Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

October 17

Today is the feast day Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Ora pro nobis.

Prayer in Adoration of the Sacred Heart
Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, Whom I believe to be really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, receive this most profound act of adoration to supply for the desire I have to adore Thee unceasingly, and in thanksgiving for the sentiments of love which Thy sacred Heart has for me in this sacrament. I cannot better acknowledge them than by offering Thee all the acts of adoration, resignation, patience, and love which this same Heart has made during its mortal life, and which it makes still and which it shall make eternally in heaven, in order that through it I may love Thee, praise Thee, and adore Thee worthily as much as it is possible for me. I unite myself to this divine offering which Thou dost make to Thy divine Father, and I consecrate to Thee my whole being, praying Thee to destroy in me all sin and not to permit that I should be separated from Thee eternally. Amen.      Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was born at Lhautecour, France, 22 July, 1647. Her parents, Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, were distinguished less for temporal possessions than for their virtue, which gave them an honorable position.

from Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, 1894

 Saint Margaret Mary, a soul of divine predilection, was born at Terreau in Burgundy, on July 22, 1647. During her infancy she showed a wonderfully sensitive revulsion to the very idea of sin, and while still a young child always recited the entire Rosary every day. She lost her father at the age of eight years, and her mother placed her with the Poor Clares. She was often sick and for four years was bedridden, losing almost entirely the use of her members. She made a vow to Our Lady to become one of Her daughters if She cured her, and was suddenly entirely well.

She was of a happy temperament and her heart became easily attached to human affections. God began her purification when the charge of her mother’s house was confided to persons who reduced the family to a sort of servitude. Margaret Mary turned to God for strength and consolation when she was accused of various crimes she had not committed. In short, the Saint of the Sacred Heart learned to suffer for Christ, with patience, what innocence can suffer in such situations.

She desired to be a religious, but her mother could not bear to hear a word of that desire. Finally God came to her assistance through a Franciscan priest, who told her brother that he would answer to God for the vocation of his sister. In 1671 she entered the Order of the Visitation of Mary, at Paray-le-Monial, and was professed the following year. She followed all the practices of the monastery in perfect obedience, spending as much time as she could in the chapel with her Lord. After sanctifying her by many trials, Jesus appeared to her in numerous visions, displaying to her His Sacred Heart, sometimes burning as a furnace, and sometimes torn and bleeding on account of the coldness and sins of men. “Behold this Heart which has so loved men, and been so little loved by them in return!”

In 1675, she was told by Our Lord that she, with the aid of Father Claude de la Colombiere of the Society of Jesus, was to be His instrument for instituting the feast of the Sacred Heart, and for spreading that devotion everywhere. This was not accomplished without great sufferings. The good Jesuit did all in his power to make known and loved the Heart of Jesus, but when it seemed all obstacles were about to disappear, his credit diminished, and his Superiors sent him to England. He returned to France exhausted and soon died.

Saint Margaret Mary was for a time Mistress of Novices, and in this office exercised a true apostolate, working to win for the Heart of Jesus the hearts of the young girls who were aspiring to religious consecration. She was persecuted when she sent one of them home, not having seen in her the indications of a genuine vocation; the family attempted to have her deposed. She remained in the charge but was deprived of Holy Communion on the First Friday of the month. This practice was one of Our Lord’s specific requests; for souls who communicate nine First Fridays in succession, He promised the most wonderful graces. The demons also persecuted her visibly; nonetheless her entire Community was finally won over to devotion to the Divine Heart. (1)

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

The Expiatory Sufferings of Blessed Margaret Mary
by the Rev. Charles B. Garside, M.A., 1874

On the first Friday every month the Sacred Heart appeared to Blessed Margaret under the form of a blazing sun, which poured its scorching, yet vitalizing rays into her own breast. It was on one of these occasions that she received the following definite commands: (1) She was communicate as often as she was not forbidden by her Superiors (2) she was to make a rule of communicating on the first Friday of every month and (3) she was to be plunged every night between Thursday and Friday into an agony of sadness and desolation, which should be a repetition, or rather a reflection, so to speak within her soul of the terrible woe endured by her Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani; she was to feel as if suffering it together with Him, and she was instructed to rise at eleven, and falling on her face to remain prostrate on the ground for an entire hour. By this practice Our Lord gave her to understand that she should bear Him company as if she had been in the Garden of Sorrows when the apostles fell asleep through weariness, and that, whilst thus sweetening for Him some of the bitterness which their conduct had caused in His Heart she should also implore mercy for sinners.

On several occasions Our Lord condescended to make this elect spouse sympathize in His sorrows, not merely by bringing before her mind, in the form of a mental contemplation, the recollection of what He had undergone, but by so uniting her with Himself and the scenes of His suffering life, that, by a kind of mysterious intercommunion, she became, to adopt St. Peter’s expression, a real partaker in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter iv. 18). She participated to an extraordinary degree in that fellowship “of the Cross of Christ” by which, St. Leo says, “we ourselves co-operate in some measure with that which He has achieved for us;” for “if we suffer we shall also reign with Him,” writes the apostle Paul (2 Tim. ii. 12). The Crucified drew her so closely to Him that His thorns, spear, and nails entered mystically into her own being; she lived, in some sense, which it is beyond the power of human language to explain, the life of the Man-God, as He Himself declared that she should; and not only did she undergo something akin to His pain, but again and again, when He was offended by the sins of others, she was told to appease His anger by suffering with Him, and at the same time by offering up those pains of her own as a mode of intercession for them. Her pains in themselves were worthless; but such is the vicarious force of charity, such is the all-pervading effect of co-membership in that Church which is the ” body of Christ,” such is the desire of the Head that His virtue should flow through secondary and inferior channels united with Himself, that many souls were restored to favor and pardon through Margaret’s holy afflictions, whom their Lord would not have forgiven so easily, if at all, had she not thrown her mite of expiation into the treasury of that Heart of Jesus which had inspired and enabled her to present the offerings.

Incidents and revelations of this kind in the life of Blessed Margaret are a luminous commentary upon those deep words of St. Paul, “I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church” (Col. i. 24). ” The sufferings of Christ abound in us ” (2 Cor. i. 5). “We perish not, always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus ” (2 Cor. iv. 10). ” I bear the marks of the Lord in my body” (Gal. vi. 17). “With Christ I am nailed to the cross ” (Gal. ii. 19). Speaking of certain nuns who had failed in their duty to Jesus Christ, Margaret Mary says that He told her to charge herself with the burden of restoring them to His favor, and she succeeded; but she adds, “I had to suffer much. Hell itself is not more dreadful than a heart deprived of the love of my beloved.”

It is a matter of faith, the denial of which would be heresy, that Christ’s sufferings were more than sufficient to redeem the world and atone for every sin that has been or could be committed by man. But it is no less true that Christ, in His own infinite wisdom, makes the application of this redemption and the gift of many graces to individuals dependent upon certain conditions. As incorporation into His Church, faith, hope, charity, prayers, obedience, and sacraments are undoubtedly necessary in order that we may share in the fruits of Christ’s meritorious works, so also He makes suffering a means of this participation. If Christ is induced to grant many mercies for others if we pray for them, which He would not have conceded without our prayers, it is not difficult to understand that He may also lay crosses on some members of His Church, in order that He may, in return for that penance, bestow unmerited favors upon others. As it is part of the dispensation of an incarnate God to carry on His kingdom by the aid of “fellow-workers,” so it is part of the same dispensation to carry it on by the aid of fellow-sufferers. The Church of Christ is “one body,” and, as many of the Fathers say, the suffering of Christ and His Church is one, since their life and soul are one.” Christ,” writes St. Augustine, “is not only totally in the head, but also totally in the body.” Thus the sufferings of His living members are united to His own, even called His own, and therefore possess a special value in His sight. When Saul persecuted the Christians, He did not, says St. Augustine, call them His servants, or even His friends, but Himself: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” As also Jesus Christ delights in utilizing, so to speak, every good work of His own children by drawing it into an exalting fellowship with His own obedience to His heavenly Father, and making it fertile in advantages to the Church at large, so in various ways and degrees He seals the sufferings of others with the stamp of His own sacred cross. And the holier His children are, the more frequently and deeply He invites them to help their brethren by enduring hard sacrifices for their sakes: thus they, like Him, become poor, that others through their poverty may become rich.

Those who regard the redemption of man by Christ as a merely outward payment by Him of a debt due from guilty sinners to God, also regard the pardon of man and the relation that has been established between Christ and him as entirely external. They do not comprehend that the atoning act on the Cross was only the beginning of that mystery of love by which Christ, the second Adam, incorporates us into Himself, so that as the branches live by the very life of the vine, and through the power of that imparted life “bring forth fruit,” in like manner the spirit of Jesus dwells in man. The Christian is said by St. Paul to be “a new creature in Christ” (2 Cor. v. 17); to have “Christ in him, the hope of glory ” (Col. i. 27); “the Holy Ghost dwelleth in us ” (2 Tim. i. 14); and Christ is described as “our life;” not our future life only, but our present life–“Christ, Who is your life,” says St. Paul [Col. iii. 4). “Abide in Me and I in you,” is Our Lord’s own command (John xv. 4). “Not I, but Christ, liveth in me,” is the Apostle’s description of himself (Gal. ii. 20). ” He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” i.e. one spirit with Christ (1 Cor. vi. 17); and we are also declared to be “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. v. 30). Our Lord, moreover, prayed not for the apostles only, but “for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee; that they may be one in us . . . that they may be one, as we also are one” (John xvii. 20-28). What Catholic language can go beyond these words? This is the true Gospel, and they who believe it recognize the sacred value of the actions and sufferings of those who are vitally united in Jesus Christ. Any other Christianity is a human fiction and not a divine reality.

In further illustration of the peculiar expiatory office which Our Lord frequently charged our saint to fulfil in behalf of others, we may here mention that she suffered in an especial manner during every carnival, on account of the excesses that were then committed; her mental anguish caused always a severe bodily illness; but as soon as Ash Wednesday came, she was well and cheerful. In one of these states of suffering, she was told by Our Lord that “a single holy soul could obtain pardon from God for a thousand sinners.”

Sometimes Our Lord, in order to save a soul which was on the point of being lost for ever, would make His servant feel the frightful agony of a reprobate sinner at the point of death; with reference to which she said: “I never experienced anything so horrible; I have no words to explain it.” (1)

Saint Margaret Mary died at the age of forty-two years, on October 17, 1690, and everywhere was heard in the city: The Saint is dead! The Saint is dead!
In March, 1824, Leo XII pronounced her Venerable, and on 18 September, 1864, Pius IX declared her Blessed. When her tomb was canonically opened in July, 1830, two instantaneous cures took place. Her body rests under the altar in the chapel at Paray, and many striking favours have been obtained by pilgrims attracted thither from all parts of the world.
Image: Montauban Cathedral, Tarn et Garonne, France – Oil on canvas in the right arm of the transept: “Vision of Margaret Mary Alacoque, nun of the Visitation” by Armand Cambon, friend and disciple of Ingres. (7)
Research by REGINA Staff

Saint Hedwig of Silesia, Widow

October 16

Today is the feast day of Saint Hedwig of Silesia. Ora pro nobis.

Also known as Jadwiga, she was the daughter of Count Berthold IV of Andechs, Bavaria, where she was born.  She was educated at Kitzingen Monastery in Franconia and when she was twelve, she was married to Duke Henry of Silesia.

She was one of eight children born to Berthold IV, Count of Andechs and Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. Of her four brothers, two became bishops, Ekbert of Bamberg, and Berthold of Aquileia; Otto succeeded his father as Duke of Dalmatia, and Heinrich became Margrave of Istria. Of her three sisters, Gertrude married Andrew II, King of Hungary, from which union sprang St. Elizabeth, Landgravine of Thuringia; Mechtilde became Abbess of Kitzingen; while Agnes was made the unlawful wife of Philip II of France in 1196, on the repudiation of his lawful wife, Ingeborg, but was dismissed in 1200, Innocent III having laid France under an interdict.

Saint Hedwig of Silesia.

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

An example of all virtues, especially worthy to be imitated, is presented to us today, in the life of St. Hedwig. Her father was Berthold, Duke of Carinthia and Count of Meran. Her mother, Agnes, was of equally high birth. Already in Hedwig’s childhood it was visible that God had gifted her with a mind far beyond her age. She possessed an innate inclination to all virtues, and nothing of what usually delights the young touched her heart. Just as little pleasure did she evince, in later years, in the honors, riches and amusements of the world. Reading and praying were her only enjoyments. All her books were devout works, and her prayers were said mostly before an image of the Blessed Virgin, whom she loved and honored like a mother. When scarcely twelve years old, she was given in marriage to Henry, Duke of Poland and Silesia. Although married so early in life, her conduct was so sensible and virtuous that every one was greatly astonished at it. Among her maxims was this: “The greater one is by birth, the greater one must be in virtue, and the more distinguished we are in station, the more we must distinguish ourselves by our conduct, in order to be a bright example to others.” She became the mother of three sons and three daughters, all of whom she educated most piously.

She was a little over twenty, and her husband thirty years of age, when their sixth child was born; after which, desiring to serve God more perfectly, she made a vow before the bishop, in which her husband joined, to live in future in perpetual continence. From that hour, St. Hedwig grew daily more and more perfect in all Christian virtues, occupying every moment left her from the cares she bestowed upon her children, in prayers and deeds of charity. She found especial comfort in assisting at Holy Mass; hence, she was not satisfied with one, but went to as many as she could; and the manner in which she conducted herself in church was a proof of her deep devotion. Towards widows and orphans, her kindness was truly motherly, and many of them she fed in her palace, serving them herself, sometimes on bended knees. She frequently visited the sick in the hospitals; encouraged them to be patient, and assisted them by rich alms. She never hesitated to wash the feet of the lepers, or to kiss the sores of the sufferers. She persuaded the Duke, her husband, to build a large convent not far from Breslau, for the Cistercian nuns, which she made a home for poor children, who were educated there, and afterwards provided for according to their station. Nothing could be more modest and plain than the garments of the holy Duchess, and her example in this respect induced others living at court to attire themselves with great simplicity. In the midst of the dissipation of the court, the Saint lived so austere a life, that it was more to be admired than to be followed.

To prove her virtue, God visited her with a great many cares and sorrows. The enemy invaded the dominions of her spouse, who was wounded in a battle and made prisoner. When this news was brought to her, she raised her eyes confidently to heaven, saying: “I hope to see him again soon, well and free.” She herself went to Conrad, the Duke who had made her husband prisoner, and spoke so earnestly to him that he restored her husband to liberty. Soon after, Henry became dangerously sick, and Hedwig nursing him most faithfully, did everything to make his death happy. To those who pitied her after his death, she said: “We must adore the decrees of the Almighty, not only in days of happiness, but also in those of sorrow and bereavement.” Three years later, she lost her first-born son, who was killed in a battle with the Tartars; and this sad event found her as submissive to the will of Providence as she had been on the death of her husband.

Soon after the burial of the Duke, the Saint had gone into the convent, which, at her request, he had founded, to be further removed from all temporal vanity, and to serve the Lord more peacefully and perfectly. She observed most strictly the regulations of the Order, desiring to do the meanest work and to be considered the least of the Sisters. In her austerity to herself she had now full liberty to satisfy herself. She fasted daily, except on Sundays and festivals; but her fasts were much more rigorous than those of others; for she abstained from all meat and wine, and partook only of herbs, bread and water. She wore, day and night, rough hair-cloth and an iron girdle which she had already worn while at court. She went bare-footed over snow and ice, and slept, when well, on the bare boards, and when sick, on straw covered with a coarse cloth. Her sleep lasted hardly three hours before Matins; the remainder of the night she occupied in prayer, which she only interrupted to scourge herself to blood. So severe a life emaciated her body to a skeleton. While working, she always raised her soul to the Most High by mental prayer, and she was often found in an ecstasy, or raised high above the ground. Her conversation was only of God, virtue and piety. Towards the crucified Saviour, she bore the deepest devotion, and the mysteries of His bitter passion and death were the objects of her daily meditations, during which she frequently shed tears. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, was most ardently loved by her, and her whole countenance glowed at the bare mention of her name.

So holy a life could only be followed by a happy death, of which a severe sickness was the messenger. Before others became aware that her life was in danger, the Saint asked for the last Sacraments, and she received them with a devotion which drew tears from the eyes of all who were present. Before her end, St. Catherine, St. Thecla, St. Ursula, and St. Magdalen appeared to her, all of whom she had greatly honored during her life. These heavenly visitors comforted her and accompanied her to the mansions of everlasting bliss. Twenty-five years after her death, her holy body was exhumed, as so many extraordinary miracles had taken place. On opening the coffin, the whole church was filled with fragrance. The flesh of the whole body was consumed, except that of three fingers on her left hand. With these she had frequently held a picture of the Blessed Virgin, which she constantly carried with her. While dying, she held this picture so fast, that after her death it could not be removed, and it was buried with her. Pope Clement IV. placed the Duchess among the Saints on account of her many great virtues, of the miracles which she had wrought while she lived, and of those which took place after her death, through her intercession. The inhabitants of Poland venerate her as one of their special Patrons. (1)

Image: Saint Hedwig of Silesia with Duke Louis I of Brzeg and Duchess Agnés, Hedwig Codex, Lubin, 1353 (now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California) (5)

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Saint Gerard Majella, Confessor

October 16

Today is the feast day of Saint Gerard Majella.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Gerard Majella was born in Italy at Muro Lucano, south of Naples, in 1726.  His parents Domenico and Benedetta had him christened on the day of his birth, because of his obvious frailty. They had already lost a baby boy, also called Gerard, who only lived a week. As a child of five, when he would go to pray before a statue of the Virgin with her Child, the Infant Jesus regularly descended to give him a little white bun.

Twelve years later, Benedetta would be left a widow, with four young children to support. Gerard’s education was cut short; he was apprenticed to a local tailor, and later became valet to the temperamental bishop of Lacedonia.

The circumstances of Gerard’s entry into religious life are legendary in Redemptorist circles, and are the stuff of romance. In 1749, the Redemptorists came to Muro to give a mission. Gerard was then 23 years old. He met with the superior of the mission, Fr Cafaro, and begged to be admitted to the Redemptorist Congregation. Though impressed by Gerard’s obvious sincerity and holiness, Gerard’s bad health – he looked “more a ghost than a man,” said a witness – and lack of formal education put Fr Cafaro off. He refused to accept Gerard, and told him to forget about the idea.

Meanwhile, Benedetta had found out about the plan. On the day the missioners were leaving town, she locked Gerard in his bedroom so he could not follow them. But Gerard made a rope from the sheets, lowered himself down, and pursued the missioners out of town. A note left behind declared that he had gone off to become a saint.

Twelve miles later he caught up with the mission team. On a country road that May afternoon, Gerard knelt before Fr Cafaro and again begged to be allowed to join the Redemptorists. Eventually, Fr Cafaro gave in, sending Gerard to the Iliceto community with some of the most famous words in the Redemptorist annals: “I am sending you a useless brother.”

1751 he made his profession, and to the usual vows he added one by which he bound himself to do always that which seemed to him more perfect. St. Alphonsus considered him a miracle of obedience. He not only obeyed the orders of superiors when present, but also when absent knew and obeyed their desires.  Although weak in body, he did the work of three, and his great charity earned for him the title of Father of the Poor. He was a model of every virtue, and so drawn to Our Lord in the tabernacle that he had to do violence to himself to keep away.

The most famous of Saint Gerard’s miracles occurred when a mason fell from a scaffolding during the construction of a building. Gerard had been forbidden by his Superior to work any more miracles without permission. He stopped the man in mid-air, telling him to wait until he had obtained permission to save him. He received it, and the man descended gently to the ground. When a plague broke out, he had the gift of bilocation; he was seen in more than one house at the same time, assisting the sick.

Not a page of his life, it is said, was without prodigies, all tending to the glory of God and motivated by prodigious charity towards his neighbor. He was condemned falsely at one time, as a result of a connivance between two individuals; the Superior General, Saint Alphonsus Liguori himself, who did not know Gerard personally, was induced to believe the black calumny. Later the guilty ones wrote him a letter confessing their fault, and Gerard, who had said nothing at all when relegated into solitude, was asked why he had not said he was innocent. He replied that the Rule required that the religious not defend themselves.

Saint Gerard Majella’s last will consisted of a small note on the door of his cell saying, “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.” He died on October 16, 1755 in Caposele, Campania, of tuberculosis, aged 29.

He was beatified in 1893 by Pope Leo XIII and canonized in 1904 by Saint Pius X.

Image: San Gerardo Maiella, chiesa di Santa Brigida, Napoli, opera anteriore al 1905. Photo: Vito Calise (5)

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Saint Callistus, Pope, Martyr

October 14

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

Saint Callistus’ contemporary, Julius Africanus, gives the date of his accession as the first (or second?) year of Elagabalus, i.e., 218 or 219. Eusebius and the Liberian catalogue agree in giving him five years of episcopate.  Saint Callistus went from slave to freedman to moneylender to convict to church administrator to pope and then to being denounced by an antipope. (2)

He was a sign of contradiction. In his own time, Christians ranged either around him or against him. The trouble excited merely by his name more than 1600 years previously, was renewed in the middle of the 19th century by the discovery of a famous book, which gave an occasion to the heretics of that time to stand with those of old against St. Callistus and the true Catholic Church. The book, entitled Philosophumena or “refutation of heresies,” was composed in the 3rd century; it represented Callistus, whose life and character were painted in the darkest colors, as one of the worst corruptors of doctrine.

In that 3rd century, however, the author of the Philosophumena, attacking the Pontiff he wished to supplant, and setting up in Rome, as he himself acknowledges, Chair against Chair, did but publish to the Church his own shame, by ranging himself among those very dissenters of whom his book professed to be the refutation and the history. The name of this first antipope has not come down to us (but is believed to be Hippolytus). But behold his punishment! The work of his envious pen, despised by his contemporaries, was to reappear at the right moment to awaken the slumbering attention of a far-off posterity.

The impartial criticism of later ages, setting aside the insinuations, took up the facts brought forward by the accuser; and with the aid of science, disentangling the truth from among his falsehoods, rendered the most unexpected testimony to his hated rival. Thus once more “iniquity lied to itself” (Ps. 26; 12); and this word of today’s Gospel was verified: “Nothing is covered that shall not be revealed; nor hid that shall not be known” (Matt. 10: 26).

Let us listen to the greatest of Christian archaeologists, whose mind, so sure and so reserved, was overcome with enthusiasm on finding so much light springing from such a source. “All this,” said the Commandant de Rossi on studying the odious document, “gives me clearly to understand why the accuser said ironically of St. Callistus that he was reputed most admirable; why, though all knowledge of his acts was lost, his name has come down to us with such great veneration; and lastly, why, in the 3rd and 4th centuries when the memory of his government was still fresh, he was honored more than any of his predecessors, or of his successors, since the ages of persecution.

Callistus ruled the Church when She was at the term of the first stage in Her career, and was marching forward to new and greater triumphs. The Christian Faith, hitherto embraced only by individuals, had then become the Faith of families; and fathers made profession of it in their own and their children’s name. These families already formed almost the majority in every town; the religion of Christ was on the eve of becoming the public religion of the nation and the empire. How many new problems concerning Christian social rights, ecclesiastical law, and moral discipline, must have daily arisen in the Church, considering the greatness of Her situation at the time, and the still greater future that was opening before Her!

St. Callistus solved all these doubts; he drew up regulations concerning the deposition of clerics; took the necessary measures against the deterring of catechumens from Baptism, and of sinners from repentance; and defined the concept of the Church, which St. Augustine was afterwards to develop. In opposition to the civil laws, he asserted the Christian’s right over his own conscience, and the Church’s authority with regard to the marriage of the faithful. He knew no distinction of slave and freeman, great and lowly, noble and plebeian, in that spiritual brotherhood that was undermining Roman society, and softening its inhuman manners. For this reason, his name is so great at the present day; for this reason, the voice of the envious, or of those who measured the times by the narrowness of their own proud mind, was lost in the cries of admiration, and was utterly despised.”

We have already seen how, when the virgin martyr Caecilia yielded to the Popes the place of her first sepulture, St. Callistus, then deacon of Pope Zephyrinus, arranged the catacomb of the Caecilii for its new destiny. Venerable crypt, in which the State for the first time recognized the Church’s right to earthly possessions; sanctuary, no less than necropolis, wherein, before the triumph of the Cross, Christian Rome laid up Her treasures for the resurrection day! Our great martyr-Pontiff was deemed the most worthy to give his name to this the principal cemetery, although Providence had disposed that he should never rest in it.

Under the benevolent reign of Alexander Severus, he met his death in the Trastevere, in a sedition raised against him by the pagans. The cause of the tumult appears to have been his having obtained possession of the famous Taberna meritoria, from the floor of which, in the days of Augustus, a fountain of oil had sprung up and had flowed for a whole day. The Pontiff built a church on the spot, and dedicated it to the Mother of God; it is the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Its ownership was contended for; and the case was referred to the emperor, who decided in favor of the Christians.

We may attribute to the vengeance of his adversaries the Saint’s violent death, which took place close to the edifice his firmness had secured to the Church. The mob threw him into a well, which is still to be seen in the church of St. Callistus, a few paces from St. Mary’s basilica. For fear of the sedition, the martyr’s body was not carried to the Appian Way; but was laid in a cemetery already opened on the Aurelian Way, where his tomb originated a new historic center of subterranean Rome.

The Divine Office gives this brief history of the Saint:

Callistus, a Roman by birth, ruled the Church in the time of the emperor Antoninus Heliogabalus. He instituted the Ember days, on which four times in the year, fasting, according to the apostolic tradition, should be observed by all. He built the basilica of Saint Mary across the Tiber; and enlarged the cemetery on the Appian Way, in which many holy Pontiffs and martyrs were buried; hence this cemetery is called by his name.

The body of the blessed Calepodius, priest and martyr, having been thrown into the Tiber, Pope Callistus in his piety caused it to be diligently sought for, and when found to be honorably buried. He baptized Ss. Palmatius, Simplicius, Felix and Blanda, the first of whom was of consular and the others of senatorial rank; and who all afterwards suffered martyrdom. For this he was cast into prison, where he miraculously cured a soldier named Privatus, who was covered with ulcers; whom he also won over to Christ. Though so recently converted, St. Privatus died for the Faith, being beaten to death with scourges tipped with lead.

St. Callistus was Pope five years, one month, and twelve days. He held five ordinations in the month of December, wherein he made 16 priests, 4 deacons, and 8 bishops. He was tortured for a long while by starvation and finally, by being thrown headlong into a well, was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Alexander. His body was carried to the cemetery of Calepodius, on the Aurelian Way, three miles from Rome, on the day before the Ides of October. It was afterwards translated into the basilica of St. Mary across the Tiber, which he himself had built, and placed under the high altar, where it is honored with great veneration. (1)

The Catacombs of St Callistus is an extraordinarily complex network of underground chambers, the burial place that stretches for miles and is accessible at Via Appia Antica 110-126, Roma. They were re-discovered in the nineteenth century by Giovanni Battista Rossi (1822-94), the father of Christian archaeology. They contain some of the most beautiful Christian art of the early Church. Callistus, however, is not buried there, but on the Via Aurelia.

Image: Northern transept of Our Lady cathedral of Reims (Marne, France), statue of Pope Callistus Ist on the Saints portal  (5)

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Saint Edward the Confessor

October 13

Today is the feast day of Saint Edward the Confessor.  Ora pro nobis.

King of England, born in 1003.  He was the son of Ethelred II and Emma, daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy, being thus half-brother to King Edmund Ironside, Ethelred’s son by his first wife, and to King Hardicanute, Emma’s son by her second marriage with Canute. When hardly ten years old he was sent with his brother Alfred into Normandy to be brought up at the court of the duke his uncle, the Danes having gained the mastery in England.

Saint Edward the Confessor

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Edward III., grandson of the holy King and Martyr, Edward, was born in England, but educated in Normandy, by his maternal uncle, as the Danes had conquered and devastated England. In the midst of the sensuality of the world and the temptations to all possible frivolities, Edward, while still very young, endeavored to lead so retired and innocent a life, that he was admired by all, and was called the Angel of the court. He took no pleasure in those amusements in which young princes generally delight, but found his greatest joy in prayer and study. His devotion at Church during holy Mass was truly wonderful; and no time spent there seemed to him too long. He had the greatest horror for everything that was in the least contrary to angelical chastity. No immodest word ever passed his lips, and none was ever uttered in his presence without being severely censured by him. The long absence from his home and kingdom he bore with the most admirable patience, and when, one day, some courtiers said to him that he must regain his kingdom by force of arms, he said, that he did not desire a crown which must be won by shedding blood. But when the Danes had been driven from English soil, and peace restored throughout the land, the nobility recalled Edward from exile and placed him upon the throne.

The new King bestowed his first care on the restoration of the prosperity of the kingdom, and to this end, he endeavored to revive the worship of the true God and to reform the corrupted morals of his subjects. The revenues taken from the church were restored to it; churches were repaired or rebuilt, together with many monasteries for religious men and women, whose duty it would be to restore the old religion and the fear of God throughout the land; for he used to say: “The most efficacious means to secure the happiness of a country is religion and the fear of God: for the well-being of a state depends mostly on the prosperity of its Church.” The nobility demanded that Edward should marry, that the kingdom might not be left without an heir to the throne. Edward, who had already made a vow of perpetual chastity, but was unwilling to reveal it, consented to their wish, and married Edith, the daughter of Count Godwin, but lived in continency until his end. To his subjects he was a most perfect model of all Christian virtues, and cared for their well-being like a tender father. He manifested special love to the poor and the orphans, whence he received the glorious title of Guardian of the orphans and Father of the poor. He was a wise and just administrator, gave every one free access to him, and allowed no one to depart without relief.

His leisure hours were spent in prayer and works of charity. He was never better satisfied than when he had almost emptied the royal treasury into the hands of the poor. Once, during holy Mass, at which he daily assisted with great devotion, he had the happiness of seeing our Lord in a most beautiful form surrounded by heavenly brightness. On Pentecost-day, God revealed to him, during holy Mass, that the king of Denmark, who intented to invade England, and who was already on sea, had perished. One day, while on his way to Church, he met a poor paralytic man, who was creeping slowly to the sacred edifice. The holy king took him upon his shoulders, and carried him thus into the house of God. This admirable work of charity God rewarded by immediately bestowing health upon the poor paralytic.

Besides the Queen of Heaven, the holy king specially honored St. John, as it is known that the latter lived always in chastity. In honor of this Saint, the king had made a vow to refuse nothing which should be asked of him in the holy Apostle’s name. It happened that St. John himself appeared to him in the form of a beggar. The king, having no money about him, took a ring from his finger, and gave it to the beggar. Some days afterwards, St. John appeared to two pilgrims and gave them the ring, with the request that they would take it to the king and tell him that he would die in six months, and be led into heaven by the holy Apostle. The king received this message joyfully, ordered prayers throughout the kingdom for himself and redoubled his works of charity and devotion. On the day appointed to him, after a short illness, and having devoutly received the holy Sacraments, he gave his spotless soul into the hands of his Creator, in the 36th year of his age, in 1066. Thirty-six years after his death, his holy body was exhumed and was found entirely incorrupt, while it exhaled so delicious a fragrance, that all who were present greatly rejoiced. (1)

Reputation for holiness
Edward was reputed to have been accessible to his subjects and generous to the poor. One story tells that he caught a servant stealing from him three times and three times let him away with it, saying: “He needs the gold more than I do”. He was also said to have had the cure of scrufola “by the king’s touch”. He played a major role in building Westminster Abbey and was buried there himself.

Campaign for canonisation – to authenticate Henry II
Others, however, say that his reputation for sanctity owes more to the campaign for his canonisation used to gain popularity by Henry II and written up by the monk of Wesminster Abbey Osbert de Clare. Edward’s Anglo-Saxon and Norman background would have been seen as advantageous in authenticating the status of Henry II, who was Norman, but lacked Edward’s Anglo-Saxon pedigree. Henry successfully secured this canonisation from Pope Alexander III in 1161 by supporting him against a Ghibelline antipope Victor IV. Aelred of Rievaulx preached at the solemn translation of his relics on 13 October 1163.

Patron of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses
The Roman Catholic Church regards Edward the Confessor as the patron saint of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses. After the reign of Henry II, Edward was considered the patron saint of England until 1348, when St. George, whose cult as a saint for soldiers had come to England during the Crusades, superseded him in this role. Edward, however, remained the patron saint of the English royal family.

Image: The left panel of the Wilton Diptych, where Saint Edward (centre), with Edmund the Martyr (left) and John the Baptist, are depicted presenting Richard II to the Virgin Mary and Christ Child. (12)

Research by REGINA Staff


Italian Homecoming: A Tale of the Bishop and the Emigrant

Joe Di Nardo, 40, is an Italian immigrant to the USA. He attends the Latin Mass at Saint Mary’s parish in Norwalk, Connecticut and this summer he traveled to Esperia, the village of his birth in the mountainous south of Italy, for the festival of San Donato.

Once upon a time, San Donato – ‘Donatus’ in Latin — was the bishop of Arezzo. According to tradition, Donatus was martyred on August 7, 362 by order of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, his own boyhood friend.

In this REGINA interview, Joe guides us through the village feast of San Donato, and shows us a glimpse of the Faith in rural Italy today.


JOE DINARDO IN ESPERIA: “I was born in a neighboring town, where the hospital is. I lived about eight years of my life in Esperia.”


THE VIEW FROM ESPERIA: I attended school there, and can speak and write in Italian. I was baptized in the church of Saint Peter, and received my first communion there. My mom’s brothers still live there, so I visit them often.”


REGINA: What was your experience like this year?

JOE DINARDO: It was an amazing feeling being there for the festival. To know that everyone is Catholic, and to have such a public display of the faith.


“The town has about eight churches. The two major feasts are Saint Peter and Saint Donato.”


REGINA: Does your family in Italy have any idea that there is such a thing as a Latin Mass?

JOE DINARDO: I have spoken to my uncle about the Latin Mass. They really don’t understand its theology, and think it’s only really about the language, how people can understand it better in Italian.


REGINA: How has the Latin Mass influenced you as a Catholic?

JOE DINARDO:  “The Latin mass has taught me how to truly worship God, the way He wants to be worshiped. The Liturgy is centered on God instead of man. It has deepened my faith. At the same it time deeply saddens me, that the mass of all ages is treated with such contempt.”


RELIQUARY OF SAN DONATO: “While the Faith is not doing good there either, mostly from the lack of good catechesis, people still hang on to their traditions. I would venture to say they receive watered down catechesis as with most parishes. Now, of course we can blame the disaster that came after Vatican II, but even before that people weren’t explained the faith properly. The only difference is that people tended to have more faith then. “


THE REAL BISHOP DONATUS: Orphaned during a persecution, he was educated by a Christian priest named Pymenius (Pimenio); his friend and companion in these religious studies was a boy named Julian. Julian rose to the position of subdeacon;dinardo10Donatus became a lector. Saint Peter Damian would later write in his Sermones that “in the field of the Lord two sprigs, Donatus and Julian, grow together, but one will become a cedar of Paradise, the other coal for the eternal flames of Hell.”


REGINA: Do the townspeople know the story of Donato?

JOE DINARDO: I think they know about him being a bishop and martyr.

REGINA: Donato died at the hands of a power elite because he defended the Faith. Do you think it would influence the local people in their faith if they knew the whole story?

JOE DINARDO: I think it would influence people’s faith. Maybe they would realize how easily we can display our faith, and try a little more to imitate Donato’s virtues, and willingness to defend, and even die for the faith.


REGINA: Do you think that the village society of Esperia is materially different from more ‘modern’ places because of fests like this?

JOE DINARDO: I think the village society is a little different, in that they hang on to some traditions. But at the same time they too have been infected by secularism. I firmly believe that a deeper return to tradition, spearheaded by young traditional priests, can help people return to the Faith, and understand it better.


Saint Edwin, King

October 12

Today is the feast day of Saint Edwin.  King of Northumbria. Ora pro nobis.

Edwin, born in 584, was a prince of the Royal family of Deira in England. His father, King Aelle, was deposed, and Edwin was forced to flee and was raised in exile.

Once, Edwin, a pagan, met a stranger who predicted the restoration of his kingdom if he would promise to do whatever would be taught him regarding his own salvation. Edwin promised and the stranger, laying his hand upon his head, bade him remember that sign. Shortly after that incident, due to diverse political and military circumstances Edwin recovered the Kingdom of Deira, and afterward became King of all Northumbria, one of the seven parts into which England was divided at that time.

It was supposedly during this conquest period that he came into contact with the Royal House of North Rheged and was baptized into the Christian faith by Prince Rhun . However, he must have lapsed back into paganism soon afterward for, in AD 625, Edwin married – traditionally on the site of St. Gregory’s Church, Kirknewton – the Princess Ethelburga, sister of King Edbald of Kent and, though he welcomed her personal chaplain,  St Paulinus, as Archbishop of York.  Edwin himself was a still pagan.

It seems that Edwin’s Mercian wife had been put aside for no other reason than political expediency. This, no doubt, led to much bad-feeling in Mercia and the lady’s cousin, King Penda, seems to have allied himself with the kingdom of Wessex around this time. In AD 626, Prince Cwichelm of Wessex sent an assassin north to murder Edwin. He was, however, saved from being stabbed by the timely intervention of one of his thanes. By co-incidence, Edwin’s daughter, Enflaed, was born that same night and it is said that the King promised to give her  to St. Paulinus for baptism, if he was victorious over the assassin’s paymaster.

Discovering Cwichelm’s treachery, Edwin marched on Wessex. Prince Cwichelm and his father, King Cynegils of Wessex, marched north to meet the Northumbrians at the Battle of Win Hill & Lose Hill (Derbys), probably with the aid of King Penda. Despite their army’s superior numbers, the Wessex duo were defeated and fled south once more. Edwin, of course, kept his promise to St. Paulinus.

Edwin then began to consolidate his position. At the Royal Court in Yeavering, he allowed Paulinus to convert him to Christianity once more. The King then travelled to York for baptism in Paulinus’ proto-Cathedral and persuaded all his nobles, as well as sub-Kings (such as King Eorpwald of East Anglia) to follow suit: thus ensuring unity within the country. It was a prestigious move which brought letters and gifts from the Pope in Rome. Edwin also set about re-fortifying York.

Though this city might be considered Edwin’s capital, he held a number of important administrative centres and resided in them on a circuit basis. Venerable Bede describes how Edwin would travel around, preceded by a standard bearer “as he rode among his cities, estates and kingdoms with his thegns. Further, when he walked anywhere along the roads, there used to be carried before him the type of standard which the Romans call a tufa and the English call a thuf.”

Such peaceful times were not to last however. Trouble was brewing. King Cadwallon of Gwynedd soon returned from the Continent looking for revenge. In AD 633, he marched a great British army into the North and clashed with the Northumbrians at Hatfield Chase. King Edwin was killed in the fighting at Edwinstowe (Notts) on October 12, 633.  The victorious Cadwallon went on to decimate his country. Edwin’s supporters managed to take his body for burial in the Royal Abbey of Whitby.  He was later revered as a saint, and his head was translated to York Minster. The King’s family, however, fled to Kent and the kingdom was nominally divided between Enfrith of Bernicia and Osric of Deira.

Image: Saint King Edwin of Northumbria, St Mary, Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. (4)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Wilfrid, Bishop

October 12

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

Saint Wilfrid was born about the year 634 of an Christian family.  He was unhappy at home.  Through the unkindness of a stepmother, and in his fourteenth year he was sent away to the Court of King Oswy, King of Northumbria. Here he attracted the attention of Queen Eanfleda and by her, at his own request, he was sent to the Monastery of Lindisfarne.  Here he was trained by the Celtic monks at Lindisfarne.

Yet even as a boy Wilfrid longed for perfect conformity with the Holy See in discipline as well as in doctrine, and at the first opportunity he set out for Rome. When his devotion and his desire for instruction in the difficulties of the liturgy were satisfied, he was ready to return to England.  On his way home he stayed for three years at Lyons, where he received the tonsure from Bishop Annemundas.

Returning to England he received the newly founded monastery at Ripon as the gift of Alchfrid, Oswy’s son and heir.  Here he established the full Benedictine Rule. The Columbite monks, who had been settled previously at Ripon, withdrew to the North. It was not until he had been for five years Abbot of Ripon, that Wilfrid became a priest. His main work at Ripon was the introduction of Roman rules and the putting forward of a Roman practice with regard to the point at issue between the Holy See and the Scottish monks in Northumbria; to settle these questions the synod of Whitby was held in 664.

Chiefly owing to Wilfrid’s advocacy of the claims of the Holy See the votes of the majority were given to that side, and Colman and his monks, bitterly disappointed, withdrew from Northumbria. Wilfrid was elected bishop in Colman’s place, and, refusing to receive consecration from the northern bishops, whom he regarded as schismatics, went over to France to be consecrated at Compiegne.

He again remained for a time across the Channel, and then found, when he returned to England, that another had replaced him in his newly assigned see of York. That bishop, whose position was more than doubtful, was persuaded to retire when the Archbishop of Canterbury visited Northumbria; Wilfrid was thereby reinstated in 669. He enforced the Roman obedience in his see and founded many monasteries of the Benedictine Order.

As Bishop of York he had to combat the passions of wicked kings, the cowardice of worldly prelates, the errors of holy men. He was twice exiled and once imprisoned; finally the difficulties were settled with the aid of Roman authority. In 686 he was called back to his diocese of York, where eventually he swept away the abuses of many years and a too national system, and substituted instead a vigorous Catholic discipline, modeled and dependent on Rome.

When the large see of York was definitively divided and suffragan dioceses established, Saint Wilfrid was given two smaller sees but not York. He decided to accept the settlement reached with other British ecclesiastics, since the principle of Roman authority had been vindicated. He died October 12, 709, amid the monks of Ripon and was buried in this monastery.  The greater part of his relics were transferred to the cathedral of Canterbury in the year 959.

Beyond all others of his time, St. Wilfrid stands out as the great defender of the rights of the Holy See. For that principle he fought all through his life, first against Colman and the Scottish monks from Iona, and then against Theodore and his successor in the See of Canterbury; and much of his life was spent in exile for this reason. But to him above all others is due the establishment of the authority of the Roman See in England, and for that reason he will always have a very high place among English saints.

Eddius, the biographer of St. Wilfrid, was brought by that saint from Canterbury when he returned to York in 669. His special work was to be in connection with the music of the church of York, and he was to teach the Roman method of chant. He was an inmate of the monastery of Ripon in 709, when St. Wilfrid spent his last days there, and he undertook the work of writing the life of the saint at the request of Acca, St. Wilfrid’s successor in the See of Hexham. The best edition of the work is in Raines, “Historians of the Church of York” (Rolls Series).

Image: Lambert Barnard (1485 – 1567), created Chichester Cathedral’s Tudor paintings by command of Robert Sherborne Bishop of Chichester in 1519. They are believed to be the largest surviving paintings of their kind, the two huge painted panels (14ft x 32ft) are on display in the transepts of the Cathedral, from which this copy, an engraving by T.King Drawing Master Chichester October 1807, was taken. It shows Wifrid receiving a charter from King Caedwella (7)

 Research by REGINA Staff


Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

October 11

Today is the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Ora pro nobis.

To the Mother of God
Glory be to thee, O holy mother of God, masterpiece of the universe, shining star, luster of virginity, scepter of faith, indestructible temple, in whom He dwelt Whom immensity cannot contain. Virgin mother of Him Who, blessed forever, comes to us in the name of the Lord, by thee is the Trinity glorified, the holy cross praised and adored throughout the world, the heavens are made joyful and the angels to tremble with joy, the devils put to flight, and man enabled to pass from slavery to the freedom of Heaven. Through thee idolatrous creatures have known incarnate truth, the faithful have received baptism, churches have been erected in all parts of the earth. By thine assistance the Gentiles have been brought to repentance. And finally, through thee, the only Son of God, source of all light, has shone upon the eyes of the blind, who were sitting in the shadow of death. O virgin mother, who can speak thy praises? But let us make our laud of them according to such powers as are given us, at the same time adoring God thy Son, the chaste spouse of the Church, to Whom are due all honor and glory now and forever.  (St. Cyril–431 A.D.)

This feast, observed throughout the Western Church on October 11, honor Mary as Mother of God, and bears the same sort of relation to the Annunciation and to Christmas as does the Synaxis of Our Lady in the Byzantine rite. It was long known in Portugal and elsewhere, but was finally instituted in 1931 by Pope Pius XI in view of the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus.

At the same time the Pope ordered at his own cost the restoration of the Marian mosaics in Saint Mary Major, much decayed through age. He issued an encyclical letter, “Lux veritatis.” In this, among the objects of the new festival, is named one truth that was particularly close to the heart of Pius XI, “…that Mary, who is loved and revered so warmly by the separated Christians of the East, would not suffer them to wander and be unhappily led further away from the unity of the Church, and therefore from her Son, whose vicar on earth we are.”

Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Dom Gueranger, Abbott of Solemes.

IN the sixteenth century, even amidst their many divergences, the so-called Reformers agreed in utterly rejecting all the honors paid by the Catholic Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the grounds that such veneration of the Mother detracted from the supreme worship due to her Divine Son. Four centuries have more than sufficed to show the result of so doing: the Son has followed the Mother! The descendants of those who refused to Mary the title and rights of Theotokos —–Mother of God—–refuse to Jesus the title of Son of God in the traditional sense of the term. Many reject His Godhead altogether, placing Him merely at the head of the line of great moral and social world-teachers; others still retain the word “divinity” with respect to Him, but for them it is no longer synonymous with “deity.”

Holy Scripture tells us that those who first came to adore Him Who is Son of God and Son of Mary found Him “with Mary his Mother.” At the scene of the first miracle at Cana, which marked the opening of his public life, “the Mother of Jesus was there.” In the tremendous hour when all was consummated, when types and shadows gave place to the mighty reality, ” there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother.” And when the little flock who were to be the nucleus of the Church of God awaited in prayer the coming of the Paraclete, Who would teach them all truth, again it was in company with “Mary the Mother of Jesus.” Far from taking from the honor and love due to the Word Incarnate, devotion to Mary is a strong bulwark protecting the central doctrine. He is ever found with His Mother; where Mary is denied her rights, sooner or later Jesus is denied His; they stand or fall together.

This was realized in the year 431 when, at the General Council of Ephesus, the Church condemned the Nestorian heresy, whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, had taught that, since in Christ there are two persons, a Divine and a human, Mary was mother only of the Man “Christ”, and therefore could not be called “Mother of God.” He therefore denied “that wondrous and substantial union of the two natures which we call hypostatic.”

On the occasion of the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus, the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius XI, issued the Encyclical Lux Veritatis, recalling the history of the heresy and commenting thus upon the dogma of the hypostatic union: “When once the doctrine of the hypostatic union is abandoned, whereon the dogmas of the Incarnation and of man’s Redemption rest and stand firm, the whole foundation of the Catholic religion falls and comes to ruin.  . . . When once this dogma of the truth is securely established, it is easy to gather from it that, by the mystery of the Incarnation, the whole aggregate of men and of mundane things has been endowed with a dignity than which certainly nothing greater can be imagined, and surely grander than that to which it was raised by the work of creation.”

Proceeding to speak of the special dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pope emphasizes that, “because she brought forth the Redeemer of mankind, she is also in a manner the most tender Mother of us all, whom Christ our Lord deigned to have as His brothers; wherefore we may confidently entrust to her all things that are ours, our joys, our troubles, our hopes; especially if more difficult times fall upon the Church —–if faith fail because charity has grown cold, if private and public morals take a turn for the worse.”

In this last connection we are reminded of another result of the loss of devotion to the Mother of God. Frequently and truly we hear and speak of the “paganism” of the present age. The decay of faith has been followed inevitably by a decline in morality, and our elaborate and complex civilization is threatened with the dissolving agent which contributed in no small measure to the overthrow of the magnificent civilization of old Rome: namely, the loss of the domestic virtues, the disappearance of healthy, normal family life, consequent upon the abandonment of the Christian ideals of marriage and parenthood.

It is a truism that one of the greatest social effects of Christianity was to raise the status of womanhood. Her legal position in the Ancient World was little better than that of a slave, and although classical literature furnishes us with examples of women who, in pagan homes, yet enjoyed high honor and affection, such are few indeed, and but serve to prove the rule. Divorce, infanticide, general degradation of womanhood, and not infrequently of childhood, were accepted features of pagan social order. The ideal and model of the “new woman ” of the Christian dispensation was the Mother of God. It was Mary, “Mother of fair love,” “Madonna,” “our Lady,” who ennobled the degenerate old civilization, just as she tamed the fierce barbarian peoples; she it was who inspired the ideals of the later chivalry. In Mary, all her sex was uplifted; in her motherhood all motherhood became blessed. Now again the world needs the hallowing influence of the Mother of God and of men, if “the life of the family, the beginning and the foundation of all human society” is to be preserved in all its nobility and its purity.

Desirous “to mark the commemoration, and help to nourish the piety of clergy and people towards the great Mother of God,” His Holiness concludes the Encyclical by establishing the new feast of the Divine Motherhood, to be celebrated on October 11 by the universal Church. (1)

Hymn: Te Mater alma
Sweet mother of the Lord most high,

To thee we bow in humble prayer,
To thee from evil powers we fly;
O shield and keep us in thy care.

It was to lift our fallen race
Above the curse of Adam’s crime,
The king bestowed on thee all grace
And shaped thy Motherhood sublime.

So Mother, unto thee we pray;
Thou sets our need; thy Son entreat
That He, His anger turned away,
May raise our souls in mercy sweet.

All glory, Jesus, unto Thee,
Born of the Virgin void of stain;
The same to Sire and Spirit be
Proclaimed through one eternal reign. Amen.

Image: Madonna of the Magnificat, artist: Sandro Botticelli, circa 1483 (9)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Paulinus of York, Bishop

October 10

Today is the feast day of Saint Paulinus of York.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Paulinus was a Roman monk in St. Andrew’s monastery at Rome.  He was sent by St. Gregory the Great in 601, with St. Mellitus and others, to help St. Augustine and to carry the pallium to him. He laboured in Kent — with the possible exception of a mission to East Anglia before 616 — till 625.   Saint Paulinus accompanied Ethelburga (Aethelburh), the sister of King Eadbald of Kent, when she went to the Northumbrian Court to marry King Edwin, then a pagan.

Before leaving Kent, he was consecrated bishop by St. Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was successful in converting Edwin and large numbers of his people, the king’s baptism taking place on 12 April, 627. With the assistance of King Edwin, he established his see at York and began to build a stone church there. His apostolic labours in instructing and baptizing the people of the north country were unceasing, and tradition perpetuates his ministry at Yeavering, Catterick Bridge, Dewsbury, Easingwold, Southwell, and elsewhere, while his own name is preserved in the village of Pallingsburn in Northumbria.

On the defeat of King Edwin in 633, Paulinus carried the queen and her children safely to Kent.  The heathen reaction under Penda made missionary work impossible in Northumbria.  Saint Paulinus devoted himself to the Diocese of Rochester, then vacant. It was after his flight that he received the pallium from Rome (634), sent to him as Archbishop of York. Though Anglican writers have disagreed among themselves as to whether he was justified in leaving his archbishopric, Catholic writers, following Venerable Bede, have held that he had no choice and was the best judge of what was advisable under the circumstances.

Venerable Bede describes him as tall and thin, with a slightly stooping figure; he had black hair and an aquiline nose and was of venerable and awe-inspiring aspect. He was buried in his church at Rochester, and, on the rebuilding of the cathedral, his relics were translated by Archbishop Lanfranc to a silver shrine where they lay till the Reformation. His festival is observed in England on 10 Oct., the anniversary of his death.

Saint Paulinus’ missionary efforts are difficult to evaluate. Venerable Bede implies that the mission in Northumbria was successful, but there is little supporting evidence, and it is more likely that Saint Paulinus’ missionary efforts there were relatively ineffectual. Although Osric, one of Edwin’s successors, was converted to Christianity by Saint Paulinus, he returned to paganism after Edwin’s death. Hilda, however, remained a Christian, and eventually went on to become abbess of the influential Whitby Abbey.[Northumbria’s conversion to Christianity was mainly achieved by Irish missionaries brought into the region by Edwin’s eventual successor, Oswald.


Image: Statue of Paulinus of York, Interior of Rochester Cathedral. photo by Polylerus (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


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