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April

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

LET us affectionately welcome the brave triumvirate of martyrs, presented today to our Risen Jesus by the Roman Church of the second century. The first is Valerian, the chaste and noble spouse of Cecily; he wears on his brow a wreath of roses and lilies. The second is Tiburtius, Valerian's brother, and like him, a convert of Cecily; he shows us the triumphant palm he won so speedily. Maximus is the third; he witnessed the combat and the victory of the two brothers, imitated their example, and followed them to heaven. The immortal Cecily is the queen of this holy group; she taught them to be martyrs; she has a right to our remembrance on this day of their feast. She herself shared in their glorious privilege of suffering and dying for the name of Christ. She won the crown five months later, on September 16, according to the most ancient calendars; her feast, however, is no longer kept on that day. The solemnity of November 22, formerly preceded by a vigil, is marked in the Roman breviary as the day of her martyrdom; it is, in reality, the anniversary of the dedication of her magnificent basilica in Rome.

The Church makes a commemoration of our three great martyrs to-day.

The following lesson is extremely short. The reason is, that this feast is very ancient; and in the early ages of the Church, simple offices, as they are called, were extremely frequent; and it was only for great feasts that three nocturns were said each with three lessons.

Valerianus Romanus, nobili genere ortus, Alexandro Severo Imperatore, hortatu beatæ Cæciliæ virginis, quam sibi pari nobilitate uxorem desponderat, una cum Tiburtio fratre a sancto Urbano papa baptizatur. Quos ubi præfectus Urbis Almachius christianos esse cognovit, et patrimonio pauperibus distributo, Christianorum corpora sepelire, accersitos graviter reprehendit: atque ubi Christum Deum constanter confitentes, deos autem daemoniorum inania simulacra prædicantes videt, virgis cædi jubet. Sed cum verberibus cogi non possent, ut Jovis simulacrum venerarentur, imo fortes in fidei ventate permanerent, ad quartum ab Urbe lapidem securi feriuntur. Quorum virtutem admiratus Maximus praefecti cubicularius, qui eos ad supplicium perduxerat, Christianum se esse professus est, cum multis praefecti minis tris: qui paulo post plumbatis contusi, omnes ex diaboli ministris Christi Domini martyres evaserunt.
Valerian, a Roman by birth, and of a noble family, was married to the blessed Cecily, who was of equal nobility. By the advice of this virgin, he and his brother Tiburtius were baptized by the holy Pope Urban, in the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. Almachius, the City Prefect, having been informed that they had become Christians, had distributed their patrimony among the poor, and were burying the bodies of the Christians, summoned them before him, and severely rebuked them. Finding, however, that they persevered in confessing Christ to be God, and in proclaiming the gods to be but vain images of devils, he ordered them to be scourged. But they were not to be induced, by this scourging, to adore the idols of Jupiter; they continued firm in the profession of the true faith: they were therefore beheaded four miles out of Rome. One of the Prefect's officials, by name Maximus, who had been appointed to lead them to execution, was filled with admiration at seeing the courage wherewith they suffered, and professed himself to be a Christian, as did likewise several other servants of the Prefect. Not long after, they were all beaten to death with whips loaded with plummets of lead; and thus, from being slaves of the devil, they became martyrs of Christ our Lord.

Holy and precious fruits of the great Cecily's apostolate! we this day unite with the blessed Spirits in celebrating your entrance into the court of heaven. Thou, O Valerian, wast led to faith, and to the sublimest of all virtues, by thy noble spouse; thou wast the first to enter into the joy of the Lord; but in a few days thy Cecily followed thee, and the love begun on earth was made eternal in heaven. Speaking of thee and her, an angel said that your roses and lilies should never fade; their fragrance of love and purity is sweeter by far now than when they bloomed here below. Thou, O Tiburtius! brother of these two angels of earth! thou owest to them thy beautiful palm; thou art a sharer in their eternal happiness, and the three names, CecilyValerian, and Tiburtius, are to be for ever united in the admiration of angels and men. The sight of the two brothers suffering so bravely for Christ inflamed thy ambition, O Maximus, to imitate them; the God of Cecily became thine; thou didst shed thy blood for him; and he, in return, has placed thee in heaven near Cecily, Valerian and Tiburtius, to whom, whilst on earth, thou wast so inferior by birth and position.

Now, therefore, O holy martyrs, be our protectors, and hear the prayers we address unto you. Speak in our favour to the immortal King, for whom you so bravely fought and died; ask him to fill our hearts with his love, and make us generous like you. You despised this fleeting life; we too must despise it, if we would share in the happiness you now enjoy, the sight of our Risen Lord. The battle we have to fight may, perhaps, be different from yours; but the reward that awaits us is, like your own, everlasting. Rather than betray Christ, you laid down your lives; our duty is the same—we must die rather than sin. Pray for us, O holy martyrs, that our lives may henceforward be such as will honour this year's Pasch. Pray also for the Church of Rome, your Mother; her days of trial have returned; she has a right to count upon your intercession for the help she needs.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A POPE and martyr of the second century appears in the Calendar today. The martyrs stand in clusters near our Risen Lord; they are the Eagles of which he speaks in his Gospel, as gathering together around their longed-for object.[1] Anicetus is not the only Pope whose martyrdom has to be celebrated during Paschal Time; others will come, adding to our Easter joy. The Saint who claims our attention to-day is one of those whose holy actions are shrouded in the venerable gloom of the Church; and yet his memory will be held in veneration to the end of time, not only as being the eleventh successor of St Peter in the See of Rome, but as having imitated him also in holiness of life. St Poly carp, whose feast we kept on January 26, came from Smyrna to Rome, in order to visit him and receive his advice. There have also been transmitted to us one or two instances of the zeal wherewith he defended the Church against the heresiarchs, Valentine and Marcion. In a word, we know that he was a martyr; and that is enough to immortalize his name.

The Church makes the following commemoration of the holy Pontiff:

Anicetus Syrus, imperatore Marco Aurelio Antonino, præfuit Ecclesiæ. Decrevit ne clerici comam nutrirent. Quinquies mense decembri ordinavit presbyteros decem et septem, diaconos quatuor, episcopos per diversa loca novem. Vixit in Pontifica tu annos octo, menses octo, dies viginti quatuor. Propter Christi fidem martyrio coronatus, sepultus est via Appia in cæmeterio, quod postea Callisti appellatum est, decimo quinto kalendas maii.
Anicetus, a Syrian by birth, governed the Church during the reign of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. He passed a decree which forbade clerics to nourish their hair. The ordinations, which he held in five Decembers, gave seventeen priests, four deacons, and nine bishops for divers places. His pontificate lasted eight years, eight months, and twenty-four days. He was crowned with martyrdom for the Christian Faith, and was buried on the fifteenth of the Kalends of May (April 17), in the Cemetery (afterwards called the Cemetery of Callixtus) which is on the Appian Way.

Holy Pontiff! who so many long ages ago wast made partaker of the glory of him whose Vicar and martyr thou hadst the privilege to be, we celebrate thy blessed memory today with filial affection. In thee we venerate one of the pillars of the early Church; and though thy name has been handed down to us without the history of those holy deeds which merited for thee a martyr’s palm—we at least know that it was dear to the faithful of the age in which thou didst live. Now that thou art in heaven, thy zeal for the glory of God is greater than it was when thou wast on this earth; pray, then, for the Church of these sad times. Upwards of two hundred Pontiffs have followed thee upon the Chair of Peter; and Christ has not yet come to judge the world. Assist thy successor who is our Father; assist the flock entrusted to his charge, for the dangers that now threaten us are extreme. Thy pontificate was during a stormy period; pray to our Risen Jesus that he would quell the tempest that is now howling round the Bark of Peter. Beseech him to give us perseverance and courage. Obtain for us that we may fix our hearts on our heavenly country; so that when God calls us hence, we may be prepared as thou wast. We are the descendants of the martyrs; their faith is ours; the hope that cheered them must be our consolation.

 


[1] St Matt. xxiv 28.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A MONK, a Bishop, a Doctor of the Church—such was the Saint whose feast comes to gladden us on this twenty-first day of April. He was a martyr, also, at least in desire, and we may add, in merit too—for he did enough to earn the glorious palm. When we think of Anselm, we picture to ourselves a man in whom are combined the humility and meekness of the cloister with the zeal and courage of the episcopal dignity; a man who was both a sage and a saint; a man whom it was impossible not to love and respect.

He left his native country of Piedmont for the Monastery of Bec in France, where he became a Benedictine monk. Being elected Superior, he realized in himself the type of an Abbot, as drawn by St Benedict in his Rule: ‘He that is made Abbot,’ says the holy Patriarch, ‘should study to give help rather than to give commands,’[1] We read that the love entertained for Anselm by his brethren was beyond description. His whole time was devoted to them, either in giving them spiritual direction, or in communicating to them his own sublime knowledge of the sacred sciences. After governing them for several years, he was taken from them, and compelled to accept the dignity of Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a worthy successor of Augustine, Dunstan, Elphege, and Lanfranc; and by his own noble example of courage, he prepared the way for the glorious martyr Thomas, who succeeded him in less than a century.

As bishop, his whole life was spent in fighting for the liberty of the Church. Though gentle as a lamb by nature, he was all energy for this great cause. He used to say: ‘Christ would not have his Spouse be a slave; there is nothing in this world that God loves more than the liberty of his Church.’ There was a time when the Son of God allowed himself to be fettered with bonds in order that he might loosen us from the chains of our sins; but now that he has risen in triumph from the dead, he wills that his Spouse should be, like himself, free. She cannot otherwise exercise the ministry of salvation confided to her by her divine Lord; and yet there is scarcely a single hundred years of her existence in which she has not had to fight for this holy liberty. The rulers of this earth, with very few exceptions, have ever been jealous of her influence, and have sought to lessen it by every possible means. In our own times there are numbers of her children who do not even know that she has any rights or privileges; they would be at a loss to understand you, if you told them that she is the Spouse of Christ, and therefore a queen; they think it quite enough for her, if she enjoy the same amount of freedom and toleration as the sects she condemns; and they cannot see how, under such conditions as these, the Church is not the kingdom he wished her to be, but a mere slave. St Anselm would have abominated all such theories as these; so does every true Catholic. He is not driven into disloyalty to the Church by the high-sounding words, progress and modern society; he knows that there is nothing on earth equal to the Church; and when he sees the world convulsed by revolutions, he knows that all comes from the Church having been deprived of her rights. One of these is that she should not only be recognized, in the secret of our conscience, as the one only true Church, but that, as such, she should be publicly confessed and outwardly defended against every opposition or error. Jesus, her divine Founder, promised to give her all nations as her inheritance; he kept his promise, and she was once the Queen and Mother of them all. But nowadays, a new principle has been asserted, to the effect that the Church and all sects must be on an equal footing as far as the protection of the State goes. The principle has been received with acclamation, and hailed as a mighty progress achieved by modern enlightenment: even Catholics, whose previous services to religion had endeared them to our hearts and gained our confidence, have become warm defenders of the impious theory.

Trying as were the times when St Anselm governed the See of Canterbury, they were spared the humiliation of producing and ratifying such doctrine as this. The tyrannical interference of the Norman kings was an evil far less injurious than the modern system, which is subversive of the very idea of a Church. Open persecution would be a boon, compared to the fashionable error of which we are speaking. A winter torrent brings desolation in its track: but in the summer, when the flood is over, nature brings back her verdure and flowers. The errors which now prevail are like a great sea that gradually sweeps over the whole earth: and when the Church can find no spot whereon to rest, she will take her flight to heaven, and men must expect the speedy coming of the judge.

Anselm was not only the zealous and heroic defender of the rights and privileges of the Church; he was also a light to men by his learning. The contemplation of revealed truths was his delight. He studied them in their bearings one upon the other, and his writings occupy a distinguished place in the treatises of Catholic Theology. God had blessed him with extraordinary talent. Amidst all the troubles and anxieties and occupations of his various duties, he found time for study. Even when passing from place to place, as an exile, he was intent on the meditation of the mysteries of religion, thus preparing those sublime reflections which he has left us on the articles of our Faith.

The Church gives us, in her Liturgy, the following sketch of our Saint’s life:

Ansel mus, Augustæ Prætoriæ in finibus Italiæ, Gundulpho et Ermenberga nobilibus et catholicis parentibus natus, a teneris annis assiduo litterarum studio, atque perfectioris vite desiderio, non obscurum futuræ sanctitatis et doctrinæ specimen deditæ. Et licet juvenili ardore aliquando ad seculi illecebras traheretur, brevi tamen in pristinam viam revocatus, patria et bonis omnibus derelictis, ad monasterium Beccense Ordinis sancti Benedicti se contulit: ubi emissa regulari professione sub Herluino abbate observantissimo, et Lanfranco viro doctissimo, tanto animi fervore, et jugi studio in litteris, et virtutibus assequendis profecit, ut mirum in modum tanquam sanctitatis et doctrinæ exemplar ab omnibus haberetur.

Abstinentiæ et continentiæ tante fuit, ut assiduitate jejunii omnis pene ciborum sensus in eo videretur exstinctus. Diurno enim tempore in exercitiis monasticis docendo, et respondendo variis de religione quesitis, emenso, quod reliquum erat noctis, somno subtrahebat, ut divinis meditationibus, quas perenni lacrymarum imbre fovebat, mentem recrearet. Electus in priorem monasterii, invidos fratres ita charitate, humilitate, et prudentia lenivit, ut quos æmulos acceperat sibi, et Deo amicos, maximo cum regularis observantie emolumento redderet. Mortuo abbate, et in ejus locum licet invitus suffectus, tanta doctrinæ et sanctitatis fama ubique refulsit, ut non modo regibus et Episcopis venerationi esset, sed sancto Gregorio Septimo etiam acceptus, qui tunc magis persecutionibus agitatus, litteras amoris plenas ad eum dedit, quibus se et Ecclesiam catholicam ejus orationibus commendabat.

Defuncto Lanfranco Archiepiscopo Cantuariensi, ejus olim præceptore, Anselmus, urgente Wilhelmo Angliæ rege, et instantibus Clero ac populo, ipso tamen repugnante, ad ejusdem Ecclesiæ regimen vocatus, statim (ut corruptos populi mores reformaret) verbo et exemplo prius, dein scriptis, et conciliis celebratis, pristinam pietatem et Ecclesiasticam disciplinam reduxit. Sed cum mox idem Wilhelmus rex vi et minis Ecclesiae jura usurpare tentasset, ipse sacerdotali constantia restitit; bonorumque direptionem et exilium passus, Romam ad Urbanum Secundum se contulit, a quo honorifice exceptus et summis laudibus ornatus est, cum in Barensi Concilio Spiritum Sanctum etiam a Filio procedentem contra Græcorum errorem innumeris Scripturarum et sanctorum Patrum testimoniis propugnasset. E vivis Wilhelmo sublato, ab Henrico rege ejus fratre in Angliam revocatus, obdormivit in Domino: famam non solum miraculorum et sanctitatis (præcipue ob insignem devotionem erga Domini nostri Passionem, et beatam Virginem ejus Matrem) assecutus sed etiam doctrinæ, quam ad defensionem christianæ religionis, animarum profectum, et omnium Theologorum, qui sacras litteras scholastica methodo tradiderunt, normam cœlitus hausisse ex ejus libris omnibus apparet.
Anselm was bom at Aosta, a town on the confines of Italy, of noble and Catholic parents, by name Gondolphe and Hermenberga. From his early childhood he gave great promise of future holiness and learning by his love of study and his longing after a life of perfection. The ardour of youth made him indulge for a while in worldly pleasures; but he speedily returned to his former virtuous life; and then, leaving his country and all that he possessed, he repaired to the Monastery of Bec of the Order of St Benedict. There he made his religious profession, under the Abbot Herluin, a most zealous lover of monastic discipline, and (Prior) Lanfranc, a man of great repute for learning. Such was the fervour of his piety, his application to study, and his desire to advance in virtue, that everyone held him in the highest veneration as a model of holiness and learning.

So mortified was he in eating and drinking, and so frequent were his fasts, that he seemed to have lost the sense of .taste. He spent the day in the performance of monastic duties, and in giving answers, both by word of mouth and by letters, to the several questions proposed to him concerning matters of religion. He passed a considerable portion of the time allotted to sleep in nourishing his soul with holy meditations, during which he shed abundant tears. When he was made Prior of the Monastery, certain of his brethren were jealous at his pro motion; but he so far gained them over by charity, humility and prudence, that their jealousy was changed into love both of their Prior and their God, to the great advantage of regular discipline. At the death of the Abbot, Anselm was chosen to succeed him, and reluctantly accepted the office. It was then that his reputation for learning and virtue began to spread far and wide, and secured him the respect of kings and bishops. Not only so, but even Gregory the Seventh, who at that time was suffering much from persecution, honoured him with his friendship, and wrote to him letters full of affection, begging of him to pray for him and the Church.

At the death of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been his former master, Anselm was compelled, much against his own will, to accept the government of that see. William, king of England, the clergy and the people, all urged him to it. He immediately set himself to reform the corrupt morals of the people. By word and example, first, and then by his writings, and by holding councils, he succeeded in restoring ancient piety and ecclesiastical discipline. But it was not long before King William attempted, both by violence and threats, to interfere with the rights of the Church. Then did Anselm resist him with priestly courage, for which his property was confiscated, and he himself banished from the country. He turned his steps towards Rome, where Urban the Second received him with great marks of honour, and passed a high encomium upon him at the Council of Bari, where Anselm proved against the Greeks, by innumerable quotations from the Scriptures and the holy Fathers, that the Holy Ghost proceeds also from the Son. After William’s death, he was recalled to England by King Henry, William's brother. Shortly after his return, he slept in the Lord. He was justly venerated on account of his miracles and his virtues, among which latter may be mentioned his great devotion to the Passion, and to the Holy Mother of Jesus. He moreover acquired a high reputation by his learning, which he used in the defence of the Christian religion, and for the good of souls. He first set the example to those theologians who have followed the scholastic method in treating on the sacred sciences. The works he has written prove that his wisdom was a gift bestowed on him by heaven.

We take the following Responsories and Antiphons from an office approved by the Holy See:

℟. Hic est Anselmus, Doctor præclarus, sub disciplina Lanfranci institutus: qui cum esset monachorum pater amabilis, ad pontificales infulas vocatus est;
* Et pro libertate sanctæ Ecclesiæ strenue decertavit, alleluia.
℣. Non ancillam, sed liberam esse Christi sponsam, invicta voce asserebat.
* Et pro libertate sanctæ Ecclesiæ strenue decertavit, alleluia.
℟. Beatus Anselmus dixit mœrens ad episcopos: Indomitum taurum et ovem debilem ad aratrum conjungere disponitis; ovem per spinas et tribulos raptatam taurus misere dilacerabit;
* Et gaudium vestrum mox in mœstitiam convertetur, alleluia.
℣. Tribulationes me manent; sed nihil horum vereor, dummodo consummem cursum meum.
* Et gaudium vestrum mox in moestitiam convertetur, alleluia.
℟. Cum essent Patres in synodo congregati Urbanus pontifex exclamavit: Pater et Magister Anseime, Anglorum archiepiscope, ubi es? Ascende usque ad nos, et pugnans pro matre tua et nostra, adjuva nos, alleluia.
℣. Benedictus sit sensus tuus, et sermo oris tui sit benedictus.
* Ascende usque ad nos; et pugnans pro matre tua et nostra, adjuva nos, alleluia.

Ant. Anselmus mansuetudine agnus, fortitudine leo, cedesti doctrina supereffluens, mentes hominum illustravit, alleluia.

Ant. Beatus Anselmus speculi principes docebat, dicens: Nihil amplius diligit Deus in hoc mundo, quam Ecclesiæ suae libertatem, alleluia.
℟. This is Anselm, the renowned Doctor formed under Lanfranc's care; who, when he was the beloved father of the monks, was called to wear a bishop's mitre;
* And nobly did he fight for the liberty of Holy Church, alleluia.
℣. He boldly asserted that the Spouse of Christ was not a slave, but free.
* And nobly did he fight for the liberty of Holy Church, alleluia.
℟. Blessed Anselm said sorrowing to the bishops: You would yoke together to the plough a wild bull and a weak lamb: the bull will cruelly drag the lamb through thorns and briars;
* And your joy shall soon be changed into mourning, alleluia.
℣. Afflictions await me; but I fear none of them, so that I may consummate my course.
* And your joy shall soon be changed into mourning, alleluia.
℟. When the Fathers were assembled in Council, Urban, the Pope, cried out: Where art thou, Father and Master Anselm, Archbishop of the English? Come up here to us; fight for thine own and our Mother, and help us, alleluia.
℣. Blessed be thy wisdom, and blessed the word of thy mouth!
* Come up here to us; fight for thine own and our Mother, and help us, alleluia.

Ant. Anselm was a lamb in meekness, and a lion in courage. He was filled to overflowing with heavenly wisdom, and he enlightened the minds of men, alleluia.

Ant. Blessed Ailselm taught the princes of the earth, saying: There is nothing in this world that God loves more than the liberty of his Church, alleluia.

The following hymn is from the same Office:

Hymn

Fortis en præsul, monachus fidelis
Laurea doctor redimitus astat:
Festus Anselmo chorus æmuletur
Dicere carmen.

Ante maturos sapiens hic annos,
Sæculi florem pereuntis horret;
Atque Lanfranci documenta quærens,
Intrat eremum.

Intimum pulsans penetrale Verbi,
Fertur immotæ fidei volatu:
Dogmatum puros latices an ullus
Altius hausit?

Munus Abbatis, pater alme, sumens,
Te voves charæ soboli: benignis
Debiles portas humeris, alacres
Prævius hortans.

Præsulum defert tibi rex cathedram;
Quid times luctam? properant triumphi;
Exteras gentes, generosus exsul,
Lumine reples.

Sacra libertas, ovibus redemptis
Parta, cui Christus nihil ante ponit,
Urget Anselmum: studio quis aequo
Vindicat ipsam?.

Clara fit Romæ tua fama, Præsul:
Pontifex summus tibi fert honores;
Te fides poscit: siluere Patres:
Dogma tuere.

Sis memor sancti gregis, et patronus
Sis ad æternam Triadem, precamur,
Cuncta cui dignas resonent per orbem
Sæcula laudes.

Amen.
Lo, here is Anselm, a courageous pontiff,
a true monk, a doctor with his laurel wreath upon him.
Let our festive choir sing 
fervently a hymn in his praise.

He had not reached the years of manhood, and yet was wise;
so wise, indeed, that he trampled on the flower of this perishable world,
and fled to solitude,
that he might receive instruction from Lanfranc.

Borne on the wing of firmest faith,
he entered into the mysteries of the Word.
Did any mortal drink more fully
than he of the limpid fount of Truth?

Taking upon thee, loved Father, the office of Abbot,
thou didst tenderly care for thy flock.
Thou didst carry the weak upon thy shoulders
and encourage the fervent by thine own example.

The king would have thee Primate:
O fear not the combat! Triumph shall be thine.
When he sends thee into exile, thou wilt shine,
as a generous light, upon lands beyond the sea.

The sacred liberty, dear to Jesus above all things,
which he won for us by redeeming us,
excited Anselm’s zeal.
Never had it a braver defender than he.

Thy name was held in veneration at Rome.
The Supreme Pontiff showed thee great honour,
when, in the presence of the Fathers, he said to thee:
‘Fight for the faith! Defend our dogmas!’

We pray thee,
be mindful of the holy flock!
Intercede for us to the Blessed Three,
to whom be worthy praise from all for ever.

Amen.

O holy Pontiff Anselm! beloved of God and men! the Church, whose cause thou didst so zealously defend on earth, celebrates, this day, thy praise, and honours thee as one of her dearest Saints. Thy meekness, condescension and charity gave thee a resemblance to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Like him, thou couldst truly say: I know my sheepand my sheep know me.[2] Thou didst watch over them day and night, lest the wolf should come and find them unprotected. Far from fleeing at his approach, thou didst go forth to meet him, and nothing could induce thee to yield to his sacrilegious tyranny. Heroic champion of the Church's liberty! protect it in these our days, when there is not a country left where it is not insulted or ignored. Raise up in every place pastors with a spirit of holy independence such as thou hadst; that thus the faithful may take courage and that every Christian may boldly and proudly confess that he himself is a member of the Church, and that the interests of our spiritual mother are far more deserving of our solicitude than those of the whole world besides.

God had gifted thee, O Anselm, with that Christian philosophy which bows down to the teachings of faith, and which, being thus purified by humility, is elevated to the intelligence of the sublimest truths. The Church, in acknowledgement of the benefits she derived from thy learning, has conferred upon thee the title of Doctor, which for a long time was confined to those great men who lived in the early Christian Ages, and whose writings are the reflex of the preaching of the Apostles. Thy teaching has been deemed worthy of being numbered with that of the ancient Fathers, for it came from the same divine Spirit, and was the result of prayer rather than of study. Obtain for us, O holy Doctor, that ‘our faith,' like thine, ‘may seek understanding,'Nowadays, there are many who blaspheme what they know not;[3] but there are many also who know little or nothing of what they believe. Hence arise a deplorable confusion of ideas, compromises are made between truth and error, and the only true doctrines are despised, scouted, or at least undefended. Pray to our heavenly Father, O Anselm, that he would bless the world with holy and learned men, who may teach the path of truth, and dispel the mists of error; that thus the children of the Church may not be led astray.

Look down with affection, O holy Pontiff, on the venerable Order, which, when God called thee from the vanities of the world, received thee, made thee one of her children, gave thy soul its life, and thy mind the light of wisdom. She claims thy protection. Thou art a son of the great Patriarch Benedict: forget not thy brethren. Bless them in France, where thou didst first embrace the Monastic Life; bless them in England, where thou wast Primate, and yet still the humble monk. Pray for the two countries, for both are dear to thee. Faith is weak in one; and heresy reigns supreme in the other. Beseech our Lord to show his mercy to both: he is all-powerful, and he turns not a deaf ear to the prayers of his Saints. If, in his justice, he have decreed not to restore to these two countries their ancient Catholic constitution, pray that, at least, the number of souls saved may be great, that conversions may be frequent, and that the labourers sent at the eleventh hour to the vineyard may emulate the zeal of them that were first called!


[1] The Holy Rule, cap. 64.
[2] St John x 14.
[3] St Jude 10.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE palms of two martyred Popes are intertwined and grace this day of the Calendar. Soter suffered for Christ in the second, and Caius in the third century; a hundred years separate them; and yet we have the same energy of faith, the same jealous fidelity to keep intact the depositum left by Christ to his Church. What human society ever existed that produced heroes for century after century? The Society, however, which was founded by Christ—in other words, the Church—is based on that traditional devotedness which consists in laying down one's life for the faith. And if so, we may be sure that the spirit of martyrdom would show itself in them that were the Heads and Fathers of this Society. The first thirty successors of St Peter paid dearly for the honour of the Supreme Pontificate; they were martyrs. How grand the throne of our Risen Jesus, surrounded as it is by all these Kings clad in their triumphant scarlet robes!

Soter was the immediate successor of Anicetus, whose feast we kept on the 17th of this month. Time has effaced the details of his life. Eusebius, however, gives us a fragment of a letter written by St Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, wherein thanks are expressed to the Pontiff for the alms he sent to the faithful of that Church, during a famine. An Apostolic Letter was sent with these alms; and St Dionysius tells us that it was read in the assemblies of the faithful, together with the one addressed to the same Church, in the preceding century, by St Clement. The Roman Pontiffs have ever united charity to their fidelity in preserving pure the deposit of our faith. With regard to Caius, he suffered death in the terrible persecution under Diocletian: and little more than a mere mention of his name is given in the annals of Christian Rome. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the brevity wherewith the Liturgy speaks of these two martyred Popes. We subjoin the Lessons given in the Breviary.

Soter, Fundis in Campania natus, sancivit ne sacræ virgines vasa sacra et pallas attingerent, neve thuris ministerio in Ecclesia uterentur. Idem statuit ut Christi corpus in Cœna Domini sumeretur ab omnibus, iis exceptis, qui propter grave peccatum id facere prohiberentur. Sedit in Pontificatu annos tres, menses undecim, dies decem et octo: martyrio coronatur sub Marco Aurelio imperatore, et in coemeterio, quod postea Callisti dictum est, sepelitur, more majorum, mense decembri, creatis presbyteris decem et octo, diaconis novem, episcopis per diversa loca undecim.

Caius Dalmata, et genere Diocletiani imperatoris, constituit ut his Ordinum et honorum gradibus in Ecclesia ad episcopatum ascenderetur: ostiarii, lectoris, exorcistæ, acolythi, subdiaconi, diaconi, presbyteri. Hic Diocletiani crudelitatem in Christianos fugiens, aliquandiu in spelunca delituit: verum octo post annis una cum Gabino fratre martyrii coronam consecutus est, cum sedisset annos duodecim, menses quatuor, dies quinque, creatis mense decembri presbyteris viginti quinque, diaconis octo, episcopis quinque. of Sepultus est in cœmeterio Callisti, decimo Ka lend as maii. Ejus memoriam Urbanus Octavus in Urbe renovavit, dirutam ecclesiam restituit, Titulo, Statione et ipsius reliquiis decoravit.
Soter was born at Fondi, in Campania. He passed a decree, forbidding virgins consecrated to God to touch the sacred vessels and palls, or to exercise the office of thurifer in the Church. He also decreed, that on Maundy Thursday the Body of Christ should be received by all, excepting those who were forbidden to do so by reason of some grievous sin. His pontificate lasted three years, eleven months, and eighteen days. He was crowned with martyrdom under the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was buried in the cemetery which was afterwards called the Cemetery of Callixtus. In the month of December, according to the custom observed by his predecessors, he ordained eighteen priests, nine deacons, and eleven bishops for divers places.

Caius was a native of Dalmatia, and a relation of the Emperor Diocletian. He decreed that the following ecclesiastical Orders or honours should precede the ordination of a bishop: doorkeeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, priest. He concealed himself for some time in a cave, in order to escape the cruelty exercised against the Christians by Diocletian: but after eight years, he, together with his brother Gabinus, received the crown of martyrdom. He governed the Church twelveyears, four months and five days, He ordained in the month December twenty-five priests, eight deacons, and five bishops, He was buried in the Cemetery of Callixtus, on the 10th of the Kalends of May (April 22). Urban the Eighth revived his memory in Rome, restored his Church, which was in ruins, and honoured it with a Title, a Station, and the relics of the Saint himself.

 

O holy Pontiffs! you are of the number of those who went through the great tribulation,[1] and passedthrough fire and water,[2]to the eternal shores of heaven. The thought of Jesus’ victory over death gave you courage: you remembered how his Passion was followed by a glorious Resurrection. By imitating him in laying down your lives for your sheep, you have taught us how we also should think no sacrifice too great to be made for our faith. Obtain for us this heroic courage. Baptism has numbered us among the soldiers of Christ; confirmation has given us the spirit of fortitude; we must then be ready for battle. It may be that, even in our own times, a persecution may rage against the Church; at all events, we have to fight against ourselves, the spirit of the world, and Satan; support us by your prayers. You were once the Fathers of the Christian people; you are still animated with the pastoral charity which then filled your hearts. Protect us, and make us loyal to the God, whose cause was so dear to you when here on earth.

 


[1] Apoc. vii 14.
[2] Ps. lxv 12.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CLAD in his bright coat of mail, mounted on his war-steed, and spearing the dragon with his lance, George, the intrepid champion of our Risen Jesus, comes to gladden us today with his feast. From the East, where he is known as the great Martyr,devotion to St George soon spread in the Western Church, and our Christian armies have always loved and honoured him as one of their dearest patrons. His martyrdom took place in Paschal Time; and thus he stands before us as the guardian of the glorious sepulchre, just as Stephen, the Protomartyr, watches near the crib of the Infant God.

The Roman Liturgy gives no lessons on the life of St George; but, in their stead, reads to us a passage from St Cyprian on the sufferings of the martyrs. This derogation from the general rule dates from the fifth century. At a celebrated Council held in Rome in the year 496, Pope St Gelasius drew up, for the guidance of the faithful, a list of books which might or might not be read without danger. Among the number of those that were to be avoided, he mentioned the ‘Acts of St Georg,' as having been compiled by one who, besides being an ignorant man, was also a heretic. In. the East, however, there were other ' Acts ' of the holy martyr, totally different from those current in Rome; but they were not known in that city. The cultus of St George lost nothing, in the holy city, by this absence of a true legend. From a very early period, a church was built in his honour; it was one of those that were selected as Stations, and gave a Title to a Cardinal; it exists to this day, and it is called Saint George in Velabro (the Veil of Gold) .

The Bollandists were in possession of several copies of the forbidden ‘Acts '; they found them replete with absurd stories, and, of course, they rejected them. Father Papebroch has given us other and genuine ‘Acts ' written in Greek, and quoted by St Andrew of Crete. They bring out the admirable character of our martyr, who held an important post in the Roman army during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. He was one of the first victims of the great persecution and suffered death at Nicomedia. Alexandra, the Emperor's wife, was so impressed at witnessing the Saint’s courage, that she professed herself a Christian, and shared the crown of martyrdom with the brave soldier of Christ.

As we have already said, devotion to St George dates from a very early period. St Gregory of Tours gives us several proofs of its having taken root in Gaul. St Clotilde had a singular confidence in the holy martyr, and dedicated to him the Church of her dear Abbey of Chelles. But this devotion became more general and more fervent during the Crusades, when the Christian armies witnessed the veneration in which St George was held by the Eastern Church, and heard the wonderful things that were told of his protection on the field of battle. The Byzantine historians have recorded several remarkable instances of the kind; and the Crusaders returned to their respective countries publishing their own experience of the victories gained through the Saint's intercession. The Republic of Genoa chose him for its patron; and Venice honoured him as its special protector, after St Mark. But nowhere was St George so enthusiastically loved as in England. Not only was it decreed in a Council held at Oxford, in the year 1222, that the feast of the Great Martyr should be observed as one of obligation; not only was devotion to the valiant soldier of Christ encouraged, throughout Great Britain, by the first Norman Kings; but there are documents anterior to the invasion of William the Conqueror, which prove that St George was invoked as the special patron of England even so far back as the ninth century. Edward III did but express the sentiment of the country when he put the Order of the Garter, which he instituted in 1330, under the patronage of the warrior Saint. In Germany, King Frederic III founded the Order of St George in the year 1468.

St George is usually represented as killing a dragon; and where the representation is complete, there is also given the figure of a princess, whom the Saint thus saves from being devoured by the monster. This favourite subject of both sacred and profane art is purely symbolical, and is of Byzantine origin. It signifies the victory won over the devil, by the martyr's courageous profession of faith; the princess represents Alexandra, who was converted by witnessing the Saint’s heroic patience under his sufferings. Neither the ' Acts 'of St George nor the hymns of the Greek Liturgy allude to the martyr's having slain a dragon and rescued a princess. It was not till after the fourteenth century that this fable was known in the West; and it arose from a material interpretation of the emblems with which the Greeks honoured St George, and which were introduced among us by the crusaders.

Although, as has been said, the Office of St George in the Roman Breviary has been taken from the Common of Martyrs in Paschal Time, the following historical lesson has recently been approved for the Dioceses of England:

Georgius, inter orientales Martyres Magni nomine commendatus, in persecutione Diocletiani gloriosam pro Christo mortem subiit. Quum paulo post sub Constantino pax Ecclesiæ data fuisset, Martyris memoria celebran coepit, erectis sub ejus invocatione templis in Pal æstina prope Liddam et Constantinopoli; deinceps autem in aliis partibus Orientis, et postea in Occidente Celebris fuit erga ilium fidelium devotio. Ab antiquis temporibus christiani exercitus contra hostes pugnaturi sanctos Georgium, Mauritium et Sebastianum patronos invocaverunt. Porro sanctum Georgium Martyrem jamdudum in Anglia specialiter cultum Benedictus decimus quartus Pontifex Maximus totius Regni Protectorem declaravit.
George, who among the martyrs of the East has received the name of the Great Martyr, suffered a glorious death for the sake of Christ in the persecution of Diocletian. When shortly afterwards peace was given to the Church under Constantine, the memory of St George began to be celebrated. Churches were erected to his honour in Palestine and at Constantinople, and devotion to him spread through the East and into the West. From early times Christian armies have invoked the protection of St George, together with SS Maurice and Sebastian, when going into battle. Special devotion was shown to St George in England for many centuries, and Pope Benedict XIV declared him the special Protector of that kingdom.

Let us, in honour of our glorious patron, recite the following stanzas, taken from the Menæa of the Greek Church:

Hymn
(Die XXIII Aprilis)

Fidelis amice Christi, princeps athletarum ejus, splendidissimum luminare terræ, astrum lucidissimum vigilans honorantium te custos, custodi nos, martyr Georgi.

Beate Georgi, tua celebramus certamina, quibus idolorum simulacra destruxisti, et omnem dæmoniorum errorem ad nihilum redegisti, gloriosissime martyr Christi.

Cœlestis exercitus particeps effectus, beate Georgi, et divinam substantiam in quantum possibile est, contemplans, omnes nos te cum fide venerantes, protegere digneris.

Magnus miles Georgius, desideranter diligens Christum regem, qui animam suam pro mundi salute posuit, mortem propter ipsum subire festinat. Divino enim zelo inflammatus in corde, seipsum tradidit. Hunc ergo nos etiam cum fide hymnis celebremus, ut ardentem defensorem nostrum, ut gloriosum Christi ministrum, ut fidelem Domini sui imitatorem, et apud Deum semper intercedentem, ut omnibus largiatur remissionem et veniam peccatorum.

Certamina tua angelorum exercitus admiratur, princeps militiæ; et rex angelorum admiratione perculsus, tuam concupivit pulchritudinem, martyr; ideo dignatus est te regno suo in æternum consociare.

Dominum tuum imitatus, martyr, libens et sponte tua ad certamina temetipsum tradidisti; et victoriam reportans, Ecclesiæ Christi custos effici meruisti; illam semper defensione tua et protectione custodiens.

Ut martyr invictus, ut præmia ferens, ut insuperabilis fidei propugnator, nunc esto turris inconcussa pro celebrantibus te, sapiens Georgi, illos undique tuis supplicationibus protegens.

Corona radiante redimitus, et regio diademate et sceptro decoratus, et veste purpurea tuo sanguine rubicunda indutus, beate martyr, nunc in cœlis regnas cum rege angelicarum virtutum.

Venite omnes, festive splendidam, gloriosam resurrectionem Domini hymnis celebrantes; iterum etiam splendidam festive celebremus memoriam Georgii martyris; et ilium vernis coronemus floribus, ut invictum athletam; ut ejus precibus tribulationum simui et peccatorum liberationem accipere mereamur.

Ver advenit nobis, gaudio exsultemus; resurrectio Christi illuxit nobis, laetabundi gaudeamus; memoria martyris Georgii præmia ferentis, fideles suo splendore lætificans apparuit; ideo omnes festivitatis amantes, venite, illam mysticis celebremus canticis. Ipse enim Georgius, velut fortis miles, contra tyrannos virilem ostendit fortitudinem; et illos confusione perfudit, imitator factus passionis Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi. Pro vase corporis lutoso non est misericordia commotus; sed illud in tormentis velut æneum fundens, penitus transformavit. Illi ergo clamemus; Martyr praemia ferens, Deum deprecare ut salvet animas nostras.
Faithful friend of Christ prince of his soldiers most brilliant luminary of earth star of fairest light watchful guardian. of such as honour thee! be thou our guardian, O martyr George.

Blessed George! we celebrate thy combat, whereby thou didst destroy the idols, and bring to nought the manifold errors that were spread by the demons, O most glorious martyr of Christ.

Thou hast been made a member of the heavenly army, O blessed George! Thou contemplatest, as far as may be, the Divine Nature. Vouchsafe to protect us all who venerate thee.

Out of ardent love for Christ his King, who gave his life for the world’s salvation, the great soldier George longed to suffer death for his sake. He delivered himself up, for his heart was inflamed with divine zeal. Let us, therefore, full of faith, celebrate his praise in our hymns, as our earnest defender, as the glorious servant of Christ, as the faithful imitator of his Lord, as one that is ever beseeching God to grant us the forgiveness and pardon of our sins.

The angelic host is in admiration at thy combat, O thou prince of warriors! The very King of angels, struck with admiration, desired thy beauty, O martyr!—therefore did he deign to make thee his companion for ever in his kingdom.

Imitating thy Lord, O martyr, thou didst cheerfully and willingly deliver thyself up to the battle. Thou didst gain the victory and merit to become the guardian of the Church of Christ, which thou dost unceasingly defend and protect.

As the invincible martyr, as the prizebearing victor, as the unconquerable defender of the faith, be now an impregnable tower to them that celebrate thy praise, O wise George! and protect them from all dangers by thy intercession.

Decked with a brilliant crown, beautified with a royal diadem and sceptre, and clad in a purple robe reddened with thy blood, thou, O happy martyr, now reignest in heaven with the King of the angelic hosts.

Come, all ye people, let us celebrate in festive song the bright and glorious Resurrection of the Lord; let us also joyously celebrate the bright memory of 22 George the martyr: let us crown him, as the invincible soldier, with the flowers of spring; that by his prayers we may deserve to be freed from tribulation and sin.

Spring is come; let us exult with joy: the Resurrection of Christ hath shone upon us; let us rejoice in gladness: the feast of the prize-bearing martyr George hath appeared, gladdening the faithful with its brightness; come, then, let us who love his feast celebrate it with our spiritual canticles. For, like a brave soldier, George stood with manly courage before the tyrants, and covered them with confusion, being an imitator of the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He had no pity on the earthen vessel of his body, but wholly transformed it by delivering it to torments, as brass is melted by fire. Thus, then, let us cry out unto him: O prize-bearing martyr! beseech God that he save our souls.

Thou, O George, art the glorious type of a Christian soldier. Whilst serving under an earthly monarch, thou didst not forget thy duty to the King of heaven. Thou didst shed thy blood for the faith of Christ; and he, in return, appointed thee protector of Christian armies. Be their defender in battle, and bless with victory them that fight in a just cause. Protect them under the shadow of thy standard; cover them with thy shield; make them the terror of their enemies. Our Lord is the God of Hosts; and he frequently uses war as the instrument of his designs, both of justice and mercy. They alone win true victory who have heaven on their side; and such soldiers, when on the battle-field, seem to the world to be doing the work of man, whereas it is the work of God they are furthering. Hence are they more generous, because more religious, than other men. The sacrifices they have to make, and the dangers they have to face, teach them unselfishness. What wonder, then, that soldiers have given so many martyrs to the Church!

But there is another warfare, in which we Christians are all enlisted, and of which St Paul speaks, when he says: Labour as a good soldier of Christ; for no man is crowned, save he that striveth lawfully.[1] That we have thus to strive and fight during our life, the same Apostle assures us in these words: Take unto you the armour of God, that ye may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of the hope of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.[2] We, then, are soldiers, as thou wast, O holy martyr! Before ascending into heaven, our divine leader wishes to review his troops; do thou present us to him. He has loaded us with honours, notwithstanding our past disloyalties; we must, henceforth, prove ourselves worthy of our position. In the Paschal Communion which we have received, we have a pledge of victory; how can we ever be so base as to permit ourselves to be conquered! Watch over us, O sainted warrior! Let thy prayers and example encourage us to fight against the dragon of hell. He dreads the armour we wear; for it is Jesus himself that prepared it for us, and tempered it in his own precious Blood: may we, like thee, present it to him whole and entire, when he calls us to our eternal rest!

There was a time when the whole Christian world loved and honoured thy memory with enthusiastic joy: but now, alas! this devotion has grown cold, and thy feast passes unnoticed by thousands. O holy martyr! avenge this ingratitude by imitating thy divine King, who maketh his sun to rise upon both good and bad; take pity on this world, perverted as it is by false doctrines, and tormented at this very time by the most terrible scourges. Have compassion on thy dear England, which has been seduced by the dragon of hell, and by him made the instrument for effecting his plots against the Lord and his Christ. Take up thy spear as of old; give the monster battle, and emancipate the isle of Saints from his slavish yoke. Heaven and earth join in this great prayer! In the name of our Risen Jesus, aid thine own and once devoted people to a glorious resurrection!

 


[1] 2 Tim. ii 5.
[2] Eph. vi 13, 17.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Risen Lord would have around him a bright phalanx of martyrs. Its privileged members belong to the different centuries of the Church’s existence. Its ranks open today to give welcome to a brave combatant, who won his palm, not in a contest with paganism, as those did whose feasts we have thus far kept, but in defending his mother, the Church, against her own rebellious children. They were heretics that slew this day’s martyr, and the century that was honoured with his triumph was the seventeenth.

Fidelis was worthy of his beautiful name. Neither difficulty nor menace could make him fail in his duty. During his whole life, he had but the glory and service of his divine Lord in view: and when the time came for him to face the fatal danger, he did so, calmly but fearlessly, as behoved a disciple of that Jesus who went forth to meet his enemies. Honour, then, be to-day to the brave son of St Francis! truly he is worthy of his seraphic Patriarch, who confronted the Saracens, and was a martyr in desire!

Protestantism was established and rooted by the shedding of torrents of blood; and yet Protestants count it as a great crime that, here and there, the children of the true Church made an armed resistance against them. The heresy of the sixteenth century was the cruel and untiring persecutor of men, whose only crime was their adhesion to the old faith—the faith that had civilized the world. The so-called Reformation proclaimed liberty in matters of religion, and massacred Catholics who exercised this liberty, and prayed and believed as their ancestors had done for long ages before Luther and Calvin were bom. A Catholic who gives heretics credit for sincerity when they talk about religious toleration, proves that he knows nothing of either the past or the present. There is a fatal instinct in error, which leads it to hate the Truth; and the true Church, by its unchangeableness, is a perpetual reproach to them that refuse to be her children. Heresy starts with an attempt to annihilate them that remain faithful; when it has grown tired of open persecution it vents its spleen in insults and calumnies; and when these do not produce the desired effect, hypocrisy comes in with its assurances of friendly forbearance. The history of Protestant Europe, during the last three centuries, confirms these statements; it also justifies us in honouring those courageous servants of God who, during that same period, have died for the ancient faith.

Let us now respectfully listen to the account given us, in the Liturgy, of the life and martyrdom of St Fidelis; we shall find that the Church has not grown degenerate in her Saints.

Fidelis in oppido Sueviæ Sigmaringa ex honesta Reyorum familia natus, ab ineunte aetate singularibus naturæ et gratiæ donis omatus præfulsit. Egregiam quippe sortitus indolem, morumque optima imbutus disciplina, dum Friburgi Philosophiæ et juris utriusque lauream emeruit, in schola etiam Christi ad perfectionis apicem sedulo virtutum exercitio contendere cœpit. Nobilium exinde virorum, varias Europae provincias lustrantium comes adscitus, eos ad christianam pietatem sectandam tam verbis quam operibus excitare non destitit. Quinimo in eodem itinere crebris austeritatibus desideria carnis mortificare at ita seipsum regere studuit, ut in tanta rerum vicissitudine nullo unquam visus fuerit iræ motu perturbari. Juris præterea et justitiæ strenuus propugnator, post reditum in Germaniam celebre sibi nomen acquisivit in advocati munere: in quo tamen, cum fori pericula esset expertus, tutiorem æternæ salutis viam ingredi deliberavit, et superna vocatione illustratus, paulo post Ordini Seraphico inter fratres minores Capuccinos adscribi petiit.

Piæ petitionis compos redditus, mundi suique contemptor insignis, in ipso statini tyrocinio, magisque cum solemnis professionis vota in gaudio Spiritus Domino nuncupasset, in regulari observantia omnibus admirationi fuit ac exemplo. Orationi maxime, et sacris litteris vacans, in verbi quoque ministerio singulari gratia excellens, nedum Catholicos ad meliorem frugem, verum etiam heterodoxos ad veritatis cognitionem attraxit. Pluribus in locis cœnobii præfectus constitutus, prudentia, justitia, mansuetudine, discretione et humilitatis laude, munus sibi demandatum exercuit. Arctissimæ paupertatis zelator egregius, quidquid vel minus necessarium videretur, e cœnobio penitus eliminavit. Inter austera jejunia, vigilias et flagella, salutari seipsum prosequens odio, in alios amorem, quasi mater in filios, ostendit. Cum pestifera febris Austriacas militares copias dire affligeret, ipse in extremis infirmorum indigentiis ad assidua charitatis officia toto spiritu incubuit. In componendis etiam animorum dissidiis, aliisque proximi necessitatibus sublevandis, consilio et opere adeo præclare se gessit, ut Pater patriae meruerit appellari.

Deiparæ Virginis et Rosarii cultor eximius, illius præcipue, aliorumque sanctorum patrociniis a Deo postulavit, ut in catholicæ fidei obsequium, vitam sibi et sanguinem fundere liceret. Cumque ardens hoc desiderium in quotidiana Sacri devota celebratione magis accendere tur, mira Dei Providentia factum est ut fortis Christi athleta praeses eligeretur illarum missionum quas Congregatio de Propaganda fide pro Rhaetia tunc temporis instituerat. Quod arduum munus prompto hilarique animo suscipiens, tanto fervore executus est, ut pluribus hæreticis ad orthodoxam fidem conversis, spes non modica effulserit totius illius gentis Ecclesiæ et Christo reconciiiandæ. Prophetiæ dono praeditus, futuras Rhætiæ calamitates suique necem ab haereticis inferendam sæpius prædixit. Postquam vero, insidiarum probe conscius impendenti agoni se præparasset, die vigesima quarta aprilis anno millesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo secundo, ad ecclesiam loci Sevicium nuncupati se contuli t: ubi ab hæreticis, qui, pridie conversionem simulantes, eum dolose ad prædicandum invitaverant, concione tumultuarie interrupta, per verbera et vulnera eidem crudeliter inflicta, gloriosam mortem magno et alacri corde perpessus, primitias martyrum memoratæ Congregations proprio sanguine consecra vit; pluribus signis et miraculis exinde clarus, præsertim Curiæ et Veldkirchii, ubi summa popuii veneratione illius reliquias asservantur.
Fidelis was bom at Sigmaringen, a town of Swabia. His parents, whose name was Rey, were of a respectable family. He was remarkable, even when a child, for his extraordinary gifts both of nature and grace. Blessed with talent of a high order, and trained to virtue by an excellent education, he received at Freiburg the wellmerited honours of Doctor in Philosophy and in Civil and Canon Law, at the same time that, in the school of Christ, he strove to attain the height of perfection by the assiduous practice of all virtues. Being requested to accompany several noblemen in their travels through various countries of Europe, he lost no opportunity of encouraging them, both by word and example, to lead a life of Christian piety. In these travels, he moreover mortified the desires of the flesh by frequent austerities; and such was the mastery he gained over himself, that in the midst of all the trouble and excitement, he was never seen to lose his temper in the slightest degree. He was a strenuous upholder of law and justice, and, after his return to Germany, he acquired considerable reputation as an advocate. But finding that this profession was replete with danger, he resolved to enter on the path that would best lead him to eternal salvation. Thus enlightened by the divine call, he shortly afterwards asked to be admitted into the Seraphic Order, among the Capuchin Friars.

His pious wish being granted, he showed from the very commencement of his novitiate how thoroughly he despised the world and himself; and when, with spiritual joy, he had offered to God the vows of solemn profession, his regular observance was such as to make him the admiration of, and a model to, all around him. He devoted himself to prayer and to sacred studies; as also to preaching, for which he had a special grace, and by which he not only converted Catholics from a life of wickedness to one of virtue, but also drew heretics to a knowledge of the truth. He was appointed superior in several convents of his Order, and fulfilled his office with admirable prudence, justice, meekness, discretion and humility. His zeal for strict poverty was so great, that he would allow nothing to be in the convent which was not absolutely necessary. He practised severe fasting, watching and disciplines, out of holy hatred against himself; whereas his love towards others was that of a mother for her children. A contagious fever having broken out among the Austrian soldiers, causing frightful mortality, he devoted his whole energies to untiring acts of charity in favour of the sick, whose sufferings were extreme. So admirable was he, both in advice and action, in settling disputes, and relieving everyone in trouble or trial, that he won for himself the name of the Father of his country.

He was extremely devout to the Virgin Mother of God, and a zealous promoter of the Rosary. He besought of God, through the intercession of this Blessed Mother firstly, and then through that of all the Saints, that he might be allowed to shed his blood and lay down his life for the Catholic faith. This ardent desire was increased by the daily and devout celebration of the Holy Sacrifice; and at length, by the wonderful providence of God, this valiant soldier of Christ was placed at the head of the missions recently established among the Grisons, by the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. Fidelis undertook this arduous task with a ready and cheerful heart, and laboured in it with such earnestness, that he converted many heretics to the true faith, and inspired the hope that the whole of that people would be reconciled to the Church and to Christ. He had the gift of prophecy, and frequently predicted the calamities that were to befall the Grisons, as also his own death by the hands of the heretics. Being fully aware of the plot laid against him, he prepared himself for the combat, and, on the twenty-fourth day of April, in the year I622, he repaired to the church of a place called Seewis. Hither had the heretics, on the previous day, invited him to come and preach, pretending that they wished to be converted. Whilst he was preaching, he was interrupted by their clamours. They rushed upon him, cruelly struck and wounded him even to death He suffered it with courage and joy, thus consecrating by his blood the first-fruits of the martyrs of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. His name was rendered illustrious by many miracles, especially at Coire, and Veltkirch, where his relics are kept, and honoured by the people with exceeding great veneration.

How truly couldst thou, O Fidelis! say with the Apostle: I have finished my course![1] Yea, thy death was even more beautiful than thy life, holy as that was. How admirable the calmness wherewith thou didst receive death! how grand the joy wherewith thou didst welcome the blows of thine enemies—thine, because they were those of the Church! Thy dying prayer, like Stephen's, was for them; for the Catholic, while he hates heresy, must love the heretics who put him to death. Pray, O holy martyr, for the children of the Church. Obtain for them an appreciation of the value of faith, and of the favour God bestowed on them when he made them members of the true Church. May they be on their guard against the many false doctrines which are now current through the world. May they not be shaken by the scandals which abound in this age of effeminacy and pride. It is faith that is to bring us to our Risen Jesus: and he urges it upon us by the words he addressed to Thomas: Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed![2] Of this number we wish to be: and therefore is it that we cling to the Church, the sovereign mistress of faith. We wish to believe her, and not human reason, which has neither the power to fathom the word of God, nor the right to sit in judgement over it. Jesus has willed that this holy faith should come down to us bearing on itself the strengthening testimony of the martyrs; and each age has had its martyrs. Glory to thee, O Fidelis, who didst win thy palm by combating the errors of the pretended Reformation! Take a martyr’s revenge, and pray without ceasing to our Jesus, that he would bring all heretics back to the faith and to union with the Church. They are our brethren by baptism; pray for them, that they may return to the Fold, and that we may one day celebrate with them the true Paschal banquet, wherein the Lamb of God gives himself to be our food, not figuratively, as in the Old Law, but really and truly, as fits the New Covenant.

 


[1] 2 Tim. iv 7.
[2] St John xx 29.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Including:

THE cycle of holy Mother Church brings before us to-day the Lion, who, together with the Man, the Ox, and the Eagle, stands before the throne of God.[1] It was on this day that Mark ascended from earth to heaven, radiant with his triple aureole of Evangelist, Apostle and Martyr.

As the preaching made to Israel had its four great representatives—Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel —so, likewise, would God have the New Covenant to be embodied in the four Gospels, which were to make known to the world the life and teachings of his divine Son. The holy Fathers tell us that the Gospels are like the four streams which watered the garden of pleasure.[2] and that this garden was a figure of the future Church. The first of the Evangelists—the first to register the actions and words of our Redeemer—is Matthew, whose star will rise in September; the second is Mark, whose brightness gladdens us today; the third is Luke, whose rays will shine upon us in October; the fourth is John, whom we have already seen in Bethlehem, at the crib of our Emmanuel.

Mark was the beloved disciple of Peter; he was the brilliant satellite of the sun of the Church. He wrote his Gospel at Rome, under the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. The Church was already in possession of the history given by Matthew; but the faithful of Rome wished their own Apostle to narrate what he had witnessed. Peter refused to write it himself, but he bade his disciple take up his pen, and the Holy Ghost guided the hand of the new Evangelist. Mark follows the account given by Matthew; he abridges it, and yet he occasionally adds a word, or an incident, which plainly prove to us that Peter, who had seen and heard all, was his living and venerated authority. One would have almost expected that the new Evangelist would pass over in silence the history of his master’s fall, or at least have said as little as possible about it; but no—the Gospel written by Mark is more detailed on Peter's denial than is that of Matthew; and as we read it, we cannot help feeling that the tears elicited by Jesus’ look when in the house of Caiphas, were flowing down the Apostle’s cheeks as he described the sad event. Mark’s work being finished, Peter examined it and gave it his sanction; the several Churches joyfully received this second account of the mysteries of the world’s redemption, and the name of Mark was made known throughout the whole earth.

Matthew begins his Gospel with the human genealogy of the Son of God, and has thus realized the prophetic type of the Man;Mark fulfils that of the Lion, for he commences with the preaching of John the Baptist, whose office as precursor of the Messias had been foretold by Isaias, where he spoke of the voice of one crying in the wilderness—as the Lion that’ makes the desert echo with his roar.

Mark, having written his Gospel, was next to labour as an Apostle. Peter sent him first to Aquileia, where he founded an important Church: but this was not enough for an Evangelist. When the time designed by God came, and Egypt, the source of countless errors, was to receive the truth, and the haughty and noisy Alexandria was to be raised to the dignity of the second Church of Christendom—the second see of Peter—Mark was sent by his master to effect this great work. By his preaching, the word of salvation took root, grew up, and produced fruit in that most infidel of nations; and the authority of Peter was thus marked, though in different degrees, in the three great cities of the Empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

St Mark may be called the first founder of the monastic life by his instituting, in Alexandria itself, what were called the Therapeutes. To him, also, may be justly attributed the origin of that celebrated Christian school of Alexandria which was so flourishing even in the second century.

But glorious as were these works of Peter's disciple, the Evangelist and Apostle Mark was also to receive the dignity of martyr. The success of his preaching excited against him the fury of the idolaters. They were keeping a feast in honour of Serapis; and this gave them an opportunity which they were not likely to lose. They seized Mark, treated him most cruelly, and cast him into prison. It was there that our Risen Lord appeared to him during the night, and addressed him in these words, which afterwards formed the arms of the Republic of Venice: ' Peace be to thee, Mark, my Evangelist!' To which the disciple answered: ‘Lord '—for such were his feelings of delight and gratitude that he could say but that one word, as it was with Magdalen, when she saw Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection. On the following day Mark was put to death by the pagans. He had fulfilled his mission on earth, and heaven opened to receive the Lion, who was to occupy the place allotted to him near the throne of the Ancient of days, as shown to the Prophet of Patmos in his sublime vision.[3]

In the ninth century the West was enriched with the relics of St Mark. They were taken to Venice; and, under the protection of the sacred Lion, there began for that city a long period of glory. Faith in so great a patron achieved wonders; and from the midst of islets and lagoons there sprang into existence a city of beauty and power. Byzantine art raised up the imposing and gorgeous church, which was the palladium of the Queen of the Seas; and the new Republic stamped its coinage with the Lion of St Mark. Happy would it have been for Venice had she persevered in her loyalty to Rome and in the ancient severity of her morals.

 

Saint Mark’s Procession

 

This day is honoured in the Liturgy by what is called Saint Mark's Procession. The term, however, is not a correct one, inasmuch as a procession was a privilege peculiar to April 25 previously to the institution of our Evangelist’s feast, which even so late as the sixth century had no fixed day in the Roman Church. The real name of this procession is The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means Supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place in order to propitiate heaven. The two Greek words Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us) were also called Litany, as likewise were the invocations which were afterwards added to that cry for mercy, and which now form a liturgical prayer used by the Church on certain solemn occasions.

The Greater Litanies (or processions) are so called to distinguish them from the Minor Litanies, that is, processions of less importance as far as the solemnity and concourse of the faithful were concerned. We gather from an expression of St Gregory the Great that it was an ancient custom in the Roman Church to celebrate, once each year, a Greater Litany, at which all the clergy and people assisted. This holy Pontiff chose April 25 as the fixed day for this procession, and appointed the Basilica of St Peter as the Station.

Several writers on the Liturgy have erroneously confounded this institution with the processions prescribed by St Gregory for times of public calamity. It existed long before his time, and all that he did was to fix it on April 25. It is quite independent of the feast of St Mark, which was instituted at a much later period. If April 25 occur during Easter week, the procession takes place on that day (unless it be Easter Sunday), but the feast of the Evangelist is not kept till after the octave.

The question naturally presents itself—why did St Gregory choose April 25 for a procession and Station in which everything reminds us of compunction and penance, and which would seem so out of keeping with the joyous season of Easter? The first to give a satisfactory answer to this difficulty was Canon Moretti, a learned liturgiologist of the eighteenth century. In a dissertation of great erudition, he proves that in the fifth, and probably even in the fourth, century, April 25 was observed at Rome as a day of great solemnity. The faithful went, on that day, to the Basilica of St Peter, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the first entrance of the Prince of the Apostles into Rome, upon which he thus conferred the inalienable privilege of being the capital of Christendom. It is from that day that we count the twenty-five years, two months and some days that St Peter reigned as Bishop of Rome.[4] The Sacramentary of St Leo gives us the Mass of this solemnity, which afterwards ceased to be kept. St Gregory, to whom we are mainly indebted for the arrangement of the Roman Liturgy, was anxious to perpetuate the memory of a day which gave to Rome her grandest glory. He therefore ordained that the Church of St Peter should be the Station of the Great Litany, which was always to be celebrated on that auspicious day. April 25 comes so frequently during the octave of Easter that it could not be kept as a feast, properly so called, in honour of St Peter’s entrance into Rome; St Gregory, therefore, adopted the only means left of commemorating the great event.

But there was a striking contrast resulting from this institution, of which the holy Pontiff was fully aware, but which he could not avoid: it was the contrast between the joys of Paschal Time and the penitential sentiments wherewith the faithful should assist at the procession and Station of the Great Litany. Laden as we are with the manifold graces of this holy season, and elated with our Paschal joys, we must sober our gladness by reflecting on the motives which led the Church to cast this hour of shadow over our Easter sunshine. After all, we are sinners, with much to regret and much to fear; we have to avert those scourges which are due to the crimes of mankind; we have, by humbling ourselves and invoking the intercession of the Mother of God and the Saints, to obtain the health of our bodies, and the preservation of the fruits of the earth; we have to offer atonement to divine justice for our own and the world’s pride, sinful indulgences, and insubordination. Let us enter into ourselves, and humbly confess that our own share in exciting God’s indignation is great; and our poor prayers, united with those of our holy Mother the Church, will obtain mercy for the guilty, and for ourselves who are of the number.

A day, then, like this, of reparation to God’s offended majesty, would naturally suggest the necessity of joining some exterior penance to the interior dispositions of contrition which filled the hearts of Christians. Abstinence from flesh meat has always been observed on this day at Rome; and when the Roman Liturgy was established in France by Pepin and Charlemagne, the Great Litany of April 25 was, of course, celebrated, and the abstinence kept by the faithful of that country. A Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 836, enjoined the additional obligation of resting from servile work on this day: the same enactment is found in the Capitularia of Charles the Bald. As regards fasting, properly so called, being contrary to the spirit of Paschal Time, it would seem never to have been observed on this day, at least not generally. Amalarius, who lived in the ninth century, asserts that it was not then practised even in Rome.

During the procession, the Litany of the Saints is sung, followed by several versicles and prayers. The Mass of the Station is celebrated according to the Lenten Rite, that is, without the Gloria in excelsis, and in purple vestments. We have inserted the Litany of the Saints in the following volume, for the Rogation Days.

We take this opportunity of protesting against the negligence of Christians on this subject. Even persons who have the reputation of being spiritual think nothing of being absent from the Litanies said on St Mark’s and the Rogation Days. One would have thought that when the Holy See took from these days the obligation of abstinence, the faithful would be so much the more earnest to join in the duty still left—-the duty of prayer. The people’s presence at the Litanies is taken for granted: and it is simply absurd that a religious rite of public reparation should be one from which almost all should keep away. We suppose that these Christians will acknowledge the importance of the petitions made in the Litanies; but God is not obliged to hear them in favour of such as ought to make them and yet do not. This is one of the many instances which might be brought forward of the strange delusions into which private and isolated devotion is apt to degenerate. When St Charles Borromeo first took possession of his see of Milan, he found this negligence among his people, and that they left the clergy to go through the Litanies of April 25 by themselves. He assisted at them himself, and walked barefooted in the procession. The people soon followed the sainted pastor’s example.

Let us return to the holy Evangelist, and listen to the Churches of the East and West speaking his praise. We will begin with a hymn composed in the ninth century by St Paulinus, one of St Mark’s successors as bishop of Aquileia.

Hymn

Jam nunc per omne lux refulget sæculum,
Lux ilia Patris quæ iucet de solio,
Quæ fons, origo, splendor lucis aureæ,
Habensque semper lumen indeficiens,
Cœlum serenat arcens mundi tenebras.

Hujus sacrato lucis de vibramine,
Suscepit almum radium sub pectore 
Marcus beatus, doctor evangelicus;
Factus lucerna more tanti luminis,
Ardens fugavit sæculi caliginem.

Septem columnis una de candidulis,
Aureis septem unum de candelabris,
Cingitque totum mundum claro sidere:
Ecciesiarum nititur sub culmine,
Sustentat altæ fundamenta fabricæ.

Quantum quod olim viderat Ezechiel
Propheta sanctus, animai lætissimum
Vidit Joannes, ceu Christi recubitor,
Leonis hoc et typice sub specie
Clamore multo per deserta frendere.

Sic a beato Petro missus adiit
Aquileiensem dudum famosissimam
Urbem sacrati Verbi pullulantia
Disseminavit, satosque centuplices
Fructus ad alta vexit felix horrea.

Christi dicavit mox ibi Ecclesiam:
Nam fundamentum fidei fortissimum
Fixerat unum petram super limpidam,
Quam flumen undans, nec ventorum fulmina
Quassare possunt, torrentes nec pluviæ.

Deinde rursus cum corona remeans,
Athleta Chris ti compta pulchris liliis,
Mistumque palmis, lauro atque rosulis,
Portabat gaudens diadema vertice
Ingressus urbem Romam Christo comite.

His ita gestis pergit Alexandriam,
Sancto repletus Spiritu, lætissimos
Fines per omnes jugiter Memphiticos
Patris tremendi prædicabat unicum
Venisse mundi pro salute Filium.

Turba crudelis Christi circa militem
Tumens parabat tormentorum spicula:
Vinxit catenis, transfixit aculeis,
Dilaniando flagris sancta viscera: 
Carceris umbras misit ad phantasticas.

Primus superni Numinis notitiam
Dedit in urbem Marcus Alexandriam:
Christi dicavit mox ibi basili cam,
Quam expiavit pretioso sanguine:
Vallavit almæ fidei munimine.

Gloria Patri, decus et imperium
Sit Nate semper tibi super sidera
Honor, potestas, Sanctoque Spiritui;
Sit Trini tati virtus individuæ,
Per infinita sæculorum sæcula.

Amen.
Already throughout the whole earth there brightly gleams
the light which shines from the Father's throne:
the light which is the fount and source and splendour of the golden light:
the light that never fails,
beautifies heaven, and expels darkness from the world.

Blessed Mark, the Evangelical teacher,
received into his heart
a lovely ray of this sparkling sacred light.
He became as a lamp reflecting that great light
and dispelling the gloom of this world by his brilliant flame.

He was one of the seven fair pillars,
and one of the seven golden candlesticks
whose brightness shines as a star throughout the universe.
He was one of the foundations
that support lofty structure of the Church

He was one of the favoured living creatures
seen of old by the holy prophet Ezechiel,
and by John, the disciple that leaned on Jesus' breast.
Mark was prefigured under the type of a lion,
whose wild roar is heard in the wilderness.

He was sent by blessed Peter to Aquileia,
that city of ancient fame.
There he sowed the seed of the divine word,
and with joy garnered into heaven
a hundredfold of fruit.

There he speedily raised a Christian Church.
He gave it solidity of unshaken faith
by building it on that faultless Rock,
against which the billows and storms
and floods vent their rage in vain.

The soldier of Christ returned,
wearing a wreath of fair lilies,
with palm and laurel and roses:
and thus crowned, he joyfully entered Rome,
led thither by Christ.

This done, he sets out for Alexandria,
and, filled with the Holy Ghost,
traverses the ever fertile land of Egypt,
preaching that the only begotten Son of the Father Almighty
had come into the world for the world's salvation.

A cruel mob, enraged against the soldier of Christ,
prepared various torments for him:
he was bound with chains, pierced with arrows,
and after his holy flesh had been torn by scourges,
he was thrust into a dismal dungeon.

Mark was the first that taught
Alexandria to know the true God.
He there built a church, which he dedicated to Christ,
consecrated by the shedding of his own blood,
and fortified by the solidity of holy faith.

Glory, praise and empire be to the Father!
To thee, O Jesus, who reignest in heaven above,
and to the Holy Ghost, be honour and power!
To the undivided Trinity be adoration paid
for endless ages!

Amen.

The Greek Church celebrates the memory of the holy Evangelist in the Menæa: we extract the following stanzas:

Hymn
(Die XXV Aprilis)

Divinorum sermonum scriptorem, et magnum Ægypti protectorem, fi deles, dignis celebremus laudibus, clamantes: Marce sapiens, doctrinis et precibus tuis omnes nos ad tranquillam sine tempestate vitam ut Apostolus dirige.

Socius peregrinationis Vasis electionis fuisti, et cum illo omnem peragrasti Macedoniam. Postea Romam adveniens, gratus Petri interpres apparuisti; et cum digna Deo prælia sustinuisses, in Ægyp to requievisti.

Animas sitientes et aridas candidis Evangelii tui nivibus vivificasti: ideo, dive Marce, splendide nobiscum hodie Alexandria tuam celebrat et laudibus exaltat festivitatem, tuasque veneratur reliquias.

Beatissime Marce, voluptatis torrentem bibisti: velut ex Paradiso prosiluisti splendidissimus pacis fluvius, Evangelicæ prædicationis tuæ rivulis irrigans faciem terræ, et solidas Ecclesiae arbores divinis aspergens doctrinis.

Marce omnilaudabilis, Aloyses olim Ægyptios in maris abyssum præcipitavit; tu vero sapiens, illos ex mari erroris extraxisti, divina virtu te ejus qui illic corporaliter peregrinatus est, et opera manuum illorum destruxit in brachio excelso.

O dive Marce, sapientis scribæ et velociter scribentis calamus apparuisti, Christi incamationem mirabiliter scribens, et splendide annuntians verba æternæ vitæ; ut in illa describantur te celebrantes, et tuam gloriosam honorantes memoriam, Dominum deprecare.

O Marce laudabilis, Christum evangelizans omnem percurristi terram, illam sicut sol illuminans radiis fidei, illam antea cooperatam tenebris idololatriæ; et nunc Deum exora, ut animabus nostris pacem et magnam concedat misericordiam.

O Marce Apostole, ubi primum abundavit impietatis stultitia ipse evangelizasti; Ægyptiorum tenebras lumine sermonum tuorum depellens, Dei nuntius; et nunc deprecare ut nobis Deus concedat pacem et magnam misericordiam.

Petri sapientis discipulus, et ejus filiali adoptione potitus, Marce omnilaudabilis, mysteriorum Christi interpres effectus es, et cohæres ejusdem gloriæ apparuisti.

In omnem terram exivit sonus tuus, et in fines orbis terrae mirabiliter verborum tuorum virtus Davidico resonans clangore, nobis annuntiavit salutem et regenerationem.

Verbis tuis dulcedinem pietatis distillasti, velut divinus mons undique radiis illuminatus, illustre resplendens gratia solis spiritualis, Marce beatissime.

De domo Domini fons exsiluisti, et sitientes animas abundanter Spiritus Sancti rivulis irrigasti, docens pro sterilitate bonos fructus facere, O beate Apostole.

Princeps Apostolorum Petrus te mirabiliter initiavit doctrinis, ut venerabile scriberes Evangelium, te gratiæ ministrum ostendens; tu enim nobis Dei cognitionis lumen splendescere fecisti.

Spiritus Sancti gratiam desuper accipiens, rhetorum subtilitates, Apostole, destruxisti, et universas nationes velut in sagena, piscator ad Dominum traxisti, Marce omnilaudabilis, divinum prædicans Evangelium.

Principis Apostolorum discipulus esse meruisti, et cum illo Christum Filium Dei annuntians, super Petram veritatis confirmasti errore fluctuantes. Super istam Petram me quoque confirmans, sapiens Marce, animæ meæ gressus dirige, ut ex inimici laqueis ereptus, te absque ullis impedimentis glorificare possim. Tu enim omnes illuminasti, divinum prædicans Evangelium.
Let us, O ye faithful, worthily honour the sacred writer, the great patron of Egypt. Let us thus celebrate his praise: O Mark, filled with heavenly wisdom, lead us, by thy teaching and prayers, to the life where tempests rage not: lead us, for thou art an Apostle.

Thou wast the companion of the Vessel of Election in his travels, and with him thou didst traverse Macedonia. Coming afterwards to Rome, thou wast Peter's willing interpreter: and after bravely fighting God’s battles, thou didst rest in Egypt.

By thy Gospel, refreshing as purest snow, thou gavest life to souls that were parched with thirst. Therefore does Alexandria unite with us, this day, in solemnly celebrating thy feast, O holy Mark, and in venerating thy relics.

Most blessed Mark! thou didst drink of the torrent of delight. As a most rich river of peace, gushing from Paradise, thou didst water the face of the earth with the streams of thy evangelical preaching and sprinkle the deep-rooted trees of the Church with divine teaching.

Most praiseworthy Mark! heretofore Moses drove the Egyptians into the depths of the sea: but thou, wise servant of the Lord, didst draw them forth from the sea of error by the divine power of him who once dwelt in that land, and with a high arm destroyed the works of their hands.

O saintly Mark! thou pen of a wise scrivener that writeth swiftly! thou didst write admirably of the Incarnation of Christ and gloriously proclaim the words of eternal life: in that same may there be written the names of them that celebrate and honour thy blessed memory. Pray to the Lord that this may be.

O praiseworthy Mark! thy Gospel has preached Christ throughout the whole earth, enlightening it as a sun with the rays of faith, whereas before it was covered with the darkness of idolatry. Pray now to God that he grant peace and abundant mercy unto our souls.

O Mark, Apostle and messenger of God! thou didst preach the Gospel to the land where the folly of impiety once reigned and dispel the darkness of the Egyptians by the light of thy words. Pray now to God, that he grant us peace and abundant mercy.

Disciple and adopted son of Peter, the master of wisdom, thou, O most praiseworthy Mark, wast made the interpreter of the mysteries of Christ, and coheir with him in glory.

Thy sound went forth into all the earth, and as David sang in his prophecy, the power of thy words, reaching wonderfully unto the ends of the earth, brought us the tidings of salvation and regeneration.

O most holy Mark! thou didst pour forth the sweetness of piety by thy words, for as the mountain of God, bright on all sides with light, thou wast admirably resplendent with the grace of the divine Sun.

O blessed Apostle! thou wast a fountain springing from the house of the Lord, giving to thirsting souls the abundant waters of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to change their barrenness for good works.

Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, admirably initiated thee into the knowledge he possessed, that thou mightest write the holy Gospel, and become a minister of grace; for thou hast made the light of the knowledge of God to beam upon us.

With the grace of the Holy Ghost received from on high, thou, O Apostle and most praiseworthy Mark, didst destroy the sophisms of human eloquence; as a fisherman thou didst cast the net by preaching the holy .Gospel, and didst draw all nations unto the Lord.

Thou wast the worthy disciple of the Prince of the Apostles; by uniting with him in declaring Christ to be the Son of God, thou didst confirm on the Rock of truth them that were tossed about by error. O confirm me too upon this Rock, O thou wise Apostle! guide thou the feet of my soul, that, being delivered from the snares of the enemy, I may without hindrance praise thee: for thou gavest light to all men by thy preaching of the holy Gospel.

Thou, O Mark, art the mystic Lion, who, with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, art yoked to the chariot whereon the King of kings pursues his triumphant course through the earth. Ezechiel, the prophet of the Ancient Testament, and John, the prophet of the New Law, saw thee standing nigh the throne of Jehovah. How magnificent is thy glory! Thou art the historian of the Word made Flesh, and thou publishest to all generations his claims to the love and adoration of mankind. The Church reveres thy writings, and bids us receive them as inspired by the Holy Ghost.

It was thou that, on the glad day of Easter, didst announce to us the Resurrection of our Lord: pray for us, O holy Evangelist, that this divine mystery may work its effects within us; and that our hearts, like thine own, may be firm in their love of our Risen Jesus, that so we may faithfully follow in him that new life which he gave us by his Resurrection. Ask him to give us his peace, as he did to his Apostles when he showed himself to them in the Cenacle, and as he did to thee when he appeared to thee in thy prison.

Thou wast the beloved disciple of Peter; Rome was honoured by thy presence: pray for the successor of Peter, thy master; pray for the Church of Rome, against which the wildest storm is now venting its fury. Pray to the Lion of the Tribe of Juda: he seems to sleep; and yet we know that he has but to show himself, and the victory is gained.

Apostle of Egypt! what has become of thy flourishing Church of Alexandria, Peter’s second see, the hallowed scene of thy martyrdom? Its very ruins have perished. The scorching blast of heresy made Egypt a waste, and God, in his anger, let loose upon her the torrent of Mahometanism. Twelve centuries have passed since then, and she is still a slave to error and tyranny: is it to be thus with her till the coming of the Judge? Pray, we beseech thee, for the countries thou didst so zealously evangelize, but whose deserts are now the image of her loss of faith.

And can Venice be forgotten by thee, who art her dearest patron? Her people still call themselves thine for the faith; bless her with prosperity; obtain for her that she may be purified by her trials, and return to the God who had chastised her in his justice. A nation that is loyal to the Church must prosper: let Venice, then, return to her former fidelity to Rome, and who knows but that the sovereign Ruler of the world, being appeased by thy powerful intercession, may make thy Venice what she was before she rebelled against the Holy See and tarnished the glories she won at Lepanto!

 


[1] Ezech. i 10.
[2] Gen. ii 10.
[3] Apoc. iv.
[4] Moretti, De Festo in honorem Principis Apostolorum Romæ ad diem XXV Aprilis instituto. Romæ, 1742, 10.

 

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