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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FOR the second time in July a constellation of seven stars shines in the heavens. More fortunate than Felicitas, Symphorosa preceded in the arena the seven sons she was offering to God. From the throne where he was already reigning crowned with the martyr’s diadem, Getulius the tribune, father of this illustrious family, applauded the combat whereby his race earned a far greater nobility than that of patrician blood, and gave to Rome a grander glory than was ever dreamed of by her heroes and poets. The Emperor Adrian, corrupt yet brilliant, sceptical yet superstitious, like the society around him, presided in person at the defeat of his gods. Threatening to bum the valiant woman in sacrifice to the idols, he received this courageous answer: ‘Thy gods cannot receive me in sacrifice; but if thou bum me and my sons for the name of Christ, my God, I shall cause thy demons to bum with more cruel flames!’ The execution of the mother and her sons was, indeed, the signal for a period of peace, during which the Kingdom of our Lord was considerably extended. Jerusalem, having under the leadership of a last false Messias revolted against Rome, was punished by being deprived of her very name; but the Church received the glory which the Synagogue once possessed when she produced the mother of the Machabees.

Another glory was reserved for this eighteenth day of July, in the year 1870: the (Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, presided over by the immortal Pius IX, defined in its constitution, Pastor Æternus, the full, supreme, and immediate power of the Roman Pontiff over all the Churches, and pronounced anathema against all who should refuse to recognize the personal infallibility of the same Roman Pontiff, speaking ex cathedra—i.e., defining, as universal pastor, any doctrine concerning faith or morals. We may also remark that during these same days—viz., on a Sunday in the middle of July—the Greeks make a commemoration of the first six general councils: Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and the second and third of Constantinople. Thus, during these midsummer days, we are in the midst of feasts of heavenly light; and let us not forget that it is martyrdom, the supreme act of faith, that merits and produces light. Doubtless, Divine Wisdom, who plays in the world with number, weight, and measure, planned the beautiful coincidence which unites these two days, July 18, 136, and July 18, 1870. If in these latter days the word of God has been set free, it is owing to the bloodshed by our fathers in its defence. The liturgy gives but a very short account of the immortal combat which glorifies this day:

Symphorosa Tiburtina, Getulii martyris uxor, ex eo septem filios peperit, Crescentium, Julianum, Nemesium, Primitivum, Justinum, Stacteum, et Eugeniura: qui omnes propter Christianæ fidei professionem una cum matre, Adriano imperatore comprehensi sunt. Quorum pietas multis variisque tentata suppliciis, cum stabilis permaneret mater, quæ filiis fidei magistra fuerat, dux eisdem ad martyrium exstitit. Nam saxo ad collum alligato in profluentem dejicitur: cujus corpus conquisitum a fratre ejus Eugenio sepelitur. Postridie ejus diei, qui fuit decimoquinto calendas Augusti, septem fratres singuli ad palum alligati, varie sunt interfecti. Crescentio guttur ferro transfigitur: Juliano pectus confoditur: Nemesio cor transverberatur: Primitivo trajicitur umbilicus: Justinus mcmbratim secatur: Stacteus telis configitur: Eugenius a pectore in duas partes dividitur. Ita octo hostiæ Deo gratissimæ sunt immolatæ. Corpora in altissimam foveam projecta sunt via Tiburtina, nono ab Urbe lapide: quæ postea Romam translata, condita sunt in Ecclesia Sancti Angeli in piscina.
Symphorosa, a native of Tivoli, was the wife of the martyr Getulius. She bore him seven sons, Crescentius, Julian, Nemesius, Primitivus, Justin, Stacteus, and Eugenius. Under the Emperor Adrian, they were all arrested, together with her, on account of their profession of the Christian faith. Their piety was tried by many different tortures, and, on their remaining constant, the mother, who had taught her sons, led the way to martyrdom. She was thrown into the river, with a huge stone tied round her neck. Her brother Eugenius searched for her body and gave it burial. The next day, which was the fifteenth of the Calends of August, the seven brothers were tied to stakes and put to death in different ways. Crescentius had his throat transfixed; Julian was wounded in the breast; Nemesius was pierced in the heart, and Primitivus in the stomach; Justin was cut to pieces, limb by limb; Stacteus was pierced with darts, and Eugenius was cut in two from the breast. Thus eight victims most pleasing to God were immolated. Their bodies were thrown into a deep pit on the Tiburtian Way, nine miles from Rome; but they were afterwards translated into the city and buried in the Church of the Holy Angel in the Fish Market.

O Symphorosa, thou wife, sister, and mother of martyrs, thy desires are amply fulfilled; followed by thy seven children, thou rejoinest in the court of the Eternal King thy husband Getulius and his brother Amantius, brave combatants in the imperial army, but far more valiant soldiers of Christ. The words of our Lord: A man's enemies shall be they of his own household,[1] are abrogated in heaven; nor can this other sentence be there applied: He that loveth father and mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.[2] There, the love of Christ our King predominates over all other loves; yet, far from extinguishing them, it makes them ten times stronger by putting its own energy into them; and, far from having to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother,[3] it sets a divine seal upon the family and rivets its bonds for all eternity.

What nobility, O heroes, have ye conferred upon the world! Men may look up with more confidence towards heaven, for the angels will not despise a race that can produce such valiant combatants. The perfume of your holocaust accompanied your souls to the throne of God, and an effusion of grace was poured down in return. From the luminous track left by your martyrdom have sprung forth new splendours in our own days. With joyful gratitude we hail the providential reappearance, immediately after the Vatican Council, of the tomb which first received your sacred relics on the morrow of your triumph. Soldiers of Christ! preserve in us the gifts ye have bestowed on us; convince the many Christians who have forgotten it, that faith is the most precious possession of the just.


[1] St. Matt. x. 36.
[2] Ibid. 37.
[3] Ibid. 35.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

VINCENT was a man of faith that worketh by charity[1] At the time he came into the world—viz., at the close of the same century in which Calvin was born—the Church was mourning over many nations separated from the faith; the Turks were harassing all the coasts of the Mediterranean. France, worn out by forty years of religious strife, was shaking off the yoke of heresy from within, while by a foolish stroke of policy she gave it external liberty. The Eastern and Northern frontiers were suffering the most terrible devastations, and the West and centre were the scene of civil strife and anarchy. In this state of confusion, the condition of souls was still more lamentable. In the towns alone was there any sort of quiet, any possibility of prayer. The country people, forgotten, sacrificed, subject to the utmost miseries, had none to support and direct them but a clergy too often abandoned by their bishops, unworthy of the ministry, and wellnigh as ignorant as their flocks. Vincent was raised up by the Holy Spirit to obviate all these evils. The world admires the works of the humble shepherd of Buglose, but it knows not the secret of their vitality. Philanthropy would imitate them; but its establishments of to-day are destroyed to-morrow, like castles built by children in the sand, while the institution it would fain supersede remains strong and unchanged, the only one capable of meeting the necessities of suffering humanity. The reason of this is not far to seek: faith alone can understand the mystery of suffering, having penetrated its secret in the Passion of our Lord; and charity that would be stable must be founded on faith. Vincent loved the poor because he loved the God whom his faith beheld in them. ‘O God!’ he used to say, ‘ it does us good to see the poor, if we look at them in the light of God, and think of the high esteem in which Jesus Christ holds them. Often enough they have scarcely the appearance or the intelligence of reasonable beings, so rude and so earthly are they. But look at them by the light of faith, and you will see that they represent the Son of God, who chose to be poor; He in His Passion had scarcely the appearance of a man; He seemed to the Gentiles to be a fool, and to the Jews a stumbling-block, moreover He calls Himself the evangelist of the poor: evangelizare pauperibus misit me.’[2] This title of evangelist of the poor is the one that Vincent desired for himself, the starting-point and the explanation of all that he did in the Church. His one aim was to labour for the poor and the outcast; all the rest, he said, was but secondary. And he added, speaking to his sons of St. Lazare: ‘We should never have laboured for the candidates for priesthood, nor in the ecclesiastical seminaries, had we not deemed it necessary, in order to keep the people in good condition, to preserve in them the fruits of the missions, and to procure them good priests.’ That he might be able to consolidate his work in all its aspects, our Lord inspired Anne of Austria to make him a member of the Council of Conscience, and to place in his hands the office of extirpating the abuses among the higher clergy and of appointing pastors to the churches of France. We cannot here relate the history of a man in whom universal charity was, as it were, personified. But from the bagnio of Tunis, where he was a slave, to the ruined provinces for which he found millions of money, all the labours he underwent for the relief of every physical suffering were inspired by his zeal for the apostolate: by caring for the body, he strove to reach and succour the soul. At a time when men rejected the Gospel while striving to retain its benefits, certain wise men attributed Vincent's charity to philosophy. Nowadays they go further still, and in order logically to deny the author of the works they deny the works themselves. But if any there be who still hold the former opinion, let them listen to his own words, and then judge of his principles: ‘What is done for charity’s sake is done for God. It is not enough for us that we love God ourselves; our neighbour also must love him; neither can we love our neighbour as ourselves unless we procure for him the good we are bound to desire for ourselves—viz., divine love, which unites us to our Sovereign Good. We must love our neighbour as the image of God and the object of His love, and must try to make men love their Creator in return, and love one another also with mutual charity for the love of God, who so loved them as to deliver His own Son to death for them. But let us, I beg of you, look upon this Divine Saviour as a perfect pattern of the charity we must bear to our neighbour.’

The theophilanthropy of a century ago had no more right than had an atheist or a deist philosophy to rank Vincent, as it did, among the great men of its Calendar. Not nature, nor the pretended divinities of false science, but the God of Christians, the God who became Man to save us by taking our miseries upon Himself, was the sole inspirer of the greatest modern benefactor of the human race, whose favourite saying was: 'Nothing pleases me except in Jesus Christ.’ He observed the right order of charity, striving for the reign of his Divine Master, first in his own soul, then in others; and, far from acting of his own accord by the dictates of reason alone, he would rather have remained hidden for ever in the face of the Lord, and have left but an unknown name behind him.

‘Let us honour,’ he wrote, ‘the hidden state of the Son of God. There is our centre; there is what He requires of us for the present, for the future, for ever; unless His Divine Majesty makes known in His own unmistakable way that He demands something else of us. Let us especially honour this divine Master’s moderation in action. He would not always do all that He could do, in order to teach us to be satisfied when it is not expedient to do all that we are able, but only as much as is seasonable to charity and conformable to the Will of God. How royally do those honour our Lord who follow His holy Providence, and do not try to be beforehand with it! Do you not, and rightly, wish your servant to do nothing without your orders? and if this is reasonable between man and man, how much more so between the Creator and the creature!' Vincent, then, was anxious, according to his own expression, to ‘keep alongside of Providence,’ and not to outstep it. Thus he waited seven years before accepting the offers of the General de Gondi's wife, and founding his establishment of the Missions. Thus, too, when his faithful coadjutrix, Mademoiselle Le Gras, felt called to devote herself to the spiritual service of the Daughters of Charity, then living without any bond or common life, as simple assistants to the ladies of quality whom the man of God assembled in his Confraternities, he first tried her for a very long time. ‘As to this occupation,’ he wrote, in answer to her repeated petitions, ‘I beg of you, once for all, not to think of it until our Lord makes known His will. You wish to become the servant of these poor girls, and God wants you to be His servant. For God’s sake, Mademoiselle, let your heart imitate the tranquillity of our Lord’s heart, and then it will be fit to serve Him. The Kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Ghost; He will reign in you if you are in peace. Be so, then, if you please, and do honour to the God of peace and love.’

What a lesson given to the feverish zeal of an age like ours by a man whose life was so full! How often, in what we can call good works, do human pretensions sterilize grace by contradicting the Holy Ghost! Whereas Vincent de Paul, who considered himself ‘ a poor worm creeping on the earth, not knowing where he goes, but only seeking to be hidden in Thee, my God, who art all his desire,’—the humble Vincent saw his work prosper far more than a thousand others, and almost without his being aware of it. Towards the end of his long life he said to his daughters: ‘It is Divine Providence that set your congregation on its present footing. Who else was it, I ask you? I can find no other. We never had such an intention. I was thinking of it only yesterday, and I said to myself: Is it you who had the thought of founding a Congregation of Daughters of Charity? Oh! certainly not. Is it Mademoiselle Le Gras? Not at all. O my daughters, I never thought of it, your “sœur servante” never thought of it, neither did M. Portail (Vincent’s first and most faithful companion in the Mission). Then it is God who thought of it for you; Him, therefore, we must call the Founder of your Congregation, for truly we cannot recognize any other.’

Although with delicate docility, Vincent could no more forestall the action of God than an instrument the hand that uses it, nevertheless, once the divine impulse was given, he could not endure the least delay in following it, nor suffer any other sentiment in his soul but the most absolute confidence. He wrote again, with his charming simplicity, to the helpmate given him by God: 'You are always giving way a little to human feelings, thinking that everything is going to ruin as soon as you see me ill. O woman of little faith, why have you not more confidence and more submission to the guidance and example of Jesus Christ? This Saviour of the world entrusted the well-being of the whole Church to God His Father; and you, for a handful of young women, evidently raised up and gathered together by His providence, you fear that He will fail you! Come, come, Mademoiselle, you must humble yourself before God.’

No wonder that faith, the only possible guide of such a life, the imperishable foundation of all that he was for his neighbour and in himself, was, in the eyes of Vincent de Paul, the greatest of treasures. He who had pity for every suffering, even though well deserved; who, by an heroic fraud, took the place of a galley-slave in chains, was a pitiless foe to heresy, and could not rest till he had obtained either the banishment or the chastisement of its votaries. Clement XII, in the Bull of canonization, bears witness to this, in speaking of the pernicious error of Jansenism, which our saint was one of the first to denounce and prosecute. Never, perhaps, were these words of Holy Writ better verified: The simplicity of the just shall guide them: and the deceitfulness of the wicked shall destroy them.[3] Though this sect expressed, later on, a supreme disdain for Monsieur Vincent, it had not always been of that mind. ‘I am,’ he said to a friend, ‘most particularly obliged to bless and thank God, for not having suffered the first and principal professors of that doctrine, men of my acquaintance and friendship, to be able to draw me to their opinions. I cannot tell you what pains they took, and what reasons they propounded to me; I objected to them, amongst other things, the authority of the Council of Trent, which is clearly opposed to them; and seeing that they still continued, I, instead of answering them, quietly recited my Credo; and that is how I have remained firm in the Catholic faith.’

But it is time to give the full account which Holy Church reads to-day in her liturgy. We will only remind our readers that in the year 1883, the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences at Paris, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII proclaimed our saint the patron of the societies of charity in France.

Vincentius a Paulo, natione Gallus, Podii non procul ab Aquis Tarbellis in Aquitania natus, jam tum a puero eximiam in pauperes charitatem præ se tulit. A custodia paterni gregis ad litteras evocatus, humanas Aquis, divinas cum Tolosæ, tum Cæsaraugustæ didicit. Sacerdotio initiatus ac theologiæ laurea insignitus, in Turcas incidit, qui captivum in Africam adduxerunt. Sed in captivitate positus herum ipsum Christo rursus lucrifecit. Cum eo igitur ex barbaris oris, opitulante Deipara, sese proripiens, ad apostolica limina iter instituit. Unde in Galliam reversus, Clippiaci primum, mox Castellionis parœcias sanctissime rexit. Kenuntiatus a rege primarius sacrorum minister in Galliæ triremibus, mirum quo zelo et ducum et remigum saluti operam posuerit. Monialibus Visitationis a sancto Francisco Salesio præpositus, tanta prudentia per annos circiter quadraginta eam curam sustinuit, ut maxime comprobaverit judicium sanctissimi præsulis, qui sacerdotem Vincentio digniorem nullum se nosse fatebatur.

Evangelizandis pauperibus, præsertim ruricolis, ad decrepitam usque ætatem indefessus incubuft, eique apostolico operi tum se, tum alumnos Congregationis, quam sub nomine Presbyterorum sæcularium Missionis instituit, perpetuo voto a sancta Sede confirmato, speciatim obstrinxit. Quantum autem augendæ cleri discipline allaboraverit, testantur erecta majorum clericorum seminaria, collationum de divinis inter sacerdotes frequentia, et sacræ ordinationi præmittenda exercitia, ad quæ, sicut et ad pios laicorum secessus, instituti sui domicilia libenter patere voluit. Insuper ad amplificandam fidem et pietatem, evangelicos misit operarios, non in solas Galliæ provincias, sed et in Italiam, Poloniam, Scotiam, Hiberniam, atque ad Barbaros et Indos. Ipse vero, vita functo Ludovico decimotertio, cui morienti hortator adstitit, a regina Anna Austriaca, matre Ludovici decimiquarti, in sanctius consilium accitus, studiosissime egit, ut non nisi digniores ecclesiis ac monasteriis præficerentur; civiles discordiæ, singularia certamina, serpentes errores, quos simul sensit et exhorruit, amputarentur; debitaque judiciis apostolicis obedientia præstaretur ab omnibus.

Nullum fuit calamitatis genus, cui paterne non occurrerit. Fideles sub Turcarum jugo gementes, infantes expositos, juvenes dyscolos, virginespericlitantes, moniales dispersas, mulieres lapsas, ad triremes damnatos, peregrinos infirmos, artifices invalidos, ipsosque mente captos, ac innumeros mendicos subsidiis et hospitiis etiamnum superstitibus excepit ac pie fovit. Lotharingiam, Campaniam, Picardiam, aliasque regiones peste, fame, belloque vastatas, prolixe refecit. Plurima ad perquirendos et sublevandos miseros sodalitia fundavit, inter quæ celebris matronarum cœtus, et late diffusa sub nomine Charitatis puellarum societas. Puellas quoque tum de Cruce, tum de Providentia ac Sanctæ Genovefæ ad sequioris sexus educationem erigendas curavit. Hæc inter et alia gravissima negotia, Deo jugiter intentus, cunctis affabilis, ac sibi semper constans, simplex, rectus, humilis, ab honoribus, divitiis ac deliciis semper abhorruit; auditus dicere:rem nullam sibi placere præterquam in Christo Jesu, quem in omnibus studebat imitari. Corporis demum afflictatione laboribus senioque attritus, die vigesima septima Septembris, anno salutis supra millesimum sexcentesimo sexagesimo, ætatis suæ octogesimo quinto, Parisiis, in domo Sancti Lazari, quæ caput est Congregationis Missionis, placide obdormivit. Quem virtutibus meritis ac miraculis clarum Clemens tiuodecimus inter sanctos retulit, ipsius celebritati die decima nona mensis Julii quotannis assignata. Hunc autem caritatis eximium heroem, de unoquoque hominum genere optime meritum, Leo tertius decimus, instantibus pluribus sacrorum antistitibus, omnium societatum caritatis in toto catholico orbe existentium, et ab eo quomodocumque promanantium, peculiarem apud Deum Patronum declaravit et constituit.
Vincent de Paul, a Frenchman, was born at Pouy, near Dax, in Aquitaine, and from his boyhood was remarkable for his exceeding charity towards the poor. As a child he fed his father’s flock, but afterwards pursued the study of the humanities at Dax, and of divinity first at Toulouse, then at Saragossa. Having been ordained priest, he took his degree as Bachelor of Theology; but falling into the hands of the Turks was led captive by them into Africa. While in captivity he won his master back to Christ, by the help of the Mother of God, and escaped together with him from that land of barbarians, and undertook a journey to the shrines of the apostles. On his return to France he governed in a most saintly manner the parishes first of Clichy and then of Châtillon. The king next appointed him chaplain of the French galleys, and his zeal in striving for the salvation of both officers and convicts was marvellous. St. Francis de Sales gave him as superior to his nuns of the Visitation, whom he ruled for forty years, with such prudence as amply to justify the opinion the holy bishop had expressed of him, that Vincent was the most worthy priest he knew.

He devoted himself with unwearying zeal, even in extreme old age, to preaching to the poor, especially to country people; and to this apostolic work he bound both himself and the members of the Congregation which he founded, called the Secular Priests of the Mission, by a special vow which the Holy See confirmed. He laboured greatly in promoting regular discipline among the clergy, as is proved by the seminaries for clerics which he built, and by the establishment, through his care, of frequent conferences for priests, and of exercises preparatory to Holy Orders. It was his wish that the houses of his institution should always lend themselves to these good works, as also to the giving of pious retreats for laymen. Moreover, with the object of extending the reign of faith and love, he sent evangelical labourers not only into the French provinces, but also into Italy, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, and even to Barbary and to the Indies. On the demise of Louis XIII, whom he had assisted on his deathbed, he was made a member of the Council of Conscience, by Queen Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. In this capacity he was most careful that only worthy men should be appointed to ecclesiastical and monastic benefices, and strove to put an end to civil discord and duels, and to the errors then creeping in, which had alarmed him as soon as he knew of their existence; moreover, he endeavoured to enforce upon all a due obedience to the judgments of the Apostolic See.

His paternal love brought relief to every kind of misfortune. The faithful groaning under the Turkish yoke, destitute children, incorrigible young men, virgins exposed to danger, nuns driven from their monasteries, fallen women, convicts, sick strangers, invalided workmen, even madmen, and innumerablebeggars. All these he aided and received with tender charity into his hospitable institutions which still exist. When Lorraine, Champagne, Picardy, and other districts were devastated by pestilence, famine, and war, he supplied their necessities with open hand. He founded other associations for seeking out and aiding the unfortunate; amongst others the celebrated Society of Ladies, and the now widespread institution of the Sisters of Charity. To him also is due the foundation of the Daughters of the Cross, of Providence, and of St. Genevieve, who are devoted to the education of girls. Amid all these and other important undertakings his heart was always fixed on God; he was affable to everyone, and always true to himself, simple, upright, humble. He ever shunned riches and honours, and was heard to say that nothing gave him any pleasure, except in Christ Jesus, whom he strove to imitate in all things. Worn out at length, by mortification of the body, labours, and old age, on September 27, in the year of salvation 1660, the eightyfifth of his age, he peacefully fell asleep, at Paris, at Saint Lazare, the mother-house of the Congregation of the Mission. His virtues, merits, and miracles having made his name celebrated, Clement XII enrolled him among the saints, assigning for his annual feast July 19. Leo XIII, at the request of several bishops, declared and appointed this great hero of charity, who has deserved so well of the human race, the peculiar patron before God of all the charitable societies existing throughout the Catholic world, and of all such as may hereafter be established.

How full a sheaf dost thou bear, O Vincent, as thou ascendest laden with blessings from earth to thy true country! O thou, the most simple of men, though living in an age of splendours, thy renown far surpasses the brilliant reputation which fascinated thy contemporaries. The true glory of that century, and the only one that will remain to it when time shall be no more, is to have seen, in its earlier part, saints powerful alike in faith and love, stemming the tide of Satan's conquests, and restoring to the soil of France, made barren by heresy, the fruitfulness of its brightest days. And now, two centuries and more after thy labours, the work of the harvest is still being carried on by thy sons and daughters, aided by new assistants who also acknowledge thee for their inspirer and father. Thou art now in the kingdom of heaven where grief and tears are no more, yet day by day thou still receivest the grateful thanks of the suffering and the sorrowful.

Reward our confidence in thee by fresh benefits. No name so much as thine inspires respect for the Church in our days of blasphemy. And yet those who deny Christ now go so far as to endeavour to stifle the testimony which the poor have always rendered to Him on thy account. Wield, against these ministers of hell, the two-edged sword, wherewith it is given to the saints to avenge God in the midst of the nations: treat them as thou didst the heretics of thy day; make them either deserve pardon or suffer punishment, be converted or be reduced by heaven to the impossibility of doing harm. Above all, take care of the unhappy beings whom these satanic men deprive of spiritual help in their last moments. Elevate thy daughters to the high level required by the present sad circumstances, when men would have their devotedness to deny its divine origin and cast off the guise of religion. If the enemies of the poor man can snatch from his death-bed the sacred sign of salvation, no rule, no law, no power of this world or the next, can cast out Jesus from the soul of the Sister of Charity, or prevent his name from passing from her heart to her lips: neither death nor hell, neither fire nor flood can stay him, says the Canticle of Canticles.

Thy sons, too, are carrying on thy work of evangelization; and even in our days their apostolate is crowned with the diadem of sanctity and martyrdom. Uphold their zeal; develop in them thy own spirit of unchanging devotedness to the Church and submission to the supreme Pastor. Forward all the new works of charity springing out of thy own, and placed by Rome to thy credit and under thy patronage. May they gather their heat from the divine fire which thou didst kindle on the earth; may they ever seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, never deviating, in the choice of means, from the principle thou didst lay down for them of 'judging, speaking, and acting, exactly as the Eternal Wisdom of God, clothed in our weak flesh, judged, spoke, and acted.’


[1] Gal. v.6.
[2] St. Luke, iv. 18.
[3] Prov. xi. 3.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SPRUNG from the powerful aristocracy which won for Venice twelve centuries of splendour, Jerome came into the world when that city had reached the height of its glory. At fifteen years of age he became a soldier, and was one of the heroes in that formidable struggle wherein his country withstood the united powers of almost all Europe in the League of Cambrai. The golden city, crushed for a moment, but soon restored to her former condition, offered her honours to the defender of Castelnovo, who, like herself, had fallen bravely and risen again. But our Lady of Treviso had delivered him from his German prison, only to make him her own captive; she brought him back to the city of St. Mark, there to fulfil a higher mission than the proud republic could have entrusted to him. The descendant of the Æmiliani, captivated, as was Lawrence Justinian a century before, by Eternal Beauty, would now live only for the humility which leads to heaven, and for the lofty deeds of charity. His title of nobility will be derived from the obscure village of Somascha, where he will gather his newly recruited army; and his conquests will be the bringing of little children to God. He will no more frequent the palaces of his patrician friends, for he now belongs to a higher rank: they serve the world, he serves heaven; his rivals are the angels, whose ambition, like his own, is to preserve unsullied for the Father the service of those innocent souls whom the greatest in heaven must resemble.

‘The soul of the child,’ as the Church tells us to-day by the golden mouth of St. John Chrysostom, ‘is free from all passions. He bears no ill-will towards them that have done him harm, but goes to them as friends, just as if they had done nothing. And though he be often beaten by his mother, yet he always seeks her and loves her more than anyone else. If you show him a queen in her royal crown, he prefers his mother clad in rags, and would rather see her unadorned than the queen in magnificent attire; for he does not appreciate according to riches or poverty, but by love. He seeks not for more than is necessary, and as soon as he has had sufficient milk he quits the breast. He is not oppressed with the same sorrows as we, nor troubled with care for money and the like; neither is he rejoiced by our transitory pleasures, nor affected by corporal beauty. Therefore our Lord said: Of such is the kingdom of heaven, wishing us to do of our own free will what children do by nature.’[1]

Their guardian angels, as our Lord Himself said, gazing into those pure souls, are not distracted from the contemplation of their heavenly Father: for He rests in them as on the wings of Cherubim, since baptism has made them His children. Happy was our saint to have been chosen by God to share the loving cares of the angels here below, before partaking of their bliss in heaven. The following detailed account is given by Holy Church:

Hieronymus, e gente patricia Æmiliana Venetiis ortus, a prima adolescentia militiæ addictus, difficillimis Reipublicæ temporibus Castro Novo ad Quarum in montibus Tarvisinis præficitur. Arce ab hostibus capta, ipse in teterrimum carcerem detruditur, manibus ac pedibus vinctus; cui omni humana ope destitute beatissima Virgo ejus precibus exorata, clemens adest, vincula solvit, et per medios hostes, qui vias omnes obsederant, in Tarvisii conspectum incolumem ducit. Urbem ingressus, ad Deiparæ aram, cui se voverat, manicas, compedes, catenas, quas secum detulerat, in accepti beneficii testimonium suspendit. Reversus Venetias, cœpit pietatis studia impensius colere, in pauperes mire effusus, sed puerorum præsertim misertus, qui parentibus orbati, egeni et sordidi per urbem vagabantur, quos in ædes a se conductas recepit de suo alendos, et Christianis moribus imbuendos.

Per eos dies Venetias appulerant beatus Cajetanus, et Petrus Caraffa postmodum Paulus quartus, qui Hieronymi spiritu, novoque instituto colligendi orphanos probato, illum in incurabilium hospitale adduxerunt, in quo orphanos simul educaret, atque ægrotis pari charitate inserviret. Mox eorumdem hortatu in proximam continentem profectus, Brixiæ primum, deinde Bergomi, atque Novocomi orphanotrophia erexit: Bergomi præsertim, ubi præter duo, pro pueris unum, et pro puellis alterum, domum excipiendis, novo in illis regionibus exemplo mulieribus a turpi vita ad pœnitentiam conversis, aperuit. Somaschæ demum subsistens, in humili pago agri Bergomensis ad Venetæ ditionis fines, sibi, ac suis ibi sedem constituit, formamque induxit congregationis, cui propterea a Somascha nomen factum: quam subinde auctam et propagatam, nedum orphanorum regimini, et Ecclesiarum cultui, sed ad majorem Christianæ reipublicæ utilitatem, adolescentium in litteris et bonis moribus institutioni in collegiis, academiis, et semlnariis addictam sanctus Pius Quintus inter Religiosos Ordines adscripsit, cæterique pontifices privilegiis ornarunt.

Orphanis colligendis intentus Mediolanum proficiscitur atque Ticinum; et utrobique collectis agminibus puerorum tectum, victum, vestem, magistros, nobilibus viris faventibus, provide constituit. IndeSomascham redux, omnibus omnia factus, a nullo abhorrebat opere, quod in proximi bonum cedere prævideret. Agricolis immixtus per agros sparsis, dum se illis adjutorem in metendis frugibus præbet, mysteria fidei explicabat, puerorum capita porrigine fœda abstergens, et patienter tractans curabat; putridis rusticorum vulneribus medebatur eo successu, ut gratia curationum donatus censeretur. In monte, qui Somaschæ imminet, reperta specu, in illam se abdidit, ubi se flagellis cædens, dies integros jejunus transigens, oration in plurimam noctem protracta, super nurlo saxo brevem somnum carpens, sui aliorumque noxarum prenas luebat. In hujus spec us in teriori recess ex arido silice exstillat aqua, precibus servi Dei, ut constans traditio est, impetrata, quæ usque in hodiernam diem jugiter manans, et In varias regions delata ægris sanitatem plerumque conciliat. Tandem ex contagione, quæ per omnem vallem serpebat, dum ægrotantibus inservit, et vita functos propriis humeris ad sepulturam defert, contracto morbo, annos natus sex et quinquaginta, quam paulo ante prædixerat, pretiosam mortem obiit anno millesimo quingentesimo trigesimo septimo: quem pluribus in vita, et post mortem miraculis illustrem Benedictus decimus quartus Beatorum, Clemens vero decimus tertius Sanctorum fastis solemniter adscripsit.
Jerome was born at Venice, of the patrician family of the Æmiliani, and from his boyhood embraced a military life. At a time when the Republic was in great difficulty, he was placed in command of Castelnovo, in the territory of Quero, in the mountains of Treviso. The fortress was taken by the enemy, and Jerome was thrown, bound hand and foot, into a horrible dungeon. When he found himself thus destitute of all human aid, he prayed most earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, who mercifully came to his assistance. She loosed his bonds, and led him safely through the midst of his enemies, who had possession of every road, till he was within sight of Treviso. He entered the town; and, in testimony of the favour he had received, he hung up at the altar of our Lady, to whose service he had vowed himself, the manacles, shackles, and chains which he had brought with him. On his return to Venice he gave himself with the utmost zeal to exercises of piety. His charity towards the poor was wonderful; but he was particularly moved to pity for the orphan children who wandered poor and dirty about the town; he received them into houses which he hired, where he fed them at his own expense and trained them to lead Christian lives. 

At this time Blessed Cajetan and Peter Caraffa, who was afterwards Paul IV, disembarked at Venice. They commended Jerome’s spirit and his new institution for gathering orphans together. They also introduced him into the hospital for incurables, where he would be able to devote himself with equal charity to the education of orphans and to the service of the sick. Soon, at their suggestion, he crossed over to the continent and founded orphanages, first at Brescia, then at Bergamo and Como. At Bergamo his zeal was specially prolific, for there, besides two orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, he opened a house, an unprecedented thing in those parts, for the reception of fallen women who had been converted. Finally he took up his abode at Somascha, a small village in the territory of Bergamo, near to the Venetian border, and this he made his headquarters; here, too, he definitely established his congregation, which for this reason received the name of Somaschan. In course of time it spread and increased, and for the greater benefit of the Christian republic it undertook, besides the ruling and guiding of orphans and the taking care of sacred buildings, the education, both liberal and moral, of young men in colleges, academies, and seminaries. Pius V enrolled it among religious Orders, and other Roman Pontiffs have honoured it with privileges.

Entirely devoted to his work of rescuing orphans, Jerome journeyed to Milan and Pavia, and in both cities he collected numbers of children and provided them, through the assistance given him by noble personages, with a home, food, clothing, and education. He returned to Somascha, and, making himself all to all, he refused no labour which he saw might turn to the good of his neighbour. He associated himself with the peasants scattered over the fields, and while helping them with their work of harvesting, he would explain to them the mysteries of faith. He used to take care of children with the greatest patience, even going so far as to cleanse their heads, and he dressed the corrupt wounds of the village folk with such success that it was thought he had received the gift of healing. On the mountain which overhangs Somascha he found a cave in which he hid himself, and there scourging himself, spending whole days fasting, passing the greater part of thenight in prayer, and snatching only a short sleep on the bare rock, he expiated his own sins and those of others. In the interior of this grotto, water trickles from the dry rock, obtained, as constant tradition says, by the prayers of the servant of God. It still flows, even to the present day, and being taken into different countries, it often gives health to the sick. At length, when a contagious distemper was spreading over the whole valley, and he was serving the sick and carrying the dead to the grave on his own shoulders, he caught the infection, and died at the age of fifty-six. His precious death, which he had foretold a short time before, occurred in the year 1537. He was illustrious both in life and death for many miracles. Benedict XIV enrolled him among the Blessed, and Clement XIII solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints.

With Vincent de Paul and Camillus of Lellis, thou, O Jerome Æmilian, completest the triumvirate of charity. Thus does the Holy Spirit mark His reign with traces of the Blessed Trinity; moreover, he would show that the love of God which He kindles on earth, can never be without the love of our neighbour. At the very time when He gave thee to the world as a demonstration of this truth, the spirit of evil made it evident that true love of our neighbour cannot exist without love of God, and that this latter soon disappears in its turn when faith is extinct. Thus, between the ruins of the pretended reform and the ever-new fecundity of the Spirit of holiness, mankind was free to choose. The choice made was, alas! far from being always conformable to man’s interest, either temporal or eternal.

With what good reason may we repeat the prayer thou didst teach thy little orphans: 'Lord Jesus Christ, our loving Father, we beseech Thee, by Thine infinite goodness, raise up Christendom once more, and bring it back to that upright holiness which flourished in the apostolic age.’

Thou didst labour strenuously at this great work of restoration. The Mother of Divine Grace, when she broke thy prison chains, set thy soul free from a more cruel captivity to continue the flight begun at baptism and in thy early years. Thy youth was renewed as the eagle’s; and the valour which won thee thy spurs in earthly battles, being now strengthened tenfold in the service of the all-powerful Prince, carried the day over death and hell. Who could count thy victories in this new militia? Jesus, the King of the warfare of salvation, inspired thee with His own predilection for little children; countless numbers, saved by thee from perishing, and brought in their innocence to His divine caresses, owe to thee their crown in heaven. From thy throne, where thou art surrounded by this lovely company, multiply thy sons; uphold those who continue thy work on earth; may thy spirit spread more and more in these days, when Satan’s jealousy strives more than ever to snatch the little ones from our Lord. Happy shall they be in their last hour who have accomplished the work of mercy pre-eminent in our days: saved the faith of children, and preserved their baptismal innocence! Should they have formerly merited God’s anger, they may with all confidence repeat the words thou didst love so well: ‘O sweetest Jesus, be not unto me a Judge, but a Saviour!’


 

[1] Chrys. in Matt. Hom. lxii. al. lxiii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS same day brings before us a rival of the warrior-martyr, St. George: Margaret, like him victorious over the dragon, and like him called in the Menæa of the Greeks, the Great Martyr. The cross was her weapon; and, like the soldier, the virgin, too, consummated her trial in her blood. They were equally renowned, also, in those chivalrous times when valour and faith fought hand in hand for Christ beneath the standard of the saints. So early as the seventh century our Western island rivalled the East in honouring the pearl drawn from the abyss of infidelity. Before the disastrous schism brought about by Henry VIII, the Island of Saints celebrated this feast as a double of the second class; women alone were obliged to rest from servile work, in gratitude for the protection afforded them by St. Margaret at the moment of childbirth—a favour which ranked her among the saints called in the Middle Ages auxiliatores or helpers. But it was not in England alone that Margaret was invoked, as history proves by the many and illustrious persons of all countries who have borne her blessed name. In heaven, too, there is great festivity around the throne of Margaret; we learn this from such trustworthy witnesses as St. Gertrude the Great[1] and St. Frances of Rome,[2] who, though divided by a century of time, were both, by a special favour of their divine Spouse, allowed, while still on earth, to assist at this heavenly spectacle.

The ancient legend in the Roman Breviary was suppressed in the sixteenth century by St. Pius V as not being sufficiently authentic. We, therefore, give instead some responsories and antiphons and a collect, taken from what appears to be the very office said by St. Gertrude; for in the vision mentioned above allusion is made to one of these responsories, Virgo veneranda:[3]

Responsories

Felix igitur Margarita sacrilego sanguine progenita:
* Fidem quam Spiritu Sancto percepit vitiorum macuHs minus infecit.

℣. Ibat de virtute in virtutem, ardenter sitiens animæ salutem. * Fidem.
℟. Hæc modica quidem in malitia, sed mire vigens pudicitia, præventa gratia Redemptoris: * Oviculas pascebat nutricis.

℣. Simplex fuit ut columba, quemadmodum serpens astuta. * Oviculas.
℟. Quadam die Odibrius, molestus Deo et hominibus, transiens visum in illam sparsit: * Mox in concupiscentiam ejus exarsit.

℣. Erat enim nimium formosa: in vultu scilicet ut rosa. * Mox.
℟. Misit protinus clientes, ad inquirendos ejus parentes; * Ut si libera probaretur, in conjugium sibi copularetur.

℣. Sed hanc qui desponsaverat, non ita Christus præordinaverat. * Ut si.
℟. Dum tyrannus intellexit quod eum virgo despexit: * Jussit eamdem iratus suis præsentari tribunalibus.

℣. Quam sperans puellarum more minis flecti subjuncto terrore. * Jussit.
℟. Virgo veneranda in, magna stans constantia, verba contempsit judicis: * Nil cogitans de rebus lubricis.

℣. Cœlestis præmii spe gaudens, in tribulatione erat patiens. * Nil cogitans.
℟. Post carceris squalorem carnisque macerationem, Christi dilecta: * Tenebrosis denuo recluditur in locis.

℣. Nomen Domini laudare non desinens et glorificare. * Tenebrosis.
℟. Sancta martyre precatibus instante, draco foetore plenus apparuit: * Qui hanc invadens totam absorbuit.
℣. Quem per medium signo crucis discidit, et de utero ejus illæsa exivit. * Qui.
Blessed Margaret, though born of pagan blood:
* Receiving the faith by the Holy Spirit, preserved it free from stain.

℣. She went from virtue to virtue, ardently desiring the salvation of her soul. * Receiving the faith.
℟. Knowing no evil, she blossomed in purity, being prevented by the grace of our Saviour. * She tended the sheep for her foster-mother.

℣. Simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent. * She tended.
℟.  Odibrius, hateful to God and men, passing one day, cast his glance upon her. * And he burned with desire of her.

℣. For she was exceeding lovely; her face like a beautiful rose. * And he burned.
℟. Forthwith he sent his men to inquire as to her parentage; * For that if she were of gentle blood, he fain would take her to wife.

℣. But Jesus Christ whose bride she was, had otherwise ordained. * For that if she were.
℟. When the tyrant heard that the virgin despised him, * Enraged he caused her to be brought to his tribunal.

℣. For he hoped that, as maidens are wont, she would yield through fear of his threats. * Enraged.
℟. The worshipful virgin stood firm in her constancy, setting at nought the words of the judge. * For she thought not of vile pleasures.

℣. Rejoicing in the hope of a heavenly reward, she was patient under the trial. * For she thought not.
℟. The beloved of Christ, after enduring the horrors of a dungeon, and the torturing of her flesh, * Is closed once more in a darksome prison.

℣. She ceases not to praise and glorify the name of the Lord. * Is closed.
℟. While the holy martyr was instant in prayer, a foul dragon appeared; * And rushing upon her, he devoured her.
℣. With the sign of the cross she rent him asunder, and came forth again unhurt. * And rushing.

Antiphons

Ministri statim tenellæ corpus comburebant puellæ; sed hæc, oratione facta, igne permansit intacta.

Vas immensum aqua plenum præses imperavit anerri: et in illud virginem ligatam demergi.

Laudabilis Dominus in suis virtutibus, vincula manuum relaxavit, suamque famulam de morte liberavit.

Videntes hæc mirabilia baptizati sunt quinque millia: quos capite plecti censuit ira præfecti: quibus est addicta Christi testis invicta, benedicens Deum deorum in sæcula sæculorum.
The executioners burn the limbs of the tender maiden: but making her prayer she feels nought in the flame.

A great vessel full of water is brought by the judge’s com mand: and the virgin is cast in bound.

The Lord, who is worthy of praise in His mighty deeds, loosened the fetters of His handmaid, and delivered her from death.

At the sight of these wonders five thousand are baptized: the prefect in anger commands them all to be beheaded, and after them the unconquerable witness of Christ blessing the God of gods for ever and ever.

Prayer

Deus qui beatam Margaritam virginem tuam ad cœlos per martyrii palmam venire fecisti: concede nobis, quæsumus, ut ejus exempla sequentes ad te venire mereamur. Per Dominum.
O God, who didst lead Thy blessed virgin Margaret to heaven, with the palm of martyrdom, grant, we beseech thee, that by following her example, we may merit to come even unto Thee. Through our Lord.

[1] Legatus divinæ pietatis, iv., xlv.
[2] Visio xxxvi.
[3] Breviarium Constantiense, Augustæ Vindelicorum, mccccxcix.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ON this day Pudentiana's angelic sister at length obtained from her Spouse release from bondage, and from the burden of exile that weighed so heavily on this last scion of a holy and illustrious stock. New races, unknown to her fathers when they laid the world at the feet of Rome, now governed the Eternal City. Nero and Domitian had been actuated by a tyrannical spirit; but the philosophical Cæsars showed how absolutely they misconceived the destinies of the great city. The salvation of Rome lay in the hands of a different dynasty: a century back Praxedes' grandfather, more legitimate inheritor of the traditions of the Capitol than all the emperors present or to come, hailed in his guest, Simon Bar-Jona, the ruler of the future. Host of the prince of the apostles was a title handed down by Pudens to his posterity: for in the time of Pius I, as in that of St. Peter, his house was still the shelter of the Vicar of Christ. Left the sole heiress of such traditions, Praxedes, after the death of her beloved sister, converted her palaces into churches, which resounded day and night with divine praises, and where pagans hastened in crowds to be baptized. The policy of Antoninus respected the dwelling of a descendant of the Comelii; but his adopted son, Marcus Aurelius, would make no such exception. An assault was made upon the title of Praxedes, and many Christians were taken and put to the sword. The virgin, overpowered with grief at seeing all slain around her, and herself untouched, turned to God and besought Him that she might die. Her body was laid with those of her relatives in the cemetery of her grandmother, Priscilla. The following is the short notice given by the Church:

Praxedes, virgo Romana, Pudentianæ virginis soror, Marco Antonino imperatore Christianos persequente, eos facultatibus, opera, consolatione et omni charitatis officio prosequebatur. Nam alios domi occultabat; alios ad fidei constantiam hortabatur: aliorum corpora sepeliebat: iis, qui in carcere inclusi erant, qui in ergastulis exercebantur, nulla re deerat. Quæ cum tantam Christianorum stragem jam ferre non posset, Deum precata est, ut, si mori expediret, se e tantis malis eriperet. ltaque duodecimo calendas Augusti ad pietatis prremia vocatur in crelum. Cujus corpus a Pastore presbytero in patris et sororis Pudentiana? sepulcrum illatum est, quod erat in cremeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria.
Praxedes was a Roman virgin and sister of the virgin Pudentiana. 'Vhen the emperor Marcus Antoninus persecuted the Christians, she devoted both her time and her wealth to consoling them, and doing them every charitable service in her power. Some she concealed in her house: others she encouraged to firmness of faith. She buried the dead, and saw that those who were imprisoned wanted for nothing. But at length being unable to bear the grief caused by such a wholesale butchery of the Christians, she prayed God that if it were expedient for her to die He would take her away from so much evil. Her prayer was heard, and on the twelfth of the Calends of August, she was called to heaven, to receive the reward of her charity. Her body was buried by the priest Pastor in the tomb where lay her father and her sister Pudentiana, in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the Salarian Way.

Mother Church is ever grateful to thee, O Praxedes! Thou hast long been in the enjoyment of thy divine Spouse, and still thou continuest the traditions of thy noble family, for the benefit of the saints on earth. When, in the eighth and ninth centuries, the martyrs, exposed to the profanations of the Lombards, were raised from their tombs and brought within the walls of the Eternal City, Paschal I sought hospitality for them where Peter had found it in the first century. What a day was that of July 20, 817, when, leaving the Catacombs, 2,300 of these heroes of Christ came to seek in the title of Praxedes the repose which the barbarians had disturbed! What a tribute Rome offered thee, O Virgin, on that day! Can we do better than unite our homage with that of the glorious band, coming on the day of thy blessed feast, thus to acknowledge thy benefits? Descendant of Pudens and Priscilla, give us thy love of Peter, thy devotedness to the Church, thy zeal for the saints of God, whether militant still on earth or already reigning in glory.