January 20, 2018: ST. VINCENT (Part I)
January 20, 2018: SS. VINCENT AND ANASTASIUS, MARTYRS
(Part I - St. Vincent of Saragossa, Martyr)
The day of triumph has dawned, the honoured day that brings us the Deacon’s Feast. Therefore, let us all be glad, and venerate our Vincent victorious in Christ.
He is called Vincent, and he proves that his name was prophetic of his deeds: vanquishing on land, and vanquishing on sea, every insult, pain, and fear.
Hail, Victorious Deacon! How beautiful art thou, with the Chalice of salvation in thy brave hands! It was thine office to offer it at the Altar, in order that the wine it contained might be changed, by the sacred words, into the Blood of Christ; and, when the Mystery was accomplished, thou hadst to take this same Chalice, and present it to the Faithful, to the end that they who thirsted after their God, might drink at the source of eternal life. But, on this day, thou offerest it thyself to Jesus, and it is full to the brim with thine own blood. Oh! how faithful a Deacon! giving even thy very life in testimony to the Mysteries of which thou wast the dispenser.
Three centuries had elapsed since Stephen’s sacrifice; sixty years had gone by since the sweet incense of Laurence’s martyrdom had ascended to the throne of God; and now, it is the last persecution—peace is dawning on the Church—and a third Deacon comes to prove that time had not impaired the Order—it was the Deacon of Saragossa—thyself, dear Saint!
Ant. For of such is the kingdom of heaven; they despised the life of the world, and attained to the rewards of the kingdom, and washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just.
℟. And glory, all ye right of heart.
Let Us Pray.
Hear, O Lord, our earnest prayers, that we who are sensible of the guilt of our crimes, may be delivered therefrom by the prayers of the blessed Martyrs, Vincent and Anastasius. 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.
Vincent, the Victorious, vested in the sacred dalmatic, and holding his palm in his hand, comes, today, to his Jesus' Crib, and right welcome is he to Stephen, the Crowned, his leader and his brother. Spain is his country. He is a Deacon of the glorious Church of Saragossa, and, by the strength and warmth of his faith, he is a type of that land, which is, by excellence, the Catholic Kingdom. But he does not belong to Spain only: like Stephen, and like Laurence, Vincent is the favourite and hero of the whole Church. Stephen, the Deacon, preached the divinity of Jesus amidst the shower of stones which were hurled upon him as a blasphemer; Vincent, the Deacon, confessed his faith in Jesus upon his red-hot gridiron, as did that other Deacon, Laurence. This triumvirate of Martyr-Deacons cluster together in the sacred Litany, and when we hear their three grand names, the Crown, the Laurel, and the Conqueror, we hail them as the three bravest Knights of our most dear Lord.
Vincent triumphed over the torture of fire, because the flame of divine love which burned within his soul, was keener than that which scorched his body. He was comforted, in the most miraculous manner, during his great sufferings; but God worked these prodigies, not to deprive Vincent of his crown, but to show his own power. The holy Deacon had but one thought, in the midst of all his pains—he was ambitious to make a return, by the gift of his own life, for that sacrifice whereby his divine Master had died for him and for all men. And now, that so generous a lover of God should be at the Crib of this same Jesus—is it not right and just? Oh! how he urges us, every Christmas, to love this Divine Infant! He that hesitated not, when called on to give himself to his Lord, even though it was to cost him such cruel pains—what cowards would he not call us, who can come so many Christmases to Bethlehem, and have nothing to give, but cold and divided hearts! His sacrifice was to be burnt alive, and torn, and cut, and he smiled as he gave it: what are we to say of ourselves, who take years to think before we will give up those childish things, which prevent us from ever seriously beginning a new life, with our new-born Jesus! Would that the sight of all these Martyrs, in whose company the Church has made us live during these few last days, would touch our hearts, and make them resolute and simple!
There is an ancient christian tradition, which makes St. Vincent the patron of vineyards and labourers in vineyards. This was, no doubt, suggested by the Saint's having held the office of Deacon; for the Deacon has to pour wine into the chalice during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and that wine is to be changed into the Blood of Christ. A few days ago, we assisted at the mystery of the Feast at Cana: Jesus then offered us the sacred cup, the wine of his love: to-day, again, he offers it to us by the hand of his Martyr Vincent. To make himself worthy of his high office, the holy Deacon mingled his own blood, as a generous wine, in the cup that holds the price of the world's salvation. It is thus that we are to understand that expression of St. Paul, which says, that the Saints fill up, in the flesh, by the merit of their sufferings, those things that are wanting, not in their efficacy, but in their fulness, of the sufferings of Christ (Coloss, i. 24), whose members the Saints are.
We will now give the abridged account of the martyrdom of St. Vincent, as it is related in the Lessons of his Feast.
Vincent was born at Huesca, a town of northern Spain, and, when quite a child, applied himself to study. He was taught the sacred sciences by Valerius, the Bishop of Saragossa. This prelate intrusted him with the duty of preaching the Gospel, on account of himself not being able to discharge that office, by reason of an impediment in his speech. This having reached the ears of Dacian, who had been made governor of that province by Dioclesian and Maximian, Vincent was apprehended at Saragossa, and was led in chains to Valencia, before the judgment-seat of Dacian. There he was tortured by lashes and the rack, in the presence of many people; but neither the violence of the torments, nor the harsh or bland speeches addressed to him, could induce him to swerve from his resolution. He was therefore laid on a gridiron, which was set upon burning coals; his flesh was torn off with iron hooks, and red-hot plates were laid over him. After this, he was led back to prison, the floor of which had been strewed with broken potsherds, in order that when he lay down to sleep, his body might be tortured by their sharp edges.
But, whilst he was shut up in this dark prison, a most bright light penetrated the place. They who were present, were astonished beyond measure, and the gaoler informed Dacian of what had occurred. Vincent was then ordered to be taken out of prison, and put on a soft bed; for the governor thought to gain over by such comforts as this, him whom he had failed to seduce by tortures. But Vincent's invincible spirit, strengthened by its faith and hope in Christ Jesus, overcame all their efforts; and after triumphing over fire, and sword, and all his tortures, took his flight to heaven, there to receive the crown of martyrdom, on the eleventh of the Calends of February (January 22). His body was thrown on a marsh, and denied burial; but a crow miraculously defended it, by its claws, beak, and wings, against birds of prey and a wolf. Dacian, hearing this, ordered it to be thrown into a deep part of the sea: but, by a fresh prodigy, it was washed to the shore, and the Christians gave it burial.
A detailed account of heroic Martyrdom of St. Vincent.
The most glorious martyr St. Vincent was born, some say at Saragossa, others at Valentia, but most authors, and most probably, at Osca, now Huesca, in Granada. He was instructed in the sacred sciences and in Christian piety by Valerius, the bishop of that city, who ordained him his deacon, and appointed him, though very young, to preach and instruct the people. Dacian, a most bloody persecutor, was then governor of Spain. The emperors Dioclesian and Maximian published their second and third bloody edicts against the Christian clergy in the year 303, which in the following year were put in force against the laity. It seems to have been before these last that Dacian put to death eighteen martyrs at Saragossa, who are mentioned by Prudentius, and in the Roman Martyrology, January the 16th, and that he apprehended Valerius and Vincent. They spilt some of their blood at Saragossa, but were thence conducted to Valentia, where the governor let them lie long in prison, suffering extreme famine and other miseries. The proconsul hoped that this lingering torture would shake their constancy; but when they were brought out before him, he was surprised to see them still intrepid in mind, and vigorous in body, and reprimanded his officers, as if they had not treated the prisoners according to his orders. Then, turning to the champions of Christ, he employed alternately threats and promises to induce them to sacrifice. Valerius, who had an impediment in his speech, making no answer, Vincent said to him: “Father, if you order me, I will speak.” “Son,” said Valerius, “as I committed to you the dispensation of the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.” The holy deacon then acquainted the judge that they were ready to suffer every thing for the true God, and little regarded either his threats or promises in such a cause. Dacian contented himself with banishing Valerius. As for St. Vincent, he was determined to assail his resolution by every torture his cruel temper could suggest. St. Austin assures us, that he suffered torments far beyond what any man could possibly have endured, unless supported by a supernatural strength; and that he preserved such a peace and tranquillity in his words, countenance, and gestures in the midst of them, as astonished his very persecutors, and visibly appeared as something divine; while the rage and distraction of Dacian's soul was as visible in the violent agitations of his body, by his eyes sparkling with fury, and his faltering voice.
The martyr was first stretched on the rack by his hands and feet, drawn by cords and pulleys, till his joints were almost torn asunder: while he hung in this posture, his flesh was unmercifully torn off with iron hooks. Vincent, smiling, called the executioners weak and faint-hearted. Dacian thought they spared him, and caused them to be beaten, which afforded the champion an interval of rest: but they soon returned to him, resolved fully to satisfy the cruelty of their master, who excited them all the while to exert their utmost strength. They twice stayed their hands to take breath, and let his wounds grow cold; then began with fresh vigor to rend and tear his body, which they did in all its limbs and parts with such cruelty, that his bones and bowels were in most places exposed bare to sight. The more his body was mangled, the more did the divine presence cherish and comfort his soul, and spread a greater joy on his countenance. The judge, seeing the streams of blood which flowed from all the parts of his body, and the frightful condition to which it was reduced, was obliged to confess, with astonishment, that the courage of the young nobleman had vanquished him, and his rage seemed somewhat abated. Hereupon he ordered a cessation of his torments, begging of the saint for his own sake, that if he could not be prevailed upon to offer sacrifice to the gods, he would at least give up the sacred books to be burnt, according to the order of the late edicts. The martyr answered, that he feared his torments less than that false compassion which he testified. Dacian, more incensed than ever, condemned him to the most cruel of tortures, that of fire upon a kind of gridiron, called by the acts the legal torture. The saint walked with joy to the frightful engine, so as almost to get the start of his executioners, such was his desire to suffer. He mounted cheerfully the iron bed, in which the bars were framed like scythes, full of sharp spikes made red-hot by the fire underneath. On this dreadful gridiron the martyr was stretched out at length, and bound fast down. He was not only scourged thereon, but, while one part of his body was broiling next the fire, the other was tortured by the application of red-hot plates of iron. His wounds were rubbed with salt, which the activity of the fire forced the deeper into his flesh and bowels. All the parts of his body were tormented in this manner, one after the other, and each several times over. The melted fat dropping from the flesh, nourished and increased the flames; which, instead of tormenting, seemed, as St. Austin says, to give the martyr new vigor and courage; for the more he suffered, the greater seemed to be the inward joy and consolation of his soul. The rage and confusion of the tyrant exceeded all bounds: he appeared not able to contain himself, and was continually inquiring what Vincent did and what he said; but was always answered, that he suffered with joy in his countenance, and seemed every moment to acquire new strength and resolution. He lay unmoved, his eyes turned towards heaven, his mind calm, and his heart fixed on God in continual prayer.
At last, by the command of the proconsul, he was thrown into a dungeon, and his wounded body laid on the floor strewed with broken potsherds, which opened afresh his ghastly wounds, and cut his bare flesh. His legs were set in wooden stocks, stretched very wide, and strict orders were given that he should be left without provisions, and that no one should be admitted to see or speak to him. But God sent his angels to comfort him, with whom he sung the praises of his protector. The jailer observing through the chinks the prison filled with light, and the saint walking and praising God, was converted upon the spot to the Christian faith, and afterwards baptized. At this news Dacian chafed, and even wept through rage, but ordered some repose should be allowed the prisoner. The faithful were then permitted to see him, and coming in troops wiped and kissed his wounds, and dipped cloths in his blood, which they kept as an assured protection for themselves and their posterity. After this a soft bed was prepared for him, on which he was no sooner laid but he expired, the happy moment he had not ceased to pray for ever since his torments, and his first call to martyrdom. Dacian commanded his body to be thrown on a marshy field among rushes; but a crow defended it from wild beasts and birds of prey. The acts in Ruinart and Bollandus, and the sermon attributed to St. Leo, add, that it was then tied to a great stone and cast into the sea in a sack, but miraculously carried to the shore, and revealed to two Christians. They laid it in a little chapel out of the walls of Valentia, where God honored these relics with many miracles, as the acts and St. Austin witness. Prudentius informs us, that the iron on which he lay, and other instruments of his passion, were likewise preserved with veneration. Childebert, king of France, or rather of Paris, besieging Saragossa, wondered to see the inhabitants busied continually in making processions. Being informed they carried the stole of St. Vincent about the walls in devout prayer, and had been miraculously protected by that martyr's intercession, he raised the siege upon condition that relic should be given him. This he with great solemnity brought to Paris, and enriched with it the magnificent church and abbey of St. Vincent, now called St. Germain-des-Prés, which he built in 559, and which his successor Clotaire caused to be dedicated. In the year 855, his sacred bones were discovered at Valentia, and conveyed into France, and deposited in the abbey of Castres, now an episcopal see in Languedoc, where they remain; but several portions have been given to the abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés at Paris, and other churches; and part was burnt at Castres by the Huguenots about the end of the sixteenth century. Aimoinus, a contemporary monk, wrote the history of this translation, with an account of many miracles which attended it. St. Gregory of Tours mentions a portion of his relics to have been famous for miracles, in a village church near Poictiers. In the life of St. Domnolus, mention is made of a portion placed by him in a great monastery in the suburb of the city of Mans. But it is certain that the chief part of this martyr's body was conveyed to Lisbon. To escape the cruel persecution of the Saracen king Abderamene, at Valentia, many Christians privately withdrew themselves, and, carrying with them the body of St. Vincent, took shelter on the southwest cape, called the Sacred Promontory, and from these relics St. Vincent's, in the kingdom of Algarb, then under the Saracens. Alphonsus Henry, the most pious first king of Portugal, son of count Henry, having defeated five Moorish kings, at Ourique, in the year 1139, received from those faithful keepers the body of St. Vincent, sent it by sea to Lisbon, and built the royal monastery of the Cross of regular canons of St. Austin, in which he most religiously deposited this treasure, rendered more famous by miracles, in the year 1148… The Portuguese, ever since the year 1173, keep an annual commemoration of this translation on the 15th of September, which feast was confirmed by Sixtus V.
Prudentius finishes his hymn on this holy martyr by a prayer to him, that he would present the marks of his sufferings to Christ, to move him to compassion in his behalf.
God never more visibly manifested his power, nor gave stronger or more wonderful proofs of his tenderness and love for his church, than when he suffered it to groan under the most violent oppression and persecution; nor does his grace anywhere appear more triumphant than in the victories of his martyrs under the severest trials, and in the heroic virtues which they displayed amidst torments and insults. Under the slightest disappointments and afflictions we are apt to fall into discouragement, and to imagine, by our sloth and impatience, that our situation is of all others the most unhappy and intolerable. If nature feels, and we implore the divine mercy, and a deliverance, if this may be conducive to God's honor, we must be careful never to sink under the trials, or consent to the least secret murmuring: we must bear them, if not with joy, at least with perfect submission; and remain assured that God only seems to withdraw himself from us, that we may follow him more earnestly, and unite ourselves more closely to him.
Fly to the assistance of the Martyrs who, in distant countries, are dying for the true Faith; obtain for them such courage, that they may be the Vincents of our age. Protect Spain, thy country. Beseech our Emmanuel to send her heroes of thy stamp; that so, the Catholic Kingdom, which has ever been so jealous of purity of Faith, may speedily triumph over the trials, which are at present heavy upon her.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Related links: Part II - January 22, 2018: St. Anastasius of Persia, Martyr.
Ss. Vincent and Anastasius, pray for us.