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May

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THOUGH the Church makes but a simple commemoration of this illustrious virgin in the office of this day, we will not fail to offer her the homage of our devout veneration. On the twelfth of this month we kept the feast of the noble virgin and martyr, Flavia Domitilla; it is probable that Aurelia Petronilla was also of the imperial family of the Flavii. The early traditions of the Church speak of her as being the spiritual daughter of the Prince of the Apostles; and though she did not, like Domitilla, lay down her life for the faith, yet she offered to Jesus that next richest gift, her virginity. The same venerable authorities tell us also that a Roman Patrician, by name Flaccus, having asked her in marriage, she requested three days for consideration, during which she confidently besought the aid of her divine Spouse. Flaccus presented himself on the third day, but found the palace in mourning, and her family busy in preparing the funeral obsequies of the young virgin, who had taken her flight to heaven, as a dove that is startled by an intruder’s approach.

In the eighth century, the holy Pope Paul I had the body of Petronilla taken from the cemetery of Domitilla, on the Ardeatine Way. Her relics were found in a marble sarcophagus, the lid of which was adorned, at each corner, with a dolphin. The Pope had them enshrined in a little church, which he built near the south side of the Vatican Basilica. This church was destroyed in the sixteenth century, in consequence of the alterations needed for the building of the new Basilica of St Peter; and the relics of St Petronilla were translated to one of its altars on the west side. It was but just that she should await her glorious resurrection under the shadow of the great Apostle who had initiated her in the faith, and prepared her for her eternal nuptials with the Lamb.

Thy triumph, O Petronilla, is one of our Easter joys. We lovingly venerate thy blessed memory. Thou didst disdain the pleasures and honours of the world, and thy virginal name is one of the first on the list of the Church of Rome, which was thy mother. Aid her now by thy prayers. Protect those who seek thine intercession, and teach us how to celebrate, with holy enthusiasm, the solemnities that are soon to gladden us.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

WHILE the angelic hosts acclaim the Incarnate Word as he takes possession of his eternal throne, a virgin at the head of the armies of earth re-echoes the praises of heaven. She was a child of the countryside, pious, gentle, and utterly ignorant, especially of the art of war, but Michael the soldier of God trained her with the aid of the Virgin Martyrs Catharine and Margaret, and suddenly, like a challenge thrown to modem naturalism in the broad daylight of history, she made her appearance, at the age of seventeen, as an incomparable warrior. Her victories, her personal influence and strategical genius equal those of the most famous captains of any times. But she surpasses them all in heroism, in her childlike simplicity, virginal purity, and faith in her Lord Jesus, the Son of St Mary, for whom she died—even greater at the stake at Rouen than in the days of her triumph. ‘De par le Roi du ciel’ (‘By order of the King of heaven’) was the motto on her banner. By order of the King of heaven, her sovereign liege, in whose royal service she is day by day, she calls upon cities to return, to their lawful obedience. By order of the King of heaven she intimates to the English that she has been sent to drive them out of France. ‘For,’ as she declared to the Dauphin's representative, 'the kingdom does not appertain to the Dauphin, but to my Lord. But it is the will of my Lord that the Dauphin should be made king and should hold the kingdom in commendam.’ ‘And who is thy Lord?’ asked Baudricourt. ‘My Lord is the King of heaven.’

To Charles she said: ‘I am called Joan the Maid, and through me does the King of heaven give you to understand that you shall be viceregent of the King of heaven who is king of France.' To the Duke of Burgundy, who was then in alliance with the enemy, she said: 'I tell you by order of the King of heaven, that all who make war on the said holy kingdom, make war on the King Jesus, the King of heaven and of all the earth.'

Joan came into the world on the feast of the glorious Epiphany, which manifested the divine Child to the world as the Lord of lords. It was during these days of his Ascension, when he takes his seat at the right hand of his Father, that she began her campaigns in 1428, achieved her greatest triumph in 1429, and closed her warlike career in 1430.

She died May 30, 1431, the eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi—a worthy consummation for a life like hers, a supreme consecration for her cause. As her soul rose from the flames to join Michael and his hosts and the Virgin Martyrs at the court of the immortal King of Ages, she left the Church on earth prostrate before Christ the King, the Ruler of the Nations, who, as it were, holds his royal assizes where he is glorified in the mystery of faith.

The following account of her life is given by the Church:

Joanna de Arc, in oppido Domremensi, olim diœcesis Tullensis, nunc Sancti Deodati, conspicuis fide et morum integritate parentibus, orta est anno Christi millesimo quadringentesimo duodecimo. Vix tredecim annos habebat, solummodo domestica negotia, opus rusticum, et prima rerum divinarum elementa edocta erat, quum se a Deo electam esse admonita est, ad Galliam ab hostibus liberandam, et ad pristinum regnum restituendum. Postquam per quinque annos, Michael Archangelus atque Catharina et Margarita, virgines sanctæ, quibus familiariter utebatur, certiorem eam fecerunt, quomodo rem jussam perageret, Deo parendum esse rata, a præfecto Valiis Colorum petiit, et, post nonnullas repulsas, obtinuit, ut viros sibi daret, qui se ad Carolum regem ducerent.

Supernis monitis obtemperans, superatis longi itineris difficultatibus ad Castrum Cainonense in agro Turonico pervenit, et Carolo regi facta fide, se a Deo missam esse, in urbem Aureliam profecta est. Paucis diebus, terribili impetu, triplicem cladem hostibus inflixit, castella expugnavit, suumque sustulit vexillum. Inde, post alia bellica facta, in quibus mirum in modum apparuit auxilium Dei, Rhemos Carolum duxit, ut regia consecratione inungeretur. Nec quiescendum esse censuit: sed quum a cælestibus nuntiis accepisset, se, Deo permittente, in hostium potestatem esse venturam, libenti animo, quæ fieri necesse esset, suscepit.

Capta Joanna in civitate Compendio, et hostibus pretio tradita, Rothomagum mox ducta, quum ibi in jus rapta esset quamplurimis criminationibus, excepta morum castitate, fuit obnoxia; sed omnia pro Jesu patienter toleravit. Acta per corruptissimos judices causa, innocens et mitis virgo damnata est pæna combustionis. Igitur sacra Eucharistia, quara tamdiu desideraverat, refecta, oculis ad crucem conversis, nomen Jesu sæpissime ingeminans, ad cælum evolavit die trigesima Maii, nondum expleto ætatis suæ anno vigesimo. Romana Ecclesia, quam semper dilexerat, et ad quam sæpius provocaverat, eam ab omni crimine vindicandam, Callisto tertio, summo Pontifice, curavit. Vergente in finem sæculo undevicesimo, Leo decimus tertius, Aurelianensis puellæ causam introduci permisit Postremo Pius decimus, re diligentissime examinata, Joannam de Arc, recentibus claram miraculis, in Beatorum numerum retulit, ac Officium et Missam propriam toti Galliæ, de speciali gratia, benigne indulsit.

Joan of Arc was born in the town of Domrémy (which was once in the diocese of Toul, but belongs now to that of Saint Dié) in the year of our Lord 1412. Her parents were noted for their virtue and piety. When she was but thirteen years old, and knew nothing but house work, field work, and the first elements of religion, she learnt that God had chosen her to deliver France from her enemies and restore the kingdom to its former independence. She enjoyed familiar intercourse with the Archangel Michael and SS Catherine and Margaret, who, during five years, instructed her how to fulfil her mission. Then, desiring to obey the command of God, she addressed herself to the governor of Vaucouleurs, who, after having several times repulsed her, at length gave her an escort to take her to King Charles.

Following in all things the divine commands, she overcame all the difficulties of the long journey, and arrived at Chinon in Touraine, where she furnished the king with proofs that her mission was from God. She proceeded to Orleans, and in a few days inflicted three defeats on the enemy, relieved the town, and raised her banner aloft in triumph. Then, after other military successes in which the assistance of God was clearly manifested, she brought Charles to Rheims, where he was solemnly crowned king. She would not rest even then, but, having learnt from her heavenly voices that God would permit her to fall into the hands of the enemy, she went bravely on to meet what was to befall her.

She was taken prisoner at Compiègne, sold to the English, and sent to Rouen for trial. She had to defend herself against many accusations, but her purity was never impugned. She suffered all things with patience for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. The wicked judges who tried this gentle and innocent virgin, condemned her to be burnt. So, fortified by the holy Eucharist, which she had long desired, and her eyes fixed upon the Cross, while she constantly murmured the name of Jesus, she took her flight to heaven on May 30, in the nineteenth year of her age. The holy Roman Church which she had always loved, and to which she had often appealed, undertook, under Pope Calixtus III, her rehabilitation, and towards the end of the nineteenth century Leo XIII gave permission for the introduction of the cause of beatification. Finally, after diligent examination and approbation of fresh miracles Pius X inscribed her among the Blessed, and permitted the dioceses of France to keep the feast with a special Office and Mass.

O King of Glory, who dost to-day ascend above the heights of heaven, thou didst drink of the torrent in the way and therefore dost thou now lift up thy head. Thy ancestor David prophesied it, thine Apostle proclaimed it. Thou didst humble thyself unto death, even the death of the cross, and therefore has God the Father exalted thee on this day, therefore does every knee bow at thy name, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. It was becoming that the law of the Head should be the law also of all those who were to be called to share his glory. Before all the ages, in the great Counsel of which, as the Church sings on Christmas Day, thou wert the Angel, the conditions of definitive victory and eternal success were thus laid down.

The Gospel tells us that the hour would come for the disciples of Jesus to give testimony and that men would think to serve God by putting them to death. Joan, like Jesus, was questioned, judged and condemned with all the legal forms and imposing ceremonial of orthodoxy. But, O ye enemies of Joan and of France, ye thought yourselves her executioners, and ye were offering her in sacrifice. France was saved, for God accepted the virginal victim. Her passing mission became a permanent patronage, and the deliverer of her country on earth has become her immortal protectress in heaven.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

DURING the season consecrated to the mystery of our Emmanuel's Birth, we saw standing near his crib the blessed Emperor Charlemagne. Crowned with the imperial diadem, and with a sword in his fearless hand, he seemed to be watching over the Babe, whose first worshippers were shepherds. And now near the glorious Sepulchre, which was first visited by Magdalene and her companions, we perceive a king—Ferdinand the Victorious—wearing a crown, and keeping guard with his valiant sword, the terror of the Saracen.

Catholic Spain is personified in her Ferdinand. His mother Berengaria was sister to Blanche, the mother of St Louis of France. In order to form ‘the Catholic Kingdom,’ there was needed one of our Lord's Apostles, St James the Great; there was needed a formidable trial, the Saracen invasion, which deluged the Peninsula; there was needed a chivalrous resistance, which lasted eight hundred years, and by which Spain regained her glory and her freedom. St Ferdinand is the worthy representative of the brave heroes who drove out the Moors from their fatherland and made her what she is: but he had the virtues of a saint, as well as the courage of a soldier.

His life was one of exploits, and each was a victory. Cordova, the city of the Caliphs, was conquered by this warrior Saint. At once its Alhambra ceased to be a palace of Mahometan effeminacy and crime. Its splendid Mosque was consecrated to the divine service, and afterwards became the Cathedral of the City. The followers of Mahomet had robbed the Church of St James at Compostella of its bells, and had them brought in triumph to Cordova; Ferdinand ordered them to be carried thither again, on the backs of the Moors.

After a siege of sixteen months, Seville also fell into Ferdinand's hands. Its fortifications consisted of a double wall, with a hundred and sixty-six towers. The Christian army was weak in numbers; the Saracens fought with incredible courage, and had the advantages of position and tactics on their part: but the Crescent was to be eclipsed by the Cross. Ferdinand gave the Saracens a month to evacuate the city and territory. Three hundred thousand withdrew to Xeres, and a hundred thousand passed over into Africa. The brave Moorish General, when taking his last look at the city, wept, and said to his officers: ‘None but a Saint could, with such a small force, have made himself master of so strong and well-manned a place.’

We will not enumerate the other victories gained by our Saint. The Moors foresaw that the result would be their total expulsion from the Peninsula. But this was not all that Ferdinand proposed: he even intended to invade Africa, and thus crush the Mussulman power for ever. The noble project was prevented by his death, which took place in the fifty-third year of his age.

He always looked upon himself as the humble instrument of God’s designs, and zealously laboured to accomplish them. Though most austere towards himself, he was a father in his compassion for his people, and was one day heard to say: ‘I am more afraid of the curse of one poor woman, than of all the Saracen armies together.’ He richly endowed the churches which he built in Spain. His devotion to the holy Mother of God was most tender, and he used to call her his Lady: in return, Mary procured him victory in all his battles, and kept away all pestilence and famine from the country during his entire reign, which, as the contemporary chroniclers observe, was an evident miracle, considering the circumstances of the age and period. The life of our Saint was one of happiness and success, whereas the life of that other admirable king, St Louis of France, was one of almost uninterrupted misfortune; as though God would give to the world, in these two Saints, a model of courage in adversity, and an example of humility in prosperity. They form unitedly a complete picture of what human life is, regenerated as it has now been by our Jesus, in whom we adore both the humiliations of the Cross and the glories of the Resurrection. What happy times were those, when God chose kings whereby to teach mankind such sublime lessons!

One feels curious to know how such a man, such a king, as Ferdinand, would take death when it came upon him. When it came, he was in his fifty-fourth year. The time approached for his receiving the Holy Viaticum. As soon as the priest entered the room with the blessed Sacrament, the holy king got out of bed, prostrated himself in adoration, and, humbly putting a cord round his neck, received the Sacred Host. This done, and feeling that he was on the verge of eternity, he ordered his attendants to remove from him every sign of royalty, and called his sons round his bed. Addressing himself to the eldest, who was Alphonsus the Good, he entrusted him with the care of his brothers, and reminded him of the duties he owed to his subjects and soldiers; he then added these words: ‘My son, thou seest what armies, and possessions, and subjects thou hast, more than any other Christian king; make a proper use of these advantages; and as thou hast the power, be good and do good. Thou art now master of the country which the Moors took, in times past, from king Rodriguez. If thou keep the kingdom in the state wherein I now leave it to thee, thou wilt be, as I have been, a good king, which thou wilt not be, if thou allowest any portion of it to be lost.’

As his end drew nigh, the dying king was favoured with an apparition from heaven. He thanked God for granting him that consolation, and then asked for the blessed candle; but before taking it in his hand, he raised up his eyes to heaven, and said: 'Thou, O Lord, hast given me the kingdom, which I should not otherwise have had; thou hast given me more honour and power than I deserved; receive my thanks! I give thee back this kingdom, which I have increased as far as I was able; I also commend my soul into thy hands!' He then asked pardon of the bystanders, begging them to overlook any offence that he might have committed against them. The whole court was present, and, with tears, asked the Saint to forgive them.

The holy king then took the blessed candle into his hands, and raising it up towards heaven, said: ‘Lord Jesus Christ! my Redeemer! naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return to the earth. Lord, receive my soul! and, through the merits of thy most holy Passion, deign to admit it among those of thy servants!’ Having said this, he gave back the candle, and asked the bishops and priests, who were present, to recite the Litanies; which being ended he bade them sing the Te Deum. When the hymn was finished, he bowed down his head, closed his eyes, and calmly expired.

Thus died those men, whose glorious works were the result of their faith, and who looked on themselves as only sent into this world that they might serve Christ and labour to propagate his kingdom. It was to them that Europe owed its highest glory; they made the Gospel its first law, and based its constitution on the Canons of the Church. It is now governed by a very different standard; it is paying dearly for the change, and is drifting rapidly to dissolution and ruin.

The following are the Lessons used in the Office of St Ferdinand:

Ferdinandus Tertius, Castellæ et Legionis rex, cui sancti cognomentum jam inde a quatuor sæculis ecclesiasticorum et sæcularium consensus dedere, tantum prudentiæ adolescens adhuc specimen præbuit, ut Berengaria mater, Castellæ regina, a qua persancte educatus fuerat, abdicatum a se regnum in filium transtulerit. In eo, adjunctis regni curis, regiæ virtutes emicuere: magnanimitas, dementia, justitia, et præ cæteris catholicæ fidei zelus, ej usque religiosi cultus tuendi ac propagandi ardens studium. Id præstitit in primis hæreticos insectando, quos nullibi regnorum suorum consistere passus est. Præstitit insuper in erigendis, dotandis, et consecrandis christiano ritu Cordubensi, Giennensi, Hispalensi et aliarum urbium ecclesiis, a maurico ereptarum jugo, simulque in instaurandis primariis templis Toletano, Burgensi et aliis pia et regia munificentia.

Inter hæc, per Castellæ et Legionis regnum, in quo patri Alphonso successerat, collectis magnis exercitibus, annuas expeditiones contra Saracenos, Christiani nominis hostes, suscepit. In queis, ut semper vinceret, præcipui exercitus fuere preces piissimi regis ad Deum fusæ, et quod ante pugnam, ut sibi Deum propitiaret, flagris in se sæviebat, atque aspero cilicio muniebat corpus. Sicque insignes contra ingentes Maurorum acies victorias reportavit, et plures urbes christiano cultui imperioque restituit, conquisitis Giennii, Cordubæ et Murciæ regnis, ac Granatensi vectigali facto. Ad expugnandam Hispalim primariam Bæticæ urbem, hortante in visione (ut traditum est) beato Isidoro olim illius urbis episcopo, victricia signa transtulit. In ea obsidione præsentem divinam opem habuisse fertur; nam ferream catenam, quæ super Bætim transversim extensa Mahometanis pro repagulo erat, coorto validiori vento, una ex navibus regiis, regis jussu eo delata, tanto impetu fregit, ut longius prætervecta, pontem quoque ligneum, et simul spes Maurorum obruperit et ad deditionem coegerit.

Tot victorias beatæ Virginis Mariæ patrocinio ferebat acceptas, cujus imaginem secum in castris habens, peculiari cultu prosequebatur. Capta Hispali, prima religionis cura fuit: nam templum Maurorum expiatum et Christianorum dedicatum sacris, insigni archiepiscopatu, et honestissimo canonicorum et dignitatum collegio, regia et religiosa liberalitate exornavit. Alia deinde in urbe templa et cœnobia erexit: inter quæ pietatis officia, dum trajicere in Africam parat, mahumetanum in ea imperium eversurus, ad cœlestem regiam vocatur. In extremo vitæ agone sacram Eucharistiam pro viatico allatam, fune ad collum alligato, et humi stratus, cum lacrymis ubertim fusis adorans, eaque dignis reverentiæ, humilitatis et catholicæ fidei obtestationibus accepta, obdormivit in Domino. Jacet ejus corpus, incorruptum adhuc post sex sæcula, in templo maximo Hispalensi, honorificentissimo inclusum sepulchro.
Ferdinand the Third, king of Castile and Leon, to whom, for now four centuries, the title of saint has been given both by clergy and laity, exhibited so much prudence in his youthful years, that his mother Berengaria, queen of Castile, who had educated him in a very holy manner, resigned her kingdom in his favour. Scarcely had Ferdinand assumed the government, than he displayed conspicuously all the virtues becoming a king: magnanimity, clemency, justice, and above ail, zeal for Catholic faith and worship, which he ardently defended and propagated. He mainly showed this zeal by forbidding heretics to settle in his states. He also gave proofs of it by building, endowing, and dedicating to Christian worship, churches in Cordova, Jaen, Seville, and other cities rescued from the Moorish yoke. He restored, with holy and royal munificence, the Cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos, and other cities.

At the same time, he levied powerful armies in the kingdom of Castile and Leon, which he inherited from his father Alphonsus; and, each year, gave battle to the Saracens, the enemies of the Christian religion. The great means whereby this most holy king secured victory in every engagement, were the prayers he offered up to God: he used also to chastise his body with disciplines and a rough hair-shirt, with the intention of rendering God propitious. By so doing, he gained extraordinary victories over the mighty armies of the Moors, and, after taking possession of Jaen, Cordova, and Murcia, and making a tributary of the kingdom of Granada, he restored many cities to the Christian religion and to Spain. He led his victorious standard before Seville, the capital of Baeza, being, as it is related, urged thereto by St Isidore, who had formerly been bishop of that city, and who appeared to him in a vision. Historians also relate that he was miraculously aided during that siege, and in the following manner: The Mahometans had stretched an iron chain across the Guadalquivir, in order to block up the passage. Suddenly there arose a violent wind, and one of the royal ships was, by the king’s order, sent against the chain, which was thus broken, and with so much violence that it was carried far on, and bore down a bridge of boats. The Moors lost all their hope, and surrendered the city.

Ferdinand attributed all these victories to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose image he always had in his camp, and honoured it with much devotion. Having taken Seville, his first thoughts were directed to religion. He immediately caused the Mosque of the Saracens to be purified and dedicated as a Christian church, having, with a princely and pious munificence, provided it with an archiepiscopal see, richly endowed, as also with a well-appointed college of Canons and dignitaries. He moreover built several other churches and monasteries in the same city. Whilst engaged in these holy works, he was making preparations to pass over to Africa, there to crush the Mahometan empire; but he was called to the kingdom of heaven. When his last hour came, he fastened a cord round his neck, prostrated on the ground, and, shedding abundant tears, adored the Blessed Sacrament which was brought to him as Viaticum. Having received it in admirable dispositions of reverence, humility and faith, he slept in the Lord. His body, which has remained incorrupt for six centuries, is buried in a tomb of extraordinary richness, in the Cathedral Church of Seville.

By delivering thy people from the yoke of the infidel, thou, O Ferdinand, didst imitate our Risen Jesus, who rescued us from death and restored us to the life we had lost. Thy conquests were not like those of this world’s conquerors, who have no other aim than to satisfy their own and their people’s pride. Thy ambition was to deliver thy people from an oppression which had weighed heavily on them for long ages. Thy object was to save them from the danger of apostasy, which they incurred by being under the Moorish yoke. O Champion of Christ! it was for his dear sake that thou didst lay siege to the Saracen cities. His banner was thine; and thy first anxiety was to spread his kingdom. He, in return, blessed thee in all thy battles, and made thee ever victorious.

Thy mission, O Ferdinand, was to form for our God a nation, which has been honoured by Holy Church above all others with the glorious name of the 'Catholic Kingdom.’ Happy Spain, for by her perseverance and courage she broke the Mussulman yoke, that still weighs down the other countries which it made its prey! Happy Spain, for she repelled the invasion of Protestantism, and, by this, preserved the faith, which both saves souls and constitutes a nation’s strongest power! Pray for thy country, O saintly king! False doctrines and treacherous influences are now rife within her, and many of her children have been led astray. Never permit her to injure, by cowardly compromise, that holy faith which has hitherto been her grandest glory and safeguard. Frustrate the secret plots which are working to undermine her Catholicity. Keep up within her her old hatred of heresy, and maintain her in the rank she holds among Catholic nations. Unity in faith and worship may still save her from the abyss into which so many other countries have fallen. O holy king! save once more the land that God entrusted to thy keeping, and which thou didst restore to him with such humble gratitude, when thou wast about to change thine earthly for a heavenly crown. Thou art still her beloved protector; hasten, then, to her aid!

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE holy Popes of the primitive ages of the Church abound during these last days of our Paschal season. To-day we have Felix I, a martyr of the persecution under Aurelian, in the third century. His Acts have been lost, with the exception of this one detail: that he proclaimed a dogma of the Incarnation, with admirable precision, in a letter addressed to the Church of Alexandria, a passage of which was read with much applause at the two (Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.

We also learn from a law he passed for those troubled times of the Church, that this holy Pontiff was zealous in procuring for the martyrs the honour that is due to them. He decreed that the Holy Sacrifice should be offered up on their tombs. The Church still keeps this law in mind by requiring that all altars, whether fixed or portable, must have, amongst the relics that are placed in them, a portion of some belonging to the martyrs. We shall have to speak of this custom in a future volume.

The Liturgy gives us this short notice regarding the holy Pontiff:

Felix Romanus, patre Constantio, Aureliano imperatore præfuit Ecclesiæ. Constituit ut Missa supra memorias et sepulchra martyrum celebraretur. Qui cum mense Decembri habuisset ordinationes duas, et creasset presbyteros novem, diaconos quinque, episcopos per diversa locaquinque, martyrio coronatus, via Aurelia sepelitur in Basilica quam a se ædificatam dedicarat. Vixit in pontificatu annos duos, menses quatuor, dies viginti novem.
Felix, a Roman by birth, and son of Constantius, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Aurelian. He decreed that the Mass should be celebrated upon the shrines and tombs of the martyrs. He held two ordinations in the month of December, and made nine priests, five deacons, and five bishops for divers places. He was crowned with martyrdom, and was buried on the Aurelian Way, in a Basilica which he himself had built and dedicated. He reigned two years, four months, and twenty-nine days.

Thou, O holy Pontiff, didst imitate thy divine Master in his death, for thou gavest thy life for thy sheep. Like him, too, thou art to rise from thy tomb, and thy happy soul shall be reunited to its body, which suffered death in testimony of the truth thou proclaimedst at Rome. Jesus is the first-born of the dead;[1] thou didst follow him in his Passion, thou shalt follow him in his Resurrection. Thy body was laid in those venerable vaults, which the piety of early Christians honoured with the appellation of Cemeteries—a word which signifies a place wherein to sleep. Thou, O Felix, wilt awaken on that great day whereon the Pasch is to receive its last and perfect fulfilment: pray that we also may then share with thee in that happy resurrection. Obtain for us that we may be faithful to the graces received in this year's Easter; and prepare us for the visit of the Holy Ghost, who is soon to descend upon us, that he may give stability to the work that has been achieved in our souls by our merciful Saviour.

[1] Apoc. i 5.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE palm of martyrdom was won by this holy Pope, not in a victory over a pagan persecutor, but in battling for the Church’s liberty against a Christian king. But this king was a heretic, and therefore an enemy of every Pontiff that was zealous for the triumph of the true faith. The state of Christ’s Vicar here on earth is a state of combat; and it frequently happens that a Pope is veritably a martyr, without having shed his blood. St John I, whom we honour to-day, was not slain by the sword; a loathsome dungeon was the instrument of his martyrdom; but there are many Popes who are now in heaven with him, martyrs like himself, who never even passed a day in prison or in chains: the Vatican was their Calvary. They conquered, yet fell in the struggle with so little appearance of victory, that heaven had to take up the defence of their reputation, as was the case with that angelic Pontiff of the eighteenth century, Clement XIII.

The Saint of to-day teaches us, by his conduct, what should be the sentiment of every worthy member of the Church. He teaches us that we should never make a compromise with heresy, nor approve the measures taken by worldly policy for securing what it calls the rights of heresy. If the past ages, aided by the religious indifference of Governments, have introduced the toleration of all religions, or even the principle that ‘all religions are to be treated alike by the state,’ let us, if we will, put up with this latitudinarianism, and be glad to see that the Church, in virtue of it, is guaranteed from legal persecution; but as Catholics, we can never look upon it as an absolute good. Whatever may be the circumstances in which Providence has placed us, we are bound to conform our views to the principles of our holy faith, and to the infallible teaching and practice of the Church—out of which, there is but contradiction, danger and infidelity.

The holy Liturgy thus extols the virtues and courage of our Saint:

Joannes Etruscus, Justino seniore Imperatore rexit Ecclesiam: ad quem profectus est Constantinopolim auxilii causa, quod Theodoricus rex hæreticus divexabat Italiam: cujus etiam iter Deus miraculis illustravit. Nam cum ei nobilis vir ad Corinthum equum, quo ejus uxor mansueto utebatur, itineris causa commodasset; factum est, ut domino postea remissus equus ita ferox evaderet, ut fremitu et totius corporis agitatione semper deinceps dominam expulerit: tamquam indignaretur mulierem recipere, ex quo sedisset in eo Jesu Christi vicarius. Quamobrem illi equum pontifici donaverunt. Sed illud majus miraculum, quod Constantinopoli in aditu portæ aureæ, inspectante frequentissimo populo, qui una cum Imperatore Pontifici honoris causa occurrerat, cæco lumen restituit. Ad cujus pedes prostratus etiam Imperator eum veneratus est. Rebus cum Imperatore compositis, in Italiam rediit, statimque epistolam scripsit ad omnes Italiæ episcopos, jubens eos Arianorum ecclesias ad Catholicum ritum consecrare, illud subjungens: Quia et nos quando fuimus Constantinopoli, tam pro religione Catholica, quam pro regis Theodorici causa, quascumque illis in partibus eorum ecclesias reperire potuimus, Catholicas eas consecravimus. Quod iniquissimo animo ferens Theodoricus, dolo accersitum Pontificem Ravennam in carcerem conjecit: ubi squalore inediaque afflictus, paucis diebus cessit e vita, cum sedisset annos duos, menses novem, dies quatuordecim: ordinatis eo tempore episcopis quindecim. Paulo post moritur Theodoricus: quem quidam eremita, ut scribit sanctus Gregorius, vidit inter Joannem Pontificem et Symmachum Patritium, quem idem occiderat, demergi in ignem Liparitanum, ut videlicet illi, quibus mortem attulerat, tamquam judices essent ejus interitus. Joannis corpus Ravenna Romam portatum est, et in Basilica sancti Petri sepultum.
John, by birth a Tuscan governed the Church during the reign of the Emperor Justin the Elder. He undertook a journey to Constantinople, in order to solicit the Emperor's protection against the heretical king Theodoric, who was persecuting the faithful of Italy. God honoured the Pontiff, during this journey, by several miracles. When about to visit Corinth, a certain nobleman lent him a horse, which he kept for his wife’s use, on account of its being so gentle. When the Pontiff afterwards returned, and gave the horse back to the nobleman, it was no longer a tame creature as before; but, as often as its mistress attempted to ride it, would snort and prance, and throw her from its back, as though it scorned to bear a woman's weight, after it had carried the Vicar of Christ. They therefore gave the horse to the Pontiff. But a greater miracle was that which happened at Constantinople. Near to the Golden Gate, and in the presence of an immense concourse of people, who had assembled there together with the Emperor to show honour to the Pontiff, he restored sight to a blind man. The Emperor also prostrated before him, out of a sentiment of veneration. Having arranged matters with the Emperor, he returned to Italy, and immediately addressed a letter to all its bishops, commanding them to consecrate the churches of the Arians, that they might be used for Catholic services. He added these words: 'For, when at Constantinople, for the interests of the Catholic religion and on account of king Theodoric, we consecrated all the Arian churches we could find in that country, and made them Catholic.' Theodoric was exceedingly angry at this; and, having craftily induced the Pontiff to come to Ravenna, put him in prison. There, from the filth of the place, and from starvation, he died in a few days. He reigned two years, nine months, and fourteen days; during which time he ordained fifteen bishops. Theodoric died soon after; and St Gregory relates that a certain hermit saw him plunged into a pit of fire at Lipari, in the presence of John the Pontiff, and the Patrician Symmachus, whom he had murdered: thus they whom he had put to death stood as judges condemning him to punishment. The body of St John was taken from Ravenna to Rome, and buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Thy fair palm, O holy Pontiff, was the reward of proclaiming the spotless holiness of the Church of Christ. She is the glorious Church, as St Paul calls her, having neither spot nor wrinkle;[1] and, for that very reason she can never consent to yield to heresy any of the inheritance given her by her divine Lord. Nowadays, men form their calculations on the interests of this passing world, and are resolved to regulate society independently of the rights of the Son of God, from whom proceeds all social order, as well as all truth. They have deprived the Church of her external constitution and influence; and at the same time, they give encouragement to the sects that have rebelled against her. O holy Pontiff, teach us to realize what divine truth is, and how error can never create prescription against her rights. Then shall we submit to the unhappy necessities handed down to us by the fatal triumph of heresy, without accepting, as a sign of progress, the principle and law that ‘all religions are on an equality.’ In thy prison, brave martyr, thou didst proclaim the rights of the one only Church; preserve us, who are living during that revolt which was foretold by the Apostle,[2] from those cowardly compromises, dangerous prejudices, and culpable want of solid instruction, which are the ruin of so many souls; and may our last words, on leaving this world, be those that were taught us by our Jesus himself: Heavenly Father! Hallowed be thy Name! May thy Kingdom come!


[1] Eph. v 27.
[2] 2 Thess. ii 3.