Sep. 23, 2021

September 23, 2021: ST. LINUS, POPE AND MARTYR

Rank: Simple.

 

Simon Barjona was invested with the sovereign pontificate by our Lord in person, and openly before all; thou, O blessed Pontiff, didst receive in secret, yet none the less directly from Jesus, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who, by the yearly solemnity of blessed Linus, thy Martyr and Bishop, rejoicest the hearts of thy faithful: mercifully grant that we, who celebrate his martyrdom, may enjoy his protection. 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 lives of the first Vicars of Christ are buried in a mysterious obscurity; just as the foundations of a monument built to defy the ravages of time are concealed from view. To be the supports of the everlasting Church is a sufficient glory: sufficient to justify our confidence in them, and to awaken our gratitude. Let us leave the learned to discuss certain points in the following short legend; as for ourselves, we will rejoice with the Church on this feast, and pay our loving veneration to the humble and gentle Pontiff, who was the first laid to rest beside St. Peter in the Vatican crypts.

 

Pope Linus was born at Volterra in Tuscany, and was the first to succeed St. Peter in the government of the Church. His faith and holiness were so great, that he not only cast out devils, but even raised the dead to life. He wrote the acts of blessed Peter, and in particular what he had done against Simon Magus. He decreed that no woman should enter a church with her head uncovered. On account of his constancy in confessing the Christian faith, this Pontiff was beheaded by command of Saturninus, a wicked and ungrateful ex-consul, whose daughter he had delivered from the tyranny of the devils. He was buried on the Vatican, near the sepulchre of the prince of the apostles, on the ninth of the Kalends of October. He governed the Church eleven years, two months, and twenty-three days. In two ordinations in the month of December he consecrated fifteen bishops and eighteen priests.

 

Another account of Pope St. Linus.

St. Linus was the immediate successor of St. Peter in the see of Rome, as St. Irenӕus, Eusebius, St. Epiphanius, St. Optatus, St. Austin, and others assure us. Tertullian says that St. Clement was appointed by St. Peter to be his successor; but either he declined that dignity till St. Linus and St. Cletus had preceded him in it, or he was at first only vicar of St. Peter, to govern under him the Gentile converts, whilst that apostle presided over the whole church, yet so as to be chiefly taken up in instructing the Jewish converts, and in preaching abroad. St. Linus, succeeding St. Peter, after his martyrdom, sat twelve years, and is named among the martyrs in the canon of the Roman mass, which is certainly older in this part than the sacramentary of Gelasius, and of the greatest authority in this point. It is not indeed impossible that he might be called a martyr on account of his sufferings for the faith, without dying by the sword. St. Linus was buried on the Vatican hill, near the tomb of St. Peter.

This saint distinguished himself among the illustrious disciples of the apostles, who were formed upon their model to perfect virtue, and filled with the holy spirit of the gospel. How little are we acquainted with this spirit of fervour, charity, meekness, patience, and sincere humility; without which it is in vain that we bear the honourable name of Christians, and are a reproach and scandal to so sacred a profession!

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

September 23, 2021: St. Thecla, Virgin and Martyr.

 

Pope St. Linus, pray for us.

 

Sep. 23, 2021

September 23, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF ST. THECLA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR

 

“For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.”

 

Prayer (Collect).

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who celebrate the passion of blessed Thecla, thy Virgin and Martyr, may find joy on this yearly solemnity, and be improved by the example of so great faith. 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.

 

While honouring the first successor of St. Peter, Rome commemorates the protomartyr of the female sex. Together with holy Church, then, let us unite in the concert of praise unanimously lavished upon Thecla by the fathers of east and west. When the martyr pontiff Methodius gave his ‘Banquet of virgins’ to the Church, about the end of the third century, it is on the brow of the virgin of Iconium that he placed the fairest of the crowns distributed at the banquet of the Spouse. And justly so; for had not Thecla been trained by Paul, who had made her more learned in the Gospel than she was before in philosophy and every science? Heroism in her kept pace with knowledge; her magnanimity of purpose was equalled by her courage; while, strong in the virginal purity of her soul and body, she triumphed over fire, wild beasts, and sea monsters, and won the glory of a triple martyrdom.

A fresh triumph is hers at the mysterious banquet. Wisdom has taken possession of her, and, like a divine harp, makes music in her soul, which is echoed on her lips in words of wondrous eloquence and sublime poetry. When the feast is over, and the virgins rise to give thanks to the Lord, Thecla leads the chorus, singing:

‘For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

I have fled from the bitter pleasures of mortals, and the luxurious delights of life and its love; under Thy life-giving arms I desire to be protected, and to gaze for ever on Thy beauty, O blessed One.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

I have contemned union with mortal man; I have left my golden home for Thee, O King; I have come in undefiled robes, that I may enter with Thee into Thy happy bridal chamber.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

Having escaped the enchanting wiles of the serpent, and triumphed over the flaming fire and the attacks of wild beasts, I await Thee from heaven.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

Through love of Thee, O Word, I have forgotten the land of my birth; I have forgotten the virgins my companions, and even the desire of mother and of kindred; for Thou, O Christ, art all things to me.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.’

 

An account of St. Thecla.

St. Thecla, whose name has always been most famous in the church, and who is styled by St. Isidore of Pelusium and all the Greeks the protomartyr of her sex, was one of the brightest ornaments of the apostolic age. She was a native of Isauria or Lycaonia. St. Methodius, in his “Banquet of Virgins,” assures us that she was well versed in profane philosophy, and in the various branches of polite literature, and he exceedingly commends her eloquence, and the ease, strength, sweetness, and modesty of her discourse. He says that she received her instructions in divine and evangelical knowledge from St. Paul, and was eminent for her skill in sacred science. The same father extols the vehemence of her love for Christ, which she exerted on many great occasions, especially in the conflicts which she sustained with the zeal and courage of a martyr, and with the strength of body equal to the vigour of her mind. St. Austin, St. Epiphanius, St. Ambrose, and other fathers mention, that St. Paul by his preaching converted her to the faith at Iconium, probably about the year 45, and that of his discourses, kindled in her breast a vehement love of holy virginity, which state she eagerly embraced, in an age which seemed very tender for so great a resolution. Upon this holy change she broke off a treaty of marriage, which had been set on foot by her parents, with a rich, comely, and amiable young noble man, of one of the best families in the country.

St. Gregory of Nyssa says, that this blessed virgin undertook the sacrifice of herself, by giving death to the flesh, practising on it great austerities, extinguishing in herself all earthly affections, and subduing her passions by a life dead to the senses, so that nothing seemed to remain living in her but reason and spirit: the whole world seemed dead to her as she was to the world. St. Chrysostom, or an author of the same age, whose homily is attributed to that father, lets us know that her parents perceiving an alteration in her conduct, without being acquainted with the motive upon which she acted, plied her with the strongest arguments, mixed with commands, threats, reprimands, and tender persuasives, to engage her to finish the affair of her marriage to their satisfaction. The young gentleman, her suitor, pressed her with the most endearing flatteries and caresses, her servants entreated her with tears, her friends and neighbours exhorted and conjured her, and the authority and threats of the civil magistrate were employed to bring her to the desired compliance. The young nobleman to whom she was engaged, still felt his heart warm with his passion for the saint, and, instead of overcoming it, thought of nothing but how to gratify it, or to be revenged of her, from whom he pretended he had received a grievous affront. In these dispositions he closely pursued, and at length overtook her, and, as she still refused to marry him, he delivered her into the hands of the magistrates, and urged such articles against her, that she was condemned to be torn in pieces by wild beasts. Nevertheless her resolution was invincible. She was exposed naked in the amphi-theatre, but clothed with her innocence; and this ignominy enhanced her glory and her crown. Her heart was undaunted, her holy soul exalted and triumphed with joy in the midst of lions, pards, and tigers; and she waited with a holy impatience the onset of those furious beasts, whose roarings filled even the spectators with terror. But the lions on a sudden forgetting their natural ferocity, and the rage of their hunger, walked gently up to the holy virgin, and laying themselves down at her feet, licked them as if it had been respectfully to kiss them; and, at length, notwithstanding all the keepers could do to excite and provoke them, they meekly retired like lambs, without hurting the servant of Christ. This wonderful circumstance is related and set off with the genuine beauties of unaffected eloquence, by St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, St. Methodius, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and other fathers.

She was at another time, by the divine interposition, delivered from the power of fire, and preserved without hurt in the midst of the flames, as St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Methodius, and others testify; who add that she was rescued from many other dangers, to which the rage of persecutors exposed her. A very ancient Martyrology which bears the name of St. Jerom, published by Florentines, mentions that Rome was the place where God extinguished the flames to preserve the life of this holy virgin. She attended St. Paul in several of his apostolical journeys, studying to form her own life upon that excellent model of Christian perfection. She is styled by St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Chrysostom, St. Austin, and others, a virgin and martyr. Her sufferings justly purchased her this latter title, though Bede in his Martyrology, tells us, that she died in peace; which is proved also from other authorities by Papebroke and Tillemont. The latter part of her life she spent in devout retirement in Isauria, where she died, and was buried at Selecuia, the metropolis of that country. Over her tomb in that city a sumptuous church was built under the first Christian emperors, which bore her name, was visited by SS. Murana and Cyra, two female anchorets mentioned by Theodoret, and crowds of pilgrims, and rendered famous by many miracles, as we learn both from Theodoret, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bazil of Seleucia, and others. The great cathedral at Milan is dedicated to God in honour of St. Thecla, and has been long possessed of part of her precious remains.

If we desire to please Christ, we must imitate the saints in their love of purity, and in strict chastity according to the circumstances of our state. To obtain this great virtue, we must earnestly beg it of God, praying him to inspire us with his holy fear, to create in us an abhorrence of all sin and dangerous occasions, to cleanse our affections, and to teach us to set the strictest guard upon all our senses, especially upon our eyes, ears, and tongue. Secondly, we must study sincere humility of heart, and live in an entire distrust of ourselves, and fear of dangers. To forget our weakness, or to presume upon our own resolution or strength, is equally foolish, fatal, and criminal. Thirdly, we must shun all occasions which may incite and fire our passions, especially all fond friendships and intimacies between young persons. Even such as are begun in the spirit, without the utmost precautions, will degenerate into a carnal affection. Fourthly, we must be always employed, always eager in some serious exercises which must never leave us one moment idle. Devotions and labour or business must be alternately called in, so that the devil may always find our mind taken up. Fifthly, we must live in the habitual practice of frequently denying our inclinations, and mortifying the senses. If we give our appetites full liberty in things that are not forbid, they will quickly master us, and crave gratifications that are unlawful, with too great violence to be restrained by us. The habit of self-denial once acquired will raise us above our senses, render us masters of ourselves, make the remaining part of our life easy, and restore us in some measure to the happy state which our first parents enjoyed before their sin. We shall be so much the more perfectly conformed to the image of the Son of God, the more the old man is crucified, and the body of sin is destroyed in us.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

September 23, 2021: St. Linus, Pope and Martyr.

 

St. Thecla, pray for us.

 

Sep. 22, 2021

September 22, 2021: ST. THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, BISHOP AND CONFESSOR

Rank: Double.

[Archbishop of Valentia]

Thy name, as well as thy justice, shall remain for ever, O Thomas, because thou hast distributed and given to the poor; all the church of the saints shall declare thy alms. Teach us to show mercy to our brethren, so that, by thy prayers, we may obtain for ourselves the mercy of God.

Thou hast great power with the Queen of heaven, whose praises thou didst love to celebrate, and whose birthday on earth was thy birthday in heaven. Give us an ever increasing knowledge of her, and an ever growing love.

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, by whose gift the blessed Bishop Thomas was eminently charitable towards the poor; we beseech thee, by his intercession, plentifully to pour forth the riches of thy mercy on all those, who call on thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

In 1517 a cruel blow fell upon the great Augustinian family; Luther, one of its members, raised the cry of revolt which was to be echoed for centuries by every passion. But the illustrious Order, which had unwittingly nurtured this child of evil, was none the less acceptable to God; and He deigned, before long, to demonstrate this, for the consolation of institutes whose very excellence exposes unworthy subjects to more dangerous falls. It was at the First Vespers of All Saints that Luther broached, at Wittenburg, his famous theses against indulgences and the authority of the Roman Pontiff; within a month, on November 25 of the same year, Thomas of Villanova pronounced his vows at Salamanca, and filled up the place left vacant by the heresiarch. Amid the storms of social disorder, and the noise of the world’s disturbances, the glory rendered by one saint to the ever-tranquil Trinity, outweighs all the insults and blasphemies of hell.

 

Let us bear all this in mind as we read the following lessons.

Thomas was born at Fuenllana, a town in the diocese of Toledo in Spain, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty eight. From his earliest youth, his excellent parents instilled into him piety and extraordinary charity to the poor. Of this virtue he gave, while still a child, many proofs, among the most remarkable of which was his more than once taking off his own garments to clothe the naked. As a youth, he was sent to Alcala to study humanities in the great college of St. Ildephonsus. He was recalled home by the death of his father; whereupon he devoted his whole fortune to the support of destitute virgins, and then returned to Alcala. Having completed his course of theology, he was promoted for his eminent learning to a chair in the University, and taught philosophy and theology with wonderful success. Meanwhile he besought God, with assiduous prayers, to teach him the science of the saints, and a virtuous rule of life and conduct. He was therefore divinely inspired to embrace the institute of the hermits of St. Augustine.

After his profession, he excelled in all virtues which should adorn a religious man: humility, patience, continency; but he was especially remarkable for ardent charity. In the midst of his many and varied labours, his unconquered spirit was ever intent on prayer and meditation of divine things. On account of his reputation for learning and holiness, he was commanded to undertake the duty of preaching, and, by the assistance of heavenly grace, he led countless souls from the mire of vice to the way of salvation. In the government of the brethren, to which he was next appointed, he so united prudence, equity, and sweetness, to zeal and severity, that in many places he restored or confirmed the ancient discipline of his Order.

When elected to the archbishopric of Granada, he rejected that high dignity with wonderful firmness and humility. But not long after, he was obliged by his superiors to undertake the government of the Church of Valentia, which he ruled for about eleven years as a most holy and vigilant pastor. He changed nothing of his former manner of life; but gave free scope to his insatiable charity, and distributed the rich revenues of his church among the needy, keeping not so much as a bed for himself. For the bed on which he was lying when called to heaven, was lent to him by the person to whom he had shortly before given it in alms. He fell asleep in our Lord on the sixth of the Ides of September, at the age of sixty-eight. God was pleased to bear witness to his servant's holiness by miracles both during life and after death. A barn which was almost empty, the corn having been distributed to the poor, was by his intercession suddenly filled; and a dead child was restored to life at his tomb. These and many other miracles having rendered his name illustrious, Pope Alexander VII enrolled him among the saints, and commanded his feast to be celebrated on the fourteenth of the Kalends of October.

 

Another account of St. Thomas of Villanova.

A.D. 1555

St. Thomas, the glory of the church of Spain, in these later ages, was born at Fuenlana, in Castile, in 1488; but received his surname from Villanova de los Infantes, a town where he had his education, situate about two miles from the place of his birth. His parents, Alphonsus Thomas Garcias and Lucy Martinez, were also originally of Villanova. Their fortune was not affluent; but it contented all their wishes, and with their prudent frugality enabled them liberally to assist the poor. Instead of selling that corn which was not necessary for the subsistence of their family, they made bread of it, which they bestowed on the necessitous, and they usually observed the same rule with regard to their cattle, and the rest of the produce of their small estate. This charitable disposition was the most valuable part of their son's inheritance, and proved one of the most distinguished virtues in his character during the whole course of his life. When but seven years old he studied every day by various little contrivances to do whatever lay in his power in favour of poor persons, often depriving himself of part of his meals for this purpose, and gathering together what scraps he could find at home, or whatever else he could presume on his parents' consent to give; nor were they backward in approving his conduct on such occasions, or in giving what he asked them for the indigent. This virtue was accompanied in the saint with a practice of assiduous mortification, a modesty and sweetness which charmed every one, perfect love of purity which was never sullied, a predominant love of truth which abhorred the shadow of a lie, and a regular piety and devotion, which made him, even from his infancy, spend hours together on his knees in the church with extraordinary fervour. The first words which his parents taught him to pronounce were the name of Jesus and Mary; and during his whole life he had the most tender devotion to the mother of God. His excellent wit began to appear in the school at Villanova; and at the age of fifteen he was sent to the university of Alcala, which had been lately founded by Cardinal Ximenes, the great patron of learning, and the celebrated prime-minister under Ferdinand and Charles V.

After eleven years spent at Alcala, he commenced master of arts, and was made professor of philosophy in that city, being then twenty-six years old. His father had built him a house against his return home from his studies; but this the saint, with the leave of his mother, converted into a hospital. After he had taught two years at Alcala, he was invited, with the promise of an honourable stipend, to the same employment at Salamanca, a place famous for its ancient university, which had been founded there by Alphonsus IX, King of Leon, in 1200, and for the many great men who flourished in it. He taught moral philosophy two years at Salamanca, during which time he considered what religious retreat he should make choice of. After the most mature deliberation, in which he took a review of the rules of several orders, and considered the spirit of their respective founders, he determined to enter himself among the Hermits of St. Austin. He took the habit in a most rigorous and exemplary house of that institute at Salamanca, in 1518, about the time that Luther apostatized from the same order in Germany.

His behaviour in his novitiate was such as showed he had been long inured to austerities, to the renouncing his own will, and the exercises of holy contemplation. The simplicity of his behaviour in his whole conduct charmed his fellow religious, and made them admire how he seemed totally to forget that he had been professor in a famous university. Soon after the term of his novitiate was expired, he was promoted to priestly orders in 1620, and employed in preaching the word of God, and in administering the sacrament of penance. Of these functions he acquitted himself with such dignity and success, that he was surnamed the apostle of Spain. Neither did he interrupt these employments, or allow himself any relaxation in his monastic rules or austerities whilst he taught, with wonderful applause, a course of divinity in the public school of the Augustinians, at Salamanca. He was afterwards successively prior at Salamanca, Burgos, and Valladolid, was twice provincial of Andalusia, and once of Castile; and behaved himself in all these stations with a sweetness and zeal which equally edified and gained the hearts of all his religious brethren, so that he governed them rather by the example of his most holy life than by the authority of his charge. He fell into frequent raptures at his prayers, especially at mass; and though he endeavoured to hide such graces and favours, he was not able to do it; his face, after the holy sacrifice, shining like that of Moses, sometimes dazzled the eyes of those that beheld him.

Preaching once in the cathedral church at Burgos, and reproving with zeal the vices and ingratitude of sinners, he held in his hand a crucifix, and cried out from the bottom of his heart, with a broken voice, “O Christian, look here, O Christian–––” Saying this he was not able to go on, being ravished in an ecstacy. Preaching also at Valladolid on Maunduy Thursday, before the Emperor Charles V, and explaining the words of St. Peter to our Lord, at the washing of the feet, he repeated, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou Lord of all creatures! thou Creator of the angels! thou God of infinite majesty, washest my feet! The Sovereign Monarch those of a vile creature! the Master his servant's! the Innocent a sinner's feet!” Here falling into a rapture, he broke off his sermon, and remained for some time with his eyes lifted up to heaven, pouring forth abundance of tears. The emperor chose him for one of his preachers; afterwards made him one of his counsellors, received his advice as an oracle of heaven, and sometimes wrote to him when at a distance. For a proof how great the authority of our saint was with that prince, the authors of his life give the following instance. This emperor had signed an order for the execution of certain persons of quality condemned for treason; and neither the Archbishop of Toledo, nor his own son Philip, nor all the nobility of Spain, were able, by the warmest solicitations, to move him to mercy. At length our saint, at the request of Philip of Spain, went to him, and by discoursing some time with him, prevailed upon the angry monarch to grant what he asked. When the princes and nobles expressed their surprise here at, the emperor told them, that when the prior of the Austin Friars of Valladolid desired to obtain any thing of him, he rather commanded than asked it; so strongly did he incline him to what he pleased, by persuading him that it was the will of the Almighty. “He is a true servant of God,” said that prince, “and though he abides among mortals, he is worthy the honour due to those who enjoy the crown of immortality.”

Persons of all qualities and conditions consulted him. Nor is it to be expressed with what zeal, prudence, and charity he endeavoured to advance the glory of God among men, especially among those that were committed to his charge. He was most zealous to maintain regular discipline in his Order, and a great enemy to discourses of news among his brethren, or whatever else might dissipate their minds, or introduce the world into their hermitages. When he was provincial, he visited his convents with singular diligence, and was particularly careful about four things. The first was the worship of God, that the divine service should be performed with the utmost reverence and attention; that a moderate pause should be observed in the middle of each verse by those that sung in choir; and that all things belonging to the altar should be kept with great neatness and cleanness. The second thing which he recommended was assiduous reading of the holy scriptures, and pious books, with holy meditation, without which, he said, it is impossible for devotion to last long. Thirdly, he was very solicitous to settle all the religious in every convent in the most perfect concord and union, exhorting every one to the most sincere and tender fraternal charity. Fourthly, he procured that every one should be, employed according to his talents, and in those offices for which he was fittest.

Whilst the saint was performing the visitation of his convents, he was nominated by the Emperor Charles V to the archbishopric of Granada, and commanded to repair to Toledo. He obeyed; but undertook the journey with no other view than that of declining the dignity, in which, by his urgent importunities, he succeeded according to his wish. George of Austria, uncle to the emperor, resigning some time after the archbishopric of Valentia, to pass to the bishopric of Liege, the emperor, who was then in Flanders, thought of not venturing to offer him this see because he knew how grievous a mortification it would be to his humility. He therefore ordered his secretary to draw up a placit, or letter of recommendation or nomination, for him to sign in favour of a certain religious man of the Order of St. Jerom. Afterwards, finding that the secretary had put down the name of F. Thomas, of Villanova, he asked the reason. The secretary answered, that he thought he had heard his name, but would easily rectify the mistake. “By no means,” said the emperor; “this has happened by a particular providence of God. Let us, therefore, follow his will.” So he signed the placit for St. Thomas, and it was forthwith sent him to Valladolid, where he was prior. The saint wept bitterly upon receiving the news, and used all means possible to excuse himself.

Pope Paul II sent the bull for his consecration, and that ceremony was performed at Valladolid, by Cardinal John of Tavera, Archbishop of Toledo. The saint set out very early next morning for Valentia. His mother, who had converted his house into an hospital for the use of the poor and sick, and resolved to spend the rest of her days in their service, entreated him to take Villanova in his way, that she might have the satisfaction of seeing him before she died. But the holy bishop, having recommended that affair to God, according to his usual custom, went directly to his diocess, being persuaded that his present character obliged him to postpone all other considerations to that of hastening to the flock committed to his care. He travelled on foot, in his monastic habit, which was very old, with no other hat than one he had worn ever since his profession, accompanied by one religious man of his Order, and two servants. He took possession of his cathedral on the first day of the ensuing year, 1545; which he was prevailed upon to do with the usual ceremonies, amidst the rejoicings and acclamations of the people. But when he was led to the throne prepared for him in the church, he cast away the cushions and silk tapestry, fell upon his knees on the bare floor, embraced the foot of the cross, and adored our Lord, pouring forth a torrent of tears; and before he rose up he humbly kissed the ground. The chapter, in consideration of his poverty, made him a present of four thousand ducats towards furnishing his house, which he accepted of in an humble and civil manner, and thanked them for their kindness; but he immediately sent the money to the great hospital, with an order to lay it out in repairing the house, and for the use of the poor patients.

It is often said, that “honours change manners;” but our saint kept, not only the same perfect humility of heart, but, as much as possible, the same exterior marks of a sovereign contempt of himself and all worldly vanity. He went almost as meanly apparelled as before; and even kept for some years the very habit which he brought from his monastery, which he sometimes mended himself, as he had been wont to do in his convent. One of his canons surprising him one day in the fact, said, he wondered he would so meanly employ his time, which a tailor would save him for a trifle. The servant of God said, that he was still a religious man, and that that trifle would feed some poor man; but he desired him to tell nobody of what he saw him doing. Ordinarily, he wore only old clothes, insomuch, that his canons and domestics were ashamed of him, himself alone not blushing. When he was pressed by them to put himself into a dress and equipage suitable to his dignity, his answer was, that he had made a vow of poverty; and that his authority did not depend upon his dress or appearance, but was to be supported by his zeal and vigilance. With much ado his canons gained so far upon him that he cast away his woollen hat, and wore one of silk. Upon which he used afterwards sometimes to show his hat, and merrily say, “Behold my episcopal dignity; my masters, the canons, judged it necessary that I should wear this silk hat, that I might be numbered among the archbishops.” The frugality of his table was not less extraordinary, and he continued to observe the fasts and abstinence prescribed by his rule; nor would he ever suffer any expensive fish to be bought for his table; saying, the superfluous price would feast some poor person; and that he was not master, but only dispenser of the goods of the church. In Advent and Lent, upon Wednesdays and Fridays, and on vigils, he contented himself with a little bread and water, fasting till night.

He discharged all the duties of a good pastor, and visited the churches of his diocess, preaching everywhere, both in the towns and villages, with such zeal and affection, that the words which came from his mouth seemed so many flashes of lightning, or claps of thunder. His sermons were followed with a wonderful change of the manners and lives of men, in all places he visited, so that one might say he was a new apostle or prophet raised by God to reform that people. Having ended his visitation, he assembled a provincial council, where, with the advice of his fellow-bishops, he made holy ordinances to cut off the abuses he had taken notice of in his visitation, especially to establish a perfect reformation of his clergy. To effect that of his own chapter it cost him much difficulty and time; though he at last gained his point. On all emergencies, like another Moses, he had recourse to the tabernacle to learn the will of God: he often spent nights and days in his oratory to beg light from above. By his assiduity in prayer he obtained so excellent a gift of counsel and prudence, that when he had passed sentence, or given his opinion, in any matter of importance, the lawyers were wont to say, there was no room for any further doubt. When any affair of great consequence was to be dispatched, or any notorious sinner or public malefactor appeared deaf to all exhortations, the holy pastor spent whole nights in prayer, and to render his prayers more efficacious, he accompanied them with tears and with some extraordinary austerities and alms. Thus he obtained of God several wonderful conversions of obstinate sinners and malefactors, especially of two wicked priests. One of these he had conjured, in the most tender and vehement expressions, to remember how dear a price his soul cost our Redeemer, and finding him not sufficiently softened, he threw himself down before a crucifix, and pouring out a deluge of tears, uncovered his back, and tore his body with a discipline, so that his garments were all stained with his blood, which charity moved the other to begin to weep for himself, and to cast himself at his feet, beseeching him to forbear exercising that cruelty against himself, saying, “It is I that have sinned, and that deserve all punishment,” &c.

St. Thomas was most bountiful and tender towards all his servants. His bishopric was worth eighteen thousand ducats per annum; two thousand of which were paid to Prince George of Austria, as a pension reserved to him upon his resignation: twelve thousand the saint gave to the poor, not reserving one penny for the following year, and he allowed himself only four thousand to defray all the expenses of his family, repairs of his palace, &c. There came to his door every day about five hundred poor people, and each of them received an alms, which was ordinarily bread and pottage, with a cup of wine and a piece of money. He took all poor orphans under his particular care; and for the space of eleven years that he was archbishop, not one poor maid was married who was not helped by his charity. He brought up all the foundling infants in his diocess with the tenderness of a careful mother; often visited them all, and gave extraordinary recompenses to those nurses that were particularly tender and diligent. To his porters, to make them more diligent in finding children that were exposed by their parents, he gave a crown for every foundling they brought him. When, in 1550, a pirate had plundered a town in his diocess, near the sea-coast, the archbishop immediately sent four thousand ducats, and cloth worth as much more, to furnish the inhabitants with necessaries, and to ransom the captives.

Nor was he only the support of the poor himself, but he engaged the great lords, and all that were rich, to make their grandeur appear, not by pomp and vanities, but by becoming the fathers and protectors of their vassals, and by their profuse liberality to the necessitous. He exhorted them to be richer in mercy and charity, than they were in earthly possessions. “Answer me, O sinner,” he would say, “what can you purchase with your money better, or more necessary, than the redemption of your sins?” At other times he would say, “If you desire that God should hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you desire that God should prevent your wants, prevent those of the indigent, without waiting for them to importune you; especially anticipate the necessities of those who are ashamed to beg; to make these ask an alms is to make them to buy it.” His charity towards his neighbour, and all his other virtues, received their perfection from the most ardent love of God which burnt in his pure breast, and which he expressed both by works and by the most tender words and sweet sighs. “Thou commaudest me, O Lord,” said he sometimes, in imitation of St. Austin, “to love thee in all things, and above all things; and thou commandest me this very strictly, under pain of being for ever deprived of the vision of thy beautiful and amiable face, which the angels desire continually to behold. And what! is it possible, O my God, that I should be so ungrateful and so base as to stand in need of such a precept? After having been created by Thee to thine own image, and redeemed with the infinite price of the blood of thy dear Son: after having received so many and so great favours, do I stand in need of a command to love thee! Ah! My God, thou confoundest me by this precept. But, O infinitely sweet and delicious command! O light burden! I return Thee immortal thanks, O my God, for having obliged me by so holy and so desirable a law, to love Thee. What could be so agreeable and pleasant, so just and so glorious as to love Thee? Is it possible that any creature capable of knowing Thee, should not love Thee? If I were forbid to love Thee, this ought to seem impossible and intolerable to me.”

St. Thomas not being able, through the weakness of his health, to assist in person at the council of Trent, deputed thither the Bishop of Huësca in his place. Most of the Spanish bishops that went, repaired first to Valentia to receive his advice. The saint lived in perpetual fear and apprehension under the grievous obligations of the episcopal charge, and used to say, that, “he was never so much afraid lest he should be blotted out of the number of the predestinated, as since he had been enrolled in the list of bishops.” He had often employed his interest at Rome and at the court of Spain for leave to resign his dignity. God was pleased at length to hear his prayer, by calling him to himself. The blessed man having been forewarned by a vision that he should die on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, was taken ill of a quinsy, attended with a violent fever, on the 29th of August. He began his immediate preparation for his passage by a general confession of his very least faults, which he made with many tears, as if he had been the greatest of all sinners. Then he received the viaticum; on which occasion, by a most pathetic exhortation which he made, he moved all that were present to weep bitterly. And having commanded all the money then in his possession (which amounted to four thousand ducats) to be distributed among the poor in all the parishes of the city, he then ordered all his goods to be given to the rector of his college, except the bed on which he lay. Being desirous to go naked out of the world, he gave this bed also to the jailer, for the use of prisoners, but borrowed it of him till such time as he should expire. Understanding that some money had been brought in for him, he caused it to be immediately sent to the poor at midnight. On the eighth of September, in the morning, perceiving his strength to decay, he caused the passion of our Lord according to St. John to be read to him, during which he frequently lifted up his eyes bathed in tears towards a crucifix. Then he ordered mass to be said in his presence, and after the consecration, recited the psalm, “In te, Domine, speravi,” &c, streams of tears falling from his eyes. After the priest's communion he said that verse, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;” at which words he rendered his soul into the hands of God, in the sixty-seventh year of his age, the eleventh of his episcopal dignity, of our Lord 1555. He was buried according to his desire, in the Church of the Austin Friars, at Valentia: was beatified by Paul V in 1618, and canonized by Alexander VII in 1658…

Nothing can be more vehement or more tender than his exhortation to divine love. “O wonderful beneficence!” he cries out; “God promises us heaven for the recompense of his love. Is not his love itself a great reward? a blessing the most desirable, the most amiable, and the most sweet! Yet a recompense, and so immense a recompense, further waits upon it. O wonderful excess of goodness! Thou givest thy love, and for this thy love thou bestowest upon us paradise. Such and so great a good is thy love, that to obtain it, all torments and fatigues ought joyfully to have been undergone. Yet this thou bestowest on us free cost; and then givest heaven for its reward. O omnipotent Jesus, give me what thou commandest. For though to love Thee be of all things the most sweet; yet it is above the reach and strength of nature. I am, notwithstanding, inexcusable, if I do not love Thee; for thou grantest thy love to all who desire or ask it. I cannot see without light: yet if I shut my eyes in the midst of the noonday light, the fault is in me, not in the sun.”

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

September 22, 2021: Ss. Maurice and Companions, Martyrs.

 

St. Thomas of Villanova, pray for us.

 

Sep. 22, 2021

September 22, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF SS. MAURICE AND COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

“We are your soldiers, but are servants of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience; but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours, even whilst you reject him. In all things which are not against his law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto. We readily oppose all your enemies, whoever they are; but we cannot dip our hands in the blood of innocent persons. We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you; you can place no confidence in our second oath, should we violate the first. You command us to punish the Christians: behold, we are all such. We confess God the Father, author of all things, and his Son, Jesus Christ. We have seen our companions slain without lamenting them, and we rejoice at their honour... We have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we had rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

 

Prayer (Collect).

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the festival of thy holy Martyrs Mauritius and Companions may bring joy to our souls, that having a confidence in their prayers, we may rejoice on their feast. 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.

 

At Sion in Valais, at a place called Agaunum, the birthday of the holy martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Vitalis, with their companions of the Theban legion, who were massacred under Maximian for the name of Christ, and fitted the whole world with the renown of their martyrdom. Let us unite with Rome in paying honour to these valiant soldiers, the glorious patrons of Christian armies as well as of numerous churches. ‘Emperor,’ said they, ‘we are thy soldiers, but we are also the servants of God. To Him we took our first oaths; if we break them, how canst thou trust us to keep our oaths to thee?” No command, no discipline can overrule our baptismal engagements. Every soldier is bound, in honour and in conscience, to obey the Lord of hosts rather than all human commanders, who are but His subalterns.

 

An account of Ss. Maurice and Companions.

A.D. 286

Dioclesian, in the beginning of his reign, was no enemy to the Christian religion, and employed many who openly professed it near his own person, and in posts of trust and importance, as Eusebius assures us. Yet even private governors, and the giddy populace were at liberty to indulge the blindest passion and fury against the servants of Christ; and Maximian, on certain extraordinary occasions, stained his progresses with the blood of many martyrs. The Thebean legion was one of those which were sent by Dioclesian out of the East to compose his army for his expedition into Gaul. Maximian, in crossing the Alps, made a halt with his army some days, that the soldiers might repose themselves in their tedious march, while some detachments filed off towards Triers. They were then arrived at Octodurum, at that time a considerable city on the Rhone, above the lake of Geneva, now a village called Martignac, or Martigni in the Valais. Its episcopal see seems to have been transferred to Sion in the sixth century. Here Maximian issued out an order that the whole army should join in offering sacrifice to the gods for the success of their expedition. The Thebean legion hereupon withdrew itself, and encamped near Agaunum, now called St. Maurice, three leagues from Octodurum. The emperor sent them repeated orders to return to the camp, and join in the sacrifices; and, upon their constant and unanimous refusal, he commanded them to be decimated. Thus every tenth man was put to death, according as the lot fell; the rest exhorting one another all the while to perseverance. After the first decimation a second was commanded, unless the soldiers obeyed the orders given; but they cried out over their whole camp, that they would rather suffer all extremities than do any thing contrary to their holy religion. They were principally encouraged by three of their general officers, Maurice or Mauricius, Exuperius, and Candidus. St. Eucherius does not style St. Mauricius the tribune, but Primicerius, which was the dignity of the first captain, next to that of the tribune or colonel. He calls Exuperius Campiductor or Major, and Candidus the senator of the troops.

The emperor sent fresh threats that it was in vain they confided in their multitude; and that if they persisted in their disobedience, not a man among them should escape death. The legion, by the advice of their generous leaders, answered him by a dutiful remonstrance, the substance of which was as follows: “We are your soldiers, but are servants of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience; but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours, even whilst you reject him. In all things which are not against his law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto. We readily oppose all your enemies, whoever they are; but we cannot dip our hands in the blood of innocent persons. We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you; you can place no confidence in our second oath, should we violate the first. You command us to punish the Christians: behold, we are all such. We confess God the Father, author of all things, and his Son, Jesus Christ. We have seen our companions slain without lamenting them, and we rejoice at their honour. Neither this extremity to which we are reduced, nor any provocation, hath tempted us to revolt. We have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we had rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

This legion consisted of about six thousand six hundred men, who were all well armed, and might have sold their lives very dear; but they had learned to give to God what is God's, and to Cӕsar what is Cӕsar's, and they showed their courage more in dying than they had ever done in the most hazardous enterprises. Maximian having no hopes of overcoming their constancy, commanded his whole army to surround them, and cut them to pieces. They made no resistance, but dropping their arms, suffered themselves to be butchered like innocent sheep, without opening their mouths, except mutually to encourage one another; and not one out of so great a number failed in courage to the last. The ground was covered with their dead bodies, and streams of blood flowed on every side. Maximian gave the spoils of the slain to his army for their booty, and the soldiers were making merry over them, when Victor, a veteran soldier, who belonged not to that troop, happened to pass by. They invited him to eat with them, but he, detesting their feast, offered to retire. At this the soldiers inquired if he was also a Christian. He answered that he was, and would always continue one: upon which they instantly fell upon him and slew him. Ursus and Victor, two straggling soldiers of this legion, were found at Solodora, now Soleure, and massacred upon the spot. Their relics are still preserved at Soleure. There suffered at Turin, about the same time, Ss. Octavius, Adventitius, and Solutor, who are celebrated by St. Maximus, in his sermons, and by Ennodius of Pavia, in his poems. These martyrs were styled by Fortunatus, “The happy legion.” Their festival is mentioned on this day in the Martyrologies of St. Jerom, Bede, and others.

In the martyrs we learn the character of true fortitude, of which virtue many may form a very false idea. Real valour differs infinitely from that fury, rashness, and inconsiderate contempt of dangers which the basest passions often inspire. It is founded in motives of duty and virtue; it doth brave and great things, and it beareth injuries and torments; nor this for hope or reward, the desire of honour, or the fear of punishment; but out of a conscience of duty, and to preserve virtue entire. So infinitely more precious is the least part of integrity than all the possessions of this world, and so much does it overbalance all torments, that rather than to suffer it to be lost or impaired in the least point, the good man is ready to venture upon all perils, and behaves amidst them without terror. The Christian hero obeys the precepts of loving his enemies, doing good to those that persecute him, bearing wrong, and being ready to give his coat, without repining, to him that would take away his cloak.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

September 22, 2021: St. Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor.

 

Ss. Maurice and Companions, pray for us.

 

Sep. 21, 2021

September 21, 2021: ST. MATTHEW, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST

Rank: Double of the II Class.

 

“At that time: Jesus saw a man sitting in the customhouse, called Mathew. And he said to him: Follow me. And he arose and followed him.”
(St. Matth, ix. 9)

 

Prayer (Collect).

Grant, O Lord, we may be aided by the prayers of blessed Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist: that what through our own weakness we cannot obtain, may be granted us by his intercession. 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 book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.’ (St. Matth, i. 1) The Eagle [St. John, Dec. 27] and the Lion [St. Mark, Apr. 25] have already risen in the heavens of the holy liturgy; to-day we salute the Man [St. Matthew, Sep. 21]; and next month the Ox [St. Luke, Oct. 18] will appear, to complete the number of the four living creatures, who draw the chariot of God through the world, (Ezech, i. 10) and surround His throne in heaven. These mysterious beings, with their six seraph-wings, are ever gazing with their innumerable eyes upon the Lamb who stands upon the throne as it were slain; and they rest not day and night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.’ St. John beheld them giving to the elect the signal to praise their Creator and Redeemer; and when all created beings in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, have adoringly proclaimed that the Lamb, who was slain, is worthy of power and divinity and glory and empire for ever, it is they that add to the world’s homage the seal of their testimony, saying: Amen, so it is! (Apoc, iv, v)

Great and singular, then, is the glory of the evangelists. The name of Matthew signifies one who is given. He gave himself when, at the word of Jesus ‘follow Me’, he rose up and followed Him; but far greater was the gift he received from God in return. The Most High, who looks down from heaven upon the low things of earth, loves to choose the humble for the princes of His people. Levi [St. Matthew], occupied in a profession that was hated by the Jews and despised by the Gentiles, belonged to the lowest rank of society; but still more humble was he in heart, when, laying aside the delicate reserve shown in his regard by the other evangelists, he openly placed his former ignominious title beside the glorious one of apostle. By so doing, he published the magnificent mercy of Him, who had come to heal the sick not the healthy, and to call not the just but sinners. For thus exalting the abundance of God’s grace, he merited its superabundance: Matthew was called to be the first evangelist. Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he wrote, with that inimitable simplicity which speaks straight to the heart, the Gospel of the Messias expected by Israel, and announced by the prophets; of the Messias the teacher and Saviour of His people, the descendant of its kings, and Himself the King of the daughter of Sion; of the Messias who had come not to destroy the Law, but to bring it to its full completion in an everlasting, universal covenant.

In his simple-hearted gratitude, Levi made a feast for his divine Benefactor. It was at this banquet that Jesus, defending His disciple as well as Himself, replied to those who pretended to be scandalized: ‘Can the children of the Bridegroom mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.’ (St. Matth, ix. 15) Clement of Alexandria bears witness to the apostle’s subsequent austerity; assuring us that he lived on nothing but vegetables and wild fruits. The legend will tell us moreover of his zeal for the Master who had so sweetly touched his heart, and of his fidelity in preserving for Him souls inebriated with the ‘wine springing forth virgins.’ (Zach, ix. 17) This fidelity, indeed, cost him his life: his martyrdom was in defence and confirmation of the duties and rights of holy virginity. To the end of time the Church, in consecrating her virgins, will make use of the beautiful blessing pronounced by him over the Ethiopian princess, which the blood of the apostle and evangelist has imbued with a peculiar virtue.

 

The Church gives us this short account of a life better known to God than to men.

Matthew, also named Levi, was an apostle and evangelist. He was sitting in the customhouse at Capharnaum when called by Christ, whom he immediately followed; and then made a feast for him and his disciples. After the resurrection of Christ, and before setting out for the province which it was his lot to evangelize, Matthew was the first to write the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote it in Hebrew, for the sake of those of the circumcision, who had been converted. Soon after, he went into Ethiopia, where he preached the Gospel, and confirmed his teaching by many miracles.

One of the greatest of these was his raising to life the king's daughter, whereby he converted the king and his wife, and the whole country. After the king‘s death, his daughter Iphigenia was demanded in marriage by his successor Hirtacus, who, finding that through Matthew’s exhortation she had vowed her virginity to God and now persevered in her holy resolution, ordered the apostle to be put to death, as he was celebrating the holy mysteries at the altar. Thus on the eleventh of the Kalends of October, he crowned his apostolate with the glory of martyrdom. His body was translated to Salerno; and in the time of Pope Gregory VII it was laid in a church dedicated in his name, where it is piously honoured by a great concourse of people.

 

Another account of St. Matthew.

St. Matthew is called by two evangelists Levi, both which names are of Jewish extraction. The latter he bore before his conversion, the other he seems to have taken after it, to show that he had renounced his profession, and was become a new man. St. Mark calls him the son of Alphæus; but the conjecture which some form from hence, that he was brother to St. James the Less, has not the very shadow of probability. He seems to have been a Galilæan by birth, and was by profession a publican, or gatherer of taxes for the Romans.

Among the Jews these publicans were more infamous and odious, because this nation looked upon them as enemies to their privilege of natural freedom which God had given them, and as persons defiled by their frequent conversation and dealing with the pagans, and as conspiring with the Romans to entail slavery upon their countrymen. Hence the Jews universally abhorred them, regarded their estates or money as the fortunes of notorious thieves, banished them from their communion in all religious worship, and shunned them in all affairs of civil society and commerce. Tertullian is certainly mistaken when he affirms that none but Gentiles were employed in this sordid office, as St. Jerom demonstrates from several passages in the gospels. And it is certain that St. Matthew was a Jew, though a publican. His office is said to have particularly consisted in gathering customs of commodities that came by the lake Genesareth or Tiberias, and a toll which passengers paid that came by water; of which mention is made by Jewish writers. Hence the Hebrew gospel published by Munster renders the word Publican in this place by, “The Lord of the Passage.” St. Mark says, that St. Matthew kept his office or toll-booth by the side of the lake, where he sat at the receipt of custom.

Jesus having lately cured a famous paralytic, went out of Capharnaum, and walked on the banks of the lake or sea of Genesareth, teaching the people that flocked after him. Here he espied Matthew sitting in his custom-house, whom he called to come and follow him. The man was rich, enjoyed a very lucrative post, was a wise and prudent man, and perfectly understood what his compliance would cost him, and what an exchange he made of wealth for poverty. But he overlooked all these considerations, and left all his interests and relations to become our Lord's disciple, and to embrace a spiritual kind of commerce or traffic. We cannot suppose that he was before wholly unacquainted with our Saviour's person or doctrine, especially as his custom-office was near Capharnaum, and his house seems to have been in that city, where Christ had resided for some time, had preached and wrought many miracles, by which he was in some measure prepared to receive the impression which the call of Christ made upon him. St. Jerom says, that a certain amiable brightness, and air of majesty, which shone in the countenance of our divine Redeemer, pierced his soul, and strongly attracted him. But the great cause of his wonderful conversion was, as Bede remarks, that, “He who called him outwardly by his word, at the same time moved him inwardly by the invisible instinct of his grace.” We must earnestly entreat this same gracious Saviour that he would vouchsafe to touch our hearts with the like powerful interior call, that we may be perfectly converted to him. He often raises his voice in the secret of our hearts; but by putting wilful obstacles we are deaf to it, and the seed of salvation is often choked in our souls.

This apostle, at the first invitation, broke all ties; forsook his riches, his family, his worldly concerns, his pleasures, and his profession. His conversion was sincere and perfect, manifesting itself by the following marks. First, it admitted no deliberation or delay: to balance one moment between God and sin, or the world, is to resist the divine call, and to lose the offered grace. Secondly, it was courageous; surmounting and bearing down all opposition which his passions or the world could raise in his way. Thirdly, it was constant; the apostle from that moment looked no more back, but following Christ with fervour, persevered to the end, marching every day forwards with fresh vigour. It is the remark of St. Gregory, that those apostles who left their boats and nets to follow Christ, were sometimes afterwards found in the same employment of fishing, from which they were called: but St. Matthew never returned to the customhouse, because it was a dangerous profession, and an occasion of avarice, oppression, and extortion. St. Jerom and St. Chrysostom take notice, that St. Mark and St. Luke mention our apostle by the name of Levi, when they speak of his former profession of publican, as if it were to cover and keep out of sight the remembrance of this apostle's sin, or at least to touch it tenderly; but our evangelist openly calls himself Matthew, by which name he was then known in the church, being desirous, out of humility, to publish his former infamy and sin, and to proclaim the excess of the divine mercy, which had made an apostle of a publican. The other evangelists, by mentioning him in his former dishonourable course of life under the name of Levi, teach us, that we ought to treat penitent sinners with all modesty and tenderness; it being against the laws of religion, justice, and charity, to upbraid and reproach a convert with errors or sins which God himself has forgiven and effaced, so as to declare that he no longer remembers them, and for which the devil himself, with all his malice, can no longer accuse or reproach him.

St. Matthew, upon his conversion, to show that he was not discontented at his change, but looked upon it as his greatest happiness, entertained our Lord and his disciples at a great dinner in his house, whither he invited his friends, especially those of his late profession, doubtless hoping that by our Saviour's divine conversation, they also might be converted. The Pharisees carped at this conduct of Christ, in eating with publicans and sinners. Our divine Saviour answered their malicious secret suggestions, that he came for the sick, not for the sound and healthy, or for those who conceited themselves so, and imagined they stood in no need of a physician; and he put them in mind, that God prefers acts of mercy and charity, especially in reclaiming sinners, and doing good to souls, before ritual observances, as the more necessary and noble precept, to which other laws were subordinate. Christ came from heaven, and clothed himself with our mortality, in the bowels of the most tender compassion and of his infinite mercy for sinners: he burnt continually with the most ardent thirst for their salvation, and it was his greatest delight to converse with those that were sunk in the deepest abyss, in order to bring them to repentance and salvation. How affectionately he cherished, and how tenderly he received those that were sincerely converted to him he has expressed by the most affecting parables, and of this St. Matthew is, among others, an admirable instance.

The vocation of St. Matthew happened in the second year of the public ministry of Christ, who soon after forming the college of his apostles, adopted him into that holy family of the spiritual princes and founders of his church. Eusebius and St. Epiphanius tell us, that after our Lord's ascension, St. Matthew preached several years in Judea and the neighbouring countries till the dispersion of the apostles; and that a little before it he wrote his gospel, or short history of our blessed Redeemer, at the entreaty of the Jewish converts, and, as St. Epiphanius says, at the command of the other apostles. That he compiled it before the dispersion appears, not only because it was written before the other gospels, but also because St. Bartholomew took a copy of it with him into India, and left it there. Christ nowhere appears to have given any charge about committing to writing his history or divine doctrine; particular accidents gave the occasions. St. Matthew wrote his gospel to satisfy the converts of Palestine; St. Mark, at the pressing entreaties of the faithful at Rome; St. Luke, to oppose false histories; St. John, at the request of the bishops of Asia, to leave an authentic testimony against the heresies of Cerinthus and Ebion. It was, nevertheless, by a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that this work was undertaken and executed by each of them. The gospels are the most excellent part of the sacred writings. For in them Christ teaches us, not by his prophets, but by his own divine mouth, the great lessons of faith, and of eternal life; and in the history of his holy life the most perfect pattern of sanctity is set before our eyes for us to copy after. The gospel of St. Matthew descends to a fuller and more particular detail in the actions of Christ, than the other three, but from chapter. v. to chapter. xiv. he often differs from them in the series of his narration, neglecting the order of time, that those instructions might be related together which have a closer affinity with each other. This evangelist enlarges chiefly on our Saviour's lessons of morality, and describes his temporal or human generation, in which the promises made to Abraham and David concerning the Messias to be born of their seed, were fulfilled; which argument was a particular inducement to the Jews to believe in him.

St. Matthew, after having made a great harvest of souls in Judea, went to preach the faith to the barbarous and uncivilized nations of the East. He was a person much devoted to heavenly contemplation, and led an austere life, using a very slender and mean diet; for he ate no flesh, satisfying nature with herbs, roots, seeds, and berries, as St. Clement of Alexandria assures us. St. Ambrose says, that God opened to him the country of the Persians. Rufinus and Socrates tell us that he carried the gospel into Ethiopia, meaning probably the southern and eastern parts of Asia. St. Paulinus mentions, that he ended his course in Parthia. Venantius Fortunatus relates, that he suffered martyrdom at Nadabar, a city in those parts. According to Dorotheus, he was honourably interred at Hierapolis in Parthia. His relics were long ago brought into the West. Pope Gregory VII, in a letter to the Bishop of Salerno, in 1080, testifies that they were then kept in a church which bore his name in that city. They still remain in the same place.

St. Irenæus, St. Jerom, St. Austin, and other fathers find a figure of the four evangelists in the four mystical animals represented in Ezechiel (Chapter i. 10) and in the Apocalypse of St. John. (Apoc, iv. 7) The eagle is generally said to represent St. John, who in the first lines of his gospel soars up to the contemplation of the eternal generation of the Word. The calf agrees to St. Luke, who begins his gospel with the mention of the priesthood. St. Austin makes the lion the symbol of St. Matthew, who explains the royal dignity of Christ; but others give it to St. Mark, and the man to St. Matthew, who begins his gospel with Christ's human generation.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

St. Matthew, pray for us.