Today is the feast day of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born at Brindisi, south-east Italy, into a family of Venetian merchants in 1559. The Saint died at Lisbon on July 22, 1619. In Baptism he was given the name Julius Caesar Rossi. Guglielmo de Rossi—–or Guglielmo Russi, according to a contemporary writer—–was his father’s name; his mother was Elisabetta Masella. Both were excellent Christians. His father died when he was twelve.
Lawrence received his saint’s name upon entering the Capuchins at age 16, following his education by Franciscans at the Venice College of Saint Mark. In 1575 he was received into the Order of Capuchins under the name of Brother Lorenzo (Lawrence), and, after his preprofession, made his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Padua. Owing to his wonderful memory he mastered not only the principal European languages, but also most of the Semitic tongues. It was said he knew the entire original text of the Bible. A gifted scholar, Saint Lawrence learned and mastered Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, as well as his native Italian. Able to read Scriptures in the languages they were originally written in, he further excelled at theological studies, and during his education was recognized for his piety and abilities to interpret and explain both Scripture and Church doctrine.
From 1596 to 1602 he had, as general definitor, to fix his residence in Rome. Clement VIII assigned him the task of instructing the Jews. Thanks to his knowledge of Hebrew and his powerful reasoning, he brought a great number of them to recognize the truth of the Christian religion. His saintliness, combined with his great kindliness, completed the preparing of the way for the grace of conversion. His success in Rome caused him to be called to several other cities, where he also baptized numerous Jews. At the same time he was commissioned to establish houses of his order in Germany and Austria. Amid the great difficulties created by the heretics he founded the convents of Vienna, Prague, and Graz. At the chapter of 1602 he was elected vicar-general. (At that time the Order of Capuchins, which had broken away from the Observants in 1528 and had an independent constitution, gave its first superior the title of vicar-general only. It was not until 1618 that Pope Paul V changed it to that of minister general).
It was on the occasion of the foundation of the convent of Prague (1601) that St. Lawrence was named chaplain of the Imperial army, then about to march against the Turks. The victory of Lepanto (1571) had only temporarily checked the Moslem invasion, and several battles were still necessary to secure the final triumph of the Christian armies. Mohammed III had, since his accession (1595), conquered a large part of Hungary. The emperor, determined to prevent a further advance, sent Lorenzo of Brindisi as deputy to the German princes to obtain their cooperation. They responded to his appeal, and moreover the Duke of Mercœur, Governor of Brittany, joined the imperial army, of which he received the effective command.
The attack on Albe-Royal (now Stulweissenburg) was then contemplated. To pit 18,000 men against 80,000 Turks was a daring undertaking and the generals, hesitating to attempt it, appealed to Lawrence for advice. Holding himself responsible for victory, he communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech the ardour and confidence with which he was himself animated. As his feebleness prevented him from marching, he mounted on horseback and, crucifix in hand, took the lead of the army, which he drew irresistibly after him. Three other Capuchins were also in the ranks of the army. Although the most exposed to danger, Lawrence was not wounded, which was universally regarded as due to a miraculous protection. The city was finally taken, and the Turks lost 30,000 men. As however they still exceeded in numbers the Christian army, they formed their lines anew, and a few days later another battle was fought. It always the chaplain who was at the head of the army. “Forward!” he cried, showing them the crucifix, “Victory is ours.” The Turks were again defeated, and the honour of this double victory was attributed by the general and the entire army to Lorenzo.
Having resigned his office of vicar-general in 1605, he was sent by the pope to evangelize Germany. He here confirmed the faith of the Catholics, brought back a great number to the practice of virtue, and converted many heretics. In controversies his vast learning always gave him the advantage, and, once he had won the minds of his hearers, his saintliness and numerous miracles completed their conversion. To protect the Faith more efficaciously in their states, the Catholic princes of Germany formed the alliance called the “Catholic League”.
Emperor Rudolph sent Lawrence to Philip III of Spain to persuade him to join the League. Having discharged this mission successfully, the saintly ambassador received a double mandate by virtue of which he was to represent the interests of the pope and of Madrid at the court of Maximilian of Bavaria, head of the League. He was thus, much against his wishes, compelled to settle in Munich near Maximilian. Besides being nuncio and ambassador, Lawrence was also commissary general of his order for the provinces of Tyrol and Bavaria, and spiritual director of the Bavarian army. He was also chosen as arbitrator in the dispute which arose between the princes, and it was in fulfillment of this role that, at the request of the emperor, he restored harmony between the Duke of Mantua and a German nobleman. In addition to all these occupations he undertook, with the assistance of several Capuchins, a missionary campaign throughout Germany, and for eight months travelled in Bavaria, Saxony, and the Palatinate.
Amid so many various undertakings Lawrence found time for the practices of personal sanctification. And it is perhaps the greatest marvel of his life to have combined with duties so manifold an unusually intense inner life. In the practice of the religious virtues St. Lawrence equals the greatest saints. He had to a high degree the gift of contemplation, and very rarely celebrated Holy Mass without falling into ecstasies. After the Holy Sacrifice, his great devotion was the Rosary and the Office of the Blessed Virgin.
As in the case of St. Francis of Assisi, there was something poetical about his piety, which often burst forth into canticles to the Blessed Virgin. It was in Mary’s name that he worked his miracles, and his favorite blessing was: “Nos cum prole pia benedicat Virgo Maria.” Having withdrawn to the monastery of Caserta in 1618, Lawrence was hoping to enjoy a few days of seclusion, when he was requested by the leading men of Naples to go to Spain and apprise Philip III of the conduct of Viceroy Ossuna. In spite of many obstacles raised by the latter, the saint sailed from Genoa and carried out his mission successfully. But the fatigues of the journey exhausted his feeble strength. He was unable to travel homeward, and after a few days of great suffering died at Lisbon in the native land of St. Anthony (22 July, 1619), as he had predicted when he set out on his journey. He was buried in the cemetery of the Poor Clares of Villafranca del Bierzo in Spain.
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi was beatified in 1783 by Pope Pius VI, canonized in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. In 1956 the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of his writings and sermons. In 1959 Pope John XXIII declared him a doctor of the Franciscan Order.
Image: crop of Engraving with St. Lawrence of Brindisi writing. (7)
Today is the feast day of Saint Jerome Emiliani. Ora pro nobis.
St Jerome Emiliani was born at Venice in 1481 and died at Somascha, 8 February, 1537. He was founder of the Order of Somascha, the Somascans. He was the son of Angelo Emiliani and of Eleonore Mauoceni.
St. Jerome Emilian, Confessor from the Liturgical Year, 1909
Sprung from the powerful aristocracy which won for Venice twelve centuries of splendour, Jerome came into the world when that city had reached the height of its glory. At fifteen years of age he became a soldier; and was one of the heroes in that formidable struggle wherein his country withstood the united powers of almost all Europe in the League of Cambrai. The golden city, crushed for a moment, but soon restored to her former condition, offered her honours to the defender of Castelnovo, who like herself had fallen bravely and risen again. But our Lady of Tarviso had delivered him from his German prison, only to make him her own captive; she brought him back to the city of St. Mark, there to fulfil a higher mission than the proud Republic could have entrusted to him. The descendant of the Emiliani, captivated, as was Lawrence Justinian a century before, by Eternal Beauty, would now live only for the humility which leads to heaven, and for the lofty deeds of charity. His title of nobility will be derived from the obscure village of Somascha, where he will gather his newly recruited army; and his conquests will be the bringing of little children to God. He will no more frequent the palaces of his patrician friends, for he now belongs to a higher rank: they serve the world, he serves heaven; his rivals are the Angels, whose ambition, like his own, is to preserve unsullied for the Father the service of those innocent souls whom the greatest in heaven must resemble.
“The soul of the child,” as the Church tells us today by the golden month of St. John Chrysostom, “is free from all passions. He bears no ill will towards them that have done him harm, but goes to them as friends just as if they had done nothing. And though he be often beaten by his mother, yet he always seeks her and loves her more than any one else. If you show him a queen in her royal crown, he prefers his mother clad in rags, and would rather see her unadorned than the queen in magnificent attire; for he does not appreciate according to riches or poverty, but by love. He seeks not for more than is necessary, and as soon as he has had sufficient milk he quits the breast. He is not oppressed with the same sorrows as we, nor troubled with care for money and the like; neither is he rejoiced by our transitory pleasures, nor affected by corporal beauty. Therefore our Lord said, ‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven,’ wishing us to do of our own free will what children do by nature (Chrys. in Matt. Hom. lxii. al. lxiii).”
Their Guardian Angels, as our Lord himself said, gazing into those pure souls, are not distracted from the contemplation of their heavenly Father: for he rests in them as on the wings of Cherubim, since baptism has made them his children. Happy was our Saint to have been chosen by God to share the loving cares of the Angels here below, before partaking of their bliss in heaven. The following detailed account is given by Holy Church:
Jerome was bora at Venice, of the patrician family of the Emiliani, and from his boyhood embraced a military life. At a time when the Republic was in great difficulty, he was placed in command of Castelnovo, in the territory of Quero, in the mountains of Tarviso. The fortress was taken by the enemy, and Jerome was thrown, bound hand and foot, into a horrible dungeon. When he found himself thus destitute of all human aid, he prayed most earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, who mercifully came to his assistance. She loosed his bonds, and led him safely through the midst of his enemies, who had possession of every road, till he was within sight of Tarviso. He entered the town; and, in testimony of the favour he had received, he hung up at the altar of our Lady, to whose service he had vowed himself, the manacles, shackles, and chains which he had brought with him. On his return to Venice he gave himself with the utmost zeal to exercises of piety. His charity towards the poor was wonderful; but he was particularly moved to pity for the orphan children who wandered poor and dirty about the town; he received them into houses which he hired, where he fed them at his own expense and trained them to lead Christian lives.
At this time Blessed Cajetan and Peter Caraffa, who was afterwards Paul IV., disembarked at Venice. They commended Jerome’s spirit and his new institution for gathering orphans together. They also introduced him into the hospital for incurables, where he would be able to devote himself with equal charity to the education of orphans, and to the service of the sick. Soon, at their suggestion, he crossed over to the Continent and founded orphanages, first at Brescia, then at Bergamo and Como. At Bergamo his zeal was specially prolific, for there, besides two orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, he opened a house, an unprecedented thing in those parts, for the reception of fallen women who had been converted. Finally he took up his abode at Somascha, a small village in the territory of Bergamo, near to the Venetian border, and this he made his headquarters; here, too, he definitely established his Congregation, which for this reason received the name of Somasques. In course of time it spread and increased, and for the greater benefit of the Christian republic it undertook, besides the ruling and guiding of orphans and the taking care of sacred buildings, the education both liberal and moral of young men in colleges, academies, and seminaries.
Pius V. enrolled it among religious Orders, and other Roman Pontiffs have honoured it with privileges. Entirely devoted to his work of rescuing orphans, Jerome journeyed to Milan and Pavia, and in both cities he collected numbers of children and provided them, through the assistance given him by noble personages, with a home, food, clothing, and education. He returned to Somascha, and, making himself all to all, he refused no labour which he saw might turn to the good of his neighbour. He associated himself with the peasants scattered over the fields, and while helping them with their work of harvesting, he would explain to them the mysteries of faith. He used to take care of children with the greatest patience, even going so far as to cleanse their heads, and he dressed the corrupt wounds of the village folk with such success that it was thought he had received the gift of healing. On the mountain which overhangs Somascha he found a cave in which he hid himself, and there scourging himself, spending whole days fasting, passing the greater part of the night in prayer, and snatching only a short sleep on the bare rock, he expiated his own sins and those of others. In the interior of this grotto, water trickles from the dry rock, obtained, as constant tradition says, by the prayers of the servant of God. It still flows, even to the present day, and being taken into different countries, it often gives health to the sick.
At length, when a contagious distemper was spreading over the whole valley, and he was serving the sick and carrying the dead to the grave on his own shoulders, he caught the infection, and died at the age of fifty-six. His precious death, which he had foretold a short time before, occurred in the year 1537. He was illustrious both in life and death for manymiracles. Benedict XIV. enrolled him among the Blessed, and Clement XIII. solemnly inscribed his name on the catalogue of the Saints. (2)
He founded a hospital in Verona and an orphanage in Padua. At Bergamo, which had been struck by a pestilence and famine, he went out with the reapers he could assemble, and cut wheat in the hottest season of the Italian summer. At their head, he sang Christian hymns in his rich voice, engaging the others to follow his example. There he founded two orphanages and succeeded in closing a number of houses of ill repute; he gave their inhabitants whom he converted a rule of life and procured a residence for them. The bishop was aiding him constantly; and he sent him out to other villages and hamlets to teach the children Christian doctrine. Multiple conversions resulted in all directions. Two holy priests joined him in Bergamo, soon followed by other noble gentlemen. This was the origin of the Congregation of Regular Clerics, called the Somascans because of their residence at Somasca, situated between Milan and Bergamo. The Congregation was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, and the Order spread in Italy. Saint Jerome died in 1537 at the age of 56, from the illness he contracted while caring for the sick during an epidemic in the region of Bergamo.
After the death of Jerome his community was about to disband, but was kept together by Gambarana, who had been chosen superior. He obtained the approval (1540) of Paul III. In 1547 the members vainly sought affiliation with the Society of Jesus; then in 1547-1555 they were united with the Theatines. Pius IV (1563) approved the institution, and St. Pius V raised it to the dignity of a religious order, according to the Rule of St. Augustine, with solemn vows, the privileges of the mendicants, and exemption. In 1569 the first six members made their profession, and Gambarana was made first superior general. Great favour was shown to the order by St. Charles Borromeo, and he gave it the church of St. Mayeul at Pavia, from which church the order takes its official name “Clerici regulares S. Majoli Papiae congregationis Somaschae”. Later the education of youth was put into the programme of the order, and the colleges at Rome and Pavia became renowned. It spread into Austria and Switzerland, and before the great Revolution it had 119 houses in the four provinces of Rome, Lombardy, Venice, and France. At present the order has ten houses in Italy two of which are in Rome. The general resides in Rome at S. Girolamo della Carita.
Today is the feast day of Saint Margaret. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Margaret (also called Marina) was born in Antioch (modern day Turkey) near the end of the third century. She died about the year 275, others say about 304. Father Weninger, in his sermon below, places her death about 175. She was about 15 when she was beheaded. The Greek Church honors her under the name Marina on 13 July; the Latin, as Margaret on 20 July. Her Acts place her death in the persecution of Diocletian (A.D. 303-5), but in fact even the century to which she belonged is uncertain. St. Margaret is represented in art sometimes as a shepherdess, or as leading a chained dragon, again carrying a little cross or a girdle in her hand, or standing by a large vessel which recalls the cauldron into which she was plunged. Relics said to belong to the saint are venerated in very many parts of Europe; at Rome, Montefiascone, Brusels, Bruges, Paris, Froidmont, Troyes, and various other places.
St. Margaret, Virgin and Martyr by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Margaret, a chaste virgin and glorious Martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ, was born at Antioch, in Pisidia. Her parents were rich and noble, but heathens, and her mother died while she was still an infant. Hence her father, whose name was Edesius, gave her to a nurse who lived in a neighboring village. This nurse was a Christian, and she endeavored to bring up Margaret with love for the Christian faith. God decreed that Edesius should leave his daughter for several years with her nurse, who having thus time and opportunity, instructed her in the doctrines of the true faith, and early awakened in her heart the desire to give her life for Christ’s sake, by relating to her the tortures that so many Christians had suffered, for the love they bore to their Saviour. When Margaret had come to the age of discretion, she not only desired to be baptized, but soon afterwards consecrated her virginity to the Almighty, desiring nothing more ardently than to be numbered among the martyrs.
Margaret’s father was greatly incensed when he was informed that she had embraced the Christian faith, but he concealed his wrath, and taking his daughter home, he endeavored by alternate promises and terrible menaces, to induce her to forsake Christ. When he found that all was useless, he took other means, which he believed would be efficacious. He told her that henceforth he would no longer regard her as his daughter, but as his servant and slave. He commanded her to lay aside the garments she had worn until now and to put on old ragged clothes; after which he turned her out of the house, and ordered her into the fields to guard the herd. Edesius supposed that this would be harder for her to bear than tortures, and that it could not fail to produce a change in her mind. But he had deceived himself. Margaret, who had well taken to heart that Christ, for our sake, had so deeply lowered Himself, as to hide His dignity in human form, rejoiced in being humiliated for His sake, and discharged her duties most faithfully. She guarded the herd with untiring patience, although she suffered greatly from the inclemency of the weather, and complained not of the miserable food that was given her. Her only consolation was that she could occupy her time in prayer and singing the praises of God.
Olibrius, Prefect of Pisidia, passed, one day, while travelling, near the place where Margaret was watching the herd. Addressing her, he asked her name, where she was born and who were her parents, all of which questions Margaret answered with so much decorum and modesty, that Olibrius became deeply interested in her. As Margaret, in the course of the conversation, had also told him that she was a Christian, he made this a pretext to have her brought to him at Antioch. Speaking most kindly to her, he warned her to forsake Christianity, saying that she was born to something better than to guard the herd, and that he would make her his wife, and one of the greatest ladies of the city, if she would consent to his wishes. Margaret declared fearlessly that she would neither leave Christ, nor take as spouse a human being, as she was united with a much greater Lord. So unexpected an answer transformed Olibrius’ love into such wild rage, that he immediately gave orders to tear off her clothes, and stretch her on the ground; after which she was so barbarously whipped that the ground was covered with her blood, so that those witnessing the scene were overcome with pity. The Christian heroine, during this torture, kept her eyes fixed on heaven, and showed no sign of pain; nay, when her executioners were tired, she appeared still willing to suffer more out of love to Christ. Observing this, Olibrius became so infuriated that he had her hands and feet bound and her whole body torn with iron combs and pierced with sharply pointed nails until he himself could no longer look at his victim, but ordered that she should be cast into a dungeon. Here the Virgin, her whole body mangled, gave thanks to God for having sustained her in her first terrible struggle, and humbly prayed that He would further help her with His grace. Heaven permitted that the Evil One, called in Holy Writ a serpent, appeared to her in this form, threatening to devour her; but as she had conquered the tyrant, so she conquered also the hellish serpent. Opposing him with the sign of the holy Cross, she banished him; and when he appeared a second time, she again made the same holy sign, and Satan had to confess that he possessed no longer power to harm her.
After this twofold glorious victory, God sent an Angel who immediately healed her wounds, and encouraged her to further conflicts, with the promise that Divine assistance would be given to her. The following morning, Olibrius again called the fearless heroine into his presence, and repeated his promises and threats of the day before, but without any success. When he ascribed the healing of her wounds to his idols, the holy virgin refuted it with incontestable proofs, repeating that she would rather die a thousand deaths than forsake her faith. The tyrant seeing her firmness, again ordered her clothes to be torn from her, after which, having tied her hands and feet, they burned her breast and sides with torches, and to make the suffering still more intolerable, they threw her into cold water, after her whole body had thus been cruelly tortured. But never had Margaret been more cheerful than during this terrible martyrdom, at the time of which, a voice from heaven was heard, saying: ” Come, thou Spouse of Christ, enter the dwelling of the Saints, and receive the crown of eternal glory!” All present heard these words, and as the earth trembled under their feet, an indescribable fear seized them. Many openly confessed themselves Christians, and Olibrius fearing a revolt, commanded that Margaret should immediately be beheaded. The executioner showed timidity in obeying the prefect’s words, but Margaret herself encouraged him to obey, and thus ended by the sword her chaste and holy life, in the year of our Lord, 175. (1)
Saint Margaret’s body was buried at Antioch, but her remains were taken translated to Italy where they were divided between shrines in Montefiascone and Venice. She remains a popular saint today throughout Europe, with a common belief that those who read and spread her story will receive an eternal crown in heaven. She is also invoked frequently by women during childbirth, whom she promised to pray for following her encounter with Satan. (6)
Image: Museum of Mining and Gothic art in Leogang ( Salzburg state ). Gothic collections: Altarpainting of Saint Margarete ( 1480s ) from Southern Tyrol.(4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Symmachus. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Symmachus date of birth is unknown. He died July 19, 514 of natural causes. According to the “Liber pontificalis” (ed. Duchesne, I, 260) he was a native of Sardinia and his father was named Fortunatus. Symmachus was baptized at Rome (Thiel, “Epist. pont. rom.”, I, 702). He entered the ranks of the clergy of Rome, and was ordained a deacon. Directly after the death of Pope Anastasius II, Symmachus was elected his successor by a majority of the Roman clergy at the Lateran Basilica on 22 November, 498. He was the 51st pope.
An anti-pope, Laurentius, was elected the same day by a minority with Byzantine sympathies and with the support of Emperor Anastasius. King Theodoric the Great supported Symmachus who ascended to the throne. Any sort of campaigning for the papacy during the life of a sitting pope was outlawed by canon law.
In 501, Senator Festus, a supporter of Laurentius, accused Symmachus of assorted crimes. Symmachus refused to answer the charges, claimed that secular rulers had no jurisdiction over a pope, and the Synodus Palmaris of 23 October 502 confirmed this decision. The schism with Laurentius continued for years. At one point Theodoric installed the anti-pope in the Lateran Palace and proclaimed him the legal pontiff. Theodoric later decided that Laurentius was too Byzantine, and had him removed.
During all the turmoil, Symmachus spent largely to support bishops of Africa who were persecuted by the Arian Vandals. He also gave aid to northern Italians who suffered from the invasions of barbarians.
Symmachus zealously defended the supporters of orthodoxy during the disorders of the Acacian schism. He defends, although without success, the opponents of the “Henotikon” in a letter to Emperor Anastasius I (491-518). At a later date many of the persecuted oriental bishops addressed themselves to the pope to whom they sent a confession of faith. Shortly after 506 the emperor sent him a letter full of invectives, to which the pope sent a firm answer, maintaining forcibly the rights and liberty of the Church (Thiel, “Epist. rom. pont.”, I, 700 sq.).
In a letter of 8 October, 512, addressed to the bishops of Illyria, the pope warned the clergy of that province not to hold communion with heretics. Soon after the beginning of his pontificate Symmachus interposed in the quarrel between the Archbishops of Arles and Vienne as to the boundaries of their respective territories. He annulled the edict issued by Anastasius II in favour of the Archbishop of Vienne and later (6 November, 513) confirmed the metropolitan rights of archbishop Caesarius of Arles, as these had been fixed by Leo I. Moreover, he granted Caesarius the privilege of wearing the pallium, the first-known instance of such a grant by the Holy See to a bishop outside of Italy.
In a letter of 11 June, 514, he appointed Caesarius to represent the interests of the Church both in Gaul and Spain, to hold synods of the bishops in certain cases, to give letters of recommendation to clergy who journeyed to Rome. More important matters were to be laid before the Holy See. In the city of Rome, according to the “Liber pontificalis”, the pope took severe measures against the Manichæans, ordered the burning of their books, and expelled them from the city. He erected or restored and adorned various churches. Thus he built a Church of St. Andrew near St. Peter’s, a Basilica of St. Agnes on the Via Aurelia, adorned the Church of St. Peter’s, completely rebuilt the Basilica of Sts. Sylvester and Martinus, and made improvements over the Catacomb of the Jordani on the Via Salaria.
He built episcopal houses (episcopia) to the right and left of the parvis of St. Peter’s. These buildings were evidently connected with the residence of the pope for several years near St. Peter’s during the disorders of the Laurentian schism. He also built asylums for the poor near the three churches of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Laurence that were outside the city walls. The pope contributed large sums for the support of the Catholic bishops of Africa who were persecuted by the rulers of the Arian Vandals. He also aided the inhabitants of the provinces of upper Italy who suffered so sorely from the invasion of the barbarians. After his death he was buried at St. Peter’s. Symmachus is venerated in the Roman Church as a saint.
Image: Pope Symmachus, from the basilica of Sant’Agnese fuori le mura, Rome; by Parrocchia di Santa Agnese fuori le Mura (3)
Today is the feast day of Saint Macrina the Younger. Ora pro nobis.
Macrina was born in 327 in Cesarea, the eldest child of Basil and Emmelia. She was the granddaughter of St. Macrina the Elder and sister of St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Peter of Sebastea. Her mother based herself on the Book of Wisdom of Scriptures to raise her children, and used to chant the psaltery with them.
At age 12, Macrina was engaged to be married. When her fiancé died, she decided she would not marry. She dedicated her life to help raise her brothers well and to assist her mother. After her siblings had grown up and were completely formed, they used to call her Macrina the Great. On the death of their father, Basil took her, with their mother, to a family estate on the River Iris, in Pontus. She is recognized and honored as one of the most prominent nuns of the Easter Church, and she founded an order on the family’s estate in Pontus, where many religious women flourished in their faith ender her direction.
With her brother, Peter, she constructed both a monastery and convent. Macrina embraced an ascetic life, living in austerity, and spending much time in contemplation and prayer. Her brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity throughout her life.
When she became gravely ill and was close to death, St. Gregory of Nyssa went to see her. He found her laying on a wood board and wearing a hair-shirt. He carefully lifted her and placed her on a bed. The dying woman, seeing her last hour was at hand, remembered all the good things God had given her during her lifetime and gave glory to Him. She said: “Oh, Lord! Thou didst destroy the fear of death. Because of Thy sacrifice, true life begins when the present life finishes. We will sleep for a while and then, to the sound of the trumpet, we will resurrect. Thou didst save us from the curse of the sin, redeeming us from both sin and its curse.”
Kissing an iron Crucifix that held the relics of the Cross of the Savior, which she always had close to her, St. Macrina serenely died in the year 379. She was buried beside her parents.
Image: St. Macrina the Younger (fresco in Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev) (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Vincent de Paul. Ora pro nobis.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
Saint Vincent de Paul (c. 1580-1660), founder of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) and co-founder of the Sisters of Charity, is an outstanding example of great love for the poor and unfortuanate, and the patron of charitable societies.
Vincent de Paul, a Frenchman, was born at Pouy, not far from Dax, in Gascony, and from his boyhood was remarkable for his exceeding charity towards the poor. From the care of his father’s flocks he was sent to study letters. He learned the humanities at Dax, and theology first at Toulouse, then at Saragossa. Having been ordained priest, and having taken a degree in theology, he fell into the hands of the Turks, and was led captive by them into Africa. But being sold into slavery, he won his owner (an apostate) back to Christ. By the help of the Mother of God, therefore, Vincent and his owner hurried away from the shores of the barbarians. Then Vincent undertook a journey to Rome, to visit the thresholds of the Apostles. Having returned to France he governed, in a most saintly manner, first, the parish of Clichy, and then that of Chatillon. He was appointed by the king as principal chaplain of the French galleys, and showed marvelous zeal in striving for the salvation of both the drivers and the rowers. The holy Francis de Sales appointed him superior of the nuns of the Visitation, whom he ruled for nearly forty years with so great prudence, that he amply justified the opinion of their most holy founder, who confessed that he knew no worthier priest than Vincent.
To the preaching of the Gospel unto the poor, especially to the country people, he devoted himself unweariedly, until he was disabled by old age. To this apostolic work he obligated both himself and the members of the congregation, which he specially founded under the name of secular Priests of the Mission, by a perpetual vow confirmed by the Holy See. And how greatly he labored for bettering the discipline of the clergy, is attested by the seminaries erected for senior clerics, by the frequency of sacred conferences among the priests, and by the religious exercises preparatory to the sacrament of Holy Orders; for which purposes, as well as that of giving pious retreats for laymen, he desired that the houses of his institute should be freely opened. Moreover, for the extension of faith and piety, he sent evangelical laborers, not only into the provinces of France, but also into Italy, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, and even to Barbary and to the Indies. And at the death of Louis XIII, whom he had attended and exhorted on his deathbed, Vincent himself was summoned by the queen, Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV, and made a member of the young King’s Council of Conscience. In this position he most zealously urged that only the more worthy men should be placed in authority over the churches and monasteries; that civil discords, single combats, slowly-spreading false doctrines, which he both perceived and dreaded, should be ended; and that due obedience should be rendered by all to the apostolic decisions.
There was no kind of misfortune which he did not, with fatherly tenderness, endeavor to relieve. The faithful groaning beneath the Turkish yoke, infants which had been abandoned, wayward youths, maidens exposed to danger, nuns driven from their convents, fallen women, convicts condemned to the galleys, infirm strangers, disabled workmen and even lunatics, and beggars without number, all these he received and devoutly assisted with resources and in hospices which have lasted to this day. When Lorraine, Champagne, Picardy, and other provinces were devastated by plague, famine, and war, he relieved their necessities with an open hand. He founded many societies for seeking out and alleviating the lot of the wretched, among them a celebrated association of matrons, widely spread under the name of Sisters of Charity. He likewise promoted the foundation of the Daughters of the Cross, of Providence, and of St. Genevieve, for the education of the weaker sex.
Amid these and other most important affairs he was ever intent upon God, affable to everyone, and always true to himself, simple, upright, lowly, and ever shrank from honors, riches, and luxuries. He was heard to say that in nothing was there any pleasure for him except in Christ Jesus, Whom he desired to imitate in all things. At length, worn out with bodily pains, labors, and old age, on September 27th, in the year of salvation 1660, and in the eighty-fifth year of age, at Paris, in the house of St. Lazare, which is the mother-house of the Congregation the Mission, he calmly fell asleep. Since he became illustrious for virtues, merits, and miracles, Clement XII placed him among the Saints, assigning July 19th as his annual feast. And Leo XIII, at the earnest request of many bishops, claimed and appointed this notable hero of divine charity, who has deserved so exceedingly well of every class of men the special patron before God of all the charitable societies existing in the entire Catholic world, and in any way soever emanating from his foundation. (2)
The Foundling Hospital of St. Vincent De Paul M.A. Henry Beford, 1856
There are few institutions in Paris which excite more admiration in strangers than the Foundling Asylum, the Hospice des Enfans trouves, in the Rue d’Enfer. No one can visit it without being moved with feelings of love and veneration for St. Vincent de Paul, whose work it is; and when we call to mind the difficulties he had to encounter in first establishing it, and the still greater trials which threatened its very existence while it was yet young, we shall indeed acknowledge that it is His work who taught His servant to say, “When my father and mother forsook me, the Lord took me up.”
Let us trace up this noble institution to its source in the charity of Vincent. Nothing could be more deplorable than the state of the poor foundlings of Paris when they first attracted the attention of our Saint. Not less than three or four hundred children were yearly left exposed by their parents in the public streets; and what does the reader think was the provision made by the government of that day for these little outcasts of society? It sounds well when we hear that a police regulation required that every child thus found should be taken by certain officers to a house appointed for their reception; but if we follow these officers to La Couche, in the Rue St. Landry, what preparations do we find for the nurture and care of this crowd of helpless infants? A widow, with two or three servants; and these so miserably paid, that the barest necessities of life cannot be obtained for those who need the most delicate attention and care! There are no wet-nurses for the youngest, no fitting food for those who have been weaned.
It naturally followed, that the greater part died almost immediately; while most of those who lingered on in a sickly existence were quieted in their pains, and in the end silenced for ever, by narcotics, which were given them by their ruthless guardians. Well was it for those who died thus; for they thereby escaped a harder and more cruel fate. Humanity shudders when it thinks of the lot of those who were given away, or sold for a few pence, to any who would take them from a place which it sounds like mockery to call their home. Some were hired to suck the milk from diseased breasts, who thus with their nurture drew in death; while others–horrible to relate–were bought as victims for diabolic art, and ministered with their blood to the requirements of those who sought therein restoration to health and a revival of the powers which sin and excess had corrupted and destroyed. The bath of infants’ blood is no mere classic dream; for the seventeenth century saw revived (if they had ever really ceased) the mystic charms and satanic remedies which heathenism had used. And while the bodies of these little ones were thus neglected and suffered to perish, none cared for their souls. The miserable creature who had the nominal care of them herself confessed that she had never baptised one, nor did she know of a single case in which that blessed sacrament had been administered! And yet three or four hundred yearly entered her house.
This gigantic evil crossed Vincent’s path: his tender heart recoiled in horror from cruelty so great and from neglect so terrible. To pass it with an exclamation of surprise or disgust, to drop over it a tear of sorrow, and thus to leave it, was not his way. His was an active charity, which shrank from no difficulty, and knew not the word “impossible.” Yet was he prudent and cautious in what he undertook. He did nothing on impulse; and so he never gave up what he once began. Thus, in this case as in others, he considered long and carefully what he should do; he weighed his means against the requirements, and found that he must begin in a small way. He called in the aid of the good ladies of the Hotel-Dieu, and sent them to examine the state of ” La Couche.” They went, and saw what has been related. What language could express their astonishment and distress at the spectacle which there presented itself! How can they meet so great a claim upon their charity? how cope with so overwhelming an evil? Under Vincent’s advice, they agree to select by lot twelve of these poor creatures, and place them in a house near the gate of St. Victor. Madame Le Gras and her Sisters of Charity undertook the immediate charge of them, and wet-nurses were provided.
It was in 1638 that this first step was taken, and gradually the number thus selected was augmented as the means for their support increased; and the contrast between those who had been thus taken and those who were left behind moved the hearts of these generous ladies to make greater sacrifices in their behalf. Thus matters went on for two years; at the end of which time, in 1640, Vincent called these ladies together, and laid before them a design for completing the work by taking charge of all these foundlings.
It was an arduous and costly task; and his prudence would not suffer him to do more than urge them to make trial of their strength and means. All he wished them to do was to make an experiment. If their resources would not suffice, they must give it up; in the meantime he would try what he could do for them.
He was a man of business, and sat down to count the cost of the enterprise; and this was the pecuniary view of the case. The ladies had no more than 70 of fixed income which they could devote to this work: at Vincent’s request, the queen regent, Anne of Austria, ever forward in works of charity, gave an annual grant of 600; and to this our Saint added all that he could spare from the resources ofSt. Lazarus and from the funds which the charitable placed at his disposal. After all, there was a large additional sum required to meet the necessary expenditure, which was certainly not less than 2,000 a year.
Nobly did they struggle on against all difficulties for some years; every nerve seemed strained, every power taxed to the uttermost, to carry on the undertaking and to preserve the poor deserted ones from the fate which awaited them should they have to return to their old quarters. But now difficulties increase: national distress shows itself on all sides, the curse of faction once more comes over the land, sin and misery rise together in greater force than ever; and so the demands upon this especial charity augment with its increasing poverty. Moreover, the famine which at this time afflicted the province of Lorraine called for unexampled relief; and those who had burdened themselves with the charge of the foundlings are now foremost in aiding the efforts which Vincent is making for the support of thousands of their starving countrymen.
Can we wonder if at such a time the hearts of these noble women should despond, and that their resolution respecting the orphans should falter? Common prudence seemed to urge them to consolidate their energies on the more pressing need, and to give up, at least for a time, what, after all, had been undertaken only as an experiment. Such was the state of affairs in 1648, when Vincent took his resolution, and called once more around him those liberal souls who were doing so much.
The general meeting is held; Vincent is there, and in the crowd of those present we may observe Madame Le Gras, as well as Madame de Goussault. Every heart beats high with anxiety–for what will Vincent advise? He is so cautious, so prudent, that, it may be, the more enthusiastic are half-inclined to condemn his counsel beforehand; while those who have more calmly weighed the matter in hand sigh as they feel the necessity of drawing back from what seems a hopeless task. At any rate there is this consolation, that they have done their best; and that, had not these national calamities come so unexpectedly upon them, they might still have persevered. It is painful, indeed, to draw back; but is it not madness to go on? Thus they thought; and therefore their hearts were sad, and many a bright eye was dimmed with tears for those whom they were about to abandon.
But what thinks Vincent all this while? It may be that their own thoughts occupy them too exclusively, or those ladies might have marked a determination about the Saint’s brow, and a sweet expression of ardent charity in those benignant eyes, which would in part have revealed the purpose within his mind.
And now Vincent rises; and in breathless silence they listen to the words of their sage counsellor, while he weighs the momentous question, whether they shall continue or give up the charge of the poor foundlings. Calmly and impartially does he set forth the reasons on both sides. He reminds them that it is only an experiment they have been making, and that consequently they are not bound by any obligation to continue it. But then he fails not also to call to their remembrance the fruit of their labours; how five or six hundred infants have been snatched from the hands of death, many of whom have learnt, and others were now being taught trades, by means of which they cease to be an expense to any one. He then goes on to tell them how through their care these little ones have been brought to know and to serve God; how with their earliest accents they have learned to speak of Him; and what bright hopes for a happy future these good beginnings presage. As he speaks, his words grow warmer; and at last, with deep emotion, and with irresistible sweetness, he exclaims: “Yes, ladies, compassion and charity have led you to adopt these little creatures for your children; you became their mothers by grace, when those who are their mothers by nature abandoned them; see now, if you too will forsake them. Cease to be their mothers, that you may become their judges; their life and death are in your hands. I have now to receive your decision. The time has come for you to pronounce sentence, and to declare whether or no you will still have pity on them. If you continue your charitable care over them, they will live; if you abandon them, they will undoubtedly perish. Your own experience forbids you to doubt it.”
The result may be easily imagined. Cost what it might, the good work should go on; and with tearful eyes but joyful hearts, they resolved to take courage from the words of Vincent, and to persevere in what was so evidently the will of God.
The king granted them the chateau at Bicetre, which Louis XIII. had destined for invalided soldiers; and thither for a time they sent the infants who had been weaned; but the air proving too keen, they were soon brought back to Paris, and lodged in a house near St. Lazarus. Here they were intrusted to twelve Sisters of Charity, who brought them up, and communicated to them the first rudiments of education. Those who were not yet weaned were given in charge to some country women, and were visited from time to time by the sisters, and occasionally by the Fathers of the Mission.
In course of time two houses were bought for these children. Louis XIV. increased the annual grant which his mother had made; and the good queen-dowager continued throughout her life the patronage she had so generously extended to the charity in the hour of its greatest need. From that day to this the institution has flourished; and those who visit it in its present habitation in the Rue d’Enfer, or in any other of its many dwelling-places, find as of old the Sisters of Charity carrying on the very work Vincent left in their hands, and recognise in its vitality another token of the heavenly mission of him whose works not only remain in vigorous life to the present day, but grow and expand with the wants and necessities of each succeeding age. (2)
Work for the Poor
Vincent de Paul had established the Daughters of Charity almost at the same time as the exercises des ordinands. At first they were intended to assist the conferences of charity. When these conferences were established at Paris (1629) the ladies who joined them readily brought their alms and were willing to visit the poor, but it often happened that they did not know how to give them care which their conditions demanded and they sent their servants to do what was needful in their stead. Vincent conceived the idea of enlisting good young women for this service of the poor. They were first distributed singly in the various parishes where the conferences were established and they visited the poor with these ladies of the conferences or when necessary cared for them during their absence. Besides the Daughters of Charity Vincent de Paul secured for the poor the services of the Ladies of Charity, at the request of the Archbishop of Paris. He grouped (1634) under this name some pious women who were determined to nurse the sick poor entering the Hotel-Dieu to the number of 20,000 or 25,000 annually; they also visited the prisons.
St. Vincent’s charity was not restricted to Paris, but reached to all the provinces desolated by misery. In that period of the Thirty Years War known as the French period Lorraine, Trois-Evechés, Franche-Comté, and Champagne underwent for nearly a quarter of a century all the horrors and scourges which then more than ever war drew in its train. Vincent made urgent appeals to the Ladies of Charity; it has been estimated that at his reiterated requests he secured 12,000 livres equivalent to $60,000 in our time (1913). When the treasury was empty he again sought alms which he dispatched at once to the stricken districts.
All these benefits had rendered the name of Vincent de Paul popular in Paris and even at the Court. Richelieu sometimes received him and listened favorably to his requests; he assisted him in his first seminary foundations and established a house for his missionaries in the village of Richelieu. On his deathbed Louis XIII desired to be assisted by him: “Oh, Monsieur Vincent”, said he, “if I am restored to health I shall appoint no bishops unless they have spent three years with you.” His widow, Ann of Austria, made Vincent a member of the council of conscience charged with nominations to benefices. These honors did not alter Vincent’s modesty and simplicity.
Up to the time of St. Vincent’s death these missionaries had ransomed 1200 slaves, and they had expended 1,200,000 liveres in behalf of the slaves of Barbary, not to mention the affronts and persecutions of all kinds which they themselves had endured from the Turks. This exterior life so fruitful in works had its source in a profound spirit of religion and in an interior life of wonderful intensity. He was singularly faithful to the duties of his state, careful to obey the suggestions of faith and piety, devoted to prayer, meditation, and all religious and ascetic exercises. Of practical and prudent mind, he left nothing to chance. His distrust of himself was equalled only by his trust in Providence; when he founded the Congregation of the Mission and the Sisters of Charity he refrained from giving them fixed constitutions beforehand; it was only after tentatives, trials, and long experience that he resolved in the last years of his life to give them definitive rules. His zeal for souls knew no limit. All occasions were to him opportunities to exercise it. When he died the poor of Paris lost their best friend and humanity a benefactor unsurpassed in modern times. He died at Paris, 27 September, 1660
Forty years later (1705) the Superior-General of the Lazarists requested that the process of his canonization might be instituted. Many bishops, among them Bossuet, Fénelon, Fléchier, and Cardinal de Noailles, supported the request. On 13 August, 1729, Vincent was declared Blessed by Benedict XIII, and canonized by Clement XII on 16 June, 1737. In 1885 Leo XIII gave him as patron to the sisters of Charity. In the course of his long and busy life Vincent de Paul wrote a large number of letters, estimated at not less than 30,000. After his death the task of collecting them was begun; in the eighteenth century nearly 7000 had been gathered; many have since been lost. Those which remained were published rather incorrectly as “Lettres et conferérences de s. Vincent de Paul” (supplement, Paris, 1888); “Lettres inédites de saint Vincent de Paul” (Coste in”Revue de Gascogne”, 1909, 1911); Lettres choisies de saint Vincent de Paul” (Paris, 1911); the total of letters thus published amounts to about 3200. There have also been collected and published the saint’s “Conférences aux missionaires” (Paris, 1882) and “Conférences aux Filles de la Charite” (Paris, 1882). (5)
Image: Saint Vincent de Paul; artist: Juan Nepomuceno Herrera 1859 (7)
Today is the feast day of Saint Arnulf of Metz. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Arnulf (Arnold in English) as born about 580 and died August 16, 640. His parents belonged to a distinguished Frankish family. They lived in Austrasia, the eastern section of the kingdom founded by Clovis. He excelled in school through his talent and his good behaviour. According to the custom of the age, he was sent in due time to the court of Theodebert II, King of Austrasia (595-612), to be initiated in the various branches of the government. Under the guidance of Gundulf, the Mayor of the Palace, he soon became so proficient that he was placed on the regular list of royal officers. He distinguished himself both as a military commander and in the civil administration. In due course Arnulf was married to a Frankish woman of noble lineage, and had two sons, Anseghisel and Clodulf.
While Arnulf was enjoying worldly emoluments and honors he did not forget higher and spiritual things. His thoughts dwelled often on monasteries, and with his friend Romaricus, likewise an officer of the court, he planned to make a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Lérins, evidently for the purpose of devoting his life to God. In the meantime the Episcopal See of Metz became vacant. Arnulf was universally designated as a worthy candidate for the office, and he was consecrated bishop of that see about 611. In his new position he set the example of a virtuous life to his subjects, and attended to matters of ecclesiastical government.
In 625 he took part in a council held by the Frankish bishops at Reims. With all this Arnulf retained his station at the court of the king, and took a prominent part in the national life of his people. In 613, after the death of Theodebert, he, with Pepin of Landen and other nobles, called to Austrasia Clothaire II, King of Neustria. When, in 625, the realm of Austrasia was entrusted to the kings son Dagobert, Arnulf became not only the tutor, but also the chief minister, of the young king. At the time of the estrangement between the two kings, and 625, Arnulf with other bishops and nobles tried to effect a reconciliation.
The Saint distributed to the poor so generously of his own possessions that poor folk came to Metz from countries and cities afar, to receive alms and holy counsel. His hospitality towards pious folk, pilgrims, and monastics was legendary. He washed their feet himself, gave them new clothing, and a little silver for the journey, and this he did not of a season, but incessantly. All his time, he spent in vigils, fasting, and devout prayers and talks.
One day, when he was in a 3-day fast, he was making a procession. Many beasts joined in the procession and prayed to God devoutly with the Saint. And as the procession went along, a woman vexed by the Devil began to cry out loudly. The Saint but made the sign of the Cross of Christ over her, and she was entirely set free from the evil one. Behold how easily the great Saints cast out the evil one, since they had not the least trace of his wickedness remaining in them.
But Arnulf dreaded the responsibilities of the episcopal office and grew weary of court life. About the year 626 he obtained the appointment of a successor to the Episcopal See of Metz. He and his friend Romaricus withdrew to a solitary place in the mountains of the Vosges. There he lived in communion with God until his death. His remains, interred by Romaricus, were transferred about a year afterwards, by Bishop Goericus, to the basilica of the Holy Apostles in Metz.
When the time had come for the Saint’s repose, after he breathed his soul forth unto his Creator, his successor, Bishop Goericus, assembled a great procession and came to the place where lay the body of Arnulf. There vigils were celebrated very solemnly, and then the body was borne into the city. As they were so processing, those carrying the back part of the bier fell into a ditch. But Angels of God sustained the body in the air, and soon the men who had fallen caught up and resumed their places.
Next, during the same procession to the city, they would have passed through land belonging to a lecher, whom the Saint had reproved for his sin but who would not repent. On the edge of this man’s land, the body of Arnulf became immovable. No strength of men could force the body to cross over the lecher’s land. So a wealthy man named Noddo invited the whole company to spend the night at his estate, and there goodly provisions and good beer were imparted to all. The next morning with great joy the body was borne into the city. All the people greeted their reposed archpastor, whose body was buried in the church of the Apostles.
A woman long blind, named Julia, came to the tomb of St. Arnulf often to pray. She received her sight. Another woman was punished by God because she had worked on Sunday. Her hands became instantly crippled. Then came she to the tomb and begged the Saint to help her, weeping and praying sincerely. Quickly she recovered the use of her hands.
The memory of this glorious Saint is kept on the 17th of the kalends of August (July 18) to the honour of God, Who liveth and reigneth without end, unto ages of ages. Amen. [adapted from the Golden Legend]
Of the two sons of Arnulf, Clodulf became his third successor in the See of Metz. Anseghisel remained in the service of the State. From his union with Begga, a daughter of Pepin of Landen, was born Pepin of Heristal, the founder of the Carlovingian dynasty (Chlodulf of Metz was their oldest son, but more important is his second son Ansegisel, who married Begga daughter of Pepin I, Pippin of Landen. Arnulf is thus the male-line grandfather of Pepin of Herstal, great-grandfather of Charles Martel and 3rd great grandfather of Charlemagne.) In this manner Arnulf was the ancestor of the mighty rulers of that house.
There are three legends associated with Arnulf:
The Legend of the Ring
Arnulf was tormented by the violence that surrounded him and feared that he had played a role in the wars and murders that plagued the ruling families. Obsessed by these sins, Arnulf went to a bridge over the Moselle river. There he took off his bishop’s ring and threw it into the river, praying to God to give him a sign of absolution by returning the ring to him. Many penitent years later, a fisherman brought to the bishop’s kitchen a fish in the stomach of which was found the bishop’s ring. Arnulf repaid the sign of God by immediately retiring as bishop and becoming a hermit for the remainder of his life.
The Legend of the Fire
At the moment Arnulf resigned as bishop, a fire broke out in the cellars of the royal palace and threatened to spread throughout the city of Metz. Arnulf, full of courage and feeling unity with the townspeople, stood before the fire and said, “If God wants me to be consumed, I am in His hands.” He then made the sign of the cross at which point the fire immediately receded.
The Legend of the Beer Mug
It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop. They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnulf will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims’ thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.
To some, he is patron saint of beer brewers.
Image: Crop of Église Saint-Arnould à Saint-Allouestre, Morbihan, France. Vitrail représentant Saint-Arnould. (3)
Today is the feast day of Saint Camillus de Lellis. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Camillus de Lellis was born at Bacchianico, Naples, 1550. He was the son of an officer who had served both in the Neapolitan and French armies. His mother died when he was a child, and he grew up absolutely neglected. When still a youth he became a soldier in the service of Venice and afterwards of Naples, until 1574. While in the service he became a confirmed gambler, and in consequence of his losses was at times reduced to a condition of destitution. The kindness of a Franciscan friar induced him to apply for admission to that order, but he was refused.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
On the Festival of the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St, Paul, in the year 1746, Benedict XIV., with great solemnity, canonized Camillus, the founder of the congregation of regular priests, who, besides the three usual vows, bound themselves especially to serve the sick. Camillus was born in 1550, in the diocese of Theatie, in the kingdom of Naples. His mother dreamed before he was born, that she had given birth to a boy, who wore upon his breast a cross, and who was followed by a great many other boys, who wore the same emblem. The signification of this dream was not recognized until St. Camillus had founded an order, whose members, in consequence of a decree of the Pope, wore a dark red cross on the right side of the breast. The first years of his life were spent piously under the eyes of his parents; but later he became so addicted to games of chance, that he not only lost all he possessed, but also visibly injured his health. Obliged by poverty, he hired himself as nurse in a hospital, but soon becoming tired of this, he joined the army. The life of a soldier pleased him still less, and he therefore took service in a Capuchin cloister, not knowing what other course to pursue.
God at length had compassion on the lost sheep, and once more led him upon the right road. The cause of this was a sermon which he heard by chance, and even against his will. Pondering on it, he suddenly recognized his iniquities, and the judgment which he had to expect on account of them, and casting himself on the ground, he bitterly bewailed his past life, and resolved most earnestly to change it. From that moment, he appeared a different man, and having made a sorrowful confession, he not only avoided every shadow of sin, but also desired to be admitted into the seraphic order of St. Francis. He was received, but dismissed again before his probation had ended, in consequence of a sore on one of his feet, from which he had suffered a long time, and which made it impossible for him to perform the work assigned him. Sadly disappointed, Camillus went to Rome, to the hospital of St. James, where, as mentioned above, he had served for a time. God so directed it, that he was entrusted with the administration of the finances; in which office he consecrated himself entirely to the sick. Perceiving that the hired nurses performed their duties with negligence, he deliberated within himself, how he might obtain nurses, who, to receive an eternal recompense, should, after his example, wait upon the sick. Consulting St. Philip Neri, who was then living at Rome, he founded a society to which were admitted only those who were willing to serve the sick without any temporal reward. This society at first consisted of only a few secular persons ; but these were soon joined by several priests, who bought themselves a house in which they might reside in common.
This society formed itself into a religious order, and it spread as well over Italy and Sicily, as over other parts of Europe. The members of it nursed the sick, day and night, as well in hospitals as in private houses, and gave them every assistance, as well temporal as spiritual. St. Camillus was an example to all. Exhorted by St. Philip Neri, he had followed the example of St. Ignatius, and though already advanced in years, had devoted himself to study and was ordained priest, that he might assist the sick spiritually as well as corporally. The bull of his canonization proves that the most devoted mother could not have nursed her only child with greater love, than St. Camillus bestowed without exception upon all the sick. Whenever one was found, he went to comfort and to cheer him: he gave medicine, cleansed the bed and room, bandaged wounds, and in one word, did all that charity could think of or the condition of the sick require. Thus he acted uniformly towards all, but especially towards those who awakened in others aversion, on account of many sores, bad odors, or other disgusting circumstances. He often remained whole nights, without food or sleep, with them, although greatly suffering himself from the sore on his foot, to which we have alluded above. More than once he was so exhausted by his labors, that he fainted away by the side of the sick; but he continued in his work of love, while he had any strength left.
At the time of a terrible pestilence which ravaged Rome and several other cities, he worked real miracles of Christian charity. He went with his brethren through all the streets, assisting the suffering. He carried many, whom he found lying in the streets, stricken down by the pestilence, into the house where he and his priests resided, and nursed them there most tenderly, without in the least fearing death or infection. The same zeal he manifested at Milan and Nola, whither he went to nurse the sick at the time of the pestilence. He was incited to these great sacrifices by the love of God, which, since his conversion, inflamed his whole heart. He desired to gain numberless souls, to awaken in them an equal love to God and hatred of sin. Hence, his first care was that the sick should reconcile themselves to their Maker, by confession, and bear their sufferings patiently. The whole life of this Saint was, according to the above mentioned bull, truly divine. At the time of prayer they often found him in ecstacy, and surrounded by a heavenly light, or raised high up from the ground. St. Philip Neri gave evidence that he frequently saw angels standing beside St. Camillus while they waited upon the sick. God graced him also, with the gift of prophecy, and of miraculously restoring the sick in an instant, of which his life offers many examples.
The Inhabitants of Rome, therefore, looked upon him as a Saint, and greatly esteemed him ; he, however, humbled himself beneath all on account of the sins of his youth, over which he daily wept bitterly; he deemed himself unworthy to live among men. He esteemed and called himself the greatest sinner, who had deserved hell a thousand times. To praise him was only to rouse his indignation or to sadden him. He firmly refused the name of Founder of a religious order, and although for twenty-seven years he discharged the functions of an Abbot, he rested not until he was allowed to resign the office, and live under the obedience of another. St. Camillus united with profound humility and desire to obey, the virtue of mortification. Notwithstanding the great hardship of nursing the sick, and the pain that for years his foot gave him, he mortified his body by continual fasting, watching, and other penances, in such a manner that the prolongation of his life was regarded as a real miracle. A happy death ended, at last, his holy and useful life. In the year 1614, at the age of 60, after he had endured for 33 months, a most painful malady.
The thought of the torments of hell which he had merited by his transgressions, made, according to his own words, all suffering easy to bear. Before his end, he admonished his brethren to continue in their work of love to God and men. The many miracles that have taken place since his death by his intercession, have made the name of St. Camillus famous over the whole Christian world. (2)
In 1591 Gregory XIV erected the congregation into a religious order, with all the privileges of the mendicants. It was again confirmed as such by Clement VIII, in 1592. The infirmity which had prevented his entrance among the Capuchins continued to afflict Camillus for forty-six years, and his other ailments contributed to make his life one of uninterrupted suffering, but he would permit no one to wait on him, and when scarcely able to stand would crawl out of his bed to visit the sick. He resigned the generalship of the order, in 1607, in order to have more leisure for the sick and poor. Meantime he had established many houses in various cities of Italy. He is said to have had the gift of miracles and prophecy. He died at the age of sixty-four 14 July 1614 while pronouncing a moving appeal to his religious brethren. He was buried near the high altar of the church of St. Mary Magdalen, at Rome, and, when the miracles which were attributed to him were officially approved, his body was placed under the altar itself. He was beatified in 1742, and in 1746 was canonized by Benedict XIV.
[Note: In 1930, Pope Pius XI named St. Camillus de Lellis, together with St. John of God, principal Co-Patron of nurses and of nurses’ associations.]
Prayer from the Liturgical Year from the Liturgical Year, 1909
Angel of charity, by what wonderful paths did the Divine Spirit lead thee! The vision of thy pious mother remained long unrealized; before taking on thee the holy Cross and enlisting comrades under that sacred sign, thou didst serve the odious tyrant, who will have none but slaves under his standard, and the passion of gambling was well nigh thy ruin.
O Camillus, remembering the danger thou didst incur, have pity on the unhappy slaves of passion; free them from the madness wherewith they risk, to the caprice of chance, their goods, their honour, and their peace in this world and in the next. Thy history proves the power of grace to break the strongest ties and alter the most inveterate habits: may these men, like thee, turn their bent towards God, and change their rashness into love of the dangers to which holy charity may expose them! For charity, too, has its risks, even the peril of life, as the Lord of charity laid down his life for us: a heavenly game of chance, which thou didst play so well that the very Angels applauded thee. But what is the hazarding of earthly life compared with the prize reserved for the winner?
According to the commandment of the Gospel read by the Church in thy honour, may we all, like thee, love our brethren as Christ has loved us! Few, says St. Augustine, love one another to this end, that God may be all in all. Thou, O Camillus, having this love, didst exercise it by preference towards those suffering members of Christ’s mystic Body, in whom our Lord revealed Himself more clearly to thee, and in whom His kingdom was nearer at hand. Therefore, has the Church in gratitude chosen thee, together with John of God, to be guardian of those homes for the suffering which she has founded with a mother’s thoughtful care. Do honour to that Mother’s confidence. Protect the hospitals against the attempts of an odious and incapable secularization, which, in its eagerness to lose the souls, sacrifices even the corporal well-being of the unhappy mortals committed to the care of its evil philanthropy. In order to meet our increasing miseries, multiply thy sons, and make them worthy to be assisted by Angels. Wherever we may be in this valley of exile when the hour of our last struggle sounds, make use of thy precious prerogative which the holy Liturgy honours today; help us, by the spirit of holy love, to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown! Amen. (2)
Image: Crop of San Camilo de Lelis Fundador de la Orden de los Camilos y Precursor de la Cruz Roja, Migeul Palafox (8)
Today is the feast day of Saint Alexius. Ora pro nobis.
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
The life of Alexius teaches us how great God is in His Saints. His parents, Euphemianus and Aglae, were rich and distinguished people, but they were long without issue. At length, after many prayers, they were blessed with a son, whom they named Alexius. They neglected nothing to give him a pious education; and Alexius, who was always much inclined to piety, never gave them any cause for sorrow, but was their greatest happiness and comfort. When he grew older, his parents desired that he should take to wife a maiden who was highly esteemed in Rome, as well on account of her riches as of her virtues. Although Alexius had different thoughts as to the life he wished to lead, he nevertheless, after having asked God’s advice in prayer, consented to their wish, and the wedding was celebrated with great festivities. Alexius, however, on the same day, felt an invincible desire to leave his bride, and his home, and all his riches. He obeyed the Divine voice within him, and proceeding to the apartment of his bride, he made her most costly presents of jewels and other precious things, asking her to receive and keep them as tokens of his love. He then went into his room, and, without telling any one of his design, changed his clothes, and secretly left the house. He hastened to the harbor, and embarked in a ship which was ready to sail. After a prosperous voyage, he arrived at Laodicea, and thence went to Edessa in Syria.
The consternation in Alexius’ home, the grief and anxiety of his parents and pious bride, when he did not return the following day, may easily be imagined. They sent their servants in all directions to search for Alexius, and bring him back to his home, and as he could not be found anywhere in the city, messengers were dispatched to neighboring states and cities; but all was useless; they found no trace of him. Meanwhile Alexius, after visiting many remarkable places, and having made many devout pilgrimages, had arrived at Edessa, and begun the life he was resolved henceforth to lead, and which consisted in living, for the honor of God and the salvation of his soul, in voluntary poverty until his death. Hence he gave to the poor all he still possessed, covered himself with a ragged garment, and went to a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. This house of the Almighty became, so to say, his dwelling-place, as he spent in it the whole day, except the hour for begging alms. He passed the greater part of the night in praising the Lord in the vestibule of the sacred edifice, giving only a few hours to sleep on the bare ground. He fasted most rigidly and distributed most of the alms he received among the poor. His manner of living altered the face of the Saint to such a degree that no one would have recognized him. He convinced himself of this fact by asking alms of his own servants who had come to Edessa in search of him: they gave him alms without recognizing in the miserable beggar their own master. When Alexius had lived in this manner for some time, several persons who had observed his virtuous conduct, began to think that this beggar was more than he appeared. The curate of the church, one day, while pondering over the actions of this beggar, heard a voice proceeding from an image of the Blessed Virgin, informing him that the poor man, who dwelt at the door of the church, was a great servant of the Almighty, and that his prayers were very agreeable to the Most High. This was soon known to many, and Alexius perceived that they began to honor him and treat him with distinction; and as he had determined to live in abnegation and poverty, he resolved to leave Edessa. Accordingly, he went on board of the first vessel he found, praying God to lead him where it was His holy will that he should serve Him unknown and unheeded. His prayer was accepted; for, instead of reaching Laodicea, whither the ship was bound, it was driven into the harbor of Rome. The heroic conqueror of himself saw in this that it was the design of Providence that he should continue in his home the life he had begun at Edessa.
The Almighty, who wished to give to the world an unprecedented example of self-abnegation, inspired Alexius to go into the house of his father; and the holy youth, although willing to obey the call, went first to the seven principal churches of the city, praying God to give him strength for the terrible struggle before him. No sooner had he finished his prayers, than he went to his father’s house. At that moment Euphemianus, followed by many of his servants, was coming out of his house. Alexius, clad in rags, approaching him most humbly said: “Lord, for the sake of Christ, have compassion on a poor pilgrim, and give me a corner of your palace to live in.” Euphemianus looked in pity at Alexius, and although he had no idea that his son was concealed under the garments of the beggar, his heart was moved and he consented to his request. Hence he ordered his servants to assign him a place where he might live, and to give him his daily food. The order was obeyed, and a corner under the staircase, or as some say, a small room was appointed to the poor pilgrim as his dwelling. He gratefully accepted it and remained there until his death without being recognized by any one.
God permitted that the servants soon grew weary of him, and often treated him with great indignity. They not only derided and abused him, but even sometimes dared to lay hands on him. The holy pilgrim bore it all without complaining. His greatest trial was when he saw his father, his mother or his bride, or when he heard from their own lips, how they were grieving for the loss of their Alexius. But the grace of God sustained him and he wavered not in his heroic resolution. He never left his corner, except when he went to church. Every week he partook of the Blessed Sacrament and passed many hours in church in prayer and devout reading. He fasted daily, slept on the bare floor, and mortified his body most unmercifully. He possessed no other pictures but those of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, the sight of which encouraged him to persevere. These were the means by which God enabled him to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. For seventeen years he thus struggled and conquered his own heart in his father’s house, when it pleased the Almighty to bestow upon this brave and incomparable soldier, the crown of everlasting glory. The hour of his death was revealed to him, and Alexius, after having, according to his custom, assisted at Holy Mass and received the Blessed Sacrament, went home and wrote who he was, why he had left his father’s house, and all that had taken place during his absence. This note he folded together and held in his hand when he peacefully and happily gave his heroic soul to God, in the year of our Lord 403, or as others say in 304.
At the hour of his death, Euphemianus, his father, was in church, assisting at the divine sacrifice, which Pope Innocent I. offered in the presence of the Emperor Honorius, when suddenly, a voice announced that the great servant of God at the house of Euphemianus was dead. The latter, questioned by the Pope and the Emperor, what servant of God dwelt in his house answered: “It can be none but the poor beggar to whom I have given lodgings for many years.” Accompanied by the Pope and the Emperor, Euphemianus went home, found Alexius dead. Seeing a paper in his hand, Euphemianus would have taken it, but the fingers of the dead had closed so tightly over it, that it was not possible to loosen them. The Pope and all present fell on their knees and prayed that God would permit the paper to be read, after which the Pope approached the Saint, and took the paper without any effort. The astonishment of all, but especially of Euphemianus, the Pope and the Emperor, when they read that the beggar was the long-lost son of Euphemianus is easier to be imagined than described. Grief, surprise, joy and sorrow overwhelmed the father’s heart with such force, that, for a long time, he was unable to utter a word. At last throwing himself at the feet of his holy son, he bedewed them with his tears, and broke out into piteous lamentations that he had not recognized him. Meanwhile, the mother and bride of the Saint were apprised of the startling event; and no pen can describe the scene which took place when they beheld the holy body. The report of this astonishing occurrence spread quickly through the city, and the palace of Euphemianus was soon filled with people. Every one wished to kiss, or at least to see the holy relics. Several miracles which took place, and the heavenly light with which God graced the countenance of the Saint, increased from hour to hour the crowd that came to see him. The Pope ordered that the body should be transported to the Church of St. Peter, to satisfy the people. He, as well as the Emperor, followed in the funeral procession, which was more like a triumphal march, and such as Rome had never seen before. The holy relics were, in the course of time, transferred to the church of St. Boniface; and the dwelling of Euphemianus was converted into a church and dedicated to St. Alexius. The costly tomb which encloses the holy body has been honored with many and great miracles. (6)
According to the most recent researches he was an Eastern saint whose veneration was transplanted from the Byzantine empire to Rome, whence it spread rapidly throughout western Christendom.Together with the name and veneration of the Saint, his legend was made known to Rome and the West by means of Latin versions and recensions based on the form current in the Byzantine Orient. This process was facilitated by the fact that according to the earlier Syriac legend of the Saint, the “Man of God,” of Edessa (identical with St. Alexius) was a native of Rome.
Saint Alexis lived in his family home for seventeen more years, until his death in 404, which the Lord revealed to him in advance. On the day of his death, he took pen and paper, writing a note of apology and begging for forgiveness for the earthly pain he had caused his wife and parents. That day, the day of his death, heavenly voices spoke at Masses offered throughout the city—one to Archbishop Innocent saying, “On Friday morning, the Man of God comes forth from the body. Have him pray for the city, that you may remain untroubled.” Those present were terrified, falling to the ground upon hearing the heavenly voice. Upon recovering, they searched the city, but were unable to locate humble Alexis, living under the stairs in his father’s courtyard. A second voice was heard by the Pope, while serving Mass in the Church of Saint Peter. The voice spoke, “Seek the Man of God in the house of Euphemianus.” Many traveled to the house, including the Pope and Emperor, but Alexis was found to be dead. His face was transformed into that of a angel, his youth and vigor restored and enhanced. In his hand, he clasped his final note, but it was unable to be pried free until the Pope and Emperor—addressing him as if he were alive—asked to read it.
St. Alexius is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology under 17 July in the following terms: “At Rome, in a church on the Aventine Hill, a man of God is celebrated under the name of Alexius, who, as reported by tradition, abandoned his wealthy home, for the sake of becoming poor and to beg for alms unrecognized.”
While the Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize St. Alexius as a saint, his feast was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969. The reason given was the legendary character of the written life of the saint. The Catholic Encyclopedia article regarding St. Alexius remarked: “Perhaps the only basis for the story is the fact that a certain pious ascetic at Edessa lived the life of a beggar and was later venerated as a saint.
Image: Hellmonsödt ( Upper Austria ). Saint Alexius parish church: High altar ( 18th century ) – Altar painting of Saint Alexius ( 1758 ) by Bartolomeo Altomonte. (4)
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Ora pro nobis.
Today, July 16, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Madonna of the Brown Scapular. It is our Lady of Mount Carmel who appeared to Saint Simon Stock, providing gentle instruction on Consecration to Her Immaculate Heart through the Scapular, which led to the growth of the Carmelite Order. As Pope Pius XII proclaimed, “Let the Scapular be for them a sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The feast was assigned to 16 July, because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite traditions, the scapular was given by the Blessed Virgin to St. Simon Stock. It was first approved by Sixtus V in 1587. After Cardinal Bellarmine had examined the Carmelite traditions in 1609, it was declared the patronal feast of the order, and is now celebrated in the Carmelite calendar as a major double of the first class with a vigil and a privileged octave (like the octave of Epiphany, admitting only a double of the first class) under the title “Commemoratio solemnis B.V.M. de Monte Carmelo”. By a privilege given by Clement X in 1672, some Carmelite monasteries keep the feast on the Sunday after 16 July, or on some other Sunday in July. In the seventeenth century the feast was adopted by several dioceses in the south of Italy, although its celebration, outside of Carmelite churches, was prohibited in 1628 by a decree contra abusus. On 21 Nov., 1674, however, it was first granted by Clement X to Spain and its colonies, in 1675 to Austria, in 1679 to Portugal and its colonies, and in 1725 to the Papal States of the Church, on 24 Sept., 1726, it was extended to the entire Latin Church by Benedict XIII. The lessons contain the legend of the scapular; the promise of the Sabbatine privilege was inserted into the lessons by Paul V about 1614. The Greeks of southern Italy and the Catholic Chaldeans have adopted this feast of the “Vestment of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. The object of the feast is the special predilection of Mary for those who profess themselves her servants by wearing her scapular.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
Carmel is a mountain, lying between Judea and Syria, of which one part belonged to the tribe of Manasses, the other to the tribe of Aser. The prophet Elias wrought, on Mount Carmel, the great miracle which is circumstantially related in the third Book of Kings, 18th chapter, when he, to prove that the God of Israel, whom he worshipped, was the true God, called down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice. Upon this mountain, according to the Breviary, some pious nun, who had been converted to Christianity, built a church or chapel, dedicated to the Most Pure Virgin, in which they frequently assembled for prayer; and they were called “Brothers of our Lady of Mount Carmel.” There exists, at the present day, in the Catholic Church, a celebrated religious Order, whose members take their name from this mount, and hence are called “Carmelites,” or “Brothers of our Lady of Mount Carmel.” This religious Order was spread many centuries ago, not only in the Holy Land, but also in other countries. Among other things we read that St. Louis of France, on his return from Syria, brought some of these religious with him into his kingdom, and assigned them a dwelling near Marseilles. The Holy Mother who was especially honored by these religious, imparted also especial graces to them, and protected them miraculously in the greatest need and danger.
Among these graces is to be counted the following: The holy man, Simon Stock, who had, during many years served the Lord in England, as a hermit, desired most fervently to be admitted into the Carmelite Order, when he heard that the latter were spreading all over Europe. His desire was complied with, and he endeavoured with such zeal to reach the height of perfection, that after a few years he was deemed worthy to be chosen general of the whole Order. As such, he one day poured out his whole heart, with child-like confidence, before an image of the Blessed Virgin, requesting her to bestow upon his holy Order some especial favor. The Divine Mother appeared to him, and, as it is said in the Roman Breviary, bestowed upon him the habit of the holy scapular, that his Order might be thus distinguished, from all others and protected from all evil. Swanington, the companion of the blessed man, relates that Simon informed him of the apparition in the following words: “The Blessed Virgin appeared to me with a large suite; she held the habit in her hand and said, ‘This shall be thy privilege and that of all Carmelites. Those who die, with sorrow for their sins and in the true faith, and clad in this habit, shall not suffer eternal fire.'” Others say that the Divine Mother bestowed the scapular upon the blessed man with these words: “Take, my son, this scapular, as a sign of thy Order, an emblem of salvation. They who die in it, repenting of their sins, shall not suffer the eternal fire.”
This consoling apparition and promise gave rise to the confraternity of the scapular, which is now spread over the whole of the Catholic world, with the papal approbation and the grant of many indulgences. It is a consoling belief, which rests upon the words of the Breviary, that the members of this association, who endeavor to live according to its rules, enjoy the special protection of the Blessed Virgin at the hour of death, and are speedily delivered from purgatory, and taken into their heavenly home. Pope Benedict XIV. treating of the Festivals of the Blessed Virgin, says that Paul V. had made a decree, by which he sanctioned the pious belief that the Blessed Virgin would help her clients after death, by her intercession, especially on Saturdays, as this day is consecrated to her by the Holy Church, provided they had died in the grace of God, and had endeavored to follow the rules of the association. The heretics at different periods attacked this pious belief with lies and blasphemies, and ridiculed those who wore the blessed scapular; nor have they discontinued to do this in our day. Some Catholics, though Catholics only in name, agree with them, and reject the revelation of Simon Stock, as a pious fable, or a tale without any foundation. They look upon the promise made to him as something which does not harmonize with the Catholic faith; they are not even ashamed to say that it opens a path to evil; for, if we thought that we can escape hell by wearing a scapular, nothing would be more likely than that we should plunge into all possible vices and continue in them, in the belief that we cannot go to eternal destruction, by reason of our being members of that association.
To this and other such reasonings I will answer only this: As far as the comforting revelation of the blessed Simon Stock is concerned, it is, of course, not an article of faith, as those contained in Holy Writ; but it is not, therefore, only a fable or unfounded tale. It was related by trustworthy men, examined by many historians, and verified by several Popes. Those who doubt it, or denounce it as false, without sufficient cause, act unreasonably. There are thousands of facts, not contained in Holy Writ, which are incontestible on account of the testimony of trustworthy men. Among this number is the one above related. And if, notwithstanding this, a heretic thinks it a fable or an unfounded tale, let him give his reasons for rejecting it; for, a mere contradiction of a fact does not refute it. Respecting the gracious promise of the Blessed Virgin, that he who wears the habit, or blessed scapular, shall escape the fire of hell, it is beyond all doubt that we cannot understand it in such a manner that every one shall most certainly escape the fire of hell and go to heaven, simply because he wears a scapular, no matter how vicious his conduct might be. No, those who would judge in the sense of the Catholic Church, are not allowed to understand the promise in this manner. For, not to mention that, according to the teachings of the Holy Church, we cannot possess in this world, without a divine revelation, an infallible assurance of our future salvation, the Gospel of our Lord declares plainly that to escape hell and gain salvation much more is necessary than the wearing of a scapular. True faith, holy baptism, strict observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, the avoidance of sin, the practice of good works, and, finally penance when we have committed sin; these are the conditions which, according to the teachings of Christ, are necessary for our salvation, and without which all other merits, whatever they may be, are not sufficient to open for us the gates of heaven.
To elucidate the case before us still more, let us suppose that some one, either out of pious simplicity or want of instruction, carried constantly a consecrated Host with him. Now the question arises, will this person escape hell on account of it and surely gain salvation? Can he, because he carries a consecrated Host with him, not commit a mortal sin? Can he, for the same reason, not die in sin and be condemned? From the answer that must necessarily follow, we may draw the conclusion, that the words of the above promise are not to be understood as if every one who wears a scapular must surely be saved, and cannot be condemned, notwithstanding his living a bad life. Just in the same manner are some of the words of Holy Writ to be understood, for instance, where it is said that alms free men from death, that is, from eternal damnation. God, in consideration of alms, gives especial graces to man, in order that he may avoid sin, do penance, and hence not go to destruction. In the same manner, any one who, out of veneration to the Queen of Heaven, wears the scapular, and carefully observes the rules of the association, will, by her intercession, receive the grace to live piously, to escape hell, and to gain heaven. In one word, to wear the scapular, and by so doing to manifest an especial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, will assist us to gain life everlasting. But it is far from being sufficient to open heaven for us, if it is not accompanied by those means which Christ announced as necessary for the salvation of our souls.
The above is surely a proof that devotion to the scapular in no way leads to a wicked life, as the heretics pretend. No Catholic has ever thought of teaching that we gain heaven by merely wearing the scapular; while it is quite certain that the doctrines of heresy lead straightway to sin and vice. For, if any man believes, according to the teachings of the heretics, that faith alone saves, that he is sure of salvation and cannot lose it, if he only believes; or that no transgression of the Commandments can harm him, if he only accepts with a believing mind the grace of Christ, as the catechism of Calvinists teaches; what can follow but that he should plunge into sin and vice, partly because, according to his ideas, he cannot be condemned, partly on account of his wrong opinion, that faith alone saves. The Catholic Church is far from such doctrines. She does not teach that the wearing of a scapular, or any similar observance, is sufficient for our salvation, but that the wearing of a scapular, if it is done piously, assists us to gain salvation, as God, in consequence of it, will bestow upon us many graces through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, which otherwise He might not grant. The Evil One, who knows the great benefits which result from all pious associations, and especially from the veneration of the Mother of our Lord, incites the heretics to reject or to blaspheme them. He also incites Catholics to place more faith in them than they ought to do, and to pay more attention to what is merely an aid than to what is really necessary.
Thus it happens that many think it a greater sin to eat meat on Wednesday, which is forbidden by the rules of the association of the scapular, than to eat meat on the days of abstinence commanded by the Church. A true Catholic ought first to obey the commandment of God, or of the Church, and do all that is absolutely necessary to gain salvation, and after this, what is useful and beneficial. That which aids him to gain salvation he should not neglect, but at the same time he should be careful not to think that he will gain heaven if he omits that which is most needful. Let this suffice for your instruction, and to refute the wicked and the ignorant.
In conclusion, as far as the use of the scapular is concerned, it would be very wrong for a Catholic to despise it. He should, on the contrary, learn to esteem it highly. We find, in many books, instances of miracles which have been wrought on those who have worn it piously. They have been miraculously protected in dangers by fire and water; in battle it has been a shield which averted the strokes of the enemy; in sickness, a life-giving remedy. And who can count the number of hardened sinners, for whom the Divine Mother has obtained grace to do penance, and thus to escape hell, in consideration of the devotion which they manifested to her by wearing the scapular? Hence, whether you are numbered among the sinners or the righteous, let the beneficial use of the scapular be recommended to you. Evince, by wearing it, your devotion towards her who faithfully aids her children in life and in death. (3)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
When Eternal Wisdom was playing in the world, forming the hills and establishing the mountains, He destined Mount Carmel to be the special inheritance of Eve’s victorious Daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And when the last thousand years of expectation were opening, and the desire of all nations was developing into the spirit of prophecy, the father of the prophets ascended the privileged mount, thence to scan the horizon. The triumphs of David and the glories of Solomon were at an end: the scepter of Juda, broken by the schism of the ten tribes, threatened to fall from his hand; the worship of Baal prevailed in Israel. A long-continued drought, figure of the aridity of men’s souls, had parched up every spring, and men and beasts were dying beside the empty cisterns, when Elias the Thesbite gathered the people, representing the whole human race, on Mount Carmel, and slew the lying prophets of Baal. Then, as the Scripture relates, prostrating with his face to the earth, he said to his servant: Go up, look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time: Behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot (3 Kings 18).
Blessed cloud! unlike the bitter waves from which it sprang, it was all sweetness. Docile to the least breath of Heaven, it rose light and humble, above the immense heavy ocean; and screening the sun, it tempered the heat that was scorching the earth and restored to the stricken world life and grace and fruitfulness. The promised Messias, the Son of Man, set His impress upon it, showing to the wicked serpent the form of the heel that was to crush him. The prophet, personifying the human race, felt his youth renewed; and while the welcome rain was already refreshing the valleys, he ran before the chariot of the king of Israel. Thus did he traverse the great plain of Esdrelon, even to the mysteriously named town of Jezrahel, where, according to Osee, the children of Juda and Israel were again to have but one head in the great day of Jezrahel (i.e. of the seed of God), when the Lord would seal His eternal nuptials with a new people (Osee 1: 11; 2: 14-24). Later on, from Sunam near Jezrahel, the mother whose son was dead crossed the same plain of Esdrelon, in the opposite direction, and ascended Mount Carmel, to obtain from Eliseus the resurrection of her child, who was a figure of us all (4 Kings 4: 8-37). Elias had already departed in the chariot of fire, to await the last age of the world, when he is to give testimony, together with Henoch, to the Son of Her that was signified by the cloud (Apoc. 11: 3, 7); and the disciple, clothed with the mantle and spirit of his father, had taken possession, in the name of the sons of the prophets, of the august mountain honored by the manifestation of the Queen of Prophets. Henceforward Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world. Gentiles as well as Jews, philosophers and princes, came here on pilgrimage to adore the true God; while the chosen souls of the Church of the expectation, many of whom were already wandering in deserts and in mountains (Heb. 11:38), loved to take up their abode in its thousand grottos; for the ancient traditions seemed to linger more lovingly in its silent forests, and the perfume of its flowers foretokened the Virgin Mother. The devotion to the Queen of Heaven was already established; and to the family of Her devout clients, the ascetics of Carmel, might be applied the words spoken later by God to the pious descendants of Rechab: There shall not be wanting a man of this race, standing before Me forever (Jerem. 35:19).
At length figures gave place to the reality; the heavens dropped down their dew, and the Just One came forth from the cloud. When His work was done and He returned to His Father, leaving His Blessed Mother in the world, and sending the Holy Ghost to the Church, not the least triumph of that Spirit of love was the making known of Mary to the new-born Christians of Pentecost. What a happiness for those neophytes who were privileged above the rest in being brought to the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mother of Him Who was the Hope of Israel! They saw this Second Eve, they conversed with Her, they felt for Her that filial affection wherewith She inspired all the disciples of Jesus. In the lessons of the Feast, the Church tells us how the disciples of Elias and Eliseus became Christians at the first preaching of the Apostles, and being permitted to hear the sweet words of the Blessed Virgin and enjoy an unspeakable intimacy with Her, they felt their veneration for Her immensely increased. Returning to the beloved mountain, where their less fortunate fathers had lived but in hope, they built, on the very spot where Elias had seen the little cloud rise up out of the sea, an oratory to the Purest of Virgins; hence they obtained the name of Brothers of Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel.
In the 12th century, in consequence of the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, many pilgrims from Europe came to swell the ranks of the solitaries on the holy mountain; it therefore became expedient to give to their hitherto eremitical life a form more in accordance with the habits of Western nations. The legate Aimeric Malafaida, Patriarch of Antioch, gathered them into a community under the authority of St. Berthold, who was thus the first to receive the title of Prior-General. At the commencement of the next century, Blessed Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem and also apostolic legate, completed the work of Aimeric by giving a fixed Rule to the Order, which was now, through the influence of princes and knights returned from the Holy Land, beginning to spread into Cyprus, Sicily, and the countries beyond the sea. Soon, indeed, the Christians of the East being abandoned by God to the just punishment of their sins, the vindictiveness of the conquering Saracens reached such a height in this age of trial for Palestine, that a full assembly, held on Mount Carmel under Alan the Breton, resolved upon a complete migration, leaving only a few friars eager for martyrdom to guard the cradle of the Order. The very year in which this took place (1245), St. Simon Stock was elected General in the first Chapter of the West, held at Aylesford in England.
St. Simon owed his election to the successful struggle he had maintained for the recognition of the Order, which certain prelates, alleging the recent decrees of the Lateran Council, rejected as having been newly introduced into Europe. Our Lady had then taken the cause of the friars into Her own hands, and had obtained from Pope Honorius III the decree of confirmation, which originated today’s Feast. This was neither the first nor the last favor bestowed by the sweet Virgin upon the family that had lived so long under the shadow, as it were, of Her mysterious cloud, and shrouded like Her in humility, with no other bond, no other pretension than the imitation of Her hidden works and the contemplation of Her glory. She Herself had wished them to go forth from the midst of a faithless people; just as, before the close of that same 13th century, She would command Her angels to carry into a Catholic land Her blessed home of Nazareth. Whether or not the men of those days, or the short-sighted historians of our own time, ever thought of it, the one translation called for the other, just as each completes and explains the other, and each was to be for Europe the signal for wonderful favors from Heaven.
In the night between the 15th and 16th of July of the year 1251, the gracious Queen of Carmel confirmed to Her sons by a mysterious sign the right of citizenship She had obtained for them in their newly adopted countries; as Mistress and Mother of the entire religious state She conferred upon them with Her queenly hands the Scapular, hitherto the distinctive garb of the greatest and most ancient religious family of the West. On giving St. Simon Stock this badge, ennobled by contact with Her sacred fingers, the Mother of God said to him: “Whosoever shall die in this habit shall not suffer eternal flames.” But not against hellfire alone was the all-powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother to be felt by those who should wear Her Scapular. In 1316, when every holy soul was imploring Heaven to put an end to that long and disastrous widowhoood of the Church, which followed on the death of Pope Clement V, the Queen of Saints appeared to James d’Euse, whom the world was soon to hail as Pope John XXII; She foretold to him his approaching elevation to the Sovereign Pontificate, and at the same time recommended him to publish the privilege She had obtained from Her Divine Son for Her children of Carmel—viz., a speedy deliverance from Purgatory. “I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in Purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life eternal.” These are the words of Our Lady Herself, quoted by Pope John XXII in the Bull which he published for the purpose of making known the privilege, and which was called the Sabbatine Bull on account of the day chosen by the glorious Benefactress for the exercise of Her mercy.
There have been, of course, attempts made to cast doubt on the authenticity of these heavenly concessions. The attack of the chief assailant, the too famous Launoy, was condemned by the Apostolic See; and after, as well as before, these contradictions, the Roman Pontiffs confirmed, as much as need be, by their Supreme Authority, the substance and even the letter of the precious promises. The Popes have, time after time, enriched the Carmelite family with indulgences, as if earth would vie with Heaven in favoring it. The munificence of Mary, the pious gratitude of Her sons for the hospitality given them by the West, and lastly, the authority of St. Peter’s successors, soon made these spiritual riches accessible to all Catholics, by the institution of the Confraternity of the Holy Scapular. Who shall tell the graces, often miraculous, obtained though this humble garb? Who could count the faithful who have been enrolled in the holy militia? When Pope Benedict XIII, in the 18th century, extended the Feast of July 16 to the whole Church, he did but give an official sanction to the universality already gained by the devotion to the Queen of Carmel.
The holy liturgy gives the following account of the Feast:
When on the holy day of Pentecost the Apostles, inspired by Heaven, spoke in diverse tongues, and performed many miracles by the invocation of the most august Name of Jesus, it is said that many men who had followed in the footsteps of the holy Prophets Elias and Eliseus, and had been prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist for Christ’s coming, saw and were confirmed in the truth. They immediately embraced the Faith of the Gospel, and began to venerate the Blessed Virgin (whose conversation and company was so readily possible for them to enjoy) with such affection that before anyone else they erected a sanctuary to that purest of Virgins on that very spot of Mount Carmel where Elias had seen the little cloud rising, a significant figure of the Virgin.
Therefore, coming together in the new oratory several times a day, they honored the Blessed Virgin as the special protectress of their Order. For this reason, they began to be called everywhere the friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Supreme Pontiffs not only confirmed this title, but also granted special indulgences to whoever should call by this name either the whole Order or individual friars. Together with Her name and protection, the Blessed Virgin also bestowed upon them Her holy Scapular, which She gave to Blessed Simon Stock, an Englishman, that the Order might be distinguished from others by this holy Habit and be preserved from all evil. And finally, since this Order was unknown in Europe, and on this account many were insistently asking Honorius III for its suppression, the Most Pious Virgin Mary appeared by night to Honorius and expressly ordered him to benignly receive both the Institute and its members.
Not only in this world has the Blessed Virgin wished to honor an Order so dear to Her with special privileges, but also in the next world. For it is piously believed that any of Her children who, having been enrolled as members in the Confraternity of the Scapular and have practiced abstinence, have said the prayers prescribed and have observed chastity according to their state of life, will assuredly be consoled by Her maternal affection while in Purgatory, and, through Her intercession, be delivered from there as soon as possible and taken to the heavenly fatherland. Enriched with such great favors, the Carmelite Order, therefore, instituted a solemn commemoration in honor of the Most Blessed Virgin, to be perpetually celebrated every year, to the glory of the self-same Virgin. (5)
Research by REGINA Staff
Image: Crop of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saints (Simon Stock, Angelus of Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi, Teresa of Avila), artist: Pietro Novelli, circa