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The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints - January, February, March
by Alban Butler
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{337}

FEBRUARY II.

THE PURIFICATION,

COMMONLY CALLED CANDLEMAS-DAY.

THE law of God, given by Moses to the Jews, to insinuate both to us and to them, that by the sin of Adam man is conceived and born in sin, and obnoxious to his wrath, ordained that a woman, after childbirth, should continue for a certain time in a state which that law calls unclean; during which she was not to appear in public, nor presume to touch any thing consecrated to God.[1] This term was of forty days upon the birth of a son, and the time was double for a daughter: on the expiration of which, the mother was to bring to the door of the tabernacle, or temple, a lamb of a year old, and a young pigeon or turtle-dove. The lamb was for a holocaust, or burnt-offering, in acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, and in thanksgiving for her own happy delivery; the pigeon or turtle-dove was for a sin-offering. These being sacrificed to Almighty God by the priest, the woman was cleansed of the legal impurity, and reinstated in her former privileges.

A young pigeon, or turtle-dove, by way of a sin-offering, was required of all, whether rich or poor: but whereas the charge of a lamb might be too burdensome on persons of narrow circumstances, in that case, nothing more was required than two pigeons, or two turtle-doves, one for a burnt, the other for a sin-offering.[2]

Our Saviour having been conceived by the Holy Ghost, and his blessed Mother remaining always a spotless virgin, it is most evident from the terms of the law,[3] that she was, in reality, under no obligation to it, nor within the intent of it. She was, however, within the letter of the law, in the eye of the world, who were as yet strangers to her miraculous conception. And her humility making her perfectly resigned, and even desirous to conceal her privilege and dignity, she submitted with great punctuality and exactness to every humbling circumstance which the law required. Pride indeed proclaims its own advantages, and seeks honors not its due; but the humble find their delight in obscurity and abasement, they shun all distinction and esteem, which they clearly see their own nothingness and baseness to be most unworthy of: they give all glory to God alone, to whom it is due. Devotion also and zeal to honor God by every observance prescribed by his law, prompted Mary to perform this act of religion, though evidently exempt from the precept. Being poor herself, she made the offering appointed for the poor: accordingly is this part of the law mentioned by St. Luke,[4] as best agreeing with the meanness of her worldly condition. But her offering, however mean in itself, was made with a perfect heart, which is what God chiefly regards in all that is offered to him. The King of Glory would appear everywhere in the robes of poverty, to point out to us the advantages of a suffering and lowly state, and to repress our pride, by which, though really poor and mean in the eyes of God, we covet to appear rich, and, though sinners, would be deemed innocents and saints.

A second great mystery is honored this day, regarding more immediately {338} the person of our Redeemer, viz. his presentation in the temple.[5] Besides the law which obliged the mother to purify herself, there was another which ordered that the first-born son should be offered to God: and in these two laws were included several others, as, that the child, after its presentation, should be ransomed[6] with a certain sum of money,[7] and peculiar sacrifices offered on the occasion.

Mary complies exactly with all these ordinances. She obeys not only in the essential points of the law, as in presenting herself to be purified, and in her offering her first-born, but has strict regard to all the circumstances. She remains forty days at home, she denies herself all this time the liberty of entering the temple, she partakes not of things sacred, though the living temple of the God of Israel; and on the day of her purification, she walks several miles to Jerusalem, with the world's Redeemer in her arms. She waits for the priest at the gate of the temple, makes her offerings of thanksgiving and expiation, presents her divine Son by the hands of the priest to his eternal Father, with the most profound humility, adoration, and thanks giving. She then redeems him with five shekels, as the law appoints, and receives him back again as a depositum in her special care, till the Father shall again demand him for the full accomplishment of man's redemption. It is clear that Christ was not comprehended in the law; "The king's son, to whom the inheritance of the crown belongs, is exempt from servitude:—much more Christ, who was the Redeemer both of our souls and bodies, was not subject to any law by which he was to be himself redeemed," as St. Hilary observes.[8] But he would set an example of humility, obedience, and devotion: and would renew, in a solemn and public manner, and in the temple, the oblation of himself to his Father for the accomplishment of his will, and the redemption of man, which he had made privately in the first moment of his Incarnation. With what sentiments did the divine Infant offer himself to his Father at the same time! the greatest homage of his honor and glory the Father could receive, and a sacrifice of satisfaction adequate to the injuries done to the Godhead by our sins, and sufficient to ransom our souls from everlasting death! With what cheerfulness and charity did he offer himself to all his torments! to be whipped, crowned with thorns, and ignominiously put to death for us!

Let every Christian learn hence to offer himself to God with this divine victim, through which he may be accepted by the Father; let him devote himself with all his senses and faculties to his service. If sloth, or any other vice, has made us neglectful of this essential duty, we must bewail past omissions, and make a solemn and serious consecration of ourselves this day to the divine majesty with the greater fervor, crying out with St. Austin, in compunction of heart: "Too late have I known thee, too late have I begun to love thee, O beauty more ancient than the world!" But our sacrifice, if we desire it may be accepted, must not be lame and imperfect. It would be an insult to offer to God, in union with his Christ, a divided heart, or a heart infected with wilful sin. It must therefore first be cleansed by tears of sincere compunction: its affections must be crucified to the world by perfect mortification. Our offering must be sincere and fervent, without reserve, allowing no quarter to any of our vicious passions and inclinations, and no division in any of our affections. It must also be universal; to suffer and to do all for the divine honor. If we give our hearts to Christ in this manner, we shall receive him with his graces and {339} benedictions. He would be presented in the temple by the hands of his mother: let us accordingly make the offering of our souls through Mary and beg his graces through the same channel.

The ceremony of this day was closed by a third mystery, the meeting in the temple of the holy persons, Simeon and Anne, with Jesus and his parents, from which this festival was anciently called by the Greeks Hypante, the meeting.[9] Holy Simeon, on that occasion, received into his arms the object of all his desires and sighs, and praised God in raptures of devotion for being blessed with the happiness of beholding the so much longed-for Messias. He foretold to Mary her martyrdom of sorrow; and that Jesus brought redemption to those who would accept of it on the terms it was offered them; but a heavy judgment on all infidels who should obstinately reject it, and on Christians also whose lives were a contradiction to his holy maxims and example. Mary, hearing this terrible prediction, did not answer one word, felt no agitation of mind from the present, no dread for the future; but courageously and sweetly committed all to God's holy will. Anne also, the prophetess, who, in her widowhood, served God with great fervor, had the happiness to acknowledge and adore in this great mystery the world's Redeemer. Amidst the crowd of priests and people, the Saviour of the world is known only by Simeon and Anne. Even when he disputed with the doctors, and when he wrought the most stupendous miracles, the learned, the wise, and the princes did not know him. Yet here, while a weak, speechless child, carried in the arms of his poor mother, he is acknowledged and adored by Simeon and Anne. He could not hide himself from those who sought him with fervor, humility, and ardent love. Unless we seek him in these dispositions, he will not manifest himself, nor communicate his graces to us. Simeon, having beheld his Saviour in the flesh, desired no longer to see the light of this world, nor any creatures on earth. If we truly love God, our distance from him must be a continual pain: and we must sigh after that desired moment which will free us from the danger of ever losing him by sin, and will put us in possession of Him who is the joy of the blessed, and the infinite treasure of heaven. Let us never cease to pray that he purify our hearts from all earthly dross, and draw them to himself: that he heal, satiate, and inflame our souls, as he only came upon earth to kindle in all hearts the fire of his love.

Footnotes: 1. Lev. xii. 2. 2. Lev. xii. 8. 3. Ibid. 2. 4. Luke ii. 64. 5. {Footnote not in text} Luke ii. 23. 6. Exod. xiii. 13. 7. This, from Levit. xxvii. 6, and Numb. iii. 47, appears to have been five shekels, each shekel weighing according to Prideaux, (Preface to Connection of the Old and New Testament, p. xvii.) about three shillings of our money: so that the five amounted to about fifteen shillings sterling. 8. S. Hilar. in Matt. c. 17, n. 11, pp. 696, 697. 9. [Greek: Hypante], from [Greek: hupantao], occurro.

On blessing the candles and the procession.

The procession with lighted tapers on this day is mentioned by pope Gelasius I., also by St. Ildefonsus, St. Eligius,[1] St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Alexandria, &c., in their sermons on this festival, St. Bernard says:[2] "This holy procession was first made by the virgin mother, St. Joseph, holy Simeon, and Anne, to be afterwards performed in all places and by every nation, with the exultation of the whole earth, to honor this mystery." In his second sermon on this feast he describes it thus:[3] "They walk two and two, holding in their hands candles lighted, not from common fire, but from that which had been first blessed in the church by the priests,[4] and singing in the ways of the Lord, because great is his glory." He shows that the concurrence of many in the procession and prayer is a symbol of our union and charity, and renders our praises {340} the more honorable and acceptable to God. We walk while we sing to God, to denote that to stand still in the paths of virtue is to go back. The lights we bear in our hands represent the divine fire of love with which our hearts ought to be inflamed, and which we are to offer to God without any mixture of strange fire, the fire of concupiscence, envy, ambition, or the love of creatures. We also hold these lights in our hands to honor Christ, and to acknowledge him as the true light,[5] whom they represent under this character, and who is called by holy Simeon in this mystery, a light for the enlightening of the Gentiles;[6] for he came to dispel our spiritual darkness. The candles likewise express that by faith his light shines in our souls: as also that we are to prepare his way by good works, by which we are to be a light to men.[7]

Lights are used by the church during the celebration of the divine mysteries, while the gospel is read, and the sacraments administered, on a motive of honor and respect. On the same account lamps burned before the Lord in the tabernacle[8] and temple. Great personages were anciently received and welcomed with lights, as was king Antiochus by Jason and others on his entering Jerusalem.[9] Lights are likewise expressive of joy, and were anciently used on this account in receiving Roman emperors, and on other public occasions, as at present. "Throughout all the churches of the East," says St. Jerom, "when the gospel is to be read, though the sun shines, torches are used, not to chase away darkness, but for a sign of joy."[10] The apostolic canons mention incense, and oil for the lamps, then used in the churches.[11] Many out of devotion burned lamps before the bodies of saints, as we read in Prudentius,[12] St. Paulinus,[13] &c. The corporeal creatures, which we use, are the gifts of God: it is therefore just that we should honor and glorify him by them. Besides, in our embodied state, they contribute to excite our souls to devotion; they are to our eyes, what words are to our ears, and by our organs move the affections of our hearts.[14] Though piety consists in the fervor of the soul, and is interior and spiritual, yet many sensible things concur to its aid and improvement; and we may as well condemn the use of words, which are corporeal, and affect the soul by the sense of hearing, as the use of suitable approved ceremonies. Christ made use of sensible signs in the institution of his most divine sacraments, and in several miraculous cures, &c. The church always used external rites and ceremonies in the divine worship. These contribute to the majesty and dignity of religion, which in our present condition would appear naked, if destitute of all exterior. The candles are blessed previously to the use of them, because the church blesses and sanctifies, by prayer, what ever is employed in the divine service. We are to hold the candles in our hands on this day, while the gospel is read or sung; also from the elevation to the communion, in the most fervent spirit of sacrifice, offering ourselves to God with our divine Redeemer, and desiring to meet in spirit this blessed company in this mystery; likewise to honor the mother of God in her purification, and still more so, with the most profound adoration and gratitude, our divine Saviour in his presentation in our flesh for us. The same lively sentiments of devotion ought to inflame our breasts on this occasion, as if we had been present with holy Simeon and the rest in the temple, while we carry in our hands these emblems of our spiritual joy and homage, and of the consecration of ourselves in union with our heavenly victim, through the intercession of his virgin mother.

Footnotes: 1. Serm. 2. 2. Serm. de Purif. p. 959. 3. Serm. 2, p. 961. 4. According to the ceremonies then in use. 5. John i. 9. 6. Luke ii. 3. 7. Matt. v. 6. 8. Exod. xxviii. 20. 9. 2 Macch. iv. 22. 10. Adv. Vigil. p. 304. 11. Can. 3. 12. Hymn 2. 13. Nat. iii. v. 98. 14. See the pastoral charge of the late Dr. Butler, bishop of Durham.

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On the Christian rite of churching women after childbirth.

God, in the old law, declared several actions unclean, which, though innocent and faultless it themselves, had a constant but remote regard to sin. One of these was childbirth, to denote the impurity of man's origin by his being conceived and born in sin. For the removal of legal uncleanness in general, God established certain expiatory rites, consisting of ablutions and sacrifices, to which all were strictly obliged who desired to be purified; that is, restored to the privileges of their brethren, and declared duly qualified members of the synagogue or Jewish church. It would be superstitious since the death of Christ, and the publication of the new law, to stand in awe of legal uncleannesses, or to have recourse to Jewish purifications on account of any of them, whether after childbirth or in any other cases. It is not, therefore, with that intention, that Christian mothers come to the church, as Jewish women did to the tabernacle, in order to be purified from any uncleanness they contract by childbirth. It is not on any consideration peculiar to the Jews that this ceremony was established in the Christian church, but on a motive common to all mankind, the performing the duty of thanksgiving and prayer. Hence in the canon law, pope Innocent III. speaks of it as follows: "If women after childbearing desire immediately to enter the church, they commit no sin by so doing, nor are they to be hindered. Nevertheless, if they choose to refrain out of respect for some time, we do not think their devotion ought to be reprehended."[1]

In some dioceses this term is limited to a certain number of days. Where this is not regulated by custom, or by any particular statute, the party may perform this duty as soon as she is able to go abroad. Her first visit is to be to the church: first, to give God thanks for her safe delivery: secondly, to implore his blessing on herself and her child. It ought to be her first visit, to show her readiness to acquit herself of this duty to God, and to give him the first-fruits of her recovery and blessing received; as the first-fruits in every thing are most particularly due to God, and most agreeable to him, and which, in the old law, he was most jealous in exacting of his people. The acknowledgment of a benefit received, is the least return we can make for it: the law of nature dictates the obligation of this tribute; God strictly requires it, and this is the means to draw down new blessings on us, the flowing of which is by nothing more effectually obstructed than by insensibility and ingratitude: wherefore, next to the praise and love of God, thanksgiving is the principal homage we owe him in the sacrifice of our hearts, and is a primary act of prayer. The book of psalms abounds with acts of thanksgiving; the apostle everywhere recommends and inculcates it in the strongest terms. The primitive Christians had these words, Thanks be to God, always in their mouths, and used them as their ordinary form of salutation on all occasions, as St. Austin mentions,[2] who adds, "What better thing can we bear in our hearts, or pronounce with our tongues, or express with our pens, than, Thanks be to God?" It is the remark of St. Gregory of Nyssa,[3] that besides past benefits, and promises of other inestimable benefits to come, we every instant of our lives receive from God fresh favors; and therefore we ought, if it were possible, every moment to make him a return of thanks with our whole hearts, and never cease from this duty. We owe a particular thanksgiving for his more remarkable blessings. A mother regards her safe delivery, and her happiness is being blessed with a child, as signal benefits, and therefore she owes a {342} particular holocaust of thanks for them. This she comes to offer at the foot of the altar. She comes also to ask the succors of divine grace. She stands in need of an extraordinary aid from above, both for herself and her child. For herself, that, by her example, instructions, and watchfulness, she may fulfil her great obligations as a mother. For her child, that it may reap the advantage of a virtuous education, may live to God, and become one day a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem: otherwise, what will it avail her to have been a mother, or the child to have been born? Now prayer is the channel which God has appointed for the conveyance of his graces to us. The mother, therefore, must be assiduous in begging daily of the Father of mercies all necessary succors for these purposes: but this she should make the subject of her most zealous petitions on the occasion of her first solemn appearance after childbed before his altar. She should, at the same time, make the most perfect offering and consecration of her child to the divine Majesty. Every mother, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin, ought to perform this triple duty of thanksgiving, petition, and oblation, and through her hands, who, on the day of her purification, set so perfect a pattern of this devotion.

Footnotes: 1. Cap. unico de Purif. post partum. 2. Ep. 41. olim 77. 3. Or. 1, de praest. t. 1, p. 715

ST. LAURENCE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.

HE was one of those who accompanied St. Austin into this island, about the year 597, and was his immediate successor in the see of Canterbury, in 608, in which he sat eleven years. When Eadbald, son and successor to the holy king Ethelbert, not only refused to follow his father's example in embracing the faith, but gave into idolatry, and incestuously took to his bed his father's widow, Laurence having labored hard for his conversion to no purpose, and despairing of reclaiming him, thought of nothing but retiring into France, as some others had already done. But he was severely scourged by St. Peter, in a dream, on the eve of his intended departure, with reproaches for designing to forsake that flock for which Christ had laid down his life. This did not only prevent his going, but had such an effect upon the king, when he was shown the marks of the stripes he had received on this occasion, that he became a thorough convert, doing whatever was required of him, both for his own sanctification, and the propagation of Christianity in his dominions. St. Laurence did not long survive this happy change, dying in the year 619. He is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. See Bede, Hist. b. 2, c. 4, 6, 7.[1] Malmesb. l. 1, Pontif. Angl.

Footnotes: 1. From these words of Bede, b. 1, c. 27, Austin sent to Rome Laurence the priest, and Peter the monk, some modern historians infer that St. Laurence was no monk, but a secular priest; though this proof is wreak. See Collier, Dict. Suppl. Henschenius, p. 290. and Le Quien, Oriens Christ. t. 1, p. 421.

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FEBRUARY III.

ST. BLASE, BISHOP AND MARTYR.

The four modern different Greek acts of this Saint are of small authority. Bollandus has supplied this deficiency by learned remarks.

A D. 316.

HE was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and was crowned with martyrdom in the persecution of Licinius, in 316, by the command of Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia and the lesser Armenia. It is mentioned in the acts of St. Eustratius, who received the crown of martyrdom in the reign of Dioclesian, and is honored on the 13th of December, that St. Blase, the bishop of Sebaste, honorably received his relics, deposited them with those of St. Orestes, and punctually executed every article of the last will and testament of St. Eustratius. His festival is kept a holiday in the Greek church on the 11th of February. He is mentioned in the ancient Western Martyrologies which bear the name of St. Jerom. Ado and Usuard, with several more ancient manuscript Martyrologies, quoted by Chatelain, place his name on the 15th. In the holy wars his relics were dispersed over the West, and his veneration was propagated by many miraculous cures, especially of sore throats. He is the principal patron of the commonwealth of Ragusa.[1] No other reason than the great devotion of the people to this celebrated martyr of the church, seems to have given occasion to the wool-combers to choose him the titular patron of their profession: on which account his festival is still kept by them with a solemn guild at Norwich. Perhaps also his country might in part determine them to this choice: for it seems that the first branch, or at least hint of this manufacture, was borrowed from the remotest known countries of the East, as was that of silk: or the iron combs, with which he is said to have been tormented, gave occasion to this choice.

* * * * *

The iron combs, hooks, racks, swords, and scaffolds, which were purpled with the blood of the martyrs, are eternal proofs of their invincible courage and constancy in the divine service. But are they not at the same time subjects of our condemnation and confusion? How weak are our resolutions! How base our pusillanimity and cowardice in the pursuit of virtue! We have daily renewed our most sacred baptismal engagements, and our purposes of faithfully serving God: these we have often repeated at the feet of God's ministers, and in presence of his holy altars; and we have often begun our conversation with great fervor. Yet these fair blossoms were always nipped in the bud: for want of constancy we soon fell back into our former sloth and disorders, adding to our other prevarications that of base infidelity. Instead of encountering gibbets and wild beasts, we were scared at the sight of the least difficulty; or we had not courage to make the least sacrifice of our passions, or to repulse the weakest and most contemptible assaults of the world. Its example, or that dangerous company from which we had not resolution to separate ourselves, carried us {344} away; and we had not courage to withstand those very maxims which we ourselves condemn in the moments of our serious reflections, as contrary to the spirit of the gospel. Perhaps we often flew back for fear of shadows, and out of apprehensions frequently imaginary, lest we should forfeit some temporal advantage, some useful or agreeable friend. Perhaps we were overcome by the difficulties which arose barely from ourselves, and wanted resolution to deny our senses, to subdue our passions, to renounce dangerous occasions, or to enter upon a penitential life. Blinded by self-love, have we not sheltered our dastardly pusillanimity under the cloak of pretended necessity, or even virtue?

Footnotes: 1. See Bollandus, Pagi ad an. 316. Chatelain, Notes on the Martyr. p. 507, and Jos. Assemani in Cal. Univ. ad 11 Feb. t. 6, p. 123.

ST. ANSCHARIUS, C.,

ARCHBISHOP OF HAMBURG AND BREMEN.

From his excellent life compiled by St. Rembert, his successor, with the remarks of Mabillon, Act. Bened t. 4, p. 401, and the preliminary discourse of Henschenius, p. 391. Adam Bremensis, Hist. Episc. Hamb. and Olof Dolin, in his new excellent history of Sweden in the reigns of Listen, Bel, and Bagnar, c. 16.

A.D. 865.

HE was a monk, first of Old Corbie in France, afterwards of Little Corbie in Saxony. Harold, or Heriold, prince of Denmark, having been baptized in the court of the emperor Louis Debonnaire, Anscarius preached the faith with great success, first to the Danes, afterwards to the Swedes, and lastly in the north of Germany. In 832, he was made archbishop of Hamburg, and legate of the holy see, by pope Gregory IV. That city was burnt by an army of Normans, in 845. The saint continued to support his desolate churches, till, in 849, the see of Bremen becoming vacant, pope Nicholas united it to that of Hamburg, and appointed him bishop of both. Denmark and Sweden had relapsed into idolatry, notwithstanding the labors of many apostolical missionaries from New Corbie, left there by our saint. His presence soon made the faith flourish again in Denmark, under the protection of king Horick. But in Sweden the superstitious king Olas cast lots whether he should be admitted or no. The saint, grieved to see the cause of God and religion committed to the cast of a die, recommended the issue to the care of heaven. The lot proved favorable, and the bishop converted many of the lower rank, and established many churches there, which he left under zealous pastors at his return to Bremen. He wore a rough hair shirt, and, while his health permitted him, contented himself with a small quantity of bread and water. He never undertook any thing without recommending it first to God by earnest prayer, and had an extraordinary talent for preaching. His charity to the poor had no bounds; he washed their feet, and waited on them at table. He ascribed it to his sins, that he never met with the glory of martyrdom in all that he had suffered for the faith. To excite himself to compunction and to the divine praise, he made a collection of pathetic sentences, some of which he placed at the end of each psalm; several of which are found in certain manuscript psalters, as Fleury takes notice. The learned Fabricius, in his Latin Library of the middle ages, calls them an illustrious monument of the piety of this holy prelate. St. Anscharius died at Bremen in the year 865, the sixty-seventh of his age, and thirty-fourth of his episcopal dignity; and was honored with miracles. His name occurs in the Martyrologies soon after his death. In the German language he is called St. Scharies, and his collegiate church of Bremen Sant-Scharies. That at Hamburg, which bore his name, has been converted by the Lutherans into an hospital for orphans. His name was rather Ansgar, as it {345} is written in his own letter, and in a charter of Louis Debonnaire. In this letter[1] he attributes all the fruits and glory of the conversion of the Northern nations, to which he preached, to the zeal of that emperor and of Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, without taking the least notice of himself or his own labors. The life of St. Willehad, first bishop of Bremen, who died in 789 or 791, compiled by St. Anscharius, is a judicious and elegant work, and the preface a masterpiece for that age. It is abridged and altered by Surius, but published entire at Cologne, in 1642; and more correctly by Mabillon; and again by Fabricius, among the historians of Hamburg, t. 2.

Footnotes: 1. Ap. Bolland. et. Mabill.

ST. WEREBURGE, V. ABBESS.

PATRONESS OF CHESTER.

From Harpsfield, Bede, Brompton, Florence of Worcester, Higden, Langhorn's Chronicle, Leland's Collections, Powel's History of Wales, the Saxon Chronicle, Simeon of Durham, and her curious life, written in old English metre, from the Passionary of the monastery of Chester, by Henry Bradshaw, a monk of that house, who died in 1521, on whom see Wood, Athen. Oxon., vol. 1, p. 9, n. 14, and Tanner, Bibl. p. 121. This scarce history was printed in 1521, by Richard Pynson, printer to king Henry VIII. See her ancient life, a MS. copy of which Camden sent to F. Rosweide, published by Henschenius, with notes, p. 386. See also the summary of the life of St. Wereburge, with an historical account of the images carved on her shine, (now the episcopal throne,) in the choir of the cathedral of Chester, by William Cooper, M.D., at Chester 1749.

Seventh Age.

ST. WEREBURGE was daughter of Wulfere, king of Mercia, by St. Ermenilde, daughter of Ercombert, king of Kent, and St. Sexburge. In her was centred the royal blood of all the chief Saxon kings; but her glory was the contempt of a vain world, even from her cradle, on the pure motive of the love of God. She had three brothers, Wulfade and Rufin, who died martyrs, and Kenred, who ended his life at Rome in the odor of sanctity. Her father, Wulfere, resided near Stone, in Staffordshire. His eldest brother, Peada, had begun to plant the faith in Mercia. Wulfere promised at his marriage to extirpate the remains of idolatry, and was then a Christian; but worldly motives made him delay the performance of his promise. Ermenilde endeavored to soften the fierceness of his temper; but she found it a far more easy task to dispose the minds of her tender nursery to be faithful to divine grace; and, under her care, all her children grew up fruitful plants in the garden of the saints. Wereburge excelled the rest in fervor and discretion. She was humble, obedient, and meek; never failed of assisting with her mother at the daily performance of the whole church office; besides spending many hours on her knees in private devotion in her closet. She eagerly listened to every instruction and exhortation of piety. At an age in which youth is the fondest of recreations, pleasures, and vanities, she was always grave, reserved, and mortified. She was a stranger to any joy but that which the purity of her conscience afforded her; and in holy compunction bewailed before God, without ceasing, her distance from him, and her other spiritual miseries. She trembled at the thought of the least danger that could threaten her purity; fasting and prayer were her delight, by which she endeavored to render her soul acceptable to her heavenly bridegroom. Her beauty and her extraordinary qualifications, rendered more conspicuous by the greater lustre of her virtue, drew to her many suitors for marriage. But a mountain might sooner be moved than her resolution shaken. The prince of the West-Saxons waited on her with rich presents; but she refused to accept them or listen to his proposals, saying she had chosen the Lord Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, for the Spouse of her {346} soul, and had devoted herself to his service in the state of virginity. But her greatest victory was over the insidious attempts of Werbode, a powerful, wicked knight of her father's court. The king was greatly indebted to the valor and services of this knight for his temporal prosperity, and entertained a particular affection for him. The knight, sensible of this, and being passionately fond of Wereburge, made use of all his interest with the king to obtain his consent to marry her, which was granted, on condition he could gain that of the royal virgin. Queen Ermenilde and her two sons, Wulfade and Rufin, were grievously afflicted at the news. These two princes were then upon their conversion to Christianity, and for this purpose resorted to the cell of St. Chad, bishop of Litchfield, under pretence of going a hunting; for the saint resided in a hermitage, situate in a forest. By him they were instructed in the faith, and baptized. Werbode, finding them an obstacle to his design, contrived their murder, for which he is said to have moved the father to give an order in a fit of passion, by showing him the young princes returning from the bishop, and incensing him against them by slanders: for the king was passionate, and had been likewise prevailed on by his perfidious minister to countenance and favor idolatry. Werbode died miserably soon after, and Wulfere no sooner heard that the murder was perpetrate but, stung with grief and remorse, he entered into himself, did great penance, and entirely gave himself up to the advice of his queen and St. Chad. He destroyed all the idols, converted their temples into churches, founded the abbey of Peterborough, and the priory of Stone, where the two martyrs were buried, and exceedingly propagated the worship of the true God, by his zealous endeavors and example.

Wereburge, seeing this perfect change in the disposition of her father, was no longer afraid to disclose to him her earnest desire of consecrating herself to God in a religious state of life. Finding him averse, and much grieved at the proposal, she pleaded her cause with so many tears, and urged the necessity of preparing for death in so pathetic a manner, that her request was granted. Her father even thanked God with great humility for so great a grace conferred on her, though not without many tears which such a sacrifice cost him. He conducted her in great state to Ely, attended by his whole court, and was met at the gate of the monastery by the royal abbess St. Audry, with her whole religious family in procession, singing holy hymns to God. Wereburge, falling on her knees, begged to be admitted in quality of a penitent. She obtained her request, and Te Deum was sung. She went through the usual trials with great humility and patience, and with joy exchanged her rich coronet, purple, silks, and gold, for a poor veil and a coarse habit, and resigned herself into the hands of her superior, to live only to Christ. King Wulfere, his three brothers, and Egbright, or Egbert, king of Kent, and Adulph, king of the East-Angles, together with the great lords of their respective states, were present at these her solemn espousals with Christ,[1] and were entertained by Wulfere with a royal magnificence. The virgin here devoted herself to God with new fervor in all her actions, and made the exercises of obedience, prayer, contemplation, humility, and penance, her whole occupation, instead of that circle of vanities and amusements which employ the slaves of the world. King Wulfede dying in 675, was buried at Litchfield. Kenred, his son, being then too young to govern, his brother Ethelred succeeded him. St. Ermenilde was no sooner at liberty, but she took the religions veil at Ely, under her mother, St. Sexburge, at whose death she was chosen third abbess, and honored in England among the saints on the 13th of February. Her daughter, St. Wereburge, at her {347} uncle king Ethelred's persuasion, left Ely to charge herself, at his request, with the superintendency of all the houses of religious women in his kingdom, that she might establish in them the observance of the most exact monastic discipline. By his liberality she founded those of Trentham in Staffordshire, of Hanbury, near Tutbury, in the county of Stafford, (not in the county of Huntingdon, as some mistake,) and of Wedon, one of the royal palaces in Northamptonshire. This king also founded the collegiate church of St. John Baptist, in the suburbs of West-Chester, and gave to St. Egwin the ground for the great abbey of Evesham; and after having reigned twenty-nine years, embraced the monastic state in his beloved monastery of Bardney, upon the river Witham, not far from Lincoln, of which he was afterwards chosen abbot. He resigned his crown to Kenred, his nephew, brother to our saint, having been chosen king only on account of the nonage of that prince. Kenred governed his realm with great prudence and piety, making it his study, by all the means in his power, to prevent and root out all manner of vice, and promote the knowledge and love of God. After a reign of five years, he recommended his subjects to God, took leave of them, to their inexpressible grief, left his crown to Coelred, his uncle's son, and, making a pilgrimage to Rome, there put on the monastic habit in 708, and persevered in great fervor till his happy death.

St. Wereburge, both by word and example, conducted to God the souls committed to her care. She was the most perfect model of meekness, humility, patience, and purity. Besides the church office, she recited every day the psalter on her knees, and, after matins, remained in the church in prayer, either prostrate on the ground or kneeling, till daylight, and often bathed in tears. She never took more than one repast in the day, and read with wonderful delight the lives of the fathers of the desert. She foretold her death, visited all places under her care, and gave her last orders and exhortations. She prepared herself for her last hour by ardent invitations of her heavenly bridegroom, and languishing aspirations of divine love, in which she breathed forth her pure soul on the 3d of February, at Trentham, about the end of the seventh century. Her body, as she had desired, was interred at Hanbury. Nine years after, in 708, it was taken up in presence of king Coelred, his council, and many bishops, and being found entire and uncorrupt, was laid in a costly shrine on the 21st of June. In 875 her body was still entire; when, for fear of the Danish pirates, who were advanced as far as Repton, in the county of Derby, a royal seat (not Ripon, as Guthrie mistakes) within six miles of Hanbury, (in the county of Stafford,) her shrine was carried to West-Chester, in the reign of king Alfred, who, marrying his daughter Elfleda to Ethelred, created him first earl of Mercia, after the extinction of its kings. This valiant earl built, and endowed with secular canonries, a stately church, as a repository for the relics of St. Wereburge, which afterwards became the cathedral. His lady rebuilt other churches, walled in the city, and fortified it with a strong castle against the Welsh.[2] The great kings, Athelstan and Edgar, devoutly visited and enriched the church of St. Wereburge. In the reign of St. Edward the Confessor, Leofrick, earl of Mercia, and his pious wife, Godithe, rebuilt many churches and monasteries in those parts, founded the abbeys of Leonence, near Hereford, also that of Coventry, which city this earl made free. At Chester they repaired the collegiate church of St. John, and out of their singular devotion to St. Wereburge, rebuilt her minster in a most stately {348} manner. William the Conqueror gave to his kinsman and most valiant knight, Hugh Lupus, the earldom of Chester, with the sovereign dignity of a palatinate, on condition he should win it. After having been thrice beaten and repulsed, he at last took the city, and divided the conquered lands of the country among his followers. In 1093, he removed the secular canons of St. Wereburge, and in their stead placed monks under an abbot, brought over from Bec in Normandy. Earl Richard, son and heir to Lupus, going in pilgrimage to St. Winefrid's at Holywell, attributed to the intercession of St. Wereburge his preservation from an army of Welshmen, who came with an intention to intercept him. In memory of which, his constable, William, gave to her church the village of Newton, and founded the abbey of Norton on the Dee, at the place where his army miraculously forded that great river to the succor of his master, which place is still called Constable Sondes, says Bradshaw. The same learned author relates, from the third book of the Passionary of the Abbey, many miraculous cures of the sick, and preservations of that city from the assaults of the Welsh, Danes, and Scots, and, in 1180, from a terrible fire, which threatened to consume the whole city, but was suddenly extinguished when the monks carried in procession the shrine of the virgin in devout prayer. Her body fell to dust soon after its translation to Chester. These relics being scattered in the reign of Henry VIII., her shrine was converted into the episcopal throne in the same church, and remains in that condition to this day. This monument is of stone, ten feet high, embellished with thirty curious antique images of kings of Mercia and other princes, ancestors or relations of this saint. See Cooper's remarks on each.

Footnotes: 1. Some authors in Leland's Collectanea place her religious profession after the death of her father; but our account is supported by the authority of Bradshaw. 2. This noble lady, heiress of the great virtues of her royal father, rebuilt, after the death of her husband, the churches and towns of Stafford, Warwick, Tamworth, and Shrewsbury; and founded, besides some others, the great abbey of St. Peter's in Gloucester, which church she enriched with the relics of St. Oswalk, king and martyr, and in which she herself was buried. See Bradshaw, Dugdale, Launden.

ST. MARGARET SURNAMED OF ENGLAND, V.

HER body is preserved entire, and resorted to with great devotion, in the church of the Cistercian nuns of Seauve Benoite,[1] in the diocese of Puy, is Velay, eight leagues from that city toward Lyons. The brothers of Sainte Marthe, in the old edition of Gallia Christiana,[2] and Dom Besunier, the Maurist monk,[3] confirm the tradition of the place, that she was an English woman, and that her shrine is famous for miracles. Yet her life in old French, (a manuscript copy of which is preserved by the Jesuits of Clermont college, in Paris, with remarks of F. Peter Francis Chifflet,) tells us that she was by birth a noble Hungarian. Her mother, probably at least of English extraction, after the death of her husband, took her with her on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and both led a very penitential religious life, first in that city, and afterwards at Bethlehem. St. Margaret having buried her mother in that country, made a pilgrimage to Montserrat, in Spain, and afterwards to our Lady's, at Puy in Velay. Then she retired to the Cistercian nunnery of Seauve Benoite,[4] where she happily ended her mortal course in the twelfth century. See Gallia Christ. Nova in Dioec. Aniciensi seu Podiensi, t. 2, p. 777.

Footnotes: 1. Sylva Benedicta. 2. Gallia Christ. vetus, t. 4, p. 828. 3. Recueil Hist. des Abbayes de France, t. 1, p. 314. 4. This St. Margarey perhaps never professed the Cistercian order. At least Henriquez, in the annals of that order, speak only of one Margaret, and English woman, whose brother Thomas was banished by Henry II. among the friends and relations of St. Thomas of Canterbury. By this brother's advice she made her profession in the Cistercian nunnery at Laon, where she died in odor of sanctity in 1192. See Henriquez ad eum annum.

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FEBRUARY IV.

SAINT ANDREW CORSINI

BISHOP AND CONFESSOR.

From his two original lives, written, the one by a disciple, the other by Peter Andrew Castagna, a friar of his Order, one hundred years after his death. See the same compiled in Latin by Francis Venturius bishop of San-Severo, printed at Rome in 1620, in quarto, and abridged by the elegant Jesuit Maffei.

A.D. 1373.

THIS saint at his baptism was called Andrew, from the apostle of that name, on whose festival he was born in Florence, in 1302. The family of the Corsini was then one of the most illustrious of that commonwealth. This child was the fruit of the prayers of his pious parents, who consecrated him by vow to God before his birth. But notwithstanding the care his parents took to instil good principles into him, he spent the first part of his youth in vice and extravagance, in the company of such as were as wicked as himself. His devout mother Peregrina never ceased weeping and praying for his conversion, and one day said to him, with many sighs, in the bitterness of her grief: "I see you are the wolf I saw in my sleep;" giving him to understand, that when with child of him she had dreamed she was brought to bed of a wolf, which running into a church, was turned into a lamb. She added, that she and her husband had in a particular manner devoted him, while in the womb, to the service of God, under the protection of the blessed Virgin; and that in consequence of his being born not for them, nor for the world, but for God, a very different kind of life from what he led was expected from him. This discourse made so strong an impression on his heart, that he went immediately to the church of the Carmelite friars, and having prayed there for some time with great fervor before the altar of our Lady, he was so touched by God, that he took a resolution upon the spot to return no more to his father's house, but to embrace the religious state of life professed in that convent. He was readily admitted, in the year 1318, and after a novitiate of a year and some months, during which he eluded the artifices of his worldly companions, and resolutely rejected the solicitations of an uncle who sought to draw him back into the world, he made his solemn profession. He never departed from the first fervor of his conversion. He strenuously labored to subdue his passions by extreme humiliations, obedience even to the last person in the house, by silence and prayer; and his superiors employed him in the meanest offices, often in washing the dishes in the scullery. The progress he made in learning, particularly in the holy scriptures and in divinity, was very great. In the year 1328 he was ordained priest; but to prevent the music and feast which his family had prepared, according to custom, for the day on which he was to say his first mass, he privately withdrew to a little convent seven miles out of town, where he offered, unknown, his first-fruits to God, with wonderful recollection and devotion. After some time employed in preaching at Florence, he was sent to Paris, where he studied three years, and took some degrees. He prosecuted his studies some time at Avignon, with his uncle, cardinal Corsini; and in 1332, returning to Florence, was chosen prior of that convent by a provincial chapter. God honored his extraordinary {350} virtue with the gifts of prophecy and miracles; and the astonishing fruits of his example and zealous preaching made him be looked upon as a second apostle of his country. Among other miracles and conquests of hardened souls, was the conversion of his cousin John Corsini, an infamous gamester; and the miraculous cure of an ulcer in his neck.

The bishop of Fiesoli, a town three miles from Florence, being dead, the chapter unanimously chose our saint to fill up the vacant see. Being informed of their proceedings, he hid himself, and remained so long concealed that the canons, despairing to find him, were going to proceed to a second election; when, by a particular direction of divine providence, he was discovered by a child. Being consecrated bishop in the beginning of the year 1360, he redoubled his former austerities. To his hair-shirt he added an iron girdle. He daily said the seven penitential psalms and the litany of the saints, and gave himself a severe discipline while he recited the litany. His bed was of vine-branches strewed on the floor. All his time was taken up in prayer or in his functions. Holy meditation and reading the scriptures he called his recreation from his labors. He avoided discourse with women as much as possible, and would never listen to flatterers or informers. His tenderness and care of the poor were incredible, and he had a particular regard for the bashful among them, that is, such as were ashamed to make known their distress: these he was diligent in seeking out, and assisted them with all possible secrecy. By an excellent talent for composing differences and dissensions, he never failed to reconcile persons at variance, and to appease all seditions that happened in his time, either at Fiesoli, or at Florence. Urban V., on this account, sent him vested with legatine power to Bologna, where the nobility and people were miserably divided. He happily pacified them, and their union continued during the remainder of his life. He was accustomed every Thursday to wash, with singular charity and humility, the feet of the poor: one excused himself, alleging that his feet were full of ulcers and corruption; the saint insisted upon washing them notwithstanding, and they were immediately healed. In imitation of St. Gregory the Great, he kept a list of the names of all the poor, and furnished them all with allowances. He never dismissed any without an alms, for which purpose he once miraculously multiplied bread. He was taken ill while he was singing high mass on Christmas-night, in the year 1372. His fever increasing, he gave up his happy soul to God with a surprising joy and tranquillity, on the 6th of January, 1373, being seventy-one years and five weeks old, having been twelve years bishop. He was honored with many miracles, and immediately canonized by the voice of the people. The state of Florence has often sensibly experienced his powerful intercession. Pope Eugenius IV. allowed his relics to be exposed to public veneration. He was canonized by Urban VIII. in 1629. His festival was transferred to the 4th of February. Clement XII. being of this family, in conjunction with his nephew, the marquis of Corsini, sumptuously adorned the chapel of the Carmelite friars' church in Florence, in which the saint's body is kept. He also built and endowed a magnificent independent chapel in the great church of St. John Lateran, under the name of this his patron, in which the corpse of that pope is interred.

* * * * *

The example of all the saints confirms the fundamental maxim of our divine Redeemer, that the, foundation of all solid virtue and of true sanctity, is to be laid by subduing the passions and dying to ourselves. Pride, sensuality, covetousness, and every vice must be rooted out of the heart, the senses must be mortified, the inconstancy of the mind must be settled, and its inclination to roving and dissipation fixed by recollection, and all depraved {351} affections curbed. Both in cloisters and in the world, many Christians take pains to become virtuous by multiplying religious practices, yet lose in a great measure the fruit of their labors, because they never study with their whole hearts to die to themselves. So long as self-love reigns in their souls, almost without control, this will often blind and deceive them, and will easily infect even their good works, and their devotion will be liable to a thousand illusions, and always very imperfect. Hence religious persons, after many years spent in the rigorous observance of their rule, still fail upon the least trial or contradiction which thwarts their favorite inclination, and are stopped in their spiritual progress as it were by every grain of sand in their way: their whole life they crawl like base insects in the mire of their imperfections, whereas if they studied once in good earnest to curb sensuality and to renounce their own lights, their own will, and the inordinate love of themselves, difficulties would disappear before them, and they would in a short time arrive at the perfection of true virtue, and enjoy the liberty of the children of God, and his interior peace, the true road to which is only humility, meekness, and perfect self-denial. Did we know the treasure and happiness which this would procure us, we should, in imitation of the ancient holy monks, desire to meet with superiors who would exercise us by the severest trials, and think ourselves most obliged to those who apply the strongest remedies to purge and cure our sick souls.

SS. PHILEAS, MM.

BISHOP OF THMUIS, AND PHILOROMUS.

PHILEAS was a rich nobleman of Thmuis[1] in Egypt, very eloquent and learned. Being converted to the faith, he was chosen bishop of that city; but was taken and carried prisoner to Alexandria by the persecutors, under the successors of Dioclesian. Eusebius has preserved part of a letter which he wrote in his dungeon, and sent to his flock to comfort and encourage them.[2] Describing the sufferings of his fellow confessors at Alexandria, he says that every one had full liberty allowed to insult, strike, and beat them with rods, whips, or clubs. Some of the confessors, with their hands behind their backs, were tied to pillars, their bodies stretched out with engines, and their sides, belly, thighs, legs, and cheeks, hideously torn with iron hooks: others were hung by one hand, suffering excessive pain by the stretching of their joints: others hung by both hands, their bodies being drawn down. The governor thought no treatment too bad for Christians. Some expired on the racks; others expired soon after they were taken down: others were laid on their backs in the dungeons, with their legs stretched out in the wooden stocks to the fourth hole, &c. Culcian, who had been prefect of Thebais, was then governor of all Egypt, under the tyrant Maximinus, but afterwards lost his head in 313, by the order of Licinius. We have a long interrogatory of St. Phileas before him from the presidial registers. Culcian, after many other things, asked him, "Was Christ God?" The saint answered, "Yes;" and alleged his miracles as a proof of his divinity. The governor professed a great regard for his quality and merit, and said: "If you were in misery, or necessity, you should be {352} dispatched without more ado; but as you have riches and estates sufficient not only for yourself and family, but for the maintenance almost of a whole province, I pity you, and will do all in my power to save you." The counsellors and lawyers, desirous also of saving him, said: "He had already sacrificed in the Phrontisterium, (or academy for the exercises of literature.") Phileas cried out: "I have not by any immolation; but say barely that I have sacrificed, and you will say no more than the truth." Having been confined there some time, he might perhaps have said mass in that place.[3]

His wife, children, brother, and other relations, persons of distinction, and Pagans, were present at the trial. The governor, hoping to overcome him by tenderness, said:—"See how sorrowful your wife stands with her eyes fixed upon you." Phileas replied: "Jesus Christ, the Saviour of souls, calls me to his glory: and he can also, if he pleases, call my wife." The counsellors, out of compassion, said to the judge: "Phileas begs a delay." Culcian said to him: "I grant it you most willingly, that you may consider what to do." Phileas replied: "I have considered, and it is my unchangeable resolution to die for Jesus Christ." Then all the counsellors, the emperor's lieutenant, who was the first magistrate of the city, all the other officers of justice, and his relations, fell down together at his feet, embracing his knees, and conjuring him to have compassion on his disconsolate family, and not to abandon his children in their tender years, while his presence was absolutely necessary for them. But he, like a rock unshaken by the impetuous waves that dash against it, stood unmoved; and raising his heart to God, protested aloud that he owned no other kindred but the apostles and martyrs. Philoromus, a noble Christian, was present: he was a tribune or colonel, and the emperor's treasurer-general in Alexandria, and had his tribunal in the city, where he sat every day hearing and judging causes, attended by many officers in great state. Admiring the prudence and inflexible courage of Phileas, and moved with indignation against his adversaries, he cried out to them: "Why strive ye to overcome this brave man, and to make him, by an impious compliance with men, renounce God? Do not you see that, contemplating the glory of heaven, he makes no account of earthly things?" This speech drew upon him the indignation of the whole assembly, who in rage demanded that both might be condemned to die. To which the judge readily assented.

As they were led out to execution, the brother of Phileas, who was a judge, said to the governor: "Phileas desires his pardon." Culcian there fore called him back, and asked him if it was true. He answered: "No; God forbid. Do not listen to this unhappy man. Far from desiring the reversion of my sentence, I think myself much obliged to the emperors, to you, and to your court: for by your means I become coheir with Christ, and shall enter this very day into the possession of his kingdom." Hereupon he was remanded to the place of execution, where having made his prayer aloud, and exhorted the faithful to constancy and perseverance, he was beheaded with Philoromus. The exact time of their martyrdom is not known, but it happened between the years 306 and 312. Their names stand in the ancient martyrologies. See Eusebius, Hist. l. 8, c. 9. St. Hier. in Catal. in Philea; and their original beautiful acts, published by Combefis, Henschenius, and Ruinart.

Footnotes: 1. Thmuis, capital of the Nomos, or district of Mendes, is called, by Strata, Mendes: which word in the Egyptian tongue signifies a goat, Pan being there worshipped with extraordinary superstition under the figure of a goat. This city was anciently one of the largest and richest in Egypt, as Amm. Marcellinus (l. 22) testifies; but is now reduced to the condition of a mean village, and called Themoi, or rather Them{o}wia. See Le Quien. Oriens Christ. t. 2. p. 53{}. 2. Eus. Hist. l. 8, c. 10, p. 302. 3. See Tillemont and Ceillier.

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ST. GILBERT, A.

FOUNDER OF THE GILBERTINS

HE was born at Sempringham in Lincolnshire, and, after a clerical education, was ordained priest by the bishop of Lincoln. For some time he taught a free-school, training up youth in regular exercises of piety and learning. The advowson of the parsonages of Sempringham and Tirington being the right of his father, he was presented by him to those united livings, in 1123. He gave all the revenues of them to the poor, except a small sum for bare necessaries, which he reserved out of the first living. By his care his parishioners seemed to lead the lives of religious men, and were known to be of his flock, by their conversation, wherever they went. He gave a rule to seven holy virgins, who lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining to the wall of his parish church of St. Andrew at Sempringham, and another afterwards to a community of men, who desired to live under his direction. The latter was drawn from the rule of the canon regulars; but that given to his nuns, from St. Bennet's: but to both he added many particular constitutions. Such was the origin of the Order of the Gilbertins, the approbation of which he procured from pope Eugenius III. At length he entered the Order himself, but resigned the government of it some time before his death, when he lost his sight. His diet was chiefly roots and pulse, and so sparing, that others wondered how he could subsist. He had always at table a dish which he called, The plate of the Lord Jesus, in which he put all that was best of what was served up; and this was for the poor. He always wore a hair shirt, took his short rest sitting, and spent great part of the night in prayer. In this, his favorite exercise, his soul found those wings on which she continually soared to God. During the exile of St. Thomas of Canterbury, he and the other superiors of his Order were accused of having sent him succors abroad. The charge was false: yet the saint chose rather to suffer imprisonment and the danger of the suppression of his Order, than to deny it, lest he should seem to condemn what would have been good and just. He departed to our Lord on the 3d of February, 1190, being one hundred and six years old. Miracles wrought at his tomb were examined and approved by Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, and the commissioners of pope Innocent III. in 1201, and he was canonized by that pope the year following. The Statutes of the Gilbertins, and Exhortations to his Brethren, are ascribed to him. See his life by a contemporary writer, in Dugdale's Monasticon, t. 2, p. 696; and the same in Henschenius, with another from Capgrave of the same age. See also, Harpsfield, Hist. Angl. cent. 12, c. 37. De Visch, Bibl. Cisterc. Henschenius, p. 567. Helyot, &c.

ST. JANE, JOAN, OR JOANNA OF VALOIS,

QUEEN OF FRANCE.

SHE was daughter of king Louis XI. and Charlotte of Savoy, born to 1464. Her low stature and deformed body rendered her the object of her father's aversion, who, notwithstanding, married her to Louis duke of Orleans, his cousin-german, in 1476. She obtained his life of her brother, Charles VIII., who had resolved to put him to death for rebellion. Yet {354} nothing could conquer his antipathy against her, from which she suffered every thing with patience, making exercises of piety her chief occupation and comfort. Her husband coming to the crown of France in 1498, under the name of Louis XII., having in view an advantageous match with Anne, the heiress of Brittany, and the late king's widow, alleging also the nullity of his marriage with Jane, chiefly on account of his being forced to it by Louis XI., applied to pope Alexander VI. for commissaries to examine the matter according to law. These having taken cognizance of the affair, declared the marriage void; nor did Jane make any opposition to the divorce, but rejoiced to see herself at liberty, and in a condition to serve God in a state of greater perfection, and attended with fewer impediments in his service. She therefore meekly acquiesced in the sentence, and the king, pleased at her submission, gave her the duchy of Berry, besides Pontoise and other townships. She resided at Bourges, wore only sackcloth, and addicted herself entirely to the exercises of mortification and prayer, and to works of charity, in which she employed all her great revenues. By the assistance of her confessarius, a virtuous Franciscan friar, called Gabriel Maria, as he always signed his name, she instituted, in 1500, the Order of nuns of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.[1] It was approved by Julius II., Leo X., Paul V., and Gregory XV. The nuns wear a black veil, a white cloak, a red scapular, and a brown habit with a cross, and a cord for a girdle. The superioress is only called Ancelle, or servant, for humility. St. Jane took the habit herself in 1504, but died on the 4th of February, 1505. The Huguenots burned her remains at Bourges, in 1562.[2] She was canonized by Clement XII. in 1738, but had been venerated at Bourges from the time of her death. See the brief of Benedict XIV., concerning her immemorial veneration, t. 2, de Canoniz. l. 2, c. 24, p. 296. Bullarii, t. 16, p. 104, and Helyot, Hist. des Ord. Rel. t. 7, p. 339. Also, Henschenius, p. 575. Chatelain's Notes on the Mart. Her life, compiled by Andrew Fremiot, archbishop of Bourges; by Hilarion de Coste, of the Order of Minims, among his illustrious ladies; another printed by the order of Doni d'Attichi, bishop of Autun, in 1656, (who had from his youth professed the same Order of the Minims, of which he wrote the Annals, and a History of the French Cardinals.) See also, on St. Jane, Godeau, Eloges des Princesses, &c.

Footnotes: 1. The imitation of the ten principal virtues, of which the mysteries of the Blessed Virgin, honored by the Church in her yearly festivals, furnish perfect models, is the peculiar end of this religious institute, which takes its name from the first and principal of the joyful mysteries of the mother of God. These nuns wear a gray habit with a red scapular, with a gold cross (or of silver gilt) hanging before their breast, and a gold ring on one of their fingers. A noble Genoese widow, called Mary Victoria Fornaro, instituted in 1604 another Order of the same title, called of the Celestial Annunciades, Annuntiatae Coelestinae. As an emblem of heaven, their habit is white, with a blue mantle to represent the azure of the heavens. The most rigorous poverty, and a total separation from the world, are prescribed. The religious are only allowed to speak to externs six times in a year, and then only to near relations, the men to those of the first, the women to those of the first and second degree. See the life of ven. Mary Victoria Fornaro, by F. Ambrose Spinola, Jesuit; and Hist. des Ordres Relig. t. 4, p. 297. 2. See Henschenius, p. 578.

ST. ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM.

HE was a monk from his youth, and became superior of a monastery in the neighborhood of that city, in the fifth age. Facundus and Suidas assure us that he was promoted to the dignity of priest. He was looked upon as a living rule of religious perfection, and treated by his patriarch, St. Cyril, and the other prelates of his time, as their father. He chose St. Chrysostom for his model. We have still extant two thousand and twelve of his letters, abounding with excellent instructions of piety, and with theological {355} and critical learning. They are concise, and the style natural, very elegant, agreeable, full of fire and penetration. Possevin laments that they are not in use as a classic author for the Greek language. His prudence, undaunted zeal, profound humility, ardent love of God, and other virtues, shine admirably in them. He died about the year 449. See Photius, Bibl. Cod. 232 and 228. Tillem. t. 15, p. 97. Bolland. 4 Feb, p. 468.

ST. REMBERT, ARCHBISHOP OF BREMEN, C.

HE was a native of Flanders, near Bruges, and a monk in the neighboring monastery of Turholt. St. Anscharius called him to his assistance in his missionary labors, and in his last sickness recommended him for his successor, saying: "Rembert is more worthy to be archbishop, than I to discharge the office of his deacon." After his death, in 865, St. Rembert was unanimously chosen archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, and superintended all the churches of Sweden, Denmark, and the Lower Germany, finishing the work of their conversion. He also began the conversion of the Sclavi and the Vandals, now called Brandenburghers. He sold the sacred vessels to redeem captives from the Normans; and gave the horse on which he was riding for the ransom of a virgin taken by the Sclavi. He was most careful never to lose a moment of time from serious duties and prayer, and never to interrupt the attention of his mind to God in his exterior functions. He died on the 11th of June, in 888, but is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on the 4th of February, the day on which he was chosen archbishop. His life of St. Anscharius is admired, both for the author's accuracy and piety, and for the elegance and correctness of the composition. His letter to Walburge, first abbess of Nienherse, is a pathetic exhortation to humility and virginity. The see of Hamburg being united to Bremen by St. Anscharius, this became the metropolitan church of all the north of Germany: but the city becoming Lutheran, expelled the archbishop in the reign of Charles V. This see and that of Ferden were secularized and yielded to the Swedes by the treaty of Westphalia, in 1648. See his life written soon after his death, in Henschenius, p. 555. Mabillon, Act. Bened., &c.

ST. MODAN, ABBOT IN SCOTLAND, C.

DRYBURGH, situated near Mailros, was anciently one of the most famous monasteries in Scotland: in this house of saints, Modan dedicated himself to God, about the year 522. Being persuaded that Christian perfection is to be attained by holy prayer and contemplation, and by a close union of our souls with God, he gave six or seven hours every day to prayer, and moreover seasoned with it all his other actions and employments. A spirit of prayer is founded in the purity of the affections, the fruit of self-denial, humility, and obedience. Hence proceeded the ardor with which our saint studied to crucify his flesh and senses by the practice of the greatest austerities, to place himself beneath all creatures by the most profound and sincere humility, and in all things to subject his will to that of his superiors with such an astonishing readiness and cheerfulness, that they unanimously declared they never saw any one so perfectly divested of all self-will, and dead to himself, as Modan. The abbacy falling vacant, he was raised against his will to that dignity. In this charge, his conduct was a clear proof of the well-known maxim, that no man possesses the art of governing {356} others well, unless he is perfectly master of that of obeying. His inflexible firmness, in maintaining every point of monastic discipline, was tempered by the most winning sweetness and charity, and an unalterable calmness and meekness. Such, moreover, was his prudence, and such the unction of his words in instructing or reproving others, that his precepts and very reprimands gave pleasure, gained all hearts, and inspired the love, and communicated the spirit of every duty. He preached the faith at Stirling, and in other places near the Forth, especially at Falkirk; but frequently interrupted his apostolic employments to retire among the craggy mountains of Dunbarton, where he usually spent thirty or forty days at once in the heavenly exercises of devout contemplation, in which he enjoyed a kind of anticipation or foretaste of the delights in which consists the happiness of the blessed. He died in his retirement near Alcluid, (a fortress on the river Cluid,) since called Dunbritton, now Dunbarton. His death is usually placed in the seventh century, though some think he flourished later. His relics were kept with singular veneration in a famous church of his name at Rosneith. He is also titular saint of the great church at Stirling, and honored particularly at Dunbarton and Falkirk. See Hector Boetius, Lesley, King, in his Calendar, the Breviary of Aberdeen, and the Chronicle of Scone: also Bollandus, p. 497.

ST. JOSEPH OF LEONISSA, C.

THIS saint was born to 1556, at Leonissa a small town near Otricoli, in the ecclesiastical state, and at eighteen years of age made his profession among the Capuchin friars, in the place of his birth, taking the name of Joseph; for before he was called Eufranius. He was always mild, humble, chaste, patient, charitable, mortified, and obedient to an heroic degree: with the utmost fervor, and on the most perfect motive of religion, he endeavored to glorify God in all his actions. Three days in the week he usually took no other sustenance than bread and water, and passed several Lents in the year after the same manner. His bed was hard boards, with the trunk of a vine for his pillow. The love of injuries, contumelies, and humiliations, made him find in them his greatest joy. He looked upon himself as the basest of sinners, and said, that indeed God by his infinite mercy had preserved him from grievous crimes; but that by his sloth, ingratitude, and infidelity to the divine grace, he deserved to have been abandoned by God above all creatures. By this humility and mortification he crucified in himself the old man with his deeds, and prepared his soul for heavenly communications in prayer and contemplation, which was his assiduous exercise. The sufferings of Christ were the favorite and most ordinary object of his devotions. He usually preached with a crucifix in his hands, and the fire of his words kindled a flame in the hearts of his hearers and penitents. In 1587 he was sent by his superiors into Turkey, to labor as a missioner among the Christians at Pera, a suburb of Constantinople, He there encouraged and served the Christian galley-slaves with wonderful charity and fruit, especially during a violent pestilence, with which he himself was seized, but recovered. He converted many apostates, one of whom was a bashaw. By preaching the faith to the Mahometans he incurred the utmost severity of the Turkish laws, was twice imprisoned, and the second time condemned to a cruel death. He was hung on a gibbet by one hand, which was fastened by a chain, and pierced with a sharp hook at the end of the chain; and by one foot in the same manner. Having been some time on {357} the gibbet, he was released,[1] and the sentence of death was changed by the sultan into banishment. Wherefore, embarking for Italy, he landed at Venice; and after two years' absence arrived at Leonissa. He resumed his apostolic labors in his Own country with extraordinary zeal, and an uncommon benediction from heaven. To complete his sacrifice, he suffered very much towards the end of his life from a painful cancer, to extirpate which he underwent two incisions without the least groan or complaint, only repeating: "Holy Mary, pray for us miserable afflicted sinners:" and holding all the while a crucifix to his hand, on which he fixed his eyes. When some said, before the operation, that he ought to be bound or held, he pointed to the crucifix, saying: "This is the strongest band: this will hold me unmoved better than any cords could do." The operation proving unsuccessful, the saint happily expired, on the 4th day of February, in 1612, being fifty-eight years old. His name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology on the 4th of February. See the history of his miracles in the acts of his beatification, which ceremony was performed by Clement XII. in 1737, and in those of his canonization by Benedict XIV. in 1746. Acta Canonizationis 5 Sanctorum, viz. Fidelis a Sigmaringa, M. Camilli de Lelia, Petri Regalati, Josephi a Leonissa, and Catharinaea de Riccis, a Benedicto XIV., an. 1746, printed at Rome an. 1749, pp. 11, 85, and the bull for his canonization, p. 558. Also Bollan. t. 15, p. 127.

Footnotes: 1. Some say he was released by an angel, after hanging three days, but this circumstance is not mentioned by Benedict XIV., in the decree for his canonization, p. 559.

FEBRUARY V.

ST. AGATHA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR.

We have her panegyrics by St. Aldhelm, in the seventh, and St. Methodius, patriarch of Constantinople, in the ninth, centuries; also a hymn in her honor among the poems of pope Damasus, and another by St. Isidore of Seville, in Bollandus, p. 596. The Greeks have interpolated her acts, but those in Latin are very ancient. They are abridged by Tillemont, t. 3, p. 409. See also Rocci Pyrrho, in Sicilia Sacra on Palermo, Catana, and Malta.

A. D 251.

THE cities of Palermo and Catana, in Sicily, dispute the honor of her birth: but they do much better who, by copying her virtues, and claiming her patronage, strive to become her fellow-citizens in heaven. It is agreed that she received the crown of martyrdom at Catana, in the persecution of Decius, in the third consulship of that prince, in the year of our Lord 251. She was of a rich and illustrious family, and having been consecrated to God from her tender years, triumphed over many assaults upon her chastity. Quintianus, a man of consular dignity, bent on gratifying both his lust and avarice, imagined he should easily compass his wicked designs on Agatha's person and estate, by means of the emperor's edict against the Christians. He therefore caused her to be apprehended and brought before him at Catana. Seeing herself in the hands of the persecutors, she made this prayer: "Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desire: possess alone all that I am. I am your sheep, make me worthy to overcome the devil." She wept, and prayed for courage and strength all the way she {358} went. On her appearance, Quintianus gave orders for her being put into the hands of Aphrodisia, a most wicked woman, who with six daughters, all prostitutes, kept a common stew. The saint suffered in this infamous place, assaults and stratagems against her virtue, infinitely more terrible to her than any tortures or death itself. But placing her confidence in God, she never ceased with sighs and most earnest tears to implore his protection, and by it was an overmatch for all their hellish attempts, the whole month she was there. Quintianus being informed of her constancy after thirty days, ordered her to be brought before him. The virgin, in her first interrogatory, told him, that to be a servant of Jesus Christ was the most illustrious nobility, and true liberty. The judge, offended at her resolute answers, commanded her to be buffeted, and led to prison. She entered it with great joy, recommending her future conflict to God. The next day she was arraigned a second time at the tribunal, and answered with equal constancy that Jesus Christ was her life and her salvation. Quintianus then ordered her to be stretched on the rack, which torment was usually accompanied with stripes, the tearing of the sides with iron hooks, and burning them with torches or matches. The governor, enraged to see her suffer all this with cheerfulness, commanded her breast to be tortured, and afterwards to be cut off. At which she made him this reproach: "Cruel tyrant, do you not blush to torture this part of my body, you that sucked the breasts of a woman yourself?" He remanded her to prison with a severe order, that neither salves nor food should be allowed her. But God would be himself her physician, and the apostle St. Peter in a vision comforted her, healed all her wounds, and filled her dungeon with a heavenly light. Quintianus, four days after, not the least moved at the miraculous cure of her wounds, caused her to be rolled naked over live coals mixed with broken potsherds. Being carried back to prison, she made this prayer: "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle. You have taken from me the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer: receive now my soul." After which words she sweetly gave up the ghost. Her name is inserted in the canon of the mass, in the calendar of Carthage, as ancient as the year 530, and in all martyrologies of the Latins and Greeks. Pope Symmachus built a church in Rome on the Aurelian way, under her name, about the year 500, which is fallen to decay.[1] St. Gregory the Great enriched a church which he purged from the Arian impiety, with her relics,[2] which it still possesses. This church had been rebuilt in her honor by Ricimer, general of the western empire, in 460. Gregory II. built another famous church at Rome, under her invocation, in 726, which Clement VIII. gave to the congregation of the Christian doctrine. St. Gregory the Great[3] ordered some of her relics to be placed in the church of the monastery of St. Stephen, in the Isle of Capreae, now Capri. The chief part, which remained at Catana, was carried to Constantinople by the Greek general, who drove the Saracens out of Sicily about the year 1040: these were brought back to Catana in 1127, a relation of which translation, written by Mauritius, who was then bishop, is recorded by Rocci Pyrrho, and Bollandus.[4] The same authors relate in what manner the torrent of burning sulphur and stones which issue from mount AEtna, in great eruptions, was several times averted from the walls of Catana by the veil of St. Agatha, (taken out of her tomb,) which was carried in procession. Also that through her intercession, Malta (where she is honored as patroness of the island) was preserved from the Turks who invaded it in 1551. Small portions of relics of St. Agatha are said to be distributed in many places.

{359}

* * * * *

The perfect purity of intention by which St. Agatha was entirely dead to the world and herself, and sought only to please God, is the circumstance which sanctified her sufferings, and rendered her sacrifice complete. The least cross which we bear, the least action which we perform in this disposition, will be a great holocaust, and a most acceptable offering. We have frequently something to suffer—sometimes an aching pain in the body, at other times some trouble of mind, often some disappointment, some humbling rebuke, or reproach, or the like. If we only bear these trials with patience when others are witnesses, or if we often speak of them, or are fretful under them, or if we bear patiently public affronts or great trials, yet sink under those which are trifling, and are sensible to small or secret injuries, it is evident that we have not attained to true purity of intention in our patience; that we are not dead to ourselves, and love not to disappear to the eyes of creatures, but court them, and take a secret complacency in things which appear great. We profess ourselves ready to die for Christ; yet cannot bear the least cross or humiliation. How agreeable to our divine spouse is the sacrifice of a soul which suffers in silence, desiring to have no other witness of her patience than God alone, who sends her trials; which shuns superiority and honors, but takes all care possible that no one knows the humility or modesty of such a refusal; which suffers humiliations, and seeks no comfort or reward but from God. This simplicity and purity of heart; this love of being hid in God, through Jesus Christ, is the perfection of all our sacrifices, and the complete victory over self-love, which it attacks and forces out of its strongest intrenchments: this says to Christ, with St. Agatha, "Possess alone all that I am."

Footnotes: 1. Fronteau Cal. p. 25. 2. Disi. l. 3, c. 30. 3. L. 1, ep. 52. 4. Feb. {}1, p. 647.

THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN.

See the triumph of the martyrs of Japan. by F. Trigault, from the year 1612 to 1640, the history of Japan, by F. Crasset, to the year 1658, and that by the learned F. Charlevoix in nine volumes: also the life of F. Spinola, &c.

THE empire of Japan, so called from one of the islands of which it is composed, was discovered by certain Portuguese merchants, about the year 1541. It is generally divided into several little kingdoms, all which obey one sovereign emperor. The capital cities are Meaco and Jedo. The manners of this people are the reverse of ours in many things. Their characteristic is pride, and an extravagant love of honor. They adore idols of grotesque shapes, by which they represent certain famous wicked ancestors: the chiefest are Amida and Xacha. Their priests are called Bonzas, and all obey the Jaco, or high-priest. St. Francis Xavier arrived in Japan in 1549, baptized great numbers, and whole provinces received the faith. The great kings of Arima, Bungo, and Omura, sent a solemn embassy of obedience to pope Gregory XIII. in 1582: and in 1587 there were in Japan above two hundred thousand Christians, and among these several kings, princes, and bonzas, but in 1588, Cambacundono, the haughty emperor, having usurped the honors of a deity, commanded all the Jesuits to leave his dominions within six months: however, many remained there disguised. In 1593, the persecution was renewed, and several Japanese converts received the crown of martyrdom. The emperor Tagcosama, one of the proudest and most vicious of men, was worked up into rage and jealousy by a suspicion suggested by certain European merchants desirous of the monopoly of this trade, that the view of the missionaries in preaching the Christian faith was to facilitate the conquest of their country by the Portuguese or Spaniards. Three Jesuits and six Franciscans were crucified on {360}a hill near Nangasaqui in 1597. The latter were partly Spaniards and partly Indians, and had at their head F. Peter Baptist, commissary of his Order, a native of Avila, in Spain. As to the Jesuits, one was Paul Michi, a noble Japanese and an eminent preacher, at that time thirty-three years old. The other two, John Gotto and James Kisai, were admitted into the Society in prison a little before they suffered. Several Japanese converts suffered with them. The martyrs were twenty-six in number, and among them were three boys who used to serve the friars at mass; two of them were fifteen years of age, and the third only twelve, yet each showed great joy and constancy in their sufferings. Of these martyrs, twenty-four had been brought to Meaco, where only a part of their left ears was cut off, by a mitigation of the sentence which had commanded the amputation of their noses and both ears. They were conducted through many towns and public places, their cheeks stained with blood, for a terror to others. When the twenty-six soldiers of Christ were arrived at the place of execution near Nangasaqui, they were allowed to make their

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