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 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.
 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
- Chapter 1: The History of Advent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Advent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Advent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Advent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Advent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Advent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS
- Chapter 1: The History of Christmas
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Christmas
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Christmas
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Christmas
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Christmas
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Christmas
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima
- Chapter 1: The History of Septuagesima
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Septuagesima
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Septuagesima
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Septuagesima
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Septuagesima
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Septuagesima
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
Introduction to the Season of Lent
- Chapter 1: The History of Lent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Lent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Lent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Lent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Lent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Lent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Lent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Lent
Introduction to passiontide and holy week
- Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Passiontide and Holy Week
Introduction to the Season of Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of Paschal Time
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Paschal Time
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Paschal Time
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Paschal Time
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Paschal Time
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Paschal Time
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Paschal Time
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 3: The Practice for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During the Time after Pentecost
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
To-day, again, it is Catholic Spain that offers one of her sons to the Church, that she may present him to the Christian world as a model and a patron. Vincent Ferrer, or, as he was called, the angel of the judgment, comes to us proclaiming the near approach of the Judge of the living and the dead. During his lifetime, he traversed almost every country of Europe, preaching this terrible truth; and the people of those times went from his sermons striking their breasts, crying out to God to have mercy upon them—in a word, converted. In these our days, the thought of that awful day, when Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven to judge mankind, has not the same effect upon Christians. They believe in the last judgment, because it is an article of faith; but, we repeat, the thought produces little impression. After long years of a sinful life, a special grace touches the heart, and we witness a conversion; there are thousands thus converted, but the majority of them continue to lead an easy, comfortable life, seldom thinking on hell, and still less on the judgment wherewith God is to bring time to an end.
It was not thus in the Christian ages; neither is it so now with those whose conversion is solid. Love is stronger in them than fear; and yet the fear of God’s judgment is ever living within them, and gives stability to the new life they have begun. Those Christians who have heavy debts towards divine justice, because of the sins of their past lives, and who, notwithstanding, make the time of Lent a season for evincing their cowardice and tepidity, surely such Christians as these must very rarely ask themselves what will become of them on that day, when the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens, and when Jesus, not as Saviour, but as Judge, shall separate the goats from the sheep. One would suppose that they have received a revelation from God, that, on the day of judgment, all will be well with them. Let us be more prudent; let us stand on our guard against the illusions of a proud, self-satisfied indifference; let us secure to ourselves, by sincere repentance, the well-founded hope, that on the terrible day, which has made the very saints tremble, we shall hear these words of the divine Judge addressed to us: ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!’ Vincent Ferrer leaves the peaceful cell of his monastery, that he may go and rouse men to the great truth they had forgotten —the day of God’s inexorable justice; we have not heard his preachings, but, have we not the Gospel? Have we not the Church, who, at the commencement of this season of penance, preached to us the terrible truth, which St. Vincent took as the subject of his instructions? Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves to appear before Him, who will demand of us a strict account of those graces which He so profusely poured out upon us, and which were purchased by His Blood. Happy they that spend their Lents well, for they may hope for a favourable judgment!
The liturgy gives us, in the Matins of to-day, the following abridged account of the life of this holy servant of God:
Vincentius honesta stirpe Valentiæ in Hispania natus, ab ineunte ætate cor gessit senile. Qui dum caliginoei hujue sæculi labilem cursum pro ingenii eui modulo consideraret, religionis habitum in Ordine Prædicatorum decimo octavo ætatis suæ anno suscepit; et emissa solemni professions, sacris litteris sedulo incumbe ns, theologiæ lauream summa cum laude consecutus est. Mox obtenta a superioribus licentia verbum Dei prædicare, Judæorum perfidiam arguere, Saracenorum errores confutare, tanta virtute et efficacia cæpit, ut ingentem ipsorum infidelium multitudinem ad Christi fidem perduxerit, et multa Christianorum millia, a peccatis ad pænitentiam, a vitiie ad virtutem revocarit. Electus enim a Deo, ut mónita salutis in omnes gentes, tribus et linguae diffunderet, et extremi tremendique judicii diem approp in qua re ostenderet, omnium auditorum animos terrore concussos, atque a terrenis affectibus avulsos, ad Dei amorem excitabat.
In hoc autem apostolico munere hie vitae ejus tenor perpetuus fuit. Quotidie Missam summo mane cum cantu celebravit, quotidie ad populum concionem habuit, inviolabile semper jejunium nisi urgens adessetnecessitas, servavit; eancta et recta consilia nullis denegavit, carnes numquam comedit, nec vestem lineam induit, populorum jurgia sedavit, dissidentia regna pace composuit; et cum vestis inconeutilis Ecclesiæ diro schismate scinderetur, ut uniretur, et unita servaretur, plurimum laboravit. Virtutibus omnibus claruit, suosque detractores et persecutores, in simplicitate, et humilitate ambulans, cum mansuetudine recepit, et amplexus est.
Per ipsum divina virtus, in confirmationem vitæ et prædicationis ej us, multa signa et miracula fecit. Nam frequentissime super ægros manus im posuit, et sanitatem adepti sunt: spiritus immundos e corporibus expulit; surdis auditum, mutis loquelam, caecis visum restituit; leprosos munda vit, mort uos suscitavit. Senio tandem et morbo confectus infatigabilis Evangelii præco, plurimis Europæ provinciis cum ingenti animarum fructu peragratis, Venetiæ in Britannia minori, prædicationis et vitæ cursum feliciter consummavit, anno salutis millesimo quadringentesimo decimo nono, quem Calixtus tertius Sanctorum numero adscripsit.
Vincent was born at Valencia, in Spain, of respectable parents. He showed the gravity of old age, even when quite a child. Considering within himself, as far as his youthful mind knew it, the dangers of this dark world, he received the Habit in the Order of Preachers when he was eighteen years of age. After his solemn profession, he diligently applied himself to sacred studies, and gained, with much applause, the degree of doctor of divinity. Shortly after this, he obtained leave from his superiors to preach the word of God. He exposed the perfidy of the Jews, and refuted the false doctrines of the Saracens, but with so much earnestness and success, that he brought a great number of infidels to the faith of Christ, and converted many thousand Christians from sin to repentance, and from vice to virtue. God had chosen him to teach the way of salvation to all nations, and tribes, and tongues; as also to warn men of the coming of the last and dread day of judgment. He so preached, that he struck terror into the minds of all his hearers, and turned them from earthly affections to the love of God.
His mode of life, while exercising this office of apostolic preaching, was as follows: he every day sang Mass early in the morning, delivered a sermon to the people, and, unless absolutely obliged to do otherwise, observed a strict fast. He gave holy and prudent advice to all who consuited him. He never ate flesh meat, or wore linen garments. He reconciled contending parties, and restored peace among nations that were at variance. He zealously laboured to restore and maintain the union of the seamless garment of the Church, which, at that time, was rent by a direful schism. He shone in every virtue. He was simple and humble, and treated his revilers and persecutors with meekness and affection.
Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought through him, in confirmation of the holiness of his life and preaching. He very frequently restored the sick to health, by placing his hands upon them. He drove out the unclean spirits from the bodies of such as were possessed. He gave hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind. He cured lepers, and raised the dead to life. At length, worn out by old age and bodily infirmities, after travelling through many countries of Europe, and reaping an abundant harvest of souls, this untiring herald of the Gospel terminated his preaching and life at Vannes, in Brittany, in the year of our Lord 1419. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus III.
The Dominican breviary contains the following responsories and antiphon in honour of this illustrious preacher:
R. Summus Parens, ao rector gentium, in vespere labentis sæculi, novum vatem misit Vincentium, christiani magistrum populi: refert instare Dei judicium,
* Quod spectabunt cunctorum oculi.
V. Timete Deum, clamat sæpius: venit hora judicii ejus.
* Quod spectabunt cunctorum oculi.
R Christi viam secutus arduam, a terrenis procul illecebris; veritatem reddit conspicuam, profligatis errorum tenebris:
* Oram illuminat occiduam, toto factus in orbe Celebris.
V. Cujus doctrina sole gratior, sermo erat flammis ardentior.
* Oram illuminat occiduam, toto factus in orbe Celebris.
R. Nocte sacris incumbens litteris, contemplatur vigil in studio: mane pulchri ad instar sideris, miro lucet doctrinæ radio:
* Morbos omnie vespere generis salutari pellens remedio.
V. Nulla præterit hora temporis, quo non recti quid agat operis.
* Morbos omnis vespere generis salutari pellens remedio.
R. Verba perennis vitæ proferens, animos inflammat adstantium: pectoribus humanis inserens amorem donorum ccelestium, de virtutibus alta disserens;
* Frænare docet omne vitium.
V. Ilium avida turba sequitur, dum hoc ore divino loquitur.
* Frænare docet omne vitium.
ANT. Qui prophetico fretus lumine, mira de mundi fine docuit; in occiduo terrae cardine, ut sol Vincentius occubuit: et septus angelorum agmine, lucidas cœli sedes tenuit.
R. The heavenly Father, the Ruler of all nations, sent, when the evening of the world came on, a new prophet, Vincent, the teacher of Christian people. He announces to men the approach of God’s judgment,
* Which all men shall see with their eyes.
V. Fear God: this is his favourite exclamation: the time is at hand for his judgment,
* Which all men shall see with their eyes.
R. Treading in the arduous path of Christ, and shunning earthly pleasures, he convinced men of the truth, and put to flight the darkness of error.
* He gave light to the countries of the west, and his name was proclaimed throughout the whole world.
V. His doctrines were more welcome than sunlight, his word was more ardent than fire.
* He gave light to the countries of the west, and his name was proclaimed throughout the whole world.
R. He spent the night over the sacred Scriptures, wakeful to contemplation and study: in the mom, like to a fair star, he shines with a wondrous ray of wisdom:
* At evening he has a saving remedy for every kind of disease.
V. There passes not an hour of his day, wherein he does not some good deed.
* At evening he has a saving remedy for every kind of disease.
R. He inflames the minds of his hearers by his words of eternal life: he inspires the hearts of men with a love of heavenly gifts: sublimely does he treat of virtues.
* Teaching men how to bridle every vice.
V. Eager crowds follow him, when he preaches his divine doctrines.
* Teaching men how to bridle every vice.
ANT. Vincent, blessed with light prophetic, spoke admirably of the end of the world: he set, as the sun, in the western world, and surrounded by a troop of angels, he ascended to the bright mansions of heaven.
How grand must have been thine eloquence, O Vincent, that could rouse men from their lethargy, and give them to feel all the terrors of that awful judgment. Our forefathers heard thy preaching, and returned to God, and were pardoned. We, too, were drowsy of spirit when, at the commencement of this holy season, the Church awakened us to the work of our salvation, by sprinkling our heads with ashes, and pronouncing over us the sentence of our God, whereby we are condemned to die. Yes, we are to die; we are to die soon; and a judgment is to be held upon us, deciding our eternal lot. Then, at the moment fixed in the divine decrees, we shall rise again, in order that we may assist at the solemn and terrible judgment. Our consciences will be laid open, our good and bad actions will be weighed, before the whole of mankind; after which, the sentence already pronounced upon us in our particular judgment will be made public. Sinners as we are, how shall we be able to bear the eye of our Redeemer, who will then be our inexorable Judge? How shall we endure even the gaze of our fellow-creatures, who will then behold every sin we have committed? But above all, which of the two sentences will be ours? Were the Judge to pronounce it at this very moment, would He place us among the blessed of His Father, or among the cursed? on His right, or on His left?
Our fathers were seized with fear when thou, O Vincent, didst put these questions to them. They did penance for their sins, and, after receiving pardon from God, their fears abated, and holy joy filled their souls. Angel of God's judgment! pray for us, that we may be moved to salutary fear. A few days hence we shall behold our Redeemer ascending the hill of Calvary, with the heavy weight of His cross upon Him; we shall hear Him thus speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem: ‘Weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children: for if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?’ Help us, O Vincent, to profit by these words of warning. Our sins have reduced us to the condition of dry dead branches, that are good for nought but to bum in the fire of divine vengeance; help us, by thy intercession, to be once more united to Him who will give us life. Thy zeal for souls was extreme; take ours under thy care, and procure for them the grace of perfect reconciliation with our offended Judge. Pray, too, for Spain, the country that gave thee life and faith, thy religious profession and thy priesthood. The dangers that are now threatening her require all thy zeal and love; exercise them in her favour, and be her faithful protector.
 St. Matt. xxv. 34.
 St. Luke xxiii. 28, 31.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Church presents to us to-day, for our devout admiration, the memory of one of the holiest of her bishops—Isidore, the bishop of Seville, the most learned man of his age, and, what is a still greater praise, the most zealous patriot and friend of his noble country. Let us study his virtues and confide in his patronage: both will help us to fervour during this holy season.
Among Christian lands, there is one that has gained for herself the glorious name of the Catholic kingdom. Towards the close of the seventh century, divine Providence subjected her to a most severe trial, by permitting the Saracen hordes to invade her: so that her heroic children had to struggle for eight hundred years for the recovery of their country. Contemporaneously with Spain, Asia also and Africa fell under the Mussulman yoke, and have continued in their slavery up to the present day. Whence comes it that Spain has triumphed over her oppressors, and that tyranny has never been able to make her children degenerate? The answer is easily given: Spain, at the period of her invasion, was Catholic, and Catholicity was the very spirit of the land: whereas those other nations, that yielded themselves slaves to the Saracens, were already separated from the Christian Church by heresy or schism. God abandoned them, because they had rejected both the truth of faith, and unity with the Church; they fell an easy prey to the infidel conqueror.
Nevertheless, Spain had incurred an immense risk. The race of the Goths, by their long invasion of her territory, had sowed the seeds of heresy: Arianism had set up its sacrilegious altars in Iberia. But God did not permit this privileged country to be long under the yoke of error. Before the Saracens came upon her, she had been reconciled to the Church; and God had chosen one family to be the glorious instrument in the completion of this great work. Even to this day, the traveller through Andalusia will find the squares of its cities adorned with four statues: they are those of three brothers and a sister: St. Leander, bishop of Seville; St. Isidore, whose feast we are keeping to-day; St. Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena; and their sister, St. Florentina, a nun. It was by the zeal and eloquence of St. Leander that king Reccared and his Goths were converted from Arianism to the Catholic faith, in the year 589; the learning and piety of our glorious Isidore consolidated the great work; Fulgentius gave it stability by his virtues and erudition; and Florentina co-operated in it by her life of sacrifice and prayer.
Let us unite with the Catholic kingdom in honouring this family of saints; and to-day in a special manner, let us pay the tribute of our devotion to St. Isidore. The holy liturgy thus speaks of him:
Isidorus natione Hispanus, doctor egregius, ex nova Carthagine, Severiano patre provinciæ duce natus, a sanctis episcopis Leandro Hispalensi, et Fulgentio Carthaginensi fratribus suis pie et liberaliter educatus, latinis, græcis et hebraicis litteris, divinisque et humanis legibus instractus, omni scientiarum, atque christianaram virtutum genere præstantissimus evasit. Adhuc adolescens hæresim arianam, quæ gentem Go· thorum Hispaniae latissime dominantem jam pridem in vase rat, tantaconstantia palam oppugnavit, ut parum abfuerit quin ab haereticis necaretur. Leandro vita functo ad Hispalensem cathedram invitus quidem, sed urgente in primis Recaredo rege, magnoque etiam cleri, populique consensu assumitur, ejusque electionem sanctus Gregorius Magnus nedum auctoritate apostólica confirmasse, sed et electum transmisso de more pallio decorasse, quin etiam suum, et apostolicæ Sedis in universa Hispania vicarium constituisse perhibetur.
In episcopatu quantum fuerit constans, humilis, patiens, misericors, in Christiana et ecclesiastica disciplina instauranda sollicitus, eaque verbo, et scriptis stabilienda indefessus, atque omni demum virtutum ornamento insignitus, nullius lingua enarrare sufficeret. Monastici quo que instituti per Hispaniam promotor et amplificator eximius, plura construxit monasteria; collegia itidem ædificavit, ubi studiis sacris et lectionibus vacans, plurimos discipulos, qui ad eum confluebant, erudivit; quos inter sancti Ildephonsus Toletanus, et Braulio Cfesaraugustanus episcopi emicuerunt. Coacto Hispaliconcilio, Acephalorum hæreeim Hispaniæ jam minitan tem, acri et eloquenti disputatione fregit atque oontrivit. Tantam apud omnes aanctitatis et doctrinæ famam adeptus est, ut elapso vix ab ejus obitu sextodecimo anno, universa Toletatana synodo duorum supra quinquaginta episcoporum plaudente, ipsoque etiam sancto Ildephonso suffragante, doctor egregius, Catholicæ Ecclesiæ novissimum decus, in sæculorum fine doctissimus, et cum reverentia nominandus, appellari meruerit; eumque sanctus Braulio nonmodo Gregorio Magno comparaverit, sed et erudiendæ Hispaniæ loco Jacobi apostoli cælitus datum esse censuerit.
Scripsit Isidorus libros Etymologiarum, et de ecclesiasticis Officiis, aliosque quamplurimos Christianæ et ecclesiasticæ disciplinæ adeo utiles, ut sanctus Leo Papa quartus ad episcopos Britanniæ scribere non dubita verit, sicut Hieronymi et Augustini, ita Isidori dicta retinenda esse, ubi contigerit inusitatum negotium, quod per Canones minimo definiri possit. Plures etiam ex ejusdem scriptis sententiæ inter canonicas Ecclesiæ legs relatæconspiciuntur. Præfuit Concilio Toletano quarto omnium Hispaniæoeleberrimo. Denique cum ab Hispania arianum haereeim eliminasset, morte sua, et regni vastatione a Saracenorum armis publice prænuntiata, postquam quadraginta cire iter annos suam rexisset Ecclesiam, Hispali migravit in cœelum anno sexcentesimo trigésimo sexto. Ejus corpus inter Leandrum fratrem, et Florentinam sororem, ut ipse mandaverat, primo conditum, Ferdinandus primus Castellæ et Legionis rex, ab Eneto Saraceno Hispali dominante magno pretio redemptum, Legionem transtulit; et in ejus honorem templum ædificatum est, ubi miraculis clarus, magna populi devotione colitur.
Isidore, by birth a Spaniard, was an illustrious Doctor of the Church. He was born at Carthagena, and his father, whose name was Severianus, was governor of that part of the country. He was solidly trained to piety and learning by his two brothers, Leander, bishop of Seville, and Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena. He was taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; he was put through a course of canon and civil law; and there was no science or virtue in which he did not excel. While yet a youth, he so courageously combated the Arian heresy, which had long before infected the Goths who had entered Spain, that he with difficulty escaped being put to death by the heretics. After the death of Leander, he was, in spite of himself, raised to the episcopal See of Seville, by the influence of king Reccared, and with unanimous consent of both clergy and people. His election was not only confirmed by apostolic authority, but St. Gregory the Great, when sending him as usual the pallium, is said to have appointed him his own vicar, and that of the apostolic See, throughout all Spain.
It would be impossible to describe the virtues of Isidore as bishop: how firm, humble, patient, and merciful; how zealously he laboured for the restoration of Christian morals and ecclesiastical discipline, and how untiring he was in his efforts, both by word and writing, to establish them among his people; and, finally, how he excelled in every virtue. He was a fervent promoter of the monastic life in Spain, and built several monasteries. He also built colleges, in which he himself applied himself to teaching the sacred sciences to the many disciples that flocked to him; among whom may be mentioned those two glorious pontiffs,Ildephonsus bishop of Toledo, and Braulio bishop of Saragossa. In a Council held at Seville, he spoke with such power and eloquence, that he may be said to have destroyed the heresy of the Acephali, which threatened to undermine the true faith in Spain. So great, indeed, was the universal reputation he had gained for piety and learning, that he had scarcely been dead sixteen years, when, in a Council held at Toledo, and at which fifty-two bishops were present, St. Ildephonsus himself among them, he was called the illustrious doctor, the new glory of the Catholic Church, the most learned man who had been seen in those ages, and one whose name should never be mentioned but with great respect. St. Braulio not only compared him to St. Gregory the Great, but said that he looked on him as having been sent by heaven, as a second St. James the apostle, to instruct the people of Spain.
Isidore wrote a book on Etymologies, and another on Ecclesiastical Offices, and several others, of such importance to Christian and ecclesiastical discipline, that Pope St. Leo IV. hesitated not to say, in a letter addressed to the bishops of Britain, that one ought to adhere to the words of Isidore with the same respect as is shown to those of Jerome and Augustine, as often as a difficult case should arise, which could not be settled by canon law. Several sentences of his works have been inserted into the body of the canon law. He presided over the fourth Council of Toledo, which is the most celebrated of all those that have been held in Spain. At length, after having driven the Arian heresy out of Spain, he publicly foretold the day of his death, and the devastation of the country by the Saracens; and having governed his See for about forty years, he died at Seville, in the year 636. His body was first buried, as he himself had requested, between those of his brother and sister, Leander and Florentina. Afterwards, Ferdinand I., King of Castille and Leon, purchased it for a large sum of money, from Enetus, the Saracen governor of Seville, and had it translated to Leon. Here a church was built in his honour, and the miracles that are wrought by his intercession have led the people to honour him with great devotion.
Faithful pastor! the Christian people honour thy virtues and thy services; they rejoice in the recompense wherewith God has crowned thy merits; hear the prayers that are offered to thee during these the days of salvation. When on earth, thy vigilance over the flock entrusted to thy care was untiring; consider us as a part of it, and defend us from the ravenous wolves that cease not to seek our destruction. May thy prayers obtain for us the fullness of graces needed for worthily completing the holy season, which is so near its close. Keep up our courage; incite us to fervour; prepare us for the great mysteries we are about to celebrate. We have bewailed our sins, and, though feebly, we have done penance for them; the work of our conversion has, therefore, made progress; and now we must perfect it by the contemplation of the Passion and death of our Redeemer. Assist us, O thou His faithful and loving servant! Do thou, whose life was ever pure, take sinners under thy care and hear the prayers offered to thee on this day by the Church. Look down from heaven on thy beloved Spain, which honours thee with such earnest devotion. Revive her ancient ardour of faith; restore to her the vigour of Christian morality; remove from her the tares that have sprung up among the good seed. The whole Church reveres thy noble country for her staunch adhesion to the truths of faith: pray for her, that she may come unhurt through her trials, and ever prove herself worthy of that glorious title of the Catholic kingdom, which thou didst help her to gain.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
One of the most striking examples of penance ever witnessed, is this day proposed for our consideration: Mary, the sinner and penitent of Egypt, comes to animate us to persevere in our lenten exercises. Like Magdalene and Margaret of Cortona, she had sinned grievously; like them she repented, atoned for her guilt, and is now the associate of angels. Let us adore the omnipotence of our God, who thus changed a vessel of dishonour into one of honour; let us lovingly contemplate the riches of His mercy, and hope for our own participation in them. At the same time, let us remember that pardon is not granted save where there is repentance; and that repentance is not genuine, unless it produce an abiding spirit and deeds of penance. Mary of Egypt had the misfortune to lead a life of sin for seventeen years; but her penance lasted forty: and what kind of penance must hers have been, living alone in a desert, under a scorching sun, without the slightest human consolation, and amidst every sort of privation! The pledge of pardon—the holy Communion —which we received so soon after our sins, was not granted to Mary, till she had done penance for nearly half a century. That pledge of Jesus' forgiveness, which He has given us in the Sacrament of His love, and which was communicated to us so promptly, was withheld from this admirable penitent, so that she received it for the second time only at the moment when death was on the point of separating her soul from her body which was worn out by austerities! Let us humble ourselves at such a comparison; let us think with fear on this great truth—that God’s justice will require an exact account of all the graces He has heaped upon us; and with this thought, let us rouse ourselves to a determination to merit, by the sincerity of our repentance, a place near the humble penitent of the desert.
We take the lessons of the Office of St. Mary of Egypt from the ancient Roman-French breviaries:
Maria Ægyptia, duodecennis, tempore Justini imperatoris, relictis parentibus, Alexandriam venit, fuitque per annos septemdecim ea in civitate peccatrix. Cum autem Hierosolymam profecta, Calvariæ templum in festo Exaltationis sanctae Crucis ingredi tentasset, ter divinitus repulsa, in atrio coram imagine Deiparæ Virginia vovit pcenitentiam, si liceret sibi vivificum crucis lignum videre et adorare: moxque templum ingressa, vidit et adoravit.
Inde sumpto trium panum viatico, perceptaque Eucharistia in oratorio sancti Joannis ad ripam Jordanis, ultra flumen in vastissimam solitudinem recessit. Ibi, consumpto viatico detritisque vestibus, ignota permansit annis quadraginta septem, donec ad torrentem quemdam occurrit ei Zozimas presbyter, a quo obtinuit ut vespere in Cœna Domini, in adversam Jordania ripam afferret aibi Corpus et Sanguinem Domini, quorum participatione tot annoe caruerat.
Condicto die accessit ad eumdem locum Zozimas, quo et Maria signo crucis impresso super aquas ambulans pervenit; recitatoque Symbolo et Oratione Dominica, ut moris erat, divina dona suscepit; rursumque precata est Zozimam ut anno recurrente ad eumdem torrentem veniret. Qui cum eo accessisset, conspexit corpus ejus jacens in terra, in qua scripta hæc legit: Sepeli, Abba Zozima, miseræ Mariæ corpusculum; redde terræ quod suum est, et pulveri adjice pulverem; ora tamen Deum pro me: transeunte mense Pharmuthi, nocte salutiferæ Passionis, post divinæ et sacræ Cænæ communionem. Corpori ejus leo adveniens, effossa ungulis terra, paravit sepulchrum.
Mary of Egypt left her parents, when she was twelve years of age. It was during the reign of the emperor Justin. She entered Alexandria, and was a sinner in that city, for seventeen years. Having visited Jerusalem, and, if being the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross, having endeavoured to enter the church of Calvary, she felt herself thrice repelled by divine power. Standing under the portico, she made a vow before an image of the Virgin Mother of God, that if our Lord would grant her to see and venerate the life-giving wood of the cross, she would lead a life of penance. Immediately, she entered the church; she saw; she adored.
Then, taking three loaves as provision for her journey, and having received the Eucharist in St. John’s church on the banks of the Jordan, she withdrew into an immense wilderness, on the other side of the river. There, her provisions consumed, and her garments worn to tatters, she abode unknown to all, for forty-seven years, when she was discovered by the priest Zozimus. She asked him to bring to her, on the evening of Maundy Thursday, and on the other side of the Jordan, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which she had not received during all these years.
On the appointed day, Zozimus came to the place that had been agreed on; and Mary, having made the sign of the cross upon the waters, walked over them, and came to the priest. Having recited the Symbol and the Lord’s Prayer, as was the custom, she received the divine gifts. She again besought Zozimus that he would come to the same torrent, the following year. He did so, and found her body lying on the ground, on which were written these words: “Abbot Zozimus! bury the body of this wretched Mary. Give back to the earth what belongs to it, and add dust unto dust. Yet pray to God for me. This last day of the month of Pharmuthi, on the night of the saving Passion, after the Communion of the divine and sacred Supper.” A lion then came towards the place, and making a hole in the ground with his paws, he prepared a grave for her body.
In praise of our incomparable penitent, we offer to the reader the following beautiful sequence, taken from the ancient missals of Germany:
Ex Ægypto Pharaonis
In amplexum Salomonis
Nostri transit filia;
Ex abjecta fit electa,
Ex rugosa fit formosa,
Ex lebete phiala.
Stella marie huio illuxit,
Ad dilectum quam conduxit
Pacia nectens fædera;
Matre Dei mediante,
Peccatrici, Christo dante,
Sunt dimissa scelera.
Vitam ducene hæc carnalem,
Pervenit in Jerusalem,
Hinc excluso adultero
Maritatur Sponso vero
Dei templum introire
Dum laborat, mox redire
Necdum digna cogitur;
Ad cor suum revertitur,
Fletu culpa submergitur,
Fletu culpa teritur.
Locus desertus quæritur,
Mundus, caro vincitur,
Domus patris postponitur,
Vultus mentis componitur,
Decor camis spernitur.
Lætare filia Thanis,
Tuia ornata tympanis,
Lauda quondam sterilis,
Gaude, plaude, casta, munda,
Virtutum prole fœcunda,
Vitis meri fertilis.
Te dilexit noster risus,
Umbilicus est præcisus
Aquis lotam, pulchram totam
Te salivit, te condivit
Septem pannis involuta,
Intus tota delibuta
Croco rubene charitatis;
Bysso cincta castitatis,
Hinc hyacintho calciaris,
Dum superna contemplaris,
Cubile vernat floribus,
O Maria, gaude quia
Decoravit et amavit
Sic te Christi gratia,
Memor semper peccatorum,
Et cunctorum populorum,
Plaude nunc in gloria.
This daughter passes from the Egypt of Pharao
to the espousals with Jesus,
our true Solomon.
She that was abject, is made a chosen one;
she that was deformed, is made fair;
the vessel of dishonour is made one of honour.
The Star of the sea shone upon her,
and leading her to her beloved Son,
has knit the bond of peace.
The Mother of God interceded;
the sinner’s sins are pardoned.
She that led a carnal life,
came to Jerusalem,
to be espoused to the King of peace;
leaving her false lover,
she is united to the true Spouse,
honoured by the wonderful One.
She strives to enter the house of God,
but her unworthiness forbids it;
she is compelled to retire.
Then does she return to her own heart;
she weeps for her sins,
and her weeping blots them out.
She flees to the desert;
tramples on Leviathan;
conquers the world and the flesh;
forgets her father’s house:
neglects the beauty of the body,
that her spirit may be made comely.
Rejoice, O daughter of Egypt!
Thou, that once wast barren,
take up thy harp, and sing.
Exult and be joyful, for now thou art chaste and pure,
fruitful in virtue,
a vine that yields a precious fruit.
He that is our Joy hath loved thee;
the shame of thy disorders
is effaced by the merit of thy purity.
The wisdom of thy heavenly Spouse has given thee,
cleansed and all fair,
the incorruption of his grace.
Robed in the seven fold veil of his Spirit,
thou wast anointed with the oil of gladness.
The scarlet of charity,
the lily of chastity,
the girdle of modesty
—all were upon thee.
Thy feet were decked with violet,
for thy affections were changed
from earthly to heavenly things.
Thy vesture was of every richest hue,
and thy couch was decked with flowers,
sweeter than those of spring.
Rejoice, O Mary,
in that Christ so loved thee,
and beautified thee with grace.
Be mindful of us sinners;
pray for all mankind;
feast now in thy eternal glory!
Thou wilt sing for all eternity, O Mary, the mercies of the Lord, who changed thee from a sinner into so glorious a saint; we join thee in thy praises, and we give Him thanks for having shown us so evidently, in thy person, that a true penitent, whatever and how great soever may have been his sins, may not only avoid eternal torments, but merit everlasting bliss. How light must now appear to thee, O Mary, that forty years’ penance, the very thought of which terrifies us! How short a time, when compared with eternity! How insignificant its austerity, if we think of hell! And how rich must its reward seem to thee, now that thou art face to face with infinite Beauty! We, too, are sinners; dare we say that we are penitents? Aid our weakness, O Mary! Thou wast made known to the world at the close of thy hidden life, in order that Christians might learn from thee the grievousness of sin, of which they make so little account; the justice of God, of which they are so apt to form so false an idea; ¿md the goodness of that Father, whom they cease not to offend. Pray for us, O Mary, that we may profit by the instructions given to us so profusely during this holy season. Pray that our conversion may be complete; that we may leave our pride and our cowardice; that we may appreciate the grace of reconciliation with our Maker; and, lastly, that we may ever approach to the holy Table with compunction and love such as thou hadst, when, in thy last happy Communion, Jesus gave Himself to thee in His Sacrament, and then took thee to Himself in the kingdom of everlasting rest and joy.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The founder of a religious Order, whose distinguishing characteristics were humility and penance, comes before us to-day; it is Francis of Paula. Let us study his virtues and beg his intercession. His whole life was one of great innocence; and yet we find him embracing, from his earliest youth, mortifications which, nowadays, would not be expected from the very worst sinners. How was it that he could do so much? and we, who have so often sinned, do so little? The claims of divine justice are as strong now as ever they were; for God never changes, nor can the offence we have committed against Him by our sins be pardoned, unless we make atonement. The saints punished themselves, with life-long and austere penances, for the slightest sins; and the Church can scarcely induce us to observe the law of Lent, though it is now reduced to the lowest degree of severity.
What is the cause of this want of the spirit of expiation and penance? It is that our faith is weak, and our love of God is cold, because our thoughts and affections are so set upon this present life, that we seldom if ever consider things in the light of eternity. How many of us are like the king of France, who having obtained permission from the Pope that St. Francis of Paula should come and live near him, threw himself at the saint's feet, and besought him to obtain of God, that he, the king, might have a long life! Louis XI. had led a most wicked life; but bis anxiety was, not to do penance for his sins, but to obtain, by the saint's prayers, a prolongation of a career which had been little better than a storing up of wrath for the day of wrath. We, too, love this present life; we love it to excess. The laws of fasting and abstinence are broken, not because the obeying them would endanger life, or even seriously injure health—for where either of these is to be feared, the Church does not enforce her lenten penances—but people dispense themselves from fasting and abstinence, because the spirit of immortification renders every privation intolerable, and every interruption of an easy comfortable life insupportable. They have strength enough for any fatigue that business or pleasure calls for; but the moment there is question of observing those laws which the Church has instituted for the interest of the body as well as of the soul, all seems impossible; the conscience gets accustomed to these annual transgressions, and ends by persuading the sinner that he may be saved without doing penance.
St. Francis of Paula was of a very different way of thinking and acting. The Church gives us the following abridged account of his life:
Franciscus Paulæ, quod est Calabriæ oppidum, loco humili natus est: quem parentes, cum diu prole caruissent, voto facto, beati Francisci precibus susceperunt. Is adolescens divino ardore succensus, in eremum secessit: ubi annis sex victu asperam, sed meditationibus cælestibus suavem vitam duxit: sed cum virtutum ejus fama longius manaret, multique ad eum pietatis studio concurrerent, fraternæ charitatis causa e solitudine egressus, ecclesiam propePaulam ædificavit, ibique prima sui Ordinis fundamenta jecit.
Erat in eo mirifica loquendi gratia: perpetuam virginitatem servavit: humilitatem sio coluit, ut se omnium minimum diceret, suosque alumnos Minimos appellari voluerit. Rudi amictu, nudis pedibus incedens, humi cubabat. Cibi abstinentia fuit admirabili: semel in die post solis occasum reficiebatur, et ad panem et aquae potum vix aliquid ejusmodi obsonii adhibebat, quo vesoi in Quadragesima boet: quam consuetudinem, ut f rat res sui toto anni tempore retinerent, quarto eos voto adstrinxit.
Multis miraculis servi sui sanctitatem Deus testari voluit, quorum illud in primis celebre, quod a nautis rejectus, Siciliae fretum, strato super fluctibus pallio, cum socio transmisit. Multa etiam futura prophetico spiritu prædixit. A Ludovico undécimo Francorum rege expetitus, magnoque in honore est habitus. Denique annum primum et nonagesimum agens, Turonis migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo septimo: cujus corpus, dies undecim insepultum, ita incorruptum permansit, ut suavem etiam odorem effiaret. Eum Leo Papa decimus in sanctorum numerum retulit.
Francis was born at Paula, in Calabria, of humble parents, who, having been for a long time without children, obtained him from heaven, after having made a vow, and prayed to St. Francis. When very young, being inflamed with the love of God, he withdrew into a desert, where, for six years, he led an austere life, but one that was sweetened by heavenly contemplations. The fame of his virtues having spread abroad, many persons went to him, out of adesire to be trained in virtue. Out of a motive of fraternal charity, he left his solitude, built a church near Paula, and there laid the foundation of his Order.
He had a wonderful giftof preaching. He observed virginity during his whole life. Such was his love for humility, that he called himself the last of all men, and would have his disciples named Minims. His dress was of the coarsest kind, he always walked barefooted, and his bed was the ground. His abstinence was extraordinary: he ate only once in the day, and that not till after sunset. His food consisted of bread and water, to which he scarcely ever added those viands which are permitted even in Lent: and this practice he would have kept up by his religious, under the obligation of a fourth vow.
God bore witness to the holiness of his servant by many miracles, of which this is the most celebrated; that when he was rejected by the sailors, he and his companion passed over the straits of Sicily on his cloak, which he spread out on the water. He also prophesied many future events. Louis XI., king of France, had a great desire to see the saint, and treated him with great respect. Having reached his ninety-first year, he died at Tours, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and seven. His body, which was left unburied for eleven days, so far from becoming corrupt, yielded a sweet fragrance. He was canonized by Pope Leo X.
Apostle of penance: thy life was always that of a saint, and we are sinners: yet do we presume, during these days, to beg thy powerful intercession, in order to obtain of God that this holy season may not pass without having produced within us a true spirit of penance, which may give us a reasonable hope of receiving His pardon. We admire the wondrous works which filled thy life—a life that resembled, in duration, that of the patriarchs, and prolonged the privilege the world enjoyed of having such a saint to teach and edify it. Now that thou art enjoying in heaven the fruits of thy labours on earth, think upon us, and hearken to the prayers addressed to thee by the faithful. Gain for us the spirit of compunction, which will add earnestness to our works of penance. Bless and preserve the Order thou hast founded. Thy holy relics have been destroyed by the fury of heretics; avenge the injury thus offered to thy name, by praying for the conversion of heretics and sinners, and drawing down upon the world those heavenly graces, which will revive among us the fervour of the ages of faith.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THOUGH the Church makes but a simple commemoration of this illustrious virgin in the office of this day, we will not fail to offer her the homage of our devout veneration. On the twelfth of this month we kept the feast of the noble virgin and martyr, Flavia Domitilla; it is probable that Aurelia Petronilla was also of the imperial family of the Flavii. The early traditions of the Church speak of her as being the spiritual daughter of the Prince of the Apostles; and though she did not, like Domitilla, lay down her life for the faith, yet she offered to Jesus that next richest gift, her virginity. The same venerable authorities tell us also that a Roman Patrician, by name Flaccus, having asked her in marriage, she requested three days for consideration, during which she confidently besought the aid of her divine Spouse. Flaccus presented himself on the third day, but found the palace in mourning, and her family busy in preparing the funeral obsequies of the young virgin, who had taken her flight to heaven, as a dove that is startled by an intruder’s approach.
In the eighth century, the holy Pope Paul I had the body of Petronilla taken from the cemetery of Domitilla, on the Ardeatine Way. Her relics were found in a marble sarcophagus, the lid of which was adorned, at each corner, with a dolphin. The Pope had them enshrined in a little church, which he built near the south side of the Vatican Basilica. This church was destroyed in the sixteenth century, in consequence of the alterations needed for the building of the new Basilica of St Peter; and the relics of St Petronilla were translated to one of its altars on the west side. It was but just that she should await her glorious resurrection under the shadow of the great Apostle who had initiated her in the faith, and prepared her for her eternal nuptials with the Lamb.
Thy triumph, O Petronilla, is one of our Easter joys. We lovingly venerate thy blessed memory. Thou didst disdain the pleasures and honours of the world, and thy virginal name is one of the first on the list of the Church of Rome, which was thy mother. Aid her now by thy prayers. Protect those who seek thine intercession, and teach us how to celebrate, with holy enthusiasm, the solemnities that are soon to gladden us.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
WHILE the angelic hosts acclaim the Incarnate Word as he takes possession of his eternal throne, a virgin at the head of the armies of earth re-echoes the praises of heaven. She was a child of the countryside, pious, gentle, and utterly ignorant, especially of the art of war, but Michael the soldier of God trained her with the aid of the Virgin Martyrs Catharine and Margaret, and suddenly, like a challenge thrown to modem naturalism in the broad daylight of history, she made her appearance, at the age of seventeen, as an incomparable warrior. Her victories, her personal influence and strategical genius equal those of the most famous captains of any times. But she surpasses them all in heroism, in her childlike simplicity, virginal purity, and faith in her Lord Jesus, the Son of St Mary, for whom she died—even greater at the stake at Rouen than in the days of her triumph. ‘De par le Roi du ciel’ (‘By order of the King of heaven’) was the motto on her banner. By order of the King of heaven, her sovereign liege, in whose royal service she is day by day, she calls upon cities to return, to their lawful obedience. By order of the King of heaven she intimates to the English that she has been sent to drive them out of France. ‘For,’ as she declared to the Dauphin's representative, 'the kingdom does not appertain to the Dauphin, but to my Lord. But it is the will of my Lord that the Dauphin should be made king and should hold the kingdom in commendam.’ ‘And who is thy Lord?’ asked Baudricourt. ‘My Lord is the King of heaven.’
To Charles she said: ‘I am called Joan the Maid, and through me does the King of heaven give you to understand that you shall be viceregent of the King of heaven who is king of France.' To the Duke of Burgundy, who was then in alliance with the enemy, she said: 'I tell you by order of the King of heaven, that all who make war on the said holy kingdom, make war on the King Jesus, the King of heaven and of all the earth.'
Joan came into the world on the feast of the glorious Epiphany, which manifested the divine Child to the world as the Lord of lords. It was during these days of his Ascension, when he takes his seat at the right hand of his Father, that she began her campaigns in 1428, achieved her greatest triumph in 1429, and closed her warlike career in 1430.
She died May 30, 1431, the eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi—a worthy consummation for a life like hers, a supreme consecration for her cause. As her soul rose from the flames to join Michael and his hosts and the Virgin Martyrs at the court of the immortal King of Ages, she left the Church on earth prostrate before Christ the King, the Ruler of the Nations, who, as it were, holds his royal assizes where he is glorified in the mystery of faith.
The following account of her life is given by the Church:
Joanna de Arc, in oppido Domremensi, olim diœcesis Tullensis, nunc Sancti Deodati, conspicuis fide et morum integritate parentibus, orta est anno Christi millesimo quadringentesimo duodecimo. Vix tredecim annos habebat, solummodo domestica negotia, opus rusticum, et prima rerum divinarum elementa edocta erat, quum se a Deo electam esse admonita est, ad Galliam ab hostibus liberandam, et ad pristinum regnum restituendum. Postquam per quinque annos, Michael Archangelus atque Catharina et Margarita, virgines sanctæ, quibus familiariter utebatur, certiorem eam fecerunt, quomodo rem jussam perageret, Deo parendum esse rata, a præfecto Valiis Colorum petiit, et, post nonnullas repulsas, obtinuit, ut viros sibi daret, qui se ad Carolum regem ducerent.
Supernis monitis obtemperans, superatis longi itineris difficultatibus ad Castrum Cainonense in agro Turonico pervenit, et Carolo regi facta fide, se a Deo missam esse, in urbem Aureliam profecta est. Paucis diebus, terribili impetu, triplicem cladem hostibus inflixit, castella expugnavit, suumque sustulit vexillum. Inde, post alia bellica facta, in quibus mirum in modum apparuit auxilium Dei, Rhemos Carolum duxit, ut regia consecratione inungeretur. Nec quiescendum esse censuit: sed quum a cælestibus nuntiis accepisset, se, Deo permittente, in hostium potestatem esse venturam, libenti animo, quæ fieri necesse esset, suscepit.
Capta Joanna in civitate Compendio, et hostibus pretio tradita, Rothomagum mox ducta, quum ibi in jus rapta esset quamplurimis criminationibus, excepta morum castitate, fuit obnoxia; sed omnia pro Jesu patienter toleravit. Acta per corruptissimos judices causa, innocens et mitis virgo damnata est pæna combustionis. Igitur sacra Eucharistia, quara tamdiu desideraverat, refecta, oculis ad crucem conversis, nomen Jesu sæpissime ingeminans, ad cælum evolavit die trigesima Maii, nondum expleto ætatis suæ anno vigesimo. Romana Ecclesia, quam semper dilexerat, et ad quam sæpius provocaverat, eam ab omni crimine vindicandam, Callisto tertio, summo Pontifice, curavit. Vergente in finem sæculo undevicesimo, Leo decimus tertius, Aurelianensis puellæ causam introduci permisit Postremo Pius decimus, re diligentissime examinata, Joannam de Arc, recentibus claram miraculis, in Beatorum numerum retulit, ac Officium et Missam propriam toti Galliæ, de speciali gratia, benigne indulsit.
Joan of Arc was born in the town of Domrémy (which was once in the diocese of Toul, but belongs now to that of Saint Dié) in the year of our Lord 1412. Her parents were noted for their virtue and piety. When she was but thirteen years old, and knew nothing but house work, field work, and the first elements of religion, she learnt that God had chosen her to deliver France from her enemies and restore the kingdom to its former independence. She enjoyed familiar intercourse with the Archangel Michael and SS Catherine and Margaret, who, during five years, instructed her how to fulfil her mission. Then, desiring to obey the command of God, she addressed herself to the governor of Vaucouleurs, who, after having several times repulsed her, at length gave her an escort to take her to King Charles.
Following in all things the divine commands, she overcame all the difficulties of the long journey, and arrived at Chinon in Touraine, where she furnished the king with proofs that her mission was from God. She proceeded to Orleans, and in a few days inflicted three defeats on the enemy, relieved the town, and raised her banner aloft in triumph. Then, after other military successes in which the assistance of God was clearly manifested, she brought Charles to Rheims, where he was solemnly crowned king. She would not rest even then, but, having learnt from her heavenly voices that God would permit her to fall into the hands of the enemy, she went bravely on to meet what was to befall her.
She was taken prisoner at Compiègne, sold to the English, and sent to Rouen for trial. She had to defend herself against many accusations, but her purity was never impugned. She suffered all things with patience for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. The wicked judges who tried this gentle and innocent virgin, condemned her to be burnt. So, fortified by the holy Eucharist, which she had long desired, and her eyes fixed upon the Cross, while she constantly murmured the name of Jesus, she took her flight to heaven on May 30, in the nineteenth year of her age. The holy Roman Church which she had always loved, and to which she had often appealed, undertook, under Pope Calixtus III, her rehabilitation, and towards the end of the nineteenth century Leo XIII gave permission for the introduction of the cause of beatification. Finally, after diligent examination and approbation of fresh miracles Pius X inscribed her among the Blessed, and permitted the dioceses of France to keep the feast with a special Office and Mass.
O King of Glory, who dost to-day ascend above the heights of heaven, thou didst drink of the torrent in the way and therefore dost thou now lift up thy head. Thy ancestor David prophesied it, thine Apostle proclaimed it. Thou didst humble thyself unto death, even the death of the cross, and therefore has God the Father exalted thee on this day, therefore does every knee bow at thy name, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. It was becoming that the law of the Head should be the law also of all those who were to be called to share his glory. Before all the ages, in the great Counsel of which, as the Church sings on Christmas Day, thou wert the Angel, the conditions of definitive victory and eternal success were thus laid down.
The Gospel tells us that the hour would come for the disciples of Jesus to give testimony and that men would think to serve God by putting them to death. Joan, like Jesus, was questioned, judged and condemned with all the legal forms and imposing ceremonial of orthodoxy. But, O ye enemies of Joan and of France, ye thought yourselves her executioners, and ye were offering her in sacrifice. France was saved, for God accepted the virginal victim. Her passing mission became a permanent patronage, and the deliverer of her country on earth has become her immortal protectress in heaven.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
DURING the season consecrated to the mystery of our Emmanuel's Birth, we saw standing near his crib the blessed Emperor Charlemagne. Crowned with the imperial diadem, and with a sword in his fearless hand, he seemed to be watching over the Babe, whose first worshippers were shepherds. And now near the glorious Sepulchre, which was first visited by Magdalene and her companions, we perceive a king—Ferdinand the Victorious—wearing a crown, and keeping guard with his valiant sword, the terror of the Saracen.
Catholic Spain is personified in her Ferdinand. His mother Berengaria was sister to Blanche, the mother of St Louis of France. In order to form ‘the Catholic Kingdom,’ there was needed one of our Lord's Apostles, St James the Great; there was needed a formidable trial, the Saracen invasion, which deluged the Peninsula; there was needed a chivalrous resistance, which lasted eight hundred years, and by which Spain regained her glory and her freedom. St Ferdinand is the worthy representative of the brave heroes who drove out the Moors from their fatherland and made her what she is: but he had the virtues of a saint, as well as the courage of a soldier.
His life was one of exploits, and each was a victory. Cordova, the city of the Caliphs, was conquered by this warrior Saint. At once its Alhambra ceased to be a palace of Mahometan effeminacy and crime. Its splendid Mosque was consecrated to the divine service, and afterwards became the Cathedral of the City. The followers of Mahomet had robbed the Church of St James at Compostella of its bells, and had them brought in triumph to Cordova; Ferdinand ordered them to be carried thither again, on the backs of the Moors.
After a siege of sixteen months, Seville also fell into Ferdinand's hands. Its fortifications consisted of a double wall, with a hundred and sixty-six towers. The Christian army was weak in numbers; the Saracens fought with incredible courage, and had the advantages of position and tactics on their part: but the Crescent was to be eclipsed by the Cross. Ferdinand gave the Saracens a month to evacuate the city and territory. Three hundred thousand withdrew to Xeres, and a hundred thousand passed over into Africa. The brave Moorish General, when taking his last look at the city, wept, and said to his officers: ‘None but a Saint could, with such a small force, have made himself master of so strong and well-manned a place.’
We will not enumerate the other victories gained by our Saint. The Moors foresaw that the result would be their total expulsion from the Peninsula. But this was not all that Ferdinand proposed: he even intended to invade Africa, and thus crush the Mussulman power for ever. The noble project was prevented by his death, which took place in the fifty-third year of his age.
He always looked upon himself as the humble instrument of God’s designs, and zealously laboured to accomplish them. Though most austere towards himself, he was a father in his compassion for his people, and was one day heard to say: ‘I am more afraid of the curse of one poor woman, than of all the Saracen armies together.’ He richly endowed the churches which he built in Spain. His devotion to the holy Mother of God was most tender, and he used to call her his Lady: in return, Mary procured him victory in all his battles, and kept away all pestilence and famine from the country during his entire reign, which, as the contemporary chroniclers observe, was an evident miracle, considering the circumstances of the age and period. The life of our Saint was one of happiness and success, whereas the life of that other admirable king, St Louis of France, was one of almost uninterrupted misfortune; as though God would give to the world, in these two Saints, a model of courage in adversity, and an example of humility in prosperity. They form unitedly a complete picture of what human life is, regenerated as it has now been by our Jesus, in whom we adore both the humiliations of the Cross and the glories of the Resurrection. What happy times were those, when God chose kings whereby to teach mankind such sublime lessons!
One feels curious to know how such a man, such a king, as Ferdinand, would take death when it came upon him. When it came, he was in his fifty-fourth year. The time approached for his receiving the Holy Viaticum. As soon as the priest entered the room with the blessed Sacrament, the holy king got out of bed, prostrated himself in adoration, and, humbly putting a cord round his neck, received the Sacred Host. This done, and feeling that he was on the verge of eternity, he ordered his attendants to remove from him every sign of royalty, and called his sons round his bed. Addressing himself to the eldest, who was Alphonsus the Good, he entrusted him with the care of his brothers, and reminded him of the duties he owed to his subjects and soldiers; he then added these words: ‘My son, thou seest what armies, and possessions, and subjects thou hast, more than any other Christian king; make a proper use of these advantages; and as thou hast the power, be good and do good. Thou art now master of the country which the Moors took, in times past, from king Rodriguez. If thou keep the kingdom in the state wherein I now leave it to thee, thou wilt be, as I have been, a good king, which thou wilt not be, if thou allowest any portion of it to be lost.’
As his end drew nigh, the dying king was favoured with an apparition from heaven. He thanked God for granting him that consolation, and then asked for the blessed candle; but before taking it in his hand, he raised up his eyes to heaven, and said: 'Thou, O Lord, hast given me the kingdom, which I should not otherwise have had; thou hast given me more honour and power than I deserved; receive my thanks! I give thee back this kingdom, which I have increased as far as I was able; I also commend my soul into thy hands!' He then asked pardon of the bystanders, begging them to overlook any offence that he might have committed against them. The whole court was present, and, with tears, asked the Saint to forgive them.
The holy king then took the blessed candle into his hands, and raising it up towards heaven, said: ‘Lord Jesus Christ! my Redeemer! naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return to the earth. Lord, receive my soul! and, through the merits of thy most holy Passion, deign to admit it among those of thy servants!’ Having said this, he gave back the candle, and asked the bishops and priests, who were present, to recite the Litanies; which being ended he bade them sing the Te Deum. When the hymn was finished, he bowed down his head, closed his eyes, and calmly expired.
Thus died those men, whose glorious works were the result of their faith, and who looked on themselves as only sent into this world that they might serve Christ and labour to propagate his kingdom. It was to them that Europe owed its highest glory; they made the Gospel its first law, and based its constitution on the Canons of the Church. It is now governed by a very different standard; it is paying dearly for the change, and is drifting rapidly to dissolution and ruin.
The following are the Lessons used in the Office of St Ferdinand:
Ferdinandus Tertius, Castellæ et Legionis rex, cui sancti cognomentum jam inde a quatuor sæculis ecclesiasticorum et sæcularium consensus dedere, tantum prudentiæ adolescens adhuc specimen præbuit, ut Berengaria mater, Castellæ regina, a qua persancte educatus fuerat, abdicatum a se regnum in filium transtulerit. In eo, adjunctis regni curis, regiæ virtutes emicuere: magnanimitas, dementia, justitia, et præ cæteris catholicæ fidei zelus, ej usque religiosi cultus tuendi ac propagandi ardens studium. Id præstitit in primis hæreticos insectando, quos nullibi regnorum suorum consistere passus est. Præstitit insuper in erigendis, dotandis, et consecrandis christiano ritu Cordubensi, Giennensi, Hispalensi et aliarum urbium ecclesiis, a maurico ereptarum jugo, simulque in instaurandis primariis templis Toletano, Burgensi et aliis pia et regia munificentia.
Inter hæc, per Castellæ et Legionis regnum, in quo patri Alphonso successerat, collectis magnis exercitibus, annuas expeditiones contra Saracenos, Christiani nominis hostes, suscepit. In queis, ut semper vinceret, præcipui exercitus fuere preces piissimi regis ad Deum fusæ, et quod ante pugnam, ut sibi Deum propitiaret, flagris in se sæviebat, atque aspero cilicio muniebat corpus. Sicque insignes contra ingentes Maurorum acies victorias reportavit, et plures urbes christiano cultui imperioque restituit, conquisitis Giennii, Cordubæ et Murciæ regnis, ac Granatensi vectigali facto. Ad expugnandam Hispalim primariam Bæticæ urbem, hortante in visione (ut traditum est) beato Isidoro olim illius urbis episcopo, victricia signa transtulit. In ea obsidione præsentem divinam opem habuisse fertur; nam ferream catenam, quæ super Bætim transversim extensa Mahometanis pro repagulo erat, coorto validiori vento, una ex navibus regiis, regis jussu eo delata, tanto impetu fregit, ut longius prætervecta, pontem quoque ligneum, et simul spes Maurorum obruperit et ad deditionem coegerit.
Tot victorias beatæ Virginis Mariæ patrocinio ferebat acceptas, cujus imaginem secum in castris habens, peculiari cultu prosequebatur. Capta Hispali, prima religionis cura fuit: nam templum Maurorum expiatum et Christianorum dedicatum sacris, insigni archiepiscopatu, et honestissimo canonicorum et dignitatum collegio, regia et religiosa liberalitate exornavit. Alia deinde in urbe templa et cœnobia erexit: inter quæ pietatis officia, dum trajicere in Africam parat, mahumetanum in ea imperium eversurus, ad cœlestem regiam vocatur. In extremo vitæ agone sacram Eucharistiam pro viatico allatam, fune ad collum alligato, et humi stratus, cum lacrymis ubertim fusis adorans, eaque dignis reverentiæ, humilitatis et catholicæ fidei obtestationibus accepta, obdormivit in Domino. Jacet ejus corpus, incorruptum adhuc post sex sæcula, in templo maximo Hispalensi, honorificentissimo inclusum sepulchro.
Ferdinand the Third, king of Castile and Leon, to whom, for now four centuries, the title of saint has been given both by clergy and laity, exhibited so much prudence in his youthful years, that his mother Berengaria, queen of Castile, who had educated him in a very holy manner, resigned her kingdom in his favour. Scarcely had Ferdinand assumed the government, than he displayed conspicuously all the virtues becoming a king: magnanimity, clemency, justice, and above ail, zeal for Catholic faith and worship, which he ardently defended and propagated. He mainly showed this zeal by forbidding heretics to settle in his states. He also gave proofs of it by building, endowing, and dedicating to Christian worship, churches in Cordova, Jaen, Seville, and other cities rescued from the Moorish yoke. He restored, with holy and royal munificence, the Cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos, and other cities.
At the same time, he levied powerful armies in the kingdom of Castile and Leon, which he inherited from his father Alphonsus; and, each year, gave battle to the Saracens, the enemies of the Christian religion. The great means whereby this most holy king secured victory in every engagement, were the prayers he offered up to God: he used also to chastise his body with disciplines and a rough hair-shirt, with the intention of rendering God propitious. By so doing, he gained extraordinary victories over the mighty armies of the Moors, and, after taking possession of Jaen, Cordova, and Murcia, and making a tributary of the kingdom of Granada, he restored many cities to the Christian religion and to Spain. He led his victorious standard before Seville, the capital of Baeza, being, as it is related, urged thereto by St Isidore, who had formerly been bishop of that city, and who appeared to him in a vision. Historians also relate that he was miraculously aided during that siege, and in the following manner: The Mahometans had stretched an iron chain across the Guadalquivir, in order to block up the passage. Suddenly there arose a violent wind, and one of the royal ships was, by the king’s order, sent against the chain, which was thus broken, and with so much violence that it was carried far on, and bore down a bridge of boats. The Moors lost all their hope, and surrendered the city.
Ferdinand attributed all these victories to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose image he always had in his camp, and honoured it with much devotion. Having taken Seville, his first thoughts were directed to religion. He immediately caused the Mosque of the Saracens to be purified and dedicated as a Christian church, having, with a princely and pious munificence, provided it with an archiepiscopal see, richly endowed, as also with a well-appointed college of Canons and dignitaries. He moreover built several other churches and monasteries in the same city. Whilst engaged in these holy works, he was making preparations to pass over to Africa, there to crush the Mahometan empire; but he was called to the kingdom of heaven. When his last hour came, he fastened a cord round his neck, prostrated on the ground, and, shedding abundant tears, adored the Blessed Sacrament which was brought to him as Viaticum. Having received it in admirable dispositions of reverence, humility and faith, he slept in the Lord. His body, which has remained incorrupt for six centuries, is buried in a tomb of extraordinary richness, in the Cathedral Church of Seville.
By delivering thy people from the yoke of the infidel, thou, O Ferdinand, didst imitate our Risen Jesus, who rescued us from death and restored us to the life we had lost. Thy conquests were not like those of this world’s conquerors, who have no other aim than to satisfy their own and their people’s pride. Thy ambition was to deliver thy people from an oppression which had weighed heavily on them for long ages. Thy object was to save them from the danger of apostasy, which they incurred by being under the Moorish yoke. O Champion of Christ! it was for his dear sake that thou didst lay siege to the Saracen cities. His banner was thine; and thy first anxiety was to spread his kingdom. He, in return, blessed thee in all thy battles, and made thee ever victorious.
Thy mission, O Ferdinand, was to form for our God a nation, which has been honoured by Holy Church above all others with the glorious name of the 'Catholic Kingdom.’ Happy Spain, for by her perseverance and courage she broke the Mussulman yoke, that still weighs down the other countries which it made its prey! Happy Spain, for she repelled the invasion of Protestantism, and, by this, preserved the faith, which both saves souls and constitutes a nation’s strongest power! Pray for thy country, O saintly king! False doctrines and treacherous influences are now rife within her, and many of her children have been led astray. Never permit her to injure, by cowardly compromise, that holy faith which has hitherto been her grandest glory and safeguard. Frustrate the secret plots which are working to undermine her Catholicity. Keep up within her her old hatred of heresy, and maintain her in the rank she holds among Catholic nations. Unity in faith and worship may still save her from the abyss into which so many other countries have fallen. O holy king! save once more the land that God entrusted to thy keeping, and which thou didst restore to him with such humble gratitude, when thou wast about to change thine earthly for a heavenly crown. Thou art still her beloved protector; hasten, then, to her aid!