logo with text

Keyword

Category

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

f1

f2

f3

August

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Zephyrinus was the first Pontiff to be buried in the celebrated crypt where the Popes of the third century came after their combat to sleep their last sleep. The catacomb which thus succeeded the Vatican cemetery in the honour of sheltering the vicars of Christ, had been opened thirty years before by the virgin martyr Cæcilia. As, when at the point of death, she had consecrated her palace into a church, so now from her tomb she caused her family burialplace to pass into the hands of the Church. This gift of the Cæcilii was the inauguration, in the very face of the pagan government, of common Church property officially recognized by the State. Zephyrinus entrusted the administration of the new cemetery to the person who ranked next to himself in the Roman Church, viz: the archdeacon Callixtus. The holy Pontiff witnessed the growth of heresy concerning the Unity of God and the Trinity of the divine Persons; without the help of the special vocabulary, which was later on to fix even the very terms of theological teaching, he knew how to silence both the Sabellians to whom the Trinity was but a name, and the precursors of Arms, who revenged themselves by reviling him.[1]

Zephyrinus Romanus Severo imperatore act regendam Ecclesiam assumptus, sancivit, ut qui ordinandi essent, opportuno tempore et multis præsentibus clerieia et laicis, de more sacris initiarentur; doctique ac spectatæ vitæ homines ad id officii munus deligerentur. Decrevit præterea, ut rem divinam facienti episcopo sacerdotes omnes astarent. Idem instituit ut patriarcha, primas, metropolitanus adversus episcopum non ferant sententiam, nisi apostolica auctoritate fulti. Vixit in pontificatu annos decem et octo, dies decem et octo. Habuit ordinationes quatuor mense decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros tredecim, diaconos septem, episcopos per diversa loca tredecim. Antonino imperatore martyrio coronatila est, et sepultus via Appia prope cœmeterium Callisti, septimo calendas septembris.
Zephyrinus, a Roman by birth, was chosen to govern the Church during the reign of the emperor Severus. He ordained that, according to custom, Holy Orders should be conferred on candidates at a fitting time and in presence of many both clergy and laity; and also that learned and worthy men should be chosen for that dignity. Moreover he decreed that when the bishop was offering the holy Sacrifice, he should be assisted by all the priests. He also ordained that neither patriarch, nor primate, nor metropolitan might condemn a bishop without the authority of the apostolic See. His pontificate lasted eighteen years and eighteen days. In four ordinations which he held in the month of December, he ordained thirteen priests, seven deacons, and thirteen bishops for divers places. He was crowned by martyrdom under the emperor Antoninus, and was buried on the Appian Way, near the cemetery of Callixtus, on the seventh of the Calends of September.

Victor I was the Pontiff of the Pasch; and thou also, his successor, wast devoured by the zeal of God's house, to maintain and increase the regularity, the dignity, and the splendour of the divine worship on earth. In heaven the court of the Conqueror of death gained, during thy pontificate, many noble members, such as Irenæus, Perpetua, and the countless martyrs who triumphed in the persecution of Septimus Severus. In the midst of dangerous snares thou wast the divinely assisted guardian of the truth, whom our Lord had promised to His Church. Thy fidelity was rewarded by the increasing advancement of the bride of Jesus, and by the definitive establishment of her foothold upon the world which she is to gain over wholly to her Spouse. We shall meet thee again in October, in company with Callixtus, who is now thy deacon, but will then, in his turn, be vicar of the Man-God. To-day give us thy paternal blessing; and make us ever true sons of St. Peter.


[1] Philosophumem, Lib, ix.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘To thee is the poor man left: thou wilt be a helper to the orphan.’[1] Proud Venice has already seen these words realized in her noble son Jerome Æmilian: to-day they indicate the sanctity of another illustrious person descended from the first princes of Navarre, but of still higher rank in the kingdom of charity.

God, who waters the trees of the field as well as the cedars of Libanus, because it is He that planted them all, takes care also of the little birds that do not gather into barns: will He then forget the child, who is of much more value than the birds of the air? Or will He give him corporal nourishment, and neglect the soul hungering for the bread of the knowledge of salvation, which strengthens the heart of man? In the sixteenth century one might have been tempted to think our heavenly Father’s granaries were empty. True, the holy Spirit soon raised up new saints; hut the reviving charity was insufficient for the number of the destitute; how many poor ohildren, especially, were without schools, deprived of the most elementary education which is indispensable to the fulfilment of their obligations, and to their nobility as children of God: and there was no one to break to them the bread of knowledge!

More fortunate than so many other countries overrun with heresy, Spain was at her apogee, enjoying the hundredfold promised to those who seek first the kingdom of God. She seemed to have become our Lord’s inexhaustible resource. A little while ago she had given Ignatius Loyola to the world; she had just enriched heaven by the precious death of Teresa of Avila, when the Holy Ghost drew once more from her abundance to add to the riches of the capital of the Christian world, and to supply the wants of the little ones in God’s Church.

The descendant of the Calasanz of Petralta de la Sal was already the admired apostle of Aragon, Catalonia, and Castille, when he heard a mysterious voice speaking to his soul: 'Go to Rome; go forth from the land of thy birth; soon shall appear to thee, in her heavenly beauty, the companion destined for thee, holy poverty, who now calls thee to taste of her austere delights; go, without knowing whither I am leading thee; I will make thee the father of an immense family; I will show thee all that thou must suffer for My name’s sake.’

Forty years of blind fidelity, in unconscious sanotity, had prepared the elect of heaven for his sublime vocation. 'What can be greater,' asks St. John Chrysostom, ‘than to direct the souls and form the characters of children? Indeed I consider him greater than any painter or sculptor, who knows how to fashion the souls of the young.’[2] Joseph understood the dignity of his mission: during the remaining fifty-two years of his life he, according to the recommendations of the holy Doctor, considered nothing mean or despicable in the service of the little ones; nothing cost him dear if only it enabled him, by the teaching of letters, to infuse into the innumerable children who came to him the fear of the Lord. From St. Pantaleon, his residence, the Pious schools soon covered the whole of Italy, spread into Sicily and Spain, and were eagerly sought by kings and people in Moravia, Bohemia, Poland, and the northern countries.

Eternal Wisdom associated Calasanctius to her own work of salvation on earth. She rewarded him for his labours as she generally does her privileged ones, by giving him a strong conflict, that he might overcome, and know that wisdom is mightier than all,[3] It is a conflict like that of Jacob at the ford of Jaboc which represents the last obstacle to the entrance into the promised land, when all the pleasures and goods of the world have been sent on before by absolute renouncement; it is a conflict by night, wherein nature fails and becomes lame; but it is followed by the rising of the sun, and sets the combatant at the entrance of eternal day; it is a conflict with God hand to hand, under the appearance, it is true, of a man or of an angel; but it matters little under what form God chooses to hide Himself, provided it takes nothing from His sovereign dominion. ‘Why dost thou ask my name?’ said the wrestler to Jacob; ‘thine shall be henceforth Israel, strong against God.’[4]

Our readers may consult the historians of Saint Joseph Calasanctius for the details of the trials which made him a prodigy of fortitude, as the Church calls him.[5] Through the calumnies of false brethren the saint was deposed, and the Order reduced to the condition of a secular congregation. It was not until after his death that it was re-established, first by Alexander VII, and then by Clement IX, as a Regular Order with solemn vows. In his great work on the Canonization of saints, Benedict XIV speaks at length on this subject, delighting in the part he had taken in the process of the servant of God, first as consistorial advocate, then as promoter of the faith, and lastly as Cardinal giving his vote in favour of the cause. We shall see in the lessons that it was he also that beatified him.

Let us now read the life of the founder of the Poor Regular Clerks of the Pious Schools of the Mother of God.

Josephus Calasanctius a Matre Dei, Petralte in Aragonia nobili genere natus, a teneris annis futuræ in pueros caritatis et eorum institutionis indicia præbuit. Nam adhuc parvulus eos ad se convocatos in mysteriis fidei et sacris precibus erudiebat. Humanis divinisque litteris egregie doctus, cum studiis theologicis Valentiæ operam daret, nobilis potentisque feminæ illecebris fortiter superatis, virginitatem quam Deo voverat, inoffensam insigni victoria servavit. Sacerdos ex voto factus, a compluribus episcopis in Castellæ Novæ, Aragoniæ, et Catalauniæ regnis in partem laboris ascitus, exspectationem omnium vicit, pravis ubique moribus emendatis, ecclesiastica disciplina restituta, inimicitiis cruentisque factionibus mirifice exstinctis. At cœlesti visione et Dei voce frequenter admonitus, Romam profectus est.

In urbe summa vitæ asperitate, vigiliis et jejuniis corpus affli gens, in orationibus et cœlestium rerum contemplatione dies noctesque versabatur, septem ejusdem Urbis ecclesias singuiis fere noctibus obire solitus: quem inde morem complures annos servavit. Dato piis sodalitatibus nomine, mirum quanto ardore pauperes, infirmos potissimum, aut carceribusdetentos eleemosynis omnique pietatis officio sublevaret. Lue Urbem depopulante, una cum sancto Camillo, tanto fuit actus impetu caritatis, ut præter subsidia ægrotis pauperibus large collata, ipsa etiam defunctorum cadavera suis humeris tumulanda transferret. Verum cum divinitus accepisset, se ad informandos intelligentiæ ac pietatis spiritu adolescentulos, præcipue pauperes, destinan, Ordinem Clerieoruin regularium pauperum Matris Dei scholarum piaruni fundavit, qui peculiarem curam circa puerorum eruditionem ex proprio instituto profiterentur: ipsumque Ordinem a Clemente octavo, a Paulo quinto, aliisque summis Pontificibus magnopere probatum, brevi tempore per plurimas Europæ provincias et regna mirabiliter propagavit. In hoc autem tot labores perpessus est, ac tot ærumnas invicto animo toleravit, ut omnium voce miraculum fortitudinis, et sancti Jobi exemplum diceretur.

Quamvis Ordini universo præesset, totisque viribus ad animarum salutem incumberet, numquam tamen intermisit pueros, præsertim pauperiores, erudire, quorum scholas verrere, eosque domum comitari consuevit. In eo summæ patientiæ et humilitatis munere, valetudine etiam infirma, duos et quinquaginta annos perse veravit: dignus propterea, quem crebria Deus miraculis coram discipulis illustraret et cui beatissima Virgo cum puero Jesu, illis orantibus benedicente, appareret. Amplissimis interim dignitatibus repudiatis, prophetia, abdita cordium et absentia cognoscendi donis et miraculis clarus, Deiparæ Virginis, quam singulari pietate et ipse ab infantia coluit, et suis maxime commendavit, aliorumque cœlitum frequenti apparitone dignatus, cura obitus sui diem, et Ordinis tunc prope eversi restitutionem atque incrementum prænuntiasset, secundum et nonagesimum annum agens, Romæ obdormivit in Domino, octavo calendas septembris, anno millesimo sexcentesimo quadragesimo octavo. Ejus cor et lingua post sæculum integra et incorrupta reperta sunt. Ipse vero multis post obitum quoque signis a Deo illustratus, primum a Benedicto decimo quarto beatorum cultu decoratus fuit, ac deinde a Clemente decimo tertio inter sanctos solemniter est relatus.
Joseph Calasanctius of the Mother of God was born of a noble family of Petralta in Aragon, and from his earliest years gave signs of his future love for children and their education. For, when still a little child, he would gather other children round him and would teach them the mysteries of faith and holy prayer. After having received a good education in the liberal arts and divinity, he went through his theological studies at Valencia. Here he courageously overcame the seductions of a noble and powerful lady, and by a remarkable victory preserved unspotted his virginity which he had already vowed to God. He became a priest in fulfilment of a vow; and several bishops of New Castille, Aragon, and Catalonia availed themselves of his assistance. He surpassed all their expectations, corrected evil living throughout the kingdom, restored ecclesiastical discipline, and was marvellously successful in putting an end to enmities and bloody factions. But urged by a heavenly vision, and after having been several times called by God, he went to Rome.

Here he led a life of great austerity; fasting and watching, spending whole days and nights in heavenly contemplation, and visiting the seven basilicas of the city almost every night. This last custom he observed for many years. He enrolled himself in pious associations, and with wonderful charity devoted himself to aiding and consoling the poor with alms and other works of mercy, especially those who were sick or imprisoned. When the plague was raging in Rome, he joined St. Camillus, and not content in his ardent zeal, with bestowing lavish care upon the sick poor, he even carried the dead to the grave on his own shoulders. But having been divinely admonished that he was called to educate children, especially those of the poor, in piety and learning, he founded the Order of the Poor Regular Clerks of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools, who are specially destined to devote themselves to the instruction of youth. This Order was highly approved by Clement VIII., Paul V., and others of the Roman Pontiffs, and in a wonderfully short space of time it spread through many of the kingdoms of Europe. But in this undertaking Joseph had to undergo many sufferings and labours, and he endured them all with so much constancy, that every one proclaimed him a miracle of patience and another Job.

Though burdened with the government of the whole Order, he nevertheless devoted himself to saving souls, and moreover never gave over teaching children, especially those of the poorer class. He would sweep their schools and take them to their homes himself. For fifty-two years he persevered in this work, though it called upon him to practise the greatest patience and humility, and although he suffered from weak health. God rewarded him by honouring him with many miracles in the presence of his disciples; and the blessed Virgin appeared to him with the Infant Jesus who blessed his children while they were praying. He refused the highest dignities, but he was made illustrious by the gifts of prophecy, of reading the secrets of hearts, and of knowing what was going on in his absence. He was favoured with frequent apparitions of the citizens of heaven, particularly of the Virgin Mother of God, whom he had loved and honoured most especially from his infancy, and whose cultus he had most strongly recommended to his disciples. He foretold the day of his death and the restoration and propagation of his Order, which was then almost destroyed, and in his ninety-second year he fell asleep in our Lord, at Rome, on the eighth of the Calends of September, in the year 1648. A century later, his heart and tongue were found whole and incorrupt. God honoured him by many miracles after his death. Benedict XIV. granted him the henours of the blessed, and Clement XIII. solemnly enrolled him among the saints.

 


The Lord hath heard the desires of the poor,[6] by making thee the depositary of His love, and putting on thy lips the words He Himself was the first to utter: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’[7] How many owe, and will yet owe, their eternal happiness to thee, O Joseph, because thou and thy sons have preserved in them the divine likeness received in Baptism, man’s only title to heaven! Be thou blessed for having justified the confidence Jesus placed in thee by entrusting to thy care those frail little beings, who are the objects of His divine predilection. Be thou blessed for having still further corresponded to that confidence of our Lord, when He suffered thee, like Job, to be persecuted by satan, and with yet more cruel surprises than those of the just Idumæan. Must not God be able to count unfailingly upon those who are His? Is it not fitting that, amidst the defections of this miserable world, He should be able to show His angels what grace can do in our poor nature, and how far His adorable will can be carried out in His saints?

The reward of thy sufferings, which thy unwavering confidence expected from the Mother of God, came at the divinely appointed hour. O Joseph, now that the Pious Schools have been long ago re-established, bless the disciples whom even our age continues to give thee; obtain for them, and for the countless scholars they train to Christian science, the blessing of the Infant Jesus. Give thy spirit and thy courage to all who devote their labours and their life to the education of the young; raise us all to the level of the teaching conveyed by thy heroic life.


[1] Ps. ix. 14.
[2] Homilia diei, ex Chyrs. in Matth. lx.
[3] Wisd. x. 12.
[4] Gen. xxxii.
[5] 2nd lesson of the second Nocturn.
[6] Offertory from Ps. ix. 17.
[7] Communion from St. Mark x. 14.

 

To-day Augustine, the greatest and the humblest of the Doctors, is hailed by heaven, where his conversion caused greater joy than that of any other sinner; and celebrated by the Church, who is enlightened by his writings as to the power, the value, and the gratuitousness of divine grace.

Since that wonderful, heavenly conversation at Ostia,[1] God had completed His triumph in the son of Monica’s tears and of Ambrose’s holiness. Far away from the great cities where pleasure had seduced him, the former rhetorician now cared only to nourish his soul with the simplicity of the Scriptures, in silence and solitude. But grace, after breaking the double chain that bound his mind and his heart, was to have a still greater dominion over him; the pontifical consecration was to consummate Augustine’s union with that divine Wisdom, whom alone he declared he loved ‘for her own sole sake, caring neither for rest nor life save on her account.’[2] From this height, to which the divine mercy had raised him, let us hear him pouring out his heart:

Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and yet so new! Too late have I loved Thee! And behold Thou wast within me, and I, having wandered out of myself, sought Thee everywhere without. . . . I questioned the earth, and she answered me: “I am not the one thou seekest”; and all the creatures of earth made the same reply. I questioned the sea and its abysses and all the living things therein, and they answered: “We are not thy God; seek above us.” I questioned the restless winds; and all the air with its inhabitants replied: “Anaximenes is mistaken, I am not God.” I questioned the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they said: “We are not the God whom thou seekest.” And I said to all these things that stand without at the gates of my senses: “Ye have all confessed concerning my God that ye are not He, tell me now something about Him.” And they all cried with one great voice: “It is He that made us.” I questioned them with my desires, and they answered by their beauty.— Let the air and the waters and the earth be silent! Let man keep silence in his own soul! Let him pass beyond his own thought; for beyond all language of men or of angels, He, of whom creatures speak, makes Himself heard; where signs and images and figurative visions cease, there eternal Wisdom reveals Herself. . . . Thou didst call and cry so loud that my deaf ears could hear Thee; Thou didst shine so brightly that my blind eyes could see Thee; Thy fragrance exhilarated me, and it is after Thee that I aspire; having tasted Thee I hunger and thirst; Thou hast touched me and thrilled me, and I burn to be in Thy peaceful rest. When I shall be united to Thee with my whole being, then will my sorrows and labours cease.[3]

To the end of his life Augustine never ceased to fight for the truth against all the heresies then invented by the father of lies; in his ever repeated victories, we know not which to admire most: his knowledge of the holy Scriptures, his powerful logic, or his eloquence. We see too that divine charity which, while inflexibly upholding every iota of God’s rights, is full of ineffable compassion for the unhappy beings who do not understand those rights.

Let those be hard upon you who do not know what labour it is to reach the truth and turn away from error. Let those be hard upon you, who know not how rare a thing it is, and how much it costs, to overcome the false images of the senses and to dwell in peace of soul. Let those be hard upon you, who know not with what difficulty man’s mental eye is healed so as to be able to gaze upon the Sun of justice; who know not through what sighs and groans one attains to some little knowledge of God. Let those, finally, be hard upon you, who have never known seduction like that whereby you are deceived. ... As for me, who have been tossed about by the vain imaginations of which my mind was in search, and who have shared your misery and so long deplored it, I could not by any means be harsh to you.[4]

These touching words were addressed to the disciples of Manes, who were hemmed in on all sides even by the laws of the pagan emperors. How fearful is the misery of our fallen race, when the darkness of hell can overpower the loftiest intellects! Augustine, the formidable opponent of heresy, was, for nine years previously, the convinced disciple and ardent apostle of Manicheism. This heresy was a strange variety of Gnostic dualism, which, to explain the existence of evil, made a god of evil itself; and which owed its prolonged influence to the pleasure taken in it by satan’s pride.

Augustine sustained also a prolonged though more local struggle against the Donatists, whose teaching was based on a principle as false as the fact from which it professed to originate. This fact, which on the petitions presented by the Donatists themselves was juridically proved to be false, was that Cæcilianus, primate of Africa in 311, had received episcopal consecration from a traditor, i. e. one who had delivered up the sacred Books in time of persecution. No one, argued the Donatists, could communicate with a sinner, without himself ceasing to form part of the flock of Christ; therefore, as the bishops of the rest of the world had continued to communicate with Cæcilianus and his successors, the Donatists alone were now the Church. This groundless schism was established among most of the inhabitants of Roman Africa, with its four hundred and ten bishops, and its troops of Circumcellions ever ready to commit murders and violence upon the Catholics on the roads or in isolated houses. The greater part of our saint’s time was occupied in trying to bring back these lost sheep.

We must not imagine him studying at his ease, in the peace of a quiet episcopal city chosen as if for the purpose by Providence, and there writing those precious works whose fruits the whole world has enjoyed even to our days. There is no fecundity on earth without sufferings and trials, known sometimes to men, sometimes to God alone. When the writings of the saints awaken in us pious thoughts and generous resolutions, we must not be satisfied, as we might in the case of profane books, with admiring the genius of the authors, but think with gratitude of the price they paid for the supernatural good produced in our souls. Before Augustine’s arrival in Hippo, the Donatists were so great a majority of the population, that, as he himself informs us, they could even forbid anyone to bake bread for Catholics.[5] When the saint died, things were very different; but the pastor, who had made it his first duty to save, even in spite of themselves, the souls confided to him, had been obliged to spend his days and nights in this great work, and had more than once run the risk of martyrdom.[6] The leaders of the schismatics, fearing the force of his reasoning even more than his eloquence, refused all intercourse with him; they declared that to put Augustine to death would be a praiseworthy action, which would merit for the perpetrator the remission of his sins.[7]

‘Pray for us,’ he said at the beginning of his episcopate, ‘pray for us who live in so precarious a state, as it were between the teeth of furious wolves. These wandering sheep, obstinate sheep, are offended because we run after them, as if their wandering made them cease to be ours.—Why dost thou call us? they say; why dost thou pursue us?—But the very reason of our cries and our anguish is that they are running to their ruin.—If I am lost, if I die, what is it to thee? what dost thou want with me? —What I want is to call thee back from thy wandering; what I desire is to snatch thee from death. —But what if I will to wander? what if I will to be lost?—Thou wiliest to wander? thou wiliest to be lost? How much more earnestly do I wish it not! Yea, I dare to say it, I am importunate; for I hear the Apostle saying: “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season.”[8] In season, when they are willing; out of season, when they are unwilling. Yes then, I am importunate: thou wiliest to perish, I will it not. And He wills it not, who threatened the shepherds saying: “That which was driven away you have not brought again, neither have you sought that which was lost.”[9] Am I to fear thee more than Him? I fear thee not; the tribunal of Donatus cannot take the place of Christ’s judgment seat, before which we must all appear. Whether thou will it or not, I shall call back the wandering sheep, I shall seek the lost sheep. The thorns may tear me; but however narrow the opening may be, it shall not check my pursuit; I will beat every bush, as long as the Lord gives me strength; so only I can get to thee wherever thou strivest to perish.’[10]

Driven into their last trenches by such unconquerable charity, the Donatists replied by massacring clerics and faithful, since they could not touch Augustine himself. The bishop implored the imperial judges not to inflict mutilation or death upon the murderers lest the triumph of the martyrs should be sullied by such a vengeance. Such mildness was certainly worthy of the Church; but it was destined to be one day brought forward against her in contrast to certain other facts of her history, by a school of liberalism that can grant rights and even preeminence to error. Augustine acknowledges his first idea to have been that constraint should not be used to bring any one into the unity of Christ; he believed that preaching and free discussion should be the only arms employed for the conversion of heretics. But on the consideration of what was taking place before his eyes, the very logic of his charity brought him over to the opinion of his more ancient colleagues in the episcopate.[11]

Who [he says] could love us more than God does? Nevertheless God makes use of fear in order to save us, although He teaches us with sweetness. When the Father of the family wanted guests for His banquet, did He not send His servants to the highways and hedges, to compel all they met to come in? This banquet is the unity of Christ’s body. If, then, the divine goodness has willed that, at the fitting time, the faith of Christian kings should recognize this power of the Church, let the heretics brought back from the by-ways, and schismatics forced into their enclosures, consider not the constraint they suffer, but the banquet of the Lord to which they would not otherwise have attained. Does not the shepherd sometimes use threats and sometimes blows, to win back to the master’s fold the sheep that have been enticed out of it? Severity that springs from love is preferable to deceitful gentleness. He who binds the delirious man, and wakes up the sleeper from his lethargy, molests them both, but for their good. If a house were on the point of falling, and our cries could not induce those within to come out, would it not be cruelty not to save them by force in spite of themselves? and that, even if we could snatch only one from death, because the rest, seeing it, obstinately hastened their own destruction: as the Donatists do, who in their madness commit suicide to obtain the crown of martyrdom. No one can become good in spite of himself; nevertheless, the rigorous laws, of which they complain, bring deliverance not only to individuals, but to whole cities, by freeing them from the bonds of untruth and causing them to see the truth, which the violence or the deceits of the schismatics had hidden from their eyes. Far from complaining, their gratitude is now boundless and their joy complete; their feasts and their chants are unceasing.[12]

Meanwhile the justice of heaven was falling upon the queen of nations; Rome, after the triumph of the cross, had not profited of God’s merciful delay; now she was expiating, under the hand of Alaric, the blood of the saints which she had shed before her idols. 'Go out from her my people.’[13] At this signal the city was evacuated. The roads were all lined with barbarians; and happy was the fugitive who could succeed in reaching the sea, there to entrust to the frailest skiff the honour of his family and the remains of his fortune. Like a bright beacon shining through the storms, Augustine, by his reputation, attracted to the African coast the best of the unfortunates; his varied correspondence shows us the new links then formed by God, between the bishop of Hippo and so many noble exiles. At one time he would send, as far as Nola in Campania, charming messages, mingled with learned questions and luminous answers, to greet his 'dear lords and venerable brethren, Paulinus and Therasia, his fellow disciples in the school of our Lord Jesus.’ Again it was to Carthage, or even nearer home, that his letters were directed, to console, instruct, and fortify Albina, Melania, and Pinianus, but especially Proba and Juliana, the illustrious grandmother and mother of a still more illustrious daughter, the virgin Demetrias, the greatest in the Roman world for nobility and wealth, and Augustine’s dear conquest to the heavenly Spouse. 'Oh! who,' he wrote on hearing of her consecration to our Lord, 'could worthily express the glory added this day to the family of the Anicii? For years, it has ennobled the world by the consuls its sons, but now it gives virgins to Christ! Let others imitate Demetrias; whosoever ambitions the glory of this illustrious family, let him take holiness for his portion!’[14] Augustine’s desire was magnificently realized, when, less than a century later, the gens Anicia gave to the world Scholastica and Benedict, who were to lead into intimate familiarity and union with God so many souls eager for true nobility.

When Rome fell, the shock was felt throughout the provinces and even beyond. Augustine tells us how he, a descendant of the ancient Numidians, groaned and wept in his almost inconsolable grief;[15] so great, even in her decadence, was the universal esteem and love for the queen city, through the secret action of Him who was holding out to her new and higher destinies. Meanwhile the terrible crisis furnished the occasion for Augustine’s most important writings. The City of Godwas an answer to the still numerous partisans of idolatry, who attributed the misfortunes of the empire to the suppression of the false gods. In this great work he refutes, in the most complete and masterly way, the theology and also the philosophy of Roman and Grecian paganism; he then proceeds to set forth the origin, the history, and the end of the two cities, the earthly, and the heavenly, which divide the world between them, and which are founded upon ‘two opposite loves: the love of self even to the despising of God, and the love of God even to the despising of self.’[16]

But Augustine’s greatest triumph was that which earned for him the title of the Doctor of grace. His favourite prayer: Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis,[17] offended the pride of a certain British monk, whom the events of the year 410 had led into Africa.[18]This was Pelagius, who taught that nature, all-powerful for good, was quite capable of working out salvation, and that Adam’s sin injured himself alone, and was not passed down to his posterity. We can well understand Augustine, who owed so much to the divine mercy, feeling so strong an aversion for a system whose authors seemed to say to God: ‘Thou madest us men, but it is we that justify ourselves.'

In this new campaign no injuries were spared to the former convert; but they were his joy and his hope. He had already said, with regard to similar arguments adduced by other adversaries:

Catholics, my beloved brethren, one flock of the one Shepherd, I care not how the enemy may insult the watch-dog of the fold; it is not for my own defence, but for yours, that I must bark. Yet I must needs tell this enemy that, as to my former wanderings and errors, I condemn them, as every one else does; I can but see therein the glory of Him who has delivered me from myself. When I hear my former life brought forward, no matter with what intention it is done, I am not so ungrateful as to be afflicted thereat; for the more they show up my misery, the more I praise my physician.[19]

While he made so little account of himself, his reputation was spreading throughout the world, by reason of the victory he had won for grace. Wrote the aged St. Jerome from Bethlehem:

Honour to you, honour to the man whom the raging winds have not been able to overthrow! . . . Continue to be of good courage. The whole world celebrates your praises; the Catholics venerate and admire you as the restorer of the ancient faith. But what is a mark of still greater glory, all the heretics hate you. They honour me, too, with their hatred. Not being able to strike us with the sword, they kill us in desire.[20]

These lines reveal the intrepid combatant with whom we shall make acquaintance in September, and who, soon after writing them, was laid to rest in the sacred cave near which he had taken refuge. Augustine had yet some years to continue the good fight, to complete the exposition of Catholic doctrine in contradiction to some even holy persons, who were inclined to think that at least the beginning of salvation, the desire of faith, did not require the special assistance of God. This was semi-pelagianism. A century later (529) the second Council of Orange, approved by Rome and hailed by the whole Church, closed the struggle, taking its definitions from the writings of the bishop of Hippo. Augustine himself, however, thus concluded his last work:

Let those who read these things give thanks to God, if they understand them; if not, let them pray to the teacher of our souls, to him whose shining produces knowledge and understanding. Do they think that I err? Let them reflect again and again, lest perhaps they themselves be mistaken. As for me, when the readers of my works instruct and correct me, I see therein the goodness of God; yea, I ask it as a favour, especially of the learned ones in the Church, if by chance this book should fall into their hands, and they deign to take notice of what I write.[21]

But let us return to the privileged people of Hippo, won over by Augustine’s devotedness, even more than by his admirable discourses. His door was open to every comer; and he was ever ready to listen to the requests, the sorrows, and the disputes of his children. Sometimes, at the instance of other churches, and even of councils, requiring of Augustine a more active pursuit of works of general interest, an agreement was made between the flock and the pastor, that on certain days of the week no one should interrupt him. But the convention could not last long. Whoever wished could claim the attention of this loving and humble shepherd, beside whom the little ones especially knew well that they would never meet with a refusal. As an instance of this we may mention the fortunate child, who wishing to enter into correspondence with the bishop, but not daring to take the initiative, received from him the touching letter which may be seen in his works.[22]

Besides all his other glories, our saint was the institutor of monastic life in Roman Africa, by the monasteries he founded, and in which he lived before he became bishop. He was a legislator by his letter to the virgins of Hippo, which became the rule whereon so many servants and handmaids of our Lord have formed their religious life. Lastly, together with the clerics of his church who lived with him a common life of absolute poverty, he was the example and the head of the great family of Regular Canons. But we must close these already lengthy pages, which will be completed by the narrative of the holy liturgy.

Let us, then, read this authentic account. Independently of the present feast, the Church, in her martyrology, makes special mention of Augustine’s conversion on the fifth of May.

Augustinus, Tagaste in Africa honestis parentibus natus, ac puer docilitate in genii æquales longe super ans, brevi omnibus doctri na antecelluit. Adolescens, dum esset Carthagine, in Manichæorum hæresim incidit. Poste. Romam profectus, inde Mediolanum missus ut rhetoricam doceret, cum ibi frequens Ambrosii episcopi esset auditor, ejus opera incensus studio catholicæ fidei, annos natus triginta tres ab ipso baptizatur. Reversus in Africani, cum religione vitæ sanctimoniam conjungens, a Valerio notæsanctitatis episcopo Hipponensi presbyter factus est. Quo tempore familiam instituit religiosorum, quibuscum victu communi eodemque cultu utens, eos ad apostolicæ vitæ doctrinæque disciplinam diligentissime erudiebat. Sed cum vigeret Manichæorum hæresis, vehementius in illam invehi cœpit, Fortunatumque hæresiarcham confutavit.

Hac Augustini pietate commotus Valerius, eum adjutorem adhibuit episcopalis officii. Nihil illo fuit humilius, nihil continentius. Lectus ac vestitus moderatus, vulgaris mensa, quam semper sacra vel lectione vel disputatione condiebat. Tanta benignitate fuit in pauperes, ut, cum non esset alia facultas, sacra vasa frangeret ad eorum inopiam sustentandam. Feminarum, et in eis sororis et fratris filiæ, contubernium familiaritatemque vitavit: quippe qui diceret, etsi propinquæ mulieres suspectæ non essent, tamen quæ ad eas ventitarent, posse suspicionem efficere. Nullum finem fecit prædicandi Dei verbum, nisi gravi morbo oppressus. Hæreticos perpetuo insectatus et coram et scriptis, ac nullo loco passus consistere, Africam a Manichæorum, Donatistarum, Pelagianorum, aliorumque præterea hæreticorum errore magna ex parte liberavit.

Tam multa pie, subtiliter et copiose scripsit, ut christianam doctrinam maxime illustrarit. Quem in primis secuti sunt, qui postea theologicam disciplinam via et ratione tradiderunt. Wandalis Africam bello vastantibus, et Hipponem tertium jam mensem obsidentibus, in febrim incidit. Itaque cum discessum e vita sibi instare intelligeret, psalmos David, qui ad pœnitentiam pertinent, in conspectu positos profusis lacrimis legebat. Solebat autem dicere neminem, etsi nullius sceleris sibi conscius esset, committere debere, ut sine pœnitentia migraret e vita. Ergo sensibus integris, in oratione defixus, astantibus fratribus, quos ad caritatem, pietatem, virtutesque omnes erat adhortatus, migravit in cœlum. Vixit annos Septuaginta sex, in episcopatu ad triginta sex. Cujus corpus primum in Sardiniam delatum, deinde a Luitprando, Longobardorum rege, magno pretio redemptum, Ticinum translatum est, ibique honorifice conditum.
Augustine was born at Tagaste[23] in Africa of noble pa rents. As a child he was so apt in learning that in a short time he far surpassed in know ledge all those of his own age. When he was a young man he went to Carthage where he fell into the Manichæan heresy. Later on, he journeyed to Rome, and was sent thence to Milan to teach rhetoric. Having frequently listened to the teaching of Ambrose the bishop, he was through his influence inflamed with a desire of the Catholic faith and was baptized by him at the age of thirty-three. On his return to Africa, as his holy life was in keeping with his religion, Valerius the bishop, who was then renowned for his sanctity, ordained him priest. It was at this time that he founded a religious community with whom he lived, sharing their food, and dress, and training them with the utmost care in the rules of apostolic life and teaching. The Manichæan heresy was then growing very strong: he opposed it with great vigour and refuted one of its leaders named Fortunatus.

Valerius perceiving Augustine’s great piety made him his coadjutor in the bishopric. He was always most humble and most temperate. His clothing and his bed were of the simplest kind: he kept a frugal table, which was always seasoned by reading or holy conversation. Such was his loving kindness to the poor, that when he had no other resource, he broke up the sacred vessels, for their relief. He avoided all intercourse and conversation with women, even with his sister and his niece, for he used to say that though such near relatives could not give rise to any suspicion, yet might the women who came to visit them. Never, except when seriously ill, did he omit preaching the word of God. He pursued heretics unremittingly both in public disputations and in his writings, never allowing them to take foothold anywhere; and by these means he almost entirely freed Africa from the Manichees, Donatists and other heretics.

His numerous works are full of piety, deep wisdom and eloquence, and throw the greatest light on Christian doctrine, so that he is the great master and guide of all those who later on reduced theological teaching to method. 'While the Vandals were devastating Africa, and Hippo had been besieged by them for three months, Augustine was seized with a fever. When he perceived that his death was at hand, he had the penitential psalms of David placed before him, and used to read them with an abundance of tears. He was accustomed to say that no one, even though not conscious to himself of any sin, ought to be presumptuous enough to die without repentance. He was in full posses sion of his faculties and intent on prayer to the end. After exhorting his brethren who were around him, to charity, piety and the practice of every virtue, he passed to heaven, having lived seventy-six years, and thirty-six as bishop. His body was first of all taken to Sardinia, afterwards Luitprand, king of the Lombards, translated it to Pavia, where it was honourably entombed.

What a death was thine, O Augustine, receiving on thy humble couch nought but news of disasters and ruin! Thy Africa was perishing at the hands of the barbarians, in punishment of those nameless crimes of the ancient world, in which she had so large a share. Together with Genseric, Arius triumphed over that land, which nevertheless, thanks to thee, was to produce, for yet a hundred years, admirable martyrs for the Consubstantiality of the Word. When Belisarius restored her to the Roman world, God seemed to be offering her, for the martyrs’ sake, an opportunity of returning to her former prosperity; but the inexperienced Byzantines, preoccupied with their theological quarrels and political intrigues, knew not how to raise her up, nor to protect her against an invasion more terrible than the first; and the torrent of Mussulman infidelity soon swept all before it.

At length, after twelve centuries, the cross reappeared in those places, where the very names of so many flourishing churches had perished. May the nation on which thy country is now dependent, show that it is proud of this honour, and understand its consequent obligations!

During all that long night which overhung thy native land, thy influence did not cease. Through out the entire world, thy immortal works were enlightening the minds of men and arousing their love. In the basilicas served by thy sons and imitators, the splendour of divine worship, the pomp of the ceremonies, the perfection of the sacred melodies, kept up in the hearts of the people the same supernatural enthusiasm which took possession of thine own, when for the first time in our west, St. Ambrose instituted the alternate chanting of the psalms and sacred hymns.[24]Throughout all ages the perfect life, in its many different ways of exercising the double precept of charity, draws from the waters of thy fountains. Continue to illumine the Church with thine incomparable light. Bless the numerous religious families which claim thine illustrious patronage. Assist us all, by obtaining for us the spirit of love and of penance, of confidence and of humility, which befits the redeemed soul. Give us to know the weakness of our nature and its unworthiness since the fall, and at the same time the boundless goodness of our God, the superabundance of His Redemption, the all-powerfulness of His grace. May we all, like thee, not only recognize the truth, but be able loyally and practically to say to God: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is ill at ease till it rest in Thee.’[25]

According to the most ancient monuments of the Roman Church,[26] another saint has always been honoured on this same day, viz: Hermes, a Roman magistrate, who bore witness to Christ under Trajan. The crypt constructed, less than half a century after the death of the apostles, to receive this martyr’s relics, is remarkable for its majestic and ample proportions not usually found in the subterranean cemeteries. It was his sister Theodora, who received from Balbina, daughter of the tribune Quirinus, the venerable chains of St. Peter.

Prayer

Deus, qui beatum Hermetem, martyrem tuum, virtute constantiæ in passione roborasti: ex ejus nobis imitatione tribue, pro amore tuo prospera mundi despicere, et nulla ejus ad versa formidare. Per Dominum.
O God, who didst strengthen blessed Hermes, thy martyr, with the virtue of constancy in suffering: grant us in imitation of him to despise worldly prosperity for the love of thee, and not to fear any of its adversity. Through our Lord, &c.

[1] See life of St. Monica, May 4, Paschal time Vol II.
[2] Soliloq. i. 22.
[3] Confess. Lib. ix and x. passim.
[4] S. Aug. contra epist. Manichæi quam vocant fundamenti 2-3.
[5] Contra litteras Petiliani, ii. 184.
[6] Possidius, vita Augustini. 13.
[7] Ibid. 10.
[8] 2 Tim. iv. 2.
[9] Ezech. xxxiv. 4.
[10] S. Aug. sermon xlvi, 14.
[11] Epistolæ, passim.
[12] Epistolæ, passim.
[13] Apoc. xviii. 4.
[14] Epist. cl, cl. clxxix.
[15] De urbis excidio, 3.
[16] De ciritate Dei contra paganos xiv, xxviii.
[17] Lord give me grace to do what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.
[18] De dono perseverantiæ, 53.
[19] Contra litteras Petiliani, iii, 11.
[20] Hieron. epist, cxli, al, lxxx.
[21] De dono perseverantiæ, 68.
[22] Epist. cclxvi, al. cxxxii. Augustinus Florentinæ puellæ.
[23] Souk-Arhas, in Algeria, 25 leagues to the south of Bona. the ancient Hippo.
[24] Aug. confess. ix.
[25] Ibid. i.
[26] Calendarium Bucherii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

At that time, Herod sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her. For John said to Herod: “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” Now Herodias laid snares for him, and was desirous to put him to death, and could not. For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man, and kept him, and when he heard him did many things; and he heard him willingly. And when a convenient day was come, Herod made a supper for his birthday, for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee. And when the daughter of the same Herodias had come in, and had danced, and pleased Herod, and them that were at table with him, the king said to the damsel: “Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.” And he swore to her, “Whatsoever thou shalt ask, I will give thee; though it be the half of my kingdom.” Who, when she was gone out, said to her mother: “What shall I ask?” But she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And when she was come in immediately with haste to the king, she asked, saying, “I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish the head of John the Baptist.” And the king was struck sad; yet because of his oath, and because of them that were with him at table, he would not displease her; but sending an executioner he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish. And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish, and gave it to the damsel, and the damsel gave it to her mother. Which his disciples hearing, came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.[1]

Thus died the greatest of ‘them that are born of women:’ without witnesses, the prisoner of a petty tyrant, the victim of the vilest of passions, the wages of a dancing girl! Rather than keep silence in the presence of crime, although there were no hope of converting the sinner, or give up his liberty, even when in chains: the herald of the Word made flesh was ready to die. How beautiful, as St. John Chrysostom remarks, is this liberty of speech, when it is truly the liberty of God’s Word, when it is an echo of heaven’s language! Then, indeed, it is a stumbling-block to tyranny, the safe-guard of the world and of God’s rights, the bulwark of a nation’s honour as well as of its temporal and eternal interests. Death has no power over it. To the weak murderer of John the Baptist, and to all who would imitate him to the end of time, a thousand tongues, instead of one, repeat in all languages and in all places: ‘It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.’

‘O great and admirable mystery!’ cries out Saint Augustine:

He must increase, but I must decrease, said John, said the voice which personified all the voices that had gone before announcing the Father’s Word Incarnate in His Christ. Every word, in that it signifies something, in that it is an idea, an internal word, is independent of the number of syllables, of the various letters and sounds; it remains unchangeable in the heart that conceives it, however numerous may be the words that give it outward existence, the voices that utter it, the languages, Greek, Latin and the rest, into which it may be translated. To him who knows the word, expressions and voices are useless. The prophets were voices, the apostles were voices; voices are in the psalms, voices in the Gospel. But let the Word come, the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God, the Word who was God; when we shall see Him as He is, shall we hear the Gospel repeated? Shall we listen to the prophets? Shall we read the Epistles of the apostles? The voice fails where the Word increases. . . .Not that in Himself the Word can either diminish or increase. But He is said to grow in us, when we grow in Him. To him, then, who draws near to Christ, to him who makes progress in the contemplation of wisdom, words are of little use; of necessity they tend to fail altogether. Thus the ministry of the voice falls short in proportion as the soul progresses towards the Word; it is thus that Christ must increase and John decrease. The same is indicated by the decollation of John, and the exaltation of Christ upon the cross; as it had already been shown by their birthdays: for, from the birth of John the days begin to shorten, and from the birth of our Lord they begin to grow longer.[2]

The holy doctor here gives a useful lesson to those who guide souls along the path to perfection. If, from the very beginning, they must respectfully observe the movements of grace in each of them, in order to second the Holy Ghost, and not to supplant Him; so also, in proportion as these souls advance, the directors must be careful not to impede the Word by the abundance of their own speech. Moreover, they must discreetly respect the ever-growing powerlessness of those souls to express what our Lord is working in them. Happy to have led the bride to the Bridegroom, let them learn to say with John: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’

The sacred cycle itself seems to convey to us too a similar lesson; for, during the following days, we shall see its teaching as it were tempered down, by the fewness of the feasts, and the disappearance of great solemnities until November. The school of the holy liturgy aims at adapting the soul, more surely and more fully than could any other school, to the interior teaching of the Spouse. Like John, the Church would be glad to let God alone speak always, if that were possible here below; at least, towards the end of the way, she loves to moderate her voice, and sometimes even to keep silence, in order to give her children an opportunity of showing that they know how to listen inwardly to Him, who is both her and their sole love. Let those who interpret her thought, first understand it well. The friend of the Bridegroom, who, until the nuptial-day, walked before Him, now stands and listens; and the voice of the Bridegroom, which silences his own, fills him with immense joy: ‘This my joy therefore is fulfilled,' said the precursor.[3]

Thus the feast of the Decollation of St. John may he considered as one of the landmarks of the liturgical year. With the Greeks it is a holiday of obligation. Its great antiquity in the Latin Church is evidenced by the mention made of it in the martyrology called St. Jerome’s, and by the place it occupies in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries. The precursor’s blessed death took place about the feast of the Pasch; but, that it might be more freely celebrated, this day was chosen, whereon his sacred head was discovered at Emesa.

The vengeance of God fell heavily upon Herod Antipas. Josephus relates how he was overcome by the Arabian Aretas, whose daughter he had repudiated in order to follow his wicked passions; and the Jews attributed the defeat to the murder of St. John.[4] He was deposed by Rome from his tetrarchate, and banished to Lyons in Gaul, where the ambitious Herodias shared his disgrace. As to her dancing daughter Salome, there is a tradition gathered from ancient authors,[5]that, having gone out one winter day to dance upon a frozen river, she fell through into the water; the ice, immediately closing round her neck, cut off her head, which bounded upon the surface, thus continuing for some moments the dance of death.

From Macherontis, beyond the Jordan, where their master had suffered martyrdom, John’s disciples carried his body to Sebaste (Samaria), out of the territory of Antipas; it was necessary to save it from the profanations of Herodias, who had not spared his august head. The wretched woman did not think her vengeance complete, till she had pierced with a hairpin the tongue that had not feared to utter her shame; and that face, which for seven centuries the church of Amiens has offered to the veneration of the world, still bears traces of the violence inflicted by her in her malicious triumph. In the reign of Julian the Apostate, the pagans wished to complete the work of this unworthy descendant of the Machabees,[6]by opening the saint’s tomb at Sebaste, in order to burn and scatter his remains. But the empty sepulchre continued to be a terror to the demons, as St. Paula attested with deep emotion a few years later. Moreover, some of the precious relics were saved, and dispersed throughout the east. Later on, especially at the time of the Crusades, they were brought into the west, where many churches glory in possessing them.

Let us greet the noble martyr Sabina, whose triumph completes the glories of this day. The very ancient church of St. Sabina on the Aventine is one of the gems of the eternal city. It shared with St. Sixtus the Old the honour of sheltering Saint Dominic and his first children.

Prayer

Deus, qui inter cetera potentiæ tuæ miracula, etiam in sexu fragili victoriam martyrii contulisti: concede propitius; ut qui beatæ Sabiniæmartyris tuæ natalitia colimus, per ejus ad te exempla gradiamur. Per Dominum.
O God, who among other miracles of thy power, hast granted even to the weaker sex the victory of martyrdom, grant, we beseech thee, that we who celebrate the festival of thy blessed martyr Sabina, may walk to thee by her example. Through our Lord, &c.

Let us return to the Precursor, and make our own the following formulæ found in the Gregorian sacramentary for the feast of the Decollation.

Prayer

Sancti Joannis Baptistæ et martyris tui, Domine, quæsumus, veneranda festivitas, salutaris auxilii nobis præstet effectum. Per Dominum.
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the venerable festival of St. John Baptist, thy precursor and martyr, may procure for us the effect of salutary help. Who livest &c.

Super Oblata

Munera tibi, Domine, pro sancti martyris tui Joannis Baptistæ passione deferimus, qui dum finitur in terris, factus est cœlesti sede perpetuus;quæsumus, ut ejus obtentu nobis proficiant ad salutem. Per Dominum.
We present our offerings to thee, O Lord, in honour of the passion of thy holy martyr John Baptist, who, closing his life on earth began to live eternally in heaven; we beseech thee, that by his intercession these gifts may profit us unto salvation. Through our Lord.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aiterne Deus: Qui præcursorem Filii tui tanto munere ditasti, ut pro veritatis præconio capite plecteretur: Et qui Christum aqua baptizaverat, ab ipso in Spiritu baptizatus, pro eodem proprio sanguine tingeretur. Præco quippe veritatis, quæ Christus est, Herodem a fraternis thalamis prohibendo, carceris obscuritate detruditur, ubi solius divinitatis tuæ lumine frueretur. Deinde capitalem sententiam subiit, et ad inferna Dominum præcursurus descendit. Et quem in mundo digito demonstravit, ad inferos pretiosa morte præcessit. Et ideo cum angelis.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: who didst enrich the Precursor of thy Son with so great a grace, that he was beheaded for proclaiming the truth: and he who had baptized Christ with water, was baptized by Christ in the Spirit, and for his sake was washed in his own blood. For having, as a herald of the truth which is Christ, forbidden Herod to keep his brother’s wife, he was cast into a dark prison, where he enjoyed no light but that of thy divinity. Afterwards he endured the punishment of death, and went down to limbo as the precursor of the Lord, preceding thither, by his precious death, him whom on earth he had pointed out with the finger. And therefore with the angels.

Benedictio

Deus, qui nos beati Joannis Baptistæ concedit solemnia frequentare, tribuat vobis et eadem devotis mentibus celebrare, et suæ benedictionis dona percipere.
℟. Amen.

Et qui pro legis ejus præconio carceralibus est retrusus in tenebris, intercessione sua a tenebrosorum operum vos liberet incentivis.
℟. Amen.

Et qui pro ventate, quæ Deus est, caput non est cunctatus amittere, suo interventu ad caput nostrum, quod Christus est, vos faciat pervenire.
℟. Amen.

Quod ipse præstare dignetur.
May God, who permitteth us to keep the solemnity of blessed John Baptist, grant you to celebrate it with devout minds, and to receive the gifts of his blessing.
℟. Amen.

And may he, who for proclaiming the law of God was shut up in a darksome prison, deliver you from the influence of the works of darkness,
℟. Amen.

And through the intercession of him who hesitated not to give his head for the truth which is God, may we attain unto Christ our head.
℟. Amen.

Which may he deign to grant, who reigneth for ever.

Ad Complendum

Conferat nobis, Domine, sancti Joannis utrumque solemnitas: ut et magnifica sacramenta quæ sumpsimus, digne veneremur, et nobis salutaria sentiamus. Per Dominum.
May the solemnity of Saint John procure for us, O Lord, that we may both worthily venerate the magnificent mysteries we have received, and also experience their salutary effect within us. Through our Lord.

[1] Gospel of the feast, St. Mark vi. 17-29.
[2] Aug Sermon cclxxxviii, In Natali S. J. Bapt. II. De voce et rerbo.
[3] St. John iii. 29.
[4] Joseph. Antiquit. Jud. xviii. 6.
[5] Pseudo-Dexter, chronicon, adænn. Christi 31; Niceph. Call. i. xx.
[6] By her grand-mother, Mariamne, grand-daughter of Hyrcanus.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The fragrance of holiness is wafted to-day across the dark ocean, renewing the youth of the old world, and winning for the new the good will of heaven and earth.

A century before the birth of St. Rose, Spain, having cast out the crescent from her own territory, received as a reward the mission of planting the cross on the distant shores of America. Neither heroes nor apostles were wanting in the Catholic kingdom for the great work; but there was also, unhappily, no lack of adventurers, who, in their thirst for gold, became the scourge of the poor Indians, instead of leading them to the true God. The speedy decadence of the illustrious nation that had triumphed over the Moors, was soon to prove how far a people, prevented with the greatest blessings, may yet be answerable for crimes committed by its individual representatives. It is well known how the empire of the Incas in Peru came to an end. In spite of the indignant protestations of the missionaries: in spite of orders received from the mother country: in a few years, Pizarro and his companions had exterminated one third of the inhabitants of these flourishing regions; another third perished miserably under a slavery worse than death; the rest fled to the mountains, carrying with them a hatred of the invaders, and too often of the Gospel as well, which in their eyes was responsible for atrocities committed by Christians. Avarice opened the door to all vices in the souls of the conquerors, without, however, destroying their lively faith. Lima, founded at the foot of the Cordilleras, as metropolis of the subjugated provinces, seemed as if built upon the triple concupiscence. Before the close of the century, a new Jonas, Saint Francis Solano, came to threaten this new Ninive with the anger of God.

But mercy had already been beforehand with wrath; ‘justice and peace had met’,[1] in the soul of a child, who was ready, in her insatiable love, to suffer every expiation. H ere we should like to pause and contemplate the virgin of Peru, in her self-forgetful heroism, in her pure and candid gracefulness: Rose, who was all sweetness to those who approached her, and who kept to herself the secret of the thorns without which no rose can grow on earth. This child of predilection was prevented from her infancy with miraculous gifts and favours. The flowers recognized her as their queen; and at her desire they would blossom out of season. At her invitation, the plants joyfully waved their leaves; the trees bent down their branches; all nature exulted; even the insects formed themselves into choirs; the birds vied with her in celebrating the praises of their common Maker. She herself, playing upon the names of her parents, Gaspard Flores and Maria Oliva, would sing: ‘O my Jesus, how beautiful Thou art among the olives and the flowers, and Thou dost not disdain Thy Rose!’

Eternal Wisdom has, from the beginning, delighted to play in the world.[2] Clement X relates, in the Bull of canonization, how one day when Rose was very ill, the Infant Jesus appeared and deigned to play with her; teaching her in a manner suitable to her tender age, the value and the advantages of suffering. He then left her full of joy, and endowed with a life-long love of the cross. Holy Church will tell us in the legend how far the saint carried out, in her rigorous penance, the lesson thus divinely taught. In the superhuman agonies of her last illness, when someone exhorted her to courage, she replied: ‘All I ask of my Spouse is, that He will not cease to burn me with the most scorching heat, till I become a ripe fruit that He will deign to cull from this earth for His heavenly table.’ To those who were astonished at her confidence and her assurance of going straight to heaven, she gave this answer which well expresses her character: ‘I have a Spouse who can do all that is greatest, and who possesses all that is rarest, and am I to expect only little things from Him?’ And her confidence was rewarded. She was but thirty-one years of age, when, at midnight on the feast of St. Bartholomew in the year 1617, she heard the cry: ‘Behold the Bridegroom cometh!’ In Lima, in all Peru, and indeed throughout America, prodigies of conversion and miracles signalized the death of the humble virgin, hitherto so little known. ‘It has been juridically proved,' said the Sovereign Pontiff,[3] ‘that, since the discovery of Peru, no missionary has been known to obtain so universal a movement of repentance.’ Five years later, for the further sanctification of Lima, there was established in its midst the monastery of St. Catharine of Siena, also called Rose’s monastery, because she was in the eyes of God its true foundress and mother. Her prayers had obtained its erection, which she had also predicted; she had designed the plan, pointed out the future religious, and named the first superior, whom she one day prophetically endowed with her own spirit in a mysterious embrace.

Let us read the Church’s beautiful account of her life.

Primus Americæ Meridionalis flos sanctitatis, virgo Rosa, christianis parentibus Limæ progenita, mox ab incurnabulis claruit futuræ sanctimonæindiciis. Nam vultus infantis mirabiliter in rosai effigiem transfiguratus, huic nomini occasionem dedit: cui postea Virgo Deipara cognomen adjecit, jubens vocari deinceps Rosam a sancta Maria. Quinquennis votum perpetuævirginitatis emisit. Adultior, ne a parentibus ad nuptias cogeretur, clam sibimet venustissimam capitis cæsariem præscidit. Jejuniis supra humanum modum addicta, integras Quadragesimas transegit, pane abstinens, ac dietim solis quinque granulis mali citrini victitans.

Habitu tertii Ordinis sancti Dominici assumpto, pristinas vitæausteritates duplicavit: oblongo asperrimoque cilicio sparsim minusculas acus innexuit: sub velo coronam densis aculeis introrsus obarmatam interdiu noctuque gestavit. Sanctæ Catharinæ Senensis ardua premens vestigia, catena ferrea, triplici nexu circumducta, lumbos cinxit. Lectulum sibi e truncis nodosis composuit, horumque vacuas commissuras fragminibus testarum implevit. Cellulam sibi angustissimam struxit in extremo horti angulo, ubi cœlestium contemplationi dedita, crebris disciplinis, inedia, vigiliis, corpusculum extenuans, at spiritu vegetata, larvas dæmonum, frequenti certamine victrix, impavide protrivit ac superavit.

Ægritudinum tormentis, domesticorum insultibus, linguarum morsibus dire agitata, nondum satis pro merito se affiigi querebatur. Per quindecim annos ad plusculas horas desolatione spiritus et additate miserrime contabescens, forti animo tulit agones omni morte amariores. Exinde cœpit supernis abundare deliciis, illustrai visionibus, colliquescere seraphicis ardoribus. Angelo tutelari, sanctæ Catharinæ Senensis, Virgini Deiparæ inter assiduas apparitiones mire familiaris, a Christo has voces audire meruit: Rosa cordis mei, tu mihi sponsa esto. Denique Sponsi hujus paradiso feliciter invectam, plurimisque ante et post obiturn miraculis coruscam, Clemens decimus Poutifex .Maximus sauctarum virginum catalogo ritu solemni adscripsit.
The first flower of sanctity that blossomed in South America, the virgin Rose was born of Christian parents at Lima. From her very cradle she gave clear signs of her future holiness. Her baby face appeared one day changed in a wonderful way into the image of a rose, and from this circumstance she was called Rose. Later on the Virgin Mother of God gave her also her own name, bidding her to be called thenceforward Rose of St. Mary. At five years of age she made a vow of perpetual virginity, and when she grew older, fearing her parents would compel her to marry, she secretly cut off her hair which was very beautiful. Her fasts exceeded the strength of human nature. She would pass whole Lents without eating bread, living on five grains of a citron a day.

She took the habit of the third Order of St. Dominic and after that redoubled her austerities. Her long and rough hair-shirt was armed with steel points, and day and night she wore under her veil a crown studded inside with sharp nails. Following the arduous example of St. Catharine of Siena, she wound an iron chain three times round her waist, and made herself a bed of the knotty trunks of trees, filling up the vacant spaces between them with potsherds. She built herself a narrow little cell in a distant corner of the garden, and there devoted herself to the contemplation of heavenly things, subduing her feeble body by iron disciplines, fasting and watching. Thus she grew strong in spirit, and continually overcame the devils, spurning and dispelling their deceits.

Though she suffered greatly from severe illnesses, from the insults offered her by her family and from unkind tongues, yet she would say that she was not treated so badly as she deserved. During fifteen years, she suffered for several hours a day a terrible desolation and dryness of spirit; but she bore this suffering, worse than death itself, with undaunted courage. After that period, she was given an abundance of heavenly delights, she was honoured with visions, and felt her heart melting with seraphic love. Her angel-guardian, St. Catharine of Siena and our Lady used often to appear to her with wonderful familiarity. She was privileged to hear these words from our Lord: ‘Rose of my heart, be thou my bride.’ At length she was happily introduced into the paradise of this her Spouse, and being famous for miracles both before and after her death, Pope Clement X. solemnly enrolled her among the holy virgins.

Patroness of Peru, ever watch over the interests of thy fatherland. Respond to its people’s confidence in thee by warding off from them the calamities of even this present life: the earthquakes which spread terror through the land, and political convulsions such as have already so severely tried its recently gained independence. Extend thy guardianship to the neighbouring young republics; for they too love and honour thee. Hide from them, and from thy native land, the Utopian mirages which rise from the old world. Preserve them from the rash impulses and illusions, to which their youth is liable. Guard them against the poisonous teachings of condemned sects, lest their hitherto lively faith should be corrupted. Lastly, O thou our Lord’s beloved Rose, smile upon the whole Church, who is enraptured to-day at the sight of thy heavenly beauty. Like her, we all desire to 'run in the fragrancy of thy sweetness.’[4]

Teach us to let ourselves be prevented, like thee, by the dew of haven. Show us how to respond to the advances of the divine sculptor, who one day allowed thee to see Him making over to His loved ones the different virtues in the form of blocks of choice marble, which He expects them to polish with their tears, and to fashion with the chisel of penance. Above all, fill us with love and confidence. All that the material sun accomplishes in the vast universe, causing the flowers to bloom, ripening the fruits, forming pearls in the depth of the ocean, and precious stones in the heart of the mountains; all this, thou didst say, thy divine Spouse effected in the boundless capacity of thy soul, causing it to bring forth every variety of riches, beauty and joy, warmth and life. May we profit, even as thou didst, of the coming of the Sun of justice into our hearts in the Sacrament of union; may we lay open our whole being to the influence of His blessed light; and may we become, in every place, the good odour of Christ.

The holy martyrs Felix and Adauctus won their palms in the reign of Diocletian. Their tomb, which lies close to that of the Apostle of the Gentiles, is adorned by one of the beautiful epitaphs of Pope Saint Damasus. Let us address to God the prayer, wherein the Church implores their powerful protection.

Collect

Majestatem tuam, Domine, supplices exoramus: ut, sicut nos jugiter sanctorum tuorum commemoratione lætificas, ita semper supplicatione defendas. Per Dominum.
We suppliantly beseech thy Majesty, O Lord, that as thou dost ever rejoice us by the commemoration of thy saints, so thou wouldst always defend us by their supplication. Through our Lord etc.

[1] Ps. lxxxiv. 11.
[2] Prov. viii. 30, 31.
[3] Bull of Canonization.
[4] Collect of the feast.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

August closes as it began, with a feast of deliverance; as though that were the divine seal set by eternal Wisdom upon this month—the month when holy Church makes the works and ways of divine Wisdom the special object of her contemplation.

Upon the fall of our first parents and their expulsion from paradise, the Word and Wisdom of God, that is, the second Person of the blessed Trinity, began the great work of our deliverance—that magnificent work of human redemption which, by an all-gracious, eternal decree of the three divine Persons, was to be wrought out by the Son of God in our flesh. And as that blessed Saviour, in His infinite wisdom, made spontaneous choice of sorrows, of sufferings, and of death on a cross, as the best means of our redemption, so has He always allotted to His best loved friends, the kind of life which He had deliberately chosen for Himself, that is, the way of the cross. And the nearest and dearest to Him were those who were predestined, like His blessed Mother, the Mater Dolorosa, to have the honour of being most like Himself, the Man of sorrows. Hence the toils and trials of the greatest saints; hence the great deliverances wrought by them, and their heroic victories over the world and over the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

On the feasts of St. Raymund of Pennafort and St. Peter Nolasco, we saw something of the origin of the illustrious Order, to which Raymund Nonnatus added such glory. Soon the august foundress herself, our Lady of Mercy, will come in person to receive the expression of the world’s gratitude for so many benefits. The following legend recounts the peculiar merits of our saint of to-day.

Raymundus, Nonnatus cognomento dictus, quia præter communem naturæ legem e mortuæ matris dissecto latere in lucem eductus fuit, Portelli in Catalaunia piis et nobilibus parentibus ortus, ab ipsa infantia futuræsanctitatis indicia dedit. Nam puerilia oblectamenta, mundique illecebras respuens, ita pietati operam dabat, ut omnes in puero adultam virtutem admirarentur. Crescente vero ætate, litterarum studiis incubuit: sed mox jubente patre vitam ruri agens, sacellum sancti Nicolai in Portelli finibus situm crebro adibat, ut sacram Deiparæ imaginem, quæ in eo summa fideli um veneratione etiam nunc colitur, visitaret. Ibi effusus in preces, ipsam Dei parentem, ut se in filium adoptare viamque salutis ac scientiam sanctorum edocere dignaretur, enixe deprecabatur.

Nec defuit votis ejus benignissima Virgo. Ab ipsa enim intellexit gratissimum sibi fore, si religionem sub titulo de Mercede, seu de Misericordia redemptionis captivorum, ea suggerente nuper fundatain, ingrederetur. Qua monitione percepta, Barcinonem statim profectus, illud tam præcellentis erga proximum cantatis institutum amplexus est. Regulari igitur militiæ adscriptus, virginitatem, quam pridem beatæ Virgini consecraverat, perpetuo coluit, ceterisque virtutibus enituit, caritate præsertim erga christianos, qui sub potestate paganorum miserarti in captivitate vitam degebant. Hos ut redimeret, in Africana missus, cum jam multos a servitute liberasset, ne, consumpta pecunia, aliis item in proximo abnegandæ fidei discrimine constitutis deesset, se ipsum pignori dedit; sed cum ardentissimo salutis animarum desiderio succensus, plures mahometanos suis concionibus ad Christum converteret, in arctam custodiam a barbaris conjectus, variisque suppliciis cruciatus, mox labiis perforatis et sera ferrea clausis, crudele martyrium diu sustinuit.

Ob hæc et alia fortiter gesta, sanctitatis ejus fama longe lateque diffusa est. Qua permotus Gregorius nonus, in amplissimum sanctæ RomanæEcclesiæ cardinalium collegium Raymundum adscripsit: sed vir Dei in ea dignitate ab omni pompa abhorrens, religiosæ humilitatis tenacissimus semper fuit. Romam vero pergens, statim ac Cardonam pervenit, extremo morbo confectus, ecclesiasticis sacramentis muniri summis precibus postulavit. Cumque morbus ingravesceret, et sacerdos diutius tardaret, angelorum ministerio, sub specie religiosorum sui Ordinis apparentium, salutari viatico refectus fuit. Quo sumpto, et gratiis Deo peractis, migravit ad Dominum Dominica ultima Augusti, anno millesimo ducentesimo quadragesimo. Mortui corpus, cum circa locum sepulturæ contentio orta esset, arcæ inclusum, et mulæ cæcæ impositum, ad sacellum sancti Nicolai Dei nutu delatum fuit, ut ibi tumularetur, ubi prima jecerat sanctioris vitæ fundamenta. Illic constructo sui Ordinis cœnobio, a confluentibus voti causa ex universa Catalaunia fidelibus populis honoratur, variis miraculis et signis gloriosus.
Raymund, surnamed Nonnatus,[1] on accouut of his having been brought into the world in an unusual manner after the death of his mother, was of a pious and noble family of Portelli in Catalonia. From his very infancy he showed signs of his future holiness; for, despising childish amusements and the attractions of the world, he applied himself to the practice of piety so that all wondered at his virtue, which far surpassed his age. As he grew older he began his studies; but after a short time he returned at his father’s command to live in the country. He frequently visited the chapel of St. Nicholas, near Portelli, in order to venerate in it a holy image of the Mother of God, which is still much honoured by the faithful. There he would pour out his prayers, begging God’s holy Mother to adopt him for her son and to deign to teach him the way of salvation and the science of the saints.

The most benign Virgin heard his prayer, and gave him to understand that it would greatly please her if he entered the religious Order lately founded by her inspiration, under the name of the Order of 'Ransom, or of Mercy for the redemption of captives.’ Upon this Raymund at once set out for Barcelona, there to embrace that institnte so full of brotherly charity. Thus enrolled in the army of holy religion, he persevered in perpetual virginity, which he had already consecrated to the blessed Virgin. He excelled also in every other virtue, most especially in charity towards those Christians who were living in misery, as slaves of the pagans. He was sent to Africa to redeem them, and freed many from slavery. But when he had exhausted his money, rather than abandon others who were in danger of losing their faith, he gave himself up to the barbarians as a pledge for their ransom. Burning with a most ardent desire for the salvation of souls, he converted several Mahometans to Christ hy his preaching. On this account he was thrown into a close prison, and after many tortures his lips were pierced through and fastened together with an iron padlock, which cruel martyrdom he endured for a long time.

This and his other noble deeds spread the fame of his sanctity far and near, so that Gregory IX. determined to enrol him in the august college of the cardinals of the holy Roman Church. When raised to that dignity the man of God shrank from all pomp and clung always to religious humility. On his way to Rome, as soon as he reached Cardona, he was attacked by his last illness, and earnestly begged to be strengthened by the Sacraments of the Church. As his illness grew worse and the priest delayed to come, angels appeared, clothed in the religious habit of his Order, and refreshed him with the saving Viaticum. Having received It he gave thanks to God, and passed to our Lord on the last Sunday of August in the year 1240. Contentions arose concerning the place where he should be buried; his coffin was therefore placed upon a blind mule and by the will of God it was taken to the chapel of St. Nicholas, that it might be buried in that place where he had first begun a more perfect life. A convent of his Order was built on the spot, and there famous for many signs and miracles he is honoured by the concourse of all the faithful of Catalonia, who come there to fulfil their vows.

To what a length, O illustrious saint, didst thou follow the counsel of the wise man! ‘The bands of wisdom,’ says he, ‘are a healthful binding.’[2] And, not satisfied with putting ‘thy feet into her fetters and thy neck into her chains,’[3] in the joy of thy love thou didst offer thy lips to the dreadful padlock, not mentioned by the son of Sirach. But what a reward is thine, now that this Wisdom of the Father, whose twofold precept of charity thou didst so fully carry out, inebriates thee with the torrent of eternal delights, adorning thy brow with the glory and grace which radiate from her own beauty! We would fain be for ever with thee near that throne of light; teach us, then, how to walk, in this world, by the beautiful ways and peaceable paths of Wisdom. Deliver our souls, if they be still captive in sin; break the chains of our self-love, and give us instead those blessed bands of Wisdom which are humility, abnegation, self-forgetfulness, love of our brethren for God’s sake, love of God for His own sake.


[1] That is, not born.
[2] Ecclus. vi. 31.
[3] Ibid. 25.

 

Articles...