Jan. 16, 2020

January 16, 2020: ST. MARCELLUS I, POPE AND MARTYR

Rank: Simple.

 

Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, O Lord. And hast placed him over the works of thy hands.

 

Prayer (Collect).

Mercifully hear, O Lord, we beseech thee, the prayers of thy people that we may be assisted by the merits of blessed Marcellus, thy Martyr and Bishop, the feast of whose sufferings we celebrate with joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

The name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar to-day—he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy, and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to our Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr—Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi—they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.

Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for Martyrdom was, therefore, very short; but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen's company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, waving his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old Masters, the Cӕsars, were to make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Cӕsar-Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, and where she gave birth to an humble Babe; and now, the Empire of that Babe has out-grown the Empire of the Cӕsars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.

 

The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.

Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City, five and twenty Titles, as so many districts, for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for the providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment, unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.

Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was, therefore, sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts, which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St. Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.

Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called “the Head of the Churches.” In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council maybe rightly celebrated, without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

Pope St. Marcellus I, pray for us.

 

Jan. 15, 2020

January 15, 2020: ST. PAUL, FIRST HERMIT, CONFESSOR

Rank: Double.

 

Father! thou didst, from thy early youth, separate thyself from all human society, and wast the first to live in the desert, surpassing all other Anchorets. Thou, Paul, didst pass thy whole life unknown to men; therefore was Anthony divinely inspired to go in search, of thee, as the hidden Saint; he found thee and revealed thee to the whole earth.

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who comfortest us by the yearly solemnity of blessed Paul, thy Confessor; mercifully grant that while we celebrate his feast, we may imitate his actions. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Inflamed with the heat of divine love, thou didst abandon human affections, and, Angel-like, didst spend thy life in the persevering search after more perfect things.

 

To-day, the Church honours the memory of one of those men, who were expressly chosen by God to represent the sublime detachment from all things, which was taught to the world by the example of the Son of God, born in a Cave, at Bethlehem. Paul the Hermit so prized the poverty of his Divine Master, that he fled to the desert, where he could find nothing to possess and nothing to covet. He had a mere cavern for his dwelling; a palm-tree provided him with food and clothing; a fountain gave him wherewith to quench his thirst; and heaven sent him his only luxury, a loaf of bread brought to him daily by a crow. For sixty years did Paul thus serve, in poverty, and in solitude, that God, who was denied a dwelling on the earth he came to redeem, and could have but a poor Stable wherein to be born.

But God dwelt with Paul in his cavern; and in him began the Anchorites, that sublime race of men, who, the better to enjoy the company of their God, denied themselves, not only the society, but the very sight, of men. They were the Angels of earth, in whom God showed forth, for the instruction of the rest of men, that he is powerful enough, and rich enough, to supply the wants of his creatures, who, indeed, have nothing but what they have from Him. The Hermit, or Anchoret, is a prodigy in the Church, and it behoves us to glorify the God who has produced it. We ought to be filled with astonishment and gratitude, at seeing how the Mystery of a God made Flesh, has so elevated our human nature, as to inspire a contempt and abandonment of those earthly goods, which heretofore had been so eagerly sought after.

The two names, Paul and Anthony [of Egypt; Jan 17th], are not to be separated; they are the two Apostles of the Desert; both are Fathers—Paul of Anchorites, and Anthony [of Egypt] of Cenobites; the two families are sisters, and both have the same source, the Mystery of Bethlehem. The sacred Cycle of the Church's year unites, with only a day between their two Feasts, these two faithful disciples of Jesus in his Crib.

 

The Church reads in her Office, the following abridgment of St. Paul's wonderful Life.

Paul, the institutor and master of Hermits, was born in Lower Thebais. He lost his parents when he was fifteen years of age. Not long after that, in order to escape the persecution of Decius and Valerian, and to serve God the more freely, he withdrew into the desert, where he made a cave his dwelling. A palm-tree afforded him food and raiment, and there he lived to the age of a hundred and thirteen. About that time, he received a visit from Anthony [of Egypt], who was ninety-years old. God bade him visit Paul. The two Saints, though they had not previously known each other, saluted each other by their names. Whilst holding a long conversation on the kingdom of God, a crow, which every day brought half a loaf of bread, carried them a whole one.

When the crow had left them, Paul said: “See! our truly good and truly merciful Lord has sent us our repast. For sixty years, I have daily received a half loaf; now, because thou art come to see me, Christ has doubled the portion for his soldiers.” Wherefore, they sat near the fountain, and, giving thanks, they eat the bread; and when they were refreshed, they again returned the accustomed thanks to God, and spent the night in the divine praises. At daybreak, Paul tells Anthony of his approaching death, and begs him go and bring the cloak, which Athanasius had given him, and wrap his corpse in it. As Anthony was returning from his cell, he saw Paul's soul going up into heaven, amidst choirs of Angels, and a throng of Prophets and Apostles.

When he had reached the hermit's cell, he found the lifeless body: the knees were bent, the head erect, and the hands stretched out and raised towards heaven. He wrapped it in the cloak, and sang hymns and psalms over it, according to the custom prescribed by Christian tradition. Not having a hoe wherewith to make a grave, two lions came at a rapid pace from the interior of the desert, and stood over the body of the venerable Saint, showing how, in their own way, they lamented his death. They began to tear up the earth with their feet, and seemed to strive to outdo each other in the work, until they had made a hole large enough to receive the body of a man. When they had gone, Anthony carried the holy corpse to the place, and covering it with the soil, he arranged the grave after the manner of the Christians. As to the tunic, which Paul had woven for himself out of palm-leaves, as baskets are usually made, Anthony took it away with him, and, as long as he lived, wore it on the great days of Easter and Pentecost.

 

Another account of St. Paul, the First Hermit.

A.D. 342

Elias and St. John the Baptist sanctified the deserts, and Jesus Christ himself was a model of the eremitical state during his forty days' fast in the wilderness; neither is it to be questioned hut the Holy Ghost conducted the saint of this day, though young, into the desert, and was to him an instructor there; but it is no less certain, that an entire solitude and total sequestration of one’s self from human society, is one of those extraordinary ways by which God leads souls to himself, and is more worthy of our admiration, than calculated for imitation and practice: it is a state which ought only to be embraced by such as are already well experienced in the practices of virtue and contemplation, and who can resist sloth and other temptations, lest, instead of being a help, it prove a snare and stumbling-block in their way to heaven.

This saint was a native of the Lower Thebais, in Egypt, and had lost both his parents when he was but fifteen years of age: nevertheless, he was a great proficient in the Greek and Egyptian learning, was mild and modest, and feared God from his earliest youth. The bloody persecution of Decius disturbed the peace of the church in 250; and what was most dreadful, Satan, by his ministers, sought not so much to kill the bodies, as by subtle artifices and tedious tortures to destroy the souls of men. Two instances are sufficient to show his malice in this respect: A soldier of Christ, who had already triumphed over the racks and tortures, had his whole body rubbed over with honey, and was then laid on his back in the sun, with his hands tied behind him, that the flies and wasps, which are quite intolerable in hot countries, might torment and gall him with their stints. Another was bound with silk cords on a bed of down, in a delightful garden, where a lascivious woman was employed to entice him to sin; the martyr, sensible of his danger, bit of part of his tongue and spit it in her face, that the horror of such an action might put her to flight, and the smart occasioned by it be a means to prevent, in his own heart, any manner of consent to carnal pleasure. During these times of danger, Paul kept himself concealed in the house of another; but finding that a brother-in-law was inclined to betray him, that he might enjoy his estate, he fled into the deserts. There he found many spacious caverns in a rock, which were said to have been the retreat of money-coiners in the days of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. He chose for his dwelling a cave in this place, near which were a palm-tree and a clear spring, the former by its leaves furnished him with raiment and by its fruit with food; and the latter supplied him with water for his drink.

Paul was twenty-two years old when he entered the desert. His first intention was to enjoy the liberty of serving God till the persecution should cease; but relishing the sweets of heavenly contemplation and penance, and learning the spiritual advantages of holy solitude, he resolved to return no more among men, or concern himself in the least with human affairs, and what passed in the world: it was enough for him to know that there was a world, and to pray that it might be improved in goodness. The saint lived on the fruit of his tree till he was forty-three years of age, and from that time till his death, like Elias, he was miraculously fed with bread brought him every day by a raven. His method of life, and what he did in this place during ninety years, is unknown to us: but God was pleased to make his servant known a little before his death.

The great St. Antony [of Egypt], who was then ninety years of age, was tempted to vanity, as if no one had served God so long in the wilderness as he had done, imagining himself also to be the first example of a life so recluse from human conversation: but the contrary was discovered to him in a dream the night following, and the saint was at the same time commanded by Almighty God, to set out forthwith in quest of a perfect servant of his, concealed in the more remote parts of those deserts. The holy old man set out the next morning in search of the unknown hermit. St. Jerom relates from his authors, that he met a centaur, or creature not with the nature and properties, but with something of the mixed shape of man and horse, and that this monster, or phantom of the devil, (St. Jerom pretends not to determine which it was,) upon his making the sign of the cross, fled away, after having pointed out the way to the saint. Our author adds, that St. Antony soon after met a satyr, who gave him to understand that he was an inhabitant of those deserts, and one of that sort whom the deluded Gentiles adored for gods. St. Antony, after two days and a night spent in the search, discovered the saint's abode by a light that was in it, which he made up to. Having long begged admittance at the door of his cell, St. Paul at last opened it with a smile: they embraced, called each other by their names, which they knew by divine revelation. St. Paul then inquired whether idolatry still reigned in the world. While they were discoursing together, a raven flew towards them, and dropped a loaf of bread before them. Upon which St. Paul said, “Our good God has sent us a dinner. In this manner have I received half a loaf every day these sixty years past; now you are come to see me, Christ has doubled his provision for his servants.” Having given thanks to God they both sat down by the fountain; but a little contest arose between them who should break the bread; St. Antony alleged St. Paul's greater age, and St. Paul pleaded that Antony was the stranger: both agreed at last to take up their parts together. Having refreshed themselves at the spring, they spent the night in prayer. The next morning St. Paul told his guest that the time of his death approached, and that he was sent to bury him, adding “Go and fetch the cloak given you by St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in which I desire you to wrap my body.” This he might say with the intent of being left alone in prayer, while he expected to be called out of this world; as also that he might testify his veneration for St. Athanasius, and his high regard for the faith and communion of the Catholic church, on account of which that holy bishop was then a great sufferer. St. Antony was surprised to hear him mention the cloak, which he could not have known but by divine revelation. Whatever was his motive for desiring to be buried in it, St. Antony acquiesced to what was asked of him: so, after mutual embraces, he hastened to his monastery to comply with St. Paul's request. He told his monks that he, a sinner, falsely bore the name of a servant of God, but that he had seen Elias and John the Baptist in the wilderness, even Paul in Paradise. Having taken the cloak, he returned with it in all haste, fearing lest the holy hermit might be dead, as it happened. While on his road, he saw his happy soul carried up to heaven, attended by choirs of angels, prophets, and apostles. St. Antony, though he rejoiced on St. Paul's account, could not help lamenting on his own, for having lost a treasure so lately discovered. As soon as his sorrow would permit, he arose, pursued his journey, and came to the cave. Going in, he found the body kneeling, and the hands stretched out. Full of joy, and supposing him yet alive, he knelt down to pray with him, but by his silence soon perceived he was dead. Having paid his last respects to the holy corpse, he carried it out of the cave. While he stood perplexed how to dig a grave, two lions came up quietly, and, as it were, mourning; and tearing up the ground, made a hole large enough for the reception of a human body. St. Antony then buried the corpse, singing hymns and psalms, according to what was usual and appointed by the church on that occasion. After this he returned home praising God, and related to his monks what he had seen and done. He always kept as a great treasure, and wore himself on great festivals, the garment of St. Paul, of palm-tree leaves patched together. St. Paul died in the year of our Lord 342, the hundred and thirteenth year of his age, and the ninetieth of his solitude, and is usually called the first hermit, to distinguish him from others of that name. The body of this saint is said to have been conveyed to Constantinople, by the emperor Michael Comnenus, in the twelfth century, and from thence to Venice in 1210. Lewis I, king of Hungary, procured it from that republic, and deposited it at Buda, where a congregation of hermits under his name,… in Hungary, Poland, and Austria, was instituted by blessed Eusebius of Strigonium, a nobleman, who, having distributed his whole estate among the poor, retired into the forests; and being followed by others, built the monastery of Pisilia, under the rule of the regular canons of St. Austin…

St. Paul, the hermit, is commemorated in several ancient western Martyrologies on the 10th of January, but in the Roman on the 15th, on which he is honored in the anthologium of the Greeks.

An eminent contemplative draws the following portraiture of this great model of an eremitical life: St. Paul, the hermit, not being called by God to the external duties of an active life, remained alone, conversing only with God, in a vast wilderness, for the space of near a hundred years, ignorant of all that passed in the world, both the progress of sciences, the establishment of religion, and the revolutions of states and empires; indifferent even as to those things without which he could not live, as the air which he breathed, the water he drank, and the miraculous bread with which he supported life. What did he do? say the inhabitants of this busy world, who think they could not live without being in a perpetual hurry of restless projects; what was his employment all this while? Alas! ought we not rather to put this question to them; what are you doing while you are not taken up in doing the Will of God, which occupies the heavens and the earth in all their motions? Do you call that doing nothing which is the great end God proposed to himself in giving us a being, that is, to be employed in contemplating, adoring, and praising him? Is it to be idle and useless in the world to be entirely taken up in that which is the eternal occupation of God himself, and of the blessed inhabitants of heaven? What employment is better, more just, more sublime, or more advantageous than this, when done in suitable circumstances? To be employed in any thing else, how great or noble soever it may appear in the eyes of men, unless it be referred to God, and be the accomplishment of his holy will, who in all our actions demands our heart more than our hand, what is it, but to turn ourselves away from our end, to lose our time, and voluntarily to return again to that state of nothing out of which we were formed, or rather into a far worse state?

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

January 15, 2020 St. Maurus, Abbot.

 

St. Paul, the First Hermit, pray for us.

 

Jan. 15, 2020

January 15, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. MAURUS, ABBOT

 

On this day, did Saint Mauras, laid before the Altar on his hair-shirt, happily breathe forth his soul. On this day, the eldest disciple of blessed Benedict, securely ascending by the path of the Holy Rule, and accompanied by choirs of Angels, was led to Christ. On this day, the obedient man, speaking victory, was rewarded by receiving the crown from his Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

Prayer (Collect).

May the intercession, O Lord, of blessed Maurus, the Abbot recommend us to thee; that what we cannot hope for through any merits of our own, we may obtain by his prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

O most worthy Disciple of his Father Benedict, who made him heir of his own spirit, that he might become the chief promulgator of the Holy Rule, and the wonderful propagator of the Monastic Order in France! Alleluia.

O blessed Mauras! who, from early childhood, despised the world, and lovingly bore the yoke of the Holy Rule, and, being obedient even unto death, denied himself, that he might cling unreservedly to Christ. Alleluia.

 

Saint Maurus—one of the greatest masters of the Cenobitical Life, and the most illustrious of the Disciples of St. Benedict, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West—shares with the First Hermit the honours of this fifteenth day of January. Faithful, like the holy Hermit, to the lessons taught at Bethlehem, Maurus has a claim to have his Feast kept during the forty days, which are sacred to the sweet Babe Jesus. He comes to us each January to bear witness to the power of that Babe's humility. Who, forsooth, will dare to doubt of the triumphant power of the Poverty, and the obedience shown in the Crib of our Emmanuel, when he is told of the grand things done by those virtues in the Cloisters of Fair France?

It was to Maurus that France was indebted for the introduction into her territory of that admirable Rule, which produced the great Saints, and the great Men, to whom she owes the best part of her glory… St. Maurus built his celebrated Monastery of Glanfeuil, and Glanfeuil may be considered as the mother-house of the principal Monasteries in France, Saint Germain and Saint Denis of Paris, Marmoutier, Saint Victor, Luxeuil, Jumièges, Fleury, Corbie, Saint Vannes, Moyen-Moutier, Saint Wandrille, Saint Waast, La Chaise-Dieu, Tiron, Chezal Benoît, Le Bec, and innumerable other Monasteries in France gloried in being daughters of Monte-Cassino by the favourite Disciple of St. Benedict. Cluny, which gave several Popes to the Church—and among them, St. Gregory the Seventh, and Urban the Second—was indebted to St. Maurus for that Rule, which gave her her glory and her power. We must count up the Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, Doctors, Confessors, and Virgins, who were formed, for… years, in the Benedictine Cloisters of France; we must calculate the services, both temporal and spiritual, done to this great country by the Benedictine Monks, during all that period; and we shall have some idea of the results produced by the mission of St. Maurus—results, whose whole glory redounds to the Babe of Bethlehem, and to the mysteries of his humility, which are the source and model of the Monastic Life. When, therefore, we admire the greatness of the Saints, and recount their wonderful works, we are glorifying our Jesus, the King of all Saints.

 

The Monastic Breviary, in the Office of this Feast, gives us the following sketch of the Life of St. Maurus.

Maurus was by birth a Roman. His father, whose name was Eutychius, and a Senator by rank, had placed him, when a little boy, under the care of St. Benedict. Trained in the school of such and so great a Master of holiness, he attained to the highest degree of monastic perfection, even before he had ceased to be a child; so that Benedict himself was in admiration, and used to speak of his virtues to every one, holding him forth to the rest of the house as a model of religious discipline. He subdued his flesh by austerities, such as the wearing a hair-shirt, night watching, and frequent fasting; giving, meanwhile, to his spirit the solace of assiduous prayer, holy compunction, and reading the Sacred Scriptures. During Lent, he took food but twice in the week, and that so sparingly, as to seem rather to be tasting than taking it. He slept standing, or, when excessive fatigue obliged him to it, sitting, or, at times, lying down on a heap of lime and sand, over which he threw his hair-shirt. His sleep was exceedingly short, for he always recited very long prayers, and often the whole of the Psalms, before the midnight Office.

He gave a proof of his admirable spirit of obedience on the occasion of [Saint] Placid's having fallen into the lake, and being nearly drowned. Maurus, at the bidding of the Holy Father, ran to the lake, walked dry-shod upon the water, and, taking the child by the hair of his head, drew him safe to the bank; for Placid was to be slain by the sword as a martyr, and our Lord reserved him as a victim, which should be offered to him. On account of such signal virtues as these, the same Holy Father made Maurus share the cares of his duties; for, from his very entrance into the monastic life, he had had a part in his miracles. He had been raised to the holy order of Deaconship by St. Benedict's command; and by placing the stole he wore on a dumb and lame boy, he gave him the power both to speak and walk.

Maurus was sent by his Holy Father into France. Scarcely had he set his foot on that land, than he had a vision of the triumphant entrance of that great saint into heaven. He promulgated in that country the Rule which St. Benedict had written with his own hand, and had given to him on his leaving Italy; though the labour and anxiety he had to go through in the accomplishment of his mission, were exceedingly great. Having built the celebrated Monastery, which he governed for forty years, so great was the reputation of his virtues, that several of the noblest lords of King Theodobert's court put themselves under Maurus' direction, and enrolled in the holier and more meritorious warfare of the monastic life.

Two years before his death, he resigned the government of his Monastery, and retired into a cell near the Oratory of St. Martin. There he exercised himself in most rigorous penance, wherewith he fortified himself for the contest he had to sustain against the enemy of mankind, who threatened him with the death of his Monks. In this combat a holy Angel was his comforter, who, after revealing to him the snares of the wicked spirit, and the designs of God, bade him and his disciples win the crown prepared for them. Having, therefore, sent to heaven before him, as so many forerunners, a hundred and more of his brave soldiers, and knowing that he, their leader, was soon to follow them, he signified his wish to be carried to the Oratory, where, being strengthened by the Sacrament of Life, and lying on his hair-shirt, as a victim before the Altar, he died a saintly death. He was upwards of seventy years of age. It would be difficult to describe the success wherewith he propagated Monastic discipline in France, or to tell the miracles which, both before and after his death, rendered him glorious among men.

 

The Lord clothed him with the holy stole of Levites: wherewith he made the lame walk, and the dumb speak.

Being sent into France, he enlightened all men by the teaching of the Rule, as the day-dawn lights the world, and he made it known even to distant lands.

 

Another account of St. Maurus

A.D. 584

Among the several noblemen who placed their sons under the care of St. Benedict, to be brought up in piety and learning, Equitius, one of that rank, left with him his son Maurus, then but twelve years old, in 522. The youth surpassed all his fellow monks in the discharge of monastic duties, and when he was grown up, St. Benedict made him his coadjutor in the government of Sublaco. Maurus, by his singleness of heart and profound humility, was a model of perfection to all the brethren, and was favored by God with the gift of miracles. St. Placidus, a fellow monk, the son of the senator Tertullus, going one day to fetch water, fell into the lake, and was carried the distance of a bow-shot from the bank. St. Benedict saw this in spirit in his cell, and bid Maurus run and draw him out. Maurus obeyed, walked upon the waters without perceiving it, and dragged out Placidus by the hair, without sinking in the least himself. He attributed the miracle to the prayers of St. Benedict; but the holy abbot, to the obedience of the disciple. Soon after that holy patriarch had retired to Cassino, he called St. Maurus thither, in the year 528…

St. Maurus coming to France in 543, founded, by the liberality of king Theodebert, the great abbey of Glanfeuil, now called St. Maur-sur-Loire, which he governed several years. In 581 he resigned the abbacy to Bertulf, and passed the remainder of his life in close solitude, in the uninterrupted contemplation of heavenly things, in order to prepare himself for his passage to eternity. After two years thus employed, he fell sick of a fever, with a pain in his side: he received the sacraments of the church, lying on sackcloth before the altar of St. Martin, and in the same posture expired on the 15th of January, in the year 584.

 

RESPONSORIES

The Responsories of the Monastic Office of St. Maurus.

℟. Maurus, when quite a child, was taken to Subiaco, and consigned by his father Eutychius to the care of Saint Benedict; he imitated the virtues of his Master, and reflected them in his own conduct,
*And became like unto him.

℣. He looked and did according to the image that was shown him on the mount.
*And became like unto him.

℟. Placid having fallen into the lake, Maurus flies to his rescue, and was borne upon the waters by the Spirit of the Lord;
*whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.

℣. Many waters could not quench his charity, neither could floods drown it.
*whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.

℟. Saint Benedict sent into France his disciple Maurus, whom he loved above the rest:
*And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour's salvation.

℣. Charity is kind, neither seeketh she her own, but the things that are of Jesus Christ.
*And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour's salvation.

℟. Being rapt in God, he beheld the path glittering with countless lamps, whereby Benedict was mounting to glory,
*For an endless eternity.

℣. The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even unto perfect day.
*For an endless eternity.

℟. The streams of wisdom drunk by Maurus in the bosom of the blessed Father Benedict, he poured forth in France;
*And he set the shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.

℣. As a brook out of a river, he waters the garden of his plants.
*And he set the shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.

℟. The Most Christian King of the Franks went to the monastery, that he might hear the wisdom of the new Solomon:
*And he laid the regal purple under his feet.

℣. Because he was humble in his own eyes, the Lord glorified him in the sight of kings.
*And he laid the regal purple under his feet.

℟. He spent the two years before his death in silence and separation from men,
*And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.

℣. He prepared his heart, and, in the sight of the Lord, he sanctified his soul.
*And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.

℟. The greater part of the brethren, who fought under the leadership of Maurus, were warned, by an Angel, of their death, and fought their last battle with the demon:
*And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.

℣. They fought the good fight, they finished their course, they kept the faith.
*And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.

℟. After he had meritoriously served sixty years in the holy warfare, and death being at hand, he willed that they should carry him to the Altar, there to breathe forth, in the presence of the Lord, his prayer and his soul: he said:
*My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord;

℣. Thy altars, Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
*My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

℟. Laid on his hair-shirt in the Church, he passed from the house of prayer into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God,
*With love of whom he burned exceedingly.

℣. For he was straitened, desiring to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.
*With love of whom he burned exceedingly.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

January 15, 2020: St. Paul, First Hermit, Confessor.

 

St. Maurus, pray for us.

 

Jan. 14, 2020

January 14, 2020: ST. HILARY (OF POITIERS), BISHOP, CONFESSOR, AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

Rank: Double.

 

 

O Priest and Bishop, and worker of miracles; O good shepherd of the people, pray to the Lord for us.

 

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who didst give to thy people blessed Hilary, for a minister of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that he who was the instructor of our life here on earth, may in heaven become our intercessor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

After having consecrated the joyous… Epiphany to the glory of the Emmanuel who was manifested to the earth, the Church—incessantly occupied with the Divine Child and his august Mother, during the whole time from Christmas Day to that whereon Mary will bring Jesus to the Temple, there to be offered to God, as the law prescribes—the Church, we say, has on her Calendar of this portion of the year the names of many glorious Saints, who shine like so many stars on the path which leads us, from the joys of the Nativity of our Lord, to the sacred mystery of our Lady's Purification.

And firstly, there comes before us, on the very morrow of the day consecrated to the Baptism of Jesus, the faithful and courageous Hilary—the pride of the Churches of Gaul, and the worthy associate of Athanasius and Eusebius of Vercelli in the battle fought for the Divinity of our Emmanuel. Scarcely were the cruel persecutions of paganism over, when there commenced the fierce contest with Arianism, which had sworn to deprive of the glory and honours of his divinity that Jesus, who had conquered, by his Martyrs, over the violence and craft of the Roman Emperors. The Church had won her liberty by shedding her blood, and it was not likely that she would be less courageous on the new battlefield into which she was driven. Many were the Martyrs that were put to death by her new enemies—christian, though heretical, Princes:—it was for the Divinity of that Lord, who had mercifully appeared on the earth in the weakness of human flesh, that they shed their blood. Side by side with these, there stood those holy and illustrious Doctors, who, with the martyr-spirit within them, defended, by their learning and eloquence, the Nicene Faith, which was the Faith of the Apostles. In the foremost rank of these latter we behold the Saint of to-day, covered with the rich laurels of his brave confessorship, Hilary:—who, as St. Jerome says of him, was brought up in the pompous school of Gaul, yet had culled the flowers of Grecian science, and became the Rhone of Latin eloquence. St. Augustine calls him the illustrious Doctor of the Churches.

Though gifted with the most extraordinary talents, and one of the most learned men of the age, yet St. Hilary's greatest glory is his intense love for the Incarnate Word, and his zeal for the Liberty of the Church. His great soul thirsted after martyrdom, and, by the unflinching love of truth which such a spirit gave him, he was the brave champion of the Church in that trying period, when Faith, that had stood the brunt of persecution, seemed to be on the point of being betrayed by the craft of Princes, and the cowardice of temporising and un-orthodox Pastors.

 

Let us listen to the short Life of our Saint, contained in the Lessons of his Office.

Hilary was born of a noble family in Aquitaine, and was distinguished for his learning and eloquence. He was married, but the life he led was almost that of a monk, so that, later on, on account of his great virtues, he was made Bishop of Poitiers, and so well did he discharge the episcopal office, as to be the object of the deepest veneration on the part of the faithful. At that time, the Emperor Constantius was inflicting every sort of harsh treatment, intimidation, confiscation of their property, and banishment, on the Catholics who refused to side with the Arians. Hilary set himself as a bulwark against the Arians, thereby bringing on himself all their fury. On this account, they many times sought to ensnare him, and at length, by the treachery of Saturninus, the Bishop of Aries, he was banished from the Council at Beziers into Phrygia. There he raised a dead man to life, and wrote his twelve books On the Trinity, against the Arians.

Four years after, a Council was called at Seleucia, a town in Isauria, at which Hilary was compelled to assist. Thence he set out for Constantinople, where, seeing the extreme dangers to which the true faith had been exposed, he petitioned the Emperor, by three public petitions, to grant him an audience, in order that he might obtain permission to hold a controversy with his adversaries concerning matters of faith. But Ursacius and Valens, two Arian Bishops, whom Hilary had refuted in his writings, were afraid of allowing so learned a man to continue there any longer, and persuaded Constantius to restore him to his episcopal see, under the pretence of showing him honour. Then did the Church of Gaul open her arms, as St. Jerome says, to receive Hilary on his return from battle with the heretics. St. Martin, who was afterwards Bishop of Tours, followed the holy Doctor to Poitiers; how much he profited by the instructions of such a master is evinced by the sanctity of his after-life.

From that time, he was left in perfect peace in the government of the Church of Poitiers. He led the whole of Gaul to condemn the Arian blasphemies. He composed a great many exceedingly learned books, of which St. Jerome, in a letter to Lӕta, says, that they may be all read without the slightest fear of meeting any false doctrine in them; he assures her, that she may run through the books of Hilary without stumbling on anything dangerous. He passed from this earth to heaven on the Ides of January (January 13th), during the reign of the Emperors Valentinian and Valens, in the year of our Lord 369. Hilary was called, by several Fathers and Councils, an illustrious Doctor of the Church, and was publicly honoured as such in certain dioceses. At length, at the petition of the Council of Bordeaux, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius the Ninth, after having consulted the Congregation of Sacred Rites, declared him to have been justly called, and to be in effect, a Doctor of the universal Church; and ordered, that on his Feast, all should recite the Mass and Office Of Doctors.

 

The Church of Poitiers has ever cherished, with the utmost devotion, the memory of her heroic Pontiff, and his Feast, as we may suppose, is kept there with the utmost solemnity. She sings, in the Mass of this day, the Preface of the Blessed Trinity, to express more forcibly her admiration of the zeal, wherewith Hilary defended the master-dogma of our holy faith—the mystery of Three Persons in one God.

Thus did the holy Bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, receive the honours of the Church's love for his having so courageously, and even at the peril of his life, fought in defence of the great Mystery. Another of his glories is, that he was one of the most intrepid champions of that principle, which cannot be compromised without the vitality and very existence of the Church, being endangered—the principle of that Church's Liberty. A few days ago we were celebrating the Feast of our holy Martyr, St. Thomas of Canterbury; to-day, we have the Feast of the glorious Confessor, whose example enlightened and encouraged him in the great struggle. Both Hilary and Thomas à Becket were obedient to the teaching left to the Pastors of the Church by the Apostles; who, when they were arraigned the first time before the authorities of this world, uttered this great maxim: We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts, v. 29). The Apostles and the Saints were strong in the battle against flesh and blood, only because they were detached from earthly goods, and were convinced, that the true riches of a Christian and a Bishop consist in the humility and poverty of the Crib, and that the only victorious power is in the imitation of the simplicity and the weakness of the Child that is born unto us [Isaias, ix. 6]. They relished the lessons of the School of Bethlehem; hence, no promise of honours, of riches, or even of peace, could make them swerve from the principles of the Gospel.

How dignified is this family of Soldiers of Christ, which springs up in the Church! If the policy of tyrants, who insist on being Christians without Christianity, carry on a persecution, in which they are determined that no one shall have the glory of Martyrdom—these brave Champions raise their voice, and boldly reproach the persecutors for their interference with that Liberty, which is due to Christ and his Ministers. They begin by telling them their duty, as Hilary did Constantius, when he sent him his first Memorial: “My Lord and most gracious Augustus! Your own great and admirable prudence tells you, that it is not right, nor possible, violently to compel, such as are unwilling and opposed to it, to submit to, and take part with, them that are sowing the corrupt seed of false doctrine… You should not turn a deaf ear to the voice of any subject, who thus appeals to you for support: ‘I am a Catholic; I will not be a heretic: I am a Christian, and not an Arian: I would rather lose my life, than allow the tyranny of any man to corrupt the purity of my faith.’ ”

When some people spoke to Hilary in favour of those who had been traitors to the Church, and had been disloyal to Jesus Christ, in order to keep in the good graces of the Emperor, they ventured to tell the Saint, that their conduct was justifiable, on the ground that they had but obeyed the Law! The holy Pontiff was indignant at this profanation of the word, and, in his Book against Auxentius, courageously reminds his fellow Bishops of the origin of the Church—how her very establishment depended on the breaking of unjust human Laws, and how she counts it one of her glories to infringe all such Laws as would oppose her existence, her development, and her action.

“We have a contempt for all the trouble that men of these days are giving themselves; and I am grieved to see them holding such mad opinions, as that God needs man's patronage, and that the Church of Christ requires to be upheld by an ambition, that curries favour with the world. I ask of you Bishops, what favour did the Apostles court, in order that they might preach the Gospel? Who were the princes that helped them to preach Christ, and convert almost the whole world from idolatry to God? Did they, who sang hymns to God in prisons and chains, and whilst bleeding from being scourged, did they accept offices from the state? Did Paul wait for a royal permission to draw men to the Church of Christ? Did he, think you, cringe for the patronage of a Nero, or a Vespasian, or a Decius, whose very hatred of our faith was the occasion of its being more triumphantly preached? These Apostles, who lived by the labour of their own hands, who assembled the Faithful in garrets and hiding-places, who visited villages and towns, and well nigh the whole world, travelling over sea and land, in spite of the Senate's decrees and Imperial Edicts—these men, according to your principles, had not received the keys of the kingdom of heaven! What say you to all this manifestation of God's power in the very face of man's opposition, when, the more there was a prohibition to preach Christ, the more that preaching was exercised?”

But the time came, at last, to speak to the Emperor himself, and to protest against the system whereby he aimed at making the Church a slave: then did Hilary, who was exceedingly gentle in disposition, put on that holy indignation, which our Lord himself had, when he scourged the profaners of his Father's House, and drove them out of the Temple. He braved every danger, and held up to execration the system invented by Constantius for insulting and crushing the Church of Christ. Let us listen to the language of his apostolic zeal.

“The time for speaking is come, for the time for silence is past. Let Christ now appear, for Antichrist has begun his reign. Let the Shepherds give the alarm, for the hirelings have fled. Let us lay down our lives for our sheep, for thieves have got into the fold, and a furious lion is prowling around it. Let us prepare for martyrdom * * , for the angel of satan hath transformed himself into an angel of light. * *

“Why, O my God, didst thou not permit me to confess thy holy Name, and be the minister of thine Only Begotten Son, in the times of Nero or Decian? Full of the fire of the Holy Spirit, I would not have feared the rack, for I would have thought on Isaias, how he was sawn in two. I would not have feared fire, for I would have said to myself, that the Hebrew Children sang in their fiery furnace. The cross and the breaking every bone of my body should not have made me a coward, for the good thief would have encouraged me, who was translated into thy kingdom. If they had threatened to drown me in the angry billows of the deep ocean, I would have laughed at their threats, for thou hast taught us, by the example of Jonas and Paul, that thou canst give life to thy servants even in the sea.

“Happy me, could I thus have fought with men, who professed themselves to be the enemies of thy name; every one would have said, that they who had recourse to tortures, and sword, and fire, to compel a Christian to deny thee, were persecutors; and my death would have been sufficient testimony to thy truth, O God! The battle would have been an open one, and no one would have hesitated to call, by the honest name, these men that denied thee, and racked and murdered us; and thy people, seeing that it was an evident persecution, would have followed their Pastors in the confession of their faith.

“But, now-a-days, we have to do with a disguised persecutor, a smooth-tongued enemy, a Constantius who has put on Antichrist; who scourges us, not with lashes, but with caresses; who instead of robbing us, which would give us spiritual life, bribes us with riches, that he may lead us to eternal death; who thrusts us, not into the liberty of a prison, but into the honours of his palace, that he may enslave us; who tears, not our flesh, but our hearts; who beheads not with a sword, but kills the soul with his gold; who sentences not by a herald that we are to be burnt, but covertly enkindles the fire of hell against us. He does not dispute with us, that he may conquer; but he flatters us, that so he may lord it over our souls. He confesses Christ, the better to deny Him; he tries to procure a unity which shall destroy peace; he puts down some few heretics, so that he may also crush the Christians; he honours Bishops, that they may cease to be Bishops; he builds up Churches, that he may pull down the Faith. * *

“Let men talk as they will, and accuse me of strong language, and calumny: it is the duty of a minister of the truth, to speak the truth. If what I say be untrue, let me be branded with the name of an infamous calumniator: but if I prove what I assert, then am I not exceeding the bounds of apostolic liberty, nor transgressing the humility of a successor of the Apostles, by speaking thus, after so long observing silence. * * No, this is not rashness, it is faith; it is not inconsiderateness, it is duty; it is not passion, it is conscience.

“I say to thee, Constantius, what I would have said to Nero, or Decius, or Maximian: You are fighting against God, you are raging against the Church, you are persecuting the saints, you are hating the preachers of Christ, you are destroying religion, you are a tyrant, not in human things, but in things that appertain to God. Yes, this is what I should say to thee as well as to them; but listen, now, to what can only be said to thyself: Thou falsely callest thyself a Christian, for thou art a new enemy of Christ; thou art a precursor of Antichrist, and a doer of his mystery of iniquity; thou, that art a rebel to the faith, art making formulas of faith; thou art intruding thine own creatures into the sees of the Bishops; thou art putting out the good, and putting in the bad. * * By a strange ingenious plan, which no one had ever yet discovered, thou hast found a way to persecute, without making Martyrs.

“We owe much to you, Nero, Decius, and Maximian! your cruelty did us service. We conquered the devil, by your persecutions. The blood of the holy Martyrs you made, has been treasured up throughout the world, and their venerable relics are ever strengthening us in faith by their mute ceaseless testimony. * * But thou, Constantius, cruel with thy refinement of cruelty, art an enemy that ragest against us, doing us more injury, and leaving us less hope of pardon. * * Thou deprivest the fallen of the excuse they might have had with their Eternal Judge, when they showed Him the scars and wounds they had endured for him, for perhaps their tortures might induce him to forgive their weakness. Whereas, thou, most wicked of men! thou hast invented a persecution, which, if we fall, robs us of pardon, and, if we triumph, does not make us Martyrs!

“ * * * We see thee, ravenous wolf, under thy sheep's clothing. Thou adornest the sanctuaries of God's temples with the gold of the State, and thou offerest to Him what is taken from the temples, or taxed by edict, or extorted by penalty. Thou receivest his Priests with a kiss like that which betrayed Christ. Thou bowest down thy head for a blessing, and then thou usest it to trample on our Faith. Thou dispensest the clergy from paying tributes and taxes to Cӕsar, that thou mayest bribe them to be renegades to Christ, foregoing thy own rights, that God may be deprived of His!”

Glorious Hilary! thou didst well deserve that thy Church of Poitiers should, of old, address to thee the magnificent praise given by the Roman Church to thy illustrious disciple, St. Martin: “O blessed Pontiff! who with his whole heart loved Christ our King, and feared not the majesty of emperors! O most holy Soul! which, though not taken away by the sword of the persecutor, yet lost not the palm of martyrdom!” If the Palm of a Martyr is not in thy hand, yet hadst thou a Martyr's spirit, and well might we add to thy other titles, of Confessor, Bishop, and Doctor, the glorious one of Martyr, just as our holy Mother the Church has conferred it upon thy fellow-combatant, Eusebius, who was but Martyr in heart like thyself. Yes, thy glory is great; but it is all due to thee for thy courage in confessing the Divinity of that Incarnate Word, whose Birth and Infancy we are now celebrating. Thou hadst to stand before a Herod, as had the Magi, and, like them, thou fearedst not: and when the Cӕsar of those times banished thee to a foreign land, thy soul found comfort in the thought, that the Infant Jesus, too, was exiled into Egypt. Oh! that we could imitate thee in the application of these Mysteries to ourselves!

Now that thou art in heaven, pray for our Churches, that they may be firm in the Faith, and may study to know and love Jesus, our Emmanuel... Pray that God may bless his Church with Bishops powerful in word and work, profound in sacred science, faithful in the guardianship of that which is intrusted to them, and unswerving defenders of Ecclesiastical Liberty.

 

Another account of St. Hilary.

A.D. 368

St. Austin, who often urges the authority of St. Hilary against the Pelagians, styles him the illustrious doctor of the churches. St. Jerom says that he was a most eloquent man, and the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians; and in another place, that in St. Cyprian and St. Hilary, God had transplanted two fair cedars out of the world into his church.

St. Hilary was born at Poictiers, and his family one of the most illustrious in Gaul. He spent his youth in the study of eloquence. He himself testifies that he was brought up in idolatry, and gives us a particular account of the steps by which God conducted him to the knowledge of his saving faith. He considered by the glimmering or faint light of reason, that man, who is created a moral and free agent, is placed in this world for the exercise of patience, temperance, and other virtues, which he saw must receive from God a recompense after this life. He ardently set about learning what God is; and after some researches into the nature of the Supreme Being, quickly discovered the absurdity of polytheism, or a plurality of gods; and was convinced that there can be only one God, and that he same is eternal, unchangeable, all-powerful, the first cause and author of all things. Full of these reflections, he met with the holy scriptures, and was wonderfully affected with that just and sublime description Moses gives of God in those words, so expressive of his self-existence, I AM WHO AM: (Exodus, iii. 14) and was no less struck with the idea of his immensity and supreme dominion, illustrated by the most lively images in the inspired language of the prophets. The reading of the New Testament put an end to, and completed his inquiries: and he learned from the first chapter of St. John, that the Divine Word, God the Son, is coeternal and consubstantial with the Father. Here he checked his natural curiosity, avoided subtilties, and submitted his understanding to divine revelation, resolving what seemed incomprehensible into the veracity and power of God; and not presuming to measure divine mysteries by his shallow capacity. Being thus brought to the knowledge of faith, he received the heavenly regeneration by baptism. From that time forth he so squared his whole life by the rules of piety, and so zealous were his endeavors to confirm others in the faith of the holy Trinity, and to encourage all to virtue, that he seemed, though a layman, already to possess the grace of the priesthood.

He was married before his conversion to the faith; and his wife, by whom he had a daughter named Apra, or Abram, was yet living, when he was chosen bishop of Poictiers, about the year 353; but from the time of his ordination he lived in perpetual continency. He omitted no endeavors to escape this promotion: but his humility only made the people the more earnest to see him vested with that dignity; and indeed their expectations were not frustrated in him, for his eminent virtue and capacity shone forth with such a lustre, as soon drew upon him the attention, not only of all Gaul, but of the whole church. Soon after he was raised to the episcopal dignity he composed, before his exile, elegant comments on the gospel of Saint Matthew, which are still extant. Those on the Psalms he compiled after his banishment. Of these comments on the Psalms, and on St. Matthew, we are chiefly to understand St. Jerom, when he recommends, in a particular manner, the reading of the works of St. Hilary to virgins and devout persons. From that time the Arian controversy chiefly employed his pen. He was an excellent orator and poet. His style is lofty and noble, beautified with rhetorical ornaments and figures, but somewhat studied; and the length of his periods renders him sometimes obscure to the unlearned, as St. Jerom takes notice. It is observed by Dr. Cave, that all his writings breathe an extraordinary vein of piety. Saint Hilary solemnly appeals to God, that he held it as the great work of his life, to employ all his faculties to announce God to the world, and to excite all men to the love of him. He earnestly recommends the practice of beginning every action and discourse by prayer, and some act of divine praise; as also to meditate on the law of God day and night, to pray without ceasing, by performing all our actions with a view to God their ultimate end, and to his glory. He breathes a sincere and ardent desire of martyrdom, and discovers a soul fearless of death and torments. He had the greatest veneration for truth, sparing no pains in its pursuit, and dreading no dangers in its defence.

The emperor Constantius, having labored for several years to compel the eastern churches to embrace Arianism, came into the West; and after the overthrow of the tyrant Magnentius, made some stay at Axles, while his Arian bishops held a council there, in which they engaged Saturninus, the impious bishop of that city, in their party, in 353. A bolder Arian council at Milan, in 355, held during the residence of the emperor in that city, required all to sign the condemnation of St. Athanasius. Such as refused to comply were banished; among whom were St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Lucifer of Cagliari, and St. Dionysius of Milan, into whose see Auxentius, the Arian, was intruded. St. Hilary wrote on that occasion his first book to Constantius, in which he mildly entreated him to restore peace to the church. He separated himself from the three Arian bishops in the West, Ursacius, Valens, and Saturninus, and exhibited an accusation against the last in a synod at Beziers. But the emperor, who had information of the matter from Saturninus, sent an order to Julian, then Cӕsar, and surnamed afterwards the Apostate, who at that time commanded in Gaul, for St. Hilary's immediate banishment into Phrygia, together with St. Rhodanius, bishop of Toulouse. The bishops in Gaul being almost all orthodox, remained in communion with St. Hilary, and would not suffer the intrusion of any one into his see, which in his absence he continued to govern by his priests. The saint went into banishment about the middle of the year 356, with as great alacrity as another would take a journey of pleasure, and never entertained the least disquieting thought of hardships, dangers, or enemies, having a soul above both the smiles and frowns of the world, and fixed only on God. He remained in exile somewhat upwards of three years, which time he employed in composing several learned works. The principal and most esteemed of these is that On the Trinity, against the Arians, in twelve books. In them he proves the consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He teaches that the church is one, out[side] of which all heresies spring; but that by this she is distinguished, as standing always one, always alone against them all, and confounding them all: whereas they by perpetual divisions tear each other in pieces, and so become the subject of her triumph. He proves that Arianism cannot be the faith of Christ, because not revealed to St. Peter, upon whom the church was built and secured forever; for whose faith Christ prayed, that it might never fail; who received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whose judiciary sentence on earth is that of heaven: all which arguments he frequently urges. He proves the divinity of Christ by the miracles wrought at the sepulchres of the apostles and martyrs, and by their relics: for the devils themselves confess Christ's godhead, and roar and flee at the presence of the venerable bones of his servants, which he also mentions and urges in his invective against Constantius. In 358, he wrote his book On Synods, or On the Faith of the Orientals, to explain the terms and variation of the eastern Arians in their synods.

In his exile he was informed that his daughter Apra, whom he had left in Gaul, had thoughts of embracing the married state; upon which he implored Christ, with many tears, to bestow on her the precious jewel of virginity. He sent her a letter that is still extant, in which he acquaints her, that if she contemned all earthly things, spouse, sumptuous garments, and riches, Christ had prepared for her, and had shown unto him, at his prayers and tears, an inestimable never-fading diamond, infinitely more precious than she was able to frame to herself an idea of. He conjures her by the God of heaven, and entreats her not to make void his anxiety for her, nor to deprive herself of so incomparable a good. Fortunatus assures us that the original letter was kept with veneration in the church of Poictiers, in the sixth century, when he wrote, and that Apra followed his advice, and died happily at his feet after his return. St. Hilary sent to her with this letter two hymns, composed by himself; one for the evening, which does not seem to have reached our times; the other for the morning, which is the hymn Lucis largitor splendide.

The emperor, by an unjust usurpation in the affairs of the Church, assembled a council of Arians at Seleucia, in Isauria, to undermine the great council of Nice. St. Hilary, who had then passed four years in banishment, in Phrygia, was invited thither by the Semi-Arians, who hoped from his lenity that he would be useful to their party in crushing the stanch Arians, that is, those who adhered strictly to the doctrine of Arius. But no human considerations could daunt his courage. He boldly defended the decrees of Nice, till at last, tired out with hearing the blasphemies of the heretics, he withdrew to Constantinople. The weak emperor was the dupe sometimes of the Arians, and at other times of the Semi-Arians. These last prevailed at Seleucia, in September, 359, as the former did in a council held at Constantinople in the following year, 360, where having the advantage, they procured the banishment of the Semi-Arians, less wicked than themselves. St. Hilary, who had withdrawn from Seleucia to Constantinople, presented to the emperor a request, called his second book to Constantius, begging the liberty of holding a public disputation about religion with Saturninus, the author of his banishment. He presses him to receive the unchangeable apostolic faith, injured by the late innovations, and smartly rallies the fickle humor of the heretics, who were perpetually making new creeds, and condemning their old ones, having made four within the compass of the foregoing year; so that faith was become that of the times, not that of the gospels, and that there were as many faiths as men, as great a variety of doctrine as of manners, as many blasphemies as vices. He complains that they had their yearly and monthly faiths; that they made creeds to condemn and repent of them; and that they formed new ones to anathematize, those that adhered to their old ones. He adds, that every one had scripture texts, and the words Apostolic Faith, in their mouths, for no other end than to impose on weak minds: for by attempting to change faith, which is unchangeable, faith is lost; they correct and amend, till weary of all, they condemn all. He therefore exhorts them to return to the haven from which the gusts of their party spirit and prejudice had driven them, as the only means to be delivered out of their tempestuous and perilous confusion. The issue of this challenge was, that the Arians dreading such a trial, persuaded the emperor to rid the East of a man that never ceased to disturb its peace, by sending him back into Gaul; winch he did, but without reversing the sentence of his banishment, in 360.

St. Hilary returned through Illyricum and Italy to confirm the weak. He was received at Poictiers with the greatest demonstrations of joy and triumph, where his old disciple, St. Martin, rejoined him, to pursue the exercises of piety under his direction. A synod in Gaul, convoked at the instance of St. Hilary, condemned that of Rimini, which, in 359, had omitted the word Consubstantial. Saturninus, proving obstinate, was excommunicated and deposed for his heresy and other crimes. Scandals were removed, discipline, peace, and purity of faith were restored, and piety flourished. The death of Constantius put an end to the Arian persecution. St. Hilary was the mildest of men, full of condescension and affability to all: yet seeing this behavior ineffectual, he composed an invective against Constantius, in which he employed severity, and the harshest terms: and for which undoubtedly he had reasons that are unknown to us. This piece did not appear abroad till after the death of that emperor. Our saint undertook a journey to Milan, in 364, against Auxentius, the Arian usurper of that see, and in a public disputation obliged him to confess Christ to be true God, of the same substance and divinity with the Father. St. Hilary indeed saw through his hypocrisy; but this dissembling heretic imposed so far on the emperor Valentinian, as to pass for orthodox. Our saint died at Poictiers, in the year 368, on the thirteenth of January, or on the first of November, for his name occurs in very ancient Martyrologies on both these days. In the Roman breviary his office is celebrated on the fourteenth of January. The one is probably that of some translation of his relics. The first was made at Poictiers in the reign of Clovis I, on which see Cointe. From St. Gregory of Tours, it appears that before his time some part of St. Hilary's relics was honored in a church in Limousin. Alcuin mentions the veneration of the same at Poictiers, and it is related that his relics were burned by the Huguenots at Poictiers. But this we must understand of some small portion, or of the dust remaining in his tomb. For his remains were translated from Poictiers to the abbey of St. Denys, near Paris, as is proved by the tradition of that abbey, a writer of the abbey of Richenow, in the ninth century, and other monuments. Many miracles performed by St. Hilary are related by Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poictiers, and are the subject of a whole book added to his life, which seems to have been written by another Fortunatus. St. Gregory of Tours, Flodoard and others, have mentioned several wrought at his tomb. Dom Coutant, the most judicious and learned Maurist monk, has given an accurate edition of his works, in one volume in folio, at Paris, in 1693, which was reprinted at Verona by the Marquis Scipio Maffei, in 1730, together with additional comments on several Psalms.

St. Hilary observes, that singleness of heart is the most necessary condition of faith and true virtue, “For Christ teaches that only those who become again as it were little children, and by the simplicity of that age cut off the inordinate affections of vice, can enter the kingdom of heaven. These follow and obey their father, love their mother; are strangers to covetousness, ill-will, hatred, arrogance, and lying, and are inclined easily to believe what they hear. This disposition of affections opens the way to heaven. We must therefore return to the simplicity of little children, in which we shall bear some resemblance to our Lord's humility.” This, in the language of the Holy Ghost, is called the foolishness of the cross of Christ (I Cor, i. 17; iii. 18), in which consists true wisdom. That prudence of the flesh and worldly wisdom, which is the mother of self-sufficiency, pride, avarice, and vicious curiosity, the source of infidelity, and the declared enemy of the spirit of Christ, is banished by this holy simplicity; and in its stead are obtained true wisdom, which can only be found in a heart freed from the clouds of the passions, perfect prudence, which, as St. Thomas shows, is the fruit of the assemblage of all virtues, and a divine light which grace fails not to infuse. This simplicity, which is the mother of Christian discretion, is a stranger to all artifice, design, and dissimulation, to all views or desires of self-interest, and to all undue respect or consideration of creatures. All its desires and views are reduced to this alone, of attaining to the perfect union with God. Unfeignedly to desire this one thing, to belong to God alone, to arrive at his pure love, and to do his will in all things, is that simplicity or singleness of heart of which we speak, and which banishes all inordinate affections of the heart, from which arise the most dangerous errors of the understanding. This is the essential disposition of every one who sincerely desires to live by the spirit of Christ. That divine spouse of souls, loves to communicate himself to such (I Par, xxix. 17). His conversation (or as another version has it, his secret) is with the simple (Prov, iii. 32). His delight is in those who walk with simplicity (Prov, xi. 30). This is the characteristic of all the saints (II Cor, i. 12): whence the Holy Ghost cries out, Approach him not with a double heart (Ecclus, i. 36). That worldly wisdom is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be (Rom, viii. 7). Its intoxication blinds men, and shuts their eyes to the light of divine revelation. They arrogate to themselves the exclusive privilege of learning and clear understanding, but the skepticism, the pitiful inconsistencies, and monstrous extravagances, which characterize their writings and discourses, make us blush to see so strong an alliance of ignorance and presumption; and lament that the human mind should be capable of falling into a state of so deplorable degeneracy. Among the fathers of the church we admire men the most learned of their age, the most penetrating and most judicious, and at the same time the most holy and sincere; who, being endowed with true simplicity of heart, discovered in the mysteries of the cross the secrets of infinite wisdom, which they made their study, and the rule of their actions.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

January 14, 2020: St. Felix (of Nola), Priest and Martyr.

 

St. Hilary, pray for us.

 

Jan. 14, 2020

January 14, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. FELIX (OF NOLA), PRIEST AND MARTYR.

 

 

This saint fought even unto death for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was founded on a firm rock.

 

 

Prayer (Collect).

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the examples of thy saints may excite us to the amendment of our lives; that as we celebrate their festivals, so we may imitate their virtues. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

It is observed by the judicious Tillemont, with regard to the life of this saint, that we might doubt of its wonderful circumstances, were they not supported by the authority of a Paulinus; but that great miracles ought to be received with the greater veneration, when authorized by incontestable vouchers.

St. Felix was a native of Nola, a Roman colony in Campania, fourteen miles from Naples, where his father Hermias, who was by birth a Syrian, and had served in the army, had purchased an estate and settled himself. He had two sons, Felix and Hermias, to whom at his death he left his patrimony. The younger sought preferment in the world among the lovers of vanity, by following the profession of arms, which at that time was the surest road to riches and honors. Felix, to become in effect what his name in Latin imported, that is, happy, resolved to follow no other standard than that of the King of kings, Jesus Christ. For this purpose, despising all earthly things, lest the love of them might entangle his soul, he distributed the better part of his substance among the poor, and was ordained Reader, Exorcist, and, lastly, Priest, by Maximus, the holy bishop oi Nola; who, charmed with his sanctity and prudence, made him his principal support in those times of trouble, and designed him for his successor.

In the year 250, the emperor Decius raised a bloody persecution against the church. Maximus, seeing himself principally aimed at, retired into the deserts, not through the fear of death, which he desired, but rather not to tempt God by seeking it, and to preserve himself for the service of his flock. The persecutors not finding him, seized on Felix, who, in his absence, was very vigilant in the discharge of all his pastoral duties. The governor caused him to be scourged; then loaded with bolts and chains about his neck, hands, and legs, and cast into a dungeon, in which, as St. Prudentius informs us, the floor was spread all over with potsherds and pieces of broken glass so that there was no place free from them, on which the saint could either stand or lie. One night an angel appearing in great glory, filled the prison with a bright light, and bade St. Felix go and assist his bishop, who was in great distress. The confessor, seeing his chains fall off, and the doors open, followed his guide, and was conducted by heaven to the place where Maximus lay, almost perished with hunger and cold, speechless, and without sense: for, through anxiety for his flock, and the hardships of his solitary retreat, he had suffered more than a martyrdom. Felix, not being able to bring him to himself, had recourse to prayer; and discovering thereupon a bunch of grapes within reach, he squeezed some of the juice into his mouth, which had the desired effect. The good bishop no sooner beheld his friend Felix, but he embraced him, and begged to be conveyed hack to his church. The saint, taking him on his shoulders, carried him to his episcopal house in the city, before day appeared, where a pious ancient woman took care of him.

Felix, with the blessing of his pastor, repaired secretly to his own lodgings, and there kept himself concealed, praying for the church without ceasing till peace was restored to it by the death of Decius, in the year 251. He no sooner appeared again in public, but his zeal so exasperated the pagans that they came armed to apprehend him; but though they met him, they knew him not; they even asked him where Felix was, a question he did not think proper to give a direct answer to. The persecutors going a little further, perceived their mistake, and returned; but the saint in the mean time had stepped a little out of the way, and crept through a hole in a ruinous old wall, which was instantly closed up by spiders' webs. His enemies never imagining any thing could have lately passed where they saw so close a spider's web, after a fruitless search elsewhere, returned in the evening without their prey. Felix finding among the ruins, between two houses, an old well half dry, hid himself in it for six months; and received during that time wherewithal to subsist by means of a devout Christian woman. Peace being restored to the church by the death of the emperor, the saint quitted his retreat, and was received in the city as an angel sent from heaven.

Soon after, St. Maximus dying, all were unanimous for electing Felix bishop; but he persuaded the people to make choice of Quintus, because the older priest of the two, having been ordained seven days before him. Quintus, when bishop, always respected St. Felix as his father, and followed his advice in every particular. The remainder of the saint's estate having been confiscated in the persecution, he was advised to lay claim to it, as others had done, who thereby recovered what had been taken from them. His answer was, that in poverty he should be the more secure of possessing Christ. He could not even be prevailed upon to accept what the rich offered him. He rented a little spot of barren land, not exceeding three acres, which he tilled with his own hands, in such manner as to receive his subsistence from it, and to have something left for alms. Whatever was bestowed on him, he gave it immediately to the poor. If he had two coats he was sure to give them the better; and often exchanged his only one for the rags of some beggar. He died in a good old age, on the fourteenth of January, on which day the Martyrology, under the name of St. Jerom, and all others of later date mention him. Five churches have been built at, or near the place where he was first interred, which was without the precinct of the city of Nola. His precious remains are at present kept in the cathedral; but certain portions are at Rome, Benevento, and some other places. Pope Damasus, in a pilgrimage which he made from Rome to Nola, to the shrine of this saint, professes, in a short poem which he composed in acknowledgment, that he was miraculously cured of a distemper through his intercession.

St. Paulinus, a Roman senator in the fifth age, forty-six years after the death of St. Damasus, came from Spain to Nola, desirous of being porter in the church of St. Felix. He testifies that crowds of pilgrims came from Rome, from all other parts of Italy, and more distant countries, to visit his sepulchre on his festival: he adds, that all brought some present or other to his church, as wax-candles to burn at his tomb, precious ointments, costly ornaments, and such like; but that for his part, he offered to him the homage of his tongue, and himself, though an unworthy victim. He everywhere expresses his devotion to this saint in the warmest and strongest terms, and believes that all the graces he received from heaven were conferred on him through the intercession of St. Felix. To him he addressed himself in all his necessities; by his prayers he begged grace in this life, and glory after death. He describes at large the holy pictures of the whole history of the Old Testament, which were hung up in the church of St. Felix, and which inflamed all who beheld them, and were as so many hooks that instructed the ignorant. We may read with pleasure the pious sentiments the sight of each gave St. Paulinus. He relates a threat number of miracles that were wrought at his tomb, as of persons cured of various distempers and delivered from dangers by his intercession, to several of which he was an eye-witness. He testifies that he himself had frequently experienced the most sensible effects of his patronage, and, by having recourse to him, had been speedily succored. St. Austin also has given an account of many miracles performed at his shrine.

Taken from: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

January 14, 2020: St. Hilary (of Poitiers), Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church.

 

St. Felix, pray for us.