Saints Abdon and Sennen, Martyrs

July 30

Today is the feast day of Saints Abdon and Sennen.  Orate pro nobis.

The emperor Decius, enemy of Christians, had defeated the king of Persia and become master of several countries over which he reigned. He had already condemned to torture and death Saint Polychrome, with five members of his clergy. Saint Abdon and Saint Sennen, illustrious Persian dignitaries of the third century whom the king of Persia had highly honored, were secretly Christian.   It was they who had taken up the body of the martyred bishop, which had been cast contemptuously before a temple of Saturn, to bury them at night, with honor.

The two royal officials, now fallen under the domination of Rome, were grieved to witness the emperor’s cruelty towards the faithful, and believed it their duty to make known their love for Jesus Christ; thus, without fear of their new sovereign, they undertook by all possible means to spread and fortify the faith, to encourage the confessors and bury the martyrs.

Decius, learning of their dedication, was extremely irritated. He sent for the two brothers to appear before his tribunal, and attempted to win them over to sacrifice to the gods. The Saints replied that they could never adore any but Him.  Decius imprisoned them. Soon afterwards, when he learned of the death of the viceroy he had left to govern in his place at Rome, he returned to Rome and took his two captives with him to serve as splendid trophies of his Persian victory.

He arraigned them before the Senate, in whose presence they again testified to the divinity of Christ, saying they could adore no other. The next day they were flogged in the amphitheater; then two lions and four bears were released to devour them. But the beasts lay down at their feet and became their guardians, and no one dared approach for a time. Finally the prefect sent out gladiators to slay them with the sword, which with the permission of God was done. Their bodies remained three days without burial, but a subdeacon, who afterwards wrote their history, took them up and buried them on his own terrain.  Their glorious martyrdom occurred in the year 254.

In the reign of Constantine their relics were removed to the burying-place of Pontian (called also, from some sign, the “Bear and Cap” Ad Ursum Pileatum), situated near the Tiber on the road to Porto; this translation took place in consequence of a vision wherein the martyrs revealed their place of burial. These particulars are derived from their late and unreliable “acts”, but the veneration of SS. Abdon and Sennen in Rome can be traced back to the fourth century.

Image: Sants Abdó i Senén. Artist: Jaume Huguet (1459-60) (3)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/07-30.html
  2. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saints_abdon_and_sennen.html
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abdon_and_Sennen.jpg

Saint Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre

July 30

Today is the feast day of Saint Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Germanus (Germain) was born of noble birth around 380. He was the son of Rusticus and Germanilla.  His forebears were lords of the county of Auxerre in Gaul.  He was not of outstanding piety during his youth. He studied first at Lyon and Arles, then civil law in Rome, and practiced law there with distinction. He married Eustachia, a lady highly esteemed in imperial circles.  The emperor sent him back to Gaul, appointing him one of the six dukes, entrusted with the government of the Gallic provinces.

Germanus resided at Auxerre and gave himself up to all the enjoyments that naturally fell to his lot. At length he incurred the displeasure of the bishop, St. Amator. It appears that Germanus was accustomed to hang the trophies of the chase on a certain tree, which in earlier times had been the scene of pagan worship. Amator remonstrated with him in vain. One day when the Germanus was absent, the bishop had the tree cut down and the trophies burnt. Fearing the anger of the Germanus, who wished to kill him, he fled and appealed to the prefect Julius for permission to confer the tonsure on Germanus. This being granted, Amator, who felt that his own life was drawing to a close, returned. When the Germanus came to the church, Amator caused the doors to be barred and gave him the tonsure against his will, telling him to live as one destined to be his successor, and forthwith made him a deacon in  July 7, 418.

Germanus immediately became another man, and giving over his lands to the Church.  He adopted a life of humble penance. He rapidly attained high perfection, and the gift of miracles was given him. He attempted to conceal it. Afterwards there was never a time when all the roads leading to his residence were not filled with crowds of sick persons, waiting to address the bishop and beg his assistance. Many possessed persons were also delivered. Invariably his modesty caused him to attribute the multiplying prodigies to the relics of Saints which he wore around his neck, or to the sign of the Cross, or to the holy water he sometimes used, or to oil which he blessed. The furious demons tormented him with temptations and terrifying apparitions, but found themselves powerless.

He built a large monastery dedicated to Sts. Cosmas and Damian on the banks of the Yonne, where he eventually wanted to retire. In 429 the bishops of Britain sent an appeal to the continent for help against the Pelagian heretics, who were corrupting the faith of the island. St. Prosper, who was in Rome in 431, tells us in his Chronicle that Pope Celestine commissioned the Church in Gaul to send help.  Germanus and Saint Lupus of Troyes were deputed to cross over to Britain. On his way Germanus stopped at Nanterre, where he met a young child, Genevieve, destined to become the patroness of Paris, Saint Genevieve.  Germanus requested Genevieve live as one espoused to Christ.

Tradition tells us that the main discussion with the representatives of Pelagianism took place at St. Alban’s, and resulted in the complete discomfiture of the heretics. Germanus remained in Britain for some time preaching, and established several schools for the training of the clergy. On his return he went to Arles to visit the prefect, and obtained the remission of certain taxes that were oppressing the people of Auxerre. He constructed a church in honour of St. Alban about this time in his episcopal city.

In 447 he was invited to revisit Britain, and went with Severus, bishop of Trèves. It would seem that he did much for the Church there, if one can judge from the traditions handed down in Wales. On one occasion he is said to have aided the Britons to gain a great victory (called from the battle-cry, Alleluia! the Alleluia victory) over a marauding body of Saxons and Picts.

On his return to Gaul, he proceeded to Armorica (Brittany) to intercede for the Armoricans who had been in rebellion. Their punishment was deferred at his entreaty, till he should have laid their case before the emperor. He set out for Italy, and reached Milan on 17 June, 448. Then he journeyed to Ravenna, where he interviewed the empress-mother, Galla Placidia, on their behalf. The empress and the bishop of the city, St. Peter Chrysologus, gave him a royal welcome, and the pardon he sought was granted.

While there he died on 31 July, 450. His body, as he requested when dying, was brought back to Auxerre and interred in the Oratory of St. Maurice, which he had built. Later the oratory was replaced by a large church, which became a celebrated Benedictine abbey known as St. Germain’s. This tribute to the memory of the saint was the gift of Queen Clotilda, wife of Clovis. Some centuries later, Charles the Bald had the shrine opened, and the body was found intact. It was embalmed and wrapped in precious cloths, and placed in a more prominent position in the church. There it was preserved till 1567, when Auxerre was taken by the Huguenots, who desecrated the shrine and cast out the relics. It has been said that the relics were afterwards picked up and placed in the Abbey of St. Marion on the banks of the Yonne, but the authenticity of the relics in this church has never been canonically recognized. St. Germain was honoured in Cornwall and at St. Alban’s in England’s pre-reformation days, and has always been the patron of Auxerre.

The principal source for the events of his life is the Vita Germani, a hagiography written by Constantius of Lyon around 480, and the Passio Albani, which may possibly have been written or commissioned by Germanus.

Image: Sculpture en bois polychrome représentant saint Germain l’Auxerrois datée du XVe siècle, conservée dans l’église Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois à Paris. (4)

 

See Life of St Germanus of Auxerre by Constantius of Lyons, in the Western Fathers, Makers of Christendom Series, translated by Hoare. Sheed and Ward, Ltd, 1954.

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_germanus_of_auxerre.html
  2. http://www.nobility.org/2013/07/29/st-germain/
  3. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06472b.htm
  4. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sculpture_-_saint_Germain_l%27Auxerrois.jpg

Saint Olav, Confessor

July 29

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

Saint Olav was born Olaf Haraldsson in 995.  Royalty was in the blood of the future saint. His father was King Harold Grenske of Norway, and Olaf was to follow in his footsteps. Referred to as “Olaf the Fat,” he spent his youth as a Norse raider until approximately age 15.  According to Snorre, he was baptized in 998 in Norway, but more probably about 1010 in Rouen, France, by Archbishop Robert.

At 18, Olaf traveled to England and offered his services to the king, fighting against the invading Danes. One of the greatest impressions made on young Olav came from hearing the story of Charlemagne. This mighty king of the Franks who had lived some two hundred years before Olav’s time, had united much of Europe, established peace and law, and brought the people into the Faith. That he accomplished these things by the sword made him even more appealing to a Norseman. Olav resolved to do for Norway what Charlemagne had done for the pagan tribesmen of Europe. And he resolved to use the same methods.

Following his father’s death, and his ascension to the throne, Olaf traveled home to Norway, and fought tirelessly to free his lands and people from the Danes and Swedes. Succeeding, he immediately requested that Christian missionaries from England be sent to Norway, and the faith began spreading across the land.

He seems on the whole to have taken the Anglo-Saxon conditions as a model for the ecclesiastical organization of his kingdom. But at last the exasperation against him got so strong that the mighty clans rose in rebellion against him and applied to King Cnut of Denmark and England for help.  This was willingly given, whereupon Olaf was expelled and Cnut elected King of Norway. It must be remembered that the resentment against Olaf was due not alone to his Christianity, but also in a high degree to his unflinching struggle against the old constitution of shires and for the unity of Norway. He is thus regarded by the Norwegians of our days as the great champion of national independence.

Most memorable among his accomplishments as King was the development of what came to be known as Saint Olaf’s Law. Ahead of its time, Olaf’s Law prescribed prayer to Christ for peace, required newborn babies to be allowed to live and not abandoned in fields or forests, slaves were to be ransomed each year, polygamy was forbidden, and severe penalties were exacted for rape and the kidnapping of women. Olaf himself traveled the length of Norway promoting his new Christian Law, and he insisted that it be applied equally upon both rich and poor.

After much soul searching, Olav decided that he and his men would go back to Norway, a land once more in chaos. They would fight. As the king saw it, they would do God’s will and take the consequences. There was at least some element of the old Viking idea of fate mixed in with this – the conviction that men’s efforts availed but little against the web woven for them before they were born – but it was not so hard to translate that fate into Christian terms. His followers were content with this. As they sailed home, more of the king’s friends joined them. Word came that the great clans of Norway had also massed a great army – a much greater army. And still, Olav and his men continued to advance.

The celebrated battle took place 29 July, 1030. Neither King Cnut nor the Danes took part at that battle. King Olaf fought with great courage, but was mortally wounded, and fell on the battlefield, praying “God help me”. Many miraculous occurrences are related in connection with his death and his disinterment a year later, after belief in his sanctity had spread widely. His friends, Bishop Grimkel and Earl Einar Tambeskjelver, laid the corpse in a coffin and set it on the high-altar in the church of St. Clement in Nidaros (now Trondhjem).

He was canonized the patron saint of Norway in 1164. What the sword couldn’t do even in “good faith, ”the Spirit did.   The arms of Norway are a lion with the battle-axe of St. Olaf in the forepaws. 

Image: Tore Hund, at right, spears Olaf at the battle of Stiklestad, Artist: Peter Nicolai Arbo, circa 1859. (5)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11234a.htm
  2. http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/olav.html
  3. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/07/july-29-saint-olaf-of-norway.html
  4. http://www.nobility.org/2013/07/29/olaf-haraldson/
  5. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stiklestad.jpeg

Blessed Urban II, Pope, Confessor

July 29

Today is Blessed Pope Urban II’s feast day.  Ora pro nobis.

Pope Urban II was born Otho, Otto or Odo of Lagery, at Châtillon-sur-Marne in the province of Champagne, about 1042; He was of a knightly family.  He died 29 July, 1099.  Under St. Bruno (afterwards founder of the Carthusians) Otho studied at Reims, where he later became canon and archdeacon. About 1070 he retired to Cluny and was professed there under the abbot St. Hugh.  After holding the office of prior he was sent by St. Hugh to Rome as one of the monks asked for by Gregory VII.  Otho was of great assistance to Gregory in the difficult task of reforming the Church.

On 12 March, 1088, he was unanimously elected Bishop of Rome, taking the title of Urban II. His first act was to proclaim his election to the world, and to exhort the princes and bishops who had been loyal to Gregory to continue in their allegiance.  Urban declared his intention of following the policy and example of his great predecessor–“all that he rejected, I reject, what he condemned I condemn, what he loved I embrace, what he considered as Catholic, I confirm and approve”.

Due to issue with the Normans, Urban was unable to stay in Rome.  He went to Sicily instead, and Southern Italy.  There was also an antipope in Rome. Eventually the troops of pope and antipope met in a desperate encounter which lasted three days, with Urban’s troops winning, and Urban returned to Rome.  Urban was again expelled from Rome by Emperor Henry IV.  For three years Urban was compelled to wander in exile about southern Italy. He spent the time holding councils and improving the character of ecclesiastical discipline.

Urban also started dealing with a Crusade request during a council held at Piacenza. The Eastern Emperor, Alexius I, had sent an embassy to the pope asking for help against the Seljuk Turks who were a serious menace to the Empire of Constantinople. Urban succeeded in inducing many of those present to promise to help Alexius, but no definite step was taken by Urban till a few months later, when he summoned the most famous of his councils, that at Clermont in Auvergne. The council met in November, 1095; thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty-five bishops, and over ninety abbots answered the pope’s summons. The synod met in the Church of Notre-Dame du Port and began by reiterating the Gregorian Decrees against simony, investiture, and clerical marriage.

Thousands of nobles and knights had met together for the council. It was decided that an army of horse and foot should march to rescue Jerusalem and the Churches of Asia from the Saracens. A plenary indulgence was granted to all who should undertake the journey pro sola devotione, and further to help the movement, the Truce of God was extended, and the property of those who had taken the cross was to be looked upon as sacred.

Coming forth from the church the pope addressed the immense multitude. He used his wonderful gifts of eloquence to the utmost, depicting the captivity of the Sacred City where Christ had suffered and died–“Let them turn their weapons dripping with the blood of their brothers against the enemy of the Christian Faith. Let them–oppressors of orphans and widows, murderers and violaters of churches, robbers of the property of others, vultures drawn by the scent of battle–let them hasten, if they love their souls, under their captain Christ to the rescue of Sion.”

In October, 1098, the pope held a council at Bari with the intention of reconciling the Greeks and Latins on the question of the filioque.  One hundred and eighty bishops attended, amongst whom was St. Anselm of Canterbury, who had fled to Urban to lay before him his complaints against the Red King. The close of November saw the pope again in Rome; it was his final return to the city. Here he held his last council in April, 1099. Once more he raised his eloquent voice on behalf of the Crusades, and many responded to his call. On 15 July, 1099, Jerusalem fell before the attack of the crusaders, but Urban did not live to hear the news.

He died in the house of Pierleone which had so often given him shelter. His remains could not be buried in the Lateran because of the antipope’s followers who were still in the city, but were conveyed to the crypt of St. Peter’s where they were interred close to the tomb of Adrian I. Guibert of Nogent asserts that miracles were wrought at the tomb of Urban, who appears as a saint in many of the Martyrologies. Thus there seems to have been a cult of Urban II from the time of his death, though the feast (29 July) has never been extended to the Universal Church.

Amongst the figures painted in the apse of the oratory built by Calixtus II in the Lateran Palace is that of Urban II with the words sanctus Urbanus secundus beneath it. The head is crowned by a square nimbus, and the pope is represented at the feet of Our Lady. The formal act of beatification did not take place till the pontificate of Leo XIII. The cause was introduced by Mgr Langenieux, Archbishop of Reims, in 1878, and after it had gone through the various stages the decision was given by Leo XIII on 14 July, 1881.

Image: Denkmal für Urban II. auf der Place de la Victoire in Clermont-Ferrand. Sculptor : Henri Gourgouillon (3)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15210a.htm
  2. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j031sdUrbanII7-29.htm
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StatueUrbanII.jpg
  4. http://www.nobility.org/2013/07/29/urban-ii/
  5. http://www.nobility.org/2011/02/21/god-wills-it-blessed-pope-urban-ii-launches-the-first-crusade/

Saint Martha, Virgin

July 29

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

It is believed that Saint Martha is the sister of Saint Mary and Saint Lazarus, living at Bethania according to Saint John, later at Magdela.  Saint Martha is frequently referred to as “the Lord’s Worker and Servant,” given her role in Scriptures as cooking and serving the Lord upon his visits to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

According to Scripture, Martha questions Jesus about her sister, who was sitting listening at the Lord’s feet while Martha was busy preparing the meal in the Gospel of St. Luke: “Martha was busy about much serving. She stood and said: ‘Lord hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her therefore, that she help me.’ “And the Lord answering, said to her: ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her’” (10:40-42).  

We also find her questioning Jesus about the death of her brother, Lazarus, in St. John’s Gospel, where she comes to a deeper faith in the divinity of Christ, much like the example of the Samaritan woman (John 4:15).

“Martha, therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus had come, went to meet him, but Mary sat at home. Martha therefore said to Jesus: ‘Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to thee.’

“Jesus said to her: ‘Thy brother shall rise again.’ “Martha said to him: ‘I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day.’

“Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, although he be dead, shall live. And everyone that lives and believes in me shall not die forever. Believest thou this?’

“She said to him: ‘Yea, Lord I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world’” (11:20-27).

The third instance is a reference to Jesus, shortly before the Holy Week, when Our Lord had supper at the house of Lazarus along with Martha and Mary (John 12:1-2). He then stayed as their guest there that night.

“Jesus, therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethany, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there, and Martha served. And Lazarus was one of them that were at table with Him.”

From there, Our Lord would leave to enter triumphant into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. That blessed family would, therefore, provide a place for Our Lord to rest His head a short while before the most solemn week in the History of mankind.

Martha is the patron saint of active, practical women, perhaps unfairly contrasted with her more laid back and “contemplative” sister Mary. But Martha is also the woman of faith, who said: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world” (Jn 11:27).

In Aramaic the name Martha means “the lady, the mistress”, the feminine counterpart of “the master”. In the incident described by Luke 10:38-42, Martha is introduced as the woman who “welcomed Jesus into her house”. So hospitality is her paramount virtue. This probably accounts for her cult as the patron saint of food professionals, butlers, hotel-keepers and home-makers and why she is often depicted in art with a ladle, a broom or a set of keys as her symbol.

According to legend, after Jesus’s death, Martha left Judea  around AD 48, and went to Provence with her sister Mary (conflated with Mary Magdalene) and her brother Lazarus. They settled in and are said to have evangelised the Provence area of southern France. Among the legends associated with Martha is the one associated with the town of Tarascon-sur-Rhône. A mythological monster, the Tarasque, said to have lived in the town during the 1st century, was purportedly tamed by Martha in 48 AD.

Saint Martha

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

 

St. Martha, more than once mentioned in the Gospel, was born of illustrious parents. Her father was of Syria, her mother of Judaea, and after their death, she inherited their house and estate at Bethany. She exercised herself freely in good works, especially in those of charity, and was one of the first women who, by attending the instructions of Christ, and by His miracles, recognized in Him the true Messiah. From that hour her heart was filled with the most devoted love to the Lord, who, according to the Gospel, returned her pious affection. The conversion of her sister Magdalen, which has been related in the life of this Saint, was in a great measure her work, as she persuaded her to hear Christ’s sermons. After Magdalen’s conversion, she and Martha accompanied Christ from place to place, desiring not to lose any of His divine instructions. Frequently had Martha the grace to receive our Lord into her house, and to see Him sitting at her table.

One day, being so honored, she prepared, with her own hands, everything that she would set before our Saviour, anxious that He should be served well. Seeing that her sister Magdalen meanwhile sat quietly at the feet of Christ, without assisting her, she, mildly complaining, said to the Saviour: “Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her, therefore, that she help me.” Christ reproached her somewhat for her too great solicitude for temporal things, with these words, fraught with deep meaning: “Martha, Martha; thou art careful and art troubled about many things; but one thing is necessary; Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Martha humbly received this kind reproof, this wholesome lesson, and when Christ was at table with Lazarus and Magdalen, she served Him, thinking rightly that this was the greatest honor that could be bestowed upon her.

Shortly before the Passion of the Saviour, Lazarus, her brother, became dangerously sick. She immediately sent a messenger to Christ to announce this to Him, in the following words: “He whom thou lovest is sick.” Both sisters thought this would be enough to induce Christ to come and heal him. But, as our Lord desired, by raising Lazarus from the dead, to give a still greater proof of His power, He came not until Lazarus was buried. Martha went to meet Him when she heard of His arrival, and said: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But now, also, I know that whatever thou wilt ask of God, He will give it to Thee.” Christ said to her: “Thy brother shall rise again.” “I know,” said Martha, “that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” “I am the resurrection and the life,” said Christ; “he that believeth on Me, although he be dead, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth in me, shall not die forever. Believest thou this?” She answered: “Yes, Lord, I believe that Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into the world.” When she had said this, she entered into her house and announced to her sister the arrival of Christ. Rising hastily, Mary went with her to Him. What further took place will be related in the life of St. Lazarus. It will be sufficient to say here, that our Saviour, deeply moved by the tears and prayers of the two sisters, called Lazarus again to life, who had been in his grave four days. The joy of Martha and Magdalen was beyond measure, and the expression of their gratitude touching and humble.

Nothing more is said of Martha in the Gospel, but it is not doubted that she was, with the other pious women, on Mount Calvary at the time of the Saviour’s Passion, and later also present at His Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. All her biographers agree in the fact that, in the persecution of the Christians, she was placed by the Jews, with her brother and sister, in a boat which had neither sail nor oar, and was cast adrift on the high sea to perish. But God was their pilot, and guided them to Marseilles, in France, where they safely landed.

Magdalen, some time later, went into a desert, where she led a penitential life for thirty years. Martha, however, after having converted many virgins to the Christian faith by her kind exhortations, and instilled into them a love of virginal chastity, selected a secluded place between Asignon and Arles, where she erected a dwelling. There she lived with her maid Marcella and several virgins, who desired, like herself, to spend their days far from the tumult of the world, in chastity and peace, and to lead a cloistral life; whence St. Martha is by many regarded, if not as the first founder, yet as a model of a religious life. She was a guide to all, and her example served as a rule to them whereby to regulate their conduct.

Thirty years she lived thus in great austerity, abstaining from meat and wine. She was devoted to prayer, and it is written of her, that she threw herself upon her knees to pray one hundred times during the day and as often during the night. Her virginal chastity she preserved until her death, the hour of which was revealed to her a year before she departed. A fever which seized her, and lasted until she died, was regarded by her as a means to become more like her Saviour and increase her merits. Hence she was always cheerful in her suffering, bearing it with angelic patience. Eight days before she died, she heard heavenly music, and saw the soul of her sister, accompanied by many angels, ascend to heaven, which not only filled her soul with divine joy, but also with the fervent desire soon to be re-united with Christ. The Saviour Himself deigned to appear to her, saying: “Come, beloved one; as thou hast received Me in thy terrestrial home, so will I receive thee now in My heavenly mansion.” St. Martha was transported with joy, and the nearer the hour of her death approached, the more fervent became her prayers and her desire to be with God. Shortly before her end, she desired to be laid upon the ground, which was strewn with ashes, and after having given her last instructions to those under her, she raised her eyes to heaven and gave her virgin soul to the Almighty, while she pronounced the words her beloved Saviour had spoken: “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Her tomb has been glorified by God with many miracles, and is held in great veneration. (5)

Image: Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.  Artist Diego Velázquez, date 1618. (4)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/07/july-29-saint-martha-lords-worker-and.html
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09721b.htm
  3. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j139sdMartha_Sretenovic_6-29.htm
  4. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cristo_en_casa_de_Marta_y_Mar%C3%ADa,_by_Diego_Vel%C3%A1zquez.jpg
  5. http://www.catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Martha.html
  6. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_martha.html
  7. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/07-29.html

Saint Samson of Dol, Bishop

July 28

Today is the feast day of Saint Samson of Dol.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Samson was born in South Wales. The date of his birth is unknown. He died 28 July, 565 (?).  His parents whose names are given as Prince Amon the Black of Dyfed and Anna of Gwynedd, were of noble, but not royal, birth.  While still an infant he was dedicated to God and entrusted to the care of St. Illtyd, by whom he was brought up in the monastery of Llantwit Major. 

He showed exceptional talents in his studies, and was eventually ordained deacon and priest by St. Dubritius.  Samson retired first to the island monastery of Caldey off the coast of Dyfed (Pembrokeshire), and became abbot there. But it was not a happy move as his predecessor, Pyr, had left Caldey in such a lax state that he was unable to control the monks and re-establish discipline.  Samson left there and went to Ireland, where he reformed a monastery, thought to be a religious house at Howth.

In 516 he made a voyage into Ireland, to animate himself to fervour by the example and instructions of many illustrious saints who flourished there, and after his return shut himself up in a cave in a wilderness. In 520 St. Dubritius called him to a synod at Caërleon, and in it ordained him bishop without being fixed in any particular see

Samson then joined a party of Welsh churchmen including Paulinus, Austell and Mean who were going to Cornwall on their way to Brittany. Because of his reputation as a monastic reformer, a monk named Winniavus was dispatched to tell him tactfully that they would prefer that he went somewhere else.  Samson took the hint, and moved on to spend some time in the Scilly Isles, where an island now uninhabited – Samson – is named after him, and in Guernsey, where St Samson is the second port of the island. He then moved on to found his main monastery near Dol in Brittany.

St. Sampson continued his former austere manner of life, abstaining wholly from flesh, sometimes eating only once in two or three days, and often passing the whole night in prayer standing, though sometimes when he watched the night he took a little rest, leaning his head against a wall.

Dol was then an island on flat marshlands, though the coastline has changed, and it is now about eight kilometres inland. Mont Dol, a large flat-topped rock, had been the site of druidic sacrifices, and Samson made that his hermitage.

Samson is revered as one of the seven founding saints of Brittany, along with Saint Pol Aurelian, Saint Tugdual (Tudwal), Saint Brieuc, Saint Malo, Saint Patern, and Saint Corentin.  Dol was overwhelmed by a catastrophic tidal wave in 709, and there is now no trace of the monastery. Samson’s relics were taken to Canterbury and Ely in the time of King Athelstan of Wessex (895 –939).

The primary source for his biography is the Vita Sancti Samsonis, written sometime between 610 and 820 and clearly based on earlier materials.

Image: L’icône de St. Samson de Dol peinte pour l’Association orthodoxe sainte Anne (Bretagne). Photo by Massalim. (4)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.nobility.org/2014/07/28/st-samson/
  2. http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/samson.html
  3. http://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/st-samson-of-dol-d-565/
  4. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_Samson.jpg
  5. http://www.bartleby.com/210/7/284.html

 

 

Saint Victor I, Pope, Martyr

July 28

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

Saint Victor I date of birth is unknown.  The “Liber Pontificalis” makes him a native of Africa and gives his father the name of Felix.  This authority, taking the “Liberian Catalogue” as its basis, gives the years 186-197 as the period of Victor’s episcopate.

The Armenian text of the “Chronicle” of Eusebius (Leipzig, 1911, p. 223) places the beginning of Victor’s pontificate in the seventh year of the reign of the Emperor Commodus (180-87) and gives it a duration of twelve years; in his “Church History” (V, xxxii, ed. Schwarts, Leipzig, 1902, p. 486) Eusebius transfers the beginning of the pontificate to the tenth year of the reign of Commodus and makes it last ten years.

There was peace throughout much of Pope Victor’s reign. Internal dissensions during this era affected the Church at Rome. The dispute over the celebration of Easter grew more acute. The Christians at Rome, who had come from the province of Asia, were accustomed to observe Easter on the 14th day of Nisan, whatever day of the week that date might happen to fall on, just as they had done at home. This difference inevitably led to trouble when it appeared in the Christian community of Rome.

Pope Victor decided, therefore, to bring about unity in the observance of the Easter festival and to persuade the Quartodecimans to join in the general practice of the Church. He wrote, therefore, to Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus and induced the latter to call together the bishops of the province of Asia in order to discuss the matter with them. This was done; but in the letter sent by Polycrates to Pope Victor he declared that he firmly held to the Quartoceciman custom observed by so many celebrated and holy bishops of that region.

Victor called a meeting of Italian bishops at Rome, which is the earliest Roman synod known. He also wrote to the leading bishops of the various districts, urging them to call together the bishops of their sections of the country and to take counsel with them on the question of the Easter festival. Letters came from all sides: from the synod in Palestine, at which Theophilus of Caesarea and Narcissus of Jerusalem presided; from the synod of Pontus over which Palmas as the oldest presided; from the communities in Gaul whose bishop of Irenaeus of Lyons; from the bishops of the Kingdom of Osrhoene; also from individual bishops, as Bakchylus of Corinth. These letters all unanimously reported that Easter was observed on Sunday. Victor, who acted throughout the entire matter as the head of Catholic Christendom, now called upon the bishops of the province of Asia to abandon their custom and to accept the universally prevailing practice of always celebrating Easter on Sunday. In case they would not do this he declared they would be excluded from the fellowship of the Church.

This severe procedure did not please all the bishops. Irenaeus of Lyons and others wrote to Pope Victor.  They blamed his severity, urged him to maintain peace and unity with the bishops of Asia, and to entertain affectionate feelings toward them. Irenaeus reminded him that his predecessors had indeed always maintained the Sunday observance of Easter, as was right, but had not broken off friendly relations and communion with bishops because they followed another custom (Eusebius, Church History V.23-25). We have no information concerning the further course of the matter under Victor I so far as it regards the bishops of Asia. All that is known is that in the course of the third century the Roman practice in the observance of Easter became gradually universal.

He is styled a martyr by some writers of the fifth age, and in an ancient pontifical written in 530. Though Severus only published the edicts for his persecution in 202, several Christians had suffered in his reign before that time, as Tillemont remarks. F. Pagi thinks St. Victor did not die by the sword, because in some Martyrologies he is called only confessor, though his dignity and zeal exposed him to continual persecutions, for which alone he might deserve the title of martyr. See Eusebius Hist. l. 5, c. 23; Orsi, Berti Diss. Hist. t. 2, p. 88. (3)

Image: Pope Victor I. by mass (2)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15408a.htm
  2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victor-I_pope1.tif
  3. http://www.bartleby.com/210/7/282.html

 

Saint Innocent I, Pope, Confessor

July 28

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

Saint Innocent’s date of birth unknown. He was a native of Albano, Italy,  His father was called Innocentius. He grew up among the Roman clergy.  Before his elevation to the Chair of Peter, very little is known concerning his life.  After the death of Anastasius (Dec., 401) he was unanimously chosen Bishop of Rome by the clergy and people.  Saint Innocent I, reigned from 401 to 417. 

The siege and capture of Rome by the Goths under Alaric (408-10) occurred in his pontificate. When, at the time of the first siege, the barbarian leader had declared that he would withdraw only on condition that the Romans should arrange a peace favourable to him.  An embassy of the Romans went to Honorius, at Ravenna, to try, to make peace between him and the Goths. Pope Innocent also joined this embassy. But all his endeavours to bring about peace failed. The Goths then recommenced the siege of Rome, so that the pope and the envoys were not able to return to the city. Alaric proceeded to sack Rome in 410. From the beginning of his pontificate, Innocent often acted as head of the whole Church, both East and West. He took the responsibility of rebuilding the Rome and showed great charity in helping it’s victims.

His decrees became law in Spain, Gaul and Italy. He demanded that the Eastern Bishops re-install St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, who had been unjustly deposed. He censured the Bishop of Jerusalem for his negligence. He ratified the condemnation of the Pelagian Bishops of Africa who denied the need of grace for salvation (see below)

In the Origenist and Pelagian controversies, the pope’s authority was invoked. St. Jerome and the nuns of Bethlehem were attacked in their convents by brutal followers of Pelagius.  A deacon was killed, and a part of the buildings was set on fire. John, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was on bad terms with Jerome, owing to the Origenist controversy, did nothing to prevent these outrages. Through Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, Innocent sent St. Jerome a letter of condolence, in which he informed him that he would employ the influence of the Holy See to repress such crimes. Jerome only needed to give the names of the guilty ones, and then Pope Innocent would proceed further in the matter. The pope at once wrote an earnest letter of exhortation to the Bishop of Jerusalem, and reproached him with negligence of his pastoral duty.

The pope was also compelled to take part in the Pelagian controversy. In 415, on the proposal of Orosius, the Synod of Jerusalem brought the matter of the orthodoxy of Pelagius before the Holy See. The synod of Eastern bishops was held at Diospolis (Dec., 415), had been deceived by Pelagius with regard to his actual teaching and had acquitted him, approached Innocent on behalf of the heretic. On the report of Orosius concerning the proceedings at Diospolis, the African bishops assembled in synod at Carthage, in 416.  They confirmed the condemnation which had been pronounced in 411 against Cælestius, who shared the views of Pelagius. The bishops of Numidia did likewise in the same year in the Synod of Mileve.

Both synods reported their transactions to the pope and asked him to confirm their decisions. Soon after this, five African bishops, among them St. Augustine, wrote a personal letter to Innocent regarding their own position in the matter of Pelagianism. Innocent in his reply praised the African bishops, because, mindful of the authority of the Apostolic See, they had appealed to the Chair of Peter.  Innocent rejected the teachings of Pelagius and confirmed the decisions drawn up by the African Synods (Epp. xxvii-xxxiii). The decisions of the Synod of Diospolis were rejected by the pope. Pelagius now sent a confession of faith to Innocent, which, however, was only delivered to his successor, for Innocent died before the document reached the Holy See. He died 12 March, 417.  He was buried in a basilica above the catacomb of Pontianus, and was venerated as a saint. He was a very energetic and active man, and a highly gifted ruler, who fulfilled admirably the duties of his office.

 Image: Statue of Pope Saint Innocent, from the upper register of the nave of the church of San Martino ai Monti in Rome. Sculptor may have been Paolo Naldini.  (3)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/j138sdInnocentI_6-28.htm
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08011a.htm
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Innocentius_Papa_S_Martino_ai_Monti.JPG
  4. https://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-28-pope-saint-innocent-i.html

Saint Pantaleon, Martyr

July 27

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

Saint Pantaleon (also known as Saint Panteleimon) was born about 284 A.D. in the city of Nicodemia (currently called Izmit, in northern Turkey near the Black Sea). He died a martyr about 305. St. Pantaleon was a contemporary of the brothers Cosmas and Damien who are perhaps the best known of the physician saints. Saint Pantaleonne is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

 

Nicomedia, a city in Bithynia, was the birth-place of St. Pantaleon. His mother, Eubula, was a Christian, but Eustorgius, his father, a heathen. The former died before he was baptized, and the latter reared him in the darkness of idolatry, and instructed him carefully in the same. Pantaleon, whose appearance was prepossessing, and who, besides this, was gifted with great talents, studied medicine and acquired such knowledge, that he not only gained the esteem of the lower classes, but also stood in great favor with the Emperor Galerius Maximian. At that period there lived in the same city a pious and zealous priest, named Hermolaus, who, on account of the persecutions, secretly instructed the Christians, and encouraged them to remain faithful to Christ. Having sought an opportunity to become acquainted with Pantaleon, he conversed one day with him upon the art of healing certain diseases; and on this occasion spoke of the true God, adding that by calling on Jesus Christ, as the Lord of life and death, one could heal diseases much better than by human remedies; that even the dead could be restored to life, if it so pleased the Lord, and one called upon Him with due confidence. Hermolaus confirmed his words by relating several examples of miraculous cases and restoration to life, and exhorted Pantaleon most earnestly to become one of the number of those who believed in Christ, and who worshipped no other God in heaven or on earth. Pantaleon was deeply impressed by the words of the pious priest, and promised to consider carefully all he had heard.

One day, while he was occupied with the thought whether all was true that Hermolaus had told him, he found on his way a dead child, and near it a viper, which probably had killed the child. Remembering what he had heard of the omnipotence of the God of the Christians, he was filled with trust in Him, and said to the dead child: “I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, rise! “and to the viper: “And be thou punished for having killed this poor child!” At the same moment, the dead child arose to his feet, and the viper burst before his eyes. Amazed at this evident miracle, Pantaleon went forthwith to Hermolaus, related to him what had just occurred, and humbly begged for holy baptism, which he received after having been sufficiently instructed in the faith of Christ. Not satisfied with his own conversion, he endeavored also to bring his father to the knowledge of the true God, and took every opportunity to speak to him of the falsity of those idols which were so devoutly worshipped and on account of which the Christians, who refused to sacrifice to them, were so cruelly persecuted. God so ordered, that just at a time when he was thus conversing with his father, a blind man came to him, who bitterly complained that the physicians, instead of healing his eyes, had entirely deprived him of his sight, and asked him if he could help him. “Will you promise me to embrace the Christian faith if I restore your sight?” asked Pantaleon. “I will,” replied the blind man. Then Pantaleon, making the sign of the holy cross over him, said: “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, open thine eyes!” And the man, opening his eyes, saw.

This miracle opened the inner eyes of Pantaleon’s father, those eyes with which we recognize God. Seeing that the words of his son were true, he said to him: “I must believe now that the God of the Christians is the only true God.” Inexpressibly happy, Pantaleon went, with his father and the man who had been blind, to the pious priest, who instructed and baptized both. Pantaleon’s father, soon after, died and left his great wealth to his son, who sold the greatest part of it and divided the money among the poor, that he might have more leisure to prepare himself for the struggle which he knew was awaiting him, being convinced that he would have to suffer greatly when his conversion came to the knowledge of the Emperor. Meanwhile, he gave all his care to the sick, healing many of them by merely making the sign of the cross over them, and thus converting them to the Christian faith.

The other physicians envied the Saint, on account of his many cures, and, fearing that he would gradually draw all the sick to himself, they resolved to put him out of the way. They, therefore, denounced him to the Emperor as a Christian who cured the sick by the usual magic of his sect. They particularly related how he had, not long before, restored sight to a blind man. The Emperor called this man into his presence, and asked him how, and by whom his sight had been restored. The man told the simple truth, that Pantaleon, by calling upon Christ, had immediately given him back his sight, adding that he had recognized, by this fact, that the God of the Christians was the only true God, and hence had resolved to worship Him only. The Emperor became so incensed at these words, that he ordered this fearless confessor of Christ to be beheaded without loss of time. He then had Pantaleon brought, and asked him if it was true that he was a Christian. Pantaleon, without hesitation, confessed his faith, and represented the falsity of the heathen gods so clearly, that neither the Emperor nor any of those present could bring an argument against him. At the conclusion of his speech, he said that he was ready to prove the truth of his God, and the vanity of the heathen idols. “Let them bring,” said he, “a sick person, of whose recovery there is no hope. Then call all the idolatrous priests, in order that they may pray to their gods, while I will ask the aid of my God; and then we shall see whether your gods are able to restore the sick man to health. I know that my God has the power.”

They accepted this proposition, and brought an incurable paralytic man. The priests began to call on all their gods, one after another, as in ancient times the priests of Baal had done in the presence of King Achab and the holy prophet Elias. But the sick man’s health did not improve. After the idolaters had for a long time vainly endeavored to receive help from their gods, the Christian physician stepped forward, and, after saying a short prayer, he made the sign of the cross over the sick man, and said with a loud voice: ” In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, rise, restored to health.” And at the same time the paralyzed man arose and cried: “There is no other God but the God of the Christians! ” This miracle soon became known all over the city, and induced many heathens to join the faithful. The Emperor, however, provoked beyond measure by the idolatrous priests against Pantaleon, commanded that he should be first tortured and afterwards beheaded. Hermolaus, who was not less faithful to Christ than Pantaleon, was beheaded at the same time. Both received the crown of martyrdom in the 305 th year of the Christian era. (2)

The fact of the martyrdom itself seems to be proved by a veneration for which there is early testimony, among others from Theodoret  from 457 (Graecarum affectionum curatio, Sermo VIII, “De martyribus”, in Migne, P.G., LXXXIII 1033), Procopius of Caesarea (De aedificiis Justiniani I, ix; V, ix), and the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” (Acta SS., Nov., II, 1, 97). Pantaleon is venerated in the East as a great martyr and wonderworker. In the Middle Ages he came to be regarded as the patron saint of physicians and midwives, and became one of the fourteen guardian martyrs. From early times a phial containing some of his blood has been preserved at Constantinople. On the feast day of the saint the blood is said to become fluid and to bubble. Relics of the saint are to be found at St. Denis at Paris; his head is venerated at Lyons. His feast day is 27 July, also 28 July, and 18 February. (4)

The Eastern tradition concerning Pantaleon follows more or less the medieval Western hagiography, but lacks any mention of a visible apparition of Christ. It states instead that Hermolaus was still alive while Pantaleon’s torture was under way, but was martyred himself only shortly before Pantaleon’s beheading along with two companions, Hermippas and Thermocrates. The saint is canonically depicted as a beardless young man with a full head of curly hair.

Pantaleon’s relics, venerated at Nicomedia, were transferred to Constantinople. Numerous churches, shrines, and monasteries have been named for him; in the West most often as St. Pantaleon and in the East as St. Panteleimon; to him is consecrated the St. Panteleimon Monastery at Mount Athos, and the 12th-century Church of St. Panteleimon in Gorno Nerezi, in the Republic of Macedonia.

Armenians believe that the Gandzasar Monastery in Nagorno Karabakh contains relics of St. Pantaleon, who was venerated in eastern provinces of Armenia.

In Cologne a 10th Century Romanesque church, partly built by the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, Theophanu, who married the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II in 972.

Prayer in Honor of St. Pantaleon

O GOD, Who didst give to St. Pantaleon the grace of exercising charity toward his fellow men by distributing his goods to the poor, and hast made him a special patron of the sick, grant that we, too, show our charity by works of mercy; and through the intercession of this Thy servant preserve us from sickness. But if it be Thy will that illness should afflict us, give us the grace to bear it patiently, and let it promote our soul’s salvation. Amen.

Invocation of St. Pantaleon

ST. PANTALEON, who during life didst have great pity for the sick and with the help of
God didst often relieve and cure them; I invoke thy intercession with God, that I may obtain the grace to serve Him in good health by cheerfully fulfilling the duties of my state of life. But if it be His holy will to visit me with illness, pain, and suffering, do thou aid me with thy powerful prayer to submit humbly to His chastisements, to accept sickness in the spirit of penance and to bear it patiently according to His holy will. Amen.

Research by REGINA Staff

Image: Schwabach – City Church. Altar of Saint Sebastian ( 1490 ) with closed wings showing the Fourteen Holy Helpers – Saint Pantaleon.  (9)

  1. http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/saints7-18.htm
  2. http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Pantaleon.html
  3. http://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_pantaleon_of_nicomedia.html
  4. http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Calendar/07-27.html
  5. http://365rosaries.blogspot.com/2011/07/july-28-saint-pantaleon-healer-patron.html
  6. http://www.nobility.org/2015/07/23/st-pantaleon/
  7. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11447a.htm
  8. http://www.itmonline.org/bodytheology/stpant.htm
  9. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schwabach_Stadtkirche_-_Sebastiansaltar_Fl%C3%BCgel_3c.jpg

 

 

Saint Anne

July 26

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

Anne (Hebrew, Hannah, grace; also spelled Ann, Anne, Anna) is the traditional name of the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

All our information concerning the names and lives of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, is derived from apocryphal literature, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Protoevangelium of James. Though the earliest form of the latter, on which directly or indirectly the other two seem to be based, goes back to about A.D. 150, we can hardly accept as beyond doubt its various statements on its sole authority. In the Orient the Protoevangelium had great authority and portions of it were read on the feasts of Mary by the Greeks, Syrians, Copts, and Arabians. In the Occident, however, it was rejected by the Fathers of the Church until its contents were incorporated by Jacobus de Voragine in his “Golden Legend” in the thirteenth century. From that time on the story of St. Anne spread over the West and was amply developed, until St. Anne became one of the most popular saints also of the Latin Church.

In the Latin Church St. Anne was not venerated, except, perhaps, in the south of France, before the thirteenth century. Her picture, painted in the eighth century, which was found lately in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome, owes its origin to Byzantine influence. Her feast, under the influence of the “Golden Legend”, is first found (26 July) in the thirteenth century, e.g. at Douai (in 1291), where a foot of St. Anne was venerated (feast of translation, 16 September). It was introduced in England by Urban VI, 21 November, 1378, from which time it spread all over the Western Church. It was extended to the universal Latin Church in 1584.

The supposed relics of St. Anne were brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople in 710 and were still kept there in the church of St. Sophia in 1333. The tradition of the church of Apt in southern France pretends that the body of St. Anne was brought to Apt by St. Lazarus, the friend of Christ, was hidden by St. Auspicius (d. 398), and found again during the reign of Charlemagne (feast, Monday after the octave of Easter); these relics were brought to a magnificent chapel in 1664 (feast, 4 May). The head of St. Anne was kept at Mainz up to 1510, when it was stolen and brought to Düren in Rheinland. St. Anne is the patroness of Brittany. Her miraculous picture (feast, 7 March) is venerated at Notre Dame d’Auray, Diocese of Vannes. Also in Canada, where she is the principal patron of the province of Quebec, the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré is well known. St. Anne is patroness of women in labour; she is represented holding the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lap, who again carries on her arm the child Jesus. She is also patroness of miners, Christ being compared to gold, Mary to silver.

Saint Anne

by Abbot Gueranger

 

Uniting the blood of kings with that of pontiffs, the glory of St. Anne’s illustrious origin is far surpassed by that of her offspring, without compare among the daughters of Eve. The noblest of all who have ever conceived by virtue of the command to “increase and multiply,” beholds the law of human generation pause before her as having arrived at its summit, at the threshold of God; for from her fruit God Himself is to come forth, the “fatherless” Son of the Blessed Virgin, and the Grandson of Sts. Anne and Joachim.

Before being favored with the greatest blessing ever bestowed on an earthly union, the two holy grandparents of the Word Made Flesh had to pass through the purification of suffering. Traditions which have come down to us from the very beginning of Christianity, tell us of these noble spouses subjected to the trial of prolonged sterility, and on that account despised by their people; of St. Joachim cast out of the temple and going to hide his sorrow in the desert; of St. Anne left alone to mourn her widowhood and humiliation.

Warned from Heaven to leave the desert, St. Joachim met his spouse at the golden gate which leads to the Temple on the east side. Not far from here, near the Probatica pool, where the little white lambs were washed before being offered in sacrifice, now stands the restored Basilica of St. Anne, originally called St. Mary of the Nativity. Here, as in a peaceful paradise, the rod of Jesse produced that blessed branch that had blossomed from eternity in the bosom of the Father. It is true that Sepphoris, St. Anne’s native city, and Nazareth, where Mary lived, dispute with the Holy City the honor which ancient and constant tradition assigns to Jerusalem. But our homage will not be misdirected if we offer it today to Blessed Anne, in whom were wrought the prodigies, the very thought of which brings new joy to Heaven, rage to Satan, and triumph to the world.

St. Anne was, as it were, the starting point of Redemption, the horizon scanned by the prophets, the first span of the Heavens to be empurpled with the rising fires of dawn; the blessed soil whose produce was so pure as to make the Angels believe that Eden had been restored to us. But in the midst of the incomparable peace that surrounds her, let us hail her as the land of victory surpassing the most famous fields of battle; as the sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception, where our humiliated race took up the combat begun before the throne of God by the angelic hosts; where the serpent’s head was crushed, and St. Michael, now surpassed in glory, gladly handed over to his sweet Queen, at the first moment of Her existence, the command of the Lord’s armies.

What human lips, unless touched like the prophet’s with a burning coal, could tell the admiring wonder of the angelic Powers, when the Blessed Trinity, passing from the burning Seraphim to the lowest of the nine choirs, bade them turn their fiery glances and contemplate the flower of sanctity blossoming in the bosom of St. Anne? The Psalmist had said of the glorious City whose foundations were now hidden in Her that was once barren: The foundations thereof are in the holy mountains (Ps. 86: 1), and the heavenly hierarchies crowning the slopes of the eternal hills beheld in Her heights to them unknown and unattainable summits approaching so near to God, that He was even then preparing His throne in Her. Like Moses at the sight of the burning bush on Horeb, they were seized with a holy awe on recognizing the mountain of God in the midst of the desert of this world; and they understood that the affliction of Israel was soon to cease. Although shrouded by the cloud, Mary was already that blessed mountain whose base – i.e. the starting point of Her graces – was set far above the summits where the highest created sanctities are perfected in glory and love.

How justly is the mother named Anne, which signifies grace, she in whom for nine months were centered the complacencies of the Most High, the ecstasy of the angelic spirits, and the hope of all flesh! No doubt it was Mary, the daughter, and not the mother, whose sweetness so powerfully attracted the heavens to our lowly earth. But the perfume first scents the vessel which contains it, and, even after it is removed, leaves it impregnated with its fragrance. Moreover, it is customary to prepare the vase itself with the greatest care; it must be all pure, made of more precious material, and more richly adorned, according as the essence to be placed in it is rarer and more exquisite. Thus St. Mary Magdalene enclosed her precious spikenard in alabaster. The Holy Ghost, the Preparer of heavenly perfumes, would not be less careful than men. Now the task of Blessed Anne was not limited, like that of a material vase, to contain passively the treasure of the world. She furnished the body of Her who was to give flesh to the Son of God; she nourished Her with her milk; she gave to Her, who was inundated with floods of divine light, the first practical notions of life. In the part of a true Mother: not only did she guide Mary’s first steps but she cooperated with the Holy Ghost in the education of Her soul and in the preparation of Her for Her incomparable destiny; until, when the work had reached the highest development to which she could bring it, she, without a moment’s hesitation or a thought of self, offered her tenderly loved Child to Him from Whom she had received Her.

Sic fingit tabernaculum Deo – “Thus she frames a tabernacle for God.” Such was the inscription around the figure of St. Anne instructing Mary, which formed the coat of arms of the ancient guild of joiners and cabinet-makers; for they, looking upon the making of tabernacles wherein God may dwell in our churches as their most choice work, had taken St. Anne for their patroness and model. Happy were those times when the simplicity of our fathers penetrated so deeply into the practical understanding of mysteries which their infatuated sons glory in ignoring. The valiant woman is praised in the Book of Proverbs for her spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidering, and household cares; naturally, then, those engaged in these occupations placed themselves under the protection of the spouse of St. Joachim. More than once, those suffering from the same trial which had inspired St. Anne’s fervent prayer, experienced the power of her intercession in obtaining for others, as well as for herself, the blessing of our Lord God.

The East anticipated the West in the public devotion to the Grandmother of the Messias. Towards the middle of the 6th century a church was dedicated to her in Constantinople. The Typicon of St. Sabbas makes a liturgical commemoration of her three times in the year: on September 9, together with her spouse, St. Joachim, the day after the birthday of their glorious Daughter; on December 9, whereon the Greeks, a day later than the Latins, keep the Feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, under a title which more directly expresses St. Anne’s share in the mystery; and lastly, July 25, not being occupied by the Feast of St. James, which was kept on April 30 in their calendar, is called the Dormitio or precious death of St. Anne, mother of the Most Holy Mother of God: the very same expression which the Roman Martyrology adopted later.

Although Rome, with Her usual reserve, did not until much later authorize the introduction into the Latin Churches of a liturgical Feast of St. Anne, She nevertheless encouraged the piety of the faithful in this direction. As early as the time of St. Leo III (795-816) and by that illustrious Pontiff’s express command, the history of St. Anne and St. Joachim was represented on the sacred ornaments of the noblest basilicas in the Eternal City. The Order of Carmel, so devout to St. Anne, powerfully contributed, by its fortunate migration into western Europe, to the growing increase of her devotion. Moreover, this development was the natural outcome of the progress of devotion among the people to the Mother of God. The close relation between the two devotions is noticed in a concession, whereby in 1381, Pope Urban VI satisfied the desires of the faithful in England by authorizing for that kingdom a Feast of St. Anne. The Church of Apt in Provence, France, had been already a century in possession of the Feast; a fact due to the honor bestowed on that Church of having received, almost together with the Faith, the Saint’s holy body, in the first century of Christianity.

Since Our Lord, reigning in Heaven, has willed that His Blessed Mother should also be crowned there in Her virginal body, the relics of Mary’s mother have become doubly dear to the world, first, as in the case of others, on account of the holiness of her whose precious remains they are, and then above all others, on account of their close connection with the mystery of the Incarnation. The Church of Apt was so generous out of its abundance, that it would now be impossible to enumerate the sanctuaries which have obtained, either from this principal source or from elsewhere, notable portions of these precious relics. We cannot omit to mention as one of these privileged places, the great Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls: St. Anne herself, in an apparition to St. Bridget of Sweden, confirmed the authenticity of the arm which forms one of the most precious jewels in the rich treasury of that Church.

It was not until 1584 that Pope Gregory XIII ordered the celebration of the Feast on July 26 throughout the whole Church, with the rite of a double. Pope Leo XIII in 1879 raised it, together with that of St. Joachim, to the dignity of a solemnity of the II Class. But before that, Pope Gregory XV, after having been cured of a serious illness by St. Anne, had ranked her Feast among those of precept, with the obligation of resting from servile work.

Now that St. Anne was receiving the homage due to her exalted dignity, she made haste to show her recognition of this more solemn tribute of praise. In the years 1623, 1624 and 1625, in the village of Kerouanne, near Auray, in Britanny, she appeared to Yves Nicolazic, and revealed to him an ancient statue buried in the field of Bocenno, which he tenanted. This discovery brought the people once more to the place where, a thousand years before, the inhabitants of ancient Armorica had honored that statue. Innumerable graces obtained on the spot spread its fame far beyond the limits of the Province, whose faith, worthy of past ages, had merited the favor of the grandmother of the Messias; and St. Anne d’Auray was soon so renowned as to be among the chief pilgrimage destinations of the Christian world.

In the family circle, the grandmother’s feast day is one of the most touching of all, when her grandchildren surround her with reverential love, as we gather around St. Anne today. Many do not know these beautiful feasts, where the blessing of the earthly paradise seems to revive in all its freshness; but the mercy of our God has provided a sweet compensation. He, the Most High God, willed to come so nigh to us as to be one of us in the flesh; to know the relations and mutual dependencies which are the law of our nature; the cords of Adam, with which He had determined to draw us and in which He first bound Himself. For in raising nature above itself, He did not eliminate it; He made grace take hold of it and lead it to Heaven; so that, joined together on earth by their Divine Author, nature and grace were to be united for all eternity. We then being brethren by grace of Him Who is ever the Grandson of St. Anne by nature, are, by this loving disposition of Divine Wisdom, quite at home under her roof; and today’s Feast, so dear to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is our own family feast.

O Blessed Anne, rescue society, which is perishing for want of virtues like thine. Have pity on unhappy France, for which thou hast shown thy predilection, first, by so early confiding to it thy sacred body; later on, by choosing in it the spot whence thou wouldst manifest thyself to the world. O thou who lovest the Franks, continue to show fallen Gaul, once looked upon as the Kingdom of Mary, that love which is its most cherished tradition. (1)

Image: Saint Anne with the Virgin, artist: Angelos Akotantos, circa: 15th century (3)

Research by REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-157/Saint%20Anne.htm
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01538a.htm
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angelos_Akotanos_-_Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin_-_15th_century.jpg