Mike Aquilina

Char-Bishop

Friday August 11th 2006, 3:02 am

Here’s a nice follow-up to yesterday’s grilling …

Alexander, known as “the charcoal burner,” was bishop of Comana, in Pontus, and he may have been the first to hold the office in that place.

Alexander wasn’t always a charcoal burner. In fact, he was at first a philosopher. At some point, though, out of humility, he decided he was the one to do society’s dirty work. He gained renown as an exceedingly filthy guy in exceptionally ragged clothes. But inwardly he was washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, preferring heavenly to earthly things.

At some point, the people of Comana called upon St. Gregory the Wonderworker (the famous disciple of Origen) to help them choose a bishop. Gregory was unimpressed with all their candidates. In exasperation, someone jokingly suggested that Alexander the Charcoal Burner might be available. And Gregory took it as a prompting of the Spirit. He called upon Alexander and questioned him — and named him to the See of Comana! Alexander guided the Church with wisdom until he received a still higher vocation: to martyrdom. Around 275, during the persecution of Decius, he was burned alive.

Our earliest knowledge about him comes from St. Gregory of Nyssa’s life of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus. His feast day is today, August 11, which is also the memorial of Saints Tiburtius and Susanna, Roman martyrs from a little later in the third century.