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April

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The founder of a religious Order, whose distinguishing characteristics were humility and penance, comes before us to-day; it is Francis of Paula. Let us study his virtues and beg his intercession. His whole life was one of great innocence; and yet we find him embracing, from his earliest youth, mortifications which, nowadays, would not be expected from the very worst sinners. How was it that he could do so much? and we, who have so often sinned, do so little? The claims of divine justice are as strong now as ever they were; for God never changes, nor can the offence we have committed against Him by our sins be pardoned, unless we make atonement. The saints punished themselves, with life-long and austere penances, for the slightest sins; and the Church can scarcely induce us to observe the law of Lent, though it is now reduced to the lowest degree of severity.

What is the cause of this want of the spirit of expiation and penance? It is that our faith is weak, and our love of God is cold, because our thoughts and affections are so set upon this present life, that we seldom if ever consider things in the light of eternity. How many of us are like the king of France, who having obtained permission from the Pope that St. Francis of Paula should come and live near him, threw himself at the saint's feet, and besought him to obtain of God, that he, the king, might have a long life! Louis XI. had led a most wicked life; but bis anxiety was, not to do penance for his sins, but to obtain, by the saint's prayers, a prolongation of a career which had been little better than a storing up of wrath for the day of wrath. We, too, love this present life; we love it to excess. The laws of fasting and abstinence are broken, not because the obeying them would endanger life, or even seriously injure health—for where either of these is to be feared, the Church does not enforce her lenten penances—but people dispense themselves from fasting and abstinence, because the spirit of immortification renders every privation intolerable, and every interruption of an easy comfortable life insupportable. They have strength enough for any fatigue that business or pleasure calls for; but the moment there is question of observing those laws which the Church has instituted for the interest of the body as well as of the soul, all seems impossible; the conscience gets accustomed to these annual transgressions, and ends by persuading the sinner that he may be saved without doing penance.

St. Francis of Paula was of a very different way of thinking and acting. The Church gives us the following abridged account of his life:

Franciscus Paulæ, quod est Calabriæ oppidum, loco humili natus est: quem parentes, cum diu prole caruissent, voto facto, beati Francisci precibus susceperunt. Is adolescens divino ardore succensus, in eremum secessit: ubi annis sex victu asperam, sed meditationibus cælestibus suavem vitam duxit: sed cum virtutum ejus fama longius manaret, multique ad eum pietatis studio concurrerent, fraternæ charitatis causa e solitudine egressus, ecclesiam propePaulam ædificavit, ibique prima sui Ordinis fundamenta jecit.

Erat in eo mirifica loquendi gratia: perpetuam virginitatem servavit: humilitatem sio coluit, ut se omnium minimum diceret, suosque alumnos Minimos appellari voluerit. Rudi amictu, nudis pedibus incedens, humi cubabat. Cibi abstinentia fuit admirabili: semel in die post solis occasum reficiebatur, et ad panem et aquae potum vix aliquid ejusmodi obsonii adhibebat, quo vesoi in Quadragesima boet: quam consuetudinem, ut f rat res sui toto anni tempore retinerent, quarto eos voto adstrinxit.

Multis miraculis servi sui sanctitatem Deus testari voluit, quorum illud in primis celebre, quod a nautis rejectus, Siciliae fretum, strato super fluctibus pallio, cum socio transmisit. Multa etiam futura prophetico spiritu prædixit. A Ludovico undécimo Francorum rege expetitus, magnoque in honore est habitus. Denique annum primum et nonagesimum agens, Turonis migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo septimo: cujus corpus, dies undecim insepultum, ita incorruptum permansit, ut suavem etiam odorem effiaret. Eum Leo Papa decimus in sanctorum numerum retulit.
Francis was born at Paula, in Calabria, of humble parents, who, having been for a long time without children, obtained him from heaven, after having made a vow, and prayed to St. Francis. When very young, being inflamed with the love of God, he withdrew into a desert, where, for six years, he led an austere life, but one that was sweetened by heavenly contemplations. The fame of his virtues having spread abroad, many persons went to him, out of adesire to be trained in virtue. Out of a motive of fraternal charity, he left his solitude, built a church near Paula, and there laid the foundation of his Order.

He had a wonderful giftof preaching. He observed virginity during his whole life. Such was his love for humility, that he called himself the last of all men, and would have his disciples named Minims. His dress was of the coarsest kind, he always walked barefooted, and his bed was the ground. His abstinence was extraordinary: he ate only once in the day, and that not till after sunset. His food consisted of bread and water, to which he scarcely ever added those viands which are permitted even in Lent: and this practice he would have kept up by his religious, under the obligation of a fourth vow.

God bore witness to the holiness of his servant by many miracles, of which this is the most celebrated; that when he was rejected by the sailors, he and his companion passed over the straits of Sicily on his cloak, which he spread out on the water. He also prophesied many future events. Louis XI., king of France, had a great desire to see the saint, and treated him with great respect. Having reached his ninety-first year, he died at Tours, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and seven. His body, which was left unburied for eleven days, so far from becoming corrupt, yielded a sweet fragrance. He was canonized by Pope Leo X.

Apostle of penance: thy life was always that of a saint, and we are sinners: yet do we presume, during these days, to beg thy powerful intercession, in order to obtain of God that this holy season may not pass without having produced within us a true spirit of penance, which may give us a reasonable hope of receiving His pardon. We admire the wondrous works which filled thy life—a life that resembled, in duration, that of the patriarchs, and prolonged the privilege the world enjoyed of having such a saint to teach and edify it. Now that thou art enjoying in heaven the fruits of thy labours on earth, think upon us, and hearken to the prayers addressed to thee by the faithful. Gain for us the spirit of compunction, which will add earnestness to our works of penance. Bless and preserve the Order thou hast founded. Thy holy relics have been destroyed by the fury of heretics; avenge the injury thus offered to thy name, by praying for the conversion of heretics and sinners, and drawing down upon the world those heavenly graces, which will revive among us the fervour of the ages of faith.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

One of the most striking examples of penance ever witnessed, is this day proposed for our consideration: Mary, the sinner and penitent of Egypt, comes to animate us to persevere in our lenten exercises. Like Magdalene and Margaret of Cortona, she had sinned grievously; like them she repented, atoned for her guilt, and is now the associate of angels. Let us adore the omnipotence of our God, who thus changed a vessel of dishonour into one of honour; let us lovingly contemplate the riches of His mercy, and hope for our own participation in them. At the same time, let us remember that pardon is not granted save where there is repentance; and that repentance is not genuine, unless it produce an abiding spirit and deeds of penance. Mary of Egypt had the misfortune to lead a life of sin for seventeen years; but her penance lasted forty: and what kind of penance must hers have been, living alone in a desert, under a scorching sun, without the slightest human consolation, and amidst every sort of privation! The pledge of pardon—the holy Communion —which we received so soon after our sins, was not granted to Mary, till she had done penance for nearly half a century. That pledge of Jesus' forgiveness, which He has given us in the Sacrament of His love, and which was communicated to us so promptly, was withheld from this admirable penitent, so that she received it for the second time only at the moment when death was on the point of separating her soul from her body which was worn out by austerities! Let us humble ourselves at such a comparison; let us think with fear on this great truth—that God’s justice will require an exact account of all the graces He has heaped upon us; and with this thought, let us rouse ourselves to a determination to merit, by the sincerity of our repentance, a place near the humble penitent of the desert.

We take the lessons of the Office of St. Mary of Egypt from the ancient Roman-French breviaries:

Maria Ægyptia, duodecennis, tempore Justini imperatoris, relictis parentibus, Alexandriam venit, fuitque per annos septemdecim ea in civitate peccatrix. Cum autem Hierosolymam profecta, Calvariæ templum in festo Exaltationis sanctae Crucis ingredi tentasset, ter divinitus repulsa, in atrio coram imagine Deiparæ Virginia vovit pcenitentiam, si liceret sibi vivificum crucis lignum videre et adorare: moxque templum ingressa, vidit et adoravit.

Inde sumpto trium panum viatico, perceptaque Eucharistia in oratorio sancti Joannis ad ripam Jordanis, ultra flumen in vastissimam solitudinem recessit. Ibi, consumpto viatico detritisque vestibus, ignota permansit annis quadraginta septem, donec ad torrentem quemdam occurrit ei Zozimas presbyter, a quo obtinuit ut vespere in Cœna Domini, in adversam Jordania ripam afferret aibi Corpus et Sanguinem Domini, quorum participatione tot annoe caruerat.

Condicto die accessit ad eumdem locum Zozimas, quo et Maria signo crucis impresso super aquas ambulans pervenit; recitatoque Symbolo et Oratione Dominica, ut moris erat, divina dona suscepit; rursumque precata est Zozimam ut anno recurrente ad eumdem torrentem veniret. Qui cum eo accessisset, conspexit corpus ejus jacens in terra, in qua scripta hæc legit: Sepeli, Abba Zozima, miseræ Mariæ corpusculum; redde terræ quod suum est, et pulveri adjice pulverem; ora tamen Deum pro me: transeunte mense Pharmuthi, nocte salutiferæ Passionis, post divinæ et sacræ Cænæ communionem. Corpori ejus leo adveniens, effossa ungulis terra, paravit sepulchrum.
Mary of Egypt left her parents, when she was twelve years of age. It was during the reign of the emperor Justin. She entered Alexandria, and was a sinner in that city, for seventeen years. Having visited Jerusalem, and, if being the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross, having endeavoured to enter the church of Calvary, she felt herself thrice repelled by divine power. Standing under the portico, she made a vow before an image of the Virgin Mother of God, that if our Lord would grant her to see and venerate the life-giving wood of the cross, she would lead a life of penance. Immediately, she entered the church; she saw; she adored.

Then, taking three loaves as provision for her journey, and having received the Eucharist in St. John’s church on the banks of the Jordan, she withdrew into an immense wilderness, on the other side of the river. There, her provisions consumed, and her garments worn to tatters, she abode unknown to all, for forty-seven years, when she was discovered by the priest Zozimus. She asked him to bring to her, on the evening of Maundy Thursday, and on the other side of the Jordan, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which she had not received during all these years.

On the appointed day, Zozimus came to the place that had been agreed on; and Mary, having made the sign of the cross upon the waters, walked over them, and came to the priest. Having recited the Symbol and the Lord’s Prayer, as was the custom, she received the divine gifts. She again besought Zozimus that he would come to the same torrent, the following year. He did so, and found her body lying on the ground, on which were written these words: “Abbot Zozimus! bury the body of this wretched Mary. Give back to the earth what belongs to it, and add dust unto dust. Yet pray to God for me. This last day of the month of Pharmuthi, on the night of the saving Passion, after the Communion of the divine and sacred Supper.” A lion then came towards the place, and making a hole in the ground with his paws, he prepared a grave for her body.

In praise of our incomparable penitent, we offer to the reader the following beautiful sequence, taken from the ancient missals of Germany:

Sequence

Ex Ægypto Pharaonis
In amplexum Salomonis
Nostri transit filia;
Ex abjecta fit electa,
Ex rugosa fit formosa,
Ex lebete phiala.

Stella marie huio illuxit,
Ad dilectum quam conduxit
Pacia nectens fædera;
Matre Dei mediante,
Peccatrici, Christo dante,
Sunt dimissa scelera.

Vitam ducene hæc carnalem,
Pervenit in Jerusalem,
Nuptura Pacifico;
Hinc excluso adultero
Maritatur Sponso vero
Ornata mirifico.

Dei templum introire
Dum laborat, mox redire
Necdum digna cogitur;
Ad cor suum revertitur,
Fletu culpa submergitur,
Fletu culpa teritur.

Locus desertus quæritur,
Leviathan conteritur,
Mundus, caro vincitur,
Domus patris postponitur,
Vultus mentis componitur,
Decor camis spernitur.

Lætare filia Thanis,
Tuia ornata tympanis,
Lauda quondam sterilis,
Gaude, plaude, casta, munda,
Virtutum prole fœcunda,
Vitis meri fertilis.

Te dilexit noster risus,
Umbilicus est præcisus
Tuus continentia;
Aquis lotam, pulchram totam
Te salivit, te condivit
Sponsi sapientia.

Septem pannis involuta,
Intus tota delibuta
Oleo lætitiæ;
Croco rubene charitatis;
Bysso cincta castitatis,
Zona pudicitiæ.

Hinc hyacintho calciaris,
Dum superna contemplaris,
Mutatis affectibus;
Vestiris discoloribus,
Cubile vernat floribus,
Fragat aromatibus.

O Maria, gaude quia
Decoravit et amavit
Sic te Christi gratia,
Memor semper peccatorum,
Et cunctorum populorum,
Plaude nunc in gloria.

Amen.
This daughter passes from the Egypt of Pharao
to the espousals with Jesus,
our true Solomon.
She that was abject, is made a chosen one;
she that was deformed, is made fair;
the vessel of dishonour is made one of honour.

The Star of the sea shone upon her,
and leading her to her beloved Son,
has knit the bond of peace.
The Mother of God interceded;
Christ forgave;
the sinner’s sins are pardoned.

She that led a carnal life,
came to Jerusalem,
to be espoused to the King of peace;
leaving her false lover,
she is united to the true Spouse,
honoured by the wonderful One.

She strives to enter the house of God,
but her unworthiness forbids it;
she is compelled to retire.
Then does she return to her own heart;
she weeps for her sins,
and her weeping blots them out.

She flees to the desert;
tramples on Leviathan;
conquers the world and the flesh;
forgets her father’s house:
neglects the beauty of the body,
that her spirit may be made comely.

Rejoice, O daughter of Egypt!
Thou, that once wast barren,
take up thy harp, and sing.
Exult and be joyful, for now thou art chaste and pure,
fruitful in virtue,
a vine that yields a precious fruit.

He that is our Joy hath loved thee;
the shame of thy disorders
is effaced by the merit of thy purity.
The wisdom of thy heavenly Spouse has given thee,
cleansed and all fair,
the incorruption of his grace.

Robed in the seven fold veil of his Spirit,
thou wast anointed with the oil of gladness.
The scarlet of charity,
the lily of chastity,
the girdle of modesty
—all were upon thee.

Thy feet were decked with violet,
for thy affections were changed
from earthly to heavenly things.
Thy vesture was of every richest hue,
and thy couch was decked with flowers,
sweeter than those of spring.

Rejoice, O Mary,
in that Christ so loved thee,
and beautified thee with grace.
Be mindful of us sinners;
pray for all mankind;
feast now in thy eternal glory!

Amen.

Thou wilt sing for all eternity, O Mary, the mercies of the Lord, who changed thee from a sinner into so glorious a saint; we join thee in thy praises, and we give Him thanks for having shown us so evidently, in thy person, that a true penitent, whatever and how great soever may have been his sins, may not only avoid eternal torments, but merit everlasting bliss. How light must now appear to thee, O Mary, that forty years’ penance, the very thought of which terrifies us! How short a time, when compared with eternity! How insignificant its austerity, if we think of hell! And how rich must its reward seem to thee, now that thou art face to face with infinite Beauty! We, too, are sinners; dare we say that we are penitents? Aid our weakness, O Mary! Thou wast made known to the world at the close of thy hidden life, in order that Christians might learn from thee the grievousness of sin, of which they make so little account; the justice of God, of which they are so apt to form so false an idea; ¿md the goodness of that Father, whom they cease not to offend. Pray for us, O Mary, that we may profit by the instructions given to us so profusely during this holy season. Pray that our conversion may be complete; that we may leave our pride and our cowardice; that we may appreciate the grace of reconciliation with our Maker; and, lastly, that we may ever approach to the holy Table with compunction and love such as thou hadst, when, in thy last happy Communion, Jesus gave Himself to thee in His Sacrament, and then took thee to Himself in the kingdom of everlasting rest and joy.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Church presents to us to-day, for our devout admiration, the memory of one of the holiest of her bishops—Isidore, the bishop of Seville, the most learned man of his age, and, what is a still greater praise, the most zealous patriot and friend of his noble country. Let us study his virtues and confide in his patronage: both will help us to fervour during this holy season.

Among Christian lands, there is one that has gained for herself the glorious name of the Catholic kingdom. Towards the close of the seventh century, divine Providence subjected her to a most severe trial, by permitting the Saracen hordes to invade her: so that her heroic children had to struggle for eight hundred years for the recovery of their country. Contemporaneously with Spain, Asia also and Africa fell under the Mussulman yoke, and have continued in their slavery up to the present day. Whence comes it that Spain has triumphed over her oppressors, and that tyranny has never been able to make her children degenerate? The answer is easily given: Spain, at the period of her invasion, was Catholic, and Catholicity was the very spirit of the land: whereas those other nations, that yielded themselves slaves to the Saracens, were already separated from the Christian Church by heresy or schism. God abandoned them, because they had rejected both the truth of faith, and unity with the Church; they fell an easy prey to the infidel conqueror.

Nevertheless, Spain had incurred an immense risk. The race of the Goths, by their long invasion of her territory, had sowed the seeds of heresy: Arianism had set up its sacrilegious altars in Iberia. But God did not permit this privileged country to be long under the yoke of error. Before the Saracens came upon her, she had been reconciled to the Church; and God had chosen one family to be the glorious instrument in the completion of this great work. Even to this day, the traveller through Andalusia will find the squares of its cities adorned with four statues: they are those of three brothers and a sister: St. Leander, bishop of Seville; St. Isidore, whose feast we are keeping to-day; St. Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena; and their sister, St. Florentina, a nun. It was by the zeal and eloquence of St. Leander that king Reccared and his Goths were converted from Arianism to the Catholic faith, in the year 589; the learning and piety of our glorious Isidore consolidated the great work; Fulgentius gave it stability by his virtues and erudition; and Florentina co-operated in it by her life of sacrifice and prayer.

Let us unite with the Catholic kingdom in honouring this family of saints; and to-day in a special manner, let us pay the tribute of our devotion to St. Isidore. The holy liturgy thus speaks of him:

Isidorus natione Hispanus, doctor egregius, ex nova Carthagine, Severiano patre provinciæ duce natus, a sanctis episcopis Leandro Hispalensi, et Fulgentio Carthaginensi fratribus suis pie et liberaliter educatus, latinis, græcis et hebraicis litteris, divinisque et humanis legibus instractus, omni scientiarum, atque christianaram virtutum genere præstantissimus evasit. Adhuc adolescens hæresim arianam, quæ gentem Go· thorum Hispaniae latissime dominantem jam pridem in vase rat, tantaconstantia palam oppugnavit, ut parum abfuerit quin ab haereticis necaretur. Leandro vita functo ad Hispalensem cathedram invitus quidem, sed urgente in primis Recaredo rege, magnoque etiam cleri, populique consensu assumitur, ejusque electionem sanctus Gregorius Magnus nedum auctoritate apostólica confirmasse, sed et electum transmisso de more pallio decorasse, quin etiam suum, et apostolicæ Sedis in universa Hispania vicarium constituisse perhibetur.

In episcopatu quantum fuerit constans, humilis, patiens, misericors, in Christiana et ecclesiastica disciplina instauranda sollicitus, eaque verbo, et scriptis stabilienda indefessus, atque omni demum virtutum ornamento insignitus, nullius lingua enarrare sufficeret. Monastici quo que instituti per Hispaniam promotor et amplificator eximius, plura construxit monasteria; collegia itidem ædificavit, ubi studiis sacris et lectionibus vacans, plurimos discipulos, qui ad eum confluebant, erudivit; quos inter sancti Ildephonsus Toletanus, et Braulio Cfesaraugustanus episcopi emicuerunt. Coacto Hispaliconcilio, Acephalorum hæreeim Hispaniæ jam minitan tem, acri et eloquenti disputatione fregit atque oontrivit. Tantam apud omnes aanctitatis et doctrinæ famam adeptus est, ut elapso vix ab ejus obitu sextodecimo anno, universa Toletatana synodo duorum supra quinquaginta episcoporum plaudente, ipsoque etiam sancto Ildephonso suffragante, doctor egregius, Catholicæ Ecclesiæ novissimum decus, in sæculorum fine doctissimus, et cum reverentia nominandus, appellari meruerit; eumque sanctus Braulio nonmodo Gregorio Magno comparaverit, sed et erudiendæ Hispaniæ loco Jacobi apostoli cælitus datum esse censuerit.

Scripsit Isidorus libros Etymologiarum, et de ecclesiasticis Officiis, aliosque quamplurimos Christianæ et ecclesiasticæ disciplinæ adeo utiles, ut sanctus Leo Papa quartus ad episcopos Britanniæ scribere non dubita verit, sicut Hieronymi et Augustini, ita Isidori dicta retinenda esse, ubi contigerit inusitatum negotium, quod per Canones minimo definiri possit. Plures etiam ex ejusdem scriptis sententiæ inter canonicas Ecclesiæ legs relatæconspiciuntur. Præfuit Concilio Toletano quarto omnium Hispaniæoeleberrimo. Denique cum ab Hispania arianum haereeim eliminasset, morte sua, et regni vastatione a Saracenorum armis publice prænuntiata, postquam quadraginta cire iter annos suam rexisset Ecclesiam, Hispali migravit in cœelum anno sexcentesimo trigésimo sexto. Ejus corpus inter Leandrum fratrem, et Florentinam sororem, ut ipse mandaverat, primo conditum, Ferdinandus primus Castellæ et Legionis rex, ab Eneto Saraceno Hispali dominante magno pretio redemptum, Legionem transtulit; et in ejus honorem templum ædificatum est, ubi miraculis clarus, magna populi devotione colitur.
Isidore, by birth a Spaniard, was an illustrious Doctor of the Church. He was born at Carthagena, and his father, whose name was Severianus, was governor of that part of the country. He was solidly trained to piety and learning by his two brothers, Leander, bishop of Seville, and Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena. He was taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; he was put through a course of canon and civil law; and there was no science or virtue in which he did not excel. While yet a youth, he so courageously combated the Arian heresy, which had long before infected the Goths who had entered Spain, that he with difficulty escaped being put to death by the heretics. After the death of Leander, he was, in spite of himself, raised to the episcopal See of Seville, by the influence of king Reccared, and with unanimous consent of both clergy and people. His election was not only confirmed by apostolic authority, but St. Gregory the Great, when sending him as usual the pallium, is said to have appointed him his own vicar, and that of the apostolic See, throughout all Spain.

It would be impossible to describe the virtues of Isidore as bishop: how firm, humble, patient, and merciful; how zealously he laboured for the restoration of Christian morals and ecclesiastical discipline, and how untiring he was in his efforts, both by word and writing, to establish them among his people; and, finally, how he excelled in every virtue. He was a fervent promoter of the monastic life in Spain, and built several monasteries. He also built colleges, in which he himself applied himself to teaching the sacred sciences to the many disciples that flocked to him; among whom may be mentioned those two glorious pontiffs,Ildephonsus bishop of Toledo, and Braulio bishop of Saragossa. In a Council held at Seville, he spoke with such power and eloquence, that he may be said to have destroyed the heresy of the Acephali, which threatened to undermine the true faith in Spain. So great, indeed, was the universal reputation he had gained for piety and learning, that he had scarcely been dead sixteen years, when, in a Council held at Toledo, and at which fifty-two bishops were present, St. Ildephonsus himself among them, he was called the illustrious doctor, the new glory of the Catholic Church, the most learned man who had been seen in those ages, and one whose name should never be mentioned but with great respect. St. Braulio not only compared him to St. Gregory the Great, but said that he looked on him as having been sent by heaven, as a second St. James the apostle, to instruct the people of Spain.

Isidore wrote a book on Etymologies, and another on Ecclesiastical Offices, and several others, of such importance to Christian and ecclesiastical discipline, that Pope St. Leo IV. hesitated not to say, in a letter addressed to the bishops of Britain, that one ought to adhere to the words of Isidore with the same respect as is shown to those of Jerome and Augustine, as often as a difficult case should arise, which could not be settled by canon law. Several sentences of his works have been inserted into the body of the canon law. He presided over the fourth Council of Toledo, which is the most celebrated of all those that have been held in Spain. At length, after having driven the Arian heresy out of Spain, he publicly foretold the day of his death, and the devastation of the country by the Saracens; and having governed his See for about forty years, he died at Seville, in the year 636. His body was first buried, as he himself had requested, between those of his brother and sister, Leander and Florentina. Afterwards, Ferdinand I., King of Castille and Leon, purchased it for a large sum of money, from Enetus, the Saracen governor of Seville, and had it translated to Leon. Here a church was built in his honour, and the miracles that are wrought by his intercession have led the people to honour him with great devotion.

Faithful pastor! the Christian people honour thy virtues and thy services; they rejoice in the recompense wherewith God has crowned thy merits; hear the prayers that are offered to thee during these the days of salvation. When on earth, thy vigilance over the flock entrusted to thy care was untiring; consider us as a part of it, and defend us from the ravenous wolves that cease not to seek our destruction. May thy prayers obtain for us the fullness of graces needed for worthily completing the holy season, which is so near its close. Keep up our courage; incite us to fervour; prepare us for the great mysteries we are about to celebrate. We have bewailed our sins, and, though feebly, we have done penance for them; the work of our conversion has, therefore, made progress; and now we must perfect it by the contemplation of the Passion and death of our Redeemer. Assist us, O thou His faithful and loving servant! Do thou, whose life was ever pure, take sinners under thy care and hear the prayers offered to thee on this day by the Church. Look down from heaven on thy beloved Spain, which honours thee with such earnest devotion. Revive her ancient ardour of faith; restore to her the vigour of Christian morality; remove from her the tares that have sprung up among the good seed. The whole Church reveres thy noble country for her staunch adhesion to the truths of faith: pray for her, that she may come unhurt through her trials, and ever prove herself worthy of that glorious title of the Catholic kingdom, which thou didst help her to gain.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

To-dayagain, it is Catholic Spain that offers one of her sons to the Church, that she may present him to the Christian world as a model and a patron. Vincent Ferrer, or, as he was called, the angel of the judgment, comes to us proclaiming the near approach of the Judge of the living and the dead. During his lifetime, he traversed almost every country of Europe, preaching this terrible truth; and the people of those times went from his sermons striking their breasts, crying out to God to have mercy upon them—in a word, converted. In these our days, the thought of that awful day, when Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven to judge mankind, has not the same effect upon Christians. They believe in the last judgment, because it is an article of faith; but, we repeat, the thought produces little impression. After long years of a sinful life, a special grace touches the heart, and we witness a conversion; there are thousands thus converted, but the majority of them continue to lead an easy, comfortable life, seldom thinking on hell, and still less on the judgment wherewith God is to bring time to an end.

It was not thus in the Christian ages; neither is it so now with those whose conversion is solid. Love is stronger in them than fear; and yet the fear of God’s judgment is ever living within them, and gives stability to the new life they have begun. Those Christians who have heavy debts towards divine justice, because of the sins of their past lives, and who, notwithstanding, make the time of Lent a season for evincing their cowardice and tepidity, surely such Christians as these must very rarely ask themselves what will become of them on that day, when the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens, and when Jesus, not as Saviour, but as Judge, shall separate the goats from the sheep. One would suppose that they have received a revelation from God, that, on the day of judgment, all will be well with them. Let us be more prudent; let us stand on our guard against the illusions of a proud, self-satisfied indifference; let us secure to ourselves, by sincere repentance, the well-founded hope, that on the terrible day, which has made the very saints tremble, we shall hear these words of the divine Judge addressed to us: ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!’[1] Vincent Ferrer leaves the peaceful cell of his monastery, that he may go and rouse men to the great truth they had forgotten —the day of God’s inexorable justice; we have not heard his preachings, but, have we not the Gospel? Have we not the Church, who, at the commencement of this season of penance, preached to us the terrible truth, which St. Vincent took as the subject of his instructions? Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves to appear before Him, who will demand of us a strict account of those graces which He so profusely poured out upon us, and which were purchased by His Blood. Happy they that spend their Lents well, for they may hope for a favourable judgment!

The liturgy gives us, in the Matins of to-day, the following abridged account of the life of this holy servant of God:

Vincentius honesta stirpe Valentiæ in Hispania natus, ab ineunte ætate cor gessit senile. Qui dum caliginoei hujue sæculi labilem cursum pro ingenii eui modulo consideraret, religionis habitum in Ordine Prædicatorum decimo octavo ætatis suæ anno suscepit; et emissa solemni professions, sacris litteris sedulo incumbe ns, theologiæ lauream summa cum laude consecutus est. Mox obtenta a superioribus licentia verbum Dei prædicare, Judæorum perfidiam arguere, Saracenorum errores confutare, tanta virtute et efficacia cæpit, ut ingentem ipsorum infidelium multitudinem ad Christi fidem perduxerit, et multa Christianorum millia, a peccatis ad pænitentiam, a vitiie ad virtutem revocarit. Electus enim a Deo, ut mónita salutis in omnes gentes, tribus et linguae diffunderet, et extremi tremendique judicii diem approp in qua re ostenderet, omnium auditorum animos terrore concussos, atque a terrenis affectibus avulsos, ad Dei amorem excitabat.

In hoc autem apostolico munere hie vitae ejus tenor perpetuus fuit. Quotidie Missam summo mane cum cantu celebravit, quotidie ad populum concionem habuit, inviolabile semper jejunium nisi urgens adessetnecessitas, servavit; eancta et recta consilia nullis denegavit, carnes numquam comedit, nec vestem lineam induit, populorum jurgia sedavit, dissidentia regna pace composuit; et cum vestis inconeutilis Ecclesiæ diro schismate scinderetur, ut uniretur, et unita servaretur, plurimum laboravit. Virtutibus omnibus claruit, suosque detractores et persecutores, in simplicitate, et humilitate ambulans, cum mansuetudine recepit, et amplexus est.

Per ipsum divina virtus, in confirmationem vitæ et prædicationis ej us, multa signa et miracula fecit. Nam frequentissime super ægros manus im posuit, et sanitatem adepti sunt: spiritus immundos e corporibus expulit; surdis auditum, mutis loquelam, caecis visum restituit; leprosos munda vit, mort uos suscitavit. Senio tandem et morbo confectus infatigabilis Evangelii præco, plurimis Europæ provinciis cum ingenti animarum fructu peragratis, Venetiæ in Britannia minori, prædicationis et vitæ cursum feliciter consummavit, anno salutis millesimo quadringentesimo decimo nono, quem Calixtus tertius Sanctorum numero adscripsit.
Vincent was born at Valencia, in Spain, of respectable parents. He showed the gravity of old age, even when quite a child. Considering within himself, as far as his youthful mind knew it, the dangers of this dark world, he received the Habit in the Order of Preachers when he was eighteen years of age. After his solemn profession, he diligently applied himself to sacred studies, and gained, with much applause, the degree of doctor of divinity. Shortly after this, he obtained leave from his superiors to preach the word of God. He exposed the perfidy of the Jews, and refuted the false doctrines of the Saracens, but with so much earnestness and success, that he brought a great number of infidels to the faith of Christ, and converted many thousand Christians from sin to repentance, and from vice to virtue. God had chosen him to teach the way of salvation to all nations, and tribes, and tongues; as also to warn men of the coming of the last and dread day of judgment. He so preached, that he struck terror into the minds of all his hearers, and turned them from earthly affections to the love of God.

His mode of life, while exercising this office of apostolic preaching, was as follows: he every day sang Mass early in the morning, delivered a sermon to the people, and, unless absolutely obliged to do otherwise, observed a strict fast. He gave holy and prudent advice to all who consuited him. He never ate flesh meat, or wore linen garments. He reconciled contending parties, and restored peace among nations that were at variance. He zealously laboured to restore and maintain the union of the seamless garment of the Church, which, at that time, was rent by a direful schism. He shone in every virtue. He was simple and humble, and treated his revilers and persecutors with meekness and affection.

Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought through him, in confirmation of the holiness of his life and preaching. He very frequently restored the sick to health, by placing his hands upon them. He drove out the unclean spirits from the bodies of such as were possessed. He gave hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind. He cured lepers, and raised the dead to life. At length, worn out by old age and bodily infirmities, after travelling through many countries of Europe, and reaping an abundant harvest of souls, this untiring herald of the Gospel terminated his preaching and life at Vannes, in Brittany, in the year of our Lord 1419. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus III.

The Dominican breviary contains the following responsories and antiphon in honour of this illustrious preacher:

R. Summus Parens, ao rector gentium, in vespere labentis sæculi, novum vatem misit Vincentium, christiani magistrum populi: refert instare Dei judicium,
* Quod spectabunt cunctorum oculi.
V. Timete Deum, clamat sæpius: venit hora judicii ejus.
* Quod spectabunt cunctorum oculi.

R
 Christi viam secutus arduam, a terrenis procul illecebris; veritatem reddit conspicuam, profligatis errorum tenebris:
* Oram illuminat occiduam, toto factus in orbe Celebris.
V. Cujus doctrina sole gratior, sermo erat flammis ardentior.
* Oram illuminat occiduam, toto factus in orbe Celebris.

R.
 Nocte sacris incumbens litteris, contemplatur vigil in studio: mane pulchri ad instar sideris, miro lucet doctrinæ radio:
* Morbos omnie vespere generis salutari pellens remedio.
V. Nulla præterit hora temporis, quo non recti quid agat operis.
* Morbos omnis vespere generis salutari pellens remedio.

R.
 Verba perennis vitæ proferens, animos inflammat adstantium: pectoribus humanis inserens amorem donorum ccelestium, de virtutibus alta disserens;
* Frænare docet omne vitium.
V. Ilium avida turba sequitur, dum hoc ore divino loquitur.
* Frænare docet omne vitium.

ANT. Qui prophetico fretus lumine, mira de mundi fine docuit; in occiduo terrae cardine, ut sol Vincentius occubuit: et septus angelorum agmine, lucidas cœli sedes tenuit.
R. The heavenly Father, the Ruler of all nations, sent, when the evening of the world came on, a new prophet, Vincent, the teacher of Christian people. He announces to men the approach of God’s judgment,
* Which all men shall see with their eyes.
V. Fear God: this is his favourite exclamation: the time is at hand for his judgment,
* Which all men shall see with their eyes.

R.
 Treading in the arduous path of Christ, and shunning earthly pleasures, he convinced men of the truth, and put to flight the darkness of error.
* He gave light to the countries of the west, and his name was proclaimed throughout the whole world.
V. His doctrines were more welcome than sunlight, his word was more ardent than fire.
* He gave light to the countries of the west, and his name was proclaimed throughout the whole world.

R.
 He spent the night over the sacred Scriptures, wakeful to contemplation and study: in the mom, like to a fair star, he shines with a wondrous ray of wisdom:
* At evening he has a saving remedy for every kind of disease.
V. There passes not an hour of his day, wherein he does not some good deed.
* At evening he has a saving remedy for every kind of disease.

R.
 He inflames the minds of his hearers by his words of eternal life: he inspires the hearts of men with a love of heavenly gifts: sublimely does he treat of virtues.
* Teaching men how to bridle every vice.
V. Eager crowds follow him, when he preaches his divine doctrines.
* Teaching men how to bridle every vice.

ANT. Vincent, blessed with light prophetic, spoke admirably of the end of the world: he set, as the sun, in the western world, and surrounded by a troop of angels, he ascended to the bright mansions of heaven.

How grand must have been thine eloquence, O Vincent, that could rouse men from their lethargy, and give them to feel all the terrors of that awful judgment. Our forefathers heard thy preaching, and returned to God, and were pardoned. We, too, were drowsy of spirit when, at the commencement of this holy season, the Church awakened us to the work of our salvation, by sprinkling our heads with ashes, and pronouncing over us the sentence of our God, whereby we are condemned to die. Yes, we are to die; we are to die soon; and a judgment is to be held upon us, deciding our eternal lot. Then, at the moment fixed in the divine decrees, we shall rise again, in order that we may assist at the solemn and terrible judgment. Our consciences will be laid open, our good and bad actions will be weighed, before the whole of mankind; after which, the sentence already pronounced upon us in our particular judgment will be made public. Sinners as we are, how shall we be able to bear the eye of our Redeemer, who will then be our inexorable Judge? How shall we endure even the gaze of our fellow-creatures, who will then behold every sin we have committed? But above all, which of the two sentences will be ours? Were the Judge to pronounce it at this very moment, would He place us among the blessed of His Father, or among the cursed? on His right, or on His left?

Our fathers were seized with fear when thou, O Vincent, didst put these questions to them. They did penance for their sins, and, after receiving pardon from God, their fears abated, and holy joy filled their souls. Angel of God's judgment! pray for us, that we may be moved to salutary fear. A few days hence we shall behold our Redeemer ascending the hill of Calvary, with the heavy weight of His cross upon Him; we shall hear Him thus speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem: ‘Weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children: for if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?’[2] Help us, O Vincent, to profit by these words of warning. Our sins have reduced us to the condition of dry dead branches, that are good for nought but to bum in the fire of divine vengeance; help us, by thy intercession, to be once more united to Him who will give us life. Thy zeal for souls was extreme; take ours under thy care, and procure for them the grace of perfect reconciliation with our offended Judge. Pray, too, for Spain, the country that gave thee life and faith, thy religious profession and thy priesthood. The dangers that are now threatening her require all thy zeal and love; exercise them in her favour, and be her faithful protector.


[1] St. Matt. xxv. 34.
[2] St. Luke xxiii. 28, 31.

 

 

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