July 18, 2018: ST. CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, CONFESSOR
is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.”
(Ps, xl. 2)
O God, who didst gloriously animate blessed Camillus with a singular charity in assisting souls in their last agony, pour forth into us, we beseech thee, by his intercession, the spirit of thy love: that we may overcome the enemy at the hour of our death, and arrive at a crown in heaven. 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 Holy Spirit, who desires to raise our souls above this earth, does not therefore despise our bodies. The whole man is his creature and his temple, and it is the whole man he must lead to eternal happiness. The Body of the Man-God was his masterpiece in material creation; the Divine delight he takes in that perfect Body he extends in a measure to ours; for that same Body, framed by him in the womb of the most pure Virgin, was from the very beginning the model on which ours are formed. In the re-creation which followed the Fall, the Body of the Man-God was the means of the world's redemption; and the economy of our salvation requires that the virtue of his saving Blood should not reach the soul except through the body, the Divine Sacraments being all applied to the soul through the medium of the senses. Admirable is the harmony of nature and grace; the latter so honours the material part of our being, that she will not draw the soul without it to the light and to heaven. For in the unfathomable mystery of sanctification, the senses do not merely serve as a passage; they themselves experience the power of the Sacraments, like the higher faculties of which they are the channels; and the sanctified soul finds the humble companion of her pilgrimage already associated with her in the dignity of Divine adoption, which will cause the glorification of our bodies after the resurrection. Hence the care given to the very body of our neighbour is raised to the nobleness of holy charity; for being inspired by this charity, such acts partake of the love wherewith our heavenly Father surrounds even the members of his beloved children. I was sick, and ye visited me (St. Matth, xxv. 36), our Lord will say on the last day, showing that even the infirmities of our fallen state in this land of exile, the bodies of those whom he deigns to call his brethren, share in the dignity belonging by right to the eternal, only-begotten Son of the Father. The Holy Spirit, too, whose office it is to recall to the Church all the words of our Saviour, has certainly not forgotten this one; the seed, falling into the good earth of chosen souls, has produced a hundred fold the fruits of grace and heroic self-devotion. Camillus of Lellis received it lovingly, and the mustard-seed became a great tree offering its shade to the birds of the air. The Order of Regular Clerks, Ministering to the sick, or of happy death, deserves the gratitude of mankind; as a sign of heaven's approbation, Angels have more than once been seen assisting its members at the bedside of the dying.
The Liturgical account of St. Camillus' life is so full that we need add nothing to it.
Camillus was born at Bacchianico, a town of the diocese of Chieti. He was descended from the noble family of the Lellis, and his mother was sixty years old at the time of his birth. While she was with child with him, she dreamt that she gave birth to a little boy, who was signed on the breast with the cross, and was the leader of a band of children, wearing the same sign. As a young man he followed the career of arms, and gave himself up for a time to worldly vices, but in his twenty-sixth year he was so enlightened by heavenly grace, and seized with so great a sorrow for having offended God, that on the spot, shedding a flood of tears, he firmly resolved unceasingly to wash away the stains of his past life, and to put on the new man. Therefore on the very day of his conversion, which happened to be the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, he hastened to the Friars Minors, who are called Capuchins, and begged most earnestly to be admitted into their number. His request was granted on this and on a subsequent occasion, but each time a horrible ulcer, from which he had suffered before, broke out again upon his leg; wherefore he humbly submitted himself to the designs of Divine Providence, which was preparing him for greater things, and conquering himself he twice laid aside the Franciscan habit, which he had twice asked for and obtained.
He set out for Rome and was received into the hospital called “Of Incurables.” His virtues became so well known that the management of the institution was intrusted to him and he discharged it with the greatest integrity and a truly paternal solicitude. He esteemed himself the servant of all the sick, and was accustomed to make their beds, to wash them, to heal their sores, and to aid them in their last agony with his prayers and pious exhortations. In discharging these offices he gave striking proofs of his wonderful patience, unconquered fortitude, and heroic charity. But when he perceived how great an advantage the knowledge of letters would be to him in assisting those in danger of death, to whose service he had devoted his life, he was not ashamed at the age of thirty-two to return again to school and to learn the first elements of grammar among children. Being afterwards promoted in due order to the Priesthood, he was joined by several companions, and in spite of the opposition attempted by the enemy of the human race, laid the foundations of the Congregation of Regular Clerks, Servants of the sick. In this work Camillus was wonderfully strengthened by a heavenly voice coming from an image of Christ crucified, which, by an admirable miracle loosing the hands from the wood, stretched them out towards him. He obtained the approbation of his Order from the Apostolic See. Its members bind themselves by a fourth and very arduous vow, namely, to minister to the sick, even those infected with the plague. St. Philip Neri, who was his Confessor, attested how pleasing this institution was to God, and how greatly it attributed towards the salvation of souls; for he declared that he often saw Angels suggesting words to disciples of Camillus, when they were assisting those in their agony.
When he had thus bound himself more strictly than before to the service of the sick, he devoted himself with marvellous ardour to watching over their interests, by night and by day, till his last breath. No labour could tire him, no peril of his life could affright him. He became all to all, and claimed for himself the lowest offices, which he discharged promptly and joyfully, in the humblest manner, often on bended knees, as though he saw Christ himself present in the sick. In order to be more at the command of all in need, he of his own accord laid aside the general government of the Order, and deprived himself of the heavenly delights, with which he was inundated during contemplation. His fatherly love for the unfortunate shone out with greatest brilliancy when Rome was suffering first from a contagious distemper, and then from a great scarcity of provisions; and also when a dreadful plague was ravaging Nola in Campania. In a word, he was consumed with so great a love of God and his neighbour that he was called an Angel, and merited to be helped by the Angels in different dangers which threatened him on his journeys. He was endowed with the gift of prophecy and the grace of healing, and he could read the secrets of hearts. By his prayers he at one time multiplied food, and at another changed water into wine. At length, worn out by watching, fasting, and ceaseless labour, he seemed to be nothing but skin and bone. He endured courageously five long and troublesome sicknesses, which he used to call the “Mercies of the Lord;” and, strengthened by the Sacraments, with the sweet names of Jesus and Mary on his lips, he fell asleep in our Lord, while these words were being said: “May Christ Jesus appear to thee with a sweet and gracious countenance.” He died at Rome, at the hour he had foretold, on the day before the Ides of July, in the year of salvation 1614, the sixty-fifth of his age. He was made illustrious by many miracles, and Benedict XIV solemnly enrolled him upon the calendar of the Saints. Leo XIII, at the desire of the Bishops of the Catholic world, and with the advice of the Congregation of Rites, declared him the heavenly Patron of all nurses and of the sick in all places, and ordered his name to be invoked in the Litanies for the Agonizing.
Taken from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806; and
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901.
St. Camillus de Lellis, pray for us.
July 18, 2018: COMMEMORATION OF ST. SYMPHOROSA AND HER SEVEN SONS, MARTYRS
souls of the just are, in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. And
though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.”
(Wisdom, iii. 1-4)
O God, by whose favour we celebrate the festival of thy hoy Martyrs, St. Symphorosa and her seven sons, grant we may enjoy their fellowship in eternal bliss. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
For the second time in July a constellation of seven stars shines in the heavens. More fortunate than Felicitas, Symphorosa preceded in the arena the Seven Sons she was offering to God. From the throne where he was already reigning crowned with the martyr's diadem, Getulius, the tribune, father of this illustrious family, applauded the combat where by his race earned a far greater nobility than that of patrician blood, and gave to Rome a grander glory than was ever dreamed of by her heroes and poets. The Emperor Adrian, corrupt yet brilliant, sceptical yet superstitious like the society around him, presided in person at the defeat of his gods. Threatening to burn the valiant woman in sacrifice to the idols, he received this courageous answer: “Thy gods cannot receive me in sacrifice; but if thou burn me and my sons for the name of Christ, my God, I shall cause thy demons to burn with more cruel flames!” The execution of the mother and her sons was, indeed, the signal for a period of peace, during which the Kingdom of our Lord was considerably extended. Jerusalem, having under the leadership of a last false Messias revolted against Rome, was punished by being deprived of her very name; but the Church received the glory which the Synagogue once possessed, when she produced the mother of the Machabees.
Another glory was reserved for this 18th day of July, in the year 1870: the Œcumenical Council of the Vatican, presided over by the immortal Pius IX, defined in its Constitution, Pastor Æternus, the full, supreme, and immediate power of the Roman Pontiff over all the Churches, and pronounced anathema against all who should refuse to recognise the personal infallibility of the same Roman Pontiff, speaking ex cathedra, i.e., defining, as universal Pastor, any doctrine concerning faith or morals. We may also remark that during these same days, viz., on Sunday in the middle of July, the Greeks make a commemoration of the first six general councils, Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and second and third of Constantinople. Thus, during these midsummer days, we are in the midst of feasts of heavenly light; and let us not forget that it is martyrdom, the supreme act of faith, that merits and produces light. Doubtless, Divine Wisdom, who plays in the world with number, weight, and measure, planned the beautiful coincidence which unites together these two days, the 18th July, 136, and that of the year of 1870. If in these latter days the word of God has been set free, it is owing to the blood shed by our fathers in its defence.
The Liturgy gives but a very short account of the immortal combat which glorifies this day.
Symphorosa, a native of Tivoli, was the wife of the martyr Getulius. She bore seven sons, Crescentius, Julian, Nemesius, Primitivus, Justin, Stacteus, and Eugenius. Under the Emperor Adrian, they were all arrested, together with her, on account of their profession of the Christian faith. Their piety was tried by many different tortures, and, on their remaining constant, the mother, who had taught her sons, led the way to martyrdom. She was thrown into the river, with a huge stone tied round her neck. Her brother Eugenius searched for her body and gave it burial. The next day, which was the 15th of the Calends of August, the Seven Brothers were tied to stakes and put to death in different ways. Crescentius had his throat transfixed; Julian was wounded in the breast; Nemesius was pierced in the heart, and Primitivus in the stomach; Justin was cut to pieces, limb by limb; Stacteus was pierced with darts, and Eugenius was cut in two from the breast. Thus eight victims most pleasing to God were immolated. Their bodies were thrown into a deep pit on the Tiburtian Way, nine miles from Rome; but they were afterwards translated into the city and buried in the Church of “the holy Angel in the fish-market.”
Another account of St. Symphorosa and her seven sons
Trajan's persecution, in some degree, continued during the first year of Adrian's reign, whence Sulpicius Severus places the fourth general persecution under this emperor. However, he put a stop to it about the year 124, moved, probably, both by the apologies of Quadratus and Aristides, and by a letter which Serenius Granianus, proconsul of Asia, had writ to him in favour of the Christians. Nay, he had Christ in veneration, not as the Saviour of the world, but as a wonder or novelty, and kept his image, together with that of Apollonius Tyanӕus. This God was pleased to permit, that his afflicted church might enjoy some respite. It was, however, again involved in the disgrace which the Jews (with whom the pagans at these times in some degree confounded the Christians) drew upon themselves by their rebellion, which gave occasion to the last entire destruction of Jerusalem, in 134. Then, as St. Paulinus informs us, Adrian caused a statue of Jupiter to be erected on the place where Christ rose from the dead, and a marble Venus on the place of his crucifixion; and at Bethlehem, a grotto, consecrated in honour of Adonis, or Thammuz, to whom he also dedicated the cave where Christ was born. This prince, towards the end of his reign, abandoned himself more than ever to acts of cruelty; and, being awaked by a fit of superstition, he again drew his sword against the innocent flock of Christ. He built a magnificent country palace at Tibur, now Tivoli, sixteen miles from Rome, upon the most agreeable banks of the river Anio, now called Teverone. Here he placed whatever could be procured most curious out of all the provinces. Having finished the building, he intended to dedicate it by heathenish ceremonies, which he began by offering sacrifices, in order to induce the idols to deliver their oracles. The demons answered, “The widow, Simphorosa, and her seven sons, daily torment us by invoking their God; if they sacrifice, we promise to be favourable to your vows.”
This lady lived, with her seven sons, upon a plentiful estate which they enjoyed at Tivoli, and she liberally expended her treasures in assisting the poor, especially in relieving the Christians that suffered for the faith. She was widow of St. Getulius, or Zoticus, who had been crowned with martyrdom with his brother, Amantius. They were both tribunes of legions or colonels in the army, and are honoured among the martyrs on the 10th of June. Symphorosa had buried their bodies in her own farm, and, sighing to see her sons and herself united with them in immortal bliss, she prepared herself to follow them by the most fervent exercise of all good works.
Adrian, whose superstition was alarmed at this answer of his gods, or their priests, ordered her and her sons to be seized and brought before him. She came with joy in her countenance, praying all the way for herself and her children, that God would grant them the grace to confess his holy name with constancy. The emperor exhorted them at first in mild terms to sacrifice. Symphorosa answered, “My husband, Getulius, and his brother, Amantius, being your tribunes, have suffered divers torments for the name of Jesus Christ rather than sacrifice to idols, and they have vanquished your demons by their death, choosing to be beheaded rather than to be overcome. The death they suffered drew upon them ignominy among men, but glory among the angels; and they now enjoy eternal life in heaven.” The emperor, changing his voice, said to her in an angry tone, “Either sacrifice to the most powerful gods, with thy sons, or thou thyself shalt be offered up as a sacrifice together with them.” Symphorosa answered, “Your gods cannot receive me as a sacrifice; but if I am burnt for the name of Jesus Christ, my death will increase the torment which your devils endure in their flames. But can I hope for so great a happiness as to be offered, with my children, a sacrifice to the true and living God?” Adrian said, “Either sacrifice to my gods, or you shall all miserably perish.” Symphorosa said, “Do not imagine that fear will make me change; I am desirous to be at rest with my husband, whom you put to death for the name of Jesus Christ.” The emperor then ordered her to be carried to the temple of Hercules, where she was first buffeted on the cheeks, and afterwards hung up by the hair of her head. When no torments were able to shake her invincible soul, the emperor gave orders that she should be thrown into the river with a great stone fastened about her neck. Her brother, Eugenius, who was one of the chief of the council of Tibur, took up her body, and buried it on the road near that town.
The next day, the emperor sent for her seven sons all together, and exhorted them to sacrifice, and not imitate the obstinacy of their mother. He added the severest threats; but finding all to be in vain, he ordered seven stakes, with engines and pullies, to be planted round the temple of Hercules, and the pious youths to be bound upon them. Their limbs were, in this posture, tortured and stretched in such manner, that the bones were disjointed in all parts of their bodies. The young noblemen, far from yielding under the violence of their tortures, were encouraged by each other's example, and seemed more eager to suffer than the executioners were to torment. At length, the emperor commanded them to be put to death, in the same place where they were, different ways. The eldest, called Crescens, had his throat cut; the second, called Julian, was stabbed in the breast; Nemesius, the third, was pierced with a lance in his heart; Primativus received his wound in the belly, Justin in the back, Stacteus on his sides, and Eugenius, the youngest, died by his body being cleft asunder into two parts across his breast from the head downwards. The emperor came the next day to the temple of Hercules, and gave orders for a deep hole to be dug, and all the bodies of these martyrs to be thrown into it. The place was called by the heathen priest, The seven Biothanati; which word signifieth, in Greek, and in the style of art magic, such as die by a violent death, particularly such as were put to the torture. After this, a stop was put to the persecution for about eighteen months; during which interval of peace, the Christians took up the remains of these martyrs, and interred them with honour on the Tiburtin road, in the midway between Tivoli, and Rome, where still are seen some remains of a church erected in memory of them, in a place called, to this day, The seven Brothers. Their bodies were translated, by a pope called Stephen, into the Church of the Holy Angel, in the fish-market, in Rome, where they were found in the pontificate of Pius IV, with an inscription on a plate, which mentioned this translation.
St. Symphorosa set not before the eyes of her children the advantages of their riches and birth, or of their father's honourable employments and great exploits, but those of his piety, and the triumph of his martyrdom. She continually entertained them on the glory of heaven, and the happiness of treading in the steps of our Divine Redeemer, by the practice of humility, patience, resignation, and charity, which virtues are best learned in the path of humiliations and sufferings. In these a Christian finds this solid treasure, and his unalterable peace and joy both in life and death. The honours, riches, applause, and pleasures with which the worldly sinner is sometimes surrounded, can never satiate his desires; often they do not even reach his heart, which, under this gorgeous show, bleeds, as it were, inwardly, while silent grief, like a worm at the core, preys upon his vitals. Death, at least, always draws aside the curtain, and shows them to have been no better than mere dreams and shadows which passed in a moment, but have left a cruel sting behind them, which fills the mind with horror, dread, remorse, and despair, and racks the whole soul with confusion, perplexities, and alarms.
A prayerful address to St. Symphorosa and her seven sons.
O Symphorosa, thou wife, sister, and mother of martyrs, thy desires are amply fulfilled; followed by thy seven children, thou rejoinest in the court of the Eternal King; thy husband Getulius and his brother Amantius, brave combatants in the imperial army, but far more valiant soldiers of Christ. The words of our Lord: A man's enemies shall be they of his own household, (St. Matth, x. 36) are abrogated in heaven; nor can this other sentence be there applied: He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. (St. Matth, x. 37) There, the love of Christ our King predominates over all other loves; yet, far from extinguishing them, it makes them ten times stronger by putting its own energy into them; and, far from having to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, (St. Matth, x. 35) it sets a divine seal upon the family and rivets its bonds for all eternity.
What nobility, O heroes, have ye conferred upon the world! Men may look up with more confidence towards heaven, for the Angels will not despise a race that can produce such valiant combatants. The perfume of your holocaust accompanied your souls to the throne of God, and an effusion of grace was poured down in return. From the luminous track left by your martyrdom, have sprung forth new splendours in our own days. With joyful gratitude we hail the providential reappearance, immediately after the Vatican Council, of the tomb which first received your sacred relics on the morrow of your triumph. Soldiers of Christ! preserve in us the gifts ye have bestowed on us; convince the many Christians who have forgotten it, that faith is the most precious possession of the just.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Also Read – July 18, 2018: St. Camillus de Lellis, Confessor.
St. Symphorosa and her seven sons, pray for us.
July 17, 2018: ST. ALEXIUS, CONFESSOR
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love
(James, i. 12)
O God, who didst render blessed Alexius, thy confessor, admirable for his contempt of the world; grant, we beseech thee, that by the help of his intercession, thy faithful may despise earthly things, and ever aspire to things celestial. 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.
Although we are not commanded to follow the Saints to the extremities where their heroic virtue leads them, nevertheless, from their inaccessible heights, they still guide us along the easier paths of the plain. As the eagle upon the orb of day, they fixed their unflinching gaze upon the Sun of Justice; and, irresistibly attracted by his divine splendour, they poised their flight far above the cloudy region where we are glad to screen our feeble eyes. But however varied be the degrees of brightness for them and for us, the light itself is unchangeable, provided that, like them, we draw it from the authentic source. When the weakness of our sight would lead us to mistake false glimmerings for the truth, let us think of these friends of God; if we have not courage enough to imitate them, where the commandments leave us free to do so or not, let us at least conform our judgments and appreciations to theirs: their view is more trustworthy, because farther reaching; their sanctity is nothing but the rectitude wherewith they follow up unflinchingly, even to its central focus, the heavenly ray, whereof we can scarcely bear a tempered reflection. Above all, let us not be led so far astray by the will-o’-the-wisps of this world of darkness, as to wish to direct, by their false light, the actions of the saints: can the owl judge better of the light than the eagle?
Descending from the pure firmament of the holy Liturgy even to the humblest conditions of Christian life, the light which led Alexius to the highest point of detachment, is thus subdued by the Apostle to the capacity of all: “If any man take a wife, he hath not sinned, nor the virgin whom he marrieth; nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh, which I would fain spare you. This, therefore, I say, brethren: the time is short; it remaineth, therefore, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (I Cor, vii. 28-31)
Yet it passes not too quickly for our Lord to show that His words never pass away. Five centuries after the glorious death of Alexius, the eternal God, to whom distance and time are as nothing, gave him a hundredfold the posterity he had renounced for the love of Him. The monastery on the Aventine, which still bears his name together with that of the martyr Boniface, had become the common patrimony of East and West in the eternal City; the two great monastic families of Basil and Benedict united under the roof of Alexius, and the seed taken from his tomb by the monk-bishop St. Adalbert brought forth the fruit of faith among the northern nations.
The Church gives us the following very short notice of our hero:
Alexius was the son of one of Rome's noblest families. Through his exceeding love for Jesus Christ, he, by a special inspiration from God, left his wife still a virgin on the first night of his marriage, and undertook a pilgrimage to the most illustrious Churches all over the world. For seventeen years he remained unknown, while performing these pilgrimages, and then his name was revealed at Edessa, a town of Syria, by an image of the most holy Virgin Mary. He therefore left Syria by sea and sailed to the port of Rome, where he was received as a guest by his own father who took him for a poor stranger. He lived in his father's house, unknown to all, for seventeen years, and then passed to heaven, leaving a written paper which revealed his name, his family, and the story of his whole life. His death occurred in the Pontificate of Innocent I.
Another account of St. Alexius.
In the Fifth Century
St. Alexius or Alexis is a perfect model of the most generous contempt of the world. He was the only son of a rich senator of Rome, born and educated in that capital, in the fifth century. From the charitable example of his pious parents he learned, from his tender years, that the riches which are given away to the poor, remain with us for ever; and that alms-deeds are a treasure transferred to heaven, with the interest of an immense reward. And whilst yet a child, not content to give all he could, he left nothing unattempted to compass or solicit the relief of all whom he saw in distress. But the manner in which he dealt about his liberal alms was still a greater proof of the noble sentiments of virtue with which his soul was fired; for by this he showed that he thought himself most obliged to those who received his charity, and regarded them as his greatest benefactors. The more he enlarged his views of eternity, and raised his thoughts and desires to the bright scene of immortal bliss, the more did he daily despise all earthly toys; for, when once the soul is thus upon the wing, and soars upwards, how does the glory of this world lessen in her eye! and how does she contemn the empty pageantry of all that worldlings call great!
Fearing lest the fascination, or at least the distraction of temporal honours might at length divide or draw his heart too much from those only noble and great objects, he entertained thoughts of renouncing the advantages of his birth, and retiring from the more dangerous part of the world. Having, in compliance with the will of his parents, married a rich and virtuous lady, he on the very day of the nuptials, making use of the liberty which the laws of God and his church give a person before the marriage be consummated, of preferring a more perfect state, secretly withdrew, in order to break all the ties which held him in the world. In disguise he travelled into a distant country, embraced extreme poverty, and resided in a hut adjoining to a church, dedicated to the Mother of God. Being, after some time there, discovered to be a stranger of distinction, he returned home, and being received as a poor pilgrim, lived some time unknown in his father's house, bearing the contumely and ill-treatment of the servants with invincible patience and silence. A little before he died, he by a letter discovered himself to his parents. He flourished in the reign of the Emperor Honorius, Innocent the First being Bishop of Rome; and is honoured in the calendars of the Latins, Greeks, Syrians, Marionites, and Armenians. His interment was celebrated with the greatest pomp by the whole city of Rome, on the Aventin Hill. His body was found there in 1216, in the ancient Church of St. Boniface, whilst Honorius III sat in St. Peter's chair, and at this day is the most precious treasure of a sumptuous church on the same spot, which bears his name jointly with that of St. Boniface, gives title to a cardinal, and is in the bands of the Hieronymites.
The extraordinary paths in which the Holy Ghost is pleased sometimes to conduct certain privileged souls are rather to be admired than imitated. If it cost them so much to seek humiliations, how diligently ought we to make a good use of those at least which Providence sends us! It is only by humbling ourselves on all occasions that we can walk in the path of true humility, and root out of our hearts all secret pride. The poison of this vice infects all states and conditions: it often lurks undiscovered in the foldings of the heart even after a man has got the mastery over all his other passions. Pride always remains even for the most perfect principally to fight against; and unless we watch continually against it, nothing will remain sound or untainted in our lives; this vice will creep even into our best actions, infect the whole circle of our lives, and become a main spring of all the motions of our heart; and what is the height of our misfortune, the deeper its wounds are, the more is the soul stupified by its venom, and the less capable is she of feeling her most grievous disease and spiritual death. St. John Climacus writes, that when a young novice was rebuked for his pride, he said, “Pardon me, father, I am not proud.” To whom the experienced director replied, “And how could you give me a surer proof of your pride than by not seeing it yourself?”
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Missal for the Laity, according to the use of the Holy Roman Church, 1846.
St. Alexius, pray for us.
July 16, 2018: THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL
Rank: Greater Double
“The Glory of Libanus is given her: the beauty of Carmel and Saron.”
(Isaias, xxxv. 2)
“Receive, my beloved son, this Habit; whosoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire!”
(Our Lady to St. Simon Stock)
O God, who hast honoured the order of the Carmelites with a singular title of thy most blessed Virgin-Mother: mercifully grant that we, who solemnize this her commemoration, by the assistance of her prayers may come to eternal happiness. Who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
Hymn of St. Simon Stock
300 days’ Indulgence each time for Scapular Confraternity members.
Flower of Carmel,
Splendour of heaven,
None equals thee!
O Mother benign,
Who no man didst know,
On all Carmel’s children
Thy favours bestow,
Star of the sea!
Learn about the requirements and rewards of persevering in the Scapular Devotion by reading: "Brown Scapular Instructions" (The Scapular Devotion) Imprimatur, January, 20th, 1945: www.todayscatholicworld.com/brown-scapular-instructions-indulgence.pdf
The Brown Scapular and the Message of Fatima.
Fr. Howard Rafferty, O.Carm., on August 15, 1950 to Sr. Lucy: “Do you mean to say that the wearing of the Brown Scapular is not just something Our Lady would like us to do, but that it is essential to the Message (of Fatima)?”
Sister Lucy answered:
“Exactly! One could not follow the Message of Fatima unless he fulfilled the five conditions, one of which is the wearing of the Brown Scapular all the time — day and night.”
The History of Mount Carmel, since the Old Testament, and Our Lady gives the Brown Scapular.
Towering over the waves on the shore of the Holy Land, Mount Carmel, together with the short range of the same name, forms a connecting link to two other chains, abounding with glorious memories, namely: the mountains of Galilee on the north, and those of Judea on the south.
“In the day of my love, I brought thee out of Egypt into the land of Carmel,” (Prophecy of Jeremias, ii. 7) said the Lord to the daughter of Sion, taking the name of Carmel to represent all the blessings of the Promised Land; and when the crimes of the chosen people were about to bring Judaea to ruin, the prophet cried out: “I looked, and behold Carmel was a wilderness: and all its cities were destroyed at the presence of the Lord, and at the presence of the wrath of his indignation.” (Prophecy of Jeremias, iv. 28) But from the midst of the Gentile world a new Sion arose, more loved than the first; eight centuries beforehand Isaias recognised her by the glory of Libanus, and the beauty of Carmel and Saron which were given her. In the sacred Canticle, also, the attendants of the Bride sing to the Spouse concerning his well-beloved, that her head is like Carmel, and her hair like the precious threads of royal purple carefully woven and dyed. (Cant, vii. 5)
There was, in fact, around Cape Carmel an abundant fishery of the little shell-fish which furnished the regal colour. Not far from there, smoothing away the slopes of the noble mountain, flowed the torrent of Cison, that dragged the carcasses (Judges, v. 21) of the Chanaanites, when Deborah won her famous victory. Here lies the plain where the Madianites were overthrown, and Sisara felt the power of her that was called the Mother in Israel. (Judges, v. 7) Here Gedeon, too, marched against Madian in the name of the Woman terrible as an army set in array, (Cant, vi. 3, 9) whose sign he had received in the dew-covered fleece. Indeed, this glorious plain of Esdrelon, which stretches away from the foot of Carmel, seems to be surrounded with prophetic indications of her who was destined from the beginning to crush the serpent's head: not far from Esdrelon, a few defiles lead to Bethulia, the city of Judith, type of Mary, who was the true joy of Israel and the honour of her people; (Judith, xv. 10) while nestling among the northern hills lies Nazareth, the white city, the flower of Galilee.
When Eternal Wisdom was playing in the world, forming the hills and establishing the mountains, she destined Carmel to be the special inheritance of Eve's victorious Daughter. And when the last thousand years of expectation were opening, and the desire of all nations was developing into the spirit of prophecy, the father of prophets ascended the privileged mount, thence to scan the horizon. The triumphs of David and the glories of Solomon were at an end; the sceptre of Juda, broken by the schism of the ten tribes, threatened to fall from his hand; the worship of Baal prevailed in Israel. A long-continued drought, figure of the aridity of men's souls, had parched up every spring, and men and beasts were dying beside the empty cisterns, when Elias the Thesbite gathered the people, representing the whole human race, on Mount Carmel, and slew the lying prophets of Baal. Then, as the Scripture relates, prostrating with his face to the earth, he said to his servant: Go up, look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time: Behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot. (III Kings, xviii.)
Blessed cloud! unlike the bitter waves from which it sprang, it was all sweetness. Docile to the least breath of heaven, it rose light and humble, above the immense heavy ocean; and, screening the sun, it tempered the heat that was scorching the earth, and restored to the stricken world life and grace and fruitfulness. The promised Messias, the Son of Man, set his impress upon it, showing to the wicked serpent the form of the heel that was to crush him. The prophet, personifying the human race, felt his youth renewed; and while the welcome rain was already refreshing the valleys, he ran before the chariot of the king of Israel. Thus did he traverse the great plain of Esdrelon, even to the mysteriously named town of Jezrahel, where, according to Osee, the children of Juda and Israel were again to have but one head, in the great day of Jezrahel (i.e., of the seed of God), when the Lord would seal his eternal nuptials with a new people. (Osee, i. 11, and ii. 14-24) Later on, from Sunam, near Jezrahel, the mother, whose son was dead, crossed the same plain of Esdrelon, in the opposite direction, and ascended Mount Carmel, to obtain from Eliseus the resurrection of her child, who was a type of us all. (IV Kings, iv. 8-37) Elias had already departed in the chariot of fire, to await the end of the world, when he is to give testimony, together with Henoch, to the son of her that was signified by the cloud; (Apoc, xi. 3, 7) and the disciple, clothed with the mantle and the spirit of his father, had taken possession, in the name of the sons of the prophets, of the august mountain honoured by the manifestation of the Queen of prophets. Henceforward Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world. Gentiles as well as Jews, philosophers and princes, came here on pilgrimage to adore the true God; while the chosen souls of the Church of the expectation, many of whom were already wandering in deserts and in mountains, (Heb, xi. 38) loved to take up their abode in its thousand grottoes; for the ancient traditions seemed to linger more lovingly in its silent forests, and the perfume of its flowers foretokened the Virgin Mother. The cultus of the Queen of heaven was already established; and to the family of her devout clients, the ascetics of Carmel, might be applied the words spoken later by God to the pious descendants of Rechab: There shall not be wanting a man of this race, standing before me for ever. (Jeremias, xxxv. 19)
At length figures gave place to the reality: the heavens dropped down their dew, and the Just One came forth from the cloud. When his work was done and he returned to his Father, leaving his blessed Mother in the world, and sending his Holy Spirit to the Church, not the least triumph of that Spirit of love was the making known of Mary to the new-born Christians of Pentecost. “What a happiness,” we then remarked, “for those neophytes who were privileged above the rest in being brought to the Queen of heaven, the Virgin-Mother of him who was the hope of Israel! They saw this second Eve, they conversed with her, they felt for her that filial affection wherewith she inspired all the disciples of Jesus…” The promise is fulfilled to-day. In the lessons of the feast the Church tells us how the disciples of Elias and Eliseus became Christians at the first preaching of the Apostles, and being permitted to hear the sweet words of the Blessed Virgin and enjoy an unspeakable intimacy with her, they felt their veneration for her immensely increased. Returning to the loved mountain, where their less fortunate fathers had lived but in hope, they built, on the very spot where Elias had seen the little cloud rise up out of the sea, an oratory to the purest of virgins; hence they obtained the name of Brothers of Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel. (Lessons of 2nd Nocturn)
In the twelfth century, in consequence of the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, many pilgrims from Europe came to swell the ranks of the solitaries on the holy mountain; it therefore became expedient to give to their hitherto eremitical life a form more in accordance with the habits of western nations. The legate Aimeric Malafaida, patriarch of Antioch, gathered them into a community under the authority of St. Berthold, who was thus the first to receive the title of Prior General. At the commencement of the next century, Blessed Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem and also Apostolic legate, completed the work of Aimeric by giving a fixed Rule to the Order, which was now, through the influence of princes and knights returned from the Holy Land, beginning to spread into Cyprus, Sicily, and the countries beyond the sea. Soon indeed, the Christians of the East, being abandoned by God to the just punishment of their sins, the vindictiveness of the conquering Saracens reached such a height in this age of trial for Palestine, that a full assembly held on Mount Carmel under Alanus the Breton, resolved upon a complete migration, leaving only a few friars eager for martyrdom to guard the cradle of the Order. The very year in which this took place (1245), Simon Stock was elected General in the first Chapter of the West held at Aylesford in England.
Simon owed his election to the successful struggle he had maintained for the recognition of the Order, which certain prelates, alleging the recent decrees of the Council of Lateran, rejected as newly introduced into Europe. Our Lady had then taken the cause of the Friars into her own hands, and had obtained from Honorius III the decree of confirmation, which originated to-day's feast. This was neither the first nor the last favour bestowed by the sweet Virgin upon the family that had lived so long under the shadow, as it were, of her mysterious cloud, and shrouded like her in humility, with no other bond, no other pretension than the imitation of her hidden works and the contemplation of her glory. She herself had wished them to go forth from the midst of a faithless people; just as, before the close of that same thirteenth century, she would command her angels to carry into a Catholic land her blessed house of Nazareth. Whether or not the men of those days, or the short-sighted historians of our own time, ever thought of it: the one translation called for the other, just as each completes and explains the other, and each was to be, for our own Europe, the signal for wonderful favours from heaven.
In the night between the 15th and 16th of July, of the year 1251, the gracious Queen of Carmel confirmed to her sons by a mysterious sign the right of citizenship she had obtained for them in their newly adopted countries: as mistress and mother of the entire Religions state she conferred upon them with her queenly hands, the scapular, hitherto the distinctive garb of the greatest and most ancient religious family of the West. On giving St. Simon Stock this badge, ennobled by contact with her sacred fingers, the Mother of God said to him:
“Whosoever shall die in this habit, shall not suffer eternal flames.”
But not against hell fire alone was the all-powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother to be felt by those who should wear her scapular. In 1316, when every holy soul was imploring heaven to put a period to that long and disastrous widowhood of the Church, which followed on the death of Clement V, the Queen of Saints appeared to James d'Euse, whom the world was soon to hail as John XXII; she foretold to him his approaching elevation to the Sovereign Pontificate, and at the same time recommended him to publish the privilege she had obtained from her Divine Son for her children of Carmel, viz., a speedy deliverance from Purgatory.
“I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in Purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life eternal.”
These are the words of our Lady herself, quoted by John XXII in the Bull which he published for the purpose of making known the privilege, and which was called the Sabbatine Bull on account of the day chosen by the glorious benefactress for the exercise of her mercy.
We are aware of the attempts made to nullify the authenticity of these heavenly concessions; but our extremely limited time will not allow us to follow up these worthless struggles in all their endless details. The attack of the chief assailant, the too famous Launoy, was condemned by the Apostolic See; and after, as well as before, these contradictions, the Roman Pontiffs confirmed, as much as need be, by their supreme authority, the substance and even the letter of the precious promises. The reader may find in special works the enumeration of the many indulgences with which the Popes have, time after time, enriched the Carmelite family, as if earth would vie with heaven in favouring it. The munificence of Mary, the pious gratitude of her sons for the hospitality given them by the West, and lastly, the authority of St. Peter's successors, soon made these spiritual riches accessible to all Christians, by the institution of the Confraternity of the holy Scapular, the members whereof participate in the merits and privileges of the whole Carmelite Order. Who shall tell the graces, often miraculous, obtained through this humble garb? Who could count the faithful now enrolled in the holy militia? When Benedict XIII, in the eighteenth century, extended the feast of the 16th July to the whole Church, he did but give an official sanction to the universality already gained by the cultus of the Queen of Carmel.
The holy Liturgy gives the following account of the history and object of the feast:
When on the holy day of Pentecost the Apostles, through heavenly inspiration, spoke divers tongues and worked many miracles by the invocation of the most holy name of Jesus, it is said that many men who were walking in the footsteps of the holy prophets Elias and Eliseus, and had been prepared for the coming of Christ by the preaching of John the Baptist, saw and acknowledged the truth, and at once embraced the faith of the Gospel. These new Christians were so happy as to be able to enjoy familiar intercourse with the Blessed Virgin, and venerated her with so special an affection, that they, before all others, built a chapel to the purest of Virgins on that very spot of Mount Carmel where Elias of old had seen the cloud, a remarkable type of the Virgin ascending.
Many times each day they came together to the new oratory, and with pious ceremonies, prayers, and praises honoured the most Blessed Virgin as the special protectress of their Order. For this reason, people from all parts began to call them the Brethren of the Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel; and the Sovereign Pontiffs not only confirmed this title, but also granted special indulgences to whoever called either the whole Order or individual Brothers by that name. But the most noble Virgin not only gave them her name and protection, she also bestowed upon Blessed Simon the Englishman the holy Scapular as a token, wishing the holy Order to be distinguished by that heavenly garment and to be protected by it from the evils that were assailing it. Moreover, as formerly the Order was unknown in Europe, and on this account many were importuning Honorius III for its abolition, the loving Virgin Mary appeared by night to Honorius and clearly bade him receive both the Order and its members with kindness.
The Blessed Virgin has enriched the Order so dear to her with many privileges, not only in this world, but also in the next (for everywhere she is most powerful and merciful). For it is piously believed that those of her children, who, having been enrolled in the Confraternity of the Scapular, have fulfilled the small abstinence and said the few prayers prescribed, and have observed chastity as far as their state of life demands, will be consoled by our Lady while they are being purified in the fire of Purgatory, and will through her intercession be taken thence as soon as possible to the heavenly country. The Order, thus laden with so many graces, has ordained that this solemn commemoration of the Blessed Virgin should be yearly observed forever, to her greater glory.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel gives the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock
[Roman and Carmelite Martyrologies]
The Order of Mount Carmel commemorates this day the giving of the scapular to S. Simon Stock, fifth General of the Order. It is related that the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon, and holding in her hand a scapular, a little woollen habit of a brown colour, to cover the shoulders, stomach, and back, informed him seriously that anyone who hereafter should receive a similar strip of woollen cloth, with a hole in the middle, from the hands of a Carmelite, and should wear it, should never burn in hell eternally.
Pope John XXII, it is pretended, was vouchsafed a vision of the Blessed Virgin on two occasions, in which she insisted on the Holy See pronouncing in favour of the scapular and its divine origin. The first of these visions took place on Aug. 7th, 1316; the second, in the following year, 1317. But the pope made no attempt to carry out what was enjoined on him, till 1320, when he was visited a third time. He then promulgated his famous bull, “Sabbathine” so called, because it proclaimed that all who wore the scapular in life would be delivered from the flames of purgatory on the ensuing Saturday; and which, therefore, made it a matter of the greatest advantage for a member of the Congregation of the Scapular to die as late as possible on a Friday. Pope Clement VII confirmed this decision by a brief in the year 1528.
The conditions attached to this great privilege by the bull of Pope John XXII are—1st. That the piece of flannel called the scapular be worn assiduously till death. 2nd. That an unmarried person maintain continence, and a married person abstain from adultery. 3rd. That the canonical hours be recited, that is, the little office of Our Lady; or—for those who cannot read—to fast on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The observance of all these conditions, however, is not necessary to ensure escape from hell fire, except only that one enjoining the wearing of a piece of flannel.
A prayerful address to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Queen of Carmel, hear the voice of the Church as she sings to thee on this day. When the world was languishing in ceaseless expectation, thou wert already its hope. Unable as yet to understand thy greatness, it nevertheless, during the reign of types, loved to clothe thee with the noblest symbols. In admiration, and in gratitude for benefits foreseen, it surrounded thee with all the notions of beauty, strength, and grace suggested by the loveliest landscapes, the flowery plains, the wooded heights, the fertile valleys, especially of Carmel, whose very name signifies “the plantation of the Lord.” On its summit our fathers, knowing that Wisdom had set her throne in the cloud, hastened by their burning desires the coming of the saving sign: there at length was given to their prayers, what the Scripture calls perfect knowledge, and the knowledge of the great paths of the clouds. (Job, xxxvii. 16) And when he who maketh his chariot and his dwelling in the obscurity of a cloud had therein shown himself, in a nearer approach, to the practised eye of the father of prophets, then did a chosen band of holy persons gather in the solitudes of the blessed mountain, as heretofore Israel in the desert, to watch the least movements of the mysterious cloud, to receive from it their guidance in the paths of life, and their light in the long night of expectation.
O Mary, who from that hour didst preside over the watches of God's army, without ever failing for a single day: now that the Lord has truly come down through thee, it is no longer the land of Judæa alone, but the whole earth that thou coverest as a cloud, shedding down blessings and abundance. Thine ancient clients, the sons of the prophets, experienced this truth when, the land of promise becoming unfaithful, they were forced to transplant into other climes their customs and traditions; they found that even into our far West, the cloud of Carmel had poured its fertilizing dew, and that nowhere would its protection be wanting to them. This feast, O Mother of our God, is the authentic attestation of their gratitude, increased by the fresh benefits wherewith thy bounty accompanied the new exodus of the remnant of Israel. And we, the sons of ancient Europe, we too have a right to echo the expression of their loving joy; for since their tents have been pitched around the hills where the new Sion is built upon Peter, the cloud has shed all around showers of blessing more precious than ever, driving back into the abyss the flames of hell, and extinguishing the fire of purgatory.
Whilst, then, we join with them in thanksgiving to thee, deign thyself, O Mother of divine grace, to pay our debt of gratitude to them. Protect them ever. Guard them in these unhappy times, when the hypocrisy of modern persecutors has more fatal results than the rage of the Saracens. Preserve the life in the deep roots of the old stock, and rejoice it by the accession of new branches, bearing, like the old ones, flowers and fruits that shall be pleasing to thee, O Mary. Keep up in the hearts of the sons, that spirit of retirement and contemplation which animated their fathers under the shadow of the cloud; may their sisters too, wheresoever the Holy Spirit has established them, be ever faithful to the traditions of the glorious past; so that their holy lives may avert the tempest and draw down blessings from the mysterious cloud. May the perfume of penance that breathes from the holy mountain purify the now corrupted atmosphere around; and may Carmel ever present to the Spouse the type of the beauties he loves to behold in his Bride!
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VIII; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world.”
(The Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Dominic)
July 15, 2018: COMMEMORATION OF ST. HENRY II, EMPEROR, CONFESSOR
“I will compare him to a wise
man, who built his house on a solid rock.”
(St. Matth, vii. 24)
O God, on this day You transferred Blessed Henry, Your Confessor, from the summit of an earthly empire to an eternal kingdom; we humbly beseech You, that, even as You protected him with the fullness of Your grace to overcome the snares of the world, so You would enable us, by imitating him, to shun the allurements of this world and to come to You with pure minds. 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.
Henry of Germany, the second King, but the first Emperor of that name, was the last crowned representative of that branch of the house of Saxony descended from Henry the Fowler, to which God, in the tenth century, entrusted the mission of restoring the work of Charlemagne and Leo III. This noble stock was rendered more glorious by the flowers of sanctity adorning its branches, than for the deep and powerful roots it struck in the German soil by great and long-enduring institutions.
The Holy Spirit, who divideth his gifts according as he will, was then calling to the loftiest destinies that land, which, more than any other, had witnessed the energy of his divine action in the transformation of nations. Won to Christ by St. Boniface and the continuators of his work, the vast country which extends beyond the Rhine and the Danube had become the bulwark of the West, and for many years had been the scene of devastation and ruin. Far from attempting to subjugate to her own rule the formidable tribes that inhabited it, pagan Rome, at the very zenith of her power, had had no higher ambition than to raise a wall of separation between them and the Empire: Christian Rome, more truly Mistress of the world, set up in their very midst the seat of the Holy Roman Empire re-established by her Pontiffs. The new Empire was to defend the rights of the common Mother, to protect Christendom from new inroads of barbarians, to win over to the Gospel or else to crush the successive hordes that would come down on her frontiers—Hungarians, Sclaves, Mongols, Tartars, and Ottomans. Happy had it been for Germany if she had always understood her true glory, if the fidelity of her princes to the Vicar of the Man-God had been equal to their people's faith.
God, on his part, had not closed his hand. Today's feast shows us the crowning point of the period of fruitful labour, when the Holy Ghost, having created Germany anew in the waters of the sacred font, would lead her up to the full development of a people's perfect age. The historian, who would know what Providence requires of nations, must study them at such a period of truly creative formation. Indeed, when God creates, whether in the order of nature or of the supernatural vocation of men and societies, he first deposits in his work the principle of that grade of life for which it is destined: it is a precious germ, the development of which, unless thwarted, must lead that being to attain its end; and the knowledge of which, could we observe it before any alteration has taken place, would clearly indicate the divine intention with regard to that being. Now, many times already, since the coming of the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier, we have shown that the principle of life for Christian nations is the holiness of their beginnings: a holiness as manifold as is the Wisdom of God, whose instrument these nations are to be, and as peculiar to each as are their several destinies. This holiness, beginning as it does for the most part from the throne, possesses a social character. The crimes also of princes will but too often bear this same mark, from the very fact of the princes being the representatives of their people before God. Then, too, we have seen, how in the name of Mary, who, through her divine Maternity, is the channel of life to the whole world, a mission has been intrusted to women: the mission of bringing forth to God the families of nations (familiӕ gentium) (Ps, xxi. 28), which are to be the objects of his tenderest love. Whereas the princes, the apparent founders of Empires, stand with their mighty deeds in the foreground of history, it is she, that, by her secret tears and prayers, gives fruitfulness, a loftier aim and stability to their undertakings. The Holy Ghost multiplies these imitators of the Mother of God; like Clotilde, Radegond, and Bathildis, giving the Franks to the Church in the midst of troublous times, there arose in another land another three, in honour of the Blessed Trinity: Matilda, Adelaide, and Cunigund superadded to the diadem of Germany the aureola of sanctity. Over the chaos of the tenth century whence Germany was to spring, they shone out like three bright stars, shedding their peaceful light over the Church and the world in that dark night, and thus doing more to suppress anarchy than could even the sword of an Otho. The eleventh century opened: Hildebrand had not yet arisen, and the angels of the sanctuary were weeping over many a desecrated altar, when the royal succession was brought to a beautiful close by a virginal union, as though, weary of producing heroes for the world, it would now bear fruit for heaven alone. Was such a step against the interests of Germany? No; for it drew down the mercy of God upon the country, which, in the midst of universal corruption, could offer Him the perfume of such a holocaust.
Let earth and heaven this day unite in celebrating the man who carried out to the full the designs of eternal Wisdom at this period of history. In his single person he discovered all the heroism and sanctity of the illustrious race, whose chief glory it is to have been for a century a worthy preparation for so great a man. Great before men, who knew not whether to admire more his bravery or the energetic activity which made him seem to be everywhere at once throughout his vast empire, he was ever successful, putting down internal revolts, conquering the Sclaves on his Northern frontier, chastising the insolence of the Greeks in southern Italy, assisting Hungary to rise from barbarism to Christianity, concluding with Robert the Pious a lasting peace between the Empire and the eldest daughter of the Church. But the virgin spouse of the virgin Cunigund was greater still before God, who never had a more faithful lieutenant upon earth. God in His Christ was in Henry's eyes the only King; the interest of Christ and the Church, the one principle of his administration; the most perfect service of the Man-God, his highest ambition. He understood how the truest nobility was hidden in the cloister, where chosen souls, fleeing from the universal degradation, were averting the ruin and obtaining the salvation of the world. It was this thought that led him, on the morrow of his imperial coronation, to confide to the famous Abbey of Cluny the golden globe representing the world, which he, as soldier of the Vicar of Christ, was commissioned to defend. It was with the desire of imitating those noble souls, that he threw himself at the feet of the Abbot of Saint Vannes at Verdun, begging admission into his community, and then, constrained by obedience, returned with a heavy heart to resume the burden of government.
The following is the notice, necessarily incomplete, which the Church gives us concerning Saint Henry:
Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany, and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the Churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built Monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his See.
Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the Monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him, by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defence a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy Martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the Divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.
He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odour of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life's work was accomplished and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation, 1024. His body was buried in the Church of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify his servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the Saints.
Another account of St. Henry II, Emperor
St. Henry, surnamed the Pious and the Lame, was son of Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and of Gisella, daughter of Conrad, King of Burgundy, and was born in 972. He was descended from Henry, Duke of Bavaria, son of the Emperor Henry the Fowler, and brother of Otho the Great, consequently our saint was near akin to the three first emperors who bore the name of Otho. St. Wolfgang, the Bishop of Ratisbon, being a prelate the most eminent in all Germany for learning, piety, and zeal, our young prince was put under his tuition, and by his excellent instructions and example, he made from his infancy wonderful progress in learning and in the most perfect practice of Christian virtue. The death of his dear master and spiritual guide, which happened in 994, was to him a most sensible affliction. In the following year he succeeded his father in the duchy of Bavaria, and in 1002, upon the death of his cousin Otho III, he was chosen emperor. He was the same year crowned King of Germany, at Mentz, by the archbishop of that city. He had always before his eyes the extreme dangers to which they are exposed who move on the precipice of power, and that all human things are like edifices of sand, which every breath of time threatens to overturn or deface; he studied the extent and importance of the obligations which attended his dignity; and by the assiduous practice of humiliations, prayer, and pious meditation, he maintained in his heart the necessary spirit of humility and holy fear, and was enabled to bear the tide of prosperity and honour with a constant evenness of temper. Sensible of the end for which alone he was exalted by God to the highest temporal dignity, he exerted his most strenuous endeavours to promote in all things the divine honour, the exaltation of the church, and the peace and happiness of his people.
Soon after his accession to the throne, he resigned the dukedom of Bavaria, which he bestowed on his brother-in-law, Henry, surnamed Senior. He procured a national council of the bishops of all his dominions, which was assembled at Dortmund, in Westphalia, in 1005, in order to regulate many points of discipline, and to enforce a strict observance of the holy canons. It was owing to his zeal that many provincial synods were also held for the same purpose in several parts of the empire. He was himself present at that of Frankfort in 1006, and at another of Bamberg in 1011. The protection he owed his subjects engaged him sometimes in wars, in all which he was successful. By his prudence, courage, and clemency, he stifled a rebellion at home in the beginning of his reign, and without striking a stroke compelled the malcontents to lay down their arms at his feet, which, when they had done, he received them into favour. Two years after, he quelled another rebellion in Italy, when Ardovinus, or Hardwic, a Lombard lord, had caused himself to be crowned king at Milan. This nobleman, after his defeat, made his submission, and obtained his pardon. When he had afterwards revolted a second time, the emperor marched again into Italy, vanquished him in battle, and deprived him of his territories, but did not take away his life, and Ardovinus became a monk. After this second victory, St. Henry went in triumph to Rome, where, in 1014, he was crowned emperor with great solemnity by Pope Benedict VIII. On that occasion, to give a proof of his devotion to the holy see, he confirmed to it, by an ample diploma, the donation made by several former emperors, of the sovereignty of Rome and the exarchate of Ravenna; and after a short stay at Rome, took leave of the pope, and in his return to Germany, kept the Easter holidays at Pavia; then he visited the monastery of Cluni, on which he bestowed the imperial globe of gold which the pope had given him, and a gold crown enriched with precious stones. He paid his devotions in other monasteries on the road, leaving in every one of them some rich monument of his piety and liberality. But the most acceptable offering which he made to God was the fervour and purity of affection with which he renewed the consecration of his soul to God in all places where he came, especially at the foot of the altars. Travelling through Liege and Triers, he arrived at Bamberg, in which city he had lately founded a rich episcopal see, and had built a most stately cathedral in honour of St. Peter, which Pope John XVIII took a journey into Germany to consecrate in 1019. The emperor obtained of this pope, by an honourable embassy, the confirmation of this and all his other pious foundations. For he built and endowed other churches with the two monasteries at Bamberg, and made the like foundations in several other places; thus extending his zealous views to promote the divine honour and the relief of the poor to the end of time. Bruno, Bishop of Ausburg, the emperor's brother, Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and other relations of the saint, complained loudly that he employed his patrimony on such religious foundations, and the Duke of Bavaria and some others took up arms against him in 1010; but he defeated them in the field; then pardoned the princes engaged in the revolt, and restored to them Bavaria and their other territories which he had seized.
The idolatrous inhabitants of Poland and Sclavonia had, some time before, laid waste the diocess of Meersburg, and destroyed that and several other churches. St. Henry marched against those barbarous nations, and having put his army under the protection of the holy martyrs, St. Laurence, St. George, and St. Adrian, who are said to have been seen in the battle fighting before him, he defeated the infidels. He had made a vow to reestablish the see of Meersburg in case he obtained the victory, and he caused all his army to communicate the day before the battle which was fought near that city. The barbarians were seized with a panic fear in the beginning of the action, and submitted at discretion. The princes of Bohemia rebelled, but were easily brought back to their duty. The victorious emperor munificently repaired and restored the episcopal sees of Hildesheim, Magdeburg, Strasburg, Misnia, and Meersburg, and made all Poland, Bohemia, and Moravia, tributary to the empire. He procured holy preachers to be sent to instruct the Bohemians and Polanders in the faith. Those have been mistaken who pretend that St. Henry converted St. Stephen, King of Hungary; for that prince was born of Christian parents. But our saint promoted his zealous endeavours, and had a great share in his apostolic undertakings for the conversion of his people.
The protection of Christendom, and especially of the holy see, obliged St. Henry to lead an army to the extremity of Italy, where he vanquished the conquering Saracens, with their allies the Greeks, and drove them out of Italy, left a governor in the provinces which he had recovered, and suffered the Normans to enjoy the territories which they had then wrested from the infidels, but restrained them from turning their arms towards Naples or Benevento. He came back by Mount Cassino, and was honourably received at Rome; but during his stay in that city, by a painful contraction of the sinews in his thigh, became lame, and continued so till his death. He passed by Cluni, and in the duchy of Luxemburg had an interview with Robert, King of France, son and successor of Hugh Capet. It had been agreed that, to avoid all disputes of pre-eminence, the two princes should hold their conference in boats on the river Meuse, which, as Glabor writes, was at that time the boundary that parted their dominions. But Henry, impatient to embrace and cement a friendship with that great and virtuous king, paid the first visit to Robert in his tent, and afterwards received him in his own. A war had broke out between these two princes in 1006, and Henry gave the French a great overthrow; but being desirous only to govern his dominions in peace, he entered into negotiations which produced a lasting peace. In this interview, which was held in 1023, the conference of the two princes turned on the most important affairs of church and state, and on the best means of advancing piety, religion, and the welfare of their subjects. After the most cordial demonstrations of sincere friendship, they took leave of each other, and St. Henry proceeded to Verdun and Metz. He made frequent progresses through his dominions only to promote piety, enrich all the churches, relieve the poor, make a strict inquiry into all public disorders and abuses, and prevent unjust usurpations and oppressions. He desired to have no other heir on earth but Christ in his members, and, wherever he went, he spread the odour of his piety, and his liberalities on the poor.
It is incredible how attentive he was to the smallest affairs amidst the multiplicity of business which attends the government of the state; nothing seemed to escape him; and whilst he was most active and vigilant in every duty which he owed to the public, he did not forget that the care of his own soul, and the regulation of his interior, was his first and most essential obligation. He was sensible that pride and vain-glory are the most dangerous of all vices, and that they are the most difficult to be discovered, and the last that are vanquished in the spiritual warfare; that humility is the very foundation of all true virtue, and our progress in it the measure of our advancement in Christian perfection. Therefore, the higher he was exalted in worldly honours, the more did he study to humble himself, and it is said of him, that never was greater humility seen under a diadem. He loved those persons best who most freely put him in mind of his mistakes, and these he was always most ready to confess, and to make for them the most ample reparation. Through misinformations, he, for some time, harboured coldness toward St. Herebert, Archbishop of Cologne; but, discovering the innocence and sanctity of that prelate, he fell at his feet, and would not rise till he had received his absolution and pardon. He banished flatterers from his presence, calling them the greatest pests of courts; for none can put such an affront on a man's judgment and modesty, as to praise him to his face, but the base and most wicked of interested and designing men, who make use of this artifice to insinuate themselves into the favour of a prince, to abuse his weakness and credulity, and to make him the dupe of their injustices. He who listens to them exposes himself to many misfortunes and crimes, to the danger of the most foolish pride and vain-glory, and to the ridicule and scorn of his flatterers themselves; for a vanity that can publicly hear its own praises, openly unmasks itself to its confusion. The Emperor Sigismund, giving a flatterer a blow on the face, called his fulsome praise the greatest insult that had ever been offered him. St. Henry was raised by religion and humility above this abjectness of soul, which reason itself teaches us to abhor and despise. By the assiduous mortification of the senses, he kept his passions in subjection. For pleasure, unless we are guarded against its assaults, steals upon us by insensible degrees, smooths its passage to the heart by a gentle and insinuating address, and softens and disarms the soul of all its strength. Nor is it possible for us to triumph over unlawful sensual delights, unless we moderate and practise frequent self-denials with regard to lawful gratifications. The love of the world is a no less dangerous enemy, especially amidst honours and affluence; and created objects have this quality, that they first seduce the heart, and then blind the understanding. By conversing always in heaven, St. Henry raised his affections so much above the earth as to escape this snare.
Prayer seemed the chief delight and support of his soul; especially the public office of the church. Assisting one day at this holy function at Strasburg, he so earnestly desired to remain always there to sing the divine praises among the devout canons of that church, that, finding this impossible, he founded there a new canonry for one who should always perform that sacred duty in his name. In this spirit of devotion it has been established that the kings of France are canons of Strasburg, Lyons, and some other places; as in the former place the emperors, in the latter the dukes of Burgundy, were before them. The holy sacrament of the altar and sacrifice of the mass were the object of St. Henry's most tender devotion. The blessed Mother of God he honoured as his chief patroness, and among other exercises by which he recommended himself to her intercession, it was his custom, upon coming to any town, to spend a great part of the first night in watching and prayer in some church dedicated to God under her name, as at Rome in St. Mary Major. He had a singular devotion to the good angels and to all the saints. Though he lived in the world so as to be perfectly disengaged from it in heart and affection, it was his earnest desire entirely to renounce it long before his death, and he intended to pitch upon the Abbey of St. Vanne, at Verdun, for the place of his retirement. But he was diverted from carrying this project into execution by the advice of Richard, the holy abbot of that house. He had married St. Cunegonda, but lived with her in perpetual chastity, to which they had mutually bound themselves by vow. It happened that the empress was falsely accused of incontinency, and St. Henry was somewhat moved by the slander; but she cleared herself by her oath, and by the ordeal trials, walking over twelve red-hot ploughshares without hurt. Her husband severely condemned himself for his credulity, and made her the most ample satisfaction. In his last illness he recommended her to her relations and friends, declaring that he left her an untouched virgin. His health decayed some years before his death, which happened at the castle of Grone, near Halberstadt, in 1024, on the 14th of July, toward the end of the fifty-second year of his life, he having reigned twenty-two years from his election, and ten years and five months from his coronation at Rome. His body was interred in the cathedral at Bamberg with the greatest pomp, and with the unfeigned tears of all his subjects. The great numbers of miracles by which God was pleased to declare his glory in heaven procured his canonization, which was performed by Eugenius III, in 1152. His festival is kept on the day following that of his death.
Those who, by honours, dignities, riches, or talents, are raised by God in the world above the level of their fellow-creatures, have a great stewardship, and a most rigorous account to give at the bar of divine justice, their very example having a most powerful influence over others. This St. Fulgentius observed, writing to Theodorus, a pious Roman senator,—“Though,” said he, “Christ died for all men, yet the perfect conversion of the great ones of the world brings great acquisitions to the kingdom of Christ. And they who are placed in high stations must necessarily be to very many an occasion of eternal perdition or of salvation. And as they cannot go alone, so either a high degree of glory, or an extraordinary punishment will be their everlasting portion.”
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
Saint Joseph Daily Missal, Imprimatur 1957.
St. Henry II, pray for us.