October 21, 2021: ST. URSULA AND COMPANIONS
October 21, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF ST. URSULA AND COMPANIONS, VIRGINS AND MARTYRS
Ye prudent Virgins, make ready your lamps; behold the bridegroom comes; go forth to meet him.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that, with a constant devotion, we may celebrate the victories of thy holy Virgins and Martyrs, Ursula and her Companions, that tho’ we cannot solemnize them as we ought, we may, however, aim at this duty with all humility. 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.
To-day we commemorate the festival of St. Ursula and her companions. Although her life and martyrdom are variously described by different historians, we cannot therefore conclude with some heretical writers, that she never existed, and that all that has been told of her are fables; for, although historians differ in some points, yet all unanimously declare that St. Ursula and her companions sacrificed their lives for their faith, and in defence of their virginity. The short sketch we give of this Saint is partly taken from the works of the celebrated Baronius, and partly from the Roman Breviary.
The Roman General, Maximus, surnamed Flavius Magnus Clemens, who commanded the Imperial armies in Great Britain, caused himself, in 383, to be proclaimed Emperor by his soldiers, while the lawful Emperor Gratian was still alive. After this, he crossed the sea, landed on the shores of France, took possession of a large portion of it, drove the inhabitants away, and occupied the land with his soldiers, among whom he divided the conquered towns and villages. Conanus, a tributary king in Great Britain, who commanded one part of the army of this new Emperor, advised him to bring from England virgins, who might be given in marriage to the new inhabitants of the conquered land, in order to keep them in obedience and fidelity to their master. Maximus, pleased with this advice, sent an embassy to Great Britain, and stating his reasons, demanded a great number of maidens. The Britons hesitated not to consent to the new Emperor's demand, because many of his soldiers were Britons and because Maximus had given them considerable property. They, therefore, assembled the desired number of virgins, placed them in several boats, and sent them to France. The noblest among them was Ursula, daughter of the king of Wales, who was to become the spouse of Conanus. The wisdom of the Almighty, however, had decreed otherwise; for, whilst the ships sailed from England to France, contrary winds arose, which drove them all to the shores of Germany. It is believed that they went up the Rhine, and landed in the neighborhood of Cologne. At that period, the wild Huns happened to be there, whom the Emperor Gratian had called to his aid against Maximus, who resided for some time at Treves. When these heathens beheld this large number of virgins, they forced them to land and would have sacrificed them to their lust. Ursula, however, the Christian heroine, exhorted all, rather to suffer the most bitter death than consent to evil. All followed her admonition, and courageously resisted the savages, who, in their furious rage, killed the defenceless virgins with swords, arrows and clubs. Only one of the maidens, Cordula, had escaped and concealed herself during the massacre; but repenting of her timidity, she revealed herself on the following day, and last of all, she received the crown of martyrdom. The bodies of the holy virgins were buried, with great solemnities, by the inhabitants of Cologne. Their memory, however, and the veneration with which they were regarded, were not confined within the walls of this town, but spread over the whole Christian world.
Taken from: The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Ursula and Companions, pray for us.