logo with text

Keyword

Category

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

f1

f2

f3

The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Lent, visit here.

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

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.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE martyr of to-day carries us back to the persecutions under the Roman Emperors. It was at Camerino, in Italy, that he bore his testimony to the true faith; and the devotion wherewith he is honoured by the people of those parts has caused his feast to be kept throughout the Church. Let us, therefore, joyfully welcome this new champion, who fought so bravely for our Emmanuel. Let us congratulate him upon his having the privilege of suffering martyrdom during the Paschal season, all radiant as it is with the grand victory won by life over death.

The account given by the Liturgy of St Venantius is a tissue of miracles. The omnipotence of God seemed, on this and many other like occasions, to resist the cruelty of the executioners in order to glorify the martyr.It served also as a means of converting the bystanders, who, on witnessing these almost lavish miracles, were frequently heard to exclaim, that they too wished to be Christians, and embrace a religion which was not only honoured by the superhuman patience of its martyrs, but was so visibly protected and favoured by heaven.

Venantius Camers, quindecim annos natus quum Christianae religionis accusaretur apud Antiochum, qui sub Decio Imperatore Camerino praeerat, in porta civitatis prœsidi se obtulit, quem ille pollicitationibus ac terroribus diu tentatum flagris caedi et vinculis adstringi jussit. Sed iis mirabiliter ab angelo solutus lampadibus postea aduritur, atque inverso ore fumo supposito suspenditur. Ejus constantiam in tormentis demiratus Anastasius cornicularius, et quod eum ab angelo iterum solutum candida veste supra fumum ambulantem vidisset, in Christum credidit, et a beato Porphyrio presbytero cum familia baptizatus, paulo post martyrii palmam cum eodem promeruit.

At Venantius præsidi sistitur, et ab eo iterum frustra tentatus ut Christi fidem desereret, in carcerem conjicitur, quo Attalus prœco mittitur, qui ei dicat se quoque Christianum fuisse, et ei nomini propterea renuntiasse, quod cognovisset inane esse fidei commentum, quo Christiani praesentibus se abdicant ob vanam futurorum spem. Verum nobilis Christi athleta callidi hostis insidias non ignorans, diaboli ministrum a se penitus rejecit: quare ad Præsidem iterum adducto omnes contusi sunt dentes, maxillaeque confractae, atque ita caesus in sterquilinium dejicitur. Sed inde ab angelo quoque ereptus rursus stetit ante judicem, qui Venantio adhuc loquente, e tribunali cecidit, et in ea voce: Verus est Venantii Deus, nostros deos destruite, exclamans exspiravit.

Quod quum præsidi nuntiatum esset, extemplo Venantium leonibus objici jussit, qui naturali feritate omissa, ad ejus se pedes abjecerunt; interim ille populum Christi fidem edocebat: quare inde amotus iterum in carcerem truditur. Quumque postridie præsidi referret Porphyrius, se per visum noctu populos quos Venantius aqua tingebat clarissima luce fulgentes, ipsum vero præsidem obscurissima caligine opertum vidisset, præses ira incensus eum illico capite plecti imperat; deinde Venantium per loca vepribus et carduis consita trahi usque ad vesperam. Is cum semianimis relictus esset, mane se iterum præsidi præsentavit, cujus jussu statim e rupe praecipitatur; sed inde etiam divinitus ereptus, denuo per loca aspera ad mille passus trahitur, ubi militibus siti aestuantibus, in proxima convalle ex lapide, in quo et genuum formam reliquit, sicut etiam nunc in ejus ecclesia videre licet, crucis signo a Venantio facto, aquæ manarunt. Eo miraculo plures permoti in Christum crediderunt, quos omnes praeses eo loco una cum Venantio capite feriri jussit. Fulgura et terrœaemotus eo tempore ita magni fuere, ut præses aufugeret; qui paucis tamen post diebus divinam haud valens effugere justitiam, turpissimam mortem oppetiit. Christiani interim Venantii et aliorum corpora honorifico loco sepelierunt, quæ Camerini in ecclesia Venantio dicata condita adhuc sunt.

Venantius, who was born at Camerino, was but fifteen years of age when he was accused of being a Christian, and arraigned before Antiochus, the governor of the city, in the reign of the Emperor Decius. He presented himself to the governor at the city gate, where, after being long and uselessly coaxed and threatened, he was scourged and condemned to be chained. But he was miraculously released by an angel, and was then burned with torches, and hung, with his head downwards, over a fire, that he might be suffocated by the smoke. One of the officials, Anastasius by name, having noticed the courage wherewith he suffered his torments, and having also seen an angel in a white robe walking above the smoke, and again liberating Venantius, believed in Christ, and together with his family was baptized by the priest Porphyrius, with whom he afterwards merited to receive the palm of martyrdom.

Venantius was again brought before the governor; and being solicited, though to no purpose, to give up his faith, was thrown into prison. A herald named Attalus was sent hither, to tell him that he also had once been a Christian, but had renounced his religion on discovering that it was false, and that Christians were duped into giving up the good things of the present by the vain hope of what was to follow in the next life. But the high-minded soldier of Christ, knowing well the snares of our crafty enemy the devil, utterly spurned his minister from his presence. Whereupon he was again led before the governor, and all his teeth were beaten out and his jaws broken; after which, he was thrown into a dung-pit. But, being delivered thence also by an angel, he again stood before the judge, who, whilst Venantius was addressing him, fell from the judgementseat, and died exclaiming: ‘The God of Venantius is the true one! destroy our gods!'

When this was made known to the governor, he immediately ordered Venantius to be exposed to the lions: but those animals, forgetting their own savage nature, threw themselves at his feet. The Saint, meanwhile, instructed the people in the Christian faith, and was therefore removed and again thrown into prison. On the following day Porphyrius told the governor that he had had a vision during the night, and that he saw that those who were bathed with water by Venantius were brilliant with a splendid light, but that the governor was covered with a thick darkness. This so irritated the governor, that he immediately ordered Porphyrius to be beheaded, and Venantius to be dragged, until evening, over land covered with thorns and thistles. He was left there half dead; but he again presented himself in the morning to the governor, who at once condemned him to be cast headlong from a rock. Again, however, he was miraculously preserved in his fall, and was once more dragged for a mile over rough places. Seeing that the soldiers were tormented with thirst, Venantius made the sign of the cross, and water flowed from a rock in a neighbouring dell; on which rock Venantius left the impress of his knees, as may still be seen in the church which is dedicated to him. Many were moved by that miracle to believe in Christ, and were all beheaded, together with Venantius, on that very spot, by the governor’s orders. So awful were the lightnings and earthquakes which followed the execution, that the governor took to flight. But he was not able to escape divine justice; and, a few days after, met with a most humiliating death. Meanwhile the Christians gave honourable burial to the bodies of all these martyrs, and they now repose in the church which was dedicated to Venantius in the town of Camerino.

Dear youthful martyr, loved of the angels, and aided by them in thy combat! pray for us. Like thyself, we too are soldiers of the Risen Jesus, and must give testimony before the world to the divinity and the rights of our King. The world has not always in its hands those material instruments of torture, such as it made thee feel; but it is always fearful in its power of seducing souls. It would rob us also of that new life which Jesus has imparted to us and to all them that are his members: holy martyr, protect us under these attacks! Thou hadst partaken, during the days of thy last Easter, of the divine Flesh of the Paschal Lamb, and thy courage in martyrdom redounded to the glory of this heavenly nourishment. We also have been guests at the same holy Table; we also have partaken of the Paschal banquet. Like thee, we have known of our Lord in the breaking of bread:[1] obtain for us the appreciation of the divine mystery, of which we received the first fruits at Bethlehem, and which has been gradually developed within our souls, as well as before our eyes, by the merits of the Passion and Resurrection of our Emmanuel. We are now, at this very time, preparing to receive the plenitude of the divine gift of the Incarnation. Pray for us, O holy martyr, that our hearts may more than ever fervently welcome and faithfully preserve the rich treasures which are about to be offered us by the sublime mysteries of the Ascension and Pentecost.


[1] St Luke xxiv 35.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Paschal season, which has already given us the admirable Doctor St Leo, brings before us to-day the humble Peter Celestine. He was, like Leo, sovereign pontiff, but no sooner was he throned on the chair of Peter than he left it and returned to solitude. Among the long list of sainted men who compose the venerable series of Roman Pontiffs, our Lord would have one in whose person was to be represented the virtue of humility; that honour was conferred on Peter Celestine. He was dragged from the quiet of his solitude, compelled to ascend the throne of St Peter, and made to hold in his trembling hand the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The holy hermit, whose eyes had been ever fixed on his own weakness, had then to provide for the necessities of the whole Church. In his humility, he judged himself to be unequal to so heavy a responsibility. He resigned the tiara, and begged to be permitted to return to his dear hermitage. His divine Master, Christ, had, in like manner, concealed his glory, first in thirty years of hidden life, and then, later on, under the cloud of his Passion and Sepulchre. The sunshine of the Pasch came; the gloom was dispersed, and the Conqueror of Death arose in all his splendour. He would have his servants share in his triumph and glory; but their share is to be greater or less, according to the measure in which they have, here on earth, imitated his humility. Who, then, could describe the glory which Peter Celestine receives in heaven, as a recompense for the profound humility which made him more eager to be unknown than the most ambitious of men could be for honour and fame? He was great on the pontifical throne, and still greater in his solitude; but his greatness, now that he is in heaven, surpasses all human thought.

Holy Church speaks his praise in these few lines; their simplicity admirably harmonizes with the hermit Pope, whose life they narrate:

Petrus, a nomine quo Pontifex est appellatus, Cælestinus dictus, honestis; catholicisque parentibus Æserniæ in Samnitibus natus, adolescentiam vix ingressus, ut animum a mundi illecebris custodiret, in solitudinem secessit. Ibi contemplationibus mentem nutriens, corpus in servitutem redigens, ferream catenam ad nudam carnem adhibebat. Congregationem, quæ postea Cælestinorum dicta est, sub Regula sancti Benedicti instituit. Hinc quasi lucerna supra candelabrum posita, quum abscondi nequiret (Romana Ecclesia diu viduata Pastore) in Petri cathedram ignorans, et absens, ascitus, magna novitatis admiratione non minus quam repentino gaudio cunctos affecit. Cum autem in Pontificatus sublimitate collocatus, variis distentus curis, assuetis incumbere meditationibus vix posse cognosceret; oneri pariter et honori voluntarie cessit; indeque priscam vitæ rationem repetens, obdormivit in Domino, ej usque pretiosam mortem crux praefulgens in aere ante cubiculi ostium reddidit amplius gloriosam. Miraculis multis tam vivens quam post obitum claruit, quibus rite examinatis, Clemens Quintus, anno postquam decessit undecimo, Sanctorum numero adscripsit.
Peter, who from the name he took as Pope was called Celestine, was born at Isernia, in the Abruzzi, of respectable and Catholic parents. When quite a boy, he retired into solitude, that he might be out of the reach of the world's vanities. There he nourished his soul with holy contemplations, bringing his body into subjection, and wearing an iron chain next to his skin. He founded, under the Rule of St Benedict, the congregation which was afterwards called the congregation of Celestines. The Roman Church having been for a long time widowed of its Pastor, Celestine was chosen, unknown to himself, to occupy the Chair of Peter, and was therefore compelled to quit his solitude, for he was a lamp that was set upon a candlestick, and could not be hid. All men were filled with joy as well as with surprise at this unexpected choice. But when thus exalted to the Pontificate, he found that the multiplicity of cares rendered it almost impossible for him to continue his wonted contemplations, and resigned, of his own accord, the onerous honours of the Papal throne. He therefore resumed his former mode of life, and slept in the Lord by a precious death, which was rendered still more glorious by the apparition of an exceedingly bright cross, which hovered over the door of his cell. He was celebrated for many miracles both before and after his death; which being authentically proved, he was canonized, eleven years after his departure from this world, by Pope Clement the Fifth.

Thou didst obtain, O Celestine, the object of thy ambition. Thou wast permitted to descend from the Apostolic Throne, and return to the quiet of that hidden life, which for so many years had been thy delight. Enjoy to thy heart's content the holy charm of being unknown to the world, and the treasures of contemplation in the secret of the face of God.[1] But this life of obscurity must have an end; and then the Cross—the Cross which thou hast loved above all earthly possessions—will rise up in brightness before thy cell door, and summon thee to share in the Paschal triumph of him who came down from heaven to teach us this great truth, that he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.[2] Thy name, O Celestine, will for ever shine on the list of Roman Pontiffs; thou art one of the links of that glorious chain which unites Holy Church with Jesus, her Founder and her Spouse; but a still greater glory is reserved for thee—the glory of being for ever with this same Risen Jesus. Holy Church, which during the short period of thy holding the keys of Peter, was 

obedient to thee, has now for centuries paid, and will continue to the end of the world to pay thee the tribute of her devotion, because she recognizes in thee one of God's elect, one of the princes of the heavenly court. And we, O Celestine, we also are invited to ascend where thou art, and contemplate, together with thee, the most beautiful among the children of men,[3] the Conqueror of sin and hell. But there is only one path that can lead us thither; it is the path thou didst tread—the path of humility. Pray for us that we may be solidly grounded in this virtue, and desire it with all our hearts; that we may change our miserable self-esteem into an honest self-contempt; that we may despise all human glory, and be courageous, yea, cheerful under humiliation; and that thus having drunk of the torrent, as did our divine Master, we may one day, like him, lift up our heads,[4] and cluster round his throne for all eternity.


[1] Ps. xxx 21.
[2] St Matt. xxiii 12.
[3] Ps. xliv 3.
[4] Ps. cix 7.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IN that season of the liturgical year when we were kneeling in love and prayer around the crib of the Infant Jesus, one day was devoted to the celebration of the glory and sweetness of his Name. Holy Church was full of joy when she pronounced the dear Name chosen from all eternity by her heavenly Spouse; and mankind found consolation in the thought that the great God who might so justly have bid us call him the Just and the Avenger, willed us henceforth to call him the Saviour. The devout Bemardine of Siena, whose feast we keep to-day, stood then before us, holding in his hands this ever blessed Name, surrounded with rays. He urged the whole earth to venerate with love and confidence the sacred name which expresses the whole economy of our salvation. The Church, ever attentive to what is for the good of her children, adopted the beautiful device. She encouraged them to receive it from the Saint, as a shield that would protect them against the darts of the evil spirit, and as an additional means of reminding ourselves of the exceeding charity wherewith God has loved this world of ours. And finally, when the loveliness of the holy Name of Jesus had won all Christian hearts, she instituted in its honour one of the most beautiful solemnities of Christmastide.

Bemardine, the worthy son of St Francis of Assisi, returns to us on this twentieth day of May, and the sweet flower of the holy Name is, of course, in his hand. But it is not now the prophetic appellation of the newborn Babe; it is not the endearing Name, respectfully and lovingly whispered by the Virgin-Mother over the crib; it is the Name whose sound has gone through the whole creation, it is the trophy of the grandest of victories, it is the fulfilment of all that was prophesied. The Name of Jesus was a promise to mankind of a Saviour; Jesus has saved mankind, by dying and rising again; he is now Jesus in the full sense of the word. Go where you will, and you hear this Name—the Name that has united men into the one great family of the Church.

The chief priests of the Synagogue strove to stifle the Name of Jesus, for it was even then winning men’s hearts. They forbade the Apostles to teach in this Name; and it was on this occasion that Peter uttered the words which embody the whole energy of the Church: We ought to obey God rather than men.[1] The Synagogue might as well have tried to stay the course of the sun. So too, when the mighty power of the Roman Empire set itself against the triumphant progress of this Name, and would annul the decree that every knee should bow at its sound,[2] its attempt was a complete failure, and at the end of three centuries the Name of Jesus was heard and loved in every city and hamlet of the Empire.

Armed with this sacred motto, Bernardine traversed the towns of Italy, which at that period (the fifteenth century) were at enmity with each other, and not unfrequently torn with domestic strifes. The Name of Jesus, which he carried in his hand, became as a rainbow of reconciliation; and wheresoever he set it up, there every knee bowed down, every vindictive heart was appeased, and sinners hastened to the sacrament of pardon. The three letters (I H S) which represent this Name, became familiar to the faithful; they were everywhere to be seen carved, or engraven, or painted; and the Catholic world thus gained a new form whereby to express its adoration and love of its Saviour.

Bernardine was a preacher of inspired eloquence. He was also a distinguished master in the science of sacred things, as is proved by the writings he has left us. We regret not being able, from want of space, to give our readers his words on the greatness of the Paschal mystery; but we cannot withhold from them what he says regarding the apparition of Jesus to his Blessed Mother after the Resurrection. They will be rejoiced at finding unity of doctrine on this interesting subject existing between the Franciscan school, represented by St Bemardine, and the school of St Dominic, whose testimony we have already given on the Feast of St Vincent Ferrer.

'From the fact of there being no mention made in the Gospel of the' visit wherewith Christ consoled his Mother after his Resurrection, we are not to conclude that this most merciful Jesus, the source of all grace and consolation, who was so anxious to gladden his disciples by his presence, forgot his Mother, who he knew had drunk so deeply of the bitterness of his Passion. But it has pleased divine Providence that the Gospel should be silent on this subject; and this for three reasons.

‘In the first place, because of the firmness of Mary's faith. The confidence which the Virgin-Mother had of her Son's rising again had never faltered, not even by the slightest doubt. This we can readily believe, if we reflect on the special grace wherewith she was filled, she the Mother of the Man-God, the Queen of angels, and the Mistress of the world. To a truly enlightened mind, the silence of the Scripture on this subject says more than any affirmation could have done. We have learned to know something of Mary by the visit she received from the angel, when the Holy Ghost overshadowed her. We met her again at the foot of the Cross, where she, the Mother of Sorrows, stood nigh her dying Son. If then the Apostle could say: As ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye he also of the consolation:[3] what share must not the Virgin-Mother have had in the joys of the Resurrection? We should hold it as a certain truth that her most sweet Jesus, after his Resurrection, consoled her first of all. The holy Roman Church would seem to express this, by celebrating at Saint Mary Major's the Station of Easter Sunday. Moreover, if from the silence of the Evan-gelists you would conclude that our Risen Lord did not appear to her first, you must go farther, and say that he did not appear to her at all, inasmuch as these same Evangelists, when relating the several apparitions, do not mention a single one as made to her. Now, such a conclusion as this would savour of impiety.

'In the second place, the silence of the Gospel is explained by the incredulity of men. The object of the Holy Spirit, when dictating the Gospels, was to describe such apparitions as would remove all doubt from carnalminded men with regard to the Resurrection of Christ. The fact of Mary's being his Mother would have weakened her testimony, at least in their eyes. For this reason she was not brought forward as a witness, though most assuredly there never was or will be any creature (the humanity of her Son alone excepted) whose assertion better deserved the confidence of every truly pious soul. But the text of the Gospel was not to adduce any testimonies, save such as might be offered to the whole world. As to Jesus' apparition to his Mother, the Holy Ghost has left it to be believed by those that are enlightened by his light.

'In the third place, this silence is explained by the sublime nature of the apparition itself. The Gospel says nothing regarding the Mother of Christ after the Resurrection; and the reason is, that her interviews with her Son were so sublime and ineffable that no words could have described them. There are two sorts of visions: one is merely corporal, and feeble in proportion; the other is mainly in the soul, and is granted only to such as have been transformed. Say, if you will, that Magdalen was the first to have the merely corporal vision, provided that you admit that the Blessed Virgin saw, previously to Magdalen, and in a far sublimer way, her Risen Jesus, that she recognized him, and enjoyed his sweet embraces in her soul, more even than in her body.'[4]

Let us now read the Life of our Saint, as given, though too briefly, in the Lessons of to-day's Office:

Bernardinus Albizesca, nobili Senensi familia ortus, ab ineunte aetate non obscura sanctitatis dedit indicia; nam a piis parentibus honeste educatus, neglectis puerilibus ludis, inter prima grammaticæ studia, pietatis operibus animum intendit, jejuniis, orationi, et beatissimae Virginis cultui praecipue addictus. Misericordia vero in pauperes fuit insignis; quæ quidem omnia procedente tempore quo melius posset excolere, eorum numero adscribi voluit qui Senis in hospitali domo beatæ Mariae de Scala Deo inserviunt; unde complures sanctitate celebres viri prodierunt. Ibi corporis afflictatione et aegrotantium cura, dum atrox pestilentia grassaretur, incredibili charitate sese exercuit. Inter cœteras autem virtutes, castitatem, egregia forma repugnante, sanctissime custodivit, adeo ut eo praesente, nemo umquam, ne impudentissimus quidem, verbum minus honestum proferre auderet.

Gravi morbo tentatus eoque ad quatuor menses patientissime tolerato, demum incolumis de religiosae vitæ instituto capessendo deliberare coepit: quo ut sibi viam muniret, aediculam in extrema urbe conduxit, in quam quum sese abdidisset, asperrimam omni ex parte vitam trahebat, Deum assidue orans, ut quid sibi sequendum esset, ostenderet. Quare divinitus factum est, ut beati Francisci Ordinem præ cæteris optaret, in quo humilitate, patientia, aliisque religiosi hominis virtutibus excelluit. Id quum coenobii rector animadverteret, jamque antea Bemardini doctrinam et sacrarum litterarum peritiam perspectam haberet, praedicandi onus eidem imposuit, quo humillime suscepto, quum se minus idoneum agnosceret, ob vocis exilitatem ac raucitatem, Dei ope implorata, non sine miraculo ejusmodi impedimento liberatus est.

Quumque ea tempora vitiis criminibusque redundarent, et cruentis factionibus in Italia, divina humanaque omnia permixta essent, Bernardinus urbes atque oppida concursans in nomine Jesu, quem semper in ore et in pectore gerebat, collapsam pietatem moresque verbo et exemplo magna ex parte restituit; quo factum est, ut praeclarae civitates eum sibi Episcopum a Summo Pontifice postularent: quod ille munus invicta humilitate constantissime rejecit. Denique vir Dei immensis laboribus exhaustis, multis magnisque editis miraculis, libris etiam pie docteque conscriptis, cum vixisset annos sex ac sexaginta, in urbe Aquila in Vestinis beato fine quievit: quem novis in dies coruscantem signis, anno post obitum sexto, Nicolaus Quintus Pontifex Maximus in Sanctorum numerum retulit.
Bemardine Albizeschi, whose parents were of a noble family of Siena, gave evident marks of sanctity from his earliest years. He was well brought up by his pious parents. When studying the first rudiments of grammar, he despised the favourite pastimes of children, and applied himself to works of piety, especially fasting, prayer, and devotion to the blessed Virgin. His charity to the poor was extraordinary. In order the better to practise these virtues, he later on entered the Confraternity which gave to the Church so many saintly men, and was attached to the hospital of our Lady of Scala, in Siena. It was there that, whilst leading a most mortified life himself, he took care of the sick with incredible charity during the time when a terrible pestilence was raging in the city. Amongst his other virtues, he was preeminent for chastity, although he had many dangers to encounter, owing to the beauty of his person. Such was the respect he inspired that no one, however lost to shame, ever dared to say an improper word in his presence.

After a serious illness of four months, which he bore with the greatest patience, he began to think of entering the Religious life. As a preparation for such a step, he hired, in the farthest outskirts of the city, a little hut, in which he hid himself, leading a most austere life, and assiduously beseeching God to make known to him the path he was to follow. A divine inspiration led him to prefer to all other Orders that of St Francis. Accordingly he entered, and soon began to excel in humility, patience, and the other virtues of a Religious man. The Guardian of the Convent perceived this, and knowing already that Bernardine was well versed in the sacred sciences, he imposed upon him the duty of preaching. The Saint most humbly accepted the office, though he was aware that the weakness and hoarseness of his voice made him unfit for it: but he sought God's help, and was miraculously freed from these impediments.

Italy was at that time overrun with vice and crime; and in consequence of deadly factions, all laws, both divine and human, were disregarded. It was then that Bernardine went through the towns and villages, preaching the Name of Jesus, which was ever on his lips and heart. Such was the effect of his words and example, that piety and morals were in great measure restored. Several important cities, that had witnessed his zeal, petitioned the Pope to allow them to have Bernardine for their bishop; but the Saint’s humility was not to be overcome, and he rejected every offer. At length, after going through countless labours in God's service, after many and great miracles, after writing several pious and learned books, he died a happy death, at the age of sixty-six, in a town of the Abruzzi, called Aquila. New miracles were daily being wrought, through his intercession; and, atlength, in the sixth year after his death, he was canonized by Pope Nicholas V.

How beautiful, O Bernardine, are the rays that form the aureole round the Name of Jesus! How soft their light on that eighth day after his birth, when he received this Name! But how dazzling, now that this Jesus achieves our salvation, not only by humiliation and suffering, but by the triumph of his Resurrection! Thou comest to us, O Bernardine, in the midst of the Paschal glory of the Name of Jesus. This Name, for which thou didst so lovingly and zealously labour, gives thee to share in its immortal victory. Now therefore, pour forth upon us, even more abundantly than when thou wast here on earth, the treasures of love, admiration and hope, of which this divine Name is the source, and cleanse the eyes of our soul, that we may one day be enabled to join thee in contemplating its beauty and magnificence.

Apostle of peace! Italy, whose factions were so often quelled by thee, may well number thee among her protectors. Behold her now a prey to the enemies of Jesus, rebellious against the Church of God, and abandoned to her fate. Oh! forget not that she is thy native land, that she was obedient to thy preaching, and that thy memory was long most dear to her. Intercede in her favour; deliver her from her oppressors; and show that when earthly armies fail, the host of heaven can always save both cities and countries.

Illustrious son of the great patriarch of Assisi! the seraphic Order venerates thee as one of its main supports. Thou didst reanimate it to its primitive observance; continue now from heaven to protect the work thou didst commence here on earth. The Order of St Francis is one of the grandest consolations of holy Mother Church; make this Order for ever flourish, protect it in its trials, give it increase in proportion to the necessities of the faithful; for thou art the second Father of this venerable family, and thy prayers are powerful with the Redeemer, whose glorious Name thou didst confess upon earth.


[1] Acts v 28, 29.
[2] Phil. ii 10.
[3] 2 Cor. i 7.
[4] Sermo lii. Dominica in Resurrectione, art. iii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

EVER since our entrance upon the joys of the Paschal season, scarcely a day has passed without offering us some grand mystery or Saint to honour; and all these have been radiant with the Easter sun. But there has not been a single feast of our blessed Lady to gladden our hearts by telling us of some mystery or glory of this august Queen. The feast of her Seven Dolours is sometimes kept in April—that is, when Easter Sunday falls on or after the 10th of that month; but May and June pass without any special solemnity in honour of the Mother of God. It would seem as though Holy Church wished to honour, by a respectful silence, the forty days during which Mary enjoyed the company of her Jesus, after his Resurrection. We, therefore, should never separate the Mother and the Son, if we would have our Easter meditations be in strict accordance with truth—and that we surely must wish. During these forty days, Jesus frequently visits his disciples, weak men and sinners as they are: can he, then, keep away from his Mother, now that he is so soon to ascend into heaven, and leave her for several long years here on earth? Our hearts forbid us to entertain the thought. We feel sure that he frequently visits her, and that when not visibly present with her, she has him in her soul, in a way more intimate and real and delicious than any other creature could have.

No feast could have given expression to such a mystery; and yet the Holy Ghost, who guides the spirit of the Church, has gradually led the faithful to devote in an especial manner to the honour of Mary the entire month of May, the whole of which comes, almost every year, under the glad season of Easter. No doubt, the loveliness of the month would, some time or other, suggest the idea of consecrating it to the holy Mother of God; but if we reflect on the divine and mysterious influence which guides the Church in all that she does, we shall recognize, in this present instance, a heavenly inspiration, which prompted the faithful to unite their own happiness to that of Mary, and spend this beautiful month, which is radiant with their Easter joy, in commemorating the maternal delight experienced, during that same period, by the immaculate Mother when oh earth.

To-day, however, we have a feast in honour of Mary. True, it is not one of those feasts which are entered on the general Calendar of the Church; yet is it so widely spread, with the consent of the Holy See, that our Liturgical Year would have been incomplete without it. Its object is to honour the Mother of God as the Help of Christians—a title she has justly merited by the innumerable favours she has conferred upon Christendom. Dating from that day whose anniversary we are soon to celebrate, when the Holy Ghost descended upon Mary in the Cenacle, in order that she might begin to exercise over the Church Militant her power as Queen—who could tell the number of times that she has aided, by her protection, the kingdom of her Son on earth?

Heresies have risen up, one after the other; they were violent; they were frequently supported by the great ones of this world; each of them was resolved on the destruction of the true faith; and yet, one after the other, they have dwindled' away, or fallen into impotency; those of the present day are gradually sinking by internal discord; and Holy Church tells us that it is Mary who ' alone destroys all heresies throughout the whole world.'[1] If public scandals or persecutions, or the tyranny of secular interference, have at times threatened to stay the progress of the Church, Mary has stretched forth her arm, the obstacles were removed, and the Spouse of Jesus continued her onward march, leaving her foes and her fetters behind her. All this was vividly brought before the mind of the saintly Pontiff, Pius V, by the victory of Lepanto, gained by Mary’s intercession, over the Turkish fleet, and he resolved to add one more title to the glorious list given to our Lady in the Litany: it was Auxilium Christianorum, Help of Christians.

The nineteenth century had the happiness of seeing another Pontiff, also named Pius, institute a feast under this same title—a feast which is intended to commemorate the help bestowed on Christendom in all ages by the Mother of God. Nothing could be happier than the choice of the day on which this feast was to be kept. On May 24, in the year 1814, there was witnessed in Rome the most magnificent triumph that has yet been recorded in the annals of the Church. That was a grand day, whereon Constantine marked out the foundations for the Vatican Basilica in honour of the Prince of the Apostles; Sylvester stood by, and blessed the Emperor, who had just been converted to the true faith: but important as was this event, it was but a sign of the last and decisive victory won by the Church in the then recent persecution of Diocletian. That was a grand day whereon Leo III, Vicar of the King of kings, crowned Charlemagne with the imperial diadem, and by his apostolic power gave continuance to the long interrupted line of Emperors: but Leo III, by this, did but give an official and solemn expression to the power which the Church had already frequently exercised in the newly constituted nations, which received from her the idea of Christian government, the consecration of their rights, and the grace that was to enable them to fulfil their duties. That was a grand day, whereon Gregory IX restored to the city of Peter the Papal Throne, which had been transferred to Avignon for seventy sad years: but Gregory IX, in this, did but fulfil a duty, and his predecessors, had they willed it. might have effected this return to Rome for which the necessities of Christendom so imperatively called.

Yes, all these were glorious days; but May 24 of 1814 surpasses them all. Pius VII re-entered Rome amidst the acclamations of the holy City, whose entire population went forth to meet him, holding palm branches in their hands, and greeting him with their hosannas of enthusiastic joy. He had been a captive for five years, during which the spiritual government of the Christian world had suffered a total suspension. It was not the Powers allied against his oppressor who broke the Pontiff’s fetters; the very tyrant who kept him from Rome had given him permission to return at the close of the preceding year; but the Pontiff chose his own time, and did not leave Fontainebleau till January 25. Rome, whither he was about to return, had been made a part of the French Empire, five years previously, by a decree in which was cited the name of Charlemagne! The city of Peter had been made the head town of a Department, with a prefect for its administrator; and, with a view to making men forget that it was the city of the Vicars of Christ, the tyrant gave its name as a title to the heir-presumptive of the Imperial crown of France.

What a day was that 24th of May, which witnessed the triumphant return of the Pontiff into the holy City, whence he had been dragged during the night by the soldiers of an ambitious tyrant! He made the journey in short stages, meeting, on his way, the allied armies of Europe, who recognized his right as King. This right is superior, both in antiquity and dignity, to that of all other monarchs; and all, no matter whether they be heretics, schismatics, or Catholics, must admit it, were it only on the strength of its being an historical fact.

But what we have said so far is not sufficient to give an adequate idea of the greatness of the prodigy thus achieved by our Lady Help of Christians. In order to have a just appreciation of it, we must remember that the miracle was not wrought in the age of Sylvester and Constantine, or of St Leo III and Charlemagne, or of the great prophetess Catharine of Siena, who made known the commands of God to the people of Italy and to the Popes of Avignon. The century that witnessed this wondrous event was the nineteenth. Europe was under the degrading influence of Voltairism, and there were still living the authors and abettors of the crimes and impieties that resulted from the principles taught in the eighteenth century. Everything was adverse to such a glorious and unexpected triumph; Catholic feeling was far from being roused as it now is; the action of God's providence had to show itself in a direct and visible manner; and to let the Christian world know that such was the case, Rome instituted the annual feast of May 24, as an offering of acknowledgement to Mary, Help of Christians.

Let us now weigh the importance of the twofold restoration which was wrought on this day by the intercession of the holy Mother of God. Pius VII had been forcibly taken from Rome and dethroned; on this May 24 he was reinstated in Rome, both as Pope and as temporal sovereign. On the Feasts of St Peter’s Chair at Rome and at Antioch, we gave our readers the doctrine of the Church, which teaches us that the succession to the rights conferred by Christ upon St Peter belongs to the Bishop of Rome. From this it follows that residence in the city of Rome is both the right and the duty of the successor of St Peter, save in the case of his deeming a temporary absence to be demanded by circumstances. Whosoever, therefore, by means of physical force, keeps the Sovereign Pontiff out of Rome, or prevents him from residing there, is acting in opposition to the Divine Will; for the pastor ought to be in the midst of his flock: and Rome having been made by Christ the head of all Churches, these have a right to find in Rome him who is both the infallible doctor of faith and the source of all spiritual jurisdiction. The first blessing, therefore, for which we are indebted to Mary on this day, is that she brought back the pastor to his flock, and restored the supreme government of Holy Church to its normal state.

The second is her having reinstated the Pontiff in possession of his temporal power, the surest guarantee of his being independent in the exercise of his spiritual power. We have but to consult history, and we shall learn what miseries and dangers have followed from the Popes being the subjects of any earthly monarch. The experience of the past shows us that the city of Rome, if under any other government than that of the papacy, excites the mistrust of Christendom as to the liberty necessary for the due election of the supreme Pontiff. God, in his all-seeing wisdom, provided against what would have been a perpetual source of anarchy in the Church. From the earliest commencement of the Christian era, he prepared the foundation of the temporal dominion of the papacy over Rome and its territory, even before the sword of the Franks was drawn for the defence, the establishing and increasing this precious domain, which is the property of Christendom. Whosoever dares to invade it, attacks the liberty of the entire Church; and we know, as St Anselm says, that ‘there is nothing in this world more loved by God than the liberty of his Church’: hence the severe punishments that have ever followed such as offered violence to it.

The pontifical sovereignty over Rome and the States belonging to the Church has arisen from necessity—but that necessity belongs to the supernatural order of things. It follows that this sovereignty surpasses all others in dignity, and that, in consequence of its being consecrated to God’s service on earth, it is to be considered as a sacred thing. He that dares to lay hands upon it, is guilty not only of spoliation, but of sacrilege; and the anathemas of the Church lie heavily upon him.

Here again history tells us how terrible has been the lot of all those who, despising the anathema, refused to make restitution to the Church, and dared to defy the justice of him who conferred on Peter the power of binding and loosing.

Finally, authority being the basis of every society, and its maintenance being of the utmost importance to the preservation of order and justice, it should be respected and upheld first and foremost in the Roman Pontiff, for he is the highest representative of authority on earth, his temporal power is by far the oldest in existence, and his kingly character is enhanced by the union of supreme spiritual power. He, therefore, who attacks or overthrows the temporal sovereignty of the Pope is an enemy to every Government; for there is no other that can bear comparison with this in merit and rightful possession; and if it be not spared, no other is safe.

Let us then give thanks to the blessed Mother of God, on this feast of the twenty-fourth day of May, which has been instituted in commemoration of the twofold blessing she thus brought upon the world—the preservation of the Church, and the preservation of society. Let us unite in the fervent acclamations of the then loyal citizens of Rome, and like them sing with all the glad joy of our Easter Alleluia, our greetings of Hosanna to the Vicar of Christ, the father of that dear land, our common country. The remembrance of St Peter's deliverance from prison, and his restoration to liberty, must have been vividly on the minds of that immense concourse of people, whose love for their Pontiff was redoubled by the sufferings he had gone through. As the triumphal chariot on which he had been placed came near the Flaminian Gate, the horses were unyoked, and the Pontiff was conveyed by the people to the Vatican Basilica, where a solemn thanksgiving was made, over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.

But let us not close the day without admiring the merciful intervention of our Lady, Help of Christians. If the protection she gives to the faithful sometimes necessitates her showing severity to tyrants, her maternal heart is full of compassion for the vanquished, and she extends her Help even to them. Thus it was with the haughty Emperor, over whom she triumphed on May 24; she would then bring him back to humble repentance and to the practice of his religious duties. A messenger from the island of Saint Helena was one day ushered into the presence of Pius VII. The exiled Napoleon, whom he had consecrated Emperor in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and whose conduct in later years brought him under the ban of excommunication, now besought the Pontiff, the true and only King of Rome, to allow him to be readmitted to those spiritual blessings of which he had been justly deprived. Our Lady was preparing a second victory.

Pius VII, whose name the fallen Emperor could never pronounce without emotion, and whom he called ‘a lamb'[2]—Pius VII, who had so courageously braved public opinion by giving hospitality at Rome to the members of Napoleon’s unfortunate family—readily complied with the request thus made to him; and the holy Sacrifice of the Mass was shortly afterwards offered up in the presence of the illustrious exile of Saint Helena. Our Lady of Help was advancing her conquest.

But before granting pardon, the justice of God had required a full and public expiation. He who had been the instrument of salvation to millions of souls by restoring religion to France, was not to be lost; but he had impiously imprisoned the sovereign Pontiff in the castle of Fontainebleau; and it was in that very castle that he had afterwards to sign the deed of his own abdication. For five years he had held captive the Vicar of Christ; for five years he himself had to endure the sufferings and humiliation of captivity. Heaven accepted the retribution and left Mary to complete her victory. Reconciled with the Church, and fortified by the holy sacraments which prepare the Christian for eternity, Napoleon yielded up his soul into the hands of his Maker, on May 5, the month that is sacred to Mary, and gives us the feast we are keeping to-day. The day chosen by God from all eternity for Napoleon’s death was the Feast of St Pius V; on which same feast, Pius VII was receiving the congratulations of his faithful Romans. The name Pius signifies compassion and mercy. It is one of the names given to God in the sacred Scripture: PIUS et misericors est Deus: God is compassionate and merciful.[3] Mary, too, is compassionate; it is the title we give her in one of our favourite prayers: O demens, O Pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria! She is ever ready with her aid, be the danger one that affects the Church at large, or a single individual soul; she is the Help of Christians, and as such we honour her on this feast. God has willed her to be so; and we are but complying with his wishes, when we have an unreserved confidence in the protection of this powerful Queen, this loving Mother.

Let us now read the account, as given in to-day’s Liturgy, of the great event that prompted the institution of our feast:

Præsentissimum Deiparae auxilium ad religionis hostes profligandos, sæpe populus Christianus mirum in modum expertus est; ex quo factum, ut sanctissimus Pontifex Pius Quintus, post insignem victoriam, intercedente beatissima Virgine, a Christianis de Turcarum tyranno apud Echinadas insulas reportatam, in Litaniis Lauretanis eamdem reginam coelorum, inter alia praeconia, Auxilium Christianorum appellari constituerit. Sed illud in primis memorabile est, atque explorati miraculi loco habendum, quod quum Romanus Pontifex Pius Septimus impiorum consiliis et armis ex Apostolica Petri sede exturbatus, et arcta custodia, praesertim Savonae per annos quinque eoque amplius fuisset detentus, viis omnibus penitus interclusis, ne Dei Ecclesiam regere posset, nullo similis persecutionis in priscis annalibus exemplo, inopinato et praeter omnium exspectationem contigit, ut ingenti plausu ac veluti universi orbis manibus Pontificio solio restitueretur. Quod et secundo accidit, dum iterum commoto turbine, ab Urbe discedens, sacro comitante cardinalium Collegio, Liguriam contendit. Verum praesentissimo Dei beneficio, cessante procella, quæ grave minabatur excidium, Romam, plaudentibus prae novo gaudio populis, reversus est. Antea tamen quod in votis habuerat, et captivitate detentus exsequi nequiverat, aurea corona insignem Savonae imaginem Deiparae Virginis sub titulo Matris Misericordiae, solemni ritu, propriisque manibus decoravit. Quam mirabilem rerum vicissitudinem idem Pontifex maximus Pius Septimus, totius eventus intime conscius, quum intercessioni sanctissimae Dei Genitricis, cujus potentem opem et ipse impense imploraverat, et ab omnibus Christifidelibus implorari curaverat, acceptam merito referret, in ejusdem Virginis Matris honorem sub appellatione Auxilii Christianorum solemne festum indixit perpetuo celebrandum die mensis Maii vigesimo quarto, faustissimi sui in Urbem reditus anniversario, adprobato etiam Officio proprio, ut tanti beneficii distincta et perennis exstet memoria, et gratiarum actio.
The faithful have frequently witnessed miraculous interventions which prove that the Mother of God is ever ready with her help to repel the enemies of religion. It was on this account that, after the signal victory gained by the Christians over the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto, through the intercession of the most blessed Virgin, the holy Pope Pius the Fifth ordered that to the other titles given to the Queen of Heaven in the Litany of Loreto, there should be added this of Help of Christians. But one of the most memorable proofs of this her protection, and one which may be regarded as an incontestable miracle, is that which happened during the Pontificate of Pius the Seventh. By the intrigues and armed violence of certain impious men, the Pontiff had been driven from the Apostolic See of Peter, and was kept in close confinement, mainly at Savona, for upwards of five years. During this period, by a persecution unheard of in any previous age, every possible means was resorted to in order to prevent his governing the Church of God. When lo! suddenly and to the surprise of men, he was restored to the Pontifical Throne, to the great joy, and it might be almost said with the concurrence, of the whole world. The same thing happened also a second time, when a fresh disturbance arose and compelled him to leave Rome, and go, with the Sacred College of Cardinals, into Liguria. Here again, the storm that threatened great destruction was appeased by a most prompt interference of God’s providence, and the Pontiff’s return to Rome filled Christendom with new joy. Before returning, however, he would carry out an intention which his captivity had hitherto prevented him from doing: with his own hand he solemnly placed a golden crown on the celebrated statue of the Mother of God that was venerated at Savona under the title of Mother of Mercy. The same Sovereign Pontiff, Pius the Seventh, who was so thoroughly acquainted with every circumstance of these events, rightly attributed their happy issue to the intercession of the most holy Mother of God, whose powerful help he himself had earnestly besought, besides urging all the faithful to obtain it by their prayers. He therefore instituted a solemn feast in honour of the same VirginMother, under the title of Help of Christians. It was to be kept every year on the twenty-fourth of May, the anniversary of his own most happy return to Rome. He also sanctioned a proper Office for this feast, in order that the remembrance of so great a favour might ever be vividly on the minds of the faithful, and secure the thanksgiving it deserved.

The two beautiful hymns which follow are from the Office of this feast. They admirably express the gratitude we should feel towards the blessed Mother whose intercession has so often wrought the Church’s deliverance.

First Hymn

Sæpe dum Christi populus cruentis
Hostis infensi premeretur armis,
Venit adjutrix pia Virgo coelo
Lapsa sereno.

Prisca sic patrum monumenta narrant,
Templa testantur spoliis opimis
Clara, votivo repetita cultu
Festa quotannis.

En novi grates liceat Mariae
Cantici laetis modulis referre
Pro novis donis, resonante plausu
Urbis et Orbis.

O dies felix, memoranda fastis,
Qua Petri sedes fidei magistrum
Triste post lustrum reducem beata
Sorte recepit!

Virgines castae, puerique puri,
Gestiens clerus, populusque grato
Corde Reginae celebrare cœli
Munera certent.

Virginum Virgo, benedicta Jesu
Mater, haec auge bona; fac, precamur,
Ut gregem pastor pius ad salutis
Pascua ducat.

Te per aeternos veneremur annos,
Trinitas, summo celebranda plausu;
Te fide mentes, resonoque linguae
Carmine laudent.

Amen.
Ofttimes, when the faithful of Christ have been threatened
by the blood-stained sword of a ruthless foe,
the compassionate Virgin came down
from bright heaven as their Help.

We know it from the venerable documents of our fathers:
it is attested by the sacred edifices which are enriched
with the trophies taken from our enemies,
and by the yearly recurrence of our solemn feasts.

Lo! a new favour demands of us to-day
a new canticle of grateful and glad thanks to Mary:
it is the favour that made both Rome
and the world resound with joy.

O happy and ever memorable day!
whereon the See of Peter was blessed
with the return of the teacher of faith,
after a sad exile of five years.

Let chaste maidens, and innocent youths,
and the glad clergy, and the people,
vie with each other in celebrating with grateful hearts
the favours granted by the Queen of heaven.

O thou Virgin of virgins! blessed Mother of Jesus!
add favours still to these: pray, we beseech thee,
that the good pastor may lead the flock
to the pastures of salvation.

O holy Trinity, to whom all praise is due!
grant that we may praise thee through eternal years.
May our souls by their faith,
and our lips by their hymns, laud thy holy name.

Amen.


Second Hymn

Te Redemptoris Dominique nostri
Dicimus Matrem, speciosa Virgo,
Christianorum decus, et levamen
Rebus in arctis.

Saeviant portae licet inferorum,
Hostis antiquus fremat, et minaces,
Ut Deo sacrum populetur agmen,
Suscitet iras.

Nil truces possunt furiae nocere
Mentibus castis, prece quas vocata
Annuens Virgo fovet, et superno
Robore firmat.

Tanta si nobis faveat patrona,
Bellici cessat sceleris tumultus,
Mille sternuntur, fugiuntve turmae,
Mille cohortes.

Tollit ut sancta caput in Sione
Turris, arx firmo fabricata muro,
Civitas David, clypeis et acri
Milite tuta.

Virgo sic fortis Domini potenti
Dextera, cœli cumulata donis,
A piis longe famulis repellit
Dæmonis ictus.

Te per aeternos veneremur annos,
Trinitas, summo celebranda plausu;
Te fide mentes, resonoque linguae
Carmine laudent.

Amen.
O beautiful Virgin! we acknowledge thee
to be the Mother of our Saviour and God;
but thou art, too, the solace
and Help of Christians in their adversities.

The gates of hell may rage;
the old enemy may, in his wrath,
stir up anger which may threaten
to destroy the people of God;

But this wild passion
can do no hurt to those pure souls,
whose prayers have won protection and heavenly strength
from the Virgin ever blessed.

If she be our patroness and help us,
the din of wicked war must cease,
and our enemies must fail by thousands,
or be put to flight.

As on the holy mount of Sion
there was a tower and citadel with its well-built wall,
and the city of David was safe
with its shields and valiant men:

So the Virgin, made strong by the mighty hand of God,
and laden with heaven’s gifts,
wards off from her devoted clients
the blows of Satan.

O holy Trinity, to whom all praise is due!
grant that we may praise thee through eternal years.
May our souls by their faith,
and our lips by their hymns, laud thy holy name.

Amen.

 


O holy Trinity, to whom all praise is due! grant that we may praise thee through eternal years. May our souls by their faith, and our lips by their hymns, laud thy holy name. Amen.

I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me: my help is from the Lordwho made heaven and earth.[4] Thus prayed the Israelites of old: thus also prays the Church: though for her the help is nigher and comes more speedily. The Psalmist’s petition has been granted: the heavens have bowed down, and the divine help is now close by our side. This help is Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. He is unceasingly fulfilling the promise made us by his Prophet: In the day of thy salvation I have helped thee.[5] But this King of kings has given us a Queen, and this Queen is Mary, his Mother. Out of love for her he has given her a throne on his right hand, as Solomon did for his mother Bethsabee;[6] and he would have her also be the Help of Christians. The Church teaches us this, by inserting this beautiful title in the Litany; and Rome invites us, on this day, to unite with her in giving thanks and praise to our blessed Lady of Help for one of the most signal of her favours.

O Queen of heaven! our Paschal joy is increased on this the anniversary of thy giving back to Rome her pastor and her king. Yes, it was thy intercession that achieved the grand victory, and we offer thee the homage of our grateful rejoicings. This month is thine in an especial manner; but its twenty-fourth day makes us redouble our devotion. It encourages us to entreat thee, with all the earnestness of our souls, that thou wouldst protect Rome and its Pontiff, for new dangers have arisen. The Rock set by thy Jesus has again become a sign of contradiction, and the billows of impiety and violence are beating against it. We know the great promise: the Rock can never be swept away, and on it safely stands the Church; but we know, too, that this Church is one day to be taken up to heaven, and then the Judgement! Meanwhile, thou, Mary, art our Help: oh! stretch forth that arm of thine, which nothing can resist. Be mindful of Rome, where thou art so devoutly honoured, and where thy glory is proclaimed by so many sumptuous sanctuaries. The end of the world is not yet come; the holiest of causes requires thine aid. Never permit the holy City to be desecrated by her falling into the power of impious men; suffer her not to be deprived of the presence of her Pontiff; and restore the independence which the Vicar of Christ must possess, if the Church is to be rightly governed.

But Rome is not the only spot on earth that needs thy powerful help, O Mary! The vineyard of thy Son is everywhere being laid waste by the wild beast.[7] Vice and error and seduction are everywhere. There is not a country where the Church is not persecuted, and her liberty trampled upon. Society has lost its Christian traditions; it is at the mercy of revolutions against which it has no power. O thou that art the Help of Christians, aid the world in these its perils! Thou hast the power to save it from danger! Wilt thou permit the people to be lost who were redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and whom he from his Cross entrusted to thy care?

Thou, O Mary, art the Help of each Christian soul, as well as of the entire world. That same enemy, who is bent on the destruction of the whole human race, is seeking to drag each one of us into perdition. He hates the image of thy Son, which he sees reflected in our human nature. Oh! come to our assistance; save us from this roaring lion of hell. He knows thy power, and that thou canst procure our deliverance, so long as we are left in this present life. Thou hast gained the most stupendous victories for the salvation of thy clients; tire not, we beseech thee, in aiding poor sinners to return to their God. When Jesus spoke of them that were invited to the marriage feast, and told us how the king said to his servants: Compel them to come in,[8] it was thee that he had mainly in view. Lead us then to our King!

Our supplications to thee, O Help of Christians, are thus earnest, because our wants are great; but we are not on that account the less mindful of the special honour that we owe thee at this holy season of Easter, when the Church contemplates the joy thou hadst in the presence of thy Risen Jesus. She congratulates thee on the immense happiness that thus repaid thee for thine anguish on Calvary and at the Sepulchre. It is to the Mother consoled by and exulting in her Son’s triumphant Resurrection that we offer this sweet month, whose loveliness is so in keeping with her own incomparable beauty. In return for this homage of our devotion, pray for us, dear Mother, that our souls may persevere in the beauty of grace given to them by this year’s union with our Jesus! and that we may be so well prepared for the Feast of Pentecost as to merit to receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost, who comes that he may perfect the work of our Paschal regeneration.


[1] Gaude, Maria Virgo! cunctas hæreses sola interemisti in universo mundo (Office of the Blessed Virgin * Matins vii Antiphon)
[2] Las-Casés, Memorial de Sainte-Helena.
[3] Ecclus. ii 13.
[4] Ps. cxx 1, 2.
[5] Isa. xlix 8.
[6] 3 Kings ii 19.
[7] Ps. lxxix.
[8] St Luke xiv 23.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Easter Calendar has already given us the two great Popes, Leo the Great and Pius V; it bids us, to-day, pay honour to the glorious memory of Gregory VII. These three names represent the action of the papacy, dating from the period of the persecutions. The mission divinely put upon the successors of St Peter is this: to maintain intact the truths of faith, and to defend the liberty of the Church. St Leo courageously and eloquently asserted the ancient faith, which was called in question by the heretics of those days; St Pius V stemmed the torrent of the so-called Reformation, and delivered Christendom from the yoke of Mahometanism; St Gregory VII came between these two, and saved society from the greatest danger it had so far incurred, and restored the purity of Christian morads by restoring the liberty of the Church.

The end of the tenth and the commencement of the eleventh century was a period that brought upon the Church of Christ one of the severest trials she has ever endured. The two great scourges of persecution and heresy had subsided; they were followed by that of barbarism. The impulse given to civilization by Charlemagne was checked early in the ninth century; the barbarian element had been but suppressed, and broke out again with renewed violence; faith was still vigorous among the people, but of itself it could not triumph over the depravity of morals. The feudal system had produced anarchy throughout the whole of Europe; anarchy created social disorder, and this, in its turn, occasioned the triumph of might and licentiousness over right. Kings and princes were no longer kept in check by the power of the Church; for Rome herself being a prey to factions, unworthy or unfit men were but too frequently raised to the Papal Throne.

The eleventh century came; its years were rapidly advancing; and there seemed no remedy for the disorders it had inherited. Bishoprics had fallen a prey to the secular power, which set them up for sale, and the first requisite for a candidate to a prelacy was that he should be a vassal subservient to the ruler of the nation, ready to supply him with means for prosecuting war. The bishops being thus, for the most part, simoniacal, as St Peter Damian tells us they were, what could be expected from the inferior clergy but scandals? The climax of these miseries was that ignorance increased with each generation, and threatened to obliterate the very notion of duty. There was an end to both Church and society, had it not been for the promise of Christ that he would never abandon his own work.

In order to remedy these evils, in order to dispel all this mist of ignorance, Rome was to be raised from her state of degradation. She needed a holy and energetic Pontiff, whose consciousness of having God on his side would make him heedless of opposition and difficulties; a Pontiff whose reign should be long enough to make his influence felt, and encourage his successors to continue the work of reform. This was the mission of St Gregory VII.

This mission was prepared for by holiness of life; it is always so with those whom God destines to be the instruments of his greatest works. Gregory, or, as he was then called, Hildebrand, left the world, and became a monk of the celebrated monastery of Cluny, in France. It was there, and in the two thousand abbeys which were affiliated with it, that were alone to be found in those days zeal for the liberty of the Church, and the genuine traditions of the monastic life. It was there that for upwards of a hundred years, and under the four great Abbots, Odo, Maiolus, Odilo and Hugh, God had been secretly providing for the regeneration of Christian morals. Yes, we may well say secretly, for no one would have thought that the instruments of the holiest of reforms were to be found in those monasteries, which existed in almost every part of Europe, and had affiliated with Cluny for no other motive than because Cluny was the sanctuary of every monastic virtue. It was to Cluny itself that Hildebrand fled, when he left the world; he felt sure that he would find there a shelter from the scandals that then prevailed.

The illustrious Abbot Hugh was not long in discovering the merits of his new disciple, and the young Italian was made Prior of the great French abbey. A stranger came one day to the gate of the monastery, and sought hospitality. It was Bruno, bishop of Toul, who had been nominated Pope by the Emperor Henry III. Hildebrand could not restrain himself on seeing this new candidate for the Apostolic See—this Pope whom Rome, which alone has the right to choose its own Bishop, had neither chosen nor heard of. He plainly told Bruno that he must not accept the keys of heaven from the hand of an Emperor who was bound in conscience to submit to the canonical election of the holy City. Bruno, who was afterwards St Leo IX, humbly acquiesced in the advice given him by the Prior of Cluny, and both set out for Rome. The elect of the Emperor became the elect of the Roman Church, and Hildebrand prepared to return to Cluny; but the new Pontiff would not hear of his departure, and obliged him to accept the title and duties of Archdeacon of the Roman Church.

This high post would soon have raised him to the Papal Throne, had he wished it; but Hildebrand’s only ambition was to break the fetters that kept the Church from being free, and prepare the reform of Christendom. He used his influence in procuring the election, canonical and independent of imperial favour, of Pontiffs who were willing and determined to exercise their authority for the extirpation of scandals. After St Leo IX came Victor II, Stephen IX, Nicholas II, and Alexander II—all of whom were worthy of their exalted position. But he who had thus been the very soul of the Pontificate under five Popes was at length obliged to accept the Tiara himself. His noble heart was afflicted at the presentiment of the terrible contests that awaited him; but his refusals, his endeavours to evade the heavy burthen of solicitude for all the Churches, were unavailing; and the new Vicar of Christ was made known to the world under the name of Gregory VII. “Gregory” means vigilance; and never did man better realize the name.

He had to contend with brute force personified in a daring and crafty Emperor, whose life was stained with every sort of crime, and who held the Church in his grasp, as a vulture does its prey. In no part of the Empire would a bishop be allowed to hold his see, unless he had received investiture from the Emperor, by the ring and crosier. Such was Henry IV of Germany; and his example encouraged the other Princes of the Empire to infringe on the liberty of canonical elections by the same iniquitous measures. The twofold scandal of simony and incontinence was still frequent among the clergy. Gregory's immediate predecessors had, by courageous zeal, checked the evil; but not one of them had ventured to confront the fomenter of all these abuses, the Emperor himself. The great contest, with its perils and anxieties, was left to Gregory; and history tells us how fearlessly he accepted it.

The first three years of his pontificate were, however, comparatively tranquil. Gregory treated the youthful Emperor with great kindness, out of regard for his father, who had deserved well of the Church. He wrote him several letters, in which he gave him good advice, or affectionately expressed his confidence in the future. Henry did not allow that confidence to last long. Aware that he had to deal with a Pope whom no intimidation could induce to swerve from duty, he thought it prudent to wait a while and watch the course of events. But the restraint was unbearable; the selfimposed check had but swelled the torrent; the enemy of the spiritual power gave full vent to his passion. Bishoprics and abbeys were again sold for the benefit of the imperial revenue. Gregory excommunicated the simoniacal prelates; and Henry, imprudently defying the censures of the Church, persisted in keeping in their posts men who were resolved to follow him in all his crimes. Gregory addressed a solemn warning to the Emperor, enjoining him to withdraw his support from the excommunicated prelates, under penalty of himself incurring the ban of the Church. Henry, who had thrown off the mask, and thought he might afford to despise the Pontiff, was unexpectedly made to tremble for the security of his throne by the revolt of Saxony, in which several of the Electors of the Empire joined. He felt that a rupture with the Church at such a critical time might be fatal. He turned suppliant, besought Gregory to absolve him, and made an abjuration of his past conduct in the presence of two Legates, sent by the Pontiff into Germany. But scarcely had the perjured monarch gained a temporary triumph over the Saxons than he recommenced hostilities with the Church. In an assembly of bishops, worthy of their imperial master, he presumed to pronounce sentence of deposition against Gregory. Shortly afterwards he entered Italy with his army; and this gave to scores of prelates an opportunity for openly declaring rebellion against the Pope, who would not tolerate their scandalous lives.

Then did Gregory, in whose hands were placed those keys which signify the power of loosing and binding in heaven and on earth, pronounce against Henry the terrible sentence which declared him to be deprived of his crown and to have forfeited the allegiance of his subjects. To this the Pontiff added the still heavier anathema; he declared him to be cut off from the communion of the Church. By thus setting himself as a rampart of defence to Christendom, which was threatened on all sides with tyranny and persecution, Gregory drew down upon himself the vengeance of every wicked passion; and even Italy was far from being as loyal to him as he had a right to expect her to be. More than one of the princes of the peninsula sided with Henry; and as to the simoniacal prelates, they looked on him as their defender against the sword of Peter. It seemed as though Gregory would soon not have a spot in Italy whereon he could set his foot in safety; but God, who never abandons his Church, raised up an avenger of his cause. Tuscany, and part of Lombardy, were, at that time, governed by the young and brave countess Matilda. This noble-hearted woman stood up in defence of the Vicar of Christ. She offered her wealth and her army to the Pope, that he might make use of them as he thought best, as long as she lived; and as to her possessions, she willed them to St Peter and his successors.

Matilda, then, became a check to the Emperor's prosperity in crime. Her influence in Italy was still strong enough to procure for the heroic Pontiff a refuge where he could be safe from the Emperor's power. He was enabled by her management to reach Canossa, a strong fortress near Reggio. At the same time, Henry was alarmed by news of a fresh revolt in Saxony, in which more than one feudal lord of the Empire took part, with a view to dethrone the haughty and excommunicated tyrant. Fear again took possession of his mind, and prompted him to recur to perjury. The spiritual power marred his sacrilegious plans; and he flattered himself that by offering a temporary atonement he could soon renew the attack. He went barefooted and unattended to Canossa, garbed as a penitent, shedding hypocrite tears, and suing for pardon. Gregory had compassion on his enemy, and readily yielded to the intercession made for him by Hugh of Cluny and Matilda. He took off the excommunication, and restored Henry to the pale of Holy Church; but thought it would be premature to revoke the sentence whereby he had deprived him of his rights as Emperor. The Pontiff contented himself with announcing his intention of assisting at the Diet which was to be held in Germany; there he would take cognizance of the grievances brought against Henry by the Princes of the Empire, and then decide what was just.

Henry accepted every condition, took his oath on the Gospel, and returned to his army. He felt his hopes rekindle within him at every step he took from the dreaded fortress, within whose walls he had been compelled to sacrifice his pride to his ambition. He reckoned on finding support from the bad passions of others, and to a certain extent his calculation was verified. Such a man was sure to come to a miserable end; but Satan was too deeply interested in his success to refuse him his support.

Meanwhile, Henry met with a rival in Germany: it was Rodolph, duke of Suabia, who, in a Diet of the Electors of the Empire, was proclaimed Henry's successor. Faithful to his principles of justice, Gregory refused, at first, to recognize the newly elected, although his devotedness to the Church and his personal qualifications were such as to make him most worthy of the throne. The Pontiff persisted on hearing both sides, that is, the princes and representatives of the Empire, and Henry himself; this done, he would put an end to the dispute by an equitable judgement. Rodolph strongly urged his claims, and importuned the Pontiff to recognize them; but Gregory, though he loved the duke, courageously refused his demand, assuring him that his cause should be tried at the Diet by which Henry had bound himself, by his oath at Canossa, to stand, though he had good reasons to fear its results. Three years passed on, during which the Pontiff's patience and forbearance were continually and severely tried by Henry's systematic subterfuges, and refusal to give guarantees against his further molesting the Church. At length, after using every means in his power to put an end to the wars that ravaged Italy and Germany, and after Henry had given unmistakable proofs of impenitence and perjury, the Pontiff renewed the excommunication, and in a Council held at Rome, confirmed the sentence whereby he had declared him deposed of his crown. At the same time, Gregory ratified Rodolph’s election, and granted the Apostolic benediction to his adherents.

Henry’s rage was at its height, and his vengeful temper threw off all restraint. Among the Italian prelates who had sided with the tyrant, the foremost in subserviency and ambition was Gilbert, Archbishop of Ravenna, and, of course, there was no bitterer enemy to the holy See. Henry made an anti-pope of this traitor, under the name of Clement III. He had his party; and thus schism was added to the other trials that afflicted the Church. It was one of those terrible periods when, according to the expression of the Apocalypse, it was given unto the Beast to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them.[1] The Emperor suddenly became victorious: Rodolph was slain fighting in Germany, and Matilda’s army was defeated in Italy. Henry had then but one wish, and he determined to realize it: to enter Rome, banish Gregory, and set his anti-pope on the Chair of St Peter.

What were the feelings of our Saint in the midst of this deluge of iniquity, from which, however, the Church was to rise purified and free? Let us listen to him, describing them in a letter written to his former Abbot, St Hugh of Cluny: ‘The troubles which have come upon us are such, that even they that are living with us not only cannot endure them, but cannot even bear to look at them. The holy king David said: According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy consolations have given joy to my soul:[2] whereas to us, life is often a burthen, and death a happiness for which we sigh. When Jesus, that loving Consoler, true God and true Man, deigns to stretch out his hand to me, his goodness brings back joy to my afflicted heart; but when he leaves me, immediately my trouble is extreme. Of myself, I am for ever dying; but in so far as he is with me, there are times when I live. When my strength wholly leaves me, I cry out to him, saying with a mournful voice: “If thou hadst put a burthen as heavy as this on Moses or Peter, they would, methinks, have sunk beneath it. What then can be expected of me, who, compared to them, am nothing? Thou hast then, O Lord, but one thing to do: thou thyself, with thine Apostle Peter, must govern the pontificate thou hast imposed on me; else thou wilt find me sink beneath the load, and the pontificate, in my person, be disgraced.” '[3]

These words of heartfelt grief depict the whole character of the sainted Pontiff. The one great object of his life was the reformation of society by the liberty of the Church. It was nothing but his zeal in such a cause that could have made him face this terrible situation, from which he had nothing to look for in this life but heart-rending vexations. And yet, Gregory was that Father of the Christian world who, from the very commencement of his pontificate, was full of the thought of driving the Mahometans out of Europe, and of delivering the Christians from the yoke of the Saracens. It was the inspiration taken up by his successors, and carried out under the name of the Crusades. In a letter addressed to all the faithful, our Saint thus speaks of the enemy of the Christian name, whom he describes as being at the very gates of Constantinople, committing every kind of outrage and cruelty:

‘If we love God, if we call ourselves Christians, we must grieve over such evils; but we should do more than grieve over them. Our Saviour’s example and the duty of fraternal charity impose upon us the obligation of giving our lives for the deliverance of our fellowChristians. Know, then, that trusting in the mercy of God and in the might of his arm, we are doing and preparing everything in our power in order to give immediate help to the Christian Empire.’[4] He shortly afterwards wrote to Henry, who at that time had not shown his hostile intentions against the Church: ‘My admonition to the Christians of Italy and the countries beyond the Alps has been favourably received. At this moment, fifty thousand men are preparing; and, if they can have me to head the expedition as leader and Pontiff, they are willing to march to battle against the enemies of God, and, with the divine assistance, to go even to our Lord's Sepulchre.’ Thus, despite his advanced age, the noble-minded Pontiff was willing to put himself at the head of the Christian army. ‘There is,’ says he, ‘one thing which urges me to do this: it is the state of the Church of Constantinople, which is separated from us in what regards the dogma of the Holy Ghost, and which must be brought back to union with the Apostolic See. . Almost the whole of Armenia has abandoned the Catholic faith. In a word, the greater portion of the Orientals require to know what is the faith of Peter, on the various questions which are being mooted among them. The time is come for using the grace bestowed, by our merciful Redeemer, on Peter, when he thus spoke to him: I have prayed for theePeterthat thy faith may not fail: do thou confirm thy brethren.[5] Our Fathers in whose footsteps we would walk, though we be unworthy to be their successors, have more than once visited those countries, that they might confirm the Catholic faith. We, then, also feel urged, if Christ open to us a way, to undertake this expedition for the interests of the faith, and in order to give aid to the Christians.’

With his characteristic good faith, Gregory went so far as to reckon on Henry's protecting the Church during his absence. ‘This design,' says he, in the same letter to the Emperor, ‘requires much counsel and powerful co-operation, in case God permits us to attempt it: I therefore come to you, asking you for this counsel and co-operation, and hope you will grant me them. If, by divine favour, I go, it is to you, after God, that I leave the Roman Church, that you may watch over her as a holy mother, and protect her from insult. Let me know, as soon as may be, what in your prudence, aided by God's counsel, you decide. If I had not greater confidence in you than people suppose, I should not have written this to you; but as you may not fully believe that I have the affection for you that I profess, I appeal to the Holy Spirit who can do all things. I beseech him to make you understand, in his own way, how attached I am to you; and so to guide your soul as to disappoint the desires of the wicked and strengthen the hopes of the good.’[6]

The interview at Canossa took place in less than three years from the date of the above letter; but at the time he wrote it, Gregory’s hopes for carrying out the expedition were so well grounded, that he acquainted the Countess Matilda with his intention. He wrote to her as follows: ' The matter which engrossed my thoughts, and the desire I have to cross the seas in order to give succour to the Christians, who are being slain as brute beasts by the pagans, makes me seem strange to many people, and fear they think me guilty of a sort of levity. But it costs me nothing to confide it to you, my dearly beloved daughter, whose prudence I esteem more than words could express. After you have perused the letters which I am sending to the countries beyond the Alps, if you have any advice to offer, or, what is better, any aid to give to the cause of God your Creator, exert yourself to the utmost; for if, as men say, it be a grand thing to die for one's country, it is grander and nobler to sacrifice this mortal flesh of ours for Christ, who is Eternal Life. I feel convinced that many soldiers will aid us in this expedition. I have grounds for believing that our Empress (Agnes, the saintly mother of Henry) intends going with us, and would fain take you with her. Your mother (the Countess Beatrice) will remain here in Italy, to protect our common interests; and all things thus arranged, we shall, with Christ's help, be enabled to set out. By coming hither to satisfy her devotion, the Empress, especially if she have you to help her, will doubtless encourage many to join in this enterprise. As for me, honoured with the company of such noble sisters, I will willingly cross the seas, ready to lay down my life for Christ with you, from whom I would not be separated in our eternal country. Send me a speedy answer upon this project, as also regarding your coming to Rome. And may the Almighty God bless you, and give you to advance from virtue to virtue, that thus the common Mother may rejoice in you for many long years to come!’[7]

The project on which Gregory set his heart with so much earnestness was not a mere scheme suggested by his own greatness of soul; it was a presentiment infused into his mind by God. The troubles he had nearer home, and which he so heroically combated, left him no time for a long expedition; he had to engage with an enemy who was not a Turk, but a Christian. Still, the Crusade so dear to his heart was not far off. Urban II—his second successor, and, like himself, a monk of Cluny—was soon to arouse Christian Europe and give battle to the infidels. But as this subject has led us to mention Matilda's name, we take the opportunity thus afforded us of entering more fully into the character of our great Pontiff. We shall find that this illustrious champion of the Church's liberty, with all his elevation of purpose, and all his untiring zeal in what concerned the interests of Christendom, was as solicitous about the spiritual advancement of a single soul as any director could be. Writing to the Countess Matilda, he says: ' He who fathoms the secrets of the human heart, he alone knows, and knows better than I do myself, how interested I am in what concerns your salvation. I think you understand that I feel myself bound to take care of you for the sake of so many people, in whose interest I have been compelled by charity to deter you, when you were thinking of leaving them in order to provide for the salvation of your own soul. As I have often told you, and will keep on telling you in the words of heaven’s herald, Charity seeketh not her own.[8] But as the principal armour wherewith I have provided you in your battle against the prince of this world is the frequent receiving of our Lord’s Body, and a firm confidence in the protection of his blessed Mother, I will now add what St Ambrose says on the subject of holy Communion.’

The Pontiff then gives her two quotations from the writings of this holy Father, to which he also adds others from St Gregory the Great and St John Chrysostom on the blessings we derive from receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist. He then continues: ‘Therefore, my daughter, we should have recourse to this greatest of the sacraments, this greatest of all remedies. I have written all this to you, beloved daughter of blessed Peter, with a view to increase your faith and confidence when you approach to Communion. This is the treasure, and this the gift, more precious than gold and gems, which your soul, out of love for the King of heaven, your Father, expects from me, although you would have received the same in a far better way, and one more worthy of your acceptance, had you applied to some other of God’s ministers. With regard to the Mother of God, to whose care I have confided you, for the past, the present, and the future, until we are permitted to see her in heaven, as we desire—what can I say? How can I say anything worthy of her whom heaven and earth are ever praising, and yet never so much as she deserves? Yes, hold this as a most certain truth: that as she is grander and better and holier than all mothers, so is she more merciful and loving to all sinners who are sorry for their sins. Be, then, determined never to commit sin; prostrate yourself and weep before her, with a contrite and humble heart; and I unhesitatingly promise you this—you will find her more ready to assist you, and more affectionate, than any mother on earth ever was to her child.'[9]

A Pontiff like this, who amidst all his occupations could devote himself with such paternal zeal to the advancement of one single soul, was sure to be on the watch for men whose piety and learning promised well for the interests of the Church. It is true, there were very few such men in those times; but Gregory would find them out, wheresoever they might be. The great St Anselm, who was living in the peaceful retirement of his monastery at Bec, had not escaped the watchful eye of the Pontiff, who wrote him these touching words amidst the troubles of the year 1079: 'The good odour of your fruits has spread even to us. We give thanks to God, and we embrace you with affection in the love of Christ; for we are well assured of the benefits which the Church of God will derive from your studies and of the succour which, through God’s mercy, she will receive from your prayers, united as they are with those who are of a like spirit. You know, my Brother, of how much avail with God is the prayer of one just man; how much more then must not avail the prayer of many just ones? No, we cannot doubt it; it obtains what it asks. The authority of Truth himself obliges us to believe it. It is he who said: Knockand it shall be opened to you! Knock with simplicity of heart—ask with simplicity of heart—for those things which are pleasing to him; then shall it be opened to you, then shall you receive; and it is thus that the prayer of the just is graciously heard. We therefore beg of you, Brother, of you and your monks, that you beseech God in assiduous prayer, that he may vouchsafe to deliver from the tyranny of heretics his Church and us, who, though unworthy, are placed over it; and that, dispelling the error which blinds our enemies, he may lead them back to the path of truth.’[10]

But Gregory’s attention was not confined to persons of such eminence and learning as a Matilda or an Anselm. His quick eye discerned every Christian, how humble soever his station, who had suffered persecution for the cause of Holy Church; he honoured and loved him far more than he would the bravest soldier who fought for earthly glory, and won it at the risk of his life. Let us read the following letter, which he wrote to a poor priest of Milan, named Liprand, who had been cruelly maimed by the simoniacs: ' If we venerate the memory of those Saints who died after their limbs had been severed by the sword; if we celebrate the sufferings of those whom neither the sword nor torture could separate from the faith of Christ; you, who have had your nose and ears cut off for his Name, you deserve still greater praise, for that you have merited a grace which, if it be accompanied by your perseverance, gives you a perfect resemblance to the Saints. Your body is no longer perfect in all its parts; but the interior man, who is renewed from day to day, is now grander than ever. Your outward face is maimed, and therefore disfigured; but the image of God, which consists in the brightness of virtue, has become more graceful by your wounds, and its beauty heightened by the deformity which men have brought on your features. Does not the Church, speaking of herself, say: I am blackO ye daughters of Jerusalem?[11] If, then, your interior beauty has not been impaired by these cruel mutilations, neither has your priestly character, which manifests itself rather by the perfection of virtue than by that of the body. Did not the Emperor Constantine show his veneration for a bishop who had had one of his eyes pulled out? was he not seen to kiss the wound? Have we not the examples of the Fathers, and the early history of the Church, telling us that the martyrs were allowed to continue the exercise of the sacred ministry, even after their limbs had been mutilated? You, then, martyr of Christ! must confide in the Lord without reserve. You must congratulate yourself on having made an advance in your priesthood. It was conferred upon you by the holy oil; but now you have sealed it with your own blood. The more your body has lost, the more must you preach what is good, and sow that word which produces a hundredfold. We know that the enemies of holy Church are your enemies and persecutors; fear them not, and tremble not in their presence; for we lovingly hold both yourself and everything that belongs to you under our own protection and that of the Apostolic See. And if you should at any time find it necessary to have recourse to us, we now at once admit your appeal, and will receive you with joy and every mark of honour, when you visit us and this Holy See.’[12]

Such was Gregory, who preserved the simplicity of the monk amidst all his occupations as Pope; and what engrossing occupations were these, even apart from that fearful contest with tyranny and crime which cost him his life! We have already mentioned his project of the Crusade, which, at a later period, was enough to immortalize the name of Urban II. As to his other labours for the good of religion in every part of Christendom, we may truly say that at no period of the Church's existence did the papacy exercise a wider, more active, or more telling influence, than during the twelve years of his pontificate. By his immense correspondence, he furthered the interests of the Church in Germany, Italy, France, England and Spain; he aided the rising Churches of Denmark, Sweden and Norway; he testified his vigilant and tender solicitude for the welfare of Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Serbia, yea, even for Russia. Despite the rupture between Rome and Byzantium, the Pontiff withheld not his paternal intervention with a view to remove the schism which kept the Greek Church out of the centre of unity. On the coast of Africa, he, by great vigilance, succeeded in maintaining three bishoprics which had survived the Mussulman invasion. In order to knit the Latin Church into closer unity by greater uniformity in prayer, he abolished the Gothic Liturgy that was used in Spain, and forbade the introduction of the Greek Liturgy into Bohemia. What work was this for one man! And what a martyrdom he had to suffer! Let us resume our history of his trials. He was to save the Church and society; but like his divine Master, he had to drink of the torrent in the way,[13] as the condition of his mission being a successful one.

We have seen how its defenders were defeated in battle; how he was menaced by the conqueror, who had once stood trembling in his presence; and how there was set up in opposition an anti-pope, whose side was taken by unworthy prelates. Henry marched on towards Rome, taking with him the false vicar of Christ. He set fire to that part of the City which would expose the Vatican to danger; Gregory sent his blessing to his terrified people, and immediately the fire took the contrary direction and died out. Enthusiasm filled, for a while, the hearts of the Romans, who have so often been ungrateful to their Pontiff, without whom their Rome, with all its glory, sinks into a poor contemptible town. Henry was afraid to consummate the sacrilege. He therefore sent word to the Romans that he only asked one condition; it was that they should induce Gregory to consecrate him Emperor of Germany, and that he would for ever be a devoted son of the Church: as to the ignoble phantom he had set up in opposition to the true Pope, he (Henry) would see that he was soon forgotten, This petition was presented to Gregory by the whole City. The Pontiff made them this reply: ‘Too well do I know the king’s treachery. Let him first make atonement to God and to the Church which he tramples beneath his feet. Then will I absolve him, if penitent, and crown the convert with the imperial diadem.’ The Romans were earnest in their entreaties, but this was the only answer they could elicit from the inflexible guardian of Christian justice. Henry was about to withdraw his troops, when the fickle Romans, bribed by money from Byzantium (for then, as ever, all schisms were in fellowship against the Papacy), abandoned their King and Father, and delivered up the keys of the City to him who enslaved their souls. Gregory was thus obliged to seek refuge in the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, taking with him into that fortress-prison the liberty of Holy Church. Thence, or perhaps a few days previously to his retiring thither, he wrote this admirable letter, in the year 1084. It is addressed to all the faithful, and may be considered as the last Will and Testament of this glorious Pontiff.

The kings of the earth and the Princes of the priests have met together against Christ,[14] the Son of the Almighty God, and against his Apostle Peter, to the end that they may destroy the Christian religion and propagate the wickedness of heresy in every land. But by the mercy of God they have not been able with all their threats and cruelties and proffers of worldly glory to seduce those that put their confidence in the Lord. Wicked conspirators have raised up their hands against us, for no other reason than because we would not pass over in silence the perils of holy Church, nor tolerate them that blush not to make a slave of the very Spouse of God. In every country the poorest woman is allowed, yea, she is assisted by the law of the land, to choose her own husband; and yet nowadays Holy Church, the Spouse of God and our Mother, is not allowed to be united to her Spouse as the Divine Law commands, and as she herself wishes. It cannot be that we should suffer the children of this Church to be slaves to heretics, adulterers, and tyrants, as though these were their parents. Hence we have had to endure all manner of evil treatment, perils, and unheard-of cruelties, as you will learn from our Legates.

‘You know, Brethren, that it was said to the prophet: Cry from the top of the mountaincry, cease not! I, then, urged irresistibly, laying human respect aside, and raising my mind above every earthly consideration, I preach the Gospel, I cry out, yea, I cry out unceasingly, and I make known to you that the Christian religion, the true faith which the Son of God, who came down on the earth, taught us by our Fathers, is in danger of being corrupted by the violence of secular power; that it is on the way to destruction, and to the loss of its primitive character, being thus exposed to be scoffed at, not only by Satan, but by Jews, and Turks, and pagans. The very pagans are observers of their laws, though these cannot profit the soul’s salvation, neither have they been guaranteed by miracles, as ours have been, to which our Eternal King has borne testimony; they keep their laws, and believe them. We Christians, intoxicated with the love of the world, and led astray by vain ambition, make every principle of religion and justice give way to covetousness and pride; we seem as though we had neither law nor sense, for we have not the earnestness our Fathers had for our salvation, and for the glory of both the present and future life; we do not make even them the object of our hopes. If there be some still left who fear God, they only care for their own salvation, and the common good seems not to concern them. Where do we now find persons who labour and toil, or expose their lives by fatigue, out of the motive of the fear or love of the Omnipotent God? whereas we see soldiers of this world’s armies braving all manner of dangers for their masters, their friends, and even their subjects! There are thousands of men to be found who face death for the sake of their liege lord; but when the King of heaven, our Redeemer, is in question, so far from being lavish of their lives, Christians dare not even incur the displeasure of a few scoffers. If there be some (and thanks to the mercy of God there are still a few such left among us)—if, we repeat, there be some who, for the love of the Christian Law, dare to resist the wicked to their face, not only are they unsupported by their brethren, but they are accused of imprudence and indiscretion, and are treated as fools.

‘We, therefore, who are bound, by our position, to destroy vice and implant virtue in the hearts of our brethren, we pray and beseech you, in the Lord Jesus who redeemed us, that you would consider within yourselves, and understand why it is that we have to suffer such anguish and tribulation from the enemies of the Christian religion. From the day when, by the Divine will, the Mother-Church, despite my great unworthiness, and (as God is my witness) despite my own wish, placed me on the Apostolic Throne, the one object of all my labours has been that the Spouse of God, our Mistress and Mother, should recover her just rights, in order that she may be free, chaste and Catholic. But such a line of conduct must have caused extreme displeasure to the old enemy; and therefore has he marshalled against us them that are his members, and has stirred up against us a world-wide opposition. Hence it is that there have been used against us, and against the Apostolic See, efforts of a more violent character than any that have ever been attempted since the days of Constantine the Great. But there is nothing surprising in all this: it is but natural that the nearer we approach to the time of Antichrist, the more furious will be the attempts to annihilate the Christian religion.’[15]

These words vividly describe to us the holy indignation and grief of the great Pontiff, who, at this terrible crisis, stood almost alone against the enemies of God. He was weighed down, he was crushed, by adversity; but conquered, no! From the fortress, within whose walls he had withdrawn the majesty of the Vicar of Christ, he could hear the impious cheers of his people as they followed Henry to the Vatican Basilica, where, at St Peter’s Confession, the mock pope was awaiting his arrival. It was the Palm Sunday of 1085. The sacrilege was committed. On the previous day, Gilbert had dared to ascend the Papal Throne in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran; and on the Sunday, whilst the people held in their hands the palms that glorify the Christ, whose Vicar was Gregory, the anti-pope took the crown of the Christian Empire and put it on the head of the excommunicated Henry. But God was preparing an avenger of his Church. The Pontiff was kept a close prisoner in the fort, and it seemed as though his enemy would soon make him a victim of his rage; when the report suddenly spread through Rome that Robert Guiscard, the valiant Norman chieftain, was marching on towards the City. He had come to fight for the captive Pontiff, and deliver Rome from the tyranny of the Germans. The false Cæsar and his false pope were panic-stricken; they fled, leaving the perjured City to expiate its odious treason in the horrors of a ruthless pillage.

Gregory's heart bled at seeing his people thus treated. It was not in his power to prevent the depredations of the barbarian troops; they had done their work of delivering him from his enemies, but they were not satisfied; they had come to Rome to chastise her, but now they wanted booty, and they were determined to have it. Not only was the Saint powerless to repress these marauders; he was in danger of again falling into Henry's hands, who was meditating a return to Rome, for he made sure that the people's angry humour would secure him a welcome back, and that the Normans would withdraw from the City as soon as it had no more to give them. Gregory therefore, overwhelmed with grief, left the capital; and, shaking off the dust from his feet, he repaired to Monte Cassino, where he sought shelter, and a few hours' repose, with the sons of the great Patriarch St Benedict. The contrast of the peaceful years he spent when a young monk at Cluny, with the storms that had so thickly beset his pontificate, was sure to present itself to his mind. A wanderer and fugitive, and abandoned by all save a few faithful and devoted souls, he was passing through the several stations of his Passion; but his Calvary was not far off, and God was soon to admit him into rest eternal. Before descending the holy mount, he was honoured with the miraculous manifestation which had been witnessed on several previous occasions. Gregory was at the Altar, offering up the Holy Sacrifice; when suddenly a white dove was seen resting on his shoulder, with its beak turned towards his ear, as though it were speaking to him. It was not difficult to recognize, under this expressive symbol, the guidance which the saintly Pontiff received from the Holy Ghost.

It was the early part of the year 1085. Gregory repaired to Salerno, where his troubles and life were to be brought to a close. His bodily strength was gradually failing. He insisted, however, on going through the ceremony of the dedication of the Church of St Matthew the Evangelist, whose body was kept at Salerno He addressed a few words in a feeble voice to the assembled people. He then received the Body and Blood of Christ. Fortified with this lifegiving Viaticum, he returned to the house where he was staying, and threw himself upon the couch, whence he was never to rise again. There he lay, like Jesus on his Cross, robbed of everything, and abandoned by almost the whole world. His last thoughts were for Holy Church. He mentioned to the few Cardinals and Bishops who were with him, three from whom he would recommend his successor to be chosen: Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino, who succeeded him under the title of Victor III; Otho of Chatillon, a monk of Cluny, who was afterwards Urban II, Victor's successor; and the faithful legate, Hugh of Die, whom Gregory had made Archbishop of Lyons.

The bystanders asked the dying Pontiff what were his wishes regarding those whom he had excommunicated. Here again he imitated our Saviour on his Cross—he exercised both mercy and justice. ‘Excepting,’ said he, ‘Henry, and Gilbert the usurper of the Apostolic See, and them that connive at their injustice and impiety, I absolve and bless all those who have faith in my power, as being that of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul.' The thought of the pious and heroic Matilda coming to his mind, he entrusted this devoted daughter of the Roman Church to the care of the courageous Anselm of Lucca; hereby imitating, as the biographer of this holy bishop remarks, our dying Jesus, who consigned Mary to his beloved disciple John. Gregory's last blessing to Matilda drew down upon her thirty years of success and victory.

Though so near his end, Gregory was yet as full of paternal solicitude for the Church as ever he had been. Calling to him, one by one, the faithful few who stood round his couch, he made them promise on oath that they would never acknowledge Henry as Emperor until he had made satisfaction to the Church. Summing up all his energy, he solemnly forbade them to recognize anyone as Pope unless he were elected canonically and in accordance with the rules laid down by the holy Fathers. Then, after a moment of devout recollectedness, he expressed his conformity to the divine Will, which had ordained that his pontificate should be one long martyrdom, and said: ‘I have loved justice and hated iniquity: for which cause, I die in exile!’ One of the bishops who were present, respectfully made him this reply: ‘No, my lord, you cannot die in exile; for, holding the place of Christ and the holy Apostles, you have had given to you the nations for your inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for your possession.'Sublime words! but Gregory heard them not: his soul had winged its flight to heaven, and had received a martyr’s immortal crown.

So that Gregory was conquered by death, as Christ himself had been; but as the Master triumphed over death, so too would he have his disciple triumph. Christianity, which had been insulted in so many forms, rose again in all its grandeur. Nay, on the very day that Gregory breathed his last at Salerno, heaven seemed to give a pledge of this Resurrection; for on that day—May 25, 1085—Alphonsus VI entered, with his victorious troops, into the city of Toledo, and there, after four centuries of slavery under the Saracen yoke, he replanted the Cross of Christ.

But the Church had need of someone who would take Gregory’s place in defending her against oppression. The need was supplied. The martyrdom of our saint was like a seed that produced Pontiffs imbued with his spirit. As he had prepared his own predecessors, he also prepared worthy successors. There are few names on the list of the Popes more glorious than those that begin with Victor III, Gregory's immediate successor, and continue to Boniface VIII inclusively, in whom was recommenced the struggle for which our great Pontiff so heroically lived and died. Scarcely had death put an end to his trials in this vale of tears, than victory came to the Church; for her enemies were defeated, her sacred law of celibacy was everywhere re-enforced, and the canonical election of her bishops was secured by the suppression of investitures and simony.

Gregory had been the instrument used by God for the reformation of the Christian world; and although his memory be held in benediction by all true children of the Church, yet his mission was too grand, and too grandly fulfilled, not to draw down upon him the hatred of Satan. The prince of this world,[16] then, took his revenge. Gregory was of course detested by heretics; but that could scarcely be called an insult; he must be rendered odious to Catholics; Catholics must be made ashamed of him. The devil succeeded, and it may be beyond his expectations. The Church had passed her judgement; but her judgement, her canonization, had no weight with these cowardly, temporizing, half Catholics; and they persisted in calling the Saint, simply and reproachfully, ‘Gregory VII.’ Governments, styling themselves Catholic, forbade his being honoured as a Saint. There were even bishops who issued Pastorals to the same effect. The most eloquent of French preachers declared his pontificate and conduct to be unchristian. There was a time, and that not so very long ago, when these lines would have exposed the writer to a heavy penalty, as being contrary to the law of the land. The lessons of to-day’s feast, which we give on the next page, were suppressed by the Parliament of Paris in the year 1729; and those who dared to recite them were to be punished by the forfeiture of their property. Thank God! all this is now passed; and the name of St Gregory VII is honoured in every country where the Roman Liturgy is in use. Yes, this glorious name will remain now to the end of the world, on the universal Calendar of Holy Church, as one of the brightest glories of Paschal time. May it produce the same enthusiastic admiration, and bring the same blessings, upon the faithful of these our times, as it did on our Catholic forefathers of the Middle Ages!

We will now read the lessons of to-day’s feast wherein the Church speaks to us of the life and actions of our admirable Pontiff: we will read them with all the greater reverence, because they have been scoffed at by men who knew not what they did.[17]

Gregorius papa Septimus, antea Hildebrandus, Suanœ in Etruria natus, doctrina, sanctitate, omnique virtutum genere cumprimis nobilis, mirifice universam Dei illustravit Ecclesiam. Cum parvulus ad fabri ligna edolantis pedes, jam litterarum inscius, luderet, ex rejectis tamen segmentis illa Davidici elementa oraculi: Dominabitur a mari usque ad mare: casu formasse narratur, manum pueri ductante Numine, quo significaretur ejus fore amplissimam in mundo auctoritatem. Romam deinde profectus, sub protectione sancti Petri educatus est. Juvenis Ecclesiae libertatem a laicis oppressam, ac depravatas Ecclesiasticorum mores vehementius dolens, in Cluniacensi monasterio, ubi sub regula sancti Patris Benedicti austerioris vitæ observantia eo tempore maxime vigebat, monachi habitum induens, tanto pietatis ardore divinae Majestati deserviebat, ut a sanctis ejusdem coenobii Patribus Prior sit electus. Sed divina Providentia majora de eo disponente in salutem plurimorum, Cluniaco eductus Hildebrandus, Abbas primum monasterii sancti Pauli extra muros Urbis electus, ac postmodum Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalis creatus, sub summis pontificibus Leone Nono, Victore Secundo, Stephano Nono, Nicolao Secundo et Alexandro Secundo praecipuis muneribus et legationibus perfunctus est, sanctissimi et purissimi consilii vir a beato Petro Damiano nuncupatus. A Victore papa Secundo legatus a latere in Galliam missus, Lugduni episcopum simoniaca labe infectum ad sui criminis confessionem miraculo adegit. Berengarium in concilio Turonensi ad iteratam hæresis abjurationem compulit. Cadaloi quoque schisma sua virtute compressit.

Mortuo Alexandro Secundo, invitus et mærens unanimi omnium consensu, decimo kalendas Maii, anno Christi millesimo septuagesimo tertio, summus Pontifex electus, sicut sol effulsit in domo Dei: nam potens opere et sermone, ecclesiasticae disciplinae reparandae, fidei propagandae, libertati Ecclesiae restituendae, extirpandis erroribus et corruptelis tanto studio incubuit, ut ex Apostolorum aetate nullus Pontificum fuisse tradatur, qui majores pro Ecclesia Dei labores molestiasque pertulerit, aut qui pro ejus libertate acrius pugnaverit. Aliquot provincias a simoniaca labe expurgavit. Contra Henrici imperatoris impios conatus fortis per omnia athleta impavidus permansit, seque pro muro domui Israel ponere non timuit, ac eumdem Henricum in profundum malorum prolapsum, fidelium communione regnoque privavit, atque subditos populos fide ei data liberavit.

Dum missarum solemnia perageret, visa est viris piis columba e coelo delapsa humero ejus dextro insidens alis extensis caput ejus velare, quo significatum est Spiritus Sancti afflatu, non humanae prudentiae rationibus ipsum duci in Ecclesiae regimine. Cum ab iniqui Henrici exercitu Roma gravi obsidione premeretur, excitatum ab hostibus incendium signo crucis exstinxit. De ejus manu tandem a Roberto Guiscardo duce Northmanno ereptus, Cassinum se contulit; atque inde Salernum ad dedicandam Ecclesiam sancti Matthœi Apostoli contendit. Cum aliquando in ea civitate sermonem habuisset ad populum, aerumnis confectus in morbum incidit, quo se interiturum praescivit. Postrema morientis Gregorii verba fuere: Dilexi justitiam et odivi iniquitatem, propterea morior in exilio. Innumerabilia sunt quæ vel fortiter sustinuit, vel multis coactis in Urbe synodis sapienter constituit vir vere sanctus, criminum vindex, et acerrimus Ecclesiae defensor. Exactis itaque in pontificatu annis duodecim, migravit in coelum, anno salutis millesimo octogesimo quinto, pluribus in vita et post mortem miraculis clarus, ejusque sacrum corpus in cathedrali basilica Salernitana est honorifice conditum.

Pope Gregory the Seventh, whose baptismal name was Hildebrand, was born at Soana in Tuscany. He excelled in learning, sanctity, and every virtue, and rendered extraordinary service to the whole Church of God. It is related of him that when he was a little boy, he happened to be at play in a carpenter’s shop; when, though he knew not his alphabet, gathering together the waste pieces of wood, he arranged them so that they formed these words of David’s prophecy: He shall rule from sea to sea. It was God who guided the child's hand, and signified that at some future time Gregory was to exercise an authority that would extend over the whole world. He afterwards went to Rome, and was educated under the protection of St Peter. He was intensely grieved at finding the liberty of the Church crushed by lay interference, and at beholding the depraved lives of the clergy; he, therefore, whilst still young, retired to the monastery of Cluny, where strict monastic discipline was then in full vigour, under the Rule of the holy Father Benedict. He there received the habit. So fervent was he in the service of the divine majesty, that the holy Religious of that Monastery chose him as their Prior. But divine Providence having, for the general good, destined him to a higher work, Hildebrand was taken from Cluny, and was first made Abbot of the monastery of St Paul’s outside the walls of Rome, and afterwards was created Cardinal of the Roman Church. He was entrusted with offices and missions of the highest importance under Popes Leo the Ninth, Victor the Second, Stephen the Ninth, Nicholas the Second, and Alexander the Second. St Peter Damian used to call him the most holy and upright counsellor. Having been sent into France, as Legate ă latere, by Pope Victor the Second, he compelled the Archbishop of Lyons by a miracle to own that he had been guilty of simony. He also obliged Berengarius to repeat his abjuration of heresy at a Council held at Tours. The schism of Cadalous was also repressed by his energetic measures.

At the death of Alexander the Second, in spite of his own repugnance, and to his great sorrow, he was chosen as Sovereign Pontiff, by unanimous vote on the tenth of the Kalends of May, in the year of our Lord 1073. He shone as the sun in the house of God; for being mighty in work and word, he applied himself to the renovation of ecclesiastical discipline, to the propagation of faith, to the restoration of the Church’s liberty, and to the extirpation of false doctrines and scandals, but all this with so much zeal, that it may truly be said that no Pontiff, since the time of the Apostles, ever laboured or suffered more for God's Church, or fought more strenuously for liberty for that same Church. He drove simony out of several provinces. Like a dauntless soldier, he bravely withstood the impious designs of the Emperor Henry, and feared not to set himself as a wall for the defence of the house of Israel; and when Henry had plunged himself into the abyss of crime, Gregory deprived him of communion with the faithful and of his kingdom, and absolved his subjectsfrom their oath of allegiance.

At times, when he was saying Mass, several holy persons saw a dove come down from heaven, rest upon his right shouider, and cover his head with its wings. Hereby was signified that Gregory, in governing the Church, was guided by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and not by the suggestions of human prudence. When Rome was closely besieged by the wicked Henry's army, the Pontiff, by the sign of the Cross, quenched a conflagration that had been raised by the besiegers. When, afterwards, he was delivered from his enemy by the Norman chieftain, Robert Guiscard, Gregory repaired to Monte Cassino, and thence to Salerno, that he might dedicate the Church of St Matthew the Apostle. After preaching a sermon to the people of that town, he fell ill, for he was worn out by care. He had the presentiment that this would be his last sickness. The last words of the dying Pontiff were these: ‘I have loved justice, and hated iniquity: for which cause I die in exile!’ Innumerable were the trials he courageously went through. He held several synods in the city of Rome, and enacted regulations full of wisdom. He was, in all truth, a saintly man, an avenger of crime, and a most vigorous defender of the Church. After a pontificate of twelve years, he left this earth for heaven in the year of our Redemption 1085. Many miracles were wrought by him, and through his merits, both before and after his death. His holy remains were buried, with all due honour, in the Cathedral Church of Salerno

The following Responsories, which we select from an Office for his feast, celebrate the struggles and triumphs of the holy Pontiff:

℟. Gregorius primo tempore Hildebrandus, nomen ignis sortitus est, non sine grandi præsagio futurorum:
* Qui divini eloquii jaculo ingruentes hostes a domo Dei propulsavit.

℣. Nomine praetulit incendium, quod exhibuit ferventi charitate.
* Qui divini eloquii jaculo ingruentes hostes a domo Dei propulsavit.

℟. Cernens juvenis saeculum peccatis inveteratum, nec inveniens ubi cor suum requiesceret, patrium solum reliquit:
* Et ad partes Gallorum transiens, soli Deo sub Cluniacensi disciplina militare decrevit.
℣. Fide egressus est de terra sua, quærens civitatem cujus artifex et conditor Deus.
* Et ad partes Gallorum transiens, soli Deo sub Cluniacensi disciplina militare decrevit.

℟. Leo pontifex sanctus, cujus animum Hildebrandus accenderat, hunc in partem sollicitudinis vocavit:
* Et amborum concordia Dominicus ager jam reflorescere cœpit.
℣. Hildebrandus, sanctissimi et purissimi consilii, in adversis visus est fortis, in prosperis temperatus.
* Et amborum concordia Dominicus ager jam reflorescere coepit.

℟. Spiritualis agricola, Leo pontifex, tanti palmitis feracitatem admiratus, in eo mansionem Christi per impositionem levitici ordinis dilatavit:
* Et Apostolico mandato, Hildebrandus Romanae Ecclesiae Archidiaconus effulsit.
℣. Qui die noctuque saluti Ecclesiae invigilans, minori considens loco. quinque Pontificibus mirum in modum profuit.
* Et Apostolico mandato, Hildebrandus Romanae Ecclesiae Archidiaconus effulsit.

℟. Invitum tandem Gregorium Romana Ecclesia ad sua gubernacula traxit:
* Qui potius voluisset vitam in peregrinatione finire, quam Petri locum pro mundi gloria conscendere.
℣. Nec sibi sumpsit honorem, sed a Deo vocatus est tanquam Aaron.
* Qui potius voluisset vitam in peregrinatione finire, quam Petri locum pro mundi gloria conscendere.

℟. Vineam Domini exercituum, quam plantavit dextera ejus, exterminavit aper de silva, et singularis ferus depastus est eam:
* Accingere gladio tuo super femur tuum, fidelissime.
℣. Si angelos judicaturus es, quanto magis saecularia?
* Accingere gladio tuo super femur tuum, fidelissime.

℟. Rex castellum ingressus, deposito cultu regio, jejunus a mane usque ad vesperam perstabat; indutus laneis, et nudis pedibus,
* Apostolicæ miserationis auxilium implorabat.
℣. Qui dixerat in corde suo: Super altare Dei exaltabo solium meum, sedebo in monte testamenti.
* Apostolicæ miserationis auxilium implorabat.

℟. Dixit Gregorius ad Henricum regém: Ecce Corpus Dominicum; fiat hodie experimentum innocentiæ meæ:
* Fac ergo, fili, si placet, quod me facere vidisti.
℣. Nec ausus est rex manum extendere, ut acciperet Sancta sanctorum.
* Fac ergo, fili, si placet, quod me facere vidisti.

℟. Dum beatus Gregorius Missarum solemnia celebraret, nivei candoris columba sacro altari protinus astitit: quæ inde leviter advolans,
* Supra dextrum Pontificis humerum recubuit, alis expansis.
℣. Et tamdiu sic perstitit quousque sacri mysterii commixtio in calice fieret.
* Supra dextrum Pontificis humerum recubuit, alis expansis.

℟. Cum ultimi doloris luctam inchoasset beatus Gregorius, astantibus dixit: Nullos labores meos alicujus momenti facio:
* In hoc solummodo confidens, quod semper dilexi justitiam et odivi iniquitatem.
℣. Et elevatis in coelum oculis, ait: Illuc ascendam, et obnixis precibus Deo propitio vos committam.
* In hoc solummodo confidens, quod semper dilexi justitiam, et odivi iniquitatem.

℟. Pontifex sanctissimus cum doleret se mori in exsilio, quidam venerabilis episcopus ait: In exsilio mori non potes, qui vice Christi et Apostolorum ejus,
* Accepisti gentes in hæreditatem, et possessionem tuam terminos terrae.
℣. Dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
* Accepisti gentes in hæreditatem, et possessionem tuam terminos terrae.
℟. Gregory, who was previously known as Hildebrand, received the name that signifies fire, and it was a great presage of his future:
* For by the dart of his divine word, he drove from the house of God the enemies that attacked it.
℣. His name meant fire, and he fulfilled it by his burning charity.
* For by the dart of the divine word, he drove from the house of God the enemies that attacked it.

℟. When young, seeing that the world had grown old in sin, and finding not where his heart could rest, he left his native land:
* And passing into France, he resolved to serve no other master but God under the discipline of Cluny.
℣. By faith he went out from his own land, looking for the city that had God for builder and maker.
* And passing into France, he resolved to serve no other master but God under the discipline of Cluny.

℟. The holy Pontiff Leo called to share his own solicitude that Hildebrand who had inspired him with courage:
* And by the united labours of the two, the garden of the Lord began to bloom afresh.
℣. Hildebrand, the most holy and upright counsellor, was courageous in adversity, and temperate in prosperity.
* And by the united labours of the two, the garden of the Lord began to bloom afresh.

℟. Pope Leo, the spiritual husbandman, was in admiration at the fruitfulness of so rich a branch, and gave him, by ordaining him a Levite, a fuller indwelling of Christ:
* And by an order of the Apostolic See, Hildebrand was honoured with the dignity of Archdeacon of the Roman Church.
℣. Vigilant, day and night, for the welfare of the Church, he, though holding the last place himself, gave wonderful aid to five Pontiffs.
* And by an order of the Apostolic See, Hildebrand was honoured with the dignity of Archdeacon of the Roman Church.

℟. At length the Roman Church called him to govern her, though it was against his will:
* For he would have preferred to end his days in banishment, rather than ascend Peter’s throne from a motive of worldly glory.
℣. Neither did he take the honour to himself, but, like Aaron, was called by God.
* For he would have preferred to end his days in banishment, rather than ascend Peter’s throne from a motive of worldly glory.

℟. A boar from the wood hath laid waste the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, which his right hand hath planted; and a singular wild beast hath devoured it.
* Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most faithful one!
℣. If thou art to judge even angels, how much more the things of this world? * Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most faithful one!

℟. The king having entered the fortress, laid aside his royal robes; and fasting from morn till evening, clad in a woollen vest, and barefooted,
* He implored pardon and aid from the Apostolic See.
℣. He that had said in his heart: I will exalt my throne above the altar of God, I will sit on the mountain of the covenant:
* He implored pardon and aid from the Apostolic See.

℟. Gregory said to King Henry: Lo! here is the Body of the Lord: let it be, this day, the test of my innocence:
*Thou therefore, my son, if so it please thee, do what thou hast seen me do.
℣. But the king dared not to stretch out his hand, and take the Holy of holies.
* Thou therefore, my son, if so it please thee, do what thou hast seen me do.

℟. When the blessed Gregory was one day celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass, a snowwhite dove suddenly lighted on the holy altar; and, nimbly flying thence,
* It rested on the Pontiff’s right shoulder, with its wings extended.
℣. And so it remained until the mingling of the sacred mystery in the chalice.
* It rested on the Pontiff's right shoulder, with its wings extended.

℟. When the blessed Gregory was suffering his last agony, he said to them that were present: I make no account of any of my trials:
* In this alone have I confidence: that I have always loved justice, and hated iniquity.
℣. And raising his eyes to heaven, he said: Thither shall I ascend, and I will commend you, with earnest prayer, to the God of mercy.
* In this alone have I confidence: that I have always loved justice and hated iniquity.

℟. When the holy Pontiff grieved at his dying in exile, a venerable bishop said to him: Thou canst not die in exile, for, holding the place of Christ and his Apostles,
* Thou hast had given to thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
℣. He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
* Thou hast had given to thee the nations for thine inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.

We unite in one three hymns that celebrate the virtues and services of St Gregory VII:

Hymn

Te triumphanti celebramus ore,
Inclytum Romæ jubar, o Gregori;
Corde qui magno superans procellas,
Littora tangis.

Gaudeat coetus Benedicti patris,
Qui tot et tantos generavit orbi
Filios: nullus simili refulsit
Laude verendus.

Nuntium latae ditionis adfert
Dextra ludentis pueri, dolantem
Dum secus fabrum, Domino regente,
Segmine scribit.

Alta conscendas, Pater; oriaris
Sol novus mundum radiis serenans:
Pontifex Petri sedeas cathedra,
Arbiter orbis.

In latebrosos fugiant recessus,
Quotquot hostili rabie furentes,
In gregem Christi satagunt nefanda
Tela vibrare.

En adest pastor vigil et superno
Spiritu plenus: giadioque verbi
Conteret tetros zabuli minantis
Fortiter astus.

Jam Sicambrorum dominator audax
Gestit Henricus, monitis supremi
Patris abscedens, veterum furorum
Flare favillas.

Sed reluctantem cohibes, Gregori,
E sacra fulmen jaculatus arce:
Et potestatis tumidos caducae
Despicis ausus.

Mox ab indignis manibus revulsa
Sceptra regnantis regimenque transfers,
A fide cives relevans tyranno
Jure negata.

Pontifex magnus, populo stupente.
Sub columbina specie, loquentis
Spiritus Sancti documenta sensit,
Actibus implet.

Fortis occurrit mulier Mathildis,
Quæ, patri summo tribuens juvamen,
Inclytae Sedis, studio fideli,
Jura tuetur.

Triticum cernens loliis, scatere
Præsul, et messem manibus profanis
Objici; zelo rapiente, sævit,
Alter Elias.

Ut viam currant patriae supernae
Libero gressu populi fideles,
Anteit pastor, propriam paratus
Tradere vitam.

Murus Israel domui stetisti.
Criminum vindex, columenque Romæ,
Inter aerumnas placida, Gregori,
Morte potiris.

Martyres pergis prope, laureatus;
Firmus et constans, fidei tenacem,
O Pater, praebes animum: triumphi
Gaudia sumas.

Sis memor chari gregis, et patronus
Sis ad aeternam Triadem, precamur:
Cuncta cui dignas resonent per orbem
Saecula laudes.

Amen.
In hymns of triumph we celebrate thy memory,
O Gregory, thou bright ray of Rome’s glory!
With a brave heart thou didst master
the storm and reach the shore.

Let the family of the Patriarch Benedict,
that has given so many and such noble children to the world
—yes, let it rejoice in this son,
than whom there never lived one worthier of praise.

He, when playing as a boy,
foretold his future sway;
he wrote it with the fragments that lay beneath a carpenter's feet,
and God guided his hand.

Arise, then, O Father! yea, rise as a new sun upon this world,
and gladden it with thy beams.
Thy throne, OPontiff, judge of the world,
is to be the Chair of Peter.

Let them now hide themselves and flee, who, with hostile rage,
were rushing ’gainst the flock of Christ,
and had their sacrilegious weapons
raised to dart them at his Church.

For lo! there is a shepherd come, vigilant and full of the Spirit from on high:
he has the sword of the Word;
and with its power he will crush the dark plots
wherewith Satan threatens our peace.

Henry, the audacious ruler of the Germans,
heedless of the counsels of the holy Father,
strives to fan the flame
of ancient persecution.

But thou, Gregory, didst from the holy citadel
cast against the disobedient prince
the thunderbolt that checked his pride.
What was the haughty daring of mortal power to thee!

Then from his unworthy hands
thou didst take the royal sceptre and command,
and absolve his subjects
from the fealty forfeited by the tyrant’s crimes.

This great Pontiff was seen, by the wondering people,
to receive from the Holy Ghost,
who appeared under the shape of a dove,
the inspirations that guided his acts.

The valiant woman, Matilda,
came to the assistance of the Sovereign Pontiff,
and, with faithful zeal,
defended the rights of the Holy See.

Perceiving that the wheat was choked with tares,
and that the harvest was in the hands of worthless men,
Gregory, like another Elias,
was impelled by zeal to holy indignation.

That the faithful might, with unfettered action,
tread the path to their heavenly country,
the shepherd led the way,
ready to give his life for his sheep.

Thou wast a wall unto the house of Israel,
the avenger of crime and the pillar of Rome!
But, after all thy trials,
thy death, O Gregory, was peaceful.

Thou wearest on thy brow a laurel-wreath like that of the martyrs.
Thy soul, O Father, was firm and true
and unflinching in the faith:
well dost thou deserve a conqueror's triumphant joy.

Be mindful, we beseech thee, of the much-loved flock,
and intercede for us to the Eternal Three
to whom may every age give worthy praise
throughout the world's wide range.

Amen.

Our Paschal joy is increased by thy triumph, O Gregory! for in thee we recognize an image of him who by the announcement of his glorious Resurrection, raised the world from its fallen state. Divine Providence had prepared thy pontificate, and made it an era of regeneration for society, which was then oppressed by the tyranny of barbarism. Thy courage was founded on confidence in Jesus' word; and nothing could daunt thee. Thy reign on the Apostolic See was one long combat; and because thou hatedst iniquity and lovedst justice, thou hadst to die an exile. But in thee was fulfilled the prophecy which had been spoken of thy divine Master: If he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed.[18] A glorious succession of six and thirty Popes continued the work which thy heroism had begun: the Church had regained her liberty, and might was made subservient to right. It was a period of triumph: it passed, war was again declared, and has never. since ceased. Kings and Emperors and Governments have rebelled against the spiritual power; they have thrown off obedience to the Vicar of Christ; they have refused to acknowledge the control of any authority on earth. The people, on their part, have revolted against their Governments, that is, against a power which has ceased to have any visible and sacred connection with God; and this twofold revolt is now hurrying society on to destruction.

This world belongs to Christ, for he is the King of kingsand Lord of lords,[19] and to him hath been given all power in heaven and in earth.[20] It matters not who they may be that rebel against him—be they kings or be they people, they must inevitably be chastised, just as were the Jewish people who said in their pride: We will not have this Man to reign over us![21]Pray, O Gregory, for this world which thou didst rescue from barbarism, and which is now striving to relapse into degradation. The men of this generation are ever talking of liberty; it is in the name of this pretended liberty that they have unchristianized society; and the only means now left for maintaining order is outward violence and force. Thou didst triumph over brute force by making the laws of right acknowledged and loved; thou gavest the world what it had lost—the liberty of the sons of God, the liberty of doing one’s duty—and it lasted for ages. O come, noble-hearted Pontiff! aid this Europe of ours a second time. Beseech our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive the wickedness of them that have driven him from the world, and scoff at his threat of returning on the day of his triumph and his justice. Yes, pray him to have mercy on the thousands among us who call themselves Christians, and perhaps are so, yet who are led astray by the absurd sophistry of the times, by blind prejudice, by a godless education, by high-sounding and vague words, and who call by the name of progress the system of keeping men as far as possible from the end for which God created them.

From the abode of peace, where thou art now resting after thy labours, look with an eye of affectionate pity on Holy Church, whose path is beset by countless difficulties. Everything conspires against her: remnants of bygone laws that were made in times of persecution; the frenzy of pride, which chafes at everything that favours subordination of rank or authority; and the determination to secularize society by scouting every element of the supernatural. In the midst of this storm of irreligion, the Rock on which thou, O Gregory, didst once hold the place of Peter, is furiously beaten by the waves of persecution. Pray for our holy Father, the Vicar of Christ. Pray that the threatening scourge may be turned aside from Rome. The followers of Satan, as St John prophesies in the Apocalypse, are come upon the breadth of the earth, and have encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved City.[22] This Holy City was thy Spouse, when thou wast Pontiff here on earth; watch over her now. Disconcert the plots that are laid for her ruin. Rouse the zeal of the children of the Church, that by their courage and generous offerings they may labour for the noblest cause on earth.

Pray, too, for the episcopal Order, of which the Apostolic See is the source. The anointed of the Lord have never had greater need of thine intercession than now, when they have to contend with a world that has openly divorced itself from the laws of God and his Church. May they be endued with strength from on high; courageous in the confession of truth; and zealous in warning the faithful against the errors that are now so rife against faith and morals. The power of the Church in these our days is confined to the sanctuary of the souls of her devoted children; external support is everywhere denied her. The Holy Ghost, whose mission is to maintain the Church of Christ, will indeed assist her even to the consummation of the world; but he does his work by instruments, and these must be men who are detached from the world, men who are not afraid to be unpopular, and men who are resolved at every risk to proclaim the teachings of the Sovereign Pontiff. Great, by the mercy of God, is now the number of pastors of the Church, who are all that he would have them be, who is the Prince of Pastors,[23] as St Peter calls him. Pray for all, that all may, like thee, love justice and hate iniquity, love truth and hate error; and fear neither exile, nor persecution, nor death: for the disciple is not above the Master![24]


[1] Apoc. xiii 7.
[2] Ps. xciii 19.
[3] Data Romœnonis MaiiIndictione 1 (1078).
[4] Ibid., Kalendis MartiiIndictione 12 (1074).
[5] St Luke xxii 32.
[6] Data Romœ, 7 Idus DecembrisIndictione 13 (1074).
[7] December 16, 1074, Jaffe, Monumenta Gregoriana, p. 532.
[8] 1 Cor. xiii 5.
[9] Data Romæ, 14 Kalendas Martii (1074).
[10] St Anselmus, Epist., lib. ii 31.
[11] Cant. i 4.
[12] 1075, Jaffe, p.533.
[13] Ps. cix 7.
[14] Ps. ii 2.
[15] 1084, Jaffe, p. 572.
[16] St John xii 31.
[17] St Luke xxiii 34.
[18] Isa. liii 10.
[19] 1 Tim. vi 15.
[20] St Matt. xxviii 18.
[21] St Luke xix 14.
[22] Apoc. xx 8.
[23] 1 St Pet. v 4.
[24] St Matt. x 24.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS day is honoured by the triumph of two sainted Popes; and Gregory VII, when he quitted this earth, was introduced into the court of Heaven by one of his predecessors. Urban was a martyr by the shedding of his blood; Gregory was a martyr by the sufferings he had to endure during his whole pontificate. Both fought' for the same glorious cause. Urban laid down his life rather than obey an earthly potentate, who bade him degrade himself by adoring an idol; Gregory preferred to endure every temporal suffering rather than allow the Church to be the slave of Cæsar. Both of them adorn the Paschal season with their beautiful palms. Our Risen Jesus said to Peter: Follow me![1]—and Peter followed him, even to the cross. Urban and Gregory were Peter’s successors, and like him, they were the devoted disciples of the same divine Master. We honour them both on this day; and, in their triumph, we have a proof of the invincible power which, in every age, the Conqueror of death has communicated to them whom he appointed to bear testimony to the truth of his Resurrection.

The labours and merits of the holy Pope Urban are thus commemorated in the Liturgy:

Urbanus Romanus, Alexandro Severo Imperatore, doctrina et vitæ sanctitate multos ad Christi fidem convertit: in illis Valerianum, beatæ Caeciliae sponsum, et Tiburtium Valeriani fratrem, qui postea martyrium forti animo subierunt. Hic de bonis Ecclesiae attributis scripsit his verbis: Ipsae res fidelium, quæ Domino offeruntur, non debent in alios usus quam ecclesiasticos, et Christianorum fratrum, vel indigentium, converti: quia vota sunt fidelium, et pretia peccatorum, ac patrimonia pauperum. Sedit annos sex, menses septem, dies quatuor: ac martyrio coronatus, sepultus est in coemeterio Praetextati, octavo Kalendas junii. Ordinationibus quinque habitis mense decembri, creavit presbyteros novem, diaconos quinque, episcopos per diversa loca octo.
Urban, a Roman by birth, governed the Church during the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. By his learning and holy life, he converted many to the Christian faith. Among these were Valerian, the husband of St Cecily, and Tiburtius, Valerian’s brother; both of whom, afterwards, courageously suffered martyrdom. Urban wrote these words regarding property that is given to the Church: ' Things that have been offered to the Lord by the faithful should not be put to any other use than such as is for the benefit of the Church, the Brethren in the Christian faith, or the poor: because they are the offerings of the faithful, the return made for sin, and the patrimony of the poor.’ He reigned six years, seven months, and four days. He was crowned with martyrdom, and was buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus, on the eighth,of the Calends of June (May 25). In five ordinations held in the Decembers of different years, he ordained nine priests, five deacons, and eight bishops for divers places.

Holy Pontiff! the joy of this day of thy triumph is enhanced by its being the anniversary of the entrance into heaven of thy illustrious successor Gregory. Thou hadst watched his combats here on earth, and his courage delighted thee, as being equal to that of the martyrs. He, when dying at Salerno, thought of thy martyrdom, and the thought inspired him with energy for his last trial. How admirable is the union that exists between the Church triumphant and militant! How sublime the brotherhood that exists between the Saints! What a joy it is for us to know that we may share in it! Our Risen Jesus invites us to be united with him for all eternity. Each generation is sending him its elect, and they cluster around him, for he is their Head, and they are the members that complete his mystical body. He is the first-born of the dead;[2] and he will give us to share in his life, in proportion to our having imitated him in his sufferings and death. Pray, O Urban, that we may become more and more inflamed with the desire of being with him who is the waythe truth, and the life;[3] that we may be detached from earthly things, and comport ourselves here below as men who believe themselves to be exiles, absent from the Lord.[4]


[1] St John xxi 19.
[2] Apoc. i 5.
[3] St John xiv 6.
[4] 2 Cor. v 6.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS same nineteenth of May has another glory attached to it; it is the day on which died the noble virgin Pudentiana. That name carries us back to the very first age of the Christian Church. She was a daughter of a wealthy Roman, called Pudens, a kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by St Paul, in his second Epistle to Timothy.[1] She and her sister Praxedes had the honour of being numbered among the earliest members of the Church, and both of them consecrated their virginity to Jesus Christ. Upon their father’s death, the two sisters distributed their fortune to the poor, and devoted their whole time to good works. It was the eve of the persecution under Antoninus. Pudentiana, though scarcely sixteen years of age, was ripe for heaven, and winged her flight to her divine Spouse when the storm was at its height. Her sister survived her many years: we shall commemorate her saintly memory on July 21.

Pudentiana’s house, which in her grandfather’s time had been honoured by St Peter’s presence, was made over by the holy virgin herself to Pope Pius I, and the divine mysteries were celebrated in it. It is now one of the most venerable churches of Rome, and is the Station for the Tuesday of the third week of Lent.

Pudentiana is a tender floweret offered to our Risen Jesus by the Roman Church. Time has diminished nought of the fair lily’s fragrance; and pure as her very name, her memory will live in the hearts of the Christian people even to the end of the world.

The eulogy passed upon her by the holy Liturgy is but a commemoration; and yet says so much, and will say it each year, as long as time itself shall last.

Pudentiana virgo, Pudentis Romani filia, parentibus orbata, cum admirabili pietate Christianam religionem coleret, una cum sorore Praxede pecuniam ex vendito patrimonio redactam pauperibus distribuit, seque jejuniis et orationibus dedit. Cujus etiam opera tota ejus familia, in qua erant nonaginta sex homines, a Pio Pontifice baptizata est. Quod autem ab Antonino Imperatore sancitum erat, ne Christiani publice sacrificia facerent, Pius Pontifex in ædibus Pudentianae cum Christianis sacra celebrabat. Quibus illa benigne acceptis, quæ ad vitam necessaria essent suppeditabat. Itaque in his Christianae pietatis officiis migravit e vita, et in sepulchro patris, ad coemeterium Priscillae via Salaria sepulta est, decimo quarto kalendas Junii.
The virgin Pudentiana was daughter of the Roman (senator) Pudens. Having lost her parents, and being most exemplary in her practice of the Christian Religion, she sold her possessions with the consent of her sister Praxedes, gave the money to the poor, and devoted herself to fasting and prayer. It was through her influence that her whole household, which consisted of ninety-six persons, was baptized by Pope Pius. In consequence of the decree issued by the emperor Antoninus, which forbade the Christians to offer sacrifice publicly, Pope Pius celebrated the holy mysteries in Pudentiana's house, and the Christians assembled there to assist at the celebration. She received them with much charity, and provided them with all the necessaries of life. She died in the practice of these pious and Christian duties, and on the fourteenth of the Kalends of June (May 19), was buried in her father’s tomb, in the Cemetery of Priscilla, which is on the Salarian Way.

Like the dove of Noe’s Ark, that found not where to rest her feet on the guilty earth, thou didst take thy flight, O Pudentiana, and rest in the bosom of Jesus, thy Spouse. Thus will it be at the end of the world, when the souls of the elect shall have been reunited to their bodies: they will fly like eagles to their King, and will cluster around him as the object of all their desires.[2]They will flee from this sinful earth, as thou didst from the abominations of pagan Rome, that was drunk with the blood of the martyrs.[3] We celebrate thy departure, dear youthful Saint, with a feeling of hope for our own future deliverance; we honour thy entrance into thy eternal home, and we long to be there, together with thee. Oh! gain for us detachment from 

all transitory things, intenser love of the new life which came to us with Easter, and indifference as to what concerns that other lower life, which is not that of our Risen Lord. Thou wast a daughter of the holy Church of Rome; pray, then, for thy mother. She is suffering now as she did during the pontificate of Pius I. After having reigned over Christian nations for centuries, she is now abandoned and disowned by the very people that owe all they have to her, and yet are now turning her own blessings against her. Use thine influence, O Pudentiana! assist and protect thine and our dearest mother.


[1] Tim. iv 21.
[2] St Matt. xxiv 28.
[3] Apoc. xvii 6.

 

Articles...