logo with text

Keyword

Category

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

f1

f2

f3

The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.

The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.

We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.

We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.

For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels[1] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
[1] St Luke ii 10.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.

This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.

Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.

For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.

We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.

The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.

For more information on Lent, visit here.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)

For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.

WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.

The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE palms of two martyred Popes are intertwined and grace this day of the Calendar. Soter suffered for Christ in the second, and Caius in the third century; a hundred years separate them; and yet we have the same energy of faith, the same jealous fidelity to keep intact the depositum left by Christ to his Church. What human society ever existed that produced heroes for century after century? The Society, however, which was founded by Christ—in other words, the Church—is based on that traditional devotedness which consists in laying down one's life for the faith. And if so, we may be sure that the spirit of martyrdom would show itself in them that were the Heads and Fathers of this Society. The first thirty successors of St Peter paid dearly for the honour of the Supreme Pontificate; they were martyrs. How grand the throne of our Risen Jesus, surrounded as it is by all these Kings clad in their triumphant scarlet robes!

Soter was the immediate successor of Anicetus, whose feast we kept on the 17th of this month. Time has effaced the details of his life. Eusebius, however, gives us a fragment of a letter written by St Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, wherein thanks are expressed to the Pontiff for the alms he sent to the faithful of that Church, during a famine. An Apostolic Letter was sent with these alms; and St Dionysius tells us that it was read in the assemblies of the faithful, together with the one addressed to the same Church, in the preceding century, by St Clement. The Roman Pontiffs have ever united charity to their fidelity in preserving pure the deposit of our faith. With regard to Caius, he suffered death in the terrible persecution under Diocletian: and little more than a mere mention of his name is given in the annals of Christian Rome. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the brevity wherewith the Liturgy speaks of these two martyred Popes. We subjoin the Lessons given in the Breviary.

Soter, Fundis in Campania natus, sancivit ne sacræ virgines vasa sacra et pallas attingerent, neve thuris ministerio in Ecclesia uterentur. Idem statuit ut Christi corpus in Cœna Domini sumeretur ab omnibus, iis exceptis, qui propter grave peccatum id facere prohiberentur. Sedit in Pontificatu annos tres, menses undecim, dies decem et octo: martyrio coronatur sub Marco Aurelio imperatore, et in coemeterio, quod postea Callisti dictum est, sepelitur, more majorum, mense decembri, creatis presbyteris decem et octo, diaconis novem, episcopis per diversa loca undecim.

Caius Dalmata, et genere Diocletiani imperatoris, constituit ut his Ordinum et honorum gradibus in Ecclesia ad episcopatum ascenderetur: ostiarii, lectoris, exorcistæ, acolythi, subdiaconi, diaconi, presbyteri. Hic Diocletiani crudelitatem in Christianos fugiens, aliquandiu in spelunca delituit: verum octo post annis una cum Gabino fratre martyrii coronam consecutus est, cum sedisset annos duodecim, menses quatuor, dies quinque, creatis mense decembri presbyteris viginti quinque, diaconis octo, episcopis quinque. of Sepultus est in cœmeterio Callisti, decimo Ka lend as maii. Ejus memoriam Urbanus Octavus in Urbe renovavit, dirutam ecclesiam restituit, Titulo, Statione et ipsius reliquiis decoravit.
Soter was born at Fondi, in Campania. He passed a decree, forbidding virgins consecrated to God to touch the sacred vessels and palls, or to exercise the office of thurifer in the Church. He also decreed, that on Maundy Thursday the Body of Christ should be received by all, excepting those who were forbidden to do so by reason of some grievous sin. His pontificate lasted three years, eleven months, and eighteen days. He was crowned with martyrdom under the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was buried in the cemetery which was afterwards called the Cemetery of Callixtus. In the month of December, according to the custom observed by his predecessors, he ordained eighteen priests, nine deacons, and eleven bishops for divers places.

Caius was a native of Dalmatia, and a relation of the Emperor Diocletian. He decreed that the following ecclesiastical Orders or honours should precede the ordination of a bishop: doorkeeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, priest. He concealed himself for some time in a cave, in order to escape the cruelty exercised against the Christians by Diocletian: but after eight years, he, together with his brother Gabinus, received the crown of martyrdom. He governed the Church twelveyears, four months and five days, He ordained in the month December twenty-five priests, eight deacons, and five bishops, He was buried in the Cemetery of Callixtus, on the 10th of the Kalends of May (April 22). Urban the Eighth revived his memory in Rome, restored his Church, which was in ruins, and honoured it with a Title, a Station, and the relics of the Saint himself.

 

O holy Pontiffs! you are of the number of those who went through the great tribulation,[1] and passedthrough fire and water,[2]to the eternal shores of heaven. The thought of Jesus’ victory over death gave you courage: you remembered how his Passion was followed by a glorious Resurrection. By imitating him in laying down your lives for your sheep, you have taught us how we also should think no sacrifice too great to be made for our faith. Obtain for us this heroic courage. Baptism has numbered us among the soldiers of Christ; confirmation has given us the spirit of fortitude; we must then be ready for battle. It may be that, even in our own times, a persecution may rage against the Church; at all events, we have to fight against ourselves, the spirit of the world, and Satan; support us by your prayers. You were once the Fathers of the Christian people; you are still animated with the pastoral charity which then filled your hearts. Protect us, and make us loyal to the God, whose cause was so dear to you when here on earth.

 


[1] Apoc. vii 14.
[2] Ps. lxv 12.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CLAD in his bright coat of mail, mounted on his war-steed, and spearing the dragon with his lance, George, the intrepid champion of our Risen Jesus, comes to gladden us today with his feast. From the East, where he is known as the great Martyr,devotion to St George soon spread in the Western Church, and our Christian armies have always loved and honoured him as one of their dearest patrons. His martyrdom took place in Paschal Time; and thus he stands before us as the guardian of the glorious sepulchre, just as Stephen, the Protomartyr, watches near the crib of the Infant God.

The Roman Liturgy gives no lessons on the life of St George; but, in their stead, reads to us a passage from St Cyprian on the sufferings of the martyrs. This derogation from the general rule dates from the fifth century. At a celebrated Council held in Rome in the year 496, Pope St Gelasius drew up, for the guidance of the faithful, a list of books which might or might not be read without danger. Among the number of those that were to be avoided, he mentioned the ‘Acts of St Georg,' as having been compiled by one who, besides being an ignorant man, was also a heretic. In. the East, however, there were other ' Acts ' of the holy martyr, totally different from those current in Rome; but they were not known in that city. The cultus of St George lost nothing, in the holy city, by this absence of a true legend. From a very early period, a church was built in his honour; it was one of those that were selected as Stations, and gave a Title to a Cardinal; it exists to this day, and it is called Saint George in Velabro (the Veil of Gold) .

The Bollandists were in possession of several copies of the forbidden ‘Acts '; they found them replete with absurd stories, and, of course, they rejected them. Father Papebroch has given us other and genuine ‘Acts ' written in Greek, and quoted by St Andrew of Crete. They bring out the admirable character of our martyr, who held an important post in the Roman army during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. He was one of the first victims of the great persecution and suffered death at Nicomedia. Alexandra, the Emperor's wife, was so impressed at witnessing the Saint’s courage, that she professed herself a Christian, and shared the crown of martyrdom with the brave soldier of Christ.

As we have already said, devotion to St George dates from a very early period. St Gregory of Tours gives us several proofs of its having taken root in Gaul. St Clotilde had a singular confidence in the holy martyr, and dedicated to him the Church of her dear Abbey of Chelles. But this devotion became more general and more fervent during the Crusades, when the Christian armies witnessed the veneration in which St George was held by the Eastern Church, and heard the wonderful things that were told of his protection on the field of battle. The Byzantine historians have recorded several remarkable instances of the kind; and the Crusaders returned to their respective countries publishing their own experience of the victories gained through the Saint's intercession. The Republic of Genoa chose him for its patron; and Venice honoured him as its special protector, after St Mark. But nowhere was St George so enthusiastically loved as in England. Not only was it decreed in a Council held at Oxford, in the year 1222, that the feast of the Great Martyr should be observed as one of obligation; not only was devotion to the valiant soldier of Christ encouraged, throughout Great Britain, by the first Norman Kings; but there are documents anterior to the invasion of William the Conqueror, which prove that St George was invoked as the special patron of England even so far back as the ninth century. Edward III did but express the sentiment of the country when he put the Order of the Garter, which he instituted in 1330, under the patronage of the warrior Saint. In Germany, King Frederic III founded the Order of St George in the year 1468.

St George is usually represented as killing a dragon; and where the representation is complete, there is also given the figure of a princess, whom the Saint thus saves from being devoured by the monster. This favourite subject of both sacred and profane art is purely symbolical, and is of Byzantine origin. It signifies the victory won over the devil, by the martyr's courageous profession of faith; the princess represents Alexandra, who was converted by witnessing the Saint’s heroic patience under his sufferings. Neither the ' Acts 'of St George nor the hymns of the Greek Liturgy allude to the martyr's having slain a dragon and rescued a princess. It was not till after the fourteenth century that this fable was known in the West; and it arose from a material interpretation of the emblems with which the Greeks honoured St George, and which were introduced among us by the crusaders.

Although, as has been said, the Office of St George in the Roman Breviary has been taken from the Common of Martyrs in Paschal Time, the following historical lesson has recently been approved for the Dioceses of England:

Georgius, inter orientales Martyres Magni nomine commendatus, in persecutione Diocletiani gloriosam pro Christo mortem subiit. Quum paulo post sub Constantino pax Ecclesiæ data fuisset, Martyris memoria celebran coepit, erectis sub ejus invocatione templis in Pal æstina prope Liddam et Constantinopoli; deinceps autem in aliis partibus Orientis, et postea in Occidente Celebris fuit erga ilium fidelium devotio. Ab antiquis temporibus christiani exercitus contra hostes pugnaturi sanctos Georgium, Mauritium et Sebastianum patronos invocaverunt. Porro sanctum Georgium Martyrem jamdudum in Anglia specialiter cultum Benedictus decimus quartus Pontifex Maximus totius Regni Protectorem declaravit.
George, who among the martyrs of the East has received the name of the Great Martyr, suffered a glorious death for the sake of Christ in the persecution of Diocletian. When shortly afterwards peace was given to the Church under Constantine, the memory of St George began to be celebrated. Churches were erected to his honour in Palestine and at Constantinople, and devotion to him spread through the East and into the West. From early times Christian armies have invoked the protection of St George, together with SS Maurice and Sebastian, when going into battle. Special devotion was shown to St George in England for many centuries, and Pope Benedict XIV declared him the special Protector of that kingdom.

Let us, in honour of our glorious patron, recite the following stanzas, taken from the Menæa of the Greek Church:

Hymn
(Die XXIII Aprilis)

Fidelis amice Christi, princeps athletarum ejus, splendidissimum luminare terræ, astrum lucidissimum vigilans honorantium te custos, custodi nos, martyr Georgi.

Beate Georgi, tua celebramus certamina, quibus idolorum simulacra destruxisti, et omnem dæmoniorum errorem ad nihilum redegisti, gloriosissime martyr Christi.

Cœlestis exercitus particeps effectus, beate Georgi, et divinam substantiam in quantum possibile est, contemplans, omnes nos te cum fide venerantes, protegere digneris.

Magnus miles Georgius, desideranter diligens Christum regem, qui animam suam pro mundi salute posuit, mortem propter ipsum subire festinat. Divino enim zelo inflammatus in corde, seipsum tradidit. Hunc ergo nos etiam cum fide hymnis celebremus, ut ardentem defensorem nostrum, ut gloriosum Christi ministrum, ut fidelem Domini sui imitatorem, et apud Deum semper intercedentem, ut omnibus largiatur remissionem et veniam peccatorum.

Certamina tua angelorum exercitus admiratur, princeps militiæ; et rex angelorum admiratione perculsus, tuam concupivit pulchritudinem, martyr; ideo dignatus est te regno suo in æternum consociare.

Dominum tuum imitatus, martyr, libens et sponte tua ad certamina temetipsum tradidisti; et victoriam reportans, Ecclesiæ Christi custos effici meruisti; illam semper defensione tua et protectione custodiens.

Ut martyr invictus, ut præmia ferens, ut insuperabilis fidei propugnator, nunc esto turris inconcussa pro celebrantibus te, sapiens Georgi, illos undique tuis supplicationibus protegens.

Corona radiante redimitus, et regio diademate et sceptro decoratus, et veste purpurea tuo sanguine rubicunda indutus, beate martyr, nunc in cœlis regnas cum rege angelicarum virtutum.

Venite omnes, festive splendidam, gloriosam resurrectionem Domini hymnis celebrantes; iterum etiam splendidam festive celebremus memoriam Georgii martyris; et ilium vernis coronemus floribus, ut invictum athletam; ut ejus precibus tribulationum simui et peccatorum liberationem accipere mereamur.

Ver advenit nobis, gaudio exsultemus; resurrectio Christi illuxit nobis, laetabundi gaudeamus; memoria martyris Georgii præmia ferentis, fideles suo splendore lætificans apparuit; ideo omnes festivitatis amantes, venite, illam mysticis celebremus canticis. Ipse enim Georgius, velut fortis miles, contra tyrannos virilem ostendit fortitudinem; et illos confusione perfudit, imitator factus passionis Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi. Pro vase corporis lutoso non est misericordia commotus; sed illud in tormentis velut æneum fundens, penitus transformavit. Illi ergo clamemus; Martyr praemia ferens, Deum deprecare ut salvet animas nostras.
Faithful friend of Christ prince of his soldiers most brilliant luminary of earth star of fairest light watchful guardian. of such as honour thee! be thou our guardian, O martyr George.

Blessed George! we celebrate thy combat, whereby thou didst destroy the idols, and bring to nought the manifold errors that were spread by the demons, O most glorious martyr of Christ.

Thou hast been made a member of the heavenly army, O blessed George! Thou contemplatest, as far as may be, the Divine Nature. Vouchsafe to protect us all who venerate thee.

Out of ardent love for Christ his King, who gave his life for the world’s salvation, the great soldier George longed to suffer death for his sake. He delivered himself up, for his heart was inflamed with divine zeal. Let us, therefore, full of faith, celebrate his praise in our hymns, as our earnest defender, as the glorious servant of Christ, as the faithful imitator of his Lord, as one that is ever beseeching God to grant us the forgiveness and pardon of our sins.

The angelic host is in admiration at thy combat, O thou prince of warriors! The very King of angels, struck with admiration, desired thy beauty, O martyr!—therefore did he deign to make thee his companion for ever in his kingdom.

Imitating thy Lord, O martyr, thou didst cheerfully and willingly deliver thyself up to the battle. Thou didst gain the victory and merit to become the guardian of the Church of Christ, which thou dost unceasingly defend and protect.

As the invincible martyr, as the prizebearing victor, as the unconquerable defender of the faith, be now an impregnable tower to them that celebrate thy praise, O wise George! and protect them from all dangers by thy intercession.

Decked with a brilliant crown, beautified with a royal diadem and sceptre, and clad in a purple robe reddened with thy blood, thou, O happy martyr, now reignest in heaven with the King of the angelic hosts.

Come, all ye people, let us celebrate in festive song the bright and glorious Resurrection of the Lord; let us also joyously celebrate the bright memory of 22 George the martyr: let us crown him, as the invincible soldier, with the flowers of spring; that by his prayers we may deserve to be freed from tribulation and sin.

Spring is come; let us exult with joy: the Resurrection of Christ hath shone upon us; let us rejoice in gladness: the feast of the prize-bearing martyr George hath appeared, gladdening the faithful with its brightness; come, then, let us who love his feast celebrate it with our spiritual canticles. For, like a brave soldier, George stood with manly courage before the tyrants, and covered them with confusion, being an imitator of the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He had no pity on the earthen vessel of his body, but wholly transformed it by delivering it to torments, as brass is melted by fire. Thus, then, let us cry out unto him: O prize-bearing martyr! beseech God that he save our souls.

Thou, O George, art the glorious type of a Christian soldier. Whilst serving under an earthly monarch, thou didst not forget thy duty to the King of heaven. Thou didst shed thy blood for the faith of Christ; and he, in return, appointed thee protector of Christian armies. Be their defender in battle, and bless with victory them that fight in a just cause. Protect them under the shadow of thy standard; cover them with thy shield; make them the terror of their enemies. Our Lord is the God of Hosts; and he frequently uses war as the instrument of his designs, both of justice and mercy. They alone win true victory who have heaven on their side; and such soldiers, when on the battle-field, seem to the world to be doing the work of man, whereas it is the work of God they are furthering. Hence are they more generous, because more religious, than other men. The sacrifices they have to make, and the dangers they have to face, teach them unselfishness. What wonder, then, that soldiers have given so many martyrs to the Church!

But there is another warfare, in which we Christians are all enlisted, and of which St Paul speaks, when he says: Labour as a good soldier of Christ; for no man is crowned, save he that striveth lawfully.[1] That we have thus to strive and fight during our life, the same Apostle assures us in these words: Take unto you the armour of God, that ye may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of the hope of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.[2] We, then, are soldiers, as thou wast, O holy martyr! Before ascending into heaven, our divine leader wishes to review his troops; do thou present us to him. He has loaded us with honours, notwithstanding our past disloyalties; we must, henceforth, prove ourselves worthy of our position. In the Paschal Communion which we have received, we have a pledge of victory; how can we ever be so base as to permit ourselves to be conquered! Watch over us, O sainted warrior! Let thy prayers and example encourage us to fight against the dragon of hell. He dreads the armour we wear; for it is Jesus himself that prepared it for us, and tempered it in his own precious Blood: may we, like thee, present it to him whole and entire, when he calls us to our eternal rest!

There was a time when the whole Christian world loved and honoured thy memory with enthusiastic joy: but now, alas! this devotion has grown cold, and thy feast passes unnoticed by thousands. O holy martyr! avenge this ingratitude by imitating thy divine King, who maketh his sun to rise upon both good and bad; take pity on this world, perverted as it is by false doctrines, and tormented at this very time by the most terrible scourges. Have compassion on thy dear England, which has been seduced by the dragon of hell, and by him made the instrument for effecting his plots against the Lord and his Christ. Take up thy spear as of old; give the monster battle, and emancipate the isle of Saints from his slavish yoke. Heaven and earth join in this great prayer! In the name of our Risen Jesus, aid thine own and once devoted people to a glorious resurrection!

 


[1] 2 Tim. ii 5.
[2] Eph. vi 13, 17.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Risen Lord would have around him a bright phalanx of martyrs. Its privileged members belong to the different centuries of the Church’s existence. Its ranks open today to give welcome to a brave combatant, who won his palm, not in a contest with paganism, as those did whose feasts we have thus far kept, but in defending his mother, the Church, against her own rebellious children. They were heretics that slew this day’s martyr, and the century that was honoured with his triumph was the seventeenth.

Fidelis was worthy of his beautiful name. Neither difficulty nor menace could make him fail in his duty. During his whole life, he had but the glory and service of his divine Lord in view: and when the time came for him to face the fatal danger, he did so, calmly but fearlessly, as behoved a disciple of that Jesus who went forth to meet his enemies. Honour, then, be to-day to the brave son of St Francis! truly he is worthy of his seraphic Patriarch, who confronted the Saracens, and was a martyr in desire!

Protestantism was established and rooted by the shedding of torrents of blood; and yet Protestants count it as a great crime that, here and there, the children of the true Church made an armed resistance against them. The heresy of the sixteenth century was the cruel and untiring persecutor of men, whose only crime was their adhesion to the old faith—the faith that had civilized the world. The so-called Reformation proclaimed liberty in matters of religion, and massacred Catholics who exercised this liberty, and prayed and believed as their ancestors had done for long ages before Luther and Calvin were bom. A Catholic who gives heretics credit for sincerity when they talk about religious toleration, proves that he knows nothing of either the past or the present. There is a fatal instinct in error, which leads it to hate the Truth; and the true Church, by its unchangeableness, is a perpetual reproach to them that refuse to be her children. Heresy starts with an attempt to annihilate them that remain faithful; when it has grown tired of open persecution it vents its spleen in insults and calumnies; and when these do not produce the desired effect, hypocrisy comes in with its assurances of friendly forbearance. The history of Protestant Europe, during the last three centuries, confirms these statements; it also justifies us in honouring those courageous servants of God who, during that same period, have died for the ancient faith.

Let us now respectfully listen to the account given us, in the Liturgy, of the life and martyrdom of St Fidelis; we shall find that the Church has not grown degenerate in her Saints.

Fidelis in oppido Sueviæ Sigmaringa ex honesta Reyorum familia natus, ab ineunte aetate singularibus naturæ et gratiæ donis omatus præfulsit. Egregiam quippe sortitus indolem, morumque optima imbutus disciplina, dum Friburgi Philosophiæ et juris utriusque lauream emeruit, in schola etiam Christi ad perfectionis apicem sedulo virtutum exercitio contendere cœpit. Nobilium exinde virorum, varias Europae provincias lustrantium comes adscitus, eos ad christianam pietatem sectandam tam verbis quam operibus excitare non destitit. Quinimo in eodem itinere crebris austeritatibus desideria carnis mortificare at ita seipsum regere studuit, ut in tanta rerum vicissitudine nullo unquam visus fuerit iræ motu perturbari. Juris præterea et justitiæ strenuus propugnator, post reditum in Germaniam celebre sibi nomen acquisivit in advocati munere: in quo tamen, cum fori pericula esset expertus, tutiorem æternæ salutis viam ingredi deliberavit, et superna vocatione illustratus, paulo post Ordini Seraphico inter fratres minores Capuccinos adscribi petiit.

Piæ petitionis compos redditus, mundi suique contemptor insignis, in ipso statini tyrocinio, magisque cum solemnis professionis vota in gaudio Spiritus Domino nuncupasset, in regulari observantia omnibus admirationi fuit ac exemplo. Orationi maxime, et sacris litteris vacans, in verbi quoque ministerio singulari gratia excellens, nedum Catholicos ad meliorem frugem, verum etiam heterodoxos ad veritatis cognitionem attraxit. Pluribus in locis cœnobii præfectus constitutus, prudentia, justitia, mansuetudine, discretione et humilitatis laude, munus sibi demandatum exercuit. Arctissimæ paupertatis zelator egregius, quidquid vel minus necessarium videretur, e cœnobio penitus eliminavit. Inter austera jejunia, vigilias et flagella, salutari seipsum prosequens odio, in alios amorem, quasi mater in filios, ostendit. Cum pestifera febris Austriacas militares copias dire affligeret, ipse in extremis infirmorum indigentiis ad assidua charitatis officia toto spiritu incubuit. In componendis etiam animorum dissidiis, aliisque proximi necessitatibus sublevandis, consilio et opere adeo præclare se gessit, ut Pater patriae meruerit appellari.

Deiparæ Virginis et Rosarii cultor eximius, illius præcipue, aliorumque sanctorum patrociniis a Deo postulavit, ut in catholicæ fidei obsequium, vitam sibi et sanguinem fundere liceret. Cumque ardens hoc desiderium in quotidiana Sacri devota celebratione magis accendere tur, mira Dei Providentia factum est ut fortis Christi athleta praeses eligeretur illarum missionum quas Congregatio de Propaganda fide pro Rhaetia tunc temporis instituerat. Quod arduum munus prompto hilarique animo suscipiens, tanto fervore executus est, ut pluribus hæreticis ad orthodoxam fidem conversis, spes non modica effulserit totius illius gentis Ecclesiæ et Christo reconciiiandæ. Prophetiæ dono praeditus, futuras Rhætiæ calamitates suique necem ab haereticis inferendam sæpius prædixit. Postquam vero, insidiarum probe conscius impendenti agoni se præparasset, die vigesima quarta aprilis anno millesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo secundo, ad ecclesiam loci Sevicium nuncupati se contuli t: ubi ab hæreticis, qui, pridie conversionem simulantes, eum dolose ad prædicandum invitaverant, concione tumultuarie interrupta, per verbera et vulnera eidem crudeliter inflicta, gloriosam mortem magno et alacri corde perpessus, primitias martyrum memoratæ Congregations proprio sanguine consecra vit; pluribus signis et miraculis exinde clarus, præsertim Curiæ et Veldkirchii, ubi summa popuii veneratione illius reliquias asservantur.
Fidelis was bom at Sigmaringen, a town of Swabia. His parents, whose name was Rey, were of a respectable family. He was remarkable, even when a child, for his extraordinary gifts both of nature and grace. Blessed with talent of a high order, and trained to virtue by an excellent education, he received at Freiburg the wellmerited honours of Doctor in Philosophy and in Civil and Canon Law, at the same time that, in the school of Christ, he strove to attain the height of perfection by the assiduous practice of all virtues. Being requested to accompany several noblemen in their travels through various countries of Europe, he lost no opportunity of encouraging them, both by word and example, to lead a life of Christian piety. In these travels, he moreover mortified the desires of the flesh by frequent austerities; and such was the mastery he gained over himself, that in the midst of all the trouble and excitement, he was never seen to lose his temper in the slightest degree. He was a strenuous upholder of law and justice, and, after his return to Germany, he acquired considerable reputation as an advocate. But finding that this profession was replete with danger, he resolved to enter on the path that would best lead him to eternal salvation. Thus enlightened by the divine call, he shortly afterwards asked to be admitted into the Seraphic Order, among the Capuchin Friars.

His pious wish being granted, he showed from the very commencement of his novitiate how thoroughly he despised the world and himself; and when, with spiritual joy, he had offered to God the vows of solemn profession, his regular observance was such as to make him the admiration of, and a model to, all around him. He devoted himself to prayer and to sacred studies; as also to preaching, for which he had a special grace, and by which he not only converted Catholics from a life of wickedness to one of virtue, but also drew heretics to a knowledge of the truth. He was appointed superior in several convents of his Order, and fulfilled his office with admirable prudence, justice, meekness, discretion and humility. His zeal for strict poverty was so great, that he would allow nothing to be in the convent which was not absolutely necessary. He practised severe fasting, watching and disciplines, out of holy hatred against himself; whereas his love towards others was that of a mother for her children. A contagious fever having broken out among the Austrian soldiers, causing frightful mortality, he devoted his whole energies to untiring acts of charity in favour of the sick, whose sufferings were extreme. So admirable was he, both in advice and action, in settling disputes, and relieving everyone in trouble or trial, that he won for himself the name of the Father of his country.

He was extremely devout to the Virgin Mother of God, and a zealous promoter of the Rosary. He besought of God, through the intercession of this Blessed Mother firstly, and then through that of all the Saints, that he might be allowed to shed his blood and lay down his life for the Catholic faith. This ardent desire was increased by the daily and devout celebration of the Holy Sacrifice; and at length, by the wonderful providence of God, this valiant soldier of Christ was placed at the head of the missions recently established among the Grisons, by the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. Fidelis undertook this arduous task with a ready and cheerful heart, and laboured in it with such earnestness, that he converted many heretics to the true faith, and inspired the hope that the whole of that people would be reconciled to the Church and to Christ. He had the gift of prophecy, and frequently predicted the calamities that were to befall the Grisons, as also his own death by the hands of the heretics. Being fully aware of the plot laid against him, he prepared himself for the combat, and, on the twenty-fourth day of April, in the year I622, he repaired to the church of a place called Seewis. Hither had the heretics, on the previous day, invited him to come and preach, pretending that they wished to be converted. Whilst he was preaching, he was interrupted by their clamours. They rushed upon him, cruelly struck and wounded him even to death He suffered it with courage and joy, thus consecrating by his blood the first-fruits of the martyrs of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. His name was rendered illustrious by many miracles, especially at Coire, and Veltkirch, where his relics are kept, and honoured by the people with exceeding great veneration.

How truly couldst thou, O Fidelis! say with the Apostle: I have finished my course![1] Yea, thy death was even more beautiful than thy life, holy as that was. How admirable the calmness wherewith thou didst receive death! how grand the joy wherewith thou didst welcome the blows of thine enemies—thine, because they were those of the Church! Thy dying prayer, like Stephen's, was for them; for the Catholic, while he hates heresy, must love the heretics who put him to death. Pray, O holy martyr, for the children of the Church. Obtain for them an appreciation of the value of faith, and of the favour God bestowed on them when he made them members of the true Church. May they be on their guard against the many false doctrines which are now current through the world. May they not be shaken by the scandals which abound in this age of effeminacy and pride. It is faith that is to bring us to our Risen Jesus: and he urges it upon us by the words he addressed to Thomas: Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed![2] Of this number we wish to be: and therefore is it that we cling to the Church, the sovereign mistress of faith. We wish to believe her, and not human reason, which has neither the power to fathom the word of God, nor the right to sit in judgement over it. Jesus has willed that this holy faith should come down to us bearing on itself the strengthening testimony of the martyrs; and each age has had its martyrs. Glory to thee, O Fidelis, who didst win thy palm by combating the errors of the pretended Reformation! Take a martyr’s revenge, and pray without ceasing to our Jesus, that he would bring all heretics back to the faith and to union with the Church. They are our brethren by baptism; pray for them, that they may return to the Fold, and that we may one day celebrate with them the true Paschal banquet, wherein the Lamb of God gives himself to be our food, not figuratively, as in the Old Law, but really and truly, as fits the New Covenant.

 


[1] 2 Tim. iv 7.
[2] St John xx 29.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Including:

THE cycle of holy Mother Church brings before us to-day the Lion, who, together with the Man, the Ox, and the Eagle, stands before the throne of God.[1] It was on this day that Mark ascended from earth to heaven, radiant with his triple aureole of Evangelist, Apostle and Martyr.

As the preaching made to Israel had its four great representatives—Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel —so, likewise, would God have the New Covenant to be embodied in the four Gospels, which were to make known to the world the life and teachings of his divine Son. The holy Fathers tell us that the Gospels are like the four streams which watered the garden of pleasure.[2] and that this garden was a figure of the future Church. The first of the Evangelists—the first to register the actions and words of our Redeemer—is Matthew, whose star will rise in September; the second is Mark, whose brightness gladdens us today; the third is Luke, whose rays will shine upon us in October; the fourth is John, whom we have already seen in Bethlehem, at the crib of our Emmanuel.

Mark was the beloved disciple of Peter; he was the brilliant satellite of the sun of the Church. He wrote his Gospel at Rome, under the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. The Church was already in possession of the history given by Matthew; but the faithful of Rome wished their own Apostle to narrate what he had witnessed. Peter refused to write it himself, but he bade his disciple take up his pen, and the Holy Ghost guided the hand of the new Evangelist. Mark follows the account given by Matthew; he abridges it, and yet he occasionally adds a word, or an incident, which plainly prove to us that Peter, who had seen and heard all, was his living and venerated authority. One would have almost expected that the new Evangelist would pass over in silence the history of his master’s fall, or at least have said as little as possible about it; but no—the Gospel written by Mark is more detailed on Peter's denial than is that of Matthew; and as we read it, we cannot help feeling that the tears elicited by Jesus’ look when in the house of Caiphas, were flowing down the Apostle’s cheeks as he described the sad event. Mark’s work being finished, Peter examined it and gave it his sanction; the several Churches joyfully received this second account of the mysteries of the world’s redemption, and the name of Mark was made known throughout the whole earth.

Matthew begins his Gospel with the human genealogy of the Son of God, and has thus realized the prophetic type of the Man;Mark fulfils that of the Lion, for he commences with the preaching of John the Baptist, whose office as precursor of the Messias had been foretold by Isaias, where he spoke of the voice of one crying in the wilderness—as the Lion that’ makes the desert echo with his roar.

Mark, having written his Gospel, was next to labour as an Apostle. Peter sent him first to Aquileia, where he founded an important Church: but this was not enough for an Evangelist. When the time designed by God came, and Egypt, the source of countless errors, was to receive the truth, and the haughty and noisy Alexandria was to be raised to the dignity of the second Church of Christendom—the second see of Peter—Mark was sent by his master to effect this great work. By his preaching, the word of salvation took root, grew up, and produced fruit in that most infidel of nations; and the authority of Peter was thus marked, though in different degrees, in the three great cities of the Empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

St Mark may be called the first founder of the monastic life by his instituting, in Alexandria itself, what were called the Therapeutes. To him, also, may be justly attributed the origin of that celebrated Christian school of Alexandria which was so flourishing even in the second century.

But glorious as were these works of Peter's disciple, the Evangelist and Apostle Mark was also to receive the dignity of martyr. The success of his preaching excited against him the fury of the idolaters. They were keeping a feast in honour of Serapis; and this gave them an opportunity which they were not likely to lose. They seized Mark, treated him most cruelly, and cast him into prison. It was there that our Risen Lord appeared to him during the night, and addressed him in these words, which afterwards formed the arms of the Republic of Venice: ' Peace be to thee, Mark, my Evangelist!' To which the disciple answered: ‘Lord '—for such were his feelings of delight and gratitude that he could say but that one word, as it was with Magdalen, when she saw Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection. On the following day Mark was put to death by the pagans. He had fulfilled his mission on earth, and heaven opened to receive the Lion, who was to occupy the place allotted to him near the throne of the Ancient of days, as shown to the Prophet of Patmos in his sublime vision.[3]

In the ninth century the West was enriched with the relics of St Mark. They were taken to Venice; and, under the protection of the sacred Lion, there began for that city a long period of glory. Faith in so great a patron achieved wonders; and from the midst of islets and lagoons there sprang into existence a city of beauty and power. Byzantine art raised up the imposing and gorgeous church, which was the palladium of the Queen of the Seas; and the new Republic stamped its coinage with the Lion of St Mark. Happy would it have been for Venice had she persevered in her loyalty to Rome and in the ancient severity of her morals.

 

Saint Mark’s Procession

 

This day is honoured in the Liturgy by what is called Saint Mark's Procession. The term, however, is not a correct one, inasmuch as a procession was a privilege peculiar to April 25 previously to the institution of our Evangelist’s feast, which even so late as the sixth century had no fixed day in the Roman Church. The real name of this procession is The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means Supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place in order to propitiate heaven. The two Greek words Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us) were also called Litany, as likewise were the invocations which were afterwards added to that cry for mercy, and which now form a liturgical prayer used by the Church on certain solemn occasions.

The Greater Litanies (or processions) are so called to distinguish them from the Minor Litanies, that is, processions of less importance as far as the solemnity and concourse of the faithful were concerned. We gather from an expression of St Gregory the Great that it was an ancient custom in the Roman Church to celebrate, once each year, a Greater Litany, at which all the clergy and people assisted. This holy Pontiff chose April 25 as the fixed day for this procession, and appointed the Basilica of St Peter as the Station.

Several writers on the Liturgy have erroneously confounded this institution with the processions prescribed by St Gregory for times of public calamity. It existed long before his time, and all that he did was to fix it on April 25. It is quite independent of the feast of St Mark, which was instituted at a much later period. If April 25 occur during Easter week, the procession takes place on that day (unless it be Easter Sunday), but the feast of the Evangelist is not kept till after the octave.

The question naturally presents itself—why did St Gregory choose April 25 for a procession and Station in which everything reminds us of compunction and penance, and which would seem so out of keeping with the joyous season of Easter? The first to give a satisfactory answer to this difficulty was Canon Moretti, a learned liturgiologist of the eighteenth century. In a dissertation of great erudition, he proves that in the fifth, and probably even in the fourth, century, April 25 was observed at Rome as a day of great solemnity. The faithful went, on that day, to the Basilica of St Peter, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the first entrance of the Prince of the Apostles into Rome, upon which he thus conferred the inalienable privilege of being the capital of Christendom. It is from that day that we count the twenty-five years, two months and some days that St Peter reigned as Bishop of Rome.[4] The Sacramentary of St Leo gives us the Mass of this solemnity, which afterwards ceased to be kept. St Gregory, to whom we are mainly indebted for the arrangement of the Roman Liturgy, was anxious to perpetuate the memory of a day which gave to Rome her grandest glory. He therefore ordained that the Church of St Peter should be the Station of the Great Litany, which was always to be celebrated on that auspicious day. April 25 comes so frequently during the octave of Easter that it could not be kept as a feast, properly so called, in honour of St Peter’s entrance into Rome; St Gregory, therefore, adopted the only means left of commemorating the great event.

But there was a striking contrast resulting from this institution, of which the holy Pontiff was fully aware, but which he could not avoid: it was the contrast between the joys of Paschal Time and the penitential sentiments wherewith the faithful should assist at the procession and Station of the Great Litany. Laden as we are with the manifold graces of this holy season, and elated with our Paschal joys, we must sober our gladness by reflecting on the motives which led the Church to cast this hour of shadow over our Easter sunshine. After all, we are sinners, with much to regret and much to fear; we have to avert those scourges which are due to the crimes of mankind; we have, by humbling ourselves and invoking the intercession of the Mother of God and the Saints, to obtain the health of our bodies, and the preservation of the fruits of the earth; we have to offer atonement to divine justice for our own and the world’s pride, sinful indulgences, and insubordination. Let us enter into ourselves, and humbly confess that our own share in exciting God’s indignation is great; and our poor prayers, united with those of our holy Mother the Church, will obtain mercy for the guilty, and for ourselves who are of the number.

A day, then, like this, of reparation to God’s offended majesty, would naturally suggest the necessity of joining some exterior penance to the interior dispositions of contrition which filled the hearts of Christians. Abstinence from flesh meat has always been observed on this day at Rome; and when the Roman Liturgy was established in France by Pepin and Charlemagne, the Great Litany of April 25 was, of course, celebrated, and the abstinence kept by the faithful of that country. A Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 836, enjoined the additional obligation of resting from servile work on this day: the same enactment is found in the Capitularia of Charles the Bald. As regards fasting, properly so called, being contrary to the spirit of Paschal Time, it would seem never to have been observed on this day, at least not generally. Amalarius, who lived in the ninth century, asserts that it was not then practised even in Rome.

During the procession, the Litany of the Saints is sung, followed by several versicles and prayers. The Mass of the Station is celebrated according to the Lenten Rite, that is, without the Gloria in excelsis, and in purple vestments. We have inserted the Litany of the Saints in the following volume, for the Rogation Days.

We take this opportunity of protesting against the negligence of Christians on this subject. Even persons who have the reputation of being spiritual think nothing of being absent from the Litanies said on St Mark’s and the Rogation Days. One would have thought that when the Holy See took from these days the obligation of abstinence, the faithful would be so much the more earnest to join in the duty still left—-the duty of prayer. The people’s presence at the Litanies is taken for granted: and it is simply absurd that a religious rite of public reparation should be one from which almost all should keep away. We suppose that these Christians will acknowledge the importance of the petitions made in the Litanies; but God is not obliged to hear them in favour of such as ought to make them and yet do not. This is one of the many instances which might be brought forward of the strange delusions into which private and isolated devotion is apt to degenerate. When St Charles Borromeo first took possession of his see of Milan, he found this negligence among his people, and that they left the clergy to go through the Litanies of April 25 by themselves. He assisted at them himself, and walked barefooted in the procession. The people soon followed the sainted pastor’s example.

Let us return to the holy Evangelist, and listen to the Churches of the East and West speaking his praise. We will begin with a hymn composed in the ninth century by St Paulinus, one of St Mark’s successors as bishop of Aquileia.

Hymn

Jam nunc per omne lux refulget sæculum,
Lux ilia Patris quæ iucet de solio,
Quæ fons, origo, splendor lucis aureæ,
Habensque semper lumen indeficiens,
Cœlum serenat arcens mundi tenebras.

Hujus sacrato lucis de vibramine,
Suscepit almum radium sub pectore 
Marcus beatus, doctor evangelicus;
Factus lucerna more tanti luminis,
Ardens fugavit sæculi caliginem.

Septem columnis una de candidulis,
Aureis septem unum de candelabris,
Cingitque totum mundum claro sidere:
Ecciesiarum nititur sub culmine,
Sustentat altæ fundamenta fabricæ.

Quantum quod olim viderat Ezechiel
Propheta sanctus, animai lætissimum
Vidit Joannes, ceu Christi recubitor,
Leonis hoc et typice sub specie
Clamore multo per deserta frendere.

Sic a beato Petro missus adiit
Aquileiensem dudum famosissimam
Urbem sacrati Verbi pullulantia
Disseminavit, satosque centuplices
Fructus ad alta vexit felix horrea.

Christi dicavit mox ibi Ecclesiam:
Nam fundamentum fidei fortissimum
Fixerat unum petram super limpidam,
Quam flumen undans, nec ventorum fulmina
Quassare possunt, torrentes nec pluviæ.

Deinde rursus cum corona remeans,
Athleta Chris ti compta pulchris liliis,
Mistumque palmis, lauro atque rosulis,
Portabat gaudens diadema vertice
Ingressus urbem Romam Christo comite.

His ita gestis pergit Alexandriam,
Sancto repletus Spiritu, lætissimos
Fines per omnes jugiter Memphiticos
Patris tremendi prædicabat unicum
Venisse mundi pro salute Filium.

Turba crudelis Christi circa militem
Tumens parabat tormentorum spicula:
Vinxit catenis, transfixit aculeis,
Dilaniando flagris sancta viscera: 
Carceris umbras misit ad phantasticas.

Primus superni Numinis notitiam
Dedit in urbem Marcus Alexandriam:
Christi dicavit mox ibi basili cam,
Quam expiavit pretioso sanguine:
Vallavit almæ fidei munimine.

Gloria Patri, decus et imperium
Sit Nate semper tibi super sidera
Honor, potestas, Sanctoque Spiritui;
Sit Trini tati virtus individuæ,
Per infinita sæculorum sæcula.

Amen.
Already throughout the whole earth there brightly gleams
the light which shines from the Father's throne:
the light which is the fount and source and splendour of the golden light:
the light that never fails,
beautifies heaven, and expels darkness from the world.

Blessed Mark, the Evangelical teacher,
received into his heart
a lovely ray of this sparkling sacred light.
He became as a lamp reflecting that great light
and dispelling the gloom of this world by his brilliant flame.

He was one of the seven fair pillars,
and one of the seven golden candlesticks
whose brightness shines as a star throughout the universe.
He was one of the foundations
that support lofty structure of the Church

He was one of the favoured living creatures
seen of old by the holy prophet Ezechiel,
and by John, the disciple that leaned on Jesus' breast.
Mark was prefigured under the type of a lion,
whose wild roar is heard in the wilderness.

He was sent by blessed Peter to Aquileia,
that city of ancient fame.
There he sowed the seed of the divine word,
and with joy garnered into heaven
a hundredfold of fruit.

There he speedily raised a Christian Church.
He gave it solidity of unshaken faith
by building it on that faultless Rock,
against which the billows and storms
and floods vent their rage in vain.

The soldier of Christ returned,
wearing a wreath of fair lilies,
with palm and laurel and roses:
and thus crowned, he joyfully entered Rome,
led thither by Christ.

This done, he sets out for Alexandria,
and, filled with the Holy Ghost,
traverses the ever fertile land of Egypt,
preaching that the only begotten Son of the Father Almighty
had come into the world for the world's salvation.

A cruel mob, enraged against the soldier of Christ,
prepared various torments for him:
he was bound with chains, pierced with arrows,
and after his holy flesh had been torn by scourges,
he was thrust into a dismal dungeon.

Mark was the first that taught
Alexandria to know the true God.
He there built a church, which he dedicated to Christ,
consecrated by the shedding of his own blood,
and fortified by the solidity of holy faith.

Glory, praise and empire be to the Father!
To thee, O Jesus, who reignest in heaven above,
and to the Holy Ghost, be honour and power!
To the undivided Trinity be adoration paid
for endless ages!

Amen.

The Greek Church celebrates the memory of the holy Evangelist in the Menæa: we extract the following stanzas:

Hymn
(Die XXV Aprilis)

Divinorum sermonum scriptorem, et magnum Ægypti protectorem, fi deles, dignis celebremus laudibus, clamantes: Marce sapiens, doctrinis et precibus tuis omnes nos ad tranquillam sine tempestate vitam ut Apostolus dirige.

Socius peregrinationis Vasis electionis fuisti, et cum illo omnem peragrasti Macedoniam. Postea Romam adveniens, gratus Petri interpres apparuisti; et cum digna Deo prælia sustinuisses, in Ægyp to requievisti.

Animas sitientes et aridas candidis Evangelii tui nivibus vivificasti: ideo, dive Marce, splendide nobiscum hodie Alexandria tuam celebrat et laudibus exaltat festivitatem, tuasque veneratur reliquias.

Beatissime Marce, voluptatis torrentem bibisti: velut ex Paradiso prosiluisti splendidissimus pacis fluvius, Evangelicæ prædicationis tuæ rivulis irrigans faciem terræ, et solidas Ecclesiae arbores divinis aspergens doctrinis.

Marce omnilaudabilis, Aloyses olim Ægyptios in maris abyssum præcipitavit; tu vero sapiens, illos ex mari erroris extraxisti, divina virtu te ejus qui illic corporaliter peregrinatus est, et opera manuum illorum destruxit in brachio excelso.

O dive Marce, sapientis scribæ et velociter scribentis calamus apparuisti, Christi incamationem mirabiliter scribens, et splendide annuntians verba æternæ vitæ; ut in illa describantur te celebrantes, et tuam gloriosam honorantes memoriam, Dominum deprecare.

O Marce laudabilis, Christum evangelizans omnem percurristi terram, illam sicut sol illuminans radiis fidei, illam antea cooperatam tenebris idololatriæ; et nunc Deum exora, ut animabus nostris pacem et magnam concedat misericordiam.

O Marce Apostole, ubi primum abundavit impietatis stultitia ipse evangelizasti; Ægyptiorum tenebras lumine sermonum tuorum depellens, Dei nuntius; et nunc deprecare ut nobis Deus concedat pacem et magnam misericordiam.

Petri sapientis discipulus, et ejus filiali adoptione potitus, Marce omnilaudabilis, mysteriorum Christi interpres effectus es, et cohæres ejusdem gloriæ apparuisti.

In omnem terram exivit sonus tuus, et in fines orbis terrae mirabiliter verborum tuorum virtus Davidico resonans clangore, nobis annuntiavit salutem et regenerationem.

Verbis tuis dulcedinem pietatis distillasti, velut divinus mons undique radiis illuminatus, illustre resplendens gratia solis spiritualis, Marce beatissime.

De domo Domini fons exsiluisti, et sitientes animas abundanter Spiritus Sancti rivulis irrigasti, docens pro sterilitate bonos fructus facere, O beate Apostole.

Princeps Apostolorum Petrus te mirabiliter initiavit doctrinis, ut venerabile scriberes Evangelium, te gratiæ ministrum ostendens; tu enim nobis Dei cognitionis lumen splendescere fecisti.

Spiritus Sancti gratiam desuper accipiens, rhetorum subtilitates, Apostole, destruxisti, et universas nationes velut in sagena, piscator ad Dominum traxisti, Marce omnilaudabilis, divinum prædicans Evangelium.

Principis Apostolorum discipulus esse meruisti, et cum illo Christum Filium Dei annuntians, super Petram veritatis confirmasti errore fluctuantes. Super istam Petram me quoque confirmans, sapiens Marce, animæ meæ gressus dirige, ut ex inimici laqueis ereptus, te absque ullis impedimentis glorificare possim. Tu enim omnes illuminasti, divinum prædicans Evangelium.
Let us, O ye faithful, worthily honour the sacred writer, the great patron of Egypt. Let us thus celebrate his praise: O Mark, filled with heavenly wisdom, lead us, by thy teaching and prayers, to the life where tempests rage not: lead us, for thou art an Apostle.

Thou wast the companion of the Vessel of Election in his travels, and with him thou didst traverse Macedonia. Coming afterwards to Rome, thou wast Peter's willing interpreter: and after bravely fighting God’s battles, thou didst rest in Egypt.

By thy Gospel, refreshing as purest snow, thou gavest life to souls that were parched with thirst. Therefore does Alexandria unite with us, this day, in solemnly celebrating thy feast, O holy Mark, and in venerating thy relics.

Most blessed Mark! thou didst drink of the torrent of delight. As a most rich river of peace, gushing from Paradise, thou didst water the face of the earth with the streams of thy evangelical preaching and sprinkle the deep-rooted trees of the Church with divine teaching.

Most praiseworthy Mark! heretofore Moses drove the Egyptians into the depths of the sea: but thou, wise servant of the Lord, didst draw them forth from the sea of error by the divine power of him who once dwelt in that land, and with a high arm destroyed the works of their hands.

O saintly Mark! thou pen of a wise scrivener that writeth swiftly! thou didst write admirably of the Incarnation of Christ and gloriously proclaim the words of eternal life: in that same may there be written the names of them that celebrate and honour thy blessed memory. Pray to the Lord that this may be.

O praiseworthy Mark! thy Gospel has preached Christ throughout the whole earth, enlightening it as a sun with the rays of faith, whereas before it was covered with the darkness of idolatry. Pray now to God that he grant peace and abundant mercy unto our souls.

O Mark, Apostle and messenger of God! thou didst preach the Gospel to the land where the folly of impiety once reigned and dispel the darkness of the Egyptians by the light of thy words. Pray now to God, that he grant us peace and abundant mercy.

Disciple and adopted son of Peter, the master of wisdom, thou, O most praiseworthy Mark, wast made the interpreter of the mysteries of Christ, and coheir with him in glory.

Thy sound went forth into all the earth, and as David sang in his prophecy, the power of thy words, reaching wonderfully unto the ends of the earth, brought us the tidings of salvation and regeneration.

O most holy Mark! thou didst pour forth the sweetness of piety by thy words, for as the mountain of God, bright on all sides with light, thou wast admirably resplendent with the grace of the divine Sun.

O blessed Apostle! thou wast a fountain springing from the house of the Lord, giving to thirsting souls the abundant waters of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to change their barrenness for good works.

Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, admirably initiated thee into the knowledge he possessed, that thou mightest write the holy Gospel, and become a minister of grace; for thou hast made the light of the knowledge of God to beam upon us.

With the grace of the Holy Ghost received from on high, thou, O Apostle and most praiseworthy Mark, didst destroy the sophisms of human eloquence; as a fisherman thou didst cast the net by preaching the holy .Gospel, and didst draw all nations unto the Lord.

Thou wast the worthy disciple of the Prince of the Apostles; by uniting with him in declaring Christ to be the Son of God, thou didst confirm on the Rock of truth them that were tossed about by error. O confirm me too upon this Rock, O thou wise Apostle! guide thou the feet of my soul, that, being delivered from the snares of the enemy, I may without hindrance praise thee: for thou gavest light to all men by thy preaching of the holy Gospel.

Thou, O Mark, art the mystic Lion, who, with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, art yoked to the chariot whereon the King of kings pursues his triumphant course through the earth. Ezechiel, the prophet of the Ancient Testament, and John, the prophet of the New Law, saw thee standing nigh the throne of Jehovah. How magnificent is thy glory! Thou art the historian of the Word made Flesh, and thou publishest to all generations his claims to the love and adoration of mankind. The Church reveres thy writings, and bids us receive them as inspired by the Holy Ghost.

It was thou that, on the glad day of Easter, didst announce to us the Resurrection of our Lord: pray for us, O holy Evangelist, that this divine mystery may work its effects within us; and that our hearts, like thine own, may be firm in their love of our Risen Jesus, that so we may faithfully follow in him that new life which he gave us by his Resurrection. Ask him to give us his peace, as he did to his Apostles when he showed himself to them in the Cenacle, and as he did to thee when he appeared to thee in thy prison.

Thou wast the beloved disciple of Peter; Rome was honoured by thy presence: pray for the successor of Peter, thy master; pray for the Church of Rome, against which the wildest storm is now venting its fury. Pray to the Lion of the Tribe of Juda: he seems to sleep; and yet we know that he has but to show himself, and the victory is gained.

Apostle of Egypt! what has become of thy flourishing Church of Alexandria, Peter’s second see, the hallowed scene of thy martyrdom? Its very ruins have perished. The scorching blast of heresy made Egypt a waste, and God, in his anger, let loose upon her the torrent of Mahometanism. Twelve centuries have passed since then, and she is still a slave to error and tyranny: is it to be thus with her till the coming of the Judge? Pray, we beseech thee, for the countries thou didst so zealously evangelize, but whose deserts are now the image of her loss of faith.

And can Venice be forgotten by thee, who art her dearest patron? Her people still call themselves thine for the faith; bless her with prosperity; obtain for her that she may be purified by her trials, and return to the God who had chastised her in his justice. A nation that is loyal to the Church must prosper: let Venice, then, return to her former fidelity to Rome, and who knows but that the sovereign Ruler of the world, being appeased by thy powerful intercession, may make thy Venice what she was before she rebelled against the Holy See and tarnished the glories she won at Lepanto!

 


[1] Ezech. i 10.
[2] Gen. ii 10.
[3] Apoc. iv.
[4] Moretti, De Festo in honorem Principis Apostolorum Romæ ad diem XXV Aprilis instituto. Romæ, 1742, 10.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWO bright stars appear this day on the ecclesiastical cycle, proclaiming the glory of our Jesus, the Conqueror of death. Again they are two pontiffs, and martyr pontiffs. Cletus leads us to the very commencement of the Church, for he was a disciple of Peter, and his second successor in the See of Rome. Marcellinus was a witness of the great persecution under Diocletian; he governed the Church on the eve of her triumph. Let us honour these two fathers of Christendom, who laid down their lives in its defence; and let us offer their merits to Jesus, who supported them by his grace, and cheered them with the hope that one day they would share in his Resurrection.

The following is the account given of St Cletus by the Liturgy:

Cletus Romanus, patre Emiliano, de regione quinta, e vico Patricio, imperatoribus Vespasiano et Tito, Ecclesiam gubernavit. Is ex præcepto Principis Apostolorum, in Urbe viginti quinque presbyteros ordinavit. Primus in litteris verbis illis usus est: Salutem et Apostolicam benedictionem. Qui Ecclesia optime constituta, cum ei præfuisset annos duodecimo menses septem, dies duos, Domitiano imperatore, secunda post Neronem persecutione, martyrio corona tus est, et in Vaticano juxta corpus beati Petri sepultus.
Cletus, the son of Emilianus, was a Roman of the fifth region and of the Patrician street. He governed the Church during the reigns of the emperors Vespasian and Titus. Agreeably to the order given him by the Prince of the Apostles, he established five and twenty priests in the City. He was the first who in his letters used the words: ' Health and Apostolic benediction.' Having put the Church into admirable order, and having governed it twelve years, seven months, and two days, he was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Domitian, in the second persecution following that of Nero, and was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St Peter.

The Life of St Marcellinus is thus given in the Breviary:

Marcellinus Romanus, ab anno ducentesimo nonagesimo sexto ad annum trecentesimum quartum in immani imperatoris Diocletiani persecutione Ecclesiae præfuit. Multas pertulit angustias ob improbam eomm severitatem qui eum redarguebant de nimia indulgentia erga lapsos in idololatriam, quæque causa fuit ut per calumniam infamatus fuerit, quasi thus idolis adhibuisset. Veruna hic beatus Pontifex in confessione fidei una cum tribus aliis Christianis, Claudio, Cyrino et Antonino, capite plexus est. Quorum projecta corpora cum triginta sex dies jussu imperatoris sepultura caruissent, beatus Marcellus a sancto Petro in somnis admonitus, Presbyteris et Diaconis, hymnis ac luminibus adhibitis, honorifice sepelienda curavit in cœmeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria. Rexit Ecclesiam annos septem, menses undecim, dies viginti tres: quo tempore fecit Ordinationes duas mense decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros quatuor, episcopos per diversa loca quinque.
Marcellinus, a Roman by birth, ruled over the Church from the year two hundred and ninety six to the year three hundred and four, during the terrible persecution of Diocletian. He had much to suffer from the impious severity of those who reproached him with showing too much indulgence towards such as had relapsed into idolatry, whence ensued a calumnious report of his having offered incense to idols. But in truth, this blessed pontiff was beheaded for the confession of the faith, together with three other Christians, Claudius, Cyrinus, and Antoninus. Their bodies, by the emperor’s order, were left six and thirty days without burial, after which the blessed Marcellus, in consequence of his receiving, whilst asleep, an admonition from St Peter, had them buried in the Cemetery of Priscilla, on the Salarian Way; at which burial were present many priests and deacons, who, with torches in their hands, sang hymns in honour of the martyrs. Marcellinus governed the Church seven years, eleven months, and twenty three days. During this period he held two ordinations in December, at which four were made priests, and five bishops for divers places.

Pray for us, O holy Pontiffs, and look with fatherly love upon the Church on earth, which was so violently persecuted in your times, and at the present day is far from enjoying peace. The worship of idols is revived; and though they be not of stone or metal, yet they that adore them are as determined to propagate their worship as were the pagans of former days to make all men idolaters. The gods and goddesses now in favour are called Liberty, Progress, and Modern Civilization. Every measure is resorted to, in order to impose these new divinities upon the world; they that refuse to adore them are persecuted; governments are secularized, that is, unchristianized; the education of youth is made independent of all moral teaching; the religious element is rejected from social life as an intrusion: and all this is done with such a show of reasonableness that thousands of well-minded Christians are led to be its advocates, timid perhaps and partial, but still its advocates. Preserve us, O holy martyrs! from being the dupes of this artful impiety. It was not in vain that our Jesus suffered death, and rose again from the grave. Surely after this he deserves to be what he is—King of the whole earth, under whose power are all creatures. It is in order to obey him that we wish no other liberty save that which he has based upon the Gospel; no other progress save that which follows the path he has marked out; no other civilization save that which results from the fulfilment of the duties to our fellow-men, which he has established. It is he that created human nature, and gave it its laws; it is he that redeemed it, and restored to it its lost rights. Him alone, then, do we adore. O holy martyrs! pray that we may never become the dupes or slaves of the theories of human pride, even if they that frame or uphold them should have power to make us suffer or die for our resistance.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THERE are few martyrs of the West whose names are more celebrated than those of SS Gervasius and Protasius. The veneration in which they aie held by the Roman Church has led her to honour the memory of their father, who also won the palm under the persecution of Nero. She has chosen for his feast the glad season of Easter. The account given by the Liturgy of St Vitalis is short; but we can gather, from the few circumstances related, what fine characters these primitive Christians were who received the crown of martyrdom under the first of all the persecutions—the one that numbers among its choicest victims the two Apostles SS Peter and Paul.

Vitalis miles, sanctorum Gervasii et Protasii pater, una cum Paulino judice Ravennam ingressus, cum vidisset Ursicinum medicum ob Christianæ fidei confessionem ductum ad supplicium paululum in tormentis titubare,exclamavit: Ursicine medice, qui alios curare solitus es, cave ne te mortis æternæ jaculo conficias. Qua voce confirmatus Ursicinus, martyrium fortiter subivit. Quare Paulinus incensus Vitalem comprehendi jubet, et equuleo tortum, atque in profundam foveam demersum, lapidibus obrui. Quo facto quidam Apollinis sacerdos, qui Paulinum in Vitalem incitarat, oppressus a dæmone, clamare cœpit: Tu me nimium, Vitalis Christi martyr, incendis: et illo æstu jactatus, se præcipitavit in flumen.
Vitalis was a soldier, and the father of Saints Gervasius and Protasius. Coming one day into Ravenna, in company with the judge Paulinus, he saw a certain Ursicinus, a physician, being led to execution, for having confessed the Christian faith. Vitalis observing that his courage was somewhat shaken by the tortures, cried out to him: ‘Ursicinus! thou that art a physician, and curest other men, take heed lest thou wound thyself with the dart of eternal death!' Encouraged by these words, Ursicinus bravely suffered martyrdom. Whereupon, Paulinus was exceedingly angry, and ordered Vitalis to be seized, tortured on the rack, and then thrown into a deep pit, where he was to be buried alive by stones being thrown upon him. This done, one of the priests of Apollo, who had excited Paulinus against Vitalis, was possessed by a devil, and began shouting these words: ‘O Vitalis, martyr of Christ, thou burnest me beyond endurance!' Mad with the inward burning, he threw himself into a river.

Sin is the enemy of the soul; it throws her back again into that death whence Jesus had drawn her by his Resurrection. To preserve one of thy brethren from this misery, thou, O Vitalis, didst bravely raise a cry of zealous warning to him in the midst of his torments, and thy words awakened him to self-possession and courage. Show this same fraternal charity to us. We are living the life of our Risen Jesus; but the enemy is bent on robbing us of this life. He will seek to intimidate us; he will lay all manner of snares wherewith to deceive us; he will give us battle, and this untiringly. Pray then for us, O holy martyr, that we may be on our guard, and that the mystery of the Pasch may be fully accomplished within us, now and for ever!

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SPLENDIDLY adorned with the sacred sign of the Passion, Paul of the Cross comes to-day to pay homage to the Conqueror of Death. It behoved Christ to suffer and so enter into his glory. It behoves the Christian, the member of Christ, to follow his Head in suffering that he may share his triumph. Even as a child Paul penetrated deeply into the ineffable mystery of the suffering of a God. He was filled with an ardent love for the cross, and ran with giant strides along this royal road. He passed through the torrent, following his divine Head, he was buried with him in death, and has won a share in his Resurrection.

The diminution of truths among the children of men seemed to have dried up the fount of sanctity, when Italy, ever fruitful in her vivid faith, gave birth to the Christian hero, who stands out in the arid waste of the eighteenth century, like a saint of olden times. God never deserts his Church. He confronts a century of revolt and sensualism veiled under the name of philosophy with the Cross of his Son. A new Paul, recalling both in his name and his works the great Apostle of the Gentiles, rises in the midst of a generation intoxicated with pride and falsehood, to whom the Cross has become once more a folly and a scandal. This apostle was weak, poor, isolated and long misunderstood, but his heart was full of love and self-abnegation, and he sought to put to confusion the wisdom of sages and the prudence of prudent men. Clad in a coarse habit, with bare feet, his head crowned with thorns and a heavy cross on his shoulder, he journeyed through cities, claiming the attention of both the humble and the mighty, and desiring to know nothing but Jesus Crucified. The Cross made his zeal fruitful and showed itself to be indeed the power and the wisdom of God. Those who prided themselves on having banished the miraculous from history and the supernatural from the life of the people, might exult in their triumph, but, unknown to them, wonderful prodigies, countless miracles, were making whole peoples submissive to the voice of this man who, by completely destroying sin in his own person, had regained the power which Adam once had over nature, and seemed to possess in his mortal flesh the qualities of a glorified body.

But the apostolate of the Cross was not to end with Paul’s death. The resources of ancient times were no longer sufficient for a decrepit age. We are far from the days when the exquisite delicacy of Christian sentiment was strongly moved by the sight of the cross amid flowers, as it is seen in the paintings of the catacombs. Man’s senses have been dulled by unhealthy emotions, and there is need of a stimulant in the form of a constant representation of the tears, the Blood, and the gaping wounds of our divine Redeemer. Paul of the Cross received the mission to supply this need. At the cost of unspeakable sufferings he became the father of a new religious family, which adds to the three ordinary vows of religion a fourth vow—to propagate devotion to the sacred Passion of our Lord, the badge of which each Religious wears visibly on his breast.

We must not forget that the Passion of our Lord is for the Christian soul only a preparation for the great mystery of the Pasch, the glorious term of the manifestations of the Word, the supreme end of the elect, whose piety finds therein its completion and its crown. The Holy Spirit, who guides the Church throughout the admirable course of the liturgical cycle, has no other end in view for the souls who abandon themselves unreservedly to his sanctifying power. Paul's desire was to be nailed to the cross on Calvary, but he was often carried thence to the heights of heaven where he heard mysterious words such as it is not granted to man to utter.[1] He assisted at the triumph of the Son of Man, who, after having lived on earth a mortal life and passed through death, is living now for ever and ever.[2] He saw on the throne of God the Lamb standing as though slain, and giving light to the heavenly city,[3] and this sublime vision of the realities of heaven inspired him with that divine enthusiasm, that intoxication of love, which, in spite of his terrifying austerities, gives an incomparable charm to his whole person. ‘Fear not,' he said to his children who were terrified by the furious attacks of the Devil, ' fear not, cry “Alleluia.” The devil is afraid of the Alleluia; it is a word that comes from Paradise.' He could not restrain his feelings when he saw nature born again with her Saviour in these days of spring, the flowers blossoming under the steps of his Risen Lord, the birds celebrating his victory in their harmonious songs. His heart was full to overflowing with love and poetry; he touched the flowers gently with his stick and upbraided them, saying: ‘Hold your peace, hold your peace.’ ‘To whom do these lands belong?’ he said one day to a companion, ‘to whom do these lands belong, I say? You do not understand. They belong to our great God.’ And his biographer relates that he was rapt in an ecstasy of love and carried some distance through the air. ‘Love God, my brethren,' he repeated to all those whom he met, ‘love God, who so well deserves our love. Do you not hear the very leaves on the trees telling you to love God? O love of God, love of God!'

We yield to the charm of a sanctity which is so sweet and yet so strong. It is a divine attraction, such as could never be exercised by the false spirituality, so much in vogue in the eighteenth century, even among the holiest. Under pretext of subduing man's evil nature and avoiding possible excesses, the new teachers allied themselves, though unwittingly, with Jansenism, checked the flight of the soul, disciplined it, remade it according to their own fashion, and confined it within the limits of certain rules which were supposed to lead all souls to perfection at the same rate. But saints are made by the divine Spirit, the spirit of love and holiness, to whose essence liberty belongs. He does not confine himself within the bounds of human methods. Our Lord says: ' The Spirit breatheth where he will . . . but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is bom of the Spirit.'[4] The Holy Ghost chose Paul in his earliest infancy. He took possession of this child, so richly endowed by nature, destroyed nothing and sanctified everything. He formed him according to ancient models, always ardent, always attractive, and exceedingly holy. Such a one could never have been produced by a school whose over-correct methods wear the soul out by a barren and self-centred asceticism.

The Liturgy gives the following short account of St Paul of the Cross:

Paulus a Cruce Uvadae in Liguria natus, sed e Castellatio prope Alexandriam nobili genere oriundus, qua futurus esset sanctitate clarus, innotuit miro splendore qui noctu implevit parientis matris cubiculum, et insigni augustæ cœli Reginas beneficio, quæ puerum in flumen delapsum a certo naufragio illaesum eripuit. A primo rationis usu, Jesu Christi crucifixi amore flagrans, ejus contemplationi prolixius vacare cœpit, et carnem innocentissimam vigiliis, flagellis, jejuniis, potu in sexta feria ex aceto cum felle mixto, ac dura quavis castigatione conter ere. Martyrii desiderio incensus, exercitui se adjunxit, qui Venetiis ad bellum Turcis inferendum comparabatur; cognita vero inter orandum Dei voluntate, arma ultro reddidit, præstantiori militiæ operam daturus, quæ Ecclesiæ præsidio esse, æternamque hominum salutem procurare totis viribus niteretur. Reversus in patriam, honestissimis nuptiis, sibique delata patrui hereditate, recusatis. arctiorem inire semitam, ac rudi tunica a suo Episcopo indui voluit. Tum ejus jussu, ab eminentem vitæ sanctimoniam, et rerum divinarum scientiam, nondum clericus Dominicum agrum, maximo cum animarum fructu, divini verbi prædicatione excoluit.

Romam profectus, theologicis disciplinis rite imbutus, a summo Pontifice Benedicto Decimo tertio ex obedientia sacerdotio auctus est. Facta sibi ab eodem potestate aggregandi socios, in solitudinem recessit Argentarii montis, quo eum beata Virgo jampridem invitaverat, veste illi simul ostensa atri coloris, Passionis Filli sui insignibus decorata, ibique fundamenta jecit novæ Congregationis. Quæ brevi, plurimis ab eo toleratis laboribus, præclaris aucta viris, cum Dei benedictione valde succrevit; a Sede Apostolica non semel confirmata una cum regulis, quas orando ipse a Deo acceperat, et quarto addito voto pergratam Dominicæ Passionis memoriam promovendi. Sacras Virgines quoque instituit, quæ excessum caritatis divini Sponsi sedulo meditarentur. Hæc inter, animarum inexhausta aviditate ab Evangelii prsedicatione numquam deficiens, homines pene innumeros etiam perditissimos aut in hæresim lapsos, in salutis tramitem adduxit. Præsertim Christi enarranda Passione, mirifica ejus prationis vis erat, qua una cum adstantibus in fletum effusus quælibet obdurata corda ad poenitentiam scindebat.

Tanta in ejus pectore alebatur divinæ caritatis fiamma, ut indusium quod erat cordi propius sæpe veluti igne adustum, et binæ costæ elatæ apparuerint. Sacrum prææsertim faciens non poterat a lacrimis temperare; frequenti quoque exstasi, cum mira interdum corporis elevatione, frui, vultuque superna luce radiante con spi ciebatur. Quandoque cum concionaretur, coelestis vox verba ei suggerentis audita fuit, aut sermo ejus ad plura millia passuum intonuit. Prophetiæ et linguarum dono, cordium scrutatione, potestate in dæmones, in morbos, in elementa enituit. Cumque ipsis summis Pontificibus carus et venerandus esset, servum inutilem, peccatorem nequissimum, a dæmoniis quoque conculcandum se judicabat. Tandem, asperrimi vitæ generis ad longam usque senectutem tenacissimus, anno millesimo septingentesimo septuagesimo quinto, cum præclara monita veluti sui spiritus transmissa haereditate, alumnis tradidisset, Ecclesiæ sacramentis, ac cœlesti visione recreatus, Romæ qua prædixerat die migravit in cœlum, Eum Pius Nonus Pontifex Maximus in beatorum, novisque deinde fulgentem signis in sanctorum numerum retulit.

Paul of the Cross was bom at Ovada, in the province of Acqui, and was descended from a noble family of Castellazzo near Alessandria. His future holiness was foreshown by a wonderful light which filled his mother’s room while she was in labour, and by a remarkable proof of the protection of the Queen of Heaven, who saved him from drowning in the river as a child. From the first use of reason he was filled with an ardent love for Jesus Crucified, and began to devote much time to con templation of him. He chastised his innocent flesh with watchings, scourgings, fasting, and all kinds of austerity, and on Fridays drank vinegar mingled with gall. Out of a desire for martyrdom he enlisted in the army which was being raised at Venice to fight against the Turks, but having learnt in prayer what was the Will of God, he gave up this career in order to serve in a nobler army which was to defend the Church and labour for the eternal salvation of men. When he returned home he refused a very honourable marriage and tie inheritance left him by his uncle. He wished to enter upon a straiter way, and to receive a coarse tunic from the bishop, who, on account of his holiness of life and knowledge of divine things, commissioned him even before his ordination to preach the Word of God, which he did with great profit to souls.

He went to Rome, and after having gone through the theological course was ordained priest by command of Pope Benedict XIII, who also gave him permission to gather comrades around him. He withdrew to the solitude of Mount Argentaro, whither he had been summoned by the Blessed Virgin, who had also shown him in vision a black habit bearing the emblems of the Passion of her Son. Here he laid the foundations of a new Congregation which, through his labours and the blessing of God, quickly increased and attracted eminent men. It received the confirmation of the Apostolic See more than once, together with the Rule which Paul had himself received from God in prayer, and the addition of a fourth vow to promote devotion to the Passion of our Lord. He founded also a congregation of nuns, whose vocation should be to meditate upon the surpassing charity of their heavenly Spouse. His untiring love for souls caused him never to weary in preaching the Gospel, and he brought numbers of men, both heretics and criminals, into the way of salvation. So great was his eloquence when he spoke of the Passion that both he and his hearers would shed tears, and the most hardened hearts were moved to repentance.

The fire of the love of God burnt so in his heart that his garments often seemed to be scorched, and two of his ribs raised. He could not restrain his tears, particularly when saying Mass, and he was often rapt in ecstasy and raised into the air, while his face shone as with light from heaven. Sometimes when he was preaching, a heavenly voice was heard prompting him, and at others his words became audible at the distance of several miles. He was distinguished for the gifts of prophecy, of speaking with tongues, of reading the heart, and of power over evil spirits, over diseases, and over the elements. Though Popes regarded him with affection and veneration, he looked upon himself as an unprofitable servant upon whom devils might well trample. He persevered in his austerities until extreme old age, and died at Rome on the day he had himself foretold (October I8, 1775), after having received the Last Sacraments and the consolation of a heavenly vision. He left the spirit of his teaching as an inheritance to his disciples in the beautiful exhortations he made to them on his death-bed. Pope Pius IX enrolled him among the Blessed, and after renewed signs and wonders proceeded to his canonization.

Thou hadst but one thought, O Paul. Hidden in those ‘clefts of the rock,’[5] which are the sacred Wounds of the Saviour, thou wouldst bring all men to these divine fountains which quench the thirst of the true Israel in the desert of this life. Happy were they who could hear thy victorious word and save themselves by the Cross in the midst of a perverse generation. But in spite of thy apostolic zeal, thy voice could not make itself heard in all lands, and where thou wast absent evil was let loose upon the world. False science and mistaken piety, mistrust of Rome and the corruption of the great had prepared the way for the destruction of the old Christian social order, and the world was given over to teachers of lies. Thy prophetic gaze saw the abyss in which kings and peoples were soon to be engulfed. The successor of St Peter, unable to quell the storm which raged against the Church, sought by his efforts and sacrifices to hold back the floods, even for a time. Thou wert the friend of the Pontiffs and their support in those sad days, the witness of Christ suffering in his Vicar. What sorrows were confided to thee! And what must have been thy thoughts when at thy death thou didst bequeath the venerated image of the Mater Dolorosa to a Pontiff who was destined to drain the cup of bitterness and die a captive in a strange land! Thou didst promise to watch over the Church from thy throne in heaven with that tender compassion which identified thee on earth with her suffering Spouse. Keep this promise to-day, O Paxil! This age of social disintegration has neither made atonement for the sins of the past nor learnt wisdom from misfortune. The Church is the victim of oppression on all sides, the power is in the hands of her persecutors, and the Vicar of Christ is a prisoner in his palace and lives on alms. The Bride has no bed but the Cross of her Spouse, she lives on the memory of his sufferings. The Holy Spirit who guards her and is preparing her for the final summons, has raised thee up to keep her perpetually in mind of those sufferings which are to strengthen her in the trials of the last days.

Thy children all the world over are true to the spirit of their father and continue thy work on earth. They have gained a footing in England where thy prophetic gaze foresaw their labours, and this kingdom, for which thou didst pray so earnestly, is being gradually freed, through their influence, from the bonds of schism and heresy. Bless their apostolate. May they grow and be multiplied to meet the ever-increasing needs of these unhappy times! May their zeal ever continue to minister to the Church, and may the holiness of their lives ever redound to the glory of their father!

Thou, O Paul, wast faithful to thy crucified Master in his humiliation, and he has been faithful to thee in his triumphant Resurrection. In the hour of darkness thou didst live hidden in the clefts of the mysterious Rock. But what must be thy glory, now that Christ victorious ‘enlighteneth wonderfully from the everlasting hills’![6] Enlighten and perfect us, we beseech thee. We give thanks to God for thy triumph. Do thou in return help us to be faithful to the standard of the Cross, so that we, like thee, may be illuminated by its glory, when it appears in the clouds of heaven on the day of judgement.[7] O Apostle of the Cross, initiate us into the mystery of the Pasch, which is so closely connected with that of Calvary. Only he who has shared the combat can comprehend the victory and have part in the triumph.

 


[1] 2 Cor. xii 4.
[2] Apoc. i 18.
[3] Ibid, xxi 23.
[4] St John iii 8.
[5] Cant, ii 14.
[6] Ps. xxv 5.
[7] Cf. St Matt. xxiv 30.

 

Articles...