Today is the feast day of Saint Francis Solanus. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Francis Solano was born in 1549 at Montilla in the province of Andalusia, Spain, of very devout parents, Matthew Sanchez Solanus and Anna Ximenes. At the request of his mother, he received the name of Francis in baptism. She ascribed the fortunate delivery of the child to the intercession of the Seraphic Founder.
The boy grew to be a joy to his parents. While he was pursuing his studies with the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, his modesty, gentleness, and piety merited the esteem of his teachers as well as the friendship of his fellow students. Francis completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood, proving his zeal for the salvation of souls during an epidemic of the plague that broke out in the region. The heroic sacrifices he made during an epidemic were especially admirable. He cared for the corporal and spiritual needs of the sick without any fear of infection. He became afflicted with the malady, but was miraculously restored to health.
After his ordination, he was sent by his superiors to the convent of Arifazza as master of novices.
Eventually, Francis was sent to South America in 1589 with several members of the Order, assigned to the provinces of Tucuman (Argentina), Gran Chaco (Bolivia), and Paraguay. Obediently, Francis accepted his assignment, never complaining about the countless hardships the missionaries encountered. Concentrating on the indigenous peoples of the regions, Francis approached the Indians so courteously and kindly that they rejoiced at his very appearance. He learned the difficult native languages in a very short time, and he was miraculously understood wherever he went.
God also gave Saint Francis marvelous power over hearts. Once when he was in the city of La Rioja, a horde of thousands of armed Indians approached in order to slay all Europeans and Christianized Indians. Saint Francis went out to meet them. His words at once disarmed them. All understood what he said although they spoke different languages. They begged him for instructions, and 9,000 were baptized.
After Father Francis had labored 12 years among the Indians, he was re-assigned to the Monastery at Lima, Peru, where he led the Christians of Lima away from wanton laxity, back to the tenets of the faith. Saint Francis processed through the city, calling aloud for the repentance of the inhabitants. They were—one by one—moved to repent, receive Reconciliation, enact penances, and pray for mercy. Through his efforts the city was restored.
Saint Francis Solano had labored untiringly for the salvation of souls in South America for twenty years, when God called him to Himself on the feast of his special patron, St. Bonaventure, July 14, 1610. The viceroy and the most distinguished persons of Lima bore the body of the poor Friar Minor to the grave.
Almighty God glorified Saint Francis after death by many miracles, especially in favor of sick children; yes, even dead children were restored to life at his grave. Pope Benedict XIII canonized Saint Francis Solano amid great solemnity in the year 1726.
Image: Crop of Saint Francis Solanus and the Bull, artist:Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, circa 1645 (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Bonaventure. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Bonaventure was born at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221. He died on the night between the 14th and 15th of July, 1274. His parents were Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. He was a frail child, given the name of John at his baptism. He soon fell so ill that his cure was despaired of, and his sorrowing mother had recourse to Saint Francis. She promised God she would endeavor to have the child take the habit of the Franciscan Order, if he were cured. Her prayer was granted, the child was cured, and Saint Francis himself gave him his new name. In reference to the miraculous cure, he prophetically exclaimed of the infant, “O buona ventura!— O good fortune!” Saint Francis died a few months later, not without foreseeing the future of this little one, destined to be a seraph of love like himself. Saint Bonaventure is titled “the Seraphic Doctor,” from the fervor of divine love which breathes in his writings.
The Franciscan Order has ever regarded Bonaventure as one of the greatest Doctors and from the beginning his teaching found many distinguished expositors within the order. Among the earliest being his own pupils, John Peckham later Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew of Aquasparta, and Alexander of Alexandria (d. 1314), both of whom became ministers general of the order. The last named wrote a “Summa quaestionum S. Bonaventura. Other well-known commentaries are by John of Erfurt (d. 1317), Verilongus (d. 1464), Brulifer (d. c. 1497), de Combes (d. 1570), Trigosus (d. 1616), Coriolano (d. 1625), Zamora (d. 1649), Bontemps (d. 1672), Hauzeur (d. 1676), Bonelli (d. 1773), etc. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century the influence of Bonaventure was undoubtedly somewhat overshadowed by that of Duns Scotus, owing largely to the prominence of the latter as champion of the Immaculate Conception in the disputes between the Franciscans and Dominicans. Sixtus V, however, founded a special chair at Rome for the study of St. Bonaventure; such chairs also existed in several universities, notably at Ingolstadt, Salzburg, Valencia, and Osuna. It is worthy of note that the Capuchins forbade their Friars to follow Scotus and ordered them to return to the study of Bonaventure. The centenary celebrations of 1874 appear to have revived interest in the life and work of St. Bonaventure.
St. Bonaventure, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church
from the Liturgical Year, 1901
Four months after the Angel of the Schools, the Seraphic Doctor appears in the heavens. Bound by the ties of love when on earth, the two are now united for ever before the Throne of God. Bonaventure’s own words will show us how great a right they both had to the heavenly titles bestowed upon them by the admiring gratitude of men.
As there are three hierarchies of Angels in heaven, so on earth there are three classes of the elect. The Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, who form the first hierarchy, represent those who approach nearest to God by contemplation, and who differ among themselves according to the intensity of their love, the plenitude of their science, and the steadfastness of their justice; to the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, correspond the prelates and princes; and lastly, the lowest choirs signify the various ranks of the faithful engaged in the active life. This is the triple division of men, which, according to St. Luke, will be made at the last day: Two shall be in the bed, two in the field, two at the mill; that is to say, in the repose of divine delights, in the field of government, at the mill of this life’s toil. As regards the two mentioned in each place, we may remark that in Isaias, the Seraphim, who are more closely united to God than the rest, perform two together their ministry of sacrifice and praise; for it is with the Angel as with man: the fullness of love, which belongs especially to the Seraphim, cannot be without the fulfilment of the double precept of charity towards God and one’s neighbour. Again our Lord sent His disciples two and two before His face; and in Genesis we find God sending two Angels where one would have sufficed (Gen. xix. 1). It is better therefore, says Ecclesiastes, that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society?
Such is the teaching of Bonaventure in his book of the Hierarchy (Eccles. iv. 9), wherein he shows us the secret workings of Eternal Wisdom for the salvation of the world and the sanctification of the elect. It would be impossible to understand aright the history of the thirteenth century, were we to forget the prophetic vision, wherein our Lady was seen presenting to her offended Son His two servants Dominic and Francis, that they might, by their powerful union, bring back to Him the wandering human race. What a spectacle for Angels when, on the morrow of the apparition, the two saints met and embraced: “Thou art my companion, we will run side by side,” said the descendant of the Gusmans to the poor man of Assisi; “let us keep together, and no man will be able to prevail against us.” These words might well have been the motto of their noble sons, Thomas and Bonaventure. The star which shone over the head of St. Dominic, shed its bright rays on Thomas; the Seraph who imprinted the stigmata in the flesh of St. Francis, touched with his fiery wing the soul of Bonaventure; yet both, like their incomparable fathers, had but one end in view : to draw men by science and love to that eternal life which consists in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Both were burning and shining lamps, blending their flames in the heavens, in proportions which no mortal eye could distinguish here below; nevertheless, Eternal Wisdom has willed that the Church on earth should borrow more especially light from Thomas and fire from Bonaventure. Would that we might here show in each of them the workings of Wisdom, the one bond even on earth of their union of thoughts, that Wisdom, who, ever unchangeable in her adorable unity, never repeats herself in the souls she chooses from among the nations to become the prophets and the friends of God. But to-day we must speak only of Bonaventure.
When quite a child, he was saved by St. Francis from imminent death; whereupon his pious mother offered him by vow to the Saint, promising that he should enter the Order of Friars Minor. Thus, in the likeness of holy poverty, that beloved companion of the Seraphic Patriarch, did Eternal Wisdom prevent our Saint from his very cradle, showing herself first unto him. At the earliest awakening of his faculties he found her seated at the entrance of his soul, awaiting the opening of its gates, which are, he tells us, intelligence and love. Having received a good soul in an undefiled body, he preferred Wisdom before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison with the august friend, who offered herself to him in the glory of her nobility and beauty. From that first moment, without ever waning, she was his light. Peacefully as a sunbeam glancing through a hitherto closed window, Wisdom filled this dwelling, now become her own, as the bride on the nuptial day takes possession of the bridegroom’s house, filling it with joy, in community of goods, and above all of love. For her contribution to the nuptial banquet, she brought the substantial brightness of heaven; Bonaventure on his part offered her the lilies of purity, so desired by her as her choicest food. Henceforth the feast in his soul was to be continual; and the light and the perfumes, breaking forth, were shed around, attracting, enlightening, and nourishing all. While still very young, he was, according to custom, sent, after the first years of his religious life, to the celebrated University of Paris, where he soon won all hearts by his angelic manners; and the great Alexander of Hales, struck with admiration at the union of so many qualities, said of him that it seemed as if in him Adam had not sinned. As a lofty mountain whose head is lost in the clouds, and from whose foot run fertilizing waters far and wide, Brother Alexander himself, according to the expression of the Sovereign Pontiff, seemed at that time to contain within himself the living fountain of Paradise, whence the river of science and salvation flowed over the earth (Litt. Alexandri IV.: De fontibus paradisi flumen egrediens). Nevertheless not only would he, the irrefragable Doctor, and the Doctor of doctors, give up his chair in a short time to the new-comer, but he would hereafter derive his greatest glory from being called father and master by that illustrious disciple (Bonavent. in 11 Sent., dist. xxiii. art. 2. qu. 3, ad 7). Placed in such a position at so early an age, Bonaventure could say of Divine Wisdom, even more truly than of the great master who had had little to do but admire the prodigious development of his soul: “It is she that has taught me all things; she taught me the knowledge of God and of His works, justice and virtues, the subtleties of speeches and the solutions of arguments (Cf. Wisd. vii. and viii).”
Such indeed is the object of those Commentaries on the four Books of Sentences, first delivered as lectures from the chair of Paris, where he held the noblest intellects spellbound by his graceful and inspired language. This masterpiece, while it is an inexhaustible mine of treasures to the Franciscan family, bears so great testimony to the science of this doctor of twenty-seven years of age, that, though so soon called from his chair to the government of a great Order, he was worthy on account of this single work to share with his friend Thomas of Aquin, who was fortunately freer to pursue his studies, the honourable title of prince of Sacred Theology.
The young master already merited his name of Seraphic Doctor, by regarding science as merely a means to love, and declaring that the light which illuminates the mind is barren and useless unless it penetrates to the heart, where alone wisdom rests and feasts (Exp. in Lib. Sap. viii. 9, 16). St. Antoninus tells us also, that in him every truth grasped by the intellect, passed through the affections, and thus became prayer and divine praise (Antonini,Chronic., p. III. tit. xxiv., cap. 8). “His aim,” says another historian, “was to burn with “love, to kindle himself first at the divine fire, and afterwards to inflame others. Careless of praise or renown, anxious only to regulate his life and actions, he would fain burn and not only shine; he would be fire, in order to approach nearer to God by becoming more like to Him who is fire. Albeit, as fire is not without light, so was he also at the same time a shining torch in the House of God; but his special claim to our praise is, that all the light at his command he gathered to feed the flame of divine love (H. Sedulius, Histor. seaph).”
The bent of his mind was clearly indicated when, at the beginning of his public teaching, he was called upon to give his decision on the question then dividing the Schools: to some theology was a speculative, to others a practical science, according as they were more struck by the theoretical or the moral side of its teaching. Bonaventure, uniting the two opinions in the principle which he considered the one universal law, concluded that “Theology is an affective science, the knowledge of which proceeds by speculative contemplation, but aims principally at making us good.” For the wisdom, of doctrine, he said, must be according to her name (Eccli. vi. 23), something that can be relished by the soul; and he added, not without that gentle touch of irony which the saints know how to use: “There is a difference, I suppose, in the impressions produced by the proposition, Christ died for us, or the like, and by such as this: the diagonal and the side of a square cannot be equal to one another (Bonavent.Praemium in Sent., qu. 3).” The graceful speech and profound science of our saint were enhanced by a beautiful modesty. He would conclude a difficult question thus: “This is said without prejudice to the opinions of others. If anyone think otherwise, or better, as he may well do on this point as on all others, I bear him no ill-will; but if, in this little work, he find anything deserving approval, let him give thanks to God, the Author of all good. Whatever, in any part, be found false, doubtful or obscure, let the kind reader forgive the incompetence of the writer, whose conscience bears him unimpeachable testimony that he has wished to say nothing but what is true, clear, and commonly received.” On one occasion ,however, Bonaventure’s unswerving devotion to the Queen of Virgins modified with a gentle force his expression of humility: “If anyone,” he says, “prefers otherwise, I will not contend with him, provided he say nothing to the detriment of the Venerable Virgin, for we must take the very greatest care, even should it cost us our life, that no one lessen in any way the honour of our Lady (IV. Sent. dist. xxviii, qu. 6. ad 5).” Lastly, at the end of the third book of this admirable Exposition of the Sentences, he declares that charity is worth more than all science. It is enough, in doubtful questions, to know what the wise have taught; disputation is to little purpose. We talk much, and our words fail us. Infinite thanks be to the Perfecter of all discourse, our Lord Jesus Christ, who taking pity on my poverty of knowledge and of genius, has enabled me to complete this moderate work. I beg of Him that it may procure me the merit of obedience, and may be of profit to my brethren: the twofold purpose for which the task was undertaken (III. Sent., dist. xl. qu. 3, ad 6).”
But the time had come when obedience was to give place to another kind of merit, less pleasing to himself, but not less profitable to the brethren. At thirty-five years of age, he was elected Minister General. Obliged thus to quit the field of scholastic teaching, he entrusted it to his friend, Thomas of Aquin, who, younger by several years, was to cultivate it longer and more completely than he himself had been suffered. The Church would lose nothing by the change; for, Eternal Wisdom, who ordereth all things with strength and sweetness, thus disposed that these two incomparable geniuses, completing one another, should give us the fullness of that true science which not only reveals God, but leads to Him.
Give an occasion to the wise man, and wisdom shall be added to him (Prov. ix. 9). This sentence was placed by Bonaventure at the head of his treatise on the “Six Wings of the Seraphim,” wherein he sets forth the qualifications necessary for one called to the cure of souls; and well did he fulfill it himself in the government of his immense Order, scattered by its missions throughout the whole Church. The treatise itself, which Father Claud Aquaviva held in such high estimation as to oblige the Superiors of the Society of Jesus to use it as a guide, furnishes us with a portrait of our Saint at this period. He had reached the summit of the spiritual life, where the inward peace of the soul is undisturbed by the most violent agitations from without; where the closeness of their union with God produces in the saints a mysterious fecundity, displayed to the world, when God wills, by a multiplicity of perfect works incomprehensible to the profane. Let us listen to Bonaventure’s own words: “The Seraphim exercise an influence over the lower orders, to draw them upwards; so the love of the spiritual man tends both to his neighbour and to God; to God that he may rest in Him; to his neighbour to draw him thither with himself. Not only then do they burn; they also give the form of perfect love, driving away darkness and showing how to rise by degrees, and to go to God by the highest paths (Bonavent. De Eccle. hier., p. II. c. ii).”
Such is the secret of that admirable series of opuscula, composed, as he owned to St. Thomas, without the aid of any book but his crucifix, without any preconceived plan, but simply as occasion required, at the request, or to satisfy the needs of the brethren and sisters of his large family, or again when he felt a desire of pouring out his soul. In these works Bonaventure has treated alike of the first elements of asceticism and of the sublimest subjects of the mystic life, with such fullness, certainty, clearness, and persuasive force, that Sixtus IV. declared the Holy Spirit seemed to speak in him (Litt. Superna caelestis). On reading the Itinerary of the soul to God, which was written on the height of Alvernia, as it were under the immediate influence of the Seraphim, the Chancellor Gerson exclaimed: “This opusculum, or rather this immense work, is beyond the praise of a mortal mouth (Gerson Epist. cuidam Fratri Minori. Lugd. an. 1426).” And he wished it, together with that wonderful compendium of sacred science, the Breviloquium, to be imposed upon theologians as a necessary manual. “By his words,” says the great Abbot Trithemius in the name of the Benedictine Order, “the author of all these learned and devout works inflames the will of the reader no less than he enlightens his mind. Note the spirit of divine love and Christian devotion in his writings, and you will easily see that he surpasses all the doctors of his time in the usefulness of his works. Many expound doctrine, many preach devotion, few teach the two together; Bonaventure surpasses both the many and the few, because he trains to devotion by science, and to science by devotion. ” If then you would be both learned and devout, you must put his teaching in practice (Trithem. de Scriptor. eccle).”
But Bonaventure himself will tell us best the proper dispositions for reading him with profit. At the beginning of his Incendium amoris, wherein he teaches the three ways, purgative, illuminative, and unitive, which lead to true wisdom, he says: “I offer this book not to philosophers, not to the worldly-wise, not to great theologians perplexed with endless questions, but to the simple and ignorant who strive rather to love God than to know much. It is not by disputing, but by activity, that we learn to love. As to these men full of questions, superior in every science, but inferior in the love of Christ, I consider them incapable of understanding the contents of this book; unless putting away all vain show of learning, they strive, by humble self-renunciation, prayer, and meditation, to kindle within them the divine spark, which, inflaming their hearts and dispelling all darkness, will lead them beyond the concerns of time even to the throne of peace. Indeed by the very fact of their knowing more, they are better disposed to love, or at least they would be, if they truly despised themselves and could rejoice to be despised by others (Incend. amoris Prologus).”
Although these pages are already too long, we cannot resist quoting the last words left us by St. Bonaventure. As the Angel of the School was soon, at Fossa Nova, to close his labours and his life with the explanation of the Canticle of Canticles, so his seraphic rival and brother tuned his last notes to these words of the sacred Nuptial Song: “King Solomon has made him a litter of the wood of Libanus: The pillars thereof he made of silver, the seat of gold, the going-up of purple (Cant. iii. 9, 10). “The seat of gold,” added our Saint, “is contemplative wisdom; it belongs to those alone who possess the column of silver, i.e. the virtues which strengthen the soul; the going-up of purple is the charity whereby we ascend to the heights and descend to the valleys (Illuminationes Ecclesiae in Hexaemeron, sermo xxiii).”
It is a conclusion worthy of Bonaventure, the close of a sublime but incomplete work, which he had not even time to put together himself. “Alas! alas! alas!” cries out with tears the loving disciple to whom we owe this last treasure, “a higher dignity, and then the death of our lord and master prevented the continuation of this work.” And then showing us, in a touching manner, the precautions taken by the sons lest they should lose anything of their father’s conferences: “What I here give,” he says, “is what I could snatch by writing rapidly while he was speaking. Two others took notes at the same time, but their papers are scarcely legible; whereas several of the audience were able to read my copy, and the master himself and many others made use of it; a fact for which I deserve some gratitude. And now at length, permission and time having been given to me, I have revised these notes, with the voice and gestures of the master ever in my ear and before my eyes; I have arranged them in order, without adding anything to what he said, except the indication of certain authorities (Illuminat. Eccles., Additiones).”
The dignity mentioned by the faithful secretary is that of Cardinal Bishop of Albano. After the death of Clement IV., and the succeeding three years of widowhood for the Church, our Saint, by his influence with the Sacred College, had obtained the election of Gregory X., who now imposed upon him in virtue of obedience the honour of the Cardinalate. Having been entrusted with the work of preparation for the Council of Lyons, convened for the Spring of 1274, Bonaventure had the joy of assisting at the reunion of the Latin and Greek Churches, which he, more than anyone else, had been instrumental in obtaining. But God spared him the bitterness of seeing how short-lived the reunion was to be: a union which would have been the salvation of that East which he loved, and where his name, translated into Eutychius, was still in veneration two centuries later at the time of the Council of Florence. On the 15th of July of that year, 1274, in the midst of the Council, and presided at by the Sovereign Pontiff himself, took place the most solemn funeral the world has ever witnessed. “I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan,” cried out before that mourning assembly gathered from East and West, the Dominican Cardinal Peter of Tarentaise. After fifty-three years spent in this world, the Seraph had cast off his robe of flesh, and spreading his wings had gone to join Thomas of Aquin, who had by a very short time preceded him to heaven. (2)
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, was born in 1221,at Balneoregio, in the State of Tuscany. His parents were very distinguished people, not only on account of their nobility and great riches, but still more for their piety and virtues. When scarcely four years old, Bonaventure became dangerously sick and the physicians despaired of his life. His mother appealed to St. Francis of Assisium, who was still living at that period, begging him to obtain, by his prayers, her son’s life from God. She promised to bring him up to the honor of the Almighty, and in the course of time to consecrate him entirely to His divine service in the Order founded by St. Francis. The latter prayed for the sick child and the malady was subdued. In regard to this miracle the holy man cried: “O Buona Ventura! ” which means, “Oh happy event!” and from that time they called the child, so miraculously cured, Bonaventure, although at the baptismal font it had received the name of John.
Arrived at the period when reason awakens, Bonaventure heard of the promise his mother had made in regard to him and fulfilled it by entering joyfully into the Order of St. Francis. After having finished his probation, he went to Paris to devote himself to study, and his progress in learning was as great as his advancement in virtue, especially in humility, constant selfdenial, perfect obedience, great love of his crucified Lord, and ardent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He meditated daily on the passion and death of Christ, and spent as much time as he could in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He seldom received Holy Communion, especially when he himself said Mass, without shedding many tears. His innocence he preserved inviolate. The celebrated Doctor Alexander of Hales, under whom Bonaventure studied, used to say, that it seemed to him that he had not committed any sin in Adam; so strictly did he control his inclinations, so great were his virtue and his piety.
Before he was thirty years old, his superiors appointed him to teach theology in the University of Paris, which he did with immense success. There he and St. Thomas of Aquin received the title of “Doctor,” the highest dignity conferred upon Theologians. At the age of 35 years, he was elected General of the whole Seraphic Order, and his election was confirmed by Pope Alexander, who had presided over the assembly. When once installed in his new functions, he was as zealous to preserve the rule of the holy Founder, as he had previously been earnest in declining the dignity. He made the most wholesome regulations, and led all those under him by word and example to great sanctity. During eighteen years he administered his office, with so much wisdom, mildness and strength of character, that he was loved and esteemed by all, and venerated as the second Founder of the Order.
Although occupied with such constant and important labors, he never neglected his devotional exercises or his studies. We possess this day a great many theological works of great learning written by this holy man. Among others, he wrote a book to refute those who slandered the Mendicant Orders, which he entitled: “A Defense of the Poor.” He proves in this book the temporal as well as spiritual benefits of such orders. He also wrote several most learned and eloquent books in praise of the Blessed Virgin, whose honor he desired to further to the best of his ability, and whom, from childhood, he had greatly venerated. There is also extant from his pen, the life of St. Francis, Founder of the Seraphic Order. Whilst he was writing this work, St. Thomas Aquinas came to pay him a visit. Hearing in what Bonaventure was occupied, he declined disturbing him, and left with the words: “Let us leave one Saint to work for another.”
St. Thomas so highly esteemed Bonaventure, that he did not hesitate to call him a Saint while he was still alive. This holy man was greatly astonished that Bonaventure, being so much occupied with his duties, yet found time to write so many books of such profound learning, and one day asked him where his library was. Bonaventure pointing to a crucifix, said: “This is the library, wherein I find all that I teach to others.” Before he began to study, or whenever a doubt or a difficulty during study embarrassed him, he fell down before the Crucifix and humbly prayed for Divine assistance. He said more than once, that by this means, he had obtained more knowledge and wisdom than by all his industry. Not content with all this, the holy man preached publicly in all the places which he visited in the exercise of his functions, exhorting sinners to repentance and the pious to be constant in good works; by which he converted, in a most remarkable manner, the most hardened sinners.
The fame of his great knowledge and holiness, which spread all over the country, was of great benefit to him in his missionary work; whence he received the title of Seraphic Doctor, by which he is still known in our days. Bishops and prelates of the Church honored the Saint still more than other people of a lower degree. Clement IV, desired to reward him for his many services to the Church with the Archbishopric of York; but the holy man throwing himself at his feet, begged so earnestly to be spared the burden of this honor, that the Holy Father acceded to his request. After the death of this Pope, the Cardinals, assembled at Viterbo, could not agree in the election of a new head of the Church, and they at last determined to leave the choice to Bonaventure, promising to accept as Pope, whomsoever he thought deserving to receive the highest of earthly dignities. This was surely the greatest sign of honor which they could confer upon the Saint.
Bonaventure, after having prayed to God, said that, in his opinion, Theobald, archdeacon of Liege, who was not even present, was most worthy to be raised to the Pontifical Throne. The cardinals received his decision and Theobald became the head of Christ’s Church. This Pope, who took the name of Gregory X, sent afterwards the hat and insignia of a Cardinal to Bonaventure, nominating him Bishop of Albano, and commanding him at the same time, to obey without any opposition. The papal Nuncios who were to convey this news to the Saint, found him occupied in washing the dishes in the kitchen. He listened with unfeigned surprise to their message, and as he saw that, this time, there was no escape left, he obediently submitted, but nevertheless he finished his humble occupation. The Pope, calling him to Rome, took him to Lyons where a general Council was held, during which he gave new proofs of his great learning, and of his unwearied zeal in promoting the welfare of the holy Church.
It pleased the Almighty, to call His faithful servant, in the midst of his pious labor, and after a short illness, to receive his eternal reward. He died in 1274, only fifty-three years of age. The Pope and all the bishops deeply lamented his early death, but God immediately honored him by many miracles. One hundred and sixty years later, when on account of the erection of a new Church, the relics of the Saint were exhumed, it was found that the flesh of the body was entirely consumed, the head excepted, of which the hair, teeth, tongue, eyes and ears, lips and cheeks, were as perfect as though he had still been living. The head, therefore, was preserved in a rich shrine, and the rest of the body laid into a coffin. After many years, when the Huguenots or Calvinists took possession of Lyons, they publicly burned the body of the Saint and threw the ashes into the river. The holy head, however, was saved from their rage by the care of a priest, who, though most cruelly tortured, to make him confess where the relic was kept, preferred to bear the suffering rather than reveal where the precious treasure was concealed. (1)
Image: Saint Bonaventure, François, Claude (dit Frère Luc) – 1660 (7)
Today is the feast day of Saint Mildred. Ora Pro Nobis.
Saint Mildred or Mildthryth (694–716 or 733), also Mildrith, Mildryth was an Anglo-Saxon abbess.
She was the daughter of King Merewalh of Magonsaete, a sub-kingdom of Mercia, and Eormenburh (Saint Eormenburga), herself the daughter of King Æthelberht of Kent, and as such appearing in the so-called Kentish royal legend.
Her sisters Milburh (Saint Milburga of Much Wenlock) and Mildgytha (Saint Mildgyth) were also considered saints. Goscelin, probably relying on a now-lost history of the rulers of the Kingdom of Kent, wrote a hagiography of Mildthryth.
At an early age, her mother sent her to be educated at Chelles in France, where many English ladies were trained to a saintly life. A young nobleman, related to the Abbess of Chelles, entreated her to arrange that he might marry this English princess. The abbess tried to persuade her, but Mildred said her mother had sent her there to be taught, not to be married. All the abbess’s advice, threats and blows failed to persuade her to accept the alliance offered to her.
At last the abbess shut her up in an oven in which she had made a great fire. After three hours, when the abbess expected to find not only Mildred’s flesh but her very bones burnt to ashes, the young saint came out unhurt and radiant with joy and beauty. The faithful, hearing of the miracle, venerated Mildred as a saint. The abbess, more infuriated than ever, threw her on the ground. The abbess beat, kicked and scratched her and tore out a handful of her hair.
Mildred found means to send her mother a letter, enclosing some of her hair, torn from her head by the violence of the abbess. Queen Ermenburga soon sent ships to fetch her daughter. The abbess, fearing that her evil deeds should be made known, would, on no account, give permission for Mildred’s departure. Mildred, however, fled by night; but, having in her haste forgotten some ecclesiastical vestments and a nail of the cross of Christ which she valued extremely, she managed to return for them and brought them safely away. Upon her arrival back in England, she landed at Ebbsfleet. Here she found a great square stone, miraculously prepared for her to step on from the ship. The stone received, and retained, the mark of her foot. Afterwards the stone was removed to the Abbey of Minster-in-Thanet and kept there in memory of her. Many diseases are said to have been cured for centuries after, by water containing a little dust from this stone.
Mildred eventually entered the abbey of Minster-in-Thanet, which her mother had earlier established. She became abbess by 694. Suggesting that ties to Gaul were maintained, a number of dedications to Mildred exist in the Pas-de-Calais, including at Millam. Mildred died at Minster-in-Thanet and was buried there.
She continued to be an extremely popular saint, eclipsing the fame of St. Augustine, in the immediate neighbourhood of her monastery, where the place that used to be proudly pointed out as that of his landing came to be better known as “St Mildred’s Rock.”
St. Mildred died of a lingering painful illness, towards the close of the seventh century. This great monastery was often plundered by the Danes, and the nuns and clerks murdered, chiefly in the years 980 and 1011. After the last of these burnings, there were no more nuns but only a few secular priests. In 1033, the remains of St. Mildred were translated to the monastery of Austin’s at Canterbury, and venerated above all the relics of that holy place, says Malmesbury who testifies frequent miracles to have been wrought by them: Thorn and others confirm the same. Two churches in London bear her name. (4)
Mildred is sometimes represented in art holding a church and accompanied by three geese, as she was protector against damage by such wild birds.
Today is the feast day of Saint Eugenius, Bishop of Carthage. Ora pro nobis.
It is unknown when was Saint Eugenius was born.
In 428 Genseric, the King of the Vandals, invaded and took over North Africa. The Vandals, who were Arians, had the practice of persecuting the Catholics, especially the Bishops. They plundered and destroyed Carthage’s churches and monasteries. They banished to the desert St. Quodvultdeus, the city’s Bishop, along with other Prelates and clergy as well as 5,000 lay people. As they left, mothers followed the ecclesiastics, weeping and crying: “Who will take care of us after you leave? Who will baptize our children, hear our confessions and reconcile us with God? Who will bury us when we die? Who will offer the Divine Sacrifice? Let us go with you.”
In the year 481, the episcopal see of Carthage had been vacant for twenty-four years. Huneric, who succeeded Genseric, decided to allow the Catholics to fill it, provided certain conditions be met. The people chose Eugenius, a citizen of Carthage, eminent for his learning, zeal, piety and prudence. His charities to the distressed had already been very abundant, and in his new office he refused himself the slightest convenience, in order to be able to give all he had to the poor.
His virtue gained him the respect and esteem even of the Arians; but at length, moved by envy and blind zeal, the king sent him an order never to sit in the episcopal throne, preach to the people, or admit into his chapel any Vandals, among whom several had been converted. The saint boldly answered the messenger that the laws of God commanded him not to shut the door of his church to any that desired to serve Him in it.
Huneric, enraged at this answer, persecuted the Catholics in many ways, especially the Vandals who had embraced the true Faith. He commanded guards to be placed at the doors of the Catholic churches, who when they saw any man or woman going in clothed in the habit of the Vandals, struck them on the head with short jagged staves, which being twisted into their hair and drawn back with great violence, tore off hair and skin together. Some lost their eyes by this means, and others died with the extreme pain; but many lived a long time after. Women, with their heads flayed in this manner, were publicly led through the streets, with a crier going before them to show them to the people.
The streets of Carthage were filled with spectacles of cruelty; continually there could be seen some without hands, others without eyes, nose or ears, others whose heads appeared sunk in between their shoulders from having been hung up by the hands on the tops of houses. Many nuns were so cruelly tortured that several died on the rack. Nearly 5,000 men, women and children were banished into a desert filled with scorpions and poisonous snakes; but these servants of God suffered much more from the want of the necessities of life.
There were episodes in the many martyrdoms that took place when St. Eugenius was Bishop. A woman, for example, was brought to watch her son cruelly tortured for being a Catholic. Seeing him tremble in face of the torment, without hesitation she addressed him thus: “My son, remember that we were baptized in the name of the Trinity in the bosom of the Holy Church, our Mother.” Hearing this, the youth courageously faced martyrdom.
Many of the Catholics who apostatized from fear of martyrdom became cruel persecutors of their faithful brothers. This is the famous case of Elpidophorus who was appointed judge at Carthage. One day Deacon Muritta, who had baptized Elpidophorus when he was a child, was brought before him. With him Muritta brought the chrismale, or white garment, with which he had clothed the child after he was baptized. Showing it to the whole assembly, he said to the apostate judge: “This garment will accuse you when God the Judge shall appear in majesty on the last day. It will bear testimony against you to your condemnation. This garment that covered you when, pure and unspotted, you left the waters of Baptism, will increase your torment when you will be engulfed by the eternal flames.” St. Muritta is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology on July 13.
Eugenius was banished under Huneric. Gunthamund, who succeeded Huneric allowed Eugenius to return to Carthage and permitted him to reopen the churches. After eight years of peace Thrasamund succeeded to the throne. He revived the persecution, arrested Eugenius, and condemned him to death. Thrasamund commuted the sentence into exile at Vienne, near Albi (Languedoc), where the Arian Alaric was king. Eugenius built a monastery over the tomb of St. Amaranthus, the martyr, and led a penitential life till his death in 505. He is said to have miraculously cured a man who was blind.
Image: A statue portraying Saint Eugenius, in the church museum in Sant’Eustorgio (Milan, Italy). Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, March 1 2007. (4)
Today is the feast of Saint Veronica. Ora pro nobis.
Very little is known about the woman known as Veronica. Tradition has it that a women named Seraphina wiped Jesus’ face with her cloth. The image that appeared on it was known from the very beginning as a Vera Icon or a True Image. Over time, the two names blended, and Seraphina’s name turned into Veronica.
This same holy woman—healed by her faith– is later identified as Saint Veronica in the apocryphal “Acts of Pilate.” According to tradition, Veronica was present on the Via Dolorosa when Jesus carried His cross toward Golgotha. Veronica witnessed Jesus fall beneath the weight of His heavy burden and was so moved, she pushed through the crowd past the Roman soldiers to reach her Lord. Veronica used her veil to wipe the blood and sweat from His face, and as the soldiers forced her away, she bundled her veil and did not look at it again until she returned home. When she finally unfolded the veil, it was imprinted with an image of Christ’s face. The story was later elaborated in the 11th century, that Veronica—upon receiving her veil with the imprint of the face of Christ upon it—took the veil to Rome and miraculously cured the Emperor Tiberius.
The legend of Saint Veronica is one of the most popular in Christian lore and the veil is one of the most beloved relics of the Church, still preserved in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Saint Veronica’s act of charity and compassion remain an inspiration for us today.
St. Veronica, you gave Christ a towel on His way to Cavalry Which He used to wipe the Precious Blood from His Holy Face. In return for this great act of kindness He left you His most Holy image on the towel. Pray for us to Our Lord that His Holy Face may be imprinted on our hearts so that we may be always be mindful of the Passion and Death of Our lord Jesus Christ, through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.
Image: Crop of The shrine to Saint Veronica in Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City. (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint John Gualbert . Ora pro nobis.
Saint John Gualbert was born in Florence in the year 999. He was the son of the noble Florentine Gualbert Visdomini. He was raised with care in piety and the study of the humanities. No sooner had he entered adult life than he acquired a taste for pleasures. He followed the profession of arms at that troubled period.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
The great holiness of John Gualbert began with one single act of self-denial. He was born at Florence, of noble parents, and although brought up in the Christian faith, he was but little instructed in the way of living a Christian life. When, in riper years, he entered the army, he learned still less of Christian virtue. When Hugh, his only brother, was assassinated by a young nobleman for unknown reasons, his father vowed to search everywhere for the murderer, and to kill him without mercy; commanding his son, Gualbert, to do the same if an opportunity should be offered to avenge the death of his brother. John showed himself as willing to obey the command, as his father had been willing to give it. On Good Friday, when John was returning from the country to Florence, he met the one on whom he was so eager to take revenge. The road where they met was so narrow, that the murderer saw no chance of escape; and as he had no weapons to defend himself, he fell on his knees and cried: “For the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died today, have pity and spare my life.”
John, who had immediately drawn his sword on seeing him, was about to rush on him; but when he heard these words spoken by the murderer, he suddenly stopped. Pondering how Christ had not only forgiven His enemies for greater crimes, but had also prayed for them to His heavenly Father, his heart softened, and all desire for revenge fled in one moment.Casting aside his sword, he raised the assassin from the ground, embraced him and said: “What you ask for the love of our Lord, I cannot refuse. I will spare your life and forgive your crime.” After having so heroically conquered himself, and reconciled himself with his bitterest enemy, John went into the first church to which he came, and kneeling down before the image of the crucified Saviour, prayed that Christ might, in mercy and grace, release him also from his offences. The image upon the cross bowed its head towards him as a sign that his prayer had been graciously received. This unexpected miracle made so deep an impression upon John, and the divine grace operated so strongly upon him, that he instantly resolved henceforth to serve God alone. Repairing to the monastery of St. Minias, he begged to be admitted among the number of the religious.
His father was at first violently opposed to it, but when he saw that John had cut off his hair, to indicate that he was in earnest, he not only relented, but praised his perseverance, and admonished him to remain firm in his resolution. John, however, needed not this admonition; he remained firm, and aspired with such zeal to spiritual perfection, that, after a very short time, he deserved to be placed as a model for all religious, in true devotion, humility and obedience. The zeal he manifested in the service of God at the beginning of his conversion, never decreased, but continued unaltered until his end. After the death of the Abbot, he was unanimously chosen as his successor. But nothing could induce him to accept the dignity offered to him, and to escape further persuasion, and to serve God more perfectly, he went, with several virtuous ecclesiastics to St. Romuald, at the hermitage of Camaldoli, where he remained for some time. As, however, this holy man informed him that he was chosen by God to become the founder of a new order, he repaired to a place, a few miles from Florence, which, on account of the many trees that shaded it, was called Vallis Umbrosa, or the shaded valley. There he met two hermits with whom he and his companions resolved to remain. The life he led while there was very holy, his occupation consisting of praying, fasting, watching and pious contemplations.
When this became known in the surrounding country, several men and youths came to him, desiring to lead a pious life under his direction. As the number of these daily increased, he erected a monastery and founded an order, which soon became famous in all Italy. He became its first Abbot, but governed those under him more by his example than by precept and admonitions. It was a commen saying, that if any one wished to know who was the Abbot of the monastery, he had only to observe who was the most humble, zealous, devout and patient among the brotherhood. Before he died, he had the comfort to count twelve monasteries founded by him, all filled with zealous servants of the Almighty. Towards others he was compassionate and kind, but towards himself, extremely austere.
The poor he assisted in every possible manner, not even sparing the sacred vessels of the Church, if he had no other means to aid them. He fasted most rigorously, and although he was a great sufferer, he refused to be exempted from the obligation of fasting. He prepared himself most devoutly for his end when he felt it approaching; and after having received the Holy Sacrament, he called all the religious to him and gave them his last exhortation to live in love and unity: to maintain strictly the regulations of the order, and to meditate frequently on death and the last judgment. His fervent desire to see God he expressed in the often repeated words of the Psalmist: “My soul thirsteth after God. When shall I go and appear before the Lord!”
At last, God granted the desire of his holy servant, and called him to eternal life, in the year of our Lord 1073, and the 74th of his life. The inscription on his tomb, which he himself composed, was as follows: “I, John, believe and confess the faith which the Apostles preached, and the holy Fathers professed in the four councils of the Church.” St. John was honored during his life with the gifts of reading the innermost thoughts of the heart, curing the sick and the possessed by making the sign of the holy cross over them. After his death his tomb became an universal refuge for the oppressed and forsaken, on account of the graces which were there bestowed upon them, through his intercession. (3)
Image: Crop of Santa Trinita, Neri_di_bicci, San Giovanni Gualberto and saints, inside, Florence, Italy (5)
Today is the feast day of Saint Olga of Kiev. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Olga of Kiev was born 879 at Pskov, Russia into a family of Varyag origin according to tradition. Varyags were also known as Vikings or Norsemen, who came to the territory of current Russia, Ukraine and Belarus during the 8th and 9th centuries. This theory about Olga’s birth also explains the origin of her name, which is derived from the Scandinavian “Helga.” Other historical versions state that Olga was either a daughter of Oleg Veshchy, the founder of the state of Kievan Rus, or had Bulgarian roots.
Oleg Veshchy initiated Olga’s marriage with Prince Igor, who was the son of the Novgorod Prince Rurik, a founder of the Rurik Dynasty of Russian tsars. After the death of Oleg in 912, Igor became the ruler of Kievan Rus. In 945 Prince Igor went to the Slavic tribe of the Drevlyans to gather tributes. After he demanded a much higher payment, the Drevlyans killed him.
The death of the Kievan Prince raised a question about the next ruler of the country. Igor’s son, Svyatoslav, was only three years old, and hence Olga took the power into her hands. Interestingly, she had the full support the Rus army, which attests to the great respect she held among the people. After killing Igor, the Drevlyans sent their matchmakers to propose that Olga marry their Prince Mal. The Princess took revenge upon her husband’s death, killing all of the ambassadors. There are stories of her being quite the warrior queen.
She ruled Kievan Rus after Igor’s assassination in 945. Following her conversion and baptism in 957 in Constantinople, when she took the name Helena, she tried to introduce Christianity to the Ukraine on a wide scale, but failed. When her son Sviatoslav reached adulthood, she handed the throne to him, c.963. Apparently, she had a big influence on her grandson, Vladimir the Great, who in 988 made Christianity the official religion of Kievan Rus.
She is grandmother of Saint Vladimir, great-grandmother of Saint Boris and Saint Gleb. Saint Olga died on 11 July 969 in Kiev of natural causes.
Today is the feast day of Saint Pius I. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Pius I was born in the State of Venice probably Aquileia. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He succeeded Saint Hygin about the year 140 as the ninth successor to Saint Peter, during the reign of the emperor Antoninus the Pious. He was pope from about 140 to about 154. He was a friend of Saint Polycarp. Throughout his pontificate he took great care to make the religion of Christ flourish, and published many beautiful ordinances for the utility of the universal Church. (4)
His pontificate was marked by the efforts of various heretics in Rome, among them the gnostics Valentinian, Cerdon, and Marcion, who tried to sow their errors in the Church’s center. Marcion, when excluded from communion by Saint Pius, founded the heretical group which bears his name. Saint Justin and other Catholic teachers assisted the Pontiff in defending Christian doctrine and preserving it from corruption.
Several admirable decrees of his are still extant: in particular that which ordains that the Resurrection of Our Lord is always to be celebrated on a Sunday. He changed the house of Pudentiana into a church, and because it surpassed the other titles in dignity, the Roman Pontiffs made it their dwelling-place. He dedicated it under the title of Pastor. Here he often celebrated the Holy Mysteries, baptized many who had been converted to the Faith, and enrolled them in the ranks of the faithful. While he was thus fulfilling the duties of a good shepherd, he shed his blood for his sheep and for Christ the Supreme Pastor, being crowned with martyrdom on the fifth of the Ides of July, 150 under Marcus Aurelius. (4)
Saint Pius I
From Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy
A holy Pope of the second century, the first of the twelve hitherto graced with the name of Pius, rejoices us today with his mild and gentle light. Although Christian society was in a precarious condition under the edicts of persecution, which even the best of the pagan emperors never abrogated, our Saint profited by the comparative peace enjoyed by the Church under Antoninus Pius to strengthen the foundations of the mysterious tower raised by the Divine Shepherd to the honor of the Lord God. He ordained by his supreme authority that, notwithstanding the contrary custom observed in certain places, the Feast of Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday throughout the entire Church. The importance of this measure and its effects upon the whole Church were emphasized during the reign of Pope St. Victor I, near the end of the same century; for it was he who enforced the decree of St. Pius.
The ancient Breviary lesson of St. Pius I made mention of the decree, attributed in the Corpus Juris to this holy Pope, concerning those who carelessly let fall any portion of the Precious Blood of Our Lord during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The prescriptions are such as give evidence of the profound reverence the Pope wished to be shown towards the Most Holy Mystery of the Altar. The penance enjoined is to be of forty days if the Precious Blood had fallen to the ground; and wheresoever it fell, it must, if possible, be taken up with the lips, the dust must be burned, and the ashes thereof put in a consecrated place.
In more recent times the Breviary Lesson runs thus:
St. Pius, the first of this name, a citizen of Aquileia (60 miles east of Venice, Italy), and son of Rufinus, was priest of the holy Roman Church. During the reign of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius he was chosen Sovereign Pontiff. In five ordinations which he held in the month of December, he ordained twelve bishops and eighteen priests. Several admirable decrees of his are still extant: in particular that which ordains that the Resurrection of Our Lord is always to be celebrated on a Sunday. He changed the house of Pudens into a church, and because it surpassed the other titles in dignity, inasmuch as the Roman Pontiffs made it their dwelling-place, he dedicated it under the title of Pastor. Here he often celebrated the Holy Mysteries, baptized many who had been converted to the Faith, and enrolled them in the ranks of the faithful. While he was thus fulfilling the duties of a good shepherd, he shed his blood for his sheep and for Christ the Supreme Pastor, being crowned with martyrdom on the fifth of the Ides of July. He was buried in the Vatican.
We call to mind, O glorious Pontiff, those words written under thine eye, which seem to be a commentary on thy decree concerning the Sacred Mysteries: “We receive not,” cried St. Justin the Philosopher to the world of that second century, “we receive not as common bread, nor as common drink, the Food which we call the Eucharist; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the word of God, had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so have we been taught that the Food made Eucharist by the prayer formed of His own word, is both the Flesh and Blood of this Jesus, Who is made flesh” (Apolog. I 66). This doctrine and the measures it so fully justifies, found, towards the close of the same century, other authentic witnesses who, in their turn, would almost seem to be quoting from the prescriptions attributed to thee. “We are in the greatest distress,” said Tertullian, “if the least drop from our chalice, or the least crumb of our Bread fall to the ground” (De Corona, III). And Origen appealed to the initiated to bear witness to “the care and veneration with which the sacred gifts were surrounded, for fear the smallest particle should fall; which, if it happened through negligence, would be considered a crime” (In Ex. Homil., 13). And yet in our days heresy, as destitute of knowledge as of faith, pretends that the Church has departed from Her ancient traditions by paying exaggerated homage to the Divine Sacrament. Obtain for us, O St. Pius, the grace to return to the veneration and love with which that Faith inspired them for the Chalice of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, that richest treasure of earth. May the Pasch of the Lamb (the Easter Liturgy) unite, as thou didst desire, in one uniform celebration, all who have the honor to truly bear the name of Christian! (1)
Image: Crop of This illustration is from The Lives and Times of the Popes by Chevalier Artaud de Montor, New York: The Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911. It was originally published in 1842. (5)
Today is the feast day of Saint Bertha of Artois. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Bertha was the daughter of Count Rigobert and Umana, related to one of the kings of Kent in England. In the twentieth year of her age she was married to Sigefroi. She had five daughters, two of whom, Gertrude and Deotila, are Saints. After her husband’s death she put on the veil in the nunnery which she had built at Blangy in Artois, France, a little distance from Hesdin. Her daughters Gertrude and Deotila followed her. (1)
She was persecuted by Roger, or Rotgar, who endeavored to asperse her with King Thierri III., supposedly to revenge his being refused Gertrude in marriage. But this prince, convinced of the innocence of Bertha, then abbess over her nunnery, gave her a kind reception. He took her under his protection.
On her return to Blangy, Bertha finished her nunnery and caused three churches to be built, one in honor of St. Omer, another she called after St. Vaast, and the third in honor of St. Martin of Tours. And then, after establishing a regular observance in her community, she left St. Deotila abbess in her stead, and shut herself in a cell, to pass the remainder of her days in prayer. Much of her history is legend. She died about the year 725. A great part of her relics are kept at Blangy. (4)
Today is the feast day of Saint Leo II. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Leo II date of birth is unknown. He was a Sicilian, and son of one Paul. Though elected pope a few days after the death of St. Agatho (10 June, 681), he was not consecrated till after the lapse of a year and seven months (17 Aug., 682).
The pontificate of this great Pope was very brief but very fruitful, since in the ten months of his reign he accomplished good works which have caused his name to be blessed. St Leo II had been a Canon Regular. He was charged with recitation of the Office in the cathedral, and was relied upon to serve as the auxiliary of the Ordinary. Saint Leo was a devout student of Holy Scripture, and was well versed in the Greek as well as the Latin language.
In his day grave difficulties frequently arose between the Holy See and the emperors of Constantinople, whose representatives at Ravenna tried to control the bishops of that see; the latter had been striving to become autonomous. Saint Leo published a decree ordering that in the future no bishop of Ravenna could enter into function before being consecrated for that office at Rome, by the Roman Pontiff.
He built three churches in Rome, to honor Saint Paul the Apostle, Saint Sebastian, and Saint George. Saint Leo was highly gifted in the domain of music, and he renovated the Gregorian literature or library, then in a state of confusion; he also composed new hymns, still conserved by the Church. He took special care of widows and orphans and the poor in general, relieving their sufferings with a truly apostolic charity.
Saint Leo confirmed the Acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council which his predecessor had convoked at Constantinople against the Monothelite heresy, and translated its acts into Latin for the benefit of the Occidentals. When he died in July of 683, his death was deeply regretted by all the faithful. He was interred according to established custom in the church of Saint Peter. He is ordinarily pictured embracing a beggar or holding a book of music.