June 26, 2022: COMMEMORATION OF SS. JOHN AND PAUL, MARTYRS
These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks giving light before the Lord: they have power to close heaven that the clouds rain not, and to open the gates thereof, for their tongues are made keys of heaven.
These are the holy ones, who for Christ's love contemned the threats of men: in the kingdom of heaven the holy martyrs exult with the Angels, oh! how precious is the death of the Saints who constantly stand before the Lord, and are never separated from one another.
We beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we may receive this day a double joy from the glorious solemnity of thy blessed Martyrs, John and Paul, who, in their faith and sufferings, were truly brothers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Amidst the numerous Sanctuaries which adorn the Capital of the Christian universe, the Church of Saints John and Paul has remained from the early date of its origin, one of the chief centres of Roman piety. From the summit of the Cœlian Hill it towers over the Coliseum, the dependances of which stretch subterraneously even as far as the cellarage of the house once inhabited by our Saints. They, the last of the Martyrs, completed the glorious crown offered unto Christ, by Rome, the chosen seat of his power. The conflict in which their blood was spilt, consummated the triumph whose hour was sounded under Constantine, but which an offensive retaliation on the part of hell, seemed about to compromise.
No attack could be conceived more odious for the Church, than that devised by the apostate Cӕsar. Nero and Diocletian had violently and with hatred, declared against the Incarnate God, a war of sword and torture; and without recrimination, Christians, by thousands had died, knowing that the testimony thus demanded was merely the order of things, just as it had been in the case of their august Head (I Tim, vi. 13) before a Pontius Pilate, and upon the cross. But with the clever astuteness of a traitor, and the affected disdain of a false philosopher, Julian purposed to stifle Christianity amidst the bulrushes of an oppression progressive to a nicety, and respectfully abhorrent of human blood: merely to preclude Christians, from public offices, and to prohibit them from holding chairs for the teaching of youth,—that was all the apostate aimed at! However, the blood which he wanted to avoid shedding, must flow, even though a hypocrite's hands be dyed therewith; for according to the divine plan, bloodshed alone can bring extreme situations to an issue, and never was Holy Church menaced with greater peril: fain would they now make a slave of her whom they had beheld still holding her royal liberty in face of executioners,—fain would they now await the moment when, once enslaved, she would at last disappear of herself, in powerlessness and degradation. For this reason the bishops of that time found vent for their indignant soul, in accents such as their predecessors had spared to princes whose brute violence was then inundating the empire with Christian blood. They now retorted upon the tyrant, scorn for scorn; and the manifestations of contempt that consequently came showering in, from every quarter upon the crowned fool, completely unmasked at last his feigned moderation: Julian was now shown up, as nothing but a common persecutor of the usual kind,—blood flowed, the Church was rescued.
Thus is explained the gratitude which this noble Bride of the Son of God, has never ceased to manifest, to these glorious Martyrs we are celebrating, today: for amidst the many generous Christians whose out-spoken indignation brought about the solution of this terrible crisis, none are more illustrious than they. Julian was most anxious to count them amongst his confidants: with this view, he made use of every entreaty, as we learn from the Breviary Lessons,—nor does it appear that he even made the renouncing of Jesus Christ, a condition. Well then, it may be retorted, why not yield to the Imperial whim? could they not do so without wounding their conscience? Surely too much stiffness would be the rather calculated to ill-dispose the prince, perhaps even fatally. Whereas to listen to him would very likely have a soothing effect upon him; nay, possibly even bring him round to relax somewhat of those administrative trammels, unfortunately imposed upon the Church by his prejudiced government. Yea, for aught one knew, the possible conversion of his soul, the return of so many of the misled who had followed him in his fall, might be the result! Should not such things as these deserve some consideration,—should they not impose, as a duty, some gentle handling? Ah! yes; such reasoning as this would doubtless appear to some, as wise policy: such preoccupation for the apostate's salvation could easily have had nothing in it but what was inspired by zeal for the Church and for souls; and indeed the most exacting casuist could not find it a crime for John and Paul to dwell in a court, where nothing was demanded of them contrary to the divine precepts. Nevertheless the two brothers resolved otherwise; to the course of soothing and reserve making, they preferred that of the frank expression of their sentiments, and this bold out-speaking of theirs put the tyrant in a fury and brought about their death. The Church has judged their case, and she has found them not in the wrong; hence, it is unlikely that the former path would have led them to a like degree of sanctity, in God's sight.
The names of John and Paul inscribed on the sacred diptychs show well enough their credit in the eyes of the Divine Victim, who never offers Himself to the God Thrice-Holy, without blending their memory with that of His own immolation. The enthusiasm excited by the noble attitude of these two valiant witnesses to the Lord, still re-echoes in the Antiphons and Responsories proper to the Feast. It was formerly preceded by a Vigil and fast; together with the sanctuary which encloses their tomb, it may be said to date as far back as the very morrow of their martyrdom. Granted by a singular privilege a place in the Leonian Sacramentary, whilst so many other martyrs slept their sleep of peace outside the walls of the Holy City, John and Paul reposed in Rome itself, the definitive conquest of which had been won for the God of armies, by their gallant combat. That very same day of the year immediately succeeding their victorious death (June 26, 363),—Julian fell dead, uttering against heaven his cry of rage: “Galilean, Thou hast conquered!”
From the Queen City of the universe, their renown, passing beyond the mountains, shone forth, almost as soon and with nearly equal splendour, in the Gauls. Returned from the scene of his own struggle in the cause of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Hilary of Poitiers at once propagated their cultus. This great Bishop was called to our Lord, scarce five years after their martyrdom; but he had already found time to consecrate to their name, the church in which his loving hands had laid his sweet daughter Abra and her mother, awaiting the hour when he too should be joined to them in the same spot, expecting the day of the Resurrection. It was from this very church of Saints John and Paul, called later on St. Hilary the Great's, that Clovis on the eve of the battle of Vouillé beheld streaming towards him that mysterious light, presage of the victory which would result in the expulsion of Arianism from the Gauls, and in the foundation of monarchical unity. These holy Martyrs continued, in after years, to show the interest they took in the advancement of the kingdom of God, by the Franks. When the disastrous issue of the second Crusade was filling the soul of St. Bernard with bitterness, for he had preached it,—they appeared to him, upraised his courage, and manifested by what secrets, the King of Heaven had known how to draw His own glory, out of events in which man saw only failure and disaster.
Let us now read the simple and touching Legend consecrated by the Church to the two Brethren.
John and Paul, Roman brethren, fed the poor of Christ out of the riches left to them by Constantia, Constantine's daughter, whom they had faithfully and piously served. Being invited into the number of his familiars, by Julian the Apostate, they boldly refused, declaring that they had no wish to be in company of one who had forsaken Jesus Christ. Whereupon, he gave them ten days for deliberation, at the end of which term, they must know for certain they were to die, unless they would consent to attach themselves to him and to sacrifice to Jupiter.
They, meanwhile, employed the time in distributing the remainder of their goods to the poor, so that they might the quicker go to the Lord, and that there might be more persons helped by them, through whose means they might be received into the eternal tabernacles. On the tenth day, Terentianus Prefect of the prӕtorian guard was sent to them, bringing with him the statue of Jupiter, that they might worship it, and he expounded unto them the Emperor's mandate: to wit, that unless they would pay homage to Jupiter, they must forthwith die. They, still continuing their prayer, replied that they hesitated not to suffer death for the faith of Christ, whom they with both mind and mouth did adore as God.
Now Terentianus was afraid lest there should ensue a popular tumult were they executed in public, so there and then, on the sixth of the Kalends of July, and in their own house, their heads being struck off, they were secretly buried; whilst the rumour was spread abroad that John and Paul had been sent into banishment. But their death was published by the unclean spirits that began to torment a number of persons whose bodies they possessed: amongst whom was the son of Terentianus, who being troubled by a devil, was led to the sepulchre of the martyrs and there freed. By the which miracle, both he and his father Terentianus believed in Christ; Terentianus himself, as it is said, afterwards wrote the history of their blessed Martyrdom.
Another account of Ss. John and Paul.
They were both officers in the army under Julian the Apostate, and received the crown of martyrdom, probably in 362, under Apronianus, prefect of Rome, a great enemy of the Christians. These saints glorified God by a double victory: they despised the honours of the world, and triumphed over its threats and torments. They saw many wicked men prosper in their impiety, but were not dazzled by their example. They considered that worldly prosperity which attends impunity in sin is the most dreadful of all judgments; and how false and short-lived was this glittering prosperity of Julian, who in a moment fell into the pit which he himself had dug! But the martyrs, by the momentary labour of their conflict, purchased an immense weight of never-fading glory: their torments were, by their heroic patience and invincible virtue and fidelity, a spectacle worthy of God, who looked down upon them from the throne of his glory, and held his arm stretched out to strengthen them, and to put on their heads immortal crowns in the happy moment of their victory.
The saints always accounted that they had done nothing for Christ so long as they had not resisted to blood, and by pouring forth the last drop completed their sacrifice. Every action of our lives ought to spring from this fervent motive, and consecration of ourselves to the divine service with our whole strength; we must always bear in mind that we owe to God by innumerable titles all that we are; and, after all we can do, are unprofitable servants, and do only what we are bound to do. But how base are our sloth and ingratitude, who in every action fall so much short of this fervour and duty! How does the blood of the martyrs reproach our lukewarmness!
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.
Ss. John and Paul, pray for us.
June 25, 2022: ST. WILLIAM (OF MONTE-VERGINE), ABBOT
[Founder of the Order of Monte-Vergine]
“This saint was beloved of God and men: like Moses his memory is in benediction. God made him like the saints in glory, and magnified
him in the fear of his enemies: and with his words he made prodigies to cease. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and shewed him his glory. He sanctified him in his faith and meekness, and chose him
out of all flesh. For he heard him and his voice; and brought him in a cloud. And he gave him his precepts face to face, and a law of life and instruction.”
(Ecclus, xlv. 1-6)
O God, who hast furnished our weakness in the ways of salvation with the example and support of thy Saints, grant that we may so venerate the merits of blessed William, abbot, as to experience his patronage and walk in his footsteps. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Martyrs are numerous on the Cycle, during the [coming days]. John and Paul, Irenӕus, the very Princes of the Apostles even, come thronging in, to confirm with their blood the testimony of him who made known to earth the arrival of her long expected God. Where can names more illustrious be found, whether as regards human greatness, sacred science, or the holy Hierarchy? But not alone in martyrdom's peerless glory does our Emmanuel reveal the potency of his grace, or the victorious force of example, left to the world by his Precursor. At the very outset, we have here presented to our homage, one of those countless athletes of penance, who succeeded unto John in the desert; one of those who fleeing, like him, in early youth, a society wherein their soul's foreboding told only of peril and annoy,—consecrated a life-time to Christ's complete triumph within them over the triple concupiscence, thus bearing witness to the Lord, by deeds which the world ignores, but which make Angels to rejoice and hell to tremble. William was one of the chiefs of this holy militia. The Order of Monte-Vergine, that owes its origin to him has deserved well of the Monastic institute and of the whole Church, in those southern parts of Italy, wherein God has been pleased, at different times, to raise up a dyke, as it were, against the encroaching waves of sensual pleasures, by the stern spectacle of austerest virtue.
Both personally and by his disciples, William's mission was to infuse into the kingdom of Sicily, then in process of formation, that element of sanctity, upon which every Christian nation must necessarily be based. In southern, just as in northern Europe, the Norman race had been providentially called in, to promote the reign of Jesus Christ. Just at this moment, Byzantium, powerless to protect against Saracen invasion the last vestiges of her possessions in the West, was anxious nevertheless to hold the Churches of these lands fast bound in that schism into which she had recently been drawn, by the intriguing ambition of Michael Cerularius. The Crescent had been forced to recoil before the sons of a Tancred and a Hauteville; and now, in its turn, Greek perfidy had just been outwitted and unmasked by the rude simplicity of these men, who learnt fast enough how to oppose no argument to Byzantine knavery, save the sword. The Papacy, though for a moment doubtful, soon came to understand of what great avail these new-comers would be, in feudal quarrels, the jar and turmoil whereof were to extend far and wide for yet two centuries more, leading at last to the long struggle betwixt Sacerdotalism and Cӕsarism.
All through this period, as has ever been the case since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost was directing every event for the ultimate good of the Church. He it was that inspired the Normans to give solidity to their conquests by declaring themselves vassals of the Holy See and thus fixing themselves on the Apostolic rock. But at the same time, both to recompense their fidelity at the very opening of their career, and to render them more worthy of the mission which would have ever been their honour and their strength, had they but continued so to understand it,—this same Holy Spirit gave them Saints. Roger I beheld St. Bruno interceding for his people in the solitudes of Calabria, and therealso that blessed man miraculously saved the Duke from an ambush laid by treason; Roger II was now given another such heavenly aid to bring him back again into the paths of righteousness from which he had too often strayed,—the example and exhortations of the founder of Monte-Vergine.
The Life of our Saint is thus inscribed on the pages of Holy Church.
William was born of noble parents, at Vercelli in Piedmont. Scarce had he attained his fourteenth year, when already inflamed with wondrous ardour for piety, he performed the pilgrimage to the far-famed Sanctuary of Saint James at Compostella. The which journey he made, clad in one single tunic, with a double chain of iron about his loins, and with bare feet, a prey to extreme cold and heat, to hunger and thirst, and even with danger of life. Being returned into Italy, he was moved to perform a fresh pilgrimage to the holy Sepulchre of our Lord; but each time he was on the point of carrying out his purpose, various and most grave impediments intervened, Divine Providence thus drawing the holy inclinations of the youth to yet higher and holier things. Then passing two years on Monte Solicolo, in assiduous prayer and in watchings, in sleeping on the bare ground, and in fastings wherein he was divinely assisted; he restored sight to a blind man, the fame of which miracle becoming gradually divulged, at last William could no longer be hidden: for which reason he thought once more of undertaking a journey to Jerusalem, and joyfully set out on his way.
But God appeared to him admonishing him to desist from his purpose, because he was to be more useful and profitable both in Italy and elsewhere. Then ascending Mount Virgilian, since called Monte Vergine, he built a monastery on its summit, on a rugged and inaccessible spot, and that with marvellous rapidity. He there associated to himself certain religious men who wished to be his companions, and taught them both by word and example a manner of life conformable to the Evangelical precepts and counsels, as well as to certain rules taken for the most part from the institutions of Saint Benedict.
Other Monasteries being afterwards built, the sanctity of William became more and more known, and attracted to him many other persons, who were drawn by the sweet odour of his holiness and the fame of his miracles. For by his intercession, the dumb received speech, the deaf hearing, the withered new strength, and those labouring under various incurable diseases were restored to health. He changed water into wine, and performed many other wondrous deeds: amongst which, the following must not be passed over in silence, to wit, that a courtezan having been sent to make an attempt upon his chastity, he rolled himself without hurt amidst burning coals spread upon the ground. Roger, king of Naples being certified of this fact, was led to hold the man of God in highest veneration. After having predicted to the king and others the time of his death, resplendent in miracles and innumerable virtues, he slept in the Lord, in the year of salvation, one thousand and forty two.
Another account of St. William of Monte-Vergine.
Having lost his father and mother in his infancy, he was brought up by his friends in great sentiments of piety; and at fifteen years of age, out of an earnest desire of leading a penitential life, he left Piedmont, his native country, made an austere pilgrimage to St. James's in Galicia, and afterwards retired into the kingdom of Naples, where he chose for his abode a desert mountain, and lived in perpetual contemplation, and the exercises of most rigorous penitential austerities. Finding himself discovered, and his contemplation interrupted, he changed his habitation and settled in a place called Monte Vergine, situate between Nola and Benevento, in the same kingdom; but his reputation followed him, and he was obliged by two neighbouring priests to permit certain fervent persons to live with him, and imitate his ascetic practices. Thus, in 1119, was laid the foundation of the religious congregation called de Monte Vergine. The saint died on the 25th of June, 1142, and is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. His congregation, to which he left no written rule, was put under that of St. Benedict by Alexander III.
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.
St. William of Monte-Vergine, pray for us.
June 24, 2022: SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Rank: Double of the I Class.
“Come to me, all you that labour,
and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: And you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”
(St. Matth, xi. 28-30)
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who glory in the most sacred Heart of thy beloved Son, and celebrate the singular benefits of his love towards us, may rejoice both in their accomplishment, and in the fruit they produce. Through, the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
HYMN TO THE SACRED HEART
O Scared Ark, bless’d heart of Jesus meek!
In thee the law of grace of peace, we seek.
More holy far, than Ark that did contain
A law of rigour, slavery and pain.
For mortal’s woes thy loving heart hath bled,
For sinner’s wounds its healing influence shed,
Thy Father’s glory hath thy heart all fired,
To justice, love, a sacrifice expired.
Who shall refuse to thee the debt of love?
Who that’s redeemed but shall look above,
To find in thy bless’d heart a place of rest
From earthly cares, amid the just, the bless’d?
Glory and praise to th’ Father, and the Son,
To the Holy Ghost, to the Three in One.
To whom may power, honour, ever be,
On earth, in heaven, thro’ all eternity. Amen.
℣. You shall draw waters with joy. Alleluia.
℟. Out of the Saviour’s fountains. Alleluia.
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
(The Sacred Heart according to the Scripture; the significance of the Blood and Water that flowed from Jesus' side.)
A new ray of light shines to-day in the heaven of holy Church, and its light brings warmth. The divine Master given to us by our Redeemer, that is, the Paraclete Spirit, who has come down into this world, continues his teachings to us, in the sacred Liturgy. The earliest of these his divine teachings was the mystery of the Trinity; and we have worshipped the Blessed Three: we have been taught who God is, we know him in his own nature, we have been admitted, by faith, into the sanctuary of the infinite Essence. Then, this Spirit, the mighty wind of Pentecost, (Acts, ii. 2) opened to our souls new aspects of the truth, which it is his mission to make the world remember; (St. John, xiv. 26) and his revelation left us prostrate before the sacred Host, the Memorial which God himself has left us of all his wonderful works. (Ps, cx. 3) To-day, it is the sacred Heart of the Word made flesh that this Holy Spirit puts before us, that we may know and love and adore it.
There is a mysterious connection between these three Feasts, of Trinity, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred Heart. The aim of the Holy Ghost, in all three, is this,—to initiate us more and more into that knowledge of God by faith, which is to fit us for the face-to-face Vision in heaven. We have already seen how God, being made known to us, by the first, in himself, manifests himself to us, by the second, in his outward works,—for the holy Eucharist is the memorial, here below, in which he has brought together, and with all possible perfection, all those his wondrous works. But, by what law can we pass, so rapidly, so almost abruptly, from one Feast, which is all directly regarding God, to another, which celebrates his works, done by him to and for us? Then again: how came the divine thought, how came, that is, eternal Wisdom, from the infinite repose of the eternally blessed Trinity, to the external activity of a love for us poor creatures, which has produced what we call the Mysteries of our Redemption? The Heart of the Man-God is the solution of these difficulties; it answers all such questions, and explains to us the whole divine plan.
We knew that the sovereign happiness which is in God, we knew that the life eternal communicated from the Father to the Son, and from these two to the Holy Ghost, in light and love,—was to be given by the will of these Three Divine Persons, to created beings; not only to those which were purely spiritual, but, likewise, to that creature whose nature is the union of spirit and matter, that is, to Man. We are of this lower nature; and a pledge of this life eternal was given to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is by the Eucharist that Man, who has already been made a partaker of the divine nature (II St. Peter, i. 4) by the grace of the sanctifying Spirit, is united to the divine Word, and is made a true member of this Only Begotten Son of the Father. Yes: though it hath not yet appeared to what we shall be, says St. John, still we are now the sons of God; we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him, (I St. John, iii. 2) for we are called to live, as the Word himself does, in the society of that eternal Father of his, for ever and ever. (I St. John, i. 3)
But the infinite love of the sacred Trinity, which thus called us frail creatures to a participation in its own blessed life, would accomplish this merciful design by the help and means of another love, a love more like what we ourselves can feel; that is, the created love of a human soul, evinced by the beatings of a Heart of flesh like our own. The Angel of the great Counsel, who is sent to make known to the world the merciful designs of the Ancient of days, took to himself, in order to fulfil his divine mission, a created, a human form; and this would enable men to see with their eyes, yea, and even touch with their hands, the Word of life, that life eternal which was with the Father, but appeared even unto us. (I St. John, i. 2) This human nature, which the Son of God took into personal union with himself, from the womb of the Virgin-Mother, was the docile instrument of infinite love, but it was not absorbed into, or lost in, the Godhead; it retained its own substance, its special faculties, its distinct will, which Will ruled, under the influence of the divine Word, the acts and movements of his most holy Soul and adorable Body. From the very first instant of its existence, the human Soul of Christ was inundated, more directly than was any other creature, with that true light of the Word, which enlighteneth every man who cometh into this world; (St. John, i. 9) it enjoyed the face-to-face vision of the divine essence; and, therefore, took in, at a single glance, the absolute beauty of the sovereign Being, and the wisdom of the divine decree, which called finite beings into a participation of infinite bliss. It understood its sublime mission, and conceived an immense love for man and for God. This love began simultaneously with life, and filled not only his soul, but impressed, in its own way, the Body too,—the Body which was formed from the substance of the Virgin-Mother, by the operation of the Holy Ghost. The effect of his love told, consequently, upon his Heart of true human flesh; it set in motion those beatings, which made the Blood of redemption circulate in his sacred veins.
For, it was not with him as with other men, the pulsations of whose hearts are, at first, the consequence of nothing but the vital power which is in the human frame; and, later on, when age has awakened reason into act, the ideas so produced will produce physical impressions on us, which will, now and then, quicken, or dull, the throbbings of these our hearts. With the Man-God it was not so: His Heart, from the very first moment of its life, responded, that is, throbbed, to the law of his soul's love, whose power to act upon his human Heart was as incessant, and as intense, as is the power of organic vitality,—a love as burning at the first instant of the Incarnation, as it is this very hour in heaven. For the human love which the Incarnate Word had, resulting as it did from his intellectual knowledge of God and his creatures, was as perfect as that knowledge, and, therefore, as incapable of all progress; though, being our Brother, and our model in all things, he, day by day, made more manifest to us the exquisite sensibility of his divine Heart.
At the period of Jesus' coming upon this earth, man had forgotten how to love, for he had forgotten what true beauty was. His heart of flesh seemed to him as a sort of excuse for his false love of false goods: his heart was but an outlet, whereby his soul could stray from heavenly things to the husks of earth, there to waste his power and his substance. (St. Luke, xv. 13) To this material world, which the soul of man was intended to make subserve its Maker's glory,—to this world, which, by a sad perversion, kept man's soul a slave to his senses and passions,—the Holy Ghost sent a marvelous power, which, like a resistless lever, would replace the world in its right position:—it was the sacred Heart of Jesus; a Heart of flesh, like that of other human beings, from whose created throbbings there would ascend to the eternal Father an expression of love, which would be a homage infinitely pleasing to the infinite Majesty, because there was in that love of that human Heart the dignity of its union with the Word. It is a harp of sweetest melody, that is ever vibrating under the touch of the Spirit of Love; it gathers up into its own music the music of all creation, whose imperfections it corrects, and supplies its deficiencies, and tunes all discordant voices into unity, and so offers to the glorious Trinity a hymn of perfect praise. The Trinity finds its delight in this Heart. It is the one only organum, as St. Gertrude calls it, the one only instrument which finds acceptance with the Most High. Through it must pass all the inflamed praises of the burning Seraphim, just as must do the humble homage paid to its God by inanimate creation. By it alone are to come upon this world the favours of heaven. It is the mystic ladder between man and God, the channel of all graces, the way whereby man ascends to God and God descends to man.
The Holy Ghost, whose master-piece it is, has made it a living image of himself; for although, in the ineffable relations of the divine Persons, he is not the source of love, he is its substantial expression, or, in theological language, the term; it is he who inclines the holy Trinity to those works outside itself, which first produce creatures, and then, having given them being, (and to some, life,) he (the Holy Spirit) pours out upon them all the effusion of their Creator's love for them. And so is it with the love which the Man-God has for God and Man,—its direct and, so to say, material expression is the throbbing it produces upon his sacred Heart; and again, it is by that Heart, that, like the Water and Blood which came from his wounded Side, he pours out upon the world a stream of redemption and grace, which is to be followed by the still richer one of glory.
One of the soldiers, as the Gospel tells us, opened Jesus' Side with a spear, and, immediately, there came out blood and water. (St. John, xix. 34) We must keep before us this text and the fact it relates, for they give us the true meaning of the Feast we are celebrating. The importance of the event here related is strongly intimated, by the earnest and solemn way in which St. John follows up his narration. After the words just quoted, he adds: And he that saw it, hath given testimony of it, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe; for these things were done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (St. John, xix. 35, 36) Here the Gospel refers us to the testimony of the Prophet Zacharias, who, after predicting the Spirit of grace being poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, (Zach, xii. 10) says: They shall look upon Him whom they pierced. (Zach, xii. 10; St. John, xix. 37)
And, when they look upon his side thus pierced, what will they see there, but that great truth which is the summary of all Scripture—of all history: God so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have eternal life. (St. John, iii. 16) This grand truth was, during the ages of expectation, veiled under types and figures; it could be deciphered by but few, and, even then, only obscurely; but it was made known with all possible clearness on that eventful day, when, on Jordan's banks, (St. Luke, iii. 21, 22) the whole sacred Trinity manifested who was the Elect, the Chosen One, of the Father,—the Son in whom he was so well pleased. (Isaias, xlii. 1) Yes, it was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary: but, there was another revelation, of deepest interest to us, which had still to be made: it was,—how, and in what way, would the eternal life brought by this Jesus into the world, pass from him into each one of us? This second revelation was made to us, when the soldier's spear opened the divine source, and there flowed from it that Water and Blood, which, as the Scripture tells us, completed the testimony of the Blessed Three. There are three, says St. John, who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood: and these three are one, that is, they are one, because they concur in giving the one same testimony. And, this, continues St. John, is the testimony:—that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. (St. John, v. 7, 8, 11) These words contain a very profound mystery; but we have their explanation in to-day's Feast, which shows us how it is through the Heart of the Man-God that the divine work is achieved, and how, through that same Heart, the plan, which was conceived, from all eternity, by the Wisdom of the Father, has been realised.
To communicate his own happiness to creatures, by making them, through the Holy Ghost, partakers of his own divine nature, (St. Peter, i. 4) and members of his beloved Son,—this was the merciful design of the Father; and all the works of the Trinity, outside itself, tend to the accomplishment of that same. When the fulness of time had come, there appeared upon our earth He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ,—not by water only, but by water and blood. The Spirit, who, together with the Father and the Son has already, on the banks of Jordan, given his testimony, gives it here again, for St. John continues: And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth; (I St. John, v. 6), and that he spoke the truth when he said of himself, that he is Life. (St. John, v. 26) Yes, the Spirit, as the Gospel teaches us, (St. John, vii. 37-39) comes forth with the water from the fountains of the Saviour, (Isaias, xii. 3) and makes us worthy of the precious Blood, which flows together with the water. Then does mankind, thus born again of water and the Holy Ghost, become entitled to enter into the kingdom of God; (St, John, iii. 5) and the Church, thus made ready for her Spouse in those same waters of Baptism, is united to the Incarnate Word in the Blood of the sacred Mysteries. We, being members of that holy Church, have had the same union with Christ; we are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; (Gen, ii. 23; Eph, v. 30) we have received the power to be made adopted Sons of God, (St. John, i. 12) and sharers, for all eternity, of the divine life, which He, the Son by nature, has in the bosom of the Father.
On, then, thou Jew! though ignorant of the nuptials of the Lamb, give the signal of their being accomplished. Lead the Spouse to the nuptial bed of the Cross; he will lay himself down on that most precious Wood, which his mother, the Synagogue, has made to be his couch; she prepared it for him, on the eve of the day of his alliance, when, from his sacred Heart, there is to come forth his Bride, together with the Water, which cleanses her, and the Blood, which is to be her dower. It was for the sake of this Bride, that he left his Father, and the bright home of his heavenly Jerusalem; he ran, as a giant, in the way of his intense love; he thirsted, and the thirst of the desire gave him no rest. The scorching wind of suffering which dried up his bones, was less active than the fire which burned in his Heart, and made its beatings send forth, in the agony in the Garden, the Blood which, on the morrow, was to be spent for the redemption of his Bride. He has reached Calvary, it is the end of his journey; he dies; he sleeps, with his burning thirst upon him. But the Bride, who is formed for him during this his mysterious sleep, will soon rouse him from it. That Heart, from which she was born, has broken, that she might come forth; broken, it ceased it beat, and the grand hymn which, through it, had been so long ascending from earth to heaven, was interrupted, and creation was dismayed at the interruption. Now that the world has been redeemed, man should sing more than ever the canticle of his gratitude; and the strings of the harp are broken! Who will restore them? Who will rewaken in the Heart of our Jesus the music of its divine throbbings?
The new-born Church, his Bride, is standing near that opened side of her Jesus; in the intensity of her first joy, she thus sings to God the Father: I will praise thee, Lord, among the people, and I will sing unto thee among the nations. Then, to her Jesus: Arise, thou, my glory! my psaltery, my harp, arise! (Ps, cvii. 1-4) And he arose in the early morning of the great Sunday; his sacred Heart resumed its melody, and, with it, sent up to heaven the music of holy Church, for the Heart of the Spouse belongs to his Bride, and they are now two in one flesh. (Gen, ii. 24; Eph, v. 31)
Christ being now in possession of her who has wounded his Heart, (Cant, iv. 9) he gives her, in return, full power over that sacred Heart of his, from which she has issued. There lies the secret of all the Church's power. In the relations existing between husband and wife, which were created by God, at the beginning of the world, and (as the Apostle assures us), in view of this great mystery of Christ and the Church, (Eph, v. 32)—man is the head, (I Cor, xi. 3) and the woman may not domineer in the government of the family. Has the woman, then, no power? She has power, and a great power,—she must address herself to her husband's heart, and gain all by love. If Adam, our first father, sinned, it was because Eve used, and for evil, her influence over his heart, by misleading him, and us in him;—Jesus saves us, because the Church has won his Heart; and that human Heart could not be won, without the divinity also being moved to mercy. And here we have the doctrine of devotion to the sacred Heart of Jesus, as far as regards the principle upon which it rests. In this its primary and essential notion, the devotion is as old as the Church herself, for it rests on this truth, which has been recognised in every age,—that Christ is the Spouse, and the Church is his Bride.
The Fathers and holy Doctors of the early Ages had no other way, than the one we have been putting before our readers, when expounding the mystery of the Church's having been formed from Jesus' side; and the words they used,—though always marked by that reserve which was called for by so many of their hearers being as yet uninitiated,—were taken as the text for the sublime and fearless developments of later Ages. “The initiated,” says St. John Chrysostom, “know the mystery of the Saviour's fountains; from those, that is, from the Blood and the Water, the Church was formed; from those same, came our Mysteries; so that, when thou approachest the dread chalice, thou must come up to it, as though thou wert about to drink of that very Side of Christ.” “The Evangelist,” says St. Augustine, “made use of a word which has a special import, when he said,—the soldier opened Jesus' Side with a spear: he did not say, struck the Side, or wounded the Side, or anything else like that; but he said, he OPENED Jesus' Side. He opened it; for that Side was like the door of life; and when it was opened, the Sacraments (the Mysteries) of the Church came through it. . . . This was predicted by that door which Noe was commanded to make in the side of the Ark, through which were to go those living creatures which were not to be destroyed by the deluge; and all these things were a figure of the Church.”
Enter thou into the rock, and hide thee in the pit, (Isaias, ii. 10) says Isaias; and what means this, but “enter into the Side of thy Lord?” as the expression is interpreted, in the 13th Century, by Guerric, a disciple of St. Bernard, and Abbot of Igny. St. Bernard himself thus comments the verses 13 and 14 of the second Chapter of the Canticle: “Come, my dove, in the clifts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall: (Cant, ii. 13, 14) O beautiful clifts of the rock, wherein the dove takes safe shelter, and fearlessly looks at the hawk that hovers about! . . . And what may I see through that opening? The iron hath pierced his soul, and his Heart hath come near; so that, through the clift, the mystery of his Heart is made visible, that great mystery of love, those bowels of the mercy of our God. . . . What else art thou, O Lord, but treasures of love, but riches of goodness? . . . I will make my way to those full store-cellars. I will take the Prophet's advice, and will leave the cities; I will dwell in the Rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the mouth of the hole in the highest place. (Jeremias, xlviii. 28) Sheltered there, like as Moses was in the hole of the Rock, (Exod, xxxiii. 22) I will see my Lord, as he passes by.” In the next century, we have the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, telling us in his own beautiful style, how the new Eve was born from the Side of Christ, when in his sleep; and how the spear of Saul was thrown at David, and struck the wall, (I Kings, xviii. 10, 11) as though it would make its way into Him, of whom David was but a type, that is, into Christ, who is the Rock, (I Cor, x. 4) the mountain-cave where are salubrious springs, the shelter where doves build their nests.
(The Sacred Heart reveals himself to the Saints through the centuries: St. Gertrude, St. Mechtilde, St. Margaret-Mary Alacoque)
Our readers will not expect us to do more than give them this general view of the great mystery, and tell them how the holy Doctors of the Church spoke of it. As far as St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure are concerned, the devotion to the mystery of Christ's side opened on the Cross, is but a part of that which they would have us show to the other wounds of our Redeemer. The sacred Heart, as the expression of Jesus' love, is not treated of, in their writings, with the explicitness wherewith the Church would afterwards put it before us. For this end, our Lord himself selected certain privileged souls, through whose instrumentality, he would bring the Christian world to a fuller appreciation of the consequences which are involved in the principles admitted by the whole Church.
It was on the 27th of January, in the year 1281, in the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta, near Eisleben, in Saxony, that our Divine Lord first revealed these ineffable secrets to one of the Community of that House, whose name was Gertrude. “She was then twenty years of age. The Spirit of God came upon her, and gave her her mission. She saw, she heard, she was permitted to touch, and what is more, she drank of, that chalice of the sacred Heart, which inebriates the elect. She drank of it, even whilst in this vale of bitterness; and what she herself so richly received, she imparted to others, who showed themselves desirous to listen. St. Gertrude's mission was to make known the share and action of the sacred Heart in the economy of God's glory and the sanctification of souls; and, in this respect, we cannot separate her from her companion, St. Mechtilde.
“On this special doctrine regarding the heart of the Man-God, St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde hold a very prominent position among all the Saints and mystical writers of the Church. In saying this, we do not except even the Saints of these later ages, by whom our Lord brought about the public, the official, worship, which is now given to his sacred Heart; these Saints have spread the devotion, now shown to it, throughout the whole Church;—but they have not spoken of the mysteries it contains within it, with that set purpose, that precision, that loveliness, which we find in the ‘Revelations’ of the two Saints, Gertrude and Mechtilde.
“It was the Beloved Disciple, who had rested his head upon Jesus' breast, at the Supper, and perhaps heard the beatings of the sacred Heart,—the Disciple who, when standing at the foot of the Cross, had seen that Heart pierced with the soldier's spear,—yes, it was he who announced to Gertrude its future glorification. She asked him how it was that he had not spoken, in his writings in the New Testament, of what he had experienced when he reclined upon Jesus' sacred Heart: he thus replied: ‘My mission was to write, for the Church which was still young, a single word of the uncreated Word of God the Father, that uncreated Word, concerning which the intellect of the whole human race might be ever receiving abundant truth, from now till the end of the world, and yet it would never be fully comprehended. As to the sweet eloquence of those throbbings of his Heart, it is reserved for the time when the world has grown old, and has become cold in God's love,—that it may regain favour by the hearing such revelation.”
“Gertrude was chosen as the instrument of that revelation; and what she has told us, is exquisitely beautiful. At one time, the divine Heart is shown to her as a treasure, which holds all riches within it; at another, it is a harp played upon by the Holy Spirit, and the music which comes from it gladdens the Blessed Trinity, and all the heavenly court. It is a plenteous spring, whose stream bears refreshment to the souls in Purgatory, strength and every other grace to them that are still struggling on this earth, and delights which inebriate the blessed in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a golden thurible, whence there ascend as many different sorts of fragrant incense, as there are different races of men, for all of whom our Redeemer died upon the Cross. It is an altar, upon which the Faithful lay their offerings, the elect their homage, the Angels their worship, and the eternal High Priest offers himself as a Sacrifice. It is a lamp suspended between heaven and earth. It is a chalice out of which the Saints, but not the Angels, drink, though these latter receive from it delights of varied kinds. It was in this Heart, that was formed and composed the Lord's Prayer, the Pater noster; that Prayer was the fruit of Jesus' Heart. By that same sacred Heart, are supplied all the negligences and deficiencies which are found in the honour we pay to God, and his Blessed Mother and Saints. The Heart of Jesus makes itself as our servant, and our bond, in fulfilment of all the obligations incumbent on us; in it alone, do our actions derive that perfection, that worth, which makes them acceptable in the eyes of the divine Majesty; and every grace, which flows from heaven to earth, passes through that same Heart. When our life is at its close, that Heart is the peaceful abode, the holy sanctuary, ready to receive our souls as soon as they have departed from this world; and having received them, it keeps them in itself for all eternity, and beatifies them with every delight!”
By thus revealing to Gertrude the admirable mysteries of divine love, included in the doctrine which attaches to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was, so to say, forestalling the workings of hell, which, two centuries later on, were to find their prime mover in that same spot. Luther was born at Eisleben, in the year 1483. He was the apostle, after being the inventor, of theories the very opposite of what the Sacred Heart reveals. Instead of the merciful God, as known and loved in the previous ages, Luther would have the world believe him to be the direct author of sin and damnation, who creates the sinner for crime and eternal torments, and for the mere purpose of showing that he could do anything, even injustice! Calvin followed; he took up the blasphemous doctrines of the German apostate, and riveted the protestant principles by his own gloomy and merciless logic. By these two men, the tail of the dragon dragged the third part of the stars of heaven. (Apoc, xii. 4) In the 17th Century, the old enemy put on hypocrisy, in the shape of Jansenism; changing the names of things, but leaving the things unchanged, he tried to get into the very centre of the Church, and there pass off his impious doctrines; and Jansenism, which, under the pretext of safeguarding the rights of God's sovereign dominion, aimed at making men forget that he was a God of mercy,—Jansenism was a favourable system, wherewith the enemy might propagate his so called Reformation. That God who so loved the world! (St. John, iii. 16) beheld mankind discouraged or terrified, and behaving as though in heaven there was no such thing as mercy, still less, love. This earth of ours was to be made to see, that its Creator had loved it with affectionate love; that he had taken a Heart of flesh in order to bring that infinite love within man's reach and sight; that he made that human Heart, which he had assumed, do its work, that is, beat and throb from love, just as ours do, for he had become one of ourselves, and, as the Prophet words it, had taken the cords of Adam; (Osee, xi. 4) that Heart felt the thrill of joy when duty-doing made us joyous; it felt a weight and pang when it saw our sorrows; it was gladsome when it found that, here and there, there would be souls to love him in return. How were men to be told all this? Who would be chosen to fulfil the prophecy made by Gertrude the Great? Who would come forth, like another Paul or John, and teach to the world, now grown old, the language of the divine throbbings of Jesus' Heart?
There were then living many men noted for their learning and eloquence; but they would not suit the purpose of God. God, who loves to choose the weak (and often it is, that he may confound the strong), (I Cor, i. 27) had selected for the manifesting of the mystery of the Sacred Heart, a servant of his, of whose existence the world knew not;—it was a Religious woman, who lived in a monastery which had nothing about it to attract notice. As, in the 13th Century, he had passed by the learned men, and even the great Saints, who were then living, and selected the Blessed Juliana of Liége as the instrument which was to bring about the institution of the Corpus Christi Feast,—so in this present case: he would have his own sacred Heart be glorified in his Church by a solemn Festival; and he imparts and intrusts his wish to the humble Visitandine of Paray-le-Monial, now known and venerated, throughout the world, under the name of Blessed Margaret-Mary. The mission thus divinely given to her, was to bring forward the treasure, which had been revealed to St. Gertrude, and which, all the long interval, had been known to only a few privileged souls. Sister Margaret-Mary was to publish the secret to the whole world, and make the privilege cease, by telling everyone how to possess it. Through this apparently inadequate instrument, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a heavenly reaction offered to the world against the dullness which had settled on its old age: it became a touching appeal to all faithful souls that they would make reparation for all the contempt, and slight, and coldness, and sins, wherewith our age treats the love of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus.
“I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on one of the days during the Octave” (of Corpus Christi, June, 1675,) says the Blessed Margaret, “and I received from my God exceeding great graces of his love. And, feeling a desire to make some return, and give him love for love, he said to me: ‘Thou canst not make me a greater, than by doing that which I have so often asked of thee.’ He then showed me his divine Heart, and said: ‘Behold this Heart, which has so loved men, as that it has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and wearing itself out, in order to show them its love; and, instead of acknowledgment, I receive, from the greater number, nothing but ingratitude, by their irreverences and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt wherewith they treat me, in this Sacrament of love. But what is still more deeply felt by me is, that they are hearts which are consecrated to me, which thus treat me. It is on this account, that I make this demand of thee,—that the first Friday after the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament be devoted to a special Feast in honour of my Heart; that thou wilt go to Communion on that day; and give it a reparation of honour by an act of amendment, to repair the insults it has received during the time of its being exposed on the Altar. I promise thee, also, that my Heart will dilate itself, that it may pour forth, with abundance, the influences of its divine love upon those who shall thus honour it, and shall do their best to have such honour paid to it.’”
By thus calling his servant to be the instrument of the glorification of his Sacred Heart, our Lord made her a sign of contradiction; just as he himself had been. (St. Luke, ii. 34) It took more than ten years for Blessed Margaret to get the better, by dint of patience and humility, of the suspicions wherewith she was treated by the little world around her, and of the harsh conduct of the Sisters who lived with her in the same Monastery, and of trials of everysort. At last, on the 21st of June, in the year 1686, the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, she had the consolation of seeing the whole Community of Paray-le-Monial kneeling before a picture, which represented the Heart of Jesus as pierced with a spear; it was the Heart by itself; it was encircled with flames, and a crown of thorns, with the Cross above it, and the three Nails. That same year, there was begun, in the Monastery, the building of a Chapel in honour of the Sacred Heart; and Blessed Margaret had the happiness of seeing it finished and blessed. She died shortly afterwards, in the year 1690. But all this was a very humble beginning: where was the institution of a Feast, properly so called? and where its solemn celebration throughout the Church?
So far back as the year 1674, our Lord had, in his own mysterious way, brought Margaret-Mary to form the acquaintance of one of the most saintly Religious of the Society of Jesus then living,—it was Father De la Colombière. He recognised the workings of the Holy Spirit in this his servant, and became the devoted apostle of the Sacred Heart, first of all at Paray-le-Monial, and, then, later on, in our own country of England, where he was imprisoned by the heretics of those times, and merited the glorious title of Confessor of the Faith. This fervent disciple of the Heart of Jesus died in the year 1682, worn out by his labours and sufferings; but the Society, in a body, inherited his zeal for the propagation of devotion to the Sacred Heart. At once, numerous confraternities began to be formed, and everywhere there began to be built Chapels, in honour of that same Heart. Hell was angry at this great preaching of God's love. The Jansensists were furious at this sudden proclamation, at this apparition, as St. Paul would say, of the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour; (Tit, iii. 4) and the men who were proclaiming it, were aiming at restoring hope to souls, in which they, the Jansenists, had sowed despondency. The big world must interfere; and it began by talking of innovations, of scandals, of even idolatry; at all events, this new devotion was, to put it mildly, a revolting dissecting of the sacred Body of Christ! Erudite pamphlets were published, some theological, some physiological, to prove that the Church should forbid the subject! Indecent engravings were circulated, and witticisms, such as indignation can make, were made, in order to bring ridicule upon those for whom the world had coined the name of Cordicolæ, or Heart-Worshippers.*
*[In the year 1720, the City of Marseilles was visited by a plague. It had been brought by a vessel that had come from Syria. As many as a thousand a day fell victims to the scourge. The Parliament, which was mainly composed of Jansenists, had, of course, fled; and there was nothing being done to stay the contagion from spreading. The then Bishop, Monsigneur de Belzunce, assembled such of his priests as had been spared; and, standing in the avenue, which is now called by his name, he solemnly consecrated his Diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At once, the plague abated, and gradually disappeared. Two years later, however, it again showed itself, and threatened to repeat its fierce onslaught; but it was arrested in consequence of the City Magistrates binding themselves and their successors for all future ages, by a vow, to the solemn acts of public worship, which, up to this present day, have proved a protection and glory to the City of St. Lazarus.
These events were noised throughout the world, and were the occasion of the Feast of the Sacred Heart being kept, not only, as hitherto, in the Monasteries of the Visitation Order, but in several Dioceses of France.
That noble, but tried, kingdom, (was) erecting a national monument in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; it is the splendid Church which is built on Montmartre, near Paris. May that loving Heart of our Lord bless his devoted France, the eldest daughter of the Church! Like the Church, she is under terrible trials; and as they are companions in affliction, may they, through the mercy of the Heart of Jesus, be soon united in prosperity, and work together for the happiness of the world!]
But, human wisdom, or human prejudice, or even human ridicule, cannot withstand God's purposes. He wished that human hearts should he led to love, and therefore worship, the Sacred Heart of their Redeemer; and he inspired his Church to receive the devotion, which would save so many souls, though the world might not take heaven's view. The Apostolic See had witnessed all this; and, at last, gave its formal sanction. Rome had frequently granted Indulgences in favour of the devotions privately practised towards the Sacred Heart; she had published innumerable Briefs for the establishment of local Confraternities, under that title; and, in the year 1765, in accordance with the request made by the Bishops of Poland and the Arch-Confraternity of the Sacred Heart at Rome, Pope Clement the Thirteenth issued the first pontifical decree in favour of the Feast of the Heart of Jesus, and approved of a Mass and Office, which had been drawn up for that Feast. The same favour was gradually accorded to other Churches, until, at length, on the 23rd of August, 1856, Pope Pius the Ninth, of glorious memory, at the instance of all the Bishops of France, issued the Decree for the inserting the Feast of the Sacred Heart on the Calendar, and making obligatory its celebration by the universal Church.
The glorification of the Heart of Jesus called for that of its humble handmaid. On the 18th of September, 1864, the Beatification of Margaret-Mary was solemnly proclaimed by the same Sovereign Pontiff, who had put the last finish to the work she had begun, and given it the definitive sanction of the Apostolic See.
From that time forward, the knowledge and love of the Sacred Heart have made greater progress, than they had done during the whole two previous centuries. In every quarter of the globe, we have heard of Communities, Religious Orders, and whole Dioceses, consecrating themselves to this source of every grace, this sole refuge of the Church in these sad times. There have been pilgrimages made of thousands, from every country, to the favoured sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial, where it pleased the Divine Heart to first manifest itself, in its visible form, to us mortals.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart
An Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O SACRED Heart of Jesus! to thee I devote and offer up my life, thoughts, words, actions, pains, and sufferings. My entire being shall henceforward only be employed in loving, serving, honouring, and glorifying thee, be thou, O most sacred Heart! the sole object of my love, the protector of my life, the pledge of my salvation, and my secure refuge at the hour of death. Be thou also, O most bountiful Heart! my justification at the throne of God, and screen me from his anger, which I have so justly merited. In thee I place my confidence, and, convinced as I am of my own weakness, I rely entirely on thy compassionate mercy. Annihilate in me all that is displeasing and offensive to thy pure eyes. Imprint thyself like a divine seal on my heart, that I may ever remember my obligations, and never be separated from thee. May my name also, I beseech thee, by thy tender goodness, ever be fixed and engraved in thee, O Book of Life! – and may I be a victim consecrated to thy glory, ever burning with the flames of thy pure love, both in time and in eternity. In this I place all my happiness, this is all my desire, to live and die in no other quality but that of thy devoted servant. Amen.
An Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O adorable heart of my Saviour Jesus, loving heart of my good master, how great is thy tenderness to have remained for me in the divine Eucharist! Alas, thy creatures forget thy love, despise thy complaints, and withdraw themselves from thee; forgetting that, in thy agony in the garden, thou didst endure all bitterness of our sins. We now again by our inequities renew thy sorrows. Thou languishes here with love and sadness, and how few think of thee, care for thee, or are touched by thy loneliness. Let me at least, sensible to thy sorrows, listen to thy tender complaint, for I desire to repair the outrages which are unceasingly directed against thee. Prostrate, annihilated in spirit before the holy tabernacle in which thou dost display thy love, I beseech thee to pardon my sins, and those of the whole world, for their contempt and indifference, their insults and their sacrilege. If I cannot wash away with my blood my own faults, and those of all thy guilty children, may I at least silently weep over the outrages of which thou art the victim. Oh that I could dispose of the hearts of all mankind, and fill them with regret and gratitude, in order to offer them to thy love as the only homage which it desires to receive. Lord Jesus, I offer myself as holocaust. Behold my heart, purify it, consume it with love, sacrifice it to thy will, that henceforth I may love thee only, and live only to love thee. Guard thou my heart, lest I should reclaim it, hide it in thy wounds as in a safe asylum, so that there I may live and die in order to be united to thee for ever. Amen!
Litany of the Sacred Heart
(from the 1910 edition of Raccolta, 300 Days indulgences, once a day.)
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father
of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, united substantially with the Word of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of Heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, King and centre of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in which are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in which dwelleth all the fullness of the Divinity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in which the Father is well pleased, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the eternal hills, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who invoke Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, saturated with revilings, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, crushed for our iniquities, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, made obedient unto death, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints, have mercy on 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, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
℣. Jesus meek and humble of heart,
℟. Make our hearts like to thine.
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, graciously regard the heart of thy well-beloved Son and the acts of praise and satisfaction which He renders Thee on behalf of us sinners, and through their merit grant pardon to us who implore thy mercy in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Taken from: The Ursuline Manual, Cork, Ireland,
The Manual of the Scared Heart, Edition 1866;
The Raccolta, 1910 Edition; and
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. I, Dublin, Edition 1879.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, render my heart like unto thine!
Sweet Heart of Jesus, be thou my love.
(300 days' indulgence)
“Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.”
(Cant, viii. 6)
June 23, 2022: NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
Rank: Double of the I Class.
“Give ear, ye Islands; and hearken, ye people from afar: From my mother’s womb did the Lord call me by my name; and he made
my mouth like a sharp sword; under the shadow of his hand hath he protected me, and made me as a chosen arrow.”
(Isaias, xlix. 1-2)
“Thou child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High: Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.”
(St. Luke, i. 76)
O God, who hast honoured this day by the Birth of Blessed John the Baptist: grant thy people may rejoice in spirit, and guide them in the way of eternal salvation. Through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
“Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that
are born of women a greater than John the Baptist.”
(St. Matth, xi. 11)
“For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my Angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”
(St. Matth, xi. 10)
That we with tuneful notes may sound
Thy life, with signal wonders crown’d,
Great Baptist let no sinful strain
Our life with discord stain.
An Angel comes from God’s high throne,
And to thy frighted Sire makes known
Thy future greatness, office, fame,
Abstemious life and name.
But he this news
with doubt receives;
For which his faithless speech him leaves;
Till, at thy birth, more faithful found,
It gain’d its former sound.
From nature’s dark and secret room
Thou know’st thy Lord in Mary’s womb;
And from the fulness of thy fire
Thy parents didst inspire.
To God the Father and the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one,
Be equal glory, equal praise.
For endless years and days. Amen.
V. There was a man sent from God.
R. Whose name was John.
LESSON – Isaias, xlix. 1-7.
Give ear, ye islands, and be attentive to me, ye people afar off. The Lord called me from the womb, and from the bowels of my mother hath he called to mind my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword: under the shadow of his hand hath he protected me, and made me as a chosen arrow; in his quiver hath he hidden me. And he said to me: Israel, thou art my servant; for in thee will I be glorified. And now saith the Lord, who formed me from the womb to be his servant; Behold I have made thee a light to the Gentiles, and my salvation even to the ends of the earth. Kings shall see, and Princes rise up and adore for the Lord’s sake, and the Holy one of Israel, who hath chosen thee.
GOSPEL – St. Luke i. 57-68.
Elizabeth’s time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and kindred heard how the Lord had shown his great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias after his father’s name. And his mother answering, said: No, but he shall be called John. And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by that name. And they made signs to his Father, to know how he would have him called. And he, asking for a writing table, wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered: and immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed; and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came upon all their neighbours; and all these things were noised abroad through all hill-country of Judea. And all that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying: What think you, will this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him. And Zacharias his father was filled with the Holy Ghost, and he prophesied, saying: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for that he hath visited, and wrought the redemption of his people.
CANTICLE OF ZACHARY – The Benedictus
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people: And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant. As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning : Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. To perform mercy to our fathers; and to remember his holy covenant. The oath which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us. That being delivered from the hands of our enemies, we may serve him without fear: In holiness and justice before him, all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways: To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God: in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet in the way of peace.
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
The Voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; behold thy God!” (Isaias, xl. 3-9) Oh! in this world of ours grown now so cold, who can understand earth's transports, at hearing these glad tidings so long expected? The promised God is not yet manifested; but already have the heavens bowed down, (Ps, xvii. 10) to make way for his passage. No longer is He “the One who is to come,” He for whom our fathers, the illustrious saints of the prophetic age, ceaselessly called, in their indomitable hope. Still hidden, indeed, but already in our midst,—He is resting beneath that virginal cloud, compared with which, the heavenly purity of Thrones and Cherubim wax dim; yea, the united fires of burning Seraphim grow faint, in presence of the single love wherewith she alone encompasses him in her human heart,—she that lowly daughter of Adam whom He hath chosen for His mother. Our accursed earth, made suddenly more blessed far, than yonder heaven inexorably closed erstwhile to suppliant prayer,—awaits no longer aught, save that the august mystery be revealed; the hour is come for earth to join her canticles to that Eternal Praise Divine, which henceforth is rising from the depths, and which being itself no other than the Word Himself, celebrates God condignly. But beneath the veil of humility where His Divinity, even after as well as before His birth, must still continue to hide itself from men,—who may discover the Emmanuel?—who, having recognised Him in His merciful abasements, may succeed in making Him to be accepted by a world lost in pride?—who may cry, pointing out the Carpenter's Son, (St. Matth, xiii. 55) in the midst of the crowd: Behold Him whom your fathers have so wistfully awaited!
For such is the order decreed from on High, in the manifestation of the Messias: conformably to the ways of men, the God-Man will not intrude himself into public life; he will await, for the inauguration of his divine ministry, some man who has preceded him in a similar career, and who is hereby sufficiently accredited, to introduce Him to the people.
Sublime part for a creature to play,—to stand guarantee for his God,—witness for the Word! The exalted dignity of him who was to fill such a position, had been notified, as had that of the Messias, long before his birth. In the solemn Liturgy of the Age of types, the Levite choir, reminding the Most High of the meekness of David and of the promise made to him of a glorious heir,—hailed from afar the mysterious lamp prepared by God for his Christ. (Ps, cxxxi. 17) Not that, to give light to his steps, Christ should stand in need of external help: He, the Splendour of the Father, had only to appear in these dark regions of ours, to fill them with the effulgence of the very heavens; but so many false glimmerings had deceived mankind, during the night of these ages of expectation, that had the true Light arisen on a sudden, it would not have been understood, or would but have blinded eyes now become well nigh powerless, by reason of protracted darkness, to endure its brilliancy. Eternal Wisdom therefore decreed that just as the rising sun is announced by the morning-star, and prepares his coming by the gently tempered brilliancy of aurora; so Christ, who is Light should be preceded here below, by a star, His precursor; and His approach be signalised by the luminous rays which He Himself, (though still invisible) would shed around this faithful herald of His coming. When, in by-gone days, the Most-High vouchsafed to light up, before the eyes of His prophets, the distant future, that radiant flash which for an instant shot across the heavens of the Old Covenant, melted away in the deep night, and ushered not in, as yet, the longed-for dawn. The “morning-star” of which the Psalmist sings, shall know naught of defeat: declaring unto night that all is now over with her, he will dim his own fires only in the triumphant splendour of the Sun of Justice. Even as aurora melts into day, so will he confound with Light Increated, his own radiance; being of himself, like every creature, nothingness and darkness, he will so reflect the brilliancy of the Messias shining immediately upon him, that many will mistake him even for the very Christ. (St. Luke, iii. 15)
The mysterious conformity of Christ and His Precursor, the incomparable proximity which unites one to the other, are to be found many times marked down in the Sacred Scriptures. If Christ is the Word, eternally uttered by the Father,—he is to be the Voice bearing this divine Utterance whithersoever it is to reach; Isaias already hears the desert echoing with these accents, till now unknown; and the prince of prophets expresses his joy, with all the enthusiasm of a soul already beholding itself in the very presence of its Lord and God. (Isaias, xl.) The Christ is the Angel of the Covenant; but in the very same text wherein the Holy Ghost gives Him this title, for us so full of hope,—there appears likewise bearing the same name of angel, the inseparable messenger, the faithful ambassador, to whom the earth is indebted for her coming to know the Spouse: Behold, I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord whom ye seek, and the Angel of the testament whom you desire, shall come to his Temple; behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malach, iii. 1) And putting an end to the prophetic ministry, of which he is the last representative, Malachias terminates his own oracles by the words which we have heard Gabriel addressing to Zachary, when he makes known to him the approaching birth of the Precursor. (Malach, iv. 5-6)
The presence of Gabriel, on this occasion, of itself shows with what intimacy with the Son of God, this child then promised shall be favoured; for the very same Prince of the heavenly hosts, came again, soon afterwards, to announce the Emmanuel. Countless are the faithful messengers that press around the Throne of the Holy Trinity, and the choice of these august ambassadors usually varies, according to the dignity of the instructions, to be transmitted to earth by the Most High. Nevertheless, it was fitting that the same Archangel charged with concluding the sacred Nuptials of the Word with the Human Nature, should likewise prelude this great mission by preparing the coming of him whom the eternal decrees had designated as the Friend of the Bridegroom. (St. John, iii. 29) Six months later, when on his deputation to Mary, he strengthens his divine message, by revealing to that purest of Virgins, the prodigy, which had by then, already given a son to the sterile Elizabeth: this being the first step of the Almighty towards a still greater marvel. John is not yet born; but without longer delay, his career is begun: he is employed to attest the truth of the angel's promises. How ineffable this guarantee of a child hidden as yet in his mother's womb, but already brought forward as God's witness, in that sublime negotiation which at that moment is holding heaven and earth in suspense! Illumined from on high, Mary receives the testimony and hesitates no longer. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, says she to the Archangel, be it done unto me, according to thy word. (St, Luke. i)
Gabriel has retired, bearing away with him the divine secret which he has not been commissioned to reveal to the rest of the world. Neither will the most prudent Virgin herself tell it; even Joseph, her virginal Spouse, is to receive no communication of the mystery from her lips. Yet fear not; the woful sterility beneath which earth has been so long groaning, is not to be followed by an ignorance more sorrow-stricken still, now that it hath yielded its fruit. (Ps, lxxxiv. 13) There is one from whom Emmanuel will have no secret, nor reserve; it were fitting to reveal the marvel unto him. Scarce has the Spouse taken possession of the Sanctuary all spotless, wherein the nine months of His first abiding amongst men, must run their course,—yea, scarce has the Word been made Flesh, than Our Lady inwardly taught what is her Son's desire, arising, makes all haste to speed into the hill-country of Judea. (St. Luke, i. 39) The voice of my Beloved! Behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills. (Canticles, ii. 8) His first visit is to the “Friend of the Bridegroom,” the first out-pour of His graces is to John. A distinct feast will allow us to honour in a special manner, the precious day on which the divine Child, sanctifying his Precursor, reveals Himself to John, by the voice of Mary; the day on which Our Lady, manifested by John, leaping within the womb of his mother,—proclaims at last the wondrous things operated within her, by the Almighty, according to the merciful promise which he spoke to our fathers to Abraham and to his seed for ever. (St. Luke, i. 55)
But the time is come, when the good tidings are to spread, from children and mothers, through all the adjacent country, until at length they reach unto the whole world. John is about to be born, and, whilst still himself unable to speak, he is to loosen his father's tongue. He is to put an end to that dumbness, with which the aged priest, a type of the old law, had been struck by the Angel; and Zachary, himself filled with the Holy Ghost, is about to publish in a new canticle, the blessed Visit of the Lord God of Israel. (St. Luke, i. 68)
Another account of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
St. Austin observes that the church usually celebrates the festivals of saints on the day of their death, which is in the true estimate of things their great birthday, their birthday to eternal life. The same father adds, that the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is excepted from this rule. The reason of which distinction is, because this saint was sanctified in his mother’s womb (St. Luke, i. 15, 41), so that he was brought forth holy into the world; which St. Bernard and many eminent divines understand not only of an external sanctity, or deputation to piety, but of the gift of sanctifying grace by the remission of original sin, which they doubt not to have been imparted to him by the presence of our divine Redeemer in the visit made by the Blessed Virgin to St. Elizabeth. Moreover, the birth of the precursor of our Divine Saviour was a mystery which brought great joy to the world, announcing its redemption to be at hand; it was in itself miraculous, and was ushered in with many prodigies. God, who had often distinguished the birth of great prophets by signs and wonders, was pleased, in an extraordinary manner, to honour that of the Baptist, who, both by the dignity of his office, and by the eminent degree of grace and sanctity to which he was raised, surpassed, according to the oracle of truth itself, all the ancient patriarchs and prophets. His father Zachary was a holy priest of the family of Abia, one of the twenty-four sacerdotal families into which the children of Aaron were divided, in order that they might all serve in the temple by turns. Elizabeth, the wife of this virtuous priest, was also descended of the house of Aaron, though probably her mother was of the tribe of Juda, she being cousin to the Blessed Virgin. The Holy Ghost assures us that Zachary and Elizabeth were both just, by true virtue, not by an imperfect or false piety, which is scrupulous in some points only the better to cover certain favourite passions; which hypocrisy may often obtain the deceitful suffrage of men, but can never be pleasing in the divine eyes. The virtue of these saints was sincere and perfect, “And they walked in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame.” So impenetrable are the foldings of the human heart, that we have reason to fear the disguise of some secret passions even in our best actions. But blessed are they whom God commends.
Zachary lived probably at Hebron, a sacerdotal town in the western part of the tribe of Juda, in the hilly country, about twenty miles from Jerusalem. David, when he appointed the service of the temple that was to be built, divided the priests into twenty-four courses, who were to officiate in the temple by turns, each a week at a time. Among these that of Abia was reckoned the eighth in the time of David. It was usual for the priests of each family or course, when it came to their turn, to choose by lot among themselves the men who were to perform the several parts of the service of that week. It fell to the lot of Zachary, in the turn of his ministration, to offer the daily morning and evening sacrifice of incense on the golden altar, in the inner part of the temple, called the Sanctum, or sanctuary; which sacrifice was prescribed as an emblem of the indispensable homage which all men are bound to pay to God of their hearts, by morning and evening prayer. It happened that while Zachary was offering the incense one day for this sacrifice, and the people were praying without the sanctuary, he was favoured with a vision, the Angel Gabriel appearing to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Zachary being struck with exceeding terror and amazement, the angel encouraged him, assuring him that his prayer was heard, and that in consequence thereof, his wife, though she was called barren, should conceive and bear him a son; adding, “Thou shalt call his name John, and he shall be great before God.” He did not call him great in the world, in honours, in riches, or applause; these false titles being mere emptiness and smoke; fraught with snares and secret poison. Nor did he say he would be great in the deceitful judgment and foolish opinion of men, who not knowing things as they are in themselves, seldom weigh them in a just balance, and often give them names contrary to what they ought to bear, calling darkness light, and that which is bitter, sweet. But he who is great before God is great indeed. The praises of our saint are truly admirable, because bestowed on him by the sovereign Truth; they exceed all other commendations. His matchless excellency was intimated by the name which was given him by heaven; for he was called John, which word signifies one filled with grace. John was chosen by God to be the herald and harbinger of the world's Redeemer, the voice to proclaim to men the eternal Word; the morning star to usher in the Sun of justice, and the Light of the world. It was therefore becoming that he should be adorned with all virtues in an heroic degree. Other saints are often particularly distinguished by certain characteristical privileges; but John eminently excelled in graces, and was a doctor, a virgin, and martyr. He was a prophet, and more than a prophet, it being his office to point out to the world Him whom the ancient prophets had foretold obscurely, and at a distance. His spotless innocence, his unparalleled penance, his spirit of prayer and retirement, his zeal, and charity, were wonderful: but the crown of his greatness was his profound humility.
An early piety, and an innocence which was never defiled by any stain of sin, is a precious grace; and the first-fruits of a heart are particularly due to God, and a sacrifice most agreeable to him. Therefore the angel ordered that the child should be consecrated to God from his very birth, for an exterior mark of his holy destination; and for an emblem of the necessity of leading a mortified life in the practice of virtue, this heavenly messenger enjoined that he should never touch wine or any other intoxicating liquor. The angel added, that he was holy, and filled with an extraordinary measure of grace by the Holy Ghost, even from the womb of his mother. By this extraordinary sanctity was the Baptist prepared to take upon him the high function of a preacher of penance, in order to convert the degenerate children of Israel from sin to godliness, to unite their hearts by the practice of piety to the holy patriarchs their ancestors, and to make them a perfect people to the Lord, that they might be disposed to receive the salvation which Christ brought them—for John was chosen to walk before Him, in the like spirit and power with which Elias will appear, to prepare men for His second coming to judge the world.
That the miracle of the Baptist's birth might be more evident, Elizabeth was at that time advanced in years, and, according to the course of nature, past child-bearing. God had so ordained it, that this saint might be the fruit of long and earnest prayer, the ordinary channel of his graces. By this circumstance parents are admonished with what assiduity and fervour they ought to address themselves to God to obtain his blessing upon their offspring. Zachary was amazed at the apparition, and at the wonderful things he heard, and begged a sign might be given him which might ascertain to him the effect of these great promises. The angel, to grant his request, and at the same time to show he might have reasonably acquiesced in the marks given him in the vision itself, answered, that from that moment he should continue dumb till such time as the child was born. On the following Sabbath-day the week of his ministration expired, after which he returned home. Elizabeth conceived, and in the sixth month of her pregnancy was honoured with a visit from the mother of God, in which, at the presence of the world's Redeemer, the Baptist was sanctified yet in his mother's womb. On this occasion, the blessed child, yet unborn, was, by an extraordinary privilege, favoured with the use of reason; was the first among men who beheld Christ, and knew him before he saw the light with his corporeal eyes. Inexpressible was the miraculous joy with which his soul was overwhelmed to behold him present, whom the ancient prophets rejoiced so much only to foresee in spirit. Whence it is added, that he leaped for joy in the womb. Elizabeth, after nine months, brought forth her son, who was circumcised on the eighth day. On that occasion the rest of the family were for having him called by his father's name, Zachary; but the mother, by divine inspiration, said his name should be John. The father confirmed the same by writing, and immediately recovering the use of his speech, broke out into the divine praises in the most profound sentiments of love and thanksgiving, and joyfully proclaimed the infinite mercy with which God in his most tender bowels was pleased to visit his people of Israel, and the nations which were seated in the shades of death.
In the like fervent dispositions of gratitude and praise ought we to recite with the church the inspired canticle [The Benedictus] of this holy prophet. We possess the infinite treasure of divine grace in frail vessels, and walk continually upon the brink of precipices, and amidst rocks and dangers; therefore we are bound always to fear, and to use the utmost caution, lest we fall, and lose this most precious of all excellent gifts. To teach us with what watchfulness and care we are bound to preserve, and earnestly labour continually to improve it by an humble and penitential life, by assiduous prayer, by an application to the practice of all good works, and a scrupulous flight of dangerous occasions, the Baptist was inspired by the Holy Ghost to retire in his tender years into the wilderness. There he devoted himself to the exercises of holy prayer, leading a most austere penitential life. His garment was of a rough camel’s hair, girt about him with a leathern girdle, and he allowed himself no other food than what he found in the desert, wild honey and locusts. These are a kind of large grasshoppers, and are used in those countries as a coarse food when dressed, but St. John ate them raw. Of this his retirement Origen writes: “He went into the desert, where the air was more pure, the heavens more open, and God more familiar, that, till the time of his preaching was come, he might employ himself in prayer in the company of angels.” And again, “He had neither scrip nor servant, nor so much as a poor cottage to shelter himself in from the inclemency of the weather. He remained in the desert, even when he began to preach penance.” St. Jerom writes, “Neither the tenderness nor the riches of his devout parents could hold him in their plentiful house amidst dangers from the world. He lived in the desert, and disdained to behold other things with eyes which coveted to see Christ. His raiment was coarse, his food locusts and wild honey; all which things are conducive to virtue and continency.” This frightful solitude he chose for his dwelling, lest the purity of his heart should be sullied if he had entertained any commerce with men; and his penance was most austere, because the path of innocence and virtue is that of the cross or of mortification. How loudly does his penitential youth condemn those pretended Christians whose life is altogether earthly, and who, instead of curbing their inclinations, and keeping their senses in due subjection, study by softness and pleasure to gratify them almost in everything. They renounce for ever the happiness which Christ has promised to his followers, who do not take his word and actions for the only rule of their conduct.
St. John by his retirement calls upon us to disengage our hearts from the ties of the world, and frequently to imitate in our closet his exercises in the wilderness. The world is like a perspective, which can only be seen in the true point, of light at a distance. By holy retirement, and by conversing often with heaven, the fascination of its enchantments will fall from before our eyes, and we shall see that it has nothing which ought not to be to a Christian heart an object of contempt, abhorrence, or dread. It is made up of vanity, danger, and sin. Its goods and enjoyments are short-lived and uncertain, and in themselves false and empty; its pains real and grievous; and its promises treachery and deceit. It is now so worn out, and its cheats are so clearly discovered by long experience, according to the observation of St Austin, that it ought long ago to have lost its false painted charms. Gerson compares those who seek for happiness in it to fools who should with great pains seek for roses and tulips on nettles and briers, which, instead of yielding flowers, can only prick and wound their hands. It is covered with a thick darkness, which intercepts the sight of heavenly things; it is filled with snares in every part, and its vanities and pleasures are fraught with deadly poison. We must enter it with a holy fear, must converse in it with watchfulness, and continually fortify our souls against the infection of its air by the antidotes of frequent meditation, prayer, and self-denial, according to the excellent advice of St Francis of Sales. Thus shall we learn to live in the world so as not to be of it, to use it as if we used it not, and possess it so as not to be possessed or captivated by it.
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.
The child that is born to us, is more than a Prophet: for this is he of whom the Saviour saith: Among the born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.
June 22, 2022: ST. PAULINUS, BISHOP AND CONFESSOR
Behold a great Prelate, who in his days pleased God, and was found righteous.
O God, You have promised a hundredfold hereafter and life everlasting to those who in this world leave all things for Your sake; grant in Your mercy, that we may follow in the footsteps of the holy Bishop Paulinus, and that we may have the grace to despise earthy things and desire only such as are heavenly. Who liveth and reigneth, World without end. Amen.
[From the Nocturnal Lessons…]
Paulinus Bishop of Nola, instructed in human letters and the holy Scriptures, composed, both in verse and prose, many elegant and remarkable works. The charity of this man was particularly celebrated: for when Campania was being ravaged by the Goths, he devoted all his substance to the feeding of the poor and the redeeming of captives, not reserving unto himself, even the necessaries of life. At which time, as Saint Augustine writes, having from the greatest opulency, voluntarily come down to the utmost exigency, yet with all, most rich in sanctity, being now taken captive by the barbarians, he made this prayer to God: “Lord, suffer me not to be put to the torture for the sake of gold and silver; for verily, where all my riches are, thou well knowest.” Afterwards, when the Vandals were infesting these shores, he, being entreated by a widow to redeem her son, all his effects being now consumed in works of charity, delivered himself up to slavery in place of the young man.
Wherefore, being now taken into Africa, he received the charge of cultivating his master's garden, who was son-in-law of the king. At length, by the gift of prophecy, having foretold to his master the death of the king, and the king himself having likewise in a dream, beheld Paulinus, seated in the midst of two other judges, wrest from his hands the scourge which he held; how great a man he was, being thus made known, he was honourably dismissed, and was moreover granted the liberation of all his fellow citizens who had been led away captives with him. Being now returned to Nola and to his episcopal functions, by word and example he more and more inflamed all unto Christian piety, until at last, being seized by a pain in his side, presently the chamber wherein he lay, was shaken by an earthquake, and shortly afterwards, he rendered up his soul unto God.
Another account of St. Paulinus.
Pontius Meropius Paulinus was born at Bourdeaux in 353. In his pedigree, both by the father and mother's side, was displayed a long line of illustrious senators, and his own father, Pontius Paulinus, was prӕfectus prӕtorio in Gaul, the first magistrate in the western empire. But the honours and triumphs of his ancestors were eclipsed by his superior virtues, which rendered him the admiration of his own and all succeeding ages, and excited St. Martin, St. Sulpicius Severus, St. Ambrose, St. Austin, St. Jerom, St. Eucherius, St. Gregory of Tours, Apollinaris, Cassiodorus, and others to vie with each other in celebrating his heroic actions, and to become the publishers of his praises to the corners of the earth. Besides the pre-eminence of his birth and riches, he received from nature a penetrating and elevated understanding, and an elegant genius, with other excellent accomplishments of mind and body, by which he was qualified for the highest attainments, and seemed born for everything that is great. These talents he cultivated from his infancy, by the closest application to the study of all the liberal arts, and he acquired the most extensive compass of useful learning. He had for master in poesy and eloquence the famous Ausonius, the first man of his age in those sciences, whose delicacy and wit would have ranked him among the greatest poets, if industry, evenness of style, and the purity of the Augustan age had not been wanting in his writings. That professor, merely for his literary abilities, was honoured by Valentinian with the dignity of prӕfectus prӕtorio, and by Gratian, whose preceptor he was, with that of consul. Under such a master Paulinus fully answered the hopes which his friends had conceived of him, and, whilst young, harangued at the bar with great applause. “Every one,” says St. Jerom “admired the purity and eloquence of his diction, the delicacy and loftiness of his thoughts, the strength and sweetness of his style, and the liveliness of his imagination.” Such were the acquirements of Paulinus in his youth, whilst a desire of pleasing men yet divided his heart. Probity, integrity, and other moral virtues were endowments of his soul still more admirable than his learning. His merit was soon distinguished by those who had the administration of the state, and by the emperors themselves, by whom he was raised, yet young, to the first dignities, and declared consul before his master Ausonius; consequently before the year 379. He took to wife a Spanish lady of sincere piety, and one of the most accomplished of her sex; her name was Therasia, and she brought him a great estate in land. The prudence, generosity, affability, and other social and religious virtues of the young statesman attracted veneration and esteem wherever he came, and gained him many friends and clients in Italy, Gaul, and Spain; in all which countries he had displayed his talents during fifteen years in the discharge of various employments and affairs both public and domestic. But God was pleased to open his eyes to see the emptiness of all worldly pursuits, and to inspire him with a more noble and innocent ambition of becoming little for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
The conversation of St. Ambrose at Milan, of St. Martin whom he had met at Vienne, and of St. Delphinus bishop of Bourdeaux gave him a relish for retirement, and strong sentiments of a more perfect virtue. The last-mentioned holy prelate being bishop of the native city and most ordinary residence of Paulinus whilst he remained in the world, made good use of the opportunity which his situation gave him, and being charmed with the saint's happy dispositions, often spoke to him on the necessity and happiness of giving himself to God without reserve. Paulinus had made some advances in virtue; but was not yet perfect. He was always an enemy to vanity or the love of human applause, than which passion nothing can be more unworthy of virtue, or more beneath a generous soul: though all the heathen philosophers shamefully disgraced their attainments by this base weakness. Tully was not ashamed to boast of it, and Demosthenes was delighted to hear a poor old woman whisper, “This is the great Demosthenes.” Paulinus seemed always raised by his own greatness of soul above this abject passion, and showed that geniuses which are truly great, are superior to their own abilities. But still he found how difficult a task it is for a man to preserve a perfect disengagement and purity of heart in the midst of worldly honours and blandishments, and to stand his ground against the incitements of the softer passions. Whilst every thing goads him on, and his senses and his own heart betray him, to shield his soul from the penetrating caresses of pleasure must be little short of a continued miracle. Moreover, by serious meditation on the vanities of the world, Paulinus had possessed his mind with a sincere conviction that its pleasures are empty, treacherous, and fraught with deadly poison. Certain shocks which he felt in his fortune through revolutions that happened in the empire, contributed to give him a more feeling sense of the instability of earthly things, and that bitterness which is inseparable from worldly affairs in high life, helped to increase this disgust and contempt of the world, and to discover to him the falsehood of its gilded bubbles which dazzle the eye of men at a distance. His wife, though yet young, and in a condition to enjoy the world, was the first to excite him to a contempt of whatever is not God; and they mutually encouraged one another to forsake all, that they might more perfectly to follow Christ. In this resolution they retired first into Spain, and passed four years in a little country solitude, from 390 to 394, in exercises of penance and devotion. There they lost their only son an infant whom Paulinus calls a holy offspring, because he had been purified by baptism. They buried him at Alcala near the bodies of the martyrs Justus and Pastor. The holy couple lived from that time, by mutual consent, in perpetual chastity; and Paulinus soon after changed his dress, to signify to the world his resolution of forsaking it, and he determined to renounce the senate, his country, estate, and house, and to bury himself in some monastery or wilderness. He was very rich, and Ausonius grieved to see the kingdoms of Paulinus the father, as he calls his vast estates, divided among a hundred possessors. The saint sold all his estates, and distributed the price among the poor; as he did also the estate of his wife, with her consent, who aspired with no less fervour to Christian perfection. This action was much extolled by all true servants of God, but severely condemned by the slaves of the world; who called his piety folly, hating God in the works of his servant, because contrary to theirs. The rich forsook him; his own slaves, his relations, and brothers refused to pay him the common duties of humanity and charity, and rose up against him, so that he became as one unknown to his brothers, “and as a stranger to the children of his mother.” God permitted this persecution to befal him that by it he might be more perfectly weaned from the world, and might learn to contemn its frowns. If I please men, says the apostle, I should not be a servant of Christ (Gal, i. 10). And Christ himself assures us that no man is worthy to be called his disciple, who hath net courage to despise human respects. Paulinus, instructed in this school, rejoiced to hear men bark at him, and all his own friends conspire to tear him to pieces, and to accuse his retreat of melancholy, hypocrisy, and every other sinister motive. His short, but golden answer to their invectives was comprised in five words: “O happy affront to displease you with Christ;” as he wrote to St. Aper to comfort and encourage him under a like persecution of the world, because though a person who by his eloquence, learning, and dignity of judgment, held an eminent rank among the first magistrates of the empire in Gaul, he preferred to these advantages the obscurity of a religious state, which he and his wife embraced by mutual consent, soon after which he was promoted to priest's orders. Paulinus's old master Ausonius, who had always the most tender love and the greatest esteem for him, regretted exceedingly that he should lose a nobleman whom he knew capable of being an honour to the greatest dignities; and in verses and letters yet extant, which discover how deeply his heart was rooted in a worldly spirit, reproached him in the most bitter terms, arraigning his action of madness and extravagance. He employed the most tender entreaties, and the harshest invectives in hopes to overcome his resolution, and complains that Bilboa or Calahorra should possess and bury the glory and pillar of the Roman senate and empire! The saint, without the least emotion, wrote him back in beautiful verse, a mild and elegant answer, in which he testifies, that it was to him the highest pleasure to meet with reproaches for serving Christ: and that he regarded not the opinion or railleries of men, who pursue opposite views, provided his actions might gain the approbation of the Eternal King whom alone he desired to please. Thus whilst the world despised him, he justly and courageously despised it again, and gloriously trampled it under his feet. His persecutors and upbraiders, seeing him regardless of the censures of a world to which they were themselves enslaved, became in a short time their admirers, and loudly extolled his modesty and meekness no less than his greatness of soul and the purity of his intention. In his poverty and obscurity he became the admiration of the universe, and persons of the first rank travelled from the remotest boundaries of the empire to see Paulinus in his little cottage, as St. Austin and St, Jerom witness. Therasia confirmed him in these good resolutions, and was not inferior to him in virtue. Having joined with him in selling her estate, she was not ashamed to appear in mean clothes, being persuaded that an humble dress suits penitent minds, and that humility is not easily to be preserved under rich attire.
St Ambrose, St Austin, St Jerom, and St Martin, gave due praise to this heroic virtue of St Paulinus, knowing they might safely do it to one dead to the applause no less than to the censures of others. St. Austin being then only priest, in 392, commended his generous resolution, calling it, The glory of Jesus Christ. And exhorting Licentius, a young nobleman who had formerly been his scholar, to a contempt of the world, he wrote thus to him, “Go into Campania; see Paulinus, that man so great by his birth, by his genius, and by his riches. See with what generosity this servant of Christ has stript himself of all to possess only God. See how he has renounced the pride of the world to embrace the humility of the cross. See how he now employs in the praises of God those riches of science, which unless they are consecrated to him who gave them, are lost.” Our saint could not bear applause. Greater by his humility than by all his other virtues, he sincerely desired to be forgotten by men, and begged his friends to refrain from their compliments, and not add to the load of his sins by praises which were not his due. “It surprised me,” said he, “that any one should look upon it as a great action for a man to purchase eternal salvation, the only solid good, with perishable pelf, and to sell the earth to buy heaven.” Others called him perfect in virtue; but his answer was, “A man that is going to pass a river by swimming is not got on the other side when he has but just put off his clothes. His whole body must be in action, and his limbs all put in motion; he must exert his utmost strength, and make great efforts to master the current.” The saint had, indeed, for the sake of virtue, forsaken all that the world could give; he had despised its riches, honours, and seducing pleasures, and had trampled upon its frowns, and all human respects. Courted in the world by all who would be thought men of genius, and caressed by all who valued themselves upon a fine taste, he had courage to renounce those flattering advantages; and with honours and riches he had made a sacrifice also of his learning and great attainments only that be might consecrate himself to the divine service. Yet this was only the preparation to the conflict. Wherefore not to lose by sloth the advantages which he had procured to himself, be laboured with all his strength to improve them to his advancement in virtue. He made it his first endeavour to subdue himself, to kill the very seeds of pride, impatience, and other passions in his heart, and to ground himself in the most profound humility, meekness, and patience. If any one seemed to admire the sacrifice he had made in renouncing so great riches and honours, in the number of captives he had ransomed, of debtors whom be had freed from prison by discharging their debts, of hospitals be had founded, and of churches he had built, he replied that the only sacrifice which God accepted was that of the heart, which he had not yet begun to make as he ought; that if others had not given so much to the poor, they excelled in more heroic virtues; for the gifts of grace are various; that his sacrifice was too defective in itself, and only exterior, consequently of no value, but rather hypocrisy. These and the like sentiments he so expresses, as to show how perfectly he considered himself as the most unprofitable and unworthy of servants in the house of God, and saw nothing in himself but what was matter of compunction, and a subject of the most profound humiliation. To the practice of interior self-denial, by which he bent his will, he added exterior mortification. And so great was the poverty in which he lived, that he often was not able to procure a little salt to his herbs or bread, which the most austere hermits usually allowed themselves. Yet the holy cheerfulness of his pious soul was remarkable to all who had the happiness to enjoy his acquaintance; and we sensibly discern it in a constant vein of gaiety which runs through all his writings.
Paulinus would not choose a retreat at Jerusalem or Rome, because he desired to live unknown to the world. His love of solitude and his devotion to St. Felix determined him to prefer a lonely cottage near Nola, a small city in Campania, that he might serve Christ near the tomb of that glorious confessor, which was without the walls of the town. He would be the porter of his church, to sweep the floor every morning, and to watch the night as keeper of the porch; and he desired to end his life in that humble employment. But he was promoted to holy orders before he left Spain. The people of Barcelona seized him in the church on Christmas day in 393, and demanded with great earnestness that he should be made priest. He resolutely opposed their desire, and only at length consented on condition that he should be at liberty to go wherever he pleased. This being agreed to, he received holy orders from the hands of the bishop. The citizens of Barcelona were indeed in hopes to fix him among them; but the next year, 394, after Easter, he left Spain to go into Italy. He saw St. Ambrose at Milan, or rather at Florence, who received him with great honour, and adopted him into his clergy, but without any obligation of residing in his diocess. The saint went to Rome, and met with great civilities from Domnio, a holy priest of that church, from St. Pammachius, and many others. But Pope Siricius did not appear equally gracious, and the saint made no stay in that capital, being in haste to arrive at Nola, the place of his retirement. There stood a church over the tomb of Felix, half a mile from the walls of the city, and to it was contiguous a long building of two stories, with a gallery divided into cells, in which Paulinus lodged the clergymen who came to see him. On the other side was a lodging for secular persons, who sometimes visited him; and he had a little garden. Several pious persons lived with him, whom he calls a company of monks, and he practised with them all the rules and austerities of a monastic state. They celebrated the divine office, were clad with sackcloth, and abstained for the most part from wine, though Paulinus himself, on account of his infirmities, drank sometimes a little diluted with a great quantity of water: they fasted and watched much, and their ordinary diet was herbs; but they never ate or drank so much as to satisfy hunger or thirst. St. Paulinus says, that every day he laboured to render to St. Felix all the honour he was able; yet he strove to outdo himself on the day of his festival: to which he added every year a birth-day poem in his honour as a tribute of his voluntary service, as he styles it. We have fourteen, or as others count them, fifteen of these birth-day poems of St. Felix, composed by St. Paulinus, still extant.
The Saint testifies that no motive so strongly excited him to the greatest fervour in the divine service as the consideration of the infinite goodness of God, who, though we owe him so much demands only our love to pay off all debts, and to cancel our offences. Poor and insolvent as we are, if we love, this clears off all the score. And in this no man can allege the difficulty, because no man can say he has not a heart. We are masters of our love; if we give this to the Lord, we are quit. The excess of his goodness carries him still further, for he is pleased that by paying him our poor love, we should be moreover entitled to his greatest favours, and of our creditor should make him our debtor. St. Paulinus had spent fifteen years in his retirement, when upon the death of Paul the bishop of Nola, about the end of the year 409, he was chosen to fill the episcopal chair. Uranius, a priest of that church under our saint, who has given us a short relation of his death, to which he was an eye-witness, testifies that the holy prelate in the discharge of his pastoral duties, sought to be beloved by all rather than feared by any. No provocations were ever able to move him to anger, and in his tribunal he always joined mildness with severity. No one ever had recourse to him who did not receive from him every kind of comfort of which he stood in need. Every one received a share in his liberalities, in his counsels, or in his alms. He looked upon only those as true riches which Christ hath promised to his saints, saying that the chief use of gold and silver consists in affording means to assist the indigent. By his liberality in relieving others he reduced himself to the last degree of penury. The Goths in their plunder of Italy in 410, besieged Nola, and, among others, Paulinus was taken prisoner. In this extremity he said to God with confidence, “Suffer me not to be tortured for gold and silver; for you know where I have placed all that you gave me.” And not one of those who had forsaken all for Christ was tormented by the barbarians. This is related by St. Austin. A virtuous lady called Flora having buried her son Cynegius in the church of St. Felix, consulted St. Paulinus, what advantage the dead receive by being buried near the tombs of saints. Paulinus put the question to St Austin, who answered it by his book, On the Care for the Dead, in which he shows that pomp of funerals and the like honours are only comforts of the living friends, not succours of the deceased; but that a burial in a holy place proceeds from a devotion which recommends the soul of the deceased to the divine mercy, and to the saint’s intercession. St. Paulinus lived to the year 431. Three days before his death he was visited in his last sickness by Symmachus and Acyndinus, two bishops, with whom he entertained himself on spiritual things, as if he had been in perfect health. The joy of seeing them made him forget his distemper. With them he offered the tremendous sacrifice, causing the holy vessels to be brought to his bedside. Soon after the priest Posthumian coming in, told him that forty pieces of silver were owing for clothes for the poor. The saint smiling, said some one would pay the debt of the poor. A little after arrived a priest of Lucania, who brought him fifty pieces of silver, sent him for a present from a certain bishop and a layman. St. Paulinus gave thanks to God, gave two pieces to the bearer, and paid the merchants for the clothes. He slept a little at night, but awaked his clergy to matins according to his custom, and made them an exhortation to unanimity and fervour—After this he lay silent till the hour of vespers, when stretching out his hands, he said in a low voice,—I have prepared a lamp for my Christ (Psalm xxxi). The lamps in the church were then lighting. Between ten and eleven at night, all who were in his chamber felt a sudden trembling as by some shock of an earthquake, and that moment he gave up his soul to God. He was buried in the church he had built in honour of St. Felix. His body was afterwards removed to Rome, and lies in the church of St. Bartholomew beyond the Tiber.
The world by persecuting St. Paulinus served only to enhance the glory of his victory, and to prepare him a double crown. This enemy is much less dangerous if it condemn than if it applaud us. To fear its impotent darts is to start at shadows. Itself will in the end admire those who for the sake of virtue have dared to despise its frowns. To serve men for God as far as it lies in our power is a noble part of charity; but to enslave our conscience to the mad caprice of the world is a baseness, a pusillanimity, and a wickedness, for which we cannot find a name. In other things we serve you, said the Hebrews to king Pharaoh, when his slaves in Egypt; but we must be free to go into the wilderness to sacrifice to the God of Israel. In the indispensable duties of religion, in the service of God, in the affair of eternity, we are essentially free; the dignity of our nature, and our allegiance to God, forbid us in this ever to become slaves. Here we must always exert an heroic courage, and boldly profess, by our conduct, with all the saints, that we know no other glory but what is placed in the service of God, and that we look upon ignominies suffered for the sake of virtue as our greatest gain and honour. We are his disciples who, hath told us,—If the world hateth you, know that it hated me first (St. John, xv. 18).
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
Saint Joseph Daily Missal, Imprimatur 1957.
St. Paulinus, pray for us.