logo with text

Keyword

Category

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

f1

f2

f3

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.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ONE of the grandest Saints in the Church’s Calendar is brought before us to-day. Leo, the Pontiff and Doctor, rises on the Paschal horizon, and calls for our admiration and love. As his name implies, he is the Lion of Holy Church; thus representing, in his own person, one of the most glorious of our Lord’s titles. There have been thirteen Popes who have had this name, and five of the number are enrolled in the catalogue of Saints; but not one of them has so honoured the name as he whose feast we keep to-day: hence he is called ‘Leo the Great.’

He deserved the appellation by what he did for maintaining the faith regarding the sublime mystery of the Incarnation. The Church had triumphed over the heresies that had attacked the dogma of the Trinity, when the gates of hell sought to prevail against the dogma of God having been made Man. Nestorius, a bishop of Constantinople, impiously taught that there were two distinct Persons in Christ the Person of the Divine Word, and the Person of Man. The Council of Ephesus condemned this doctrine, which, by denying the unity of Person in Christ, destroyed the true notion of the Redemption. A new heresy, the very opposite of that of Nestorianism, but equally subversive of Christianity, soon followed. The monk Eutyches maintained that in the Incarnation the human nature was absorbed by the Divine. The error was propagated with frightful rapidity. There was needed a clear and authoritative exposition of the great dogma, which is the foundation of all our hopes. Leo arose, and, from the Apostolic Chair, on which the Holy Ghost had placed him, proclaimed with matchless eloquence and precision the formula of the ancient faith—ancient indeed, and ever the same, yet ever acquiring greater and fresher brightness. A cry of admiration was raised at the General Council of Chalcedon, which had been convened for the purpose of condemning the errors of Eutyches. ' Peter,' exclaimed the Fathers, ‘Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo!’ As we shall see further on, the Eastern Church has kept up the enthusiasm thus excited by the magnificent teachings given by Leo to the whole world.

The barbarian hordes were invading the West; the Empire was little more than a ruin: and Attila, ‘the Scourge of God,’ was marching on towards Rome. Leo's majestic bearing repelled the invasion, as his word had checked the ravages of heresy. The haughty king of the Huns, before whose armies the strongest citadels had fallen, granted an audience to the Pontiff on the banks of the Mincio, and promised to spare Rome. The calm and dignity of Leo—who thus unarmed confronted the most formidable enemy of the Empire, and exposed his life for his flock—awed the barbarian, who afterwards told his people that, during the interview, he saw a venerable person standing in an attitude of defence, by the side of Rome’s intercessor: it was the Apostle St Peter. Attila not only admired, he feared the Pontiff. It was truly a sublime spectacle, and one that was full of meaning—a priest, with no arms save those of his character and virtues, forcing a king, such as Attila, to do homage to a devotedness which he could ill understand, and recognize by submission the influence of a power which had heaven on its side. Leo, singlehanded and at once, did what it took the whole of Europe several ages to accomplish in later times.

That the aureole of Leo’s glory might be complete, the Holy Ghost gifted him with an eloquence which, on account of its majesty and richness, might deservedly be called papal. The Latin language had at that time lost its ancient vigour; but we frequently come across passages in the writings of our Saint which remind us of the golden age.

In exposing the dogmas of our holy faith, he uses a style so dignified and so impregnated with the savour of sacred antiquity, that it seems made for the subject. He has several admirable sermons on the Resurrection; and speaking of the present season of the liturgical year, he says: ‘The days that intervened between our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension were not days on which nothing was done: on the contrary, great were the sacraments then confirmed, and great were the mysteries that were revealed.'[1]

Let us now read the sketch of the Saint’s life given by the Church in the Matins of the feast.

Leo Primus, Etruscus, eo tempore præfuit Ecclesiæ, cum rex Hunnorum Attila, cognomento Flagellimi Dei, in Italiani invadens, Aquileiam triennii obsidione captam diripuit et incendit: unde cum Romam ardenti furore raperetur, jamque copias ubi Mincius in Padum influit, trajicere pararet, occurrit ei Leo, malorum Italiæ impendentium misericordia permotus: cujus divina eloquentia persuasum est Attilæ, ut regrederetur. Qui interrogatus a suis, quid esset quod præter consuetudinem tam humiliter romani Pontificis imperata faceret, respondit se astantem quemdam alium, illo loquente, sacerdotali habitu veritum esse, sibi stricto gladio minitantem mortem nisi Leoni obtemperar et. Quare in Pannoniam reversus est.

Leo autem Romæ omnium lætitia exceptus, paulo post invadenti Urbem Genserico, eadem eloquentiævi et sanctitatis opinione persuasit, ut ab incendio, ignominiis, ac cædibus abstineret. Sed cum Ecclesiam a multis hæresibus oppugnari, maximeque a Nestorianis et Eutychianis exagitari videret; ad eam purgandam, et in fide Catholica confirmandam, Concilium Chalcedonense indixit. Ubi sexcentis triginta coactis Episcopis, Eutyches et Dioscorus, et iterum Nestorius condemnati sunt: ejusdemque Concilii decreta sua auctoritate confirmavit.

His actis, sanctus Pontifex se ad reficiendas et ædificandas ecclesias convertit. Cujus suasu Demetria, pia femina, sancti Stephani Ecclesiam construxit in suo fundo via Latina, tertio ab Urbe miliario; ipse via Appia sub nomine sancti Cornelii alteram condidit. Multas præterea et sacras ædes et sacra earum vasa restituit. In tribus basilicis Petri, Pauli, et Constantiniana, cameras exstruxit: ædificavit monasterium vicinum basilicæ sancti Petri: sepulchris Apostolorum custodes adhibuit, quos Cubicularios appellavit. Statuit, ut in actione mysterii diceretur, Sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam. Sancivit ne monacha benedictum capitis velamen reciperet, nisi quadraginta annorum virginitatem probasset. His et aliis præclare gestis, cum multa sancte et luculenter scripsisset, quarto Idus Novembris obdormivit in Domino. Sedit in Pontificatu annos viginti unum, mensem unum, dies tredecim.
Leo the First, a Tuscan by birth, governed the Church at the period when Attila, the king of the Huns, surnamed the Scourge of God, was invading Italy. Attila pillaged and burned the city of Aquileia, which he took after a three years’ siege. This done, he rushed on Rome like a wild firebrand. He had reached the place where the Mincio joins the Po, and was on the point of ordering his troops to pass the river, when he was met by Leo, who was moved with compassion at the misfortunes that were threatening Italy. Such was his superhuman eloquence, that he induced Attila to retrace his steps. When asked by his people how it was that, contrary to his custom, he had yielded such ready obedience to the demands of the Roman Pontiff, the king answered, that he beheld, whilst Leo was speaking, a personage clad in priestly robes, who stood near, with a naked sword in his hand, and threatened him with death unless he obeyed the Pontiff. Whereupon he returned to Pannonia.

Leo was welcomed back to Rome amidst the exceeding joy of all. A short time after, when the city was invested by Genseric, the Pontiff’s eloquence and reputation for sanctity had such influence on the barbarian, that he abstained from setting fire to the buildings, and forbade his troops to insult or massacre the inhabitants. Seeing the Church attacked by several heresies, and mainly by the followers of Nestorius and Eutyches, he called the Council of Chalcedon, in order to remove error and vindicate the Catholic faith. Six hundred and thirty bishops assisted at this Council, in which Eutyches and Dioscorus and Nestorius were condemned (the latter for the second time). The decrees of the Council were confirmed by the authority of Leo.

The holy Pontiff then turned his attention to repairing and building churches. It was through his persuasion that a pious lady called Demetria built the Church of Saint Stephen on her own land on the Latin Way, three miles out of the city. He himself built one on the Appian Way, and dedicated it to Saint Cornelius. He repaired several others, and refurnished them with all the sacred vessels needed for the divine service. He built vaults under the Basilicas of S Peter, S Paul, and S John Lateran, and a monastery near the Vatican. He appointed guards, to whom he gave the name of Cubicularii, to watch at the Tombs of the Apostles. He ordered that these words should be added to the Canon of the Mass: Holy Sacrifice, spotless Host. He decreed that a nun should not receive the blessed veil unless she had observed virginity for forty years. After these and other similar admirable acts, and after writing much that was replete with piety and eloquence, he slept in the Lord, on the fourth of the Ides of November (November 10). He reigned as Sovereign Pontiff twenty-one years, one month, and thirteen days.

The Greek Church, in her Memea, has an office in honour of St Leo: we take from it the following stanzas. As they were composed before the Schism, they show us that the ancient Church of Constantinople believed the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, and that it is not the Latins that have changed the faith. The Greeks keep the Feast of St Leo on February 18.

Hymn
(Die XVIII Februarii)

O felix Pontifex, Leo inclyte, fidelibus sacerdotibus et martyribus consors effectus es; invictus enim in præliis apparuisti, et immobilis ut turris et arx pietatis; orthodoxissime et sapientissime Domini ineffabilem generationem prædicasti.

Orthodoxiæ rector, pietatis magister et sanctitatis, universe terre lumen, orthodoxorum Deo inspirata gloria, sapiens Leo, tuis doctrinis omnes illuminasti, lyra Spiritus Sancti.

Principis Apostolorum Petri cathedre heres factus, Ecclesie prefuisti; illius mente preditus, et zelo pro fide inflammatus.

Splendidissimo lumine refulgens, sancte Leo, ineffabilis et divinæ incarnationis sermonem clarescere fecisti, duplicem prædicans naturam, et duplicem incarnati Dei voluntatem.

Divinis resplendens dogmatibus, fulgorem orthodoxiae undique sparsisti, et hæreseos tenebras dispulisti; et vita discedens, o beate, lumen quod vesperam nescit inhabitas.

Filium unicum Christum et Dominum, ante sæcula ex Patre genitum, et propter nos ex Virgine natum et nobis similem in terris apparentem, mirabiliter praedicasti, o minister mysteriorum Deo inspirate.

Super thronum pontificata sedens gloriose, et ora leonum obturans, divinis veneranda Trinitatis dogmatibus, ovili tuo lumen Dei cognitionis splendescere fecisti. Ideo glorificatus fuisti, ut divinus Dei gratiæ initiatus sacerdos.

Velut sol omnisplendens ex occidente ortus es, mixtionem et confusionem Eutychetis sapienter dissipans, et Nestorii divisionem rejiciens; unum Christum in duabus substantiis indi visibili ter, immutabiliter, inconfuse venerari docens.

A Deo inspiratus, pietatis præcepta velut in tabulis descriptis figurasti, ut alter Moyses apparens divino populo; et in venerabilium conventu magistrorum exclamasti: Laudate, sacerdotes, benedicite; superexaltate Christum in sæcula.

Nunc coruscas, sacerdos Christi, pulchritudinis corona decoratus, et ut fidelis sacerdos, justitiam induisti, et in paradiso voluptatis mirabiliter exsultans, pro ovili tuo Dominum incessanter deprecare.

Nunc ubi sunt cathedrae, throni et ordines Patriar charum, beatissime Leo, tu etiam Pater dignanter intrasti ut verus Patriarcha, et fide et gratia circumsplendens: ideo omnes te semper beatificamus.
O happy Pontiff! glorious Leo! thou hast been made companion of the faithful priests and martyrs; for thou wast most invincible in battle, and immovable as a tower and fortress of religion. Thou didst proclaim, with most perfect orthodoxy and wisdom, the unspeakable generation of Christ.

O ruler of orthodoxy, teacher of religion and holiness, light of the whole earth, divinely inspired glory of true believers, wise Leo! thou enlightenest all men by thy teachings, O harp of the Holy Ghost!

Heir of the See of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, thou didst preside over the Church: thou hadst his spirit, and wast inflamed with zeal for the faith.

Beaming with most bright light, thou, O holy Leo, didst admirably preach the ineffable and divine Incarnation, teaching the two natures, and the two wills of the Incarnate God.

Resplendent with the knowledge of divine truths, thou didst scatter on all sides the brightness of orthodoxy, and dispel the darkness of heresy. Departing this life, thou, O blessed one! now dwellest in the light that knows no setting.

O inspired minister of God’s mysteries, thou didst admirably preach that Christ is the Only Son and Lord, begotten of the Father before all ages, born for us of the Virgin, and dwelling on earth like unto us.

Seated with glory upon the throne of the pontificate, thou didst stop the mouths of lions, and madest to shine upon thy flock the light of the knowledge of God, by proclaiming the divine dogma of the adorable Trinity. Therefore hast thou been glorified as a holy Pontiff initiated in the grace of God.

Thou, as a dazzling sun, didst rise in the west and wisely dispel the error of Eutyches, who mingled and confused the two natures, and that of Nestorius, who divided them as though they were two Persons. Thou taughtest us to adore one Christ in two natures, inseparably, unchangeably, unconfusedly united.

Inspired of God, thou didst appear to the people of God as another Moses, showing them the commandments of religion written, as it were, on tables.Thou didst exclaim in the assembly of the venerable masters: ' Praise, O ye priests! and bless, and extol Christ for ever.'

Now, O priest of Christ! thou art brightly decked with a crown of beauty. As a faithful priest, thou hast put on justice. Pray unceasingly for thy flock, now that thou hast entered into the admirable joy of the Paradise of delights.

Thou, O most blessed Leo! hast worthily entered the abode where are the seats and thrones and ranks of the patriarchs; thou hast entered as a true patriarch, all resplendent with faith and grace. Therefore do we all celebrate thy name for ever.


Glory be to thee, O Jesus, Lion of the Tribe of Juda! that hast raised up in thy Church a Lion to defend her in those dark times, when holy Faith was most exposed to danger. Thou didst charge Peter to confirm his brethren[2] and we have seen Leo, in whom Peter lived, fulfil his office with sovereign authority. We have heard the acclamation of the holy Council, which, in admiration at the heavenly teachings of Leo, proclaimed the signal favour thou didst confer on thy flock, when thou badest Peter feed both sheep and lambs.

O holy Pontiff Leo! thou worthily didst represent Peter in his Chair, whence thy apostolic teaching ceased not to flow, ever beautiful in its truth and majesty. The Church of thine own day honoured thee as the great teacher of faith; and the Church of every succeeding age has recognized thee as one of the most learned Doctors and preachers of the divine word. From thy throne in heaven, where now thou reignest, pour forth upon us the understanding of the great mystery, which thou wast called on to defend. Under thy inspired pen, this mystery grows clear; we see how sublimely it harmonizes with all other mysteries; and faith delights at gaining so close a view of the divine object of its belief. Oh! strengthen this faith within us. The Incarnate Word is blasphemed in our own times; avenge his glory, by sending us men of thy zeal and learning.

Thou didst triumph over barbarian invaders: Attila acknowledged the influence of thy sanctity and eloquence, by withdrawing his troops from the Christian land they infested. In these our days, there have risen up new barbarians—civilized barbarians, who would persuade us that religion should be eliminated from education. and that the State, in its laws and institutions, should simply ignore our Lord Jesus Christ, the King to whom all power has been given, not only in heaven but on earth also.[3] Oh! help us by thy powerful intercession, for our danger is very great. Many are seduced, and have fallen into apostasy, whilst flattering themselves that they are still Christians. Pray that the light that is left within us may not be extinguished, and that the public scandals which now exist may be brought to an end. Attila was but a pagan; our modem statesmen and governments are, or at least call themselves, Christians: have pity cn them, and gain for them light to see the precipice to which they are hurrying society.

These days of Paschal Time remind thee, O holy Pontiff! of the Easters thou didst once spend here on earth, when, surrounded by the neophytes, thou gavest them the nourishment of thy magnificent discourses: pray for the faithful, who have this Easter risen to a new life with Christ. What they most need is a fuller and better knowledge of this their Saviour, in order that they may cling more closely to him, and persevere in his holy service. Thy prayers must obtain for them this knowledge; by thy prayers thou must teach them what he is both in his Divine and Human Nature: that as God he is their Last End, and their Judge after death; as Man, their Brother, their Redeemer, their Model. Bless, O Leo! and help the Pontiff who is now thy successor on the Chair of Peter. Show now thy love for that Rome whose sacred and eternal destinies were so frequently the subject of thy glowing and heavenly eloquence.

 


[1] Sermo lxxiii.
[2] St Luke xxii 32.
[3] St Matt. xxviii 18.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IT is through a martyr's palm-branch that we must to-day see the Paschal Mystery. Hermenegild, a young Visigoth prince, is put to death by his heretical father, because he courageously refused to receive his Easter Communion from an Arian bishop. The martyr knew that the Eucharist is the sacred symbol of Catholic unity; and that we are not allowed to approach the Holy Table in company with those who are not in the true Church. A sacrilegious consecration gives heretics the real possession of the divine Mystery, if the priestly character be in him who dares to offer sacrifice to the God whom he blasphemes; but the Catholic, who knows that he may not so much as pray with heretics, shudders at the sight of the profanation, and would rather die than share by his presence in insulting our Redeemer in that very Sacrifice and Sacrament which were instituted that we might all be made one in God.

The blood of the martyr produced its fruit: Spain threw off the chains of heresy that had enslaved her, and a Council, held at Toledo, completed the work of conversion begun by Hermenegild's sacrifice. There are very few instances recorded in history of a whole nation rising up as one man to abjure heresy; but Spain did it, for she seems to be a country on which heaven lavishes exceptional blessings. Shortly after this she was put through the ordeal of the Saracen invasion; she triumphed here again by the bravery of her children; and ever since then, her faith has been so staunch and so pure as to merit for her the proud title of The Catholic Kingdom.

St Gregory the Great, a contemporary of St Hermenegild, has transmitted to us the following account of the martyrdom. The Church has inserted it in her Lessons of today's Matins.

Ex libro Dialogorum sancti Gregorii Papæ.

Hermenegildus rex, Leovigildi regis Visigothorum filius, ab ariana hæresi ad fidem catholicam, viro reverendissimo Leandro Hispalensi Episcopo, dudum mihi in amicitiis familiariter juncto, prædicante, conversus est. Quem pater arianus, ut ad eamdem hæresim rediret, et præmiis su adere, et minis terrere conatus est. Cumque ille constantissime responderet numquam se veram fidem posse relinquere, quam semel agnovisset: iratus pater eum privavit regno, rebusque exspoliavit omnibus. Cumque nec sic virtutem mentis illius emollire valuisset; in arcta ilium custodia concludens, collum manusque illius ferro ligavit. Coepit itaque Hermenegildus rex juvenis terrenum regnum despicere, et forti desiderio coeleste quærens, in ciliciis vinculatus jacens, omnipotenti Deo, ad confortandum se, preces effundere; tantoque sublimius gloriam transeuntis mundi despicere, quanto et religatus agnoverat nihil fuisse, quod potuerit auferri.

Superveniente autem Paschalis festivitatis die, intempestæ noctis silentio, ad eum perfidus pater arianum episcopum misit, ut ex ejus manu sacrilegæ consecrationis communionem perciperet, atque per hoc ad patris gratiam redire mereretur. Sed vir Deo deditus, ariano episcopo venienti exprobravit ut debuit, ejusque a se perfidiam dignis increpationibus repulit: quia etsi exterius jacebat ligatus, apud se tamen in magno mentis culmine stabat securus. Ad se itaque reverso episcopo, arianus pater infremuit, statimque suos apparitores misit, qui constantissimum confessorem Dei, illic ubi jacebat, occiderent; quod et factum est.Nam mox ut ingressi sunt, securim cerebro ej us infigentes, vitam corporis abstulerunt, hocque in eo valuerunt, perimere, quod ipsum quoque qui peremptus est, in se consti terat despexisse. Sed pro ostendenda vera ejus gloria, superna quoque non defuere miracula. Nam cœpit in nocturno silentio psalmodiæ cantus ad corpus ejusdem regis et martyris audiri, atque ideo veraciter regis, quia et martyris.

Quidam etiam ferunt, quod illic nocturno tempore accensæ lampades apparebant. Unde et factum est, quatenus corpus illius, ut videlicet martyris, jure a cunctis fidelibus venerari debuisset. Pater vero perfidus et parricida commotus pœnitentia, hoc fecisse se doluit, nec tamen usque ad obtinendam salutem pœnituit. Nam quia vera esset Catholica fides agnovit, sed gentis suæ timore perterritus, ad hanc pervenire non meruit. Qui oborta ægritudine, ad extrema perductus est, etLeandro Episcopo, quem prius vehementer afflixerat, Reccaredum regem filium suum, quem in sua haeresi relinquebat, commendare curavit, ut in ipso quoque talia faceret, qualia et in fratre suis exhortationibus fecisset. Qua commendatione expleta, defunctus est. Post cujus mortem, Reccaredus rex non patrem perfidum, sed fratrem martyrem sequens, ab arianæ hæreseos pravitate conversus est, totamque Visigothorum gentem ita ad veram perduxit fidem, ut nullum in suo regno militare permitteret, qui regni Dei hostis existere per hæreticam pravitatem non timeret. Nec mirum quod veræ fidei prsedicator factus est, qui frater est martyris: cujus hunc quoque merita adjuvant, ut ad omnipotentis Dei gremium tam multos reducat.
From the book of the Dialogues of Saint Gregory, Pope.

King Hermenegild, son of Leovigild, king of the Visigoths, was converted from the Arian heresy to the Catholic faith by the preaching of the venerable Leander, bishop of Seville, one of my oldest and dearest friends. His father, who continued in the Arian heresy, did his utmost, both by promises and threats, to induce him to apostatize. But Hermenegild returned him ever the same answer, that he never could abandon the true faith, after having once known it. The father, in a fit of displeasure, deprived him not only of his right to the throne, but of everything he possessed. And when even this failed to break the energy of his soul, he had him put into close confinement with chains on his neck and hands. Hereupon the youthful king Hermenegild began to despise the earthly, and ardently to long for the heavenly, kingdom. Thus fettered, and wearing a hairshirt, he besought the omnipotent God to support him. As to the glory of this fleeting world, he nobly looked on it with disdain, the more so as his captivity taught him the nothingness of that which could thus be taken from him.

It was the Feast of Easter. At an early hour of the night, when all was still, his wicked father sent an Arian bishop to him, with this message, that if he would receive Communion from his hands (the Communion of a sacrilegious consecration!) he should be restored to favour. True to his Creator, the man of God gave a merited reproof to the Arian bishop, and, with holy indignation, rejected his sinful offer; for though his body lay prostrate in chains, his soul stood on ground beyond the reach of tyranny. The bishop therefore returned whence he had come. The Arian father raged, and straightway sent his lictors, bidding them repair to the prison of the unflinching confessor of the Lord, and murder him on the spot. They obeyed; they entered the prison; they cleft his skull with a sword; they took away the life of the body, and slew what he, the slain one, had sworn to count as vile. Miracles soon followed, whereby heaven testified to the true glory of Hermenegild; for during the night there was heard sweet music nigh to the body of the king and martyr—king indeed, because he was a martyr.

It is said that lights were seen at the same time burning in the prison. The faithful were led by these signs to revere the body as being that of a martyr. As to the wicked father, he repented having imbrued his hands in his son’s blood; but his repentance was not unto salvation, inasmuch as, whilst acknowledging the Catholic faith to be the true one, he had not the courage to embrace it, for he feared the displeasure of his subjects. When in his last sickness, and at the point of death, he commended his son Reccared, a heretic, to the care of Leander, the.bishop, whom he had hitherto persecuted, but whom he now asked to do for this son what he had, by his exhortations, done for Hermenegild. Having made this request, he died, and was succeeded on the throne by Reccared, who, taking not his wicked father but his martyred brother as his model, abandoned the impious Arian heresy, and led the whole Visigothic nation to the true faith. He would not allow any man to serve in his armies who dared to continue the enemy of the God of hosts by heresy. Neither is it to be wondered at, that being the brother of a martyr, he should have become a propagator of the true faith, for it was by Hermenegild's merits that he has succeeded in reconciling so many thousands to the great God of heaven.

Pope Urban VIII composed the two following hymns for the feast of the holy martyr: we unite them under one conclusion.

Hymn

Regali solio fortis Iberiæ
Hermenegilde jubar, gloria Martyrum,
Christi quos amor almis
Cœli cœtibus inserit.

Ut perstas patiens, pollicitum
Deo Servans obsequium! quo potius tibi
Nil proponis, et arces
Cautus noxia, quæ placent.

Ut motus cohibes, pabula qui parant
Surgentis vitii, non dubios agens
Per vestigia gressus
Quo veri via dirigit! 

Nullis te genitor blanditiis trahit,
Non vitæ caperis divitis otio,
Gemmarumve nitore,
Regnandive cupidine.

Diris non acies te gladii minis,
Nec terret perimens carnificis furor:
Nam mansura caducis
Præfers gaudia cœlitum.

Nunc nos e superum protege sedibus,
Clemens, atque preces, dum canimus tua
Quæsitam nece palmam,
Pronis auribus excipe.

Sit rerum Domino jugis honor, Patri,
Et natum celebrent ora precantium,
Divinumque supremis
Flamen laudibus efferant.

Amen.
The royal throne of heroic Iberia counts thee,
Hermenegild, as one of its glories:
so, too, do the martyrs,
whose love of Christ has numbered them among the blessed of heaven.

How courageously didst thou keep thy promised allegiance to God!
He was dear to thee above all things else;
and as to the dangerous pleasures of this world,
thou wisely didst reject them.

Thou didst restrain the passions
which excite and foster vice,
and march onwards, with unfaltering step,
whither the path of truth leads.

Thy father's promises could not seduce thee.
The luxuries of a life of ease and wealth,
the glitter of diamonds, the prospect of a throne
—they could not allure thee.

Thou wast not affrighted by the threat of a cruel death,
nor by the executioner's merciless rage;
for the everlasting joys of heaven
were dearer to thee than those of time.

Do thou now kindly protect us
from thy heavenly throne,
and graciously receive the prayers we present to thee
whilst celebrating the palm made thine by martyrdom.

To the Father, the Lord of all things, be eternal honour!
Let the faithful assembled here in prayer, glorify the Son;
let them sing forth endless praise
to the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

We offer thee, O brave witness to the truth of our holy faith! our admiration and gratitude. Thy courageous death was proof of the love thou hadst for Christ; and thy contempt of earthly honours teaches us to despise them. Though thou wert heir to a throne, a prison was thy abode here below. It was thence that thou didst ascend to heaven, wearing on thy brow the laurels of martyrdom, a crown far brighter than that which was offered thee on condition of thy apostatizing from the faith. Pray now for us: the Church asks it of thee, by inserting thy name in the Calendar of her Saints. The Pasch was the day of thy triumph; obtain for us that this may be a true Pasch to us, a real resurrection. which may lead us to the heaven above, where we may enjoy with thee the sight of our Risen Jesus. Intercede for us, that we may be firm in the faith, obedient to the teachings of holy Church, and enemies of every error and innovation. Protect Spain, thy fatherland, which owes to thy martyrdom long centuries of loyalty to the true faith. Pray for her, that she may ever continue to merit her glorious title of Catholic Kingdom.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

YESTERDAY Spain sent one of her princes to represent her at the court of the Conqueror of Death. To-day Christ receives with equal honour the representative of learning in the service of religion. The philosopher’s mantle worn by Justin is as splendid as the royal purple of Hermenegild, for both prince and philosopher have washed their robes in their own blood, mingled with that of the Lamb, and these robes have become the insignia of their eternal glory. But the victory of Christ’s champions is not felt in heaven only—the blood of the martyrs makes the very earth fruitful. In spite of heresy, Catholic Spain was born from the royal blood of Hermenegild, and paganism, by sacrificing Justin to its own hatred, inspired new vigour into the seed sown in Rome by SS Peter and Paul. On this very day the sacred cycle brings before us SS Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, the glorious triumvirate won to Christ by the immortal Cecily, who embodies so nobly the Roman faith defended with such love and learning by Justin. When she was born. Justin’s public disputations with the adversaries of Christianity were filling Rome with his victorious refutations of paganism. His writings, which he boldly caused to penetrate even to the imperial throne, carried the light to regions which he could not reach by his spoken word. The lictor’s axe, in striking off the head of the apologist, gave more force to his demonstrations than had been given by his powerful logic, when for the first time he overcame the powers of hell and put an end to a fierce persecution.

The world, courted on all sides by a thousand different schools, which by their contradictions seemed bent on making the discovery of truth impossible, was now in a position to recognize sincerity. Marcus Aurelius had succeeded Antoninus Pius, and he claimed to enthrone philosophy in his own person. His ideal of perfection was the satisfaction of self and the contempt of others, and he passed from dogmatic scepticism to the establishment of the Moral Law, delivering his ‘Thoughts ‘to the admiration of his courtiers without caring for the reformation of their morals. Justin, had been seeking truth from boyhood, in order to find justice. He was not discouraged by the ill-success of his early efforts, and did not make the delay of the dawn an excuse for denying the existence of the light. When, at God's chosen time, he found Wisdom, he longed to communicate her to all, little and great, and devoted his life to the work, making naught of the labours and sufferings by which he solemnly confessed his faith before the world. What man of good faith could hesitate to choose between the Christian hero and the crowned sophist who put him to death? Who would not, like Cecily, pour scorn upon the pretensions of those false philosophers who have made themselves masters of the world and who give no proof of their love for wisdom beyond their determination to shut the mouths of those who preach it?

Philosophy, baptized in the blood of this convert, is henceforward Christian for ever. Her distressing sterility is at an end. The testimony of martyrdom which she has now given to truth in token of faithful service, atones for all the monstrous offences of her early years. She will always be distinct from faith, but henceforth she will be the helpmeet of this heavenly virtue. Human reason will be strengthened by the alliance and will be able to arrive at trustworthy conclusions. But woe to reason if she forgets her consecration to Christ, ignores the mystery of the Incarnation, and declares herself satisfied with a purely natural explanation of the origin of man, the end of creation, and the Moral Law. The natural light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world, is unquestionably from the Word, and that is its glory. But since the divine Word, in addition to the honour thus done to reason, has given to humanity a higher and more direct manifestation of himself, he does not intend that man should divide his gifts, leave on one side the faith which prepares the way for vision, and content himself with the gleam of light which would have been sufficient for the state of pure nature. The Word is one, as man, to whom he manifests himself, is one; and this manifestation is made at one and the same time, though in different ways, namely, by reason and faith. If man withdraws himself from the supernatural light, he will be rightly punished by the withdrawal of that natural light, which he thought to be his own, and the world will be plunged into unreasoning foolishness.

Let us read the account given by the Church of the martyr philosopher and give glory to our Risen Lord, whose triumph is enhanced by the consecration to him of all the glory gained by men.

Justinus Prisci filius ex græco genere Flaviæ Neapolis in Syria Palestina natus, adolescentiam in litterarum omnium studiis transegit. Vir factus adeo philosophiæ: amore correptus est, ut ad veritatem assequendam, quotquot aderant, philosophorum sectis nomen dederit, eorumque præcepta scrutatus sit. Cum in his fallaccm tantum sapientiam erroremque reperisset, superna illustratione per senem quemdam ignotum aspectuque venerabilem edoctus, veræ christianæ fidei philosophiam amplexus est. Hinc sacræ Scripturæ libros diu noctuque præ manibus habens, ita ex eorum meditatione divinus ignis in anima ejus exarsit, ut ea qua pollebat emditionis vi, eminentem Jesu Christi scientiam adeptus, plurima conscripserit volumina ad christianum fidem exponendam, magisque propagandam.

Inter præclarissima Justini opera binæ eminent fidei Christiane Apologie, quas cum, coram Senatu, Imperatoribus Antonino Pio ejusque tiliis, necnon Marco Antonino Vero et Lucio Aurelio Commodo, Christi asseclas sevissime divexantibus, porrexisset, eamdemque fidem disputando strenue propugnasset, obtinuit ut a christianorum cede publico Principum edicto temperatum fuerit. Verum Justino hand parcitum est. Nam Crescentis Cynici, cujus vitam et mores nefarios redarguerat insidiis accusatus, a satellitibus comprehensus est. Adductus autem ad Rome Presidem nomine Rusticum, cum hic ab eo quesivisset quenam essent christianorum precepta, hanc bonam confessionem coram multis testibus confessus est: Rectum dogma quod nos christiani homines cum pietate servamus, hoc est: ut Deum unum existimemus factorem et creatorem omnium, que videntur, queque corporeis oculis non cernuntur; et Dominum Jesum Christum Dei Filium confiteamur, olim a Prophetis prænuntiatum, qui et humani generis judex venturus est.

Quoniam Justinus in prima sua Apologia palam exposuerat quomodo christiani convenirent ad Sacra celebranda, et quænam fuerint sacri hujus conventus mysteria ad repellendas ethnicorum calumnias, exquisivit ab eo Præses in quonam loco conveniret ipse et cæteri hujus Urbis Christi fideles. Justinus autem reticens coventuum loca, ne sancta et fratres proderet canibus, domicilium tantum suum indicavit, ubi manere et discipulos excolere solebat, penes celebrem titulum Pastoris in ædibus Pudentis. Demum Præses optionem ei dedit vel ut diis sacrificaret, vel per totum corpus flagellis caedi perferret. Cum invictus fidei vindex assereret se in votis semper habuisse cruciatus perpeti propter Dominum Jesum Christum, a quo magnam in cœlis mercedem consequi exspectabat, praeses in eum capitalem sententiam pronuntiavit. Itaque mirabilis philosophus, Deum collaudans, post verbera, fuso pro Christo sanguine, glorioso martyrio coronatus est. Quidam vero fideles clam illius sustulerunt corpus, et in loco idoneo condiderunt. Leo decimus tertius,Pontifex Maximus, ejusdem officium ab universa Ecclesia celebrari præcepit.
Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student in the schools of all the philosophers, and examined the teaching of them all. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. He received the light of heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.

Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defences of the Christian faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defence of the faith he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: ‘The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind.’

In his first Apology Justin had given, in order to rebut the slanders of the heathen, an open account of the Christian assemblies and of the holy Mysteries there celebrated. The prefect asked him in what place he and Christ’s other faithful servants in the city were accustomed to meet. But Justin, fearing to betray the holy mysteries and his brethren, mentioned only his own dwelling near the famous church in the house of Pudens, where he lived and taught his disciples. The prefect then bade him choose whether he would sacrifice to the gods or suffer a cruel scourging. The unconquered champion of the faith answered that he had always desired to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom he hoped to receive a great reward in heaven. The prefect thereupon sentenced him to death, and thus this excellent philosopher, giving praise to God, suffered the pain of scourging, and then shed his blood for Christ, and was crowned with martyrdom. Some of the faithful stole away his body and buried it in a fitting place. The Supreme Pontiff, Leo XIII, commanded that his office and Mass should be said throughout the Church.

We hail in thee, O Justin, one of the noblest trophies of the divine Conqueror of Death. Thou wast bom in the kingdom of darkness, but thou didst early seek to break the chains of falsehood which bound thee like so many others. Thou didst love Wisdom even before thou didst know her, and she too had chosen thee.[1] But she ‘will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.’[2] Many men seek to hide their self-love under the beautiful name of Philosophy, and to find in her an excuse for all their vices; but thou didst seek for knowledge out of a desire to know and love the truth and obey her laws. This purity of heart and mind brought thee near to God and made thee worthy to meet in the ways of life the living Wisdom whom thou art now enjoying in the full light of eternity.[3] The Church has honoured thee, and rightly, with the name of the Admirable Philosopher, for thou wast the first to realize that a Philosophy which is worthy of the name—a true love of wisdom—cannot confine its researches within the abstract domain of pure reason; for reason is only the gateway into those higher regions where Wisdom reveals herself in person to the love that seeks her with a sincere heart.

It is written of souls like thee that ‘the multitude of the wise is the welfare of the whole world.’[4] But true philosophers who, like thee, understand that the aim of the wise man is to attain to the vision of God[5]—to reach the most holy God by the way of obedience[6]—are rare in .these days. The independence of reason is the only dogma on which the sophists of the present day are agreed. Their sect is characterized by a false eclecticism, which allows each one to make his own system and choose what most appeals to him out of the positive affirmations of different schools and religions. Thus they proclaim that reason, though supreme in their eyes, has so far produced no trustworthy conclusions, and that the last word of science is scepticism or universal doubt. It is hardly becoming for such men to reproach the Church with despising reason. On the contrary, the Church has but lately, in the Vatican Council,[7] emphasized and exalted the mutual help rendered by faith and reason in leading men to God, and she casts out of her fold those who deny to human reason the power to affirm with certainty the existence of God our Lord and Creator. When seeking to define in these days the respective value of faith and reason, without either separating or confusing them, the Church had but to listen to the testimony of Christian philosophers in all centuries, beginning with thee, for their works, which complete one another, are full of this dcctrine.

Thou wast as faithful as thou wert brave, O valiant martyr! In thy day the Church had not been forced by contests with heresy to seek for new terms of expression whose very precision soon became indispensable, but thy writings prove to us that the doctrine was the same though the phraseology was less clear. Be thou blessed by all the children of the Church for this demonstration of the identity of our belief with that of the second century. Be thou blessed for thy careful distinction between that which was dogma to be held by all, and those private opinions on lesser points to which the Church in thy day left liberty as she has ever done.

Do not disappoint the confidence of the Mother of all mankind. Though so many centuries have passed since thy martyrdom, she wishes her children to pay thee greater honour to-day than they have done in past ages. She was once recognized as queen of the nations, but now her situation is what it was in the days when thou didst defend her against hostile powers. Raise up new apologists. Teach them that the assaults of hell may be repelled by zeal, firmness and eloquence. But they must not have false ideas as to the nature of the combat entrusted to their honour by the Church. They have to defend a queen. The Spouse of the Son of God could never permit her champions to solicit for her the protection accorded to a slave. Truth has its rights—or, rather, it is truth alone that has the right to claim liberty. Our apologists, O Justin, must, like thee, make the State ashamed not to grant to the Church a liberty accorded to all sects. But Christian champions may not rest satisfied with a toleration extended equally to Christ and Satan, They must cry with thee, even when fresh violence is threatened: ‘Our cause is just, for we, and we alone, speak the truth.’[8]

 


[1] Ecclus. iv 18.
[2] Wis. i 4.
[3] Cp. ibid. vi 17-21.
[4] Ibid. vi 26.
[5] Ecclus. vi 23; Dialog, cum Tryph. 3.
[6] Ecclus. iv 15.
[7] Sess. iii, cap. 4, can. 10.
[8] Apol. i 23.

 

Articles...