Christians wanted to kill the eparch. Learning of this, the Saint forbade them to cause the eparch any harm. Saint Leukios told his flock that the Lord had commanded him to go to a pagan land and to enlighten with the light of the Christian faith the city of Brundisium and its surrounding region.

The holy archpastor established a worthy bishop in his place, and he then took with him the deacons Eusebios and Dionysios and five students, and they hastened onto a ship sailing for Italy. Along the way they were joined by the priests Leon and Sabinos. On their journey to Brundisium the Saint met up with the tribune Armaleon and his 67 soldiers, all whom he converted to Christianity. In the city he began to preach to the people about Jesus Christ. The head of the city, named Antiochus, learned that the tribune Armaleon had converted to Christianity, and so he summoned him and questioned him about the Christian teaching for a long time. Learning about Saint Leukios, the governor wished to meet him.

At the meeting the governor said: “If you want us to believe in the God that you preach, beseech Him to send down rain upon our land, which we have not seen for two years already.” The Saint summoned his clergy and all the newly-baptized Christians, and made fervent supplication. Then rain poured down in abundance, soaking the parched earth. Seeing this miracle, Antiochus and all the city of Brundisium (27,000 people) accepted Baptism. In memory of this event, a church was built in honor of the Mother of God, and at the place where the people were baptized, a second church in honor of Saint John the Baptist.

The first true miracle is the story of an exorcism: the story of an Ethiopian who recently converted to the Christian faith. The devil is nested in his body and tries in every way to tear him from the divine light to induce him to be nefarious and miserable. San Leucio works to free the Ethiopian from the evil one.

Soon the Saint fell ill, either with pneumonia or malaria, and it was revealed to him in a vision that he would die of the sickness (one tradition says he died as a martyr). Summoning his spiritual son Antiochus, Saint Leukios gave final instructions to bury him at the place where the ship carrying him from Alexandria had landed. Antiochus fulfilled the request of the archpastor and built a church dedicated to Saint Leukios in Brindisi. The relics of the Saint were transferred to it, and numerous miracles occurred there. There they remained until the Lombard invasion of 768, when they were moved to Trani, then to the capital of the Duchy of Benevento.

The veneration of Saint Leukios spread throughout the region of Apulia (where many of the rural parishes still bear his name), and he became much venerated in Trani, Lecce, Benevento, Caserta, and Capua. The spread of the veneration of Saint Leukios in southern Italy came to coincide with the official conversion to Christianity of the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, Brindisi, which is believed to be attributed to Saint Barbato in 680, and to the Duchess Teoderada in 706. Later that century, the remains of Leukios, which had begun to attract the attention of many pilgrims, were transferred to Trani, placed in a chapel located under the cathedral. Later, they was transferred again to Benevento. The veneration of the Saint spread throughout the region, even reaching Rome, where a monastery dedicated to him was constructed as early as the sixth century. In Atessa a legend grew around Saint Leukios in which the Bishop of Brindisi killed a dragon that had long terrorized the people, and in witness of his work gave him one of the ribs. In the Basilica Cathedral of Brindisi, which was dedicated in 1771, the altar which closes the left aisle preserves the relic of an arm of Saint Leukios.

The only hagiographic sources that concern him are a Vita Sancti Leucii, drawn up in the Benevento-Lombard area as early as the ninth century, and a new version, known as Vita Leucii, written in the thirteenth century by the Archbishop of Brindisi, Pellegrino d'Asti.


* Saint Hermias is known to have been martyred with Ephraim by the Arians in a period shortly after the exile of Athanasius in 356 and lived in a monastery of Upper Egypt.