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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.

My bow shall appear in the clouds and I will remember My covenant with you.[1]

The lessons at Matins on February 11, 1854 (Thursday in Sexagesima week) recalled these words, and the world soon learned that on this very day Mary had appeared, more fair than the sign of hope which typified her at the time of the deluge.

Portents, the realization of which we see in these days, were being multiplied. Mankind had grown old, and seemed about to perish in a deluge more dreadful than the former one. ‘I am the Immaculate Conception,’ said the Mother of divine grace to the humble child whom she chose at such a time to bear her message to the captain of the Ark of salvation. She pierced the gathering darkness with the light of that sublime privilege which the supreme pilot, to his eternal glory, had declared three years before to be dogma.

Indeed, if, as the beloved disciple says, it is our faith to which victory on earth is promised,[2] and if faith is nourished by light—what individual dogma is there which so presupposes and recalls all other dogmatic truths, and at the same time throws such light upon them? It is a royal crown on the brow of the victorious queen, resplendent like the rainbow which breaks through the clouds with all the glories of heaven.

But perchance it was still necessary to open the eyes of the blind to these splendours, to inspire courage into hearts saddened by hell’s denials, and to infuse strength to make an act of faith into so many understandings weakened by the education of these days. The Immaculate Virgin summoned the multitudes to the scene of her blessed visit, and both sweetly and strongly succoured the weakness of souls by healing bodies. She smiled upon publicity, welcomed investigation, and confirmed by the authority of miracles her own words and the definition of the Vicar of Christ.

The Psalmist said that the works of God tell His praises in all tongues,[3] and St. Paul taxes with folly and impiety those who will not accept this testimony.[4] So, too, we may say that the men of these times have no excuse if they do not recognize the blessed Virgin in her works. May she extend the field of her beneficence and take pity on that worst of diseases—that weakness of soul which refuses to see out of a secret fear of the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence, and struggles against the truth until the mind is filled with contradictions and the heart with darkness, so that it seems as though the reason itself were given over to that reprobate sense[5] which St. Paul describes as striking the pagans in their flesh.

The things that take place at Lourdes are as famous as any events of contemporary history. Let us listen to the short account which the Church has enshrined in the Liturgy:

Anno quarto a dogmatica definitione de immaculato beatæ Virginis Conceptu, ad Gavi fluminis oram prope oppidnm Lourdes Diœcesis Tarbiensis in Gallia, ipsa Virgo in rupis sinu super specum Massabielle puellæ cuidam, vernacula lingua Bernadette nuncupatæ, pauperrimæ quidem, sed ingenuæ ac piæ, pluries se conspiciendam obtulit. Immaculata Virgo juvenili ac benigno videbaturaspectu, nivea veste niveoque pallio contecta, ac zona cærulea succincta: nudos pedes aurea rosa ornabat. Primo apparitionis die, qui fuit undecimus Februarii anno millesimo octingentesimo quinquagesimo octavo, puellam signum crucis rite pieque faciendum edocuit, atque ad sacri rosarii recitationem, exemplo suo, coronam, quæ prius ex brachio demissa pendebat, manu advoleus, excitavit: quod in ceteris etiam apparitionibus præstitit. Altera autem apparitionis die, puella in simplicitate cordis sui, diabolicam fraudem timens, lustralem aquam in Virginem effudit: sed beata Virgo, leniter arridens, benigniorem illi vultum ostendit. Cum vero tertio apparuisset, puellam ad specum per quindecim dies invitavit. Exinde eam sæpius est alloquuta, ac pro peccatoribus orare, terram deosculari, pœnitentiamque agere est hortata: deinde imperavit ut sacerdotibus ediceret, ædificandutn ibi esse sacellum, solemnisque supplicationis more illo accedendum. Mandavit insuper ut e fonte, qui sub arena adhuc latebat sed mox erat erupturus, aquam biberet eaque se abstergeret. Denique die festo Annuntiationis, percontanti enixo puellæ illius nomen, cujus aspectu toties dignata fuerat, Virgo admotis pectori manibus elatisque in cælum oculis, respondit: Immaculata Conceptio ego sum.

Percrebrescente fama bencficiorum, quæ in sacro specu recepisse fideles dicebantur, augebatur in dies hominum concursus, quos loci religio ad specum advocabat. Itaque prodigiorum fama puellæque candore motus Tarbiensis episcopus, quarto ab enarratis anno, post juridicam factorum inquisitionem, eupernaturales esse apparitionis notas sua sententia probavit, cultumque Virginis Immaculatæ in eodem specu permisit. Mox ædificatum sacellum: ex illa die pene innumeræ fidelium turbæ, voti ac supplicationis causa, ex Gallia, Belgio, Italia, Hispania, ceterisque Europæ provinciis necnon ex longinquis Americæ regionibus quovis anno illuc adveniunt, nomenque Immaculatæ de Lourdes ubique terrarum inclarescit. Fontis aqua in cunctas orbis partes delata, ægris sanitatem restituit. Orbis vero catholicus tantorum memor benefactorum, ædes sacras mirabili opere ibi exstruxit. Vexilla innumera, acceptorum beneficiorum veluti monumenta, illuc a civitatibus ac gentibus missa, ædem Virginis miro ornatu decorant. In hac sua veluti sede Immaculata Virgo jugiter colitur; interdiu quidem precibus, religioso cantu solemnibusque aliis cæremoniis; noctu vero sacris illis supplicationibus, quibus infinitæ propemodum peregrinantium turbæ cereis facibusque accensis procedunt et laudes beatæ Virginis concinunt.

Peregrinationes hujusmodi fidem frigescente sæculo excitasse, animum ad christianam legem profitendam addidisse, cultumque Virginis immaculatæ mirum in modum auxisse, omnibus compertum est. In qua mirabili fidei professione Christianus populus sacerdotes veluti duces habet, qui illuc suas plebes adducunt. Ipsi etiam sacrorum Antistites sanctum locum frequenter adeunt, peregrinationibus præsunt, solemnioribusque festis intersunt. Nec adeo rarum est ipsos RomanæEcclesiæ Purpuratos Patres humili peregrinorum more accedentes conspicere. Ipsi quoque Romani Pontifices, pro sua erga Immaculatam de Lourdes pietate, sacram ædem donis nobilissimis cumularunt. Pius nonus, sacris indulgentiis, Archiconfraternitatis privilegio ac minoris Basilicæ titulo ipsam insignivit; ac Deiparæ imaginem ibidem cultam, solemni ritu per Legatum suum Apostolicum in Gallia diademate distinctam voluit. Leo vero decimus tertius innumera etiam contulit beneficia, indulgentias ad modum Jubilæi vigesimo quinto Apparitionis anno vertente concessit, peregrinationes sua auctoritate verboque provexit, ac solemnem Ecclesiæ sub titulo Rosarii dedicationem suo nomine peragi curavit. Quorum beneficiorum amplitudinem cumulavit, cum plurium Episcoporum rogatu,solemne festum sub titulo Apparitionis beatæ Mariæ Virginis Immaculatæ proprio Officio et propria Missa celebrandum benigne conoessit. Tandem Pins decimus Pontifex Maximus pro sua erga Deiparam pietate, ac plurimomm votis annuens sacrorum Antistitum, idem festum ad Ecclesiam universam extendit.
In the fourth year after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the blessed Virgin vouchsafed to appear on several occasions to a poor but pious and innocent child named Bernadette, in a rocky cavern overlooking the grotto of Massabielle on the banks of the Gave near the town of Lourdes in the diocese of Tarbes in France. She showed herself as a young and gracious figure, robed in white, with a white veil and blue girdle, and golden roses on her bare feet. At the first apparition on February 11, 1858, she taught the child to make the sign of the Cross correctly and devoutly, and, taking a chaplet from her own arm, encouraged her by example to say her rosary. This was repeated at subsequent apparitions. On the second day, Bernadette, who feared an illusion of the devil, in all simplicity cast holy water at the apparition, who smiled more graciously than before. At the third apparition Bernadette was invited to repeat her visits to the grotto for fifteen days, during which the blessed Virgin conversed with her, exhorted her to pray for sinners, kiss the ground and do penance, and finally commanded her to tell the priests that a chapel was to be built in the place and processions held. She was also bidden drink and wash in the water, and a spring, until then invisible, gushed out of the ground. On the feast of the Annunciation, the child earnestly begged the Lady who had so often visited her to reveal her name, and the blessed Virgin, joining her hands and raising her eyes to heaven, said: 'I am the Immaculate Conception.’

Rumours of favours received at the holy grotto spread rapidly, and the crowds of devout visitors increased daily, so that the Bishop of Tarbes, who had been impressed by the candour of Bernadette, found it advisable to hold a judicial enquiry into the facts. In the course of the fourth year he gave sentence, recognizing the supernatural character of the apparition, and permitting devotions to our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception to be held in the grotto. A chapel was soon built, and since then every year has witnessed innumerable pilgrimages from France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and all parts of Europe and America. The name of Our Lady of Lourdes has become famous all over the world, and cures are obtained everywhere by use of the water. Lourdes has been enriched by a grateful world with splendidly decorated churches, where countless banners bear witness to the favours received and to the desire of peoples and cities to adorn the house of the blessed Virgin, who is honoured there as in her own palace. The days are filled with prayers, hymns and solemn ceremonies, and the nights are sanctified by the pious supplications of countless people who walk in procession carrying torches, and singing the praises of the blessed Virgin Mary.

All men know how, in spite of the coldness of the world, these pilgrimages have revived faith, restored the observance of the Christian religion, and increased devotion to the Immaculate Virgin. The Faithful are led by their priests in this marvellous development of faith and devotion. The Bishops make frequent visits to the holy spot, lead pilgrimages, and take part in the ceremonies, and the Cardinals of Holy Church are often seen in the humble quality of pilgrims. The Roman Pontiffs have shown their devotion to our Lady of Lourdes, and have bestowed remarkable favours on her sanctuary. Pius IX. enriched it with indulgences, gave it the privilege of an Archconfraternity and the title of minor basilica, and delegated the Apostolic Nuncio in France to crown in his name the statue of the Mother of God. Leo XIII. also granted many favours, including the jubilee of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apparition. He encouraged pilgrimages, and ordained that the consecration of the Rosary Church should be performed in his name. Moreover, he crowned all these favours by conceding, at the request of many bishops, the celebration of a solemn feast under the title of the Apparition of Our Lady Immaculate, with a proper Office and Mass. Finally, Pius X., out of devotion to the Mother of God, granted the petition of many prelates that this feast should be extended to the Universal Church.

‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!’ Thou didst teach us this prayer in 1830 as a safeguard against the dangers of the future. In 1846 the two shepherds of La Salette reminded us of thy tears and exhortations: ‘Pray for poor sinners, pray for the world which is so disturbed.’ To-day the little seer of the grotto of Massabielle brings us thy message: ‘Penitence! Penitence! Penitence!’

We desire to obey thee, O blessed Virgin, to combat in ourselves and all around us that enemy of mankind who is our only real enemy, and sin, that supreme evil which is the source of all others. Praise be to the Almighty, who saved thee from all stain of sin, and thus inaugurated in thee the full restoration of our fallen race. Praise be to thee, who, having no debts of thy own, didst pay our debts with the Blood of thy Son and the tears of His Mother, thus reconciling heaven and earth and crushing the head of the serpent.

Prayer, expiation—the Church from apostolic times has ever urged these thoughts upon us during the days which immediately precede Lent. Dear Mother in heaven, we bless thee for having thus united thy voice to that of our Mother on earth. The world no longer desired, no longer understood, the infallible but indispensable remedy offered by the justice and mercy of God to the misery of man.

Men seemed to have forgotten the words: 'Except you do penance, you shall all perish.’[6] Thy pity wakes us from this fatal stupor, O Mary. Thou knowest our weakness, and hast mingled sweetness in the bitter draught. Thou lavishest temporal favours upon man in order that he may ask of thee eternal blessings. We will not be like those children who welcome their mother’s caresses, but neglect her admonitions and the corrections which her tenderness sought to make acceptable. We will pray and suffer in union with Jesus and thee. By thine assistance during this Lent we will be converted and do penance.

 


[1] Gen. ix. 14-15.
[2] 1 John v. 4.
[3] Ps. xviii. 2-5.
[4] Rom. i. 18-22.
[5] Ibid. i. 28.
[6] Luke xiii. 5.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Clouds are gathering over Holy Church. We are reminded on every side of the approach of those days when our Emmanuel will show Himself to us in the pitiable state to which our sins have brought Him. Bethlehem is so soon followed by Calvary. We shall find the Mother of divine grace at the foot of the Cross as we found her at Ephrata. She brought forth her firstborn in joy, but now in tears she is to bring forth those brothers of His whose birth cost her so much. We have shared her joy, and we shall not refuse to weep and suffer with her.

Let us take for our models the saints whom the Church honours to-day. They passed their lives in the contemplation of our Lady’s sorrows, and the Order which they founded has the special mission to spread this devotion. St. Francis of Assisi raised the standard of the Cross anew in a world grown cold. The work of redemption seemed to be taken up afresh, and, as on the great Friday Jesus would not manifest Himself without Mary, the Servites completed the work of the Founder of the Friars Minor. Men regained confidence as they meditated on the Passion of the Son and the Compassion of the Mother.

The two feasts consecrated to the Dolours of our Lady will teach us in due course what place her compassion had in the economy of the Redemption. The Queen of heaven herself showed her predilection for the Order which made itself her apostle, in the striking outpouring of holiness which marked its origin. The simultaneous blooming of seven lilies, gathered on earth to-day by the angels, was a sight new even to heaven. Peter of Verona had a vision of them when they were implanting themselves on Monte Senario; and the future martyr saw the blessed Virgin smile as she gazed on that mountain where countless other flowers sprang up to perfume holy Church. Florence, the city of flowers, had never before given such blooms to God. Hell multiplied its attacks against the noble city, but could not prevail against Mary within its walls. We shall be reminded of these things by the feasts of St. Juliana Falconieri and St. Philip Benizi, which were established before the one we are keeping to-day. Let us unite our gratitude to that which the Church feels for the Religious family of the Servites. The world owes to them the grace of a new development in the knowledge and love of the Mother of God, who became our Mother at the price of unparalleled sufferings.

The lessons read by the Church on this day speak of the merits of our Saints and the favours with which our Lady rewarded their fidelity. February 11, the day first chosen as their common feast, is not the anniversary of the death of any one of them, but the day on which, in the year 1304, after passing through many vicissitudes, their Order obtained the definitive approbation of the Church.

Sæculo tertio decimo, cum Friderici secundi diro schismate, cruentisque factionibus cultiores Italiæ populi scinderentur, providens Dei misericordia præter alios sanctitate illustres, septem e Fiorentina nobilitate viros suscitavit, qui in caritate conjuncti, præclarum fraternæ dilectionis præberent exemplum. Hi, nimirum, Bonfilius Monaldius, Bonajuncta Manettus, Manettus Antelensis, Amedeus de Amideis, Uguccio Uguccionum, Sostenus de Sosteneis et Alexius Falconerius, cum anno trigesimo tertio ejus sæculi, die sacra cælo Virgini receptæ, in quodam piorum hominum conventu, Laudantium nuncupato, ferventius orarent; ab eadem Deipara singulis apparente sunt admoniti, ut sanctius perfectiusque vitæ genus amplecterentur. Re itaque prius cum Florentino præsule collata, hi septem viri, generis nobilitate divitiisque posthabitis, sub vilissimis detritisque vestibus cilicio induti, octava die Septembris in ruralem quamdam ædiculam secessere, ut ea die primordia vitæ sanctioris auspicarentur, qua ipsa Dei Genitrix mortalibus orta sanctissimam vitam inceperat.

Hoc vitæ institutum quam sibi foret acceptum Deus miraculo ostendit. Nam cum paulo deinceps hi septem viri per Florentinam urbem ostiatim eleemosynam emendicarent, accidit, ut repente infantium voce, quos inter fuit sanctus Philippus Benitius quintum ætatis mensem vix ingressus, beatæMariæ Servi acelamarentur: quo deinde nomine semper appellati sunt. Quare, vitandi populi occursus ac solitudinis amore ducti in Senarii montis recessu omnes convenere, ibique cæleste quoddam vitæ genus aggressi sunt. Victitabant enim in speluncis, sola aqua herbisque contenti: vigiliis aliisque asperitatibus corpus attenebant: Christi passionem ac mœstissimæ ejusdem Genitricis dolores assidue meditantes. Quod quum olim sacra Parasceves die impensius exsequerentur, ipsa beata Virgo illis iterato apparens, lugubrem vestem quam induerent, ostendit, sibique acceptissimum fore significavit, ut novum in Ecclesia regularem Ordinem excitarent, qui jugem recoleret ac promoveret memoriam dolorum, quos ipsa pertulit sub cruce Domini. Hæc sanctus Petrus, inclytus Ordinis Prædicatorum martyr, ex familiari cum sanctis illis viris consuetudine ac peculiari etiam Deiparæ visione quum didicisset; iis auctor fuit ut Ordinem Regularem sub appellatione Servorum beatæ Virginis instituerent; qui postea ab Innocentio quarto Pontifice Maximo approbatus fuit.

Porro sancti illi viri, quum plures sibi socios adjunxissent, Italiæ civitates atque oppida, præsertim Etruriæ, excurrere cœperunt, prædicantes ubique Christum cruci fixum, civiles discordias compescentes, et innumeros fere devios ad virtutis semitam revocantes. Neque Italiam modo, sed et Galliam, Germaniam ac Poloniam suis evangelicis laboribus excoluerunt. Denique quum bonum Christi odorem longe lateque diffudissent, portentorum quoque gloria illustres, migrarunt ad Dominum. Sed quos unus veræ fraternitatis ac religionis amor in vita scoiaverat, unum pariter demortuos contexit sepulchrum, unaque populi veneratio prosecuta est. Quapropter Clemensundecimus et Benedictus decimus tertius Pontifices Maximi delatum iisdem a pluribus sæculis individuum cultum confirmarunt: ac Leo decimus tertius, approbatis antea miraculis, post indultam venerationem ad collectivam earumdem invocationem a Deo patratis, eosdem anno quinquagesimo sacerdotii sui Sanctorum honoribus cumulavit eorumque memoriam Officio ac Missa in universa Ecclesia quotannis recolendam instituit.
When in the thirteenth century the most cultured peoples of Italy were divided by factions, and the schism fostered by Frederic II, the merciful providence of God raised up many persons remarkable for their holiness, among whom were seven noble Florentines whose union of spirit gave to the world a striking example of fraternal love. They were Bonfilius Monaldi, Bonagiunta Manetti, Manettus dell' Antella, Amadeus de Amadei, Hugo Lippi, Gerard Sostegni, and Alexis Falconieri. The Mother of God appeared to each of them on the feast of her Assumption, 1233, when they were praying fervently in the Chapel of the pious Confraternity of the Laudesi, and exhorted them to embrace a more perfect life. They took counsel with the Bishop of Florence, and at once bade farewell to their wealth and rank, clothing themselves in hair cloth and old and ragged garments. On September 8 they established themselves in a humble retreat outside the city, desiring to begin their new life on the day when the Mother of God began her own most holy life upon earth.

God showed by a miracle that their resolution was pleasing to him. One day shortly afterwards, when all seven were begging from door to door in Florence, they were hailed by the voices of children, among whom was St. Philip Benizi, then only five months old, as the “Servants of Mary,” which was for the future to be their title. This prodigy and their love of solitude led them to choose Monte Senario as a place of retreat, that thus they might avoid great concourse of people. Their life was truly heavenly. They lived in caves, took no food but herbs and water, and subdued their bodies by vigils and penances. The Passion of Christ and the Dolours of his afflicted Mother were the subject of their continual meditations. One Good Friday, when they were absorbed in fervent prayer, the blessed Virgin appeared to them all in person a second time, showed them the sombre habit they were to adopt, and told them that she wished them to found a new Order of Religious, whose mission was to cultivate and spread devotion to the sorrows which she endured at the foot of the Cross. They were aided in this work by Peter, an illustrious Friar Preacher, who died the death of a martyr. He was their intimate friend, and had been instructed about the new Order in a vision by the blessed Virgin herself. The Order received the name of Servites, or Servants of the blessed Virgin Mary, and was approved by Innocent IV.

The holy Founders were soon joined by many disciples, and began to preach Christ Crucified in the towns and cities of Italy, especially in Tuscany. They brought civil feuds to an end, and recalled numbers of sinners to the paths of virtue. Not only Italy, but France, Germany, and Poland benefited by their apostolic labours, and their miracles made them famous. Finally, after having carried the good odour of Christ into distant lands, they went to God. In life they were one in their love of religion and of the brotherhood, in death they wore united in one tomb and in the veneration of the people. Popes Clement XI. and Benedict XIII. confirmed the cultus which had been paid to them unitedly for many centuries. Leo XIII., having approved this devotion, and recognized the miracles wrought by God in answer to this collective invocation, proceeded to their formal canonization in the fiftieth year of his priesthood, and ordered that their Office and Mass should be said every year throughout the Church.

You made the sorrows of Mary your own, and now she shares her eternal joys with you. The vine with its miraculously ripening grapes, which prefigured your fruitfulness in a frozen world, still yields a sweet odour in this land of exile, and the faithful still appreciate its fruit. Philip and Juliana have long been honoured as branches of this blessed vine, and to-day we pay our homage to the sevenfold root from which they sprang. You rejoiced in the obscurity which covered the life upon earth of the Queen of saints herself, but to-day the glory of Mary pierces all clouds, and no shadow can withdraw the servants from the radiance which surrounds the Mistress. May your glory be increased by the favours you bestow upon men! Teach an aged world to seek warmth at the fire whence you draw a love strong enough to triumph over the world and sacrifice self for God.

O Heart of Mary, pierced by the sword of sorrow, furnace of love which throughout all eternity feeds the fires of the very Seraphim, be our model, our refuge, and our consolation until the dawn of that blissful day which is to be the end of our exile in this vale of tears.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Church honours, on this fourteenth day of February, the memory of the holy priest Valentine, who suffered martyrdom towards the middle of the third century. The ravages of time have deprived us of the details of his life and sufferings; so that extremely little is known of our saint. This is the reason of there being no lessons of his life in the Roman liturgy. His name, however, has always been honoured throughout the whole Church, and it is our duty to revere him as one of our protectors during the season of Septuagesima. He is one of those many holy martyrs, who meet us at this period of our year, and encourage us to spare no sacrifice which can restore us to, or increase within us, the grace of God.

Pray, then, O holy martyr, for the faithful, who are so persevering in celebrating thy memory. The day of judgment will reveal to us all thy glorious merits: oh, intercede for us, that we may then be made thy companions at the right hand of the great Judge, and be united with thee eternally in heaven.

Antiphon

Iste sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.

Oremus

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui beati Valentini martyris tui natalitia colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus ejus intercessione liberemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
This saint fought even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.

Let us Pray

Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we who solemnize the festival of blessed Valentine, thy martyr, may, by his intercession, be delivered from all the evils that threaten us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The two brothers whom we are to honour to-day suffered martyrdom in the beginning of the second century, and their memory has ever been celebrated in the Church. The glory of the great ones of this world passes away, and men soon forget even their very names. Historians have oftentimes a difficulty in proving that such heroes ever existed, or, if they did exist, that they flourished at such a period, or achieved anything worth notice. Brescia, the capital of one of the Italian provinces, can scarcely mention the names of those who were its governors or leading men in the second century; and yet here are two of her citizens, whose names will be handed down, with veneration and love, to the end of the world, and the whole of Christendom is filled with the praise of their glorious martyrdom. Glory, then, to these sainted brothers, whose example so eloquently preaches to us the great lesson of our season, fidelity in God's service.

The sufferings which merited for them the crown of immortality, are thus recorded in the liturgy:

Faustinus et Jovita fratres nobiles Brixiani, in multis Italiæ urbibus quo vincti, sæviente Trajani persecutione, ducebantur, acerbissima supplicia perpessi, fortes in Christianæ fidei confessione perstiterunt. Nam Brixiæ diu vinculis constricti, feris etiam objecti in ignemque conjecti, et a bestiis et flamma integri et incolumes servati sunt; inde vero iisdem catenis colligati Mediolanum venerunt, ubi eorum fides tentata exquisitissimis tormentis, tanquam igne aurum, in cruciatibus magis enituit. Postea Romam missi, ab Evaristo Pontifice confirmati, ibi quoque crudelissime torquentur. Denique perducti Neapolim, in ea etiam urbe varie cruciati, vinctis manibus pedibusque in mare demerguntur: unde per angelos mirabiliter erepti sunt. Quare multos et constantia in tormentis, et miraculorum virtute ad Christi fidem converterunt. Postremo reducti Brixiam, initio suscepti ab Adriano imperii, securi percussi, illustrem martyrii coronam acceperunt.
The two brothers, Faustinus and Jovita, were born of a noble family in Brescia. During the persecution under Trajan, they were led captives through various cities of Italy, in each of which they were made to endure most cruel sufferings, by reason of their brave confession of the Christian faith, which nothing could induce them to deny. At Brescia, they were for a long time confined in chains; then were exposed to wild beasts, and cast into fire, from neither of which tortures did they receive hurt or harm. From Brescia they were sent to Milan, still fettered with the same chains: and there their faith was put to the test of every torment that cruelty could devise; but, like gold that is tried by fire, their faith shone the brighter by these sufferings. After this, they were sent to Rome, where they received encouragement from Pope Evaristus; but there, also, they were made to endure most cruel pains. At length they were taken to Naples, and there, again, put to sundry tortures; after which, they were bound hand and foot, and cast into the sea; but were miraculously delivered by angels. Many persons were converted to the true faith, by seeing their courage in suffering, and the miracles they wrought. Finally, they were led back to Brescia, at the commencement of the reign of the Emperor Adrian; there they were beheaded, and received the crown of a glorious martyrdom.

When we compare our trials with yours, noble martyrs of Christ, and our combats with those that you had to fight, how grateful ought we to be to our Lord for having so mercifully taken our weakness into account! Should we have been able to endure the tortures, wherewith you had to purchase heaven, we that are so easily led to break the law of God, so tardy in our conversion, so weak in faith and charity? And yet, we are made for that same heaven which you now possess. God holds out a crown to us also, and we are not at liberty to refuse it. Rouse up our courage, brave martyrs! Obtain for us a spirit of resistance against the world and our evil inclinations; that thus we may confess our Lord Jesus Christ, not only with our lips, but with our works too, and testify, by our conduct, that we are Christians.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

How venerable our saint of to-day, with his hundred and twenty years, and his episcopal dignity, and his martyr-crown! He succeeded the apostle St. James in the see of Jerusalem; he had known Jesus, and had been His disciple; he was related to Jesus, for he was of the house of David; his father was Cleophas, and his mother that Mary, whom the tie of kindred united so closely to the blessed Mother of God that she has been called her sister. What grand titles these of Simeon who comes with all our other martyrs of Septuagesima, to inspirit us to penance! Such a veteran, who had been a contemporary of the Saviour of the world, and was a pastor who could repeat to his flock the very lessons Jesus had given him, could never rejoin his divine Master save by the path of martyrdom, and that martyrdom must be the cross. Like Jesus, then, he dies on a cross; and his death, which happened in the year 106, closes the first period of the Christian era, or, as it is called, the apostolic age. Let us honour this venerable pontiff, whose name awakens within us the recollection of all that is dear to our faith. Let us ask him to extend to us that fatherly love, which nursed the Church of Jerusalem for so many long years. He will bless us from that throne which he won by the cross, and will obtain for us the grace we so much need, the grace of conversion.

The following is the lesson given on St. Simeon:

Simeon, filius Cleophæ, post Jacobum proximus Hierosolymis ordinatus episcopus, Trajano imperatore, apud Atticura consularem est accusatus, quod christianus esset, et Christi propin quus. Comprehendebantur enim omnes eo tempore, quicumque ex genere David orti essent. Quare multis cruciatus tormentis, eodem passionis genere, quod Salvator noster subierat, afficitur, mirantibus omnibus, quod homo ætate confectus (erat enim centum et viginti annorum) acerbissimos crucis dolores fortiter constanterque pateretur.
Simeon, the son of Cleophas, was ordained bishop of Jerusalem, and was Saint James’s immediate successor in that see. In the reign of the Emperor Trajan, he was accused to the Consul Atticus of being a Christian and a relation of Christ; for, at this time, all they that were of the house of David were seized. After having endured various tortures, Simeon was put to death by the same punishment which our Saviour suffered, and all the beholders were filled with astonishment to see how, at his age (for he was a hundred and twenty years old), he could go through the intense pains of crucifixion, without showing a sign of fear or irresolution.

Receive, most venerable saint, the humble homage of our devotion. What is all human glory compared with thine? Thou wast of the family of Christ; thy teaching was that which His divine lips had given thee; thy charity for men was formed on the model of His sacred Heart; and thy death was the closest representation of His. We may not claim the honour thou hadst, of calling ourselves brothers of the Lord Jesus: but pray for us, that we may be of those of whom He thus speaks: ‘Whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.’[1] We have not, like thee, received the doctrine of salvation from the very lips of Jesus; but we have it in all its purity, by means of holy tradition, of which thou art one of the earliest links; oh, obtain for us a docility to this word of God, and pardon for our past disobedience. We have not to be nailed to a cross, as thou wast; but the world is thickly set with trials, to which our Lord Himself gives the name of the cross. These we must bear with patience, if we would have part with Jesus in His glory. Pray for us, O Simeon, that henceforth we may be more faithful; that we may never more become rebels to our duty; and that we may repair the faults we have so often committed by infringing the law of our God.

 


 

[1] St. Matt. xii. 50.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

We are called upon, a second time, to honour St. Peter’s chair: first, it was his pontificate in Rome; to-day, it is his episcopate at Antioch. The seven years spent by the prince of the apostles in the second of these cities, were the grandest glory she ever had; and they are too important a portion of the life of St. Peter to be passed by without being noticed in the Christian cycle.

Three years had elapsed since our Lord’s Ascension. The Church had already been made fruitful by martyrdom, and from Jerusalem she had spread into distant countries. Antioch, the first of the cities of Asia, had received the Gospel; and it was there that those who professed the faith of Jesus were first called Christians. Jerusalem was doomed to destruction for having not only refused to acknowledge, but even crucified, the Messias: it was time for Peter, in whom resided the supreme power, to deprive the faithless city of the honour she had heretofore enjoyed, of possessing within her walls the chair of the apostolate. It was towards the Gentiles that the Holy Spirit drove those clouds, which were shown to Isaias as the symbol of the holy apostles.[1] Accordingly, it is in Antioch, the third capital of the Roman Empire, that Peter first places the august throne, on which, as vicegerent of Christ, he presides over the universal Church.

But the progress of the apostles was so rapid; the conquests they made, in spite of every opposition, were so extensive, that the vicar of Christ was inspired to leave Antioch, after he had honoured it with the chair during the space of seven years. Alexandria, the second city of the empire, is also to be made a see of Peter; and Rome, the capital of the world, awaits the grand privilege for which God has long been preparing her. Onwards, then, does the prince advance, bearing with him the destinies of the Church; where he fixes his last abode, and where he dies, there will he have his successor in his sublime dignity of vicar of Christ. He leaves Antioch, making one of his disciples, Evodius, its bishop. Evodius succeeds Peter as bishop of Antioch; but that see is not to inherit the headship of the Church, which goes whithersoever Peter goes. He sends Mark, another of his disciples, to take possession, in his name, of Alexandria; and this Church he would have to be the second in the world, and though he has not ruled it in person, he raises it above that of Antioch. This done, he goes to Rome, where he permanently establishes that chair, on which he will live, and teach, and rule, in his successors, to the end of time.

And here we have the origin of the three great patriarchal sees, which were the object of so much veneration in the early ages: the first is Rome, invested with all the prerogatives of the prince of the apostles, which, when dying, he transmitted to her; the second is Alexandria, which owes her preeminence to Peter’s adopting her as his second see; the third is Antioch, whither he repaired in person, when he left Jerusalem to bring to the Gentiles the grace of adoption. If, therefore, Antioch is below Alexandria in rank, Alexandria never enjoyed the honour granted to Antioch, of having been governed, in person, by him whom Christ appointed to be the supreme pastor of His Church. Nothing, then, could be more just, than that Antioch should be honoured, as having, for seven years, had the privilege of being the centre of Christendom; and this is the object of to-day’s feast.

The children of the Church have a right to feel a special interest in every solemnity that is kept in memory of St. Peter. The father’s feast is a feast for the whole family; for to him it owes its very life. If there be but one fold, it is because there is but one Shepherd. Let us, then, honour Peter’s divine prerogative, to which Christianity owes its preservation; and let us often reflect upon the obligations we are under to the apostolic see. On the feast of the chair at Rome, we saw how faith is taught, and maintained, and propagated by the mother-Church, which has inherited the promises made to Peter. To-day, let us consider the apostolic see as the sole source of the legitimate power, whereby mankind is ruled and governed in all that concerns eternal salvation.

Our Saviour said to Peter: ‘To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’[2] that is to say, of the Church. He said to him on another occasion: ‘Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.’[3] So that Peter is prince; for, in the language of the sacred Scriptures, keys denote princely power: he is also pastor, and universal pastor; for the whole flock is comprised under the two terms, lambs and sheep. And yet there are other pastors in every portion of the Christian world. The bishops, whom the Holy Ghost hath placed to rule the Church of God,[4] govern, in his name, their respective dioceses, and are also pastors. How comes it that the keys, which were given to Peter, are found in other hands than his? The Catholic Church explains the difficulty to us by her tradition. She says to us, by Tertullian: ‘Christ gave the keys to Peter, and through him to the Church.’[5] By St. Optatus of Milevis: 'For the sake of unity, Peter was made the first among all the apostles, and he alone received the keys, that he might give them to the rest.’[6] By St. Gregory of Nyssa: ‘It is through Peter that Christ gave to bishops the keys of their heavenly prerogative.’[7] By St. Leo the Great: 'If our Lord willed that there should be something common to Peter and the rest of the princes of His Church, it was only on this condition, that whatsoever He gave to the rest, He gave it to them through Peter.’[8]

Yes, the episcopate is most sacred, for it comes from the hands of Jesus Christ through Peter and his successors. Such is the unanimous teaching of Catholic tradition, which is in keeping with the language used by the Roman pontiffs, from the earliest ages, who have always spoken of the dignity of bishops as consisting in their being ‘called to a share of their own solicitude.' Hence St. Cyprian does not hesitate to say that 'our Saviour, wishing to establish the episcopal dignity and constitute His Church, says to Peter: “To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and here we have both the institution of bishops, and the constitution of the Church.’[9] This same doctrine is clearly stated in a letter written to Pope St. Symmachus by St. Cesarius of Arles, who lived in the fifth century: ‘The episcopate flows from the blessed apostle Peter; and consequently, it belongs to your holiness to prescribe to the several Churches the rules which they are to follow.’[10] This fundamental principle, which St. Leo the Great has so ably and eloquently developed (as we have seen on the feast of the chair at Rome, January 18), this principle, which is taught us by universal tradition, is laid down with all possible precision in the magnificent letters, still extant, of Pope St. Innocent I., who preceded St. Leo by several years. Thus he writes to the Council of Carthage, that ‘the episcopate, with all its authority, emanates from the apostolic see’;[11] to the Council of Milevis, that 'bishops must look upon Peter as the source whence both their name and their dignity are derived’;[12] to St. Victricius, bishop of Rouen, that 'the apostolate and the episcopate both owe their origin to Peter.’[13]

Controversy is not our object. All we aim at by giving these quotations from the fathers on the prerogatives of Peter’s chair, is to excite the faithful to be devoted to it and venerate it. This we have endeavoured to do, by showing them that this chair is the source of the spiritual authority, which, in its several degrees, rules and sanctifies them. All spiritual authority comes from Peter; all comes from the bishop of Rome, in whom Peter will continue to govern the Church to the end of time. Jesus Christ is the founder of the episcopate; it is the Holy Ghost who establishes bishops to rule the Church; but the mission and the institution, which assign the pastor his flock, and the flock its pastor, these are given by Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost through the ministry of Peter and his successors.

How sacred, how divine, is this authority of the keys, which is first given by heaven itself to the Roman Pontiff; then is delegated by him to the prelates of the Church; and thus guides and blesses the whole Christian world! The apostolic see has varied its mode of transmitting such an authority according to the circumstances of the several ages; but the one source of the whole power was always the same, the chair of Peter. We have already seen how, at the commencement, there were three chairs: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; and all three were sources of the canonical institution of the bishops of their respective provinces; but they were all three chairs of Peter, for they were founded by him that they might preside over their patriarchates, as St. Leo,[14] St. Gelasius,[15] and St. Gregory the Great,[16] expressly teach. But of these three chairs, the Pontiff of Rome had his authority and his institution from heaven; whereas, the two other patriarchs could not exercise their rights, until they were recognized and confirmed by him who was Peter’s successor, as vicar of Christ. Later on, two other sees were added to these first three: but it was only by the consent of the Roman Pontiff that Constantinople and Jerusalem obtained such an honour. Let us notice, too, the difference there is between the accidental honours conferred on four of these Churches, and the divine prerogative of the Church of Rome. By God’s permission, the sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, were defiled by heresy; they became chairs of pestilence;[17] and having corrupted the faith they received from Rome, they could not transmit to others the mission they themselves had forfeited. Sad indeed was the ruin of such pillars as these! Peter’s hand had placed them in the Church. They had merited the love and veneration of men; but they fell; and their fall gave one more proof of the solidity of that edifice, which Christ Himself had built on Peter. The unity of the Church was made more visible. Obliged by the treachery of her own favoured children to deprive them of the privileges they had received from her, Rome was, more evidently than ever, the sole source of pastoral power.

We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on them the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.

Thus it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain,[18] gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisfied with this. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honour, then, and submission to Jesus in His vicar! honour and submission to the vicar of Christ in the pastors he sends!

As a tribute of our devotion to the prince of the apostles, let us recite, in his honour, the following hymn, composed by St. Peter Damian:

HYMN

Senatus apostolici
Princeps, et præco Domini:
Pastor prime fidelium,
Custodi gregem creditum.

Per pascua virentia,
Nos verbi fruge recrea:
Refectas oves prævius
Caulis infer cœlestibus.

Supernæ claves januæ
Tibi, Petre, sunt traditæ:
Tuisque patent legibus
Terrena cum cœlestibus.

Tu petram veræ fidei,
Tu basini sedificii
Fundas, in qua Catholica
Fixa surgit Ecclesia.

Umbra tua, dum graderis,
Fit medicina languidis;
Textrinis usa vestium
Sprevit Tabitha feretrum.

Catena vinctum gemina,
Virtus solvit angelica;
Veste sumpta cum caligis,
Patescunt fores carceris.

Sit Patri laus ingenito,
Sit decus Unigenito,
Sit utriusque parili
Majestas summa Flamini.

Amen.
O prince of the apostolic senate!
Herald of our Lord!
First pastor of the faithful!
watch over the flock entrusted to thee.

Lead us through verdant pastures,
feeding us with the nourishment of the word;
and lead us, thus fed, into the heavenly fold,
whither thou hast already gone.

To thee, Peter, have been delivered
the keys of heaven’s gate;
and all things, both in heaven and on earth,
acknowledge thy authority.

’Tis thou that choosest the city
where is to be established the rock of the true faith,
the foundation of the building,
on which the Catholic Church stands immovable.

Thy shadow, as thou passest by,
heals the sick;
and Tabitha, that made garments for the poor,
was raised to life at thy bidding.

Bound with two chains,
thou wast set free by an angel's power;
he bids thee put on thy garments and thy sandals,
and lo! the prisondoor is opened.

To the Father unbegotten,
and to the only-begotten Son,
and to the coequal Spirit of them both,
be praise and kingly highest power.

Amen.

Glory be to thee, O prince of the apostles, on thy chair at Antioch, where thou didst for seven years preside over the universal Church! How magnificent are the stations of thy apostolate! Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria (by thy disciple Mark), and Rome, these are the cities which have been honoured by thy august chair. After Rome, Antioch was the longest graced by its presence: justly, therefore, do we honour this Church, which was thus made, by thee, the mother and mistress of all other Churches. Alas! all her beauty has now left her; her faith is dead; she is in bondage to the Saracen. Save her, take her once more under thy power, bring her into allegiance to Rome, where thou hast thy chair, not for seven years only, but for all ages. The gates of hell have let loose the fury of every tempest upon thee, firm rock of the Church! and we ourselves have Been the immortal chair banished for a time from Rome. The words of St. Ambrose then came to our minds: ‘Where Peter is, there is the Church.’ How could we despair? Did we not know, that it was God’s inspiration which made thee choose Rome for the fixed resting-place of thy throne? No human will can put asunder what God has united; the bishop of Rome must ever be the vicar of Christ; and the vicar of Christ, let sacrilege and persecution banish him as they will, must ever be the bishop of Rome. Holy apostle! calm the wildness of the tempest, lest the weak should take scandal. Beseech our Lord that He permit not the residence of thy successor to be disturbed in that holy city, which has been chosen for so great an honour. If it be that her inhabitants deserve punishment for their offences, spare them for the sake of their brethren of the rest of the world; and pray for them, that their faith may once more become what it was when St. Paul praised it, and said to them: ‘Your faith is spoken of in the whole world.’[19]


[1] Isa. lx. 8.
[2] St. Matt. xvi. 19.
[3] St. John xxi. 15, 17.
[4] Acts xx. 28.
[5] Scorpiac., cap. x.
[6] Contra Parmenianum, lib. vii.
[7] Opp., tom. iii.
[8] In Anniv. assumpt., serm. iv.
[9] Epist. xxxiii.
[10] Ibid., x.
[11] Ibid., xxix.
[12] Ibid., xxx.
[13] Ibid., ii.
[14] Epist. civ. Ad Anatolium.
[15] Concli. Romanum. Labb., tom. iv.
[16] Epist. Ad Eulogium.
[17] Ps. i. 1.
[18] St. Matt. v. 14.
[19] Rom. i. 8.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

It is the feast of the austere reformer of the eleventh century, Peter Damian, the precursor of the holy pontiff Gregory VII., that we are called upon to celebrate to-day. To him is due in part that glorious regeneration, which was effected at that troubled period when judgment had to begin at the house of God.[1] The life he had led under the monastic rule had fitted him for the great contest. So zealously did he withstand the disorders and abuses of his times, that we may attribute to him, at least in great measure, the ardent faith of the two centuries which followed the scandals of the tenth. The Church ranks him among her doctors, on account of his admirable writings: and his penitential life ought to excite us to be fervent in the work we have in hand, the work of our conversion.

The following lessons, read by the Church, on this feast, give us a sketch of our saint’s life:

Petrus, Ravennæ honestis parentibus natus, adhuc lactens a matre numerosæ prolis pertæsa abjicitur, sed domesticæ mulieris opera semivivus exceptus ac recreatus, genitrici ad humanitatis sensum revocata redditur. Utroque orbatus parente, tamquam vile mancipium sub aspera fratria tutela duram servitutem exercuit. Religionis in Deum ac pietatis erga patrem egregium tunc specimen dedit; inventum siquidem forte nummum non propriæ mediæ sublevandæ, sed sacerdoti qui divinum sacrificium ad illius expiationem offerret, erogavit. A Damiano fratre, a quo, uti fertur, cognomentum accepit, benigne receptus, ejus cura litteris eruditur, in quibus brevi tantum profecit, ut magistris admirationi esset. Quum autem liberalibus scientiis floreret et nomine, eas cum laude docuit. Interim ut corpus rationi subderet, sub mollibus vesitibus cilicium adhibuit, jejuniis, vigiliis, et orationibus solerter insistens. Calente juventa, dum carnis stimulis acriter urgeretur, insultan tium libidinum faces rigentibus fluvii mersus aquis noctu extinguebat: tum venerabilia quæque loca obire, tofcumque psalterium recitare consueverat. Ope assidua pauperes levabat, quibus frequenter pastis convivio, propriis ipse manibus ministrabat.

Perficiendæ magis vitæ causa, in Avellanensi Eugubinæ diœcesis cœnobio, Ordini monachorum sanctæ Crucis Fontis Avellanæ, a beato Ludulpho sancti Romualdi discipulo fundato, nomen dedit. Non ita multo post in monasterum Pomposianum, mox in cœnobium Sancti Vincentii Petræ Pertusæ ab abbate suo missus, utrumque asceterium verbo sacro, præclaris institutionibus et moribus excoluit. Ad suos revocatus, post præsidis obitum Avellanitarurm familiæ præficitur, quam novis variis in locis extructis domiciliis, et sanctissimis institutis ita auxit, ut alter ejus Ordinis parens ac præcipuum ornamentum jure sit habitus. Salutarem Petri sollicitudinem alia quoque diversi instituti cœnobia, canonicorum conventus, et populi sunt experti. Urbinati diœcesi non uno nomine profuit: Theuzoni episcopo in causa gravissima assedit, ipsumque in recte administrando episcopatu consilio et opera juvit. Divinorum contemplatione, corporis macerationibus,cæterisque spectatæ sanctimoniæ exemplis excelluit. His motus Stephanus Nonus, Pontifex maximus, eum licet invitum et reluctantem sanctæ Komanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem creavit, et Ostiensem episcopum. Quas Petrus dignitates splendidissimis virtutibus, et consentaneis episcopali ministerio operibus gessit.

Difficillimo tempore Romanæ Ecclesiæ summisque Pontificibus doctrina, legationibus, aliisque susceptis laboribus mirifice adfuit. Adversus Nicolaitarum et Simoniacam hæreses ad mortem usque strenue decertavit. Hujusmodi depulsis malia, Mediolanen sem Ecclesiæ Komanæ conciliavit. Benedicto, et Cadaloo, falsis Pontificibus, fortiter restitit. Henricum quartum Germaniæ regem ab iniquo uxoris divortio deterruit: Ravennates ad debita Romano Pontifici obsequia revocatos sacris restituit. Canonicos Veliternos ad sanctioris vitæ leges composuit. In provincia prasertim Urbinate vix ulla fuit episcopalis ecclesia, de qua Petrus non sit bene meritus: Eugubinam, quam aliquan do creditam habuit, multis levavit incommodis: alias alibi, quando oportuit, perinde curavit, ac si suæ essent tutelæcommissæ. Cardinalatu, et episcopali dignitate depositis, nihil de pristina juvandi proximos sedulitate remisit. Jejunium sextæ feriæ in honorem sanctæ crucis Jesu Christi, horarias beatæ Dei Genitricis preces, ejusque die Sabbato cultum propagavit. Inferendæ quoque sibi verberationis morem ad patratorum scelerum expiationem provexit. Demum sanctitate, doctrina, miraeulis, et præclare actis illustris, dum e Ravennate legatione rediret, Faventiæ octavo Kalendas Martii migravit ad Christum. Ejus corpus ibidem apud Cistercienses multis miraculis darum frequenti populorum veneratione colitur. Ipsum Faventini non semel in præsenti discrimine propitium experti, patronum apud Deum delegerunt: Leo vero duodecimus, Pontifex maximus, Officium Missamque in ejus honorem tamquam confessoris pontificis, quæ aliquibus in diœcesibus, atque in Ordine Camaldulensium jam celebrabantur, ex Sacroram Rituum Congregationis consulto, addita doctoria qualitate, ad universam extendit Ecclesiam.
Peter was born at Ravenna, of respectable parents. His mother, wearied with the care of a large family, abandoned him when a babe; but one of her female servants found him in an almost dying state, and took care of him, until such time as the mother, repenting of her unnatural conduct, consented to treat him as her child. After the death of his parents, one of his brothers, a most harsh man, took him as a servant, or more truly as his slave. It was about this period of his life that he performed an action, which evinced his virtue and his filial piety. He happened to find a sum of money: but instead of using it for his own wants, he gave it to a priest, begging him to offer up the holy sacrifice for the repose of his father’s soul. Another of his brothers, called Damian (after whom, it is said, he was named), had him educated; and so rapid and so great was the progress he made in his studies, that he was the admiration of his masters. He became such a proficient in the liberal sciences, that he was made to teach them in the public schools, which he did with great success. During all this time, it was his study to bring his body into subjection to the spirit; and to this end, he wore a hair shirt under an out wardly comfortable dress, and practised frequent fasting, watching, and prayer. Being in the very ardour of youth, and being cruelly buffeted by the sting of the flesh, he, during the night, would go and plunge himself into a frozen pool of water, that he might quench the impure flame which tormented him; or he would make pilgrimages to holy sanctuaries, and recite the entire psalter. His charities to the poor were unceasing, and when he provided them with a meal, which was frequently, he would wait upon them himself.

Out of a desire to lead a still more perfect life, he became a religious in the monastery of Avellino, in the diocese of Gubbio, of the Order of the monks of holy Cross of Fontavellana, which was founded by the blessed Ludolphus, a disciple of St. Romuald. Being sent by his abbot, not very long after, first to the monastery of Pomposia, and then to that of Saint Vincent of PietraPertusa, he edified both houses by his preaching, admirable teaching, and holy life. At the death of the abbot of Avellino, he was recalled to that monastery, and was made its superior. The institute was so benefited by his government, not only by the new monasteries which he founded in several places, but also by the very saintly regulations he drew up, that he was justly looked upon as the second founder of the Order, and its brightest ornament. Houses of other Orders, canons, yea, entire congregations of the faithful, were benefited by Peter’s enlightened zeal. He was a benefactor, in more ways than one, to the diocese of Urbino: he aided the bishop Theuzo in a most important suit, and assisted him, both by advice and work, in the right administration of his diocese. His spirit of holy contemplation, his corporal austerities, and the saintly tenor of his whole conduct, gained for him so high a reputation, that Pope Stephen IX., in spite of Peter's extreme reluctance, created him Cardinal of the holy Roman Church and bishop of Ostia. The saint proved himself worthy of these honours by the exercise of the most eminent virtues, and by the faithful discharge of his episcopal office.

It would be impossible to describe the services he rendered to the Church and the sovereign Pontiffs, during those most trying times, by his learning, his prudence as legate, and his untiring zeal. His life was one continued struggle against simony, and the heresy of the Nicolaites. He purged the Church of Milan of these disorders, and brought her into subjection to the Holy See. He courageously resisted the anti-popes Benedict and Cadalous. He deterred Henry IV., king of Germany, from an unjust divorce of his wife. He restored the people of Ravenna to their allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, and absolved them from interdict. He reformed the abuses which had crept in among the canons of Vellotri. There was scarcely a single cathedral church in the province of Urbino that had not experienced the beneficial effects of Peter’s holy zeal: thus, that of Gubbio, which was for some time under his care, was relieved by him of many evils; and other churches, that needed his help, found him as earnest for their welfare as though he were their own bishop. When he obtained permission to resign his dignity as Cardinal and his bishopric, he relented nothing of his former charity, but was equally ready in doing good to all. He was instrumental in propagating many devout practices; among these may be mentioned, fasting on Fridays in honour of the holy cross; the reciting the Little Office of our Lady; the keeping the Saturday as a day especially devoted to Mary; the taking of the discipline in expiation of past Bins. At length, after a life which had edified the world by holiness, learning, miracles, and glorious works, on his return from Ravenna, whither he had been sent as legate, he slept in Christ, on the eighth of the Calends of March (February 23), at Faënza. His relics, which are kept in the Cistercian church of that town, are devoutly honoured by the faithful, and many miracles are wrought at the holy shrine. The inhabitants of Faënza have chosen him as the patron of their city, having several times experienced his protection when threatened by danger. His Mass and Office, which were kept under the rite of confessor and bishop, had been long observed in several dioceses, and by the Camaldolese Order; but they were extended to the whole Church by a decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, which was approved by Pope Leo XII., who also added to the name of the saint the title of Doctor.

Thy soul was inflamed by the zeal of God’s house, O Peter! God gave thee to His Church in those sad times when the wickedness of the world had robbed her of well-nigh all her beauty. Thou hadst the spirit of an Elias within thee, and it gave thee courage to waken the servants of the Lord: they had slept, and while they were asleep, the enemy came, and the field was oversown with tares.[2] Then did better days dawn for the bride of Christ; the promises made by our Lord were fulfilled; but who was the friend of the bridegroom?[3] Who was the chief instrument used by God to bring back to His house its ancient beauty? A saint who bore the glorious name of Peter Damian! In those days, the sanctuary was degraded by secular interference. The princes of the earth said: 'Let us possess the sanctuary of God for an inheritance.’[4] The Church, which God intended to be free, was but a slave, in the power of the rulers of this world; and the vices, which are inherent to human weakness, defiled the temple. But God had pity on the bride of Christ, and for her deliverance He would use human agency: He chose thee, Peter, as His principal co-operator in restoring order. Thy example and thy labours prepared the way for Gregory, the faithful and dauntless Hildebrand, into whose hands the keys were no sooner placed, than the work of regeneration was completed. Thou hast fought the good fight; thou art now in thy rest; but thy love of the Church, and thy power to help, are greater than ever. Watch, then, over her interests. Obtain for her pastors that apostolic energy and courage, which alone can cope with enemies so determined as hers are. Obtain for her priests the holiness which God demands from them that are the salt of the earth.[5] Obtain for the faithful the respect and obedience they owe to those who direct them in the path of salvation. Thou wast not only the apostle, thou wast moreover the model, of penance in the midst of a corrupt age; pray for us, that we may be eager to atone for our sins by works of mortification. Excite within our souls the remembrance of the sufferings of our Redeemer, that so His Passion may urge us to repentance and hope. Increase our confidence in Mary, the refuge of sinners, and make us, like thyself, full of filial affection towards her, and of zeal that she may be honoured and loved by those who are around us.


[1] 1 St. Peter iv. 17.
[2] St. Matt. xiii. 25.
[3] St. John iii. 29.
[4] Ps. lxxxii. 13.
[5] St. Matt. v. 13.

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