Feast Day December 13
St. Lucy, one of the most renowned Christian heroines, first saw the light of the world at Syracuse, in Sicily. Her parents were of high rank and very rich; but Lucy cared not for temporal goods, and had already when quite young, vowed herself to the Lord.
As her father had died early, her mother desired that she should marry a youth, her equal in rank and fortune, but still a heathen. Lucy was horrified at this proposal; but not to displease her mother by a refusal, she endeavored to delay giving a decisive answer, praying meanwhile to God to aid her.
Her prayer was answered in an unexpected manner. Her mother became sick and needed her daughter’s assistance. Already four years had passed, and there was yet no hope of a recovery, when the mother, persuaded by Lucy, allowed herself to be carried to the tomb of St. Agatha, at Catania, which was celebrated for many miracles.
On arriving there, Lucy, after long prayers, was overcome by sleep, in which St. Agatha, accompanied by many Angels, appeared to her and said: “What do you request of me, dear sister? Behold your mother is cured! Your faith has worked this miracle. Know then, that as God, for my sake, made Catania glorious, so will He, for your sake, make Syracuse famous; for, you have prepared for Him an agreeable dwelling by vowing your virginity to Him.”
When Lucy awoke she found her mother, who had been sick so long, entirely restored. Joyfully embracing her, she warmly congratulated her, and after both had given due thanks to the Almighty, they also showed their gratitude to the virgin, St. Agatha.
After this, Lucy said to her mother: “I beg of you, dearest mother, speak not to me again of a mortal bridegroom, for I have long since united myself to One who is immortal. I pray you also to give me the portion you would have given me if I had married an earthly bridegroom.” The mother, thinking that her daughter would give all to the poor, replied: “If you will wait till after my death, you will be at liberty to do as you like with your inheritance.”
To this Lucy made answer: ” What we leave to the poor after our death is not so agreeable to God, nor so useful to us as what we give them during our life-time; just as a torch which is carried after us is not of the same service as one which is carried before.”
Moved by these words, the mother promised to accede to all her wishes. Hence, having returned home, she gave Lucy the portion which was due to her, and the holy virgin gave it immediately to the poor. When the youth who had asked her hand in marriage heard of this, his love was changed into hatred, and he accused her to the Governor, Paschasius, as well for refusing to become his wife, as also for being a Christian and despising the gods.
Paschasius called Lucy into his presence, and admonished her to sacrifice to the gods, as well as to keep her promise to the young nobleman. “Neither will be done,” replied the virgin;” I sacrifice only to the true God; to Him have I given my faith; not to any man.” “I obey the command of the Emperor,” replied Paschasius; “you must sacrifice to the gods, and keep your word.”
“You obey the command of the Emperor,” said Lucy, “and I obey the command of God. You fear a mortal man; I fear an immortal God, and Him I will obey.” “Your brave words will cease,” said Paschasius, “when your fortitude is tried by tortures.” “No,” said Lucy, “they will not. The servants of the Lord are never in want of words; for Christ has said to them ‘When you speak to kings and magistrates, do not long consider what and how you say it, for it will be given you what to speak. It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of God speaking through you.’” “Do you pretend to say by this, that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” asked Paschasius.
The holy virgin replied: “Those whose life is pure and chaste are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” “I shall take care that you be not much longer such a temple,” said the Governor; “I will send you into a brothel where you will soon be deprived of your purity.” “If my will is not in it,” said the chaste virgin, “my purity will be undefiled, even as you can force me to cast incense on the altar before the gods. God judges not by the violence which is done to the body, but by the will. If you cause such violence to be done to me, my chastity will earn a double crown.”
Paschasius, enraged at these words, commanded her to be taken to a house of iniquity, and there exposed to the wickedness of men. Lucy went forth courageously, full of trust in God, whose aid she implored, into the street; where, suddenly, by the power of the Almighty, she became immovable, so that they could not remove her from the spot notwithstanding all their efforts. They fastened ropes around her, and even yoked several pairs of oxen to them, but all was useless; she stood like a rock and could not be moved.
Paschasius ascribed this miracle to witchcraft, and commanded pitch and boiling oil to be poured over her, and set on fire; but she remained unharmed in the midst of the flames. The tyrant could no longer endure to see the fearlessness of the Christian heroine, much less listen to the admonitions which she gave to those around her to forsake idolatry; hence he commanded that a sword should be thrust into her throat to end her life.
Sinking to the ground, the Saint closed her eyes in death, and received the crown of martyrdom, in the year of our Lord, 303. The prophecy that the persecution of the Christians would soon cease, with which she had comforted the faithful shortly before her end, became true. Her holy body was buried at Syracuse. She was honoured at Rome in the sixth century among the most illustrious virgins and martyrs, whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England, till the change of religion, as a holiday of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at Syracuse for many years; but was at length translated into Italy. It is there exposed to public veneration in a rich chapel of St. Vincent’s church. A portion of her relics was carried to Constantinople, and brought thence to Venice, where it is kept with singular veneration
Lucy is often painted with the balls of her eyes laid in a dish: perhaps her eyes were defaced or plucked out, though her present acts make no mention of any such circumstance. From time immemorial this holy virgin and martyr has been invoked by those who suffer from diseases of the eyes.
Impress deeply into your heart three memorable sayings of St. Lucy. The first regards almsgiving before death. This is much more agreeable to the Almighty, and much more useful to you than to give after your death. May you choose what is most agreeable to God and most useful to yourself.
The second is the answer which she gave to Paschasius: ” You obey the command of the Emperor, and
I, the command of God. You fear a mortal man, and I fear the immortal God; Him I must obey.” May you act according to these words. Keep the commandments of the Lord, for He can truly be more useful to you, and harm you more than all mortal men.
The third is comprised in the following words: “Those whose life is chaste, are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” For whom then are the unchaste a dwelling. Surely, for no one else than the spirit of hell. Should not this thought alone awaken in you the greatest horror for the vice of unchastity, and an especial love for the virtue of purity.
Besides these three maxims, consider how miraculously St. Lucy was strengthened and protected by
the power of God, in such a manner that no force could move her from where she stood. Endeavor,
at least, to be immovable in your intention, to live more piously, and to shun sin, especially that sin to
which you are most addicted. In order not to become guilty of it again, you ought to stand as immovable
as a rock in the sea. Let prayer and trust in God be your help, as they were St. Lucy’s. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and immovable,” says St. Paul, (i Cor. XV.)
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints
by Rev. Alban Butler
Volume XII: December 1866
Feast Day December 8
The name of this festival is sufficient to awaken delight in the hearts of all true children of Mary, and to incite them to the most tender devotion; but its grandeur demands to be spoken of in particular, and recommended to the special attention of the faithful. Joachim and Anna, the holy parents of the Blessed Virgin had been united almost twenty years, without having been blessed with a child to inherit their temporal possessions or their virtue. This barrenness, which in ancient times was considered a great dishonor, and a curse of the Almighty, saddened the holy couple greatly; but they submitted to the divine will and bore with patience the shame which was attached to it.
The Almighty, however, who had chosen them to become the parents of the most blessed child, after having tried their patience for twenty years, sent an angel to them, who announced that Anna would give birth to a daughter, who was destined to become the mother of the long-promised Messiah. Joachim and Anna, greatly rejoicing continued the prayer which they had until then offered to God to ask His blessing, and to thank Him for His grace.
The angel’s words were fulfilled, St. Anna, in due time, brought forth the pure, unspotted daughter, who was destined to become the Mother of God, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Several centuries ago, the question arose whether the Blessed Virgin was conceived, like all other human beings, in original sin, or if she had been exempted from it. No one doubted that she was free from original sin at her birth, and sanctified before she was born, as it is known from Holy Writ that the same grace was bestowed on the holy prophet Jeremias, and on the forerunner of Christ, St. John the Baptist, who surely cannot be compared in dignity with the Mother of the Saviour.
The only doubt was, whether Mary had been defiled, at least for a short time, by original sin, and had afterwards been purified; or if her blessed soul had been created in sanctifying grace, and had thus been so entirely exempted from original sin that she had not been for one moment defiled by it. There were several who, in their zeal for the honor of the Redeemer of mankind, maintained the former, without sinning by this against their faith, as the Church had not yet pronounced the latter as an article of faith.
There were, however, a great many more who taught the latter, and confirmed it by many reasons. The latter were supported by several universities, religious societies, entire countries and kingdoms, ecclesiastical and temporal authorities; and the doctrine became so firmly established, that it was strictly forbidden, under pain of severe punishment, to teach or maintain the contrary.
The principal of these reasons is drawn from the high dignity to which Mary was chosen by God, when He elected her to become the mother of His only Son. This dignity is so high, that it is but right to recognize Mary as free from original sin.
“It is but just,” says St. Anselm,” that the Blessed Virgin should shine with a purity which, after that of God, must be recognized as the greatest.” Had Mary been defiled with original sin, and then purified from it, how much greater would her purity have been than that of St. Jeremias and St. John, who also were sanctified before they were born? It would not then have been the greatest, which, after God, we can imagine.
The souls of Adam and Eve would have been more stainless in their creation. St. Bonaventure says: “It is but fit that the Blessed Virgin should be without any stain, and that she should so entirely conquer Satan, that she was not even for one moment subject to him.” If Mary’s soul had been, only for one moment, spotted with original sin, she would have been subject to Satan for that length of time; she would have been a seat, a dwelling of the devil, a slave to him, and a child of divine wrath. Would it have been suitable that the only Son of God should dwell nine months in the womb of a created being, who before, though for ever so short a space of time had been a dwelling of Satan?
Can we think, without trembling, that she, who was chosen from all eternity to become the mother of our Lord, had been a slave of the devil, an object of divine wrath? If this had been the case, Satan could have boasted that, before Christ, he had inhabited the Ark which was destined by the Almighty, not to preserve manna, or the lifeless tablets of the law, but to keep, during nine months, the holy Law-giver Himself.
Would this have been worthy of Christ?
No one will dare to say it. Hence, the honor of Him, whom Mary gave to the world, demands that she should have been conceived immaculate. The high dignity to which Mary was raised allows not the thought that she, even for one moment, was defiled with original sin.
St. Augustine, when expounding to some heretics that nobody had lived on earth without sin, added: “Except the Blessed Virgin, whom, out of reverence to her Son, I will not allow to be named, when there is question of sin.” This holy teacher believed Mary exempt from all sin, and although he was discussing actual sin, yet the reason which he gives for her being pure from all actual sin is as strong when applied to original sin.
The honor of our Lord, that is of our Saviour, demands that we recognize Mary as having been free not only from actual, but also from original sin. We honor Christ by believing that He had a mother always immaculate. To say that His Mother ever was defiled with sin, and hence that, at least for a time, she was a slave of Satan, cannot but dishonor Him.
Besides this, it is certain that God loved Mary more than all other creatures, as He raised her above them all by choosing her to become the Mother of his only Son. We cannot therefore doubt that He was more liberal to her in bestowing graces than He was to others.
He created the Angels and our first parents in sanctifying grace; why should we not then believe that He created Mary also thus, and that He bestowed upon her the grace of never being defiled by sin? God could give her this grace; who dares to doubt it? He preserved her from the stain of original sin, because He is Almighty. It was also right that He should impart such grace to her, because He had chosen her as His mother.
Why should we not then be convinced that He imparted this grace at the moment of her creation, since we know that He bestowed more graces upon her than upon other creatures? The Angelic doctor says: “We believe rightfully that she who gave life to the only Son of the Father, received greater graces than all others.” Thence we must also believe that she received the grace of exemption from original sin.
Therefore the holy Fathers say that she was pure from all sin, entirely free from every spot, and that she was always more holy than the angels. “Who is now more holy than she? Not the Prophets, not the Apostles, not the Martyrs, not the Patriarchs, not the Angels, not the Cherubim or Seraphim,” says St.Chrysostom.
St. Ephrem writes: “Mary the Virgin, Our Lady, is undefiled and far from a stain of sin.” St. Ambrose, also, calls the Blessed Virgin “free from every stain of sin.” St. Epiphanius has these words: “She stands higher than them all, except God. She is by nature more beautiful than the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and all the heavenly hosts.” How could all this be said truthfully of her, if she had not been free from original sin?
Other holy Fathers, and celebrated Doctors of the Church, speak still more clearly. We will cite only a few. St. Peter Damian says: “The flesh which Mary took of Adam refused to take the stain of Adam.” St. Anselm writes: “If Jeremias, the prophet, was sanctified before he was born, and if the forerunner of Christ, St. John, was filled with the Holy Ghost: who will dare to say that Mary, in her conception, was deprived of the grace of the Holy Ghost?”
And again : “If God preserved the good Angels from sin, while others fell, could He not preserve His future mother from all sin? He had decreed from all eternity that she should become the Queen of Angels: how can we then believe that she was put lower than the Angels?”
And again: “My tongue dares not utter, and my mind is loath to think that Our Lady, who has been raised so high by the power of the Almighty, on whom the wisdom of the Most High bestowed so many graces, and whom the mercy of God chose as Mother, that she in her conception was burdened with sin, brought by jealousy into the world.”
St.Ildephonsus speaks as follows: “It is known that she was free from original sin, through whom not only the curse resting upon the children of Eve was dissolved, but through whom, also, blessing was imparted to all.”
Omitting other declarations, I will only add the words with which the learned and pious Thomas a Kempis addresses the Blessed Virgin: “Thou art most beautiful in thy Conception: thou who art created to be the tabernacle of the Most High! Thou art, O glorious Virgin, not only partly beautiful, but wholly. In thee is no spot of sin, neither of a venial, nor of a mortal, nor of original sin. Never has a spot been in thee, never will one cast a shadow upon thee!”
It is true that, according to the general law, all men descending from Adam are conceived and born in original sin. But could not He who gave this law, exempt Mary, as He exempted Her from other general laws? The law of God was given to Eve, for all mothers, in these words: “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” and yet Mary was excepted from this law, as she not only brought forth her Son without pain, but with inexpressible joy.
Assuerus, the King, had forbidden, under pain of death, that any one should come into his presence uncalled; but he excepted his beloved Esther from this command. “Not for thee, but for all others exists this command,” said he.
Why should we not believe that Christ the Lord exempted His mother from a general law, since He loved her more than Assuerus loved Esther? It is true, all men are conceived in original sin, according to the general law. Mary alone is exempted, by a special grace, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and Redeemer.
Jesus Christ redeemed all mankind, hence also Mary; but He redeemed Mary in a special and peculiar manner. “Other men,” says St. Bonaventure, “have been raised from their fall by the Saviour; but Mary has been upheld by Him, that she should not fall.”
And again: “He redeemed her from original sin, not as if she had been defiled by it; but He preserved her by an especial grace, so that she should not be stained by it.” In a similar manner David thanked the Lord for having released him from the sword of the wrathful Saul, by preserving him from it.
Hence, it is evident, as we have said before, that Mary was conceived without original sin. To teach the contrary was, in former times, forbidden by several decrees of the Apostolic See. At present, it would be an error against the Faith; for although the holy Church believes only what God has revealed, and what, from the beginning of Christianity, was taught by Christ and His Apostles, she does not always pronounce these truths in the same solemn and explicit manner.
The Apostles placed only twelve articles of faith in the general creed; but later, the errors which, at various times, were broached by heretics, required that the articles of faith should be more defined and made more explicit.
In regard to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was not a heresy against it that occasioned the solemn declaration, but the universal desire of the Christian world, and the many miracles which had taken place by invoking Mary’s assistance, in virtue of this prerogative.
The holy Father, Pius IX., found himself therefore, at last, induced to ask the opinion of the bishops of the entire Catholic World. Having obtained this, he invited many of them to Rome, where in the Church of St. Peter, on the 8th December, 1854, surrounded by two hundred Prelates of the Church, and a large number of the faithful, after invoking the Holy Ghost, the Pope, as successor of St. Peter, and head of the Church, with tears of emotion and piety, solemnly declared that, “It is a truth revealed by God that Mary was conceived without original sin.”
Rome and the entire Catholic World celebrated amid rejoicings this definition, so consoling to us and so glorious to the Blessed Virgin. We do not believe anything new by this, but we believe it now with that authority which the holy Church, built upon a rock, has given it as to an undoubted truth.
Hence, pay a special devotion to this article of faith, and honor it by saying the office of the Immaculate Conception, or at least to say a short prayer in honor of the Blessed Virgin every day.
Only one request more: Endeavor, above all things, by frequent invocations of the spotless Virgin, to obtain grace from God, to continue without sin, a life which you began in original sin, and to close it without sin, whenever it shall please the Almighty to call you.
To the faithful of the United States of America, this devotion is so much more earnestly to be recommended, as Mary in her Immaculate Conception has been solemnly chosen as their patroness, whom they are exhorted to invoke as their special advocate at the Throne of the Almighty.
I. The Blessed Virgin was exempted by special grace from original sin. Her soul was created in sanctifying grace, and constantly remained in it. Although you have not received a like favor, but were conceived and born in original sin, the merciful God ordained that you should be cleansed from it by holy baptism.
Thousands and thousands of persons had not this grace. They died, and daily die, in original sin without holy baptism. These can never go to heaven, as nothing unclean can enter there, if they have not at least desired to be baptized.
Why then has the Almighty conferred upon you, in preference to so many thousands of others, the grace of holy baptism? Why did He not let you die in original sin, like so many others?
Ah! There is no other cause to be found but the infinite mercy of God towards you. On this day, give fervent thanks to the Almighty for so great, so inestimable a grace which has drawn so many other graces after it, and will still draw many more.
But remember that baptism alone is not sufficient for salvation. “To holy baptism must be joined a Christian life,” says St. Augustine; “for he who said, ‘unless ye are born again of water and the Holy Ghost, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ has also said, ‘If your justice is not greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye can in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
II. As the Blessed Virgin was exempted from original sin, so also did she remain free from all actual sin. She never offended God, and never lost the grace which she received in her Immaculate Conception. There are several Saints, who during their lives committed no great sin. It is also known, that many earnestly endeavored to avoid the least evil; but it is not known of any Saint that he never committed a venial sin, at least by imprudence or surprise.
Only of the Holy Mother are we assured that, by special grace, she remained free from all, even the slightest sin. How is it with you? How long did you preserve the sanctifying grace received at baptism?
No longer than until you committed your first mortal sin. And how soon after baptism, and how often have you been guilty of it! how horribly have you defiled your soul! Repent, today, with your whole heart, of your misdeeds; seek to cleanse your soul most perfectly from every stain of sin, and to keep it henceforth unspotted.
For those defiled with mortal sin, heaven will be closed as surely as for those who are not cleansed by baptism from original sin.
Pray today that the Immaculate Virgin may obtain for you from God the grace to cleanse your conscience perfectly, and to keep it pure in future. You can do nothing more agreeable to her, and you cannot more surely gain her protection, than by following her example, and guarding yourself against all sin.
“For,” says St. John of Damascus, “she abhors sin, and delights in virtue.”
Feast Day December 2
In the fourth century, there lived at Rome a virgin celebrated among the Christians for her beauty and her modesty, named Bibiana. Flavian, her father, was, in the reign of the godless Emperor Julian, dispossessed of all his honors and banished from his country on account of his faith. He ended his life in misery, a true martyr for Christ’s sake. Dafrosa, her mother, was for the same reason, after her husband’s banishment, locked up in her own house, that she might starve. Bibiana and Demetria, the two daughters, shared their mother’s imprisonment.
But as neither the mother nor her daughters became emaciated by the hunger they suffered, and, on the contrary, appeared more vigorous than before, and could not be frightened into denying Christ, the mother, by the order of the governor Apronianus, was banished from the country and then beheaded.
Bibiana and Demetria were, at the same time, deprived of all their possessions, in the hope that poverty would cause them to abandon their faith. But the Christian heroines regarded it as little as those to whom St. Paul writes: “You have received the loss of your possessions joyfully, because you know that you have to expect greater goods in heaven. They said cheerfully “It is better to lose the temporal goods, which we cannot possess long, than the eternal.”
The Governor, after a time, called both of them, and promised that all that had been taken from them would be restored, if they would only worship the gods; but if they refused, he threatened them with imprisonment, a cruel martyrdom and the most painful death. The Christian virgins were as unmoved by the flatteries and promises of the tyrant, as by his menaces. “We worship the true God,” said Bibiana, “and are ready to die rather than to stain our souls by sacrificing to the gods.” Demetria spoke in the same manner, but hardly had the words left her lips, when she sank down and expired.
Bibiana was given into the charge of a wicked and cunning woman, named Rufina, who was to cause her to abandon her faith; for, the heathens knew, by experience, that none more easily denied Christ than those who had lost their purity. Rufina, the wicked woman, left nothing untried. She represented the pleasures of the world to Bibiana in such a manner, that she thought the virgin would surely drink the poison thus put to her lips; but all her wiles were of no effect. Although the maiden was kept like a prisoner by Rufina and could not escape, yet she remained unharmed by the fire of temptation.
Calling ceaselessly to God for aid and strength, she was so graciously sustained, that she not only manifested not the least pleasure at Rufina’s wicked behavior, but was more and more strengthened in virtue. Rufina, enraged at this, maltreated the innocent virgin by beating her most violently. All that her rage suggested was employed to gain her end; but the virgin, upheld by the Almighty, remained true to her resolution, rather to lose her life by the most cruel martyrdom, than to stain her purity.
When, at length, Rufina saw to her great chagrin that her endeavors were entirely useless, she informed the tyrant Apronianus of her failure, and persuaded him immediately to sentence Bibiana to death. The tyrant, without delay, ordered her to be tied to a column, and beaten to death. The order was executed, and Bibiana repeatedly declared that she regarded it as a high honor to be thought worthy to die for Christ’s sake.
With her eyes raised to heaven, she stood motionless during her martyrdom, until her whole body was one mass of bloody wounds, and she gave her unspotted soul to the keeping of her heavenly Bridegroom. According to the tyrant’s command, her holy body was left on the public road, to serve as a prey to the dogs but it remained untouched, until a pious priest carried it secretly away, and buried it beside the grave of her mother and sister.
The Christians built a chapel over her tomb which Pope Simplicius changed into a church in 465. This church was called Olympia from the name of a pious lady who had contributed largely towards it’s erection. repaired by Honorius III, it was rebuilt in 1628 by Urban VIII, who placed in it the remains of the saints Bibiana, Demetria, and Dafrosa.
The danger in which St. Bibiana found herself, was great beyond expression, and the more so, because it lasted for a long time. Yet the chaste virgin committed no sin, because she was in danger without her consent, and could not save herself by flight. She did all in her power to guard herself against sinning, and God gave her His special aid. It must ever afford great consolation to those who against their will, are exposed to great danger, and who are unable to escape, that God will surely assist them, when, like St. Bibiana, they do all in their power to help themselves.
Such help, however, cannot reasonably be expected by those who imprudently cast themselves into danger of sin, or who voluntarily remain in it. “Divine assistance will surely be given us, if we do not neglect to do all that is in our power,” says St. James of Nisibis. Many persons, however, will not do this, but clearly show that it is not their earnest wish to avoid sin, since they do not employ the necessary means. And for the same reason, they are in danger of going to eternal ruin. Why? Take the following words well to heart. To gain heaven, nothing is so necessary as a truly sorrowful confession.
Pray for a fidelity and patience like Bibiana’s under all trials, that neither convenience nor any worldly advantage may ever prevail upon you to transgress your duty.
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
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.