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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.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AS we have already said, joy is the leading feature A of the Paschal season—a supernatural joy which springs from our delight at seeing the glorious triumph of our Emmanuel, and from the happiness we feel at our own being delivered from the bonds of death. This interior joy was the characteristic of the Saint whom we honour to-day. His heart was ever full of a jubilant enthusiasm for what regards God; so that we could truly apply to him those words of Scripture: A secure mind is like a continual feast.[1] One of his latest disciples, the illustrious Father Faber, tells us in his beautiful treatise, Growth in Holiness, that cheerfulness is one of the chief means for advancing in Christian perfection. We will therefore welcome with gladness and veneration the benevolent and light-hearted Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, and one of the greatest Saints produced by the Church in the sixteenth century.

Love of God—but a love of the most ardent kind, and one that communicated itself to all that came near him—was our Saint’s characteristic virtue. All the Saints loved God; for the love of God is the first and greatest of the commandments: but Philip’s whole life was, in an especial manner, the fulfilment of this divine precept. His entire existence seemed to be but one long transport of love for his Creator; and had it not been for a miracle of God’s power and goodness, this burning love would have soon put an end to his mortal career. He was in his twenty-ninth year, when one day—it was within the octave of Pentecost—he was seized with such a vehemence of divine charity that two of his ribs broke, thus making room for the action of the heart to respond freely to the intensity of the love of the soul. The fracture was never healed; it caused a protrusion which was distinctly observable; and, owing to this miraculous enlargement of the region of the heart, Philip was enabled to live fifty years more, during which time he loved his God with a fervour and strength which would do honour to one already in heaven.

This seraph in human flesh was a living answer to the insults heaped upon the Catholic Church by the so-called Reformation. Luther and Calvin had called this Holy Church the harlot of Babylon; and yet she had, at that very time, such children as Teresa of Spain, and Philip Neri of Rome, to offer to the admiration of mankind. But Protestantism cared little or nothing for piety or charity; its great object was the throwing off the yoke of restraint. Under pretence of religious liberty, it persecuted them that adhered to the true faith; it forced itself by violence where it could not enter by seduction; but it never aimed at or thought of leading men to love their God. The result was that wheresoever it imposed its errors, devotedness was at an end—we mean that devotedness which leads man to make sacrifices for God or for his neighbour. A very long period of time elapsed after the Reformation before Protestantism ever gave a thought to the infidels who abounded in various parts of the globe: and if, later on, it organized what it calls its missions, it chose a strange set of men to be the apostles of its Bible Societies. It has made a recent discovery; it has found out that the Catholic Church is prolific in Orders and Congregations devoted to works of charity. The discovery has excited it to emulation; and among its other imitations, it can now boast of having Protestant Sisters of Charity. To a certain point, success may encourage it to persevere in these tardy efforts; but anything like the devotedness of Catholic institutions is an impossibility for Protestantism, were it only for this reason, that its principles are opposed to the Evangelical Counsels, which are the great sources of the spirit of sacrifice, and are prompted by a motive of the love of God.

Glory, then, to Philip Neri, one of the worthiest representatives of charity in the sixteenth century! It was owing to his zeal that Rome and Christendom at large were replenished with a new life by the frequentation of the sacraments and by the exercises of Catholic piety. His word, his very look, used to excite people to devotion. His memory is still held in deep veneration, especially in Rome, where his feast is kept with the greatest solemnity on this twenty-sixth day of May. He shares with Saints Peter and Paul the honour of being patron of the Holy City. Formerly, on his feast, the Pope went, with great solemnity, to the Church of St Mary in Vallicella, and paid the debt of gratitude which the Holy See owes to the Saint who accomplished such great things for the glory of our holy Mother the Church.

Philip had the gift of miracles; and though seeking to be forgotten and despised, he was continually surrounded by people who besought him to pray for them, either in their temporal or spiritual concerns. Death itself was obedient to his command, as in the case of the young prince Paul Massimo. The young prince, when breathing his last, desired that Philip should be sent for, in order that he might assist him to die happily. The Saint was saying Mass at the time. As soon as the holy Sacrifice was over, he repaired to the palace; but he was too late; he found the father, sister and the whole family in tears. The young prince had died after an illness of sixty-five days, which he had borne with most edifying patience. Philip fell upon his knees; and, after a fervent prayer, he put his hand on the head of the corpse, and called the prince by his name. Thus awakened from the sleep of death, Paul opened his eyes, and looking at Philip, said to him: ‘My Father!’ He then added these words: ‘I only wished to go to confession.’ The assistants left the room, and Philip remained alone with the prince. After a few moments the family were called back; and in their presence, Paul began to speak to Philip regarding his mother and sister who had been taken from him by death, and whom he loved with the tenderest affection. During the conversation, the prince's face regained all it had lost by sickness. His animation was that of one in perfect health. The saint then asked him if he would wish to die again. ‘Oh! yes,’ answered the prince, ‘most willingly; for I should then see my mother and sister in heaven.’ ‘Take then’ said Philip, ‘take thy departure for heaven, and pray to the Lord for me.’ At these words, the young prince expired once more, and entered into the joys of eternal life, leaving his family to mourn his departure, and venerate a Saint such as Philip.

He was almost continually visited by our Lord with raptures and ecstasies; he was gifted with the spirit of prophecy, and could read the secrets of the conscience. His virtues were such as to draw souls to him by an irresistible charm. The youth of Rome, rich and poor, used to flock to him. Some he warned against danger; others he saved, after they had fallen. The poor and sick were the object of his unceasing care. He seemed to be everywhere in the city by his works of zeal, which gave an impulse to piety that has never been forgotten.

Philip was convinced that one of the principal means for maintaining the Christian spirit is preaching the word of God: hence he was most anxious to provide the faithful with apostolic men, who would draw them to God by good and solid preaching. He established, under the name of The Oratory, an institute which still exists, the object of which is to encourage Christian piety among the people. By founding it, Philip aimed at securing the services, zeal, and talent of priests who are not called to the Religious life, but who, by uniting their labours together, would produce great good to the souls of men.[2]

Thus did he afford to priests, whose vocation does not lead them to the Religious state, the great advantages of a common rule and mutual good example, which are such powerful aids both in the service of God and in the exercise of pastoral duties. But the holy Apostle was a man of too much faith not to have an esteem of the Religious life as a state of perfection. He never lost an opportunity of encouraging a vocation to that holy state. The Religious Orders were indebted to him for so many members, that his intimate friend and admirer, St Ignatius of Loyola, used playfully to compare him to a bell, which calls others to Church, yet never goes in itself!

The awful crisis of the sixteenth century, through which the Christian world had to pass, and which robbed the Catholic Church of so many provinces, was a source of keenest grief to Philip during the whole of his life. His heart bled at seeing so many thousand souls fall into the abyss of error and heresy. He took the deepest interest in the efforts that were made to reclaim those that had been led astray by the pretended Reformation. He kept a watchful eye on the tactics wherewith Protestantism sought to maintain its ground. The ‘Centuries of Magdeburg,’ for example, suggested to his zeal a counterbalance of truth. The ‘Centuries’ was a series of historical essays, whereby the Reformers sought to prove that the Roman Church had changed the ancient faith, and introduced superstitious practices in the place of those that were used in the early ages of Christianity. A work like this, with its falsified quotations, its misrepresentation and its frequent invention of facts, was destined to do great injury; and Philip resolved to meet it by a work of profound erudition—a true history, compiled from authentic sources. One of the fathers of his Oratory, Cæsar Baronius, was just the man for such an undertaking; and Philip ordered him to take the field against the enemy. The Ecclesiastical Annals were the fruit of this happy thought; and Baronius himself, at the beginning of Book VIII, acknowledges that Philip was the originator of the work. Three centuries have passed away since then. It is easy for us, with the means which science now puts into our hands, to detect certain imperfections in the Annals; at the same time, it is acknowledged on all sides that they form by far the truest and finest History of the Church of the first twelve hundred years—which is as far as the learned Cardinal went. Heresy felt the injury it must needs sustain by such a History. The sickly and untrustworthy erudition of the Centuriators could not stand before an honest statement of facts; and we may safely assert that the progress of Protestantism was checked by the Annals of Baronius, which showed that the Church was then as she had ever been—the pillar and ground of the truth.[3] Philip's sanctity and Baronius’ learning secured the victory. Numerous conversions soon followed, consoling the Church for the losses she had sustained. And if in these our own days there are so many returning to the ancient faith, it is but fair to attribute the movement, in part at least, to the success of the historical method begun by the Annals.

Let us now read the liturgical account of the virtues and holy deeds of the Apostle of Rome in the sixteenth century:


Philippus Nerius piis honestisque parentibus Florentiae natus, ab ipsa ineunte ætate non obscura dedit futuræ sanctitatis indicia. Adolescens ampla patrui hereditate dimissa, Romam se contulit; ubi philosophia ac sacris litteris eruditus, totum se Christo dicavit. Ea fuit abstinentia, ut sæpe jejunus triduum permanserit. Vigiliis et orationibus intentus, septem Urbis ecclesias frequenter visitans, apud Cœmeterium Callisti in cœlestium rerum contemplatione pernoctare consuevit. Sacerdos ex obedientia factus, in animarum salute procuranda totus fuit, et in confessionibus audiendis ad extremum usque diem perseverans, innumeros pene filios Christo peperit; quos verbi Dei quotidiano pabulo, sacramentorum frequentia, orationisassiduitate, aliisque piis exercitationibus enutriri cupiens, Oratorii congregationem instituit.

Charitate Dei vulneratus languebat jugiter: tantoque cor ejus æstuabat ardore, ut cum intra fines suos contineri non posset, illius sinum confractis atque elatis duabus costulis mirabiliter Dominus ampliaverit. Sacrum vero faciens, aut ferventius orans, in aera quandoque sublatus, mira undique luce fulgere visus fuit. Egenos et pauperes omni charitatis officio prosequebatur: dignus qui et angelo in specie pauperis eleemosynam erogaret, et dum egentibus noctu panem deferret, in foveam lapsus, inde pariter ab angelo incolumis eriperetur. Humilitati addictus, ab honoribus semper abhorruit, atque ecclesiasticas dignitates, etiam primarias, non semel ultro delatas, constantissime recusavit.

Prophetiæ dono fuit illustris, et in animorum sensibus penetrandis mirifice enituit. Virginitatem perpetuo illibatam servavit: idque assecutus est, ut eos qui puritatem colerent, ex odore; qui vero secus, ex fœtore dignosceret. Absentibus interdum apparuit, iisque periclitantibus opem tulit. Ægrotos plurimos et morti proximos sanitati restituit. Mortuum quoque ad vitam revocavit. Cœlestium spirituum, et ipsius Deiparae Virginis, frequenter fuit apparitione dignatus, ac plurimorum animas splendore circumfusas in cœlum conscendere vidit. Denique anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo nonagesimo quinto, octavo Kalendas Junias, in quem diem inciderat festum Corporis Christi, Sacro maxima spiritus exsultatione peracto cæterisque functionibus expletis, post mediam noctem, qua prædixerat hora, octogenarius obdormivit in Domino. Quem Gregorius Decimus quintus miraculis clarum in Sanctorum numerum retulit.
Philip Neri was born at Florence, of pious and respectable parents. From his very childhood he gave evident promise of future sanctity. Whilst yet a young man, he gave up an ample fortune which he inherited from an uncle, and went to Rome, where he studied theology and philosophy, and devoted himself wholly to the service of Christ Jesus. Such was his abstemiousness that he frequently passed three days without eating anything. He spent much time in watching and prayer. He frequently made the visit of the Seven Churches of the city, and was in the habit of spending the night in the Cemetery of Calixtus, in the contemplation of heavenly things. Being ordained priest under obedience, he devoted himself without reserve to saving souls, and even to the last day of his life he was assiduous in hearing confessions. He was the spiritual father of a countless number of souls; and in order to nourish them with the daily food of God’s word, with the frequency of the sacraments, with application to prayer, and with other pious exercises, he instituted the congregation of the Oratory.'

He was ever languishing with the love of God, wherewith he was wounded. Such was the ardour that glowed within him, that his heart was not able to keep within its place, and his breast was miraculously enlarged by the breaking and expansion of two of his ribs. Sometimes, when celebrating Mass, or engaged in fervent prayer, he was seen to be raised up in the air, and encircled with a bright light. He served the needy and the poor with an allproviding charity. He was once rewarded by a visit from an angel, who appeared to him in a beggar’s garb, and received an alms from him. On another occasion, when carrying loaves to the poor during the night, he fell into a deep hole, but was drawn forth by an angel without having sustained any injury. So humble was he, that he had an abiding dread of everything that savoured of honour; and he was most resolute in refusing every ecclesiastical dignity, though the highest offices were more than once offered to him.

He possessed the gift of prophecy, and could miraculously read the inmost thoughts of others’ souls. Throughout his whole life he preserved his chastity unsullied. He had also a supernatural power of distinguishing those who were chaste from those who were not so. He sometimes appeared to persons who were at a distance, and assisted them in moments of danger. He restored to health many that were sick and at death’s door. He also restored a dead man to life. He was frequently favoured with apparitions of heavenly spirits and of the blessed Mother of God. He saw the souls of several persons ascending, amidst great brightness, into heaven. At length, being in his eightieth year, he slept in the Lord; it was in the year of our Redemption 1595, the eighth of the Calends of June (May 25), the Feast of Corpus Christi, after having said Mass with extraordinary spiritual joy, and at the very hour which he had foretold, which was shortly after midnight. The miracles wherewith he had been honoured being authentically proved, he was canonized by Pope Gregory the Fifteenth.

Thy whole life, O Philip, was one long act of love of Jesus; but it was also one untiring effort to make others know and love him, and thus secure the end for which they were created. Thou wast the indefatigable Apostle of Rome for forty years, and no one could approach thee without receiving something of the divine ardour that filled thy heart. We too would fain receive of thy fulness of devotion; and therefore we pray thee to teach us how to love our Risen Jesus. It is not enough that we adore him and rejoice in his triumph—we must love him; for he has permitted us to celebrate the various mysteries of his life on earth, with a view to our seeing more and more clearly how deserving he is of our warmest love. It is love that will lead us to the full appreciation of his Resurrection, that bright mystery which shows us all the riches of the Sacred Heart. The new life which he put on by rising from the tomb, teaches us more eloquently than ever how tenderly he loves us, and how earnestly he importunes us to love him in rerum. Pray for us, O Philip, that our heart and our flesh may rejoice in the Living God![4] Now that we have relished the mystery of the Pasch, lead us to that of the Ascension; prepare our souls to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; and when the august mystery of the Eucharist beams upon us, with all its loveliness, in the approaching festival, the very day that ushered thee into the unveiled vision of thy Jesus, intercede for us, that we may receive and relish that Living Bread, which giveth life to the world![5]

The sanctity that shone on thee, O Philip, was marked by the impetuosity of thy soul's longing after her God; and all they that held intercourse with thee, quickly imbibed thy spirit—which, in truth, is the only one that contents our Redeemer’s Heart. Thou hadst the talent of winning souls, and leading them to perfection by the path of confidence and generosity. In this great work, thy method consisted in having none; thus imitating the Apostles and ancient Fathers, and trusting to the power of God’s own word. It was by thee that the frequentation of the sacraments was restored—that surest indication of the Christian spirit. Pray for the faithful of our times, and come to the assistance of so many souls that are anxiously pursuing systems of spirituality which have been coined by the hands of men, and which but too frequently retard or even impede the intimate union of the creature with his Creator.

Thy love of the Church, O Philip, was most fervent: there can be no true sanctity without it. Though thy contemplation was of the sublimest kind, yet did it not make thee lose sight of the cruel trials which this holy Spouse of Christ had to endure in those sad times. The successful efforts of heresy stimulated thy zeal: oh! obtain for us that keen sympathy for our holy faith which will make us take an interest in all that concerns its progress. It is not enough for us that we save our own souls; we must, moreover, ardently desire and do our utmost to obtain the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth, the extirpation of heresy, and the exaltation of our holy Mother the Church: if these are not our dispositions, how can we call ourselves children of God? May thy example urge us to take to heart the sacred cause of our common Mother. Pray too for the Church militant, of which thou wast one of the bravest soldiers. Shield with thy protection that Rome which loves thee so devoutly because of the services which she received at thy hands. Thou didst lead her children to holiness during thy mortal career; bless her and defend her now that thou art in heaven.


[1] Prov. xv 15.
[2] The Oratory founded by St Philip is not to be confounded with the Orutoirc de France.
[3] 1 Tim. iii 15.
[4] Ps. lxxxiii 2.
[5] St John vi 33.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS twenty-sixth of May is also honoured by the memory of one of those early Pontiffs who, like Urban, were the foundations of the Church in the age of persecution. Eleutherius ascended the papal throne in the very midst of the storm that was raised by Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. It was he that received the embassy sent to Rome by the martyrs of Lyons; and at the head of them that were thus sent was the great St Irenæus. This illustrious Church, which was then so rich in martyrdom, would offer its palms to Christian Rome, in which, to use St Irenæus’ own expression, it recognized ‘the highest sovereignty.’[1]

Peace, however, was soon restored to the Church, and the remainder of Eleutherius’ pontificate was undisturbed. In the enjoyment of this peace, and with his name, which signifies a freeman, this Pontiff is an image of our Risen Jesus, who, as the Psalmist says of him, is free among the dead.[2]

The Church honours St Eleutherius as a martyr, as she does the other Popes who hved before Constantine, and of whom almost all shed their blood in the persecutions of the first three centuries. Sharing, as they did, in all the sufferings of the Church, governing it amidst perils of every description, and seldom or never knowing what peace was, these three and thirty Pontiffs have every right to be considered as martyrs.

It is a special glory for Eleutherius that he was the Apostle of our own dear country. The Romans had made Britain one of their colonies, and thus brought the island into intercourse with the rest of the world. Divine Providence chose the peaceful years of Eleutherius as the time for uniting it to the Church, at least in some measure. This was in the second century. But later on, our England was to become the Island of Saints; and this same day gives us our second Apostle, St Augustine.

Eleutherius, Nicopoli in Græcia natus, Aniceti Pontificis diaconus, Commodo Imperatore, præfuit Ecclesiæ. Huic initio pontificatus supplices litteræ venerunt a Lucio, Britannorum rege, ut se ac suos in Christianorum numerum reciperet. Quamobrem Fugatium et Damianum, doctos et pios viros, misit in Britanniam, per quos rex et reliqui fidem susciperent. Hoc Pontifice Irenæus, Polycarpi discipulus, Romam veniens, ab eo benigne acceptus est. Quo tempore summa pace et quiete fruebatur Ecclesia Dei: ac per totum orbem terrarum, maxime Romæ, fides propagabatur. Vixit Eleutherius in pontificatu annos quindecim, dies viginti tres. Fecit ordinationes tres mense Decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros duodecim, diaconos octo, episcopos per diversa loca quindecim: sepultusque est in Vaticano prope corpus sancti Petri.
Eleutherius was born at Nicopolis in Greece. He was a deacon of Pope Anicetus, and was chosen to govern the Church during the reign of the emperor Commodus. At the beginning of his pontificate he received letters from Lucius, king of the Britons, begging him to receive himself and his subjects among the Christians. Wherefore Eleutherius sent into Britain Fugatius and Damian, two learned and holy men; through whose ministry the king and his people might receive the faith. It was also during his pontificate that Irenæus, a disciple of Polycarp, went to Rome, and was kindly received by Eleutherius. The Church of God was then enjoying great peace and calm, and the faith made progress throughout the whole world, but nowhere more than at Rome. Eleutherius governed the Church fifteen years and twenty-three days. He thrice held ordinations in December, at which he made twelve priests, eight deacons, and fifteen bishops for divers places. He was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St Peter.

Thy name, O Eleutherius, is the name of every Christian that has risen with Christ. The Pasch has delivered us all, emancipated all, made us all freemen. Pray for us that we may ever preserve that glorious liberty of the children of God, of which the Apostle speaks.[3] By it were we freed from the chains of sin, which consigned us to death; from the slavery of Satan, who would fain have robbed us of our last end; and from the tyranny of the world, which was deceiving us by its false maxims. The new life given to us by our Pasch is one that is all of heaven, where our Jesus is awaiting us in glory; to lose it would be to return to slavery. Holy Pontiff! pray for us, that when the Pasch of next year comes, it may find us in that happy liberty which is the fruit of our having been redeemed by Christ.[4]

There is another kind of liberty of which the world boasts, and for the acquiring whereof it sets men at variance with men. It consists in avoiding as a crime all subjection and dependence, and in recognizing no authority except the one appointed by our own elections, which we can remove as soon as we please. Deliver us, O holy Pontiff, from this false liberty, which is so opposed to the Christian spirit of obedience, and is simply the triumph of human pride. In its frenzy, it sheds torrents of blood; and with its pompous cant of what it calls the rights of man, it substitutes egoism for duty. It acknowledges no such thing as truth, for it maintains that error has its sacred rights; it acknowledges no such thing as good, for it has given up all pretension to prevent evil. It puts God aside, for it refuses to recognize him in those who govern. It puts upon man the yoke of brute force: it tyrannizes over him by what it calls a Majority; and it answers every complaint that he may make against injustice by the jargon of Accomplished Facts. No, this is not the liberty into which we are called by Christ, our Deliverer. We are free, as St Peter says, and yet make not liberty a cloak for malice.[5]

O holy Pontiff! show thyself still a Father to the world. During thy peaceful reign thy throne was near to that of the Cæsars, who governed the city of the Seven Hills. They were the rulers of the world, and yet thy name was revered in every part of their Empire. Whilst the material power held the sword suspended over thy head, the faithful of various distant lands were flocking to Rome, there to venerate the Tomb of Peter, and pay homage to thee his successor. When Lucius sent ambassadors from his island, they turned not their steps to the Emperor's palace, but to thy humble dwelling. They came to tell thee that a people was called by divine grace to receive the Good Tidings, and become a portion of the Christian family. The destinies of this people, which thou wast the first to evangelize, were to be great in the Church. The Island of Britain is a daughter of the Roman 

Church; and the attempts she is now making to disown her origin are useless. Have pity on her, O thou who wast her first Apostle! Bless the efforts which are being everywhere made to bring her back to unity with the Church. Remember the faith of Lucius and his people; and show thy paternal solicitude for a country which thou didst lead to the faith.


[1] Adversus Hæreses, lib. iii, cap. iii.
[2] Ps. lxxxvii 6.
[3] Rom. viii 21.
[4] Gal. iv 31.
[5] 1 St Pet. ii 16.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FOUR hundred years had scarcely elapsed since the glorious death of Eleutherius, when a second Apostle of Britain ascended from this world, and on this same day, to the abode of eternal bliss. We cannot but be struck by the fact that the names of our two Apostles appear on the Calendar together: it shows us that God has his own special reasons in fixing the day for the death of each one among us. We have more than once noticed these providential coincidences, which form one of the chief characteristics of the liturgical cycle. What a beautiful sight is brought before us to-day, of the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who, after honouring on this day the saintly memory of the holy Pontiff from whom England first received the Gospel, himself ascended into heaven, and shared with Eleutherius the eternity of heaven’s joy! Who would not acknowledge in this, a pledge of the predilection wherewith heaven has favoured this country, which, after centuries of fidelity to the truth, has now for more than three hundred years been an enemy to her own truest glory?

The work begun by Eleutherius had been almost entirely destroyed by the invasion of the Saxons and Angles; so that a new mission, a new preaching of the Gospel, had become a necessity. It was Rome that again supplied the want. St Gregory the Great was the originator of the great design. Had it been permitted him, he would have taken upon himself the fatigues of this apostolate to our country. He was deeply impressed with the idea that he was to be the spiritual Father of these poor islanders, some of whom he had seen exposed in the market-place of Rome, that they might be sold as slaves. Not being allowed to undertake the work himself, he looked around him for men whom he might send as Apostles to our island. He found them in the Benedictine monastery where he himself had spent several years of his life. There started from Rome forty monks, with Augustine at their head, and they entered England under the standard of the Cross.

Thus the new race that then peopled the island received the faith, as the Britons had previously done, from the hands of a Pope; and monks were their teachers in the science of salvation. The word of Augustine and his companions fructified in this privileged soil. It was some time of course before he could provide the whole nation with instruction; but neither Rome nor the Benedictines abandoned the work thus begun. The few remnants that were still left of the ancient British Christianity joined the new converts; and England merited to be called, for long ages, the ‘Island of Saints.’

The history of St Augustine’s apostolate in England is of thrilling interest. The landing of the Roman missioners, and their marching through the country, to the chant of the Litany; the willing and almost kind welcome given them by king Ethelbert; the influence exercised by his queen Bertha, who was a Frenchwoman and a Catholic, in the establishment of the faith among the Saxons; the baptism of ten thousand neophytes, on Christmas day, and in the bed of a river; the foundation of the metropolitan see of Canterbury, one of the most illustrious Churches of Christendom on account of the holiness and noble doings of its Archbishops; all these admirable episodes of England’s conversion are eloquent proofs of God’s predilection of our dear land. Augustine’s peaceful and gentle character, together with his love of contemplation amidst his arduous missionary labours, gives an additional charm to this magnificent page of the Church’s history. But who can help feeling sad at the thought that a country, favoured as ours has been with such graces, should have apostatized from the faith; have repaid with hatred that Rome which made her Christian; and have persecuted with unheard-of cruelties the Benedictine Order to which she owed so much of her glory?

We subjoin the following Lessons on the life of our Apostle, taken from an Office approved by the Holy See:

Augustinus Romæ in Sancti Andreæ cœnobio monachus, ibidem etiam Præpositi officium pie ac prudenter administravit. Hinc eum Gregorius Magnus in Britanniam, cum sociis monachis fere quadraginta, direxit: ut gentis illius conversionem ad Christum, quam ipse animo pridem agitabat, per discipulos suos exsequeretur. Eosdem jam aliquantum itineris progressos, tantique negotii difficultate perterritos, litteris confirmavit per Augustinum: quem ipsis Abbatem præfecit, et Francorum regibus, Gallicanisque episcopis commendavit. Augustinus igitur cum suis iter accelerans, Turones accessit ad tumulum sancti Martini: tum ad Pontem Cæsaris, haud procul Andegavis, indigna passus ab incolis, et sub aperto aere pernoctare coactus, cum baculo fontem divinitus eduxit eo in loco ubi postea ecclesiam sui nominis habere meruit.

Acceptis de gente Francomm interpretibus, in Tanetum, Angliæ insulam, adpulsus; cruce argentea et imagine Salvatoris pro vexillo prælata, Ethelbertum, Cantii regem, adiit: qui præconibus evangelicis domicilium in civitate Cantuariensi, et prædicandi in regno suo facultatem liberaiiter concessit. Erat autem prope oratorium quoddam in honorem beati Martini antiquitus exstructum, dum adhuc Romani Britanniam incolerent: in quo regina, quæ Christiana erat, nempe de gente Francorum, Bertha nomine, orare consueverat. Augustinus igitur solemni ritu, cum psalmis et litaniis, Cantuariam ingressus, in eodem oratorio aliquandiu consedit: ubi apostolicum vivendi genus cum suis æmulatus est. Quo quidem vitæ genere, simul et cœlesti doctrina plurimis confirmata miraculis, sic insulanos demulsit, ut eorum plerosque ad christianam fidem perduxerit, ac demum regem ipsum, quem, cum innumero suorum comitatu, sacro fonte lustravit. Quin etiam, semel in Natali Domini, quum millibus Anglorum amplius decem baptismum in alveo fluminis Eboraci contulisset; quotquot ex ipsis aliquo morbo affecti erant, cum animarum salute corporum quoque sanitatem recepisse memorantur.

Interea vir Dei Augustinus, Gregorii jussu ordinatus in Gallia Episcopus a Virgilio Arelatensi Episcopo, sedem Cantuariæ instituit in ecclesia Salvatoris a se erecta: in qua monachos opens sui subsidiarios collocavit: et Sancti Petri monasterium, quod postea ipsius nomine dictum est, in suburbanis construxit. De Anglorum conversione certior factus Gregorius per Laurentium et Petrum monachos, Romam ab Augustino missos: scriptis litteris illi gratulatus est. OrdinandæAnglicanæ Ecclesiæ facultatem, usumque pallii concessit: eumque insuper monuit ne miracula quæ in aliorum salutem, operante Deo, frequenter patrabat, efferendo sese, in suam ipsius perniciem converteret.

Dispositis Anglicanæ Ecclesiæ rebus, synodum habuit Augustinus cum Episcopis atque Doctoribus veterum Britonum, qui in Paschæ celebratione, aliisque ritibus, ab Ecclesia Romana jam dudum dissidebant; Et ut eos miraculis convinceret, quos sæpe admonitos nulla flexisset Apostolicæ Sedis auctoritas, cæco lumen, in rei quam asserebat testimonium, coram eis restituit. Sed, quum nec signo divinitus edito adquiescerent, prophetico spiritu eis excidium prædixit. Denique, multis pro Christo laboribus perfunctus, designato Laurentio successore, in cœlos migravit septimo kalendas junii, sepultus in monasterio Sancti Petri, quod Cantuariensium Pontificum et aliquot regum conditorium fuit. Ejus cultum ferventi studio prosecutæ sunt Anglorum Ecclesiæ, statuto edito ut ejus festus dies quotannis feriatus haberetur; nomen vero in litaniis proximum haberet locum post sanctum Gregorium; cum quo Augustinus Anglorum apostolus, et Benedictini ordinis propagator, semper ab indigenis honoratus est.
Augustine was a Monk of the Monastery of Saint Andrew, in Rome, where also he discharged the office of Prior with much piety and prudence. He was taken from that Monastery by St Gregory the Great; and sent by him, with about forty Monks of the same monastery, into Britain. Thus would Gregory carry out, by his disciples, the conversion of that country to Christ—a project which he at first resolved to effect himself. They had not advanced far on their journey, when they became frightened at the difficulty of such an enterprise; but Gregory encouraged them by letters which he sent to Augustine, whom he appointed as their Abbot, and gave him letters of introduction to the kings of the Franks, and to the Bishops of Gaul. Whereupon Augustine and his Monks pursued their journey with haste. He visited the tomb of St Martin, at Tours. Having reached the town of Pont-de-Cé, not far from Angers, he was badly treated by its inhabitants, and was compelled to spend the night in the openair. Having struck the ground with his staff, a fountain miraculously sprang up; and on that spot a Church was afterwards built, and called after his name.

Having procured interpreters from the Franks, he proceeded to England and landed at the Isle of Thanet. He entered the country, carrying, as a standard, a silver Cross, and a painting representing our Saviour. Thus did he present himself before Ethelbert, the king of Kent, who readily provided the heralds of the Gospel with a dwelling in the city of Canterbury, and gave them leave to preach in his kingdom. There was close at hand an Oratory which had been built in honour of St Martin, when the Romans had possession of Britain. It was in this Oratory that his queen Bertha (who was a Christian, as being of the nation of the Franks) was wont to pray. Augustine, therefore, entered into Canterbury with solemn religious ceremony, amidst the chanting of psalms and litanies. He took up his abode for some time near to the said Oratory; and there, together with his Monks, led an apostolic life. Such manner of living, conjointly with the heavenly doctrine that was preached, and confirmed by many miracles, so reconciled the islanders, that many of them were induced to embrace the Christian Faith. The king himself was also converted, and Augustine baptized him and a very great number of his people. On one Christmas Day he baptized upwards of ten thousand English, in a river at York; and it is related that those among them who were suffering any malady, received bodily health, as well as their spiritual regeneration.

Meanwhile, the man of God Augustine received a command from Gregory to go and receive Episcopal ordination in Gaul, at the hands of Virgilius, the Bishop of Arles. On his return he established his See at Canterbury, in the Church of our Saviour, which he had built, and he kept there some of the Monks to be his fellow-labourers. He also built in the suburbs the Monastery of Saint Peter, which was afterwards called ‘Saint Augustine’s.’ When Gregory heard of the conversion of the Angli, which was told to him by the two Monks Laurence and Peter, whom Augustine had sent to Rome, he wrote letters of congratulation to Augustine. He gave him power to arrange all that concerned the Church in England, and to wear the Pallium. In the same letters he admonished him to be on his guard against priding himself on the miracles which God enabled him to work for the salvation of souls, lest pride should turn them to the injury of him that worked them.

Having thus put in order the affairs of the Church in England, Augustine held a Council with the Bishops and Doctors of the ancient Britons, who had long been at variance with the Roman Church in the keeping of Easter and other rites. And in order to refute, by miracles, these men, whom the Apostolic See had often authoritatively admonished, but to no purpose, Augustine, in proof of the truth of his assertions, restored sight to a blind man in their presence. But on their refusing to yield even after witnessing the miracle, Augustine, with prophetic warning, told them of the punishment that awaited them. At length, after having laboured so long for Christ, and appointed Laurence as his successor, he took his departure for heaven on the seventh of the Calends of June (May 26) and was buried in the Monastery of Saint Peter, which became the burying-place of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and of several kings. The Churches of England honoured him with great devotion. They decreed that each year his feast should be kept as a holyday, and that his name should be inserted in the Litany, immediately after that of St Gregory, together with whom Augustine has ever been honoured by the English as their Apostle, and as the propagator of the Benedictine Order in their country.

We also give the following hymn in honour of our Apostle, which has also been approved by the Holy See: 

Hymn

Fœcunda sanctis insula,
Tuum canas apostolum;
Et filium Gregorii
Laudes piis concentibus.

Ejus labore fertilis,
Messem dedisti plurimam,
Quæ sanctitatis floribus
Diu refulges inclyta.

Turma quadragenaria
Stipatus intrat Angliam:
Vexilla Christi proferens,
Dux pacis adfert pignora.

Crucis trophæum promicat,
Verbum salutis spargitur:
Fidem quin ipse barbarus
Rex corde prompto suscipit.

Mores feros gens exuit,
Undisque lota fluminis,
Ipsa die renascitur
Qua sol salutis ortus est.

O Pastor alme, filios
E sede pascas siderum:
In matris ulnas anxiæ
Gregem reducas devium.

Præsta, beata Trinitas,
Quæ rore jugi gratiæ
Vitem rigas: ut pristina
Fides resurgens floreat.

Amen.
O isle fruitful in Saints,
sing a hymn to thine Apostle!
Praise in holy song
the son of Gregory!

Made fertile by his toil,
thou gavest a rich harvest,
and for ages wast famed
for thy flowers of sanctity.

He enters England,
having with him his forty brethren.
He bears the standard of Christ.
He is the leader, and brings the pledges of peace.

The trophy of the Cross shines forth;
the word of salvation is spread through the land.
Yea, the king himself, though a barbarian,
receives the faith with a ready heart.

The nation casts aside its savage ways;
it is baptized in the river's stream,
and is born to its new life,
on the very day that the Sun of Justice rose upon our earth.

O kind Shepherd!
from thy heavenly throne feed thy children.
Thy flock has gone astray;
lead it back to the arms of its anxious Mother.

O Blessed Trinity, that art ever pouring
the dew of grace upon thy vine!
grant that the ancient faith
may rise again and flourish in our land!

Amen.

O Jesus, our Risen Lord! thou art the life of nations, as thou art the life of our souls. Thou biddest them know and love and serve thee, for they have been given to thee for thine inheritance; and at thine own appointed time, each of them is made thy possession.[1] Our own dear country was one of the earliest to be called; and when on thy Cross thou didst look with mercy on this far island of the West. In the second Age of thy Church, thou didst send to her the heralds of thy Gospel; and again in the sixth, Augustine, thine Apostle, commissioned by Gregory, thy Vicar, came to teach the way of truth to the new pagan race that had made itself the owner of this highly favoured land.

How glorious, dear Jesus, was thy reign in our fatherland! Thou gavest her bishops, doctors, kings, monks, and virgins, whose virtues and works made the whole world speak of her as the 'Isle of Saints'; and it is to Augustine, thy disciple and herald, that thou wouldst have us attribute the chief part of the honour of so grand a conquest. Long indeed was thy reign over this people, whose faith was lauded throughout the whole world; but, alas! an evil hour came, and England rebelled against thee; she would not have thee to reign over her.[2] By her influence, she led other nations astray. She hated thee in thy Vicar; she repudiated the greater part of the truths thou hast revealed to men; she put out the light of faith, and substituted in its place the principles of private judgement, which made her the slave of countless false doctrines. In the mad rage of her heresy, she trampled beneath her feet and burned the relics of the Saints, who were her grandest glory; she annihilated the Monastic Order, to which she owed her knowledge of the Christian faith; she was drunk with the blood of the martyrs; she encouraged apostasy, and punished adhesion to the ancient faith as the greatest of crimes.

By a just judgement of God she has become a worshipper of material prosperity. Her wealth, her fleet, and her colonies—these are her idols, and she would awe the rest of the world by the power they give her. But the Lord will, in his own time, overthrow this colossus of power and riches; and as it was in times past, when the mightiest of kingdoms was destroyed by a stone which struck it on its feet of clay,[3] so will people be amazed, when the time of retribution comes, to find how easily the greatest of modem nations was conquered and humbled. England no longer forms a part of thy kingdom, O Jesus! She separated herself from it, by breaking the bond that had held her so long in union with thy Church. Thou hast patiently waited for her return; yet she returns not. Her prosperity is a scandal to the weak; so that her own best and most devoted children feel that her chastisement will be one of the severest that thy justice can inflict.

Meanwhile, thy mercy, O Jesus, is winning over thousands of her people to the truth, and their love of it seems fervent in proportion to their having been so long deprived of its beautiful light. Thou hast created a new people in her very midst, and each year the number is increasing. Cease not thy merciful workings; that thus these faithful ones may once more draw down upon our country the blessing she forfeited when she rebelled against thy Church.

Thy mission, then, O holy Apostle Augustine! is not yet over. The number of the elect is not filled up; and our Lord is gleaning some of these from amidst the tares that cover the land of thy loving labours. May thine intercession obtain for her children those graces which enlighten the mind and convert the heart. May it remove their prejudices, and give them to see that the Spouse of Jesus is but One, as he himself calls her;[4] that the faith of Gregory and Augustine is still the faith of the Catholic Church at this day; and that three hundred years’ possession could never give heresy any claim to a country which was led astray by seduction and violence, and which has retained so many traces of ancient and deep-rooted Catholicity.


[1] Ps. ii 8.
[2] St Luke xix 14.
[3] Dan. ii 35.
[4] Cant, vi 8.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE palm of martyrdom was won by this holy Pope, not in a victory over a pagan persecutor, but in battling for the Church’s liberty against a Christian king. But this king was a heretic, and therefore an enemy of every Pontiff that was zealous for the triumph of the true faith. The state of Christ’s Vicar here on earth is a state of combat; and it frequently happens that a Pope is veritably a martyr, without having shed his blood. St John I, whom we honour to-day, was not slain by the sword; a loathsome dungeon was the instrument of his martyrdom; but there are many Popes who are now in heaven with him, martyrs like himself, who never even passed a day in prison or in chains: the Vatican was their Calvary. They conquered, yet fell in the struggle with so little appearance of victory, that heaven had to take up the defence of their reputation, as was the case with that angelic Pontiff of the eighteenth century, Clement XIII.

The Saint of to-day teaches us, by his conduct, what should be the sentiment of every worthy member of the Church. He teaches us that we should never make a compromise with heresy, nor approve the measures taken by worldly policy for securing what it calls the rights of heresy. If the past ages, aided by the religious indifference of Governments, have introduced the toleration of all religions, or even the principle that ‘all religions are to be treated alike by the state,’ let us, if we will, put up with this latitudinarianism, and be glad to see that the Church, in virtue of it, is guaranteed from legal persecution; but as Catholics, we can never look upon it as an absolute good. Whatever may be the circumstances in which Providence has placed us, we are bound to conform our views to the principles of our holy faith, and to the infallible teaching and practice of the Church—out of which, there is but contradiction, danger and infidelity.

The holy Liturgy thus extols the virtues and courage of our Saint:

Joannes Etruscus, Justino seniore Imperatore rexit Ecclesiam: ad quem profectus est Constantinopolim auxilii causa, quod Theodoricus rex hæreticus divexabat Italiam: cujus etiam iter Deus miraculis illustravit. Nam cum ei nobilis vir ad Corinthum equum, quo ejus uxor mansueto utebatur, itineris causa commodasset; factum est, ut domino postea remissus equus ita ferox evaderet, ut fremitu et totius corporis agitatione semper deinceps dominam expulerit: tamquam indignaretur mulierem recipere, ex quo sedisset in eo Jesu Christi vicarius. Quamobrem illi equum pontifici donaverunt. Sed illud majus miraculum, quod Constantinopoli in aditu portæ aureæ, inspectante frequentissimo populo, qui una cum Imperatore Pontifici honoris causa occurrerat, cæco lumen restituit. Ad cujus pedes prostratus etiam Imperator eum veneratus est. Rebus cum Imperatore compositis, in Italiam rediit, statimque epistolam scripsit ad omnes Italiæ episcopos, jubens eos Arianorum ecclesias ad Catholicum ritum consecrare, illud subjungens: Quia et nos quando fuimus Constantinopoli, tam pro religione Catholica, quam pro regis Theodorici causa, quascumque illis in partibus eorum ecclesias reperire potuimus, Catholicas eas consecravimus. Quod iniquissimo animo ferens Theodoricus, dolo accersitum Pontificem Ravennam in carcerem conjecit: ubi squalore inediaque afflictus, paucis diebus cessit e vita, cum sedisset annos duos, menses novem, dies quatuordecim: ordinatis eo tempore episcopis quindecim. Paulo post moritur Theodoricus: quem quidam eremita, ut scribit sanctus Gregorius, vidit inter Joannem Pontificem et Symmachum Patritium, quem idem occiderat, demergi in ignem Liparitanum, ut videlicet illi, quibus mortem attulerat, tamquam judices essent ejus interitus. Joannis corpus Ravenna Romam portatum est, et in Basilica sancti Petri sepultum.
John, by birth a Tuscan governed the Church during the reign of the Emperor Justin the Elder. He undertook a journey to Constantinople, in order to solicit the Emperor's protection against the heretical king Theodoric, who was persecuting the faithful of Italy. God honoured the Pontiff, during this journey, by several miracles. When about to visit Corinth, a certain nobleman lent him a horse, which he kept for his wife’s use, on account of its being so gentle. When the Pontiff afterwards returned, and gave the horse back to the nobleman, it was no longer a tame creature as before; but, as often as its mistress attempted to ride it, would snort and prance, and throw her from its back, as though it scorned to bear a woman's weight, after it had carried the Vicar of Christ. They therefore gave the horse to the Pontiff. But a greater miracle was that which happened at Constantinople. Near to the Golden Gate, and in the presence of an immense concourse of people, who had assembled there together with the Emperor to show honour to the Pontiff, he restored sight to a blind man. The Emperor also prostrated before him, out of a sentiment of veneration. Having arranged matters with the Emperor, he returned to Italy, and immediately addressed a letter to all its bishops, commanding them to consecrate the churches of the Arians, that they might be used for Catholic services. He added these words: 'For, when at Constantinople, for the interests of the Catholic religion and on account of king Theodoric, we consecrated all the Arian churches we could find in that country, and made them Catholic.' Theodoric was exceedingly angry at this; and, having craftily induced the Pontiff to come to Ravenna, put him in prison. There, from the filth of the place, and from starvation, he died in a few days. He reigned two years, nine months, and fourteen days; during which time he ordained fifteen bishops. Theodoric died soon after; and St Gregory relates that a certain hermit saw him plunged into a pit of fire at Lipari, in the presence of John the Pontiff, and the Patrician Symmachus, whom he had murdered: thus they whom he had put to death stood as judges condemning him to punishment. The body of St John was taken from Ravenna to Rome, and buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Thy fair palm, O holy Pontiff, was the reward of proclaiming the spotless holiness of the Church of Christ. She is the glorious Church, as St Paul calls her, having neither spot nor wrinkle;[1] and, for that very reason she can never consent to yield to heresy any of the inheritance given her by her divine Lord. Nowadays, men form their calculations on the interests of this passing world, and are resolved to regulate society independently of the rights of the Son of God, from whom proceeds all social order, as well as all truth. They have deprived the Church of her external constitution and influence; and at the same time, they give encouragement to the sects that have rebelled against her. O holy Pontiff, teach us to realize what divine truth is, and how error can never create prescription against her rights. Then shall we submit to the unhappy necessities handed down to us by the fatal triumph of heresy, without accepting, as a sign of progress, the principle and law that ‘all religions are on an equality.’ In thy prison, brave martyr, thou didst proclaim the rights of the one only Church; preserve us, who are living during that revolt which was foretold by the Apostle,[2] from those cowardly compromises, dangerous prejudices, and culpable want of solid instruction, which are the ruin of so many souls; and may our last words, on leaving this world, be those that were taught us by our Jesus himself: Heavenly Father! Hallowed be thy Name! May thy Kingdom come!


[1] Eph. v 27.
[2] 2 Thess. ii 3.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE blessing given by our Lord as he ascended into heaven has revealed its power in the most distant pagan lands, and during these days the liturgical cycle bears witness to a concentration of graces upon the west of Europe.

The band of missionaries begged of Pope Eleutherius by the British king Lucius has been followed by the apostolate of Augustine, the envoy of Gregory the Great, and to-day, as though impatient to justify the lavish generosity of heaven, England brings forward her illustrious son, the Venerable Bede. This humble monk, whose whole life was spent in the praise of God, sought his divine Master in nature and in history, but above all in holy Scripture, which he studied with a loving attention and fidelity to tradition. He who was ever a disciple of the ancients, takes his place to-day among his masters as a Father and Doctor of the Church.

He thus sums up his own life: 'I am a priest of the monastery of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. I was bom on their land, and ever since my seventh year I have always lived in their house, obserying the Rule, singing day by day in their church, and making it my delight to learn, to teach or to write. Since I was made a priest, I have written commentaries on the holy Scripture for myself and my brethren, using the words of our venerated Fathers and following their method of interpretation. And now, good Jesus, I beseech thee, thou who hast given me in thy mercy to drink of the sweetness of thy word, grant me now to attain to the source, the fount of wisdom, and to gaze upon thee for ever and ever.’[1]

The holy death of the servant of God was one of the most precious lessons he left to his disciples. His last sickness lasted fifty days, and he spent them, like the rest of his life, in singing the psalms and in teaching. As the Feast of the Ascension drew near, he repeated over and over again with tears of joy the Antiphon: ‘O king of glory, who hast ascended triumphantly above the heavens, leave us not orphans, but send us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth.’ He said to his disciples in the words of St Ambrose: ‘I have not lived in such a sort as to be ashamed to live with you, but I am not afraid to die, for we have a good Master.’ Then, returning to his translation of the Gospel of St John and a work, which he had begun, on St Isidore, he would say: ‘I do not wish my disciples to be hindered after my death by error nor to lose the fruit of their studies.’

On the Tuesday before the Ascension he grew worse, and it was evident that the end was near. He was full of joy and spent the day in dictating and the night in prayers of thanksgiving. The dawn of Wednesday morning found him urging his disciples to hurry on their work. At the hour of Terce they left him to take part in the procession made on that day with the relics of the saints. One of them, a child, who stayed with him, said: 'Dear master, there is but one chapter left; hast thou strength for it?’ ‘It is easy,' he answered with a smile; ‘take thy pen, cut it and write—but make haste.' At the hour of None, he sent for the priests of the monastery and gave them little presents, begging them to remember him at the altar. All wept. But he was full of joy, saying: ‘It is time for me, if it so please my Creator, to return to him who made me out of nothing, when as yet I was not. My sweet Judge has well ordered my life, and now the time of dissolution is at hand. I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. Yea, my soul longs to see Christ my king in his beauty.’

So did he pass this last day. Then came the touching dialogue with Wibert, the child mentioned above. ‘Dear master, there is yet one sentence more.' 'Write quickly.' After a moment: ‘It is finished,’ said the child. 'Thou sayest well,' replied the blessed man. ‘It is finished. Take my head in thy hands and support me over against the Oratory, for it is a great joy to me to see myself over against that holy place where I have so often prayed.’ They had laid him on the floor of his cell. He said: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and when he had named the Holy Ghost, he yielded up his soul.

The following account of this holy monk is given in the Breviary:

Beda presbyter Girvi in Britanniæ et Scotiæ finibus ortus, septennis sancto Benedicto Biscopo abbati Wiremuthensi educandus traditur. Monachus deinde factus vitam sic instituit, ut dum se artium et doctrinarum studiis totum impenderet, nihil umquam de regulan disciplina remitteret. Nullum fuit doctrinæ genus, in quo non esset diligentissime versatus; sed præcipua illi cura divinarum scripturarum meditatio, quarum sententiam ut plenius assequeretur, græci hebraicique sermonis notitiam est adeptus. Tricesimo ætatis anno, abbatis sui jussu sacerdos initiatus, statim suasore Acca Hagulstadensi episcopo, sacros explanare libros aggressus est: in quo sanctorum Patrum doctrinis adeo inhæsit, ut nihil proferret nisi illorum judicio comprobatum, eorumdem etiam fere verbis usus. Otium perosus semper, ex lectione ad orationem transibat ac vicissim ex oratione ad lectionem: in qua adeo animo inflammabatur, ut sæpe inter legendum et docendum lacrymis perfunderetur. Ne autem rerum fluxarum curis distraheretur, delatum abbatis munus constantissime detrectavit.

Scientiae ac pietatis laude Bedæ nomen sic breve claruit, ut sanctus Sergius Papa de eo Romam arcessendo cogitaverit; quo difficillimis scilicet, quæ de rebus sacris exortæ erant, quæstionibus definiendis conferret operam. Emendandis fidelium moribus, fidei vindicandæ atque adserendæ libros plures conscripsit: quibus tantum sui apud omnes opinionem fecit, ut ilium sanctus Bonifacius episcopus et martyr Ecclesiæ lumen prædicaverit, Lanfrancus Anglorum doctorem, Concilium Aquisgranense doctorem admirabilem dixerit. Quin ejus scripta eo adhuc vivente, publice in ecclesiis legebantur. Quod cum fieret, quoniam ipsum sanctum minime appellare liceret, venerabilis titulo efferebant: qui deinde veluti proprius sequutis etiam temporibus semper habitus est. Ejus autem doctrinæ eo vis efficacior erat, quod artæ sanctimonia religiosisque virtutibus confirmabatur. Quamobrem discipulos, quos multos et egregios imbuendos habuit. studio et exemplo non litteris modo atque scientiis, sed etiam sanctitate fecit insignes.

Ætate demum et laboribus fractus, gravi morbo correptus est. Quo cum amplius quinquaginta dies detentus esset, consuetum orandi morem Scripturasque interpretandi non intercepit: eo namque tempore Evangelium Joannis in popularium suorum usum anglice vertit. Cum autem in Ascensionis præludio instare sibi mortem persentiret, supremis Ecclesiæ Sacramentis muniri voluit: tum sodales amplexatus, atque humi super cilicio stratus, cum ilia verba ingeminaret, Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, obdormivit in Domino. Ejus corpus, suavissimum, uti fertur, spirans odorem, sepultum est in monasterio Girvensi, ac postea Dunelmum cum sancti Cuthberti reliquiis translatum. Eum tamquam doctorem a Benedictinis aliisque religiosis familiis ac diœcesibus cultum, Leo decimus tertius Pontifex Maximus, ex Sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consulto, universalis Ecclesiæ doctorem declaravit, et festo ipsius die Missam et Officium de Doctoribus ab omnibus recitari decrevit.
Bede, a priest, was born at Jarrow, on the borders of England and Scotland. At the age of seven he was placed under the care of St Bennet Biscop, Abbot of Wearmouth, to be educated. He became a monk, and so ordered his life that, whilst devoting himself wholly to the pursuit of learning, he did in no way relax the discipline of his Order. There was no branch of learning in which he was not thoroughly versed, but his chief care was the study of the Holy Scriptures, and in order to understand them better, he learnt Greek and Hebrew. At the age of thirty he was ordained priest at the command of his Abbot, and, on the advice of Acca, bishop of Hexham, immediately undertook the work of expounding the Sacred Books. In his interpretations he adhered to the teachings of the holy Fathers so strictly that he advanced nothing which they had not taught, and even made use of their very words. He ever hated sloth, and by habitually passing from reading to prayer and from prayer to reading, he so maintained the fervour of his soul that he was often moved to tears while reading or teaching. He persistently refused the office of Abbot, lest his mind should be distracted by the cares of transitory things.

The name of Bede soon became so famous for learning and piety that Pope St Sergius thought of calling him to Rome so that he might help to solve the difficult questions which had then arisen concerning sacred things. He wrote many books to reform the lives of the faithful, and to defend and propagate the faith. By these he gained such a reputation in all parts that the holy Bishop Boniface, who was later martyred, called him a 'light of the Church.' Lanfranc styled him the * teacher of the English,' and the Council of Aix-la-Chapeile ‘the admirable Doctor.' But as his writings were publicly read in the churches during his lifetime, and as it was not yet allowable to call him ‘saint,' they named him the ‘Venerable,’ a title which has ever remained peculiarly his. The power of his teaching was the greater because it was confirmed by holiness of life and the observance of religious discipline. Hence his own earnestness and example made his disciples, who were many and distinguished, eminent not only in learning, but also in sanctity.

Worn out at length by age and labour, he was seized by a serious illness. Though his sufferings lasted more than seven weeks, he ceased not from his prayers and interpretation of the Scripture, for he was engaged in translating the Gospel of St John into English for the use of his people. But when, on the eve of the Ascension, he perceived that death was near, he asked for the last sacraments of the Church; then after he had embraced his companions and was laid on a piece of sackcloth on the ground, he repeated the words: 'Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and fell asleep in the Lord. His body, which, as they say, gave forth a very sweet odour, was buried in the monastery of Jarrow, and afterwards translated to Durham with the relics of St Cuthbert. Bede, who was already venerated as a Doctor by the Benedictines and other religious Orders, was declared by Pope Leo XIII, after consultation with the Sacred Congregation of Rites, to be a Doctor of the universal Church, and the Mass and Office of Doctors was ordered to be said by all on his feast.

‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’ is the hymn of eternity. Before the creation of the angels and of man, God, in the concert of the three divine Persons, sufficed for his own praise, and this praise was adequate, infinite and perfect, like the divinity. This was the only praise worthy of God. However magnificently the world may hymn its Creator in the thousand voices of nature, its praise is always below the divine Object. But, in the designs of God, creation was one day to send up to heaven an echo of that melody which is threefold and yet one, for the Word was to take flesh, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of Mary, and was to be Son of Man as truly as he is Son of God. Then the canticle of creation fully and perfectly re-echoed the adorable harmonies once known only to the blessed Trinity. Since that day a man who has understanding finds his perfection in such conformity to the Son of Mary, that he may be one with the Son of God in the divine concert wherein God is glorified.

This, O Bede, was thy life, for understanding was given thee. It was fitting that thy last breath should be spent in that song of love which had filled thy mortal life, and that thus thou shouldst enter at once into a glorious and blessed eternity. May we profit by that supreme lesson, which sums up all the teaching of thy grand and simple life!

Glory be to the almighty and merciful Trinity! These words form the close of the cycle of the mysteries which terminate at this time in the glorification of the Father, our sovereign Lord, by the triumph of the Son our Redeemer, and the inauguration of the reign of the Holy Ghost, our sanctifier. How splendid were the triumph of the Son and the reign of the Holy Ghost in the Isle of Saints in the days when Albion, twice given by Rome to Christ, shone like a priceless jewel in the diadem of the Spouse! O thou who wast the teacher of the English in the days of their fidelity, do not disappoint the hopes of the supreme Pontiff who has in our days extended thy cult to the Universal Church; but rekindle in the hearts of thy countrymen their former love for the Mother of all mankind.

[1] Bede, Hist, Eccl. cap. ult.

[In Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year, the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury is marked on May 26, as it is traditionally celebrated in the United Kingdom. In the calendar for the Extraordinary Form in the United States, his feast is kept on May 28. To read Dom Guéranger's article about him, visit here.–Ed.]

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Paschal Calendar gives us three illustrious virgins of beautiful Italy. We have already kept the feast of the valiant Catharine of Siena; in a few days we shall be honouring the memory of Angela dei Merici, surrounded by her school-children; to-day it is the fair lily of Florence, Magdalen de Pazzi, who embalms the whole Church with the fragrance of her name and intercession. She devoted herself to the loving imitation of our crucified Jesus; was it not just that she should have some share in the joy of his Resurrection?

Magdalen de Pazzi was one of the brightest ornaments of the Order of Carmel, by her angelic purity, and by the ardour of her love for God. Like St Philip Neri, she was one of the grandest manifestations of the divine charity that is found in the true Church. Magdalen in her peaceful cloister, and Philip in his active labours for the salvation of souls—both made it their ambition to satisfy that desire expressed by our Jesus when he said: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will Ihut that it he kindled?[1] The life of this Spouse of Christ was one continued miracle. Her ecstasies and raptures were almost of daily occurrence. The lights given to her regarding the mysteries were extraordinary; and in order to prepare her for those sublime communications, God would have her go through the severest trials of the spiritual life. She triumphed over them all; and her love having found its nourishment in them, she could not be happy without suffering; for nothing else seemed to satisfy the longings of the love that burned within her. At the same time, her heart was filled to overflowing with charity for her neighbour: she would have saved all mankind, and her charity to all, even for their temporal well-being, was something heroic. God blessed Florence on her account; and she so endeared herself to its people by her admirable virtues, that devotion to her, even to this day, which is more than three hundred years since her death, is as fervent as ever it was.

One of the most striking proofs of the divine origin and holiness of the Church is to be found in such privileged souls as Magdalen de Pazzi, on whom we see the mysteries of our salvation acting with such direct influence. God so loved the world as to give it his Only Begotten Son;[2] and this Son of God deigns to love some of his creatures with such special affection, and to lavish upon them such extraordinary favours, that all men may have some idea of the love wherewith his Sacred Heart is inflamed for this world, which he redeemed at the price of his Blood. Happy those Christians that appreciate and relish these instances of Jesus' special love! Happy they that can give him thanks for bestowing such grits on some of our fellowcreatures! They have the true light; whereas they that have an unpleasant feeling at hearing of such things, and are angry at the thought that there can be between God and any soul an intimacy of which they are not worthy, prove that there is a great deal of darkness in their faith.

We regret extremely that we have not space for a fuller development of the character and life of our Saint. We therefore proceed at once to the Lessons given in her Office. Even they are too short, and give us but an imperfect idea of this admirable spouse of Christ.

Maria Magdalena, illustriori Pazziorum genere Florentiæ nata, fere ab incunabulis iter perfectionis arripuit. Decennis perpetuam virginitatem vovit, susceptoque habitu in monasterio Sanctæ Mariæ Angelorum ordinis Carmelitaram, se omnium virtutum exemplar exhibuit. Adeo casta fuit, ut quidquid puritatem lædere potest, penitus ignoraverit. Quinquennium, Deo jubente, solo pane et aqua transegit, exceptis diebus Dominicis, quibus cibis Quadragesimalibus vescebatur. Corpus suum cilicio, flagellis, frigore, inedia, vigiliis, nuditate, atque omni pænarum genere cruciabat.

Tanto igne divini amoris æstuabat, ut ei ferendo impar, ingesta aqua pectus refrigerare cogeretur. Extra sensus frequenter rapta, diuturnas et admirabiles exstases passa est, in quibus et arcana cœlestia penetravit, et eximiis a Deo gratiis illustrata fuit. His autem munita longum certamen a principibus tenebrarum sustinuit, arida, desolata, ab omnibus derelicta, variisque tentationibus vexata; Deo sic permittente, ut invictæ patientiæ ac profundissimæ humilitatis exemplar præberet.
Charitate erga proximum singulariter enituit; nam sæpe noctes ducebat insomnes, vel obeundis sororum ministeriis, vel inserviendo infirmis occupata, quarum aliquando ulcera lambens sanavit. Infidelium et peccatorum perditionem amare deflens, se ad quælibet pro illorum salute tormenta paratam offerebat. Multis ante obitum annis, universis cœli deliciis, quibus copiose affluebat, heroica virtute renuntians, illud frequenter in ore habebat: Pati, non mori. Tandem longa et gravissima infirmitate exhausta, transivit ad Sponsum die vigesima quinta Maji anno millesimo sexcentesimo septimo, expleto anno quadragesimo primo ætatis suæ. Eam multis in vita et post mortem miraculis claram Clemens Nonus sanctarum Virginum numero adscripsit: cujus corpus in præsentem diem incorruptum conservatur.

Mary Magdalen was born at Florence of the illustrious family of the Pazzi. It might be said of her that she entered the way of perfection when a babe. When ten years of age she took a vow of perpetual virginity; and having taken the habit in the Carmelite Monas tery of Our Lady of the Angels, she became a model of every virtue. Such was her purity, that she was entirely ignorant of everything that is opposed to that virtue. She was commanded by God to fast on bread and water for five years, Sundays alone excepted, on which she might partake of Lenten diet. She mortified her body by a hair-shirt, discipline, cold, abstinence, watching, want, and every kind of suffering.

Such was the ardour of divine love that burned within her, that not being able to bear the heat, she was obliged to temper it by applying cold water to her breast. She was frequently in a state of rapture, and the wonderful ecstasies she had were almost daily. In these states, she was permitted to penetrate into heavenly mysteries, and was favoured by God with extraordinary graces. Thus strengthened, she had to endure a long combat with the princes of darkness, as also aridity and desolation of spirit, abandonment by all creatures, and divers temptations: God so willed it, that she might become a model of invincible patience and profound humility.
She was remarkable for her charity towards others. She would frequently sit up the whole night, either doing the work of the sisters, or waiting upon the sick, whose sores she sometimes healed by sucking the wounds. She wept bitterly over the perdition of infidels and sinners, and offered to suffer every sort of torment so that they might be saved. Several years before her death she heroically besought our Lord to take from her the heavenly delights wherewith he favoured her; and was frequently heard saying these words: ‘To suffer; not to die.' At length, worn out by a long and most painful illness, she passed hence to her Spouse, on the twenty-fifth of May, in the year 1607, having completed the forty-first year of her age. Many miracles having been wrought by her merits, both before and after death, she was canonized by Pope Clement the Ninth. Her body is, even to this day, preserved from corruption.

Thy life here below, O Magdalen, resembled that of an angel sent by God to assume our weak and fallen nature and be subject to its laws. Thy soul ceaselessly aspired to a life which was all heavenly, and thy Jesus was ever giving thee that thirst of love which can only be quenched by the waters of life everlasting.[3] A heavenly light revealed to thee such admirable mysteries, such treasures of truth and beauty, that thy heart, unequal to the sweetness thus given to it by the Holy Ghost, sought relief in sacrifice and suffering. It seemed to thee as though there was but one way of making God a return for his favours—the annihilation of self.

Seraphic lover of our God! how are we to imitate thee? what is our love, when we compare it to thine? And yet we can imitate thee. The year of the Church's Liturgy was thy very life. Each of its seasons did its work in thee, and brought thee new light and love. The divine Babe of Bethlehem, the bleeding Victim of the Cross, the glorious Conqueror of Death, the Holy Ghost radiant with his seven gifts—each of these great realities enraptured thee; and thy soul, renewed by the annual succession of the mysteries, was transformed into him who, that he might win our hearts, gives these sublime celebrations to his Church. Thy love of souls was great during thy sojourn here; it is more ardent now that thou art in possession of the Sovereign Good; obtain for us, O Magdalen, light to see the riches which enraptured thee, and love to love the treasures which enamoured thee. O riches! O treasures! is it possible that they are ours too?


[1] St Luke xii 49.
[2] St John iii 16.
[3] St John iv 14.

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