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July

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FIRMLY resting upon Peter, the Church turns to him whom the Spouse has given to be her Head, and testifies to him no less veneration and love than obedience and fidelity; such is the craving of her gratitude. Moreover, she is fully aware of what is thus expressed by St Peter Damian (or as others say by a disciple of St Bernard): ' None may pretend to intimacy with our Lord unless he be intimate with Peter.'[1] Such is the amirable harmony between God's approach to his creature and its advance towards him. God is not found save in Jesus; nor Jesus, save in the Church; nor the Church, save in Peter. 'If you had known me,' said Christ, ‘you would without doubt have known my Father also';[2] but the Jews sought God outside Jesus, and their efforts were vain. Since then others have come, wanting to find Jesus whilst setting aside his Church; but that which God has joined, what man shall put asunder?[3] So these men, running after a Christ, a phantom of their own conceptions, have found neither Jesus Christ nor his Church. Finally, others are sons of the Church, yet they persuade themselves that in those pastures where, by right, the soul may feed upon God, they have none to seek save the divine Shepherd who dwells in heaven; but by the very fact of his having committed to another the care of feeding both lambs and sheep, our Lord seems to have had quite a different view, for these words imply not only some, either mere beginners and the imperfect, or the strong and saints, but all, little and great, whom the heavenly Shepherd confided to Simon Bar-Jona, by him to be fed, directed, advanced and guarded.

O thou soul that hungerest after God, go to Peter, think not otherwise to appease thy cravings. Formed in the school of the holy liturgy, thou hast surely no part with such as neglect the Humanity, as they say (speaking of Mary's divine Son), in order to come all the more assuredly to the Word; but in like manner take care, thou also, not to turn God's Vicar into an obstacle in thy path. Jesus longs for the blissful meeting, even as thou dost; be certain, therefore, that what he places between thee and himself, on the way, is no obstacle but a help. Just as in the adorable Eucharist, the sacred species are but to point out to thee where he is whom, of thyself, thou couldst never find here below; so, too, the mystery of Peter has no other end but this, to show thee with absolute certainty where he, who resides for thee in the divine Sacrament in his proper substance, resides also for thee in his authority and infallible guidance. These two mysteries complete one another; they go together, and will both cease at the moment when our eyes gaze at last directly upon Jesus; but, from now till then, the Church sees herein not so much an intermediary or a veil, as the most precious sign of the invisible Spouse. Therefore, wonder not if the homage she pays to Peter seems to rival that which she bestows on the sacred Host; in her multiplied genuflections which she makes before both, she is indeed adoring; adoring not that man, it is true, whom we see seated on the apostolic throne, nor yet the mere species perceived by our senses on the altar; but adoring, in both instances, Jesus, who is silent in the Eucharistic Sacrament, and who speaks and commands in his Vicar.

Further still, she knows that Peter alone can give her the sacred Host. Baptism which makes us to be sons of God, and all the sacraments which multiply the divine energies within us, are a treasure which he alone has licence to dispose of legitimately, either by himself or by others. It is his word, throughout the world, that in every grade of authorized teaching gives birth within souls to faith which is the beginning of salvation, and develops it from these humble commencements right up to the luminous summits of sanctity. And because, on the mountain heights, the life of the evangelical counsels is the chosen garden reserved to himself by the Spouse, Peter likewise claims as his own the guidance and protection, in a more special manner, of religious communities; for he wishes to be always able himself to offer directly to Jesus the fairest flowers of that holiness of which his exalted ministry is the very principle and support. Thus sanctified, to Peter again does the Church address herself, when she would learn in what way to approach her Spouse in her worship; she says to him, as heretofore the disciples said to our Lord,[4] Teach us to pray and Peter, animated with what he knows so well of the gorgeous pomp of worship in the heavenly country, regulates for us here below the sacred ceremonial, and dictates to the bride herself the theme of her songs. Lastly, who but Peter can add to her holiness those other marks of unity, catholicity, and apostolicity, which are, in the face of the whole world, her unquestionable right and title to govern and to be loved by the Son of God?

If we are truly sons of the Church, if in very deed it is from the heart of our mother that we draw our sentiments, let us well understand what should be our gratitude, respectful love, tender confidence and utter devotedness of our whole being towards him from whom, by the sweet will of God, come all these good things. Peter, in his own person, and in that of his successors, especially in him who in these our own days bears the weight of the whole world and our burdens also, ought to be the constant object of our filial reverence and homage. His glories, his sufferings, his thoughts should become ours. Forget not that he, of whom the Roman Pontiff is visible representative, has willed that every one of his members should have their invisible share in the government of his Church; the responsibility of each one in a point of such major importance is clearly indicated in the great duty of prayer, which in God's sight is of more value than action, and which is rendered by love stronger than hell.[5] Then, there is that other strict duty of almsdeeds, whereby we are obliged to come to the relief of the needs of our humblest brother: if so, can we deem ourselves free with regard to the bishop and father of our souls, when unjust spoliation makes him know, in the necessities of his immense administration, cramping want and difficulty? Happy they who to the tribute of gold may be allowed to add that of blood! But all are not granted such an honour.

On this, the last day of the octave consecrated to the triumph of these two princes of the apostles, let us once again salute the city which was witness of their final combat. She is guardian of their tombs, and continues to be the See of Peter's successors; by this double title she is the vestibule of heaven, the capital of the spiritual empire. The very thought of the august trophies that adorn both banks of her noble river, and of all those other glorious memories that linger around her, made the heart of St John Chrysostom exult with enthusiasm beneath the Eastern sky. We give his words as addressed to the people in one of his homilies: 'In very deed, the heavens illuminated by the fiery rays of the meridian sun have naught comparable to Rome's resplendent rays shed over the whole earth by these two luminaries. Thence will Paul arise, thence Peter likewise. Reflect, yea, tremble, at the thought of what a spectacle Rome is to witness, when Peter and Paul, rising up from their graves, shall be borne aloft to meet the Lord. How brilliant in her roseate hue is Rome before the eyes of Christ! What garlands encircle this city! With what golden chains is she girded! What fountains are hers! Oh! this city of stupendous fame! I admire her, not because of the gold wherewith she abounds, nor because of her proud porticoes, but because she holds within her these two Pillars of the Church.'[6] Then the illustrious orator goes on to remark how he burned with longing desire to visit these sacred tombs, the treasure of the world, the secure rampart of the queen city.

In these days the bishops of God's Church are bound by law to come at fixed intervals, from their various dioceses throughout the world, to visit the basilicas raised over the precious remains of Peter and Paul; like the latter, they too must needs come and see Peter,[7] still living in the Pontiff, his successor in the Primacy. Although simple Christians are not subject to the same obligation to which bishops are bound by oath, yet ought every true Catholic frequently to visit in thought, at least, those blessed hills, whence flow the streams of salvation that divide and carry their waters over the whole world. One of the most consoling symptoms at the present time is the visible stir which is evidently taking hold of the masses, and urging them to the eternal city. This movement should be encouraged as much as possible, because it is a return to the wisest traditions of our forefathers; and in these days the facility for such a pilgrimage, once in a lifetime, is so great, that few or none would thereby undergo any serious inconvenience as regards either their family or social position.

But if some there be who really cannot apply to themselves in this literal sense these words of the psalm, 'I have rejoiced at the things that have been said to me, we shall go into the house of the Lord,' let them, at least, make these sentiments of true spiritual patriotism their own, and more so than did the Jews of yore: 'May there be abundance for them that love thee, O true Jerusalem! Let peace be in thy strength and abundance in thy towers. For the sake of my brethren who are in thee, this is my prayer: yea, this is my prayer, because thou art the house of the Lord our God.'[8]

To pay honour to the churches of the eternal city where are preserved the chief memorials of the holy apostles, Benedict XIV fixed[9] that on each of the days within the octave a pontifical Mass should be sung in one of these churches successively, the cantors and other ministers of the papal chapel attending. The festival of the twenty-ninth of June is reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff himself, who celebrates in the Vatican basilica, at the tomb of the prince of the apostles; but the following day, the bishops assistants at the pontifical throne are convoked in the basilica on the Ostian Way, built not far from the site of St Paul's martyrdom, and enclosing both the body of the doctor of the Gentiles and his chains. The apostolic protonotaries are assembled on the first of July, in the Church of St Pudentiana, formerly the house of the senator Pudens, where, as we are informed by Benedict XIV, 'Peter preached the divine word and celebrated the sacred mysteries; thus, in a way, laying the first foundations of the Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all other Churches.' On the second of July the major domo or master of the sacred palace and the auditors of the Rota pay homage, in like manner, at Sancta Maria in Via lata, to the memory of the two years' sojourn of the apostle of the Gentiles in this place. On the fifth day, July the third, the Pontifical Mass is celebrated at St Peter's ad vincula, the clerks of the camera assisting; on the sixth day, at the Mamertine prison, in the presence of the referendarii of the segnatura; on the seventh, before the abbreviators of the greater Parcus, at St Peter's in Montorio, said, by tradition, to be the spot of the apostle’s martyrdom. Lastly, on July the sixth, the sacred college of Cardinals terminates the octave with a grand solemnity at St John Lateran, where are exposed to public veneration the heads of St Peter and St Paul, in rich reliquaries.

Let us enter into the thought which inspired the great Pontiff Benedict XIV in his distribution of the days within the octave of the holy apostles, and so let us pray with him for the city and the world by taking from the sacramentary of his immortal predecessor, Saint Leo I, the following two formulas.

Preface

Vere dignum . . . Qui prævidens quantis nostra civitas laboratura esset incommodis, apostolici roboris in eadem præcipua membra posuisti. Sed O felix, si tuos præsules, Roma, cognosceres, et tantos digne studeres celebrare rectores! Nulli te hostes impeterent, nulla prorsus arma terrerent, si eorum famulata doctrinis veraciter atque fideliter eos proposito christianæ sinceritatis ambires; quum tibi sufficienter appareat, quæ benemeritis dona conferrent, qui tuentur etiam peccatores.
Truly it is right and just to give thanks to thee, who, foreseeing what great difficulties our city would have to labour under, didst place therein the leading members of apostolic strength. Yet, happy thou, O Rome, if thou do but know these thy leaders, if thou do but study how worthily to celebrate such rulers! No foe shall attack thee, no armies shall henceforth terrify thee, if so thou walk truly and faithfully in obedience to their teaching, in the profession of sincere Christianity; for it is indeed sufficiently manifest unto thee what great gifts they may confer on the well-deserving, since they give protection even unto sinners.

Prayer

Deus, qui Ecclesiæ tuæ in sanctis montibus fundamenta posuisti: da, ut nullis errorum subruatur incursibus, nulla mundi perturbatione quatiatur; sed apostolica semper et institutione sit firma, et interventione secura. Per Dominum.
O God, who hast laid the foundations of thy Church in the holy mountains; grant that she may be undermined by no attacks of error, nor shaken by any perturbation of the world; but let her be ever firm in apostolical institution, and secure in the same intervention. Through our Lord.

The following Prose, by Adam of St Victor, will serve as an appropriate termination to the collection of liturgical pieces which have assisted our devotion during this octave in acquiring the spirit of holy Church. We have chosen it in preference to another, by the same illustrious author, commencing with the words Gaude Romacaput mundi, inasmuch as this latter is exclusively dedicated to the life and miracles of St Peter.

Sequence

Roma Petro glorietur,
Roma Paulum veneretur pari reverentia;
Imo tota jocundetur,
Et jocundis occupetur Laudibus Ecclesia,

Hi sunt ejus fundamenta,
Fundatores, fulcimenta, bases, epistylia;
Iidem saga, qui cortinæ,
Pelles templi jacinthinæ, scyphi, spheræ, lilia.

Hi sunt nubes coruscantes, terram cordis irrigantes
Nunc rore, nunc pluvia;
Hi præcones novæ legis,
Et ductores novi gregis ad Christi præsepia.

Laborum socii Triturant aream,
In spe denarii Colentes vineam.
His ventilantibus Secedit palea,
Novisque frugibus Implentur horrea.

Ipsi montes appellantur:
Ipsi prius illustrantur Veri solis lumine.
Mira virtus est eorum:
Firmamenti vel cœloru m Designantur nomine.

Fugam morbis imperant,|
Leges mortis superant,
Efiugant dæmonia. Delent idolatriam,
Reis donant veniam, Miseris solatia.

Laus communis est ambonim
Quum sint tamen singulomm Dignitates propriæ:
Petrus præit principatu,
Paulus pollet magistratu Totius Ecclesiæ.

Principatus uni datur,
Unitasque commendatur Fidei cathoiicæ;
Unus cortex est granorum,
Sed et una vis multorum Sub eodem cortice.

Romam convenerant Salutis nuntii,
Ubi plus noverant Inesse vitii, nihil disciplinæ.
Insistunt vitiis Fideles medici:
Vitæ remediis Obstant phrenetici, Fatui doctrinæ.

Facta Christi mentione,
Simon Magus cum Nerone Conturbantur hoc sermone,
Nec cedunt apostolis.
Languor cedit, mors obedit.

Magus crepat, Roma credit,
Et ad vitam mundus redit, Reprobatis idolis.
Nero fremit sceleratus, Magi morti desolatus.
Cujus error ei gratus, Grave præcipitium.

Bellatores præelecti
Non a fide possunt flecti:
Sed in pugna stant erecti,
Nec formidant gladium.

Petrus, hæres veræ lucis,
Fert inversus pcenam crucis,
Paulus ictum pugionis:
Nec diversæ passionis Sunt diversa præmia.

Patres summæ dignitatis,
Summo Regi conregnatis:
Vincla nostræ pravitatis
Solvat vestræ potestatis Efficax sententia.

Amen.
Let Rome glory in Peter,
let Rome venerate Paul with equal reverence;
or rather, let the whole Church be made glad,
and be occupied with songs of joy.

Lo! here, her foundations,
her founders, her buttresses, her bases, her architraves;
yea, here, her costly hangings and canopies,
her hyacinth-dyed skins (as of the temple), her cups, her pomegranates, her lilies.

These are refulgent clouds watering the earth of our hearts,
now with dew, now with rain.
These are the heralds of the new law,
and leaders of the new flock unto Christ’s fold.

Companions in labour, they tread the threshing-floor:
in hopes of the penny, they till the vineyard.
By their winnowing is the chaff separated,
and the barns are filled with new harvestings.

They are called mountains:
they are the first to be illumined by the rays of the true sun.
Wondrous is their power;
they are entitled firmaments, or heavens.

They command sickness to flee away,
they overrule the laws of death;
demons they put to flight.
To the guilty they give pardon, to the sorrowful consolation.

Praise is common to both of them;
yet a peculiar dignity is proper unto each:
Peter holds the first rank in the primacy,
Paul is famous for his teachings throughout the whole Church.

Primacy is given but to one,
so that thus the unity of Catholic faith is proclaimed:
one rind contains many grains, and all, in their multiplicity,
have the same virtue under one single rind.

Unto Rome come the messengers of salvation,
where they know there is much of vice and naught of remedy.
The faithful physicians attack vice, yet the delirious sick reject the medicine of life,
the insane refuse doctrine.

Christ’s name being preached,
Simon Magus and Nero are troubled at this word,
nor will they yield to the apostles.
Sickness gives way, death obeys.

Magus is dashed to pieces, Rome believes,
and the world returns to life, rejecting her idols.
Wicked Nero trembles with rage, aggravated at the magician's death,
whose downfall is as annoying to him as his deception had been pleasing.

But the chosen warriors
can never be turned from the faith;
bold they stand erect for the combat,
nor dread the sword.

Peter, heir of the true light,
endures the penalty of the inverted cross;
and Paul, the stroke of the sword.
Though diverse the suffering, yet the rewards are alike.

O ye fathers of surpassing worth,
ye are reigning now with the supreme King:
may the efficacious sentence of your immense power
loose the chains of our guilt.

Amen.

 


[1] Pet. Dam. vel Nicol. Claravall. Sermo de S Petro Ap.
[2] St John xiv 7.
[3] St Matt. xix 6; Eph. v 32.
[4] St Luke xi 1.
[5] Cant. viii 6.
[6] Homil. xxxii in Ep. ad Rom.
[7] Gal. i 18.
[8] Ps . cxxi
[9] Bull Admirabilis Sapientiœ Dei sublimitas, April 1, 1743

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWIN stars this day arise in the heavens of holy Church, illuminating by the radiant beams of their apostolate immense tracts of country. Seeing that they start from Byzantium, one is at first led to suppose that their evolution is going to be performed independently of the laws which Rome has the right to dictate for the movement of the heavens, whereof it is said that they shall declare the glory of God and the works of his hand.[1] But the auspicious influence of St Clement I, through his sacred relics, diverts their course, as we shall see, towards the mistress of the world; and presently they can be descried gravitating with matchless splendour in Peter's orbit, manifesting once more to the whole earth that all true light, in the order of salvation, radiates solely from the Vicar of the Man-God. Then once again is realized that word of the psalmist, that there are no speeches nor languages where the voices of the messengers of light are not heard.[2]

To the sudden and splendid outburst of the good tidings that marked the first centuries of our era had succeeded the labours of the second apostolate, to which the Holy Ghost entrusted the gathering in of those new nations called by divine Wisdom to replace the ancient world. Already under that mysterious influence of the eternal city whereby she assimilated to herself even her conquerors, another Latin race had been formed out of those barbarians whose invasion seemed, like a deluge, to have submerged the whole empire. Scarcely was this marvellous transformation effected by the Baptism of the Franks, the conversion from Arianism of the Goths and of their variously named brethren in arms, than the Anglo-Saxons, the Germans, and lastly the Scandinavians, conducted respectively by the three monks, Augustine, Boniface and Anscharius, came in turn to knock for admission at the gates of holy Church. At the creative voice of these new apostles Europe appeared, issuing from the waters of the sacred font.

Meanwhile, the constant movement of the great migration of nations had, by degrees, brought as far as the banks of the Danube a people whose name began in the ninth century to attract universal attention. Between East and West the Slavs, profiting on the one side by the weakness of Charlemagne's descendants, and by the revolutions of the Byzantine court on the other, were aiming at erecting their various tribes into principalities, independent alike of both empires. This was now the hour chosen by Providence to win over to Christianity and to civilization a race hitherto without a history. The Spirit of Pentecost rested on the heads of the two holy brethren whom we are to-day celebrating. Prepared by the monastic life for every trial and suffering, they brought to this people struggling to issue from the shades of ignorance the first elements of letters, and tidings of the noble destiny to which God, our Saviour, invites men and nations. Thus was the Slavonic race fitted to complete the great European family, so evidently the object of eternal predilection, and God ceded to it a larger territory than he had bestowed upon any other in Europe.

Happy this nation had she but continued ever attached to Rome, that had lent her such valuable assistance in the midst of the early struggles disputing her existence! Nothing, indeed, so strongly seconded her aspirations for independence as the favour of having a peculiar language in the sacred rites, a favour obtained for her, from the See of Peter, by her two apostles. The outcries uttered, at that very time, by those who would fain hold her fast bound under their own laws, showed clearly enough, even then, the political bearing of a concession as unparalleled as it was decisive, in securing the existence, in those regions, of a new people distinct at once both from Germans and Greeks. The future was to prove this better still. If, nowadays, from the Balkan to the Ural Mountains, from the Greek coasts to the frozen shores of the Northern Ocean, the Slavonic race spreads ever strong, ever indomitable to the influence of invasion, maintaining, in the midst of the empires that by force of arms have at last prevailed over it, a dualism which the conquering nation must be resigned to endure through the course of centuries as a living menace within her, a very thorn in her side, such an unparalleled phenomenon is but the product of the powerful demarcation effected a thousand years ago between this race and the rest of the world, by the introduction of its national language into the liturgy. Having by this use become sacred, the primitive Slavonic tongue has undergone none of those variations incident to the idiom of every other nation; whilst giving birth to the various dialects of the different peoples issuing from the common stock, it has itself remained the same, following the most insignificant Slavonic tribes through every phase of their history, and continuing, in the case of the greater number of them, to group them apart from all other nationalities at the foot of their own altars. Beautiful indeed such unity as this, a very glory for holy Church, had but the desire and the hope of the two saints who based it on the immutable rock been able to keep it ever fixed thereon! But woful and terrible would such an arm become in the service of tyranny, if ever Satan should make it fall by schism into the hands of one of hell's accursed agents!

But such considerations as these are leading us too far. It is time for us to turn to the ample narrative of the two illustrious brothers, SS Cyril and Methodius, given us by the Church for this day.

Cyrillus et Methodius fratres germani, Thessalonicæ amplissimo loco nati, Constantinopolim mature concesserunt, ut in ipsa urbe Orientis principe humanitatis artes addiscerent. Uterque plurimum brevi profecerunt; sed maxime Cyrillus, qui tantam scientiarum laudem adeptus est, ut singularis honoris causa philosophus appellaretur. Deinde monachum agere Methodius cœpit; Cyrillus autem dignus est habitus, cui Theodora imperatrix, auctore Ignatio patriarcha, negotium daret erudiendi ad fidem christianam Chazaros trans Chersonesum incolentes; quos præceptis suis edoctos et Dei numine instinctos, multiplici superstitione deleta, ad Jesum Christum adjunxit. Recenti Christianorum communitate optime constituta, Constantinopolim rediit alacer, atque in monasterium Polychronis, quo se jam Methodius receperat, Cyrillus ipse secessit. Interim cum res trans Chersonesum prospere gestas ad Ratislaum Moraviæ principem fama detulisset, is de aliquot operariis evangelicis Constantinopoli arcessendis cum imperatore Michaele tertio egit. Igitur Cyrillus et Methodius illi expeditioni destinati, et in Moraviam celebri lætitia excepti, animos christianis institutionibus tanta vi tamque operosa industria excolendos aggrediuntur, ut non longo intervallo ea gens nomen Jesu Christo libentissime dederit. Ad eam rem non parum scientia valuit dictionis Slavonicæ, quam Cyrillus ante perceperat, multumque potuerunt sacræ utriusque Testamenti Litteræ, quas proprio populi sermone reddiderat: nam Cyrillus et Methodius, principes inveniendi fuerunt ipsas litteras, quibus est sermo ipsorum Slavorum signatus et expressus, eaque de causa ejusdem sermonis auctores non immerito habentur.


Cum rerum gestarum gloriam secundus rumor Romam nuntiasset, sanctus Nicolaus Primus Pontifex Maximus fratres optimos Romam contendere jussit. Illi Romanum iter ingressi, reliquias sancti Clementis Primi Pontificis Maximi, quas Cyrillus Chersonæ repererat, secum advehunt. Quo nuntio Hadrianus Secundus, qui Nicolao demortuo fuerat sufiectus, clero populoque comitante, obviam eis magna cum honoris significatione progreditur. Deinde Cyrillus et Methodius de munere apostolico in quo essent sancte laborioseque versati, ad Pontificem Maximum, assidente clero, referunt; cum autem eo nomine ab invidis accusarentur, quod sermonem Slavonicum in perfunctione munerum sacrorum usurpavissent, causam dixere rationibus tam certis tamque illustribus, ut Pontifex et clerus et laudarint homines et probarint. Tum ambo jurati se in fide beati Petri et Pontificum Romanorum permansuros, episcopi ab Hadriano consecrati sunt. Sed erat provisum divinitus, ut Cyrillus vitæ cursum Romæ conderet, virtute magis quam ætate maturus. Itaque defuncti corpus elatum funere publico, in ipso sepulchro quod sibi Hadrianus exstruxerat compositum fuit; tum ad sancti Clementis deductum, et hujus prope cineres conditum. Cumque veheretur per urbem inter festos psalmorum cantus, non tam funeris quam triumphi pompa, visus est populus Romanus libamenta honorum cœlestium viro sanctissimo detulisse. Methodius vero in Moraviam regressus, ibique factus forma gregis ex animo, re catholicæ inservire majore in dies studio institit. Quin etiam Pannonios, Bulgaros, Dalmatas in fide christiani nominis confirmavit; in Carinthiis autem ad unius veri Dei cultum traducendis plurimum elaboravit.

Apud Joannem Octavum, qui Hadriano successerat, iterum de suspecta fide violatoque more majorum accusatus, ac Romam venire jussus, coram Joanne, et episcopis aliquot cleroque urbano, facile vicit catholicam prorsus fidem et se retinuisse constanter et cæteros diligenter edocuisse: quod vero ad linguam Slavonicam in sacris peragendis usurpatam, se certis de causis ex venia Hadriani Pontificis, nec Sacris Litteris repugnantibus, jure fecisse. Quapropter in re præsenti complexus Methodium Pontifex, potestatem ejus archiepiscopalem, expeditionemque Slavonicam, datis etiam litteris, ratam esse jussit. Quare Methodius in Moraviam reversus, assignatum sibi munus explere vigilantius perseveravit, pro quo et exsilium libenter passus est. Bohemorum principem ejusque uxorem ad fidem perduxit, et in ea gente christianum nomen longe lateque vulgavit. Evangelii lumen in Poloniam invexit, et, ut nonnulli scriptores tradunt, sede episcopali Leopoli fundata, in Moscoviam proprii nominis digressus, thronum pontificalem Kiowensem constituit. Demum in Moraviam reversus est ad suos; jamque sese abripi ad humanum exitum sentiens, ipsemet sibi successorem designavit, clerumque et populum supremis præceptis ad virtutem cohortatus, ea vita, quæ sibi via in cœlum fuit, placidissime defunctus est. Uti Cyrillum Roma, sic Methodium Moravia decedentem summo honore prosecuta est. Illorum vero festum, quod apud Slavoniæ populos jamdiu celebrari consueverat, Leo Decimustertius Pontifex Maximus cum Officio et Missa propria in universa Ecclesia quotannis agi præcepit.


Cyril and Methodius were brothers, born of noble parents in Thessalonica, and when old enough were sent to Constantinople that they might, in the great capital of the East, learn the principles of literature and the arts. Both of them made great progress in a short time; but especially Cyril, who attained such a reputation for learning that as a token of distinction he was called the philosopher. Methodius afterwards became a monk; whilst Cyril was judged worthy by the empress Theodora, at the suggestion of Ignatius the patriarch, to be entrusted with the labour of instructing in the faith of Christ the Chazars, a people dwelling beyond the Chersonesus; which people, being taught by his precepts and incited by the grace of God, abolishing their numerous superstitions, he added unto the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Having excellently organized the new Christian community, he returned, filled with joy, to Constantinople, and betook himself to the same monastery of Polychrone, wherein Methodius had already retired. In the meanwhile, the fame of the success gained in the country beyond the Chersonesus having reached the ears of Ratislas, prince of Moravia, he was earnest with the emperor Michael the Third, in negotiating the grant of some evangelical labourers. Cyril and Methodius being therefore designated for this expedition, were received with great joy in Moravia; and with so much energy, care, and ability did they strive to infuse into the minds of the people the Christ tian doctrine, that it was nolong ere this nation most cordially subscribed its name to Jesus Christ. This success was in no small measure due to the knowledge of the Slavonic tongue which Cyril had previously acquired; and of very great avail, likewise, was the translation which he made of both Testaments of the holy Scriptures, into the language proper to this people: indeed Cyril and Methodius were the first to find alphabetical letters whereby this language of the Slavs is signified and expressed, and, on this account, they are not undeservedly held as the originators of this same language.


When favourable rumour brought as far as Rome the glorious fame of these achievements, the Pope, Saint Nicholas I, ordered these two illustrious brethren to repair to Rome. They set out on their journey to Rome, bearing with them the relics of Saint Clement I which Cyril had discovered in the Chersonesus. At which news, Adrian II, who had succeeded on the death of Nicholas, went forth with a great concourse of the clergy and people, to meet them, in token of veneration. Then Cyril and Methodius related to the Sovereign Pontiff, in the presence of his clergy, the details regarding their apostolic ministry in which they had been holily and laboriously engaged; but as they were accused by the envious of having presumed to use the Slavonic tongue in the performance of the sacred rites, such weighty and clear reasons did they allege for so doing, that the Pope and his clergy both praised and approved these holy men. Then both of them, having sworn that they would persevere in the faith of blessed Peter and of the Roman Pontiffs, were consecrated bishops by Adrian. But it was the divine decree that Cyril, ripened rather in virtue than in age, should end his mortal course at Rome. He, therefore, being dead, his corpse was borne in a public funeral to the very grave that Adrian had prepared for himself; later on, the holy body was taken to St. Clement's that it might lie near the ashes of that saint. And as he was thus borne through the city amidst the festive chanting of psalms, with pomp rather triumphal than funeral, the Roman people seemed to be paying to the holy man the firstfruits of heavenly honours. Methodius, on his part, having returned into Moravia, there applied himself with his whole soul to be an example in his works to his flock; and day by day he strove more and more to further Catholic interests. He likewise confirmed in the faith of the Christian name the Pannonians, Bulgarians, and Dalmatians; moreover he laboured much among the Carinthians to bring them over to the worship of the one true God.

Being once more accused to John VIII, who had succeeded Pope Adrian, of suspected faith and of the violation of the custom of the ancients, he was summoned to Rome, where in presence of John, several bishops, and likewise the clergy of the city, he easily proved that he had ever constantly maintained and carefully taught to others the Catholic faith; but as to his having introduced the Slavonic tongue into the sacred liturgy, he exculpated himself by reason of the permission of Pope Adrian, and of certain motives not contrary to the sacred letters. Wherefore, embracing the cause of Methodius in the matter at issue, the Pope recognized his archiepiscopal power and his Slavonian expedition, giving him likewise letters to that effect. Hence Methodius, returning into Moravia, persevered in fulfilling still more vigilantly the duties of his charge, and for this even gladly suffered exile. He brought over the prince of Bohemia and his wife to the faith, and spread the Christian name throughout the length and breadth of this land. He carried the light of the Gospel into Poland, and, as some writers assert, founded the episcopal See of Lwow; and having gone as far as Muscovy, properly so called, there raised an episcopal throne at Kiev. Afterwards, returning to his own people in Moravia, feeling now that he was drawing near his mortal term, he designated a successor, and having, by his last precepts, exhorted the clergy and people to virtue, he peacefully passed away from this life which he had made to be his path to heaven. Even as Rome had paid homage to Cyril, so did Moravia lavish honours on Methodius after his death. Their feast, which had long been kept among the Slavonic people, Pope Leo XIII ordered to be celebrated yearly throughout the universal Church with a proper Mass and Office.


Whilst inscribing the feast of SS Cyril and Methodius on the calendar of the universal Church, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII was likewise pleased himself to give expression to the homage and prayers of holy Church in the two hymns proper to the day.

Hymn I

Sedibus cœli nitidis receptos
Dicite athletas geminos, fideles;
Slavicæ duplex columen, decusque
Dicite gentis.

Hos amor fratres sociavit unus,
Unaque abduxit pietas eremo,
Ferre quo multis celerent beatæ
Pignora vitæ.

Luce, quæ templis superis renidet,
Bulgaros complent, Moravos, Bohemos;
Mox feras turmas numerosa Petro
Agmina ducunt.

Debitam cincti meritis coronam,
Pergite o flecti lacrymis precantum;
Prisca vos Slavis opus est datores
Dona tueri.

Quæque vos clamat generosa tellus
Servet ætemæ fidei nitorem;
Quæ dedit princeps, dabit ipsa semper
Roma salutem.

Gentis humanæ Sator et Redemptor,
Qui bonus nobis bona cuncta præbes,
Sint tibi grates, tibi sit per omne
Gloria sæclum.

Amen.
Sing, O ye faithful, sing two athletes, brothers,
received unto their brilliant thrones celestial;
sing the twofold strength
and glory of the Slavonic race.

One love these brethren did together bind in union sweet,
and one the tender pity that did them
from their solitude urge forth;
they haste to bear to many the pledge of blessed life.

Bulgarians, Moravians, and Bohemians they fill with light,
that beams resplendent in supernal temples;
to Peter soon these savage hordes they lead,
a numerous throng.

Your brows encircled by the well-earned crown of merits, Oh!
do ye still continue to be ever moved by suppliants’ tears;
needful indeed it is that ye protect your former gifts
bestowed upon the Slavs!

May the generous soil, that crieth unto you,
preserve the pure brightness of eternal faith:
Rome, which first in the beginning gave,
will ever give salvation to that land.

O Creator and Redeemer of the human race,
who in thy goodness givest us all good things,
to thee be thanksgiving,
to thee be glory for ever and ever.

Amen.

Hymn II

Lux o decora patriæ,
Slavisque amica gentibus,
Salvete, fratres: annuo
Vos efferemus cantico;

Quos Roma plaudens excipit,
Complexa mater filios,
Auget corona præsulum,
Novoque firmat robore.

Terras ad usque barbaras
Inferre Christum pergitis:
Quot vanus error luserat,
Almo repletis lumine.

Noxis soluta pectora
Ardor supemus abripit;
Mutatur horror veprium
In sanctitatis fiosculos.

Et nunc serena cœlitum
Locati in aula supplici
Adeste voto: Slavicas
Servate gentes Numini.

Errore mersos unicum
Ovile Christi congreget:
Factis avitis aemula
Fides virescat pulchrior.

Tu nos, beata Trinitas,
Cœlesti amore concita,
Patrumque natos inclyta
Da persequi vestigia.

Amen.
O light all beauteous of the fatherland,
and of the Slavonic race,
benignant ray, brethren, all hail!
To you, our yearly canticle we bring;

Whom Rome, applauding, did receive,
as mother pressing to her heart loved sons,
she upon your brow the bishop's diadem doth place,
and girdeth you with new strength.

Ye penetrate to farthest barbarous lands,
to bring them Christ.
Whom error vain did darkly deceive,
on them ye pour the radiance of fair light.

On hearts unshackled from the grasp of ill,
doth heavenly ardour seize;
thorns’ horrid aspect now is changed
for flowers of holiness.

Then deign, O ye who reign
secure in courts celestial,
to turn unto our suppliant prayer:
preserve unto God the Slavonic people.

May the one fold of Christ
enclose those plunged in error:
emulating the deeds of their forefathers,
may faith revive more beauteous still.

O thou, most blessed Trinity,
spur us on by heavenly love,
and grant that the sons may follow
in the noble footprints of their sires!

Amen.

We presume to join our humble prayer with this august homage: we would fain, together with the supreme Pontiff, sing your praises, and recommend to you that vast portion of Christ’s inheritance wherein, watered by your toilsome sweat, flowers of holiness replaced the thorns. Prepared in solitude for every work good and serviceable to the Lord,[3] you feared not to be the first to set foot in these unknown regions, the terror of the ancient world, these lands of the north, wherein the prophets had pointed out Satan’s throne,[4] the inexhaustible source of evils ravaging the universe![5] The call of the Holy Ghost made you become apostles, and the twelve having received orders to teach all nations,[6] you in your turn went, with all the simplicity of obedience, to those that had not yet been evangelized. Rome would test this obedience—such was her duty—and she found it to be without alloy. Satan too found it so, to his utter defeat; for Scripture says: 'The obedient man shall speak of victory.'[7] Scripture likewise reveals to us another source of strength, and it was yours:' A brother helped by his brother is like a strong city; and their judgements are like the bars of cities.'[8] Driven away by one stronger than he, the strong-armed one beheld, with bitter rage, that dominion now passed on to Christ, which he thought to possess in peace,[9] and his last spoils, the people of the north, become, like those of the south, an ornament to the bride.[10]

O Methodius, O Cyril, in the holy hymns which the Sovereign Pontiff has dedicated to you, there is the ring of an alarm-cry: 'Preserve unto God the Slavonic people! Needful indeed it is, that ye protect your former gifts.' 'Lift up your eyes and see,' may we truly say with the prophet, ' you that come from the north; where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful cattle? What! have ye taught them against you and instructed them against your own head?'[11] Ah! the depths of Satan![12] but too well has he known how to repair his defeat; for your benefits and Peter's condescension have alike become a weapon of death for those people to whom you devoted your life! Be pleased, then, to console those exiled for the faith, and give them heart; sustain the martyrs, preserve the remnant of a nation of heroes. On the other hand, deter the rest from the fatal illusion that would entice them to be beforehand in running into tyranny's way!

O apostles of the Slavs, and citizens likewise of that Rome where your sacred relics lie close to those of St Clement, assist the efforts of the supreme Pontiff, who is seeking how he may replace on the foundation whereon you built it that edifice which was your glory!


[1] Ps. xviii 2.
[2] Ibid. 4.
[3] 2 Tim. ii 21.
[4] Isa. xiv 13.
[5] Jer. i 14; xlvii 2, etc.
[6] St Matt. xxviii 19.
[7] Prov. xxi 28.
[8] Ibid. xviii 19.
[9] St Luke xi 21, 22.
[10] Isa. xlix 12-18.
[11] Jer. xiii 20, 21.
[12] Apoc. ii 24.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IN the footsteps of Margaret of Scotland and of Clotilde of France, a third queen comes to shed her brightness on the sacred cycle. Born at the southern extremity of Christendom, where it borders on Muslim lands, she was destined by the Holy Ghost to seal with peace the victories of Christ, and prepare the way for fresh conquests. The blessed name of Elizabeth, which for half a century had been rejoicing the world with its sweet perfume, was given to her, foretelling that this new-born child, as though attracted by the roses which fell from the mantle of her Thuringian aunt, was to cause these same heavenly flowers to blossom in Iberia.

There is a mysterious heirship among the saints of God. The same year in which one niece of Elizabeth of Thuringia was bom in Spain, another, Blessed Margaret of Hungary, took her flight to heaven. She had been consecrated to God from her mother’s womb, as a pledge for the salvation of her people, in the midst of terrible disasters; and the hopes so early centred in her were not frustrated. A short life of twenty-eight years, spent in innocence and prayer, earned for her country the blessings of peace and civilization; and then Margaret bequeathed to our saint of to-day the mission of continuing in another land the work of her holy predecessors.

The time had come for our Lord to shed a ray of His grace upon Spain. The thirteenth century was closing, leaving the world in a state of dismemberment and ruin. Weary of fighting for Christ, kings dismissed the Church from their councils, and selfishly kept aloof, preferring their own ambitious strifes to the common aspiration of the once great body of Christendom. Such a state of things was disastrous for the entire West; much more, then, for that noble country where the crusade had multiplied kingdoms as so many outposts against the common enemy, the Moors. Unity of views, and the sacrifice of all things to the great work of deliverance, could alone maintain in the successors of Pelayo the spirit of the grand memories of yore. Unfortunately these princes, though heroes on the battlefield, had not sufficient strength of mind to lay aside their petty quarrels and take up the sacred duty entrusted to them by Providence. In vain did the Roman Pontiff strive to awaken them to the interests of their country and of the Christian name; these hearts, generous in other respects, were too stifled by miserable passions to heed his voice; and the Muslim looked on delightedly at these intestine strifes, which retarded his own defeat. Navarre, Castile, Aragon, and Portugal were not only at war with each other; but even within each of these kingdoms father and son were at enmity, and brother disputed with brother, inch by inch, the heritage of his ancestors.

Who was to restore to Spain the still recent traditions of Ferdinand III? Who was to gather again these dissentient wills into one, so as to make them a terror to the Saracen and a glory to Christ? James I of Aragon, who rivalled St. Ferdinand both in bravery and in conquests, had married Yolande, daughter of Andrew of Hungary; whereupon the cultus of the holy Duchess of Thuringia, whose brother-in-law he had thus become, was introduced beyond the Pyrenees; and the name of Elizabeth, changed in most cases into Isabel, became, as it were, a family jewel, with which the Spanish princesses have loved to be adorned. The first to bear it was the daughter of James and Yolande, who married Philip III of France, successor of St. Louis; the second was the granddaughter of the same James I, the saint whom the Church honours to-day, of whom the old king, with prophetic insight, loved to say that she would surpass all the women of the race of Aragon.

Inheriting not only the name, but also the virtues of the 'dear St. Elizabeth,' she would one day deserve to be called 'the mother of peace and of her country.' By means of her heroic self-renunciation and all-powerful prayer, she repressed the lamentable quarrels of princes. One day, unable to prevent peace being broken, she cast herself between two contending armies under a very hailstorm of arrows, and so forced the soldiers to lay down their fratricidal arms. Thus she paved the way for the happy event, which she herself was not to have the consolation of seeing: the reorganization of that great enterprise for the expulsion of the Moors, which was not to close till the following century under the auspices of another Isabel, her worthy descendant, who would add to her name the beautiful title of 'the Catholic.' Four years after Elizabeth’s death the victory of Salado was gained by the united armies of all Spain over 600,000 infidels, showing how a woman could, under most adverse circumstances, inaugurate a brilliant crusade, to the immortal fame of her country.

Elisabeth Aragoniæ regibas ortam, Christi anno millesimo ducentesimo septuagesimo primo, in præsagium futuræ sanctimoniæ parentes, præter morem, relicto matris aviæque nomine, a magna ejus matertera, Thuringiæ domina, sancta Elisabeth, in baptismo nominatam voluere. Ubi nata est, statim patuit, quam felix regum regnorumque esset futura pacatrix: natalitia enim ejus lætitia perniciosas avi patrisque dissensiones in concordiam convertit. Pater vero crescentis postea filiæ admiratus indolem, affirmabat fore, ut una Elisabeth reliquas Aragoniorum regum sanguine creatas feminas virtute longe superaret. Sic cœlestem ipsius vitam in contemnendo corporis ornatu, in fugiendis voluptatibus, in jejuniis frequentandis, in divinis precibus assidue recitandis, in caritatis operibus exercendis, veneratus, rerum suarum regnique felicitatem unius filiæ meritis referebat acceptam. Tandem ubique nota, et a multis principibus exoptata, Dionysio Lusitaniæ regi Christianis cæremoniis rite est in matrimonium collocata.

Juncta conjugio, non minorem excolendis virtutibus, quam liberis educandis operam dabat, viro placere studens, sed magis Deo. Mediana fere anni partem solo pane tolerabat et aqua: quæ in quodam ipsius morbo divinitus versa est in vinum, cum id a medicis præscriptum bibere recusasset. Pauperis feminæ ulcus horrendum exosculata, derepente sanavit. Pecunias pauperibus distribuendas, ut regem laterent, hiberno tempore in rosas convertit. Virginem cæcam a nativitate illuminavit: multos alios solo crucis signo a gravissimis morbis liberavit: plurima id genus miracula patravit. Monasteria, collegia, et templa non modo exstruxit, sed etiam magnifice dotavit. In regum discordiis componendis admirabilis fuit: in privatis publicisque mortalium sublevandis calamitatibus indefessa.

Defuncto rege Dionysio, sicut virginibus in prima ætate, in matrimonio conjugibus, ita viduis in solitudine fuit omnium virtutum exemplar. Illico enim religiosis sanctæ Claræ vestibus induta, regio funeri constanter interfuit, ac paulo post Compostellam proficiscens, multa ex holoserico, argento, auro, gemmisque donaria pro regis anima obtulit. Inde reversa domum, quidquid sibi carum aut pretiosum supererat, in sacros ac pios usus convertit: absolvendoque suo. vere regio Conimbricensi virginum cœnobio, et alendis pauperibus, et protegendis viduis, defendendis pupillis, miseris omnibus juvandis intenta, non sibi, sed Deo, et mortalium omnium commodis vivebat. Reges duos filium et generum pacificatura, Stremotium nobile oppidum veniens, morbo ex itinere contracto, ibidem a Virgine Deipara visitata sanctissime obiit, anno millesimo trecentesimo trigesimo sexto, die quarta Julii. Post mortem multis miraculis claruit, præsertim suavissimo corporis jam per annos fere trecentos incorrupti odore; semper etiam reginæ sanctæ cognomento Celebris. Tandem anno jubilæi, et nostræ salutis millesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo quinto, totius Christiani orbis concursu et applausu, ab Urbano Octavo rite inter Sanctos adscripta est.
Elizabeth, of the royal race of Aragon, was born in the year of our Lord 1271. Asa presage of her future sanctity, her parents, contrary to custom, passing over the mother and grandmother, gave her in baptism the name of her maternal great-aunt, St. Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia. No sooner was she born, than it became evident what a blessed peacemaker she was to be between kings and kingdoms; for the joy of her birth put a happy period to the miserable quarrels of her father and grandfather. As she grew up, her father, admiring the natural abilities of his daughter, was wont to assert that Elizabeth would far outstrip in virtue all the women descended of the royal blood of Aragon; and so great was his veneration for her heavenly manner of life, her contempt of worldly ornaments, her abhorrence of pleasure, her assiduity in fasting, prayer, and works of charity, that he attributed to her merits alone the prosperity of his kingdom and estate. On account of her widespread reputation, her hand was sought by many princes; at length she was, with all the ceremonies of Holy Church, united in matrimony with Dionysius, king of Portugal.

In the married state she gave herself up to the exercise of virtue and the education of her children, striving, indeed, to please her husband, but still more to please God. For nearly half the year she lived on bread and water alone; and on one occasion when in an illness she had refused to take the wine prescribed by the physician, her water was miraculously changed into wine. She instantaneously cured a poor woman of a loathsome ulcer by kissing it. In the depth of winter she changed the money she was going to distribute to the poor into roses, in order to conceal it from the king. She gave sight to a virgin born blind, healed many other persons of grievous distempers by the mere sign of the Cross, and performed a great number of other miracles of a like nature. She built and amply endowed monasteries, hospitals, and churches. She was admirable for her zeal in composing the differences of kings, and unwearied in her efforts to alleviate the public and private miseries of mankind.

After the death of King Dionysius, Elizabeth, who had been in her youth a model to virgins, and in her married life to wives, became in her solitude a pattern of all virtues to widows. She immediately put on the religious habit of St. Clare, assisted with the greatest fortitude at the king’s funeral, and then, proceeding to Compostella, offered there for the repose of his soul a quantity of 6ilk, silver, gold and precious stones. On her return home she consumed in holy and pious works all she had that was dear and precious to her; she completed the building of her truly royal monastery of virgins at Coimbra, and, wholly engaged in feeding the poor, protecting widows, sheltering orphans, and assisting the afflicted in every way, she lived not for herself, but for the glory of God and the well-being of men. On her way to the noble town of Estremoz, whither she was going in order to make peace between the two kings, her son and son-in-law, she was seized with illness; and in that town, after having been visited by the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, she died a most holy death, on the fourth day of July, in the year 1336. After death she was glorified by many miracles, especially by the sweet fragrance of her body, which has remained incorrupt for nearly three hundred years; and she is always distinguished by the name of the “holy queen.” At length, in the year of jubilee, of our salvation 1625, with the unanimous applause of the assembled Christian world, she was solemnly enrolled among the saints by Pope Urban VIII.

O blessed Elizabeth! we praise God for thy holy works, as the Church this day invites all her sons to do.[1] More valiant than those princes in whose midst thou didst appear as the angel of thy fatherland, thou didst exhibit in thy private life a heroism which could equal theirs, when need was, even on the battlefield. God's grace was the motive-power of thy actions, and His glory their sole end. Often does God gain more glory by abnegations hidden from all eyes but His, than by great works justly admired by a whole people. It is because the power of His grace shines forth the more; and it is generally the way of His providence to cause the most remarkable blessings bestowed on nations to spring from these hidden sources. How many battles celebrated in history have first been fought and won in the sight of the Blessed Trinity, in some hidden spot of that supernatural world, where the elect are even at war with hell, nay, struggle at times even with God Himself; how many famous treaties of peace have first been concluded between heaven and earth in the secret of a single soul, as a reward for those giant struggles which men misunderstand and despise! Let the fashion of this world pass away; and those deep-thinking politicians, who are said to rule the course of events, the proud negotiators and warriors of renown, all, when judged by the light of eternity, will appear what they truly are: mere deceptions screening from the sight of men the only names truly worthy of immortality.

Glory then be to thee, through whom the Lord has deigned to lift a comer of the veil that hides from the world the true rulers of its destinies. In the golden book of the elect, thy nobility rests on better titles than those of birth. Daughter and mother of kings, thyself a queen, thou didst rule over a glorious land; but far more glorious is the family throne in heaven; where thou reignest with the first Elizabeth, with Margaret and with Hedwige, and where others will come to join thee, doing honour to the same noble blood which flowed in thy veins.

Remember, O mother of thy country, that the power given thee on earth is not diminished now that the God of armies has called thee to thy heavenly triumph. True, the land of Iberia, which owes its independence principally to thee, is no longer in the same troubled condition; but if at the present day there is no fear of the Moors, on the other hand, Spain and Portugal have fallen away from their noble traditions; lead them back to the right path, that they may attain the glorious destiny marked out for them by Providence. Thy power in heaven is not restrained within the borders of a kingdom; cast, then, a look of mercy on the rest of the world; see how nations, recognizing no right but might, waste their wealth and their vitality in wholesale bloodshed; has the time come for those terrible wars which are to be harbingers of the end, and wherein the world will work its own destruction? O mother of peace! hear how the Church, the mother of nations, implores thee to make full use of thy sublime prerogative; stop these furious strifes; and make our life on earth a path of peace, leading up to the joys of eternity.[2]


[1] Invitatory.
[2] Collect of the day.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THREE times within the next few days will the number seven appear in the holy liturgy, honouring the Blessed Trinity, and proclaiming the reign of the Holy Spirit with His sevenfold grace. Felicitas, Symphorosa, and the mother of the Machabees, each in turn will lead her seven sons to the feet of Eternal Wisdom. The Church, bereaved of her apostolic founders, pursues her course undaunted, for the teaching of Peter and Paul is defended by the testimony of martyrdom, and, when persecutions have ceased, by that of holy virginity. Moreover, 'the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians':[1] the heroes who in life were the strength of the Bride give her fecundity by their death; and the family of God’s children continues to increase.

Great indeed was the faith of Abraham, when he hoped against all hope that he would become the father of nations through that same Isaac whom he was commanded to slay: but did Felicitas show less faith, when she recognized in the immolation of her seven children the triumph of life and the highest blessing that could be bestowed on her motherhood? Honour be to her, and to those who resemble her! The worldly-wise may scorn them; but they are like noble rivers transforming the desert into a paradise of God, and fertilizing the soil of the Gentile world after the ravages of the first age.

Marcus Aurelius had just ascended the throne, to prove himself during a reign of nineteen years nothing but a second-rate pupil of the sectarian rhetors of the second century, whose narrow views and hatred of Christian simplicity he embraced alike in policy and in philosophy. These men, created by him prefects and proconsuls, raised the most cold-blooded persecution the Church has ever known. The scepticism of this imperial philosopher did not exempt him from the general rule that where dogma is rejected, superstition takes its place; and monarch and people were of one accord in seeking a remedy for public calamities in the rites newly brought from the East, and in the extermination of the Christians. The assertion that the massacres of those days were carried on without the prince’s sanction not only does not excuse him, it is moreover false; it is now a proven truth that, foremost among the tyrants who destroyed the flower of the human race, stands Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, stained more than Domitian or even Nero with the blood of martyrs.

The seven sons of St. Felicitas were the first victims offered by the prince to satisfy the philosophy of his courtiers, the superstition of the people, and, be it said, his own convictions, unless we would have him to be the most cowardly of men. It was he himself who ordered the prefect Publius to entice to apostasy this noble family whose piety angered the gods; it was he again who, after hearing the report of the cause, pronounced the sentence and decreed that it should be executed by several judges in different places, the more publicly to make known the policy of the new reign. The arena opened at the same time in all parts not only of Rome, but of the empire; the personal interference of the sovereign intimated to the hesitating magistrates the line of conduct to pursue if they wished to court the imperial favour. Felicitas soon followed her sons; Justin the philosopher found out by experience what was the sincerity of Cæsar’s love of truth; every class yielded its contingent of victims to the tortures which this would-be wise master of the world deemed necessary for the safety of the empire. At length, that his reign might close as it had begun in blood, a rescript of the so-called mild emperor sanctioned wholesale massacres. Humanity, lowered by the unjust flattery heaped upon this wretched prince even up to our own day, was thus duly rehabilitated by the noble courage of a slave such as Blandina, or of a patrician such as Cæcilia.

Never before had the south wind swept so impetuously through the garden of the Spouse, scattering far and wide the perfume of myrrh and spices. Never before had the Church, like an army set in array, appeared, despite her weakness, so invincible as now, when she was sustaining the prolonged assault of Cæsarism and false science from without, in league with heresy within. Want of space forbids us to enter into the details of a question which is now beginning to be more carefully studied, yet is far from being thoroughly understood. Under cover of the pretended moderation of the Antonines, hell was exerting its most skilful endeavours against Christianity, at the very period which opened with the martyrdom of the Seven Brothers. If the Cæsars of the third century attacked the Church with a fury and a refinement of cruelty unknown to Marcus Aurelius, it was but as a wild beast taking a fresh spring upon the prey that had wellnigh escaped him.

Such being the case, no wonder that the Church has from the very beginning paid especial honour to these seven heroes, the pioneers of that decisive struggle which was to prove her impregnable to all the powers of hell. Was there ever a more sublime scene in that spectacle which the saints have to present to the world? If there was ever a combat which angels and men could equally applaud, it was surely this of July 10, 162; when in four different suburbs of the Eternal City, these seven patrician youths, led by their heroic mother, opened the campaign which was to rescue Rome from these upstart Cæsars and restore her to her immortal destinies. After their triumph, four cemeteries shared the honour of gathering into their crypts the sacred remains of the martyrs; and the glorious tombs have in our own day furnished the Christian archæologist with matter for valuable research and learned writings. As far back as we can ascertain from the most authentic monuments, the sixth of the Ides of July was marked on the calendars of the Roman Church as a day of special solemnity, on account of the four stations where the faithful assembled round the tombs of 'the Martyrs.' This name, given by excellence to the seven brothers, was preserved to them even in time of peace—an honour by so much the greater as there had been torrents of bloodshed under Diocletian. Inscriptions of the fourth century found even in those cemeteries which never possessed their relics, designate July 11 as the ‘day following the feast of the Martyrs.’

The honours of this day, whereon the Church sings the praises of true fraternity, are shared by two valiant sisters. A century had passed over the empire, and the Antonines were no more. Valerian, who at first seemed, like them, desirous of obtaining a character for moderation, soon began to follow them along the path of blood. In order to strike a decisive blow, he issued a decree whereby all the principal ecclesiastics were condemned to death without distinction, and every Christian of rank was bound under the heaviest penalties to abjure his faith. It is to this edict that Rufina and Secunda owed the honour of crossing their palms with those of Sixtus and Lawrence, Cyprian and Hippolytus. They belonged to the noble family of the Turcii Asterii, whose history has been brought to light by modem discovery. According to the prescriptions of Valerian, which condemned Christian women to no more than confiscation and exile, they ought to have escaped death; but to the crime of fidelity to God they added that of holy virginity, and so the roses of martyrdom were twined into their lilywreaths. Their sacred relics lie in St. John Lateran’s, close to the baptistery of Constantine; and the second Cardinalitial See, that of Porto, couples with this title the name of St. Rufina, thus claiming the protection of the blessed martyrs.

Let us read the short account of their martyrdom given us in to-day’s liturgy, beginning with that of the Seven Brothers.

Septem fratres, filii sanctæ Felicitatis, Romæ in persecutione Marci Aurelii Antonini a Publio præfecto primum blanditiis, deinde terroribus tentati, ut Christo renuntiantes, deos venerarentur: et sua virtute, et matre hortante, in fidei confessione perseverantes, varie necati sunt. Januarius plumbatis cæsus: Felix et Philippus fustibus contusi: Silvanus ex altissimo loco præceps dejectus est: Alexander, Vitalis, et Martialis capite plectuntur. Mater eorum quarto post mense eamdem martyrii palmam consecuta est: illi sexto Idus Julii spiritum Domino reddiderunt.
Rufina et Secunda, sorores virgines Romanæ, rejecto connubio Armentarii et Verini, quibus a parentibus desponsæ fuerant, quod Jesu Christo virginitatem vovissent, Valeriano et Gallieno imperatoribus comprehenduntur. Quas cum nec promissis, nec terrore Junius præfectus a proposito posset abducere, Rufìnam primum virgis cædi jubet: in quibus verberibus Secunda judicem sic interpellat: Quid est, quod sororem meam honore, me afficis ignominia? Jube ambas simul cædi, quæ simul Christum Deum confitemur. Quibus verbis incensus judex imperat utramque detrudi in tenebricosum et fœtidum carcerem. Quo loco statim clarissima luce et suavissimo odore completo, in ardente balnei solio includuntur. Et cum inde etiam integræ evasissent, mox saxo ad collum alligato in Tiberim projectæ sunt; unde ab angelo liberatæ, extra Urbem via Aurelia milliario decimo, capite plectuntur. Quarum corpora a Plautilla matrona in ejus prædio sepulta, ac postea in Urbem translata, in Basilica Constantiniana prope Baptisterium condita sunt.
At Rome, in the persecution of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the prefect Publius tried first by fair speeches and then by threats to compel seven brothers, the sons of St. Felicitas, to renounce Christ and adore the gods. But, owing both to their own valour and to their mother’s words of encouragement, they persevered in their confession of faith, and were all put to death in various ways. Januarius was scourged to death with leaded whips, Felix and Philip were beaten with clubs, Silvanus was thrown headlong from a great height, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial were beheaded. Their mother also gained the palm of martyrdom four months later. The brothers gave up their souls to our Lord on the sixth of the Ides of July.
Rufina and Secunda were sisters and virgins of Rome. Their parents had betrothed them to Armentarius and Verinus, but they refused to marry, saying that they had consecrated their virginity to Jesus Christ. They were, therefore, apprehended during the reign of the Emperors Valerian and Gallienus. When Junius, the prefect, saw he could not shake their resolution either by promises or by threats, he first ordered Rufina to be beaten with rods. While she was being scourged, Secunda thus addressed the judge: 'Why do you treat my sister thus honourably, but me dishonourably? Order us both to be scourged, since we both confess Christ to be God.’ Enraged by these words, the judge ordered them both to be cast into a dark and fetid dungeon; immediately a bright light and a most sweet odour filled the prison. They were then shut up in a bath, the floor of which was made red-hot; but from this also they emerged unhurt. Next they were thrown into the Tiber with stones laid to their necks, but an angel saved them from the water, and they were finally beheaded ten miles out of the city on the Aurelian Way. Their bodies were buried by a matron named Plautilla, on her estate, and were afterwards translated into Rome, where they now repose in the Basilica of Constantine near the baptistery.

‘Praise the Lord, ye children, praise the name of the Lord: who maketh the barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.' Such is the opening chant of this morning's Mass. But say, O blessed ones! was your admirable mother barren who gave seven martyrs to the earth? Fecundity, according to this world, counts for nothing before God; this is not the fruitfulness intended by that blessing which fell from the lips of the Lord when in the beginning he made man to his own image. ‘Increase and multiply’ was spoken to a holy one, a son of God, bidding him propagate a divine offspring. As the first creation, so was all future birth to be: man, in communicating his own existence to others, was to transmit to them at the same time the life of their Father in heaven; the natural and the supernatural life were to be as inseparable as a building and its foundation; nature without grace would be but a frame without a picture. All too soon did sin destroy the harmony of the divine plan; nature violently separated from grace could produce only sons of wrath. Yet God was too rich in mercy to abandon the design of His immense love; and having, in the first instance, created us to be His children, He would now re-create us as such in His Word made Flesh. Reduced to a shadow of what it would have been, the union of Adam and Eve, unable to give birth straightway to sons of God, was dismantled of that glory beside which the sublime privileges of the angels would have paled; nevertheless it was still the figure of the great mystery of Christ and the Church. Sterile according to God and doomed to the death she had brought upon her race, it was only by participation in the merits of the second Eve, that the first could be called the mother of the living. Great honour indeed was still to be hers, and she would be able in part to repair her fall, but on condition of yielding to the rights of the Bride of the second Adam. Far better than Pharaoh's daughter rescuing Moses and confiding him to Jochebed, could the Church say to every mother on receiving her babe from the waters: 'Take this child and nurse him for me.’ And every Christian mother, anxious to correspond to the Church's trust in her and proud of being able to realize God’s primitive intentions, might well repeat with regard to this second childbirth, those words uttered by a superhuman love: My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you.[2] Shame upon her that would forget the sublime destiny of her child to be a son of God! A far less crime would it be were she, through negligence or by design, to stifle in him by an education exclusively directed to the senses that intelligence which distinguishes man from the animals subjected to his power. For the attainment of man's true end, the supernatural life is more necessary than the life of reason; for a mother to make no account of it, and to suffer the divine germ to perish after being planted in the infant's soul at its new birth from the sacred font, would be to do unto death the frail being that owed its existence to her.

Far otherwise, O martyrs, did your illustrious mother understand her mission! Hence, though her memory is honoured on the day when four months after you she quitted this earth, yet this present feast is the chief monument of her glory. She, more than yourselves, is celebrated in the readings and chants of the holy Sacrifice, and in the lessons of the Night Office. And why is this? Because, says St. Gregory, being already the handmaid of Christ by faith, she has to-day become His mother, according to our Lord's own word, by giving him a new birth in each of her seven sons. After having made such a complete holocaust of you to your heavenly Father, what will her own matryrdom be, but the longdesired close of her widowhood, the happy hour which will reunite her in glory to you who are doubly her sons? Henceforward, then, on this day which was to her the day of suffering, but not of reward; when after passing seven times over through tortures and death, she had yet to remain in banishment, it is but just that her children should rise and make over to her, as of right, the honours of the triumph. Henceforth, though still an exile, she is clothed with purple, dyed not twice, but seven times; the richest daughters of Eve own that she has surpassed them all in the fruitfulness of martyrdom; her own works praise her in the assembly of the saints. On this day, O sons and mother, and ye two noble sisters who share in their glory, listen to our prayers, protect the Church, and make the whole world heedful of the teaching conveyed by your beautiful example!

[1] Tertullian, Apolog. 50.
[2] Gal. iv. 19.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A HOLY Pope of the second century, the first of the eleven hitherto graced with the name of Pius, rejoices us to-day with his mild and gentle light. Although Christian society was in a precarious condition under the edicts of persecution, which even the best of the pagan emperors never abrogated, our saint profited by the comparative peace enjoyed by the Church under Antoninus Pius to strengthen the foundations of the mysterious tower raised by the divine Shepherd to the honour of the Lord God.[1] He ordained by his supreme authority that, notwithstanding the contrary custom observed in certain places, the feast of Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday throughout the entire Church. The importance of this measure and its effects upon the whole Church will be brought before us on the feast of St. Victor, who succeeded Pius at the close of the century.

The ancient legend of St. Pius I, which has lately been altered, made mention of the decree, attributed in the Corpus juris to our Pontiff,[2] concerning those who should carelessly let fall any portion of the Precious Blood of our Lord. The prescriptions are such as evince the profound reverence the Pope would have to be shown towards the Mystery of the Altar. The penance enjoined is to be of forty days if the Precious Blood have fallen to the ground; and wheresoever it fell, it must, if possible, be taken up with the lips, the dust must be burned, and the ashes thereof thrown into a consecrated place.

Pius, hujus nominis primus, Aquileiensis, Ruffini filius, ex presbytero sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Summus Pontifex creatus est, Antonino Pio et Marco Aurelio imperatoribus augustis. Quinque ordinationibus mense decembri, episcopos duodecim, octodecim presbyteros creavit. Exstant nonnulla ab eo præclare instituta, præsertim ut Resurrectio Domini nonnisi die Dominico celebraretur. Pudentis domum in ecclesiam mutavit, eamque ob præstantiam supra cæteros titulos, utpote Romani Pontificis mansionem, titulo Pastorisdicavit, et in qua sæpe rem sacram fecit, et multos ad fìdem conversos baptizavit, ac in fidelium numerum adscripsit. Dum vero boni Pastoris munus obiret, fuso pro suis ovibus et Summo Pastore Christo sanguine, martyrio coronatus est quinto Idus Julii, ac sepultus in Vaticano.
Pius, the first of this name, a citizen of Aquileia, and son of Rufinus, was priest of the holy Roman Church. During the reign of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius he was chosen Sovereign Pontiff. In five ordinations which he held in the month of December, he ordained twelve bishops and eighteen priests. Several admirable decrees of his are still extant; in particular that which ordains that the Resurrection of our Lord is always to be celebrated on a Sunday. He changed the house of Pudens into a church, and because it surpassed the other titles in dignity, inasmuch as the Roman Pontiffs had made it their dwelling-place, he dedicated it under the title of Pastor. Here he often celebrated the holy mysteries, baptized many who had been converted to the faith, and enrolled them in the ranks of the faithful. While he was thus fulfilling the duties of a good shepherd, he shed his blood for his sheep and for Christ the Supreme Pastor, being crowned with martyrdom on the fifth of the Ides of July. He was buried in the Vatican.

We call to mind, O glorious Pontiff, those words written under thine eye, which seem to be a commentary on thy decree concerning the Sacred Mysteries: 'We receive not,' cried Justin the Philosopher to the world of that second century: ‘We receive not as common bread, nor as common drink, the food which we call the Eucharist; but just as Jesus Christ our Saviour, being made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so have we been taught that the food made Eucharist by the prayer formed of His own word, is both the Flesh and the Blood of this Jesus who is made flesh.’[3] This doctrine, and the measures it so fully justifies, found, towards the close of the same century, other authentic witnesses who, in their turn, would almost seem to be quoting from the prescriptions attributed to thee. ‘We are in the greatest distress,’ said Tertullian, ‘if the least drop from our chalice, or the least crumb of our Bread fall to the ground.’[4] And Origen appealed to the initiated to bear witness to ' the care and veneration with which the sacred gifts were surrounded, for fear the smallest particle should fall; which, if it happened through negligence, would be considered a crime.’[5] And yet in our days heresy, as destitute of knowledge as of faith, pretends that the Church has departed from her ancient traditions by paying exaggerated homage to the divine Sacrament. Obtain for us, O Pius, the grace to return to the spirit of our fathers; not, indeed, with regard to their faith, for that we have kept inviolate, but as to the veneration and love with which that faith inspired them for the Chalice of Inebriation, that richest treasure of earth. May the Pasch of the Lamb unite, as thou didst desire, in one uniform celebration, all who have the honour to bear the name of Christian!


[1] Hermas. Pastor.
[2] Cap. Si per negligentiam, 27, Dist.II. de Consecratione.
[3] Apolog. I. 66.
[4] De Corona, iii.
[5] In Ex. Homil, xiii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

NEVER, from the day when Simon Magus was baptized at Samaria, had hell seemed so near to conquering the Church as at the period brought before us by to-day's feast. Rejected and anathematized by Peter, the new Simon had said to the princes, as the former had said to the apostles:' Sell me this power, that upon whomsoever I shall lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.' And the princes, ready enough to supplant Peter and fill their coffers at the same time, had taken upon themselves to invest men of their own choice with the government of the churches; the bishops in their turn had sold to the highest bidders the various orders of the hierarchy; and sensuality, ever in the wake of covetousness, had filled the sanctuary with defilement.

The tenth century had witnessed the humiliation of the supreme pontificate itself; early in the eleventh, simony was rife among the clergy. The work of salvation was going on in the silence of the cloister; but Peter Damian had not yet come forth from the desert; nor had Hugh of Cluny, Leo IX, and Hildebrand brought their united efforts to bear upon the evil. A single voice was heard to utter the cry of alarm and rouse the people from their lethargy; it was the voice of a monk, who had once been a valiant soldier, and to whom the crucifix had bowed its head in recognition of his generous forgiveness of an enemy. John Gualbert, seeing simony introduced into his own monastery of San Miniato, left it and entered Florence, only to find the pastoral staff in the hands of a hireling. The zeal of God's House was devouring his heart; and going into the public squares, he denounced the bishop and his own abbot, that thus he might, at least, deliver his own soul.

At the sight of this monk confronting single-handed the universal corruption, the multitude was for a moment seized with stupefaction; but soon surprise was turned into rage, and John with difficulty escaped death. From this day his special vocation was determined: the just, who had never despaired, hailed him as the avenger of Israel, and their hope was not to be confounded. But like all who are chosen for a divine work, he was to spend a long time under the training of the Holy Spirit. The athlete had challenged the powers of this world; the holy war was declared: one would naturally have expected it to wage without ceasing until the enemy was entirely defeated. And yet, the chosen soldier of Christ hastened into solitude to 'amend his life,' according to the truly Christian expression used in the foundationcharter of Vallombrosa.[1] The promoters of the disorder, startled at the suddenness of the attack, and then seeing the aggressor as suddenly disappear, would laugh at the false alarm; but, cost what it might to the once brilliant soldier, he knew how to abide, in humility and submission, the hour of God’s good pleasure.

Little by little other souls, disgusted with the state of society, came to join him; and soon the army of prayer and penance spread throughout Tuscany. It was destined to extend over all Italy, and even to cross the mountains. Settimo, seven miles from Florence, and San Salvi, at the gates of the city, were the strongholds whence the holy war was to recommence in 1063. Another simoniac, Peter of Pavia, had purchased the succession to the episcopal see. John, with all his monks, was resolved rather to die than to witness in silence this new insult offered to the Church of God. His reception this time was to be very different from the former, for the fame of his sanctity and miracles had caused him to be looked upon by the people as an oracle. No sooner was his voice heard once more in Florence than the whole flock was so stirred that the unworthy pastor, seeing he could no longer dissemble, cast off his disguise and showed what he really was: a thief who had come only to rob and kill and destroy. By his orders a body of armed men descended upon San Salvi, set fire to the monastery, fell upon the brethren in the midst of the Night Office, and put them all to the sword; each monk continuing to chant till he received the fatal stroke. John Gualbert, hearing at Vallombrosa of the martyrdom of his sons, intoned a canticle of triumph. Florence was seized with horror, and refused to communicate with the assassin bishop. Nevertheless, four years had yet to elapse before deliverance could come; and the trials of St. John had scarcely begun.

St. Peter Damian, invested with full authority by the Sovereign Pontiff, had just arrived from the Eternal City. All expected that no quarter would be given to simony by its sworn enemy, and that peace would be restored to the afflicted Church. The very contrary took place. The greatest saints may be mistaken, and so become to one another the cause of sufferings by so much the more bitter as their will, being less subject to caprice than that of other men, remains more firmly set upon the course they have adopted for the interests of God and His Church. Perhaps the great bishop of Ostia did not sufficiently take into consideration the exceptional position in which the Florentines were placed by the notorious simony of Peter of Pavia, and the violent manner in which he put to death, without form of trial, all who dared to withstand him. Starting from the indisputable principle that inferiors have no right to depose their superiors, the legate reprehended the conduct of the monks, and of all who had separated themselves from the bishop. There was but one refuge for them, the Apostolic See, to which they fearlessly appealed, a proceeding which no one could call uncanonical. But there, says the historian, many who feared for themselves, rose up against them, declaring that these monks were worthy of death for having dared to attack the prelates of the Church; while Peter Damian severely reproached them before the whole Roman Council. The holy and glorious Pope Alexander II took the monks under his own protection, and praised the uprightness of their intention. Yet he dared not comply with their request and proceed further, because the greater number of the bishops sided with Peter of Pavia; the archdeacon Hildebrand alone was entirely in favour of the Abbot of Vallombrosa.[2]

Nevertheless, the hour was at hand when God Himself would pronounce the judgment refused them by men. While overwhelmed with threats and treated as lambs amongst wolves, John Gualbert and his sons cried to heaven with the Psalmist: 'Arise, O Lord, and help us; arise, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Arise, O God, and judge our cause.' At Florence the storm continued to rage. St. Saviour’s at Settimo had become the refuge of such of the clergy as were banished from the town by the persecution; the holy founder, who was then residing in that monastery, multiplied in their behalf the resources of his charity. At length the situation became so critical that one day in Lent of the year 1067 the rest of the clergy and the whole population left the simoniac alone in his deserted palace and fled to Settimo. Neither the length of the road, deep in mud from the rain, noi the rigorous fast observed by all, says the narrative written at that very time to the Sovereign Pontiff by the clergy and people of Florence, could stay the most delicate matrons, women about to become mothers, or even children. Evidently the Holy Ghost was actuating the crowd; they called for the judgment of God. John Gualbert, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, gave his consent to the trial; and in testimony of the truth of the accusation brought by him against the Bishop of Florence, Peter, one of his monks, since known as Peter Igneus, walked slowly before the eyes of the multitude through an immense fire, without receivingthe smallest injury. Heaven had spoken: the bishop was deposed by Rome, and ended his days, a happy penitent, in that very monastery of Settimo.

In 1073, the year in which his friend Hildebrand was raised to the Apostolic See, John was called to God. His influence against simony had reached far beyond Tuscany. The Republic of Florence ordered his feast to be kept as a holiday, and the following words were engraved upon his tombstone:

TO JOHN GUALBERT, 
CITIZEN OF FLORENCE,
DELIVERER OF ITALY.

Let us read the notice which the Church consecrates to his blessed memory, though with a few differences of detail.

Joannes Gualbertus, Fiorentiæ nobili genere ortus, dum patri obsequens rem militarem sequitur, Ugo, unicus ejus frater, occiditur a consanguineo: quem cum solum et inermem sancto Parasceves die Joannes armia ac militibus stipatus obvium haberet, ubi neuter alterum poterat declinare, ob sanctæ Crucis reverentiam, quam homicida supplex, mortem jamjam subiturus, brachiis signabat, vitami ei clementer indulget. Hoste in fratrem recepto, proximum sancti Miniatis templum oraturus ingreditur, ubi adoratam Crucifixi imaginem caput sibi flectere conspicit. Quo mirabili facto permotus Joannes, Deo exinde, etiam invito patre, militare decernit, atque ibidem propriis sibi manibus comam totondit, ac monasticum habitum induit; adeoque piis ac religiosis virtutibus brevi coruscat, ut multis se perfectionis specimen ac normam præberet; ita ut, ejusdem loci Abbate defuncto, communi omnium voto in superiorem eligeretur. At Dei famulus cupiens subesse potius quam præesse, ad majora divina voluntate servatus, ad Camaldulensis eremi incolam Romualdum proficiscitur: a quo cœlicum sui instituti vaticinium accipit: tum suum Ordinem sub regula sancti Benedicti apud Umbrosam vallem instituit.

Deinde, plurimis ad eum ob ejus sanctitatis famam undique convolantibus, una cum iis in socios adscitis, ad hæreticam et simoniacam pravitatem exstirpandam et apostolicam fìdem propagandam sedulo incumbit, innumera propterea in se et suis incommoda expertus. Nam ut eum ejusque socios adversarii perdant, noctu sancti Salvii cænobium repente aggrediuntur, templum incendunt, ædes demoliuntur, et monachos omnes lethali vulnere sauciant: quos vir Dei unico crucis signo incolumes protinus reddit; et Petro ejus monacho per immensum ardentissimumque ignem illæso mirabiliter transeunte, optatam sibi et suis tranquillitatem obtinet. Inde simoniacam labem ab Etruria expulit, ac in tota Italia fidem pristinæ integritati restituit.

Multa funditus erexit monasteria, eademque et alia ædificiis ac regulari observantia instaurata, sanctis legibus communivit. Ad egenos alendos sacram supellectilem vendidit: ad improbos coercendos dementa sibi famulari conspexit: ad dæmones comprimendos crucem quasi ensem adhibuit. Demum abstinentiis, vigiliis, jejuniis, orationibus, carnis macerationibus, ac senio confectus, dum infirma valetudine gravaretur, Davidica illa verba persæpe repetebat: Sitivit anima mea ad Deum fortem, vivum: quando veniam, et apparebo ante faciem Dei? Jamque morti proximus, convocatos discipulos ad fraternam concordiam cohortatur, et in breviculo, cui consepeliri voluit, jussit hæc scribi: Ego Joannes credo, et confiteor fidem, quam sancti Apostoli prædicaverunt, et sancti Patres in quatuor conciliis confirmaverunt. Tandem triduano angelorum obsequio dignatus, septuagesimum octavum annum agens, apud Passinianum, ubi summa veneratione colitur, migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo septuagesimo tertio, quarto Idus Julii. Quem Cœlestinus Tertius innumeris miraculis clarum in Sanctorum numerum retulit.

John Gualbert was born at Florence of a noble family. While, in compliance with his father’s wishes, he was following the career of arms, it happened that his only brother Hugh was slain by a kinsman. On Good Friday, John, at the head of an armed band, met the murderer alone and unarmed, in a spot where they could not avoid each other. Seeing death imminent, the murderer, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, begged for mercy, and John, through reverence for the sacred sign, graciously spared him. Having thus changed his enemy into a brother, he went to pray in the church of San Miniato, which was near at hand; and as he was adoring the image of Christ crucified, he saw it bend its head towards him. John was deeply touched by this miracle, and determined thenceforward to fight for God alone, even against his father’s wish; so on the spot he cut off his own hair and put on the monastic habit. Very soon his pious and religious manner of life shed abroad so great a lustre that he became to many a living rule and pattern of perfection. Hence on the death of the Abbot of the place he was unanimously chosen superior. But the servant of God, preferring obedience to superiority, and moreover being reserved by the divine will for greater things, betook himself to Romuald, who was then living in the desert of Camaldoli, and who, inspired by heaven, announced to him the institute he was to form; whereupon he laid the foundations of his Order under the Rule of St. Benedict at Vallombrosa.

Soon afterwards many, attracted by the renown of his sanctity, flocked to him from all sides. He received them into his society, and together with them he zealously devoted himself to rooting out heresy and simony, and propagating the apostolic faith; on account of which devotedness both he and his disciples suffered innumerable injuries. Thus, his enemies in their eagerness to destroy him and his brethren, suddenly attacked the monastery of San Salvi by night, burned the church, demolished the buildings, and mortally wounded all the monks. The man of God, however, restored them all forthwith to health by a single sign of the cross. Peter, one of his monks, miraculously walked unhurt through a huge blazing fire, and thus John obtained for himself and his sons the peace they so much desired. From that time forward every stain of simony disappeared from Tuscany; and faith, throughout all Italy, was restored to its former purity.

John built many entirely new monasteries, and restored many others both as to their material buildings and as to regular observance, strengthening them all with the bulwark of holy regulations. In order to feed the poor he sold the sacred vessels of the altar. The elements were obedient to his will when he sought to check evil-doers; and the sign of the cross was the sword he used whereby to conquer the devils. At length, worn out by abstinence, watchings, fasting, prayer, maceration of the flesh, and finally old age, he fell into a grievous malady, during which he repeated unceasingly those words of David: 'My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God: when shall I come and appear before the face of God?’ When death drew near, calling together his disciples, he exhorted them to preserve fraternal union. Then he caused these words to be written on a paper which he wished should be buried with him: 'I, John, believe and confess the faith which the holy apostles preached, and the holy Fathers in the four Councils have confirmed. At length, having been honoured during three days with the gracious presence of angels, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, he departed to the Lord at Passignano, where he is honoured with the highest veneration. He died in the year of salvation 1073, on the fourth of the Ides of July; and having become celebrated by innumerable miracles, was enrolled by Celestine III in the number of the saints.

O true disciple of the New Law, who didst know how to spare an enemy for the love of the Holy Cross! teach us to practise, as thou didst, the lessons conveyed by the instrument of our salvation, which will then become to us, as to thee, a weapon ever victorious over the powers of hell. Could we look upon the Cross, and then refuse to forgive our brother an injury, when God Himself not only forgets our heinous offences against His sovereign Majesty, but even died upon the Tree to expiate them? The most generous pardon a creature can grant is but a feeble shadow of the pardon we daily obtain from our Father in heaven. Still, the Gospel which the Church sings in thy honour may well teach us that the love of our enemies is the nearest resemblance we can have to our heavenly Father, and the sign that we are truly His children.

Thou hadst, O John, this grand trait of resemblance. He, who in virtue of His eternal generation is the true Son of God by nature, recognized in thee the mark of nobility which made thee His brother. When He bowed His sacred Head to thee, He saluted in thee the character of a child of God, which thou hadst just so beautifully maintained: a title a thousand times more glorious than those of thy noble ancestry. What a powerful germ was the Holy Ghost planting at that moment in thy heart! And how richly does God recompense a single generous act! Thy sanctification, the glorious share thou didst take in the Church's victory, the fecundity whereby thou livest still in the Order sprung from thee: all these choice graces for thy own soul and for so many others hung upon that critical moment. Fate, or the justice of God, as thy contemporaries would have said, had brought thy enemy within thy power: how wouldst thou treat him? He was deserving of death; and in those days every man was his own avenger. Hadst thou then inflicted due punishment upon him, thy reputation would have rather increased than diminished. Thou wouldst have obtained the esteem of thy comrades; but the only glory which is of any worth before God, indeed the only glory which lasts long even in the sight of men, would never have been thine. Who would have known thee at the present day? Who would have felt the admiration and gratitude with which thy very name now inspires the children of the Church?

The Son of God, seeing that thy dispositions were conformable to those of His Sacred Heart, filled thee with His own jealous love of the holy City for whose redemption He shed His blood. O thou that wert zealous for the beauty of the Bride, watch over her still; deliver her from hirelings who would fain receive from men the right of holding the place of the Bridegroom. In our days venality is less to be feared than compromise. Simony would take another form; there is not so much danger of bribery as of fawning, paying homage, making advances, entering into implicit contracts; all which proceedings are as contrary to the holy canons as are pecuniary transactions. And after all, is the evil any the less for taking a milder form, if it enables princes to bind the Church again in fetters such as thou didst labour to break? Suffer not, O John Gualbert, such a misfortune, which would be the forerunner of terrible disasters. Continue to support with thy powerful arm the common Mother of men. Save thy fatherland a second time, even in spite of itself. Protect, in these sad times, the Order of which thou art the glory and the father; give it strength to outlive the confiscations and the cruelties it has suffered from that same Italy which once hailed thee as its deliverer. Obtain for Christians of every condition the courage required for the warfare in which all are bound to engage.

On this same day the whole Church unites in the solemn homage which Milan continues to pay, after a lapse of sixteen centuries, to two valiant witnesses of Christ. ‘Our martyrs, Felix and Nabor,’ says St. Ambrose, ‘are the grain of mustard-seed mentioned in the Gospel. They possessed the good odour of faith, though it did not appear to men; persecution arose, they laid down their arms, and bowed their heads to the sword, and immediately the grace that was hidden within them was shed abroad even to the ends of the world; so that we can now in all truth say of them: Their sound has gone forth into all the earth.'

Let us honour them and ask their intercession by the prayer which the Church addresses to God in commemoration of their glorious combat.

Collect

Præsta, quæsumus, Domine: ut, sicut nos sanctorum Martyrum tuorum Naboris et Felicis natalitia celebranda non deserunt, ita jugiter suffragiis comitentur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that as the festival of thy holy martyrs, Nabor and Felix, returns for us to celebrate, it may always be accompanied by their intercession. Through our Lord, etc.

[1] Melioranda vitæ gratia; Litteræ donationis Ittæ Abbatissæ; Ughelli, III., 299 vel 231.
[2] Vita S. J. Gualb. ap. Baron, ad an. 1063.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE name of Anacletus sounds like a lingering echo of the solemnity of June 29. Linus, Clement, and Cletus, the immediate successors of St. Peter, received from his hands the pontifical consecration; Anacletus had a less but still inestimable glory of being ordained priest by the Vicar of the Man-God. Whereas the feasts of most of the martyr Pontiffs who came after him are only of simple rite, that of Anacletus is a semidouble, because of his privilege of being the last Pope honoured by the imposition of hands of the Prince of the Apostles. It was also during his pontificate that the Eternal City had the glory of receiving within its walls the beloved disciple, who had come to fulfil his promise and drink of his Master's chalice. ‘O happy Church,’ exclaims Tertullian, 'into whose bosom the Apostles poured not only all their teaching, but their very blood; where Peter imitated his Lord’s Passion by dying on the cross; where Paul, like John the Baptist, received his crown by means of the sword; whence the Apostle John, after coming forth safe and sound from the boiling oil, was sent to the isle of his banishment.’[1]

By the almighty power of the Spirit of Pentecost the progress of the faith in Rome was proportionate to the bountiful graces of our Lord. Little by little the great Babylon, drunk with the blood of the martyrs, was being transformed into the Holy City. This newborn race, so full of promise for the future, could already reckon among its members representatives of every class of society. Beside the boiling cauldron where the prophet of Patmos did homage to the new Jerusalem by offering within her walls his glorious confession, two consuls, one representing the ancient patrician rank, the other the more modem nobility of the Cæsars, Acilius Glabrio and Flavius Clemens, together fell by the sword of martyrdom. Anacletus adorned the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, and provided a burialplace for the other Pontiffs. Following his example, the distinguished families of Rome opened galleries for subterranean cemeteries, all along the roads leading to the Imperial City. There rest innumerable soldiers of Christ, victorious by their blood; and there, too, sleep in peace, with the anchor of salvation beside them, the most illustrious names of earth.

Anacletus Athenlensis, Trajano imperatore, rexit Ecclesiam. Decrevit ut episcopus a tribus episcopis, neque a paucioribus consecraretur, et clerici sacris Ordinibus publice a proprio episcopo initiarentur: et ut in Missa, peracta consecratione, omnes communicarent. Beati Petri sepulcrum ornavit, Pontificumque sepulturæ locum attribuit. Fecit ordinationes duas mense Decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros quinque, diaconos tres, episcopos sex. Sedit annos novem, menses tres, dies decem. Martyrio coronatus, sepultus est in Vaticano.
Anacletus, an Athenian by birth, governed the Church in the days of the Emperor Trajan. He decreed that a bishop should be consecrated by no fewer than three bishops; that clerics should be publicly admitted to Holy Orders, by their own bishop; and that at Mass all should communicate after the Consecration. He adorned the tomb of blessed Peter, and set aside a place for the burial of the Pontiffs. He held two ordinations in the month of December, and made five priests, three deacons, and six bishops. He sat in St. Peter's Chair nine years, three months, and ten days, was crowned with martyrdom and buried in the Vatican.

Glorious Pontiff! thy memory is so closely linked with that of Peter that many reckon thee, under a somewhat different name, among the three august persons raised by the Prince of the Apostles to the highest rank in the hierarchy. Nevertheless, in distinguishing thee from Cletus, who appeared in the sacred cycle in the month of April, we are justified by the authority of theholy liturgy, which appoints thee a separate feast, and by the constant testimony of Rome itself, which knows better than any the names and the history of its Pontiffs. Happy art thou in being thus, as it were, lost to sight among the foundations whereon rest for ever the strength and beauty of the Church! Give us all a special love for the particular positions assigned to us in the sacred building. Receive the grateful homage of all the living stones who are chosen to form the eternal temple, and who will all lean upon thee for evermore.


[1] De præscript. xxxvi.

 

 

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