Posts tagged “Saints

The Conversion of St. Paul

Feast Day January 25

THIS great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the cause of the Cæsars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its privileges and lands; but Augustus, when conqueror, made it ample amends by honoring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome, as we read in the two Dions and Appian.

Hence St. Paul, being born at Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire. His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses, by Gamaliel, a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the Sanhedrim; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point.

He appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his life had been in every respect. He embraced the sect of the Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride the most opposite to the humility of the gospel. It was a rule among the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as well as the mind, in something serious. It is therefore probable that Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his apostleship, of making tents.

Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a, blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ. He was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to have stoned him by the hands of all the rest; to whose prayers for his enemies he ascribes the conversion of St. Paul:” If Stephen,” said he, “had not prayed, the church would never have had St. Paul.”

After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison. He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavored by torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as an enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully persuaded himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

By the violences he committed, his name became everywhere a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they possessed in common, and left them in such extreme necessity, that the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the fury of Saul; he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the other disciples.

Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrim for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy; and, moved by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants, for their enemies, changed him, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel of election, and made him a greater man in his church by the grace of the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious instrument of his glory.

He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when about noon, he and his company were on a sudden surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun. They all saw the light, and being struck with amazement, fell to the ground. Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but not understood, though heard by the rest: Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? Christ said not: Why dost thou persecute my disciples? but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his servants. Saul answered: Who art thou, Lord? Christ said: Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad: “to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt yourself.”

This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and every sort of death.

The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of himself, and an heroic victory over the world with its frowns and charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty grace!

Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ would not instruct him immediately by himself, but, St. Austin observes, sent him to the ministry which he had established in the church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his own name and appointed to be our guides.
So perfectly would he abolish in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error and illusion.

The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of heavenly things. He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ seemed to conduct him in triumph.

He was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or drinking. He doubtless spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a blasphemer and a persecutor.

Though the entire reformation of his heart was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions, but miraculous in the order of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe interior trial (for such we cannot doubt but he went through on this occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary graces which God designed him.

There was a Christian of distinction in Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy disciple; and commanded him to go to Saul, who was then in the house of Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer overruled his fears, and charged him a second time to go to him, saying: Go, for he is a vessel of election to carry my name before Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: and I will show him how much he has to suffer for my name. For tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying his hands upon him, to restore his sight.

Ananias, obeying the divine order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his eyesight. Ananias added: The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldst know his will and see the just one, and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth: and thou shalt be his witness unto all men to publish what thou hast seen and heard. Arise, therefore, be baptized and washed from thy sins, invoking the name of the Lord.

Saul then arose, was baptized and took some refreshment. He stayed some few days with the disciples at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues, that Jesus was the Son of God, to the great astonishment of all that heard him, who said: Is not this he who persecuted at Jerusalem those who invoked the name of Jesus, and who is come hither to carry them away prisoners? Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen to be one of the principal instruments of God in the conversion of the world. St. Paul never recalled to mind this wonderful conversion, without raptures of gratitude and praise to the divine mercy.

* * * * *

The church, in thanksgiving to God for such a miracle of his grace, from which it has derived such great blessings, and to commemorate so miraculous an instance of his almighty power, and to propose to penitents a perfect model of a true conversion, has instituted this festival, which we find mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries, and which pope Innocent III. commanded to be observed with great solemnity. It was for some time kept a holy day of obligation in most churches in the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford in 1222, in the reign of king Henry III.

Source: Pictorial Lives of The Saints
Compiled from “Butler’s Lives” and Other Approved Sources
1887


St. Agnes, the Roman Virgin Martyr

Feast Day
January 21

ST. JEROME says, that the tongues and pens of all nations are employed in the praises of this saint, who overcame both the cruelty of the tyrant and the tenderness of her age, and crowned the glory of chastity with that of martyrdom. St. Austin observes, that her name signifies chaste in Greek, and lamb in Latin. She has been always looked upon in the church as a special patroness of purity, with the immaculate Mother of God and St. Thecla. Rome was the theatre of the triumph of St. Agnes; and Prudentius says, that her tomb was shown within sight of that city. She suffered not long after the beginning of the persecution of Dioclesian, whose bloody edicts appeared in March in the year of our Lord 303.

We learn from St. Ambrose and St. Austin, that she was only thirteen years of age at the time of her glorious death. Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome, to vie with one another in their addresses, who should gain her in marriage. Agnes answered them all, that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly spouse, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors finding her resolution impregnable to all their arts and importunities, accused her to the governor as a Christian; not doubting but threats and torments would overcome her tender mind, on which allurements could make no impression. The judge at first employed the mildest expressions and most inviting promises; to which Agnes paid no regard, repeating always, that she could have no other spouse than Jesus Christ. He then made use of threats, but found her soul endowed with a masculine courage, and even desirous of racks and death. At last, terrible fires were made, and iron hooks, racks, and other instruments of torture displayed before her, with threats of immediate execution. The young virgin surveyed them all with an undaunted eye; and with a cheerful countenance beheld the fierce and cruel executioners surrounding her, and ready to dispatch her at the word of command. She was so far from betraying the least symptom of fear, that she even expressed her joy at the sight, and offered herself to the rack. She was then dragged before the idols, and commanded to offer incense: “but could by no means be compelled to move her hand, except to make the sign of the cross,” says St. Ambrose.

The governor seeing his measures ineffectual, said he would send her to a house of prostitution, where what she prized so highly should be exposed to the insults of the debauchees. Agnes answered that Jesus Christ was too jealous of the purity of his spouses, to suffer it to be violated in such a manner; for he was their defender and protector. “You may,” said she, “stain your sword with my blood, but will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ.” The governor was so incensed at this, that he ordered her to be immediately led to the public brothel, with liberty to all persons to abuse her person at pleasure. Many young profligates ran thither, full of the wicked desire of gratifying their lust; but were seized with such awe at the sight of the saint, that they durst not approach her; one only excepted, who, attempting to be rude to her, was that very instant, by a flash, as it were, of lightning from heaven, struck blind, and fell trembling to the ground. His companions, terrified, took him up, and carried him to Agnes, who was at a distance, singing hymns of praise to Christ, her protector. The virgin by prayer restored him to his sight and health.

The chief prosecutor of the saint, who at first sought to gratify his lust and avarice, now labored to satiate his revenge, by incensing the judge against her; his passionate fondness being changed into anger and rage. The governor wanted not others to spur him on; for he was highly exasperated to see himself baffled, and set at defiance by one of her tender age and sex. Therefore, resolved upon her death, he condemned her to be beheaded. Agnes, transported with joy on hearing this sentence, and still more at the sight of the executioner, “went to the place of execution more cheerfully,” says St. Ambrose, “than others go to their wedding.” The executioner had secret instructions to use all means to induce her to a compliance: but Agnes always answered she could never offer so great an injury to her heavenly spouse; and having made a short prayer, bowed down her neck to adore God, and receive the stroke of death. The spectators wept to see so beautiful and tender a virgin loaded with fetters, and to behold her fearless under the very sword of the executioner, who with a trembling hand cut off her head at one stroke. Her body was buried at a small distance from Rome, near the Nomentan road. A church was built on the spot in the time of Constantine the Great, and was repaired by pope Honorius in the seventh century. It is now in the hands of Canon-Regulars, standing without the walls of Rome; and is honored with her relics in a very rich silver shrine, the gift of pope Paul V., in whose time they were found in this church, together with those of St. Emerentiana. The other beautiful rich church of St. Agnes within the city, built by pope Innocent X., (the right of patronage being vested in the family of Pamphili,) stands on the place where her chastity was exposed. The feast of St. Agnes is mentioned in all Martyrologies, both of the East and West, though on different days. It was formerly a holyday for the women in England, as appears from the council of Worcester, held in the year 1240. St. Ambrose, St. Austin, and other fathers have wrote her panegyric.

St. Martin of Tours was singularly devout to her. Thomas à Kempis honored her as his special patroness, as his works declare in many places. He relates many miracles wrought, and graces received through her intercession.

Source: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs Vol. 1
by Rev. Alban Butler
1866


St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

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.

Practical Considerations

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.
Vol 11
1877

The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints
by Rev. Alban Butler
Volume XII: December 1866


Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary

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.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

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.”


St. Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr

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.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

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.
Vol 11
1877


St. Andrew, Apostle, Martyr

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.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

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.
Vol 11
1877


St. Clement, Pope and Martyr

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.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

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.
Vol 11
1877


St. Catherine of Alexandria Virgin, Martyr

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

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

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!


St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

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.
Vol 11
1877


St. Winifred, Virgin and Martyr

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.
Vol 11
1877

 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.


St. Dominic

Feast Day August 8
   (1170-1221)

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.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

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
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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.
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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.”


St. Martin, Bishop of Tours

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.”

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

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.
Vol 11
1877