The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints - January, February, March
by Alban Butler
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Philip assisted at the heathenish solemnity of the thousandth year of Rome; but his presence was necessary on that occasion, nor is he said to have offered sacrifice. He was indeed a bad Christian, and probably only a catechumen, an ambitious and cruel tyrant, who procured the death of Misitheus, father-in-law of Gordian, murdered Gordian himself to usurp his empire, and put to death the young prince, son of the king of Persia, of the Parthians, left a hostage in his hands: circumstances mentioned by St. Chrysostom. Having reigned something upwards of five years, he was slain with his son Philip, his colleague in the empire, by Decius, about the middle of the year 249. The peace and favor which the church had enjoyed during his reign, had much increased her numbers, but had relaxed the fervor of many, as we see in St. Cyprian's works, and in the life of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus. Whole cities had embraced the faith, and public {212} churches were erected. Decius equally hated the Philips and the Christian religion, against which he published the most cruel edicts in the year 250; which caused the seventh general persecution, permitted by God to purge away the dross to his flock, and to awake them to fervor.

St. Chrysostom extols the courage and zeal of St. Babylas, in shutting the church-doors against an emperor and a barbarous tyrant, then at the head of a victorious army. We find Philip styled conqueror of the Parthians, in an inscription in Gruter,[2] by which he seems to have returned triumphant, though Zonoras pretends he had bought a peace. Eusebius mentions it as a report, that the emperor received the bishop's rebuke with meekness, and submitted to public penance: but St. Chrysostom insinuates, that the same tyrant, in a rage for being refused admittance, threw St. Babylas into a dungeon, where he soon died. St. Jerom says that Decius imprisoned him, which seems the true account. F. Stilting thinks that Decius, after being proclaimed emperor in Pannonia, marched first against Philip, and when he was slain, led his army into Syria, where Priscus, Philip's brother, commanded the troops of those parts, and Jotapian about that time assumed the purple, but was soon crushed. At this time he doubts not but Decius was forbid by St. Babylas to enter the church, because he was an idolater, and had perfidiously murdered a prince who was the son of some king of a nation of barbarians, who had sent him as a hostage to that tyrant. For many transactions of that time are not recorded by the Roman historians. At least it seems to have been under Decius that St. Babylas consummated his martyrdom by the hardships of his prison: and when dying, ordered his chains to be buried with him, as the happy instruments and marks of his triumph. The Christians built a church over his tomb. His body rested here about one hundred years, till 351, when Gallus Caesar translated it to Daphne, five miles from Antioch, to oppose the worship of a famous idol of Apollo, which gave oracles in that place. Gallus erected a church, sacred to the name of St. Babylas, near the profane temple, and placed in it his venerable ashes in a shrine above ground. The neighborhood of the martyr's relics struck the devil dumb, as is averred by St. Chrysostom. Theodoret,[3] Sozomen, and others, who triumph over the pagans on this account.[4] Eleven years after, Julian the Apostate came to Antioch, in the year 362, and by a multitude of sacrifices endeavored to learn of the idol the cause of his silence. At length the fiend gave him to understand, that the neighborhood was full of dead bones, which must be removed before he could be at rest and disposed to give answers. Julian understood this of the body of St. Babylas, and commanded that the Christians should immediately remove his shrine to some distant place; but not touch the other dead bodies. Thus do the fathers and Christian historians of that age relate this miracle.[5] The Christians obeyed the order, and with great solemnity carried back in procession the sacred relics to Antioch, singing on this occasion the psalms which ridicule the vanity and feebleness of idols, repeating after every verse: "May they who adore idols and glory in false gods, blush with shame and be covered with confusion." The following evening, lightning fell on the temple of Apollo, and reduced to ashes all the rich and magnificent ornaments with which it was embellished, and the idol itself, leaving only the walls standing. Julian, the emperor's uncle, {213} and governor of the East, upon this news hastened to Daphne, and endeavored by tortures to compel the priests to confess if the accident had happened by any negligence, or by the interposition of the Christians: but it was clearly proved by the testimony of these very priests, and also by that of several peasants who saw the fire fall from heaven, that lightning was the cause. The Apostate durst not restore the idol lest the like thunder should fall on his own head: but he breathed nothing but fury against the Christians in general, more especially against those of Antioch, the fatal effects of which he intended they should feel at his return from the Persian war. Vain projects against God, who defeated them by his unhappy death in that expedition! The ruins of this temple remained in the same condition above twenty years after. The Roman Martyrology, with that of St. Jerom and others of the West, celebrate the memory of St. Babylas on the 24th of January, but the Greeks on the 4th of September, together with three children martyred with him, as St. Chrysostom and others mention. His body is said to be now at Cremona, brought from the East in the crusades. St. Babylas is the titular saint of many churches in Italy, France, and Spain.

Footnotes: 1. [Greek: Touton katexei xristianon honta] Eus. l. 6, c. 3. 2. P. 273. 3. Theodoret l. 3. Hist. c. 6, and de Graecor. Affect. l. 10. Rufin. Chrys. 4. St. Chrysostom has given us the lamentation of Libanius, the celebrated heathen sophist, bewailing the silence of Apollo at Daphne; adding that Julian had delivered him from the neighborhood of a dead man, which was troublesome to him. 5. Ammianus Marcellinus, a heathen, and Julian's own historian, says b. 2, p. 225, that he caused all the bones of dead men to be taken away to purify the place.


WHO gave all things, even the herbs out of his garden, to the poor. He was martyred by the Lombards in the seventh century, and his relics were famed for miracles.[1]

Footnotes: 1. St. Greg. Dial. l. 4, c. 22.


HE lived forty years on barley moistened in water, till finding his health impaired, he ate bread, reflecting that it was not lawful for him to shorten his life to shun labors and conflicts, as he told the mother of Theodoret; persuading her, when in a bad state of health, to use a proper food, which he said was physic to her. Theodoret relates many miraculous cures of sick persons, and of his own mother among them, by water on which he had made the sign of the cross, and that his own birth was the effect of his prayers, after his mother had lived childless in marriage thirteen years.[1] {214} The saint died, ninety years old, and is named in the Greek menologies. See Theodoret, Hist. Eccles. l. 5, c. 19, and Philotheae, c. 13. St. Chrysost. hom. 17, ad Pop. Antioch.

Footnotes: 1. The great Theodoret was dedicated to God by his parents before he was born, and was educated in the study of every true branch of Syriac, Greek, and Hebrew learning. He gave a large estate to the poor, and entered a monastery near Apamea, but was taken out of it against his will, and consecrated bishop of Cyrus in 423, being very young. He converted all the Marcionites, Arians, and other heretics in his diocese, in which he reckons eight hundred churches, or parishes. (Ep. 113, p. 987.) Cyrus was a very small poor town in a desert country, eighty miles from Antioch, one hundred and twenty from Apamea, and one hundred and seventeen from Samosata. Though Theodoret lived in great poverty, he enriched the poor and the churches, and built for his city an aqueduct, two large bridges, porticoes, and baths. In 430 pope Celestin and St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote to John, patriarch of Antioch, against Nestorius, who on his side sent an orthodox letter to the same prelate: soon after St. Cyril wrote his third letter to Nestorius, to which he subjoined twelve anathematisms against the errors of Nestorius. In this writing certain obscure phrases occur, which John of Antioch thought favorable to the heresy of Apollinaris: whereupon he engaged Theodoret to undertake a confutation of them. Theodoret carried on this contest with great warmth in several writings, and when the ecumenical council of Ephesus was assembled in 431, refused, with John of Antioch, and the rest of the forty Oriental bishops, to enter it, because Nestorius had been condemned in it on the 21st of June, before they arrived at Ephesus on the 27th. They even went so far as to pretend to excommunicate St. Cyril, and form a schism in the church. F. Garnier, the most declared enemy to Theodoret among the moderns, lays to his charge several things, of which Tillemont and others clear him. It is certain that he wrote with great bitterness against St. Cyril, and his anathematisms, as appears from the works which he wrote upon that occasion, especially certain letters and fragments of his Pentalogus, (or work in five books, against St. Cyril,) still extant. But St. Cyril having made a clear confession of his faith in a letter to Acacius of Ber[oe]a, Theodoret loudly declared him orthodox, and this he proved even in letters which he wrote to Nestorius himself, and to Alexander of Hierapolis, his own metropolitan, the warmest of all St. Cyril's enemies. John of Antioch and many others made their peace with St. Cyril, about the month of April. In 433, Theodoret stood out some time longer, by refusing to condemn the person of Nestorius. St. Cyril and John of Antioch afterwards admitted him to their communion without requiring that condition, and Theodoret labored to gain over Alexander of Hierapolis; but in vain, so that this prelate was banished by the emperor; Theodoret himself, though he enjoyed the communion of St. Cyril, and of John of Antioch, was often accused, because he persisted to defend the person of Nestorius. The persecution was often renewed against Theodoret, so long as he adhered to Nestorius, especially after St. Cyril, St. Proclus, and all the western prelates condemned the writings of Theodorus of Mopsuestia, as the master of the heresiarch Nestorius in his capital error. The Orientals defended Theodorus, and Theodoret endeavored to justify him by several writings against St. Cyril, of which only fragments quoted in the fifth council are extant. St. Cyril, by his silence and moderation, calmed this dispute, and always maintained peace with the Orientals from the time it was settled between them. His death happened in June, 444, and Dioscorus, the impious Eutychian, was his successor. Theodorus, bishop of Mopsuestia, in Cilicia, who died in 428, in his erroneous writings laid the foundation both of the Pelagian and Nestorian heresies. Theodoret, in his writings against St. Cyril, adopts certain expressions which favored Nestorianism, and were condemned in the fifth general council; nevertheless, his sentiments were always orthodox, as is proved by Tillemont, (Art. 20, t. 15, p. 253,) Natalis Alexander, Graveson, &c. By exerting his zeal against Eutyches and Dioscorus, he incurred the indignation of their sect, and the false council of Ephesus pronounced a pretended sentence of deposition against him. Theodosius the younger first forbade him to stir out of his diocese, and when he desired to go to Rome to justify himself, in 450, banished him to his monastery near Apamea. The emperor Marcian put an end to the persecution raised by the Eutychians under his predecessor; yet Theodoret chose to continue in his monastery till he was called by pope Leo to assist at the council of Chalcedon. He had received, with great applause, the excellent letter of that pope to Flavian, and St. Leo declared null all the proceedings of Dioscorus against him at Ephesus, and restored him to his see, (Conc. t. 4, p. 622.) The council of Chalcedon met in 451, and in the seventh session, held on the 26th of October, Theodoret presented his request that his writings and faith might be examined. Those who were prepossessed against him would not allow any such examination, but required that he should anathematize Nestorius, which he at length did; and the council, with high commendations, declared him orthodox, and worthy of his see. Marcian, by a law published the following year, annulled the edict of Theodosius against him and Flavian. He died at Cyrus, about the year 458. The heresy of Nestorius he had clearly condemned from the beginning, with John of Antioch, in their exhortatory letter to Nestorius, (Conc. t. 3, p. 394). What mistakes and faults he fell into he cancelled by his edifying repentance; and the great virtues which he practised even under his disgrace, the extent of his learning, and the sublimity and acuteness of his genius, have established his reputation in all succeeding ages, and he is deservedly ranked among the must illustrious fathers of the church. His excellent writings are the most authentic monuments of his extraordinary learning and piety. He modestly compares himself (Proleg. in Osee. t. 2, p. 700) to the Jewish poor women, who in the building of the tabernacle, having neither gold nor silver to give to God towards this work, picked and gathered together the hair, thread, or cloths, contributed by others, or spun, or sewed something, not to be found quite empty-handed. St. Chrysostom was taken away from Antioch in 397, and Theodoret was only born about the year 393: but though he had not the happiness of hearing his divine discourses, he took him for his principal model, and especially in his comments on the scriptures usually adhered to those of that incomparable doctor. His works were printed at Paris, in 1642, in four volumes in folio, to which F. Garnier, a learned Jesuit, in 1684, added a fifth under the title of an Auctarium, containing certain letters and discourses of this father, with several prolix historical dissertations on the Nestorian heresy. The judicious F. Sirmond, far more equitable than F. Garnier. admires Theodoret's brevity, joined with great perspicuity, especially in his commentaries, and commends the pleasing beauty and attic elegance of his style. Photius praises his fruitfulness of invention, the purity of his language, the choice of his words, and the smoothness and neatness of his style, in which he finds everywhere a decent and noble elevation, though he thinks his metaphors sometimes too bold. This great critic calls his method of short notes the most accomplished model for interpreting the holy scriptures, and mentions, as an instance of his sincere humility, that he never employs a single word, or produces a quotation for ostentation, never falling into digressions foreign to his purpose; we may almost say, that a superfluous word scarce ever escapes him. (Phot. Cod. 203, p. 526. Cod. 31, 46, 56.)

His comments on St. Paul, and on most of the books of the old Testament, are concise literal, and solid, but contain not that inexhausted and excellent treasure of morality which we find in St. Chrysostom, whose commentaries Theodoret had always before him: this latter excels chiefly on the prophets. His church history, in five books, from the close of that of Eusebius in 324 to 429, is a valuable compilation. Photius justly prefers his style to that of Eusebius, Evagrius, Socrates, and Sozomen, as more historical, clear, and lofty, without any redundancy. (Cod. 31) His religious history, or Philothea, (i.e. History of the Friends of God,) contains the lives of thirty monks and anchorets of his time. He was himself an eye-witness to several of the miracles which he relates to have been wrought by the sign of the cross, holy water, and blessed oil. Of some other miracles which he mentions, he tells us that they were so authentic and notorious that no one who believes those of Moses, Elias, and the Apostles, could deny them. The five books, Of Heretical Fables, are a history of ancient heresies which he wrote at the request of Sporacius, one of the imperial commissaries at the council of Chalcedon, who was consul in 452. In the fourth book, he inveighs most bitterly against Nestorius, whom he had for some time unwarily favored. The letters of Theodoret which are extant, amount to the number of 146. His book Against the twelve Anthematisms of St. Cyril, he tacitly recalled by his condemnation of Nestorius; also his Pentalogus on the same subject, which is now lost, except some fragments preserved by Marius Mercator. His three dialogues against the Eutychians, he entitled Polymorphus, (i.e. of many shapes,) and Eranistes, that is, the Beggar, because the Eutychian error was gathered from the various heresies of Marcian, Valentin, Arius, and Apollinaris. The first dialogue he calls the Unchangeable, because in it he shows that the divine Word suffered no change by becoming man. The second is entitled The Inconfused, from the subject, which is to prove that in Christ, after the Incarnation, the divine and human nature remain really distinct. The third is called, The Impassible, because in it the author demonstrates that the divinity neither did nor could suffer; the same is the purport of his Demonstration by syllogisms. The dialogues were written about the year 447; for the author clearly confutes Eutyches, though he never names him; and it appears that St. Cyril was then dead, the author reckoning him in the end among the Catholic doctors, who had formerly flourished in the church, and among the stars which had enlightened the world. (Dial. 2. p. 86, and 111.)

Theodoret's ten sermons On Providence, is a work never yet paralleled by any other writer, ancient or modern, on that sublime subject; whether we consider the matter and the choice of thoughts, or the author's sincere piety, or his extensive knowledge, and the depth of his philosophical inquiries, or the strength and solidity of his reasoning, or the noble sublimity of the expression, and the elegance and perspicuity of the diction. It was the love of God which engaged him to undertake, in this task, the defence of the cause of our best Father and supreme Lord, as he modestly assures us, (p. 320,) and this motive animated him with fresh life and uncommon vigor in exerting and displaying the strength and beauty of his genius on so great a subject.

His twelve discourses On healing the Prejudices of the Greeks, are an excellent apology for our faith against the pagans; a performance which falls little short of the former. In it we meet with many curious anecdotes relating to the heathenish theology of the ancients, and the impiety and vices with which their philosophers disgraced their profession. In the eighth of these discourses, which is entitled, On the Martyrs, he clearly demonstrates that the veneration which Christians pay to the saints in heaven, is entirely different from the worship which the heathens give to their false gods, and elegantly explains (pp. 591, 660, 606) in what manner the souls of the martyrs now in heaven, with the choirs of angels, are our protectors and mediators with God, the physicians of our bodies, and savers of our souls: the portions of their divided relics are the guard and protection of our cities, which through their intercession with God obtain divine gifts: Christians give their names to their children to put these under their patronage: it was a custom to hang up before their shrines, gold or silver images of eyes, feet, or hands, as tokens or memorials of health, or other benefits received by their means: they keep their festivals, as those of Peter, Paul, Thomas, Sergius, Marcellus, Leontius, Panteleemon, Antoninus, Mauritius, and others, in prayer, divine canticles, and holy sermons. The same he testifies in his other works. Almost every life of holy monks which he wrote, he closes by imploring their intercession, and mentions that as far as Rome, handicraftsman hang up in their shops the picture of St. Simeon Stylites, hoping by their devotion to share in the protection of his prayers. (Philoth. c. 26, p. 862.) We learn from, him, that Christians were always accustomed to make the sign of the cross on the cup before they drank. (Hist. Eccl. l. 3, c. 13.) He often extols the virtues of that holy sign, honored, as he says, by all Christians, whether Greeks, Romans, or Barbarians, (Serm. 6, de Prov. p. 580, t. 4,) and he relates, (Hist. Eccl. l. 3. c. 1,) that Julian the Apostate, by making it in a fright, drove away the devils which one of his enchanters was invoking. His book in praise of virginity, to which he refers us, (on 1 Cor. vii. 33.) is lost; also the book in which he confuted both Eutyches and Nestorius, which is mentioned by Gennadius (c. 89) and Marcellinus. (ad an. 466.) His book Against the Jews, and several others, have not reached us. Among those which are extant his Octateuch, (or comments on the five books of Moses, and those of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth,) to which he added comments on the books of Kings and Paralipomenon, much commended by Photius, seems to be the last work which he wrote. See Tillem. t. 15. Ceillier.



CADOC was son to Gundleus, a prince of South Wales, by his wife Gladusa, daughter of Braghan, whose name wax given to the province now called Brecknockshire. His parents were not less ennobled by their virtues than by their blood, and his father, who some years before his death renouncing the world, led an eremitical life near a country church which he had built, was honored in Wales among the saints. Cadoc, who was his eldest son, succeeded in the government, but not long after followed his father's example; and embracing a religious life, put himself under the direction of St. Tathai, an Irish monk, who had opened a famous school at Gwen{t}, the ancient Venta Silurum of the Romans, afterwards a bishop's see, now in ruins in Monmouthshire. Our saint made such progress both in learning and virtue, that when he returned into Glamorganshire, his own country, he spread on every side the rays of his wisdom and sanctity. Here, three miles from Cowbridge, he built a church and a monastery, which was called Llan-carvan, or the Church of Stags, and sometimes Nancarvan, that is, the Vale of Stags. The school which he established in this place became most illustrious, and fruitful in great and holy men. By our saint's persuasion St. Iltut renounced the court and the world, and learned at Llan-carvan that science which he preferred to all worldly treasures. He afterwards founded the great monastery of Llan-Iltut. These two monasteries and that of St. Docuinus, all situated in the diocese of Landaff, were very famous for many ages, and were often governed by abbots of great eminence. St. Gildas, after his return from Ireland, entered the monastery of St. Cadoc, where he taught for one year, and copied a book of the gospels, which was long preserved with great care in the church of St. Cadoc, and highly reverenced by the Welsh, who used it in their most solemn oaths and covenants. After spending there one year, St. Gildas and St. Cadoc left Llan-carvan, being desirous to live in closer retirement. They hid themselves first in the islands of Ronech and Echni. An ancient life of St. Cadoc tells us, that he died at Benevenna, which is the {216} Roman name of a place now called Wedon, in Northamptonshire. Some moderns take it for Benevento, in Italy, where they suppose him to have died. Chatelain imagines this St. Cadoc to be the same who is honored at Rennes, under the name of Cadoc, or Caduad, and from whom a small island on the coast of Vennes is called Enes-Caduad. St. Cadoc flourished in the beginning of the sixth century, and was succeeded in the abbacy of Llan-carvan, by Ellenius, "an excellent disciple of an excellent master," says Leland. See the Acts of St. Cadoc, in Capgrave; Usher's Antiquities, c. 13, p. 252. Chatelain's Notes on the. Martyr. p. 399.



See Tillemont, t. 1, p. 192.

THIS great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the cause of the Caesars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its privileges and lands; but Augustus, when conqueror, made it ample amends by honoring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome, as we read in the two Dions and Appian. Hence St. Paul, being born at Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire.[1] His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses, by Gamaliel,[2] a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the Sanhedrim; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point. He appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his life had been in every respect.[3] He embraced the sect of the Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride the most opposite to the humility of the gospel.[4] It was a rule among the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as well as the mind, in something serious.[5] It is therefore probable that Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his apostleship, of making tents.[6]

Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a, blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ.[7] He was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to have stoned him by the hands of all the rest;[8] to whose prayers for his enemies he ascribes {217} the conversion of St. Paul:[9] "If Stephen," said he, "had not prayed, the church would never have had St. Paul."

After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison.[10] He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavored by torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as an enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully persuaded himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.[11] By the violences he committed, his name became everywhere a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they possessed in common,[12] and left them in such extreme necessity, that the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the fury of Saul; he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the other disciples.[13] Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrim for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy; and, moved by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants, for their enemies, changed him, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel of election, and made him a greater man in his church by the grace of the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious instrument of his glory. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when about noon, he and his company were on a sudden surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun.[14] They all saw the light, and being struck with amazement, fell to the ground. Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but not understood, though heard by the rest:[15] Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? Christ said not: Why dost thou persecute my disciples? but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his servants. Saul answered: Who art thou, Lord? Christ said: Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad: "to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt yourself." This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and every sort of death. The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of himself, and an heroic victory over the world with its frowns and charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A {218} perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty grace! Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ would not instruct him immediately by himself, but, St. Austin observes,[16] sent him to the ministry[17] which he had established in the church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his own name and appointed to be our guides. So perfectly would he abolish in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error and illusion. The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of heavenly things. He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ seemed to conduct him in triumph. He was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or drinking. He doubtless spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a blasphemer and a persecutor. Though the entire reformation of his heart was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions, but miraculous in the order of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe interior trial (for such we cannot doubt but he went through on this occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary graces which God designed him. There was a Christian of distinction in Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy disciple; and commanded him to go to Saul, who was then in the house of Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer overruled his fears, and charged him a second time to go to him, saying: Go, for he is a vessel of election to carry my name before Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: and I will show him how much he has to suffer for my name. For tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying his hands upon him, to restore his sight. Ananias, obeying the divine order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his eyesight. Ananias added: The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldst know his will and see the just one, and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth: and thou shalt be his witness unto all men to publish what thou hast seen and heard. Arise, therefore, be baptized and washed from thy sins, invoking the name of the Lord. Saul then arose, was baptized,{219} and took some refreshment. He stayed some few days with the disciples at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues, that Jesus was the Son of God, to the great astonishment of all that heard him, who said: Is not this he who persecuted at Jerusalem those who invoked the name of Jesus, and who is come hither to carry them away prisoners? Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen to be one of the principal instruments of God in the conversion of the world.

* * * * *

St. Paul never recalled to mind this his wonderful conversion, without raptures of gratitude and praise to the divine mercy. The church, in thanksgiving to God for such a miracle of his grace, from which it has derived such great blessings, and to commemorate so miraculous an instance of his almighty power, and to propose to penitents a perfect model of a true conversion, has instituted this festival, which we find mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries, and which pope Innocent III. commanded to be observed with great solemnity. It was for some time kept a holy day of obligation in most churches in the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford in 1222, in the reign of king Henry III.[18]

Footnotes: 1. Acts, xxi. 29, xxii. 3. 2. Ibid. xxii. 3. 3. Ibid. xxvi. 4. 4. Ibid. xxvi. 5. 5. Rabbi Juda says, "That a parent, who neglects his duty, is as criminal as if he taught his son to steal." See Grotius and Sanctius on Acts xviii. 3. 6. These tents were for the use of soldiers and mariners, and were made of skins sewn together. {} think that his business was that of making tapestry and hangings for theatres. 7. Gal. i. 14. 8. Serm. 301. 9. Ibid. l. 16, c. 4. Acts, vi. 10. Acts, viii. 3, xxii. 4, xxvi. 10. 11. Acts, xxvi. 9. 12. Heb. x. 32. 13. Acts, x. 1. 14. Acts, ix. xiii. xxvi. 15. So the Greek word [Greek: akoein] is often used in scripture, as in J{} xiv. 2. And thus the text is very reconcilable with Acts. xxii. 9. 16. Qu. Evang. l. 2, c. 40, et praef. 1, de doctr. Christ. p. 32. 17. St. Austin doubts not but Ananias was a bishop, or at least a priest. The Greeks give him a place in their calendar on the 1st of October, and style him bishop of Damascus and martyr. 18. Conc. Labbe, t. xi. p. 274.


From the elegant panegyric of St. Chrysostom, t. 2, p. 578, ed. Montf., and from Theodoret, Hist. l. 3, c. 11.

A.D. 363.

THESE martyrs were two officers of distinction in the foot-guards of Julian the Apostate.[1] When that tyrant was on his march against the Persians, they let fall at table certain free reflections on his impious laws against the Christians, wishing rather for death than to see the profanation {220} of holy things. The emperor, being informed of this, sent for them, and finding that they could not be prevailed upon by any means to retract what they had said, nor to sacrifice to idols, he confiscated their estates, caused them to be cruelly scourged, and, some days after, to be beheaded in prison at Antioch, January the 25th, 363. The Christians, with the hazard of their lives, stole away their bodies, and after the death of Julian, who was slain in Persia on the 26th of June following, erected for them a magnificent tomb. On their festival St. Chrysostom pronounced their panegyric, in which he says of these martyrs: "They support the church as pillars, defend it as towers, and repel all assaults as rocks. Let us visit them frequently, let us touch their shrine, and embrace their relics with confidence, that we may obtain from thence some benediction. For as soldiers, showing to the king the wounds which they have received in his battles, speak with confidence, so they, by an humble representation of their past sufferings for Christ, obtain whatever they ask of the King of heaven."[2]

Footnotes: 1. Julian, surnamed the Apostate, rebelled against Constantius, his cousin-german, in the spring, in 360, and by his death, in November, 361, obtained the empire. He was one of the most infamous dissemblers that ever lived. Craft, levity, inconstancy, falsehood, want of judgment, and an excessive vanity, discovered themselves in all his actions, and appear in his writings, namely, his epistles, his satire called Misopogon, and his lives of the Caesars. He wrote the last work to censure all the former emperors, that he might appear the only great prince: for a censorious turn is an effect of vanity and pride. He was most foolishly superstitious, and exceedingly fond of soothsayers and magicians. After the death of Constantius, he openly professed idolatry, and by besmearing himself with the blood of impious victims, pretended to efface the character of baptism. He was deceived in almost every step by ridiculous omens, oracles, and augurs, as may be seen in his heathen historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, (b. 22.) Maximus, the magician, and others of that character, were his chief confidants. He endeavored, by the black art, to rival the miracles of Christ, though he effected nothing. He disqualified Christians from bearing offices in the state; he forbade them to teach either rhetoric of philosophy, that he might deprive them of the advantages of human literature, a thing condemned by Ammianus himself. He commanded, by an edict, that they should be no longer called Christians, but Galileans, and though he pretended to toleration, he destroyed more souls by recompenses, caresses, and strategems, than he could have done by cruelties. He levied heavy fines and seized the estates of Christians, saying, in raillery, that he did it to oblige them to follow the gospel, which recommends poverty. He often put them to death, but secretly, and on other pretences, that he might deprive them of the honor of martyrdom: which artifice might have its influence on philosophers, the lovers of vanity; but not on the servants of God, who desired to be known to him alone, and to suffer, regardless of the applause of men, as St. Gregory Nazianzen observes. (Or. 3, in Julian.) That father, when he knew him a student at Athens, in 355, prognosticated (Or. 4, in Julian, p. 122) from his light carriage, wandering eye, haughty look, impertinent questions, and foolish answers, what a monster the Roman empire was fostering and breeding up. In his march to his Persian expedition, he was made a subject of mockery and ridicule at Antioch, on account of his low stature, gigantic gait, great goat's beard, and bloody sacrifices. In answer to which, he wrote his Misopogon, or Beardhater, a low and insipid satire. He everywhere threatened the Christians upon his return from the Persian war. The oracles of Delos, Delphos, Dodona, and others, promised him victories, as Theodoret, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Philostorgius, and Libanius himself, (Libanius, Or. 12,) a heath, and the chief favorite of Julian, testify: all the pagan deities wherever he passed, gave him the like assurances, as he himself writes (Julian, ep. 2.) But in Persia he rashly ventured into wilds and deserts, with an army of sixty-five thousand men, where he was defeated and slain in June, 363. Ammianus, who was then in the army, only says that he was mortally wounded in the battle, and died in his tent the same day, before noon. Theodoret, Sozomen, and the acts of St. Theodoret the martyr, say, that finding himself wounded, he threw up a handful of blood towards heaven, crying out: "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean, thou hast conquered." It was revealed to many holy hermits, that God cut him off to give peace to his church. 2. Hom. in SS. Juv. et Max. t. 2, p. 583.



THE episcopal see of Auvergne, which was founded by St. Austremonius, in the middle of the third century, has been honored with many holy bishops, of whom twenty-six are ranked among the saints. Of these the most eminent are St. Alidius, called in French Allyre, the fourth bishop, in 380, St. Sidonius Apollinaris in 482, St. Gallus in 656, St. Prix in 674, and St. Bont in 710. About the year 1160, the title of bishops of Auvergne was changed into that of Clermont, from the city of this name. St. Prix was a native of Auvergne, and trained up in the service of the church, under the care of St. Genesius, first archdeacon, afterwards bishop of Auvergne, and was well skilled in plain song, (which was esteemed in that age the first part of the science of a clergyman,) and in holy scriptures and church history. The parish of Issoire, and afterwards the nunnery, of Candedin, (now probably Chantoen, a convent of barefooted Carms,) were the chief theatres of his zeal, till about the year 666 he was called by the voice of the people, seconded by Childeric II., king of Austrasia, to the episcopal dignity, upon the death of Felix, bishop of Auvergne. Partly by his own ample patrimony, and partly by the great liberalities of Genesius, the holy count of Auvergne, he was enabled to found several monasteries, churches, and hospitals; so that all distressed persons in his extensive diocese were provided for, and a spirit of fervor in the exercises of religion, and all Christian virtues, reigned in all parts. This was the fruit of the unwearied and undaunted zeal, assiduous sermons and exhortations, and the admirable example and sanctity of the holy prelate; whose learning, eloquence, and piety, are exceedingly extolled by the two historians of his life. The saint, on his road to the court of king Childeric, whither he was going for the affairs of his diocese, restored to health St. Damarin, or Amarin, a holy abbot of a monastery in the mountains of Voge, who was afterwards martyred with him. This king caused Hector, the patrician of Marseilles, whom the saint had severely rebuked for having ravished a young lady of Auvergne, a rich heiress, and having unjustly usurped considerable estates belonging to his church, to be put to death for this rape and other crimes. One Agritius, imputing his death to the complaints carried to the king by St. Prix, in revenge {221} stirred up many persons against the holy prelate, and with twenty armed men met the bishop as he returned from court, at Volvic, two leagues from Clermont, and first slew the abbot St. Damarin, whom the ruffians mistook for the bishop. St. Prix, perceiving their design, courageously presented himself to them, and was stabbed in the body by a Saxon named Radbert. The saint, receiving this wound, said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do." Another of the assassins clove his head with a back-sword, and scattered his brains. This happened in 674, on the 25th of January. The veneration which the Gallican churches paid to the memory of this martyr began from the time of his death. His name was added to the calendar in the copies of the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, which were transcribed in France, and churches were erected under his invocation in almost every province of that kingdom. The principal part of his relics remain in the abbey of Flavigny, whither they were carried about the year 760. Some portions are kept in the abbey of St. Prix at St. Quintin's, of the congregation of Cluni; another in the priory of St. Prix near Bethune, and in certain other places. See the two lives of St. Prix, the first written by one who was acquainted with him, the other by one of the same age, both extant in Bollandus, pp. 628, 636, and in Mabillon Act. Ben. t. 1, pp. 642, 650.


ST. POPPO was born in Flanders in 978, and received a pious education, under the care of a most virtuous mother, who died a nun at Verdun. In his youth he served for some time in the army, but even while he lived in the world, he found the spiritual food of heavenly meditation and prayer, with which the affections of the soul are nourished,[St. Aug. Tr. 26. in Joan.] to be incomparably sweeter than all the delights of the senses, and to give himself up entirely to these holy exercises, he renounced his profession and the world. In a visit which he made by a penitential pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, he brought thence many precious relics, with which he enriched the church of our Lady at Deisne, now a marquisate between Ghent and Courtray. He made also a pilgrimage to the shrines of the apostles at Rome, and, some time after his return, took the monastic habit at St. Thierry's, near Rheims. Richard, abbot of Verdun, becoming acquainted with his eminent virtue, obtained with great difficulty his abbot's consent to remove him thither; and being made abbot of St. Vedast's, at Arras, upon the deposition of Folrad, who had filled that house with scandalous disorders, he appointed Poppo procurator. In a journey which our saint was obliged to make to the court of St. Henry, he prevailed with that religious prince to abolish the combats of men and bears. St. Poppo was chosen successively prior of St. Vedast's, provost of St. Vennes, and abbot of Beaulieu, which last he rebuilt. He was afterwards chosen abbot of St. Vedast's, and some time later of the two united abbeys of Stavelo and Malmedy, about a league asunder, in the diocese of Liege; also, two years after this, of St. Maximin's at Triers. Those of Arms and Marchiennes were also committed to his care: in all which houses he settled the most exact discipline. He died at Marchiennes, on the 25th of January, in 1048, being seventy years of age. St. Poppo received extreme unction at the hands of Everhelm, abbot of Hautmont, afterwards of Blandinberg at Ghent, who afterwards wrote his life, in which he gives a particular account of his great {222} virtues. The body of St. Poppo was carried to Stavelo, and there interred: his remains were taken up and enshrined in 1624, after Baronius had inserted his name in the Roman Martyrology; for Molanus, in his Indiculus, and Miraeus observe that he was never canonized. Chatelain denies against Trithemius that any commemoration was ever made of him in the public office in any of the abbeys which he governed. But Martenne assures us that he was honored among the saints at Stavelo, in the year 1624. See his life written by the monk Onulf, and abridged by Everhelm, abbot of Hautmont, in Bollandus, p. 673, and Martenne, Amplis. Collectio, t. 2, Praef. p. 17.


AFTER passing many years in a hermitage, he formed and governed a community of five hundred monks, near Heliopolis. They all wore the same coarse white habit, all received the holy communion every day, and the holy abbot made them also a daily exhortation with admirable unction. He entertained them often on the evils of melancholy and sadness, saying, that spiritual joy and cheerfulness of heart are necessary amid our tears of penance; as being the fruit of charity, and requisite to support the fervor of the soul. He was known to strangers by the joy of his countenance. By humility he ranked himself among the goats, unworthy to be numbered among the sheep. He made it his constant and earnest petition to God, that he might know himself, and be preserved from the subtile snares and illusions of pride. It is said that the devil left a possessed person at his command, crying out that he was not able to withstand his humility. The saint received a visit from St. Petronius, afterwards bishop of Bologna, in 393, being then near eighty years old, which he did not long survive. See Sozom. l. 6, c. 29. Rufin. l. 2. Tillem. t. 10, p. 35. The Greek menaea and Bollandus on this day.



IS honored by the Greeks. He was the son of a senator in that city, and sold his estate, plate, and furniture, for the benefit of the poor; and lived first a hermit, afterwards governed a numerous community in the fourth age. He allowed his monks no other food than herbs and pulse, and very coarse bread; no drink but water: he forbade milk, cheese, grapes, and even vinegar, also oil, except from Easter to Whitsuntide. To put himself always in mind of advancing continually in fervor and charity, he added every day something to his exercises of penance and devotion: he was remarkably solicitous to avoid sloth, being sensible of the inestimable value of time. Alas! what would not a damned soul, what would not a suffering soul in purgatory give, for one of those moments which we unthinkingly throw away. As far as the state of the blessed in heaven can admit of regret, they eternally condemn their insensibility as having lost every moment of their mortal life, which they did not improve to the utmost advantage. Theodoret tells us that the holy abbot Publius founded two congregations, the one of Greeks, the other of Syrians, each using their own tongue in the divine office: for the Greek and Chaldean were from the beginning {223} sacred languages, or consecrated by the church in her public prayers. St. Publius flourished about the year 369. See Theodoret, Philoth. c. 5. Rosweide, l. 6, c. 7. Chatel. Mart. Univ. p. 886, among the Aemeres, or saints who are not commemorated on any particular day.



From his acts, written by the church of Smyrna in an excellent circular letter to the churches of Pontus, immediately after his martyrdom: a piece abridged by Eusebius, b. 4, c. 14, highly esteemed by the ancients. Joseph Scaliger, a supercilious critic, says that nothing in the whole course of church history so strongly affected him, as the perusal of these acts, and those relating to the martyrs of Lyons: that he never read them but they gave him extraordinary emotions. Animad. in Chron. Eusebii, n. 2183, &c. They are certainly most valuable pieces of Christian antiquity. See Eusebius, St. Jerom, and St. Irenaeus. Also Tillemont, t. 2, p. 327. Dom Ceillier, t. 1. Dom Marechal, Concordance des Peres Grecs et Latins, t. 1.

A.D. 166.

ST. POLYCARP was one of the most illustrious of the apostolic fathers, who, being the immediate disciples of the apostles, received instructions from their mouths, and inherited of them the spirit of Christ, in a degree so much the more eminent, as they lived nearer the fountain head. He embraced Christianity very young, about the year 80; was a disciple of the apostles, in particular of St. John the Evangelist, and was constituted by him bishop of Smyrna, probably before his banishment to Patmos, in 96: so that he governed that important see seventy years. He seems to have been the angel or bishop of Smyrna, who was commended above all the bishops of Asia by Christ himself in the Apocalypse,[1] and the only one without a reproach. Our Saviour encouraged him under his poverty, tribulation, and persecutions, especially the calumnies of the Jews, called him rich in grace, and promised him the crown of life by martyrdom. This saint was respected by the faithful to a degree of veneration. He formed many holy disciples, among whom were St. Irenaeus and Papias. When Florinus, who had often visited St. Polycarp, had broached certain heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote to him as follows:[2] "These things were not taught you by the bishops who preceded us. I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out: what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance and of his whole exterior, and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others, who had seen Jesus Christ; the words he had heard from their mouths. I can protest before God, that if this holy bishop had heard of any error like yours, he would have immediately stopped his ears, and cried out, according to his custom: Good God! that I should be reserved to these times to hear such things! That very instant he would have fled out of the place in which he had heard such doctrine." St. Jerom[3] mentions, that St. Polycarp met at Rome the heretic Marcion, in the streets, who resenting that the holy bishop did not take that notice of him which he expected, said to him: "Do not you {224} know me, Polycarp?" "Yes," answered the saint, "I know you to be the first-born of Satan." He had learned this abhorrence of the authors of heresy, who knowingly and willingly adulterate the divine truths, from his master St. John, who fled out of the bath in which he saw Cerinthus.[4] St. Polycarp kissed with respect the chains of St. Ignatius, who passed by Smyrna on the road to his martyrdom, and who recommended to our saint the care and comfort of his distant church of Antioch; which he repeated to him in a letter from Troas, desiring him to write in his name to those churches of Asia to which he had not leisure to write himself.[5] St. Polycarp {225} wrote a letter to the Philippians shortly after, which is highly commended by St. Irenaeus, St. Jerom, Eusebius, Photius, and others, and is still extant. It is justly admired both for the excellent instructions it contains, and for the simplicity and perspicuity of the style; and was publicly read in the church in Asia, in St. Jerom's time. In it he calls a heretic, as above, the eldest son of Satan. About the year 158, he undertook a journey of charity to Rome, to confer with pope Anicetus about certain points of discipline, especially about the time of keeping Easter, for the Asiatic churches kept it on the fourteenth day of the vernal equinoctial moon, as the Jews did, on whatever day of the week it fell; whereas Rome, Egypt, and all the West, observed it on the Sunday following. It was agreed that both might follow their custom without breaking the bands of charity. St. Anicetus, to testify his respect, yielded to him the honor of celebrating the Eucharist in his own church.[6] We find no further particulars concerning our saint recorded before the acts of his martyrdom.

In the sixth year of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Statius Quadrates being proconsul of Asia, a violent persecution broke out in that country, in which the faithful gave heroic proofs of their courage and love of God, to the astonishment of the infidels. When they were torn to pieces with scourges till their very bowels were laid bare, amidst the moans and tears of the spectators, who were moved with pity at the sight of their torments, not one of them gave so much as a single groan: so little regard had they for their own flesh in the cause of God. No kinds of torture, no inventions of cruelty were forborne to force them to a conformity to the pagan worship of the times. Germanicus, who had been brought to Smyrna with eleven or twelve other Christians, signalized himself above the rest, and animated the most timorous to suffer. The proconsul in the amphitheatre called upon him with tenderness, entreating him to have some regard for his youth, and to value at least his life: but he, with a holy impatience, provoked the beasts to devour him, to leave this wicked world. One Quintus, a Phrygian, who had presented himself to the judge, yielded at the sight of the beast let out upon him, and sacrificed. The authors of these acts justly condemn the presumption of those who offered themselves to suffer,[7] and says that the martyrdom of St. Polycarp was conformable to the gospel, because he exposed not himself to the temptation, but waited till the persecutors laid hands on him, as Christ our Lord taught us by his own example. The same venerable authors observe, that the martyrs by their patience and constancy demonstrated to all men, that, while their bodies were tormented, they were in spirit estranged from the flesh, and already in heaven; or rather that our Lord was present with them and assisted them; for the fire of the barbarous executioners seemed as if it had been a cooling refreshment to them.[8] The spectators, seeing the courage of Germanicus and his companions, and being fond of their impious bloody diversions, cried out: "Away with the impious; let Polycarp be sought for." The holy man, though fearless, had been prevailed upon by his friends to withdraw and conceal himself in a neighboring village during the storm, spending most of his time in prayer. Three days before his martyrdom, he in a vision saw his pillow on fire; from which he understood by revelation, and {226} foretold his companions, that he should be burnt alive. When the persecutors were in quest of him he changed his retreat, but was betrayed by a boy, who was threatened with the rack unless he discovered him. Herod, the Irenarch, or keeper of the peace, whose office it was to prevent misdemeanors and apprehend malefactors, sent horsemen by night to beset his lodgings. The saint was above stairs in bed, but refused to make his escape, saying: "God's will be done." He went down, met them at the door, ordered them a handsome supper, and desired only some time for prayer before he went with them. This granted, he began his prayer standing, which he continued in that posture for two hours, recommending to God his own flock and the whole church with so much earnestness and devotion, that several of those that were come to seize him repented they had undertaken the commission. They set him on an ass, and were conducting him towards the city, when he was met on the road by Herod and his father Nicetes, who took him into their chariot, and endeavored to persuade him to a little compliance, saying: "What harm is there in saying Lord Caesar, or even in sacrificing, to escape death?" By the word Lord was meant nothing less than a kind of deity or godhead. The bishop at first was silent, in imitation of our Saviour: but being pressed, he gave them this resolute answer: "I shall never do what you desire of me." At these words, taking off the mask of friendship and compassion, they treated him with scorn and reproaches, and thrust him out of the chariot with such violence, that his leg was bruised by the fall. The holy man went forward cheerfully to the place where the people were assembled. Upon his entering it, a voice from heaven was heard by many: "Polycarp, be courageous, and act manfully."[9] He was led directly to the tribunal of the proconsul, who exhorted him to respect his own age, to swear by the genius of Caesar, and to say: "Take away the impious," meaning the Christians. The saint turning towards the people in the pit, said, with a stern countenance: "Exterminate the wicked," meaning by this expression either a wish that they might cease to be wicked by their conversion to the faith of Christ: or this was a prediction of the calamity which befell their city in 177, when Smyrna was overturned by an earthquake, as we read in Dion[10] and Aristides.[11] The proconsul repeated: "Swear by the genius of Caesar, and I discharge you; blaspheme Christ." Polycarp replied: "I have served him these fourscore and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good; and how can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? If you require of me to swear by the genius of Caesar, as you call it, hear my free confession: I am a Christian; but if you desire to learn the Christian religion, appoint a time, and hear me." The proconsul said: "Persuade the people." The martyr replied: "I addressed my discourse to you; for we are taught to give due honor to princes as far as is consistent with religion. But the populace is an incompetent judge to justify myself before." Indeed, rage rendered them incapable of hearing him.

The proconsul then assuming a tone of severity, said: "I have wild beasts:" "Call for them," replied the saint: "for we are unalterably resolved not to change from good to evil. It is only good to pass from evil to good." The proconsul said: "If you contemn the beasts, I will cause you to be burnt to ashes." Polycarp answered: "You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time, and then goes out; but are yourself ignorant of the {227} judgment to come, and of the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked. Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please." While he said thus and many other things, he appeared in a transport of joy and confidence, and his countenance shone with a certain heavenly grace, and pleasant cheerfulness, insomuch that the proconsul himself was struck with admiration. However, he ordered a crier to make public proclamation three times it the middle of the Stadium, (as was the Roman custom in capital cases:) "Polycarp hath confessed himself a Christian."[12] At this proclamation the whole multitude of Jews and Gentiles gave a great shout, the latter crying out: "This is the great teacher of Asia; the father of the Christians; the destroyer of our gods, who preaches to men not to sacrifice to or adore them." They applied to Philip the Asiarch,[13] to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. He told them that it was not in his power, because those shows had been closed. Then they unanimously demanded that he should be burnt alive. Their request was no sooner granted, but every one ran with all speed to fetch wood from the baths and shops. The Jews were particularly active and busy on this occasion. The pile being prepared, Polycarp put off his garments, untied his girdle, and began to take off his shoes; an office he had not been accustomed to, the Christians having always striven who should do these things for him, regarding it as a happiness to be admitted to touch him. The wood and other combustibles were heaped all round him. The executioners would have nailed him to the stake; but he said to them: "Suffer me to be as I am. He who gives me grace to undergo this fire, will enable me to stand still without that precaution." They therefore contented themselves with tying his hands behind his back, and in this posture, looking up towards heaven, he prayed as follows: "O Almighty Lord God, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, God of angels, powers, and every creature, and of all the race of the just that live in thy presence! I bless thee for having been pleased in thy goodness to bring me to this hour, that I may receive a portion in the number of thy martyrs, and partake of the chalice of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, in the incorruptibleness of the holy Spirit. Amongst whom grant me to be received this day as a pleasing sacrifice, such an one as thou thyself hast prepared, that so thou mayest accomplish what thou, O true and faithful God! hast foreshown. Wherefore, for all things I praise, bless, and glorify thee, through the eternal high priest Jesus Christ thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee and the Holy Ghost be glory now and for ever. Amen." He had scarce said Amen, when fire was set to the pile, which increased to a mighty flame. But behold a wonder, say the authors of these acts, seen by us, reserved to attest it to others; the flames forming themselves into an arch, like the sails of a ship swelled with the wind, gently encircled the body of the martyr, which stood in the middle, resembling not roasted flesh, but purified gold or silver, appearing bright through the flames; and his body sending forth such a fragrancy, that we seemed to smell precious spices. The blind infidels were only exasperated to see his body could not be consumed, and ordered a spearman to pierce him through, which he did, and such a quantity of blood issued out of his left side as to quench the fire.[14] The malice of the devil ended not here: {228} he endeavored to obstruct the relics of the martyr being carried off by the Christians; for many desired to do it, to show their respect to his body. Therefore, by the suggestion of Satan, Nicetes advised the proconsul not to bestow it on the Christians, lest, said he, abandoning the crucified man, they should adore Polycarp: the Jews suggested this, "Not knowing," say the authors of the acts, "that we can never forsake Christ, nor adore any other, though we love the martyrs, as his disciples and imitators, for the great love they bore their king and master." The centurion, seeing a contest raised by the Jews, placed the body in the middle, and burnt it to ashes. "We afterwards took up the bones," say they, "more precious than the richest jewels or gold, and deposited them decently in a place at which may God grant us to assemble with joy, to celebrate the birth-day of the martyr." Thus these disciples and eye-witnesses. It was at two o'clock in the afternoon, which the authors of the acts call the eighth hour, in the year 166, that St. Polycarp received his crown, according to Tillemont; but, in 169, according to Basnage.[15] His tomb is still shown with great veneration at Smyrna, in a small chapel. St. Irenaeus speaks of St. Polycarp as being of an uncommon age.

* * * * *

The epistle of St. Polycarp to the Philippians, which is the only one among those which he wrote that has been preserved, is, even in the dead letter, a standing proof of the apostolic spirit with which he was animated, and of that profound humility, perfect meekness, burning charity, and holy zeal, of which his life was so admirable an example. The beginning is an effusion of spiritual joy and charity with which he was transported at the happiness of their conversion to God, and their fervor in divine love. His extreme abhorrence of heresy makes him immediately fall upon that of the Docaetae, against which he arms the faithful, by clearly demonstrating that Christ was truly made man, died, and rose again: in which his terms admirably express his most humble and affectionate devotion to our divine Redeemer, under these great mysteries of love. Besides walking in truth, he takes notice, that to be raised with Christ in glory, we must also do his will, keep all his commandments, and love whatever he loved; refraining from all fraud, avarice, detraction, and rash judgment; repaying evil with good, forgiving and showing mercy to others that we ourselves may find mercy. "These things," says he, "I write to you on justice, because you incited me; for neither I, nor any other like me, can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, into whose epistles if you look, you may raise your spiritual fabric by strengthening faith, which is our mother, hope following, and charity towards God, Christ, and our neighbor preceding us. He who has charity is far from all sin." The saint gives short instructions to every particular state, then adds; "Every one who hath not confessed that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist;[16] and who hath not confessed the suffering of the cross, is of the devil; and who hath drawn the oracles of the Lord to his passions, and hath said that there is no resurrection nor judgment, he is the oldest son of Satan." He exhorts to watching always in prayer, lest we be led into temptation; to be constant in fasting, persevering, joyful in hope, and in the pledge of our justice, which is Christ {229} Jesus, imitating his patience; for, by suffering for his name, we glorify him. To encourage them to suffer, he reminds them of those who had suffered before their eyes: Ignatius, Zozimus, and Rufus, and some of their own congregation,[17] "who are now," says our saint, "in the place which is due to them with the Lord, with whom they also suffered."

Footnotes: 1. Ch. ii. v. 9. 2. Eus. Hist. l. 5, c. 20, p. 188. 3. Cat. vir. illustr. c. 17. 4. See also 1 John ii. 18, 22, and 2 John 10. 5. St. Ignatius begins his letter to the faithful at Smyrna, by glorifying God for their great spiritual wisdom, saying he knew them to be perfect in their unshaken faith, as men crucified with our Lord Jesus in flesh and in spirit, and deeply grounded in charity by the blood of Christ. He then solidly confutes the Docaetae, heretics who imagined that Christ was not incarnate, and died only in appearance; whom he calls demoniacs. He adds: "I give you this caution, knowing that you hold the true faith, but that you may stand upon your guard against these wild beasts in human shape, whom you ought not to receive under your roof, nor even meet if possible; and be content only to pray for them that they may be converted, if it be possible; for it is very difficult; though it is in the power of Jesus Christ, our true life. If Jesus Christ did all this in appearance only, then I am only chained in imagination; and why have I delivered myself up to death, to fire, to the sword, to beasts? but who is near the sword, is near God; he who is among beasts is with God. I suffer all things only in the name of Jesus Christ, that I may suffer with him, he giving me strength, who was made perfectly man. What does it avail me to be commended by any one, if he blasphemes our Lord, not confessing him to have flesh? The whole consists in faith and charity; nothing can take place before these. Now consider those who maintain a false opinion of the grace of Jesus Christ, how they also oppose charity; they take no care of the widow, or orphan, or him who is afflicted, or pining with hunger or thirst. They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, (says he,) because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which was crucified for our sins, and which the Father, by his goodness, raised again. It is advisable for you to separate yourselves from them, and neither to speak to them in public or in private. Shun schisms and all discord, as the source of evils. Follow your bishop as Christ his Father, and the college of priests as the apostles; respect the deacons as the precept of God. Let no one do any thing that belongs to the church without the bishop. Let that Eucharist be regarded as lawful which is celebrated by the bishop, or one commissioned by him. Wherever the bishop makes his appearance, there let the people be assembled, as wherever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic church. It is not lawful to baptize or celebrate the Agape without the bishop or his authority. What he approves of is acceptable to God. He who does any thing without the bishop's knowledge, serves the devil." The saint most affectionately thanks them for the kindness they had shown him and his followers; begs they will depute some person to his church in Syria, to congratulate with his flock for the peace which God had restored to them, adding that he was unworthy to be called a member of that church of which he was the last. He asks the succor of their prayers, that by them he might enjoy God. "Seeing," says he, "that you are perfect, entertain perfect sentiments of virtue: for God is ready to bestow on you who desire to do well." After the most tender salutations of many in particular, and of all in general, especially the virgins who were called widows, (i.e. the deaconesses, who were called widows, because they were often such, though these were virgins,) he closes his letter by praying for their advancement in all charity, grace, mercy, peace, and patience. St. Ign. ep. ad Smyrnaeos, p. 872, ed. Cotel.

The apostolic St. Ignatius writes as follows, in his letter to St. Polycarp. "Thy resolution in God, founded as it were upon an unshaken rock, I exceedingly commend, having been made worthy of thy holy face, which I pray I may enjoy in God. I conjure thee in the grace with which thou art enriched, to increase thy stock in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Have great care of unity and concord, than which nothing is better. Bear with all men, that God may bear with thee; bear all men by charity, as thou dost apply thyself to prayer without interruption. Ask more perfect understanding than thou hast. Watch, seeing that the spirit which sleepeth not, dwelleth within thee. Speak to every one according to the grace which God giveth thee. Bear the weaknesses and distemper of all as a stout champion. Where the labor is greater, the gain is exceeding great. If thou lovest the disciples that are good, thou deservest not thanks; strive rather to subdue the wicked by meekness. Every wound is not healed by the same plaster; assuage inflammations by lenitives. Be not intimidated by those who seem worthy of faith, yet teach things that are foreign. Stand firm, as an anvil which is beaten: it is the property of a true champion to be struck and to conquer. Let not the widows be neglected. Let religious assemblies be most frequent. Seek out every one in them by name. Despise not the slaves, neither suffer them to be puffed up; but to the glory of God let them serve with greater diligence, that they may obtain of God a better liberty. Let them not desire that their liberty be purchased or procured for them by the congregation, lest they fall under the slavery of their own passions. Fly evil artifices; let them not be so much as named. Engage my sisters to love the Lord, and never entertain a thought of any man but their husbands. In like manner enjoin my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, to love their wives as Christ loveth his church. If any one is able to remain in a state of continency, in honor of our Lord's flesh, let him be constantly humble: if he boasts, or is puffed up, he is lost. Let all marriages be made by the authority of the bishop, that they may be made in the Lord, not by the passions of men. Let all things be done to the honor of God." Then addressing himself to all the faithful at Smyrna, he writes: "Listen to your bishop, that God may also hearken to you. With joy I would lay down my life for those who are subject to the bishop, priests, and deacons. May my portion be with them in God. Let all things be in common among you: your labor, your warfare, your sufferings, your rest, and your watching, as becomes the dispensers, the assessors, and the servants of God. Please hi, in whose service you fight, and from whom you receive your salary. Let your baptism be always your weapons, faith your helmet, charity your spear, and patience your complete armor. Let your good works the the treasure which you lay up, that you may receive the fruit which is worthy. Bear with each other in all meekness, as God bears with you. I pray that I may always enjoy and rejoice in you. Because the church of Antioch by our prayers now enjoys peace, I am in mind secure in God; provided still that by suffering I may go to God, and be found in the resurrection your servant. You will do well, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to hold an assembly, and choose a very dear person fit for dispatch in a journey, who may be styled the divine messenger; him honor with a commission to go to Antioch, and there bear witness of the fervor of your charity. A Christian lives not for himself alone, but belongs to God." The holy martyr concludes by desiring St. Polycarp to write for him to the other churches of Asia, he being at that moment called on board by his guards to sail from Troas to Naples. 6. St. Iren. b. 3, c. 3. Euseb. b. 5, c. 24. S. Hieron. c. 17. 7. N. 1, and 4. 8. [Greek: To tur hen autois psuxron to ton apathon basanitzon.] Frigidis ipsis videbatur immanium carnificum ignis. n. 2, p. 1020. 9. Dr. Middleton pretends, that this voice was only heard by some few; but the acts in Ruinart say, by those who were present, [Greek: hoi parontes]: Eusebius says, [Greek: polloi]: Rufinus plurimi, very many. A voice from heaven must certainly be sensibly discerned to be more than human, and manifest itself sufficiently, to be perceived that it could not come from the crowd. 10. L. 71. 11. Or. 20, 21, 22, 41. 12. The great council of Asia seems to have been held at that time in Smyrna, instead of Ephesus, which the Arundelian marbles show sometimes to have been done. 13. Or president of the public games, chosen yearly by the common-council of Asia. 14. Dr. Middleton ridicules the mention of a dove issuing out of the wound of the side; but this is only found in some modern MSS. by the blunder of a transcriber: it is not in Eusebius, Rufinus, Nicephorus, or the Greek Menaea; though the last two would have magnified a prodigy if they had found the least authority for any. According to Le Moyen, (Proleg. ad varia sacra.) Ceillier, &c., the true reading is [Greek: ep apisera], on the left side; which some transcriber blundered into [Greek: perisera], a dove. As to the foregoing miracle, that a wind should naturally divest the fire of its property of burning, and form it into an arch about the body, is a much more wonderful supposition of the doctor's than any miracle. 15. St. Polycarp says himself, "That he had served Christ eighty-six years." Basnage thinks he had been bishop so long, and was a hundred and twenty years old when he suffered: but it is far more probable that this is the term he had been a Christian, having been converted in his youth, and dying about one hundred years old or upwards, as Tillemont understands it. 16. 1 John iv. 3. 17. Some of the Philippians had seen St. Ignatius in chains, and perhaps at Rome. The primitive martyrs, Zozimus and Rufus, are commemorated in the Martyrologies on the 18th of December.


This illustrious pattern of widows surpassed all other Roman ladies in riches, birth, and the endowments of mind. She was born on the 5th of May, in 347. The blood of the Scipios, the Gracchi, and Paulus AEmilius, was centred in her by her mother Blesilla. Her father derived his pedigree from Agamemnon, and her husband Toxotius his from Iulus and AEneas. By him she had a son called also Toxotius, and four daughters, namely, Blesilla, Paulina, Eustochium, and Rufina. She shone a bright pattern of virtue in the married state, and both she and her husband edified Rome by their good example; but her virtue was not without its alloy; a certain degree of the love of the world being almost inseparable from honors and high life. She did not discern the secret attachments of her heart, nor feel the weight of her own chains: she had neither courage to break them, nor light whereby to take a clear and distinct view of her spiritual poverty and misery. God, compassionating her weakness, was pleased in his mercy to open her eyes by violence, and sent her the greatest affliction that could befall her in the death of her husband, when she was only thirty-two years of age. Her grief was immoderate till such time as she was encouraged to devote herself totally to God, by the exhortations of her friend St. Marcella, a holy widow, who then edified Rome by her penitential life. Paula, thus excited to set aside her sorrow, erected in her heart the standard of the cross of Jesus Christ, and courageously resolved to walk after it. From that time, she never sat at table with any man, not even with any of the holy bishops and saints whom she entertained. She abstained from all flesh meat, fish, eggs, honey, and wine; used oil only on holydays; lay on a stone floor covered with sackcloth; renounced all visits and worldly amusements, laid aside all costly garments, and gave every thing to the poor which it was in her power to dispose of. She was careful in inquiring after the necessitous, and deemed it a loss on her side if any other hands than her own administered relief to them. It was usual with her to say, that she could not make a better provision for her children, than to secure for them by alms the blessings of heaven. Her occupation was prayer, pious reading, and fasting. She could not bear the distraction of company, which interrupted her commerce with God; and, if ever she sought conversation, it was with the servants of God for her own edification. She lodged St. Epiphanius and St. Paulinus of Antioch, when they came to Rome; and St. Jerom was her director in the service of God, during his stay in that city for two years and a half, under pope Damasus. Her eldest daughter Blesilla, having, in a short time after marriage, lost her husband, came to a resolution of forsaking the world, but died before she could compass her pious design. The mother felt this affliction too sensibly. St. Jerom, who at that time was newly arrived at Bethlehem, in 384, wrote to her both to comfort and reprove her.[1] He first condoles their common loss; but adds {230} that God is master, that we are bound to rejoice in his will, always holy and just, to thank and praise him for all things; and, above all, not to mourn for a death at which the angels attend, and for one who by it departs to enjoy Christ: and that it is only the continuation of our banishment which we ought to lament. "Blesilla," says he, "has received her crown, dying in the fervor of her resolution, in which she had purified her soul near four months." He adds, that Christ seemed to reproach her grief in these terms: "Art thou angry, O Paula! that thy daughter is made mine? Thou art offended at my providence, and by thy rebellious tears, thou dost offer an injury to me who possess her."[2] He pardons some tears in a mother, occasioned by the involuntary sensibility of nature; but calls her excess in them a scandal to religion, abounding with sacrilege and infidelity: adding, that Blesilla herself mourned, as far as her happy state would allow, to see her offend Christ, and cried out to her; "Envy not my glory: commit not what may forever separate us. I am not alone. Instead of you I have the mother of God, I have many companions whom I never knew before. You mourn for me because I have left the world; and I pity your prison and dangers in it." Paula afterwards, completing the victory over herself, showed herself greatly superior to this weakness. Her second daughter Paulina was married to St. Pammachius, and died in 397. Eustochium, the third, was her individual companion. Rufina died young.

The greater progress Paula made in spiritual exercises, and in the relish of heavenly things, the more insupportable to her was the tumultuous life of the city. She sighed after the deserts, longed to be disincumbered of attendants, and to live in a hermitage, where her heart would have no other occupation than on God. The thirst after so great a happiness made her ready to forget her house, family, riches, and friends; yet never did mother love her children more tenderly.[3] At the thought of leaving them her bowels yearned, and being in an agony of grief, she seemed as if she had been torn from herself. But in this she was the most wonderful of mothers, that while she felt in her soul the greatest emotions of tenderness, she knew how to keep them within due bounds. The strength of her faith gave her an ascendant over the sentiments of nature, and she even desired this cruel separation, bearing it with joy, out of a pure and heroic love of God. She had indeed taken a previous care to have all her children brought up saints; otherwise her design would have been unjustifiable. Being therefore fixed in her resolution, and having settled her affairs, she went to the water side, attended by her brother, relations, friends, and children, who all strove by their tears to overcome her constancy. Even when the vessel was ready to sail, her little son Toxotius, with uplifted hands on the shore, and bitterly weeping, begged her not to leave him. The rest, who were not able to speak with gushing tears, prayed her to defer at least her voluntary banishment. But Paula, raising her dry eyes to heaven, turned her face from the shore, lest she should discover what she could not behold without feeling the most sensible pangs of sorrow. She sailed first to Cyprus, where she was detained ten days by St. Epiphanius; and from thence to Syria. Her long journeys by land she performed on the backs of asses; she, who till then had been accustomed to be carried about by eunuchs in litters. She visited with great devotion all the principal places which we read to have been consecrated by the mysteries of the life of our divine Redeemer, as also the respective abodes of all the principal anchorets and holy solitaries of Egypt and Syria. At Jerusalem the proconsul had prepared a stately palace richly furnished for her reception; but excusing herself with regard {231} to the proffered favor, she chose to lodge in an humble cell. In this holy place her fervor was redoubled at the sight of each sacred monument, as St. Jerom describes. She prostrated herself before the holy cross, pouring forth her soul in love and adoration, as if she had beheld our Saviour still bleeding upon it. On entering the sepulchre, she kissed the stone which she angel removed on the occasion of our Lord's resurrection, and imparted many kisses full of faith and devotion to the place where the body of Christ had been laid. On her arrival at Bethlehem, she entered the cave or stable in which the Saviour of the world was born, and she saluted the crib with tears of joy, crying out; "I, a miserable sinner, am made worthy to kiss the manger, in which my Lord was pleased to be laid an infant babe weeping for me! This is my dwelling-place, because it was the country chosen by my Lord for himself."

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