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November 13


Saint of the day:
Saint Brice

Patron Saint of Stomach Problems and Tummyaches

Saint Brice's Story

St. Martin, whose feast we kept two days ago, was succeeded in the see of Tours, as he had predicted, by a monk named Brice, a singularly unpromising candidate to come after such a holy bishop. Martin spent as much time as his episcopal duties permitted among a monastic community at Marmoutier near Tours, into which he himself had taken the orphaned Brice. St Gregory of Tours describes Brice as “proud and vain”, and Martin’s biographer Sulpicius Severus tells the story in his Dialogues (3.15) that Brice was led by devils to “vomit up a thousand reproaches against Martin,” even daring to assert that he himself was much holier for being raised from childhood in a monastery, while Martin was raised in a military camp. Although Brice repented of this (as Sulpicius believed, because of Martin’s prayers), and asked for the Saint’s forgiveness, he continued to be a very difficult character. Martin refused to remove him from the priesthood, lest he seem to do so as an act of vengeance, but expressed his tolerance in less-than-complimentary terms: “If Christ could put up with Judas, why should I not put up with Brice?”

Martin had predicted not only that Brice would succeed him as bishop, but that he would suffer much in the episcopacy, words which Brice dismissed as “ravings.” Both predictions were fulfilled in the following manner. Although Brice was vain and proud, he was “chaste in body”, and yet he was accused of fathering a child. The revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints says, with characteristic (and characteristically irritating) reticence, that he vindicated himself by “a very astonishing miracle”, without saying what the miracle was. Gregory of Tours tells us that Brice called together the people, and before them ordered the month-old infant to say whether or not he was the father, at which the child did indeed say, “You are not my father.” The people ask Brice to make the infant say who its father was, but Brice replied (pride still unconquered), “That is not my job. I have taken care of the part of this business that pertains to me; if you can, ask for yourselves.”

This was attributed, perhaps understandably, to the use of magic, rather than holiness, and so Brice attempted to vindicate himself by carrying hot coals in his cloak to the tomb of St Martin; when he arrived his cloak was not burnt. But this sign was also not accepted, and so he was driven from his see, “that the words of the Saint might be fulfilled, ‘Know that in the episcopate, you will suffer many adversities.’ … Then Brice sought out the Pope of Rome, weeping and mourning, and saying ‘Rightly do I suffer these things, because I sinned against God’s Saint, and often called him crazy and deluded; and seeing his virtues, I did not believe.’ ” After staying in Rome for seven years, and purging his sins by the celebration of many Masses, he was restored to his see, which he governed for seven years further as a man “of magnificent sanctity,” according to Gregory, very much changed for the better by the experience. His popularity in the medieval period was very great, and his feast is found on most calendars, although not that of Rome. This is due in part to his association with St Martin, but perhaps more as an example of something that the medievals understood very well and loved to dwell on, that it is never too late for God’s grace to bring us away from sin to sanctity.

The see of Tours also celebrates within the octave of St Martin another of its holy bishops, the historian and hagiographer St Gregory, whom we have cited above, whose feast is kept on November 17. A very charming story is told that he was unusually small, which must have been very small indeed to be noted in an age when people were generally much shorter than we are today. When he came into the presence of Pope St Gregory the Great during a visit to Rome, the Pope’s expression clearly evinced surprise at his stature, at which he quoted the words of Psalm 99, “He (i.e. God) made us, and not we ourselves.”








Tours, France




Blood Orange-Champagne Crème Brûlée


  • 2 tablespoons champagne

  • ½ cup blood orange segments

  • 2½ cups heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon blood orange zest (from about 4 small oranges)

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 8 large egg yolks

  • 6 thin, horizontal slices peeled blood orange

  • 5 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

  • about 6 tablespoons super fine granulated sugar


  1. Prep ramekins. Place 6 (6-ounce) ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.

  2. Marinate the orange. Place the the blood orange segments in a bowl and add the champagne and ½ teaspoon granulated sugar. Set aside. (Here's how to segment the orange.)

  3. Scald the cream with the zest and vanilla. Add the cream and blood orange zest to a medium-sized pot and place it on the stove. Use a paring knife to make a slit in the vanilla bean lengthwise, and then use the back of the knife to spread each half open, and scrape all of the beans into the cream. Add the emptied pod to the cream as well.Now turn the heat to medium-high under the pot of cream and scald it -- it should not quite be boiling, and should just have tiny bubbles along the edges.

  4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sugar. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk until it's thick and a lighter yellow, about 5 minutes.

  5. Temper and combine the cream mixture with egg mixture. Turn the heat off of the cream and use a large ladle to add a cup or so of the hot cream to the egg mixture, and whisk it immediately. Repeat this one more time, and then add this to the remaining cream in the pot. Turn the heat to medium-low and whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is thick, about 6 minutes or so. It should coat the back of a spoon and stay there. (Should it look like the mixture is separating - becoming grainy -- quickly and carefully, pour it in a blender and blend. This should bring it back together.) Set aside.

  6. Assemble. Use a slotted spoon to add about one sixth of the champagne-marinated blood orange segments to each ramekin.Now add 1½ tablespoons of the excess blood orange-champagne juice that's left in the bowl, to the custard and mix.Pour equal amounts of the custard over the blood orange segments in each ramekin. Then very gently press one of the thin blood orange slices on top of each one. Then place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and ideally overnight.

  7. Brûlée! When you're ready to serve, sprinkle each one evenly with 1 tablespoon of the super fine sugar. (A sugar shaker is perfect for this.) Then use a small kitchen blow torch to brown the sugar to create a crust. If you don't have the kitchen torch, you can also place them under the broiler, fairly close to the flame, just until they brown, 1 minute or less.

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