Friday, 14 May 2021

14 MAY – SAINT BONIFACE (Martyr)


Boniface was a citizen of Rome, and had held illicit intercourse with a rich lady, by name Aglaë. He afterwards was so grieved for this immoral conduct that, by way of penance, he devoted himself to the looking for and burying the bodies of martyrs. In one of his travels he left his companions and finding, on arriving at Tarsus, that many were being put to various tortures for the Christian Faith, he approached them, kissed their chains, and did all in his power to urge them to bear patiently the short labour of sufferings which were to be followed by eternal rest. For this he was seized, and his flesh was torn by iron hooks. Sharp reeds were also thrust up his fingernails, and melted lead was poured into his mouth. His only exclamation, in the midst of these tortures, was: “I give you thanks, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God!” He was then put, head foremost, into a cauldron of boiling pitch, and when he was taken out, and found to be unhurt, the judge, in a fit of anger, ordered him to be beheaded. During his execution a great earthquake was felt, and many of the pagans were converted to the Faith of Christ our Lord. On the day following, his companions, who were in search of him, were told that he had suffered martyrdom. They bought his body for five hundred pieces of silver, and having embalmed and shrouded it, they had it taken to Rome. All this was made known to Aglaë, who had devoted herself to penance and good works. She therefore went to meet the martyrs relics. She built a Church which was named after the Saint, and in which he was buried on the Nones of June (June 5th). The martyrs soul passed into Heaven on the day before the Ides of May (May 14th), at Tarsus in Cilicia under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The Apostle of the Gentiles, explaining the mystery of the Pasch, tells us that Baptism is the sepulchre of our sins, and that we rise from it together with our Redeemer, having our souls radiant with the life of grace (Romans vi.). Our holy Faith teaches us that he who gives his life for Christ or his Church, washes away, in his own blood, every stain from his soul and rises to life everlasting: it is as though he received a second Baptism which reproduces all the effects belonging to the great Sacrament of Regeneration. We have today a sinner who, being purified by martyrdom and re-baptised in his own blood, is numbered among the privileged ones who share in the glory of our Risen Jesus. Boniface, by his immoralities, had scandalised the city where he lived. But his repentance was most complete. He longed to suffer the crudest tortures for the love of the God he had offended, and thus make atonement for the sinful pleasures in which he had indulged. His wish was granted, suffering transformed him into the Saint whose feast is kept on this day, and whose virtues are a homage to the Divine Conqueror of sin and death.
* * * * *
The Angels rejoiced more at your conversion, O Boniface, than at the fidelity of the ninety-nine just. But their joy was redoubled when they found that Heaven gained in you, not only a Penitent, but a Martyr too. Receive, also, the congratulations of holy Church which celebrates the memory of your victory. Rome is still in possession of thy holy relics which repose in the Church on Mount Aventine where once stood the house of her that imitated your repentance. In both her and you, we have a proof of the infinite mercy of our Risen Jesus who called the two sinners from spiritual death to the life of grace. Have compassion, O holy Martyr, on those poor sinners, whom this Easter has not yet brought back to their Redeemer. The Alleluia has resounded through the whole universe, and yet it has failed to rouse them from their sleep of sin. Pray for their resurrection. Their days are numbered and perhaps they are not to see another Easter. Yet do we hope in the Divine Mercy which has shown us its power by making you and Aglaë to be vessels of election.
We, therefore, unite our prayers with yours, O Boniface, that our Lord may grant a resurrection to our brethren. Hope is our armour in this peaceful contest with Divine Justice which delights in being vanquished by prayer. Present our prayer before the throne of God, and many of those that are now spiritually dead will come to life again, and their conversion will cause joy to the Angels, as yours did.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

In France, St. Pontius, martyr. Having by his preaching and his zeal converted to the faith of Christ the two Caesars Philip, he obtained the palm of martyrdom under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus.

In Syria, the holy martyrs Victor and Corona, under the emperor Antoninus. Victor was subjected to various horrible torments by the judge Sebastian. As Corona, the wife of a certain soldier, was proclaiming him happy for his fortitude in his sufferings, she saw two crowns falling from heaven, one for Victor, the other for herself. She related this to all present, and was torn to pieces between two trees. Victor was beheaded.

In Sardinia, the holy martyrs Justa, Justina and Henedina.

At Rome, Pope St. Paschal who took up from the crypts many bodies of the holy martyrs and placed them honourably in various churches.

At Ferentino in Tuscany, the holy bishop Boniface who was renowned from his childhood for holiness and miracles, as was related by Pope St. Gregory.

At Naples in Campania, St. Pomponius, bishop.

In Egypt, St. Pachomius, an abbot, who erected many monasteries in that country, and wrote a monastic rule which was dictated to him by an angel.

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

Thanks be to God.

14 MAY – FRIDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
The Feast of the Ascension shows us the work of God in its completion. Hence it is that the Church in her daily offering of the holy Sacrifice thus addresses the Eternal Father: the words occur immediately after the Consecration, and contain the motives of her confidence in the divine mercy: “Wherefore, Lord, we your servants, as also your holy people, calling to mind the blessed Passion of Christ your Son our Lord, His Resurrection from the dead, and His admirable Ascension into Heaven, offer to your most excellent Majesty a pure, holy, and unspotted Host.” It is not enough for man to hope in the merits of His Redeemers Passion which cleansed him from his sins. It is not enough for him to add to the commemoration of the Passion that of the Resurrection by which our Redeemer conquered death: man is not saved, he is not reinstated, except by uniting these two mysteries with a third, the Ascension of that Jesus who was crucified and rose again. During the forty days of His glorified life on Earth, Jesus was still an exile and, like Him, we also are exiles until such time as the gate of Heaven... will be thrown open, both for Him and for us.
God in His infinite goodness made man for a nobler end than that of being mere lord of creation. He gave him a higher destiny than that of knowing such truths as his natural powers could grasp, and of practising virtues that were in reach of his moral capabilities, and of paying to His Creator an imperfect worship. In His omnipotence and love, He gave to this frail creature an end far above his nature. Though inferior to the Angel, and uniting in himself the two natures of matter and spirit, yet was Man created to the same end as the Angel. Both were to dwell for eternity in Heaven. Both were to be eternally happy in the face-to-face vision of God, that is, in the closest union with the sovereign good. Grace — that wondrous and divine power — was to fit them for the supernatural end prepared for them by the gratuitous goodness of their Creator. This was the design which God had decreed from all eternity: to raise up to Himself these creatures that He had drawn out of nothingness, and to enrich them, agreeably to their sublime destiny, with the treasures of His love and His light.
We know the history of the fallen Angels. They revolted against the commandment given them by God as a test of their fidelity, and as a condition of their being admitted into eternal happiness. Rebels were found in each of the Choirs. They fell, but the fall and its punishment were personal, and injured none but the actual transgressors. The Angels who remained faithful were at once rewarded with the beatific vision and possession of the Sovereign Good. Thus did God vouchsafe to make created beings partake of His own infinite happiness: the first elect were the good Angels of the nine Choirs.
Man was created after the Angels. He too fell, and his sin severed the link which united him with God. The human race was, at that time, represented by one man and woman. When they fell, all fell. The gate of Heaven was then shut against mankind, for the fall of Adam and Eve implicated us their children. Neither could they transmit to us an inheritance which they themselves had lost. Instead of a quick and happy passage through this world, and then a glorious ascension into heaven, we were to have a life — short indeed, but full of misery — a grave, and corruption. As to our soul, even had she aspired to the supernatural happiness for which she was created, she could never have attained to it. Man had preferred Earth for his portion, and the Earth was given to him: but this only for a few short years, after which others would take his place, disappear in their turn, and so on to the end, as long as it should please God to perpetuate this fallen portion of his creation. Yes, it was thus we deserved to be treated, but our merciful Creator had compassion on us. He hated sin, but He had created us that He might make us partakers of His own glory, and He would not have His design frustrated. No, the Earth was not to be an abode for man to be merely born, live a few days, and then die. When the fullness of time should come, there was to appear in the world a Man, not indeed the first of a new creation, but one like ourselves and of our own race, or, as the Apostle expresses it, “made of a woman” (Galatians iv. 4) This Man, who was to be heavenly and yet of earth, would share our misfortunes with us. He would die like us, He would be buried like us. But on the third day He would rise again, and men would see Him resplendent with glory and immortality. What a joy for us who have within us the answer of death to see such a victory gained by One who is one of ourselves,— “flesh of our flesh!”
Thus were the divine intentions to be realised in our regard. This Earth of ours presents to her Creator a New Adam. He cannot stay here, for He has conquered Death. He must ascend to Heaven, and if her gates be closed, she must open them and receive Him. “Lift up your gates, O you Princes, and be you lifted up, O eternal gates! And the King of glory will enter in!” (Psalms xxiii. 7) O that He would take us there with Him, for He is our brother, and assures us that His “delight is to be with the children of men” (Proverbs viii. 31) But what a joy it is for us to see our Jesus ascend to Heaven! He is the holiest, the purest, the loveliest, of our race. He is the Son of a spotless Mother: let Him go and represent us in that kingdom of our inheritance. It is our own Earth that sends Him. She is no longer a desert now that she has produced such a flower and such a fruit for Heaven. A flood of light poured into this lowly vale of tears when the gates of Heaven were raised up to receive Him. “Be you exalted, Lord, in your own strength! And we,” who are still on the Earth, “we will sing and praise your power!” (Psalms xx. 14) Receive, Eternal Father, the brother whom we send to you. Sinners as we are, this brother of ours is infinitely holy and perfect. Where is the curse that once fastened on our earth? “The Earth has given her fruit” (Psalm lxvi, 7) And if we may presume so far as to see in Him the first-fruits of a future harvest to be gathered into your House, may we not rejoice in the thought that the Ascension of our Jesus was the day on which your primal work was restored to you?

Thursday, 13 May 2021

13 MAY - SAINT ROBERT BELLARMINE (Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

Robert Bellarmine was born in 1542, at Montepulciano in Italy, to Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cynthia Cervini, the sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini who became Pope Marcellus II. Robert entered the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus) in 1560 and after studying philosophy and theology, quickly acquired a reputation as a professor and preacher. In 1570 he was ordained a priest and in 1576 he was entrusted with the chair of Controversies just established at the Roman College which later became the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bellarmine’s lectures led to his monumental work De Controversiis which proved such a challenge to Protestantism in Germany and England that special chairs were founded to reply to it.

In 1592 Bellarmine was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Pope Clement VIII made him his own theologian and Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. In 1599 he was made Cardinal-Priest Titular of the Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata. Bellarmine successfully promoted the cause for the beatification of Aloysius Gonzaga who had died in 1591 at the Roman College. He also sat on the final commission that was responsible for the revision of Saint Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Vulgate Latin. Bellarmine died on the 17th of September 1621, the day which at his request had been set aside for the feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Robert Bellarmine was canonised in 1930 and declared to be a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI.

O God who filled blessed Robert, your bishop and doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue that he might break the snares of errors and defend the Apostolic See: grant us by his merits and intercession that we may grow in the love of truth and that the hearts of those in error may return to the unity of your Church. Through our Lord ...
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, in the time of the emperor Phocas, the dedication of the church of St. Mary of the Martyrs, formerly a temple of all the gods called the Pantheon, which was purified and dedicated by the blessed Pope Boniface IV to the honour of the Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, and of all the martyrs.

At Constantinople, under the emperor Diocletian and the proconsul Laudicius, the blessed Lucius, a priest and martyr, who first at Amphipolis endured many tribulations and torments for the confession of Christ, and then being led to Byzantium, suffered capital punishment.

At Heraclea, the martyr St. Glyceria, a native of Rome, who suffered under the emperor Antoninus and the governor Sabinus.

At Alexandria, the commemoration of many holy martyrs who were killed by the Arians for the Catholic faith in the church of St. Theonas.

At Maestricht, St. Servatius, bishop of Tongres, whose grave, as a public sign of his merit, was free from snow during winter (though everything around was covered with it), until the inhabitants built a church over it.

In Palestine, St. John the Silent.

At Valladolid, St. Peter Regalati, confessor, of the Order of Friars Minor, restorer of regular discipline in the monasteries of Spain. He was numbered among the saints by Pope Benedict XIV.

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

Thanks be to God.

13 MAY – OUR LADY OF FATIMA


Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of Heaven and earth, I consecrate myself to Your Immaculate Heart. To You I consecrate my heart, my soul, my family, and all that I have. I renew today the promises of my Baptism; and promise to live as a good Christian — faithful to God, by always believing and living the Catholic faith. I resolve to pray the Rosary every day, to receive in a worthy manner the Holy Eucharist, to participate in the First Saturdays of the month, and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. O Most Holy Virgin, I pray that devotion may spread to Your Immaculate Heart so that all souls may be truly consecrated to You, and that through Your own intercession, the coming of the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ in this world may be hastened. Accept this dear Mother and bless me and my family. Amen.

13 MAY – THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
The sun of the fortieth day has risen in all his splendour. The earth which shook with gladness at the birth of our Emmanuel (Psalms xcv. xcvi. xcvii.)now thrills with a strange emotion. The divine series of the mysteries of the Man-God is about to close. Heaven has caught up the joy of earth. The Angelic Choirs are preparing to receive their promised King, and their Princes stand at the Gates, that they may open them when the signal is given of the mighty Conquerors approach. The holy souls that were liberated from Limbo on the morning of the Resurrection are hovering round Jerusalem, waiting for the happy moment when Heavens gate, closed by Adams sin, will be thrown open and they will enter in company with their Redeemer: a few hours more, and then to Heaven! Meanwhile, our Risen Jesus has to visit His Disciples and bid them farewell, for they are to be left for some years longer in this vale of tears.
They are in the Cenacle impatiently awaiting His coming. Suddenly He appears in their midst. Of the Mothers joy, who would dare to speak? As to the Disciples and the holy women, they fall down and affectionately adore the Master who has come to take His leave of them. He deigns to sit down to table with them. He even condescends to eat with them, not, indeed, to give them proof of His Resurrection, for He knows that they have no further doubts of the mystery, but now that He is about to sit at the right hand of the Father, He would give them this endearing mark of familiarity. Admirable repast, in which Mary, for the last time in this world, is seated side by side with her Jesus, and in which the Church (represented by the Disciples and the holy women), is honoured by the visible presidency of her Head and Spouse.
What tongue could describe the respect, the recollected mien, the attention of the guests? With what love must they not have riveted their eyes on the dear Master? They long to hear Him speak. His parting words will be so treasured! He does not keep them long in suspense. He speaks but His language is not what they perhaps expected it to be — all affection. He begins by reminding them of the incredulity wherewith they heard of His Resurrection (Mark xvi. 14). He is going to entrust His Apostles with the most sublime mission ever given to man. He would, therefore, prepare them for it by humbling them. A few days hence, and they are to be the lights of the world. The world must believe what they preach, believe it on their word, believe it without having seen, believe what the Apostles alone have seen. It is by faith that man approaches His God: they themselves were once without it, and Jesus would have them now express their sorrow for their former incredulity, and thus base their Apostolate on humilty. Then, assuming a tone of authority, such as none but a God could take, He says to them: “Go into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptised, will be saved: but he that believes not will be condemned” (Mark xvi. 15, 16). And how will they accomplish this mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world? How will they persuade men to believe their word? By miracles. “And these signs,” continues Jesus, “will follow them that believe: in my name they will cast out devils; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands upon the sick, and they will recover” (Mark xvi. 17, 18). He would have miracles to be the foundation of His Church, just as He had made them the argument of His own divine mission. The suspension of the laws of nature proves to us that it is God who speaks. We must receive the word and humbly believe it. Here, then, we have men unknown to the world and devoid of every human means, and yet commissioned to conquer the earth and make it acknowledge Jesus as its King! The world ignores their very existence. Tiberius, who sits on the imperial throne, trembling at every shadow of conspiracy, little suspects that there is being prepared an expedition which is to conquer the Roman Empire. But these warriors must have their armour, and the armour must be of Heavens own tempering. Jesus tells them that they are to receive it a few days hence. “Stay,” says He, “in the City, till you be indued with power from on high” (Luke xxiv. 49). But what is this armour? Jesus explains it to them. He reminds them of the Fathers promise, “that promise,” says He, “which you have heard by my mouth; for John indeed, baptised with water; but you will be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts i. 4, 5).
But the hour of separation is come. Jesus rises: His blessed Mother and the hundred and twenty persons assembled there prepare to follow Him. The Cenacle is situated on Mount Sion, which is one of the two hills within the walls of Jerusalem. The holy group traverses the city, making for the eastern G-ate, which opens on the Valley of Josaphat. It is the last time that Jesus walks through the faithless city. He is invisible to the eyes of the people who denied Him, but visible to His Disciples, and goes before them, as heretofore, the pillar of fire led on the Israelites. How beautiful and imposing a sight! Mary, the Disciples, and the Holy Women, accompanying Jesus in His Heavenward journey, which is to lead him to the right hand of His Eternal Father! It was commemorated in the Middle Ages by a solemn Procession before the Mass of Ascension Day. What happy times were those, when Christians took delight in honouring every action of our Redeemer. They could not be satisfied as we are, with a few vague notions, which can produce nothing but an equally vague devotion. They reflected on the thoughts which Mary must have had during these last moments of her Sons presence. They used to ask themselves which of the two sentiments was uppermost in her maternal heart — sadness, that she was to see her Jesus no more, or joy, that he was now going to enter into the glory He so infinitely deserved. The answer was soon found: had not Jesus said to his Disciples: “If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father” (John xiv. 28). Now, who loved Jesus as Mary did? The Mothers heart, then, was full of joy at parting with Him. How was she to think of herself when there was question of the triumph of her Son and her God? Could she that had witnessed the scene of Calvary do less than desire to see Him glorified, whom she knew to be the Sovereign Lord of all things — Him whom, but a short time ago, she had seen rejected by His people, blasphemed, and dying the most ignominious and cruel of deaths? The holy group has traversed the Valley of Josaphat. It has crossed the brook Cedron and is moving onwards to Mount Olivet. What recollections would crowd on the mind! This torrent, of which Jesus had drunk on the day of His humiliation, is now the path He takes to triumph and glory. The Royal Prophet had foretold it (Psalms cix. 7). On their left are the Garden and cave where He suffered His agony and accepted the bitter chalice of His Passion. After having come as far as what Saint Luke calls the distance of the journey allowed to the Jews on a Sabbath day (Acts i. 12), they are close to Bethania, that favoured village where Jesus used to accept hospitality at the hands of Lazarus and his two sisters. This part of Mount Olivet commands a view of Jerusalem. The sight of its temple and palaces makes the disciples proud of their earthly city: they have forgotten the curse uttered against her. They seem to have forgotten, too, that Jesus has just made them citizens and conquerors of the whole world. They begin to dream of the earthly grandeur of Jerusalem, and, turning to their Divine Master, they venture to ask Him this question: “Lord, will you, at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus answers them with a tone of severity: “It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father has put in His own power” (Acts i. 7). These words do not destroy the hope that Jerusalem is to be restored by the Christian Israel, but, as this is not to happen till the world is drawing towards its end, there is nothing that requires our Saviours revealing the secret. What ought to be uppermost in the mind of the disciples is the conversion of the pagan world, the establishing the Church. Jesus reminds them of the mission He has just given to them: “You will receive,” says He, “the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you will be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the Earth” (Acts i. 8).
According to a tradition which has been handed down from the earliest ages of Christianity, it is midday, the same hour that He had been raised up, when nailed to His Cross. Giving His Blessed Mother a look of filial affection, and another of fond farewell to the rest of the group that stand around Him, Jesus raises up His hands and blesses them all. While thus blessing them, He is raised up from the ground on which He stands and ascends into Heaven (Luke xxiv. 51). Their eyes follow Him until a cloud comes and receives Him out of their sight (Acts i. 9).
Yes, Jesus is gone! The Earth has lost her Emmanuel — for [thousands of] years had He been expected: the Patriarchs and Prophets had desired His coming with all the fervour of their souls: He came: His love made him our captive in the chaste womb of the Virgin of Nazareth. It was there He first received our adorations. Nine months after, the Blessed Mother offered Him to our joyous love in the stable at Bethlehem. We followed Him into Egypt. We returned with Him. We dwelt with Him at Nazareth. When He began the three years of His public life, we kept close to His steps. We delighted in being near Him, we listened to His preaching and parables, we saw His miracles. The malice of His enemies reached its height, and the time came in which He was to give us the last and grandest proof of the love that had brought Him from Heaven — His dying for us on a Cross. We kept near Him as he died, and our souls were purified by the Blood that flowed from His Wounds. On the third day, He rose again from His grave, and we stood by exulting in His triumph over Death, for that triumph won for us a like Resurrection. During the Forty days He has deigned to spend with us since His Resurrection, our faith has made us cling to Him: we would fain have kept Him with us forever, but the hour is come. He has left us. Yes, our dearest Jesus is gone! Happy the souls that He had taken from Limbo! They have gone with Him and, for all eternity, are to enjoy the Heaven of His visible presence.
The Disciples are still steadfastly looking up towards heaven, when lo! two angels, clad in white robes, appear to them, saying: “You men of Galilee! Why stand you looking up to Heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into Heaven, will so come as you have seen Him going into Heaven! (Acts i. 10, 11) He has ascended a Saviour. He is to return as Judge. Between these two events is comprised the whole life of the Church on Earth. We are therefore living under the reign of Jesus as our Saviour, for He has said: “God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved by Him” (John iii. 17), and to carry out this merciful design He has just been giving to His Disciples the mission to go throughout the whole world and invite men, while yet there is time, to accept the mystery of salvation.
What a task is this he imposes on the Apostles! And now that they are to begin their work, He leaves them! They return from Mount Olivet, and Jesus is not with them! And yet, they are not sad: they have Mary to console them. Her unselfish generosity is their model, and well do they learn the lesson. They love Jesus. They rejoice at the thought of His having entered into His rest. “They went back into Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke xxiv. 52). These few simple words of the Gospel indicate the spirit of this admirable Feast of the Ascension: it is a Festival, which, notwithstanding its soft tinge of sadness, is, more than any other expressive of joy and triumph. During its Octave we will endeavour to describe its mystery and magnificence: we would only observe, for the present, that this Solemnity is the completion of the Mysteries of our Redemption, that it is one of those which were instituted by the Apostles, and finally, that it has impressed a character of sacredness on the Thursday of each week — the day already so highly honoured by the institution of the Eucharist.
We have alluded to the procession by which our Catholic forefathers used, on this Feast, to celebrate the journey of Jesus and His Disciples to Mount Olivet. Another custom observed on the Ascension was the solemn blessing given to bread and to the new fruits: it was commemorative of the farewell repast taken by Jesus in the Cenacle. Let us imitate the piety of the Ages of Faith when Christians loved to honour the very least of our Saviours actions and, so to speak, make them their own by thus interweaving the minutest details of His life into their own. What earnest reality of love and adoration was given to our Jesus in those old times when His being Sovereign Lord and Redeemer was the ruling principle of both individual and social life! Nowadays we may follow the principle, as fervently as we please, in the privacy of our own consciences or, at most, in our own homes, but publicly, and when we are before the world, no! To say nothing of the evil results of this modern limitation of Jesus rights as our King, what could be more sacrilegiously unjust to Him who deserves our whole service, everywhere and at all times? The Angels said to the Apostles: “This Jesus will come, as you have seen Him going into Heaven”: happy we if during his absence we will have so unreservedly loved and served Him as to be able to meet Him with confidence when He comes to judge us!
Epistle – Acts i. 111
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the Apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up. To whom also He showed Himself alive after his Passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (said He) by my mouth: for John indeed baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence. They, therefore, who were come together, asked Him, saying, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” But He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father has put in his own power; but you will receive: the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even, to the uttermost part of the earth.” And when He had said these things, whiles they looked on He was raised up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they were beholding Him going up to heaven, behold, two men stood by them in white garments, who also said, “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come, as you have seen Him going into heaven.”
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
This admirable description of our Jesus Ascension brings the mystery so vividly before us that we almost seem to see the happy group on Mount Olivet. With what affection the Disciples gaze on the Divine Master as they see Him rising up towards Heaven, and stretching out His hand to bless them! Their eyes, though full of tears, are riveted on the cloud which has come between themselves and Jesus. They are alone on the Mount. Jesus visible presence is taken from them. How wretched would they not feel in the desert land of their exile, were it not for His supporting grace, and for that Holy Spirit who is about to come down and create within them a new being? So then, it is only in Heaven that they can ever again see the face of Jesus, who, God as He is, deigned to be their Master for three long happy years, and, on the evening of the Last Supper, called them His friends!
Neither are they the only ones who feel this separation. Our Earth leaped with joy as the Son of God walked upon it. That joy is now past. It had looked forward, for [thousands of] years, for the glory of being the dwelling-place of its Creator. That glory is now gone. The nations are in expectation of a Deliverer and though, with the exception of the people of Judea and Galilee, men are not aware that this Deliverer has come and gone again, it will not long be so. They will hear of His birth, and His life, and His works. They will hear of His triumphant Ascension too, for holy Church will proclaim it in every country of the earth. [Two thousand] years have elapsed since He left this world, and our respectful and loving farewell blends with that which His Disciples gave Him when He was mounting up to Heaven. Like them, we feel His absence. But like them, we also rejoice in the thought that He is seated at the right hand of His Father, beautiful in His kingly glory.
You, dear Jesus, have entered into your rest! We adore you on your throne, we are redeemed and the fruit of your victory! Bless us! Draw us to yourself, and grant that your Last Coming may be to us a source of joy rather than of fear!
Gospel – Mark xvi. 1420
At that time Jesus appeared to the eleven as they were at table, and He upbraided them for their incredulity and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen again. And He said to them, “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised will be saved, but he who believes not will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: in my Name they will cast out devils; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But they going forth preached everywhere, the Lord working still and confirming the word with signs that followed.
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
Alas, how short was His stay here below! At least, how quickly the time passed! How many ages have gone by, and how many must still come over this poor Earth of ours before she can again behold His face. The Church languishes after Him in this dreary exile of the vale of tears, taking care of us, the children her Jesus has given her by His Holy Spirit. She feels His absence and, if we are Christians, we will feel it too. Oh when will the day come, that re-united to our bodies, “we will be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, and be with our Lord forever!” (1 Thessalonians iv. 16) Then, and then only, will we have attained the end for which we were created.
All the mysteries of the Word Incarnate were to close with His Ascension. All the graces we receive are to end with ours. This world is but “a figure that passes away” (1 Corinthians vi. 31), and we are hastening through it to rejoin our Divine Leader. In Him are our life and happiness: it is vain to seek them elsewhere. Whatever brings us nearer to Jesus is good. Whatever alienates us from Him is evil. The mystery of the Ascension is the last ray of light given to us by our Creator, by which He shows us the path to our heavenly country. If our heart is seeking its Jesus, and longs to come to Him, it is alive with the true life. If its energies are spent upon created things, and it feels no attraction for its Jesus, it is dead.
Let us, therefore, lift up our eyes, as did the disciples, and follow, in desire. Him who this day ascends to Heaven, and prepares a place there for each of his faithful servants. Sursum corda! Hearts on Heaven! It is the parting-word of our brethren who accompany the Divine Conqueror in His Ascension. It is the hymn with which the Angels, coming down to meet their King, invite us to ascend and fill up the vacant thrones: Sursum corda!
A tradition handed down from the early ages and confirmed by the revelations of the saints, tells us that the Ascension of our Lord took place at the hour of noon. The Carmelites of St. Teresas Reform honour this pious tradition by assembling in the choir at the hour of midday on the Ascension, and spend it in the contemplation of this last of Jesus mysteries, following Him, in thought and desire, to the throne of His glory. Let us also follow him, but before looking on the bright noon which smiles on His triumph, let us go back in thought to His first coming among us. It was at midnight, in the stable of Bethlehem. That dark and silent hour was an appropriate commencement to the three and thirty years of His life on earth. He had come to accomplish a great mission: year by year, and day by day, He laboured in its fulfilment. It was nigh to its fulfilment when men laid their sacrilegious hands on Him and nailed Him to a Cross. It was midday when He was thus raised up in the air, but the Eternal Father would not permit the sun to shine on Jesus humiliation. Darkness covered the face of the earth, and that day had no noon. Three hours after, the sun re-appeared. Three days after, the Crucified rose again from the tomb, and it was at the early dawn of light. On this day, yes, at this very hour, His work is completed. He has redeemed us by His Blood from our sins. He has conquered death by His Resurrection to life: had he not a right to choose, for His Ascension, the hour when the sun is pouring forth his warmest and brightest beams?
Hail, holy hour of Noon, sacred with your double consecration which reminds us daily of the mercy and of the Triumph of our Emmanuel, of salvation by His Cross, and of Heaven by His Ascension! But are you not, Jesus, Sun of Justice! Are you not yourself the noontide of our souls? Where are we to find that fullness of Light for which we were created — where that burning of eternal Love which alone can satisfy our longing hearts — but in you, who earnest down upon the earth to dispel our darkness and our cold? It is in this hope that we venture to address you in the sublime words of your faithful spouse Gertrude:
O Love, Noontide, whose ardours are so soothing! You are the hour of sacred rest, and the unruffled peace I taste in you is all my delight. You whom my soul loves, you who are my chosen and my elect above all creatures, tell me, show me, where you feed your flock, where you lie to rest in the midday. My heart kindles with rapture at thought of your tranquil rest at Noon! That it were given me to come so near to you, that I might be not only near you, but in you! Beneath your genial ray, Sun of Justice, the flowers of all the virtues would spring forth from me, who am but dust and ashes. Then would my soul, rendered fruitful by you, my Master and my Spouse, bring forth the noble fruit of every perfection. Then should I be led forth from this valley of sorrows and be admitted to behold your face, so long, so wistfully longed for. And then would it be my everlasting happiness to think that you have not disdained, you spotless Mirror, to unite yourself to a sinner like me!”
The Lord Jesus has disappeared from our Earth, but His memory and His promises are treasured in the heart of the Church. She follows, in spirit, the glorious triumph of her Spouse, a triumph so well deserved by his having accomplished the worlds Redemption. She keenly feels her widowhood, but she awaits with unshaken confidence, the promised Comforter.
O JESUS our Emmanuel! Your work is done, and this is the day of your entering into your rest. In the beginning of the world you spent spend six days in harmonising the varied portions of the creation, after which you entered again into your rest. When later on you would repair your work which Satans malice had deranged, your love induced you to live among us for three and thirty years, during which you worked our redemption and restored us to the holiness and honour from which we had fallen. Whatever had been assigned you in the eternal decrees of the Blessed Trinity, whatever had been foretold of your by the Prophets, all was done, dear Jesus. Not an iota of it all was forgotten. Your triumphant Ascension was the close of the mission you had so mercifully undertaken. It was your second entrance into your rest, but this time it was with our Human Nature which you had assumed, and which was now to receive divine honour. You would have companions in your Ascension — the souls you had liberated from Limbo. And when about to leave us, you said this word of consolation to us: “I go go to prepare a place for you!” (John xiv. 2). Confiding, Jesus, in this promise, resolved to follow you in all the mysteries achieved by you for our sakes — in the humility of your birth at Bethlehem, in your sufferings on Calvary, in the joy of your Resurrection — we hope, also, to imitate you when our mortal course is run, in your glorious Ascension. Meanwhile, we unite with the holy Apostles who rejoiced at your triumph, and with the ransomed captives of Limbo who entered Heaven in your company. Watch over us, Divine Shepherd, while we are in our exile! Tend your faithful sheep. Let none be lost. Lead them all to your fold. The mystery of your Ascension shows us the object of our existence. it re-animates us to study more attentively and love more warmly all your other mysteries: our one ambition, then, our one desire, will henceforth be our own Ascension to Heaven and to you It was for this you came into the world: by humbling yourself to our lowliness, to exalt us to your own majesty, and by making yourself Man, to make man a partaker of your divinity. But until the happy day of our union with you, what would become of us without that power of the Most High which you have promised to send us, that He may bring us patience during our pilgrimage, fidelity to our absent King, and that solace of a heart exiled from its God, love? Come, then, Holy Spirit! Support our weakness. Fix the eye of our souls on the heaven where our King awaits us, and never permit us to set our hearts on a world which, had it every other charm, has not the infinite one of Jesus visible presence!
Only Begotten Son of God who, having conquered death, passed from Earth to Heaven: who, as Son of Man, are seated in great glory on your throne, receiving praise from the whole Angelic host, grant that we, who in the jubilant devotion of our faith, celebrate your Ascension to the Father, may not be fettered by the chains of sin to the love of this world, and that the aim of our hearts may unceasingly be directed to the Heaven to which you ascended in glory after your Passion. Amen.



Wednesday, 12 May 2021

12 MAY – SAINTS NEREUS AND ACHILLEUS (Martyrs) AND FLAVIA DOMITILLA (Virgin and Martyr)

The brothers Nereus and Achilleus served Flavia Domitilla, a niece of Flavius Clemens and member of the imperial family of the Domitii. Nereus and Achilleus were baptised, together with Flavia and her mother Plautilla, by Saint Peter. They persuaded Domitilla to consecrate her virginity to God in consequence of which they were accused of being Christians. After confessing their faith they were banished to the island of Pontia. There they were condemned to be flogged after refusing to renounce their religion. Shortly afterwards they were taken to Terracina and hoisted on the rack and tormented with burning torches. Upon declaring that, having been baptised by the Apostle Peter no tortures could enduce they to sacrifice to idols, they were beheaded. Their bodies were taken to Rome by their disciple Auspicius who was Domitilla’s tutor, and were buried on the Via Ardeatina.

Flavia Domitilla received the veil of virginity from Pope Saint Clement. Accused of being a Christian by her betrothed Aurelian who was a a son of the consul Titus Aurelius, Domitian banished her to the island of Pontia where she suffered a long martyrdom in prison. After being taken to Terracina, she again confessed her faith and refused to be shaken from it, for which the judge ordered that the house where she lived be set on fire. Flavia completed her martyrdom together with her virgin foster sisters Theodora and Euphrosyna on the ninth of the nones of May (May 7th) during the reign of Trajan. Their bodies were found entire and were buried by the deacon Caesarius. On this day, the 12th of May, the relics of Nereus, Achilleus and Flavia were translated to the Basilica called the Fasciola, on the Via Appia.


Dom Prosper Gueranger:
So far in our Paschal Season the choir of Martyr-Virgins has not yet offered to Jesus its crown of roses and lilies. It does so today by presenting to Him the noble Flavia Domitilla — the fairest flower of Rome, that was cut down by the sword of martyrdom in the first age of the Christian Faith. It was under the persecution of Domitian — the same that condemned John the Evangelist to be burned alive in the caldron of boiling oil — that Flavia Domitilla was honoured with banishment and death for the sake of our Redeemer whom she had chosen as her Spouse. She was of the Imperial family, being a niece of Flavins Clemens who adorned the consular dignity by martyrdom. She was one of the Christians belonging to the court of the Emperor Domitian, who show us how rapidly the religion of the poor and humble made its way to the highest classes of Roman life. A few years previous to this, Saint Paul sent to the Christians of Philippi the greetings of the Christians of Nero’s palace (Philippians iv. 22). There is still extant, not far from Rome, on the Via Ardeatina, the magnificent subterraneous Cemetery which Flavia Domitilla ordered to be dug on her Praedium, and in which were buried the two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus, whom the Church honours today together with the noble virgin who owes her crown to them.
Nereus and Achilleus were in Domitilla’s service. Hearing them one day speaking on the merit of virginity, she there and then bade farewell to all worldly pleasures, and aspired to the honour of being the Spouse of Christ. She received the veil of consecrated virgins from the hands of Pope Saint Clement: Nereus and Achilleus had been baptised by Saint Peter himself. What glorious reminiscences for one day! The bodies of these three saints reposed for several centuries in the Basilica called the Fasciola on the Via Appia, and we have a Homily which Saint Gregory the Great preached in this Church, on their Feast. The holy Pontiff dwelt on the vanity of this Earth’s good. He encouraged his audience to despise them by the example of the three martyrs whose relics lay under the very altar around which they were that day assembled. “These saints” said he, “before whose tomb we are now standing, trampled, with contempt of soul, on the world and its flowers. Life was then long, health was uninterrupted, riches were abundant, parents were blessed with many children. And yet, though the world was so flourishing in itself, it had long been a withered thing in their hearts.”
Later on, the Fasciola having been almost reduced to ruins by the disasters that had befallen Rome, the bodies of the three saints were translated in the thirteenth century to the Church of Saint Adrian in the Forum. There they remained till the close of the sixteenth century, when the great Baronius who had been raised to the Cardinalate with the Title of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, resolved to repair the church that was thus entrusted to his care. Through his munificence the naves were restored, the history of the three martyrs was painted on the walls, the marble pulpit, from which Saint Gregory preached the Homily was brought back, the Homily itself was graven from beginning to end on the back, and the Confession was enriched with mosaics and precious marbles, preparatory to its receiving the sacred relics of which it had been deprived for three hundred years.
Baronius felt that it was high time to put an end to the long exile of the holy martyrs whose honour was now made so specially dear to him. He organised a formal triumph for their return. Christian Rome excels in the art of blending together the forms of classic antiquity and the sentiments inspired by Faith. The chariot, bearing a superb canopy, under which lay the relics of the three martyrs, was first led to the Capitol. On reaching the top of the clivus Capitolinus the eye met two Inscriptions placed parallel with each other. On one, were these words: “To Saint Flavia Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, the Capitol, purified from the wicked worship of demons, and restored more perfectly than by Flavius Vespasian and Domitian, Emperors, kinsmen of the Christian Virgin.” On the other: “The Senate and People of Rome to Saint Flavia Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, who, by allowing herself to be put to death by fire for the Faith of Christ, brought greater glory to Rome, than did her kinsmen, the Emperors Flavius Vespasian and Domitian, when, at their own expense, they restored the Capitol, that had twice suffered from fire.”
The reliquaries of the martyrs were then put on an altar that had been erected near the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. After being venerated by the faithful, they were replaced on the chariot which descended by the opposite side of the Capitol. The procession soon reached the triumphal arch of Septimus Severus, on which were hung these two inscriptions: “To the holy Martyrs, Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the best of citizens, the Senate and People of Rome, for their having honoured the Roman name by their glorious death, and won peace for the Roman commonwealth by shedding their blood.” “To Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the invincible Martyrs of Christ Jesus, the Senate and People of Rome, for their having honoured the City by the noble testimony they bore to the Christian Faith.”
Following the Via Sacra, the procession was soon in front of the triumphal Arch of Titus, the monument of God’s victory over the deicide nation. On one side there were inscribed these words: “This triumphal Arch, formerly dedicated and raised to the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, for his having brought the rebellious Judea under the yoke of the Roman people, is now, by the Senate and People of Rome, more auspiciously dedicated and consecrated to Flavia Domitilla, kinswoman of the same Titus, for having, by her death, increased and furthered the Christian Religion.” On the other side of the Arch, there was the following inscription: “To Flavia Domitilla, Virgin and Martyr of Rome, kinswoman of the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, the Senate and People of Rome, for her having, by the shedding her blood and laying down her life for the Faith, rendered a more glorious homage to the death of Christ, than did the said Titus, when, by a divine inspiration, he destroyed Jerusalem, to avenge that same Death.”
Leaving on the left the Colosseum — the hallowed ground on which so many martyrs had fought the battle of Faith — they passed under the triumphal Arch of Constantine, which so eloquently speaks of the victory of Christianity, both in Rome and the Empire, and which still bears on it the name of the Flavia family, of which the first Christian Emperor was a member. The two following inscriptions were attached to the Arch. “To Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus, the Senate and People of Rome. On this Sacred Way — on which so many Roman Emperors received triumphal honours for having brought various provinces into subjection to the Roman People — these Martyrs are receiving today a more glorious triumph, for that they conquered, by a greater courage, the conquerors themselves.” “To Flavia Domitilla, the Senate and People of Rome. Twelve Emperors, her kinsmen, conferred honour on the Flavia family and on Rome herself, by their deeds of fame; but she, by sacrificing all human honours and life itself, for Christ’s sake, rendered greater service to both family and City than they.”
The procession then continued its route along the Via Appia and at length reached the Basilica. Baronius, assisted by a great number of Cardinals, received the precious relics and took them with great respect to the Confession of the High Altar. Meanwhile, the Choir sang this Antiphon of the Pontifical” “Come in, ye Saints of God! for a dwelling has been prepared for you by the Lord. The faithful people have followed you on your way, that ye may intercede for them with the Majesty of the Lord. Alleluia!”
* * * * *
How grand was the triumph which Rome gave to you, O holy martyrs, so many centuries after your glorious deaths! How true it is that there is no glory here on Earth which can bear comparison with that of the saints! Where are now those twelve Emperors, your kinsmen, O Domitilla? Who cares about their remains? Who even cherishes their memory? One of them was surnamed “the delight of mankind,” and now how many are there who never heard of his existence? Another, the last of the twelve, had the glory of proclaiming the victory won by the Cross, over the Roman Empire. Christian Rome honours and loves his name, but the homage of religious devotion is not given to him, but to you, O Domitilla, and to the two martyrs whose names are now associated with yours.
Who does not recognise the power of Jesus’ Resurrection, in the love and enthusiasm with which with a whole people welcome your holy relics, Martyrs of the Living God? [Seventeen] hundred years had elapsed, and yet your lifeless remains were greeted with a transport of joy as though you yourselves were there and living. It was because we Christians know that Jesus, who is the first-born of the dead, has risen from the grave and that you, also, are one day to rise glorious like Him. Therefore do the faithful honour, by anticipation, the immortality which, at a future period is to be given to your bodies, slain as they were for Jesus’ sake. They already see, by faith, the future brightness which is to be imparted to your flesh and, in all this, they are proclaiming the dignity which the Redemption has given to man, to whom death is now but a transition to true life, and the tomb but a resting place where the body is consigned, as seed to the earth, to be restored in a hundred-fold of richer beauty.
Happy they, who, as the prophecy says, have washed their robes, and have made them white in the Blood of the Lamb! But happier they, says holy Church, who, after being thus purified, have mingled their own blood with that of the Divine Victim, for, by so doing, they have filled up in their flesh those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ. Hence, their intercession is powerful and we should address our prayers to them with love and confidence. Befriend us, then, O holy martyrs Nereus, Achilleus and Domitilla! Obtain for us an ardent love for our Risen Jesus,perseverance in the new life that He has gained for us, detachment from the things of this world, and a determined resolution to trample them beneath our feet, should they become a danger to our eternal salvation. Pray for us that we may be courageous in resisting our spiritual enemies, ever ready to defend our holy faith, and earnest in our endeavours to gain that kingdom, which is to be borne away by violence. Be you the Defenders of the holy Roman Church, which fervently celebrates your memory each year.

12 MAY – SAINT PANCRAS (Martyr)

Pancras was born in Phrygia of a noble family. When only 14 years old he went to Rome during the reign of the emperors Dioclesian and Maximian. He there received Baptism from the Roman Pontiff, and was instructed in the Christian Faith. Shortly afterwards he was seized as being a Christian, but on his firmly refusing to offer sacrifice to the gods, he was condemned to be beheaded. He suffered death with manly courage and obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom. During the night the matron Octavilla took away his body and had it buried, after embalming it, on the Via Aurelia.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
A fourth martyr claims our veneration on this twelfth day of May. Like the three others, he culled his palm at Rome. But while they died for the Faith at the very commencement of the Christian Era, Pancras (Pancratius) was not called to the glorious combat till the Persecution under Diocletian, the last and greatest effort of pagan Rome against the Church. Our young hero was only fourteen years of age but he was old enough to be a brave martyr, and he has been honoured by his name being placed on the Cycle of Paschal Time. The venerable Church in the Holy City which is dedicated to him, and which gives one of the Cardinalate Titles, was built on the site of the Cemetery where his body was buried.
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Divine Grace, which called you to the crown of martyrdom, selected you, O Pancras, from the distant land of Phrygia, and led you to the Capital of the Empire — the centre of every vice and every error of paganism. Your name, like that of millions of others who were better known to the world, had else been quite forgotten. But now, though your earthly career was soon ended, the name of Pancras is loved and venerated throughout the whole Earth: it is breathed at the altar in the prayers which accompany the Sacrifice of the Lamb. How came you, dear youthful martyr, by this celebrity which will last to the end of the world? It was because having imitated Jesus’ Death by suffering and shedding your blood for His Name, you have been made a sharer in the glory of His immortality. In return for the honour we pay you, deign to aid us by your protection. Speak of us to Jesus who is our Divine Master, as he was yours. In this valley of our exile, we sing our Alleluia for His Resurrection which has filled us with hope. Obtain for us, by your prayers, that we may sing Alleluia with you in Heaven where it will be eternal, and be prompted not by the gladness of hope, but by the bliss of possession.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

Also at Rome, St. Denis, uncle of the same blessed Pancratius.

In Sicily, St. Philip Argyrio who was sent to that island by the Roman Pontiff and converted to Christ a great portion of it. His sanctity is particularly manifested by the deliverance of possessed persons.

At Salamis in Cyprus, St. Epiphanius, a bishop of great erudition and profound knowledge of the holy Scriptures. He was also admirable for the sanctity of his life, his zeal for the Catholic faith, his charity to the poor and the gift of miracles.

At Constantinople, St. Germanus, a bishop distinguished by virtues and learning, who with great courage reprehended Leo the Isaurian for promulgating an edict against holy images.

At Treves, St. Modoaldus, bishop.

At Calzada, St. Dominic, confessor.

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

Thanks be to God.

12 MAY – ROGATION WEDNESDAY

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
During these three days we seem to have forgotten that the time of separation is close upon us, but no — the thought of our coming trial has often presented itself, and the humble supplications we have been presenting to Heaven, in union with holy Church, have prepared us to celebrate the last mystery achieved by our Emmanuel on Earth. The Disciples are all assembled in Jerusalem. They are grouped around the Blessed Mother, in the Cenacle, awaiting the hour when their divine Master is to appear to them for the last time. Recollected and silent, they are reflecting upon all the kindness and condescension He has been lavishing on them during the last forty days. They are ruminating on the instructions they have received from His sacred lips. They know Him so well now! They know in very deed that He came out from the Father (John xvii. 8) As to what regards themselves, they have learned from Him what their mission is: they have to go, ignorant men as they are, and teach all nations (Matthew xxviii. 19), but, sad thought! He is about to leave them. Yet a little while and they will not see Him (John xvi. 16).
What a contrast between their sorrow and the smiling face of nature, which is decked out in her best, for she is going to celebrate the triumphant departure of her Creator! The earth is blooming with the freshness of her first-fruits, the meadows have put on their richest emerald, the air is perfumed with blossom and flower, and all this loveliness of Spring is due to the bright sun that shines on the earth to give her gladness and life, and is privileged to be, both by its kingly splendour and the successive phases of its influence upon our globe, the grand symbol of our Emmanuel’s passage through this world. Let us go back in thought to the dismal days of the winter solstice. The sun looked then so pallid. His triumph over night was slow and short. He rose and sank again, often without our seeing him. His light had a certain timid reserve about it, and his heat was, for weeks, too feeble to rescue nature from the grasp of frost. Such was our divine Sun of Justice, when first He came on earth. His rays made but little way in the world’s thick gloom. He kept His splendour in, lest men should be dazzled by too sudden a change from darkness to light. Like the material sun, He gained upon the world by slow advances, and even so, His progress was shrouded by many a cloud. His sojourn in the land of Egypt, His hidden life at Nazareth, were long periods of His being wholly lost sight of. But when the time came for Him to show Himself, His glory shone forth with all its magnificence on Galilee and Judea. He spoke as one having power (Matthew vii. 29). His works bore testimony to His being God (John x. 25), and the people hailed Him with the cry of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
He was almost at the zenith of His glory when suddenly came the eclipse of His Passion and Death. For some hours His enemies flattered themselves that they had for ever put out His light. Vain hope! On the third day our divine Sun triumphed over this final obstruction, and now stands in the firmament, pouring out His light upon all creation, but warning us that His course is run. For He can never descend. There is no setting for Him, and here finishes the comparison between Himself and the orb of day. It is from heaven itself that he, our beautiful Orient is henceforth to enlighten and direct us, as Zachary foretold at the birth of the Baptist (Luke I. 79). The Royal Prophet, too, thus exultingly sang of Him: “He has rejoiced as a giant, to run the way: his going out is from the highest heaven, and his circuit even to the summit thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat” (Psalms xviii. 6, 7).
This Ascension which enthroned our Emmanuel as the eternal centre of light was, by His own decree, to take place on one of the days of the month which men call May, and which clothes, in its richest beauty, the creation of this same God, who, when He had made it, was pleased with it, and found it very good (Genesis i. 31) Sweet month of May! Not gloomy and cold like December, which brought us the humble joys of Bethlehem: not lowering and clouded like March, when the Lamb was sacrificed on Calvary — but buoyant with sunshine, and flowers, and life, and truly worthy to be offered, each year, to Mary, the Mother of God, for it is the month of her Jesus’ triumph.
JESUS, our Creator and Brother! Our eyes and heart have followed you from your first rising upon our world. We have celebrated, in the holy Liturgy, each of your giant steps. But our very seeing you thus ever growing in beauty and brightness told us that you must one day leave us, to go and take possession of the place that was alone worthy of you — the throne at the right hand of your Eternal Father. The splendour that has been on you since your Resurrection is not of this world. You can no longer abide among us. You have remained here below for these forty days only for the sake of consolidating your work, and tomorrow, the earth that has been blessed with your presence for three and thirty years, will be deprived of its privilege and joy. We rejoice at your approaching triumph, as did your Blessed Mother, your Disciples, Mary Magdalene and her companions, but we are sad at the thought of losing you — and you will forgive us. You were our Emmanuel, our God with us: henceforth you are to be our Sun, our King, reigning from the throne of Heaven, and we will no longer be able to hear you, nor see you, nor touch you, Word of Life! Still, dearest Jesus, we say to you with all our hearts: “Glory and love be to you, for you have treated us with infinite mercy! You owed nothing to us. We were unworthy of a single look from you, and yet you came down to this sinful earth, you have dwelt among us, you have hast paid our ransom by your Blood, you have re-established Peace between God and man. Oh, yes, it is most just that you should now return to Him that sent you (John xvi. 5). The Church, your Spouse, consents to her exile. She only thinks of what is most glorious to her Jesus, and she thus addresses you, in the words of the Canticle: “Flee away, O my Beloved! and be swift as the roe and as the young hart, and ascend to the mountains, where the flowers of heaven exhale their sweet fragrance!” (Canticles viii. 14) Can we, poor sinners as we are, refuse to imitate this loving resignation of her, who is your Spouse, and our Mother.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

11 MAY – THE HOLY APOSTLES PHILIP AND JAMES (Martyrs)

Today the Church honours the Apostles Philip and James. Before the establishment of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955, this feast was celebrated on the First of May. Their bodies repose in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome and their relics are regarded as one of the greatest treasures of the Eternal City. There is reason to believe that the First of May was the anniversary of their translation. For a long time the Church of Rome kept special feasts in honour of only Saints Peter and Paul, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Andrew (the brother of Peter).


Philip was born at Bethsaida, and was one of the twelve Apostles that were first called by Christ our Lord. It was from Philip that Nathanael learned that the Messiah had come who was promised in the Law. And by him also he was led to our Lord. We have a clear proof of the familiarity with which Philip was treated by Christ in the fact of the Gentiles addressing themselves to this Apostle when they wished to see the Saviour. Again, when our Lord was about to feed the multitude in the desert, he spoke to Philip and said: “Where can we buy bread that these may eat?” Having received the Holy Ghost, he went into Scythia, which was the country allotted to him in which to preach the Gospel. He converted almost its entire people to the Christian Faith. Having finally reached Hierapolis in Phrygia, he was crucified there for the name of Christ and then stoned to death on the Calends of May (May 1st). The Christians buried his body in the same place, but it was afterwards taken to Rome and, together with the body of the Apostle Saint James, was placed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.

James, “the brother of our Lord,” was called “the Just.” From his childhood he never drank wine or strong drink. He abstained from flesh-meat. He never cut his hair or used oil to anoint his limbs, or took a bath. He was the only one permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. His garments were of linen. So assiduous was he in prayer that the skin of his knees was as hard as that of a camel. After Christ’s Ascension, the Apostles made him Bishop of Jerusalem, and it was to him that the Prince of the Apostles sent the news of his being delivered out of prison by an Angel. A dispute having arisen in the Council of Jerusalem concerning the Mosaic Law and circumcision, James sided with Peter and, in a speech which he made to the brethren, proved the vocation of the Gentiles, and said that the absent brethren were to be written to, and told not to impose the yoke of the Mosaic Law on the Gentiles.

It is of James that Saint Paul speaks in his Epistle to the Galatians when he says: “But other of the Apostles I saw none, saving James, the brother of the Lord.” Such was James’ holy life that people used to strive with each other to touch the hem of his garment. At the age of 96 years — of which he had spent 30 governing the Church of Jerusalem in the most saintly manner — as he was one day preaching with great courage Christ the Son of God, he was attacked by stones being thrown at him, after which he was taken to the highest part of the Temple and cast headlong down. His legs were broken by the fall, and as he was lying half dead upon the ground, he raised up his hands towards Heaven and thus prayed for his executioners: “Forgive them, O Lord! For they know not what they do.” While so praying, he received a blow on the head with a fuller’s club and gave up his soul to his God in the seventh year of Nero’s reign. He was buried near the Temple from which he had been thrown down. He wrote a Letter which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:

Two of the favoured witnesses of our beloved Jesus’ Resurrection come before us on this day. Philip and James are here, bearing testimony to us that their Master is truly risen from the dead, that they have seen Him, that they have touched Him, that they have conversed with Him (1 John i. 1) during these forty days. And, that we may have no doubt as to the truth of their testimony, they hold in their hands the instruments of the martyrdom they underwent for asserting that Jesus, after having suffered death, came to life again and rose from the grave. Philip is leaning upon the cross to which he was fastened, as Jesus had been. James is holding the club with which he was struck dead.
Philip preached the Gospel in the two Phrygias, and his martyrdom took place at Hierapolis. He was married when he was called by our Saviour, and we learn from writers of the second century that he had three daughters, remarkable for their great piety, one of whom lived at Ephesus, where she was justly revered as one of the glories of that early Church. James is better known than Philip. He is called, in the sacred Scripture, Brother of the Lord (Galatians i. 19) on account of the close relationship that existed between his own mother and the Blessed Mother of Jesus. He claims our veneration during Paschal Time inasmuch as he was favoured with a special visit from our Risen Lord, as we learn from Saint Paul (1 Corinthians xv. 7). There can be no doubt, but what he had done something to deserve this mark of Jesus’ predilection. Saint Jerome and Saint Epiphanius tell us that our Saviour, when ascending into Heaven, recommended to Saint James’ care the Church of Jerusalem, and that he was accordingly appointed the first Bishop of that city.
The Christians of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, had possession of the Chair on which Saint James used to sit when he assisted at the assemblies of the faithful. Saint Epiphanius also tells us that the holy Apostle used to wear a lamina of gold on his forehead as the badge of his dignity. His garment was a tunic made of linen. He was held in such high repute for virtue that the people of Jerusalem called him “The Just,” and when the time of the siege came, instead of attributing the frightful punishment, they then endured to the deicide they or their fathers had committed, they would have it to be a consequence of the murder of James, who, when dying, prayed for his people. The admirable Epistle he has left us bears testimony to the gentleness and uprightness of his character. He there teaches us with an eloquence of an inspired writer, that works must go along with our Faith, if we would be Just with that Justice, which makes us like our Risen Lord.
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Holy Apostles, you saw our Risen Jesus in all His glory. He said to you on the evening of that great Sunday: “Peace be to you!” He appeared to you during the forty days following, that He might make you certain of His Resurrection. Great indeed must have been your joy at seeing, once more, that dear Master who had admitted you into the number of His chosen Twelve, and His return made your love of Him more than ever fervent. We address ourselves to you as our special patrons during this holy Season, and most earnestly do we beseech you to teach us how to know and love the great mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection. May our hearts glow with Paschal joy, and may we never lose the New Life that our Jesus has now given us.
You, Philip, were all devoted to Him, even from the first day of his calling you. Scarcely had you come to know Him as the Messiah, than you announced the great tidings to your friend Nathanael. Jesus treated you with affectionate familiarity. When about to work the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, it was to you that He addressed Himself and said to you: “Where will we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John vi. 5) A few days before the Passion of your Divine Master, some of the Gentiles wished to see this great Prophet of whom they had heard such wonderful things, and it was to you they applied. How fervently did you not ask Him at the Last Supper to show you the Father! Your soul longed for the divine Light, and when the rays of the Holy Ghost had inflamed your spirit, nothing could daunt your courage. As a reward of your labours, Jesus gave you to share with Him the honours of the Cross. O holy Apostle, intercede for us that we may imitate your devotedness to Jesus and that, when He deigns to send us the Cross, we may reverence and love it.
We also honour your love of Jesus, O you that are called the Brother of the Lord, and on whose venerable features was stamped the likeness of this our Redeemer. If, like the rest of the Apostles, you abandoned Him in His Passion, your repentance was speedy and earnest, for you were the first after Peter to whom He appeared after His Resurrection. We affectionately congratulate you, James, for the honour thus conferred on you. In return, obtain for us that we may taste and see how sweet is our Risen Lord (Psalms xxxiii. 9). Your ambition was to give Him every possible proof of your gratitude, and the last testimony you bore in the faithless City to the Divinity of your dear Master (when the Jews took you to the top of the Temple), opened to you, by martyrdom, the way that was to unite you to Him for eternity. Pray for us, O you generous Apostle, that we also may confess His holy Name with the firmness becoming His disciples, and that we may ever be brave and loyal in proclaiming His rights as King over all creatures.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, on the Via Salaria, the birthday of blessed Anthimus, priest, who, after having distinguished himself by his virtues and preaching, was precipitated into the river Tiber in the persecution of Diocletian. He was rescued by an angel and restored to his oratory. Being afterwards decapitated, he went victoriously to heaven.

The same day, St. Evelius, martyr, who belonged to the household of Nero. On seeing the martyrdom of St. Torpes, he believed in Christ and for Him was beheaded.

Also at Rome, the holy martyrs Maximus, Bassus and Fabius who were put to death on the Via Salaria in the time of Diocletian.

At Camerino, the holy martyrs Anastasius and his companions who were killed in the persecution of Decius under the governor Antiochus.

At Osimo, in the Marches of Ancona, the holy martyrs Sisinus, a deacon, Diocletius and Florentius, disciples of the priest St. Anthimus, who consummated their martyrdom under Diocletian by being overwhelmed with stones.

At Varennes, St. Gangulpus, martyr.

At Vienne, St. Mamertus, bishop, who, to avert an impending calamity, instituted in that city the three days’ Litanies immediately before the Ascension of Our Lord. This rite was afterwards received and approved by the Universal Church.

At Souvigny, the decease of St. Maieul, abbot of Cluny, whose life was distinguished for merits and holiness.

At San Severino, in the Marches of Ancona, St. Illuminatus, confessor.

At Grottaglia in the diocese of Taranto, St. Francis Girolamo, confessor, of the Society of Jesus, renowned for his zeal for the salvation of souls, and for his patience. He was canonised by Pope Gregory XVI. The day of his death is celebrated with great solemnity in the church of the professed house at Naples where his body rests.

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

Thanks be to God.