SAINT APOLLINARIS of RAVENNA
First Bishop of Ravenna and Martyr
When Saint Peter, setting out for Rome, left Antioch after seven years as its spiritual Head, he took with him several of the faithful of that city, among them Apollinaris, a disciple of Jesus Christ. He consecrated him bishop a few years later and sent him to Ravenna as its first bishop.
His first miracle was on behalf of the blind son of a soldier who gave him hospitality when he first arrived in the city of Ravenna. When the apostle told him of the God he had come to preach and invited him to abandon the cult of idols, the soldier replied: "Stranger, if the God you preach is as powerful as you say, beg Him to give sight to my son, and I will believe in Him." The Saint had the child brought and made the sign of the cross on his eyes as he prayed. The miracle was instantaneous, to the great amazement of all, and news of it spread rapidly. A day or so later, a military tribune sent for him to cure his wife from a long illness, which again he did. The house of the tribune became a center of apostolic action, and several persons sent their children to the Saint to instruct them there. Little by little a flourishing Christian assembly was formed, and priests and deacons were ordained. The Saint lived in community with the two priests and two deacons.
The idolatrous priests aroused the people against him, as we see the enemies of Saint Paul do in the Acts of the Apostles. He was left half-dead on the seashore, after being severely beaten, but was cared for by the Christians and recovered rapidly. A young girl whom he cured after having her father promise to allow her full liberty to follow Christ, consecrated her virginity to God. It was after this that, in the time of Vespasian, he was arrested and interrogated and again flogged, stretched on the rack and plunged into boiling oil. Alive still, he was exiled to Illyria, east of the Adriatic Sea.
He remained three years in that country, having survived a shipwreck with only a few persons whom he converted. Then he evangelized the various districts, with the aid of his converts. When an idol ceased to speak during his sojourn in one of these regions, the pagans again beat him and threw him and his companions on a ship which took them back to Italy. Soon imprisoned, he escaped but was seized again and for the last time subjected to a flogging. He died on July 23rd of the year 79. His body lay first at Classis, four miles from Ravenna, and a church was built over his tomb; later the relics were returned to Ravenna. Pope Honorius had a church built to honor the name of Apollinaris in Rome, about the year 630. From the beginning the Church has held his memory in high veneration.