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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CAJETAN appeared in all his zeal for the sanctuary at the time when the false reform was spreading rebellion throughout the world. The great cause of the danger had been the incapacity of the guardians of the Holy City, or their connivance by complicity of heart or of mind with pagan doctrines and manners introduced by an ill-advised revival. Wasted by the wild boar of the forest, could the vineyard of the Lord recover the fertility of its better days? Cajetan learned from eternal Wisdom the new method of culture required by an exhausted soil.

The urgent need of those unfortunate times was that the clergy should be raised up again by worthy life, zeal, and knowledge. For this object men were required who, being clerks themselves in the full acceptation of the word, with all the obligations it involves, should be to the members of the holy hierarchy a permanent model of its primitive perfection, a supplement to their shortcomings, and a leaven, little by little raising the whole mass. But where, save in the life of the counsels with the stability of its three vows, could be found the impulse, the power, and the permanence necessary for such an enterprise? The inexhaustible fecundity of the religious life was no more wanting in the Church in those days of decadence than in the periods of her glory. After the monks, turning to God in their solitudes and drawing down light and love upon the earth seemingly so forgotten by them; after the mendicant Orders, keeping up in the midst of the world their claustral habits of life and the austerity of the desert: the Regular Clerks entered upon the battle field, where by their position in the fight, their exterior manners of life, their very dress, they were to mingle with the ranks of the secular clergy; just as a few veterans are sent into the midst of a wavering troop, to act upon the rest by word and example and dash.

Like the initiators of the great ancient forms of religious life, Cajetan was the patriarch of the Regular Clerks. Under this name, Clement VII, by a brief dated June 24, 1524, approved the institute he had founded that very year in concert with the Bishop of Chieti, from whom the new religious were also called Theatines. Soon the Barnabites, the Society of Jesus, the Somaschans of St. Jerome Æmilian, the Regular Clerks Minor of St. Francis Caracciolo, the Regular Clerks Ministering to the Sick, the Regular Clerks of the Pious Schools, the Regular Clerks of the Mother of God, and others, hastened to follow in the track, and proved that the Church is ever beautiful, ever worthy of her Spouse; while the accusation of barrenness, hurled against her by heresy, rebounded upon the thrower.

Cajetan began and carried forward his reform chiefly by means of detachment from riches, the love of which had caused many evils in the Church. The Theatines offered to the world a spectacle unknown since the days of the apostles; pushing their zeal for renouncement so far as not to allow themselves even to beg, but to rely on the spontaneous charity of the faithful. While Luther was denying the very existence of God’s Providence, their heroic trust in it was often rewarded by prodigies.

Let us now read the life of this new patriarch:

Cajetanus, nobili Thienæa gente Vicentiæ ortus, statini a matre Deiparæ Virgini oblatus est. Mira a teneris annis morum innocentia in eo eluxit, adeo ut sanctus ab omnibus nuncuparetur. Juris utriusque lauream Patavii adeptus, Romani profectus est: ubi inter prælatos a Julio secundo collocatus, et sacerdotio initiatus, tanto divini amoris æstu succensus est, ut relicta aula se totum Deo mancipaverit. Nosocomiis proprio ære fundatis, etiam morbi pestilenti laborantibus, suis ipse manibus inserviebat. Proximorum saluti assidua cura incumbebat, dictus propterea venator animarum.

Collapsam ecclesiasticorum disciplinam ad formam apostolicæ vitæ instaurare desiderans, ordinem Clericorum Regularium instituit, qui, abdicata rerum omnium terrenarum sollicitudine, nec reditus possiderent, nec vitæ subsidia a fidelibus peterent, sed solis eleemosynis sponte oblatis viverent. Itaque approbante Clemente septimo ad aram maximam basilicæ Vaticanæ una cum Joanne Petro Carafa episcopo Theatino, qui postea Paulus quartus pontifex maximus fuit, et aliis duobus eximiæ pietatis viris, vota solemnia emisit. In urbis direptione a militibus crudelissime vexatus ut pecuniam proderet, quam dudum in cœlestes thesauros manus pauperum deportaverant, verbera, tormenta, et carceres invicta patientia sustinuit. In suscepto vitæ instituto constantissime perseveravit, soli divinæ providentiæ inhærens, quam sibi numquam defuisse aliquando miracula comprobarunt.

Divini cultus studium, nitorem domus Dei, sacrorum rituum observantiam, et sanctissimæ Eucharistiæ frequentiorem usum maxime promovit. Hæresum monstra et latebras non semel detexit, ac profligavit. Orationem ad octo passim horas jugibus lacrymis protrahebat: sæpe in exstasim raptus, ac prophetiæ dono illustris. Romæ nocte natalitia ad præsepe Domini, lnfantem Jesum accipere meruit a Deipara in ulnas suas. Corpus integras noctes interdum verberationibus affligebat; nec umquam adduci potuit, ut vitæ asperitatem emolliret, testatus, in cinere et cilicio velie se mori. Denique ex animi dolore conceptomorbo, quod offendi plebis seditione Deum videret, cœlesti visione recreatus, Neapoli migravit in cœlum: ibique corpus ejus in ecclesia sancti Pauli magna religione colitur. Quem multis miraculis in vita et post mortem gloriosum, Clemens decimus pontifex maximus sanctorum numero adscripsit.
Cajetan was born at Vicenza of the noble house of Tiene, and was at once dedicated by his mother to the Virgin Mother of God. His innocence appeared so wonderful from his very childhood that everyone called him 'the saint.' He took the degree of Doctor in canon and civil law at Padua, and then went to Rome, where Julius II made him a prelate. When he received the priesthood, such a fire of divine love was enkindled in his soul, that he left the court to devote himself entirely to God. He founded hospitals with his own money and himself served the sick, even those attacked with pestilential maladies. He displayed such unflagging zeal for the salvation of his neighbour that he earned the name of the 'hunter of souls.'

His great desire was to restore ecclesiastical discipline, then much relaxed, to the form of the apostolic life, and to this end he founded the Order of Regular Clerks. They lay aside all care of earthly things, possess no revenues, do not beg even the necessaries of life from the faithful, but live only on alms spontaneously offered. Clement VII having approved this institution, Cajetan made his solemn vows at the High Altar of the Vatican basilica, together with John Peter Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti, who was afterwards Pope Paul IV, and two other men of distinguished piety. During the sack of Rome, he was most cruelly treated by the soldiers, tc make him deliver up his money, which the hands of the poor had long ago carried into the heavenly treasures. He endured with the utmost patience stripes, torture, and imprisonment. He persevered unfalteringly in the kind of life he had embraced, relying entirely upon Divine Providence: and God never failed him, as was sometimes proved by miracle.

He was a great promoter of assiduity at the divine worship, of the beauty of the House of God, of exactness in holy ceremonies, and of frequent communion. More than once he detected and foiled the wicked subterfuges of heresy. He would prolong his prayer for eight hours, without ceasing to shed tears; he was often rapt in ecstasy and was famous for the gift of prophecy. At Rome, one Christmas night, while he was praying at our Lord’s crib, the Mother of God was pleased to lay the Infant Jesus in his arms. He would spend whole nights in chastising his body with disciplines, and could never be induced to relax anything of the austerity of his life; for he would say, he wished to die in sackcloth and ashes. At length he fell into an illness caused by the intense sorrow he felt at seeing the people offend God by a sedition; and at Naples, after being refreshed by a heavenly vision, he passed to heaven. His body is honoured with great devotion in the church of St. Paul in that town. As many miracles worked by him both living and dead made his name illustrious, Pope Clement X enrolled him amongst the saints.

Who has ever obeyed so well as thou, O great saint, that word of the Gospel: Be not solicitous therefore saying: What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewith shall we be clothed?[1] Thou didst understand, too, that other divine word: The workman is worthy of his meat,[2] and thou knewest that it applied principally to those who labour in word and doctrine.[3] Thou didst not ignore the fact that other sowers of the word had before thee founded on that saying the right of their poverty, embraced for God’s sake, to claim at least the bread of alms. Sublime right of souls eager for opprobrium in order to follow Jesus and to satiate their love! But Wisdom, who gives to the desires of the saints the bent suitable to their times, caused the thirst for humiliation to be overruled in thee by the ambition to exalt in thy poverty the holy Providence of God; this was needed in an age of renewed paganism, which, even before listening to heresy, seemed to have ceased to trust in God. Alas! even of those to whom the Lord had given Himself for their possession in the midst of the children of Israel, it could be truly said that they sought the goods of this world like the heathen. It was thy earnest desire, O Cajetan, to justify our heavenly Father and to prove that He is ever ready to fulfil the promise made by His adorable Son: Seek ye therefore the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.[4]

Circumstances obliged thee to begin in this way the reformation of the sanctuary, whereunto thou wast resolved to devote thy life. It was necessary, first, to bring back the members of the holy militia to the spirit of the sacred formula of the ordination of clerks, when, laying aside the spirit of the world together with its livery, they say in the joy of their hearts: The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is Thou, O Lord, that wilt restore my inheritance to me.[5]

The Lord, O Cajetan, acknowledged thy zeal and blessed thine efforts. Preserve in us the fruit of thy labour. The science of sacred rites owes much to thy sons; may they prosper, in renewed fidelity to the traditions of their father. May thy patriarchal blessing ever rest upon the numerous families of Regular Clerks which walk in the footsteps of thine own. May all the ministers of Holy Church experience the power thou still hast, of maintaining them in the right path of their holy state, or, if necessary, of bringing them back to it. May the example of thy sublime confidence in God teach all Christians that they have a Father in heaven, whose Providence will never fail His children.

Let us honour the holy memory of the Bishop of Arezzo, whom the persecution of Julian the Apostate sent on this day to heaven. The following prayer, wherein the Church expresses her unchanging confidence in his powerful intercession, is found so far back as in the Gelasian Sacramentary; though the title of Confessor is there used instead of Martyr, it is beyond all question that Donatus died for Christ.


Deus, tuorum gloria sacerdotum: præsta quæsumus; ut sancti martyris tui et episcopi Donati, cujus festa gerimus, sentiamus auxilium. Per Dominum.
O God, the glory of Thy priests, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience the succour of Thy holy martyr and bishop, Donatus, whose festival we celebrate. Through our Lord, etc.

[1] St Matt. vi. 31.
[2] Ibid. x. 10.
[3] 1 Tim. v. 17.
[4] St. Matt. vi. 33.
[5] Pontificale Romanum. De clerico faciendo, ex Ps. xv. 5.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TO-DAY a precursor of Laurence appears on the cycle, the deacon Cyriacus, whose power over the demon made hell tremble, and entitles him to a place among the saints called helpers. He and his companions in martyrdom form one of the noblest groups of Christ's army in that last and decisive battle, wherein the eagerness of the faithful to show that they knew how to die won victory for the Cross. Rome, baptized in the blood she had shed, found herself Christian in spite of herself; all her honours were now to be lavished upon the very men whom in the time of her folly she had put to the sword. Such are Thy triumphs, O Wisdom of God!

Mention of the three martyrs celebrated to-day is to be found in the most authentic calendars of the Church that have come down to us from the fourth century.[1] If then, as Baronius acknowledges,[2] there is some reason for calling in question certain details of the legend, their cultus is none the less immemorial upon earth; and the unwavering devotion of which they are the objects, especially in the sanctuaries enriched with their holy relics, proves that they have great power before the throne of the Lamb.

Cyriacus diaconus, cum Sisinio, Largo, et Smaragdo diutius inclusus in carcere, multa edidit miracula, in quibus Arthemiam Diocletiani filiam precibus a dæmone liberavit: missusque ad Saporem Persarum regem, Jobiam etiam ejus filiam a nefario spiritu eripuit. Rege vero ejus patre cum quadringentis ac triginta aliis baptizatis Romam rediit: ubi Maximiani imperatoris jussu comprehensus, catenis vinctus ante rhedam suam trahitur: et post dies quatuor e carcere eductus, pice liquata perfusus, et in catasta extensus, demum cum Largo et Smaragdo, aliisque viginti securi percussus est via Salaria, ad hortos Sallustianos. Quorum corpora in eadem via, decimo septimo Kalendas Aprilis, sepulta a Joanne presbytero, postea sexto idus Augusti a Marcello pontifìce, et Lucina nobili femina lineis velis involuta, et pretiosis unguentis condita, in ipsius Lucinæ prædium via Ostiensi, septimo ab urbe lapide translata sunt.
Cyriacus, a deacon, underwent a long imprisonment together with Largus, Sisinius and Smaragdus, and worked many miracles. Amongst others, by his prayers, he freed Arthemia, a daughter of Diocletian, from the possession of the devil. He was sent to Sapor. King of Persia, and delivered his daughter, Jobia, in like manner from the devil. He baptized the king, her father, and four hundred and thirty others, and then returned to Rome. There he was seized by command of the Emperor Maximian, and dragged in chains before his chariot. Four days afterwards he was taken out of prison, boiling pitch was poured over him, he was stretched on the rack, and at length he was put to death by the axe, with Largus, Smaragdus, and twenty others at Sallust’s Gardens on the SalarianWay. A priest named John buried their bodies on that same way, on the seventeenth of the Kalends of April, but on the sixth of the Ides of August Pope Marcellus and the noble lady Lucina wrapt them in linen with precious spices, and translated them to Lucina’s estate on the Ostian Way, seven miles from Rome.

The Church to-day recites this prayer in their honour:


Deus, qui nos annua sanctorum martyrum tuorum Cyriaci, Largi et Smaragdi solemnitate lætificas: concede propitius; ut quorum natalitia colimus, virtutem quoque passionis imitemur. Per Dominum.
O God, who dost rejoice us by the annual solemnity of Thy holy martyrs, Cyriacus, Largus and Smaragdus, mercifully grant that we may imitate the virtue with which they suffered, whose festival we celebrate. Through, etc.

[1] Calendarium Bucherii.
[2] Annal, ad An. 309, vi.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

'FEAR not, My servant, for I am with thee, saith the Lord. If thou pass through fire, the flame shall not hurt thee, and the odour of fire shall not be in thee. I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the mighty.'[1] It was the hour of combat; and Wisdom, more powerful than flame, was calling upon Laurence to win the laurels of victory presaged by his very name. The three days since the death of Sixtus had passed at length, and the deacon’s exile was about to close: he was soon to stand beside his pontiff at the altar in heaven, and never more to be separated from him. But before going to perform his office as deacon in the eternal sacrifice, he must on this earth, where the seeds of eternity are sown, give proof of the brave faithfulness which becomes a Levite of the law of love. Laurence was ready. He had said to Sixtus: ' Try the fidelity of the minister to whom thou didst intrust the dispensation of the Blood of our Lord.’ He had now, according to the pontiff’s wish, distributed to the poor the treasures of the Church; as the chants of the liturgy tell us on this very morning.[2] But he knew that if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing;[3] and he longed to give himself as well. Overflowing with joy in his generosity he hailed the holocaust, whose sweet perfume he seemed already to perceive rising up to heaven And well might he have sung the offertory of this Vigil's Mass: 'My prayer is pure, and therefore I ask that a place be given to my voice in heaven: for my judge is there, and He that knoweth my conscience is on high: let my prayer ascend to the Lord.”[4]

Sublime prayer of the just man which pierces the clouds! Even now we can say with the Church: His seed shall be mighty upon earth,[5] the seed of new Christians sprung from the blood of martyrdom; for to-day we greet the firstfruits thereof in the person of Romanus, the neophyte whom his first torments won to Christ, and who preceded him to heaven. Let us, with the Church, unite the soldier and the deacon in our prayers:


Adesto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris: et, inter cessione beati Laurentii, martyris tui, cujus prævenimus festivitatem, perpetuam nobis misericordiam benignus impende. Per Dominum.
Attend, O Lord, to our supplications, and by the intercession of blessed Laurence, Thy martyr, whose festival we anticipate, graciously extend to us perpetual mercy. Through our Lord, etc.


Præsta, quæsumus omnipotens Deus: ut, intercedente beato Romano,martyre tuo, et a cunctis adversitatibus liberemur in corpore, et a pravis cogitationibus mundemur in mente. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Almighty God, that by the intercession of blessed Romanus, Thy martyr, we may both be delivered from all adversities in body and be purified from all evil thoughts in mind. Through our Lord, etc.

[1] 2nd Resp. of Matins fr. Isaias xliii. and Jerem. xv.
[2] Introit and Gradual of the Vigil fr. Ps. xci.
[3] Cant viii. 7.
[4] Offertory fr. Job xvi.
[5] Verse of Gradual fr. Ps. cxi.


‘ONCE the mother of false gods, but now the bride of Christ, O Rome, it is through Laurence thou art victorious I Thou hast conquered haughty monarchs and subjected nations to thine empire; but though thou hadst overcome barbarism, thy glory was incomplete till thou hadst vanquished the unclean idols. This was Laurence's victory, a combat bloody yet not tumultuous like those of Camillus or of Cæsar; it was the contest of faith, wherein self is immolated, and death is overcome by death. What words, what praises suffice to celebrate such a death? How can I worthily sing so great a martyrdom?'[1]

Thus opens the sublime poem of Prudentius, composed little more than a century after the saint's martyrdom. In this work the poet has preserved to us the traditions existing in his own day, whereby the name of the Roman deacon was rendered so illustrious. About the same time St. Ambrose, with his irresistible eloquence, described the meeting of Sixtus and his deacon on the way to martyrdom.[2] But, before both Ambrose and Prudentius, Pope St. Damasus chronicled the victory of Laurence's faith, in his majestic monumental inscriptions, which have such a ring of the days of triumph.[3]

Rome was lavish in her demonstrations of honour towards the champion who had prayed for her deliverance upon his red-hot gridiron. She inserted his name in the Canon of the Mass, and moreover celebrated the anniversary of his birth to heaven with as much solemnity as those of the glorious apostles her founders, and with the same privileges of a Vigil and an Octave. She has been dyed with the blood of many other witnesses of Christ, yet as though Laurence had a special claim upon her gratitude, every spot connected with him has been honoured with a church. Amongst all these sanctuaries dedicated to him, the one which contains the martyr's body ranks next after the churches of St. John Lateran, St. Mary's on the Esquiline, St. Peter's on the Vatican, and St. Paul's on the Ostian Way. St. Laurence outside the Walls completes the number of the five great basilicas that form the appanage and exclusive possession of the Roman Pontiff. They represent the patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, which divide the world between them, and express the universal and immediate jurisdiction of the Bishops of Rome over all the churches. Thus through Laurence the Eternal City is completed, and is shown to be the centre of the world and the source of every grace.

Just as Peter and Paul are the riches, not of Rome alone, but of the whole world, so Laurence is called the honour of the world, for he, as it were, personified the courage of martyrdom. At the beginning of this month we saw Stephen himself come to blend his dignity of Protomartyr with the glory of Sixtus II's deacon, by sharing his tomb. In Laurence, it seemed that both the struggle and the victory of martyrdom reached their highest point; persecution, it is true, was renewed during the next half-century, and made many victims, yet his triumph was considered as the death-blow to paganism.

‘The devil,’ says Prudentius, ‘struggled fiercely with God's witness, but he was himself wounded and prostrated for ever. The death of Christ's martyr gave the death-blow to the worship of idols, and from that day Vesta was powerless to prevent her temple from being deserted. All these Roman citizens, brought up in the superstitions taught by Numa, hasten, O Christ, to Thy courts, singing hymns to Thy martyr. Illustrious senators, flamens and priests of Lupercus, venerate the tombs of apostles and saints. We see patricians and matrons of the noblest families vowing to God the children in whom their hopes are centred. The pontiff of the idols, whose brow but yesterday was bound with the sacred fillet, now signs himself with the Cross, and the vestal virgin Claudia visits thy sanctuary, O Laurence.'[4]

It need not surprise us that this day's solemnity carries its triumphant joy from the city of the seven hills to the entire universe. 'As it is impossible for Rome to be concealed,' says St. Augustine, 'so it is equally impossible to hide Laurence's crown.' Everywhere, in both East and West, churches were built in his honour; and in return, as the Bishop of Hippo testifies, ' the favours he conferred were innumerable, and prove the greatness of his power with God; who has ever prayed to him and has not been graciously heard?'[5]

Let us, then, conclude with St. Maximus of Turin that ‘in the devotion wherewith the triumph of St. Laurence is being celebrated throughout the entire world, we must recognize that it is both holy and pleasing to God to honour, with all the fervour of our souls, the birth to heaven of the martyr who by his radiant flames has spread the glory of his victory over the whole Church. Because of the spotless purity of soul which made him a true Levite, and because of that fulness of faith which earned him the martyr's palm, it is fitting that we should honour him almost equally with the apostles.'[6]




Laurence has entered the lists as a martyr, and has confessed the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the antiphon wherewith the Church opens the first Vespers of the feast; and in fact, by this hour he has already entered the arena; with noble irony he has challenged the authorities, and has even shed his blood.

On the very day of the martyrdom of Sixtus II, Cornelius Secularis,[7] prefect of Rome, summoned Laurence before his tribunal, but granted him the delay necessary for gathering together the riches required by the imperial treasury. Valerian did not include the obscure members of the Church in his edicts of persecution; he aimed at ruining the Christians by prohibiting their assemblies, putting their chief men to death, and confiscating their property. This accounts for the fact that, on August 6, the faithful assembled in the cemetery of Pretextatus were dispersed, the pontiff executed, and the chief deacon arrested and ordered to deliver up the treasures which the Government knew to be in his keeping. 'Acknowledge my just and peaceable claims,' said the prefect. 'It is said that at your orgies your priests are accustomed, according to the laws of your worship, to make libations in cups of gold; that silver vessels smoke with the blood of the victims, and that the torches that give light to your nocturnal mysteries are fixed in golden candlesticks. And then you have such love and care for the brotherhood: report says you sell your lands in order to devote to their service thousands of sesterces; so that while the son is disinherited by his holy parents and groans in poverty, his patrimony is piously hidden away in the secrecy of your temples. Bring forth these immense treasures, the shameful spoils you have won by deceiving the credulous; the public good demands them; render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, that he may have wherewith to fill his treasury and pay his armies.’

Laurence, untroubled by these words, and as if quite willing to obey, gently answered: 'I confess you speak the truth; our Church is indeed wealthy; no one in the world, not even Augustus himself, possesses such riches. I will disclose them all to you, and I will show you the treasures of Christ. All I ask for is a short delay, which will enable me the better to perform what I have promised. For I must make an inventory of all, count them up, and value each article.’

The prefect's heart swelled with joy, and gloating over the gold he hoped soon to possess, he granted him a delay of three days. Meanwhile Laurence hastened all over the town and assembled the legions of poor whom their Mother the Church supported; lame and blind, cripple and beggars, he called them all. None knew them better than the archdeacon. Next he counted them, wrote down their names, and arranged them in long lines. On the appointed day he returned to the judge and thus addressed him: ‘Come with me and admire the incomparable riches of the sanctuary of our God.' They went together to the spot where the crowds of poor were standing, clothed in rags and filling the air with their supplications. ‘Why do you shudder?’ said Laurence to the prefect. ‘Do you call that a vile and contemptible spectacle? If you seek after wealth, know that the brightest gold is Christ, who is the light, and the human race redeemed by Him; for they are the sons of the light, all these who are shielded by their bodily weakness from the assault of pride and evil passion; soon they will lay aside their ulcers in the palace of eternal life, and will shine in marvellous glory, clothed in purple and bearing golden crowns upon their heads. See, here is the gold which I promised you—gold of a kind that fire cannot touch or thief steal from you. Think not, then, that Christ is poor: behold these choice pearls, these sparkling gems that adorn the temple, these sacred virgins, I mean, and these widows who refuse second marriage; they form the priceless necklace of the Church, they deck her ears, they are her bridal ornaments, and win for her Christ's love. Behold, then, all our riches; take them: they will beautify the city of Romulus, they will increase the Emperor's treasures and enrich you yourself.'[8]

From a letter of Pope St. Cornelius, written a few years after these events, we learn that the number of widows and poor persons that the Church of Rome supported exceeded 1,500.[9] By thus exhibiting them before the magistrate, Laurence knew that he endangered no one but himself, for the persecution of Valerian, as we have already observed, overlooked the inferior classes and attacked the leading members of the Church. Divine Wisdom thus confronted Csesarism and its brutality with Christianity which it so despised, but which was destined to overcome and subdue it.

This happened on August 9, 258. The first answer the furious prefect made was to order Laurence to be scourged and tortured upon the rack. But these tortures were only a prelude to the great ordeal he was preparing for the noble-hearted deacon. We learn this tradition from St. Damasus, for he says that, besides the flames, Laurence triumphed over ' blows, tortures, torments, and chains.'[10]

We have also the authority of the notice inserted by Ado of Vienne in his martyrology in the ninth century, and taken from a still more ancient source. The conformity of expression proves that it was partly from this same source that the Gregorian Antiphonal had already taken the antiphons and responsories of the feast.

Besides the details which we learn from Prudentius and the Fathers, this office alludes to the converts Laurence made while in prison, and to his restoring sight to the blind. This last seems to have been the special gift of the holy deacon during the days preceding his martyrdom.

1. Ant. Laurentius ingressus est martyr, et confessus est nomen Domini Jesu Christi.

1. Ant. Laurence has entered the lists as a martyr, and has confessed the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ps. Dixit Dominus, page 35.

2. Ant. Laurentius bonum opus operatus est, qui per signum crucis cæcos illuminavit.

2. Ant. Laurence has wrought a good work, who by the sign of the Cross gave sight to the blind.

Ps. Confitebor tibi Domine, page 37.

3. Ant. Adhæsit anima mea post te, quia caro mea igne cremata est pro te Deus meus.

3. Ant. My soul has cleaved to Thee, for my flesh has been burnt with fire for Thy sake, O my God.

Ps. Beatus vir, page 38.

4. Ant. Misit Dominus angelum suum, et liberavit me de medio ignis, et non sum æstuatus.

4. Ant. The Lord sent His angel and delivered me from the midst of the fire, and I have not been consumed.

Ps. Laudate pueri, page 39.

5. Ant. Beatus Laurentius orabat, dicens: Gratias tibi ago, Domine, quia januas tuas ingredi merui.

5. Ant. Blessed Laurence prayed, saying: I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that I have been found worthy to enter Thy gates.

Psalm 116

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes: * laudate eum, omnes populi.

Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in æternum.
Oh, praise the Lord, all ye nations, praise Him, all ye people.

For His mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

(2 Cor. ix.)

Fratres: Qui parce seminat, parce et metet: et qui seminat in benedictionibus, de benedictionibus et metet.
Brethren: He who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings.


Deus tuorum militum
Sors, et corona, præmium,
Laudes canentes martyris
Absolve nexu criminis.

Hic nempe mundi gaudia,
Et blanda fraudum pabula
Imbuta felle deputans,
Pervenit ad cœlestia.

Pœnas cucurrit fortiter,
Et sustulit viriliter,
Fundensque pro te sanguinem,
Æterna dona possidet.

Ob hoc precatu supplici
Te poscimus, piissime:
In hoc triumpho martyris
Dimitte noxam servulis.

Laus et perennis.
Gloria Patri sit, atque Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
In sempiterna sæcula.

O God! Thou the inheritance,
crown, and reward of Thy soldiers!
absolve from the bonds of our sins
us who sing the praises of Thy martyr.

For counting the joys of the world
and the deceitful bait of its caresses
as things embittered with gall,
Thy martyr obtained the delights of heaven.

Bravely did he go through,
and manfully did he bear, his pains:
and shedding his blood for Thy sake,
he now possesses Thy eternal gifts.

Therefore, most merciful Father!
we beseech Thee, in most suppliant prayer,
forgive us, Thy unworthy servants, our sins,
for it is the feast of Thy martyr’s triumph.

Praise and eternal glory be
to the Father and to the Son,
as also to the Holy Paraclete,
for everlasting ages.


℣. Gloria et honore coronasti eum, Domine.

℟. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.
℣. Thou hast crowned him, O Lord, with glory and honour.

℟. And hast placed him over the works of Thy hands.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Levita Laurentius bonum opus operatus est, qui per signum crucis cæcos illuminavit, et thesauros Ecclesiæ dedit pauperibus.
Laurence the Levite hath wrought a good work: he restored sight to the blind by the sign of the Cross, and distributed to the poor the treasures of the Church.

The Canticle, Magnificat, page 43.


Da nobis, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: vitiorum nostrorum flammas exstinguere; qui beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare. Per Dominum.
Grant us, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, to extinguish the flames of our vices: Thou who unto blessed Laurence didst give a strength that overcame the fire of his torments. Through, etc.

The August sun has set behind the Vatican, and the life and animation, which his burning heat had stilled for a time, begin once more upon the seven hills. Laurence was taken down from the rack about midday. In his prison, however, he took no rest, but wounded and bleeding as he was, he baptized the converts won to Christ by the sight of his courageous suffering. He confirmed their faith, and fired their souls with a martyr's intrepidity. When the evening hour summoned Rome to its pleasures, the prefect recalled the executioners to their work, for a few hours' rest had sufficiently restored their energy to enable them to satisfy his cruelty.

Surrounded by this ill-favoured company, the prefect thus addressed the valiant deacon: 'Sacrifice to the gods, or else the whole night long shall be witness of your torments.' 'My night has no darkness,' answered Laurence, 'and all things are full of light to me.' They struck him on the mouth with stones, but he smiled and said: ‘I give Thee thanks, O Christ.'

Then an iron bed or gridiron with three bars was brought in and the saint was stripped of his garments and extended upon it while burning coals were placed beneath it. As they were holding him down with iron forks, Laurence said: ' I offer myself as a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.' The executioners continually stirred up the fire and brought fresh coals, while they still held him down with their forks. Then the saint said: ' Learn, unhappy man, how great is the power of my God; for your burning coals give me refreshment, but they will be your eternal punishment. I call Thee, O Lord, to witness: when I was accused, I did not deny Thee; when I was questioned, I confessed Thee, O Christ; on the red-hot coals I gave Thee thanks.' And with his countenance radiant with heavenly beauty, he continued: ‘Yea, I give Thee thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for that Thou hast deigned to strengthen me.' He then raised his eyes to his judge, and said: ' See, this side is well roasted; turn me on the other and eat.' Then continuing his canticle of praise to God: ‘I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that I have merited to enter into Thy dwelling-place.'[11] As he was on the point of death, he remembered the Church. The thought of the eternal Rome gave him fresh strength, and he breathed forth this ecstatic prayer:' O Christ, only God, O Splendour, O Power of the Father, O Maker of heaven and earth and builder of this city's walls! Thou hast placed Rome's sceptre high over all; Thou hast willed to subject the world to it, in order to unite under one law the nations which differ in manners, customs, language, genius, and sacrifice. Behold the whole human race has submitted to its empire, and all discord and dissensions disappear in its unity. Remember thy purpose: Thou didst will to bind the immense universe together into one Christian Kingdom. O Christ, for the sake of Thy Romans, make this city Christian; for to it Thou gavest the charge of leading all the rest to sacred unity. All its members in every place are united—a very type of Thy Kingdom; the conquered universe has bowed before it. Oh! may its royal head be bowed in turn! Send Thy Gabriel and bid him heal the blindness of the sons of lulus that they may know the true God. I see a prince who is to come—an Emperor who is a servant of God. He will not suffer Rome to remain a slave; he will close the temples and fasten them with bolts for ever.'

Thus he prayed, and with these last words he breathed forth his soul. Some noble Romans who had been conquered to Christ by the martyr's admirable boldness, removed his body: the love of the most high God had suddenly filled their hearts and dispelled their former errors. From that day the worship of the infamous gods grew cold; few people went now to the temples, but hastened to the altars of Christ. Thus Laurence, going unarmed to the battle, had wounded the enemy with his own sword.[12]

The Church, which is always grateful in proportion to the service rendered her, could not forget this glorious night. At the period when her children's piety vied with her own, she used to summon them together at sunset on the evening of August 9 for a first Night Office. At midnight the second Matins began, followed by the first Mass called 'of the night or of the early morning.’[13] Thus the Christians watched around the holy deacon during the hours of his glorious combat. 'O God, Thou hast proved my heart, and visited it by night, Thou hast tried me by fire, and iniquity hath not been found in me. Hear, O Lord, my justice; attend to my supplication.'[14] Such is the grand Introit which, immediately after the night Vigils, hallowed the dawn of August 10, at the very moment when Laurence entered the eternal sanctuary to fulfil his office at the heavenly altar.

Later on certain churches observed on this feast a custom similar to one in use at the Matins of the commemoration of St. Paul; it consisted in reciting a particular versicle before repeating each antiphon of the Nocturns. The doctors of the sacred liturgy tell us that the remarkable labours of the Doctor of the Gentiles and those of St. Laurence earned for them this distinction.[15]

Our forefathers were greatly struck by the contrast between the endurance of the holy deacon under his cruel tortures and his tender-hearted, tearful parting with Sixtus II three days before. On this account, they gave to the periodical showers of 'falling stars,' which occur about August 10, the graceful name of St. Laurence’s tears: a touching instance of that popular piety which delights in raising the heart to God through the medium of natural phenomena.




The deacon has followed his Pontiff beyond the veil; the faithful Levite is standing beside the ark of the eternal covenant. He now gazes on the splendour of that tabernacle not made with hands, feebly figured by that of Moses, and but partially revealed by the Church herself.

And yet to-day, though still an exile, Mother Church thrills with a holy pride, for she has added something to the glory and the sanctity of heaven. She triumphantly advances to the altar on earth, which is one with that in heaven. Throughout the night she has had her eyes and her heart fixed on her noble son; and now she dares to sing of the beauty, the holiness, the magnificence of our fatherland as though they were already hers; for the rays of eternal light seem to have fallen upon her as the veil lifted to admit Laurence into the Holy of Holies.

The Introit and its verse are taken from Psalm xcv.:


Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu ejus: sanctitas et magnificentia in sanctificatione ejus.

Ps. Cantate Domino canticum novum: cantate Domino omnis terra. Gloria Patri. Confessio.
Praise and beauty are before him: Holiness and majesty in His sanctuary. 

Ps. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle; sing to the Lord all the earth, ℣. Glory, etc. Praise.

No doubt our weakness will not be called upon to endure the ordeal of a red-hot gridiron; nevertheless, we are tried by flames of a different kind, which, if we do not extinguish them in this life, will feed the eternal fire of hell. The Church, therefore, asks on this feast of St. Laurence that we may be gifted with prudence and courage.


Da nobis, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: vitiorum nostrorum flammas exstinguere; qui beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare. Per Dominum.
Grant us, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, to extinguish the flames of our vices; who didst grant to blessed Laurence to overcome the fire of his torments. Through our Lord, etc.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.

II. Cap. ix.

Fratres, qui parce seminat, parce et metet: et qui seminat in benedictionibus, de benedictionibus et metet. Unusquisque prout destinavit in corde suo, non ex tristitia, aut ex necessitate: hilarem enim datorem diligit Deus. Potens est autem Deus omnem gratiam abundare facere in vobis: ut in omnibus semper omnem sufficientiam habentes, abundetis in omne opus bonum, sicut scriptum est: Dispersit, dedit pauperibus: justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi. Qui autem administrat semen seminanti: et panem ad manducandum præstabit, et multiplicabit semen vestrum, et augebit incrementa frugum justitiæ vestræ.
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.

II. Ch. ix.

Brethren, he who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who soweth in blessings shall also reap of blessings. Every one as he has determined in his heart; not with sadness, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound in you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work, as it is written: He hath dispersed abroad; He hath given to the poor; His justice remaineth for ever. And He that ministereth seed to the sower, will both give you bread to eat and will multiply your seed, and increase the growth of the fruits of your justice.

He hath dispersed abroad; He hath given to the poor; His justice remaineth for ever. The Roman Church loves to repeat these words of Psalm cxi. in honour of her great archdeacon. Yesterday she sang them in the Introit and Gradual of the Vigil; again they were heard last night in the responsories, and this morning in the versicle of her triumphant Lauds. Indeed, the Epistle we have just read, which also furnishes the Little Chapters for the several Hours, was selected for to-day because of this same text being therein quoted by the apostle. Evidently the choice graces which won for Laurence his glorious martyrdom were, in the Church's estimation, the outcome of the brave and cheerful fidelity wherewith he distributed to the poor the treasures in his keeping. He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly; and he who someth in blessings, shall also reap of blessings; such is the supernatural economy of the Holy Ghost in the distribution of His gifts, as exemplified in the glorious scenes we have witnessed during these three days.

We may add with the apostle: What touches the heart of God, and moves Him to multiply His favours, is not so much the work itself as the spirit that prompts it. God loveth a cheerful giver. Noble-hearted, tender, devoted, and self-forgetful, heroic with a heroism bom of simplicity no less than of courage, gracious and smiling even on his gridiron: such was Laurence towards God, towards his father Sixtus II, towards the lowly; and the same he was towards the powerful and in the very face of death. The closing of his life did but prove that he was as faithful in great things as he had been in small. Seldom are nature and grace so perfectly in harmony as they were in the young deacon, and though the gift of martyrdom is so great that no one can merit it, yet his particularly glorious martyrdom seems to have been the development, as if by natural evolution, of the precious germs planted by the Holy Ghost in the rich soil of his noble nature.

The words of Psalm xvi., which formerly composed the Introit of the Mass of the night, are repeated in the Gradual of the morning Mass. The Alleluia Verse reminds us of the miracles wrought by St. Laurence upon the blind; let us ask him to cure our spiritual blindness, which is more terrible than that of the body.




Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. xii.

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Amen, amen dico vobis, nisi granum frumenti cadens in terram, mortuum fuerit, ipsum solum manet: si autem mortuum fuerit, multum fructum affert. Qui amat animam suam, perdet eam; et qui odit animam suam in hoc mundo, in vitam æternam custodit eam. Si quis mihi ministrat, me sequatur: et ubi sum ego, illic et minister meus erit. Si quis mihi ministraverit, honorificabit eum Pater meus.
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. xii.

At that time: Jesus said to His disciples: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal. If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also shall My minister be. If any man minister to Me, him will My Father honour.

The Gospel we have just read was thus commented by St. Augustine on this very feast: ‘Your faith recognizes the grain that fell into the earth, and, having died, was multiplied. Your faith, I say, recognizes this grain, for the same dwelleth in your souls. That it was concerning Himself Christ spake these words no Christian doubts. But now that that seed is dead and has been multiplied, many grains have been sown in the earth; among them is the blessed Laurence, and this is the day of his sowing. What an abundant harvest has sprung from these grains scattered over all the earth! We see it, we rejoice in it, nay, we ourselves are the harvest; if so be, by his grace, we belong to the granary. For not all that grows in the field belongs to the granary. The same useful, nourishing rain feeds both the wheat and the chaff. God forbid that both should be laid up together in the granary; although they grew together in the field, and were threshed together in the threshing-floor.

Now is the time to choose. Let us now, before the winnowing, separate ourselves from the wicked by our manner of life, as in the floor the grain is threshed out of the chaff, though not yet separated from it by the final winnowing. Hear me, ye holy grains, who, I doubt not, are here; for if I doubted, I should not be a grain myself: hear me, I say; or rather, hear that first grain speaking by me. Love not your life in this world: love it not if you truly love it, so that by not loving you may preserve it; for by not loving, you love the more. He that loveth his life in this world, shall lose it.[16]

Thus because Laurence was as an enemy to himself and lost his life in this world, he found it in the next. Being a minister of Christ by his very title, for deacon means minister, he followed the Man-God, as the Gospel exhorts; he followed Him to the altar, and to the altar of the Cross. Having fallen with Him into the earth, he has been multiplied in Him. Though separated from St. Laurence by distance of time and place, yet we are ourselves, as the Bishop of Hippo teaches, a part of the harvest that is ever springing from him. Let this thought excite us to gratitude towards the holy deacon; and let us all the more eagerly unite our homage with the honour bestowed on him by our heavenly Father for having ministered to His Son.

The Offertory repeats the words of the Introit to a different melody; it is earth's echo to the music of heaven. The beauty and sanctity that so magnificently enhance the worship of praise around the eternal altar ought to shine by faith in the souls of the Church's ministers, as the angels beheld them shining in Laurence's soul while he was still on earth.


Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu ejus: sanctitas et magnificentia in sanctificatione ejus.

Praise and beauty are before Him: holiness and majesty are in His sanctuary.

At this point of the mysteries it was once Laurence’s duty to present the offerings; the Church, while now presenting them, claims the suffrage of his merits.


Accipe, quæsumus Domine, munera dignanter oblata, et beati Laurentii suffragantibus mentis, ad nostræ salutis auxilium provenire concede. Per Dominum.

Graciously accept the offerings made to Thee, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and by the merits of blessed Laurence Thy martyr, which plead for us, grant them to become a help to our salvation. Through, etc.

Laurence worthily fulfilled his august ministry at the Table of his Lord; and He, to whom he thus devoted himself, keeps His promise made in the Gospel, by calling him to live for ever where He is Himself.


Qui mihi ministrat, me sequatur: et ubi ego sum, illic et minister meus erit.

If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me: and where I am, there also shall My minister be.

After feasting at the sacred banquet of which Laurence was once the dispenser, we beg that the homage of our own service may draw down upon us, through his intercession, an increase of grace.


Sacro munere satiati, supplices te, Domine, deprecamur: ut, quod debitæ servi tutis celebramus officio, inter cedente beato Laurentio martyre tuo, salvationis tuæ sentiamus augmentum. Per Dominum.

Replenished with Thy sacred gifts, we suppliantly beseech Thee, O Lord, that what we celebrate with due service, by the intercession of blessed Laurence Thy martyr, we may perceive to contribute towards our salvation. Through our Lord, etc.




This morning, as soon as Laurence had given up his brave soul to his Creator, his body was taken, like precious gold from the crucible, and wrapt in linen cloths with sweet spices. As in the case of Stephen the protomartyr, and of Jesus the King of martyrs, so now, too, noble persons vied with each other in paying honour to the sacred remains. In the evening of August 10[17] the noble converts mentioned by Prudentius bowed their heads beneath the venerable burden; and followed by a great company of mourners, they carried him along the Tiburtian Way, and buried him in the cemetery of Cyriacus. The Church on earth mourned for her illustrious son; but the Church in heaven was already overflowing with joy, and each anniversary of the glorious triumph was to give fresh gladness to the world.

The Office of Second Vespers is the same as that of the First, except for the last psalm, the versicle, and the Magnificat antiphon. This psalm, which the Church sings for all her martyrs, is the 115th. It admirably expresses Laurence's exulting gratitude: his confession of faith was the cause of his triumph over suffering and over snares; he filled with his own blood the chalice committed to his care, thus proving himself a true deacon, a minister of God's altar, and a son of the Church, the handmaid of the Lord. And now that his bonds are broken, he has begun his everlasting service in the company of the saints, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.

Psalm 115

Credidi, propter quod locutus sum: * ego autem humiliatus sum nimis.
Ego dixi in excessu meo: * Omnis homo mendax.
Quid retribuam Domino: * pro omnibus quæ retribuit mihi?
Calicem salutaris accipiam: * et nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam coram omni populo ejus: * pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus.
O Domine, quia ego servus tuus: * ego servus tuus, et filius ancillæ tuæ.
Dirupisti vincula mea.: * tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis, et nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam in conspectu omnis populi ejus: * in atriis domus Domini, in medio tui, Jerusalem.
I have believed, therefore have I spoken: but I have been humbled exceedingly.
I said in my excess: Every man is a liar.
What shall I render unto the Lord, for all the things that He hath rendered unto me?
I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord before all His people; precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
O Lord, for I am Thy servant: I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid.
Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto Thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the sight of all His people: in the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.

After the hymn the following versicle is sung, and then the Magnificat antiphon:

℣. Levita Laurentius bonum opus operatus est.

℟. Qui per signum crucis cæcos illuminavit.
℣. The Levite Laurence wrought a good work.

℟. Who gave sight to the blind by the sign of the Cross.


Beatus Laurentius dum in craticula superpositus ureretur, ad impiissimum tyrannum dixit: Assatum est jam, versa, et manduca: nam facultates ecclesiæ, quas requins, in cœlestes thesauros manus pauperum deportaverunt.

While blessed Laurence was burning, stretched upon the gridiron, he said to the wicked tyrant: I am now roasted, turn and eat: as to the goods of the Church which thou demandest, the hands of the poor have already conveyed them into the heavenly treasures.

The Greeks in their Menæa echo the homage paid by the West to the conqueror: her glorious son:' Perfectis gaudiis expleatur oblatio. . . . Gratias tibi, Domine, quoniam sanctum Lauretinum Martyrem tuum, te inspirante diligimus: May our offering be made with perfect joy. . . . We give thanks to Thee, O Lord, that, by Thy inspiration, we love Thy holy martyr Laurence.' Such is the character of the formulæ which precede and follow, in the holy Sacrifice, the words we here give:


Vere dignum. Tuam misericordiam deprecantes, ut mentibus nostris beati Laurentii martyris tui tribuas jugiter suavitatem, qua et nos amemusejus meritum passionis, et indulgentiam nobis semper fidelis ille patronus obtineat.
It is truly right and just to glorify Thee, O God, beseeching Thy mercy, that Thou wouldst ever bestow upon our souls the sweetness of Thy blessed martyr Laurence, whereby we may love the reward of his passion, and he, as an ever-faithful patron, may obtain pardon for us.

The so-called Gothic Missal, which represents, as we know, the liturgy of the churches of France before Pepin and Charlemagne, is to-day in full harmony with the sentiments of Mother Church.

Missa S. Laurenti Mart.

Deus, fìdelium tuorum salvator et rector, omnipotens sempiterne Deus, adesto votis solemnitatis hodiernæ; et ecclesiæ gaudiis de gloriosa martyris tui passione beati Laurentii conceptis, benignus adspira: augeatur omnium fìdes tantæ virtutis ortu; et corda lætantium supplicio martyrum igniantur: ut apud misericordiam tuam illius juvemur merito, cujus exsultamus exemplo. Per Dominum.
O God, the Saviour and guide of Thy faithful, almighty, eternal God, be propitious to our prayers on this day of solemnity, and lovingly favour the joys conceived by the Church for the glorious passion of Thy blessed martyr Laurence: may the faith of all be increased by the appearance of such great virtue; and may the hearts of all who rejoice be kindled by the suffering of the martyrs: that in presence of Thy mercy we may be aided by his merit, at whose example we exult. Through our Lord, etc.

Immolatio Missæ

Vere dignum et justum est, omnipotens sempiterne Deus, tibi in tanti martyris Laurenti laudis hostias immolare: qui hostiam viventem hodie in ipsius levitæ tui beati Laurenti martyris ministerio per florem casti corporis acceptisti. Cujus vocem per hymnidicqm modolamini psalmi audivimus canentis atque dicentis: Probasti cor meum, Deus, et visitasti nocte, id est in tenebris sæculi: igne me examinasti; et non est inventa in me iniquitas. O gloriosa certaminis virtus! O inconcussa constantia confitentis! Stridunt membra viventis super craticulum imposita, et prunis sævientibus anhelantis, incensum suum in modum thymiamatis divinis naribus exhibent odorem. Dicit enim martyr ipse cum Paulo: Christi bonus odor sumus Deo. Non enim cogitabat quomodo in terra positus, a passionis periculo liberaretur, sed quomodo inter martyres in cœlis coronaretur. Per Christum.

It is truly right and just, O almighty, eternal God, to offer, on the solemnity of the great martyr Laurence, sacrifices of praise to Thee: who this day, by the ministry of the same martyr Laurence, Thy blessed Levite, didst receive as a living holocaust the flower of his chaste body. We have heard his voice, attuned to the harmony of the melodious Psalm, singing and saying: 'Thou hast proved my heart, O God, and visited it by night, that is, in the darkness of this world; Thou hast tried me by fire, and iniquity hath not been found in me.’ O glorious valour in the strife! O unshaken constancy of the confessor! His limbs are stretched and hiss upon the gridirons, while yet he lives, and gasping, breathes the fiery heat of the burning coals; and they send up their smoke like incense, a sweet odour to God. For the martyr himself said with Paul: 'We are the good odour of Christ to God.’ For he thought not how on earth he might escape the danger of suffering, but how in heaven he would be crowned among the martyrs. Through Christ our Lord, etc.

From the Mozarabic liturgy we will take but one prayer for to-day:


Domine Jesu Christe, qui beatissimum Laurentium igne charitatis tuæ ardentem, et cupiditatum et passionum incendia fecisti evincere: dum et aurum calcat et flammam, et in pauperum erogationem munificus et in combustionem sui corporis reperitur devotus; da nobis obtentu suffragii illius, ut vapore Spiritus Sancti accensi flammas superemus libidinis, et igne concrememur omnimodæ sanctitatis: quo inter sanctos illos sors nostra inveniatur post transitum, pro quibus nunc tibi dependimus famulatum.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst enable the most blessed Laurence, burning with the fire of Thy charity, to overcome the heat both of passions and of sufferings: for he trampled alike both on gold and the fire, and was found liberal in giving to the poor and faithful in the burning of his body; grant us, through his intercession, that being kindled by the breath of the Holy Spirit, we may overcome the flames of concupiscence and may be consumed by the fire of all sanctity, so that after our passage through this life, our lot may be found among those saints for whom we now offer Thee our homage.

Adam of St. Victor shall crown the day with one of his admirable sequences:


Prunis datum
Laudibus Laurentium;
Cum tremore,
Cum amore
Martyrem egregium.

Non negavit;
Sed pulsatus
In tubis ductilibus,
Cum in pœnis
Voto plenis
Et sonaret
In divinis laudibus.

Sicut chorda musicorum
Tandem sonum dat sonorum
Plectri ministerio;
Sic, in chely tormentorum,
Melos Christi confessorum
Dedit hujus tensio.

Deci, vide
Quia fide
Stat invictus
Inter ictus,
Minas et incendia:
Spes interna,
Vox superna
Et hortantur
Virum de constantia.

Nam thesauros quos exquiris
Per tormenta non acquiris
Tibi, sed Laurentio.
Hos in Christo coacervat,
Hujus pugna Christus servat,
Triumphantis præmio.

Nescit sancti nox obscurum,
Ut in pœnis quid impurum
Fide tractet dubia;
Neque cæcis lumen daret,
Si non eum radiaret Luminis præsentia.

Fidei confessio
Lucet in Laurentio:
Non ponit sub modio,
Statuit in medio
Lumen coram omnibus
Juvat Dei famulum
Crucis suæ bajulum,
Assum quasi ferculum,
Fieri spectaculum
Angelis et gentibus.

Non abhorret prunis volvi,
Qui de carne cupit solvi
Et cum Christo vivere,
Neque timet occidentes
Corpus, sed non prævalentes
Animam occidere.

Sicut vasa figulorum
Probat fornax, et eorum
Solidat substantiam,
Sic et ignis hunc assatum
Velut testam solidatum
Reddit per constantiam.

Nam cum vetus corrumpatur,
Alter homo renovatur
Veteris incendio;
Unde nimis confortatus
Est athletæ principatus
In Dei servitio.

Hunc ardorem
Factum foris
Putat rorem
Vis amoris
Et zelus justitiæ;
Ignis urens,
Non comburens,
Vincit prunas
Quas adunas,
O minister impie.

Parum sapis
Vim sinapis,
Si non tangis,
Si non frangis;
Et plus fragrat
Quando flagrat
Thus injectum ignibus.
Sic arctatus Et assatus,
Sub labore.
Sub ardore,
Dat odorem Pleniorem
Martyr de virtutibus.

O Laurenti, laute nimis,
Rege victo rex sublimis,
Regis regum fortis miles,
Qui duxisti poenas viles
Certans pro justitia;

Qui tot mala devicisti
Contemplando bona Christi,
Fac nos malis insultare,
Fac de bonis exsultare
Meritorum gratia.

Let us admire
laid upon
hot coals:
let us with praises
honour the laurel-crowned:
let us reverence
with trembling,
and beseech with love,
this illustrious martyr.

Being accused,
he did not deny;
but being struck
he answered back
with a long-sounding trumpet,
when in his wished-for
he exulted
and sounded forth
the divine praises.

As the musical chord
struck with the plectrum
gives forth its loud melody,
so he, stretched on the lyre of the torture,
sounded the strain
of the confessors of Christ.

See, O Decius,
how he
stands invincible in faith,
amid the blows
and threats
and flames:
hope within,
and a voice from above,
console him
and exhort him to constancy.

For the treasures which thou seekest
are not gotten to thee by the torments,
but to Laurence.
He gathers them in Christ,
and for his combat Christ
keeps them for him as the reward of his triumph.

To the holy one the night knows no darkness,
nor in his sufferings is he defiled by wavering faith;
for he could not have given light
to the blind,
had not the light been present shining upon him.

The confession of faith
shines bright in Laurence:
he hides not the light beneath a bushel,
but sets it in the midst before all.
It is pleasant
to the servant of God,
the bearer of His Cross,
to be roasted as food,
to be made a spectacle
to angels and to the nations.

He shrinks not
from being turned upon the coals,
who desires to be delivered from the flesh,
and to live with Christ;
nor fears he them that slay the body,
but are not able to hurt the soul.

As the furnace proves
the potter's vessels,
and hardens their substance,
so does the fire, roasting him,
make him firm by constancy
like the fired clay.

For when the old man is destroyed,
the other is renewed
in the burning of the old;
hence the power of the combatant
is exceedingly strengthened
in the service of God.

Through the strength
of his love
and his zeal
for justice
he deems
this outward
heat but dew;
the fire that burns but not consumes,
outdoes thy heaped-up coals,
O impious minister.

Thou knowest not
the virtue of the mustard-seed,
unless thou touch it,
unless thou crush it;
and more fragrant is the incense
when it smokes
upon the fire;
even so the martyr,
oppressed and burned with suffering
and with heat,
exhales more fully
the fragrance of his virtue.

O Laurence,
exceedingly honourable,
having conquered a king,
thou hast become
an eminent king,

thou, brave soldier of the King of kings,
who didst make small account of sufferings
when fighting for justice; thou who didst
overcome so many evils by contemplating the good things of Christ,
make us by the grace of thy merits spurn evil and rejoice in good.



‘Thrice blessed are the Roman people, for they honour thee on the very spot where thy sacred bones repose! They prostrate in thy sanctuary, and watering the ground with their tears they pour out their vows. We who are distant from Rome, separated by Alps and Pyrenees, how can we even imagine what treasures she possesses, or how rich is her earth in sacred tombs? We have not her privileges, we cannot trace the martyrs' bloody footsteps; but from afar we gaze on the heavens. O holy Laurence! it is there we seek the memorial of thy passion; for thou hast two dwelling-places, that of thy body on earth, and that of thy soul in heaven. In the ineffable heavenly city thou hast been received to citizenship, and the civic crown adorns thy brow in its eternal Senate. So brightly shine thy jewels that it seemeth the heavenly Rome hath chosen thee perpetual Consul. The joy of the Quirites proves how great is thine office, thine influence, and thy power, for thou grantest their requests. Thou hearest all who pray to thee, they ask what they will and none ever goes away sad.

‘Ever assist thy children of the queen city; give them the strong support of thy fatherly love, and a mother’s tender, fostering care. Together with them, O thou honour of Christ, listen to thy humble client confessing his misery and sins. I acknowledge that I am not worthy that Christ should hear me; but through the patronage of the holy martyrs, my evils can be remedied. Hearken to thy suppliant; in thy goodness free me from the fetters of the flesh and of the world.’[18]

[1] Prudent. Peristephanon, Hymn ii.
[2] Ambr. De offic. i. 41.
[3] De Rossi, Inscript ii. 82.
[4] Prudent.
[5] Aug. Serm. 303 and 302.
[6] Maxim. Taurin. Homil. 75 and 74.
[7] Elenchus, Philocal.
[8] Prudent.
[9] Cornelius ad Fabium Antioch.
[10] Verbera, camifices, flammas, tormenta, catenas. Vincere Laurenti sola fides potuit.
Hæc Damasus cumulat supplex altaria donis, Martyris egregium suspiciens meritum.
[11] Adon. Martyrol.
[12] Prudent.
[13] De nocte, in prime mane: Sacramentar. Greg. apud H. Menard.
[14] Introit, ex Ps. xvi: Antiphona apud Tommasi.
[15] Beleth. cxlv; Sicard. ix, xxxix; Durand, vii, xxiii.
[16] Aug. Sermo cccv, al. xxvi, In Nat. S. Laurent.
[17] Adon. Martyrolog.
[18] Prudent.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

LAURENCE is followed to-day by the son of Chromatius, prefect of Rome, Tiburtius, who also suffered upon burning coals for the confession of his faith. Though forty years intervened between the two martyrdoms, it was the same Holy Spirit that animated these witnesses of Christ and suggested to them the same answer to their executioners. Tiburtius, walking upon the fire, cried out: 'Learn that the God of the Christians is the only God, for these hot coals seem flowers to me.'

Equally near to the great archdeacon stands an illustrious virgin, so bright herself as not to be eclipsed by him. A relative of both the Emperor Diocletian, and the holy Pope Caius, Susanna, it is said, one day beheld the imperial crown at her feet. But she obtained a far greater nobility; for, by preferring the wreath, of virginity, she won at the same time the palm of martyrdom.

Now, as St. Leo remarks, on the glorious solemnity whose octave we are keeping, if no one is good for himself alone, if the favours of Divine Wisdom profit not only the recipient, then no one is more wise than the martyr, no eloquence can instruct the people so well as his. It is by this excellent manner of teaching that, as the Church tells us to-day, 'Laurence enlightened the whole world with the light of his fire, and by the flames which he endured he warmed the hearts of all Christians. By the example of his martyrdom, faith is enkindled and devotion fostered in our souls. The persecutor lays no hot coals for me, but he sets me on fire with desire of my Saviour.'[1] If, moreover, and it is not mere theory to repeat it in our days, if, as St. Augustine remarks, 'circumstances place a man in the alternative of transgressing a divine precept or losing his life, he too must know how to die for the love of God, rather than live at enmity with him.'[2] Morality does not change, neither does the justice of God, who in all ages rewards the faithful, as in all ages he chastises cowards.

The Mozarabic Missal eloquently expresses the grandeur of St. Laurence’s martyrdom in this beautiful formula which precedes the Consecration on the day of his feast.

Post Sanctus

Hosanna in excelsis: vere dignum et justum est, omni quidem tempore, sed præcipue in honorem sanctorum tuorum, nos tibi gratias, consempiterna Trinitas, et consubstantialis et co-operatrix omnium bonorum Deus, et pro beatissimi martyris tui Laurentii celeberrimo die, laudum hostias immolare. Cujus gloriosum passionis triumphum, anni circulo revolutum, ecclesia tua læta concelebrat: apostolis quidem tuis in doctrina supparem: sed in Domini confessione non imparem. Qui niveam illam stolam leviticam, martyrii cruore purpureo decoravit: cujus cor in igne tuo, quern veneras mittere super terrain, ita flam* masti: ut ignem istum visibilem non sentiret: et appositas corpori flammas mentis intentione superaret: ardentemque globum fide validus non timeret.

Quique craticulæ superpositus, novum sacrificium tibi semetipsum castus minister exhibuit: et veluti super aram holocausti more decoctus, saporem Domino suavitatis ingessit. In quo incomparabilis martyr præcordiis pariter ac visceribus medullisque liquescentibus desudavit, ac defluentia membra torreri invicta virtute patientiæ toleravit. In quo extensus ac desuper fixus, subjectis jacuit ac pependit incendiis: et holocaustum pietatis cruda coxit impietas: quæ sudorem liquescentium viscerum bibulis vaporibus suscepit. Supra quam velut super altare corpus suum, novi generis sacrificium celebrandum minister imposuit: et levita prædicandus ipse sibi pontifex et hostia fuit. Et qui fuerat minister Dominici corporis in offerendo semetipsum officio functus est sacerdotio.

Tuam igitur Domine in eo virtutem, tuamque potentiam prædicamus. Nam quis crederet corpus fragili compage conglutinatum, tantis sine te sufficere conflictibus potuisse? quis incendiorum æstibus humana æstimaret membra non cedere: nisi flagrantior a te veniens interiorem hominem iampas animasset: cujus potentia factum est, ut læta rore suo anima, coctione proprii corporis exsultaret: dum versari se martyr præcipit, et vorari: ne et paratam coronam uno moriendi genere sequeretur: et sic lenitate cruciatuum vitalis tardaret interitus, non existeret gloriosus coronatus. Per te Dominum qui es Salvator omnium et Redemptor animarum.

Hosanna in the highest. It is truly meet and just, at all times, but especially in honour of Thy saints, to return thanks to Thee, O God, co-eternal and consubstantial Trinity, cooperator of all good things, and to offer sacrifices of praise on this illustrious day of Thy most blessed martyr Laurence, the glorious triumph of whose passion brought round again by the circle of the year, the Church doth joyfully celebrate: for in teaching he was nearly equal to Thine apostles; but in the confession of his Lord not unequal. He adorned the snow-white robe of the Levite with the purple of the blood of martyrdom: Thou didst so inflame his heart with Thy fire which Thou camest to cast on the earth, that he felt not the visible fire; by the strong purpose of his mind he overcame the flames that surrounded his body; and strong in faith, feared not the burning coal.

Placed upon the gridiron. Thy chaste minister offered himself a new sacrifice to Thee: and burnt as a holocaust upon the altar, sent up a sweet savour to the Lord. There the incomparable martyr, while his heart and bowels and the marrow of his bones were melting away, suffered his limbs to be roasted, with invincible virtue of patience. There stretched out he lay hanging over the fire: crude impiety broiled the holocaust of piety, and inhaled the hot vapours from the liquefying members. Thy minister laid his own body on the altar, a new kind of sacrifice to be celebrated. The praiseworthy Levite was to himself both pontiff and victim. And he who had been a minister at the offering of the Lord’s Body, in offering himself performed the office of priest.

It is therefore, O Lord, Thy power and Thy might that we praise in him. For who would believe that a body formed of fragile structure could, without Thee, endure such torments? Who would not think that human members would yield before the heat of the fire, had not a fiercer flame, coming from Thee, fired the interior man? By Thy power it was that the soul, rejoiced with spiritual dew, exulted at the broiling of its own body: the martyr bade them turn him and devour him: lest he should obtain the crown by only one death; and thus the mildness of the torments should retard life-giving death, and he should be less gloriously crowned. Through Thee, our Lord, who art the Saviour and Redeemer of all souls.

The following commemoration is made of SS. Tiburtius and Susanna:

Ant. Istorum est enim regnum cœlorum, qui contempserunt vitam mundi, et pervenerunt asupræmia regni, et laverunt stolas suas in sanguine Agni.
℣. Lætamini in Domino, et exsultate justi.
℟. Et gloriamini omnes recti corde.

Ant. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven, who, despising an earthly life, have obtained heavenly rewards, and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
℣. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice ye just.
℟. And glory all ye right of heart.


Sanctorum Martyrum tuorum Tiburtii et Susannæ nos, Domine, foveant continuata præsidia: quia non desinis propitius intueri, quos talibus auxiliis concesseris adjuvari. Per Dominum.
May the constant protection of Thy holy martyrs Tiburtius and Susanna, support us, O Lord; for Thou never ceasest mercifully to regard those whom Thou grantest to be assisted by such helps. Through, etc.

[1] Pseudo-AUG. Sermo 30 de Sanctis.
[2] Aug. Tract in Joan. 51.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE same year in which St. Dominic, before making any project with regard to his sons, founded the first establishment of the Sisters of his Order, the companion destined for him by heaven received his mission from the Crucifix in the church of St. Damian, in these words: ‘Go, Francis, repair My house, which is falling to ruin.' The new patriarch inaugurated his work, as Dominic had done, by preparing a dwelling for his future daughters, whose sacrifice might obtain every grace for the great Order he was about to found. The house of the Poor Ladies occupied the thoughts of the seraph of Assisi, even before St. Mary of the Portiuncula, the cradle of the Friars Minor. Thus, for a second time this month, Eternal Wisdom shows us that the fruit of salvation, though it may seem to proceed from the word and from action, springs first from silent contemplation.

Clare was to Francis the help like unto himself, who begot to the Lord that multitude of heroic virgins and illustrious penitents soon reckoned by the Order in all lands, coming from the humblest condition and from the steps of the throne. In the new chivalry of Christ, Poverty, the chosen Lady of St. Francis, was to be the queen also of her whom God had given him as a rival and a daughter. Following to the utmost limits the Man-God humbled and stripped of all things for us, she nevertheless felt that she and her sisters were already queens in the kingdom of heaven:[1] ‘In the little nest of poverty,' she used lovingly to say, ‘what jewel could the bride esteem so much as conformity with a God possessing nothing, become a little One whom the poorest of mothers wrapt in humble swathing bands and laid in a narrow crib?’[2]And she bravely defended against the highest authorities the privilege of absolute poverty, which the great Pope Innocent III feared to grant. Its definitive confirmation, obtained two days before the saint’s death, came as the long-desired reward of forty years of prayer and suffering for the Church of God.

This noble daughter of Assisi had justified the prophecy whereby, sixty years previously, her mother Hortulana had learnt that the child would enlighten the world; the choice of the name given her at her birth had been well inspired.[3] 'Oh! how powerful was the virgin’s light,’ said the Sovereign Pontiff in the bull of her canonization; ' how penetrating were her rays! She hid herself in the depth of the cloister, and her brightness transpiring filled the house of God.’[4]From her poor solitude, which she never quitted, the very name of Clare seemed to carry grace and light everywhere, and made far-off cities yield fruit to God and to her father St. Francis.

Embracing the whole world where her virginal family was being multiplied, her motherly heart overflowed with affection for the daughters she had never seen. Let those who think that austerity embraced for God’s sake dries up the soul, read these lines from her correspondence with Blessed Agnes of Bohemia. Agnes, daughter of Ottocar I, had rejected the offer of an imperial marriage to take the religious habit, and was renewing at Prague the wonders of St. Damian’s.' O my mother and my daughter,’ said our saint, 'if I have not written to you as often as my soul and yours would wish, be not surprised: as your mother’s heart loved you, so do I cherish you; but messengers are scarce, and the roads full of danger. As an opportunity offers to-day, I am full of gladness, and I rejoice with you in the joy of the Holy Ghost. As the first Agnes united herself to the immaculate Lamb, so it is given to you, O fortunate one, to enjoy this union (the wonder of heaven) with Him the desire of whom ravishes every soul; whose goodness is all sweetness, whose vision is beatitude, who is the light of the eternal light, the mirror without spot! Look at yourself in this mirror, O queen! O bride! unceasingly by its reflection enhance your charms; without and within adorn yourself with virtues; clothe yourself as beseems the daughter and the spouse of the supreme King. O beloved, with your eyes on this mirror, what delight it will be given you to enjoy in the divine grace! . . . Remember, however, your poor Mother, and know that for my part your blessed memory is for ever graven on my heart.’[5]

Not only did the Franciscan family benefit by a charity which extended to all the worthy interests of this world. Assisi, delivered from the lieutenants of the excommunicated Frederick II and from the Saracen horde in his pay, understood how a holy woman is a safeguard to her earthly city. But our Lord loved especially to make the princes of Holy Church and the Vicar of Christ experience the humble power, the mysterious ascendancy, wherewith He had endowed His chosen one. St. Francis himself, the first of all, had, in one of those critical moments known to the saints, sought from her direction and light for his seraphic soul. From the ancients of Israel there came to this virgin, not yet thirty years old, such messages as this: ‘ To his very dear Sister in Jesus Christ, to his mother the Lady Clare, handmaid of Christ, Hugolin of Ostia, unworthy bishop and sinner. Ever since the hour when I had to deprive myself of your holy conversation, to snatch myself from that heavenly joy, such bitterness of heart causes my tears to flow, that if I did not find at the feet of Jesus the consolation which His love never refuses, my mind would fail and my soul would melt away. Where is the glorious joy of that Easter spent in your company and that of the other handmaids of Christ?. . . I knew that I was a sinner; but at the remembrance of your supereminent virtue, my misery overpowers me, and I believe myself unworthy ever to enjoy again that conversation of the saints, unless your tears and prayers obtain pardon for my sins. I put my soul, then, into your hands; to you I intrust my mind, that you may answer for me on the day of judgment. The Lord Pope will soon be going to Assisi; oh! that I may accompany him, and see you once more! Salute my sister Agnes (i.e., St. Clare’s own sister and first daughter in God); salute all your sisters in Christ.’[6]

The great Cardinal Hugolin, though more than eighty years of age, became soon after Gregory IX. During his fourteen years' pontificate, which was one of the most brilliant as well as most laborious of the thirteenth century, he was always soliciting Clare’s interest in the perils of the Church and the immense cares which threatened to crush his weakness. For, says the contemporaneous historian of our saint: ‘He knew very well what love can do, and that virgins have free access to the sacred court; for what could the King of heaven refuse to those to whom He has given Himself?’[7]

At length her exile, which had been prolonged twentyseven years after the death of Francis, was about to close. Her daughters beheld wings of fire over her head and covering her shoulders, indicating that she, too, had reached seraphic perfection. On hearing that a loss which so concerned the whole Church was imminent, the Pope, Innocent IV, came from Perugia with the Cardinals of his suite. He imposed a last trial on the saint’s humility, by commanding her to bless, in his presence, the bread which had been presented for the blessing of the Sovereign Pontiff;[8] heaven approved the invitation of the Pontiff and the obedience of the saint, for no sooner had the virgin blessed the loaves than each was found to be marked with a cross.

A prediction that Clare was not to die without receiving a visit from the Lord surrounded by His disciples was now fulfilled. The Vicar of Jesus Christ presided at the solemn funeral rites paid by Assisi to her who was its second glory before God and men. When they were beginning the usual chants for the dead, Innocent would have had them substitute the Office for holy Virgins; but on being advised that such a canonization before the body was interred would be considered premature, the Pontiff allowed them to continue the accustomed chants. The insertion, however, of the virgin’s name in the catalogue of the saints was only deferred for two years.

The following lines are consecrated by the Church to her memory:

Clara nobilis virgo, Assisii nata in Umbria, sanctum Franciscum concivem suum imitata, cuncta sua bona in eleemosynas et pauperum subsidia distribuit et convertit. De sæculi strepitu fugiens, in campestrem declinavit ecclesiam, ibique ab eodem beato Francisco recepta tonsura, consanguineis ipsam reducere conantibus fortiter restitit. Et denique ad ecclesiam sancti Damiani fuit per eumdem adducta, ubi ei Dominus plures socias aggregavit, et sic ipsa sacrarum sororum collegium instituit, quarum regimen, nimia sancti Francisci devicta importunitate, recepit. Suum monasterium sollicite ac prudenter in timore Domini, ac plena Ordinis observantia, annis quadraginta duobus mirabiliter gubernavit: ejus enim vita erat aliis eruditio et doctrina, unde cæteræ vivendi regulam didicerunt.

Ut carne depressa, spiritu convalesceret, nudam humum, et interdum sarmenta pro lecto habebat, et pro pulvinari sub capite durum lignum. Una tunica cum mantello de vili et hispido panno utebatur, aspero cilicio nonnumquam adhibito juxta carnem. Tanta se frænabat abstinentia, ut longo tempore tribus in hebdomada diebus nihil penitus pro sui corporis alimento gustaverit: reliquis autem diebus tali se ciborum parvitate restringens, ut aliæ, quomodo subsistere poterat, mirarentur. Binas quotannis (antequam ægrotaret) quadragesimas solo pane et aqua refecta jejunabat. Vigiliis insuper et orationibus assidue dedita, in his præcipue dies noctesque expendebat. Diutinis perplexa languoribus, cum ad exercitium corporale non posset surgere per se ipsam, sororum suffragiis levabatur, et fulcimentis ad tergum appositis, laborabat propriis manibus, ne in suis etiam esset infirmitatibus otiosa. Amatrix præcipua paupertatis, ab ea pro nulla umquam necessitate discessit, et possessiones pro sororum sustentatione a Gregorio Nono oblatas constantissime recusavit.

Multis et variis miraculis virtus suæ sanctitatis effulsit. Cuidam de sororibus sui monasterii loquelam restituit expeditam: alteri aurem surdamapemit: laborantem febre, tumentem hydropisi, plagatam fistula, aliasque aliis oppressas languoribus liberavit. Fratrem de Ordine Minorum ab insaniæpassione sanavit. Cum oleum in monasterio totaliter defecisset, Clara accepit urceum, atque lavit, et inventus est oleo, beneficio divinæ largitatis, impletus. Unius panis medietatem adeo multiplicavit, ut sororibus quinquaginta suffecerit. Saracenis Assisium obsidentibus, et Claræ monasterium invadere conantibus, ægra se ad portam afferri voluit, unaque vas, in quo sanctissimum Encharistiæ sacramentum erat inclusum, ibique oravit: Ne tradas, Domine, bestiis animas confitentes tibi, et custodi famulas tuas, quas pretioso sanguine redemisti. In cujus oratione ea vox audita est: Ego vos 8emper custodiam. Saraceni autem partim se fugæ mandarunt, partim qui murum ascenderat, capti oculis, præcipites ceciderunt. Ipsa denique virgo, cum in extremis ageret, a candido beatarum virginum cœtu (inter quas una eminentior ac fulgidior apparebat) visitata, ac sacra Eucharistia sumpta, et peccatorum indulgentia ab Innocentio Quarto ditata, pridie Idus Augusti animam Deo reddidit. Post obitum vero quamplurimis miraculis resplendentem Alexander Quartus inter sanctas virgines retulit.
The noble virgin Clare was born at Assisi, in Umbria Following the example of St. Francis, her fellow-citizen, she distributed all her goods in alms to the poor, and fleeing from the noise of the world, she retired to a country church, where blessed Francis cut off her hair. Her relations attempted to bring her back to the world, but she bravely resisted all their endeavours; and then St. Francis took her to the church of St. Damian. Here our Lord gave her several companions, so that she founded a convent of consecrated virgins, and her reluctance being overcome by the earnest desire of her holy father, she undertook its government. For forty-two years she ruled her monastery with wonderful care and prudence, in the fear of God and the full observance of the Rule. Her own life was a lesson and an example to others, showing all how to live aright.

She subdued her body in order to grow strong in spirit. Her bed was the bare ground, or, at times, a few twigs, and for a pillow she used a piece of hard wood. Her dress consisted of a single tunic and a mantle of poor coarse stuff; and she often wore a rough hair-shirt next to her skin. So great was her abstinence, that for a long time she took absolutely no bodily nourishment for three days of the week, and on the remaining days restricted herself to so small a quantity of food, that the other religious wondered how she was able to live. Before her health gave way, it was her custom to keep two Lents in the year, fasting on bread and water. Moreover, she devoted herself to watching and prayer, and in these exercises especially she would spend whole days and nights. She suffered from frequent and long illnesses; but when she was unable to leave her bed in order to work, she would make her sisters raise and prop her up in a sitting position, so that she could work with her hands, and thus not be idle even in sickness. She had a very great love of poverty, never deviating from it on account of any necessity, and she firmly refused the possessions offered by Gregory IX for the support of the sisters.

The greatness of her sanctity was manifested by many different miracles. She restored the power of speech to one of the sisters of her monastery, to another the power of hearing. She healed one of a fever, one of dropsy, one of an ulcer, and many others of various maladies. She cured of insanity a brother of the Order of Friars Minor. Once when all the oil in the monastery was spent, Clare took a vessel and washed it, and it was found filled with oil by the loving-kindness of God. She multiplied half a loaf so that it sufficed for fifty sisters. When the Saracens attacked the town of Assisi and attempted to break into Clare’s monastery, she, though sick at the time, had herself carried to the gate, and also the vessel which contained the most Holy Eucharist, and there she prayed, saying: 'O Lord, deliver not unto beasts the souls of them that praise Thee; but preserve Thy handmaids whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious Blood.' Whereupon a voice was heard, which said: 'I will always preserve you.’ Some of the Saracens took to flight, others who had already scaled the walls were struck blind and fell down headlong. At length, when the virgin Clare came to die, she was visited by a white-robed multitude of blessed virgins, amongst whom was one nobler and more resplendent than the rest. Having received the Holy Eucharist and a plenary indulgence from Innocent IV, she gave up her soul to God on the day before the Ides of August. After her death she became celebrated by numbers of miracles, and Alexander IV enrolled her among the holy virgins.

O Clare, the reflection of the Spouse which adorns the Church in this world no longer suffices thee; thou now beholdest the light with open face. The brightness of the Lord plays with delight in the pure crystal of thy soul, increasing the happiness of heaven, and giving joy this day to our valley of exile. Heavenly beacon, with thy gentle shining enlighten our darkness. May we, like thee, by purity of heart, by uprightness of thought, by simplicity of gaze, fix upon ourselves the divine ray, which flickers in a wavering soul, is dimmed by our waywardness, is interrupted or put out by a double life divided between God and the world.

Thy life, O virgin, was never thus divided. The most high poverty, which was thy mistress and guide, preserved thy mind from that bewitching of vanity which takes off the bloom of all true goods for us mortals. Detachment from all passing things kept thine eye fixed upon eternal realities; it opened thy soul to that seraphic ardour wherein thou didst emulate thy Father Francis. Like the Seraphim, whose gaze is ever fixed on God, thou hadst immense influence over the earth; and St. Damian’s, during thy lifetime, was a source of strength to the world.

Deign to continue giving us thine aid. Multiply thy daughters; keep them faithful in following their Mother’s example, so as to be a strong support to the Church. May the various branches of the Franciscan family be ever fostered by thy rays, and may all Religious Orders be enlightened by thy gentle brightness. Shine upon us all, O Clare, and show us the worth of this transitory life and of that which never ends.

[1] Regula Damianitarum, viii.
[2] Regula ii; Vita S. Claræ, coæva ii.
[3] Clara claris praclara mentis, magnæ in cœlo claritate gloriæ ac in terra splendore miraculorum sublimium, clare claret.—Bulla Canonizationis.
[4] Bulla Canonizationis.
[5] S. Claræ ad B. Agnetem, Epist. iv.
[6] Wadding ad an. 1221.
[7] Vita S. Claræ coæva iii.
[8] Wadding ad an. 1253, though the fact is referred by others to the Pontificate of Gregory IX.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

NEVER was such a booty won as that obtained by the sons of Clovis in their expedition against Thuringia towards the year 530. Receive this blessing from the spoils of the enemy[1] might they well say on presenting to the Franks the orphan brought from the court of the fratricide prince whom they had just chastised. God seemed in haste to ripen the soul of Radegonde. After the tragic death of her relatives followed the ruin of her country. So vivid was the impression made in the child's heart that long afterwards the recollection awakened in the queen and the saint a sorrow and a homesickness which nought but the love of Christ could overcome. ‘I have seen the plain strewn with dead and palaces burnt to the ground; I have seen women, with eyes dry from very horror, mourning over fallen Thuringia; I alone have survived to weep over them all.'[2]

The licentiousness of the Frankish kings was as unbridled as that of her own ancestors; yet in their land the little captive found Christianity, which she had not hitherto known. The faith was a healing balm to this wounded soul. Baptism, in giving her to God, sanctified, without crushing, her high-spirited nature. Thirsting for Christ, she wished to be martyred for Him; she sought Him on the cross of self-renunciation; she found Him in His poor suffering members; looking on the face of a leper, she would see in it the disfigured countenance of her Saviour, and thence rise to the ardent contemplation of the triumphant Spouse, whose glorious face illumines the abode of the saints.

What a loathing, therefore, did she feel when, offering her royal honours, the destroyer of her own country sought to share with God the possession of a heart that heaven alone could comfort or gladden! First flight, then the refusal to comply with the manners of a court where everything was repulsive to her desires and recollections, her eagerness to break, on the very first opportunity, a bond which violence alone had contracted, prove that the trial had no other effect, as her Life says, but to bend her soul more and more to the sole object of her love.[3]

Meanwhile, near the tomb of St. Martin, another queen, Clotilde, the mother of the most Christian kingdom, was about to die. Unfortunate are those times when the men after God’s own heart, at their departure from earth, leave no one to take their place; as the Psalmist cried out in a just consternation: Save me, O Lord, for there is now no saint![4] For though the elect pray for us in heaven, they can no longer fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in their flesh, for His body, which is the Church.[5] The work begun at the Baptistery of Rheims was not yet completed; the Gospel, though reigning by faith over the Frankish nation, had not yet subdued its manners. Christ, who loved the Franks, heard the last prayer of the mother he had given them, and refused her not the consolation of knowing that she should have a successor. Radegonde was set free, just in time to prevent an interruption in the laborious .work of forming the Church’s eldest daughter; and she took up in solitude the struggle with God, by prayer and expiation, begun by the widow of Clovis.

In the joy of having cast off an odious yoke, forgiveness was an easy thing to her great soul;[6] in her monastery at Poitiers she showed an unfailing devotedness for the kings whose company she had fled. The fortune of France was bound up with theirs; France the cradleland of her supernatural life, where the Man-God had revealed Himself to her heart, and which she therefore loved with part of the love reserved for her heavenly country. The peace and prosperity of her spiritual fatherland occupied her thoughts day and night. If any quarrel arose among the princes, say the contemporary accounts, she trembled from head to foot at the very thought of the country’s danger. She wrote, according to their different dispositions, to each of the kings, imploring them to consider the welfare of the nation; she interested the chief vassals in her endeavours to prevent war. She imposed on her community assiduous watchings, exhorting them with tears to pray without ceasing; as to herself, the tortures she inflicted on herself for this end are inexpressible.[7]

The only victory, then, that Radegonde desired was peace among the princes of the earth; when she had gained this by her struggle with the King of heaven, her joy in the service of the Lord was redoubled, and the tenderness she felt for her devoted helpers, the nuns of Sainte-Croix, could scarcely find utterance: 'You, the daughters of my choice,' she would say, 'my eyes, my life, my sweet repose, so live with me in this world, that we may meet again in the happiness of the next.’ And they responded to her love. 'By the God of heaven it is true that everything in her reflected the splendour of her soul.’ Such was the spontaneous and graceful cry of her daughter Baudonivia; and it was echoed by the graver voice of the historian-bishop, Gregory of Tours, who declared that the supernatural beauty of the saint remained even in death;[8] it was a brightness from heaven, which purified while it attracted hearts, which caused the Italian Venantius Fortunatus to cease his wanderings,[9] made him a saint and a Pontiff, and inspired him with his most beautiful poems.

The light of God could not but be reflected in her, who, turning towards Him by uninterrupted contemplation, redoubled her desires as the end of her exile approached. Neither the relics of the saints which she had so sought after as speaking to her of her true home, nor her dearest treasure, the Cross of her Lord, was enough for her; she would fain have drawn the Lord Himself from His throne, to dwell visibly on earth. She only interrupted her sighs to excite in others the same longings. She exhorted her daughters not to neglect the knowledge of divine things; and explained to them with profound science and motherly love the difficulties of the Scriptures. As she increased the holy readings of the community for the same end, she would say: 'If you do not understand, ask; why do you fear to seek the light of your souls?' And she would insist: 'Reap, reap the wheat of the Lord; for, I tell you truly, you will not have long to do it: reap, for the time draws near when you will wish to recall the days that are now given you, and your regrets will not be able to bring them back.’ And the loving chronicler to whom we owe these sweet intimate details continues: 'In our idleness we listen coolly to the announcement; but that time has come all too soon. Now is realized in us the prophecy which says: I will send forth a famine into thy land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the Word of the Lord.[10] For though we still read her conferences, that voice which never ceased is now silent; those lips, ever ready with wise advice and sweet words, are closed. O most good God, what an expression, what features, what manners Thou hadst given her! No, no one could describe it. The remembrance is anguish! That teaching, that gracefulness, that face, that mien, that science, that piety, that goodness, that sweetness, where are we to seek them now V Such touching sorrow does honour to both mother and daughters; but it could not keep back the former from her reward. On the morning of the Ides of August 587, while Sainte-Croix was filled with lamentations, an angel was heard saying to others on high: ‘Leave her yet longer, for the tears of her daughters have ascended to God.’ But those who were bearing Radegonde away replied: ' It is too late, she is already in Paradise.’[11]

Let us read the liturgical account, which will complete what we have said:

Radegundis, Bertharii Thuringorum regis filia, decennis captiva a Francis abducta, cum insigni et regia esset forma. Francorum regibus cui ipsa cederet inter se decertantibus, Clotario Suessionum regi sorte obtigit; qui optimis eam magistr is credidit, liberalibus erudiendam disciplinis. Tum puella, avide acceptis ftdei christianæ documentis, et ejurato hæreditario, inanium deorum cultu, non præcepta tantum, sed et evangelica decrevit servare consilia. Adultiorem jam factam Clotarius. qui sibi dudum illam addixerat uxorem, in conjugium excepit: unde licet invita, quin et altera vice fuga elapsa, cunctis plaudentibus regina salutatur. Ad honores igitur solii evecta, beneficentiam in pauperes, assiduas orationes, crebras vigilias, jejunia, aliasque corporis afflictationes cum regia dignitate conjunxit, adeo ut non regina, sed monacha jugalis ab aulicis pietatem deridentibus diceretur.

Ejus patientia maxime enituit in tolerandis variis durioribusque molestiis quas ei rex inferebat. Cum autem audivisset fratrem suum germanum Clotarii jussu injuste fuisse occisum, ab aula repente discessit, ipso rege annuente, et beatum Medardum episcopum adiit, instantissime deprecans ut Domino consecraretur. Proceres vero vehementer obsistebant ne pontifex eam velaret, quæ solemni more nupsisset regi. At illa statim ingressa sacrarium, monastica veste seipsam induit; indeque procedens ad altare, episcopum sic allocuta est: Si me consecrare distuleris, plus hominem reveritus quam Deum, erit qui animam abs te meam exigat. Quibus ille verbis commotus, reginam sacro velamine initiavit, et manu imposita diaconissam consecravit. Pictavum deinde perrexit, ubi monasterium virginum condidit, quod postea titulo sanctæ Crucis nuncupatum est. Virtutum splendore præcellens, ad sacræ religionis amplexum innumerabiles pene virgines pertraxit: quibus, ob eximia divinæ in se gratiæ testimonia, omnium efflagitatione præfecta, ministrare gaudebat magis quam præesse.

Miraculorum licet multitudine longe lateque refulgens, primæ dignitatis penitus immemor, vilissima et abjectissima quævis munia expetebat. Ægrorum, egentium, ac maxime leprosorum curam præcipue dilexit: quos sæpe ab infirmitatibus mirabiliter liberabat. Ea pietate divinum altaris sacrificium prosequebatur, ut propriis manibus conficeret panes sacrandos, quos dein diversis suppeditabat ecclesiis. Quæ vero inter regales delicias totam se carnis mortificationi impenderat, quæque ab adolescentia martyrii flagrabat desiderio; nunc vitam agens monasticam, rigidissima corpus domabat inedia: quinetiam ferreis catenis lumbos accincta, membra cruciabat ardentibus carbonibus laminisque candentibus in carne acriter infixis, ut sic etiam caro suo modo Christi amore inflammaretur. Clotarium regem, qui illam repetere et e cœnobio abripere decreverat jamque ad cœnobium sanctæ Crucis iter contulerat, ipsa datis ad sanctum Germanum Parisiensem episcopum litteris adeo obsterruit, ut ad sancti præsulis pedes provolutus illum rogaret ut a pia regina regis ac conjugis veniam efflagitaret.

Sanctorum reliquiis, variis ex regionibus allatis, monasterium suum ditavit. Sed et missis clericis ad Justinum imperatorem, insignem partem Ugni Dominicæ Crucis impetravit: quæ solemni ritu a Pictaviensibus recepta est, gestientibus clero omnique populo, atque hymnos decantantibus, quos in laudem almæ Crucis confecerat Venantius Fortunatus, posthæc episcopus, qui Radegundis potiebatur sancta familiaritate, ejusque cœnobium regebat.Ipsa denique sanctissima regina, jam matura cœlo, paucis diebus antequam e vita exiret, Christi apparitione sub specie speciosissimi adolescentis dignata est, et ex ejus ore has voces audire meruit: Quid adeo fruendi cupiditate teneris? quid tot lacrymis gemitibusque diffunderis? quid tam crebro meis altaribus suppliciter admoveris? quid tot laboribus corpusculum tuum infringis? cum ipse tibi semper adhæream. Tu gemma nobilis, noveris te in diademate capitis mei esse e gemmis primariis unam. Anno tandem quingentesimo octogesimo septimo purissimam animam in sinu cœlestis Sponsi, quem unice dilexerat, exhalavit, et a sancto Gregorio Turonensi in basilica beatæ Mariæ, ut optaverat, sepulta fuit.
Radegonde was the daughter of Berthaire, King of Thuringia. When ten years old she was led away captive by the Franks; and on account of her striking and queenly beauty their kings disputed among themselves for the possession of her. They drew lots, and she fell to the share of Clothaire, King of Soissons. He entrusted her education to excellent masters. Child as she was, she eagerly imbibed the doctrines of the Christian faith, and renouncing the worship of false gods which she had learnt from her fathers, she determined to observe not only the precepts, but also the counsels of the Gospel. When she was grown up, Clothaire, who had long before chosen her, took her to wife, and in spite of her refusal, in spite of her attempts at flight, she was proclaimed queen, to the great joy of all. When thus raised to the throne, she joined charity to the poor, continual prayer, frequent watchings, fasting and other bodily austerities to her regal dignity, so that the courtiers said in scorn that the king had married not a queen, but a nun.

Her patience shone out brightly in supporting many grievous trials caused her by the king. But when she heard that her own brother had been unjustly slain by command of Clothaire, she instantly left the court with the king’s consent, and going to the blessed bishop Medard, she earnestly begged him to consecrate her to the Lord. The nobles strongly opposed his giving the veil to her whom the king had solemnly married. But she at once went into the sacristy and clothed herself in the monastic habit. Then, advancing to the altar, she thus addressed the bishop: 'If you hesitate to consecrate me because you fear man more than God, there is one who will demand an account of my soul from you.' These words deeply touched Medard; he placed the sacred veil upon the queen’s head, and imposing his hands upon her, consecrated her a deaconess. She proceeded to Poitiers, and there founded a monastery of virgins, which was afterwards called of the Holy Cross. The splendour of her virtues shone forth and attracted innumerable virgins to embrace a religious life. On account of her extraordinary gifts of divine grace, all wished her to be their mistress; but she desired to serve rather than to command.

The number of miracles she worked spread her name far and wide; but she herself, forgetful of her dignity, sought out the lowest and humblest offices. She loved especially to take care of the sick, the needy, and above all the lepers, whom she often cured in a miraculous manner. She honoured the divine Sacrifice of the altar with deep piety, making with her own hands the bread which was to be consecrated, and supplying it to several churches. Even in the midst of the pleasures of a court, she had applied herself to mortifying her flesh, and from her childhood she had burned with desire of martyrdom; now that she was leading a monastic life she subdued her body with the utmost rigour. She girt herself with iron chains, she tortured her body with burning coals, courageously fixed redhot plates of metal upon her flesh that thus it also might, in a way, be inflamed with love of Christ. King Clothaire, bent on taking her back and carrying her off from her monastery, set out for Holy Cross; but she deterred him by means of letters which she wrote to St. Germanus, Bishop of Paris; so that, prostrate at the holy prelate’s feet, the king begged him to beseech his pious queen to pardon him who was both her sovereign and her husband.

Radegonde enriched her monastery with relics of the saints brought from different countries. She also sent some clerics to the Emperor Justin and obtained from him a large piece of the wood of our Lord’s Cross. It was received with great solemnity by the people of Poitiers, and all, both clergy and laity, sang exultingly the hymns composed by Venantius Fortunatus in honour of the blessed Cross. This poet was afterwards Bishop of Poi tiers; he enjoyed the holy friendship of Radegonde and directed her monastery. At length the holy queen, being ripe for heaven, was honoured a few days before her death by an apparition of Christ under the form of a most beautiful youth; and she heard these words from His mouth: 'Why art thou consumed by so great a longing to enjoy My presence? Why dost thou pour out so many tears and sighs? Why comest thou as a suppliant so often to My altars? Why dost thou break down thy body with so many labours, when I am always united to thee? My beautiful pearl! Know that thou art one of the most precious stones in My kingly crown.’ In the year 587 she breathed forth her pure soul into the bosom of the heavenly Spouse who had been her only love. Gregory of Tours buried her, as she had wished, in the church of St. Mary.

Thine exile is over, eternal possession has taken the place of desire; all heaven is illumined with the brightness of the precious stone that has come to enrich the diadem of the Spouse. O Radegonde, the Wisdom who is now rewarding thy toils led thee by admirable ways. Thy inheritance, become to thee as a lion in the wood spreading death around thee, thy captivity far from thy native land; what was all this but love’s way of drawing thee from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards, where idolatry had led thee in childhood? Thou hadst to suffer in a foreign land, but the light from above shone into thy soul, and gave it strength. A powerful king tried in vain to make thee share his throne; thou wert a queen but for Christ, who in His goodness made thee a mother to that kingdom of France which belongs to Him more than to any prince. For His sake thou didst love that land become thine by the right of the Bride who shares the sceptre of her Spouse; for His sake, that nation, whose glorious destiny thou didst predict, received unstintedly all thy labours, thy unspeakable mortifications, thy prayers and thy tears.

O thou who art ever queen of France, as Christ is ever its King, bring back to Him the hearts of its people, for in their blind error they have laid aside their glory, and their sword is no longer wielded for God. Protect, above all, the city of Poitiers, which honours thee with a special cultus together with its great St. Hilary. Bless thy daughters of Sainte-Croix, who, ever faithful to thy great traditions, prove the power of that fruitful stem, which through so many centuries and such devastations has never ceased to produce both flowers and fruit. Teach us to seek our Lord, and to find Him in His holy Sacrament, in the relics of His saints, in His suffering members on earth; and may all Christians learn from thee how to love.

Not far from the sepulchre of St. Laurence, on the opposite side of the Tiburtian Way, lies the tomb of St. Hippolytus, one of the sanctuaries most dear to the Christians in the days of triumph. Prudentius has described the magnificence of the crypt, and the immense concourse attracted to it each year on the Ides of August. Who was this saint? Of what rank and manner of life? What facts of his history are there to be told, beyond that of his having given his blood for Christ? All these questions have in modem times become the subject of numerous and learned works. He was a martyr, and that is nobility enough to make him glorious in our eyes. Let us honour him, then, and together with him another soldier of Christ, Cassian of Imola, whom the Church offers to our homage at the same time. Hippolytus was dragged by wild horses over rocks and briars till his body was ail torn: Cassian, who was a schoolmaster, was delivered by the judge to the children he had taught, and died of the thousands of wounds inflicted by their styles. The prince of Christian poets has sung of him as of Hippolytus, describing his combat and his tomb.

[1] 1 Kings xxx. 26.
[2] De excidio Thuringiæ, 1, v. 5-36, Fortunatus ex persona Radegundis.
[3] Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis, 2.
[4] Ps. xi. 2.
[5] Col. i. 24.
[6] Baudonivia, 7.
[7] Baudonivia, 11.
[8] Greg. Turon. De gloria confessorum, cvi.
[9] Fortunat. Miscellanea, viii, 1, 11, etc.
[10] Amos viii. 11.
[11] Baudonivia.