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June

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE glory of martyrdom illumines this day with a profusion rarely met with in the cycle; and already we seem to descry the rosy dawn of that brightest day of this month, on which Peter and Paul will consummate in their blood their own splendid confession. Italy and Gaul, Rome and Lyons concur in forming a legion of heroes in the service of heaven. For to-day Lyons, the illustrious daughter of Rome, is keeping the special festival of a whole phalanx of warriors, headed by the veteran chief, St Pothinus, disciple of St Polycarp, who, in the second century, levied the brave recruits of his battalion on the banks of the Rhone.[1] But to the mother Church are due the first honours. Let us, then, hail Marcellinus, together with the numerous progeny begotten by his fruitful priesthood, and rendered worthy by the Holy Ghost to share in his triumph. Let us hail, likewise, the exorcist, Peter, leading to the sacred font a long line of pagans whom he won over to Christ by proving to them the weakness of the demons.

When Christianity appeared on earth, Satan was visibly the prince of this world. To him was every altar reared; to his empire were all laws and customs subservient. From the depths of their famous temples, the demon chiefs directed the political affairs of the cities that came to consult their oracles; under divers names the lowest of the fallen angels found honour and influence at the domestic hearth; others had functions assigned to them, in forests, on mountains, at fountains, or on sea, occupying, in opposition to God, this world that had been created by him for his glory, but which Satan, through man’s connivance, had conquered. Four thousand years of abandonment on the part of heaven permitted the usurper to consolidate his conquest; and a strong defence had been planned in preparation for the day on which the lawful King should offer to re-enter on his rights.

The coming of the Word made Flesh was the signal for the assertion of the divine claim. The prince of this world, personally vanquished by the Son of God, understood well enough that he must needs return to the depths of hell. But the countless powers of darkness constituted by him would maintain the struggle through the length of ages, and dispute their position inch by inch. Driven from towns by the abjurations of holy Church and the triumph of martyrs, the infernal legions would fain marshal their ranks in the wilderness; there, under the leadership of an Anthony or a Pachomius, the soldiers of Christ must wage against them ceaseless and terrific battle. In the west, Benedict, the patriarch of monks, finds altars to the demons, and even demons themselves, on the heights of Cassino as late as the sixth century. Even in the seventh, they are found contending against St Gall for possession of the woods, lakes and rocks of what we now call Switzerland; and at last they are heard uttering mournful complaint, because, driven from the haunts of men, even such desolate spots as these are denied them. Verily, in the divine mind, the vocation of a monk to the desert has for itsend, not only flight from the world and its concerns, but likewise the pursuit of demons into their last entrenchments.

We have dwelt upon these considerations because their importance is extreme, and because this subject is now systematically ignored. True Christians firmly believe, now as formerly, in the spiritual combat which the soul has to sustain against hell, in the secrecy of conscience; but too many have no scruple in rejecting, as if belonging to the domain of the imagination, whatever is related of the public combats maintained by our fathers against the demons. The excuse for such Christians is, no doubt, the fact that they live in a land where this external war was ended centuries ago by the social victory of Christendom. But the Holy Ghost has declared that the old serpent, bound up for a thousand years, is at last to be again unchained for a while.[2] If we be nearing this fatal epoch, it is high time to look about us; we shall be ill prepared for waging the old battles, if we persist in our ignorance, and in branding with the name of legend the best attested facts in the history of our ancestors. After all, what is history, since the revolt of Lucifer, but a picture of the war that is being waged between God and Satan? Now if Satan has, by divine permission, invaded the exterior world as well as that of souls, must not the struggle to cast him out[3] be a hand to hand fight, an exterior and visible encounter?

‘The Word,’ says St Justin, ‘was made Flesh for two ends: to save believers, and to drive away demons.’[4] So also, the expulsion of demons from the places they occupy in this material world, and specially in the noblest part thereof, the bodies of men, appears in the Gospel to have been one of the chief characteristics of our Saviour’s power. Again, when on quitting the earth he sent his apostles to continue his work amidst the nations, this is the very thing he singled out as a primary sign of the mission they were to fulfil.[5] The world of that day made no mistake about it. Soon enough had the pagans to witness the cessation of the ancient oracles in every place;[6] and the cause of a phenomenon of such import to the ancient religion was evident to all: the very demons themselves were not backward in ascribing to the Christians their enforced silence. As regards this power of Christianity against hell, the apologists of the second and third centuries appeal on the subject to public testimony, without fear of contradiction. ‘Before the eyes of everyone,’ says St Justin to the emperors, ‘ the Christians drive out demons in the name of Jesus Christ, not only in Rome, but in the whole universe.᾽[7] The gods of Olympus beheld themselves shamefully unmasked, in the presence of their confused adorers, and Tertullian might well challenge the magistrates of the empire thus: ‘Let one of those men who declare themselves to be under the power of the gods, be brought before your tribunals: at the command of the first comer amongst us, the spirit whereby they are possessed will be constrained to confess what he is; if he avow not himself a demon and no god, fearing to lie to a Christian, at once shed the blood of this Christian blasphemer. But no; it is the terror they have of Christ that forces them to take flight at the mere touch or even the breath of one of his servants.᾽[8]

Baptism sufficed to give man such power as this; and this was the real meaning of our Lord’s promise, when speaking not only of the heads of the Church, but of all who would believe in him, he said: ‘In my name they shall cast out devils.᾽[9] At an early date, however, the Church, organizing the holy war, constituted among her sons one special Order having for its direct mission the pursuit of Satan on every point of this visible world. The exorcists were, by this delegation, invested with a power that accelerates the downfall of the prince of this world; and to render this defeat more odious and humiliating the Church raised no higher than to the rank of inferior clergy an Order so terrible to hell. Lucifer had aimed at being equal to the Most High;[10]hurled down from heaven, he flattered himself in his folly that he would be able to supplant God upon the earth: and lo! the charge of defeating him here is confided not to angels, his equals by nature, but to men, and even to the least of this credulous race which for long ages he had seen prostrate before him! Their hand of flesh constrains him, spirit though he be, to come off his throne; at their word he must needs cast away his vain adornments, he must unmask himself; the water they bless rekindles within him his eternal tortures; of the prince of this world and his pomps nought remains but mere Satan, the ugly-faced apostate, the condemned criminal wincing in the dust at the feet of the sons of men, or fleeing like a dry leaf before the breath of their mouth.

The archangel Michael recognizes, in these sons of Adam, the worthy allies of the faithful angels he led forward to victory. But amid those who continue the mighty battle begun on the heights of heaven,[11] the exorcist Peter comes before us to-day radiant with matchless splendour. The triumph of martyrdom has been added to his victories won over Satan's cohorts. None better than he drove hell back; for, chasing the demons out of men’s bodies, he moreover made conquest of their souls. The priest Marcellinus, the companion of his victories and martyrdom, is likewise his associate in glory. The Church wishes that these two names, so formidable to the spirits of darkness, should shine in one same aureole here below as in heaven. Daily does she render them the most solemn homage in her power by naming them both, on the diptych of the holy Sacrifice, together with the apostles and her first sons. Such was the importance of the mission they fulfilled and the renown of their final combat, that their bodies, translated to the Via Latina, became the nucleus of an illustrious cemetery. In the age of peace, that came soon after their glorious confession, the Christians vied with one another in obtaining sepulture near these soldiers of Christ, whose protection they craved. Constantine the Great, the vanquisher of idolatry, deposited at their sacred feet the remains of his mother, St Helena, who had herself become a terror to the demons by her discovery of the true Cross. A celebrated inscription was composed in their honour by St Damasus, who in childhood had learned the details of their martyrdom from their executioner himself after his conversion; this inscription, near their tomb, completed the monuments of that catacomb wherein Christian art had multiplied its richest teachings.

To the memory of Saints Marcellinus and Peter is joined, in the liturgy of to-day, the name of a holy bishop and martyr, formerly well known to the faithful. If the acts of his life which have reached us are not free from all reproach from a critical point of view, the favours obtained by the intercession of St Erasmus or Elmo wafted his name over the whole of Christendom, as is attested by the numberless forms this name assumed in various countries of the west during the middle ages. He holds a place in the group of saints styled auxiliatores or helpers, whose cultus is widespread particularly in Germany and Italy. Mariners look upon him as their patron, because of a certain miraculous voyage related in his life; one of the tortures to which he was subjected during his martyrdom has caused him to be invoked for colic. Nor should we forget to mention here how great a veneration St Benedict, the patriarch of western monks, had for St Erasmus; when he quitted the Campagna for his solitude on the banks of the Anio, he marked his principal station between Subiaco and Monte Cassino, by building a church and monastery at Veroli under the invocation of this holy martyr; he dedicated another in Rome itself to St Erasmus.

Let us now read the few lines devoted by the Church to the memory of our three Saints.

Petrus, exorcista, Diocletiano imperatore, Romæ a Sereno judice propter Christianæ fidei confessionem missus in carcerem, Paulinam Artemii, qui carceri præerat, filiam a dæmone agitatam liberavit. Quo facto et parentes puellæ cum tota familia et vicinos, qui ad rei novitatem concurrerant, Jesu Christo conciliatos, ad Marcellinum presbyterum adduxit, a quo omnes baptizati sunt. Quod ubi rescivit Serenus, Petrum et Marcellinum ad se vocatos asperius objurgat et ad verborum acerbitatem minas ac terrores adjungit, nisi Christo renuntient. Cui cum MarcellinusChristiana libertate responderet, pugnis contusum et a Petro sejunctum, nudum includit in carcerem stratum vitri fragmentis, sine cibo ac sine lumine. Petrum item constringi imperat arctissimis vinculis. Sed cum utrique ex tormentis fides et animus cresceret, constanti confessione, et abscisso capite, illustre testimonium Jesu Christo dederunt. Erasmus, episcopus imperatoribus Diocletiano et Maximiano, in Campania plumbatis et fustibus cæsus, resina quoque, sulphure, plumbo liquefacto et ferventi pice, cero oleoque perfusus, inde tamen integer et inviolatus evasit. Quo miraculo multi se ad Christi fidem converterunt. Verum is, iterum detrusus in carcerem, constrictus ferreis gravissimisque vinculis, inde ab angelo mirabiliter ereptus est. Deinde Formiis a Maximiano variis affectus suppliciis, tunicaque ærea candenti indutus, illa etiam tormenta divina virtute superavit. Denique, plurimis et in fide confirmatis et ad fidem conversis, insignem martyrii palmam adeptus est.
Peter, an exorcist, was cast into prison at Rome, under the emperor Diocletian, by the judge Serenus, for confessing the Christian faith. He there set free Paulina, the daughter of Artemius, the keeper of the prison, from an evil spirit which tormented her. Upon this, Artemius and his wife and all their house, with their neighbours who had run together to see the strange thing, were converted to Jesus Christ. Peter therefore brought them to Marcellinus the priest, who baptized them all. When Serenus heard of it, he called Peter and Marcellinus before him, and sharply rebuked them, adding to his bitter words threats and terrors, unless they would deny Christ. Marcellinus answered him with Christian boldness, whereupon he caused him to be buffeted, separated him from Peter, and shut him up naked, in a prison strewn with broken glass, without either food or light. Peter also he straitly confined. But when both of them were found to increase in faith and courage in their bonds, they were beheaded, unshaken in their testimony, and confessing Jesus Christ gloriously by their blood. In Campania the bishop Erasmus was, under the empire of Diocletian and Maximian, beaten with clubs and whips loaded with lead, and afterwards plunged into resin, sulphur, melted lead, boiling pitch, wax, and oil. From all this he came forth whole and sound: which wonder converted many to believe in Christ. He was remanded to prison, and straitly bound in iron fetters. But from these he was wondrously delivered by an angel. At last, being taken to Formi, Maximian caused him to be subjected to divers torments, being clad in a coat of red-hot brass, but the power of God made him more than conqueror in all these things also. Afterwards, having converted many to the faith and confirmed them therein, he obtained the palm of a glorious martyrdom.

Holy martyrs, you all confessed Jesus Christ, in the midst of the most terrific storm ever raised by the demon against the Church. Though all three in different grades of the hierarchy, you were alike guides of the Christian people, drawing them by thousands in your train, into the arena of martyrdom, and, by still more numerous conversions, filling up the void made in earth's chosen band by the departure of your victorious companions to heaven. Wherefore the Church this day joins her grateful homage here below, with the congratulation that rings through the Church triumphant. Be propitious, as of yore, in alleviating the ills that overwhelm mankind in this vale of tears. The excess of man's misery is that he seems to have forgotten how to call on such powerful protectors in his hour of need. Revive your memory, in our midst, by new benefits to our race.

As thou, O Erasmus, wast formerly protected by heaven, do thou now, in thy turn, succour those who are a prey to the tempest-tossed sea. In thy last hour of bitter anguish, thou didst suffer thine executioners to tear thy very bowels; lend a kindly aid to such as call upon thy name when racked by pains which bear some resemblance, though but faint, to what thou didst endure for Christ.

Peter and Marcellinus, linked one to another both in toil and in glory, cast gentle eyes upon us: one glance of yours would make all hell to tremble, and would drive far from us its cohorts. But how much is your aid needed in society at large, in the whole visible world! The foe you so mightily thrust backwards into the fiery pit is once more master. Alas! have we come to the time in which, again taking up war against the saints, it shall be granted him to overcome them?[12] Scarce does he even hide himself nowadays. Societies which formerly worked in secret have now openly surrendered to him a thousand sources of evil; he may be seen trying to push his way into gatherings of all sorts, into the very bosom of homes, as a family guest, as a comrade in diversion or in business, with table-turning and all those processes for divination, such as Tertullian denounced in your early day.[13] The expulsion of demons by Christianity had been so absolute that, up to more recent times, such fatal practices had fallen into utter oblivion amongst us. If at first, in Christian families, the warning voice of the pastors of God's Church has prevailed over the incitements of an unhealthy curiosity, a sect has since been formed, in which Satan is sole guide and oracle. The spiritists, as they are called, in concert with freemasonry, are preparing the way for the final invasion of the exterior world by infernal bands. Antichrist, with his usurped power and vain prestige, will be but the common product of political lodges and of this sect which proposes to bring back, under a new form, the ancient mysteries of paganism. Valiant soldiers of the Church, make us, we beseech you, worthy of our forefathers. If the Christian army must needs decrease in numbers, let its faith wax all the stronger; let its courage neither fail nor go astray; may its ranks be seen facing the foe, at that last hour in which the Lord Jesus will slay, with the breath of his mouth, the man of sin,[14] and plunge once again and for ever the whole of Satan's crew down into the lowest depths of the bottomless pit.


[1] Note of the Translator. SS. Pothinus, Blandina, and companions, martyrs of Lyons, are marked on this day in the Roman Martyrology, but as the feast is kept only in France, we have omitted in our translation the pages devoted to their memory in this place.
[2] Apoc. xx 2, 3.
[3] St John xii 31.
[4] 2 Apol. vi.
[5] St Mark xvi 17.
[6] Plutarch, De oraculor. defectu.
[7] 2 Apol. vi.
[8] Apol. xxiii.
[9] St Mark xvi 17.
[10] Is. xiv 12-15.
[11] Apoc. xii 7-9.
[12] Apoc. xiii 7.
[13] Apolog. xxiii.
[14] 2 Thess. ii 8.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

At this season, in which the Office of the time is leading us to consider the early developments of holy Church, eternal Wisdom so arranges, now as ever, that the feasts of the saints should complete the teachings of the movable cycle. The Paraclete, who has but just come down upon us, is to fill the whole earth;[1] the Man-God has sent Him expressly to win over the whole earth and to secure all time to His Church. Now, it is by subjecting kingdoms to the faith, that He is to form Christ’s empire;

 it is by enabling the Church to assimilate all nations to herself, that He gives growth and continuance to the bride. See, therefore, how at this Season wherein He has but just taken possession of the world anew, His co-operators in this His work of conquest shine out on every side in the heavens of the holy liturgy. But the west above all concurs in forming the magnificent constellation that is mingling its radiant splendour with the fires of Pentecost. Indeed, what could better show the omnipotence of the Spirit of Christ, than the establishment of this Latin Christendom, in these distant lands of the west?

What star is this shining to-day in such silvery beauty on the land of the Franks? The city of Lyons, prepared by the blood of martyrs for this her second glory, sees this new light rise in her midst. Clotilde is a mother; and the cruel sufferings which wrung her heart while she was yet young matured her soul for the grand destinies reserved by God for the privileged children of sorrow. The violent death of her father Chilperic, dethroned by a fratricidal usurper; the sight of her brothers massacred, and of her mother drowned in the Rhone; her long captivity in the Arian court of the murderer who brought heresy with him to the throne of the Burgundians, developed in her the heroism that was to make this niece of Gondebaud become the mother of a whole nation to Christ.

God drew the visible universe out of nothingness, solely to manifest His goodness. In like manner, He has willed that man, coming from His hands without power as yet to recognize his Creator, should recognize, at least, a mother’s tender love, the first sensible ray, as it were, of infinite love. Irresistible is this ray, sublime in its gentleness, exquisite in its purity, giving to the mother a facility, belonging only to her, to complete in the soul of her child the reproduction of the divine ideal that is to be impressed upon him. Now this she does by education. To-day’s feast reveals how much more sublime, more potent, more extensive, is maternity in the order of grace than in that of nature. For when God, coming down amongst us, was pleased, to take Flesh of a daughter of Adam, maternity was raised in her to the extreme limit that separates the endowments of a simple creature from the divine attributes. Thus rising above the heavens, maternity at the same time embraced the world, bringing all mankind together into close union, without distinction of nation or family, in the one filiation of that Virgin-Mother. The new Adam, the perfect model of our race, and our first born,[2] willed to have us for His brethren, in all fullness, brethren in Mary as in God.[3] The Mother of God was then proclaimed Mother of men on Calvary; from the summit of the cross, the Man-God replaced upon the brow of Mary that diadem of Eve, broken beneath the fatal tree. Constituted sole Mother of the living by this noble investiture,[4]our Lady once again participated in the privileges of the Father who is in heaven. Not only was she Mother by nature, as He is Father, of His Son; but, just as all paternity flows down from the eternal Father, and borrows thence supereminent dignity; so from that moment, all maternity was nought but an outflow of Mary’s in the truest sense; a delegation of her love, and a communication of her august privilege whereby she brings forth men unto God, whose sons they are to be.

Good reason, therefore, have Christian mothers to glory in their maternity, for in that does their greatness consist; through Mary, their dignity has increased to a degree that nature could never have dreamed of. But at the same time, under the aegis of Mary, not less real is the maternity of holy virgins, not only in God’s eyes, but often manifested to their own: the wife, too, prepared by a special call from God and by suffering, is sometimes, like Clotilde, endowed with a fecundity of a spiritual order, a thousand times more prolific than that of earth. Happy the fruits of this supernatural maternity, which under the favour of Mary is fraught with so much greatness! Happy the nations on whom the divine munificence has bestowed a mother!

History tells us how the founders of empires have ever had the terrible prerogative of impressing upon nations the distinctive character, disastrous or beneficial, which, through length of ages, continues to be theirs. How often does that want of counterpoise to the preponderance of power, make itself only too evident in the impetus given rather to destroy than to build up! And wherefore? Because ancient empires never had a mother; for this noble title cannot be applied to those heroines who have transmitted their names to posterity merely for having rivalled the ambition and pomp of conquerors. To Christian times it was reserved to behold introduced into a people’s life this element of maternity, more salutary, more efficacious in its humble gentleness, than that which springs from the talents or vices, from the power or genius, of their first princes.

Time was needed to subdue the savage instincts of the warriors of Clovis, and to fit his sword to the noble destiny that awaited it in the hand of a Charlemagne, or of a St. Louis. With good reason has it been said that the honour of this labour is due to the bishops and the monks. But to be more accurate and to prove a deeper insight into the ways of divine Providence, it would have been well, perhaps, to pass less lightly over woman’s part in the work of conversion and of education, which made the Frankish nation become the eldest son of the Church. Clotilde it was who led the Franks to the baptistery of Rheims, and presented to Remigius the proud Sicambrian, transformed far less by the exhortations of the holy bishop than by the force of prayer, the prayer of that strong woman elected by God to bear away this rich spoil from the camp of hell. What manly energy, what devotedness to God, are displayed in every measure taken by this noble daughter of the Burgundians’ dethroned king! Beneath the suspicious eye of the usurper, the murderer of her family, she awaits, in the silence of prayer and in the exercise of charity, heaven’s appointed hour. When at last the moment comes, taking counsel of none save the Holy Ghost and her own heart, how nobly does she dart forward to conquer unto Christ her betrothed, though yet a stranger to her, out-doing in valour, in this instance, all the warriors of her escort! Strength and beauty were indeed her covering,[5] her adornment on her bridal day; and the heart of Clovis soon learnt that the conquests reserved to his bride far out-stripped in importance the booty he had hitherto seized by force of arms. Clotilde, on the other hand, found her work already prepared on the banks of the Seine. For fifty years, St. Genevieve had been busy defending Paris against the pagan hordes, and only awaiting the Baptism of the king of the Franks in order to open to him the city gates.

Still, when on that Christmas night Clotilde gave birth to the eldest son of holy Church in Mary’s name, the great work was far from being completed; this new-born people had yet, by the slow process of a laborious education to be fashioned into the most Christian nation. This chosen one of God and of our Lady does not fall short of the maternal task. But still what anguish of heart to be endured, what tears yet to be shed over these her sons, whose inborn violence seems simply indomitable, and the very exuberance of whose rich nature yields them up to the fury of passions, urging them blindly on to crimes the most atrocious! Her grand-children, inveigled from her side and caught in the perfidious trap laid for them by their faithless uncles, are massacred. Fratricidal wars carry devastation over the whole of that territory of ancient Gaul, purged by her from paganism and heresy. Finally another pang, but one of a more glorious kind, seems given as a compensation for the bitterness of intestine strife. Her cherished daughter, Clotilde the younger, dies, worn out by ill usage endured for her faith at the hand of her Arian husband. Surely all this must have shown clearly enough to the queen of the Franks, that if she was chosen by heaven to be their mother, she was to have all the pangs as well as the honour that title involves. Thus does Christ ever deal with His own, when they have earned His confidence. Clotilde well understood this: already a widow and deprived by death of the aid of Genevieve likewise, she had long ago retired to Tours, near to the sepulchre of the Thaumaturgus of the Gauls. There, in the secret of prayer and in the heroism of her childhood’s faith, did she continue, aided by St. Martin, the preparation of this new people for its mighty destinies.

An immense work was this, and one for which no single life-time could suffice! But though Clotilde was not to witness the desired transformation accomplished, her life was not to close until she had pressed to her heart, at Tours, her illustrious daughter-in-law, Radegonde; and having by this last embrace invested her with her own sublime maternity, she sends her to Poitiers, there to continue, at the tomb of St. Hilary, this great work of intercession. Then, when at length Radegonde herself, having ended her task of suffering and love, must likewise quit this earth, Bathilde will presently come forward to consummate the work, in that remarkable seventh century, when ‘the Frank, at last ready for his mission, is betrothed to holy Church, and dubbed a knight of God.’[6]

Clotilde, Radegonde, Bathilde, all three of them mothers of France, bear a striking resemblance to one another. All three are prepared, from the early dawn of life, to the devotedness their grand mission would require, by the like trials, captivity, slavery, and massacre or loss of their own relatives: all three bring to the throne nought but a dauntless love of Christ, the King, and a desire of seeing Him rule the people; all three set aside the queenly diadem as soon as may be, in order to be able, prostrate before God in retirement and penitence, to attain more surely the one object of their maternal and royal ambition. Heiresses of Abraham, in very deed, they found in his faith[7] the fecundity which made them mothers of those countless multitudes, which the soil watered by their tears produced for heaven. Even in these weakened times of ours, there is still a goodly throng ever passing from the land of the Franks to their true home yonder, there to join the happy bands of the combatants of better days. At the sight of this ever increasing group of sons joyously pressing round their thrones, the hearts of Clotilde, Radegonde, and Bathilde, overflowing with love, give utterance in one united cry, to this word of the Prophet: ‘Who hath begotten these? I was barren and brought not forth, led away, and captive: and who hath brought up these? I was destitute and alone: and these where were they?’ Then the Lord answering, saith: ‘As I live, thou shalt be clothed with all these as with an ornament, and as a bride thou shalt put them about thee. For thy deserts, and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction shall now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants. The children of thy barrenness shall still say in thine ear: the place is too strait for me, make me room to dwell in. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nurses. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be confounded that wait for Him.’[8]

But it is time to listen to the liturgical account of Saint Clotilde’s life.

Clotildis, Chilperici regis filia, post parentum necem a patruo Gundobaldo Burgundiorum rege educata, Clodovæo adhuc ethnico ab ipso Gundobaldo in conjugem tradita est. Quæ cum primogenitum, peperisset, eum, tolerante magis quam approbante Clodovæo, baptizari jussit. Cum autem infantis, cui nomen impositum fuerat Ingomeres, in albis extincti mortem ægre ferret Clodovæus ac baptismo imputaret, graviter Clotildem objurgavit, asserens deos patrios, ob contemptum numinis sui iratos, sibi filium eripuisse. At illa: Deo, inquit, omnipotenti Creatori omnium, gratias ago, qui me non usquequaque judicavit indignam ut de utero meo genitum regno suo dignaretur adscire.

Alterum filium regina cum genuisset, hunc quoque baptizari voluit, et appellatus est Clodomeres. Qui cum ægrotare cœpisset, affirmante rege fore ut idem ei quod fratri contingeret, matris precibus convaluit. At regina non cessabat hortari virum, ut abjecta idololatria unum ac trinum Deum coleret. Sed ille superstitioni Francorum adhæsit, donec in expeditione Alamannica, inclinatam cernens suorum aciem, monitorum conjugis memor, auxilio Christi implorato, de hostibus triumphavit. Cui apud Remos læta uxor occurens, ubiordinem rei gestæ cognovit, advocavit sanctum Remigium, a quo Clodovæus,fidem edoctus, baptizatus est, et chrismate sacro inunctus.

Post mortem Clodovæi, Turonos adiit Clotildis; ibique ad sepulchrum sancti Martini summa pietate reliquum vitæ exegit: pernox in vigiliis, eleemosynis aliisque piis operibus intenta, munifica erga ecclesias et monasteria. Clodomeris in bello Burgundico occisi filios nepotes suos, Theobaldum, Guntarium et Clodoaldum apud se educavit. Tandem piena dierum, Turonis migravit ad Dominum: et Parisios inter psallentium choros translata, sepulta est a filiis Childeberto et Clotario regibus, ad latus Clodovæi, in sacrario basilicæ sancti Petri, quæ postea sanctæ Genovefænomine appellata est.

Ad ejus tumulum comscantibus miraculis sanctæ reginæ corpus, jam pridem elevatum, in hierotheca honorifice repositum fuit. Quoties autem urbs regia aliquo discrimine pulsaretur, ex avito more publics in supplicationibus pio apparatu perferebatur. Exeunte vero octavo decimo sæculo cum impii sumpsissent principatum, et Sanctorum exuviae undique per Gallias sacrilego furore conculcarentur: ossa beatæ reginæ, mira Dei providentia, piorum manibus subtracta sunt. Pace tandem Ecclesiae restituta, sacræ reliquiæ in nova theca repositæ fuerunt, et in ecclesia sanctorum Lupi et Ægidii, urbis Parisiensis, collocatæ, ubi nunc honorifice coluntur.
Clotilde, daughter of king Chilperic, after the murder of her parents, was brought up by her uncle Gondebaud, king of Burgundy, who gave her in marriage to Clovis still a pagan. Having brought forth her first-born son, she had him baptized, a thing rather tolerated by Clovis than consented to. The child to whom was given the name of Ingomer, chancing to die whilst still wearing the white robe of Baptism, Clovis bitterly complained to Clotilde, attributing the death of his son to the vengeance of the gods of his fathers,irritated at this contempt offered to their divinity. But Clotilde said: ‘I give thanks to the almighty Creator of all things, that he hath not judged me unworthy to give birth to a son whom he hath deigned to admit to share his kingdom.

Having brought forth a second son, she wished that he likewise should be baptized, and the name of Clodomir was given to him. The child having fallen ill, the king declared that the fate of the brother was to befall this son also; but he was, contrariwise, cured by his mother’s prayers. The queen continued to exhort her husband to reject idolatry and to adore the one God in three Persons; Clovis, however, persisted in the superstitions of the Franks, until at length, being on an expedition against the Alamanni, and one day seeing his army waver, he remembered the counsels of Clotilde, and implored the help of Christ, who thereupon granted him victory. Clotilde, filled with joy came to meet him, as far as Rheims, having learnt how all had happened. Saint Remigius, at her request, instructed Clovis in the faith, and baptized him, anointing him likewise with the sacred chrism.

After the death of Clovis, Clotilde settled herself at Tours, where she passed the rest of her life at the tomb of St. Martin, giving herself up to watching, alms, and other works of piety, exercising her munificence upon churches and monasteries, Clodomir having been killed in the war of Burgundy, she brought up her grandchildren herself, namely Theobald, Gontaire, and Clodoald. At last, full of days, she gave up her soul to God, at Tours, and her body was transferred to Paris, escorted by choirs chanting psalms. Her sons, the kings Childebert and Clotaire, buried her beside Clovis, in the sanctuary of the basilica of Saint Peter, since called by the name of St. Genevieve.

The glory of miracle’s illustrating the tomb of this holy queen, at an early date her body was taken up to be honoured, and was placed in a shrine. Whenever the city of Paris suffered any calamity, it was the custom in ancient times to carry the body in procession, with every demonstration of piety. At the end of the eighteenth century, the impious having seized upon the government, the relies of the saints being likewise profaned all over France by sacrilegious fury, the bones, nevertheless, of this blessed queen, thanks to the admirable providence of God, were concealed by some pious persons. Peace being, later on, restored to the Church, the holy relics were placed in a new shrine, and deposited in the Church, of Saints Lupus and Giles at Paris, where they are honoured with fervent worship.

Great is thy glory on earth and in heaven, O Clotilde, mother of nations! Not only hast thou given to holy Church that people of France, surnamed the most Christian; but our own England and Spain also claim their descent from thee (in the pedigree of faith) by Bertha and Ingonda, thy noble granddaughters. Ingonda, more fortunate than thy daughter Clotilde, succeeded, by the help of Saint Leander of Seville, in bringing back to the true faith her husband Hermenegilde, and even leading him to the crown of martyrdom. Bertha, queen of our own fair Kent, welcomed Augustine to our Saxon shores, and through her influence was our royal Ethelbert brought from the darkness of paganism even unto Baptism and the aureola of sanctity: realizing thus that word of the apostle, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife.[9] Since those early days, in how many other parts of Europe, and on how many other more distant shores, have the sons of thine own nation, that nation of which thou wast mother, propagated that light of faith which they received of thee: whether brandishing the sword in defence of the Church’s right to teach freely and everywhere the word of truth; or whether, becoming themselves missioners and apostles, carrying that same truth to infidel nations, far beyond reach of any possible protection, and at the expense of their sweat and of their blood. Happy thou, to be the first in bringing forth unto Christ, the King, a nation pure from every stain of heresy and vowed to holy Church from the first moment of its new birth! Rightly indeed the church of Sainte-Marie at Rheims was the one selected on that Christmas day of the year 496, for this birth unto God of the Frankish nation; wherein our Lady, in a proportionate measure, gave thee to share her own motherhood of our race.

There especially lies our motive of confidence as we turn to thee, O Clotilde, in our intercessory prayer this day. Alas! how many of thy sons are far from being what they should be towards such a mother! But when our Lady gave thee a share in her own maternal rights, she necessarily communicated to thee also her own tender compassion for beguiled children deaf to their mother’s voice. Take pity on these unfortunate sons, led so very far astray by strange doctrines.[10] The Christian monarchy founded by thee is no more. Thou didst build it upon the recognized rights of God in His Christ and in the Vicar of His Christ. Princes with shortsighted views of self-interest, traitors to the mission they had received to maintain thy work, imagined they were performing marvels, when they allowed maxims to be spread in thy France, proclaiming the independence of civil power in respect of that of holy Church; and now by a just retribution, society has proclaimed its independence of princes! But at the same time, the infatuated populace has really no other idea than that of being its own sovereign; and intoxicated by this false liberty which it dreams of having acquired, it goes so far as to contemn even the supreme dominion of the Creator Himself. The rights of man have usurped the rights of God, as the basis of social contract; a new-fangled Gospel, which France, with misguided proselytism, is fain to carry over the whole world in place of the true Gospel so loved of yore!

In that unhappy country poisoned by a lying philosophy, such is the excess of delirium, that many who deplore the apostasy of the mass of the population, and wish to remain themselves Christians, imagine they can do so whilst at the same time maintaining the destructive principle of liberalism, the very essence of revolution. Let Christ have heaven and souls, say they, but let man have earth, together with full right of governing it as he chooses, and of thinking as suits him best. While they fall on their adoring knees before the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the sanctuary of their own conscience, they search the Scriptures, and are too blind to see there expressed how the Man-God is and must be King of the whole earth. In learned theses they inform us that they have probed the very depths of history, and find therein nothing that can contradict their arguments. If indeed they must admit that the government of a Clovis, or a Charlemagne, or a St. Louis does not correspond in everything with their political axioms, we must, they say, make allowances for those primitive ages: a nation cannot be expected to come in a day to the perfect age attained at last by the law of progress! Alas! have pity, O dear mother of France, on the ravings of these poor sons of thine! Arouse once more, in that noble land, the faith of the Franks! Oh! may the God of Clotilde, the Lord of hosts, the King of nations, show Himself once more, leading on thy sons to victory, in the name that won for Clovis the field of Tolbiac: Jesus Christ!


[1] Wisdom i. 7.
[2] Rom. viii. 29; Heb. ii. 11, 12.
[3] St. Matt. i. 25; Heb. i. 6.
[4] Gen. iii; St. John xix. 26, 27.
[5] Prov. xxxi.
[6] Hist. St. Léger, Introduction.
[7] Rom. iv. 18; Heb. xi. 11.
[8] Is. xlix. 18-23.
[9] 1 Cor. vii. 14.
[10] Heb. xiii. 9.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE good things brought into this world by the Holy Spirit continue to be revealed in the liturgy. Francis Caracciolo is given to us this day as another type of the sublime fecundity produced on earth by Christianity. Faith is the principle of this supernatural fecundity in the saints, just as it was in Abraham, the father of all believers; it brings forth unto the Church isolated members or entire nations alike; from it proceed the multitudinous families of religious Orders, who, in their fidelity in following the divers paths traced out for them by their founders, are the chief portion of the royal and varied adornment of the bride at the right hand of her divine Spouse. This is the thought expressed by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VII, on the day of the canonization of our saint, wishing, as he said, to right the judgement of such as may, perhaps, have appreciated the religious life at a low rate, according to the vain deceits of a worldly point of view, and not according to the just measure of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.[1]

That century of universal ruin, in which the voice of Christ’s Vicar was raised addressing the whole world on this solemn occasion, resembled, but in still darker hue, the calamitous age of the pretended Reform, in which Francis, like so many others, had proved by his works and by his life the indefectibility of the Church’s holiness. Let us listen once more to the words of the same Pontiff: ‘The bride of Christ, the Church, has now become accustomed to pursue her pilgrim career amidst persecutions from men and consolations from God. Through the saints raised up, in all ages, by his almighty hand, God fulfils his promise; making her a city seated on a mountain, a beacon, the clear light of which must needs reach the eyes of all who do not, through prejudice, voluntarily shut their eyes. While her enemies band together, vainly plotting her destruction, saying: "When will she die, when will her name perish?” crowned with ever increasing splendour by the new warriors she sends as victors to heaven, the Church remains ever glorious, ever declaring to all coming generations the might of the Lord’s strong arm.’[2]

The sixteenth century heard at its birth the most terrible blasphemy ever uttered against the bride of the Son of God; that whereby she was named the harlot of Babylon. But she, brought face to race with her enemy, unable itself to produce anything good, proved herself to be the Bride of Christ by means of the number of new Orders which came into existence in a few short years ready to meet the exigencies of the novel situation created by Luther’s revolt. The return of ancient Orders to their primitive fervour, the establishment of the Society of Jesus, of the Theatines, of the Brothers of St John of God, of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, of the Clerks Regular of St Jerome Emilian, and those of St Camillus de Lellis, did not satisfy the divine Spirit. As though on purpose to mark the superabundant fruitfulness of the bride, he raised up, at the close of the same century, another religious family, the special characteristic of which was to be the organization of mortification and continual prayer amongst its members, by the incessant use of Christian penance and by the perpetual adoration of the most holy Sacrament. Sixtus V received with joy these new recruits for the great campaign. To distinguish them from all other Orders of regular clerks, and as a proof of his special paternal affection, the illustrious Pontiff, himself a Friar Minor, embodied a title so dear to his own heart in that which he assigned to these newcomers, calling them the Minor Clerks Regular. With a like view of approximation to the Seraphic Order, our saint of to-day, the first General of this Institute, changed his name Ascanius for that of Francis.

It seemed as though heaven too would associate together the patriarch of Assisi and Francis Caracciolo, by giving to each the same span of life, namely, fortyfour years. The founder of the Minor Clerks Regular, like his glorious predecessor and patron, was one of those men of whom holy Scripture says, that having lived a short space they fulfilled a long time.[3] Numerous prodigies revealed, during his lifetime, the virtues which his humility would fain have concealed. Scarce had his soul left this earth, and his body been interred, than crowds flocked to the tomb, where numerous miracles bore constant witness to the high favour he enjoyed with God.

But it is reserved to the sovereign authority constituted by Jesus Christ in the Church to pronounce authoritatively upon the sanctity of any, even the most illustrious, of her dead. As long as the judgement of the Supreme Pontiff has formulated nothing, private devotion is quite free to testify gratitude or confidence, in regard to the departed. But all such demonstrations as more or less resemble public cultus are prohibited by a rigorous and wise law of the Church. Unfortunately, certain imprudences contrary to this law formulated in the celebrated decrees of Urban VIII, drew down, twenty years after the death of our saint, all the severity of the Inquisition upon some of his spiritual children, and retarded for a century the introduction of his cause to the tribunal of the sacred Congregation of Rites. It was necessary that the witnesses of the abuses which had incurred the law should first disappear from the scene; but, consequently, the witnesses of the holy life of Francis had likewise disappeared. Being, therefore, obliged to recur to mere auricular testimony, before pronouncing judgement on the heroic virtues practised by him, Rome now exacted from ocular witnesses the proof of four, instead of the usual two, miracles required in a process of beatification.

It would be out of place here for us to show how these precautions and delays, which demonstrate the prudence of holy Church in these matters, at last ended in making the sanctity of Francis shine forth all the more strikingly. Let us now turn to the narrative of his life.

Franciscus, dictus antea Ascanius, ex nobili familia Caracciolo in oppido Sanctæ Mariæ de Villa in Aprutio ortus, a primis annis eximio enituit pietatis cultu. Adolescens, graviter ægrotans, statuit sese prorsus Dei proximique mancipare servitio. Neapolim profectus, sacerdotio initiatus, sacroque adscriptus sodalitio, contemplationi, lucrandisque animabus se totum devovit, ac extremo supplicio damnatis hortatorem se præbuit assiduum. Contigit autem ut epistolium alteri destinatum, ei per errorem redderetur; quo a piissimis viris Joanne Angustino Adorno et Fabricio Caracciolo ad novi religiosi instituti fundationem vocabatur. Rei novitate captus et divinæ voluntatis demiratus consilia, alacri animo sese illis adjunxit. Conditis autem in Camaldulensium eremo, quo secesserant, novi ordinis legibus, inde Romam simul profecti, confirmationem a Sixto Quinto impetrarunt, qui eosdem Clericos regulares minores appellari voluit, addito ad tria consueta altero de non ambiendis dignitatibus voto.

Solemni emissa professione, ob singularem ejus in divum Franciscum Assisinatem cultum Francisci nomen assumpsit. Adorno biennio post vita functo, ipse toti religioni quamquam invitus præficitur: quo in munere virtu tum omnium præclara præbuit exempla. Instituti amplificandi studiosissimus, id assiduis orationibus, lacrymis et jugi corporis maceratione, enixe a Deo postulabat. Quamobrem tertio in Hispaniam se contulit peregrini habitu indutus, victumque ostiatim mendicans. In itinere asperrima quæque perpessus, Omnipotentis auxilium mirum in modum expertus, navim, quam conscenderat, ab imminenti naufragio orationis præsidio servavit incolumem. Ut in regnis illis voti compos fìeret, plurimum laboravit, sed ejus sanctitatis fama prælucente, amplissimaque Catholicorum regum Philippi Secundi et Philippi Tertii munificentia, adversariorum conatibus singulari animi fortitudine Superatis, plura sui Ordinis domicilia fundavit: quod pari eventu per Italiani prastitit.

Humilitate adeo excelluit ut, Romam veniens, in pauperum hospitio receptus, se leproso sociaverit, et ecclesiasticas dignitates a Paulo Quinto sibi oblatas constantissime recusaverit. Illibatam perpetuo servavit virginitatem, effrontesque mulieres ejus castimoniæ insidiantes Christo lucrifecit. Erga divinissimum Eucharistiae mysterium ardenti æstuans amore, noctes pene integras in ejus adoratione insomnes ducebat: quod pium exercitium, veluti sui Ordinis tesseram, in eo perpetuo servandum constituit. Deiparæ Virginis cultum impense fovit. In proximum eximia exarsit caritate. Prophetiæ dono et cordium scrutatione ditatus fuit. Quadragesimum quartum ætatis suæ annum agens, dum in sacra Lauretana æde in oratione persisteret, sibi vitæ finem imminere cognovit. Aprutium statim deflexit, et in oppido Agnoni apud alumnos sancti Philippi Nerii lethali febre correptus, sacramentis Ecclesiæ devotissime susceptis pridie Nonas Junii anni millesimi sexcentesimi octavi, in pervigilio festi Corporis Christi, placidissime obdormivit in Domino. Sacrum ejus corpus Neapolim delatum, in ecclesia Sanctæ Mariæ Majoris, ubi prima sui Ordinis jecerat fundamenta, honorifice conditum fuit. Eum postea miraculis clarum Clemens decimusquartus Pontifex Maximus solemni ritu inter beatos, Pius vero septimus Pontifex Maximus novis fulgentem signis, anno millesimo octingentesimo septimo sanctorum albo adscripsit.
Francis, formerly called Ascanius, was of the noble family of Caracciolo. He was born in the town of Santa Maria della Villa in the Abruzzi. From his earliest years, he showed great marks of piety. When he was a young man, he had a severe illness, and on his recovery determined to serve God and to give himself up to the service of his neighbour. He betook himself to Naples, where he was ordained priest, enrolled himself in a devout confraternity, and gave himself up to contemplation and the gaining of souls to God, in which work he showed himself an unwearied comforter to such persons as were condemned to death. It came to pass that those two great servants of God, John Augustine Adorno and Fabricius Caracciolo, wrote a letter to a certain person, wherein they exhorted him to share in the foundation of a new religious Institute. This letter came, by mistake, to be delivered to Francis Caracciolo. The newness of the idea, and the strange ways of God’s Providence, took possession of his mind, and he joyfully added himself to their company. They withdrew themselves to the solitude of the Camaldolese, and there drew up the rules of the new Order. Thence they went to Rome, and obtained the confirmation of their work from Sixtus V, who wished that they should be called Minor Clerks Regular. They added to the three accustomed vows, a fourth binding themselves not to seek preferment in the Church.

Having made his solemn profession, Ascanius Caracciolo, moved by the special love and devotion he had to the holy Francis of Assisi, took the name of Francis. After two years, John Adorno departed this life, and Francis, against his own will, was made head of the Order: in which office he gave a brilliant example of all virtues. Devoted to the prosperity of the Institute, he earnestly sought the blessing of God upon it, by assiduous prayer, tears, and constant maceration of his body. In this work he thrice travelled to Spain in the guise of a pilgrim, begging his bread from door to door. In these journeys he suffered very great hardships, and was wonderfully helped by the Almighty, especially in this instance: the ship in which he was being in great danger, he saved it by his prayers. He had to toil hard in these countries to attain his wishes; but through the noble generosity of the most Catholic kings Philip II and Philip III he overcame by his fortitude of soul the opposition of all that withstood him, and founded several houses of his Order, which he eventually did in Italy likewise.

He so excelled in humility that, when he came to Rome, he betook himself to an almshouse, and there chose to be associated to a leper: moreover he firmly refused all the ecclesiastical dignities offered to him by Paul V. He preserved his virginity unspotted, and when certain shameless women set themselves to attack his chastity, he took the occasion to gain over their souls to Christ. Towards the most divine mystery of the Eucharist he was drawn with burning tenderness of love, and would pass almost whole nights without sleep, in adoration. This holy custom he established in his Order, to be kept up for ever, as its peculiar mark. He was a zealous propagator of the cultus of the Virgin Mother of God. He was all aflame with the love of his neighbours. He was gifted with prophecy and the discerning of spirits. In the forty-fourth year of his age, whilst he was continuing long at prayer in the holy house of Loreto, it was made known to him that the end of his earthly life was at hand. He straightway took his road to the Abruzzi and was there seized with a mortal fever, at the house of the disciples of St Philip Neri, in the town of Agnone. He received with great devotion the Sacraments of the Church, and upon the day preceding the Nones of June, in the year sixteen hundred and eight, it being the eve of the feast of Corpus Christi, he most calmly fell asleep in the Lord His sacred body was carried to Naples, and there honourably buried in the church of St Mary Major, where he had laid the first foundations of his Order. As he became distinguished for miracles, Pope Clement XIV enrolled his name, with solemn pomp, amongst those of the blessed, and Pope Pius VII, in the year eighteen hundred and seven, finding his mighty prodigies continue, added it to the list of saints.

Well was thy love for the divine Sacrament of the altar rewarded, O Francis; thou hadst the glory of being called to the banquet of our eternal home, at the very hour when the Church on earth was chanting the praises of the sacred Victim, at the first Vespers of the great festival that year by year hails this mystery of mysteries. Thine own feast day occurring, as it ever does, close to this solemnity of Corpus Christi, continues still to invite men, as thou wast wont to do in life, to come and look in adoration into the depths of this mystery of love. The mysterious harmony of the cycle is all disposed by divine Wisdom, seeing that his sweet Providence fixes the season at which each saint is summoned to receive the crown of bliss; thus the post of honour earned by thee is in the sanctuary itself close to the divine Host upon our altars.

‘The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up:’[4] this was thy heart's cry upon earth. These words, less those of David than of the Man-God himself,[5] did indeed fill thine heart to overflowing, so that after thy death they were found graven on thy heart, showing the one principle which had governed all thy desires. Hence resulted thy need of continual prayer, and thy corresponding ardour for penance, which thou madest the twofold characteristic of thy religious family, and wouldst fain have seen in the hearts of all. Prayer and penance: these two alone fix man in his right position before God. Vouchsafe to preserve this precious deposit amongst thy spiritual sons, O Francis, so that by their zeal in propagating the spirit of their father, they may make it become the treasure also of the entire world.


[1] Homil. in Canoniz.
[2] Homil. in Canoniz.
[3] Wisd. iv 13.
[4] Ps. lxviii 10.
[5] St John ii 17.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Son of Man, proclaimed King in the highest heavens on his triumphant Ascension day, leaves to his bride on earth the task of making his sovereign dominion recognized here below: this is her glory. Pentecost gives the signal for the Church's work of conquest; now does she awake, aroused by the breath of the Holy Ghost; replenished with this Spirit of love, she is all eagerness, as he is, to be possessed at once of the whole earth. We have already seen the Franks and the Anglo-Saxons pledging in her hands their oath of fealty to Christ, ‘to whom is given all power on earth and in heaven.’[1] To-day we see how Winfrid realizes the fair name of Boniface, or well-doer, given him by Pope Gregory II. He presents himself before us, surrounded by the multitudes he has snatched at one blow from paganism and barbarism. Thanks to the Apostle of Germany, the hour is nigh when the Church may constitute in this world, apart from the spiritual dominion of souls, an empire more powerful than any that has ever been or is to be.

The eternal Father draws to his Son[2] not men only but nations; these are his inheritance on earth no less than heaven is in eternity. The good pleasure that God takes in the Word made Flesh could never be content with merely seeing nations come, one here, another there, offering an isolated homage of recognition to Christ, as their Lord and Master. It was the whole world that was promised as his possession, without distinction of nations, without limits, save those of the earth itself:[3] recognized or not, his power is universal. In the case of many, no doubt, the contempt or the ignorance of this regal claim of the Man-God is to last on throughout ages; for revolt, alas! is always possible to all. But it was the duty of the Church to exercise her influence over baptized nations, so as to gather them together in one public acknowledgement of the royalty of Christ, which is the source of every kingly power. At the Pontiff’s side there seemed to be a fitting place for a mailed chieftain of Christendom to be the lieutenant of Christ, who alone is Lord of lords and King of kings. Thus would be realized, in all its plenitude, the magnificent principality announced by the prophets for the Son of David.[4]

Such an institution was indeed worthy of the name it was to receive, that of the Holy Empire: in it we have the final result of our glorious Pentecost, the consummation of the testimony rendered by the Holy Ghost to Jesus, both as Pontiff and as King.[5] In a few days, Leo III, the illustrious Pope called by the Holy Spirit to crown this his divine work, will proclaim, to the joy of the whole world, the establishment of this new empire beneath the sceptre-sway of the Man-God, in the person of Charlemagne, the representative of the King of kings. This marvellous work was not prepared all at once. Vast regions, destined to form the very nucleus of this future empire, for long centuries knew not so much as the very name of the Lord Jesus; or, at best, preserved but confused notions of truth, derived from some earlier evangelization that had been stifled in its birth by the turmoil of invasions—a mere mixture of Christian practices and idolatrous superstitions. At length we behold Boniface arise, endued with power from on high,[6] the worthy precursor of St Leo III. Bom of those angelfaced Angles, by whom ancient Britain was transformed into the Island of Saints, he bums to carry into the heart of Germany, whence his ancestors had sprung, the light which first shone upon them in the land of their conquest.

Thirty years of monastic life, begun in childhood despite the tears and caresses of a tender father, had braced his soul. Prepared by this long period of retreat and silence, filled with divine science, and accompanied by the prayers of his cloistered brethren, he could now in all security set forth to follow the attraction of a divine call. But, first and foremost, Rome beholds him at the feet of the Sovereign Pontiff, submitting his plans and prospects to him who is the only source of all mission in the Church. Gregory II, in every way worthy of the great Popes that have borne that name, was at that time watching with apostolic vigilance over the Christian world, and preparing for the glorious sovereignty that awaited the Church in the coming eighth century. In the humble monk prostrate at his feet, the immortal Pontiff recognizes a powerful auxiliary sent to him by heaven; and so, armed with the apostolic benediction, Winfrid, now become Boniface, feels the powerful attraction of the Holy Spirit drawing him irresistibly to conquests of which ancient Rome had never dreamed.

Beyond the Rhine, farther than Roman legions ever penetrated, the Church now advances into this barbarous land, along pathways tracked for her by Boniface; overturning in her victorious march the last idols of the false gods, civilizing and sanctifying those savage hordes, the scourge of the old world. This AngloSaxon, a true son of St Benedict, gives to his work a stability that will defy the lapse of ages. Everywhere monasteries arise, taking root in the very soil, for God's sake; and, by force of example and beneficence, fixing around them its various nomad tribes. From the river banks, from the forest depths, instead of cries of war and of vengeance, is wafted the accent of prayer and of praise to the Most High. Sturm, the beloved disciple of St Boniface, presides over these peaceful colonies far superior to those of pagan Rome, planted though they were by her noblest veterans and manned by the best forces of her empire.

Here, too, where violence has hitherto reigned supreme, in these savage wilds, a novel kind of army is organized, formed of the gentle brides of Christ. The Spirit of Pentecost, like a mighty wind, has blown over the land of the Angles; and, even as in the cenacle holy women had a share in its influence, consecrated virgins, obedient to the heavenly impulse, have quitted the land of their birth, even the monastery that has sheltered them from childhood. Having for a while administered only at a distance to Winfrid's needs, and copied out for him the sacred books in letters of gold, they at length come to join the apostle. Fearlessly have they crossed the sea, and, guided by their divine Spouse, have come to share the labours undertaken for his glory. Lioba is at their head; she whose gentle majesty, whose heavenly aspect, uplifts the mind from earthly thoughts, and who by her knowledge of the scriptures, of the fathers, and of the sacred canons, is equal to any of the most celebrated doctors. But the Holy Ghost has still more richly gifted the soul of Lioba with humility and Christian heroism. Behold the chosen mother of the German nation! Germany's proud daughters, athirst for blood, who on their wedding-day disdained all other gift save a steed, a buckler, and a lance,[7] are to learn from her the true qualities of the valiant woman. No more shall they be seen, intoxicated with slaughter, leading back to the field of battle their vanquished husbands; but the virtues of the wife and of the mother shall replace in them the fury of the camp; family life is to be founded on German soil, and through it the fatherland.

This was Boniface's intention when he called to his aid Lioba, Walburga, and their companions. Worn out with toil, but still more with the incessant wear and fret of petty jealousies (never spared to men of God by such as would cover their paltry complaints under the cloak of false zeal), our athlete of Christ was not ashamed to come to Lioba, his well-beloved daughter, humbly seeking from her that enlightened counsel and comfort which was never denied. Estimating at its true worth the share she had borne in his work, he was desirous that she should be laid to rest in the same tomb prepared for him in his abbey of Fulda.

But not yet was his labour ended, nor was the evening of life at hand. The spiritual welfare of his numberless converts must be secured, and at their head must be placed such as the Holy Ghost designated for the government of God's Church.[8] By his means the hierarchy was constituted and developed; the land was covered with churches; and, beneath the rule of holy bishops chosen by God, these once wandering tribes now began to live a life to the glory of the most blessed Trinity, in a country but recently pagan, wherein Satan had hoped to perpetuate his own domination.

Nor was this our saint’s only work in Germany; in certain isolated parts, the seeds of Arianism and Manichæism had been silently taking root, by means of an intruded clergy, half pagan and half Christian in their rites; and these would inevitably prove a serious scandal to his recent converts that came within reach of their influence. Even as Christ, armed with a whip of cords, drove the buyers and sellers from the temple, so did Boniface, by vigorous measures, rid the land of these sectarian priests, who, with hands polluted by heathenish sacrifices to the vanquished deities of Valhalla, dared to offer also the spotless victim to the Most High.

The powerful action of Boniface, as the precursor of the Holy Empire, was not confined to preparing the German race alone for its share in so high a destiny. His beneficent influence was now to be exercised, at a most critical moment, upon France, the eldest daughter of the Church; for she was chosen, in the person of her princes, to be the first to bear the emblem of Christ’s universal kingship. The descendants of Clovis had preserved nought of his royal inheritance, save the vain title of a power that had now passed into the hands of a new family, a more vigorous branch of his stock. Charles Martel, the head of this race, measuring his strength with the Moors, had crushed their entire army near Poitiers: but, in the flush of victory, the hero of the day had wellnigh brought the Church of France to the brink of ruin, by distributing to his comrades in arms the episcopal sees and abbeys of the land. Unless a situation no less disastrous than would have been the triumph of Abderahman was to be accepted, these usurped croziers must at once be wrested from the hands of such strange titularies. To effect this, as much gentleness as firmness was needed, together with an ascendancy belonging only to virtue, if the hero of Poitiers and his noble race were to be gained over to respect the rights of holy Church. This victory, more glorious than had been the defeat of the Moors, was won by Boniface, a veritable triumph of unarmed holiness, as profitable to the vanquished as to the Church herself. Of this fierce warrior he was to make the worthy father of a second dynasty, the glory whereof should far surpass the brilliant hopes of the first race of the Frankish kings.

Boniface, now legate of Pope St Zachary as he had formerly been of Gregory III, fixed his episcopal see at Mainz, the better to keep within the fold both Germany the conquest of his earlier apostolate, and France more recently rescued by his labours. Like another Samuel, he himself, with his own hands, consecrated this new regal dynasty, by conferring the sacred unction on Pepin le Bref, son of Charles Martel. This was in the year 752. Another Charles, as yet a child, who was one day to inherit that throne thus firmly established, attracted the notice of the aged saint, and received his benediction; it was the future Charlemagne. But to the hand of a Sovereign Pontiff would be reserved the anointing of that royal brow; and a diadem more glorious still than that of a king of the Franks was one day to be his, exhibiting in his person the head of the new Roman Empire, the lieutenant of the King of kings.

The personal work of Boniface was now accomplished; like the old man Simeon, his eyes had seen the object of all his ambition, of his life-long toil, the salvation prepared by God for this new Israel. He too had now no desire left save that of departing in peace to our Lord; but could such an apostle enter into peace by any other gate than that of martyrdom? He understands this well: his hour has sounded: the old warrior has chosen his last battlefield. Friesland is still pagan: half a century ago, at the opening of his apostolic career, he had avoided this country, in order to escape the bishopric which St Willibrord, at that early date, was anxious to bestow upon him: but now that it has nought save death to offer him, he will enter this land. In a letter of sublime humility, prostrate at the feet of Pope Stephen III, he submits to the correction of the Apostolic See, the 'awkward mistakes,' as he terms them, and the many faults of his long life;[9] to Lullus, his dearest son, he leaves the Church of Mainz; he recommends to the care of the Frankish king the several priests scattered all through Germany, the monks and virgins, who from distant homes have followed him hither. Then ordering to be placed amongst the few books which he is taking with him the winding sheet that is to enwrap his body, he designates the companions chosen by him for the journey, and sets out to win the martyr's palm.

Let us now read the liturgical record of this grand life.

Bonifacius, antea Winfridus appellatus, apud Anglos natus est, exeunte sæculo septimo, et ab ipsa infantia mundum aversatus, vitam monasticam in votis habuit. Cum ejus pater animum sæculi illecebris permutare frustra tentasset, monasterium ingreditur, et sub beati Wolphardi disciplina omnium virtutum ac scientiarum genere imbuitur. Annum agens trigesimum sacerdotio insignitur, ac verbi divini prædicator assiduus, magno animarum lucro hoc in munere versatur. Attamen regnum Christi adaugere desiderans, continuo flebat ingentem multitudinem barbarorum, qui ignorantiæ tenebris immersi dæmoni famulabantur. Qui quidem animarum zelus cum in dies inexstinguibili ardore accresceret, divino Numine per lacrymas et orationes explorato, facultatem a monasterii præposito obtinuit ad Germanicas oras proficiscendi.

Ex Anglia duobus cum sociis navim solvens, Dorestadium in Frisiæ oppidum venit. Cum autem bellum gravissimum inter Frisonum regem Radbodum, et Carolum Martellum exarsisset, sine fructu Evangelium prædicavit; quapropter in Angliam reversus ad suum redivit monasterium, cui invitus præficitur. Post elapsum biennium, ex consensu episcopi Vintoniensis munus abdicavit, et Romam profectus est, ut Apostolica auctoritate ad gentilium conversionem delegaretur. Cum ad Urbem pervenisset, a Gregorio Secundo benigne excipitur, pro Winfrido Bonifacius a Pontifice nominatur. In Germaniam directus, Thuringiæ Saxoniæque populis Christum annuntiavit. Cum interea Radbodus Frisiæ Rex ac infestissimus Christiani nominis hostis occubuisset, Bonifacius ad Frisones rediit, ubi Sancti Willibrordi socius per triennium tanto cum fructu Evangelium prædicavit, ut destructis idolorum simulacris, innumeræ vero Deo ecclesiæ excitarentur.

A sancto Wililbrordo ad episcopale munus expetitus, illud detrectavit, ut promptius infidelium saluti instaret. In Germaniam profectus plura Hassorum millia a dæmonis superstitione avocavit. A Gregorio Pontifice Romam evocatus, post insignem fidei professionem episcopus consecratur. Exinde ad Germanos redux, Hassiam et Thuringiam ab idololatriæ reliquiis penitus expurgavit. Tanta propter merita Bonifacius a Gregorio Tertio ad dignitatem archiepiscopalem evehitur, et tertio Romam profectus a Summo Pontifice Sedis Apostolicæ Legatus constituitur: qua insignitus auctoritate, quatuor episcopatus instituit, et varias synodos celebravit, inter quas concilium Leptinense memorabile est apud Belgas in Cameracensi diœcesi celebratum, quo quidem tempore ad fidem in Belgio adaugcndam egregie contulit. A Zacharia Papa creatus Moguntinus Archiepiscopus, ipso Pontifice jubente, Pipinum in regem Francorum unxit. Post mortem Sancti Willibrordi Ultrajectensem ecclesiam gubernandam suscepit, primo per Eobanum, deinde per seipsum, dum ab ecclesia Moguntina absolutus, Ultrajecti resedit. Frisonibus ad idololatriam relapsis Evangelium prædicare rursus aggreditur; cumque officio pastorali occuparctur, a barbaris et impiis hominibus, juxta Bornam fluvium, cum Eobano coepiscopo multisque aliis cruenta cæde peremptus martyrii palma condecoratur. Corpus sancti Bonifacii Moguntiam translatum, et, ut ipse vivens petierat, in Fuldensi monasterio, quod exstruxerat, reconditum fuit, ubi multis miraculis inclaruit. Pius autem Nonus, Pontifex Maximus, ejus Officium et Missam ad universam Ecclesiam extendit.
Boniface, formerly called Winfrid, was a native of England, born towards the end of the seventh century. From his very childhood, he turned away from the world and set his heart upon becoming a monk. When his father tried in vain to divert him from his wishes by the beguilements of the world, he entered a monastery, where under blessed Wulphard he was instructed in all virtuous discipline and every kind of knowledge. At the age of twenty-nine years he was ordained priest, and became an unwearied preacher of the word of God, wherein he had a special gift, which he used with great profit to souls. Nevertheless, his great desire was to spread the kingdom of Christ, and he continually bewailed the vast number of barbarians, who were plunged in the darkness of ignorance and were slaves of the devil. This zealous love of souls increased in him in intensity day by day, till having implored the divine aid by prayers and tears, he at last obtained the permission of the Prior of the monastery to set out for Germany.

He sailed from England with two companions and reached the town of Dorestadt in Friesland. On account of a great war then raging between Radbod, king of the Frieslanders, and Charles Martel, his preaching was without fruit: so he returned to England, and to his former monastery, the government of which, against his will, he was forced to accept. After two years, he obtained the consent of the Bishop of Winchester to resign his office, and he then went to Rome, that by the Apostolic authority he might be delegated to the mission for converting the heathens. When he arrived at the City, he was courteously welcomed by Gregory II, who changed his name from Winfrid to Boniface. He departed thence to Germany and preached Christ to the tribes in Thuringia and Saxony. Radbod, King of Friesland, who bitterly hated the Christian name, being dead, Boniface went a second time among the Frieslanders, and there, with his companion St Willibrord, preached the Gospel for three years with so much fruit, that the idols were hown down, and countless churches arose to the true God.

Saint Willibrord urged him to accept the office of bishop, but he refused, so that he might the more instantly toil for the salvation of unbelievers. Advancing into Germany, he reclaimed thousands of the Hessians from diabolic superstition. Pope Gregory sent for him to Rome, and after receiving from him a noble profession of his faith, consecrated him a bishop. He again returned to Germany, and thoroughly purged Hesse and Thuringia from all remains of idolatry. On account of such great works, Gregory III advanced Boniface to the dignity of archbishop, and on the occasion of a third journey to Rome, he was invested by the Sovereign Pontiff with the powers of legate of the Apostolic See. As such, he founded four bishoprics and held divers synods, among which is especially to be remembered that of Lessines held in Belgium, in the diocese of Cambrai, at which time he made great efforts to spread the faith among the Belgians. By Pope Zachary he was named Archbishop of Mainz, and by command of the same Pope, he anointed Pepin king of the Franks. After the death of St Willibrord, he undertook the government of the Church of Utrecht, at first by the ministry of Eoban, but afterwards, being released from the care of the Church of Mainz, he established his see at Utrecht. The Frieslanders having again fallen back into idolatry, he went once more to preach the Gospel among them, and while he was busied in this duty he won the palm of martyrdom, being slain by some impious barbarians, who attacked him together with his fellow-bishop Eoban, and many others, on the river Born. In accordance with his wish expressed during life, the body of St Boniface was carried to Mainz and buried in the monastery of Fulda, of which he had been the founder, and which he has rendered illustrious by numerous miracles. Pope Pius IX ordered his Office and Mass to be extended to the universa Church.

Thou wast, O great apostle, the faithful servant of him who chose thee as the minister of his word and the propagator of his kingdom. When the Son of Man quitted earth to receive the delighted homage of the heavenly hosts in recognition of his kingship over them, he none the less remained King of this lower world which he has left but for a little while.[10] He counted on his Church to guard his principality here below. Small indeed was the number of those who recognized him, on the day of his glorious Ascension, as their Master and Lord. But that faith deposited in those first chosen souls was a treasure which they, like skilful bankers, knew how to work with, and how to multiply by apostolic commerce. Transmitted from generation to generation, up to the day of the Lord's return, this precious capital was to go on yielding to the absent Lord more and more accumulated interest. Thus was it with thee, O Winfrid, in that age wherein thou didst bring into the Church that tribute of labour which she requires, though in very different proportion, from each of her sons. In her gratitude, for thy works which appeared to her well done and profitable above those of others, forestalling the Spouse himself, she would, even in this world, call thee by that new name[11]whereby thou art known in heaven.

Indeed, when did riches, such as thou didst bring, come pouring at once into the hands of the bride? When did the Spouse appear to be so fully and truly head of the whole world, as in the eighth century, in which the Frankish princes, formed by thee to their noble destinies, constituted the temporal sovereignty of the Church, and gloried in being the lieutenants of Christ standing at the side of his Vicar on earth? To thee, O Boniface, is the Holy Empire indebted for its very existence. But for thee, France would have perished, debased by a simoniacal clergy, even before a Charlemagne had appeared; but for thee, Germany would have remained a prey to pagan barbarians, enemies of all civilization and progress. O thou that didst rescue both Germans and Franks, receive our grateful homage.

At the sight of thy works, and remembering the great popes and magnificent princes, whose glory is indeed derived from thee, our admiration equals our gratitude. But pardon us, dear saint, if the thought of those grand centuries of yore, so far removed, alas, from these our days, should mingle sadness with our joy. Viewed in the light of thy holy policy and its results, O glorious precursor of the confederation of Christian nations, how we must bewail the fatal errors of those princes and statesmen, so renowned in the seventeenth century, and so foolishly admired by a world whose ruin they were hastening! For, by the isolation of Catholic nations from one another, the ties that bound them to the Vicar of Christ became loosened: princes, forgetful of their true position as representatives of the divine King, made friends with heresy, in order to assert their independence of Rome, or to lower one another’s power. Therefore Christendom is no more. Upon its ruins, like a woful mimicry of the Holy Empire, Protestantism has raised its false evangelical empire, formed of nought but encroachments, and tracing its recognized origin to the apostasy of that felon knight Albert of Brandenburg.

The complicities that rendered such a thing possible have received their chastisement. May God’s justice be satisfied at last! O Boniface, cry out with us unto the God of armies for mercy. Raise up in the Church servants of Christ, powerful in word and work, as thou wast. Save France from anarchy; and restore to Germany a right appreciation of true greatness, together with the faith of her ancient days.

[1] St Matt. xxviii 18.
[2] St John vi 44. Pi. ii 6, 8.
[3] Ps. ii 6, 8.
[4] Ps. lxxi.
[5] St John xv 26.
[6] Acts i 8.
[7] Tacit. De mor. Germ. 18.
[8] Acts xx 28.
[9] Epist lxxviii.
[10] St Luke xix 12-15.
[11] Apoc. ii 17.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE helpful influence of the Holy Ghost is more and more multiplied along the Church's path. It seems as though he would show us to-day how the divine power of his action is not crippled by lapse of years: for here we have, twelve centuries after his first coming among us, miracles of grace and conversion quite as brilliant as those that marked his glorious descent upon earth.

Norbert, in whose veins flowed the blood of emperors and kings, was, from the very breast of his mother Hedwige, supernaturally invited to a nobility loftier still: yet did he devote to the unreserved enjoyment of pleasure three-and-thirty years of a life that was to number but fifty in all. The Holy Ghost at length hastened to the conquest. There burst a sudden storm, a thunderbolt falls right in front of the prodigal, throwing him to the ground and making a frightful chasm between him and the point whither, a moment ago, he was hastening in pursuit of new vanities, that needs must fail, as all others had done, to fill the hopeless void in his heart. Then, in the very depths of his soul resounds a voice, such as Saul once heard on his way to Damascus: ‘Norbert, whither goest thou?' Like another Paul he replies: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' He is answered: ‘Depart from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it.' Twenty years later, Norbert is in heaven, seated amidst pontiffs, upon a glorious throne, and all radiant with that special brilliancy that distinguishes the founders of the great religious Orders, when they have reached the eternal home.

Deep are the traces left by him on earth of his few years of penitential life. Germany and France receive his preaching; Antwerp is delivered from a shameful heresy; Magdeburg is rescued, by her archbishop, from the irregularities that were sullying the house of God: such are his works; and though these alone would have sufficed to a long life of holiness, yet they are not the only claims, nor the most brilliant, which Norbert has to the Church's gratitude. Before being called, against his will, to the honours of the episcopate, this once gay courtier made choice of an uninhabitable solitude amidst the forests of the diocese of Laon where he devoted himself to prayer and to the maceration of his flesh. The renown of this holy penitent gained rapidly; and Prémontré soon beheld her swampy marshes invaded by a vast multitude, formed of the fairest names of the nobility, pressing thither to learn the science of salvation from the lips of the saintly anchorite. There, too, did our Lady show to him, in vision, the white habit wherewith his disciples were to be clothed; and St Augustine, in like manner, delivered to him his own rule. Thus was founded the most illustrious branch of the Order of Canons Regular. They add to the obligation of solemnizing the Divine Office the austerities of an uninterrupted penance; and devote themselves, moreover, to the service of souls, by preaching and the administration of parishes.

In the foregoing century, the episcopacy and papacy had been raised by the monks above the danger of feudal servitude; and Norbert was now raised up to give the needed completion to their work. Although, in principle, the monastic life excludes no sort of labour useful to the Church, the monks could not (however numerous they might be) quit their cloisters in order to undertake charge of souls. Yet great were the wants of the lambs of the flock at that time; for many unworthy pastors of secondary order, slaves to simony and immorality, still continued to lead astray the simple laity. The religious life was alone capable of raising the priesthood from such degradation, whether on the pinnacles of the hierarchy, or amongst the lowest degrees of sacred Orders. Norbert was the man chosen by God to effect, in part at least, this immense work; and the importance of his mission explains the sublime prodigality wherewith the Holy Ghost multiplied vocations to his standard. The number and rapidity of foundations permitted succour to be promptly and everywhere afforded. Even into the far east did the light of Prémontré reach, almost at its first dawn. In the eighteenth century, notwithstanding the devastations of the Turks and the ravages of the pretended Reformation, the Order, divided into twenty-eight provinces, still contained, in almost every one of its houses, as many as from fifty to one hundred and twenty canons, and the parishes that continued under their care might be counted by thousands.

Nuns, whose holy life and prayers are the ornament and aid of the Church militant, occupied from the very beginning the place deservedly their due in this numerous family. In the time of the founder, or soon after his death, there were more than a thousand of them at Prémontré alone. Such an incredible number gives us an idea of the prodigious propagation of the Order from its very origin. Norbert moreover extended his charity to persons who, like Thibault Count of Champagne, would gladly have followed him into the desert, but who were retained by God’s will in the world; he thus made a prelude to those pious associations, which we shall see St Francis and St Dominic organizing in the thirteenth century, under the name of Third Orders.

The liturgy thus condenses the life of this great servant of God:

Norbertus nobilissimis parentibus natus, adolescens liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, in ipsa postea imperatoris aula, spretis mundi illecebris, ecclesiasticæ militiæ adscribi voluit. Sacris initiatus, rejectis mollibus ac splendidis vestibus, pellicea melote indutus, prædicationi verbi Dei se totum dedit. Abdicatis ecclesiasticis proventibus satis amplis, et patrimonio in pauperes erogato, semel in die sub vesperam solo cibo quadragesimali utens, nudisque pedibus, et lacera veste sub brumali rigore incedens, miræausteritatis vitam est aggressus. Potens igitur opere et sermone, innumeros hæreticos ad fidem, peccatores ad pœnitentiam, dissidentes ad pacem et concordiam revocavit.

Cum Lauduni esset, ab episcopo rogatus ne a sua diœcesi discederet, desertum in ea locum, qui Præmonstratus dicebatur, sibi delegit: ibique tredecim sociis aggregatis, Præmonstratensem ordinem instituit, divinitus accepta per visum regula a sancto Augustino. Cum vero ejus fama sanctitatis in dies magis augeretur, ac plurimi ad eum quotidie discipuli convenirent, idem ordo ab Honorio Secundo aliisque Summis Pontificibus confirmatus, ac pluribus ab eo monasteriis ædificatis, mirifice propagatus est.

Antverpiam accersitus, in ea urbe Tanchelini nefariam hæresim profligavit. Prophetico spiritu et miraculis claruit. Archiepiscopus tandem, licet reluctans, Magdeburgensis creatus, ecclesiasticam disciplinam, præsertim cœlibatum, constanter propugnavit. Rhemis in concilio Innocentium Secundum egregie adjuvit, et Romam cum aliis episcopis profectus, schisma Petri Leonis compressit. Postremo vir Dei, meritis et Spiritu sancto plenus Magdeburgi obdormivit in Domino, anno salutis millesimo centesimo trigesimo quarto, die sexta Junii.
Norbert, born of parents of the highest rank, thoroughly educated in his youth in worldly knowledge, and then a member of the imperial court, turned his back upon the glory of the world, and chose rather to enlist himself as a soldier of the Church. Being ordained priest, he laid aside all soft and showy raiment, clad himself in a coat of skins, and made the preaching of the word of God the one object of his life. Having renounced the ecclesiastical revenues which he possessed and which were very considerable, he distributed likewise his patrimony among the poor. He ate only once a day, in the evening, and then his meal was of lenten fare. His life was of singular austerity, and he used, even in the depth of winter, to go out with bare feet and ragged garments. Hence came that mighty power of his words and deeds, whereby he was enabled to turn countless heretics to the faith, sinners to repentance, and enemies to peace and concord.

Being at Laon, and the bishop having besought him not to leave his diocese, he made choice of a wilderness, at a place called Prémontré, whither he withdrew himself with thirteen disciples, and thus he founded the Order of Premonstratensians, the Rule of which he received in a vision from St Augustine. When, however, the fame of his holy life became every day more and more noised abroad, and great numbers sought to become his disciples, and the Order had been approved by Honorius II and other Popes, many more monasteries were built by him, and the Institute wonderfully extended.

Being called to Antwerp, he there gave the deathblow to the shameful heresy of Tanchelin. He was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and for the gift of miracles. He was created (albeit against his will) archbishop of Magdeburg, and as such was a strong upholder of the discipline of the Church, especially as regards celibacy. At a council held at Rheims, he was a great help to Innocent II, and went with other bishops to Rome, where he repressed the schism of Peter de Leon. At last the man of God, full of good works and of the Holy Ghost, fell asleep in the Lord, at Magdeburg, in the year of salvation eleven hundred and thirty-four, on the sixth day of June.

Thou didst indeed know how to redeem the time,[1] as was fitting in those evil days, wherein thou thyself, O Norbert, led away by the example of the senseless crowd, hadst for so long frustrated the designs of God's love. Those years, at first refused by thee to the true Master of the world, were at length returned unto him, multiplied a hundredfold, through those countless sons and daughters thou didst train up in sanctity. Even thy personal works, in but twenty years' space, filled the whole earth. Schism crushed; heresy confounded to the greater glory of the most holy Sacrament which it had already dared to attack; the rights of the Church intrepidly defended against worldly princes and unjust retentions; the priesthood restored to its primitive purity; the Christian life established on its true basis, of prayer and penance; such and so many victories achieved in so few years, are due to the generosity which prevented thee from looking back for one moment, once the Holy Ghost had touched thy heart. Do thou make all understand that it is never too late to begin to serve God. Were it even, as in thy case, the evening of life, what yet remains of time would suffice to make us saints, if we would but generously give that little fully to heaven.[2]

Faith and patience were thy cherished virtues; make them flourish once more in this sad world, which boasts of its disbelief, and with jibe and jeer hurries onward to the abyss of hell. Forget not, dear apostle, now that thou art in heaven, the countries thou didst formerly evangelize; we implore this of thee, in spite of their forgetfulness and deliberate return to the deceits of the devil.

Holy Pontiff, Magdeburg has lost her ancient faith, and with it the precious relics of thy body, which she no longer deserved to possess: Prague is now the favoured place of thy repose. But, whilst blessing this hospitable city, pray still for the ungrateful one that has cast aside her double treasure. O thou founder of Prémontré, smile once more on France, which derives from thee one of her fairest glories. Obtain of God that, for the salvation of these calamitous times, thine Order may recover something of its former splendour. Bless, few as they are, those sons and daughters of thine who, in spite of the hostility of the 'powers that be,' seek to shed once more their beneficent influence on France. May England benefit also by their return to her midst, and may their fruits be multiplied in every direction. Maintain thine own spirit among them; may they find in interior peace the secret of triumph over Satan and his crew; may the full magnificence of the divine worship solemnly carried out be ever to their souls as the dearly loved mount, whence, Moses-like, they may declare the will of the Lord to the new Israel, the Christian people.

[1] Eph. v 16.
[2] 1 St Pet. iv 2.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AT the head of the holy confessors commemorated by the Church in her martyrology for to-day, is inscribed the illustrious name of William. ‘At York, in England,’ it says, ‘the memory of St William, Archbishop and Confessor, who, amongst other miracles wrought at his tomb, raised three dead persons to life; and who was inscribed amongst the saints by Honorius III.’ The divine Spirit, who adorns the Church with variety in the virtues of her sons,[1] reproduces in them the life of the divine Spouse under many forms. Thus there is no situation in life that cannot find some teaching drawn from the example given by our Lord and his saints under similar circumstances. However vast be the field of trial for the elect here below; however multiplied and unexpected be the limits of endurance, or the circumstances; herein, as ever, does that word of eternal Wisdom hold good: ‘Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before, in the ages that were before us.’[2]

The election of William to the metropolitan see of York was signalized by the apparition of a miraculous cross, a presage of what his life was to be. The heaviest cross one can have to bear is that which originates from the servants of God; from our own brethren, or from our own superiors, in the spiritual order: this cross was not to be spared to William. For our instruction (especially for us who so easily believe that we have gone to the farthest limits of endurance in point of suffering) God permitted that, after the example of his divine Master, William should drink the chalice to the dregs, and should become even to the saints a sign of contradiction and a rock of scandal.[3]

Both to the more numerous portion of the flock, as well as to the better-minded among them, the promotion of the archbishop elect of York was indeed a cause of great joy; but others considered it contrary to their interests. They were foolish enough to listen to certain perfidious insinuations and whisperings, and were led to suppose that it would be a good deed to prevent his consecration. Finally they allowed themselves to be so far worked upon as to make formal and grave accusations against their shepherd, and even the virtuous, deceived by the craftiness of the intriguers, espoused their cause. After hearing from the lips of holy Church in the martyrology her own judgement, glorious as it stands and without appeal, it is not without feelings of wonder and even of bewilderment, that we read passages such as the following, in letters written at the time.

'To our well beloved father and lord, Innocent, by the grace of God Sovereign Pontiff, Bernard of Clairvaux. The archbishop of York hath approached you; that man regarding whom we have so often already written to your Holiness. A sorry cause indeed is his; as we have learned from such as are worthy of credit, from the sole of his foot to the top of his head there is not a sound place in him. What can this man, stripped of all justice, have to seek at the hands of the guardian of justice?’[4] Then recommending the accusers to the Pontiff, the abbot of Clairvaux fears not to add: 'If any one be of God, let him join himself unto them! If the barren tree still occupy the ground, to whom must I attribute the fault, save to him unto whom the hatchet belongs?’[5]

The Vicar of Christ, who can look at things from a higher level and can see more exactly than even saints, took no step to prevent William's consecration, and St Bernard wrote, confidentially, to the abbot of Rievaulx, in Yorkshire: ‘I have learned what has become of this archbishop, and my sorrow is extreme.[6] We have laboured all we could against this common pest, and we have not obtained the desired measure; but for all that, the fruit of our labour is none the less assured from him, who never suffers any good deed to pass unrewarded. What men have refused to us, I am confident we shall obtain from the mercy of our Father who is in heaven, and that we shall yet see this cursed fig-tree rooted up.’[7]

Such grave mistakes as these can sometimes be made by saints. Cruel mistakes indeed they are, but very sanctifying for those saints on whom the blow falls; and, though veritable persecutions, yet they are not without consolation for such saints as these, inasmuch as there has been no offence to God on either side.

Innocent II being dead, Bernard, convinced that the honour of the Church was at stake, repeated his supplications, more urgently than ever, to Pope Celestine II and the Roman court: ‘The whole world is aware of the devil's triumph,’ he exclaimed, with such fiery zeal that we somewhat modify the strength of his expression. ‘The applause of the uncircumcised and the tears of the good, resound far and wide. ... If such were to be the end of this ignominious cause, why not have left it in obscurity? Could not that infamous man, the horror of England and the abomination of France, have been made bishop without Rome also witnessing the general infection spread as far as the very tombs of the apostles?[8]. . . . Well, be it so; this man has received sacrilegious consecration; but still more glorious will it be to precipitate Simon from midair, than to have prevented his mounting thus far. Otherwise, what will you do with the faithful, whose sense of religion makes them suppose that they cannot, with a safe conscience, receive the sacraments from this leprous hand? Are they, then, to be forced by Rome to bend the knee to Baal?’[9]

Rome, however, was slow in letting herself be convinced, and neither Celestine, nor Lucius II who succeeded him, was willing to find in the great services of the powerful abbot of Clairvaux a sufficient reason to pronounce a condemnation, the justice of which was far from being proved to their eyes. It was only under the pontificate of Eugenius III, his former disciple, that St Bernard, by new[10] and reiterated instances,[11] at last obtained the deposition of William, and the substitution, in the see of York, of Henry Murdach, a Cistercian, and abbot of Fountains near Ripon.

‘All the time that his humiliation lasted,’ writes John, prior of Hexham, 'William never let a murmur of complaint escape him; but with a silent heart and with his soul at peace, knew how to keep patience. He protested not against his adversaries; nay, further still, he would turn aside his ear and his very thought from those who judged them unfavourably. None of those who shared his disgrace, showed themselves so continually given up as he to prayer and labour.’[12]

Five years afterwards[13] Eugenius III died, as also the abbot of Clairvaux and Henry Murdach. The canons of York once more elected William, and he was reinstated in the plenitude of his metropolitan rights by Anastasius IV. But God had willed to do no more than affirm the justice of his cause: thirty days after his triumphal return to York, he died, having only just solemnized the festival of the Holy Trinity for whom he had suffered.

We here give the few lines wherein the liturgy records the trials and virtues of St William.

Beatus Gulielmus clarissimis ortus parentibus, scilicet patre Huberto Comite, et matre Emma Stephani regis sorore, summa virtutis laude adolescens floruit. Crescentibus autem meritis cum ætate, Eboracensis thesaurisarius effectus est: quo in munere ita se gessit, ut communis egentium pater ab omnibus haberetur. Neque enim ullum pretiosiorem thesaurum existimabat, quam seipsum opibus spoliare, quo facilius inopia laborantibus subveniret.

Cum autem, defuncto Turstino Archiepiscopo, in ejusdem locum dissentientibus paucis e capitulo esset electus, electioni autem ut minus canonice factæ divus Bernardus apud apostolicam Sedem reclamasset, ab Eugenio tertio summo pontifice exauctoratus est. Quæ quidem res huic sanctoviro non modo nullam molestiam attulit, sed potius optatissimam humilitatis exercendæ, Deoque liberius inserviendi occasionem præbuit. 

Sæculi igitur pompas cum fugeret, in solitudinem secessit, ubi nullis exterarum rerum curis distractus, propriæ saluti invigilaret. Defunctis autem adversariis, archiepiscopus iterum summo omnium consensu eligitur, et ab Anastasio pontifice confirmatur. Recepta autem sede, paulo post in morbum incidit, et dierum plenus, et eleemosynis, vigiliis, jejuniis, bonisque operibus Deo carus, ex hac vita migravit sexto Idus Junii anno salutis humanæmillesimo centesimo quinquagesimo quarto.
Blessed William, born of noble parents (Count Hubert being his father, and Emma, sister of King Stephen, his mother), was remarkable from earliest youth for singularly great virtue. Growing in merit as he advanced in age, he was made treasurer of York: in which office he so behaved, as to be held by all as the father of the needy. Nor indeed did he esteem anything a more precious treasure than to despoil himself of his wealth, that he might more easily minister to the wants of those labouring under poverty.

Thurstan the archbishop being dead, he was elected to succeed him, though some few of the chapter dissented. But Saint Bernard, on the ground of this election being faulty according to the sacred canons, appealed against him to the apostolic See, and hence he was deposed by Pope Eugenius III. Which thing was in no ways taken as a grievance by this holy man, but rather as offering an excellent occasion of exercising humility and of serving God with greater freedom.

Wherefore, fleeing worldly pomps, he withdrew into solitude, where he could attend solely to his own salvation, undistracted by any care of exterior things. But at last, his adversaries being dead, he was again with the full consent of all elected archbishop, and was confirmed by Pope Anastasius. Having entered upon his see he was shortly afterwards attacked with sickness; and full of days, as well as dear to God by reason of his almsdeeds, vigils, fasts, and good works, he passed out of this life, on the sixth of the Ides of June, in the year of our salvation one thousand one hundred and fifty-four.

O William, thou didst know how to possess thy soul! Under the assaults of contradiction thou didst join the aureole of sanctity to the glorious character of a bishop. For well didst thou understand the twofold duty incumbent on thee from the day thou wast called by the suffrages of an illustrious Church to defend her here below, under most difficult circumstances; on the one hand, not to refuse the perilous honour of upholding to the last the rights of that noble bride who proffered thee her alliance: on the other, to show to thy flock, by the example of thy own submission, that even the best of causes can never be dispensed from that absolute obedience owed by sheep, just as much as by lambs, to the supreme Shepherd. He who searcheth the heart and the reins[14] knew how far the trial could go, without either altering the admirable simplicity of thy faith, or troubling, in consequence, the divine calm wherein lay thy strength. Yearning to raise thee to the highest degree of glory in heaven, fain was he to assimilate thee fully, even here below, to the eternal Pontiff, himself misunderstood, denied and condemned by the very princes of his own people. Thy refuge was in that maxim, from the lips of this divine Head: 'Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls,’[15] and thus the yoke that would bear down such weak shoulders as ours, a burthen beneath which the strongest of us well might quail, far from daunting thee, seemed fraught with such sweetness, that thy step became all the lighter[16] for it, and from that hour thou didst appear not only to walk, but to run like a giant,[17] in the way of heroism wherein saints are formed.

Help us, O William, to follow thy steps at least afar off, in the paths of gentleness and energy. Teach us to count for little all personal injuries. Our Lord indeed probed the delicacy of thy great soul, when he permitted that to befall thee, which to us would have proved a very core of bitterness, namely, that thy hottest adversaries should really be true saints, who, in every measure they undertook against thee, wished only for the honour and glory of their divine Master. The mysterious oil, that for so long flowed from thy tomb, was at once a sign of the ineffable meekness which earned for thee that constant simplicity of thy soul's glance, and a touching testimony rendered by heaven in favour of thy pontifical unction, the legitimacy of which was so long contested. God grant that this sweet oil may ooze out once again! Spread it lovingly on so many wounded souls, whom the injustice of men embitters and drives to desperation; let it freely flow in thine own Church of York, alien though she now be to thine exquisite submission to Rome and to her ancient traditions. Oh! would that Albion might cast aside her windingsheet at that blessed tomb of thine, whereat the dead have oft returned to life! May the whole Church receive from thee, this day, increase of light and grace, to the honour and praise of the undivided and ever tranquil Trinity, to whom was paid thy last solemn homage here below.


[1] Ps. xliv 10; Apoc. xix 8.
[2] Eccles. i 10.
[3] St Luke ii 34: Rom. ix 33.
[4] Bern. Epist. 346, al. 377.
[5] Ibid 347, al. 378.
[6] Bern. Epist. 353, al. 379.
[7] Ibid. 360, al. 380.
[8] Epist. 235.
[9] Epist. 236.
[10] Ibid. 239.
[11] Ibid. 240, al. 252.
[12] John Hag. Hist, coæv.
[13] 1153.
[14] Jer. xvii 10.
[15] St Matt. xi 29.
[16] Ibid. x 30.
[17] Ps. xviii 6.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ROSES and lilies are exquisitely alternated in the wreath woven by centuries for the bride of the Son of God. Though the world be heedless of the fact, it is none the less true that everything here below has but one object, namely to bedeck the Church with the attractive charms of heaven, to adjust her jewelled robes formed of the virtues of her saints, that she may be fitted to take her seat beside her divine Spouse, in the highest heavens, for all eternity.[1] The sacred cycle, in its yearly course, presents an image of those ceaseless labours whereby the Holy Ghost continues to form, up to the day of the eternal nuptials, that varied robe of holy Church, by diversifying the merits of God's servants, her members here below. To-day we have two martyrs becrimsoned with their own blood, setting off the dazzling whiteness of Norbert's works, or of William's innocence; and to-morrow we may contemplate with delighted gaze the softer light beamed upon our earth by Margaret, Scotland's pearl.

Primus and Felician, wealthy Romans, had already attained maturity of age, when our Lord made his voice heard inviting them to forsake their vain idols. Brothers according to the flesh, they now became more really such by fidelity to the same call of grace. Together they proved themselves intrepid helpers of the confessors of Christ amidst the atrocious persecution which raged against the Church during the latter half of the third century. In the same combat were they to fall side by side, exchanging this frail life here below for that into which, at one birth, they were to enter for ever in heaven. They furthermore were honoured by having their precious relics placed in the celebrated sanctuary consecrated to St Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, on Monte Cœlio; and they form its richest treasure.

The holy liturgy relates their triumph in these few lines:

Primus et Felicianus fratres, in persecutione Diocletiani et Maximiani accusati christianæ religionis, in vincula conjiciuntur: quibus soluti, inde eripiuntur ab angelo. Mox ad prætorem adducti, cum christianam fidem acerrime tuerentur, alter ab altero distracti sunt; ac primum varie tentata est constantia Feliciani. Sed cum suasores impietatis se posse quidquam verbis proficere despcrarent, affixis stipiti manibus ejus et pedibus, ipsum sine cibo et potu inde triduum pendentem reliquerunt. Postridie ejus diei prætor vocatum ad se Primum sic affatur: Vides quanto sit prudentior quam tu frater tuus, qui, obsecutus imperatoribus, apud ipsos est honoratus. Quem si tu quoque imitari volueris, particeps eris ejus honoris et gratiæ.

Cui Primus: Quid factum sit fratri meo cognovi ex angelo. Utinam quemadmodum sum cum eo voluntate conjunctissimus, sic ab eodem ne martyrio disjungar.

Quo dicto, excanduit prætor, et ad cæteros cruciatus quibus Primum affecit, præsente jam Feliciano, liquatum igne plumbum in os ejus jussit infundi. Mox utrumque perduci imperat in theatrum, in eosque immitti duos leones: qui prostrati ad eorum genua, capite et cauda ipsis blandiebantur. Ad id spectaculum cum amplius duodecim millia hominum convenissent, quingenti cum suis familiis christianam religionem susceperunt. Quibus rebus permotus prætor, eos securi percuti jussit.
Primus and Felician were brothers, and, being accused of professing the Christian religion during the persecution of Diocletian and Maximian, they were thrown into irons, which an angel broke, and they were delivered. But, being soon led again before the pr*tor, and as they most earnestly clung to the Christian faith, they were separated one from the other. The steadfastness of Felician was the first to be put to the test in divers ways. As they who strove to persuade him to impiety found it hopeless to gain aught from him by words, he was fastened hand and foot to a stake, and there left to hang three days without either food or drink. The day after that, the prætor having called Primus before him, thus addressed him: ‘Seest thou how much wiser is thy brother than thou art? He hath obeyed the emperors, and they have made him honourable. Thou hast only to follow his example to be made partaker of his honours and favours.’

Primus replied: ‘What hath befallen my brother I know, for an angel hath told me. Would to God, that seeing I have the same will that he hath, I were not divided from him in the same martyrdom.’

These words raised the wrath of the prætor, and in addition to the torments which he had already inflicted on Primus, he ordered boiling lead to be poured into his mouth, and this in presence of Felician. After that, he had them both dragged into the amphitheatre, and two lions let loose upon them, in presence of about twelve thousand people, who were gathered together to see the show. The lions only fawned upon the knees of the saints, making friends with them, caressingly moving their heads and tails. This spectacle converted five hundred persons of the assembled crowd, together with their households, to the Christian religion. The prætor, moved to anger by what had passed, caused Primus and Felician to be beheaded with an axe.

O ye brave veterans of the Lord's battles, teach us what energy we must bring to the service of God, whatsoever be our age. Less favoured than we are, ye came late in life to the knowledge of the Gospel and of those inestimable treasures promised to the Christian. But in holy Baptism your youth was renewed as that of the eagle,[2] and for thirty years the Holy Ghost continued to produce rich fruits in you. When, in extreme old age, the hour of final victory at last sounded, your courage was equal to that of the most vigorous warriors. You were nerved up to such heroism and sustained therein, through prayer constantly kept alive within you by the words of the psalms, as your Acts attest. Revive then amongst us faith in the word of God; his promises will make us despise, as ye did, this present life. Lead our piety back to those true sources which strengthen the soul: the knowledge and daily use of those sacred formulas which bind our earth unfailingly to heaven, whence they were brought down to us.


[1] Apoc. xix 7, 8; Ps. xliv 10.
[2] Ps. cii 5.

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