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February

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Church honours, on this fourteenth day of February, the memory of the holy priest Valentine, who suffered martyrdom towards the middle of the third century. The ravages of time have deprived us of the details of his life and sufferings; so that extremely little is known of our saint. This is the reason of there being no lessons of his life in the Roman liturgy. His name, however, has always been honoured throughout the whole Church, and it is our duty to revere him as one of our protectors during the season of Septuagesima. He is one of those many holy martyrs, who meet us at this period of our year, and encourage us to spare no sacrifice which can restore us to, or increase within us, the grace of God.

Pray, then, O holy martyr, for the faithful, who are so persevering in celebrating thy memory. The day of judgment will reveal to us all thy glorious merits: oh, intercede for us, that we may then be made thy companions at the right hand of the great Judge, and be united with thee eternally in heaven.

Antiphon

Iste sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.

Oremus

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui beati Valentini martyris tui natalitia colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus ejus intercessione liberemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
This saint fought even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.

Let us Pray

Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we who solemnize the festival of blessed Valentine, thy martyr, may, by his intercession, be delivered from all the evils that threaten us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The two brothers whom we are to honour to-day suffered martyrdom in the beginning of the second century, and their memory has ever been celebrated in the Church. The glory of the great ones of this world passes away, and men soon forget even their very names. Historians have oftentimes a difficulty in proving that such heroes ever existed, or, if they did exist, that they flourished at such a period, or achieved anything worth notice. Brescia, the capital of one of the Italian provinces, can scarcely mention the names of those who were its governors or leading men in the second century; and yet here are two of her citizens, whose names will be handed down, with veneration and love, to the end of the world, and the whole of Christendom is filled with the praise of their glorious martyrdom. Glory, then, to these sainted brothers, whose example so eloquently preaches to us the great lesson of our season, fidelity in God's service.

The sufferings which merited for them the crown of immortality, are thus recorded in the liturgy:

Faustinus et Jovita fratres nobiles Brixiani, in multis Italiæ urbibus quo vincti, sæviente Trajani persecutione, ducebantur, acerbissima supplicia perpessi, fortes in Christianæ fidei confessione perstiterunt. Nam Brixiæ diu vinculis constricti, feris etiam objecti in ignemque conjecti, et a bestiis et flamma integri et incolumes servati sunt; inde vero iisdem catenis colligati Mediolanum venerunt, ubi eorum fides tentata exquisitissimis tormentis, tanquam igne aurum, in cruciatibus magis enituit. Postea Romam missi, ab Evaristo Pontifice confirmati, ibi quoque crudelissime torquentur. Denique perducti Neapolim, in ea etiam urbe varie cruciati, vinctis manibus pedibusque in mare demerguntur: unde per angelos mirabiliter erepti sunt. Quare multos et constantia in tormentis, et miraculorum virtute ad Christi fidem converterunt. Postremo reducti Brixiam, initio suscepti ab Adriano imperii, securi percussi, illustrem martyrii coronam acceperunt.
The two brothers, Faustinus and Jovita, were born of a noble family in Brescia. During the persecution under Trajan, they were led captives through various cities of Italy, in each of which they were made to endure most cruel sufferings, by reason of their brave confession of the Christian faith, which nothing could induce them to deny. At Brescia, they were for a long time confined in chains; then were exposed to wild beasts, and cast into fire, from neither of which tortures did they receive hurt or harm. From Brescia they were sent to Milan, still fettered with the same chains: and there their faith was put to the test of every torment that cruelty could devise; but, like gold that is tried by fire, their faith shone the brighter by these sufferings. After this, they were sent to Rome, where they received encouragement from Pope Evaristus; but there, also, they were made to endure most cruel pains. At length they were taken to Naples, and there, again, put to sundry tortures; after which, they were bound hand and foot, and cast into the sea; but were miraculously delivered by angels. Many persons were converted to the true faith, by seeing their courage in suffering, and the miracles they wrought. Finally, they were led back to Brescia, at the commencement of the reign of the Emperor Adrian; there they were beheaded, and received the crown of a glorious martyrdom.

When we compare our trials with yours, noble martyrs of Christ, and our combats with those that you had to fight, how grateful ought we to be to our Lord for having so mercifully taken our weakness into account! Should we have been able to endure the tortures, wherewith you had to purchase heaven, we that are so easily led to break the law of God, so tardy in our conversion, so weak in faith and charity? And yet, we are made for that same heaven which you now possess. God holds out a crown to us also, and we are not at liberty to refuse it. Rouse up our courage, brave martyrs! Obtain for us a spirit of resistance against the world and our evil inclinations; that thus we may confess our Lord Jesus Christ, not only with our lips, but with our works too, and testify, by our conduct, that we are Christians.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

How venerable our saint of to-day, with his hundred and twenty years, and his episcopal dignity, and his martyr-crown! He succeeded the apostle St. James in the see of Jerusalem; he had known Jesus, and had been His disciple; he was related to Jesus, for he was of the house of David; his father was Cleophas, and his mother that Mary, whom the tie of kindred united so closely to the blessed Mother of God that she has been called her sister. What grand titles these of Simeon who comes with all our other martyrs of Septuagesima, to inspirit us to penance! Such a veteran, who had been a contemporary of the Saviour of the world, and was a pastor who could repeat to his flock the very lessons Jesus had given him, could never rejoin his divine Master save by the path of martyrdom, and that martyrdom must be the cross. Like Jesus, then, he dies on a cross; and his death, which happened in the year 106, closes the first period of the Christian era, or, as it is called, the apostolic age. Let us honour this venerable pontiff, whose name awakens within us the recollection of all that is dear to our faith. Let us ask him to extend to us that fatherly love, which nursed the Church of Jerusalem for so many long years. He will bless us from that throne which he won by the cross, and will obtain for us the grace we so much need, the grace of conversion.

The following is the lesson given on St. Simeon:

Simeon, filius Cleophæ, post Jacobum proximus Hierosolymis ordinatus episcopus, Trajano imperatore, apud Atticura consularem est accusatus, quod christianus esset, et Christi propin quus. Comprehendebantur enim omnes eo tempore, quicumque ex genere David orti essent. Quare multis cruciatus tormentis, eodem passionis genere, quod Salvator noster subierat, afficitur, mirantibus omnibus, quod homo ætate confectus (erat enim centum et viginti annorum) acerbissimos crucis dolores fortiter constanterque pateretur.
Simeon, the son of Cleophas, was ordained bishop of Jerusalem, and was Saint James’s immediate successor in that see. In the reign of the Emperor Trajan, he was accused to the Consul Atticus of being a Christian and a relation of Christ; for, at this time, all they that were of the house of David were seized. After having endured various tortures, Simeon was put to death by the same punishment which our Saviour suffered, and all the beholders were filled with astonishment to see how, at his age (for he was a hundred and twenty years old), he could go through the intense pains of crucifixion, without showing a sign of fear or irresolution.

Receive, most venerable saint, the humble homage of our devotion. What is all human glory compared with thine? Thou wast of the family of Christ; thy teaching was that which His divine lips had given thee; thy charity for men was formed on the model of His sacred Heart; and thy death was the closest representation of His. We may not claim the honour thou hadst, of calling ourselves brothers of the Lord Jesus: but pray for us, that we may be of those of whom He thus speaks: ‘Whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.’[1] We have not, like thee, received the doctrine of salvation from the very lips of Jesus; but we have it in all its purity, by means of holy tradition, of which thou art one of the earliest links; oh, obtain for us a docility to this word of God, and pardon for our past disobedience. We have not to be nailed to a cross, as thou wast; but the world is thickly set with trials, to which our Lord Himself gives the name of the cross. These we must bear with patience, if we would have part with Jesus in His glory. Pray for us, O Simeon, that henceforth we may be more faithful; that we may never more become rebels to our duty; and that we may repair the faults we have so often committed by infringing the law of our God.

 


 

[1] St. Matt. xii. 50.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

We are called upon, a second time, to honour St. Peter’s chair: first, it was his pontificate in Rome; to-day, it is his episcopate at Antioch. The seven years spent by the prince of the apostles in the second of these cities, were the grandest glory she ever had; and they are too important a portion of the life of St. Peter to be passed by without being noticed in the Christian cycle.

Three years had elapsed since our Lord’s Ascension. The Church had already been made fruitful by martyrdom, and from Jerusalem she had spread into distant countries. Antioch, the first of the cities of Asia, had received the Gospel; and it was there that those who professed the faith of Jesus were first called Christians. Jerusalem was doomed to destruction for having not only refused to acknowledge, but even crucified, the Messias: it was time for Peter, in whom resided the supreme power, to deprive the faithless city of the honour she had heretofore enjoyed, of possessing within her walls the chair of the apostolate. It was towards the Gentiles that the Holy Spirit drove those clouds, which were shown to Isaias as the symbol of the holy apostles.[1] Accordingly, it is in Antioch, the third capital of the Roman Empire, that Peter first places the august throne, on which, as vicegerent of Christ, he presides over the universal Church.

But the progress of the apostles was so rapid; the conquests they made, in spite of every opposition, were so extensive, that the vicar of Christ was inspired to leave Antioch, after he had honoured it with the chair during the space of seven years. Alexandria, the second city of the empire, is also to be made a see of Peter; and Rome, the capital of the world, awaits the grand privilege for which God has long been preparing her. Onwards, then, does the prince advance, bearing with him the destinies of the Church; where he fixes his last abode, and where he dies, there will he have his successor in his sublime dignity of vicar of Christ. He leaves Antioch, making one of his disciples, Evodius, its bishop. Evodius succeeds Peter as bishop of Antioch; but that see is not to inherit the headship of the Church, which goes whithersoever Peter goes. He sends Mark, another of his disciples, to take possession, in his name, of Alexandria; and this Church he would have to be the second in the world, and though he has not ruled it in person, he raises it above that of Antioch. This done, he goes to Rome, where he permanently establishes that chair, on which he will live, and teach, and rule, in his successors, to the end of time.

And here we have the origin of the three great patriarchal sees, which were the object of so much veneration in the early ages: the first is Rome, invested with all the prerogatives of the prince of the apostles, which, when dying, he transmitted to her; the second is Alexandria, which owes her preeminence to Peter’s adopting her as his second see; the third is Antioch, whither he repaired in person, when he left Jerusalem to bring to the Gentiles the grace of adoption. If, therefore, Antioch is below Alexandria in rank, Alexandria never enjoyed the honour granted to Antioch, of having been governed, in person, by him whom Christ appointed to be the supreme pastor of His Church. Nothing, then, could be more just, than that Antioch should be honoured, as having, for seven years, had the privilege of being the centre of Christendom; and this is the object of to-day’s feast.

The children of the Church have a right to feel a special interest in every solemnity that is kept in memory of St. Peter. The father’s feast is a feast for the whole family; for to him it owes its very life. If there be but one fold, it is because there is but one Shepherd. Let us, then, honour Peter’s divine prerogative, to which Christianity owes its preservation; and let us often reflect upon the obligations we are under to the apostolic see. On the feast of the chair at Rome, we saw how faith is taught, and maintained, and propagated by the mother-Church, which has inherited the promises made to Peter. To-day, let us consider the apostolic see as the sole source of the legitimate power, whereby mankind is ruled and governed in all that concerns eternal salvation.

Our Saviour said to Peter: ‘To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’[2] that is to say, of the Church. He said to him on another occasion: ‘Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.’[3] So that Peter is prince; for, in the language of the sacred Scriptures, keys denote princely power: he is also pastor, and universal pastor; for the whole flock is comprised under the two terms, lambs and sheep. And yet there are other pastors in every portion of the Christian world. The bishops, whom the Holy Ghost hath placed to rule the Church of God,[4] govern, in his name, their respective dioceses, and are also pastors. How comes it that the keys, which were given to Peter, are found in other hands than his? The Catholic Church explains the difficulty to us by her tradition. She says to us, by Tertullian: ‘Christ gave the keys to Peter, and through him to the Church.’[5] By St. Optatus of Milevis: 'For the sake of unity, Peter was made the first among all the apostles, and he alone received the keys, that he might give them to the rest.’[6] By St. Gregory of Nyssa: ‘It is through Peter that Christ gave to bishops the keys of their heavenly prerogative.’[7] By St. Leo the Great: 'If our Lord willed that there should be something 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.’[8]

Yes, the episcopate is most sacred, for it comes from the hands of Jesus Christ through Peter and his successors. Such is the unanimous teaching of Catholic tradition, which is in keeping with the language used by the Roman pontiffs, from the earliest ages, who have always spoken of the dignity of bishops as consisting in their being ‘called to a share of their own solicitude.' Hence St. Cyprian does not hesitate to say that 'our Saviour, wishing to establish the episcopal dignity and constitute His Church, says to Peter: “To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and here we have both the institution of bishops, and the constitution of the Church.’[9] This same doctrine is clearly stated in a letter written to Pope St. Symmachus by St. Cesarius of Arles, who lived in the fifth century: ‘The episcopate flows from the blessed apostle Peter; and consequently, it belongs to your holiness to prescribe to the several Churches the rules which they are to follow.’[10] This fundamental principle, which St. Leo the Great has so ably and eloquently developed (as we have seen on the feast of the chair at Rome, January 18), this principle, which is taught us by universal tradition, is laid down with all possible precision in the magnificent letters, still extant, of Pope St. Innocent I., who preceded St. Leo by several years. Thus he writes to the Council of Carthage, that ‘the episcopate, with all its authority, emanates from the apostolic see’;[11] to the Council of Milevis, that 'bishops must look upon Peter as the source whence both their name and their dignity are derived’;[12] to St. Victricius, bishop of Rouen, that 'the apostolate and the episcopate both owe their origin to Peter.’[13]

Controversy is not our object. All we aim at by giving these quotations from the fathers on the prerogatives of Peter’s chair, is to excite the faithful to be devoted to it and venerate it. This we have endeavoured to do, by showing them that this chair is the source of the spiritual authority, which, in its several degrees, rules and sanctifies them. All spiritual authority comes from Peter; all comes from the bishop of Rome, in whom Peter will continue to govern the Church to the end of time. Jesus Christ is the founder of the episcopate; it is the Holy Ghost who establishes bishops to rule the Church; but the mission and the institution, which assign the pastor his flock, and the flock its pastor, these are given by Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost through the ministry of Peter and his successors.

How sacred, how divine, is this authority of the keys, which is first given by heaven itself to the Roman Pontiff; then is delegated by him to the prelates of the Church; and thus guides and blesses the whole Christian world! The apostolic see has varied its mode of transmitting such an authority according to the circumstances of the several ages; but the one source of the whole power was always the same, the chair of Peter. We have already seen how, at the commencement, there were three chairs: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; and all three were sources of the canonical institution of the bishops of their respective provinces; but they were all three chairs of Peter, for they were founded by him that they might preside over their patriarchates, as St. Leo,[14] St. Gelasius,[15] and St. Gregory the Great,[16] expressly teach. But of these three chairs, the Pontiff of Rome had his authority and his institution from heaven; whereas, the two other patriarchs could not exercise their rights, until they were recognized and confirmed by him who was Peter’s successor, as vicar of Christ. Later on, two other sees were added to these first three: but it was only by the consent of the Roman Pontiff that Constantinople and Jerusalem obtained such an honour. Let us notice, too, the difference there is between the accidental honours conferred on four of these Churches, and the divine prerogative of the Church of Rome. By God’s permission, the sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, were defiled by heresy; they became chairs of pestilence;[17] and having corrupted the faith they received from Rome, they could not transmit to others the mission they themselves had forfeited. Sad indeed was the ruin of such pillars as these! Peter’s hand had placed them in the Church. They had merited the love and veneration of men; but they fell; and their fall gave one more proof of the solidity of that edifice, which Christ Himself had built on Peter. The unity of the Church was made more visible. Obliged by the treachery of her own favoured children to deprive them of the privileges they had received from her, Rome was, more evidently than ever, the sole source of pastoral power.

We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on them the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.

Thus it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain,[18] gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisfied with this. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honour, then, and submission to Jesus in His vicar! honour and submission to the vicar of Christ in the pastors he sends!

As a tribute of our devotion to the prince of the apostles, let us recite, in his honour, the following hymn, composed by St. Peter Damian:

HYMN

Senatus apostolici
Princeps, et præco Domini:
Pastor prime fidelium,
Custodi gregem creditum.

Per pascua virentia,
Nos verbi fruge recrea:
Refectas oves prævius
Caulis infer cœlestibus.

Supernæ claves januæ
Tibi, Petre, sunt traditæ:
Tuisque patent legibus
Terrena cum cœlestibus.

Tu petram veræ fidei,
Tu basini sedificii
Fundas, in qua Catholica
Fixa surgit Ecclesia.

Umbra tua, dum graderis,
Fit medicina languidis;
Textrinis usa vestium
Sprevit Tabitha feretrum.

Catena vinctum gemina,
Virtus solvit angelica;
Veste sumpta cum caligis,
Patescunt fores carceris.

Sit Patri laus ingenito,
Sit decus Unigenito,
Sit utriusque parili
Majestas summa Flamini.

Amen.
O prince of the apostolic senate!
Herald of our Lord!
First pastor of the faithful!
watch over the flock entrusted to thee.

Lead us through verdant pastures,
feeding us with the nourishment of the word;
and lead us, thus fed, into the heavenly fold,
whither thou hast already gone.

To thee, Peter, have been delivered
the keys of heaven’s gate;
and all things, both in heaven and on earth,
acknowledge thy authority.

’Tis thou that choosest the city
where is to be established the rock of the true faith,
the foundation of the building,
on which the Catholic Church stands immovable.

Thy shadow, as thou passest by,
heals the sick;
and Tabitha, that made garments for the poor,
was raised to life at thy bidding.

Bound with two chains,
thou wast set free by an angel's power;
he bids thee put on thy garments and thy sandals,
and lo! the prisondoor is opened.

To the Father unbegotten,
and to the only-begotten Son,
and to the coequal Spirit of them both,
be praise and kingly highest power.

Amen.

Glory be to thee, O prince of the apostles, on thy chair at Antioch, where thou didst for seven years preside over the universal Church! How magnificent are the stations of thy apostolate! Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria (by thy disciple Mark), and Rome, these are the cities which have been honoured by thy august chair. After Rome, Antioch was the longest graced by its presence: justly, therefore, do we honour this Church, which was thus made, by thee, the mother and mistress of all other Churches. Alas! all her beauty has now left her; her faith is dead; she is in bondage to the Saracen. Save her, take her once more under thy power, bring her into allegiance to Rome, where thou hast thy chair, not for seven years only, but for all ages. The gates of hell have let loose the fury of every tempest upon thee, firm rock of the Church! and we ourselves have Been the immortal chair banished for a time from Rome. The words of St. Ambrose then came to our minds: ‘Where Peter is, there is the Church.’ How could we despair? Did we not know, that it was God’s inspiration which made thee choose Rome for the fixed resting-place of thy throne? No human will can put asunder what God has united; the bishop of Rome must ever be the vicar of Christ; and the vicar of Christ, let sacrilege and persecution banish him as they will, must ever be the bishop of Rome. Holy apostle! calm the wildness of the tempest, lest the weak should take scandal. Beseech our Lord that He permit not the residence of thy successor to be disturbed in that holy city, which has been chosen for so great an honour. If it be that her inhabitants deserve punishment for their offences, spare them for the sake of their brethren of the rest of the world; and pray for them, that their faith may once more become what it was when St. Paul praised it, and said to them: ‘Your faith is spoken of in the whole world.’[19]


[1] Isa. lx. 8.
[2] St. Matt. xvi. 19.
[3] St. John xxi. 15, 17.
[4] Acts xx. 28.
[5] Scorpiac., cap. x.
[6] Contra Parmenianum, lib. vii.
[7] Opp., tom. iii.
[8] In Anniv. assumpt., serm. iv.
[9] Epist. xxxiii.
[10] Ibid., x.
[11] Ibid., xxix.
[12] Ibid., xxx.
[13] Ibid., ii.
[14] Epist. civ. Ad Anatolium.
[15] Concli. Romanum. Labb., tom. iv.
[16] Epist. Ad Eulogium.
[17] Ps. i. 1.
[18] St. Matt. v. 14.
[19] Rom. i. 8.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

It is the feast of the austere reformer of the eleventh century, Peter Damian, the precursor of the holy pontiff Gregory VII., that we are called upon to celebrate to-day. To him is due in part that glorious regeneration, which was effected at that troubled period when judgment had to begin at the house of God.[1] The life he had led under the monastic rule had fitted him for the great contest. So zealously did he withstand the disorders and abuses of his times, that we may attribute to him, at least in great measure, the ardent faith of the two centuries which followed the scandals of the tenth. The Church ranks him among her doctors, on account of his admirable writings: and his penitential life ought to excite us to be fervent in the work we have in hand, the work of our conversion.

The following lessons, read by the Church, on this feast, give us a sketch of our saint’s life:

Petrus, Ravennæ honestis parentibus natus, adhuc lactens a matre numerosæ prolis pertæsa abjicitur, sed domesticæ mulieris opera semivivus exceptus ac recreatus, genitrici ad humanitatis sensum revocata redditur. Utroque orbatus parente, tamquam vile mancipium sub aspera fratria tutela duram servitutem exercuit. Religionis in Deum ac pietatis erga patrem egregium tunc specimen dedit; inventum siquidem forte nummum non propriæ mediæ sublevandæ, sed sacerdoti qui divinum sacrificium ad illius expiationem offerret, erogavit. A Damiano fratre, a quo, uti fertur, cognomentum accepit, benigne receptus, ejus cura litteris eruditur, in quibus brevi tantum profecit, ut magistris admirationi esset. Quum autem liberalibus scientiis floreret et nomine, eas cum laude docuit. Interim ut corpus rationi subderet, sub mollibus vesitibus cilicium adhibuit, jejuniis, vigiliis, et orationibus solerter insistens. Calente juventa, dum carnis stimulis acriter urgeretur, insultan tium libidinum faces rigentibus fluvii mersus aquis noctu extinguebat: tum venerabilia quæque loca obire, tofcumque psalterium recitare consueverat. Ope assidua pauperes levabat, quibus frequenter pastis convivio, propriis ipse manibus ministrabat.

Perficiendæ magis vitæ causa, in Avellanensi Eugubinæ diœcesis cœnobio, Ordini monachorum sanctæ Crucis Fontis Avellanæ, a beato Ludulpho sancti Romualdi discipulo fundato, nomen dedit. Non ita multo post in monasterum Pomposianum, mox in cœnobium Sancti Vincentii Petræ Pertusæ ab abbate suo missus, utrumque asceterium verbo sacro, præclaris institutionibus et moribus excoluit. Ad suos revocatus, post præsidis obitum Avellanitarurm familiæ præficitur, quam novis variis in locis extructis domiciliis, et sanctissimis institutis ita auxit, ut alter ejus Ordinis parens ac præcipuum ornamentum jure sit habitus. Salutarem Petri sollicitudinem alia quoque diversi instituti cœnobia, canonicorum conventus, et populi sunt experti. Urbinati diœcesi non uno nomine profuit: Theuzoni episcopo in causa gravissima assedit, ipsumque in recte administrando episcopatu consilio et opera juvit. Divinorum contemplatione, corporis macerationibus,cæterisque spectatæ sanctimoniæ exemplis excelluit. His motus Stephanus Nonus, Pontifex maximus, eum licet invitum et reluctantem sanctæ Komanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem creavit, et Ostiensem episcopum. Quas Petrus dignitates splendidissimis virtutibus, et consentaneis episcopali ministerio operibus gessit.

Difficillimo tempore Romanæ Ecclesiæ summisque Pontificibus doctrina, legationibus, aliisque susceptis laboribus mirifice adfuit. Adversus Nicolaitarum et Simoniacam hæreses ad mortem usque strenue decertavit. Hujusmodi depulsis malia, Mediolanen sem Ecclesiæ Komanæ conciliavit. Benedicto, et Cadaloo, falsis Pontificibus, fortiter restitit. Henricum quartum Germaniæ regem ab iniquo uxoris divortio deterruit: Ravennates ad debita Romano Pontifici obsequia revocatos sacris restituit. Canonicos Veliternos ad sanctioris vitæ leges composuit. In provincia prasertim Urbinate vix ulla fuit episcopalis ecclesia, de qua Petrus non sit bene meritus: Eugubinam, quam aliquan do creditam habuit, multis levavit incommodis: alias alibi, quando oportuit, perinde curavit, ac si suæ essent tutelæcommissæ. Cardinalatu, et episcopali dignitate depositis, nihil de pristina juvandi proximos sedulitate remisit. Jejunium sextæ feriæ in honorem sanctæ crucis Jesu Christi, horarias beatæ Dei Genitricis preces, ejusque die Sabbato cultum propagavit. Inferendæ quoque sibi verberationis morem ad patratorum scelerum expiationem provexit. Demum sanctitate, doctrina, miraeulis, et præclare actis illustris, dum e Ravennate legatione rediret, Faventiæ octavo Kalendas Martii migravit ad Christum. Ejus corpus ibidem apud Cistercienses multis miraculis darum frequenti populorum veneratione colitur. Ipsum Faventini non semel in præsenti discrimine propitium experti, patronum apud Deum delegerunt: Leo vero duodecimus, Pontifex maximus, Officium Missamque in ejus honorem tamquam confessoris pontificis, quæ aliquibus in diœcesibus, atque in Ordine Camaldulensium jam celebrabantur, ex Sacroram Rituum Congregationis consulto, addita doctoria qualitate, ad universam extendit Ecclesiam.
Peter was born at Ravenna, of respectable parents. His mother, wearied with the care of a large family, abandoned him when a babe; but one of her female servants found him in an almost dying state, and took care of him, until such time as the mother, repenting of her unnatural conduct, consented to treat him as her child. After the death of his parents, one of his brothers, a most harsh man, took him as a servant, or more truly as his slave. It was about this period of his life that he performed an action, which evinced his virtue and his filial piety. He happened to find a sum of money: but instead of using it for his own wants, he gave it to a priest, begging him to offer up the holy sacrifice for the repose of his father’s soul. Another of his brothers, called Damian (after whom, it is said, he was named), had him educated; and so rapid and so great was the progress he made in his studies, that he was the admiration of his masters. He became such a proficient in the liberal sciences, that he was made to teach them in the public schools, which he did with great success. During all this time, it was his study to bring his body into subjection to the spirit; and to this end, he wore a hair shirt under an out wardly comfortable dress, and practised frequent fasting, watching, and prayer. Being in the very ardour of youth, and being cruelly buffeted by the sting of the flesh, he, during the night, would go and plunge himself into a frozen pool of water, that he might quench the impure flame which tormented him; or he would make pilgrimages to holy sanctuaries, and recite the entire psalter. His charities to the poor were unceasing, and when he provided them with a meal, which was frequently, he would wait upon them himself.

Out of a desire to lead a still more perfect life, he became a religious in the monastery of Avellino, in the diocese of Gubbio, of the Order of the monks of holy Cross of Fontavellana, which was founded by the blessed Ludolphus, a disciple of St. Romuald. Being sent by his abbot, not very long after, first to the monastery of Pomposia, and then to that of Saint Vincent of PietraPertusa, he edified both houses by his preaching, admirable teaching, and holy life. At the death of the abbot of Avellino, he was recalled to that monastery, and was made its superior. The institute was so benefited by his government, not only by the new monasteries which he founded in several places, but also by the very saintly regulations he drew up, that he was justly looked upon as the second founder of the Order, and its brightest ornament. Houses of other Orders, canons, yea, entire congregations of the faithful, were benefited by Peter’s enlightened zeal. He was a benefactor, in more ways than one, to the diocese of Urbino: he aided the bishop Theuzo in a most important suit, and assisted him, both by advice and work, in the right administration of his diocese. His spirit of holy contemplation, his corporal austerities, and the saintly tenor of his whole conduct, gained for him so high a reputation, that Pope Stephen IX., in spite of Peter's extreme reluctance, created him Cardinal of the holy Roman Church and bishop of Ostia. The saint proved himself worthy of these honours by the exercise of the most eminent virtues, and by the faithful discharge of his episcopal office.

It would be impossible to describe the services he rendered to the Church and the sovereign Pontiffs, during those most trying times, by his learning, his prudence as legate, and his untiring zeal. His life was one continued struggle against simony, and the heresy of the Nicolaites. He purged the Church of Milan of these disorders, and brought her into subjection to the Holy See. He courageously resisted the anti-popes Benedict and Cadalous. He deterred Henry IV., king of Germany, from an unjust divorce of his wife. He restored the people of Ravenna to their allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, and absolved them from interdict. He reformed the abuses which had crept in among the canons of Vellotri. There was scarcely a single cathedral church in the province of Urbino that had not experienced the beneficial effects of Peter’s holy zeal: thus, that of Gubbio, which was for some time under his care, was relieved by him of many evils; and other churches, that needed his help, found him as earnest for their welfare as though he were their own bishop. When he obtained permission to resign his dignity as Cardinal and his bishopric, he relented nothing of his former charity, but was equally ready in doing good to all. He was instrumental in propagating many devout practices; among these may be mentioned, fasting on Fridays in honour of the holy cross; the reciting the Little Office of our Lady; the keeping the Saturday as a day especially devoted to Mary; the taking of the discipline in expiation of past Bins. At length, after a life which had edified the world by holiness, learning, miracles, and glorious works, on his return from Ravenna, whither he had been sent as legate, he slept in Christ, on the eighth of the Calends of March (February 23), at Faënza. His relics, which are kept in the Cistercian church of that town, are devoutly honoured by the faithful, and many miracles are wrought at the holy shrine. The inhabitants of Faënza have chosen him as the patron of their city, having several times experienced his protection when threatened by danger. His Mass and Office, which were kept under the rite of confessor and bishop, had been long observed in several dioceses, and by the Camaldolese Order; but they were extended to the whole Church by a decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, which was approved by Pope Leo XII., who also added to the name of the saint the title of Doctor.

Thy soul was inflamed by the zeal of God’s house, O Peter! God gave thee to His Church in those sad times when the wickedness of the world had robbed her of well-nigh all her beauty. Thou hadst the spirit of an Elias within thee, and it gave thee courage to waken the servants of the Lord: they had slept, and while they were asleep, the enemy came, and the field was oversown with tares.[2] Then did better days dawn for the bride of Christ; the promises made by our Lord were fulfilled; but who was the friend of the bridegroom?[3] Who was the chief instrument used by God to bring back to His house its ancient beauty? A saint who bore the glorious name of Peter Damian! In those days, the sanctuary was degraded by secular interference. The princes of the earth said: 'Let us possess the sanctuary of God for an inheritance.’[4] The Church, which God intended to be free, was but a slave, in the power of the rulers of this world; and the vices, which are inherent to human weakness, defiled the temple. But God had pity on the bride of Christ, and for her deliverance He would use human agency: He chose thee, Peter, as His principal co-operator in restoring order. Thy example and thy labours prepared the way for Gregory, the faithful and dauntless Hildebrand, into whose hands the keys were no sooner placed, than the work of regeneration was completed. Thou hast fought the good fight; thou art now in thy rest; but thy love of the Church, and thy power to help, are greater than ever. Watch, then, over her interests. Obtain for her pastors that apostolic energy and courage, which alone can cope with enemies so determined as hers are. Obtain for her priests the holiness which God demands from them that are the salt of the earth.[5] Obtain for the faithful the respect and obedience they owe to those who direct them in the path of salvation. Thou wast not only the apostle, thou wast moreover the model, of penance in the midst of a corrupt age; pray for us, that we may be eager to atone for our sins by works of mortification. Excite within our souls the remembrance of the sufferings of our Redeemer, that so His Passion may urge us to repentance and hope. Increase our confidence in Mary, the refuge of sinners, and make us, like thyself, full of filial affection towards her, and of zeal that she may be honoured and loved by those who are around us.


[1] 1 St. Peter iv. 17.
[2] St. Matt. xiii. 25.
[3] St. John iii. 29.
[4] Ps. lxxxii. 13.
[5] St. Matt. v. 13.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

In leap-year, the feast of St Mathias is kept on February 25.

An apostle of Jesus Christ, St. Mathias, is one of the blessed choir which the Church would have us honour during the season of Septuagesima. Mathias was one of the first to follow our Saviour; and he was an eye-witness of all His divine actions up to the very day of the Ascension. He was one of the seventy-two disciples; but our Lord had not conferred upon him the dignity of an apostle. And yet, he was to have this great glory, for it was of him that David spoke, when he prophesied that another should take the bishopric[1] left vacant by the apostasy of Judas the traitor. In the interval between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the apostolic college had to complete the mystic number fixed by our Lord Himself, so that there might be the twelve on that solemn day, when the Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, was to manifest herself to the Synagogue. The lot fell on Mathias;[2] he shared with his brother-apostles the persecution in Jerusalem, and, when the time came for the ambassadors of Christ to separate, he set out for the countries allotted to him. Tradition tells us that these were Cappadocia and the provinces bordering on the Caspian Sea.

The virtues, labours, and sufferings of St. Mathias have not been handed down to us: this explains the lack of proper lessons on his life, such as we have for the feasts of the rest of the apostles. Clement of Alexandria records in his writings several sayings of our holy apostle. One of these is so very appropriate to the spirit of the present season, that we consider it a duty to quote it. 'It behoves us to combat the flesh, and make use of it, without pampering it by unlawful gratifications. As to the soul, we must develop her power by faith and knowledge.’[3] How profound is the teaching contained in these few words! Sin has deranged the order which the Creator had established. It gave the outward man such a tendency to grovel in things which degrade him, that the only means left us for the restoration of the image and likeness of God unto which we were created, is the forcible subjection of the body to the spirit. But the spirit itself, that is, the soul, was also impaired by original sin, and her inclinations were made prone to evil; what is to be her protection? Faith and knowledge. Faith humbles her, and then exalts and rewards her; and the reward is knowledge. Here we have a summary of what the Church teaches us during the two seasons of Septuagesima and Lent. Let us thank the holy apostle, on this his feast, for leaving us such a lesson of spiritual wisdom and fortitude. The same traditions, which give us some Blight information regarding the holy life of St. Mathias, tell us that his apostolic labours were rewarded with the palm of martyrdom. Let us celebrate his triumph by the following stanzas, which are taken from the Menææa of the Greeks.

Hymn
(Die IX. Augusti)

Mathia beate, Eden spiritualis, fontibus divinis ut fluvius inundans scaturisti, et mysticis terram irrigasti rivulis, et illam fructiferam reddidisti; ideo deprecare Dominum ut animabus nostris pacem concedat et magnani misericordiam.

Mathia apostole, divinum replevisti collegium ex quo Judas ceciderat, et divinis sapientum sermonurn tuorum fulgoribus tenebras fugasti idololatriæ, virtute Spiritus sancti; et nunc deprecare Dominum, ut mentibus nostris concedat pacem et magnam misericordiam.

Ut multifrugiferum palmitem te Vitis vera direxit, colentem uvam quæ salutis vinum profundit; illud bibentesqui detinebanturignorantia, erroris temulentiam rejecerunt.

Erroris axes, iniquitatis currus, verbi Dei ipse currus factus, gloriose, in perpetuum contrivisti; et idololatras, et columnas et tempia radicitus divina virtute destruxisti, Trinitatis vero tempia ædificasti clamantia: Populi, superexaltate Christum in sæcula.

Ut spirituale cœlum apparuisti, enarrans gloriam unigeniti Filii Dei ineffabilem, Mathia venerabilis; fulgur Spiritus sancti, piscator errantium, lumen divinæ claritatis, mysteriorum doctor; ipsum in lætitia unanimi voce celebremus.

Amicum te dixit Salvator, Buia obtemperantem mandatis, beate apostole, et ipsius regni hæredem, et cum ipso sedentem in throno in futura terribili die, sapientissime Mathia, collegii duodenari! apostolorum complementum.

Crucis velamine instructus, vitæ sæviens mare trajecisti, beate, et ad requiei portum pervenisti; et nunc lætus cum apostolorum choro judicum altissimo adstare digneris, Dominum pro nobis exorans misericordem.

Lampas aureo nitore fulgens, Spiritus sancti ellychnio ardens, lingua tua apparuit, extranea comburens dogmata, extraneum extinguens ignem, o sapiens Mathia, lucem fulgurans sedentibus in tenebris ignorantiæ.
O blessed Mathias! spiritual Eden! thou didst flow, like a full river, from the divine fountain; thou didst water the earth with thy mystic rivulets, and make it fruitful. Do thou, therefore, beseech the Lord that he grant peace and much mercy to our souls.

O apostle Mathias I thou didst complete the sacred college, from which Judas had fallen; and by the power of the Holy Ghost, thou didst put to flight the darkness of idolatry by the admirable lightnings of thy wise words. Do thou now beseech the Lord that he grant peace and much mercy to our souls.

He that is the true Vine sent thee, a fruitful branch, bearing the grapes that give out the wine of salvation. When they drank it that before were slaves to ignorance, they turned from the drunkenness of error.

Being made, O glorious Mathias, the chariot of God’s word, thou didst break for ever the wheels of error, and the chariots of iniquity. By the divine power, thou didst defeat the idolaters, and destroy the pillars and the temples; but thou didst build up to the Trinity other temples, which echoed with these words: All ye people, praise Christ above all for ever!

O venerable Mathias! thou, like a spiritual firmament, didst proclaim the glory of the only-begotten Son of God. Let us with one glad voice celebrate the praise of this apostle, who was effulgent with the Holy Ghost; he was the fisher of them that had gone astray, the light that reflected the divine brightness, the teacher of the mysteries.

O blessed apostle! the Saviour called thee his friend, because thou didst keep his commandments. Thou art heir to his kingdom, and thou art to sit with him, on a throne, at the last terrible day, O most wise Mathias, who didst complete the number of the apostolic college.

Guided by the sail of the cross, thou, O blessed one, didst pass over the troubled sea of life, and didst reach the haven of rest. Do thou now vouchsafe to join the glad choir of the apostles, and beseech the infinite Judge, that he would show himself a merciful Lord unto us.

Thy tongue was a bright lamp of glittering gold, burning with the flame of the Holy Ghost. Thou didst consume all strange doctrines, thou didst quench all fire that was profane, and to them that sat in the darkness of ignorance, thou, O wise Mathias, didst show a brilliant light.

[1] Ps. cviii. 8; Acts i 20.
[2] Acts i. 26.
[3] Stromat., lib. iii., cap. iv.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Close to the faithful virgins, who form the court of Jesus, there stand those holy women, whose repentance has merited for them a prominent place in the calendar of the Church. They are the bright trophies of God’s mercy. They expiated their sins by a life of penance; the tears of their compunction wiped away their guilt; He that is purity itself has found them worthy of His love, and, when pharisees affect to be shocked at His allowing them to be near Him, He warmly defends them. Foremost among these is Mary Magdalene, to whom much was forgiven, because she loved much;[1] but there are two on the list of penitent saints whose names shine most brightly on the calendar of this portion of the year; and who were, like Mary Magdalene, ardent in their love of the divine Master, whom they had once offended: these are, Mary of Egypt, and Margaret of Cortona. It is the second of these who to-day tells us the consoling truth that if sin separate us from God, penance has the power not only of disarming His anger, but of forming between God and the sinner that ineffable bond of love, which the apostle alludes to when he says: ‘Where sin hath abounded, grace hath more abounded.'[2]

Let us study the virtues of the illustrious penitent of the thirteenth century. They are thus summed up by the Church in the lessons of to-day’s feast.

Margarita, a loco dormitionis Cortonensis appellata, Laviani in Tuscia ortum habuit. Primis adolescentiæ suæ annis mundi voluptatibus capta, in Montis Politiani civitate, vanam et lubricam vitam duxit: sed cum amasium ab hostibus fœde transfossum, indicio canis in fovea sub strue lignorurn tumulatum fortuito reperisset, illico facta est manus Domini super eam, quæ magno culparum suarum mœrore tacta, exiit foras et flevit amare. Itaque Lavianum reversa, crine detonso, neglecto capite, pullaque veste contecta, erroribus suis mundique illecebris nuntium misit; inque ædibus Deo sacris fune ad collum alligato, humi procumbens, ab omnibus quos antea moribus suis palam offenderat, veniam exoravit. Mox Cortonam profecta, in cinere et cilicio ab se læsam Bei majestatem placare studuit, donec post triennale virtutum experimentum a Fratribus Minoribus spiritualis vitæ ducibus, Tertii Ordinis habitum impetravit. Uberes exinde lacrymæ ei familiares fuerunt, atque ima suspiria tanta animi contritione ducta, ut diu elinguis consisteret. Lectulus nuda humus, cervical lapis aut lignum porrexit; atque ita noctes insomnes in cœlestium meditatione trahere consuevit, nullum amplius pravum desiderium perpessa, dum bonus spiritus promptior infirmam camem ad subeundos labores erigebat.

A dæmone insidiis, funestisque conatibus Iacessita, mulier fortis hostem, ex verbis defcectum, semel atque iterum invicta repulit Ad eludendum vanæ gloriæ lenocinium, quo a malo spiritu petebatur, præterifcos mores suos per vicos et plateas alta voce accusare non destitit, omni supplicio se ream inclamans; nec, nisi a confessano deterrita, in speciosam faciem, olim impuri amoris causam, sævire abstinuit, æegre ferens suam formam longa carnis maceratione non aboleri. Quibus aliisque magnæ pœnitentiae argumentis, suorum criminum labe expiata, atque ita de se triumphatrix, ut sensus piane omnes a mundi illecebris custodiret, digna facta est quæ sæpe Domini consuetudine frueretur. Ejusdem quoque Christi et Virginis Matris dolorum, quod ipsa ardenter expetierat, particeps facta, cunctis sensibus destituta, et vere mortua interdum visa est. Ad eam proinde veluti ad perfectionis magistram, ex dissitis etiam regionibua plurimi conveniebant: ipsa vero cœlesti, quo erat perfusa, lumine, cordium secreta, conscientias hominum, imo et peccata in remotis licet partibus Deum offendentium cum dolore et lacrymis detegens, summaque in Deum et proximum charitate fervens, ingentem animarum fructum operata est. Ægris ad se venientibus salutem, obsessis a dæmone liberationem impetravit. Puerum defunctum, lugente matre, ad vitam reduxit. Imminentes bellorura tumultus assiduis orationibus sedavit. Denique summæ pietatis operibus vivos et mortuos sibi demeruit.

Tot sanctis operibus occupata, de rigore, quo assidue corpus suum exercebat, nihil remisit, neque a studio cœlestia meditandi se avelli passa est, in utroque vitæ genere piane admiranda, utramque sororem, Magdalenam et Martham, referens. Tandem pro se Dominum orans, ut ex hac valle lacrymarum sursum in cœlestem patriam evocaretur, exaudita est oratio ejus, die atque hora dormitionis ei patefactis. Meritis itaque et laboribus plena, ac cœlestibus donis cumulata, cœpit corporis viribus destitui, perque dies decem et septem nullo cibo, sed divinis tantum colloquiis refecta est: tum sanctissimis Ecclesiæ sacramentis rite susceptis, vultu hilari, atque oculis in cœlum conversis, octavo Kalendas Martias, anno ætatis quinquagesimo, suæ conversionis vigesimo tertio, humanæ vero salutis millesimo ducentesimo nonagesimo septimo, felix migravit ad Sponsum. Corpus in hanc usque diem vegetum, incorruptum, illæsum et suaviter olens, summa religione colitur in ecclesia fratrum Minorum, quæ jam ab eadem Margarita appellatur. Miraculis continuo floruit; quibus permoti Romani Pontifices, ad augendum ejus culturm plurima liberaliter indulsemnt. Benedictus vero decimus tertius, in festo Pentecostes, die sexta decima Mail anni millesimi septingentesimi vigesimi octavi, solemnem ejus canonizationem religiosissime celebravit.
Margaret of Cortona (so called from the town where she died), was born at Alviano in Tuscany. In her early youth she was a slave to the pleasures of this world, and led a vain and sinful life in the city of Montepulciano. Her attention was, one day, attracted by a dog, which seemed to wish her to follow it. She did so, and it led her to a pile of wood which covered a large hole. Looking in, she saw the body of her lover, whose enemies had murdered him, and thrown his mangled corpse into that place. She suddenly felt that the hand of God was upon her, and being overwhelmed with intense sorrow for her sins, she went forth, and wept bitterly. She returned to Alviano, cut off her hair, laid aside* her trinkets, and, putting on a dark-coloured dress, she abandoned her evil ways and the pleasures of the world. She was to be found in the churches, with a rope tied round her neck, prostrate on the ground, and imploring pardon of all whom she had scandalized by her past life. She shortly afterwards set out for Cortona, and there, in sackcloth and ashes, she sought how she might appease the divine anger. For three years did she try herself in the practice of every virtue: and at the end of that time, she obtained permission from the Friars Minors (under whose spiritual guidance she had placed herself), to receive the habit of the Third Order. From that time forward, her tears were almost incessant; and the sighs which deep contrition wrung from her heart were such as to leave her speechless for hours. Her bed was the naked ground; and her pillow, a stone or piece of wood: so that she frequently passed whole nights in heavenly contemplation. Evil desires no longer tormented her, for her fervent spirit was so prompt, that the weak flesh was made to labour and obey.

The devil spared neither snares nor violent assaults, whereby to lead her from her holy purpose: but she, like a strong woman, detected him by his words, and drove him from her. This wicked spirit having tempted her to vain glory, she went into the streets, and cried out with a loud voice, that she had been a great sinner, and deserved the worst of punishments. It was obedience to her confessor that alone prevented her from disfiguring her features, which had been the cause of much sin: for the long and severe penance she had imposed on herself had not impaired her beauty. By these and such like exercises of a mortified life, she cleansed her soul from the stains of her sins, and gained such a victory over herself, that the allurements of the world had not the slightest effect upon her, and our Lord rewarded her by frequently visiting her. She also received the grace she so ardently desired, of being allowed to have a share in the sufferings of Jesus and Mary; so much so, indeed, that, at times, she lay perfectly unconscious, as though she were really dead. All this made her be looked up to as a guide in the path of perfection, and persons would come to her, even from distant countries, in order to seek her counsel. By the heavenly light granted her, she could read the hearts and consciences of others, and could see the sins committed against our Lord in various parts of the world, for which she would offer up, in atonement, her own sorrow and tears. Great indeed was the good she effected by the ardent charity she bore to God and her neighbour. She healed the sick who came to her, and drove out the devil from such as were possessed. A mother besought her, with many tears, to restore her child to life, which she did. Her prayers more than once averted war, when on the point of being declared. In a word, both the living and the dead experienced the effects of her unbounded charity.

While engaged in these manifold holy works, she relented not in the severity of her bodily mortifications, or in her contemplation of heavenly things. The two lives of Mary and Martha were admirably blended together in her; and rich in the merits of each, she besought our Lord to take her from this vale of tears, and give her to enter the heavenly country. Her prayer was heard, and the day and the hour of her death were revealed to her. Laden with meritorious works and divine favours, her bodily strength began to fail. For the last seventeen days of her life her only food was that of conversation with her Creator. At length, after receiving the most holy Sacraments of the Church, with a face beaming with joy, and her eyes raised up to heaven, her happy soul fled to its divine Spouse, on the eighth of the Calends of March (February 22), in the fiftieth year of her age, the twenty-third of her conversion, and in the year of our Lord one thousand two hundred and ninety-seven. Her body, which, even to this day, is fresh, incorrupt, and unaltered, and sheds a sweet fragrance, is devoutly honoured in the church (called after her Saint Margaret's) belonging to the Friars Minor. The many miracles which have been wrought at her shrine, have induced the Sovereign Pontiffs to promote devotion to Saint Margaret by the grant of many spiritual favours. She was canonized, with great solemnity, by Pope Benedict XIII., on May 16, which was the feast of Pentecost, in the year 1728.

If the angels of God rejoiced on the day of thy conversion, when Margaret the sinner became the heroic and saintly penitent, what a grand feast must they have kept when thy soul left this world, and they led thee to the eternal nuptials with the Lamb! Thou art one of the brightest trophies of divine mercy, and when we think of the saint of Cortona, our hearts glow with hope. We are sinners; we have deserved hell; and yet, when we hear thy name, heaven and mercy seem so near to us, yea, even to us. Margaret of Cortona! see how like we are to thee in thy weakness, and thy wanderings from the fold; but thou forcest us to hope that we may, like thee, be converted, do penance, and reach heaven at last. The instrument of thy conversion was death; and is not death busy enough around us? The sight of that corpse taught thee, and with an irresistible eloquence, that sin is madness, for it exposes the soul to fall into infinite misery; how comes it that death is almost daily telling us that life is uncertain, and that our eternal lot may be decided at any hour, and yet the lesson is so lost upon us? We are hard-hearted sinners, and we need thy prayers, O fervent lover of Jesus! The Church will soon preach to us the great Memento; she will tell us that we are but dust, and into dust must speedily return. Oh that this warning might detach us from the world and ourselves, and man us to the resolution of penance, that port of salvation for them that have suffered shipwreck! Oh that it might excite within us the desire of returning to that God, who knows not how to resist the poor soul who comes to Him after all her sins, throws herself into the bosom of His mercy, and asks Him to forgive! Thy example proves that we may hope for every grace. Pray for us, and exercise in our favour that maternal charity which filled thy heart even when thou wast living here below.


[1] St. Luke vii. 47.
[2] Rom. v. 20.

 

 

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