Feast Day November 30
The holy Apostle, St, Andrew, born at Bethsaida, in Galilee was a brother of St Peter and at first a disciple of St. John the Baptist. He was the first of the Apostles who had the happiness of knowing Christ, the true Messiah; for, one day, when Andrew and another disciple were standing with their master on the banks of the Jordan, St. John, pointing to Jesus, who was approaching, said: “Behold the Lamb of God!” No sooner had Andrew heard these words, than he and the other disciple followed Christ, and remained with Him that day. On the following day, meeting his brother, Simon, afterwards called Peter, he said to him: “We have found the Messiah,” and brought him to Christ.
Not long after this, when Andrew and Peter were casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, Christ called them, and said: “Come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men!”
Immediately leaving their nets, they followed Him. From that moment, Andrew left the Lord no more, except at the time when He was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane, by the Jews, when he fled like the other disciples. He was present when Christ, after His resurrection, appeared to His disciples; when He ascended into heaven in their presence, and when He sent the Holy Ghost from heaven upon them.
When the Apostles separated, and went into the different countries of the world, to preach the Gospel of Christ to all nations, Andrew traveled into Scythia, Thrace, Galatia and other pagan countries, where he converted many thousands by his sermons, and by the miracles he performed.
At last he came to Patrae, the capital of Achaia, in Greece, and there, too, preached, with apostolic freedom, the Word of the Lord, and approved it by many miracles, which induced a great number of the inhabitants to embrace Christianity. Aegeas, the governor, resisted him with all his might, and endeavored to defend idolatry. The holy Apostle, however, reproved him fearlessly, and said: ” You desire that this people should recognize you as their judge; why, then, do you refuse to recognize Christ, the true God, as the Judge of all mankind; and why do you refuse to turn your heart from idolatry” “Be silent!” replied Aegeas,” and speak not to me of your Christ. Was he not nailed by the Jews to a cross? How then can he be a true God? How can I worship him as God?”
Andrew endeavored to explain the great mystery of the Redemption of the human race, and to show how Christ had, voluntarily, and for love of man, died the ignominious death of the cross, but Aegeas would not listen, and, interrupting him, commanded him immediately to sacrifice to the gods, or to prepare himself for a most cruel martyrdom.
Andrew replied: “I offer daily, on the Altar, to the Almighty, who is the only true God, not the flesh of oxen, nor the blood of goats, but an unspotted Lamb, which, when the entire multitude of the faithful have partaken of its flesh, remains entire and living.” The governor, full of wrath, ordered Andrew to be cast into a dungeon; but the people who loved the Saint as a father, rose against the governor, and ran in crowds to the dungeon, determined to set the prisoner free. But the Apostle besought them to be quiet, and not seek to prevent him from receiving the crown of martyrdom, which he had so long desired.
The following day, St. Andrew was brought before the governor, who offered him the greatest honors, if he would consent to sacrifice to the gods; but threatened him with the most cruel torments, if he persisted in refusing. The Saint said fearlessly: “The honors you offer me have no value in my eyes, because they are temporal and pass away; the tortures you threaten me with, I despise, for the same reason; but you, Aegeas have to fear torments which last forever, if you do not abandon your idols, and recognize Jesus Christ for the true and only God, and worship Him as such.”
After these words, the Saint continued to preach to the governor and to all present, of the crucified Lord, and of the happiness of all those who suffer for Him. Aegeas, enraged at the Apostle’s fearlessness, ordered him to be most cruelly scourged and then to be crucified, in order to make him resemble his God. This was meant by the governor in derision; but no manner of death could have been more welcome to St. Andrew. The cruel and unjust sentence was received with murmurs by the people, of whom some were heard saying aloud: “This man is just, and a friend of God: why must he be crucified?”
Andrew, addressing the people again, begged them not to deprive him of what he looked upon as an inestimable happiness. When he was led to the place of execution, and saw the cross on which he was to die, he cried out joyfully: “O precious cross, which I have so long desired, so truly loved, so ceaselessly sought; at last I find thee prepared to receive me. Take me away from the world, and unite me again with my Lord, that He who has redeemed me on thee may again receive me by thee.” Thus cried the Saint from afar; but when he reached the cross, he embraced and kissed it, and gave himself willingly to the executioners, who bound him to it.
No sooner had the cross been raised, than it served as a pulpit to the holy Apostle, and he exhorted the Christians to remain firm in their holy faith, and the heathens to convert themselves to the only true God. He explained the nothingness of the idols, and the truth of the Christian religion. For two days he lived and preached, hanging on the cross. The people began again to murmur against the governor, and desired to have the Saint taken down from the cross; but the holy martyr desired to be permitted to die upon it, as he esteemed death a priceless grace.
On the third day, when the people seemed determined to rescue him by force, he called to his Saviour: “Do not permit, O Lord, that Thy servant, who, according to his own wish, hangs on the cross, be taken down from it; but do Thou take me from it to Thee, O my beloved Master, Jesus Christ, whom I have confessed and always loved, and whom, still confessing, I long to see. Take, O Lord Jesus, my spirit to Thee. I ardently desire to be united with Thee.” During this prayer, a bright light streamed from heaven, and rested upon the Saint, whilst he breathed his last.
The martyrdom of St. Andrew happened in the year of Our Lord 62, or, according to others, in 70. His holy body was transported to Constantinople in the time of Constantine the Great; but was afterwards brought to Rome, where it has its resting-place in the Church of St. Peter.
Impress two memorable sayings of the holy Apostle deep into your heart. The first is: “I sacrifice daily to Almighty God” This is a glorious proof to you that the Apostles performed the holy Sacrifice of Mass; for to this alone can the words of St. Andrew have reference.
Conclude, therefore, from this, that it is false for the heretics to say that the first Christians knew nothing of Mass. Did not St. Andrew live during the first years of Christianity.-‘ Be not confused by the lies of the heretics; but believe that Christ instituted the holy Sacrifice of the Mass at His Last Supper.
The second memorable saying of the Apostle is: “The honors you offer me have no value in my eyes, because they are temporal and pass away; your tortures I despise for the same reason.” Consider it well. All temporal honors, all joys, pass away quickly. How foolish is it, therefore, to love them immoderately, and to forfeit for them the eternal honors, riches and joys!
No pain or trial on this earth lasts for ever; but those which await the sinner in the other world, are endless. Should we not, therefore, do and suffer here so as to escape torments hereafter?
St. Andrew manifested great joy on beholding the cross that had been prepared for him; he greeted it warmly, and embraced it lovingly. He wished not to be released from it, but prayed to be allowed to die on it.
You are not bound to a cross of wood like St. Andrew, but the All-Wise sometimes lays a cross of suffering upon you, because He wishes to prepare you for heaven. How do you regard your cross.” How do you carry it? I fear to ask you how you greeted, embraced and kissed it.
Perhaps you have carried it, as Simon of Cyrene carried the Cross of the Lord, because you were forced, and could not help yourself. You have suffered only because you were obliged. You suffer murmuring and complainingly, and perhaps even endeavor to free yourself from your cross by improper means.
Oh! how differently did St. Andrew act. He esteemed himself because he could die on the cross like his Saviour, and because he had heard, from the lips of Christ, that the way of the Cross is the surest road to eternal life. You know all this; but you do not think seriously enough of it.
In future, keep these truths before your eyes: first, the way of the Cross is the way to heaven; secondly, Christ died on the Cross for love of me. Whoever rightly considers these two points, will in his sufferings, not give way to resentment, murmurs or complaints, but will bear them if not cheerfully, at least patiently.
Hence St. Paul admonishes us, saying: “For, think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.” (Heb. xii.)
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Feast Day November 23
Whilst the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, were preaching the Gospel at Rome, there came to them Clement, a son of Faustinus, who was related to the Emperor Domitian. After several discourses with St Peter, he saw the error of Paganism in which he had been born and educated, and became a convert to the Christian faith. He progressed so rapidly in virtue and holiness, that he was of great help to Paul in converting the heathens, as the holy Apostle testifies in his Epistle to the Philippians.
The unwearied zeal he manifested in such holy endeavors, his purity and other bright virtues, raised him, after the death of Sts. Linus and Cletus, to the government of the entire Church of Christ. In this elevated but burdensome dignity, his holy life was an example to his flock.
He gave several excellent laws to the Church, by one of which he divided the city into seven districts, and placed in each a notary to record the deeds, virtues and martyrdom of those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake, that posterity, admiring their heroism might be animated to follow their example. His sermons were so full of deep thought and so powerful, that he daily converted several heathens.
Among these was Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Emperor Domitian, who not only became a zealous Christian, but refusing several advantageous offers of marriage, vowed her virginity to God. He converted Sisinius, one of the most influential men in the city, by a miracle. While yet a heathen, Sisinius went unseen into the secret chapel where the Christians assembled, in order to ascertain what they were doing, and to see whether his wife was among them. God, however, punished him immediately with blindness in both eyes. He discovered himself by calling for some one to lead him home; and St. Clement, who was present, went to him. and, restoring his sight after a short prayer, he improved the occasion to explain to him the truths of Christianity. Sisinlus, being soon, convinced, received holy baptism, and many heathens followed his example.
The Emperor Trajan, being informed of this, commanded St. Clement to be banished to the Chersonesus, unless he consented to sacrifice to the gods. Nearly two thousand Christians had already been banished to that region, where they were forced to work in mines and quarries. The Holy Vicar of Christ rejoiced to be thought worthy to suffer for his Divine Master, and indignantly refused to comply with the Emperors command to worship the Pagan idols. He was accordingly transported, and condemned to labor like the others.
This fate at first seemed very hard to him, but the thought that he suffered it for Christ’s sake, strengthened him. With the same thought he endeavored also to inspire his unhappy companions, when he saw that they became discouraged and lost their patience. He also frequently represented to them the reward which was awaiting them in heaven. A miracle that God performed through him raised him to great consideration even with the heathens.
There was a great scarcity of water; and the Christians suffered much from the thirst occasioned by their hard work. St. Clement, pitying them most deeply, prayed to God to help them. Rising from his knees, he saw, on a high rock, a lamb, which seemed, with his raised right foot, to point to the place where water could be found. The holy man, trusting in the Almighty, seized an axe, and, lightly striking the rock, procured a rich stream of clear water, which refreshed all the inhabitants of the country, especially the poor persecuted Christians.
So many heathens were converted on account of this miracle, that, in the course of a year, almost all the idolatrous temples were torn down, and Christian churches erected in their stead. Some of the idolatrous priests complained of this to the Emperor, who immediately sent Aufidian, a cruel tyrant, to force the Christians to forsake their faith, and to put St. Clement to death.
The tyrant endeavored to induce the holy man to forsake Christ, but finding that all words were useless, he commanded the executioners to tie an anchor to the neck of St. Clement, take him out into the sea, and cast him into the deep, in order that nothing of him should remain to comfort the Christians. The last words of the holy Pope were: “Eternal Father! Receive my spirit!”
The Christians, who had been encouraged by him to remain constant in their faith, stood on the sea-shore, until the tyrant and his followers had departed, after the death of the Saint. They then knelt in prayer, to beg of the Almighty that He would restore to them the body of their beloved shepherd; and, whilst they prayed, the sea began slowly to retreat from the shore.
The Christians, following the retreating water, came to the place where the Saint had been cast into the sea, and found, to their inexpressible astonishment, a small marble chapel, and in it a tomb of stone, in which the body of the holy Pope was reposing. At his side lay the anchor which had been tied around his neck. The joy and comfort that filled the hearts of the faithful at this sight can more easily be imagined than described.
They wished to take the holy body away, but God made known to them that, for the present, it should not be disturbed; and that every year the sea would retreat, during seven days, so as to permit all to visit the shrine of the Saint.
This took place for several years, until, at last, by divine revelation, the relics were transported to Rome.
Did you observe how St. Clement encouraged himself and his fellow captives in the hard labor they had to perform.” To work for the sake of Christ, and to expect for one’s work an eternal reward in heaven, is surely enough to make all suffering and exertion sweet. Every man is bound to work according to his station, and it is quite sure that we are in danger of losing our souls, if we do not work as we ought, but lead an idle, luxurious and sensual life. One station, however, has harder and more ‘ troublesome work than another, and there are numbers of people who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow and have, day and night, hardly an hour for rest. It is quite natural that these sometimes become impatient, as we see in many servants, artisans and day-laborers. Their impatience goes so far that they become dissatisfied with God’s providence in their regard, and murmur against Him, curse their labor, or perform it unwillingly and thus not only lose all the merits which they might have earned, but incur heavy responsibility. I would ask such people to recollect, that their work, if performed with a good intention, in the grace of God and according to His will, will merit for them great glory in heaven. They ought to arm, themselves against the impatience which sometimes rises in them, with the thought of the reward that awaits them in heaven; for God recompenses every man according to his work, as Holy Writ teaches us. Ought not every one to work with pleasure, when he expects an eternal reward?
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Feast Day November 25
St. Catherine was born at Alexandria, of pagan parents. She was gifted with great personal beauty, and possessed so extraordinary a mind, that she mastered all the sciences which, at that period, flourished in her native city. The only science of which she had no knowledge was that of eternal salvation; but this, too, she at last obtained in the following manner: It seemed to her, in her sleep, that the Queen of Heaven was standing before her in wondrous beauty, carrying her divine Son in her arms. But the latter, turning His face from her in displeasure, said that Catherine was ugly, because she had not been baptized. Catherine awoke, and, while thinking over her dream, she was inspired by Heaven to resolve to become a Christian. When sufficiently instructed, she received holy baptism, after which the Blessed Virgin again appeared to her with Christ, who, looking tenderly at Catherine placed a ring on her finger as a sign that He had chosen her for His bride. On awaking, she found a ring on her finger, and, without delay, determined to consecrate her virginity to the Lord, and to become a more zealous Christian.
Maximin, the emperor, had appointed a certain day to celebrate a public sacrifice in honor of the false gods, and all the inhabitants of the city were commanded to take part in it. Catherine was deeply grieved to see that the people should thus honor the devil, and not have any knowledge of the true God. Arming herself with courage, she went fearlessly into the temple, where the emperor personally assisted at the sacrifice, and, addressing him with Christian freedom, she represented to him his blindness in worshipping idols, and endeavored to convince him of the truth of Christianity. The emperor was greatly surprised that a maiden should dare to speak thus to him, but was at the same time, fascinated by the appearance and eloquence of Catherine. No sooner had he returned to his palace, than Catherine again appeared before him, and spoke so forcibly of the falsity of the heathen gods, and of the truth of the Christian religion, that the emperor knew not what to reply. What he was unable to do, he thought others could do for him; therefore he summoned some of the most learned men into his presence, to answer Catherine’s arguments, and persuade her to renounce the Christian faith.
But the Almighty, who, by a feeble maiden, could bring to naught the wisdom of the pagan sages, inspired St. Catherine with such eloquence, that she succeeded in convincing them of their error so completely, that they publicly renounced it, and proclaimed the Christian faith as the only true one. The emperor, enraged at so unexpected an issue, ordered these new confessors of Christ to be immediately executed. He then endeavored to win Catherine from her faith by flatteries and promises; and when he found that his words made no impression on the mind of the virgin, he began to threaten, and finally sent her away to be tortured. She was scourged so cruelly and so long, that her whole body was covered with wounds, from which the blood flowed in streams. The spectators wept with pity; but Catherine, strengthened by God, stood with her eyes raised to heaven, without giving a sign of suffering or fear;
After this cruel treatment she was dragged into a dungeon, and, by the command of the emperor, was left without food in order that she might slowly pine away. But God sent an Angel, who healed her wounds and filled her heart with indescribable comfort. The Lord Himself appeared to her, encouraged her to fight bravely, and promised her the crown of everlasting glory. Some writers add, that the empress, having heard much of Catherine’s wonderful learning, eloquence and fortitude, had deep compassion upon her, and secretly went at night with Porphyrins, the captain of the guard, to visit her in her dungeon. When she beheld Catherine’s wounds healed, and the virgin resplendent with more than human beauty, she was speechless with surprise. Catherine made this miracle an occasion to speak to her of the omnipotence of the Most High, and of the falsity of the heathen gods. She spoke with such overwhelming eloquence, that the empress, as well as Porphyrins, promised to embrace Christianity.
Some days later, when the emperor was informed that Catherine was not only still alive but in better health than ever, he had her brought before him, and again assailed her with promises and menaces. Finding, however, that she was as firm as before, he gave orders that she should be bound to a wheel studded with sharply-pointed spikes and knives. The Christian heroine was not horrified at this inhuman order, but called with unwavering trust on God. When the executioners had seized her, and bound her on the wheel, the Almighty sent an Angel, who loosened the fetters and broke the wheel to pieces. Many of the spectators, on beholding this miracle, cried aloud: “Great is the God of the Christians! He alone is the true God!” Maximin remained blind, and was thinking of new torments, when the empress came forward, reproached him with his barbarity towards a weak and innocent maiden, and boldly confessed that she herself recognized and worshipped no other god but the God of the Christians.
The tyrant, hearing these words, lost all control over himself, and ordered the empress and Porphyrins to be immediately beheaded, and Catherine, as an enemy of the gods, to be taken to the public market-place and put to death by the sword. The virgin walked with a great calm. Before dying she said this prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, my God, I thank Thee for having firmly set my feet on the rock of the Faith and directed my steps on the pathway of salvation. Open now Thy arms wounded on the cross to receive my soul, which I offer in sacrifice to the glory of Thy Name. Forgive the faults I committed in ignorance and wash my soul in the blood I will shed for Thee. Do not leave my body, slaughtered by love for Thee, in the power of those who hate me. Kindly regard this people and give them the knowledge of the truth. Finally, O Lord, in Thy infinite mercy exalt those who will invoke Thee through me so that Thy name be always glorified.”
After saying these words, she told the soldiers to execute their orders, and she was beheaded with but one blow of the sword. It was November 25 (around the year 310).
Ancient authors testify that milk flowed from the body of St. Catherine instead of blood, as had formerly happened at the death of St. Paul. Her body, they add, was miraculously carried by angels and buried on Mount Sinai, in Arabia so that she might rest where God had written on stone His law, which she had so faithfully kept written on her heart
I. Before Catherine was baptized she saw that the Divine Child in the Blessed Virgin’s arms turned its face from her; but after she had been received in the holy Church by baptism, it looked most tenderly at her. The reason of this was that before baptism, she was in sin, and after it, she was cleansed and endowed with spiritual beauty. Sin deforms the soul of man and makes it horrible in the eyes of God. Baptism, and after baptism, true penance, cleanses it again from all impurities, and gives it such beauty, that even the Almighty looks upon it with love. What is the appearance of your soul? If it is stained with one single sin, it is more deformed and horrible in the sight of God, than anything on earth. It resembles Lucifer, but is more horrible to look upon than he. Lucifer was the most beautiful of Angels, but one sin changed him to such a degree, that if you saw him, you would die of horror. How dreadful must be the appearance of your soul, if it is disfigured not only by one, but by many sins? Why then do you not hasten to do penance, which will cleanse like a second baptism? Why do you not endeavor to keep your soul clean and beautiful t If your face bore a blemish, which made you an object of disgust to every one, would you not make every effort to remove it .? Why not do the same with your soul, which, on account of sin, is a horror to the Almighty.” If you were assured that, immediately after committing sin, you would lose all beauty of face and form, and that you would be changed into a frightful monster, would you commit the sin? Most certainly not. Why then do you become guilty of it, knowing that it deforms your soul, that it destroys all its beauty, and changes it, in the eyes of God and all the Saints, into a most frightful monster? “Those who wish to preserve the beauty of their soul avoid sin; for there is nothing that deforms the soul so much ‘as sin,” writes St. Lawrence Justinian.
II. Catherine took great pains to acquire worldly knowledge, but at last became acquainted also with the most necessary of all sciences, that of salvation. All other sciences would have been useless to her without this one. There are a great many persons in our days, who study many different sciences and arts; they spare neither expense nor labor nor time to become proficient in them, and they are honored by the world for their acquirements. But the science of salvation, the one most needed of all, is not attained nor esteemed. We find persons in the higher stations of life, who know not even the first principles of the true faith. Other knowledge they have acquired, but they know less of the science of salvation than many of the lower classes, less than children ten or twelve years old. What does all their science profit them? of what avail is all they have learned, when they do not study the science of salvation and do not conform their lives to its precepts.” Should you ask in what the science consists, St. Thomas will answer you as follows: ” In knowing, first, what you must believe; secondly, what you must hope and fear-; thirdly, what and whom you must love; fourthly, what you must do; and fifthly, what you must avoid to gain life everlasting.” To say this in fewer words, it consists in knowing what we must believe, do, and avoid in order to gain heaven. And where can we learn this science? Certainly not in worldly, or immoral books, not in the theatre, not in the society of frivolous people; but in sermons and instructions, in devout books and pious meditations. Have you heretofore endeavored to attain this science.” Have you employed to this end all necessary means? Do you conduct yourself in accordance with the precepts of this science?
Three important questions which well deserve to be seriously considered. For if you do not endeavor to learn the science of salvation, if you do not employ the necessary means for learning it, you never will learn it, and hence will be for ever unhappy, for your ignorance will be willful, and therefore guilty. And if, though you have acquired this great science, you do not live in accordance with its teachings, then your knowledge of it will help you as little as it helps the devils and the damned, who also knew what was necessary to gain salvation, but lived not in accordance with their knowledge. “It is of no avail,” says St. Prosper, “to learn what we must do, and not to rule our conduct accordingly.” Christ says: “If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them.” (John xiii.) Knowledge alone does not save, but living and acting in accordance with our knowledge, gains us life everlasting. To know and not to act accordingly, makes us deserving of punishment, Christ Himself says of the servant who knew the will of his Lord and acted not accordingly : ” He shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke xii.) What is to be done, therefore, it is easy to infer. Endeavor to learn the science of salvation, employ all the means necessary for its acquirement, and then regulate your life by your knowledge. Parents are obliged, under pain of eternal punishment, to see that their children are early instructed in this science, which is more needful knowledge for them than any other. Woe to those parents who neglect this duty!
Feast Day November 17
St. Gregory, bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, was born in that city, of rich but heathen parents. He is called Thaumaturgiis, or Worker of Wonders, on account of the many and great miracles which he wrought during his life.
He was naturally inclined to be good, and was filled with an intense d
esire to gain knowledge; therefore, on coming to riper years, he went to Cassarea in Palestine, and thence to Alexandria, to study the liberal arts. The reading of heathen books disgusted him with paganism; for he learned by it how weak and unstable its doctrines are; and at the same time, becoming acquainted with the true faith by reading some Christian books, he began highly to esteem Christianity. He led a blameless life and especially abhorred the vice of unchastity, so general among the heathens.
This displeased some of his fellow students, and they persuaded a wicked woman, to ask him, in the presence of many others, the money that he had promised her. This was done at the moment when Gregory, in the presence of a great crowd of people, was disputing on some subject with some other learned men. All were startled at the woman’s words, as they had never heard anything wrong of Gregory. The latter best knew his own innocence, but would neither talk to the woman, nor allow himself to be disturbed in his disputation. He quietly requested one of his friends to give her as much money as she demanded ; but she had hardly got it, when the Evil One took possession of her, and tormented her so that she howled terribly, made a public confession of her wickedness and begged Gregory’s pardon. The young man, although he had not received holy baptism, called with confidence on the God of the Christians and relieved the possessed.
Thus did the Almighty save Gregory, and bring the wickedness of his enemies to shame. This incited him anew not to delay any longer to embrace Christianity. After he had been baptized, he endeavored to live in accordance with the promises he had made, and to conform his actions entirely to the maxims of the Christian faith.
He continued his studies for several years, and then returned to his home, where he passed his time in solitude, prayer and meditation. To those who visited him he spoke rarely of other things than the blindness of idolatry, the truth of the Christian faith, the beauty of virtue, and the horror of vice, which caused him to be highly esteemed by the inhabitants of the city, although most of them were heathens. Phsedimus, bishop of Amasea, informed of this, resolved to consecrate Gregory bishop of Neo-Caesarea. The humble servant of the Lord endeavored to avoid this honor by flight; but Phaedimus was firm in his resolution and declared Gregory, in the presence of all the people, bishop of the city, and thus silenced all further objections.
At that time, there were only seventeen Christians in the city and all the other inhabitants were idolaters. Before the new bishop commenced his functions, he retired for several days into solitude, where he prayed to God to bestow upon him, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the grace to lead his small flock in the right path, and to increase its small number by converting the heathen. During his prayers the Virgin Mother appeared to him, in the night, accompanied by St. John the Evangelist, whom she commanded to instruct Gregory, how to conduct himself and to teach others. Having received these instructions, St. Gregory left his solitude, comforted and strengthened, and began to labor for the conversion of the heathens.
The miracles he wrought had the happiest results. Before he entered the city he was obliged to take shelter, with his companion, in the most celebrated heathen temple, where Satan, speaking through the idols, answered various questions. Gregory passed the whole night in prayer, and, making the sign of the cross over the whole building, he drove Satan away.
When the chief of the idolatrous priests came, on the following day, with his sacrifice, he heard before the temple a terrible howling of the devils, who lamented that, driven away by Gregory, they could not return into their old dwelling. The heathens ran after the shop and complained of what he had done. Gregory improved the opportunity, to explain to them the power of the Christian God, in whose name he had driven away Satan and his legions, but could also force him to return. Of this the heathen priest desired a proof. Gregory wrote on the tablet the word “Enter,” gave it to the idolatrous priest, and told him to lay it on the Altar, and then, he added, the devils will be obliged to return to the temple, in the name of Jesus.
The heathen did as he was told, and as all happened as the bishop had said, he recognized the power of the Christian God, was converted with his wife and children, and received holy baptism. This first conversion was daily followed by others. As the number of the Christians greatly increased in this manner, the Saint resolved to build a church.
The place was selected, but a high mountain prevented him from giving the building the dimensions he desired. In this emergency, the bishop had recourse to prayer, and the mountain, by the power of God, retired, in the presence of a multitude of heathens and Christians, as far back as was needed. This and many other miracles which the Saint almost daily wrought, had such influence over the minds of the pagans, that they came in crowds to be baptized, and in all their troubles they asked his advice.
The river Lycus, which flowed by the city, was frequently so swollen, that the surrounding fields were overflowed, with great damage. Some of the sufferers came and asked the bishop to help them. Going with them, he first prayed; then he stuck his staff into the ground near the bank of the river. The staff took root immediately, and since that time, the river has never overstepped the place thus marked. Two brothers quarreled on account of a pond abounding in fishes. Each desired to be the possessor of it, and they became so embittered, that they intended to kill each other. Gregory succeeded several times in calming them, but on seeing that this never lasted long, he prayed to God to end the contention, and in the same night, the whole pond so thoroughly dried up, that neither water nor fishes were to be seen. In this manner, peace was restored between the brothers.
How highly the Saint was esteemed for these and other miracles can easily be supposed, although he endeavored to decline all honors, by ascribing his wonders to a holy relic which he always carried with him. But the more he fled from human praise, the more was he venerated and loved.
Still there were some who disliked him and who even dared to mock him. Among these were two Jews, one of whom, pretending to be dead, laid himself down in a place where the Saint was to pass. The other remained standing there also, and when Gregory came, he began to weep and lament for his dear dead friend, begging the Saint to give him an alms to enable him to bury him. The intention of these deceivers was to deride the bishop on account of his miracles, and to make others laugh at him. Gregory, who had no money with him, gave the man his cloak and went on. Rejoiced at having thus deceived the Saint, the man called his pretended dead companion, telling him to rise; but found, to his horror that the man was really dead.
Many volumes would hardly suffice to contain all the miracles wrought by the holy man on the possessed and the sick, and to recount the labors he undertook to propagate the true faith.
After a long, well spent and holy life, he felt, at last, that his end was approaching, and visiting once more his whole diocese, he redoubled his zeal in instructing his flock, admonished all to constancy, and endeavored to practice more good works then ever before.
Soon after, he fell sick, and ended his days by a happy death. Shortly before closing his eyes, he asked if there were yet some in the city who had not received holy baptism. “Seventeen,” was the answer. The Saint, already in his agony, raised his eyes to heaven and said: “Thanks and praise to God! When I took possession of my See, I found only seventeen Christians. May God preserve all in the true faith, and give to all infidels, in the whole world, the light of the Saviour’s divine Word! “The death of St. Gregory took place in the seventieth year of his age, and the 270th year of the Christian Era.
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Feast Day Nov. 3
St. Winifred was born (c.600) in Wales, of pious and wealthy parents. Her father, Tevith, gave her in charge of Beuno, a saintly priest, who left nothing undone, to lead his pupil in the path of righteousness.
Winifred soon imbibed an aversion for all that is temporal and perishable, and resolved to consecrate her virginity to the Almighty. Her pious parents, without whose knowledge she would not do anything, gladly gave their consent, and Winifred made her vow with a cheerful heart, and after it, endeavored to lead a holy life in retirement from the world.
Cradoc, the son of a neighboring prince, desired her hand in marriage; and ceased not to annoy her with his importunities even after he had become acquainted with her vow. He sought opportunity to speak to her alone, and to make her yield to his wishes. Hearing, one day, that her parents had left her alone at home, whilst they were at church, he hastened, with some of his domestics, to her house, determined either to gain her consent, or carry her off by violence.
Unannounced, he entered her apartment, and, representing to her the object of his coming, told her how happy she could make his life by accepting his offer. The chaste virgin, in her fear and trepidation, knew not how to escape from the prince. At last, under the pretext of going into an adjoining room to prepare for her journey, she fled from the house, toward the church. Cradoc, seeing her leave the house, drew his sword, and hastening after her, overtook her near the church, and full of rage, he said to her: “How dare you insult me thus? Either consent to my wishes, or instantly die!
Winifred, strengthened by the Almighty, answered fearlessly: “I am the spouse of the eternal King. To Him I have given my love and cannot give it to another. Neither your promises nor your threats can make me faithless to Him.” The wicked prince, enraged at her words, severed her head from her body at one stroke, and spurning it with his foot, remained standing on the spot where he had committed the murder, as though he had done a heroic deed. He imagined that, being a royal prince, he had no one to fear.
But when St. Beuno, the pious priest, was informed of what had taken place, he hastened to the scene, and taking the head of the virgin in his hand, he addressed the murderer ” Thou godless man, what hast thou done? Behold! as I, a weak man, cannot oppose thy power, I will call upon heaven to requite thee according to thy desert!
“Scarcely had these words been spoken, when Cradoc fell dead, without having given one sign of repentance. Beuno kissing the holy head of Winifred, laid it, by divine inspiration, on the dead body, and then preached a powerful sermon to the people on the horrible vice of unchastity. This being ended, he exhorted his hearers to pray to God that He would restore to life the chaste Christian heroine.
And behold! during this prayer life returned to the dead body of the virgin, and the people, breathless with astonishment, saw her rise.
On her neck, where the head had been severed from her body, was a red mark, which time did not efface, as a sign of the miracle.
She lived many years after and became Abbess of a Convent, in which she ended her life, with the fame of great holiness. On the spot where she received her death-stroke, arose a spring called Holy- Well, the water of which has cured many invalids.
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Legend has it that where Winifred’s head had fallen “the stones surrounding the fountain were stained forever with her blood, and the blood falling in the water coloured also the moss that grows there and which has the perfume of frankincense, though some say of violets.”
People visited St. Winifred’s Well seeking physical help rather than a pilgrimage of penance On 23rd November, 1851, Pope Pius IX granted indulgences to pilgrims who visited St. Winifred’s Well. This increased the number of visitors but on 5th January, 1917, disaster struck when the spring, which had been bubbling at the rate of twenty-one tons a minute, went suddenly dry. The reason for this was that tunnelling by a local lead-mine company, had caused the water to drain away into the River Dee. Later that year the lead-miners had managed to divert another underground stream to restore the supply of water.
Feast Day August 8
St. Dominic, the glorious patriarch and founder of the famous Order of the Friars Preachers, was born in Spain of illustrious and pious parents. His mother, before his birth, had a vision in her sleep, in which it seemed to her that she was bearing a little dog, which carried in its mouth a burning torch that illuminated the whole world. At the time of his baptism, a noble matron saw a bright star on the brow of Dominic. By this God probably intended to foreshadow the future labors of St. Dominic and their effect; how, by his sermons, he would drive away the heretics–those veritable wolves in the Christian fold and how while he illumined the whole world with his teaching and virtues, he would at the same time inflame it with love of God.
Dominic evinced, in his earliest youth, a love of virtue quite unusual for his age. He would rise in the middle of the night to pray; he was extremely moderate in eating and drinking, and modest in all his ways. He detested all worldly amusements, avoided all questionable society, was compassionate towards the poor, and sought all his pleasure in prayer, in visiting the churches and in study. He acquired knowledge suitable for his station in life, was sent to the most renowned Universities, where he never departed, in the least, from his pious course. He preserved his innocence and purity unspotted till his death, and the means which he employed to do this were, avoidance of idleness, and of intercourse with the other sex; temperance in eating and drinking.
After having finished his studies with great honor, James Azebedo, bishop of Osma, received him into the number of the regular canons. When thirty years of age, he began to preach, and continued for two years, with great success. After this he accompanied the bishop to France, which was, at that period, greatly disturbed by the heresy of the Albigenses. When they arrived at their destination they took lodgings in a house where the people were tainted with the heresy; but Dominic soon convinced them of their error and they returned to the true faith. They were the first of the heretics converted, and Dominic consecrated the first fruits of his labors, in profound gratitude, to the Almighty, feeling within himself a daily increasing desire to devote himself entirely to the extermination of this new heresy. Obeying the admonition of the Divine Voice that spoke to his heart, he asked of the Pope the necessary permission and prepared himself with a few other zealous priests, by prayers, fasts and other penances, for so great a work.
After this, taking a staff in his hand, in imitation of the holy Apostles, he wandered barefooted through all the cities and villages where the Albigenses had sown the seed of their heresy, preached with great zeal the truths of the Catholic faith and refuted the errors of the heresy, without allowing himself to be in the least disturbed by the ravings of the enemies of the church. Authentic historians say that he converted more than 100,000 heretics to the truth faith. The gift of miracles which God bestowed upon His unwearied apostle to confirm his words, added much to his influence. The Albigenses had written a book filled with heretical doctrines, which they gave the Catholics to read. St. Dominic refuted this by another book, and to convince the people that his was the true one, he threw both into the fire, in the presence of a crowd of heretics and faithful. The heretical book was instantly seized by the flames and consumed, while the book written by the Saint remained intact, raised itself up, fluttered a little while in the air, and then lighted upon a beam to the utter amazement of the spectators. This miracle was repeated a second and a third time, and not only strengthened the faith of the Catholics, but confounded the heretics. At another time, when the celebrated Count Montfort, with a small force of Catholics numbering 1800 men, attacked a large army of Albigenses, St. Dominic by floods of tears, obtained from God so signal a victory for the Catholics, that 20,000 of the enemy remained upon the field of battle, others were driven into the river and drowned and the rest were routed.
It is also related that this holy man relieved many who were possessed, cured many who were sick, and raised the dead to life. These and similar miracles could not fail to obtain for the Saint the veneration of men, and they were the means of converting many heretics. To preserve these in the true faith and to bring others to the knowledge of the truth, he resolved to found an order, the principal aim of which would be to preach the Gospel, to lead sinners to repentance, confirm Catholics in their faith, and convert the heretics. Pope Innocent III. at first refused to give his consent to this plan; but, one night, he dreamed that the walls of the Lateran church appeared to fall, but were supported by St. Dominic, and saved from the impending destruction; he concluded from this that St. Dominic had been elected by God to be the pillar of His church, and no longer withheld his consent to the founding of the new order. Pope Honorius III. who followed Pope Innocent, confirmed the order, to the great comfort of the Saint. It may, in truth, be said that by means of this order, the destruction which menaced the whole world through the heretics and false teachers, was averted.
One night, when St. Dominic prayed in the church of St. Peter, he saw Christ sitting on a throne in the clouds, surrounded by indescribable splendor. He held three spears in his hand to punish the world with three chastisements, famine, war and pestilence, because of the iniquity of the people. Not one of the Saints dared to oppose the anger of God with prayers. At last, the Blessed Virgin herself came to His feet, and humbly asked mercy for those whom He had redeemed with His precious blood. She assured Him that St. Dominic and St. Francis, who was then in Rome, to obtain the approval of his order, and their brethen, would do all in their power to move the sinful world to repentance and reformation. The prayers of His Blessed Mother appeased Christ, and He approved of the intentions of the two holy men. This vision was not only a great comfort to St. Dominic, but an incentive to use all his endeavors to reach the end he had proposed to himself.
For many years he strove, with incomparable zeal, to accomplish his design, when it pleased the Almighty to call him to receive the reward of his unwearied labors. He received the announcement of his death from Our Lord Himself, Who appeared to him during his prayers and said: “Come, come to enjoy true happiness.” After this, he fell ill, and having made his confession, he so fervently and devoutly received the Blessed Sacrament, that he drew tears from the eyes of all who were near him. Before his end, he exhorted his disciples to obedience, poverty, chastity, and brotherly love. He further commanded them to work zealously for the salvation of souls, to trust unwaveringly in God, to love their heavenly Father above all things, to avoid idle discourses, to speak only with or of God. At last he requested them to read aloud for him the usual prayers for the departing soul. When they came to the words: “Come to his assistance, ye Saints of God, come forth to meet him, ye Angels of the Lord, receiving his soul, offer it to the Most High,” he calmly closed his eyes and gave up his soul, filled with so many merits, into the hand of God, in the year 1221, the 50th of his age.
He left to posterity, not only the holy Order which he founded, but the most noble example of virtue. His heart was filled with the love of God; hence he endeavored most assiduously to prevent others from offending the Divine Majesty and to move sinners to repentance. Frequently he passed the whole night in prayer and in chastising his body, offering it to God for the conversion of sinners, saying that he would willingly give every drop of his blood, if by it he were able to prevent a single sin, or to convert a sinner. It was his wish to suffer and to give his life for the love of Christ. Humility made him three times refuse a bishopric. He desired nothing but to work for the salvation of souls, to suffer and be despised. Towards himself he was extremely severe; he constantly wore a rough hair-shirt, fastened around the loins with an iron chain, drawn so tightly, that it cut into the flesh. The steps of the altar or the bare boards were his bed. He scourged himself three times each night, first for his own sins; secondly for the sins of other men; and thirdly, for the souls in purgatory. His life was, besides, a continual fast. He never tasted meat. To live on alms and to aid the poor was all he desired. While he was still a student, he sold his books and clothes more than once, and gave the money to the poor. To a widow who asked him for alms to release her son from captivity, he offered himself as ransom, so that her son might return to her.
Many other splendid examples of admirable virtues must be omitted here, for want of space; but the great devotion he always entertained for the Queen of Heaven must be mentioned. This devotion arose from his great love for her. He began nothing without invoking her assistance with filial confidence, and he disseminated veneration for her by the use of the Rosary, which the Almighty deigned to confirm by many miracles. He advised Blanche, the pious Queen of France, who had no issue, to have recourse to the Divine Mother, and to say the rosary devoutly in her honor. Blanche followed his advice and in the course of time, gave birth to Louis, the holy and celebrated Catholic king. To the devout use of the rosary is also ascribed the above-mentioned victory of Montfort over the Albigenses; for, the Catholic soldiers, at the instance of St. Dominic, wore the rosary around their necks, and thus under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, attacked and defeated the enemy. How many miracles the Almighty performed after St. Dominic’s death, at his intercession, is to be found in the books of those authors who have written his life more minutely.
The life of St. Dominic is filled with examples of the most perfect virtues, of which we can, however, now only select a few for practical consideration.
I. First, three means were used by this holy man to preserve his innocence and purity among many dangers; and these were: Avoidance of idleness, of intercourse with the other sex, and temperance in eating and drinking. If he had abandoned himself to idleness, entertained much unnecessary communication with the other sex, and had been less temperate in his meals, his purity would soon have been endangered and perhaps lost. If you would be pious and chaste, let me recommend these three means; for Holy Writ, as well as experience, teaches us that persons who do not occupy themselves with work suitable to their station in life, who, without necessity have much intercourse with the opposite sex, or who are not temperate in eating and drinking, do not long remain pious, innocent and chaste. Such persons fall easily into temptation and yield to it, because they give themselves the opportunity; while others either suffer no temptations at all or overcome them easily, as they are strengthened by the Almighty for the combat; for, it is a well known proverb, that “God helps those who help themselves.” But how can he, who does not endeavor to help himself, but rather does the contrary, expect particular graces from the Almighty?
II. St. Dominic gave his whole life to the service of God and to the practice of good works and the salvation of souls. He used all his abilities to reform sinners, convert heretics and thus open Heaven to all. Through his love for God, he endeavored to prevent all offenses against His Majesty. It is not surprising then that Christ invited him to come and partake of eternal joys. How do you pass your life? In whose service? For what are your solicitations? Were you ever the means of bringing a sinner to repentance or a heretic to the true faith? Have you ever endeavored to lead a single soul upon the road of everlasting life? Have you ever prevented one single sin, which it was so easy to do, and which perhaps, in your office or occupation, it was your duty to do? Try henceforth to do it, and if you can do nothing else, pray at least for the conversion of sinners and heretics, and offer your good deeds to the Almighty for this end. Prevent offenses to God when you are able. Let love for your Creator inspire you to do this. “If you love Jesus with your whole heart, how can you be silent when He is offended in your presence?” says St. Bernard. “How can you say that you love God, when you despise His laws?” “Who can say: ‘I love the emperor, but his laws I do not esteem?'” asks St. Ambrose.
III. St. Dominic, desiring to further the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, instituted the use of the rosary, and God has confirmed it by many miracles. There are in our time, many families, who either daily or on Sundays and holidays, say the rosary. Many Catholics, the laity as well as the clergy, daily do the same. Only heretics and Catholics who are no honor to the church, are ashamed to be seen with the rosary in their hands. May you not be among their number! It is well known that, to evince their love to their Saviour and His Blessed Mother, many Saints, at the hour of their death, would have a crucifix and a rosary in their hands. If you desire to die happily, as they did, follow also, their example during life, that you may have the right to say: “O Lord, I am thy servant, I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid,” (Psalm lxv.), that is, the son of her who, though chosen to be the mother of the Most High, still called herself His handmaid: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” (Luke, ii.)
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
The Rosary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
It is well known, that the devotion of the most holy rosary was revealed to Saint Dominic, by the Divine Mother herself, at a time when the Saint was in affliction, and bewailing, with his Sovereign Lady, over the Albigensian heretics, who were at that time doing great mischief to the Church. The Blessed Virgin said to him: “This land will always be sterile until rain falls on it.” Saint Dominic was then given to understand, that this rain was the devotion of the rosary, which he was to propagate. This the Saint indeed did, and it was embraced by all Catholics; so much so, that even to the present day, there is no devotion so generally practised by the faithful of all classes as that of the rosary. What is there that modern heretics, Calvin, Bucur, and others, have not said to throw discredit on the use of beads? But the immense good which this noble devotion has done to the world is well known. How many, by its means, have been delivered from sin ! how many led to a holy life! how many to a good death, and are now saved! To be convinced of this, we need only read the many books which treat on the subject. Suffice it to know, that this devotion has been approved of by the Church, and that the Sovereign Pontiffs have enriched it with indulgences.
Reflection on St. Dominic
by Rev. Andrew Arnold Lambing, 1892
Our divine Saviour foretold to His Apostles that they and their followers should be hated by all men for His name’s sake; that they were to meet with persecution because they were not of the world, as He was not of the world. But the Church was soon to discover that her enemies were not always to be of the same character, nor were they to wage war against her with the same weapons. Extraordinary trials were to be encountered at intervals, which were to be a test of the constancy, not only of her ordinary children, but also of the elect. She also learned that He Who permitted these trials provided also a remedy, as her history in all ages amply testifies. An Arius was to have his Athanasius, an Abelard his Bernard, a Luther his Ignatius, and so of her other enemies. But we are now concerned with the Albigenses, who rose in the southeast of France in the eleventh century, and devastated the Church at the same time that they defied the civil power. But no sooner was His flock threatened than the Good Shepherd came to its relief.
The religious power to suppress the outbreak of these heretics, St. Dominic, entered the field against them with that burning zeal with which only a saint can be animated for the conversion of sinners. He employed his sanctity and eloquence in endeavoring to stem the tide of evil that had been set in motion by the Albigenses ; but his efforts, though heroic, were of comparatively little avail. At length he ventured to complain to the holy Mother of God, for whom he entertained the tenderest devotion, and to ask her to instruct him in the way he could labor most successfully for the conversion of those misguided souls for whom her divine Son had laid down His life. His prayer was acceptable, and Mary revealed to him the devotion of the holy Rosary. He was told to give his time more to the propagation of this devotion than to preaching, and greater success would attend his efforts. This revelation took place about the year 1206, but the precise date cannot be ascertained.
From the beginning the devotion of the holy Rosary became very popular with the faithful, and pontiffs and prelates were loud in its praises. And first we have the words of the ever blessed Mother of God to St. Dominic: “Preach the Rosary, which is a shield against the shafts of the enemy, the rampart of the Church of God, and the Book of Life. Exhort everyone to be devout to the Rosary, and thou shalt produce wonderful fruit in souls.” Says Pope Leo X.: “The Rosary has been established against the dangers which threaten the world.” St. Pius V.: “By the Rosary the darkness of heresy has been dispelled, and the light of the Catholic faith shines out in all its brilliancy.” Clement VII.: “The devotion of the Rosary is the salvation of Christians.” Adriain VI.: “The Rosary scourges the devil.” Sixtus V.: “The Rosary has been established by St. Dominic, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for the utility of the Catholic religion.” Gregory XVI.: “The Rosary is a wonderful instrument for the destruction of sin, the recovery of God’s grace, and the advance of His glory.”
Feast Day November 11
St. Martin celebrated throughout the whole Church of Christ, and praised and exalted in the works of several holy Fathers, was born (c. 316) in Hungary of heathen parents. Having reached his tenth year, he went often secretly to the Church of the Christians to assist at Mass and to listen to instructions. All seemed to him so good and holy, that without the knowledge of his parents, he desired to be enrolled among the catechumens, that is, among those who are to receive holy baptism. From that moment, he became devoted to prayer, and performed other good works with great zeal. At the age of fifteen years, he was enlisted in the Roman army, in which he served until the reign of Julian, without, however, indulging in any of the vices so common among soldiers. An oath, a lie, an indecent expression was never heard from his lips. The time that most of his comrades passed in gaming and drinking, he devoted to prayer and devout reading.
His kindness to the poor is known to the whole Christian world. In the depth of winter, he once met, not far from Amiens, a half-naked beggar, who asked an alms for Christ’s sake. Martin had no money with him, but unwilling to send the man away without comfort, he took the cloak from his shoulders, cut it into two pieces and gave one of them to the beggar. His comrades laughed at him, but Martin, in a vision during the following night, saw Christ covered with the piece of the cloak, and heard Him say to the Angels surrounding Him: “Martin, not yet baptized, has covered me with this!” This vision not only comforted Martin greatly, but also induced him to give himself wholly to the service of the Most High. Hence, in his eighteenth year, he received holy baptism, left the army, and, in order to learn how to lead a Christian life, went to the holy bishop Hilarius, who joyfully received him and instructed him in virtue and holiness. Being thoroughly instructed, he went, with the consent of his holy teacher, to Hungary, intending to convert his parents. His mother and many others were easily persuaded to embrace the true faith, but his father proved obstinate. Martin was sorely grieved at this, and desired to remain longer in the hope of yet gaining his father and other heathens; but the Arians drove him away. He therefore returned to his holy master in France. With his consent, he built a small monastery outside the walls of Poitiers, and lived there, with a few disciples, in the practice of austere penance.
The fame of his sanctity soon spread far and wide, especially when it became known that he had recalled to life a man who had died before receiving the holy sacrament of regeneration. On account of this and other miracles, Martin was obliged, after the death of the bishop of Tours, to become his successor. Hard as it seemed to the humble servant of God to receive the episcopal dignity, yet he administered his new functions with wonderful zeal and untiring energy. He erected a monastery not far from Tours into which he gathered a community of eighty monks, with whom he lived an extremely severe life. His clergy were instructed by him in such a manner, that they were always able and willing to assist him efficaciously in the care of his flock. With some of these, he visited his entire diocese, preaching everywhere, administering the sacraments, visiting the sick, and giving alms to the poor. He was most earnest in exhorting the faithful to make their churches fit dwelling-places for the Majesty of God, and to behave in them with due reverence. He himself was often seen to tremble when he stood at the entrance of a Church; and being asked the reason of it, he replied: “Shall I not tremble for fear, when appearing before the Highest Majesty, before my God, my Judge?” While at Church he was never seen either sitting or standing, except when his office or the service required it; and unless it was necessary, he never spoke a word while there. He was a shining example of every virtue to all under him, laity as well as clergy.
His historians say that he was never seen angry and never heard to laugh aloud. One of his priests, who had previously been very virtuous, gradually lost his fervor and began to show some levity in his conduct, for which he was kindly rebuked by the bishop. Offended at the admonition, the guilty man endeavored to arouse in others ill-feelings against the Saint, and went so far as to blame all his actions and to abuse him publicly. St. Martin bore it all patiently, treated him with great sweetness, and prayed unceasingly for him. All were greatly astonished at this, and some endeavored to persuade the Saint to banish the wicked man from the convent. Martin however, said: “If Christ bore with Judas, why should I not bear with Britius?” He then foretold that this very Britius would be his successor in the See. No one would believe this, and even Britius laughed at it; but time revealed the truth of the prophecy: for, Britius soon commenced a different course of life, and on St. Martin’s death, was raised to the episcopal throne of Tours. Greatly as we must admire the patience and meekness of the holy bishop towards offenders, the zeal which he manifested in destroying idolatry, which still lingered in many places, was no less worthy of praise.
Wherever he found an idolatrous temple, he destroyed it either by his prayers or by force, though not without danger of his life. One day, he was about to fell a tree, because the heathens used it for their idolatry. They opposed him, most violently; at length, one of them said: “Behold! we ourselves will fell the tree if you promise that, as it falls, you will support it in your hands. By this sign we shall be convinced of the might of the God whose word you preach.” The Saint promised without any hesitation, to do as they desired. The tree was cut so that it would fall towards Martin; and when it came down, he made the sign of the Cross and stretching out his hands, not only received the tree into them, but threw it back to the opposite side, without injuring any one. By this and several other miracles, the holy bishop not only converted a great many heathens, but also made a great impression on the Arians, who, at that time, cruelly persecuted the Catholics.
The holy man was greatly esteemed and highly honored on account of his apostolic zeal, his great virtues, and the gifts bestowed upon him by the Almighty. Therefore Satan was much embittered against him and sought to ruin him. One day he appeared to the Saint, in royal magnificence, saying that he was Christ, and had come to visit him, Martin, startled at this apparition, said: “My Lord Jesus Christ did not say that He would come in such splendid array, but in the same form in which He ascended to heaven.” At these words Satan vanished. Many other incidents of the life of this Saint we omit, in order to give space for a short account of his death.
The holy man had reached his eighty-first year, when he desired to be released from the fetters of earth, and go to God. The Almighty visited him with a dangerous fever and revealed to him his approaching end. His disciples grieved greatly at the thought of his being taken from them, and said with weeping eyes: “Why dost thou leave us, father? To whom dost thou give us? Wolves will attack thy flock, and when our shepherd is gone, who will defend us? Have pity on us and remain yet for a time among us.” The Saint sighed, and prayed to the Almighty: “Lord, if I am needful to Thy people, I do not refuse the labor. But not my will, but Thine be done.” Hereupon he received the holy sacraments, and lying down, in his penitential garment, upon the floor strewn with ashes, he said: “Thus must a Christian soldier die in his armor.” And when his disciples, perceiving that he lay continually on his back, and kept his eyes fixed on heaven, said to him that, in order to ease his pain, he should turn to the right or left side, he replied: “Rather let me look up to heaven than towards the earth.”
In his last hour, the tempter came once more to the holy bishop, who, fearlessly addressing him, said: “Wherefore art thou standing there, thou bloodthirsty beast? Thou hast nothing to expect from me.” With these words, the holy bishop closed his eyes and ended his holy life, in the year of our Lord 397. St. Severin, bishop of Cologne, although far away, saw his spotless soul borne to heaven by Angels. The same was witnessed by many others. The Roman Martyrology testifies that St. Martin, during his life, raised three from the dead. Many other great miracles are to be found in his biography. In conclusion, we add the words of St. Gregory of Tours in his praise: ” Oh happy man,” said he, “at the close of whose life, the Saints of the Most High sing hymns of praise, the Angels rejoice and come in crowds to meet him, the Evil One is confounded, and the Church of God strengthened in virtue.”
I. St. Martin trembled on entering a Church and never sat, stood or spoke while there, because he remembered that he was before God, his Judge. Oh, that all who go to Church, would take to heart that they appear before their Judge! How differently would they conduct themselves! May you, at least, think earnestly of it. Say to yourself: “I go to my God; I shall appear before Him, Who, in a little while, will be my Judge, and Who will sentence me for all eternity. At this moment He is still my Savior, ready to pardon my sins and give me grace, that I may go to heaven. But soon He will judge me according to His justice.”
Considering all this carefully, you will surely avoid everything that is displeasing to God, and you will guard against the least disrespect. “This place is terrible. It is nothing less than the house of God and the gate of heaven,” said the Patriarch Jacob of the place where he had seen, in his sleep, the Lord of Heaven. He was afraid, because he had dared to sleep there, though he knew not that the place was holy. How much more reason have you to fear when you are irreverential in Church, as you know that it is, in a grander sense, the house of God and the gate of heaven.
II. The Evil Spirit, who appeared to St. Martin in his last hour, was easily driven away with, the words: “Wherefore art thou standing there, thou blood-thirsty beast? Thou hast nothing to expect from me.” Consider well; if Satan dares to tempt so holy a man; if he can fill him with fear and confusion; what will he not do to those who have led an indolent, lukewarm, or even sinful life? “The devil has descended upon you,” says Holy Writ; “he is full of great wrath because he knows that he has but little time.” St. Martin feared not, but drove him away, because his conscience was free from anything with which Satan could reproach him. Oh! happy is he, who cannot be reproached in his last hour with anything that he has not confessed already and expiated. St. Martin was accustomed to fight during his life with Satan; therefore he easily conquered him in death.
Think deeply on it; those who accustom themselves during their lives to fight with Satan’s temptation, will be able, by the grace of God, to do the same on their death-bed. But how will those fare, who, during the greater part of their lives, have consented to the temptations of Satan? Oh! there is good reason to fear that, in their last hour, they will do the same, and thus go to eternal perdition. Impress this point well upon your mind, and accustom yourself in time to fight bravely against Satan and his temptations, as otherwise you are lost for all eternity. “Vainly do they promise themselves security in their dying hour, who, during their life, resist not temptation,” says St. Leo. “If Satan finds any one who is not watchful, and well experienced in fighting, he will easily conquer him,” says St. Cyprian.
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.