Commemoration of the Imprinting of The Stigmata of Saint Francis

September 17

Today is the feast day of the Commemoration of the Imprinting of The Stigmata of Saint Francis.

from the Liturgical Year, 1903 by Dom Gueranger

The great Patriarch of Assisi will soon appear a second time in the holy Liturgy, and we shall praise God for the marvels wrought in him by divine grace. The subject of today’s feast, while a personal glory to St. Francis, is of greater importance for its mystical signification.

The Man-God still lives in the Church by the continual reproduction of His mysteries in this His Bride, making her a faithful copy of Himself. In the thirteenth century, while the charity of the many had grown cold, the divine fire burned with redoubled ardour in the hearts of a chosen few. It was the hour of the Church’s passion; the beginning of that series of social defections, with their train of denials, treasons and derisions, which ended in the proscription we now witness. The Cross had been exalted before the eyes of the world: the Bride was now to be nailed thereto with her divine Spouse, after having stood with him in the pretorium exposed to the insults and blows of the multitude.

Like an artist selecting a precious marble, the Holy Spirit chose the flesh of the Assisian seraph as the medium for the expression of his divine thought. He thereby manifested to the world the special direction he intended to give to the sanctity of souls; he offered to heaven a first and complete model of the new work he was meditating, viz: the perfect union, upon the very cross, of the mystical Body with its divine Head. Francis was the first to be chosen for this honour: but others were to follow; and henceforward, here and there through the world, the Stigmata of Our blessed Lord will ever be visible in the Church.

Let us read in this light the admirable history of the event composed by the Seraphic Doctor in honour of his holy father St. Francis.

 Two years before the faithful servant and minister of Christ, Francis, gave up his spirit to God, he retired alone into a high place, which is called Mount Alvernia, and began a forty-days’ fast in honour of the Archangel St. Michael. The sweetness of heavenly contemplation was poured out on him more abundantly than usual, till, burning with the flame of celestial desires, he began to feel an increasing overflow of these divine favours. While the seraphic ardour of his desires thus raised him up to God, and the tenderness of his love and compassion was transforming him into Christ the crucified Victim of excessive love; one morning, about the Feast of the Exaltation of holy Cross, as he was praying on the mountain-side, he saw what appeared to be a Seraph, with six shining and fiery wings, coming down from heaven. The vision flew swiftly through the air and approached the man of God, Who then perceived that it was not only winged, but also crucified; for the hands and feet were stretched out and fastened to a cross; while the wings were arranged in a wondrous manner, two being raised above the head, two outstretched in flight, and the remaining two crossed over and veiling the whole body. As he gazed, Francis was much astonished, and his soul was filled with mingled joy and sorrow. The gracious aspect of him, who appeared in so wonderful and loving a manner, rejoiced him exceedingly, while the sight of his cruel crucifixion pierced his heart with a sword of sorrowing compassion.

He, who appeared outwardly to Francis, taught him inwardly that, although weakness and suffering are incompatible with the immortal life of a seraph, yet this vision had been shown to him to the end that he, Christ’s lover, might learn how his whole being was to be transformed into a living image of Christ crucified, not by martyrdom of the flesh, but by the burning ardour of his soul. After a mysterious and familiar colloquy, the vision disappeared, leaving the Saint’s mind burning with seraphic ardour, and his flesh impressed with an exact image of the Crucified, as though, after the melting power of that fire, it had next been stamped with a seal. For immediately the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, their heads showing in the palms of his hands and the upper part of his feet, and their points visible on the other side. There was also a red scar on his right side, as if it had been wounded by a lance, and from which blood often flowed staining his tunic and underclothing.

Francis, now a new man, honoured by this new and amazing miracle, and, by a hitherto unheard of privilege, adorned with the sacred stigmata, came down from the mountain bearing with him the image of the Crucified, not carved in wood or stone by the hand of an artist, but engraved upon his flesh by the finger of the living God. The seraphic man well knew that it is good to hide the secret of the king; wherefore, having been thus admitted into his king’s confidence, he strove, as far as in him lay, to conceal the sacred marks. But it belongs to God to reveal the great things which he himself has done; and hence, after impressing those signs upon Francis in secret, he publicly worked miracles by means of them, revealing the hidden and wondrous power of the Stigmata by the signs wrought through them. Pope Benedict XI. willed that this wonderful event, which is so well attested and in pontifical diplomas has been honoured with the greatest praises and favours, should be celebrated by a yearly solemnity. Afterwards, Pope Paul V., wishing the hearts of all the faithful to be enkindled with the love of Christ crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church. (1,4)

Image: Saint Francis in Ecstasy, artist: El Grego, circa between 1600 and 1605 (8)

 Research by REGINA Staff

Saint Cornelius, Bishop and Martyr

September 16

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

Pope Saint Cornelius ascended to the Chair of Peter following a fourteen year absence of papal authority (during which time the Church was governed by a committee of bishops) during the harsh persecution of Christians by Emperor Decius. To ascend to the papacy at that time was almost a certain death sentence, but Cornelius, although reluctant, obediently accepted his calling. Like so many before him, his efforts to unite the Church, welcoming back the many strayed souls through penance, allowed the faith to grow despite inhospitable conditions.

St. Cornelius was, by birth, of the highest nobility. The elevation of a descendant of the Scipios to the Soveriegn Pontificate linked the past grandeurs of Rome to her future greatness. Decius, who “would more easily have suffered a competitor in his empire than a Bishop in Rome,” had just issued the edict for the seventh general persecution of Chrisitans. But the Caesar bestowed upon the world’s capital by a village of Pannonia, could not stay the destinies of the eternal city. Beside the bloodthirsty emperor, and others like him, whose fathers were known in the city only as slaves or conquered enemies, the true Roman, the descendant of the Cornelii, might be recognized by his native simplicity, by the calmness of his strength of soul, by the intrepid firmness belonging to his race, wherewith he first triumphed over the usurper, who was soon to surrender to the Goths on the borders of the Danube. And yet, O holy Pontiff, thou art even greater by the humility which St. Cyprian, thy illustrious friend, admired in thee, and by that “purity of thy virginal soul,” through which, according to him, thou didst become the elect of God and of His Christ.

St. Cornelius was Sovereign Pontiff during the reign of the emperors Gallus and Volusianus. Together with a holy lady named Lucina, he translated the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul from the catacombs to a more honorable resting place. St. Paul’s body was entombed by Lucina on an estate of hers on the Ostian Way, close to the spot where he had been beheaded; while St. Cornelius laid the body of the Prince of the Apostles near the place of his crucifixion. When this became known to the emperors, and they were moreover informed that, by the advice of the Pope, many became Christians, St. Cornelius was exiled to Centumcellae, where St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, wrote to him to console him.

The frequency of this Christian and charitable communication between the two Saints gave great displeasure to the emperors; and accordingly, St. Cornelius was summoned to Rome, where, as if guilty of treason, he was beaten with scourges tipped with lead. He was next dragged before an image of Mars, and commanded to sacrifice; but indignantly refusing to commit such an act of infidelity, he was beheaded on the 14th of September. The blessed Lucina, aided by some clerics, buried his body in a sandpit on her estate, near to the cemetery of Callixtus. His Pontificate lasted about two years.

The Breviary lessons omit much of the details of St. Cornelius’ reign. Perhaps his greatest achievement as Pope was his steadfast resistance of the schism brought about by the anti-pope Novatian. This proud rigorist taught that Christians who had apostatized during the persecutions could not be absolved. Disappointed that he himself was not elected Pope, he declared the election of St. Cornelius illegitimate, and set himself up as anti-pope. Due to the zeal and diligence of Pope St. Cornelius, together with his friend St. Cyprian, the heresy and schism were not widespread, though they continued in places for several hundred years. Letters written during the schism provide historians with clear proofs of the recognition of Papal Primacy. Both the true Pope, St. Cornelius, and the anti-pope, Novatian, claimed the right to remove rebellious bishops from their sees and appoint replacements. (1)

During his papacy, Cornelius was assisted and supported by Saint Cyprian the Bishop of Carthage. Below, one of the letters sent to Pope Saint Cornelius by Saint Cyprian:

Cyprian to his brother Cornelius.

My very dear brother, we have heard of the glorious witness given by your courageous faith. On learning of the honor you had won by your witness, we were filled with such joy that we felt ourselves sharers and companions in your praiseworthy achievements. After all, we have the same Church, the same mind, the same unbroken harmony. Why then should a priest not take pride in the praise given to a fellow priest as though it were given to him? What brotherhood fails to rejoice in the happiness of its brothers wherever they are?

Words cannot express how great was the exultation and delight here when we heard of your good fortune and brave deeds: how you stood out as leader of your brothers in their declaration of faith, while the leader’s confession was enhanced as they declared their faith. You led the way to glory, but you gained many companions in that glory; being foremost in your readiness to bear witness on behalf of all, you prevailed on your people to become a single witness. We cannot decode which we ought to praise, your own ready and unshaken faith or the love of your brothers who would not leave you. While the courage of the bishop who thus led the way has been demonstrated, at the same time the unity of the brotherhood who followed has been manifested. Since you have one heart and one voice, it is the Roman Church as a whole that has thus born witness.

Dearest brother bright and shining is the faith which the blessed Apostle praised in your community. He foresaw in the spirit the praise your courage deserves and the strength that could not be broken; he was heralding the future when he testified to your achievements; his praise of the fathers was a challenge to the sons. Your unity, your strength have become shining examples of these virtues to the rest of the brethren. Divine providence has now prepared us. God’s merciful design has warned us that the day of our own struggle, our own contest, is at hand. By that shared love which binds us close together, we are doing all we can to exhort our congregation, to give ourselves unceasingly to fastings, vigils and prayers in common. These are the heavenly weapons which give us the strength to stand firm and endure; they are the spiritual defenses, the God-given armaments that protect us.

Let us then remember one another, united in mind and heart. Let us pray without ceasing, you for us, we for you; by the love we share we shall thus relieve the strain of these great trials. (1)

Image: Heiliger Cornelius als Papst und Märtyrer, artist: Meister von Meßkirch, circa 1535/40 (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr

September 16

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

Saint Cyprian was an African of noble birth, the son of a Roman senator.  He was a teacher of rhetoric in his youth, but he was still a pagan. In his mid-life he was converted to Christianity through the influence of a priest who was himself a convert to Christianity and was edifying all Carthage by his conversation and his virtues. A long combat followed for Cyprian, who although convinced of the truth of these excellent reasonings and the beauty of this doctrine, still had to overcome the pride of a philosopher and the worldly bent of his life of pleasure. Nonetheless, grace won out and he listened to the interior voice of conscience which constantly pressed him onward: Courage, Cyprian! Whatever the cost, let us go to God. He sold his estates and gave the price to the poor; and it was not long after his baptism that he was ordained a priest, and then consecrated Bishop of Carthage notwithstanding his resistance. The Christian population rejoiced, sure that in him they would have a strong bulwark during persecution.

St. Cyprian, in a famous dispute, was once opposed to the Apostolic See: Eternal Wisdom now offers him to the homage of the world, in company with one of the most illustrious successors of St. Peter.

At thy side, how great is St Cyprian himself! What a path of light is traced across the heavens of Holy Church by this convert of the priest Caecilius! In the generosity of his soul, when once conquered to Christ, he relinquised honors and riches, his family inheritance, and the glory acquired in the field of eloquence. All marvelled to see in him, as his historian says, the harvest gathered before the seed was sown. By a justifiable exception, he became a Bishop while yet a neophyte. During the ten years of his episcopate, all men, not only in Carthage and Africa, but in the whole world, had their eyes fixed upon him; the pagans crying: Cyprian to the lions! The Christians awaiting but his word of command in order to obey. Those ten years represent one of the most troubled periods of history. In the empire, anarchy was rife; the frontiers were the scene of repeated invasions; pestilence was raging everywhere: in the Church, a long peace, which had lulled men’s souls to sleep was followed by the persecutions of Decius, Gallus, and Valerian. The first of these, suddenly bursting like a thunderstorm, was the occasion of the fall of many; which evil, in its turn, led to schisms, on account of the too great indulgence of some, and the excessive rigor of others, toward the lapsed.

Who, then, was to teach repentance to the fallen, the truth to the heretics, unity to the schismatics, and to the sons of God prayer and peace? Who was to bring back the virgins to the rules of a holy life? Who was to turn back against the Gentiles their blasphemous sophisms? Under the sword of death, who would speak of future happiness, and bring consolation to souls? Who would teach them mercy, patience, and the secret of changing the venom of envy into the sweetness of salvation? Who would assist the martyrs to rise to the height of their divine vocation? Who would uphold the confessors under torture, in prison, in exile? Who would preserve the survivors of martyrdom from the dangers of their regained liberty?

St. Cyprian, ever ready, seemed in his incomparable calmness to defy the powers of earth and of Hell. Never had a flock a surer hand to defend it under a sudden attack, and to put to flight the wild boar of the forest. And how proud the shepherd was of the dignity of that Christian family, which God had entrusted to his guidance and protection! Love for the Church was, so to say, the distinguishing feature of the Bishop of Carthage. In his immortal letters to his “most brave and most happy brethren,” confessors of Christ, and the honor of the Church, he exclaims: “Oh truly blessed is our Mother the Church, whom the divine condescension has so honored, who is made illustrious in our days by the glorious blood of the triumphant martyrs; formerly white by the good works of our brethren, She is now adorned with purple from the veins of Her heroes; among Her flowers, neither roses nor lilies are wanting.”

Unfortunately this very love, this legitimate, though falsely applied, jealousy for the noble Bride of our Savior, led St. Cyprian to err on the serious question of the validity of heretical baptism. “The only one,” he said, “alone possesses the keys, the power of the Spouse; we are defending Her honor, when we repudiate the polluted water of the heretics.” He was forgetting that although, through Our Lord’s merciful goodness, the most indispensable of the Sacraments does not lose its virtue when administered properly by a stranger, or even by an enemy of the Church, nevertheless it derives its fecundity, even then, from and through the Bride; being valid only through union with what She Herself does. How true it is, that neither holiness nor learning confers upon man that gift of infallibility, which was promised by Our Lord to none but the true Successors of St. Peter. It was, perhaps, as a demonstration of this truth, that God permitted this passing cloud to darken so lofty an intellect as St. Cyprian’s. The danger could not be serious, or the error lasting, in one whose ruling thought is expressed by these words: “He that keeps not the unity of the Church, does he think to keep the Faith? He that abandons the See of Peter whereon the Church is founded, can he flatter himself that he is still in the Cburch?”

Great in his life, St. Cyprian was still greater in death. Valerian had given orders for the extermination of the principal clergy; and in Rome, Pope St. Sixtus II, followed by his Deacon, St. Laurence, had led the way to martyrdom. Galerius Maximus, proconsul of Africa, was then holding court at Utica, and commanded St. Cyprian to be brought to him. But the Bishop would not allow “the honor of his Church to be mutilated,” by dying at a distance from his episcopal see. He therefore waited till the proconsul had returned to Carthage, and then delivered himself up by making a public entrance into the city.

In the house which served for a few hours as his prison, St. Cyprian, calm and unmoved, gathered his friends and family for the last time round his table. The Christians hastened from all parts to spend the night with their pastor and father. Thus, while he yet lived, they kept the first vigil of his future Feast. When, in the morning, he was led before the proconsul, they offered him an armchair draped like a bishop’s throne. It was indeed the beginning of an episcopal function, the pontiff’s own peculiar office being to give his life for the Church, in union with the eternal High Priest. The interrogatory was short, for there was no hope of shaking his constancy; and the judge pronounced sentence that St. Cyprian must die by the sword. On the way to the place of execution, the soldiers formed a guard of honor to the Bishop, who advanced calmly, surrounded by his clergy as on days of solemnity. Deep emotion stirred the immense crowd of friends and enemies who had assembled to assist at the sacrifice. The hour had come. The pontiff prayed prostrate upon the ground; then rising, he ordered 25 gold pieces to be given to the executioner, and, taking off his tunic, handed it to the deacons. He himself tied the bandage over his eyes; a priest, assisted by a subdeacon, bound his hands; while the people spread linen cloths around him to receive his blood. Not until the Bishop himself had given the word of command, did the trembling executioner lower his sword. In the evening, the faithful came with torches and with hymns to bury St. Cyprian. It was September 14 in the year 258. (1)

Image: Saint Cyprian, artist: Meister von Meßkirch, circa 1535/40 (5)

  Saint Cyprian

Our Lady of Sorrows

September 15

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.   Ora pro nobis.

Stabat mater dolorosa
iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat filius.

(At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.) Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306

We pray today to Our Blessed Mother, that through our joining with her sorrows, we may find the joy of eternal salvation with Jesus Christ, Our Lord. We look to Mary as a model of forbearance and endurance, obedience and meekness, love, patience, and joyful suffering.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Fr. Francis Cuthbert Doyle, 1896

I. One of the Wise Man’s most pathetic exhortations is, that a son should never forget the travailing and the sorrows of his mother. In order, therefore, that we may bear in mind the bitter anguish which lacerated our Lady’s heart, we must reflect today upon that scene of woe in which her seven-fold sorrow culminated, in which the waters rose up around her, and closed over her head in a sea of anguish, such as never before flooded the heart of mortal man.

Jesus hung on the Cross, the outcast of His nation–a mark at which the vile rabble, and their still viler leaders, hurled their bitter taunts, and aimed their clumsy scorn. A galling wreath of thorns circled His head; His eyes were filled with blood; His hands and feet nailed tightly down to the cruel wood. The wickedness of a sinful world pressed heavily upon Him, and its ponderous weight well-nigh crushed Him Who upholds the universe. During His death agony, men scoffed and jeered at Him, taunting Him with impotence, and blaspheming Him most vilely; and all the while there stood by that death-bed of shame, Mary His Mother! He was Her Child; her blood flowed in His veins; her heart beat in unison with His. Those sacred features, now so sadly bruised and disfigured, were the exact counterpart of her own. That head, now crowned with thorns, had often nestled in her bosom. That tongue which now and then spoke through the darkness, had been taught by her to lisp its first accents. Between Him and her there had passed all that interchange of fond affection and tender love which takes place between a mother and the child of her bosom. Add to this the intense love with which she loved Him as her God, and we may truly say, there never could be love between mortal man and God greater than the love which existed between Jesus and Mary.

If, then, the natural effect of love is union, and if the greater the love the closer the union, we may form some idea of the agony which the sufferings of Jesus caused her heart. The thorns which made His temples throb with acute pain were as a circle of fire upon her brow. The nails which pierced His hands and feet fastened her also to His Cross. The foul language, the revilings, the scoffings, the blasphemies uttered against Him, were as a hail of fire upon her heart. Verily she was filled with His reproaches, and the revilings of them that reproached Him fell upon her. To what shall we compare her, or to what shall we liken the sorrow of this Virgin daughter of Sion? It is great as the sea. Who shall heal it? ‘O! all you that pass by the way, attend and see if there be sorrow like unto her sorrow.’

II. As we look at that ocean of sorrow, the bitter waters of which inundate her soul, we are forced to acknowledge that human words are but faint and inadequate symbols by which to indicate its depth and its breadth. Yet, though we may not be able to do this, we may at least turn our eyes with compassionate tenderness upon her, as she stands beneath the Cross, to see how she bears herself under its crushing weight, that so we also may learn how to suffer.

There are some to whom misfortune deals a blow so terrific that they are stunned and dazed by it. The insensibility which its violence produces, shields them from feeling the poignancy of the pain. It was not so with Mary. Though the magnitude of her grief surpassed all other human sorrows, yet she did not allow it so to master her as to make her swoon away, and thus be unable to feel the keenness of the sword which wounded and tortured her. Her grief, being calm and self-possessed, was on that very account all the more terrible, all the more bitter, because her mind fully adverted to all the circumstances which aggravated and brought it home more closely to her heart. Not one circumstance of those three cruel hours, during which the Saviour of the world slowly died before her eyes upon His Cross of shame, escaped her notice. Her chalice was indeed a deep and bitter one, but she drained it to the very dregs. She stood beneath that Cross!

Yet she was neither hard nor insensible. She sighed and wept, and would not be comforted; but her grief did not overwhelm her. Strong men had fled away from that spectacle. Some had turned away their eyes, that they might not witness the terrible anguish which that mutilated Victim endured. But Mary stood by Him to the end, and her tearful eyes looked up into His pallid face as it sank in death upon His breast.

O broken-hearted Mother! by the grief which then wrung thy maternal heart, by the fidelity which made thee stand by the Cross of Jesus, and bravely associate thyself with Him in His hour of ignominy and of pain, pray for us to God, that our hearts may be torn with true contrition for our sins. Mayest thou stand by us in the last hour of our life, and give us courage to pass through the portals of death to the feet of Our Judge.

III. From the sorrows of the most holy Mother of God, learn that all sorrow is the effect of sin. The first tears that ever dropped from the eyes of man were wrung from him by the bitter loss which he sustained on account of sin; and every tear that has since fallen, and gone to swell the tide of human woe, has had its origin in sin. Mary had never been guilty of sin. But sin seized upon and murdered her only Child; and therefore sin made her weep, we might almost say, tears of blood, upon the place dyed with the blood which she had given to Jesus Christ.

Look back at your life, and call to mind the numberless times in which you have sinned against your Lord. Each of these sins had its share in causing Mary’s bitter tears. They helped to strike down that thorny wreath upon the brow of Jesus; to wield the cruel scourge; to dig through the delicate hands and feet; to murder Him upon the Cross. They gave nerve to the executioner’s arm, and malice to the hypocritical Scribe, and words of scorn to the rabble that screamed and yelled around the Cross.

When, therefore, you contemplate the sorrows of our dearest Mother, fall upon your knees before her, look up into the face of your Saviour, smite your breast, ask pardon for having been the cause of His and of her sufferings; and promise that by resisting evil for the future, and by living a holy life, you will endeavour to blot out the evil of the past. If the merciful but just hand of God should chastise you for your sins by sending you sorrow to wring your heart with anguish, and to draw bitter tears from your eyes–Oh! lift up those eyes to the Cross on which Jesus hangs, beneath which Mary stands, and learn patiently to bear the trial. Weep with her over the work which your hands have done. Those tears are a sweet balsam to the wounds of Jesus; they are a consolation to the heart of His Mother; they are a health-giving fountain which will wash away the filth of sin, ‘and heal the stroke of its wound.’ (1)

The Seven Dolours
Different sorrows of Mary have been honored in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have commonly been regarded as the seven dolours (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The loss of the child Jesus for three days
  4. Meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary
  5. The crucifixion and death of Jesus
  6. Jesus being taken down from the cross
  7. Jesus being laid in the tomb.

Manual of Devotions
Translated by Fr. Ambrose St. John , 1861

Devotion to the Sorrows of our Blessed Lady dates from Calvary. The Apostolic Church clung round her whom Jesus had given to be its Mother, and ever remembered that it was amid the pains, the Blood, and the agonies of the Passion, that it had become the child of Mary–literally “the child of her Sorrows.” The chief characteristic, then, of the Church’s first love to our Lady was a deep, tender, loving, and child-like devotion to her Sorrows, and the Apostolic age bequeathed this exquisite feeling to succeeding times. But it was reserved for the thirteenth century, in many respects the grandest period in the history of religion, to develop this intuitive aflection, by giving it, as it were, a form, and uniting those most attached to this devotion in a confraternity, strongly recommended by the Church, and richly endowed with indulgences, and other favours by the Supreme Pontiffs.

It was in the year 1234. that seven holy men of Florence, retiring from that city into the cloister founded a religious Order, under the name of the Servites, or Servants of Mary, whose especial object was to honour the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin; nor was it long before Heaven miraculously proved that our Blessed Lord, the Man of Sorrows, was well pleased with this afifectionate devotion to her who had the most nearly and bitterly shared in His Passion.

This tender sympathy, and the consequent graces richly bestowed by Jesus and Mary, were however not to be confined to the cloister. A lay affiliation of the Servites of Mary was soon established; the habit, or scapular of our Lady of Sorrows, enriched with numerous indulgences, was eagerly sought after by thousands of all ranks. The Crown or Rosary of the “Sorrows” began to emulate the Dominican Rosary; in short, the Confraternity of the “Sorrows,” like the great Society of Mount Carmel, spread through Christendom, was in like manner encouraged by holy Popes, and in like manner drew down the favours of God, and the blessings of Mary, on untold thousands of rich and poor.

The great object of this Society is to nourish a loving sympathy with our Blessed Mother in her sufferings, and with her, and through her, to unite ourselves with Jesus bleeding and dying for us.

Those who wish to practise this devotion may be divided into two classes:

1st–Those who wear the black Scapular and receive her Crown or Rosary, and join from time to time in the Offices and devotions of her Sorrows.

2nd–Those who, in addition to the above, become enrolled members of the confraternity, with a good intention of regularly observing its rules.

It is with sincere pleasure, and heartfelt gratitude, that we have seen this beautiful devotion established in this country. It has lately been regularly organized as a canonical Confraternity at St. Patrick’s, Soho, London, where the first Feast of the Seven Sorrows has been solemnly kept. Of this we are certain, that in proportion as we, the Servants of Mary, compassionate her sufferings and meditate on her great Sorrows, while thus our love for her grows daily “more and more,” so also will our love for Jesus crucified still more continually increase. Private devotions will multiply, public Offices will be more regularly and more devoutly attended, and, as we confidently believe, Mary will show us a grateful love, and, with her own most marvellous blessing, will bless those who, by compassionating her Sorrows, show themselves the most truly to be her children, and give the sweetest consolation to her afilicted heart. (8)

Image:Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain.  (6)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Catherine of Genoa, Widow

September 15

Today is the feast day of Saint Catherine of Genoa.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Catherine Fieschi (also known as Caterina Fieschi Adorno), was born in Genoa.  St. Catherine’s parents were Jacopo Fieschi and Francesca di Negro, both of illustrious Italian birth.

Her family, rich in great men, had given to the Church two popes (Innocent IV and Adrian V), nine cardinals and two archbishops. Catherine, noble in birth, rich, and exceedingly beautiful, had as a child rejected the solicitations of the world, and begged her divine Master for some share in His sufferings.

Despite her ardent desire to enter the cloister, at sixteen years of age she found herself promised in marriage to a young nobleman of dissolute habits. She was obliged to obey her parents’ intentions. Her spouse treated her with such harshness that after five years, wearied by his cruelty, she somewhat relaxed the strictness of her state and entered into the worldly society of Genoa.

She went one day, full of melancholy, to a convent in Genoa where she had a sister, a nun. The latter advised her to go to confession to the nuns’ confessor, and Catherine agreed. No sooner, however, had she knelt down in the confessional than a ray of Divine light pierced her soul, and in one moment manifested her own sinfulness and the Love of God with equal clearness. The revelation was so overwhelming that she lost consciousness and fell into a kind of ecstacy, for a space during which the confessor happened to be called away. When he returned, Catherine could only murmur that she would put off her confession, and go home quickly.

At length, enlightened by divine grace as to the danger of her state, she resolutely broke with the world and entered upon a life of rigorous penance and prayer. Having seen Jesus with His cross, and heard His reproaches, O love! she cried, I will sin no longer!

For twenty-three years she could take no nourishment but Holy Communion, and she drank only a little water mingled with vinegar and salt. Every day she prayed for six to seven hours on her knees, and never relaxed this practice. Her heroic fortitude was sustained by the constant thought of the holy souls of purgatory, whose sufferings were revealed to her, and whose state she has described in a treatise full of heavenly wisdom.

Of the saint’s outward life, after this great change, her biographies practically tell us but two facts: that she at last converted her husband who died penitent in 1497; and that both before and after his death — though more entirely after it — she gave herself to the care of the sick in the great Hospital of Genoa, where she eventually became manager and treasurer.

After her husband’s death in 1497, a terrible plague broke out in Genoa and lasted for four years, carrying off four-fifths of the population. Catherine heroically sacrificed herself for the sick, day and night. At the same time she continued her accustomed penances and religious exercises. Frequently she was lost in ecstasy; and even when she was busily engaged in work, her mind was occupied with the things of heaven. She succeeded in a marvelous manner in combining complete “other-worldliness: with the most capable “practicality.” She also wrote an excellent treatise on Purgatory and another which is a Dialogue of the soul and the body. The Holy Office declared that these works alone are proof enough of her genuine holiness. 

She died worn out with labors of body and soul, and consumed, even physically, by the fires of Divine love within her. She died on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1510.The body of St Catherine was exhumed eighteen months after her death. Her body was found to be perfectly intact even through her burial shroud was damp and decayed. There were many miracles that occurred at this time. 

She was beatified in 1675 by Clement X, but not canonized till 1737, by Clement XII. Meantime, her writings had been examined by the Holy Office and pronounced to contain doctrine that would be enough, in itself, to prove her sanctity.

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Exhaltation of the Holy Cross

September 14

Today is the feast day of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross.

Today’s feast is a triumphant liturgy— a day in which red is worn to symbolize the glorious and saving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The Church sings of the triumph of the Cross—no longer an instrument of death and torture—but the powerful and glorious instrument of our redemption. To follow Christ we must take up His cross, follow Him and become obedient until death, even if it means death on the cross. We identify with Christ on the Cross and become co-redeemers, sharing in His cross. 

The Cross could not be decently mentioned amongst Romans, who looked upon it as an unlucky omen, and as Cicero says, not to be named by a freeman.  However, the Emperor Constantine attributed his victory in the Quintian fields, near the bridge Milvius, to the Cross of the Christians, the inscription of which he caused to be put under his statue with which the senate honoured him in Rome, as Eusebius testifies. The same historian mentions that in his triumph, he did not mount the capitol, to offer sacrifices and gifts to the false gods, according to the custom of his predecessors, but “by illustrious inscriptions promulgated the power of Christ’s saving sign.”

Exhaltation of the Holy Cross.

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

“Through Thee the precious Cross is honored and worshiped throughout the world.” Thus did Saint Cyril of Alexandria praise Our Lady on the morrow of that great day, which saw Her Divine Maternity vindicated at Ephesus. Eternal Wisdom has willed that the Octave of Mary’s Birth should be honored by the celebration of this Feast of the triumph of the Holy Cross. The Cross indeed is the standard of God’s armies, whereof Mary is the Queen; it is by the Cross that She crushes the serpent’s head, and wins so many victories over error, and over the enemies of the Christian name.

“By this sign thou shalt conquer.” Satan had been suffered to try his strength against the Church by persecution and tortures; but his time was drawing to an end. By the edict of Sardica, which emancipated the Christians, Galerius, when about to die, acknowledged the powerlessness of Hell. Now was the time for Christ to take the offensive, and for His Cross to prevail. Towards the close of the year 311, a Roman army lay at the foot of the Alps, preparing to pass from Gaul into Italy. Constantine, its commander, together with his soldiers, already belonged henceforward to the Lord of hosts. The Son of the Most High, having become the Son of Mary, King of this world, was about to reveal Himself to His first lieutenant, and, at the same time, to discover to His first army the standard that was to go before it. Above the legions, in a cloudless sky, the Cross, proscribed for three long centuries, suddenly shone forth; all eyes beheld it, making the western sun, as it were, its footstool, and surrounded with these words in characters of fire: IN HOC VINCE: By this sign conquer! A few months later, October 27, 312, all the idols of Rome stood aghast to behold, approaching along the Flaminian Way, beyond the bridge Milvius, the Labarum with its sacred monogram, now become the standard of the imperial armies. On the morrow was fought the decisive battle, which opened the gates of the eternal City to Christ, the only God, the everlasting King.

“O great and admirable mystery!” cries out Saint Augustine. “He must increase, but I must decrease, said John, said the voice which personified all the voices that had gone before announcing the Father’s Word Incarnate in His Christ. Every word, in that it signifies something, in that it is an idea, an internal word, is independent of the number of syllables, of the various letters and sounds; it remains unchangeable in the heart that conceives it, however numerous may be the words that give it outward existence, the voices that utter it, the languages, Greek, Latin and the rest, into which it may be translated. To him who knows the word, expressions and voices are useless. The prophets were voices, the Apostles were voices; voices are in the psalms, voices in the Gospel. But let the Word come, the Word Who was in the beginning, the Word Who was with God, the Word Who was God; when we shall see Him as He is, shall we hear the Gospel repeated? Shall we listen to the prophets? Shall we read the Epistles of the Apostles? The voice fails where the Word increases… Not that in Himself the Word can either diminish or increase. But He is said to grow in us, when we grow in Him. To him, then, who draws near to Christ, to him who makes progress in the contemplation of wisdom, words are of little use; of necessity they tend to fail altogether. Thus the ministry of the voice falls short in proportion as the soul progresses towards the Word; it is thus that Christ must increase and John decrease. The same is indicated by the beheading of John, and the exaltation of Christ upon the Cross; as it had already been shown by their birthdays: for, from the birth of John the days begin to shorten, and from the birth of Our Lord they begin to grow longer.”

“Hail, O Cross, formidable to all enemies, bulwark of the Church, strength of princes; hail in thy triumph! The sacred Wood still lay hidden in the earth, yet it appeared in the heavens announcing victory; and an emperor, become Christian, raised it up from the bowels of the earth.” Thus sang the Greek Church yesterday, in preparation for the joys of today; for the East, which has not our Feast of May 3, celebrates on this one solemnity both the overthrow of idolatry by the sign of salvation revealed to Constantine and his army, and the discovery of the Holy Cross a few years later in the cistern of Golgotha.

But another celebration, the memory of which is fixed by the Menology on September 13, was added in the year 335 to the happy recollections of this day; namely the Dedication of the Basilicas raised by Constantine on Mount Calvary and over the Holy Sepulcher, after the precious discoveries made by his mother, Saint Helena. In the very same century that witnessed all these events, a pious pilgrim, thought to be Saint Silva, sister of Rufinus the minister of Theodosius and Arcadius, attested that the anniversary of this Dedication was celebrated with the same solemnity as Easter and the Epiphany. There was an immense concourse of bishops, clerics, monks, and laity of both sexes, from every province; and the reason, she says, is that the “Cross was found on this day”; which motive had led to the choice of the same day for the first consecration, so that the two joys might be united into one.

Saint Sophronius, the holy Patriarch of Jerusalem, proclaimed: “It is the Feast of the Cross; who would not exult? It is the triumph of the Resurrection; who would not be full of joy? Formerly, the Cross led to the Resurrection; now it is the Resurrection that introduces us to the Cross. Resurrection and Cross: trophies of our salvation!” And the Pontiff then developed the instructions resulting from this connection.

It appears to have been about the same time that the West also began to unite in a certain manner these two great mysteries; leaving to September 14 the other memories of the Holy Cross, the Latin churches introduced into Paschal Time a special Feast of the Finding of the Wood of Redemption. In compensation, the present solemnity acquired a new luster to its character of triumph by the contemporaneous events which form the principal subject of the historical lessons in the Roman liturgy.

A century earlier, Saint Benedict had appointed this day for the commencement of the period of penance knows as the monastic Lent, which continues till the opening of Lent proper, when the whole Christian army joins the ranks of the cloister in the campaign of fasting and abstinence. “The Cross,” says Saint Sophronius, “is brought before our minds; who will not crucify himself? The true worshiper of the sacred Wood is he who carries out his worship in his deeds.”

The following are the lessons we have already alluded to:

About the end of the reign of the Emperor Phocas, Chosroes king of the Persians invaded Egypt and Africa. He then took possession of Jerusalem; and after massacring there many thousand Christians, he carried away into Persia the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which Saint Helena had placed upon Mount Calvary. Phocas was succeeded in the Empire by Heraclius; who, after enduring many losses and misfortunes in the course of the war, sued for peace, but was unable to obtain it even upon disadvantageous terms, so elated was Chosroes by his victories. In this perilous situation he applied himself to prayer and fasting, and earnestly implored God’s assistance. Then, admonished from Heaven, he raised an army, marched against the enemy, and defeated three of Chosroes’ generals with their armies.

Subdued by these disasters, Chosroes took to flight; and, when about to cross the river Tigris, named his son Medarses his associate in the kingdom. But his eldest son Sisroes, bitterly resenting this insult, plotted the murder of his father and brother. He soon afterwards overtook them in flight, and put them to death. Sisroes then had himself recognized as king by Heraclius, on certain conditions, the first of which was to restore the Cross of Our Lord. Thus, 14 years after It had fallen into the hands of the Persians, the Cross was recovered; and on his return to Jerusalem, Heraclius, with great pomp, bore It back on his own shoulders to the Mount whither Our Savior had carried It.

This event was signalized by a remarkable miracle. Heraclius, attired as he was in robes adorned with gold and precious stones was forced to stand still at the gate which led to Mount Calvary. The more he endeavored to advance, the more he seemed fixed to the spot. Heraclius himself and all the people were as-tounded; but Zacharias, the Bishop of Jerusalem, said: Consider, O Emperor, how little thou imitatest the poverty and humility of Jesus Christ, by carrying the Cross clad in triumphal robes. Heraclius there-upon laid aside his magnificent apparel, and barefoot, clothed in poor attire, he easily completed the rest of the way, and replaced the Cross in the same place on Mount Calvary, whence It had been carried off by the Persians. From this event, the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, which was celebrated yearly on this day, gained fresh luster, in memory of the Cross being replaced by Heraclius on the spot where it had first been set up for Our Savior.

The victory thus chronicled in the sacred books of the Church was not the last triumph of the Holy Cross; nor were the Persians Its latest enemies. At the very time of the defeat of these fire-worshiping pagans, the prince of darkness was raising up a new standard—the crescent. By the permission of God, Islam also was about to try its strength against the Cross: a two-fold power, the sword and the seduction of the passions. But here again, in the secret combats between the soul and Satan, as well as in the great battles recorded in history, the final success was due to the weakness and folly of Calvary.

The Cross was the rallying-standard of all Europe in those sacred expeditions which borrowed from It their beautiful title of Crusades, and which exalted the Christian name in the East. While on the one hand the Cross was warding off degradation and ruin, on the other It was preparing the conquest of new continents; so that it was by the Cross that the West remained at the head of nations, rather than beneath the foot of the crescent. Through the Cross, the warriors in these glorious campaigns are inscribed on the first pages of the golden book of nobility. The orders of chivalry, which claimed to hold among their ranks the elite of the human race, looked upon the Cross as the highest mark of merit and honor.

O adorable Cross, our glory and our love here on earth, save us on the day when thou shalt appear in the heavens, when the Son of Man, seated in His majesty, is to judge the world! (1)

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

This festival was instituted in commemoration of the day on which the holy Cross of Christ, was, with great solemnities, brought back to Jerusalem. Chosroes, king of Persia, had invaded Syria with a powerful army, and had conquered Jerusalem, the capital. He caused the massacre of eighty thousand men, and also took many prisoners away with him, among whom was the Patriarch Zachary. But more painful than all this to the Christians was, that he carried away the holy, Cross of our Saviour, which, after great pains, had been discovered by the holy empress, St. Helena. The pagan king carried it with him to Persia, adorned it magnificently with pearls and precious stones, and placed it upon the top of his royal throne of pure gold. Thus was the holy Cross held in higher honor by the heathen king, than Martin Luther would have manifested; for, in one of his sermons, he says of it: “If a piece of the holy Cross were given to me and I had it in my hand, I would soon put it where the sun would never shine on it.” 

Heraclius, the pious emperor, was greatly distressed at this misfortune, and as he had not an army sufficiently large to meet so powerful an enemy, he made propositions for peace. Chosroes, inflated by many victories, refused at first to listen to the emperor’s proposal, but at length consented, on condition that Heraclius should forsake the faith of Christ and worship the Sun, the god of the Persians. Indignant at so wicked a request, the emperor, seeing that it was a question of religion, concerning the honor of the Most High, broke off all negotiation with his impious enemy. Taking refuge in prayer, he assembled all the Christian soldiers of his dominions, and commanded all his subjects to appease the wrath of the Almighty, and ask for His assistance, by fasting, praying, giving alms and other good works. He himself gave them the example. After this, he went courageously, with his comparatively small army, to meet the haughty Chosroes, having given strict orders that his soldiers, besides abstaining from other vices, should avoid all plundering and blaspheming, that they might prove themselves worthy of the divine assistance. 

Taking a crucifix in his hand, he animated his soldiers by pointing towards it, saying they should consider for whose honor they were fighting, and that there was nothing more glorious than to meet death for the honor of God and His holy religion. Thus strengthened, the Christian army marched against the enemy. Three times were they attacked by three divisions of the Persian army, each one led by an experienced general; and three times they repulsed the enemy, so that Chosroes himself had at last to flee. His eldest son, Siroes, whom he had excluded from the succession to the throne, seized the opportunity, and not only assassinated his own father, but also his brother, Medarses, who had been chosen by Chosroes as his associate and successor. To secure the crown which he had thus forcibly seized, Siroes offered peace to Heraclius, restored to him the conquered provinces, and also sent back the holy Cross, the patriarch Zachary, and all the other prisoners of war. Heraclius, in great joy, hastened with the priceless wood to Jerusalem, to offer due thanks to the Almighty for the victory, and to restore the holy Cross, which the Persians had kept in their possession during fourteen years, to its former place. 

All the inhabitants of the city, the clergy and laity, came to meet the pious emperor. The latter had resolved to carry the Cross to Mount Calvary, to the church fitted up for its reception. A solemn procession was formed, in which the Patriarch, the courtiers and an immense multitude of people took part. The clergy preceded, and the emperor, arrayed in sumptuous robes of state, carried the holy Cross upon his shoulder. Having thus passed through the city, they came to the gate that leads to Calvary, when suddenly the emperor stood still and could not move from the spot. At this miracle, all became frightened, not knowing what to think of it. Only to St. Zachary did God reveal the truth. Turning to the emperor the patriarch said: “Christ was not arrayed in splendor when He bore His Cross through this gate. His brow was not adorned with a golden crown, but with one made of thorns. Perhaps, O emperor, your magnificent robe is the cause of your detention.” 

The pious Heraclius humbly gave ear to the words of the patriarch, divested himself of his imperial purple, and put on poor apparel, he took the crown from his head and the shoes from his feet. Having done this, the sacred treasure was again laid on his shoulder: when, behold! nothing detained him, and he carried it to the place of its destination. The holy patriarch then deposited the Cross in its former place, and duly venerated it with all who were present. God manifested how much He was pleased with the honor they had paid to the holy Cross of Christ, by many miracles wrought on the same day. A dead man was restored to life by being touched by the sacred wood; four paralytic persons obtained the use of their limbs; fifteen who were blind received sight; many sick recovered their health; and several possessed were freed from the devil by devoutly touching it. (6)

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Saint Maurilius, Bishop

September 13

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

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1882

The native place of St. Maurilius was Milan, and his teacher was St. Martin, who had founded a monastery near that city, wherein he lived. After this holy man had been banished from Milan by the Arians, and had become Bishop of Tours, Maurilius went to him to be instructed in virtue and wisdom. When he had made sufficient progress, St. Martin ordained him priest, after which Maurilius repaired to Angers to preach the Gospel, as at that time, a great number of the inhabitants were pagans. While on this way thither, he saw the temple of an idol, standing near the river. Pitying the blindness of the people, he besought God to destroy this temple; when, behold, fire falls from heaven, the temple is overthrown, the idol burned to ashes! Maurilius, having had all the rubbish carried away, assisted by some pious Christians, built a church upon the same spot, together with a monastery in which he took up his abode with a number of devout men, whom he governed as Abbot. During this time he converted an almost countless number of pagans, as well in the city as out of it, by zealous preaching and the miracles he performed on the sick, the possessed and the blind.

Meanwhile the Bishop of Angers died, and St. Martin, who went thither to choose a successor, took Maurilius with him. The clergy and people were assembled, and the election was about to begin, when suddenly a white dove was seen which, after having fluttered through the church for some time, at length descended upon the shoulder of St. Maurilius. All looked upon this event as a sign that God had chosen this holy man as Bishop, and hence they unanimously declared that they desired no other. He was therefore consecrated bishop by St. Martin, to the inexpressible comfort of the people, although he himself shed many tears at being obliged to accept the dignity.

As Bishop, his virtues shone still more brightly; for he had more opportunities to practise them in the world than in the convent and his exalted station imparted to them an additional lustre. He fasted with great rigor, and on three days of the week he partook only of bread and salt. He never tasted wine, and during Lent, seldom left his residence; “for,” said he, “Lent is a time of solitude, during which we ought to contemplate the passion and death of Christ.” He was unwearied in instructing his flock and in converting the heathen.

One day, while he was standing before the Altar to perform the holy sacrifice, a woman requested him to administer to her sick son the holy sacrament of Confirmation. Maurilius, not thinking that the lad was in danger, continued Mass, but before he had finished it, the child was dead. The holy man was exceedingly grieved at this accident, and as if having committed great sin, he sentenced himself to a severe penance. He secretly left the city, and hastened over hill and dale, until having arrived at the sea, he went on board of a ship which was setting sail for England. During the voyage, the keys of the holy relics which he had taken with him, fell into the sea, and he solemnly declared that he would not return to his diocese, until he should again possess them, which, as he believed, would never happen.

At length he arrived in England, where, without making himself known, he took service with a nobleman as gardener. It was his intention to do penance for his sin by the hard labors of this occupation during winter and summer. The inhabitants of Angers were meanwhile greatly dismayed at the disappearance of their highly esteemed bishop, and sent several persons in search of him. Seven whole years had elapsed, when, by divine revelation they found him. Their good angel guided them in such a manner, that they found their holy bishop coming from his garden with a load of vegetables for his master. They immediately recognized him, and besought him, with tears in their eyes, to return to his see, and watch over the spiritual welfare of his flock. St. Maurilius, who thought that they had long since elected another bishop, was greatly disturbed on beholding them. He could not deny his identity, but endeavored to evade their wishes by making different pretexts, and finally declared that he could not return under any circumstances, as he had solemnly vowed that he would not see Angers again until, the keys were found which had fallen out of his hand into the sea.

“If this is the only obstacle to your return, we are able to remove it,” said the delegates; “for on the voyage, we caught a fish, in whose stomach we found the keys.” Showing them to him, they persuaded him to regard the finding of them as an unmistakable proof that God desired his return. Maurilius made no further resistance, but taking leave of the gentleman whom he had served, he returned to his see. It must also be stated that, shortly before the arrival of the delegates, while St. Maurilius was weeping bitterly over his sins, an angel had appeared to him and given him the assurance of their entire remission, which filled his heart with inexpressible joy. It would be difficult to describe the rejoicings of the inhabitants of the entire diocese on the return of their holy bishop. The Saint, however, first went to the place where the abovementioned lad had been buried seven years before. Having said his prayers with the utmost confidence in the power of God, he awakened the child from death, as is testified by St. Gregory of Tours and others. Those present had never so clearly comprehended how pious and holy a man God had bestowed upon them in their bishop, as at the moment of that startling event. Maurilius gave the lad the name of Renatus, which means “born again,” and instructed him so carefully in all that pertains to a Christian life, that he afterwards became the successor of his holy teacher.

The remainder of his life the Saint passed in his habitual austerity, and in great zeal for the salvation of souls. When he had reached his ninetieth year, God revealed to him the hour of his departure. Preparing himself with the greatest solicitude, he ordered his grave to be dug, and after a short illness, gave up his soul to his Creator. At his funeral, besides other miracles which took place, two persons who had been blind from birth received their sight, and a man who had been paralyzed thirty-one years, regained the use of his limbs, on kissing the coffin in which the relics of the Saint reposed. Well worth considering are the words which the holy man spoke shortly before his death to those around him: “Ponder well,” said he, “that your souls are bought at a great price: the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” (1)

He is the patron saint of Angers, invoked by fishermen and gardeners. In art, he is represented as a bishop with a fish holding a key or a garden spade.  He can be seen in one of the stained glass windows of the south side of the choir of the Cathedral of Angers and also in the tapestries of Angers from the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Image: Wall painting: Maurilius in the Cathedral of Angers (3)

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The Most Holy Name of Mary

September 12

Today is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the universal Church as a solemn thanksgiving for the relief of Vienna, when it was besieged by the Turks in 1683.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe reminded us how the name of Mary reveals her union with Her Son, and how invoking her Holy Name banishes the darkness of sin and welcomes the light of life:

“Try to take refuge with Mary as a little child with its best-beloved Mother. ‘Invoke’ her Holy Name with the heart in the difficulties of life, in darkness and weakness of spirit and you will soon be convinced what Mary can do – and Who her Son Jesus Christ is.”

Throughout the centuries, Saints and scholars have put forth different interpretations for the name “Mary.” A mixture of etymology and devotion has combined to produce an interesting array of meanings:

“Mary means enlightener, because She brought forth the Light of the world. In the Syriac tongue, Mary signifies Lady.” [St. Isidore of Seville +636]

“Let me say something concerning this name also, which is interpreted to mean Star of the sea, and admirably suits the Virgin Mother.” [St. Bernard +1153]

“Mary means Star of the sea, for as mariners are guided to port by the ocean star, so Christians attain to glory through Mary’s maternal intercession.” [St. Thomas Aquinas +1274]

“This most holy, sweet and worthy name was ’eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men She is the Star of the sea; to the Angels She is illuminatrix, and to all creatures She is Lady .” [St. Bonaventure +1274]

“God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas or maria [Latin, seas]. He gathered all His grace together and called it Mary or Maria . . .This immense treasury is none other than Mary whom the Saints call the ‘treasury of the Lord.’ From Her fullness all men are made rich;” [St. Louis de Montfort +1716]

Most Holy Name of Mary

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

“And the Virgin’s name was Mary. Let us speak a little about this name, which signifies star of the sea, and which so well befits the Virgin Mother. Rightly is She likened to a star; for as a star emits its ray without being dimmed, so the Virgin brought forth Her Son without receiving any injury – the ray takes nothing from the brightness of the star, nor the Son from His Mother’s integrity. This is the noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray illumines the whole earth, gives warmth rather to souls than to bodies, cherishing virtues, withering vices. Mary, I say, is that bright and incomparable star, whom we need to see raised above this vast sea, shining by Her merits, and giving us light by Her example.

Oh! whosoever thou art that seest thyself, amid the tides of this world, tossed about by storms and tempests rather than walking on the land, turn not thine eyes away from the shining of this star if thou wouldst not be overwhelmed by the hurricane. If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary. If thou art tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of thy soul, turn thine eyes towards Mary. If, troubled by the enormity of thy crimes, ashamed of thy guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, thou beginnest to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let Her be ever on thy lips, ever in thy heart; and the better to obtain the help of Her prayers, imitate the example of Her life. Following Her, thou strayest not; invoking Her, thou despairest not; thinking of Her, thou wanderest not; upheld by Her, thou fallest not; shielded by Her, thou fearest not; guided by Her, thou growest not weary; favored by Her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: And the Virgin’s name was Mary.” (Matins of the Feast)

Thus speaks the devout St. Bernard, in the name of the Church. But his pious explanation does not exhaust the meanings of the Blessed Name of Mary. St. Peter Chrysologus adds in this same night Office: “Mary in Hebrew signifies lady or sovereign: and truly the authority of Her Son, Who is the Lord of the world, constituted Her Queen, both in fact and in name, from Her very birth.”

Our Lady: such is the title which befits Her in every way, as that of Our Lord befits Her Son; it is the doctrinal basis of that worship of hyperdulia which belongs to Her alone. She is below Her Son, Whom She adores as we do; but above all God’s servants, both Angels and men, inasmuch as She is His Mother. At the Name of Jesus every knee is bent; at the Name of Mary every head is bowed. And although the former is the only Name whereby we may be saved; yet, as the Son can never be separated from His Mother, Heaven unites their two Names in its hymns of praise, earth in its confidence, Hell in its fear and hatred.

It was therefore in the order of Divine Providence that devotion to the Most Holy Name of Mary should spread simultaneously with the worship of the adorable Name of Jesus, of which St. Bernardine of Siena was the apostle in the 15th century. In 1513 the Church of Cuenca in Spain was the first to celebrate, with the approbation of the Holy See, a special feast in honor of the Name of Mary, while the Franciscan Order had not yet succeeded in obtaining a like privilege for the adorable Name of Jesus. The reason of this is that the memorial of that Sacred Name, which is included in the Feast of the Circumcision, seemed to the prudence of the Popes to suffice. From the same motive we find the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary extended to the Universal Church in the year 1683, and that of the Most Holy Name of Jesus not until 1721.

“Who is She that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (Cant. 6: 9) Such is Thy growth, O Mary! Not the holiest life, were it even of patriarchal duration, will ever attain the degree of progress made under the influence of the Divine Power by the soul of the Most Pure Virgin, in these few days elapsed since Her coming on earth (September 8). First, there is progress of Her intellect: not subject to the obscurity which envelopes the minds of all men at their entrance into the world, it is a faithful mirror, into which the Word of God pours floods of light which is also life. Then the progress of love in that Heart of the Virgin and the Mother, wherein the Holy Ghost already delights to awake such ineffable harmonies, and to dig still deeper depths. Lastly, the progress of that victorious power, which made Satan tremble at the moment of the Immaculate Conception, and which has constituted Mary the incomparable Queen of the hosts of the Lord.

Two glorious triumphs, two victories won under the protection of Our Lady, have rendered September 12th illustrious in the annals of the Church and of history.

Manicheism, revived under a variety of names, had established itself in the south of France, whence it hoped to spread its reign of shameless excess. But St. Dominic appeared with Mary’s Rosary for the defense of the people. On September 12, 1213, Simon de Montfort and the crusaders of the Faith, though outnumbered 40 to 1, crushed the Albigensian army at Muret. This was in the pontificate of Innocent III.

Nearly five centuries later, the Turks, who had more than once caused the West to tremble, again poured down upon Christendom. Vienna, worn out and dismantled, abandoned by its emperor, was surrounded by 300,000 infidels. But another great Pope, Innocent XI, again confided to Mary the defense of the baptized nations. General Sobieski, mounting his charger on the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, hastened from Poland by forced marches. On the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of Mary, September 12, 1683, Vienna was delivered; and then began for Turks that series of defeats which ended in the treaties of Carlowitz and Passarowitz, and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, inscribed on the calendar of the Universal Church, was the homage of the world’s gratitude to Mary, Our Lady and Queen.

The date of the Feast came to be fixed on September 12, although originally it was celebrated, in most places, on the Sunday within the Octave – a day which also corresponded to Sobieski’s victory. The Church of Milan used to celebrate it on September 11, and had a beautiful proper Preface, so perfectly in harmony with the sentiments inspired by this bright Feast:

It is truly meet to give Thee thanks, O eternal God, Who didst will that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary should be the Mother of Thine Only-Begotten Son: for it was not fitting that God’s Mother should be other than a Virgin, nor that the Virgin’s Son should be other than God. As at the Name of Jesus, every knee in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell bends before Thy Divine Majesty; so on hearing the Name of Mary, the Heavens bow down, earth prostrates, Hell trembles, confessing Thine adorable Omnipotence in the Virgin-Mother. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the Heavenly Army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Host! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest…! (1)

Image: The Madonna of the Roses, artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, circa: 1903. (6)


Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, Confessor

September 11

Today is the feast day of Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre.  Ora pro nobis.

John Gabriel Perboyre was born in 1802 in the diocese of Cahors in France. From his earliest years he was noticed for his piety. As a young student in the minor seminary, he was loved and venerated by all his fellow disciples, who called him the Little Jesus. A year before he advanced to the Major Seminary, his vocation was decided upon: I want to be a missionary, he said, and he entered the Congregation of the missionaries of Saint Vincent de Paul at Montauban.

On the feast of the Holy Innocents, 1820, he made the four vows of the Vincentians. He was raised to the priesthood, 23 September, 1825, in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity, by Bishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, and on the following day he said his first Mass.

One of the novices who later was confided to his care, said: For many years I had desired to meet a Saint, and when I saw Monsieur Perboyre, it seemed to me God had answered my wish. Several times I said, You will see that Monsieur Perboyre will be canonized.’  The two maxims of this Novice Master were: One does good for souls only by prayer. In all that you do, work only to please God, otherwise you would waste your time and effort.

His great sanctity and marvellous success induced his superiors, in 1832, to appoint him subdirector of the novitiate in Paris. He continued in this office until 1835, when he had sought and begged and prayed for, permission to go to China, there to preach, to suffer, and to die. He left Havre on 21 March, and on 29 August, 1835, arrived at Macao, where he spent some time studying the Chinese language. On 21 December, 1835, he began his journey to Ho-Nan, the mission assigned him. In January, 1838, he was transferred to the mission of Hou-Pé, in which, as in that of Ho-Nan, he laboured zealously and with great success.

In September, 1839, the persecutions against Christians broke out in Hou-Pé, and Fr. Jean-Gabriel was one of the first victims. The events leading to his death bear a striking resemblance to the Passion and Death of Christ. A neophyte, like another Judas, betrayed Fr Jean-Gabriel for thirty ounces of silver. He was stripped of his garments and clothed with rags, bound, and dragged from tribunal to tribunal. At each trial, he was treated inhumanly, tortured both in body and in soul. Finally, he was taken to Ou-Tchang-Fou, and after unparalleled tortures, was condemned to death. The sentence was ratified by an imperial edict, and on 11 September, 1840, Jean-Gabriel was led to death with seven criminals. 

 Those in attendance could not conceal their astonishment and could scarcely hold back their tears. Trample on your God, and I will free you! the mandarin cried out. Oh! the martyr replied, how could I so insult my Saviour? And seizing the crucifix, he pressed it to his lips. In 1840, after nine months’ confinement in a fearful prison, he was strangled on a gibbet in the form of a cross.

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Paphnutius, Bishop

September 11

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

We do not know the dates of his birth or death, but only of his works.  The holy monk Paphnutius was an Egyptian who, after having spent several years in the desert under the direction of the great Saint Anthony, was made bishop in Upper Thebaid.

Bishop Paphnutius suffered tremendous persecution under the Emperor Maximinus II, but never renounced his faith.  Bishop Paphnutius lived during the last great Christian persecution, during the reign of Roman Emperor Maximinus II. At that time, the emperor would capture clergymen and, if they would not renounce the faith, gouge out their right eyes and send them to almost certain death as mine laborers. 

Through the grace of God, Bishop Paphnutius outlived Emperor Maximinus’ short reign, and was able to leave the mines and return to Egypt. When the persecution ended, these faithful “surviving” Christians were dubbed “confessors” for having confessed their faith even in the face of such costly consequences. Back in Egypt, Bishop Paphnutius set about rebuilding the region’s Church and congregations as a model pastor, actively fighting against the Arian heresy which began soon thereafter. He ministered to his flock and defended Orthodoxy until his death.

When peace was restored to the Church, Bishop Paphnutius returned to his diocese and his flock. The Arian heresy was entering into Egypt, and he was seen to be one of the most zealous defenders of the Catholic Faith. For his eminent sanctity and his glorious title of confessor, that is, one who had confessed the Faith before the persecutors and under torments, he was highly esteemed at the great Council of Nicea in 325. Constantine the Great, during the celebration of that synod, sometimes conferred privately with him in his palace, and never dismissed him without kissing respectfully the place which had once held the eye he had lost for the Faith.

Saint Paphnutius remained always in close union with Saint Athanasius, and accompanied him to the Council of Tyre in 355. We have no particular account of the death of Saint Paphnutius, but his name is recorded in the Roman Martyrology on the 11th of September.

Research by REGINA Staff