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July

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FOUR months after the Angel of the Schools, the Seraphic Doctor appears in the heavens. Bound by the ties of love when on earth, the two are now united for ever before the throne of God. Bonaventure’s own words will show us how great a right they both had to the heavenly titles bestowed upon them by the admiring gratitude of men.

As there are three hierarchies of angels in heaven, so on earth there are three classes of the elect. The Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, who form the first hierarchy, represent those who approach nearest to God by contemplation, and who differ among themselves according to the intensity of their love, the plenitude of their science, and the steadfastness of their justice; to the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, correspond the prelates and princes; and lastly, the lowest choirs signify the various ranks of the faithful engaged in the active life. This is the triple division of men, which, according to St. Luke, will be made at the last day: Two shall be in the bed, two in the field, two at the mill; that is to say, in the repose of divine delights, in the field of government, at the mill of this life's toil. As regards the two mentioned in each place, we may remark that in Isaias the Seraphim, who are more closely united to God than the rest, perform two by two their ministry of sacrifice and praise; for it is with the angel as with man; the fulness of love, which belongs especially to the Seraphim, cannot be without the fulfilment of the double precept of charity towards God and one's neighbour. Again, our Lord sent His disciples two and two before His face; and in Genesis we find God sending two angels where one would have sufficed.[1] It is better, therefore, says Ecclesiastes, that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society.[2]

Such is the teaching of Bonaventure in his book on the Hierarchy,[3] wherein he shows us the secret workings of Eternal Wisdom for the salvation of the world and the sanctification of the elect. It would be impossible to understand aright the history of the thirteenth century were we to forget the prophetic vision, wherein our Lady was seen presenting to her offended Son His two servants, Dominic and Francis, that they might by their powerful union, bring back to Him the wandering human race. What a spectacle for angels when, on the morrow of the apparition, the two saints met and embraced: ‘Thou art my companion, we will run side by side,’ said the descendant of the Guzmans to the poor man of Assisi; ‘let us keep together, and no man will be able to prevail against us.’ These words might well have been the motto of their noble sons, Thomas and Bonaventure. The star which shone over the head of St. Dominic shed its bright rays on Thomas; the Seraph who imprinted the stigmata in the flesh of St. Francis touched with his fiery wing the soul of Bonaventure; yet both, like their incomparable fathers, had but one end in view: to draw men by science and love to that eternal life which consists in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

Both were burning and shining lamps, blending their flames in the heavens, in proportions which no mortal eye could distinguish here below; nevertheless, Eternal Wisdom has willed that the Church on earth should borrow more especially light from Thomas and fire from Bonaventure. Would that we might here show in each of them the workings of Wisdom, the one bond even on earth of their union of thoughts—that Wisdom who, ever unchangeable in her adorable unity, never repeats herself in the souls she chooses from among the nations to become the prophets and the friends of God. But to-day we must speak only of Bonaventure.

When quite a child, he was saved by St. Francis from imminent death; whereupon his pious mother offered him by vow to the saint, promising that he should enter the Order of Friars Minor. Thus, in the likeness of holy poverty, that beloved companion of the Seraphic Patriarch, did Eternal Wisdom prevent our saint from his very cradle, showing herself first unto him. At the earliest awakening of his faculties he found her seated at the entrance of his soul, awaiting the opening of its gates, which are, he tells us, intelligence and love. Having received a good soul in an undefiled body, he preferred Wisdom before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison with the august friend, who offered herself to him in the glory of her nobility and beauty. From that first moment, without ever waning, she was his light. Peacefully as a sunbeam glancing through a hitherto closed window, Wisdom filled this dwelling, now become her own, as the bride on the nuptial day takes possession of the bridegroom’s house, filling it with joy, in community of goods, and above all of love.

For her contribution to the nuptial banquet, she brought the substantial brightness of heaven; Bonaventure on his part offered her the lilies of purity, so desired by her as her choicest food. Henceforth the feast in his soul was to be continual; and the light and the perfumes, breaking forth, were shed around, attracting, enlightening, and nourishing all. While still very young, he was, according to custom, sent, after the first years of his religious life, to the celebrated University of Paris, where he soon won all hearts by his angelic manners; and the great Alexander of Hales, struck with admiration at the union of so many qualities, said of him that it seemed as if in him Adam had not sinned. As a lofty mountain whose head is lost in the clouds, and from whose foot run fertilizing waters far and wide, Brother Alexander himself, according to the expression of the Sovereign Pontiff, seemed at that time to contain within himself the living fountain of Paradise, whence the river of science and salvation flowed over the earth.[4] Nevertheless, not only would he, the irrefragable Doctor, and the Doctor of doctors, give up his chair in a short time to the newcomer, but he would hereafter derive his greatest glory from being called father and master by that illustrious disciple.[5]Placed in such a position at so early an age, Bonaventure could say of Divine Wisdom, even more truly than of the great master who had had little to do but admire the prodigious development of his soul: ‘It is she that has taught me all things; she taught me the knowledge of God and of His works, justice and virtues, the subtleties of speeches and the solutions of arguments.’[6]

Such, indeed, is the object of those Commentaries on the four Books of Sentences, first delivered as lectures from the chair of Paris, where he held the noblest intellects spellbound by his graceful and inspired language. This masterpiece, while it is an inexhaustible mine of treasures to the Franciscan family, bears so great testimony to the science of this doctor of twenty-seven years of age that, though so soon called from his chair to the government of a great Order, he was worthy on account of this single work to share with his friend Thomas Aquinas, who was fortunately freer to pursue his studies, the honourable title of prince of Sacred Theology.[7]

The young master already merited his name of Seraphic Doctor, by regarding science as merely a means to love, and declaring that the light which illuminates the mind is barren and useless unless it penetrates to the heart, where alone wisdom rests and feasts.[8] St. Antoninus tells us also that in him every truth grasped by the intellect passed through the affections, and thus became prayer and divine praise.[9] 'His aim,' says another historian, ‘was to burn with love, to kindle himself first at the divine fire, and afterwards to inflame others. Careless of praise or renown, anxious only to regulate his life and actions, he would fain bum and not only shine; he would be fire, in order to approach nearer to God by becoming more like to Him who is fire. Albeit, as fire is not without light, so was he also at the same time a shining torch in the House of God; but his special claim to our praise is that all the light at his command he gathered to feed the flame of divine love.’[10]

The bent of his mind was clearly indicated when, at the beginning of his public teaching, he was called upon to give his decision on the question then dividing the Schools: to some theology was a speculative, to others a practical, science, according as they were more struck by the theoretical or the moral side of its teaching. Bonaventure, uniting the two opinions in the principle which he considered the one universal law, concluded that ‘Theology is an affective science, the knowledge of which proceeds by speculative contemplation, but aims principally at making us good.' For the wisdom of doctrine, he said, must be according to her name,[11] something that can be relished by the soul; and he added, not without that gentle touch of irony which the saints know how to use: ‘ There is a difference, I suppose, in the impressions produced by the proposition, Christ died for us, or the like, and by such as this: The diagonal and the side of a square cannot be equal to one another.’[12] The graceful speech and profound science of our saint were enhanced by a beautiful modesty. He would conclude a difficult question thus: 'This is said without prejudice to the opinions of others. If anyone think otherwise, or better, as he may well do on this point as on all others, I bear him no ill-will; but if, in this little work, he find anything deserving approval, let him give thanks to God, the Author of all good. Whatever, in any part, be found false, doubtful or obscure, let the kind reader forgive the incompetence of the writer, whose conscience bears him unimpeachable testimony that he has wished to say nothing but what is true, clear, and commonly received.’[13] On one occasion, however, Bonaventure’s unswerving devotion to the Queen of Virgins modified with a gentle force his expression of humility: ‘If anyone,’ he says, 'prefers otherwise, I will not contend with him, provided he say nothing to the detriment of the Venerable Virgin, for we must take the very greatest care, even should it cost us our life, that no one lessen in any way the honour of our Lady.’[14] Lastly, at the end of the third book of this admirable Exposition of the Sentences, he declares that ‘charity is worth more than all science. It is enough, in doubtful questions, to know what the wise have taught; disputation is to little purpose. We talk much, and our words fail us. Infinite thanks be to the perfecter of all discourse, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, taking pity on my poverty of knowledge and of genius, has enabled me to complete this moderate work. I beg of Him that it may procure me the merit of obedience, and may be of profit to my brethren: the twofold purpose for which the task was undertaken.’[15]

But the time had come when obedience was to give place to another kind of merit, less pleasing to himself, but not less profitable to the brethren. At thirty-five years of age, he was elected Minister-General. Obliged thus to quit the field of scholastic teaching, he entrusted it to his friend, Thomas Aquinas, who, younger by several years, was to cultivate it longer and more completely than he himself had been suffered. The Church would lose nothing by the change; for Eternal Wisdom, who ordereth all things with strength and sweetness, thus disposed that these two incomparable geniuses, completing one another, should give us the fulness of that true science which not only reveals God, but leads to Him.

Give an occasion to the wise man, and wisdom shall he added to him.[16] This sentence was placed by Bonaventure at the head of his treatise on ‘ The Six Wings of the Seraphim,' wherein he sets forth the qualifications necessary for one called to the cure of souls; and well did he fulfil it himself in the government of his immense Order, scattered by its missions throughout the whole Church. The treatise itself, which Father Claude Acquaviva held in such high estimation as to oblige the Superiors of the Society of Jesus to use it as a guide, furnishes us with a portrait of our saint at this period. He had reached the summit of the spiritual life, where the inward peace of the soul is undisturbed by the most violent agitations from without; where the closeness of their union with God produces in the saints a mysterious fecundity, displayed to the world, when God wills, by a multiplicity of perfect works incomprehensible to the profane. Let us listen to Bonaventure’s own words: ‘The Seraphim exercise an influence over the lower orders, to draw them upwards; so the love of the spiritual man tends both to his neighbour and to God: to God that he may rest in Him; to his neighbour to draw him thither with himself. Not only then do they burn; they also give the form of perfect love, driving away darkness and showing how to rise by degrees, and to go to God by the highest paths.’[17]

Such is the secret of that admirable series of opuscula, composed, as he owned to St. Thomas, without the aid of any book but his crucifix, without any preconceived plan, but simply as occasion required at the request, or to satisfy the needs of the brethren and sisters of his large family, or again, when he felt a desire of pouring out his soul. In these works Bonaventure has treated alike of the first elements of asceticism and of the sublimest subjects of the mystic life, with such fulness, certainty, clearness, and persuasive force, that Sixtus IV declared the Holy Spirit seemed to speak in him.[18] On reading the Itinerary of the Soul to God, which was written on the height of Alverna, as it were under the immediate influence of the Seraphim, the Chancellor Gerson exclaimed: ‘This opusculum, or rather this immense work, is beyond the praise of a mortal mouth.’[19] And he wished it, together with that wonderful compendium of sacred science, the Breviloquium, to be imposed upon theologians as a necessary manual.[20]‘By his words,’ says the great Abbot Trithemius in the name of the Benedictine Order, ‘the author of all these learned and devout works inflames the will of the reader no less than he enlightens his mind. Note the spirit of divine love and Christian devotion in his writings, and you will easily see that he surpasses all the doctors of his time in the usefulness of his works. Many expound doctrine, many preach devotion, few teach the two together; Bonaventure surpasses both the many and the few, because he trains to devotion by science, and to science by devotion. If, then, you would be both learned and devout, you must put his teaching into practice.’[21]

But Bonaventure himself will tell us best the proper dispositions for reading him with profit. At the beginning of his Incendium amoris, wherein he teaches the three ways, purgative, illuminative, and unitive, which lead to true wisdom, he says: ‘I offer this book not to philosophers, not to the worldly-wise, not to great theologians perplexed with endless questions, but to the simple and ignorant who strive rather to love God than to know much. It is not by disputing, but by activity, that we learn to love. As to those men full of questions, superior in every science, but inferior in the love of Christ, I consider them incapable of understanding the contents of this book; unless putting away all vain show of learning, they strive, by humble self-renunciation, prayer, and meditation, to kindle within them the divine spark, which, inflaming their hearts and dispelling all darkness, will lead them beyond the concerns of time even to the throne of peace. Indeed, by the very fact of their knowing more, they are better disposed to love, or, at least, they would be if they truly despised themselves and could rejoice to be despised by others.’[22]

Although these pages are already too long, we cannot resist quoting the last words left us by St. Bonaventure. As the Angel of the Schools was soon, at Fossa Nova, to close his labours and his life with the explanation of the Canticle of Canticles, so his seraphic rival and brother tuned his last notes to these words of the sacred Nuptial Song: ‘King Solomon has made him a litter of the wood of Libanus: The pillars thereof he made of silver, the seat of gold, the going-up of purple.’[23] The seat of gold,’ added our saint, ‘is contemplative wisdom; it belongs to those alone who possess the column of silver —i.e., the virtues which strengthen the soul; the going-up of purple is the charity whereby we ascend to the heights and descend to the valleys.’[24]

It is a conclusion worthy of Bonaventure, the close of a sublime but incomplete work, which he had not even time to put together himself. 'Alas! alas! alas!' cries out with tears the loving disciple to whom we owe this last treasure, 'a higher dignity, and then the death of our lord and master prevented the continuation of this work.' And then showing us, in a touching manner, the precautions taken by the sons lest they should lose anything of their father's conferences: 'What I here give,' he says, ‘is what I could snatch by writing rapidly while he was speaking. Two others took notes at the same time, but their papers are scarcely legible; whereas several of the audience were able to read my copy, and the master himself and many others made use of it; a fact for which I deserve some gratitude. And now at length, permission and time having been given to me, I have revised these notes, with the voice and gestures of the master ever in my ear and before my eyes; I have arranged them in order, without adding anything to what he said, except the indication of certain authorities.’[25]

The dignity mentioned by the faithful secretary is that of Cardinal Bishop of Albano. After the death of Clement IV, and the succeeding three years of widowhood for the Church, our saint, by his influence with the Sacred College, had obtained the election of Gregory X, who now imposed upon him in virtue of obedience the honour of the cardinalate. Having been entrusted with the work of preparation for the Council of Lyons, convened for the spring of 1274, Bonaventure had the joy of assisting at the reunion of the Latin and Greek Churches, which he, more than anyone else, had been instrumental in obtaining. But God spared him the bitterness of seeing how short-lived the reunion was to be: a union which would have been the salvation of that East which he loved, and where his name, translated into Eutychius, was still in veneration two centuries later at the time of the Council of Florence. On July 15 of that year, 1274, in the midst of the Council, and presided at by the Sovereign Pontiff himself, took place the most solemn funeral the world has ever witnessed. ‘ I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan,’ cried out before that mourning assembly, gathered from East and West, the Dominican Cardinal Peter of Tarentaise. After fifty-three years spent in this world, the Seraph had cast off his robe of flesh, and spreading his wings had gone to join Thomas Aquinas, who had by a very short time preceded him to heaven.

The following are the proper lessons appointed for St. Bonaventure in the Breviary:

Bonaventura, Balnecregii in Etruria natus, a lethali morbo adhuc puer, beati Francisci precibus, cujus religioni, si convaluisset, voto matris dicatus fuerat, evasit incolumis. Itaque adolescens, fratrum Minorum institutum amplecti voluit, in quo ad eam doctrinæ præstantiam Alexandro de Ales magistro pervenit, ut septimo post anno Parisiis magisterii lauream adeptus, libros Sententiarum publice summa cum laude sit mterpretatus, quos etiam præclaris postea commentariis illustravit. Nec scientiæ solum eruditione, sed et morum integritate, vitæque innocentia, humilitate, mansuetudine, terrenarum rerum contemptu et cælestium desiderio mirifice excelluit: dignus piane, qui tamquam perfectionis exemplar haberetur, et a beato Thoma Aquinate, cui summa cantate conjunctus erat, sanctus appellaretur. Is enim, cum sancti Francisci vitam illum scribentem comperisset: Sinamus, ait, Sanctum pro Sancto laborare.

Divini amoris fiamma succensus, erga Christi Domini passionem, quam jugiter meditabatur, ac Deiparam Virginem, cui se totum devoverat, singulari ferebatur pietatis affectu: quem in aliis etiam verbo et exemplo excitare, scriptisque opusculis augere summopere studuit. Hinc illa morum suavitas, gratia sermonis, et caritas in omnes efiusa, qua singulorum animos sibi arctissime devinciebat. Quam ob rem vix quinque et triginta annos natus, Romæ summo omnium consensu Generalis Ordinis Minister electus est: susceptumque munus per .duodeviginti annos admirabili prudentia gessit ac laude sanctitatis. Plura constituit regulan disciplinæ et amplificando Ordini utilia; quem una cum aliis Ordinibus mendicantibus adversus obtrectatorum calumnias feliciter propugnavit.

Ad Lugdunense Concilium a beato Gregorio decimo accersitus, et Cardinalis Episcopus Albanensis creatus, arduis Concilii rebus egregiam navavit operam: qua et schismatis dissi dia composita sunt, et ecclesiastica dogmata vindicata. Quibus in laboribus, anno ætatis suæ quinquagesimo tertio, salutis vero millesimo ducentesimo septuagesimo quarto, summo omnium mærore decessit, ab universo Concilio, ipso præsente Romano Pontifice, funere honestatus. Eum Xystus quartus plurimis maximisque clarum miraculis in Sanctorum numerum retulit. Multa scripsit, in quibus summam eruditionem cum pietatis ardore conjungens, lectorem docendo movet; quare a Xysto quinto Doctoris Seraphici nomine merito est insignitus.
Bonaventure was born at Bagnorea, in Tuscany. While still a child, he was smitten by a mortal sickness, and his mother vowed that he should be consecrated to the order of blessed Francis if he recovered. He came safely through the sickness at the Saint’s prayer; and consequently, when a young man, he determined to enter the institute of the Friars Minor. He was put under the instruction of Alexander of Hales, and became so eminent for learning that at the end of seven years he obtained the Master’s degree at Paris, and lectured publicly with great applause on the books of the Sentences, which later in life he explained by lucid commentaries. He attained great eminence, not only in knowledge and learning, but also in purity of life, innocence, humility, meekness, contempt for earthly things and desire for those of heaven; and he was manifestly worthy of being held as an example of perfection. By blessed Thomas Aquinas, to whom he was bound by close friendship, he was called a saint, and when St. Thomas found him one day writing the Life of St. Francis, he said: 'Let us allow one saint to labour for another.’

He was enkindled with a great flame of divine love, and was moved with particular affection for the Passion of Christ our Lord, which was his constant matter of meditation, and for the Virgin Mother of God, to whom he wholly vowed himself. He sought, moreover, with all his power to excite a like ardour in others both by word and example, and to increase it by his books and other writings. Hence arose that sweetness of disposition, unction in speech and open-hearted charity to all men, by which he succeeded in binding the hearts of all so closely to himself. For these reasons, when scarcely thirtyfive years old, he was elected at Rome, by acclamation, Minister-General of his Order; and he held the office which he had taken up for twenty years, with remarkable prudence and praiseworthy holiness. He made a number of regulations suited to the maintenance of regular discipline and the extension of the Order: and he defended it, as well as the other mendicant orders, with great success against the charges of calumniators.

By Blessed Gregory X he was summoned to the Council of Lyons, and created Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He steered the Council successfully through the arduous tasks it had undertaken: as a result of which the disputes excited by schismatics were brought to an end, and the dogmas of the Church vindicated. In the midst of these labours, to the great sorrow of all who knew him, he died in 1274, in the fifty-third year of his age, and his funeral was adorned by the presence of the whole Council, and of the Roman Pontiff himself. He became renowned for many great miracles, and Xystus IV enrolled him among the saints. He composed a number of writings, in which he exhibited great learning and ardent piety, moving the reader’s heart by his instruction: and for this reason Xystus V deservedly bestowed on him the title of the Seraphic Doctor.

Thou hast entered, O Bonaventure, into the joy of thy Lord, and what must thy happiness be now, since, as thou thyself didst say: ‘By how much a man loves God on earth, by so much does he rejoice in him in heaven'?[26] If the great St. Anselm, from whom thou didst borrow that word, added that love is proportioned to knowledge,[27] O thou, who wast at the same time a prince of sacred science and the doctor of love, show us how all light, in the order of grace and of nature, is intended to lead us to love. God is hidden in everything;[28] Christ is the centre of every science;[29] and the fruit of each of them is to build up faith, to honour God, to regulate our life, and to lead to divine union by charity, without which all knowledge is vain.[30] For, as thou didst say,[31] all the sciences have their fixed and infallible rules, which come down to our soul as so many reflections of the eternal law; and our soul, surrounded and penetrated with such brightness, is led, of her own accord, unless she is blind, to contemplate that eternal light. Wonderful light, reflected from the mountains of our fatherland into the furthermost valleys of our exile! In the eyes of the Seraphic Father Francis the world was truly noble, so that he called, as thou tellest us, even the lowest creatures by the name of brothers and sisters;[32] in every beauty he discerned the Sovereign Beauty; by the traces left in creation by its Author he found his Beloved everywhere, and he made of them a ladder whereby to ascend to him.[33]

Do thou, too, O my soul, open thine eyes, bend thine ear, unlock thy lips, and prepare thy heart, that in every creature thou mayest see thy God, hear Him, praise Him, love Him, and honour Him, lest the whole universe rise up against thee for not rejoicing in the works of His hands. Then from the world beneath thee, which has but the shadow of God and His presence, inasmuch as He is everywhere, pass on to thyself, His image by nature, reformed in Christ the Bridegroom. From the image rise to the truth of the first beginning, in unity of Essence and trinity of Persons, that thou mayest attain the repose of that sacred night where both the shadow and the image are forgotten in an all-absorbing love. But first of all thou must know that the mirror of the external world will avail thee little, unless the interior mirror of thy soul be purified and bright, unless thy desire be aided by prayer and contemplation in order to kindle love. Know that here, reading without unction, speculation without devotion, labour without piety, knowledge without charity, intelligence without humility, study without grace, are nothing; and when at length, rising gradually by prayer, holiness of life, and the contemplation of truth, thou shalt have reached the mountain where the God of gods reveals Himself,[34] taught by the powerlessness of thy sight here on earth to endure splendours of which nature was too feeble to give thee an indication, let thy blind intelligence remain asleep, pass beyond it in Christ, who is the gate and the way, question no longer the master but the Bridegroom, not man but God, not the light but the all-consuming fire; pass from this world with Christ to the Father, who will be shown to thee, and then say with Philip:' It is enough for us.’[35]

O Seraphic Doctor, lead us by this sublime ascent, of which every line of thy works discloses the secrets, the toils, the beauties, and the dangers. In the pursuit of that Divine Wisdom, which even in its feeblest reflections no one can behold without ecstasy, guard us against mistaking for an end the satisfaction felt from the scanty rays sent down to us to draw us from the confusion of nothingness even to Itself. If these rays which proceed from the eternal Beauty be withdrawn from their focus and perverted from their object, there will be nothing but delusion, deception, vain knowledge, or false pleasures. Indeed, the more lofty the knowledge and the nearer it approaches to God as the object of speculative theory, the more in a certain sense is error to be feared. If a man in his progress towards true wisdom, which is possessed and relished for its own sake, is drawn aside by the charms of knowledge, and rests therein, thou, O Bonaventure, hesitatest not to compare such knowledge to a vile deceiver, who would withdraw the affections of the king’s son from his noble betrothed to fix them upon herself.[36] Such an insult to an august queen would be equally grievous whether offered by a servant or by a lady of honour. Hence thou didst declare that 'the passage from science to wisdom is dangerous, unless holiness intervene.’[37] Help us to cross the perilous pass; let science ever be to us a means of attaining sanctity and acquiring greater love.

Thou hast still, O Bonaventure, the same thoughts in the light of God. Witness the predilection thou hast more than once shown in our time for those centres where, in spite of the fever of activity which must needs keep in motion every force of nature, divine contemplation is still appreciated as the better part, as the only end and aim of all knowledge. Deign to continue thy protection of thy devout and grateful clients. Defend, as heretofore, the life and prerogatives of all religious Orders which are now so persecuted. To thy own Franciscan family be still a cause of increase both in numbers and in sanctity; bless the labours undertaken by it, to the joy of all the world, to bring to light as they deserve thy history and thy works. Bring back the East a third time to unity and life, and that for ever. May the whole Church be warmed by thy rays; may the divine fire thou didst so effectually nurture enkindle the earth anew!


[1] Cf. Gen. xix. 1.
[2] Eccles. iv. 9.
[3] De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia, pars 1., caps, i., ii.
[4] Litt. Alexandri IV.: De fontibus paradisi flumen egrediens.
[5] Bonavent. in ii. Sent., dist. xxiii., art. 2, qu. 3, ad 7.
[6] Cf. Wisd. vii. and viii.
[7] Litt. Sixti IV. Superna cœlestis patriæ civitas; Sixti V.Triumphantis Hierusalem; Leonis XIII. Æterni Patris.
[8] Exp. in Lib. Sap. viii. 9, 16.
[9] Antonini, Chronic., p. 111., tit. xxiv., cap. 8.
[10] H. Sedulius, Histor. seraph.
[11] Eccli. vi. 23.
[12] Bonavent. Prœmium in 1. Sent., qu. 3.
[13] 11. Sent., dist. xliv., art. 3, qu. 2, ad 6.
[14] IV. Sent., dist xxviii., qu. 6, ad 5.
[15] 111. Sent., dist. xl., qu. 3, ad 6.
[16] Prov. ix. 9.
[17] Bonavent. De Eccles. hier., p. 11., c. ii.
[18] Litt. Superna cœlestis.
[19] Gerson Epist. cuidam Fratri Minori. Lugd. an. 1426.
[20] Tract de exam. doctrinarum.
[21] Trithem. de Scriptor. eccle.
[22] Incend. amoris, Prologus.
[23] Cant. iii. 9, 10.
[24] Illluminationes Ecclesiæ in Hexæmeron, Sermo xxiii.
[25] Illuminat Eccles., Additiones.
[26] Bonav. De perfectione vita ad Sorores, viii.
[27] Anselm. Proslogion, xxvi.
[28] Bonav. De reductione artium ad theologiam.
[29] Illuminationes Eccl., i.
[30] De reduct, artium ad theolog.
[31] Itinerarium mentis in Deum, iii.
[32] Legenda Sti. Francisci viii.
[33] Ibid. ix.
[34] Bonav, Itinerar, mentis in Deum, i.
[35] Ibid. vii.
[36] Illuminationes Eccl., ii.
[37] Ibid xix.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

HENRY of Germany, the second king, but the first emperor of that name, was the last crowned representative of that branch of the house of Saxony descended from Henry the Fowler, to which God, in the tenth century, entrusted the mission of restoring the work of Charlemagne and Leo III. This noble stock was rendered more glorious in the flowers of sanctity adorning its branches than in the deep and powerful roots it struck in the German soil by great and long-enduring institutions.

The Holy Spirit, who divideth His gifts according as He will, was then calling to the loftiest destinies that land which, more than any other, had witnessed the energy of His divine action in the transformation of nations. Won to Christ by St. Boniface and the continuators of his work, the vast country which extends beyond the Rhine and the Danube had become the bulwark of the West, and for many years had been the scene of devastation and ruin. Far from attempting to subjugate to her own rule the formidable tribes that inhabited it, pagan Rome, at the very zenith of her power, had had no higher ambition than to raise a wall of separation between them and the Empire: Christian Rome, more truly mistress of the world, set up in their very midst the seat of the Holy Roman Empire reestablished by her Pontiffs. The new Empire was to defend the rights of the common Mother, to protect Christendom from new inroads of barbarians, to win over to the Gospel or else to crush the successive hordes that would come down on her frontiers—Hungarians, Slavs, Mongols, Tartars, and Ottomans. Happy had it been for Germany if she had always understood her true glory, if the fidelity of her princes to the Vicar of the Man-God had been equal to her people’s faith.

God, on His part, had not closed His hand. To-day’s feast shows us the crowning-point of the period of fruitful labour, when the Holy Ghost, having created Germany anew in the waters of the sacred font, would lead her up to the full development of a people’s perfect age. The historian, who would know what Providence requires of nations, must study them at such a period of truly creative formation. Indeed, when God creates, whether in the order of nature or of the supernatural vocation of men and societies, He first deposits in His work the principle of that grade of life for which it is destined: it is a precious germ, the development of which, unless thwarted, must lead that being to attain its end; and the knowledge of which, could we observe it before any alteration has taken place, would clearly indicate the divine intention with regard to that being. Now, many times already, since the coming of the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier, we have shown that the principle of life for Christian nations is the holiness of their beginnings: a holiness as manifold as is the Wisdom of God, whose instrument these nations are to be, and as peculiar to each as are their several destinies. This holiness, beginning as it does for the most part from the throne, possesses a social character. The crimes also of princes will but too often bear this same mark, from the very fact of the princes being the representatives of their people before God. Then, too, we have seen[1] how, in the name of Mary, who through her divine Maternity is the channel of life to the whole world, a mission has been intrusted to women: the mission of bringing forth to God the families of nations (familiœ gentium),[2] which are to be the objects of His tenderest love. Whereas the princes, the apparent founders of empires, stand with their mighty deeds in the foreground of history, it is she that, by her secret tears and prayers, gives fruitfulness, a loftier aim, and stability to their undertakings.

The Holy Ghost leads many souls to imitate the Mother of God; like Clotilde, Radegond, and Bathildis, who gave the Franks to the Church in troublous times—three chosen souls—Matilda, Adelaide, and Cunigund—and added the aureole of sanctity to the imperial diadem of Germany. Over the chaos of the tenth century, whence Germany was to spring, they shone out like three bright stars, shedding their peaceful light over the Church and the world in that dark night, and thus doing more to suppress anarchy than could even the sword of an Otho. The eleventh century opened: Hildebrand had not yet arisen, and the angels of the sanctuary were weeping over many a desecrated altar, when the royal succession was brought to a beautiful close by a virginal union, as though, weary of producing heroes for the world, it would now bear fruit for heaven alone. Was such a step against the interests of Germany? No; for it drew down the mercy of God upon the country, which, in the midst of universal corruption, could offer Him the perfume of such a holocaust.

Let earth and heaven this day unite in celebrating the man who carried out to the full the designs of Eternal Wisdom at this period of history. In his single person he discovered all the heroism and sanctity of the illustrious race, whose chief glory it is to have been for a century a worthy preparation for so great a man. Great before men, who knew not whether to admire more his bravery or the energetic activity which made him seem to be everywhere at once throughout his vast empire, he was ever successful, putting down internal revolts, conquering the Slavs on his northern frontier, chastising the insolence of the Greeks in southern Italy, assisting Hungary to rise from barbarism to Christianity, concluding with Robert the Pious a lasting peace between the Empire and the eldest daughter of the Church. But the virgin spouse of the virgin Cunigund was greater still before God, who never had a more faithful lieutenant upon earth. God in His Christ was in Henry's eyes the only King; the interest of Christ and the Church, the one principle of his administration; the most perfect service of the Man-God, his highest ambition. He understood how the truest nobility was hidden in the cloister, where chosen souls, fleeing from the universal degradation, were averting the ruin and obtaining the salvation of the world. It was this thought that led him, on the morrow of his imperial coronation, to confide to the famous Abbey of Cluny the golden globe representing the world, which he, as soldier of the Vicar of Christ, was commissioned to defend. It was with the desire of imitating those noble souls that he threw himself at the feet of the Abbot of St. Vannes at Verdun, begging admission into his community, and then, constrained by obedience, returned with a heavy heart to resume the burden of government.

The following is the notice, necessarily incomplete, which the Church gives us concerning St. Henry:

Henricus, cognomento Pius, e duce Bavariæ rex Germaniæ, ac postmodum Romanorum imperator, temporalis regni non contentus angustiis, pro adipiscenda immortalitatis corona sedulam æterno Regi exhibuit servitutem. Adepto enim imperio, religioni amplifìcandæ studiose incumbens, ecclesias ab infidelibus destructas magnificentius reparavit, plurimisque largitionibus et prædiis locupletavit Monasteria, aliaque loca pia vel ipse ædificavit, vel assignatis redditibus auxit. Episcopatum Bambergensem, hæreditariis opibus fundatum, beato Petro, Romanoque Pontifici vectigalem fecit. Benedictum Octavum, a quo imperii coronam acceperat, profugum excepit, suæque sedi restituit.

In Cassinensi monasterio gravi detentus infirmiate, a Sancto Benedicto, insigni miraculo, sanatus est. Romanam Ecclesiam amplissimo diplomate muneratus, eidem tuendæ bellum adversus Græcos suscepit, et Apuliam, diu ab illis possessam, recuperavit. Nihil sine precibus aggredi solitus, angelum Domini sanctosque martyres tutelares pro se pugnantes ante aciem interdum vidit. Divina autem protectus ope, barbaras nationes precibus magis quam armis expugnavit. Pannoniam adhuc infidelem, tradita Stephano regi sorore sua in uxorem, eoque baptizato, ad Christi fidem perduxit. Virginitatem, raro exemplo, matrimonio junxit, sanctamque Cunegundam, conjugem suam, propinquis ejus, morti proximus, illibatam restituit.

Denique rebus omnibus, quæ ad imperii honorem et utilitatem pertinebant, summa prudentia dispositis, et illustribus per Galliam, Italiam et Germaniam, religiosæ munificentiæ vestigiis passim relictis, postquam heroicæ virtutis suavissimum odorem longe lateque diffuderat, sanctitate quam sceptro clarior, ad regni cœlestis præmia, consummatis vitæ laboribus, a Domino vocatus est, anno salutis millesimo vigesimo quarto. Cujus corpus in ecclesia beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli Bambergæ conditum fuit; statimque ad ejus tumulum multa miracula, Deo ipsum glorificante, patrata sunt: quibus postea rite probatis, Eugenius Tertius sanctorum numero ilium adscripsit.
Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.

Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defence a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.

He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odour of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life’s work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints.

By me kings reign, by me princes rule.[3] Thou, O Henry, didst well understand this language of heaven. In an age of wickedness, thou knewest where to find counsel and strength. Like Solomon thou didst desire Wisdom alone, and like him thou didst experience that with her are riches and glory, glorious riches and justice;[4] but more blessed than David’s son, thou didst not suffer thyself to be drawn away from Wisdom herself by those lower gifts, which were rather a test of thy love of God than an expression of His love for thee. The test, O Henry, was decisive; thou didst walk to the very end in the right path, following up loyally every consequence of our Lord’s teaching; not content to mount with many even of the best, by the gentler slopes, thou didst run with the perfect, following closely the footsteps of adorable Wisdom, in the midst of the paths of judgment.[5]

Who can gainsay what God approves, what Christ counsels, what the Church has canonized in thee and thy noble spouse? Surely kings are not placed in so pitiable a condition that the call of the Man-God cannot reach them on their thrones? Christian equality requires that princes should not be less free than their subjects to have higher ambitions than those of earth. Thou didst prove to mankind that even for the world the knowledge of the holy is true prudence.[6] By claiming the right to aspire to the highest mansions in our Heavenly Father's house (the baptismal birthright of every child of God), thou didst shine like a beacon-light under the darkest sky that ever overspread the Church; and thou didst rescue souls whom the salt of the earth, having lost its savour and being trodden under foot, could no longer preserve from corruption. It was not for thee in person to reform the sanctuary; but as chief servant of Mother Church, thou didst not fear to respect both her ancient laws and recent decrees, which are ever worthy of the Spouse, and holy as the Spirit who in every age dictates them. Thy reign was a period of sunshine before the Satanic fury which was all too soon to break as a storm over the Church. While seeking first the Kingdom of God and His justice, thou didst not abandon thy fatherland, nor the nation that had placed thee at its head. To thee above all others Germany owes the establishment in her midst of that Empire which was her glory until in our times it fell, never to rise again. Long after thy departure from this earth thy holy works were of sufficient weight in the scales of divine justice to overbalance the crimes of a Henry IV or a Frederick II, which would have compromised for ever the future of Germany. From thy throne in heaven, cast down a look of pity on the extensive domain of the Holy Empire, which owed so much to thee, and which heresy has for ever dismembered. Put to confusion those principles, unknown to Germany in happier days, which would reconstruct, for the benefit of earthly prosperity, the grandeurs of the past without the cement of the ancient faith. Return, O emperor of glorious days! return and fight for the Church; gather together the remains of Christendom upon the traditional ground of the interests common to all Catholic nations: then will the alliance, which thy able policy concluded, give to the world a security, a peace, a prosperity, which it can never enjoy so long as it remains on such a slippery footing, and exposed to the violence of every hostile agency.


[1] Time after Pentecost, Vol. III., St. Clotilde.
[2] Ps. xxi. 28.
[3] Prov. viii. 15, 16.
[4] Ibid. 18.
[5] Ibid. 20.
[6] Prov. ix. 10.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TOWERING over the waves on the shore of the Holy Land, Mount Carmel, together with the short range of the same name, forms a connecting link to two other chains, abounding with glorious memories, namely: the mountains of Galilee on the north, and those of Judea on the south.

‘In the day of My love, I brought thee out of Egypt into the land of Carmel,’[1] said the Lord to the daughter of Sion, taking the name of Carmel to represent all the blessings of the Promised Land; and when the crimes of the chosen people were about to bring Judea to ruin, the prophet cried out: ‘I looked, and behold Carmel was a wilderness: and all its cities were destroyed at the presence of the Lord, and at the presence of the wrath of His indignation.’[2] But from the midst of the Gentile world a new Sion arose, more loved than the first; eight centuries beforehand Isaias recognized her by the glory of Libanus, and the beauty of Carmel and Saron which were given her. In the sacred Canticle, also, the attendants of the Bride sing to the Spouse concerning His well-beloved, that her head is like Carmel, and her hair like the precious threads of royal purple carefully woven and dyed.[3]

There was, in fact, around Cape Carmel, an abundant fishery of the little shell-fish which furnished the regal colour. Not far from there, smoothing away the slopes of the noble mountain, flowed the torrent of Cison, that dragged the carcasses[4] of the Chanaanites, when Debbora won her famous victory. Here lies the plain where the Madianites were overthrown, and Sisara felt the power of her that was called the Mother in Israel.[5] Here Gedeon, too, marched against Madian in the name of the Woman terrible as an army set in array,[6] whose sign he had received in the dew-covered fleece. Indeed, this glorious plain of Esdrelon, which stretches away from the foot of Carmel, seems to be surrounded with prophetic indications of her who was destined from the beginning to crush the serpent's head: not far from Esdrelon, a few defiles lead to Bethulia, the city of Judith, type of Mary, who was the true joy of Israel and the honour of her people;[7] while nestling among the northern hills lies Nazareth, the white city, the flower of Galilee.[8]

When Eternal Wisdom was playing in the world, forming the hills and establishing the mountains, she destined Carmel to be the special inheritance of Eve's victorious daughter. And when the last thousand years of expectation were opening, and the desire of all nations was developing into the spirit of prophecy, the father of prophets ascended the privileged mount, thence to scan the horizon. The triumphs of David and the glories of Solomon were at an end: the sceptre of Juda, broken by the Schism of the ten tribes, threatened to fall from his hand; the worship of Baal prevailed in Israel. A long-continued drought, figure of the aridity of men's souls, had parched up every spring, and men and beasts were dying beside the empty cisterns, when Elias the Thesbite gathered the people, representing the whole human race, on Mount Carmel, and slew the lying prophets of Baal. Then, as the Scripture relates, prostrating with his face to the earth, he said to his servant: Go up, look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time: Behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot.[9]

Blessed cloud! unlike the bitter waves from which it sprang, it was all sweetness. Docile to the least breath of heaven, it rose light and humble, above the immense heavy ocean; and screening the sun, it tempered the heat that was scorching the earth and restored to the stricken world life and grace and fruitfulness. The promised Messias, the Son of Man, set His impress upon it, showing to the wicked serpent the form of the heel that was to crush Him. The prophet, personifying the human race, felt his youth renewed; and while the welcome rain was already refreshing the valleys, he ran before the chariot of the king of Israel. Thus did he traverse the great plain of Esdrelon, even to the mysteriously-named town of Jezrahel, where, according to Osee, the children of Juda and Israel were again to have but one head in the great day of Jezrahel (i.e., of the seed of God), when the Lord would seal His eternal nuptials with a new people.[10] Later on, from Sunam, near Jezrahel, the mother whose son was dead crossed the same plain of Esdrelon, in the opposite direction, and ascended Mount Carmel, to obtain from Eliseus the resurrection of her child, who was a type of us all.[11] Elias had already departed in the chariot of fire, to await the end of the world, when he is to give testimony, together with Henoch, to the son of her that was signified by the cloud;[12] and the disciple, clothed with the mantle and the spirit of his father, had taken possession, in the name of the sons of the prophets, of the august mountain honoured by the manifestation of the Queen of prophets. Henceforward Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world. Gentiles as well as Jews, philosophers and princes, came here on pilgrimage to adore the true God; while the chosen souls of the Church of the expectation, many of whom were already wandering in deserts and in mountains,[13] loved to take up their abode in its thousand grottos; for the ancient traditions seemed to linger more lovingly in its silent forests, and the perfume of its flowers foretokened the Virgin Mother. The cultus of the Queen of heaven was already established; and to the family of her devout clients, the ascetics of Carmel, might be applied the words spoken later by God to the pious descendants of Rechab: There shall not be wanting a man of this race, standing before Me for ever.[14]

At length figures gave place to the reality; the heavens dropped down their dew, and the Just One came forth from the cloud. When His work was done and He returned to His Father, leaving His blessed Mother in the world, and sending His Holy Spirit to the Church, not the least triumph of that Spirit of love was the making known of Mary to the new-born Christians of Pentecost. ‘What a happiness,’ we then remarked, ‘for those neophytes who were privileged above the rest in being brought to the Queen of heaven, the Virgin Mother of Him who was the hope of Israel! They saw this second Eve, they conversed with her, they felt for her that filial affection wherewith she inspired all the disciples of Jesus. The liturgy will speak to us at another season of these favoured ones.’[15] The promise is fulfilled to-day. In the lessons of the feast the Church tells us how the disciples of Elias and Eliseus became Christians at the first preaching of the apostles, and being permitted to hear the sweet words of the Blessed Virgin and enjoy an unspeakable intimacy with her, they felt their veneration for her immensely increased. Returning to the loved mountain, where their less fortunate fathers had lived but in hope, they built, on the very spot where Elias had seen the little cloud rise up out of the sea, an oratory to the purest of virgins; hence they obtained the name of Brothers of Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel.[16]

In the twelfth century, in consequence of the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, many pilgrims from Europe came to swell the ranks of the solitaries on the holy mountain; it therefore became expedient to give to their hitherto eremitical life a form more in accordance with the habits of Western nations. The legate Aimeric Malafaida, patriarch of Antioch, gathered them into a community under the authority of St. Berthold, who was thus the first to receive the title of Prior-General. At the commencement of the next century, Blessed Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem and also apostolic legate, completed the work of Aimeric by giving a fixed Rule to the Order, which was now, through the influence of princes and knights returned from the Holy Land, beginning to spread into Cyprus, Sicily, and the countries beyond the sea. Soon, indeed, the Christians of the East being abandoned by God to the just punishment of their sins, the vindictiveness of the conquering Saracens reached such a height in this age of trial for Palestine, that a full assembly, held on Mount Carmel under Alan the Breton, resolved upon a complete migration, leaving only a few friars eager for martyrdom to guard the cradle of the Order. The very year in which this took place (1245) Simon Stock was elected General in the first Chapter of the West, held at Aylesford in England.

Simon owed his election to the successful struggle he had maintained for the recognition of the Order which certain prelates, alleging the recent decrees of the Council of Lateran, rejected as having been newly introduced into Europe. Our Lady had then taken the cause of the friars into her own hands, and had obtained from Honorius III the decree of confirmation, which originated to-day's feast. This was neither the first nor the last favour bestowed by the sweet Virgin upon the family that had lived so long under the shadow, as it were, of her mysterious cloud, and shrouded like her in humility, with no other bond, no other pretension than the imitation of her hidden works and the contemplation of her glory. She herself had wished them to go forth from the midst of a faithless people; just as, before the close of that same thirteenth century, she would command her angels to carry into a Catholic land her blessed house of Nazareth. Whether or not the men of those days, or the short-sighted historians of our own time, ever thought of it, the one translation called for the other, just as each completes and explains the other, and each was to be, for our own Europe, the signal for wonderful favours from heaven.

In the night between the 15th and 16th of July of the year 1251, the gracious Queen of Carmel confirmed to her sons by a mysterious sign the right of citizenship she had obtained for them in their newly adopted countries; as mistress and mother of the entire religious state she conferred upon them with her queenly hands the scapular, hitherto the distinctive garb of the greatest and most ancient religious family of the West. On giving St. Simon Stock this badge, ennobled by contact with her sacred fingers, the Mother of God said to him: ‘Whosoever shall die in this habit shall not suffer eternal flames.' But not against hell fire alone was the all-powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother to be felt by those who should wear her scapular. In 1316, when every holy soul was imploring heaven to put a period to that long and disastrous widowhood of the Church which followed on the death of Clement V, the Queen of Saints appeared to James d’Euse, whom the world was soon to hail as John XXII; she foretold to him his approaching elevation to the Sovereign Pontificate, and at the same time recommended him to publish the privilege she had obtained from her Divine Son for her children of Carmel—viz., a speedy deliverance from purgatory. ‘I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life etemal.’ These are the words of our Lady herself, quoted by John XXII in the Bull which he published for the purpose of making known the privilege, and which was called the Sabbatine Bull on account of the day chosen by the glorious benefactress for the exercise of her mercy.

We are aware of the attempts made to nullify the authenticity of these heavenly concessions; but our extremely limited time will not allow us to follow up these worthless struggles in all their endless details. The attack of the chief assailant, the too famous Launoy, was condemned by the Apostolic See; and after, as well as before, these contradictions, the Roman Pontiffs confirmed, as much as need be, by their supreme authority, the substance and even the letter of the precious promises. The reader may find in special works the enumeration of the many indulgences with which the Popes have, time after time, enriched the Carmelite family, as if earth would vie with heaven in favouring it. The munificence of Mary, the pious gratitude of her sons for the hospitality given them by the West, and lastly, the authority of St. Peter’s successors, soon made these spiritual riches accessible to all Christians, by the institution of the Confraternity of the holy Scapular, the members whereof participate in the merits and privileges of the whole Carmelite Order. Who shall tell the graces, often miraculous, obtained through this humble garb? Who could count the faithful now enrolled in the holy militia? When Benedict XIII, in the eighteenth century, extended the feast of July 16 to the whole Church, he did but give an official sanction to the universality already gained by the cultus of the Queen of Carmel.

The holy liturgy gives the following account of the history and object of the feast:

Cum sacra Pentecostes die apostoli, cœlitus afflati, variis linguis loquerentur, et invocato augustissimo Jesu nomine, mira multa patrarent:viri plurimi (ut fertur), qui vestigiis sanctorum prophetarum Eliæ ac Elisei institerant, et Johannis Baptistæ præconio ad Christi adventum comparati fuerant, rerum veritate perspecta atque probata, Evangelicam fidem confestim amplexati sunt ac peculiari quodam affectu beatissimam Virginem (cujus colloquiis ac familiaritate feliciter frui potuere) adeo venerari cœperunt, ut primi omnium in eo montis Carmeli loco, ubi Elias olim ascendentem nebulam, Virginis typo insignem, conspexerat, eidem purissimæ Virgini sacellum construxerint.

Ad novum ergo sacellum sæpe quotidie convenientes, ritibus piis, precationibus ac laudibus beatissimam Virginem, velut singularem Ordinis tutelam colebant. Quamobrem fratres beatæ Mariæ de Monte Carmelo passim ab omnibus appellari cœperunt, eumque titulum Summi Pontifices non modo confirmarunt, sed et indulgentias peculiares iis, qui eo titulo vel Ordinem, vel fratres singulos nuncuparent, concessere. Nec vero nomenclaturam tantum magnificentissima Virgo tribuit et tutelam; verum et insigne sacri scapularis, quod beato Simoni Anglico præbuit, ut cœlesti hac veste Ordo ille sacer dignosceretur, et a malis ingruentibus protegeretur. Ac demum cum olim in Europa Ordo esset ignotus, et ob id apud Honorium Tertium non pauci pro illius exstinctione instarent, adstitit Honorio noctu piissima Virgo Maria, planeque jussit, ut institutum et homines benigne complecteretur.

Non in hoc tantum sæculo Ordinem sibi tam acceptum multis prærogativis beatissima virgo insignivit; verum et in alio (cum ubique et potentia et misericordia plurimum valeat) filios in scapularis societatem relatos, qui abstinentiam modicam, precesque paucas eis præscriptas frequentarunt, ac pro sui status ratione castitatem coluerunt, materno piane affectu, dum igne purgatorii expiantur, solari, ac in cœlestem patriam obtentu suo quantocius pie creditur efierre. Tot ergo tantisque beneficiis Ordo cumulatus, solemnem beatissimæ Virginis Commemorationem ritu perpetuo ad ejusdem Virginis gloriam quotannis celebrandam instituit.
When on the holy day of Pentecost the apostles, through heavenly inspiration, spoke divers tongues and worked many miracles by the invocation of the most holy name of Jesus, it is said that many men who were walking in the footsteps of the holy prophets Elias and Eliseus, and had been prepared for the coming of Christ by the preaching of John the Baptist, saw and acknowledged the truth, and at once embraced the faith of the Gospel. These new Christians were so happy as to be able to enjoy familiar intercourse with the Blessed Virgin, and venerated her with so special an affection, that they, before all others, built a chapel to the purest of Virgins on that very spot of Mount Carmel where Elias of old had seen the cloud, a remarkable type of the Virgin ascending.

Many times each day they came together to the new oratory, and with pious ceremonies, prayers, and praises honoured the most Blessed Virgin as the special protectress of their Order. For this reason, people from all parts began to call them the Brethren of the Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel; and the Sovereign Pontiffs not only confirmed this title, but also granted special indulgences to whoever called either the whole Order or individual Brothers by that name. But the most noble Virgin not only gave them her name and protection, she also bestowed upon blessed Simon the Englishman the holy scapular as a token, wishing the holy Order to be distinguished by that heavenly garment and to be protected by it from the evils that were assailing it. Moreover, as formerly the Order was unknown in Europe, and on this account many were importuning Honorius III for its abolition, the loving Virgin Mary appeared by night to Honorius and clearly bade him receive both the Order and its members with kindness.

The Blessed Virgin has enriched the Order so dear to her with many privileges, not only in this world, but also in the next (for everywhere she is most powerful and merciful). For it is piously believed that those of her children who, having been enrolled in the Confraternity of the Scapular, have fulfilled the small abstinence and said the few prayers prescribed, and have observed chastity as far as their state of life demands, will be consoled by our Lady while they are being purified in the fire of purgatory, and will through her intercession be taken thence as soon as possible to the heavenly country. The Order, thus laden with so many graces, has ordained that this solemn commemoration of the Blessed Virgin should be yearly observed for ever, to her greater glory.

Queen of Carmel, hear the voice of the Church as she sings to thee on this day. When the world was languishing in ceaseless expectation, thou wert already its hope. Unable as yet to understand thy greatness, it nevertheless, during the reign of types, loved to clothe thee with the noblest symbols. In admiration and in gratitude for benefits foreseen, it surrounded thee with all the notions of beauty, strength, and grace suggested by the loveliest landscapes, the flowery plains, the wooded heights, the fertile valleys, especially of Carmel, whose very name signifies 'the plantation of the Lord.' On its summit our fathers, knowing that Wisdom had set her throne in the cloud, hastened by their burning desires the coming of the saving sign: at length there was given to their prayers what the Scripture calls perfect knowledge, and the knowledge of the great paths of the clouds.[17] And when He who maketh His chariot and His dwelling in the obscurity of a cloud had herein shown Himself, in a nearer approach, to the practised eye of the father of prophets, then did a chosen band of holy persons gather in the solitudes of the blessed mountain, as heretofore Israel in the desert, to watch the least movements of the mysterious cloud, to receive from it their guidance in the paths of life, and their light in the long night of expectation.

O Mary, who from that hour didst preside over the watches of God’s army, without ever failing for a single day: now that the Lord has truly come down through thee, it is no longer the land of Judea alone, but the whole earth that thou coverest as a cloud, shedding down blessings and abundance. Thine ancient clients, the sons of the prophets, experienced this truth when, the land of promise becoming unfaithful, they were forced to transplant into other climes their customs and traditions; they found that even into our far West the cloud of Carmel had poured its fertilizing dew, and that nowhere would its protection be wanting to them. This feast, O Mother of our God, is the authentic attestation of their gratitude, increased by the fresh benefits wherewith thy bounty accompanied the new exodus of the remnant of Israel. And we, the sons of ancient Europe, we too have a right to echo the expression of their loving joy; for since their tents have been pitched around the hills where the new Sion is built upon Peter, the cloud has shed all around showers of blessing more precious than ever, driving back into the abyss the flames of hell and extinguishing the fire of purgatory.

Whilst, then, we join with them in thanksgiving to thee, deign thyself, O Mother of divine grace, to pay our debt of gratitude to them. Protect them ever. Guard them in these unhappy times, when the hypocrisy of modem persecutors has more fatal results than the rage of the Saracens. Preserve the life in the deep roots of the old stock, and rejoice it by the accession of new branches, bearing, like the old ones, flowers and fruits that shall be pleasing to thee, O Mary. Keep up in the hearts of the sons that spirit of retirement and contemplation which animated their fathers under the shadow of the cloud; maytheir sisters, too, wheresoever the Holy Spirit has established them, be ever faithful to the traditions of the glorious past, so that their holy lives may avert the tempest and draw down blessings from the mysterious cloud. May the perfume of penance that breathes from the holy mountain purify the now corrupted atmosphere around; and may Carmel ever present to the Spouse the type of the beauties He loves to behold in His Bride!


[1] Cf. Jerem. ii. 2, 7.
[2] Ibid. iv. 26.
[3] Cant. vii. 5.
[4] Judg. v. 21.
[5] Ibid. 7.
[6] Cant. vi. 3, 9.
[7] Judith xv. 10.
[8] Hieron. Epist. xlvi. Paulæ et Eustochii ad Marcellam.
[9] 3 Reg. xviii.
[10] Osee i. 11, and ii. 14-24.
[11] 4 Reg. iv. 8-37.
[12] Apoc. xi. 3, 7.
[13] Heb. xi. 38.
[14] Jerem. xxxv. 19.
[15] Paschal Time, Vol. III., p. 314.
[16] Lessons of 2nd Nocturn.
[17] Job xxxvii. 16.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ALTHOUGH we are not commanded to follow the saints to the extremities where their heroic virtue leads them, nevertheless, from their inaccessible heights, they still guide us along the easier paths of the plain. As the eagle upon the orb of day, they fixed their unflinching gaze upon the Sun of Justice; and, irresistibly attracted by His divine splendour, they poised their flight far above the cloudy region where we are glad to screen our feeble eyes. But however varied be the degrees of brightness for them and for us, the light itself is unchangeable, provided that, like them, we draw it from the authentic source. When the weakness of our sight would lead us to mistake false glimmerings for the truth, let us think of these friends of God; if we have not courage enough to imitate them, where the commandments leave us free to do so or not, let us at least conform our judgments and appreciations to theirs: their view is more trustworthy, because farther reaching; their sanctity is nothing but the rectitude wherewith they follow up unflinchingly, even to its central focus, the heavenly ray, whereof we can scarcely bear a tempered reflection. Above all, let us not be led so far astray by the will-o’-the-wisps of this world of darkness as to wish to direct, by their false light, the actions of the saints: can the owl judge better of the light than the eagle?

Descending from the pure firmament of the holy liturgy even to the humblest conditions of Christian life, the light which led Alexius to the highest point of detachment is thus subdued by the apostle to the capacity of all: ‘If any man take a wife, he hath not sinned, nor the virgin whom he marrieth; nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh, which I would fain spare you. This, therefore, I say, brethren: the time is short; it remaineth, therefore, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away.’[1]

Yet it passes not too quickly for our Lord to show that His words never pass away. Five centuries after the glorious death of Alexius, the eternal God, to whom distance and time are as nothing, gave him a hundredfold the posterity he had renounced for the love of Him. The monastery on the Aventine, which still bears his name together with that of the martyr Boniface, had become the common patrimony of East and West in the Eternal City; the two great monastic families of Basil and Benedict united under the roof of Alexius, and the seed taken from the tomb by the monk-bishop St. Adalbert brought forth the fruit of faith among the Northern nations. The Church gives us the following very short notice of our hero:

Alexius Romanorum nobilissimus, propter eximium Jesu Christi amorem prima nocte nuptiarum peculiari Dei monitu relinquens intactam sponsam, illustrium orbis terræ ecclesiarum peregrinationem suscepit. Quibus in itineribus cum ignotus septemdecim annos fuisset, aliquando apud Edessam, Syriæ urbem, per imaginem sanctissimæ Mariæ Virginis, ejus nomine divulgato, inde navi discessit. Ad portum Romanum appulsus, a patre suo tamquam alienus pauper hospitio accipitur: apud quem omnibus incognitus, cum decem et septem annos vixisset, relicto scripto sui nominis, sanguinis, ac totius vital cursu, migravit in cœlum, lnnocentio Primo Summo Pontifice.
Alexius was the son of one of Rome’s noblest families. Through his exceeding love for Jesus Christ, he, by a special inspiration from God, left his wife still a virgin on the first night of the marriage, and undertook a pilgrimage to the most illustrious churches all over the world. For seventeen years he remained unknown, while performing these pilgrimages, and then his name was revealed at Edessa, a town of Syria, by an image of the most holy Virgin Mary. He therefore left Syria by sea and sailed to the port of Rome, where he was received as a guest by his own father, who took him for a poor stranger. He lived in his father's house, unknown to all, for seventeen years, and then passed to heaven, leaving a written paper which revealed his name, his family, and the story of his whole life. His death occurred in the Pontificate of Innocent I.

Man of God! Such is the name given thee, O Alexius, by heaven; the name whereby thou art known in the East, and which Rome sanctions by her choice of the Epistle to be read in this day's Mass.[2] The apostle there applies this beautiful title to his disciple Timothy, while recommending to him the very virtues thou didst practise in so eminent a degree. This sublime designation, which shows us the dignity of heaven within the reach of men, thou didst prefer to the proudest titles earth could bestow. These latter were, indeed, offered thee, together with all the honours permitted by God to those who are satisfied with merely not offending Him; but thy great soul despised the transitory gifts of the world. In the midst of the splendours of thy marriage-feast, thou didst hear a music which charms the soul from earth-that music which, two centuries before, the noble Cecily, too, had heard in another palace of the queen city. The hidden God, who left the joys of the heavenly Jerusalem and on earth had not where to lay His head, discovered Himself to thy pure heart; and being filled with His love, thou hadst also the mind which was in Christ Jesus.[3] With the freedom, which yet remained to thee, of choosing between the perfect life, and the consummation of an earthly union, thou didst resolve to be a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth,[4] that thou mightest merit to possess eternal Wisdom in thy heavenly fatherland. O wonderful paths! O unsearchable ways whereby that Wisdom of the Father guides all those who are won by love! The Queen of heaven, as if applauding this spectacle worthy of angels, revealed to the East the illustrious name thou wouldst fain conceal under the garb of holy poverty. A second flight brought thee back, after seventeen years’ absence, to the land of thy birth, and even there thou wert able, by thy valiant faith, to dwell as in a strangle land. Under that staircase of thy home, now held in loving veneration, thou wert exposed to the insults of thy own slaves, being but an unknown beggar in the eyes of thy father and mother, and of the bride who still mourned for thee. There didst thou spend, without ever betraying thyself, another seventeen years, awaiting thy happy passage to thy true home in heaven. God Himself made it an honour to be called thy God, when at the moment of thy precious death a mighty voice resounded through Rome, bidding all seek the ‘man of God.’ Remember, O Alexius, what the voice added concerning that man of God: ‘He shall pray for Rome, and shall be heard.’ Pray, then, for the illustrious city of thy birth, which owed to thee its safety under the assault of the barbarians, and which now surrounds thee with far greater honours than it would have done hadst thou but upheld within its walls the traditions of thy noble ancestors. Hell boasts of having snatched that city from the successors of Peter and of Innocent: pray, and may heaven hear thee once more, against the modern successors of Alaric. Guided by the light of thy sublime actions, may the Christian people rise more and more above the earth; lead us all safely by the narrow way to the home of our heavenly Father!


[1] Cf. 1 Cor. vil. 28-31.
[2] 1 Tim. vi. 11.
[3] Phil. ii. 5.
[4] Heb. xi. 13.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Holy Spirit, who desires to raise our souls above this earth, does not therefore despise our bodies. The whole man is His creature and His temple, and it is the whole man He must lead to eternal happiness. The Body of the Man-God was His masterpiece in material creation; the divine delight He takes in that perfect Body He extends in a measure to ours; for that same Body, framed by Him in the womb of the most pure Virgin, was from the very beginning the model on which ours are formed. In the re-creation which followed the Fall, the Body of the Man-God was the means of the world’s redemption; and the economy of our salvation requires that the virtue of His saving Blood should not reach the soul except through the body, the divine sacraments being all applied to the soul through the medium of the senses. Admirable is the harmony of nature and grace; the latter so honours the material part of our being that she will not draw the soul without it to the light and to heaven. For in the unfathomable mystery of sanctification, the senses do not merely serve as a passage; they themselves experience the power of the sacraments, like the higher faculities of which they are the channels; and the sanctified soul finds the humble companion of her pilgrimage already associated with her in the dignity of divine adoption, which will cause the glorification of our bodies after the resurrection. Hence the care given to the very body of our neighbour is raised to the nobleness of holy charity; for being inspired by this charity, such acts partake of the love wherewith our heavenly Father surrounds even the members of His beloved children. I was sick, and ye visited Me,[1] our Lord will say on the last day, showing that even the infirmities of our fallen state in this land of exile, the bodies of those whom He deigns to call His brethren, share in the dignity belonging by right to the eternal. only-begotten Son of the Father. The Holy Spirit, too, whose office it is to recall to the Church all the words of our Saviour, has certainly not forgotten this one; the seed, falling into the good earth of chosen souls, has produced a hundredfold the fruits of grace and heroic self-devotion. Camillus of Lellis received it lovingly, and the mustard-seed became a great tree offering its shade to the birds of the air. The Order of Regular Clerks, Servants of the Sick, or of Happy Death, deserves the gratitude of mankind; as a sign of heaven's approbation, angels have more than once been seen assisting its members at the bedside of the dying.

The liturgical account of St. Camillus' life is so full that we need add nothing to it.

Camillus Bucclanici Theatinre diœcesis oppido ex nobili Lelliorum familia natus est matre sexagenaria, cui gravidæ visum est per quietem, puerulum Crucis signo in pectore munitum, et agmini puerorum idem signum gestantium præeuntem, se peperisse. Adolescens rem militarem secutus, sæculi vitiis aliquamdiu indulsit, donec vigesimum quantum agens ætatis annum, tanto supernæ gratiæ lumine, divinæque offensæ dolore correptus fuit, ut uberrimo lacrymarum imbre illico perfusus, anteactæ vitæ sordes indesinenter abstergere, novumque induere hominem firmiter decreverit. Quare ipso, quo id contigit. Purificationis beatissimæ Virginis festo die, ad Fratres Minores, quos Capuccinos vocant, convolans, ut eorum numero adscriberetur, summis precibus exoravit. Voti compos semel atque iterum factus est; sed fœdo ulcere, quo aliquando laboraverat, in ejus tibia iterato recrudescente, divinæ providentiæ majora de eo disponentis consilio humiliter se subjecit, suique victor, illius religionis bis expetitum, et susceptum habitum bis dimisit.

Romam profectus, in nosocomium, quod Insanabilium dicitur, receptus est: cujus etiam administrationem, ob perspectas ejus virtutes sibi demandatam, summa integritate ac sollicitudine vere paterna peregit. Omnium ægrorum servum se reputans, eorum sternere lectulos, sordes tergere, ulceribus mederi, agonique extremo piis precibus et cohortationibus opem ferre solemne habuit; quibus in muneribus præclara præbuit admirabilis patientiæ, invictæ fortitudinis, et heroicæ charitatis exempla. Verum cum animarum in extremis periclitantium, quod unice intendebat, levamini subsidium litterarum plurimum conferre intelligeret, triginta duos annos natus, in primis grammaticæ elementis tirocinium inter pueros iterum subire non erubuit. Sacerdotio postea rite initiatus, nonnullis sibi adjunctis sociis, prima jecit Congregationis Clericorum Regularium infirmis ministrantium fundamenta, irrito conatu obnitente humani generis hoste, nam Camillus cœlesti voce e Christi crucifixi, manus etiam de ligno avulsas admirando prodigio protendentis, simulacro emissa mirabiliter confirmatus, ordinem suum a Sede Apostolica approbari obtinuit; sodalibus quarto obstrictis maxime arduo voto, infirmis, quos etiam pestis infecerit, ministrandi. Quod institutum, quam foret Deo acceptum, et animarum saluti proficuum, sanctus Philippus Nerius, qui Camillo a sacris confessionibus erat, comprobavit, dum ejus alumnis decedentium agoni opem ferentibus angelos suggerentes verba sæpius se vidisse testatus est.

Arctioribus hisce vinculis ægrotantium ministerio mancipatus, mirum est qua alacritate, nullis fractus laboribus, nullis deterritus vitæ periculis, diu noctuque ad supremum usque spiritum, eorum commodis vigilaverit. Omnibus omnia factus, vilissima quæque officia demississimo obsequio, flexisque plerumque genibus, veluti Christum ipsum cerneret in infirmis, hilari promptoque animo arripiebat; utque omnium indigentiis præsto esset, generalem ordinis præfecturam, cœlique delicias, quibus in contemplatione defixus affluebat, sponte dimisit. Paternus vero illius erga miseros amor tum maxime effulsit, dum et Urbs contagioso morbo primum, deinde extrema annonæ laboraret inopia et Nolæ in Campania dira pestis grassaretur. Tanta denique in Deum et proximum charitate exarsit ut angelus nuncupari, et angelorum opem in vario itinerum discrimine experiri promereretur. Prophetiæ dono, et gratia sanitatum præditus, arcana quoque cordium inspexit; ejusque precibus nunc cibaria multiplicata sunt, nunc aqua in vinum conversa. Tandem vigiliis, jejuniis, et assiduis attritus laboribus, cum pelle tantum et ossibus constare videretur, quinque molestis æque ac diutinis morbis, quos misericordias Domini appellabat, fortiter toleratis, sacramentis munitus, Romæ inter suavissima Jesu et Mariæ nomina, ad ea verba: Mitis atque festivus Christi Jesu tibi adspectus appareat: qua prædixerat hora, obdormivit in Domino, pridie Idus Julii, anno salutis millesimo sexcentesimo decimo quarto, ætatis suæ sexagesimo quinto: quem pluribus illustrem miraculis Benedictus decimusquartus solemni ritu sanctorum fastis adscripsit; et Leo decimus tertius, ex sacrorum Catholici orbis antistitum voto, ac Rituum Congregationis Consulto cœlestem omnium hospitalium et infirmorum ubique degentium patronum declaravit, ipsiusque nomen in agonizantium Litaniis invocari præcepit.
Camillus was born at Bacchianico, a town of the diocese of Chieti. He was descended from the noble family of the Lelli, and his mother was sixty years old at the time of his birth. While she was with child with him, she dreamt that she gave birth to a little boy, who was signed on the breast with the cross, and was the leader of a band of children, wearing the same sign. As a young man he followed the career of arms. and gave himself up for a time to worldly vices, but in his twenty-sixth year he was so enlightened by heavenly grace, and seized with so great a sorrow for having offended God, that on the spot, shedding a flood of tears, he firmly resolved un ceasingly to wash away the stains of his past life, and to put on the new man. Therefore on the very day of his conversion, which happened to be the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, he hastened to the Friars Minor, who are called Capuchins, and begged most earnestly to be admitted into their number. His request was granted on this and on a subsequent occasion, but each time a horrible ulcer, from which he had suffered before, broke out again upon his leg; wherefore he humbly submitted himself to the designs of Divine Providence, which was preparing him for greater things, and conquering himself he twice laid aside the Franciscan habit, which he had twice asked for and obtained. 

He set out for Rome and was received into the hospital called that of the Incurables. His virtues became so well known that the management of the institution was entrusted to him, and he discharged it with the greatest integrity and a truly paternal solicitude. He esteemed himself the servant of all the sick, and was accustomed to make their beds, to wash them, to heal their sores, and to aid them in their last agony with his prayers and pious exhortations. In discharging these offices he gave striking proofs of his wonderful patience, unconquered fortitude, and heroic charity. But when he perceived how great an advantage the knowledge of letters would be to him in assisting those in danger of death, to whose service he had devoted his life, he was not ashamed at the age of thirty-two to return again to school and to learn the first elements of grammar among children. Being afterwards promoted in due order to the priesthood, he was joined by several companions, and in spite of the opposition attempted by the enemy of the human race, laid the foundations of the Congregation of Regular Clerks, Servants of the Sick. In this work Camillus was wonderfully strengthened by a heavenly voice coming from an image of Christ crucified, which, by an admirable miracle loosing the hands from the wood, stretched them out towards him. He obtained the approbation of his order from the Apostolic See. Its members bind themselves by a fourth and very arduous vow—namely, to minister to the sick, even those infected with the plague. St. Philip Neri, who was his confessor, attested how pleasing this institution was to God, and how greatly it contributed toward the salvation of souls; for he declared that he often saw angels suggesting words to disciples of Camillus, when they were assisting those in their agony.

When he had thus bound himself more strictly than before to the service of the sick, he devoted himself with marvellous ardour to watching over their interests, by night and by day, till his last breath. No labour could tire him, no peril of his life could affright him. He became all to all, and claimed for himself the lowest offices, which he discharged promptly and joyfully, in the humblest manner, often on bended knees, as though he saw Christ Himself present in the sick. In order to be more at the command of all in need, he of his own accord laid aside the general government of the order, and deprived himself of the heavenly delights with which he was inundated during contemplation. His fatherly love for the unfortunate shone out with greatest brilliancy when Rome was suffering first from a contagious distemper, and then from a great scarcity of provisions; and also when a dreadful plague was ravaging Nola in Campania. In a word, he was consumed with so great a love of God and his neighbour that he was called an angel, and merited to be helped by the angels in different dangers which threatened him on his journeys. He was endowed with the gift of prophecy and the grace of healing, and he could read the secrets of hearts. By his prayers he at one time multiplied food, and at another changed water into wine. At length, worn out by watching, fasting, and ceaseless labour, he seemed to be nothing but skin and bone. He endured courageously five long and troublesome sicknesses, which he used to call the “Mercies of the Lord"; and, strengthened by the sacraments, with the sweet names of Jesus and Mary on his lips, he fell asleepin our Lord, while these words were being said: “May Christ Jesus appear to thee with a sweet and gracious countenance.” He died at Rome, at the hour he had foretold, on the day before the Ides of July, in the year of salvation 1614, the sixty-fifth of his age. He was made illustrious by many miracles, and Benedict XIV solemnly enrolled him upon the calendar of the saints. Leo XIII, at the desire of the bishops of the Catholic world, and with the advice of the Congregation of Rites, declared him the heavenly patron of all nurses and of the sick in all places, and ordered his name to be invoked in the Litanies for the Dying.

Angel of charity, by what wonderful paths did the Divine Spirit lead thee! The vision of thy pious mother remained long unrealized; before taking on thee the holy Cross and enlisting comrades under that sacred sign, thou didst serve the odious tyrant, who will have none but slaves under his standard, and the passion of gambling was wellnigh thy ruin. O Camillus, remembering the danger thou didst incur, have pity on the unhappy slaves of passion; free them from the madness wherewith they risk, to the caprice of chance, their goods, their honour, and their peace in this world and in the next. Thy history proves the power of grace to break the strongest ties and alter the most inveterate habits: may these men, like thee, turn their bent towards God, and change their rashness into love of the dangers to which holy charity may expose them! For charity, too, has its risks, even the peril of life, as the Lord of charity laid down His life for us: a heavenly game of chance, which thou didst play so well that the very angels applauded thee. But what is the hazarding of earthly life compared with the prize reserved for the winner?

According to the commandment of the Gospel read by the Church in thy honour, may we all, like thee, love our brethren as Christ has loved us! Few, says St. Augustine, love one another to this end, that God may be all in all.[2] Thou, O Camillus, having this love, didst exercise it by preference towards those suffering members of Christ's mystic Body, in whom our Lord revealed Himself more clearly to thee, and in whom His kingdom was nearer at hand. Therefore has the Church in gratitude chosen thee, together with John of God, to be guardian of those homes for the suffering which she has founded with a mother’s thoughtful care. Do honour to that Mother’s confidence. Protect the hospitals against the attempts of an odious and incapable secularization, which, in its eagerness to lose the souls, sacrifices even the corporal well-being of the unhappy mortals committed to the care of its evil philanthropy. In order to meet our increasing miseries, multiply thy sons, and make them worthy to be assisted by angels. Wherever we may be in this valley of exile when the hour of our last struggle sounds, make use of thy precious prerogative which the holy liturgy honours to-day; help us, by the spirit of holy love, to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown!


[1] St. Matt. xxv. 36.
[2] Homily on the Gospel of the day. In Joann. Tract. lxxxiii.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FOR the second time in July a constellation of seven stars shines in the heavens. More fortunate than Felicitas, Symphorosa preceded in the arena the seven sons she was offering to God. From the throne where he was already reigning crowned with the martyr’s diadem, Getulius the tribune, father of this illustrious family, applauded the combat whereby his race earned a far greater nobility than that of patrician blood, and gave to Rome a grander glory than was ever dreamed of by her heroes and poets. The Emperor Adrian, corrupt yet brilliant, sceptical yet superstitious, like the society around him, presided in person at the defeat of his gods. Threatening to bum the valiant woman in sacrifice to the idols, he received this courageous answer: ‘Thy gods cannot receive me in sacrifice; but if thou bum me and my sons for the name of Christ, my God, I shall cause thy demons to bum with more cruel flames!’ The execution of the mother and her sons was, indeed, the signal for a period of peace, during which the Kingdom of our Lord was considerably extended. Jerusalem, having under the leadership of a last false Messias revolted against Rome, was punished by being deprived of her very name; but the Church received the glory which the Synagogue once possessed when she produced the mother of the Machabees.

Another glory was reserved for this eighteenth day of July, in the year 1870: the (Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, presided over by the immortal Pius IX, defined in its constitution, Pastor Æternus, the full, supreme, and immediate power of the Roman Pontiff over all the Churches, and pronounced anathema against all who should refuse to recognize the personal infallibility of the same Roman Pontiff, speaking ex cathedra—i.e., defining, as universal pastor, any doctrine concerning faith or morals. We may also remark that during these same days—viz., on a Sunday in the middle of July—the Greeks make a commemoration of the first six general councils: Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and the second and third of Constantinople. Thus, during these midsummer days, we are in the midst of feasts of heavenly light; and let us not forget that it is martyrdom, the supreme act of faith, that merits and produces light. Doubtless, Divine Wisdom, who plays in the world with number, weight, and measure, planned the beautiful coincidence which unites these two days, July 18, 136, and July 18, 1870. If in these latter days the word of God has been set free, it is owing to the bloodshed by our fathers in its defence. The liturgy gives but a very short account of the immortal combat which glorifies this day:

Symphorosa Tiburtina, Getulii martyris uxor, ex eo septem filios peperit, Crescentium, Julianum, Nemesium, Primitivum, Justinum, Stacteum, et Eugeniura: qui omnes propter Christianæ fidei professionem una cum matre, Adriano imperatore comprehensi sunt. Quorum pietas multis variisque tentata suppliciis, cum stabilis permaneret mater, quæ filiis fidei magistra fuerat, dux eisdem ad martyrium exstitit. Nam saxo ad collum alligato in profluentem dejicitur: cujus corpus conquisitum a fratre ejus Eugenio sepelitur. Postridie ejus diei, qui fuit decimoquinto calendas Augusti, septem fratres singuli ad palum alligati, varie sunt interfecti. Crescentio guttur ferro transfigitur: Juliano pectus confoditur: Nemesio cor transverberatur: Primitivo trajicitur umbilicus: Justinus mcmbratim secatur: Stacteus telis configitur: Eugenius a pectore in duas partes dividitur. Ita octo hostiæ Deo gratissimæ sunt immolatæ. Corpora in altissimam foveam projecta sunt via Tiburtina, nono ab Urbe lapide: quæ postea Romam translata, condita sunt in Ecclesia Sancti Angeli in piscina.
Symphorosa, a native of Tivoli, was the wife of the martyr Getulius. She bore him seven sons, Crescentius, Julian, Nemesius, Primitivus, Justin, Stacteus, and Eugenius. Under the Emperor Adrian, they were all arrested, together with her, on account of their profession of the Christian faith. Their piety was tried by many different tortures, and, on their remaining constant, the mother, who had taught her sons, led the way to martyrdom. She was thrown into the river, with a huge stone tied round her neck. Her brother Eugenius searched for her body and gave it burial. The next day, which was the fifteenth of the Calends of August, the seven brothers were tied to stakes and put to death in different ways. Crescentius had his throat transfixed; Julian was wounded in the breast; Nemesius was pierced in the heart, and Primitivus in the stomach; Justin was cut to pieces, limb by limb; Stacteus was pierced with darts, and Eugenius was cut in two from the breast. Thus eight victims most pleasing to God were immolated. Their bodies were thrown into a deep pit on the Tiburtian Way, nine miles from Rome; but they were afterwards translated into the city and buried in the Church of the Holy Angel in the Fish Market.

O Symphorosa, thou wife, sister, and mother of martyrs, thy desires are amply fulfilled; followed by thy seven children, thou rejoinest in the court of the Eternal King thy husband Getulius and his brother Amantius, brave combatants in the imperial army, but far more valiant soldiers of Christ. The words of our Lord: A man's enemies shall be they of his own household,[1] are abrogated in heaven; nor can this other sentence be there applied: He that loveth father and mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.[2] There, the love of Christ our King predominates over all other loves; yet, far from extinguishing them, it makes them ten times stronger by putting its own energy into them; and, far from having to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother,[3] it sets a divine seal upon the family and rivets its bonds for all eternity.

What nobility, O heroes, have ye conferred upon the world! Men may look up with more confidence towards heaven, for the angels will not despise a race that can produce such valiant combatants. The perfume of your holocaust accompanied your souls to the throne of God, and an effusion of grace was poured down in return. From the luminous track left by your martyrdom have sprung forth new splendours in our own days. With joyful gratitude we hail the providential reappearance, immediately after the Vatican Council, of the tomb which first received your sacred relics on the morrow of your triumph. Soldiers of Christ! preserve in us the gifts ye have bestowed on us; convince the many Christians who have forgotten it, that faith is the most precious possession of the just.


[1] St. Matt. x. 36.
[2] Ibid. 37.
[3] Ibid. 35.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

VINCENT was a man of faith that worketh by charity[1] At the time he came into the world—viz., at the close of the same century in which Calvin was born—the Church was mourning over many nations separated from the faith; the Turks were harassing all the coasts of the Mediterranean. France, worn out by forty years of religious strife, was shaking off the yoke of heresy from within, while by a foolish stroke of policy she gave it external liberty. The Eastern and Northern frontiers were suffering the most terrible devastations, and the West and centre were the scene of civil strife and anarchy. In this state of confusion, the condition of souls was still more lamentable. In the towns alone was there any sort of quiet, any possibility of prayer. The country people, forgotten, sacrificed, subject to the utmost miseries, had none to support and direct them but a clergy too often abandoned by their bishops, unworthy of the ministry, and wellnigh as ignorant as their flocks. Vincent was raised up by the Holy Spirit to obviate all these evils. The world admires the works of the humble shepherd of Buglose, but it knows not the secret of their vitality. Philanthropy would imitate them; but its establishments of to-day are destroyed to-morrow, like castles built by children in the sand, while the institution it would fain supersede remains strong and unchanged, the only one capable of meeting the necessities of suffering humanity. The reason of this is not far to seek: faith alone can understand the mystery of suffering, having penetrated its secret in the Passion of our Lord; and charity that would be stable must be founded on faith. Vincent loved the poor because he loved the God whom his faith beheld in them. ‘O God!’ he used to say, ‘ it does us good to see the poor, if we look at them in the light of God, and think of the high esteem in which Jesus Christ holds them. Often enough they have scarcely the appearance or the intelligence of reasonable beings, so rude and so earthly are they. But look at them by the light of faith, and you will see that they represent the Son of God, who chose to be poor; He in His Passion had scarcely the appearance of a man; He seemed to the Gentiles to be a fool, and to the Jews a stumbling-block, moreover He calls Himself the evangelist of the poor: evangelizare pauperibus misit me.’[2] This title of evangelist of the poor is the one that Vincent desired for himself, the starting-point and the explanation of all that he did in the Church. His one aim was to labour for the poor and the outcast; all the rest, he said, was but secondary. And he added, speaking to his sons of St. Lazare: ‘We should never have laboured for the candidates for priesthood, nor in the ecclesiastical seminaries, had we not deemed it necessary, in order to keep the people in good condition, to preserve in them the fruits of the missions, and to procure them good priests.’ That he might be able to consolidate his work in all its aspects, our Lord inspired Anne of Austria to make him a member of the Council of Conscience, and to place in his hands the office of extirpating the abuses among the higher clergy and of appointing pastors to the churches of France. We cannot here relate the history of a man in whom universal charity was, as it were, personified. But from the bagnio of Tunis, where he was a slave, to the ruined provinces for which he found millions of money, all the labours he underwent for the relief of every physical suffering were inspired by his zeal for the apostolate: by caring for the body, he strove to reach and succour the soul. At a time when men rejected the Gospel while striving to retain its benefits, certain wise men attributed Vincent's charity to philosophy. Nowadays they go further still, and in order logically to deny the author of the works they deny the works themselves. But if any there be who still hold the former opinion, let them listen to his own words, and then judge of his principles: ‘What is done for charity’s sake is done for God. It is not enough for us that we love God ourselves; our neighbour also must love him; neither can we love our neighbour as ourselves unless we procure for him the good we are bound to desire for ourselves—viz., divine love, which unites us to our Sovereign Good. We must love our neighbour as the image of God and the object of His love, and must try to make men love their Creator in return, and love one another also with mutual charity for the love of God, who so loved them as to deliver His own Son to death for them. But let us, I beg of you, look upon this Divine Saviour as a perfect pattern of the charity we must bear to our neighbour.’

The theophilanthropy of a century ago had no more right than had an atheist or a deist philosophy to rank Vincent, as it did, among the great men of its Calendar. Not nature, nor the pretended divinities of false science, but the God of Christians, the God who became Man to save us by taking our miseries upon Himself, was the sole inspirer of the greatest modern benefactor of the human race, whose favourite saying was: 'Nothing pleases me except in Jesus Christ.’ He observed the right order of charity, striving for the reign of his Divine Master, first in his own soul, then in others; and, far from acting of his own accord by the dictates of reason alone, he would rather have remained hidden for ever in the face of the Lord, and have left but an unknown name behind him.

‘Let us honour,’ he wrote, ‘the hidden state of the Son of God. There is our centre; there is what He requires of us for the present, for the future, for ever; unless His Divine Majesty makes known in His own unmistakable way that He demands something else of us. Let us especially honour this divine Master’s moderation in action. He would not always do all that He could do, in order to teach us to be satisfied when it is not expedient to do all that we are able, but only as much as is seasonable to charity and conformable to the Will of God. How royally do those honour our Lord who follow His holy Providence, and do not try to be beforehand with it! Do you not, and rightly, wish your servant to do nothing without your orders? and if this is reasonable between man and man, how much more so between the Creator and the creature!' Vincent, then, was anxious, according to his own expression, to ‘keep alongside of Providence,’ and not to outstep it. Thus he waited seven years before accepting the offers of the General de Gondi's wife, and founding his establishment of the Missions. Thus, too, when his faithful coadjutrix, Mademoiselle Le Gras, felt called to devote herself to the spiritual service of the Daughters of Charity, then living without any bond or common life, as simple assistants to the ladies of quality whom the man of God assembled in his Confraternities, he first tried her for a very long time. ‘As to this occupation,’ he wrote, in answer to her repeated petitions, ‘I beg of you, once for all, not to think of it until our Lord makes known His will. You wish to become the servant of these poor girls, and God wants you to be His servant. For God’s sake, Mademoiselle, let your heart imitate the tranquillity of our Lord’s heart, and then it will be fit to serve Him. The Kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Ghost; He will reign in you if you are in peace. Be so, then, if you please, and do honour to the God of peace and love.’

What a lesson given to the feverish zeal of an age like ours by a man whose life was so full! How often, in what we can call good works, do human pretensions sterilize grace by contradicting the Holy Ghost! Whereas Vincent de Paul, who considered himself ‘ a poor worm creeping on the earth, not knowing where he goes, but only seeking to be hidden in Thee, my God, who art all his desire,’—the humble Vincent saw his work prosper far more than a thousand others, and almost without his being aware of it. Towards the end of his long life he said to his daughters: ‘It is Divine Providence that set your congregation on its present footing. Who else was it, I ask you? I can find no other. We never had such an intention. I was thinking of it only yesterday, and I said to myself: Is it you who had the thought of founding a Congregation of Daughters of Charity? Oh! certainly not. Is it Mademoiselle Le Gras? Not at all. O my daughters, I never thought of it, your “sœur servante” never thought of it, neither did M. Portail (Vincent’s first and most faithful companion in the Mission). Then it is God who thought of it for you; Him, therefore, we must call the Founder of your Congregation, for truly we cannot recognize any other.’

Although with delicate docility, Vincent could no more forestall the action of God than an instrument the hand that uses it, nevertheless, once the divine impulse was given, he could not endure the least delay in following it, nor suffer any other sentiment in his soul but the most absolute confidence. He wrote again, with his charming simplicity, to the helpmate given him by God: 'You are always giving way a little to human feelings, thinking that everything is going to ruin as soon as you see me ill. O woman of little faith, why have you not more confidence and more submission to the guidance and example of Jesus Christ? This Saviour of the world entrusted the well-being of the whole Church to God His Father; and you, for a handful of young women, evidently raised up and gathered together by His providence, you fear that He will fail you! Come, come, Mademoiselle, you must humble yourself before God.’

No wonder that faith, the only possible guide of such a life, the imperishable foundation of all that he was for his neighbour and in himself, was, in the eyes of Vincent de Paul, the greatest of treasures. He who had pity for every suffering, even though well deserved; who, by an heroic fraud, took the place of a galley-slave in chains, was a pitiless foe to heresy, and could not rest till he had obtained either the banishment or the chastisement of its votaries. Clement XII, in the Bull of canonization, bears witness to this, in speaking of the pernicious error of Jansenism, which our saint was one of the first to denounce and prosecute. Never, perhaps, were these words of Holy Writ better verified: The simplicity of the just shall guide them: and the deceitfulness of the wicked shall destroy them.[3] Though this sect expressed, later on, a supreme disdain for Monsieur Vincent, it had not always been of that mind. ‘I am,’ he said to a friend, ‘most particularly obliged to bless and thank God, for not having suffered the first and principal professors of that doctrine, men of my acquaintance and friendship, to be able to draw me to their opinions. I cannot tell you what pains they took, and what reasons they propounded to me; I objected to them, amongst other things, the authority of the Council of Trent, which is clearly opposed to them; and seeing that they still continued, I, instead of answering them, quietly recited my Credo; and that is how I have remained firm in the Catholic faith.’

But it is time to give the full account which Holy Church reads to-day in her liturgy. We will only remind our readers that in the year 1883, the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences at Paris, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII proclaimed our saint the patron of the societies of charity in France.

Vincentius a Paulo, natione Gallus, Podii non procul ab Aquis Tarbellis in Aquitania natus, jam tum a puero eximiam in pauperes charitatem præ se tulit. A custodia paterni gregis ad litteras evocatus, humanas Aquis, divinas cum Tolosæ, tum Cæsaraugustæ didicit. Sacerdotio initiatus ac theologiæ laurea insignitus, in Turcas incidit, qui captivum in Africam adduxerunt. Sed in captivitate positus herum ipsum Christo rursus lucrifecit. Cum eo igitur ex barbaris oris, opitulante Deipara, sese proripiens, ad apostolica limina iter instituit. Unde in Galliam reversus, Clippiaci primum, mox Castellionis parœcias sanctissime rexit. Kenuntiatus a rege primarius sacrorum minister in Galliæ triremibus, mirum quo zelo et ducum et remigum saluti operam posuerit. Monialibus Visitationis a sancto Francisco Salesio præpositus, tanta prudentia per annos circiter quadraginta eam curam sustinuit, ut maxime comprobaverit judicium sanctissimi præsulis, qui sacerdotem Vincentio digniorem nullum se nosse fatebatur.

Evangelizandis pauperibus, præsertim ruricolis, ad decrepitam usque ætatem indefessus incubuft, eique apostolico operi tum se, tum alumnos Congregationis, quam sub nomine Presbyterorum sæcularium Missionis instituit, perpetuo voto a sancta Sede confirmato, speciatim obstrinxit. Quantum autem augendæ cleri discipline allaboraverit, testantur erecta majorum clericorum seminaria, collationum de divinis inter sacerdotes frequentia, et sacræ ordinationi præmittenda exercitia, ad quæ, sicut et ad pios laicorum secessus, instituti sui domicilia libenter patere voluit. Insuper ad amplificandam fidem et pietatem, evangelicos misit operarios, non in solas Galliæ provincias, sed et in Italiam, Poloniam, Scotiam, Hiberniam, atque ad Barbaros et Indos. Ipse vero, vita functo Ludovico decimotertio, cui morienti hortator adstitit, a regina Anna Austriaca, matre Ludovici decimiquarti, in sanctius consilium accitus, studiosissime egit, ut non nisi digniores ecclesiis ac monasteriis præficerentur; civiles discordiæ, singularia certamina, serpentes errores, quos simul sensit et exhorruit, amputarentur; debitaque judiciis apostolicis obedientia præstaretur ab omnibus.

Nullum fuit calamitatis genus, cui paterne non occurrerit. Fideles sub Turcarum jugo gementes, infantes expositos, juvenes dyscolos, virginespericlitantes, moniales dispersas, mulieres lapsas, ad triremes damnatos, peregrinos infirmos, artifices invalidos, ipsosque mente captos, ac innumeros mendicos subsidiis et hospitiis etiamnum superstitibus excepit ac pie fovit. Lotharingiam, Campaniam, Picardiam, aliasque regiones peste, fame, belloque vastatas, prolixe refecit. Plurima ad perquirendos et sublevandos miseros sodalitia fundavit, inter quæ celebris matronarum cœtus, et late diffusa sub nomine Charitatis puellarum societas. Puellas quoque tum de Cruce, tum de Providentia ac Sanctæ Genovefæ ad sequioris sexus educationem erigendas curavit. Hæc inter et alia gravissima negotia, Deo jugiter intentus, cunctis affabilis, ac sibi semper constans, simplex, rectus, humilis, ab honoribus, divitiis ac deliciis semper abhorruit; auditus dicere:rem nullam sibi placere præterquam in Christo Jesu, quem in omnibus studebat imitari. Corporis demum afflictatione laboribus senioque attritus, die vigesima septima Septembris, anno salutis supra millesimum sexcentesimo sexagesimo, ætatis suæ octogesimo quinto, Parisiis, in domo Sancti Lazari, quæ caput est Congregationis Missionis, placide obdormivit. Quem virtutibus meritis ac miraculis clarum Clemens tiuodecimus inter sanctos retulit, ipsius celebritati die decima nona mensis Julii quotannis assignata. Hunc autem caritatis eximium heroem, de unoquoque hominum genere optime meritum, Leo tertius decimus, instantibus pluribus sacrorum antistitibus, omnium societatum caritatis in toto catholico orbe existentium, et ab eo quomodocumque promanantium, peculiarem apud Deum Patronum declaravit et constituit.
Vincent de Paul, a Frenchman, was born at Pouy, near Dax, in Aquitaine, and from his boyhood was remarkable for his exceeding charity towards the poor. As a child he fed his father’s flock, but afterwards pursued the study of the humanities at Dax, and of divinity first at Toulouse, then at Saragossa. Having been ordained priest, he took his degree as Bachelor of Theology; but falling into the hands of the Turks was led captive by them into Africa. While in captivity he won his master back to Christ, by the help of the Mother of God, and escaped together with him from that land of barbarians, and undertook a journey to the shrines of the apostles. On his return to France he governed in a most saintly manner the parishes first of Clichy and then of Châtillon. The king next appointed him chaplain of the French galleys, and his zeal in striving for the salvation of both officers and convicts was marvellous. St. Francis de Sales gave him as superior to his nuns of the Visitation, whom he ruled for forty years, with such prudence as amply to justify the opinion the holy bishop had expressed of him, that Vincent was the most worthy priest he knew.

He devoted himself with unwearying zeal, even in extreme old age, to preaching to the poor, especially to country people; and to this apostolic work he bound both himself and the members of the Congregation which he founded, called the Secular Priests of the Mission, by a special vow which the Holy See confirmed. He laboured greatly in promoting regular discipline among the clergy, as is proved by the seminaries for clerics which he built, and by the establishment, through his care, of frequent conferences for priests, and of exercises preparatory to Holy Orders. It was his wish that the houses of his institution should always lend themselves to these good works, as also to the giving of pious retreats for laymen. Moreover, with the object of extending the reign of faith and love, he sent evangelical labourers not only into the French provinces, but also into Italy, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, and even to Barbary and to the Indies. On the demise of Louis XIII, whom he had assisted on his deathbed, he was made a member of the Council of Conscience, by Queen Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. In this capacity he was most careful that only worthy men should be appointed to ecclesiastical and monastic benefices, and strove to put an end to civil discord and duels, and to the errors then creeping in, which had alarmed him as soon as he knew of their existence; moreover, he endeavoured to enforce upon all a due obedience to the judgments of the Apostolic See.

His paternal love brought relief to every kind of misfortune. The faithful groaning under the Turkish yoke, destitute children, incorrigible young men, virgins exposed to danger, nuns driven from their monasteries, fallen women, convicts, sick strangers, invalided workmen, even madmen, and innumerablebeggars. All these he aided and received with tender charity into his hospitable institutions which still exist. When Lorraine, Champagne, Picardy, and other districts were devastated by pestilence, famine, and war, he supplied their necessities with open hand. He founded other associations for seeking out and aiding the unfortunate; amongst others the celebrated Society of Ladies, and the now widespread institution of the Sisters of Charity. To him also is due the foundation of the Daughters of the Cross, of Providence, and of St. Genevieve, who are devoted to the education of girls. Amid all these and other important undertakings his heart was always fixed on God; he was affable to everyone, and always true to himself, simple, upright, humble. He ever shunned riches and honours, and was heard to say that nothing gave him any pleasure, except in Christ Jesus, whom he strove to imitate in all things. Worn out at length, by mortification of the body, labours, and old age, on September 27, in the year of salvation 1660, the eightyfifth of his age, he peacefully fell asleep, at Paris, at Saint Lazare, the mother-house of the Congregation of the Mission. His virtues, merits, and miracles having made his name celebrated, Clement XII enrolled him among the saints, assigning for his annual feast July 19. Leo XIII, at the request of several bishops, declared and appointed this great hero of charity, who has deserved so well of the human race, the peculiar patron before God of all the charitable societies existing throughout the Catholic world, and of all such as may hereafter be established.

How full a sheaf dost thou bear, O Vincent, as thou ascendest laden with blessings from earth to thy true country! O thou, the most simple of men, though living in an age of splendours, thy renown far surpasses the brilliant reputation which fascinated thy contemporaries. The true glory of that century, and the only one that will remain to it when time shall be no more, is to have seen, in its earlier part, saints powerful alike in faith and love, stemming the tide of Satan's conquests, and restoring to the soil of France, made barren by heresy, the fruitfulness of its brightest days. And now, two centuries and more after thy labours, the work of the harvest is still being carried on by thy sons and daughters, aided by new assistants who also acknowledge thee for their inspirer and father. Thou art now in the kingdom of heaven where grief and tears are no more, yet day by day thou still receivest the grateful thanks of the suffering and the sorrowful.

Reward our confidence in thee by fresh benefits. No name so much as thine inspires respect for the Church in our days of blasphemy. And yet those who deny Christ now go so far as to endeavour to stifle the testimony which the poor have always rendered to Him on thy account. Wield, against these ministers of hell, the two-edged sword, wherewith it is given to the saints to avenge God in the midst of the nations: treat them as thou didst the heretics of thy day; make them either deserve pardon or suffer punishment, be converted or be reduced by heaven to the impossibility of doing harm. Above all, take care of the unhappy beings whom these satanic men deprive of spiritual help in their last moments. Elevate thy daughters to the high level required by the present sad circumstances, when men would have their devotedness to deny its divine origin and cast off the guise of religion. If the enemies of the poor man can snatch from his death-bed the sacred sign of salvation, no rule, no law, no power of this world or the next, can cast out Jesus from the soul of the Sister of Charity, or prevent his name from passing from her heart to her lips: neither death nor hell, neither fire nor flood can stay him, says the Canticle of Canticles.

Thy sons, too, are carrying on thy work of evangelization; and even in our days their apostolate is crowned with the diadem of sanctity and martyrdom. Uphold their zeal; develop in them thy own spirit of unchanging devotedness to the Church and submission to the supreme Pastor. Forward all the new works of charity springing out of thy own, and placed by Rome to thy credit and under thy patronage. May they gather their heat from the divine fire which thou didst kindle on the earth; may they ever seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, never deviating, in the choice of means, from the principle thou didst lay down for them of 'judging, speaking, and acting, exactly as the Eternal Wisdom of God, clothed in our weak flesh, judged, spoke, and acted.’


[1] Gal. v.6.
[2] St. Luke, iv. 18.
[3] Prov. xi. 3.

 

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