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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Archangel Gabriel told Mary, in the Annunciation, that the Son who was to be born of her should be a King, and that of his Kingdom there should be no end. Hence, when the Magi were led from the East to the Crib of Jesus, they proclaimed it in Jerusalem that they came to seek a King. But this new Empire needed a capital; and whereas the King, who was to fix his throne in it, was, according to the eternal decrees, to re-ascend into heaven, it was necessary that the visible character of his Royalty should be left here on earth, and this even to the end of the world. He that should be invested with this visible character of Christ our King would be the Vicar of Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ chose Simon for this sublime dignity of being his Vicar. He changed his name into one which signifies the Rock, that is ‘Peter’; and in giving him this new name, he tells us that the whole Church throughout the world is to rest upon this man as upon a Rock which nothing shall ever move.[1] But this promise of our Lord included another; namely, that as Peter was to close his earthly career by the Cross, he would give him Successors in whom Peter and his authority should live to the end of time.

But again, there must be some mark or sign of this succession, to designate to the world who the Pontiff is on whom, to the end of the world, the Church is to be built. There are so many Bishops in the Church: in which one of them is Peter continued? This Prince of the Apostles founded and governed several Churches; but only one of these was watered with his blood, and that one was Rome; only one of these is enriched with his Tomb, and that one is Rome; the Bishop of Rome, therefore, is the Successor of Peter, and consequently the Vicar of Christ. It is of the Bishop of Rome alone that it is said: Upon thee will I build my Church:[2] and again: To thee will I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven:[3] and again: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; do thou confirm thy brethren:[4] and again: Feed my lambs;feed my sheep.[5]

Protestantism saw the force of this argument, and therefore strove to throw doubts on St Peter's having lived and died in Rome. They who laboured to establish doubts of this kind rightly hoped that, if they could gain their point, they would destroy the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and even the very notion of a Head of the Church. But History has refuted this puerile objection, and now all learned Protestants agree with Catholics in admitting a fact which is one of the most incontestable, even on the ground of human authority.

It was in order to nullify, by the authority of the Liturgy, this strange pretension of Protestants, that Pope Paul the Fourth, in 1558, restored the ancient Feast of St Peter's Chair at Rome, and fixed it on the 18th of January. For many centuries the Church had not solemnized the mystery of the Pontificate of the Prince of the Apostles on any distinct feast, but had made the single Feast of February 22nd serve for both the Chair at Antioch and the Chair at Rome. From that time forward, the 22nd of February has been kept for the Chair at Antioch, which was the first occupied by the Apostle.

To-day, therefore, the Kingship of our Emmanuel shines forth in all its splendour, and the children of the Church rejoice in finding themselves to be brethren and fellow-citizens, united in the Feast of their common Capital, the Holy City of Rome. When they look around them, and find so many sects separated from each other, and almost formed into decay, because they have no centre of union, they give thanks to the Son of God for having provided for the preservation of his Church and Truth by instituting a visible Head who never dies, and in whom Peter is for ever continued, just as Christ himself is continued in Peter. Men are no longer sheep without a Shepherd; the word spoken at the beginning is uninterruptedly perpetuated through all ages; the primitive mission is never suspended, and by the Roman Pontiff the end of time is united to the world's commencement. ‘What a consolation for the children of God!' cries out Bossuet, in his Essay on Universal History, ‘and what conviction that they are in possession of the truth, when they see that from Innocent the Eleventh, who now (1681) so worthily occupies the first See of the Church, we go back in unbroken succession even to St Peter, whom Jesus appointed Prince of the Apostles; that from St Peter we come, traversing the line of the Pontiffs who ministered under the Law, even to Aaron, yea, even to Moses; thence even to the Patriarchs, and even to the beginning of the world!’

When Peter enters Rome, therefore, he comes to realize and explain the destinies of this Queen of Cities; he comes to promise her an Empire even greater than the one she possesses. This new Empire is not to be founded by the sword, as was the first. Rome has been hitherto the proud mistress of nations; henceforth she is to be the Mother of the world by Charity; and though all peaceful, yet her Empire shall last to the end of time. Let us listen to St Leo the Great, describing to us in one of the finest of his Sermons, and in his own magnificent style, the humble yet all-eventful entrance of the Fisherman of Genesareth into the Capital of the Pagan world.

The good and just and omnipotent God, who never refused his mercy to the human race, and instructed all men in general in the knowledge of himself by his superabundant benefits, took pity, by a more hidden counsel and a deeper love, on the voluntary blindness of them that had gone astray, and on the wickedness which was growing in its proneness to evil; and sent therefore into the world his co-equal and co-eternal Word. The which Word being made Flesh did so unite the divine to the human nature, as that the deep debasement of the one was the highest uplifting of the other.

But that the effect of this unspeakable gift might be diffused throughout the entire world, the providence of God had been preparing the Roman Empire, which had so far extended its limits as to embrace in itself all the nations of the earth. For nothing could be better suited to the divine plan than the confederation of various kingdoms under one and the same Empire; and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world would the more rapidly be effected by having the several nations united under the government of one common City.

But this City, ignoring the author of this her promotion, whilst mistress of almost every nation under the sun, was the slave of every nation's errors; and prided herself on having a grand religion, because she had admitted every false doctrine. So that the faster the devil’s hold of her, the more admirable her deliverance by Christ.

For when the twelve Apostles, after receiving by the Holy Ghost the gift of tongues, divided among themselves the world they had to evangelize, the most blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostolic order, was sent to the Capital of the Roman Empire, in order that the light of truth, which had been revealed for the salvation of all nations, might the more effectively flow from the head itself into the whole body of the world.

The fact was that there were in this City people belonging to every nation, and the rest of the world soon learnt whatever was taught at Rome. Here, therefore, were to be refuted the opinions of philosophy; here the follies of human wisdom to be exploded; here the worship of devils to be convicted of blasphemy; here the impiety of all the sacrifices to be first abolished; for it was here that an official superstition had systematized into one great whole the fragmentary errors of every other portion of the earth.

To this City, therefore, O most blessed Apostle Peter, thou fearest not to come! The companion of thy glory, Paul the Apostle, is not with thee, for he is busy founding other Churches; yet thou enterest this forest of wild beasts, and with greater courage than when walking on the waters, thou settest foot on this deep stormy sea! Thou, that didst tremble before a servant-girl in the house of Caiphas, art fearless now before this Rome, this mistress of the world. Is it that the power of Claudius is less than the authority of Pilate? or the cruelty of Nero less than the savageness of the Jews? Not so: but the vehemence of thy love made thee heedless of thy risks; and having come that thou mightest love, thou didst forget to fear. Thou didst imbibe this sentiment of fearless charity on that day when the profession of thy love for thy Master was made perfect by the mystery of his thriceput question. And what asks he of thee, after thus probing thy heart, but that thou feed the sheep of him thou lovest with the food whereon thyself had feasted?

Then, too, there were the miracles thou hadst wrought, the gifts of grace thou hadst received, the proofs of the great works thou hadst achieved; all giving thee fresh courage. Thou hadst taught the truth to such of the children of Israel as had embraced the faith; thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, where first began the glorious Christian title; thou hadst preached the gospel in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia; and assured of the success of thy work, and of the many years thou hadst yet to live, thou didst bring the trophy of the Cross of Christ into the very walls of Rome, where the counsels of God had already determined that thou shouldst have both the honour of power and the glory of martyrdom.[6]

The future of the human race, now under the guidance of the Church, is, therefore, centred in Rome, and the destinies of that City are interwoven with those of her undying Pontiff. We, the children of the Church, though differing in race and tongue and character, are all Romans by holy religion; as Romans we are united by Peter to Christ; and thus our glorious name is the link of that great Fraternity of Catholics throughout the world.[7]

Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor—these are our rulers in the order of spiritual Government. Every Pastor whose authority emanates not from the See of Rome is a stranger to us, and an intruder. So likewise, in the order of our Faith, Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor, teach us divine doctrine, and how to distinguish truth from error. Every Symbol of Faith, every doctrinal judgement, every teaching, contrary to the Symbol and judgements and teachings of the See of Rome, is of man, and not of God, and must be rejected, hated, and anathematized. On the Feast of St Peter’s Chair at Antioch (February 22) we will speak of the Apostolic See as the one only source of governing power in the Church; today we will consider and honour the Chair at Rome as the source and rule of our Faith. Here again let us borrow the sublime words of St Leo, and hear him discuss the claims of Peter to Infallibility of teaching. The Holy Doctor will teach us how to understand the full force of those words which were spoken by our Lord, and which he intended should be for all ages the grand charter of Faith.

The word made Flesh was dwelling among us, and he, our Saviour, had spent his whole self for the reparation of the human race. There was nothing too complicated for his wisdom, nothing too difficult for his power. The elements were subject to him, Spirits ministered to him, Angels obeyed him, nor could the mystery of human Redemption be ineffectual, for God, both in his Unity and Trinity, was the worker of that mystery. And yet Peter is chosen from the rest of the entire world to be the one, the only one, put over the vocation of all nations, and over all the Apostles, and over all the Fathers of the Church: that so, whilst there were to be many Priests and many Pastors in the people of God, Peter should govern, by the special power given to him, all those whom Christ also rules by his own supreme power. Great and wonderful, dearly Beloved, is this fellowship with Christ’s power granted, by divine condescension, to this man! Moreover, if our Lord willed that there should be something in common to Peter and the rest of the Princes of his Church, it was only on this condition—that whatsoever he gave to the rest, he gave it to them through Peter.

Again: our Lord questions all the Apostles as to what men say of him; and while telling him the opinions of human ignorance, they all indifferently join in making answer. But as soon as the sentiment of the disciples themselves is called for, he is the first to confess our Lord's divinity, who is the first in dignity among the Apostles. These were his words: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God;[8] which when he had said, our Lord thus answered him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven:[9] that is, blessed art thou in that my Father hath taught thee, and human opinion hath not misled thee, but heavenly inspiration hath instructed thee; not flesh and blood, but he whose Only Begotten Son I am hath shown me to thee. And I say to thee: that is, as my Father hath manifested to thee my divinity, so do I now declare to thee thine own dignity. That thou art Peter (the Rock): that is, though I am the immovable Rock,[10] the Corner-Stone[11] who make both one,[12] and the Foundation other than which no man can lay;[13] yet art thou also a Rock, because thou art solidly based by my power, and what I have by right thou hast by participation. And upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it:[14] that is, I will construct an everlasting temple upon thy strength, and my Church, which is to reach to heaven, shall grow up on the firmness of this thy faith.

On the eve of his Passion, which was to test the courage of his disciples, our Lord said to Peter: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. And thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.[15] All the Apostles were in danger of being tempted to fear, and all stood in need of the divine help, for the devil desired to sift and crush them all; and yet it is especially for Peter that our Lord is careful; it is for Peter's faith that he offers an express prayer; as though the others would be sure to be firm if the mind of their leader were unflinching. So that the strength of all the rest is in Peter, and the assistance of divine grace is distributed in this order: Peter is to receive firmness through Christ, and he himself then give it to the Apostles.[16]

In another of his Sermons, the same holy Doctor explains to us how it is that Peter ever lives and ever teaches in the Chair of Rome. After having cited the passage from the sixteenth chapter of St Matthew (verses 16-19), he says: 'This promise, of him who is truth itself must, therefore, be a permanent fact, and Peter, the unceasing Rock of strength, must be the ceaseless ruler of the Church. For we have only to consider the pre-eminence that is given him, and the mysterious titles conferred on him, and we see at once the fellowship he has with our Lord Jesus Christ: he is called the Rock (Peter); he is named the Foundation; he is appointed keeper of the gates of heaven; he is made judge, with such power of loosing and binding that his sentence holds even in heaven. These commissions and duties and responsibilities wherewith he was invested, he discharges with fuller perfection and power now that he is in him and with him from whom he received all these honours.

If, therefore, we do anything that is right, if we decree anything that is right, if, by our daily supplications, we obtain anything from the divine mercy, it is his doing and his merit, whose power lives and whose authority is supreme in this his own Chair. All this, dearly Beloved, was obtained by that confession which, being inspired into the Apostle's heart by God the Father, soared above all the incertitudes of human opinions, and drew upon him who spoke it the solidity of a Rock that was to be proof against every attack. For, throughout the whole Church, Peter is every day still proclaiming: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and every tongue that confesses the Lord is guided by the teaching of this word. This is the faith which conquers the devil, and sets his captives free. This is the faith which delivers men from the world, and takes them to heaven, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. For such is the solidity wherewith God has strengthened it, that neither heretical depravity has been able to corrupt, nor pagan perfidy to crush it.[17]

Thus speaks St Leo. ‘Let it not, therefore, be said,’ observes Bossuet, in his Sermon on the Unity of the Church, ‘let it not be said, or thought, that this ministry of Peter finishes with his life on earth. That which is given as the support of a Church which is to last for ever, can never be taken away. Peter will live in his sucsessors; Peter will speak, in his Chair, to the end of time. So speak the Fathers; so speak the six hundred and thirty Bishops of the Council of Chalcedon.’ And again: ‘Thus the Roman Church is ever a Virgin-Church; the Faith of Rome is always the Faith of the Church; what has once been believed will be for ever believed; the same voice is heard all over the world; and Peter, in his successors, is now, as he was during his life, the foundation on which the Faithful rest. Jesus Christ has said that it shall be so; and heaven and earth shall pass away rather than his word.’ who has vouchsafed to raise up this Chair in his Church, we will listen with submission of intellect and heart to the teaching which emanates from it. Rejecting with indignation those dangerous theories which can only serve to keep up sects within the Church; and confessing with all the past ages that the promises made to St Peter continue in his successors; we will conclude, aided by the twofold light of logic and history, that the teachings addressed to the Church by the Roman Pontiff can never contain error, and can contain nothing but the doctrine of truth. Such has always been the sense of the Church, and her practice has been the expression of her spirit. Now if we acknowledge a permanent miracle in the uninterrupted succession of the Bishops of Rome, in spite of all the revolutions of eighteen centuries, we acknowledge it to be a still higher prodigy that, notwithstanding the instability of man's opinions and judgements, the Chair of Rome has faithfully preserved the truth without the slightest admixture of error, whereas the sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople were scarcely able to maintain the true Faith for a few centuries, and have become so frequently those Chairs of pestilence spoken of by the Royal Prophet.[18]

We are in that season of the ecclesiastical year which is devoted to honouring the Incarnation and Birth of the Son of God, and the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin: it behoves us to remember, especially on this present Feast, that it is to the See of Peter that we owe the preservation of these dogmas, which are the very basis of our holy religion. Rome not only taught them to us when she sent us the saintly missioners who evangelized our country; but, moreover, when heresy attempted to throw its mists and clouds over these high Mysteries, it was Rome that secured the triumph for truth by her sovereign decision. At Ephesus, when Nestorius was condemned, and the dogma which he assailed was solemnly proclaimed, that is, that the Divine Nature and the Human Nature which are in Christ make but one Person, and that Mary is consequently the true Mother of God, the two hundred Fathers of that General Council thus spoke: ‘Compelled by the Letters of our Most Holy Father Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Church, we have proceeded, in spite of our tears, to the condemnation of Nestorius.' At Chalcedon, where the Church had to proclaim, against Eutyches, the distinction of the two Natures in the Incarnate Word, God and Man, the six hundred and thirty Fathers, after hearing the Letter of the Roman Pontiff, gave their decision, and said: 'Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo.'

Here then is the privilege of Rome: to watch by Faith over the eternal interests of mankind, as she watched previously, for long ages, and by the sword, over the temporal interests of the then known world. Let us love and reverence this City, our Mother and our Guide. Today we are called upon to celebrate her praise; let us do so with filial affection. Let us listen to some of the ancient Hymns in honour of St Peter, of which some were used in the Liturgy of certain Churches. First of all, there is the admirable poem which Prudentius gives as the Prayer of St Laurence, made during his martyrdom, for Christian Rome.


O Christe, nomen unicum,
O splendor, o virtus Patris,
O factor orbis et poli,
Atque auctor horum mœnium.

Qui sceptra Romæ in vertice
Rerum locasti, sanciens
Mundum quirinali togæ
Servire et armis cedere.

Ut discrepantum gentium
Mores et observantiam.
Linguasque et ingerua et sacra
Unis domares legibus.

En omne sub regnum Remi
Mortale concessit genus:
Idem loquuntur dissoni,
Ritus ad ipsum sentiunt.

Hoc destinatum, quo magis
Jus Christiani nominis,
Quodcumque terrarum jacet
Uno illigaret vinculo.

Da, Christe, Romanis tuis
Sit Christiana ut civitas
Per quam dedisti ut cæteris
Mens una sacrorum foret.

Confœderantur omnia
Hinc inde membra in symbolum;
Mansuescit orbis subditus,
Mansuescat et summum caput.

Advertat abjunctas plagas
Coire in unam gratiam:
Fiat fidelis Romulus,
Et ipse jam credat Numa.

Confundit error Troicus
Adhuc Catonum curiam,
Veneratus occultis focis
Phrygum Penates exsules.

Janum bifrontem, et Sterculum
Colit senatus (horreo
Tot monstra patrum dicere)
Et festa Saturni lenis.

Absterge, Christe, hoc dedecus,
Emitte Gabriel tuum,
Agnoscat ut verum
Deum Errans Iuli cæcitas.

Et jam tenemus obsides
Fidissimos hujus spei:
Hic nempe jam regnant duo
Apostolorum Principes.

Alter vocator Gentium,
Alter Cathedram possidens
Primam, recludit creditas
Æternitatis januas.

Discede, adulter Jupiter,
Stupro sororis oblite,
Relinque Romam liberam,
Plebemque jam Christi fuge.

Te Paulus hinc exterminat,
Te sanguis exturbat Petri:
Tibi, id quod ipse armaveras
Factum Neronis officit.

Video futurum principem,
Quandoque qui servus Dei,
Tetris sacrorum sordibus
Servire Romam non sinat.

Qui templa claudat vectibus,
Valvas eburnas obstruat;
Nefasta damnet limina,
Obdens ænos pessulos.

Tunc pura ab omni sanguine
Tandem nitebunt marmora:
Stabunt et æra innoxia,
Quæ nunc habentur idola.
O Christ! name above all names
O Brightness, O Power of the Father!
O Creator of earth and heaven,
and founder of this City's walls!

'Twas thou didst give supremacy
to the sceptre of Rome,
and that didst will the subjection of the world
to the toga and the armies of the sons of Rome,

That thus uniting under one government the nations
which varied in manners and customs
and tongues and character and religion,
thou mightest subject them to thy law.

Lo! now all nations are tributary
to the kingdom of Remus;
all speak the same language,
and all practise the same rites.

This thou didst design,
that so the Christian Law
might the more easily link the universal world
together in unity of faith.

Then grant, O Christ! to thy Romans,
that Rome, the City
whereby thou didst give sacred unity of soul to others,
may herself become Christian.

It is by her that all mankind are united
in the fellowship of faith:
the world has yielded and obeys in meek submission:
oh! may the proud Capital, too, soften into faith.

Let her learn from other nations,
who, though separated in all else, are now made one in grace:
let Romulus become a believer, yea,
let even Numa embrace thy faith.

The descendants of the Catos still grovel
in the errors imported from Troy,
and venerate, on their domestic altars,
the banished gods of Phrygia.

The Senate (my soul recoils
to tell these wicked follies of sober men)
adores the two-faced Janus, and Sterculus,
and keeps the feasts of the effeminate Saturn.

O Jesus! blot out this infamy and shame.
Send forth thine Angel Gabriel,
and teach the blind, straying sons of Julius
to acknowledge the true God.

Well may we hope for this,
for thou hast conferred on Rome
two most sure pledges of thy love:
thou hast established here the reign of the two Princes of the Apostles:

Paul, by whom was wrought the vocation of the Gentiles;
and Peter, who, seated on the first Chair,
opens to mankind
the gates of heaven.

Go hence, adulterous Jupiter!
rid Rome of thy presence,
thou incestuous god!
and flee from the people of Christ.

Thou art banished hence by Paul;
thou art dethroned by the blood of Peter:
the very deed thou didst inspire
Nero to commit is thine own defeat.

I see coming a future Prince,
who shall be the servant of God;
he shall put an end to those wicked and polluted
rites which now are used by Rome.

He shall shut up the temples,
and bar their ivory doors;
he shall forbid all entrance within their cursed walls,
and fasten their brazen locks.

In his days the marble altars
shall stream no more with blood,
and the idols which are now held as gods
shall stand mere harmless lumps of brass.

The Gothic Church of Spain sang this Hymn of her Mozarabic Breviary on the Feast of St Peter's Chair.


O Petre, petra Ecclesia,
Isto beatus nomine,
Quo Petrus a Christo Petra,
Non Petra Christus a Petro.

Tu es Petrus, qui Filii
Confessor es primus Dei:
Hinc primus in membris ma nens;
Ob quod Cephas vocatus es.

Adest dies, quo Romula
In urbe consecratus es;
In quo Cathedræ nobilis
Scandens thronum attolleris

Conlata ergo gloriæ
In te potestas affluens,
Ligata solvat crimina,
Portasque averni obstruat.

Hinc pastor ut piissimus,
Oves guberna creditas;
Intus forisque pervigil
Ne subruamur, protege.

Et clave illa cœlica
Solvens catenas criminum,
Illic reos inducito,
Quo clarus exstas janitor.

Ut cum polorum Principi
Recisa membra junxeris,
Sit Trinitati gloria
Per cuncta semper sæcula.

O Peter, Rock of the Church!
Blessed art thou in this thy name,
which Jesus, the Rock, gave to thee;
for he was ‘the Rock,’ and shared his name with thee.

Thou art Peter, the first to confess that Jesus
is Son of God. In reward of this, thou wast made first
among the members of the Church,
and wast therefore called Cephas.

This is the day whereon thou wast inaugurated
in the city of Romulus; in which, ascending:
the throne of thy august Chair,
thou wast exalted.

May the rich glorious power
that was conferred on thee
loosen the chains of our sins,
and bind fast the gates of hell.

Then, as the most loving Shepherd,
govern the sheep entrusted to thee.
Protect us in thy great vigilance
from within and without, lest we be destroyed.

And loosing, with thy heavenly key,
the chains of our sins,
lead us poor sinners to the kingdom
of which thou art the Porter chosen by Christ.

That when thou shalt have united together
the members of God’s family, now separated by time and place,
and shalt have presented them before the King of heaven,
there may be glory for endless ages to the Trinity.


The Hymn we now offer to our readers is the one which is fastened to the balustrade of St Peter's confession in the Vatican Basilica. It is intended for the use of pilgrims.


O sancte cœli claviger,
Tu nos precando subleva,
Tu redde nobis pervia
Aulæ supernæ limina.

Ut ipse multis poenitens
Culpam rigasti lacrymis,
Sic nostra tolli poscimus
Fletu perenni crimina.

Sicut fuisti ab Angelo
Tuis solutus vinculis.
Tu nos iniquis exue
Tot implicatos nexibus.

O firma petra Ecclesiæ,
Columna flecti nescia,
Da robur et constantiam,
Error fidem ne subruat.

Romam tuo qui sanguine
Olim sacrasti, protege;
In teque confidentibus
Præsta salutem gentibus.

Tu rem tuere publicam,
Qui te colunt, fidelium.
Ne læsa sit contagiis,
Ne scissa sit discordiis.

Quos hostis antiquus dolos
Instruxit in nos, destrue;
Truces et iras comprime,
Ne clade nostra sæviat.

Contra furentis impetus,
In morte vires suffice,
Ut et supremo vincere
Possimus in certamine.

Sainted keeper of the keys of heaven!
raise us up by thy prayers,
and lead us to the portals
of the heavenly court.

As thou didst wash away thy sin
by penance and many tears;
so, we beseech thee, pray that our sins may be removed
by reason of our life-long weeping.

As thou wast loosened
from thy chains by the Angel;
so do thou set us free,
tied as we are by the fetters of sin.

O Rock immoveable,
and unshaken Pillar of the Church!
give us strength and courage,
that no error may ever subvert our faith.

Protect Rome, the city thou didst of old
consecrate by thy blood;
and grant thine assistance
to all nations that confide in thee.

Protect the countries of thy devout clients;
shield them against contagion,
and suffer not dissensions
to sow discord among them.

Destroy the plots laid
for us by the old enemy;
and restrain his ruthless wrath,
lest he madly exult in our destruction.

Supply us with strength when we are dying,
against his fierce attacks,
that so we may conquer
in the last combat.


And lastly, let us salute the Prince of the Apostles with these solemn words, which are used by the Church of Rome, in to-day’s Office.

℟. Tu es pastor ovium, princeps Apostolorum; tibi tradidit Deus omnia regna mundi; * Et ideo tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.
℣. Quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cœlis; et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cœlis. * Et ideo tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.

. Exaltent eum in ecclesia plebis.
℟. Et in cathedra seniorum laudent eum.
℟. Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, O Prince of the Apostles! To thee hath God given all the kingdoms of the world; * Therefore also have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.
℣. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven. * Therefore also have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.

℣. Let them exalt him in the church of the people.
. And let them praise him in the chair of the ancients.


Deus qui beato Petro Apostolo tuo, collatis clavibus regni cœlestis, ligandi atque solvendi pontificium tradidisti: concede ut intercessionis ejus auxilio, a peccatorum nostrorum nexibus liberemur. Qui vivis.
Let us Pray

O God, who by delivering to the blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst give him the power of binding and loosing: grant that by his intercession we may be freed from the bonds of our sins. Who livest, etc.

And, that we may conform to the tradition of the same Church of Rome, which never celebrates a Feast of St Peter without making a commemoration of St Paul, who, that he might add to the glory of her who is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, came within her walls and paid her the triple tribute of his Apostolate, his teaching, and his martyrdom—let us say this Antiphon and Collect in honour of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Ant. Sancte Paule Apostole, prædicator veritatis, et doctor gentium, intercede pro nobis ad Deum, qui te elegit.

℣. Tu es vas electionis, sancte Paule Apostole.
. Prædicator veritatis in universo mundo.
Ant. Holy Apostle Paul! preacher of the truth and Doctor of the Gentiles! intercede for us to God that chose thee.

℣. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy Apostle Paul!
. The preacher of truth in the whole world.


Deus, qui multitudinem gentium beati Pauli Apostoli prædicatione docuisti: da nobis, quæsumus: ut cujus commemorationem colimus, ejus apud te patrocinia sentiamus. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Let us Pray

O God, who by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle didst instruct the multitude of the Gentiles: grant, we beseech thee, that whilst we celebrate his memory, we may find the effects of his prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

We are founded on Christ in our faith and our hopes, because, O glorious Prince of the Apostles! we are founded on thee, who art the Rock he has set. We are the sheep of the flock of Jesus, because we obey thee as our shepherd. By following thee, O Peter! we are made sure of our being admitted into the kingdom of heaven, because our Lord gave the Keys of his kingdom to thee. Having the happiness of being thy members, we may also count ourselves as the members of Jesus Christ himself; for he, the invisible Head of the Church, recognizes none as his members save those that are members of the visible Head whom he appointed. So, too, when we adhere to the faith of the Roman Pontiff, and obey his orders, we are professing thy faith, O Peter, we are following thy commands; for if Christ teaches and governs by thee, thou teachest and governest by the Roman Pontiff.

Eternal thanks, then, to our Emmanuel for that he has not left us orphans; but before returning to heaven, vouchsafed to provide us with a Father and a Shepherd, even to the end of time! On the evening before his passion, keeping up his love for us even to the end, he left us his sacred Body and Blood for our food. After his glorious Resurrection, and a few hours before ascending to the right hand of his Father, he called his Apostles around him, and constituted his Church (his Fold), and said to Peter: Feed my Lambs, Feed my Sheep.[19] Thus, dear Jesus! didst thou secure perpetuity to thy Church; thou gavest her Unity, for that alone could preserve her and defend her from both external and internal enemies. Glory be to thee, O Divine Architect! for that thou didst build the House of thy Church on the Rock which was never to be shaken, that is, on Peter! Winds and storms and waves have beat upon that House; but it hath stood, for it was built on a Rock.[20]

O Rome! on this day, when the whole Church proclaims thy glory by blessing God for having built her on thy Rock, receive the renewal of our promise to love thee and be faithful to thee. Thou shalt ever be our Mother and our Mistress, our guide and our hope. Thy faith shall ever be ours; for he that is not with thee is not with Jesus Christ. In thee all men are brethren. Thou art not a foreign City to us; nor is thy Pontiff a foreign Sovereign to us, for he is our Father. It is by thee that we live the spiritual life, the life of both heart and intellect; and thou it is that preparest us to dwell one day in that other City of which thou art the image, the City of Heaven, into which men enter by thee.

Bless, O Prince of the Apostles! the flock committed to thy care; but forget not those that have unfortunately left the fold. There are whole nations whom thou didst bring up and civilize by the hands of thy Successors, who now have alienated themselves from thee, and continue their wretched existence, the more miserable, because they feel not the unhappiness of being separated from the Shepherd. They are victims either of schism or of heresy. Without Christ made visible in his Vicar, Christianity becomes sterile, and at last extinct. Those indiscreet doctrines which tend to throw a doubt on the richness of the prerogatives bestowed by Christ on thee, that is, on thee who wast to hold his place to the end of time—such doctrines produce a cold heart in those who profess them, and dispose them but too frequently to give to Cæsar that spiritual and religious obedience which they owe yet refuse to Peter. O supreme Pastor! do thou cure all these evils. Hasten the return of the nations that have separated themselves from thee. Let the heresy of the sixteenth century soon become a thing of the past. Open thine arms, and again press to thy heart the country once so dear to thee—England our fatherland—and pray for her, that she may regain her right to be called the beautiful 'Island of Saints.' Stir up the people of our northern Europe to redouble their ardour in the search of the Faith of their fathers; and let them learn the great truth that a religion out of union with the Chair at Rome is powerless to give salvation to its members. Destroy the Russian colossus of schism and heresy which tyrannizes over the consciences of so many millions of our dear fellow-creatures, and is ambitious to drag the rest of the world into apostasy from Jesus. Reclaim the East to her ancient fidelity, and let her Patriarchal Sees regain their dignity, by submission to the one Apostolic See.

And we, O Blessed Apostle! who by the mercy of God and the watchfulness of thy paternal love are still faithful, oh! preserve us in the faith of Rome, and submission to thy Successor. Instruct us in the mysteries which have been confided to thy teaching. What the Father revealed to thee, do thou reveal to us: show us Jesus, thy beloved Master; lead us to his Crib; and let us, after thine own example, be blessed by not being scandalized at his deep humiliations, and by ever saying thy beautiful confession: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.[21]



[1] St Matt, xvi 18.
[2] St Matt. xvi 18.
[3] Ibid. 19.
[4] St Luke xxii 32.
[5] St John xxi 15, 17.
[6] Sermon 82, On the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
[7] Roma! illa una Patria Communis, Says Cicero (De legibus, II.)
[8] St Matt. xvi 16.
[9] Ibid. xvi 17.
[10] 1 Cor. x 4.
[11] Eph. ii 20.
[12] Ibid, ii 14.
[13] 1 Cor. iii 11.
[14] St Matt. xvi 18.
[15] St Luke xxii 31, 32.
[16] St Leo, Sermon 4.
[17] St Leo, Sermon 3.
[18] Ps. i 1.
[19] St John xxi 15, 17.
[20] St Matt. vii 25.
[21] St Matt. xvi 16.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FOUR Virgins grace the Christmas cycle with their presence; the brightness they cast around is inter-spersed with rays of a darker hue denoting that the aureola of martyrdom is theirs as well. Truly it is those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and who have likewise shed their own for him that have the double right to enter in by the gates to the city and be presented to the new-born King. Perhaps this is the thought of the Church in choosing for such an honour those only who have been twice crowned. They are the gift that Rome herself offers to the Emmanuel; each of this glorious band achieved her triumph within her walls. To-day we have Prisca, but she will be followed by Agnes, Emerentiana, and Martina. The legend which is inserted in the Roman Office gives us all the details that can be known of the sufferings and martyrdom of Saint Prisca; her relics are preserved in the Church which bears her name.

Prisca, nobilis virgo Romana, tredecim annos nata, Claudioimperatore, Christianæfidei accusata, ejusdem jussu ducta ad Apollinis templum, ut idolis immolaret, cum rem detestaretur, colaphis cæsa, in carcerem traditur: atque inde emissa, cum in fidei constantia perseveraret,affecta verberibus, ferven tique adipe delibuta, rursus in carcerem includitur. Post triduum in amphitheatrum producta, leoni objicitur; qui suæ feritatis oblitus, humiliter se ad ejus pedes abjecit. Quæ postea in ergastulo triduum inedia afflicta, in equuleo suspenditur, et ungulis ferreis excarnificata in rogum injicitur, unde etiam mirabiliter evasit incolumis. Denique extra Urbem capite abscisso, virginitatis palmam martyrii corona cumulavit. Cujus corpus via Ostiensi, decimo ab Urbe milliario, a Christianis decimo quinto Kalendas Februarii sepelitur.
Prisca, a noble virgin of Rome, aged thirteen, was accused of being a Christian in the reign of the emperor Claudius. By his command she was led to the temple of Apollo that she might sacrifice to the idols, and when she had shown her detestation of them, was beaten and cast into prison. When brought out of prison she persevered in her steadfast confession of faith and was therefore scourged, tormented with boiling fat and again cast into prison. After three days she was exposed to a lion in the amphitheatre, but the beast, forgetting its natural fierceness, crouched humbly at her feet. After another three days in prison with nothing to eat, she was racked, torn with iron hooks, and cast on a funeral pyre, but was wonderfully preserved from harm. Finally she was beheaded outside the city walls, thus adding the crown of martyrdom to her virginity. Her body was buried by the Christians on the Ostian Way. about ten miles from the city, on the fifteenth of the Kalends of February.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CHRISTIANS from all parts of the world have ever flocked to Rome as to the rock of faith and the foundation of the Church, and honoured with the greatest reverence and piety the spot hallowed by the sepulchre of the Prince of the Apostles.'[1] These words of Holy Church are exemplified in the Martyrs of to-day. Fired with ambition to have some part and fellowship in the glorious Society of the holy Apostles and Martyrs, they left all things and hastened to the Eternal City, there to receive in fullest measure what they sought. Like the Magi of old they came from the far East. The star of faith had shone for them, and in obedience to its call they set forth in all eagerness to offer their gifts of homage and loyalty to the divine King in the person of his Vicar and his suffering members. Such generosity was not left unrewarded; our Emmanuel crowned it with the laurels of martyrdom, admitting them into that cloud of witnesses that ever stand about him. Let us keep before our minds with our Lord, the author and finisher of their faith, this great and glorious band of martyrs, so that we too may ever run unwearied and with courage and patience in the fight proposed to us.

The following lesson is given in the office:

Marius Persa, nobili loco natus, cum Martha conjuge pari nobilitate, et duobus filiis Audiface et Abachum, Romam venit Claudio imperatore, ut Martyrum sepulchra veneraretur. Ibi Christianos in vincula conjectos fovebant, et opera ac facultatibus suis sustentabant, et Sanctorum corpora sepeliebant. Quam ob rem coniprehensi omnes, cum nec impiorum minis nec terrore commoverentur, ut diis sacrificarent; primum fustibus debilitati, deinde funibus attracti, tum admotis candentibus laminis combusti, et ungulis ferreis excarnificatisunt. Postremo præcisis manibus, et ad collum alligatis, ducti per mediam urbem, via Cornelia ad tertium decimum ab Urbe milliarium, in eum locum, qui Nymphe dicebatur, necantur: ac primum Marthse, quæ virum ac filios ad supplicia prò Jesu Christi fide constanter perferenda, vehementer fuerat cohortata; mox ceteris in eadem arenaria cervices abscinduntur, eorumque corpora conjiciuntur in ignem. Quæsemiusta, Felicitas matrona Romana nobilis colligenda et in suo prædio sepelienda curavit.
Marius, a Persian of noble birth, came to Rome, under the emperor Claudius, to venerate the sepulchres of the martyrs in the company of his wife Martha, a noble lady, and their two sons Audifax and Abachum. There they ministered to the Christians in prison, maintaining them both by their wealth and their own personal service, and buried the bodies of the saints. They were all accordingly arrested, and since they could not be induced by fear or threats to sacrifice to the gods, they were first beaten with clubs, then dragged about with ropes, burnt with hot iron plates and torn with hooks. Lastly their hands were cut off and tied about their necks, and they were led through the city and by the Via Cornelia to the place called Nymphe, thirteen miles from Rome, where they were put to death. The first to die was Martha, who had earnestly exhorted her husband and sons to bear their sufferings with constancy for the faith of Jesus Christ. Then the others were beheaded in the same sandpit, and their bodies were thrown into the fire. Felicitas, a noble Roman matron, took them when they were half burned and buried them in her own estate.

[1] Lessons for the Dedication Feast of the Basilicas of SS Peter and Paul.


THE Magi Kings, as we have already observed, have been followed to the Crib of Jesus by saintly Christian monarchs; and it was just that these should be represented on the Church's Calendar during the season which is consecrated to the Mystery of his Birth. The eleventh century is one of the most glorious of the Christian era, and gave, both to the Church and the various States of Europe, a great number of saintly Kings. Among them Canute the Fourth of Denmark stands pre-eminent by reason of the aureole of his martyrdom. He had every quality which forms a Christian prince: he was a zealous propagator of the faith of Christ, he was a brave warrior, he was pious, and he was charitable to the poor. His zeal for the Church (and in those days her rights were counted as the rights of the people) was made the pretext for putting him to death: he died in the midst of a sedition as a victim sacrificed for his people's sake. His offering to the new-born King was that of his blood; and in exchange for the perishable crown he lost, he received that which the Church gives to her Martyrs, and which can never be taken away. The history of Denmark in the eleventh century is scarce known by the rest of the world; but the glory of that country's having had one of her kings a Martyr is known throughout the whole Church, and the Church inhabits the whole earth. This power, possessed by the Spouse of Christ, of conferring honour on the name and actions of the servants and friends of God, is one of the grandest spectacles out of heaven; for when she holds up a name as worthy of honour, that name becomes immortalized, whether he who bore it were a powerful king or the poorest peasant.

We find the following life of this holy King given in the Lessons until recently used in the Breviary.

Canutus Quartus, Suenonis Esthritii Danorum regis filius, fide, pietate et morum honestate conspicuus, eximiæ sanctitatis a teneris annis specimen dedit. Paternum sceptmm summa omnium acclamatione adeptus, religioni promovendæ sedulo incumbere, Ecclesias redditibus augere, et pretiosa supellectili ornare cœpit. Tum zelo propagandæ fidei succensus, barbara regna justo certamine aggressus, devictas subditasque nationes Christianæ legi subjugavit. Victoriis autem plurimis gloriosus, et divitiis auctus, regale diadema ad Christi crucifixi pedes abjecit, se et regnum illi subjiciens qui Rex regum est et Dominus dominatium. Corpus suum jejuniis, ciliciis, et flagellis castigavit. In oratione et contemplatione assiduus, erga pauperes profusus, erga omnes beneficus semper fuit, nec unquam a justitiæ, divinæque legis semita deflexit.

His aliisque virtutibus imbutus, ad supremum perfectionis apicem sanctus Rex properabat. Accidit autem, ut Angliæ regnum a Wilhelmo Normannorum duce formidabili exercitu invaderetur; Anglis vero Danorum opem implorantibus, cum succurrere rex decrevisset, belli expeditionem Olao fratri commisit, qui regnandi cupiditate illectus, arma vertit in regis perniciem, militibus et populo contra ilium concitatis. Nec defuerunt rebellioni fomenta; cum enim rex editis legibus decimas Ecclesiis solvi, Dei et Ecclesiæ præcepta servari, transgressores puniri sanxisset; plerique perversi ac scelerati homines exacerbati, primum quidem tumultuari, tum plebem commovere, ac tandem sanctissimo regi necem moliri coeperunt.

Sciens igitur rex futurorum præscius, mortem sibi propter justitiam imminere; ea prænuntiata, ad Ecclesiam sancti Albani martyris Othoniæ tanquam ad locum certaminis profectus est, et Sacramentis munitus, agonem suum Domino commendabat. Mox ibi adveniens conjuratorum multitudo, Ecclesiæ ignem admovere, fores confringere, et in eam irrumpere tentarunt. Quod cum perficere non possent, ad fenestras accedentes, saxa et sagittas in sanctum Regem, flexis genibus pro inimicis orantem, magno impetu jaculari non cessarunt, donec lapidum et telorum ictibus, ac tandem lancea confossus, glorioso martyrio ante altare, extensis brachiis procumbens coronatus est, sedente in Apostolico throno Gregorio Septimo. Multis postea miraculis Martyrern suum illustravit Deus: nam gravi penuria et diversis calamitatibus oppressa Dania, patrati sacrilegii pœnas luit. Plures etiam variis languoribus afflicti, ad ejus tumulum remedium et incolumitatem consecuti sunt; cumque Regina sacrum ejus corpus noctu clam surripere, et alio transferre conaretur, emisso cælitus ingenti splendore perterrita, a proposito cessavit.
Canute the Fourth, son of Sweyn Estrithius, King of Denmark, was conspicuous for his faith, piety, and purity of life, and even from his infancy gave proof of exceeding holiness. Having been elected by the votes of the people to the throne held by his father, he at once began zealously to promote religion, to add to the revenues of the Churches, and to provide the same with costly fittings and furniture. Being also inflamed with zeal for the propagation of the faith, he refused not to enter into just war with barbarous nations, which, when he had conquered and subdued, he subjected to the law of Christ. Having obtained several glorious victories, and increased the riches of his treasury, he laid his regal diadem at the feet of a crucifix, offering himself and his kingdom to him who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He chastised his body by fasting, hair-shirts and disciplines. He was assiduous in prayer and contemplation, liberal in his alms to the poor, and ever kind to all, never deviating from the path of justice and the divine commandments.

By these and other such virtues the holy King made rapid strides to the summit of perfection. Now it happened that William, Duke of Normandy, invaded the kingdom of England with a formidable army, and the English sought assistance from the Danes. The King resolved to grant them his aid, and intrusted the expedition to his brother Olaf. But he, from the desire he had of getting possession of the throne, turned his forces against the King, and stirred up the soldiers and the people to rebellion. Neither were there wanting motives for this rebellion; for the King had issued laws commanding the payment of ecclesiastical tithes, the observance of the commandments of God and his Church, and the infliction of penalties on defaulters; all which were made a handle of by perverse and wicked malcontents, for spreading discontent, exciting the people to revolt, and at last, to plot the death of the saintly King.

Foreknowing what was to happen, the King saw that he would soon be put to death for justice' sake. Having foretold it, he set out to Odense, where, entering into the Church of St Alban the Martyr, as the place of combat, he fortified himself with the Sacraments, and commended this his last struggle to our Lord. He had not long been there, when a band of conspirators arrived. They endeavoured to set fire to the Church, to burst open the doors, and to force an entrance. But failing in this, they scaled the windows, and with great violence threw a shower of stones and arrows upon the holy King, who was on his knees, praying for his enemies. Wounded by the stones and arrows, and at last pierced through with a spear, he was crowned with a glorious martyrdom, and fell before the altar with his arms stretched out. Gregory the Seventh was the reigning Pontiff. God showed by many miracles how glorious was his Martyr; and Denmark was afflicted with a great famine and sundry calamities, in punishment of the sacrilegious murder which had been perpetrated. Many persons, who were afflicted with various maladies, found aid and health by praying at the tomb of the Martyr. On one occasion, when the Queen endeavoured during the night to take up his body secretly and carry it to another place, she was deterred from her design by being struck with fear at the sight of a most brilliant light, which came down from heaven.

O holy King! the Sun of Justice had risen upon thy country, and all thy ambition was that thy people might enjoy the fulness of its light and warmth. Like the Magi of the East, thou didst lay thy crown at the feet of the Emmanuel, and at length didst offer thy very life in his service and in that of his Church. But thy people were not worthy of thee; they shed thy blood, as the ungrateful Israel shed the Blood of the Just One who is now born unto us, and whose sweet Infancy we are now celebrating. Thou didst offer thy martyrdom for the sins of thy people; offer it now also for them, that they may recover the true faith they have so long lost. Pray for the Rulers of Christian lands, that they may be faithful to their duties, zealous for justice, and may have respect for the liberty of the Church. Ask for us of the Divine Infant a devotedness in his cause like that which glowed in thy breast; and since we have not a crown to lay at his feet, pray for us that we may be generous enough to give our whole heart.



SEVERAL dioceses in England celebrate on this day the feast of St Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester. The last of the Anglo-Saxon saints, Wulstan was worthy to close the long line of men and women who had earned for the country the proud title of 'Insula Sanctorum.' His character as sketched by a contemporary is singularly attractive. A simple man, strong in his simplicity, yet kindly and gifted with a merry wit, he held straight on his course in God's service a priest, monk, prior, and bishop, spending himself in the laborious offices of his ministry, much more intent on the burdens of his position than on its emoluments. A love of beauty ran through his life and manifested itself in building fine churches, in his care of books, in his love for the freshness of children.

In his long life of eighty-seven years Wulstan saw the gradual passing of the old order, the reigns of Ethelbert, Canute, Edward the Confessor, and of his friend King Harold, down to the fateful day when power passed into Norman hands. With all his love for his own land and dynasty the Saint gave no time to useless regrets. He had warned the people that for their sins the country would fall under the dominion of strangers, and when the conquest became a fact he threw his great influence into support of the new dynasty. But he was no time-server, and had no hesitation in confronting the Conqueror to demand redress of injustice done to his See. King William learned to admire the sturdy Saxon prelate, and Wulstan, instead of sharing the fate of nearly all the native bishops who were removed and replaced by Normans, remained in his See and was made the King’s lieutenant for the Midlands.

The following are the lessons of Saint Wulstan.


Wolstanus presbyter magnani sibi sanctitatis famam acquisiverat. Postea monachus Wigorniensis factus, ad ejusdem Ecclesiæ regimen brevi assumptus est. Scienti sacularis pene rudi, spirituali disciplina totum se dedit. Sermonis Anglicani inter eloquentissimos habebatur; quo in genere est illud maxime memorandum, quod cives Bristolienses, quos a nefario mancipiorum indigenarum mercatu, nec regia, nec pontificia potestas deterrere potuerat, ipse assiduis prædicationibus ad saniorem mentem reduxerit.

Episcopus factus omnes boni pastoris partes sedulo egit. Continuo diœcesim suam lustrare cœpit, ordinationes facere, ecclesias dedicare, peccantes arguere animassibi commissas et verbo et exemplo ad æternævitæ desiderium excitare. Sæpius evenit ut ab ortu solii ad tenebras pueros undecumque advectos ad duorum vel trium millium numerum sacro chrismate jejunus signaret. In confessionibus excipiendis ea erat mansuetudine, eo animarum zelo, ut ad Wolstanum et tota Anglia conflueretur, ejusque monitis peccatores scelera sua dignis pœnitentiæ operibus emendarent.

Neque vero, dum alienæ saluti invigilaret, negligebat suam. Frequenti Missarum celebratione, oratione assidua, jugi ab esu carnium abstinentia, et effusa in egenoscaritate Deo serviebat. Quanto autem de se demissius sentiret, eo magis ab omnibus virtutes ejus prædicabantur: ut non solum Angli et Normanni, sed exterarum quoque gentium reges et præsules ejus se orationibus commendarent. Senex admodum mortuus est anno ab Incarnatione Domini millesimo nonagesimo quinto et in ecclesia sua Wigomiæ sepultus.
Wulstan whilst a simple priest had acquired to himself a great renown for holiness. Afterwards having become a monk of Worcester Priory, he was in a short time raised to the government of the same church. Almost entirely ignorant of secular learning, he gave himself wholly to spiritual science. He was numbered among the most eloquent speakers of the English language, in proof of which, this is principally to be remembered, that by his assiduous preaching he converted the citizens of Bristol, whom neither the regal nor the pontifical power could withdraw from the infamous slave trade.

Being made bishop, he sedulously fulfilled all the duties of a good shepherd. He began to visit all parts of his diocese, to give ordinations, to dedicate churches, to reprove sinners, and to animate the souls committed to his care, both by word and example, to the desire of eternal life. It frequently happened that he fasted from sunrise till nightfall whilst he was occupied in confirming children to the number of two or three thousand who were brought from all parts. Such was his meekness and zeal for souls in hearing confessions that persons came to him from all parts of England, and by his admonitions sinners amended their crimes by worthy deeds of penance.

Neither did he whilst watching over the salvation of others neglect his own. He served God by the constant celebration of Mass, by assiduous prayer, by continued abstinence from flesh-meat and by overflowing charity to the needy. The more humbly he esteemed himself, by so much the more his virtues were proclaimed by all, so that not only the English and Normans, but the kings and rulers of foreign nations also commended themselves to his prayers. He died, a very old man, in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord one thousand and ninety-five, and was buried in his church of Worcester.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWO great Martyrs divide between them the honours of this twentieth day of January:—one, a Pontiff of the Church of Rome; the other, a member of that Mother-Church. Fabian received the crown of martyrdom, in the year 250, under the persecution of Decius; the persecution of Diocletian crowned Sebastian in the year 288. We will consider the merits of these two champions of Christ separately.

Saint Fabian

St Fabian, like St Clement and St Anthems, two of his predecessors, was extremely zealous in seeing that the Acts of the Martyrs were carefully drawn up. This zeal was no doubt exercised by the clergy in the case of our holy Pontiff himself, and his sufferings and martyrdom were carefully registered; but all these interesting particulars have been lost, in common with an immense number of other precious Acts, which were condemned to the flames, by the Imperial Edicts, during the persecution under Diocletian. Nothing is now known of the life of St Fabian, save a few of his actions as Pope; but we may have some idea of his virtues by the praise given him by St Cyprian, who, in a letter written to St Cornelius, the immediate successor of St Fabian, calls him an incomparable man. The Bishop of Carthage extols the purity and holiness of life of the holy Pontiff, who so peaceably governed the Church amidst all the storms which then assailed her. There is an interesting circumstance related of him by Eusebius. After the death of St Antherus, the people and clergy of Rome assembled together for the election of the new Pontiff. Heaven marked out the successor of St Peter: a dove was seen to rest on the venerable head of Fabian, and he was unanimously chosen. This reminds us of the event in our Lord's Life, which we celebrated a few days back, when, standing in the river Jordan, the Dove came down from heaven, and showed him to the people as the Son of God. Fabian was the depository of the power of regeneration, which Jesus by his baptism gave to the element of water; he zealously propagated the Faith of his Divine Master, and among the Bishops he consecrated for divers places, one or more were sent by him into these western parts of Europe.

We give the short account of the Acts of St Fabian, as recorded in the Liturgy.

Fabianus Romanus a Maximino usque ad Decium regens Ecclesiam, septem Diaconis regiones divisit, qui pauperum curam haberent. Totidem Subdiaconos creavit, qui res gestas Martyrum a septem Notariis scriptas colligerent. Idem statuit, ut quotannis Feria quinta in Cœna Domini, vetere combusto, Chrisma renovaretur. Denique decimotertio kalendas Februarii in persecutione Decii martyrio coronatus, in cœmeterio Callisti via Appia sepelitur, cum sedisset annos quindecim, dies quatuor. Hic fecit Ordinationes quinque mense Decembri, quibus creavit Presbyteros viginti duos, Diáconos septem, Episcopos per diversa loca undecim.
Fabian, a Roman by birth, governed the Church from the reign of 'Maximian to that of Decius. He divided the City into seven parts, which he consigned to as many Deacons, and to them he gave the charge of looking after the poor. He created also a like number of Subdeacons, who were to collect the Acts of the Martyrs, written by seven Notaries. It was he who decreed that every year, on the fifth Feria of our Lord's Supper, the Chrism should be renewed, and the old should be burnt. At length, on the thirteenth of the Kalends of February (January 20), he was crowned with martyrdom, in the persecution of Decius, and was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way, after reigning fifteen years and four days. He held five ordinations in the month of December, in which ordinations he made two and twenty Priests, seven Deacons and eleven Bishops for divers places.

Thus didst thou live out the long tempestuous days of thy Pontificate, O Fabian! But thou hadst the presentiment of the peaceful future reserved by God for his Church, and thou didst zealously labour to hand down to the coming generations the great examples of the Martyrs. The flames have robbed us of a great portion of the treasures thou preparedst for us, and have deprived us of knowing the Fabian who so loved the Martyrs, and died one himself. But of thee, Blessed Pontiff! we know enough to make us thank God for having set thee over his Church in those hard times, and keep this day as a feast in celebration of thy glorious triumph. The dove, which marked thee out as the one chosen by heaven, showed thee to men as the visible Christ on earth; it told thee that thou wert destined for heavy responsibilities and martyrdom; it was a warning to the Church that she should recognize and hear thee as her guide and teacher. Honoured thus with a resemblance to Jesus in the mystery of his Epiphany, pray to him for us, that he mercifully manifest himself to our mind and heart. Obtain of him for us that docility to his grace, that loving submissiveness to his will, that detachment from all created things, which were the support of thy life during those fifteen years of thy ever threatened and anxious pontificate. When the angry persecution at length broke on thee, it found thee prepared, and martyrdom carried thee to the bosom of that God who had already welcomed so many of thy martyred children. We too are looking for that last wave which is to break over us, and carry us from the shore of this present life to eternity; oh! pray for us, that it may find us ready! If the love of the Divine Babe, our Jesus, be within us; if, like thee, we imitate the simplicity of the dove; we shall not be lost! Here are our hearts—we wish for nothing but God; help us by thy prayers.

Saint Sebastian

At the head of her list of heroes, after the two glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, who form her chief glory, Rome puts her two most valiant Martyrs, Laurence and Sebastian, and her two most illustrious Virgins, Cecily and Agnes. Of these four, two are given us by the Calendar of Christmastide as attendants in the court of the Infant Jesus at Bethlehem. Laurence and Cecily come later in the year, when other mysteries are brought before us by the Liturgy: but Christmas calls forth Sebastian and Agnes. To-day it is the brave soldier of the pretorian band, Sebastian, who stands by the Crib; to-morrow we shall see Agnes, gentle as a lamb, yet fearless as a lion, inviting us to love the sweet Babe whom she chose for her Spouse.

The chivalrous spirit of Sebastian reminds us of the great Archdeacon; both of them, one in the sanctuary and the other in the world, defied the tortures of death. Burnt on one side, Laurence bids the tyrant roast the other; Sebastian, pierced with his arrows, waits till the gaping wounds are closed, and then runs to his persecutor Diocletian, asking for a second martyrdom. But we must forget Laurence to-day, to think of Sebastian.

We must picture to ourselves a young soldier, who tears himself away from all the ties of his home at Milan, because the persecution there was too tame, whereas at Rome it was at its fiercest. He trembles with anxiety at the thought that perhaps some of the Christians in the Capital may be losing courage. He has been told that at times some of the Emperor's soldiers, who were soldiers also of Christ, have gained admission into the prisons, and have roused up the sinking courage of the confessors. He is resolved to go on the like mission, and hopes that he may also receive the blessing of martyrdom. He reaches Rome, he is admitted into the prisons, and encourages to martyrdom such as had been shaken by the tears of those who were dear to them. Some of the gaolers, converted by witnessing his faith and his miracles, become martyrs themselves; and one of the Roman Magistrates asks to be instructed in a religion which can produce such men as this Sebastian. He has won the esteem of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian Hercules for his fidelity and courage as a soldier; they have loaded him with favours; and this gives him an influence in Rome which he so zealously turns to the advantage of the Christian religion, that the holy Pope Caius calls him the Defender of the Church.

After sending innumerable martyrs to heaven, Sebastian at length wins the crown he had so ardently desired. He incurs the displeasure of Diocletian by confessing himself a Christian; the heavenly King, for whose sake alone he had put on the helmet and soldier's cloak, was to him above all Emperors and Princes. He is handed over to the archers of Mauritania, who strip him, bind him, and wound him from head to foot with their arrows. They left him for dead, but a pious woman named Irene took care of him, and his wounds were healed. Sebastian again approaches the Emperor, who orders him to be beaten to death in the circus, near the Imperial Palace.

Such are the Soldiers of our new-born King; but oh! how richly does he repay them for their service! Rome, the Capital of his Church, is founded on seven Basilicas, as the ancient City was on its seven hills; and the name and tomb of Sebastian grace one of these seven sanctuaries. The Basilica of Sebastian stands in a sort of solitude, on the Appian Way, outside the walls of the Eternal City; it is enriched with the relics of the holy Pope and Martyr Fabian; but Sebastian, the valiant leader of the pretorian guard, is the Patron, and as it were the Prince of the holy temple. It was here that he wished to be buried, as a faithful guardian, near the well wherein the bodies of the holy Apostles had been concealed, lest they should be desecrated by the persecutors.

In return for the zeal of St Sebastian for the souls of his Christian brethren, whom he preserved from the contagion of paganism, God has made him the Protector of the faithful against pestilence. A signal proof of this power granted to the holy Martyr was given at Rome, in the year 680, under the Pontificate of St Agatho.

Let us now listen to our holy Mother the Church, who thus speaks of her glorious Martyr in the Office of his Feast.

Sebastianus ex patre Narbonensi, matre Mediolanensi natus, ob generisnobilitatemi et virtutem Diocletiano cams fuit. Dux primæ cohortis, christianos, quorum fidem clam colebat, opera et facultatibus adjuvabat; et qui ex eis tormentomm vim reformidare videbantur, cohortatione sic confirmabat, ut pro Jesu Christo multi se ultro tortoribus offerrent. In illis fuere Marcus et Marcellianus fratres, qui Romæ in custodia erant apud Nicostratum: cujus uxor Zoe vocem, quam amiserat, Sebastiani oratione recuperavit. Quibus Diocletiano delatis, Sebastianum accersit, et vehementius objurgatum, omnibus artificiis a Christi fide conatur avertere. Sed cum nihil nec pollicendo, nec terrendo proficeret, ad palum alligatum sagittis configi jubet.

Quem omnium opinione mortuum, noctu sancta mulier Irene sepeliendi gratia jussit auferri: sed vivum repertum, domi suæ curavit. Itaque paulo post confirmata valetudine, Diocletiano obviam factus, ejus impietatem liberius accusavit. Cujus aspectu cum ille primum obstupuisset, quod mortuum crederet, rei novitate et acri Sebastiani reprehensione excandescens, eum tamdiu virgis cædi imperavit, donec animam Deo redderet. Ejus corpus in cloacam dejectum, Lucina a Sebastiano in somnis admonita, ubi esset, et quo loco humari vellet, ad Catacumbas sepelivit, ubi sancti Sebastiani nomine Celebris Ecclesia est ædificata.
Sebastian, whose father was of Narbonne, and his mother a lady of Milan, was beloved by Diocletian on account of his noble birth and his virtues. Being a captain of the pretorian cohort, he was able to give assistance and alms to the Christians, whose faith he himself followed, though privately. When he perceived any of them trembling at the great tortures of the persecutors, he made it his duty to encourage them; and so well did he do it, that many, for the sake of Jesus Christ, would freely offer themselves to the executioners. Of this number were the two brothers Mark and Marcellian, who were in custody under Nicostratus, whose wife, named Zoe, had recovered her speech by the prayer made for her by Sebastian. Diocletian, being told of these things, summoned Sebastian before him; and after upbraiding him in very strong words, tried every means to induce him to turn from the faith of Christ. But finding that neither promises nor threats availed, he ordered him to be tied to a stake, and to be shot to death with arrows.

Everyone thought he was dead; and a pious woman named Irene gave orders that his body should be taken away during the night and buried; but she, finding him to be still alive, had him taken to her house, where she took care of him. Not long after, having quite recovered, he went before Diocletian, and boldly chided him for his wickedness. At first the Emperor was struck dumb with astonishment, for he had been told that Sebastian was dead; but at length the strange event and the Martyr's sharp rebuke so inflamed him with rage, that he ordered him to be scourged to death with rods. His body was thrown into a sewer, but Lucina was instructed by Sebastian, in her sleep, both as to where his body was, and where he wished to be buried. Accordingly she buried him at the Catacombs, where, afterwards, a celebrated Church was built, called Saint Sebastian's.

The ancient Liturgical books contain a great many pieces in honour of St Sebastian. We limit ourselves to the following, which belongs to the Ambrosian Breviary.


Sebastiani Martyris,
Concivis almi, supplices
Diem sacratam vocibus
Canamus omnes debitis.

Athleta Christi nobilis,
Ardens amore prælii,
Linquit tepentem patriam,
Pugnamque Romæ festinat.

Hic cultor alti dogmatis,
Virtute plenus cœlica,
Idola damnans, inclyti
Trophæa sperai martyris.

Loris revinctus plurimis;
Qua stipes ingens tollitur,
Vibrata tela suscipit
Umbone nudo pectoris.

Fit silva corpus ferrea;
Sed ære mens constantior
Ut molle ferrum despicit:
Ferrum precatur, sæviat.

Manantis unda sanguinis
Exsangue corpus nunciat;
Sed casta nocte femina
Plagas tumentes recreat.

Cœleste robur militi
Adacta præbent vulnera;
Rursum tyrannum provocans,
Exspirat inter vulnera.

Nunc cœli in arce considens,
Bellator o fortissime,
Luem fugando, civium
Tuere clemens corpora.

Patri, simulque Filio,
Tibique, Sancte Spiritus,
Sicut fuit, sit jugiter
Sæclum per omne gloria.

Let us all, in humble supplication,
and with becoming sweetness of voice,
celebrate in song the feast-day
of our dear fellow-citizen, Sebastian the Martyr.

This noble champion of Christ,
fired with the love of battle,
leaves his country, where danger too tamely threatened him,
and hastens to the hot battlefield at Rome.

His soul enlightened with the sublime dogmas of faith,
and full of heavenly courage,
he condemns the worship of idols,
and hopes that a martyr's bright trophy may be his.

He is bound with many thongs
to the huge trunk of a tree,
and on his naked breast
receives the quivering arrows.

There stood his body like a forest of iron darts,
while his soul, more unflinching than brass,
despises the weapons as harmless things,
and bids them do their worst.

Streams of blood flow from the wounds,
leaving but a lifeless body;
but a holy woman comes by night,
and heals the gaping wounds.

The cruel goading
gives our soldier heavenly strength;
again he urges the tyrant to his work,
and this time dies under the wounding lash.

And now, most brave of warriors!
now that thou art throned in the high heavens,
drive pestilence away, and mercifully protect
the bodily health of thy fellow-citizens on earth.

To the Father, and to the Son,
and to thee, O Holy Spirit,
may there be, as there ever hath been,
glory for ever and ever.


We find the following Prayer in the Gothic Missal.


Deus, qui per beatissimum Sebastianum Martyrern tuum, tuorum fidelium animos roborasti: dum tibi illum latentem sub chlamyde terrena imperii, militem perfectum exhibuisti, fac nos semper in tuis laudibus militare: os nostrum arma documento justitiæ: cor illustra tuæ dilectionis amore, atque carnem nostram erutam libidine clavis tuæ crucis adfige.
O God, who by thy most blessed Martyr Sebastian hast infused courage into the hearts of thy faithful, since thou didst make him, while concealed under the service of an earthly commander, a perfect soldier of thine own: grant that we may ever fight to secure thy praise; confirm our speech with the teachings of thy justice; enlighten our heart with the love of thy love, and having freed our flesh from its concupiscence, secure it to thyself with the nails of thy cross.

Brave Soldier of our Emmanuel! thou art now sweetly reposing at the foot of his throne. Thy wounds are closed, and thy rich palm-branch delights all heaven by the freshness of its unfading beauty. Look down upon the Church on earth, that tires not in singing thy praise. Each Christmas, we find thee near the Crib of the Divine Babe, its brave and faithful sentinel. The office thou didst once fill in an earthly prince's court is still thine, but it is in the palace of the King of kings. Into that palace, we beseech thee, lead us by thy prayers, and gain a favourable hearing to our own unworthy petitions.

With what a favourable ear must not Jesus receive all thy requests, who didst love him with such a brave love! Thirsting to shed thy blood in his service, thou didst scorn a battlefield where danger was not sure, and Rome, that Babylon which, as St John says,[1] was drunk with the blood of the Martyrs, Rome alone was worthy of thee. And there it was not thy plan to secure the palm of martyrdom only for thyself; the courage of some of thy fellow-Christians had wavered, and the thought of their danger troubled thee. Rushing into their prisons, where they lay mutilated by the tortures they had endured, thou didst give them back the fallen laurel, and teach them how to secure it in the grasp of holy defiance. It seemed as though thou wast commissioned to form a pretorian band for the King of heaven, and that thou couldst not enter heaven unless marshalling thither a troop of veterans for Jesus.

Thy turn came at last; the hour of thy confession was at hand, and thou hadst to think of thine own fair crown. But for such a soldier as thou, Sebastian, one martyrdom is not enough. The archers have faithfully done their work—not an arrow is left in their quivers; and yet their victim lives, ready for a second sacrifice. Such were the Christians of the early times, and we are their children!

Look, then, O Soldier of Christ! upon us, and pity us, as thou didst thy brethren, who once faltered in the combat. Alas! we let everything frighten and discourage us; and oftentimes we are enemies of the Cross, even while professing that we love it. We too easily forget that we cannot be companions of the martyrs unless our hearts have the generosity of the martyrs. We are cowardly in our contest with the world and its pomps; with the evil propensities of our nature, and the tyranny of our senses; and thus we fall. And when we have made an easy peace with God, and sealed it with the sacrament of his love, we behave as though we had now nothing more to do than to go on quietly to heaven, without further trials or self-imposed sacrifices. Rouse us, great Saint! from these illusions, and waken us from our listless life. Our love of God is asleep, and all must needs go wrong.

Preserve us from the contagion of bad example, and of those worldly maxims which gain currency even with Christian minds, because Christian lips call them rules of Christian prudence. Pray for us, that we may be ardent in the pursuit of our sanctification, watchful over our inclinations, zealous for the salvation of others, lovers of the Cross, and detached from earthly things. Oh! by the arrows which pierced thee, we beseech thee shield us from those hidden darts which Satan throws against us.

Pray for us, that we may be clad with the armour of God, described to us by the great Apostle. May we have on the breastplate of justice, which will defend us from sin; the helmet of salvation, that is, the hope of gaining heaven, which will preserve us from both despair and presumption; the shield of faith, which will ward off the darts of the enemy who seeks to corrupt the heart by leading the mind into error; and lastly, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, whereby we may put all false doctrines to flight, and vanquish all our vices; for heaven and earth pass away, but the word of God abides for ever, and is given us as our rule and the pledge of our salvation.[2]

Defender of the Church, as the Vicar of Christ called thee, lift up thy sword and defend her now. Prostrate her enemies, and frustrate the plots they have laid for her destruction. Let her enjoy one of those rare periods of peace during which she prepares for fresh combats. Obtain for Christian soldiers, engaged in just wars, the blessing of the God of Hosts. Protect the Holy City of Rome, where thy Tomb is honoured. Avert from us, by thy intercession, the scourge of pestilence and contagion. Hear the prayers which each year are addressed to thee for the preservation of the creatures given by God to man to aid him in his daily labour. Secure to us, by thy prayers, peace and happiness in this present life, and the good things of the life to come.


[1] Apoc. xvii 6.
[2] Eph. vi 13 et seq.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

HOW rich is the constellation of Martyrs, which shines in this portion of the sacred cycle! Yesterday we had St Sebastian; to-morrow we shall be singing the name which means Victory, for it is the Feast of Vincent; and now to-day, between these two stalwart palm-branches, we find the gentle Agnes decked with the roses and lilies of her virginity. It is to a girl of thirteen that our Emmanuel gave this stern courage of martyrdom which made her meet the enemy with as bold a front as either the valiant captain of the pretorian band or the dauntless deacon of Saragossa. If they are the soldiers of Jesus, she is his tender and devoted Spouse. These are the triumphs of the Son of Mary! Scarcely has he shown himself to the world, and lo! every noble heart flies towards him, according to that word of his: Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together.[1]

It is the admirable result of the Virginity of his Blessed Mother, who has brought honour to the fecundity of the soul, and set it far above that of the body. It was Mary that first opened the way whereby certain chosen souls mount up even to the Divine Son, and fix their gaze in a cloudless vision on his beauty; for he himself said: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.[2]

What a glory it is for the Catholic Church, that she alone has the gift of this holy state of virginity, which is the source of every other sacrifice, because nothing but the love of God could inspire a human heart to vow virginity! And what a grand honour for Christian Rome that she should have produced a Saint Agnes, that angel of earth, in comparison with whom the Vestals of paganism are mere pretences of devotedness, for their Virginity was never punished by fire and sword, nay, rather, was flattered by the recompense of earthly honours and riches!

Not that our Saint is without her recompense; only her recompense is not marred with the flaw of all human rewards. The name of this child, who lived but thirteen short years, will be echoed, to the end of time, in the sacred Canon of the universal Sacrifice. The path trod by the innocent maiden, on the way to her trial, is still marked out in the Holy City. In the Circus Agonalis[3] there rises the beautiful Church of Saint Agnes, with its rich cupola; and beneath are the vaults which were once the haunts of infamy, but now are a holy sanctuary, where everything reminds us of her who here won her glorious victory. Further on, on the Nomentan Road, outside the ramparts, is the beautiful Basilica, built by Constantine; and here, under an altar covered with precious stones, lies the body of the young Saint. Round this Basilica there are immense crypts; and in these did Agnes's relics repose until the epoch of peace, surrounded by thousands of martyrs, whose holy remains were also deposited here.

Nor must we pass over in silence the gracious tribute of honour paid by Rome each year, on this feast, to her beloved Martyr. Two lambs are placed on the altar of the Basilica Nomentana; they are emblems of the meekness of Jesus and the innocence of the gentle Agnes. After they have been blessed by the Abbot of the religious community which serves this Church, they are taken to a monastery of nuns, where they are carefully reared. Their wool is used for making the Palliums, which the Pope sends to all Patriarchs and Metropolitans of the Catholic world, as the essential emblem of their jurisdiction. Thus, this simple woollen ornament, which these prelates wear on their shoulders as a symbol of the sheep carried on the shoulders of the good Shepherd, and the Sovereign Pontiff takes from off the Altar of Saint Peter in order to send it to its destination, carries to the very ends of the world the sublime union of these two sentiments—the vigour and power of the Prince of the Apostles, and the gentleness of Agnes the Virgin.

We will now quote the beautiful eulogy on St Agnes written by St Ambrose in his Book On Virgins.[4] The Church gives almost the entire passage in her Office of to-day’s feast; and, assuredly, the Virgin of Christ could not have had a finer panegyrist than the great Bishop of Milan, who is the most eloquent and persuasive of all the Fathers on the subject of holy virginity. We read that in the cities where Ambrose preached, mothers were afraid of their daughters being present at his sermons, lest he should persuade them to such love of Christ as to choose the better part.

Having resolved,’ says the holy Bishop, ‘to write a book on virginity, I think myself happy in being able to begin it on the feast we are keeping of the Virgin Agnes. It is the feast of a virgin; let us walk in the path of purity. It is the feast of a martyr; let us offer up our Sacrifice. It is the feast of St Agnes; let men admire, and children not despair; let the married wonder, and the unmarried imitate. But what can we speak worthy of this Saint, whose very name is not void of praise? As her devotedness is beyond her years, and her virtue superhuman—so, as it seems to me, her name is not an appellation, but a prophecy, presaging that she was to be a martyr.

The holy Doctor is here alluding to the word Agnus, from which some have derived the name Agnes; and he says that the young Saint had immolation in her very name, for it called her victim. He goes on to consider the other etymology of Agnes, from the Greek word agnos, which means pure; and he thus continues his discourse:

The maiden’s name is an expression of purity. Martyr then, and Virgin! Is not that praise enough? There is no praise so eloquent as merit that is too great to need seeking. No one is so praiseworthy as he who may be praised by all. Now all men are the praisers of Agnes, for when they pronounce her name they say her praise, for they say a Martyr.

There is a tradition that she suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen. Detestable indeed the cruelty that spared not even so tender an age! but oh! the power of faith, that could find even children to be its witnesses! Here was a victim scarce big enough for a wound, for where could the sword fall? and yet she had courage enough to conquer the sword.

At such an age as this, a girl trembles if she but see her mother angry, and cries as though it were a grievous thing if but pricked with a needle's point. And Agnes, who stands amidst blood-stained murderers, is fearless! She is stunned with the rattle of the heavy chains, and yet not a flutter in that heart! She offers her whole body to the sword of the furious soldier, for though she knows not what death is, yet she is quite ready to endure it. Perchance they will take her by force to the altars of their gods! If they do, she will stretch out her hands to Jesus, and amidst those sacrilegious fires she will sign herself with that blessed sign, the trophy of our divine Conqueror; and then, if they will, and they can find shackles small enough to fit such tender limbs, they may fasten her hands and neck in their iron fetters!

How strange a martyrdom! She is too young to be punished, yet she is old enough to win a victory. She cannot fight, yet she easily gains a crown. She has but the age of a scholar, yet has she mastered every virtue. Bride never went to nuptials with so glad a heart, nor so light a step, as this young virgin marches to the place of execution. She is decked not with the gay show of plaited tresses, but with Christ; she is wreathed not with flowers, but with purity.

All stood weeping; Agnes shed not a tear. Some wondered how it could be that she, who had but just begun her life, should be as ready to sacrifice it as though she had lived it out; and everyone was amazed that she, who was too young to give evidence even in her own affairs, should be so bold a witness of the divinity. Her oath would be invalid in a human cause; yet she is believed when she bears testimony for God. Their surprise was just: for a power thus above nature could only come from him who is the author of all nature.

Her executioner does all he can to frighten her; he speaks fair words to coax her; he tells her of all the suitors who have sought her as their bride; but she replies: "The Spouse insults her Beloved if she hesitate. I belong to him who first betrothed me: why, executioner, dost thou not strike? Kill this body, which might be loved by eyes I would not wish to please."

She stood, she prayed, she bowed down her head. The executioner trembles, as though himself were going to be beheaded. His hand shakes, and his cheek grows pale, to strike this girl, who loves the danger and the blow. Here, then, have we a twofold martyrdom in a single victim, one for her chastity, the other for her faith. She was a Virgin before; and now she is a Martyr.

The Roman Church sings on this feast the sweet Responsories in which Agnes expresses her tender love of Jesus, and her happiness at having him for her Spouse. They are formed from the words of the ancient Acts of her Martyrdom, which were long attributed to the pen of St Ambrose.


℟. Dexteram meam et collum meum cinxit lapidibus pretiosis; tradidit auribus meis inæstimabiles margaritas: * Et circumdedit me vernantibus atque coruscantibus gemmis.
℣. Posuit signum in faciem meam, ut nullum præter eum amatorem admittam. * Et circumdedit me.

. Amo Christum in cujus thalamum introibo, cujus Mater virgo est, cujus Pater feminam nescit, cujus mihi organa modulatis vocibus cantant: * Quem cum amavero, casta sum, cum tetigero, munda sum, cum accepero, virgo sum.
℣. Annulo fidei suæ subarrhavit me, et immensis monilibus ornavit me: * Quem.

. Mel et lac ex ejus ore suscepi, * Et sanguis ejus ornavit genas meas.
℣. Ostendit mihi thesauros incomparabiles, quos mihi se daturum repromisit. * Et sanguis.

. Jam corpus ejus corpori meo sociatum est, et sanguis ejus omavit genas meas: * Cujus Mater virgo est, cujus Pater feminam nescit.
℣. Ipsi sum desponsata cui Angeli serviunt, cujus pulchritudinem sol et luna mirantur. * Cujus Mater.
℟. My Spouse has set precious stones on my right hand and on my neck; he has hung priceless pearls in my ears: * And he has laden me with gay and glittering gems.
℣. He has placed his sign upon my face, that I may have none other to love me but him. * And he has.

℟. I love Christ; I shall be the spouse of him, whose Mother is a Virgin, and whose Father begot him divinely, and who delights me with sweet music of organs and singers: * When I love him, I am chaste; when I touch him, I am pure; when I possess him, I am a Virgin.
℣. He has betrothed me with the ring of his fidelity, and has decked me with a necklace of priceless worth. * When.

℟. Milk and honey have I received from his lips; * and his Blood has graced my cheek.
℣. He has shown me incomparable treasures, and these has he promised to give me. * And his Blood.

℟. Already have I communicated of his sacred Body, and his Blood has graced my cheek: * His Mother is a Virgin, his Father is God.
℣. I am espoused to him whom the Angels obey, and whose beauty the sun and the moon admire. * His Mother.

St Ambrose was sure to write a Hymn on the Virgin-Martyr in whose praise he was so enthusiastic. We almost despair of giving an idea of the beauty of his verses to such as can read only our version of them.


Agnes beatæ virginis
Natalis est, quo spiritum
Cœlo refudit debitum,
Pio sacrata sanguine.

Matura martyrio fuit,
Matura nondum nuptiis,
Nutabat in viris fides,
Cedebat et fessus senex.

Metu parentes territi
Claustrum pudoris auxerant:
Solvit fores custodiæ
Fides teneri nescia.

Prodire quis nuptam putet,
Sic læta vultu ducitur,
Novas viro ferens opes,
Dotata censu sanguinis.

Aras nefandi numinis
Adolere tædis cogitur:
Respondet: Haud tales faces
Sumpsere Christi virgines.

Hic ignis exstinguit fidem,
Hæc fiamma lumen eripit:
Hic, hic ferite, ut profluo
Cruore restinguam focos.

Percussa quam pompam tulit?
Nam veste se totam tegit,
Curam pudoris præstitit,
Ne quis retectam cerneret.

In morte vivebat pudor,
Vultumque texerat manu;
Terram genuflexo petit,
Lapsu verecundo cadens.

Gloria tibi Domine,
Gloria Unigenito,
Una cum Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna sæcula.

It is the blessed Virgin Agnes' feast,
for today she was sanctified
by shedding her innocent blood,
and gave to heaven her heaven-claimed spirit.

She that was too young to be a bride
was old enough to be a martyr,
and that too in an age when men were faltering in faith,
and even hoary heads grew wearied and denied our God.

Her parents trembled for their Agnes,
and doubly did they thus defend the treasure of her purity;
but her faith disdained a silent hiding-place,
and unlocked its shelter-giving gate.

One would think it was a bride hurrying with glad smiles
to give some new present to her Spouse;
and so it was: she was bearing to him
the dowry of her martyrdom.

They would fain make her light
a torch at the altar of some vile deity they came to:
'The Virgins of Jesus,' said Agnes,
'are not wont to hold a torch like this.

'Its fire would quench one’s faith;
its flame would put out my light.
Strike, strike me, and the stream of my blood
shall extinguish these fires.'

They strike her to the ground and as she falls,
she gathers her robes around her, dreading,
in the jealous purity of her soul,
the insulting gaze of some lewd eye.

Alive to purity even in the act of death,
she buries her face in her hands;
and kneeling on the ground,
she falls as purity would wish to fall.

Glory be to thee, O Lord!
and glory to thine Only Begotten Son,
together with thy Holy Spirit,
for everlasting ages.


Our admirable Prudentius, who visited Rome in the early part of the fifth century, and witnessed the devotion of the Roman people to St Agnes, consecrated to her sweet memory the following Hymn, which is one of the finest of his poems. Though very long, it is the Hymn used for this Feast in the Mozarabic Breviary.


Agnes sepulchrum est Romulea in domo,
Fortis puellæ, martyris inclytæ.
Conspectu in ipso condita turrium,
Servai salutem virgo Quiritium:
Nec non et ipsos protegit advenas,
Puro, ac fideli pectore supplices.
Duplex corona est præstita Martyri.
Intactum ab omni crimine virginal,
Mortis deinde gloria liberæ.

Aiunt, jugali vix habilem toro
Primis in annis forte puellulam,
Christo calentem, fortiter impiis
Jussis renisam, quo minus idolis
Addicta, sacram desereret fidem.

Tentata multis nam prius artibus,
Nunc ore blandi judicis illice,
Nunc sævientis camificis minis,
Stabat feroci robore pertinax,
Corpusque duris excruciatibus
Ultro offerebat, non renuens mori.

Tum trux tyrannus: Si facile est, ait,
Pœnam subactis ferre doloribus,
Et vita vilis spernitur: at pudor
Carus dicatæ virginitatis est.

Hanc in lupanar tradere publicum
Certum est, ad aram ni caput applicet,
Ac de Minerva jam veniam roget,
Quam virgo pergit temnere virginem.
Omnis Juventus irruat, et novum
Ludibriorum mancipium petat.

Haud, inquit Agnes, immemor est ita
Christus suorum, perdat ut aureum
Nobis pudorem, nos quoque deserat.
Præsto est pudicis, nec patitur sacræ
Integritatis munera pollui.

Ferrum impiabis sanguine, si voles:
Non inquinabis membra libidine.

Sic elocutam publicitus jubet
Flexu in plateæ sistere virginem,
Stantem refugit mœsta frequentia,
Aversa vultus, ne petulantius
Quisquam verendum conspiceret locum.
Intendit unus forte procaciter
Os in puellam, nec trepidat sacram
Spectare formam lumine lubrico.

En ales ignis fulminis in modum
Vibratur ardens, atque oculos ferit:
Cæcus corusco lumine corruit,
Atque in plateæ pulvere palpitat,
Tollunt sodales seminecem solo,
Verbisque deflent exsequialibus.

Ibat triumphans virgo, Deum Patrem,
Christumque sacro carmine concinens,
Quod sub profani labe periculi
Castum lupanar, nec violabile
Experta victrix virginitas foret.

Sunt, qui rogatam rettulerint preces
Fudisse Christo, redderet ut reo
Lucem jacenti: tum juveni halitum
Vitæ innovatum visibus integris.

Primum sed Agnes hunc habuit gradum
Cœlestis aulæ, mox alius datur.
Accensus iram nam furor incitat
Hostis cruenti. Vincor, ait gemens;
I, stringe ferrum, miles, et exere
Præcepta summi regia principis,

Ut vidit Agnes, stare trucem virum
Mucrone nudo, lætior hæc ait:
Exsulto, talis quod potius venit
Vesanus, atrox, turbidus armiger,
Quam si veniret languidus, ac tener
Mollisque ephebus tinctus aromate,
Qui me pudoris funere perderet.
Hic, hic amator jam, fateor, placet:
Ibo irruentis gressibus obviam,
Nec demorabor vota calentia:
Ferrum in papillas omne recepero,
Pectusque ad imum vim gladii traham.
Sic nupta Christo transiliam poli
Omnes tenebras æthere celsior.

Æterne rector, divide januas
Cœli, obseratas terrigenis prius;
Ac te sequentem, Christe, animam voca,
Quum virginalem, tum Patris hostiam.
Sic fata, Christum vertice cernuo
Supplex adorat, vulnus ut imminens
Cervix subiret prona paratius.

Ast ille tantam spem peragit manu:
Uno sub ictu nam caput amputat.
Sensum doloris mors cita prævenit.
Exutus inde Spiritus emicat,
Liberque in auras exilit: Angeli
Sepsere euntem tramite candido.

Miratur orbem sub pedibus situm,
Spectat tenebras ardua subditas,
Ridetque, solis quod rota circuit,
Quod mundus omnis volvit, et implicat,
Rerum quod atro turbine vivitur,
Quod vana sæcli mobilitas rapit:

Reges, tyrannos, imperia et gradus,
Pompasque honorum stulta tumentium:
Argenti et auri vim, rabida siti
Cunctis petitam per varium nefas,
Splendore multo structa habitacula,
Illusa pictæ vestis inania,
Iram, timorem, vota, pericula:
Nunc triste longum, nunc breve gaudium,
Livoris atri fumificas faces
Nigrescit unde spes hominum et decus,
Et, quod malorum tetrius omnium est,
Gentilitatis sordida nubila.

Hæc calcat Agnes, hæc pede proterit,
Stans, et draconis calce premens caput:
Terrena mundi qui ferus omnia
Spargit venenis, mergit et inferis,
Nunc virginali perdomitus solo,
Cristas cerebri deprimit ignei,
Nec victus audet tollere verticem.

Cingit coronis interea Deus
Frontem duabus martyris innubæ
Unam decemplex edita sexies
Merces perenni lumine conficit:
Centenus exstat fructus in altera.

O virgo felix, o nova gloria,
Cœlestis arcis nobilis incoia,
Intende nostris colluvionibus
Vultum gemello cum diademate:
Cui posse soli Cunctiparens dedit
Castum vel ipsum reddere fornicem.

Purgabor oris propitiabilis
Fulgore, nostrum si jecur impleas.
Nil non pudicum est quod pia visere
Dignaris, almo vel pede tangere.
The tomb of Agnes, the intrepid maiden,
the glorious Martyr, is in the city of Romulus.
In her resting-place, fronting the ramparts,
the Virgin watches over the sons of Quirinus;
and to pilgrims, too, that pray to her
with pure and faithful hearts, she extends her protection.
She is a Martyr that wears a double crown;
for she was a spotless, innocent virgin;
and a glorious victim that freely died for Christ.

It is related that when a girl,
and too young to be a bride,
she loved Jesus with tenderest love, and bravely withstood
the impious commands that bade her offer sacrifice
to the idols, and deny the holy faith.

No art was left untried to make her yield;
the judge put on the softness of winning words,
and the grim executioner blustered out his threats:
but Agnes stood firm in stern courageousness,
bidding them put her body to their fierce tortures,
for she was willing to die.

Then spoke the fierce tyrant: 'I know thy readiness
to suffer pain and tortures, and at how low a price
thou settest life; but there is one thing
thou holdest dear—a virgin's purity.

‘Tis this I have resolved to expose to insult in the common brothel,
unless thy head shall bend before the altar of our virgin-goddess Minerva,
and thou, a virgin that darest to despise a virgin such as she,
shalt humbly crave her pardon.
There shall youthful wantons have access,
and thou be minister to passion.'

'And thinkest thou,’ said Agnes, ‘that Christ can so forget
his children as to let our gold of purity be robbed,
and us be outcasts to his care?
He is ever with the chaste, shielding from injury
the gift he has bestowed of holy virginity.

Thy sword may drip, if so thou listest, with our blood;
but contamination and dishonour, never!'

Scarce had she said these words, than order was given
to expose her in the vaults
of the well-known street.
A throng, indeed, was there; but pity put a veil
o'er every eye, and fear imposed respect.
Save one alone, and gaze, he says, he will.
He scorns this modest fear,
which checks the froward eye.

But lo! an Angel, swift as lightning,
strikes and blinds the wanton wretch.
He falls, and writhes amidst the dust.
His fellows raise him from the ground,
lifeless, as he seems to them; and weeping
and lamenting, bear the corpse away.

Agnes had triumphed: and in a hymn of praise,
she sings her thanks to God the Father and his Christ,
for that they had turned the den of infamy
into a shelter for her treasure,
and made virginity victorious.

Some say that she was prayed
to pray to Christ that he would restore
the prostrate sinner to the vision he had lost:
she did so, and the youth regained his consciousness and sight.

But this was only one step towards heaven
for our Saint; a second is to come.
The cruel tyrant boils with furious wrath,
and choked with disappointment, exclaims:
‘Shall I be baffled by a girl? Draw thy sword,
soldier, and do the royal biddings of our sovereign lord.'

Agnes looked up, and saw the savage minion standing
with his unsheathed sword, and thus she spoke with beaming face:
'Oh! happy, happy change! A wild, fierce,
boisterous swordsman, for that young love-sick,
smooth-faced, soft perfumed
murderer of the chaste soul!
‘This is a suitor that does please me.
I will not run from him, nor deny him what he asks.
His steel shall nestle in my bosom,
and his sword shall warm
in my heart's best blood.
Thus wedded to my Christ,
I shall mount above the dark world
to the realms beyond the clouds.

‘Eternal King! the gate of heaven, closed to men before thy coming
on our earth, is opened now: ah! let me enter in.
Call to thyself, my Jesus, a soul that seeks but thee:
thy virgin-spouse, and thy Father’s martyr—call me, Lord, to thee.'
Thus did she pray; and then, with bended head,
adored her Lord, and in this posture was the readier
to receive the uplifted sword.

The soldier’s hand was raised, and all the hopes of Agnes were fulfilled,
for with a single blow he beheads the holy maiden,
and death comes speedily to leave no time for pain.
Quickly her spirit quits its garb of flesh,
and speeds untrammelled through the air,
surrounded, as it mounts, by a choir of lovely Angels.

She sees this orb of ours far far below,
and all beneath her seems a speck of dark.
All earthly things are now so dwindled to her spirit's eye,
that she looks at them and smiles: yea, all seems poor:
the space traversed by the Sun, the globe with all its system, all that lives in the stormy whirlwind of creation, and changes with the vain fickleness of the world.

Kings and tyrants, empires and all ranks;
the pompous pageantry of honours big with folly;
the sovereignty of gold and silver,
which all men seek with rapid thirst,
and gain by varied crime; sumptuous dwellings;
rich coloured garbs, mere graceful lies;
wrath and fear, hope and peril;
grief so long, and joy so brief;
black envy’s smoky flames,
which blight men's hopes and fame;
and last but worst of all earth’s ills,
the gloomy cloud of pagan superstition.

Agnes sees all this, and tramples on it all.
She stands, and crushes with her foot the serpent’s head.
This monster with his venom taints all things on earth,
and plunges into hell the fools that are his slaves;
but now he crouching lies beneath a virgin’s foot,
droops his fiery crest,
and dares not raise his vanquished head.

And now our God girds with two crowns
the Virgin-Martyr's brow:
one is a sixtyfold of light
eternal and reward;
the other is the hundredfold of fruit.

O happy Virgin! Singular in thy glory!
Noble inhabitant of heaven, decked with a twofold crown!
Oh! look upon us who live in misery and sin;
for to thee alone did our Heavenly Father
give the power to change impurity's abode
into the shelter of chastity.

Fill my heart with the bright ray of thine intercession,
and I shall be cleansed;
for all is pure that can from thy pity
gain a look or loving visit.

There is still another hymn to the praise of Agnes. It is from the pen of Adam of Saint-Victor, and is one of the finest of his sequences.


Animemur ad agonem,
Recolentes passionem
Gloriosæ virginis.

Contrectantes sacrum florem,
Respiremus ad odorem
Respersæ dulcedinis.

Pulchra, prudens et illustris,
Jam duobus Agnes lustris
Addebat triennium.

Proles amat hanc præfecti:
Sed ad ejus virgo flecti
Respuit arbitrium.

Mira vis fidei,
Mira virginitas,
Mira virginei
Cordis integritas.

Sic Dei Filius,
Nutu mirabili,
Se mirabilius
Prodit in fragili.

Languet amans: cubat lecto:
Languor notus fit præfecto;
Maturat remedia.

Offert multa, spondet plura,
Periturus peritura;
Sed vilescunt omnia.

Nudam prostituit
Præses flagitiis:
Quam Christus induit
Comarum fimbriis
Stolaque cœlesti.

Cœlestis nuncius
Assistit propius:
Cella libidinis
Fit locus luminis;
Turbantur incesti.

Cæcus amans indignatur,
Et irrumpens præfocatur
A maligno spiritu.

Luget pater, lugent cuncti:
Roma flevit pro defuncti
Juvenis interitu.

Suscitatur ab Agnete,
Turba fremit indiscrete:
Rogum parant Virgini.

Rogus ardens reos urit,
In furentes flamma furit,
Dans honorem Nummi.

Grates agens Salvatori,
Guttur offert hæc lictori,
Nec ad horam timet mori,
Puritatis conscia.

Agnes, Agni salutaris
Stans ad dextram gloriaris,
Et parentes consolaris
Invitans ad gaudia.

Ne te flerent ut defunctam
Jam cœlesti Sponso junctam:
His sub agni forma suam
Revelavit, atque tuam
Virginalem gloriam.

Nos ab Agno salutari
Non permitte separari,
Cui te totam consecrasti;
Cujus ope tu curasti
Nobilem Constantiam.

Vas electura, vas honoris,
Incorrupti flos odoris,
Angelorum grata choris,
Honestatis et pudoris
Formam præbes sæculo.

Palma fruens triumphali,
Flore vernans virginali,
Nos indignos speciali
Fac sanctorum generali
Vel subscribi titulo.

Let us gain courage for our own battle
by honouring the martyrdom
of the glorious virgin Agnes.

Let us look at this sweet flower of our feast,
and inhale into our souls
the virtues of its fragrance.

Agnes was fair
and wise and rich,
and had reached her thirteenth year.

The Prefect’s son saw and loved her;
but the maiden could not be
induced to grant his suit.

How great is the power of faith!
How wonderful is Virginity!
How admirable
the purity of a virgin’s heart!

’Tis thus that Jesus,
by a wonderful dispensation,
shows himself strongest
in the weakest.

Sick, then, with love, the suitor takes to bed;
his sickness is made known to the Prefect;
the cure is prepared.

Gifts in abundance, promises without end;
but giver and gifts, both are perishable things;
and Agnes thought both beneath her.

The Prefect condemns her
to the worst of insults;
Christ protects her
with the flowing tresses of her head,
and a garment he sends her from heaven.

He sends an Angel
to stand by her.
The den of infamy
becomes a mansion of light;
and consternation checks the wanton crowd.

The blind suitor is angry,
and rushing at his prey,
is choked by the wicked spirit.

The father mourns, and all mourn;
Rome wept for the death
of the young man.

Agnes raises him to life;
the crowd is in confusion,
and prepares a fire on which to burn the virgin.

The fire burns the guilty;
the flame rages against them,
and avenges the honour of God.

The Saint gives thanks to her Saviour;
offers her head to the executioner,
and dies unfearingly,
for her purity was safe.

O Agnes, standing at the right hand of the Lamb,
thy Saviour, thou art now in glory,
and thou consolest thy parents,
inviting them to bliss.

Thou biddest them not mourn for thee as for one that was dead,
for that thou wast now united to the heavenly Spouse:
and he, under the form of a Lamb,
reveals to them his own
and thy virginal glory.

Suffer us not to be separated
from the Lamb, our Saviour,
to whom thou didst consecrate thy whole being;
and by whose power
thou didst heal the lady Constance.

Vessel of election! vessel of honour!
flower of unfading fragrance!
beloved of the choirs of Angels!
thou art an example to the world
of virtue and chastity.

O thou that wearest a Martyr’s palm
and a Virgin’s wreath!
pray for us, that, though unworthy of a special crown,
we may have our names
written in the list of Saints.


How sweet and yet how strong, O Agnes! is the love of Jesus, thy Spouse! It enters an innocent heart, and that heart becomes full of dauntless courage! Thus was it with thee. The world and its pleasures, persecution and its tortures, all were alike contemptible to thee. The pagan judge condemned thee to an insult worse than a thousand deaths, and thou didst not know that the Angel of the Lord would defend thee! how is it that thou hadst no fear? It was because the love of Jesus filled thy heart. Fire was nothing; the sword was nothing; the very hell of men's making, even that was nothing to thee! for thy love told thee that no human power could ever rob thee of thy Jesus; thou hadst his word for it, and thou knewest he would keep it.

Dear Child! innocent even in the capital of pagan corruption, and free of heart even amidst a slavish race, we see the image of our Emmanuel in thee. He is the Lamb; and thou art simple, like him: he is the Lion of the Tribe of Juda; and like him thou art invincible. Truly these Christians, as the pagans said, are a race of beings come from heaven to people this earth! A family that has martyrs and heroes and heroines like thee, brave Saint! that has young virgins, filled, like its venerable pontiffs and veteran soldiers, with the fire of heaven, and burning with ambition to leave a world they have edified with their virtues, is God's own people, and it never can be extinct. Its martyrs are to us the representation of the divine virtues of our Lord Jesus Christ. By nature they were as weak as we; they had a disadvantage which we have not—they had to live in the very thick of paganism, and paganism had corrupted the whole earth; and notwithstanding all this, they were courageous and chaste.

Have pity on us and help us, O thou, one of the brightest of these great Saints! The love of Jesus is weak in our hearts. We are affected and shed tears at the recital of thy heroic conduct; but we are cowards in the battle we ourselves have to fight against the world and our passions. Habitual seeking after ease and comfort has fastened upon us a certain effeminacy: we are ever throwing away our interest upon trifles; how can we have earnestness and courage for our duties? Sanctity! we cannot understand it; and when we hear or read of it, we gravely say that the Saints did very strange things and were indiscreet, and were carried away by exaggerated notions! What must we think, on this thy feast, of thy contempt for the world and all its pleasures, of thy heavenly enthusiasm, of thy eagerness to go to Jesus by suffering? Thou wast a Christian, Agnes! Are we too Christians? Oh! pray for us that we may love like Christians, that is, with a generous and active love, with a love which can feel indignant when asked to have less detachment from all that is not God. Pray for us, that our piety may be that of the Gospel, and not the fashionable piety which pleases the world, and makes us pleased with ourselves. There are some brave hearts who follow thy example; but they are few; increase their number by thy prayers, that so the Divine Lamb may be followed, whithersoever he goeth in heaven, by a countless number of virgins and martyrs.

Innocent Saint! we meet thee each year at the Crib of the Divine Babe, and we delight, on thy Feast, to think of the wonderful love there is between Jesus and his brave little Martyr. This Lamb is come to die for us too, and invites us to Bethlehem; speak to him for us; the intercession of a Saint who loved him as thou didst can work wonders even for such sinners as we. Lead us to his sweet Virgin-Mother. Thou didst imitate her virginal purity; ask her to give us those powerful prayers which can cleanse even worse hearts than ours.

Pray also, O Agnes! for the Holy Church, which is the Spouse of Jesus. It was she that gave thee to be his, and it is from her that we also have received our life and our light. Pray that she may be blessed with an ever-increasing number of faithful virgins. Protect Rome, the city which guards thy relics, and loves thee so tenderly. Bless the Prelates of the Church, and obtain for them the meekness of the lamb, the firmness of the Rock, the zeal of the good Shepherd for his lost sheep. And lastly, O Spouse of Jesus! hear the prayers of all who invoke thee, and let thy charity for us thy exiled brethren learn from the Heart of Jesus the secret of growing more ardent as the world grows older.



[1] St Matt. xxiv 28.
[2] Ibid. v 8.
[3] Now the Piazza. Navona.
[4] Book I post initium.