July 8, 2020: ST. ELIZABETH, QUEEN (OF PORTUGAL), WIDOW
“I have found, O Lord, that thy judgments are just; thou hast humbled me by thy truths. Pierce my flesh with thy fear; thy commandments have made me tremble.”
O Most merciful God, who, amongst other admirable endowments, didst privilege blessed Elizabeth with the gift of making wars cease: grant, by her prayers, that after having enjoyed the peace, which we humbly crave in this mortal life, we may be received into everlasting bliss. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
In the footsteps of Margaret of Scotland and of Clotilde of France, a third Queen comes to shed her brightness on the sacred Cycle. Born at the southern extremity of Christendom, where it borders on Mussulman lands, she was destined by the Holy Ghost to seal with peace the victories of Christ, and prepare the way for fresh conquests. The blessed name of Elizabeth, which for half a century had been rejoicing the world with its sweet perfume, was given to her, foretelling that this new-born child, as though attracted by the roses which fell from the mantle of her Thuringian aunt [St. Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia, a.k.a St. Elizabeth of Hungary], was to cause these same heavenly flowers to blossom in Iberia.
There is a mysterious heirship among the saints of God. The same year in which one niece of Elizabeth of Thuringia was born in Spain, another, the Blessed Margaret of Hungary, took her flight to heaven. She had been consecrated to God from her mother's womb, as a pledge for the salvation of her people, in the midst of terrible disasters; and the hopes so early centred in her were not frustrated. A short life of twenty-eight years spent in innocence and prayer, earned for her country the blessings of peace and civilization; and then Margaret bequeathed to our Saint of to-day the mission of continuing in another land the work of her holy predecessors.
The time had come for our Lord to shed a ray of His grace upon Spain. The thirteenth century was closing, leaving the world in a state of dismemberment and ruin. Weary of fighting for Christ, kings dismissed the Church from their councils, and selfishly kept aloof, preferring their own ambitious strifes to the common aspiration of the once great body of Christendom. Such a state of things was disastrous for the entire West; much more, then, for that noble country where the Crusade had multiplied kingdoms as so many outposts against the common enemy, the Moors. Unity of views and the sacrifice of all things to the great work of deliverance could alone maintain in the successors of Pelayo the spirit of the grand memories of yore. Unfortunately these princes, though heroes on the battle-field, had not sufficient strength of mind to lay aside their petty quarrels and take up the sacred duty entrusted to them by Providence. In vain did the Roman Pontiff strive to awaken them to the interests of their country and of the Christian name; these hearts, generous in other respects, were too stifled by miserable passions to heed his voice; and the Mussulman looked on delightedly at these intestine strifes, which retarded his own defeat. Navarre, Castile, Aragon, and Portugal were not only at war with each other; but even within each of these kingdoms, father and son were at enmity, and brother disputed with brother, inch by inch, the heritage of his ancestors.
Who was to restore to Spain the still recent traditions of her Ferdinand III? Who was to gather again these dissentient wills into one, so as to make them a terror to the Saracen and a glory to Christ? James I of Aragon, who rivalled St. Ferdinand both in bravery and in conquests, had married Yoland, daughter of Andrew of Hungary; whereupon the cultus of the holy Duchess of Thuringia, whose brother-in-law he had thus become, was introduced beyond the Pyrenees; and the name of Elizabeth, changed in most cases into Isabel, became, as it were, a family jewel with which the Spanish princesses have loved to be adorned. The first to bear it was the daughter of James and Yoland, who married Philip III of France, successor of St. Louis; the second was the grand-daughter of the same James I, the Saint whom the Church honours to-day, and of whom the old king, with prophetic insight, loved to say, that she would surpass all the women of the race of Aragon.
Inheriting not only the name, but also the virtues of the “dear St. Elizabeth,” she would one day deserve to be called “the mother of peace and of her country.” By means of her heroic self-renunciation and all-powerful prayer, she repressed the lamentable quarrels of princes. One day, unable to prevent peace being broken, she cast herself between two contending armies under a very hailstorm of arrows, and so forced the soldiers to lay down their fratricidal arms. Thus she paved the way for the happy event, which she herself was not to have the consolation of seeing: the re-organisation of that great enterprise for the expulsion of the Moors, which was not to close till the following century under the auspices of another Isabel, her worthy descendant, who would add to her name the beautiful title of “the Catholic.” Four years after Elizabeth's death, the victory of Salado was gained by the united armies of all Spain over 600,000 infidels, showing how a woman could, under most adverse circumstances, inaugurate a brilliant Crusade, to the immortal fame of her country.
Elizabeth, of the royal race of Aragon, was born in the year of our Lord 1271. As a presage of her future sanctity, her parents, contrary to custom, passing over the mother and grandmother, gave her in Baptism the name of her maternal great-aunt, St. Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia. No sooner was she born, than it became evident what a blessed peacemaker she was to be between kings and kingdoms; for the joy of her birth put a happy period to the miserable quarrels of her father and grandfather. As she grew up, her father, admiring the natural abilities of his daughter, was wont to assert that Elizabeth would far outstrip in virtue all the women descended of the royal blood of Aragon; and so great was his veneration for her heavenly manner of life, her contempt of worldly ornaments, her abhorrence of pleasure, her assiduity in fasting, prayer, and works of charity, that he attributed to her merits alone the prosperity of his kingdom and estate. On account of her wide-spread reputation, her hand was sought by many princes; at length she was, with all the ceremonies of holy Church, united in matrimony with Dionysius, king of Portugal.
In the married state she gave herself up to the exercise of virtue and the education of her children, striving, indeed, to please her husband, but still more to please God. For nearly half the year she lived on bread and water alone; and, on one occasion when, in an illness, she had refused to take the wine prescribed by the physician, her water was miraculously changed into wine. She instantaneously cured a poor woman of a loathsome ulcer by kissing it. In the depth of winter she changed the money she was going to distribute to the poor into roses, in order to conceal it from the king. She gave sight to a virgin born blind, healed many other persons of grievous distempers by the mere sign of the Cross, and performed a great number of other miracles of a like nature. She built and amply endowed monasteries, hospitals, and churches. She was admirable for her zeal in composing the differences of kings, and unwearied in her efforts to alleviate the public and private miseries of mankind.
After the death of King Dionysius, Elizabeth, who had been in her youth a model to virgins, and in her married life to wives, became in her solitude a pattern of all virtues to widows. She immediately put on the religious habit of St. Clare, assisted with the greatest fortitude at the king's funeral, and then, proceeding to Compostella, offered there for the repose of his soul a quantity of silk, silver, gold, and precious stones. On her return home she consumed in holy and pious works all she had that was dear and precious to her; she completed the building of her truly royal monastery of virgins at Coimbra; and, wholly engaged in feeding the poor, protecting widows, sheltering orphans, and assisting the afflicted in every way, she lived not for herself, but for the glory of God and the well-being of men. On her way to the noble town of Estremoz, whither she was going in order to make peace between the two kings, her son and son-in-law, she was seized with illness; and, in that town, after having been visited by the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, she died a most holy death, on the 4th day of July, in the year 1336. After death she was glorified by many miracles, especially by the sweet fragrance of her body, which has remained incorrupt for nearly three hundred years; and she is always distinguished by the name of the “holy queen.” At length, in the year of jubilee, of our salvation 1625, with the unanimous applause of the assembled Christian world, she was solemnly enrolled among the Saints by Pope Urban VIII.
Another account of St. Elizabeth of Portugal.
St. Elizabeth was daughter of Peter III, King of Arragon, and grandaughter of James I, who had been educated under the care of St. Peter Nolasco, and was surnamed the Saint, and from the taking of Majorca, and Valentia, Expugnator or the Conqueror. Her mother, Constantia, was daughter of Manfred, King of Sicily, and grandchild to the Emperor Frederick II. Our saint was born in 1271, and received at the baptismal font by the name of Elizabeth, from her aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who had been canonized by Gregory IX in 1235. Her birth established a good understanding between her grandfather James, who was then on the throne, and her father, whose quarrel had divided the whole kingdom. The former took upon himself the care of her education, and inspired her with an ardour for piety above her age, though he died in 1276 (having reigned sixty-three years), before she had completed the sixth year of her age.
Her father succeeded to the crown, and was careful to place most virtuous persons about his daughter, whose example might be to her a constant spur to all virtue. The young princess was of a most sweet and mild disposition, and from her tender years had no relish for any thing but what was conducive to piety and devotion. It was doing her the most sensible pleasure if any one promised to lead her to some chapel to say a prayer. At eight years of age she began to fast on vigils, and to practise great self-denials: nor could she bear to hear the tenderness of her years and constitution alleged as a reason that she ought not to fast or macerate her tender body. Her fervour made her eagerly to desire that she might have a share in every exercise of virtue which she saw practised by others, and she had been already taught that the frequent mortification of the senses, and still more of the will, is to be joined with prayer to obtain the grace which restrains the passions, and prevents their revolt. How little is this roost important maxim considered by those parents who excite and fortify the passions of children, by teaching them a love of vanities, and indulging them in gratifications of sense! If rigorous fasts suit not their tender age, a submission of the will, perfect obedience, and humble modesty are in no time of life more indispensably to be inculcated; nor is any abstinence more necessary than that by which children are taught never to drink or eat out of meals, to bear several little denials in them without uneasiness, and never eagerly to crave any thing. The easy and happy victory of Elizabeth over herself was owing to this early and perfect temperance, submissiveness, and sincere humility. Esteeming virtue her only advantage and delight, she abhorred romances and idle entertainments, shunned the usual amusements of children, and was an enemy to all the vanities of the world. She could bear no other songs than sacred hymns and psalms; and from her childhood said every day the whole office of the breviary, in which no priest could be more scrupulously exact. Her tenderness and compassion for the poor, made her even in that tender age, to be styled their mother.
At twelve years of age she was given in marriage to Dionysius, King of Portugal. That prince had considered in her, birth, beauty, riches, and sprightliness of genius more than virtue; yet he allowed her an entire liberty in her devotions, and exceedingly esteemed and admired her extraordinary piety. She found no temptation to pride in the dazzling splendour of a crown, and could say with Esther, that her heart never found any delight in the glory, riches, and grandeur with which she was surrounded. She was sensible that regularity in our actions is necessary to virtue, this being in itself most agreeable to God, who shows in all his works how much he is the lover of order; also, a prudent distribution of time fixes the fickleness of the human mind, hinders frequent omissions of pious exercises, and is a means to prevent our being ever idle and being governed by humour and caprice in what we do, by which motives a disguised self-love easily insinuates itself into our ordinary actions. Our saint therefore planned for herself a regular distribution of her whole time, and of her religious exercises, which she never interrupted, unless extraordinary occasions of duty or charity obliged her to change the order of her daily practices. She rose very early every morning, and after a long morning exercise, and a pious meditation, she recited matins, lauds and prime of the church office. Then she heard mass, at which she communicated frequently every week. She said every day also the little office of Our Lady, and that of the dead: and in the afternoon had other regular devotions after even-song or vespers. She retired often into her oratory to her pious books, and allotted certain hours to attend her domestic affairs, public business, or what she owed to others. All her spare time she employed in pious reading, or in working for the altar, or the poor, and she made her ladies of honour do the like. She found no time to spend in vain sports and recreations, or in idle discourse or entertainments. She was most abstemious in her diet, mean in her attire, humble, meek, and affable in conversation, and wholly bent upon the service of God in all her actions. Admirable was her spirit of compunction, and of holy prayer; and she poured forth her heart before God, with most feeling sentiments of divine love, and often watered her cheeks and the very ground with abundant tears of sweet devotion. Frequent attempts were made to prevail with her to moderate her austerities, but she always answered, that if Christ assures us that his spirit cannot find place in a life of softness and pleasure, mortification is no where more necessary than on the throne, where the passions find more dangerous incentives. She fasted three days a week, many vigils besides those prescribed by the church: all Advent; a Lent of devotion, from the feast of St. John Baptist to the feast of the Assumption; and soon after this she began another Lent, which she continued to St. Michael's day. On all Fridays and Saturdays, on the eves of all festivals of the Blessed Virgin and the apostles, and on many other days her fast was on bread and water. She often visited churches and places of devotion on foot.
Charity to the poor was a distinguishing part of her character. She gave constant orders to have all pilgrims and poor strangers provided for with lodging and necessaries. She made it her business to seek out, and secretly relieve persons of good condition who were reduced to necessity, yet out of shame durst not make known their wants. She was very liberal in furnishing fortunes to poor young women, that they might marry according to their condition, and not be exposed to the danger of losing their virtue. She visited the sick, served them, and dressed and kissed their most loathsome sores. She founded in different parts of the kingdom many pious establishments, particularly an hospital near her own palace at Coimbra, a house for penitent women who had been seduced into evil courses, at Torres Novas, and an hospital for foundlings, or those children who, for want of due provision, are exposed to the danger of perishing by poverty, or the neglect and cruelty of unnatural parents. She was utterly regardless of her own conveniences, and so attentive to the poor and afflicted persons of the whole kingdom, that she seemed almost wholly to belong to them; not that she neglected any other duties which she owed to her neighbour, for she made it her principal study to pay to her husband the most dutiful respect, love, and obedience, and bore his injuries with invincible meekness and patience. Though King Dionysius was a friend of justice, and a valiant, bountiful, and compassionate prince, yet he was, in his youth, a worldly man, and defiled the sanctity of the nuptial state with abominable lusts. The good queen used all her endeavours to reclaim him, grieving most sensibly for the offence of God, and the scandal given to the people; and she never ceased to weep herself, and to procure the prayers of others for his conversion. She strove to gain him only by courtesy, and with constant sweetness and cheerfulness cherished his natural children, and took great care of their education. By these means she softened the heart of the king, who by the succour of a powerful grace, rose out of the filthy puddle in which he had wallowed for a long time, and kept ever after the fidelity that was due to his virtuous consort. He instituted the Order of Christ in 1318; founded, with a truly royal magnificence, the university of Coimbra, and adorned his kingdom with public buildings. His extraordinary virtues, particularly his liberality, justice, and constancy, are highly extolled by the Portuguese, and after his entire conversion, he was the idol and glory of his people. A little time before his perfect conversion there happened an extraordinary accident. The queen had a very pious, faithful page, whom she employed in the distribution of her secret alms. A wicked fellow-page envying him on account of this favour, to which his virtue and services entitled him, treacherously suggested to his majesty that the queen showed a fondness for that page. The prince, who by his own sensual heart was easily inclined to judge ill of others, gave credit to the slander, and resolved to take away the life of the innocent youth. For this purpose he gave order to a lime-burner, that if on such a day he sent to him a page with this errand to inquire, “Whether he had fulfilled the king's commands?” he should take him and cast him into the limo-kiln, there to be burnt; for that death he had justly incurred, and the execution was expedient for the king's service. On the day appointed he despatched the page with this message to the lime-kiln: but the devout youth on the road passing by a church, heard the bell ring at the elevation at mass, went in and prayed there devoutly; for it was his pious custom, if ever he heard the sign given by the bell for the elevation, always to go thither, and not depart till mass was ended. It happened, on that occasion, that as the first was not a whole mass, and it was with him a constant rule to hear mass every day, he stayed in the church, and heard successively two other masses. In the meantime, the king, who was impatient to know if his orders had been executed, sent the informer to the lime-kiln, to inquire whether his commands had been obeyed; but as soon as he was come to the kiln, and had asked the question, the man supposing him to be the messenger meant by the king's order, seized him, and threw him into the burning lime, where he was soon consumed. Thus was the innocent protected by his devotions, and the slanderer was overtaken by divine justice. The page who had heard the masses went afterwards to the lime-kiln, and having asked whether his majesty's commands had been yet executed, brought him word back that they were. The king was almost out of himself with surprise when he saw him come back with this message, and being soon informed of the particulars, he easily discovered the innocence of the pious youth, adored the divine judgments, and ever after respected the great virtue and sanctity of his queen.
St. Elizabeth had by the king two children, Alphonsus, who afterwards succeeded his father, and Constantia, who was married to Ferdinand IV, King of Castile. This son, when grown up, married the Infanta of Castile, and soon after revolting against his own father, put himself at the head of an army of malcontents. St. Elizabeth had recourse to weeping, prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds, and exhorted her son in the strongest terms to return to his duty, conjuring her husband at the same time to forgive him. Pope John XXII wrote to her, commending her religious and prudent conduct; but certain court flatterers whispering to the king that she was suspected of favouring her son, he, whom jealousy made credulous, banished her to the city of Alanquer. The queen received this disgrace with admirable patience and peace of mind, and made use of the opportunity which, her retirement afforded, to redouble her austerities and devotions. She never would entertain any correspondence with the malcontents, nor listen to any suggestions from them. The king himself admired her goodness, meekness, and humility under her disgrace; and shortly after called her back to court, and showed her greater love and respect than ever. In all her troubles she committed herself to the sweet disposal of divine providence, considering that she was always under the protection of God, her merciful father.
Being herself of the most sweet and peaceable disposition, she was always most active and industrious in composing all differences between neighbours, especially in averting war, with the train of all the most terrible evils which attend it. She reconciled her husband and son, when their armies were marching one against the other; and she reduced all the subjects to duty and obedience. She made peace between Ferdinand IV, King of Castile, and Alphonsus de la Cerda, his cousin-german, who disputed the crown: likewise between James II, King of Arragon, her own brother, and Ferdinand IV, the King of Castile, her son-in-law. In order to effect this last she took a journey with her husband, into both those kingdoms, and to the great satisfaction of the Christian world, put a happy period to all dissensions and debates between those states. After this charitable work, King Dionysius, having reigned forty-five years, fell sick. St. Elizabeth gave him most signal testimonies of her love and affection, scarce ever leaving his chamber during his illness, unless to go to the church, and taking infinite pains to serve and attend him. But her main care and solicitude was to secure his eternal happiness, and to procure that he might depart this life in sentiments of perfect repentance and piety. For this purpose she gave bountiful alms, and caused many prayers and masses to be said. During his long and tedious illness he gave great marks of sincere compunction, and died at Santaren, on the 6th of January, 1325. As soon as he had expired, the queen retired into her oratory, commended his soul to God, and consecrating herself to the divine service, put on the habit of the third Order of Saint Francis. She attended the funeral procession, with her husband's corpse, to Odiveras, where he had chosen his burying-place in a famous church of Cistercian monks. After a considerable stay there she made a pilgrimage to Compostella, and returning to Odiveras, celebrated there her husband's anniversary with great solemnity; after which she retired to a convent of Clares, which she had begun to rebuild before the death of her husband. She was desirous to make her religious profession, but was diverted from that design for some time upon a motive of charity, that she might continue to support an infinity of poor people by her alms and protection. She therefore contented herself at first with wearing the habit of the third Order, living in a house which she built contiguous to her great nunnery, in which she assembled ninety devout nuns. She often visited them, and sometimes served them at table, having for her companion in this practice of charity and humility her daughter-in-law, Beatrix, the queen then reigning. However by authentic historical proofs it is evinced that before her death she made her religious profession in the aforesaid third Order, as Pope Urban VIII, after mature discussion of those monuments, has declared.
A war being lighted up between her son Alphonsus IV, surnamed the brave King of Portugal, and her grandson, Alphonsus XI, King of Castile, and armies being set on foot, she was startled at the news, and resolved to get out to reconcile them, and extinguish the fire that was kindling. Her servants endeavoured to persuade her to defer her journey, on account of the excessive heats, but she made answer that she could not better expend her health and her life than by seeking to prevent the miseries and calamities of a war. The very news of her journey disposed both parties to peace. She went to Estremoz, upon the frontiers of Portugal and Castile, where the son was; but she arrived ill of a violent fever which she looked upon as a messenger sent by God to warn her that the time was at hand wherein he called her to himself. She strongly exhorted her son to the love of peace and to a holy life; she confessed several times, received the holy viaticum on her knees at the foot of the altar, and shortly after extreme unction; from which time she continued in fervent prayer, often invoking the Blessed Virgin, and repeating these words: “Mary, mother of grace, mother of mercy, defend us from the wicked enemy, and receive us at the hour of our death.” She appeared overflowing with heavenly joy, and with those consolations of the Holy Ghost which make death so sweet to the saints; and in the presence of her son, the king, and of her daughter- in-law, she gave up her happy soul to God on the 4th July, in the year 1336, of her age sixty-five. She was buried with royal pomp in the church of her monastery of poor Clares, at Coimbra, and honoured by miracles. Leo X and Paul IV granted an office on her festival; and in 1612 her body was taken up and found entire. It is now richly enshrined in a magnificent chapel, built on purpose. She was canonized by Urban VIII in 1625, and the 8th of July appointed for her festival.
The characteristical virtue of St. Elizabeth was a love of peace. Christ, the prince of peace, declares his spirit to be the spirit of humility and meekness; consequently the spirit of peace. Variance, wrath, and strife are the works of the flesh, of envy, pride, which he condemns, and which exclude from the kingdom of heaven. Bitterness and contention shut out reason, make the soul deaf to the motives of religion, and open the understanding to nothing but what is sinful. To find the way of peace we must be meek and patient, even under the most violent provocations; we must never resent any wrong, nor return railing for railing, but good for evil; we must regard passion as the worst of monsters, and must judge it as unreasonable to hearken to its suggestions as to choose a madman for our counsellor in matters of concern and difficulty; above all, we must abhor it not only as sin, but as leading to a numberless variety of other grievous sins and spiritual evils. “Blessed are the peace makers,” and all who love and cultivate this virtue among men, “they shall be called the children of God,” whose badge and image they bear.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Elizabeth, pray for us.
July 2, 2020: VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Rank: Double of the II Class.
“Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”
(St. Luke, i. 42)
Happy art thou, O holy Virgin Mary, and worthy of all praise, because from thee did arise the Sun of righteousness, Christ our God. Alleluia.
Grant thy servants, O Lord, we beseech thee, the gift of thy heavenly grace: that as our redemption began in the delivery of the blessed Virgin; so in this solemnity of her Visitation we may have increase of joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
PARALLELS BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENT.
David danced with all his might before the Lord…”
(II Kings/II Samuel, vi. 14)
“And it came to pass; that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant (St. John the Baptist) leaped in her womb.”
(St. Luke, i. 41)
“And David was afraid of the Lord that
day, saying: How shall the ark of the Lord come to me.”
(II Kings/II Samuel, vi. 9)
“And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said:… And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
(St. Luke, i. 41, 43)
the ark of the Lord abode in the house of Obededom the Gethite three months: and the Lord blessed Obededom, and all his household.”
(II Kings/II Samuel, vi. 11)
“And Mary abode with her about three months”
(St. Luke, i. 56)
The Festival of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady's visit to her Cousin Elizabeth already engaged our attention, whilst we were preparing for the Christmas Festival. But it is only fitting to return again to an event so important in our Lady's life; the mere commemoration of this mystery made on Ember-Friday in Advent, would be insufficient to bring forward all it contains of deep teaching and holy joy. Since in the course of centuries, the Holy Liturgy has been gaining more and more completeness, it is but natural that this precious mine, should come to be further opened, in honour of the Virgin Mother. The Order of St. Francis, it would seem, as well as certain particular Churches, such as Rheims and Paris for example, had already taken the initiative, when Urban VI, in 1389, instituted to-day's solemnity.
We learn from the Lessons of the Office formerly composed for this feast, that the end of its institution was, as Urban conceived it, to obtain the cessation of the Schism then desolating the Church. The Papacy exiled from Rome for seventy years, had barely reentered it, when hell, infuriated at a return which crossed all its plans, ever opposed to those of Christ, had taken revenge by ranging under two leaders, the Flock of the one Sheepfold. So deep was the obscurity wherewith miserable intrigues contrived to cover the authority of the legitimate Shepherd, that numbers of Churches, in all good faith, began to hesitate and ended at last in preferring the deceptive staff of a hireling. Thicker yet was the darkness to grow, till night should be so dense, that for a moment the conflicting mandates of three Popes would simultaneously spread through the world; whilst the Faithful, struck with stupor, would be at utter loss to discern accurately which was the true Voice of Christ's Vicar. Never had the Bride of the Son of God been in a more piteous situation. But Our Lady, unto whom the true Pontiff had turned at the first rising of the storm, deceived not the Church's confidence. During all those years whilst the unfathomable Justice of the Most High let the powers of hell hold sway, She stood for the defence of Holy Church, trampling the head of the old serpent so thoroughly under Her victorious foot, that despite the terrific confusion he had stirred up, his filthy spume could not sully the faith of the people; their attachment was steadfast to the unity of the Roman See, whosoever might be, in the midst of their uncertainty, its veritable occupant. Thus the West, divided in fact but, in principle, ever one and undivided, spontaneously, as it were, re-united herself, as soon as God's moment came for the return of light. However, the hour having arrived for the Queen of Saints to assume the offensive, She would not content Herself with merely re-establishing at its former post, the army of the Elect; hell now must expiate his audacity, by being forced to yield back to Holy Church those conquests which for centuries had seemed his for ever. The tail of the dragon had not yet ceased to whisk at Basle, when Florence already beheld the heads of the Greek schism,—the Armenians and Ethiopians, the cavillers of Jerusalem, of Syria, and of Mesopotamia, all compensating by their unhoped for adhesion to the Roman Pontiff, for the anguish just suffered in the West.
It was now to be shown that such a return of nations, in the very midst even of the tempest, was indeed the work of Her who had been called upon by the Pilot, half a century before, to succour the Bark of Peter. Even they of the factious assembly of Basle gave proof of this, in a way which has unfortunately been too much overlooked by historians who undervalue the high importance that liturgical facts hold in the history of Christendom. When about to separate, these last abettors of the schism devoted the forty-third session of their pretended Council, to the promulgation of this very feast of the Visitation, in the first establishment of which Urban VI had, from the outset, placed all his hopes. Notwithstanding the resistance of some of the more obstinate, the schism may, from that hour, be said to have ended: the storm was subsiding; the name of Mary, invoked thus by both sides, shone resplendent as the sign of peace amidst the clouds, (Gen, ix. 12-17) even as the rainbow in its sweet radiance unites both extremities of the horizon. Look upon it, says the Holy Ghost, and bless him that made it: it is very beautiful in its brightness. It encompasseth the heaven about, with the circle of its glory, the Hands of the most High have displayed it. (Ecclus, xliii. 12-13)
But, it may be asked, why was the feast of the Visitation specially chosen, more than any other, as the monument of restored peace? The answer seems to be suggested in the very nature of the mystery itself and in the manner of its accomplishment.
Here, more particularly, does Mary appear as the Ark of the Covenant, bearing within her the Emmanuel, the living Testimony of a more true reconciliation,—of an alliance more sublime between earth and Heaven, than that limited compact of servitude entered into between Jehovah and the Jews, amidst the roar of thunder. By her means, far better than through Adam, all men are now brethren; for He whom she hides within her, is to be the First-born of the great family of the sons of God. Scarce is He conceived, than there begins for Him the mighty work of universal propitiation. Arise, then Lord, into thy resting place, thou and the Ark which thou hast sanctified,—whence thine own sanctity will pour down upon our earth! (Ps, cxxxi. 8) During the whole of her rapid passage from Nazareth to the mountains of Judea, she shall be protected by wings of Cherubim jealously eager to contemplate her glory. Amidst his truest warriors, amidst Israel's choirs of singing men, David conducted the figurative Ark from the house of Abinadab to that of Obed-Edom; (II Kings, vi.) but better far, the escort deputed by the Eternal Father for this sacred Ark of the New Covenant,—troops of the noblest princes of the heavenly phalanx.
Favoured with benediction was that Levite's house, whilst for three months it sheltered the Most High hidden on the golden Propitiatory; more favoured still, the home of the Priest Zachary, harbouring for the same lapse of time, Eternal Wisdom enshrined in the Virginal womb, wherein that union, so ambitioned by His Love, had just been accomplished. Yet beneath Zachary's roof, blessed as it was, the enemy of God and man was still holding one captive: the angelic embassy that had announced John's miraculous conception and birth, could not exempt him from the shameful tribute that every son of Adam must pay to the prince of death, on entering into this life. As formerly at Azotus, so now, Dagon may not remain standing erect in face of the Ark; (I Kings, v.) Mary appears, and Satan at once overturned, is subjected to utter defeat in John's soul, a defeat that is not to be his last; for the Ark of the Covenant will not stay its victories till the reconciliation of the last of the Elect be effected.
Let us then hymn this day with songs of gladness; for this Mystery contains the germ of every victory gained by the Church and her sons: henceforth the sacred Ark is borne at the head of every combat waged by the new Israel. Division between man and his God is at an end, between the Christian and his brethren! The ancient Ark was powerless to prevent the scission of the Tribes,—henceforth if schism and heresy do hold out for a few short years against Mary, it shall be but to evince more fully her glorious triumph, at last. In all ages, because of Her, even as to-day,—under the very eyes of the enemy now put to confusion, little ones shall rejoice; all, even the desolate, shall be filled with benediction; and Pontiffs shall be perfected. (Ps, cxxxi. 8-9, 14-18) Let us join the tribute of our songs unto John's exulting gladness, unto Elizabeth's sudden exclamations, unto Zachary's canticle: Yea, therewith let all earth reecho! Thus in by-gone days was the Ark hailed, as it entered the Hebrew camp; hearing their shout the Philistines thereby learned, that help had come from the Lord; and seized with terror, they groaned aloud saying: Wo to us; for there was no such great joy yesterday and the day before: Wo to us! (I Kings, iv. 5-8) Verily this day, the whole human race, together with John, leaps for joy and shouts with a great shout; verily this day, hath the old enemy good reason to lament: the heel of the woman, (Gen, iii. 15) as she stamps him down, makes his haughty head to wince for the first time: and John, set free, is hereby the precursor of us all. More happy are we, the new Israel, than was the old, for our glory shall never be taken away; never shall be wrested from us, that sacred Ark which has led us dry-shod across the River (Josue, iii-iv) and has levelled fortresses to the dust at its approach. (Josue, vi.)
Justly then is this day, whereon an end is put to the series of defeats begun in Eden, the day of new canticles for a new people! But who may intone the hymn of triumph, save She to whom the victory belongs? “Arise, arise, O Debbora, arise,—arise and utter a canticle. (Judges, v. 12) The valiant men ceased and rested in Israel, until Mary arose, the true Debbora, until a Mother arose in Israel. (Judges, v. 7) It is I, it is I,” saith she, “that will sing to the Lord, I will sing to the Lord, the God of Israel. (Judges, v. 3) O magnify the Lord with me, as saith my grandsire David, and let us extol his Name together. (Ps, xxxiii. 4) My heart hath rejoiced, like that of Anna, in God my Saviour. (I Kings, ii. 1) For even as in his handmaid Judith, by me he hath fulfilled his mercy, (Judith, xiii. 18) so that my praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever. (Judith, xiii. 25-31; xv. 11) For mighty is he that hath done great things in me; (Exod, xv. 2-3-11) there is none holy as he. (I Kings, ii. 2) Even as by Esther, he hath throughout, all generations saved those who feared him; (Esther, ix. 28) in the power of his arm, (Judith, ix. 11) he hath turned against the impious one the projects of his own heart, driving proud Aman out of his seat and uplifting the humble; the bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength; the abundance of them that were rich hath passed to the hungry and they are filled; (I Kings, ii. 4-5) he hath remembered his people and hath had pity on his inheritance. (Esther, x. 12) Such indeed was the promise that Abraham received and our fathers have handed down unto us: and he hath done to them even as he had promised.” (Esther, xiii. 15; xiv. 5)
Daughters of Sion and all ye who groan in the thraldom of Satan, the hymn of deliverance has sounded in our land! Following in Her train, who beareth within her the Pledge of alliance, let us form into choirs; better than Mary, Aaron's sister, and by yet juster title, doth she lead the concerts of Israel. (Exod, xv. 20-21) So sings she on this day of triumph, and the burthen of her song gathers into one all the victorious chants which erstwhile, in the ages of expectation, preluded this divine canticle of hers. But the past victories of the elect people were but figures of that which is gained by our glorious Queen on this day of her manifestation; for she, beyond Debbora, Judith, or Esther, has truly brought about the deliverance of her people; in her mouth the accents of her illustrious predecessors pass, from the burning aspiration of the prophetic age, to the calm extasy which denotes her being already in possession of the long expected God. A new era is meetly inaugurated by sacred chants: divine praise receives from Mary that character which henceforth it is never to lose, not even in Eternity.
The preceding considerations have been suggested by the special motive which led the Church to institute this feast, in the fourteenth century. Again, in our own day, has Mary shown that this date is indeed for her a day of victory,—for on the Second of July, in the year 1849, Rome was restored to the exiled Pontiff, Pius IX. But we should far exceed the limits of our present scope, were we to strive to exhaust the teachings of this vast mystery, the Visitation.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke, Ch. i. 39-47.
Mary rising up in those days, went in haste to the hilly country to a city of Juda: and going into the house of Zacharias, saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, as soon as Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how happened this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant leapt for joy in my womb. And blessed art thou, that hast believed; for the things that have been told thee from the Lord, shall be accomplished. And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
The Canticle of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
Gospel according to St. Luke, Ch. i. 46-55.
My soul doth magnify the Lord: And my spirit hath rejoiced: in God my Saviour. For he hath looked down on his lowly handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he who is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name. And his mercy from generation to generation, is shown to those who fear him. He hath exerted his strength by his own arm: he hath disappointed the proud ones of the designs of their hearts. He hath cast down the mighty ones from the throne: and raised up the lowly ones. He hath filled the hungry with good things: but the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath upholden his servant Israel: being mindful of his mercy. As he promised to our Father: to Abraham and his seed for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Mary, having learned from the Archangel, that Elizabeth was about to become a mother, is pre-occupied with the thought of the services that will soon be needed by her cousin and the infant; she therefore starts at once on her journey, across the mountains, amidst which stands the house of Zachary. Thus does the charity of Christ (II Cor, v. 14) act, thus does it press, when it is genuine. There is no state of soul, in which under pretext of more exalted perfection, the Christian may be allowed to forget his brethren. Mary had just contracted the highest union with God; and our imagination might perhaps be inclined to picture her, as it were, in a state of powerlessness, lost in extasy during these days in which the Word, taking Flesh of her flesh, is inundating her, in return, with the floods of His Divinity. The Gospel, however, is explicit on this subject: it particularly says that it was in those days (St. Luke, i. 39) even, that the humble Virgin, hitherto quietly hid in the secret of the Lord's Face, (Ps, xxx. 21) rose up to devote herself to all the bodily as well as the spiritual needs of a neighbour in such condition. Does that mean to say that works are superior to prayer, and that contemplation is not the better part? No, certainly not; for indeed never did Our Lady so directly and so fully adhere to God with her whole being, as at this very time. But the creature when he has attained the summits of the unitive life, is all the more apt and fitted for exterior works, inasmuch as no lending of himself thereunto, can distract him from the immoveable centre wherein he is fixed.
A signal privilege is this, resulting from that division of the spirit and the soul, (Heb, iv. 12) to which all attain not, and which marks one of the most decisive steps in the spiritual life; for it supposes a purification of man's entire being so perfect, that in very truth he is no other than one spirit with the Lord; (I Cor, vi. 17) it entails so absolute a submission of the powers, that without clashing one with the other, they yield, each in its particular sphere, obedience simultaneously, unto the Divine Breathing.
So long as the Christian has not yet crossed this last defile, defended with such obstinacy by nature to the last,—so long as he has not yet won that holy liberty of the children of God, (Rom, viii. 21; II Cor, iii. 17) he cannot possibly turn to man, without, in some way, quitting God. Not that he ought, on that account, to neglect his duties towards his neighbour, in whom God wishes us to see no other than Himself; but, nevertheless blessed is he who (like Mary,) loses naught of the better part, the while he attends to his obligations towards others! Yet how few are such privileged souls! and what an illusion it is to persuade ourselves to the contrary!
We shall return to these thoughts, on the day of Our Lady's triumphant Assumption; but the Gospel to which we have just been listening makes it a duty for us, even now, to draw the attention of the reader to this point. Our Lady has especially on this feast, a claim to be invoked as the model of those who devote themselves to works of mercy; and if to all it is by no means given to keep their spirit, at the same moment, more than ever immersed in God,—all, nevertheless, ought constantly to strive to approach, by the practice of recollection and divine praise, unto those luminous heights whereon their Queen shows herself, this day, in all the plenitude of her ineffable perfections.
Another account of the Visitation of Blessed Virgin Mary
From the example of Christ, his blessed Mother, and the apostles, St. Thomas shows that state to be in itself the most perfect which joins together the functions of Martha and Mary, or of the active and contemplative life. This is endeavoured by those persons who so employ themselves in the service of their neighbour, as amidst their external employs or conversation often to raise their minds to God, feeding always on their heavenly invisible food, as the angel did in Toby's company on earth. Who also, by the practice and love of daily recollection and much solitude, fit themselves to appear in public; and who by having learned the necessary art of silence in its proper season, and by loving to speak little among men, study to be in the first place their own friends, and by reflection and serious consideration to be thoroughly acquainted with themselves, and to converse often in heaven (Phil, iii. 20). Such will be able to acquit themselves of external employs without prejudice to their own virtue, when called to them by duty, justice, or charity. They may avoid the snares of the world, and sanctify their conversation with men. Of this the Blessed Virgin is to us a perfect model, in the visit paid to her cousin Elizabeth, as St. Francis of Sales takes notice, who borrowed from this mystery the name which he gave to his Order of nuns, who, according to the first plan of their institute, were devoted to visit and attend on the sick.
The angel Gabriel, in the mystery of the Annunciation, informed the mother of God, that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived, and was then in the sixth month of her pregnancy. The Blessed Virgin, out of humility, concealed the favour she had received, and the wonderful dignity to which she was raised by the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb; but in the transport of her holy joy and gratitude, she would go to congratulate the mother of the Baptist; with which resolution the Holy Ghost inspired her for his great designs in favour of her Son's precursor, not yet born. “Mary therefore arose,” saith St. Luke, “and with haste went into the hilly country, into a city of Juda; and entering into the house of Zachary saluted Elizabeth.” She made this visit to a saint, because the company of the servants of God is principally to be sought, from whose example and very silence the heart will always treasure up something, and the understanding receive some new light and improvement in charity. As glowing coals increase their flame by contact, so is the fire of divine love kindled in a fervent soul by the words and example of those who truly love God. In this journey what lessons of humility does the Holy Virgin give us! She had been just saluted mother of God, and exalted above all mere creatures, even the highest seraphim of heaven; yet far from being elated with the thoughts of her incomprehensible dignity, she appears but the more humble by it. She prevents the mother of the Baptist in this office of charity; the mother of God pays a visit to the mother of her Son's servant; the Redeemer of the world goes to his precursor. What a subject of confusion is this to the pride of the children of the world! who, not content with the rules of respect which the law of subordination requires, carry their vanity to an excess of ceremoniousness contrary even to good manners, and to the freedom of conversation, which they make an art of constraint and of torture, both to themselves and others; and in which they seek not any duty of piety or improvement in virtue, but loathsome means of foolish flattery, the gratification of vanity, or that dissipation of mind which continually entertains it with trifles and idleness, and is an enemy to serious consideration and virtue.
When the office of charity called upon Mary, she thought of no dangers or difficulties in so painful and long a journey of above fourscore miles from Nazareth in Galilee to Hebron, a sacerdotal city in the mountainous country, on the western side of the tribe of Juda. The inspired writer takes notice that she went with haste, or with speed and diligence, to express her eagerness to perform this good office. Charity knows not what sloth is, but always acts with fervour. She likewise would hasten her steps out of modesty, not choosing to appear abroad, but as compelled by necessity or charity; not travelling out of vanity, idleness, or curiosity, but careful in her journey to shun the dissipation of the world, according to the remarks of St. Ambrose. Whence we may also gather with what care she guarded her eyes, and what was the entertainment of her pious soul with God upon the road. Being arrived at the house of Zachary, she entered it, and saluted Elizabeth. What a blessing did the presence of the God-man bring to this house, the first which he honoured in his humanity with his visit! But Mary is the instrument and means by which he imparts to it his divine benediction; to show us that she is a channel through which he delights to communicate to us his graces, and to encourage us to ask them of him through her intercession. At the voice of the mother of God, but by the power and grace of her Divine Son, in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and the infant in her womb was sanctified; and miraculously anticipating the use of reason, know by divine inspiration the mystery of the incarnation, and who it was that came to visit him. From this knowledge he conceived so great, so extraordinary a joy as to leap and exult in the womb. If Abraham and all the ancient prophets exulted only to foresee in spirit that day when it was at the distance of so many ages, what wonder the little Baptist felt so great a joy to see it then present! How eagerly did he desire to take up his office of precursor, and already to announce to men their Redeemer, that he might be known and adored by all! But how do we think he adored and reverenced him present in his mother's womb? and what were the blessings with which he was favoured by him? He was cleansed from original sin, and filled with sanctifying grace, was made a prophet, and adored the Messiah before he was yet born.
At the same time Elizabeth was likewise filled with the Holy Ghost; and by his infused light, she understood the great mystery of the Incarnation which God had wrought in Mary, whom humility prevented from disclosing it even to a saint, and an intimate friend. In raptures of astonishment, Elizabeth pronounced her blessed above all other women, she being made by God the instrument of his blessing to the world, and of removing the malediction which through Eve had been entailed on mankind. But the fruit of her womb she called blessed in a sense still infinitely higher, he being the immense source of all graces, by whom only Mary herself was blessed. Elizabeth then turning her eyes upon herself, cried out,—“Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She herself had conceived, barren, and by a miracle; but Mary, a virgin, and by the Holy Ghost. She conceived one greater than the prophets; but Mary, the eternal Son of God, himself true God. The Baptist, her son, used the like exclamation to express his confusion and humility when Christ came to be baptized by his hands. In the like words and profound sentiments ought we to receive all the visits of God in his graces, especially in the holy sacraments. Elizabeth styles Mary, Mother of her Lord, that is, mother of God; and she foretells that all things would befall her and her Son which had been spoken by the prophets.
Mary hearing her own praise, sunk the lower in the abyss of her nothingness, and, converting all good gifts to the glory of God, whose gratuitous mercy had bestowed them, in the transport of her humility, and melting in an ecstacy of love and gratitude, burst into that admirable canticle called the Magnificat. It is the first recorded in the New Testament, and, both in the noble sentiments which compose it, and in the majesty of the style, surpasses all those of the ancient prophets. It is the most perfect model of thanksgiving and praise for the incarnation of the Son of God, and the most precious monument of the profound humility of Mary. In it she glorifies God with all the powers of her soul for his boundless mercies, and gives to him alone all the glory. In the spiritual gladness of her heart she adores her Saviour, who had cast his merciful eyes upon her lowliness. Though all nations will call her blessed, she declares that nothing is her due but abjection, and that this mystery is the effect of the pure power and mercy of God; and that he who had dethroned tyrants, fed the hungry in the wilderness, and wrought so many wonders in favour of his people, had now vouchsafed himself to visit them, to live among them, to die for them, and to fulfil all things which he had promised by his prophets from the beginning. Mary stayed with her cousin almost three months, after which she returned to Nazareth.
Whilst with the Church we praise God for the mercies and wonders which he wrought in this mystery, we ought to apply ourselves to the imitation of the virtues of which Mary sets us a perfect example. From her we ought particularly to learn the lessons by which we shall sanctify our visits and conversation; actions which are to so many Christians the sources of innumerable dangers and sins. We must shun not only scurrilous and profane discourse, but whatever is idle, light, airy, or unprofitable; whilst we unbend our mind, we ought as much as possible to seek that conversation which is conducive to the improvement of our hearts or understandings, and to the advancement of virtue and solid useful knowledge. If we suffer our mind to be puffed up with empty wind, it will become itself such as is the nourishment upon which it feeds. We should shun the vice of talkativeness, did we but consult that detestable vanity itself which betrays us into this folly. For nothing is more tyrannical or more odious and insupportable in company than to usurp a monopoly of the discourse. Nothing can more degrade us in the opinion of others than for us to justle, as it were, for the word; to vent all we have in our hearts, at least a great deal that we ought to conceal there; and without understanding ourselves, or taking a review of our meaning or words, to pour out embryos of half-formed conceptions, and speak of the most noble subjects in an undress of thoughts. What proofs of our vanity and folly, what disgraces, what perplexities, what detractions, and other evils and sins should we avoid, if we were but sparing and reserved in our words! If we find ourselves to swell with an itch of talking, big with our own thoughts, and impatient to give them vent, we must by silence curb this dangerous passion, and learn to be masters of our words.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
July 2, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF SS. PROCESSUS AND MARTINIAN, MARTYRS
For to them belongs the kingdom of heaven, who despising the life of this world, have obtained the rewards of the kingdom, and washed their garments in the blood of the lamb.
Rejoice in the Lord, and be glad ye righteous ones. And glory all ye upright of heart.
O God who, by the glorious sufferings of thy holy Martyrs Processus and Martinianus, art pleased to protect and defend us: grant we may improve by their example, and find comfort in their prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
On this day whereon Satan, for the first time, sees his infernal crew fall back, in face of the sacred Ark, two warriors of the army of the Elect take their rank in our Queen's cortège. Deputed by Peter himself, during this his glad Octave, to wait upon Mary, they have earned this honour by reason of their faith, which taught time to recognise in Nero's condemned criminal, the chief of God's people.
The Prince of the Apostles was awaiting his martyrdom in the dungeon of the Mamertine prison, when led by Divine Mercy, there came to him two Roman soldiers, the very ones whose names have become inseparable from his own in the Church's memory. One was called Processus, the other Martinianus. They were struck by the dignity of the old man, confided for some hours to their ward, who should not again see day-light, till he must perish on the gibbet. Peter spoke to them of Life Eternal and of the Son of God who so loved men as to give the last drop of His Blood for their ransom. Processus and Martinianus received with docile heart this unexpected instruction, they accepted it with simple faith, and craved the grace of regeneration. But water was wanting in the dungeon, and Peter must needs make use of that power to command nature, bestowed by our Lord upon the Apostles, when he sent them into the world. At the word of the old man, a fountain sprang up from the ground, and the two soldiers were baptised in the miraculous water. Christian piety still venerates this fountain which never either brims over or dries up. Processus and Martinianus were not slow to pay with their life, for the honour conferred upon them of being thus initiated into the Christian Faith by the Prince of the Apostles, and they are numbered among God's Martyrs.
Their cultus is more ancient even than that of Peter himself. In the age of peace, a basilica was raised over their tomb: St. Gregory pronounced there, on the solemn anniversary of their combat, his thirty-second Homily on the Gospel; the great Pontiff, therein renders testimony to the miracles which were operated on that holy spot, and he celebrates, in particular, the power which those two Saints have of protecting their devout clients, on the day of the Lord's Justice. Later on, St. Pascal I enriched the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles, with their bodies. They now occupy the place of honour, in the left arm of the Latin cross formed by the immense edifice, and they give their name to the whole of this side of the transept, wherein the Vatican Council held its immortal Sessions; fitting was it that this august assembly should carry on its labours under the patronage of these two valiant warriors, who were not only St. Peter's guards, but his conquest in the days of his own glorious confession. Let us not forget these illustrious protectors of Holy Church. The Feast of the Visitation, of more recent institution, has not lessened theirs; though their glory is now, so to say, lost in that of Our Lady, their power can but have gained in strength, by this very approximation to the gentle Queen of earth and heaven.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time
After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Processus and Martinian, pray for us.
July 1, 2020: THE MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Rank: Double of the I Class.
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra, this beautiful one in his robe?
I that speak justice, and am a defender to save.
He was clothed in a robe sprinkled with blood, and his name is called the Word of God.
Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like to them that tread the wine-press?
I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast appointed thy Only-Begotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be appeased by his Blood: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate with solemn worship, the price of our salvation, and to be on earth so defended by its power from the evils of this present life, that we may rejoice in its perpetual fruit in heaven. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
“…And they sung a new canticle,
saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, because Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in Thy Blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests,
and we shall reign on the earth.”
John the Baptist has pointed out the Lamb, Peter has firmly fixed His Throne, Paul has prepared the Bride; this their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reason for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously on the Cycle. The Alliance being now secured, all three fall into shade; whilst the Bride herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in her hands the sacred Cup of the Nuptial-feast.
This gives the secret of to-day's Solemnity; revealing how its illumining the heavens of the holy Liturgy, at this particular season, is replete with mystery. The Church, it is true, has already made known, to the sons of the New Covenant, and in a much more solemn manner,—the price of the Blood that redeemed them, Its nutritive strength, and the adoring homage which is Its due. Yes; on Good Friday, earth and heaven beheld all sin drowned in the saving Stream, when Its eternal flood-gates at last gave way, beneath the combined effort of man's violence and of the Love of the Divine Heart. The Festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the Altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary and where the outpouring of the Precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of earth, lowly bowed in adoration before It. How is it then, that Holy Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the Stream of Life ever gushing from the Sacred Fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means, exhausted the Mystery? The peace which the Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of Its wave bearing back the sons of Adam, from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed, and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the Sacred Table outspread before them, on the waters' brink, and the Chalice brimful of inebriation;—all this preparation and display would be objectless, all these splendours would be incomprehensible, if man were not brought to see therein, the wooings of a Love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes, at this moment, as the Blood of the Testament; the Pledge of the Alliance proposed to us by God; (Exod, xxiv. 8; Heb, ix. 20) the Dower stipulated upon by Eternal Wisdom for this divine Union to which He is inviting all men, and the consummation whereof in our soul is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.
“Having therefore, Brethren, a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ,” says the Apostle, “a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, let us draw near with a pure heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised. Let us consider one another to provoke unto Charity and to good works. (Heb, x. 19-24) And may the God of peace who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Blood of the everlasting Testament, fit you in all goodness, that you may do his will: doing in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen!” (Heb, xiii. 20-21)
Nor must we omit to mention here, that this Feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of Holy Church, in our own age. Pius IX had been driven from Rome in 1848, by the triumphant revolution; but the following year, just about this very season, was his power re-established. Under the ægis of the Apostles, on June 28th and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church, faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the Eternal City; and on July 2nd, Mary's festival, the victory was completed. Not long after this, a twofold decree notified to the City and to the world the Pontiff's gratitude and the way in which he intended to perpetuate, in the sacred Liturgy, the memory of these events. On August 10th, from Gaeta itself, the place of his exile in the evil day,—Pius IX, before returning to re-assume the government of his States, addressing himself to the invisible Head of the Church,—confided her in a special manner to His divine care, by the institution of this day's Festival; reminding Him that it was for His Church that He vouchsafed to shed all His Precious Blood.
Lesson from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Hebrews. Ch. IX.
Brethren, Christ being come, a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who, through the Holy Ghost, offered himself without spot to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? And therefore he is the Mediator of the New Testament; that by means of his death, for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former Testament; those that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance; in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reflection on the Epistle.
The Epistle that has just been read to us is the confirmation of what we were saying above, as regards the special character of this Festival. It was by his own Blood that the Son of God entered into heaven; this divine Blood continues to be the means whereby we also may be introduced into the eternal Alliance. Thus, the Old Covenant founded, as it was, on the observance of the precepts of Sinai, had likewise by blood consecrated the people and the Law, the tabernacle and the vessels it was to contain; but the whole was but a figure. “Now,” says Saint Ambrose, “it behoves us to tend unto Truth. Here below, there is the shadow; here below, there is the image; up yonder, there is the Truth. In the Law was but the shadow; the image is to be found in the Gospel; the Truth is in Heaven. Formerly a lamb was immolated; now Christ is sacrificed, but He is so only under the signs of the Mysteries, whereas in Heaven it is without veil. There alone, consequently, is full perfection, unto which our thoughts should cleave, because all perfection is in Truth without image and without shadow.” Yea! there alone is rest: thither, even in this world, do the sons of God tend; without indeed attaining fully thereunto, they get nearer and nearer, day by day; for there alone is to be found that peace which forms saints.
“O Lord God,” cries out, in his turn another illustrious Doctor, the great Saint Augustine, “give us this peace, the peace of repose, the peace of the seventh day, of that Sabbath whose sun never sets. Yea! verily the whole order of nature and of grace is very beautiful unto thy servitors, and goodly are the realities they cover; but these images, these successive forms, bide only awhile, and their evolution ended, they pass away. The days thou didst fill with thy creations are composed of morning and of evening, the seventh alone excepted, for it declineth not, because thou hast for ever sanctified it, in thine own Rest. Now what is this Rest, save that which thou takest in us, when we ourselves repose in thee, in the fruitful peace which crowns the series of thy graces in us? O sacred Rest, more productive than labour! the perfect alone know thee, they who suffer the divine Hand to accomplish within them the Work of the Six Days.”
And therefore, our Apostle goes on to say, interpreting, by means of other parts of Scripture, his own words, just read to us by holy Church, and therefore, to-day if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. The Blood Divine hath rendered us participators of Christ: it is our part not to squander, as though it were worthless, this immense treasure, this initial incorporation which unites us to Christ, the divine Head; but let us abandon ourselves, without fear and without reserve, to the energy of this precious leaven whose property it is to transform our whole being into Him. Let us be afraid lest we fall short of the promise referred to in our to-day's Epistle, that promise of our entering into God's Rest, as Saint Paul himself tells us. It regards all Believers, he says, and this divine Sabbath is for the whole people of the Lord. Therefore, to enter therein, let us make haste; let us not be like those Jews whose incredulity excluded them for ever, from the promised land. (Heb, iii-iv.)
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. John. Ch. XIX.
At that time, when Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said: It is consummated. And bowing his head he gave up the ghost. Then the Jews (because it was the Parasceve) that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that was a great Sabbath-day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony, and his testimony is true.
Reflection on the Gospel.
On that stupendous Day, Good Friday, we heard for the first time this passage from the Beloved Disciple. The Church, as she stood mourning at the foot of the Cross whereon her Lord had just died, was all tears and lamentation. To-day, however, she is thrilling with other sentiments, and the very same narration that then provoked her bitter tears, now makes her burst out into anthems of gladness and songs of triumph. If we would know the reason of this, let us turn to those who are authorised by her to interpret, unto us, the burthen of her thoughts this day. They will tell us that the new Eve is celebrating her birth from out the Side of her sleeping Spouse; that from the solemn moment when the new Adam permitted the soldier's lance to open his Heart, we became in very deed, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Be not then surprised, if holy Church sees naught but love and life in the Blood which is gushing forth.
And thou, soul, long rebellious to the secret touches of choicest graces, be not disconsolate; say not: “Love is no more for me!” How far away soever the old enemy may by wretched wiles, have dragged thee, is it not still true that to every winding way, yea alas! perhaps even to every pit-fall,—the streamlets of this Sacred Fount have followed thee? Thinkest thou, perhaps, that thy long and tortuous wanderings from the merciful course of these ever pursuant waters, may have weakened their power? Do but try; do but, first of all, bathe in their cleansing wave; do but quaff long draughts from this Stream of Life; then weary soul, arming thee with faith, be strong, and mount once more the course of the divine Torrent. For, as in order to reach thee, It never once was separated from its Fountain-Head, so likewise be certain that by so doing, thou needs must reach the very Source Itself. Believe me, this is the whole secret of the Bride, namely, that whence soever she may come, she has no other course to pursue than this, if she would fain hear the answer to that yearning request expressed in the Sacred Canticle: Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou resteth in the Mid-day! (Cant, i. 6) So much so indeed, that by re-ascending the sacred Stream, not only is she sure of reaching the Divine Heart, but moreover she is ceaselessly renewing, in its waters, that pure beauty which makes her become, in the eyes of the Spouse, an object of delight and of glory unto Him. (Eph, v. 27) For thy part, carefully gather up to-day, the testimony of the Disciple of love; and congratulating Jesus, with the Church, His Bride and thy Mother, on the brilliancy of her empurpled robe, take good heed likewise to conclude with St. John: Let us then love God, since He hath first loved us. (I St. John, iv. 19)
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890.
Ejaculatory Offering of the Precious Blood
An Indulgence of 100 days, is granted to all the faithful every time they make the following ejaculation.
Eternal Father! I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus in satisfaction for my sins, and for the wants of Holy Church.
of Reparation to the Precious Blood
An Indulgence of 300 days is granted to all who say this prayer.
Most Precious Blood of life eternal! Price and ransom of the whole universe! Drink and bath of the soul! Ever pleading the cause of man before the throne of heavenly Mercy! I adore thee most profoundly; I would, if I were able, make Thee some compensation for the outrages and wrongs Thou dost ever suffer from men, and especially from those who in their rashness dare to blaspheme Thee. Who will not bless this Blood of value infinite? Who does not feel himself inflamed with the love of Jesus, who shed it all for us? What should I be but for this Blood which hath redeemed me? And who drew Thee out of the veins of my Lord, even unto the last drop? It was Love! O immense love, which gave us this saving balsam! O Balsam beyond all price streaming forth from the fount of immeasurable love! Give to all hearts, all tongues, power to praise, celebrate, and thank Thee now and ever, and throughout all eternity. Amen.
Taken from: Confraternity Manual of the Precious Blood, 1861
Litany of the Precious Blood of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Jesus, hear us: Jesus, 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.
Jesus, who for love of us wast crucified,
and didst shed all thy Blood, Have mercy on us.
O Precious Blood, springing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Flow upon us.
Precious Blood, vast sea of divine mercy, Overwhelm us.
Precious Blood, most pure offering, Reconcile us.
Precious Blood, pledge of immortality, Give us joy.
Precious Blood, sweet refreshment of holy souls, Comfort us.
Precious Blood, inexhaustible treasure, Enrich us.
Precious Blood, furnace of love, Inflame us.
Precious Blood, sweet delight of the faithful, Charm us.
Precious Blood, fount of chastity, Purify us.
Precious Blood, shed by the stroke of the lance which opened to us the heart of Jesus, Enlighten us.
Precious Blood, the hope and refuge of sinners, Answer for us.
Precious Blood, the seed of Christians, Multiply us.
Precious Blood, admiration of the Angels, Exalt us.
Precious Blood, the love and the joy of the seraphim, Inflame us.
Precious Blood, faith of the patriarchs, Enlighten us.
Precious Blood, hope of the prophets, Confirm us.
Precious Blood, charity of the apostles, Inflame us.
Precious Blood, strength of martyrs, Sustain us.
Precious Blood, reward of confessors, Animate us.
Precious Blood, beauty of virgins, Adorn us.
Precious Blood, delight of all the saints, Strengthen us.
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, Hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy upon us.
Anthem: The fountains of the cast abyss are poured forth abundantly from the heart of Jesus, and the gates thereof are opened to us.
V. Hasten, O thirsty
R. And wash thyself seven times in this Jordan of blood.
Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast vouchsafed to shed thy precious Blood freely for us, make us speedily feel its admirable virtue, and salutary help, by its constant application to our souls, who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
Taken from: The Manual of the Scared Heart, Edition 1866
V. Thou hast
redeemed us, O Lord, with Thy Blood:
R. And hast made us a kingdom to our God.
June 30, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. PAUL, APOSTLE
Rank: Greater Double.
[Part III - Beheading of St. Paul]
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will bestow on me at that day.”
(II Tim, iv. 7-8)
O God, who by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle, didst instruct the multitude of the Gentiles; grant, we beseech thee, that while we celebrate his festival, we may find the effect of his prayers.
(Commemoration of St. Peter) O God, who by delivering to thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst give him the power of binding and loosing; grant, that by his intercession, we may be freed from the bonds of our sins. Who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
“Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned; I thrice suffered shipwreck for the name of Christ.”
(II Cor, xi.)
Illustrious Doctor, guide our ways,
Our hearts with thee to heaven raise,
‘Till faith obscure her moonlight gains,
To God th’ all-ruling one and three
Be never ceasing jubilee,
Eternal glory, endless praise
For an eternity of days. Amen.
V. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy Paul, the Apostle.
R. The preacher of truth throughout the whole world.
PART III – Beheading of St. Paul
Whereas the Greeks on this day are uniting in one Solemnity, the Memory, as they express it, of the illustrious Saints, the Twelve Apostles, worthy of all praise,—let us follow in spirit, the Roman populace, who are gathered around the Successor of Peter, and are making the splendid Basilica on the Ostian Way re-echo with songs of victory, whilst he is offering to the Doctor of the Gentiles, the grateful homage of the City and of the world.
On the Twenty fifth of January, we beheld Stephen leading to Christ's mystic crib, the once ravenous wolf of Benjamin, (Gen, xlix. 27) tamed at last, but who in the morning of his impetuous youth, had filled the Church of God with tears and bloodshed. His evening did indeed come, when as Jacob had foreseen, Saul, the persecutor, would outstrip all his predecessors among Christ's disciples, in giving increase to the Fold, and in feeding the Flock, with the choicest food of his heavenly doctrine.
By an unexampled privilege, Our Lord though already seated at the Right Hand of His Father, vouchsafed not only to call, but personally to instruct this new disciple, so that he might one day be numbered amongst His Apostles. The ways of God can never be contradictory one to another; hence, this creation of a new Apostle may not be accomplished in a manner derogatory to the divine constitution already delivered to the Christian Church by the Son of God. Therefore, as soon as the illustrious Convert emerges from those sublime contemplations, during which the Christian dogma has been poured into his soul,—he must needs go to Jerusalem to see Peter, as he himself relates to his disciples in Galatia. “It behoved him (says Bossuet) to collate his own Gospel with that of the Prince of the Apostles.” From that moment, aggregated as a cooperator in the preaching of the Gospel, we see him at Antioch (in the “Acts of the Apostles,”) accompanied by Barnabas, presenting himself to the work of opening the Church unto the Gentiles,—the conversion of Cornelius having been already effected, be it remembered, by Peter himself. He passes a whole year in this city, reaping an abundant harvest. After Peter's imprisonment in Jerusalem, at his subsequent departure for Rome, a warning from on high makes known to those who preside over the Church at Antioch, that the moment is come for them to impose hands on the two missionaries, and confer on them the sacred character of Ordination.
From that hour, Paul attains the full stature of an Apostle, and it is clear that the mission unto which he had been preparing, is now opened. At the same time, in St. Luke's narrative, Barnabas almost disappears, retaining but a very secondary position. The new Apostle has his own disciples, and he henceforth takes the lead in a long series of peregrinations marked by as many conquests. His first is to Cyprus, where he seals an alliance with ancient Rome, analogous to that which Peter contracted at Cesarea.
In the year 43, when Paul landed in Cyprus, its pro-consul was Sergius Paulus, illustrious for his ancestry, but still more so for the wisdom of his government. He wished to hear Paul and Barnabas: a miracle worked by Paul, under his very eyes, convinced him of the truth of his teaching: and the Christian Church counted, that day, among her sons one who was heir to the proudest name among the noble families of Rome. Touching was the mutual exchange that took place, on this occasion. The Roman Patrician had just been freed by the Jew, from the yoke of the Gentiles; in return, the Jew hitherto called Saul, received and thenceforth adopted, the name of Paul, as a trophy worthy of the Apostle of the Gentiles.
From Cyprus, Paul travelled successively to Cilicia, Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, everywhere preaching the Gospel and founding Churches. He then returned to Antioch, in the year 47, and found the Church there, in a state of violent agitation. A party of Jews, who had come over to Christianity from the ranks of the Pharisees,—whilst consenting indeed to the admission of Gentiles into the Church, were maintaining that this could only be on condition of their being likewise subjected to Mosaic practices, such as, circumcision, distinction of meats, &c. The Christians who had been received from among the Gentiles, were disgusted at this servitude to which Peter had not subjected them; and thus the controversy became so hot, that Paul deemed it necessary to undertake a journey to Jerusalem where Peter had lately arrived, a fugitive from Rome, and where the Apostolic College was at that moment furthermore represented by John, as well as by James the bishop of the city. These being assembled to deliberate on the question, it was decreed, in the name and under the influence of the Holy Ghost, that the exacting of anything relative to Jewish rites, should be utterly forbidden, in the case of Gentile converts. It was on this occasion too, that Paul received from these Pillars, as he styles them, the confirmation of this his Apostolate superadded to that of the Twelve, and to be specially exercised in favour of the Gentiles. By this extraordinary ministry deputed unto the nations, the Christian Church definitively asserted her independence of Judaism; and the Gentiles could now freely come flocking into her bosom.
Paul then resumed his course of apostolic journeys over all the Provinces he had already evangelised, in order to confirm the Churches. Thence, passing through Phrygia, he came to Macedonia, stayed a while at Athens, and then on to Corinth, where he remained a year and a half. At his departure, he left in this city, a flourishing Church, whereby he excited against him the fury of the Jews. From Corinth, Paul went to Ephesus, where he stayed two years. So great was his success with the Gentiles there, that the worship of Diana was materially weakened; whereupon a tumult ensuing, Paul thought the moment come for his departure from Ephesus. During his abode there he made known to his disciples, a thought that had long haunted him: I must needs see Rome: the Capital of the Gentile world was indeed calling the Apostle of the Gentiles.
The rapid growth of Christianity in the Capital of the Empire, had brought face to face and in a manner more striking than elsewhere, the two heterogeneous elements which formed the Church of that day: the unity of Faith held together in one fold, those that had formerly been Jews, and those that had been pagans. Now it so happened, that some of both of these classes, too easily forgetting the gratuity of their common vocation to the Faith, began to go so far as to despise their brethren of the opposite class, deeming them less worthy than themselves of that Baptism, which had made them all equal in Christ. On the one side, certain Jews disdained the Gentiles, remembering the polytheism which had sullied their past life with all those vices which come in its train. On the other side, certain Gentiles contemned the Jews, as coming from an ungrateful and blinded people, who had so abused the favours lavished upon them by God, as to crucify the Messias.
In the year 53, Paul already aware of these debates, profited of a second journey to Corinth, to write to the Faithful of the Church in Rome that famous Epistle, in which he emphatically sets forth how gratuitous is the gift of Faith; and maintains how Jew and Gentile alike being quite unworthy of the divine adoption, have been called solely by an act of pure Mercy. He likewise shows how Jew and Gentile, forgetting the past, have but to embrace one another in the fraternity of one same Faith, thus testifying their gratitude to God through whom both of them have been alike prevented by Grace. His Apostolic dignity so fully recognised, authorized Paul to interfere in this matter, though touching a Christian centre not founded by him.
Whilst awaiting the day when he could behold with his own eyes the Queen of all Churches, lately fixed by Peter on the Seven Hills,—the Apostle was anxious once again to make a pilgrimage to the City of David. Jewish rage was just at that moment rampant in Jerusalem against him; national pride being more specially piqued, in that he the former disciple of Gamaliel, the accomplice of Stephen's murder, should now invite the Gentiles to be coupled with the sons of Abraham, under the one same Law of Jesus of Nazareth. The Tribune Lysias was scarce able to snatch him from the hands of these bloodthirsty men, ready to tear him to pieces. The following night, Christ appeared to Paul saying unto him: Be constant, for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
It was not however till after two years of captivity, that Paul, having appealed to Caesar, landed in Italy, at the beginning of the year 56. Then at last, the Apostle of the Gentiles made his entry into Rome the trappings of a victor surrounded him not; he was but a humble Jewish prisoner led to the place where all appellants to Caesar were mustered; yet was he that Jew whom Christ Himself had conquered, on the way to Damascus. No longer Saul, the Benjamite, he now presented himself under the Roman name of Paul; nor was this a robbery on his part, for after Peter, he was to be the second glory of Rome, the second pledge of her immortality. He brought not the primacy with him indeed, as Peter had done,—for that had been committed by Christ to one alone; but he came to assert in the very centre of the Gentile world, the divine delegation, which he had received in favour of the nations,—just as an affluent flows into the main stream, which mingling its waters with its own, at last empties them unitedly into the ocean. Paul was to have no successor in his extraordinary mission; but the element which he had deposited in the Mistress, the Mother Church, was of such value, that in course of ages the Roman Pontiffs, heirs to Peter's monarchical power have ever appealed to Paul's memory as well; pronouncing their mandates in the united names of the “Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Instead of having to await in prison, the day whereon his cause was to be heard, Paul was at liberty to choose a lodging place in the City. He was obliged however to be accompanied day and night, by a soldier to whom, according to the usual custom, he was chained, but only in such a way as to prevent his escape: all his movements being otherwise left perfectly free, he could easily continue to preach the Word of God. Towards the close of the year 57, in virtue of his appeal to Cæsar, the Apostle was at last summoned before the pretorium; and the successful pleading of his cause, resulted in his acquittal.
Being now free, Paul revisited the East, confirming on his Evangelical course, the Churches he had previously founded. Thus Ephesus and Crete once more enjoyed his presence; in the one he left his disciple Timothy as bishop, and in the other Titus. But Paul had not quitted Rome for ever: marvelously illumined as she had been, by his preaching, the Roman Church was yet to be gilded by his parting rays and empurpled by his blood. A heavenly warning, as in Peter's case, bade him also return to Rome where martyrdom was awaiting him. This fact is attested by St. Athanasius: we learn the same also from St. Asterius of Ameseus, who hereupon remarks, that the Apostle entered Rome once more, “in order to teach the very masters of the world, to turn them into his disciples, and by their means to wrestle with the whole human race. There, Paul finds Peter engaged in the same work; he at once yokes himself to the same divine chariot with him, and sets about instructing the children of the Law, within the Synagogues, and the Gentiles outside.”
At length Rome possesses her two Princes conjointly: the one seated on the eternal chair, holding in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the other surrounded by the sheaves he has garnered from the fields of the Gentile world. They shall now part no more; even in death, as the Church sings, they shall not be separated. The period of their being together was necessarily short, for they must needs render to their Master the testimony of blood, before the Roman world should be freed from the odious tyranny under which it was groaning. Their death was to be Nero's last crime; after that, he was to fade from sight, leaving the world horrorstricken at his end, as shameful as it was tragic.
It was in the year 65, that Paul returned to Rome; once more signalising his presence there, by the manifold works of his Apostolate. From the time of his first labours there, he had made converts even in the very palace of the Cæsars: being now returned to this former theatre of his zeal, he again finds entrance into the imperial abode. A woman who was living in criminal intercourse with Nero, as likewise a cupbearer of his, were both caught in the Apostolic net, for it were hard indeed to resist the power of that mighty word. Nero, enraged at “this foreigner's” influence in his very household, was bent on Paul's destruction. Being first of all cast into prison, his zeal cooled not, but he persisted the more in preaching Jesus Christ. The two converts of the imperial palace having abjured, together with paganism, the manner of life they had been leading, this twofold conversion of theirs did but hasten Paul's martyrdom. He was well aware that it would be so, as can be seen in these lines addressed to Timothy: “I labour even unto bands, as an evil doer; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore, I endure all things for the sake of the elect. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed, like a victim already sprinkled with the lustral water, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day.” (II Tim)
On the Twenty-ninth of June, in the year 67, whilst Peter having crossed the Tiber, by the Triumphal bridge, was drawing nigh to the cross prepared for him on the Vatican plain, another martyrdom was being consummated on the left bank of the same River. Paul, as he was led along the Ostian Way, was also followed by a group of the Faithful who mingled with the escort of the condemned. His sentence was that he should be beheaded at the Salvian Waters. A two miles' march brought the soldiers to a path leading Eastwards, by which they led their prisoner to the place fixed upon for the martyrdom of this, the Doctor of the Gentiles. Paul fell on his knees, addressing his last prayer to God; then having bandaged his eyes, he awaited the death-stroke. A soldier brandished his sword, and the Apostle's head, as it was severed from the trunk, made three bounds along the ground; three fountains immediately sprang up on these several spots. Such is the local tradition; and to this day, three fountains are to be seen on the site of his martyrdom, over each of which an altar is raised.
Let us unite our voice of homage to that of preceding ages, in honour of this Vessel of Election, whence salvation flows so abundantly over our earth. Let us borrow the following Responsories from the Roman Office, the formulæ of which for to-day's Feast present such a fair collection of graceful beauty.
℟. Thou art a Vessel of Election, holy Apostle, Paul, thou Preacher of Truth unto the whole world: *By whom all nations have known the grace of God.
℣. Intercede for us unto God who elected thee. *By whom all nations have known the grace of God.
℟. By the grace of God, I am what I am: *And his grace in me hath not been void, but ever abideth in me.
℣. He who wrought in Peter among the Apostles, hath wrought in me also among the Gentiles. *And his grace in me hath not been void, but ever abideth in me.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VI, 1866; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
O holy Paul the Apostle, the preacher of the truth, and Doctor of the Gentiles, make intercession for us to God, who chose thee.