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The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints - January, February, March
by Alban Butler
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Footnotes: 1. Some have raked up most groundless slanders to asperse the character of this holy man, as, that he admitted all to the religious habit that asked it, and was guilty of too familiar conversation with women. These slanders were spread in a letter of Roscelin, whose errors against faith were condemned in the council of Soissons in 1095. Such scandalous reports excited the zeal of some good men, and they are mentioned in a letter ascribed to Marbodius, bishop of Rennes, and in another of Godfrey, abbot of Vendome, addressed to the holy man himself. This last letter seems genuine, though some have denied it. But the charge was only gathered from hearsay, and notoriously false, as the very authors of these letters were soon convinced. It is not surprising that a man who bade open defiance to all sinners, and whose reputation ran so high in the world, should excite the murmurs of some and envy of others, which zeal and merit never escape. But his boldness to declaim against the vices of great men, and the most hardened sinners; the high encomiums and favorable testimonies which all who knew him gave to his extraordinary sanctity, which forced even envy itself to respect him; and his most holy comportment and happy death, furnish most invincible proofs of his innocence and purity; which he preserved only by humility, and the most scrupulous flight of all dangerous occasions. Godfrey of Vendome was afterwards perfectly satisfied of the sanctity of this great servant of God and became his warmest friend and patron; as is evident from several of his letters. See l. 1, ep. 24, and 26, l. 3, ep.2, l. 4, ep. 32. He entered into an association of prayers with the monastery of Fontevraud in 1114; and so much did he esteem his virtue that he made a considerable foundation at Fontevraud, often visited the church, and built himself a house near it, called Hotel de Vendome, that he might more frequently enjoy the converse of St. Robert, and promote his holy endeavors. The letter of Marbodius is denied to be genuine by Mainferme and Natalis Alexander, and suspected by D. Beaugendre, who published the works of Marbodius at Paris, in 1708. But the continuator of the Hist. Litter. t. 10, p. 359, clearly shows this letter to have been written by Marbodius, who, in it, speaks of these rumors without giving credit to them, and with tenderness and charity exhorts Robert to reform his conduct if the reports were true; to dissipate them by justifying himself, if they were false. Marbodius was soon satisfied as to these calumnies, and was the saint's great protector, in 1101, in his missions in Brittany, particularly in his diocese of Rennes; whither he seems to have invited him. Ermengarde, countess of Brittany, was so moved by St. Robert's sermons, that she earnestly desired to renounce the world, and retire to Fontevraud. The saint exhorted her to continue in the world, and to sanctify her soul by her duties in her public station, especially by patience and prayer: yet, some years after, she took the veil at Fontevaud. See F. de la Mainferme, in his three apologetic volumes in vindication of this patriarch of his order, Natalis Alexander, saec. xii. diss. 6, and especially Sorin's Apologetique du Saint. in 1702, a polite and spirited work.

ST. PRETEXTATUS, OR PRIX, M.

ARCHBISHOP OF ROUEN.

HE was chosen archbishop of Rouen in 549, and in 557 assisted at the third council of Paris held to abolish incestuous marriages, and remove other crying abuses: also at the second council of Tours in 566. By his zeal in reproving Fredegonda for her injustices and cruelties, he had incurred her indignation. King Clotaire I., in 562, had left the French monarchy {461} divided among his four sons. Charibert was king of Paris, Gontran of Orleans and Burgundy, Sigebert I. of Austrasia, and Chilperic I. of Soissons. Sigebert married Brunehault, younger daughter of Athanagilde, king of the Visigoths in Spain, and Chilperic her elder sister Galsvinda; but after her death he took to wife Fredegonda, who had been his mistress, and was strongly suspected to have contrived the death of the queen by poison. Hence Brunehault stirred up Sigebert against her and her husband. But Fredegonda contrived the assassination of king Sigebert in 575, and Chilperic secured Brunehault his wife, her three daughters, and her son Childebert. This latter soon made his escape, and fled to Metz, where he was received by his subjects, and crowned king of Austrasia. The city of Paris, after the death of Charibert in 566, by the agreement of the three surviving brothers, remained common to them all, till Chilperic seized it. He sent Meroveus, his son by his first wife, to reduce the country about Poitiers, which belonged to the young prince Childebert. But Meroveus, at Ronen, fell in love with his aunt Brunehault, then a prisoner in that city; and bishop Prix, in order to prevent a grievous scandal, judging circumstances to be sufficiently cogent to require a dispensation, married them: for which he was accused of high treason by king Chilperic before a council at Paris, in 577, in the church of St. Peter, since called St. Genevieve. St. Gregory of Tours there warmly defended his innocence, and Prix confessed the marriage, but denied that he had been privy to the prince's revolt; but was afterwards prevailed upon, through the insidious persuasion of certain emissaries of Chilperic, to plead guilty, and confess that out of affection he had been drawn in to favor the young prince, who was his godson. Whereupon he was condemned by the council, and banished by the king into a small island upon the coast of Lower Neustria, near Coutances. His sufferings he improved to the sanctification of his soul by penance and the exercise of all heroic Christian virtues. The rage and clamor with which his powerful enemies spread their slanders to beat down his reputation, staggered many of his friends: but St. Gregory of Tours never forsook him. Meroveus was assassinated near Terouanne, by an order of his stepmother Fredegonda, who was also suspected to have contrived the death of her husband Chilperic, who was murdered at Chelles, in 584. She had three years before procured Clovis, his younger son by a former wife, to be assassinated, so that the crown of Soissons devolved upon her own son Clotaire II.: but for his and her own protection, she had recourse to Gontran, the religious king of Orleans and Burgundy. By his order Prix, after a banishment of six years, was restored with honor to his see; Ragnemond, the bishop of Paris, who had been a principal flatterer of Chilperic in the persecution of this prelate, having assured this prince that the council had not deposed him, but only enjoined him penance. St. Prix assisted at the council of Macon in 585, where he harangued several times, and exerted his zeal in framing many wise regulations for the reformation of discipline. He continued his pastoral labors in the care of his flock, and by just remonstrances often endeavored to reclaim the wicked queen Fredegonda, who frequently resided at Rouen, and filled the kingdom with scandals, tyrannical oppressions, and murders. This Jezabel grew daily more and more hardened in iniquity, and by her secret order St. Prix was assassinated while he assisted at matins in his church in the midst of his clergy on Sunday the 25th of February. Happy should we be if under all afflictions, with this holy penitent, we considered that sin is the original fountain from whence all those waters of bitterness flow, and by laboring effectually to cut off this evil, convert its punishment into its remedy and a source of benedictions. St. Prix of Rouen to honored in the Roman and Gallican Martyrologies. Those who with {462} Chatelain, &c. place his death on the 14th of April, suppose him to have been murdered on Easter-day, but the day of our Lord's Resurrection in this passage of our historian, means no more than Sunday. See St. Gregory of Tours, Hist. Franc. l. 5, c. 10, 15. Fleury, l. 34, n. 52. Gallia Christiana Nova, t. 11, pp. 11 and 638. Mons. Levesque de la Ravaliere in his Nouvelle Vie de S. Gregoire, Eveque de Tours, published in the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, An. 1760, t. 26, pp. 699, 60. F. Daniel, Hist. de France, t. 1, p. 242.

ST. ETHELBERT, C.

FIRST CHRISTIAN KING AMONG THE ENGLISH.

HE was king of Kent, the fifth descendant from Hengist, who first settled the English Saxons in Britain, in 448, and the foundation of whose kingdom is dated in 445. Ethelbert married, in his father's lifetime, Bertha, the only daughter of Charibert, king of Paris, and cousin-german to Clotaire, king of Soissons, and Childebort, king of Austrasia, whose two sons, Theodobert and Theodoric, or Thierry, reigned after his death, the one in Austrasia, the other in Burgundy. Ethelbert succeeded his father Ermenric, in 560. The kingdom of Kent having enjoyed a continued peace for about a hundred years, was arrived at a degree of power and riches which gave it a pre-eminence in the Saxon heptarchy in Britain, and so great a superiority and influence over the rest, that Ethelbert is said by Bede to have ruled as far as the Humber, and Ethelbert is often styled king of the English. His queen Bertha was a very zealous and pious Christian princess, and by the articles of her marriage had free liberty to exercise her religion; for which purpose she was attended by a venerable French prelate, named Luidhard, or Lethard, bishop of Senlis. He officiated constantly in an old church dedicated to St. Martin, lying a little out of the walls of Canterbury. The exemplary life of this prelate, and his frequent discourses on religion, disposed several Pagans about the court to embrace the faith. The merit of the queen in the great work of her husband's conversion is acknowledged by our historians, and she deserved by her piety and great zeal to be compared by St. Gregory the Great to the celebrated St. Helen.[1] Divine providence, by these means, mercifully prepared the heart of a great king to entertain a favorable opinion of our holy religion, when St. Augustine landed in his dominions: to whose life the reader is referred for all account of this monarch's happy conversion to the faith. From that time he appeared quite changed into another man, it being for the remaining twenty years of his life his only ambition and endeavor to establish the perfect reign of Christ, both in his own soul and in the hearts of all his subjects. His ardor in the exercises of penance and devotion never suffered any abatement, this being a property of true virtue, which is not to be acquired without much labor and pains, self-denial and watchfulness, resolution and constancy. Great were, doubtless, the difficulties and dangers which he had to encounter in subduing his passions, and in vanquishing many obstacles which the world and devil failed not to raise: but these trials were infinitely subservient to his spiritual advancement, by rousing him continually to greater vigilance and fervor, and by the many victories and the exercise of all heroic virtues of which they furnished the occasions. In the government of his kingdom, his thoughts were altogether turned upon the means of best promoting the {463} welfare of his people. He enacted most wholesome laws, which were held in high esteem in succeeding ages in this island: he abolished the worship of idols throughout his kingdom, and shut up their temples, or turned them into churches. His royal palace at Canterbury he gave for the use of the archbishop St. Austin: he founded in that city the cathedral called Christ Church, and built without the walls the abbey and church of SS. Peter and Paul, afterwards called St. Austin's. The foundation of St. Andrew's at Rochester, St. Paul's at London, and many other churches, affords many standing proofs of his munificence to the church, and the servants of God. He was instrumental in bringing over to the faith of Christ, Sebert, king of the East-Saxons, with his people, and Redwald, king of the East-Angles, though the latter afterwards relapsing, pretended to join the worship of idols with that of Christ. King Ethelbert, after having reigned fifty-six years, exchanged his temporal diadem for an eternal crown, in 616, and was buried in the church of SS. Peter and Paul. His remains were afterwards deposited under the high altar in the same church, then called St. Austin's. St. Ethelbert is commemorated on this day in the British and Roman Martyrologies: he was vulgarly called by our ancestors St. Albert, under which name he is titular saint of several churches in England; particularly of one in Norwich, which was built before the cathedral, an account of which is given by Blomfield, in his history of Norfolk, and the city of Norwich. Polydore Virgil tells us that a light was kept always burning before the tomb of St. Ethelbert, and was sometimes an instrument of miracles, even to the days of Henry VIII. See Bede, Hist. Ang. l. 1, c. 25, &c. Henschen. t. 3, Febr. p. 471.

Footnotes: 1. St. Greg. M. l. 9, ep. 60.

FEBRUARY XXV.

SAINT TARASIUS, CONFESSOR,

PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE.

From his life written by Ignatius, his disciple, afterwards bishop of Nice, and from the church historians of his time. See Bollandus, t. 5, p. 576. Fleury, B. 44.

A.D. 806.

TARASIUS was born about the middle of the eighth century. His parents were both of patrician families. His father, George, was a judge in great esteem for his well-known justice, and his mother, Eucratia, no less celebrated for her piety. She brought him up in the practice of the most eminent virtues. Above all things, she recommended to him to keep no company but that of the most virtuous. The young man, by his talents and virtue, gained the esteem of all, and was raised to the greatest honors of the empire, being made consul, and afterwards first secretary of state to the emperor Constantine and the empress Irene, his mother. In the midst of the court, and in its highest honors, surrounded by all that could flatter pride, or gratify sensuality, he led a life like that of a religious man.

Leo, the Isaurian, his son Constantine Copronymus, and his grandson Leo, surnamed Chazarus, three successive emperors, had established, with all their power, the heresy of the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, in the {464} East. The empress Irene, wife to the last, was always privately a Catholic, though an artful, ambitious woman. Her husband dying miserably in 780, after a five years' reign, and having left his son Constantine, but ten years old, under her guardianship, she so managed the nobility in her favor as to get the regency and whole government of the state into her hands, and put a stop to the persecution of the Catholics. Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, the third of that name, had been raised to that dignity by the late emperor. Though, contrary to the dictates of his own conscience, he had conformed in some respects to the then reigning heresy, he had however several good qualities; and was not only singularly beloved by the people for his charity to the poor, but highly esteemed by the empress and the whole court for his great prudence. Finding himself indisposed, and being touched with remorse for his condescension to the Iconoclasts in the former reign, without communicating his design to any one, he quitted the patriarchal see, and put on a religious habit in the monastery of Florus, in Constantinople. The empress was no sooner informed of it, but taking with her the young emperor, went to the monastery to dissuade a person so useful to her from persisting in such a resolution, but all in vain, for the patriarch assured them with tears, and bitter lamentations, that, in order to repair the scandal he had given, he had taken an unalterable resolution to end his days in that monastery; so desired them to provide the church of Constantinople with a worthy pastor in his room. Being asked whom he thought equal to the charge, he immediately named Tarasius, and dying soon after this declaration, Tarasius was accordingly chosen patriarch by the unanimous consent of the court, clergy, and people. Tarasius finding it in vain to oppose his election, declared, however, that he thought he could not in conscience accept of the government of a see which had been cut off from the Catholic communion, but upon condition that a general council should be called to compose the disputes which divided the church at that time, in relation to holy images. This being agreed to, he was solemnly declared patriarch, and consecrated soon after, on Christmas-day. He was no sooner installed, but he sent his synodal letters to pope Adrian, to whom the empress also wrote in her own and her son's name on the subject of a general council; begging that he would either come in person, or at least send some venerable and learned men as his legates to Constantinople. Tarasius wrote likewise a letter to the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, wherein he desires them to send their respective legates to the intended council. His letter to the pope was to the same effect. The pope sent his legates, as desired, and wrote by them to the emperor, the empress, and the patriarch; applauded their zeal, showing at large the impiety of the Iconoclast heresy, insisting that the false council of the Iconoclasts, held under Copronymus for the establishment of Iconoclasm, should be first condemned in presence of his legates, and conjuring them before God to re-establish holy images at Constantinople, and in all Greece, on the footing they were before. He recommends to the emperor and empress his two legates to the council, who were Peter, archpriest of the Roman church, and Peter, priest and abbot of St. Sabas, in Rome. The eastern patriarchs being under the Saracen yoke, could not come for fear of giving offence to their jealous masters, who prohibited, under the strictest penalties, all commerce with the empire. However, with much difficulty and through many dangers, they sent their deputies.

The legates of the pope and the oriental patriarchs being arrived, as also the bishops under their jurisdiction, the council was opened on the 1st of August, in the church of the apostles at Constantinople, in 786. But the assembly being disturbed by the violences of the Iconoclasts, and desired {465} by the empress to break up and withdraw for the present, the council met again the year following in the church of St. Sophia, at Nice. The two legates from the pope are named first in the Acts, St. Tarasms next, and after him the legates of the Oriental patriarchs, namely, John, priest and monk, for the patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem; and Thomas, priest and monk, for the patriarch of Alexandria. The council consisted of three hundred and fifty bishops, besides many abbots and other holy priests and confessors,[1] who having declared the sense of the present church, in relation to the matter in debate, which was found to be the allowing to holy pictures and images a relative honor, the council was closed with the usual acclamations and prayers for the prosperity of the emperor and empress. After which, synodal letters were sent to all the churches, and in particular to the pope, who approved the council.

The good patriarch, pursuant to the decrees of the synod, restored holy images throughout the extent of his jurisdiction. He also labored zealously to abolish simony, and wrote a letter upon that subject to pope Adrian, to which, by saying it was the glory of the Roman church to preserve the purity of the priesthood, he intimated that that church was free from this reproach. The life of this holy patriarch was a model of perfection to his clergy and people. His table had nothing of the superfluity, nor his palace any thing of the magnificence, of several of his predecessors. He allowed himself very little time for sleep, being always up the first and last in his family. Reading and prayer filled all his leisure hours. It was his pleasure, in imitation of our blessed Redeemer, to serve others instead of being served by them;{466} on which account he would scarce permit his own servants to do any thing for him. Loving humility in himself, he sought sweetly to induce all others to the love of that virtue. He banished the use of gold and scarlet from among the clergy, and labored to extirpate all the irregularities among the people. His charity and love for the poor seemed to surpass his other virtues. He often took the dishes of meat from his table to distribute among them with his own hands: and he assigned them a large fixed revenue. And that none might be overlooked, he visited all the houses and hospitals in Constantinople. In Lent, especially, his bounty to them was incredible. His discourses were powerful exhortations to the universal mortification of the senses, and he was particularly severe against all theatrical entertainments. Some time after, the emperor became enamored of Theodota, a maid of honor to his wife, the empress Mary, whom he had always hated; and forgetting what he owed to God, he was resolved to divorce her in 795, after seven years' cohabitation. He used all his efforts to gain the patriarch, and sent a principal officer to him for that purpose, accusing his wife of a plot to poison him. St. Tarasius answered the messenger, saying: "I know not how the emperor can bear the infamy of so scandalous an action in the sight of the universe: nor how he will be able to hinder or punish adulteries and debaucheries, if he himself set such an example. Tell him that I will rather suffer death and all manner of torments than consent to his design." The emperor hoping to prevail with him by flattery, sent for him to the palace, and said to him: "I can conceal nothing from you, whom I regard as my father. No one can deny but I may divorce one who has attempted my life. She deserves death or perpetual penance." He then produced a vessel, as he pretended, full of the poison prepared for him. The patriarch, with good reason, judging the whole to be only an artful contrivance to impose upon him, answered: that he was too well convinced that his passion for Theodota was at the bottom of all his complaints against the empress. He added, that, though she were guilty of the crime he laid to her charge, his second marriage during her life, with any other, would still be contrary to the law of God, and that he would draw upon himself the censures of the church by attempting it. The monk John, who had been legate of the eastern patriarchs in the seventh council, being present, spoke also very resolutely to the emperor on the subject, so that the pretors and patricians threatened to stab him on the spot: and the emperor, boiling with rage, drove them both from his presence. As soon as they were gone, he turned the empress Mary out of his palace, and obliged her to put on a religious veil. Tarasius persisting in his refusal to marry him to Theodota, the ceremony was performed by Joseph, treasurer of the church of Constantinople. This scandalous example was the occasion of several governors and other powerful men divorcing their wives, or taking more than one at the same time, and gave great encouragement to public lewdness. SS. Plato and Theodorus separated themselves from the emperor's communion to show their abhorrence of his crime. But Tarasius did not think it prudent to proceed to excommunication, as he had threatened, apprehensive that the violence of his temper, when further provoked, might carry him still greater lengths, and prompt him to re-establish the heresy which he had taken such effectual measures to suppress. Thus the patriarch, by his moderation, prevented the ruin of religion, but drew upon himself the emperor's resentment, who persecuted him many ways during the remainder of his reign. Not content to set spies and guards over him under the name of Syncelli, who watched all his actions, and suffered no one to speak to him without their leave, he banished many of his domestics and relations. This confinement gave the saint the more leisure for contemplation, and he {467} never ceased in it to recommend his flock to God. The ambitious Irene, finding that all her contrivances to render her son odious to his subjects had proved ineffectual to her design, which was to engross the whole power to herself, having gained over to her party the principal officers of the court and army, she made him prisoner, and caused his eyes to be plucked out; this was executed with so much violence that the unhappy prince died of it in 797. After this she reigned alone five years, during which she recalled all the banished; but at length met with the deserved reward of her ambition and cruelty from Nicephorus, a patrician, and the treasurer general; who, in 802, usurped the empire, and having deposed her, banished her into the isle of Lesbos, where she soon after died with grief.

St. Tarasius, on the death of the late emperor, having interdicted and deposed the treasurer Joseph, who had married and crowned Theodota, St. Plato, and others, who had censured his lenity, became thoroughly reconciled to him. The saint, under his successor Nicephorus, persevered peaceably in his practices of penance, and in the functions of his pastoral charge. In his last sickness he still continued to offer daily the holy sacrifice as long as he was able to move. A little before his death he fell into a kind of trance, as the author of his life, who was an eye-witness, relates, wherein he was heard to dispute and argue with a number of accusers, very busy in sifting his whole life, and objecting all they could to it. He seemed in a great fright and agitation on this account, and, defending himself, answered every thing laid to his charge. This filled all present with fear, seeing the endeavors of the enemy of man to find something to condemn even in the life of so holy and so irreprehensible a bishop. But a great serenity succeeded, and the holy man gave up his soul to God in peace, on the 25th of February, 806, having sat twenty-one years and two months. God honored his memory with miracles, some of which are related by the author of his life. His festival began to be celebrated under his successor. The Latin and Greek churches both honor his memory on this day. Fourteen years after his decease, Leo, the Armenian, the Iconoclast emperor, dreamed a little before his own death, that he saw St. Tarasius highly incensed against him, and heard him command one Michael to stab him. Leo, judging this Michael to be a monk in the saint's monastery, ordered him the next morning to be sought for, and even tortured some of the religious to oblige them to a discovery of the person: but it happened there was none of that name among them; and Leo was killed six days after by Michael Balbus.

* * * * *

The virtue of St. Tarasius was truly great, because constant and crowned with perseverance, though exposed to continual dangers of illusion or seduction, amidst the artifices of hypocrites and a wicked court. St. Chrysostom observes,[2] that the path of virtue is narrow, and lies between precipices, in which it is easier for the traveller to be seized with giddiness even near the end of his course, and fall. Hence this father most grievously laments the misfortune of king Ozias, who, after long practising the most heroic virtues, fell, and perished through pride; and he strenuously exhorts all who walk in the service of God, constantly to live in fear, watchfulness, humility, and compunction. "A soul," says he, "often wants not so much spurring in the beginning of her conversion; her own fervor and cheerfulness make her run vigorously. But this fervor, unless it be continually nourished, cools by degrees: then the devil assails her with all his might. Pirates wait for and principally attack ships when they are upon the return home laden with {468} riches, rather than empty vessels going out of the port. Just so the devil, when he sees a soul has gathered great spiritual riches, by fasts, prayer, alms, chastity, and all other virtues, when he sees our vessel fraught with rich commodities, then he falls upon her, and seeks on all sides to break in. What exceedingly aggravates the evil, is the extreme difficulty of ever rising again after such a fall. To err in the beginning may be in part a want of experience; but to fall after a long course is mere negligence, and can deserve no excuse or pardon."

Footnotes: 1. In the third session the letters of the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem were read, all teaching the same doctrine of paying a relative honor to sacred images, no less than the letters of pope Adrian. Their deputies, John and Thomas, then added, that the absence of those patriarchs should not affect the authority of the council, because the tyranny under which they lived made their presence impossible, and because they had sent their deputies and professions of faith by letter: that none of the oriental patriarchs had been at the sixth general Council, laboring then under the yoke of the barbarians, yet it was not less an [oe]cumenical synod, especially "as the apostolic Roman pope agreed to it, and presided in it by his legates." This is a clear testimony of the eastern churches in favor of the authority of the holy see in general councils, and it cannot in the least be suspected of fluttery. In the fourth session were read many passages of the fathers in favor of the relative honor due to holy images. After which, all cried out, they were sons of obedience, who placed their glory in following the tradition of their holy mother the church; and they pronounced many anathemas against all image-breakers, that is, those who do not honor holy images, or those who call them Idols. In the end they add a confession of filth, in which they declare, that they honor the mother of God, who is above all the heavenly powers: then the angels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, doctors, and all the saints; as also their pictures: for though the angels are incorporeal, they have appeared like men. This profession of faith was subscribed by the pope's legates, St. Turasius, the legates of the three other patriarchs, and three hundred and one bishops present, besides a great many priests and deacons, deputies of absent bishops, and by one hundred and thirty abbots. In the fifth session were read many passages of fathers falsified and corrupted by the Iconoclasts, as was clearly shown. The archpriest, the pope's legate, demanded that an image should be then set up in the midst of the assembly, and honored by all, which was done; and that the books written against holy images night be condemned and burned, which the council also ratified. In the sixth session the sham council of the Iconoclasts under Copronymus was condemned and refuted as to every article: as first, that it falsely styled itself a general council; for it was not received but anathematized by the other bishops of the church. Secondly, because the pope of Rome had no ways concurred to it, neither by himself nor by his legates, nor by a circular letter, according to the custom of councils: nor had the western bishops assisted at it. Thirdly, there had not been obtained any consent of the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, nor of the bishops of their respective districts. These are conditions necessary to a general council, which were all wanting to that sham synod. The council goes on refuting it, because it accused the church of idolatry; which is giving the lie to Christ, whose kingdom, according to scripture, is everlasting, and whose power over hell can never be wrested from him. To accuse the whole church is to do fill injury to Christ. They added, that the sham synod had contradicted itself by admitting that the six general councils had preserved the faith entire, and yet condemned the use of images, which it must allow to be more ancient than the sixth council, and which is of as great antiquity as the apostolic age. And that whereas the same synod had advanced that the clergy having fallen Into Idolatry, God had raised faithful emperors to destroy the fortresses of the devil; the council of Nice vehemently condemns this, because the bishops are the depositaries of tradition, and not the emperors. It adds, that the Iconoclasts falsely called the blessed Eucharist the only image, for it is not an image nor a figure, but the true body and blood of Christ. In the seventh session was read the definition of filth, declaring, that images ought to be set up in churches as well as crosses, (which last the Iconoclasts allowed of,) also to be figured on the sacred vessels and ornaments, on the walls, ceilings, houses, &c. For the oftener people behold holy images or pictures, the oftener are they excited to the remembrance of what they represent: that these images are to be honored, but not with the worship called Latria, which can only be given to God: that they shall be honored with incense and candles, as the cross, the gospels, and other holy things are, all according to the pious customs of the ancients. For the honor paid to images, passes to the archetypes, or things represented, and he who reveres the image reveres the person it represents. This the council declared to be the doctrine of the fathers, and tradition of the Catholic church. 2. Chrysos. Hom. 3. de Ozia, t. 6, p. 14. ed Ben.

ST. VICTORINUS, AND SIX COMPANIONS, MARTYRS.

From their genuine acts published from the Chaldaic by Monsignor Steph. Assemani. Act. Mart. Occid. t. 2. p. 60. See also Henschenius on this day.

A.D. 284.

THESE seven martyrs were citizens of Corinth, and confessed their faith before Tertius the proconsul, in their own country, in 249, in the beginning of the reign of Decius. After their torments they passed into Egypt, whether by compulsion or by voluntary banishment is not known, and there finished their martyrdom at Diospolis, capital of Thebais, in the reign of Numerian, in 284, under the governor Sabinus. After the governor had tried the constancy of the martyrs by racks, scourges, and various inventions of cruelty, he caused Victorinus to be thrown into a great mortar, (the Greek Menology says, of marble.) The executioners began by pounding his feet and legs, saying to him at every stroke: "Spare yourself, wretch. It depends upon you to escape this death, if you will only renounce your new God." The prefect grew furious at his constancy, and at length commanded his head to be beat to pieces. The sight of this mortar, so far from casting a damp on his companions, seemed to inspire them with the greater ardor to be treated in the like manner. So that when the tyrant threatened Victor with the same death, he only desired him to hasten the execution; and, pointing to the mortar, said: "In that is salvation and true felicity prepared for me!" He was immediately cast into it and beaten to death. Nicephorus, the third martyr, was impatient of delay, and leaped of his own accord into the bloody mortar. The judge, enraged at his boldness, commanded not one, but many executioners at once to pound him in the same manner. He caused Claudian, the fourth, to be chopped in pieces, and his bleeding joints to be thrown at the feet of those that were yet living. He expired after his feet, hands, arms, legs, and thighs were cut off. The tyrant, pointing to his mangled limbs and scattered bones, said to the other three: "It concerns you to avoid this punishment; I do not compel you to suffer." The martyrs answered with one voice: "On the contrary, we rather pray that if you have any other more exquisite torment you would inflict it on us. We are determined never to violate the fidelity which we owe to God, or to deny Jesus Christ our Saviour, for he is our God, from whom we have our being, and to whom alone we aspire." The tyrant became almost distracted with fury, and commanded Diodorus to be burned alive, Serapion to be beheaded, and Papias to be drowned. This happened on the 25th of February; on which day the Roman and other western Martyrologies name them; but the Greek Menaea, and the Menology of the emperor Basil Porphyrogenitus, honor them on the 21st of January, the day of their confession at Corinth.

{469}

ST. WALBURGE,[1] V. ABBESS.

SHE was daughter to the holy king St. Richard, and sister to SS. Willibald and Winebald; was born in the kingdom of the West-Saxons in England, and educated in the monastery of Winburn in Dorsetshire, where she took the religious veil. After having passed twenty-seven years in this holy nunnery, she was sent by the abbess Tetta, under the conduct of St. Lioba, with several others, into Germany, at the request of her cousin, St. Boniface.[2] Her first settlement in that country was under St. Lioba, in the monastery of Bischofsheim, in the diocese of Mentz. Two years after she was appointed abbess of a nunnery founded by her two brothers, at Heidenheim in Suabia, (now subject to the duke of Wirtemberg,) where her brother, St. Winebald, took upon him at the same time the government of an abbey of monks. This town is situated in the diocese of Aichstadt, in Franconia, upon the borders of Bavaria, of which St. Willibald, our saint's other brother, had been consecrated bishop by St. Boniface. So eminent was the spirit of evangelical charity, meekness, and piety, which all the words and actions of St. Walburge breathed, and so remarkable was the fruit which her zeal and example produced in others, that when St. Winebald died, in 760, she was charged with a superintendency also over the abbey of monks till her death. St. Willibald caused the remains of their brother Winebald to be removed to Aichstadt, sixteen years after his death; at which ceremony St. Walburge assisted. Two years after she passed herself to eternal rest; on the 25th of February, in 779, having lived twenty-five years at Heidenheim. Her relics were translated, in the year 870, to Aichstadt, on the 21st of September, and the principal part still remains there in the church anciently called of the Holy Cross, but since that time of St. Walburge. A considerable portion is venerated with singular devotion at Furnes, where, by the pious zeal of Baldwin, surnamed of Iron, it was received on the 25th of April, and enshrined on the 1st of May, on which day her chief festival is placed in the Belgic Martyrologies, imitated by Baronius in the Roman. From Furnes certain small parts have been distributed in several other towns in the Low Countries, especially at Antwerp, Brussels, Tiel, Arnhem, Groningue, and Zutphen; also Cologne, Wirtemberg, Ausberg, Christ Church at Canterbury, and other places, were enriched with particles of this treasure from Aichstadt. St. Walburge is titular saint of many other great churches in Germany, Brabant, Flanders, and several provinces of France, especially in Poitou, Perche, Normandy, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, &c. Her festival, on account of various translations of her relics, is marked on several days of the year, but the principal is kept in most places on the day of her death. A portion of her relics was preserved in a rich shrine in the repository of relics in the electoral palace of Hanover, as appears from the catalogue printed in folio at Hanover in 1713. See her life written by Wolfhard, a devout priest of Aichstadt, in the following century, about the year {470} 890, again by Adelbold, nineteenth bishop of Utrecht, (of which diocese Heda calls her patroness;) thirdly, by an anonymous author; fourthly, by the poet Medibard; fifthly, by Philip, bishop of Aichstadt; sixthly, by an anonymous author, at the request of the nuns of St. Walburge of Aichstadt. All these six lives are published by Henschenius. See also Raderus, in Bavaria Sancta, t. 3, p. 4. Gretser, de Sanctis Eystettensibus, &c.

Footnotes: 1. This saint is corruptly called, in Perche, St. Gauburge, in Normandy and Champagne, St. Vaubourg, about Luzon, St. Falbourg, in ether parts of Poitou, St. Avougourg, in Germany, Walburge, Waltpurde, Walpourc, and in some places Warpurg. Her English-Saxon name Walburge, is the same with the Greek Eucharia, and signifies gracious. See Camden's Remains. 2. St. Boniface being sensible of how great importance it is for the public advantage of the church, and the general advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the souls of men, called over from England into Germany many holy nuns whom he judged best qualified to instruct and train up others in the maxims and spirit of the Gospel. Among these he placed St. Tecla in the monastery of Kitzingen, founded by Alheide, daughter of king Pepin; St. Lioba was appointed by him abbess at Bischofsheim; St. Cunihilt, aunt of St. Lulius, and her daughter Berathgit, called also Bergitis, were mistresses of religious schools in Thuringia, and were honored in that country among the saints. Cunihildls is also called Gunthildis and Bilhildis. See Thuringia Sacra, printed at Frankfort, an. 1737.

SAINT CAESARIUS, C.

HE was a physician, and brother to St. Gregory Nazianzen. When the latter repaired to Caesarea, in Palestine, where the sacred studies flourished, Caesarius went to Alexandria, and with incredible success ran through the circle of the sciences, among which oratory, philosophy, and especially medicine, fixed his attention. In this last he became the first man of his age. He perfected himself in this profession at Constantinople, but excused himself from settling there, as the city and the emperor Constantius earnestly requested him to do. He was afterwards recalled thither, singularly honored by Julian the Apostate, nominated his first physician, and excepted in several edicts which that prince published against the Christians. He resisted strenuously the insinuating discourses and artifices with which that prince endeavored to seduce him, and was prevailed upon by the remonstrances of his father and brother to resign his places at court, and prefer a retreat, whatever solicitations Julian could use to detain him. Jovian honorably restored him, and Valens, moreover, created him treasurer of his own private purse, and of Bithynia. A narrow escape in an earthquake at Nice, in Bithynia, in 368, worked so powerfully on his mind, that he renounced the world, and died shortly after, in the beginning of the year 369, leaving the poor his heirs. The Greeks honor his memory on the 9th of March, as Nicephorus testifies, (Hist. l. 11, c. 19,) and as appears from the Menaea: in the Roman Martyrology he is named on the 25th of February.

FEBRUARY XXVI.

ST. ALEXANDER, CONFESSOR,

PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA.

From Theodoret, St. Athanasius, &c. See Hennant, Tillemont, t. 6, pp. 213, 240. Ceillier, t. 4.

A.D. 326.

ST. ALEXANDER succeeded St. Achillas in the see of Alexandria, in 313. He was a man of apostolic doctrine and life, mild, affable, exceeding charitable to the poor, and full of faith, zeal, and fervor. He assumed to the sacred ministry chiefly those who had first sanctified themselves in holy solitude, and was happy in the choice of bishops throughout all Egypt. The devil, enraged to see the havoc made in his usurped empire over mankind, by the disrepute idolatry was generally fallen into, used his utmost endeavors to repair the loss to his infernal kingdom, by procuring the establishment of a most impious heresy. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, was his {471} principal instrument for that purpose. This heresiarch was well versed in profane literature, was a subtle dialectician, had an exterior show of virtue, and an insinuating behavior; but was a monster of pride, vain-glory, ambition, envy, and jealousy. Under an affected modesty he concealed a soul full of deceit, and capable of all crimes. He joined Meletius, the bishop of Lycopolis, in the beginning of his schism against St. Peter, our saint's predecessor, in 300; but quitting that party after some time, St. Peter was so well satisfied of the sincerity of his repentance, that he ordained him deacon. Soon after Arius discovered his turbulent spirit, in accusing his archbishop, and raising disturbances in favor of the Meletians. This obliged St. Peter to excommunicate him, nor could he ever be induced to revoke that sentence. But his successor, St. Achillas, upon his repentance, admitted him to his communion, ordained him priest, and made him curate of the church of Baucales, one of the quarters of Alexandria. Giving way to spite and envy, on seeing St. Alexander preferred before him to the see of Alexandria,[1] he became his mortal enemy: and as the saint's life and conduct were irreproachable, all his endeavors to oppose him were levelled at his doctrine, in opposition to which the heresiarch denied the divinity of Christ. This error he at first taught only in private; but having, about the year 319, gained followers to support him, he boldly advanced his blasphemies in his sermons, affirming, with Ebion, Artemas, and Theodotus, that Christ was not truly God; adding, what no heretic had before asserted in such a manner, that the Son was a creature, and made out of nothing; that there was a time when he did not exist, and that he was capable of sinning, with other such impieties. St. Athanasius informs us,[2] that he also held that Christ had no other soul than his created divinity, or spiritual substance, made before the world: consequently, that it truly suffered on the cross, descended into hell, and rose again from the dead. Arius engaged in his errors two other curates of the city, a great many virgins, twelve deacons, seven priests, and two bishops.

One Colluthus, another curate of Alexandria, and many others, declaimed loudly against these blasphemies. The heretics were called Arians, and these called the Catholics Colluthians. St. Alexander, who was one of the mildest of men, first made use of soft and gentle methods to recover Arius to the truth, and endeavored to gain him by sweetness and exhortations. Several were offended at his lenity, and Colluthus carried his resentment so far as to commence a schism; but this was soon at an end, and the author of it returned to the Catholic communion. But St. Alexander, finding Arius's party increase, and all his endeavors to reclaim him ineffectual, he summoned him to appear in an assembly of his clergy, where, being found obstinate and incorrigible, he was excommunicated, together with his adherents. This sentence of excommunication the saint confirmed soon after, about the end of the year 320, in a council at Alexandria, at the head of near one hundred bishops, at which Arius was also present, who, repeating his former blasphemies, and adding still more horrible ones was unanimously condemned by the synod, which loaded him and all his followers with anathemas. Arius lay hid for some time after this in Alexandria, but being discovered, went into Palestine, and found means to gain over to his party Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, also Theognis of Nice, and Eusebius of Nicomedia, which last was, of all others, his most declared protector, and had great authority with the emperor Constantine, who resided even at Nicomedia, or rather with his sister Constantia. Yet it is clear, from Constantine himself, that he was a wicked, proud, ambitious, intriguing man. {472} It is no wonder, after his other crimes, that he became an heresiarch, and that he should have an ascendant over many weak, but well-meaning men, on account of his high credit and reputation at court. After several letters that had passed between these two serpents, Arius retired to him at Nicomedia, and there composed his Thalia, a poem stuffed with his own praises, and his impious heresies.

Alexander wrote to the pope, St. Sylvester, and, in a circular letter, to the other bishops of the church, giving them an account of Arius's heresy and condemnation. Arius, Eusebius, and many others, wrote to our saint, begging that he would take off his censures. The emperor Constantine also exhorted him by letter to a reconciliation with Arius, and sent it by the great Osius to Alexandria, with express orders to procure information of the state of the affair. The deputy returned to the emperor better informed of the heresiarch's impiety and malice, and the zeal, virtue, and prudence of St. Alexander: and having given him a just and faithful account of the matter, convinced him of the necessity of a general council, as the only remedy adequate to the growing evil, and capable of restoring peace to the church. St. Alexander had already sent him the same advice in several letters.[3] That prince, accordingly, by letters of respect, invited the bishops to Nice, in Bithynia, and defrayed their expenses. They assembled in the imperial palace of Nice, on the 19th of June, in 325, being three hundred and eighteen in number, the most illustrious prelates of the church, among whom were many glorious confessors of the faith. The principal were our saint, St. Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch, St. Macarius of Jerusalem, Cecilian, archbishop of Carthage, St. Paphnutius, St. Potamon, St. Paul of Neocesarea, St. James of Nisibis, &c. St. Sylvester could not come in person, by reason of his great age; but he sent his legates, who presided in his name.[4] The emperor Constantine entered the council without guards, nor would he sit till he was desired by the bishops, says Eusebius.[5] Theodoret says,[6] that he asked the bishops' leave before he would enter.

The blasphemies of Arius, who was himself present, were canvassed for several days. Marcellus of Ancyra, and St. Athanasius, whom St. Alexander had brought with him, and whom he treated with the greatest esteem, discovered all the impiety they contained, and confuted the Arians with invincible strength. The heretics, fearing the indignation of the council, used a great deal of dissimulation in admitting the Catholic terms. The fathers, to exclude all their subtleties, declared the Son consubstantial to the {473} Father, which they inserted in the profession of their faith, called the Nicene creed, which was drawn up by Osius, and to which all subscribed, except a small number of Arians. At first they were seventeen, but Eusebius of Caesarea received the creed the day following, as did all the others except five, namely, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nice, Marie of Chalcedon, Theonas and Secundus of Lybia, the two bishops who had first joined Arius. Of these also Eusebius, Marie, and Theognis conformed through fear of banishment. The Arian historian Philostorgius[7] pretends to excuse his heroes, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis, by saying they inserted an iota, and signed[8] like in substance, instead of of the same substance;[9] a fraud in religion which would no way have excused their hypocrisy. Arius, Theonas, and Secundus, with some Egyptian priests, were banished by the order of Constantine, and Illyricum was the place of their exile. The council received Meletius and his schismatical adherents upon their repentance; but they afterwards relapsed into their schism, and part of them joined the Arians. The council added twenty canons of discipline, and was closed about the 25th of August.[10] Constantine gave all the prelates a magnificent entertainment, and dismissed them with great presents to their respective sees. St. Alexander, after this triumph of the faith, returned to Alexandria; where, after having recommended St. Athanasius for his successor, he died in 326, on the 26th of February, on which day he is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology.

* * * * *

A true disciple of Christ, by a sincere spirit of humility and distrust in himself, is, as it were, naturally inclined to submission to all authority appointed by God, in which he finds his peace, security, and joy. This happy disposition of his soul is his secure fence against the illusions of self-sufficiency and blind pride, which easily betrays men into the most fatal errors. On the contrary, pride is a spirit of revolt and independence: he who is possessed with this devil is fond of his own conceits, self-confident, and obstinate. However strong the daylight of evidence may be in itself, such a one will endeavor to shut up all the avenues of light, though some beams force themselves into his soul to disturb his repose, and strike deep the sting of remorse: jealousy and a love of opposition foster the disorder, and render it incurable. This is the true portraiture of Arius, and other heresiarchs and firebrands of the universe. Can we sufficiently detest jealousy and pride, the fatal source of so great evils? Do we not discover, by fatal symptoms, that we ourselves harbor this monster in our breasts? Should the eye be jealous that the ear hears, and disturb the functions of this or the other senses, instead of regarding them as its own and enjoying their mutual advantage and comfort, what confusion would ensue!

Footnotes: 1. Theodoret, l. 1, c. {}. Socrates, l. 1, c. 5. 2. L. de Adv. Chr., p. 635. 3. Rufinus (l. 1, Hist. c. 1) says, that the council was assembled by the advice of the priests. Ex sacerdotum sententia. And the third council of Constantinople attributes convocation to St. Sylvester as much as to the emperor. Constantinus et Sylvester magnam in Nicea synodum congregabant. Conc. Constantinopolitanum tertium, Act. 18, p. 1049, t. 6. Conc. 4. This is acknowledged by the oriental bishops, assembled at Constantinople, in 552, (t. 5, Conc. pp. 337, 338.) The legates were Vito, or Victor, and Vincent, two Roman priests, to whom the pope joined Osius, bishop of Cordova, as being the most renowned prelate of the West, and highly esteemed by the emperor. Ipse etiam Osius ex Hispanis nominis et famae celebritate insignis, qui Sylvestri episcoli maximae Romae locum obtinebat, una cum Romanis presbyteris Vitone et Vincentio adfuit; says Gelasius of Cyzicus. (Hist. Conc. Nicen. l. 2, c. 5, t. 2. Conc, p. 155.) The same is affirmed by pope Adrian, (t. 6, Conc. p. 1810.) In all the editions of this council, Osius with the two priests. Vito and Vincent, is first named among the subscribers. Socrates also names them first, and before the patriarchs. Osius Episc. Cordubae, ita credo, ut sup. dictum est. Vito et Vincentius presbyteri urbis Romae. Egypti Alexander Episc. Antiochiae Eustathius, &c. (Socr. l. 1, c.13.) It is then false what Blondel (de la primante de l'Eglise, p. 1195) pretends, that St. Eustathius of Antioch presided. He is indeed called, by Facundus, (l. 8, c. 1, & l. 11, c. 1.) the first of the council; and by Nicephorus, (Chronol. p. 146,) the chief of the bishops, because he was the first among the orientals; for St. Alexander of Egypt was certainly before him in rank. Theodoret (l. 1, c. 6) says, he sat the first on the right hand in the assembly. And it appears from Eusebius, that the pope's legates and the patriarch of Alexandria sat at the head on the left side. This might be the more honorable on several accounts, as being on the right to those that came in. It is certain that the pope's legate presided in the council of Chalcedon where they, in the same manner, sat first on the left above the patriarch of Alexandria, and the patriarch of Antioch was placed on the right. 5. L. 3. de vit. Constant. c. 10. 6. L. 1, c. 7. 7. L. 1, c. 9. 8. [Greek: Homoiusios]. 9. [Greek: Homousious]. 10. The Arabic canons are falsely ascribed to the Nicene council, being collected out of other ancient synods.

ST. PORPHYRIUS, BISHOP OF GAZA, CONFESSOR

From his life, written with great accuracy by his faithful disciple Mark. See Fleury, t. 5. Tillemont, t. 10. Chatelain, p. 777. In the king's library at Paris is a Greek MS. life Of St. Porphyrius, (abridged from that of Mark,) which has never been translated.

A.D. 420.

PORPHYRIUS, a native of Thessalonica in Macedonia, was of a noble and wealthy family. The desire of renouncing the world made him leave his {474} friends and country at twenty-five years of age, in 378, to pass into Egypt, where he consecrated himself to God in a famous monastery in the desert of Scete. After five years spent there in the penitential exercises of a monastic life, he went into Palestine to visit the holy places of Jerusalem. After this he took up his abode in a cave near the Jordan, where he passed other five years in great austerity, till he fell sick, when a complication of disorders obliged him to leave that place and return to Jerusalem. There he never failed daily to visit devoutly all the holy places, leaning on a staff, for he was too weak to stand upright. It happened about the same time that Mark, an Asiatic, and the author of his life, came to Jerusalem with the same intent, where he made some stay. He was much edified at the devotion with which Porphyrius continually visited the place of our Lord's resurrection, and the other oratories. And seeing him one day labor with great pain in getting up the stairs in the chapel built by Constantine, he ran to him to offer him his assistance, which Porphyrius refused, saying: "It is not just that I who am come hither to beg pardon for my sins, should be eased by any one: rather let me undergo some labor and inconvenience that God, beholding it, may have compassion on me." He, in this condition, never omitted his usual visits of piety to the holy places, and daily partook of the mystical table, that is, of the holy sacrament. And as to his distemper, so much did he contemn it, that he seemed to be sick in another's body and not in his own. His confidence in God always supported him. The only thing which afflicted him was, that his fortune had not been sold before this for the use of the poor. This he commissioned Mark to do for him, who accordingly set out for Thessalonica, and in three months' time returned to Jerusalem with money and effects to the value of four thousand five hundred pieces of gold. When the blessed man saw him, he embraced him with tears of joy for his safe and speedy return. But Porphyrius was now so well recovered, that Mark scarce knew him to be the same person; for his body had no signs of its former decay, and his face looked full, fresh, and painted with a healthy red. He, perceiving his friend's amazement at his healthy looks, said to him with a smile, "Be not surprised, Mark, to see me in perfect health and strength, but admire the unspeakable goodness of Christ, who can easily cure what is despaired of by men." Mark asked him by what means he had recovered. He replied: "Forty days ago, being in extreme pain, I made a shift to reach Mount Calvary, where, fainting away, I fell into a kind of trance or ecstasy, during which I seemed to see our Saviour on the cross, and the good thief in the same condition near him. I said to Christ, Lord, Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom: whereupon he ordered the thief to come to my assistance, who, raising me off the ground on which I lay, bade me go to Christ. I ran to him, and he, coming off his cross, said to me: Take this wood (meaning his cross) into thy custody. In obedience to him, methought I laid it on my shoulders, and carried it some way. I awaked soon after, and have been free from pain ever since, and without the least appearance of my having ever ailed any thing." Mark was so edified with the holy man's discourse and good example, that he became more penetrated with esteem and affection for him than ever, which made him desirous of living always with him in order to his own improvement; for he seemed to have attained to a perfect mastery over all his passions: he was endued at the same time with a divine prudence, an eminent spirit of prayer, and the gift of tears. Being also well versed in the holy scriptures and spiritual knowledge, and no stranger to profane learning, he confounded all the infidels and heretics who attempted to dispute with him. As to the money and effects which Mark had brought him, he distributed all among the necessitous in Palestine and Egypt, so {475} that, in a very short time, he had reduced himself to the necessity of laboring for his daily food. He therefore learned to make shoes and dress leather, while Mark, being well skilled in writing, got a handsome livelihood by copying books, and to spare. He therefore desired the saint to partake of his earnings. But Porphyrius replied, in the words of St. Paul: He that doth not work let him not eat. He led this laborious and penitential life till he was forty years of age, when the bishop of Jerusalem ordained him priest, though much against his will, and committed to him the keeping of the holy cross: this was in 393. The saint changed nothing in his austere penitential life, feeding only upon roots and the coarsest bread, and not eating till after sunset, except on Sundays and holidays, when he ate at noon, and added a little oil and cheese: and on account of a great weakness of stomach, he mingled a very small quantity of wine in the water he drank. This was his method of living till his death. Being elected bishop of Gaza, in 396, John, the metropolitan and archbishop of Caesarea, wrote to the patriarch of Jerusalem to desire him to send over Porphyrius, that he might consult him on certain difficult passages of scripture. He was sent accordingly, but charged to be back in seven days. Porphyrius, receiving this order, seemed at first disturbed, but said: "God's will be done." That evening he called Mark, and said to him: "Brother Mark, let us go and venerate the holy places and the sacred cross, for it will be long before we shall do it again." Mark asked him why he said so. He answered: Our Saviour had appeared to him the night before, and said: "Give up the treasure of the cross which you have in custody, for I will marry you to a wife, poor indeed and despicable, but of great piety and virtue. Take care to adorn her well; for, however contemptible she may appear, she is my sister." "This," said he, "Christ signified to me last night: and I fear, in consequence, my being charged with the sins of others, while I labor to expiate my own; but the will of God must be obeyed." When they had venerated the holy places and the sacred cross, and Porphyrius had prayed long before it, and with many tears, he shut up the cross in its golden case, and delivered the keys to the bishop; and having obtained his blessing, he and his disciple Mark set out the next day, with three others, among whom was one Barochas, a person whom the saint had found lying in the street almost dead, and had taken care of, cured, and instructed; who ever after served him with Mark. They arrived the next day, which was Saturday, at Caesarea. The archbishop obliged them to sup with him. After spiritual discourses they took a little sleep, and then rose to assist at the night service. Next morning the archbishop bid the Gazaeans lay hold on St. Porphyrius, and, while they held him, ordained him bishop. The holy man wept bitterly, and was inconsolable for being promoted to a dignity he judged himself so unfit for. The Gazaeans, however, performed their part in endeavoring to comfort him, and, having assisted at the Sunday office, and stayed one day more at Caesarea, they set out for Gaza, lay at Diospolis, and, late on Wednesday night, arrived at Gaza, much harassed and fatigued. For the heathens living in the villages near Gaza, having notice of their coming, had so damaged the roads in several places, and clogged them with thorns and logs of wood, that they were scarce passable. They also contrived to raise such a smoke and stench, that the holy men were in danger of being blinded or suffocated.

There happened that year a very great drought, which the pagans ascribed to the coming of the new Christian bishop, saying that their god Marnas had foretold that Porphyrius would bring public calamities and disasters on their city. In Gaza stood a famous temple of that idol, which the emperor Theodosius the Elder had commanded to be shut up, but not demolished, {476} on account of its beautiful structure. The governor afterwards had permitted the heathens to open it again. As no rain fell the two first months after St. Porphyrius's arrival, the idolaters, in great affliction, assembled in this temple to offer sacrifices, and make supplications to their god Marnas, whom they called the Lord of rains. These they repeated for seven days, going also to a place of prayer out of the town; but seeing all their endeavors ineffectual, they lost all hopes of a supply of what they so much wanted. A dearth ensuing, the Christians, to the number of two hundred and eighty, women and children included, after a day's fast, and watching the following night in prayer, by the order of their holy bishop, went out in procession to St. Timothy's church, in which lay the relics of the holy martyr St. Meuris, and of the confessor St. Thees, singing hymns of divine praise. But at their return to the city they found the gates shut against them, which the heathens refused to open. In this situation the Christians, and St. Porphyrius above the rest, addressed almighty God with redoubled fervor for the blessing so much wanted; when in a short time, the clouds gathering, as at the prayers of Elias, there fell such a quantity of rain that the heathens opened their gates, and, joining them, cried out "Christ alone is God: He alone has overcome." They accompanied the Christians to the church to thank God for the benefit received, which was attended with the conversion of one hundred and seventy-six persons, whom the saint instructed, baptized, and confirmed, as he did one hundred and five more before the end of that year. The miraculous preservation of the life of a pagan woman in labor, who had been despaired of, occasioned the conversion of that family and others, to the number of sixty-four.

The heathens, perceiving their number decrease, grew very troublesome to the Christians, whom they excluded from commerce and all public offices, and injured them all manner of ways. St. Porphyrius, to screen himself and his flock from their outrages and vexations, had recourse to the emperor's protection. On this errand he sent Mark, his disciple, to Constantinople, and went afterwards himself in company with John, his metropolitan, archbishop of Caesarea. Here they applied themselves to St. John Chrysostom, who joyfully received them, and recommended them to the eunuch Amantius, who had great credit with the empress, and was a zealous servant of God. Amantius having introduced them to the empress, she received them with great distinction, assured them of her protection, and begged their prayers for her safe delivery, a favor she received a few days after. She desired them in another visit to sign her and her newborn son, Theodosius the Younger, with the sign of the cross, which they did. The young prince was baptized with great solemnity, and on that occasion the empress obtained from the emperor all that the bishops had requested, and in particular that the temples of Gaza should be demolished; an imperial edict being drawn up for this purpose and delivered to Cynegius, a virtuous patrician, and one full of zeal, to see it executed. They stayed at Constantinople during the feast of Easter, and at their departure the emperor and empress bestowed on them great presents. When they landed in Palestine, near Gaza, the Christians came out to meet them with a cross carried before them, singing hymns. In the place called Tetramphodos, or Four-ways-end, stood a marble statue of Venus, on a marble altar, which was in great reputation for giving oracles to young women about the choice of husbands, but had often grossly deceived them, engaging them to most unhappy marriages; so that many heathens detested its lying impostures. As the two bishops, with the procession of the Christians, and the cross borne before them, passed through that square, this idol fell down of itself, and was {477} broken to pieces: whereupon thirty-two men and seven women were converted.

Ten days after arrived Cynegius, having with him a consular man and a duke, or general, with a strong guard of soldiers, besides the civil magistrates of the country. He assembled the citizens and read to them the emperor's edict, commanding their idols and temples to be destroyed, which was accordingly executed, and no less than eight public temples in the city were burnt; namely, those of the Sun, Venus, Apollo, Proserpine, Hecate, the Hierion, or of the priests, Tycheon, or of Fortune, and Marnion of Marnas, their Jupiter. The Marnion, in which men had been often sacrificed, burned for many days. After this, the private houses and courts were all searched; the idols were everywhere burned or thrown into the common sewers, and all books of magic and superstition were cast into the flames. Many idolaters desired baptism; but the saint took a long time to make trial of them, and to prepare them for that sacrament by daily instructions. On the spot where the temple of Marnas had stood, was built the church of Eudoxia in the figure of a cross. She sent for this purpose precious pillars and rich marble from Constantinople. Of the marble taken out of the Marnion, St. Porphyrius made steps and a road to the church, that it might be trampled upon by men, dogs, swine, and other beasts, whence many heathens would never walk thereon. Before he would suffer the church to be begun, he proclaimed a fast, and the next morning, being attended by his clergy and all the Christians in the city, they went in a body to the place from the church Irene, singing the Venite exultemus Domino, and other psalms, and answering to every verse Alleluia, Barochas carrying a cross before them. They all set to work, carrying stones and other materials, and digging the foundations according to the plan marked out and directed by Rufinus, a celebrated architect, singing psalms and saying prayers during their work. It was begun in 403, when thirty high pillars arrived from Constantinople, two of which, called Carostiae, shone like emeralds when placed in the church. It was five years a building, and when finished in 408, the holy bishop performed the consecration of it on Easter-Day with the greatest pomp and solemnity. His alms to the poor on that occasion seemed boundless, though they were always exceeding great. The good bishop spent the remainder of his life in the zealous discharge of all pastoral duties; and though he lived to see the city clear for the most part of the remains of paganism, superstition, and idolatry, he had always enough to suffer from such as continued obstinate in their errors. Falling sick, he made his pious will, in which he recommended all his dear flock to God. He died in 420, being about sixty years of age, on the 26th of February, on which day both the Greeks and Latins make mention of him. The pious author of his life concludes it, saying: "He is now in the paradise of delight, interceding for us with all the saints, by whose prayers may God have mercy on us."

ST. VICTOR, OR VITTRE, OF ARCIES, OR ARCIS,

IN CHAMPAGNE, ANCHORET AND CONFESSOR, IN THE SEVENTH AGE.

HE was of noble parentage in the diocese of Troyes in Champagne educated under strict discipline in learning and piety, and a saint from his cradle. In his youth, prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds were his chief delight, and, embracing an ecclesiastical state, he took orders; but the love of heavenly contemplation being always the prevalent inclination in his soul he {478} preferred close retirement to the mixed life of the care of souls. In this choice the Holy Ghost was his director, for he lived in continual union with God by prayer and contemplation, and seemed raised above the condition of this mortal life, and almost as if he lived without a body. God glorified him by many miracles; but the greatest seems to have been the powerful example of his life. We have two pious panegyrics made upon this saint by St. Bernard, who says:[1] "Now placed in heaven, he beholds God clearly revealed to him, swallowed up in joy, but not forgetting us. It is not a land of oblivion in which Victor dwells. Heaven doth not harden or straiten hearts, but it maketh them more tender and compassionate it doth not distract minds, nor alienate them from us: it doth not diminish, but it increaseth affection and charity: it augmenteth bowels of pity. The angels, although they behold the face of their Father, visit, run, and continually assist us; and shall they now forget us who were once among us, and who once suffered themselves what they see us at present laboring under? No: I know the just expect me till thou renderest to me my reward.[2] Victor is not like that cupbearer of Pharaoh, who could forget his fellow-captive. He hath not so put on the stole of glory himself, as to lay aside his pity, or the remembrance of our misery." St. Victor died at Saturniac, now called Saint-Vittre, two leagues from Arcies in the diocese of Troyes. A church was built over his tomb at Saturniac; but in 837 his relics were translated thence to the neighboring monastery of Montier-Ramey, or Montirame, so called from Arremar, by whom it was founded in 837. It is situated four leagues from Troyes, of the Benedictin Order, and is still possessed of this sacred treasure. At the request of these monks, St. Bernard composed an office of St. Victor, extant in his works, (ep. 312, vet. ed. seu 398, nov. edit.) See the two sermons of St. Bernard on St. Victor, and his ancient life in Henschenius and others: from which it appears that this saint never was a monk, never having professed any monastic Order, though he led an eremitical life.

Footnotes: 1. Serm. 2, p. 966. 2. Ps. cxii. 8.

FEBRUARY XXVII.

ST. LEANDER, BISHOP OF SEVILLE, CONFESSOR.

From St. Isidore of Seville, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Gregory of Tours, hist l. 5. See Fleury, b. 34, 35, 38. Mabillon, Saec. Ben. 1. Ceillier, t. 17.

A.D. 596.

ST. LEANDER was of an illustrious family, and born at Carthagena in Spain. He had two brothers, St. Fulgentius, bishop of Ecija and Carthagena, and St. Isidore, our saint's successor in the see of Seville. He had also one sister, Florentia by name, who had consecrated herself to God in the state of virginity. He set them an example of that piety which they faithfully imitated. He entered into a monastery very young, where he lived many years, and attained to an eminent degree of virtue and sacred learning. These qualities occasioned his being promoted to the see of Seville: but his change of condition made little or no alteration in his method {479} of life, though it brought on him a great increase of care and solicitude for the salvation of those whom God had put under his care, as well as for the necessities of the whole church, that of Spain in particular. This kingdom was then possessed by the Visigoths, or Western-Goths; who, while Theodoric settled the Ostrogoths, or Eastern-Goths, in Italy, had passed the Alps, and founded their kingdom, first in Languedoc, and soon after, about the year 470, in Spain. These Goths, being for the generality all infected with Arianism, established this heresy wherever they came; so that when St. Leander was made bishop, it had reigned in Spain a hundred years. This was his great affliction: however, by his tears and prayers to God, and by his most zealous and unwearied endeavors, both at home and abroad, he became the happy instrument of the conversion of that nation to the Catholic faith. But he suffered much from king Leovigild on this account, and was at length forced into banishment; the saint having converted, among others, Hermenegild, the king's eldest son and heir apparent. This pious prince his unnatural father put to death the year following, for refusing to receive the communion from the hands of an Arian bishop. But, touched with remorse not long after, he recalled our saint, and falling sick, and finding himself past hopes of recovery, he sent for St. Leander, whom he had so much persecuted, and recommended to him his son Recared, whom he left his successor, to be instructed in the true faith; though out of fear of his people, as St. Gregory laments, he durst not embrace it himself. His son Recared, by listening to St. Leander, soon became a Catholic. The king also spoke with so much wisdom on the controverted points to the Arian bishops, that by the force of his reasoning, rather than by his authority, he brought them over to own the truth of the Catholic doctrine; and thus he converted the whole nation of the Visigoths. He was no less successful in the like pious endeavors with respect to the Suevi, a people of Spain, whom his father Leovigild had perverted. It was a subject of great joy to the whole church to behold the wonderful blessing bestowed by Almighty God on the labors of our saint, but to none more than St. Gregory the Great, who wrote to St. Leander to congratulate him on the subject.

This holy prelate was no less zealous in the reformation of manners, than in restoring the purity of faith; and he planted the seeds of that zeal and fervor which afterwards produced so many martyrs and saints. His zeal in this regard appeared in the good regulations set on foot with this intent in the council of Seville, which was called by him, and of which he was, as it were, the soul. In 589, he assisted at the third council of Toledo, of seventy-two bishops, or their deputies, in which were drawn up twenty-three canons, relating to discipline, to repair the breaches the Arian heresy had made in fomenting disorders of several kinds. One of these was, that the Arian clergy cohabited with their wives; but the council forbade such of them as were converted to do so, enjoining them a separation from the same chamber, and, if possible, from the same house.[1] This council commanded also the rigorous execution of all penitential canons without any abatement. The pious cardinal D'Aguirre has written a learned dissertation ton this subject.[2]

St. Leander, sensible of the importance of prayer, which is in a devout life what a spring is in a watch, or the main wheel in an engine, labored particularly to encourage true devotion in all persons, but particularly those of the monastic profession, of which state it is the very essence and constituent. His letter to his sister Florentina, a holy virgin, is called his Rule of a Monastic Life. It turns chiefly on the contempt of the world, and on {480} the exercises of prayer. This saint also reformed the Spanish liturgy.[3] In this liturgy, and in the third council of Toledo, in conformity to the eastern churches, the Nicene creed was appointed to be read at mass, to express a detestation of the Arian heresy. Other western churches, with the Roman, soon imitated this devotion. St. Leander was visited by frequent distempers, particularly the gout, which St. Gregory, who was often afflicted with the same, writing to him, calls a favor and mercy of heaven. This holy doctor of Spain died about the year 596, on the 27th of February, as Mabillon proves from his epitaph. The church of Seville has been a metropolitan see ever since the third century. The cathedral is the most magnificent, both as to structure and ornament, of any in all Spain.

* * * * *

The contempt of the world which the gospel so strongly inculcates, and which St. Leander so eminently practised and taught, it the foundation of a spiritual life; but is of far greater extent than most Christians conceive, for it requires no less than a total disengagement of the affections from earthly things. Those whom God raises to perfect virtue, and closely unites to himself, must cut off and put away every thing that can be an obstacle to this perfect union. Their will must be thoroughly purified from all dross of inordinate affections before it can be perfectly absorbed in his. This they who are particularly devoted to the divine service, are especially to take notice of. If this truth was imprinted in the manner that it ought, in the hearts of those who enrol themselves in the service of the church, or who live in cloisters, they would be replenished with heavenly blessings, and the church would have the comfort of seeing apostles of nations revive among her clergy, and the monasteries again filled with Antonies, Bennets, and Bernards; whose sanctity, prayers, and example, would even infuse into many others the true spirit of Christ, amid the desolation and general blindness of this unhappy age.

Footnotes: 1. Conc. t. 5, p. 998. 2. Diss. 3. in Conc. Hisp. 3. The church of Spain first received the faith from Rome, as pope Innocent I. Informs us. (Ep. ad. Decent.) Whence St. Isidore says their divine office was instituted by St. Peter, (l. l, c. 15, Eccl. Offic.) Their ceremonies and discipline, as of fasting on Saturdays, and other rites mentioned in their councils, are Roman. And the Roman liturgy was used in Africa beyond Spain. But the Goths used a liturgy formed by Ulphilas from the Orientals. St. Leander is said to have compiled a liturgy from both, and also from the Gaulish and oriental liturgies: St. Isidore and St. Ildefonse perfected it. When the Saracens or Arabians became masters of Spain, the Christians of that country were called Mixt-Arabs, and their liturgy, Mozarabic. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries this liturgy gave place to the Roman. Cardinal Ximenes re-established the daily use of the Mozarabic in a chapel of the cathedral of Toledo: it is also used in the same city by seven old Mozarabic churches, but on the days of their patrons only. See Le Brun, liturg. t. 2, p. 272. F. Flores thinks the Mozarabic liturgy was that of the Roman and African churches retained by St. Leander, without any alteration or mixture from the Orientals, except certain very inconsiderable rites. See his Spans. Sagrada, t. 3, Diss. de la Missa Antigua de Espagna, pp.187, 198, &c. But though it much resembles it, we are assured by F. Burriel, the learned Jesuit, in his letter on the literary monuments found in Spain, that in some parts there are considerable differences. We shall be fully informed of this, also what masses were added by St. Ildefonse, and of other curious particulars, when we are favored with the collections he has made from the Gothic MSS. in Spain on this subject, and the new edition of all the liturgies of Christian churches which the Assemani are preparing at Rome in fifteen volumes folio. The Mozarabic liturgy has been printed at Rome in folio, by the care of F. Leeley, a Scotch Jesuit.

SS. JULIAN, CHRONION, AND BESAS, MM.

WHEN the persecution of Decius filled the city of Alexandria with dread and terror, many, especially among the nobles, the rich, and those who held any places in the state, sacrificed to idols, but pale and trembling, so as to show they had neither courage to die, nor heart to sacrifice. Several generous soldiers repaired the scandal given by these cowards. Julian, who was grievously afflicted with the gout, and one of his servants, called Chronion, were set on the backs of camels, and, cruelly scourged through the {481} whole city, and at length were consumed by fire. Besas, a soldier, was beheaded. See St. Dionysius of Alex. in Eusebius, l, 6, c. 41, ed Val.

ST. THALILAEUS, A CILICIAN

HE lived a recluse on a mountain in Syria, and shut himself up ten years in an open cage of wood. Theodoret asked him why he had chosen so singular a practice. The penitent answered: "I punish my criminal body, that God, seeing my affliction for my sins, may be moved to pardon them, and to deliver me from, or at least to mitigate the excessive torments of the world to come, which I have deserved." See Theodoret, Phil. c. 28. John Mosch in the Spiritual Meadow, c. 59, p. 872, relates that Thalihaeus, the Cilician, spent sixty years in an ascetic life, weeping almost without intermission; and that he used to say to those that came to him: "Time is allowed us by the divine mercy for repentance and satisfaction, and wo {sic} to us if we neglect it."

ST. GALMIER, IN LATIN, BALDOMERUS.

HE was a locksmith in Lyons, who lived in great poverty and austerity, and spent all his leisure moments in holy reading and prayer. He gave his gains to the poor, and sometimes even his tools. He repeated to every one: "In the name of the Lord let us always give thanks to God." Vivencius, abbot of St. Justus, (afterwards archbishop of Lyons,) admired his devotion in the church, but was more edified and astonished when he had conversed with him. He gave him a cell in his monastery, in which the servant of God sanctified himself still more and more by all the exercises of holy solitude, and by his penitential labor. He died a subdeacon about the year 650. His relics were very famous for miracles, and a celebrated pilgrimage, till they were scattered in the air by the Huguenots, in the sixteenth century. The Roman Martyrology names him on the day of his death, the 27th of February.

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