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Sanctoral Cycle

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The period intervening between the Purification of our blessed Lady and Ash Wednesday (when it occurs at its latest date), gives us thirty-six days; and these offer us feasts of every order of saint. The apostles have given us St. Mathias, and St. Peter’s Chair at Antioch; the martyrs have sent us, from their countless choir, Simeon, Lucius, Blase, Valentine, Faustinus and Jovita, Perpetua and Felicitas, and the forty soldiers of Sebaste, whose feast is kept to-morrow; the holy pontiffs have been represented by Titus, Andrew Corsini, and also by Cyril of Alexandria and Peter Damian, who, like Thomas of Aquin, are doctors of the Church; the confessors have produced Romuald of Camaldoli, John of Matha, John of God, the Seven Founders of the Servites, and the angelic prince Casimir; the virgins have gladdened us with the presence of Agatha, Dorothy, Apollonia, and Scholastica, three wreathed with the red roses of martyrdom, and the fourth with the fair lilies of the enclosed garden[1] of her Spouse; and lastly, we have had a penitent saint, Margaret of Cortona. The state of Christian marriage is the only one that has not yet deputed a saint during this season, which is less rich in feasts than most of the year. The deficiency is supplied to-day by the admirable Frances of Rome.

Having, for forty years, led a most saintly life in the married state, upon which she entered when but twelve years of age, Frances retired from the world, where she had endured every sort of tribulation. But she had given her heart to her God long before she withdrew to the cloister. Her whole life had been spent in the exercise of the highest Christian perfection, and she had ever received from our Lord the sublimest spiritual favours. Her amiable disposition had won for her the love and admiration of her husband and children: the rich venerated her as their model, the poor respected her as their devoted benefactress and mother.

God recompensed her angelic virtues by these two special graces: the almost uninterrupted sight of her guardian angel, and the most sublime revelations. But there is one trait of her life, which is particularly striking, and reminds us forcibly of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and of St. Jane Frances Chantal: her austere practices of penance. Such an innocent, and yet such a mortified, life is full of instruction for us. How can we think of murmuring against the obligation of mortification, when we find a saint like this practising it during her whole life? True, we are not bound to imitate her in the manner of her penance; but penance we must do, if we would confidently approach that God who readily pardons the sinner when he repents, but whose justice requires atonement and satisfaction.

The Church thus describes the life, virtues, and miracles of St. Frances.

Francisca, nobilis matrona romana, ab ineunte ætate illustria dedit virtutum exempla: etenim pueriles ludos, et illecebras mundi respuens, solitudine, et oratione magnopere delectabatur. Undecim annos nata virginitatem suam Deo consecrare, et monasterium ingredi proposuit. Parentum taraen voluntati humiliter obteroperans, Laurentio de Pontianis, juveni æque diviti ac nobili nupsit. In matrimonio arctioris vitæ propositum, quantum licuit, semper retinuit: a spectaculis, conviviis, aliisque hujusmodi oblectamentis abhorrens, lanea ac vulgari veste utens, et quidquid a domesticis curis supererat temporis, orationi, aut proximorum utilitati tribuens, in id vero maxima sollicitudine incumbens, ut matronas romanas a pompis sæculi, et ornatus vanitate revocaret. Quapropter domum Oblatarum, sub regula sancti Benedicti, Congregationis Montis Oliveti, adhuc viro alligata, in Urbe instiiuit. Viri exilium, bonorum jacturam, ac universæ domus mcerorem non modo constantissime toleravit, sed gratias agens cum beato Job, illud frequenter usurpabat: Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit: sit nomen Domini benedictum.

Viro defuncto, ad prædictam Oblatarum domum convolans, nudis pedibus, fune ad collum alligato, humi prostrata, multis cum lacrymis, earum numero adscribi suppliciter postulavit. Voti mpos facta, licet esset omnium mater, non alio tamen quam ancillæ, vilissimæ que feminæ, et immunditiæ vasculi titulo gloriabatur. Quam vilem sui existimationem, et verbo declaravit, et exemplo. Sæpe enim e suburbana vinea ievertens, et lignorum fascem proprio capiti impositum deferens, vel eisdem onustum agens per Urbem asellum, pauperibus subveniebat, in quos etiam largas eleemosynas erogabat; ægrotantesque in xenodochiis visitans, non corporali tantum cibo, sed salutaribus monitis recreabat. Corpus suum vigiliis, jejuniis, cilicio, ferreo cingulo, crebrisque flagellis, in servitutem redigere jugiter satagebat. Cibum illi semel in die, herbæ et legumina: aqua potum præbuit. Hos tamen corporis cruciatus aliquando confessarii mandato, a cujus ore nutuque pendebat, modice temperavit.

Divina mysteria, præsertim vero Christi Domini Passionem, tanto mentis ardore, tantaque lacrymarum vi contemplabatur, ut præ doloris magnitudine pene confici videretur. Sæpe etiam cum oraret, maxime sumpto sanctissimæ Eucharistiæ sacramento, spiritu in Deum elevata, ac cœlestium contemplatione rapta, immobilis permanebat. Quapropter humani generishostis variis eam contumeliis ac verberibus a proposito dimovere conabatur: quem tamen illa imperterrita semper elusit, angeli præsertim præsidio, cujus familiari consuetudine gloriosum de eo triumphum reportavit. Gratia curationum, et prophetiæ dono enituit, quo et futura prædixit, et cordium secreta penetravit. Non semel aquæ, vel per rivum decurrentes, vele cœlo labentes, intactain prorsus, dum Deo vacaret, reliquerunt. Modica panis fragmenta., quæ vix tribus sororibus reficiendis fuissent satis, sic ejus precibus Dominus multiplicavit, ut quindecim in de exsaturatis, tantum superfuerit, ut canistrum impleverit: et aliquando, earumdem sororum extra Urbem mense Januario ligna parantium, sitim recentis uvæ racemis ex vite in arbore pendentibus mirabiliter obtentis, abunde expleverit. Denique meritis, et miraculis clara, migravit ad Dominum, anno ætatis suæ quinquagesimo sexto, quam Paulus quintus, Pontifex maximus, in sanctarum numerum retulit.
Frances, a noble lady of Rome, led a most virtuous life, even in her earliest years. She despised all childish amusements, and worldly pleasures, her only delight being solitude and prayer. When eleven years old, she resolved on consecrating her virginity to God, and seeking admission into a monastery. But she humbly yielded to the wishes of her parents, and married a young and rich nobleman, by name Lorenzo Ponziani. As far as it was possible, she observed, in the married state, the austerities of the most perfect life to which she had aspired. She carefully shunned theatrical entertainments, banquets, and other such amusements. Her dress was of serge, and extremely plain. Whatever time remained after she had fulfilled her domestic duties was spent in prayer and works of charity. But her zeal was mainly exercised in endeavouring to persuade the ladies of Rome, to shun the world, and vanity in dress. It was with a view to this that she founded during her husband’s life, the house of Oblates of the Congregation of Monte Oliveto, under the rule of Saint Benedict. She bore her husband’s banishment, the loss of all her goods, and the trouble which befell her whole family, not only with heroic patience, but was frequently heard to give thanks, saying with holy Job: 'The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.’

At the death of her husband, she fled to the aforesaid house of Oblates, and there, barefooted, with a rope tied round her neck, and prostrate on the ground, she humbly, and with many tears, begged admission. Her petition being granted, she, though mother o the whole community, gloried in calling herself everyone’s servant, and a worthless woman, and a vessel of dishonour. She evinced the contempt she had for herself by her conduct, as well as by her expressions. Thus, when returning from a vineyard in the suburbs, she would go through the city, sometimes carrying faggots on her head, sometimes driving an ass laden with them. She looked after, and bestowed abundant alms upon the poor. She visited the sick in the hospitals, and consoled them, not only with corporal food, but with spiritual advice. She was untiring in her endeavours to bring her body into subjection, by watchings, fasting, wearing a hair-shirt and an iron girdle, and by frequent disciplines. Her food, which she took but once in the day, consisted of herbs and pulse, and her only drink was water. But she would somewhat relent in these corporal austerities, as often as she was requested to do so by her confessor, whom she obeyed with the utmost exactitude.

Her contemplation of the divine mysteries, and especially of the Passion, was made with such intense fervour and abundance of tears, that she seemed as though she would die with grief. Frequently, too, when she was praying, and above all after holy Communion, she would remain motionless, with her soul fixed on God, and rapt in heavenly contemplation. The enemy of mankind seeing this, endeavoured to frighten her out of so holy a life, by insults and blows; but she feared him not, invariably baffled his attempts, and, by the assistance of her angel guardian, whose visible presence was granted to her, she gained a glorious victory. God favoured her with the gift of healing the sick, as also with that of prophecy, whereby she foretold future events, and could read the secrets of hearts. More than once, when she was intent on prayer, either in the bed of a torrent, or during a storm of rain, she was not touched by the water. On one occasion, when all the bread they had was scarcely enough to provide a meal for three of the sisters, she besought our Lord, and he multiplied the bread; so that after fifteen persons had eaten as much as they needed, there was sufficient left to fill a basket. At another time, when the sisters were gathering wood outside the city walls, in the month of January, she amply quenched their thirst by offering them bunches of fresh grapes, which she miraculously obtained from a vine hanging on a tree. Her virtues and miracles procured for her the greatest veneration from all. Our Lord called her to himself in the fifty-sixth year of her age, and she was canonized by Pope Paul the fifth.

O Frances, sublime model of every virtue! thou wast the glory of Christian Koine, and the ornament of thy sex. How insignificant are the pagan heroines of old compared with thee! Thy fidelity to the duties of thy state, and all thy saintly actions, had God for their one single end and motive. The world looked on thee with amazement, as though heaven had lent one of its angels to this earth. Humility and penance put such energy into thy soul, that every trial was met and mastered. Thy love for those whom God Himself had given thee, thy calm resignation and interior joy under tribulation, thy simple and generous charity, to every neighbour—all was evidence of God’s dwelling within thy soul. Thy seeing and conversing with thy angel guardian, and the wonderful revelations granted thee of the secrets of the other world, how much these favours tell us of thy merits! Nature suspended her laws at thy bidding; she was subservient to thee, as to one that was already face to face with the sovereign Master, and had the power to command. We admire these privileges and gifts granted thee by our Lord; and now beseech thee to have pity onus, who are so far from being in that path, in which thou didst so perseveringly walk. Pray for us, that we may be Christians, practically and earnestly; that we may cease to love the world and its vanities; that we may courageously take up the yoke of our Lord, and do penance; that we may give up our pride; that we may be patient and firm under temptation. Such was thy influence with our heavenly Father, that thou hadst but to pray, and a vine produced the richest clusters of fruit, even in the midst of winter. Our Jesus calls Himself the true Vine; ask Him to give us of the wine of His divine love, which His cross has so richly prepared for us. When we remember how frequently thou didst ask Him to let thee suffer, and accept thy sufferings for poor sinners, we feel encouraged to ask thee to offer thy merits to Him for us. Pray, too, for Rome, thy native city, that her people may be stanch to the faith, edifying by holiness of life, and loyal to the Church. May thy powerful intercession bring blessings on the faithful throughout the world, add to their number, and make them fervent as were our fathers of old.


[1] Cant. iv. 12.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

We know the mystery of the number forty. This tenth of March brings it before us. Forty new advocates! Forty encouraging us to enter bravely on our career of penance! On the frozen pool, which was their field of battle, these martyrs reminded one another that Jesus had fasted for forty days, and that they themselves were forty in number! Let us, in our turn, compare their sufferings with the lenten exercises which the Church imposes upon us; and humble ourselves on seeing our cowardice; or, if we begin with fervour, let us remember that the grand thing is to be faithful to the end, and bring to the Easter solemnity the crown of our perseverance. Our forty martyrs patiently endured the cruellest tortures; the fear of God, and their deep-rooted conviction that He had an infinite claim to their fidelity, gave them the victory. How many times we have sinned, and had not such severe temptations as theirs to palliate our fall! How can we sufficiently bless that divine mercy, which spared us, instead of abandoning us as it did that poor apostate, who turned coward and was lost! But, on what condition did God spare us? That we should not spare ourselves, but do penance. He put into our hands the rights of His own justice; justice, then, must be satisfied, and we must exercise it against ourselves. The lives of the saints will be of great help to us in this, for they will teach us how we are to look upon sin, how to avoid it, and how strictly we are bound to do penance for it after having committed it.

The Church, in her liturgy, thus relates to us the martyrdom of the soldiers of Sebaste.

Licinio imperatore, et Agricolao præside, ad Sebasten Armeniæ urbem, quadraginta militum fides in Jesum Christum, et fortitudo in cruciatibus perferendis enituit. Qui sæpius in horribilem carcerem detrusi, vinculisque constricti, cum ora ipsorum lapidibus contusa fuissent, hiemis tempore frigidissimo, nudi sub aperto aere supra stagnum rigens pernoctare jussi sunt, ut frigore congelati necarentur. Una autem erat omnium oratio: Quadraginta in stadium ingressi sumus, quadraginta item, Domine, corona donemur; ne una quidem huic numero desit. Est in honore hic numerus, quem tu quadraginta dierum jejunio decorasti, per quem divina lex ingressa est in orbem terrarum. Elias quadraginta dierum jejunio Deum quærens, ejus visionem consecutus est. Et hæc quidem illorum erat oratio.

Cæteris autem oustodibus somno deditis, solus vigilabat janitor, qui et illos orantes, et luce circumfusos, et quosdam e cœlo descendentes angelos tanquam a Rege missos, qui coronas triginta novem militibus distribuerent, intuens, ita secum loquebatur: Quadraginta hi sunt; quadragesimi corona ubi est? Quæ dum cogitaret, unus ex illo numero, cui animus ad frigus ferendum defecerat in proximum tepefactum balneum desiliens, sanctos illos summo dolore affecit. Verum Deus illorum preces irritas esse non est passus; nam rei eventum admiratus janitor, mox custodibus e somno excitatis, detractisque sibi vestibus, ac se christianum esse clara voce professus, martyribus se adjunxit. Cum vero præsidis satellites janitorem quoque christianum esse cognovissent, bacillis comminuta omnium eorum crura fregerunt.

In eo supplicio mortui sunt omnes præter Melithonem, natu minimum. Quem cum præsens mater ejus fractis cruribus adhuc viventem vidisset, sic cohortata est: Fili, paulisper sustine, ecce Christus ad januamstat adjuvans te. Cum vero reliquorum corpora plaustris imponi cerneret, ut in rogum inferrentur, ac filium suum relinqui, quod speraret impia turba, puerum, si vixisset, ad idolorum cultum revocari posse; ipso in humeros sublato, sancta mater vehicula martyrum corporibus onusta strenue prosequebatur; in cujus amplexu Melithon spiritum Deo reddidit, ejusque corpus in eumdem illum cæterorum martyrum rogum pia mater injecit: ut qui fide et virtute conjunctissimi fuerant, funeris etiam societate copulati, una in cœlum pervenirent. Combustis ills, eorum reliquiae projectæ in profluentem, cum mirabiliter in unum confluxissent locum, salvæ et integræ repertæ, honorifico sepulchro conditæ sunt.
During the reign of the Emperor Licinius, and under the presidency of Agricolaus, the city of Sebaste in Armenia was honoured by being made the scene of the martyrdom of forty soldiers, whose faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and patience in bearing tortures, were so glorious. After having been frequently confined in a horrid dungeon, shackled with chains, and having had their faces beaten with stones, they were condemned to pass a most bitter winter night in the open air, and on a frozen pool, that they might be frozen to death. When there, they united in this prayer: 'Forty have we entered on the battle; let us, O Lord, receive forty crowns, and suffer not our number to be broken. The number is an honoured one, for thou didst fast for forty days, and the divine law was given to the world after the same number of days was observed. Elias, too, sought God by a forty days’ fast, and was permitted to see him. Thus did they pray.

All the guards, except one, were asleep. He overheard their prayer, and saw them encircled with light, and angels coming down from heaven, like messengers sent by a King, who distributed crowns to thirty-nine of the soldiers. Whereupon, he thus said to himself: ‘There are forty men; where is the fortieth crown?’ While he was thus pondering, one of the number lost his courage; he could bear the cold no longer, and threw himself into a warm bath, which had been placed near at hand. His saintly companions were exceedingly grieved at this. But God would not suffer their prayer to be void. The sentinel, astonished at what he had witnessed, went immediately and awoke the guards; then, taking off his garments, he cried out, with a loud voice, that he was a Christian, and associated himself with the martyrs. No sooner did the governor’s guards perceive that the sentinel had also declared himself to be a Christian, than they approached the martyrs, and broke their legs with clubs.

All died under this torture except Melithon, who was the youngest of the forty. His mother, who was present, seeing that he was still living after his legs were broken, thus encouraged him: ‘My son, be patient yet a while. Lo! Christ is at the door, helping thee.’ But, as soon as she saw the other bodies being placed on carts, that they might be thrown on the pile, and her son left behind (for the impious men hoped that, if the boy survived, he might be induced to worship the idols), she lifted him up into her arms, and, summing up all her strength, ran after the waggons, on which the martyrs bodies were being carried. Melithon died in his mother’s arms, and the holy woman threw his body on the pile, where the other martyrs were, that as he had been so united with them in faith and courage, he might bo one with them in burial, and go to heaven in their company. As soon as the bodies, were burnt, the pagans threw what remained into a river. The relics miraculously flowed to one and the same place, just as they were when they were taken from the pile. The Christians took them, and respectfully buried them.

That we may the more worthily celebrate the memory of the forty martyrs, we borrow a few stanzas from the hymn in which the Greek liturgy so enthusiastically sings their praises.

Hymn
(Die IXMartii)

Generose præsentia sufferentes, in præmiis quæ sperabant gaudentes, sancti martyres ad invicem dicebant: Non vestimentum exuimus, sed veterem hominem deponimus; rigida est hiems, sed dulcis paradisus; molesta est glacies, sed jucunda requies. Non ergo recedamus, O commilitones: paulum sustineamus, ut victoriæcoronas obtineamus a Christo Domino et Salvatore animarum nostrarum.

Fortissima mente martyrium sustinentes, athletæ admirandi, per ignem et aquam transivistis, et inde ad salutis latitudinem perveniatis, in hæreditatem accipientes regnum cœlorum, in quo divinas pro nobis preces facite, sapientes quadraginta martyres.

Attonitus stetit quadraginta martyrum custos coronas aspiciens, et amore hujus vitæ contempto, desiderio gloriæ tuæ, Domine, quæ illi apparuerat, sublevatus est, et cum martyribus cecinit: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.

Vitæ amator miles ad lavacrum currens pestiferum mortuus est; Christi autem amicus egregius raptor coronarum quæ apparuerant, velut in lavacro immortalitatis, cum martyribus canebat: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.

Virili prædita pectore, mater Deo amica, super humeros tollens quem genuerat fructum pietatis, martyrem cum martyribus victimam adducit, patris Abrahæimitatrix. O fili, ad perenniter manentem vitam velocius currens carpe viam, Christi amica mater ad puerum clamabat. Non fero te secundum ad Deum præmia largientem pervenire.

Venite, fratres, martyrum laudibus celebremus phalangem, frigore incensam, et errons frigus ardenti zelo incendentem; generosissimum exercitum, sacratissimum agmen, consertis pugnans clypeis, infractum et invictum, defensores fidei et custodes, martyres quadraginta, divinam choream, legatos Ecclesiæ, potenter Christum deprecantes ut pacem animis nostris concedat et magnam misericordiam.
The holy martyrs, generously suffering present evils, and rejoicing in the hope of reward, said to each other: 'It is not our raiment, but the old man that we have put off. The winter is cold; but paradise is sweet. The ice is a torture; but the repose is pleasant. Fellow-soldiers! let us not retreat. Let us suffer for a while, that we may obtain our crowns of victory from Christ our Lord, the Saviour of our souls.’

O admirable combatants! you suffered martyrdom with most brave hearts. You passed through fire and water, and thence you came to the spacious land of salvation, receiving the kingdom of heaven as your inheritance. There, O prudent forty martyrs, offer up your holy prayers for us.

The gaoler of the forty martyrs stood in astonishment as he beheld the crowns. Despising this present life, and ambitious to enjoy thy glory, O Lord, which had been shown him in vision, he joined the martyrs in this hymn: ‘Blessed art thou, O God of our fathers!'

The soldier that loved this life, ran to the cursed bath, and there he met with death: but the friend of Christ, he that nobly seized the crown which was offered him, as it were laved in immortality, sang with the martyrs: ‘Blessed art thou, the God of our fathers!'

The mother, whose manly spirit made her dear to God, taking on her shoulders the beloved fruit of her womb, brings him to the martyrs that he may be a martyred victim with them. Thus does she imitate our father Abraham. This mother, dear to Christ, cried out to her child: 'O my son; quickly run the path that leads to life eternal. I cannot brook thy being second to any in coming to the God, who rewards us.’

Come, brethren, let us sing the praises of the troop of martyrs, who were burnt with frost, and whose ardent zeal set fire to the frosty cold of error. Most heroic army; most holy legion, that fought with shields close knit together; unbroken and unconquered troop; defenders and guardians of the faith; the forty martyrs, the sacred choir, the legates of the Church: their powerful prayers to Christ draw down upon our souls his peace and rich mercy.

Valiant soldiers of Christ, who meet us, with your mysterious number, at this commencement of our forty days’ fast, receive the homage of our devotion. Your memory is venerated throughout the whole Church, and your glory is great in heaven. Though engaged in the service of an earthly prince, you were the soldiers of the eternal King: to Him were you faithful, and from Him did you receive your crown of eternal glory. We, also, are His soldiers; we are fighting for the kingdom of heaven. Our enemies are many and powerful; but, like you, we can conquer them, if, like you, we use the arms which God has put in our hands. Faith in God’s word, hope in His assistance, humility, and prudence, with these we are sure of victory. Pray for us, O holy martyrs, that we may avoid all compromise with our enemies; for our defeat is certain, if we try to serve two masters. During these forty days, we must put our arms in order, repair our lost strength, and renew our engagements; come to our assistance, and get us a share in your brave spirit. A crown is also prepared for us: it is to be won on easier terms than yours; and yet we shall lose it, unless we keep up within us an esteem for our vocation. How many times, in our past lives, have we forfeited that glorious crown! But God, in His mercy, has offered it to us again, and we are resolved on winning it. Oh, for the glory of our common Lord and Master, make intercession for us.

Our work of preparation is over: we are ready to obey our mother’s call to Lent. During the three past weeks, we have studied the fall of our first parents, and the miseries it brought upon man; the necessity of a Saviour; the justice of God, against which the human race dared to rebel; the terrible chastisement of the deluge, wherewith that revolt was punished; and finally, the covenant made by God, through Abraham, with those who are faithful to Him, and shun the maxims of a perverse and guilty world.

Now we are to see the accomplishment of the great mysteries, whereby the wounds of our fall were healed, the divine justice was disarmed, and God’s grace was poured out upon us, delivering us from the yoke of Satan and the world.

The Man-God, whose sweet presence has been less sensible during this Septuagesima season, is now about to show Himself to us again, but this time it is on His way to Calvary, where He is to be immolated for our redemption. The dolorous Passion, which our sins have imposed upon Him, is about to be brought before us: the greatest of anniversaries will soon be upon us.

Let us be all attention to the mysteries: let us be fervent in the great work of our own purification. Let us walk on courageously in the path of penance, so that each day the burden of our sins may be lightened, and after we have partaken, by heartfelt compassion, of the cup of our Redeemer’s Passion, our lips will be once more permitted to sing the songs of joy, and our hearts will thrill at Easter with the loud burst of the Church’s Alleluia!

 


 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Among all the pastors whom our Lord Jesus Christ has placed, as His vicegerents, over the universal Church, there is not one whose merits and renown have surpassed those of the holy Pope, whose feast we keep to-day. His name is Gregory, which signifies watchfulness; his surname is ‘the Great,’ and he was in possession of that title, when God sent the Seventh Gregory, the glorious Hildebrand, to govern His Church.

In recounting the glories of this illustrious Pontiff, it is but natural we should begin with his zeal for the services of the Church. The Roman liturgy, which owes to him some of its finest hymns, may be considered as his work, at least in this sense, that it is he who collected together and classified the prayers and rites drawn up by his predecessors, and reduced them to the form in which we now have them. He collected also the ancient chants of the Church, and arranged them in accordance with the rules and requirements of the divine Service. Hence it is, that our sacred music, which gives such solemnity to the liturgy, and inspires the soul with respect and devotion during the celebration of the great mysteries of our faith, is known as the Gregorian chant.

He is, then, the apostle of the liturgy, and this alone would have immortalized his name; but we must look for far greater things from such a Pontiff as Gregory. His name was added to the three, who had hitherto been honoured as the great Doctors of the Latin Church. These three are Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome; who else could be the fourth but Gregory? The Church found in his writings such evidence of his having been guided by the Holy Ghost, such a knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, such a clear appreciation of the mysteries of faith, and such unction and authority in his teachings, that she gladly welcomed him as a new guide for her children.

Such was the respect wherewith everything he wrote was treated, that his very letters were preserved as so many precious treasures. This immense correspondence shows us that there was not a country, scarcely even a city, of the Christian world, on which the Pontiff had not his watchful eye steadily fixed; that there was not a question, however local or personal, which, if it interested religion, did not excite his zeal and arbitration as the Bishop of the universal Church. If certain writers of modern times had but taken the pains to glance at these letters, written by a Pope of the sixth century, they would never have asserted, as they have, that the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff are based on documents fabricated, as they say, two hundred years after the death of Gregory.

Throned on the apostolic See, our saint proved himself to be a rightful heir of the apostles, not only as the representative and depositary of their authority, but as a fellow-sharer in their mission of calling nations to the true faith. To whom does England owe her having been, for so many ages, ‘the island of saints’? To Gregory, who, touched with compassion for those Angli, of whom, as he playfully said, he would fain make Angeli, sent to their island the monk Augustine with forty companions, all of them, as was Gregory himself, children of St. Benedict. The faith had been sown in this land as early as the second century, but it had been trodden down by the invasion of an infidel race. This time the seed fructified, and so rapidly that Gregory lived to see a plentiful harvest. It is beautiful to hear the aged Pontiff speaking with enthusiasm about the results of his English mission. He thus speaks in the twenty-seventh Book of his Morals: ‘Lo! the language of Britain, which could once mutter naught save barbarous sounds, has long since begun to sing, in the divine praises, the Hebrew Alleluia! Lo! that swelling sea is now calm, and saints walk on its waves. The tide of barbarians, which the sword of earthly princes could not keep back, is now hemmed in at the simple bidding of God’s priests.’[1]

During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the east and in the west. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position, all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtue of his great soul? That contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God Himself put into his hands the keys of heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of ‘servant of the servants of God’ that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our saint to the whole world, and will cause his name to be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time.

Let us now read the abridged life of our saint, as given us in the liturgy.

Gregorius magnus, Romanus, Gordiani senatoris filius, adolescens philosophiæ operam dedit, et prætorio officio functus, patre mortuo, sex monasteria in Sicilia ædificavit; Romæ septimum sancti Andreæ nomine insuisædibus, pro pe basilicam sanctorum Joannis et Pauli ad clivum Seauri: ubi Hilarione ac Maximiano magistris monachi vitam professus, postea abbas fuit. Mox Diaconus Cardinalis creatus, Constantinopolim a Pelagio Pontifice ad Tiberium Constantinum imperatorem legatus mittitur; apud quern memorabile etiam iliud effecit, quod Eutychium patriarcham, qui scripserat contra veram ac tractabilem corporum resurrectionem, ita convicit, ut ejus librum imperator in ignem injiceret. Quare Eutychius paulo post cum in morbum incidisset, instante morte, pellem manus suæ tenebat, multis præsentibue, dicens: Confiteor quia om nes in hac came resurge mus.

Romam rediens, Pelagio pestilentia sublato, summo omnium consensu Pontifex eligitur: quern honorem ne acciperet, quamdiu potuit, recusavit. Nam alieno vestitu in spelunca delituit: ubi deprehensus indicio igneæ columnæ, ad Sanctum Petrum consecratur. In pontificatu multa successoribus doctrinæ ac sanctitatis exempla reliquit. Peregrinos quotidie ad mensam adhibebat: in quibus et angelum, et Dominum angelorum peregrini facie accepit. Pauperes et urbanos et externos, quorum numerum descriptum habebat, benigne sustentabat. Catholicam fidem multis locis labefactatam restituit. Nam Donatistas in Africa, Arianos in Hispanla repressit: Agnoitas Alexandria ejecit. Pallium Syagrio Augustodunensi episcopo dare noluit, nisi Neophytos hæreticos expelleret ex Gallia. Gothos hæresim Arianam relinquere coegit. Missis in Britanniam doctis et sanctis viris Augustino et aliis monachis, insulam ad Jesu Christi fidem convertit, vere a Beda presbytero Angliæ vocatus apostolus. Joannis patriarchæ Constantinopolitani audaciam fregit, qui sibi universalis Ecclesiae episcopi nomen arrogabat. Mauritium imperatorem, eos qui milites fuissent, monachos fieri prohibentem, a sententia deterruit.

Ecclesiam ornavit sanctissimis institutis et legibus. Apud Sanctum Petrum coacta synodo, multa constituit. In iis, ut in Missa Kyrie eleison novies repeteretur; ut extra id tempus, quod continetur Septuagesima et Pascha, Alleluia diceretur: ut adderetur in Canone: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas. Litanias, Stationes, et Ecclesiasticum officium auxit. Quatuor Conciliis, Nicaeno, Constantinopolitano, Ephesino et Chalcedonensi, tamquam quatuor E vangeliis honorem haberi voluit. Episcopis Siciliæ, qui ex antiqua Ecclesiarum consuetudine Romam singulis trienniis conveniebant, quinto quoque anno semel venire indulsit. Multos libros confecit: quos cum dictaret, testatus est Petrus diaconus se Spiritum sanctum columbæ specie in ejus capite eæpe vidisse. Adrairabüia sunt quæ dixit, fecit, scripsit, decrevit, præsertim infirma semper et ægra valetudine. Qui denique multis editis miraculis, Pontificatus anno decimo tertio, mense sexto, die decimo,quarto Idus Martii, qui dies festus a Græcis etiam propter insignem hujus Pontificis sapientiam ac sanctitatem, praecipuo honore celebratur, ad cœleetem beatitudinem evocatus est. Cujus corpus sepultum est in basilica sancti Petri, prope secretarium.
Gregory the Great, a Roman by birth, was son of the senator Gordian. He applied early to the study of philosophy, and was entrusted with the office of prætor. After his father’s death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh, under the title of Saint Andrew, in his own house in Rome, near the basilica of Saints John and Paul, on the hill Scaurus. In this last named monastery, he embraced the monastic life, under the guidance of Hilarión and Maximian, and was, later on, elected abbot. Shortly afterwards, he was created Cardinal-Deacon, and was by Pope Pelagius sent to Constantinople, as legate, to confer with the emperor Constantine. While there, he achieved that celebrated victory over the patriarch Eutychius, who had written against the resurrection of the flesh, maintaining that it would not be a real one. Gregory so convinced him of his error, that the emperor threw his book into the fire. Eutychius himself fell ill not long after, and when he perceived his last hour had come, he took between his fingers the skin of his hand, and said before the many who were there: ‘I believe that we shall all rise in this flesh.’

On his return to Rome, he was chosen Pope, by unanimous consent, for Pelagius had been carried off by the plague. He refused, as long as it was possible, the honour thus offered him. He disguised himself and hid himself in a cave; but he was discovered by a pillar of fire shining over the place, and was consecrated at Saint Peter’s. As Pontiff, he was an example to his successors by his learning and holiness of life. He every day admitted pilgrims to his table, among whom he received, on one occasion, an angel, and, on another, the Lord of angels, who wore the garb of a pilgrim. He charitably provided for the poor, both in and out of Rome, and kept a list of them. He re-established the Catholic faith in several places where it had fallen into decay. Thus, he put down the Donatists in Africa, and the Arians in Spain; and drove the Agnoites out of Alexandria. He refused to give the pallium to Syagrius, bishop of Autun, until be should have expelled the Neophyte heretics from Gaul. He induced the Goths to abandon the Arian heresy. He sent Augustine and other monks into Britain, and, by these learned and saintly men, converted that island to the faith of Christ Jesus; so that Bede truly calls him the Apostle of England. He checked the haughty pretensions of John, the patriarch of Constantinople, who had arrogated to himself the title of bishop of the universal Church. He obliged the emperor Mauritius to revoke the decree, whereby he had forbidden any soldier to become a monk.

He enriched the Church with many most holy practices and laws. In a Council held at St. Peter’s he passed several decrees. Among these, the following may be mentioned: That in the Mass the Kyrie eleison should be said nine times; that the Alleluia should always be said, except during the interval between Septuagesima and Easter. That these words should be inserted in the Canon: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas (And mayst thou dispose our days in thy peace). He increased the number of processions (litanies) and stations, and completed the Office of the Church. He would have the four Councils, of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, to be received with the same honour as the four Gospels. He allowed the bishops of Sicily, who, according to the ancient custom of their Churches, used to visit Rome every three years, to make that visit once every fifth year. He wrote several books; and Peter the deacon assures us, that he frequently saw the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove resting on the head of the Pontiff, while he was dictating. It is a matter of wonder thkt, with his incessant sickness and illhealth, he pould have said, done, written, and decreed, as he did. At length, after performing many miracles, he was called to his reward in heaven, after a pontificate of thirteen years, six months and ten days; it was on the fourth of the Ides of March (March 12), which the Greeks also observe ae a great feast, on account of this Pontiff’s extraordinary learning and virtue. His body was buried in the basilica of Saint Peter near the secretarium.

To these admirable lessons we subjoin a selection of antiphons and responsories, which are taken from an Office approved of by the holy See, for this feast of so great a saint.

Antiphons and Responsories*

Beatus Gregorius in cathedra Petri sublimatus, Vigilantis nomen factis implevit.

Pastor eximius pastoralis vitæ specimen tradidit et regulam.

Dum paginæ sacræ mysteria panderet, columba nive candidior apparuit.

Gregorius, monachorum speculum, pater Urbis, orbis deliciæ.

Gregorius, respiciens Anglorum juvenes, ait: Angelicam ha bent faciem; et tales angelorum in cœlis decet esse consortes.


R.
 Gregorius, ab annis adofescentiæ suæ, Deo caepit devotus existe re.
* Et ad supernæ vitæ patriam totis desideriis anhelavit.
V. Pauperibus opes distribuens, Christum pro nobis egenum, egenus ipse secutus est.
* Et ad supemae vitæ patriam totis desideriis anhelavit.

R.
 Sex in Sicilia monasteria constituens, fratres illic Christo servituros aggregavit; septimum vero intra Romanæ urbis muros instituit:
* In quo et ipse militiam cœlestem aggressus est.
V. Mundum cum flore despiciens, dilectas solitudinis locum quæsivit.
* In quo et ipse militiam ccelestem aggresseus est.

R.
 Ad summi Pontificatus apicem quæsitus, quum ad sylvarum et cavernarum latebras confugisset,
* Visa est columna lucis a summo cœli usque ad eum linea recta refulgens.
V. Tam eximium pastorem sitiens populus, jejuniis et orationibus ad cælum insistebat.
* Visa est columna lucis a summo cœli usque ad eum linea recta refulgens.

R.
 Ecce nunc magni marie fluctibus quatior, pastoralis curæ procellis illisus:
* Et quum priorem vitam recolo, quasi post tergum reductis oculis viso littore suspiro.
V. Immensis fluctibus turbatus feror, vix jam portum valeo videre quern reliqui
* Et quum priorem vitam recolo, quasi post tergum reductis oculis, viso littore suspiro.

R.
 E fonte Scripturarum moralia et mystica proferens, fluenta Evangelii in populos derivavit: 
* Et defunctus adhuc loquitur.
V. Velut aquila perlustrane mundum amplitudine charitatis majoribus et minimis providet.
* Et defunctus adhuc loquitur.

R.
 Cernens Gregorius Anglorum adolescentulos, dolebat tarn lucidi vultus homines a tenebrarum principe possideri:
* Tantamque frontis speciem, mentem ab internis gaudiis vacuam gestare.
V. Ex intimo corde longa trahens suspiria, lugebat imapnem Dei ab antiquo serpente deturpatam.
* Tantamque frontis epeciem, mentem ab internis gaudiis vacuam gestare.

R.
 Quum Joannes episcopus arroganter primæ Sedis jura dissolvere tentaret, surrexit Gregorius fortis et mansuetus:
* Apostólica fulgens auctoritate, humilitate præclarus.
V. Petri claves invictus asseruit, et cathedram principalem illæsam custodivit.
* Apostolica fulgens auctoritate, humilitate præclarus.

R.
 Gregorius, præsul meritis et nomine dignus, antiquæ divinæ laudis modulationes renovans,
* Militantis Ecclesiæ vocem triumphantis sponsæ concentibus sociavit.
V. Sacramentorum codicem mystico calamo rescribens, vete rum patrum instituta posteris transmisit.
* Militantis Ecclesiæ vocem triumphantis sponsæ concentibus sociavit.

R. Stationes per basilicas et martyrum cœmeteria ordinavit:
* Et sequebatur exercitus Domini Gregorium præeuntem.
V. Ductor cœlestis militiæ arma spiritualia proferebat.
* Et sequebatur exercitus Domini Gregorium præeuntem.

The blessed Gregory, being raised to the chair of Peter, fulfilled, by his actions, the meaning of his name, ‘the Watchman.’

This glorious Pastor was the model, and wrote the rule, of the pastoral life.

While he was interpreting the mysteries of the sacred volume, there was seen upon him a dove whiter than snow.

Gregory was the mirror of monks, the father of the holy city, and the favourite of mankind.

Gregory looks upon some youths from Anglia, and says: They have the faces of angels, and such children must needs be companions of angels in heaven.


R.
 From his early youth, Gregory was devout in God’s service,
* And with all his heart sighed after the land of heavenly life.
V. He distributed his wealth to the poor, and became poor himself, after the example of Christ, who made himself poor for us.
* And with all his heart sighed after the land of heavenly life.

R. Six monasteries did he found in Sicily, and put in them communities of brethren, who should serve Christ; a seventh also he founded within the walls of Rome’s city,
* Wherein he, too, enrolled himself in the heavenly warfare.
V. He despised the world with its flowers, and sought out a place of solitude most dear to his soul.
* Wherein he, too, enrolled himself in the heavenly warfare.

R.
 When they were in search of him to set him on the throne of the Papal dignity, he fled to the woods and caves and hid himself;
* But a bright pillar of light was seen to shine upon him, in a straight line from the high heavens.
V. The people, in their eager desire to have so excellent a pastor, besieged heaven with their fastings and prayers.
* But a bright pillar was seen to shine upon him, in a straight line from the highest heavens.

R.
 Lo! now I am tossed by the waves of the great sea, and am buffeted by the storms of pastoral care:
* And when I remember my former life, I sigh like one that looks back on the shore he has left behind.
V. I am carried to and fro on huge waves, which scarcely permit me to see the port I sailed from.
* And when I remember my former life, I sigh like one that looks back on the shore he has left behind.

R.
 He drew moral and mystical interpretations from the Scripture fountain, and made the streams of the Gospel flow upon the people:
* And being dead, he yet speaketh.
V. Like an eagle flying from one end of the world to the other, he provided for all, both little and great, by his large-hearted charity.
* And being dead, he yet speaketh.

R.
 As he gazed on the boys of Anglia, it grieved him to think that such bright-faced youths should be in the power of the prince of darkness:
* And that they who had such comely faces, should have souls devoid of interior joy.
V. Deeply did he sigh, and, from his inmost soul, grieve that the image of God should be disfigured by the old serpent.
* And that they who had such comely faces, should have souls devoid of interior joy.

R.
 When John, the bishop, arrogantly strove to interfere with the rights of the first See, bravely and meekly did Gregory rise up,
* Radiant with apostolic authority, and humble exceedingly.
V. Unflinchingly did he defend the keys of Peter, and guard from insult the principal Chair.
* Radiant with apostolic authority, and humble exceedingly.

R.
 Gregory, a Pontiff great in merit and name, restored the ancient melodies used in the divine praise,
* And united the songs of the Church militant with those of the bride triumphant.
V. His mystic pen transcribed the book of the Sacraments, and handed down to posterity the institutions of the ancient fathers.
* And united the songs of the Church militant with those of the bride triumphant.

R.
 He regulated the Stations to be made at the basilicas and cemeteries of the martyrs:
* And the army of Christ went in procession, with Gregory at their head.
V. He was the leader of the heavenly warfare, and gave to all their spiritual armour.
* And the army of Christ went in procession, with Gregory at their head.

St. Peter Damian, whose feast we kept a few days back, composed the following hymn in honour of our apostle:

Anglorum jam apostolus,
Nunc angelorum eocius,
Ut tunc, Gregori, gentibus
Succurre jam credentibus.

Tu largas opum copias,
Omnemque mundi gloriam
Spernis, ut inops inopem
Jesum sequaris principem.

Videtur egens naufrague,
Dum stipem petit angelus;
Tu munus jam post geminum,
Præbes et vas argenteum.

Ex hoc te Christus tempore
Suæ præfert Ecclesiæ:
Sic Petri gradum percipis,
Cujus et normam sequeris.

O Pontifex egregie,
Lux et decus Ecclesiæ,
Non sinas in periculis,
Quos tot mandatis instruis.

Mella cor obdulcantia
Tua distillant labia,
Fragrantum vim aromatum
Tuum vincit eloquium.

Scripturæ sacræ mystica
Mire solvis ænigmata,
Theorica mysteria
Te docet ipsa Veritas.

Tu nactus apostolicam
Vicem simul et gloriam,
Nos solve culpæ nexibus,
Redde polorum sedibus.

Sit Patri laus ingenito,
Sit decus Unigenito,
Sit utriusque pariti
Majestas summa Flamini.

Amen.
O Gregory, that once wast the apostle of the Angli,
and now art a companion of the angels!
protect now, as of old, the nations
that believe in Christ.

Thou spurnest wealth and riches
and all the glory of the world,
that so thou, being poor,
mayst follow the Lord Jesus, who was poor.

An angel presents himself to thee,
in the garb of one that was shipwrecked, and asks an alms;
thou first makest him a double gift,
and then thou givest him a silver vase.

After this, Christ puts thee over his Church,
for thou didst imitate the virtues,
and now thou hast
the honours, of Peter.

O excellent Pontiff!
Light and ornament of the Church!
Thou hast so richly instructed us,
assist us in our dangers.

From thy lips there flows honey
that brings sweetness to the heart.
Thy words are more fragrant
than the richest perfume.

Admirably dost thou solve
the obscure figures of sacred Writ.
The divine mysteries are taught thee
by him that is the very Truth.

O thou that hast
the office and the glory of the apostles,
pray for us, that we may be loosed from the bonds of sin,
and obtain the thrones prepared for us above.

To the unbegotten Father,
and to his only-begotten Son,
and to the Spirit of them
both be praise and highest kingship.

Amen.

Father of the Christian people! Vicar of the charity, as well as of the authority, of Christ! O Gregory, vigilant Pastor! the Church, which thou hast so faithfully loved and served, turns to thee with confidence. Thou canst not forget the flock, which keeps up such an affectionate remembrance of thee; hear the prayer she offers thee on this thy solemnity. Protect and guide the Pontiff, who now holds the place of Peter, as thou didst; enlighten and encourage him in the difficulties wherewith he is beset. Bless the hierarchy of the pastors, which has received from thee such magnificent teachings and such admirable examples. Assist it to maintain inviolate the sacred trust of faith; bless the eSorts it is now making for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, without which all is disorder and confusion. God chose thee as the regulator of the divine service, the holy liturgy; foster, by thy blessing, the zeal which is now rising up among us for those holy traditions of prayer, which have been so neglected; teach us the long-forgotten secret, that the best way of praying is to use the prayers of the Church. Unite all Churches in obedience to the apostolic See, which is the ground and pillar of faith, and the fountain of spiritual authority.

But there is one country which was most dear to thee—our own native land. O apostle of England! look down with aSection on this island, which has now rebelled from Rome, and has become the resort of countless false religions. But now, after three centuries of apostasy from the true faith, the hand of God’s mercy is pressing her to conversion. She is thine own child in Christ Jesus: wilt thou not aid her to return to Him? Wilt thou not guide her, by thy prayers, to come forth out of the darkness, which still so thickly clouds her, and follow the light which heaven holds out to her? Oh! if England were once more Catholic, who can tell the good she would do? For what country is there that can do grander things for the propagation of the faith? Pray for her, then; she may regain her glorious title of Isle of Saints, for she has thee for her apostle!

These are the days of salvation; pray for the faithful, who have entered on their career of penance. Obtain for them compunction of heart, love of prayer, and an appreciation of the liturgy and its mysteries. The solemn ami devout homilies which thou didst address, at this season, to the people of Rome, are still read to ns; may they sink into our hearts and fill them with fear of God’s justice, and hope in His mercy, for His justice and mercy change not to suit the time. We are weak and timid, and this makes us count as harsh the laws of the Church which oblige us to fasting and abstinence; get us brave hearts, brave with the spirit of mortification. Thy holy life is an example to us, and thy writings are our instruction; what we still want is to be made true penitents, and this thy intercession must do for us: that so we may return, with the joy of a purified conscience, to the divine Alleluia, which thou hast taught us to sing on earth, and which we hope to chant together with thee in heaven.

 

[1] Moral, in Job. Lib. xxvii. Cap. xi.

* We may be permitted to express a hope, that the day is not far distant, when the Proper Offices, approved of by the holy See, will be adopted in England, for those saints in whom England has a special interest. Proper hymns, &c., have been composed and approved for St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Anselm. [TRANSULATOR.]

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The saint we have to honour to-day is the apostle of that faithful people, whose martyrdom has lasted three hundred years: it is the great St. Patrick, he that gave Erin the faith. There shone most brightly in this saint that gift of the apostolate, which Christ has left to His Church, and which is to remain with her to the end of time. The ambassadors or missioners, sent by our Lord to preach His Gospel, are of two classes. There are some who have been entrusted with a small tract of the Gentile world; they had to sow the divine seed there, and it yielded fruit more or less according to the dispositions of the people that received it: there are others, again, whose mission is like a rapid conquest, that subdues a whole nation, and brings it into subjection to the Gospel. St. Patrick belongs to this second class; and in him we recognize one of the most successful instruments of God's mercy to mankind.

And then, what solidity there is in this great saint’s work! When is it that Ireland received the faith? In the fifth century, when Britain was almost wholly buried in paganism; when the race of the Franks had not as yet heard the name of the true God; when Germany had no knowledge of Christ’s having come upon the earth; when the countries of northern Europe deeply slumbered in infidelity: yes, it was before these several nations had awakened to the Gospel, that Ireland was converted. The faith, brought to her by her glorious apostle, took deep root and flourished and fructified in this isle, more lovely even by grace than she ifl by nature. Her saints are scarcely to be numbered, and went about doing good in almost every country of Europe; her children gave, and are still giving, to other countries, the faith that she herself received from her beloved patron. And when the sixteenth century came with its protestantism; when the apostasy of Germany was imitated by England, Scotland, and the whole north of Europe, Ireland stood firm and staunch; no persecution, however cleverly or however cruelly carried on against her, has been able to detach her from the faith taught her by Saint Patrick.

Let us honour the admirable apostle, chosen by God to sow the seed of His word in this privileged land; and let us listen to the simple account of his labours and virtues, thus given in the lessons of his feast:

Patritius, Hiberniæ dictus apostolus, Calphurnio patre, matre Conchessa, sancti Martini Turonensis episcopi, ut perhibent, consanguInea, majori in Britannia natus, puer in barbarorum sæpius incidit captivitatem. Eo in statu pascendis gregibus præpositus, jam tum futuræ sanctitatis specimen præbuit. Fidei namque, divinique timoris, et amoris spiritu repletus, antelucano tempore per nivea, gelu, ac pluvias ad preces Deo fundendas impiger consurgebat; solitus centies interdiu, centiesque noctu Deum orare. A servitute tertio exemptus, et inter clericos relatus, in divinis lectionibus longo se tempore exercuit. Galliis, Italia, insulisque Tyrrheni maris labore summo peragratis, divino tandem monitu ad Hibernorum salutem advocatur; et facta a beato Cœlestino Papa Evangelii nunciandi potestate, coneecratusque episcopus, in Hibemiam perrexit.

Eo in munere mirum quot vir apostoiicus mala, quot ærumnas, et labores, quot pertulerit adversarios. Verum Dei afilante benignitate, terra illa, idolorum antea cultrix, eum mox prædicante Patritio fructum dedit, ut sanctorum insula deinde fuerit appellata. Frequentissimi ab eo populi sacro sunt regenerati lavacro:episcopi, clericique plurimi ordinati; virginea ac viduæ ad continentiæ leges institutæ. Armachanam Sedem, Romani Pontificis auctoritate, totius insulæ principem metropolim constituit, sanctorumque reliquiis ab Urbe relatis decoravit. Supernis visionibus, prophetiæ dono, ingentibusque signis, et prodigiis a Deo exornatus adeo refulsit, ut longe, lateque celebrior Patritii se fama diffuderit.

Præter quotidianam Ecclesiarum sollicitudinem, invietum ab oratione spiritum nunquam relaxabat. Aiunt enim, integrum quotidie psalterium, una cum canticis et hymnis, ducentisque orationibus consuevisse recitare: ter centies per dies singulos flexis genibus Deum adorare, ac in qualibet hora diei canónica centies se crucis signo munire. Noctem tria in spatia distribuens, primum in centum psalmis percurrendis, et bis centies genuflectendo, alterum in reliquis quinquaginta psalmis, algidis aquis immersus, ac corde, oculis manibusque ad ccelum erectus, absolvendis insumebat; tertium vero super nudum lapidem stratus tenui dabat quieti. Humilitatis eximius cultor, apostólico more a manuum suarum labore non abstinuit. Assiduis tandem curis pro Ecclesia consumptus, verbo et opere clarus, in extrema senectute, divinis mysteriis refectus, obdormivit in Domino; sepultusque est apud Dunum in Ultonia, a Christiana salute sæculo quinto.
Patrick, called the apostle of Ireland, was born in Great Britain. His father’s name was Calphumius. Conchessa, his mother, is said to have been a relation of St. Martin, bishop of Tours. He was several times taken captive by the barbarians, when he was a boy, and was put to tend their flocks. Even in that tender age, he gave signs of the great sanctity he was afterwards to attain. Full of the spirit of faith, and of the fear and love of God, he used to rise at the earliest dawn of day, and, in spite of snow, frost, or rain, go to offer up his prayers to God. It was his custom to pray a hundred times during the day, and a hundred during the night. After his third deliverance from slavery, he entered the ecclesiastical state and applied himself, for a considerable time, to the study of the sacred Scriptures. Having made several most fatiguing journeys through Gaul, Italy, and the islands of the Mediterranean, he was called by God to labour for the salvation of the people of Ireland. Pope Saint Celestine gave him power to preach the Gospel, and consecrated him bishop. Whereupon, he set out for Ireland.

It would be difficult to relate how much this apostolic man had to suffer in the mission thus entrusted to him: he had to bear with extraordinary trials, fatigues, and adversaries. But, by the mercy of God, that land, which heretofore had worshipped idols, so well repaid the labour wherewith Patrick had preached the Gospel, that it was afterwards called the island of saints. He administered holy Baptism to many thousands: he ordained several bishops, and frequently conferred Holy Orders in their several degrees; he drew up rules for virgins and widows, who wished to lead a life of continency. By the authority of the Roman Pontiff, he appointed Armagh the metropolitan See of the whole island, and enriched that church with the saints’ relics, which he had brought from Rome. God honoured him with heavenly visions, with the gift of prophecy and miracles; all which caused the name of the saint to be held in veneration in almost every part of the world.

Besides his daily solicitude for the churches, his vigorous spirit kept up an uninterrupted prayer. For it h said, that he was wont to recite every day the whole psalter, together with the canticles and the hymns, and two hundred prayers: that he every day knelt down thrco hundred times to adore God; and that at each canonical hour of the day, he signed himself a hundred times with the sign of the cross. He divided the night into three parts: the first was spent in the recitation of a hundred psalms, during which he genuflected two hundred times: the second was spent in reciting the remaining fifty psalms, which he did standing in cold water, and his heart, eyes, and hands lifted up to heaven; the third he gave to a little sleep, which he took laid upon a bare stone. Being a man of extraordinary humility, he imitated the apostles, and practised manual labour. At length, being worn out by his incessant fatigues in the cause of the Church, powerful in word and work, having reached an extreme old age he slept in the Lord, after being refreshed with the holy mysteries. He was buried at Down, in Ulster, in the fifth century of the Christian era.

The following sequence, in honour of our saint, is taken from an ancient manuscript missal, published by Messingham, in his Florilegiam Insulœ Sanctorum, Paris, 1624:

Sequence

Læta lux est hodierna,
Qua conscendit ad superna
Vir Dei Patricius.

Qui prælatus in hanc lucem
Puer bonus Christi crucem
Veneratur ocyus.

Humo pressit signum crucis,
Fons erupit, donum lucis
Cæco nato præbuit.

In mel aquam convertebat,
Quo nutrici, quæ languebat,
Sanitatem tribuit.

A piratis venditur,
Fit cuetos porcorum:
Aurum quo redimitur
Reperit decorum.

Opprimens per triduum
Satan hunc vexavit:
Sed Helias artuum
Robur reparavit.

Deprimit a vitiis,
Moribus imbutus,
Corpus abstinentiis,
Moysen secutus;
In montis cacumina
Scandit et jejunat;
Glacierum fragmina
Succendens adunat.

Sub Germani disciplina,
Documentis et doctrina
Studet evangelicis.

His a Papa Cœlestino
Doctor est, nutu divino,
Transmissus Hibemicis.

Balat hircus ventre furis,
Fur punitur plagie duris,
Et ejus successio.

Fugiens mortem sago tectus
Obiit ante, post revectus
Orante Patricio.

Virosa reptilia
Prece congregata
Pellit ab Hibernia,
Mari liberata.
Cœlos aliquoties
Apertos aspexit;
Et Jesum suspiciens
Dominum conspexit.
Transit pater ab hac luce
Signis plenus,
Christo duce,
Lucie ad palatium.

Ubi nobis, prece sua,
Confer, bone Jesu, tua
Pietate gaudium.

Amen.
Joyful is the light of this day's feast,
whereon Patrick, the man of God,
ascended to heaven!

When yet in the early dawn of life,
the holy youth devoutly venerated
the cross of Christ.

He made the sign of the cross on the ground:
a fount gushed forth upon the spot,
and with its waters he gave sight to one born blind.

He turned water into honey,
and by it restored
his nurse to health.

He was led captive by pirates,
and was made keeper of swine:
but the saint found a piece of glittering gold,
and with it bought his freedom.

For three days did satan harass him
with bodily injuries;
but Elias healed him,
and gave him back his strength.

His soul was vigorous in grace,
and, like Moses,
he restrained his body
from vices by fasting.
He ascends a high mountain,
and there he fasts.
He throws ice upon a fire,
and it burns as though it were wood.

He puts himself under the care
and teaching of Germanus,
and studies under him the maxims of the Gospel.

Pope Celestino, by a divine inspiration,
sends him to teach salvation
to the people of Hibernia.

The thief, that had stolen a goat,
was discovered by its bleating;
and he and his family were punished with a severe scourge.

A man had covered himself with a cloth,
and asked to be restored to health. He was first punished with real death,
and was then restored to life by Patrick’s prayer.

He drew together, by his prayer,
all venomous reptiles,
and drove them from Hibernia’s shore.
At times, he saw
the heavens opened;
and as he gazed above,
he saw the Lord Jesus.
Our father passed out of this world,
under the guidance of Christ;
and, glorious by his miracles,
he was taken to the courts
of heavenly light.

Mercifully grant unto us, O good Jesus!
by his intercession,
that we may enter into joy.

Amen.

The following antiphons and prayers are taken from the Officium Sancti Patricii, Paris, 1622:

ANT. Veneranda imminentis diei solemnia, læta mente, concelebrat fidelium turma; quo beatus præsul Patricius, deposita corporali gleba, felix migravit ad regna cælestia.

ANT. Ave præsul egregio, pastor gregis Hiberniæ! O Patrici, præsul pie, nostræ cuetos familiæ, funde preces quotidie, pro nobis, Regi glorias.

ANT. Benedictus sit Dominus universorum, qui suam visitavit plebem per beatum Patricium, cujus prece absoivamur a vinculis criminum, et requie perfruamur cum illo beatorum.
ANTThe faithful people, with glad souls, celebrate the venerable solemnity of this day’s feast; whereon the blessed pontiff Patrick laid aside the burden of mortality, and joyfully took his flight to the heavenly kingdom.

ANT. Haü illustrious pontiff, pastor of Hibernia’s flock! O Patrick! holy bishop! the guardian of our people! pray for us daily to the Kin of glory.

ANT. Blessed be the Lord of all, who hath visited his people by blessed Patrick; by whose prayers may we be loosed from the bonds of our sins, and come to the enjoyment of rest of the blessed, together with him.


Another favourite antiphon, used in the ancient Proper Office of St. Patrick, was composed of the words spoken to him by the angel:

ANT. Hibernenses omnes clamant ad te pueri: Veni, sancte Patrici, salvos nos facere.
ANT. All the children of Ireland cry out to thee: Come, O holy Patrick, and save us!

We conclude these liturgical extracts with a prayer from an ancient manuscript breviary of Armagh.

Prayer

Deus qui beatum Patricium Scotorum apostolum tua providentia elegisti, ut Hibernenses gentes, in tenebris et in errore gentilitatis errantes, per lavacra regenerationis filios Dei excelsi efficeres: tribue nobis quæsumus, ut ejus intercessionibus ad ea quæ recta sunt quantocyus festinemus. Per Dominum.
O God, by whose providence the blessed Patrick was chosen to be the apostle of the Irish; that thus the people of Hibernia, who had gone astray in darkness and in the errors of the Gentiles, might be made children of the Most High by the laver of regeneration: grant, we beseech thee, that by his intercession, we may hasten without delay to the paths of justice. Through, etc.

Thy life, great saint, was spent in the arduous toils of an apostle; but how rich was the harvest thou didst reap! Every fatigue seemed to thee light, if only thou couldst give to men the precious gift of faith; and the people to whom thou didst leave it have kept it with a constancy which is one of thy greatest glories. Pray for us, that this faith, without which it is impossible to please God,[1] may take possession of our hearts and minds. It is by faith that the just man liveth,[2] says the prophet, and it is faith that, during this holy season of Lent, is showing us the justice and mercy of God, in order that we may be converted, and offer to our offended Lord the tribute of our penance. We are afraid of what the Church imposes on us, simply because our faith is weak. If our principles were those of faith, we should soon be mortified men. Thy life, though so innocent, and so rich in good works, was one of extraordinary penance: gain for us thy spirit, and help us to follow thee, at least at a humble distance. Pray for Erin, that dear country of thine, which loves and honours thee so fervently. She is threatened with danger even now, and many of her children have left the faith thou didst teach. An odious system of proselytism has disturbed thy flock; protect it, and suffer not the children of martyrs to be apostates. Let thy fatherly care follow them that have been driven by suffering to emigrate from their native land: may they keep true to the faith, be witnesses of the true religion in the countries to which they have fled, and ever show themselves to be the obedient children of the Church. May their misfortunes thus serve to advance the kingdom of God. Holy pontiff! intercede for England; pardon her the injustice she has shown to thy children; and, by thy powerful prayers, hasten the happy day of her return to Catholic unity. Pray, too, for the whole Church; thy prayer, being that of an apostle, easily finds access to Him that sent thee.

 


[1] Heb. xi. 6.
[2] Hab. ii. 4.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

It was right that the Church should honour, during these days devoted to the instruction of catechumens, the Pontiff whose very name suggests the zeal and knowledge which pastors ought to show in preparing candidates for baptism. He has long had a place in the Martyrology of the Western Church, but to-day, in addition to expressing our gratitude for what he did fifteen hundred years ago, we ask him for aid, which is as necessary now as it was in the first ages of Christianity. It is true that baptism is now administered to infants. The gift of faith then infused puts man in possession of all truth before his intelligence has ever met with falsehood. But it too often happens in our days that children are deprived of the protection their weakness really needs. Modern society has denied Jesus Christ, and strives by the hypocritical neutrality of its laws to stifle the divine seed in the baptized soul before it can grow and bear fruit. Baptism, however, has its rights with regard to society as well as with regard to the individual, and our best way of honouring St. Cyril is to remind ourselves on his feast that this first Sacrament has just claims in respect of the education due to the baptized.

For fifteen centuries the western nations, whose social fabric rested on the solid rock of the faith of Rome, have enjoyed a happy ignorance of the difficulties experienced by a soul in rising out of the abyss of error into the pure light of the truth. Our fathers, like ourselves, were baptized at their entrance into this world. They had, moreover, an advantage which we have not, for, in their day, the civil power joined with the Church to protect that plenitude of truth which was the greatest treasure of men, and the safeguard of the world. The protection of individuals is a duty binding upon all princes and rulers, whatever be their title, and this duty is greater in proportion to the interests to be safeguarded. But this protection gives greater glory to the power which exercises it, when it is extended to the lowly and weak. The law of man never appears more majestic than when standing beside a little child—a new-born babe or a defenceless orphan—to protect its name, its life or its inheritance. A newly-baptized child possesses advantages greater than all those given by noble birth, money or the richest natural gifts. He has a divine life within him; he is the equal of the angels in virtue of his name of Christian; his inheritance is that plenitude of truth of which we spoke above—God Himself, possessed by faith here below until the beatific vision opens out the possession of eternal love. What greatness there is in a little child! But what a responsibility for the world! If God does not wait for the age of reason before bestowing His gifts, this sublime haste is due to the impatience of His love, but at the same time He oounts upon men to reveal in due time their dignity to these children of heaven, to form them to the duties incumbent on them, and to educate them in a way befitting their divine lineage. The education of a king’s son corresponds to the dignity of his birth, and those who have the honour of being his tutors never forget that he is a prince. Instructions, common to all, are presented to him in a way which harmonizes with his exalted destiny, and everything is directed to rendering him capable of wearing his crown with glory. Does the education of a child of God need less care?

Is it right that his teachers should forget his birth and his destiny?

It is true that the Church alone can explain to us the ineffable origin of the sons of God. She alone knows how to use the elements of human knowledge for the supreme end which dominates the life of a Christian. The natural conclusion is, that the Church is by right the first and principal teacher of the nations. When she founds schools, she is on her own ground in all branches of knowledge, and a mission to teach from her is of more value than any diploma. Further, with regard to diplomas, which she herself has not conferred, these official commissions to teach draw their legal value, in the eyes of Christians, from her approval, and they are always by right subject to her supervision. She is the mother of the baptized, and even when a mother does not teach her own children, she has the right to supervise their education.

But the Church is not only the Mother of the Faithful, she is the Bride of the Son of God and the guardian of His sacraments. It is her duty to see that the Precious Blood has not been shed in vain. Our Lord has entrusted these seven fountains to the care of the ministers of His Church, and they must not be opened except when there is good reason to hope that the sacramental grace will be well used. Baptism especially, which raises man out of his own nothingness to a supernatural nobility, must be safeguarded in its administration with a prudence and watchfulness corresponding to the sublime and ineffaceable character which it confers. A baptized Christian who, through his own or others’ fault, is ignorant of his rights and duties, is like a descendant of a noble race who, knowing nothing of his family traditions, is despised by his kinsmen and drags out an aimless existence in a station of life below that to which by birth he is entitled.

The Church is no less vigilant to-day than she was in the time of Cyril. She has never admitted—she cannot admit—anyone to the sacred font without requiring from him a guarantee of sufficient instruction. An adult must give proof of his knowledge before he receives the Sacrament, and if the Church consents to receive an infant into the Christian family, it is because she considers that the Christian faith of those who present him to her and of the society in which they live will assure to him an education conformable to the supernatural life which is about to be given him.

Thus the baptism of infants could not become a general custom until the reign of Jesus Christ was firmly established upon earth. We must not be surprised to find that, as the conversion of the nations was gradually completed, the Church found herself alone in the work of education. The barren classes of grammarians, philosophers, and rhetoricians, who taught everything but the one thing necessary— the end for which man was created—were deserted for the episcopal and monastic schools, where the science of salvation held the first place, radiating its light upon all other branches of knowledge. Knowledge, thus made Christian, gave birth to the Universities, and produced a fruitful union of the sciences which, until then, had been quite unconnected, if not opposed to one another. The Universities were unknown before the establishment of Christianity, for it alone could solve the problem of this union, which is the essence of University life, and hence they remain the inalienable domain of the Church. The State, which to-day is pagan once more, may deny to the Mother of the nations and claim for itself the right to give the name of University to its higher schools, but peoples, which have lost their Christianity, can never have the right to found nor the power to maintain those glorious institutions in the true spirit of the name they bear. A state without faith cannot maintain any union among the sciences but that of Babel. This is already evident. The monument of a pride which rises against God and His Church will only serve to bring back that terrible confusion of tongues from which the Church had snatched the pagan peoples. Any thief or robber can assume the titles of the victim he has robbed, but his inability to display the qualities, which these titles suppose in their bearer, only serves to show more clearly that a theft has been committed.

Are we, then, to deny to a state which is pagan or, as they say nowadays, neutral, the right to educate the infidels which it has produced after its own image? No, the protection which is the right and duty of the Church extends only to the baptized. Moreover, if the Church finds one day that the state of society is no longer a sufficient guarantee for baptism, she will return to the discipline of the early ages, when the grace of this initial Sacrament was not granted indiscriminately to all, but only to those adults who had shown themselves to be worthy of it, or to infants whose families could give an assurance on which she could rely. The nations will then be once more divided into two classes—on the one side the children of God, living His life and heirs of His Kingship; on the other those men who have basely preferred to remain the slaves of the King, although by His Incarnation He has made His palace among the sons of Adam and desires to number them all among His children. An education which is common and neutral will then appear more impossible than ever. A training designed for the servants of the palace can never be suitable for the princes of the bloodroyal.

Are we drawing near to those times when men whom circumstances have unfortunately excluded from baptism at their entrance into this world will have to gain for themselves the privilege of admission into the Christian family? God alone knows, but more than one sign seems to point to it. It is possible that the institution of to-day’s feast is designed by divine Providence to correspond with the new situation which will then be created for the Church. A week ago we paid our homage to St. Gregory the Great, the Doctor of the Christian people; three days earlier our Christian students were honouring St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor of the Schools; why do we celebrate to-day, after fifteen centuries, the Doctor of the Catechumens, a class which has now disappeared, if not because the Church sees that St. Cyril of Jerusalem is called to render her new services by his immortal Catechetical Instructions? Even now many wandering Christians have no greater obstacle in the way of their return to God than an ignorance as desperate as, and more profound than, that of the Jews and pagans in the time of Cyril.

The lessons for the feast of this holy Doctor give a splendid account of his life and work.

Cyrillus Hierosolyraitanus, a teneris annis divinarum Scripturarum studio sumraopere deditus, adeo in carura scientia profecit, ut ortbodoxæ fidei strenuus assertor evaserit. Monasticis insti tutis imbutus, perpetuæ continentiæ, oranique severiori vivendi rationi se addictum voluit. Postquam a sancto Maximo Hierosolymæ Episcopo presbyter ordinatus fuit, munus verbi divini fidelibus prædicandi et catechumenos edocendi summa cum laude iraplevit, atque illas vere mirandas conscripsit catecheses, quibus totam ecclesiasticam doctrinam dilucide et copiose complexus, singula religionis dogmata contra fidei hostes solide propugnavit. Itavero in hic enucleate et distincte disseruit, ut non solum jam exortas hæreses, sed futuras etiam quasi præsagiens everterit, quemadmodum præetitit asserendo Corporis et Sanguinis Christi realem præsentiam in mirabili Eucharistiæ sacramento. Vita au tem functo sancto Maximo, a provinciæ episcopis in illius locum suffectus est.

In episcopatu injurias multas et calamitates, non secus ac beatus Athanasius, cui coævus erat, ab Arianorum factionibus fidei causa perpessus fuit. Hi enim ægre ferentes Cyrillum vehementer hæresibus obsistere, ipsum calumniis aggrediuntur et in concibabulo depositum e sua eede deturbant. Quorum furori ut se subtraheret, Tarsum Ciliciæ aufugit, et quoad vixit Constantius, exsilii rigorem pertulit. Post illius mortern, Juliano Apostata ad imperium evecto, Hierosolymam redire potuit, ubi ardenti zelo gregi suo ab erroribus et a vitiis revocando operam navavit. Sed iterum, Valente imperatore, exsulare coactus est, donee reddita Ecclesiæ pace per Theodosium Magnum et Arianorum crudelitate audaciaque repressa, ab eodem imperatore tamquam fortissimus Christi athleta honoribus sueceptus suæ sedi restitutus fuit. Quam strenue et sanete sublimis officii eui munia impleverit, luculenter apparet ex florenti tuno temporis Hierosolymitanæ ecclesiæ statu, quem sanctus Basilius loca sancta veneraturus, ibi aliquamdiu commoratus, describit.

Venerandi hujus Præsulis sanctitatem cælestibus signis a Deo fuisse illustratam, memorise traditum accepimus. Inter hæc recensetur præclara Crucis, solis radiis fulgentioris, apparitio, quæ episcopatus ejus initia decora vit. Hujus modi prodigii ethnici et christiani testes oculares fuerunt cum ipso Cyrillo, qui gratiis primum in Ecclesia Deo redditis, illud per epistolarn Constantio imperatori narravit. Nec minus admiratione dignum quod Judæis templum a Tito eversum restaurare ex impio imperatoria Juliani jussu conantibus, evenit. Vehement! enim terræmotu oborto, et ingentibus flammarum globis e terra erumpentibus, omnia opera ignis consumpsit, ita ut Judæi et Julianus deterriti, ab incepto destiterint; prout scilicet indubitanter futurum Cyrillus prædixerat. Qui demum paulo ante obitum concilio æcumenico Constantinopolitano interfuit, in quo Macedona hæresis, et iterum Ariana condemnata est. Ac Jerusalem inde reversus, fere septuagenarius, trigesimo quinto sui episcopatus anno, sancto fine quievit. Ejus officium et missam Leo deoimue tertiufl Pontifex Maximus ab universa Eccleeia celebran mandavit.
Cyril of Jerusalem was given to the study of the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and made such progress that he became an eminent champion of the orthodox faith. He embraced the monastic institute and bound himself to perpetual chastity and austerity of life. He was ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and undertook the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing the catechumens, in which he won the praise of all. He was the author of those truly wonderful Catechetical Instructions, which embrace clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, and contain an excellent defence of each of the dogmas of religion against the enemies of the faith. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refutes not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, as it were, those which were to arise later. Thus he maintains the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the adorable sacrament of the Altar. On the death of St. Maximus, the bishops of the province chose Cyril in his place.

As Bishop he endured, like blessed Athanasius, his contemporary, many wrongs and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and thus assailed him with calumnies, deposed him in a pseudo-council and drove him from his see. To escape their rage, he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia and, as long as Constantius lived, he bore the hardships of exile. On the death of Constantius and the accession of Julian the Apostate, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he set himself with burning zeal to deliver his flock from false doctrine and from sin. He was driven into exile a second time, under the Emperor Valens, but when peace was restored to the Church by Theodosius the Great, and the cruelty and insolence of the Arians were restrained, he was received with honour by the Emperor, as a valiant soldier of Christ, and restored to his see. With what earnestness and holiness he fulfilled the duties of his exalted office was proved by the flourishing state of the Church at Jerusalem, as described by St. Basil, who spent some time there on a pilgrimage to the holy places.

Tradition states that God rendered the holiness of this venerable Patriarch illustrious by signs from heaven, among which is numbered the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen at the beginning of his Patriarchate. Not only Cyril himself, but pagans and Christians alike were witnesses of this marvel, which Cyril, after having given thanks to God in church, announced by letter to Constantius. Å thing no less wonderful cama to pass when the Jews were commanded by the impious Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed by Titus. An earthquake arose and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were struck with terror and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. A little while before his death, he was present at the (Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, where the heresies of Macedonius and Arius were condemned. After his return to Jerusalem, he died a holy death in the sixtyninth year of his age and thirty-fifth of his episcopate. Pope Leo XIIIordered that his office and mass should be said throughout the Universal Church.

Thou wert a true child of the light, O Cyril. Thou didst give thy heart to Holy Wisdom, while yet a child, and she set thee up as a lighthouse at the entrance of the harbour to be the guide of unfortunate souls tossing on the sea of error. The Church confided to thee the mission of preparing for baptism those happy multitudes whom her recent victory had won for her from all ranks of society, and this mission was to be accomplished in a century rich in holy doctors and in the region consecrated by the mysteries of our redemption. Thou wast nourished by Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Mother of all mankind, and thy words flowed pure and abundant as water from a spring. History tells us that the many duties of thy holy ministry would not permit thee to devote thyself exclusively to the Catechumens, and thus thou wert led to improvise those admirable instructions wherein the science of salvation is set forth with such clearness. The soundness of thy doctrine and the completeness of thy exposition have never been surpassed. In thy eyes, O holy Pontiff, this science of salvation was the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, contained in the creed of Holy Church. Preparation for baptism, for life, for the love of God, was the acquisition of this knowledge, so deep, so far-reaching and so necessary. It was to be acquired, not by the impression of a vain sentimentality, but by the reception of the word of God in the right spirit, and by constant meditation, so that the soul comes to be firmly established in the fullness of truth, in moral rectitude, and in hatred of evil.

Thou wast sure of thy hearers and didst not fear to unveil before their eyes the arguments and abominable devices of their secret enemies. There are times and circumstances, only to be judged by the shepherds of the flock, when it is necessary to disregard the revulsion of feeling caused by such revelations in order to denounce the danger and warn the sheep against intellectual or moral scandals. Thus, O Cyril, thy invectives pursued Manicheism to its most secret haunts. Thou didst see in this heresy the principal agent of that mystery of iniquity which pursues its path of darkness and destruction throughout the ages, until it shall bring the world to decay. In these times the Manichee triumphs openly. The societies founded by him have gained power. The secret of the Lodges still hides from the uninitiated the sacrilegious symbols and dogmas brought once from Persia, but the prince of this world has cleverly united all social forces in the hands of this ally. The first use he makes of his power is to attack the Church out of hatred of Christ. He assails her fruitfulness by denying her the right to teach which she has received from her divine Head. The children, whom she has brought forth and who are hers in virtue of their baptism, are snatched from her by main force, and she is forbidden to preside over their education. She calls thee to her aid, O Cyril, in these unhappy times; do not disappoint her expectations. Thou didst understand so well the claims of the sacrament of regeneration. Protect the baptism of so many innocent souls in whom men seek to stifle the divine germ. Strengthen and rekindle the faith of Christian parents and teach them that if it is their duty to defend their children from death at the risk of their own bodies, they must remember that the souls of these little ones are still more precious. It has greatly consoled us to see how many have understood this and, faithful to the dictates of their conscience, have suffered violence rather than yield to the regulations of a pagan state. Bless them, O Cyril, and increase their number. Bless also, strengthen and multiply those faithful souls who devote themselves to the instruction of poor children whose spiritual interests are betrayed by the secular power. There is no mission to-day more urgent than that of catechists, and none, surely, dearer to thy heart.

Holy Church has just related to us the apparition of the holy Cross, which marked the beginning of thy episcopate, and similar marvels have been witnessed in our own times. But the apparition in thy day announced a triumph—the triumph thou didst foresee when St. Helena discovered the tree of our redemption, the triumph which, at the time of thy death, had been confirmed by the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Jewish Temple. Can it be that our times are to witness only defeat and ruin? We have confidence in thy aid, O holy Pontiff. We remember that the triumph which thou didst witness was brought by the sufferings of the whole Church, in which thou thyself didst share by thrice-repeated deposition and twenty years of exile. The Cross, whose great anniversary is now approaching, is not conquered, but triumphs in the sufferings of the faithful and their patient endurance. It will appear once more, as a sign of eternal victory, over the ruins of the world on the Day of Judgment.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

To-dayJoseph, the spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of the Son of God, comes to cheer us by his dear presence. In a few days hence, the august mystery of the Incarnation will demand our fervent adoration: who could better prepare us for the grand feast, than he that was both the confidant and thd faithful guardian of the divine secret?

The Son of God, when about to descend upon this earth to assume our human nature, would have a Mother; this Mother could not be other than the purest of Virgins, and her divine maternity was not to impair her incomparable virginity. Until such time as the Son of Mary were recognized as the Son of God, His Mother’s honour had need of a protector: some man, therefore, was to be called to the high dignity of being Mary’s spouse. This privileged mortal was Joseph, the most chaste of men.

Heaven designated him as being the only one worthy of such a treasure: the rod he held in his hand in the temple suddenly produced a flower, as though it were a literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaias: ‘There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.’[1] The rich pretenders to an alliance with Mary were set aside; and Joseph was espoused to the Virgin of the house of David, by a union which surpassed in love and purity everything the angels themselves had ever witnessed.

But he was not only chosen to the glory of having to protect the Mother of the Incarnate Word; he was also called to exercise an adopted paternity over the very Son of God. So long as the mysterious cloud was over the Saint of saints, men called Jesus the Son of Joseph and the carpenter's Son. When our blessed Lady found the Child Jesus in the temple, in the midst of the doctors, she thus addressed Him: ‘Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing’;[2] and the holy evangelist adds that Jesus was subject to them, that is, that He was subject to Joseph as He was to Mary.

Who can imagine or worthily describe the sentiments which filled the heart of this man, whom the Gospel describes to us in one word, when it calls him the just man?[3] Let us try to picture him to ourselves amidst the principal events of his life: his being chosen as the spouse of Mary, the most holy and perfect of God’s creatures; the angel’s appearing to him, and making him the one single human confidant of the mystery of the Incarnation, by telling him that his Virgin bride bore within her the fruit of the world’s salvation: the joys of Bethlehem, when he assisted at the birth of the divine Babe, honoured the Virgin Mother, and heard the angels singing; his seeing first the humble and simple shepherds, and then the rich eastern magi, coming to the stable to adore the new-born Child; the sudden fears which came to him, when he was told to arise, and, midnight as it was, to flee into Egypt with the Child and the Mother; the hardships of that exile, the poverty and the privations which were endured by the hidden God, whose foster-father he was, and by the Virgin, whose sublime dignity was now so evident to him; the return to Nazareth, and the humble and laborious life led in that village, where he so often witnessed the world's Creator sharing in the work of a carpenter; the happiness of such a life, in that cottage where his companions were the Queen of the angels and the eternal Son of God, both of whom honoured, and tenderly loved him as the head of the family—yes, Joseph was beloved and honoured by the uncreated Word, the Wisdom of the Father, and by the Virgin, the masterpiece of God’s power and holiness.

We ask, what mortal can justly appreciate the glories of St. Joseph? To do so, he would have to understand the whole of that mystery, of which God made him the necessary instrument. What wonder, then, if this foster-father of the Son of God was prefigured in the old Testament, and that by one of the most glorious of the patriarchs? Let us listen to St. Bernard, who thus compares the two Josephs: ‘The first was sold by his brethren, out of envy, and was led into Egypt, thus prefiguring our Saviour’s being sold; the second Joseph, that he might avoid Herod’s envy, led Jesus into Egypt. The first was faithful to his master, and treated his wife with honour; the second, too, was the most chaste guardian of his bride, the Virgin Mother of his Lord. To the first was given the understanding and interpretation of dreams; to the second, the knowledge of, and participation in, the heavenly mysteries. The first laid up stores of corn, not for himself, but for all the people; the second received the living Bread that came down from heaven, and kept It both for himself and for the whole world.’[4]

Such a life could not close save by a death that was worthy of so great a saint. The time came for Jesus to quit the obscurity of Nazareth, and show Himself to the world. His own works were henceforth to bear testimony to His divine origin; the ministry of Joseph, therefore, was no longer needed. It was time for him to leave this world, and await, in Abraham’s bosom, the arrival of that day, when heaven’s gates were to be opened to the just. As Joseph lay on his bed of death, there was watching by his side He that is the master of life, and that had often called this His humble creature, father. His last breath was received by the glorious VirginMother, whom he had, by a just right, called his bride. It was thus, with Jesus and Mary by his side, caring for and caressing him, that Joseph sweetly slept in peace. The spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of Jesus, now reigns in heaven with a glory which, though inferior to that of Mary, is marked with certain prerogatives which no other inhabitant of heaven can have.

From heaven, he exercises a powerful protection over those that invoke him. In a few weeks from this time, the Church will show us the whole magnificence of this protection; a solemn feast will be kept in his honour in the third week after Easter. To-day the Liturgy sets before us his glories and privileges. Let us unite with the faithful throughout the world, and ofier to the spouse of Mary the hymns which are this day sung in his praise.

Hymn I

Te, Joseph, celebrent agmina cœlitum,
Te cuncti resonent Christiadum chori,
Qui clams meritis junctus es inclytæ
Casto fœdere Virgini.

Almo cum tumidam germine conjugem
Admirans, dubio tangeris anxius,
Afflatu superi Flaminis angelus
Conceptum puerum docet.

Tu natum Dominum stringis; ad exterae
Ægypti profugum tu sequeris plagas:
Amissum Solymis quæris, et invenis,
Miscene gaudia fletibus.

Post mortem reliquos mors pia consecrat,
Palmamque emeritos gloria suscipit;
Tu vivens, Superis par, frueris Deo,
Mira sorte beatior.

Nobis summa Trias, parce precantibus,
Da Joseph meritis sidera scandere:
Ut tandem liceat nos tibi perpetim
Gratum promere canticum.

Amen.
May the heavenly host praise thee, O Joseph!
May the choirs of Christendom resound with thy name,
for great are thy merits,
who wast united by a chaste alliance to the holy Virgin.

Seeing that thy bride was soon to be a Mother,
a cruel doubt afflicts thy heart; but an angel visits thee,
telling thee that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost
the Child she bore in her womb.

When Jesus was born, thou didst take him in thine arms,
and go with the little fugitive to Egypt’s distant land.
When he was lost in Jerusalem, thou didst seek after him;
and having found him, thy tears were mingled with joy.

Other saints receive their beatitude after death, when a holy death
has crowned their life; they receive their glory, when they have won the palm:
but thou, by a strange, happy lot, hadst, even during life,
what the blessed have in heaven—thou hadst the sweet society of thy God.

O sovereign Trinity! have mercy on us thy suppliants,
and may the intercession of Joseph aid us to reach heaven:
that there we may sing to thee
our eternal hymn of grateful love.

Amen.

Hymn II

Cœlitum Joseph decus, atque nostræ
Certa spes vitæ, columenque mundi,
Quas tibi læti canimus, benignus
Suscipe laudes.

Te Sator rerum statuit pudicæ
Virginia sponsum, voluitque Ver bi
Te patrem dici, dedit et ministrum
Esse salutis.

Tu Redemptorem stabulo jacentem,
Quem chorus vatum cecinit futurum,
Aspicis gaudens, humilisque natum
Numen adoras.

Rex, Deus, regum, Dominator orbis,
Cujus ad nutum tremit inferorum
Turba, cui pronus famulatur æther,
Se tibi subdit.

Laus sit excelsæ Triadi perennis,
Quæ tibi præbens superos honores,
Det tuis nobis meritis beatæ
Gaudia vitae.

Amen.
O Joseph, thou that art the delight of the blessed,
the sure hope of our life, and the pillar of the world!
Receive, in thy kind love,
the praises we now joyfully sing to thee.

The Creator appointed thee
the spouse of the holy Virgin;
willed thee to be called the father of the Word;
and gave thee to be an instrument of our salvation.

Thou didst fix thy glad gaze
on the Redeemer lying in the stable,
him that the prophets had foretold was to come;
and seeing him, thou didst humbly adore the new-born King.

He that is King, the God of kings, the Lord of the earth,
at whose bidding hell trembles
and before whom heaven prostrates ready to do his will,
yea, even he makes himself subject to thee.

Praise eternal be to the most high Trinity!
May he that has conferred such high honours upon thee,
grant us, through the merits of thine intercession,
to come to the joys of heavenly life.

Amen.

Hymn III

Iste quem læti colimus fideles,
Cujus excelsos canimus triumphos,
Hac die, Joseph meruit perennis
Gaudia vitæ.

O nimis felix, nimis o beatus,
Cujus extremam vigiles ad horam
Christus et Virgo simul adstiterunt,
Ore sereno.

Hine Stygis victor, laqueo solutus
Camis, ad sedes placido sopore
Migrat æternas, rutilisque cingit
Tempora sertis.

Ergo regnantem flagitemus omnes,
Adsit ufc nobis, veniamque nostris
Obtinene culpis, tribuat supernæ
Munera pacis.

Sint tibi plausus, tibi sint honores,
Trine qui regnas, Deus; et coronas
Aureas servo tribuis fideli,
Omne per ævum.

Amen.
It is on this day that Joseph,
whose praises we, the faithful,
now gladly tell, and whose high triumph we sing,
deserved to receive the joys of eternal life.

Thrice happy,
thrice blessed saint,
at whose last hour Jesus and Mary
stood watching in tender love.

Death was vanquished, the snare of the flesh was broken,
and Joseph, sweetly sleeping,
passed to the eternal home,
and received upon his brott the glittering crown.

Now that he reigns in heaven,
let us beseech him to help us,
obtain us the pardon of our sins,
and procure us the gift of heavenly peace.

Glory and honour be to thee,
O God, O blessed Trinity,
who art our sovereign Lord!
who givest to thy faithful servant an everlasting crown of gold.

Amen.

The Greek liturgy, which honours St. Joseph on the Sunday following the feast of Christmas, thus hymns his praise in the Menæa:

Hymn
(Dominica post Natale Domini)

Prophetarum prædicationes evidenter adimpletas vidit Joseph sponsus, qui ad singularem designat us desponsationem, revelationes accepit ab angelis clamantibus: Gloria Domino, quia pacem terræ largitus est.

Annuntia, Joseph, Davidi Dei parenti prodigia: Virginem vidisti puerum in sinu habentem; una cum magis adorasti, cum pastoribus gloriam Deo dedisti, ab angelo præmonitus. Deprecare Christum Deum, ut animæ nostræ salventur.

Quem supernæ Deum incircumscriptum tremunt potestates, tu, Joseph, natum ex Virgine in manibus tuis accipis consecratus venerando contactu; ideo te honorificamus.

Spiritum divinis mandatis obedientem habens, et purus omnino factua, solam in mulieribus puram et immaculatam tu, beate Joseph, in sponsam acoepieti, Virginem castam custodiens, ut Creatoris tabernaculum effici mereretur.

Soli Gabrieli in cœlis, et tibi eoli, celeberrime, post solam Virginem intactam, mysterium creditum est, maximum et venerandum, beate Joseph, mysterium quod peraiciosum principem tenebrarum dejiceret.

Ut divinam nubem, solam castam, in sinu suo Solem absconditum habentem, in Ægyptum ex civitate David perduxisti, ut ejusdem idololatriæ fugares tenebras, Joseph, incomprehensibilis mysterii minister.

Astitisti, sapiens Joseph, Deo in came puerascenti ministrans, sicut angelus; et immediate ab illo illustratus es radios ejus spirituales accipiens, beate; et illuminatissimus corde et anima vis us fuisti.

Qui cœlum, terram et mare verbo fabricatus est vocatus fuit filius fabri, tui, Joseph admiratione digne. Vocatus ts pater illius qui sine principio est, qui te glorificavit ut mysteriorum eupra rationem ministrum.

O quam pretiosa fuit mors tua in conspectu Domini, beate Joseph; tu enim Domino ab infantia sanctificatus, sacer fuisti custos benedictæ Virginis, et cum ea cecinisti: Omnis creatura benedicat Dominum, et superexaltet eum in sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
Joseph, the spouse, saw with his own eyes the fulfilment of what the prophets had foretold. He was destined fot an espousal such as no other mortal had, and he received the revelation from angels, saying: Glory be to the Lord, for he hath given peace to the earth!

Tell, O Joseph, to David, the ancestor of God our Saviour, the prodigies thou hast seen. Thou hast seen the Virgin holding the Infant in her arms; thou didst adore with the magi; thou didst unite with the shepherds in giving glory to God, according to the word of the angel. Do thou beseech Christ our Lord, that he save us.

The infinite God, before whom the powers of heaven tremble, thou, O Joseph, didst receive into thy arms, when he was born of the Virgin. Thou wast consecrated by the holy contact; therefore do we honour thee.

Thy spirit was obedient to the divine commands, and thy purity was without reproach; therefore, O blessed Joseph, didst thou receive as thy bride her that was pure and immaculate among women. Thou wast the guardian of the chaste Virgin, when she became the worthy tabernacle of the Creator.

To Gabriel alone in heaven, and to thee alone, O blessed Joseph, most worthy of praise, was entrusted, after the spotless Virgin, that great and venerable mystery, which brought the downfall of the cruel prince of darkness.

Thou, O Joseph, the minister of the incomprehensible mystery, in order that the darkness of idolatry might be dispelled, didst lead from the city of David into Egypt the pure Mother, who like a mysterious cloud, held the Sun hidden in her bosom.

O prudent Joseph! thou, angel-like, didst minister to the Incarnate God when he had reached the age of boyhood. His spiritual rays came direct upon thee, O blessed one! and enlightened thee. Thy heart and soul were bathed in light.

He that, by his only word, made heaven and earth and sea, was called the carpenter’s Son, yes, thine, O Joseph, that deservest all our admiration. Thou wast called the father of him that had no beginning, and receivedst from him the glory of being minister of unfathomable mysteries.

Oh! how precious, in the sight of the Lord, was thy death, O blessed Joseph! for thou wast consecrated to him from thine infancy, and wast the holy guardian of the blessed Virgin. Thou didst thus sing together with her: Let every creature bless the Lord, and praise him above all for endless ages.

Amen.

We praise and glorify thee, O happy saint! We hail thee as the spouse of the Queen of heaven, and foster-father of our Redeemer. These titles, which would seem too grand for any human being to enjoy, are thine; and they are but the expression of the dignities conferred on thee by God. The Church of heaven admires the sublime favours thou hast received; the Church on earth joyfully celebrates thy glories, and blesses thee for the favours thou art so unceasingly bestowing upon her.

Though born of the kingly race of David, thou wast the humblest of men; thy spirit led thee to seek obscurity, and a hidden life was thine ambition: but God chose thee to be an instrument in the sublimest of all His works. A noble Virgin of the same family of David, the object of heaven’s admiration, and the glory and hope of the world, is to be thy bride. The Holy Ghost is to dwell within her as in a most pure tabernacle; it is to thee, the just and chaste, that He entrusts her as an inestimable treasure. Espouse, then, to thyself her whose beauty the very King of heaven so greatly desires.[5]

The Son of God comes down to this earth, that He may live the life of man; He comes that He may sanctify the ties and affections of kindred. He calls thee father; He obeys thy orders. What strange emotions must have filled thy heart, O Joseph! when, knowing the prerogatives of thy bride and the divinity of thy adopted Son, thou hadst to be the head of this family, which united heaven and earth into one! What respectful and tender love for Mary, thy blessed bride! What gratitude and profound worship of Jesus, who obeyed thee as thy Child! Oh mysteries of Nazareth! a God dwells among men, and permits Himself to be called the Son of Joseph!

O sublime minister of the greatest of blessings, intercede for us with God made Man. Ask Him to bestow humility upon us, that holy virtue which raised thee to such exalted dignity, and which must be the basis of our conversion. It is pride that led us into sin, and made us prefer our own will to that of God: yet will He pardon us if we offer Him the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart.[6] Get us this virtue, without which there can be no true penance. Pray also for us, O Joseph, that we may be chaste. Without purity of mind and body we cannot come nigh the God of all sanctity, who suffers nothing defiled to approach Him. He wills to make our bodies, by His grace, the temples of His holy Spirit: do thou, great saint, help us to maintain ourselves in so exalted a dignity, or to recover it if we have lost it.

And lastly, O faithful spouse of Mary! recommend us to our Mother. If she cast a look of pity upon us during these days of reconciliation, we shall be saved: for she is the Queen of mercy, and Jesus, her Son, will pardon us and change our hearts, if she intercede for us, O Joseph! Remind her of Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, in all of which she received from thee such marks of thy devotedness. Tell her that we, also, love and honour thee; and Mary will reward us for our devotion to him who was given her by heaven as her protector and support.

 

[1] Is. xi. 1.
[2] St. Luke ii. 48.
[3] St. Matt. i. 19.
[4] Homily II. on the Missus est.
[5] Ps. xiiv. 12.
[6] Ps. l. 19.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Forty days after the white dove of Cassino had mounted to heaven, Benedict, her glorious brother, ascended by a bright path to the blissful abode, where they were to be united for ever. Both of them reached the heavenly country during that portion of the year which corresponds with the holy season of Lent. It frequently happens, however, that St. Scholastica’s feast is kept before Lent has begun; whereas St. Benedict’s day, the twenty-first of March, always comes during the season of penance. God, who is the sovereign Master of time, willed that the faithful, whilst practising their exercises of penance, should always have before their eyes a saint whose example and intercession would inspire them with courage.

With what profound veneration ought we to celebrate the festival of this wonderful saint, who, as St. Gregory says, was filled with the spirit of all the just! If we consider his virtues, we find nothing superior in the annals of perfection presented to our admiration by the Church.

Love of God and man, humility, the gift of prayer, dominion over the passions—form him into a masterpiece of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Miracles seem to constitute his life: he cures the sick, commands the elements, casts out devils, and raises the dead to life. The spirit of prophecy unfolds futurity to him; and the most intimate thoughts of men are not too distant for the eye of his mind to scan. These superhuman qualifications are heightened by a sweet majesty, a serene gravity, and a tender charity, which shine in every page of his wonderful life; and it is one of his holiest children who wrote it, St. Gregory the Great. It is this holy Pope and Doctor, who had the honour of telling posterity all the wonders which God vouchsafed to work in His servant Benedict.

Posterity had a right to know the life and virtues of a man, whose salutary influence upon the Church and society has been so observable during the ages of the Christian era. To describe the influence exercised by the spirit of St. Benedict, we should have to transcribe the annals of all the nations of the western Church, from the seventh century down to our own times. Benedict is the father of Europe. By his Benedictines, numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the sea-shore, he rescued the last remnants of Roman vigour from the total annihilation threatened by the invasion of barbarians; he presided over the establishment of the public and private laws of those nations, which grew out of the ruins of the Roman empire; he carried the Gospel and civilization into England, Germany, and the northern countries, including Slavonia; he taught agriculture; he put an end to slavery; and to conclude, he Baved the precious deposit of the arts and sciences from the tempest which would have swept them from the world, and would have left mankind a prey to a gloomy and fatal ignorance.

And Benedict did all this by that little book which we call his Rule. This admirable code of Christian perfection and prudence disciplined the countless legions of religious, by whom the holy patriarch achieved all these prodigies. During the ages which preceded the promulgation of this rule, so wonderful m its simple eloquence, the monastic life in the western Church had produced some few saintly men; but there was nothing to justify the hope that this kind of life would become, even more than it had been in the east, the principal means of the Christian regeneration and civilization of so many nations. Once this rule was written, all others gradually give place to it, as the stars are eclipsed when the sun has risen. The west was overspread with monasteries; and from these monasteries flowed upon Europe all those blessings, which have made it the privileged quarter of the globe.

An incredible number of saints, both men and women, who look up to Benedict as their father, purify and sanctify the world, which had not yet emerged from the state of semi-barbarism. A long series of Popes who had once been novices in the Benedictine cloister, preside over the destinies of this new world, and form for it a new legislation, which, being based exclusively on the moral law, is to avert the threatening prevalence of brutal despotism. Bishops innumerable, trained in the same school of Benedict, consolidate this moral legislation in the provinces and cities over which they are appointed. The apostles of twenty barbarous nations confront their fierce and savage tribes, and, with the Gospel in one hand and the rule of their holy father in the other, lead them into the fold of Christ. For many centuries, the learned men, the doctors of the Church, and the instructors of youth, belong, almost exclusively, to the Order of the great patriarch, who, by the labours of his children, pours forth on the people the purest beauty of light and truth. This choir of heroes in every virtue, of Popes, of bishops, of apostles, of holy doctors, proclaiming themselves as his disciples, and joining with the universal Church in glorifying that God, whose holiness and power shine forth so brightly in the life and actions of Benedict—what a corona, what an aureola of glory for one saint to have!

Let us now read the sketch of his life, as given us in the liturgy:

Benedictus, Nursiæ nobili genere ortus, Romæ liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, ut totum se Jesu Christo daret, ad eum locum qui Sublacus dicitur, in altissimam speluncam penetravit: in qua sic per triennium delituit, ut unus id sciret Romanus mo· nachus, quo ad vitae necessitatem ministro utebatur. Dum igitur ei quadam die ardentes ad libidinem faces a diabolo subjicerentur, se in vepribus tamdiu volutavit, dum lacerato corpore, voluptatis sensus dolore opprimeretur. Sed jam erumpente ex illis latebris fama ejus sanctitatis, quidam monachi se illi instituendos tradiderunt: quorum vivendi licentia cum ejus objurgationes ferre non posset, venenum in potione ei dare constituunt. Verum poculum ei præbentibue, crucis signo vas confregit, ac relicto monasterio in solitudinem se recepit.

Sed cum multi ad eum quotidie discipuli convenirent, duodecim monasteria ædificavit, eaque sanctissimis legibus communivit. Postea Cassinum migravit, ubi simulacrum Apollinis, qui adhuo ibi colebatur, comminuit, aram evertit, et lucos succendit: ibique Sancti Martini sacellum et Sancti Joannis ædiculam exstruxit: oppidanos autem et incolas Christiania præceptis imbuit. Quare augebatur in dies magis divina gratia Benedictus, ut etiam prophetico spiritu ventura prædiceret. Quod ubi accepit Totila Gothorum rex, exploraturus an res ita esset, spatharium suum regio ornatu et comitatu præmittit, qui se regem simularet. Quern ut ille vidit: Depone, inquit, fill, depone quod geris; nam tuum non est. Totilæ vero prædixit adventum ej us in Urbem, maris transmissionem, et post novem annos mortem.

Qui aliquot mensibus antequam e vita migraret, præmonuit discipulos quo die esset moriturus: ac sepulchrum, in quo suum corpus condi vellet, sex diebus antequam eo inferretur, aperiri jussit: sextoque die deferri voluit in ecclesiam: ubi sumpta Eucharistia, sublatis in ccelum oculis orans, inter manus discipulorum efflavit animam: quam duo monachi euntem in ccelum viderunt, pallio omatam pretiosissimo, circum eam fulgentibus lampadibus, et clarissima et gravissima specie virum stantern supra caput ipsius dicentem audierunt: Hæc est via, qua dilectus Domini Benedictus in cœlum ascendit.
Benedict was born of a noble family at Nursia. He was sent to Rome, that he might receive a liberal education; but not long after, he withdrew to a place called Subiaeo, and there hid himself in a very deep cave, that he might give himself entirely to Jesus Christ. He passed three years in that retirement, unknown to all save a monk, by name Romanus, who supplied him with the necessaries of life. The devil having one day excited him to a violent temptation of impurity, he rolled himself amidst prickly brambles, and extinguished within himself the desire of carnal pleasure by the pain he thus endured. The fame of his sanctity, however, became known beyond the limits of his hiding-place, and certain monks put themselves under his guidance. He sharply rebuked them for their wicked lives; which rebuke so irritated them, that they resolved to put poison in his drink. When he made the sign of the cross over the cup as they proffered it to him, it broke, and he, leaving that monastery, returned to his solitude.

But whereas many daily came to him, beseeching him to take them as his disciples, he built twelve monasteries, and drew up the most admirable rules for their government. He afterwards went to Monte Cassino, where he destroyed an image of Apollo, which was still adored in those parts; and having pulled down the altar and burnt the groves, he built a chapel in that same place, in honour of St. Martin, and another in honour of St. John. He instructed the inhabitants in the Christian religion. Day by day did Benedict advance in the grace of God, and he also foretold, in a spirit of prophecy, what was to take place. Totila, the king of the Goths, having heard of this, and being anxious to know if it .were the truth, went to visit him; but first sent his sword-bearer, who was to pretend that he was the king, and who, for this end, was dressed in royal robes and accompanied by attendants. As soon as Benedict saw him, he said: ‘Put off, my spn, put off this dress, for it is not thine.’ But he foretold to Totila, that he would reach Rome, cross the sea, and die at the end of nine years.

Several months before he departed from this life, he foretold to his disciples the day on which he should die. Six days previous to his death, he ordered them to open the sepulchre wherein he wished to be buried. On the sixth day, he desired to bo carried to the church, and there having received the Eucharist, with his eyes raised in prayer towards heaven, and held up by his disciples, he breathed forth his soul. Two monks saw it ascending to heaven, adorned with a most precious robe, and surrounded by shining lights. They also saw a most beautiful and venerable man, who stood above the saint’s head, and they heard him thus speak: ‘This is the way whereby Benedict, the beloved of the Lord, ascended to heaven.’

The Benedictine Order celebrates the praise of its illustrious patriarch in these three hymns:

Hymn I

Laudibus cives resonent canoris,
Templa solemnes modulentur hymnos;
Hac die summi Benedicts arcem
Scandit Olympi.

Ille florentes peragebat annos,
Cum puer dulcis patriae penates
Liquit, et solus latuit silenti
Conditus antro.

Inter urticas rigidosque sentes
Vicit altricem scelerum juventam:
lade conscripsit documenta vitæ
Pulchra beatæ.

Æream turpis Clarii figuram,
Et nemus stravit Veneri dicatum,
Atque Baptistæ posuit sacrato
Monte sacellum.

Jamque felici residens Olympo,
Inter ardentes Seraphim catervas,
Spectat, et dulci reficit clientum
Corda liquore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Let the faithful give forth their songs of praise;
let our temples echo with solemn hymns:
for on this day Benedict ascended
to the highest heavens.

When a boy, and in the flower of youth,
he left his sweet home,
and hid himself from the sight of all
in a lonely cave.

He conquered his passions of youth
by rolling amidst nettles and prickly thorns.
After this, he wrote a beautiful rule
of a holy life.

He destroyed a brazen statue of the vile Apollo,
and a grove that was sacred to Venus:
and on the holy mount
he built an oratory in honour of the Baptist.

Now he dwells in the happy land above,
amidst the burning Seraphim:
he looks down on those that invoke him,
and refreshes their hearts with a nectar of sweetness.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn II

Quidquid antiqui cecinere vates,
Quidquid æternæ monimenta legis,
Continet nobis celebranda summi
Vita monarchæ.

Extulit Mosen pietas benignum,
Inclytum proles Abraham decorat,
Isaac sponsae decus, et severi
Jussa parentis.

Ipse virtutum cumulis onustus,
Celsior nostri patriarcha coetus
Isaac, Mosen, Abraham sub uno
Pectore clausit.

Ipse, quos mundi rapuit procellis,
Hic pius flatu statuat secundo,
Pax ubi nullo, requiesque gliscit
Mista pavore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
All that the ancient prophets preached,
and all that the books of the divine Law tell us of holiness,
is contained in the life of the great patriarch
which we are now extolling.

Moses was celebrated for his meekness;
Abraham for his being father of all believers;
Isaac for the beauty of his bride, and his obedience
to the trying commands of his father.

The sublime patriarch of our family
was richly laden with every virtue;
and in his single person represented
Isaac, Moses, and Abraham.

May he have a loving care of those
whom he has delivered from this stormy world,
and lead them with prosperous gales to the port
where there is no fear that can ruffle peace and repose.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God, be glory
for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn III

Inter æternas Superum coronas,
Quas sacro partas retinent agone,
Emicas celsis meritis coruscus,
O Benedicte.

Sancta te compsit puerum seneotus,
Nil sibi de te rapuit voluptas,
Aruit mundi tibi flos ad alta
Mente levato.

Hinc fuga lapsus, patriam, parentes
Deseris, fervens nemorum colonus,
Edomas carnem, subigisque Christo
Tortor acerbus.

Ne diu tutus latebras foveres,
Signa te produnt operum pioruin,
Spargitur felix celeri per orbem
Fama volatu.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi, compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni.
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Amidst the saints that glitter
with the crowns they have won in the holy contest,
thou, O Benedict, shinest resplendent
with thy sublime merits.

Thy boyhood was graced with the holy gravity of old age;
the pleasures of the world had no hold on thee,
and its flowers seemed but as withered weeds to a soul like thine,
that was fixed on heavenly things.

Therefore didst thou flee from the world, leaving thy country and thy parents,
and becamest a fervent solitary.
Thou didst tame the rebellion of the flesh, and by sharp mortification
thou didst bring it into subjection to Christ.

But thy fond hope of concealment was to be cut short:
thy holy miracles betrayed thee,
and the glorious fame of thy sanctity
swiftly spread through the world.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

The monastic missal contains the following sequence in honour of St. Benedict:

Sequence

Læta quies magni ducis,
Dona ferens novæ lucis,
Hodie recolitur.

Charis datur piæ menti,
Corde sonet in ardenti
Quidquid foris promitur.

Hunc per callem orientis
Admiremur ascenderitis
Patriarchæ speciem.

Amplum semen magnæ prolis
Ilium fecit instar solis,
Abrahæ persimilem.

Corvum cemis ministrantem;
Hine Eliam latitantem
Specu nosce parvulo.

Eliseus dignoscatur,
Cum securis revocatur
De torrentis alveo.

Illum Joseph candor morum,
Illum Jacob futurorum
Mens effecit conscia.

Ipse memor suae gentis,
Nos perducat in manentis
Semper Christi gaudia.

Amen.
We celebrate, this day,
the happy death of our great leader,
which brings us the blessings of new light.

On this day grace is given to the souls of his loving children.
Oh! may the fervent heart re-echo
what the voice sings forth!

Let us admire the beauty of our patriarch,
as he ascends to heaven
by the path of the east.

He shines as a sun in the world, he is most like to Abraham,
for he is the rich seed from which
a countless race hath sprung.

When thou seest him fed by the crows
thou thinkest of Elias,
that hid himself in the little cave.

He reminds us of Eliseus,
when he makes the head of the axe return
from the bed of the stream.

He is like Joseph by the purity of his life,
and like Jacob by the spirit
of prophecy.

May he be mindful of his children,
and lead us safe to the joys of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who abideth for ever.

Amen.

The Greek Church has not forgotten, in her liturgy, the praise of the great patriarch of the monks of the west. We take from the menæa some of the stanzas, in which she celebrates the name of Saint Benedict:

Hymn
(Die XXI Martii)

Mihi laudabilem memoriam tuam, o sancte, hymnis celebrare aggresso gratiam ac peccatorum omnium remissionem tribui, Benedicte, Sancto deprecare.

In eremo tuam a pueritia crucem tollens, Omnipotentem insecutus es, atque carne mortificata vitam, o beatissime, promeruisti.

Angusta semita calcata pedem in Paradisi latitudine fixisti, o prorsus beate, ac dæmonum calliditates et insidias elusisti.

Lacrymarum tuarum profluviis fructiferi ligni instar irrigatus, o Benedicte, divinos virtutum ac miraculorum fructus, Dei virtute, ubertim attulisti.

Per continentiæ certamina, o beate, carnis membris mortificatis, mortuos precibus exsuscitasti, ac debilibus expeditam gradiendi vim tradidisti, morbumque omnem curasti, cum fide in admiratione habitus, o pater.

Siccas, atque aridas animas vivifico sermone tuo, o beate, frugiferas reddidisti, miraculorum exhibitione, et pastor divinitus inspiratus, et speciossisimus monachorum decor effectus.

Misericordem Deum deprecatus, sapiens pater, olei thecam, quemadmodum Elias, illico replevisti, o beatissime, a videntibus cum fide in admiratione habitus.

Utpote mente purus, utpote extra te raptus, universam terram conspexisti, ceu ab unico radio Dei te honorantis illustratus, o beatissime Benedicte.

In Christo imperans fontis aquam, precibus bonorum datorem obsecrans, emanare fecieti, quæ miraculum deprædicans, o Benedicte, adhuc perseverat.

Spiritus splendore collustratus, pravorum etiam dæmonum tenebras dissipasti, o miraculorum patrator Benedicte, splendidissimum monachorum luminare.

Te, o beate, venenatis potionibus interimere insipienter volentes, quern divina universi Creatoris manus custodiebat, insipientes oonfusi sunt. Quos prævia tua per Spiritum scientia deprehendit.

Te monachorum turbæ a te convocatæ diu noctuque concelebrant, corpus tuum in medio positum servantes, quod largos miraculorum fluvios effundit, o pater sapiens, eorumque gressus perenni lumine collustrat.

Divinis mandatis obsecutus, o pater, super solares radios effulsisti, atque ad inocciduum translatus es, exorans propitiationem peccatorum concedi iis, qui te cum fide colunt, Celebris Benedicte.
O holy Benedict! pray to the holy God for me, who now begin to sing a hymn to thy praiseworthy name. Obtain for me that I may receive grace and the forgiveness of all my sins.

From thy childhood, O most blessed one! thou didst carry thy cross in the desert, walking in the footsteps of the Omnipotent. Thou didst merit life, by putting thy flesh to death.

Treading the narrow path, O truly blessed! thou didst take thy stand in the spaciousness of paradise, and didst elude the craft and snares of the devils.

Watered by the streams of thy tears, O Benedict! thou, like unto a fruitful tree, didst, by God’s power, bring forth in abundance the divine fruits of virtues and miracles.

O blessed one! by the struggle of continency thou didst mortify thy bodily members: thy prayers raised the dead to life, gave to the lame the power to walk, and cured every disease, for men were in admiration at thee and had faith in thee, O father!

Thy life-giving words, O blessed one! and the sight of thy miracles, gave fruitfulness to souls that before were parched and dry. Thou wast the divinely inspired shepherd, and the fairest glory of the monastic life.

O wise father! thou didst beseech the God of mercy, and like Elias, thou didst suddenly fill the vessel with oil, for men were in admiration at thee, and had faith in thee, O most blessed Benedict!

Because of thy clean-heartedness, and because thou wast out of thyself with rapture, thou didst behold the whole earth, for God honoured thee with a ray of his own light, O most blessed Benedict!

Thou didst command in the name of Christ, thou didst pray to the Giver of all good gifts, and a fountain of water sprang up at thy bidding: it still exists, O Benedict! the abiding witness of thy miracle.

Enlightened by the bright rays of the holy Spirit, thou didst dispel the darkness of the wicked devils, O Benedict, thou worker of miracles, thou fairest light of monasticism!

Those foolish men that madly plotted to destroy thy life by poison were confounded, for thou wast guarded, O blessed one! by the divine hand of the great
Creator. The knowledge thou hadet from the holy Spirit forewarned thee of their plot.

The choirs of monks, whom thou hast called, celebrate thy name day and night. They possess thy body, which is enshrined in their midst, and from which flow abundant streams of miracles, and an unfading light that illumines their path, O father full of wisdom!

By thine obedience to the divine precepts, O father 1 thou hast been made brighter than the sun, and hast beeii taken to the land where the light sets not. Pray for them that have confidence in thee and honour thee; pray that they may receive the forgiveness of their sins, O Benedict', thou whose name is known throughout the world.

O Benedict! thou vessel of election, thou palm of the wilderness, thou angel of earth, we offer thee the salutation of our love! What man was ever chosen to work on the earth more wonders than thou hast done? The Saviour has crowned thee as one of His principal co-operators in the work of the salvation and sanctification of men. Who could count the millions of souls who owe their eternal happiness to thee? Thy immortal rule has sanctified them in the cloister, and the zeal of thy Benedictines has been the means of their knowing and serving the great God who chose thee. Around thee, in the realms of glory, a countless number of the blessed acknowledge themselves indebted to thee, after God, for their eternal happiness; and upon the earth whole nations profess the true faith, because the Gospel was first preached to them by thy disciples.

O father of so many people! look down upon thine inheritance, and once more bless this ungrateful Europe, which owes everything to thee, yet has almost forgotten thy name! The light which thy children imparted to it has become dimmed, the warmth they imparted to the societies they founded and civilized by the cross has grown cold; thorns have covered a large portion of the land in which they sowed the seed of salvation. Come and protect thine own work; and, by thy prayers, keep it from perishing. Give firmness to what has been shaken. May a new Europe, a Catholic Europe, spring up in place of that which heresy and false doctrines have formed.

O patriarch of the servants of God! look down from heaven on the vineyard which thy hand hath planted, and see into what a state of desolation it has fallen. There was a time when thy name was honoured as that of a father in thirty thousand monasteries, from the shores of the Baltic to the borders of Syria, and from the green Erin to the steppes of Poland. Now, alas! few and feeble are the prayers that ascend to thee from the whole of that immense patrimony, which the faith and gratitude of the people had once consecrated to thee. The blight of heresy and the rapaciousness of avarice have robbed thee of these harvests of thy glory. The work of sacrilegious spoliation is now centuries old, and unceasingly has it been pursued; at one time having recourse to open violence, and at another pleading the urgency of political interests. Sainted father of our faith! thou hast been robbed of those thousands of sanctuaries, which, for long ages, were fountains of life and light to the people. The race of thy children has become almost extinct: watch over them that still remain, and are labouring to perpetuate thy rule. An ancient tradition tells us how our Lord revealed to thee that thy Order would last to the end of the world, and that thy children would console the Church of Rome and confirm the faith of many in the last great trials: deign to protect, by thy powerful intercession, the remnants of that family which still calls thee its father. Raise it up again; multiply it; sanctify it: let the spirit which thou hast deposited in thy holy rule flourish in its midst, and show, by thus blessing it, that thou art ever Benedict, the servant of God.

Support the holy Church, by thy powerful intercession, dear father! Assist the apostolic See, which has been so often occupied by disciples of thy school. Father of so many pastors of thy people! obtain for us bishops like those sainted ones whom thy rule has formed. Father of so many apostles! ask for the countries which have no faith preachers of the Gospel, who may convert the people by their blood and by their words, as did those who went out missioners from thy cloisters. Father of so many holy doctors! pray that the science of sacred literature may revive, to aid the Church and confound error. Father of so many sublime ascetics! rekindle the zeal of Christian perfection, which has grown so cold among the Christians of our days. Patriarch of the religious life in the western Church! bless all the religious Orders which the holy Spirit has given successively to the Church; they all look on thee with admiration, as their venerable predecessor: do thou pour out upon them the influence of thy fatherly love.

Lastly, O blessed favourite of God! pray for all the faithful of Christ during these days which are consecrated to thoughts and works of penance. It was in the midst of the holy austerities of Lent that thou didst mount to the abode of everlasting delight; ah! help us Christians, who are, at this very time, in the same campaign of penance. Rouse our courage by thy example and precepts. Teach us to keep down the flesh, and to subject it to the spirit, as thou didst. Obtain for us a little of thy blessed spirit, that, turning away from this vain world, we may think on the eternal years. Pray for us, that our hearts may never love, and our thoughts never dwell on, joys so fleeting as are those of time.

Catholic piety invokes thee as one of the patrons, as well as one of the models, of a dying Christian. It loves to tell men of the sublime spectacle thou didst present at thy death, when standing at the foot of the altar, leaning on the arms of thy disciples, and barely touching the earth with thy feet, thou didst give back, in submission and confidence, thy soul to its Creator. Obtain for us, dear saint! a death courageous and sweet as was thine. Drive from us, at our last hour, the cruel enemy who will seek to ensnare us. Visit us by thy presence, and leave us not till we have breathed forth our soul into the bosom of the God who has made thee so glorious a saint.

 

 

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