Feast Day December 13
St. Lucy, one of the most renowned Christian heroines, first saw the light of the world at Syracuse, in Sicily. Her parents were of high rank and very rich; but Lucy cared not for temporal goods, and had already when quite young, vowed herself to the Lord.
As her father had died early, her mother desired that she should marry a youth, her equal in rank and fortune, but still a heathen. Lucy was horrified at this proposal; but not to displease her mother by a refusal, she endeavored to delay giving a decisive answer, praying meanwhile to God to aid her.
Her prayer was answered in an unexpected manner. Her mother became sick and needed her daughter’s assistance. Already four years had passed, and there was yet no hope of a recovery, when the mother, persuaded by Lucy, allowed herself to be carried to the tomb of St. Agatha, at Catania, which was celebrated for many miracles.
On arriving there, Lucy, after long prayers, was overcome by sleep, in which St. Agatha, accompanied by many Angels, appeared to her and said: “What do you request of me, dear sister? Behold your mother is cured! Your faith has worked this miracle. Know then, that as God, for my sake, made Catania glorious, so will He, for your sake, make Syracuse famous; for, you have prepared for Him an agreeable dwelling by vowing your virginity to Him.”
When Lucy awoke she found her mother, who had been sick so long, entirely restored. Joyfully embracing her, she warmly congratulated her, and after both had given due thanks to the Almighty, they also showed their gratitude to the virgin, St. Agatha.
After this, Lucy said to her mother: “I beg of you, dearest mother, speak not to me again of a mortal bridegroom, for I have long since united myself to One who is immortal. I pray you also to give me the portion you would have given me if I had married an earthly bridegroom.” The mother, thinking that her daughter would give all to the poor, replied: “If you will wait till after my death, you will be at liberty to do as you like with your inheritance.”
To this Lucy made answer: ” What we leave to the poor after our death is not so agreeable to God, nor so useful to us as what we give them during our life-time; just as a torch which is carried after us is not of the same service as one which is carried before.”
Moved by these words, the mother promised to accede to all her wishes. Hence, having returned home, she gave Lucy the portion which was due to her, and the holy virgin gave it immediately to the poor. When the youth who had asked her hand in marriage heard of this, his love was changed into hatred, and he accused her to the Governor, Paschasius, as well for refusing to become his wife, as also for being a Christian and despising the gods.
Paschasius called Lucy into his presence, and admonished her to sacrifice to the gods, as well as to keep her promise to the young nobleman. “Neither will be done,” replied the virgin;” I sacrifice only to the true God; to Him have I given my faith; not to any man.” “I obey the command of the Emperor,” replied Paschasius; “you must sacrifice to the gods, and keep your word.”
“You obey the command of the Emperor,” said Lucy, “and I obey the command of God. You fear a mortal man; I fear an immortal God, and Him I will obey.” “Your brave words will cease,” said Paschasius, “when your fortitude is tried by tortures.” “No,” said Lucy, “they will not. The servants of the Lord are never in want of words; for Christ has said to them ‘When you speak to kings and magistrates, do not long consider what and how you say it, for it will be given you what to speak. It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of God speaking through you.’” “Do you pretend to say by this, that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” asked Paschasius.
The holy virgin replied: “Those whose life is pure and chaste are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” “I shall take care that you be not much longer such a temple,” said the Governor; “I will send you into a brothel where you will soon be deprived of your purity.” “If my will is not in it,” said the chaste virgin, “my purity will be undefiled, even as you can force me to cast incense on the altar before the gods. God judges not by the violence which is done to the body, but by the will. If you cause such violence to be done to me, my chastity will earn a double crown.”
Paschasius, enraged at these words, commanded her to be taken to a house of iniquity, and there exposed to the wickedness of men. Lucy went forth courageously, full of trust in God, whose aid she implored, into the street; where, suddenly, by the power of the Almighty, she became immovable, so that they could not remove her from the spot notwithstanding all their efforts. They fastened ropes around her, and even yoked several pairs of oxen to them, but all was useless; she stood like a rock and could not be moved.
Paschasius ascribed this miracle to witchcraft, and commanded pitch and boiling oil to be poured over her, and set on fire; but she remained unharmed in the midst of the flames. The tyrant could no longer endure to see the fearlessness of the Christian heroine, much less listen to the admonitions which she gave to those around her to forsake idolatry; hence he commanded that a sword should be thrust into her throat to end her life.
Sinking to the ground, the Saint closed her eyes in death, and received the crown of martyrdom, in the year of our Lord, 303. The prophecy that the persecution of the Christians would soon cease, with which she had comforted the faithful shortly before her end, became true. Her holy body was buried at Syracuse. She was honoured at Rome in the sixth century among the most illustrious virgins and martyrs, whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England, till the change of religion, as a holiday of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at Syracuse for many years; but was at length translated into Italy. It is there exposed to public veneration in a rich chapel of St. Vincent’s church. A portion of her relics was carried to Constantinople, and brought thence to Venice, where it is kept with singular veneration
Lucy is often painted with the balls of her eyes laid in a dish: perhaps her eyes were defaced or plucked out, though her present acts make no mention of any such circumstance. From time immemorial this holy virgin and martyr has been invoked by those who suffer from diseases of the eyes.
Impress deeply into your heart three memorable sayings of St. Lucy. The first regards almsgiving before death. This is much more agreeable to the Almighty, and much more useful to you than to give after your death. May you choose what is most agreeable to God and most useful to yourself.
The second is the answer which she gave to Paschasius: ” You obey the command of the Emperor, and
I, the command of God. You fear a mortal man, and I fear the immortal God; Him I must obey.” May you act according to these words. Keep the commandments of the Lord, for He can truly be more useful to you, and harm you more than all mortal men.
The third is comprised in the following words: “Those whose life is chaste, are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” For whom then are the unchaste a dwelling. Surely, for no one else than the spirit of hell. Should not this thought alone awaken in you the greatest horror for the vice of unchastity, and an especial love for the virtue of purity.
Besides these three maxims, consider how miraculously St. Lucy was strengthened and protected by
the power of God, in such a manner that no force could move her from where she stood. Endeavor,
at least, to be immovable in your intention, to live more piously, and to shun sin, especially that sin to
which you are most addicted. In order not to become guilty of it again, you ought to stand as immovable
as a rock in the sea. Let prayer and trust in God be your help, as they were St. Lucy’s. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and immovable,” says St. Paul, (i Cor. XV.)
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints
by Rev. Alban Butler
Volume XII: December 1866
Feast Day December 2
In the fourth century, there lived at Rome a virgin celebrated among the Christians for her beauty and her modesty, named Bibiana. Flavian, her father, was, in the reign of the godless Emperor Julian, dispossessed of all his honors and banished from his country on account of his faith. He ended his life in misery, a true martyr for Christ’s sake. Dafrosa, her mother, was for the same reason, after her husband’s banishment, locked up in her own house, that she might starve. Bibiana and Demetria, the two daughters, shared their mother’s imprisonment.
But as neither the mother nor her daughters became emaciated by the hunger they suffered, and, on the contrary, appeared more vigorous than before, and could not be frightened into denying Christ, the mother, by the order of the governor Apronianus, was banished from the country and then beheaded.
Bibiana and Demetria were, at the same time, deprived of all their possessions, in the hope that poverty would cause them to abandon their faith. But the Christian heroines regarded it as little as those to whom St. Paul writes: “You have received the loss of your possessions joyfully, because you know that you have to expect greater goods in heaven. They said cheerfully “It is better to lose the temporal goods, which we cannot possess long, than the eternal.”
The Governor, after a time, called both of them, and promised that all that had been taken from them would be restored, if they would only worship the gods; but if they refused, he threatened them with imprisonment, a cruel martyrdom and the most painful death. The Christian virgins were as unmoved by the flatteries and promises of the tyrant, as by his menaces. “We worship the true God,” said Bibiana, “and are ready to die rather than to stain our souls by sacrificing to the gods.” Demetria spoke in the same manner, but hardly had the words left her lips, when she sank down and expired.
Bibiana was given into the charge of a wicked and cunning woman, named Rufina, who was to cause her to abandon her faith; for, the heathens knew, by experience, that none more easily denied Christ than those who had lost their purity. Rufina, the wicked woman, left nothing untried. She represented the pleasures of the world to Bibiana in such a manner, that she thought the virgin would surely drink the poison thus put to her lips; but all her wiles were of no effect. Although the maiden was kept like a prisoner by Rufina and could not escape, yet she remained unharmed by the fire of temptation.
Calling ceaselessly to God for aid and strength, she was so graciously sustained, that she not only manifested not the least pleasure at Rufina’s wicked behavior, but was more and more strengthened in virtue. Rufina, enraged at this, maltreated the innocent virgin by beating her most violently. All that her rage suggested was employed to gain her end; but the virgin, upheld by the Almighty, remained true to her resolution, rather to lose her life by the most cruel martyrdom, than to stain her purity.
When, at length, Rufina saw to her great chagrin that her endeavors were entirely useless, she informed the tyrant Apronianus of her failure, and persuaded him immediately to sentence Bibiana to death. The tyrant, without delay, ordered her to be tied to a column, and beaten to death. The order was executed, and Bibiana repeatedly declared that she regarded it as a high honor to be thought worthy to die for Christ’s sake.
With her eyes raised to heaven, she stood motionless during her martyrdom, until her whole body was one mass of bloody wounds, and she gave her unspotted soul to the keeping of her heavenly Bridegroom. According to the tyrant’s command, her holy body was left on the public road, to serve as a prey to the dogs but it remained untouched, until a pious priest carried it secretly away, and buried it beside the grave of her mother and sister.
The Christians built a chapel over her tomb which Pope Simplicius changed into a church in 465. This church was called Olympia from the name of a pious lady who had contributed largely towards it’s erection. repaired by Honorius III, it was rebuilt in 1628 by Urban VIII, who placed in it the remains of the saints Bibiana, Demetria, and Dafrosa.
The danger in which St. Bibiana found herself, was great beyond expression, and the more so, because it lasted for a long time. Yet the chaste virgin committed no sin, because she was in danger without her consent, and could not save herself by flight. She did all in her power to guard herself against sinning, and God gave her His special aid. It must ever afford great consolation to those who against their will, are exposed to great danger, and who are unable to escape, that God will surely assist them, when, like St. Bibiana, they do all in their power to help themselves.
Such help, however, cannot reasonably be expected by those who imprudently cast themselves into danger of sin, or who voluntarily remain in it. “Divine assistance will surely be given us, if we do not neglect to do all that is in our power,” says St. James of Nisibis. Many persons, however, will not do this, but clearly show that it is not their earnest wish to avoid sin, since they do not employ the necessary means. And for the same reason, they are in danger of going to eternal ruin. Why? Take the following words well to heart. To gain heaven, nothing is so necessary as a truly sorrowful confession.
Pray for a fidelity and patience like Bibiana’s under all trials, that neither convenience nor any worldly advantage may ever prevail upon you to transgress your duty.
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Feast Day November 30
The holy Apostle, St, Andrew, born at Bethsaida, in Galilee was a brother of St Peter and at first a disciple of St. John the Baptist. He was the first of the Apostles who had the happiness of knowing Christ, the true Messiah; for, one day, when Andrew and another disciple were standing with their master on the banks of the Jordan, St. John, pointing to Jesus, who was approaching, said: “Behold the Lamb of God!” No sooner had Andrew heard these words, than he and the other disciple followed Christ, and remained with Him that day. On the following day, meeting his brother, Simon, afterwards called Peter, he said to him: “We have found the Messiah,” and brought him to Christ.
Not long after this, when Andrew and Peter were casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, Christ called them, and said: “Come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men!”
Immediately leaving their nets, they followed Him. From that moment, Andrew left the Lord no more, except at the time when He was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane, by the Jews, when he fled like the other disciples. He was present when Christ, after His resurrection, appeared to His disciples; when He ascended into heaven in their presence, and when He sent the Holy Ghost from heaven upon them.
When the Apostles separated, and went into the different countries of the world, to preach the Gospel of Christ to all nations, Andrew traveled into Scythia, Thrace, Galatia and other pagan countries, where he converted many thousands by his sermons, and by the miracles he performed.
At last he came to Patrae, the capital of Achaia, in Greece, and there, too, preached, with apostolic freedom, the Word of the Lord, and approved it by many miracles, which induced a great number of the inhabitants to embrace Christianity. Aegeas, the governor, resisted him with all his might, and endeavored to defend idolatry. The holy Apostle, however, reproved him fearlessly, and said: ” You desire that this people should recognize you as their judge; why, then, do you refuse to recognize Christ, the true God, as the Judge of all mankind; and why do you refuse to turn your heart from idolatry” “Be silent!” replied Aegeas,” and speak not to me of your Christ. Was he not nailed by the Jews to a cross? How then can he be a true God? How can I worship him as God?”
Andrew endeavored to explain the great mystery of the Redemption of the human race, and to show how Christ had, voluntarily, and for love of man, died the ignominious death of the cross, but Aegeas would not listen, and, interrupting him, commanded him immediately to sacrifice to the gods, or to prepare himself for a most cruel martyrdom.
Andrew replied: “I offer daily, on the Altar, to the Almighty, who is the only true God, not the flesh of oxen, nor the blood of goats, but an unspotted Lamb, which, when the entire multitude of the faithful have partaken of its flesh, remains entire and living.” The governor, full of wrath, ordered Andrew to be cast into a dungeon; but the people who loved the Saint as a father, rose against the governor, and ran in crowds to the dungeon, determined to set the prisoner free. But the Apostle besought them to be quiet, and not seek to prevent him from receiving the crown of martyrdom, which he had so long desired.
The following day, St. Andrew was brought before the governor, who offered him the greatest honors, if he would consent to sacrifice to the gods; but threatened him with the most cruel torments, if he persisted in refusing. The Saint said fearlessly: “The honors you offer me have no value in my eyes, because they are temporal and pass away; the tortures you threaten me with, I despise, for the same reason; but you, Aegeas have to fear torments which last forever, if you do not abandon your idols, and recognize Jesus Christ for the true and only God, and worship Him as such.”
After these words, the Saint continued to preach to the governor and to all present, of the crucified Lord, and of the happiness of all those who suffer for Him. Aegeas, enraged at the Apostle’s fearlessness, ordered him to be most cruelly scourged and then to be crucified, in order to make him resemble his God. This was meant by the governor in derision; but no manner of death could have been more welcome to St. Andrew. The cruel and unjust sentence was received with murmurs by the people, of whom some were heard saying aloud: “This man is just, and a friend of God: why must he be crucified?”
Andrew, addressing the people again, begged them not to deprive him of what he looked upon as an inestimable happiness. When he was led to the place of execution, and saw the cross on which he was to die, he cried out joyfully: “O precious cross, which I have so long desired, so truly loved, so ceaselessly sought; at last I find thee prepared to receive me. Take me away from the world, and unite me again with my Lord, that He who has redeemed me on thee may again receive me by thee.” Thus cried the Saint from afar; but when he reached the cross, he embraced and kissed it, and gave himself willingly to the executioners, who bound him to it.
No sooner had the cross been raised, than it served as a pulpit to the holy Apostle, and he exhorted the Christians to remain firm in their holy faith, and the heathens to convert themselves to the only true God. He explained the nothingness of the idols, and the truth of the Christian religion. For two days he lived and preached, hanging on the cross. The people began again to murmur against the governor, and desired to have the Saint taken down from the cross; but the holy martyr desired to be permitted to die upon it, as he esteemed death a priceless grace.
On the third day, when the people seemed determined to rescue him by force, he called to his Saviour: “Do not permit, O Lord, that Thy servant, who, according to his own wish, hangs on the cross, be taken down from it; but do Thou take me from it to Thee, O my beloved Master, Jesus Christ, whom I have confessed and always loved, and whom, still confessing, I long to see. Take, O Lord Jesus, my spirit to Thee. I ardently desire to be united with Thee.” During this prayer, a bright light streamed from heaven, and rested upon the Saint, whilst he breathed his last.
The martyrdom of St. Andrew happened in the year of Our Lord 62, or, according to others, in 70. His holy body was transported to Constantinople in the time of Constantine the Great; but was afterwards brought to Rome, where it has its resting-place in the Church of St. Peter.
Impress two memorable sayings of the holy Apostle deep into your heart. The first is: “I sacrifice daily to Almighty God” This is a glorious proof to you that the Apostles performed the holy Sacrifice of Mass; for to this alone can the words of St. Andrew have reference.
Conclude, therefore, from this, that it is false for the heretics to say that the first Christians knew nothing of Mass. Did not St. Andrew live during the first years of Christianity.-‘ Be not confused by the lies of the heretics; but believe that Christ instituted the holy Sacrifice of the Mass at His Last Supper.
The second memorable saying of the Apostle is: “The honors you offer me have no value in my eyes, because they are temporal and pass away; your tortures I despise for the same reason.” Consider it well. All temporal honors, all joys, pass away quickly. How foolish is it, therefore, to love them immoderately, and to forfeit for them the eternal honors, riches and joys!
No pain or trial on this earth lasts for ever; but those which await the sinner in the other world, are endless. Should we not, therefore, do and suffer here so as to escape torments hereafter?
St. Andrew manifested great joy on beholding the cross that had been prepared for him; he greeted it warmly, and embraced it lovingly. He wished not to be released from it, but prayed to be allowed to die on it.
You are not bound to a cross of wood like St. Andrew, but the All-Wise sometimes lays a cross of suffering upon you, because He wishes to prepare you for heaven. How do you regard your cross.” How do you carry it? I fear to ask you how you greeted, embraced and kissed it.
Perhaps you have carried it, as Simon of Cyrene carried the Cross of the Lord, because you were forced, and could not help yourself. You have suffered only because you were obliged. You suffer murmuring and complainingly, and perhaps even endeavor to free yourself from your cross by improper means.
Oh! how differently did St. Andrew act. He esteemed himself because he could die on the cross like his Saviour, and because he had heard, from the lips of Christ, that the way of the Cross is the surest road to eternal life. You know all this; but you do not think seriously enough of it.
In future, keep these truths before your eyes: first, the way of the Cross is the way to heaven; secondly, Christ died on the Cross for love of me. Whoever rightly considers these two points, will in his sufferings, not give way to resentment, murmurs or complaints, but will bear them if not cheerfully, at least patiently.
Hence St. Paul admonishes us, saying: “For, think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.” (Heb. xii.)
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Feast Day November 23
Whilst the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, were preaching the Gospel at Rome, there came to them Clement, a son of Faustinus, who was related to the Emperor Domitian. After several discourses with St Peter, he saw the error of Paganism in which he had been born and educated, and became a convert to the Christian faith. He progressed so rapidly in virtue and holiness, that he was of great help to Paul in converting the heathens, as the holy Apostle testifies in his Epistle to the Philippians.
The unwearied zeal he manifested in such holy endeavors, his purity and other bright virtues, raised him, after the death of Sts. Linus and Cletus, to the government of the entire Church of Christ. In this elevated but burdensome dignity, his holy life was an example to his flock.
He gave several excellent laws to the Church, by one of which he divided the city into seven districts, and placed in each a notary to record the deeds, virtues and martyrdom of those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake, that posterity, admiring their heroism might be animated to follow their example. His sermons were so full of deep thought and so powerful, that he daily converted several heathens.
Among these was Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Emperor Domitian, who not only became a zealous Christian, but refusing several advantageous offers of marriage, vowed her virginity to God. He converted Sisinius, one of the most influential men in the city, by a miracle. While yet a heathen, Sisinius went unseen into the secret chapel where the Christians assembled, in order to ascertain what they were doing, and to see whether his wife was among them. God, however, punished him immediately with blindness in both eyes. He discovered himself by calling for some one to lead him home; and St. Clement, who was present, went to him. and, restoring his sight after a short prayer, he improved the occasion to explain to him the truths of Christianity. Sisinlus, being soon, convinced, received holy baptism, and many heathens followed his example.
The Emperor Trajan, being informed of this, commanded St. Clement to be banished to the Chersonesus, unless he consented to sacrifice to the gods. Nearly two thousand Christians had already been banished to that region, where they were forced to work in mines and quarries. The Holy Vicar of Christ rejoiced to be thought worthy to suffer for his Divine Master, and indignantly refused to comply with the Emperors command to worship the Pagan idols. He was accordingly transported, and condemned to labor like the others.
This fate at first seemed very hard to him, but the thought that he suffered it for Christ’s sake, strengthened him. With the same thought he endeavored also to inspire his unhappy companions, when he saw that they became discouraged and lost their patience. He also frequently represented to them the reward which was awaiting them in heaven. A miracle that God performed through him raised him to great consideration even with the heathens.
There was a great scarcity of water; and the Christians suffered much from the thirst occasioned by their hard work. St. Clement, pitying them most deeply, prayed to God to help them. Rising from his knees, he saw, on a high rock, a lamb, which seemed, with his raised right foot, to point to the place where water could be found. The holy man, trusting in the Almighty, seized an axe, and, lightly striking the rock, procured a rich stream of clear water, which refreshed all the inhabitants of the country, especially the poor persecuted Christians.
So many heathens were converted on account of this miracle, that, in the course of a year, almost all the idolatrous temples were torn down, and Christian churches erected in their stead. Some of the idolatrous priests complained of this to the Emperor, who immediately sent Aufidian, a cruel tyrant, to force the Christians to forsake their faith, and to put St. Clement to death.
The tyrant endeavored to induce the holy man to forsake Christ, but finding that all words were useless, he commanded the executioners to tie an anchor to the neck of St. Clement, take him out into the sea, and cast him into the deep, in order that nothing of him should remain to comfort the Christians. The last words of the holy Pope were: “Eternal Father! Receive my spirit!”
The Christians, who had been encouraged by him to remain constant in their faith, stood on the sea-shore, until the tyrant and his followers had departed, after the death of the Saint. They then knelt in prayer, to beg of the Almighty that He would restore to them the body of their beloved shepherd; and, whilst they prayed, the sea began slowly to retreat from the shore.
The Christians, following the retreating water, came to the place where the Saint had been cast into the sea, and found, to their inexpressible astonishment, a small marble chapel, and in it a tomb of stone, in which the body of the holy Pope was reposing. At his side lay the anchor which had been tied around his neck. The joy and comfort that filled the hearts of the faithful at this sight can more easily be imagined than described.
They wished to take the holy body away, but God made known to them that, for the present, it should not be disturbed; and that every year the sea would retreat, during seven days, so as to permit all to visit the shrine of the Saint.
This took place for several years, until, at last, by divine revelation, the relics were transported to Rome.
Did you observe how St. Clement encouraged himself and his fellow captives in the hard labor they had to perform.” To work for the sake of Christ, and to expect for one’s work an eternal reward in heaven, is surely enough to make all suffering and exertion sweet. Every man is bound to work according to his station, and it is quite sure that we are in danger of losing our souls, if we do not work as we ought, but lead an idle, luxurious and sensual life. One station, however, has harder and more ‘ troublesome work than another, and there are numbers of people who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow and have, day and night, hardly an hour for rest. It is quite natural that these sometimes become impatient, as we see in many servants, artisans and day-laborers. Their impatience goes so far that they become dissatisfied with God’s providence in their regard, and murmur against Him, curse their labor, or perform it unwillingly and thus not only lose all the merits which they might have earned, but incur heavy responsibility. I would ask such people to recollect, that their work, if performed with a good intention, in the grace of God and according to His will, will merit for them great glory in heaven. They ought to arm, themselves against the impatience which sometimes rises in them, with the thought of the reward that awaits them in heaven; for God recompenses every man according to his work, as Holy Writ teaches us. Ought not every one to work with pleasure, when he expects an eternal reward?
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.