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The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Lent, visit here.

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

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

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

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

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

Solesmes, May 10, 1879.


For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.

Introduction to the Season of advent

Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS

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

Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima

Introduction to the Season of Lent

Introduction to passiontide and holy week

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Seraph of Assisi was sure to depute some of his children to pay their court to his Risen Master. The one he sends to-day is the humblest and most obscure of men; another will follow, three days hence, powerful in word and work, and holding a palm in his hands, as a most devoted preacher of the Gospel. Paschal Baylon was a simple peasant. He was a shepherd-boy; and it was in tending his flock that he found the Lord Jesus. He had a great love for contemplation. Forests and fields spoke to him of their great Creator; and, in order that he might be the more closely united with him, he resolved to seek him in the highest paths of perfection. He was ambitious to imitate the humble, poor and suffering life of the ManGod; the Franciscan Cloister offered him the opportunity of satisfying this desire and he flew to it. On that blessed soil, he grew to be one of heaven's choicest plants, and the whole earth has now heard the name of the humble lay-brother of a little convent in Spain. Holy Church brings him before us to-day enraptured in the contemplation of Jesus' Resurrection. He had trod the path of humiliation and the cross; it was but just that he should share in his Master's triumph. It was of him, and of such as he, that this divine Saviour spoke, when he said: Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations; and I dispose to youas my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and may sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.[1]

The account given by the Liturgy of the angelic life of this illustrious son of St Francis is as follows:

Paschalis Baylon, pauperibus piisque parentibus in oppido Turris Formosæ Seguntinæ Dioecesis in Aragonia natus, a teneris annis plura dedit futurae sanctitatis indicia. Sortitus animam bonam, ac rerum coelestium apprime studiosam, pueritiam atque adolescentiam in gregis custodia transegit; quam ille vivendi rationem ideo praecipue diligebat, quod humilitati fovendae, ac innocentiae conservandae imprimis utilem atque opportunam judicaret. Erat in victu modicus, in oratione assiduus, tantaque apud coaevos et socios florebat auctoritate et gratia, ut eorum lites componens, errores corrigens, ignorantiam erudiens, ac desidiam excitans, velut omnium parens, et magister maximo studio coleretur ac amaretur: Beatus etiam tum a plerisque appellatus.

Qui vero in saeculo, terra nempe deserta et inaquosa, adeo feliciter adoleverat, flos convallium, plantatus in domo Domini, mirum ubique sparsit sanctitatis odorem. Igitur Paschalis arrepto vitæ severioris instituto, atque in ordine Minorum strictioris observantiae discalceatorum cooptatus, exsultavit ut gigas ad currendam viam suam, totumque se Domino excolendum tradens, dies noctesque cogitabat, qua se ratione magis ei magisque conformaret. Ita factum est brevi, ut eum tanquam seraphicæ perfectionis exemplar, ipsi quoque provectiores imitandum sibi proponerent. Ipse autem in humili servientium gradu constitutus, se velut omnium peripsema reputans, ardua quæque et abjecta domus ministeria veluti jure quodam peculiari sibi debita summa cum hilaritate suscipiebat et exercebat, humilitate ac patientia pari. Carnem spiritui quandoque reluctari nitentem jugi maceratione afflictavit, atque in servitutem redegit; spiritum vero assidua sui abnegatione ferventiorem in dies ad anteriora extendebat.

Deiparam Virginem, cujus clientelae se ab ineunte aetate dicaverat, tanquam matrem quotidianis colebat obsequiis, atque filiali exorabat fiducia. Porro erga sanctissimum Eucharistiae Sacramentum difficile dictu est quam ardenti teneretur devotionis affectu: quem defunctus etiam in cadavere retinere visus est, dum jacens in feretro, ad sacrae Hostiae elevationem bis oculos reseravit et clausit, magna omnium qui aderant admiratione. Ejusdem veritatem inter haereticos publice palamque professus, multa et gravia ob eam causam perpessus est; crebro etiam ad necem petitus, sed singulari Dei providentia impiorum manibus ereptus. Saepe inter orandum omnibus destituebatur sensibus, dulcique languebat amoris deliquio; quo tempore coelestem illam scientiam hausisse creditus est, qua homo rudis et illitteratus, de mysteriis Fidei difficillimis respondere, atque aliquot etiam libros conscribere potuit. Denique meritis plenus, eadem qua prœdixerat hora, feliciter migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo nonagesimo secundo, sexto decimo kalendas Junii, eodem quo natus fuerat, Festo Pentecostes recurrente, annum agens secundum supra quinquagesimum. Quibus, aliisque virtutibus insignem, ac miraculis tam in vita quam post mortem clarum, Paulus Quintus Pontifex Maximus illum Beatum appellavit: Alexander autem Octavus Sanctorum catalogo adscripsit. Tandem Leo decimus tertius peculiarem coetuum eucharisticorum, item societatum omnium a sanctissima Eucharistia, sive quæ hactenus institutae, sive quœ in posterum futurae sunt, Patronum caelestem declaravit et constituit.

Paschal Baylon was bom of poor and pious parents, at TorreHermosa, a small town of the diocese of Siguenza, in Aragon. Even from his infancy he gave many signs of future sanctity. He was endowed with a good disposition, and had a great love for the contemplation of heavenly things. He passed the years of boyhood and youth in tending flocks. He loved this kind of life more than any other, because it seemed to him the best for fostering humility and preserving innocence. He was temperate in his food, and assiduous in prayer. He had such influence over his acquaintance and companions, and was so dear to them, that he used to settle their disputes, correct their faults, instruct their ignorance and keep them out of idleness. He was honoured and loved by them as their father and master; and even then was often called the blessed Paschal.

Thus did this flower of the valley bloom in the world, that desert and parched land; but once planted in the house of the Lord, he shed everywhere around him a wondrous odour of sanctity. Having embraced the severest sort of life by entering the Order of the Discalced Friars Minor of strict observance, Paschal rejoiced as a giant to run his way. Devoting himself wholly to the service of his God, his one thought both day and night was how he could further imitate his divine Master. His brethren, even they that were most advanced, soon began to look upon him as a model of seraphic perfection. As for him, he put himself in the grade of the lay-brothers. Looking on himself as the off-scouring of all, he cheerfully took on himself with humility and patience the most tiring and menial work of the house, which work he used to say belonged to him by a special right. He mortified and subdued his flesh, which at times would strive to rebel against the spirit. He maintained the fervour of his spirit by assiduous self-denial, and daily stretched himself forward to the things that were more perfect.

He had consecrated himself from his earliest years to the Blessed Virgin; he honoured her as his Mother by daily devotions, and prayed to her with filial confidence. It would be difficult to describe the ardour of his devotion to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Even after his death, this devotion seemed to linger in his body; for when laid in his coffin, his eyes were seen to open and shut twice during the elevation of the sacred Host, to the astonishment of all that were present. He publicly and openly professed before heretics his faith in the dogma of the Real Presence, and had much to suffer on that account. His life was frequently attempted; but, by a special providence of God, he was rescued from the hands of the wicked men who sought to kill him. Frequently, when at prayer, he was rapt in ecstasy, and swooned away with the sweetness of love. It was on these occasions that he was supposed to receive the heavenly wisdom whereby he, though uneducated and illiterate, was enabled to give answers upon the profoundest mysteries of faith, and even write several books. Finally, rich in merit, he happily took his flight to heaven, at the hour which he had foretold, in the year of our Lord 1592, on the sixteenth of the Kalends of June (May 17), and on the Feast of Pentecost, the same on which he was born, being in his fifty-second year. These and other virtues procured him a great reputation, and as he was celebrated for miracles both before and after his death, he was beatified by Pope Paul the Fifth, and canonized by Alexander the Eighth. Lastly, Leo XIII declared and appointed him the special patron in heaven of Eucharistic conferences, and of all sodalities of the Holy Eucharist now existing or to be instituted in the future.


Heaven opened to receive thee, O Paschal! Even when here below, the fervour of thy contemplation often gave thee a foretaste of the delights of eternal bliss; but now every veil is drawn aside, and thou art face to face with him whom thou didst so ardently desire to possess. Thou hast no further need to unite thyself with him by humiliation and suffering; thou enjoyest his own glory, his own happiness, his own triumph, and he will have thee enjoy it for all eternity. Deign to cast an eye of pity on us, who have not thy eagerness to walk in our Redeemer’s footsteps, and who, as yet, have but the hope of being united to him for eternity. Gain for us courage. Gain for us that love which leads straight to Jesus, which surmounts every obstacle of flesh and blood, and gives to man an admirable resemblance to his divine Model. The pledge of this happy transformation has been given to us by our being permitted to partake of the Paschal Mystery; may it be perfected by our fidelity in keeping close to our divine conqueror and Lord! Though he leave us some time further in this vale of tears, his eye is ever upon us, he longs to see us persevere in our loyalty to him. Yet a little while, and we shall see him! Behold! says he, I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast. Behold! I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the doorI will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.[2] Thus will the Pasch of time be changed into the Pasch of eternity. Pray for us, O Paschal, that like thee, we may hold fast that which, by the grace of our Risen Jesus, we already possess.

[1] St Luke xxii 28, 29, 30.
[2] Apoc. iii 11, 20.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TO the martyrs who were slain because they refused to adore false gods—to the martyrs whose blood was shed by heretics—there is added to-day another brave soldier of Christ, who won his crown in a very different sort of combat. The sacrament of Penance whereby sinners regain the heaven they had lost claims John Nepomucen as its glorious defender.

A holy secrecy shrouds the reconciliation made between God and the penitent. This sacramental secrecy deserved to have its martyr. When Jesus instituted the sacrament of Penance—that second baptism, wherein the Blood of our Redeemer washes away the sins of the Christian soul—he willed that man should not be deterred from confessing his humiliations to his spiritual physician by the fear of their ever being revealed. How many hidden martyrdoms have there not been, during these eighteen hundred years, for the maintenance of this secret, which, whilst it gives security to the penitent, exposes the confessor to obloquy, injustice, and even death! But the martyr we honour to-day was not one of these hidden sufferers. His testimony to the inviolability of the sacramental seal was public; he gave it amidst cruel tortures; it cost him his life.

All praise, then, to the brave and faithful priest! Right worthy was he to hold in his hands the keys that open or shut the gate of heaven! In this great fact of the observance of the seal of confession, on which depends the salvation of millions of souls, we have a permanent miracle. But there was one thing wanting to it—the glory of martyrdom. The holy priest of Prague gave it that glory; and he offers the fair palm to our Risen Jesus, whom we have seen, during these days between his Resurrection and Ascension, mercifully instituting the sacrament of Penance, wherein he communicates to men his own power of forgiving sin.

We subjoin the Lessons approved by the Holy See for the feast of this great martyr:

Joannes Nepomuci Bohemiae oppido, unde Nepomuceni cognomen duxit, a parentibus aetate provectis, non sine futurae sanctitatis praesagio, flammis supra nascentis domum mirabiliter collucentibus, ortus est. Quum infans in gravem morbum incidisset, beatæ Virginis ope, cui natum parentes referebant acceptum, e vitæ periculo evasit incolumis. Egregia indole, piaque institutione coelestibus indiciis Obsequente, inter sanctas religiosasque exercitationes pueritiam egit: nam ecclesiam frequenter adire, ac sacerdotibus ad aras operantibus ministrare in deliciis habebat. Zatecii politioribus litteris ad humanitatem informatus, Pragœ vero gravioribus disciplinis excultus, philosophiae, theologiae, sacrorumque canonum magisterium et lauream emeruit. Sacerdotio initiatus atque a scientia sanctorum ad lucra animarum rite comparatus, ministerio verbi Dei se penitus addixit. Quum igitur in vitiis exstirpandis, et revocandis in viam salutis errantibus, eloquentia et pietate uberes ederet fructus, inter canonicos metropolitanae Ecclesiae Pragensis cooptatus, mox sibi demandatam Evangelii coram rege Wenceslao Quarto praedicandi provinciam suscepit, eo successu ut Joannis suasu multa rex faceret, magnoque in honore ejus virtues haberet. Conspicuas tamen, quas ille obtulit, dignitates Dei servus, ne a divini verbi praeconio avocaretur, constantissime recusavit.

Regiis illum eleemosynis in pauperes erogandis praefectum, Joanna regina conscientiae sibi moderatorem adscivit. Quum autem Wenceslaus ab officio institutoque decessisset, atque in vitia praeceps abriperetur, piae vero conjugis obtestationes et monita gravate ferret, contendere ausus est ut in sacramentali judicio sacerdoti credita reginae arcana sibi a Joanne panderentur. At Dei minister, blanditiis primum, tormentis deinde et carceris squalore tentatus, nefariae regis cupiditati fortiter obstitit. Furentem tamen Wenceslai animum quum ab execrando proposito nec humana nec divina jura deterrerent, supremum agonem, quem instare sibi athleta Christi noverat, populo in concione de impendentibus etiam regni calamitatibus admonito, non obscure praenuntiavit. Mox Boleslaviam profectus, ad beatæ Virginis imaginem antiquo cultu celebrem, cœleste praesidium ad certandum bonum certamen effusis precibus imploravit. Inde vespere revertentem in pervigilio Dominicae Ascensionis, rex e fenestra conspicatus arcessit; quumque vehementius urgeret, et proximam in aquis, si obluctari pergeret, submersionem intentaret, Joannes invicta constantia terrores minasque refutavit. Itaque, regis imperio, in Moldavam, flumen Pragam interfluens, noctu dejectus, illustrem martyrii coronam est consecutus.

Sacrilegum facinus clam patratum et martyris gloriam insigne prodigium divinitus patefecit. Ubi enim exanime corpus secundo flumine vehi cœpit, ardentes faces aquis supernatantes et discurrentes apparuerunt. Quamobrem ex arena postridie mane corpus elatum canonici deinde, regis iram nihil timentes, in metropolitanam ecclesiam solemni pompa intulerunt, et sepulturae mandarunt. Quum autem in dies invicti sacerdotis memoria miraculis et maxima fidelium, eorum praecipue qui fama periclitantur, veneratione cresceret, post annos demum amplius trecentos, in juridica recognitione corporis, quod sub humo tamdiu jacuerat, lingua ejus incorrupta et vivida reperta est: quæ, sexto post anno judicibus a Sede Apostolica delegatis exhibita, novo prodigio repente intumuit, et subobscurum ruborem in purpureum commutavit. His itaque aliisque signis rite probatis, Benedictus Decimus tertius, Pontifex Maximus, die decima nona mensis Martii, anno salutis millesimo septingentesimo vigesimo nono, primum hunc sacramentalis sigilli assertorem, arcani fidem sanguine obsignantem, sanctorum martyrum catalogo adscripsit.

John was born of parents who were advanced in years, at Nepomuk, a town in Bohemia, from which he took the name of Nepomucen. His future sanctity was foretold by the appearance of bright rays miraculously shining over the house wherein he was born. When an infant, he was seized with a dangerous illness; but was delivered from death by the protection of the blessed Virgin, to whom his parents considered themselves indebted for his birth. He was blessed with an excellent disposition, and received a pious training, in keeping with the indications given from heaven. He spent his boyhood in the practice of religious exercises; it was his delight to be frequently in church and serve the priests at Mass. He went through his humanities at Zatek, and the higher studies at Prague, where he took his degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and Canon law. He was ordained priest; and being, by his proficiency in the science of the Saints, well fitted for gaining souls, he devoted himself entirely to preaching the word of God. In consideration of the great fruits produced by his eloquence and piety, which extirpated vice and brought sinners back to the way of salvation, he was made a Canon of the Metropolitan Church of Prague. Being afterwards chosen as preacher to King Wenceslaus the Fourth, he so far succeeded, that the king had a great regard for his virtue, and often followed his advice. He offered him several high dignities; but the saint always refused to accept them, fearing that they would interfere with his preaching the divine word.

He was entrusted w'ith the distribution of the royal alms to the poor, and Queen Jane chose him as her own spiritual director. Wenceslaus, who had given himself up to vices, which disgraced his character both as a king and a Christian, was displeased at the entreaties and counsels of his wife, and even dared to insist on John’s revealing to him the secrets, told to him as priest, by the queen in the sacrament of Penance. The minister of God courageously resisted the king’s impious request, and neither bribes, nor tortures, nor imprisonment, could make him yield. Seeing that the king had reached such a pitch of rage that the laws of neither man nor God made him relent, the soldier of Christ plainly foretold in one of his sermons his own approaching death, and the calamities that were to befall the kingdom. He then set out for Buntzel, where is kept an image of the blessed Virgin that has been venerated for centuries: he there implored heaven in fervent prayer, to grant him the assistance he needed, in order to fight the good fight. As he was returning home, on the evening before the Vigil of the Ascension, the king, who was standing at the palace window, saw him, and sent word that he was to repair to him. The king was more than ever urgent in his demand, and threatened John with immediate drowning, if he continued to refuse compliance. The saint was not to be conquered, and showed the king that he was not afraid of his threats. Wherefore, by the king's orders, he was thrown that same night into the river Moldau, which flows through Prague; and thus obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom.

The sacrilegious crime thus privately committed was miraculously revealed, as was also the great glory of the martyr. For as soon as life was extinct, and the corpse began to float down the stream, flaming torches were seen following it on the surface of the water. The next morning, the Canons went and took the body from the sand on which it lay, and heedless of the king's displeasure, had it carried with much solemnity to the metropolitan Church, and gave it burial. The memory of this courageous priest became most venerable in course of time both through the miracles that were wrought, and through the devotion of the faithful—of those especially whose good name is injured by evil report. After upwards of three hundred years, a juridical examination was made of his body (which, during all the time, had lain under the ground), and his tongue was found to be incorrupt and like that of a living man. Six years later the tongue was shown to judges delegated by the Apostolic See; when, by a fresh miracle, it immediately resumed the fulness of life, and, from being of a brownish colour, became perfectly red. These and other miracles having been authentically proved, he was canonized by Pope Benedict the Thirteenth, on the nineteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord 1729, as the defender of the seal of confession, and the first martyr to shed his blood for the maintenance of its holy secrecy.

How great, O glorious martyr, was the honour reserved for thee by the Son of God, when he chose thee to be the one who was to attest, by laying down his life, the sacredness of the secret which protects the sacrament of Penance! Other priests, as well as thyself, have bravely suffered persecution for the sake of the secrecy of the mystery of reconciliation: but thou wast the one chosen by heaven to give a solemn testimony of priestly discretion. Thy sufferings were known to more than angels: thy martyrdom was a public one, and the faithful honour thy courage as an eloquent proof of how truly our good Shepherd, Jesus, removes every difficulty that could deter the strayed sheep from returning to the fold.

We address ourselves to thee, O holy martyr, on this day of thy triumph and beseech thee to intercede for sinners. Admirable minister of the sacrament of Penance! thou seest how many Christians there are who neglect to avail themselves of the means of salvation prepared for them by our risen Saviour. Instead of laying hold of this ‘second plank after shipwreck,’ they let themselves be carried on to the deep abyss by the tide of their sinful habits. There are thousands who have turned a deaf ear, even this Easter, to the call of Holy Church, who invited them, as an affectionate Mother, to approach the tribunal of mercy and reconciliation. We beseech thee, intercede for these blind, unwary, ungrateful men. Procure for them the grace which will lead them to the feet of the God of mercy, who is ever ready to grant pardon.

There are others, again, who go to Confession, but who have not the dispositions requisite for receiving the grace of the Sacrament—the justification of their souls. Pray also for these, that they may see the danger they thus incur of profaning the Blood of Christ. Obtain for all them who approach the holy tribunal an honest avowal of their sins, and contrition of heart; that thus the life of our Risen Jesus may be imparted to them and that they may never again lose it. By thy powerful intercession, raise up zealous and faithful ministers of this great sacrament of which thou wast the martyr. Draw down the blessing of heaven on their arduous labour: then will the number of the children of God be increased, and the grace of the Holy Ghost triumph in souls that have long been dead in sin.

Cast, too, an eye of compassion on thy fatherland of Bohemia, where there are so many faithful hearts that love and honour thee. Alas! there are tares which disfigure that portion of the Church. The enemy came, not many years after thy glorious martyrdom, and sowed the baneful weeds of heresy in thy native land. The good seed claims thy protection; but take pity also on the cockle, for even it may be turned, by the true faith, into wheat, and be garnered into the house of our heavenly Father. Secure peace to thy Bohemia and save her from the snares that are laid for her.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IN order to honour her eternal High Priest, the Church presents to him this day the merits of a pontiff who, after his mortal career, was admitted into a happy immortality. Ubaldus, here on earth, was the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like his divine Master, he received the holy anointing of priesthood; he was a mediator between God and man; he was the shepherd of a flock; and now he is united with our Risen Jesus, the great Anointed, the Mediator, the Shepherd. In proof of his influence in heaven, Ubaldus has had given to him a special power against the wicked spirits who lay snares for our perdition. It has frequently happened that the simple invocation of his name has sufficed to foil their machinations. The Church has fixed this day as his feast with the view of encouraging the faithful to have recourse to his protection.

Let us now read the account she gives of the virtues of the saintly bishop:

Ubaldus, Eugubii in Umbria nobili genere natus, a primis annis pietate et litteris egregie est institutus. Jamque adolescens, ut uxorem duceret saepe tenta tus, nunquam tamen a proposito servandae virginitatis recessit. Sacerdos effectus, patrimonium suum pauperibus et Ecclesiis distribuit, et Canonicorum Regularium Ordinis sancti Augustini institutum suscipiens, illud in patriam transtulit, atque in eo aliquandiu sanctissime vixit. Cujus sanctitatis opinione evulgata, ab Honorio Secundo summo Pontifice Ecclesiae Eugubinæ invitus praeficitur, et Episcopalis consecrationis munere decoratur.

Ad suam itaque revertens Ecclesiam, quum de consueta vivendi ratione nihil admodum immutasset, in omni tamen virtutum genere eo magis eminere coepit, quo efficacius aliorum etiam salutem verbo et exemplo procuraret, factus forma gregis ex animo. Nam victu-parco, vestitu moderato, lectulo aspero et pauperrimo, crucis mortificationem jugiter in suo corpore circumferebat, dum inexplebili orationis studio spiritum quotidie recrearet. Hinc admirabilem illam mansuetudinem est adeptus, qua gravissimas injurias et contumelias non modo aequanimiter tulit, verum etiam mirifico dilectionis affectu persecutores suos omni benignitatis testimonio complectebatur.

Biennio antequam ex hac vita migraret, quum diutinis afflictaretur infirmitatibus, inter acerbissimos corporis cruciatus, velut aurum in fornace purgatum, Deo gratias indesinenter agebat. Adveniente autem sacro Pentecostes die, quum multis annis Ecclesiam sibi commissam summa cum laude gubernasset, sanctis operibus ac miraculis clarus, quievit in pace: quem Cœlestinus Papa Tertius in Sanctorum numerum retulit. Ejus virtus prœcipue in effugandis spiritibus immundis elucet. Corpus vero per tot saecula incorruptum magna fidelium veneratione in patria colitur, quam non semel a praesenti discrimine liberavit.

Ubaldus was born at Gubbio in Umbria, of a noble family. He was from childhood formed in the most admirable way to piety and learning. When grown up, he was frequently urged to marry; but nothing could shake his resolution of leading a life of celibacy. On being ordained priest, he divided his fortune between the poor and the Churches, and entered among the Canons Regular of the Order of St Augustine. He established that Institute in his own country, and was for some time a most fervent observer of all its regulations. The fame of his virtue spread far and wide. Pope Honorius the Second compelled him to accept the charge of the Church of Gubbio; and, accordingly, he was consecrated bishop.

When he took possession of his see, he changed little or nothing of his mode of life; but he began to apply himself more than ever to the practice of every virtue, in order that he might the more effectually, both by word and example, procure the salvation of souls, for he was a pattern of the flock in all earnestness. His food was scanty, his dress unpretending, his bed hard and most poor. Whilst always bearing about in his body the mortification of the Cross, he refreshed his spirit every day with prayer, in which he seemed insatiable. The result of such a life was a meekness so admirable that he not only bore the worst injuries and insults with patience, but even treated his persecutors with surprising affection and showed them all possible kindness.

During the last two years of his life he suffered much from sickness. In the midst of the most acute pains, whereby he was made pure as gold that is cleansed in the furnace, he ceased not to give thanks to God. Finally, on the holy feast of Pentecost, after governing for many years and in a most laudable manner the diocese that had been entrusted to him, he slept in peace, venerated for his holy life and miracles. He was canonized by Pope Celestine the Third. God has given him a special power for driving away unclean spirits. His body, which has remained incorrupt for several centuries, is honoured with much devotion by the faithful of the city of Gubbio, which he has more than once rescued from the calamities that threatened it.

O blessed Pontiff! be thou our protector against the spirits of hell. They are devoured by envy at seeing how man, that lowly and feeble creature, has become the object of God’s predilection. The incarnation of the Son of God, his death on the cross, his glorious resurrection, the sacraments which give us the life of Grace—all these sublime means, whereby the infinite goodness of God has restored us to our lost dignity,have excited the rage of the old enemy, and he seeks revenge by insulting, in us, the image of our Creator. At times he attacks man with all the frenzy of angry jealousy. To mimic the operations of sanctifying grace, which, so to speak, makes us the instruments of God’s good pleasure, Satan sometimes takes possession of our fellow-creatures, and makes them his slaves. Thy power, O Ubaldus, has often manifested itself by rescuing these unhappy victims of the devil’s jealousy; and Holy Church, on this day, celebrates the special prerogative conferred on thee by our heavenly Father. Relent not in the exercise of thy charitable office. And yet, O holy Pontiff, thou knowest that the snares of the wicked spirits are more inj urious to the souls than to the bodies of men. Have pity, then, on the unhappy slaves of sin, who, though the divine Sun of the Pasch has risen upon them, are still in the darkness of guilt. Pray for them, that they may become once more children of the light, and share in the Easter Resurrection which Jesus offers to all.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

JOHN Baptist de la Salle, the teacher of the humble, takes his place to-day beside Leo the Great, Athanasius, and Gregory of Nazianzum. He has no fear. The victor of Paschal Time is the same Jesus who said during his mortal life: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me,'[1] and ‘unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,'[2] that kingdom of heaven which, after entering into his glory, he manifests so fully upon earth. On the other hand, the Lion of Juda is never more terrible in his anger than when he beholds evil men conspiring to keep from him the little ones of whom he forms his court.[3]

The promise made in Holy Scripture that ' they that instruct many to justice shall shine as stars for all eternity'[4] is addressed not only to the great doctors of the science of salvation, but also to the humblest Christian teacher, and the supreme Pontiff, when inscribing the name of the saint of to-day among those of the blessed, declared that the inspired words ' apply in an especial manner to those who, like him, have left all things and devoted themselves to the instruction of the baptized from earliest infancy in the teaching of the Gospel and the precepts which lead to life eternal.’[5]

John Baptist de la Salle was a true disciple of our blessed Lord, and entered so fully into the thought of his Master that no sacrifice was too great for him if only he might carry it out, and no suffering, humiliation, or persecution could hinder him from persevering in the accomplishment of his works of love. He suffered from misunderstanding and lack of support all through his life, but is he less great in heaven to-day on that account?

The following account of him is given in the Breviary:

Joannes Baptista de la Salle, Rhemis claro genere ortus, puer adhuc moribus et factis in sortem Domini se vocandum et sanctimoniae laude honestandum portendit. Adolescens in Rhemensi Academia litteras ac philosophicas disciplinas didicit; quo tempore etsi ob animi virtutes et alacre ingenium ac suave omnibus carus esset, ab aequalium tamen societate abhorrebat, ut solitudini addictus facilius Deo vacaret. In clericalem militiam jampridem cooptatus, sextodecimo aetatis anno inter Rhemenses Canonicos adscriptus est. Lutetiam Parisiorum, theologiae in Sorbonica universitate daturus operam, contendit atque in Sulpitianum seminarium adscitus est. At brevi parentibus orbatus, domum regredi coactus, fratres educandos suscepit: quod scientiarum interim sacrarum studia non intermittens, optimo cum fructu praestitit, uti exitus comprobavit.

Sacerdotio demum auctus, qua praestanti fide animique ardore primum ad aram fecit, eisdem toto vitæ tempore sacris est operatus. Interea salutis animarum studio incensus, totum in earumdem utilitatem sese impendit. Sororum a Jesu Infante, puellis educandis institutarum regimen suscepit, easque non modo prudentissime est moderatus, sed ab excidio vindicavit. Hinc porro animum advertit ad pueros de plebe religione bonisque moribus informandos. Atque in hoc quidem illum suscitaverat Deus, ut scilicet nova in Ecclesia sua religiosorum hominum familia condita puerorum, praesertim pauperum, scholis perenni efficacique ratione consuleret. Demandatum vero a Dei providentia munus, per contradictiones plurimas magnasque aerumnas feliciter implevit, fundata Fratrum sodalitate, quam a scholis Christianis nuncupavit.

Adjunctos igitur sibi homines in gravi opere et arduo, apud se primum suscepit; tum aptiori in sede constitutos disciplina sua optime imbuit iis legibus sapientibusque institutis, quæ postea a Benedicto decimo tertio sunt confirmata. Ex demissione animi ac paupertatis amore primum canonicatu se abdicavit, omniaque sua bona in pauperes erogavit; quin etiam serius, quod frustra saepius tentaverat, fundati a se instituti regimen sponte deposuit. Nihil tamen interim de Fratrum sollicitudine remittens, deque scholis ab eo, pluribus jam locis, apertis, impensius Deo vacare cœpit. Assidue jejuniis, flagellis, aliisque asperitatibus in se ipsum saeviens, noctes orando ducebat. Donec virtutibus omnibus conspicuus, praesertim obedientia, studio divinae voluntatis implendae, amore ac devotione in Apostolicam Sedem, meritis onustus, sacramentis rite susceptis, obdormivit in Domino, annos natus duo de septuaginta. Eum Leo decimus tertius Pontifex Maximus Beatorum catalogo inseruit; novisque fulgentem signis, anno jubilaei millesimo nongentesimo Sanctorum honoribus decoravit

John Baptist de la Salle was born of a noble family at Rheims. When quite a child he showed by his ways and actions that he would be called to follow our Lord and attain great sanctity. He studied literature and philosophy at Rheims, and though his virtues and quick intelligence endeared him to all, he avoided the company of his fellows that he might be free to contemplate God in solitude. He was made a cleric when very young, and was only sixteen when given the rank of a Canon at Rheims. He went to Paris to study theology at the Sorbonne, and was received at the Seminary of St Sulpice. He was soon forced to return home by the death of his parents, whereupon he undertook the education of his brothers, which he carried on, without interrupting his own studies, to the great advantage of his pupils, as soon became evident.

He was ordained priest, and said his first Mass with the intense faith and love which, throughout his life, he brought to the holy Mysteries; but his zeal for the salvation of souls made him devote himself wholly to the service of his neighbour. He was made superior of the Sisters of the Holy Child, founded for the education of girls, and by his prudent government saved their institute from dissolution. From this he turned his attention to the education of poor boys. God had raised him up for this very end, namely that he should found in the Church a new family of religious men devoted to the training of children, particularly the poor. This work, which had been entrusted to him by divine Providence, was successfully accomplished in spite of many trials and contradictions by the establishment of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

His first helpers in this great and arduous work he received into his own house, and then, establishing them in a more suitable dwelling, gave them a careful training in those wise laws and regulations which were afterwards confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII. His humility and love of poverty caused him first of all to resign his canonry and to distribute all his property among the poor; and. finally, after many unsuccessful attempts to do so, he spontaneously resigned the government of the Institute which he had founded. His solicitude for the Brethren and for the schools which he had opened in various places suffered no diminution, though he began to give himself more assiduously to the direct service of God in fasting, watching, and other austerities. He spent his nights in prayer. His virtues were conspicuous, especi ally his obedience, conformity to the will of God, and love of the Holy See. At length, full of merits, and fortified with the Sacraments of the Church, he fell asleep in the Lord in the sixty-eighth year of his age. Pope Leo XIII beatified him and, after fresh miracles had been worked through his intercession, proceeded to his canonization in the year of Jubilee, 1900.

O God, who hast raised up the holy Confessor John Baptist to promote the Christian education of the poor and to confirm the young in the way of truth, and, through him, hast gathered together a new family within thy Church: mercifully grant through his intercession and example that we may bum with zeal for thy glory in saving souls, and may share his crown in heaven. Through Christ our Lord.

Thus, O father of Christian schools, does Holy Church pray to-day in thy honour. She is as full of confidence as though the trials of thy mortal life had been sufficient to guard thy sons against similar sufferings; as serene as though the future of thy work were assured. And yet, might we not say that the culminating point of thy glorification on earth seems to have given the signal for the triumph of hell over thy labours? But the Church is strong in her experience of twenty centuries, and she fears no persecution. She knows that if the tree be planted by God, the hurricane will but strengthen its roots, and that a house built upon a rock can brave the wind and the floods. We too, like the Church, are full of hope, trusting in thy merits and thy intercession. Even if min seem complete, the divine Head of all who suffer persecution assures us that the tomb itself, though sealed by the powers of this world, cannot guarantee to Death the secure possession of his victim.

[1] St Mark x 14.
[2] St Matt. xviii 3.
[3] Ibid. xviii 6.
[4] Dan. xii 3.
[5] Decree of Beatification.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Apostle of the Gentiles, explaining the mystery of the Pasch, tells us that baptism is the sepulcher of our sins, and that we rise from it together with our Redeemer, having our souls radiant with the life of grace.[1] Our holy faith teaches us that he who gives his life for Christ or his Church washes away in his own blood every stain from his soul, and rises to life everlasting: it is as though he received a second baptism, which reproduces all the effects belonging to the great sacrament of regeneration. We have to-day a sinner, who being purified by martyrdom and rebaptized in his own blood, is numbered among the privileged ones who share in the glory of our Risen Jesus. Boniface, by his immoralities, had scandalized the city where he lived; but his repentance was most complete. He longed to suffer the most cruel tortures for the love of the God he had offended, and thus make atonement for the sinful pleasures in which he had indulged. His wish was granted; suffering transformed him into the Saint whose feast is kept on this day, and whose virtues are a homage to the divine conqueror of sin and death.

Holy Church thus commemorates, in her Office, the bravery of this generous-hearted martyr:

Bonifacius, civis romanus, quod cum Aglae nobili matrona impudice versatus esset, tanto illius intemperantiae dolore captus est, ut poenitentiœcausa se ad conquirenda et sepelienda martyrum corpora contulerit. Itaque relictis peregrinationis sociis, quum Tarsi multos propter Christianae fidei professionem variis tormentis cruciatos vidisset, illorum vincula osculatus, eos vehementer hortabatur ut constanter supplicia perferrent, quod brevem laborem sempiterna requies consecutura sit. Comprehensus igitur, ferreis ungulis excarnificatus est: cui etiam inter manuum ungues et carnem acuti calami sunt infixi, plumbumque liquefactum in os ejus infusum. Quibus in cruciatibus ea vox tantum Bonifacii audiebatur: Gratias tibi ago, Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei. Mox in ollam ferventis picis demisso capite conjectus est: unde quum inviolatus exisset, ira incensus judex eum securi percuti jubet. Quo tempore magnus terrae motus factus est, ita ut multi infideles ad Christi Domini fidem converterentur. Eum sequenti die quærentes socii, quum martyrio affectum cognovissent, quingentis solidis ejus corpus redemerunt, et conditum unguentis, linteisque involutum, Romam portandum curarunt. Quod factum quum ab angelo Aglae matrona, quæ et ipsa pœnitens se piis operibus addixerat, cognovisset; prodiens obviam sancto corpori, Ecclesiam ejus nomine aedificavit, in qua corpus sepultum est nonis Junii, quum ejus anima pridie Idus Maii apud Tarsum Ciliciae urbem migrasset in coelum, Diocle tiano et Maximiano Imperatoribus.
Boniface was a citizen of Rome, and had held criminal intercourse with a rich lady, by name Aglae. He was filled with such shame on account of this immoral conduct, that by way of penance he devoted himself to searching out and burying the bodies of martyrs. In one of his travels he left his companions; and finding, on arriving at Tarsus, that many were being put to divers tortures for the Christian faith, he approached them, kissed their chains and did all in his power to urge them to bear patiently the short labour of sufferings which were to be followed by eternal rest. For this he was seized, and his flesh was torn by iron hooks. Sharp reeds were also thrust up his finger-nails, and melted lead was poured into his mouth. His only exclamation, in the midst of these tortures, was: ' I give thee thanks, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God!' He was then put, head foremost, into a cauldron of boiling pitch; and when he was taken out, and found to be unhurt, the judge, in a fit of anger, ordered him to be beheaded. During his execution a great earthquake was felt; whereupon many of the pagans were converted to the faith of Christ our Lord. On the day following, his companions, who were in search of him, were told that he had suffered martyrdom. They bought his body for five hundred pieces of silver; and having embalmed and shrouded it, they had it taken to Rome. All this was made known by an angel to Aglae, who had also devoted herself to penance and good works. She, therefore, went to meet the martyr's relics. She built a church, which was named after the Saint, and in which he was buried on the Nones of June (June 5). The martyr’s soul passed into heaven on the day before the Ides of May (May 14) at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian.

The angels rejoiced more at thy conversion, O Boniface, than at the fidelity of the ninety-nine just; but their joy was redoubled when they found that heaven gained in thee not only a penitent, but a martyr too. Receive also the congratulations of holy Church, which celebrates the memory of thy victory. Rome is still in possession of thy holy relics, which repose in the Church on Mount Aventine, where once stood the house of her that imitated thy repentance. In both her and thee, we have a proof of the infinite mercy of our Risen Jesus, who called the two sinners from spiritual death to the life of grace. Have compassion, O holy martyr, on those poor sinners whom this Easter has not yet brought back to their Redeemer. The Alleluia has resounded through the whole universe, and yet it has failed to rouse them from their sleep of sin. Pray for their resurrection. Their days are numbered; and perhaps they are not to see another Easter. Yet do we hope in the divine mercy, which has shown us its power by making thee and Aglaé to be vessels of election. We therefore unite our prayers with thine, O Boniface, that our Lord may grant a resurrection to our brethren. Hope is our armour in this peaceful contest with divine justice, which delights in being vanquished by prayer. Present our prayer before the throne of God; and many of those that are now spiritually dead will rise again, and their conversion will cause joy to the angels, as thine did.


[1] Rom. vi.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A FOURTH martyr claims our veneration on this twelfth day of May. Like the three others, he culled his palm at Rome. But whilst they died for the faith at the very commencement of the Christian era, Pancras was not called to the glorious combat till the persecution under Diocletian—the last and greatest effort of pagan Rome against the Church. Our young hero was only fourteen years of age; but he was old enough to be a brave martyr, and he has been honoured by a commemoration in Paschal Time. The venerable Church in the Holy City which is dedicated to him, and which gives a title to one of the Cardinals, was built on the site of the cemetery where his body was buried. The following commemoration is made of him in the Matins of this feast:

Pancratius in Phrygia nobili genere natus, puer quatuordecim annorum Romam venit, Diocletiano et Maximiano imperatoribus: ubi a Pontifice Romano baptizatus, et in fide Christiana eruditus, ob eamdem paulo post comprehensus, quam diis sacrificare constanter renuisset, virili fortitudine datis cervicibus, illustrem martyrii coronam consecutus est: cujus corpus Octavilla matrona noctu sustulit, et unguentis delibutum via Aurelia sepelivit.
Pancras was bom in Phrygia, of a noble family. When but a boy of fourteen, he went to Rome, in the reign of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. He there received baptism from the Roman Pontiff, and was instructed in the Christian faith. Shortly afterwards he was seized, as being a Christian; but upon his firmly refusing to offer sacrifice to the gods, he was condemned to be beheaded. He suffered death with manly courage, and obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom. During the night a matron, by name Octavilla, took away his body, and had it buried, after embalming it, on the Aurelian Way.

Divine grace, which called thee to the crown of martyrdom, selected thee, O Pancras, from the distant land of Phrygia, and led thee to the capital of the empire—the centre of every vice and every error of paganism. Thy name, like those of millions of others who were better known to the world, had else been quite forgotten. But now, though thy earthly career was soon ended, the name of Pancras is loved and venerated throughout the whole earth: it is breathed at the altar, in the prayers which accompany the sacrifice of the Lamb. How camest thou, dear youthful martyr, by this celebrity, which will last to the end of the world? It was because, having imitated Jesus' Death by suffering and shedding thy blood for his name, thou hast been made a sharer in the glory of his immortality. In return for the honour we pay thee, deign to aid us by thy protection. Speak of us to Jesus, who is our divine Master, as he was thine. In this vale of our exile, we sing our Alleluia for his Resurrection, which has filled us with hope; obtain for us, by thy prayers, that we may sing Alleluia with thee in heaven, where it will be eternal, and be prompted, not by the gladness of hope, but by the bliss of possession.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SO far in our Paschal season, the choir of Virgin martyrs has not yet offered to Jesus its crown of roses and lilies. It does so to-day, by presenting to him the noble Flavia Domitilla, the fairest flower of Rome, that was cut down by the sword of martyrdom in the first age of the Christian faith. It was under the persecution of Domitian—during which John the Evangelist was condemned to be burned alive in the cauldron of boiling oil—that Flavia Domitilla was honoured with banishment and death for the sake of our Redeemer, whom she had chosen for her Spouse. She was of the imperial family, being a niece of Flavius Clemens, who adorned the consular dignity by martyrdom. She was one of the Christians belonging to the court of the Emperor Domitian, who show us how rapidly the religion of the poor and humble made its way to the highest classes of Roman life. A few years previous to this, St Paul sent to the Christians of Philippi the greetings of the Christians of Nero's palace.[1] There is still extant, not far from Rome, on the Ardeatine Way, the magnificent subterranean cemetery which Flavia Domitilla ordered to be dug on her prædium, and in which were buried the two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus, whom the Church honours to-day together with the noble virgin who owes her crown to them.

Nereus and Achilleus were in Domitilla’s service.[2] Hearing them one day speaking of the merit of virginity, she there and then bade farewell to all worldly pleasures, and aspired to the honour of being the Spouse of Christ. She received the veil of consecrated virgins from the hands of Pope St Clement: Nereus and Achilleus had been baptized by St Peter himself. What glorious reminiscences for one day!

The bodies of these three Saints reposed, for several centuries, in the Basilica, called the Fasciola, on the Appian Way; and we have a Homily which St Gregory the Great preached in this Church on their feast. The holy Pontiff dwelt on the vanity of the earth’s goods; he encouraged his audience to despise them by the example of the three martyrs whose relics lay under the very altar around which they were that day assembled.

These Saints, [said he] before whose tomb we are now standing, trampled with contempt of soul on the world and its flowers. Life was then long, health was uninterrupted, riches were abundant, parents were blessed with many children; and yet, though the world was so flourishing in itself, it had long been a withered thing in their hearts.[3]

Later on, in the thirteenth century, the Fasciola having been almost reduced to ruins by the disasters that had befallen Rome, the bodies of the three Saints were translated to the Church of St Adrian, in the Forum. There they remained till the close of the sixteenth century, when the great Baronius, who had been raised to the Cardinalate, with the title of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, resolved to repair the Church that was thus entrusted to his care. Through his munificence, the naves were restored; the history of the three martyrs was painted on the walls; the marble pulpit, from which St Gregory preached the Homily, was brought back, and the Homily itself was graven, from beginning to end, on the back; and the Confession was enriched with mosaics and precious marbles, preparatory to its receiving the sacred relics, of which it had been deprived for three hundred years.

Baronius felt that it was high time to put an end to the long exile of the holy martyrs, whose honour was now so specially dear to him. He organized a formal triumph for their return. Christian Rome excels in the art of blending together the forms of classic antiquity and the sentiments inspired by faith. The chariot, bearing a superb canopy, under which lay the relics of the three martyrs, was first led to the Capitol. On reaching the top of the clivus Capitolinus, the eye met two inscriptions, placed parallel with each other. On one were these words: ' To Saint Fla via Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, the Capitol, purified from the wicked worship of demons, and restored more perfectly than by Flavius Vespasian and Domitian, Emperors, kinsmen of the Christian Virgin.' On the other: ‘The Senate and People of Rome to Saint Flavia Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, who, by allowing herself to be put to death by fire for the faith of Christ, brought greater glory to Rome than did her kinsmen, the Emperors Flavius Vespasian and Domitian, when, at their own expense, they restored the Capitol, that had twice suffered from fire.'

The reliquaries of the martyrs were then placed on an altar that had been erected near the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. After being venerated by the faithful, they were replaced on the chariot, which descended by the opposite side of the Capitol. The procession soon reached the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, on which were hung these two inscriptions:

To the holy Martyrs Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the best of citizens, the Senate and People of Rome, for their having honoured the Roman name by their glorious death, and won peace for the Roman commonwealth by shedding their blood.

To Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the invincible Martyrs of Christ Jesus, the Senate and People of Rome, for their having honoured the City by the noble testimony they bore to the Christian Faith.

Following the Via Sacra, the procession was soon in front of the triumphal arch of Titus, the monument of God’s victory over the deicide nation. On one side were inscribed these words: 'This triumphal arch, formerly dedicated and raised to the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, for having brought the rebellious Judea under the yoke of the Roman people, is now, by the Senate and People of Rome, more auspiciously dedicated and consecrated to Flavia Domitilla, kinswoman of the same Titus, for having, by her death, increased and furthered the Christian Religion.'

On the other side of the arch was the following inscription: ‘To Flavia Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, kinswoman of the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, the Senate and People of Rome, for her having, by shedding her blood and laying down her life for the Faith, rendered a more glorious homage to the death of Christ than did the said Titus, when by divine inspiration he destroyed Jerusalem, to avenge that same death.'

Leaving on the left the Coliseum, the hallowed ground whereon so many martyrs had fought the battle of faith, they passed under the triumphal arch of Constantine, which so eloquently speaks of the victory of Christianity, both in Rome and the Empire, and which still bears on it the name of the Gens Flavia, of which the first Christian Emperor was a member. The two following inscriptions were attached to the arch:

To Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the Senate and People of Rome. On this sacred way, whereon so many Roman Emperors received triumphal honours for having brought various provinces into subjection to the Roman People, these martyrs receive to-day a more glorious triumph, for that they con quered, by a greater courage, the conquerors themselves.

To Flavia Domitilla, the Senate and People of Rome. Twelve Emperors, her kinsmen, conferred honour on the Gens Flavia and on Rome herself by their deeds of fame; but she, by sacrificing all human honours and life itself for Christ's sake, rendered greater service to both family and City than they.

The procession then continued its route along the Appian Way, and at length reached the Basilica. Baronius, assisted by a great number of Cardinals, received the precious relics, and took them with great respect to the Confession of the High Altar. Meanwhile the choir sang this Antiphon of the Pontifical: * Enter, ye Saints of God! for a dwelling hath been prepared for you by the Lord. The faithful people have followed you on your way, that ye may intercede for them with the majesty of the Lord. Alleluia!'

The following is the account of our three martyrs as given in the Liturgy:

Nereus et Achilleus fratres, eunuchi Flaviae Domitillœ, a beato Petro una cum ipsa ej usque matre Plautilla baptizati, quum Domitillœ persuasissent ut virginitatem suam Deo consecraret, ab ejus sponso Aureliano tamquam Christiani accusati, ob praeclaram fidei confessionem in Pontiam insulam relegantur: ubi ad quæstionem iterum vocati, et verberibus caesi, mox Tarracinam perducti, a Minutio Rufo, equuleo et flammis cruciati, quum constanter negarent, se a sancto Petro Apostolo baptizatos, ullis tormentis cogi posse ut idolis immolarent, securi percussi sunt: quorum corpora ab Auspicio eorum discipulo, et Domitillœ educatore, Romam delata. Via Ardeatina sepulta sunt.
The brothers Nereus and Achilleus were in the service of Flavia Domitilla, and were baptized, together with her and her mother Plautilla, by St Peter. They persuaded Domitilla to consecrate her virginity to God: in consequence of which they were accused of being Christians by Aurelian, to whom she was betrothed. They made an admirable confession of their faith, and were banished to the isle of Pontia. There they were again examined and were condemned to be flogged. They were shortly afterwards taken to Terracina; and, by order of Minucius Rufus, were placed on the rack and tormented with burning torches. On their resolutely declaring that they had been baptized by blessed Peter the Apostle, and no tortures should ever induce them to offer sacrifice to idols, they were beheaded. Their bodies were taken to Rome by their disciple Auspicius, Domitilla’s tutor, and were buried on the Ardeatine Way.

Flavia Domitilla, virgo Romana, Titi et Domitiani Imperatorum neptis, quum sacrum virginitatis velamen a beato Clemente Papa accepisset, ab Aureliano sponso Titi Aurelii consulis filio delata quod Christiana esset, a Domitiano Imperatore in insulam Pontiam est deportata, ubi in carcere longum martyrium duxit. Demum Tarracinam deducta, iterum Christum confessa: quum semper constantior appareret, sub Trajano imperatore, judicis jussu incenso ejus cubiculo una cum Theodora et Euphrosyna virginibus, et collactaneis suis, gloriosi martyrii cursum confecit nonis Maii: quarum corpora integra inventa, a Cœesario diacono sepulta sunt. Hac vero die duorum fratrum ac Domitillae corpora ex Diaconia sancti Adriani simul translata in ipsorum Martyrum basilicam, tituli Fasciolae, restituta sunt.
Flavia Domitilla, a Roman lady, and niece of the Emperors Titus and Domitian, received the holy veil of virginity from the blessed Pope Clement. She was accused of being a Christian by Aurelian, son of the Consul Titus Aurelius, to whom she had been promised in marriage. The Emperor Domitian banished her to the isle of Pontia, where she suffered a long martyrdom in prison. She was finally taken to Terracina, where she again confessed Christ. Finding that her constancy was not to be shaken, the judge ordered the house where she lodged to be set on fire; and thus, together with two virgins, her foster-sisters Theodora and Euphrosyna, she completed her glorious martyrdom on the ninth of the Nones of May (May 7), during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. Their bodies were found entire, and were buried by a deacon named Cæsarius. On this day the bodies of the two brothers and that of Domitilla were translated from the Church of Saint Adrian to the Basilica called Fasciola.

How grand was the triumph which Rome gave to you, O holy martyrs, so many centuries after your glorious deaths! How true it is that there is no glory here on earth which can bear comparison with that of the saints! Where are now those twelve Emperors, thy kinsmen, O Domitilla? Who cares for their remains? Who even cherishes their memory? One of them was sur~ named ‘the delight of mankind '; and now how many there are who have never heard of his existence! Another, the last of the twelve, had the glory of proclaiming the victory won by the Cross over the Roman Empire; Christian Rome honours and loves his name; but the homage of religious devotion is not given to him, but to thee, O Domitilla, and to the two martyrs whose names are now associated with thine.

Who does not recognize the power of Jesus' Resurrection in the love and enthusiasm wherewith a whole people welcome your holy relics, O martyrs of the living God? Fifteen hundred years had elapsed; and yet your lifeless remains were greeted with a transport of joy, as though you yourselves were there, and living. It was because we Christians know that Jesus, who is the first-born of the dead,[4] has risen from the grave; and that you, like him, are one day to rise in glory. Therefore do the faithful honour by anticipation the immortality which, at a future period, is to be given to your bodies, once slain for Jesus' sake; they already see by faith the future brightness which is to be imparted to your flesh; and thus they proclaim the dignity which the Redemption has given to man, to whom death is now but a transition to true life, and the tomb but a resting-place where the body is consigned, as seed to the earth, to be restored in a hundredfold of richer beauty.

Happy they who, as the prophecy says, have washed their robes and have made them white in the Blood of the Lamb![5] But happier they, says Holy Church, who, after being thus purified, have mingled their own blood with that of the divine Victim! for by so doing they have filled up in their flesh those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ.[6] Hence, their intercession is powerful, and we should address our prayers to them with love and confidence. Befriend us, then, O holy martyrs Nereus, Achilleus, and Domitilla! Obtain for us an ardent love for our Risen Jesus; perseverance in the new life which he has conferred upon us; detachment from the things of this world, and a determined resolution to trample them beneath our feet, should they become a danger to our eternal salvation. Pray for us, that we may be courageous in resisting our spiritual enemies, ever ready to defend our holy faith, and earnest in our endeavours to gain that kingdom which is to be borne away by violence.[7] Be the defenders of the holy Roman Church, which fervently celebrates your memory each year. You, Nereus and Achilleus, were converts of Peter; and thou, Domitilla, wast the spiritual daughter of Clement, Peter's successor; protect the Pontiff who now governs the Church—the Pontiff, in whom Peter still lives—the Pontiff, the successor of Clement. Dispel the storms which are threatening the Cross on the Capitol, and pray for the inhabitants of Rome, that they may be staunch to the faith.

[1] Phil, iv 22.
[2] The Acts of these two Saints—which were drawn up long after their martyrdom, and on which were formed the Lessons of to-day’s Office—call them “eunuchs”: but it is a mistake of the compiler, who belongs to the fifth or sixth century. The introduction of eunuchs into the Imperial Court, and into the Roman families, is of a later date than the reign of Domitian.
[3] Homil. xxviii in Evang.
[4] Apoc. i 5.
[5] Ibid. vii 14.
[6] Coloss. i 24.
[7] St Matt. xi 12.