From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
FIVE days after the martyrdom of the Virgin Emerentiana, the parents of the glorious Saint Agnes visited the tomb of their child, during the night, there to weep and pray. It was the eighth day since her martyrdom. Whilst they were thinking upon the cruel death, which, though it had enriched their child with a Martyr's palm, had deprived them of her society, Agnes suddenly appeared to them: she was encircled with a bright light, and wore a crown on her head, and was surrounded by a choir of virgins of dazzling beauty. On her right hand there stood a beautiful white lamb, the emblem of the Divine Spouse of Agnes.
Turning towards her parents, she said to them: 'Weep not over my death: for I am now in heaven, together with these virgins, living with him whom I loved on earth with my whole soul.'
It is to commemorate this glorious apparition that the holy Church has instituted this Feast, which is called Saint Agnes' Second Feast (Sanctœ Agnetis secundo). Let us pray to this fervent spouse of the Divine Lamb, that she intercede for us with him, and present us to him in this life, until it be given to us to possess him face to face in heaven. Let us unite with the Church in the following Prayer, which she uses in today's Office:
Ant. Stans a dextris ejus Agnus nive candidior, Christus sibi Sponsam et Martyrem consecravit.
℣. Specie tua, et pulchritudine tua.
℟. Intende, prospere procede et regna.
Deus qui nos annua beatæ Agnetis Virginis et Martyris tuæ solemnitate lætificas: da quæsumus, ut quam veneramur officio, etiam piæ conversationis sequamur exemplo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Ant. Standing at her right hand as a Lamb whiter than snow, Christ consecrated her to himself as his Spouse and Martyr.
℣. With thy comeliness and thy beauty.
℟. Set out, proceed prosperously, and reign.
Let us Pray
O God, who rejoicest us by the yearly solemnity of blessed Agnes, the Virgin and Martyr: grant, we beseech thee, that we may imitate her life to whose memory we pay this honour. Through Christ our Lord.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
In many Churches, especially in Germany, there is kept, on the second Feast of the Martyr Agnes, the Feast of the pious Emperor Charlemagne. The Emmanuel, who is come into this world, is to receive the title of King of kings and Lord of lords; he is to gird himself with the sword, and bring all nations into subjection; what could be more fitting than that he should lead to his Crib the greatest of Christian Princes, who ever made it his glory to use his sword in the service of Christ and his Church?
Charlemagne was held as a Saint by the people, and the decree of his canonization was given by the Antipope Paschal the Third, in the year 1165, at the request of Frederic Barbarossa; on which account, the Holy See has permitted this public veneration. to be continued in all those places where it prevailed, though it has never given its approbation to the informal procedure of Paschal, nor made it valid by its own sentence, which it would, in all probability, have done had the request been made. At the same time, the many Churches, which, now for seven centuries, have honoured the memory of Charlemagne, keep his Feast under the simple title of Blessed, out of respect to the Roman Martyrology, where his name is not inserted.
Before the Reformation, the name of Blessed Charlemagne was inscribed in the Calendar of a great many of the Churches in France; the Breviaries of Rheims and Rouen are the only ones that have retained it. The Church of Paris ceased to keep his Feast, in order to satisfy the prejudices of several Doctors of the University, in the early part of the 16th century. Protestantism had, naturally enough, an antipathy for a man, who was the noblest type of a Catholic Prince: and they who were tainted with the spirit of Protestantism, defended their blotting out the name of Charlemagne from the Calendar, not so much by the informality of his Canonization, as by the scandal which they affected to find in his life. Public opinion was formed on this, as on so many other matters, with extreme levity; and among those who will be surprised at finding the name of Charlemagne in this volume, we quite expect that they will be the most astonished who have never taken the trouble to inquire into the holiness of his life.
More than thirty Churches in Germany still keep the Feast of the great Emperor. His dear Church of Aix-la-Chapelle possesses his Relics and exposes them to the veneration of the people. The University of Paris, strange to say, chose him for its Patron in 1661; but his Feast, which had been given up for more than a century, was only restored as a national holiday, without the slightest allusion being made to it in the Liturgy.
It does not enter into the plan of this work to discuss the reasons, for which public veneration has been paid to the Saints whose feasts we keep during the year; our readers must not, therefore, expect from us anything in the shape of a formal defence of the saintly life of Charlemagne. Nevertheless, we cannot refrain from making a few remarks, which our subject seems to require. And firstly, we affirm, with the great Bossuet that the morals of Charlemagne were without reproach, and that the contrary opinion, which is based on certain vague and contradictory expressions of a few writers of the Middle-Ages, has only gained ground by Protestant influence. Dom Mabillon—after having given the history of the Emperor’s repudiation of Hermengarde, and his return to Himiltrude, his first wife—concludes his account of Charlemagne, in his Benedictine Annals, by acknowledging that this Prince’s plurality of wives has never been proved to have been simultaneous. Natalis Alexander and Le Cointe—authors who cannot be taxed with partiality, and who have gone into all the intricacies of the question—prove most clearly, that the only reproach to be laid to Charlemagne’s charge, on the subject of his wives, is his having repudiated Himiltrude, out of complaisance to the mother of Hermengarde, a fault which he repaired the following year, in compliance with the remonstrances of Pope Stephen the Fourth.
We grant, that after the death of Luitgarde, the last of his wives who was treated as Queen, Charlemagne married several others, whom Eginhard calls concubines, because they did not wear the crown, and their children were not considered as princes of the blood; but we say, with Mabillon, that Charlemagne may have had these wives successively, and that it is difficult to believe the contrary, regarding so religious a Prince, and one who had singular respect for the laws of the Church.
But, independently of the opinion of the grave authors whom we have cited, there is an incontestable proof of Charlemagne’s innocence on the score of the simultaneous plurality of wives, at least from the time of his separation from Hermengarde. The Prince was then in his twenty-eighth year. The severity of the Roman Pontiffs relative to the marriages of sovereigns is too well known to require proof. The history of the Middle-Ages abounds with the struggles they had, on this essential point of Christian morals, with the most powerful monarchs, some of whom were most devoted to the Church. How, then, we would ask, would it be possible, that St. Adrian the First, who governed the Church from 772 to 795, and whom Charlemagne treated as a father, asking his advice in everything he undertook—how, we repeat, would this holy Pontiff allow Charlemagne to indulge in the most scandalous crimes, without remonstrating, whilst Stephen the Fourth, who only sat three years, and had not the same influence on this Prince, could induce him to dismiss Hermengarde? Or again, would St. Leo the Third—who reigned as Supreme Pontiff from 795 till after Charlemagne’s death, and who recompensed his virtuous conduct by crowning him Emperor—would he have made no effort to induce him to abandon the concubinage in which some writers would make us believe he lived after the death of his last Queen Luitgarde? Now, we find not the shadow of any such remonstrances made by these two Popes, who governed the Church for more than forty years, and have been placed on her altars. The honour of the Church herself is at stake in this question, and it is the duty of every Catholic to suspect the imputations cast on the name of Charlemagne as calumnies.
It would seem, from the letter of Pope Stephen the Fourth, that the marriage with Himiltrude was suspected, though falsely, of nullity; and it is not improbable that this suspicion may have satisfied Charlemagne’s conscience when he divorced her. However this may be, we find Charlemagne afterwards legislating against public immorality with all the zeal and energy of a man whose own life was not tainted with anything of the kind. We will cite but one example of this Christian firmness in repressing scandal, and we put it to the conviction of any honest heart, if a Prince, whose life had been a series of public scandals, could have dared to express himself, with the simplicity and confidence of an innocent conscience, in an assembly of the Bishops and Abbots of his Empire, and in the presence of the Princes and Barons whose licentiousness he wished to repress, and who might so justly have excused their own disorders, by the lewd example of the very man who exhorted them to virtue and threatened to chastise their vices? In a Capitulary, given during the Pontificate of St. Leo the Third, he thus decrees: “We forbid, under pain of sacrilege, the seizure of the goods of the Church, and injustices of whatsoever sort, adultery, fornication, incest, illicit marriage, unjust homicide, &c., for we know, that by such things kingdoms and kings, yea and private subjects, do perish. And whereas, by God’s help, and the merit and the intercession of the Saints and Servants of God, whom we have at all times honoured, we have gained a goodly number of kingdoms, and won manifold victories, it behoveth us all to be on our guard lest we deserve the forfeiture of these gains by the aforementioned crimes and shameful lewdnesses. We know, of a truth, that sundry countries, wherein have been perpetrated these seizures of the goods of the Church, these injustices, these adulteries, and these prostitutions, have lost their courage in battle, and their firmness in the faith. Any one may learn from history, how the Lord hath permitted the Saracens and other peoples to conquer the workers of such like iniquities; nor doubt we that the like will happen likewise to us, unless we abstain from such misdeeds; for God is wont to punish them. Be it, therefore, known to all our subjects, that he who shall be taken and convicted of any of these crimes, shall be deposed of all his honours, if he have any; that he shall be thrown into prison, till he repent and make amends by a public penitence; and, moreover, that he shall be cut off from all communication with the faithful; for we shall grievously fear the pit whereinto we see others be fallen.” Again, we ask, would Charlemagne have spoken such language as this, if, as has been asserted, his old age was being disgraced with debauchery, at the very time that he passed this Capitulary, that is, after the death of Luitgarde?
Granting, then, that this great Prince had sinned, we must allow that it was only in the early part of his reign, and we ought to remember that the remainder of his life was so holy as to be more than an ample penance. Is it not a sight worthy of our admiration to see this brave warrior, when he had become the mighty Sovereign, unceasingly practising, not only sobriety, which was a rare virtue among his countrymen, but fastings, which would bear comparisons with those of the most fervent anchorets—wearing a hair-shirt even to the day of his death—assisting at the Offices of the Church, day and night, even during his various campaigns, when he had the Divine services performed in his tent—and giving abundant alms, (which, as the Scripture tells us, covereth a multitude of sins,) not only to all the poor of his dominions, who besought his charity, but likewise to the Christians of Africa, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, for whose sakes he more than once exhausted his royal treasury? But, what is above all this, and, in the absence of every other proof, would testify to Charlemagne’s possessing every virtue that could adorn a Christian Prince, is his making no other use of his sovereign power than that of spreading the Kingdom of Christ on the earth. It is the one single end he proposed to himself in every battle he fought, and every law he made.
This monarch, to whom were subject France, Catalonia, Navarre, and Aragon; Flanders, Holland, and Friesland; the provinces of Westphalia, Saxony, as far as the Elbe; Franconia, Suabia, Thuringia, and Switzerland; the two Pannonias, (that is, Austria and Hungary,) Dacia, Bohemia, Istria, Liburnia, Dalmatia, and even Sclavonia; and finally, the whole of Italy, as far as southern Calabria—this Monarch signs himself, in his glorious Capitularia: “I, Charles, by the grace of God and the giving of his mercy, King and governor of the Kingdom of the French, devoted defender of God’s Holy Church, and her humble Champion.” So many other Kings and Emperors—who are not to be compared with him in power, and yet are objects of men’s admiration in spite of all their crimes, which are artfully palliated by every possible excuse—have made it their one grand aim to enslave the Church. History tells us of even some otherwise pious Kings, who were jealous of her Liberty, and sought to curtail it: Charlemagne ever respected that Liberty, as though it were his own mother’s honour. It was he, that, following the example of Pepin, his father, so nobly secured the independence of the Apostolic See. Never had the Roman Pontiffs a more devoted or a more obedient Son. Scorning petty political jealousies, he restored to the clergy and people the episcopal elections, which were in the hands of the Sovereign, when he began his reign. He waged war mainly with a design to favour the propagation of the faith among infidel nations. He marched into Spain, that he might free the Christians from the yoke of the Moors. He brought the Churches of his Kingdom into closer union with the Apostolic See, by establishing the Roman Liturgy in all the States that were under his sceptre. In the whole of his legislation, which he framed in assemblies where Bishops and Abbots had the preponderance, there is not a single trace of what have been called Gallican Liberties, which consist in the interference of the Sovereign, or civil Magistrate in matters purely ecclesiastical. “So great was Charlemagne’s love for the Roman Church,” says Bossuet, “that the main point of his Last Will was the recommending to his successors the defence of the Church of St. Peter, a defence which was the precious heirloom of his house, handed down to him by his father and his father’s father, and which he was resolved to leave also to his children. It was this love of the Church which prompted him to say, and the saying was afterwards repeated in a full Council, held during the reign of one of his descendants, that if the Church of Rome were, by an impossibility, to put on us a burden which was well nigh insupportable, we ought to bear it.”
What could prompt this spirit of Christian moderation, which made Charlemagne so respectful to the moral power of the Church—what could temper down the risings of pride, which, as a general rule, increases with the increase of power—what save a most saintly tenor of life? Man, unless he be endowed with the help of a powerful grace, cannot attain, much less can he maintain himself his whole life long, in such perfect dispositions as these. Charlemagne, then, has been selected by our Emmanuel himself to be the perfect type of a Christian Prince; and we Catholics should love to celebrate his glory during this Christmas season, during which is born among us the Divine Child, who is come to reign over all nations, and guide them in the path of holiness and justice. Jesus has come from heaven to be the model of Kings, as of the rest of men; and so far, no man has so closely imitated this divine model as "Charles the Victorious, the ever August, the Monarch crowned by God.”
We will borrow from the Breviaries of Germany the liturgical history of her great Apostle. It is true, that there is a want of exactitude, here and there, in the following Lessons; but they are valuable, as being the expression of the devotion of a Catholic people for their glorious and saintly Emperor.
Beatus Carolus ex patre Pippino, Brabantiæ Ducis filio, qui ad Franciæ Regnum deinde electus est, et Bertrada Græcorum Imperatoris filia natus, ob res gestas, et religionis Christianæ zelum, Magnus, et a Concilio Moguntino Christianissimus appellatus est. Primus fuit, qui expulsis Italia Longobardis a Leone Tertio Pontifice Imperator coronari meruit: nam rogatu Adriani Papæ, qui Leonem antecessit, Italiam cum exercitu ingressus, Ecclesiæ sua patrimonia, et Imperium Occidenti restituit: ipsum quoque Leonem a Romanis, in Litania majore injuriose habitum vindicavit, ejectis urbe sacrilegii reis. Multa sancivit pro Ecclesiæ dignitate, ac inter cætera legem renovavit, voluitque lites forenses ad judicium Ecclesiæ remitti, si alteruter litigantium id postularet. Et quamvis benignus esset moribus, magna tamen severitate compescebat vitia, præsertim adulteria, et idololatriam, constitutis peculiaribus cum ampla potestate judiciis, quæ in hodiernum usque diem in Saxonia inferiore observantur.
Cum Saxonibus triginta et tres annos præliatus, subactis tandem non aliam legem dedit, quam ut Christiani essent; fundosque in perpetuum obligavit, ut erectis per agros trabalibus crucibus, Christum palam faterentur. Guasconiam, Hispaniam atque Gallæciam, ab idololatris expurgavit, ac sepulcrum sancti Jacobi hodierno honori restituit. In Hungaria toto octennio rem Christianam armis promovit ea adversus Sarracenos utens lancea semper victoriosa, qua unus militum Christi latus aperuerat. Quos tantos ejus pro fidei dilatatione conatus, Deus pluribus signis visus est adjuvare; nam Saxones, qui castrum Sigisburgum obsederant, divinitus territi, aufugerunt: et in primo Saxonico tumultu largissimum flumen exiliit, quo totus exercitus triduo aquationis inedia laborans recreatus est. Tantus autem Imperator veste vix a plebe differebat, cilicio prope continuo induebatur, nec nisi in summis Christi ac Divorum festis apparebat in auro. Pauperes et peregrinos tam in Regia sua, quam missis expensis, ubique terrarum adjuvabat. Coenobia viginti quatuor erexit, ac litteram auream (ut appellant) ducentorum pondo cuique misit; duas Metropolitanas sedes, ac novem Episcopales constituit. Templa viginti et septem exædificavit: fundavit denique duas Universitates, Ticinensem et Parisiensem.
Ipse autem Carolus, sicut erat literis deditus, Alcuino doctore usus, ita filios suos liberalibus scientiis, priusquam armis et venatui tradidit. Anno demum ætatis sexagesimo octavo, cum filium Ludovicum coronari, et regem agere jussisset, totum se transtulit ad studia orationis et eleemosynarum. Ecclesiam sicut assueverat, mane, ac vesperi, nocturnis etiam non raro horis frequentabat; psalmodia enim Gregoriana delectabatur; quam per Franciam et Germaniam primus instituit, impetratis ab Adriano Primo cantoribus, et ecclesiasticos hymnos ubivis locorum conscribendos curavit. Evangelia vero ipse sua manu descripsit, et cum Græcis ac Syris codicibus contulit. Cibi et potus semper parcissimus fuit, solitus morbos suos jejunio familiari, quod ad septiduum aliquando protraxit, curare. Tandem multa nefanda a malevolis perpessus, annos natus septuaginta duos, in morbum incidit, in quo ab Hildebaldo Episcopo sacra communione refectus, cum singula membra sua signo crucis signaset, psallens versiculum: In manus tuas; spiritum magnis meritis comitatum Deo reddidit, quinto Kalendas Februarii. Sepultus est in Basilica Aquensi, quam ædificarat et ditarat reliquiis Sanctorum. Ubi etiam magna peregrinorum pietate et divinis beneficiis honoratur. Natalis autem ejus per plerasque Germaniæ Diœceses, jam inde a temporibus Alexandri Tertii, ex Ecclesiæ consensu, colitur, tamquam præcipui fidei auctoris in Septentrione.
The father of the Blessed Charles was Pepin, who was the son of the Duke of Brabant, (afterwards elected to the throne of France,) and of Bertrade, daughter of the Greek Emperor. He merited, by his glorious deeds and his zeal for the Christian Religion, the surname of Great; and by one of the Councils held at Mayence he was called the Most Christian Monarch. Having driven the Lombards out of Italy, he was the first to have the honour of being crowned Emperor by the Vicar of Christ, Pope Leo the Third. At the request of Adrian, Leo’s predecessor, he entered with an army into Italy, and restored to the Church her patrimony, and to the West the Empire. He avenged the injuries done to Pope Leo by the Romans, during the chanting of the Litany, and he expelled from the city such as had taken part in this sacrilege. He passed many laws tending to the honour of the Church; among the rest, he re-established the law which provided that civil suits should be referred to the judgment of the Church, in case of one of the parties demanding it. Though of a most gentle disposition, he was very severe in suppressing vice, more especially adultery and idolatry, for which he established special tribunals vested with extraordinary powers, which exist to this day in Lower Saxony.
After having waged war for thirty-three years with the Saxons, he at length brought them into subjection, imposing no other law upon them, than that they should become Christians. He obliged all landowners to erect a cross of wood in their fields, as an open confession of their faith. He rid Gascony, Spain, and Gallicia, of idolaters, and restored the sepulchre of St. James to what we see it at this day. He upheld the Christian Religion in Hungary by an eight years’ campaign, and in fighting against the Saracens, he always made use of the victorious Spear, wherewith one of the soldiers opened our Saviour’s Side. God seemed to favour, by many miracles, all these efforts made for the spreading of the faith. Thus the Saxons, who were laying siege to Sigisburgh, were struck by God with fear, and took to flight; and in the first rebellion of the same people, there sprang up from the earth a plentiful stream, wherewith was refreshed Charles’ whole army, which had been without water for three days. And yet, this great Emperor could scarce be distinguished by his dress from the rest of the people, and almost always wore a hair-shirt, never appearing in his gilded robes save on the principal Feasts of our Lord and the Saints. He gave alms to the poor and to pilgrims, not only at his regal residence, but in every part of the world, by sending them monies. He built twenty four Monasteries, to each of which he sent what is called the Golden Letter, weighing two hundred pounds. He founded two Metropolitan, and nine Episcopal Sees. He built twenty-seven Churches, and founded two Universities, one in Pavia, the other in Paris.
As Charles himself was fond of study, in which he had Alcuin as his master, so, likewise, would he have his sons trained in the liberal sciences, before be permitted them to turn either to war or to the chase. In the sixty-eighth year of his age, he had his son Louis crowned king, and devoted himself wholly to prayer and alms-deeds. Each morning and evening he visited the Church, and oftentimes he repaired thither also in the night, for he was exceedingly fond of the Gregorian Chant, and was the first to introduce it into France and Germany; he had obtained Cantors from Pope Adrian the First, and took care to have the hymns of the Church copied in every place. He made copies of the Gospels with his own hand, and collated them with the Greek and Syriac versions. He was extremely sparing in what he took to eat and drink. If he fell sick, he sought a remedy in fasting, which he sometimes observed for seven continuous days. At length, after suffering much from malicious men, being then in his seventy-second year, he fell sick. He received the consolation of Holy Communion at the hands of Bishop Hildebald. He signed his whole body with the sign of the cross, singing the words, Into thy hands; which done, he rendered to God his soul rich in merit, on the fifth of the Calends of February (January 28th). He was buried in the Basilica of Aix-la-Chapelle, which he had built and enriched with relics of the Saints. There he is honoured by the devotion of numerous pilgrims, and by the favours granted by God through his intercession. His Feast is kept in most of the dioceses of Germany, by the consent of the Church, ever since the time of Pope Alexander the Third; it is kept as the Feast of the principal propagator of the faith in the North.
The following Hymn is taken from the same Office as the Lessons we have just read.
O Rex orbis triumphator,
Regum terræ Imperator,
Inter beatorum coetus,
Nostros audi pie fletus.
Tua prece mors fugatur,
Languor cedit, vita datur,
Sitientibus das undas,
Et baptismo gentes mundas.
Arte et natura duros,
Sola prece frangis muros,
Regna suave jugum Christi
Ferre doces, quæ vicisti.
O quam dignus verna cœlis,
Servus prudens, et fidelis,
E castris astra petisti,
Ad locum pacis ivisti.
Ergo rupem ferro fode,
Fontem vivum nobis prode,
Ora pia prece Deum,
Et fac nobis pium eum.
Sit Majestas Trinitati,
Laus et honor Unitati,
Quæ virtute principali
Jure regnat coæquali.
O King, conqueror of the earth!
Emperor of the kings of the world!
lovingly hear our prayers,
now that thou reignest among the blessed.
By thy prayers death is put to flight,
the sick are healed, life is restored,
the thirsty obtain fountains of water,
and whole nations are cleansed in the laver of baptism.
Ramparts made impregnable by art and nature,
yield to the simple power of thy prayers;
and thou teachest the vanquished nations
to bear the sweet yoke of Christ.
Prudent and faithful servant,
and oh! how worthy of heaven!
Thou didst ascend thither from the battlefield,
thou enteredst into the land of peace.
Strike, then, the rock with thy sword,
and call forth for us a stream of living water.
By thy holy prayers,
obtain for us the mercy of our God.
Glory be to the Blessed Trinity!
Praise and honour to the Holy Unity,
that reigneth co-equally
in infinite power.
The same Liturgy gives us this Antiphon.
ANT. O spes afflictis, timor hostibus, hostia victis, regula virtutis, juris via, forma salutis, Carole, servorum pia suscipe vota tuorum.
ANT. O hope of sufferers, terror of thine enemies, merciful to the conquered, model of virtue, example of justice, teacher of salvation—receive, O Charles! the devout prayers, of thy clients.
Among the Sequences written in honour of the holy Emperor, we find the following, which is taken from an ancient Missal of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis,
Regni sedes principalis,
Prima regum curia.
Regi regum pange laudes,
Quæ de magni regis gaudes
Iste cœtus psallat lætus,
Psallat chorus hic sonorus
At dum manus operatur
Bonum, quod cor meditatur,
Dulcis est psalmodia.
Hac in die, die festa,
Magni Regis magna gesta
Reges terræ et omnes populi
Omnes simul plaudant ac singuli
Hic est Christi miles fortis,
Hic invictæ dux cohortis
Decem sternit millia.
Terram purgat lolio,
Atque metit gladio
Ex messe zizania.
Hic est magnus Imperator,
Boni fructus bonus sator,
Et prudens agricola.
Infideles hic convertit,
Fana, Deos, hic evertit,
Et confringit idola.
Hic superbos domat reges,
Hic regnare sacras leges
Facit cum justitia.
Quam tuetur eo fine
Ut et justus, sed nec sine
Unctus dono gratiæ
Cæteris præ regibus.
Cum corona gloriæ,
O Rex mundi triumphator,
Jesu Christi conregnator,
Sis pro nobis exorator,
Sancte pater Carole.
Emundati a peccatis
Ut in regno claritatis,
Nos plebs tua cum beatis
Cœli simus incolæ.
Stella maris, o Maria,
Mundi salus, vitæ via,
Vacillantum rege gressus,
Et ad Regem des accessus,
In perenni gloria.
Christe, splendor Dei Patris,
Incorruptæ fili Matris,
Per hunc sanctum cujus
Festa Celebramus, nobis præsta
O city of Aix! City of royalty!
seat of princely power,
and favourite court of kings!
O thou that so joyously celebratest
the memory of King Charles the Great,
sing thy praises to the King of kings.
Let this glad assembly give forth its hymns,
and this sweet choir of music
sing as with one voice of praise.
O sweet the psalmody,
when the hand achieves
the holy meditation of the heart!
On this festive day,
let the Church proclaim
the great deeds of the great King.
Let the kings of the earth and the people,
let all, and each, praise him
with a holiday of joy.
This is the brave soldier of Christ,
the leader of the invincible army,
and he prostrates his enemies by tens of thousands.
He weeds the earth of its cockle,
and with his sword
cleanses the harvest from the tares.
This is the great Emperor,
the good sower of the good seed,
the prudent husbandman.
He converts infidels,
he overthrows the temples,
and the false gods, and breaks the idols.
He subdues haughty kings,
he establishes the reign
of holy laws and justice.
He defends the right,
for he loves justice;
but he tempers justice by mercy.
He is anointed with the oil of gladness,
and with grace,
above all other kings.
He wears the crown of glory,
he is decked with all the emblems
of kingly majesty.
O King that didst triumph over the world!
O King that now reignest with Christ!
O Charles! O sainted father!
pray for us,
That we thy people,
being cleansed from our sins,
may be made fellow-citizens
with the blessed in the kingdom of heaven.
O Mary! Star of the Sea!
that didst give to the world its Saviour and its Life!
guide our faltering steps,
and lead us to Jesus our King,
in everlasting bliss.
O Jesus! Brightness of the Eternal Father!
Son of the VirginMother!
we beseech thee, by the merits of the Saint
whose Feast we celebrate, grant us to come
to everlasting joy.
We will conclude our selection by giving the Collect said on this feast.
Deus qui superabundanti fœcunditate bonitatis tuæ, beatum Carolum Magnum Imperatorem, deposito camis velamine, beatæ immortalitatis trabea sublimasti: concede nobis supplicibus tuis, ut quem ad propagationem veræ fidei Imperii honore exaltasti in terris, pium intercessorem habere mereamur in cœlis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who in the superabundant riches of thy mercy, didst clothe the blessed Emperor Charles the Great, after he had laid aside the garb of the flesh, with the robe of immortal life; grant, we beseech thee, that he whom thou didst raise up on earth to the imperial dignity, that so he might spread the true faith, may lovingly intercede for us in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
All hail faithful and beloved servant of God, Apostle of Christ, Defender of his Church, Lover of justice, Guardian of the laws of morality, and Terror of them that hate the Christian name! The hand of the Vicar of Christ purified the diadem of the Cæsars, and put it on thy venerable head. The imperial sceptre and globe are in thy hands. The sword of the victories won for God is girt on thy side. The Supreme Pontiff has anointed thee King and Emperor. Bearing thus in thyself the figure of Christ in his temporal Kingship, thou didst so use thy power as that he reigned in and by thee. And now he recompenses thee for the love thou hadst for him, for the zeal thou hadst for his glory, and for the respect thou didst ever evince to the Church, his Spouse. He has changed thy earthly and perishable royalty into that which is eternal, and in his heavenly kingdom thou art surrounded by those countless souls, whom thou didst convert from idolatry to the service of the one true God.
We are celebrating the Birth of the Son of that VirginMother, in whose honour thou didst build the glorious Church, which still excites the admiration of all nations. It was in that sacred edifice that thou didst place the Swathing-clothes wherewith she clad her Divine Babe; and it is here, too, that our Emmanuel would have thine own Relics enshrined, so to receive the honour they deserve. O admirable imitator of the faith of the three Eastern Kings! present us to him, who deigned to be clothed in these humble garments. Ask him to give us a share of thy humility, which made thee love to kneel near his Crib—of thy devotion for the Feasts of the Church—of thy zeal for the glory of his divine Majesty—and of the courage and earnestness wherewith thou didst labour to spread his Kingdom on earth.
Oh! pray for our Europe, which was once so happy under thy paternal rule, and is now divided against itself. The Empire, which the Church confided to thy care, has now fallen, in just punishment for its treachery to the Church that gave it existence. The nations of that fallen Empire are now restless and unhappy. The Church alone can satisfy their wants, for she alone can give them Faith; she alone has not changed the principles of justice; she alone can control power, and teach subjects obedience. Oh! pray that nations, both people and their governments, may return to what can alone give them liberty and security, and cease to seek these blessings by revolution and discord. Protect France, that fairest gem of thy crown, protect her with an especial love, and show her that thou art ever her King and her Father. Finally, O blessed Charlemagne! ask our God that he arrest the progress of Russia, the Empire of schism and tyranny, and never permit that we become a prey to its intrigue and ambition.
 “Charlemagne was valiant, wise, and moderate; he was a warrior without ambition, and led an exemplary life. This I say, notwithstanding the reproaches heaped upon him by ignorance, in times past. His prodigious conquests caused the kingdom of God to be spread, and, in everything he did, he showed himself to be a perfect Christian.” Sermon on the Unity of the Church.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE angelical Bishop Francis of Sales has a right to a distinguished position near the Crib of Jesus, on account of the sweetness of his virtues, the childlike simplicity of his heart, and the humility and tenderness of his love. He comes with the lustre of his glorious conquests upon him—seventy-two thousand heretics converted to the Church by the ardour of his charity; an Order of holy servants of God, which he founded; and countless thousands of souls trained to piety by his prudent and persuasive words and writings.
God gave him to the Church at the very time that heresy was holding her out to the world as a worn-out system, that had no influence over men’s minds. He raised up this true minister of the Gospel in the very country where the harsh doctrines of Calvin were most in vogue, that the ardent charity of Francis might counteract the sad influence of that heresy. If you want heretics to be convinced of their errors, said the learned Cardinal du Perron, you may send them to me; but if you want them to be converted, send them to the Bishop of Geneva.
Francis of Sales was sent, then, as a living image of Jesus, opening his arms and calling sinners to repentance, the victims of heresy to truth, the just to perfection, and all men to confidence and love. The Holy Spirit had rested on him with all his divine power and sweetness. A few days back we were meditating on the Baptism of Jesus, and how the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the shape of a dove. There is an incident in the life of Francis which reminds us of this great Mystery. He was singing Mass on Whit Sunday at Annecy. A dove, which had been let into the Cathedral, after flying for a long time round the building, at length came into the sanctuary, and rested on the Saint’s head. The people could not but be impressed with this circumstance, which they looked on as an appropriate symbol of Francis’ loving spirit; just as the globe of fire which appeared above the head of St Martin, when he was offering up the Holy Sacrifice, was interpreted as a sign of his apostolic zeal.
The same thing happened to our Saint on another occasion. It was the Feast of our Lady’s Nativity, and Francis was officiating at Vespers in the Collegiate Church at Annecy. He was seated on a Throne, the carving of which represented the Tree of Jesse, which the prophet Isaias tells us produced the virginal Branch, whence sprang the divine Flower, on which there rested the Spirit of love. They were singing the psalms of the feast, when a dove flew into the Church, through an aperture in one of the windows of the choir, on the epistle side of the Altar. It flew about for some moments, and then lighted first on the Bishop’s shoulder, then on his knee, where it was caught by one of the assistants. When the Vespers were over the Saint mounted the pulpit, and ingeniously turned the incident that had occurred into an illustration which he hoped would distract the people from himself—he spoke to them of Mary, who, being full of the grace of the Holy Spirit, is called the Dove that is all fair, in whom there is no blemish.
If we were asked which of the Disciples of our Lord was the model on which this admirable Prelate formed his character, we should mention, without any hesitation, the Beloved Disciple, John. Francis of Sales is, like him, the Apostle of charity; and the simplicity of the great Evangelist caressing an innocent bird is reflected with perfection in the heart of the Bishop of Geneva. A mere look from John, a single word of his, used to draw men to the love of Jesus; and the contemporaries of Francis were wont to say: 'If the Bishop of Geneva is so amiable, what, O Lord, must not thou be!'
A circumstance in our Saint's last illness again suggests to us the relation between himself and the Beloved Disciple. It was on the 27th of December, the Feast of St John, that Francis, after celebrating Mass, and giving Communion to his dear Daughters of the Visitation, felt the first approach of the sickness which was to cause his death. As soon as it was known, the consternation was general; but the Saint had already his whole conversation in heaven, and on the following day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, his soul took its flight to its Creator, and the candour and simplicity of his spirit made him a worthy companion of those dear little ones of Bethlehem.
But on neither of these two days could the Church place his feast, as they were already devoted to the memory of St John and the Holy Innocents; but she has ordered it to be kept during the forty days consecrated to the Birth of our Lord, and this 29th of January is the day fixed for it.
St Francis, then, the ardent lover of our new-born King, is to aid us, like all these other Christmas saints, to know the charms of the Divine Babe. In his admirable Letters we find him expressing, with all the freedom of friendly correspondence, the sweetness which used to fill his heart during this holy season. Let us read a few passages from these confidential papers—they will teach us how to love our Jesus.
Towards the end of the Advent of 1619, he wrote to a religious of the Visitation, instructing her how to prepare for Christmas.
My very dear Daughter, our sweet Infant Jesus is soon to be born in our remembrance, at the coming feasts; and since he is born on purpose that he may visit us in the name of his Eternal Father, and is to be visited in his Crib by the Shepherds and the Kings, I look on him as both the Father and the Child of our Lady of the Visitation.
Come, then, load him with your caresses; join all our Sisters in giving him a warm welcome of hospitality; sing to him the sweetest carols you can find; and above ail, adore him very earnestly, and very sweetly, and with him adore his poverty, his humility, his obedience and his meekness, as did his most holy Mother and St Joseph. Take one of his divine tears, which is the dew of heaven, and put it on your heart, that so you may never admit any other sadness there, than the sadness which will gladden this sweet Infant. And when you recommend your own soul to him, recommend mine also, for you know its devotedness to yours.
I beg of you to remember me affectionately to the dear Sisters, whom I look upon as simple shepherdesses keeping watch over their flocks, that is, their affections, and who, being warned by the Angel, are going to pay their homage to the Divine Babe, and offer him, as an earnest of their eternal loyalty, the fairest of their lambs, which is their love, unreserved and undivided.
On Christmas Eve, filled by anticipation with the joy of the sacred night which is to give the world its Redeemer, Francis writes to St Jane Frances de Chantal, and thus invites her to profit by the visit of the Divine Infant:
May the sweet Infant of Bethlehem ever be your happiness and your love, my very dear Mother. Oh! the loveliness of this Little Child! I imagine I see Solomon on his ivory throne, all beautifully gilded and carved, which, as the Scripture tells us, had no equal in all the kingdoms of the earth, neither was there any king that could be compared for glory and magnificence with the king that sat upon it. And yet I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his Crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.
But when I see him on the lap or in the arms of his Blessed Mother, he seems to me to be more magnificent on this Throne, not only than Solomon ever was on his of ivory, but than he himself on any throne with which the heavens could provide him; for though the heavens surpass Mary in outward grandeur, yet she surpasses them in invisible perfections. Oh! may the great St Joseph give us some of the consolation that filled his soul; may the Blessed Mother lend us something of her own love, and the Infant Jesus mercifully pour into our hearts of the infinite abundance of his merits!
I beseech you to keep close to this Divine Babe, and rest near him as lovingly as you can; he will love you in return, even should your heart feel no tenderness or devotion. What sense had the poor ox and the ass? and yet he refuses not to let them breathe warmly upon him. And think you he will refuse the aspirations of our poor hearts, which, though just at present they feel no devotion, yet are sincerely and loyally his, and are ever offering themselves to be the faithful servants of his own divine self, and of his Holy Mother, and of his dear protector Joseph!
The sacred night is over, and has brought Peace to men of good will. Francis again writes to the same Saint, and thus betrays to her the joy he has received from the contemplation of the great Mystery;
Oh! the sweetness of this night! The Church has been singing these words—honey has dropped from the heavens. I thought to myself, that the Angels not only come down on our earth to sing their admirable Gloria in excelsis, but to gaze also on this sweet Babe, this Honey of heaven resting on two beautiful Lilies, for sometimes he is in Mary's arms, and sometimes it is Joseph that caresses him.
What will you say of my having the ambition to think that our two Angel Guardians were of the grand choir of blessed Spirits that sang the sweet hymn on this night? I said to myself : Oh! happy we, if they would deign to sing once more their heavenly hymn, and our hearts could hear it! I besought it of them, that so there might be glory in the highest heavens, and peace to hearts of good will.
Returning home from celebrating these sacred mysteries, I rest awhile in thus sending you my Happy Christmas! for I dare say that the poor Shepherds took some little rest, after they had adored the Babe announced to them by the Angels. And as I thought of their sleep on that night, I said to myself: How sweetly must they not have slept, dreaming of the sacred melody wherewith the Angels told them the glad tidings, and of the dear Child and the Mother they had been to see!
We will close our quotations by the following passage of another of his Letters to St Jane Frances de Chantal, in which he speaks of the Most Holy Name of 'Jesus,' which the Divine Child of Mary received at his Circumcision.
O my Jesus! fill our hearts with the sacred balm of thy Holy Name, that so the sweetness of its fragrance may penetrate our senses, and perfume our every action. But that our hearts may be capable of receiving this sweetness, they must be circumcised: take, therefore, from them whatever could displease thy divine sight. O glorious Name! named by the heavenly Father from all eternity, be thou for ever written on our souls; that as thou, Jesus, art our Saviour, so may our souls be eternally saved. And thou, O Holy Virgin! that wast the first among mortals to pronounce this saving Name, teach us to pronounce it as it behoveth us, that so we may merit the Salvation which thou didst bring into this world!
My dear Daughter! it was but right that my first letter of this year should be to Jesus and Mary: my second is to you, to wish you a Happy New Year, and exhort you to give your whole heart to God. May we so spend this year, that it may secure to us the years of eternity! My first word on waking this morning was: Jesus! and I felt as though I would gladly pour out on the face of the whole earth the oil of this sweet Name.
As long as balm is shut up in a well-sealed vase, no one knows its sweetness, save him who put it there: but as soon as the vase is opened, and a few drops are sprinkled around, all who are present say: "What sweet Balm!'' Thus it was, my dear Daughter, with our Jesus. He contained within himself the balm of salvation; but no one knew it until his divine Flesh was laid open by the fortunate wound of that cruel knife; and then people knew him to be the Balm of the world's Salvation, and first Joseph and Mary, then the whole neighbourhood began to cry out: Jesus! which means Saviour.
Let us now turn to the Office of the Church for this feast, and read the life of our Saint.
Franciscus in oppido Salesio, unde familiæ cognomen, piis et nobilibus parentibus natus, a teneris annis futuræ sanctitatis indicia præbuit morum innocentia et gravitate. Adolescens liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, mox philosophiæ ac theologiæ Parisiis operam dedit: et ne quid sibi deesset ad animi culturam, juris utriusque lauream summa cum laude Patavii obtinuit. In sacra Æde Lauretana perpetuæ virginitatis votum, quo pridem Parisiis se obstrinxerat, innovavit: a cujus virtutis proposito nullis unquam dæmonum fraudibus, nullis sensuum illecebris potuit dimoveri.
Recusata in Sabaudiæ Senatu amplissima dignitate, Clericali militiæ nomen dedit : tum sacerdotio initiatus, et Genevensis Ecclesiæ Præposituram adeptus, ejus muneris partes adeo perfecte explevit, ut eum Granerius Episcopus vindicandis ab hæresi Calviniana Chaballicensibus, aliisque Genevæ finitimis populis, divini verbi præconem destinant. Quam expeditionem alacri animo suscipiens, asperrima quæque perpessus est, sæpe ab hæreticis conquisitus ad necem, variisque calumniis et insidiis vexatus. Sed inter tot discrimina et agones, insuperabilis ejus constantia semper enituit; Deique ope protectus, septuaginta duo millia hæreticorum ad Catholicam fidem reduxisse dicitur, inter quos multi nobilitate et doctrina insignes numerantur.
Mortuo Granerio, qui eum sibi Coadjutorem decerni curaverat, Episcopus consecratus, sanctitatis suæ radios circumquaque diffudit, zelo ecclesiasticæ disciplinæ, pacis studio, misericordia in pauperes, omnique virtute conspicuus. Ad divini cultus augmentum novum Ordinem Sanctimonialium instituit, a Visitatione beatæ Mariæ Virginis nuncupatum, sub regula sancti Augustini, cui addidit Constitutiones sapientia, discretione et suavitate mirabiles. Suis itaque scriptis cœlesti doctrina refertis Ecclesiam illustravit, quibus iter ad Christianam perfectionem tutum et planum demonstrat. Annum denique agens quinquagesimum quintum, dum e Gallia Anneceium regreditur, post sacrum in die sancti Joannis Evangelistæ Lugduni celebratum, gravi morbo correptus, sequenti die migravit in cœlum, anno Domini mil lesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo secundo. Ejus corpus Anneceium delatum, in Ecclesia Monialium dicti Ordinis honorifice conditum fuit, cœpitque statim miraculis clarescere. Quibus rite probatis, ab Alexandro Septimo, Pontifice Maximo, in Sanctorum numerum relatus est, assignata ejus festivitati die vigesima nona Januarii, et a summo Pontifice Pio Nono, ex Sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consulto, universalis Ecclesiæ Doctor fuit declaratus.
Francis was born of pious and noble parents, in the town of Sales, from which the family took their name. From his earliest years, he gave pledge of his future sanctity by the innocence and gravity of his conduct. Having been instructed in the libei al sciences during his youth, he was sent early to Paris, that he might study Philosophy and Theology; and in order that his education might be complete, he was sent to Padua, where he took, with much honour, the degree of doctor in both civil and canon law. He visited the sanctuary of Loreto, where he renewed the vow he had already taken in Paris of perpetual virginity, in which holy resolution he continued till death, in spite of all the temptations of the devil and all the allurements of the flesh.
He refused to accept an honourable position in the Senate of Savoy, and entered into the ecclesiastical state. He was ordained Priest, and was made Provost of the Diocese of Geneva, which charge he so laudably fulfilled that Granier, his Bishop, selected him for the arduous undertaking of labouring, by the preaching of God's word, for the conversion of the Calvinists of Chablais and the neighbouring country round about Geneva. This mission he undertook with much joy. He had to suffer the harshest treatment on the part of the heretics, who frequently sought to take away his life, calumniated him, and laid all kinds of plots against him. But he showed heroic courage in the midst of all these dangers and persecutions, and by the divine assistance converted, as it is stated, seventy-two thousand heretics to the Catholic faith, among whom were many distinguished by the high position they held in the world and by their learning.
After the death of Granier, who had already made him his Coadjutor, he was made Bishop of Geneva. Then it was that his sanctity showed itself in every direction, by his zeal for ecclesiastical discipline, his love of peace, his charity to the poor, and every virtue. From a desire to give more honour to God, he founded a new Order of Nuns, which he called of the Visitation, taking for their Rule that of St Augustine, to which he added Constitutions of admirable wisdom, discretion, and sweetness. He enlightened the children of the Church by the works he wrote, which are full of a heavenly wisdom, and point out a safe and easy path to Christian perfection. In his fifty-fifth year, whilst returning from France to Annecy, he was taken with his last sickness, immediately after having celebrated Mass, on the Feast of St John the Evangelist. On the following day, his soul departed this life for heaven, in the year of our Lord 1622. His body was taken to Annecy, and was buried, with great demonstration of honour, in the Church of the Nuns of the above mentioned Order. Immediately after his death, miracles began to be wrought through his intercession, which being officially authenticated, he was canonized by Pope Alexander the Seventh, and his Feast was appointed to be kept on the twenty-ninth day of January, and he was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, after consultation with the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
Pope Alexander the Seventh himself composed the Collect for the Office and Mass of the Saint's Feast. Let us say it with our holy Mother the Church.
Deus, qui ad animarum salutem beatum Franciscum Confessorem tuum atque Pontificem omnibus omnia factum esse voluisti: concede propitius, ut caritatis tuæ dulcedine perfusi, ejus dirigentibus monitis ac suffragantibus meritis, æterna gaudia consequamur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who, for the salvation of souls, wast pleased that Blessed Francis, thy Confessor and Bishop, should become all to all: mercifully grant, that being plentifully enriched with the sweetness of thy charity, by following his directions, and by the help of his merits, we may obtain life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Peaceful conqueror of souls! Pontiff beloved of God and man! we venerate thee as the perfect imitator of the sweetness and gentleness of Jesus. Having learnt of him to be meek and humble of heart, thou didst, according to his promise, possess the land Nothing could resist thee. Heretics, however obstinate; sinners, however hardened; tepid souls, however sluggish; all yielded to the powerful charm of thy word and example. We love to see thee standing near the Crib of our loving Jesus, and sharing in the glory of John and the Innocents, for thou wast an Apostle like John, and simple like the children of Rachel. Oh! that our hearts might be filled with the spirit of Bethlehem, and learn how sweet is the yoke, and how light the burden of our Emmanuel!
Pray for us to our Lord, that our charity may be ardent like thine; that the desire of perfection may be ever active within us; that we may gain that introduction to a devout Life which thou hast so admirably taught; that we may have that love of our neighbour, without which we cannot hope to love God; that we may be zealous for the salvation of souls; that we may be patient and forgive injuries, in order that we may love one another, not only in word and in tongue, but, as thy great model says, in deed and in truth. Bless the Church Militant, whose love for thee is as fresh as though thou hadst but just now left her; thou art venerated and loved throughout the whole world.
Hasten the conversion of the followers of Calvin. Thy prayers have already miraculously forwarded the great work, and the Holy Sacrifice has long since been publicly offered up in the very City of Geneva. Redouble those prayers, and then even we may live to see the grand triumph of the Church. Root out too the last remnants of that Jansenistic heresy, which was beginning to exercise its baneful influence at the close of thy earthly pilgrimage. Remove from us the dangerous maxims and prejudices which have come down to us from those unhappy times, when this odious sect was at the height of its power.
Bless with all the affection of thy paternal heart the holy Order thou didst found, and which thou didst offer to Mary under the title of her Visitation. Maintain it in its present edifying favour; give it increase in number and merit; and do thou thyself direct it, that so thy family may be ever animated by the spirit of its father. Pray, also, for the venerable Episcopate, of which thou art the ornament and model: ask our Lord to bless his Church with Pastors endowed with thy spirit, inflamed with thy zeal, and imitators of thy sanctity.
 Cant. vi 8; iv 7.
 St Matt. v 4.
 Ibid xi 30.
 1 St John iii 18.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
A FOURTH Roman Virgin, wearing on her brow a martyr’s crown, comes today to share the honours given to Agnes, Emerentiana, and Prisca, and offer her palm to the Lamb. Her name is Martina, which the pagans were wont to give to their daughters in honour of their god of war. Her sacred relics repose at the foot of the Capitoline hill, in the ancient temple of Mars, which has now become the beautiful Church of Saint Martina. The holy ambition to render herself worthy of him whom she had chosen as her divine Spouse, gave her courage to suffer torments and death for his sake; so that of her, as of the rest of the martyrs, we may say those words of the Liturgy, washed her robes in the Blood of the Lamb. Our Emmanuel is the Mighty God, the Lord that is mighty in war, not, like the Mars of the pagans, needing the sword to win his battles. He vanquishes his enemies by meekness, patience, and innocence, as in the martyrdom of today’s Saint, whose victory was grander than was ever won by Rome’s boasted warriors.
This illustrious Virgin, who is one of the Patrons of the City of Rome, is honoured by having her praises sung by one of the Popes. It was Urban the Eighth who wrote the Hymns which are recited on her feast, and which we subjoin to the Lessons which recount the glorious combats of our Saint.
Martina Virgo Romana patre consulari, illustri genere nata, teneris adhuc annis orbata parentibus, christianæ pietatis ardore succensa, divitias quibus affluebat, mira in pauperes liberalitate distribuit. Sub Alexandro principe cum deos inanes colere juberetur, immane facinus summa Ubertate detestatur. Quaproper iterum atque iterum affecta verberibus, uncis, ungulis ferreis, testarum fragmentis lacerata, acutissimis gladiis membratim concisa, adipe ferventi peruncta, demum in amphitheatro damnatur ad bestias: a quibus illæsa divinitus evadens, in ardentem rogum injecta, incolumis pari beneficio servatur.
Ex ejus tortoribus nonnulli miraculi novitate correpti, Dei aspirante gratia, Christi fidem amplexi, post cruciatus gloriosam martyrii palmam, capitis abscissione promeruere. Ad ejusdem preces nunc terræ motibus exortis, nunc ignibus e cœlo tonante delapsis, deorum templa prostrata sunt, et simulacra consumpta. Interdum ex vulneribus lac cum sanguine erupit, splendorque nitidissimus ac suavissimus odore corpore emanavit: interdum sublimis regia in sede divinis laudibus una cum cœlitibus interesse visa est.
Hisce prodigiis, ejusque in primis constantia, acriter permotus judex, caput Virgini amputari præcepit; qua perempta, auditaque de cœlo voce, qua ad Superos evocabatur, urbs tota contremuit, ac multi idolorum cultores ad Christi fidem conversi sunt. Sacrum Martinæ corpus sedente sancto Urbano Primo, martyrio affectum, Urbano Octavo Pontifice Maximo, in pervetusta ejusdem Ecclesia, ad Mamertinum carcerem in Capitolini divi radicibus, cum sanctorum Martyrum Concordii, Epiphanii, et sociorum corporibus repertum, eodem loco in meliorem formam redacto, atque decentius ornato, magno populi concursu, totius Urbis lætitia, solemni ritu ac pompa repositum est.
Martina, a noble virgin of Rome, was the daughter of a Consul. Having lost her parents when quite a child, and being exceedingly fervent in the practice of the Christian religion, she was singularly charitable to the poor, and distributed among them her immense riches. During the reign of Alexander Severus, she was ordered to worship the false gods, but most courageously refused to commit so detestable a crime. Whereupon she was several times scourged; her flesh was torn with iron hooks and nails, and with potsherds, and her whole body was cut with most sharp swords; she was scalded with boiling oil, and was at length condemned to be devoured by wild beasts in the amphitheatre; but being miraculously left untouched by them, she was thrown on a burning pile, from which she also escaped unhurt, by the same divine power.
Some of the men that had inflicted these tortures upon her, being struck by the miracle, and touched by the grace of God, embraced the Christian faith, and, after suffering many tortures, gained the glorious palm of martyrdom by being beheaded. The prayers of Martina were powerful with God. Earthquakes shook the city, fire fell from the heavens in the midst of loud thunder, the temples and idols of the gods were overthrown and destroyed. More than once, milk flowed from her wounds together with the blood, and a most sweet fragrance was perceived by the bystanders; and sometimes she was seen raised up and placed on a beautiful throne, and singing the divine praises surrounded by heavenly spirits.
Vexed above measure by these prodigies, and above all by her constancy, the judge ordered her to be beheaded. Which being done, a voice from heaven was heard calling Martina to ascend: the whole city trembled, and many of the idolaters were converted to the faith of Christ. Martina suffered under the Pontificate of Urban the First; and under that of Urban the Eighth, her body was discovered in an ancient Church, together with those of the holy Martyrs Concordius, Epiphanius and Companions, near the Mamertine prison, at the foot of the Capitoline hill. The Church was restored and decorated, and the body of the Saint was again placed in it, with much solemnity, in the presence of a great concourse of people, and amidst shouts of joy from the whole city.
We unite into one the three hymns of Urban the Eighth, in which the holy Church prays for the deliverance of Jerusalem. It is the last cry of the Crusades.
Martinæ celebri plaudite nomini,
Cives Romulei, plaudite gloriæ:
Insignem meritis dicite Virginem,
Christi dicite Martyrem.
Hæc dum conspicuis orta parentibus,
Inter delicias, inter amabiles
Luxus illecebras, ditibus affluit
Faustæ muneribus domus.
Vitæ despiciens commoda, dedicat
Se rerum Domino, et munifica manu
Christi pauperibus distribuens opes,
Quærit præmia cœlitum.
Non illam crucians ungula, non feræ,
Non virgæ horribili vulnere commovent :
Hinc lapsi e Superum sedibus Angeli
Cœesti dape recreant.
Quin et deposita sævitie leo,
Se rictu placido projicit ad pedes;
Te, Martina, tamen dans gladius neci
Cœli coetibus inserit.
Te, thuris redolens ara vaporibus
Quæ fumat, precibus jugiter invocat,
Et falsum perimens auspicium, tui
Delet nominis omine.
Tu natale solum protege, tu bonæ
Da pacis requiem Christianum plagis;
Armorum strepitus, et fera prælia
In fines age Thracios.
Et regum socians agmina sub crucis
Vexillo, Solymas nexibus exime,
Vindexque innocui sanguinis hosticum
Robur funditus erue.
Tu nostrum columen, tu decus inclytum,
Nostrarum obsequium respice mentium :
Romæ vota libens excipe, quæ pio
Te ritu canit, et colit.
A nobis abigas lubrica gaudia,
Tu, qui Martyribus dexter ades, Deus
Une, et Trine, tuis da famulis jubar,
Quo clemens animos beas.
Citizens of Rome! sing to the celebrated name
of the glorious Martina.
Sing the praises of this admirable Virgin
and Martyr of Christ.
She was born of noble parents,
and was brought up in every delicacy,
surrounded by all that could pamper nature,
and with riches of a princely house at her command.
But she spurns these luxuries,
dedicates herself to the Creator of all things,
and with a liberal hand distributes her riches to the poor of Christ,
that she may gain the riches of heaven.
She shrinks not at the torturing hook, the wild beasts,
or the cruel wound-inflicting rods.
Angels descend from heaven,
comforting her with divine food.
The very lions lose their fierceness,
and tamely come crouching at her feet.
The sword, Martina! gave thee the wished-for death,
and death united thee to the choirs of heaven.
Our ceaseless prayers mount up to thee from thine altar,
where clouds of incense shroud devotion's love;
and thy blessed name banishes
that of the false deity Mars.
Do thou protect thy fatherland,
and give to Christian countries the rest of holy peace,
driving unto Thracian coasts
the din of arms and war.
Marshal the armies of princes under the banner of the Cross,
deliver Jerusalem from her chains.
Avenge innocent blood,
and once for all crush down the Turkish foe,
O thou our Patron, and our City’s Saint!
see this homage of our loving hearts.
Hear the prayers of thy Rome,
which on this festive day offers thee its hymns and reveres thy name.
O God, whose arm protects the Martyrs,
take from us the pleasures which would make us fall.
O Triune God! give to thy servants the blessed light,
wherewith thy mercy crowns the soul with bliss.
Thus does Christian Rome hymn thy praises, O generous Martyr! and whilst praising, begs thee to protect her with thy loving care. She is safe from danger, if shielded by such watchfulness as thine. Hear her prayers, and drive far from the Holy City the enemies that would plot her ruin. She has foes more to be dreaded than they that attack her walls with the cannon of their fierce artillery; she has them who plot the destruction of her independence. Disconcert these plans of perfidy, and remember, O Martina! that the City which now asks thy aid was the mother that trained thee to be a martyr.
Obtain for us from Jesus, thy Spouse, the courage to destroy those idols of our affections, to which we are so prone to offer the sacrifice of our hearts. The enemies of our salvation are untiring in their attacks upon our frailty; oh! stretch out to us thy helping hand; that hand which made the idols of Rome tremble, is not less powerful now to stay the violence of the world that threatens to destroy our souls. Thy own brave combats have given thee a place of honour near our Redeemer’s Crib: if, like thee, we will but resist and conquer, this Mighty God will welcome us, too, and bless us. He came into this world that he might vanquish our enemies, but he requires of us to share with him the toils of the battle. Pray for us, O Martina! that our confidence in God may ever be accompanied by diffidence in ourselves, and we shall never be cowards in the great contest for heaven!
 Isa. ix 6.
 Ps. xxiii 8.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE Ransomer of Captives, Peter Nolasco, is thus brought before us by the Calendar, a few days after the Feast of his master, Raymund of Pennafort. Both of them offer to the Divine Redeemer the thousands of Christians they ransomed from slavery. It is an appropriate homage, for it was the result of the Charity which first began in Bethlehem, in the heart of the Infant Jesus, and was afterwards so fervently practiced by these two Saints.
Peter was born in France, but made Spain his adopted country, because it offered him such grand opportunities for zeal and self-sacrifice. In imitation of our Redeemer, he devoted himself to the ransom of his brethren; he made himself a prisoner to procure them their liberty; and remained in exile, that they might once more enjoy the happiness of home. His devotedness was blessed by God. He founded a new Religious Order in the Church, composed of generous-hearted men, who for six hundred years prayed, toiled, and spent their lives in obtaining the blessing of liberty for countless captives, who would else have led their whole lives in chains, exposed to the imminent danger of losing their faith.
Glory to the Blessed Mother of God, who raised up these ransomers of Captives! Glory to the Catholic Church, whose children they were! But above all glory be to our Emmanuel, who, on his entrance into this world, thus spoke to his Eternal Father: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, neither are they pleasing to thee; but a Body thou hast fitted unto me. Then said I, Behold I come: that is, Behold, I come to offer myself as a Sacrifice. The Divine Infant has deigned to call us his brethren, and has given himself for our salvation; it is this same spirit of charity which made St Peter Nolasco devote his life to his suffering fellow-men.
Our Lord rewarded him by calling him to heaven at that very hour wherein twelve hundred years before he himself had been born at Bethlehem. It was during the joyful celebrations of Christmas night that the liberator of so many from bodily captivity was united for ever to the Divine Liberator of souls.
Peter’s last hymn on earth was the 110th Psalm: and as his faltering voice uttered the words: He hath sent redemption to his people; he hath commanded his covenant for ever, his soul took its flight to heaven.
The Church, in fixing a day for the feast of our Saint, could not of course take the anniversary of his death, which belongs so exclusively to Jesus: but it was just that he, who had been honoured with being born to heaven at the very hour which God had chosen for the Birth of his Son upon the earth, should receive the tribute of our festive commemoration on one of the forty days of Christmas; this last day of January was selected.
Let us now learn from the Liturgy the claims of Peter Nolasco to our veneration and love.
Petrus Nolascus, Recaudi prope Carcassonam in Gallia nobili genere natus, singulari erga proximum caritate excelluit; cujus virtutis præsagium fuit, quod cum adhuc in cunabulis vagiret infans, examen apum ad eum convolavit, et favum mellis in ejus dextera construxit. Adolescens parentibus orbatus, Albigensium hæresim, quæ tunc in Gallia grassabatur, execrans, divendito patrimonio, in Hispaniam secessit, et apud beatam Virginem Montis Serrati, votum, quo pridem se obstrinxerat, exsolvit. Tum Barcinonam pergens, quum in Christi fidelibus ab hostiam servitute redimendis omnem pecuniam consumpsisset, seipsum pro iis liberandis venumire, aut in illorum vincula suffici, cupere dictitabat.
Quam gratum Deo uerit hoc sancti viri desiderium subsequens declaravit eventus. Nam noctu oranti, et de Christianorum in captivitate degentium subsidio, multa animo volventi, beata Virgo apparens: Filio suo, sibique acceptissimum fore suggessit, si ad sui honorem Religiosorum Ordo institueretur, quibus præcipue esset cura, captivos ab infidelium tyrannide liberare. Huic cœlesti monito illico obtemperans, una cum sancto Raymundo de Pennafort, et Jacobo Primo rege Aragoniæ, de eadem re a Dei Genitrice ipsa nocte præmonitis, Religionem Beatæ Mariæ de Mercede redemptionis captivorum instituit: sodalibus suis quarto voto obstrictis, manendi in pignus sub Paganorum potestate, si pro Christianorum liberatione opus fuerit.
Edito virginitatis voto, illibatam perpetuo castitatem servavit. Patientia, humilitate, abstinentia, cæterisque virtutibus mirabiliter enituit. Prophetiæ dono illustris, futura prædixit, inter quæ maxime celebratur, quod Jacobus rex Valentiam a Mauris occupatam expugnaverit, accepta prius ab eo obtinendæ victoriæ securitate. Angeli Custodis ac Deiparæ Virginis frequenti apparitione recreabatur. Senio tandem confectus, de imminenti morte certior factus, in morbum incidit, sanctisque refectus Sacramentis, fratres suos ad caritatem erga captivos cohortatus et Psalmum, Confitebor tibi,' Domine, in toto corde meo, devotissime recitans, ad illa verba, Redemptionem misit Dominus populo suo, spiritum Deo reddidit, media nocte Vigiliæ Nativitatis Domini, anno millesimo ducentesimo quinquagesimo sexto. Cujus festivitatem Alexander Septimus die trigesima prima Januarii celebrari præcepit.
Peter Nolasco was born at Recaud, near Carcassonne, in France, of noble parents. His distinguishing virtue was the love of his neighbour, which seemed to be presaged by this incident that, when he was a babe in his cradle, a swarm of bees one day lighted upon him, and formed a honeycomb on his right hand. He lost his parents early in life. The Albigensian heresy was at that time making way in France; Peter, out of the hatred he had for that sect, withdrew into Spain, after having sold his estates. This gave him an opportunity of fulfilling a vow at our Lady of Montserrat, which he had made some time previously. After this he went to Barcelona; and having there spent all his money in ransoming the Christian captives from the slavery of their enemies, he was often heard saying that he would willingly sell himself to redeem others, or become a slave in the place of any captive.
God showed him, by the following event, how meritorious in his sight was this desire. He was one night praying for the Christian captives, and deliberating with himself how he might obtain their deliverance, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, and told him that he would render himself most dear to her Son and herself, if he would institute in her honour an Order of Religious men, who should devote themselves to ransome captives from the infidels. He delayed not to follow the heavenly suggestion, and instituted the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Redemption of Captives, in which he was aided by St Raymund of Pennafort, and James the First, King of Aragon, both of whom had, on that same night, received the like intimation from the Mother of God. The Religious of this Order take a fourth vow, namely, to offer themselves as slaves to the Moors, if they can in no other way obtain the ransom of the Christians.
Having taken a vow of virginity, he spent his whole life in the most perfect purity. He excelled in every virtue, especially in patience, humility, and abstinence. He foretold future events by the gift of prophecy, wherewith God had favoured him. Thus, when king James was laying siege to Valencia, then in the possession of the Moors, he received assurance from the Saint that he would be blessed with victory. He was frequently consoled with the sight of his Angel Guardian and the Virgin-Mother of God. At length, being worn out with old age, he received an intimation of his approaching death. When he was seized with his last sickness, he received the holy Sacraments, and exhorted his Religious Brethren to love the captives. After which, he began most devoutly to recite the Psalm, I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; and at these words : He hath sent Redemption to his people, he breathed forth his soul into the hands of his Creator, at Christmas midnight, in the year 1256. Pope Alexander the Seventh commanded that his Feast should be kept on the thirty-first day of January.
Thou, O Jesus! camest to cast fire upon the earth, and thy desire is that it be enkindled in the hearts of men. Thy desire was accomplished in Peter Nolasco, and the children of his Order. Thus dost thou permit men to co-operate with thee in the designs of thy sweet mercy, and, by thus restoring harmony between man and his Creator, thou hast once more given to the earth the blessing of fraternal love between man and man. Sweet Infant Jesus! we cannot love thee without loving all mankind; and thou, who art our Ransom and our Victim, willest that we also be ready to lay down our lives for one another.
Thou, O Peter! wast the Apostle and the model of this fraternal charity; and our God rewarded thee by calling thee to himself on the anniversary of the Birth of Jesus. That sweet Mystery, which so often encouraged thee in thy holy labours, has now been revealed to thee in all its glory. Thy eyes now behold that Jesus as the great King, the Son of the Eternal Father, before whom the very Angels tremble. Mary is no longer the poor humble Mother, leaning over the Crib where lies her Son; she now delights thy gaze with her queenly beauty, seated as she is on a throne nearest to that of the divine Majesty. Thou art at home amidst all this glory, for heaven was made for souls that love as thine did. Heaven is the land of love, and love so filled thy heart even when on earth, that it was the principle of thy whole life.
Pray for us, that we may have a clearer knowledge of this love of God and our neighbour, which makes us like to God. It is written that he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him; intercede for us, that the Mystery of Charity which we are now celebrating may transform us into him who is the one object of all our love during this season of grace. May we love our fellow-creatures as ourselves; bear with them, excuse their weaknesses, and serve them. May our good example encourage them, and our words edify them; may we comfort them and win them to the service of God by our kindness and our charities.
Pray for France, which is thy country, and for Spain, where thou didst institute thy grand Order. Protect the precious remnants of that Order, by whose means thou didst work such miracles of charity. Console all prisoners and captives. Obtain for all men that holy Liberty of Children of God, of which the Apostle speaks, which consists in obedience to the law of God. When this liberty is in man's soul, he never can be a slave; but when the inner man is enslaved, the outward man never can be free. Oh! pray that the fetters of false doctrines and passions may be broken, and then the world will enjoy that true liberty, which would soon put an end to tyranny, and make tyrants impossible.
 Ps. xxxix 7, 8; cited by St Paul, Heb. x 5 and following verses.
 St John iv x6.
 Rom. viii 21.