logo with text

















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.

This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.

The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.

This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.

Br. L.F. O.S.B.

Solesmes, May 10, 1879.


For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.

Introduction to the Season of advent

Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS

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

Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima

Introduction to the Season of Lent

Introduction to passiontide and holy week

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.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE hero deputed this day by the Church to greet our Risen Lord was so valiant in the good fight that martyrdom is part of his name. He is known as Peter the Martyr; so that we cannot speak of him without raising the echo of victory. He was put to death by heretics, and is the grand tribute paid to our Redeemer by the thirteenth century. Never was there a triumph hailed with greater enthusiasm than this. The martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury excited the admiration of the faithful of the preceding century, for nothing was so dear to our forefathers as the liberty of the Church; the martyrdom of St Peter was celebrated with a like intensity of praise and joy. Let us hearken to the fervid eloquence of the great Pontiff, Innocent IV, who thus begins the Bull of the martyr's canonization: ‘The truth of the Christian faith, manifested, as it has been, by great and frequent miracles, is now beautified by the new merit of a new Saint. Lo! a combatant of these our own times comes, bringing us new and great and triumphant signs. The voice of his blood shed (for Christ) is heard, and the fame of his martyrdom is trumpeted, through the world. The land is not silent that sweateth with his blood; the country that produced so noble a warrior resounds with his praise; yea, the very sword that did the deed of parricide proclaims his glory. . . . Mother Church has great reason to rejoice, and abundant matter for gladness; she has cause to sing a new canticle to the Lord, and a hymn of fervent praise to her God; . . . the Christian people has cause to give forth devout songs to its Creator. A sweet fruit, gathered in the garden of faith, has been set upon the table of the eternal King: a grape-bunch taken from the vineyard of the Church has filled the royal cup with new wine. . . . The flourishing Order of Preachers has produced a red rose, whose sweetness is most grateful to the King; and from the Church here on earth there has been taken a stone, which, after being cut and polished, has deserved a place of honour in the temple of heaven.'[1]

Such was the language wherewith the supreme Pontiff spoke of the new martyr, and the people responded by celebrating his feast with extraordinary devotion. It was kept as were the ancient festivals, that is, all servile work was forbidden upon it. The churches served by the Fathers of the Dominican Order were crowded on his feast; and the faithful took little branches with them, that they might be blessed in memory of the triumph of Peter the Martyr. This custom is still observed; and the branches blessed by the Dominicans on this day are venerated as being a protection to the houses where they arc kept.

How are we to account for all this fervent devotion of the people towards St Peter? It was because he died in defence of the faith; and nothing was so dear to the Christians of those days as faith: Peter had received the charge to seize all the heretics who at that time were causing great disturbance and scandal in the country round about Milan. They were called Cathari, but in reality were Manicheans; their teachings were detestable, and their lives most immoral. Peter fulfilled his duty with a firmness and equity which soon secured him the hatred of the heretics; and when he fell a victim to his holy courage, a cry of admiration and gratitude was heard throughout Christendom. Nothing could be more devoid of truth than the accusations brought by the enemies of the Church and their indiscreet abettors against the measures formerly decreed by the public law of Catholic nations, in order to foil the efforts made by evil-minded men to injure the true faith. In those times, no tribunal was so popular as that whose office it was to protect the faith, and to put down all them that attacked it. It was to the Order of St Dominic that this office was mainly entrusted; and well may they be proud of the honour of having so long held one so beneficial to the salvation of mankind. How many of its members have met with a glorious death in the exercise of their stem duty! St Peter is the first of the martyrs given by the Order for this, holy cause: his name, however, heads a long list of others who were his brethren in religion, his successors in the defence of the faith, and his followers to martyrdom. The coercive measures that were once, and successfully, used to defend the faithful from heretical teachers have long since ceased to be used: but for us Catholics, our judgement of them must surely be that of the Church. She bids us to-day honour as a martyr one of her Saints, who was put to death whilst resisting the wolves that threatened the sheep of Christ’s fold; should we not be guilty of disrespect to our Mother if we dared to condemn what she so highly approves? Far, then, be from us that cowardly truckling to the spirit of the age, which would make us ashamed of the courageous efforts made by our forefathers for the preservation of the faith! Far from us that childish readiness to believe the calumnies of Protestants against an institution which they naturally detest! Far from us that deplorable confusion of ideas which puts truth and error on an equality, and, from the fact that error can have no rights, concludes that truth can claim none!

The following is the account given us by the Church of the virtues and heroism of St Peter the Martyr:

Petrus Veronæ parentibus Manichæorum hæresi infect is natus, ab ipsa pene infantia contra hæreses pugnavit. Puer annorum septem, cum scholas frequentaret, aliquando a patruo hæretico interrogatus quid tandem in iis didicisset, Christianæ Fidei Symbolum se didicisse respondit: neque ullis unquam patris patruive blanditiis aut minis a fidei constantia dimoveri potuit. Adolescens Bononiam studiorum causa venit: ubi a Spiritu Sancto ad sublimioris vitæ formam vocatus, Ordinis Prædicatorum institutum suscepit.

Magno virtutum splendore in religione eluxit: corpus et animam ab omni impuntate ita custodivit, ut nullius mortiferi peccati labe se inquinatum unquam senserit. Carnem jejuniis et vigiliis macerabat, mentem divinis contemplationibus exercebat: in salute animarum procuranda assidue versabatur, peculiaris gratiæ dono hæreticos acriter confutabat. Tantam in concionando vim habuit, ut innumerabilis hominum multitudo ad eum audiendum confiueret, multique ad poenitentiam converterentur.

Tanto fidei ardore incensus erat, ut pro ea mortem subire optaret, eamque a Deo gratiam enixe precaretur. Itaque hæretici necem, quam is paulo ante concionando prædixerat, illi intulerunt. Nam cum sanctæ Inquisitionis munus gereret, illum Como Mediolanum redeuntem, impius sicarius semel atque iterum in capite gladio vulneravit; jamqjamue pene mortuus, Symbol um fidei, quam infans virili fortitudine confessus fuerat, in ipso supremo spiritu pronuntiavit: iterumque latera mucrone transverberatus, ad martyrii palmam migravit in cœlum, anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo quinquagesimo secundo: quem multis illustrem miraculis, Innocentius Quartus anno sequenti, sanctorum Martyrum numero adscripsit.
Peter was born at Verona, of parents who were infected with the heresy of the Manichees; but he himself, almost from his very infancy, fought against heresies. When he was seven years old, he was one day asked by an uncle, who was a heretic, what they taught him at the school to which he went. He answered that they taught him the Symbol of the Christian Faith. His father and uncle did all they could, both by promises and threats, to shake the firmness of his faith: but all to no purpose. When old enough, he went to Bologna, in order to prosecute his studies. Whilst there, he was called by the Holy Ghost to a life of perfection, and obeyed the call by entering into the Order of St Dominic.

Great were his virtues as a Religious. So careful was he to keep both body and soul from whatsoever could sully their purity, that his conscience never accused him of committing a mortal sin. He mortified his body by fasting and watching, and applied his mind to the contemplation of heavenly things. He laboured incessantly for the salvation of souls, and was gifted with a special grace for refuting heretics. He was so earnest when preaching, that people used to go in crowds to hear him, and numerous were the conversions that ensued.

The ardour of his faith was such that he wished he might die for it, and earnestly did he beg that favour from God. This death, which he foretold a short time before in one of his sermons, was inflicted on him by the heretics. Whilst returning from Como to Milan, in the discharge of the duties of the holy Inquisition, he was attacked by a wicked assassin, who struck him twice on the head with a sword. The symbol of faith, which he had confessed with manly courage when but a child, he now began to recite with his dying lips; and having received another wound in his side, he went to receive a martyr's palm in heaven, in the year of our Lord twelve hundred and fifty-two. Numerous miracles attested his sanctity, and his name was enrolled the following year by Innocent the Fourth in the list of the martyrs.

The following Antiphons and Responsory are taken from the Dominican Breviary:

Ant. De fumo lumen oritur, et rosæ flos de sentibus: doctor et martyr nascitur Petrus de infidelibus.

Ant. Prædicatorum ordinis militans in acie, nunc conjunctus est agmini coelestis militiæ.

Ant. Mens fuit angelica, lingua fructuosa, vita apostolica, mors quam pretiosa.

℟. Dum Samsonis vulpes quærit, ab iniquis cæditur: caput sacrum lictor ferit, justi sanguis funditur;
* Sic triumphi palmam gerit, dum pro fide moritur.
℣. Stat invictus pugil fortis: constans profert hora mortis fidem, pro qua patitur.
* Sic triumphi palmam gerit, dum pro fide moritur.
Ant. There rises a light from smoke, and a rose from the midst of briars: Peter, the Doctor and Martyr, is born of infidel parents.

Ant. A soldier once in the ranks of the Order of Preachers, he now is joined to the troop of the heavenly army.

Ant. His mind angelic, his tongue fruitful, his life apostolic, his death most precious.

℟. Whilst in search of Samson's foxes, he is slain by the wicked: the lictor strikes the holy head, the blood of the just man is shed:
* Thus he holds the palm of triumph, whilst dying for the faith.
℣. The brave soldier is unconquered: at the hour of death he courageously confesses the faith for which he suffers.
* Thus he holds the palm of triumph, whilst dying for the faith.

The victory was thine, O Peter! and thy zeal for the defence of our holy faith was rewarded. Thou didst ardently desire to shed thy blood for the holiest of causes, and by such a sacrifice to confirm the faithful of Christ in their religion. Our Lord satisfied thy desire; he would even have thy martyrdom be in the festive season of the Resurrection of our divine Lamb, that his glory might add lustre to the beauty of thy holocaust. When the death-blow fell upon thy venerable head, and thy generous blood was flowing from the wounds, thou didst write on the ground the first words of the creed, for whose holy truth thou wast giving thy life.

Protector of the Christian people! what other motive hadst thou, in all thy labours, but charity? What else but a desire to defend the weak from danger induced thee not only to preach against error, but to drive its teachers from the flock? How many simple souls, who were receiving divine truth from the teaching of the Church, have been deceived by the lying sophistry of heretical doctrine, and have lost the faith? Surely the Church would do her utmost to ward off such dangers from her children; she would do all she could to defend them from enemies, who were bent on destroying the glorious inheritance which had been handed down to them by millions of martyrs! She knew the strange tendency that often exists in the heart of fallen man to love error; whereas truth, though of itself unchanging, is not sure of its remaining firmly in the mind, unless it be defended by learning or by faith. As to learning, there are but few who possess it; and as to faith, error is ever conspiring against it, and, of course, with the appearance of truth. In the Christian ages it would have been deemed not only criminal, but absurd, to grant to error the libertywhich is due only to truth; and they that were in authority considered it a duty to keep the weak from danger, by removing from them all occasions of a fall; just as the father of a family keeps his children from coming in contact with wicked companions who could easily impose on their inexperience, and lead them to evil under the name of good.

Obtain for us, O holy martyr, a keen appreciation of the precious gift of faith—that element which keeps us in the way of salvation. May we zealously do everything that lies in our power to preserve it, both in ourselves and in them that are under our care. The love of this holy faith has grown cold in so many hearts; and frequent intercourse with heretics or free-thinkers has made them think and speak of matters of faith in a very loose way. Pray for them, O Peter, that they may recover that fearless love of the truths of religion which should be one of the chief traits of the Christian character. If they be living in a country where the modem system is introduced of treating all religions alike—that is, of giving equal rights to error and to truth—let them be all the more courageous in professing the truth, and detesting the errors opposed to the truth. Pray for us, O holy martyr, that there may be enkindled within us an ardent love of that faith without which it is impossible to please God.[2] Pray that we may become all earnestness in this duty, which is of vital importance to salvation; that thus our faith may daily gain strength within us, till at length we shall merit to see in heaven what we have believed unhesitatingly on earth.


[1] The Apostolic Constitution Maquis et crebris, of the 9th of the Kalends of April 1253.
[2] Heb. xi 6.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Dominican Order, which yesterday presented a rose to our Risen Jesus, now offers him a lily of surpassing beauty. Catharine of Siena follows Peter the Martyr: it is a coincidence willed by Providence, to give fresh beauty to this season of grandest mysteries. Our divine King deserves everything we can offer him; and our hearts are never so eager to give him every possible tribute of homage as during these last days of his sojourn among us. See how nature is all flower and fragrance at this loveliest of her seasons! The spiritual world harmonizes with the visible, and now yields her noblest and richest works in honour of our Lord, the author of grace.

How grand is the Saint whose feast comes to gladden us to-day! She is one of the most favoured of the holy Spouses of the Incarnate Word. She was his, wholly and unreservedly, almost from her very childhood. Though thus consecrated to him by the vow of holy virginity, she had a mission given to her by divine Providence which required her living in the world. But God would have her to be one of the glories of the religious state; he therefore inspired her to join the Third Order of St Dominic. Accordingly, she wore the habit, and fervently practised during her whole life the holy exercises of a Tertiary.

From the very commencement, there was something heavenly about this admirable servant of God, which we fancy existing in an angel who had been sent from heaven to live in a human body. Her longing after God gave one an idea of the vehemence wherewith the blessed embrace the Sovereign Good on their first entrance into heaven. In vain did the body threaten to impede the soaring of this earthly seraph; she subdued it by penance, and made it obedient to the spirit. Her body seemed to be transformed, so as to have no life of its own, but only that of the soul. The Blessed Sacrament was frequently the only food she took for weeks together. So complete was her union with Christ that she received the impress of the sacred stigmata, and with them the most excruciating pain.

And yet in the midst of all these supernatural favours, Catharine felt the keenest interest in the necessities of others. Her zeal for their spiritual advantage was intense, whilst her compassion for them in their corporal sufferings was that of a most loving mother. God had given her the gift of miracles, and she was lavish in using it for the benefit of her fellow-creatures. Sickness and death itself were obedient to her command; and the prodigies witnessed at the beginning of the Church were again wrought by the humble Saint of Siena.

Her communings with God began when she was quite a child, and her ecstasies were almost without interruption. She frequently saw our Risen Jesus, who never left her without having honoured her either with a great consolation or with a heavy cross. A profound knowledge of the mysteries of our holy faith was another of the extraordinary graces bestowed upon her. So eminent indeed was the heavenly wisdom granted her by God that she, who had received no education, used to dictate the most sublime writings, wherein she treats of spiritual things with a clearness and eloquence to which human genius could never attain, and with a certain indescribable unction which no reader can resist.

But God would not permit such a treasure as this to lie buried in a little town of Italy. The Saints are the supports of the Church; and though their influence be generally hidden, yet at times it is open and visible, and men then learn what are the instruments which God uses for imparting blessings to a world that would seem to deserve little else besides chastisement. The great question, at the close of the fourteenth century, was the restoration to the Holy City of the privilege of having within its walls the Vicar of Christ, who for sixty years had been absent from his see. One saintly soul, by merits and prayers, known to heaven alone, might have brought about this happy event after which the whole Church was longing; but God would have it done by a visible agency, and in the most public manner. In the name of the widowed Rome—in the name of her own and the Church's Spouse—Catharine crossed the Alps, and sought an interview with the Pontiff, who had not so much as seen Rome. The prophetess respectfully reminded him of his duty; and in proof of her mission being from God, she told him of a secret which was known to himself alone. Gregory XI could no longer resist; and the Eternal City welcomed its Pastor and Father. But at the Pontiff's death, a frightful schism, the forerunner of greater evils to follow, broke out in the Church. Catharine, even to her last hour, was untiring in her endeavours to quell the storm. Having lived the same number of years as our Saviour had done, she breathed forth her most pure soul into the hands of her God, and went to continue in heaven her ministry of intercession for the Church she had loved so much on earth, and for souls redeemed in the precious Blood of her divine Spouse.

Our Risen Jesus, who took her to her eternal reward during the season of Easter, granted her whilst she was living on earth a favour which we mention here as being appropriate to the mystery we are now celebrating. He one day appeared to her, having with him his blessed Mother. Mary Magdalen—she that announced the Resurrection to the Apostles—accompanied the Son and the Mother. Catharine's heart was overpowered with emotion at this visit. After looking for some time upon Jesus and his holy Mother, her eyes rested on Magdalen, whose happiness she both saw and envied. Jesus spoke these words to her: ‘My beloved! I give her to thee, to be thy mother. Address thyself to her, henceforth, with all confidence. I give her special charge of thee.' From that day forward, Catharine had the most filial love for Magdalen, and called her by no other name than that of mother.

Let us now read the beautiful, but too brief, account of our Saint’s life, as given in the Liturgy.

Catharina, Virgo Senensis, piis orta parentibus, beati Dominici habitum, quem Sorores de Poenitentia gestant, impetravit. Summa ejusfuit abstinentia, et admirabilis vitæ austeritas. Inventa est aliquando a die Cinerum usque ad Ascensionem Domini jejunium perduxisse, sola Eucharistiae communione contenta. Luctabatur quam frequentissime cum dæmonibus, multisque illorum molestiis vexabatur: æstuabat febribus, nec aliorum morborum cruciatu carebat. Magnum et sanctum erat Catharinæ nomen, et undique ad eam ægroti et malignis vexati spiritibus deducebantur. Languoribus et febribus in Christi nomine imperabat, et dæmones cogebat ab obsessis abire corporibus.

Cum Pisis immoraretur, die Dominico, refecta cibo coelesti, et in extasim rapta, vidit Dominum crucifixum magno cum lumine advenientem, et ex ejus vulnerum cicatricibus quinque radios ad quinque loca sui corporis descendentes; ideoque mysterium advertens, Dominum precata, ne cicatrices apparerent, continuo radii colorem sanguineum mutaverunt in splendidum, et in formam puræ lucis pervenerunt ad manus, pedes et cor ejus: ac tantus erat dolor quem sensibiliter patiebatur, ut nisi Deus minuisset, brevi se crederet morituram. Hanc itaque gratiam amantissimus Dominus nova gratia cumulavit, ut sentiret dolorem illapsa vi vulnerum, et cruenta signa non apparerent. Quod ita contigisse cum Dei famula confessano suo Raymundo retulisset, ut oculis etiam repræsentaretur, radios in imaginibus beatæ Catha rinæ ad dicta quinque loca pertingentes, pia fidelium cura pictis coloribus expressit.

Doctrina ejus infusa, non acquisita fuit: sacrarum litterarum professoribus difficillimas de divinitate quæstiones proponentibus respondit. Nemo ad eam accessit qui non melior abierit: multa exstinxit odia, et mortai es sedavit inimicitias. Pro pace Florentinorum, qui cum Ecclesia dissidebant, et interdicto ecclesiastico supposi ti erant, Avenionem ad Gregorium Undecimum Pontificem Maximum profecta est, cui etiam votum ejus de petenda Urbe, soli Deo notum, sese divini tus cognovisse monstravit: deliberavitque Pontifex, ea etiam suadente, ad sedem suam Romanam personaliter accedere; quod et fecit. Eidem Gregorio et Urbano Sexto ejus successori acceptissima fuit, adeo ut legationibus eorum fungeretur. Denique post innumera virtutum insignia, dono prophetiæ, et pluribus clara miraculis, anno ætatis suæ tertio circiter et trigesimo, migravit ad Sponsum. Quam Pius Secundus Pontifex maximus sanctarum virginum numero adscripsit.
Catharine, a virgin of Siena, was born of pious parents. She asked for and obtained the Dominican habit worn by the Sisters of Penance. Her abstinence was extraordinary, and her manner of living most mortified. She was once known to have fasted, without receiving anything but the Blessed Sacrament, from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Day. She had very frequent contests with the wicked spirits, who attacked her in divers ways. She suffered much from fever, and other bodily ailments. Her reputation for sanctity was so great that there were brought to her from all parts persons who were sick or tormented by the devil. She healed in the name of Christ such as were afflicted with malady or fever, and drove the devils from the bodies of them that were possessed.

Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.
Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.



Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.***Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.

Pope Pius II, one of the glories of Siena, composed the two following hymns in honour of his saintly and illustrious fellow-citizen. They form part of the Office of St Catharine of Siena in the Dominican Breviary.



Catharina, Virgo Senensis, piis orta parentibus, beati Dominici habitum, quem Sorores de Poenitentia gestant, impetravit. Summa ejus fuit abstinentia, et admirabilis vitæ austeritas. Inventa est aliquando a die Cinerum usque ad Ascensionem Domini jejunium perduxisse, sola Eucharistiae communione contenta. Luctabatur quam frequentissime cum dæmonibus, multisque illorum molestiis vexabatur: æstuabat febribus, nec aliorum morborum cruciatu carebat. Magnum et sanctum erat Catharinæ nomen, et undique ad eam ægroti et malignis vexati spiritibus deducebantur. Languoribus et febribus in Christi nomine imperabat, et dæmones cogebat ab obsessis abire corporibus.

Cum Pisis immoraretur, die Dominico, refecta cibo coelesti, et in extasim rapta, vidit Dominum crucifixum magno cum lumine advenientem, et ex ejus vulnerum cicatricibus quinque radios ad quinque loca sui corporis descendentes; ideoque mysterium advertens, Dominum precata, ne cicatrices apparerent, continuo radii colorem sanguineum mutaverunt in splendidum, et in formam puræ lucis pervenerunt ad manus, pedes et cor ejus: ac tantus erat dolor quem sensibiliter patiebatur, ut nisi Deus minuisset, brevi se crederet morituram. Hanc itaque gratiam amantissimus Dominus nova gratia cumulavit, ut sentiret dolorem illapsa vi vulnerum, etcruenta signa non apparerent. Quod ita contigisse cum Dei famula confessano suo Raymundo retulisset, ut oculis etiam repræsentaretur, radios in imaginibus beatæ Catha rinæ ad dicta quinque loca pertingentes, pia fidelium cura pictis coloribus expressit.

Doctrina ejus infusa, non acquisita fuit: sacrarum litterarum professoribus difficillimas de divinitate quæstiones proponentibus respondit. Nemo ad eam accessit qui non melior abierit: multa exstinxit odia, et mortai es sedavit inimicitias. Pro pace Florentinorum, qui cum Ecclesia dissidebant, et interdicto ecclesiastico supposi ti erant, Avenionem ad Gregorium Undecimum Pontificem Maximum profecta est, cui etiam votum ejus de petenda Urbe, soli Deo notum, sese divini tus cognovisse monstravit: deliberavitque Pontifex, ea etiam suadente, ad sedem suam Romanam personaliter accedere; quod et fecit. Eidem Gregorio et Urbano Sexto ejus successori acceptissima fuit, adeo ut legationibus eorum fungeretur. Denique post innumera virtutum insignia, dono prophetiæ, et pluribus clara miraculis, anno ætatis suæ tertio circiter et trigesimo, migravit ad Sponsum. Quam Pius Secundus Pontifex maximus sanctarum virginum numero adscripsit.
Catharine, a virgin of Siena, was born of pious parents. She asked for and obtained the Dominican habit worn by the Sisters of Penance. Her abstinence was extraordinary, and her manner of living most mortified. She was once known to have fasted, without receiving anything but the Blessed Sacrament, from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Day. She had very frequent contests with the wicked spirits, who attacked her in divers ways. She suffered much from fever, and other bodily ailments. Her reputation for sanctity was so great that there were brought to her from all parts persons who were sick or tormented by the devil. She healed in the name of Christ such as were afflicted with malady or fever, and drove the devils from the bodies of them that were possessed.

Being once at Pisa, on a Sunday, and having received the Bread of heaven, she was rapt in an ecstasy. She saw our crucified Lord approaching her. He was encircled with a great light, and from his five Wounds there came rays, which fell upon the five corresponding parts of Catharine's body. Being aware of the favour bestowed upon her, she besought our Lord that the stigmata might not be visible. The rays immediately changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and passed, under the form of a bright light, to the hands, feet and heart of the Saint. So violent was the pain left by the wounds, that it seemed to her as though she must soon have died, had not God diminished it. Thus our most loving Lord added favour to favour, by permitting her to feel the smart of the wounds, and yet removing their appearance. The servant of God related what had happened to her to Raymund, her confessor. Hence, when the devotion of the faithful gave a representation of this miracle, they painted, on the pictures of St Catharine, bright rays coming from the five stigmata she received.

Her learning was not acquired, but infused. Theologians proposed to her the most difficult questions of divinity, and received satisfactory answers. No one ever approached her, who did not go away a better man. She reconciled many that were at deadly enmity with one another. She visited Pope Gregory the Eleventh, who was then at Avignon, in order to bring about the reconciliation of the Florentines, who were under an interdict on account of their having formed a league against the Holy See. She told the Pontiff that there had been revealed to her the vow which he, Gregory, had made of going to Rome a vow which was known to God alone. It was through her entreaty that the Pope began to plan measures for taking possession of his See of Rome, which he did soon after. Such was the esteem in which she was held by Gregory, and by Urban the Sixth, his successor, that she was sent by them on several embassies. At length, after a life spent in the exercise of the sublimest virtues, and after gaining great reputation on account of her prophecies and many miracles, she passed hence to her divine Spouse, when she was about the age of three and thirty. She was canonized by Pius the Second.

Pope Pius II, one of the glories of Siena, composed the two following hymns in honour of his saintly and illustrious fellow-citizen. They form part of the Office of St Catharine of Siena in the Dominican Breviary.


Hæc tuæ, virgo, monumenta laudis,
Quæ tu is læti, Catharina, sacris,
Hoc quidem pacto modulamur omnes,
Perfer Olympo.

Si satis digne nequeant referri,
Annuas nobis veniam, praecamur:
Non sumus tanti ingenii, fatemur,
Optima virgo.

Quis fuit dignas modulatus umquam
Virginis laudes Quis in orbe toto
Fœminæ invictæ peritura numquam
Carmina pandet?

Prædita exemplis Catharina claris,
Moribus praestans, sapiens abunde;
Temperans, fortis, pia, justa, prudens,
Æthera scandis.

Quem latet virtus, facinusque darum,
Quo nequit dici sanctius per orbem?
Vulnerum formam miserata Christi,
Exprimis ipsa.

Nam brevis, mœstæ, miseræque vitæ,
Et malis cunctis penitus refertæ,
Fortiter spernens pretiosa quæque,
Sidera adisti.

Gratias summas habeamus omnes
Filio magni Genitoris almo,
Spiritum Sanctum veneremur, et sit
Laus tamen una.

Carry to heaven, O holy virgin Catharine!
these canticles of praise, which we,
gladdened by thy feast,
sing thus in thine honour.

If they are unworthy of thine acceptance,
pardon us, we beseech thee.
Nay, we own, O glorious Saint!
that we are not equal to the task we have undertaken.

But who is he, that could worthily praise such a Saint as this?
Is there, in the wide world, a poet that could write an ode
immortal enough for this heroine,
whom no enemy could vanquish?

O Catharine! illustrious example of all that is noble!
thou wast rich in virtue and wisdom;
and with the riches of thy temperance, fortitude,
piety, justice and prudence, thou didst ascend into heaven.

Who has not heard of thy glorious virtues and deeds,
which were never surpassed in this world?
Thy compassion for the sufferings of Christ
stamped thee with the impress of his wounds.

Bravely despising the vain grandeurs
of this short, mournful, and miserable life,
which abounds with every evil,
thou didst mount to heaven.

Let us all give infinite thanks
to the Son ever blessed of the Eternal Father!
let us give glory to the Holy Ghost!
to the Three, one equal praise!



Laudibus, virgo, nimis efferenda
Jure censeris, quoniam triumphos
Ipsa cœlorum, probitate mira,
Nacta refulges.

Pragmium sanctæ tamen ipsa vitæ
Et simul munus probitatis almæ
Accipis cœlo, cumulata cunctis
Denique rebus.

Tu gravem sacris meritis refertum
Orbis exemplar, pietate plenum
Praedicatorum venerata Patrem,
Ordine fulges.

Nulla jam rerum placuit voluptas,
Nullus omatus, nitor ecce nullus
Corporis, semper fugiens iniqua
Crimina vitæ.

Sæpius corpus domitans acerbe,
Quam pie flagris cruor hinc et inde
Fluxerat rivis! hominumque demum
Crimina flebas.

Qui per ingentis, variosque casus,
Orbe terrarum cruciantur omnes:
Quotque vel curis agitantur ipsi
Undique diris.

Suppetent nobis totidem canenda,
Si tuæ laudes repetantur omnes:
Tu quidem longe pietate cunctis
Inclyta præstas.

Jam ferox miles tibi sæpe cessit,
Et duces iras posuere sævas:
Hi necem diram populo minata
Sæpe Senensi.

Quid quod et sacris studiis frequenter
Viribus summis operam dedisti:
Litteræ doctæ, lepidæque
Claris Urbibus exstant.

Niteris verbis revocare lapsos,
Niteris rectum suadere cunctis:
Sic ais: Tan tum probitas beatos
Efficit omnes.

Jura tu sævæ tremebunda mortis
Fortiter temnens, nihil extimescens,
Præmium nostræ vocitare vitæ
Sæpe solebas.

Unde cum tempus properaret ipsum,
Quo sacros artus cineresque busto
Linqueres, cœlos aditura flentes
Ipsa docebas.

Sic sacrum Christi venerata corpus,
Hostiam libans, lacrymis obortis,
Dixeras cunctis documenta vitæ,
Voce suprema.

Gratias summas habeamus omnes
Filio magni Genitoris almo
Spiritum Sanctum veneremur, et sit
Laus tamen una.

Well indeed may we sing
thy praise, O Catharine!
for, by thy wondrous virtues, thou hast received
a triumphant welcome from heaven itself.

Yes, it is in heaven alone,
where thou art enriched with all good things,
that thou hast received the reward of thy holy life,
and the recompense of thy grand virtue.

Great was thy veneration for the Patriarch of Preachers,
that perfect model of every virtue;
thou didst enter his Order
and art one of its brightest glories.

Joys of earth, vanity of dress, beauty of body,
none had charms for thee.
Thou couldst not brook sin,
the injustice offered to God by his creature.

To reduce thy body to subjection,
and to atone for the sins of men,
oft didst thou severely scourge thyself till thine innocent blood
would flow in streams on the ground.

Thou hadst compassion on all that were suffering,
no matter where they might be, or what their misfortune.
Thy sympathy was ever ready for them, too,
that were a prey to care.

But our hymn would never end,
were we to tell all thy praises, O Catharine!
whose sanctity far surpassed
that of other mortals.

The savage soldiers and leaders,
who were threatening
the people of Siena with death,
withdrew at thy word.

Oft was thy mind applied, with all its power,
to the study of sacred things:
and thy letters, teeming with wisdom and elegance,
are still treasured in some of our richest cities.

Thou didst excel in the power of reclaiming sinners,
and persuading all to follow what was right.
Thus didst thou speak to them:
'Virtue alone can make man happy.'

Far from fearing, thou hidst a brave contempt
for the dread claims of death,
which thou wast wont to call
the recompense of life.

When, therefore, the time came for thee
to leave thy sacred body to the tomb,
and ascend into heaven, thou gavest lessons of consolation
to them that stood weeping around thee.

And having adored the Body of Christ,
and received amidst abundant tears of devotion the saving Host,
thou gavest thy last instructions
to all how to lead a holy life.

Let us all give infinite thanks
to the Son ever blessed of the Eternal Father!
let us give glory to the Holy Ghost!
to the Three, one equal praise!


Holy Church, filled as she now is with the joy of her Jesus’ Resurrection, addresses herself to thee, O Catharine, who followest the Lamb whithersoever he goeth [1] Living in this exile, where it is only at intervals that she enjoys his presence, she says to thee: Hast thou seen him whom my soul loveth?[2] Thou art his Spouse; so is she: but there are no evils, no separation, for thee; whereas for her, the enjoyment is at rare and brief periods, and, even so there are clouds that dim the lovely light. What a life was thine, O Catharine! uniting in itself the keenest compassion for the sufferings of Jesus, and an intense happiness by the share he gave thee of his glorified life. We might take thee as our guide both to the mournful mysteries of Calvary, and to the glad splendours of the Resurrection. It is these latter that we are now respectfully celebrating: oh! speak to us of our Risen Jesus. Is it not he that gave thee the nuptial ring, with its matchless diamond set amidst four precious gems? The bright rays which gleam from thy stigmata tell us that when he espoused thee to himself thou sawest him all resplendent with the beauty of his glorious Wounds. Daughter of Magdalen! like her, thou art a messenger of the Resurrection; and when thy last Pasch comes—the Pasch of thy thirty-third year—thou takest thy way to heaven, to keep it for eternity. O zealous lover of souls! love them more than ever, now that thou art in the palace of the King, our God. We too are in the Pasch, in the new life; intercede for us, that the life of Jesus may never die within us, but that we may strengthen its power by loving him with an ardour like thine own.

Obtain for us, great Saint, something of the filial devotedness for holy Mother Church which prompted thee to do such glorious things! Her sorrows and her joys were thine; for there can be no love for Jesus where there is none for his Spouse: and is it not through her that he gives us all his gifts? Oh, yes! we too wish to love this mother of ours; we will never be ashamed to own ourselves as her children! we will defend her against her enemes; we will do everything that lies in our power to win others to acknowledge, love, and be devoted to her.

Our God used thee as his instrument, O humble virgin, for bringing back the Roman Pontiff to his See. Thou wast stronger than the powers of this earth, which would fain have prolonged an absence disastrous to the Church. The relics of Peter in the Vatican, of Paul on the Ostian Way, of Lawrence and Sebastian, of Cecily and Agnes, exulted in their glorious tombs when Gregory entered with triumph into the Holy City. It was through thee, O Catharine, that a ruinous captivity of seventy years’ duration was brought on that day to a close, and that Rome recovered her glory and her life. In these our days, hell has changed its plan of destruction! men have deprived its Pontiff-King of the city which was chosen by Peter as the See where the Vicar of Christ should reign to the end of the world. Is this design of God, this design which was so dear to thee, O Catharine!—is it now to be frustrated? Oh! beseech him to end this sacrilege speedily. Come to our aid!—and though thy divine Spouse, in his just anger, permits us to suffer these humiliations, pray that at least they may be shortened.

Pray, too, for unhappy Italy, which was so dear to thee, and which is so justly proud of its Saint of Siena. Impiety and heresy are now permitted to run wild through the land; the name of thy Spouse is blasphemed; the people are taught to love error, and to hate what they had hitherto venerated; the Church is insulted and robbed; faith has long since been weakened, but now its very existence is imperilled. Intercede for thy unfortunate country, dear Saint! oh! surely, it is time to come to her assistance, and rescue her from the hands of her enemies. The whole Church hopes that thou mayest effect the deliverance of this her illustrious province: delay not, but calm the storm which seems to threaten a universal wreck!


[1] Apoc. xiv 4.
[2] Cant, iii 3.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE court of our divine King, during this grandest of seasons, is brilliant beyond measure; and, to-day, it is gladdened by the arrival of one of the most glorious champions that ever fought for his holy cause. Among the guardians of the word of truth, confided by Jesus to the earth, is there one more faithful than Athanasius? Does not his very name remind us of dauntless courage in the defence of the sacred deposit, of heroic firmness and patience in suffering, of learning, of talent, of eloquence—in a word, of everything that goes to form a Saint, a Bishop, and a Doctor of the Church? Athanasius lived for the Son of God; the cause of the Son of God was that of Athanasius: he who blessed Athanasius, blessed the eternal Word; and he who insulted Athanasius insulted the eternal Word.

Never did our holy faith go through a greater ordeal than in the sad times immediately following the peace of the Church, when the bark of Peter had to pass through the most furious storm that hell has, so far, let loose against her. Satan had vainly sought to drown the Christian race in a sea of blood; the sword of persecution had grown blunt in the hands of Diocletian and Galerius; and the Cross appeared in the heavens, proclaiming the triumph of Christianity. Scarcely had the Church become aware of her victory when she felt herself shaken to her very foundation. Hell sent upon the earth a heresy which threatened to blight the fruit of three hundred years of martyrdom. Arius began his impious doctrine, that he who had hitherto been adored as the Son of God was only a creature, though the most perfect of all creatures. Immense was the number, even of the clergy, that fell into this new error; the Emperors became its abettors; and had not God himself interposed, men would soon have set up the cry throughout the world that the only result of the victory gained by the Christian religion was to change the object of idolatry, and put a new idol, called Jesus, in place of the old ones.

But he who had promised that the gates of hell should never prevail against his Church, faithfully fulfilled his promise. The primitive faith triumphed; the Council of Nicæa proclaimed the Son to be consubstantial with the Father; but the Church stood in need of a man in whom the cause of the consubstantial Word should be, so to speak, incarnated—a man with learning enough to foil the artifices of heresy, and with courage enough to bear every persecution without flinching. This man was Athanasius: and everyone that adores and loves the Son of God, should love and honour Athanasius. Five times banished from his See of Alexandria by the Arians, who even sought to put him to death, he fled for protection to the West, which justly appreciated the glorious confessor of Jesus' divinity. In return for the hospitality accorded him by Rome, Athanasius gave her of his treasures. Being the admirer and friend of the great St Antony, he was a fervent admirer of the monastic life, which, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, had flourished so wonderfully in the deserts of his vast patriarchate. He brought the precious seed to Rome, and the first monks seen there were the ones introduced by Athanasius. The heavenly plant became naturalized in its new soil; and though its growth was slow at first, it afterwards produced fruit more abundantly than it had ever done in the East.

Athanasius, who has written so admirably upon that fundamental dogma of our faith—the divinity of Christ —has also left us most eloquent treatises on the mystery of the Pasch: they are to be found in the Festal Letters which he addressed each year to the churches of his patriarchate of Alexandria. The collection of these Letters, which were once thought to have been irretrievably lost, was found, a few years back, in the monastery of St Mary of Scete, in Egypt. The first, for the year 329, begins with these words, which beautifully express the sentiments we should feel at the approach of Easter: ' Come, my beloved brethren, celebrate the feast; the season of the year invites you to do so. The Sun of justice, by pouring out his divine rays upon you, tells you that the time of the solemnity is come. At such tidings, let us keep a glad feast; let not the joy slip from us with the fleeting days, without our having tasted of its sweetness.’ During almost every year of his banishment, Athanasius continued to address a Paschal Letter to his people. The one in which he announces the Easter of 338, and which he wrote at Treves, begins thus: ' Though separated from you, my brethren, I cannot break through the custom which I have always observed, and which I received from the tradition of the Fathers. I will not be silent; I will not omit announcing to you the time of the holy annual feast, and the day on which you must keep the solemnity. I am, as you have doubtless been told, a prey to many tribulations; I am weighed down by heavy trials; I am watched by the enemies of truth, who scrutinize everything I write, in order to rake up accusations against me and thereby add to my sufferings; yet notwithstanding, I feel that the Lord strengthens and consoles me in my afflictions. Therefore do I venture to address to you the annual celebration; and from the midst of my troubles, and despite the snares that beset me, I send you, from the furthermost part of the earth, the tidings of the Pasch, which is our salvation. Commending my fate into God’s hands, I will celebrate this feast with you; distance of place separates us, but I am not absent from you. The Lord who gives us these feasts, who is himself our feast, who bestows upon us the gift of his Spirit—he unites us spiritually to one another, by the bond of concord and peace.’

How grand is this Pasch, celebrated by Athanasius, an exile on the Rhine, in union with his people who keep their Easter on the banks of the Nile! It shows us the power of the Liturgy to unite men and make them, at one and the same time, and despite the distance of countries, enjoy the same holy emotions and feel the same aspirations to virtue. Greeks or Barbarians, we have all the same mother-country, the Church; but that which, after faith, unites us all into one family, is the Church’s Liturgy. Now there is nothing in the whole Liturgy so expressive of unity as the celebration of Easter. The unhappy Churches of Russia and the East, by keeping Easter on a different day from that on which it is celebrated by the rest of the Christian world, show that they are not a portion of the One Fold of which our Risen Jesus is the One Shepherd.

We will now read the sketch of the life of St Athanasius, given in the Breviary.

Athanasius Alexandrinus, catholicæ religionis propugnatur acerrimus, ab Alexandro Episcopo Alexandrino diaconus factus est, in cujus locum successit, quem etiam antea secutus fuerat ad Nicænum concilium: ubi cum Arii impietatem repressisset, tantum odium arianorum suscepit, ut ex eo tempore ei insidias moliri numquam destiterint. Nam coacto ad Tyrum concilio magna ex parte arianorum episcoporum, subornarunt mulierculam, quæ accusaret Athanasium quod hospitio acceptus sibi stuprum per vim intuiisset. Introductus igitur est Athanasius, et una cum eo Timotheus presbyter, qui simulans se esse Athanasium; Egone, inquit, mulier, apud te sum diversatus? Ego te violavi? Cui illa petulanter: Tu mihi vim attulisti; idque jurejurando affirmans, judicum fidem obtestabatur ut tantum flagitium vindicarent. Qua cognita fraude, rejecta est mulieris impudentia.

Arsenium quoque episcopum ab Athanasio interfectum ariani pervulgarunt: quem dum occulte detinent, manum mortui deferunt in judicium, ab Athanasio ad usum magicæ artis Arsenio amputatam criminantes. At Arsenius nocte aufugiens cum se in conspectu totius concila statuisset, Athanasii inimicorum impudentissimum scelus aperuit. Quod illi nihilominus magicis artibus Athanasii tribuentes, vitæ ejus insidiari non desistebant. Quamobrem in exsilium actus, in Gallia apud Treviros exsulavit. Gravibus deinceps ac diuturnis sub Constantio imperatore, arianorum fautore, tempestatibus jactatus, et incredibiles calamitates perpessus, magnam orbis terrae partem peragravit: ac saepe e sua Ecclesia ejectus, saepe etiam in eamdem et Julii Romani Pontificis auctoritate, et Constantis imperatoris, Constantii fratris, patrocinio, decretis quoque concilii Sardicensis ac Jerosolymitani, resti tutus est; arianis interea illi semper infestis quorum pertinacem iram, et summum vitæ discrimen fugiens, in sicca cisterna quinque annis se abdidit, ejus rei tantum conscio quodam Athanasii amico, qui eum clam sustentabat.

Constantio mortuo, cum Julianus Apostata, qui ei in Imperio successit, exsules Episcopos ad suas Ecclesias redire permisisset, Athanasius Alexandriam reversus, summo honore exceptus est. Sed non multo post iisdem arianis impellentibus, a Juliano exagitatus rursus discedere cogitur. Cumque ab ejus satellitibus ad necem conquireretur, qua fugiebat navicula conversa in contrariam fiuminis partem, iis qui se insequebantur, ex industria occurrit: et quærentibus quantum inde abesset Athanasius, respondit eum non longe abesse: itaque illos contrarium tenentes cursum effugit, atque Alexandriam rediens, ibidem usque ad Juliani obitum occultus permansit. Qui paulo post Aiexandriæ alia exorta tempestate, quatuor menses in paterno sepulchro delituit. Ac denique ex tot tantisque periculis divinitus ereptus, Aiexandriæ mortuus est in suo lectulo, sub Valente; cujus vita et mors magnis nobilitata est miraculis. Multa pie et ad illustrandam catholicam fidem præclare scripsit, sexque et quadraginta annos in summa temporum varietate Alexandrinam Ecclesiam sanctissime gubemavit.
Athanasius, the stern defender of the Catholic faith, was born at Alexandria. He was made deacon by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, whose successor he afterwards became. He accompanied that prelate to the Council of Nicæa, where, having refuted the impious doctrine of Arius, he became such an object of hatred to the Arians, that from that time forward they never ceased to lay snares for him. Thus, at a Council held at Tyre, at which the majority of the bishops were Arians, the party suborned a wretched woman, who was to accuse Athanasius that when lodging in her house he had offered violence to her. Athanasius was accordingly brought before the Council. One of his priests, by name Timothy, went in with him, and pretending that he was Athanasius, he said to the woman: ‘What! did I ever lodge at thy house? Did I violate thee?’ She boldly answered him: ‘Yes, it was thou.’ She affirmed it with an oath, besought the judges to avenge her, and punish so great a crime. The trick being discovered, the impudent woman was ordered to leave the place.

The Arians also spread the report that Athanasius had murdered a certain bishop Arsenius. Having put this Arsenius into confinement, they brought forward the hand of a dead man, saying that it was the hand of Arsenius, and that Athanasius had cut it off for purposes of witchcraft. But Arsenius having made his escape during the night, presented himself before the whole Council, and exposed the impudent malice of Athanasius's enemies. But even this they attributed to the magical skill of Athanasius, and went on plotting his death. They succeeded in having him banished, and accordingly, he was sent to Treves in Gaul. During the reign of the emperor Constantius, who was on the Arian side, Athanasius had to go through the most violent storms, endure incredible sufferings and wander from country to country. He was driven several times from his see, but was restored, at one time by the authority of Pope Julius, at another by the help of the emperor Cons tans, Constantius’s brother, at another by the decrees of the Councils of Sardica and Jerusalem. During all this time the Arians relented not in their fury against him; their hatred of him was unremitting; and he only avoided being murdered by hiding himself for five years in a dry well where he was fed by one of his friends, who was the only person that knew the place of his concealment.

Constantius died, and was succeeded in the Empire by Julian the Apostate, who allowed the exiled bishops to return to their respective sees. Accordingly, Athanasius returned to Alexandria, where he was received with every possible mark of honour. Not long after, however, he was again obliged to flee, owing to the persecution he suffered from Julian, who was instigated by the Arians. On one occasion, when he was being pursued by the Emperor’s satellites, who were ordered to put him to death, the Saint ordered the boat, in which he was fleeing from danger, to be turned back. As soon as he met the persecutors, they asked him if Athanasius was anywhere near. He answered, that he was not far off. Whilst they, therefore, went one way, he sailed the other, and got back to Alexandria, where he remained in concealment till Julian’s death. Another storm soon arose in the city, and he was obliged to hide himself, for four months, in his father’s sepulchre. Having thus miraculously escaped from all these great dangers, he died peacefully in his own bed at Alexandria, during the reign of the emperor Valens. His life and death were honoured by great miracles. He wrote several admirable treatises, some on subjects pertaining to practical piety, and others on the dogmas of Catholic faith. He for six and forty years, and amidst the most troubled of times, governed the Church of Alexandria with extraordinary piety

The Greek Church, which celebrates the feast of our Saint at another season of the year, is enthusiastic in her admiration of his virtues. The following stanzas are from the hymn she sings in his praise:

(Die XVIII Januarii)

Salve virtutum regula, fortissimus fidei propugnator, qui impietatem Arii vinculis venerabilium verborum tuorum fortiter dissolvisti, Athanasi; manifeste prædicans unius divinitatis potentiam, in tribus personis distributam, quæ omnia spiritualia et sensibilia ex nihilo ad creationem adduxit, propter suam tantummodo bonitatem; et nobis divinæ operationis difficilia explicans mysteria, Christum exora, ut animabus nostris concedat suam magnam misericordiam.

Salve patriarcharum fundamentum, tuba canora, mens admirabilis, lingua efficacissima, lucidissimus oculus, rectorum dogmatum illustratio; pastor verus, lucerna splendidissima; securis omnem hæreseon sylvam præcidens, et Spiritus Sancti igne comburens, columna firmissima, turris inconcussa, supersubstantialem prædicans potentiam Trinitatis; illam exora ut animabus nostris concedat magnani misericordiam.

Divinis orthodoxiæ dogmatibus, Pater, armasti Ecdesiam, doctrinis tuis præcidisti hæreses; pietatis cursum consummastis, et sicut Paulus fidem servasti; de reliquo reposita est tibi, gloriose Athanasi, justa laborum tuorum corona.

Sicut astrum quod occasum nescit, etiam post mortem tuam doctrinæ tuæ splendoribus undique fidelium multitudinem illuminas, sapiens pontifex Athanasi.

In contemplationis subiimitatibus animum tuum inducens, in spiritu Sancto, sancte Pontifex, divinorum oraculorum thesauros investigasti latentes, et mundo divitias eorum distribuisti.
Sicut sublimis et coruscans turris divinarum doctrinarum, per mare erroris jactatos undequaque dirigis verborum tuorum serenitate, ad tranquillum gratiæ portum.

Sicut imperator exercitus a Deo collecti, copias adversariorum Domini profligasti, gladio Spiritus Sancti fortiter concidens.

Universam irrigasti terram, sancte Pater, fontem vitæ in corde tuo possidens.

In carne tua, sancte Pater, adimplevisti Domini passiones, pro ejus Ecclesia multa perpessus.

Justitiam disci te, omnes inhabitantes terram, sanctis Athanasii sermonibus eruditi; per fidem enim visus est tamquam os Verbi quod est ante sæcula.

Vere paradisum effecisti Ecclesiam Christi, beate, in illa pium seminasti sermonem, et hæreseon spinas evellisti.

Gratiæ fluvius, Deifer, et spiritualis Nilus nobis apparuisti; bonos piæ doctrinæ fructus fidelibus afferens, universos irrigans, et late nutriens terram.

Dogmatum tuorum baculo, lupos hæreticos ab Ecclesia Christi procul removisti; et ill am turribus verborum tuorum circumdans et defendens, sanam et incolumem Christo servans præsentasti. Ideo Christum Deum exora, ut nos tu am semper venerabilem memoriam in fide celebrantes a corruptione et periculis omnibus liberet.
Hail, O Athanasius! model of virtue, most brave defender of the faith! who didst courageously rout the impiety of Arius by the force of thy venerable words. Thou didst preach the power of the Godhead, one in three Persons, which made all creatures, both spiritual and material, out of nothing, solely because of his own infinite goodness. Thou didst explain to us the difficult mysteries of the divine operation. Pray for us to Christ, that he grant to our souls his great mercy.

Hail, thou rock of the Patriarchs! sweet-voiced trumpet, admirable mind, most persuasive tongue, most clear-seeing eye, interpreter of true dogmas, true shepherd, most brilliant lamp, axe that felled the whole forest of heresies, and burned them with the fire of the Holy Spirit, most firm pillar, unshaken tower, preaching the supersubstantiai power of the Three Persons! pray them that they grant plenteous mercy to our souls.

O Father! thou didst arm the Church with the divine dogmas of orthodoxy: thy teachings were a death-blow to heresy; thou didst finish thy holy course, and keep the faith like Paul; as to the rest, there was laid up for thee, O glorious Athanasius, a crown justly won by thy labours.

Like a star that never sets, even now that thou art dead thou enlightenest the faithful throughout the world with the rays of thy teaching, O wise Pontiff Athanasius!

Guided by the Holy Ghost, thou, O holy Pontiff, turning thy mind to the sublimest contemplations, didst investigate the hidden treasures of the divine oracles and distribute their riches unto men.

Like a high and shining tower of divine truths, thou guidest all that are tossed on the sea of error, leading them, by the calm beauty of thy words, to the tranquil haven of grace.
General of God's army, thou didst put to flight the ranks of the Lord’s enemies, courageously destroying them with the sword of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Father! thou hadst the fountain of life within thy heart, and thou didst water the whole earth.

In thy flesh, O holy Father, thou didst fill up the sufferings of Christ, suffering many persecutions for his Church.

Learn justice, O all ye inhabitants of earth, from the holy word of Athanasius; for, by his faith, he was as the mouth of the Eternal Word.

O blessed one! thou didst make the Church of Christ a paradise indeed, for thou didst sow in her the holy word, tearing up the thorns of heresy.

O God-bearing Saint! thou wast a river of grace, a spiritual Nile, bringing to the faithful the good fruits of holy doctrine, refreshing us all, and nourishing the whole earth.

With the staff of thy teachings, thou drovest heretical wolves far from the Church of Christ. Thou didst encompass and defend her with the fortifications of thy words and present her sound and safe to Christ. Beseech him, therefore, that he would deliver from perversion and all dangers us who faithfully celebrate thine ever venerable memory.

Thou wast throned, O Athanasius! on the Chair of Mark in Alexandria; and thy name is emblazoned near his on the sacred cycle. He left Rome, sent by Peter himself to found the second patriarchal See; and thou, three centuries later, didst visit Rome, as successor of Mark, to seek protection from Peter's successor against them that were disturbing thy venerable See by injustice and heresy. Our Western Church was thus honoured by thy presence, O intrepid defender of the faith. She looked on thee with veneration as the glorious exile, the courageous confessor; and she has chronicled thy sojourning in her midst as an event of the greatest interest.

Intercede for the country over which was extended thy patriarchal jurisdiction; but forget not this Europe of ours, which gave thee hospitality and protection. Rome defended thy cause; she passed sentence in thy favour, and restored thee thy rights; make her a return, now that thou art face to face with the God of infinite goodness and power. Protect and console her Pontiff, the successor of that Julius who so nobly befriended thee fifteen hundred years ago. A fierce tempest is now raging against the Rock on which is built the Church of Christ; and our eyes have grown wearied looking for a sign of calm. Oh! pray that these days of trial be shortened, and that the See of Peter may triumph over the calumnies and persecutions which are now besetting her, and endangering the faith of many of her children.

Thy zeal, O Athanasius! checked the ravages of Arianism; but this heresy has again appeared, in our own times, and in almost every country of Europe. Its progress is due to that proud superficial learning which has become one of the principal perils of the age. The Eternal Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, is blasphemed by our so-called philosophers, as being only Man—the best and greatest of men, they say, but still only Man. They despise all the proofs which reason and history adduce of Jesus' divinity; they profess a sort of regard for the Christian teaching which has hitherto been held, but they have discovered (so they tell us) the fallacy of the great dogma which recognizes in the Son of Mary the Eternal Word who became incarnate for man’s salvation. O Athanasius, glorious Doctor of holy Mother Church! humble these modem Arians; expose their proud ignorance and sophistry; undeceive their unhappy followers, by letting them see how this false doctrine leads either to the abyss of the abominations of pantheism, or to the chaos of scepticism, where all truth and morality are impossibilities.

Preserve within us, by the influence of thy prayers, the precious gift of faith, wherewith our Lord has mercifully blessed us. Obtain for us that we may ever confess and adore Jesus Christ as our eternal and infinite God; ' God of God; Light of Light; True God of True God; Begotten, not made; who, for us men, and for our salvation, took Flesh, of the Virgin Mary.’ May we grow each day in the knowledge of this Jesus, until we join thee in the face-to-face contemplation of his perfections. Meanwhile, by means of holy faith, we will live with him on this earth that has witnessed the glory of his Resurrection. How fervent, O Athanasius, was thy love of this Son of God, our Creator and Redeemer! This love was the very life of thy soul, and the stimulus that urged thee to heroic devotedness to his cause. It supported thee in the combats thou hadst to sustain with the world, which seemed leagued together against thy single person. It gave thee strength to endure endless tribulations. Oh! pray that we may obtain this love—a love which is fearless of danger, because faithful to him for whom we suffer—a love which is so justly due, seeing that he, though the Brightness of his Father's glory, and Infinite Wisdom, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.[1] How else can we make him a return for his devotedness to us except by giving him all our love, as thou didst, O Athanasius! and by ever singing his praise in compensation for the humiliations which he endured in order to save us?


[1] Philipp, ii 7, 8.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IT was most just that our divine King should show himself to us with the sceptre of his power, to the end that nothing might be wanting to the majesty of his empire. This sceptre is .the Cross; and Paschal Time was to be the season for its being offered to him in glad homage. A few weeks back, and the Cross was shown to us as the instrument of our Emmanuel's humiliation and as the bed of suffering whereon he died; but has he not since then conquered Death? and what is his Cross now but a trophy of his victory? Let it then be brought forth to our gaze and let every knee bend before this sacred Wood, whereby our Jesus won the honour and praise we now give him!

On the day of his birth at Bethlehem we sang these words of the Prophet Isaias: A child is bom unto us, and a son is given unto us, and his government is upon his shoulder.[1] We have seen him carrying this Cross upon his shoulder; as Isaac carried the wood for his own immolation; but now it is no longer a heavy burthen. It is shining with a brightness that ravishes the eyes of the angels; and after having received the veneration of man as long as the world lasts, it will suddenly appear in the clouds of heaven, near the Judge of the living and the dead—a consolation to them that have loved it, but a reproach to such as have treated it with contempt or forgetfulness.

Our Saviour did not think the time between his Resurrection and Ascension a fitting one for glorifying the instrument of his victory. The Cross was not to be brought into notice until it had subjected the world to him whose glory it so eloquently proclaimed. Jesus was three days in the tomb; his Cross is to lie buried, unknown to men, for three centuries: but it is to have its resurrection, and the Church celebrates this resurrection to-day. Jesus would, in his own good time, add to the joy of Easter by miraculously revealing to us this sacred monument of his love for mankind. He entrusts it to our keeping—it is to be our consolation—as long as this world lasts: is it not just that we should love and venerate it?

Never had Satan's pride met with such a humiliation as when he saw the instrument of our perdition made the instrument of our salvation. As the Church expresses it in her Preface for Passiontide: ‘He that overcame mankind by a Tree, was overcome by a Tree.' Thus foiled, he vented his fury upon this saving Wood, which so bitterly reminded him both of the irresistible power of his conqueror and of the dignity of man who had been redeemed at so great a price. He would fain have annihilated the Cross; but knowing that this was beyond his power, he endeavoured to profane it, and hide it from view. He therefore instigated the Jews to bury it. At the foot of Calvary, not far from the sepulchre, was a deep hole. Into this was the Cross thrown, together with those of the two thieves, the Nails, the Crown of Thoms, and the Inscription or Title written by Pilate. The hole was then filled up with rubbish and earth, and the Sanhedrim exulted in the thought of its having effaced the memory of the Nazarene, who could not save himself from the ignominious death of the Cross.

Forty years after this, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, the instruments of God’s vengeance. The Holy Places were desecrated by the idolaters. A small temple to Venus was erected on Calvary, and another to Jupiter over the Holy Sepulchre. By this, the pagans intended derision; whereas, they were perpetuating the knowledge of two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove these pagan monuments, and their eyes beheld the holy ground that had been bedewed with the Blood of Jesus, and the glorious Sepulchre. As to the Cross, it was not so easily found. The sceptre of our divine King was to be raised up from its tomb by a royal hand. The saintly Empress Helen, Constantine's mother, was chosen by heaven to pay to Jesus—and that, too, on the very spot where he had received his greatest humiliations—the honours which are due to him as the King of the world. Before laying the foundations of the Basilica of the Resurrection, this worthy follower of Magdalen and the other holy women of the sepulchre was anxious to discover the instrument of our salvation. The Jews had kept up the tradition of the site where it had been buried: the Empress had the excavations made accordingly. With what holy impatience she must have watched the works! and with what ecstasy of joy did she behold the redeeming Wood, which, though not at first distinguishable, was certainly one of the three Crosses that were found! She addressed a fervent prayer to the Saviour, who alone could reveal to her which was the trophy of his victory; the bishop, Macarius, united his prayers with hers; and their faith was rewarded by a miracle that left them no doubt as to which was the true Cross.

The glorious work was accomplished, and the Church was put in possession of the instrument of the world’s Redemption. Both East and West were filled with joy at the news of this precious discovery, which heaven had set on foot, and which gave the last finish to the triumph of Christianity. Christ completed his victory over the pagan world by raising thus his standard—not a figurative one, but his own real standard—his Cross, which, up to that time, had been a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles; but before which every Christian is henceforth to bend his knee.

Helen placed the holy Cross in the Basilica which had been built by her orders, and which covered both the glorious Sepulchre and the hill of the Crucifixion. Another Church was erected on the site where the Cross had lain concealed for three hundred years, and the faithful are enabled, by long flights of steps, to go down into the deep grotto which had been its tomb. Pilgrims came from every part of the world to visit the hallowed places where our Redemption had been wrought, and to venerate the sacred Wood of the Cross. But God’s merciful providence willed not that the precious pledge of Jesus’ love for mankind should be confined to one sanctuary only, however venerable it might be. Immediately after its discovery, Helen had a very large piece cut from the Cross; and this fragment she destined for Rome, the new Jerusalem. The precious gift was enshrined in the Basilica built by her son Constantine in the Sessorian garden, which was afterwards called the Basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem.

By degrees, other places were honoured by the presence of the Wood of the Holy Cross. So far back as the fourth century, we have St Cyril of Jerusalem attesting that many of the pilgrims used to obtain small pieces of it, and thus carried the precious treasure into their respective countries; and St Paulinus of Nola, who lived in the same century, assures us that these many gifts lessened not the size of the original relic. In the sixth century, the holy Queen St Radegonde obtained from the Emperor Justin II a large piece from the fragment that was in the imperial treasury of Constantinople. It was for the reception of this piece of the True Cross into France that Venantius Fortunatus composed the Vexilla Regis—that beautiful hymn which the Church uses in her Liturgy as often as she celebrates the praise of the Holy Cross. After several times losing and regaining it, Jerusalem was at length for ever deprived of the precious relic. Constantinople was a gainer by Jerusalem’s loss. From Constantinople, especially during the Crusades, many churches of the West procured large pieces. These again supplied other places; until at length the Wood of the Cross was to be found in almost every town of any importance. There is scarcely to be found a Catholic who, some time or other in his life, has not had the happiness of seeing and venerating a portion of this sacred object. How many acts of love and gratitude have not been occasioned by this? And who could fail to recognize, in this successive profusion of our Jesus’ Cross, a plan of divine providence for exciting us to us appreciation of our Redemption, on which rest all our hopes of eternal happiness?

How dear, then, to us should this day be, which blends together the recollection of the holy Cross and the joys of the Resurrection of that Jesus who by the Cross has won the throne to which we shall soon see him ascend! Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his having restored to mankind a treasure so immensely precious as is the Cross. Until the day comes for it to appear with himself in the clouds of heaven, Jesus has entrusted it to his Spouse, as a pledge of his second coming. On that day, he will collect together all the fragments by his divine power; and the Tree of Life will then gladden the elect with its dazzling beauty, and invite them to eternal rest beneath its refreshing shade.

The Liturgy gives us the following history of the great event we are celebrating today:

Post insignem victoriam quam Constantinus imperator, divinitus accepto signo Dominicæ Crucis, Maxentio reportavit, Helena Constantini mater in somnis admonita, conquirendæ Crucis studio Jerosolymam venit, ubi marmoream Veneris statuam in Crucis loco a Gentibus colloca tam, ad tollendam Christi Domini Passionis memoriam, post centum circiter octoginta annos, evertendam curavit. Quod item fecit ad Præsepe Salvatoris, et in loco Resurrectionis: inde Adonidis, hinc fovis sublato simulacro.

Itaque loco Crucis purgato, alte defossæ tres cruces erutæ sunt, repertusque seorsum ab illis Crucis Dominicæ titulus: qui cum ex tribus cui affixus fuisset, non apparerei, eam dubitationem sustulit miraculum. Nam Macarius Hierosolymorum episcopus, factis Deo precibus, singulas cruces cuidam fœminæ gravi morbo laboranti admovit; cui cum reliquæ nihil profuissent, adhibita tertia Crux statim eam sanavit.

Helena, salutari Cruce inventa, magniti centissimam ibi exstruxit Ecclesiam, in qua partem Crucis reliquit thecis argenteis inclusam, partem Constantino filio detulit: quæ Romæ reposita fuit in Ecclesia sanctæ Crucis in Jerusalem, aedificata in aedibus Sessorianis. Clavos etiam attulit filio, quibus sanctissimum Jesu Christi corpus fixum fuerat. Quo ex tempore Constantinus legem sancivit, ne crux ad supplichimi cuiquam adhiberetur: ita res quæ antea hominibus probro ac ludibrio fuerat, venerationi et gloriæ esse coepit.
After the great victory gained over Maxentius by the Emperor Constantine, under the standard of our Lord's Cross, which had been miraculously shown to him, Helen, his mother, was told in a dream to repair to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross. Upon her arrival, she ordered to be taken down a marble statue of Venus, which had been erected by the Pagans some hundred and eighty years before, in order that all memory of our Lord’s Passion might be obliterated. She did the same service for the place where reposed the Saviour's crib, as also for the site of the Resurrection: removing from the former an idol of Adonis, and from the latter an idol of Jupiter.

The place where the Cross was supposed to be having been excavated, three crosses were discovered at a great depth below the surface; and with them, though not attached, the Title that had been fastened to our Lord’s Cross. The doubt as to which of the three crosses the title belonged was removed by a miracle. After having prayed to God, Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, applied each of the crosses to a woman who was afflicted with a dangerous malady. The first two produced no result; the third was then applied and the woman was restored to perfect health.

The holy Cross being thus found, Helen built a magnificent church in Jerusalem, in which she placed a portion of the Cross, enshrined in a silver case: the remaining part she took to her son Constantine, and it was put in the Church called Holy-CrossinJerusalem, which was built on the site of the Sessorian palace. She also took to her son the Nails wherewith the most holy Body of Christ Jesus had been fastened to the Cross. Constantine passed a law that from that time forward a cross should never be used as an instrument of punishment; and thus what hitherto had been an object of reproach and derision became one of veneration and glory.

Both the Eastern and Western Churches abound in liturgical compositions in honour of the holy Cross. We offer our readers a selection from these, beginning with the glorious verses of Venantius Fortunatus:

Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua Vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.

Quæ vulnerata lanceæ
Mucrone diro, criminum
Ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda et sanguine.

Impleta sunt quæ concinit
David fideli cannine,
Dicendo nationibus:
Regnavit a ligno Deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata Regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite,
Tam sancta membra tangere.

Beata cujus brachiis
Pretium pependit sæculi,
Statera facta corporis,
Tulitque praedam tartari.

O Crux, ave, spes unica,
Paschale quæ fers gaudium,
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.

Te, fons salutis, Trinitas,
Collaudet omnis spiritus;
Quibus Crucis victoriam
Largiris, adde præmium.

The standard of our King comes forth:
the mystery of the Cross shines upon us
—that Cross on which Life suffered death,
and by his Death gave life.

He was pierced with the cruel spear,
that by the Water and the Blood
which flowed from the wound
he might cleanse us from sin.

Here on the Cross was fulfilled
the prophecy foretold
in David’s truthful words:
‘God hath reigned ffom the Tree.’

O fair and shining Tree!
beautified by the scarlet of the King,
and chosen as the noble trunk
that was to touch such sacred limbs.

O blessed Tree!
on whose arms hung the ransom of the world!
It was the balance wherein was placed the Body of Jesus,
and thereby hell lost its prey.

Hail, O Cross! our only hope,
that bringest us the Paschal joy.
Increase the grace of the good
and cleanse sinners from their guilt.

May every spirit praise thee, O Holy Trinity,
thou fount of salvation!
and by the Cross, whereby thou gavest us victory,
give us too our recompense.


The Roman Church has the following Responsories and Antiphons in her Office for this feast. They are full of unction, and breathe a fragrance of antiquity:

℟. Gloriosum diem sacra veneratur Ecclesia, dum triumphale reseratur lignum,
* In quo Redemptor nos ter, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia.
℣. In Ugno pendens nostræ salutis semitam Verbum Patris invenit.
* In quo Redemptor noster, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia.

℟. Hæc est arbor dignissima, in paradisi medio situata,
* In qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia.
℣. Crux præcellenti decore fulgida, quam Helena Constantini mater concupiscenti animo requisivit.
* In quo salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia.

℟. Dum sacrum pignus cœlitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur;
* Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia.
℣. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur.
* Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia.

Ant. Salva nos, Christe Salvator, per virtutem Crucis; qui salvasti Petrum in mari, miserere nobis, alleluia.

Ant. Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversæ; vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David, alleluia.

Ant. Super omnia ligna cedrorum tu sola excelsior, in qua Vita mundi pependit, in qua Christus triumphavit, et mors mortem superavit in æternum, alleluia.

Ant. O Crux splendidior cunctis astris, mundo Celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis; quæ sola fuisti digna portare tal en tum mundi: dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: salva præsentem catervam, in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam. Alleluia, alleluia.
℟. Holy Church celebrates the glorious day whereon was found the triumphant Wood,
* On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.
℣. Hanging on this Wood, the Word of the Father found the way of our salvation.
* On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.

℟. This is the noblest of all trees, and is placed in the midst of Paradise:
* On it the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, alleluia.
℣. It is the Cross, dazzling in its exceeding beauty, which Helen, the mother of Constantine, sought with all the ardour of her soul.
* On it the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, Alleluia.

℟. Man's faith in Christ was strengthened, when the sacred pledge was revealed to him by heaven:
* The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.
℣. The dead rose again by the contact of the Cross, and the wondrous works of God were made manifest.
* The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.

Ant. Save us, O Saviour Christ, by the power of the Cross! O thou that didst save Peter on the waters, have mercy on us, alleluia.

Ant. Behold the Cross of the Lord; flee, O ye his enemies, for the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath conquered, alleluia.

Ant. O Tree loftier than all cedars! whereon hung the Life of the world, and Christ triumphed, and death conquered death for ever, alleluia.

Ant. O Cross! brighter than all stars, honoured throughout the world, beloved by men, holiest of holy things, that alone wast worthy to bear the ransom of the world! O sweet Wood! O sweet nails! that bore so sweet a weight! save the people assembled here this day to sing thy praise! Alleluia, alleluia.

Our Latin Churches of the Middle Ages are fervent in their hymns in honour of the holy Cross. The first we select is the celebrated sequence of Adam of Saint-Victor:


Laudes Crucis attollamus,
Nos qui Crucis exsultamus speciali gloria:
Nam in Cruce triumphamus,
Hostem ferum superamus

Vitali victoria.
Dulce melos
Tangat cœlos;
Dulce lignum
Dulci dignum
Credimus melodia:

Voci vita non discordet;
Cum vox vitam non remordet, dulcis est symphonia.

Servi Crucis Crucem laudent,
Per quam Crucem sibi gaudent vitæ dari munera.
Dicant omnes, et dicant singuli:
Ave salus totius sæculi, arbor salutifera!

O quam felix, quam præclara
Fuit hæc salutis ara
Rubens Agni sanguine,
Agni sine macula,
Qui mundavit sæcula
Ab antiquo crimine!

Hæc est scala peccatorum,
Per quam Christus, rex cœlorum,
Ad se trahit omnia;
Forma cujus hoc ostendit
Quæ terrarum comprehend it quatuor confinia.

Non sunt nova sacramenta,
Nec recenter est inventa crucis hæc religio:
Ista dulces aquas fecit;
Per hanc silex aquas jecit Moysis officio.

Nulla salus est in domo,
Nisi Cruce munit homo superliminaria:
Neque sensit gladium,
Nec amisit filium
Quisquis egit talia.

Ligna legens in Sarepta
Spem salutis est adepta
Pauper muliercula:
Sine lignis fidei
Nec lecythus olei
Valet, nec farinula.

In Scripturis
Sub figuris
Ista latent,
Sed jam patent
Crucis beneficia;
Reges credunt,
Hostes cedunt;
Sola Cruce,
Christo duce,
Unus fugat millia.

Roma naves universas
In profundum vidit mersas una cum Maxentio:
Fusi Thraces, caesi Persæ,
Sed et partis dux adversæ victus ab Hemclio.

Ista suos fortiores
Semper facit et victores;
Morbos sanat et languores, reprimit dæmonia;
Dat captivis libertatem,
Vitæ confert novitatem:
Ad antiquam dignitatem Crux reduxit omnia.

O Crux, lignum triumphale.
Vera mundi salus, vale!
Inter ligna nullum tale fronde, flore, germine;
Medicina Christiana,
Salva sanos, ægros sana:
Quod non valet vis humana fit in tuo nomine.

Assistentes Crucis laudi,
Consecrator Crucis, audi,
Atque servos tuæ Crucis
Post hanc vitam, veræ lucis transfer ad palatia;
Quos tormento vis servire,
Fac tormenta non sentire;
Sed quum dies erit iræ.
Confer nobis et largire sempiterna gaudia.

Let us proclaim the praises of the Cross,
we who have so special a reason to exult in it;
for it is in the Cross that we triumph,
and gain the victory of life over our fierce enemy.

Let our sweet melodies
reach the heavens,
for our faith
tells us
that this sweet Wood
is worthy of sweet songs.

Oh! let not our life be out of tune with our voice. When our voice
is not a reproach to the life we lead, then is our music sweet.

Let the servants of the Cross praise the Cross,
whereby they have been blessed with the gifts of life.
Let each and all thus sing:
Hail, thou saving Tree, thou salvation of the world!

Oh how honoured and how grand
was this altar of salvation,
that was crimsoned with the Blood
of the spotless Lamb,
who purified the world
from its old iniquity!

This is the ladder of sinners,
whereby Christ, the King of heaven,
draws all things to himself.
Its very shape shows
that it takes in the four parts of the earth.

The Cross is not a new mystery,
nor does the honour that is paid it date from modern times.
It was the Cross that made the bitter waters sweet;
it was with the Cross that Moses struck the rock, and made the waters flow.

There was no protection in the house
of him who marked not the door-posts with the Cross.
But he that so marked them
neither felt the destroying sword,
nor lost his first-born son.

The poor woman of Sarephta
found her salvation
whilst picking sticks.
Without the Wood of faith,
there is nor oil
nor meal.

These were blessings of the Cross,
hidden under
scriptural figures,
but now made manifest
to the world.
Kings have embraced the faith,
and enemies are put to flight.
With the Cross alone,
under the leader Christ,
one man routs a thousand.

Rome beheld Maxentius
and all his fleet drowned in the deep.
The Thracians were dispersed, the Persians slaughtered,
and the leader of the hostile troops vanquished.

The Cross ever gives courage
and victory to its soldiers;
cures all disease and sickness; checks the devil;
sets captives free;
gives newness of life;
restores all things to their former dignity.

Hail, O Cross, triumphant Wood,
the world's true salvation!
No tree can yield such shade or flower or fruit as thine.
O Medicine of Christian life!
keep the healthy strong, and give health to the sick.
What man cannot, of his own strength, he can do in thy name.

O thou that madest the Cross thus sacred,
hear the prayers of them that celebrate the praises of thy Cross.
We are the servants of thy Cross
—oh! take us, after this life, to the courts of true light.
Grant that we who honour the instrument of thy sufferings,
may escape the sufferings of hell:
and when the day of thy wrath comes,
give us to enjoy eternal bliss.


The following hymn is taken from the ancient Roman-French Breviaries for this feast:


Salve Crux sancta, salve mundi gloria,
Vera spes nostra, vera ferens gaudia,
Signum salutis, salus in periculis,
Vitale lignum Vitam portans omnium.

Te adorandam, te Crucem vivificam,
In te redempti, dulce decus sæculi,
Semper laudamus, tibi semper canimus,
Per lignum servi, per te lignum liberi.

Originale crimen necans in Cruce,
Nos a privatis, Christe, munda maculis,
Humilitatem miseratus fragilem,
Per Crucem sanctam lapsis dona veniam.

Protege, salva, benedic, salvifica
Populum cunctum Crucis per signaculum,
Morbos averte corporis et animæ;
Hoc contra signum nullum stet periculum.

Sit Deo Patri laus in Cruce Filii,
Sit coæqualis laus Sancto Spiri tui,
Civibus summis gaudium sit Angelis,
Honor in mundo sit Crucis Inventio.

Hail, holy Cross! Hail, thou the world’s glory!
our true hope, that bringest us true joy,
the standard of salvation, our protection in danger,
the living Tree, that bearest him who is the life of all!

O sweet glory of the world! we who were redeemed on thee,
tire not in praising and hymning thee as the adorable and life-giving Cross.
We were made slaves by a tree;
by thee, O Tree, were we made freedmen.

Thou, O Christ, didst slay original sin on thy Cross;
by thy holy Cross, cleanse us from our own guilty stains,
have pity on our human frailty,
and grant pardon to them that have fallen.

By the sign of the Cross, protect, save,
bless, sanctify thy whole people;
avert from them every malady of body and mind;
let no danger prevail against this sign.

Praise to God the Father from the Cross of his Son!
praise coequal be to the Holy Ghost!
May the Finding of the Cross be a joy to the angel citizens of heaven,
and a glory to the world!


From the liturgical compositions produced by the Greek Church in honour of the holy Cross, we select the following Canon, or hymn. It was written by St Theodore the Studite:


Dies lætitiæ est, Christi resuscitatione mors evanuit, vitæ splendor exstitit; Adam resurgens cum gaudio choreas ducit; propterea jubilemus victricia carmina concinentes.

Advenit dies adorandi pretiosam Crucem; adeste omnes: jaciens enim Resurrectionis Christi lucidos radios, nunc prostat; eam proinde spirituali gaudio pieni amplectamur et exosculemur.

Appareto, O immensa Domini Crux, ostende mihi nunc divinam faciem venus tat is tuæ. Dignare adoratorem, ut præconia tua decantet. Nam ut cum re animata tecum loquor, teque amplector.

Laudes consona voce decantent cœlum et terra, quia omnibus Crux beatissima proposita est; in qua Christus suo corpore fixus immolatus est; ipsam lætis mentibus osculemur.

Olim divinus Moyses præfigura vi t Crucem tu am, traducens populum Israeliticum per mare rubrum, virga aquis divisis; canticum exitus celebrandi gratia tibi, Christe Deus, decantans.

Quam olim Moyses manibus præfigurabat Crucem tuam nunc osculantes, Amalec spiritalem in fugam vertimus, Domine, per quam etiam salvati sumus.

Hodie gaudium existit in cœlo et terra, quia Crucis signum mundo illucescit, Crux ter beata; quæ proposita gratiam perennem stillat.

Quid tibi Christe retribuemus, quod copiam nobis feristi venerandam Crucem tuam adorandi, in qua sanctissimus tuus sanguis effusus est, cui etiam caro tua clavis est affixa? Quam osculantes gratias tibi persolvimus.

Hodie choreas cum lætitia ducunt Angelorum ordines ob Crucis tuæ adorationem; in illa enim dæmonum catervas vulnerasti, Christe, humano genere servato.

Alter paradisus eftecta est Ecclesia, quæ ut prius, vivificum lignum possidet, nimirum Crucem tuam, Domine; ex cujus contactu immortalitatis participes efficimur.

Impletur Psalmistæ oraculum. Ecce enim adoramus immaculatorum pedum tuorum scabellum, Crucem tuam venerandam, desideratissimum illud lignum.

Lignum, quod in panem tuum missum vidit Jeremias, Crucem scilicet tuam, o misericors, osculantes, celebramus vincula tua, et sepulturam, lanceam et clavos.

Hac die odorem halant unguenta ex divinis myrotheciis, Crux nimirum vitali unguento delibuta. Odoremur cœlestem, quam halat, auram; eamque cum fide adoremus in sæcula.

Adesto Helisæe, die palam, quidnam lignum illud, quod in aquam demisisti. Crux Christi, qua ex profundo interius extracti sumus: eam adoremus fideliter in sæcula.

Jacob olim præfigurans Crucem tuam, Christe, adorabat fastigium divinæ virgæ Joseph, prævidens eam esse regni sceptrum tremendum, quam nunc fideliter in sæcula adoramus.

Magnus propheta Daniel missus quondam in lacum leonum, manibus crucis in speciem expansis, incolumis ex faucibus bestiarum evasit, benedicens Christum Deum in sæcula.

In hymnis exsultent omnia ligna sylvæ intuentia hodierno die ejusdem nominis lignum Crucis osculis et amplexibus honorari, cujus Christus caput exaltavit, ut vaticinatur divinus David.

Qui in Ugno mortuus fueram, lignum vitæ te, Crux Christum ferens, reperi. Custodia mea insuperabilis valida adversus dæmones virtus, te hodie adorans, clamo: Sanctifica me gloria tua.

Lætare, exsulta, Ecclesia Dei, quæ ter beatum sanctissimæ Crucis lignum hodie adoras, cui, tamquam ministri, Angelorum ordines etiam cum timore assistunt.
This is a day of joy! At Christ’s Resurrection death disappeared, and life was seen in all its splendour. Adam, who rises again, exults with joy. Let us, therefore, rejoice and sing our hymn of triumph.

The day for the adoration of the precious Cross has arrived. Come, all ye faithful! It is exposed before us, and it sends forth the bright rays of Christ's Resurrection. Filled, therefore, with spiritual joy, let us embrace and kiss it.

O Cross of my Lord, thy glory is immense! Show me now the divine face of thy beauty. Vouchsafe that I who venerate thee may sing thy praises. I speak with thee as though thou wert a living thing, and I embrace thee.

Let heaven and earth unite in singing its praise, for the most holy Cross is shown to all, the Cross on which Christ was fastened and sacrificed. Let us joyfully approach and kiss it.

The saintly Moses of old prefigured thy Cross, O Christ, when, dividing the waters with his rod, he led the Israelite people through the Red Sea, and sang a canticle of praise to thee in celebration of the going forth from Egypt.

Thy Cross, O Lord, which we kiss to-day, was prefigured by Moses, when he stretched forth his arms; by it, we put our spiritual Amalec to flight; by it also we are saved.

To-day there is joy in heaven and on earth, because there shines upon the world the sign of the thrice blessed Cross. Its sight is a source of unceasing grace to us.

What return shall we make to thee, O Christ, for thy having permitted us to adore thy venerable Cross, on which thy most holy Blood was shed, and to which thy Flesh was fastened with nails? We kiss it and give thee thanks.

The angelic hosts exult with joy because of the adoration of thy Cross; for on it, O Christ, thou didst wound the demon troop and save mankind.

The Church has been made a second Paradise, which, like the first, possesses a Tree of Life—thy Cross, O Lord—by whose contact we are made immortal.

The prophecy of the Psalmist is fulfilled: for lo! we adore the footstool of thy divine feet, thy venerable Cross, the much loved Wood.

The Wood which Jeremias saw put in thy bread is thy Cross, O merciful Redeemer! We kiss it, and honour thy chains, and tomb, and spear, and nails.

On this day a sweet odour is exhaled from the thurible of heaven—the Cross, perfumed with a life-giving ointment. Let us inhale this fragrance of heaven; let us ever venerate it with faith.

Tell us, O Eliseus! what is the wood thou didst put in the water? It is the Cross of Christ, which drew us from the depths of spiritual death. Let us ever venerate it with faith.

Jacob prefigured thy Cross of old, O Christ, when he adored the top of Joseph’s mysterious rod. He foresaw that it was to be the venerable sceptre of thy kingdom. Let us now adore it with ever faithful hearts.

The great prophet Daniel, when cast into the lions’ den, stretched forth his hands in the form of a Cross; he was saved from the jaws of the wild beasts, and for ever blessed Christ our God.

Let all the trees of the forest sing a glad hymn, for on this day they beheld one of themselves, the Tree of the Cross, being honoured with kisses and embraces. This is the Tree whose head was lifted up by Christ, as holy David foretold.

I, whose death was caused by a tree, have found thee, O Tree of Life, O Cross that bearest Christ! Thou art my invincible defence, my power protecting me against Satan. I venerate thee this day, and exclaim: ‘Sanctify me by thy glory!'

Rejoice and be glad, O Church of God, that adorest this day the thrice blessed Wood of the most holy Cross, round which the very angels stand ministering in awe.

Christ Crucified is the power and wisdom of God,[2] Thus spoke thine Apostle, O Jesus! and we are witnesses of the truth of his words. The Synagogue thought to dishonour thee by nailing thee to a Cross, for it was written in the Law: Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree.[3] But, lo! this gibbet, this tree of infamy, is become the trophy of thy grandest glory! Far from dimming the splendour of thy Resurrection, the Cross enhances the brilliance of thy magnificent triumph. Thou wast attached to the Wood—thou tookest on thyself the curse that was due to us; thou wast crucified between two thieves; thou wast reputed as an impostor, and thine enemies insulted thee in thine agony on this bed of suffering. Hadst thou been but man, O Son of David! all this would have disgraced thy name and memory; the Cross would have been the ruin of thy past glory: but thou art the Son of God, and it is the Cross that proves it. The whole world venerates thy Cross. It was the Cross that brought the world into submission to thee. The honours that are now paid it more than make amends for the insults that were once offered it. Men are not wont to venerate a cross; but if they do, it is the Cross on which their God died. Oh! blessed be he that hung upon the Tree! And do thou, dearest crucified Jesus! in return for the homage we pay to thy Cross, fulfil the promise thou madest us: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto myself.[4]

That thou mightest the more effectually draw us, thou this day permittedst us to find the very Wood, whereon thou didst stretch forth thy divine arms to embrace us. Thou hast deigned to give us this holy instrument of thy victory which is to shine near thee in the heavens on the day of judgement; thou hast mercifully confided it to our keeping, in order that we might thence derive a salutary fear of divine Justice, which demanded thy death on this Wood in atonement for our sins. Thou also gavest us this most precious relic, that it might excite us to a devoted love for thee, O divine Victim! who, that we might be blessed, didst take upon thyself the maledictions due to our sins. The whole world is offering thee to-day its fervent thanks for so inestimable a gift. Thy Cross, by being divided into countless fragments, is in all places, consecrating and protecting by its presence every country of the Christian world.

Oh! that we had St Helen's spirit, dear Jesus, and knew, as she did, the breadth, and lengthand height, and depth of the mystery of thy Cross.[5] Her love of the mystery made her so earnest in her search for the Cross. And how sublime is the spectacle offered to us by this holy Empress! She adorns thy glorious Sepulchre; she raises thy Cross from its |rave; who was there, that ever proclaimed with such solemnity as this, the Paschal Mystery? The Sepulchre cries out to us: ‘He is risen: he is not here!’ The Cross exclaims: ‘I held him captive but for a few passing hours: he is not here! He is resplendent in the glory of his Resurrection!’ O fross! O Sepulchre! how brief was the period of his humiliation, and how grand the kingdom he won by you! We will adore in you the place where his feet stood,[6] making you the instruments of our Redemption, and thereby endearing you to our respectful love for ever. Glory, then, be to thee, O Cross! dear object of this day’s festival! Continue to protect this world where our Jesus has left thee. Be its shield against Satan. Help us to remember that union of sacrifice and triumph which will support us in all our crosses, for it is by thee, O Cross! that Christ conquersand reigns, and commands. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.

[1] Is. ix 6.—The Introit of the Third Mass for Christmas Day.
[2] 1 Cor. i 24.
[3] Deut. xxi 23.
[4] St John xii 32.
[5] Eph. iii 18.
[6] Ps. cxxxi 7.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A HOLY Pope and martyr comes to-day to lay his bright crown at the foot of the triumphant Cross whereby he won his victory. It is Alexander, the fifth successor of St Peter. Let us honour this venerable witness of the faith, who is now receiving the devout homage of the Church Militant, and who, for long ages past, has been enjoying in heaven the company of our Risen Jesus. The Passion of his divine Master was ever present to his mind, whilst here on earth; and the Church has registered in her annals his addition to the Canon of the Mass of four words in which he expresses the fact of our Lord’s having instituted the august mystery of the Eucharist the day before he suffered.

We owe to the same holy Pontiff another institution most dear to Catholic piety. It is by him that the Church received the sacramental which is such an object of terror to Satan, and which sanctifies everything it touches—Holy Water. This is an appropriate day for us to renew our faith in this powerful element of blessing, which heretics and infidels have so frequently made the subject of their blasphemies, but whose use will ever serve as one of the distinguishing marks between them that are and them that are not children of the Church. Water, the instrument of our regeneration, and salt, the symbol of immortality, form, under the Church’s blessing, this sacramental, in which we should have the greatest confidence. The sacramentais, like the sacraments, derive their efficacy from the blood of our Redeemer, the merits of which are applied to certain material objects by the power of the priesthood of the new law. Indifference for these secondary means of salvation would be not only an indiscretion, but a sin; and yet in these days of weak faith nothing is so common as this indifference. There are Catholics for whom Holy Water is as though there were no such thing in existence; the continual use made of it by the Church is a lesson lost to them; they deprive themselves, without a single regret, of the help wherewith God has thus provided them, both to strengthen their weakness and to purify their souls. May the holy Pontiff Alexander pray for them, that their faith may become more what it ought to be; and that they may begin to value the supernatural aids which God, out of pure mercy to them, has so profusely bestowed on his Church.

The Church commemorates with St Alexander two holy priests, Eventius and Theodulus, who suffered with him, and St Juvenal, bishop of Nami and Confessor, whose death occurred on the same day. A short account of the latter has been added to the lesson in commemoration of the martyrs.

Alexander Romanus, Adriano imperatore regens Ecclesiam, magnam partem Romanæ nobilitatis ad Christum convertit. Is constituit ut tantummodo panis et vinum in mysterio offerretur: vinum autem aqua misceri jussit, propter sanguinem et aquam quæ ex Jesu Christi latere profluxerunt; et in Canone missæ addidit: Qui pridie quam pateretur. Idem decrevit, ut aqua benedicta sale admixto perpetuo in Ecclesia asservaretur, et cubiculis adhiberetur ad fugandos dæmones. Sedit annos decem, menses quinque, et dies viginti, vitæ sanctitate et salutaribus institutis illustris. Martyrio coronatus est una cum Eventio et Theodulo presbyteris, sepultusque est via Nomentana, tertio ab Urbe lapide, eodem in loco ubi securi percussus fuerat: creatus diverso tempore mense decembri presbyteris sex, diaconis duobus, et episcopis per diversa loca quinque. Eorum corpora postea in Urbem translata in Ecclesia sanctæ Sabinæcondita sunt. In eumdem diem incidit beata mors sancti Juvenalis Naxniensis episcopi: qui cum plurimos in ea urbe sanctitate et doctrina Christo peperisset clarus miraculis in pace quievit, ibique honorifice sepultus est.

Alexander, who was born at Rome, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Adrian, and converted a great portion of the Roman nobles to Christ. He decreed that only bread and wine should be offered in the Mass, but that water should be mingled with the wine, in memory of the Blood and Water which flowed from the Side of Christ Jesus. He added to the Canon of the Mass these words: Qui pridie quam pateretur. He also decreed that Holy Water, with salt in it, should always be kept in the church, and that it should be used in the dwellings of the faithful for the purpose of driving away evil spirits. He governed the Church ten years, five months, and twenty days. He was illustrious for the holiness of his life and for the useful laws which he made. He was crowned with martyrdom together with the priests Eventius and Theodulus, and was buried on the Nomen tan Way, three miles out of Rome, on the very spot where he had been beheaded. He ordained, in the December of various years, six priests, two deacons, and five for divers places The bodies of these Saints were afterwards translated to the Church of Saint Sabina in Rome. On this same day occurred the death of blessed Juvenal, bishop of Narni, who, after having, by his learning and virtue, converted many persons of that city to Christ, and being celebrated for the miracles he wrought, slept in peace, and was honourably buried in the same city.

Receive, O holy Pontiff, on this day, sacred to the Cross of thy divine Master, the devout homage of the Christian people. It was by the way of the Cross that thou didst this day ascend to heaven; it is but just that thy praise should be mingled with those which we are giving to the sacred instrument of our Redemption. Intercede for us with him who shed his blood for us upon this Tree of Life: may he graciously accept our celebration of his triumphant Resurrection and the hymns we sing in honour of his Cross. Pray for us that our faith may increase; that thus we may appreciate the divine economy of the Redemption, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to employ for our salvation those very elements which the enemy had perverted to our destruction. Drive far from us that wretched rationalism which, whilst approving of certain usages of the Church because they happen to fit in with its fancies, presumes to treat all the rest with disdain. Pray also for the holy Church of Rome! She invokes thy name on this thy feast; prove to her that she is still dear to thee.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IN the company of our Risen Lord there are two women, two mothers, of whom we have often had to speak during the last few weeks: they are Mary, mother of James the Less and Thaddeus, and Salome, mother of 'James the Great and John the beloved disciple. They went with Magdalen to the Sepulchre on the Resurrection morning; they carried spices to anoint the Body of Jesus; Angels spoke to them; and, as they returned to Jerusalem, our Lord appeared to them, greeted them, and allowed them to kiss his sacred feet. Since that day, he has repaid their love by frequently appearing to them; and on the day of his Ascension from Mount Olivet, they will be there, together with our blessed Lady and the Apostles, to receive his farewell blessing. Let us honour these faithful companions of Magdalen, these models of the love we should show to our Lord in his Resurrection; let us also venerate them as mothers who gave four Apostles to the Church.

But lo! on this fourth morning of beautiful May, there rises, near to Mary and Salome, another woman, another mother. She, too, is fervent in her love of Jesus. She, too, gives to Holy Church a treasure—the child of her tears, a Doctor, a Bishop, and one of the grandest Saints of the New Law. This woman, this mother, is Monica, doubly mother of Augustine. This masterpiece of God's grace was produced on the desert soil of Africa. Her virtues would have been unknown till the day of judgement, had not the pen of the great bishop of Hippo, prompted by the holy affection of his filial heart, revealed to us the merits of this woman, whose life was humility and love, and who now, immortalized in men’s esteem, is venerated as the model and patroness of Christian mothers.

One of the great charms of the book of Confessions is Augustine’s fervent praise of Monica’s virtues and devotedness. With what affectionate gratitude he speaks, throughout his whole history, of the untiring constancy of this mother who, seeing the errors of her son, 1 wept over him more than other mothers weep over the dead body of their children.’[1] Our Lord, who from time to time consoles with a ray of hope the souls he tries, had shown to Monica in a vision the future meeting of the son and mother; she had even heard a holy bishop assure her that the child of so many tears could never be lost: still the sad realities of the present weighed heavily on her heart; and both her maternal love and her faith caused her to grieve over this son, who kept away from her, yea, who kept away from her because he was unfaithful to his God. The anguish of this devoted heart was an expiation which would at a future period be applied to the guilty one; fervent and persevering prayer, joined with suffering, prepared Augustine’s second birth; and, as he himself says, ‘she went through more when she gave me my spiritual than when she gave me my corporal birth.’[2]

At last, after long years of anxiety, the mother found at Milan this son of hers who had so cruelly deceived her, when he fled from her roof to go and risk his fortune in Rome. She found him still doubting the truth of the Christian religion, but tired of the errors that had misled him. Augustine was not aware of it, but he had really made an advance towards the true faith. ‘She found me,’ says he, ‘in extreme danger, for I despaired of ever finding the truth. But when I told her that I was no longer a Manichean, and yet not a Catholic Christian, the announcement did not take her by surprise. She leaped for joy at being made sure that one half of my misery was gone. As to the other, she wept over me, as dead indeed, but to rise again; she turned to thee, O my God, and wept, and in spirit brought me and laid the bier before thee, that thou mightest say to the widow's son: Young man! I say to theearise! Then would he come to life again, and begin to speak, and thou couldst give him back to his mother! . . . Seeing then that although I had not yet found the truth, I was delivered from error, she felt sure that thou wouldst give the other half of the whole thou hadst promised. She told me in a tone of gentlest calm, but with her heart full of hope, that she was confident, in Christ, that before leaving this world, she would see me a faithful Catholic.’[3]

At Milan, Monica formed acquaintance with the great St Ambrose, who was the instrument chosen by God for the conversion of her son. ‘She had a very great affection for Ambrose,' says Augustine, ' because of what he had done for my soul; and he too loved her, because of her extraordinary piety, which led her to the performance of good works, and to fervent assiduity in frequenting the Church. Hence, when he saw me, he would frequently break out in her praise, and congratulate me on having such a mother.’[4] The hour of grace came at last. The light of faith dawned upon Augustine, and he began to think of enrolling himself a member of the Christian Church; but the pleasures of the world, in which he had so long indulged, held him back from receiving the holy sacrament of baptism. Monica's prayers and tears won for him the grace to break this last tie. He yielded and became a Christian.

But God would have this work of his divine mercy a perfect one. Augustine, once converted, was not satisfied with professing the true faith; he aspired to the sublime virtue of continence. A soul favoured as his then was could find no further pleasure in anything that this world had to offer him. Monica, who was anxious to guard her son against the dangers of a relapse into sin, had been preparing an honourable marriage for him; but Augustine came to her one day, accompanied by his friend Alypius, and told her that he was resolved to aim at the most perfect life. Let us listen to the Saint's account of this interview with his mother; it was immediately after he had been admonished by the voice from heaven: ‘We (Augustine and Alypius) go at once to my mother's house. We tell her what has taken place; she is full of joy. We tell her all the particulars; she is overpowered with feelings of delight and exultation. She blessed thee, O my God, who canst do beyond what we ask or understand. She saw that thou hadst done more for me than she had asked of thee, with her many piteous and tearful sighs. . . . Thou hadst changed her mourning into joy even beyond her wishes, yea, into a joy far dearer and chaster than she could ever have had in seeing me a father of children.’[5] A few days after this, and in the Church of Milan, a sublime spectacle was witnessed by angels and men: Ambrose baptized Augustine in Monica's presence.

The saintly mother had fulfilled her mission: her son was regenerated to truth and virtue, and she had given to the Church the greatest of her Doctors. The evening of her long and laborious life was approaching and she was soon to find eternal rest in the God for whose love she had suffered so much. The son and mother were at Ostia, waiting for the vessel that was to take them back to Africa. ‘I and she were alone,’ says Augustine, ‘and were standing near a window of our lodging, which commanded a view of the garden. We were having a most charming conversation. Forgetting the past, and stretching forward to the things beyond, we were talking about the future life of the Saints, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it ascended into man's heart. . . . And whilst thus talking about it and longing for it, our hearts seemed to bound forward and reach it. We sighed, and left the first-fruits of our spirit there, and returned to the sound of our own voice. . . . Then my mother said to me: “ My son! as far as I am concerned, there is nothing now that can give me pleasure in this life. I know not what I can do, or why I should be here, now that I have nothing to hope for in this world. There was one thing for which I desired to live somewhat longer, and it was to see thee a Catholic Christian before my death. My God has granted me this and more, for I see that thou hast despised earthly pleasures and become his servant. What do I here?”’[6]

She had not long to wait for the divine invitation. She breathed forth her pure soul a few days after this incident, leaving an indelible impression upon the heart of her son, a name most dear and honoured to the Church, and a perfect example of the purest and holiest maternal affection to Christian mothers.

The life and virtues of St Monica are thus briefly portrayed in to-day’s Liturgy:

Monica, sancti Augustini dupliciter mater, quia eum et mundo et cœlo peperit, marito mortuo, quem senectute confectum Jesu Christo conciliavit castam, et operibus misericordiæ exercitam viduitatem agebat: in assiduis vero ad Deum orationibus pro filio, qui in Manichæorum sectam inciderat lacrymas eff undebat: quem etiam Mediolanum secuta est: ubi ipsum frequenter hortabatur, ut ad episcopum Ambrosium se conferret. Quod cum ille fecisset, ejus et publicis concionibus et privatis colloquiis catholicæ fidei veritatem edoctus, ab eodem baptizatus est.

Mox in Africani redeuntes cum ad Ostia Tiberina constitissent, incidit in febrem. Quo in morbo cum eam quodam die anima defecisset, ut se collegit: Ubi, inquit, eram? Et adstantes intuens: Ponite hic matrem vestram: tantum vos rogo, ut ad altare Domini memineritis mei. Nono autem die beata mulier aninjam Deo reddidit. Ejus corpus ibi in ecclesia sanctæ Aureæ sepultum est: quod postea Martino Quinto summo Pontifice Romam translatum, in ecclesia sancti Augustini honorifice conditum est.

Monica was doubly Augustine’s mother, inasmuch as she gave him both temporal and eternal life. Having lost her husband, whom she converted in his old age to Christ Jesus, she spent her widowhood in holy continency and works of mercy. Her prayers and tears were continually offered up to God for her son, who had fallen into the heresy of the Manicheans. She followed him to Milan, where she frequently exhorted him to visit the bishop Ambrose. He did so, and having learned the truth of the Catholic faith, both by the public discourses and private conversations of Ambrose, he was baptized by him.

Having reached Ostia on their return home to Africa, Monica was taken ill of a fever. During her sickness, she one day lost her consciousness: and having returned to herself, she said: ‘Where was I?’ Then looking at her children, she said: ‘Bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.’ The holy woman yielded up her soul to God on the ninth day. Her body was buried there, in the Church of Saint Aurea; but was afterwards translated to Rome, during the pontificate of Martin the Fifth, and was buried with much honour in the Church of Saint Augustine.

The Middle Ages have left us several liturgical pieces composed in honour of St Monica; but most of them are poor. The sequence we select is not without merit; it has even been attributed to Adam of Saint-Victor.


Augustini magni patris,
Atque suæ piæ matris laudes et præconia
Decantemus, venerantes
Et optata celebrantes hodie solemnia.

Mater casta, fide gnara,
Vita clara, Christo chara, hæc beata Monica
De profano propagatum,
Jam nunc parit suum natum in fide catholica.

Felix imber lacrymarum,
Quo effulsit tam præclarum lumen in Ecclesia!
Multo fletu seminavit,
Germen ubi reportavit metens in lætitia.

Plus accepit quam petivit:
O quam miro tunc gestivit Spiritus tripudio,
Cernens natum fide ratum,
Sed et Christo jam sacratum toto mentis studio!

Hæc egenis ministravit,
Et in eis Christum pavit, mater dicta pauperum;
Curam gerens infirmorum,
Lavit, stravit, et eorum tersit sordes vuinerum.

O matrona gratiosa,
Quam transfigunt amorosa crucifixi stigmata!
His accensa sic ploravit,
Lacrymis quod irrigavit pavimenti schemata.

Pane cœli saturata,
Stat a terris elevata cubiti distantia;
Mente rapta exsultavit:
‘Volitemus,’ exclamavit, ‘Ad cœli fastigia.’

Eia, mater et matrona,
Advocata et patrona sis pro tuis filiis,
Ut dum carne exuemur,
Nato tuo sociemur paradisi gaudiis.

Let us sing the praises of the great Father Augustine
and of his holy mother.
Let us devoutly celebrate
the beloved solemnity of this day.

The blessed Monica was a virtuous mother,
well instructed in the faith, edifying in her conduct, and dear to Christ.
Her son was born of a pagan father;
but she gave him a second birth—she brought him to the Catholic faith.

O happy shower of tears,
through which shone forth so bright a light within the Church!
Monica sowed in much weeping,
but she reaped her fruit in joy.

She received more than she asked:
Oh! how grand was the gladness that filled her soul,
when she saw her son staunch in faith,
yea, and devoted with his whole heart to Christ!

She was called the mother of the poor,
for she ministered to them in their necessities, and gave to Christ the food she gave to them.
She took care of the sick,
washed them, nursed them, and dressed their wounds.

O saintly matron, whose soul was pierced
with compassion for the dear Wounds of her crucified Lord!
She wept for love when she thought upon them,
and her tears bedewed the spot on which she prayed.

When she received the Bread of Heaven,
she was raised from the ground
and in her rapture exclaimed with joy:
‘Let us fly to heaven above!'

O mother and matron!
be to us thy children an advocate and patroness,
that so, when we quit the flesh, we may be united to Augustine,
thy son, in the joys of paradise.


O thou model of mothers! Christendom honours thee as one of the most perfect types of human nature regenerated by Christ. Previous to the Gospel, during those long ages when woman was kept in a state of abjection, a mother’s influence on her children was feeble and insignificant; her duties were generally limited to looking after their bodily well-being; and if some mothers of those times have handed their names down to posterity, it is only because they taught their sons to covet and win the passing glory of this world. But we have no instance in pagan times of a mother training her son to virtue, following him from city to city that she might help him in the struggle with error and the passions, and encourage him to rise after a fall; we do not meet with one who devoted herself to continual prayer and tears, with a view to obtain her son's return to truth and virtue. Christianity alone has revealed a mother's mission and power.

What forgetfulness of thyself, O Monica, in thine incessant endeavour to secure Augustine's salvation! After God, thou livest for him, and to live for thy son in such a way as this, is it not living for God, who deigns to use thee as the instrument of his grace? What carest thou for Augustine's glory and success in this world when thou thinkest of the eternal dangers and of the eternal separation from God and thee to which he is exposed. There is no sacrifice which thy maternal heart is not ready to make in order to satisfy the divine justice: it has its rights and thou art too generous not to satisfy them. Thou waitest patiently, day and night, for God's good time to come. The delay only makes thy prayer more earnest. Hoping against all hope, thou at length feelest within thy heart the humble but firm conviction that the object of all these tears can never be lost. Moved with mercy towards thee, as he was towards the sorrowing mother of Naim, he speaks with that voice which nothing can withstand: ‘Young man! I say to thee, arise!’ and he gives him to his mother,’[7] he gives thee the dear one whose death thou hadst so bitterly bewailed, but from whom thou couldst not tear thyself.

What a recompense of thy maternal love is this! God is not satisfied with restoring thee Augustine full of life; this son of thine rises at once from the very depths of error and sin to the highest virtue. Thou hadst prayed that he might become a Catholic and break certain ties which were both a disgrace and danger to him; when lo! one single stroke of grace has raised him to the sublime state of the Evangelical Counsels. Thy work is more than done, O happy mother! Speed thee to heaven; where till thy Augustine joins thee, thou art to gaze on the saintly life and works of this son, whose salvation is due to thee and whose glory, even while he sojourns here below, sheds a bright halo over thy venerated name.

From the eternal home where thou art now happy with this son who owes to thee his life both of earth and heaven, cast a loving look, O Monica, on the many Christian mothers who are now fulfilling on earth the hard but noble mission which was once thine. Their children are also dead with the death of sin; and they would restore them to true life by the power of their maternal love. After the Mother of Jesus, it is to thee that they turn, O Monica, whose prayers and tears were once so efficacious and so fruitful. Take their cause in hand; thy tender and‘devoted heart cannot fail to compassionate them in the anguish which was once thine own. Maintain their courage; teach them to hope. The conversion of these dear ones is to cost them many a sacrifice; procure them the generosity and fortitude to pay the price thus asked of them by God. Let them remember that the conversion of a soul is a greater miracle than raising a dead man to life; and that divine justice demands a compensation which they, the mothers of these children, must be ready to make. This spirit of sacrifice will destroy that hidden egotism which is but too frequently mingled with what seems to be affection of the purest kind. Let them ask themselves if they would rejoice as thou didst, O Monica, at finding that a vocation to the Religious life was the result of the conversion they have so much at heart. If they are thus disinterested, let them not fear; their prayers and sufferings must be efficacious; sooner or later, the wished-for grace will descend upon the prodigal, and he will return to God and to his mother.

[1] Confessionum, lib. iii, cap. xi.
[2] Ibid. lib. v, cap, ix.
[3] Confessionum, lib. vi, cap. i.
[4] Ibid. lib. vi, cap. ii.
[5] Confessionum, lib. viii, cap. xii.
[6] Confcssionum, lib. ix, cap. x.
[7] St Luke vii 14, 15.