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April

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWO bright stars appear this day on the ecclesiastical cycle, proclaiming the glory of our Jesus, the Conqueror of death. Again they are two pontiffs, and martyr pontiffs. Cletus leads us to the very commencement of the Church, for he was a disciple of Peter, and his second successor in the See of Rome. Marcellinus was a witness of the great persecution under Diocletian; he governed the Church on the eve of her triumph. Let us honour these two fathers of Christendom, who laid down their lives in its defence; and let us offer their merits to Jesus, who supported them by his grace, and cheered them with the hope that one day they would share in his Resurrection.

The following is the account given of St Cletus by the Liturgy:

Cletus Romanus, patre Emiliano, de regione quinta, e vico Patricio, imperatoribus Vespasiano et Tito, Ecclesiam gubernavit. Is ex præcepto Principis Apostolorum, in Urbe viginti quinque presbyteros ordinavit. Primus in litteris verbis illis usus est: Salutem et Apostolicam benedictionem. Qui Ecclesia optime constituta, cum ei præfuisset annos duodecimo menses septem, dies duos, Domitiano imperatore, secunda post Neronem persecutione, martyrio corona tus est, et in Vaticano juxta corpus beati Petri sepultus.
Cletus, the son of Emilianus, was a Roman of the fifth region and of the Patrician street. He governed the Church during the reigns of the emperors Vespasian and Titus. Agreeably to the order given him by the Prince of the Apostles, he established five and twenty priests in the City. He was the first who in his letters used the words: ' Health and Apostolic benediction.' Having put the Church into admirable order, and having governed it twelve years, seven months, and two days, he was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Domitian, in the second persecution following that of Nero, and was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St Peter.

The Life of St Marcellinus is thus given in the Breviary:

Marcellinus Romanus, ab anno ducentesimo nonagesimo sexto ad annum trecentesimum quartum in immani imperatoris Diocletiani persecutione Ecclesiae præfuit. Multas pertulit angustias ob improbam eomm severitatem qui eum redarguebant de nimia indulgentia erga lapsos in idololatriam, quæque causa fuit ut per calumniam infamatus fuerit, quasi thus idolis adhibuisset. Veruna hic beatus Pontifex in confessione fidei una cum tribus aliis Christianis, Claudio, Cyrino et Antonino, capite plexus est. Quorum projecta corpora cum triginta sex dies jussu imperatoris sepultura caruissent, beatus Marcellus a sancto Petro in somnis admonitus, Presbyteris et Diaconis, hymnis ac luminibus adhibitis, honorifice sepelienda curavit in cœmeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria. Rexit Ecclesiam annos septem, menses undecim, dies viginti tres: quo tempore fecit Ordinationes duas mense decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros quatuor, episcopos per diversa loca quinque.
Marcellinus, a Roman by birth, ruled over the Church from the year two hundred and ninety six to the year three hundred and four, during the terrible persecution of Diocletian. He had much to suffer from the impious severity of those who reproached him with showing too much indulgence towards such as had relapsed into idolatry, whence ensued a calumnious report of his having offered incense to idols. But in truth, this blessed pontiff was beheaded for the confession of the faith, together with three other Christians, Claudius, Cyrinus, and Antoninus. Their bodies, by the emperor’s order, were left six and thirty days without burial, after which the blessed Marcellus, in consequence of his receiving, whilst asleep, an admonition from St Peter, had them buried in the Cemetery of Priscilla, on the Salarian Way; at which burial were present many priests and deacons, who, with torches in their hands, sang hymns in honour of the martyrs. Marcellinus governed the Church seven years, eleven months, and twenty three days. During this period he held two ordinations in December, at which four were made priests, and five bishops for divers places.

Pray for us, O holy Pontiffs, and look with fatherly love upon the Church on earth, which was so violently persecuted in your times, and at the present day is far from enjoying peace. The worship of idols is revived; and though they be not of stone or metal, yet they that adore them are as determined to propagate their worship as were the pagans of former days to make all men idolaters. The gods and goddesses now in favour are called Liberty, Progress, and Modern Civilization. Every measure is resorted to, in order to impose these new divinities upon the world; they that refuse to adore them are persecuted; governments are secularized, that is, unchristianized; the education of youth is made independent of all moral teaching; the religious element is rejected from social life as an intrusion: and all this is done with such a show of reasonableness that thousands of well-minded Christians are led to be its advocates, timid perhaps and partial, but still its advocates. Preserve us, O holy martyrs! from being the dupes of this artful impiety. It was not in vain that our Jesus suffered death, and rose again from the grave. Surely after this he deserves to be what he is—King of the whole earth, under whose power are all creatures. It is in order to obey him that we wish no other liberty save that which he has based upon the Gospel; no other progress save that which follows the path he has marked out; no other civilization save that which results from the fulfilment of the duties to our fellow-men, which he has established. It is he that created human nature, and gave it its laws; it is he that redeemed it, and restored to it its lost rights. Him alone, then, do we adore. O holy martyrs! pray that we may never become the dupes or slaves of the theories of human pride, even if they that frame or uphold them should have power to make us suffer or die for our resistance.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THERE are few martyrs of the West whose names are more celebrated than those of SS Gervasius and Protasius. The veneration in which they aie held by the Roman Church has led her to honour the memory of their father, who also won the palm under the persecution of Nero. She has chosen for his feast the glad season of Easter. The account given by the Liturgy of St Vitalis is short; but we can gather, from the few circumstances related, what fine characters these primitive Christians were who received the crown of martyrdom under the first of all the persecutions—the one that numbers among its choicest victims the two Apostles SS Peter and Paul.

Vitalis miles, sanctorum Gervasii et Protasii pater, una cum Paulino judice Ravennam ingressus, cum vidisset Ursicinum medicum ob Christianæ fidei confessionem ductum ad supplicium paululum in tormentis titubare,exclamavit: Ursicine medice, qui alios curare solitus es, cave ne te mortis æternæ jaculo conficias. Qua voce confirmatus Ursicinus, martyrium fortiter subivit. Quare Paulinus incensus Vitalem comprehendi jubet, et equuleo tortum, atque in profundam foveam demersum, lapidibus obrui. Quo facto quidam Apollinis sacerdos, qui Paulinum in Vitalem incitarat, oppressus a dæmone, clamare cœpit: Tu me nimium, Vitalis Christi martyr, incendis: et illo æstu jactatus, se præcipitavit in flumen.
Vitalis was a soldier, and the father of Saints Gervasius and Protasius. Coming one day into Ravenna, in company with the judge Paulinus, he saw a certain Ursicinus, a physician, being led to execution, for having confessed the Christian faith. Vitalis observing that his courage was somewhat shaken by the tortures, cried out to him: ‘Ursicinus! thou that art a physician, and curest other men, take heed lest thou wound thyself with the dart of eternal death!' Encouraged by these words, Ursicinus bravely suffered martyrdom. Whereupon, Paulinus was exceedingly angry, and ordered Vitalis to be seized, tortured on the rack, and then thrown into a deep pit, where he was to be buried alive by stones being thrown upon him. This done, one of the priests of Apollo, who had excited Paulinus against Vitalis, was possessed by a devil, and began shouting these words: ‘O Vitalis, martyr of Christ, thou burnest me beyond endurance!' Mad with the inward burning, he threw himself into a river.

Sin is the enemy of the soul; it throws her back again into that death whence Jesus had drawn her by his Resurrection. To preserve one of thy brethren from this misery, thou, O Vitalis, didst bravely raise a cry of zealous warning to him in the midst of his torments, and thy words awakened him to self-possession and courage. Show this same fraternal charity to us. We are living the life of our Risen Jesus; but the enemy is bent on robbing us of this life. He will seek to intimidate us; he will lay all manner of snares wherewith to deceive us; he will give us battle, and this untiringly. Pray then for us, O holy martyr, that we may be on our guard, and that the mystery of the Pasch may be fully accomplished within us, now and for ever!

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SPLENDIDLY adorned with the sacred sign of the Passion, Paul of the Cross comes to-day to pay homage to the Conqueror of Death. It behoved Christ to suffer and so enter into his glory. It behoves the Christian, the member of Christ, to follow his Head in suffering that he may share his triumph. Even as a child Paul penetrated deeply into the ineffable mystery of the suffering of a God. He was filled with an ardent love for the cross, and ran with giant strides along this royal road. He passed through the torrent, following his divine Head, he was buried with him in death, and has won a share in his Resurrection.

The diminution of truths among the children of men seemed to have dried up the fount of sanctity, when Italy, ever fruitful in her vivid faith, gave birth to the Christian hero, who stands out in the arid waste of the eighteenth century, like a saint of olden times. God never deserts his Church. He confronts a century of revolt and sensualism veiled under the name of philosophy with the Cross of his Son. A new Paul, recalling both in his name and his works the great Apostle of the Gentiles, rises in the midst of a generation intoxicated with pride and falsehood, to whom the Cross has become once more a folly and a scandal. This apostle was weak, poor, isolated and long misunderstood, but his heart was full of love and self-abnegation, and he sought to put to confusion the wisdom of sages and the prudence of prudent men. Clad in a coarse habit, with bare feet, his head crowned with thorns and a heavy cross on his shoulder, he journeyed through cities, claiming the attention of both the humble and the mighty, and desiring to know nothing but Jesus Crucified. The Cross made his zeal fruitful and showed itself to be indeed the power and the wisdom of God. Those who prided themselves on having banished the miraculous from history and the supernatural from the life of the people, might exult in their triumph, but, unknown to them, wonderful prodigies, countless miracles, were making whole peoples submissive to the voice of this man who, by completely destroying sin in his own person, had regained the power which Adam once had over nature, and seemed to possess in his mortal flesh the qualities of a glorified body.

But the apostolate of the Cross was not to end with Paul’s death. The resources of ancient times were no longer sufficient for a decrepit age. We are far from the days when the exquisite delicacy of Christian sentiment was strongly moved by the sight of the cross amid flowers, as it is seen in the paintings of the catacombs. Man’s senses have been dulled by unhealthy emotions, and there is need of a stimulant in the form of a constant representation of the tears, the Blood, and the gaping wounds of our divine Redeemer. Paul of the Cross received the mission to supply this need. At the cost of unspeakable sufferings he became the father of a new religious family, which adds to the three ordinary vows of religion a fourth vow—to propagate devotion to the sacred Passion of our Lord, the badge of which each Religious wears visibly on his breast.

We must not forget that the Passion of our Lord is for the Christian soul only a preparation for the great mystery of the Pasch, the glorious term of the manifestations of the Word, the supreme end of the elect, whose piety finds therein its completion and its crown. The Holy Spirit, who guides the Church throughout the admirable course of the liturgical cycle, has no other end in view for the souls who abandon themselves unreservedly to his sanctifying power. Paul's desire was to be nailed to the cross on Calvary, but he was often carried thence to the heights of heaven where he heard mysterious words such as it is not granted to man to utter.[1] He assisted at the triumph of the Son of Man, who, after having lived on earth a mortal life and passed through death, is living now for ever and ever.[2] He saw on the throne of God the Lamb standing as though slain, and giving light to the heavenly city,[3] and this sublime vision of the realities of heaven inspired him with that divine enthusiasm, that intoxication of love, which, in spite of his terrifying austerities, gives an incomparable charm to his whole person. ‘Fear not,' he said to his children who were terrified by the furious attacks of the Devil, ' fear not, cry “Alleluia.” The devil is afraid of the Alleluia; it is a word that comes from Paradise.' He could not restrain his feelings when he saw nature born again with her Saviour in these days of spring, the flowers blossoming under the steps of his Risen Lord, the birds celebrating his victory in their harmonious songs. His heart was full to overflowing with love and poetry; he touched the flowers gently with his stick and upbraided them, saying: ‘Hold your peace, hold your peace.’ ‘To whom do these lands belong?’ he said one day to a companion, ‘to whom do these lands belong, I say? You do not understand. They belong to our great God.’ And his biographer relates that he was rapt in an ecstasy of love and carried some distance through the air. ‘Love God, my brethren,' he repeated to all those whom he met, ‘love God, who so well deserves our love. Do you not hear the very leaves on the trees telling you to love God? O love of God, love of God!'

We yield to the charm of a sanctity which is so sweet and yet so strong. It is a divine attraction, such as could never be exercised by the false spirituality, so much in vogue in the eighteenth century, even among the holiest. Under pretext of subduing man's evil nature and avoiding possible excesses, the new teachers allied themselves, though unwittingly, with Jansenism, checked the flight of the soul, disciplined it, remade it according to their own fashion, and confined it within the limits of certain rules which were supposed to lead all souls to perfection at the same rate. But saints are made by the divine Spirit, the spirit of love and holiness, to whose essence liberty belongs. He does not confine himself within the bounds of human methods. Our Lord says: ' The Spirit breatheth where he will . . . but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is bom of the Spirit.'[4] The Holy Ghost chose Paul in his earliest infancy. He took possession of this child, so richly endowed by nature, destroyed nothing and sanctified everything. He formed him according to ancient models, always ardent, always attractive, and exceedingly holy. Such a one could never have been produced by a school whose over-correct methods wear the soul out by a barren and self-centred asceticism.

The Liturgy gives the following short account of St Paul of the Cross:

Paulus a Cruce Uvadae in Liguria natus, sed e Castellatio prope Alexandriam nobili genere oriundus, qua futurus esset sanctitate clarus, innotuit miro splendore qui noctu implevit parientis matris cubiculum, et insigni augustæ cœli Reginas beneficio, quæ puerum in flumen delapsum a certo naufragio illaesum eripuit. A primo rationis usu, Jesu Christi crucifixi amore flagrans, ejus contemplationi prolixius vacare cœpit, et carnem innocentissimam vigiliis, flagellis, jejuniis, potu in sexta feria ex aceto cum felle mixto, ac dura quavis castigatione conter ere. Martyrii desiderio incensus, exercitui se adjunxit, qui Venetiis ad bellum Turcis inferendum comparabatur; cognita vero inter orandum Dei voluntate, arma ultro reddidit, præstantiori militiæ operam daturus, quæ Ecclesiæ præsidio esse, æternamque hominum salutem procurare totis viribus niteretur. Reversus in patriam, honestissimis nuptiis, sibique delata patrui hereditate, recusatis. arctiorem inire semitam, ac rudi tunica a suo Episcopo indui voluit. Tum ejus jussu, ab eminentem vitæ sanctimoniam, et rerum divinarum scientiam, nondum clericus Dominicum agrum, maximo cum animarum fructu, divini verbi prædicatione excoluit.

Romam profectus, theologicis disciplinis rite imbutus, a summo Pontifice Benedicto Decimo tertio ex obedientia sacerdotio auctus est. Facta sibi ab eodem potestate aggregandi socios, in solitudinem recessit Argentarii montis, quo eum beata Virgo jampridem invitaverat, veste illi simul ostensa atri coloris, Passionis Filli sui insignibus decorata, ibique fundamenta jecit novæ Congregationis. Quæ brevi, plurimis ab eo toleratis laboribus, præclaris aucta viris, cum Dei benedictione valde succrevit; a Sede Apostolica non semel confirmata una cum regulis, quas orando ipse a Deo acceperat, et quarto addito voto pergratam Dominicæ Passionis memoriam promovendi. Sacras Virgines quoque instituit, quæ excessum caritatis divini Sponsi sedulo meditarentur. Hæc inter, animarum inexhausta aviditate ab Evangelii prsedicatione numquam deficiens, homines pene innumeros etiam perditissimos aut in hæresim lapsos, in salutis tramitem adduxit. Præsertim Christi enarranda Passione, mirifica ejus prationis vis erat, qua una cum adstantibus in fletum effusus quælibet obdurata corda ad poenitentiam scindebat.

Tanta in ejus pectore alebatur divinæ caritatis fiamma, ut indusium quod erat cordi propius sæpe veluti igne adustum, et binæ costæ elatæ apparuerint. Sacrum prææsertim faciens non poterat a lacrimis temperare; frequenti quoque exstasi, cum mira interdum corporis elevatione, frui, vultuque superna luce radiante con spi ciebatur. Quandoque cum concionaretur, coelestis vox verba ei suggerentis audita fuit, aut sermo ejus ad plura millia passuum intonuit. Prophetiæ et linguarum dono, cordium scrutatione, potestate in dæmones, in morbos, in elementa enituit. Cumque ipsis summis Pontificibus carus et venerandus esset, servum inutilem, peccatorem nequissimum, a dæmoniis quoque conculcandum se judicabat. Tandem, asperrimi vitæ generis ad longam usque senectutem tenacissimus, anno millesimo septingentesimo septuagesimo quinto, cum præclara monita veluti sui spiritus transmissa haereditate, alumnis tradidisset, Ecclesiæ sacramentis, ac cœlesti visione recreatus, Romæ qua prædixerat die migravit in cœlum, Eum Pius Nonus Pontifex Maximus in beatorum, novisque deinde fulgentem signis in sanctorum numerum retulit.

Paul of the Cross was bom at Ovada, in the province of Acqui, and was descended from a noble family of Castellazzo near Alessandria. His future holiness was foreshown by a wonderful light which filled his mother’s room while she was in labour, and by a remarkable proof of the protection of the Queen of Heaven, who saved him from drowning in the river as a child. From the first use of reason he was filled with an ardent love for Jesus Crucified, and began to devote much time to con templation of him. He chastised his innocent flesh with watchings, scourgings, fasting, and all kinds of austerity, and on Fridays drank vinegar mingled with gall. Out of a desire for martyrdom he enlisted in the army which was being raised at Venice to fight against the Turks, but having learnt in prayer what was the Will of God, he gave up this career in order to serve in a nobler army which was to defend the Church and labour for the eternal salvation of men. When he returned home he refused a very honourable marriage and tie inheritance left him by his uncle. He wished to enter upon a straiter way, and to receive a coarse tunic from the bishop, who, on account of his holiness of life and knowledge of divine things, commissioned him even before his ordination to preach the Word of God, which he did with great profit to souls.

He went to Rome, and after having gone through the theological course was ordained priest by command of Pope Benedict XIII, who also gave him permission to gather comrades around him. He withdrew to the solitude of Mount Argentaro, whither he had been summoned by the Blessed Virgin, who had also shown him in vision a black habit bearing the emblems of the Passion of her Son. Here he laid the foundations of a new Congregation which, through his labours and the blessing of God, quickly increased and attracted eminent men. It received the confirmation of the Apostolic See more than once, together with the Rule which Paul had himself received from God in prayer, and the addition of a fourth vow to promote devotion to the Passion of our Lord. He founded also a congregation of nuns, whose vocation should be to meditate upon the surpassing charity of their heavenly Spouse. His untiring love for souls caused him never to weary in preaching the Gospel, and he brought numbers of men, both heretics and criminals, into the way of salvation. So great was his eloquence when he spoke of the Passion that both he and his hearers would shed tears, and the most hardened hearts were moved to repentance.

The fire of the love of God burnt so in his heart that his garments often seemed to be scorched, and two of his ribs raised. He could not restrain his tears, particularly when saying Mass, and he was often rapt in ecstasy and raised into the air, while his face shone as with light from heaven. Sometimes when he was preaching, a heavenly voice was heard prompting him, and at others his words became audible at the distance of several miles. He was distinguished for the gifts of prophecy, of speaking with tongues, of reading the heart, and of power over evil spirits, over diseases, and over the elements. Though Popes regarded him with affection and veneration, he looked upon himself as an unprofitable servant upon whom devils might well trample. He persevered in his austerities until extreme old age, and died at Rome on the day he had himself foretold (October I8, 1775), after having received the Last Sacraments and the consolation of a heavenly vision. He left the spirit of his teaching as an inheritance to his disciples in the beautiful exhortations he made to them on his death-bed. Pope Pius IX enrolled him among the Blessed, and after renewed signs and wonders proceeded to his canonization.

Thou hadst but one thought, O Paul. Hidden in those ‘clefts of the rock,’[5] which are the sacred Wounds of the Saviour, thou wouldst bring all men to these divine fountains which quench the thirst of the true Israel in the desert of this life. Happy were they who could hear thy victorious word and save themselves by the Cross in the midst of a perverse generation. But in spite of thy apostolic zeal, thy voice could not make itself heard in all lands, and where thou wast absent evil was let loose upon the world. False science and mistaken piety, mistrust of Rome and the corruption of the great had prepared the way for the destruction of the old Christian social order, and the world was given over to teachers of lies. Thy prophetic gaze saw the abyss in which kings and peoples were soon to be engulfed. The successor of St Peter, unable to quell the storm which raged against the Church, sought by his efforts and sacrifices to hold back the floods, even for a time. Thou wert the friend of the Pontiffs and their support in those sad days, the witness of Christ suffering in his Vicar. What sorrows were confided to thee! And what must have been thy thoughts when at thy death thou didst bequeath the venerated image of the Mater Dolorosa to a Pontiff who was destined to drain the cup of bitterness and die a captive in a strange land! Thou didst promise to watch over the Church from thy throne in heaven with that tender compassion which identified thee on earth with her suffering Spouse. Keep this promise to-day, O Paxil! This age of social disintegration has neither made atonement for the sins of the past nor learnt wisdom from misfortune. The Church is the victim of oppression on all sides, the power is in the hands of her persecutors, and the Vicar of Christ is a prisoner in his palace and lives on alms. The Bride has no bed but the Cross of her Spouse, she lives on the memory of his sufferings. The Holy Spirit who guards her and is preparing her for the final summons, has raised thee up to keep her perpetually in mind of those sufferings which are to strengthen her in the trials of the last days.

Thy children all the world over are true to the spirit of their father and continue thy work on earth. They have gained a footing in England where thy prophetic gaze foresaw their labours, and this kingdom, for which thou didst pray so earnestly, is being gradually freed, through their influence, from the bonds of schism and heresy. Bless their apostolate. May they grow and be multiplied to meet the ever-increasing needs of these unhappy times! May their zeal ever continue to minister to the Church, and may the holiness of their lives ever redound to the glory of their father!

Thou, O Paul, wast faithful to thy crucified Master in his humiliation, and he has been faithful to thee in his triumphant Resurrection. In the hour of darkness thou didst live hidden in the clefts of the mysterious Rock. But what must be thy glory, now that Christ victorious ‘enlighteneth wonderfully from the everlasting hills’![6] Enlighten and perfect us, we beseech thee. We give thanks to God for thy triumph. Do thou in return help us to be faithful to the standard of the Cross, so that we, like thee, may be illuminated by its glory, when it appears in the clouds of heaven on the day of judgement.[7] O Apostle of the Cross, initiate us into the mystery of the Pasch, which is so closely connected with that of Calvary. Only he who has shared the combat can comprehend the victory and have part in the triumph.

 


[1] 2 Cor. xii 4.
[2] Apoc. i 18.
[3] Ibid, xxi 23.
[4] St John iii 8.
[5] Cant, ii 14.
[6] Ps. xxv 5.
[7] Cf. St Matt. xxiv 30.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE hero deputed this day by the Church to greet our Risen Lord was so valiant in the good fight that martyrdom is part of his name. He is known as Peter the Martyr; so that we cannot speak of him without raising the echo of victory. He was put to death by heretics, and is the grand tribute paid to our Redeemer by the thirteenth century. Never was there a triumph hailed with greater enthusiasm than this. The martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury excited the admiration of the faithful of the preceding century, for nothing was so dear to our forefathers as the liberty of the Church; the martyrdom of St Peter was celebrated with a like intensity of praise and joy. Let us hearken to the fervid eloquence of the great Pontiff, Innocent IV, who thus begins the Bull of the martyr's canonization: ‘The truth of the Christian faith, manifested, as it has been, by great and frequent miracles, is now beautified by the new merit of a new Saint. Lo! a combatant of these our own times comes, bringing us new and great and triumphant signs. The voice of his blood shed (for Christ) is heard, and the fame of his martyrdom is trumpeted, through the world. The land is not silent that sweateth with his blood; the country that produced so noble a warrior resounds with his praise; yea, the very sword that did the deed of parricide proclaims his glory. . . . Mother Church has great reason to rejoice, and abundant matter for gladness; she has cause to sing a new canticle to the Lord, and a hymn of fervent praise to her God; . . . the Christian people has cause to give forth devout songs to its Creator. A sweet fruit, gathered in the garden of faith, has been set upon the table of the eternal King: a grape-bunch taken from the vineyard of the Church has filled the royal cup with new wine. . . . The flourishing Order of Preachers has produced a red rose, whose sweetness is most grateful to the King; and from the Church here on earth there has been taken a stone, which, after being cut and polished, has deserved a place of honour in the temple of heaven.'[1]

Such was the language wherewith the supreme Pontiff spoke of the new martyr, and the people responded by celebrating his feast with extraordinary devotion. It was kept as were the ancient festivals, that is, all servile work was forbidden upon it. The churches served by the Fathers of the Dominican Order were crowded on his feast; and the faithful took little branches with them, that they might be blessed in memory of the triumph of Peter the Martyr. This custom is still observed; and the branches blessed by the Dominicans on this day are venerated as being a protection to the houses where they arc kept.

How are we to account for all this fervent devotion of the people towards St Peter? It was because he died in defence of the faith; and nothing was so dear to the Christians of those days as faith: Peter had received the charge to seize all the heretics who at that time were causing great disturbance and scandal in the country round about Milan. They were called Cathari, but in reality were Manicheans; their teachings were detestable, and their lives most immoral. Peter fulfilled his duty with a firmness and equity which soon secured him the hatred of the heretics; and when he fell a victim to his holy courage, a cry of admiration and gratitude was heard throughout Christendom. Nothing could be more devoid of truth than the accusations brought by the enemies of the Church and their indiscreet abettors against the measures formerly decreed by the public law of Catholic nations, in order to foil the efforts made by evil-minded men to injure the true faith. In those times, no tribunal was so popular as that whose office it was to protect the faith, and to put down all them that attacked it. It was to the Order of St Dominic that this office was mainly entrusted; and well may they be proud of the honour of having so long held one so beneficial to the salvation of mankind. How many of its members have met with a glorious death in the exercise of their stem duty! St Peter is the first of the martyrs given by the Order for this, holy cause: his name, however, heads a long list of others who were his brethren in religion, his successors in the defence of the faith, and his followers to martyrdom. The coercive measures that were once, and successfully, used to defend the faithful from heretical teachers have long since ceased to be used: but for us Catholics, our judgement of them must surely be that of the Church. She bids us to-day honour as a martyr one of her Saints, who was put to death whilst resisting the wolves that threatened the sheep of Christ’s fold; should we not be guilty of disrespect to our Mother if we dared to condemn what she so highly approves? Far, then, be from us that cowardly truckling to the spirit of the age, which would make us ashamed of the courageous efforts made by our forefathers for the preservation of the faith! Far from us that childish readiness to believe the calumnies of Protestants against an institution which they naturally detest! Far from us that deplorable confusion of ideas which puts truth and error on an equality, and, from the fact that error can have no rights, concludes that truth can claim none!

The following is the account given us by the Church of the virtues and heroism of St Peter the Martyr:

Petrus Veronæ parentibus Manichæorum hæresi infect is natus, ab ipsa pene infantia contra hæreses pugnavit. Puer annorum septem, cum scholas frequentaret, aliquando a patruo hæretico interrogatus quid tandem in iis didicisset, Christianæ Fidei Symbolum se didicisse respondit: neque ullis unquam patris patruive blanditiis aut minis a fidei constantia dimoveri potuit. Adolescens Bononiam studiorum causa venit: ubi a Spiritu Sancto ad sublimioris vitæ formam vocatus, Ordinis Prædicatorum institutum suscepit.

Magno virtutum splendore in religione eluxit: corpus et animam ab omni impuntate ita custodivit, ut nullius mortiferi peccati labe se inquinatum unquam senserit. Carnem jejuniis et vigiliis macerabat, mentem divinis contemplationibus exercebat: in salute animarum procuranda assidue versabatur, peculiaris gratiæ dono hæreticos acriter confutabat. Tantam in concionando vim habuit, ut innumerabilis hominum multitudo ad eum audiendum confiueret, multique ad poenitentiam converterentur.

Tanto fidei ardore incensus erat, ut pro ea mortem subire optaret, eamque a Deo gratiam enixe precaretur. Itaque hæretici necem, quam is paulo ante concionando prædixerat, illi intulerunt. Nam cum sanctæ Inquisitionis munus gereret, illum Como Mediolanum redeuntem, impius sicarius semel atque iterum in capite gladio vulneravit; jamqjamue pene mortuus, Symbol um fidei, quam infans virili fortitudine confessus fuerat, in ipso supremo spiritu pronuntiavit: iterumque latera mucrone transverberatus, ad martyrii palmam migravit in cœlum, anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo quinquagesimo secundo: quem multis illustrem miraculis, Innocentius Quartus anno sequenti, sanctorum Martyrum numero adscripsit.
Peter was born at Verona, of parents who were infected with the heresy of the Manichees; but he himself, almost from his very infancy, fought against heresies. When he was seven years old, he was one day asked by an uncle, who was a heretic, what they taught him at the school to which he went. He answered that they taught him the Symbol of the Christian Faith. His father and uncle did all they could, both by promises and threats, to shake the firmness of his faith: but all to no purpose. When old enough, he went to Bologna, in order to prosecute his studies. Whilst there, he was called by the Holy Ghost to a life of perfection, and obeyed the call by entering into the Order of St Dominic.

Great were his virtues as a Religious. So careful was he to keep both body and soul from whatsoever could sully their purity, that his conscience never accused him of committing a mortal sin. He mortified his body by fasting and watching, and applied his mind to the contemplation of heavenly things. He laboured incessantly for the salvation of souls, and was gifted with a special grace for refuting heretics. He was so earnest when preaching, that people used to go in crowds to hear him, and numerous were the conversions that ensued.

The ardour of his faith was such that he wished he might die for it, and earnestly did he beg that favour from God. This death, which he foretold a short time before in one of his sermons, was inflicted on him by the heretics. Whilst returning from Como to Milan, in the discharge of the duties of the holy Inquisition, he was attacked by a wicked assassin, who struck him twice on the head with a sword. The symbol of faith, which he had confessed with manly courage when but a child, he now began to recite with his dying lips; and having received another wound in his side, he went to receive a martyr's palm in heaven, in the year of our Lord twelve hundred and fifty-two. Numerous miracles attested his sanctity, and his name was enrolled the following year by Innocent the Fourth in the list of the martyrs.

The following Antiphons and Responsory are taken from the Dominican Breviary:

Ant. De fumo lumen oritur, et rosæ flos de sentibus: doctor et martyr nascitur Petrus de infidelibus.

Ant. Prædicatorum ordinis militans in acie, nunc conjunctus est agmini coelestis militiæ.

Ant. Mens fuit angelica, lingua fructuosa, vita apostolica, mors quam pretiosa.

℟. Dum Samsonis vulpes quærit, ab iniquis cæditur: caput sacrum lictor ferit, justi sanguis funditur;
* Sic triumphi palmam gerit, dum pro fide moritur.
℣. Stat invictus pugil fortis: constans profert hora mortis fidem, pro qua patitur.
* Sic triumphi palmam gerit, dum pro fide moritur.
Ant. There rises a light from smoke, and a rose from the midst of briars: Peter, the Doctor and Martyr, is born of infidel parents.

Ant. A soldier once in the ranks of the Order of Preachers, he now is joined to the troop of the heavenly army.

Ant. His mind angelic, his tongue fruitful, his life apostolic, his death most precious.

℟. Whilst in search of Samson's foxes, he is slain by the wicked: the lictor strikes the holy head, the blood of the just man is shed:
* Thus he holds the palm of triumph, whilst dying for the faith.
℣. The brave soldier is unconquered: at the hour of death he courageously confesses the faith for which he suffers.
* Thus he holds the palm of triumph, whilst dying for the faith.


The victory was thine, O Peter! and thy zeal for the defence of our holy faith was rewarded. Thou didst ardently desire to shed thy blood for the holiest of causes, and by such a sacrifice to confirm the faithful of Christ in their religion. Our Lord satisfied thy desire; he would even have thy martyrdom be in the festive season of the Resurrection of our divine Lamb, that his glory might add lustre to the beauty of thy holocaust. When the death-blow fell upon thy venerable head, and thy generous blood was flowing from the wounds, thou didst write on the ground the first words of the creed, for whose holy truth thou wast giving thy life.

Protector of the Christian people! what other motive hadst thou, in all thy labours, but charity? What else but a desire to defend the weak from danger induced thee not only to preach against error, but to drive its teachers from the flock? How many simple souls, who were receiving divine truth from the teaching of the Church, have been deceived by the lying sophistry of heretical doctrine, and have lost the faith? Surely the Church would do her utmost to ward off such dangers from her children; she would do all she could to defend them from enemies, who were bent on destroying the glorious inheritance which had been handed down to them by millions of martyrs! She knew the strange tendency that often exists in the heart of fallen man to love error; whereas truth, though of itself unchanging, is not sure of its remaining firmly in the mind, unless it be defended by learning or by faith. As to learning, there are but few who possess it; and as to faith, error is ever conspiring against it, and, of course, with the appearance of truth. In the Christian ages it would have been deemed not only criminal, but absurd, to grant to error the libertywhich is due only to truth; and they that were in authority considered it a duty to keep the weak from danger, by removing from them all occasions of a fall; just as the father of a family keeps his children from coming in contact with wicked companions who could easily impose on their inexperience, and lead them to evil under the name of good.

Obtain for us, O holy martyr, a keen appreciation of the precious gift of faith—that element which keeps us in the way of salvation. May we zealously do everything that lies in our power to preserve it, both in ourselves and in them that are under our care. The love of this holy faith has grown cold in so many hearts; and frequent intercourse with heretics or free-thinkers has made them think and speak of matters of faith in a very loose way. Pray for them, O Peter, that they may recover that fearless love of the truths of religion which should be one of the chief traits of the Christian character. If they be living in a country where the modem system is introduced of treating all religions alike—that is, of giving equal rights to error and to truth—let them be all the more courageous in professing the truth, and detesting the errors opposed to the truth. Pray for us, O holy martyr, that there may be enkindled within us an ardent love of that faith without which it is impossible to please God.[2] Pray that we may become all earnestness in this duty, which is of vital importance to salvation; that thus our faith may daily gain strength within us, till at length we shall merit to see in heaven what we have believed unhesitatingly on earth.

 


[1] The Apostolic Constitution Maquis et crebris, of the 9th of the Kalends of April 1253.
[2] Heb. xi 6.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Dominican Order, which yesterday presented a rose to our Risen Jesus, now offers him a lily of surpassing beauty. Catharine of Siena follows Peter the Martyr: it is a coincidence willed by Providence, to give fresh beauty to this season of grandest mysteries. Our divine King deserves everything we can offer him; and our hearts are never so eager to give him every possible tribute of homage as during these last days of his sojourn among us. See how nature is all flower and fragrance at this loveliest of her seasons! The spiritual world harmonizes with the visible, and now yields her noblest and richest works in honour of our Lord, the author of grace.

How grand is the Saint whose feast comes to gladden us to-day! She is one of the most favoured of the holy Spouses of the Incarnate Word. She was his, wholly and unreservedly, almost from her very childhood. Though thus consecrated to him by the vow of holy virginity, she had a mission given to her by divine Providence which required her living in the world. But God would have her to be one of the glories of the religious state; he therefore inspired her to join the Third Order of St Dominic. Accordingly, she wore the habit, and fervently practised during her whole life the holy exercises of a Tertiary.

From the very commencement, there was something heavenly about this admirable servant of God, which we fancy existing in an angel who had been sent from heaven to live in a human body. Her longing after God gave one an idea of the vehemence wherewith the blessed embrace the Sovereign Good on their first entrance into heaven. In vain did the body threaten to impede the soaring of this earthly seraph; she subdued it by penance, and made it obedient to the spirit. Her body seemed to be transformed, so as to have no life of its own, but only that of the soul. The Blessed Sacrament was frequently the only food she took for weeks together. So complete was her union with Christ that she received the impress of the sacred stigmata, and with them the most excruciating pain.

And yet in the midst of all these supernatural favours, Catharine felt the keenest interest in the necessities of others. Her zeal for their spiritual advantage was intense, whilst her compassion for them in their corporal sufferings was that of a most loving mother. God had given her the gift of miracles, and she was lavish in using it for the benefit of her fellow-creatures. Sickness and death itself were obedient to her command; and the prodigies witnessed at the beginning of the Church were again wrought by the humble Saint of Siena.

Her communings with God began when she was quite a child, and her ecstasies were almost without interruption. She frequently saw our Risen Jesus, who never left her without having honoured her either with a great consolation or with a heavy cross. A profound knowledge of the mysteries of our holy faith was another of the extraordinary graces bestowed upon her. So eminent indeed was the heavenly wisdom granted her by God that she, who had received no education, used to dictate the most sublime writings, wherein she treats of spiritual things with a clearness and eloquence to which human genius could never attain, and with a certain indescribable unction which no reader can resist.

But God would not permit such a treasure as this to lie buried in a little town of Italy. The Saints are the supports of the Church; and though their influence be generally hidden, yet at times it is open and visible, and men then learn what are the instruments which God uses for imparting blessings to a world that would seem to deserve little else besides chastisement. The great question, at the close of the fourteenth century, was the restoration to the Holy City of the privilege of having within its walls the Vicar of Christ, who for sixty years had been absent from his see. One saintly soul, by merits and prayers, known to heaven alone, might have brought about this happy event after which the whole Church was longing; but God would have it done by a visible agency, and in the most public manner. In the name of the widowed Rome—in the name of her own and the Church's Spouse—Catharine crossed the Alps, and sought an interview with the Pontiff, who had not so much as seen Rome. The prophetess respectfully reminded him of his duty; and in proof of her mission being from God, she told him of a secret which was known to himself alone. Gregory XI could no longer resist; and the Eternal City welcomed its Pastor and Father. But at the Pontiff's death, a frightful schism, the forerunner of greater evils to follow, broke out in the Church. Catharine, even to her last hour, was untiring in her endeavours to quell the storm. Having lived the same number of years as our Saviour had done, she breathed forth her most pure soul into the hands of her God, and went to continue in heaven her ministry of intercession for the Church she had loved so much on earth, and for souls redeemed in the precious Blood of her divine Spouse.

Our Risen Jesus, who took her to her eternal reward during the season of Easter, granted her whilst she was living on earth a favour which we mention here as being appropriate to the mystery we are now celebrating. He one day appeared to her, having with him his blessed Mother. Mary Magdalen—she that announced the Resurrection to the Apostles—accompanied the Son and the Mother. Catharine's heart was overpowered with emotion at this visit. After looking for some time upon Jesus and his holy Mother, her eyes rested on Magdalen, whose happiness she both saw and envied. Jesus spoke these words to her: ‘My beloved! I give her to thee, to be thy mother. Address thyself to her, henceforth, with all confidence. I give her special charge of thee.' From that day forward, Catharine had the most filial love for Magdalen, and called her by no other name than that of mother.

Let us now read the beautiful, but too brief, account of our Saint’s life, as given in the Liturgy.

Catharina, Virgo Senensis, piis orta parentibus, beati Dominici habitum, quem Sorores de Poenitentia gestant, impetravit. Summa ejusfuit abstinentia, et admirabilis vitæ austeritas. Inventa est aliquando a die Cinerum usque ad Ascensionem Domini jejunium perduxisse, sola Eucharistiae communione contenta. Luctabatur quam frequentissime cum dæmonibus, multisque illorum molestiis vexabatur: æstuabat febribus, nec aliorum morborum cruciatu carebat. Magnum et sanctum erat Catharinæ nomen, et undique ad eam ægroti et malignis vexati spiritibus deducebantur. Languoribus et febribus in Christi nomine imperabat, et dæmones cogebat ab obsessis abire corporibus.

Cum Pisis immoraretur, die Dominico, refecta cibo coelesti, et in extasim rapta, vidit Dominum crucifixum magno cum lumine advenientem, et ex ejus vulnerum cicatricibus quinque radios ad quinque loca sui corporis descendentes; ideoque mysterium advertens, Dominum precata, ne cicatrices apparerent, continuo radii colorem sanguineum mutaverunt in splendidum, et in formam puræ lucis pervenerunt ad manus, pedes et cor ejus: ac tantus erat dolor quem sensibiliter patiebatur, ut nisi Deus minuisset, brevi se crederet morituram. Hanc itaque gratiam amantissimus Dominus nova gratia cumulavit, ut sentiret dolorem illapsa vi vulnerum, et cruenta signa non apparerent. Quod ita contigisse cum Dei famula confessano suo Raymundo retulisset, ut oculis etiam repræsentaretur, radios in imaginibus beatæ Catha rinæ ad dicta quinque loca pertingentes, pia fidelium cura pictis coloribus expressit.

Doctrina ejus infusa, non acquisita fuit: sacrarum litterarum professoribus difficillimas de divinitate quæstiones proponentibus respondit. Nemo ad eam accessit qui non melior abierit: multa exstinxit odia, et mortai es sedavit inimicitias. Pro pace Florentinorum, qui cum Ecclesia dissidebant, et interdicto ecclesiastico supposi ti erant, Avenionem ad Gregorium Undecimum Pontificem Maximum profecta est, cui etiam votum ejus de petenda Urbe, soli Deo notum, sese divini tus cognovisse monstravit: deliberavitque Pontifex, ea etiam suadente, ad sedem suam Romanam personaliter accedere; quod et fecit. Eidem Gregorio et Urbano Sexto ejus successori acceptissima fuit, adeo ut legationibus eorum fungeretur. Denique post innumera virtutum insignia, dono prophetiæ, et pluribus clara miraculis, anno ætatis suæ tertio circiter et trigesimo, migravit ad Sponsum. Quam Pius Secundus Pontifex maximus sanctarum virginum numero adscripsit.
Catharine, a virgin of Siena, was born of pious parents. She asked for and obtained the Dominican habit worn by the Sisters of Penance. Her abstinence was extraordinary, and her manner of living most mortified. She was once known to have fasted, without receiving anything but the Blessed Sacrament, from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Day. She had very frequent contests with the wicked spirits, who attacked her in divers ways. She suffered much from fever, and other bodily ailments. Her reputation for sanctity was so great that there were brought to her from all parts persons who were sick or tormented by the devil. She healed in the name of Christ such as were afflicted with malady or fever, and drove the devils from the bodies of them that were possessed.

Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.
Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.

 


 

Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.***Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.

Pope Pius II, one of the glories of Siena, composed the two following hymns in honour of his saintly and illustrious fellow-citizen. They form part of the Office of St Catharine of Siena in the Dominican Breviary.

Hymn

 

Catharina, Virgo Senensis, piis orta parentibus, beati Dominici habitum, quem Sorores de Poenitentia gestant, impetravit. Summa ejus fuit abstinentia, et admirabilis vitæ austeritas. Inventa est aliquando a die Cinerum usque ad Ascensionem Domini jejunium perduxisse, sola Eucharistiae communione contenta. Luctabatur quam frequentissime cum dæmonibus, multisque illorum molestiis vexabatur: æstuabat febribus, nec aliorum morborum cruciatu carebat. Magnum et sanctum erat Catharinæ nomen, et undique ad eam ægroti et malignis vexati spiritibus deducebantur. Languoribus et febribus in Christi nomine imperabat, et dæmones cogebat ab obsessis abire corporibus.

Cum Pisis immoraretur, die Dominico, refecta cibo coelesti, et in extasim rapta, vidit Dominum crucifixum magno cum lumine advenientem, et ex ejus vulnerum cicatricibus quinque radios ad quinque loca sui corporis descendentes; ideoque mysterium advertens, Dominum precata, ne cicatrices apparerent, continuo radii colorem sanguineum mutaverunt in splendidum, et in formam puræ lucis pervenerunt ad manus, pedes et cor ejus: ac tantus erat dolor quem sensibiliter patiebatur, ut nisi Deus minuisset, brevi se crederet morituram. Hanc itaque gratiam amantissimus Dominus nova gratia cumulavit, ut sentiret dolorem illapsa vi vulnerum, etcruenta signa non apparerent. Quod ita contigisse cum Dei famula confessano suo Raymundo retulisset, ut oculis etiam repræsentaretur, radios in imaginibus beatæ Catha rinæ ad dicta quinque loca pertingentes, pia fidelium cura pictis coloribus expressit.

Doctrina ejus infusa, non acquisita fuit: sacrarum litterarum professoribus difficillimas de divinitate quæstiones proponentibus respondit. Nemo ad eam accessit qui non melior abierit: multa exstinxit odia, et mortai es sedavit inimicitias. Pro pace Florentinorum, qui cum Ecclesia dissidebant, et interdicto ecclesiastico supposi ti erant, Avenionem ad Gregorium Undecimum Pontificem Maximum profecta est, cui etiam votum ejus de petenda Urbe, soli Deo notum, sese divini tus cognovisse monstravit: deliberavitque Pontifex, ea etiam suadente, ad sedem suam Romanam personaliter accedere; quod et fecit. Eidem Gregorio et Urbano Sexto ejus successori acceptissima fuit, adeo ut legationibus eorum fungeretur. Denique post innumera virtutum insignia, dono prophetiæ, et pluribus clara miraculis, anno ætatis suæ tertio circiter et trigesimo, migravit ad Sponsum. Quam Pius Secundus Pontifex maximus sanctarum virginum numero adscripsit.
Catharine, a virgin of Siena, was born of pious parents. She asked for and obtained the Dominican habit worn by the Sisters of Penance. Her abstinence was extraordinary, and her manner of living most mortified. She was once known to have fasted, without receiving anything but the Blessed Sacrament, from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Day. She had very frequent contests with the wicked spirits, who attacked her in divers ways. She suffered much from fever, and other bodily ailments. Her reputation for sanctity was so great that there were brought to her from all parts persons who were sick or tormented by the devil. She healed in the name of Christ such as were afflicted with malady or fever, and drove the devils from the bodies of them that were possessed.

Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.

Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.

Pope Pius II, one of the glories of Siena, composed the two following hymns in honour of his saintly and illustrious fellow-citizen. They form part of the Office of St Catharine of Siena in the Dominican Breviary.

Hymn

Hæc tuæ, virgo, monumenta laudis,
Quæ tu is læti, Catharina, sacris,
Hoc quidem pacto modulamur omnes,
Perfer Olympo.

Si satis digne nequeant referri,
Annuas nobis veniam, praecamur:
Non sumus tanti ingenii, fatemur,
Optima virgo.

Quis fuit dignas modulatus umquam
Virginis laudes Quis in orbe toto
Fœminæ invictæ peritura numquam
Carmina pandet?

Prædita exemplis Catharina claris,
Moribus praestans, sapiens abunde;
Temperans, fortis, pia, justa, prudens,
Æthera scandis.

Quem latet virtus, facinusque darum,
Quo nequit dici sanctius per orbem?
Vulnerum formam miserata Christi,
Exprimis ipsa.

Nam brevis, mœstæ, miseræque vitæ,
Et malis cunctis penitus refertæ,
Fortiter spernens pretiosa quæque,
Sidera adisti.

Gratias summas habeamus omnes
Filio magni Genitoris almo,
Spiritum Sanctum veneremur, et sit
Laus tamen una.

Amen.
Carry to heaven, O holy virgin Catharine!
these canticles of praise, which we,
gladdened by thy feast,
sing thus in thine honour.

If they are unworthy of thine acceptance,
pardon us, we beseech thee.
Nay, we own, O glorious Saint!
that we are not equal to the task we have undertaken.

But who is he, that could worthily praise such a Saint as this?
Is there, in the wide world, a poet that could write an ode
immortal enough for this heroine,
whom no enemy could vanquish?

O Catharine! illustrious example of all that is noble!
thou wast rich in virtue and wisdom;
and with the riches of thy temperance, fortitude,
piety, justice and prudence, thou didst ascend into heaven.

Who has not heard of thy glorious virtues and deeds,
which were never surpassed in this world?
Thy compassion for the sufferings of Christ
stamped thee with the impress of his wounds.

Bravely despising the vain grandeurs
of this short, mournful, and miserable life,
which abounds with every evil,
thou didst mount to heaven.

Let us all give infinite thanks
to the Son ever blessed of the Eternal Father!
let us give glory to the Holy Ghost!
to the Three, one equal praise!

Amen.

Hymn

Laudibus, virgo, nimis efferenda
Jure censeris, quoniam triumphos
Ipsa cœlorum, probitate mira,
Nacta refulges.

Pragmium sanctæ tamen ipsa vitæ
Et simul munus probitatis almæ
Accipis cœlo, cumulata cunctis
Denique rebus.

Tu gravem sacris meritis refertum
Orbis exemplar, pietate plenum
Praedicatorum venerata Patrem,
Ordine fulges.

Nulla jam rerum placuit voluptas,
Nullus omatus, nitor ecce nullus
Corporis, semper fugiens iniqua
Crimina vitæ.

Sæpius corpus domitans acerbe,
Quam pie flagris cruor hinc et inde
Fluxerat rivis! hominumque demum
Crimina flebas.

Qui per ingentis, variosque casus,
Orbe terrarum cruciantur omnes:
Quotque vel curis agitantur ipsi
Undique diris.

Suppetent nobis totidem canenda,
Si tuæ laudes repetantur omnes:
Tu quidem longe pietate cunctis
Inclyta præstas.

Jam ferox miles tibi sæpe cessit,
Et duces iras posuere sævas:
Hi necem diram populo minata
Sæpe Senensi.

Quid quod et sacris studiis frequenter
Viribus summis operam dedisti:
Litteræ doctæ, lepidæque
Claris Urbibus exstant.

Niteris verbis revocare lapsos,
Niteris rectum suadere cunctis:
Sic ais: Tan tum probitas beatos
Efficit omnes.

Jura tu sævæ tremebunda mortis
Fortiter temnens, nihil extimescens,
Præmium nostræ vocitare vitæ
Sæpe solebas.

Unde cum tempus properaret ipsum,
Quo sacros artus cineresque busto
Linqueres, cœlos aditura flentes
Ipsa docebas.

Sic sacrum Christi venerata corpus,
Hostiam libans, lacrymis obortis,
Dixeras cunctis documenta vitæ,
Voce suprema.

Gratias summas habeamus omnes
Filio magni Genitoris almo
Spiritum Sanctum veneremur, et sit
Laus tamen una.

Amen.
Well indeed may we sing
thy praise, O Catharine!
for, by thy wondrous virtues, thou hast received
a triumphant welcome from heaven itself.

Yes, it is in heaven alone,
where thou art enriched with all good things,
that thou hast received the reward of thy holy life,
and the recompense of thy grand virtue.

Great was thy veneration for the Patriarch of Preachers,
that perfect model of every virtue;
thou didst enter his Order
and art one of its brightest glories.

Joys of earth, vanity of dress, beauty of body,
none had charms for thee.
Thou couldst not brook sin,
the injustice offered to God by his creature.

To reduce thy body to subjection,
and to atone for the sins of men,
oft didst thou severely scourge thyself till thine innocent blood
would flow in streams on the ground.

Thou hadst compassion on all that were suffering,
no matter where they might be, or what their misfortune.
Thy sympathy was ever ready for them, too,
that were a prey to care.

But our hymn would never end,
were we to tell all thy praises, O Catharine!
whose sanctity far surpassed
that of other mortals.

The savage soldiers and leaders,
who were threatening
the people of Siena with death,
withdrew at thy word.

Oft was thy mind applied, with all its power,
to the study of sacred things:
and thy letters, teeming with wisdom and elegance,
are still treasured in some of our richest cities.

Thou didst excel in the power of reclaiming sinners,
and persuading all to follow what was right.
Thus didst thou speak to them:
'Virtue alone can make man happy.'

Far from fearing, thou hidst a brave contempt
for the dread claims of death,
which thou wast wont to call
the recompense of life.

When, therefore, the time came for thee
to leave thy sacred body to the tomb,
and ascend into heaven, thou gavest lessons of consolation
to them that stood weeping around thee.

And having adored the Body of Christ,
and received amidst abundant tears of devotion the saving Host,
thou gavest thy last instructions
to all how to lead a holy life.

Let us all give infinite thanks
to the Son ever blessed of the Eternal Father!
let us give glory to the Holy Ghost!
to the Three, one equal praise!

Amen.

Holy Church, filled as she now is with the joy of her Jesus’ Resurrection, addresses herself to thee, O Catharine, who followest the Lamb whithersoever he goeth [1] Living in this exile, where it is only at intervals that she enjoys his presence, she says to thee: Hast thou seen him whom my soul loveth?[2] Thou art his Spouse; so is she: but there are no evils, no separation, for thee; whereas for her, the enjoyment is at rare and brief periods, and, even so there are clouds that dim the lovely light. What a life was thine, O Catharine! uniting in itself the keenest compassion for the sufferings of Jesus, and an intense happiness by the share he gave thee of his glorified life. We might take thee as our guide both to the mournful mysteries of Calvary, and to the glad splendours of the Resurrection. It is these latter that we are now respectfully celebrating: oh! speak to us of our Risen Jesus. Is it not he that gave thee the nuptial ring, with its matchless diamond set amidst four precious gems? The bright rays which gleam from thy stigmata tell us that when he espoused thee to himself thou sawest him all resplendent with the beauty of his glorious Wounds. Daughter of Magdalen! like her, thou art a messenger of the Resurrection; and when thy last Pasch comes—the Pasch of thy thirty-third year—thou takest thy way to heaven, to keep it for eternity. O zealous lover of souls! love them more than ever, now that thou art in the palace of the King, our God. We too are in the Pasch, in the new life; intercede for us, that the life of Jesus may never die within us, but that we may strengthen its power by loving him with an ardour like thine own.

Obtain for us, great Saint, something of the filial devotedness for holy Mother Church which prompted thee to do such glorious things! Her sorrows and her joys were thine; for there can be no love for Jesus where there is none for his Spouse: and is it not through her that he gives us all his gifts? Oh, yes! we too wish to love this mother of ours; we will never be ashamed to own ourselves as her children! we will defend her against her enemes; we will do everything that lies in our power to win others to acknowledge, love, and be devoted to her.

Our God used thee as his instrument, O humble virgin, for bringing back the Roman Pontiff to his See. Thou wast stronger than the powers of this earth, which would fain have prolonged an absence disastrous to the Church. The relics of Peter in the Vatican, of Paul on the Ostian Way, of Lawrence and Sebastian, of Cecily and Agnes, exulted in their glorious tombs when Gregory entered with triumph into the Holy City. It was through thee, O Catharine, that a ruinous captivity of seventy years’ duration was brought on that day to a close, and that Rome recovered her glory and her life. In these our days, hell has changed its plan of destruction! men have deprived its Pontiff-King of the city which was chosen by Peter as the See where the Vicar of Christ should reign to the end of the world. Is this design of God, this design which was so dear to thee, O Catharine!—is it now to be frustrated? Oh! beseech him to end this sacrilege speedily. Come to our aid!—and though thy divine Spouse, in his just anger, permits us to suffer these humiliations, pray that at least they may be shortened.

Pray, too, for unhappy Italy, which was so dear to thee, and which is so justly proud of its Saint of Siena. Impiety and heresy are now permitted to run wild through the land; the name of thy Spouse is blasphemed; the people are taught to love error, and to hate what they had hitherto venerated; the Church is insulted and robbed; faith has long since been weakened, but now its very existence is imperilled. Intercede for thy unfortunate country, dear Saint! oh! surely, it is time to come to her assistance, and rescue her from the hands of her enemies. The whole Church hopes that thou mayest effect the deliverance of this her illustrious province: delay not, but calm the storm which seems to threaten a universal wreck!

 


[1] Apoc. xiv 4.
[2] Cant, iii 3.

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