Saturday, 13 August 2022

13 AUGUST – SAINT RADEGONDE OF FRANCE (Queen)

Radegonde was the daughter of Berthaire, king of Thuringia. When 10 years old she was led away captive by the Franks, and because of her striking and queenly beauty their kings disputed among themselves for the possession of her. They drew lots and she fell to the share of King Clothaire of Soissons. He entrusted her education to excellent masters. She eagerly imbibed the doctrines of the Christian faith, and renouncing the worship of false gods which she had learnt from her fathers, she determined to observe not only the precepts, but also the counsels of the Gospel. When she was grown up, Clothaire, who had long before chosen her, took her to wife, and despite of her refusal and her attempts at flight, she was proclaimed queen to the great joy of all. When raised to the throne she joined charity to the poor, continual prayer, frequent watchings, fasting and other bodily austerities to her regal dignity, so that the courtiers said in scorn that the king had married not a queen but a nun. Her patience shone out brightly in supporting many grievous trials caused her by the king.

But when she heard that her own brother had been unjustly slain by command of Clothaire, she immediately left the court with the king’s consent, and going to the blessed bishop Meclard she earnestly begged him to consecrate her to the Lord. The nobles strongly opposed his giving the veil to her whom the king had solemnly married. But she at once went into the sacristy and clothed herself in the monastic habit. Then advancing to the altar she thus addressed the bishop: “If you hesitate to consecrate me because you fear man more than God, there is one who will demand an account of my soul from you.” These words deeply touched Meclard. He placed the sacred veil on the queen’s head, and imposing his hands on her, consecrated her a deaconess. She proceeded to Poitiers and there founded a monastery of virgins which was afterwards called “of the Holy Cross.” The splendour of her virtues shone forth and attracted innumerable virgins to embrace a religious life. On account of her extraordinary gifts of divine grace, all wished her to be their mistress, but she desired to serve rather than to command.
The number of miracles she worked spread her name far and wide, but she herself, forgetful of her dignity, sought out the lowest and humblest offices. She loved especially to take care of the sick, the needy, and above all the lepers whom she often cured in a miraculous manner. She honoured the divine Sacrifice of the Altar with deep piety, making with her own hands the bread which was to be consecrated, and supplying it to several churches. Even in the midst of the pleasures of a court, she had applied herself to mortifying her flesh, and from her childhood she had burned with desire of martyrdom. Now that she was leading a monastic life she subdued her body with the utmost rigour. She girt her self with iron chains and tortured her body with burning coals, courageously fixing red-hot plates of metal on her flesh that thus it also might, in a way, be inflamed with love of Christ. King Clothaire, bent on taking her back and carrying her off from her monastery, set out for Holy Cross, but she deterred him by means of letters which she wrote to Saint Germanus, Archbishop of Paris, so that prostrate at the holy prelate’s feet, the king begged him to beseech his pious queen to pardon him who was both her sovereign and her husband.
Radegonde enriched her monastery with relics of the saints brought from different countries. She also sent clerics to the emperor Justin and obtained from him a large piece of the wood of our Lord’s Cross. It was received with great solemnity by the people of Poitiers and both clergy and laity sang exultingly the hymns composed by Venantius Fortunatus in honour of the blessed Cross. This poet was afterwards bishop of Poitiers. He enjoyed the holy friendship of Radegonde and directed her monastery. At length the holy queen, being ripe for Heaven, was honoured a few days before her death by an apparition of Christ under the form of a most beautiful youth, and she heard these words from His mouth: “Why are you consumed by so great a longing to enjoy my presence? Why do you pour out so many tears and sighs? Why do you come as a suppliant so often to my altars? Why do you break down your body with so many labours, when I am always united to you? My beautiful pearl, know that you are one of the most precious stones in my kingly crown.” In 587 she breathed forth her pure soul into the bosom of the heavenly Spouse who had been her only love. Gregory of Tours buried her, as she had wished, in the Church of Saint Mary.
Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Never was such a booty won as that obtained by the sons of Clovis in their expedition against Thuringia towards the year 530. “Receive this blessing from the spoils of the enemy” (1 Kings xxx. 26), might they well say on presenting to the Franks the orphan brought from the court of the fratricide prince whom they had just chastised. God seemed in haste to ripen the soul of Radegonde. After the tragic death of her relatives followed the ruin of her country. So vivid was the impression made in the child’s heart, that long afterwards the recollection awakened in the queen and the Saint a sorrow and a home sickness which nothing but the love of Christ could overcome. “I have seen the plain strewn with dead and palaces burnt to the ground. I have seen women, with eyes dry from very horror, mourning over fallen Thuringia. I alone have survived to weep over them all.”
The licentiousness of the Frankish kings was as unbridled as that of her own ancestors. Yet in their land the little captive found Christianity which she had not until then known. The faith was a healing balm to this wounded soul. Baptism, in giving her to God, sanctified, without crushing, her high-spirited nature. Thirsting for Christ, she wished to be martyred for Him. She sought Him on the cross of self-renunciation. She found Him in His poor suffering members. Looking on the face of a leper, she would see in it the disfigured countenance of her Saviour, and from there rise to the ardent contemplation of the triumphant Spouse whose glorious Face illumines the abode of the Saints.
What a loathing, therefore, did she feel when offering her royal honours, the destroyer of her own country sought to share with God the possession of a heart that Heaven alone could comfort or gladden! First flight, then the refusal to comply with the manners of a court where everything was repulsive to her desires and recollections, her eagerness to break, on the very first opportunity, a bond which violence alone had contracted, prove that the trial had no other effect, as her Life says, but to bend her soul more and more to the sole object of her love. Meanwhile, near the tomb of Saint Martin, another queen, Clotilde, the mother of the most Christian kingdom, was about to die. Unfortunate are those times when the men after God’s own heart, at their departure from Earth, leave no-one to take their place. As the Psalmist cried out in a just consternation, “Save me, O Lord, for there is now no saint!” (Psalms xi. 2).
For, though the elect pray for us in Heaven, they can no longer “fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in their flesh, for His body, which is the Church” (Colossian i. 24). The work begun at the baptistery of Rheims was not yet completed. The Gospel, though reigning by faith over the Frankish nation, had not yet subdued its manners. Christ who loved the Franks heard the last prayer of the mother He had given them, and refused her not the consolation of knowing that she should have a successor. Radegonde was set free just in time to prevent an interruption in the laborious work of forming the Church’s eldest daughter, and she took up in solitude the struggle with God, by prayer and expiation, begun by the widow of Clovis. In the joy of having cast off an odious yoke, forgiveness was an easy thing to her great soul. In her monastery at Poitiers she showed an unfailing devotedness for the kings whose company she had fled. The fortune of France was bound up with theirs. France the cradle-land of her supernatural life, where the Man-God had revealed Himself to her heart, and which she therefore loved with part of the love reserved for her heavenly country. The peace and prosperity of her spiritual fatherland occupied her thoughts day and night. If any quarrel arose among the princes, say the contemporary accounts, she trembled from head to foot at the very thought of the country’s danger. She wrote, according to their different dispositions, to each of the kings, imploring them to consider the welfare of the nation. She interested the chief vassals in her endeavours to prevent war. She imposed on her community assiduous watchings, exhorting them with tears to pray without ceasing. As to herself, the tortures she inflicted on herself for this end are inexpressible.
The only victory, then, that Radegonde desired, was peace among the princes of the Earth. When she had gained this by her struggle with the King of Heaven, her joy in the service of the Lord was redoubled and the tenderness she felt for her devoted helpers, the nuns of Sainte-Croix, could scarcely find utterance: “You, the daughters of my choice,” she would say, “my eyes, my life, my sweet repose, so live with me in this world that we may meet again in the happiness of the next.” And they responded to her love. “By the God of Heaven it is true that everything in her reflected the splendour of her soul.” Such was the spontaneous and graceful cry of her daughter Baudonivia, and it was echoed by the graver voice of the historian-bishop, Gregory of Tours, who declared that the supernatural beauty of the Saint remained even in death. It was a brightness from Heaven which purified while it attracted hearts, which caused the Italian Venantius Fortunatus to cease his wanderings, made him a Saint and a Pontiff, and inspired him with his most beautiful poems.
The light of God could not but be reflected in her who, turning towards Him by uninterrupted contemplation, redoubled her desires as the end of her exile approached. Neither the relics of the saints which she had so sought after as speaking to her of her true home, nor her dearest treasure, the Cross of her Lord, was enough for her. She would fain have drawn the Lord Himself from His throne to dwell visibly on Earth. She only interrupted her sighs to excite in others the same longings. She exhorted her daughters not to neglect the knowledge of divine things and explained to them with profound science and motherly love the difficulties of the Scriptures. As she increased the holy readings of the community for the same end, she would say: “If you do not understand, ask. Why do you fear to seek the light of your souls?” And she would insist: “Reap, reap the wheat of the Lord, for I tell you truly, you will not have long to do it: reap, for the time draws near when you will wish to recall the days that are now given you, and your regrets will not be able to bring them back.” And the loving Chronicler to whom we owe these sweet intimate details continues: “In our idleness we listen coolly to the announcement, but that time has come all too soon. Now is realised in us the prophecy which says: ‘I will send forth a famine into your land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the Word of the Lord’ (Amos viii. 11). For though we still read her conferences, that voice which never ceased is now silent. Those lips, ever ready with wise advice and sweet words, are closed. O most good God, what an expression, what features, what manners you had given her! No, no-one could describe it. The remembrance is anguish! That teaching, that gracefulness, that face, that mien, that science, that piety, that goodness, that sweetness, where are we to seek them now?”
Such touching sorrow does honour to both Mother and daughters, but it could not keep back the former from her reward. On the morning of the Ides of August 587, while Sainte-Croix was filled with lamentations, an Angel was heard saying to others on high: “Leave her yet longer, for the tears of her daughters have ascended to God.” But those who were bearing Radegonde away replied: “It is too late, she is already in Paradise.”
YOUR exile is over, eternal possession has taken the place of desire. All Heaven is illumined with the brightness of the precious stone that has come to enrich the diadem of the Spouse. O Radegonde, the Wisdom who is now rewarding you toils led you by admirable ways. Your inheritance, become to you as a lion in the wood spreading death around you, your captivity far from your native land, what was all this but love’s way of drawing you from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards, where idolatry had led you in childhood? You had to suffer in a foreign land, but the light from above shone into your soul and gave it strength. A powerful king tried in vain to make you share his throne. You were a queen but for Christ, who in His goodness made you a mother to that kingdom of France which belongs to Him more than to any prince. For His sake you loved that land become yours by the right of the Bride who shares the sceptre of her Spouse. For His sake, that nation, whose glorious destiny you predicted, received unstintedly all your labours, your unspeakable mortifications, your prayers and your tears. O you who are ever queen of France, as Christ is ever its King, bring back to Him the hearts of its people, for in their blind error they have laid aside their glory, and their sword is no longer wielded for God. Protect above all the city of Poitiers which honours you with a special cultus together with its great Saint Hilary. Bless your daughters of Sainte-Croix, who, ever faithful to your great traditions, prove the power of that fruitful stem which through so many centuries and such devastations has never ceased to produce both flowers and fruit. Teach us to seek our Lord and to find Him in His holy Sacrament, in the relics of His Saints, in His suffering members on Earth. And may all Christians learn from you how to love.

13 AUGUST – SAINTS HIPPOLYTUS AND CASSIAN (Martyrs)

Hippolytus was baptised by the deacon Saint Lawrence. He was tried before Valerian and sentenced to be torn to pieces by wild horses, as in the myth of his namesake, the son Theseus. After Hippolytus, his nurse Concordia and nineteen other Christians were beheaded outside the Porta Tiburtina and were buried in the cemetery of Saint Lawrence. Cassian, a schoolmaster, was denounced as a Christian and condemned by Julian the Apostate to die at the hands of his pupils. They stabbed him to death with their styli. He died at Imola in central Italy in 363 AD.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Not far from the sepulchre of Saint Laurence, on the opposite side of the Via Tiburtina, lies the tomb of Saint Hippolytus, one of the sanctuaries most dear to the Christians in the days of triumph. Prudentius has described the magnificence of the crypt, and the immense concourse attracted to it each year on the Ides of August. Who was this Saint? Of what rank and manner of life? What facts of his history are there to be told, beyond that of his having given his blood for Christ? All these questions have in modern times become the subject of numerous and learned works. He was a martyr, and that is nobility enough to make him glorious in our eyes. Let us honour him then, and together with him another soldier of Christ, Cassian of Imola, whom the Church offers to our homage at the same time. Hippolytus was dragged by wild horses over rocks and briars till his body was all torn: Cassian, who was a schoolmaster, was delivered by the judge to the children he had taught, and died of the thousands of wounds inflicted by their styles. The prince of Christian poets has sung of him as of Hippolytus, describing his combat and his tomb.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Burgos in Spain, the Saints Centolla and Helena, martyrs.

At Constantinople, St. Maximus, a monk, distinguished for learning and for zeal for Catholic truth. Combating valiantly the Monothelites, he had his hands and tongue torn from him by the heretical emperor Constans, and was banished to Chersonesus, where he breathed his last. At this time, two of his disciples, both called Anastasius, and many others endured diverse torments and the hardships of exile.

In Germany, St. Wigbert, priest and confessor.

At Rome, St. John Berchmans, a scholastic of the Society of Jesus, illustrious for his innocence and for his fidelity to the rules of the religious life. He was canonised by Pope Leo XIII.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, 12 August 2022

12 AUGUST – SAINT CLARE (Virgin)

Chiara Offreduccio was born in Assisi in 1194 to Favorino Scifi, the Count of Sasso-Rosso who belonged to an ancient Roman family, and Blessed Ortolana who belonged to the noble family of Fiumi. In 1212, at the age of 18, Clare embraced a life of poverty and austerity, joining an order of Benedictine female religious. She was soon joined at the convent of Saint Damian by her sister Agnes, her mother, an aunt and a niece. With Saint Francis who had consecrated her to God, Clare created the Second Order of Saint Francis, the Poor Ladies or Sisters of Saint Clare, who she governed for 42 years with care and prudence, insisting until the end on the full observance of the Rule.

Her own life was a lesson and an example to others, showing all how to live. She subdued her body in order to grow strong in spirit. Her bed was the bare ground or, at times, a few twigs, and for a pillow she used a piece of hardwood. Her dress was a single tunic and a mantle of poor coarse stuff, and she often wore a rough hair-shirt next to her skin. So great was her abstinence that for a long time she took absolutely no bodily nourishment for three days of the week, and on the remaining days restricted herself to so small a quantity of food that the other religious wondered how she was able to live. Before her health gave way, it was her custom to keep two Lents in the year, fasting on bread and water. Moreover, she devoted herself to watching and prayer, and in these exercises especially she would spend whole days and nights. She suffered from frequent and long illnesses, but when she was unable to leave her bed in order to work she would make her sisters raise and prop her up in a sitting position, so that she could work with her hands and thus not be idle even in sickness. She had a very great love of poverty, never deviating from it on account of any necessity, and she firmly refused the possessions offered by Pope Gregory IX for the support of the sisters.

The greatness of Clare’s sanctity was manifested by many different miracles. She restored the power of speech to one of the sisters of her monastery, to another the power of hearing. She healed one of a fever, one of dropsy, one of an ulcer, and many others of various maladies. She cured of insanity a brother of the Order of Friars Minor. Once when all the oil in the monastery was spent, Clare took a vessel and washed it, and it was found filled with oil by the loving kindness of God. She multiplied half a loaf so that it sufficed for 50 sisters. When the Saracens attacked Assisi and attempted to break into Clare’s monastery, though sick at the time, she had herself carried to the gate, and also the vessel which contained the most Holy Eucharist, and there she prayed, saying: “O Lord, deliver not to beasts the souls of them that praise you, but preserve your handmaids whom you have redeemed with your Precious Blood.” Whereupon a voice was heard saying: “I will always preserve you.” Some of the Saracens fled and others who had already scaled the walls were struck blind and fell down headlong.

Clare survived Saint Francis. When she was dying she was visited by a white-robed multitude of blessed virgins, among whom was one nobler and more resplendent than the rest. Having received the Holy Eucharist and a Plenary Indulgence from Pope Innocent IV, she died on the day before the Ides of August in 1253. After her death she became celebrated by numbers of miracles, and Pope Alexander IV enrolled her among the holy virgins in 1255.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The same year in which Saint Dominic, before making any project with regard to his sons, founded the first establishment of the Sisters of his Order, the companion destined for him by Heaven received his mission from the Crucifix in the church of Saint Damian in these words: “Go, Francis, repair my house which is falling into ruin.” The new patriarch inaugurated his work, as Dominic had done, by preparing a dwelling for his future daughters whose sacrifice might obtain every grace for the great Order he was about to found. The house of the Poor Ladies occupied the thoughts of the Seraph of Assisi even before Santa Maria della Portiuncula, the cradle of the Friars Minor. Thus, for a second time this month, Eternal Wisdom shows us that the fruit of salvation, though it may seem to proceed from the word and from action, springs first from silent contemplation.
Clare was to Francis the help like himself, who begot to the Lord that multitude of heroic virgins and illustrious penitents soon reckoned by the Order in all lands, coming from the humblest condition and from the steps of the throne. In the new chivalry of Christ, Poverty, the chosen Lady of Saint Francis, was to be the queen also of her whom God had given him as a rival and a daughter. Following to the utmost limits the Man-God humbled and stripped of all things for us, she nevertheless felt that she and her sisters were already queens in the kingdom of Heaven: “In the little nest of poverty,” she used lovingly to say, “what jewel could the bride esteem so much as conformity with a God possessing nothing, become a little one whom the poorest of mothers wrapped in humble swathing bands and laid in a narrow crib?” And she bravely defended against the highest authorities the privilege of absolute poverty which the great Pope Innocent III feared to grant. Its definitive confirmation obtained two days before the Saint’s death came as the long-desired reward of forty years of prayer and suffering for the Church of God.
This noble daughter of Assisi had justified the prophecy by which 60 years previously her mother Hortulana had learnt that the child would enlighten the world. The choice of the name given her at her birth had been well inspired. “Oh how powerful was the virgin’s light,” said the sovereign Pontiff in the Bull of her Canonisation, “how penetrating were her rays! She hid herself in the depth of the cloister, and her brightness transpiring filled the house of God.” From her poor solitude which she never quitted, the very name of Clare seemed to carry grace and light everywhere, and made far-off cities yield fruit to God and to her father, Saint Francis.
Embracing the whole world where her virginal family was being multiplied, her motherly heart overflowed with affection for the daughters she had never seen. Let those who think that austerity embraced for God’s sake dries up the soul read these lines from her correspondence with Blessed Agnes of Bohemia. Agnes, daughter of Ottacar I, had rejected the offer of an imperial marriage to take the religious Habit, and was renewing at Prague the wonders of Saint Damian’s. “O my mother and my daughter,” said our Saint, “if I have not written to you as often as my soul and yours would wish, be not surprised: as your mother’s heart loved you, so do I cherish you. But messengers are scarce, and the roads full of danger. As an opportunity offers today, I am full of gladness, and I rejoice with you in the joy of the Holy Ghost. As the first Agnes united herself to the immaculate Lamb, so it is given to you, O fortunate one, to enjoy this union (the wonder of Heaven) with Him, the desire of whom ravishes every soul, whose goodness is all sweetness, whose vision is beatitude, who is the light of the eternal light, the mirror without spot! Look at yourself in this mirror, O queen! O bride! Unceasingly by its reflection enhance your charms. Without and within adorn yourself with virtues. Clothe yourself as beseems the daughter and the spouse of the supreme King. O beloved, with your eyes on this mirror, what delight it will be given you to enjoy in the divine grace!.. Remember, however, your poor Mother, and know that for my part your blessed memory is forever engraved on my heart.”
Not only did the Franciscan family benefit by a charity which extended to all the worthy interests of this world: Assisi, delivered from the lieutenants of the excommunicated Frederick II and from the Saracen horde in his pay, understood how a holy woman is a safeguard to her earthly city. But our Lord loved especially to make the princes of holy Church and the Vicar of Christ experience the humble power, the mysterious ascendency, with which He had endowed His chosen one. Saint Francis himself, the first of all, had in one of those critical moments known to the Saints, sought from her direction and light for his seraphic soul. From the ancients of Israel there came to this virgin not yet 30 years old such messages as this: “To his very dear Sister in Jesus Christ, to His mother, the Lady Clare handmaid of Christ, Hugolin of Ostia, unworthy bishop and sinner. Ever since the hour when I had to deprive myself of your holy conversation, to snatch myself from that heavenly joy, such bitterness of heart causes my tears to flow that if I did not find at the feet of Jesus the consolation which His love never refuses, my mind would fail and my soul would melt away. Where is the glorious joy of that Easter spent in your company and that of the other handmaids of Christ?.. I knew that I was a sinner, but at the remembrance of your super-eminent virtue, my misery overpowers me and I believe myself unworthy ever to enjoy again that conversation of the Saints, unless your tears and prayers obtain pardon for my sins. I put my soul, then, into your hands. To you I entrust my mind that you may answer for me on the day of judgement. The Lord Pope will soon be going to Assisi. O that I may accompany him and see you once more! Salute my sister Agnes (i.e. Saint Clare’s own sister and first daughter in God). Salute all your sisters in Christ.”
The great Cardinal Hugolin, though more than 80 years of age, became soon after Gregory IX. During his 14 years pontificate, which was one of the most brilliant as well as most laborious of the thirteenth century, he was always soliciting Clare’s interest in the perils of the Church, and the immense cares which threatened to crush his weakness. For, says the contemporaneous historian of our Saint: “He knew very well what love can do, and that virgins have free access to the sacred court: for what could the King of Heaven refuse to those to whom He has given Himself?” At length her exile, which had been prolonged 27 years after the death of Francis, was about to close. Her daughters beheld wings of fire over her head and covering her shoulders, indicating that she too had reached seraphic perfection. On hearing that a loss which so concerned the whole Church was imminent, Pope Innocent IV came from Perugia with the Cardinals of his suite. He imposed a last trial on the Saint’s humility by commanding her to bless, in his presence, the bread which had been presented for the blessing of the sovereign Pontiff. Heaven approved the invitation of the Pontiff and the obedience of the Saint, for no sooner had the virgin blessed the loaves than each was found to be marked with a cross. A prediction that Clare was not to die without receiving a visit from the Lord surrounded by His disciples was now fulfilled. The Vicar of Jesus Christ presided at the solemn funeral rites paid by Assisi to her who was its second glory before God and men. When they were beginning the usual chants for the dead, Innocent would have had them substitute the Office for holy Virgins, but on being advised that such a canonisation, before the body was interred, would be considered premature, the Pontiff allowed them to continue the accustomed chants. The insertion, however, of the Virgin’s name in the catalogue of the Saints was only deferred for two years.
O CLARE, the reflection of the Spouse which adorns the Church in this world no longer suffices you. You now behold the light with open face. The brightness of the Lord plays with delight in the pure crystal of your soul, increasing the happiness of Heaven and giving joy this day to our valley of exile. Heavenly beacon, with your gentle shining enlighten our darkness. May we, like you, by purity of heart, by uprightness of thought, by simplicity of gaze, fix on ourselves the divine ray which flickers in a wavering soul, is dimmed by our waywardness, is interrupted or put out by a double life divided between God and the world. Your life, O Virgin, was never thus divided. The most high poverty which was your mistress and guide preserved your mind from that bewitching of vanity which takes off the bloom of all true goods for us mortals. Detachment from all passing things kept your eye fixed on eternal realities. It opened your soul to that seraphic ardour in which you emulated your father Francis. Like the Seraphim, whose gaze is ever fixed on God, you had immense influence over the Earth, and Saint Damian’s, during your lifetime, was a source of strength to the world. Deign to continue giving us your aid. Multiply your daughters. Keep them faithful in following their Mother’s example, so as to be a strong support to the Church. May the various branches of the Franciscan family be ever fostered by your rays, and may all Religious Orders be enlightened by your gentle brightness. Shine on us all, O Clare, and show us the worth of this transitory life and of that which never ends.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYOLOGY:

At Catania in Sicily, the birthday of St. Euplius, deacon, under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. He was a long time tortured for the confession of the Lord, and finally obtained the palm of martyrdom by being put to the sword.

At Augsburg, St. Hilaria, mother of the blessed martyr Afra. Because she watched at the sepulchre of her daughter, she was cast into the fire for the faith of Christ, together with her maid-servants Digna, Euprepia and Eunomia.

On the same day there suffered also in that city Quiriacus, Largius, Crescentian, Nimmia and Juliana, with twenty others.

In Syria, the holy martyrs Macarius and Julian.

At Nicomedia, the holy martyrs, the count Anicetus and his brother Photinus, with many others, under the emperor Diocletian.

At Faleria in Tuscany, the Saints Gracilian, and Felicissima, virgin, who, for the confession of the faith, had their mouths bruised with stones, and being afterwards struck with the sword, received the palm of martyrdom.

The same day, the holy martyrs Porcarius, abbot of the monastery of Lerins, and five hundred monks, who were slain for the Catholic faith by barbarians, and were thus crowned with martyrdom.

At Milan, the demise of St. Eusebius, bishop and confessor.

At Brescia, St. Herculanus, bishop.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

11 AUGUST – SAINTS TIBERTIUS AND SUSANNA (Martyrs)


Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Laurence is followed today by the son of Chromatius, prefect of Rome, Tiburtius, who also suffered on burning coals for the confession of his faith. Though forty years intervened between the two martyrdoms, it was the same Holy Spirit that animated these witnesses of Christ and suggested to them the same answer to their executioners. Tiburtius, walking on the fire, cried out: “Learn that the God of the Christians is the only God, for these hot coals seem flowers to me.”
Equally near to the great Archdeacon stands an illustrious virgin, so bright herself as not to be eclipsed by him. A relative of both the Emperor Diocletian and the holy Pope Caius, Susanna, it is said, one day beheld the imperial crown at her feet. But she obtained a far greater nobility for, by preferring the wreath of virginity, she won at the same time the palm of martyrdom.
Now, as Saint Leo remarks, on the glorious solemnity whose Octave we are keeping, if no one is good for himself alone, if the favours of Divine Wisdom profit not only the recipient, then no one is more wise than the martyr, no eloquence can instruct the people so well as his. It is by this excellent manner of teaching that, as the Church tells us today, Laurence enlightened the whole world with the light of his fire, and by the flames which he endured he warmed the hearts of all Christians. By the example of his martyrdom faith is kindled and devotion fostered in our souls. “The persecutor lays no hot coals for me, but he sets me on fire with desire of my Saviour.” If, moreover, and it is not mere theory to repeat it in our days, if, as Saint Augustine remarks, “circumstances place a man in the alternative of transgressing a divine precept or losing his life, he too must know how to die for the love of God, rather than live at enmity with Him.” Morality does not change, neither does the justice of God, who in all ages rewards the faithful, as in all ages He chastises cowards.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Comana in Pontus, St. Alexander, bishop, surnamed Carbonarius, who added to a consummate knowledge of philosophy an eminent degree of Christian humility. He was promoted to the See of that church by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, and became illustrious, not only by preaching, but also by suffering martyrdom by fire.

The same day, the martyrdom of St. Rufinus, bishop of the Marsi, and his companions, under the emperor Maximinus.

At Evreux in France, St. Taurinus, bishop. Being made bishop of that city by the blessed Pope Clement, he propagated the Christian faith by the preaching of the Gospel, and the many labours he sustained for it. Celebrated for glorious miracles, he slept in the Lord.

At Cambrai in France, St. Gaugericus, bishop and confessor.

In the province of Valeria, St. Equitius, abbot, whose sanctity was attested by Pope St. Gregory.

At Todi, St. Digna, virgin.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

10 AUGUST – SAINT LAWRENCE (Martyr)


Lawrence was born circa 225 AD in Spain. While studying he met the future Pope Sixtus II who was then a teacher. When Sixtus became Pope, Lawrence became one of the seven deacons of Rome. In 258 AD Valerian ordered all clergy to be put to death immediately. Pope Sixtus II was captured in the catacombs of Saint Callixtus while celebrating the Eucharist and was executed forthwith. The Prefect of Rome ordered Lawrence to surrender the treasures of the Church. In answer Lawrence collected all the blind, lame, widows, orphans and aged, who were supported by the Church in Rome, and presented them to the Prefect, as being, on account of their prayers, the greatest of the treasures of the Church. After much suffering from scourging with whips set with iron or lead from hot metal plates, he was slowly burnt to death on a gridiron. But to the end Lawrence showed a sense of humour, reputedly telling his executioners, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over.” Saint Lawrence’s remains were buried by blessed Hippolytus (a Christian converted by Saint Lawrence) and the priest Justin in the cemetery of Cyriaca in the Veran field.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
“Once the mother of false gods, but now the bride of Christ, O Rome, it is through Laurence you are victorious! You had conquered haughty monarchs and subjected nations to your empire, but though you had overcome barbarism, your glory was incomplete till you had vanquished the unclean idols. This was Laurence’s victory, a combat bloody yet not tumultuous like those of Camillus or of Caesar. It was the contest of faith in which self is immolated and death is overcome by death. What words, what praises suffice to celebrate such a death? How can I worthily sing so great a martyrdom.” Thus opens the sublime poem of Prudentius composed little more than a century after the Saint’s martyrdom. In this work the poet has preserved to us the traditions existing in his own day by which the name of the Roman deacon was rendered so illustrious. About the same time Saint Ambrose, with his irresistible eloquence, described the meeting of Sixtus and his deacon on the way to martyrdom.
But, before both Ambrose and Prudentius, Pope Saint Damasus chronicled the victory of Laurence’s faith in his majestic monumental inscriptions which have such a ring of the days of triumph. Rome was lavish in her demonstrations of honour towards the champion who had prayed for her deliverance on his red-hot gridiron. She inserted his name in the Canon of the Mass, and moreover celebrated the anniversary of his birth to Heaven with as much solemnity as those of the glorious Apostles, her founders, and with the same privileges of a Vigil and an Octave. She has been dyed with the blood of many other witnesses of Christ, yet, as though Laurence had a special claim on her gratitude, every spot connected with him has been honoured with a church. Among all these sanctuaries dedicated to him, the one which contains the martyr’s body ranks next after the churches of Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary’s on the Esquiline, Saint Peter’s on the Vatican, and Saint Paul’s on the Via Ostiensis. Saint Laurence outside the Walls completes the number of the five great basilicas that form the appendage and exclusive possession of the Roman Pontiff. They represent the patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Jerusalem which divide the world between them, and express the universal and immediate jurisdiction of the Bishops of Rome over all the churches. Thus, through Laurence the Eternal City is completed, and is shown to be the centre of the world and the source of every grace.
Just as Peter and Paul are the riches, not of Rome alone, but of the whole world, so Laurence is called the honour of the world, for he, as it were, personified the courage of martyrdom. At the beginning of this month we saw Stephen himself come to blend his dignity of Protomartyr with the glory of Sixtus II’s deacon by sharing his tomb. In Laurence it seemed that both the struggle and the victory of martyrdom reached their highest point. Persecution, it is true, was renewed during the next half century and made many victims, yet his triumph was considered as the death-blow to paganism.
“The devil,” says Prudentius, “struggled fiercely with God’s witness, but he was himself wounded and prostrated forever. The death of Christ’s martyr gave the death-blow to the worship of idols, and from that day Vesta was powerless to prevent her temple from being deserted. All these Roman citizens brought up in the superstitions taught by Numa hasten, O Christ, to your courts, singing hymns to your martyr. Illustrious senators, flamens and priests of Lupercus venerate the tombs of Apostles and Saints. We see patricians and matrons of the noblest families vowing to God the children in whom their hopes are centred. The Pontiff of the idols whose brow but yesterday was bound with sacred fillet, now signs himself with the cross, and the Vestal Virgin Claudia visits your sanctuary, O Laurence.”
It need not surprise us that this day’s solemnity carries its triumphant joy from the city of the Seven Hills to the entire universe. “As it is impossible for Rome to be concealed,” says Saint Augustine, “so it is equally impossible to hide Laurence’s crown.” Everywhere, in both East and West, churches were built in his honour and, in return, as the Bishop of Hippo testifies, “the favours he conferred were innumerable and prove the greatness of his power with God. Who has ever prayed to him and has not been graciously heard?” Let us then conclude with Saint Maxinius of Turin that “in the devotion with which the triumph of Saint Laurence is being celebrated throughout the entire world, we must recognise that it is both holy and pleasing to God to honour, with all the fervour of our souls, the birth to Heaven of the martyr who by his radiant flames has spread the glory of his victory over the whole Church. Because of the spotless purity of soul which made him a true Levite, and because of that fullness of faith which earned him the martyr’s palm, it is fitting that we should honour him almost equally with the Apostles.”
“Laurence has entered the lists as a martyr, and has confessed the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such is the Antiphon with which the Church opens the first Vespers of the feast. And in fact, by this hour he has already entered the arena. With noble irony he has challenged the authorities, and has even shed his blood. On the very day of the martyrdom of Sixtus II, Cornelius Secularis, Prefect of Rome, summoned Laurence before his tribunal, but granted him the delay necessary for gathering together the riches required by the imperial treasury. Valerian did not include the obscure members of the Church in his edicts of persecution. He aimed at ruining the Christians by prohibiting their assemblies, putting their chief men to death, and confiscating their property. This accounts for the fact that on the sixth of August the faithful assembled in the cemetery of Praetextatus were dispersed, the Pontiff executed, and the chief deacon arrested and ordered to deliver up the treasures which the government knew to be in his keeping.
“Acknowledge my just and peaceable claims,” said the Prefect. “It is said that at your orgies your priests are accustomed according to the laws of your worship to make libations in cups of gold, that silver vessels smoke with the blood of the victims, and that the torches that give light to your nocturnal mysteries are fixed in golden candlesticks. And then you have such love and care for the brotherhood: report says you sell your lands in order to devote to their service thousands of sesterces; so that while the son is disinherited by his holy parents and groans in poverty, his patrimony is piously hidden away in the secrecy of your temples. Bring forth these immense treasures, the shameful spoils you have won by deceiving the credulous; the public good demands them. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, that he may have wherewith to fill his treasury and pay his armies.” Laurence, untroubled by these words and as if quite willing to obey, gently answered: “I confess you speak the truth. Our Church is indeed wealthy. No one in the world, not even Augustus himself, possesses such riches. I will disclose them all to you, and I will show you the treasures of Christ. All I ask for is a short delay, which will enable me the better to perform what I have promised. For I must make an inventory of all, count them up, and value each article.” The Prefect’s heart swelled with joy and gloating over the gold he hoped soon to possess, he granted him a delay of three days. Meanwhile Laurence hastened all over the town and assembled the legions of poor whom their Mother the Church supported: lame and blind, cripple and beggars, he called them all. None knew them better than the Archdeacon.
Next he counted them, wrote down their names, and arranged them in long lines. On the appointed day he returned to the judge and thus addressed him: “Come with me and admire the incomparable riches of the sanctuary of our God.” They went together to the spot where the crowds of poor were standing, clothed in rags and filling the air with their supplications. “Why do you shudder?” said Laurence to the Prefect, “do you call that a vile and contemptible spectacle? If you seek after wealth, know that the brightest gold is Christ, who is the light, and the human race redeemed by Him, for they are the sons of the light, all these who are shielded by their bodily weakness from the assault of pride and evil passion. Soon they will lay aside their ulcers in the palace of eternal life, and will shine in marvellous glory, clothed in purple and bearing golden crowns on their heads. See here is the gold which I promised you — gold of a kind that fire cannot touch or thief steal from you. Think not then that Christ is poor: behold these choice pearls, these sparkling gems that adorn the temple, these sacred virgins I mean, and these widows who refuse second marriage. They form the priceless necklace of the Church, they deck her brow, they are her bridal ornaments, and win for her Christ’s love. Behold then all our riches: take them. They will beautify the city of Romulus, they will increase the Emperor’s treasures and enrich you yourself.”
From a letter of Pope Saint Cornelius written a few years after these events we learn that the number of widows and poor persons that the Church of Rome supported, exceeded 1500. By thus exhibiting them before the magistrate, Laurence knew that he endangered no one but himself, for the persecution of Valerian, as we have already observed, overlooked the inferior classes and attacked the leading members of the Church. Divine Wisdom thus confronted Caesarism and its brutality with Christianity which it so despised, but which was destined to overcome and subdue it.
This happened on the ninth of August 258. The first answer the furious Prefect made was to order Laurence to be scourged and tortured on the rack. But these tortures were only a prelude to the great ordeal he was preparing for the noble-hearted Deacon. We learn this tradition from Saint Damasus, for he says that, besides the flames, Laurence triumphed over “blows, tortures, torments and chains.” We have also the authority of the notice inserted by Ado of Vienne in his martyrology in the ninth century, and taken from a still more ancient source. The conformity of expression proves that it was partly from this same source that the Gregorian Antiphonal had already taken the Antiphons and Responsories of the feast. Besides the details which we learn from Prudentius and the Fathers, this Office alludes to the converts Laurence made while in prison, and to his restoring sight to the blind. This last seems to have been the special gift of the holy deacon during the days preceding his martyrdom.
The August sun has set behind the Vatican, and the life and animation which his burning heat had stilled for a time, begins once more on the Seven Hills. Laurence was taken down from the rack about midday. In his prison, however, he took no rest, but wounded and bleeding as he was, he baptised the converts won to Christ by the sight of his courageous suffering. He confirmed their faith and fired their souls with a martyr’s intrepidity. When the evening hour summoned Rome to its pleasures, the Prefect recalled the executioners to their work. For a few hours’ rest had sufficiently restored their energy to enable them to satisfy his cruelty. Surrounded by this ill-favoured company, the Prefect thus addressed the valiant deacon: “Sacrifice to the gods, or else the whole night long will be witness of your torments.” “My night has no darkness,” answered Laurence, “and all things are full of light to me.” They struck him on the mouth with stones, but he smiled and said “I give you thanks, O Christ.” Then an iron bed or gridiron with three bars was brought in and the Saint was stripped of his garments and extended on it while burning coals were placed beneath it. As they were holding him down with iron forks, Laurence said: “I offer myself as a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.” The executioners continually stirred up the fire and brought fresh coals, while they still held him down with their forks. Then the Saint said: “Learn, unhappy man, how great is the power of my God, for your burning coals give me refreshment, but they will be your eternal punishment. I call you, O Lord, to witness: when I was accused, I did not deny you. When I was questioned, I confessed you, O Christ. On the red-hot coals I gave you thanks.” And with his countenance radiant with heavenly beauty, he continued: “Yes, I give you thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for that you have deigned to strengthen me.” He then raised his eyes to his judge and said: “See, this side is well roasted. Turn me on the other and eat.” Then continuing his canticle of praise to God: “I give you thanks, O Lord, that I have merited to enter into your dwelling-place.” As he was on the point of death, he remembered the Church. The thought of the eternal Rome gave him fresh strength, and he breathed forth this ecstatic prayer: “O Christ, only God, O Splendour, O Power of the Father, O Maker of Heaven and Earth and builder of this city’s walls! You have placed Rome’s sceptre high over all. You have willed to subject the world to it, in order to unite under one law the nations which differ in manners, customs, language, genius and sacrifice. Behold the whole human race has submitted to its empire, and all discord and dissensions disappear in its unity. Remember your purpose: You willed to bind the immense universe together into one Christian Kingdom. O Christ, for the sake of your Romans, make this city Christian, for to it you gave the charge of leading all the rest to sacred unity. All its members in every place are united — a very type of your Kingdom. The conquered universe has bowed before it. Oh may its royal head be bowed in turn! Send your Gabriel and bid him heal the blindness of the sons of Julius that they may know the true God. I see a prince who is to come — an Emperor who is a servant of God. He will not suffer Rome to remain a slave. He will close the temples and fasten them with bolts forever.”
Thus he prayed, and with these last words he breathed forth his soul. Some noble Romans who had been conquered to Christ by the martyr’s admirable boldness removed his body: the love of the Most High God had suddenly filled their hearts and dispelled their former errors. From that day the worship of the infamous gods grew cold. Few people went now to the temples, but hastened to the altars of Christ. Thus Laurence, going unarmed to the battle, had wounded the enemy with his own sword.
The Church, which is always grateful in proportion to the service rendered her, could not forget this glorious night. At the period when her children’s piety vied with her own, she used to summon them together at sunset on the evening of the ninth of August for a first Night Office. At midnight the second Matins began, followed by the first Mass called “of the night or of the early morning.” Thus the Christians watched around the holy deacon during the hours of his glorious combat. “O God, you have proved my heart, and visited it by night, you have tried me by fire, and iniquity has not been found in me. Hear, O Lord, my justice. Attend to my supplication” (Psalm xvi.). Such is the grand Introit which immediately after the night Vigils hallowed the dawn of the tenth of August at the very moment when Laurence entered the eternal sanctuary to fulfil his office at the heavenly altar.
Later on certain churches observed on this feast a custom similar to one in use at the Matins of the commemoration of Saint Paul. It consisted in reciting a particular Versicle before repeating each Antiphon of the Nocturns. The Doctors of the sacred Liturgy tell us that the remarkable labours of the Doctor of the Gentiles and those of Saint Laurence earned for them this distinction. Our forefathers were greatly struck by the contrast between the endurance of the holy deacon under his cruel tortures and his tender-hearted, tearful parting with Sixtus II three days before. On this account they gave to the periodical showers of “falling stars,” which occur about the tenth of August, the graceful name of Saint Laurence’s tears: a touching instance of that popular piety which delights in raising the heart to God through the medium of natural phenomena.
Epistle – 2 Corinthians ix. 6–10
Brethren, he who sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly. And he who sows in blessings, will also reap of blessings. Every one as he has determined in his heart: not with sadness, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound in you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work, as it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad. He has given to the poor. His justice remains forever.’ And he that ministers seed to the sower will both give you bread to eat and will multiply your seed, and increase the growth of the fruits of your justice.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
“He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor: his justice remains forever.” The Roman Church loves to repeat these words of Psalm cxi. In honour of her great archdeacon. Yesterday she sang them in the Introit and Gradual of the Vigil. Again they were heard last night in the Responsories, and this morning in the Versicle of her triumphant Lauds. Indeed, the Epistle we have just read, which also furnishes the Little Chapters for the several Hours, was selected for today because of this same text being quoted by the Apostle. Evidently the choice graces which won for Laurence his glorious martyrdom were, in the Church’s estimation, the outcome of the brave and cheerful fidelity with which he distributed to the poor the treasures in his keeping. “He who sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly. And he who sows in blessings, will also reap of blessings.” Such is the supernatural economy of the Holy Ghost in the distribution of His gifts, as exemplified in the glorious scenes we have witnessed during these three days. We may add with the Apostle: What touches the heart of God, and moves Him to multiply his favours, is not so much the work itself as the spirit that prompts it. “God loves a cheerful giver.” Noble-hearted, tender, devoted, and self-forgetful heroic with a heroism born of simplicity no less than of courage, gracious and smiling even on his gridiron: such was Laurence towards God, towards his father Sixtus II towards the lowly. And the same he was towards the powerful and in the very face of death. The closing of his life did but prove that he was as faithful in great things as he had been in small. Seldom are nature and grace so perfectly in harmony as they were in the young deacon, and though the gift of martyrdom is so great that no one can merit it, yet his particularly glorious martyrdom seems to have been the development, as if by natural evolution, of the precious germs planted by the Holy Ghost in the rich soil of his noble nature.
Gospel – John xii. 24–26
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remains alone but if it die, it brings forth much fruit He that loves his life will lose it, and he that hates his life in this world keeps it to life eternal. If any man minister to me, let him follow me. And where I am, there also will my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.”
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The Gospel we have just read was thus commented by Saint Augustine on this very feast: “Your faith recognises the grain that fell into the earth, and having died was multiplied. Your faith, I say, recognises this grain, for the same dwells in your souls.” That it was concerning Himself Christ spoke these words no Christian doubts. But now that that seed is dead and has been multiplied, many grains have been sown in the earth. Among them is the blessed Laurence, and this is the day of his sowing. What an abundant harvest has sprung from these grains scattered over all the earth! We see it, we rejoice in it, nay, we ourselves are the harvest. If if so be, by His grace we belong to the granary. For not all that grows in the field belongs to the granary. The same useful nourishing rain feeds both the wheat and the chaff. God forbid that both should be laid up together in the granary although they grew together in the field, and were threshed together in the threshing floor.
Now is the time to choose. Let us now, before the winnowing, separate ourselves from the wicked by our manner of life, as in the floor the grain is threshed out of the chaff, though not yet separated from it by the final winnowing. Hear me, ye holy grains, who, I doubt not, are here; for if I doubted, I should not be a grain myself: hear me, I say; or rather, hear that first grain speaking by me. Love not your life in this world: love it not if you truly love it, so that by not loving you may preserve it; for by not loving, you love the more. “He that loves his life in this world will lose it.” Thus because Laurence was as an enemy to himself and lost his life in this world, he found it in the next. Being a minister of Christ by his very title, for deacon means minister, he followed the Man-God as the Gospel exhorts. He followed him to the altar, and to the altar of the Cross. Having fallen with Him into the earth, he has been multiplied in Him. Though separated from Saint Laurence by distance of time and place, yet we are ourselves, as the Bishop of Hippo teaches, a part of the harvest that is ever springing from him. Let this thought excite us to gratitude towards the holy deacon, and let us all the more eagerly unite our homage with the honour bestowed on him by our heavenly Father for having ministered to His Son.
“Thrice blessed are the Roman people, for they honour you on the very spot where your sacred bones repose! They prostrate in your sanctuary, and watering the ground with their tears they pour out their vows. We who are distant from Rome, separated by Alps and Pyrenees, how can we even imagine what treasures she possesses, or how rich is her earth in sacred tombs? We have not her privileges, we cannot trace the martyrs’ bloody footsteps. But from afar we gaze on the heavens. O holy Laurence! It is there we seek the memorial of your passion: for you have two dwelling-places, that of your body on Earth and that of your soul in Heaven. In the ineffable heavenly city you have been received to citizenship, and the civic crown adorns your brow in its eternal Senate. So brightly shine your jewels that it seems the heavenly Rome has chosen you perpetual Consul. The joy of the Quirites proves how great is your office, your influence and your power, for you grant their requests. You hear all who pray to you, they ask what they will and none ever goes away sad. Ever assist your children of the Queen City. Give them the strong support of your fatherly love, and a mother’s tender, fostering care. Together with them, O you honour of Christ, listen to your humble client confessing his misery and sins. I acknowledge that I am not worthy that Christ should hear me, but through the patronage of the holy Martyrs, my evils can be remedied. Hearken to your suppliant. In your goodness free me from the fetters of the flesh and of the world” (Prudentius).
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, the martyrdom of one hundred and sixty five holy martyrs who were soldiers under the emperor Aurelian.

At Bergamo, St. Asteria, virgin and martyr, in the persecution of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian.

At Alexandria, the commemoration of the holy martyrs, in the persecution of Valerian under the governor Æmilian. They were a long time subjected to various excruciating torments and won the crown of martyrdom by different kinds of deaths.

At Carthage, the holy virgins and martyrs Bassa, Paula and Agathonica.

At Rome, the holy confessor Deusdedit, a labouring man, who gave to the poor every Saturday what he had earned during the week.

In Spain, the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the name of our Lady of Ransom, foundress of the Order for the Redemption of Captives.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

9 AUGUST – SAINT ROMANUS (Martyr)

Romanus Ostiarius was a soldier who converted to Christianity by the example of Saint Lawrence, who baptised him after he was imprisoned. After confessing what he had done, Romanus was arraigned and beheaded in 258 AD, on the eve of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
“Fear not, my servant, for I am with you, says the Lord. If you pass through fire, the flame will not hurt you, and the odour of fire will not be in you. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the hand of the mighty” (Isaias xliii.; Jeremias xv.). It was the hour of combat, and Wisdom, more powerful than flame, was calling on Laurence to win the laurels of victory presaged by his very name. The three days since the death of Sixtus had passed at length, and the deacon’s exile was about to close: he was soon to stand beside his Pontiff at the altar in Heaven, and never more to be separated from him. But before going to perform his office as deacon in the eternal sacrifice, he must on this Earth, where the seeds of eternity are sown, give proof of the brave faithfulness which becomes a Levite of the Law of Love. Laurence was ready. He had said to Sixtus: “Try the fidelity of the minister to whom you entrusted the dispensation of the Blood of our Lord.” He had now, according to the Pontiff’s wish, distributed to the poor the treasures of the Church, as the chants of the Liturgy tell us on this very morning. But he knew that if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he will despise it as nothing (Canticles viii. 7), and he longed to give himself as well. Overflowing with joy in his generosity he hailed the holocaust whose sweet perfume he seemed already to perceive rising up to Heaven. And well might he have sung the offertory of this Vigil’s Mass: “My prayer is pure, and therefore I ask that a place be given to my voice in heaven: for my judge is there, and he that knowes my conscience is on high: let my prayer ascend to the Lord” (Job xvi.).
Sublime prayer of the just man which pierces the clouds! Even now we can say with the Church: “His seed will be mighty upon earth,” (Psalms cxi.) the seed of new Christians sprung from the blood of martyrdom; for today we greet the first fruits thereof in the person of Romanus, the neophyte whom his first torments won to Christ, and who preceded him to Heaven.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

In Tuscany, the birthday of the holy martyrs Secundian, Marcellian and Verian. In the time of Decius, they were scourged by the ex-consul Promotus, then racked and torn with iron hooks. Being burned with fire applied to their sides, they merited the triumphant palm of martyrdom by having their heads struck off.

At Verona, the holy martyrs Firmus and Rusticus, in the time of the emperor Maximian.

In Africa, the commemoration of many holy martyrs, during the persecution of Valerian. Being exhorted by St. Numidicus, they obtained the palm of martyrdom by being cast into the fire, but Numidicus, although thrown into the flames with the others and overwhelmed with stones, was nevertheless taken out by his daughter. Found half dead, he was restored and deserved afterwards by his virtue to be made priest of the church of Carthage by blessed Cyprian.

At Constantinople, the holy martyrs Julian, Marcian and eight others. For having set up the image of our Saviour on the brazen gate, they were exposed to many torments, and then beheaded by order of the impious emperor Leo.

At Chalons in France, St. Domitian, bishop and confessor.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, 8 August 2022

8 AUGUST – SAINTS CYRIACUS, LARGUS AND SMARAGDUS (Martyrs)

Cyriacus, a deacon, underwent a long imprisonment together with Largus, Sisinitis and Smaragdus, and worked many miracles. Among others, by his prayers, he freed Arthemia, a daughter of Diocletian, from the possession of the devil. He was sent to Sapor, king of Persia, and delivered his daughter, Jobia, in like manner from the devil. He baptised the king, her father, and 430 others, and then returned to Rome. There he was seized by command of the emperor Maximiau, and dragged in chains before his chariot. Four days afterwards he was taken out of prison, boiling pitch was poured over him, he was stretched on the rack, and at length he was put to death by the axe, with Largus, Smaragdus, and 20 others at Sallust’s Gardens on the Via Salaria. A priest named John buried their bodies on that same way, on the 17th of the Calends of April, but on the 6th of the Ides of August, Pope Saint Marcellus I and the noble lady Lucina wrapped them in linen with precious spices, and translated them to Lucina’s estate on the Via Ostiensis, seven miles from Rome. Afterwards they were brought to Rome and placed in the Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata (the Title of a Cardinal-deacon).

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Today a precursor of Laurence appears on the Cycle: the deacon Cyriacus whose power over the demon made Hell tremble, and entitles him to a place among the Saints called Helpers. He and his companions in martyrdom form one of the noblest groups of Christ’s army in that last and decisive battle in which the eagerness of the faithful to show that they knew how to die won victory for the Cross. Rome, baptised in the blood she had shed, found herself Christian in spite of herself. All her honours were now to be lavished on the very men whom in the time of her folly she had put to the sword. Such are thy triumphs, O Wisdom of God!
Mention of the three martyrs celebrated today is to be found in the most authentic calendars of the Church that have come down to us from the fourth century. If then, as Baronius acknowledges, there is some reason for calling in question certain details of the legend, their cultus is none the less immemorial on Earth, and the unwavering devotion of which they are the objects, especially in the sanctuaries enriched with their holy relics, proves that they have great power before the throne of the Lamb.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Anzarba in Cilicia, St. Marinus, an aged man, who was scourged, racked and lacerated, and died by being exposed to wild beasts, in the time of the emperor Diocletian and the governor Lysias.

Also the holy martyrs Eleutherius and Leonides, who underwent martrydom by fire.

In Persia, St. Hormisdas, a martyr, under king Sapor.

At Cyzicum in Hellespont, St. Æmilian, bishop, who ended his life in exile after having suffered much from the emperor Leo for the worship of holy images.

In Crete, St. Myron, a bishop renowned for miracles.

At Vienne in France, St. Severus, priest and confessor, who undertook a painful journey from India in order to preach the Gospel in that city, and converted a great number of pagans to the faith of Christ by his labours and miracles.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

8 AUGUST – SAINT MARY OF THE CROSS (Virgin) (AUSTRALIA ONLY)

Today is the feast day of Australia’s first and only saint, Mary of the Cross, who was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on 17 October 2010.

Mary Helen MacKillop (baptised Maria Ellen), the oldest of eight children, was born in Melbourne in 1842 to Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald who had migrated to Australia from Scotland.

With Father Julian Tenison Woods, Mary founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), a congregation of female religious which was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. The congregation established many schools for the education of children from poor families, particularly in rural areas.

In 1871 Adelaide Archbishop Lawrence Bonaventure Sheil excommunicated Mary for supposed disobedience and closed most of her schools, but the sentence was later rescinded and Mary was completely exonerated by an episcopal commission.

Mary died on the 8th of August 1909 in the Josephite convent in North Sydney and was interred at the nearby Gore Hill Cemetery. In 1914 her body was exhumed and translated to a vault in a newly built memorial chapel in Mount Street in Sydney.

Saint Mary of the Cross is the patroness of the city of Brisbane and of the Knights of the Southern Cross, a fraternal order of laymen which promotes the Catholic way of life and operates many aged care facilities throughout Australia.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

7 AUGUST – SAINT CAJETAN (Confessor)

Cajetan was born to the noble family of the Lords of Thienna near Vicenza in Lombardy in 1480. His mother immediately dedicated him to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His innocence appeared so wonderful from his very childhood that everyone called him “the Saint.” He took the degree of Doctor in canon and civil law at Padua, and then went to Rome where Pope Julius II made him a prelate. When he received the priesthood, such a fire of divine love was kindled in his soul that he left the court to devote himself entirely to God. He renounced the dignities offered to him in Rome and devoted himself to the service of the poor and sick of Vicenza. With Peter Caraffa (who became Pope Paul IV) he founded the Congregation of Regular Clerks of the Divine Providence (called the Theatines, from Theate (Chieti) in the Abruzzi, where Caraffa was Bishop). This Congregation was one of the most prominent among the fruits of the revival of Catholic piety in the sixteenth century and was characterised by absolute trust in Divine Providence.

During the sack of Rome, Cajetan was cruelly treated by the soldiers to make him deliver up his money which the bands of the poor had long ago carried into the heavenly treasures. He endured with the utmost patience stripes, torture and imprisonment. He persevered unfalteringly in the kind of life he had embraced, relying entirely on Divine Providence. God never failed him, as was sometimes proved by miracle. He was a great promoter of assiduity at the divine worship, of the beauty of the House of God, of exactness in holy ceremonies, and of the frequentation of the most Holy Eucharist. More than once he detected and foiled the wicked subterfuges of heresy. He would prolong his prayers for eight hours, without ceasing to shed tears. He was often rapt in ecstasy and was famous for the gift of prophecy. At Rome, one Christmas night, while he was praying at our Lord’s crib, the Mother of God was pleased to lay the infant Jesus in his arms.

Cajetan would spend whole nights in chastising his body with disciplines, and could never be induced to relax anything of the austerity of his life: for he would say, he wished to die in sackcloth and ashes. At length he fell into an illness caused by the intense sorrow he felt at seeing the people offend God by a sedition, and at Naples, after being refreshed by a heavenly vision, he passed to heaven in 1547 and was canonised by Pope Clement X in 1671. Saint Cajetan (known in Italy as San Gaetano) is the patron of the unemployed, those seeking work, gamblers and good fortune.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Cajetan appeared in all his zeal for the sanctuary at the time when the false reform was spreading rebellion throughout the world. The great cause of the danger had been the incapacity of the guardians of the Holy City, or their connivance by complicity of heart or of mind with pagan doctrines and manners introduced by an ill-advised revival. Wasted by the wild boar of the forest, could the vineyard of the Lord recover the fertility of its better days? Cajetan learned from Eternal Wisdom the new method of culture required by an exhausted soil. The urgent need of those unfortunate times was that the clergy should be raised up again by worthy life, zeal and knowledge. For this object men were required, who being clerks themselves in the full acceptance of the word, with all the obligations it involves, should be to the members of the holy hierarchy a permanent model of its primitive perfection, a supplement to their shortcomings, and a leaven, little by little raising the whole mass. But where, save in the life of the counsels with the stability of its three vows, could be found the impulse, the power, and the permanence necessary for such an enterprise? The inexhaustible fecundity of the religious life was no more wanting in the Church in those days of decadence than in the periods of her glory. After the monks, turning to God in their solitudes and drawing down light and love upon the earth seemingly so forgotten by them; after the mendicant Orders, keeping up in the midst of the world their claustral habits of life and the austerity of the desert: the regular clerks entered upon the battlefield by which their position in the fight, their exterior manner of life, their very dress, they were to mingle with the ranks of the secular clergy; just as a few veterans are sent into the midst of a wavering troop, to act upon the rest by word and example and dash. Like the initiators of the great ancient forms of religious life, Cajetan was the Patriarch of the Regular Clerks. Under this name Clement VII, by a brief dated 24th June 1524, approved the institute he had founded that very year in concert with the Bishop of Theati, from whom the new religious were also called Theatines. Soon the Barnabites, the Society of Jesus, the Somasques of Saint Jerome Aemilian, the Regular Clerks Minor of Saint Francis Carracciolo, the Regular Clerks ministering to the sick, the Regular Clerks of the Pious Schools, the Regular Clerks of the Mother of God, and others, hastened to follow in the track, and proved that the Church is ever beautiful, ever worthy of her Spouse, while the accusation of barrenness hurled against her by heresy, rebounded upon the thrower.
Cajetan began and carried forward his reform chiefly by means of detachment from riches, the love of which bad caused many evils in the Church. The Theatines offered to the world a spectacle unknown since the days of the Apostles, pushing their zeal for renouncement so far as not to allow themselves even to beg, but to rely on the spontaneous charity of the faithful. While Luther was denying the very existence of God’s Providence, their heroic trust in It was often rewarded by prodigies.
Who has ever obeyed so well as you, O great Saint, that word of the Gospel: “Be not solicitous therefore saying: What will we eat? or what will we drink? or with what will we be clothed?” (Matthew vi 31). You understand, too, that other divine word: “The workman is worthy of his meat” (Matthew x. 10) and you knew that it applied principally to those who labour in word and doctrine (1 Timothy v. 17). You did not ignore the fact that other sowers of the word had before you founded on that saying the right of their poverty, embraced for God’s sake, to claim at least the bread of alms. Sublime right of souls eager for opprobrium in order to follow Jesus and to satiate their love! But Wisdom, who gives to the desires of the Saints the bent suitable to their times, caused the thirst for humiliation to be overruled in you by the ambition to exalt in your poverty the holy Providence of God. This was needed in an age of renewed paganism, which, even before listening to heresy, seemed to have ceased to trust in God.
Alas! Even of those to whom the Lord had given Himself for their possession in the midst of the children of Israel, it could be truly said that they sought the goods of this world like the heathen. It was your earnest desire, O Cajetan, to justify our Heavenly Father and to prove that He is ever ready to fulfil the promise made by His adorable Son: “Seek therefore the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew vi. 33). Circumstances obliged you to begin in this way the reformation of the sanctuary to which you were resolved to devote your life. It was necessary, first, to bring back the members of the holy militia to the spirit of the sacred formula of the ordination of clerks, when, laying aside the spirit of the world together with its livery, they say in the joy of their hearts: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is you, O Lord, that will restore my inheritance to me” (Psalms xv. 5).
The Lord, O Cajetan, acknowledged your zeal and blessed your efforts. Preserve in us the fruit of your labour. The science of sacred rites owes much to your sons. May they prosper in renewed fidelity to the traditions of their father. May your patriarchal blessing ever rest upon the numerous families of Regular Clerks which walk in the footsteps of your own. May all the ministers of holy Church experience the power you still have, of maintaining them in the right path of their holy state, or, if necessary, of bringing them back to it. May the example of your sublime confidence in God teach all Christians that they have a Father in Heaven whose Providence will never fail His children.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Arezzo in Tuscany, the birthday of St. Donatus, bishop and martyr, who among other miraculous deeds, made whole again by his prayers (as is related by the blessed Pope Gregory), a sacred chalice which had been broken by pagans. Being apprehended by the imperial officer Quadratian in the persecution of Julian the Apostate, and refusing to sacrifice to idols, he was struck with the sword and thus consummated his martyrdom. With him suffered also the blessed monk Hilarinus, whose feast is celebrated on the sixteenth of July, when his body was taken to Ostia.

At Rome, the holy martyrs Peter and Julian, with eighteen others.

At Milan, St. Faustus, a soldier, who obtained the palm of martyrdom after many combats in the time of Aurelius Commodus.

At Coino, the passion of the holy martyrs Carpophorus, Exanthus, Cassius, Severinus, Secundus and Licinius, who were beheaded for the confession of Christ.

At Nisibis in Mesopotamia, St. Dometius, a Persian monk, who was stoned to death with two of his disciples under Julian the Apostate.

At Rouen, the holy bishop St. Victricius. While yet a soldier under Julian the Apostate, he threw away his military belt for Christ, and after being subjected by the tribune to many torments, was condemned to capital punishment. But the executioner who had been sent to put him to death being struck blind, and the confessor’s chains being loosened, he made his escape. Afterwards being made bishop, by preaching the word of God he brought to the faith of Christ the barbarous people of Belgic Gaul, and finally died a confessor in peace.

At Chalons in France, St. Donation, bishop.

At Messina in Sicily, St. Albert, confessor, of the Order of Carmelites, renowned for miracles.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

7 AUGUST – NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Epistle – 1 Corinthians x. 613
Brethren, let us not covet evil things, as they also coveted. Neither become idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents. Neither murmur, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them in figure, and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Therefore he that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. Let no temptation take hold of you, but such as is human and, God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear, but will make also with temptation issue that you may be able to bear it.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
“I have great sadness,” cries out the Apostle of the Gentiles, as he thought of the malediction which was about to fall on the Jews: “Continual sorrow have I in my heart, for I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites to whom belongs the adoption of children, and the glory, and the covenant,and the giving of the Law, and the service (the worship of God, prescribed by Himself) and the promises; whose are the Fathers, and of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed forever!” (Romans ix. 2‒5). But now, they are gone astray by their own fault. They see nothing, they understand nothing (Isaias vi. 9; Matthew xiii. 14, 15). The royal banquet of the Scriptures, on which their Fathers feasted (Matthew iv. 4) is now turned by them into an occasion of error. They have made those Scriptures a snare for their own destruction, darkness covers their understanding, and chastisement for all future ages is their own making (Psalms lxviii. 23, 24).
Gentiles! You that have been substituted for those broken branches, and are grafted on the stem of the Covenant, (Romans xi. 17), learn a lesson from their fall. God, who has shown you so much and so great gratuity of mercy, and that at the very time he was inflicting on them the chastisements they so richly merited, — no, this good God, will not allow his loving designs on you to be frustrated against your own will. If you are faithful to the call of His grace, He will be faithful to you and preserve you from temptations which you could not resist, or He will so watch the combat that His divine help will make your soul rise superior to the trial and thus in every temptation you will find, not defeat, but the merit of a victory, all the more glorious, as it seemed so much above the power of human strength to bear. And yet, never forget that the same causes which brought about the destruction of the Jews, would also lead you to ruin. They fell, because of their unbelief (Romans xi. 20). You who once had no faith and yet God showed mercy to you (Romans xi. 30) — it is by faith that you now are what you are. Be not, therefore, high-minded with self-complacency but remember how that God, who broke off the natural branches from the glorious tree, will not spare you if you cease to be faithful. And while you do well to admire His mercy, you do not wisely if you forget His inexorable justice (Romans xi. 20‒22).
Well, therefore, does our Mother the Church instruct us in todays Epistle, as to the lamentable antecedents of the Jew. She tells us of that list of sins and chastisements which gradually led on to the final crime and total ruin of the apostate nation. We who live in what the Church calls the “evening of the world”have this great advantage: that we can profit by what the past ages have experienced. The Holy Spirit had no other end in view when He would have the history of the ancient people written. He would have the future ages there learn lessons of salvation: by the various episodes of that history, which form so many groups of prophetic events, He would show us the economy of Gods providence in His government of the world and His Church. Founded, as she has been, by her Divine Spouse, in immutable truth, and maintained by the Holy Ghost in unfailing and ever increasing holiness, the Church has nothing to fear of that which happened to the Synagogue — we mean, of that total wreck which the Liturgy brings forward for our consideration today: no, the ruin of the Jews is a prophetic image of the destruction of the world (Matthew xxiv. 3) (which will have rejected the Church) — not of the Church herself, who will then ascend to her Lord, perfected, as she will then He, in love and holiness, by the trials endured in those latter days (Apocalypse xxii. 17). But the assurance of salvation granted to the Bride of the Son of God does not extend to her children, taken either individually or collectively, that is, men and nations. On each one of us it is incumbent that we meditate on the sad fate which befell Jerusalem, as also on what happened ages before to those ancestors of the Jewish people that scarce one of those who were living when Moses led them out of Egypt, lived to enter into the Promised Land.
And yet, as the Apostle argues, they were all journeying in the path of life, protected by the mysterious cloud beneath which Divine Wisdom shaded them by day, and served them as a pillar of fire by night (Wisdom x. 17). Led on by Moses, who was a type of the future divine Head of the Christian people, they had all passed through the sea. All of them thus baptised in that symbolic cloud and in those saving waters which had engulfed their foes, just as the water of the Christian font destroys the sins of them that are washed in it — all of them were fed by the same spiritual food, and all drank at the same holy source which issued from the rock, which was Christ. Yet, were there very few out of all those thousands with whom God was pleased (1 Corinthians x. 1‒6). But how much more grievous would the sins of Christians be, who are blessed with the resplendent and solid realities of the Law of Grace, than were the evil desires, and idolatry, and fornication, and murmurings of the Israelites, who had but the figures and foreshadowings of our privileges?
Gospel – Luke xix. 4147
At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, seeing the city, He wept over it, saying, “If you also had known, and that in this your day, the things that are to your peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, and your enemies will cast a trench about you, and compass you round, and straiten you on every side, and beat you flat to the ground, and your children who are in you: and they will not leave in you a stone upon a stone, because you have not known the time of your visitation.” And entering into the Temple, He began to cast out them that sold in it, and them that bought, saying to them, “It is written, My House is the House of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And He was teaching daily in the Temple.
Praise to you, O Christ.