Saint Remigius, Bishop, Confessor

October 1

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

Saint Remi or Remigius was born in the middle of the fifth century, of noble and pious parents. His father was Emile, Count of Laon.  His mother, Saint Celine, had borne two other sons before him; the eldest, Saint Principius, became the twelfth bishop of Soissons, and the second was the father of Saint Lupus, thirteenth bishop of the same see.

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Remigius, descended from a noble family of France, was, in his time, one of the most learned and holy prelates of the church. His parents were Aemilius, Lord of Laon, and St. Cilinia. After two sons had been born to them, they remained for a long time without any other issue, and had given up all hope of seeing their family increased. Montanus, a saintly hermit, who one day visited the castle in which they lived, informed them, by divine revelation, that they would receive a son who, chosen by God, was to illumine all France with his piety and virtues. The prophecy of Montanus became true: Remigius was born, and the pious parents, who regarded him as an especial gift of heaven, left nothing undone to give him a most holy education. In this task they found no difficulty, as Remigius was naturally inclined to all that was good, while he detested the very shadow of evil.

Having finished his studies, he went into the desert, in order that, far from all danger, he might more fervently serve God. The holy life he there led, made him so famous, that, on the death of the Archbishop of Rheims, he was unanimously chosen his successor. Although the Saint most earnestly refused the honor, he had to consent, as heaven itself had confirmed the choice by a ray of light with which his head was surrounded in the presence of a multitude of people. The first care of the Saint, when he had entered upon his new functions, was to abolish several abuses which were spreading; to exterminate vice and to foster virtue. He therefore visited every town, village and hamlet of his diocese, and preached almost daily with great zeal and energy. He took the utmost pains to deter his flock from the horrible vice of unchastity, as he believed and publicly maintained that on account of this crime very few grown persons went to heaven. The beautiful example of virtue which he gave in his own life, imparted force to his admonitions, and converted a great many hardened sinners. The gift of miracles, which God had bestowed upon His faithful servant assisted him greatly in his labors. It is well known that he gave sight to a blind man; cast the devil out of one possessed, extinguished a raging conflagration with the sign of the holy cross, and, after a short prayer, recalled a dead maiden to life. Knowing, by divine revelation, that a famine would come over the land, he gathered a great quantity of corn in a large barn, that he might be able to assist the poor, for whom he always evinced a fatherly care. Some wicked people, thinking that avarice had prompted him to do this, set the barn on fire. When the Archbishop was informed of it, he hastened to extinguish the flames; but on seeing that all endeavor to do so would be useless, he quietly warmed himself by the spreading flames without letting an impatient word pass his lips. “God will not leave unpunished those who thus wickedly destroy the food of the poor,” he said with prophetic spirit, when all was over. His words became true; for, all those who had taken part in this wicked deed became deformed; besides this, they lost all the fruit they had in their barns, and their fields became barren.

Many other miraculous events are found in the life of this Saint, of which the most wonderful is the conversion of King Clodovaeus or Clovis. Clotildis, the queen, was a Christian, and neglected no occasion to admonish the king to abandon idolatry in which he had been born and educated. But she could not persuade him, until the Germans invaded his dominions, when she again most earnestly spoke to him. As a battle was to be fought, on the issue of which the welfare of the whole kingdom depended, she exhorted him to call on the God of the Christians for aid, and to promise Him to embrace the Christian faith if he should succeed in conquering his enemies. Clovis won the decisive battle, but not without a miracle. Victory seemed for a long time, to be on the side of the enemy, and Clovis thought that all was lost, when he suddenly remembered the admonition of his queen and exclaimed: “God of Clotildis! if thou art the true God, save me, and I will become a Christian and serve Thee faithfully.” No sooner had he pronounced these words, than the tide of battle turned in his favor, and the enemy was completely routed. The king, not to delay the fulfilment of his promise, called St. Remigius immediately to be instructed in the Christian faith and was baptized. How gladly the holy bishop performed this holy act!

After the king and the chief of the nobility had been perfectly prepared, the day on which we celebrate the nativity of Our Saviour, was appointed on which they should receive holy baptism. When the bishop had already begun the ceremonies, and was about to anoint the catechumens with chrism, he perceived that the holy oil had not been provided. Some maintain that the chaplain could not pass, with the vessel in which it was kept, through the immense mass of people who were present. Others say that it had been forgotten. Be this as it may, it is quite certain that God permitted it in order to place the virtue of His faithful servant more visibly before the eyes of the world, and to strengthen the king in his promises for the future. When the bishop, raising his eyes towards heaven, silently prayed to God for help, a snow-white dove came flying towards him, holding a little vial in its beak, placed it in the Saint’s hand, and then vanished. The king and all present saw this miracle and were deeply moved. The holy bishop found the vial filled with chrism, which exhaled so delicious an odor, that they all exclaimed that it was not a natural but a heavenly fragrance. This little vessel is still preserved at this day. By the aid of Providence, it was saved in the horrors of the Revolution, by a zealous priest. Before St. Remigius baptized the king, he addressed to him these memorable words: “Bow down thy head, O king, and submit to the mild yoke of Christ. Worship what thou hast hitherto burned; and burn what thou hast hitherto worshipped!”

The king, ready to do all that was required of him, received holy baptism with wonderful devotion. A great number of the nobility followed him, clad like him in white garments, and manifesting deep reverence while they were baptized. When the ceremony was over, which for splendor had never before been equalled, the Saint admonished all to be constant in the true faith and to lead a Christian life. From that time, the king loved and honored St. Remigius as his own father, and the bishop made use of the royal favor to the honor of the church and the salvation of the inhabitants of the state, of whom he converted many thousands to Christ. He continued in his apostolic zeal as long as he lived. During the last years of his life, he had occasion to increase the glory which awaited him in heaven by exercising patience: he became totally blind. The holy man’s conduct under this misfortune was like that of the pious Tobias of old. He submitted to the will of God, and bore, with the greatest equanimity, all the suffering that accompanies blindness. After some time, God restored sight to His servant, as He had done to Tobias, and called him to receive an eternal recompense, by a happy death, in the 96th year of his age, of which 75 had been spent in his episcopal functions. After 506 years, his holy body was found free from decay, and was transported, on the 1st October, with great and solemn ceremonies, to the church of the Abbey, which is named after the Saint. His death took place in the year of our Lord 533.

It is written of this Saint that he regulated his life according to the following three principles: I. Avoid everything that is sinful or forbidden; nay, even abstain from that which, although permitted, is not necessary, but frivolous and tending only to vain amusement. II. Suffer and bear patiently every misfortune that may assail you, of whatever nature it may be. III. Be courageous. Let not the fear of trouble restrain you from what God or the salvation of your soul requires of you. Call on God for aid, and then act. You will find by experience that, with God’s help, you can do more than you thought. (1)

After an episcopate of seventy-four years, the longest on record, Saint Remigius died in 533, leaving to France his famous Testament, predicting God’s graces of predilection for this blessed kingdom, as long as its Heads remained faithful to Him, with the most severe chastisements if the contrary ensued. The prophecy has already been fulfilled three times, as the nation’s Catholic historians affirm, for the three royal dynasties.  St Remigius’ relics were kept in the Cathedral of Reims, whence Hincmar had them translated to Épernay during the Viking invasions and thence, in 1099 to the Abbey of Saint-Remy.

Image: The Baptism of Clovis by Saint Remigius, artist: The Master of Saint Giles, circa 1500 (6)


Saint Jerome, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

September 30

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

“I, follow no leader save Christ, as associated in fellowship with your Blessednes, that is with the See of Peter. On that rock I know the Church was built. Whoso eats the Lamb outside that house is profane. If anyone shall be outside the Ark of Noe, he shall perish when the flood prevails.” (P.L., xxii 355.)  St. Jerome, Ep. ad Damasum, xv,21

Saint Jerome was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius. He was born about the year 342 at Stridonius, a small town at the head of the Adriatic, near the episcopal city of Aquileia. His father, a Christian, took care that his son was well instructed at home, then sent him to Rome, where the young man’s teachers were the famous pagan grammarian Donatus and Victorinus, a Christian rhetorician. Jerome’s native tongue was the Illyrian dialect, but at Rome he became fluent in Latin and Greek, and read the literatures of those languages with great pleasure.

His aptitude for oratory was such that he may have considered law as a career. He acquired many worldly ideas, made little effort to check his pleasure-loving instincts, and lost much of the piety that had been instilled in him at home. Yet in spite of the pagan and hedonistic influences around him, Jerome was baptized by Pope Liberius in 360.

From Rome he went to Trier, famous for its schools, and there began his theological studies. Later he went to Aquileia, and towards 373 he set out on a journey to the East. He settled first in Antioch, where he heard Apollinaris of Laodicea, one of the first exegetes of that time and not yet separated from the Church. From 374-9 Jerome led an ascetical life in the desert of Chalcis, southwest of Antioch. Ordained priest at Antioch, he went to Constantinople (380-81), where a friendship sprang up between him and St. Gregory of Nazianzus.

Saint Jerome

(by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876)

St. Jerome, the great doctor of the church, was born at Stridonium, in Dalmatia, during the reign of the Emperor Constantine. Not less celebrated for his holy life than for his eminent knowledge and the great learning with which he expounded Holy Writ, St. Jerome was also a most heroic and victorious com-batter of heresy, and an unwearied defender of the truth of the Catholic faith. He received his first instructions in science at Rome. An insatiable desire thoroughly to study all branches of knowledge led him to different lands to become a disciple of the most famous teachers. Hence, he made such progress in science, that the most learned men, even the Popes themselves, asked his advice in various matters, especially when they experienced difficulty in expounding Holy Writ. Having returned from Greece, whither he had gone in search of knowledge, he went to Syria, partly to study still more, partly to visit the holy places. Meeting a great many monks there, he became acquainted with the holy life they led, and resolved to leave the world also and live in solitude in order to serve God more faithfully and be undisturbed in the reading of learned and pious works.

Four years he remained there in deep solitude and great piety. His only garments were made of sack-cloth ; his bed was the bare ground, and his pillow, a stone. His fasting was so severe that, according to his own words, his whole body was emaciated, and his bones were covered only with skin. God permitted him, notwithstanding these austerities, to be for some time most fearfully tormented by terrible temptations. All that he had seen at Rome, in the theatres and other places, came before his eyes. Casting himself before the crucifix, he bathed the feet of Christ with bitter tears, took not the least nourishment for several days, beat his breast with stones, and left not off praying until heaven had restored peace and calm to his heart. To continue in this state of mind, he tried to occupy himself with other thoughts and to shun idleness, that the evil one might find no opportunity to tempt him further. He read Holy Writ with the greatest attention, and to understand it better, he learned Hebrew, which, as he confessed himself, he found exceedingly difficult.

After four years he went to Jerusalem to revisit the holy places, and to learn Hebrew more perfectly. Satan endeavored to disgust him with Holy Writ, pretending that the style was not so finished as that of Cicero, the pagan writer, whom he esteemed most highly, and often read with great attention. But God punished him severely for this. He relates himself that once, during a heavy sickness, it seemed to him that he stood before the judgment-seat of Christ. He was asked: ” Who art thou?” “I am,” answered he, “a Christian.” “Thou liest,” said the judge severely, “thou art a Ciceronian and no Christian ; for where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” Soon after this the judge ordered him to be scourged. During this punishment, Jerome cried: “O Lord, have pity on me, have pity on me!” The scourging ceased, but the marks on the body of the saint were a sign that the vision had been more than a dream. Jerome concluded from this that he had done wrong in spending so much time in reading a heathen orator. He laid all worldly books aside and once more began to study Holy Writ most diligently. He also translated many books of the Holy Scriptures from the Hebrew into Latin, and corrected others according to the Greek version, and added to all most learned commentaries.

At the age of thirty years he was ordained a priest by Paulinus, Bishop of Antioch, but would never consent to charge himself with a parish, because he desired to give all his time to the expounding of the Holy Scriptures. During the reign of the holy Pope Damasus, Jerome went with several bishops to Rome, where the Pope employed him in some very important affairs. At the request of the holy Father, he instructed several of the nobility, whom he led to great holiness. The most known among them were St. Paula and her daughter Paulina, St. Marcella, Eustochium, Ruffina, Blessilla, Albina, Ascella, and Laeta. He also preached frequently at Rome, and censured, with Christian liberty, the vices and abuses of the Romans. But his teaching those above mentioned, as well as his sermons, caused him much suffering, especially after the death of St. Damasus. Although the holy man defended his honor, which was severely attacked by some wicked people, he nevertheless, in order not to be disturbed in his work on the gospel, returned to Palestine, taking some persons with him who had determined to make their dwelling there. The holy widow, Paula, also left Rome, and went with some other women to the Holy Land, and built at Bethlehem, near the manger of the Savior, a monastery, in which the Saint led a religious life with those who submitted themselves to his rule. This was the origin of the celebrated religious order which still bears the name of St. Jerome. The Saint himself gave his brethren the brightest example in all virtues; but besides this, he labored zealously for the welfare of the Catholic Church.

At that time several new heretics attacked the Catholic faith with great fury ; among these were Vigilantius, Helvidius, Pelagius and Jovinianus. St. Jerome opposed all, refuted their heresies, and defended the Catholic faith by many written works. No enemy of the church came forth whom this holy man did not immediately challenge and defeat; hence, he is rightly called the hammer of the heretics, and the protector of the Catholic truth. No danger, no threats of the heretics, no persecution, not even death itself could deter him. ” The dog barks to protect his master,” said he, ” and shall I not speak to defend my God? I can die, but I cannot be silent.” All heretics feared him ; but all true Catholics loved and honored him, not only in Palestine, but in every part of the Christian world. Many travelled from distant lands to Bethlehem to see so renowned a man. Although St. Jerome was so great in the eyes of the world, he was too deeply humble not to avoid all vain glory. He says in a letter, that from childhood he had shunned nothing more than pride and haughtiness, as they draw down the hatred of God. He had, according to his own words, constantly before his eyes the verse: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” In explaining the gospel, he never followed his own judgment alone, but first prayed fervently to God to enlighten him, and then asked the opinion of other learned men. To remain humble he frequently remembered his sins, as he himself confessed, and exclaimed with the Psalmist, on bended knees, and while shedding bitter tears: “O, Lord! remember not the sins of my youth and my ignorance.”

Although he led so austere and holy a life, yet his dread of the last judgment and of hell was extremely great. His fear of the former he explains in these words : ” As often as I think of that terrible day my whole body trembles. I may be eating or drinking, or otherwise employed, but I seem always to hear the terrible sound of the trumpet of the last day: ” Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment! ” and again : ” Neither fame nor honor can disturb me, because the fear of the terrible judgment of God is constantly upon me.” In regard to his fear of hell, he confessed that the principal reason for which he had concealed himself in a dark cave, fasted so strictly, and practiced other penances, was his fear of hell. ” For fear of hell,” he writes, ” I have condemned myself to such a dungeon.” This double fear kept the holy man, so celebrated in the whole Christian world, humble, and led him in the sure way to heaven.

St. Jerome reached a very great age, although his body was so weakened by his many labors, that long before his death he was unable to rise, or even to turn from one side to the other. But even then he still instructed others, and, not being able to write with his own hand, he dictated several books in defense of the Catholic faith. When, at last, a fever was added to his weakness, he knew that his death was approaching, and prepared himself for his last hour by devoutly receiving the holy sacraments. He manifested great joy in contemplating the eternal happiness to which he hourly came nearer. Those with him, especially his spiritual children, he exhorted, with great zeal, to love God and their neighbor, and then calmly gave his soul into the keeping of Him for whose honor he had labored and suffered. His holy body was buried with great solemnities at Bethlehem, not far from the Manger of the Lord; but was afterwards, together with the Holy Manger, transported to Rome. The vestments and the chalice which he used for a long time in saying Mass, are still preserved, and are rightly esteemed as precious relics of so great a Saint. Not less precious to the Church of Christ are the many works which the holy teacher wrote ; as they contain, not only the strongest weapons against heretics, but also much useful instructions for true Catholics. God has made the Saint glorious by many miracles. But we may consider it as, perhaps, the greatest of his miracles, that a man who travelled so much, and suffered such persecutions, and who was always of a weakly and sickly constitution, could write so many and such learned works, defeat so many heresies, lead so many souls to God; in a word, how he could do all he did for the benefit of the Church, and of numberless souls! Truly it was the hand of the Lord that worked through him! (1)

Prayer to Saint Jerome
The Liturgical Year: Father Prosper Gueranger 1903
Thou completest, O illustrious Saint, the brilliant constellation of Doctors in the heavens of holy Church. The latest stars are now rising on the sacred Cycle; the dawn of the eternal Day is at hand ; the Sun of Justice will soon shine down upon the Valley of Judgment. O model of penance, teach us that holy fear, which restrains from sin, or repairs its ravages ; guide us along the rugged path of expiation. Historian of great monks,1 thyself a monk and father of the solitaries attracted like these to Bethlehem by the sweetness of the divine Infant, keep up the spirit of labour and prayer in the monastic Order, of which several families have adopted thy name. Scourge of heretics, attach us firmly to the Roman faith. Watchful guardian of Christ’s flock, protect us against wolves, and preserve us from hirelings. Avenger of Mary’s honour, obtain for our sinful world that the angelic virtue may flourish more and more.

O Jerome, thy special glory is a participation in the power of the Lamb to open the mysterious Book; the key of David was given to thee to unclose the many seals of holy Scripture, and to show us Jesus concealed beneath the letter. The Church, therefore, sings thy praises today, and presents thee to her children as the official interpreter of the inspired writings which guide her to her eternal destiny. Accept her homage and the gratitude of her sons. May our Lord, by thy intercession, renew in us the respect and love due to his divine word. May thy merits obtain for the world other holy Doctors, and learned interpreters of the sacred Books. But let them bear in mind the spirit of reverence and prayer with which they must hear the voice of God in order to understand. God will have his word obeyed, not discussed; although, among the various interpretations of which that divine word is susceptible, it is lawful, under the guidance of the Church, to seek out the true one ; and it is praise-worthy to be ever sounding the depths of beauty hidden in that august doctrine. Happy is he who follows thy footsteps in these holy studies! Thou didst say: ” To live ” in the midst of such treasures, to be wholly engrossed in them, to know and to seek nothing else, ” is it not to dwell already more in heaven than on ” earth. Let us learn in time that science which ” will endure for ever.” (1)

Saint Jerome

Papal secretary
The elderly Pope Damasus asked Jerome to be his secretary. Damasus was a dynamic and assertive Pope who accepted his public role as the head of the Christian Church. He fostered the cult of the early Roman martyrs, restoration of the catacombs and construction of new churches. A cultured Pope he organised the papal archives and ‘found the younger man useful, with his knowledge of languages, his familiarity with eastern church affairs, and his flair for writing.’

It was at Rome that Jerome first began the translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. Pope Damasus, horrified by various versions of the Bible, appealed to him in 383 A.D. to provide a standard translation. It was a monumental undertaking, which resulted in an edition which lasted over eleven hundred years. The Vulgate, as it was called, would meet the needs of Christian society and became one of the most influential books in western society.

Happy and respected in his role as translator and mouthpiece of the Pope, Jerome was considered as a candidate for the papacy. But now complexity entered into his life. Marcella, Paula, and Eustochium were wealthy Roman Christians who sought out persons who could offer spiritual direction and religious knowledge.

Marcella was a beautiful and wealthy widow who was strong-minded and realistic. Spurning offers of a second marriage, she consecrated herself to a life of chastity, simplicity and Bible reading. To Marcella’s home came a thirty-five-year old widow named Paula. She became a close friend of Marcella and then turned her home into a similar spiritual centre.  Paula’s daughter, Eustochium, was directed by Marcella in a life of prayer and asceticism.

Jerome taught scripture at the homes of Marcella and Paula, and he delighted in the friendship of Paula. The attractive widow was so modest, however, that she never ate a meal with a man, not even a bishop.

Inquiry into rumours
The fact that Paula, the source of Jerome’s financial solvency, intended to join him in Bethlehem provided grist for the rumour mills. Jerome was investigated by a commission which found him entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, but asked him to depart from Rome immediately. Jerome felt most injured by the aspersions cast on the good character of Paula who had heroically committed herself to the service of God. Despite the upset, an impressive crowd of well-wishers came to the port of Rome in 384 AD to see the departure of Jerome, his brother and their companions for the east.

Jerome opened a monastery in Bethlehem and, at the same time, Paula and Eustochium opened a convent nearby. By 390 AD Jerome began his labour on the Jewish Bible – ‘with my eyes open I thrust my hand into the flame’. He made corrections to the text and provided an unpolished edition with strong Hebrew colouring in ‘Christian Latin.’

When Jerome’s sight began to fail, Paula and Eustochium read the psalms to him in Hebrew. Paula died in 404 A.D. in her fifty-seventh year and was buried in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity. Jerome was dazed for some months by her loss and fell sick with a raging fever. To Eustochium he eulogised Paula’s humility, charity and acceptance of suffering. She came into a world of wealth and for her apostolic endeavour left behind crippling debts.

For fifteen years after Paula’s death Eustochium continued to help Jerome and read Hebrew to him until she too died and was buried next to her mother.

After a long illness, Jerome succumbed to death in 420 A.D., at seventy-four years of age and was buried next to his dear friends Paula and Eustochium.

By compiling the Vulgate Bible, Jerome rendered an incalculable service to western Christendom. He also contributed greatly to the establishment of monasticism in Europe. He revealed his passionate nature in his pursuit of scholarship, in his dedication to his monastic commitment, and in his great love for the women who supported the major project of his life.

We might also say that Jerome’s brilliance and strong character disciplined his powerful passions. He schooled himself so that his good works might shine as a beacon within the Christian community. His writings provided Christians with inspiration for over a thousand years.

Image: Saint Jerome penitent, artist: Matthias Stom, circa first half of 17th century (8)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Michael the Archangel

September 29

Today is the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel.

The Church considers St. Michael, who stands between mankind and the Divinity, as the mediator of her liturgical prayer. God, who made the visible and invisible hierarchies with an admirable order, makes use of the ministry of the celestial spirits for his glory. The angelical choirs, who contemplate ceaselessly the face of the Father, know, better than men, how to adore and contemplate the beauty of His infinite perfections.  (14)

Saint Michael the Archangel

By Dom Gueranger

THE glorious Archangel appears today at the head of the heavenly army: There was a great battle in Heaven, Michael and his Angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his Angels. [Apoc. xii. 7] In the sixth century, the dedication of the churches of St. Michael on Monte Gargano and in the Roman Circus increased the celebrity of this day, which had however been long before consecrated by Rome to the memory of all the heavenly Virtues.

The east commemorates on the sixth of September an apparition of the victorious Prince at Chone [The ancient Colossae] in Phrygia; while the eighth of November is their solemnity of the Angels, corresponding to our feast of today, and bearing the title: ‘Synaxis of Saint Michael prince of the heavenly host, and of the other spiritual Powers.’ Although the term synaxis is usually applied only to religious assemblies here on earth, we are informed that in this instance it also signifies the gathering of the faithful Angels at the cry of their chief, and their union eternally sealed by their victory. [Menotog. Basilii]

Who, then, are these heavenly Powers, whose mysterious combat heads the first page of history? Their existence is attested by the traditions of all nations as well as by the authority of holy Scripture.

If we consult the Church, she teaches us that in the beginning God created simultaneously two natures, the spiritual and the corporal, and afterwards man who is composed of both. [Concil. Lateran. iv. cap. Firmiter] The scale of nature descends by gradation from beings made to the likeness of God, to the very confines of nothingness; and by the same degrees the creature mounts upwards to his Creator. God is infinite being, infinite intelligence, infinite love. The creature is for ever finite: but man, endowed with a reasoning intellect, and the Angel, with an intuitive grasp of truth, are ever, by a continual process of purification, widening the bounds of their imperfect nature, in order to reach, by increase of light, the perfection of greater love.

God alone is simple with that unchangeable productive simplicity, which is absolute perfection excluding the possibility of progress; He is pure Act, in Whom substance, power, and operation are one thing. The Angel, though entirely independent of matter, is yet subject to the natural weakness necessary to a created being; he is not absolutely simple, for in him action is distinct from power, and power from essence. [Thom. Aquin. Summa Theol. i. q. liv. art. 1-3] How much greater is the weakness of man’s composite nature, unable to carry on the operations of the intellect without the aid of the senses!

‘Compared with ours,’ says one of the most enlightened brethren of the angelic doctor, ‘how calm and how luminous is the knowledge of pure spirits! They are not doomed to the intricate discoursings of our reason, which runs after the truth, composes and analyzes, and laboriously draws conclusions from premises. They instantaneously apprehend the whole compass of primary truths. Their intuition is so prompt, so lively, so penetrating, that it is impossible for them to be surprised, as we are, into error. If they deceive themselves, it must be of their own will. The perfection of their will is equal to the perfection of their intellect. They know not what it is to be disturbed by the violence of appetites. Their love is without emotion; and their hatred of evil is as calm and as wisely tempered as their love. A will so free can know no perplexity as to its aims, no inconstancy in its resolutions. Whereas with us long and anxious meditation is necessary before we make a decision, it is the property of the Angels to determine by a single act the object of their choice. God proposed to them, as He does to us, infinite beatitude in the vision of His Own Essence; and to fit them for so great an end, He endowed them with grace at the same time as He gave them being. In one instant they said Yes or No; in one instant they freely and deliberately decided their own fate.’ [Monsabre 15th Conferencc, Lent 1875]

Let us not be envious. By nature the Angel is superior to us; but, to which of the Angels hath He said at any time, ‘Thou art My Son?’ [
Heb. i. 5; ex Ps. ii. 7] The Only-begotten Son of God did not take to Himself the angelic nature. When on earth, He acknowledged the temporary subordination of humanity to those pure spirits, and deigned to receive from them, even as do His brethren in the flesh, the announcements of the Divine will, [Dionys. Areop. De caelesti hierarchia, iv. 4; ex Matt. ii. 13-16, 19-21] and help and strength. [St. Luke xxii. 43] But ‘God hath not subjected unto Angels the world to come,’ says the Apostle.  [Heb. ii. 6]
How can we understand this attraction of God towards what is feeblest? We can only worship it in humble, loving faith. It was Lucifer’s stumbling-block on the day of the great battle in Heaven. But the faithful Angels prostrated themselves in joyous adoration at the feet of the Infant-God foreshown to them enthroned on Mary’s knee, and then rose up to sing: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.’

O Christ, my Christ as St. Denis calls Thee, [Dionys. De caelesti hierarchia, ii. 5] the Church today delightedly proclaims Thee the beauty of the holy Angels. [Hymn of Lauds] Thou, the God-Man, art the lofty height whence purity, light, and love flow down upon the triple hierarchy of the nine choirs. Thou art the supreme Hierarch, the centre of worlds, controller of the deifying mysteries at the eternal feast.

Flaming Seraphim, glittering Cherubim, steadfast Thrones, court of honour to the Most High, and possessed of the noblest inheritance: according to the Areopagite, ye receive your justice, your splendour, and your burning love by direct communication from our Lord: [Dionys. ubi supra, vii. 2] and through you, all grace overflows from Him upon the holy city.

Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; sovereign disposers, prime movers, and rulers of the universe: in whose name do ye govern the world? Doubtless in His Whose inheritance it is; in the name of the King of glory, the Man-God, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord of hosts.

Angels, Archangels, and Principalities; Heaven’s messengers, ambassadors, and overseers here below: are ye not also, as the Apostle says, ministers of the salvation wrought on earth by Jesus, the heavenly High-Priest?

We also, through this same Jesus, O most holy Trinity, glorify Thee, together with the three princely hierarchies, which surround Thy Majesty with their nine immaterial rings as with a many-circled rampart.

To tend to Thee, and to draw all things to Thee, is their common law. Purification, illumination, union: by these three ways in succession, or simultaneously, are these noble beings attracted to God, and by the same they attract those who strive to emulate them. Sublime spirits, it is with your gaze ever fixed on high that ye influence those below and around you. Draw plentifully, both for yourselves and for us, from the central fires of the Divinity; purify us from more than the involuntary infirmities of nature; enlighten us; kindle us with your heavenly flames. For the same reason that Satan hates us, ye love us: protect the race of the Word made Flesh against the common enemy. So guard us, that we may hereafter be worthy to occupy among you the places left vacant by the victims of pride. (1)

Saint Michael the Archangel

(Hebrew “Who is like God?”).

St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:

(1) Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: “The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince.”

(2) Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.”

(3) In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: “When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses”, etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, an account of which is also found in the apocryphal book on the assumption of Moses (Origen). St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses; Satan, however, by disclosing it, tried to seduce the Jewish people to the sin of hero-worship. St. Michael also guards the body of Eve, according to the “Revelation of Moses” (“Apocryphal Gospels”, etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647).

(4) Apocalypse 12:7, “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, “to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).

Prayer to St. Michael by Pope Leo XIII

O Glorious Archangel St Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defence in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of the LORD, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of his Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory.

This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered. Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring- help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defence against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the LORD; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the LORD; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, has conquered.
V. Let thy mercies be upon us, O LORD.
R. As we have hoped in thee.
V. O LORD, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.Let us pray:
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon thy holy name, and as suppliants we implore thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel St Michael, thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.

(An Indulgence of 300 days)

The hymns of the Roman Office are said to have been composed by St. Rabanus Maurus of Fulda (d. 856). In art St. Michael is represented as an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword, and shield (often the shield bears the Latin inscription: Quis ut Deus), standing over the dragon, whom he sometimes pierces with a lance. He also holds a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed (cf. Rock, “The Church of Our Fathers”, III, 160), or the book of life, to show that he takes part in the judgment. His feast (29 September) in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century. Michaelmas Day, in England and other countries, is one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; but it is no longer remarkable for the hospitality with which it was formerly celebrated. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day. In some parishes (Isle of Skye) they had a procession on this day and baked a cake, called St. Michael’s bannock.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen. Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen

Image: Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan, artist: Raphael, circa 1518 (15)

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Saint Wenceslas, Martyr

September 28

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

Saint Wenceslas was son of Wratislas, duke of Bohemia, and of Drahomira of Lucsko, and grandson of Borivor, the first Christian duke, and the blessed Ludmilla. His father was a valiant and good prince; but his mother was a pagan, and her heart was not less depraved, as to sentiments of morality, than as to those of religion. This princess was not less cruel than haughty, nor less perfidious than impious. She had two sons, Wenceslas, and Boleslas.

Saint Wenceslas

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia, was the son of Wratislas and Drahomira. In proportion as his father was a model of all Christian virtues, his mother was the possessor of all vices, besides being a great enemy to the Christian Religion. Wratislas, upon his dying bed, gave Wenceslas in charge of his grandmother Ludmilla, while Boleslas, his younger, was kept by Drahomira. As both women were totally different in their morals, so also the conduct of the two children became entirely unlike. Wenceslas became pious and holy; Boleslas, godless and licentious. Drahomira seized the government of the state and persecuted the Christians most cruelly. She banished the priests, dismissed the Christians from all public places, which she filled with heathens of whom the faithful had nothing to expect but cruelty. The nobles would not submit to this administration, and deposing Drahomira, placed Wenceslas on the throne, and bound themselves to him by an oath of allegiance. Drahomira, burning with rage when she perceived that the Christians were again protected by the pious Ludmilla, was determined to revenge herself. She sent some hired assassins who strangled her with her own veil, while she was at her devotions in her private chapel. Not satisfied with this murder, Drahomira sought to make away with her son Wenceslas.

Meanwhile, this holy Prince conducted himself towards God and his subjects in such a manner, that he was beloved and highly esteemed by every one. He was extremely kind in all his actions, temperate in eating and drinking, unwearied in his care for his subjects, and blameless in his whole conduct. He was so charitable to the poor and to prisoners, so compassionate to widows and orphans, that the Christian world could count but few men like him. The prisoners he visited at night and gave them rich alms, the sick he supplied with all they needed, and showed a fatherly heart to the widows and orphans. It is known that he himself, at night, carried wood upon his shoulders to the destitute. Not a shadow of impurity tarnished the brightness of his life, and he preserved his chastity unpolluted to his end. He gave daily several hours to prayer, and even in winter frequently visited the Church at night barefooted. One of his servants who accompanied him, one day complained of the cold, and the duke told him to step in the footprints which he, walking before him, had made in the snow. The servant did so and no longer felt any cold; for the footprints of the prince were warmed by his love to the Holy Eucharist. Towards the priests he was always extremely generous. He often served them at the Altar, and allowed not the least wrong to be done them by word or deed. He distinguished himself especially in his devotion to the Holy Mass at which he daily assisted. He sowed, gathered and prepared with his own hands, the wheat which was used in making the Hosts; and cultivated and pressed the grapes for the wine used at Holy Mass. In one word, Wenceslas reigned and lived like a Saint.

Count Radislas, scorning the piety of the duke, caused the people to rebel and marched against Wenceslas. The latter, sending him a deputation, made offers of peace, but Radislas would not even listen to the king’s message, esteeming it a sign of Wenceslas’s cowardice. Hence the holy duke was forced to meet him at the head of his army. The two armies were drawn up opposite each other in battle array, when Wenceslas, sad that so much innocent blood should be shed, and being willing rather to give his own than that of his subjects, challenged Radislas to single combat, with the condition that the victory should be on the side of him who should slay his adversary.

Radislas accepted the challenge, and spear in hand, galloped in full armor towards the Saint. The latter was also clad in armor, but carried only a sword. Radislas intended to unhorse Wenceslas with his spear and thus have him in his power. The Saint went to meet him, making the sign of the cross. At the moment when Radislas was about to thrust his spear, he saw, by the side of Wenceslas, two angels who cried to him: “Stand off!” This cry acted like a thunderbolt upon Radislas, and changed his intentions. Throwing himself from his horse, he fell at the Saint’s feet, asking for grace and pardon, promising obedience in future. Wenceslas raised him from the ground and kindly received him again into favor.

Soon after, the duke was summoned to Worms to assist at the general Diet. The emperor and all the princes and dignitaries were already assembled, but Wenceslas had not yet appeared as he was detained by hearing Mass. Thinking that his delay was intentional and caused by pride, they determined to receive him very coldly, and without the honor he had a right to expect. But when the Saint entered the hall, Otho, the emperor, saw two angels accompanying him, carrying before him a golden cross. When the Emperor had recovered from the awe with which this sight had inspired him, he arose from his throne and going towards the Saint, he led him to the seat prepared for him. The entire assemblage were greatly astonished at this act of the emperor, but when he related what he had seen, they all regarded the Saint with the greatest reverence. The emperor also bestowed the royal dignity and power on Wenceslas, and presented him with the arm of the holy martyr, St. Vitus, which Wenceslas received gratefully and with due respect, and took with him to Bohemia. At the close of the Diet, the Saint returned as king, and continued his holy life.

The more the pious monarch was loved and honored by his subjects on account of his holiness and his new dignity, the more hostile Drahomira and Boleslas grew towards him. Wenceslas, who perceived this, determined to resign his crown. But the wicked Drahomira would not wait for this. Boleslas had become father of a son, and Wenceslas was invited to be present at the baptism of the young prince. Although the holy king had reason to suppose that this invitation covered other intentions, he accepted it, in order not to manifest any distrust of his brother. Having gone to confession and Holy Communion, he went fearlessly to the palace of Boleslas. He was received with great honor and magnificently entertained. At midnight, before the banquet was ended, the Saint quietly left the hall, and went, according to his custom, into the Church. Drahomira seized this opportunity, and calling Boleslas aside, told him that the hour was now come when he could revenge himself and make the royal crown his own. The blood-thirsty tyrant needed no persuasion. Seizing his sword, he hastened, with some attendants, into the Church and stabbed his holy brother with such brutal force, that the blood bespattered the wall, where it is yet to be seen at this day. But the punishment of God soon overtook the murderers. The earth opened and swallowed Drahomira, the instigator of the sinful deed, with her horse and carriage, in that part of Prague which is called the castle of Ratschin. Of the murderers who were with Boleslas when he committed the crime, some lost their reason, while the rest died by their own hands. Although God delayed the punishment of Boleslas, it came at last. Having long been tormented by most painful maladies, at length he expired in all his wickedness.

The shrine of the holy king Wenceslas was honored with many miracles, after God had crowned his virtuous soul with everlasting glory in the kingdom of Heaven. (1)

Image:    Altar of Saint Wenceslas, artist: Angelo Caroselli, circa 1740, located in St Peter’s (3)

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Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

September 27

Today is the feast day of Saints Cosmas and Damian.  Orate pro nobis.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia in the third century, of noble and virtuous parents. Saint Gregory of Tours wrote that they were twins. They studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in medicine. Being Christians and filled with the charity which characterizes our holy religion, they practiced their profession with great application and wonderful success, but never accepted any fee. They were loved and respected by the people for their good offices and their zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity to propagate.

Saints Cosmas and Damian

by Fr. Francis Xavier, 1876

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born of rich Christian parents, at Aegae in Cilicia. Both studied medicine, in order to have an opportunity to gain the Pagans to Christ, and encourage the Christians to virtue as well as to constancy in their faith. God blessed their medical skill to such an extent, that they became celebrated through the whole country for the happy cures which they effected, and pagans, as well as Christians had recourse to them in all dangerous diseases. They asked no fee from their patients, but served them out of love to God. When they visited a patient, they inquired into his ailings, and then cured him by making the sign of the cross over him. They even restored sight to the blind, and made the lame walk. Many heathens, healed in this manner, were converted to the Christian faith, as they not only became convinced of the power of the holy cross, but were also taught by the holy brothers who He was who had died for us on the cross. Hence these two holy physicians were rightly esteemed and honored as apostles by the Christians.

The heathens, however, regarded them as the greatest enemies of their gods: and when the Governor Lysias, by the order of Dioclesian and Maximian, came to Aegas, to exterminate the Christians there, these two brothers were the first who were denounced as magicians and corrupters of the people. Lysias called them to account, but they said fearlessly: “We are no magicians, no corrupters of the people; but in faith, Christians, and physicians by profession. We are not actuated by selfish motives, by lust of gain, in the practice of our science, as we take remuneration from no one. The happy cures we make we owe not so much to our knowledge, as to the power of Jesus Christ, whom we worship as the true God.” It was enough for the governor to know that both professed Christianity. He ordered them to be bound, whipped, and then thrown into the sea. The first of these orders was immediately most cruelly executed, but with the second he did not succeed; for, an angel of the Lord loosened the fetters of the Martyrs and brought them back to the shore, healed of the wounds which they had received in the barbarous whipping. When Lysias was informed of this, he ordered them to be burned alive. They were cast into a burning furnace, but remained unharmed. The tyrant then had them bound to a cross and commanded stones and arrows to be thrown at them; but both stones and arrows rebounded from them without doing them the least injury, while they severely wounded the heathens who were standing around. A great many were converted by this miracle. Lysias alone remained unmoved; and as he knew no other tortures, he condemned the two Saints to die by the sword. (2)

Their three brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius died as martyrs with them. The execution took place 27 September, probably in the year 287. At a later date a number of fables grew up about them, connected in part with their relics. The remains of the martyrs were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria; the Emperor Justinian I (527-565) sumptuously restored the city in their honour. Having been cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude for their aid, rebuilt and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) erected a church in their honour, the mosaics of which are still among the most valuable art remains of the city. The Greek Church celebrates the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian on 1 July, 17 October, and 1 November, and venerates three pairs of saints of the same name and profession. Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints.

Image: Saints Cosmas and Damian, artist: Jean Bourdichon, circa 1503-1508 (4)

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Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina, Martyrs

September 26

Today is the feast day of Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina.  Orate pro nobis.

Christians of Antioch who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian at Nicomedia, 26 September, 304, the date in September being afterwards made the day of their feast.

Cyprian was a heathen magician of Antioch who had dealing with demons. By their aid he sought to bring St. Justina, a Christian virgin, to ruin; but she foiled the threefold attacks of the devils by the sign of the cross. Brought to despair Cyprian made the sign of the cross himself and in this way was freed from the toils of Satan. He was received into the Church, was made pre-eminent by miraculous gifts, and became in succession deacon, priest, and finally bishop, while Justina became the head of a convent.

When the persecution of Diocletian broke out, Cyprian and Justina were seized and presented to the same judge. She was inhumanly scourged, and Cyprian was torn with iron hooks. After this they were sent in chains to Diocletian, who commanded their heads to be struck off. This sentence was executed at Nicomedia, in the year 304.


The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints

Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275

Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483

From the Temple Classics Edited by F.S. Ellis

And this virgin was strongly grieved and vexed of Cyprian, and at the last she converted him to the faith of Jesu Christ. And Cyprian from his childhood had been an enchanter, for from the time that he was seven years old he was consecrated by his parents to the devil. And he used the craft of necromancy, and made women to turn into juments and beasts as them seemed, and many other things semblable. And he was covetous of the love of Justina, and burnt in the concupiscence of her, and resorted to his art magic that he might have her for himself, or for a man named Acladius, which also burnt in her love.

Then he called a devil to him, to the end that he might by him have Justina, and when the devil came he said to him: Why hast thou called me?

And Cyprian said to him: I love a virgin, canst thou not so much that I may have my pleasure of her?

And the devil answered: I that might cast man out of Paradise, and procured that Cain slew his brother, and made the Jews to slay Christ, and have troubled the men, trowest thou I may not do that thou have a maid with thee, and use her at thy pleasure? Take this ointment and anoint withal her house withoutforth, and I shall come and kindle her heart in thy love, that I shall compel her to assent to thee.

And the next night following the devil went and enforced him to move her heart unto unlawful love. And when she felt it, she recommended herself devoutly to God, and garnished her with the sign of the cross, and the devil, all afraid of the sign of the cross, fled away from her, and came again to Cyprian and stood before him.

And Cyprian said to him: Why hast thou not brought to me this virgin?

And the devil said: I see in her a sign which feared me, that all strength is failed in me.

Then Cyprian left him, and called another devil more stronger than he was. And he said: I have heard thy commandment and have seen the non-power of him, but I shall amend it and accomplish thy will.

Then the devil went to her, and enforced to move her heart in love, and inflame her courage in things not honest. And she recommended her to God devoutly, and put from her that temptation by the sign of the cross, and blew on the devil, and threw him anon away from her. And he fled all confused and came tofore Cyprian, and Cyprian said to him: Where is the maid that I sent thee for? and the devil said: I acknowledge that I am overcome and am rebutted, and I shall say how, for I saw in her a sign horrible, and lost anon all my virtue.

Then Cyprian left him, and blamed him, and called the prince of the devils. And when he was come he said: Wherefore is your strength so little, which is overcome of a maid ?

Then the prince said to him: I shall go and vex her with great fevers, and I shall inflame more ardently her heart, and I shall arouse and bedew her body with so ardent desire of thee that she shall be all frantic: and I shall offer to her so many things that I shall bring her to thee at midnight.

Then the devil transfigured himself in the likeness of a maid, and came to this holy virgin, and said: I am come to thee for to live with thee in chastity, and I pray thee that thou say what reward shall we have for to keep us so.

And the virgin answered: The reward is great, and the labour is small.

And the devil said to her: What is that then that God commanded when he said: Grow and multiply and replenish the earth? Then, fair sister, I doubt that if we abide in virginity that we shall make the word of God vain, and be also despising and inobedient, by which we shall fall into a grievous judgment, where we shall have no hope of reward, but shall run in great torment and pain.

Then by the enticement of the devil the heart of the virgin was smitten with evil thoughts, and was greatly inflamed in desire of the sin of the flesh, so that she would have gone thereto, but then the virgin came to herself, and considered who that it was that spake to her. And anon she blessed her with the sign of the cross, and blew against the devil, and anon he vanished away and melted like wax, and incontinent she was delivered from all temptation.

A little while after, the devil transfigured him in the likeness of a fair young man, and entered into her chamber, and found her alone in her bed, and without shame sprang into her bed and embraced her, and would have had a done with her. And when she saw this she knew well that it was a wicked spirit, and blessed her as she had done tofore, and he melted away like wax.

And then by the sufferance of God she was vexed with axes and fevers. And the devil slew many men and beasts, and made to be said by them that were demoniacs that, a right great mortality should be throughout all Antioch, but if Justina would consent unto wedlock and have Cyprian. Wherefore all they that were sick and languishing in maladies lay at the gate of Justina’s father and friends, crying that they should marry her and deliver the city of that right great peril. Justina then would not consent in no wise, and therefore everybody menaced her. And in the sixth year of that mortality she prayed for them, and chased and drove thence all that pestilence.

And when the devil saw that he profited nothing, he transumed and transfigured him in the form of Justina for to defoul the fame of Justina, and in mocking Cyprian he advanced him that he had brought to him Justina. And came to him in likeness of her, and would have kissed him as if she had languished for his love. And when Cyprian saw him and supposed that it had been Justina, he was all replenished with joy, and said: Thou art welcome, Justina, the fairest of all women.

And anon as Cyprian named Justina, the devil might not suffer the name, but as soon as he heard it he vanished away as a fume or smoke. And when Cyprian saw him deceived, he was all heavy and sorrowful, and was then more burning and desirous in the love of Justina, and woke long at the door of the virgin, and as him seemed he changed him sometimes into a bird by his art magic, and sometimes into a woman, but when he came to the door of the virgin he was neither like woman nor bird, but appeared Cyprian as he was.

Acladius, by the devil’s craft, was anon turned into a sparrow, and when he came to the window of Justina, as soon as the virgin beheld him, he was not a sparrow, but showed himself as Acladius, and began to have anguish and dread, for he might neither fly ne leap, and Justina dreading lest he should fall and break himself, did do set a ladder by which he went down, warning him to cease of his woodness, lest he should be punished as a malefactor by the law.

Then the devil, being vanquished in all things, returned to Cyprian, and held him all confused tofore him, and Cyprian said to him: And how art not thou overcome, what unhappy is your virtue that ye may not overcome a maid, have ye no might over her, but she overcometh you and breaketh you all to pieces? Tell me, I pray thee, in whom she hath all this great might and strength.

And the devil said: If thou wilt swear to me that thou wilt not depart from me ne forsake me, I shall show to thee her strength and her victory.

To whom Cyprian said: By what oath shall I swear?

And the devil said: Swear thou by my great virtues that thou shalt never depart from me.

And Cyprian said: I swear to thee by thy great virtues that I shall never depart from thee.

Then the devil said to him, weeping to be sure of him: This maid maketh the sign of the cross, and anon then we wax feeble and lose all our might and virtue, and flee from her, like as wax fleeth from the face of the fire.

And Cyprian said then to him: The crucified God is then greater than thou?

And the devil said: Yea, certainly he is greater than all others, and all them that we here deceive, he judgeth them to be tormented with fire inextinguishable.

And Cyprian said: Then ought I to be made friend of him that was crucified, lest I fall hereafter into such pains.

To whom the devil said: Thou hast sworn by the might and virtues of my strengths, the which no man may forswear, that thou shalt never depart from me.

To whom Cyprian said: I despise thee, and forsake thee and all thy power, and renounce thee and all thy devils, and garnish and mark me with the sign of the cross, and anon the devil departed all confused.

Then Cyprian went to the bishop, and when the bishop saw him he weened that he were come to put the Christian men in error, and said: Let it suffice unto thee, Cyprian, them that be without forth, for thou mayst nothing prevail against the church of God, for the virtue of Jesu Christ is joined thereto, and is not overcome.

And Cyprian said: I am certain that the virtue of our Lord Jesu Christ is not overcome.

And then he recounted all that was happened, and did him to be baptized of him. And after, he profited much, as well in science as in life. And when the bishop was dead, Cyprian was ordained bishop, and placed the blessed virgin Justina with many virgins in a monastery, and made her abbess over many holy virgins. St. Cyprian sent then epistles to martyrs and comforted them in their martyrdom. (4)


Image: Saints Cyprian and Justina  (3)

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The North American Martyrs, Confessors

September 26 (in Canada) and October 19 (in the US).

Today is the feast day of the North American Martyrs.  Orate pro nobis.

These Martyrs were among the earliest Saints of North America. All were French born Jesuits: Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Antony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel, priests; and John La Lande and René Goupil, lay-brothers. They selflessly worked among the native Hurons until they met their death at the hands of mortal enemies of the Hurons: the Iroquois and the Mohawks. The Iroquois were animated by the bitter hatred of the missionaries, whom they subjected to indescribable tortures before putting them to death.  Five died in what is now Canada, three in what is now the United States.

They came in the 1640’s to New France, to add their strength to that of the Franciscan Recollets, who had preceded them by a few years. There was not yet any bishop to assist them; the first bishop of Quebec, Blessed Monsignor Francis Montmorency de Laval, arrived only in 1658.

Father Jean de Brébeuf was born in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France on March 25, 1593. He became a Jesuit in 1617. In 1625 he sailed to Canada as a missionary, arriving on June 19, and lived with the Huron natives near Lake Huron, learning their customs and language, of which he became and expert; although the missionaries were recalled in 1629, Brébeuf returned to Canada in 1633. He unsuccessfully attempted to convert the Neutral nations on Lake Erie in 1640. In 1648 the Iroquois attacked Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, where Brébeuf was living, and he was captured and tortured to death on March 16, 1649.

Father Isaac Jogues: One of the eight Frenchmen known as the North American Martyrs, the Jesuit priest Isaac Jogues’ first task when he arrived in Quebec in 1636, was to learn the Huron language. His teacher was Father Jean le Brébeuf , another Jesuit. Brébeuf earlier had written Instruction, a collection of data based on his years of living among the Hurons since 1625. His practical advice included tips for conduct: eating with the Indians, sharing their camps, caring for the ill in view of “medicine men’s” feelings. It was “helpful for many situations,” its introduction stated, “both the predictable and the unexpected.”

Early in 1644 Fr. Jogues sailed to Montreal and ministered again to the Hurons while waiting for a chance to return to the Mohawks. Two years later he was sent to Ossernenon, the principal Mohawk village, to negotiate a peace agreement between the Iroquois Nation—–of which the Mohawks were a part—–and the French. After meeting for a week, Jogues left for Quebec with news of success and a plan to return again to Ossernenon.

Unfortunately, the Mohawks had poor crops that year, and an epidemic broke out. They believed that the box containing vestments and religious articles which Jogues had left behind caused these disasters. As he was returning to the village from Quebec with John de La Lande and some Hurons, some members of the Mohawks’ Bear Clan invited Jogues to a dinner. As he stooped to enter their longhouse on Oct. 19, 1646, he was tomahawked to death. The next day they killed La Lande. Perhaps this was the “unexpected” le Brébeuf could not prepare him for.

Father Antoine Daniel was the first to die in Canada, after ten years among the Hurons. The chapel of the village where his mission stood was filled with his faithful Christians, and he had just finished saying Mass, when the Iroquois attacked in July of 1648. The men ran to the palisades; the priest, when the invaders broke through, went to the chapel door and faced the Iroquois, warning them of God’s anger. They slew him at once and threw him into the chapel they had already set on fire, still occupied by the women and children.

Father Gabriel Lalemant (Born at Paris, France, 1610; died 1649) joined the Jesuits in 1630. He taught at Moulins for three years, and after further study at Bourges, was ordained in 1638. After teaching at La Flèche and Moulins, he was sent to Canada at his request in 1646 as a missionary.  Father Gabriel Lallemant, 39 years old in that year and of a delicate constitution, was martyred the next day; he had been forced to witness the death of his beloved Father Brebeuf. He cried out: Father, we are given up as a spectacle to the world, the Angels and men! And he went up to him and kissed his bleeding wounds. Facing the same fate afterwards, he knelt down and embraced the stake to which he was to be tied, to make his final offering to God. He himself survived for longer still, seventeen hours. The Iroquois set fire to the bark they had attached to him; he was baptized in mockery of the faith, in boiling water, not once but many times. The savages cut the flesh of his thighs to the bone and held red-hot axes in the wounds. They finally tired of their task and finished him with a blow from an axe.

Father Charles Garnier:  He was a valiant priest who had said: The source of all gentleness, the sustenance of our hearts, is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He was of a wealthy family, and as a student in the Jesuit college of Clermont, would deposit his weekly allowance in the church’s collection box for the poor. In the mission he slept without a mattress, and when traveling with the Indians, would carry the sick on his shoulders for an hour or two to relieve them.  He died the day before the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 7, 1649, while aiding the wounded and the dying; an Iroquois fired two bullets directly into his chest and abdomen. Seeing a dying man near him, twice he tried to stand and go to him, and twice he fell heavily. Another Iroquois then ended his life with an axe.Though Garnier has been canonized and therefore his memory is still green, yet we find few who know much about him. But what an impression he must have created by his character and his presence that even dim memories are alive today. Scarcely was he dead than his fellow missionaries Fathers Leonard Garreau, Simon le Moyne and René Menard are high in their praise of his apostolic work and life. Warmly they recall to mind this great souled apostle, the very acquaint-ance of whom was an inspiration to greater things.

Father Noel Chabanel: (Born near Mende, France, on February 2, 1613; died December 8, 1649), after joining the Jesuits in 1630, was sent to New France in 1643 to evangelize the Hurons. He became assistant to Fr. Garnier at Etarita in 1649 and was murdered by an apostate Indian while returning from a visit to neighboring Sainte Marie. The two Fathers left at once to see the sad spectacle with their own eyes. It was a sight worthy in God’s sight. There were corpses everywhere, one on top of another, of some poor Christians half burned in the remains of the fire-swept village, of others drenched in their own blood. . . . At last, in the middle of the ghost town, they came across the body they had come to find, but it was hardly recognizable, all covered with blood and ashes from the fire that had swept over it. But some christian Indians recognized their Father who had died for love of them. They buried him on the spot where the church had been, though there was no trace left of the church. It had been swallowed up in the flames.

Lay Brother John de la Lande:  When Isaac Jogues returned to Canada from France to resume his missionary work, he asked for an assistant. His Jesuit superior offered him John de la Lande, a permanent lay volunteer.  Born in Dieppe, the young Belgian had come to New France as a settler sometime before 1642—–but once there, he offered himself to the Jesuits, desiring to devote his life to the service of God by working with the missionaries. Upon hearing that Fr. Jogues wanted a companion, John volunteered to help. The veteran missionary spoke to the young man with great frankness, describing the hardships and rigors of missionary life, warning that there might be captivity, torture (such as Jogues himself had already suffered), and even death. Nevertheless, the description of possible privations and suffering could not undo la Lande’s determination. It is said that he took Fr. Jogues’ mutilated hands into his own and professed his desire to share his future, even if that future were to include Martyrdom.

When John de la Lande was told of the murder of Father Jogues, he was also advised to not to leave the lodge under any circumstances because the Mohawks were hoping to kill him as well. Eventually, however, the thought of the body of Fr. Jogues, perhaps lying unburied somewhere in the village, overcame John’s caution. He wondered whether it might be possible, under cover of darkness, to locate the body, recover some articles that Jogues had taken with him, and send them as holy relics to the Jesuits in Quebec. As he ventured out of the lodge, a tomahawk crashed down upon his head. It was early morning on October 19, 1646. When daylight came, the bodies of Isaac Jogues and John de la Lande were thrown into the Mohawk River, and their heads were exposed on the palisades enclosing the Mohawk village.

Lay Brother René Goupil:  He was born in the little village of St. Martin, now a suburb of Anjou, which like Orleans, St. Isaac Jogues’ native city, is situated on the Loire River, but further downstream and to the west. As a young man he became a Jesuit novice with the intention of serving as a lay brother, but ill health prevented him from taking his vows. Skilled in the care of the sick and possessing a practical knowledge of medicine, after a time he resolved to sail to New France in order to help the Jesuit missionaries he had earlier hoped to join. St. Isaac Jogues found him working in the Quebec hospital in 1642, and was delighted when he volunteered to travel with him to the Huron country to serve as infirmarian at Mission Sainte Marie.  Both were captured by the ferocious Mohawk Iroquois on the St. Lawrence River, along with a large number of Christian Hurons. It was on the torture trail to the Mohawk country that Fr. Jogues received René’s perpetual vows as a Jesuit brother. Six weeks after their arrival at the village of Ossernenon, René became the first of the eight martyrs to die, the first canonized saint of North America.

St. Isaac Jogues, who was himself to die a glorious martyrdom four years later, buried the relics of his dear Brother, and upon his escape from the Mohawks, wrote a short “Way of Martyrdom” which relates the story of René’s triumphant passage into Eternity.

The North American Martyrs were beatified on June 21, 1925 and were canonized on June 29, 1930; the General Roman Calender Feast Day is October 19th; September 26 in Canada.  Two shrines commemorate them. One is at Auriesville, NY, the Ossernenon of old. The other at Midland, Ontario, near the site of Old Fort Ste. Marie of the Hurons.

Litany of the Jesuit Martyr Saints of North America
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us. *

Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs,
Saint Isaac Jogues,
Saint John de Brebeuf,
Saint Gabriel Lalemant,
Saint Anthony Daniel,
Saint Charles Gamier,
Saint Noel Chabanel,
Saint Rene Goupil,
Saint John de la Lande,
Pioneers of the Cross in a new world,
Heroic apostles of the faith,
Zealous promoters of God’s glory,
Consumed with love for souls,
Men of prayer and action,
Lovers of poverty,
Models of chastity,
Faithful in obedience,
Followers of Christ Crucified,
Fearless in suffering for Christ,
Enduring cold and hunger for Christ,
Stripped and scourged for Christ,
Tortured by fire for Christ,
Cruelly slain for Christ,
Peerless athletes of God,
Loving children of the Queen of Martyrs,
Filial clients of St. Joseph,
Worthy sons of St. Ignatius,
Our intercessors in Heaven

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us.

Let us pray:

 O God, Who hast hallowed the first-fruits of the faith in the northern regions of America by the preaching and blood of Thy blessed Martyrs John, Isaac and their companions: grant in Thy mercy, that through their intercession the plentiful harvest of the faithful may increase everywhere from day to day. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Image: Cartouche sur la carte de la Nouvelle-France Novae Franciae accurata delineatio. (6)


Saint Firmin, Bishop and Martyr

September 25

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

Saint Firmin was the son of a senator and a native of Pampeluna in Navarre. With his father he was taught the Christian faith by Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus, the bishop of Toulouse, himself the disciple of Saint Peter the Apostle.

Saint Firmin, who had been confided by his father to Honestus for his education and had accompanied him on his apostolic journeys, was eventually consecrated bishop by Saint Honoratus, successor to Saint Saturninus at Toulouse. Firmin received the mission to preach the Gospel in the remoter parts of Gaul.   Thus he preached in the regions of Agen, Angers, and Beauvais. In what is now Clement-Ferrand, after long discussions with two ardent idolaters, he won them over.

He had not yet suffered persecution. Desiring martyrdom, he decided to go to a center of paganism in the north, in what is now Normandy, near Lisieux. There he was arrested and imprisoned for a time by the pagans. When delivered, he continued on towards the north, to a region where Saint Denys of Paris had baptized many. He confirmed the Christians in their faith, and went wherever a soul might have need of him. The Roman authorities heard of him and arrested him; the Saint generously confessed Jesus Christ in their presence. Again he was imprisoned, but released when the prefect and his successor both died suddenly. He was obliged, however, to flee secretly.

And then two Roman officials, Longulus and Sebastian, heard of him and came to the city of Amiens.

The pagan priests saw their opportunity, when all the city residents were convoked to appear before the visitors. The two officials explained that the capital penalty was decreed for those who did not obey the imperial edicts, not offering incense to the gods and honoring them. The pagan priests then told them of one who always refused to do so.  Saint Firmin, after an eloquent defense of the religion of Christ, was imprisoned. He finally saw his most ardent desire fulfilled when certain soldiers decided on their own to accomplish the imperial orders, and came with swords to his prison at night, where they decapitated the bishop. He died, filled with joy at their coming. This occurred under the reign of Trajan in the first years of the second century. The holy bishop remains in the greatest honor in the city of Amiens.

Image: San Fermín (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Vincent Strambi, Bishop

September 25

Today is the feast day of Saint Vincent Strambi.  Ora pro nobis.

Vincent Strambi was born in Civitavecchia, Italy, in 1745.  He was the only child of the pharmacist Giuseppe Strambi and his wife Eleonora who survived infancy.

He was a happy and athletic child who manifested a strong interest in spirituality. When he was fifteen, he received the clerical “tonsure” and entered the diocesan seminary at nearby Montefiascone. Two years later, he decided to continue his studies in Rome. The following year, he attended the Dominican house of studies in Viterbo to study theology.

He found his vocation when after his ordination as a deacon in 1767, he made a retreat amid the Passionists of Monte Fogliano, where Saint Paul of the Cross, their founder, was residing at the time.  Prior to his ordination he was named rector and professor within his seminary, Montefiascone. Saint Paul of the Cross named him professor of theology, patristics and preaching.

Saint Vincent became a bishop after many years of preaching missions all over Italy. But never could he forget his Order, though he had to put aside its habit. Saint Paul of the Cross on his deathbed had said to him several times: Padre Vincenzino, I recommend to you the poor Congregation. When Saint Vincent asked what he wished him to do, Saint Paul replied: You will do great things! You will do great good! I recommend to you this poor Congregation!

As bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, he continued whenever possible to rise at midnight for the divine office, and regretted being unable to dedicate more than five hours to prayer each day. He called in the poor and gave them alms.  He visited the hospitals and the prisoners, blessed, embraced and helped them. He visited every religious house of his diocese, then the Canons and the parish priests. He preached for his clergy a beautiful mission, then organized specialized services for the various professions of the laity, saying, the lawyers need different instruction and different sowings than the merchants or the physicians, for example; to each his own portion of the truth! His table was very frugal; never did he permit more than two dishes. He reduced expenditures to a minimum, to be able to give more to the poor.

In the political upheavals of the time, he was a fearless advocate of the freedom of the Church and chose exile in preference to an unlawful oath of loyalty to Napoleon. When he returned to his Diocese after exile, he once again manifested his deep pastoral concern and extraordinary charity for the poor.   It was during his time in this office that Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte, returned to the Catholic faith with Vincent’s guidance.

Called by Pope Leo XII to become his personal advisor, he died in Rome on January 1, 1824.

Saint Vincent was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1950. In November 1957, his relics were transferred from SS John and Paul to the Church of Saint Philip in Macerata.

Image: St. Vincent Strambi (4)

Research by REGINA Staff


Saint Pacifico of San Severino, Confessor

September 24

Today is the feast day of Saint Pacifico (Pacific) of San Severino.  Ora pro nobis.

Pacifico Bruni was born into a distinguished family in San Severino in the Marche of Ancona in central Italy in 1653. Pacifico never really got to know his parents, Antonio and Mariangela, both of whom died when he was three years old.  As a child he evinced unusual seriousness, great piety, and love of mortification.

Pacifico was an ascetic man. He fasted perpetually, eating no more than bread, soup or water. His “hair shirt” was made of iron. Poverty and obedience were two virtues for which his confreres especially remembered him.  After joining the Friars Minor, he was ordained. He taught philosophy for two years and then began a successful preaching career. 

He was first assigned to the surrounding villages of the Apennines, where he found the greatest delight in preaching the Gospel to the poor and the uneducated. No road was too rough, no mountain too steep for him. He looked up the poor shepherds in their out-of-the-way huts in order to instruct and guide them on the road that leads to God.

Saint Pacifico of San Severino was not long to enjoy this apostolic work. After a few years, he became ill and never completely recovered his health, so that he was obliged to serve God patiently with an infirm body for more than thirty years.

Saint Pacifico was completely satisfied with God’s designs in his regard. “God wills it,” he said in a cheerful way, “and so may His will be done.”

The painful suffering he had to endure, and the many acts of mortification he performed in addition, he joined to his unceasing prayers and offered them up for the salvation of souls and the conversion of sinners. Even in his sickness he was so modest that he would never allow anyone else to dress the ugly sores on his legs, but always took care of them himself.

When death finally summoned him and he had received Holy Communion for the last time with admirable devotion, he once more expressed his gratitude to God for all His benefits, and then, with his hands crossed upon his breast, surrendered his soul to his Creator. The day was September 24, 1721.

Many miracles occurred at his grave, and two dead persons were restored to life after his holy relics were applied to them. He was buried in a common grave used by his deceased brothers in the community, but his body was found incorrupt after four years, even though he was given no coffin.

When the body was moved, the head of the saint was accidently struck so hard against a stairway that the head of the corpse detached from the body. Blood flowed freely from the neck, splattering blood as if the body were still alive. The blood was sopped up with a shirt and kept as a relic.

Pope Gregory XVI canonized Saint Pacific in 1839.

Image: Lendinara, Duomo di Santa Sofia: interno, statua di San Pacifico. (5)

Research by REGINA Staff


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