St. Deogratias

The city of Carthage was taken over by barbarian armies in 439. The conquerors were the Vandals. They arrested the bishop and priests and put them on a large, old wooden raft and set it adrift at sea. Incredible as it may seem, they reached the port of Naples and were rescued. But the city they left behind was without a bishop for fourteen years.

Emperor Valentinian in Rome asked Genseric, the leader of the Vandals, to permit the ordination of another bishop for Carthage. Genseric agreed and a young priest of that city was chosen. He was respected by the conquerors and loved by the Christians. His name in Latin was "Deogratias," which, in English, means "thanks be to God." Bishop Deogratias labored for the faith and well-being of the people of Carthage.

Then Genseric sacked Rome. He returned to Africa with hundreds of slaves-men, women and children. Whole families were kidnapped and divided up among the Vandals and Moors. Genseric totally disregarded natural ties. Family members were sold individually and separated from their loved ones.

Bishop Deogratias heard about the tragedy. When the slave ships docked at Carthage, he bought back as many slaves as he could. He raised the money by selling the church vessels, vestments and ornaments. He was able to free many families. He found living quarters for them. When the houses were filled up, he used two large churches for this purpose. He bought bedding and other necessary items so that the people could feel at home in their new surroundings.

Bishop Deogratias died after only three years as Carthage's bishop. He was totally worn out from his life of self-sacrifice and loving service. The people he helped would never forget him. He died in 457.

For what blessings can I give thanks to God today?

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