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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE helpful influence of the Holy Ghost is more and more multiplied along the Church's path. It seems as though he would show us to-day how the divine power of his action is not crippled by lapse of years: for here we have, twelve centuries after his first coming among us, miracles of grace and conversion quite as brilliant as those that marked his glorious descent upon earth.

Norbert, in whose veins flowed the blood of emperors and kings, was, from the very breast of his mother Hedwige, supernaturally invited to a nobility loftier still: yet did he devote to the unreserved enjoyment of pleasure three-and-thirty years of a life that was to number but fifty in all. The Holy Ghost at length hastened to the conquest. There burst a sudden storm, a thunderbolt falls right in front of the prodigal, throwing him to the ground and making a frightful chasm between him and the point whither, a moment ago, he was hastening in pursuit of new vanities, that needs must fail, as all others had done, to fill the hopeless void in his heart. Then, in the very depths of his soul resounds a voice, such as Saul once heard on his way to Damascus: ‘Norbert, whither goest thou?' Like another Paul he replies: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' He is answered: ‘Depart from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it.' Twenty years later, Norbert is in heaven, seated amidst pontiffs, upon a glorious throne, and all radiant with that special brilliancy that distinguishes the founders of the great religious Orders, when they have reached the eternal home.

Deep are the traces left by him on earth of his few years of penitential life. Germany and France receive his preaching; Antwerp is delivered from a shameful heresy; Magdeburg is rescued, by her archbishop, from the irregularities that were sullying the house of God: such are his works; and though these alone would have sufficed to a long life of holiness, yet they are not the only claims, nor the most brilliant, which Norbert has to the Church's gratitude. Before being called, against his will, to the honours of the episcopate, this once gay courtier made choice of an uninhabitable solitude amidst the forests of the diocese of Laon where he devoted himself to prayer and to the maceration of his flesh. The renown of this holy penitent gained rapidly; and Prémontré soon beheld her swampy marshes invaded by a vast multitude, formed of the fairest names of the nobility, pressing thither to learn the science of salvation from the lips of the saintly anchorite. There, too, did our Lady show to him, in vision, the white habit wherewith his disciples were to be clothed; and St Augustine, in like manner, delivered to him his own rule. Thus was founded the most illustrious branch of the Order of Canons Regular. They add to the obligation of solemnizing the Divine Office the austerities of an uninterrupted penance; and devote themselves, moreover, to the service of souls, by preaching and the administration of parishes.

In the foregoing century, the episcopacy and papacy had been raised by the monks above the danger of feudal servitude; and Norbert was now raised up to give the needed completion to their work. Although, in principle, the monastic life excludes no sort of labour useful to the Church, the monks could not (however numerous they might be) quit their cloisters in order to undertake charge of souls. Yet great were the wants of the lambs of the flock at that time; for many unworthy pastors of secondary order, slaves to simony and immorality, still continued to lead astray the simple laity. The religious life was alone capable of raising the priesthood from such degradation, whether on the pinnacles of the hierarchy, or amongst the lowest degrees of sacred Orders. Norbert was the man chosen by God to effect, in part at least, this immense work; and the importance of his mission explains the sublime prodigality wherewith the Holy Ghost multiplied vocations to his standard. The number and rapidity of foundations permitted succour to be promptly and everywhere afforded. Even into the far east did the light of Prémontré reach, almost at its first dawn. In the eighteenth century, notwithstanding the devastations of the Turks and the ravages of the pretended Reformation, the Order, divided into twenty-eight provinces, still contained, in almost every one of its houses, as many as from fifty to one hundred and twenty canons, and the parishes that continued under their care might be counted by thousands.

Nuns, whose holy life and prayers are the ornament and aid of the Church militant, occupied from the very beginning the place deservedly their due in this numerous family. In the time of the founder, or soon after his death, there were more than a thousand of them at Prémontré alone. Such an incredible number gives us an idea of the prodigious propagation of the Order from its very origin. Norbert moreover extended his charity to persons who, like Thibault Count of Champagne, would gladly have followed him into the desert, but who were retained by God’s will in the world; he thus made a prelude to those pious associations, which we shall see St Francis and St Dominic organizing in the thirteenth century, under the name of Third Orders.

The liturgy thus condenses the life of this great servant of God:

Norbertus nobilissimis parentibus natus, adolescens liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, in ipsa postea imperatoris aula, spretis mundi illecebris, ecclesiasticæ militiæ adscribi voluit. Sacris initiatus, rejectis mollibus ac splendidis vestibus, pellicea melote indutus, prædicationi verbi Dei se totum dedit. Abdicatis ecclesiasticis proventibus satis amplis, et patrimonio in pauperes erogato, semel in die sub vesperam solo cibo quadragesimali utens, nudisque pedibus, et lacera veste sub brumali rigore incedens, miræausteritatis vitam est aggressus. Potens igitur opere et sermone, innumeros hæreticos ad fidem, peccatores ad pœnitentiam, dissidentes ad pacem et concordiam revocavit.

Cum Lauduni esset, ab episcopo rogatus ne a sua diœcesi discederet, desertum in ea locum, qui Præmonstratus dicebatur, sibi delegit: ibique tredecim sociis aggregatis, Præmonstratensem ordinem instituit, divinitus accepta per visum regula a sancto Augustino. Cum vero ejus fama sanctitatis in dies magis augeretur, ac plurimi ad eum quotidie discipuli convenirent, idem ordo ab Honorio Secundo aliisque Summis Pontificibus confirmatus, ac pluribus ab eo monasteriis ædificatis, mirifice propagatus est.

Antverpiam accersitus, in ea urbe Tanchelini nefariam hæresim profligavit. Prophetico spiritu et miraculis claruit. Archiepiscopus tandem, licet reluctans, Magdeburgensis creatus, ecclesiasticam disciplinam, præsertim cœlibatum, constanter propugnavit. Rhemis in concilio Innocentium Secundum egregie adjuvit, et Romam cum aliis episcopis profectus, schisma Petri Leonis compressit. Postremo vir Dei, meritis et Spiritu sancto plenus Magdeburgi obdormivit in Domino, anno salutis millesimo centesimo trigesimo quarto, die sexta Junii.
Norbert, born of parents of the highest rank, thoroughly educated in his youth in worldly knowledge, and then a member of the imperial court, turned his back upon the glory of the world, and chose rather to enlist himself as a soldier of the Church. Being ordained priest, he laid aside all soft and showy raiment, clad himself in a coat of skins, and made the preaching of the word of God the one object of his life. Having renounced the ecclesiastical revenues which he possessed and which were very considerable, he distributed likewise his patrimony among the poor. He ate only once a day, in the evening, and then his meal was of lenten fare. His life was of singular austerity, and he used, even in the depth of winter, to go out with bare feet and ragged garments. Hence came that mighty power of his words and deeds, whereby he was enabled to turn countless heretics to the faith, sinners to repentance, and enemies to peace and concord.

Being at Laon, and the bishop having besought him not to leave his diocese, he made choice of a wilderness, at a place called Prémontré, whither he withdrew himself with thirteen disciples, and thus he founded the Order of Premonstratensians, the Rule of which he received in a vision from St Augustine. When, however, the fame of his holy life became every day more and more noised abroad, and great numbers sought to become his disciples, and the Order had been approved by Honorius II and other Popes, many more monasteries were built by him, and the Institute wonderfully extended.

Being called to Antwerp, he there gave the deathblow to the shameful heresy of Tanchelin. He was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and for the gift of miracles. He was created (albeit against his will) archbishop of Magdeburg, and as such was a strong upholder of the discipline of the Church, especially as regards celibacy. At a council held at Rheims, he was a great help to Innocent II, and went with other bishops to Rome, where he repressed the schism of Peter de Leon. At last the man of God, full of good works and of the Holy Ghost, fell asleep in the Lord, at Magdeburg, in the year of salvation eleven hundred and thirty-four, on the sixth day of June.

Thou didst indeed know how to redeem the time,[1] as was fitting in those evil days, wherein thou thyself, O Norbert, led away by the example of the senseless crowd, hadst for so long frustrated the designs of God's love. Those years, at first refused by thee to the true Master of the world, were at length returned unto him, multiplied a hundredfold, through those countless sons and daughters thou didst train up in sanctity. Even thy personal works, in but twenty years' space, filled the whole earth. Schism crushed; heresy confounded to the greater glory of the most holy Sacrament which it had already dared to attack; the rights of the Church intrepidly defended against worldly princes and unjust retentions; the priesthood restored to its primitive purity; the Christian life established on its true basis, of prayer and penance; such and so many victories achieved in so few years, are due to the generosity which prevented thee from looking back for one moment, once the Holy Ghost had touched thy heart. Do thou make all understand that it is never too late to begin to serve God. Were it even, as in thy case, the evening of life, what yet remains of time would suffice to make us saints, if we would but generously give that little fully to heaven.[2]

Faith and patience were thy cherished virtues; make them flourish once more in this sad world, which boasts of its disbelief, and with jibe and jeer hurries onward to the abyss of hell. Forget not, dear apostle, now that thou art in heaven, the countries thou didst formerly evangelize; we implore this of thee, in spite of their forgetfulness and deliberate return to the deceits of the devil.

Holy Pontiff, Magdeburg has lost her ancient faith, and with it the precious relics of thy body, which she no longer deserved to possess: Prague is now the favoured place of thy repose. But, whilst blessing this hospitable city, pray still for the ungrateful one that has cast aside her double treasure. O thou founder of Prémontré, smile once more on France, which derives from thee one of her fairest glories. Obtain of God that, for the salvation of these calamitous times, thine Order may recover something of its former splendour. Bless, few as they are, those sons and daughters of thine who, in spite of the hostility of the 'powers that be,' seek to shed once more their beneficent influence on France. May England benefit also by their return to her midst, and may their fruits be multiplied in every direction. Maintain thine own spirit among them; may they find in interior peace the secret of triumph over Satan and his crew; may the full magnificence of the divine worship solemnly carried out be ever to their souls as the dearly loved mount, whence, Moses-like, they may declare the will of the Lord to the new Israel, the Christian people.

[1] Eph. v 16.
[2] 1 St Pet. iv 2.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AT the head of the holy confessors commemorated by the Church in her martyrology for to-day, is inscribed the illustrious name of William. ‘At York, in England,’ it says, ‘the memory of St William, Archbishop and Confessor, who, amongst other miracles wrought at his tomb, raised three dead persons to life; and who was inscribed amongst the saints by Honorius III.’ The divine Spirit, who adorns the Church with variety in the virtues of her sons,[1] reproduces in them the life of the divine Spouse under many forms. Thus there is no situation in life that cannot find some teaching drawn from the example given by our Lord and his saints under similar circumstances. However vast be the field of trial for the elect here below; however multiplied and unexpected be the limits of endurance, or the circumstances; herein, as ever, does that word of eternal Wisdom hold good: ‘Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before, in the ages that were before us.’[2]

The election of William to the metropolitan see of York was signalized by the apparition of a miraculous cross, a presage of what his life was to be. The heaviest cross one can have to bear is that which originates from the servants of God; from our own brethren, or from our own superiors, in the spiritual order: this cross was not to be spared to William. For our instruction (especially for us who so easily believe that we have gone to the farthest limits of endurance in point of suffering) God permitted that, after the example of his divine Master, William should drink the chalice to the dregs, and should become even to the saints a sign of contradiction and a rock of scandal.[3]

Both to the more numerous portion of the flock, as well as to the better-minded among them, the promotion of the archbishop elect of York was indeed a cause of great joy; but others considered it contrary to their interests. They were foolish enough to listen to certain perfidious insinuations and whisperings, and were led to suppose that it would be a good deed to prevent his consecration. Finally they allowed themselves to be so far worked upon as to make formal and grave accusations against their shepherd, and even the virtuous, deceived by the craftiness of the intriguers, espoused their cause. After hearing from the lips of holy Church in the martyrology her own judgement, glorious as it stands and without appeal, it is not without feelings of wonder and even of bewilderment, that we read passages such as the following, in letters written at the time.

'To our well beloved father and lord, Innocent, by the grace of God Sovereign Pontiff, Bernard of Clairvaux. The archbishop of York hath approached you; that man regarding whom we have so often already written to your Holiness. A sorry cause indeed is his; as we have learned from such as are worthy of credit, from the sole of his foot to the top of his head there is not a sound place in him. What can this man, stripped of all justice, have to seek at the hands of the guardian of justice?’[4] Then recommending the accusers to the Pontiff, the abbot of Clairvaux fears not to add: 'If any one be of God, let him join himself unto them! If the barren tree still occupy the ground, to whom must I attribute the fault, save to him unto whom the hatchet belongs?’[5]

The Vicar of Christ, who can look at things from a higher level and can see more exactly than even saints, took no step to prevent William's consecration, and St Bernard wrote, confidentially, to the abbot of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire: ‘I have learned what has become of this archbishop, and my sorrow is extreme.[6] We have laboured all we could against this common pest, and we have not obtained the desired measure; but for all that, the fruit of our labour is none the less assured from him, who never suffers any good deed to pass unrewarded. What men have refused to us, I am confident we shall obtain from the mercy of our Father who is in heaven, and that we shall yet see this cursed fig-tree rooted up.’[7]

Such grave mistakes as these can sometimes be made by saints. Cruel mistakes indeed they are, but very sanctifying for those saints on whom the blow falls; and, though veritable persecutions, yet they are not without consolation for such saints as these, inasmuch as there has been no offence to God on either side.

Innocent II being dead, Bernard, convinced that the honour of the Church was at stake, repeated his supplications, more urgently than ever, to Pope Celestine II and the Roman court: ‘The whole world is aware of the devil's triumph,’ he exclaimed, with such fiery zeal that we somewhat modify the strength of his expression. ‘The applause of the uncircumcised and the tears of the good, resound far and wide. ... If such were to be the end of this ignominious cause, why not have left it in obscurity? Could not that infamous man, the horror of England and the abomination of France, have been made bishop without Rome also witnessing the general infection spread as far as the very tombs of the apostles?[8]. . . . Well, be it so; this man has received sacrilegious consecration; but still more glorious will it be to precipitate Simon from midair, than to have prevented his mounting thus far. Otherwise, what will you do with the faithful, whose sense of religion makes them suppose that they cannot, with a safe conscience, receive the sacraments from this leprous hand? Are they, then, to be forced by Rome to bend the knee to Baal?’[9]

Rome, however, was slow in letting herself be convinced, and neither Celestine, nor Lucius II who succeeded him, was willing to find in the great services of the powerful abbot of Clairvaux a sufficient reason to pronounce a condemnation, the justice of which was far from being proved to their eyes. It was only under the pontificate of Eugenius III, his former disciple, that St Bernard, by new[10] and reiterated instances,[11] at last obtained the deposition of William, and the substitution, in the see of York, of Henry Murdach, a Cistercian, and abbot of Fountains near Ripon.

‘All the time that his humiliation lasted,’ writes John, prior of Hexham, 'William never let a murmur of complaint escape him; but with a silent heart and with his soul at peace, knew how to keep patience. He protested not against his adversaries; nay, further still, he would turn aside his ear and his very thought from those who judged them unfavourably. None of those who shared his disgrace, showed themselves so continually given up as he to prayer and labour.’[12]

Five years afterwards[13] Eugenius III died, as also the abbot of Clairvaux and Henry Murdach. The canons of York once more elected William, and he was reinstated in the plenitude of his metropolitan rights by Anastasius IV. But God had willed to do no more than affirm the justice of his cause: thirty days after his triumphal return to York, he died, having only just solemnized the festival of the Holy Trinity for whom he had suffered.

We here give the few lines wherein the liturgy records the trials and virtues of St William.

Beatus Gulielmus clarissimis ortus parentibus, scilicet patre Huberto Comite, et matre Emma Stephani regis sorore, summa virtutis laude adolescens floruit. Crescentibus autem meritis cum ætate, Eboracensis thesaurisarius effectus est: quo in munere ita se gessit, ut communis egentium pater ab omnibus haberetur. Neque enim ullum pretiosiorem thesaurum existimabat, quam seipsum opibus spoliare, quo facilius inopia laborantibus subveniret.

Cum autem, defuncto Turstino Archiepiscopo, in ejusdem locum dissentientibus paucis e capitulo esset electus, electioni autem ut minus canonice factæ divus Bernardus apud apostolicam Sedem reclamasset, ab Eugenio tertio summo pontifice exauctoratus est. Quæ quidem res huic sanctoviro non modo nullam molestiam attulit, sed potius optatissimam humilitatis exercendæ, Deoque liberius inserviendi occasionem præbuit. 

Sæculi igitur pompas cum fugeret, in solitudinem secessit, ubi nullis exterarum rerum curis distractus, propriæ saluti invigilaret. Defunctis autem adversariis, archiepiscopus iterum summo omnium consensu eligitur, et ab Anastasio pontifice confirmatur. Recepta autem sede, paulo post in morbum incidit, et dierum plenus, et eleemosynis, vigiliis, jejuniis, bonisque operibus Deo carus, ex hac vita migravit sexto Idus Junii anno salutis humanæmillesimo centesimo quinquagesimo quarto.
Blessed William, born of noble parents (Count Hubert being his father, and Emma, sister of King Stephen, his mother), was remarkable from earliest youth for singularly great virtue. Growing in merit as he advanced in age, he was made treasurer of York: in which office he so behaved, as to be held by all as the father of the needy. Nor indeed did he esteem anything a more precious treasure than to despoil himself of his wealth, that he might more easily minister to the wants of those labouring under poverty.

Thurstan the archbishop being dead, he was elected to succeed him, though some few of the chapter dissented. But Saint Bernard, on the ground of this election being faulty according to the sacred canons, appealed against him to the apostolic See, and hence he was deposed by Pope Eugenius III. Which thing was in no ways taken as a grievance by this holy man, but rather as offering an excellent occasion of exercising humility and of serving God with greater freedom.

Wherefore, fleeing worldly pomps, he withdrew into solitude, where he could attend solely to his own salvation, undistracted by any care of exterior things. But at last, his adversaries being dead, he was again with the full consent of all elected archbishop, and was confirmed by Pope Anastasius. Having entered upon his see he was shortly afterwards attacked with sickness; and full of days, as well as dear to God by reason of his almsdeeds, vigils, fasts, and good works, he passed out of this life, on the sixth of the Ides of June, in the year of our salvation one thousand one hundred and fifty-four.

O William, thou didst know how to possess thy soul! Under the assaults of contradiction thou didst join the aureole of sanctity to the glorious character of a bishop. For well didst thou understand the twofold duty incumbent on thee from the day thou wast called by the suffrages of an illustrious Church to defend her here below, under most difficult circumstances; on the one hand, not to refuse the perilous honour of upholding to the last the rights of that noble bride who proffered thee her alliance: on the other, to show to thy flock, by the example of thy own submission, that even the best of causes can never be dispensed from that absolute obedience owed by sheep, just as much as by lambs, to the supreme Shepherd. He who searcheth the heart and the reins[14] knew how far the trial could go, without either altering the admirable simplicity of thy faith, or troubling, in consequence, the divine calm wherein lay thy strength. Yearning to raise thee to the highest degree of glory in heaven, fain was he to assimilate thee fully, even here below, to the eternal Pontiff, himself misunderstood, denied and condemned by the very princes of his own people. Thy refuge was in that maxim, from the lips of this divine Head: 'Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls,’[15] and thus the yoke that would bear down such weak shoulders as ours, a burthen beneath which the strongest of us well might quail, far from daunting thee, seemed fraught with such sweetness, that thy step became all the lighter[16] for it, and from that hour thou didst appear not only to walk, but to run like a giant,[17] in the way of heroism wherein saints are formed.

Help us, O William, to follow thy steps at least afar off, in the paths of gentleness and energy. Teach us to count for little all personal injuries. Our Lord indeed probed the delicacy of thy great soul, when he permitted that to befall thee, which to us would have proved a very core of bitterness, namely, that thy hottest adversaries should really be true saints, who, in every measure they undertook against thee, wished only for the honour and glory of their divine Master. The mysterious oil, that for so long flowed from thy tomb, was at once a sign of the ineffable meekness which earned for thee that constant simplicity of thy soul's glance, and a touching testimony rendered by heaven in favour of thy pontifical unction, the legitimacy of which was so long contested. God grant that this sweet oil may ooze out once again! Spread it lovingly on so many wounded souls, whom the injustice of men embitters and drives to desperation; let it freely flow in thine own Church of York, alien though she now be to thine exquisite submission to Rome and to her ancient traditions. Oh! would that Albion might cast aside her windingsheet at that blessed tomb of thine, whereat the dead have oft returned to life! May the whole Church receive from thee, this day, increase of light and grace, to the honour and praise of the undivided and ever tranquil Trinity, to whom was paid thy last solemn homage here below.


[1] Ps. xliv 10; Apoc. xix 8.
[2] Eccles. i 10.
[3] St Luke ii 34: Rom. ix 33.
[4] Bern. Epist. 346, al. 377.
[5] Ibid 347, al. 378.
[6] Bern. Epist. 353, al. 379.
[7] Ibid. 360, al. 380.
[8] Epist. 235.
[9] Epist. 236.
[10] Ibid. 239.
[11] Ibid. 240, al. 252.
[12] John Hag. Hist, coæv.
[13] 1153.
[14] Jer. xvii 10.
[15] St Matt. xi 29.
[16] Ibid. x 30.
[17] Ps. xviii 6.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ROSES and lilies are exquisitely alternated in the wreath woven by centuries for the bride of the Son of God. Though the world be heedless of the fact, it is none the less true that everything here below has but one object, namely to bedeck the Church with the attractive charms of heaven, to adjust her jewelled robes formed of the virtues of her saints, that she may be fitted to take her seat beside her divine Spouse, in the highest heavens, for all eternity.[1] The sacred cycle, in its yearly course, presents an image of those ceaseless labours whereby the Holy Ghost continues to form, up to the day of the eternal nuptials, that varied robe of holy Church, by diversifying the merits of God's servants, her members here below. To-day we have two martyrs becrimsoned with their own blood, setting off the dazzling whiteness of Norbert's works, or of William's innocence; and to-morrow we may contemplate with delighted gaze the softer light beamed upon our earth by Margaret, Scotland's pearl.

Primus and Felician, wealthy Romans, had already attained maturity of age, when our Lord made his voice heard inviting them to forsake their vain idols. Brothers according to the flesh, they now became more really such by fidelity to the same call of grace. Together they proved themselves intrepid helpers of the confessors of Christ amidst the atrocious persecution which raged against the Church during the latter half of the third century. In the same combat were they to fall side by side, exchanging this frail life here below for that into which, at one birth, they were to enter for ever in heaven. They furthermore were honoured by having their precious relics placed in the celebrated sanctuary consecrated to St Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, on Monte Cœlio; and they form its richest treasure.

The holy liturgy relates their triumph in these few lines:

Primus et Felicianus fratres, in persecutione Diocletiani et Maximiani accusati christianæ religionis, in vincula conjiciuntur: quibus soluti, inde eripiuntur ab angelo. Mox ad prætorem adducti, cum christianam fidem acerrime tuerentur, alter ab altero distracti sunt; ac primum varie tentata est constantia Feliciani. Sed cum suasores impietatis se posse quidquam verbis proficere despcrarent, affixis stipiti manibus ejus et pedibus, ipsum sine cibo et potu inde triduum pendentem reliquerunt. Postridie ejus diei prætor vocatum ad se Primum sic affatur: Vides quanto sit prudentior quam tu frater tuus, qui, obsecutus imperatoribus, apud ipsos est honoratus. Quem si tu quoque imitari volueris, particeps eris ejus honoris et gratiæ.

Cui Primus: Quid factum sit fratri meo cognovi ex angelo. Utinam quemadmodum sum cum eo voluntate conjunctissimus, sic ab eodem ne martyrio disjungar.

Quo dicto, excanduit prætor, et ad cæteros cruciatus quibus Primum affecit, præsente jam Feliciano, liquatum igne plumbum in os ejus jussit infundi. Mox utrumque perduci imperat in theatrum, in eosque immitti duos leones: qui prostrati ad eorum genua, capite et cauda ipsis blandiebantur. Ad id spectaculum cum amplius duodecim millia hominum convenissent, quingenti cum suis familiis christianam religionem susceperunt. Quibus rebus permotus prætor, eos securi percuti jussit.
Primus and Felician were brothers, and, being accused of professing the Christian religion during the persecution of Diocletian and Maximian, they were thrown into irons, which an angel broke, and they were delivered. But, being soon led again before the pr*tor, and as they most earnestly clung to the Christian faith, they were separated one from the other. The steadfastness of Felician was the first to be put to the test in divers ways. As they who strove to persuade him to impiety found it hopeless to gain aught from him by words, he was fastened hand and foot to a stake, and there left to hang three days without either food or drink. The day after that, the prætor having called Primus before him, thus addressed him: ‘Seest thou how much wiser is thy brother than thou art? He hath obeyed the emperors, and they have made him honourable. Thou hast only to follow his example to be made partaker of his honours and favours.’

Primus replied: ‘What hath befallen my brother I know, for an angel hath told me. Would to God, that seeing I have the same will that he hath, I were not divided from him in the same martyrdom.’

These words raised the wrath of the prætor, and in addition to the torments which he had already inflicted on Primus, he ordered boiling lead to be poured into his mouth, and this in presence of Felician. After that, he had them both dragged into the amphitheatre, and two lions let loose upon them, in presence of about twelve thousand people, who were gathered together to see the show. The lions only fawned upon the knees of the saints, making friends with them, caressingly moving their heads and tails. This spectacle converted five hundred persons of the assembled crowd, together with their households, to the Christian religion. The prætor, moved to anger by what had passed, caused Primus and Felician to be beheaded with an axe.

O ye brave veterans of the Lord's battles, teach us what energy we must bring to the service of God, whatsoever be our age. Less favoured than we are, ye came late in life to the knowledge of the Gospel and of those inestimable treasures promised to the Christian. But in holy Baptism your youth was renewed as that of the eagle,[2] and for thirty years the Holy Ghost continued to produce rich fruits in you. When, in extreme old age, the hour of final victory at last sounded, your courage was equal to that of the most vigorous warriors. You were nerved up to such heroism and sustained therein, through prayer constantly kept alive within you by the words of the psalms, as your Acts attest. Revive then amongst us faith in the word of God; his promises will make us despise, as ye did, this present life. Lead our piety back to those true sources which strengthen the soul: the knowledge and daily use of those sacred formulas which bind our earth unfailingly to heaven, whence they were brought down to us.


[1] Apoc. xix 7, 8; Ps. xliv 10.
[2] Ps. cii 5.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SCOTLAND had long been Christian when Margaret was given to her to establish, amidst a population so diversified, and so often at mutual enmity as was hers, that unity which makes a nation. Ancient Caledonia, defended by her lakes, mountains, and rivers, had, up to the fall of the Roman empire, kept her independence. But, whilst herself inaccessible to invading troops, she had become the refuge of the vanquished of every race and the proscribed of every epoch. Many an advancing wave, that had paused at the feet of her granite frontiers, had swept pitilessly over the southern provinces of the great British island. Britons, Saxons, and Danes in turn, dispossessed and driven from their homes, fleeing northwards, had successively crept in, and settling down as best they might, had maintained their own customs in juxtaposition with those of the first inhabitants, adding consequently their own mutual jealousies to the inveterate divisions of the Picts and Scots. But from the very evil itself the remedy was to come. God, in order to show that he is master of revolutions just as he is of the surging waves, was about to confide the execution of his merciful designs upon Scotland to such casual instruments as a storm or a political overthrow may sometimes prove to be.

At the opening of the eleventh century, Danish invasion had driven from the English shore the sons of the Saxon king, Edmund Ironside. The crowned apostle of Hungary, St Stephen I, generously received the fugitives at his court, welcoming in these helpless children the great-nephews of a saint, namely Edward the Martyr. To the eldest he gave his own daughter in marriage, and the second he affianced to the niece of St Henry, emperor of Germany. Of this last mentioned union were bom three children, Edgar, surnamed Atheling, Christina, afterwards a nun, and Margaret, whose feast the Church is keeping to-day. By the turning tide of fortune, the exiles once more returned to their country, and Edgar was brought to the very steps of the English throne. For in the meantime, the sceptre had passed from the Danish princes back again to the Saxon line, in the person of their uncle, St Edward the Confessor, and by very birthright seemed destined to pass ultimately to Edgar Atheling. But almost immediately after their return from exile, the death of St Edward and the Norman conquest again banished the royal Saxon family. The ship bearing these noble fugitives, bound for the continent, was driven in an opposite direction by a hurricane, and stranded on the Scottish shore. Edgar Atheling, in spite of the efforts of the Saxon party, was never to raise up the fallen throne of his sires; but his sister, the saint of this day, made conquest of the land whither the storm, God's instrument, had carried her.

Having become the wife of Malcolm III, her gentle influence softened the fierce instincts of the son of Duncan, and triumphed over the barbarism still so dominant in those parts of the country as to separate them utterly from the rest of the known world. The fierce highlander and haughty lowlander, reconciled at last, now followed their gentle queen along hitherto unknown paths, thrown open by her to the light of the Gospel. The strong now bent down to meet the weak or the poor; and all alike, casting aside the rigidity of their hardy race, let themselves be captured by the alluring charms of Christian charity. Holy penitence resumed its rights over the gross instincts of mere nature. The frequentation of the Sacraments, once more brought into esteem, produced seasonable fruits. Everywhere, whether in Church or in State, abuses vanished. The whole kingdom became one family, whereof Margaret was called the mother; for Scotland was bom by her to true civilization. David I (inscribed like his mother in the catalogue of the saints) completed the work begun by her; and another child of Margaret’s, alike worthy of her, Matilda of Scotland, surnamed ‘good Queen Maud,’ was married to Henry I of England; and thus an end was put on the English soil to the persistent rivalries of victors and vanquished, by this admixture of Saxon blood with the Norman race.

The following are the words given in the liturgy concerning St Margaret.

Margarita, Scotorum regina, paterno Angliæ regum, materno Cæsarum sanguine clarissima, illustrior adhuc fuit Christiana virtute. Hæc in Hungaria nata ubi pater tunc temporis exsulabat, post exactam summa cum pietate puerilem ætatem, una cum genitore, qui a sancto Eduardo patruo, Anglorum rege, ad paterni regni fastigium vocabatur, in Angliam venit. Mox, alternante parentum fortuna, ex Angliæ littore solvens vi tempestatis expulsa, seu verius divinæ providentiæ consilio deducta est in oram maritimam Scotiae. Ibi cum ex matris imperio Malcholmo Tertio Scotorum regi, egregiis ejus dotibus capto, nupsisset, sanctimoniæ et pietatis operibus, triginta quibus regnavit annis, toti regno mirifice profuit.

Inter regales delicias corpus afllictationibus ac vigiliis macerans, magnam noctis partem piis precationibus extrahebat. Præter alia jejunia quæ identidem usurpabat, integros quadraginta dies ante natalitia festa tanta cum seventate jejunare consuevit, ut ne in gravissimis quidem doloribus intermiserit. Divino cultui addictissima, tempia plurima et cœnobia partim ex integro excitavit, partim resarcivit, et sacra suppellectili ac largo censu ditavit. Regem conjugem ad meliorem frugem et ad similia suis exercitationibus opera saluberrimo exemplo traduxit, liberosque omnes tam sancte et feliciter educavit, ut eorum plerique, quemadmodum et Agatha mater et Christina soror, sanctissimum vitæ genus amplexi sint. Universi demum regni felicitati consulens, a vitiis omnibus quæ furtim irrepserant populos expurgavit, eisque mores Christiana pietate dignosrestituit.

Nihil tamen æque in illa mirabile fuit ac flagrantissima caritas erga proximos, præsertim egenos, quorum numerosis gregibus non modo stipem affatim suppeditare, verum etiam trecentis quotidie materna benignitate dapes præbere, flexis genibus in morem ancillæ ministrare, regiis manibus pedes abluere, et pressis etiam osculis ulcera fovere, solemne habuit. His porro aliisque piis sumptibus non regias tantum vestes et pretiosa monilia distraxit, sed ipsum non semel exhausit ærarium. Toleratis demum ad patientiæ miraculum acerbissimis doloribus, animam semestri corporis ægrotatione purgatam Auctori suo quarto Idus Junii reddidit. Quo temporis momento facies ejus diuturni morbi macie ac pallore fœdata, insolita quadam venustate refloruit. Miris etiam post mortem prodigiis clara, et Clementis Decimi auctoritate in Scotiæ patronam accepta, ubique terrarum religiosissime colitur.

Margaret, Queen of Scots, was most noble by birth, uniting in herself from her father the blood of the kings of England, and from her mother the blood of the Cæsars; but her greatest nobility was in her brave Christian life. She was born in Hungary, where her father was then an exile; and she had passed a highly religious childhood, when her uncle Edward, the holy King of England, recalled her father to the royal prerogatives of his ancestors, and she came to England with him. A few years afterwards, upon the ruin of her family, she was escaping from England by sea, when the violence of the weather, or, to speak more truly, the Providence of God, caused the ship to be driven upon the coast of Scotland. There her extraordinary graces of mind and of body so attracted king Malcolm III that, at the wish of her mother, she became his wife; and of Scotland she deserved exceedingly well, during the thirty years of her reign, by the holiness of her life and the abundance of her works of mercy.

In the midst of regal delicacies, she afflicted her body with hardships and watchings, being used to spend great part of the night in earnest prayer. Besides other fasts which she imposed upon herself, it was her custom to observe one of forty days before Christmas; concerning which fast she was so rigid, that she would not relax it even under sharp suffering. She took great delight in the public worship of God, and founded or renewed a number of churches and convents which she enriched at great cost with sacred furniture. Her example drew the king, her husband, to habits of Christian virtue and to the imitation of her good works. She educated all her children in so holy a manner, and with such happy success, that several of them, like her own mother Agatha and her sister Christina, embraced a most holy course of life. The happiness of the whole kingdom was the object for which she constantly strove, and she successfully rooted out all the vices which had stealthily crept in, and established among the people a standard of life worthy of Christians.

The most remarkable feature of her life was the tenderness of her charity towards her neighbour, especially the needy. Of these she would not only order crowds to be relieved, but was accustomed to give dinner to three hundred of them every day, treating them with the tenderness of a mother, holding it a sacred privilege to wait upon them on her knees like a handmaid; washing their feet with her own royal hands, and even pressing her lips to their sores with tender kisses. To meet the expenses of her charity, she sold not only her queenly raiment and her precious jewels, but more than once wholly exhausted her treasury. Purified by grievous suffering, which she bore with marvellous patience during an illness of six months, she resigned her soul into the hands of her Creator upon the fourth of the Ides of June. At the moment of death, the bystanders saw her face, till then pale and worn with long sickness, flush again with its former beauty. After her death she became illustrious on account of great signs and prodigies. By the authority of Pope Clement X she was chosen patroness of Scotland, and she is honoured most religiously throughout the whole world.

We hail thee, O Queen, truly worthy of the praises lavished upon thee by posterity, among the most illustrious of sovereigns! Power, in thy hands, became an instrument of rescue for an entire population. Thine earthly passage marks the meridian of true light for Scotland. Yesterday, holy Church commemorated in her martyrology him who was thy precursor in this far-off land, Columba, who, leaving Ireland in the sixth century, had borne the faith thither. But Christianity, crippled in its soarings by divers combined circumstances, could produce scarcely any of its civilizing effects on the inhabitants of the land at that period. Only a mother could perfect the supernatural education of the nation. The Holy Ghost, who had chosen thee, O Margaret, for the task, prepared thy maternity in the midst of tribulation and anxiety; thus had he acted in the case of Clotilde; thus does he ever act in the case of mothers. How mysterious and hidden did the ways of eternal Wisdom seem, as realized in thy person! Thy birth in exile, far from the land of thy sires; thy return home; then fresh misfortunes; then the tempest at sea; and at last thy being cast, despoiled of everything, upon the crags of an unknown coast: what a list of disasters! And who among the worldly-wise would ever have dreamed that herein was the direct course of a merciful Providence, to make the combined violence of men and the elements serve the sweet purposes of his designs in thy regard? Yet so it was; and this is the way thou wast moulded into the valiant woman,[1] raised in all thy loftiness above the deceits of this present life, and wholly fixed on God, the one supreme Good, alone untouched by earth's revolutions.

Far from becoming either soured or dried up by suffering, thy heart, firmly anchored beyond the influence of this world's ebb and flow on unshaken and eternal love, was ever up to the mark in foresight and in devotedness, such as was needed to hold thee always at the height of the mission destined for thee. Wherefore thou wast indeed that treasure worthy of being sought from the uttermost coasts; that merchant-ship bringing bread from afar, and all good things to the favoured shore on which she is cast.[2]Yea, fortunate indeed were thy land of adoption, had she never forgotten thy teaching and example! Happy thy descendants, had they ever remembered that the blood of saints flowed in their veins! Yet worthy of thee in death was at least the last queen of Scots, as she bowed beneath the headsman's axe a brow faithful to her Baptism up to her last breath. But alas! the unworthy son of Mary Stuart, by a policy as false as it was sacrilegious, abandoned at once both the Church and his own mother. Thenceforth heresy blighted the noble stem whence so many kings had sprung; and this at the very moment when England and Scotland were first united under one sceptre's sway! Nor may the treason of a James I be redeemed by the fidelity of a second James to the faith of his fathers! O Margaret, thy throne is firmly fixed for ever in the eternal kingdom; but abandon not thine own England, the land of thy sires, nor Scotland, still more thine own, of which holy Church has declared thee patroness. The apostle Andrew shares with thee the rights of patronage: in concert with him, preserve those who have been steadfast in fidelity, multiply converts to the ancient faith, and prepare the way for the speedy gathering of the whole flock into the fold of the one Shepherd.[3]


[1] Prov. xxxi 10-31.
[2] Ibid.
[3] St John x 16.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE promulgation of the new alliance invited all nations to sit down at the marriage-feast in the kingdom of God; since that day, the sanctifying Spirit is ever producing saints in every age, and at moments which correspond most mysteriously to the deep and hidden designs of eternal Wisdom over the particular history of a people. Nor must we be astonished at this: for Christian nations having their appointed part in the advancing of the kingly sway of the Man-God, this vocation imposes duties upon them, and gives them rights superior to nature’s law; the supernatural order invests them with its inherent greatness; and the Holy Ghost, by means of his elect, fosters not only their birth but likewise their development. This wondrous working of divine Providence, as presented on history’s page, is indeed admirable; where the hidden influence of sanctity, in even the frail and lowly, is ever being divinely used to overrule the powerful action of the mighty, who seem, in men’s eyes, to be leading everything their own way. Among the 

saints strikingly appointed as channels of grace to nations, none are so particularly entitled to universal remembrance and gratitude as the apostles, for they are the foundation stones of the edifice of Christian society,[1] whereof the Gospel is both the strength and the primary law. The Church is ever watchful to prevent her sons falling into a dangerous forgetfulness of this; hence no liturgical season is without its memory of one or other of these glorious witnesses to Christ. But from the day that the world was delivered over to become the conquest of their zeal, the mysteries of man's salvation being all consummated, their names are more closely pressed together on the sacred records; each month of the cycle now borrows its characteristic colouring from the brilliant triumph of some one of these.

The month of June, all aflame with the fires of Pentecost, sees the Holy Ghost setting upon its predestined foundations the first layer of stones in the Church's construction; for to this month belongs the honour of proclaiming the memorable names of Peter and Paul, wherein are summed up all the services and trophies of the whole apostolic college. Peter declared the Gentiles admitted to the grace of the Gospel; Paul was named their apostle. But still, before rendering the homage so justly due to these two leaders of the Christian people, it is fitting that nations should throng, in grateful veneration, around the guide given to Paul himself in the opening days of his apostolate—that is, around Barnabas, whose name is interpreted the Son of Consolation,[2] and by whom the convert of Damascus was presented to the terrified Church, lately so sorely tried by the violence of Saul the persecutor. June 29 will derive its chief radiance from the simultaneous confession of the two princes of the apostles, united in death, as they had been one in life.[3] Be then honour due, first of all, to him who first knit together this fruitful union, by leading to the head of the infant Church the future Doctor of the Gentiles.[4] Barnabas presents himself before us as a herald; the feast which the Church is celebrating in his honour is a prelude to the gladness which awaits us at the end of this month so rich in light and in fruits of holiness.

Let us read his history, drawn mainly from the Acts of the Apostles. Notwithstanding its brevity, there are, on the pages of the sacred liturgy, few more glorious than this.

Barnabas levites, Cyprius genere, qui et Joseph, cum Paulo Gentium apostolus ordinatus est ad prædicandum Jesu Christi Evangelium. Is, agro vendito, quem habebat, redactam ex eo pecuniam attulit apostolis. Missus autem Antiochiam prædicationis causa, cum ibi multos ad Christi Domini fìdem conversos esse comperisset, incredibiliter lætatus, eos hortabatur ut in Christi fide permanerent. Qua cohortatione multum proficiebat, quod ab omnibus vir bonus, et Spiritu sancto plenus habebatur.

Cum autem Antiochiæ in Ecclesia, cum cæteris prophetis et doctoribus, Paulus et Barnabas in jejunio et oratione Domino deservirent, dixit Spiritus sanctus: Segregate mihi Saulum et Barnabam in opus ad quod assumpsi eos. Tunc jejunantes et orantes, imponentesque eis manus, dimiserunt illos. Itaque Seleuciam venerunt, inde in Cyprum: ac multas præterea urbes regionesque, prædicantes Evangelium summa cum audientiuin utilitate, peragrarunt. Postremo Barnabas, digressus a Paulo, una cum Joanne qui cognominatus est Marcus, navigavit in Cyprum: ibique circiter septimum Neronis annum, tertio Idus Junii, ad apostolici muneris laudem martyrii coronam adjunxit. Ejus corpus, Zenone imperatore, repcrtum est in insula Cypro; ad cujus pectus erat Evangelium Matthæi, Barnabæ manu conscriptum.

Profectus inde Tarsum, ut quæreret Paulum, cum eo Antiochiam venit. In ejus urbis Ecclesia annum commorati, christianæ fidei et vitæ illis hominibus præcepta dederunt: ubi etiam Jesu Christi cultores primum Christiani sunt appellati. Discipuli autem Pauli et Barnabæ suis facultatibus christianos, qui in Judaea erant, sustentabant, eo mittentes pecuniam per Paulum et Barnabam. Qui perfuncti illo caritatis officio, adhibito Joanne cui cognomen erat Marcus, redierunt Antiochiam.
Barnabas, called also Joseph, a Levite, was born in Cyprus, and was the one designated by the apostles, together with Paul, to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. He having land, sold it and brought the money to the apostles. Being sent to Antioch to preach there, he met with a great number of people already converted to the faith of Christ the Lord, which thing filled him with much joy, and he multiplied his exhortations, that they might persevere in the faith of Christ. His word had great success, for he was looked upon by all as a good man and one filled with the Holy Ghost.

Travelling thence to Tarsus, there to seek Paul, he came with him as far as Antioch. They here passed one year with the faithful who formed the Church of this city, labouring to instruct them in the Christian life and in faith; and here also it was, that the worshippers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. The disciples of Paul and Barnabas aided with alms the Christians that were in Judea, and sent these subsidies by the hands of Paul and Barnabas. Having performed this work of charity, joining unto them John surnamed Mark, they returned to Antioch.

Whilst Paul and Barnabas were serving the Lord in the Church of Antioch, fasting and praying with the other prophets and doctors, the Holy Ghost spoke and said: Separate me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them. Then, with fasting and prayer, they imposed hands upon them and let them depart. They went to Seleucia, and thence to Cyprus; besides this, they passed through many towns and countries, preaching the Gospel everywhere, with much fruit amongst all who heard them. After this Barnabas separated himself from Paul, and together with John surnamed Mark returned to Cyprus. Here about the seventh year of the reign of Nero, on the third of the Ides of June, he joined the martyr's crown to the dignity of an apostle. In the reign of the emperor Zeno, his body was discovered in the island of Cyprus: on his breast lay a copy of the Gospel of St Matthew, written by the hand of Barnabas himself.

To thee, O Barnabas, we offer the gratitude of the nations. Thou didst watch, O faithful Levite, beside the figurative sanctuary of the days of expectation, observing the coming of the Lord God,[5] until at last the true ark, the Incarnate Word, having appeared in Sion, thou didst at once take thy place at his side, to defend and serve him, the ark of holiness, that had come to rally all nations, to give them the true manna, to establish amongst all a new covenant; this was to require from the sons of the Old Testament the sacrifice of the privileges that had been theirs since the first prevarication of the Gentiles. Though a member of the favoured tribe of Levi, thou wast prompt to abandon its sacred titles, which thou didst recognize to have been but limited and now to be set aside; yea, outstepping mere precept, thou didst not hesitate to renounce all thy family possessions and give them up, together with thyself, to the Church yet in her infancy and scorned by the Synagogue. Therefore the Holy Ghost would not be outdone in generosity; to thee he reserved the signal privilege of presenting to the Gentiles their apostle. Saul was thy friend; blinded by the prejudices of his sect, he scorned to follow thine example; and the faithful trembled at his very name, seeing in him their most relentless persecutor. But silently thine intercession arose from the earth, and blending with that of Stephen, pleaded a strong prayer for the murderer. The hour of grace had sounded; and thou wast the first in Jerusalem to hear of the victory; on the strength of thy testimony alone, the terrified assembly of believers opened their doors to the recent convert.

Thus appearing before the Church as guarantee for the future Doctor of the Gentiles, to thee belonged the honour of leading him forth to the scene of his labours. Thine it was not to be numbered among the twelve by our Lord, yet thine authority was of a kind that almost equalled theirs. After the baptism of Cornelius, thou wast delegated by the apostles to Antioch, to direct the evangelization of the Gentiles. There Paul, the new labourer, was joined to thee; and then did the word of salvation, falling from thy lips, begin to produce conversions so numerous, that the faithful were then for the first time called Christians, to distinguish them at once from both pagans and Jews. The emancipation of the nations was thus accomplished, and Paul, in the eyes of all, as also according to the language of the Holy Ghost himself, was still but thy disciple and thy client.[6] For which reason the divine Spirit was pleased that thou shouldst share in common with him that solemn ordination whereby he was constituted Apostle of the Gentiles. But very soon after this, the greater good of souls required that thy journeys and labours, hitherto inseparable from his, should be divided. Thine apostolate was then directed more specially to the island of Cyprus, so abused in pagan times by the demon of voluptuousness: there hadst thou first seen the light, and now thou didst gladly devote thy sweat and even thy blood to diffusing throughout thy native isle the purifying light of the Son of God.

But the fires of Pentecost burning in thy breast urged thee ever forward and onward to more distant missions. Of thee it was written as of Paul: I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles: that thou mayst be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth.[7] Thus Italy also heard thy sweet voice, redolent of the joy and consolation of the Paraclete; she beheld thy noble countenance, the serene majesty whereof had made the pagans of another land mistake thee for one of their gods veiled under human features.[8] Bergamo, Brescia, and other places, especially Milan, claim thee as their father. Look down then, O Barnabas, from thine exalted throne, and ever protect the faith thou didst deposit in these places, which, more fortunate than the fated cities of Cyprus, have remained faithful. Vouchsafe to protect the Order, so useful to the Church, which claims thy powerful patronage; may its apostolate continue to carry out thine own; and may its members deserve, unto the day of doom, the high esteem in which it was held by St Charles Borromeo, thy glorious successor in the see of Milan. Extend thy solicitude to all nations, O father of the Gentiles, for all without distinction were confided to thee by the Holy Ghost; suffer them to enter into the way of light so exquisitely described in that precious Epistle which bears thy blessed name:[9] may the Gentile world become the true temple, of which that of Moriah was but a figure.[10]


[1] Eph. ii 20.
[2] Acts iv 36.
[3] Ant. Oct. Ap. ad Bened.
[4] Acts ix 27.
[5] Lev. viii 35.
[6] Acts xi 30, xii 25, xiii 1.
[7] Acts xiii 47.
[8] Ibid. xiv 11.
[9] Epist. Cathol. S. Barnab. Ap. xix.
[10] Ibid. xvi.