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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.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

BEFORE giving thanks to God for the miraculous Conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Church assembles us together for the feast of his favourite disciple. Timothy—the indefatigable companion of St Paul—the friend to whom the great Apostle, a few days before shedding his blood for Christ, wrote his last Epistle—comes now to await his master's arrival at the Crib of the Emmanuel. He there meets John the Beloved Disciple, together with whom he bore the anxieties attendant on the government of the Church of Ephesus; Stephen too, and the other martyrs, welcome him, for he also bears a martyr's palm in his hand. He presents to the august Mother of the Divine Babe the respectful homage of the Church of Ephesus, which Mary had sanctified by her presence, and which shares with the Church of Jerusalem the honour of having had her as one of its number, who was not only, like the Apostles, the witness, but moreover, in her quality of Mother of God, the ineffable instrument of the salvation of mankind.

Let us now read, in the Office of the Church, the abridged account of the actions of this zealous disciple of the Apostles.

Timotheus, Lystris in Lycaonia natus ex patre Gentili et matre Judæa, Christianam colebat religionem, cum imca loca venit Paulus Apostolus. Qui fama commotus quæ de Timothei sanctitate percrebuerat, ipsum adhibuit socium suæ peregrinationis: sed propter Judæos, qui se ad Christum converterant, scientes Timothei patrem esse Gentilem, eum circumcidit. Cum igitur ambo Ephesum venissent, ibi ordinatus est Episcopus ab Apostolo, ut eam Ecclesiam gubernaret.

Ad quem Apostolus duas Epistolas scripsit, alteram Laodicea, alteram Roma: quibus in pastoralis officii cura confirmatus, cum sacrificium, quod uni Deo debetur, fieri dæmonum simulacris ferre non posset, populum Ephesinum Dianæ in ejus celebritate immolantem, abilla impietate removere conatus, lapidibus obrutus est; ac pene mortuus a Christianis ereptus, et in montem oppido vicinum delatus, nono kalendas Februarii obdormivit in Domino.
Timothy was born at Lystra in Lycaonia. His father was a Gentile, and his mother a Jewess. When the Apostle Paul came into those parts, Timothy was a follower of the Christian religion. The Apostle had heard much of his holy life, and was thereby induced to take him as the companion of his travels: but on account of the Jews, who had become converts to the faith of Christ, and were aware that the father of Timothy was a Gentile, he administered to him the rite of circumcision. As soon as they arrived at Ephesus, the Apostle ordained him Bishop of that Church.

The Apostle addressed two of his Epistles to him—one from Laodicea, the other from Rome—to instruct him how to discharge his pastoral office. He could not endure to see sacrifice, which is due to God alone, offered to the idols of devils; and finding that the people of Ephesus were offering victims to Diana on her festival, he strove to make them desist from their impious rites. But they, turning upon him, stoned him. The Christians could not deliver him from their hands till he was more dead than alive. They carried him to a mountain not far from the town, and there, on the ninth of the Kalends of February (January 24), he slept in the Lord.

The Greek Church celebrates the memory of St Timothy in her Menæa, from which we extract the following strophes.

Die XXII Januarii

Deisapiens Timothee, torrentem ingressus es deliciarum, et divinitus hausisti gnosim, ferventes imitatus amatores Christi, cujus nunc lætanter adiisti gloriam, contemplans Trinitatem splendidissimam et pacem placidissimam.

Deisapiens Timothee, frequentibus corporis debilitatibus et infirmitatibus corroboratus secundum mentem, erroris potentiam facile dissolvisti, Christi custoditus potestate, et prædicasti sublimiter divinissimum pacis nobis Evangelium.

Mundi fines tua nunc decantant miracula, Thaumaturge immortalis; miraculis etenim te Christus remunerans adornavit, propter ipsum tormenta perpessum, et pro morte tolerata immortali gloria et beatitudine donavit.

Effusa est, omnisancte, abundanter gratia e labiis tuis, et flumina dogmatum scaturire fecit Christi Ecclesiam irrigantia et centuplicem ferentia fructum, o Timothee, Christi præco, divine Apostole.

Mortificans tuæ membra carnis Verbo subjecisti; dans pejoris, beate Timothee, regimen meliori, passionibus dominatus es, et animam alleviasti, Pauli documentis harmonice ordinatus.

Fulgurans quasi sol Paulus te misit quasi radium splendidum terram abundantiori lumine illuminantem lucidissime, Theophantes Timothee, ad directionem nostram et confirmationem.

Currus Dei apparuisti, Timothee, portans divinum nomen, ante impios tyrannos, Deograte, non timens istorum crudelitatem; tu enim invincibilem Salvatoris fortitudinem induisti.

Coronam gloriosam recepisti, Timothee omnibeate, divina mente prædite, Apostole, et diadema regni præcinxisti, et astitisti ante thronum magistri tui, cum Paulo decoratus in æternis tabernaculis, beatissime.
O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thou didst enter into the torrent of delights, and drink in of the mysterious knowledge, imitating the fervent lovers of Christ, into whose glory thou hast now joyfully gone, contemplating the infinitely resplendent Trinity, and most tranquil peace.

O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thy frequent weaknesses and ailments of body gave thee strength of spirit; thou didst readily reduce to nought the power of error, for thou wast guarded by the power of Christ, and sublimely didst thou preach to us the most divine Gospel of peace.

The furthermost ends of the earth now sing thy miracles, immortal Thaumaturgus! for Christ rewarding thee, adorned thee with the gift of miracles, because thou didst suffer torments for his sake; and he gave thee, for the death thou didst endure, glory and blessedness everlasting.

Most holy Saint! grace flowed in plenty from thy lips, and made the streams of dogma water the Church of Christ, and yield fruit a hundredfold, O Timothy! thou herald of Christ! thou Apostle of God!

Mortifying thy flesh, thou didst subject it to the Word: and making what is superior govern that which is inferior, O blessed Timothy! thou didst master thy passions and unburden thy soul, and the harmony was established in thee which was taught by blessed Paul.

He, Paul, brilliant as the sun, sent thee forth as a shining ray, that thou mightest most brightly illumine the earth with a rich abundance of light, unto our direction and encouragement, O Timothy, thou revealer of God!

O Timothy I as a chariot of God, thou didst carry his divine name before impious tyrants, fearing not their cruelty, O thou beloved of God! for thou hadst clad thyself with the invincible strength of Jesus.

O most blessed Timothy! O divinely gifted mind! O Apostle! thou hast received a glorious crown; thy brow has been encircled with a heavenly crown; and thou hast stood before the throne of thy Master, beautiful in glory, together with Paul, in the eternal tabernacles, O most blessed one!

In thee, O holy Pontiff! we honour one of the disciples of the Apostles—one of the links which connect us immediately with Christ. Thou appearest to us all illumined by thy intercourse with Paul the great Doctor of the Gentiles. Another of his disciples, Dionysius the Areopagite, made thee the confidant of his sublime contemplations on the Divine Names; but now, bathed in light eternal, thou thyself art contemplating the Sun of Justice, in the beatific vision. Intercede for us, who enjoy but a glimpse of his beauty through the veil of his humiliations, that we may so love him, as to merit to see him one day in his glory. In order to lessen the pressure of the corruptible body, which weigheth down the soul,[1] thou didst subject thy outward man to so rigorous a penance that St Paul exhorted thee to moderate it: do thou assist us in our endeavours to reduce our flesh to obedience to the spirit. The Church reads without ceasing the counsels, which the Apostle gave to thee, and to all Pastors through thee, for the election and the conduct of the clergy: pray that the Church may be blessed with Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, endowed with all those qualifications which he requires from the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Lastly, we beseech thee, who didst ascend to heaven decked with the aureole of martyrdom, encourage us who are also soldiers of Christ, that we may throw aside our cowardice, and win that kingdom where he welcomes and crowns his elect for all eternity.

[1] Wisd. ix 15.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

WE have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from him in return the precious gifts of faith, hope and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God's labourer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of Mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has as yet received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision,[1] is sent specially, as was Christ himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.[2] And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles;[3] which he solemnly does by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion.

But the Church is to have one more Apostle, an Apostle for the Gentiles; and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then from heaven, where he reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be his disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, he called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to his teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter,[4] and compared his Gospel with that recognized by Peter,[5] he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus,[6] and that he has done nothing less than the great Apostles.[7]

It is on this glorious day of the Conversion of Saul, who is soon to change his name into Paul, that this great work is commenced. It is on this day that there is heard the Almighty voice which breaketh the cedars of Libanus,[8] and can make a persecuting Jew become first a Christian and then an Apostle. This admirable transformation had been prophesied by Jacob, when upon his deathbed he unfolded to each of his sons the future of the tribe of which he was to be the father Juda was to have the precedence of honour; from his royal race was to be born the Redeemer, the Expected of nations. Benjamin's turn came; his glory is not to be compared with that of his brother Juda, and yet it was to be very great—for from his tribe is to be born Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile nations.

These are the words of the dying Prophet: Benjamin, a ravenous wolf , in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening shall divide the spoil.[9] Who, says an ancient writer,[10] is he that in the morning of impetuous youth goes like a wolf in pursuit of the sheep of Christ, breathing threatenings and slaughter against them? Is it not Saul on the road to Damascus, the bearer and doer of the high-priest's orders, and stained with the blood of Stephen, whom he has stoned by the hands of all those over whose garments he kept watch? And he who in the evening, not only does not despoil, but with a charitable and peaceful hand breaks to the hungry the bread of life—is it not Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Apostle of Christ, burning with zeal for his brethren, making himself all to all, and wishing even to be an anathema for their sakes?

Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! how wonderful! how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshippers at his Crib should be humble Shepherds—and he invites them by his Angels, whose sweet hymn was enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where, in swaddling-clothes, he lies who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentile Princes, the Magi, do him homage—and bids a star to arise in the heavens, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay at the feet of an humble Babe their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, he approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, he draws after him such as he wishes to have as his Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of his Passion, he has but to look at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that he evinces his power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and he wishes to show mankind that he is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that his alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect: he speaks; the sound of his reproach bursts like thunder over the head of this hot Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; he takes this heart of the Jew, and, by his grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live, not I, bid Christ liveth in me.[11]

The commemoration of this great event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martyrdom of St Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr's convert. The anniversary of his martyrdom would, of course, have to be solemnized at the summer solstice; where, then, place the feast of his Conversion if not near Christmas, and thus our own Apostle would be at Jesus' Crib, and Stephen's side? Moreover, the Magi could claim him, as being the conqueror of that Gentile world of which they were the first-fruits.

And lastly, it was necessary, in order to give the court of our Infant-King its full beauty, that the two Princes of the Church—the Apostle of the Jews, and the Apostle of the Gentiles—should stand close to the mystic Crib; Peter with his Keys, and Paul with his Sword. Bethlehem thus becomes the perfect figure of the Church, and the riches of this season of the Cycle are abundant beyond measure.

Let us borrow from the ancient Liturgies a suitable expression of our admiration of our Apostle's Conversion. The following Sequence, which belongs to the tenth century, is found in the old Missals of the Churches of Germany. It is full of mysterious allusions, which bear a certain grandeur of thought.


Dixit Dominus: Ex Basan convertam, convertam in profundum maris.

Quod dixit et fecit, Saulum ut stravit, Paulum et statuit,

Per Verbum suum incarnatum, per quod fecit et sæcula.

Quod dum impugnat, audivit: Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris?

Ego sum Christus: durum est tibi ut recalcitres stimulo.

A facie Domini mota est terra, contremuitque mox et quievit.

Dum cognito credidit Domino, Paulus persequi cessat Christianos.

Hic lingua tuorum est canum, ex inimicis ad te rediens, Deus;

Dum Paulus in ore omnium sacerdotum jura dat præceptorum,

Docens crucifixum non esse alium præter Christum Deum,

Cum Patre qui regnat et Sancto Spiritu, cujus testis Paulus.

Hinc lingua sacerdotum, more canis dura perlinxit legis et Evangelii duos molares in his contrivit,

Corrosit universas species medicinarum, quibus curantur saucii, reficiuntur enutriendi.

Per quem conversus ad nos tu vivifices, Christe, peccatores:

Qui convertendis conversum converteras Paulum, vas electum.

Quo docente Deum, mare vidit et fugit, Jordanis conversus est retrorsum;

Quia turba gentium, rediens vitiorum profundo, Og rege Basan confuso,

Te solum adorat Christum creatorem, quem et cognoscit in carne venisse redemptorem.

The Lord said: I will turn him from Basan (the land of barrenness); I will turn him into the deep sea (of my faith).

What he said he did, when he prostrated Saul, and raised him up Paul,

By his Incarnate Word, by whom also he made the world.

It was whilst opposing this Word, that the Jew heard the voice: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

I am Christ: it is hard for thee to kick against the goad.

The earth was moved at the presence of the Lord; it trembled and then was at rest.

Paul, when he knew the Lord Jesus, believed, and ceased to persecute the Christians.

He became, O God, the tongue of thy faithful ones; leaving thine enemies, he returned to thee.

For it is Paul who, by the mouth of the priests throughout the world, proclaims the commandments,

Teaching that the Crucified is no other than God, the Christ,

Who reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost; and Paul is his witess.

By the light of his teaching the priests meditate on the law and the Gospel; and by these, as with two mill-stones, have pounded

And prepared every spiritual medicine, whereby the wounded are healed, and the hungry are fed.

O Jesus! hear his prayers for us sinners; turn to us; give us life;

Who didst turn Paul into a true convert, for the sake of all who are to return to thee, and didst make him the vessel of election.

When he preached God to men, the sea beheld and fled, the Jordan was turned back,

Because the multitude of the nations, returning from the depths of sin, to the confusion of Og the King of Basan,

Now adore but thee, O Christ! their creator, whom they believe to have come in the flesh to redeem them.


The Roman-French Missals give us this beautiful Hymn of Adam of Saint-Victor.


Corde, voce pulsa cœlos,
Triumphale pange melos,
Gentium Ecclesia.

Paulus Doctor gentium
Consummavit stadium
Triumphans in gloria.

Hic Benjamin adolescens,
Lupus rapax, præda vescens,
Hostis est fidelium.

Mane lupus, sed ovis vespere.
Post tenebras lucente sidere,
Docet Evangelium.

Hic mortis viam arripit,
Quem vitæ via corripit,
Dum Damascum graditur.

Spirat minas, sed jam cedit;
Sed prostratus jam obedit;
Sed jam vinctus ducitur.

Ad Ananiam mittitur:
Lupus ad ovem trahitur;
Mens resedit effera.

Fontis subit sacramentum:
Mutat virus in pigmentum
Unda salutifera.

Vas sacratum, vas divinum,
Vas propinans dulce vinum
Doctrinalis gratiæ.

Synagogas circuit:
Christi fidem astruit
Prophetarum serie.

Verbum crucis protestatur:
Causa crucis cruciatur:
Mille modis moritur:

Sed perstat vivax hostia:
Et invicta constantia
Omnis poena vincitur.

Segregatus docet gentes:
Mundi vincit sapientes
Dei sapientia.

Raptus ad cœlum tertium,
Videt Patrem et Filium
In una substantia.

Roma potens et docta Græcia
Præbet colla, discit mysteria:
Fides Christi proficit.

Crux triumphat: Nero sævit.
Quo docente, fides crevit,
Paulum ense conficit.

Sic exutus carnis molem
Paulus, videt verum
Solem Patris Unigenitum.

Lumen videt in lumine,
Cujus vitemus numine
Gehennalem gemitum.

Church of the Gentiles!
sing with heart and voice thy hymn of triumph,
and make the heavens echo.

Paul, the Doctor of the Gentiles,
has finished his course,
and triumphs in glory.

This is he that was the youthful Benjamin,
the ravenous wolf, the devourer of the prey,
the enemy of the Faithful.

He was a wolf in the morning, but in the evening a lamb.
The night was past, the day-star rose,
and he preaches the Gospel.

This is he that marched in the road of death,
but was stayed, as he goes to Damascus,
by Him who is the Way of Life.

He had breathed forth threats, but at length he yields;
he prostrates, and obeys;
he is made captive, and goes whither he is led.

He is sent to Ananias
—the wolf to the lamb;
his stormy heart is calm.

He receives the sacrament of the font;
its saving waters turn the venom of his soul
into the fragrance of love.

He becomes a sacred vessel, a vessel divine,
a vessel that gives forth to men the sweet wine
of the grace of doctrine.

He visits the synagogues;
and proves the Christian faith
by unfolding the prophets.

He preaches the cross of Christ;
and for the sake of that Cross himself does bear the cross,
dying a thousand deaths.

Yet dies not, but is a living victim,
conquering every pain
by unconquered courage.

He is set apart by God as the teacher of the Gentiles;
and by the wisdom of God he overcomes
the wise ones of the world.

Rapt to the third heaven,
he sees the Father and Son
in one substance.

The mighty Rome, and the learned Greece
—both bow down their heads, and learn the Mysteries,
and embrace the Faith of Christ.

The Cross triumphs! Then does Nero rage
to see this Paul spreading the Faith by his preaching,
and sentences him to die by the sword.

Thus disburthened from the flesh,
Paul sees the true Sun,
the Only Begotten of the Father.

He sees the Light in Light,
by whose almighty power
we shun the pains of hell.


The ancient Sacramentaries give us nothing upon the Conversion of St Paul. We take the following Prayer and Preface from the Gallican Missal published by Dom Mabillon, under the title of Missale Gothicum.


Deus qui Apostolum tuum Paulum insolentem contra Christiani nominis pietatem, Cœlesti voce cum terrore perculsum, hodierna die Vocationis ejus, mentem cum nomine commutasti: et quem prius persecutorem metuebat Ecclesia, nunc cœlestium mandatorum lætatur se habere Doctorem: quemque ideo foris cæcasti, ut introrsus videntem faceres: cuique post tenebras crudelitatis ablatas, ad evocandas Gentes divinæ legis scientiam contulisti: sed et tertio naufragantem pro fide quam expugnaverat, jam devotum in elemento liquido fecisti vita incolumem. Sic nobis, quæsumus, ejus et mutationem et fidem colentibus, post cæcitatem peccatorum, fac te videre in cœlis, qui illuminasti Paulum in terris.
O God, who by a voice from heaven didst strike with terror thine Apostle Paul when raging against the holiness of the Christian religion, and on this the day of his Vocation didst change him both in his heart and his name: so that the Church having once dreaded him as her persecutor, now rejoices in having him as her Teacher in the commandments of God: whom thou didst strike with exterior blindness, that thou mightest give him interior sight: to whom, moreover, when the darkness of his cruelty was removed, thou didst give the knowledge of thy divine law, whereby he might call the Gentiles: and didst thrice deliver him from shipwreck, which he suffered for the Faith, saving this thy devoted servant from the waves of the sea: grant also to us, we beseech thee, who are solemnizing both his conversion and his faith, that, after the blindness of our sins, we may be permitted to see thee in heaven, who didst enlighten Paul here on earth.


Dignum et justum est; vere æquum et justum est: nos tibi gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: qui, ut ostenderes te omnium cupere indulgere peccatis, persecutorem Ecclesiæ tuæ, ad unum verbum tuæ vocationis lucratus es, et statim fecisti nobis ex persecutore doctorem: nam qui alienas epistolas ad destructionem Ecclesiarum acceperat, coepit suas ad restaurationem earum scribere; et ut seipsum Paulum factum ex Saulo monstraret, repente architectus sapiens, fundamentum posuit, ut sancta Ecclesia tua Catholica, eo ædificante, gauderet, a quo fuerat ante vastata; et tantus ejus defensor existeret, ut omnia supplicia corporis, et ipsam cædem corporis non timeret: nam factus est caput Ecclesiæ, qui membra Ecclesiæ conquassaverat: caput terreni corporis tradidit, ut Christum caput in suis omnibus membris acciperet, per quod etiam vas electionis esse meruit; qui eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum in sui pectoris habitationem suscepit.
It is meet and just, yea it is right and just, that we should give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God: who, to show that thou desirest to forgive all men their sins, didst win over the persecutor of thy Church with one word of thy calling, and straightway madest the persecutor our teacher: for he that had received epistles from others unto the destruction of the Churches, began to write his own unto their restoration; and who, to show that Saul had become Paul, did immediately, as a wise architect, lay the foundation, giving joy to thy holy Catholic Church, by becoming her builder after being her destroyer: and in such wise did he defend her, that he feared neither tortures nor very death, and became a Head of the Church after having crushed the members of the Church, delivering up the head of his own body, that he might be united with the Divine Head Christ in all his members, by whom also he merited to be made a vessel of election, and into the dwelling of his own heart he received this same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord.

We give thee thanks, O Jesus! who hast this day prostrated thine enemy by thy power, and raised him up again by thy mercy. Truly art thou the Mighty God, and thy victories shall be praised by all creatures. How wonderful art thou, in thy plans for the world's salvation! Thou makest men thy associates in the work of the preaching of thy word, and in the dispensing of thy Mysteries; and in order to make Paul worthy of such an honour, thou usest all the resources of thy grace. It pleased thee to make an Apostle of Stephen’s murderer, that so thy sovereign power might be shown to the world, thy love of souls be evinced in its richest gratuitous generosity, and grace abound where sin had so abounded. Sweet Saviour! often visit us with this grace which converts the heart; for we desire to have the life of grace abundantly, and we feel that its very principle is often in danger within us. Convert us, as thou didst thine Apostle; and after having converted us, assist us; for without thee we can do nothing. Go before us, follow us, stand by our side; never leave us, but as thou hast given us the commencement, secure to us our perseverance to the end. Give us that Christian wisdom which will teach us how to acknowledge, with fear and love, that mysterious gift of grace which no creature can merit, and to which, nevertheless, a creature's will may put an obstacle. We are captives: thou alone art master of the instrument, wherewith we can break our chains; thou puttest it into our hands, bidding us make use of it; so that our deliverance is thy work, not ours—but our captivity, if it continue, can only be attributed to our negligence and sloth. Give us, O Lord, this thy grace; and graciously receive the promise we now make, that we will render it fruitful by co operating with it.

Assist us, thou holy Apostle of Jesus! to correspond with the merciful designs of God in our regard; obtain of him for us, that we may be overcome by the sweetness of an Infant-God. His voice does not make itself heard; he does not blind us by the glare of his divine light; but this we know—he often complains that we persecute him! Oh! that we could have the courage to say to him, with a heart honest like thine: Lord! what wilt thou that we do? He would answer, and tell us to be simple, and to become little children like himself—to recognize now, after so many Christmases of indifference, the love he shows us in this mystery of Bethlehem—to declare war against sin—to resist our evil inclinations—and to advance in virtue, by walking in his divine footsteps. Thou hast said, in one of thine Epistles: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema![12] Oh! teach us to know him more and more, so that we may grow in his love; and by thy prayers, preserve us from that ingratitude which turns even the sweet Mysteries of this holy season into our own greater condemnation.

Glorious Vessel of election! pray for the conversion of sinners who have forgotten their God. When on this earth, thou didst spend thyself for the salvation of souls; continue thy ministry, now that thou art reigning in heaven, and draw down, upon them that persecute Jesus, the graces which triumph over the hardest hearts. Apostle of the Gentiles! look with an eye of loving pity on so many nations, that are still sitting in the shadow of death. During thy mortal life, thou wast divided between two ardent desires—one, to be with Christ, the other, to remain longer on earth labouring for the salvation of immortal souls: now that thou art united for ever with the Jesus thou didst preach to men, forget not the poor ones to whom their God is a stranger. Raise up in the Church apostolic men, who may continue thy work. Pray to our Lord that he bless their labours, and the blood of such among them as are martyrs of zeal. Shield with thy protection the See of Peter, thy BrotherApostle and thy Leader. Support the authority of the Church of Rome, which has inherited thy power, and looks upon thee as her second defence. May thy powerful intercession lead her enemies into humble submission, destroy schisms and heresies, and fill her Pastors with thy spirit, that like thee they may seek not themselves, but solely and in all things the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Gal. ii 8.
[2] St Matt. xv 24.
[3] Acts xiv 26.
[4] Gal. i 18.
[5] Ibid. ii 2.
[6] Gal. i 1, and frequently elsewhere.
[7] 2 Cor. xi 5.
[8] Ps. xxviii 5.
[9] Gen. xlix 27.
[10] These words are taken from a sermon which for a long time was thought to be St Augustine's.
[11] Gal. ii 20.
[12] 1 Cor. xvi 22.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AMIDST the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna,[1] all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: "Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and he has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured.

He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master,[2] he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.[3] Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit by the holy season.

The Church gives us a passage from St Jerome's book, On Ecclesiastical Writers, in which there is contained the following short notice of our holy Martyr.

Polycarpus, Joannis Apostoli discipulus, et ab eo Smyrnæ Episcopus ordinatus, totius Asiæ princeps fuit; quippe qui nonnullos Apostolorum, et eorum qui viderant Dominum, magistros habuerit et viderit. Hic propter quasdam super die Paschæ quæstiones, sub Imperatore Antonino Pio, Ecclesiam in Urbe regente Aniceto, Romam venit: ubi plurimos credentium, Marcionis et Valentini persuasione deceptos, reduxit ad fidem. Cumque ei fortuito obviam fuisset Marcion, et diceret: Cognoscis nos? respondit: Cognosco primogenitum diaboli. Postea vero regnante Marco Antonino et Lucio Aurelio Commodo, quarta post Neronem persecutione, Smyrnæ sedente proconsule, et universo populo in amphitheatro adversus eum personante, igni traditus est. Scripsit ad Philippenses valde utilem epistolam, quæ usque hodie in Asiæ conventu legitur.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as he had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day. Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: 'Dost thou know us?' Polycarp replied: 'Yes, I know thee as the firstborn of Satan.’ Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Proconsul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamours of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the Churches of Asia.

The Greek Church sings the praises of St Polycarp in her Menæa, from which we extract the following passages.

Die XXIII Februarii

Quando fructus ille Virginis, et semen germinans vitæ principium, in terram cecidit, tunc te Polycarpum spicam produxit, fideles nutrientem pietatis verbo et documentis, et eos sanctificantem divino certaminis sanguine et sanctitatis unguento.

Quando in ligno crucis vitis vera suspensa elevata est, tunc te fructuosum palmitem extendit, falce incisum venerandi martyrii, et tormentorum torculari agitatum, cujus lætitiæ calicem cum fide libantes, o Pater, veneranda tua certamina glorificamus.

Caritatis uvam in anima vere coluisti, ô Pater sapiens, et tamquam vinum effudisti fidei verbum; lætificans omnium fidelium mentes, et miraculorum demonstratus es immensum mare; unde martyrum decus apparuisti, igne purificatus et lumine dignatus æterao, o Polycarpe: deprecare Christum Deum dare veniam peccatorum, nobis celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.

Honeste ambulans et filium lucis pacisque denuncians, noctis primogenitum revelasti Marcionem.

Firma ratione comburentem flammam supergressus es, o gloriose, quasi tres pueri qui fornacis ignem rore sedarunt, et in medio ignis incombustus permansisti clamans: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.

Pie coluisti Christi mysticam culturam, et rationabilis victima ipse oblatus es Deo sacrificium acceptabile et optimum, omnino fructuosa victima, Polycarpe ter beate.
Supra crucem visus, et hierarchico ornamento digne indutus, Pater, in templum Dei introisti proprio sanguine.

Archipastori Christo præsentandus, a Christo signatus quasi aries insignis, Hierophantes, imitator demonstratus es passionum ejus, et gloriæ effectus particeps, et regni ipsius cohæres.

Commemoratio tua ignifera exorta, o Pater, illuminat animas eorum qui illam pie perficiunt, o divine, et omnes participes tuæ divinæ illuminationis afficit, quam digne, o sapiens, in hymnis magnificamus.
When the Fruit of the Virgin, and the Seed that is the germ of life, came on the earth, he produced thee, O Polycarp, as the grain of wheat that nourishest the faithful with the word and teachings of piety, and trainest them to holiness by the glorious shedding of thy blood, and the odour of thy saintliness.

When Christ, the True Vine, was raised up pendent on the Tree of the Cross, then wast thou produced as one of his fruit ful branches, that wast pruned with the knife of a venerable martyrdom, and wast put into the wine-press of torture. Drinking his Cup of gladness with faith, we glorify, O Father! thy glorious combat.

Truly, O wise Father! didst thou cherish in thy soul the growth of the vine of charity, and didst pour forth the wine of the word of faith. Thou didst gladden the hearts of all the Faithful, and wast like the boundless sea in thy miracles. Therefore art thou the glory of Martyrs, O Polycarp I for thou hast been purified by fire,and rewarded with light everlasting. Pray for us to Christ our God, that he grant pardon of our sins to us, who lovingly celebrate thy holy memory.

Walking in uprightness, and showing thyself a son of light and peace, thou didst unmask Marcion, the first-born of night.

O glorious Polycarp! by thy undaunted soul thou didst overcome the burning fire, like unto the Three Children, who quenched the furnace with dew; and in the midst of the flames thou wast unconsumed, and didst cry out: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers!

Religiously didst thou cultivate the mystical garden of Christ, and thou thyself, the spiritual victim, wast offered to God an acceptable and perfect sacrifice, a victim most fruitful, O thrice blessed Polycarp!

Thou wast seen upon the cross, O Father! and being worthily clad with the pontifical robes, thou didst enter by thine own blood into the temple of God.
That thou, O holy Pontiff! mightest be presented to Christ, the Prince of Pastors, as the victim elect marked out by him, thou becamest the imitator of his passion, and art now a partaker of his glory, and the coheir of his kingdom.

Thy Feast, with its blaze of glory, O Father! has risen, enlightening the souls of them that piously keep it, O heavenly man! and making them all partakers of thy supreme brightness, which we worthily magnify in our hymns, O wise Polycarp!

How well didst thou bear out the full meaning of thy name, O Polycarp! for thou didst produce many fruits for thy Saviour, during thy six-and-eighty years spent in his service. The numerous souls won over to Christ, the virtues which adorned thy life, and thy life itself, which thou didst present to thy Lord in its full maturity—these were thy fruits. And what happiness was thine to have received instruction from the Disciple that leaned upon Jesus' Breast! After being separated from him for more than sixty years, thou art united with him on this the day of thy martyrdom, and thy venerable master receives thee in a transport of joy. Thou adorest, with him, that Divine Babe, whose simplicity thou hadst imitated during life, and who was the single object of thy love. Ask of him for us, that we too may be Faithful unto death.

By thy prayers, now that thou art throned in heaven, make fruitful the vineyard of the Church, which when on earth thou didst cultivate by thy labours, and water with the blood of thy glorious martyrdom. Re-establish faith and unity in the Churches of Asia, which were founded by thy venerable hand. Hasten, by thy prayers, the destruction of that degrading slavery of Mohammedanism which has kept the East in bondage so long, because her once faithful children severed themselves from Rome by the great schism of Byzantium. Pray for the Church of Lyons, which regards thee as its founder, through the ministry of thy disciple Pothinus, and takes itself so glorious a share in the apostolate of the Gentiles, by the Work of the Propagation of the Faith.

Watch over the purity of our holy Faith, and preserve us from being deceived by false teachers. The error which thou didst combat, and which teaches that all the mysteries of the Incarnation are but empty symbols, has risen up again in these our days. There are Marcions, even now, who would reduce all religion to myths; and they find some few followers; may thy powerful prayers rid the world of this remnant of so impious a doctrine. Thou didst pay homage to the Apostolic Chair, for thou, too, wouldst see Peter, and didst journey to Rome, in order to consult its Pontiff on questions regarding the interests of thy Church of Smyrna. Defend the rights of this august See, whence alone are derived both the jurisdiction of our Pastors, and the authoritative teachings of Faith. Pray for us, that we may spend the remaining days of this holy Season in the contemplation and the love of our new-born King. May this love, accompanied with purity of heart, draw down upon us the merciful blessings of God, and at length, after our course is run, obtain for us the Crown of Life.

[1] Apoc. ii 8.
[2] 2 St John i 10.
[3] Apoc. ii 10.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

BEFORE our Emmanuel came upon this earth, men were as sheep without a shepherd; the flock was scattered, and the human race was hastening on to perdition. Jesus would, therefore, not only be the Lamb that was to be slain for our sins; he made himself, moreover, a Shepherd, that so he might bring us all back to the divine fold. But as he had to leave us when he ascended into heaven, he has provided for the wants of his sheep by providing us with a succession of Pastors, who should in his name feed the flock even to the end of the world. Now instruction, which is the light of life, is what the flock of Christ needs above all other things; and therefore our Emmanuel required that the Pastors of his Church should also be Doctors of sacred science. The Pastor owes two things to his people; namely, the Word of God and the Sacraments. He is under the obligation of dispensing, personally and unceasingly, this twofold nourishment to his flock, and of laying down his very life, if needed, in the fulfilment of a duty on which rests the whole work of the world’s salvation.

But since the disciple is not above his Master, the Pastors and Doctors of the Christian people, if they are faithful in the discharge of their duties, are sure to be hated by the enemies of God; for they cannot spread the Kingdom of Christ without at the same time taking from the power of Satan. Hence it is that the history of the Church is filled with the persecutions endured by her Pastors and Doctors, who continued the ministry of zeal and charity begun by Christ upon the earth. These contests have been threefold, and gave occasion to three admirable victories.

The Pastors and Doctors of the Church have had to struggle with Paganism, which sought, by inflicting tortures and death, to oppose the preaching of the law of Christ. It was this sort of persecution which gave the Church such saints as those whom we celebrate during this season of Christmas—Polycarp, Ignatius, Fabian, Marcellus, Hyginus, and Telesphorus.

When the era of Persecution was over, the Pastors and Doctors of the Christian people had to engage with enemies of another kind. Kings and Princes became children of the Church, and then sought to make her their own slave. They imagined that it would serve their political interests to interfere with the liberty of the Word of God, which, like the light of the sun, was intended to be carried, without hindrance, throughout the whole earth. They usurped the priestly power, as did the Pagan Cæsars, and presumed to set limits to the administration of those sources of life which become corrupt as soon as they are touched by a profane hand. This usurpation gave rise to an incessant contest between the temporal and spiritual powers, and produced a second class of martyrs. God has glorified his Church during this long period of struggle, and has given her, from time to time, a brave defender of ecclesiastical liberty. We have met two of these champions of the Word and the holy ministry during Christmastide—Thomas of Canterbury, and Hilary of Poitiers.

But there is a third sort of battle in which the Pastors and Doctors of the flock of Christ have had to fight—it is the battle with the world and its vices. It began when Christianity began, and will continue to the day of Judgement. It was their courage in this battle that made so many saintly prelates hated for the name of Jesus Christ. Neither their charity, nor their services to mankind, nor their humility, nor their meekness, protected them from ingratitude, spleen, calumny, and persecution. And what was their offence? They had been faithful in their duty of preaching the doctrines of their Divine Master, of encouraging virtue, and of chiding the sins of men. The amiable Francis de Sales was as much disliked and even hated by bad men as was John Chrysostom himself, whose triumph gladdens the Church today, and who stands near the Crib of his Lord as one of the most illustrious martyrs of pastoral duty courageously discharged.

Fervent in the service of his Saviour, even to the observance of the divine Counsels (for he had embraced the monastic life), this golden-mouthed Preacher made no other use of his wonderful gift of eloquence than that of urging men to the observance of the virtues taught in the Gospel, and of reproving every vice. Satan sought to have his revenge against our Saint by raising against him many enemies. Among these were an Empress, whose vanities and sins he had rebuked; men in power, whose wickedness he had held up to notice; women of influence, who would have him preach a morality more in accordance with their own depravity; a Bishop of Alexandria, and certain Prelates of the Court, who were jealous of his virtues, and still more so of his reputation. He was exceedingly loved by his people—but neither that nor his great virtues protected him from persecution. He whose eloquence had enraptured the people of Antioch, and won for him the enthusiastic admiration of the citizens of Constantinople, was deposed in a council convened for the purpose, his name was ordered to be cancelled from the diptychs of the Altar, notwithstanding the energetic protest of the Roman Pontiff; and at length he was condemned to exile, and died on the way, worn out by the hardships and fatigues he had to undergo.

But this Pastor, and Doctor, was not vanquished. He said, in the midst of all his persecutions, Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel![1] He made use, too, of those other words of the great Apostle: The word of God is not bound.[2] The Church triumphed in him; she was more glorified and more consoled by the unflinching courage of Chrysostom, who was led into captivity for having preached the Gospel of Christ, than she had been by the success achieved by his eloquence, an eloquence which Libanius was heard to covet for his pagan orators. Let us hearken to the thrilling words of Chrysostom, which he addressed to the faithful immediately before his last banishment. He had been sent into exile once before; but a terrific earthquake immediately after his departure was looked upon as sent by heaven to punish the authors of so crying an injustice, and the Empress herself went, with tears in her eyes, to ask the Emperor to recall him. Accordingly, he was permitted to return. Shortly after, fresh occasions were sought for, and John was again sentenced to exile. He received the intimation with all the calmness of a Saint who knows that the whole Church is on his side. Let us study this glorious model of a Bishop trained in the school of our Lord who is, as the Apostle calls him, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.[3]

'Many are the waves, and threatening are the storms, which surround me; but I fear them not; for I am standing on the Rock. Let the sea roar; it cannot wash away the Rock: Let the billows mount as they will; they cannot sink the barque of our Lord Jesus Christ. And tell me, what would you have me fear? Death? To me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain.[4] Exile? The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.[5] Confiscation of my goods? We brought nothing into this world; and certainly we can carry nothing out.[6] No—the evils of this world are contemptible, and its goods deserve but to be laughed at. I fear not poverty, I desire not riches; I neither fear to die, nor wish to live, save for your advantage. Your interest alone induces me to speak of these things, and to ask of you, by the love you bear me, to take courage.

'For no one can separate us; no human power can part what God has united. It is said of husband and wife: Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh:[7] Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.[8] Thou canst not, O man, dissolve the nuptial tie: how hopest thou to divide the Church of God? It is she whom thou attackest, because thou canst not reach him whom thou fain wouldst strike. Thou makest me more glorious, and thou dost but waste thy strength in warring against me, for it is hard for thee to kick against the sharp goad.[9] Thou canst not blunt its point, and thou makest thine own foot bleed, just as the billows, when they dash against the rock, fall back mere empty froth.

'Believe me, O man, there is no power like the power of the Church. Cease thy battling, lest thou lose thy strength; wage not war with heaven. When it is with man thou warrest, thou mayst win or lose; but when thy fighting is against the Church, it is impossible thou shouldst conquer, for God is above all in strength. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?[10] God founded, God gave firmness: who shall be so bold as to attempt to pull down? Knowest thou not his power? He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble;[11] he gives his order, and that which trembled is made firm again. If he made firm the City after an earthquake had shaken it, how much more could he not give firmness to the Church? The Church is stronger than heaven itself: Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.[12] What words? Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.[13]

'If thou wilt not believe his word, believe facts. How many tyrants have sought to crush the Church? They had their gridirons and fiery furnaces, and wild beasts, and swords—and all failed. Where are those enemies now? Buried and forgotten. And the Church? Brighter than the sun. All they had is now past; but her riches are immortal. If the Christians conquered when they were but few in number, canst thou hope to vanquish them, now that the whole earth is filled with the holy religion? Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. Wonder not at it; for the Church is dearer unto God than the very heavens. He took flesh not from heaven, but from his Church on earth; and heaven is for the Church, not the Church for heaven.

'Be not troubled at what has happened. I ask this favour of you—be firm in your faith. Have you not observed that when Peter was walking on the waters, and began to fear, he was in danger of sinking, not because the sea was rough, but because his faith was weak? Have I been raised to this dignity by human intrigue? Was it man that brought me to it, or can man now depose me? I say not this from arrogance or boasting; God forbid! I say it from the desire of calming your trouble.

‘The devil no sooner saw that your City was tranquillized, than he plotted how he might disturb the Church. Thou wicked and most impious spirit! thou couldst not throw down the walls of a city; and thinkest thou thou canst make the Church fall? Does the Church consist of walls? The Church consists of the multitude of the faithful. Look at her pillars, and see how solid they are, fastened, not by iron, but by faith. Not only is the great multitude itself more vehement than fire, but even one single Christian would conquer thee. Hast thou forgotten the wounds thou receivedst from the martyrs? Oftentimes the combatant was a tender maiden: delicate as a flower, yet firmer than a rock. Thou didst mangle her flesh, but her faith was proof against all thy tortures Her blood fell as nature felt the wounds, but her faith fell not; her body was tom, but her manly soul flinched not; what was material was spoilt, what was spiritual was untouched. Thou couldst not vanquish one woman; and yet thou hopest to vanquish a whole people! Hast thou not heard these words of the Lord: Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them?[14] And thinkest thou he will not be in the midst of a numerous people, united together by the ties of charity?

‘I have his pledge, and on that I trust, not on my own strength. I have his written promise. That is my staff, and my guarantee, and my tranquil port. What matters it to me if the whole world be upset—have I not his written word? have I not his letters? There is my rampart, and there my defence. What letters? I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.[15] Christ is with me—of whom shall I be afraid? Though stormy billows should rise up against me, though the sea should open to swallow me, though the wrath of kings should be enkindled against me, I will heed them no more than if they were so many spider's webs. Had not my love for you kept me, I would have started this very day on my exile, for this is my constant prayer: "O Lord! thy will be done;[16] I will do thy will; not what such or such an one may will, but what thou wiliest." This is my tower of strength, this is my firm rock, this is my trusty staff. If God will that I go, I will go. If he will me to remain here, I will give him thanks. Yea, whithersoever he wills me to go, I will bless his holy name.'[17]

What humility and courage in this saintly minister of Christ! What a consolation for the Church when God sends her men like this! He has given four to the Eastern Church: Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzum, Basil and Chrysostom. In spite of the immense dangers to which faith was exposed during the age in which they lived, these four holy Doctors, by their sanctity, learning, and courage, kept it alive among the people. Athanasius and Gregory appear to us in that period of the Ecclesiastical Year when the Church is radiant with her Easter joy, and celebrates the Resurrection of her Divine Spouse. Basil's feast gladdens us in the season of Pentecost, when the Church is filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Chrysostom comes at Christmastide, and adds to the joy of the dear Mystery of Bethlehem. Let us, the favoured children of the Latin Church, which alone has preserved the primitive faith, because Peter is with her—let us honour these four faithful guardians of Tradition; let us today pay the homage of our devotion to Chrysostom, the Doctor of the universal Church, the conqueror of the world, the dauntless Pastor, the successor of the Martyrs, the Preacher par excellence, the admirer of St Paul, and the fervent imitator of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Roman Church, in the lessons of today's Office, thus speaks the praises of our Saint.

Joannes Antiochenus, propter aureum eloquentiæ flumen cognomento Chrysostomus, a forensibus et sæcularibus studiis ad divinas litteras summa cum ingenii et industriæ laude se contulit. Itaque sacris initiatus, ac Presbyter Antiochenæ Ecclesiæ factus, mortuo Nectario, Arcadii Imperatoris opera, invitus Constantinopolitanæ Ecclesiæ præficitur: quo suscepto pastorali munere, depravatos mores, et nobiliorum hominum vivendi licentiam vehementius objurgare coepit. Qua ex libertate magnam multorum subiit invidiam. Apud Eudoxiam etiam, quod eam propter Callitropæ viduæ pecuniam, et alterius viduæ agrum reprehendisset, graviter offendit.

John, surnamed Chrysostom on account of his golden eloquence, was born at Antioch. Having gone through the study of the law and the profane sciences, he applied himself with extraordinary application and success to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. Having been admitted to holy orders, and made a Priest of the Church at Antioch, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, after the death of Nectarius, by the express wish of the Emperor Arcadius. No sooner had he entered upon the pastoral charge than he began to inveigh against the licentious lives led by the rich. This his courageous preaching procured him many enemies. He likewise gave great offence to the Empress Eudoxia, because he had reproved her for having appropriated to herself the money belonging to a widow named Callitropa, and for having taken possession of some land which was the property of another widow,

Quare aliquot Episcoporum acto Chalcedone conventu, quo ipse vocatus ire noluit, quod nec legitimum concilium, nec publicum esse diceret, nitente in primis ipsa contra Chrysostomum Eudoxia, ejicitur in exilium: sed paulo post propter ejus desiderium, seditione populi facta, admirabili civitatis plausu ab exilio revocatur. Verum cum perditos mores increpare non desisteret, et ad argenteam Eudoxiæ statuam in foro Sanctæ Sophiæ ludos fieri prohiberet: conspiratione inimicorum Episcoporum iterum exulare cogitur, viduis et egentibus communis parentis ejectionem lugentibus. In exilio Chrysostomum incredibile est et quanta mala perpessus sit, et quam multos ad Jesu Christi fidem converterit.

At the instigation, therefore, of Eudoxia, several Bishops met together at Chalcedon. Chrysostom was cited to appear, which he refused to do. because it was not a Council either lawfully or publicly convened. Whereupon, he was sent into exile. He had not been gone long before the people rose in sedition on account of the Saint's banishment, and he was recalled, to the immense joy of the whole city. But his continuing to inveigh against the scandals which existed, and his forbidding the games held before the silver statue of Eudoxia, which was set up in the space opposite Sancta Sophia, were urged by certain Bishops, enemies of the Saint, as motives for a second banishment. The widows and the poor of the city bewailed his departure as that of a father. It is incredible how much Chrysostom had to suffer in this exile, and how many he converted to the Christian Faith.

Verum dum Concilio Romæ habito, decreto Innocentii Primi Pontificis restituitur, a militibus, qui eum custodiebant, miris in itinere malis et calamitatibus afficitur. Cumque per Armeniam duceretur, sanctus Basiliscus Martyr, in cujus templo antea oraverat, noctu sic eum affatus est: Joannes frater crastinus dies nos loco conjunget. Quare postridie, sumpto Eucharistiæ sacramento, seque crucis signo muniens, animam Deo reddidit decimo octavo kalendas Octobris. Quo mortuo, horribilis grando Constantinopoli cecidit, et quatriduo Augusta cessit e vita. Ejus corpus insigni pompa et hominum multitudine celebratum, Theodosius Arcadii filius Constantinopolim portandum, et honorifice sepeliendum curavit sexto kalendas Februarii; cujus etiam reliquias veneratus, parentum suorum veniam petiit: quod deinde Romam translatum, in Basilica Vaticana conditum est. Multitudinem, pietatem, ac splendorem concionum, cæterorumque ejus scriptorum, interpretandi etiam rationem, et inhærentem sententiæ sacrorum Librorum explanationem, omnes admirantur, dignumque existimant cui Paulus Apostolus, quem ille mirifice coluit, scribenti et prædicanti multa dictasse videatur. Hunc vero præclarissimum ecclesiæ doctorem Pius decimus Pontifex maximus cœlestem oratorum sacrorum patronum declaravit atque constituit.
At the very time that Pope Innocent the First, in a Council held at Rome, was issuing a decree ordering that Chrysostom should be set at liberty, he was being treated by the soldiers, who were taking him into exile, with unheard-of harshness and cruelty. Whilst passing through Armenia, the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in whose Church he had offered up a prayer, thus spoke to him during the night: 'Brother John! we shall be united together tomorrow.’ Whereupon, on the following morning, Chrysostom received the sacrament of the Eucharist, and signing himself with the sign of the cross, he breathed forth his soul to his God, on the eighteenth of the Kalends of October (September 14th). A fearful hail-storm happened at Constantinople after the Saint’s death, and four days after, the Empress died. Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, had the Saint's body brought to Constantinople with all due honour, where, amidst a large concourse of people, it was buried on the sixth of the Kalends of February (January 27th). Theodosius, whilst devoutly venerating the Saint’s relics, interceded for his parents, that they might be forgiven. The body was, at a later period, translated to Rome, and placed in the Vatican Basilica. All men agree in admiring the unction and eloquence of his numerous sermons, as indeed of all his other writings. He is also admirable in his interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, which he explains in their genuine sense. It has always been thought that he was aided, in his writings and sermons, by St Paul the Apostle, to whom he entertained an extraordinary devotion. This most renowned Doctor of the Church was by Pope Pius X declared and appointed heavenly Patron of the preachers of holy things.

The Greek Church, in her Menæa, honours the memory of her great Doctor with an enthusiasm which even herliturgy has seldom surpassed. We extract the following stanzas.

Die XIII Novembris

Tubam auream, divine flans organum, doctrinarum mare inexhaustum, Ecclesiæ firmamentum, mentem cœlestem, sapientiæ abyssum, craterelli deauratum, diffundentem flumina dogmatum melliflua, irrigantia creationem, meloditer hymnificemus.

Sidus inocciduum, radiis illuminans dogmatum omne subsolare, poenitentiæ præconem, spongiam auratissimam humiditatem terribilis desperationis auferentem, et rorificantem cor peccatis consumptum, Joannem digne Chrysologum honoremus.

Angelus terrenus et cœlestis homo, lyra bene loquens et multisonans, virtutum thesaurus, immobilis lapis, fidelium forma Martyrum æmulus, contubernalis sanctorum Angelorum, Apostolorum commensalis, in hymnis magnificetur Chrysostomus.

Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis, sancte Pater, Joannes Chrysostome; nam unxit te Deus sacerdotem populi sui, pascere gregem suum in sanctitate et justitia. Ideo cinctus gladio potentis, garrulitatem hæreseon amputasti, et nunc ne cesses deprecari ut pacificetur mundus, et salventur animæ nostræ.

Aureis verbis tuis Ecclesia, tamquam auro mundo circumornata, Joannes Chrysostome. festive gaudens exclamat: Satiata sum tuis auriferis pascuis, et auriparibus ac mellauratis fluentis; ex actione in contemplationem educor per tuas exhortationes, et Christo, spiritali Sponso, unior, imperans cum eo. Ideo et nos congregati in tui memoriam clamamus: Ne fatigeris deprecari pro nobis ad salvandas animas nostras.

Decebat Reginam urbium de Joanne gloriaritamquam de ornatu regali et de aurea tuba, circumsonante per omnem terram salutaria dogmata, et omnes convocante ad concentum canticorum divinorum, ad quem clamamus: Chrysologe et Chrysostome, Christum deprecare salvari animas nostras.

Gaude, orphanorum pater, injuste patientium magnum auxilium, pauperum largitio, esurientium cibus, peccatorum erectio, animarum solertissime medice, theologiæ excelsæ accuratio, explanatio Scripturarum, Sancti Spiritus lex practicissima, theoria et praxis sapientiæ celsitudinis; Christum exora mittere animabus nostris magnam misericordiam.

Sol splendidissime, terram verbis illustrans factus es, sidus fulgidissimum, lampas præclara, fax per mare mundanum hyeme agitatos evocans ad portum salutis tranquillissimum, in caritate: auridice Chrysostome, legate animarum nostrarum.

In tuo pastoratu, injusta perpessus es, Pater sancte, participans tribulationibus amaris exiliisque, in quibus dignatus es beato fine, tu qui, sicut athleta generosus, artificiosum inimicum superasti: ideo victoriæ diademate te Christus coronavit, Joannes Chrysostome, legate precum nostrarum.
Let us sweetly hymn the praises of Chrysostom, the golden trumpet, the divinely sounding organ, the exhaustless sea of doctrine, the pillar of the Church, the heavenly mind, the abyss of wisdom, the gilded vase, that pours forth the honeyed streams of dogma which refresh the world.

Let us worthily honour John the Chrysologus, the unsetting star that illumines with the rays of doctrine all nations under the sun; the preacher of penance, the golden sponge that takes away the clammy sweats of sad despair, and with refreshing dew revives the sinworn heart.

Let Chrysostom be extolled in our hymns: he is the angel of earth and the man of heaven, a sweet and many-tuned harp, a treasury of virtues, an immoveable rock, a model of the Faithful, an imitator of Martyrs, a companion of the holy Angels, an associate of the Apostles.

Grace is poured forth upon thy lips, O holy Father, John Chrysostom! for the Lord hath anointed thee priest of his people, to feed the flock in holiness and justice. Therefore, armed with the sword of strength, thou didst cut short the prattling of heresies: oh! cease not now to pray that the world may be in peace, and our souls be saved.

The Church, enriched with the pure gold of thy words, O Chrysostom! cries out to thee, on this thy feast: ‘I am nourished by thy golden pastures, and by the streams of thy rich honeyed words. By thy exhortations I am led from action unto contemplation, and am united to Christ, the Spouse of my soul, that I may reign with him.' We, too, that are assembled to celebrate thy memory, cry out unto thee: Cease not to pray for us, that our souls may be saved.

It was meet that the Queen of Cities should glory in her pontiff John, for he is her crown, and the golden trumpet, that makes the whole earth re-echo with the doctrines of salvation, and summons all men to keep choir in God's praise. We, also, cry out to him: O Chrysologus! O Chrysostom! beseech our Lord that he give us salvation.

Rejoice, O thou father of the orphans, great help of those that unjustly suffer! O treasury of the poor, food of the hungry, converter of sinners, most skilled physician of souls, accurate teacher of sublime theology, interpreter of the Scriptures, living law of the Holy Spirit, theory and practice of heavenly wisdom! Oh! pray for us to our Lord, that he show unto us his great mercy.

Thou art a most brilliant sun, enlightening the earth by thy words: a most bright star, a shining lamp: a beacon, by thy charity, that calls unto the tranquil haven of salvation them that are lost on the wintry stormy sea of this world: O golden mouthed Chrysostom, thou advocate of our souls!

O holy Father! thou didst suffer most unjustly in the discharge of thy pastoral office, and wast made to drink of bitter tribulation and exile, wherein thou didst receive a blessed death, for, as a courageous soldier, thou didst overcome the crafty enemy. Therefore, O Chrysostom! ambassador of our prayers \ thou didst receive from Christ the crown of victory.

What a crown is thine, O Chrysostom! Oh! how glorious is thy name in the Church of both heaven and earth! Thou didst preach the gospel in truth, thou didst fight the battle of thy Lord with courage, thou didst suffer for the cause of justice, and thou didst give up thy life in defence of the liberty of God's word. The applause of men did not make thee less stern in claiming the rights of God, and the gift of apostolic eloquence, wherewith the Holy Ghost had enriched thee, was but a feeble image of the divine fire which burned within thy heart, and which made thee love the Word Incarnate, Christ Jesus our Lord, more than thine own glory, or happiness, or life. Thou wast calumniated by wicked men; thy name was erased from the tablets of the holy altar; and, like thy divine Master, thou wast condemned as a criminal, and deposed from the episcopal throne. But as well might men strive to eclipse the sun, as efface thy loved name from the memory of the Christian world. Rome defended thee, and has ever honoured thy admirable virtues, just as she now venerates thy sacred relics, which repose near the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. She and all her children throughout the world consider thee as one of the most faithful dispensers of divine Truth.

Recompense the devotion we have for thee, O Chrysostom! by watching over us from heaven; instruct us, convert us, make us earnest Christians. Like thy beloved master, St Paul, thou didst care for no knowledge save that which would make thee know Christ Jesus: but is it not in Christ Jesus that are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom? Teach us to know this dear Saviour, who has come down to us with all his infinite perfections; teach us to know his spirit; tell us how we may please and imitate him; ask him to receive the offering of our faithful love. In one thing we resemble thee, great Saint! we are exiles; but, alas! we are so often tempted to love our exile as though it were our home. Oh! detach us from this earth and its vanities. May we long to be united with thee, as thou wast united with the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in order that we may be with Jesus.

Faithful Pastor! pray for our Pastors; obtain for them thine own spirit, and pray that their flocks may be docile to their teachings. Bless the Preachers of God’s word, that so they may preach not themselves, but Jesus Christ. Ask our Lord to give them that Christian eloquence which comes from the study of the Sacred Volume, and from prayer; that thus, the faithful may be allured to virtue by the charm of an unearthly language, and may give glory to God. Protect the Roman Pontiff, whose predecessor was thy sole defender; may he ever be the protector of the Bishops of the Church who are persecuted for justice' sake. Pray for thy Church of Constantinople, which has forgotten thy faith and thy virtues. May she be raised from the degradation in which she has been so long enslaved. May Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, be appeased by thy prayers, and be mindful of his Church of Sancta Sophia, and purify it from profanation, and restore that altar whereon he was offered in sacrifice for so many ages. Show, too, thy love for the Western Church, which has ever revered and loved thee. Hasten the fall of the heresies which have so long laid waste large portions of her inheritance; dispel the dark clouds of incredulity, and obtain for us all, by thy powerful intercession, a lively faith and the fervent practice of every virtue.

[1] 1 Cor. ix 16.
[2] 2 Tim. ii 9.
[3] 1 St Pet. ii 25.
[4] Phil. i 21.
[5] Ps. xxiii 1.
[6] 1 Tim. vi 7.
[7] Gen. ii 24.
[8] St Matt. xix 6.
[9] Acts ix 6.
[10] 1 Cor. x 22
[11] Ps. ciii 32.
[12] St Matt. xxiv 35.
[13] Ibid. xvi 18.
[14] St Matt. xviii 20.
[15] Ibid. xxviii 20.
[16] Ibid. vi 10.
[17] Homily before his exile.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

FIVE days after the martyrdom of the Virgin Emerentiana, the parents of the glorious Saint Agnes visited the tomb of their child, during the night, there to weep and pray. It was the eighth day since her martyrdom. Whilst they were thinking upon the cruel death, which, though it had enriched their child with a Martyr's palm, had deprived them of her society, Agnes suddenly appeared to them: she was encircled with a bright light, and wore a crown on her head, and was surrounded by a choir of virgins of dazzling beauty. On her right hand there stood a beautiful white lamb, the emblem of the Divine Spouse of Agnes.

Turning towards her parents, she said to them: 'Weep not over my death: for I am now in heaven, together with these virgins, living with him whom I loved on earth with my whole soul.'

It is to commemorate this glorious apparition that the holy Church has instituted this Feast, which is called Saint Agnes' Second Feast (Sanctœ Agnetis secundo). Let us pray to this fervent spouse of the Divine Lamb, that she intercede for us with him, and present us to him in this life, until it be given to us to possess him face to face in heaven. Let us unite with the Church in the following Prayer, which she uses in today's Office:

Ant. Stans a dextris ejus Agnus nive candidior, Christus sibi Sponsam et Martyrem consecravit.

℣. Specie tua, et pulchritudine tua.
℟. Intende, prospere procede et regna.


Deus qui nos annua beatæ Agnetis Virginis et Martyris tuæ solemnitate lætificas: da quæsumus, ut quam veneramur officio, etiam piæ conversationis sequamur exemplo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Ant. Standing at her right hand as a Lamb whiter than snow, Christ consecrated her to himself as his Spouse and Martyr.

℣. With thy comeliness and thy beauty.
℟. Set out, proceed prosperously, and reign.

Let us Pray

O God, who rejoicest us by the yearly solemnity of blessed Agnes, the Virgin and Martyr: grant, we beseech thee, that we may imitate her life to whose memory we pay this honour. Through Christ our Lord.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

In many Churches, especially in Germany, there is kept, on the second Feast of the Martyr Agnes, the Feast of the pious Emperor Charlemagne. The Emmanuel, who is come into this world, is to receive the title of King of kings and Lord of lords; he is to gird himself with the sword, and bring all nations into subjection; what could be more fitting than that he should lead to his Crib the greatest of Christian Princes, who ever made it his glory to use his sword in the service of Christ and his Church?

Charlemagne was held as a Saint by the people, and the decree of his canonization was given by the Antipope Paschal the Third, in the year 1165, at the request of Frederic Barbarossa; on which account, the Holy See has permitted this public veneration. to be continued in all those places where it prevailed, though it has never given its approbation to the informal procedure of Paschal, nor made it valid by its own sentence, which it would, in all probability, have done had the request been made. At the same time, the many Churches, which, now for seven centuries, have honoured the memory of Charlemagne, keep his Feast under the simple title of Blessed, out of respect to the Roman Martyrology, where his name is not inserted.

Before the Reformation, the name of Blessed Charlemagne was inscribed in the Calendar of a great many of the Churches in France; the Breviaries of Rheims and Rouen are the only ones that have retained it. The Church of Paris ceased to keep his Feast, in order to satisfy the prejudices of several Doctors of the University, in the early part of the 16th century. Protestantism had, naturally enough, an antipathy for a man, who was the noblest type of a Catholic Prince: and they who were tainted with the spirit of Protestantism, defended their blotting out the name of Charlemagne from the Calendar, not so much by the informality of his Canonization, as by the scandal which they affected to find in his life. Public opinion was formed on this, as on so many other matters, with extreme levity; and among those who will be surprised at finding the name of Charlemagne in this volume, we quite expect that they will be the most astonished who have never taken the trouble to inquire into the holiness of his life.

More than thirty Churches in Germany still keep the Feast of the great Emperor. His dear Church of Aix-la-Chapelle possesses his Relics and exposes them to the veneration of the people. The University of Paris, strange to say, chose him for its Patron in 1661; but his Feast, which had been given up for more than a century, was only restored as a national holiday, without the slightest allusion being made to it in the Liturgy.

It does not enter into the plan of this work to discuss the reasons, for which public veneration has been paid to the Saints whose feasts we keep during the year; our readers must not, therefore, expect from us anything in the shape of a formal defence of the saintly life of Charlemagne. Nevertheless, we cannot refrain from making a few remarks, which our subject seems to require. And firstly, we affirm, with the great Bossuet that the morals of Charlemagne were without reproach,[1] and that the contrary opinion, which is based on certain vague and contradictory expressions of a few writers of the Middle-Ages, has only gained ground by Protestant influence. Dom Mabillon—after having given the history of the Emperor’s repudiation of Hermengarde, and his return to Himiltrude, his first wife—concludes his account of Charlemagne, in his Benedictine Annals, by acknowledging that this Prince’s plurality of wives has never been proved to have been simultaneous. Natalis Alexander and Le Cointe—authors who cannot be taxed with partiality, and who have gone into all the intricacies of the question—prove most clearly, that the only reproach to be laid to Charlemagne’s charge, on the subject of his wives, is his having repudiated Himiltrude, out of complaisance to the mother of Hermengarde, a fault which he repaired the following year, in compliance with the remonstrances of Pope Stephen the Fourth.

We grant, that after the death of Luitgarde, the last of his wives who was treated as Queen, Charlemagne married several others, whom Eginhard calls concubines, because they did not wear the crown, and their children were not considered as princes of the blood; but we say, with Mabillon, that Charlemagne may have had these wives successively, and that it is difficult to believe the contrary, regarding so religious a Prince, and one who had singular respect for the laws of the Church.

But, independently of the opinion of the grave authors whom we have cited, there is an incontestable proof of Charlemagne’s innocence on the score of the simultaneous plurality of wives, at least from the time of his separation from Hermengarde. The Prince was then in his twenty-eighth year. The severity of the Roman Pontiffs relative to the marriages of sovereigns is too well known to require proof. The history of the Middle-Ages abounds with the struggles they had, on this essential point of Christian morals, with the most powerful monarchs, some of whom were most devoted to the Church. How, then, we would ask, would it be possible, that St. Adrian the First, who governed the Church from 772 to 795, and whom Charlemagne treated as a father, asking his advice in everything he undertook—how, we repeat, would this holy Pontiff allow Charlemagne to indulge in the most scandalous crimes, without remonstrating, whilst Stephen the Fourth, who only sat three years, and had not the same influence on this Prince, could induce him to dismiss Hermengarde? Or again, would St. Leo the Third—who reigned as Supreme Pontiff from 795 till after Charlemagne’s death, and who recompensed his virtuous conduct by crowning him Emperor—would he have made no effort to induce him to abandon the concubinage in which some writers would make us believe he lived after the death of his last Queen Luitgarde? Now, we find not the shadow of any such remonstrances made by these two Popes, who governed the Church for more than forty years, and have been placed on her altars. The honour of the Church herself is at stake in this question, and it is the duty of every Catholic to suspect the imputations cast on the name of Charlemagne as calumnies.

It would seem, from the letter of Pope Stephen the Fourth, that the marriage with Himiltrude was suspected, though falsely, of nullity; and it is not improbable that this suspicion may have satisfied Charlemagne’s conscience when he divorced her. However this may be, we find Charlemagne afterwards legislating against public immorality with all the zeal and energy of a man whose own life was not tainted with anything of the kind. We will cite but one example of this Christian firmness in repressing scandal, and we put it to the conviction of any honest heart, if a Prince, whose life had been a series of public scandals, could have dared to express himself, with the simplicity and confidence of an innocent conscience, in an assembly of the Bishops and Abbots of his Empire, and in the presence of the Princes and Barons whose licentiousness he wished to repress, and who might so justly have excused their own disorders, by the lewd example of the very man who exhorted them to virtue and threatened to chastise their vices? In a Capitulary, given during the Pontificate of St. Leo the Third, he thus decrees: “We forbid, under pain of sacrilege, the seizure of the goods of the Church, and injustices of whatsoever sort, adultery, fornication, incest, illicit marriage, unjust homicide, &c., for we know, that by such things kingdoms and kings, yea and private subjects, do perish. And whereas, by God’s help, and the merit and the intercession of the Saints and Servants of God, whom we have at all times honoured, we have gained a goodly number of kingdoms, and won manifold victories, it behoveth us all to be on our guard lest we deserve the forfeiture of these gains by the aforementioned crimes and shameful lewdnesses. We know, of a truth, that sundry countries, wherein have been perpetrated these seizures of the goods of the Church, these injustices, these adulteries, and these prostitutions, have lost their courage in battle, and their firmness in the faith. Any one may learn from history, how the Lord hath permitted the Saracens and other peoples to conquer the workers of such like iniquities; nor doubt we that the like will happen likewise to us, unless we abstain from such misdeeds; for God is wont to punish them. Be it, therefore, known to all our subjects, that he who shall be taken and convicted of any of these crimes, shall be deposed of all his honours, if he have any; that he shall be thrown into prison, till he repent and make amends by a public penitence; and, moreover, that he shall be cut off from all communication with the faithful; for we shall grievously fear the pit whereinto we see others be fallen.” Again, we ask, would Charlemagne have spoken such language as this, if, as has been asserted, his old age was being disgraced with debauchery, at the very time that he passed this Capitulary, that is, after the death of Luitgarde?

Granting, then, that this great Prince had sinned, we must allow that it was only in the early part of his reign, and we ought to remember that the remainder of his life was so holy as to be more than an ample penance. Is it not a sight worthy of our admiration to see this brave warrior, when he had become the mighty Sovereign, unceasingly practising, not only sobriety, which was a rare virtue among his countrymen, but fastings, which would bear comparisons with those of the most fervent anchorets—wearing a hair-shirt even to the day of his death—assisting at the Offices of the Church, day and night, even during his various campaigns, when he had the Divine services performed in his tent—and giving abundant alms, (which, as the Scripture tells us, covereth a multitude of sins,) not only to all the poor of his dominions, who besought his charity, but likewise to the Christians of Africa, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, for whose sakes he more than once exhausted his royal treasury? But, what is above all this, and, in the absence of every other proof, would testify to Charlemagne’s possessing every virtue that could adorn a Christian Prince, is his making no other use of his sovereign power than that of spreading the Kingdom of Christ on the earth. It is the one single end he proposed to himself in every battle he fought, and every law he made.

This monarch, to whom were subject France, Catalonia, Navarre, and Aragon; Flanders, Holland, and Friesland; the provinces of Westphalia, Saxony, as far as the Elbe; Franconia, Suabia, Thuringia, and Switzerland; the two Pannonias, (that is, Austria and Hungary,) Dacia, Bohemia, Istria, Liburnia, Dalmatia, and even Sclavonia; and finally, the whole of Italy, as far as southern Calabria—this Monarch signs himself, in his glorious Capitularia: “I, Charles, by the grace of God and the giving of his mercy, King and governor of the Kingdom of the French, devoted defender of God’s Holy Church, and her humble Champion.” So many other Kings and Emperors—who are not to be compared with him in power, and yet are objects of men’s admiration in spite of all their crimes, which are artfully palliated by every possible excuse—have made it their one grand aim to enslave the Church. History tells us of even some otherwise pious Kings, who were jealous of her Liberty, and sought to curtail it: Charlemagne ever respected that Liberty, as though it were his own mother’s honour. It was he, that, following the example of Pepin, his father, so nobly secured the independence of the Apostolic See. Never had the Roman Pontiffs a more devoted or a more obedient Son. Scorning petty political jealousies, he restored to the clergy and people the episcopal elections, which were in the hands of the Sovereign, when he began his reign. He waged war mainly with a design to favour the propagation of the faith among infidel nations. He marched into Spain, that he might free the Christians from the yoke of the Moors. He brought the Churches of his Kingdom into closer union with the Apostolic See, by establishing the Roman Liturgy in all the States that were under his sceptre. In the whole of his legislation, which he framed in assemblies where Bishops and Abbots had the preponderance, there is not a single trace of what have been called Gallican Liberties, which consist in the interference of the Sovereign, or civil Magistrate in matters purely ecclesiastical. “So great was Charlemagne’s love for the Roman Church,” says Bossuet, “that the main point of his Last Will was the recommending to his successors the defence of the Church of St. Peter, a defence which was the precious heirloom of his house, handed down to him by his father and his father’s father, and which he was resolved to leave also to his children. It was this love of the Church which prompted him to say, and the saying was afterwards repeated in a full Council, held during the reign of one of his descendants, that if the Church of Rome were, by an impossibility, to put on us a burden which was well nigh insupportable, we ought to bear it.”

What could prompt this spirit of Christian moderation, which made Charlemagne so respectful to the moral power of the Church—what could temper down the risings of pride, which, as a general rule, increases with the increase of power—what save a most saintly tenor of life? Man, unless he be endowed with the help of a powerful grace, cannot attain, much less can he maintain himself his whole life long, in such perfect dispositions as these. Charlemagne, then, has been selected by our Emmanuel himself to be the perfect type of a Christian Prince; and we Catholics should love to celebrate his glory during this Christmas season, during which is born among us the Divine Child, who is come to reign over all nations, and guide them in the path of holiness and justice. Jesus has come from heaven to be the model of Kings, as of the rest of men; and so far, no man has so closely imitated this divine model as "Charles the Victorious, the ever August, the Monarch crowned by God.”

We will borrow from the Breviaries of Germany the liturgical history of her great Apostle. It is true, that there is a want of exactitude, here and there, in the following Lessons; but they are valuable, as being the expression of the devotion of a Catholic people for their glorious and saintly Emperor.

Beatus Carolus ex patre Pippino, Brabantiæ Ducis filio, qui ad Franciæ Regnum deinde electus est, et Bertrada Græcorum Imperatoris filia natus, ob res gestas, et religionis Christianæ zelum, Magnus, et a Concilio Moguntino Christianissimus appellatus est. Primus fuit, qui expulsis Italia Longobardis a Leone Tertio Pontifice Imperator coronari meruit: nam rogatu Adriani Papæ, qui Leonem antecessit, Italiam cum exercitu ingressus, Ecclesiæ sua patrimonia, et Imperium Occidenti restituit: ipsum quoque Leonem a Romanis, in Litania majore injuriose habitum vindicavit, ejectis urbe sacrilegii reis. Multa sancivit pro Ecclesiæ dignitate, ac inter cætera legem renovavit, voluitque lites forenses ad judicium Ecclesiæ remitti, si alteruter litigantium id postularet. Et quamvis benignus esset moribus, magna tamen severitate compescebat vitia, præsertim adulteria, et idololatriam, constitutis peculiaribus cum ampla potestate judiciis, quæ in hodiernum usque diem in Saxonia inferiore observantur.

Cum Saxonibus triginta et tres annos præliatus, subactis tandem non aliam legem dedit, quam ut Christiani essent; fundosque in perpetuum obligavit, ut erectis per agros trabalibus crucibus, Christum palam faterentur. Guasconiam, Hispaniam atque Gallæciam, ab idololatris expurgavit, ac sepulcrum sancti Jacobi hodierno honori restituit. In Hungaria toto octennio rem Christianam armis promovit ea adversus Sarracenos utens lancea semper victoriosa, qua unus militum Christi latus aperuerat. Quos tantos ejus pro fidei dilatatione conatus, Deus pluribus signis visus est adjuvare; nam Saxones, qui castrum Sigisburgum obsederant, divinitus territi, aufugerunt: et in primo Saxonico tumultu largissimum flumen exiliit, quo totus exercitus triduo aquationis inedia laborans recreatus est. Tantus autem Imperator veste vix a plebe differebat, cilicio prope continuo induebatur, nec nisi in summis Christi ac Divorum festis apparebat in auro. Pauperes et peregrinos tam in Regia sua, quam missis expensis, ubique terrarum adjuvabat. Coenobia viginti quatuor erexit, ac litteram auream (ut appellant) ducentorum pondo cuique misit; duas Metropolitanas sedes, ac novem Episcopales constituit. Templa viginti et septem exædificavit: fundavit denique duas Universitates, Ticinensem et Parisiensem.

Ipse autem Carolus, sicut erat literis deditus, Alcuino doctore usus, ita filios suos liberalibus scientiis, priusquam armis et venatui tradidit. Anno demum ætatis sexagesimo octavo, cum filium Ludovicum coronari, et regem agere jussisset, totum se transtulit ad studia orationis et eleemosynarum. Ecclesiam sicut assueverat, mane, ac vesperi, nocturnis etiam non raro horis frequentabat; psalmodia enim Gregoriana delectabatur; quam per Franciam et Germaniam primus instituit, impetratis ab Adriano Primo cantoribus, et ecclesiasticos hymnos ubivis locorum conscribendos curavit. Evangelia vero ipse sua manu descripsit, et cum Græcis ac Syris codicibus contulit. Cibi et potus semper parcissimus fuit, solitus morbos suos jejunio familiari, quod ad septiduum aliquando protraxit, curare. Tandem multa nefanda a malevolis perpessus, annos natus septuaginta duos, in morbum incidit, in quo ab Hildebaldo Episcopo sacra communione refectus, cum singula membra sua signo crucis signaset, psallens versiculum: In manus tuas; spiritum magnis meritis comitatum Deo reddidit, quinto Kalendas Februarii. Sepultus est in Basilica Aquensi, quam ædificarat et ditarat reliquiis Sanctorum. Ubi etiam magna peregrinorum pietate et divinis beneficiis honoratur. Natalis autem ejus per plerasque Germaniæ Diœceses, jam inde a temporibus Alexandri Tertii, ex Ecclesiæ consensu, colitur, tamquam præcipui fidei auctoris in Septentrione.
The father of the Blessed Charles was Pepin, who was the son of the Duke of Brabant, (afterwards elected to the throne of France,) and of Bertrade, daughter of the Greek Emperor. He merited, by his glorious deeds and his zeal for the Christian Religion, the surname of Great; and by one of the Councils held at Mayence he was called the Most Christian Monarch. Having driven the Lombards out of Italy, he was the first to have the honour of being crowned Emperor by the Vicar of Christ, Pope Leo the Third. At the request of Adrian, Leo’s predecessor, he entered with an army into Italy, and restored to the Church her patrimony, and to the West the Empire. He avenged the injuries done to Pope Leo by the Romans, during the chanting of the Litany, and he expelled from the city such as had taken part in this sacrilege. He passed many laws tending to the honour of the Church; among the rest, he re-established the law which provided that civil suits should be referred to the judgment of the Church, in case of one of the parties demanding it. Though of a most gentle disposition, he was very severe in suppressing vice, more especially adultery and idolatry, for which he established special tribunals vested with extraordinary powers, which exist to this day in Lower Saxony.

After having waged war for thirty-three years with the Saxons, he at length brought them into subjection, imposing no other law upon them, than that they should become Christians. He obliged all landowners to erect a cross of wood in their fields, as an open confession of their faith. He rid Gascony, Spain, and Gallicia, of idolaters, and restored the sepulchre of St. James to what we see it at this day. He upheld the Christian Religion in Hungary by an eight years’ campaign, and in fighting against the Saracens, he always made use of the victorious Spear, wherewith one of the soldiers opened our Saviour’s Side. God seemed to favour, by many miracles, all these efforts made for the spreading of the faith. Thus the Saxons, who were laying siege to Sigisburgh, were struck by God with fear, and took to flight; and in the first rebellion of the same people, there sprang up from the earth a plentiful stream, wherewith was refreshed Charles’ whole army, which had been without water for three days. And yet, this great Emperor could scarce be distinguished by his dress from the rest of the people, and almost always wore a hair-shirt, never appearing in his gilded robes save on the principal Feasts of our Lord and the Saints. He gave alms to the poor and to pilgrims, not only at his regal residence, but in every part of the world, by sending them monies. He built twenty four Monasteries, to each of which he sent what is called the Golden Letter, weighing two hundred pounds. He founded two Metropolitan, and nine Episcopal Sees. He built twenty-seven Churches, and founded two Universities, one in Pavia, the other in Paris.

As Charles himself was fond of study, in which he had Alcuin as his master, so, likewise, would he have his sons trained in the liberal sciences, before be permitted them to turn either to war or to the chase. In the sixty-eighth year of his age, he had his son Louis crowned king, and devoted himself wholly to prayer and alms-deeds. Each morning and evening he visited the Church, and oftentimes he repaired thither also in the night, for he was exceedingly fond of the Gregorian Chant, and was the first to introduce it into France and Germany; he had obtained Cantors from Pope Adrian the First, and took care to have the hymns of the Church copied in every place. He made copies of the Gospels with his own hand, and collated them with the Greek and Syriac versions. He was extremely sparing in what he took to eat and drink. If he fell sick, he sought a remedy in fasting, which he sometimes observed for seven continuous days. At length, after suffering much from malicious men, being then in his seventy-second year, he fell sick. He received the consolation of Holy Communion at the hands of Bishop Hildebald. He signed his whole body with the sign of the cross, singing the words, Into thy hands; which done, he rendered to God his soul rich in merit, on the fifth of the Calends of February (January 28th). He was buried in the Basilica of Aix-la-Chapelle, which he had built and enriched with relics of the Saints. There he is honoured by the devotion of numerous pilgrims, and by the favours granted by God through his intercession. His Feast is kept in most of the dioceses of Germany, by the consent of the Church, ever since the time of Pope Alexander the Third; it is kept as the Feast of the principal propagator of the faith in the North.

The following Hymn is taken from the same Office as the Lessons we have just read.


O Rex orbis triumphator,
Regum terræ Imperator,
Inter beatorum coetus,
Nostros audi pie fletus.

Tua prece mors fugatur,
Languor cedit, vita datur,
Sitientibus das undas,
Et baptismo gentes mundas.

Arte et natura duros,
Sola prece frangis muros,
Regna suave jugum Christi
Ferre doces, quæ vicisti.

O quam dignus verna cœlis,
Servus prudens, et fidelis,
E castris astra petisti,
Ad locum pacis ivisti.

Ergo rupem ferro fode,
Fontem vivum nobis prode,
Ora pia prece Deum,
Et fac nobis pium eum.

Sit Majestas Trinitati,
Laus et honor Unitati,
Quæ virtute principali
Jure regnat coæquali.

O King, conqueror of the earth!
Emperor of the kings of the world!
lovingly hear our prayers,
now that thou reignest among the blessed.

By thy prayers death is put to flight,
the sick are healed, life is restored,
the thirsty obtain fountains of water,
and whole nations are cleansed in the laver of baptism.

Ramparts made impregnable by art and nature,
yield to the simple power of thy prayers;
and thou teachest the vanquished nations
to bear the sweet yoke of Christ.

Prudent and faithful servant,
and oh! how worthy of heaven!
Thou didst ascend thither from the battlefield,
thou enteredst into the land of peace.

Strike, then, the rock with thy sword,
and call forth for us a stream of living water.
By thy holy prayers,
obtain for us the mercy of our God.

Glory be to the Blessed Trinity!
Praise and honour to the Holy Unity,
that reigneth co-equally
in infinite power.


The same Liturgy gives us this Antiphon.

ANT. O spes afflictis, timor hostibus, hostia victis, regula virtutis, juris via, forma salutis, Carole, servorum pia suscipe vota tuorum.
ANT. O hope of sufferers, terror of thine enemies, merciful to the conquered, model of virtue, example of justice, teacher of salvation—receive, O Charles! the devout prayers, of thy clients.

Among the Sequences written in honour of the holy Emperor, we find the following, which is taken from an ancient Missal of Aix-la-Chapelle.


Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis,
Regni sedes principalis,
Prima regum curia.

Regi regum pange laudes,
Quæ de magni regis gaudes
Caroli memoria.

Iste cœtus psallat lætus,
Psallat chorus hic sonorus
Vocali concordia.

At dum manus operatur
Bonum, quod cor meditatur,
Dulcis est psalmodia.

Hac in die, die festa,
Magni Regis magna gesta
Recolat Ecclesia.

Reges terræ et omnes populi
Omnes simul plaudant ac singuli
Celebri lætitia.

Hic est Christi miles fortis,
Hic invictæ dux cohortis
Decem sternit millia.

Terram purgat lolio,
Atque metit gladio
Ex messe zizania.

Hic est magnus Imperator,
Boni fructus bonus sator,
Et prudens agricola.

Infideles hic convertit,
Fana, Deos, hic evertit,
Et confringit idola.

Hic superbos domat reges,
Hic regnare sacras leges
Facit cum justitia.

Quam tuetur eo fine
Ut et justus, sed nec sine
Sit misericordia.

Oleo lætitiæ
Unctus dono gratiæ
Cæteris præ regibus.

Cum corona gloriæ,
Majestatis regiæ
Insignitur fascibus.

O Rex mundi triumphator,
Jesu Christi conregnator,
Sis pro nobis exorator,
Sancte pater Carole.

Emundati a peccatis
Ut in regno claritatis,
Nos plebs tua cum beatis
Cœli simus incolæ.

Stella maris, o Maria,
Mundi salus, vitæ via,
Vacillantum rege gressus,
Et ad Regem des accessus,
In perenni gloria.

Christe, splendor Dei Patris,
Incorruptæ fili Matris,
Per hunc sanctum cujus
Festa Celebramus, nobis præsta
Sempiterna gaudia.

O city of Aix! City of royalty!
seat of princely power,
and favourite court of kings!

O thou that so joyously celebratest
the memory of King Charles the Great,
sing thy praises to the King of kings.

Let this glad assembly give forth its hymns,
and this sweet choir of music
sing as with one voice of praise.

O sweet the psalmody,
when the hand achieves
the holy meditation of the heart!

On this festive day,
let the Church proclaim
the great deeds of the great King.

Let the kings of the earth and the people,
let all, and each, praise him
with a holiday of joy.

This is the brave soldier of Christ,
the leader of the invincible army,
and he prostrates his enemies by tens of thousands.

He weeds the earth of its cockle,
and with his sword
cleanses the harvest from the tares.

This is the great Emperor,
the good sower of the good seed,
the prudent husbandman.

He converts infidels,
he overthrows the temples,
and the false gods, and breaks the idols.

He subdues haughty kings,
he establishes the reign
of holy laws and justice.

He defends the right,
for he loves justice;
but he tempers justice by mercy.

He is anointed with the oil of gladness,
and with grace,
above all other kings.

He wears the crown of glory,
he is decked with all the emblems
of kingly majesty.

O King that didst triumph over the world!
O King that now reignest with Christ!
O Charles! O sainted father!
pray for us,

That we thy people,
being cleansed from our sins,
may be made fellow-citizens
with the blessed in the kingdom of heaven.

O Mary! Star of the Sea!
that didst give to the world its Saviour and its Life!
guide our faltering steps,
and lead us to Jesus our King,
in everlasting bliss.

O Jesus! Brightness of the Eternal Father!
Son of the VirginMother!
we beseech thee, by the merits of the Saint
whose Feast we celebrate, grant us to come
to everlasting joy.


We will conclude our selection by giving the Collect said on this feast.


Deus qui superabundanti fœcunditate bonitatis tuæ, beatum Carolum Magnum Imperatorem, deposito camis velamine, beatæ immortalitatis trabea sublimasti: concede nobis supplicibus tuis, ut quem ad propagationem veræ fidei Imperii honore exaltasti in terris, pium intercessorem habere mereamur in cœlis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who in the superabundant riches of thy mercy, didst clothe the blessed Emperor Charles the Great, after he had laid aside the garb of the flesh, with the robe of immortal life; grant, we beseech thee, that he whom thou didst raise up on earth to the imperial dignity, that so he might spread the true faith, may lovingly intercede for us in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All hail faithful and beloved servant of God, Apostle of Christ, Defender of his Church, Lover of justice, Guardian of the laws of morality, and Terror of them that hate the Christian name! The hand of the Vicar of Christ purified the diadem of the Cæsars, and put it on thy venerable head. The imperial sceptre and globe are in thy hands. The sword of the victories won for God is girt on thy side. The Supreme Pontiff has anointed thee King and Emperor. Bearing thus in thyself the figure of Christ in his temporal Kingship, thou didst so use thy power as that he reigned in and by thee. And now he recompenses thee for the love thou hadst for him, for the zeal thou hadst for his glory, and for the respect thou didst ever evince to the Church, his Spouse. He has changed thy earthly and perishable royalty into that which is eternal, and in his heavenly kingdom thou art surrounded by those countless souls, whom thou didst convert from idolatry to the service of the one true God.

We are celebrating the Birth of the Son of that VirginMother, in whose honour thou didst build the glorious Church, which still excites the admiration of all nations. It was in that sacred edifice that thou didst place the Swathing-clothes wherewith she clad her Divine Babe; and it is here, too, that our Emmanuel would have thine own Relics enshrined, so to receive the honour they deserve. O admirable imitator of the faith of the three Eastern Kings! present us to him, who deigned to be clothed in these humble garments. Ask him to give us a share of thy humility, which made thee love to kneel near his Crib—of thy devotion for the Feasts of the Church—of thy zeal for the glory of his divine Majesty—and of the courage and earnestness wherewith thou didst labour to spread his Kingdom on earth.

Oh! pray for our Europe, which was once so happy under thy paternal rule, and is now divided against itself. The Empire, which the Church confided to thy care, has now fallen, in just punishment for its treachery to the Church that gave it existence. The nations of that fallen Empire are now restless and unhappy. The Church alone can satisfy their wants, for she alone can give them Faith; she alone has not changed the principles of justice; she alone can control power, and teach subjects obedience. Oh! pray that nations, both people and their governments, may return to what can alone give them liberty and security, and cease to seek these blessings by revolution and discord. Protect France, that fairest gem of thy crown, protect her with an especial love, and show her that thou art ever her King and her Father. Finally, O blessed Charlemagne! ask our God that he arrest the progress of Russia, the Empire of schism and tyranny, and never permit that we become a prey to its intrigue and ambition.

[1] “Charlemagne was valiant, wise, and moderate; he was a warrior without ambition, and led an exemplary life. This I say, notwithstanding the reproaches heaped upon him by ignorance, in times past. His prodigious conquests caused the kingdom of God to be spread, and, in everything he did, he showed himself to be a perfect Christian.” Sermon on the Unity of the Church.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE angelical Bishop Francis of Sales has a right to a distinguished position near the Crib of Jesus, on account of the sweetness of his virtues, the childlike simplicity of his heart, and the humility and tenderness of his love. He comes with the lustre of his glorious conquests upon him—seventy-two thousand heretics converted to the Church by the ardour of his charity; an Order of holy servants of God, which he founded; and countless thousands of souls trained to piety by his prudent and persuasive words and writings.

God gave him to the Church at the very time that heresy was holding her out to the world as a worn-out system, that had no influence over men’s minds. He raised up this true minister of the Gospel in the very country where the harsh doctrines of Calvin were most in vogue, that the ardent charity of Francis might counteract the sad influence of that heresy. If you want heretics to be convinced of their errors, said the learned Cardinal du Perron, you may send them to me; but if you want them to be converted, send them to the Bishop of Geneva.

Francis of Sales was sent, then, as a living image of Jesus, opening his arms and calling sinners to repentance, the victims of heresy to truth, the just to perfection, and all men to confidence and love. The Holy Spirit had rested on him with all his divine power and sweetness. A few days back we were meditating on the Baptism of Jesus, and how the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the shape of a dove. There is an incident in the life of Francis which reminds us of this great Mystery. He was singing Mass on Whit Sunday at Annecy. A dove, which had been let into the Cathedral, after flying for a long time round the building, at length came into the sanctuary, and rested on the Saint’s head. The people could not but be impressed with this circumstance, which they looked on as an appropriate symbol of Francis’ loving spirit; just as the globe of fire which appeared above the head of St Martin, when he was offering up the Holy Sacrifice, was interpreted as a sign of his apostolic zeal.

The same thing happened to our Saint on another occasion. It was the Feast of our Lady’s Nativity, and Francis was officiating at Vespers in the Collegiate Church at Annecy. He was seated on a Throne, the carving of which represented the Tree of Jesse, which the prophet Isaias tells us produced the virginal Branch, whence sprang the divine Flower, on which there rested the Spirit of love. They were singing the psalms of the feast, when a dove flew into the Church, through an aperture in one of the windows of the choir, on the epistle side of the Altar. It flew about for some moments, and then lighted first on the Bishop’s shoulder, then on his knee, where it was caught by one of the assistants. When the Vespers were over the Saint mounted the pulpit, and ingeniously turned the incident that had occurred into an illustration which he hoped would distract the people from himself—he spoke to them of Mary, who, being full of the grace of the Holy Spirit, is called the Dove that is all fair, in whom there is no blemish.[1]

If we were asked which of the Disciples of our Lord was the model on which this admirable Prelate formed his character, we should mention, without any hesitation, the Beloved Disciple, John. Francis of Sales is, like him, the Apostle of charity; and the simplicity of the great Evangelist caressing an innocent bird is reflected with perfection in the heart of the Bishop of Geneva. A mere look from John, a single word of his, used to draw men to the love of Jesus; and the contemporaries of Francis were wont to say: 'If the Bishop of Geneva is so amiable, what, O Lord, must not thou be!'

A circumstance in our Saint's last illness again suggests to us the relation between himself and the Beloved Disciple. It was on the 27th of December, the Feast of St John, that Francis, after celebrating Mass, and giving Communion to his dear Daughters of the Visitation, felt the first approach of the sickness which was to cause his death. As soon as it was known, the consternation was general; but the Saint had already his whole conversation in heaven, and on the following day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, his soul took its flight to its Creator, and the candour and simplicity of his spirit made him a worthy companion of those dear little ones of Bethlehem.

But on neither of these two days could the Church place his feast, as they were already devoted to the memory of St John and the Holy Innocents; but she has ordered it to be kept during the forty days consecrated to the Birth of our Lord, and this 29th of January is the day fixed for it.

St Francis, then, the ardent lover of our new-born King, is to aid us, like all these other Christmas saints, to know the charms of the Divine Babe. In his admirable Letters we find him expressing, with all the freedom of friendly correspondence, the sweetness which used to fill his heart during this holy season. Let us read a few passages from these confidential papers—they will teach us how to love our Jesus.

Towards the end of the Advent of 1619, he wrote to a religious of the Visitation, instructing her how to prepare for Christmas.

My very dear Daughter, our sweet Infant Jesus is soon to be born in our remembrance, at the coming feasts; and since he is born on purpose that he may visit us in the name of his Eternal Father, and is to be visited in his Crib by the Shepherds and the Kings, I look on him as both the Father and the Child of our Lady of the Visitation.

Come, then, load him with your caresses; join all our Sisters in giving him a warm welcome of hospitality; sing to him the sweetest carols you can find; and above ail, adore him very earnestly, and very sweetly, and with him adore his poverty, his humility, his obedience and his meekness, as did his most holy Mother and St Joseph. Take one of his divine tears, which is the dew of heaven, and put it on your heart, that so you may never admit any other sadness there, than the sadness which will gladden this sweet Infant. And when you recommend your own soul to him, recommend mine also, for you know its devotedness to yours.

I beg of you to remember me affectionately to the dear Sisters, whom I look upon as simple shepherdesses keeping watch over their flocks, that is, their affections, and who, being warned by the Angel, are going to pay their homage to the Divine Babe, and offer him, as an earnest of their eternal loyalty, the fairest of their lambs, which is their love, unreserved and undivided.

On Christmas Eve, filled by anticipation with the joy of the sacred night which is to give the world its Redeemer, Francis writes to St Jane Frances de Chantal, and thus invites her to profit by the visit of the Divine Infant:

May the sweet Infant of Bethlehem ever be your happiness and your love, my very dear Mother. Oh! the loveliness of this Little Child! I imagine I see Solomon on his ivory throne, all beautifully gilded and carved, which, as the Scripture tells us, had no equal in all the kingdoms of the earth, neither was there any king that could be compared for glory and magnificence with the king that sat upon it. And yet I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his Crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.

But when I see him on the lap or in the arms of his Blessed Mother, he seems to me to be more magnificent on this Throne, not only than Solomon ever was on his of ivory, but than he himself on any throne with which the heavens could provide him; for though the heavens surpass Mary in outward grandeur, yet she surpasses them in invisible perfections. Oh! may the great St Joseph give us some of the consolation that filled his soul; may the Blessed Mother lend us something of her own love, and the Infant Jesus mercifully pour into our hearts of the infinite abundance of his merits!

I beseech you to keep close to this Divine Babe, and rest near him as lovingly as you can; he will love you in return, even should your heart feel no tenderness or devotion. What sense had the poor ox and the ass? and yet he refuses not to let them breathe warmly upon him. And think you he will refuse the aspirations of our poor hearts, which, though just at present they feel no devotion, yet are sincerely and loyally his, and are ever offering themselves to be the faithful servants of his own divine self, and of his Holy Mother, and of his dear protector Joseph!

The sacred night is over, and has brought Peace to men of good will. Francis again writes to the same Saint, and thus betrays to her the joy he has received from the contemplation of the great Mystery;

Oh! the sweetness of this night! The Church has been singing these words—honey has dropped from the heavens. I thought to myself, that the Angels not only come down on our earth to sing their admirable Gloria in excelsis, but to gaze also on this sweet Babe, this Honey of heaven resting on two beautiful Lilies, for sometimes he is in Mary's arms, and sometimes it is Joseph that caresses him.

What will you say of my having the ambition to think that our two Angel Guardians were of the grand choir of blessed Spirits that sang the sweet hymn on this night? I said to myself : Oh! happy we, if they would deign to sing once more their heavenly hymn, and our hearts could hear it! I besought it of them, that so there might be glory in the highest heavens, and peace to hearts of good will.

Returning home from celebrating these sacred mysteries, I rest awhile in thus sending you my Happy Christmas! for I dare say that the poor Shepherds took some little rest, after they had adored the Babe announced to them by the Angels. And as I thought of their sleep on that night, I said to myself: How sweetly must they not have slept, dreaming of the sacred melody wherewith the Angels told them the glad tidings, and of the dear Child and the Mother they had been to see!

We will close our quotations by the following passage of another of his Letters to St Jane Frances de Chantal, in which he speaks of the Most Holy Name of 'Jesus,' which the Divine Child of Mary received at his Circumcision.

O my Jesus! fill our hearts with the sacred balm of thy Holy Name, that so the sweetness of its fragrance may penetrate our senses, and perfume our every action. But that our hearts may be capable of receiving this sweetness, they must be circumcised: take, therefore, from them whatever could displease thy divine sight. O glorious Name! named by the heavenly Father from all eternity, be thou for ever written on our souls; that as thou, Jesus, art our Saviour, so may our souls be eternally saved. And thou, O Holy Virgin! that wast the first among mortals to pronounce this saving Name, teach us to pronounce it as it behoveth us, that so we may merit the Salvation which thou didst bring into this world!

My dear Daughter! it was but right that my first letter of this year should be to Jesus and Mary: my second is to you, to wish you a Happy New Year, and exhort you to give your whole heart to God. May we so spend this year, that it may secure to us the years of eternity! My first word on waking this morning was: Jesus! and I felt as though I would gladly pour out on the face of the whole earth the oil of this sweet Name.

As long as balm is shut up in a well-sealed vase, no one knows its sweetness, save him who put it there: but as soon as the vase is opened, and a few drops are sprinkled around, all who are present say: "What sweet Balm!'' Thus it was, my dear Daughter, with our Jesus. He contained within himself the balm of salvation; but no one knew it until his divine Flesh was laid open by the fortunate wound of that cruel knife; and then people knew him to be the Balm of the world's Salvation, and first Joseph and Mary, then the whole neighbourhood began to cry out: Jesus! which means Saviour.

Let us now turn to the Office of the Church for this feast, and read the life of our Saint.

Franciscus in oppido Salesio, unde familiæ cognomen, piis et nobilibus parentibus natus, a teneris annis futuræ sanctitatis indicia præbuit morum innocentia et gravitate. Adolescens liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, mox philosophiæ ac theologiæ Parisiis operam dedit: et ne quid sibi deesset ad animi culturam, juris utriusque lauream summa cum laude Patavii obtinuit. In sacra Æde Lauretana perpetuæ virginitatis votum, quo pridem Parisiis se obstrinxerat, innovavit: a cujus virtutis proposito nullis unquam dæmonum fraudibus, nullis sensuum illecebris potuit dimoveri.

Recusata in Sabaudiæ Senatu amplissima dignitate, Clericali militiæ nomen dedit : tum sacerdotio initiatus, et Genevensis Ecclesiæ Præposituram adeptus, ejus muneris partes adeo perfecte explevit, ut eum Granerius Episcopus vindicandis ab hæresi Calviniana Chaballicensibus, aliisque Genevæ finitimis populis, divini verbi præconem destinant. Quam expeditionem alacri animo suscipiens, asperrima quæque perpessus est, sæpe ab hæreticis conquisitus ad necem, variisque calumniis et insidiis vexatus. Sed inter tot discrimina et agones, insuperabilis ejus constantia semper enituit; Deique ope protectus, septuaginta duo millia hæreticorum ad Catholicam fidem reduxisse dicitur, inter quos multi nobilitate et doctrina insignes numerantur.

Mortuo Granerio, qui eum sibi Coadjutorem decerni curaverat, Episcopus consecratus, sanctitatis suæ radios circumquaque diffudit, zelo ecclesiasticæ disciplinæ, pacis studio, misericordia in pauperes, omnique virtute conspicuus. Ad divini cultus augmentum novum Ordinem Sanctimonialium instituit, a Visitatione beatæ Mariæ Virginis nuncupatum, sub regula sancti Augustini, cui addidit Constitutiones sapientia, discretione et suavitate mirabiles. Suis itaque scriptis cœlesti doctrina refertis Ecclesiam illustravit, quibus iter ad Christianam perfectionem tutum et planum demonstrat. Annum denique agens quinquagesimum quintum, dum e Gallia Anneceium regreditur, post sacrum in die sancti Joannis Evangelistæ Lugduni celebratum, gravi morbo correptus, sequenti die migravit in cœlum, anno Domini mil lesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo secundo. Ejus corpus Anneceium delatum, in Ecclesia Monialium dicti Ordinis honorifice conditum fuit, cœpitque statim miraculis clarescere. Quibus rite probatis, ab Alexandro Septimo, Pontifice Maximo, in Sanctorum numerum relatus est, assignata ejus festivitati die vigesima nona Januarii, et a summo Pontifice Pio Nono, ex Sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consulto, universalis Ecclesiæ Doctor fuit declaratus.
Francis was born of pious and noble parents, in the town of Sales, from which the family took their name. From his earliest years, he gave pledge of his future sanctity by the innocence and gravity of his conduct. Having been instructed in the libei al sciences during his youth, he was sent early to Paris, that he might study Philosophy and Theology; and in order that his education might be complete, he was sent to Padua, where he took, with much honour, the degree of doctor in both civil and canon law. He visited the sanctuary of Loreto, where he renewed the vow he had already taken in Paris of perpetual virginity, in which holy resolution he continued till death, in spite of all the temptations of the devil and all the allurements of the flesh.

He refused to accept an honourable position in the Senate of Savoy, and entered into the ecclesiastical state. He was ordained Priest, and was made Provost of the Diocese of Geneva, which charge he so laudably fulfilled that Granier, his Bishop, selected him for the arduous undertaking of labouring, by the preaching of God's word, for the conversion of the Calvinists of Chablais and the neighbouring country round about Geneva. This mission he undertook with much joy. He had to suffer the harshest treatment on the part of the heretics, who frequently sought to take away his life, calumniated him, and laid all kinds of plots against him. But he showed heroic courage in the midst of all these dangers and persecutions, and by the divine assistance converted, as it is stated, seventy-two thousand heretics to the Catholic faith, among whom were many distinguished by the high position they held in the world and by their learning.

After the death of Granier, who had already made him his Coadjutor, he was made Bishop of Geneva. Then it was that his sanctity showed itself in every direction, by his zeal for ecclesiastical discipline, his love of peace, his charity to the poor, and every virtue. From a desire to give more honour to God, he founded a new Order of Nuns, which he called of the Visitation, taking for their Rule that of St Augustine, to which he added Constitutions of admirable wisdom, discretion, and sweetness. He enlightened the children of the Church by the works he wrote, which are full of a heavenly wisdom, and point out a safe and easy path to Christian perfection. In his fifty-fifth year, whilst returning from France to Annecy, he was taken with his last sickness, immediately after having celebrated Mass, on the Feast of St John the Evangelist. On the following day, his soul departed this life for heaven, in the year of our Lord 1622. His body was taken to Annecy, and was buried, with great demonstration of honour, in the Church of the Nuns of the above mentioned Order. Immediately after his death, miracles began to be wrought through his intercession, which being officially authenticated, he was canonized by Pope Alexander the Seventh, and his Feast was appointed to be kept on the twenty-ninth day of January, and he was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, after consultation with the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

Pope Alexander the Seventh himself composed the Collect for the Office and Mass of the Saint's Feast. Let us say it with our holy Mother the Church.


Deus, qui ad animarum salutem beatum Franciscum Confessorem tuum atque Pontificem omnibus omnia factum esse voluisti: concede propitius, ut caritatis tuæ dulcedine perfusi, ejus dirigentibus monitis ac suffragantibus meritis, æterna gaudia consequamur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who, for the salvation of souls, wast pleased that Blessed Francis, thy Confessor and Bishop, should become all to all: mercifully grant, that being plentifully enriched with the sweetness of thy charity, by following his directions, and by the help of his merits, we may obtain life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peaceful conqueror of souls! Pontiff beloved of God and man! we venerate thee as the perfect imitator of the sweetness and gentleness of Jesus. Having learnt of him to be meek and humble of heart, thou didst, according to his promise, possess the land[2] Nothing could resist thee. Heretics, however obstinate; sinners, however hardened; tepid souls, however sluggish; all yielded to the powerful charm of thy word and example. We love to see thee standing near the Crib of our loving Jesus, and sharing in the glory of John and the Innocents, for thou wast an Apostle like John, and simple like the children of Rachel. Oh! that our hearts might be filled with the spirit of Bethlehem, and learn how sweet is the yoke, and how light the burden of our Emmanuel![3]

Pray for us to our Lord, that our charity may be ardent like thine; that the desire of perfection may be ever active within us; that we may gain that introduction to a devout Life which thou hast so admirably taught; that we may have that love of our neighbour, without which we cannot hope to love God; that we may be zealous for the salvation of souls; that we may be patient and forgive injuries, in order that we may love one another, not only in word and in tongue, but, as thy great model says, in deed and in truth.[4] Bless the Church Militant, whose love for thee is as fresh as though thou hadst but just now left her; thou art venerated and loved throughout the whole world.

Hasten the conversion of the followers of Calvin. Thy prayers have already miraculously forwarded the great work, and the Holy Sacrifice has long since been publicly offered up in the very City of Geneva. Redouble those prayers, and then even we may live to see the grand triumph of the Church. Root out too the last remnants of that Jansenistic heresy, which was beginning to exercise its baneful influence at the close of thy earthly pilgrimage. Remove from us the dangerous maxims and prejudices which have come down to us from those unhappy times, when this odious sect was at the height of its power.

Bless with all the affection of thy paternal heart the holy Order thou didst found, and which thou didst offer to Mary under the title of her Visitation. Maintain it in its present edifying favour; give it increase in number and merit; and do thou thyself direct it, that so thy family may be ever animated by the spirit of its father. Pray, also, for the venerable Episcopate, of which thou art the ornament and model: ask our Lord to bless his Church with Pastors endowed with thy spirit, inflamed with thy zeal, and imitators of thy sanctity.

[1] Cant. vi 8; iv 7.
[2] St Matt. v 4.
[3] Ibid xi 30.
[4] 1 St John iii 18.