Sunday, February 18, 2018

St. Theotonius

Born in 1082 into a wealthy and pious family in northern Portugal, Theotonius was a nephew to the Bishop of Coimbra and studied with him from a young age to prepare for the priesthood.

When Theotonius was ordained a priest, he lived most austerely, avoiding luxury. After the death of his uncle around the year 1112, the young priest, now thirty years old, accepted – though not without reluctance – the office of the Superior of the Cathedral Chapter of Viseu.

The Countess Teresa of Portugal (referred to by Pope Paschal II in 1116 as "Queen," a title that remained from that time onwards) and her husband, Henry of Burgundy, with the consent of the clergy and at the urging of the people, often sought to appoint Theotonius as Bishop of Coimbra, but he always refused.

In an effort to dissuade the Queen from her intentions, Theotonius resigned his office as Prior of the Cathedral Chapter and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After he returned to Portugal, he resumed his work as a priest and Chapter member in Viseu, but refused to take up again the office of Prior.

Theotonius was fearless in rebuking sinful behavior, in public or in private. In one instance, the now widowed queen was attending Holy Mass celebrated by Theotonius. She was accompanied by the Galician nobleman Fernando Pérez de Traba and the nature of their scandalous relationship had become well-known. Theotonius' sermon, though not naming them, was clearly directed at their conduct. On another occasion, Theotonius was about to begin Holy Mass when the queen had a message sent asking him to say the Mass quickly. He replied simply that there was another Queen in heaven, far more noble, for whom he ought to say the Mass with the greatest reverence and devotion. If the queen did not wish to stay, she was free to leave, but he would not rush – Theotonius was ever insistent on the exact and reverent recitation of holy prayers.

Theotonius’s priestly life was distinguished by a great love for the poor and for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for whom he offered Mass every Friday. The Mass was followed by a procession to the cemetery, and large sums were donated to the priest, but Theotonius distributed the money to the poor.

Theotonius died in 1162 at the age of eighty. When he heard the news, Don Afonso Henriques, Queen Teresa's son and the first king of Portugal, who was a good friend of Theotonius’s, remarked of him, “his soul will have gone up to Heaven before his body is lowered into the tomb.”

2 comments:

  1. I congratulate you for posting this information about Saint Theotonius, the first Saint of Portugal. However, I would like to mention what is probably the most important accomplishment of his life: together with Dom Tello, he founded in Coimbra the Order of the Regular Canonics of the Holy Cross, in 1131. Many years later, Saint Anthony of Padova joined this order, before going to Italy to join Saint Francis of Assissi. This Order was terminated by the anticatholic government of Portugal in late 19th century, and was restored by Pope Paul VI.

    ReplyDelete