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

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
1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Stigmata%20of%20St.%20Francis.html
2. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-11.htm
3. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/the_stigmata_of_saint_francis.html
4. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-181/Stigmata.htm
5. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/the_stigmata_of_saint_francis.html
6. http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/stigmatization-of-saint-francis.html
7. http://www.nobility.org/2017/09/14/stigmata-st-francis-assisi-2/

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

  1. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-157/Ss.%20Cornelius%20&%20Cyprian.htm
  2. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/09/september-16-pope-saint-cornelius.html
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heiliger_Cornelius.jpg

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
  1. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-157/Ss.%20Cornelius%20&%20Cyprian.htm
  2. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_cyprian.html
  3. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints9-10.htm
  4. http://www.nobility.org/2014/09/15/st-cyprian-of-carthage/
  5. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heiliger_Cyprianus.jpg

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

  1. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Seven%20Dolours%20Sermon.html
  2. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j195sd_OLSorrows_9-15.html
  3. http://catholictradition.org/Mary/sorrows.htm
  4. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/09/september-15-our-lady-of-sorrows.html
  5. http://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/our-lady-of-sorrows/
  6. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salamanca_-_Iglesia_de_la_Vera_Cruz_12.jpg
  7. http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/7sorrows.htm
  8. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Book%20Sorrows%20of%20the%20Blessed%20Virgin%20Mary.html
  9. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Sorrowful%20Mother.html
  10. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/Novena%20of%20the%20Seven%20Sorrows.html
  11. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-153/Feast%20of%20the%20Seven%20Dolors.htm
  12. http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/seven-sorrows.html
  13. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/the_seven_sorrows_of_the_blessed_virgin_mary.html