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July

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SPRUNG from the powerful aristocracy which won for Venice twelve centuries of splendour, Jerome came into the world when that city had reached the height of its glory. At fifteen years of age he became a soldier, and was one of the heroes in that formidable struggle wherein his country withstood the united powers of almost all Europe in the League of Cambrai. The golden city, crushed for a moment, but soon restored to her former condition, offered her honours to the defender of Castelnovo, who, like herself, had fallen bravely and risen again. But our Lady of Treviso had delivered him from his German prison, only to make him her own captive; she brought him back to the city of St. Mark, there to fulfil a higher mission than the proud republic could have entrusted to him. The descendant of the Æmiliani, captivated, as was Lawrence Justinian a century before, by Eternal Beauty, would now live only for the humility which leads to heaven, and for the lofty deeds of charity. His title of nobility will be derived from the obscure village of Somascha, where he will gather his newly recruited army; and his conquests will be the bringing of little children to God. He will no more frequent the palaces of his patrician friends, for he now belongs to a higher rank: they serve the world, he serves heaven; his rivals are the angels, whose ambition, like his own, is to preserve unsullied for the Father the service of those innocent souls whom the greatest in heaven must resemble.

‘The soul of the child,’ as the Church tells us to-day by the golden mouth of St. John Chrysostom, ‘is free from all passions. He bears no ill-will towards them that have done him harm, but goes to them as friends, just as if they had done nothing. And though he be often beaten by his mother, yet he always seeks her and loves her more than anyone else. If you show him a queen in her royal crown, he prefers his mother clad in rags, and would rather see her unadorned than the queen in magnificent attire; for he does not appreciate according to riches or poverty, but by love. He seeks not for more than is necessary, and as soon as he has had sufficient milk he quits the breast. He is not oppressed with the same sorrows as we, nor troubled with care for money and the like; neither is he rejoiced by our transitory pleasures, nor affected by corporal beauty. Therefore our Lord said: Of such is the kingdom of heaven, wishing us to do of our own free will what children do by nature.’[1]

Their guardian angels, as our Lord Himself said, gazing into those pure souls, are not distracted from the contemplation of their heavenly Father: for He rests in them as on the wings of Cherubim, since baptism has made them His children. Happy was our saint to have been chosen by God to share the loving cares of the angels here below, before partaking of their bliss in heaven. The following detailed account is given by Holy Church:

Hieronymus, e gente patricia Æmiliana Venetiis ortus, a prima adolescentia militiæ addictus, difficillimis Reipublicæ temporibus Castro Novo ad Quarum in montibus Tarvisinis præficitur. Arce ab hostibus capta, ipse in teterrimum carcerem detruditur, manibus ac pedibus vinctus; cui omni humana ope destitute beatissima Virgo ejus precibus exorata, clemens adest, vincula solvit, et per medios hostes, qui vias omnes obsederant, in Tarvisii conspectum incolumem ducit. Urbem ingressus, ad Deiparæ aram, cui se voverat, manicas, compedes, catenas, quas secum detulerat, in accepti beneficii testimonium suspendit. Reversus Venetias, cœpit pietatis studia impensius colere, in pauperes mire effusus, sed puerorum præsertim misertus, qui parentibus orbati, egeni et sordidi per urbem vagabantur, quos in ædes a se conductas recepit de suo alendos, et Christianis moribus imbuendos.

Per eos dies Venetias appulerant beatus Cajetanus, et Petrus Caraffa postmodum Paulus quartus, qui Hieronymi spiritu, novoque instituto colligendi orphanos probato, illum in incurabilium hospitale adduxerunt, in quo orphanos simul educaret, atque ægrotis pari charitate inserviret. Mox eorumdem hortatu in proximam continentem profectus, Brixiæ primum, deinde Bergomi, atque Novocomi orphanotrophia erexit: Bergomi præsertim, ubi præter duo, pro pueris unum, et pro puellis alterum, domum excipiendis, novo in illis regionibus exemplo mulieribus a turpi vita ad pœnitentiam conversis, aperuit. Somaschæ demum subsistens, in humili pago agri Bergomensis ad Venetæ ditionis fines, sibi, ac suis ibi sedem constituit, formamque induxit congregationis, cui propterea a Somascha nomen factum: quam subinde auctam et propagatam, nedum orphanorum regimini, et Ecclesiarum cultui, sed ad majorem Christianæ reipublicæ utilitatem, adolescentium in litteris et bonis moribus institutioni in collegiis, academiis, et semlnariis addictam sanctus Pius Quintus inter Religiosos Ordines adscripsit, cæterique pontifices privilegiis ornarunt.

Orphanis colligendis intentus Mediolanum proficiscitur atque Ticinum; et utrobique collectis agminibus puerorum tectum, victum, vestem, magistros, nobilibus viris faventibus, provide constituit. IndeSomascham redux, omnibus omnia factus, a nullo abhorrebat opere, quod in proximi bonum cedere prævideret. Agricolis immixtus per agros sparsis, dum se illis adjutorem in metendis frugibus præbet, mysteria fidei explicabat, puerorum capita porrigine fœda abstergens, et patienter tractans curabat; putridis rusticorum vulneribus medebatur eo successu, ut gratia curationum donatus censeretur. In monte, qui Somaschæ imminet, reperta specu, in illam se abdidit, ubi se flagellis cædens, dies integros jejunus transigens, oration in plurimam noctem protracta, super nurlo saxo brevem somnum carpens, sui aliorumque noxarum prenas luebat. In hujus spec us in teriori recess ex arido silice exstillat aqua, precibus servi Dei, ut constans traditio est, impetrata, quæ usque in hodiernam diem jugiter manans, et In varias regions delata ægris sanitatem plerumque conciliat. Tandem ex contagione, quæ per omnem vallem serpebat, dum ægrotantibus inservit, et vita functos propriis humeris ad sepulturam defert, contracto morbo, annos natus sex et quinquaginta, quam paulo ante prædixerat, pretiosam mortem obiit anno millesimo quingentesimo trigesimo septimo: quem pluribus in vita, et post mortem miraculis illustrem Benedictus decimus quartus Beatorum, Clemens vero decimus tertius Sanctorum fastis solemniter adscripsit.
Jerome was born at Venice, of the patrician family of the Æmiliani, and from his boyhood embraced a military life. At a time when the Republic was in great difficulty, he was placed in command of Castelnovo, in the territory of Quero, in the mountains of Treviso. The fortress was taken by the enemy, and Jerome was thrown, bound hand and foot, into a horrible dungeon. When he found himself thus destitute of all human aid, he prayed most earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, who mercifully came to his assistance. She loosed his bonds, and led him safely through the midst of his enemies, who had possession of every road, till he was within sight of Treviso. He entered the town; and, in testimony of the favour he had received, he hung up at the altar of our Lady, to whose service he had vowed himself, the manacles, shackles, and chains which he had brought with him. On his return to Venice he gave himself with the utmost zeal to exercises of piety. His charity towards the poor was wonderful; but he was particularly moved to pity for the orphan children who wandered poor and dirty about the town; he received them into houses which he hired, where he fed them at his own expense and trained them to lead Christian lives. 

At this time Blessed Cajetan and Peter Caraffa, who was afterwards Paul IV, disembarked at Venice. They commended Jerome’s spirit and his new institution for gathering orphans together. They also introduced him into the hospital for incurables, where he would be able to devote himself with equal charity to the education of orphans and to the service of the sick. Soon, at their suggestion, he crossed over to the continent and founded orphanages, first at Brescia, then at Bergamo and Como. At Bergamo his zeal was specially prolific, for there, besides two orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, he opened a house, an unprecedented thing in those parts, for the reception of fallen women who had been converted. Finally he took up his abode at Somascha, a small village in the territory of Bergamo, near to the Venetian border, and this he made his headquarters; here, too, he definitely established his congregation, which for this reason received the name of Somaschan. In course of time it spread and increased, and for the greater benefit of the Christian republic it undertook, besides the ruling and guiding of orphans and the taking care of sacred buildings, the education, both liberal and moral, of young men in colleges, academies, and seminaries. Pius V enrolled it among religious Orders, and other Roman Pontiffs have honoured it with privileges.

Entirely devoted to his work of rescuing orphans, Jerome journeyed to Milan and Pavia, and in both cities he collected numbers of children and provided them, through the assistance given him by noble personages, with a home, food, clothing, and education. He returned to Somascha, and, making himself all to all, he refused no labour which he saw might turn to the good of his neighbour. He associated himself with the peasants scattered over the fields, and while helping them with their work of harvesting, he would explain to them the mysteries of faith. He used to take care of children with the greatest patience, even going so far as to cleanse their heads, and he dressed the corrupt wounds of the village folk with such success that it was thought he had received the gift of healing. On the mountain which overhangs Somascha he found a cave in which he hid himself, and there scourging himself, spending whole days fasting, passing the greater part of thenight in prayer, and snatching only a short sleep on the bare rock, he expiated his own sins and those of others. In the interior of this grotto, water trickles from the dry rock, obtained, as constant tradition says, by the prayers of the servant of God. It still flows, even to the present day, and being taken into different countries, it often gives health to the sick. At length, when a contagious distemper was spreading over the whole valley, and he was serving the sick and carrying the dead to the grave on his own shoulders, he caught the infection, and died at the age of fifty-six. His precious death, which he had foretold a short time before, occurred in the year 1537. He was illustrious both in life and death for many miracles. Benedict XIV enrolled him among the Blessed, and Clement XIII solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints.

With Vincent de Paul and Camillus of Lellis, thou, O Jerome Æmilian, completest the triumvirate of charity. Thus does the Holy Spirit mark His reign with traces of the Blessed Trinity; moreover, he would show that the love of God which He kindles on earth, can never be without the love of our neighbour. At the very time when He gave thee to the world as a demonstration of this truth, the spirit of evil made it evident that true love of our neighbour cannot exist without love of God, and that this latter soon disappears in its turn when faith is extinct. Thus, between the ruins of the pretended reform and the ever-new fecundity of the Spirit of holiness, mankind was free to choose. The choice made was, alas! far from being always conformable to man’s interest, either temporal or eternal.

With what good reason may we repeat the prayer thou didst teach thy little orphans: 'Lord Jesus Christ, our loving Father, we beseech Thee, by Thine infinite goodness, raise up Christendom once more, and bring it back to that upright holiness which flourished in the apostolic age.’

Thou didst labour strenuously at this great work of restoration. The Mother of Divine Grace, when she broke thy prison chains, set thy soul free from a more cruel captivity to continue the flight begun at baptism and in thy early years. Thy youth was renewed as the eagle’s; and the valour which won thee thy spurs in earthly battles, being now strengthened tenfold in the service of the all-powerful Prince, carried the day over death and hell. Who could count thy victories in this new militia? Jesus, the King of the warfare of salvation, inspired thee with His own predilection for little children; countless numbers, saved by thee from perishing, and brought in their innocence to His divine caresses, owe to thee their crown in heaven. From thy throne, where thou art surrounded by this lovely company, multiply thy sons; uphold those who continue thy work on earth; may thy spirit spread more and more in these days, when Satan’s jealousy strives more than ever to snatch the little ones from our Lord. Happy shall they be in their last hour who have accomplished the work of mercy pre-eminent in our days: saved the faith of children, and preserved their baptismal innocence! Should they have formerly merited God’s anger, they may with all confidence repeat the words thou didst love so well: ‘O sweetest Jesus, be not unto me a Judge, but a Saviour!’


 

[1] Chrys. in Matt. Hom. lxii. al. lxiii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS same day brings before us a rival of the warrior-martyr, St. George: Margaret, like him victorious over the dragon, and like him called in the Menæa of the Greeks, the Great Martyr. The cross was her weapon; and, like the soldier, the virgin, too, consummated her trial in her blood. They were equally renowned, also, in those chivalrous times when valour and faith fought hand in hand for Christ beneath the standard of the saints. So early as the seventh century our Western island rivalled the East in honouring the pearl drawn from the abyss of infidelity. Before the disastrous schism brought about by Henry VIII, the Island of Saints celebrated this feast as a double of the second class; women alone were obliged to rest from servile work, in gratitude for the protection afforded them by St. Margaret at the moment of childbirth—a favour which ranked her among the saints called in the Middle Ages auxiliatores or helpers. But it was not in England alone that Margaret was invoked, as history proves by the many and illustrious persons of all countries who have borne her blessed name. In heaven, too, there is great festivity around the throne of Margaret; we learn this from such trustworthy witnesses as St. Gertrude the Great[1] and St. Frances of Rome,[2] who, though divided by a century of time, were both, by a special favour of their divine Spouse, allowed, while still on earth, to assist at this heavenly spectacle.

The ancient legend in the Roman Breviary was suppressed in the sixteenth century by St. Pius V as not being sufficiently authentic. We, therefore, give instead some responsories and antiphons and a collect, taken from what appears to be the very office said by St. Gertrude; for in the vision mentioned above allusion is made to one of these responsories, Virgo veneranda:[3]

Responsories

Felix igitur Margarita sacrilego sanguine progenita:
* Fidem quam Spiritu Sancto percepit vitiorum macuHs minus infecit.

℣. Ibat de virtute in virtutem, ardenter sitiens animæ salutem. * Fidem.
℟. Hæc modica quidem in malitia, sed mire vigens pudicitia, præventa gratia Redemptoris: * Oviculas pascebat nutricis.

℣. Simplex fuit ut columba, quemadmodum serpens astuta. * Oviculas.
℟. Quadam die Odibrius, molestus Deo et hominibus, transiens visum in illam sparsit: * Mox in concupiscentiam ejus exarsit.

℣. Erat enim nimium formosa: in vultu scilicet ut rosa. * Mox.
℟. Misit protinus clientes, ad inquirendos ejus parentes; * Ut si libera probaretur, in conjugium sibi copularetur.

℣. Sed hanc qui desponsaverat, non ita Christus præordinaverat. * Ut si.
℟. Dum tyrannus intellexit quod eum virgo despexit: * Jussit eamdem iratus suis præsentari tribunalibus.

℣. Quam sperans puellarum more minis flecti subjuncto terrore. * Jussit.
℟. Virgo veneranda in, magna stans constantia, verba contempsit judicis: * Nil cogitans de rebus lubricis.

℣. Cœlestis præmii spe gaudens, in tribulatione erat patiens. * Nil cogitans.
℟. Post carceris squalorem carnisque macerationem, Christi dilecta: * Tenebrosis denuo recluditur in locis.

℣. Nomen Domini laudare non desinens et glorificare. * Tenebrosis.
℟. Sancta martyre precatibus instante, draco foetore plenus apparuit: * Qui hanc invadens totam absorbuit.
℣. Quem per medium signo crucis discidit, et de utero ejus illæsa exivit. * Qui.
Blessed Margaret, though born of pagan blood:
* Receiving the faith by the Holy Spirit, preserved it free from stain.

℣. She went from virtue to virtue, ardently desiring the salvation of her soul. * Receiving the faith.
℟. Knowing no evil, she blossomed in purity, being prevented by the grace of our Saviour. * She tended the sheep for her foster-mother.

℣. Simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent. * She tended.
℟.  Odibrius, hateful to God and men, passing one day, cast his glance upon her. * And he burned with desire of her.

℣. For she was exceeding lovely; her face like a beautiful rose. * And he burned.
℟. Forthwith he sent his men to inquire as to her parentage; * For that if she were of gentle blood, he fain would take her to wife.

℣. But Jesus Christ whose bride she was, had otherwise ordained. * For that if she were.
℟. When the tyrant heard that the virgin despised him, * Enraged he caused her to be brought to his tribunal.

℣. For he hoped that, as maidens are wont, she would yield through fear of his threats. * Enraged.
℟. The worshipful virgin stood firm in her constancy, setting at nought the words of the judge. * For she thought not of vile pleasures.

℣. Rejoicing in the hope of a heavenly reward, she was patient under the trial. * For she thought not.
℟. The beloved of Christ, after enduring the horrors of a dungeon, and the torturing of her flesh, * Is closed once more in a darksome prison.

℣. She ceases not to praise and glorify the name of the Lord. * Is closed.
℟. While the holy martyr was instant in prayer, a foul dragon appeared; * And rushing upon her, he devoured her.
℣. With the sign of the cross she rent him asunder, and came forth again unhurt. * And rushing.

Antiphons

Ministri statim tenellæ corpus comburebant puellæ; sed hæc, oratione facta, igne permansit intacta.

Vas immensum aqua plenum præses imperavit anerri: et in illud virginem ligatam demergi.

Laudabilis Dominus in suis virtutibus, vincula manuum relaxavit, suamque famulam de morte liberavit.

Videntes hæc mirabilia baptizati sunt quinque millia: quos capite plecti censuit ira præfecti: quibus est addicta Christi testis invicta, benedicens Deum deorum in sæcula sæculorum.
The executioners burn the limbs of the tender maiden: but making her prayer she feels nought in the flame.

A great vessel full of water is brought by the judge’s com mand: and the virgin is cast in bound.

The Lord, who is worthy of praise in His mighty deeds, loosened the fetters of His handmaid, and delivered her from death.

At the sight of these wonders five thousand are baptized: the prefect in anger commands them all to be beheaded, and after them the unconquerable witness of Christ blessing the God of gods for ever and ever.

Prayer

Deus qui beatam Margaritam virginem tuam ad cœlos per martyrii palmam venire fecisti: concede nobis, quæsumus, ut ejus exempla sequentes ad te venire mereamur. Per Dominum.
O God, who didst lead Thy blessed virgin Margaret to heaven, with the palm of martyrdom, grant, we beseech thee, that by following her example, we may merit to come even unto Thee. Through our Lord.

[1] Legatus divinæ pietatis, iv., xlv.
[2] Visio xxxvi.
[3] Breviarium Constantiense, Augustæ Vindelicorum, mccccxcix.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ON this day Pudentiana's angelic sister at length obtained from her Spouse release from bondage, and from the burden of exile that weighed so heavily on this last scion of a holy and illustrious stock. New races, unknown to her fathers when they laid the world at the feet of Rome, now governed the Eternal City. Nero and Domitian had been actuated by a tyrannical spirit; but the philosophical Cæsars showed how absolutely they misconceived the destinies of the great city. The salvation of Rome lay in the hands of a different dynasty: a century back Praxedes' grandfather, more legitimate inheritor of the traditions of the Capitol than all the emperors present or to come, hailed in his guest, Simon Bar-Jona, the ruler of the future. Host of the prince of the apostles was a title handed down by Pudens to his posterity: for in the time of Pius I, as in that of St. Peter, his house was still the shelter of the Vicar of Christ. Left the sole heiress of such traditions, Praxedes, after the death of her beloved sister, converted her palaces into churches, which resounded day and night with divine praises, and where pagans hastened in crowds to be baptized. The policy of Antoninus respected the dwelling of a descendant of the Comelii; but his adopted son, Marcus Aurelius, would make no such exception. An assault was made upon the title of Praxedes, and many Christians were taken and put to the sword. The virgin, overpowered with grief at seeing all slain around her, and herself untouched, turned to God and besought Him that she might die. Her body was laid with those of her relatives in the cemetery of her grandmother, Priscilla. The following is the short notice given by the Church:

Praxedes, virgo Romana, Pudentianæ virginis soror, Marco Antonino imperatore Christianos persequente, eos facultatibus, opera, consolatione et omni charitatis officio prosequebatur. Nam alios domi occultabat; alios ad fidei constantiam hortabatur: aliorum corpora sepeliebat: iis, qui in carcere inclusi erant, qui in ergastulis exercebantur, nulla re deerat. Quæ cum tantam Christianorum stragem jam ferre non posset, Deum precata est, ut, si mori expediret, se e tantis malis eriperet. ltaque duodecimo calendas Augusti ad pietatis prremia vocatur in crelum. Cujus corpus a Pastore presbytero in patris et sororis Pudentiana? sepulcrum illatum est, quod erat in cremeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria.
Praxedes was a Roman virgin and sister of the virgin Pudentiana. 'Vhen the emperor Marcus Antoninus persecuted the Christians, she devoted both her time and her wealth to consoling them, and doing them every charitable service in her power. Some she concealed in her house: others she encouraged to firmness of faith. She buried the dead, and saw that those who were imprisoned wanted for nothing. But at length being unable to bear the grief caused by such a wholesale butchery of the Christians, she prayed God that if it were expedient for her to die He would take her away from so much evil. Her prayer was heard, and on the twelfth of the Calends of August, she was called to heaven, to receive the reward of her charity. Her body was buried by the priest Pastor in the tomb where lay her father and her sister Pudentiana, in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the Salarian Way.

Mother Church is ever grateful to thee, O Praxedes! Thou hast long been in the enjoyment of thy divine Spouse, and still thou continuest the traditions of thy noble family, for the benefit of the saints on earth. When, in the eighth and ninth centuries, the martyrs, exposed to the profanations of the Lombards, were raised from their tombs and brought within the walls of the Eternal City, Paschal I sought hospitality for them where Peter had found it in the first century. What a day was that of July 20, 817, when, leaving the Catacombs, 2,300 of these heroes of Christ came to seek in the title of Praxedes the repose which the barbarians had disturbed! What a tribute Rome offered thee, O Virgin, on that day! Can we do better than unite our homage with that of the glorious band, coming on the day of thy blessed feast, thus to acknowledge thy benefits? Descendant of Pudens and Priscilla, give us thy love of Peter, thy devotedness to the Church, thy zeal for the saints of God, whether militant still on earth or already reigning in glory.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘THREE saints,’ said our Lord to St. Bridget of Sweden, 'have been more pleasing to me than all others: Mary my mother, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalen.’[1] The Fathers tell us that Magdalen is a type of the Gentile Church, called from the depth of sin to perfect holiness; and, indeed, better than any other, she personifies both the wanderings and the love of the human race, espoused by the Word of God. Like the most illustrious characters of the law of grace, she has her antitype in past ages. Let us follow the history of this great penitent as traced by unanimous tradition: Magdalen’s glory will not be thereby diminished.

When, before all ages, God decreed to manifest His glory, He willed to reign over a world drawn from nothing; and as His goodness was equal to His power, He would have the triumph of supreme love to be the law of that kingdom, which the Gospel likens unto a king who made a marriage for his son.[2]

Passing over the pure intelligences whose nine choirs are filled with divine light, the immortal Son of the King of ages looked down to the extreme limits of creation; there he beheld human nature, made, indeed, to know God, but acquiring that knowledge laboriously; its weakness would better show His divine condescension: with it, then, He chose to contract His alliance.

Man is flesh and blood: so the Son of God would be made Flesh; He would not have angels, but men for His brothers. He that in heaven is the Splendour of His Father, and on earth the most beautiful of the sons of men, would draw the human racewith the cords of Adam.[3] In the very act of creation He sealed His espousals by raising man to the supernatural state of grace, and placing him in the paradise of expectation.

Alas! the human race knew not how to await her Bridegroom even in the shades of Eden. Cast out of the garden of delights, she prostituted to vain idols in their groves what was left her of her glory. For she had much beauty still, the gift of her Spouse, though she had profaned it: Thou wast perfect through my beauty, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.[4]

God would not suffer His love to be defeated. Leaving humanity at large to walk in the ways of folly, He chose out a single people, sprung from a holy stock, to be the guardian of His promises. Coming forth from Egypt and from the midst of a barbarous nation, this people was consecrated to God and became His inheritance. In the person of Balaam, the former Bride saw Israel pass through the desert, and filled with admiration at the glory of the Lord dwelling with him in his tent, her heart for a moment beat with bridal love. I shall see Him, she cried in her transport, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not near.[5] From those wild heights whence the Spouse would one day call her, she hailed the Star that was to rise out of Jacob, and predicted the ruin of the Hebrew people who had supplanted her for a time.

Too soon was this sublime ecstasy followed by still more culpable wanderings! How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? Know thou, and see, that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God.[6] But the ages are passing, the night will soon be over, and the day-star will arise, the sign of the Bridegroom gathering the nations. Let Him lead thee into the wilderness and there He will speak to thy heart. Thy rival knows not how to be a queen; the alliance of Sinai has produced but a slave. The Bridegroom still waits for His Bride.

At length the hour came: bending the heavens, He was made sin[7] for sinful men; and hidden under the servile garb of mortals, He sat down to table in the house of the proud Pharisee. The haughty Synagogue, who would neither fast with John nor rejoice with Christ, was now to see God justifying the delays of His merciful love. ' Let us not, like Pharisees,' says St. Ambrose, 'despise the counsels of God. The sons of Wisdom are singing: listen to their voices, attend to their dances; it is the hour of the nuptials. Thus sang the prophet when he said: Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus.'[8]

And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that He sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment; and standing behind at His feet, she began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.[9] ‘Who is this woman? Without doubt it is the Church,' answers St. Peter Chrysologus, 'the Church, weighed down and stained with sins committed in the city of this world. At the news that Christ has appeared in Judea, that He is to be seen at the banquet of the Pasch, where He bestows His mysteries and reveals the divine Sacrament, and makes known the secret of salvation, suddenly she darts forward; despising the endeavours of the Scribes to prevent her entrance, she confronts the princes of the Synagogue; burning with desire she penetrates into the sanctuary, where she finds Him whom she seeks, betrayed by Jewish perfidy even at the banquet of love; not the passion, nor the Cross, nor the tomb can check her faith, or prevent her from bringing her perfumes to Christ.’[10]

Who but the Church knows the secret of this perfume? asks Paulinus of Nola with Ambrose of Milan; the Church, whose numberless flowers have all aromas; the Church, who exhales before God a thousand sweet odours aroused by the breath of the Holy Spirit—viz., the virtues of nations and the prayers of the saints. Mingling the perfume of her conversion with her tears of repentance, she anoints the feet of her Lord, honouring in them His humanity. Her faith, whereby she is justified, grows equally with her love: soon the Head of the Spouse—that is, His divinity—receives from her the homage of the full measure of pure and precious spikenard—to wit, consummate holiness, whose heroism goes so far as to break the vessel of mortal flesh by the martyrdom of love, if not by that of tortures.

Arrived at the height of the mystery, she forgets not even there those sacred feet, whose contact delivered her from the seven devils representing all vices; for to the heart of the Bride, as in the bosom of the Father, her Lord is still both God and Man. The Jew, who would not own Christ either for head or foundation, found no fragrant oil for His head, nor even water for His feet; she, on the contrary, pours her priceless perfume over both. And while the sweet odour of her perfect faith fills the earth, now become by the victory of that faith the house of the Lord, she continues to wipe her Master's feet with her beautiful hair—i.e., her countless good works and her ceaseless prayer. The growth of this mystical hair requires all her care here on earth; and in heaven its abundance and beauty will call forth the praise of Him who jealously counts, without losing one, all the works of His Church. Then from her own head, as from that of her Spouse, will the fragrant unction of the Holy Spirit overflow even to the skirt of her garment.

Thou despisest, O Pharisee, the poor woman weeping with love at the feet of thy divine Guest, whom thou knowest not; but ‘I would rather,’ cries the solitary of Nola, ‘ be bound up in her hair at the feet of Christ, than be seated with thee near Christ, yet without Him.'[11] Happy sinner to be, both in her life of sin and that of grace, the figure of the Church, even so far as to have been foreseen and announced by the prophets. For such is the teaching of St. Jerome and St. Cyril of Alexandria; while Venerable Bede, gathering up, according to his wont, the traditions of his predecessors, does not hesitate to assert that ‘ what Magdalen once did, remains the type of what the whole Church does, and of what every perfect soul must ever do.’[12]

We can well understand the predilection of the Man-God for this soul, whose repentance from such a depth of misery manifested so fully, from the outset, the success of His mission, the defeat of Satan, and the triumph of divine love. While Israel was expecting from the Messias nought but perishable goods, when the very apostles, including John the beloved, were looking for honours and first places, she was the first to come to Jesus for Himself alone, and not for His gifts. Eager only for pardon and love, she chose for her portion those sacred feet, wearied in the search after the wandering sheep: here was the blessed altar whereon she offered to her divine Deliverer as many holocausts of herself, says St. Gregory, as she had had vain objects of complacency. Henceforth her goods and her person were at the disposal of Jesus; the rest of her life was to be spent sitting at His feet, contemplating the mysteries of His life, gathering up His every word, following His footsteps, as He preached the Kingdom of God. How swiftly, in the light of her humble confidence, did she outstrip the Synagogue and the very just themselves! The Pharisee might be indignant, her sister might complain, the apostles might murmur: Mary held her peace; but Jesus spoke for her, as if His Sacred Heart were hurt by the least word said against her. At the death of Lazarus the Master had to call her from the mysterious repose wherein even then she was seated; her presence at the tomb was of more avail than the whole college of apostles and the crowd of Jews. One word from her, though already said by Martha who had arrived first, was more powerful than all the words of the latter; her tears made the Man-God weep, and drew from Him that groan which He uttered before recalling the dead man to life-that divine trouble of a God overcome by His creature. Oh truly, for others as well as for herself, for the world as well as for God, Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her.[13]

In all that we have said, we have but linked together the testimonies of a veneration universally consistent. But the homage of all the doctors together cannot compare with the honour which the Church pays to the humble Magdalen, when she applies to the Queen of heaven on her glorious Assumption day the Gospel words first uttered in praise of the justified sinner. Albert the Great[14] assures us that, in the world of grace as well as in the material creation, God has made two great lights-to wit, two Maries, the Mother of our Lord and the sister of Lazarus: the greater, which is the Blessed Virgin, to rule the day of innocence; the lesser, which is Mary the penitent beneath the feet of that glorious Virgin, to rule the night by enlightening repentant sinners. As the moon by its phases points out the feast days on earth, so Magdalen in heaven gives the signal of joy to the angels of God over one sinner doing penance. Does she not also share with the Immaculate One the name of Mary, Star of the sea, as the Churches of Gaul sang in the Middle Ages, recalling how, though one was a Queen and the other a handmaid, both were causes of joy to the Church: the one being the gate of salvation, the other the messenger of the Resurrection?[15]

On that great Easter day, Magdalen, like a morning star, announced the rising of the Sun of Justice, who was never more to set. ‘Woman,’ said Jesus to her, ‘why weepest thou? Thou art not mistaken.’ He seemed to say, ‘It is, indeed, the Divine Gardener speaking to thee, the same that planted Eden in the beginning. But now dry thy tears; in this new garden, whose centre is an empty tomb, Paradise is restored; the angels no longer close the entrance; here is the Tree of Life, which has borne fruit these three days past. This fruit, which thou, O woman, art eager, as of old, to seize and taste, belongs to thee now by right; for thou art no longer Eve but Mary. If thou art bidden not to touch it yet, it is because, as thou wouldst not heretofore taste the fruit of death thyself alone, thou mayest not now enjoy the fruit of life till thou bring back him that was first lost through thee.' Thus by the wisdom and mercy of our God, woman is raised to a greater dignity than before the Fall. Magdalen, to whom woman is indebted for this glorious revenge, has hence obtained in the Church’s litanies the place of honour above even the virgins; as John the Baptist precedes the whole army of the saints on account of his privilege of being the first witness to our salvation. The testimony of the penitent completes that of the Precursor: on the word of John the Church recognized the Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world; on the word of Magdalen she hails the Spouse triumphant over death.[16] And, judging that by this last testimony Catholic belief is put in full possession of the entire cycle of mysteries, she to-day intones the immortal symbol, which she deemed premature for the feast of Zachary’s son.

O Mary! how great didst thou appear before heaven at that solemn moment when, before the world knew aught of the triumph of life, our Emmanuel the conqueror said to thee: Go to My brethren, and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God.[17] Thou didst represent us Gentiles, who were not to obtain possession of our Lord by faith till after His ascension into heaven. These brethren, to whom the Man-God sent thee, were doubtless those privileged men whom He had called to know Him during His mortal life, and to whom thou, O apostle of the apostles, hadst to announce the mystery of the Pasch; and yet, in His loving mercy, the divine Master intended to show Himself that same day to many of them; and both thou and they were soon to be witnesses of His triumphant Ascension. Is it not evident that thy mission, O Magdalen, though addressed to the immediate disciples of our Lord, was to extend much further both in space and time? As He entered into His glory, the Conqueror of death already beheld these brethren filling the whole earth. It is of them He had said in the psalm: I will declare thy name to My brethren: in the midst of the Church will I praise thee; in the midst of a people that shall be bom which the Lord hath made.[18] It is of them and of us, the generation to come, to whom the Lord was to be declared, that He said to thee: Go to My brethren and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and your God. Thou didst come, and thou comest continually, fulfilling thy mission towards the disciples, and saying to them: I have seen the Lord, and these things He said to me.[19]

Thou camest, O Mary, when our West beheld thee, treading the rocks of Provence with thine apostolic feet, whose beauty Cyril of Alexandria admires. There seven times a day, raised on angels’ wings towards the Spouse, thou didst point out, more eloquently than any speech could do, the way He took, the way the Church must follow by her desires, until she is reunited with Him for ever. Thou didst prove that the apostolate in its highest reach does not depend on words. In heaven the Seraphim and Cherubim and Thrones gaze unceasingly upon the Eternal Trinity, without so much as glancing at this world of nothingness; and nevertheless it is through them that pass the strength and light and love which the heavenly messengers in the lower hierarchies distribute to us on earth. Thus, O Magdalen, though thou clingest ever to the sacred feet which are now not denied to thy love, and thy life is unreservedly absorbed with Christ in God, thou seemest more than any other to be always saying to us: If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.[20]

O thou, whose choice, so highly approved by our Lord, has revealed to the world the better part, obtain that that portion may be ever appreciated in the Church as the better—viz., that divine contemplation which begins here on earth the life of heaven, and which in its fruitful repose is the source of all the graces spread by the active ministry throughout the world. Death itself does not take away that portion, but assures its possession for ever, and makes it blossom into the full, direct vision. May he that has received it from the gratuitous goodness of God never strive to dispossess himself of it! ‘Happy house,’ says the devout St. Bernard, 'blessed assembly, where Martha complains of Mary! But how indignant we should be if Mary were jealous of Martha!’[21] And St. Jude tells us the awful judgment of the angels who kept not their principality, the familiar friends of God who forsook their own habitation.[22] Keep up in religious families established by their fathers on heights that touch the clouds the sense of their inborn nobility; they are not made for the dust and noise of the plain: and did they come down to it, they would injure both the Church and themselves. By remaining what they are, they do not, any more than thou, O Magdalen, become indifferent to the lost sheep; but they take the surest of all means for purifying the earth and drawing souls to God.

From thy church at Vezelay thou didst look down one day upon a vast multitude eagerly receiving the cross; they were about to undertake that immortal Crusade, not the least glory whereof is to have supernaturalized the sentiments of honour in the hearts of those Christian warriors armed for the defence of the holy Sepulchre. A similar lesson was given to the world at the beginning of last century; Napoleon, intoxicated with power, would raise to himself and his army a Temple of glory; before the building was completed he was swept away, and the temple was dedicated to thee. O Mary! bless this last homage of thy beloved France, whose people and princes have always surrounded with deepest veneration thy hallowed retreat at Sainte Baume, and thy church at Saint Maximin, where rest thy precious relics. In return, teach them and teach us all, that the only true and lasting glory is to follow with thee in His Ascension Him who once sent thee to us, saying: Go to My brethren, and say to them: I ascend to My Father, and to your Father, to My God and to your God!

During the different seasons of the year Holy Church inserts in their proper places, as so many precious pearls, the various passages of the Gospel relating to St. Mary Magdalen; for the particulars of her life after the Ascension we are referred to the feast of her sister, St. Martha, which we shall keep in a week’s time. To the liturgical pieces already given in this work in praise of St. Magdalen we add the following ancient sequence, well known in the churches of Germany, to which we subjoin a responsory and the collect of the feast from the Roman Breviary:

Sequence
[...]

Responsory

Congratulami mihi, omnes qui diligitis Dominum, quia quem quærebam apparuit mihi:
* Et dum flerem ad monumentum, vidi Dominum meum, alleluia.

℣. Recedentibus discipulis, non recedebam, et amoris ejus igne succensa, ardebam desiderio. * Et dum.
Congratulate me, all ye that love the Lord; for He whom I sought appeared to me:
* and while I wept at the tomb, I saw my Lord, alleluia.

℣. When the disciples withdrew, I did not withdraw, and being kindled with the fire of His love, I burned with desire. * And while.

Prayer

Beatæ Mariæ Magdalenæ, quæsumus Domine, sufiragiis adjuvemur: cujus precibus exoratus quatriduanum fratrem Lazarum vivum ab inferis resuscitasti. Qui vivis.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be helped by the intercession of blessed Mary Magdalen, entreated by whose prayers Thou didst raise up again to life her brother Lazarus, who had been dead four days. Who livest, etc.

[1] Revelationes S. Birgittæ, lib. iv., cap. 108.
[2] St. Matt. xxii. 2.
[3] Osee xi. 4.
[4] Ezech. xvi. 14.
[5] Num. xxiv. 17.
[6] Jerem. xxxi. 22, and ii. 19.
[7] 2 Cor. v. 21.
[8] Amb. in Luc.
[9] St. Luke vii. 37, 38.
[10] Pet. Chrysol. Sermo xcv.
[11] Paulin. Ep. xxiii. 42.
[12] Beda in xii. Joann.
[13] St. Luke x. 42.
[14] ALBERT. MAGN. In vii. Luc.
[15] Sequence Mane prima sabbati.-Paschal Time, Vol. I., p. 287.
[16] Sequence of Easter day.
[17] St. John xx. 17.
[18] Ps. xxi. 23, 32.
[19] St. John xx. 18.
[20] Col. iii. 1, 2.
[21] BERN. Sermo iii. in Assumpt. B.V.M.
[22] St. Jude 6.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

RAVENNA, the mother of cities, invites us to-day to honour the martyr bishop, whose labours did more for her lasting renown than did the favour of emperors and kings. From the midst of her ancient monuments, the rival of Rome, though now fallen, points proudly to her unbroken chain of Pontiffs, which she can trace back to the Vicar of the Man-God through Apollinaris. This great saint has been praised by Fathers and Doctors of the Universal Church, his sons and successors. Would to God that the noble city had remembered what she owed to St. Peter!

Apollinaris had left family and fatherland and all he possessed to follow the Prince of the apostles. One day the master said to the disciple: ‘Why stayest thou here with us? Behold thou art instructed in all that Jesus did; rise up, receive the Holy Ghost, and go to that city which knows Him not.' And blessing him, he kissed him and sent him away.[1] Such sublime scenes of separation, often witnessed in those early days, and many a time since repeated, show by their heroic simplicity the grandeur of the Church.

Apollinaris sped to the sacrifice. Christ, says St. Peter Chrysologus,[2] hastened to meet His martyr, the martyr pressed on towards His King; but the Church, anxious to keep this support of her infancy, intervened to defer, not the struggle, but the crown; and for twenty-nine years, adds St. Peter Damian,[3] his martrydom was piolonged through such innumerable torments that the labours of Apollinaris alone were sufficient testimony of the faith tor those regions, which had no other witness unto blood. According to the traditions of the Church he so powerfully established, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove directly and visibly designated each of the twelve successors of Apollinaris, up to the age of peace.

The holy liturgy devotes the following lines to the history of this brave apostle:

Apollinaris cum principe apostolorum Antiochia Romam venit: a quo ordinatus episcopus, Ravennam ad Christi Domini Evangelium prædicandum mittitur: ubi cum ad Christi fidem plurimos converteret, captus ab idolorum sacerdotibus graviter cæsus est. Cumque ipso orante Bonifacius nobilis vir, qui diu mutus fuerat, loqueretur, ejusque filia immundo spiritu liberata esset; iterum est in ilium commota seditio. Itaque virgis cæsus, ardentes carbones nudis pedibus premere cogitur: quem cum subjectus ignis nihil læderet, ejicitur extra urbem.

Is vero latens aliquamdiu cum quibusdam Christianis, inde profectus est in Æmiliam, ubi Rufini patricii filiam mortuam ad vitam revocavit: ut propterea tota Rufini familia in Jesum Christum crederet. Quare vehementerincensus præfectus accersit Apollinarem, et cum eo gravius agit, ut finem faciat disseminandi in urbe Christi fidem. Cujus cum Apollinaris jussa negligeret, equuleo cruciatur: in cujus plagas aqua fervens infunditur, saxoque os tunditur: mox ferreis vinculis constrictus includitur in carcere. Quarto die impositus in navem, mittitur in exsilium: ac facto naufragio venit in Mysiam, inde ad ripam Danubii, postea in Thraciam.

Cum autem in Serapidis tempio dæmon se responsa daturum negaret, dum ibidem Petri apostoli discipulus moraretur, diu conquisitus inventus est Apollinaris: qui iterum jubetur navigare. Ita reversus Ravennam, ab iisdem illis idolorum sacerdotibus accusatus, centurioni custodiendus traditur: qui cum occulte Christum coleret, noctu Apollinarem dimisit. Re cognita, satellites eum persequuntur, et plagis in itinere confectum, quod mortuum crederent, relinquunt. Quem cum inde Christiani sustulissent, septimo die exhortans illos ad fidei constantiam, martyrii gloria clarus migravit e vita. Cujus corpus prope murum urbis sepultum est.
Apollinaris came to Rome from Antioch with the prince of the apostles, by whom he was consecrated bishop, and sent to Ravenna to preach the Gospel of our Lord Christ. He converted many to the faith of Christ, for which reason he was seized by the priests of the idols and severely beaten. At his prayer, a nobleman named Boniface, who had long been dumb, recovered the power of speech, and his daughter was delivered from an unclean spirit; on this account a fresh sedition was raised against Apollinaris. He was beaten with rods, and made to walk barefoot over burning coals; but as the fire did him no injury, he was driven from the city.

He lay hid some time in the house of certain Christians, and then went to Æmilia. Here he raised from the dead the daughter of Rufinus, a patrician, whose whole family thereupon believed in Jesus Christ. The prefect was greatly angered by this conversion, and sending for Apollinaris he sternly commanded, him to give over propagating the faith of Christ in the city. But as Apollinaris paid no attention to his commands, he was tortured on the rack, boiling water was poured upon his wounds, and his mouth was bruised and broken with a stone; finally he was loaded with irons, and shut up in prison. Four days afterwards he was put on board ship and sent into exile; but the boat was wrecked, and Apollinaris arrived in Mysia, whence he passed to the banks of the Danube and into Thrace.

In the temple of Serapis the demon refused to utter his oracles so long as the disciple of the apostle Peter remained there. Search was made for some time, and then Apollinaris was discovered and commanded to depart by sea. Thus he returned to Ravenna; but on the accusation of the same priests of the idols, he was placed in the custody of a centurion. As this man, however, worshipped Christ in secret, Apollinaris was allowed to escape by night. When this, became known, he was pursued and overtaken by the guards, who loaded him with blows and left him, as they thought, dead. He was carried away by the Christians, and seven days after, while exhorting them to constancy in the faith, he passed away from this life, to be crowned with the glory of martyrdom. His body was buried near the city walls.

Venantius Fortunatus,[4] coming from Ravenna to our northern lands, has taught us to salute from afar thy glorious tomb. Answer us by the wish thou didst frame during the days of thy mortal life: May the peace of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, rest upon you! Peace, the perfect gift, the first greeting of an apostle, the consummation of all grace: how thou didst appreciate it, how jealous of it thou wert for thy sons, even after thou hadst quitted this earth! By it thou didst obtain from the God of peace and love that miraculous intervention which pointed out, for so long a time, the bishops who were to succeed thee in thy see. Thou didst thyself appear one day to the Roman Pontiff, showing him Peter Chrysologus as the elect of Peter and of Apollinaris. And later on, knowing that the cloister was to be the home of the divine peace banished from the rest of the world, thou camest twice in person to bid Romuald obey the call of grace, and go and people the desert. How comes it that more than one of thy successors, no longer, alas! designated by the divine dove, should have become intoxicated with earthly favours, and so soon have forgotten the lessons left by thee to thy Church? Was it not sufficient honour for that Church, the daughter of Rome, to occupy among her illustrious sisters the first place at her mother's side?[5] For surely the Gospel sung on this feast for now twelve centuries, and perhaps more,[6] ought to have been a safeguard against the deplorable excesses which hastened her fall. Rome, warned by sinister indications, seems to have foreseen the sacrilegious ambition of a Guibert, when she fixed her choice on this passage of the sacred text: There was also a strife amongst the disciples, which of them should seem to he the greater.[7] And what more significant, and at the same time more touching, commentary could have been given to this Gospel than the words of St. Peter himself in the Epistle: The ancients therefore, that are among you, I beseech who am myself also an ancient, to feed the flock of God, not as lording it over the clergy, hut being models to them of disinterestedness and love; and let all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble He giveth grace.[8] Pray, O Apollinaris, that both pastor and flocks throughout the Church may, now at least, profit by these apostolic and divine teachings, so that we may all one day have a place at the eternal banquet, where our Lord invites His own to sit down with Peter and with thee in His Kingdom.

While Apollinaris adorns holy Mother Church with the bright purple of his martyrdom, another noble son crowns her brow with the white wreath of a confessorpontiff. Liborius, the heir of Julian, Thuribius, and Pavasius, was a brilliant link in the glorious chain connecting the church of Le Mans with Clement, the successor of St. Peter; he came to bring peace after the storm, and to restore to the earth a hundredfold fruitfulness after the ruin caused by the tempest. The fanatical disciples of Odin, invading the west of Gaul, had committed more havoc in this part of our Lord’s vineyard than had the proconsuls with their cold legalism, or the ancient Druids with their fierce hatred. Liborius, defender of the earthly fatherland, and guide of souls to the heavenly one, brought the enemy to be citizen of both by making him Christian. As a pontiff, he laboured with purest zeal for the magnificence of divine worship, which renders homage to God, and gives health to the earth; as apostle, he took up again the work of evangelization begun by the first messengers of the faith, driving idolatry from the strongholds it had reconquered, and from the country parts, where it had always reigned supreme: his friend St. Martin had not in this respect a more worthy rival.

Five centuries after the close of his laborious life his blessed body was removed from the sanctuary where it lay among his fellow-bishops, and scattering miracles all along the way, was carried to Paderborn; pagan barbarism once more fled at the approach of Liborius, and Westphalia was won to Christ. Le Mans and Paderborn, uniting in the veneration of their common apostle, have thus sealed a friendship which a thousand years have not destroyed.

Prayer

Da, quæsumus omnipotens Deus, ut beati Liborii, confessons tui atque pontificis, veneranda solemnitas et devotionem nobis augeat, et salutem. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that the venerable solemnity of blessed Liborius, Thy confessor and bishop, may contribute to the increase of our devotion, and promote our salvation. Through our Lord, etc.

[1] Passio S. Apollin. ap. BOLLAND.
[2] PETR. CHRYS. Sermo cxxviii.
[3] PETR. Dam. Sermo vi. de S. Eleuchadio.
[4] Vbnan. Fomtunat. Vita Sti. Martini, lib. iv., v. 684.
[5] Diplom. CLEMENTlS 11. Quod propulsis.
[6] Kalendar, FRONTON
[7] St. Luke xxii. 24-30.
[8] Cf. 1 Pet. v. 1.11.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CHRISTINA, whose very name fills the Church with the fragrance of the Spouse, comes as a graceful harbinger to the feast of the elder son of thunder. The ancient Vulsinium, seated by its lake with basalt shores and calm clear waters, was the scene of a triumph over Etruscan paganism, when this child of ten years despised the idols of the nations, in the very place where, according to the edicts of Constantine, the false priests of Umbria and Tuscany held a solemn annual reunion.

The discovery of Christina's tomb in our days has confirmed this particular of the age of the martyr as given in her Acts, which were denied authenticity by the science of recent times: one more lesson given to an infatuated criticism which mistrusts everything but itself.

As we look from the shore where the heroic child was laid to rest after her combat, and see the isle where Amalasonte, the noble daughter of Theodoric the Great, perished so tragically, the nothingness of mere earthly grandeur speaks more powerfully to the soul than the most eloquent discourse. In the thirteenth century the Spouse, continuing to exalt the little martyr above the most illustrious queens, associated her in the triumph of His Sacrament of love: it was Christina's church He chose as the theatre of the famous miracle of Bolsena, which anticipated by but a few months the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi.

Let us unite our prayers and praises with those of holy Church, to honour the glorious virgin martyr.

Ant. Veni. Sponsa Christi, accipe coronam quam tibi Dominus præparavit in æternum.

℣. Specie tua et pulchritudine tua.
℟. Intende, prospere procede, et regna.
Ant. Come, O Bride of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord hath prepared for thee unto all eternity.

℣. In thy comeliness and thy beauty.
℟. Set forth, proceed prosperously, and reign.

Prayer

Indulgentiam nobis, quæsumus Domine, beata Christina virgo et martyr imploret: quæ tibi grata semper exstitit, et merito castitatis et tuæ professione virtutis. Per Dominum.
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the blessed virgin and martyr Christina may implore for us forgiveness; who was ever pleasing to Thee by the merit of chastity, and the confession of Thy power. Through our Lord, etc.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

LET us, to-day, hail the bright star which once made Compostella so resplendent with its rays that the obscure town became, like Jerusalem and Rome, a centre of attraction to the piety of the whole world. As long as the Christian empire lasted, the sepulchre of St. James the Great rivalled in glory that of St. Peter himself.

Among the saints of God, there is not one who manifested more evidently how the elect keep up after death an interest in the works confided to them by our Lord. The life of St. James after his call to the apostolate was but short; and the result of his labours in Spain, his allotted portion, appeared to be a failure. Scarcely had he, in his rapid course, taken possession of the land of Iberia, when, impatient to drink the chalice which would satisfy his continual desire to be close to his Lord, he opened by martyrdom the heavenward procession of the twelve, which was to be closed by the other son of Zebedee. O Salome, who didst give them both to the world, and didst present to Jesus their ambitious prayer, rejoice with a double joy: thou art not repulsed; He who made the hearts of mothers is thine abettor. Did He not, to the exclusion of all others except Simon His Vicar, choose thy two sons as witnesses of the greatest works of His power, admit them to the contemplation of His glory on Thabor, and confide to them His sorrow unto death in the garden of His agony? And to-day thy eldest-born becomes the first-born in heaven of the sacred college; the protomartyr of the apostles repays, as far as in him lies, the special love of Christ our Lord.

But how was he a messenger of the faith, since the sword of Herod Agrippa put such a speedy end to his mission! And how did he justify his name of son of thunder, since his voice was heard by a mere handful of disciples in a desert of infidelity?

This new name, another special prerogative of the two brothers, was realized by John in his sublime writings, wherein as by lightning flashes he revealed to the world the deep things of God; it was the same in his case as in that of Simon, who having been called Peter by Christ, was also made by Him the foundation of the Church; the name given by the Man-God was a prophecy, not an empty title. With regard to James, too, then, eternal Wisdom cannot have been mistaken. Let it not be thought that the sword of any Herod could frustrate the designs of the most High upon the men of His choice. The life of the saints is never cut short; their death, ever precious, is still more so when in the cause of God it seems to come before the time. It is then that with double reason we may say their works follow them; God Himself being bound in honour, both for His own sake and for theirs, to see that nothing is wanting to their plenitude. As a victim of a holocaust, He hath received them, says the Holy Ghost, and in time there shall be respect had to them. The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks u.mong the reeds. They shall judge nations, and rule over peoples; and their Lord shall reign for ever.[1] How literally was this divine oracle to be fulfilled with regard to our saint!

Nearly eight centuries, which to the heavenly citizens are but as a day, had passed over that tomb in the north of Spain, where two disciples had secretly laid the apostle's body. During that time the land of his inheritance, which he had so rapidly traversed. had been overrun first by Roman idolaters, then by Arian barbarians, and when the day of hope seemed about to dawn, a deeper night was ushered in by the Crescent. One day lights were seen glimmering over the briars that covered the neglected monument; attention was drawn to the spot, which henceforth went by the name of the field of stars. But what are those sudden shouts coming down from the mountains, and echoing through the valleys? Who is this unknown chief rallying against an immense army the little worn-out troop whose heroic valour could not yesterday save it from defeat? Swift as lightning, and bearing in one hand a white standard with a red cross, he rushes with drawn sword upon the panic-stricken foe, and dyes the feet of his charger in the blood of 70,000 slain. Hail to the chief of the holy war, of which this Liturgical Year has so often made mention! Saint James! Saint James! Forward, Spain! It is the reappearance of the Galilean fisherman, whom the Man-God once called from the bark where he was mending his nets; of the elder son of thunder, now free to hurl the thunderbolt upon these new Samaritans, who pretend to honour the unity of God by making Christ no more than a prophet.[2] Henceforth James shall be to Christian Spain the firebrand which the Prophet saw, devouring all the people round about, to the right hand and to the left, until Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place in Jerusalem.[3]

And when, after six centuries and a half of struggle, his standard bearers, the Catholic kings, had succeeded in driving the infidel hordes beyond the seas, the valiant leader of the Spanish armies laid aside his bright armour, and the slayer of Moorsbecame once more a messenger of the faith. As fisher of men, he entered his bark, and gathering around it the gallant fleets of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Albuquerque, he led them over unknown seas to lands that had never yet heard the name of the Lord. For his contribution to the labours of the twelve, James drew ashore his wellfilled nets from west and east and south, from new worlds, renewing Peter’s astonishment at the sight of such captures. He, whose apostolate seemed at the time of Herod III to have been crushed in the bud before bearing any fruit, may say with St. Paul: I have no way come short of them that are above measure apostles, for by the grace of God I have laboured more abundantly than all they.[4]

Let us now read the lines consecrated by the Church to his honour:

Jacobus, Zebedæi filius, Joannis apostoli germanus frater, Galilæus, inter primos apostolos vocatus cum fratre, relictis patre ac retibus, secutus est Dominum, et ambo ab ipso Jesu Boanerges, id est, tonitrui filii sunt appellati. Is unus fuit ex tribus apostolis, quos Salvator maxime dilexit, et testes esse voluit suæ transfigurationis, et interesse miraculo, quum archisynagogi filiam a mortuis excitavit, et adesse cum secessit in montem Oliveti, Patrem oraturus, antequam a Judæis comprehenderetur.

Post Jesu Christi ascensum in cœlum, in Judæa et Samaria ejus divinitatem prædicans, plurimos ad Christianam fidem perduxit. Mox in Hispaniam profectus, ibi aliquos ad Christum convertit: ex quorum numero septem postea episcopi a beato Petro ordinati, in Hispaniam primi directi sunt. Deinde Jerosolymam reversus, quum inter alios Hermogenem magum fidei veritate imbuisset, Herodes Agrippa Claudio imperatore ad regnum elatus, ut a Judæis gratiam iniret, Jacobum libere Jesum Christum Deum confitentem capitis condemnavit. Quem quum is, qui eum duxerat ad tribunal, fortiter martyrium subeuntem vidisset, statim se et ipse Christianum esse professus est.

Ad supplicium quum raperentur, petiit ille a Jacobo veniam: quem Jacobus osculatus, Pax, inquit, tibi sit. Itaque uterque est secure percussus, quum Paulo ante Jacobus paralyticum sanasset. Corpus ejus postea Compostellam translatum est, ubi summa celebritate colitur, convenientibus eo religionis et voti causa ex toto terrarium orbe peregrinis. Memoria ipsius natalis hodierno die, qui translationis dies est, ab Ecclesia celebratur, quum ipse circa festum Paschæ primus Apostolorum Jerosolymis profuse sanguine testimonium Jesu Christo dederit.
James, the son of Zebedee, and own brother of John the apostle, was a Galilæan. He was one of the first to be called to the apostolate together with his brother, and, leaving his father and his nets, he followed the Lord. Jesus called them both Boanerges, that is to say, sons of thunder. He was one of the three apostles whom our Saviour loved the most, and whom He chose as witnesses of His Transfiguration, and of the miracle by which He raised to life the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, and whom He wished to be present when He retired to the Mount of Olives, to pray to His Father, before being taken prisoner by the Jews.

After the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, James preached His divinity in Judæa and Samaria, and led many to the Christian faith. Soon, however, he set out for Spain, and there made some converts to Christianity; among these were the seven men who were afterwards consecrated bishops by St. Peter, and were the first sent by him into Spain. James returned to Jerusalem, and, among others, instructed Hermogenes, the magician, in the truths of faith. Herod Agrippa, who had been raised to the throne under the Emperor Claudius, wished to curry favour with the Jews; he therefore condemned the apostle to death for openly proclaiming Jesus Christ to be God. When the man who had brought him to the tribunal saw the courage with which he went to martyrdom, he declared that he too was a Christian.

As they were being hurried to execution, he implored James's forgiveness. The apostle kissed him, saying: ‘Peace be with you.’ Thus both of them were beheaded; James having a little before cured a paralytic. His body was afterwards translated to Compostella, where it is honoured with the highest veneration; pilgrims flock thither from every part of the world, to satisfy their devotion or pay their vows. The memory of his natalis is celebrated by the Church to-day, which is the day of his translation. But it was near the feast of the Pasch that. first of all the apostles, he shed his blood at Jerusalem as a witness to Jesus Christ.

Patron of Spain, forget not the grand nation which owes to thee both its heavenly nobility and its earthly prosperity; preserve it from ever diminishing those truths which made it, in its bright days, the salt of the earth; keep it in mind of the terrible warning that if the salt lose its savour, it is good for nothing any more but to be cast out and to be trodden on by men.[5] At the same time remember, O apostle, the special cultus wherewith the whole Church honours thee. Does she not to this very day keep under the immediate protection of the Roman Pontiff both thy sacred body, so happily rediscovered in our times,[6] and the vow of going on pilgrimage to venerate those precious relics?

Where now are the days when thy wonderful energy of expansion abroad was surpassed by thy power of drawing all to thyself? Who but he that numbers the stars of the firmament could count the saints, the penitents, the kings, the warriors, the unknown of every grade, the ever-renewed multitude, ceaselessly moving to and from that field of stars, whence thou didst shed thy light upon the world? Our ancient legends tell us of a mysterious vision granted to the founder of Christian Europe. One evening after a day of toil, Charlemagne, standing on the shore of the Frisian Sea, beheld a long belt of stars, which seemed to divide the sky between Gaul, Germany, and Italy, and crossing over Gascony, the Basque territory, and Navarre, stretched away to the far-off province of Galicia. Then thou didst appear to him and say: ‘This starry path marks out the road for thee to go and deliver my tomb; and all nations shall follow after thee.’[7] And Charles, crossing the mountains, gave the signal to all Christendom to undertake those great crusades, which were both the salvation and the glory of the Latin races, by driving back the Mussulman plague to the land of its birth.

When we consider that two tombs formed, as it were, the two extreme points or poles of this movement unparalleled in the history of nations: the one wherein the God-Man rested in death, the other where thy body lay, O son of Zebedee, we cannot help crying out with the Psalmist: Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable![8] And what a mark of friendship did the Son of Man bestow on His humble apostle by sharing His honours with him, when the military orders and Hospitallers were established, to the terror of the Crescent, for the sole purpose, at the outset, of entertaining and protecting pilgrims on their way to one or other of these holy tombs! May the heavenly impulse, now so happily showing itself in the return to the great Catholic pilgrimages, gather once more at Compostella the sons of thy former clients. We, at least, will imitate St. Louis before the walls of Tunis, murmuring with his dying lips the collect of thy feast; and we will repeat in conclusion: ‘Be Thou, O Lord, the sanctifier and guardian of Thy people; that, defended by the protection of Thy apostle James, they may please Thee by their conduct, and serve Thee with secure minds.’

The name of Christopher, whose memory enhances the solemnity of the son of thunder, signifies one who hears Christ. Christina yesterday reminded us that Christians ought to be in every place the good odour of Christ;[9] Christopher to-day puts us in mind that Christ truly dwells by faith in our hearts.[10] The graceful legend attached to his name is well known. As other men were, at a later date, to sanctify themselves in Spain by constructing roads and bridges to facilitate the approach of pilgrims to the tomb of St. James, so Christopher in Lycia had vowed for the love of Christ to carry travellers on his strong shoulders across a dangerous torrent. Our Lord will say on the last day: ‘What you did to one of these my least brethren, you did it unto Me.’ One night, being awakened by the voice of a child asking to be carried across, Christopher hastened to perform his wonted task of charity, when suddenly, in the midst of the surging and apparently trembling waves, the giant, who had never stooped beneath the greatest weight, was bent down under his burden, now grown heavier than the world itself. ‘Be not astonished,’ said the mysterious child, ‘thou bearest Him who bears the world.’ And He disappeared, blessing His carrier and leaving him full of heavenly strength.

Christopher was crowned with martyrdom under Decius. The aid our fathers knew how to obtain from him against storms, demons, plague, accidents of all kinds, has caused him to be ranked among the saints called helpers. In many places the fruits of the orchards were blessed on this day, under the common auspices of St. Christopher and St. James.

Prayer

Præsta, quæsumus omnipotens Deus: ut, jui beati Christophori martyris tui natalitia colimus, intercessione ejus in tui nominis amore roboremur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who celebrate the festival of blessed Christopher the martyr, may by his intercession be strengthened in the love of Thy name. Through.

[1] Wild. iii. 6-8.
[2] Battle of Clavijo, under Ramiro I, about 845.
[3] Zach. zii. 6.
[4] 2 Cor. xii. 11, and 1 Cor. xv. 10.
[5] St. Matt. v. 13.
[6] Litteræ Leonis XIII, diei 1 Novemb. 1884, ad Archiep. Compostell.
[7] Pseudo-TURPIN. De vita Car. Magn.
[8] Ps. cxxxviii. 17
[9] 2 Cor. ii. 15.
[10] Eph. Iii. 17.

 

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