Today, 30 Mar 2012, is the feast day of St Zozimus (or Zosimus), the bishop of Syracuse, Sicily in the 7th century. His life demonstrates how actively involved the Saints are in our lives. It also demonstrates how when God delays to answer our prayers, it is so that He can give us better answer than we could ever have imagined.
St Zozimus was born around the year 570 to wealthy parents who had prayed for years to receive the gift of a child. When God delayed to answer that prayer, they persevered. Perhaps they expected an ordinary child, but those diligent prayers paved the way for God to give them a child who became a bishop and a Saint. If you have ever prayed long and hard for a child you understand deeply that each one is a true gift from heaven and that each one belongs to God first and foremost. It is not surprising then, that when young Zozimus was ready to begin his education that his parents brought him to the monastery of St Lucy - entrusting him to God for His service just like Hannah did with Samuel and like Anne and Joachim did with Our Lady.
Being a young boy in a monastery takes a bit of getting used to. Zozimus must have been home-sick, so he ran away. When he was returned to the monastery Zozimus experienced a vision of St Lucy, the early martyr and patron of the monastery. She was visibly upset with him, as any holy person would be in the presence of someone who had run away from a vocation which would lead to their sanctity. The vision then expanded to include Our Lady, who, promising to intercede for the youngster, reassured St Lucy that her young charge would not run away again, and would in time make her very proud. Zozimus got the message, and settled into monastic life and began to grow in holiness. Thankfully God also provided earthly models of sanctity for Zozimus to learn from, notably St Faustus of Syracuse.
The years passed, and Zozimus grew in humility, in faith, and in devotion towards his patron St Lucy. After some thirty years the abbot of the monastery died, and the monks together with their bishop gathered to pray and seek God’s will in choosing the new abbot. Not everyone could go, since someone needed to stay behind at St Lucy’s shrine to guard her relics and to assist any pilgrims. Zozimus offered to perform this service. Looking at those assembled at the meeting, the bishop could not see the choice of God upon any of them. Knowing that there had to be someone whom God had chosen, the bishop asked if there were any other monks. As soon as Zozimus came into the bishop’s presence, the bishop knew beyond doubt that he was the one. Thus Zozimus came to be appointed abbot and ordained to the priesthood. Under Zozimus’ wise and humble leadership, the monastic community flourished.
In due time the bishop entered into eternity, and a successor was sought. Zozimus’ reputation for holiness made him a prime candidate, but he had absolutely no ambition in that direction. So the choice fell on an unworthy candidate, which was deeply regretted by all. To fix everything up, Pope Theodore himself appointed Zozimus as the next bishop of Syracuse. As could be expected of someone who quaked at the thought of the responsibilities of a bishop, Zozimus depended upon God’s grace and St Lucy’s intercession to fulfill them, and he fulfilled them admirably. Expending himself in love, Zozimus taught his people God’s divine truths with diligence, guided them with wisdom and became renowned for his generosity towards the poor. His death came at advanced aged around the year 660.
Zozimus from a formative age entrusted himself to the intercession of the patron of the monastery and of the diocese, St Lucy. Her abundant intercession helped him to grow in true holiness, and when the time came, to bring great spiritual good to all of the monks of the monastery and the people of the diocese under her special patronage. What a lesson this is for us on the fruitfulness of devotion to patron Saints! If we neglect to seek the aid of our brothers and sisters in heaven, we impoverish ourselves and our Christian communities. If we take God’s gift of the Communion of Saints seriously, then enormous good comes to an immense number of souls.
St Zozimus of Syracuse, pray for us.
St Lucy, pray for us.