Nov. 25, 2022

November 25, 2022: ST. CATHERINE (OF ALEXANDRIA), VIRGIN AND MARTYR

Rank: Double.

 

This is she who knew not the bed in sin: she shall have the fruit of her virtue in the reward of holy souls.

The virgin is scourged, loaded with chains, tormented with hunger; but while she remains shut up in prison a heavenly light shines around.

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who gavedst the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and wonderfully translatedst, by the ministry of thy holy Angels, the body of blessed Catherine, thy Virgin and Martyr, to the same place; mercifully grant, by her merits and prayers, we may safely come to the holy mount, which is Christ. Who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.

 

St. Catherine was born at Alexandria, of pagan parents. She was gifted with great personal beauty, and possessed so extraordinary a mind, that she mastered all the sciences which, at that period, nourished in her native city. The only science of which she had no knowledge was that of eternal salvation; but this, too, she at last obtained in the following manner: It seemed to her, in her sleep, that the Queen of Heaven was standing before her in wondrous beauty, carrying her divine Son in her arms. But the latter, turning His face from her in displeasure, said that Catherine was ugly, because she had not been baptized. Catherine awoke, and, while thinking over her dream, she was inspired by Heaven to resolve to become a Christian. When sufficiently instructed, she received holy baptism, after which the Blessed Virgin again appeared to her with Christ, who, looking tenderly at Catherine, placed a ring on her finger, as a sign that He had chosen her for His bride. On awaking, she found a ring on her finger, and, without delay, determined to consecrate her virginity to the Lord, and to become a more zealous Christian.

Maximin, the emperor, had appointed a certain day to celebrate a public sacrifice in honor of the false gods, and all the inhabitants of the city were commanded to take part in it. Catherine was deeply grieved to see that the people should thus honor the devil, and not have any knowledge of the true God. Arming herself with courage, she went fearlessly into the temple, where the emperor personally assisted at the sacrifice, and, addressing him with Christian freedom, she represented to him his blindness in worshipping idols, and endeavored to convince him of the truth of Christianity. The emperor was greatly surprised that a maiden should dare to speak thus to him, but was, at the same time, fascinated by the appearance and eloquence of Catherine. No sooner had he returned to his palace, than Catherine again appeared before him, and spoke so forcibly of the falsity of the heathen gods, and of the truth of the Christian religion, that the emperor knew not what to reply. What he was unable to do, he thought others could do for him; therefore he summoned some of the most learned men into his presence, to answer Catherine's arguments, and persuade her to renounce the Christian faith. But the Almighty, who, by a feeble maiden, could bring to naught the wisdom of the pagan sages, inspired St. Catherine with such eloquence, that she succeeded in convincing them of their error so completely, that they publicly renounced it, and proclaimed the Christian faith as the only true one. The emperor, enraged at so unexpected an issue, ordered these new confessors of Christ to be immediately executed. He then endeavored to win Catherine from her faith by flatteries and promises; and when he found that his words made no impression on the mind of the virgin, he began to threaten, and finally sent her away to be tortured. She was scourged so cruelly and so long, that her whole body was covered with wounds, from which the blood flowed in streams. The spectators wept with pity; but Catherine, strengthened by God, stood with her eyes raised to heaven, without giving a sign of suffering or fear; After this cruel treatment she was dragged into a dungeon, and, by the command of the emperor, was left without food, in order that she might slowly pine away. But God sent an Angel, who healed her wounds and filled her heart with indescribable comfort. The Lord Himself appeared to her, encouraged her to fight bravely, and promised her the crown of everlasting glory. Some writers add, that the empress, having heard much of Catherine's wonderful learning, eloquence and fortitude, had deep compassion upon her, and secretly went at night with Porphyrius, the captain of the guard, to visit her in her dungeon. When she beheld Catherine's wounds healed, and the virgin resplendent with more than human beauty, she was speechless with surprise. Catherine made this miracle an occasion to speak to her of the omnipotence of the Most High, and of the falsity of the heathen gods. She spoke with such overwhelming eloquence, that the empress, as well as Porphyrius, promised to embrace Christianity.

Some days later, when the emperor was informed that Catherine was not only still alive but in better health than ever, he had her brought before him, and again assailed her with promises and menaces. Finding, however, that she was as firm as before, he gave orders that she should be bound to a wheel studded with sharply-pointed spikes and knives. The Christian heroine was not horrified at this inhuman order, but called with unwavering trust on God. When the executioners had seized her, and bound her on the wheel, the Almighty sent an Angel, who loosened the fetters and broke the wheel to pieces. Many of the spectators, on beholding this miracle, cried aloud: “Great is the God of the Christians! He alone is the true God!” Maximin remained blind, and was thinking of new torments, when the empress came forward, reproached him with his barbarity towards a weak and innocent maiden, and boldly confessed that she herself recognized and worshipped no other god but the God of the Christians. The tyrant, hearing these words, lost all control over himself, and ordered the empress and Porphyrius to be immediately beheaded, and Catherine, as an enemy of the gods, to be taken to the public market-place and put to death by the sword. The fearless virgin went joyfully to the appointed place, exhorted all the people who had come to witness her death to abandon idolatry, prayed to God for their conversion, and then received the stroke that sent her soul to heaven [adorned with the double crown of virginity and martyrdom]. Ancient authors testify that milk flowed from the body of St. Catherine instead of blood, as had formerly happened at the death of St. Paul. Her body, they add, was miraculously carried by angels and buried on Mount Sinai, in Arabia.

 

Responsory.

The virgin is scourged, loaded with chains, tormented with hunger; but while she remains shut up in prison a heavenly light shines around.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.

℣. The Spouse loves his bride and visits her as a Savior.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.

 

Another account of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

A.D. 305

St. Catherine, whom the Greeks call Ӕcatherina, glorified God by an illustrious confession of the faith of Christ, at Alexandria, under Maximinus II. Her acts are so much adulterated that little use can be made of them. The Emperor Basil, in his Greek Menology, relates with them that this saint, who was of the royal blood, and an excellent scholar, confuted a company of the ablest heathen philosophers, whom Maximinus had commanded to enter into a disputation with her, and that being converted by her to the faith, they were all burnt in one fire, for confessing the same. He adds, that Catherine was at length beheaded. She is said first to have been put upon an engine made of four wheels joined together, and stuck with sharp pointed spikes, that, when the wheels were moved, her body might be torn to pieces. The acts add, that at the first stirring of the terrible engine, the cords with which the martyr was tied were broke asunder by the invisible power of an angel, and, the engine falling to pieces by the wheels being separated from one another, she was delivered from that death. Hence the name of St. Catherine's wheel.

The learned Joseph Assemani thinks that all the account we have of the particulars relating to this saint, upon which we can depend, is what we meet with in Eusebius, though that historian mentions not her name. His relation is as follows: “There was a certain woman, a Christian, and the richest and most noble of all the ladies of Alexandria, who, when the rest suffered themselves to be deflowered by the tyrant (Maximin), resisted and vanquished his unbounded and worse than beastly lust. This lady was most illustrious for her high birth and great wealth; and likewise for her singular learning: but she preferred her virtue and her chastity to all worldly advantages. The tyrant, having in vain made several assaults upon her virtue, would not behead her, seeing her ready to die, but stripped her of all her estates and goods, and sent her into banishment.” Maximin, not long after, declared war against Licinius, and, after several engagements, was at length defeated by him in 313. Having lost his empire after a reign of five years, he fled to Tarsus, and there died in extreme misery. The body of St. Catherine was discovered by the Christians in Egypt about the eighth century, when they groaned under the yoke of the Saracens. It was soon after translated to the great monastery on the top of Mount Sinai in Arabia, built by St. Helen, and sumptuously enlarged and beautified by the Emperor Justinian, as several old inscriptions and pictures in Mosaic work in that place testify. Falconius, Archbishop of San-Severino, speaks of this translation as follows: “As to what is said, that the body of this saint was conveyed by angels to Mount Sinai, the meaning is that it was carried by the monks of Sinai to their monastery, that they might devoutly enrich their dwelling with such a treasure.—It is well known that the name of an angelical habit was often used for a monastic habit, and that monks, on account of their heavenly purity and functions, were anciently called ‘Angels’.”

From that time we find more frequent mention made of the festival and relics of St. Catherine. St. Paul of Latra kept her feast with extraordinary solemnity and devotion. In the eleventh age, Simeon, a monk of Sinai, coming to Rouen to receive an annual alms of Richard, Duke of Normandy, brought with him some of her relics, which he left there. The principal part of the mortal remains of this saint is still kept in a marble chest in the church of this monastery on Mount Sinai…

From this martyr's uncommon eradition, and the extraordinary spirit of piety by which she sanctified her learning, and the use she made of it, she is chosen in the schools the patroness and model of Christian philosophers. Learning is, next to virtue, the most noble ornament, and the highest improvement of the human mind, by which all its natural faculties obtain an eminent degree of perfection. The memory is exceedingly improved by exercise; those who complain that in them this faculty is like a sieve, may, especially in youth, render it by use retentive of whatever is necessary, and particularly adapted to be a storehouse of names, facts, or entire discourses, according to every one's exigency or purposes. But nothing ought to be learned by heart by children but what is excellent or absolutely necessary. To load a mind with other men's lumber, and to make it a magazine of errors, trumpery, or toys, is to pervert all the purposes of this faculty, and a certain proof of the sloth, ignorance, and stupidity of a master. As the understanding is the light of the soul, so is it plain how exceedingly this is enlarged both by exercise and by the acquisition of solid science and useful knowledge. Judgment, the most valuable of all the properties of the mind, and by which the other faculties are poised, governed, and directed, is formed and perfected by experience and regular well-digested studies and reflection; and by them it attains to true justness and taste. The mind by the same means acquires a steadiness, and conquers the aversion which sloth raises against the serious employment of its talents. It is doubtless the will of the Creator that all his works be raised to that degree of perfection of which they are capable, and, where our industry is required to this, it becomes a duty incumbent upon us. This is in nothing so essential, and important as in our own mind, the dignity of our being, and the masterpiece of the visible world. How much its perfection depends upon culture appears in the difference of understanding between the savages (who, except in treachery, cunning, and shape, scarce seem to differ from the apes which inhabit their forests) and the most elegant civilized nations. A piece of ground left wild produces nothing but weeds and briars, which, by culture would be covered with corn, flowers, and fruit. The difference is not less between a rough mind and one that is well cultivated. The same culture, indeed, suits not all persons. Geniuses must be explored, and the manner of instructing proportioned to them. Conditions and circumstances must be considered. Generally the more sublime theological studies suit not those who are excluded from teaching, though women, upon whom the domestic instruction of children in their infancy mainly depends, ought to be well instructed in the motives of religion, articles of faith, and all the practical duties and maxims of piety. Then history, geography, and some tincture of works of genius and spirit may be joined with suitable arts and other accomplishments of their sex and condition, provided they be guided by, and referred to religion, and provided books of piety and exercises of devotion always have the first place both in their hearts and in their time.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876;
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. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.

 

Nov. 24, 2022

November 24, 2022: ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, CONFESSOR AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

Rank: Double.

“On Carmel’s height and on the mountains, in the plain and in the valleys, may there be an ever increasing number of such souls as are able to reconcile earth to heaven, to draw down the blessings of God, and to avert his anger! We are all called to be saints: may we then, after thy example and through thy prayers, O John of the Cross, suffer the grace of God to work in us with all the plenitude of its purifying and deifying power.”

“Lord, I ask no other recompense than to suffer and be condemned for thy love.”

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who didst inspire blessed John, thy Confessor, with an ardent love of perfect self-denial and of the cross, grant we may so follow his example, as to obtain everlasting glory. 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 1542, was born at Fontiveros, a hamlet of old Castile, St. John of the Cross, renowned through the entire Christian world, as the restorer of the Carmelite Order. His mother, after his father's early death, went to Medina del Campo, where John commenced his studies, and continued them until he entered the order of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel. From his early youth he had entertained a child-like devotion to the Blessed Virgin, who more than once saved him most miraculously from death. One day, when playing with some other lads around a deep pond, he fell into it. In this danger, the Divine Mother appeared to him in a most beautiful form, and offered him her hand, to draw him out of the water. But as his hands were much soiled, he hesitated to take those of so brilliant a lady; whereupon his Guardian Angel, or some other inhabitant of heaven, held out to him from the edge of the pond, a long pole, by the aid of which he was happily saved. At another time he fell into a well, and when all feared that he was drowned, they saw him sitting quietly upon the water. When they drew him out, he said that the Queen of Heaven had caught him in her cloak, and thus prevented his sinking. Before he was nine years old, he showed a wonderful zeal in mortifying his body, chastising himself by taking only a short rest on a hard bed, and by voluntary fasts. While yet a student, he nursed, with great solicitude and charity, the sick in the hospitals. After he had taken the Carmelite habit, he was not satisfied with the penances then practised in the convent, but endeavored to regulate his life in accordance with the first rules and ancient austerity of the Order. When he prepared himself to say his first holy Mass, he searched his conscience very carefully, but found no grievous fault. He then gave humble thanks to the Almighty, and during his Mass, begged for the grace to be kept in future free from all mortal sin. His prayer was accepted, and he heard the words: “I grant thee thy wish.” From that time St. John never offended the Lord by a mortal sin, nor voluntarily by a venial one. St. Teresa, who lived at that period, said of him that he was a Saint, and had been one all his life. This renowned and holy virgin met St. John at Medina, and conferred with him about her desire to found houses for religious, who would live according to the original strict regulations of the Carmelites. John, who, in his eagerness to live in greater austerity, had thought of joining the Carthusian monks, asked St. Teresa's advice. She told him that it would be more agreeable to God, if he remained in his Order, and restored among the men the same primitive rigor which she was endeavoring to restore among the women. She added, that God had called him to this work. John took counsel with God and his confessor, and then resolved to follow St. Teresa's advice. He erected his first monastery on a farm which had been presented to him for this purpose; and God so visibly blest his undertaking, that he not only filled his house, in a short time, with zealous men, but was enabled also to found several other convents.

In these religious houses, all the inmates lived so holy and so austere a life, that many thought it was more to be admired than imitated. The Saint was an example to all, and one could hardly imagine a penance which he did not practise. He gave no ear to those who told him to moderate his severities, but said: “The narrow path leading to heaven cannot be travelled by me in a manner less austere.” The hardships he endured in founding his monasteries, and in restoring the severe regulations of the Order; the persecutions and wrongs he suffered, cannot be described in the short space allotted to us; yet in all these trials he was never despondent. The love of God possessed his heart so entirely, that he desired nothing but to labor and to suffer for His honor. The Lord asked him one day what recompense he desired for all his trouble and labor. “Nothing else, O Lord, but to suffer and to be despised for Thy sake,” was his answer. Three things he used to ask of the Almighty:—first, much work and much suffering; secondly, not to depart this life as a superior; thirdly, that he might live and die despised. So unusual a desire to suffer and to be despised, was the result of his meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and of his great love to God. This love was so intense, that his countenance was frequently seen radiant with a heavenly light, especially when he spoke of divine things. At the time of prayer, as well as during holy Mass, he often fell into ecstasy and was dissolved in tears. Our Lord once appeared to him in the same form as when He died for us on the Cross. This picture remained so indelibly imprinted on the Saint's memory, that it almost daily drew tears from his eyes. Into all those over whom he had the slightest influence he endeavored to instil a tender devotion to our crucified Lord, as well as to the Most Holy Trinity and to the Blessed Eucharist. His language to sinners was so forcible, that he converted even the most hardened. He was much aided in this by the gift which the Almighty had bestowed upon him, of reading the thoughts of the heart. Many who came to him were reproached with their secret sins, and admonished to reform their lives. He possessed also the gifts of prophecy, of driving out devils, and curing all kinds of diseases. Besides this, he had many visions of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, St. John, and Christ the Lord. Especially remarkable were the heavenly favors with which this great servant of the Almighty was comforted during an imprisonment of nine months, to which he was unjustly condemned. Christ appeared to him and said: “Behold! John, I am here! Fear not. I will rescue thee!” The Blessed Virgin, accompanied by a great many Saints, appeared to him, and said: “My son, be patient and endure; for your trials will soon give way to joy.” In another vision, she admonished him to escape from the prison, promising him her assistance; a promise which she also kept. St. Teresa, who, during her life, had been closely united with him, appeared also to him after her death, speaking to him most kindly. In his adversity she comforted him, and encouraged him to new labors for the honor of God.

The reward of all the work which the holy man had accomplished, as also of the trials and tribulations he had suffered, was at length bestowed upon him, in the year 1591, when he was in the forty-ninth year of his age. He was seized with fever, in the hermitage of Pegnuela, and was brought from there to Ubeda, according to his wish. He had an ulcer on that part of his right foot where the holy feet of our Lord were pierced with nails. To open it, the surgeon was obliged to make a deep incision. The pain thus caused was very great; but greater still was the patience of the Saint, who even rejoiced at bearing, in some manner, the image of the sufferings of Christ, and at having five wounds on one foot. God had already, some time previously, revealed to him the hour of his death; and the Blessed Virgin, whom the Saint had always especially honored, appeared to him on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, saying that she would come for him on the Sunday after the festival. When the physicians told him that his end was not far distant, he said, in the words of the Psalmist: “I was glad when they said unto me, We shall go up into the house of the Lord.” Half an hour before his death, he called all his religious to him, exhorted them to persevere in their zeal, and said: “My parting hour draws near.” After the usual prayers of the Church, he heard the bells ring for the midnight Matins. “I shall sing the Matins in Heaven,” said he; after which, taking the Crucifix, he kissed it most devoutly, and calmly ended his holy life, saying: “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul.” A large ball, as of fire, was seen above the dying Saint. After his death, his countenance beamed with a heavenly brightness, and was so beautiful that none grew weary of looking at him; while at the same time such delicious odor emanated from him, that the whole monastery was filled with it. The Almighty has carefully preserved his body incorrupt until this hour.

 

Another account of St. John of the Cross.

A.D. 1591

St. John, by his family name called Yepes, was youngest child of Gonzales of Yepes, and born at Fontibere, near Avila, in Old Castile, in 1642. With his mother's milk he sucked in the most tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and was preserved from many dangers by the visible protection of her intercession. The death of his father left his mother destitute of all succours with three little children, with whom she settled at Medina. John learned the first elements of letters at a college. The administrator of the hospital, delighted with his extraordinary piety, employed him in serving the sick; an office which was very agreeable to the devotion of the youth, who acquitted himself with the feeling of charity much above his years, especially when he exhorted the sick to acts of virtue. He practised, at the same time, excessive austerities, and continued his studies in the college of the Jesuits. At twenty-one years of age, to satisfy his devotion to the mother of God, he took the religious habit among the Carmelite friars at Medina, in 1563. Never did any novice give greater proofs of obedience, humility, fervour, and love of the cross. His zeal, far from abating after his novitiate, was continually upon the increase. When he arrived at Salamanca, in order to commence his higher studies, the austerities which he practised were excessive. He chose for his cell a little dark hole at the bottom of the dormitory. A hollow board, something like a grave, was his bed. He platted himself so rough a hair shirt, that, at the least motion, it pricked his body to blood. His fasts and other mortifications were incredible. By these means he studied to die to the world and to himself; but by assiduous prayer and contemplation, in silence and retirement, he gave wings to his soul. It was his desire to be a lay-brother, but this was refused him. He had distinguished himself in his course of theological studies, when, in 1567, being twenty-five years old, he was promoted to the priesthood. He prepared himself to offer his first sacrifice by humiliations, fasts, penitential tears, fervent prayers, and long meditations on the sufferings of our Divine Redeemer; deeply imprinting his precious wounds in his heart, and sacrificing himself, his will, and all his actions with his Saviour, in raptures of love and devotion. The graces which he received from the holy mysteries, inflamed him with a desire of greater retirement; for which purpose he deliberated with himself to enter the Order of the Carthusians.

St. Teresa was then busy in establishing her reformation of the Carmelites, and coming to Medina del Campo heard speak of the extraordinary virtue of brother John. Whereupon she desired to see him, admired his spirit, and told him that God had called him to sanctify himself in the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel: that she had received authority from the general to found two reformed houses of men, and that he himself should be the first instrument of so great a work. Soon after, she founded her first monastery of men in a poor house in the village of Durvelle. John, who had acquiesced in her proposal, entered this new Bethlehem, in a perfect spirit of sacrifice, and about two months after was joined by some others, who all renewed their profession on Advent Sunday, 1568. This was the beginning of the Barefooted Carmelite Friars, whose institute was approved by Pope Pius V, and in 1580, confirmed by Gregory XIII. So great were the austerities of these primitive Carmelites, that St. Teresa saw it necessary to prescribe them a mitigation. The odour of their sanctity in their poor obscure house spread over all Spain; and St. Teresa soon after established a second convent at Pastrane, and, in 1568, a third at Manreza, whither she translated that from Durvelle, and, in 1572, a fourth at Alcala. The example and the exhortations of St. John inspired the religious with a perfect spirit of solitude, humility, and mortification. His wonderful love of the cross appeared in all his actions, and it was by meditating continually on the sufferings of Christ that it increased daily in his soul: for love made him desire to resemble his crucified Redeemer in all manner of humiliations and sufferings. And Almighty God, to purify his heart from all natural weaknesses and attachments, made him to pass through the crucible by the most severe interior and exterior trials; which is his ordinary conduct toward those souls which he prepares to raise to an eminent sanctity, and to enrich with his extraordinary graces.

St. John, after tasting the first sweets of holy contemplation, found himself deprived of all sensible devotion. This spiritual dryness was followed by interior trouble of mind, scruples, and a disrelish of spiritual exercises, which yet he was careful never to forsake. The devils, at the same time, assaulted him with violent temptations, and men persecuted him by calumnies. But the most terrible of all these pains was that of scrupulosity and interior desolation, in which he seemed to see hell open, ready to swallow him up. He describes admirably what a soul feels in this trial, in his book called The Obscure Night. This state of interior desolation contemplative souls, in some degree or other, first pass through before their hearts are prepared to receive the communication of God's special graces. By it our saint obtained a perfect poverty and nakedness of spirit, freed from all the refined passions of self-love, and an excellent conformity to the holy will of God, which can only be built on the destruction of self-will, a heroic patience, and a courageous perseverance. After some time, certain rays of light, comfort, and divine sweetness scattered these mists, and translated the soul of the servant of God into a paradise of interior delights and heavenly sweetness. This was again succeeded by another more grievous trial of spiritual darkness which spread itself over his soul, accompanied with interior pains and temptations, in which God seemed to have forsaken him, and to be become deaf to his sighs and tears. So violent was his sorrow in this state of privation, that it seemed he must have died of grief if God had not supported him by his grace. In the calm which followed this terrible tempest he was wonderfully repaid in divine comforts. Surrounded with a new light, he saw clearly the incomparable advantages of suffering—especially by the severest interior trials; he saw how by them the soul is purified from imperfections; he now enjoyed a continual sweet presence of God, was always recollected, and felt in his heart a most ardent love of God, and vehement desire to imitate Jesus Christ in his sufferings, to carry his cross, to meet him under his humiliations, and to serve his neighbour for his sake; he found in himself an invincible courage, enjoyed a sovereign peace, and was often raised to the divine union in sweet love, which is the sublimest elevation of supernatural contemplation. He never received any extraordinary favour which was not preceded by some great tribulation; which is an ordinary conduct of the sweet providence of God in regard to his servants for their great spiritual advantage. God, in the sensible visits of his grace, draws a soul by his charms to run in the sweet paths of his love; but her virtue is chiefly perfected by tribulations. The brilliant diamond receives from the hammer and chisel its lustre and polish. Trials were, by grace, the chief instruments of the admirable perfection to which our saint arrived. St. Teresa made use of him to impart the spirit of her reform to the religious in all the houses which she established. The convent in which she had made her first profession, at Avila, had always opposed her reformation. Yet the Bishop of Avila thought it necessary that she should be made prioress there, to retrench at least the frequent visits of seculars. She sent for St. John, and appointed him the spiritual director of this house, in 1576. He soon engaged them to shut up their parlours, and to cut off the scandalous abuses which were inconsistent with a religious life of retirement and penance. Many seculars likewise put themselves under his direction, and he preached the word of God with wonderful unction and fruit. But God would be glorified by his sufferings, and to make them the more sensible to him, permitted his own brethren to be the instruments thereof, as Christ himself was betrayed by a disciple. The old Carmelite friars looked on this reformation, though undertaken with the licence and approbation of the general, given to St. Teresa, as a rebellion against their Order; and, in their chapter at Placentia, condemned St. John as a fugitive and an apostate. This resolution being taken, they sent soldiers and sergeants, who broke open his door and tumultuously carried him to the prison of his convent; and, knowing the veneration which the people at Avila had for his person, removed him from thence to Toledo, where he was locked up in a dark noisome cell, into which no light had admittance but through a little hole three fingers broad. Scarce any other nourishment was allowed him during nine months which he remained there, but bread, a little fish called sardines, and water. He was released after nine months by the credit of St. Teresa, and by the protection of the mother of God. In this destitute condition he had been favoured with many heavenly comforts, which made him afterwards say, “Be not surprised if I show so great a love for sufferings; God gave me a high idea of their merit and value when I was in the prison of Toledo.”

He had no sooner recovered his liberty but he was made superior of the little convent of Calvary, situate in a desert, and, in 1579, founded that of Baëza. In 1581, he was chosen prior of Granada; in 1585, vicar-provincial of Andalusia; and, in 1588, first definitor of the Order. He founded at the same time the convent of Segovia. In all his employments, the austerities which he practised seemed to exceed bounds; and he only slept two or three hours in a night, employing the rest in prayer, in presence of the blessed sacrament. He showed always the most sincere and profound humility, and even love of abjection, an inimitable fervour and zeal for all the exercises of religion, and an insatiable desire of suffering. He used to say, “To suffer for the sake of God is the true characteristic of his love, as we see in Christ and in the martyrs. And persecutions are the means to enter into the depth, or attain to the knowledge, of the mystery of the cross, a necessary condition for comprehending the depth of the wisdom of God, and of his love.” Hearing Christ once say to him, “John, what recompense dost thou ask of thy labours?” He answered, “Lord, I ask no other recompense than to suffer and be condemned for thy love.” At the very name of the cross he fell into an ecstacy, in the presence of mother Anne of Jesus. Three things he frequently asked of God: 1st, That he might not pass one day of his life without suffering something; 2ndly, That he might not die superior; 3rdly, That he might end his life in humiliation, disgrace, and contempt. The very name of the sufferings of Christ, or sight of a crucifix, threw him into raptures of sweet love, and made him melt in tears. The passion of our Redeemer was the usual subject of his meditations, and ho exceedingly recommends the same to others in his writings. He was frequently so absorbed in God that he was obliged often to offer violence to himself to treat of temporal affairs, and sometimes, when called out from prayer, was incapable of doing it. Coming to himself from sudden raptures, he would cry out with words, as it were of fire. “Let us take wing and fly on high. What do we do here, dear brethren? Let us go to eternal life.” This love appeared in a certain brightness which darted from his countenance on many occasions, especially when he came from the altar or from prayer. A person of distinction was one day so moved with the sight of it, perceiving the heavenly light of his face to dazzle his eyes, and pierce his heart with divine love, that on the spot he took a resolution to renounce the world, and embraced the Order of St. Dominick. A lady coming to confession to him was so struck with a heavenly light which shone from his countenance and penetrated her soul, that she immediately laid aside her jewels and gaudy attire, and consecrated herself to God in strict retirement, to the astonishment of the whole city of Segovia. His heart seemed an immense fire of love (to use his expression in his Flame of Divine Love), which could not contain itself within his breast, but showed itself by these exterior marks. His love of his neighbour was no less wonderful, especially towards the poor, the sick, and sinners; his continual tenderness and affection for his enemies, and the benefactions and kindness with which he always studied to return good for evil, were most admirable. For fear of contracting any attachments to earthly things, he was a rigorous observer and lover of poverty. All the furniture of his little cell or chamber consisted in a paper image and a cross made of rushes, and he would have the meanest beads and breviary, and wear the most threadbare habit he could get. A profound sentiment of religion made him bear an extreme respect to whatever be longed, even remotely, to churches, or to the service of God. The same motive of the honour of God sanctified all his actions. He employed many hours every day and night in prayer, and often before the blessed sacrament, with extraordinary fervour. True devotion he described to be humble, not loving to be lofty; silent, not active; without attachment to anything; without singularity or presumption; full of distrust in itself; following with ardour simple and common rules. In 1591, the chapter of his Order met at Madrid, in which St. John opposed too severe measures used in the punishment of disobedience against Father Gratian, who had been a great assistant to St. Teresa; and likewise strenuously spoke against a motion supported by some of the chiefs, for casting off the direction of the Teresian nuns. This gave offence to some whom envy and jealousy had indisposed against him, and by their means the servant of God was thrust out of all employments in his Order. It was with joy that he saw himself in disgrace and at liberty, and retired into the little solitary convent of Pegnuela, in the mountains of Sierra Morena.

God was pleased to finish his martyrdom by a second grievous persecution from his own brethren before his death. His banishment to Pegnuela he thought his happiness, and always excused and commended father commissary and the other authors of his disgrace, and hindered all others from writing to the vicar-general of the injustices done him. There were in the Order two fathers of great authority, who declared themselves his implacable enemies, harbouring malice and envy in their breasts, which they cloaked under the sanctified name of holy zeal. They were puffed up with an opinion of their learning, and with the applause which they acquired by their talents in the pulpit, on which pretence they neglected all the duties of their rule. In the saint's disgrace, one of them, called F. Diego Evangelista, ran over the whole province to beg and trump up accusations against the servant of God, and boasted that he had sufficient proofs to have him expelled the Order. The saint said nothing all this while, only that he was ready to receive with joy any punishment. Everybody at that time forsook him; all were afraid of seeming to have any commerce with him, and burnt the letters which they had received from him, lest they might be involved in his disgrace. St. John had no other comfort or refuge but prayer, in which the abundant consolations of the Holy Ghost rendered his sufferings sweet to him. This storm ceased when the informations of Diego were laid before the superiors; for had they been all true, they amounted to nothing which deserved any chastisement. The sweetness of the divine love and peace which overflowed the soul of the servant of God all this time, filled him with interior joy, which increased in proportion as he was more abandoned by creatures. “The soul of one who serves God,” says the saint, “always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, is always in her palace of jubilation, ever singing with fresh ardour and fresh pleasure, a new song of joy and love.”

St. John, living in the practice of extreme austerities, and in continual contemplation, fell sick, and when he could no longer conceal his distemper, the provincial ordered him to leave Pegnuela, that place being destitute of all relief, and gave him the choice either to go to Baëza or to Ubeda. The first was a very convenient convent, and had for prior an intimate friend of the saint. The other was poor, and F. Franois Chrysostom was prior there, the other person whom he had formerly corrected, and who was no less his enemy than F. Diego. The love of suffering made St. John prefer this house of Ubeda. The fatigue of his journey had caused his leg to swell exceedingly, and it burst in many places from the heel quite to the knee, besides five ulcers or wounds under his foot. He suffered excessive pains from the violence of the inflammation, and from the frequent incisions and operations of the surgeons, from the top to the bottom of his leg. His fever all this time allowed him no rest. These racking pains he suffered three whole months with admirable patience, in continual peace, tranquillity, and joy, never making the least complaint, but often embracing the crucifix, and pressing it close upon his breast when the pain was very sharp. The unworthy prior treated him with the utmost inhumanity, forbade any one to be admitted to see him, changed the infirmarian because he served him with tenderness, locked him up in a little cell, made him continual harsh reproaches, and would not allow anything but the hardest bread and food, refusing him even what seculars sent in for him; all which the saint suffered with joy in his countenance. God himself was pleased to complete his sacrifice, and abandoned him for some time to a great spiritual dryness, and a state of interior desolation. But his love and patience were the more heroic. God likewise stretched out his hand to bring the dove into the ark when she seemed almost sinking in the waters, overwhelming his chaste soul again with the torrent of his delights with which he so often strengthened the martyrs, converting their torments into pleasures. The provincial happening to come to Ubeda a few days before his death, was grieved to see this barbarous usage, opened the door of his cell, and said, that such an example of invincible patience and virtue ought to be public, not only to his religious brethren, but to the whole world. The prior of Ubeda opened his eyes, begged the saint's pardon, received his instructions for the government of his community, and afterwards accused and condemned himself with many tears. As for the saint himself, we cannot give a better description of the situation of his holy soul in his last moments than in his own words, where he speaks of the death of a saint, “Perfect love of God makes death welcome, and most sweet to a soul. They who love thus, die with burning ardours and impetuous flights, through the vehemence of their desires of mounting up to their beloved. The rivers of love in the heart, now swell almost beyond all bounds, being just going to enter the ocean of love. So vast and so serene are they that they seem even now calm seas, and the soul overflows with torrents of joy, upon the point of entering into the full possession of God. She seems already to behold that glory, and all things in her seem already turned into love, seeing there remains no other separation than a thin web, the prison of the body being almost broken.” Though the Holy Ghost varies his operations and gifts in his servants, this seems the exact portraiture of the soul of our saint upon the point of leaving this world. Two hours before he died he repeated aloud the Miserere psalm with his brethren; then he desired one to read to him part of the book of Canticles, appearing himself in transports of joy. He at length cried out, “Glory be to God;” pressed the crucifix on his breast, and after some time said, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my soul;” with which words he calmly breathed forth his soul on the 14th of December, in 1591, being forty-nine years old, of which he had spent twenty-eight in a religious state. Almighty God exalted him after his death by several miracles; amongst which the cure of a nun of the Annunciation, at Neuf-Chateau, in Lorrain, struck with a palsy, in 1705, effected on the ninth day of a Novena of devotion to this saint, was juridically proved in the court of the Bishop of Toul. St. John was canonized by Benedict XIII, in 1726, and his office in the Roman Breviary was appointed on this 24th of November. His body remains at Segovia. A history of his revelations, and many miracles, with an exact account of his writings, and mystical theology, may be read in his life by F. Dositheus of Alexis.

The spirit of Christianity is the spirit of the cross. To attain to, and to live by pure love, we must live and die upon the cross, or at least in the spirit of the cross. Jesus merited all the graces we receive by suffering for us; and it is by suffering with him that we are best prepared to be enriched with them. Hence afflictions are part of the portion which, together with the hundred-fold of his consolations, he has promised to his most beloved servants. His most holy and innocent mother bore a large share in all his sufferings. His apostles and other most faithful servants, in proportion to the high degree in which they stood in his favour, drank of this cup. Those souls which he has raised to the highest degree of familiarity in this life, he always prepared for that grace by severe trials. But in the divine love they found a recompense, which richly paid them for all its cost, this love being its own present reward, as it is a fire which is its own fuel.

Taken from: The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876;
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.

 

November 24, 2022: St. Chrysogonus, Martyr.

 

St. John of the Cross, pray for us.

 

Nov. 24, 2022

November 24, 2022: COMMEMORATION OF ST. CHRYSOGONUS, MARTYR

This saint esteeming worldly joys, as pleasing cheats, deceitful toys, and bitter too with secret gall, nobly for heaven scorned them all.

 

Prayer (Collect).

Give ear, O God, to our prayers, that we, who in all humility acknowledge the guilt of our offences, may, by the prayers of blessed Chrysogonus, thy Martyr, be delivered from the burden of our sins. 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.

 

St. Chrysogonus was arrested at Rome in the persecution of Diocletian, and put in prison. St. Anastasia, a holy Roman lady, corresponded with him by letter, as to her conduct towards an unbelieving husband. He was conducted to Aquileja, where Diocletian then was, and was there executed. His head is shown enshrined in the church of his dedication at Rome, but his body is preserved at Venice.

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

 

November 24, 2022: St. John of the Cross, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.

 

St. Chrysogonus, pray for us.

 

Nov. 23, 2022

November 23, 2022: ST. CLEMENT I, POPE AND MARTYR

Rank: Double.

 

My words, saith the Lord, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thence: and thy offerings shall be pleasing on my altar.

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God who, by the yearly solemnity of blessed Clement, 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 memory of St. Clement has been surrounded with a peculiar glory from the very beginning of the Roman Church. After the death of the Apostles, he seems to eclipse Linus and Cletus, although these preceded him in the Pontificate. We pass as it were naturally from Peter to Clement; and the East celebrates his memory with no less honor than the West. He was in truth the universal Pontiff, and his acts as well as his writings are renowned throughout the entire Church. This widespread reputation caused numbers of apocryphal writings to be attributed to him, which, however, it is easy to distinguish from his own. But it is remarkable that all the falsifiers who have thought fit to put his name to their own works, or to invent stories concerning him, agree in declaring that he was of imperial descent.

With only one exception, all the documents which attest Clement’s intervention in the affairs of distant churches have perished with time; but the one that remains shows us in full action the monarchical power of the Bishop of Rome at that primitive epoch. The church of Corinth was disturbed with intestine quarrels, caused by jealousy against certain pastors. These divisions, the germ of which had appeared even in St. Paul’s time, had destroyed all peace, and were causing scandal to the very pagans. The Corinthians at last felt the necessity of putting an end to a disorder which might be prejudicial to the extension of the Christian faith; and for this purpose it was requisite to seek assistance from outside. The Apostles had all departed this life, except St. John, who was still the light of the Church. It was no great distance form Corinth to Ephesus, where the Apostle resided: yet it was not to Ephesus but to Rome that the Church of Corinth turned. Clement examined the case referred to his judgment by that Church, and sent to Corinth five commissaries to represent the Apostolic See. They were bearers of a letter, which St. Irenæus calls potentissimas litteras. It was considered at the time so beautiful and so apostolic, that it was long read in many churches as a sort of continuation of the canonical Scriptures. Its tone is dignified but paternal, according to St. Peter’s advice to pastors. There is nothing in it of a domineering spirit; but the grave and solemn language bespeaks the universal pastor, whom none can disobey without disobeying God himself. These words so solemn and so firm wrought the desired effect: peace was reestablished in the church of Corinth, and the messengers of the Roman Pontiff soon brought back the happy news. A century later, St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, expressed to Pope St. Soter the gratitude still felt by his flock towards St. Clement for the service he had rendered.

Brought up in the school of the Apostles, Clement had retained their style and manner. These are visible in his two Letters to virgins, which are mentioned by St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome, and were found in the eighteenth century translated into Syriac, in a manuscript brought from Aleppo. …The principle of chastity being vowed to God was, from the very beginning, one of the bases of Christianity, and one of the most effectual means for the transformation of the world. Christ himself had praised the superior merit of this sacrifice; and St. Paul, comparing the two states of life, taught that the virgin is wholly taken up with our Lord, while the married woman, whatever her dignity, is divided. Clement had to develop this doctrine, and he did so in these two letters. Anticipating those great doctors of Christian virginity, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustin, he developed the teachings of St. Peter and St. Paul on this important subject. “He or she,” he says, “who aspires to this higher life, must lead like the Angels an existence all divine and heavenly. The virgin cuts herself off from the allurements of the senses; not only does she renounce the right to their even lawful use, but she aspires to that hope which God, who can never deceive, encourages by his promise, and which far surpasses the natural hope of posterity. In return for her generous sacrifice, her portion in heaven is the very happiness of the Angels.”…

Thus spoke the disciple chosen by St. Peter to set his hand to the task of renovating Rome. It needed no less than this strong doctrine, in order to combat the depraved manners of the Empire. Had Christianity been satisfied with inviting men to honor, as the Philosophers had done, its efforts would have been to no purpose. Stoicism, by exciting great pride, could bring some men even to despise death; but it was utterly powerless against sensuality, which we must own to have been the strongest auxiliary to the tyranny of the Cæsars. The ideal of chastity, thrown into the midst of that dissolute society, could alone arrest the ignominious torrent that threatened to submerge all human dignity. Happily for the world, Christian morality succeeded in gaining ground; and, its maxims being followed up by striking examples, it at length forced itself upon the public notice. Roman corruption was amazed to hear of virginity being held in honor and practiced by a great many followers of the new religion; and that at a time when the greatest privileges and the most terrible chastisements could scarcely keep to their duty the six vestals, upon whose fidelity depended the honor and the safety of the city…

The time, however, was at hand, when the emperors, the senate, and all Rome, were to learn from the first Apology of St. Justin the marvels of purity concealed within that Babylon of iniquity. “Among us, in this city,” said the Apologist, “there are many men and women who have reached the age of sixty or seventy years; brought up from infancy under the law of Christ, they have persevered to this day in the state of virginity; and there is not a country where I could not point out many such.” Athenagorus, in a memorial presented a few years later to Marcus Aurelius, was able to say in like manner: “You will find among us a multitude of persons, both men and women, who have passed their life up to old age in the state of virginity, having no ambition but to unite themselves more intimately to God.”

Clement was predestined to the glory of martyrdom; he was banished to the Chersonesus on the Black Sea. The Acts, which relate the details of his sufferings, are of very great antiquity; we shall not here enter into discussions concerning them. They tell us how Clement found in the peninsula a considerable number of Christians already transported there and employed in working the rich and abundant marble quarries. The joy of these Christians on seeing Clement is easily conceived; his zeal in propagating the faith in this far-off country, and the success of his apostolate, are no matter for surprise. The miracle of a fountain springing from the rock at Clement’s word, to quench the thirst of the Confessors, is a fact analogous to hundreds of others related in the most authentic Acts of the Saints. Lastly, the apparition of the mysterious Lamb upon the mountain, marking with his foot the spot whence the water was to flow, carries back the mind to the earliest Christian mosaics, on which may still be seen the symbol of the lamb standing on a green hillock.

In the ninth century St. Cyril, apostle of the Slavs, discovered near Cherson the precious remains of the martyr-pontiff. Clement was brought back to Rome; and the great church which had hitherto, according to St. Jerome, preserved the memory of his name, henceforth possessed a still richer treasure. The very memory, however, was of great value for science no less than for piety: on the testimony of ancient traditions, this church was built on the site of St. Clement’s old home in the region of Monte Cœlio, which we know from other sources to have been the quarter preferred by the Roman aristocracy of the period…

 

It is time to read the liturgical account of the great Pope of the first century.

Clement was a Roman by birth, son of Faustinus who dwelt in the region of Monte Cœlio. He was a disciple of blessed Peter; and is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, in these words: I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. He divided Rome into seven regions, appointing a notary for each, who was to ascertain and record with the greatest care the acts and sufferings of the martyrs. He wrote many useful and learned works, such as did honor to the Christian name.

He converted many to the faith of Christ by his learning and holiness of life, and was on that account banished by the emperor Trajan to the desert of Cherson beyond the Black Sea. Here he found two thousand Christians, likewise banished by Trajan, who were employed in quarrying marble. Seeing them suffering from want of water, Clement betook himself to prayer, and then ascended a neighboring hill, on the summit of which he saw a Lamb, pointing out with his right foot a spring of sweet water. At this source they all quenched their thirst; and many infidels were converted by the miracle, and began to revere Clement as a Saint.

On hearing this Trajan was enraged, and sent officers with orders to cast Clement into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. After the execution of this sentence, as the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea began to recede for the distance of three miles; on approaching they found a small building of marble, in the form of a temple wherein lay the martyr’s body in a stone coffin, and beside it the anchor with which he had been drowned. The inhabitants of the country were so astounded at the miracle, that they were led to embrace the Christian faith. The holy body was afterwards translated to Rome, under Pope Nicholas I and deposited in the church of St. Clement. A church was also built and dedicated in his honor on that spot in the island where the miraculous fountain had sprung up. He held the pontificate nine years, six months, and six days. In two ordinations in the month of December, he made ten priests, two deacons, and fifteen bishops for divers places.

 

Another account of Pope St. Clement I.

A.D. 100

St. Clement, the son of Faustinus, a Roman by birth, was of Jewish extraction; for he tells us himself, that he was of the race of Jacob. He was converted to the faith by St. Peter or St. Paul, and was so constant in his attendance on these apostles, and so active in assisting them in their ministry, that St. Jerom and other fathers call him an apostolic man; St. Clement of Alexandria styles him an apostle; and Rufinus, almost an apostle. Some authors attribute his conversion to St. Peter, whom he met at Cӕsarea with St. Barnabas; but he attended St. Paul at Philippi in 62, and shared in his sufferings there. We are assured by St. Chrysostom, that he was a companion of this latter, with SS. Luke and Timothy, in many of his apostolic journeys, labours, and dangers. St. Paul (Phil, iv. 3) calls him his fellow-labourer, and ranks him among those whose names are written in the book of life; a privilege and matter of joy far beyond the power of commanding devils (St. Luke, x. 17). St. Clement followed St. Paul to Rome, where he also heard St. Peter preach, and was instructed in his school, as St. Irenӕus and Pope Zosimus testify. Tertullian tells us that St. Peter ordained him bishop, by which some understand that he made him a bishop of nations, to preach the gospel in many countries; others, with Epiphanius, that he made him his vicar at Rome, with an episcopal character to govern that church during his absence in his frequent missions. Others suppose he might at first be made bishop of the Jewish church in that city. After the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Linus was appointed Bishop of Rome, and, after eleven years, succeeded by St. Cletus. Upon his demise, in 89, or rather in 91, St. Clement was placed in the apostolic chair. According to the Liberian Calendar he sat nine years, eleven months, and twenty days.

At Corinth, an impious and detestable division, as our saint called it, happened amongst the faithful, like that which St. Paul had appeased in the same church; and a party rebelled against holy and irreproachable priests, and presumed to depose them. It seems to have been soon after the death of Domitian, in 96, that St. Clement, in the name of the church of Rome, wrote to them his excellent epistle, a piece highly extolled and esteemed in the primitive church as an admirable work, as Eusebius calls it. It was placed in rank next to the canonical books of the holy scriptures, and with them read in the churches. Whence it was found in the very ancient Alexandrian manuscript copy of the Bible, which Cyril Lucaris sent to our King James I, from which Patrick Young, the learned keeper of that king's library, published it at Oxford in 1633. St. Clement begins his letter by conciliating the benevolence of those who were at variance, tenderly putting them in mind, how edifying their behaviour was when they were all humble-minded, not boasting of any thing, desiring rather to be subject than to govern, to give than to receive, content with the portion God had dispensed to them, listening diligently to his word, having an insatiable desire of doing good, and a plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon all of them. At that time they were sincere, without offence, not mindful of injuries, and all sedition and schism was an abomination to them. The saint laments that they had then forsaken the fear of the Lord, and were fallen into pride, envy, strife, and sedition; and pathetically exhorts them to lay aside all pride and anger, for Christ is theirs who are humble, and not theirs who exalt themselves. The sceptre of the majesty of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the show of pride, though he could have done so; but with humility. He bids them look up to the Creator of the world, and think how gentle and patient he is towards his whole creation; also with what peace it all obeys his will, and the heavens, earth, impassable ocean, and worlds beyond it, are governed by the commands of this great master. Considering how near God is to us, and that none of our thoughts are hid from him, how ought we never to do any thing contrary to his will, and honour them who are set over us! showing with a sincere affection of meekness, and manifesting the government of our tongues by a love of silence. “Let your children,” says the saint, “be bred up in the instruction of the Lord, and learn how great a power humility has with God, how much a pure and holy charity avails with him, and how excellent and great his fear is.”

It appears by what follows, that some at Corinth boggled at the belief of a resurrection of the flesh, which the saint beautifully shows to be easy to the Almighty power, and illustrates by the vine which sheds its leaves, then buds, spreads its leaves, flowers, and afterwards produces first sour grapes, then ripe fruit; by the morning rising from night; and corn brought forth from seed. The saint adds a strong exhortation to shake off all sluggishness and laziness, for it is only the good workman who receives the bread of his labour. “We must hasten,” says he, “with all earnestness and readiness of mind, to perfect every good work, labouring with cheerfulness; for even the Creator and Lord of all things rejoices in his own works.” The latter part of this epistle is a pathetic recommendation of humility, peace, and charity. “Let every one,” says the saint, “be subject to another, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God. Let not the strong man neglect the care of the weak; let the weak see that he reverence the strong. Let the rich man distribute to the necessity of the poor, and let the poor bless God who giveth him one to supply his want. Let the wise man show forth his wisdom, not in words, but in good works. Let him that is humble, never speak of himself, or make show of his actions. Let him that is pure in the flesh, not grow proud of it, knowing that it was another who gave him the gift of continence. They who are great cannot yet subsist without those that are little; nor the little without the great. In our body, the head without the feet is nothing; neither the feet without the head. And the smallest members of our body are yet both necessary and useful to the whole.” Thus the saint teaches that the lowest in the church may be the greatest before God, if they are most faithful in the discharge of their respective duties. St. Clement puts pastors and superiors in mind, that, with trembling and humility, they should have nothing but the fear of God in view, and take no pleasure in their own power and authority. “Let us,” says he, “pray for all such as fall into any trouble or distress; that being endued with humility and moderation, they may submit, not to us, but to the will of God.” Fortunatus, who is mentioned by St. Paul, was come from the church of Corinth to Rome, to inform that holy see of their unhappy schism. St. Clement says, he had dispatched four messengers to Corinth with him, and adds, “Send them back to us again with all speed in peace and joy, that they may the sooner acquaint us with your peace and concord, so much prayed for and desired by us; and that we may rejoice in your good order.”

We have a large fragment of a second epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians, found in the same Alexandrian manuscript of the Bible; from which circumstance it appears to have been also read like the former in many churches, which St. Dionysius of Corinth expressly testifies of that church, though it was not so celebrated among the ancients as the other. In it our saint exhorts the faithful to despise this world and its false enjoyments, and to have those which are promised us always before our eyes; to pursue virtue with all our strength, and its peace will follow us with the inexpressible delights of the promise of what is to come. The necessity of perfectly subduing both the irascible and concupiscible passions of our soul, he lays down as the foundation of a Christian life, words which St. Clement of Alexandria enforces and illustrates. Besides these letters of St. Clement to the Corinthians, two others have been lately discovered, which are addressed to spiritual eunuchs, or virgins. Of these St. Jerom speak when he says of certain epistles of St Clement, “In the epistles which Clement, the successor of the Apostle Peter, wrote to them, that is, to such eunuchs, almost his whole discourse turns upon the excellence of virginity.” … These letters are not unworthy this great disciple of St. Peter; and in them the counsels of St. Paul concerning celibacy and virginity are explained, that state is pathetically recommended, without prejudice to the honour due to the holy state of marriage; and the necessity of shunning all familiarity with persons of a different sex, and the like occasions of incontinence is set in a true light.

St. Clement with patience and prudence got through the persecution of Domitian. Nerva's peaceable reign being very short, the tempest increased under Trajan, who, even from the beginning of his reign, never allowed the Christian assemblies. It was in the year 100, that the third general persecution was raised by him, which was the more afflicting, as this reign was in other respects generally famed for justice and moderation. Rufin, Pope Zosimus, and the council of Bazas in 452, expressly style St. Clement a martyr. In the ancient canon of the Roman mass, he is ranked among the martyrs. Eusebius tells us, that St. Clement departed this life in the third year of Trajan, of Christ 100… When the Emperor Lewis Debonnair founded the great abbey of Cava, in Abruzzo, four miles from Salerno, in 872, he enriched it with the relics of St. Clement, pope and martyr, which Pope Adrian sent him, as is related at length in the chronicle of that abbey, with a history of many miracles. These relics remain there to this day. The ancient Church of St. Clement in Rome, in which St. Gregory the Great preached several of his homilies, still retains part of his relics. It was repaired by Clement XI, but still shows entire the old structure of Christian churches, divided into three parts, the narthex, the ambo, and the sanctuary.

St. Clement inculcates, that the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of perfect disengagement from the things of this world. “We must,” says he, “look upon all the things of this world, as none of ours, and not desire them. This world and that to come are two enemies. We cannot, therefore, be friends to both; but we must resolve which we would forsake, and which we would enjoy. And we think, that it is better to hate the present things, as little, short-lived, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, which are truly good and incorruptible. Let us contend with all earnestness, knowing that we are now called to the combat.—Let us run in the strait road, the race that is incorruptible.—This is what Christ saith: keep your bodies pure, and your souls without spot, that ye may receive eternal life.”

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
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.

 

November 23, 2022: St. Felicitas, Martyr.

 

Pope St. Clement I, pray for us.

 

Nov. 23, 2022

November 23, 2022: COMMEMORATION OF ST. FELICITAS, MARTYR

“Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her works praise her in the gates.”
(Prov, xxxi. 31)

Prayer (Collect).

Grant we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that by celebrating the feast of blessed Felicitas, thy Martyr, we may be protected by her merits and prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

On the 10th July we honoured St. Felicitas, mother of the Martyrs, giving a second and heavenly birth to her seven sons. But her own recompense was delayed for four long months. The Church has inscribed her name on the sacred diptychs; let us, then, again offer her our prayers and praises on this day, whereon the sword at length fulfilled her desires, and in justification of her name, restored her to her sons in eternal felicity.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.

 

November 23, 2022: St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr.

 

St. Felicitas, pray for us.