Saint Pacifico of San Severino, Confessor

September 24

Today is the feast day of Saint Pacifico (Pacific) of San Severino.  Ora pro nobis.

Pacifico Bruni was born into a distinguished family in San Severino in the Marche of Ancona in central Italy in 1653. Pacifico never really got to know his parents, Antonio and Mariangela, both of whom died when he was three years old.  As a child he evinced unusual seriousness, great piety, and love of mortification.

Pacifico was an ascetic man. He fasted perpetually, eating no more than bread, soup or water. His “hair shirt” was made of iron. Poverty and obedience were two virtues for which his confreres especially remembered him.  After joining the Friars Minor, he was ordained. He taught philosophy for two years and then began a successful preaching career. 

He was first assigned to the surrounding villages of the Apennines, where he found the greatest delight in preaching the Gospel to the poor and the uneducated. No road was too rough, no mountain too steep for him. He looked up the poor shepherds in their out-of-the-way huts in order to instruct and guide them on the road that leads to God.

Saint Pacifico of San Severino was not long to enjoy this apostolic work. After a few years, he became ill and never completely recovered his health, so that he was obliged to serve God patiently with an infirm body for more than thirty years.

Saint Pacifico was completely satisfied with God’s designs in his regard. “God wills it,” he said in a cheerful way, “and so may His will be done.”

The painful suffering he had to endure, and the many acts of mortification he performed in addition, he joined to his unceasing prayers and offered them up for the salvation of souls and the conversion of sinners. Even in his sickness he was so modest that he would never allow anyone else to dress the ugly sores on his legs, but always took care of them himself.

When death finally summoned him and he had received Holy Communion for the last time with admirable devotion, he once more expressed his gratitude to God for all His benefits, and then, with his hands crossed upon his breast, surrendered his soul to his Creator. The day was September 24, 1721.

Many miracles occurred at his grave, and two dead persons were restored to life after his holy relics were applied to them. He was buried in a common grave used by his deceased brothers in the community, but his body was found incorrupt after four years, even though he was given no coffin.

When the body was moved, the head of the saint was accidently struck so hard against a stairway that the head of the corpse detached from the body. Blood flowed freely from the neck, splattering blood as if the body were still alive. The blood was sopped up with a shirt and kept as a relic.

Pope Gregory XVI canonized Saint Pacific in 1839.

Image: Lendinara, Duomo di Santa Sofia: interno, statua di San Pacifico. (5)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/saint-pacific.html
  2. http://catholicexchange.com/st-pacific-of-san-severino
  3. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/09/september-24-saint-pacificus-of-san.html
  4. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j277sdPacific_9_24.html
  5. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duomo_di_Santa_Sofia,_statue_of_Saint_Pacificus_(Lendinara).JPG

Commemoration of Our Lady of Ransom

September 24

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Ransom (also known as Our Lady of Mercy).  Ora pro nobis.

Our Blessed Lady ‘De Mercede,’ or for the Redemption of Captives


by Fr. Francis Cuthbert Doyle, 1896

The appropriateness of this beautiful title, given in 1218 to our Lady, will best be understood from a narration of the events which led to the institution of this festival in her honour, and to the foundation of a Religious Order under the same glorious appellation. In the year 1189, there was born in Languedoc a nobleman named Peter Nolasco, whose soul God filled, even in his earliest years, with a great love of virtue, and with a tender compassion for the poor. At the age of twenty-five he made a vow of chastity, and joined himself to Simon de Montfort in his crusade against the Albigensian heretics. After the defeat of these latter, James I., King of Aragon, appointed him tutor to his son, whom he accompanied into Spain. At that time the Moors had seized upon certain parts of the Peninsula, and the sight of the misery to which Christians were reduced in slavery under these cruel task-masters, filled the heart of Peter with a desire to lighten their heavy burthen.

While revolving in his mind how his good-will might best be carried into effect, our Lady appeared to him, in a vision during the night, and intimated to him that it would be very pleasing to her Divine Son, if an Order of religious men were established for the redemption of captives. On the following day, Peter went to his confessor, St. Raymund de Pennafort, to tell him of the vision with which he had been favoured; but to his great surprise, he found the Saint already acquainted with the fact, for the same heavenly visitant had graciously signified her wish to him also. Moreover, she had revealed to the King that this project had the blessing of her Divine Son. These three, therefore, at once determined to establish a Religious Order for the purpose of redeeming captive Christians from the tyranny of the Moors.

In addition to the usual vows of religion, they by a fourth vow bound themselves to remain, if necessary, in captivity till ransom could be procured for the liberation of the slaves. Pope Honorius III. by word of mouth approved of this Brotherhood, and Pope Gregory IX. in 1235, solemnly confirmed and established it as a Religious Order. He gave its members the Rule of St. Augustine to guide them to perfection, and a white habit to remind them of the purity to which they were to aspire under the patronage of the most pure Virgin. Thus, under the auspices of our Lady of Redemption, these holy men set about their heroic work, and while rescuing the bodies of Christians from the slavery of the Moors, they did their utmost to free their souls from the slavery of the devil.

You may judge from this indication of Mary’s love for the Christian people, and from her eagerness to free their bodies from the tyranny of cruel and infidel masters, what must be her zeal to free them from the still more cruel slavery of Satan. They are her children, committed to her care by Jesus Christ, loved by Him with unutterable tenderness, and purchased at the price of His bitter Passion. In her eyes they are, so to speak, invested with the personality of Jesus Christ. They are, in a measure, unto her what He was, and therefore the love which she bore to Him is transferred to them. Judge therefore of her sorrow, when she beholds them in the jaws of the wolves of hell. When men lose their liberty, and fall beneath the yoke of a foreign power, it is their bodies only that are in chains; their minds, their souls are free. No dungeon can darken their light, no manacles, no fetters can bind down their thoughts or their aspirations. The tyrant may threaten, may kill; but he cannot compel the will to bend. If, as a last resource, he strike with the sword, one sharp pang will forever free the poor wretched prisoner from his clutches.

It is far otherwise with the tyranny of the devil. He enslaves the souls of men. With a tempting bait, he first allures them into his nets, and having once entrapped them, he holds them fast. Very speedily sin enfeebles the will, darkens the intellect, and fills the soul with disgust for heavenly things. Hence, when from time to time grace urges it to rise again, it may do so for a season, feeling all the while how terribly strong is the hold which the devil has upon its powers. It struggles against him for a while, and then falls back. Thus the evil one, by his tyranny, succeeds in destroying not only the bodies of his slaves, but their immortal souls. Therefore, Jesus bids us not to fear those who can destroy only the body: ‘I will tell you,’ He adds, ‘whom you shall fear. Fear Him who can destroy the soul.’

Our dear Mother is, therefore, full of tender solicitude for her children. When she beholds them in the power of this cruel enemy of her Son, she lifts up her pure and spotless hands before the throne of God, and continually pleads with Him for them, that the ransom of the precious blood may be applied to them, that their chains may be broken, and that they themselves may be restored to liberty.

Knowing, therefore, the great love of your holy Mother Mary for poor sinners, you must strive to the utmost of your ability to second her desire for the redemption of souls from the slavery of sin. In order that your zeal may be according to knowledge, you must begin with yourself; for otherwise you will present to the eyes both of Angels and of men the ridiculous spectacle of one who saves others, but destroys himself; who points out to others the way to heaven, but will not himself walk in it.

Do not be so foolish. Let not sin dwell in your soul; suffer it not to enslave your heart. Be not of the number of those fools who fancy that they can for a time walk with the devil, and then easily withdraw from his fellowship; who imagine that they may float with the stream, and then return in safety to the pleasant shore. Those who think thus, little know the tenacious grasp with which sin holds a man down in its iron fetters, nor the velocity with which the stream of iniquity whirls him beyond the reach of help or the hope of return. If you are wise, learn this in time. Withdraw your feet at once and forever from the fetters of sin, and turn your back resolutely upon the glitter of the tempting stream. After thus manifesting zeal for your own soul, you may venture to be zealous for the souls of others; for he who is in safety may strive to help others, and he who is not sick may with propriety try to heal those who are. (1)

Our Lady of Ransom

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
 

Finding their power partly crushed in Spain, and in the East checked by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Muslim Saracens in the 12th century became wholesale pirates, and scoured the seas to obtain slaves for the African markets. We shudder to think of the numberless victims, of every age, sex, and condition, suddenly carried off from the coasts of Christian lands, or captured on the high seas, and condemned to the disgrace of the harem or the miseries of the bagnio. Here, nevertheless, in many an obscure prison, were enacted scenes of heroism worthy to compare with those witnessed in the early persecutions; here was a new field for Christian charity; new horizons opened out for heroic self-devotion. Is not the spiritual good thence arising a sufficient reason for the permission of temporal ills? Without this permission, Heaven would have forever lacked a portion of its beauty.

When in 1696 Innocent XII extended this Feast to the whole Church, he afforded the world an opportunity of expressing its gratitude by a testimony as universal as the benefit received.

Differing from the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians), which had been already 20 years in existence, the Order of Mercy (Mercedarians) was founded as it were in the very face of the Moors; and hence it originally numbered more knights than clerics among its members. It was called the Royal, Military, and Religious Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Redemption of Captives. The clerics were charged with the celebration of Mass and the Divine Office in the commandaries; the knights guarded the coasts, and undertook the perilous enterprise of ransoming Christian captives. St. Peter Nolasco was the first Commander or Grand Master of the Order; when his relics were discovered, he was found armed with sword and cuirass.

In the lessons of Matins for this Feast, Holy Church gives us Her thoughts upon these facts:

At the time when the Saracen yoke oppressed the larger and more fertile part of Spain, and great numbers of the faithful were detained in cruel servitude, at the great risk of denying their Christian Faith and losing their eternal salvation, the Most Blessed Queen of Heaven graciously came to remedy all these great evils, and showed Her exceeding charity in redeeming Her children. She appeared with beaming countenance to Peter Nolasco, a man conspicuous for wealth and piety, who in his holy meditations was ever striving to devise some means of helping the innumerable Christians living in misery as captives of the Moors. She told him it would be very pleasing to Her and Her Only-Begotten Son, if a Religious Order were instituted in Her honor, whose members should devote themselves to delivering captives from the tyranny of the Turks. Animated by this heavenly vision, the man of God was inflamed with burning love, having but one desire in his heart, that both he and the Order he was to found, might be devoted to the exercise of that highest charity – the laying down of life for one’s friends and neighbors.

That same night, the Most Holy Virgin appeared also to Blessed Raymond of Pennafort, and to King James of Aragon, telling them of Her wish to have the Order instituted, and exhorting them to lend their aid to so great an undertaking. Meanwhile Peter hastened to relate the whole matter to Raymond, who was his confessor; and finding it had been already revealed to him from Heaven, submitted humbly to his direction. King James next arrived, fully resolved to carry out the instructions he also had received from the Blessed Virgin. Having therefore taken counsel together and being all of one mind, they set about instituting an Order in honor of the Virgin Mother, under the invocation of Our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives.

On the 10th of August, in the year of Our Lord 1218, King James put into execution what the two holy men had planned. The members of the Order bound themselves by a fourth vow to remain, when necessary, as securities in the power of the pagans, in order to deliver Christians. The King granted them license to bear his royal arms upon their breast, and obtained from Pope Gregory IX the confirmation of this Religious institute distinguished by such eminent charity toward neighbor. God Himself gave increase to the work, through His Virgin Mother; so that the Order spread rapidly and prosperously over the whole world. It soon reckoned many holy men remarkable for their charity and piety who collected alms from Christ’s faithful, to be spent in redeeming their brethren; and sometimes gave themselves up as ransom for many others. In order that due thanks might be rendered to God and His Virgin Mother for the benefit of such an institution, the Apostolic See allowed this special Feast and Office to be celebrated, and also granted innumerable other privileges to the Order.

Blessed be Thou, O Mary, the honor and the joy of Thy people! On the day of Thy glorious Assumption, Thou didst take possession of Thy queenly dignity for our sake; and the annals of the human race are a record of Thy merciful interventions. The captives whose chains Thou hast broken, and whom Thou hast set free from the degrading yoke of the Saracens, may be reckoned in the millions. We are still rejoicing in the recollection of Thy dear Birthday; and Thy smile is sufficient to dry our tears and chase away the clouds of grief. And yet, what sorrows there are still upon the earth, where Thou Thyself didst drink such long draughts from the cup of suffering! Thou alone, O Mary, canst break the inextricable chains, in which the cunning prince of darkness entangles the dupes he has deceived by the high-sounding names of equality and liberty. Show thyself a Queen, by coming to the rescue. The whole earth, the entire human race, cries out to Thee, in the words of Mordochai: “Speak to the King for us, and deliver us from death!” (Esther 15: 3) (3)

Image: Madonna of Mercy, artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1472 (8)

Research by REGINA Staff

 1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Our%20Lady%20of%20Ransom.html
2. http://catholictradition.org/Mary/mary3a.htm
3. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-149/Our%20Lady%20of%20Ransom.htm
4. http://www.nobility.org/2013/09/23/our-lady-of-mercy/
5. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/09/our-lady-of-ransom.html
6. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/our_lady_of_ransom_or_of_mercy.html
 7. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-24.html

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Confessor

September 23

Today is the feast day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.   Ora pro nobis.

Born Francesco Forgione (named after Saint Francis of Assisi), this young saint grew up in a family of farmers in the small town of Peitrelcina (southern Italy). Twice, his father left the family, working in Jamaica, Queens (New York), to supplement the family income. From his childhood, it was evident that Francesco was a special child of God. Francesco was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. At this young age, devoted to Our Blessed Mother, Francesco began praying the Holy Rosary every day. He eventually demonstrated great love for Our Lady of Fatima, attributing a cure of his own illness to her intercession.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins as a novice, and received the habit in 1902. After seven years of study, he took the name Padre Pio upon ordination in 1910. Drafted during World War I, he was discharged after the discovery that he had tuberculosis. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. He would live the remainder of his life there, but his life was about to become much more blessed, and much more complicated.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. This was the first of many ecstasies this holy man would experience. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. (Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scarring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal.) The wounds of the stigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio. The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and when Padre Pio thought of those he directed (even if they were not present), they reported that they were surrounded by the odor of violets.

Saint Pio (1887-1968), mystic, confessor, and stigmatic. For the majority of his life, Padre Pio bore the continually bleeding stigmata of Christ and experienced the pain and suffering of His Passion. Famous for preaching, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering,” Padre Pio bore these daily pains with grace and humility, joining his suffering to that of Christ, and drawing upon his experience to guide others in the paths of righteousness. In one of the largest canonization ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II spoke of Padre Pio in 2002, highlighting his prayer and charity, as well as his patient suffering. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the Holy Father. If accepted with love such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”

Padre Pio saw the benefits of suffering with joy, and the path of righteous suffering that leads to the Lord.

On  Friday, September 20, 1968, the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s receiving the Stigmata, he was very weak. He confined to a wheelchair, but still said Holy Mass. And he heard Confessions until ordered by his superior to cease for rest. It as if the people knew for they began coming in great numbers, praying for their beloved Padre. On Sunday he said his last Mass, heard his last Confessions and gave the crowds his final blessing.

On Monday, the 23rd, very early in the morning—it was just past midnight—he asked his confreres to come; he made his last Confession. He received Extreme Unction—as I have said—one of the favored few, that is, dying before the complete disorientation, in this case, the introduction of the rite of the Sacrament of the Sick which is not the equivalent of Extreme Unction. Now the Church has the power and authority to make changes in this Sacrament because Christ did not give the Apostles the form directly, like he did with the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament and Baptism. But all the Saints warn us against the rejection of Tradition, to which the Sacrament of Extreme Unction belongs as do all the Sacraments. Changes where permitted in the sacred rites are to be of necessity. Nothing whatsoever mandated the change here.

At 2 AM he exclaimed that he could see his two mothers, his earthly mother and Our Lady. Even now his hands were still bleeding as he held his Rosary, unable now to say a Hail Mary. With his dying breath he uttered Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria. And he passed into eternity with these words.

After he died his wounds were miraculously healed and most wondrous of all there was no blood left in his body, as if he had bled his last drop to suffer for Christ, as Christ suffered

His body is entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Saint said that a body should be buried where its souls departed from it. Padre Pio’s beloved mother, who had died in his arms while she visited him for Christmas in 1929, is also buried in San Giovanni Rotondo Rotundo, next to her husband, who died in 1946, after he had made the monastery his home in his old age.

Image: Father Pio de Pietrelcina (6)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/09/sepember-23-saint-padre-pio.html
  2. http://www.catholictradition.org/Padre-Pio/padre-pio.htm
  3. http://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/st-pius-of-pietrelcina-1887-1968-padre-pio/
  4. http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2013/11/miracle-stories-in-life-of-st-padre-pio.html
  5. http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2013/08/little-known-stories-of-st-padre-pio.html
  6. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Padre_P%C3%ADo_03.jpg

Saint Linus, Pope, Martyr

September 23

Today is the feast day of Pope Saint Linus.  Ora pro nobis.

The “Liber Pontificalis” asserts that Linus’s home was in Tuscany, and that his father’s name was Herculanus; but we cannot discover the origin of this assertion.

Not much is known as certain concerning his life. He was reportedly converted to the faith in Rome after hearing St. Peter preach the Gospel. He renounced his noble origins and to serve Christ more perfectly. He soon gave admirable proofs of his zeal, learning and prudence, and the first Vicar of Christ employed him in preaching and the administration of the Sacraments.

He crossed into Gaul, and became the bishop of the city of Besançon. The number of the faithful increased daily by the conversion of many idolaters. The Saint one day attempted to turn some of those away from the celebration of a festival in honor of their gods, telling them that these idols were but statues without breath or sentiment, and represented only human beings whose vices were public knowledge.

He exhorted them to turn to the unique God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, to whom alone man owes the homage of sacrifice. A prodigy followed his words; a column of their temple crumbled and caused the fall of an idol, which broke into a thousand pieces. The worshipers, unmoved by this, drove the Saint out of the city of Besançon, as the city’s tradition still attests.

St. Linus was the immediate successor of St. Peter in the see of Rome, as St. Irenæus, Eusebius, St. Epiphanius, St. Optatus, St. Austin, and others assure us. Tertullian say that St. Clement was appointed by St. Peter to be his successor; but either he declined that dignity till St. Linus and St. Cletus had preceded him in it, or he was at first only vicar of St. Peter, to govern under him the Gentile converts, whilst that apostle presided over the whole church, yet so as to be chiefly taken up in instructing the Jewish converts, and in preaching abroad.

Linus’s term of office, according to the papal lists handed down to us, lasted only twelve years. The Liberian Catalogue shows that it lasted twelve years, four months, and twelve days. Perhaps it was on account of these dates that the writers of the fourth century gave their opinion that Linus had held the position of head of the Roman community during the life of the Apostle; e.g., Rufinus in the preface to his translation of the pseudo-Clementine “Recognitiones”.

But this hypothesis has no historical foundation. It cannot be doubted that according to the accounts of Irenaeus concerning the Roman Church in the second century, Linus was chosen to be head of the community of Christians in Rome, after the death of the Apostle. For this reason his pontificate dates from the year of the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which, however, is not known for certain.

His body was buried in the Vatican near that of Saint Peter. It was only in the 17th century that his tomb reappeared, marked Linus, when Pope Urban VIII had the work on the Confession of Saint Peter completed in the Basilica bearing his name.

Image: Patrobulus, Hermas, Linus, Caius, Philologus of 70 disciples (Menologion of Basil II) (5)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09272b.htm
  2. http://www.bartleby.com/210/9/231.html
  3. http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2006/08/pope-linus.html
  4. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_linus.html
  5. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Patrobulus,_Hermas,_Linus,_Caius,_Philologus_of_70_disciples_(Menologion_of_Basil_II).jpg

Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion, Martyrs

September 22

Today is the feast day of Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion.  Orate pro nobis.

The legend (Acta SS., VI, Sept., 308, 895) relates that the legion, composed entirely of Christians, had been called from Africa to suppress a revolt of the Bagandæ in Gaul.

Sion in Valais (a canton of Switzerland), at a place called Aguanum (now called Saint-Maurice), the birthday of the holy martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Vitalis, with their companions of the Theban Legion, who were massacred under Maximian for the name of Christ, and filled the whole world with the renown of their martyrdom” (Roman Martyrology—Sept. 22). Let us unite with Rome in paying honor to these valiant soldiers, the glorious patrons of Christian armies as well as of numerous churches.

“Emperor,” said they, “we are thy soldiers, but we are also the servants of God. To Him we took our first oaths; if we break them, how canst thou trust us to keep our oaths to thee?” No command, no discipline can overrule our baptismal vows. Every soldier is bound, in honor and in conscience, to obey the Lord of Hosts in preference to all human commanders, who are but His subalterns. These Christian soldiers, who suffered in the third century, were commanded something against their Faith. When they refused, they were tried by the discipline known as decimation, that is—every tenth of their number was put to the sword. The rest were then given another opportunity to comply with the wicked order they had refused to obey. When these remained firm, the decimation was repeated. These slaughters continued until they had all suffered martyrdom.

However, a detachment of some fifty Christian soldiers of the same Theban Legion had been sent to Colonia Agrippina (Cologne, Germany) under the leadership of St. Gereon. There they too won the palm of martyrdom. They are greatly venerated in Cologne and the Rheinland.

This group of over 6600 Roman soldiers, led and inspired by Saint Maurice, were summarily executed for failing to sacrifice to idols and cut down unarmed Christians. The heroic deaths of Rome’s only all-Christian legion, based out of Thebes, is testament to the faith of each individual man, as well as the growing conviction of the Christian Church (and willingness to stand up to persecution and oppression) in the late third and early fourth centuries. We are inspired today by that conviction and sacrifice, to take stock of the role our own individual faith plays in our lives.

The story of Theban Legion has been preserved for us by Saint Eucher, the bishop of Lyons, who died in 494 AD. The bishop started the account of the martyrdom of these valiant soldiers by the following introduction: “Here is the story of the passion of the holy Martyrs who have made Aguanum [modern day Saint Maurice-en-Valais in Switzerland, where the martyrdom took place] illustrious with their blood. It is in honor of this heroic martyrdom that we narrate with our pen the order of events as it came to our ears. We often hear, do we not, a particular locality or city is held in high honor because of one single martyr who died there, and quite rightly, because in each case the saint gave his precious soul to the most high God. How much more should this sacred place, Aguanum, be reverenced, where so many thousands of martyrs have been slain, with the sword, for the sake of Christ.”

Saint Maurice became a patron saint of the Holy Roman Emperors. In 926, Henry I (919–936), ceded the present Swiss canton of Aargau to the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais, in return for Saint Maurice’s lance, sword, and spurs. These relics were used at the coronations of the Holy Roman, and were among the most important insignia of the imperial throne. Many emperors were anointed before the altar of Saint Maurice in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

In 961, Emperor Otto the Great built and enriched the cathedral at Magdeburg in preparation for his own tomb. In that year, in the presence of all of the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas, the body of St. Maurice was conveyed to Emperor Otto at Regensburg along with the bodies of some of the saint’s companion legionaries. They were then conveyed to Magdeburg, received with great honor and are still venerated there.

St. Maurice is represented as a knight in full armour (sometimes as a Moor), bearing a standard and a palm; in Italian paintings with a red cross on his breast, which is the badge of the Sardinian Order of St. Maurice. Many places in Switzerland, Piedmont, France, and Germany have chosen him as celestial patron, as have also the dyers, clothmakers, soldiers, swordsmiths, and others. He is invoked against gout, cramps, etc.

Image: Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion, artist: Pontormo, circa 1528-1530 (6)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-165/Villanova.html#Maurice
  2. http://gardenofmary.com/september-22-the-theban-legion/
  3. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/09/september-22-saint-maurice-and-martyrs.html
  4. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_maurice_and_the_theban_legion.html
  5. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10068c.htm
  6. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jacopo_Pontormo_-_Martyrdom_of_St_Maurice_and_the_Theban_Legion_-_WGA18102.jpg

Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor

September 22

Today is the feast day of Saint Thomas of Villanova.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Thomas was born at Fuentellana, Spain, 1488. He was the son of Aloazo Tomas Garcia and Lucia Martínez Castellanos.  Thomas was brought up in the practices of religion and charity.  His mother was a Christian of extraordinary tenderness for the poor. His mother was a Christian of extraordinary tenderness for the poor. God worked a miracle for her one day, when her servants had given away absolutely all the flour in their storeroom. When another beggar came to the door, she told them to go back once more and look again, and they found the storeroom filled with flour. Her little son followed his mother’s example, and one day gave away, to six poor persons in succession, the six young chicks which had been following the hen around in the yard. When his mother asked where they were, he said, You didn’t leave any bread in the house, Mama, so I gave them the chicks! I would have given the hen if another beggar had come.

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

Among the many Saints, celebrated on account of their virtues and miracles, who adorned the Catholic Church at a period when a great number of heretics revolted against her, one of the most famous was St. Thomas of Villanova. He was born 1488, in Castile, and received his surname from the city where he was educated. His parents were very pious, and besides possessing other virtues, they distinguished themselves by their liberality to the poor. Thomas followed closely in their footsteps, and even in his childhood gave all he could to the poor. The bread given him for his breakfast he laid by and gave it to the needy. More than once he took off his own coat and gave it to some poor man whom he met, and when reproved for it he said: “He to whom I gave it, needed it more than I.” The same he did with his shoes and other garments. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was so great and so constant, that he was called the child of Mary. But notwithstanding his piety and devotion he applied himself so earnestly to his studies at Alcala, that he had hardly reached the age of twenty-six years, when he was appointed to teach philosophy and theology. He kept his purity and innocence unspotted in numberless dangers, making use of the same means that preserved other Saints in similar circumstances. While he was engaged in his studies, he lost his father, and inherited from him, among other property, a large house, which he changed into a hospital.

He left the world in 1518, and took the habit of the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine, the same order of which the unhappy Martin Luther was a member in Germany, when he began to attack the Catholic religion. It seemed to be the intention of the Almighty to compensate the Order with St. Thomas for the infamous apostacy of Luther, which took place about that time. Having practiced fasting, self-abnegation and mortification from his tenth year, Thomas found no difficulty in fulfilling all the duties of his novitiate. Already at that period he was looked upon as a perfect example of all virtues. Soon after he had made his vows, he was raised to the highest functions of his order, as he possessed unusual wisdom and knowledge, and he administered them to the greatest benefit and satisfaction of all the members. He was gifted with an especial talent for preaching, and did indescribable good by his sermons. The Emperor Charles V. delighted in listening to him as often as he had the opportunity, and appointed him his spiritual counsellor and preacher at the court. The King of Portugal called him to his court, and with all his nobles paid him the greatest attention. One day, when he was asked where he obtained such deep thoughts, such wonderful perception, and how he had learned such penetrating eloquence, he replied: “The crucifix is the best instructor for preachers; and prayer is the best lesson they can learn.”

After the Saint had, for many years, discharged the functions of an apostolic preacher, to the salvation of thousands of souls, the emperor appointed him Archbishop of Grenada; but the humble servant of God had so much to object, that the emperor was obliged to relinquish the idea. When, however, the see of Valencia became vacant, the holy man could not again refuse obedience to his superiors; and the wish of the emperor, with the unanimous desire of the clergy and the people, forced him to accept it. The space allowed to us is too limited to relate, even partially, the labors performed by St. Thomas as Archbishop for the honor of the Church and the welfare of his flock. He united all the virtues which became his high dignity. He began by visiting his whole diocese, and afterwards charged men gifted with virtue and wisdom to do the same. He endeavored, by preaching and admonition, to uproot vice, to implant virtue, and to abolish abuses. His blameless and holy life gave to his words the greatest force; hence it was that so many conversions of the most hardened sinners, and a general reformation of morals crowned the endeavors of this apostolic shepherd.

He fared no better than the simplest brother of his Order, nor did he wear other garments; for he was wont to say: “Virtues and good works must distinguish a bishop from his flock, but not his house, garments, domestics, or costly table.” No other than earthenware dishes were used at his table, and he not only observed all the fasts ordained by the Church, but also those of his Order. His bed was a straw mattress, or some vine branches covered with a woolen blanket. He allowed himself no recreation, but constantly endeavored to mortify his body. But severe as he was to himself, he was charitable and liberal to others, especially the poor. He declared frequently, that he rejoiced to be bishop, only because it gave him more opportunities to work for the salvation of souls, and to do good to the poor, than he had in the cloister. When he entered upon his Episcopal functions, the canons perceived his poverty, and presented him with four thousand ducats. The Saint received them gratefully, but directly sent the whole sum to the hospitals and poorhouses, saying: “As the poverty which I vowed to maintain accords well with the dignity of Archbishop, I intend to live in accordance with my vow.” This holy resolution he preserved until his death, and also continued his charity to the poor.

Seldom a day passed on which he did not provide four or five hundred poor with food and money; besides the charity he bestowed upon the bashful poor, prisoners, and orphans. He inquired diligently for the really needy, and sent them, unasked, what he thought they required. The same charity he bestowed upon the poor artisans, day-laborers, and needy virgins. The latter he enabled, by the dower he gave them, either to enter a convent or to marry. Not many are the saints who possessed the virtue of charity in a more eminent degree than St. Thomas, and God bountifully rewarded it; for, it is well known that the grain in the barns, the money in his purse, the flour and other articles destined for the poor were miraculously multiplied. Notwithstanding these and many other virtues, constantly practiced by the holy bishop, he yet feared that he was not doing enough, and that he would be unable to justify himself before his God. Hence, he prayed to the Almighty to take so unworthy a superior from his Church. God at last heard his prayer, not to deprive His church of an unworthy superior, but to reward a faithful and unwearied servant.

One day, when St. Thomas repeated his prayer before a crucifix, his heart filled with an intense desire to see God, he heard these words proceed from the mouth of the image: “Be comforted, Thomas; thou shalt receive the reward of thy labors on the day of the Nativity of my beloved Mother.” From that moment the mind of the Saint was full of holy joy. He evinced more zeal than ever in the functions of his exalted station, and in the exercise of other good works, especially in deeds of charity. On the 29th of August, he became sick, and his first care was to receive the Holy Sacraments. After making a general confession, the Blessed Eucharist was brought to him in procession, and he received it with such devotion that the eyes of all who beheld him filled with tears. He then admonished them to love and fear God and be charitable to the poor. Three days before his death, he distributed among the poor of the city all that remained of his revenues. When on the eve of his death he heard that a small sum of money was still at his disposal, he said to those around him: “I entreat you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you give it without delay to the poor: for, you can do nothing that will give me greater pleasure.” The same was done with the little furniture his residence contained.

When it was announced to him, on the following day that his order had been executed, he turned towards the crucifix and said: “I give Thee thanks, O my Saviour, for the grace Thou bestowest on me in permitting me to die in poverty. Thou hast given me the administration of Thy property; I have distributed it in accordance with Thy holy will.” Soon after, he recollected that the bed on which he was lying, was his own, and that he was not yet entirely poor. Immediately calling one of those in the room to his side, he said to him: “My friend, I give this bed to you; but I beg you, for God’s sake, to lend it me until I am gone.” Not an eye was dry at this example of entire renunciation of everything temporal. St. Thomas alone was cheerful, and desired that they would slowly read to him the passion of Christ, during which he kept his eyes fixed on the crucifix, whilst his ardent sighs showed his longing to be united with the Lord.

After this, he requested to have Mass said in his room, at which he assisted with great devotion. Tears were streaming from the eyes of the holy bishop, when the priest, after the consecration, raised the sacred Host. At the elevation of the chalice, he began slowly to repeat the psalm: “In thee, O Lord, have I hoped.” After each verse he paused; and at the communion of the priest, he said the last words of the psalm: ” In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded.” Then he closed his eyes, and the soul of this great and holy bishop went to the Almighty, in the sixty-eighth year of his life, in the year of our Lord, 1555, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Before and after his death, God honored him with many great miracles which were wrought by his intercession. (1)

He was taken ill in August, 1555, of angina pectoris, of which he died at the age of 67, at the termination of Mass in his bedroomm. His last words were the versicles: “In manus tuas, Domine”, etc.; his remains were entombed at the convent Church of Our Lady of Help of his order outside the city walls, whence later they were brought to the cathedral.  He was beatified by Paul V (7 Oct., 1618), who set his feast-day for 18 Sept., and canonized by Alexander VII on 1 Nov., 1658.

Image: San Tommaso da Villanova, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, Roma  (6)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Thomas%20of%20Villanova%20popup.html
  2. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-16.htm
  3. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-165/Villanova.html
  4. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_thomas_of_villanova.html
  5. http://www.nobility.org/2015/09/21/st-thomas-of-villanova/
  6. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sant%27Agostino_(Roma)_%E2%80%93_San_Tommaso_da_Villanova,_Melchiorre_Caf%C3%A0.jpg
  7. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-22.html
  8. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/09/september-22-saint-thomas-of-villanueva.html
  9. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j147sd_Villanova_8-22.shtml

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 21

Today is the feast day of Saint Matthew.  Ora pro nobis.

Matthew, a Jew, was a tax collector for the Romans and accused of being a traitor to his own people, went on to write his Gospel.  In the list of the apostles (Matt 10:3) Matthew is called “the tax collector”. Jesus saw him sitting by the customs house in Capernaum and said to him: “Follow me”. And leaving everything, he got up and followed him (Mt 9:9). Mark (2:14) and Luke (5:27-32) call him Levi when they describe this event.

As a Roman tax collector, the people would have  regarded Matthew as an exploiter and collaborator with the Romans, in that sense a traitor to his people. And so when Jesus and other disciples were at dinner at Matthew’s house, the scribes and Pharisees taunt the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1: 1). The Eagle and Lion have already risen in the heavens of the holy liturgy; today we salute the Man; and next month the Ox will appear, to complete the number of the four living creatures, who surround His throne in Heaven and draw the chariot of God through the world (Ezech. 1; according to the traditional interpretation, the “living creature” with the face of an eagle represents St. John, that with the face of a lion represents St. Mark, that with the face of an ox represents St. Luke, and that with the face of a man represents St. Matthew). These mysterious beings, with their six seraph wings, are ever gazing with their innumerable eyes upon the Lamb Who stands upon the throne as it were slain; and they rest not day and night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come.” St. John beheld them giving to the elect the signal to praise their Creator and Redeemer; and when all created beings in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, have adoringly proclaimed that the Lamb, Who was slain, is worthy of power and divinity and glory and empire forever, it is they that add to the world’s homage the seal of their testimony, saying: “Amen!” (Apoc. 5: 14)

Great and singular, then, is the glory of the Evangelists. The name of Matthew signifies one who is given. He gave himself when, at the word of Jesus “follow Me,” he rose up and followed Him; but far greater was the gift he received from God in return. The Most High, who looks down from Heaven upon the low things of earth, loves to choose the humble for the princes of His people. Levi, occupied in a profession that was hated by the Jews and despised by the Gentiles (tax collector), belonged to the lowest rank of society; but still more humble was he in heart, when, laying aside the delicate reserve shown in his regard by the other Evangelists, he openly placed his former ignominious title beside the glorious one of Apostle. By so doing, he published the magnificent mercy of Him Who had come to heal the sick not the healthy, and to call not the just but sinners. For thus exalting the abundance of God’s grace, he merited its superabundance; St. Matthew was called to be the first Evangelist. Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he wrote, with that inimitable simplicity which speaks straight to the heart, the Gospel of the Messias expected by Israel, and announced by the prophets; the descendant of its kings, and Himself the King of the daughter of Sion; of the Messias Who had come not to destroy the Law, but to bring it to its full completion in an everlasting, universal covenant.

In his simple-hearted gratitude, Levi made a feast for his Divine Benefactor. It was at this banquet that Jesus, defending His disciple as well as Himself, replied to those who pretended to be scandalized: “Can the children of the Bridegroom mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast” (Matt. 9: 15). Clement of Alexandria bears witness to the Apostle’s subsequent austerity; assuring us that he lived on nothing but vegetables and wild fruits. The Breviary lessons will tell us moreover of his zeal for the Master Who had so sweetly touched his heart, and of his fidelity in preserving for Him souls inebriated with the “wine springing forth virgins” (Zach. 9: 17). This fidelity, indeed, cost him his life; his martyrdom was in defense and confirmation of the duties and rights of holy virginity. To the end of time the Church, in consecrating Her virgins, will make use of the beautiful blessing pronounced by him over the Ethiopian princess, which the blood of the Apostle and Evangelist has imbued with a special virtue (Pontifcale Romanum).

The Church gives us this short account of a life better known to God than to men:

St. Matthew, also named Levi, was an Apostle and Evangelist. He was sitting in the custom-house at Capharnaum when called by Christ, Whom he immediately followed; and then made a feast for Him and His disciples. After the resurrection of Christ, and before setting out for the province which it was his lot to evangelize, St. Matthew was the first to write the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote it in Hebrew, for the sake of those of the circumcision, who had been converted. Soon after, he went into Ethiopia, where he preached the Gospel, and confirmed his teaching by many miracles.

One of the greatest of these was his raising to life the king’s daughter, whereby he converted the king and his wife, and the whole country. After the king’s death, his daughter Iphigenia was demanded in marriage by his successor Hirtacus, who, finding that through St. Matthew’s exhortation she had vowed her virginity to God and now persevered in her holy resolution, ordered the Apostle to be put to death, as he was celebrating the Holy Mysteries at the altar. Thus on the eleventh of the Kalends of October (September 21), he crowned his apostolate with the glory of martyrdom. His body was translated to Salerno; and in the time of Pope St. Gregory VII it was laid in a church dedicated to his name, where it is piously honored by a great concourse of people.

O St. Matthew, how pleasing must thy humility have been to Our Lord; that humility which has raised thee so high in the Kingdom of Heaven, and which made thee, on earth, the confidant of Incarnate Wisdom. The Son of God, Who hides His secrets from the wise and prudent and reveals them to little ones, renovated thy soul by intimacy with Himself, and filled it with the new wine of His heavenly doctrine. So fully didst thou understand His love, that He chose thee to be the first historian of His life on earth. The Man-God revealed Himself through thee to the Church. She has inherited thy glorious teaching as She calls it in the Secret of the Mass; for the Synagogue refused to understand both the Divine Master and the prophets who were His heralds.

There is one teaching, indeed, which not all, even of the elect, can understand and receive; just as in Heaven not all follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, nor can all sing the new canticle reserved to those whose love here on earth has been undivided. O Evangelist of holy virginity, and Martyr for its sake! Watch over the choicest portion of Our Lord’s flock. Remember also, O Levi, all those for whom, as thou tellest us, the Emmanuel received His beautiful Name of Savior. The whole redeemed world honors thee and implores thy assistance. Thou hast recorded for us the admirable Sermon on the Mount; by the path of virtue there traced out, lead us to that Kingdom of Heaven, which is the ever-recurring theme of thy inspired writing. (1)

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876 

St. Matthew, the holy Apostle and Evangelist, was born at Cana in Galilee, where our Lord wrought his first miracle, by changing water into wine. The Gospel says that he was a publican or tax-collector, an office greatly despised by the Jews, first, because they considered themselves a free people, and thought the government had no right to exact taxes from them; and secondly, because those who were in this office generally defrauded the people, extorting from them more than was lawful. Hence they were classed and counted among the public sinners. 

One day, when Matthew was sitting in his custom-house, in the discharge of his duty, Christ passed with His disciples, and seeing Matthew, He looked lovingly on him and said: “Follow me!” Enlightened and moved by divine grace, Matthew arose, and following Christ, invited Him into his house, where he prepared a banquet for Him, to which he invited many publicans and sinners, that they might hear the instructions of the Saviour and be converted. The Pharisees complained of it to the disciples of the Saviour, saying; “Why does your master eat with publicans and sinners? ” Christ answered for His disciples and said: “They that are well need not the physician, but they that are sick.” By these words, He desired to intimate that they had no cause to murmur at His associating with sinners, as one could not reasonably reprove a physician for being with the sick; and He had come into the world to convert sinners, as a physician goes to heal the sick. When the feast was ended, Matthew followed Christ and was numbered by Him among the Apostles. Having received the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, he labored like the other Apostles for the conversion of the Jews. But before going to the district appointed to him as the field wherein he had to sow the word of God, he wrote his Gospel, as a short sketch of the life, sufferings and death of the Saviour, in order to impress better the teachings of the Apostles on the minds of the newly converted. This was immediately copied a great many times and preached by the other Apostles in those countries which they were to convert. 

St. Matthew went to Ethiopia and thence into the neighboring states. He began his mission at Nadabar, the capital, where he met two notorious magicians named Zaroes and Arphaxad, who, by their hellish art, caused people to become sick, after which they cured them by magic, and thus gained the reputation of performing miracles, besides which, they gathered great riches. The holy Apostle discovered the fraudulent means by which they deceived the credulous, and he admonished the inhabitants of the city, not to fear those two men, as he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in whose name, all such diabolical art would be destroyed. When the two magicians saw that they lost credit and gain by these remarks of the Apostle, they endeavored by new sorcery to frighten the people; but the Saint, making their fraud public, caused himself to be greatly esteemed, so that the people commenced to attend his sermons, and to take an interest in the faith he announced. 

The many miracles which the Saint performed at length opened the eyes of the blind pagans; they recognized their error, and truth took possession of their hearts. What more then all else furthered the conversion of this nation, was the miracle by which the holy Apostle raised from the dead the royal princess. Her father, the king of Ethiopia, had called the magicians to his court and requested them to give back life to his child. The wicked deceivers used all their evil powers; but the spirits of hell which they invoked, could not reanimate the lifeless body. Hence the holy Apostle, was called, who going towards the dead, commanded her, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise. The princess immediately arose, full of life and health, in presence of the king and all his courtiers. This miracle induced the king, with his whole court, to receive instruction in the Christian faith, and to be baptized with great solemnity. The example of the king was followed by all the people, and thus was paganism conquered in that country. 

The holy Apostle then went into other cities, villages and hamlets, everywhere preaching the Gospel of Christ, and confirming it, according to the promise of his heavenly Master, by many and great miracles, which caused a great number of people to be converted. The holy life which the Saint led, aided him also greatly in impressing the heathens with the truth of his words. Besides his other virtues, they especially admired the rigor which he manifested towards himself. His whole sustenance consisted of herbs. Meat, wine, and all other things agreeable to the taste, he never touched. He allowed himself no rest; he was all day occupied in preaching and instructing, and passed the greater part of the night in prayer. 

Incontestible writings prove that he preached the Gospel for twenty-three years, partly in Ethiopia, partly in other countries, at the same time founding almost innumerable Churches, and supplying them with priests and bishops, in order to preserve the faith he had taught. How much he had to endure in travelling through so many barbarous countries, how he was persecuted, how many thousands he converted, is known only to God; suffice it to say, he was truly an Apostle of Jesus Christ. 

Finally, he ended his life by a glorious martyrdom before the Altar. It happened as follows: Iphigenia, the eldest daughter of the newly converted king of Ethiopia, had not only become a Christian, but also, with the knowledge and consent of the holy Apostle, had consecrated her virginity to the Almighty, after having frequently heard the Saint preach on the priceless value of purity, and exhort others to guard and preserve it. Her example was followed by many other virgins, who, choosing the princess as their superior, lived together and occupied their time in prayer and work. Hirtacus, who succeeded to the throne, asked the hand of the princess in marriage. The virgin consecrated to the Almighty refused him, saying that she had promised to be faithful to her heavenly bridegroom. The king, greatly provoked at this answer, called St. Matthew, as the instructor of Iphigenia, and requested him to induce her to consent to his offer. The Saint promised to give his advice to Iphigenia on the following day, in presence of the king. The next morning, in a sermon, he explained first, that matrimony, instituted by the Almighty, is in itself a lawful and holy state, which everyone who desired it might enter. After this, he began to praise the state of virginity and to demonstrate that it is much more agreeable and pleasing to God than the state of matrimony, adding very emphatically, that when any one, after due deliberation, had consecrated his purity to the Almighty, the vow could not be broken without great sin. 

A servant, said he, among other illustrations, would deserve punishment if he dared to tempt the spouse of a king to break her marriage vow; much more punishable, then, would he be, who had the heart to entice a spouse of Christ to become faithless to her word. Hence, he concluded, as Iphigenia had promised herself to Christ, it was not allowed to rob Him of her, and persuade her to unite herself to a human being. Having admonished all present to remain constant in the true faith, even if it should cost their blood and life, he proceeded to the altar to perform the holy sacrifice of Mass. Hirtacus left the church, full of rage, and following the advice of some wicked people, sent some of his soldiers to kill St. Matthew. One of these, going towards the Saint, who was standing before the altar, thrust his spear into his body; and the Saint, sinking down, expired. Some maintain, that he was beheaded with an axe; but it is quite sure that he was killed while standing at the Altar, thus becoming himself a victim, at the moment when he was offering the pure sacrifice of the New Testament. 

He is called by the holy Fathers the victim of virginal purity, as he shed his blood in defending it. Hirtacus, informed of the death of St. Matthew, hastened to the house where Iphigenia and the other virgins dwelt, and repeated his demand. When she once more courageously refused his hand, he commanded her house to be set on fire, and burned to the ground with all its inmates. His wicked design was, however, frustrated; for when the flames began to arise, St. Matthew appeared and warded them off in such a manner, that neither the house nor those within it were injured. Hirtacus was punished for his evil deeds with so terrible a leprosy, that, unable to endure the sight of himself, he died by his own hands. (2)

Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers are not as one as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria. According to Heracleon, who is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Matthew did not die a martyr, but this opinion conflicts with all other ancient testimony. Let us add, however, that the account of his martyrdom in the apocryphal Greek writings entitled “Martyrium S. Matthæi in Ponto” and published by Bonnet, “Acta apostolorum apocrypha” (Leipzig, 1898), is absolutely devoid of historic value. Lipsius holds that this “Martyrium S. Matthæi”, which contains traces of Gnosticism, must have been published in the third century. There is a disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew’s martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded. The Roman Martyrology simply says: “S. Matthæi, qui in Æthiopia prædicans martyrium passus est”. Various writings that are now considered apocryphal, have been attributed to St. Matthew. In the “Evangelia apocrypha” (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: “De Ortu beatæ Mariæ et infantia Salvatoris”, supposedly written in Hebrew by St. Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the “Protoevangelium” of St. James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century. The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew on 21 September, and the Greek Church on 16 November. St. Matthew is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a lance as a characteristic emblem. (7)

Matthew is the patron of bankers and those who work in financial institutions.

Image: The evangelist Matthew and the angel, artist: Rembrandt, circa: 1661. (11)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-169/Matthew.htm
  2. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Matthew%20popup.html
  3. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-15.htm
  4. http://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/st-matthew-1st-century-apostle-and-evangelist/
  5. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-169/Matthew.htm
  6. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_matthew.html
  7. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-21.html
  8. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/09/september-21-saint-matthew.html
  9. http://www.crusaders-for-christ.com/blog/-september-21st-st-matthewapostle-and-evangelist
  10. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j092sdMatthew_9-21.htm
  11. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_-_Evangelist_Matthew_and_the_Angel_-_WGA19119.jpg

Saint Eustachius, Wife and Sons, Martyrs

September 20

Today is the feast day of Saint Eustachius, Wife and Sons, Martyrs.  Orate pro nobis.

The remarkable story of Saint Eustachius (Eustace), named Placidus before his conversion, is a lesson given by God Himself on the marvels of His Divine Providence. He was a distinguished and very wealthy officer of the Roman army under the Emperor Trajan, in the beginning of the second century. He practiced generous charity to the poor, although he had not yet perceived the errors of idolatry.

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

The life of St. Eustachius is so wonderful, that there are some who consider it a pious legend, rather than a true biography. The reason of this is, that they do not observe how miraculously the Lord often acts with His Saints, and by what unusual paths He leads them to the end which He has prepared for them. Holy Writ gives us more than one example of this, as, in Joseph, the son of the holy patriarch Jacob, and in David. The lives of these show clearly that we ought not to doubt a story because it contains many astonishing events, especially if it is proved by indisputable, ancient testimonials. As we possess these in regard to the following story, we have no hesitation in placing it before our readers.

St. Eustachius was born and educated in paganism; his name, before he was baptized, was Placidus. He sought glory in military exploits, and gave, under the Roman emperors, so many proofs of his generalship, that he became highly distinguished, and gradually rose to the dignity of a commander in chief. He had none of the vices usual to pagans, but on the contrary, conducted himself very praiseworthily. When not in the field, he passed his time in hunting. One day, while he was pursuing a large deer, it suddenly turned and stood still. Placidus was astonished to see between its antlers a Crucifix, surrounded by a bright light, and to hear from its mouth the same words which our Lord had spoken to Saul, the persecutor of the first Christians: “Placidus, why dost thou persecute me? I am Jesus, who died for love of thee, and who will save thee.” Placidus, greatly surprised, fell upon his knees and said: “What dost thou wish me to do?” “Go into the city,” was the answer; seek a priest, and be baptized, with thy wife and children; and then return hither.”

Placidus obeyed the heavenly voice, went into the city, sought and found a priest, who instructed and baptized him, his wife, and his two sons. Placidus received in baptism the name of Eustachius; his wife, who had been called Tatiana, was named Theopista; the elder son, Agapius, and the younger, Theopistus. After this had taken place, Eustachius returned into the forest, humbly praying that God would further make His holy will known to him. The Saviour appeared to him as before, saying: “Thou hast done well; thou hast been obedient. Now, being a Christian, prepare thyself to suffer. A great struggle is approaching; but fear not; be constant. I give thee the assurance of my assistance, and promise thee the crown of eternal glory.” Eustachius, although at first frightened at these words, submitted to the divine will, knowing that the Almighty would be with him. His wife and sons entered into the same sentiments, when he had told them what had happened to him; and they all resolved to take willingly from the hand of God, all the trials with which He might be pleased to burden them.

The occasion for showing their fidelity soon presented itself. By sickness and misfortune, Eustachius became so poor, that he was obliged secretly to leave the city with his family; and he determined to go to Egypt, as he was not known there. When they were already on board the ship in which they were to make the voyage, the owner of it, casting his eyes upon Theopista, ordered her to be put on shore again by force, while the ship, notwithstanding all the protestations of Eustachius, set sail. Theopista remained in the power of the godless man: but the Almighty did not permit her to be harmed; for no sooner had he laid hand on her, than God punished him with a sudden death, and thus Theopista was delivered.

Meanwhile, Eustachius continued his sad and dangerous voyage, deeply grieved at the loss of his wife. At length, he happily reached land with his sons, but at a considerable distance from the place of their destination. On their way, they came to a river, where they found neither bridge nor vessel to convey them to the opposite bank. After long deliberation, Eustachius resolved to carry one son after the other over the water. Taking the first, he carried him happily to the opposite side; but when, he returned for the second and had already reached the middle of the stream, to his indescribable anguish, he saw a lion carry off his son. Seeing that any attempt at a rescue would be madness, he turned round to go back to his other son, but before he could reach him, another wild beast seized him also and dragged him into the forest. There stood Eustachius, once so prosperous, without wife, without children, all alone, without human aid, in a strange land. The Christian hero, however, remembered the words of his Saviour, and burying his grief deep in his heart, he submitted to Divine Providence.

Not knowing what to do for his livelihood, he hired himself to a peasant, and served him, not without many an inward struggle, for fifteen long years. It happened that at the end of these fifteen years, the enemy invaded Italy, and the Emperor Adrian, remembering his valiant general Placidus, searched everywhere for him. They found him at last, and brought him to the emperor, who made him commander-in-chief of the entire army, and ordered him to march against the enemy. Eustachius obeyed the command, marched, in the name of the Lord of Hosts, against the enemy, conquered him, and returned, laden with rich spoils to Rome. While thus on his homeward march, he once encamped near a village to which his soldiers frequently went; and it was here that God designed to reunite the Christian hero, Eustachius, with his spouse and his two sons, whom he had long thought lost forever. Both sons served as soldiers and were in the same army which was now returning to Rome. But they did not know each other.

One day, while both were taking their dinner with some of their comrades before the door of a house in the village, they began to talk of their past life. One of the brothers said: “I am the son of a great general, who fled with my mother, my brother and myself from his home. What became of my mother I do not know; but I well recollect, that my father, when we had come to a stream, carried my brother over it, leaving me on the shore with the intention of coming back for me. Meanwhile a lion came and carried me off. He would most surely have devoured me, had not some shepherds rescued me. I remained with them, and, in the course of time, I became a soldier.” The other related that a wolf had seized him, whilst he was sitting near a river; and that he had remained with the peasants who had saved him, until the war broke out, when he had joined the army. While thus speaking, the two looked at each other, and one recognized in the other his own brother. They embraced and wept tears of joy. Theopista, their mother, served in the same house before the door of which the brothers were sitting. She heard all they said, and concluded from it that they must be her sons. Going up to them, she looked at them closely, and seeing certain marks by which she could not fail to recognize them, she fell upon their necks, and while pressing them to her heart, she said, amid a flood of tears, that she was their mother.

After this, they went to Eustachius, the commanding officer, to tell him what had just happened and to beg his permission to go to Rome, their native place. Hardly, however, had she begun her story, when they recognized each other, and words fail to describe the happiness of that meeting. They all, with joyful voices, praised and blessed the power of Providence, which had so wonderfully brought them together, and against all hope had reunited parents and children. The army pursued its way homeward, and Eustachius, his spouse and sons, returned to Rome. The victorious leader was received amid the rejoicings of the people and with every manifestation of honor. The emperor, who ascribed to the gods the victory his army had won over the enemy, appointed a day of thanksgiving, when great sacrifices should be offered to them. All the officials of the state and army were commanded to take part in the solemn rite. The day came, and of all those who had been ordered to be present, Eustachius alone was absent. The Emperor desired to know the reason, and dispatched a messenger to Eustachius, who returned the answer that, being a Christian, he could not participate in a pagan sacrifice. Enraged at this, the Emperor immediately ordered Eustachius, his wife and sons, to be imprisoned.

Afterwards, he tried with kindness and promises, to win Eustachius to worship the gods, but when he found that all was in vain, he had him, with his wife and sons, cast before lions. These, however, forgot their cruelty, and lying down at the feet of the holy confessors, would not harm them. Adrian, more cruel than the wild beasts of the forest, ordered the Saint, his holy wife and faithful sons, to be thrown into an immense brazen bull, made red-hot. The inhuman sentence was executed. The holy martyrs, by Divine power, remained alive for three days, praising and blessing the great Giver of life and death. At last, when their voices ceased, the bull was opened, and all four were found without life, but also without any injury to their bodies or garments. This glorious martyrdom took place in the year 120. (1)

 

Eustace became known as a patron saint of hunters and firefighters, and also of anyone facing adversity; he was traditionally included among the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is one of the patron saints of Madrid, Spain. The island of Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands is named after him.

The d’Afflitto, one of the oldest princely families in Italy, claims to be direct descendants of Saint Eustace.

The saint’s cross-and-stag symbol is featured on bottles of Jägermeister. This is related to his status as patron of hunters; a Jägermeister was a senior foresters and gamekeeper in the German civil service until 1934, prior to the drink’s introduction in 1935.

Saint Eustace has a church dedicated to him in the southern part of India, in a village named Mittatharkulam, near Tiruneveli district in Tamil Nadu. He is called Saint Esthak in this part of the world.

Saint Eustace is honored in County Kildare, Ireland. There is a church dedicated to him on the campus of Newbridge College in Newbridge, County Kildare and the schools’ logo and motto is influenced by The Vision of Saint Eustace, and there is a village nearby named Ballymore Eustace.

Sant’Eustachio is also honoured in Tocco da Casauria, a town in the Province of Pescara in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. The church, built in the twelfth century, was dedicated to Saint Eustace. The church was rebuilt after it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1706.

Image: Der hl Eustachius, artist: Dürer (5)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Eustace.html
  2. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_eustachius_and_his_family.html
  3. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-14.htm
  4. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-20.html
  5. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:D%C3%BCrer_-_Der_hl_Eustachius.jpg

Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions

September 19

Today is the feast day of Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr,  and his Companions .  Orate pro nobis.

Saint Januarius (Gennaro) is believed to have suffered in the persecution of Diocletian, c. 305. With regard to the history of his life and martyrdom, we know next to nothing. The various collections of “Acts”, though numerous (cf. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, n. 4115-4140), are all extremely late and untrustworthy.

Januarius was a 4th century bishop of Beneventum, who with his companions suffered martyrdom. It is said he was first thrown into a fiery furnace and remained unscathed. Then thrown to the lions in the arena, they refused to touch him. Finally he was beheaded. The Christian women collected his blood in a glass vial and placed it in his tomb.

Adapted from THE LITURGICAL YEAR, Vol. XIV by Dom Gueranger

The following story is from tradition concerning St. Januarius and the sharers in his glorious Martyrdom.

During the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, Januarius, bishop of Beneventum, was brought before Timothy, president of Campania, at Nola, for the profession of the Christian faith. There his constancy was tried in various ways. He was cast into a burning furnace, but escaped unhurt, not even his garments or a hair of his head being injured by the flames. This enraged the president, who commanded the Martyr’ s body to be so stretched that all his joints and nerves were displaced. Meanwhile Festus his deacon, and Desiderius, a lector, were seized, loaded with chains, and dragged, together with the bishop, before the president’s chariot to Pozzuolo. There they were cast into a dungeon, where they found the deacons Sosius of Misenum and Proculus of Pozzuolo, with Eutyches and Acutius laymen all condemned to be thrown to wild beasts.

The following day they were all exposed in the amphitheatre; but the beasts, forgetting their natural ferocity, crouched at the feet of Januarius. Timothy, attributing this to magical arts, condemned the Martyrs of Christ to be beheaded; but as he was pronouncing the sentence, he was suddenly struck blind. However, at the prayer of Januarius, he soon recovered his sight; on account of which miracle, about five thousand men embraced the faith. The ungrateful judge was in no way softened by the benefit conferred upon him, on the contrary, he was enraged by so many conversions; and, fearing the emperor’s edicts, he ordered the holy bishop and his companions to be beheaded.

Eager to secure, each for itself, a patron before God among these holy Martyrs, the neighbouring towns provided burial places for their bodies. In obedience to a warning from Heaven, the Neapolitans took the body of St. Januarius, and placed it first at Beneventum, then in the monastery of Monte Vergine, and finally in the principal church at Naples, where it became illustrious for many miracles. One of the most remarkable of these was the extinction of a fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius, when the terrible flames threatened with destruction not only the neighbourhood but even distant parts. Another remarkable miracle is seen even to the present day, namely: when the Martyr’s blood, which is preserved congealed in a glass vial, is brought in presence of his head, it liquefies and boils up in a wonderful manner, as if it had been but recently shed.

 O holy Martyrs, and thou especially, O Januarius, the leader no less by thy courage than by thy pontifical dignity, thy present glory increases our longing for Heaven; thy past combats animate us to fight the good fight; thy continual miracles confirm us in the faith. Praise and gratitude are therefore due to thee on this day of thy triumph; and we pay this our debt in the joy of our hearts. In return, extend to us the protection, of which the fortuuate cities placed under thy powerful patronage are so justly proud. Defend those faithful towns against the assaults of the evil one. In compensation for the falling away of society at large, offer to Christ our King the growing faith of all who pay thee honour. (1)

St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento
by St. Alphonsus Liguori

Naples and Benevento both claim the honor of having given birth to Januarius; he is said to have been descended of the ancient family of the Sanniti, who had made war with the Romans, and were masters and dukes of Benevento. There are no historical records of the first years of St. Januarius, but it is certain that his parents were Christians, and that he was esteemed the most learned and pious of the clergy, for which reason he was unanimously chosen bishop of Benevento, upon a vacancy having occurred in that see. The humility of the saint induced him most resolutely to refuse that dignity, until he was obliged to accept it by a command from the Pope, who was at that time St. Caius, or St. Marcellinus.

Our saint undertook the government of his church during the persecution of Diocletian and Maximian, which circumstance gave him noble opportunities of manifesting the extent of his zeal for the faith of Jesus Christ. Not content with propagating and maintaining the faith in his own diocese, he ran through the neighboring cities converting pagans, and assisting and encouraging the faithful.

In the discharge of these duties he became acquainted with a holy deacon of the city of Miseno, named Sosius, with whom he formed a most intimate friendship; for as Sosius was one day reading the Gospel to the people, St. Januarius saw a most resplendent flame upon his head, from which fact he predicted that the pious deacon would be crowned with martyrdom. The prophecy was soon fulfilled; for after a few days Sosius was arrested as a Christian, and brought before Dracontius, governor of the district, who having in vain endeavored with promises and threats to make him prevaricate, caused him to be cruelly scourged, tortured, and sent to prison. He was here frequently visited by the Christians, but the deacon Proculus, and his fellow-citizens Eutyches and Acutius, were particularly attentive to him; and St. Januarius was no sooner apprised of his arrest than he repaired to the prison to comfort and encourage him.

Meanwhile Dracontius was removed to another place by the emperor, and succeeded in the government by Timothy, who upon his arrival at Nola, having heard of the preaching of St. Januarius, and the assistance which he afforded to the faithful in the neighborhood, ordered him to be arrested and brought before him, bound hand and foot. On being presented to the new governor, our saint was commanded to sacrifice, but immediately rejected the iniquitous proposal with horror and contempt; whereupon Timothy ordered him to be thrown into a furnace. The order was instantly executed, but the saint received not the least hurt; and although this miraculous preservation excited the wonder of all present, it was so far from making any salutary impression on the tyrant, that it rendered him more furious and cruel than before, and he accordingly ordered that the saint’s body should be stretched upon the rack until his every nerve should be broken.

As soon as these proceedings were known at Benevento, Festus, the bishop’s deacon, and Desiderius, his lector, forthwith departed to visit their holy prelate in the name of his entire flock; but Timothy being informed of their arrival at Nola, caused them to be arrested, and their depositions to be taken regarding the motives of their journey. They answered that, holding as they did subordinate offices in the church of the good bishop, they thought it their duty to visit their Superior in prison, and minister to him whatever assistance it might be in their power to afford. Upon hearing this declaration the tyrant commanded that they should be loaded with chains, and made to walk before his chariot to Puzzuoli, to be there delivered to wild beasts together with their pastor.

Immediately after their arrival they were exposed in the amphitheatre, when St. Januarius said to the rest: “Be of good heart, brethren! Behold, the day of our triumph has arrived. Let us confidently give our lives for Jesus Christ, who vouchsafed to give his for us.” The beasts were let loose upon them, in the presence of a great multitude; but although they ran towards the martyrs as it were to devour them, they cast themselves before them and licked their feet. The miracle was evident to all, and a deep murmur was heard to run through the amphitheatre: “The God of the Christians is the only true God.”

The effect produced by this miracle made Timothy fear a general sedition, and he accordingly gave orders that the martyrs should be led to the public square and beheaded; but St. Januarius, in passing the governor, prayed that the Lord might strike him blind, for his own confusion and the conversion of the people. This prayer having taken instant effect, the tyrant delayed the execution of the sentence, and besought the holy bishop to forgive the maltreatment he had received, and to pray for the restoration of his sight. St. Januarius did so, and the miracle was followed by the conversion of five thousand pagans; but Timothy, fearing lest he should lose the favor of the emperor, ordered his officers to have the last sentence privately but instantly executed.

While our saint was being led to Vulcano, the place selected for his last struggle, an aged Christian followed him, imploring with many tears that he would give him something to keep for his sake; the good bishop, moved by the devotion of the old man, told him that he had nothing to give, except his handkerchief, which, as he needed it to bandage his eyes in receiving the stroke of death, he could not let him have until after his martyrdom. On arriving at Vulcano, St. Januarius tied the handkerchief over his eyes, and repeating the words, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” he was decapitated on the 19th of September, towards the close of the third century, together with his companions, Sosius, Festus, Proculus, Desiderius, Eutyches, and Acutius.

The relics of these holy martyrs were afterwards translated to different cities. Puzzuoli was favored with the bodies of SS. Proculus, Eutyches, and Acutius; while Benevento was honored with those of SS. Festus and Desiderius; that of St. Sosius was removed to Miseno. The body of St. Januarius was first deposited at Benevento, and afterwards at the Monastery of MonteVirgine, until during the pontificate of Alexander IV., St. Severus, bishop of Naples, accompanied by the Neapolitan clergy and a great concourse of the laity, translated it to Naples, and placed it in a church dedicated to God in his honor. From this church, however, which was without the city, the relics of St. Januarius were again translated to the cathedral, together with two vials of his blood, and have been there objects of great religious veneration for fourteen centuries. The Neapolitans honor this saint as the principal patron of their city and nation, and the Lord himself has continued to honor him, by allowing many miracles to be wrought through his intercession, particularly when the frightful eruptions of Mount Vesuvius have threatened the city of Naples with utter destruction. While the relics of St. Januarius were being brought in procession towards this terrific volcano, the torrents of lava and liquid fire which it emitted have ceased, or turned their course from the city.

But the most stupendous miracle, and that which is greatly celebrated in the church, is the liquefying and boiling up of this blessed martyr’s blood whenever the vials are brought in sight of his head. This miracle is renewed many times in the year, in presence of all who desire to witness it; yet some heretics have endeavored to throw a doubt upon its genuineness, by frivolous and incoherent explanations; but no one can deny the effect to be miraculous, unless he be prepared to question the evidence of his senses.

All the facts related about St. Januarius are drawn from trustworthy sources, such as the Acts possessed by Baronius, the Greek Acts of the Vatican, the Greek Menology of Basil, the writing of John Diacono, an author of great credit, who lived in the ninth century, and whom Muratori himself praises. To this must be added the very ancient Offices of Naples, Salerno, Capua, and Puzzuoli, and finally the tradition of Nola, where is yet shown at the present day the prison in which the saint was shut up, the place where his bones were dislocated, and the furnace from which he came forth unhurt. These records contain nearly all that we have related: all, or nearly all, are written in the Acts of Baronius, which, resting on other records, deserve our entire confidence.

I repeat here what I have said at the beginning of this book, that it seems to be a kind of temerity to wish to doubt positively about the truth of the facts related by several ancient authors, though they may not be contemporaneous–authors grave and careful to examine into things, especially when these facts are supported by an uncontroverted and ancient tradition.

It is true that we should justly doubt ancient facts against the authenticity of which we may allege some solid reason; but I ask here, which are the arguments that Tillemont, Baillet, and some other modern authors oppose to the facts of the martyrdom of St. Januarius? They say that this antiquity removes them too far from our time; that the tortures related are too violent, and therefore incredible; that these facts are too numerous. They also add other similar objections which are groundless, and which I pass over in silence for brevity’s sake. To all these difficulties I reply, that by following this method we should have to reject many Acts that are commonly regarded as genuine, such as those of St. Felix of Nola, of St. Carpus, of St. Theodotus and of St. Tarachus, and many others that we read of in the celebrated Ruinart, and in a host of other good authors.

Some of our writers have approved of what is said by Tillemont and Baillet, because of certain Acts of St. Januarius that were found at Bologna with the Celestin Fathers in the monastery of St. Stephan. But I do not see why we should put faith in these Acts, and not in those of Baronius and of other authors mentioned above. They say with Tillemont that the Acts of Bologna are more simple, because in them no mention is made of the miracles described in the Acts of Baronius, and should therefore the former be preferred to the latter?

Allow me to make here a painful reflection. The present age is called the age of light, because it has a better taste and a more correct judgment of things. But would to God that it had not degenerated in many things, and that it were not growing worse by wishing to subject divine things to be estimated by our feeble intelligence! Some of these who are learned in this fashion deny or call in question most of the miracles related in the lives of the saints; they say that the account of these miracles only makes heretics laugh at the too great credulity of the Catholics, and for this reason refuse to be united to our Church. I answer: Heretics do not wish to believe our miracles, not because they esteem us too credulous, but because among them no miracles are ever seen; this explains why they despise our miracles. And it is by no means true that our too great facility in believing in miracles hinders them from being united to our Church, for it is precisely because they do not wish to unite with our Church, and to submit to her that they refuse to believe in miracles. These unfortunate people do not see that in refusing to submit to the Church they reduce themselves to a state of believing in nothing, as evidently appears from the books that often reach us from the so-called reformed countries. Moreover, they know that the Christian faith was propagated and maintained by means of miracles–just as Jesus Christ and the Apostles propagated it; and the reason of this is clear. For as the revealed truths which are the object of our faith are not of themselves evident to the eyes of our mind, it was necessary to induce us to believe them by means of miracles, which surpassing the forces of nature aid us to know clearly that it is God who speaks to us in the midst of these prodigies. Thus in proportion to the persecutions raised against the Church has the Lord multiplied miracles. In short, the miracles wrought more or less frequently by God through his servants have never been wanting in our Church.

Let us return to our subject. It is not therefore just to prefer the Acts of the Monastery of Bologna to all those that we have quoted, because they are more simple, and because they do not comprise all the miracles related by Baronius, Diacono, and other authors. Besides, these Acts of Bologna, if carefully examined, date only from the sixteenth century. Again, another well-informed author, Xavier Rossi, in a learned dissertation, assures us that these Acts should be regarded as less trustworthy than those that we have followed, since they are encumbered with other narratives that are false, or at least improbable, and since it has become known that they were written by an ignorant person, who collected them without discretion, and in writing committed many faults against the Latin grammar. (6)

The first recorded liquefaction of his blood was recorded in the year 1389 and since then countless pilgrims have witnessed this unexplained occurrence. The phenomenon has been the subject of intense dispute and scientific examination for centuries. The Church has never made any official declaration that it is a supernatural event. But even sceptics admit that something happens.

What is involved is a dark solid mass held in a glass vial kept in the treasury chapel of Naples cathedral. Three times a year a priest brings it out with a reliquary said to contain the saint’s skull, holds it up and turns it as the people pray. After a period of anything from two minutes to an hour, it appears to become red and to bubble – or not. If it does, the priest proclaims the miracle and all sing the Te Deum in thanksgiving. If not, this is taken as a kind of prophetic warning.

In 1631 an eruption on nearby Mount Vesuvius threatened. The people prayed to St Januarius to spare them. The flow of lava abated and the city was saved. Ever since, St Januarius has been invoked against volcanic eruptions. He is also the patron saint of blood banks.

Three points attested by recent investigators seem worthy of special note.

  • It now appears that the first certain record of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius dates from 1389 (see de Blasiis, “Chronicon Siculum incerti auctoris”, Naples, 1887, 85), and not from 1456, as formerly supposed.
  • In 1902 Professor Sperindeo was allowed to pass a ray of light through the upper part of the phial during liquefaction and examine this beam spectroscopically. The experiment yielded the distinctive lines of the spectrum of blood. This, however, only proves that there are at any rate traces of blood in the contents of the phial (see Cavène, “Le Célèbre Miracle“, 262-275).
  • Most remarkable of all, the apparent variation in the volume of the relic led in 1902 and 1904 to a series of experiments in the course of which the whole reliquary was weighed in a very accurate balance. It was found that the weight was not constant any more than the volume, and that the weight of the reliquary when the blood filled the whole cavity of the phial exceeded, by 26 grammes, the weight when the phial seemed but half full. This very large difference renders it impossible to believe that such a substantial variation in weight can be merely due to an error of observation.

We are forced to accept the fact that, contrary to all known laws a change goes on in the contents of this hermetically sealed vessel which makes them heavier and lighter in a ratio roughly, but not exactly, proportional to their apparent bulk (Cavène, 333-39). The reality of the miracle of St. Januarius has repeatedly been made the subject of controversy. It has had much to do with many conversions to Catholicism, notably with that of the elder Herder. Unfortunately, however, allegations have often been made as to the favourable verdict expressed by scientific men of note, which are not always verifiable. The supposed testimony of the great chemist, Sir Humphry Davy, who is declared to have expressed his belief in the genuineness of the miracle, seems to be a case in point.

Image: Procession de saint Janvier à Naples pendant une éruption du Vésuve, 1822 (10)

Research by REGINA Staff

 
  1. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-13.htm
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08295a.htm
  3. http://catholicsaints.info/saint-januarius-of-naples/
  4. http://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/st-januarius-4th-century-invoked-against-volcanic-eruptions/
  5. https://www.fisheaters.com/customstimeafterpentecost9.html
  6. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Januarius%20and%20St.%20Cyprian.html
  7. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_januarius.html
  8. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-19.html
  9. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/09/september-19-saint-januarius-san.html
  10. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Procession_des_reliques_de_Saint_Janvier_en_1822.jpg

Saint Joseph of Cupertino, Confessor

September 18

Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph of Cupertino.  Ora pro nobis.

The Angels Who Go and Come
St. Joseph of Cupertino was much loved by the angels, they honoured him by frequent apparitions, and he received many graces through their ministry. One holy soul saw him enter the town of Assisi between two of these glorious spirits, and it was proved in the process of his canonization that it often occurred to him to fly in the air. It was without doubt these blessed spirits who transported him thus, from one place to another, and I will only quote one instance. Going one day to Rome with another religious, and having arrived at the summit of a mountain, his companion said to him, “I see the Church of Loretto,” and he pointed it out with his finger; and St. Joseph, after having looked at it, cried out joyfully, “Do you not see the angels who come and go from heaven to this church, and from the church to heaven?” and having said this, he raised himself eighteen feet in the air, and descended six perches further off. This favorite of the angels had for his own guardian so much veneration, that he never entered his cell without making him a profound salutation, and begging him to pass before him.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino was born Giuseppe Maria Desa on 17 June, 1603.  Joseph received his surname from Cupertino, a small village in the Diocese of Nardò, lying between Brindisi and Otranto in the Kingdom of Naples. His father Felice Desa, a poor carpenter, died before Joseph was born and left some debts.  The creditors drove the mother, Francesca Panara, from her home, and she was obliged to give birth to her child in a stable. His mother was very strict with him. He used to say in later life that he made his novitiate while still a child.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

from the Liturgical Year, 1903

While, in France, the rising spirit of Jansenism was driving God from the hearts of the people, a humble son of St. Francis, in Southern Italy, was showing how easily love may span the distance between earth and heaven. And I, if I be lifted tip from the earth, will draw all things to myself (St. John, xii. 32), said Our Lord; and time has proved it to be the most universal of his prophecies. On the feast of the holy Cross, we witnessed its truth, even in the domain of social and political claims. We shall experience it in our very bodies on the great day, when we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air (1. Thess. iv. 16). But Joseph of Cupertino had experience of it without waiting for the resurrection: innumerable witnesses have borne testimony to his life of continual ecstasies, wherein he was frequently seen raised high in the air. And these facts took place in what men are pleased to call the noonday of history.

Let us read the account of him given by holy Church.

Joseph was born of pious parents at Cupertino, a town of Nardo, in the year of salvation one thousand six hundred and three. Prevented with the love of God, he spent his boyhood and youth in the greatest simplicity and innocence. The Virgin Mother of God delivered him from a long and painful malady, which he had borne with the greatest patience; whereupon he devoted himself entirely to works of piety and the practice of virtue. But God called him to something higher; and in order to attain to closer union with him, Joseph determined to enter the Seraphic Order. After several trials he obtained his desire, and was admitted among the Minor Conventuals in the convent called Grotella, first as a lay-brother, on account of his lack of learning; but afterwards, God so disposing, he was raised to the rank of a cleric. After making his solemn Vows he was ordained Priest, and began a new life of greater perfection. Utterly renouncing all earthly affections and everything of this world almost to the very necessaries of life, he afflicted his body with hairshirts, chains, disciplines, and every kind of austerity and penance; while he assiduously nourished his spirit with the sweetness of holy prayer, and the highest contemplation. By this means, the love of God, which had been poured out in his heart from his childhood, daily increased in a most wonderful manner.

His burning charity shone forth most remarkably in the sweet ecstasies which raised his soul to God, and the wonderful raptures he frequently experienced. Yet, marvellous to tell, however rapt he was in God, obedience would immediately recall him to the use of his senses. He was exceedingly zealous in the practice of obedience; and used to say that he was led by it like a blind man, and that he would rather die than disobey. He emulated the poverty of the seraphic patriarch to such a degree, that on his deathbed he could truthfully tell his superior he had nothing which, according to custom, he could relinquish. Thus dead to the world and to himself Joseph showed forth in his flesh the life of Jesus. While in others he perceived the vice of impurity by an evil odour, his own body exhaled a most sweet fragrance, a sign of the spotless purity which he preserved unsullied in spite of long and violent temptations from the devil. This victory he gained by strict custody of his senses, by continual mortification of the body, and especially by the protection of the most pure Virgin Mary, whom he called his Mother, and whom he venerated with tenderest affection as the sweetest of mothers, desiring to see her venerated by others, that they might, said he, together with her patronage gain all good things.

Blessed Joseph”s solicitude in this respect sprang from his love for his neighbour, for he was consumed with zeal for souls, urging him to seek the salvation of all. His love embraced the poor, the sick, and all in affliction, whom he comforted as far as lay in his power, not excluding those who pursued him with reproaches and insults, and every kind of injury. He bore all this with the same patience, sweetness, and cheerfulness of countenance as were remarked in him when he was obliged frequently to change his residence, by the command of the Superiors of his Order, or of the holy Inquisition. People and princes admired his wonderful holiness and heavenly gifts; yet, such was his humility, that, thinking himself a great sinner, he earnestly besought God to remove from him his admirable gifts; while he begged men to cast his body after death in a place where his memory might utterly perish. But God, who exalts the humble, and who had richly adorned his servant during life with heavenly wisdom, prophecy, the reading of hearts, the grace of healing, and other gifts, also rendered his death precious and his sepulchre glorious. Joseph died at the place and time he had foretold, namely, at Osimo in Picenum, in the sixty-first year of his age. He was famous for miracles after his death; and was enrolled among the Blessed by Benedict XIV. and among the Saints by Clement XIII. Clement XIV., who was of the same Order, extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church. (1)

His body is in the church at Osimo. He was beatified by Benedict XIV in 1753, and canonized 16 July 1767 by Clement XIII.  His life was written by Robert Nuti (Palermo, 1678). Angelo Pastrovicchi wrote another in 1773, and this is used by the Bollandist “Acta SS.”, V, Sept., 992.

Image: Crop of Vicenza – Chiesa di San Lorenzo – Estasi (4)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Joseph%20Cupertino.html
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08520b.htm
  3. http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/saint-joseph-of-cupertino.html
  4. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chiesa_di_San_Lorenzo_a_Vicenza_-_San_Giuseppe_da_Copertino_in_estasi,_Felice_Boscaratti-4.jpg
  5. http://www.catholictradition.org/cupertino.htm
  6. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_joseph_of_cupertino.html
  7. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/09-18.html
  8. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/09/september-18-saint-joseph-of-cupertino.html
  9. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j146sd_Copertino_8-18.shtml